A sneak peak at Super Bowl XLV ads

Super Bowl XLV is less than a week away and the buzz is hitting a fever pitch.  And I'm not talking about the action on the field!  The chatter in marketing and pop culture circles is that we may see some fun and creative content in between plays on Sunday.

This year's Super Bowl ads, which will run about $3 million for a :30 second spot, will feature several regulars as well as some newbies.  But all are hoping to make a splash on the world's biggest advertising stage.

Here's a sample of what to expect:

The exotic Kim Kardashian will be selling shoes in a provocative ad for Skechers. Kardashian has a reputation for selling her personal brand to the highest bidder, so I'll be interested to see how this ad plays out. Though I doubt that most men will be spending much time looking at the shoes.

Bridgestone Tires makes light of everyone's worst email fear...unintentionally hitting "reply all"!

Country singer Faith Hill doles out Valentine's Day advice for Teleflora.

Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber shot an ad for Best Buy in early January on a futuristic set at Universal Studios. The rumor mill says the spot is a laugher.  Hard to imagine an ad that places Justin Beiber and the "Prince of Bloody Darkness" on the same set as being anything but!

Audi will showcase an ad that is an extension of its present "Goodnight" campaign with literary inspiration from Goodnight Moon, the 1947 children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.

Two new movies will be teased during the big game including Paramount's Captain America and Universal's Cowboys and Aliens
There will also be more of the usuals including Budweiser, Doritos and Pepsi.  Rumor has it that Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice may make an ad cameo.  Hmmm...wonder if it was taped in rehab.
Other advertisers include BMW, CareerBuilder and CarMax. 
Come back next week and let me know what you thought of the ads - good, bad and ugly!

Will mobile shopping become as big as online shopping?

A recent article by Sarah Kessler, compares mobile shopping today to the early stages of internet shopping back in the '90s; and I think she has hit the nail on the head.

I am extremely excited about the prospects mobile shopping presents. 

Much like internet shopping 15 years ago, mobile shopping is only now beginning to take root.  As Kessler points out in her article, smartphone penetration in the US (in 2009) was just 17%, but sales are soaring!  According to mobilemarketingwatch, in 2010 mobile ad impressions in iPhone shopping apps grew by 249%.

We live in a world of value and convenience.  The easier you can make it for the consumer to purchase from you, the more likely you are to generate a sale.  Consumer focused social media and group discount platforms are on the rise.  Consider Foursquare, Places, Yelp, Groupon, LivingSocial, Wow, etc. 

Whether your goal is prospecting or loyal customer cultivation, your business needs to recognize that consumers are going mobile with greater and greater frequency.  But much like social media cultivation, don't anticipate that a smartphone user will begin immediately purchasing from you just because you've built a mobile portal.  They may first use the site for research and price comparisons, discount offers, brick & mortar street addresses, or Q & A.  However, if their initial "courting" experience is a good one, they'll feel more comfortable making a purchase from you when the time is right. 

Remember, regardless of why they are engaging your business; the simple act of doing so is an indication that the consumer is interested in developing a relationship that could lead to customer conversion.  Then it's up to you provide a positive mobile experience and guide them along the customer lifecycle.

Don't make the mistake with mobile shopping that many businesses made during the dawn of internet shopping by dismissing it as a fad.  Be very aware of the important role mobile communication plays in the lives of consumers worldwide. 

I'm not advocating for jumping on the bandwagon without doing your due diligence; but I am advocating for doing your due diligence.

Do Facebook ads work?

Much like every other marketing channel, the answer to that question depends upon your goals. 

However, here are a few "positives and negatives" to consider before investing in Facebook ads:

1.  To most Americans under the age of 35, Facebook is one of their top 3 communication platforms

2.  74% of Facebook users are on the site multiple times per day

3.  Facebook ads can be geographically targeted.  You are not committed to buying national ads if you're a local business
4.  Facebook ads can be further micro-targeted though the use of member provided demographic and psychographic data (this is very different from key word searches on Google or Yahoo)

5.  You can manage your budget by placing a cap on the amount you want to spend per day, or pay only for each click

6.  The Facebook Responder Demographics Report will give you info on who is reviewing or taking action on your ad so you can measure its targeting effectiveness

7.  Almost 54% of Facebook users do not have a negative opinion of Facebook ads

8.  Facebook ads can be a strong lead generation source, provided you are driving users to your own Facebook page since the majority of Facebook users prefer ads that keep them inside Facebook

1.  Not an effective a way to reach Gen Xers or Baby Boomers...yet

2.  Though click through rates (CTR) are typically not high anywhere, Facebook ad click through rates have been reported as low as 0.01 – 0.05% (However, strategic content and user rewards can have a positive measurable impact on click through rates)

3.  Using impressions as a form of measurement is subjective at best.  Just because your ad is on the page a member happens to be visiting, doesn't mean the ad is actually being noticed

4.  If your business is a dating site or an educational program, FB ad statistics don't look good for you

5.  FB ads are typically not a good source if you're trying to build traffic to a non-Facebook site

So are Facebook ads right for your business?  Only you can decide, but go into it with your eyes open.  Personally, I have had some measurable success using Facebook ads, but my goals were simple: Brand awareness and lead generation. And the level of success fluctuated based upon the location and length of the campaign.

I suggest gathering supportive data, and analyzing a few case studies before making an investment.  But as a general rule of thumb, I wouldn't recommend making Facebook your only advertising channel.

Print media needs more than diversification to survive!

According to a recent Biz Report article by Kristina Knight, A new report from the American Press Institute and ITZBelden shows that the flagging print media industry can survive if it diversifies the channels it is offering its advertisers.

The API/ITZBelden report states that "media companies - newspapers, magazines, etc. - offering a broad range of services - online, print, etc. - serve the needs of local businesses better. Local businesses, according to the report, are looking for a kind of ad-agency-approach, which newspapers can offer by giving more choices to the local advertiser."  The key, according to the report, "is in understanding where each local business will get the biggest advertising benefit."

Forgive my cynicism, but is this really a surprise to anyone?  I suppose it's nice that the report confirms what every print media outlet (and most marketers) have known for quite some time now, but I don't think this is a watershed moment.

There are two bigger issues that the print media industry needs to address to solve its advertising challenges, as I see it.

First, finding sales and marketing teams that know how to sell a diverse advertising portfolio; and second, finding a way to compete with other traditional and burgeoning marketing channels that are much less expensive.

The cost of a full page black and white ad in The Washington Post can go for as much as $100,000.  For the same amount of money in the DC market, I can buy a fairly robust six month radio campaign with a frequency much greater than "1", or a very large, geo-targeted Facebook campaign generating millions of impressions and thousands of click throughs.  To be fair, the price of a print ad will be less in smaller markets, but so will the cost of other advertising channels.  Print advertising is still wildly overpriced for a dying medium even when packaged with digital offerings. 

So - can print advertising survive through diversification?  Sure.  But at what point do you stop calling it "print"?

Exercise and weight loss? There's an app for that!

Two Washington, DC area entrepreneurs are on the verge of launching Nexercise, a new smartphone app that will help millions of people keep their 2011 New Years resolution:  A commitment to exercise and fitness.

According to an article in today's Capital Business, "[Nexercise] users select a physical activity, such as aerobics, running or badminton, then choose a workout time of 15 minutes or more. The program uses sensors already built into the iPhone and other smartphones to detect motion and other metrics that verify the activity actually takes place."

The founders of Nexercise, Benjamin Young and Gregory Coleman,  say the app will also offer rewards and discounts to users, providing additional incentives.

This is an interesting concept and I'm intrigued.  However, if a healthier lifestyle, more energy and a leaner physique aren't enough to motivate someone to exercise more; a "free" Power Bar or a discount on a CD certainly aren't going to do it.  The rewards will need to be substantial to motivate those who are not self-motivated.

The app does have some value though, especially for those folks who don't belong to a health club where numerous forms of measurement are already provided.  The social component that allows users to compete with other smartphone owners or interact on Facebook and Twitter is a unique feature that might generate a viral following. While I'm not certain that I would want to share my weight loss goals and exercise regimen online for all to see, social networking has certainly broken down many personal information barriers far worse than that. Nexercise will allow two friends who live far apart to compete with and motivate one another in real time.  That's pretty cool.

According to the Capital Business article, the primary financial model is built around transaction fees from coupon redemption.  Though Young clarified on this blog that the app will be free and, "users won't have any additional fees.  The transaction fee is a nominal fee (think paypal, ebay, etc) that is charged to the retailers when users redeem their rewards." This is not a fee charged to the consumer like when purchasing a gift card or an airline ticket.

I can think of numerous sponsors who might be interested in supporting a service like Nexercise (though McDonald's isn't one of them).

I'll be following the launch of this new app, which is scheduled for Q2 of 2011, especially since my New Year's resolution is to exercise more.

Good luck guys!  I hope this app is successful.  Let us know when it launches.

Happy New Year!! Welcome 2011!

Here's to a year filled with more opportunities than challenges; more smiles than frowns, more successes than failures, more love than hate, and more peace than war.