Microsoft Bidding for Yahoo!

It’s all about the advertising. Get it? In 2007, researchers estimate that there were well more than 2 billion views of progressive download or streaming media every month! That doesn’t even include user-generated content. Translated into dollars, that means that revenue from advertising associated with streaming video and audio grew to about $1.37 billion—just under 40 percent growth from the year before. Still not convinced, almost half a billion dollars were generated from pre-roll advertising—the ads shown before a streamed television program. Don’t expect these numbers to start falling anytime soon. Even if the economy slows in 2008, the relatively cost-effective ability to create, distribute and measure digital advertising across a variety of media platforms and formats, wired and wireless, will likely not slow down. Go Giants! Go Gadgets! Go Widgets!

Useless But Compelling Facts – December 2007 Answer

Shhhhh! We can’t announce that Thomas Grace at AT&T correctly answered the November 2007 question. He knew the interesting film coincidence in which Mai Ling, who played Mei-Lei, a stewardess who happened to be a spy on a plane in the 1964 James Bond motion picture “Goldfinger,” also played a stewardess and again happened to be a spy on a plane, in the 1969 movie, “The Chairman,” starring Gregory Peck and Anne Heywood.

Red Faced or Saving Face. Facebook Faces the Music!

Facebook has built a highly popular business, but it turns out making that popularity profitable appears to depend, in large measure, on advertising. Sound familiar? So Facebook announced a new program, Beacon, an online tracking tool. No, online tracking certainly isn’t new: companies track where your browser has been and your online activity, and routinely serve up ads based on “preferences”—where you have been, what you look for, and what you purchase. But that takes place behind the scenes—you just see the results: relevant, targeted advertising.

Facebook has taken online tracking one step farther: Beacon sends messages telling your Facebook buddies what you are buying and, in some cases, what you are doing. So don’t plan that surprise trip to Puerto Rico just yet—buying a ticket might ruin the surprise. In fact, don’t come back from the trip and rate the hotel—your friends who weren’t invited will know you’ve been there.

Facebook faced criticism last year when its “News Feed” function came under fire. Media and industry pundits and Facebook executives note often schizophrenic and hypocritical marketplace attitudes. Indeed, there is some irony to be considered when the generation that posts profiles, adding everything from drinking, sexual preferences, and religious affiliations, to family videos, in blatantly public web-spaces, complains about privacy. But consumers still distinguish between their choice to share, and allowing a host to decide what, when, where and how to share information about them, or whether to characterize activities as some form of an “endorsement without consent” to their friends.

As usual, privacy and consumer advocacy groups were poised to file complaints with the FTC, right on the heels of investigations already launched by several Attorneys General into Facebook’s privacy practices. The New York Attorney General has issued a subpoena to Facebook for copies of complaints about “inappropriate solicitation of underage users and inappropriate content on the site.” As innovators have learned, success shines a spotlight that creates a glow—and discloses warts; let’s see if they can keep Facebook blemish-free.

Hey Baby, Remember Me? You Will.

Webkinz? Barbie Girls? Be-Bratz? Club Penguin? Never heard of these? Your 6-year old has. At a time when advertising and marketing to children is in the cross-hairs of regulatory agencies, virtual worlds are discovering that imagination can run wild in an environment where children—some as young as 5 or 6 years old—can shop, adopt pets, and play dress-up.

Remember virtual pets? You could purchase a small, self-contained computer (of course it wasn’t marketed as a computer, but as a digital companion) with names like Tamagotchi or Giga Pets—often with a tiny display that had the “pet’s” image.

Small buttons on the outside of the casing allowed you to feed your pet or wash it, and there were even pets that could interact with other pets (e.g., Digimon). If you didn’t treat your pet right it might even die!

Now toys purchased at retail stores—toys for young children—are showing up with flash drives which, when plugged into a computer USB port, unlock features and hold the keys to virtual worlds where children can play—in dollhouses, shopping malls, with pets and characters. Building brand awareness is critical for marketing-driven companies, and building brand awareness in young children who may carry the imprints into their teenage and adult lives…well, you know…. Next up, potty-training your virtual baby. Stay tuned.

Financial Supermarket? No. Financial Advertising Supermarket? Well, Maybe…

Years ago, a number of companies hoped that by offering to simplify financial record-keeping and collect your financial information in one place, consumers would find it easier than trying to keep track of all of the numbers, codes and IDs they have to contend with in the real world. The concept fizzled, primarily because there was resistance to giving one website all the information—putting all your nest eggs, so to speak, in one basket. Now, some companies are hoping to revive the concept, this time with the lure of education, advertising and sponsorship.

Although the basic idea remains, the new aggregation model uses sponsored links—recommendations based on an analysis of consumer data and financial information—all geared to educating consumers about the availability of financial products and services. Just as search engines accumulate information about browsing—to prioritize and serve advertising believed to be of higher value to the individual—these new sites use the same model to recommend financial services. If you use a credit card to purchase airline tickets, the site might recommend or display an advertisement for an affinity credit card tied to an air carrier or one which offers points for your purchases. Use an overdraft line of credit for your checking account? You might see an advertisement or recommendation to consider a home equity line of credit to potentially lower your tax bill while you borrow.

While advertising-supported revenue models may have greater appeal from an economic viewpoint and may attract financial institution sponsors and advertisers, these sites still have to overcome consumer discomfort with making all—or a significant portion—of their nonpublic financial information available at a single point of aggregation. With the identity theft, data breach and privacy issues front and center in the past few years, one has to wonder if the power of advertising can overcome that anxiety.