- Back to the future. Socially Aware readers – and editors – of, uhm, a certain age will fondly recall how, during the early days of the dotcom era, we hung out on message boards and in chat rooms discussing (some might say arguing about) politics, sports, movies, music, you name it – with people we’d never met, and never would meet, in person. Well, Facebook is now trying to recapture that vibe with a new feature called “Rooms” – free-form areas that include text and photos based on some niche interest that was kicked off by the room’s originator. Of course, it’s not 1995 anymore, and one question that has to be asked is: can “Rooms” fit into a business’s marketing strategy? It’s easy to see how: would makers of high-end kitchen equipment participate in “Rooms” on gourmet cuisine? Athletic clothes manufacturers in “Rooms” on yoga poses? Old-school feature, meet new-school branding.
- If an ad falls below the fold, does it make an impression? Online ads are big business, of course, as advertising rapidly migrates from print to websites, apps, social media and other online outlets. But how do advertisers even know that their ads are being noticed? In the old days, it was a pretty fair assumption that newspaper ads were actually looked at by readers, but a major 2013 survey showed that more than 50 percent of ads online are not viewed. Advertisers and agencies would, understandably, like to see standards in place to ensure that they’re not paying for ads that a web surfer had no chance of seeing (for example, because the ad was “below the fold” on a site’s home page, yet the site visitor never scrolled down to where the ad could be viewed). A media VP at Unilever has noted, “It’s simple — we want to get what we pay for.” So agencies and clients, led by GroupM – the world’s largest ad-buying firm – and by Unilever, are leading the charge for standards addressing these concerns. Among the proposed standards: 100% of display ads must be visible to site visitors; 100% of the video player for video ads must be visible to site visitors, and at least 50% of the video must be played while visible; the video player’s sound cannot be turned off while the video is playing; and no use of “auto-start” functionality – rather, the site visitor must initiate playing of the video ad.
- Laundry list. The “Internet of things,” touted for years as a big part of the digital future, seems to be approaching rather more slowly than anticipated. Whirlpool, the nation’s largest appliance maker, is marketing a “smart washer” and “smart dryer” at $1,699 each, but these cutting-edge, fully wired machines are not exactly jumping off the shelves. Many consumers are apparently in no rush to pay that kind of cash just to own a Web-enabled washing machine that will text them when their clothes are ready for the dryer. Even a Whirlpool executive acknowledges the problem, observing that “trying to understand exactly the value proposition that you provide to the consumer has been a little bit of a challenge.” After all, the machine won’t sort and fold your laundry for you, or track down that missing sock – now that’s an innovation worth paying a premium for.
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