Why Yahoo! Has “Search Marketing Madness”?

23 January, 2009

Is there a Comedian in the house?I know I’m not the only one, as I have seen many posts like this: Yahoo! can now change…

“Are Yahoo! now so hard up that they have to add keywords to the accounts of their advertisers.”

Or this: Yahoo! gives itself permission…

“This is kind of like a fast food restaurant going into your burger after you’ve take a bite…”

ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY

Too true… and I had a chunk bitten out last month on a campaign I run for a popular site. I was just updating my campaigns and I saw that several files had been uploaded and ‘approved’. Yet I only update via the web-based service as their download/upload process is worse than clicking through the pages (hefty note to Yahoo! – you want me to put more than one ad up? then YOU make it easy for me to do so!!). So, how did these files get there?

You see, the truth of PPC is that they WANT you to focus on CPC and CTRs rate because that’s how they earn their juice. So Yahoo’s actions are all about increasing clicks by ‘improving’ ad copy and keyword range.Silly Save Message

I expect they had a meeting in Yahoo! towers and decided that all their clients were cretins and were deliberately ignoring that pop up that they’ve had for over a year now which deliberately hides the ‘save’ button with this message (look right).

No, I have seen it many, many times but I am not going to put another ad up because I use Google to optimise my ad copy because they have all the traffic to test effectively and their system is so much more user friendly than Yahoo’s. Simple, really.

Generously, Yahoo! gave me a refund. I explained to them on the phone that whilst they can provide me with the service, I did not request or authorise these changes and should they continue to do so I just wouldn’t bother with their system.

A ONE-WAY ROAD TO TERMINATION
But it still confuses me… why does Yahoo! go about their business in such a cack-handed way? Fair enough Google and MSN also offer assistance in optimisation – but it’s on request and always as a test.

Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t know the answer to this, but I will vote with my feet and if I see them messing around again, I will shut it down. Any advertiser knows that they need to sign off the creative and campaign. Yahoo! please step down and visit the real world. Please.

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Microhoo Fallout? Kevin Johnson Leaves Microsoft

24 July, 2008

Microsoft

In a surprise move, it was announced yesterday that Kevin Johnson has left Microsoft to become CEO of Juniper Networks.

Johnson was the driving force behind the run at Yahoo! and was head of the Platform & Services Division, the largest group at Microsoft, containing Windows, Live, Advertising (APS) and a few other things.

Debate around the why, what, etc. of this is pretty split, e.g.:

TechCrunch are positive, Microsoft Rumbles, Rearms For Online War It Can’t Win Without Yahoo

Though Kara Swisher (no surprise here) comes down on the negative side:  Microsoft’s Latest Web Stumble: Kevin Johnson Out

Why Did He Leave

AdViking believes that the run on Yahoo! is a (defensive) tactical play to ramp up the Search side of things and protect Windows and Office revenues (i.e.:  the part of the Cloud War rather than the Search Battle).

This run currently looks like it was a failure and some of the moves that were taken looked ill-conceived and the impact was that Ballmer and Microsoft currently look like they have egg on their faces.  The price to pay for this is that Kevin Johnson is leaving.

Has the Axe Fallen

The Impact

The immediate impact is that they have now split Johnson’s empire into two groups:

  • Windows/Live – Reports directly to Ballmer
  • Online Services Business – The search is on to fill this gap.  This fact is surprising and a clue to the fact this was an unplanned exit.

Picking up on the point that there is no-one in place to head up the Online Services Business, an interesting echo from the sphere is that this could possibly leave room for an acquisition CEO to fit into a key role nicely (e.g.:  Jerry Yang)

AdViking thinks this split makes a lot of sense and from looking at the Org chart before yesterday, didn’t quite understand why two such important groups rolled up under one Exec.

AdViking further likes the split as it does mean that the advertising side of the business will now have more power and therefore will be able to offer the industry an even more competitive offering.

Background Materials

Official Microsoft Press Release

News of the departure and re-org was announced in a few ways including a 2009 Strategic Update email from Ballmer.  This has had wide coverage in full text.

Some interesting tidbits to pull-out from these:

Betting on Display Advertising

Senior Vice President Brian McAndrews will continue to lead the Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group (APS)…McAndrews will continue to focus on the display advertising opportunity for Microsoft

Google and Search

We continue to compete with Google on two fronts—in the enterprise, where we lead; and in search, where we trail. In search, our technology has come a long way in a very short time and it’s an area where we’ll continue to invest to be a market leader. Why? Because search is the key to unlocking the enormous market opportunities in advertising, and it is an area that is ripe for innovation. In the coming years, we’ll make progress against Google in search first by upping the ante in R&D through organic innovation and strategic acquisitions. Second, we will out-innovate Google in key areas—we’re already seeing this in our maps and news search. Third, we are going to reinvent the search category through user experience and business model innovation. We’ll introduce new approaches that move beyond a white page with 10 blue links to provide customers with a customized view of their world. This is a long-term battle for our company—and it’s one we’ll continue to fight with persistence and tenacity.

On the Yahoo Run

…I want to emphasize the point I’ve been making all along–Yahoo was a tactic, not a strategy. We want to accelerate our share of search queries and create a bigger pool of advertisers, and Yahoo would have helped us get there faster.


Beer Money Missing from Digital

16 July, 2008

Digital Empty for Beer Marketing?

Across the board, digital ad spend is growing at the cost of other media, one of the exceptions is Beer.

AdViking would suggest that is probably due to the restrictions on what type of ads can run on the big search and display networks and so this means that those in charge of the marketing budgets have too work hard for ROI…which as we know is something that most Marketers like to avoid doing.

Once video and the like grows as part of the digital spend, then we’ll see a natural transition of the budget.

Still, that doesn’t mean a few smart marketers aren’t taking advantage of the new channels open for them.  e.g.:  Having an European focus means that AdViking missed the whole ‘dude’ Bud Light ( (Light beer isn’t really an option this side of the Atlantic) campaign and only through the glories of YouTube have we been able to catch up:

On second thought, as the future is niche and vertical, then there’s a big gap open to consolidate the alcohol spending into one new network, giving the  opportunities for Publishers like BeerViking to have a more natural advertising to user fit.

Post-Script: And then AdViking comes across the news that Carling has the #1 free game application for iPhone with their iPint game.  My apologies to Nic Young, director of marketing communications at Carling and their partners at Beattie McGuinness Bungay and Illusion Labs for the comment about Marketers not wanting to work for ROI…seems that some of them do.

Post-Post-Script:  Apparently the iBeer guys are suing the iPint guys.


A Man With Two Heads for Two Hats…

16 July, 2008
Two Heads for Two Hats

Two Heads for Two Hats

Ah, yes, well it had to come up again… the whole branding v. direct response debate. At AdViking because we are four we often have different perspectives, but one of us is currently wearing two hats… you see he runs CarQuake which is both a publisher (and therefore earns ad revenue), as well as an advertiser for lead generation (and therefore runs direct response campaigns).

Wearing one hat he bemoans the reasonably inconsequential earnings he gets from advertising sold on the site (currently c. £0.70 CPM)… but wearing the other he demands performance from his advertisers who drive traffic to the site. He wants to see results.

And, there is the rub… because stepping back from the precipice and wearing a third hat he can see two things:

  1. CPM banner advertising is difficult to justify in terms of immediate results. The estimated exposure is good, but how many ‘viewers’ are really viewing? How many are reading his message? How many are being targeted not only as the right audience, but at the right point of the buying cycle?
  2. CPA lead generation is much easier to quantify, but he struggles to get the reward balance right to incentivise affiliates and partners without giving away all the margin.

The advice follows… for CPM, there needs to be more integration of message, greater exposure of offer / communication into the target audience, or it really isn’t worth that much. For CPA, there needs to be a smoother process – a better introduction of the viewer to the proposition and the neatest possible call to action, too many CPA systems are contrived to suit the tracking and not the customer (and, dare I say it, are prone to more ‘fraud’ too)!

Perhaps, later on, over a beer, he might tell you how brands can fully engage their audience without resorting to cheap flash games or clumsy sponsorship deals.


Layoffs at 2nd Tier Networks – Miva, Vibrant Media

7 July, 2008

The AdViking scouts are hearing from unofficial but reliable sources in the field of battle that both Miva and Vibrant Media have made staff layoffs in Europe during Q2 2008. This is regrettable for the employees who are getting their pink slips (or P45s) and we hope that all good people find rewarding and fulfilling employment quickly. Alas, AdViking is not hiring for our latest adventure. At least it is summer and a good time for a bar-b-q and some strong ales.

We do want to note that we believe these layoffs are a sign of the general slow down due to the economy and perhaps the natural advertising cycle. However, we do not believe that the online ad spend is going down overall, only that the spend pattern will migrate to the bigger and better quality sites (like portals) or ad networks and rich media channels (ie, video) – all while we watch online advertising out pace TV advertising in the UK. And is predicted in general to grow around 20% or a bit less depending on what report you read. Those players further down the food chain and/or offering poor products (and traffic) will suffer. We fear that many established players as well as start-ups in the ad space or with ad funded models will be forced to trim back and some will perish. This is a time when it is going to be safer at the head of the long tail of advertising.

On a related note we were reading the UK NMA this week which is touting a story titled “Portals drop ad rates to fill space” (note: paid content, best save your money) and we don’t buy it yet – the idea that spend is shifting away from portals or that their is price pressure. The article goes on to imply that display (banners, brand advertising – which matters!) are being impacted first and that as spend tightens it is shifting to ROI or direct response products. AdViking thinks this is a poor strategy by media buyers as it will only drive up the cost of media or clicks on the likes of AdWords and that then pushes ROI down. Down a rat hole of DR chasing Google’s tail… All media buyers please re-think this strategy, try to get that right mix of spend and help prove the NMA story wrong. Anyway, digital is the king of advertising now. Long live The King!

Post-script:

Miva accounded they are doing a 15% staff cut, including killing it’s Italian Media Operation


Casual Gaming – interview with Mochi Media CEO

30 June, 2008

An interesting interview over on Fastcompany.tv with the CEO of casual gaming ad network company Mochi Media. AdViking is not sure we even know what ‘casual gaming’ is all about, but even though it may sound a bit rude 🙂 — its an interesting emerging area in the digital advertising ecosystem… Hey, we managed to get the words gaming, casual, emerging, ad network and ecosystem all into one short post. We would have included the video but wordpress is stripping out the embed code for some reason – so you can VIEW IT HERE.


Facebook, MySpace, et al = Double Bubble?

26 June, 2008

AdViking has good days and bad days when pondering Social Media and sometime this means quitting Facebook and sometimes heavy use of Twitter.  Generally, the main point is that we are in the early iteration of the what and how of Social Media and we’ve got a long way to go before it’s all pervasive and delivering true value to the user.

Recently came across Charlene Li‘s deck on the Future of Social Networks on SlideShare and thought it was worth sharing as some solid consolidation of thoughts flying around the ether.  i.e.:

  • The youth are all ready heavily into this stuff (e.g.:  Club Penguin)
  • Your Universal ID has to be easier to use
  • AOL, Google, Microsoft will be coming hard into this space

Obscene Valuations?

Anyway, onto the main point and that is there’s a lot of debate if the valuations the Social Networks are getting ($15bill Facebook, $1bill LinkedIn, $850mill Bebo, $580 mill MySpace) are just crazy and more proof points that we are on the cusp of bubble2.0 or are just fair indications of value.

There have been some recent work in just this area that is useful to ponder.

First, Andrew Chen had a stab at looking at MySpace versus Facebook: Analysis of both traffic and ad revenue, using Google Trends.

Second, Michael Arrington did some Modeling The Real Market Value Of Social Networks.

The later piece is the real interesting one to digest, mainly as they start from looking at a wider set of networks, use comScore data for the traffic and also the recent PWC ad spend numbers.  And though Arrington is the first to admit there’s some flaws in the model (e.g.:  LinkedIn comes out low but the actual traffic could be considered high value), you can still take it as a starting point based on some data rather than just plain rhetoric.