18 Oct Consumer "engagement" stressed at e-Business seminar
Madison, Wis.—Imagine, says Geoff Ramsey, an ad that is so catchy and relevant that you actually want to watch it again and again.
Case in point: An Internet-based commercial for Angel Soft toilet paper by international tissue and paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific. “The little boy is doing his business, and his mother asks him what he is doing,” Ramsey told a crowd of several hundred area IT, marketing and technology strategists attending a daylong conference on e-business strategy at the Monona Terrace on Tuesday.
“The little boy turns around,” Ramsey continued. “Well, you can guess what happened.” The audience laughed.
When Ramsey’s children watched it, they laughed too, he said. In fact, they asked to see it over and over and over again, and spent the next 15 minutes in stitches on the floor.
The conference was sponsored by the UW E-Business Institute. Other speakers included John Frigo, sales director for Nielsen/NetRatings and Matt Korn, network and data center operations vice-president at America Online. Korn, a 1984 UW-Madison alumnus, accepted a 2005 “UW E-Business Institute Distinguished Fellow” award from Raj Veeramani, institute director.
Ramsey, CEO and co-founder of eMarketer, a New York-based provider of e-business reports, research articles and statistics, calls the “Bathroom Moments” Internet commercial a good example of “contextual marketing,” the targeting of an ad to a niche group, such as parents who buy toilet paper.
[The commercial, called “Bad Aim,” can even be e-mailed from the Georgia-Pacific “Bathroom Moments” website. My personal favorite is the one of the husband who creeps up on his wife to videotape her as she washes her face at the sink, only to discover that she’s wearing a giant bleach mustache.]
Why would a company create such a website? Because it engages the consumer, he said. Internet advertising may be increasingly useful but it comes with its own challenges and perils.
For one, it’s consumer-driven, and consumer skepticism and resistance to advertising has never been higher. Consumers are blocking advertisements any way they can.
The pressure is on to improve targeting, but that makes it harder to reach a mass market; meanwhile, marketers are held to a new level of accountability, he added. “It’s a rough world out there,” he said. “Have you hugged your CMO today?”
So, new strategies include those like “Bathroom Moments,” that reach a smaller audience but create strong brand identifications. Another successful example cited by Ramsey is one by Benjamin Moore Paints, in which a viewer is encouraged to “paint” a room with a variety of colors to help decide what color to buy.
Even an old-fashioned billboard can do the trick, he said. While driving recently, he saw one advertising Doritos, the nacho chips, that featured inscrutable symbols that made sense only to teens. Teens were given a telephone number to call, which Ramsey did. From there, he reached the Doritos website and discovered a whole new world of youth-oriented blogs, rants, and raves. The strategy made sense, he thinks. “It appeals to multi-tasking teenagers, all doing 50 million things at one time.”
It’s also an example of “integrated” advertising through the combination of different media, he said. In the Doritos case, it was print, telephone, and Internet.
Other new ad strategies on the horizon include taking advantage of RSS, Really Simple Syndication, a type of customizable news feed, and blogs (weblogs), a type of personal Internet diary. The two are now highly popular among certain audiences and may offer ways for advertisers to further target niche markets.
Meanwhile, audiences may slowly be wooed through the exchange of information, Ramsey said, a tactic he calls the “drip-drip” approach. A company offers a white paper on a topic; in return, the consumer fills out a registration form which reveals some personal preferences. Over time, the customer might reveal more. And all site visits collect data for analysis, he added.
Audience members listened quietly and had few responses. When Ramsey asked how many were using context-based online ads such as “Bathroom Moments” no one offered a hand. When he asked if anyone in the room had started a blogging ad strategy, only one person said yes.
Later, Ramsey said he was “shocked” at Madison’s low level of awareness of these new marketing strategies. “On the west and east coasts, you find much higher use,” he said.
Nancy Gores, UW e-business consortium marketing coordinator, said she was not surprised. “Maybe it’s the practical, sensible folks in the Midwest,” she said. “We know a lot of our members are interested in it, but they are not implementing it yet. They want to see what others are doing before jumping in.”
Debbie Wicker, regional director of services for Compuware Corporation, a provider of enterprise software and IT services, said she came to look for trends. Ramsey’s emphasis on consumer “engagement” was interesting, she said.
“But I’ve talked to companies who tried to personalize their websites a long time ago,” said. It didn’t always work, which frustrating for IT managers, she added. “IT people can’t do everything as fast as everybody wants to.”