your credit sucks

February 17, 2009 · 0 comments

apparently, you need to know your credit score - desperately. so a few pages browsed on the web in recent weeks would make you believe given the recent preponderance of credit score ads. that's only part of the problem. it seems we've taken a time warp back to 1995 when crappy online ads with flashy line art, blinking incessantly and generally looking like a 4th grader's attempt at making an ad for their daddy's company ruled the world. everything old is new again, and shoddy online ads have made a comeback.

here's a colossal collage of credit crap:

i guess i can't fault sites for accepting these ads. they are there to sell banner space and usually that's on a first come first serve basis. the credit score people were the first to the table, or maybe the only ones. you'd think that was untrue as the web was the one advertising vehicle everyone thought would weather this financial storm better than the rest, but the sheer volume of these ads has a different story to tell (something to be argued when numbers are available).

making a buck is one thing so you can be around when the dust settles on the recession/depression, but building a brand is quite another. i'm just going to put it out there: sites that accept these ads are destroying the advertising potential for everyone. and i mean for both sides of the ad game.

for advertisers, this just makes online ads even more of a turn-off for a site's audience and potential consumers. the few ruin it for the rest. ads become wallpaper even more and their impact lessens considerably. even their strength as branding vehicles erodes.

on the other side, the site itself, which is actually a brand that needs to be cultivated as any other. slowly these websites are compromising the quality of their brand and product. they are make it known that they have low standards and are in this for the revenue - value to consumers isn't a factor. that's a big miss. and it makes your site look ridiculous.

dare i say, websites have a responsibility to both their audience and advertisers - neither the site can survive without - to weed these types of ads out. it's not benefiting either. here's a handful of solutions to keep your sites at a high standard and not with a 'sell-out' plaque on it.'

  1. offer discounts to higher grade advertisers to encourage them back in the market
  2. reduce the number of ad units on the page. then each ad has more impact, position and effect. that and your site isn't junked up with meaningless ads
  3. run house ads instead
  4. bonus key clients more impressions
  5. just run nothing, at least it will be cleaner

defending a-rod

February 10, 2009 · 3 comments

alex rodriguez came clean yesterday on the allegations of steroid use. the right move for a bad decision. but does it matter? can he ever escape this? is his career tarnished forever?

i'll admit, when the mitchell report came out, or even before when bonds was under constant scrutiny for steroid use, i thought a-rod was exempt. i felt that he was one player who was above performance enhancing drugs. he's a pure talent, and still is. i guess jose canseco got it right a while back when he implicated rodriguez, but there was no evidence and no further scrutiny. i dismissed that as just more of canseco's wild accusations to cling to what little fame he had left. sorry i doubted you jose. you gave me no reason to, ever.

i'm in the camp to say that 3 years of performance enhancing drug use does not tarnish rodriguez's career. he is a natural talent. he was productive and a star before he took p.e.d.'s and was the same afterwards. look at his stats and he was just as productive prior to and after his steroid years. you could argue that without them he would have been just as effective. it's negligible. doesn't make it right that he took them, albeit under a cloud of non-policy by mlb, just that he shouldn't be forever villainized for his actions. if you want, when his career is done, wipe those 3 years from the record and he is still hall of fame worthy, and rightly considered one of the best ever.

the way rodriguez has played this out is that right way. he's admitting his actions, incurring the wrath, and seeking forgiveness from the court of public opinion. this is something no other player has done. not mcgwire, who refused to talk about it. not bonds, who says he never knowingly took them. not clemens or palmeiro who fervently deny it. he is trying to make it right. he's admitted fault, he's accepted his errors, and he will live with how he is going to be perceived. that shows a lot of strength of chracter. not just to come clean, but to have stopped using when he did.

i genuinely believe he is sorry for his actions and regrets them (some will say regret getting caught). he is human, and exercised poor judgement. rodriguez was sincere, and made himself accountable. he should be forgiven. if not forgiven, then not have his entire career diminished for it.

still there's three issues with all this which don't sit right with me.
1) not for public knowledge
the drug tests that led to this outing were supposed to be anonymous, sealed by court order. how did these test results get out, especially when the tests themselves and the players names were never supposed to be linked and lived in separate databases? i'm not trying to justify the actions of any of those 104 players, but they had a right to have this information protected.

the point is, steroid use was rampant and mlb was trying to stop it. the testing survey was done to gauge just how pervasive it is in order to establish rules and disciplinary actions. it was accepted practice and rodriguez, along with scores of others, were part of it because no rules were in place to govern it. good judgement and morality aside, that was the era these players were in and it was common practice. with all the influences (manager, trainers, owners, agents, etc) it was not hard to play the game.

the effect all this is having is to sling more shit at baseball and generally increase the ire around the sport. i don't think that's needed. mlb needs to reconcile with it's fans and people in general and this is a step backwards form that. i'm not saying brush it under the carpet, but the lessons have been learned, the course is correcting, let's move forward.

2) the faultless mlb
mlb has, and rightly so, only been praised for cleaning up the sport, while not being accountable or admonished for their role in the 'steroid era.' it was their inaction, non-policy, and general state of denial that led to an atmosphere where performance enhancing drugs were able to be as epidemic as they were. don't just tear the players down when you can't look in the mirror and accept your role in this situation, mlb. they too easily throw their players, their product mind you, under the bus while throwing their hands up and saying 'don't look at me.'

superbowl ads - fading away

February 2, 2009 · 4 comments

is the superbowl still the cultural beacon for advertising anymore? i vote no.

because i live in canada, we don't get the privilege of seeing the real superbowl ads as they happen. i mean we broadcast the superbowl and try to parade our ads on it, but there isn't the fanfare, novelty and expense associated in doing so. thankfully the internet has made this cultural fascination more accessible. and therein lies why i don't think the superbowl is much more than the game itself anymore. we as marketers are losing the one day where advertising is elevated to a cultural phenomenon, spectacle and curiosity for all the masses to stand up and take notice of our great work. the day where everyday folk put aside their trite statements of "i don't pay attention to ads" and embrace the brandsell as entertainment.

so the day after the superbowl i mosey over to whatever site is making a big stink about the superbowl ads so that i can see for myself. but ever since the first media rumblings of the superbowl bubbled up in the media this year and last, it nagged at me that it's just not the same anymore. the game has changed.

not the destination it was
no longer do we accept content channels making destination viewing. a fixed time and channel for content doesn't hold the viewing audience hostage with the emergence of pvr's, torrents, online video and quicker to market dvd's. the new distribution systems make it so that we are not subject to someone else's schedule, network or otherwise.

we're not beholden to one day of the year anymore to see great work. it's out there, everywhere. brand produced or user generated. hours after the superbowl (or sooner), every ad was already circulating around the internet. by the following day, every media outlet and every joe with a recording device and the ability to encode it as online video has uploaded all the commercials and everyone else has watched them online.

so it doesn't need the big day. if advertisers created great ads and used non-broadcast distribution methods, the pickup is the same. with greater access it becomes less forced on the consumer and more in keeping with their preference to view as they choose. consumers can be more selective and an ad in the superbowl may not be that place anymore. advertisers lose the passive 'push' messaging, but in online get a more valuable engaged audience.

heightened expectations
even more of a factor than a populace consuming on their own terms is the content of the ads themselves. the superbowl used to be the meeting place where the best, funniest, most creative, wacky, random, highly entertaining and cool ads came to show off. that is a bygone time. television, even the superbowl, has been relegated to second fiddle in an internet video era where it is not only the channel of choice, but the new bastion of all that is great in video, ads or otherwise.

with access to the long tail of video content, consumer appetite has changed in what is truly breakthrough and salient with them. they still want the polish of it all, but have a very altered notion of what makes a great 30 second ad. they have been trained to want edgier, more interesting, more entertaining, more emotive, less branded and sell-y type ads. they have gravitated toward the subversive, where the brand is minimized, but the impact is amplified.

when we can take to the web and watch great work from every corner of the world, a tv spot faces greater obstacles to relevance and effect on the consumer. a place where broadcast standards don't apply and the risk/reward ratio is not as severe.

social currency
we still think of superbowl ads as something to be placed on a mantle and revered. truth is, they don't carry the same social currency as before. the ads within are brand messages, directed at viewers en masse, that through media investment, word of mouth can be engineered. the tectonic plates of consumer discussion have shifted though with the emergence of efficient and open distribution methods, and the democratization of content production. consumers are now in control of engineering what breaks through the din of all the brand messages in the media world.

only difference has been that somehow we equated a spot in the superbowl to mean it's going to be a great ad. that's lazy marketing because not all superbowl ads are great and not all superbowl viewers are your intended audience. these spots got attention because they were in the superbowl, not necessarily by virtue of their greatness. with the rise of alternative ways of viewing and a wider assortment of stuff to consume, truly great creative shines and becomes culturally significant because it's not being pushed on us, but because it talk worthy.

there is also how we share these ads and bring them into our own social fold. before we could only talk about them around a water cooler, having seen it just the one time. with the internet, we can go back to it, we can physically share it, we can comment on it, we can elevate it or diminish it in many places. it takes on a life of its own because it lives on, not dying after its lone airing.

the cost equation
every second of advertising in the superbowl costs $100,000. add to that the cost of making the ad, which often comes at a premium because of the special occasion and creative types pulling out the big guns. that's a lot to pay for something that has every chance to be a big success as it does to be a colossal failure. it also runs the risk of just being mediocre and lost in the shuffle. and quite often, that spot airs just the once, making it a pricey one-off.

compare that to online distribution methods. the likelihood of breaking out and having a real impact are just as strong and for 100% less the cost of a superbowl ad. i won't pretend that you can get it for $0, but technically you could. so for significantly less in cost you can put it in the consumer's hand, who always had the final say in just how far an ad proliferated the cultural consciousness.

the timing of it all
as i elaborated already on the distribution side of things, we are at a point where we don't need the big event anymore to debut a new spot. things move faster now and we can constantly innovate our approaches and iterate our creative faster. we can access our consumers quicker and take the great thing we built and release it to the world for accelerated return on our efforts. we can be more nimble in responding to successes and failures. the internet is as big a seeding ground for our efforts on an ongoing basis than any one day or game. the potential for groundswell and expansion on a continual basis is enormous.

of course this won't be the last year of a big commotion being made of the superbowl ads. but i think it will slowly erode and in the not too distant future almost cease to be a talking point anymore. it will be broadcast, it will have ads, but won't have the same fuss about it.



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