Why Survival for Google Plus May Be Out of Reach

Photo of house half submerged in flood

The big test for Google+ is reach. The true measure of whether it passes this test is how Google+ is used before, during and after natural disasters and other crises.

This past week, we (along the East Coast) lived through an earthquake and a hurricane, so I have to ask: On which social media network did you find yourself when each hit?

On Sunday, I saw this on Google+:

“Really haven’t had much to say here on G+ this week. With the earthquake and hurricane in NYC, Twitter was where it was at.”

I completely agree. Nothing (yet) beats the immediacy and reach of Twitter and Facebook when a crisis hits. If you’re on Google+, you know that most of your friends and online network of friends and acquaintances aren’t there yet. This is a huge problem for Google+ that I don’t think they’ve yet recognized.

When last week’s earthquake hit, I wasn’t fully sure what had just happened. My first instinct was to make sure everything around me was okay and nothing dangerous was going on that I should be aware of. My second instinct was to check Facebook and see if anyone else felt it. I figured this was the fastest way to confirm that I wasn’t crazy and how widespread the quaking was felt. I was right.

Within minutes of the last tremor, several of my friends had posted comments about the quake—from North Carolina, Washington DC, and Virginia.

I checked Twitter and saw many people tweeting about the quake there too—tweets from Toronto, New York and Maryland.

About three to five minutes later, the news broke in to the show I was watching and announced the quake. Old news for many by then.

Pic of my Google+ post on the VA hurricane

I went to Google+ and posted the information, but I didn’t stay there. As said above, Twitter and Facebook were where it was at.

I think many people aren’t adopting Google+ because of the plethora of predictions it will fail and because Google is not reaching out to and educating people without Gmail accounts. Right now, there’s no reason for people to switch to Google+ because the reach of Facebook and Twitter is so much greater.

Google is basically failing Marketing 101. You have to give people a reason to want your product.

Right now, that reason to use Google+ isn’t there. If it doesn’t come soon, Google will be trashing what, in my opinion, is a very good product.

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Tennis Serves Up Creative Advertising to Court Young Players

What’s one of the most important qualities for a person, a company or organization to have? Adaptability.

Times and technology change quickly, especially these days. And if you’re not keeping up, your competitors will most likely pass you by.

One of the places this need to change is significant is in sports…specifically tennis. Many professional sports leagues are suffering, but probably none more than tennis.

Storybook picture of scared cartoon girl on tennis court

On weekends, as you drive by field after field, you can see for sure that soccer is the most prevalent sport among kids. Tennis courts stay pretty empty. Professional tennis in the United States is at risk of losing its audience and future players.

Tennis is like a corporation that’s been around for 100 years. It’s slow to change and holds tight to its conservative roots. But in the past few years, it’s been breaking out of its shell.

First, they allowed review and seamlessly incorporated it into each match, without causing much delay. The audience, the players and the court umpire all view the replay together. Talk about transparency! Other professional sports should follow tennis’ lead.

Next, tennis organizations paid more attention to promotion and advertising. For example, not only did they decide to make an official series out of the pre-U.S. Open tournaments, but they used some rocking, tennis-star-filled advertisements to encourage interest. Increased ratings proved their efforts paid off.

Most recently, they’re trying to get more kids involved by adapting what trainers have been doing for years. They’re changing rules, equipment and court size to help kids play and grow in the sport.

One of the things about this that excites me—both as a creative professional and a tennis fan—is actually the advertising that announces this rule change. This humorous commercial with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi targets—and mentions—its enemy. Please watch:

Two superstars of tennis, a great sense of humor and the willingness to actually mention the sport that is kicking their ass among youngsters are just a few of the reasons I love this ad. Plus, the illustration and animation in the storybook are fantastic!

Tennis in the United States is not dead yet, and it’s proving that old, stodgy institutions can change with the times. As a fan, I wish they had changed sooner. As a marketer, I’m also hoping they can inspire other conservative organizations to embrace the truth and move forward with humor and gusto.

What organizations would you like to see learn from this example?

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Want to see another example of positive sportsmanship and fan friendliness in tennis? Check out this fun video of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin playing with the fans and a ball boy during a delay.

Semantics. Advertisers, They’re Not Just for English Majors Anymore

Last week, I talked about ad puke—a thoughtless way of advertising that just wants to get in your face. This week, I’d like to introduce you to a more thoughtful approach—semantic advertising.

Digital advertising is not easy. You usually don’t have much space to get your message across and emotionally connect with the audience.

As I said in a recent post on AutoConversion.net, if you’re not responding to the emotion of consumers, you’re wasting your advertising dollars. So, the question is: How do you catch people emotionally in digital advertising?

The answer? Semantic targeting. 

Semantic targeting measures the sentiment of the content on the web page where your ad will be placed. The ad publisher then places ads on that page that relate to that assumed sentiment or emotional response of the reader. The intended result is that the reader is more likely to respond positively to your ad.

Ad placement with semantic targeting is much more nuanced than with keyword or contextual targeting.

Contextual targeting simply scans each page for keywords that match your criteria. You may be familiar with some of the mishaps that can occur using this method. If not, check out Econsultancy’s blog post (and try not to gasp in horror).

The picture below is a preview of what you’ll see there—and a reminder of what poor ad placement can do to your brand reputation.

Story about teacher hit by car with Toyota ad pop-up

Behavioral targeting is another method—which some advertisers love and many consumers hate. It relies on tracking consumers’ online behaviors by placing cookies on the page visitors’ browsers. Then it shows ads that relate to that history of behaviors.

In fairness, sometimes these ads work very well (see an example here). But they can feel a bit creepy too—like someone is watching your every online move. And the FTC is currently considering creating a “Do Not Track” system for easy opt-out of these ads—more reason to consider a new approach.

As a consumer, I like semantic advertising because it makes me feel safer and I don’t feel like someone’s watching me. I feel like there’s more of an effort to show me ads that fit.

As an advertiser, I feel smarter because I’m targeting audiences based on their thoughts and feelings, not just on keywords. This helps me place ads that relate to consumers’ motivations to buy.

What do you think? Out of the three—contextual, behavioral and semantic—which do you prefer?

Ad Puke vs Banner Blindness: Are There Any Winners?

In a recent article, Brian Solis talked about “banner blindness”—how most people don’t even see web banner ads anymore.

It’s true, so advertisers are forced to become more creative…or more obnoxious in some cases. The worst ones spew ads at us like projectile vomiting.

Photo of woman puking, Finnish ad campaign

Ad puke. It’s the digital advertising world’s response to banner blindness.

How many times have you gone to a website only to have a giant pop-up ad obscure the screen? How many times have you found it difficult to locate the close button?

While I understand that advertisers and brands are trying to find new ways to make sure they catch your eye, I also know that with these sorts of ads, they run the risk of losing more people than they gain.

Risk is also an issue for any website that carries this kind of ad. As Kristine Elkins commented on my Google+ page:

Nothing makes me madder than a pop-up with no discernable close button. I don’t notice the content at all, I just search like crazy for the close button, and eventually if it’s too hard to find, close the browser altogether. What is this accomplishing from an advertising perspective? Maddening!

Is that what you want your audience to do—leave your website and leave feeling frustrated? Consider all the people that feel the same way Kristine does. It’s bad enough that advertisers create ads like these, but it’s just as bad that websites allow them.

What’s even worse are the TV shows that have pop-up banners that appear onscreen during a show or sports event. Nine times out of ten (my unofficial tally), these ads obscure something you want to see. That is truly maddening because there’s no way to close those ads yourself.

Does that mean all pop-up ads are bad? No.

There’s a difference between thoughtful advertising and ad puke. Advertisers must be mindful of this difference and be useful and relevant, while remaining as unobtrusive as possible.

And, they need to learn this lesson before they venture into social advertising (which is advertising right in your Twitter or Facebook stream).

The solution is very simple: Think and act based on the perspective of your audience. Or, let me put this in a way big brands can understand: Imagine going to your company’s website and having a giant ad for your competitor pop up…and you can’t find the close button.

That’s ad puke. And like all bad stains, it stays with you for a while. Not good, right? Now you know how the rest of us feel.

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Brian Solis’ post went much more into social advertising. If you want to read about the report, check out Brian’s site. It’s lengthy but interesting. Also interesting is the story behind the photo I used. A few years ago Finnish breweries launched a campaign against binge drinking, using the slogan “You’re a jerk when you’re drunk!” Check it out.

Do Something Like VH1, Use Humor in Advertising

Jane Lynch sitting next to TV with Mob Wives on it, while promoting Do Something Awards

Who wants to tune in to a TV show to watch a bunch of do-gooders get awards? Seriously, people tune in in much greater numbers to watch someone’s downfall or watch so-called housewives pull each other’s hair and spend themselves into bankruptcy.

VH1 decided to use this “trashy TV” trend to promote viewership of its Do Something Awards show (airing August 18).

Say what?

Yes, that’s right. VH1, the same channel that airs such trashy TV dramas such as Basketball Wives and Mob Wives, is hosting the Do Something Awards. (If you don’t know about the Do Something organization, click here.)

Even if you don’t plan on watching the awards, you should at least tune in to see the commercials.

My favorite is called “Class” and is at this link below  (sorry there was no way to embed it):

http://www.vh1.com/video/misc/671783/2011-do-something-awards-jane-lynch-class-promo.jhtml#id=1666390

This commercial hits all the high points of good advertising.

Humor – Why is humor such a good choice? Many companies are afraid to make fun of themselves, but VH1 shows how to do it right. Self-deprecation is perfect for a channel that’s not known for it’s high-brow or do-good shows.

Perfect spokesperson – Who else could deliver this humor as well as Jane Lynch? She has that deadpan delivery that is just right for self-deprecating humor and always makes you chuckle.

Memorable – Because the ad makes fun of the contradiction between much of VH1’s programming and the Do Something Awards, you’re more likely to remember what channel the awards are on. Smart. They also play on this same contradiction in a different way in their “Do Someone” commercial.

Humor, when it works, makes everything memorable. And Gleeful Jane Lynch is a memorable spokesperson. So, even if you don’t remember exactly what the ads are for, you can Google “Jane Lynch awards show” or “Jane Lynch hosts awards” and find her Do Something gig on the first page of both sets of results.

So, next time you have to come up with an advertising campaign for something that normally wouldn’t fit your image, remember this VH1 ad. And remember: It’s okay to use humor as long as you use it right. Make sure your audience (not just you) finds it funny.

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Organizations like Do Something prove that one person really can make a difference. Check out this year’s finalists for the Do Something awards.