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?
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.
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
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.
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.
Quartzreports 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 themselveswearing 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.
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.
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.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How Money Is March Madness?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
The gist: the annual NCAA basketball tournament grabs a lot of eyeballs, but turning them into dollars hasn’t always been easy — even when the “talent” is playing for free.
The hit movie of a few weeks ago was Breaking Dawn Part 2, which several of my grandkids saw on opening night. A grandson reports that at the first showing there was a full 30 minutes of advertisements before the movie, more than he’d ever seen. He figured correctly that the captive audience (people lined up for hours to see the first showing) would fill the theater immediately, implicitly increasing the demand for advertisements. That made the advertising time more valuable, so the theater responded by offering more ads. I would bet too that they charged the advertisers more per minute for the right to show their ads—implicitly thus increasing price as well as quantity. (HT to SCH)
I saw Argo the other night (yes yes, very good, and kudos to all involved). But then I watched this TV ad – for a newspaper, of all things!, the Guardian – and I think it may end up being more memorable than the film.
The New York Times published an interesting article last week about an ongoing dispute in Europe between Google and European newspapers (and their supporters in government). The issue is whether Google must pay for the privilege of linking to those sites, or should be able to link for free. Of course, at stake is who gains the revenue that comes from aggregating and compiling links.
As the Times notes:
Google got rich by selling a simple proposition: The links it provides to other Web sites are worth a lot of money, so much that millions of advertisers are willing to pay the company billions of dollars for them.
Now some European newspaper and magazine publishers, frustrated by their inability to make more of their own money from the Web, want to reverse the equation. Google, they say, should pay them for links, because they provide the material on which the Web giant is generating all that revenue.
Here is an excerpt from The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, which has just been published by Oxford University Press. Next week, we’ll be taking questions from Freakonomics readers in a Q&A. We’ll also run a contest for the wackiest photo of a knockoff item.
THE KNOCKOFF ECONOMY CONCLUSION
The traditional justification for trademark law, which protects brands, has little to do with innovation. Instead, trademark law’s justification is that brands help consumers identify the source of products, and thereby buy the item they want–and not an imitation. And yet brands—like Apple, or J. Crew–play an important and often unappreciated creativity-inducing role in several of the industries we explore in The Knockoff Economy.
Put in economic terms, trademarks reduce the search costs associated with consumption. If you’ve had a positive experience with basketball shoes from Adidas, then marking them with the trademark-protected three-stripes helps ensure that you can quickly find their shoes the next time you are shopping. And of course it also lets everyone else know which shoes you prefer.
What do girls think when they see their favorite soccer start posing in Sports Illustrated in a bikini instead of a soccer jersey? A new study, summarized by the BPS Research Digest, surveyed girls after they viewed five images of either “female athletes in a sporting context in their full sporting attire,” “female athletes in a sexualized context,” or “bikini-clad magazine models given random names.” Here’s the BPS Digest:
The key finding is that the girls and undergrads who viewed the sexualized athlete images tended to say they admired or were jealous of the athletes’ bodies, they commented on the athletes’ sexiness, and they evaluated their own bodies negatively. Some also said they found the images inappropriate. The participants who viewed the bikini-clad glamour models responded similarly, except they rarely commented on the inappropriateness of the images, as if they’d come to accept the portrayal of women in that way…
What’s not so certain is what a jersey deal is really worth. Front Row Marketing Services, whose parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, runs 11 regional sports networks and owned the Philadelphia 76ers until last fall, figures the annual cost to companies to place their logos on uniforms would range from $1.2 million to $7.5 million per year, depending mainly on the market where the team plays.
A study by Horizon Media last year put the annual value of the television exposure of the space across an NBA jersey’s chest in a range from $4.1 million for the L.A. Lakers to $300,000 for the Minnesota Timberwolves. [David] Abruytin [sic], whose IMG arranged the partnership deal between the NBA and its official automotive partner Kia Motors, says those numbers are probably low. He estimates the Lakers could fetch $10 million to $15 million per year.
The Super Bowl has by now become such an institution – it’s practically a second New Year’s Day – that just about everyone feels compelled to watch it, even if they don’t care one bit about football. One consequence of this fact is that the broadcast of the game (on NBC this year; it rotates annually among NBC, CBS, and Fox) has turned into an another event entirely: the most massive real-time advertising opportunity in history.
This has had a few linked effects: the price of the ads has risen ever higher; advertisers spend more time and effort making better ads; and the ads have gotten so good that a lot of people time their kitchen or bathroom breaks to the game action in order to not miss the ads.
Though the exact percentage is debatable, the fact is that the vast majority of U.S. GDP is made up of personal consumption. The American consumer doesn’t just drive the U.S. economy, for decades he’s been driving the global one as well. Though that dynamic is slowly changing as Americans cut back on just about everything we buy, for the better part of the last 60 years, the U.S. consumer has been king. And from this has sprung a massive marketing and advertising industry coldly focused on a singular goal: getting us to buy as much stuff as they possibly can.
In his new book Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom trains a bright light on his own industry to uncover all the unsavory things that marketers do to subtly, or not so subtly, influence our buying habits. Lindstrom’s agreed to answer your questions, so fire away in the comments section. As always, we’ll post his replies in due course.
Facing a combined budget deficit of more than $100 billion for fiscal year 2012, a lot of states are cutting education budgets to make ends meet: laying off teachers, reducing hours and services. But recently, a handful of states have found a creative way to raise revenue from public education by putting advertisements on school buses.
Seven states, the latest being New Jersey, now allow school districts to sell ads on the sides of public school buses. Florida is currently considering it. So is Guam apparently. There are even two companies, Alpha Media and Steep Creek Media (both in Texas), that specialize in nothing but school bus advertisements.
Staring at the menu board on a recent and rare trip to a California fast-food chain, I was stunned by the cost of a milk shake: 880. Eight dollars for a milk shake, really? Well, no. That was the cost in terms of calories. But I would have gladly traded that in dollars and cents to be spared the knowledge of how many calories my post-triathlon race reward would cost me. Feeling sufficiently guilty once confronted with the calorie content, I downsized and saved a couple hundred calories. But I left feeling dissatisfied and unambiguously worse off.
This kind of experience could be coming to a restaurant near you by January, when the FDA plans to roll out mandatory calorie labeling regulations approved by Congress in the same bill that authorized ObamaCare. At chain restaurants with more than 20 locations, you won’t be able to avoid the calorie information, which is prescribed to be posted on menus and menu boards near prices and printed at least as large. So much for the days of blissful ignorance.
While the calorie labeling law is intended to improve health outcomes for individuals, it is effectively a government-mandated guilt trip and a sign that libertarian paternalism—the seemingly benign notion that “choice architects” can “nudge” people to make better decisions for themselves—has gone too far.
A while back, we did a Freakonomics Radio program asking why the NFL hasn’t (yet) put advertising on its players’ jerseys. One person we spoke with was Michael Neuman, then of Amplify Sports and Entertainment and now of Horizon Media. Neuman and Horizon have just released a report that tries to put a firm dollar figure on jersey sponsorship.
Several years ago, Matthew Funk and I proposed a mechanism for moving beyond the all-or-nothing choice of the do-not-call list to a system where you also could choose how much you would like to be paid for telemarketing calls.
To my mind, WeightWatchers is the industry leader in performing rigorous testing of their services. Under the leadership of Karen Miller-Kovach, its chief scientific officer, it has sponsored several randomized control trials comparing the effectiveness of the WeightWatchers point system to other diet approaches. For example, Miller-Kovach is a co-author of this 2003 JAMA study (which showed that after 2-years WeightWatchers helped overweight dieters lose about 3 percent of their body mass – reducing their average weight from 207 to 201 pounds).
But I’m troubled by the current advertising campaign that accompanies the rollout of the New PointsPlus system.
I remember as a kid growing up watching TV, every once in a while someone at the station would make a mistake and start the wrong commercial. It would run for a second or two, and then the person in charge would realize the mistake and immediately cut to some other commercial or to the actual show.
This is not the first time we’ve seen such call-and-response advertising from India. I am guessing this practice exists in the U.S., especially on the local-advertising front, but it is probably rarer.
Two years ago, I asked for suggestions for the most memorable advertising slogans of recent years, to help with the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations. Let me repeat my “bleg” from that time, and ask again for suggestions.
We recently took note of the “unbranding” movement, in which Firm A might seem to damage Firm B by sending Firm B’s product to an undesirable endorser. The example of the day was Snooki and her Gucci purse. There would seem to be no limit to the unbranding opportunities in the modern world. How about, say, politics? The Times headline says it all – “Republican Runs Street People on Green Ticket” — but Marc Lacey’s article is well worth a read.
Celebrity endorsements have been popular for a long time, but fashion experts are repotedly now practicing a new marketing strategy loosely known as “unbranding”: “Allegedly, the anxious folks at these various luxury houses are all aggressively gifting our gal Snookums with free bags. No surprise, right? But here’s the shocker: They are not sending her their own bags. They are sending her each other’s bags! Competitors’ bags!”