A new kind of advertising hell


This is the first time I’ve seen this. AdWeek is redacting their content until you click and “engage” with one of their ad units. This is a perfect example of the concept of “bad attention” that I’ve written about previously. Of course, I’m sure the metrics they are tracking around engagement are through the roof. I’m also sure they are not taking into account the destruction of goodwill caused by using tactics like this. Check out the video below to see how annoying this is.


The Customer-Advertiser Arms Race


“Social media is all about relationships. If you want to find people’s relationships, an address book is the best place to go. It’s like if you want to rob a bank, go where the money is.” – Joe Turow

There was a fantastic segment on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday that featured Joseph Turow speaking with Terry Gross on how advertisers are tracking customers across the web, social networks and mobile. It’s most definitely worth a listen. I’ve linked both the audio segment as well as the transcript below.

Listen: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/22/147189154/how-companies-are-defining-your-worth-online

Transcript: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=147189154


Interview Highlights (excerpted from the NPR web site linked above)

On the categories advertisers use to track you online

“Most of them have to do with demographics like age and gender and income. Some of them have to do with where you live, which can be very specific to particular neighborhoods sometimes. Some of them are weird, like socially organic eaters, but that has to do more with how companies make inferences about how you act. … Go to a company called Acxiom on the Web. You will see a catalog of maybe 100 pages of the kinds of things that this company sells about all of us. They sell whether you look for diabetic stuff online, whether you’re interested in orthopedic products, whether you’ve gone on vacation. They will sell what kinds of credit cards you have. And all of this is perfectly legal, and it can be used for online targeting as well as offline targeting.”

On how apps can store and transmit information in your phone’s address book

“It remains to be seen how many companies took out and take out that data and what is done with them, but you can see that it could give you an enormous amount of stuff. … You can look at a person’s camera and actually turn it on if you wanted to. A person might notice that the camera’s on, but you could look at his friends or her friends and identify them if you wanted to, in a certain kind of world. You could look at the person’s photos, contact lists. That’s potentially the case with what people have been saying about the Apple iOS.”

On Twitter and other companies gathering information from people’s address books on their iPhones

“Social media is all about relationships. If you want to find people’s relationships, an address book is the best place to go. It’s like if you want to rob a bank, go where the money is.”

On Facebook

“The amount of money Facebook gets per user from advertisers is not nearly the amount of money that Google gets. But the potential is there, and that’s why Wall Street has been going after them.

“They gather everything that you do on Facebook. Facebook scarfs it all up. We know that Facebook has the ability and does target you on their website in an enormous number of ways. They don’t give your name to any of the advertisers — it’s all done anonymously. I’m not a fan of the distinction between anonymity and nonanonymity. … If you’re Joe Schmoe online or they know your real name or they give you an identification number — and so much of our lives is done online — in the end it doesn’t matter. You’re treated like a person who they know with all of the possible discriminatory activities we’ve talked about.”

On online media

“I would argue that the 20th century taught people that content is cheap. Because on television and radio it was free, in newspaper and magazines, they got huge amounts of stuff paying very little. And as a consequence, when the world starts changing and there’s a lot more competition because there’s no longer one place to get news in print, the notion of paying for a lot of people became anathema.”

On European privacy policies and an upcoming U.S. privacy policy

“They believe in privacy as [a] human right. And that’s the interesting thing about how [the upcoming] Commerce Department report is positioned: as a right. There are some advocates who don’t like what they see in the policy because they think it’s too loose. But the very fact that it’s called a right is interesting rhetorically. Some people would say they’re moving in the right direction.”

On data-mining and politics

“Politicians want to get votes. And they have begun to realize what consumer products companies realize: that if you get a lot of information about people, you can predict how they might act or what they might believe, even to the point [of thinking] ‘What kind of car do people who might vote Republican have vs. Democrats?’ And the more data points you have, the belief system is, the more likelihood that you can get on the right side of a person. So companies have evolved over the last few years that are essentially data-mining companies for various political organizations. Even the Obama campaign is perceived to be at the forefront of this stuff. If you go to their privacy policy, they take everything. When people give information about themselves for whatever reason on the Obama website, [the campaign] keeps it, they use it, they buy other information about you if they want. And on their privacy policy, it says they might share it with political organizations they consider conducive.”

photo: Kyle Cassidy

On Customer-Driven Interactions

With all of the hue and cry around “big data,” the forward thinking folks are actually looking the other way. Here’s the ‘graf that matters:

“Much the way powerful mobile devices store your biometric information and translate your language, personalized information filters and search engines will bring you only the information you want. This will invert the premise of marketing,” Mr. Meyerson said. The phones “will start to be your advocate, recognizing what is near and dear to you and getting it. Instead of companies speaking to you, you will reach out to companies.” (emphasis added)

From this NYTimes article: Behind IBM’s Big Predictions

Counting “Fans” And “Followers” Is The HFCS Of Social Engagement

Earlier this month, the NYTimes took a deeper dive into the idea of “good attention vs. bad attention.” I wanted to keep the ball rolling on this idea, as it’s fundamental to thinking about social engagement with (and as) customers.

Although many of us are working in or with enterprises in a role related to connecting with customers, we need to do a shift in perspective. For right now, put on your “customer” hat; we all are customers, in addition to trying to connect with them. Through that lens, “good attention” is the type of attention you pay when something connects with you. It’s the type of attention to things you find interesting or engaging or intelligent or emotional. Conversely, “bad attention” is the attention that you pay, but you wouldn’t choose to if you had a better (or any) option.

Here are some examples of “good attention”

  • The attention you pay to any experience that you eventually tell a friend about
  • Ads that you want to watch more than once
  • Blog posts that makes you smile
  • Thoughtful Twitter followers
  • Thoughtful comments
  • Fiero!

Here are some examples of “bad attention”

  • Unsolicited email newsletters
  • Popup and pop-under ads
  • Any “interruptive” ads
  • Most display ads
  • Impressions
  • Page views
  • Spam

I struggled where to put the attention acts of “becoming a Fan” and “becoming a Follower” on this list. If you become a fan of a brand on Facebook because you like the brand, I think it’s at best a neutral. On the other hand, if you are forced to click “Like” in order to see a page’s content or to enter a one-shot contest as part of a campaign, that’s bad attention. It distorts and overloads the meaning of the word “Like” in such as way that is ultimately detrimental to an enterprise. The focus on “counting metrics” is almost always used as the starting point at measuring the impact of social engagement. But it can’t stop there.

Counting metrics are frequently used by enterprises at Stage 2 on the Social Engagement Journey. This is normal. Unfortunately, like high fructose corn syrup, counting fans and followers are the empty calories of customer engagement. They taste great at the time, but in the long run have a strong likelihood of causing damage. A focus on fan and follower counts ultimately leads to being caught in a bad attention trap.

So what can you do to move along the Journey?

  1. Think about whether you are attracting good attention or bad attention from your engagement activities
  2. Begin the transition from counting metrics to metrics that matter to both customers and your brand (like NPS)
  3. Don’t be complacent, thinking that having two million fans on your Facebook page means that you’re doing a good job at building long-lasting customer relationships with those two million individuals. It doesn’t. (Do you know how many of those two million fans are current customers of your brand? If the answer is “no, we don’t know,” then recognize that you’re likely falling into the trap of bad attention.)

Good Attention vs. Bad Attention

The confluence of the Super Bowl and its focus on immense ad spend, coupled with speaking at last week’s NetPromoter conference triggered a thought. Are there two kinds of attention (let’s call them “Good Attention” and “Bad Attention”), in the same way that there are two kinds of profits?

We know that there are two kinds of profits. Good profits are profits that fuel growth, and come from serving customers in such a way that they are willing to recommend your organization to others. Bad profits, conversely, are the types of profits where the customer feels extorted. Bad profits help make the quarterly number in the short run, but are unsustainable. Bad profits eventually eat away at the fabric of the company, by alienating its customers and demotivating its employees. An income statement can’t tell the difference between these two types of profits. But customers can.

Therefore, are there also two kinds of attention as well? It seems to me there are. “Bad attention” is interruptive. It’s the type of attention that is so costly, because it is so bad and inefficient. Think about popover ads, think about the Flash ads you block with AdBlocker, think about the “attention” you pay to the ad that starts blasting a tune as soon as you land on a page. Those are all ways of getting attention, but it’s bad attention.

Good attention is its opposite. Good attention is the attention you garner by virtue of going above and beyond. It’s the attention you earn by delighting someone, surprising them, amusing them, or triggering an empathetic emotion.

The ROI of good attention is orders of magnitude better than the ROI of bad attention. (In fact, it approaches infinity, if you really think about it.) Good attention is the attention that results in positive word of mouth, advocates, and the creation of promoters and defenders of your brand.

Good attention and bad attention are not functions of the communication channels being used between an organization and its customers. There are huge Super Bowl ads that attract good attention (think about last year’s Darth Vader commercial from VW – that was great). Similarly, there are 1:1 conversations that attract bad attention (and there is now an increasing amount of research on how to identify fake word-of-mouth).

Maybe we can classify some of these things. Are there examples of “good attention” and “bad attention” that you’ve seen recently?