Move over Mark Zuckerberg.
At Advertising Week in New York City, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was in the zeitgeist. Anyone watching old-fashioned television or trolling the Web could not avoid ads for David Fincher's movie, "The Social Network," in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed as a "supreme jerk, a condescending whiz kid."
Zuckerberg sent an emissary, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, to make the rounds at Advertising Week. She took the stage at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mixx and Huffington Post's social media conference, where she discussed how brands can advertise on Facebook and addressed privacy issues.
Against that backdrop, there were scores of other discussions and developments that affect marketers in their day-to-day work. Here are some highlights:
AOL's Tim Armstrong Shows His Cards
Since leaving Google to become AOL's CEO, Tim Armstrong has been a man on the go. This week, AOL's acquisition of TechCrunch, a technology blog, and 5min Media, a video distribution firm, brought renewed attention to Armstrong's content and advertising strategy.
While traditional publishing companies have been laying off writers and editors, AOL has been hiring journalists since last year to work for Patch, its local news venture. Though fraught with risks, the endeavor defies today's conventional wisdom that consumer-generated content will someday replace independently reported and written news and information.
Regardless of whether he succeeds or fails, one thing is clear: Armstrong's got cojones.
Online Display Advertising Gets the Love
Bigger ads. Smarter ads. Social ads. Sexy ads.
Online display advertising is about to get a makeover if folks at Google, Yahoo, and AOL live up to their pledges.
Yahoo promised to emphasize the "art" portion of its "science, art, scale" marketing mantra.
"Display is bringing sexy back," proclaimed Barry Salzman, managing director, media and platforms, Americas, at Google. He and Neal Mohan, VP, product management, predicted that by 2015, 75 percent of the online display ads will be "social" so that people can comment on them, share them, subscribe to them, or take other actions.
AOL unveiled Project Devil, a super-size ad format: it's a single ad that takes up about 40 percent of the right-hand side of a Web page. "The entire relationship between advertising and content is what has to be fixed. It's not about fixing the ads. It's about fixing the page, which we quite frankly think looks like crap," said Jeff Levick, president, global advertising and strategy at AOL.
Still, not everyone's convinced these efforts will pay off.
"[AOL is] redesigning the whole Internet, which is apparently hopeless because web pages look the same as they did 15 years ago," wrote Henry Blodget, Business Insider's editor in chief, in a Sept. 14 article questioning AOL's strategy.
Creativity vs. Efficiency: The Debate Continues
Call it online advertising's yin and yang: the great debate over how much to invest in advertising messages versus technologies, be they analytics, targeting, or other data-driven approaches.
Ad technology companies have devoted millions – if not billions – of dollars to make display advertising as efficient as search advertising. The goal is to ensure that the right ad gets to the right person at the right time.
But some contend that online display advertising and consumers have paid the price.
"The majority of investment on the Web has been focusing on the plumbing - the data, insights, targeting. There has been little time and money spent on the aesthetics of the experience," said AOL's Levick.
Still, money will pour into the plumbing.
Google estimates that within five years 50 percent of all online display ads will be delivered to specific audiences using real-time bidding.
Twitter: Preparing for Prime Time
Twitter plans to offer "Promoted Accounts" where a business can buy its way onto the "Who to follow" list of recommended users, published on its home page. Currently, a software formula turns out the suggestions based on a person's friends, followers, and retweeted messages.
Twitter's two other ad products are Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends; the latter, pictured below, was sponsored yesterday by Chevy.
Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo said the micro-blogging platform is about to begin accepting advertising from more companies. Currently, there are 40 brands; he expects the number to soon climb to the "low hundreds."
In addition, Twitter plans to make it possible for smaller businesses to advertise when it establishes a self-service platform next year.
Before Twitter brings on more business, however, Costolo said the company wants to ensure its technology infrastructure can handle the demand.
Integrating Online/Offline: Plenty of Upside
On Twitter, I asked #Mixx attendees for key takeaways from Advertising Week. Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV) weighed in: "HOLY BEAN BURRITO the Google Goggles app photo-to-website capability was cool!"
Added David Polinchock (@polinchock): "the ability to combine online info w/offline experiences into 'oneline' creates diff info flow."
So what is Google Goggles? It's a visual search application for Android phones; it was introduced earlier this year and Google executives at Mixx discussed its potential for advertisers. Goggles, for instance, enables someone to take a picture of a landmark or book cover and obtain relevant search results. It also translates text from one language to another.
In a striking contrast to the recession weary crowds at Advertising Week 2009, attendees at this year's events were ebullient. Instead of lamenting cuts in agency fees, agency executives and their clients played up their creative efforts that often included a mix of earned and paid media. Other marketers explained how they are testing out new technologies, such as delivering personalized ads based on music tastes or location.
Online advertising has become sexy again.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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