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Tag Archives: advertising

While blogging about the Heart & Stroke lottery, I remembered that I keep seeing late night (e.g. 11pm) commercials for the Sick Kids lottery. I didn’t notice it at the beginning, but after a few nights (and for at least 3 nights in a row) I noticed that they advertise the draw by saying that this was the last day to get in on the early bird draw!

I’ve also seen the same commercial at a more reasonable time of day, on the same day; and surprisingly they make no mention that it is the last day to get in on the early bird draw. I wonder if they specifically try and social engineer purchases by playing the “last day” commercial at 11pm?

Random query: ad impressions from my VIVA Next Bus Android app. Can you guess when the YRT/VIVA strike started happening?

(But why aren’t the ad impressions 0? I don’t know!)

I got a Valentine’s Day card in the mail this year, guess who it was from?

Oh alright, I’ll spill the beans. It wasn’t from a secret admirer but from big brother Google. And it wasn’t really a Valentine’s Day card but an advertisement for Google AdWords. My virtual heart has been crushed by a Googleplex.

As an AdSense publisher who has never dabbled in AdWords, Google sent me $100 to pique my interest. And I was interested, thinking about which of my little projects I could promote. But then I read the terms and conditions and decided not to use my credit because it was like those 1-month free AOL CDs from 10 years ago, they keep charging you after you’re done your initial promotion.

But this ad did catch my eye, not only because it was a direct (snail) mail from Google, nor because it was a Valentine’s Day card; but because of a couple of things on it. First, they used a QR code as a mechanism to redeem your offer. Wave of the future? Maybe but do they expect me to sign up for AdWords on my cell phone? Then they also put a OMG TAKE ADVANTAGE BEFORE YOU LOSE $25 clause into their offer for psychological effect. I had decided that I wasn’t going to use the coupon, but the $25-less gave me a quick pause. Well I wasn’t fooled, but it’s a good strategy.

Because I only watch a smidgen of TV, I’m getting confused about the advertisements for Bell and Rogers. I recall seeing this ad for Rogers with the red/blue couch split in the middle:

But then I’ve also seen ads for Bell with another couch, this one was quite a bit longer and more on the blue side. I could swear that that was a Bell ad. So I’m just confused as to which brand these sofas are supposed to evoke, Bell or Rogers?

I tried looking online for a Bell example as comparison, but they don’t have their commercials posted (get with the times Bell). Instead, I found an article in The Star that had the same idea as me.

The battle waged on a common couch started June 1, when Rogers launched an ad campaign with a two-seater, half red, half blue, saying its home phone service was a better buy – $25 less – than Bell’s.

Bell reacted quickly and launched the couch ad by June 16, this time with five blue cushions and one red, its way of expanding the conversation. The ad notes that Bell has more TV channels and is $25 less expensive than Rogers. Bell also went after Rogers’ wireless service, comparing a Rogers cellphone to a Bell cellphone.

I think this is a waste of money. Roger’s is spending money building a mnemonic, but Bell is paying money to associate the same mnemonic with itself. I don’t think they’re doing themselves a favor with their consumers either, since this sounds like two brothers fighting it out in public.

A few months ago, Petro-Canada aggressively advertised their 5¢ fuel savings card on the radio. Because gas was so high (remember the days of $1.30/L??), I suspect they felt they could draw a lot of business from the discount. Recently, those ads have disappeared, and really it’s to no one’s surprise. With gas around 80¢, you’re getting a 6% discount; and that’s on top of the 40% discount you’re getting on gas now compared to a few months ago!

I hate the radio for the commercials. Well I hate the talk to, but the commercials are even more useless. I used to listen to HOT 103.5 (yeah, that long ago!) but one of the reasons I started listening to other stations is because they have a lot of commercials; although the worst station is probably Buffalo’s KISS 98.5 (they had great song selection but something like 5 minutes of commercials every 20 minutes).

I still listen to the now z103 on occasion, but they have found new ways to infuse advertisements to annoy me. Some of their commercials now start off like “Hi I’m [DJ name] and I’m here today with [Mr. ABC] from [high margin industry like tanning or jewelry]…” and they go on for a minute. The whole talk makes it seem like the DJ is doing a live interview and not a paid commercial; except when you hear the same “interview” every morning, even the dumbest listeners will figure it out. Another tactic they’ve used is to start chatting about specific branded topics. For example, when NHL09 was being released, they had a five-minute discussion about how hard it was to find NHL09 in stores! OMG I need to go run out and buy it RIGHT NOW then. Right? Maybe they truly are talking about it for general interest, but now I’m wary whenever a brand is mentioned on the radio.

But the other day, I re-realized a more insidious form of advertising. As you probably know, labels compensate record stations for playing their artists’ songs for you to listen. That’s why you hear a lot of crap songs (like Pink’s So What) which gradually gain popularity once enough people hear it over and over. But what I realized was that no radio stations were playing NKOTB’s second single, Single. This song seemed to be made to be a guaranteed hit since NKOTB had the momentum of their comeback, AND it featured Ne-Yo. But why wasn’t it being played? I thought about when the NKOTB gravy train lost its steam, and they seemed to have stopped playing their songs on the radio right after their concerts at the ACC. Coincidence?

I went to only one museum while in Japan, and that was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I’m not a fan of museums anyway, because they only discuss the past. What’s more interesting is the present, which is why the brand showrooms that we went too were so much more interesting.

I guess the closest thing we have to brand showrooms in Canada is the Apple store or Sega Playdium. In these stores, you can play with Apple or Sega stuff, and associate their brand with good feelings. For example, Apple laptops and free wireless or Sega and wasting money on arcade machines. Just being a casual tourist, we found a couple of brand showrooms in Tokyo without even trying. At the Sony building in Ginza, they had a live aquarium in the middle of the street, and an “aquarium exhibit” inside that was comprised entirely of TVs. In the end, I wasn’t that impressed and didn’t get a Sony TV. Also in Ginza is the Nissan Auto museum. We couldn’t figure out how to get past the lobby though, so this place was not cool.

The Toyota building in Ikebukuro was much better as it had games and showcased some of its Hybrid technology. Although, a lot of the exhibits seem like what you would see at the Auto show. I actually went because Ed mentioned that there was a test drive track on the top floor, but I guess they tore it down since he went.

The coolest brand showcase we went to was the KDDI Designing Studio in Harajuku. We actually went in here to step out of the rain, to find a makeover show being filmed in the lobby. They also gave out free bottles of water and had free Internet which is a bonus for tourists. However, the cool stuff was their design. They had a mobile music interface display which showed some conceptual ways to make mobile Rock Band. On subsequent floors they had further (free) activities such as creating business cards with mobile URLs to things that you like, and playing some Science Centre type games. After going through all the activities, you receive a free prize (candy) and a random chance for a branded souvenir. We won the #1 souvenir and the consolation prize souvenir so it was well worth the visit.

It’s not often that you witness a company self-destruct, but that seems to be what is happening with game publisher Eidos and hard-core gaming portal GameSpot. Eidos seems to have committed a great deal of its budget into their new FPS Kane & Lynch for the holiday season. I’ve seen commercials for this game on Space TV, but really wasn’t aware of what it was until the current scandal started, infact I thought it was somehow religious (i.e., Cain), but perhaps I got it confused with Assassin’s Creed.

This holiday season seems to have a cornucopia of “great” games, which even though I won’t play any of them, I’ve read all about. Think Mass Effect (again first heard about on TV), the aforementioned Assassin’s Creed (which is really due to the Jade Raymond scandal), Call of Duty 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band, Bioshock etc etc. Because there are so many great games, it’s difficult for a game without a lot of hype to get awareness and to bank the lucrative gift-giving season. So it’s not surprising to see Eidos market the hell out of Kane & Lynch, such as splattering their ads all over GameSpot.

What kicked off the debacle was the less-than-favorable review that Jeff Gerstmann, a 10-year veteran at GameSpot, wrote giving a 6/10 to the game. Surely a bomb in the video game ratings world. After a couple of weeks delay, Gerstmann was fired and the issue blew up in the face of GameSpot and Eidos when Penny Arcade posted a comic about Gerstmann. It may be a coincidence that is being overblown, but the negative reviews have been cleaned up, and anonymous insider accounts have given some compelling evidence of wrongdoing, centered around the issue that the new Editor-In-Chief seems to be more favorable to the Sales department that maintaining editorial integrity.

This has led to a devaluation of the GameSpot brand, as well as its parent, CNet, as people are beginning to boycott their services. It’s tough though as CNet is well diversified in its properties, owning MetaCritic, GameFAQs,,,, to name a few. However my guess is that the long term effect will reside with Eidos and game (and other media) reviews in general. This issue has focused the spotlight on Eidos and other shady practices are becoming apparent, including their manipulation of game (p)reviews by misquoting and displaying fake 5-star reviews. Along with movie studios using invented critics and publishers paying for book blurbs from well-known authors, it should be evident that there is substantial bias in “positive reviews” of entertainment.

You may or may not be aware, but Facebook recently introduced a concept called Pages which is their take on advertising. Because they are a social network, there is of course a viral aspect to it. Instead of traditional display ads, Pages work by first getting a “fanbase” and then advertising to the fanbase’s friends in the form of “Kevin is a fan of [corporate product], you should check it out too!” showing up on your friends’ news feed. It is a bit insidious because Facebook takes advantage of your trust in a relationship to push a corporate agenda. That being said, the information online about Pages is a bit convoluted because they are trying to market the advantages to its users, as well as the conflicting advantages to publishers.

After being confused for a bit, I learned that anyone can create a page for anything — you don’t have to be a company, and you don’t have to have ads. So I created a page for Free iTunes Downloads. I debated whether I should advertise the Facebook Page on the blog or not; as I wasn’t going to pay for ads, I wouldn’t be using it to drive traffic. In fact, the page would only serve to boost my ego in being another metric beyond RSS subscribers to measure the popularity of FiD.

Eventually, I decided to blog about my Free iTunes Downloads’ Facebook Page, as I didn’t really see the harm in pushing it. In the course of a day, I went from 21 (how did I randomly get 21 fans?) to 342 fans; not as many as I had hoped since I hover around 190,000 RSS subscribers. However, my feed subscribers jumped up to almost 220,000 the day after! Of course correlation does not infer causality, but if the Facebook viral marketing was indeed the cause, I converted 100 subscribers for each fan!

Taking the subway the last few days, I (re-)noticed that there are a lot of education ads on the subway, as well as a lot of education ads in Metro/24 (which subway riders tend to read). Some of these are to recruit high schoolers to far away universities, but many of them are for continuing education offerings. I guess profiling of subway riders revealed that many of them are not happy with their jobs or career and are looking for ways to climb out of their worker class.

You don’t see a disproportionate amount of advertisement towards education in general, so it seems as though that the ads are targetted to subway riders (and not a confirmation bias on my part).

I’m so tired of seeing advertisements for cell phones. It seems especially bad on the subways for some reason, as if people who ride the subway need to chat to keep them busy. Oh wait they can’t because Toronto’s subway system doesn’t have cell access. I guess subway riders fit the demographic then: people that can’t afford other means of transportation, or people that are environmentally conscious and against consumerism, or kids that can’t afford cell phones themselves anyways.

Now I understand why there are many more cell phone ads compared to ads selling say cameras. Everyone needs a cell phone, while not everyone needs a camera. I think the only comparable consumer electronic is probably a TV or a computer, but the former hardly ever needs replacing and the latter is probably family owned.

I like the fact, however, that there is competition in the cell phone market, with four ok, three different carriers. But there doesn’t seem to be any differentiation to the consumer aside from exclusive phones (which really, are sometimes a function of the network being used). In fact, I would argue that because there are 3 major players, then it’s an arms race to see which company can blind you with cute animals first (you lose Rogers).

The worse offender this holiday season is Bell. As if their ANNOYING beavers weren’t enough, their ad campaign this Xmas involved showing wrapped billboards for a several weeks. There was supposed to be an air of mystery — ooh what’s this, why are ALL THE BILLBOARDS in the subway station wrapped? Well fortunately for you, Mr. Annoying Beaver #1 ripped them all off for you, leaving the wrapping paper on the ground so you could put 2+2 together. Although, it wasn’t terribly hard to guess which company it would be, considering only Best Buy and Bell use that shade of blue (and Best Buy would have used yellow ribbon).

I’m trying to decide how to go about advertising within FiD’s RSS feed. My preference would be to use Google’s AdSense for Feeds (AFF), but unfortunately it’s in closed beta (although the signup page still exists — but trust me, you can’t get in). Using AFF is convenient because then all my advertising would be through the same agent.

The alternative is to go through Feedburner’s Advertising Network (FAN). Their service is actually a bit more neat in they kind of work like the middleman. If an advertiser wants to advertise on my feed, they send me an email asking whether I want to allow the campaign for the given price etc. It’s a lot more choice, but also more overhead.

So I can immediately go with FAN and start hopefully making money now, or I can keep waiting until AFF becomes public; or the hybrid approach where I use FAN until AFF is released and then switch. It just depends when I want to annoy my audience with advertising.

An important part of niche blogging is the advertising aspect. The assumption is that if people are checking your blog because they are interested in a particular subject, advertising targetted towards that area will be more effective and the audience will be more responsive towards the advertisement. This translates into clicks and purchases, which would benefit the blogger in terms of comission and other kickbacks.

I am using Ad Sense for my Free iTunes Downloads because it was easy to setup and had a good track record. I wasn’t expecting to make a lot of money off it, in fact I didn’t think I would make any money off it. I guessed that I would average a clickthrough rate of about 0.1%, so if I received 1000 hits a day (liberal estimate), I would get 1 click. That’s the general expectation for online advertising and it’s not too far off the mark. The following is a graph of my hits (blue) and clicks (red) for the first 6 months FiD has been active.

Sometimes I have good days and sometimes I have normal days. On the normal days, I hardly make any money, but the pennies add up. Eventually. When I get lucky and get a ton of hits, I have a few days of above average earnings. Google pays out at the end of the next month once you’ve accumulated $100+ USD in earnings, and I received my first check last week for $160ish CDN.

Something odd has been happening recently though, my clickthrough ratio has been oscillating rapidly and increasing at a non-standard pace. I’ve applied a moving average over 10 samples (red) to smooth out the clickthrough ratio data and you can see that there is a climbing trend. I’m not sure why that’s happening, maybe Google is indexing my blog properly and finding the proper contexts, or maybe my audience is growing and getting dumber. Maybe it’s a bit of both!