Monday, January 29, 2007

Hi Drive

An article in today's New York Times indicates an interesting development in roadside advertising.

With a test base of about 1,000 car owners, Mini USA is sending personalized, targeted marketing messages to drivers via highway billboards. The billboards are activated by a radio chip embedded in the drivers' keychains.

While some critics contend that electronic billboards are dangerous, this seems subtle and safe -- and a natural evolution from things like VW owners flicking their headlights to indicate recognition of each other. It also makes me wonder whether other vehicular communication modes might also be increasingly possible.

What if you could contribute content to the billboards from your car in real time?

Free Hunch

Starting today, Advertising Age's Madison + Vine is accessible -- for free. If you haven't stopped by recently, check out their coverage of commerce and content, and branded entertainment. And thanks, Redwood Communications, for sponsoring the freebie!

On the Outs with Ad Inventory

Today's Online Media Daily squib on the Hillary Clinton blog ad flap caught my attention not because of the tempest in a teacup raised over which blogs her campaign should or should not be advertising in, but because of something else entirely.

After the podcast series ended Wednesday, her campaign requested that the right-wing blogs remove the ads. The campaign promised to continue paying for the ad space--in effect paying the blogs to not run the ads.

Did other ads run in their stead, in effect allowing the sites to double book that inventory? Or did no ad run? The former is intriguing because it clearly increases one's ad revenue. But the latter is even more intriguing -- are there any actual instances of defensive ad buys? Reserving ad space and not using it with the intent that another advertiser couldn't use it?

Friday, January 26, 2007


A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation more than six months ago has taken on new life thanks to recent coverage by CNN. The report, authored by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, contends that online advertising contributes to the obesity of children.

Come again? Turns out that it's less ads that are under fire and more the marketing sites offered by food companies. "Candy and cereal Web sites featuring online games aggravate the nation's 'obesity epidemic' among children," the article states.

But even that seems questionable. Is is that food companies are featuring games on their Web sites -- or is it that children are spending a lot of time in front of the TV, computer, and video game console instead of playing outside?

I'll have to read the full report, I suppose.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Movie Units

You know those slideshows they show before the coming attractions at the movie theater? The combination of movie trivia questions, exhortations not to use your cell phone -- but to buy popcorn and soda pop -- and poorly design adverts for local businesses? Ever notice how the ads are almost relegated to businesses that are decidedly unrelated to the movie-going experience? Chiropractors and ophthalmologists, auto body-repair shops, and the like?

Every time I see them, I ask myself, "Who can possibly run a business selling these crappy ads?"

Turns out, cinema advertising is a relatively big business -- and one that's getting bigger. Today's MediaDailyNews featured an article about the forthcoming expansion of National CineMedia and Screenvision.

The drivers? As more movie theaters begin to show digital movies instead of traditional film, the ability to easily and efficiently incorporate pre-screen ads increases exponentially. And with the continuing consolidation of widespread movie theater chains and multiplexes, the ability to hit thousands of people with the same messages increases, as well.

Still, couldn't they do a better job? Perhaps these two trends will help cinema advertisers attract higher-quality national advertisers in addition to the mom and pop shops within walking distance. Because for this to really work, you need more than "Bring in your ticket stub for 10% off the Growler!" or whatever.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Rise of the Machines

The ad agency Zimmerman has developed an online service that can help clients design and develop their own ads. The tool, Pick-n-Click, can be used to come up print, radio, TV, and online ads, as well as direct mail and collateral. While the site seems geared toward businesses in the automotive industry, the idea is promising. Has anyone used it yet?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Post No Bills?

There's an excellent article in today's New York Times about the growth of the use of alternative media in out-of-home advertising and growing concerns that eventually, we'll see ads everywhere. Citing examples like some of the new formats I recently expressed interest in, the piece looks at the balance that must be struck between innovation and irritation.

But it begs a bigger question. If people are concerned about ads encroaching overly aggressively into public space -- particularly high-traffic areas -- what recourse do they have? There are already laws limiting billboard placement, but I'm curious whether an approach like that of the Nature Conservancy, which buys land so that it won't be developed. Several TV networks have refused to sell Adbusters air time to air its uncommercials, which indicates that the method might not work entirely well.

Some people have likened ads in public space to graffiti in terms of its possible detrimental effects, but now, there are even companies specializing in blending graffiti and ads. If we're hiding ads in out public spaces, how can we possibly hope to limit them?

Do we even need to?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Exciting New Ad Formats

I've been intrigued by several new ad formats in the last few days. One, I forget where I saw the article, but I recently read about a large-scale interactive display outside the entrance to a recent conference like CES or Macworld -- see how vague my recollections are? In any event, the display changed based on actions taken by passers by and people standing in front of the display. If you know more about what I'm talking about, please contact me.

Secondly, waterfallvertising. At a recent DoubleClick event, we projected images on the effluvia of a dry ice-driven smoke machine. But streaming water can also be manipulated to form images and text. Pretty neat stuff, particularly if you can set it up in a closed-loop system in which spent water is recirculated for continuous display.

And in today's New York Times, there's a good article about the potential -- and potential hazards -- of digital highway-side billboards.

What newer ad formats and technologies excite you the most?

Best of Online Ad Design?

There are tons of graphic design books, and tons of books celebrating the best in print ad design. But I've yet to find a good collection of high-quality online and interactive ad design. Can anyone recommend one? In print or online. Just email me.