Monday, August 24, 2009

The Most Powerful Media Entity on the Planet?

We all have our Facebook stories; here is mine:

Just about 3 months ago I was "friended" by a former classmate from my elementary school days in the mid-70s. It was the first such social media connection from this chapter of my life and brought back a flood of memories. Within a few weeks 7 or 8 more classmates connected, one posting a picture of our class from the fourth grade that I am sure I haven’t seen since I was in the fifth grade. Within a couple of months, the group had grown to over 40, many participating in conversation threads about ferocious nuns and a planned reunion this coming September.

Many of us have similar personal stories about the stunning connectivity power of Facebook and other social networks. Some media experts claim Facebook is the most powerful media entity on the planet and will only continue to grow in reach and influence.

A compelling video titled “Social Media Revolution” started making the rounds last week: It opens with a bold question that might have seemed far-fetched a few years ago but not today: “Is Social Media a fad or the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.”

The video then goes on the present a list of eye-popping data points that support a social and media phenomenon if not a revolution. One example:

Years to reach 50 million users:

Radio - 38 Years
TV -13 Years
Internet - 4 Years
iPod -3 Years
Facebook - Added 100 million users in less than 9 months

So, the multi billion dollar question: How can Facebook and others monetize this extraordinary usage and why are there still questions about their ability to do so?

There is no doubt that advertising is more effective accompanying search results than in social media environments, but there still must be significant value and a considerable measure of effectiveness in placing an ad message along side a stream of 47-year-olds reminiscing and interacting with each other.

And what other ways can Facebook monetize all the data revealed by their 250 million users? Just the other day they announced plans to move aggressively into e-commerce including physical goods from third-party companies. Imagine 1-800-Flowers targeting friends of people who have a birthday coming up. (Most Facebook members include their birthday in their profile.)

The monetization opportunities seem endless when you consider Facebook’s reach and depth of connectivity. I keep waiting to see a local party planning company's ad to show up on the pages of my elementary school classsmates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Newspapers Can Still Deliver

This reprint of a famous New York Times headline story dropped out of my home-delivered paper over 3 weeks ago, providing immediate delight to my entire family. It has been sitting on our living room coffee table ever since, often picked up and browsed by visiting friends.

The reprint is sponsored by Louis Vuitton and their latest “journeys” ad celebrating the “greatest journey of all” occupies the entire back page. This particular ad placement was a keypart of a broader association with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

It’s been discussed ad nauseam how difficult it has become for advertisers to stand out and effectively reach and influence their target audience. Here we have one of the oldest media properties in the country, the flagship of a media category deemed by most to be on it’s last legs, delivering a truly compelling offering that serves ongoing value to itself, its readers and a large advertising partner.

A recent forecast by Borell Associates actually shows newspaper ad revenue rebounding next year. The forecast points to better and more innovative ad selling.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Power of Traditional Advertising, Part One

With marketing budgets inexorably moving to all things digital and the teams that manage them barely able to keep up with the pace of change, sometimes the most effective advertising relies on the oldest forms of media.

Advertisers have been painting their messages on the sides of buildings in NYC for over 200 years. One of the largest such ads covers the entire side of a 30+ story building on 23rd street and Park Avenue. Warner Bros has had the exclusive rights for many years and uses it to promote new film releases. Every few weeks, a new image is hand-painted over the previous one. The process and the subsequent showing is seen by hundreds of thousand of people walking and driving north on Park Avenue.

What makes the ad so effective is the sheer size, but also the painting process that creates a near photographic image. Most importantly, it is also the only building-size, outdoor ad in this part of Manhattan giving it a particularly impactful placement in the urban landscape.

New zoning laws make it unlikely any new ads will appear nearby. (During the past 15-10 years, NYC somehow lost control of the outdoor ad business resulting in complete overload in certain commercial areas like Times Square and the Queens side of the Midtown Tunnel. They have made a 180 degree turn and are now aggressively regulating.)

This dramatic recurring ad in a relatively ad-free environment gives Warner Bros a unique marketing franchise on one of the oldest ad platforms, a platform that does not appear to be weakened by the digital revolution.