The Revolution Will Be Widgetized! Among other Things
This panel struck me as one of the most relevant to marketers at ad:tech NY this year. Topics included widgets, in-game advertising and in-cloud applications (server-hosted productivity supplements to Word and Excel). A representative from Facebook also discussed what ad models work well for the social network.
Liza Hausman of Gigya introduced the talk on widgets. (See her discuss it, in part, in the video above. Try not to wince when Escourrou, bless his heart, says "marketeers.") She observed people used to spend time on destination sites; now they bring content wherever they go: a social network, a blog, a desktop, their start page.
As a result, widgets present a real opportunity for marketers. "Anything that can be done on a website can be done on a widget," she pointed out. "Most importantly, widgets have to be installed by a user to a page." That's the world's best validation of your value add - and obviously also a huge hurdle.
Half-ass a widget, and it'll never move past your subsite.
Hausman demonstrated her case by going into detail about the Levi's 23/501 widget Gigya helped build. It included music, a customizable ticker and - just as importantly - served as status-building eye candy. How it helped Levi's:
- People kept the widget on their page months after it was released.
- It delivered an average of 10 product views per widget installed.
- Tens of thousands of people put it on their page.
- The product promoted sold out in less than a day.
Not sold by the stats? Play with it yourself.
Facebook's Chris Pan explained Facebook's ad model revolves around a single premise: that marketing messages are more effective when they're from friends. Toward that end, all Facebook's sponsored efforts are geared toward building both engagement and dialogue.
Video advertising on the site, for example, enables users to play a trailer on the right-hand side of their profile page. They can also leave comments, which some sponsors - including MTV - were able to use as feedback to improve their offerings.
On election day, Facebook offered users virtual Ben & Jerry's ice cream cones, which they passed to other friends.
Here, Pan describes the challenges of putting user interactivity first:
Two representatives from Microsoft sat on the panel, each to tackle a different facet of its ad strategy. Dean Carignan discussed the company's in-game advertising ambitions, explaining up-front why they bother:
- Everyone's spending more time doing it - including Baby Boomers and women (on casual games).
- Games engage users for a long time, bringing them to a heightened state of awareness. "It's the most 'lean-forward' of experiences. They're very engaged, very active."
- Advertising can enhance gaming. Carignan provides the example of a skateboard game slathered in Wendy's billboards. User feedback toted the gameplay experience as more realistic with the ads. (Sounds like long-suffering outdoor media planners should get a royalty on in-game ad ROI.)
Last year Microsoft's Massive worked in tandem with Electronic Arts to develop a dynamic in-game advertising platform. EA is using it to populate games like Sims 3 this year, and President-Elect Barack Obama used the platform to populate sports games with ads amongst gamers in swing states. The service enables clients to swap ads up to the hour, keeping media fresh.
But virtual billboard advertising isn't the only means available to gamer-thirsty marketers. Microsoft used an entirely different approach for Halo 3, which Bungee thought was inappropriate for billboards. Instead, the US Army sponsored a tourney where users registered to play:
- Halo 3 users saw a prompt inviting them to enroll in the tournament, "sponsored by US Army."
- Participants received access to "training videos" for playing more skillfully in the game, better shooting and navigating heavy vehicles.
- These efforts enabled the sponsor to enhance the gaming experience in a richer, but less direct way than billboard advertising.
Brad Kertson discussed Microsofts in-cloud productivity offerings, like hosted email, Word, Excel, calendar and online collaboration tools. He spoke of three major tenets:
- Don't break my concentration
- Don't waste my time
- Don't invade my space
This model's pretty simple. Productivity applications are different from typical apps - people are in work mode when they use them. So each app includes display ads that cater to the business audience, providing marketers "reach, relevance and engagement" within a niche market.
Here's Kertson discussing how to find the right experience to precipitate brand lift:
Later, someone posed the following question: Will these arenas see more customization or more standardization in the years to come?
Hausman said it'll be about balance. There are people trying to standardize aspects of the industry, which is necessary if the business is going to scale, to make it easier to make ad buys. But there also needs to be room for versatility.
Pan: As users are more familiar w/ something, they're more likely to interact with it. "Train users over time: this is how something behaves. 'When I press this button, this is what's gonna happen.'" Teach them to immediately understand how things work.
Carignan: bring elements of customization in-house. (This constitutes as a form of standardization, because in-house customization options tend to provide a limited array of options.) Create options for advertisers, optimized by execution/placement, so they have less work to do on the creative side. This will yield faster, more efficient buys that are more likely to convert.
Also standardize for amount of exposure. For example, Carignan's team found 10 seconds of cumulative exposure to an in-game ad is the optimal impression.