Archives for Advertising



Why No Work for a Rob Ford Look-Alike?

From a Canadian reader named Barry Neelin:

I am constantly being asked if I am Rob Ford.  Some say we could be twins. I want to be able to offer corporations my Fordability to advertise their products using Mr. Ford’s facial recognition. I have had no luck. Some say this is unusual in that he has selling appeal. I consider my freak ways of decision-making reliable, but I am up against a wall. Your thoughts would be appreciated. See attached pic.

I guess the first step for Barry would be to determine what kind of corporations are open to using “his Fordability to advertise their products.” Any thoughts?



Product Placement at Universities

Public higher education in the U.S. is not in good shape—and the main reason is lack of funds.  States will not increase their funding, and often they severely limit tuition increases.  My university appears to have hit upon a solution:  product placement and direct advertising.  The new computer building, the Gates Building, is part of the Dell Computer  Science Center, and has a Dell logo and signs for eBay and PayPal in front of the building.

But why stop here?  Five hundred students stare at me for 1-1/4 hours 28 times each fall semester.  The university could ask me to advertise—wear a cap, or a t-shirt, just like a tennis star—showing the product of whichever companies bid the most for the rights to advertise on my apparel during class.  While I would probably insist on some of the royalties, the bilateral monopoly between the university and me would surely raise funds for the university.  With enough professors required to do this, public universities could alleviate some of their financial problems. No doubt readers have similar clever ideas for product placement that would help fund public universities, albeit at some cost in dignity.



Question of the Day: Why Don’t Companies Advertise on Homeless People?

Callum Linley, an 18-year-old reader from Melbourne, Australia, writes to say:

So why aren’t there companies lining up to advertise on homeless people?

My guess is it’s an image problem – not wanting to be associated with the “failure” of being homeless. But wouldn’t that be compensated by the fact you could put forward the idea that you are a socially responsible and sympathetic company who cares for the less fortunate?

Well, the world already has given us Bumvertising and homeless people as wi-fi hotspots, and I wouldn’t be surprised if homeless advertising has shown up on TV (hey Simpsons and Family Guy and South Park fans etc., let us know). But how would you answer Callum’s question?  Does it fall into the category of:

a) Questions that are so obvious that they don’t need an answer; or

b) Questions that should be asked more often, but aren’t; or

c) Something else entirely.



Is the “Bing It On” Challenge Lightweight?

Microsoft has now responded, with a blog post and a letter, to my post about an experimental study that I coauthored with Yale Law School students Emad Atiq, Sheng Li, Michelle Lu, Christine Tsang, and Tom Maher.  Our paper calls into question the validity of claims that people prefer Bing nearly two to one.

In response to several commenters: I do not work for and do not have any consulting relationship with Google.

Microsoft claims that our study is flawed because it relied on their own blind comparison website.  They now say that “Bing It On” is meant to be a “lightweight way to challenge people’s assumptions about which search engine actually provides the best results.”  To be sure, companies often use fantastical or humorous scenarios for free advertising. However, Microsoft’s television commercials present the site as a credible way that people can learn whether they prefer Google or Bing.  These commercials show people who discover that they really prefer Bing to Google.  The challenge site that they created is either sufficient to provide insights into consumer preferences or it isn’t.  The advertisements give the impression that the challenge site is a useful tool.  Microsoft can’t have it both ways.  If it is a sufficient tool to “challenge people’s assumptions,” then it is sufficient to provide some evidence about whether the assumed preference for Google is accurate.  Read More »



Challenging the Bing-It-On Challenge

Did you find this blog post through Bing?  Probably not—67% of worldwide searches go through Google, 18% through Bing.  But Microsoft has advertised in a substantial TV campaign that — in the cyber analog to blind taste testing — people prefer Bing “nearly 2:1.”  A year ago, when I first saw these ads,  the 2-1 claim seemed implausible.  I would have thought the search results of these competitors would be largely identical, and that it would be hard for people to distinguish between the two sets of results, much less prefer one kind 2:1.

When I looked into the claim a bit more, I was slightly annoyed to learn that the “nearly 2:1” claim is based on a study of just 1,000 participants.  To be sure, I’ve often published studies with similarly small datasets, but it’s a little cheeky for Microsoft to base what might be a multi-million dollar advertising campaign on what I’m guessing is a low six-figure study. 

To make matters worse, Microsoft has refused to release the results of its comparison website, Bingiton.com.  More than 5 million people have taken the Bing-It-On challenge – which is the cyber analog to a blind taste test.  You enter in a search term and the Bing It On site return two panels with de-identified Bing and Google results (randomly placed on the right or left side of the screen).  You tell the site which side’s results you prefer and after 5 searches the site reveals whether you prefer Bing or Google. (See Below)

Microsoft’s soft ads encourage users to join the millions of people who have taken the challenge, but it will not reveal whether the results of the millions are consistent with the results of the 1,000. Read More »



Selling Thigh Space

Quartz reports that a Japanese P.R. company is paying women to wear advertising stickers on their thighs:

Advertising on women’s skin appears to be much more cost-effective than forking out exorbitant sums for public billboard space. In 2012, the overall expenditure on ‘outdoor’ advertising in Japan was ¥299.5 billion ($2.99 billion) (pdf). The going rate on each thigh, according to the company, is $121 per day. The 3,000 Japanese women who signed up to participate will slap stickers on their thighs in exchange for that sum. The campaigns, which began rolling out earlier this year, so far have included plugs for the movie Ted and the band Green Day.

The agency has a few requirements for its walking billboards: they must be over 18, have at least 20 friends on social networking sites, and must post pictures of themselves wearing the sticker in two different geographic locations.  The agency also “recommends” that the women wear miniskirts and long socks to draw attention to the ads.  “It’s an absolutely perfect place to put an advertisement, as this is what guys are eager to look at and girls are eager to expose,” Hidenori Atsumi, the agency’s CEO, told ITN.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



More on the Google AdWords Controversy

A reader named Desmond Lawrence writes from London with further commentary on our “How Much Does Your Name Matter” podcast — specifically, about Harvard computer scientist Latanya Sweeney‘s research which found that online searches for people with distinctively black names was 25% more likely to produce an ad suggesting the person had an arrest record – regardless of whether that person had actually been arrested:

So when I was listening to your podcast on “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” I was surprised to hear about Latanya and her story about these Google Ads that were being served.
 
Now as much as the company Instant Checkmate would like to say that they are not at fault here, I can guarantee that I know what has happened with their AdWords campaign.
 
When you set up an AdWords campaign you tend to do a fair bit of research. From there you will build a campaign around Broad match, phrase match or even exact match.
 
You can also do a thing called Dynamic keyword insertion. Now this is where I would suggest that Instant Checkmate went wrong. If you place the Dynamic keyword call code into an ad, it will place the keyword that has called the ad into the ad, thus increasing the effectiveness of the ad.

Read More »



Guns and Peanuts

Saw this ad for peanuts in the subway this morning. It was doubly jarring. First, because I am not used to seeing the word “peanut” in public unless it is followed by the word “-free,” as in “peanut-free school,” “peanut-free party,” “peanut-free environment,” etc. And second: because the kid in the ad is holding a couple of toy guns! Many parents I know don’t let their kids play with any sort of toy gun, ever. (I happen to not be one of those parents.) As a result, their kids — their boys, mostly, to be clear — just make guns out of sticks, rulers, broomsticks, pens, fingers, etc.

I guess if you’re making an ad for one product that people are squeamish about, you might as well double down and go for the full effect.