The New Scientist reports on a study suggesting that direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads may be ineffective. The best part is that the study uses the natural divide between French- and English-speaking Canadians to create a perfect cross-sectional study (Canada forbids pharmaceutical ads, but US television does not).
People are increasingly finding that their web images are snapped up by companies without their consent. This is in large part because advertisers are interested these days in putting forth a more “authentic” image, namely schmoes like us. Just look at the difference between a “nerdy teen” on Flickr and iStockPhoto to see why marketers might be tempted.
My friend Dan Paluska is working on an art project in the suburbs of Paris with Chico MacMurtrie called totemobile. I’m sure they have some fancy art words to describe it, but this is how I see things. First, there was the dancing CitroÃ«n:
People laughed. People cried. People feared that Transformers are coming to earth, and that most of them are coming here to destroy us. Then, a fan film emerged that taught us two things: 1) The CitroÃ«n dancing transformer also comes in an antique edition and 2) making commercials about dancing cars can’t be that hard, and the original one is most certainly not real:
People were stunned. The original dancing car wasn’t real! You heard it! Not! Real! In an effort to quell the masses, CitroÃ«n autos has commissioned Chico to build a real, transforming, breakdancing robot:
Ok, maybe I made most of that up, and maybe the art doesn’t breakdance, but Dan took a picture of him in the totemobile and turned it into a bitchin’ animated gif, complete with muppet arm:
Every once in a while there’s a meme. Living rooms. Dinettes. Yeah, I’m talkin’ bout flea market! Mongomery! It’s just like.. it’s just like.. a mini.. mall.
I have basically been living life through this commercial for the past couple of days, so I had to make a historical note of it; it’s infectious like Empire Carpet. The brilliant salesperson is Sammy Stephens, a Montgomery, Alabama resident where his ad currently graces the airwaves. It was launched into the
public Ellen Degeneres’ audience’s eye recently when an anonymous person sent Degeneres a tape. I would love to see Sammy sucked into the big media world, doing ads for Nike or Budweiser, but I’m afraid he’ll probably fade away like Bubb Rubb and the whistle tip.
Update: The Montgomery Advertiser is hosting a remix contest! Download the audio and make a new song or download a bluescreen video. There are no prizes, but they’re embracing the randomness of the mini-mall.
One of my favorite parts of Firefox 2.0 is the autocomplete functionality built into the search bar. Every time I start typing a random query, I am completely surprised to see what the rest of my brethren are searching for. Recently I started typing “how much” and came up with this amazing list:
You thought that all of those mortgage banner ads were overkill; it appears not. Besides the iPhone your car and your weight, mortgages account for 7/10 how-much searches.
When searching, I am always interested to see who is paying for the sponsored ads for my query. A while back I searched for some information on the Cory Lidle plane crash and was completely surprised to see iVillage and the New York Times paying for my attention:
My initial assumption was that most people today use search to obtain information, regardless of the type. In the case of news, or other recent communications, Google or Yahoo will not be ranking recent stories within the first day. For late breaking news, a large newspaper can effectively solve this information gap by paying a few cents per click. After talking about this with a few people, I came up with a number of different reasons newspapers could be turning to search advertising:
- Search gap: People tend to use search for most of their information, and a few cents can grab a lot of attention when you are a news source people recognize.
- Higher monetization: Ads on Google and Yahoo! clock in at lower values than one page view on the news site.
- Reader acquisition: In the world of online news, it is tough to differentiate, so paying for readers could pay off when acquired readers convert to regulars.
- SEO: Someone on-staff has a budget to use on attracting traffic, and search advertising seems like a good use of funds. A few clicks turn into a few links, and there you go.
What happens when our news outlets start paying for readers? This may be an example of the right hand not talking to the left, but the fact that the New York Times, of all newspapers, is the first I saw using search marketing makes me think a little differently about the master of mass media. “All the news that’s fit to print” is now a few degrees closer to “Viagra, Levitra and Cialis” in my head, but maybe this is just a temporary phenomenon. It feels like a major shift in the way news is disseminated, but I might be jumping to conclusions.
Google has embarked on a pyramid-based incentives program directed at bloggers. They’ve been pushing really hard for me to put AdSense on Blogdex, presumedly because it has high PageRank. I was first contacted directly by someone located in New York under the pretense of a “potential partnership between Google and Blogdex.net.” This was a personal email requesting me to contact them directly (their name has been changed to protect the innocent):
From: John Doe <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]’d like to discuss a potential partnership opportunity between Blogdex.net and Google. I work here in the New York office.
Please let me know when might be the best time to follow up with a call.
Google, Inc. | Partner Development
1440 Broadway, New York, NY 10018
I called them back, not sure what this “partnership” entailed. It turned out that they wanted me to put AdSense on Blogdex, nothing more. I politely declined noting that it was a research project on academic bandwidth, and forbidden from containing advertising.
Today I received a curious little book from Nordstrom’s called “The Grooming Game,” which features a host of men’s hair and skin products (available online as The Men’s Grooming Guide). Up until now I had thought Nordstrom’s figured me for a woman since they regularly send me lingerie and dainty dress catalogs. This book though is an extremely tactful piece of marketing, with ambiguous writing and suggestive photography. The opening page says it all: an image of a man shaving, staring off into the distance in Narcissian gaze, reaffirmed by the text, “think strategically: forget vanityâ€”sharpening your image lets you take your big self out in the world. If life is a game, why not play? When it comes to grooming, Nordstrom knows the rules.”
Every page features some sort of beautyâ€”erâ€”masculine product, from face care to cologne, even a man-blush (a Jean Paul Gaultier product called Better Than Tan Matte Bronzer). There is also a host of Queer Eye wisdom, such as “look the part: natural may be nice, but sometimes you’ve got to buff your bluff,” or “keep them guessing: maintain your fresh face by moisturizing at night.” For the man with all the products they even offer an Alpha Lipoic Acid Face Firming Activator from N.V. Perricone Cosmeceuticals in 2 oz. bottle for $95. The question on everyone’s mind: what the hell is a cosmecutical?
My friend Zach has been saying for quite some time that metrosexualism is the cosmetic company’s solution to a saturated market. In this age, it’s nearly impossible to sell a woman another product regardless of its quality, innovation or ingredients. What these companies need is a new market, and what better than an untapped population equal in size to women? I’m sure that Queer Eye is just the beginning, and that over the next few years I’ll be inundated with enough eye creams to make me sick (even if I don’t eat them). I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had a facial before, and I tend to use moisturizer in the morning, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the onslaught of advertising I’ve been able to ignore up until now. It’s just a matter of time before I get my first Loreal catalog.
Boy, I seem to be talking about spamming and scamming a lot lately. You’d think I was a paranoid bastard if you didn’t know me. But this one is FO REAL.
On my 18th birthday I received a Gillette razor in the mail courtesy of the United States Army †. I guess they were trying to say, "you’re a man now, for all intents and purposes under the law, so shave like one you little peach-fuzz pansy! And drop and give me 10!" Well, truth be told, I was in need of a razor, and the Sensor Excel that they provided was in a different class. This wasn’t like getting a free Subway token, it was like getting a Ferarri.
Of course I was a blind youth at the time, and hindsight is 20/20, but I fell right in the hands of Gillette marketers. This suave shaver required regular cartridge replacements, each of which cost twice that of a disposable, and with a similar lifespan. In fact, Gillette produced a disposable version of the Sensor Excel which was supposed to be competitively priced with the cartridges. But this was all about to change. The whole world of razor technology was about to undergo a revolution.