Archive for April, 2009

Unless something changes, Twitter is doomed to the fringes of communication


You may have heard that 60% of the people who try Twitter for this first time shrug their shoulders and never go back to it. David Martin, Vice President of Primary Research at Neilsen Online offers some insight into what that means on Neilsen Wire. And what it means, basically, is that, despite the general giddiness about Twitter’s growth, if these retention numbers persist, Twitter will only achieve a reach of about 10%. Check out the full story for Martin’s statistical explanation of why this is so.

Of course, 10% of the online audience is a significant number of people, but it’s not mainstream. This is probably bad news for all the techies working 100 hours a week in their parents’ basements on Twitter-based apps and business plans while daydreaming about what they’re going to do with the $100 million that they’ll get when they sell out.

The trend could change, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it unless Twitter finds a way to blossom into something a good deal more compelling that it is at the moment.


April 30, 2009 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

The death of direct mail – or at least of the organization that delivers it


Georg [sic] Jensen has written an insightful article for the American Interest Online about the grave problems of the United States Postal Service. With all due respect to the longstanding incompetence of Chrysler and General Motors, if ever there was an organization that has been begging to go out of business through half-assed management and non-existent strategy, it’s the Post Office. Here’s a taste of what Jensen has to say about their future:

“By rightsizing the infrastructure and implementing secure and legal ‘electronic postal mail delivery’ like other countries have, the USPS could become profitable and sustainable within two years, preserving far more jobs than if it continues to operate as if the Internet has not changed the world forever. Darwin, Deming and Schumpeter are all looking down on the USPS to see if it becomes a victim of natural selection, or a beneficiary of it. As things stand today, its survival prospects don’t look so good.”

Of course, if the USPS tanks, the private sector will rush in–or perhaps in this economy, it may be more accurate to say “limp in”–to fill the void and deliver the time-share real estate offers on which so many direct marketing careers depend. Certain though that is, it is equally certain that mail will only continue to become less important. Electronic communication eliminates another reason for it with every passing day.

On a final note, am I the only one who finds it astonishing that Postmaster General used to be a cabinet position? Does anyone need another indication of how far snail mail has fallen? Today the head of the Post Office no more deserves a seat in cabinet meetings than the president of Quizno’s does. But a cabinet-level position overseeing electronic communication–that, friends, may be worth discussing.

April 29, 2009 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Does the internet need a border fence to be profitable?


Brad Stone and Miguel Helft write in today’s New York Times that the exponential growth of internet usage in developing countries is bleeding the profit from many web-based companies. What’s happening is very simple: People in places like Turkey, Indonesia and India are spending extraordinary amounts of time on sites like YouTube and Facebook–far more than the average consumer in North America, Europe and Japan. They’re sucking up a tremendous amount of bandwidth. The problem with this is that thus far advertisers has placed little to no value on the eyeballs popular sites are attracting in the developing world. If these foreign consumers can’t or won’t buy their products, they don’t want to pay for reaching them.

As a result, the big online players have to ask themselves if growth that cannot be monetized is something they really want. It’s not out of the question that some of the most popular sites on the web will become restricted to residents of certain countries. Though this seems a betrayal of the egalitarian ethos of the internet, failing to make money is a betrayal of the reason the companies exist in the first place.

April 28, 2009 at 1:27 am 2 comments

The mind-control helmet from Japan – Coming to you soon in a stylish trucker hat that’s guaranteed to wow the ladies


Scientists at the Honda Research Institute recently demonstrated an electronic helmet that allows the wearer to control a robot simply by thinking. Its inventors predict that “one day the mind-control technology will allow people to do things like turn air conditioning on or off and open their car boot without putting their shopping down.”

It seems to me they’re not thinking big enough. The e-commerce opportunities implied by this technology are staggering. Merely think about wanting something and your credit card will be charged for it. Catch a glimpse of a shiny gewgaw from the corner of your eye, and PayPal instantly bills you and ships it. Should this technology be perfected, it will be harder to get a license to run a direct-response TV spot than it is to purchase a shotgun. And rightfully so.

See the full story by Ian Sample here.

April 27, 2009 at 2:52 am Leave a comment

Five advertising quotations to get you through the weekend

1. “Is advertising a profession, like law or medicine? How many new parents clutch their baby to their breast and declare, ‘I want this child to grow up to be a media planner’?” -Jef I. Richards 

2. “We find that advertising works the way grass grows. You can never see it, but every weekend you have to mow the lawn.” – Andy Tarshis

3. “Advertising is a tax for having an unremarkable product.” – Robert Stephens

4. “Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to the sacraments” – Thomas Merton

5.  Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults.” – Gore Vidal

April 26, 2009 at 2:29 am 2 comments

Weird yet strangely appealing site of the day:


Some guy is buying unclaimed luggage from the airlines, cracking it open, photographing what’s inside it and posting the pictures online. This is why the web was invented–so people with pointless obsessions can bring them to the indifferent masses. On the positive side, there is a strange, if fleeting, satisfaction in seeing what’s inside these bags. And who knows, maybe some clever ad monkey will figure out a way to adapt this into a branded game at some point. Take a look at the site next time you have absolutely nothing better to do.

For more details on this compelling use of technology, visit TechCrunch.

April 25, 2009 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

The best part about conducting an ad agency RFP by Twitter? You can see what your competitors are submitting.


Yesterday in this space, I broke the story about Current TV searching for a new agency via Twitter. The story has since been picked up by Adweek et al. If you want to see what agencies are sending in, it’s pretty easy. Just do a Twitter search on the stuff that’s going to Jordan Kretchmer (pictured here in all his twenty-something, trucker-hat-wearing glory), who instigated the pitch, and it’s all there for you. Check it out here.

I’ve already had a marketing person at a different company on the client side tell me he’s looking over the responses Current TV is receiving to get ideas about whom he might invite to future pitches. 

Hats off (figuratively speaking) to Kretchmer for the idea. It’s an interesting play, especially at a time when agencies are hungry for revenue and willing to do something a little unusual to get it.

April 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

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