Foursquare on Its Way to Big Ville

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ad on Social Games: To Be or Not To Be

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

You know what is the ultimate icebreaker? Angry Birds.

By combining birds and pigs with physics, Peter Vesterbacka and Mikael Hed are able to attract 11 million users worldwide. Surprisingly, there is no advertisement. It might be a wise move. First get people addicted then run ads.

According to eMarketer, ad spending on social games increased 60% since 2009 and there are currently 56 million Americans playing social games. The story on Mashable summaries 6 reasons why social games are the next ad frontier.

1.  advertising in games is about engagement, not eyeballs

2. social games reach the facebook audience

3. some games have bigger audiences than prime  time tv

4. advertising with social games isn’t restricted to virtual

5. brands can be part of the experience

6. brands can reward players for interacting with them

1&6 appeals to me most. The two are actually related.

According to Mashable, two common strategies are promote virtual branded goods and “offer wall”, through which users can exchange engagement with virtual rewards.

“Back in July players of the the most popular Facebook social game, FarmVille, had for the first time an option to plant a specific branded crop — Cascadian Farm blueberries — on their virtual farms. In more than 500 million cases, players chose to purchase and plant the branded blueberries instead of something else. According to Zynga, unaided brand awareness increased 550% as a result.”

Back in May 2009, a juice brand called Yuehuo in China adopted the same strategy. Within a month 52.3 million people had made juice by the fruits they planted.

The benefits of this kind of advertising is that unlike banners, it does not interfere with people’s gaming experience. It actually gives users something they can relate to in the real world.

Central Park Wedding Proposal

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

First, reaction: goosebumps, not the good kind.

Music and park is OK, boat is a little too much.

Second, this post has nothing to do with the wedding proposal.

Third, this video is a hoax.

The real title should be Viral Video, One Stone Two Sexes.

The video was released in late October and immediately became viral on Youtube. (Odds are that you have already seen it.) Mashable revealed this week that it is actually a hoax made byMichael Krivicka and former SNL producer James Percelay to promote their new venture Thinkmodo. Michael Krivicka is a video-maker who created videos to convince celebs like Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon to follow him on Twitter and succeeded. Thinkmodo, according to Mashable, will launch on January 3, 2011, and “focuses on mining the marketing potential of viral videos.”

The point they want to prove is that with viral videos changing every day and its content becoming richer and richer, advertisers could use one video to target both sexes. And separate campaigns are not needed.

The video attracts women because, well, romance. While some men likes the video for that same reason, others do so for the technology. People are made to believe that the video was captured by hidden cameras and iphone apps that in reality doesn’t exist.

“Since viral videos are both art and science, we wanted to merge both elements to introduce predictability to the videos’ success,” Krivicka says, “as part of our ’study’ we staged an elaborate marriage proposal in Central Park and fused tech and romance to see how well each would be received if merged.”

“Since our video was covered by outlets like Glamour as well as CNET, we learned that, contrary to conventional wisdom, content can be made to appeal to both sexes without lessening the appeal to each,” Krivicka says.

It is a great idea to demonstrate how much potential video advertising has. But does it really mean that campaigns targeting specific types of consumers are unnecessary? Usually the of consumers for a product is very diverse, and can not be categorized only by a dichotomy of genders. Given the fact that demography, age, occupation, ethnicity etc. have to be taken into consideration, it is difficult to create a video that appeals to all of them, especially when the product itself does not.

Also, advertisers try to avoid distractions in their video campaign. If the proposal video is an ad say for wedding rings, then the tech elements wouldn’t exist in the first place. The last thing an advertiser wants to do is to pay for an ad of another product, and in this case iPhone apps.

Foursquare Debuts Online Ad

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mashable characterized the partnership between Gap and Foursquare as “love affair”. Gap has been running promotions on Foursquare since this August and recently went so far as to put Foursquare co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai in one of its print ads.


By clicking the Foursquare button on the ads, shopping at Gap will be added to user’s to-do list on Foursquare along with a 30% coupon for a regular-priced item. The location-based app provides info of the nearest stores and will remind users of their Gap to-do when are nearby and pull up “Places” within Foursquare.

No doubt it is a significant step for Foursquare, which shows recognition from its partners and users. Mashable wrote, “Foursquare may have a significantly smaller userbase, but given the ads can directly drive foot traffic with a discount, we imagine the results could inspire others to emulate the format.”

What confuses me is that the incorporated Foursqaure feature is not very productive and to a certain extent replaceable. Unlike Facebook Like that has word-of-mouth effect, with a small userbase, Foursquare does not have this advantage. Unlike Shopkick which secures deals only for its users (consumers get discounted price by showing the coupon page on Shopkick), deals on Foursquare is not Foursquare-exclusive.

On the app page, it reads “Check-in @ any Gap store & get 30% off 1 reg-price item + Gap will donate $1 to foursquare founders’ charity campinteractive.org. Mention code FOURSQUARE. Offer valid 11/22-12/19. See store 4 details.”

In fact all you need is to mention FOURSQUARE at the counter. And this coupon is accessible for non-Fousquare users on its website.  The only use of Foursquare it seems to me is a location-aware memo which works when you deliberately check the memo yourself.

The non-contract job market in the US taught me that to maintain your job, you will have to make yourself irreplaceable, either through expertise, specific skill, exclusive clientele, or like Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada, a loyal team of employees. Apparently, Foursquare is not doing a good job in making itself useful.

Let’s admit it. It is not addictive. Rating stores is only fun for the first few minutes. And no incentive is provided to let people use Foursquare regularly and only Foursquare. It is possible that I might have misinterpreted the whole coupon redemption mechanism. My opinion is solely based on the instructions written on its app. To be fair, I will try out myself. (EXCUSE TO SHOP)

Gap shopping tomorrow!

Targeting Makes TV Ads Underpriced

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Venturebeat runs a story on NYT titled “Why an Online-Ad Guru Thinks TV Ads Are Too Cheap”. Online advertising pioneer Dave Morgan, whose last venture is Simulmedia launched last year, “drew an investment from cable-TV giant Time Warner in April, aims to bring techniques of Web targeting to television to boost prices from their current levels.”

I am a little skeptical about the notion that targeting will actually help the already-saturated TV ads market to generate more revenue. Here is why.

What distinguishes TV ads from online ads is its economy of scale. A TV advertisement is like a presidential primary. You want hardcore Democrats/Republicans to vote for you in particular. In the mean time, you also want to gather more support for your party. In this case, targeting seems too trivial to matter, especially when a huge amount of money is spent.

Some companies launch TV ads just for the sake of publicity and image building. The viewers who are shown a Nike ad may not be a Nike consumer at all. But it doesn’t mean they don’t care or talk about Nike. And this makes targeting less meaningful.

Simulmedia alleges to unlock the value of set-top box data. Convinced as I am that there is value, I find it hard to believe that information on TV box is as resourceful as data from PCs and mobile phones. What worth noting is that smartphones and computers are, more often than not, personal property, making the data obtained from say users browsing history individual-specific. TV is not. If a family shares on TV and the daughters like cartoons and teen dramas, the mother likes movies and shopping channels, the father enjoys sports, business news, the data from that particular TV box will tell you the story of almost the whole demographic.

Moreover, data generated from set-top boxes are somewhat limited. There is a fine number of program types, news, talk shows, TV series, movies etc. Maybe I cannot make an informed judgement so far since I don’t know what kind of data can be obtained merely from your viewing history. It’s fair to say that it is hard for me to regard it as valuable.

Now that I have stared at my TV for a little while, I am wondering if he is staring back at me as well — does he know what I like? Hardly.

From an audience’s point of view, even though he knows what I like and what I am likely to purchase, it is going to upset me if I am overwhelmed with ads for a particular type of products or services. Diversity is what makes ads bearable.

Going the Distance Via Mobile

December 1, 2010 § Leave a comment


“We’re on the brink of a seller’s market for the first time in a decade.”

At a time when analysts and researchers alike are trying to resuscitate the economy by boosting confidence, romanticism abounds. But the statement above, the opening words of the PubMatic Ad Revenue 2010 Report, is not one of them.

The report summarizes 5 trends that publishers should be leveraging to increase revenue next year, among which I like two of them, going mobile and monetizing video.

Pandora radio is a successful case in point. By May this year, more than half of Pandora hours streamed were done so via mobile. This seems quite intuitive since people like to listen to music while on the go is anything but new discovery. However, people used to do this via ipod which does not have a radio feature. By replacing paid music on ipod with free and customized music on mobile enables Pandora to monetize its services with ads.


With apps come more engaging advertising units. Pandora for example incorporates banner ads, display ads, audio ads as well as video ads and makes sure that the impression is viewed. Also with rich media platform, users will be directed to videos, directions, Apps, iTunes store, webpages or even an email draft page.

Better audience retargeting including hyper local functions makes mobile ads more efficient.

According to the PubMatic report, “Location-aware phones, which most smartphones are, allow marketers to target locally in ways that cannot be done with online advertising including click-to-call campaigns for local businesses and coupon redemption campaigns. Last year Starbucks ran a mobile redemption campaign with 60% redemption rate—a rate that cannot be matched with online advertising.”

Location is the buzzword for 2010. With early start-ups exploiting this untouched lad and partner with big companies in large scale such as Shopkick and Foursquare, the business model is not sophisticated enough to prevent copycats focusing on local levels.

Pandora says it has utilized user-supplied data such as zip codes to target consumers who is more likely to have a particular interest in the ad displayed. While it is moving in the right direction and it is unlikely for Pandora to incorporate check-in features, I still think this could be done more subtly. The zip codes of address is too unreliable information to locate users. People move all the time.

How to Lost Weight in Foreseeable Future

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today’s Freakonomics features a story by James McWilliams on fighting obesity. The Rational War on Fat mentions three ways the government is trying to improve the American diet, reasonable but with little effects.

“By no means have these efforts failed, but considerable evidence suggests that whatever success they’ve achieved has been conspicuously countered by a national waistband seemingly guided by the imperatives of Manifest Destiny. 68 percent of Americans are currently overweight or obese. This figure, moreover, shows no sign of retreating.”

McWilliams’ list:

1. Tax on soda, side-effect: compensate calorie and sugar intake elsewhere

2. Labeling, side-effect: savvy “brand labels so often counteract nutritional data”

3. More accessible healthy food, side-effect: people spare no effort for junk food

My list:

1. Lower average sugar content, side-effect: besides salt and pepper, sugar becomes standard on dining tables

2. Watch Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show daily, side-effect: people get frustrated and overeat

3. Use smaller packages, side-effect: won’t work for environmentalists (basically everybody in the US)

4. TRY SELF-CONTROL, side-effect: everybody needs a shrink?

It amazes me how much effort the government and other institutions put to promote better diet in the US. There is this stereotype that Asians don’t get fat. Well, I can only say that human anatomy works the same. (I know a sufficient amount of Asians to prove that.) If Asians eat a lot of sugar, junk food, drink a lot of beer and don’t exercise, they get fat too. There are skinny girls in Asia, just as there are skinny girls in America, Europe and everywhere else in the world. While some of them suffer eating disorders, Others don’t. If any of the latter tells you that she eats a lot of fattening food but doesn’t gain weight at all, go eat with her and find out yourself.

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