Size matters

Crowd 

The site that promised to measure the size of the internet has failed dismally. It failed for the same reason that “viral” campaigns fail on the internet and in the real world – because the message or motivation wasn’t strong enough. But this shouldn’t be suprising, messages that captivate everyone are incredibly rare. Advertising people should beware – great ideas are great but they have a limited audience. Event the greatest ideas are limited by this.

Incidentally, if the plan were working, maymapname would have 600,000,000,000,000 registrants (that’s actually more than the population of the world) but it actually has 18,000. That’s six thousand more than they had on day five. Well done to them for at least trying (if not that hair cut).

So who will carry  out this internet survey? Well facebook is looking like a likely candidate right now (some stats), or MySpace (with 10,000 times the membership of mmn (above)). Or why don’t we just take the Unique Users from Google.

No logo?

What’s missing from every page of YourSpace except the home page?

Lilly Allen - My Space

Give up?

It’s the logo stupid. Aside from the URL and a couple of subbranding elements (like the player), there is no MySpace branding. The site hands ownership properly to its users but has done a very neat trick through being recognisable just through its (ugly, illegible) UGC design patterns.

(Incidentally, what is all this nonsense about Lily Allen (who I used for the grab above) being fat? If we let Girls Aloud people criticise proper musicians for not being anorexic, we really are in trouble – 2338 responses to that post!).

Judge Fudge

web 2.0 - bubble

This amusing story in the Times (and courtesty of Brand Republic’s Robin Grant) tells the story of the judge in a cyber-terrorist trial who had to halt proceedings because he didn’t understand what a website was. Judge Peter Openshaw’s exact words were:

“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a website is.”

This made me think about the definition of web 2.0 – not that we need another one.

Google discarded its beta label in 1999 and won a webby award in 2000 (thank-you speech: “We love you, Google users”), Wikipedia founded 2001, Microsoft launches Web Services: 2002, AdSense was released in 2003, Flickr launches: 2004, Ajax term coined by Jesse James Garrett: 2005 (good debate about when it – or rather XML over HTTP  – was invented here).

So, the question is, was the 2005/2006 arrival of Web 2.0 really just a question of the press waking up to social trends that had been going since 1999 but which everyone had assumed dead in the water because of the famous bubble. New user interface design patterns are memorable but usability remains tantamount.

It certainly remains true that many of the innovations that have happened in the last two years would not have not been possible with the infrastructure improvements in the first few years of the decade.

If you can’t beat them

There’s an excellent post on RMM about this video ad (I have very little doubt that the word ‘viral’ was harmed in its creation).

The ad is a take off of the movie, “The Break Up” with the couple discussing divorce representing the egotistical advertising world and the meek engagement-seeking consumer.

As Matt Morrison points out, while the ad is very funny, well done and exposes some deep truths about the modern communications world, it’s not exactly clear what it’s selling. It also falls into a trap of criticising broadcast-style, humor-based, uninteractive advertising with broadcast-style, humor-based, uninteractive advertising.

Matt asks the question about whether it is advertising’s job to have converstations or to start them. The ad’s creators could counter that the ad has its own associated blog site, although the comments on there seem suspiciously one-sided considering how Microsoft is regarded in some quarters.

Anyway, hats off to Microsoft for being brave and for creating an interesting a thought-starting piece. Perhaps it will encourage businesses to set up a “department of listening”, whether its in the advertising and marketing department or not.

What’s the big deal?

aQuantive + Microsoft logo 

When Google bought DoubleClick for $3.1bn in April, aQuantive said it expected its Atlas platform to benefit since advertisers were likely to have concern over impartiality when the world’s biggest ad-serving network is owned by the biggest interactive adveritising seller. It seems highly unlikely when they said this that they weren’t already doing a dance with Microsoft who on Friday has made an offer of $6.1bn for the business.

OK, so here are the numbers. The offer is $66.50 a share (85% more than the stocks previous close price of $35.87). aQuantive is included in AdAge’s top 10 US Marketing organisations and – in addition to ad serving and tracking that everyone has focussed on (primarily Atlas and DrivePM) – contains the US’s biggest and best (according to the very reliable* Forrester Wave Study) web design agency, Avenue A | Razorfish. It is the biggest deal ever done by Microsoft. Indeed it’s is the biggest in history of the advertising industry.

So… why? Whilst Avenue A | Razorfish is clearly a successful and respected agency, it would be difficult to see how Microsoft ownership will improve its fortunes (not a criticism of Microsoft but a reality about creativity in monolithic organisations). And will this really help Microsoft’s bid to sell agencies on recently released Silverlight (and pre-exising WPF) functionalities? Unrealistic as it may be, will agencies be wary of partnering with the software giant amid fears that Microsoft’s agencies might be quietly slipped in?

The real deal is around the larger tracking and adserving platforms. Like Doubleclick and Google, Microsoft will see the deal as an opportunity to know more about users and to better target relevant advertising to them. It’s an enduring oddity that when Google does a multi-billion pound deal, everyone cheers that greater relevance and value will be delivered to customers. When Microsoft does it, we’re all up in arms that the software giant is too powerful.

Analysts have suggested that Microsoft has moved into the advertising business. That gives the impression they’ll move their headquarters to Madison Avenue and all start untucking their shirts. I think they’ve moved into the attenion business, more like a media company than an advertising agency, trying to own the new, targeted canvases of our lives. An expensive gamble perhaps but with all the other options off the table, perhaps one they couldn’t afford not to take, as they become new entrants into the Space Race.

* Sorry that’s an in-joke as Forrester rated my firm very highly in the European version of the study.

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