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Counting on SafeCount?


As I write this, I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport -- which is, by the way, one of the few U.S. airports that still allows smoking. And while I’m technically not a smoker, two days in the desert sun combined with the dense cloud of second-hand smoke are enough to make any writer begin to channel Hunter S Thompson. Then again, I wasn’t in Vegas -- I’m on my way home from the Ponemon Institute’s Responsible Information Management Retreat, which was basically a think tank of chief privacy officers. One of the takeaways from the retreat is that privacy professionals could do a better job of engaging those in marketing and other disciplines in order to address our own challenges (more on that in a future article).

Just as those of us in the privacy space begin to reach out to marketers, there are signs that many in online media are looking to do the same in return. It’s always a good thing when marketing, technology and agency people work together -- and especially today, when issues in one realm can easily bleed into another.

These themes arose in September when iMedia’s Executive Editor Brad Berens interviewed Mike Zeman, director of analytics for Starcom IP and a board member for SafeCount. Brad invited me to critique the article. Given the importance of these issues, (and as I’m always looking for opportunities to needle my friend Brad) I acquiesced.

I’m a fan of SafeCount, and I eagerly await the fruit of its members' collective endeavors. I’m also a huge supporter of the concept of public education regarding cookies and online profiling. I think it’s high time for our industry to take our message to the masses. There are many others out there who’ve been doing so for a while now, and it’s gotten to the point where we can no longer collectively sit on our hands. Whether it comes from the advocacy groups, the anti-spyware vendors or others, a lot of what is reaching consumers these days isn’t exactly in alignment with the interests of the online media world. We absolutely need to communicate the positive aspects of our business.

As SafeCount and others begin to discuss their next move, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my thoughts. My goal, as always, is to stimulate dialogue -- so here is the Chapell View on the state of cookies and consumer education.

We need to build consensus on what the real issues are

When we talk about the “cookie problem,” it often seems like we’re talking about technology -- first party / third party, how many are deleted, by whom or what programs, et cetera. But this is not really an issue of technology so much as it’s an issue about the way we use that technology. In other words, it’s the behaviors -- our use of cookies and the consumer response -- that we need to be addressing.

On a similar note, I’m growing increasingly concerned that there are those in our industry who seem to be abandoning the third-party cookie, as if the technology is so inherently problematic as to be not worth keeping. This strategy, (if that’s what you want to call it) effectively throws every company that uses third-party cookies under the proverbial bus.

So what we really need, in conjunction with consumer education, is a set of industry standards for our own cookie behavior. What types of behaviors are ok? Which, if any, should be prohibited? And what types of notice do we need to provide for which behaviors? These are not simple challenges, but it is critical that we begin to address them if we want the online channel to continue to flourish.

The bottom line

As I’ve mentioned, I support what SafeCount has set out to accomplish. I’d like to see the organization succeed in its mission of consumer education, and I’ve offered to help those efforts in any way I can.

If you agree that these issues are important, I’d encourage you to speak with your industry trade association(s) also and ensure that they understand that you think they are important.

SafeCount’s name underlies its mission -- to find a counting method that is considered safe by everyone. This is certainly a worthy goal. But we should worry if this means ceding too much territory to those who have already decided that cookies are dangerous. Doing this would be to avoid the technological arms race, yes, but it wouldn’t exactly be finding middle ground. We’d just be retreating -- dealing with symptoms and not the underlying causes of consumer distrust.

One thing that all of us seem to agree upon is the accountability of online media. Advertisers have much more information by which to evaluate and optimize their online campaigns than they do in any other medium. Accountability is our collective strength -- it’s our A game. But the accountability of our medium is being threatened at the very time many of us are talking about online taking center stage in the media mix. We need to all be talking about these issues -- and what’s more, we need to be taking action.

What’s your plan?

Alan Chapell, CIPP, is president of Chapell & Associates a consulting firm that helps companies understand privacy and incorporate consumer perception into product development. He has been in the interactive space for more than seven years with firms such as Jupiter Research, DoubleClick and Cheetahmail. Mr. Chapell is the New York chapter co-chair of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, publishes a daily blog on issues of consumer privacy, and taught a class on privacy and marketing at NYU this past summer.

Networks that have created exclusive or semi-exclusive sales relationships with their publishers have the ability to give marketers, especially brands, the ability to deliver a more immersive experience for consumers.

Integration within the content of sites that reach a marketer's target audience is invaluable for engaging visitors. Specific content integration techniques can include sponsorships, micro-sites, promotions and "wall papering" -- the technique of having the brand integrated into the background artwork of the site.

A content integration strategy was used effectively by Optimedia to build awareness of Puma soccer gear by including ad placements in targeted content areas, including a custom channel of soccer enthusiast sites within the ValueClick Media network. The result was significantly higher awareness of the Puma brand message, online product sales and store locator look-ups. 


Ad networks are increasingly considered a staple of every campaign for their ability to improve overall campaign metrics. Deploying one or more of these five techniques will provide you with even more opportunity to increase campaign-wide performance from your online advertising investment.

Savvy clients now carry out multiple test campaigns to identify appropriate targeting within a network to achieve maximum performance. But in fact, even for clients running a single campaign, testing is going on constantly within the ad network model. By virtue of having thousands of sites to choose from, a network's technology automatically identifies what sites should continue to show a campaign's creative to achieve the highest ROI. Thus, a network's optimization technology itself is a form of campaign testing.

More traditional methods of testing include copy and concept testing prior to the roll-out of a campaign to ensure a message is resonating well with the target audience.

The importance of creative testing also highlights the ability of networks to achieve lift in key brand metrics. Increasingly marketers are turning to ad networks for their extensive reach, transparency and cost-efficiency to deliver measurable brand advertising performance.

Many marketers have found significant lift in performance when using re-targeting technology -- the technique of re-marketing to visitors who have previously expressed an interest in that marketer when its message appears on sites across the ad network. But now, a few savvy marketers have gone beyond just placing re-targeting pixel tags on their web pages, realizing that they can also include these tags in their ad creative.

Users who are served Flash creative, or who click on a standard banner, can be issued a cookie that will identify them at a later time when they appear on the network. This technique can be used to cost-effectively increase the frequency of exposure among an expensive or difficult to find niche audience.

Sequential messaging
Also known as storyboarding, sequential messaging strategies are intended to deliver creative based on what is known about a prospect's stage in the purchase process or relationship with the brand. At each point of the purchase cycle, sequential messaging enables marketers to present information with a unique continuity to communicate with consumers in more compelling ways. 

As marketers have known for ages, repetition is the key to recollection. Accordingly, to ensure high repetition, marketers typically use "roadblock" advertisements to reach 100 percent of the visitors to a particular website within a short period of time. Loyal website visitors often see such roadblocks multiple times per day, while marketers are guaranteed that even intermittent visitors will be exposed to their messages at least once.

The network blast strategy -- the ad network equivalent of roadblocking -- is ideal for driving a high volume of impressions within a short amount of time. Network blasts are perfect for major product launches, live events, premieres and political races promoting any sort of time sensitive information. Earlier this year, Spark Communications deployed a network blast on ValueClick Media to achieve awareness of the program "Burn Notice" in the hours leading up to its airing on USA Network.  

Because ad networks partner with thousands of websites, messages broadcast on ad networks tend to have a greater psychological impact on visitors than merely seeing the same ad on the same portal. Thus, a network blast will drive high impact awareness across a major portion of the internet audience within a short time span using the extensive reach of the ad network model.

Subway GIFs for #januANY campaign

GIFs are taking the internet by storm. They are the media type of choice for BuzzFeed and have nearly overtaken Tumblr altogether. And that's why Subway is brilliant for building a social campaign around these delightful animated images. These GIFs coupled with real-time "moment marketing" made for a fun and memorable experience.

During Subway's "#januANY" promotion, which ran throughout January of this year, customers could buy any foot-long sub for $5. Working with 360i and Giphy, Subway took this promotion to Twitter and crafted special animated GIFs as real-time responses to people who tweeted at the #januANY hashtag. Subway used Promoted Tweets to get its tweets seen by even more fans, and -- as I'm sure you can imagine -- the customized GIFs spread pretty quickly.

For example, GIFs like the below were sent to folks musing on Twitter, via the #JanuANY hashtag, about what to have for lunch. The replies, like "ANYthing you choose will be OUTTA THIS WORLD," were generic enough to have been developed well in advance, but still suited and appropriate for the reply. (See more examples in context here.)

"Surprise and delight" campaigns are some of my favorite. Yes, they generate buzz about the brand. But more importantly, they make customers feel special -- like they're getting something that not everyone else gets. That feeling is what drives loyalty, and it most certainly drives more word-of-mouth marketing.

Airbnb's first short film -- made completely of Vines

As a true social campaign, Airbnb embarked on putting together the first-ever short film using user-generated content created on Vine. The instructions for the creation of "Hollywood and Vines" were released to all of Airbnb's community in a shot-list on Twitter that anyone could film and submit. Airbnb gave away $100 in credit to any submission that was chosen for the film. Keep in mind, Vine videos are six seconds long, and the entire video wrapped at around four and a half minutes.

The film follows the journey of a single piece of paper, traveling the world as the story unfolds (pun intended). As Airbnb is entirely reliant on its users -- both hosts and guests -- this video is very on-brand and relays the perfect message of wanderlust.

The project received more than 750 submissions from around the world, and 100 Vines were used in the final short, which was released at Sundance this year. The video illustrated the powerful message of adventure and transformation and quickly went viral upon its release.

User-generated content has been and always will be one of my favorite types of "branded" content. It's authentic and relatable. With Airbnb being a "user-generated" company, it seems only fit that it would not only incorporate their users into this project, but also make them the primary focus.

A.1. "Unfriends" Steak on Facebook

When I think of A.1., I automatically think "steak sauce." In an effort to shift that singular association and position A.1. sauce as being the perfect complement for many foods, the brand launched a creative campaign to decouple the sauce from its long-term partner. Part of this campaign was a funny video that was released on Facebook to help drive awareness and buzz around this new persona.

In the video, A.1. is initially "in a relationship" with Steak on Facebook when, all of a sudden, it starts getting friend requests from other foods: Pork, Salmon, even Lobster!

As another social component of the campaign, A.1. also launched a Pinterest page complete with boards containing a variety of foods -- not just steak.

Often times, it's difficult to rebrand a product that's been used one way for many years. Using wit and humor on social media to reveal this new brand messaging was a great way to get customers on board. The Pinterest page, featuring easily accessible recipes, helps open customers' minds to using A.1. with other foods.

As social media continues to evolve, I'm looking forward to even more innovative, customer-focused campaigns this year. Don't forget -- add your favorites in the comments!

Lauren Friedman head of global social business enablement at Adobe.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Chapell & Associates is headed by Alan Chapell. In 1997, Chapell founded the privacy program at Jupiter Research, an internet research firm focusing on the consumer internet economy. During his four and a half years at Jupiter, Chapell also...

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