Tag Archives: internet advertising

Ad agencies join to measure social media ads

Social media advertising spend should hit $1.8 billion in 2009 according to eMarketer. (Sure, that’s a small percentage of overall Web advertising, which stood at about $20 billion last year, but give it time.)

So it’s no surprise that yesterday, a group of ad agencies and their social media buddies announced that they’d form a trade group focused on defining metrics for measuring social media advertising. (Heck, it was probably overdue.)

The group, the Social Media Ad Council, is backed by Tom Gerace, CEO of social network Gather, and includes reps from Edelman, Universal McCann, e-publishing firm Zinio, Quantcast and a grab bag of i-marketing organizations. The group hopes to find ways to measure “engagement,” the term some use to describe what they’re buying when they place ads on a social networking site.

How does a bundle of x number of Tweets compare with ten PPC ads on Facebook or countless impressions through Friend Feed?  No one has figured that out yet. But it’s critical that someone does. After all, you can’t build an advertising market unless you have some basic units of measurement in place.

Other than Gather, none of the other founders are social media sites. In announcing the group, Gerace noted that he’d invited Facebook and MySpace to participate, but it seems that haven’t gotten involved as of yet.

The fact that they aren’t taking part makes you wonder whether they prefer social media ad buying to remain a bit mysterious. After all, the more the buyers know, the more they can squeeze ad sellers. Maybe that’s what they have in mind? — Anne

P.S. SMAC member UniversalMcCann, not surprisingly, has some thoughts of its own to offer on social media. Its new report on influence in social media, “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers?” is definitely worth a look. Or if you just want a summary check out the review in Marketing Pilgrim.

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Facebook CEO defends Beacon ad system

As most readers know, Facebook stirred up a huge storm late last year when people learned that its Beacon ad system was tracking activities from all users on its third-party partner sites, including those who’d never signed up with the social networking giant and those who’d deactivated their accounts.  What made Beacon brilliant–but controversial–was that it would then use the information to let people know what their friends were buying. When they learned how Beacon worked, privacy advocates howled for blood–and Facebook agreed to let users turn off Beacon if they wished.

Despite the firestorm, however, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg refuses to dump the Beacon concept entirely. In a recent interview with CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl, Zuckerman said that “it might take some work for us to get this exactly right…[but] this is something we think is going to be a really good thing….What would you rather see? A banner ad from Bloomingdale’s or that one of your friends bought a scarf?”

In truth, Zuckerberg is right–the Beacon approach may actually offer some value to consumers. You know, I personally enjoy–and find motivating–the messages Facebook provides on friend activities in other areas. (For example, I’ve signed up for many an app because a friend did.) But Beacon’s approach exposes much more sensitive information–that your husband, say,  bought his lady friend lacy lingerie. Learning that through Facebook would definitely smart (and I can smell the lawsuits from a mile away).

All told, it’s a conundrum. To be a social network, you need to leverage shared social activities, but you can definitely go too far. It will be a real rope-walker’s trick to make Beacon functional, yet respectful enough of people’s privacy that it can survive. 

Ads want to be free: the battle for social media advertising channels

As some of you know, MySpace banned the video-sharing widget Revver from its pages early last year. Revver, a smart little company which seems to have a durable business model, distributes user-created videos sandwiched by ads. Apparently, though, MySpace isn’t up for allowing any advertising on its pages, other than those which it manages internally. And despite Revver’s willingness to deal MySpace in for 20 percent of its ad revenues, Revver got bounced from the MySpace empire. When it comes to ad channels, MySpace doesn’t share.

This is all well and good for MySpace, but it’s futile. While MySpace can rule its walled garden as long as it likes, advertising content is going to migrate wherever people are–and that means blogs, smaller media sites and other “long tail” venues that it can’t control.

One prime example is the widget-based ad serving technology created by Clearspring–a company backed by no less a set of luminaries than AOL founder Steve Case and leading light Ted Leonsis. (Full disclosure: I’ve had some professional discussions with this company–though I’m not on their payroll!) Clearspring has still managed to remain in MySpace’s good graces–as well as Facebook and other major media sites–but if the social media sites decide to stage a lockout, Clearspring can just as easily take its bat and go home. After all, when you’re widget-based, you can serve ads to a million blogs as easily as you can across one sprawling site.

Meanwhile, you’ve got companies like Lotame (and probably, others I haven’t heard of) which offer a platform allowing advertisers to deliver social media-based advertising based on users’ behavioral and demographic characteristics. That, too, can work outside of the faery realms of MySpace and Facebook, though it may be easier when you’re working with data aggregators like the big portals.

Look, when Web advertising first became a legitimate concept (in say, 1994 or 1995), advertisers clung to giant portals at first, spread out to vertical networks, and ultimately realized that personalized, user-driven content was the key. (That lead to keyword-driven advertising, of course, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) All I’m saying is that clearly, the big social networking sites aren’t going to own the whole social media advertising pie for long. In fact, it’s already slipping out of their grasp.

Social media advertising to rocket up 69 percent in ’08

Brace yourselves, folks:  2008 may go down in history as the year when social media advertising went from acceptable (if a bit leading-edge) to absolutely mainstream. According to indefatigable interactive marketing research firm eMarketer, advertising on social networks should shoot up a whopping 69 percent between 2007 and 2008, up to $1.6 billion from $920 million in 2007.  These funds aren’t going only to omnibus sites like Facebook and MySpace, they’re also flowing into niche sites appealing to specific interests and communities, eMarketer says. When you consider that in 2006, the entire online advertising industry generated $16.9 billion, these are particularly impressive numbers.

You know, it’s a funny thing. Back in the day (say, 1997 to 2000), I used to shake my head and wonder why global brands weren’t “getting it” about the value of Web advertising.  Sure, they included interactive marketing in their mix–well, many did–but they weren’t going whole-hog. (As I recall, Ad Week or a similar trade pub did some kind of survey in the late 90s on the subject–which concluded that less than 10 percent of global brand ad spending went to Net vehicles.) Now that Web advertising is a standard part of the mix, however, the big brands aren’t so timid. As this stampede illustrates, it’s obvious that they’re now willing to be opportunistic and pick new winners as they emerge.

As we all know, another game changer could easily pop up in coming years (a serious breakthrough in monetizing mobile advertising comes to mind) but unless it does, the status of social media as consumer ad platforms seems to be set.

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