@ESPN doesn’t care, so why should I?

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 2.32.41 PMMany times I have informed ESPN.com of a Facebook fraud. I’ve done this over the past three months, and yet the practice continues, so I’m giving up. But not without first informing all of you. Ads like the one on the right appear every day on Facebook. All reference ESPN, and all point to bogus ESPN pages, like the one below.

The text is all about a product, PowerTestro, the apparent sponsor of the ads. The copy of the ad to the right contains the link, if you want to see for yourselves. It’s some muscle performance enhancer that, for whatever reason, gets away with false advertising, copyright violations, and whatever they wish in the name of selling their product.

ESPN and Facebook “seem” to welcome feedback, but they really don’t. At least not from peons like me.

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Local advertisers to increase online spending this year

In what is clearly yet another threat to the health of the traditional local media business, a new survey from Borrell Associates reveals that advertising’s shifting sands have made their way to the local level. In preliminary results (1,800 participants) from an ongoing survey of thousands of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) around the country, the largest number — 57% — say they plan to increase online spending this year. That number is significantly higher than any other form of media in terms of increasing ad spending. According to Gordon Borrell, “If overall local ad budgets are increasing only about 10% in 2015, the high growth in digital is coming at the expense of other media choices – notably print.” Yellow Pages, newspapers, and magazines are the hardest hit media categories, with each being targeted for spending decreases of over 20% or more.

Click to Embiggen

Click to Embiggen

The most interesting aspect of this new Borrell’s survey is that the majority of those who advertise in traditional media channels say they’re in a holding pattern on those expenditures this year.  That is, 51% to 65% of them said their print, broadcast or outdoor ad budgets would probably remain the same in 2015.  

(NOTE:  These results come from surveying active advertisers in more than 100 markets across the U.S.  If you’d like to know how YOUR local advertisers compare with these results, the Borrell survey will remain open until April 15th.  To participate in Borrell’s massive SMB survey, contact Greg Harmon at gharmon@borrellassociates.com.)

Online advertising’s solution

eyesMediaPost’s comical commentator George Simpson took on an issue Friday that deserves further review. The matter of “Viewability” is hotly debated in advertising circles, and Simpson, well, had a little fun with that. He faked attendance at a conference in Phoenix, and his post is a memo to his boss (at NBC).

Christ, what a shitstorm. Apparently in the world of Internet advertising, you can buy an ad and even if no one sees it, you still have to pay for it.

…on the one side you have advertisers telling Web publishers to prove that the ads they’re selling appear on users’ screens — as opposed to parts of Web pages that people never actually see. On the other side, you have the head IAB guy (from CBS — figures, right?) saying that if 70% of ads are viewable, everybody should relax and have a Coke. Meanwhile, you have these agency guys saying they are not happy unless all 100% of the ads they buy can be seen. Over in the corner, the ad-tech vendors are saying that 100% ain’t possible.

It was GREAT. Almost made me forget about Brian (Williams) for a few minutes.

…The fact is that nobody sees every ad in any medium. But the Internet wove that sackcloth coat they’re wearing with all that talk about accountability. Lol, as they say.

Simpson’s column is hilarious, but the many comments left are not. Viewability is the Holy Grail of the digital era, but the advertising industry is built on the mass marketing reality that Simpson notes above — that “nobody sees every ad in any medium.” All of the examples he uses are from the mass media playbook. Remember that it’s a one-to-many playground, where Wanamaker’s dilemma is played out (here’s an interesting take on that from today). Frankly, there’s so much money at stake here that nobody REALLY wants to take a chance on something different. This is why 100% viewability remains a difficult task. Remember also, the wonderful observation by NYU’s Clay Shirky, “Institutions will always try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

But the REAL problem for the institution of advertising is that the Web can deliver one-to-one advertising in ways we’ve never known before. This is not mass marketing with all of its cute terms and acronyms, so I disagree with the “experts” that 100% viewability is impossible given current technology. Folks, it ain’t the technology that’s the problem; it’s the application of technology.

Here’s the solution that nobody will embrace (remember: too much money): Approach consumers individually (via cookie or whatever) and let what I call the “browser view” determine advertising, and this is especially important for mobile. When somebody clicks on a Facebook (or other social media) link (currently the default behavior of consumers) and in so doing comes to visit your Content Management System (CMS), respect them. Only one ad. One. And that ad can be anywhere in that browser view, which guarantees “viewability.” It ain’t rocket science, my friends, but it does require a different approach to marketing.

For video advertising, see youTube. They wrote and continue to write the book. Every time I wish to watch a video anywhere, my automatic response is to head for the “Skip This Ad” feature.

In online sales, it’s ALL about the relationships

relationshipOf all the trends currently percolating in the world of local online revenue, none is more important for local account execs to understand than the growing importance of our relationships with our clients. Every good sales person intuitively knows this already, but the nature of that relationship is changing, and that’s what I want to address today.

We know from all the data that local is where its at in terms of advertising growth over the next five years. This is why Google, Yahoo and a host of other pureplay Internet companies are creating applications that enable commerce at the local level. They want a (big) piece of that pie, if not all of it. What these people understand — perhaps even more than we do — is that they lack an existing relationship with local advertisers, and so there’s an all-out war underway to find and exploit non-advertiser-originated relationships in the name of helping small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) part with their advertising money.

Who has such a relationship? Well, we know about the Yellow Pages people, but how about companies like American Express? That’s right, American Express is leveraging its existing relationships with SMBs to introduce people to companies that are eager to teach businesses how to use the Web to conduct commerce (and take a cut of money spent, of course). This is a booming growth business, and we need to be paying attention, ‘lest some outsider come in and hijack our relationships with clients.

We keep this from happening by doing a better job than they do of offering a host of à la carte services that help SMBs do business via the Web. We become consultants, if you will, teaching everything from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to how to use Google Analytics to how to use YouTube to help their business. We don’t do this for free, of course; we upsell them these services as a part of our portfolio, because we’re no longer just media companies selling advertising; we’re multimedia companies that enable commerce, and if that means helping clients use tools that don’t belong to us, then so be it. Better for us to be mining that relationship than for outside pureplays to come in a steal it.

“But this isn’t my job description,” I can hear throughout the land. Perhaps it isn’t, but it should be, and it behooves you to study, study, study, until you know as much as the next guy about how everything works online. Or hire us, and we’ll come in and teach you everything you’ll need to know.

The almost complete lack of understanding about all of this by local merchants is stunning, but it represents perhaps the greatest opportunity for generating serious online revenue at the local level. Somebody needs to teach the community how all this works, and we’d much rather that be a smart local media company than Google.

(Originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel Newsletter)

Damned if you do

nielsenIn the world of local television, Nielsen sits at the crossroads of profit and loss. I’ve even heard smart TV people say that if it doesn’t involve Nielsen, it doesn’t really matter to me. Ratings are everything, and while people are watching more television these days, the ratings for individual programs have been going down. I doubt this is news to anyone.

What is news is how Nielsen is trying to “adjust” to aid local broadcasters in this scenario, announcing recently that, beginning January 1st, they will no longer provide “live only” ratings for TV viewing. “Live” is being replaced with “live plus same day,” to accommodate for the use of DVRs. This has made the TV people very happy, but the advertisers, not so much.

GroupM, which controls a great deal of TV advertising, has sent a harshly worded letter to Nielsen.

“Your total disregard for the expressed concerns of local broadcast media buyers, coupled with your adamant refusal to recognize our point of view is totally unacceptable,” writes Goldstein ( Marc Goldstein — president and CEO of GroupM North America and Chair of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ media policy committee) in a letter sent on Wednesday to Susan Whiting, vice chair of The Nielsen Company.

“Rather than maintain Nielsen’s traditional role as an “honest broker” of data and information, you have instead chosen to insert yourselves in the buy/sell process and in so doing, you have sacrificed your credibility.”

Media buyers are upset, because the move will boost ratings by as much as 13%, and that will cost advertisers more money for what they view as bogus numbers.

This is a pretty big deal for broadcasters, who’ve seen revenues slide recently as much as 30–40%. It’s going to get ugly, however, because there’s ample evidence that the people who delay watching live TV skip the ads when playing shows back on their DVRs. Advertisers won’t want to pay for that, and Nielsen has a real conundrum on its hands.