Friday, July 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Project Natal - One Giant Leaps
Microsoft's new Natal may have achieved just that. A completely new, innovative and amazing way to experience our virtual world.
Announced just yesterday at E3 in Los Angeles, Project Natal is not a future conceptual model, it is here and now. Games are being developed for it and other industry leaders are building applications and services around it.
Watch these two videos below to get and understanding of what Microsoft's Project Natal is all about. If the technology works as smoothly as suggested in the demonstration we may be witnessing the start of a new era in virtual reality.
The Great Steven Spielberg has partnered with AE to develop "games" for the new Project Natal controller.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Does the Truth Pay?
When Circuit City recently went out of business they had liquidation sales to unload their inventory. Sign spinners on the street held signs that read 70% off the entire store. And in the small writing on the sign, blurred by the spinning, there was a notation "limited exceptions apply". I go into the store and everything is 10% off retail and a couple ink cartridges for 70% off. Basically the same as any other technogadget retailer. But at the entrance of the store stationary signs have a clear disclaimer that not everything in the store is 70%* off.
Consumers know damn well that when a business advertises a "entire store is 10%-70% off sale", that the majority of stuff is 10% off, and that a few items will be 70% off. Legally, if nothing is 70% off, that would be False advertising. If everything is 10% off and only a couple items 70% off that would be deceptive advertising; the average is way below the 70% claim in the ad. If they did not have a disclaimer, or put the disclaimer at the back of the store where nobody would see it, that could be misleading advertising.
In direct marketing, TV, Radio or within a physical store marketers have the ability to clearly state their pitch and frame it right in their ad so that it is not misleading or deceptive. Online, marketers have a measly 95 characters to do the same.
Due to this Online Marketers have to be very precise about their wording, words do matter, and to be ethical and honest they must fully disclose anything about the 95 character text ad which they feel MIGHT lead a consumer to the wrong conclusion. Where should the disclaimer be? Clearly noted in standard size font on the landing page of course.
Turning a Blind Eye To Profit
It is only logical that Search Engines such as Google only want to display ads that get clicked on the most. The more relevant the ad is to the search, and the more enticing the ad's offer, the more frequently that ad will be clicked on and the more money Google makes and in theory the advertiser makes to. So Google, Yahoo and MSN all use a ranking formula to determine which ads and advertisers have the best performing ads (ads that get clicked on a lot).
The technical specification for Google's formula looks like this:
Ad Rank = $Cost Per Click bid × Quality Score
The Quality Score for Ad Rank on Google and the search network is determined by:
• The historical Click Through Rate (CTR) of the keyword and the matched ad on Google; if the ad is appearing on a search network page, its CTR on that search network partner is also considered
• Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
• The historical CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
• The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
• The relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query
• Your account's performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown
Bottom line: If you have a high CTR then the Cost Per Click that Google charges you goes DOWN and the RANK your ad gets goes UP. More sales at a lower cost. That is a huge reward for advertisers and a powerful incentive to create advertisements that get clicked on. Google claims that this model promotes healthy competition, more relevant ads to the visitors search better serves the visitor, thus is makes sense to reward the advertiser. This does make sense and is the primary reason Pay Per Click has grown so large.
But there is one failing; What if the Advertisers start lying?
• If an advertiser ranks below the first page for their most profitable keywords what will they do?
• If an ad agency is losing clients because of poor performance what measures will they take?
• If truly sinister people see that they can make huge profits simply by lying in a small text ad what do you think they will do?
Lie, Lie and Lie some more.
But wait, if they lie and get caught by Google then they will certainly have their account turned off, or face some type of repercussion correct?
Wrong. Google has virtually no policy or team in place to identify, remove or punish companies using false and deceptive advertisements. Generally they refer plaintiffs to submit a generic complaint form to "the support team"
How do I report poor service by an AdWords advertiser?
What Honest Marketing Companies are Faced With:
Our ads are not showing because there are a limited number of ad positions. Even though we have a solid Keyword quality score, other ads perform better. Why? Because they are making false, deceptive and misleading claims.
Let's take a look at what the FTC has to say about Debt Settlement and consolidation advertising:
FTC: "In March 2007, the FTC filed a complaint against Debt-Set, an affiliated company, and their principals who marketed debt reduction services online and in television and radio ads with claims such as “Reduce Debt Now” and “Stop Harassing Calls.” The FTC alleged that first,14 these defendants falsely promised to obtain lump-sum settlements, such as “fifty cents on the dollar” or “50 to 60 percent” of consumers’ total unsecured debt. This was false and deceptive advertising. "
So claiming 50-60% can be false advertising. Since then over 30 companies have been sued and or shut down by either the FTC or a State AG for this very reason.
• 70% Claims are absolutely deceptive or false.
• Free Non-profit Debt Counselors - Absolutely misleading or false.
• 12 month debt settlement? = Misleading at best.
Now take a look at the competition's ads which is keeping our ads from running
We review hundreds of ads and websites. Virtually none of them have a disclaimer, nor justify any of the claims made in their ads. For over two years we have submitted complaints to Google regarding the false and deceptive advertising we are up against. We have seen absolutely no change.
Google, Yahoo and MSN are making a great deal of money by turning a blind eye to false and misleading advertising run on their networks.
Companies who are trying to tell the truth in their marketing are being punished for doing so and are forced to make the decision between honesty and in some cases survival.
Does the PPC fall down if false and deceptive ads are allowed to be run?
Is it the responsibility of an ad network to monitor and remove False and Deceptive ads?
Is it fair for Ad networks to point the finger at the FTC and say they are the ones to monitor and stop such advertising practices?
Should Google, Yahoo and MSN be held accountable for knowingly running False and Deceptive ads?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Why is Paid Search Down?
Heather Hopkins A Senior Online Analyst at Hitwise US. writes
Hitwise data indicate that the share of search traffic coming from paid listings is decreasing at the expense of organic traffic. In the four weeks to May 9, 2009, 7.25% of search engine traffic to All Categories of websites was from paid clicks. This compares to 9.84% in the same four week period in 2008 - representing a 26% decline in the share of paid clicks. This trend is apparent across 16 of the 17 Hitwise parent categories (i.e. Automotive, Food and Beverage, Health and Medical, etc). The only category that didn't see a decline in paid traffic was Education, which received 1.45% of search visits from paid clicks compared to 1.39% last year. See full article here
Certainly advertising budgets have been slashed across corporate America which is in part responsible for the overall decline.
Outside of corporate budget woes Lead Discovery has seen a huge increase in dishonest advertising. From "free grants" to "Google Cash" to straight up lies for Credit Card and Foreclosure relief. This reality has been supported in many conversations I have had with my peers in the lead generation space.
It's an easy game for dishonest marketers to succeed at. If you publish a completely sensational and dishonest text ad it will be clicked on more often than its comparatively boring and honest neighbors. This results in a high CTR on networks like Adwords, Yahoo and Adcenter as well as a lower CPC. And if they lie on their ads there is little doubt their landing pages are just as misleading. Unfortunately, Google and the like will not monitor nor punish deceptive advertising. I don't believe they are ignoring it simply to make more money, but instead they are pushing it off because it is a slippery slope to making them a de facto arbiter of what is false and deceptive advertising. Or putting them in a position to have to legally defend each and every business they approve to run ads on their network. Leave that to the FTC they say.
In the mean time, companies like ours are getting penalized for telling the truth and putting forth honest marketing campaigns. Slowly we have pulled out of the CTR based PPC space opting for other methods of advertising where we can pay for placement, or have a longer ad to distinguish our marketing message from the scammers.
The economy may be having a significant impact on overall online ad spend, however deceptive advertising, click fraud and trademark infringement will continue to erode marketer's confidence in SEM until the SE's muster up the courage to take action against it.