Ad blockers are yet another reason for marketers and advertisers to be worried about whether their content and product information will get across. Ad blockers block pop-up ads, banner ads, and flash ads on websites, all of which are seen as techniques that easily reach consumers, are easily blocked with such applications. AdBlock Plus is FireFox’s third most popular weeky download with almost 300,000 downloads weekly.

I completely understand why people download these programs. I know that I immediately close or ignore such ads because I view them as a nuisance or worry that they will give my computer a deadly virus. But from a marketing perspective, what does this mean for the future of ads? Probably not anything good, but that could take a very long time.

The same goes for TiVo and Sirius Radio, and while you have the ability to watch your saved television shows and jump from radio station to station, you also have the opportunity and ability to skip the commercials. Products like these can severely limit an advertisements exposure to the population, but thanks to shows and sites like Very Funny Ads, missing the best commercials may not happen.

Just like the newspaper, Internet, television, and radio advertising will live on. While the opportunity to skip advertisements is out there, there will always be ways for it to sneak in, or those people who are willing to embrace marketing efforts. While I may dodge the internet efforts at marketing, I believe I will still be one of those people embracing my inner couch potato and enjoying the commercials.

Corporate Blogging may be a new way for companies to remain in contact with their consumers, but how many are actually taking the time to use this form of communication? According to Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm located across the U.S., only 15% of Fortune 500 companies are using corporate blogs, meaning 74 out of 500 have an ongoing blog. The study goes on to find that out of the top 50 companies, nearly 1/3 have blogs.

Erin Byrne, chief digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller, said that, “It’s not surprising that the biggest companies are doing more blogging. They have more resources for communications”. She went on to say that, “What the results across the board show is that blogging has become a core part of any communications program”.

What surprises me is that not more companies are involved in this type of evolving media. As technology continually moves forward, I’m shocked that more companies aren’t looking to other outlets to get their company name and information out. 74/500 is nothing. I’m interested to see when, and if this study is performed again, more companies will be participating in the blogging scene.

Searching “company blogging” on Google elicited 30,800,000 results, the majority of which provided both reasons for company blogging, and reasons why it shouldn’t happen. The best one that I found insisted that companies insure that a blogging policy is followed. While a blogging policy could be considered common sense for many, I think that it ensures and sets standards for what can be said and disclosed. It is one thing to communicate with consumers, but it is another to do it in an unprofessional manner, or disclose information that shouldn’t be shared. It could also be an important factor in dealing with a company crisis; having a crisis communications plan involving a blog could help spread information quickly and effectivley.

I think an important point to mention in reference to corporate blogging is that it’s important to keep corporate blogging and employee blogging separate. I’ve heard of cases where the two have intertwined and employees have been fired or made examples of. Now that I know a little more about company blogging, I would be interested in seeing how many smaller companies outside of the top 500 participate in blogging, and whether they see a difference.

I can say that blogging is a first (and probably last) for me. I’m not very tech-savy, and I’m easily distracted with everything else going on in the Internet world. CNN website? Sure. Celebrity gossip? Count me in. Online shopping? Easier than fighting traffic to get to the mall.

But what I can say about the websites that I regularly visit is that their layout keeps me coming back for more. Websites are unique, and the ones that are well designed keep new information clearly labeled, but store the older stuff in a place where you can easily find it. I’ve never had a website (and I hope that none of my future classes require one, because if this is hard, I can expect that to be even worse), but I know that designing one takes talent, time, and patience.

About.com offers 10 Tips for a Great Website, and the tips are ones that everyone can benefit from.

  1. Know Your Audience and keep them in mind when you’re writing  (Knowing what will catch the eye of your audience is always helpful, and making them feel that visiting your site is worth the time will keep them coming back)
  2. Keep Your Pages Short (No one wants to scroll forever to get to the bottom of the page)
  3. Use Tables of Content
  4. Keep Images Small (Taking forever for a picture to load is frustrating, and often is a reason for me to leave the site)
  5. Use Web Colors
  6. Avoid Lots of Text (mixing text and images makes a page interesting for me and for many others)
  7. Check your Spelling (misspelled words are distracting, especially for journalism majors!)
  8. Keep Links Current
  9. Annotate your Links (Explain nwhy you like something so much, and others may too)
  10. Put contact information on your pages

While some of these may not need mentioned for many, I think it’s important to recognize, especially for those of us unfamiliar with web design.

In creating a website, just like with anything, it’s important to remain creative, and to look at the project objectively. What you might like may not appeal to others, and it’s probably best to design with others in mind if you’re planning on sharing your work. I guess you can say the same thing goes for blogging…

Assume Away (in my opinion)

October 20, 2008

Last week, while doing a reading for my class, I found a reference to search engines becoming more and more like the Yellow Pages. It’s an interesting concept if you think about it; keyword matching on a website is amazing in the fact that it assumes what websites would best fit your needs, and fits your keywords with websites and links that specialize in just that.

But is it okay that the resulting links could be paid for?? While most of us recognize the difference between the paid advertisements (like the yellow boxes on Google), what is sometimes overlooked is the fact that the first couple links that pop up as a result could be paid for. So the question is, is it okay for a company to pay for their results to pop up first?

I would say yes. I don’t think it’s a question of ethics if the linked results relate directly to your keywords. If you’re searching for a digital camera, and you look for websites on Google, chances are you’ll find at least one that offers reasonable prices and camera’s you like. And if it’s a paid site on the top of the results?? I say, so be it.

I would say that it’s almost common sense these days to be aware of what you’re doing on the Internet. Whether it be online shopping, or just searching for a certain site, chances are you’ll find at least a few websites that don’t meet your search. Sites like Google even try to expect what you’re searching for, which could help narrow and quicken your search time.

Sites like Ask.com however, have now made a “Search Eraser”, which allows you to delete your searches and data so that you’re history remains private. This feature allows for the drop-down search box to never appear, and every search remains new. While it may not always be useful, it could be nice to use when searching for birthday or Christmas presents when you share a computer with someone else, and could help move away from pop up searches that you aren’t looking for.

Obviously, I think it would take a lot to violate a person’s ethics on the topic of search engines. I think that paid advertisements are okay, as long as they’re clearly marked, and that paid inclusion links are just fine because they often help find what you’re looking for a lot faster. As for the predicted search features, if they’re helping with my spelling, bring it on.

I’ve recently posted about the wonders of YouTube, but today, while scanning  CNN’s website, I was shocked to see one of the top stories being about a biker being jailed for his YouTube video..

It happened in Oxfordshire, England, where 28 year old Sandor Ferenci let it slip about the videos when he was asked  by police about a speeding incident. Ferenci mentioned his videos showcasing wheelies, wheelspins, skidding, and driving upwards of 130mph. Then the police went on YouTube.

The downfall happened after police found the videos and he was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for dangerous driving.

What could have been a private video made between friends, turned out to be something much, much more. Whether he uploaded the video to show off his stunts or just show off, he’s paying the price for the wonders of the Internet, and the accessibility of YouTube.

This type of occurrence could be avoided through a variety of ways. Sure, he could have skipped uploading the videos, or just skipped the risky tricks in the first place, but more than anything, he could have kept quiet. A case of self incrimination? I think so. While he’s paying for his mistake, this case could end up on an episode of the world’s dumbest criminals… which I bet you could find some videos for on YouTube.

Let’s find a Cure

October 20, 2008

Driving through Pittsburgh the other day I noticed a surprising sight. The fountain at Point State Park (next to PNC Park) was sporting some bright pink water. I had to think for a moment what significance the pink had, and then I remembered October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 It’s estimated that this year alone 182,000 people will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 40,000 of those will die from it.

Throughout the month there are many companies participating in ways to help find a cure. Yoplait yogurt is covering their products with pink lids, donating 10 cents to the Susan G. Koman for the Cure for every lid that consumers mail back to the company. Yoplait has pledged to donate at least $500,000, and up to $1.5 million for lids sent in by December 31, 2008. When visiting the site, you can send out e-cards to remind your friends of the movement, as well as check out what states are in the lead for lids, as well as look at the celebrity “teams” competing.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also being highly publicized by celebrities such as Christina Applegate, Sheryl Crow, and Ellen DeGeneres, all of  whom are Breast Cancer survivors. There are also cookbooks being published, KitchenAid cooking utensils, and even a Ford car that are helping to make a difference and search for a cure.

It could happen to anyone, so let’s remember to work together and make this Race for a Cure count.

YouTube.

The name itself brings at least one story from most people. “Guess what I saw on YouTube today!” or “You can find a recap of this show on YouTube”. The name itself illicits multiple responses, and it’s amazing at how fast video clips travel on this site.

Looking back through my posts, I’m honestly not surprised at how many times I’ve referenced YouTube. Started in February of 2005, YouTube is now the leader in online video sharing. I’ve found almost everything video related on the site, ranging from workout sessions to cute videos of little kids talking about monsters. The amount of hits certain videos receive is amazing; a little boy talking about blood has received 8,923,666 hits since it was posted on October 9, 2006. The video is adorable, but almost 9 million viewers?  The video has also been “favorited” 75,500 times, which doesn’t hurt its large number of hits.

Marketing and advertising for YouTube is almost unnecessary. Word about videos travels so quickly that popular new videos arise daily. If a funny clip was on television last night, expect it on YouTube by morning. Need some help recalling a cooking recipe? Look it up. Need a laugh? Search for some videos showcasing children. Wanna learn the newest dance? There’s directions on YouTube.

Because YouTube was purchased by Google Inc. in November 2006, it’s almost safe to say that the videos will stay around. This is a good thing for all us video junkies out there, who turn to YouTube to get some laughs. The worldwide sensation offers thousands of videos that could meet everyone’s tastes and needs, and with constant updating it would be hard to get bored. If you’re not familiar with the site, I suggest you check it out as it continues to grow daily.

Campaigning on the Move

October 19, 2008

It’s safe to say that, unfortunately, I haven’t been following the election very closely. It’s not that I don’t like the candidates, or what they have to say, but I’ve been caught up in other things (like school, and work, and college football). I have however, heard about the changing ways the candidates have been campaigning.

While this election has changed the political world in many ways, I think the biggest change is in the way the candidates portray themselves. They’ve moved outside of the typical television campaign ads and are now using Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, as well as posting videos on YouTube and sending text messages. There is even a link on Obama’s website entitled “Obama Everywhere” that lists all the places where you can learn more about the candidate and show your support

As of last night, my favorite campaign tactic was performed by Sarah Palin and her appearance on Saturday Night Live. In collaboration with Tina Fey, who has made numerous appearances as the VP candidate, Palin was able to poke a little fun at herself and the election. While this may not appear to a lot of people as a marketing tool, I believe that it was a great step. Palin made herself a little more accessible to the American people by appearing on a popular television show where she is, week after week, made fun of.

 In appearing on SNL, Palin gave voters a better sense of who she is as a person, and that she can take a joke and poke a little fun at herself as well. Appearing on a show where a lot of the viewers are of the younger voting age, was a good advertising and marketing technique. She put herself back in the spotlight by using a few jokes, and I believe it’s a tactic that will work.

Moving past the television ads, whether they be positive or negative campaigning, will allow for the involvement of more and more voters. Constantly updating campaign tactics, whether it be marketing on Facebook, sending a text message, or appearing on SNL will help familiarize voters with who a candidate really is. I can’t say that because of Palin’ SNL appearance last night that I will catch up on the debates, but I can say that I will start to pay a little more attention to the tactics being used, and look at how I’m being reached by each candidate.

TV Want Ads

October 18, 2008

While watching TV last night, I came across a newer form of marketing/advertising from my local cable provider. A group of channels now form an “on demand” cluster that people can use to buy or sell their belongings. A variety of channels can be viewed, and you can buy personal belongings, furniture, and even cars, as well as look for jobs in your area.

Commercials for these channels run occasionally on local cable channels, but I’ve yet to see them on a larger station such as MTV or ESPN. It’s almost like my area is moving past the “Want Ads” in the newspaper and instead putting them on the television. The catch is, you have to use the cable provider for service, or else you can’t scroll through the channels or what’s being sold/advertised on the TV. The channels themselves are bland; they use basic colors that blend and don’t have layouts that jump out at you or grab your attention. It’s almost like they just placed the newspaper ads onto the television, but made no attempt to convert them to a different advertising or marketing style.

This is just another example of how everyone is attempting to look further than print media. Bigger and Better is on everyone’s mind, but sometimes it seems that the traditional just may be the way to go. Using your television to search for a new, used car or look for a job is weird to me, and while it may be a form of evolving media, I’m not sure people will be so accepting.  It’s one of those, “give it a few months and we’ll see what happens”, but for now, I’m sure I’ll stick to using the newspapers for my “want ad” needs.

After scrolling through a few websites today, I was amazed at how many offered users the ability to change the website to a different language (mostly Spanish). Most sites offered an “in espanol” link in the top corner that changed the text immediately to Spanish for anyone wishing to view it.

Marketing to minorities is quickly changing the advertising world, as well as the way that websites are designed. If you were to visit a major company website, for instance Pfizer, you can choose from a huge selection of languages in order to gain company information, as well as product info. With the U.S being known as a “melting pot”, it’s no surprise that these benefits are now offered.  At the same time, I think that this should be expected. With the enormous amount of population growth that we’re experiencing, companies should feel inclined to offer their sites in other languages in order to better incoporate themselves with consumers who may not speak English.

This should be a major concern for large companies, especially those that produce pharmaceuticals. Some large pharm. companies don’t offer this option at all, or else the making the change is difficult to find. Marketers should consider this change a top priority, especially in reaching out to consumers. If an individual better understands a product and how they should be used, major risks are reduced, such as the improper use of medication, as well as the mixing of certain drugs.

While not everyone taking a drug who doesn’t speak English may not take advantage of the language conversion, even reaching a small percentage could be beneficial.