Contextual Advertising Misses The Mark

Advertising that uses an algorithm to determine what is relevant to the content can have it’s interesting side-effects. Take these three screenshots I have collected over the past couple of months for example.

Who would want a dying cat ringtone?
Who would want a dying cat ringtone anyway? Plus how did Google know that Puck was lying down playing dead?

Note: The election happened on November 4th, 3 months earlier.
Note: The election happened on November 4th, nearly 3 months earlier.

Download Mozilla Firefox 2 even though Firefox 3 was released.
A post about the release of Firefox 3 seems like a good place to advertise Firefox 2.

Re: Why Social Applications Will Thrive In A Recession

Josh Bernoff wrote about how social applications will thrive during a recession. He noted advertising facts and figures from the 2001 recession to backup his claims, which all seem perfectly valid. But poor Josh seems to be missing the most important reason for social apps to keep on chugging. When massive layoffs hit companies needing to cut the fat for survival, ex-employees will be left with an abundance of time. And what can they fill that time with? Poking their friends virtually or starting a massive vampire/zombie war.

Now I don’t want to say social networks are a complete waste of time. They are kind of like a mullet: business in the front and party in the back. People will flock to social networks looking for job openings, utilizing connections, and otherwise use it for strictly business. But once the practicality runs dry they will turn to socializing and in turn pointless applications. This overload of free time is what will get social networks through the economic slump. As logical as it sounds for advertisers to keep pumping money into online advertising because it is more targeted providing a greater return on investment, social advertising is still an unproven experiment.

Targeting ads based on what people are searching for is safe. Sneaking a recommendation into a users news feed hoping they will share it with their friends, not so much.

Advertising-Supported Gift Packaging

As the days inch towards Christmas people around the nation will be frantically finishing up their shopping and wrapping gifts. I’m not a big fan of wrapping gifts. For one, it is an extra step before hoisting the gift off to it’s recipient. All the work and energy, physical as well as creative, that goes into the presentation is quickly shredded to a pulp as it is ripped off and tossed aside for the main attraction below the surface. That precious wrapping paper, tape, and pretty bow will make their way to the trash where they will rot away in a landfill.

But my biggest gripe is the price for all of that frilly paper, which only provides only a moment of glee. And while I would like to see the 2007 Christmas season be the one that ditches the idea of wrapping up gifts (after all, being green is in vogue) there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that is going to happen. Companies that make wrapping paper and related products must be raking it in as the busiest shopping season heads into full insane-o-mode. I couldn’t find any statistics about wrapping paper revenue, but I am sure that it is such a large chunk of company profits that the last thing they would want to do is stop the frivolous holiday tradition.

How could I get out of wrapping gifts without disappointing my family and friends while not spending a dime? Why not turn to the one thing that has helped give consumers the things they want without charging them a thing, advertising-supported goods! I would gladly accept gift-wrapping materials that have been plastered in logos if it were free and saved me time. It seems to make sense in helping companies spread brand awareness as the giftee would be exposed with a happy and joyous moment of opening a gift which creates a positive psychological effect and brand association. Companies could ship it to people for free or give it out at stores with every purchase. Boxes already pre-wrapped and decorated using a Christmas variation of the corporate colors and branded tissue paper inside would be the perfect ad vehicle to their next potential customer. And with the cost of buying everything in bulk, the company wouldn’t be spending more than the usual barrage of printed material such as full-page magazine ads, billboards, or direct mailing fliers. Wrapping paper would be unusual in the fact that it is actually useful! That’s a valuable exchange in my book.

Corporate Wrapping Paper

I’m surprised I haven’t seen this idea more widespread. Lots of stores offer gift wrapping though it is usually offered as an extra service for a price. Why not offset that cost with advertising? Everything else seems to work that way. And it’s not like Christmas isn’t already over-marketed, over-hyped, and over-crowded with the consumerism mentality of BUY, BUY, BUY! Why not just a little bit more with free wrapping paper?