Tuesday, December 23, 2008

just tell me what to buy, part II

I was just reading some of last Sunday's Business section of the NYT out loud to my sister, trying to distract her from her nausea (she has a stomache virus). Have you ever read a newspaper out loud? It's weird. Sometimes things unintentionally (i can only hope) rhyme.

Anyway, there were two articles that got me thinking. One was about Facebook and social media advertising by the big guys, like P&G. Summarizing, it's totally not working. Everyone is an idiot. P&G has some sort of fan page for Crest Whitestrips that has 18,000 fans, and they had to do a massive amount of college promotion just to get that. As I'm sure you know, 18,000 is pathetic for something that's supposed to have as wide appeal as Crest Whitestrips.

The second article was about Jay Leno and his move to the 10 PM EST/9 PM CST hour. The author was in favor because he has a lot of trouble staying up late anyway. He said something about the midnight 6 minute commercial break, and I was totally confused. People still watch things real time? And are subjected to commercials! How novel. I DVR, download, or stream almost all of what I watch.

Here's something that I'm not sure I really believe: did TV advertising ever really work? Maybe it used to work, but does it still work? I really don't think seeing an ad for some GM car while watching Heroes makes me any more likely to buy that car. Does it work for anyone? It usually just makes me cranky. The thing I miss most from commercials (since I watch everything on DVR or online) is seeing what's happening on other shows, and what new things are going to be on. That's because, duh, I'm watching TV. I probably will watch more TV in the future, and showing me some new show is a well targeted placement.

That's one of the problems I've always had with social network advertising. The targeting is so crappy that the ads are just annoying, and people are never willing to shill out their friends (the NYTimes article had 3% responding to a survey saying they might do this). Showing an ad for Tide or Crest Whitestrips is a shot in the dark. Ads on search engines are so much better -- you actually know I'm looking for the thing and probably in a buying mood.

But I finally made a connection in my head (everyone else probably already knew this) -- social networks really could be awesome for recommendations. This relates to thoughts I've had recently on the fashion/style/beauty blogs I read, but I'll get to how in a second. First, the situation: I want a new pair of boots. My sister keeps raving about her Kenneth Cole Bard Tenders (I don't know what that name means either). I am probably going to buy a pair based solely on her recommendation. How powerful is that?

I posted on Friend Feed that I bought a pair of Steve Madden boots, and someone said that they're crappy quality. I got them, and lo and behold, they sucked. The recommendations from my social community can be really valuable, and I'm more likely to take them. Most of the people on Zappos said the boots were great. Of course, almost all the reviews for shoes on Zappos are positive. Clearly people who order from Zappos are crazy.

The problem is when you introduce compensation into this lovely circle of recommendations. I'm not going to trust people if they're getting paid (ugh. the Sugar blogs), but at the same time, shouldn't they get paid? My sister loves her shoes, and tells everyone about them. She's helping me and she's really helping Kenneth Cole.

I've found that I'm even willing to take recommendations from random blogs, if I like the authors enough and feel like we have similar tastes. I read the Daily Obsession, and I keep thinking I should unsubscribe because they keep recommending things that I have no need for at the time that I read the post. But then a post will come up for something lovely that I am interested in at that time. I absolutely hate that about blogs -- they broadcast information at you when you might not be ready to get it. How much has not been useful to me because I got it at the wrong time?

Social networks should do a better job of mining and relating my favorite brands and products, and making it accessible in a highly targeted, time-independent way. Maybe I can't make money from my purchases and findings about products because of a conflict of interest, but someone should.


  1. yep... exactly... traditional advertising nor the new age advertising seem to work.. even i get very annoyed with the bizarre ads that come up at sites... i believe all these so called advertisers should start reading seth godin's permission marketing.. he outlines why advertising doesnot work these days.

  2. What color Bard Tenders does she have? Are they easy to tuck jeans in to? I like the "luggage" color, even though they are utterly impractical.

    I agree with you about "Sugar". Ick.

  3. She has black leather ones. They're good because you can dress them up or down, and she does tuck in jeans. They seem roomy. I just ordered the grey suede :)

  4. We do a lot of work for one of P&G's larger competitors, and while 18,000 "facebook fans" may not mean much out of context, I know for a fact that most brand managers would be VERY happy with 18,000 responses to any given campaign, whether they be e-mail click-throughs, survey responses or competition entries.

    I would not be so bold as to say this kind of advertising is not working. In fact, we have numerous forms of proof that it does work and that the investment is worthwhile.