What Advertisers And Content Providers Need To Understand About Human Behavior

Published in Online Spin, April 18 2014

A survey released on Monday showed that most people are ignorant about the way the Internet works.

That wasn’t exactly what it said, of course. Conducted by marketing company Gfk and reported on by my MediaPost colleague Wendy Davis, what the survey actually said was that only 35% of people agree with the statement, “I use free services online and on smartphones/tablets and don’t mind if my data is potentially also used for advertising purposes.”

Reports like these have been coming out since our Cro-Magnon ancestors sat in a cave, fired up a computer, and logged on to the first website -- and they have been largely useless. In 1997, Wired wrote about

How To Design For All Of Humanity, According to Facebook's Head Of Product

Published in Online Spin, April 11 2014

Facebook has rolled out a design update, and, if the comments in my News Feed are anything to go by, it’s the end of the world. The new layout is awful. The fonts are atrocious. We want the old look back.

In short, we’ve reacted the way we react to every Facebook design update. We are nothing if not entirely predictable.

Most of us, however, have no idea of the imperatives and constraints facing Facebook’s design team. As Facebook Director of Product Margaret Gould Stewart described at TED last month, every minor change to Facebook’s design gets rolled out to a sixth of humanity -- and there are challenges to

Mozilla's Eich Reveals Diminishing Boundary Between Beliefs And Business

Published in Online Spin, April 4 2014

Well, to quote George Takei, that was fast. In the face of a major backlash about his 2008 contribution to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO of Mozilla -- less than a week after taking the reins. Eich has, of course, the right to free speech, the right to hold any beliefs he wishes, and the right to shout those beliefs from the top of the highest mountain. But as he found out, the free market also has rights: the right to voice its collective displeasure, the right to vote with its purchasing dollars, and the ability -- if passionate enough -- to effect change.

This is the kind of story tailor-made to stir up epic levels

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Oculus Premature For The Promise Of Equity Crowdfunding

Published in Online Spin, March 28 2014

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two days, here’s the story so far: in September 2012, a startup virtual reality company called Oculus ran a Kickstarter campaign that raised $2.4 million. Three days ago, the company sold to Facebook for $2 billion. Lots of those early backers aren’t so happy with this development -- mostly, it seems, because they think Oculus founder Palmer Luckey sold out to the devil. But some are upset because they think they should have gotten a payday: We gave you money when you had nothing, now you sold for billions, and we want our share.

The situation has refocused attention on the idea of equity crowdfunding. Unlike Oculus’ Kickstarter campaign,

Secrets From The Guy With 100 Million YouTube Views

Published in Online Spin, March 21 2014

Somewhere in a little town in Belgium, on a square where nothing really happens, Kris Hoet and his team decided to place a red button. A large arrow dangled above it, with the words, “Push To Add Drama.”

The resulting video -- a promotion for the launch of the TV channel TNT in Belgium -- has been seen 50 million times and is the second most-shared TV commercial of all time. (The first is Volkswagen’s Darth Vader ad.)

Hoet himself is the head of digital & Change Architect at Duval Guillaume, a small agency in Antwerp. In addition to the dramatic surprise on a quiet square, they’re responsible for the Carlsberg bikers ad, this stunt for the launch of “Skyfall,” and this eerie provocation about Internet safety. Duval Guillaume has generated over 100 million YouTube views -- earned views, not paid eyeballs -- as well as countless coverage by all forms of media. So when I caught up with him yesterday, I begged him to tell me how he did it. What’s the magic?

He starts by refusing to think about advertising in a traditional way. “Advertising,” he said wryly, “has a bit of a branding problem.” What he and his colleagues strive to do is separate the storytelling component of advertising from the social currency. They might have control over the storytelling, but it doesn’t mean anything unless people

It's Time To Face The Truth About The Marketing Trap

Published in Online Spin, March 14 2014

“How many signups did we get last week?” he asked. I flinched inwardly, then told him, anticipating the inevitable. The inevitable was, of course, what I got: dismay, anger, blame. I was the one he was dismayed with, the one he was angry at, the one he blamed. “We have to hit our targets for the month,” he raged, “because I have no way to explain it to the board if we don’t. Do whatever you have to do.”

I did what I had to do. I beefed up AdWords spend. I sponsored Facebook posts. I promoted YouTube vids. I got the signups.

And then I had to explain the cost per acquisition.

It was a broken model. We were so focused on reaching investment-related goals that we had no room to identify and remedy fundamental problems, even though that’s what we needed to do. We needed to understand why people were dropping off after signup, or after

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Three Simple Rules To Dramatically Increase Your Start-up's Chance Of Success

Published in Online Spin, March 7 2014

I was pretty hoity-toity last week.

I talked about existential crises, communicating who you truly are, finding those people who resonate deeply with you and forging a joyful connection with them. I spoke about the communication being a dynamic relationship, about alignment and culture, about values, and filters, and worldviews.

But sometimes things are a lot simpler than that. And while I believe in and stand behind everything I said last week, it is also important to remember we are humble animals, often driven more by our lizard brains than by our executive brains. So here are three simple rules for your start-up that take into account our oh-so-basic human nature:

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The Truth About Branding, Marketing And Advertising

Published in Online Spin, February 28 2014

“No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow… No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.”-- Jan Koum, WhatsApp

“It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.” -- Linds Redding

The advertising industry is in a state of existential crisis, thanks to technology; analytics; migrating, fickle and/or distracted eyeballs; Netflix and other on-demand services; piracy; privacy; attribution; the decline of print as a medium; stagnating television audience numbers; and the fact that we can finally start to understand which 50% of our ad spend is wasted.

And even though the television ad industry is

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Good 'Idea Carrier' Essential For Spreading A Message

Published in Online Spin, February 21 2014

The first few times I took my husband skiing, I tried to give him a few pointers. “Keep your chest pointed downhill,” I said. “Bend your knees so your weight is on your shins.”

He didn’t want to hear it. So, for Valentine’s Day, I gave him a ski lesson. We went up the hill with the instructor. “Keep your chest pointed downhill,” he said. “Bend your knees so your weight is on your shins.” “Wow!” said my husband. “It works! That’s amazing!”

I’m guessing this story is not at all surprising to you -- and the fact that it isn’t demonstrates our instinctive understanding of a core facet of human behavior: Our assessment of an idea hinges on our perception of its carrier.

Julianne Wurm highlighted this concept

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Forget Facebook Likes: It's Time To Return To Fans

Published in Online Spin, February 14 2014

Via Mashable, today’s must-watch video is the brilliant Derek Muller from Veritasium, talking about Facebook fraud and how fake Likes destroy your ability to reach your true fans.

If you don’t have the eight minutes and 59 seconds it takes to watch the video -- and, if you’re involved in online marketing, you’ll need to find the time -- here are the key takeaways:

  •  If you pay for Likes at all, through Facebook or anyone else, there’s a good chance many of the Likes will be fake.
  •  If you get fake Likes, they will not engage with your page.
  •  If a big percentage of your Likes don’t engage with your page, Facebook will interpret your content as irrelevant and show it to fewer and fewer people.

One more key takeaway: Muller points out that

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