Blyk – the first completely ad-supported MVNO – launched this week in the UK market. There has been a lot of controversy about Blyk’s innovative business model – providing free SMS messages and voice minutes in return for watching ads. Blyk services will be limited to their target 16 to 24 year old demographic, and they plan to recruit their subscribers on campus and through viral invitation.
Marko Ahtisaari is a key member of the Blyk team, responsible for the user experience as well as brand design and development. In this interview, Marko talks about the special advertising formats that Blyk will use, and explains why Blyk actually has to think more like a media company and less like a mobile operator.
Posts in category 'Advertising'
Two papers in particular caught my attention:
The emperor’s new clothes: technology is useless if consumers can’t use it
Simon Silvester, Market Leader, Spring 2007, Issue 36, pp.20-24
Digital technology is developing at a staggering rate, but there is a danger that it could collapse as the dotcom boom did if companies do not change their attitude to consumers. Consumer ability to understand technology does not rise; consumers (including the young) adopt new products slowly, and with difficulty. Most people use only one or two of the many functions programmed into their equipment, and companies need to understand how innovations spread through a population, and how understanding always falls as mainstream consumers follow the technology nerds who adopt first. They must put the consumer first and become more basic in their marketing. This includes finding the one killer application that is really wanted, instead of adding functions that no-one will use just because it is possible. Simplicity is a primary benefit. The article ends with 15 guidelines for making sure that technological products become user-friendly: they include watching what people actually do, including women and people in emerging markets.
Transforming leisure with ethnography
Caroline Gibbons-Barry, Scott Moshier and Karen Hofman, ESOMAR, Leisure Conference, Rome, November 2006
To offer satisfying experiences, the leisure industry must understand how consumers have adopted a complex, multifaceted and integrated approach to leisure. Profound cultural and values shifts have lead consumers to build uplifting and transformative leisure moments into their everyday lives, changing the standard against which the leisure industry must compete. Ethnography can take leisure purveyors beyond their own facilities to uncover both the contexts that inform consumer mindsets and perspectives, and what resonates with consumers’ inner beings and deepest desires.
Since it’s a subscription based service, I cannot link to the papers but the site has a good search engine. Unfortunately, full subscription is rather expensive.
“These so-called location-based services are trying to revamp the web experience to be less cumbersome on mobile devices, freeing users from what has been a pretty dismal experience involving lots of typing, scrolling and waiting.
The new services, with names like Mobio and Where, are aimed at anyone with a mobile device that can connect to the Internet. But the kind of online information they are making available on cellphones, BlackBerrys and other devices can be of particular use to travelers.
After downloading the application onto a phone, as you would a cellphone ring tone, a user can enter a city or a ZIP code and, in very few clicks, find the cheapest nearby gas station, locate a good restaurant, find an ATM or a Wi-Fi hot spot, call a cab, view movie times and more. [...]
The new location-based services are part of a big race to push the Internet — and all the advertising, sales and information it entails — onto cellphone screens. Just about every company with a Web presence, from Google and Yahoo to travel sites like Orbitz.com and Kayak.com, has been adapting certain services or search capabilities for mobile devices. [...]
For now, location-based service companies are being careful not to turn users off with ads, even though advertising provides the main revenue for services that are free to users. Those that do include ads try to display them only during the time it takes to connect to the Internet or in context — offering a coffee coupon, for instance, when a user searches for the nearest Starbucks.”
Mobile advertising has been a topic of discussion for mobile operator management teams for many years, but it was the recent moves by both Yahoo and Google to focus on the revenue opportunities presented by mobile advertising that has all in the mobile industry scurrying to develop a viable and sustainable business model that will generate additional revenues in the face of fierce competition and falling per subscriber voice revenues.
For those companies who have taken the early initiative, the ability to interact personally and intelligently with consumers via a mobile device is delivering recall and response rates not seen in advertising in a long while. Reports by NetInformer, a provider of wireless media and mobile marketing services, quote typical response rates of 15%, which is 10 times higher than traditional direct response advertising. Such successes should have advertisers and advertising agencies very excited as they currently struggle to reach consumers effectively with traditional media channels.
How then do operators harness the medium’s obvious opportunities without alienating their loyal subscribers, and how do advertisers harness the new medium without negatively affecting their brand values and associations? This is not easily answered, however these questions need to be considered within a very structured and well-planned process, acknowledging and respecting the customer’s attitudinal barriers towards the intrusiveness of mobile advertising. The risks associated with an incorrect strategy and services rollout are massive, potentially killing mobile advertising at birth.
The new portal upgrades the existing and very popular Vogue/Vanity and Glamour websites.
During the concept development and design of the portal, Experientia was intensely involved in providing its particular user testing and human-centred design focus.
The Experientia team concentrated first on better understanding the lifestyle and entertainment needs of the female readership, so that the new portal would be developed around their context, needs and aspirations, rather than be based on the assumptions the editorial team held about the interests of these women.
In particular, the team did a range of structured interviews, tests and card sorting exercises to arrive at these insights and to inform the information architecture.
They then coordinated the development of three click-through design prototypes that were used to gather feedback from end-users during user testing, in order to provide further input to the final design solution.
“During his ‘Ethnography & Its Impact on Marketing’ session [at the inaugural MPlanet conference this week], Mr. Lombardi stressed how ethnographers can help uncover the ‘unknown unknowns’ (to quote Donald Rumsfeld) about consumers and use those findings to directly shape more efficient and effective surveys.”
“Michael Treacy, co-founder and chief strategist at GEN3 Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in product innovation, agreed. In his ‘Reinventing Innovation in Consumer Products; presentation, he said, ‘Right now we’re not very good at identifying what people need. Sometimes you can do focus group after focus group and [because of certain product limitations assumed by the consumers] often times the customer is the dumbest guy in the room.’”
“In Mr. Treacy’s push for creating a scientific approach to innovation and producing the breakthrough product consumers didn’t know they needed — but fervently embrace — the first step is to use ethnographic studies ‘to the point of being the consumer’.”
Not everyone is comfortable with Google’s growing power. “Google has this imperial digital ambition that frightens me,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focused on maintaining media diversity and openness. [...]
Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said he is concerned that Google 2.0 could represent the first glimpse of a future dominated by a handful of giant companies whose control over vast computer networks lets them broker both digital advertising and access to digital content, possibly controlling what information and which ads users can easily locate online. [...]
“What I believe is threatening to people in many fields is that we will lose the independent distribution model of the Web,” said Kahle. “That would be a horrible waste of 20 years of promising developments.” [...]
For some critics, the most worrisome aspect of Google’s transformation is how it has begun to use the copious personal data it collects from users to deliver personally customized responses.
The old Google did not target advertisements to individuals. Instead it analyzed words typed into its search box to determine what ads might be most relevant.
The new Google tracks individuals who are logged into their Google accounts, noting, for example, which search results draw their attention and which ads receive their clicks.
Google accounts are required to use Google’s free online productivity applications, including Gmail, the Google calendar, Google docs and the Google notebook, as well as other services.
Chester said consumers are not prepared to deal with the kind of sophisticated data collecting and data mining that has become routine for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as for smaller Internet companies. Earlier this month, the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, requesting an investigation into online marketing and data collection practices.
The Mercury News wrote about the data collection practices of Internet giants in a special report published in August that found the companies’ privacy policies did not protect personal data from disclosure under certain circumstances.
“I don’t think one can trust Google, and I think the direction that Google is going in should send civil-liberty chills and privacy chills throughout the user community,” Chester said. “Google 2.0 is simply a 21st-century version of one of the media giants.”
James Surowiecki, author of “The Wisdom of Crowds”
James Surowiecki is an extremely well-skilled public speaker. He managed to give a detailed and well-structured 45 minute presentation on his book “The Wisdom of Crowds” with many examples, without notes and without slides.
His argument is that crowds are often smarter collectively than even the smartest individuals it contains. He claims that “If you can figure out ways to tap into the collective intelligence of your organisation and the collective intelligence of your consumers, you can radically change your capability to resolve problems and to forecast the future.”
Surowiecki gave many examples of how that is being done:
- NASA using volunteers to classify Martian craters in a programme called Clickworkers,
- Iowa Electronic Markets: the use of markets to predict elections. People buy and sell shares to predict the outcome of US Presidential elections. They were more accurate 3/4 of the time than any Gallup poll.
- Hollywood Stock Exchange. People buy and sell shares in how well movie releases will do. They give a better answer than any other method. They also picked 7 out of 8 of the major Oscar winners.
- Other examples include HP where employees could buy or sell shares in how well printer sales were going to do, and it outperformed internal forecasts. Siemens also used this technique to predict how long a particular software product development is going to take. Microsoft has also done something similar, and Google has launched PROPHET, which predicts 200 events of all kinds and they have been almost perfectly correct.
But crowds only act intelligent under three conditions:
- Aggregation. It is about the aggregate judgment of lots of individuals, not about consensus.
- Diversity. The crowd, the group is cognitively diverse with differences of perspective and differences of heuristics. Homogeneous groups tend to reinforce their own thinking. Diversity mitigates this effects of peer pressure, which can be very powerful.
- Independence. The people within the crowd act independently. They think for themselves and rely on their own information, own ideas. Our natural tendency to imitate and protect our reputation can move us away from this independence.
According to Surowiecki, one of the implications for market research is that you want to ask people not what they think of a product, but instead you want to ask the question: “how successful do you think this product is going to be” or “how many people do you think will buy this product by February”.
Roula Nasser, P&G
Roula Nasser is Director of Customer and Market Knowledge of the Global P&G Beauty.
Her talk, entitled “Driving Consumer & Market Understanding to New Heights: A Roadmap for Success” set out a market strategy and vision, but was unfortunately a bit weak on examples.
P&G has put a lot of emphasis on focusing on the future, or in their own jargon: from hindsight, to insight, to foresight. To do that, they have been investing a lot on new capabilities to get at consumer attitudes; on understanding the changing dynamics of the marketplace, particularly the differences between the developed and the developing world; and on making research and researchers strategic.
Nasser then went on to say how important it is to have visible support from company leaders, and went into a long and elaborate praise of A.G. Lafley who is P&G’s chairman, president and CEO.
Lastly, she stressed how important it is to think about consumers in new ways, by seeing them as people and developing a more personal relationship, and to use more involved shadowing techniques, which they call “Walk with Me”: go and visit people in their homes; live on the budget of a low-income consumer for a week; shop with consumer’s grocery list, budget and children; serve in jobs where P&G products are used.
The examples, from China and South Africa, illustrated how such an approach can lead to real benefits for advertising. There were however no examples of what this deeper people-centred approach might mean for P&G’s product innovation.
“Crucial to Blyk’s system will be creating advertisements that attract users, said Antti Ohrling, co-founder of Blyk and chairman of Contra Advertising, based in Finland.”
“We intend on only advertising information that people want and in a fun way,” Ohrling said. “To succeed, we must offer an enjoyable and simple user experience.”
As one could expect, the company’s staff list is filled to the brim with former Nokia people, including its CEO Pekka Ala-Pietilä, a former president of the Nokia Corporation, and Marko Ahtisaari, its highly regarded director of brand and design, who is a former Director of Design Strategy at Nokia (and son of a former Finnish president).
But claiming an advertising supported mobile phone operator as a “disruptive and potentially revolutionising new medium” seems a bit much.
UPDATE: 7 November 2006
Meanwhile Business Week picks up on the story. It also underlines the “gold-plated” make-up of the company. Apparently the billionaire chairman of the German software maker SAP is one of the investors. But the question remains: “Why are so many smart people backing a company that has no revenue and doesn’t even plan to start operating until next year?”.
The trick is in the advertising. “Messages will be targeted to users and be integrated seamlessly with the handset.” Advertising will “never interfere with the primary function of the phone” and “if you do it in the right way, it’s something people [will] find useful and fun.”
“If the company’s approach proves successful, industry watchers say, it could dramatically affect the mobile phone industry and pose a serious threat to existing operators.”
Though Blyk will function as a “so-called mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, meaning it will market service under its own brand but use the wireless network of an operator still to be named”, the company still faces serious challenges.
“For example, getting young people to sign up for the service will be a challenge, as will the logistics of shipping customers the SIM cards they need to use, and making sure the technology works. [...]“
“Blyk must also convince advertisers. [...] It will be difficult to measure what effect the ads are having.”
Yesterday he analysed how the advertising profession has opened a more systematic approach to experience design.
(I might want to add Arc Worldwide, also of the Publicis Group.)
Bob provides a lot of insight in who is actually working for these initiatives, what their agenda is, and what that might mean for the field. He also goes into some depth on the Brand Experience Lab, which he thinks is “the most appealing for its holism”.
But more is needed, he concludes, to get the advertising industry to really address experience design issues, beyond the online world.
“Whatever happened to the industry’s paradigm-shifters? The advertising world is in the throes of the biggest upheaval since the advent of TV, and the revolutionaries are nowhere to be found. Instead, there are predictable arguments from predictable sources: The old-media mavens espouse the importance of integrated solutions with new media, and new-media moguls chatter politely about spreading the wealth with network TV.”
Housed in a strikingly simple and rigorous building by Tadao Ando, in Treviso, Italy, it is a unique institution, led by an international team, that encourages the creative development of selected young professionals from all over the world, who are granted a one-year scholarship to work on the projects they submit.
Responsible for many media campaigns for major organisations (Reporters Sans Frontières, World Health Organisation) this private-sector research centre encourages cultural cross-fertilisation and a global consciousness in all its fields of activity. Conceived by the Centre Pompidou, this exhibition presents a number of the projects developed at Treviso.
Accompanied by a film programme and a series of musical performances, the exhibition offers an opportunity to discover the scope of Fabrica’s work, which is redefining the frontiers between art and communications.
(via Design Observer)
“Using RFID and other technologies, digital signage systems can be designed to work at the department and individual levels, targeting specific customer profiles with the type of product information they want, delivered in the way they want to receive it.”
“Today’s digital signage systems have also transformed customer communications into a two-way street. They also allow retailers to receive important information on customer preferences and buying patterns that can impact vendor selection, buying, inventory and other supply chain decisions.”
(via the NEXT retail experience, a blog of Alexander Wiethoff)
The extensive ethnographic youth study was aimed at “helping marketers understand how to reach today’s elusive population of 13- to 34-year-olds, responsible for $600 billion each year in consumer spending”.
The study set out to assess “how young people feel about brands, how they talk about them with friends, and how they take in, manipulate, and redistribute marketing messages”. In addition, the study identifies ‘brand sirens’, i.e. “the super-influencers of the youth market, including who they are, what they do, and how marketers can better reach them”.
Not surprisingly (in light of the sponsors), the study shows that “today’s young people care about the brands they use, talk often with their friends about brands, and like watching real-time television”.
Most of the current buzz-words in digital marketing (blogging, podcasting, social networking) and most of the websites being fought over by the big media conglomerates have one thing in common: they are built on user-generated content. [...] The web is stuffed full of video and text uploaded by people who want to share what they’re doing with the world.
It’s a shift that is behind the growth of what people are calling Web 2.0 – the second phase of the internet. This time around, it’s not only about the amount of time people are spending online (significant though that is), it’s also about what they’re doing online. And what they’re doing is creating content and sharing it with each other.
According to Nigel Morris, the chief executive of the Aegis-owned digital network Isobar, this change means the media market itself is moving from an old and inflexible model to an environment of infinite flexibility, where content from anywhere can be viewed by anyone.
This might sound scary to a market built around a traditional broadcasting model. But, in fact, it’s also an opportunity for media owners, advertisers and agencies alike. By getting involved in user-generated content, you can get people more involved in your brand than they ever have been before, increase their loyalty, even make them your brand advocates. And you can find out exactly what they think about your product.
For brands, this means a change from traditional marketing methods such as advertising to getting involved in dialogues with consumers. “It’s not about your message any more,” Morris says. “Now, it’s all about whose consumers are telling the best stories about them.”
“Emily Feld is a native of a new planet. While the 20-year-old university student may appear to live in London, she actually spends much of her time in another galaxy — out there, in the digital universe of websites, e-mails, text messages and mobile phone calls. The behaviour of Feld and her generation, say experts, is being shaped by digital technology as never before, taking her boldly where no generation has gone before. It may even be the next step in evolution, transforming brains and the way we think.”
“That’s what makes Emily a ‘digital native’, one who has never known a world without instant communication. Her mother, Christine, on the other hand, is a ‘digital immigrant’, still coming to terms with a culture ruled by the ring of a mobile and the zip of e-mails. Though 55-year-old Christine happily shops online and e-mails friends, at heart she’s still in the old world. ‘Children today are multitasking left, right and centre — downloading tracks, uploading photos, sending e-mails. It’s nonstop,’ she says with bemusement. ‘They find sitting down and reading, even watching TV, too slow and boring. I can’t imagine many kids indulging in one particular hobby, such as birdwatching, like they used to.’”
The article goes on to quote Lord Saatchi, Marc Prensky, an American consultant and author, Steven Johnson, author, Dr. Anders Sandberg, who is researching “cognitive enhancement” at Oxford University, Helen Petrie, a professor of human-computer interaction at the University of York, Pam Briggs, professor of applied cognitive psychology at Northumbria University, Nathan Midgley of the TheFishCanSing research consultancy, Andy Clark, a former director of cognitive science at Indiana University and Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University
“As technology enables consumers to carry out their creativity and produce actual content without any outside help, marketers can actually start to harness the creativity of their own target group. Given their freedom, creative consumers might show real talent. Some of them probably won’t even describe themselves as consumers but as aspiring filmmakers, creatives, art directors, producers. Consumers actually become one with the brand.”
“Consumer Generated Campaigns offer a new, strategic way to make it beyond the screen into the actual life of the consumer, by simply sharing their personal material. Since people are increasingly eager to share their life, pictures and videos, this concept is bound to be successful.”
By doing this, he argues, “companies can be much more innovative and it will give them the possibility to build-in communicative qualities into the products from the start. And by giving products and services a better meaning, the chance is much greater that the target group will source them voluntarily.” [...]
“Companies will build a much more credible brand with good design and innovation strategies instead of only wrapping up the products with ads in the end. The advertising money is much better used for innovations that make a difference and that benefit both business and society. Who doesn’t want to make people’s life better, more equal and hopefully happier by developing more attractive and sustainable products or services?”
Download newsletter (pdf, 390 kb, 8 pages)
“Grant McCracken, an author, anthropologist and consultant, takes a broader view, describing consumer involvement as a kind of branding Reformation: marketing professionals used to be the high-priest gatekeepers, but now we can all have a direct relationship with the Almighty Brand. He refers to this as brand “co-creation” (a term he credits to C.K. Prahalad, a business professor at the University of Michigan), and sees it as both inevitable and smart, even in the case of the Tahoe controversy. “The era of the brand that’s blandly constructed and hopes not to offend anyone — to be pleasant — that notion is really dead,” McCracken says.”
One quote from Esther Dyson:
“I think you’ll see a fundamental shift in the balance of power towards individuals. Individuals will declare what kinds of vendors they want sponsoring their content, and then those vendors will have the privilege of appearing, discreetly, around the user’s content. There will be much less “advertising” and much more communication to interested customers. Advertisers will have to learn to listen, not just to track and segment customers.
So the message to marketers is: If you can’t sell your product (assuming it’s already in the market), fix the product! Don’t try to change the situation by advertising.
Consumers will publish wish lists for marketers to scan. Also, their choices will be influenced by their friends’ comments much more than by marketers’ messages.
On the other hand, it will be much harder for consumers to get free content anonymously, because advertisers will want to know more about the people they are paying to reach. In many cases, whether email or ads, users may even get a share of the marketer’s payments. (See AttentionTrust.org or my op-ed on Goodmail or my post on Release 1.0.)
This makes sense from advertisers’ point of view, but it has a social downside: People who buy Porsches can earn more from marketers than people who buy used cars. People without money will find it harder and harder to get free content — which means a role for nonprofits in funding access to content for all.”
People with certain kinds of phones who download a special software program and say they want to participate will receive digital advertising when the phone is near the billboards.
It is the latest twist in the budding niche of mobile marketing, wherein the cellphone becomes a conduit not just for communications but also for commerce.
When participating users are near an active advertisement – it could be part of a billboard or a bus shelter poster – their phones will automatically receive a notice that a digital file can be downloaded. The information could range from a ring tone or short video to a discount voucher.
(via Pasta & Vinegar)