Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Phorm causing data privacy storm

April 17, 2009

The media has been crawling with stories on data security for months.  Whatever your choice of rag it has become almost impossible to escape the big bad world of data leak disasters and ignore the increasingly plaintive cries of data collection critics.

This week Amazon announced it will not allow online advertising system, Phorm, to scan its web pages in order to produce targeted advertising.  The Phorm Webwise service works by building a profile of users by scanning for keywords on websites visited and then assigning relevant ads. Essentially, it tracks users’ activities online and sends them targeted, context-sensitive advertising.

Phorm has already proved controversial – not only within the technology industry but also amongst politicians and, consequentially, the mainstream media.  There is an ongoing political debate about user consent and earlier this week the European Commission announced infringement action against the UK government for failing to take action over secret trials run by Phorm and BT.

Today the Wikimedia Foundation also asked Phorm to exclude all its domains and websites – including Wikipedia – from Phorm’s BT trials, because it considers such scanning to be an infringement of its users’ privacy.

I see why these data privacy campaigners are concerned, and I’m sure that there is a plethora of reasons why one wouldn’t want others to gather data on their surfing habits, but personally I don’t feel particularly affronted by the rise of such technologies.   Maybe this is because I always ignore internet ads anyway, or maybe it’s because I just don’t really care if a third party knows which websites I am visiting.  Too blasé?  Perhaps… I hope no-one clones my bank card details again! 


As Maxim and Arena close down, online reigns supreme

April 2, 2009


The news that the June issue of Maxim will be their last one in print is another blow to the media industry. With Arena recently closing too this is a powerful indicator that there is likely to be more bad news on the horizon this year.  If advertisers continue to cut their budgets the traditional media that has been relied on for so long to seed messages and ideas will not be able to survive.  Now, more than ever, brands need to be turning to the online world to reach their audience – targeting editorial websites, effectively engaging with relevant and influential bloggers or creating campaigns that target consumers through social media. This may mean getting out of the old comfort zone and learning entirely new skills.


The ones that jump in without researching these avenues first or gaining any insight into best practice have been, and will continue to be, the ones that get burned. And this burn doesn’t fade. The power of the online world is such that your mistakes are permanently etched into the web for all to see, leaving you with a lasting scar.  Ironically, the lesson here is that nothing changes – whether it’s traditional or social media, as always, it is the companies that take the time to understand their audience, and the channels they are using to target that audience, that will see the best results.  They’ll be the ones that sail through campaign after campaign not just unscathed, but in good health.


Cheer up News Corp it might never happen

February 9, 2009


‘cept it has, hasn’t it?  While many blame the media for overhyping our collective financial woes and accelerating us all towards a depression, the industry is not immune to its own effects.  In fact, last week News Corp blamed its quarterly losses of $6.4bn on a huge decline in ad revenue.  Nobody is spending, because we’ve read in the papers and seen on the TV that it’s all rather grim out there, so you’re better off saving your pennies for a rainy day.  So, as us media people trip over each other in the dole queue, you could argue that we’ve cut our collective nose off to spite our collective face.

But fear not.  Seeing as I am completely ignorant of the inner workings of hedge funds, private equity, derivatives and the like, I can categorically sum the lot up as just imaginary numbers on a screen.  Banking and finance? It’s all a bit mysterious and hard to wrap your arms around isn’t it?  A bit like God.  And I’m agnostic.

Let’s leave the bankers to it, eh and get working on something we can affect. 


So, if the media helped fuel the speed of economic decline by undermining confidence, let’s just all get a bit of a collective cheer on and maybe, just maybe, we can chuckle our way back to the good times.  

Party on.

A credit crunch Christmas

November 24, 2008



A year ago, few people had heard of the dreaded term ‘credit crunch’, but the phrase has now entered dictionaries.  We PR people were probably amongst the first to start splashing the financial crisis all over the media and already by Christmas 2007 we were already bored of talking about it.  This year, however, there is really no escape, with the credit crunch having now pervaded the lives of everyone in the UK in one form or another.  Employment figures dropped alarmingly fast this year, and as of exactly one month ago today, the Office for National Statistics announced figures showing negative economic growth meaning that we are on the brink of recession.  This doesn’t bode well for the millions of UK businesses that rely on the festive season to boost their yearly revenues. It is actually estimated that the Christmas shopping season can account for as much as forty per cent of a retail store’s annual revenue and as much as three-quarters of its annual profit.  But not this year!  

As the Guardian’s Steve Henry points out, there is a silver lining to every cloud, and this year it is the fact that Tesco has been the first of the UK’s biggest retailers to recognise that we’d really prefer not to be bombarded with celebrity-riddled luxury Christmas advertising this year (“Compare Tesco, who have – in my view – won the PR war by apparently ditching the overpaid celebs. That’s doing something new. That’s interesting.”). As he outlines the various advantages and disadvantages of spending millions of pounds to jump on Britain’s obsession with celeb culture at Christmas time, he asks us: “Is it time for advertising to explore new ways of talking to people? Is it possible that the credit crunch will force us all to look afresh at advertising and demand that it is more relevant, more authentic, and less wasteful?” – I hope so!  Even the biggest brands may not be able to afford to pay celebrities to dress up in silly Christmas outfits next year…

I am worried John McCain will bomb my goats…

October 31, 2008

Two excellent virals caught my attention this week – both motivated by the impending US election.


The first is a remake of the classic “Wassup” Budweiser advert and is a good example of a traditional-style piece of advertising spreading through viral means.



The second might more properly be called a viral – it pretends to be a news report on the US election and can be customised so that it blames you personally for the republican victory. Expensive, but very effective



Top PR blunders of all time

October 24, 2008

Kerry Katona
Kerry Katona



Watching the good ship Kerry hit a PR iceberg and sink on This Morning earlier this week, made me nostalgic for the greatest PR blunders of the past. Here are some old classics:


Brand/Company: FEMA

Failure level: Mild

Feeling battered after a spate of natural disasters and spending criticism in the US, FEMA thought they would take an easy route and position their employees as journalists in a press conference. The soft questions posed allowed spokesman Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson to comment favourably on FEMA’s work. The press saw straight through it and an even worse backlash followed.


Brand/Company: Hoover

Failure level: Major

In the 90s Hoover ran a promotion where anyone who spent more than £100 on a Hoover product received a free flight to America. The offer was massively popular, as this was before the age of budget carriers. But Hoover did not anticipate the level of demand and tried to hide behind technicalities to avoid giving customers their flights. Legal action from customers followed.

Brand/Company: Dasani

Failure level: Epic

Things weren’t going well for Dasani (Coca-Cola’s still water brand) when it was revealed that their water was simply taken from the Thames mains supply in Sidcup, Kent, echoing a famous plotline from Only Fools and Horses. But the laughter became anger when it was revealed that the water was contaminated with illegally high levels of bromate – a chemical linked to cancer – killing the brand stone dead.

Will Ferrell and Pearl’s Good Cop, Baby Cop v new Haribo advert

October 14, 2008
Compare Will Ferrell’s Good Cop Baby Cop sketch  to the latest Haribo advert advert.  No such thing as a new idea in advertising?  You decide…

The keys to successful viral marketing

July 25, 2008


One of the first stumbling-blocks that people encounter when talking about viral marketing is a confusion over what differentiates a viral campaign from mainstream marketing. True viral campaigns all share a number of key elements:


● They transmit themselves over existing communications networks


● They are self-replicating – just like a biological or computer virus


● The campaign can grow without your support (or control)


● The recipients pass on the marketing message voluntarily


Confusion also often results from the fact that viral campaigns can operate over a large number of different media: word of mouth, games, videos, eBooks, software, images, e-mail and even text messages.


So what makes a viral campaign become a great viral campaign?


1] You must ensure the viral is compatible with the values and personality of your brand and does not undermine the existing perception of it.


2] The viral must also be intrinsically relevant to the brand so that it cannot ‘shake off’ the brand’s message. An excellent example of this is Hotmail’s viral self-marketing on its own emails – users spread the viral as part and parcel with the free service.


3] Make sure that you have clearly mapped out the viral’s objective. Are you trying to build awareness, increase customer numbers, promote a specific event or do something else?


4] Your central concept for the viral has to stand out – it must be interesting, new and different. Ask yourself, why will people talk about this?


5] The viral must give the recipient something in return for spreading it. For example, a user passing on a funny viral expects to receive recognition and admiration from his friends for making them laugh.


6] It is important that your viral originates from a credible entity – i.e. it cannot blatantly come from an advertising or PR agency.


7] Identify individuals with a high social networking potential (SNP) and target them: for example, targeting prominent bloggers and pushing your product into the hands of leading consumers can be invaluable strategies.


8] Finally, you have ten to twenty seconds. Any longer and you will not be able to grab the audience’s attention. According to Jupiter Research’s latest European consumer survey, only 5% of the internet population has ever forwarded a marketing message.


And remember, it is extremely important to monitor the results of your viral – not least because your clients will want to know where their money went!


Of course, these media viruses can also spring up naturally… like the “dramatic gopher”…


Which is better: PR or Advertising?

June 20, 2008

So when do you need advertising and when do you need PR? Or do you need both?


Well, each has PROs and cons (sorry bad pun)…


Advertising offers a far greater level of message control than PR. That is, with advertising your product or service can have exactly the spin you want it to have. Once a PR news story leaves the office and enters the real world, the message can be changed and interpreted. Often publications don’t even see the story as newsworthy and refuse to cover it. In advertising, if you’ve paid for it, you get the exposure.


But then there is the matter of shelf-life. PR releases tend to smoulder longer than an advert released on television. Search engines can locate an archived press release long after the initial PR buzz has waned.


But, the big bonus of a PR message is that it carries implied endorsement from the publication it’s printed in (and the reader may have a very high level of trust for that publication). Conversely, even the best advertising is recognised as self-serving communication. PR also happens to be substantially cheaper.


PR has also come into its own with the arrival of web 2.0 services, blogs and forums. Third-party endorsement, blogger recommendations and entering into a conversation with consumers has never been more important. Imagine how urgent it is for a PR consultant to stop a disgruntled customer talking about their horrible experience with your client on a forum read by 50,000 people…


The rule for the moment seems to be: if you have a large company and enough money to blast your ad through the constant din of media messaging with a huge campaign, go for it. But you should have PR too.


For small or medium-sized companies, or anyone working in the digital space, PR is the way forward.


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