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All good things …

And so it ends. After nine weeks, eight papers, nine essays, 45 written responses to my classmates’ essays, and 16 blog posts, we have come to the end. I must say that I learned a lot. Obviously a lot about the new age media content that I was tasked with creating for this class, IMC 619, Emerging Media. And I learned a lot about the WordPress blogging software. It was fun to play with the various templates and get better with using the software as the class moved on. I’m very impressed with WordPress — this is great, user-friendly software for free.

However, I have also learned that I really, really don’t like blogging. I didn’t think that I would, but this exercise just confirmed it. Writing posts was often a chore. One of the problems with the Internet, in my opinion, is that there are so many people saying so much, but so few people who really have something to say. I remember that in the 1950s, the head of the FTC called television the “great wasteland,” and he was skewered for it. I suspect that the blogosphere is the 21st version of the great wasteland.

And since I’m pulling out Cold War references, I thought that I would leave you all with a short clip to sum things up. I don’t know if I’m going to permanently delete this site or leave it up. But in the meantime please enjoy one of my favorites from Stanley Kubrick …

Facebook finds yet another way to blow it

Well, here we are in March, and Facebook has found another way to anger its userbase. Granted, they are an unpaid userbase, but they are angry. As I mentioned earlier, Zuckerberg’s creation is great for catching up with lost friends and sharing pictures of your kids, but it’s not so great for making money for its founder. Zuckerberg’s group just had a nasty PR hit when it tried to subtly change its privacy policies, and it took another one when it basically decided to let scam artists pay to advertise on the site and prey on its members.

Now Facebook has radically reengineered its front page to turn it into … Twitter. You know, *tweet*, *tweet*. Twitter basically exists for the most narcisstic in our society who feel the world is consumed with the minutia of their day. You know, “Carl is making a peanut butter sandwich and is getting ready to watch 24.” That kind of urgent communications.logo_facebook

Facebook always had a status update portion, but it was the least interesting part of its site. Rather, when you logged on to FB, you would only see the last three status updates, along with the newest posted photos from your friends, links to cool old-school videos on YouTube, and links to thought-provoking articles. Basically, if you had interesting friends then you were blessed with interesting content, free of charge.

But Facebook couldn’t stop there. Twitter had lately stolen much of FB’s media attention, so a change had to be made. Those of us who logged on to the site on Friday found out that all of the dynamic, interesting content was gone. In it’s place was … line after line of status updates. A laundry list that basically let you know how boring your friends are. Yes, the other content is there, somewhere, but it’s buried on others’ individual sites and now very difficult to find. Basically it’s no longer worth the trouble.

I clicked on the feedback link and sent FB a simple message saying: “You guys suck! Way to ruin a good thing!” I received an auto-generated message saying, “Thanks for your feedback! To see how others think, go to our blog discussing the topic at http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=59195087130!” I was glad that I had the chance to do this, as this is where the fun began.

I have been checking the comments to the change at random times. I have not read one single positive comment. Not one. But how many? Well, the site is set up to automatically delete your comment when it reaches the number of 101. There are only 100 comments displayed at any one time. No one is reading any of this feedback, definitely not Zuckerberg.

I have to think that at this point tens of thousands of users have registered their objections to the new layout, with a 99.9 percent disapproval level. It’s mind-boggling. Further angering all of us is that when you post an opinion, it vanishes into the ether in minutes, as 99 other angry FB users needed to say the same thing.

I am deleting my Facebook account.

Google beginning to *really* target its ads

I stumbled upon an interesting article about Google’s online advertising policies. For those who don’t know, Google makes a significant portion of its revenue on search engine optimization (SEO) advertising. Basically, if you pay the company a certain sum, you can guarantee that your company’s link will be featured prominently in the search results, usually as a sponsored link. All of the major search engines do this; Google just does it better, as it does just about everything better when it comes to search.fsm-google-doodle1

Peter Sayers of IDG News wrote a piece on March 11 saying that Google plans to further refine its advertisements based not only on the searches its users make but also on the websites that they visit on a daily basis. Users will also have the options to further define their interests and thus the ads that they see when using Google:


Of course there are privacy concerns. The article points out that Google must abide by a U.S. Federal Trade Commission guideline published in 2007 that requires that websites provide a clear notice if using behavioral advertising and allowing consumers to opt-out. Thus the user-customization aspect of the new Google effort.

The company is also trying to ward off criticism by saying that it won’t collect data for certain categories such as health status, which would clearly overstep privacy bounderies.

Google says that it will offer a browser plug-in that will allow for a permanent cookie that will opt-out the would-be surfer. However, I have a better idea:

* Delete your cache and cookies weekly if not more.
* Don’t use Google while signed in with a gmail web address.

It’s a constant battle to be able to surf the web in peace …

Another Facebook horror story … but a stupid one

We all keep reading about incidents where prospective job applicants are being screened by employers using the applicants’ own Facebook pages. You remember that picture of you bonging a beer or taking off your top or just doing some random illegal act … well, it’s a big Internet, and more people can see those pictures than just your close friends.facebook_pic

But I had to scratch my head the other day when I read that the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles fired their “West Gate Chief,” Dan Leone, when he put up the following comment as his Facebook status:

“Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”


Brian Dawkins, you see, was a very popular player in Philly. And Philly loves its professional team. Eagles fans are some of the most passionate in the NFL.

So Leone, a lifelong Eagles fan who only worked part-time, had to be let go. Because he posted as his status that, “Dam Eagles R Retarded!!” Mind you, he apologized profusely, to no avail. It didn’t matter … the club tossed him out to the street.

First, it appears that the Eagles run a security apparatus on par with the KGB. Who sits around and reads its part-time employees’ Facebook statuses? I know it’s the off-season, but there must be SOMETHING to do around the stadium.

The only serious thing I can take from this is to lock down your Facebook profile. Don’t let anyone see anything on your page unless they are your friends … and don’t let just anyone be your friend.

But c’mon, Eagles management. Lighten up. Really.

Twitter Stuff

The Washington Post, the best newspaper in these United States, ran an article on how many firms are trying to use Twitter in their day-to-day operations:

The articles says that Twitter is a unique way for companies to create buzz for new products or to issue quick alerts to customers such as outages. Companies mentioned include Network Solutions, Skittles, Dell, Fairfax County VA, and the Bill Gates Association, which is about as diverse a group of organizations that I can think of.twitter

Of course there is a downside to all of this transparent, flexible communication, as there always is. A couple of weeks ago Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., couldn’t help himself but twitter the mesage “Just landed in Baghdad.” Hoekstra sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and should have known better than to have announced to his constituents in real-time that the party was now in a combat zone. And that wasn’t the end of it. He continued to twitter messages such as “Moved into Green Zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace,” among other location-revealing comments.

Stupidity + new media = real danger.

I love me my Sirius XM radio …

The recently merged satellite radio company Sirius XM faces a problem in that, while its content is outstanding, it is difficult to get subscribers to understand the benefit of the product without actually trying it for a significant period. Unlike commercial radio, there are no 20-minute blocks of advertising; but also, unlike free Internet radio stations, Sirius XM boasts some of the best disk jockeys, artist interviews, famous on-air personalities (e.g. Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Jamie Foxx), and special events programming, including most major sports.

I have been a Sirius subscriber for more than three years, and I find the medium to be indispensible. I could live without TV, but not satellite radio. I’m also amazed at how many people have tried it only to give it up. In my experience, most of those folks tried XM, not Sirius. However, given the recent merger, the new branded product sounds much more XM that Sirius, in my opinion. If you haven’t listened to both then you wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about, but I could definitely tell the difference in the attitude, in the way the content is approached. Still, the new product is a billion times better than terrestrial radio.

The problem is that, because satellite radio is such a unique product, it is difficult to convey its benefits without experiencing it. Further, given the worldwide recession, fewer cars are being purchased that already come with satellite radio installed – usually such vehicles come with several free months to expose potential customers to the product.

However, given the uniqueness of the iPhone, there is the possibility for a solution that involves Wifi. Sirius XM already offers a sophisticated online application, whereby subscribers can use a username and password to log on and listen to most music stations and personalities, but not most special events programming. The advent of the iPhone, which is really the world’s first handheld computer, means that Sirius XM radio is fully portable outside of the car, wherever there is wireless Internet (don’t get me started on the Sirius Stilleto, everyone who I know who has tried the product either said that it had reception problems burned out after only a short period). Sirius XM’s marketing goal should be to use iPhone and Wifi technology to increase product trials and ultimately convert these trial customers into paying ones.

So why isn’t there a Sirius XM app yet for the iPhone? I have no idea.untitled-1

Product placement to the max

Product placement in movies and TV shows has been around forever. As soon as there were visual media, somebody was trying to insert a brand in it for a price. I thought that this example from the 1999 Julia Roberts-Richard Gere movie Runaway Bride was a bit over the top. Not only do they perfectly frame the FedEx logo on the truck, when someone asks where she (Roberts) is going, a bystander says, “wherever it is, she’ll be there by 10:30 tomorrow!”

Not very subtle.

Data breaches — losing the keys to the kingdom

keysofthekingdom2501In the past nine years or so there have been vast changes in the online data-gathering climate, many good and many bad. Numerous data breaches and data theft cases during the decade have highlighted everyone’s worst fears and have gotten lawmakers involved. One notable case was the T.J. Maxx breach of 2006, where criminals were able to steal more than 45 million active credit card accounts from the company’s unencrypted wireless nodes. Much of the data ended up in Florida, where it was used to make at least $8 million in ill-gotten purchases. An even more recent case from last month involving the credit card processor Heartland Systems saw a Trojan horse program being released on the company’s network, providing attackers with the personal info of as many as 100 million credit card owners. These incidents call into question whether good intentions and strong codes of ethics alone are enough to preserve individual rights.

IMC practitioners be forewarned: collecting and mining vast quantities of personal data cannot be done lightly. Strong security controls must be in place, along with well-documented and thought out privacy statements – that are actually enforced and closely audited. We are talking about terrible publicity for an organization that goes on and one on, legislative meddling into your operations security, and lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits.

Advergaming: Marketing and entertainment aimed at children

The term “advergaming” was supposedly coined in 2000 and is popularly attributed to Anthony Giallourakis, who bought the domain advergames.com. Bluntly, advergaming is both advertising and entertainment, where the target audience seeks out the medium created by the IMC practitioner and stays for prolong periods, depending upon the quality of the game itself. Advergaming was identified early on as an effective way of sending marketing messages to youths of all ages.

Marketing toward children has always been controversial. A 2004 study by Sabrina M. Neeley and David W. Schumann, published in the Journal of Advertising found that the use of cartoon characters in child advertising was prevalent but that there was only partial evidence that these characters strongly influenced children’s behavior. Since the 1970s, there has been outrage against what is perceived as exploitation of children by certain “unethical” advertisers. When one thinks of a lack of ethics in child advertising, he or she usually thinks of non-nutritious breakfast cereal marketed as “fun and exciting,” cartoon characters used to sell fast food, and even the marketing of 1-900 pay-by-the-minute phone numbers marketed to children in the 1980s. There was also much consternation about the Bud Light “Spuds McKenzie” ad campaign on the mid-80s, that resulted in children relating to “America’s original party animal” and Mothers Against Drunk Driving charging that Anheuser-Busch was pitching the dog to children.

In the Neely study, the authors pointed out that between the ages of two and eleven, the average child in the U.S. watches about 21 hours of television and two to two-and-a-half hours watching taped programming. While dramatic, this information, originally recorded in the early 90s, is out of date due to the advent of the Internet and DVDs. According to this week’s lesson today’s youth spend about an hour using a computer each day doing activities besides school work, with most of that time being online.

Given this, it’s obvious that many critics are not excited about children’s advertising finding another, more effective medium to spread their marketing messages.

The heart of IMC is unified messaging across all channels of a marketing effort, from speeches made by the CEO, to all levels of advertising, to messages conveyed by the company’s public relations and customer service arms. However, it is possible that one message that is appropriate for one mainstream audience can be inappropriate for another. For example, much content in current marketing can be classified as sexy, if not outright sexual, according to a National Public Radio Article by Lynn Neary.

Clearly, IMC practitioners must be extremely diligent about doing the right thing when marketing to children: encourage healthy habits, tone down the “sexiness” to the absolute minimum level, and be sensitive to the secondary audience – parents. After all, the worst thing that can happen to a client would be for a loud, public boycott or protest as a result of an inappropriate marketing campaign.

Again, an IMC practitioner’s focus should always be on the message first. In this case, it is appropriate and ethical to offer games that will attract children to a website that targets them. However, the key should be to take advantage of the opportunity to communicate positive messages as well as crass commercialism. The website http://www2.kelloggs.com is a good example of this. The site contains informational links such as “Rediscover the Value of a Family Breakfast,” “Snacking Right,” “Family Connections,” and “Fuel for School,” as well as an area to sign up for the company’s Family Focus e-newsletter. All of this content contains the unified message that breakfast cereal is healthy but is only a part of a well-balanced breakfast.

Video games used to market snacks in Japan

I don’t think that there is a single way that new-age marketers could do anything but infuriate me by sending any non-solicited communication to my Blackberry. However, I recognize that there is a generation younger than me who have completely different expectations when it comes to using mobile devices. And given that the Asian market is much more mature in this area, I thought that I would do some research into how mobile marketing is working in Japan. I was able to find a case study of a successful mobile marketing effort there for the spicy snacks “Tyrant Habanero Burning Hell Hot” and “Satan Jorquia Bazooka Deadly Hot.”

According to Carlo Longino, who authors the blog “Mob Happy,” which focuses on mobile technologies, “Users bought a packet of snacks, then scanned the 2D barcode on the back with their mobile, and joined the Habanero Evil Army or the Satan Jorquia Evil Army (depending on which one they purchased). They could then recruit friends to join and get promoted in rank in their army. The armies then fought wars over 31 battlefields … and users got all sorts of SMS news alerts from ‘war reporters’ to make the experience more immersive” (http://mobhappy.com/blog1/2008/05/22/some-cool-mobile-marketing-from-japan).

A similar effort could be successful in North America with teenagers. If a good game could be developed (such application development is not cheap), a five digit code could be placed on the back of a package and entered into a smart phone to access a similar multi-player online game. Of course users would have to register and provide an e-mail address, to which they would be sent updates on how their character and friends are doing, along with messages from the company. The goal would be to keep it short and quick and somewhat campy, as Japanese cartoons are somewhat seen this way in North America. For example “The swift sword of [snack] fights away hunger and your enemies,” or other silly messages. Lots of color, lots of movement.

Despite the potential of efforts such as this geared toward youth, I am deeply skeptical that marketing toward this platform has the long-term growth that many marketers hope for. I think that spam has killed e-mail as a mainstream method for advertising — even when successful, it more resembles junk mail than traditional advertising. Given the size and bandwidth limitations of mobile devices, one would think that the challenges would be even greater than marketing through a desktop computer.picture-72