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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Links – 31st January 2009

As Des’ree once bemoaned, “Life, oh life, oh life, oh life”. A hectic few weeks are *fingers crossed* finally over. Rather than just watching the evening news and eating toast in that time, I also managed to read and bookmark some interesting things posted on the internet. Here is part 1 of a two-part collection of said stuff.


I’ve enjoyed the back and forth discussion regarding the nature and usefulness of insights. Richard Huntingdon used Simon Law’s presentation as a basis to provocatively state that insights do not come from the research department but from a combination of within (presumably not from those within the research department though), real life, academia and “weird shit”. This inspired several other posts.

Rory Sutherland sought to distinguish between an idea – creative – and insight – deduction.

Kevin McLean, a Qual researcher, felt that a little humility could have been used in the argument.

Will Humphrey offered a balanced summary, arguing that research findings should promote creativity and lateral thinking, but that planners should be more “ballsy” when pushing for decent research.

In terms of being ballsy and challenging, Dave Trott offers an inspiring story of changing a slender brief to a truly impactful one after going away to research the product

My own thoughts? Bad research, and bad researchers, exist. As do bad planners, creatives, account managers, product directors and so on. A project is more likely to succeed if each stakeholder is capable of implementing the necessary vision. This requires dialogue on each side – utilising specific skills and expertise to challenge, mould, amend and hone a brief. It is a researcher’s duty to provide a bespoke solution that will provide real, accurate, tangible outputs. If they don’t then they have failed. But other people in the chain have just as big an opportunity to succeed or fail.

Marketing and advertising

Rory Sutherland wonder if we can outsource media planning to the public through recommendation mechanisms within social media.

John Willshire followed up on that post with the notion that this removes control on how the message is propagated. He gives a great example of how such a scheme can easily be commoditised.

Ad Week looks at the rising relevance of shopper marketing in times of media fragmentation.

Faris Yakob uses a brilliant (fan-made) Thundercats trailer to illustrate the power and benefits of recombinant marketing

Iain Tait has a minor rant about the trend of using the themes of connection and collaboration within TV advertising

Graeme Wood remarks on ways in which the internet and social media can be used to deepen involvement in a television show

A NY Times article on ways in which the internet is being used to promote new novels

“Trust Me” – a new shot set at an advertising agency has launched in the US (NY Times). Within the show, real life brands and campaigns are placed. Personally, I think this is a great way to involve brands into entertainment in an organic way. However, in the UK product placement is currently illegal and so I wonder whether the show could ever be shown over here. Precedents are mixed e.g. we may get James Bond films with the “kerching” moments uncut but the Coca Cola drinks within American Idol are pixellated.

Rohit Bhargava on how advertisers can use consumers to help promote them

Ad Rants takes a look at Bob Garfield’s overview of the widget economy. I’m now locked out of the original article, so if anyone has access I would appreciate it if a copy could be sent my way 🙂

Claire Beale on Walker’s campaign to crowdsource a new flavour of crisp

Online video

Jim Louderback makes an excellent point in that, online, the third dimension of depth – or engagement – is far more important than reach and frequency

Mark Cuban believes online video is overhyped because the technology isn’t stable enough for mass simultaneous viewing. I would argue that this is what TV is for; online video is not TV and its benefits are different, but complementary.

And to highlight that difference, because the web is much more about discovery and experimentation, we see a huge drop off in viewing between episode 1 and episode 2 of a web series. Newteevee has a great overview of a recent report


A Freakytrigger post shows that the number of new entries in the UK charts has dropped off a cliff in recent years. A negative effect of the long tail?

A very interesting Music Think Tank post on a pull music paradigm shift. There is some dissension in the comments but I found it fascinating

Tomorrow’s update will feature articles on social media, technology and the internet, and business and ideas


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How do you make money from online video?

That is the multi-billion dollar question facing content owners and distributors. Both in form and execution, how can one best monetize (SIDENOTE: should I be spelling it monetise?) this brave new frontier?

Evidently, there will not be one fix-all solution. Different video formats will be better suited to different models. Broadly speaking, there are three formats – TV shows or films as catch-up or VOD, specific made-for-broadband content, and user/consumer generated content.

There has been some research into this area. Work Research carried out an interesting qualitative piece into how people use different forms of online video content (though they segmented the market into catch-up, boutique and snippets), and which type of advertising would be most appropriate.

Furthermore, this chart from Ipsos MediaCT shows that the public have widely different levels of acceptance towards advertising depending on the type of content. However, we are still a long way from accepted formats.

With that in mind, here are some of the options that those in the sphere find themselves deliberating over – both advertising-based and non-advertising based. Multiple options can be used in combination, though one has to consider the extent to which users will be accepting.

A: Advertising models

1: Pre-rolls: The non-skippable adverts that play in-video before the content begins. Many of the big players utilise this method. Despite its acceptance, there is no consensus on the best length of pre-roll. One factor would be the length of the clip – who would want to sit through a 30 second advert to see a 20 second short? Even with longer-form, one would think that shorter (10-15 second) pre-rolls, would work best, but some advertisers are loath the pay the product costs of converting their 30 second TV spot and so these often appear. There is also the question of whether consumers will accept several short pre-rolls

2: Mid-rolls/post-rolls: Not as common as pre-rolls, these cut through long-form content (often mimicking a break as if one were watching on TV), and appear after the content has finished. One might question who would watch post-rolls, since the desired content has concluded, but data suggests that direct response advertising works better as a post-roll than as a pre-roll. This makes intuitive sense, since people would be unlikely to click through while they wait for their video to start, but one has to be careful to ensure that enough people hang around to view the post-roll(s).

3. Sponsorship idents: Sponsors of TV shows may negotiate a similar deal (or have it included in the original deal) to have their continuities included in the online catch-up or made-for-broadband spin-offs. I can see this being an area of growth as scheduled, online-only programmes increase in frequency.

4: Product placement: Currently banned on broadcast TV in the UK, this is where an advertiser pays for their brand or product to appear in a show. Big business in the US, the UK restrictions don’t extend to online. Prop placement, or product plugging, where products are provided for authenticity but no money changes hands, is currently allowed on UK TV, and so in theory this can extend to paid placements online. The LG15 group (who produced Lonely Girl and Kate Modern) seem to be pretty hot on this.

5: Brand integration: A step up from product placement, this is where a brand or product is incorporated into a storyline. To take another Bebo example, The Gap Year looked to integrate brands into the storyline. Advertiser funded programmes, or in-programme live ads, could fall under this banner.

6: In-stream advertising: The next big thing? Youtube toyed with it, and Sky look to be implementing it soon through Adjustables. It is where little strips (like the Sky Sports News ticker) or corner animations advertise brands while the main content continues to play. US TV stations use this to advertise upcoming shows. The trick is for it not the too intrusive. See this in-stream advert during Family Guy as an example of how not to do it.

7: Surrounding white space: This is unlikely to be used on its own, as CPM rates for white space are much lower than they are for online video. However, interstitials and superstitials (full-screen ads before and after a page is visited) could possibly be used as an alternative to pre and post-rolls.

B: Non-advertising models

1: Subscription: Where fee indiscriminate to consumption is paid. It could be purchasing a series or access to a walled garden where the video is but one feature. In some ways, the most popular catch-up service in the UK uses this model, depending on how you view the licence fee underpinning the BBC’s iPlayer.

2: Purchase: Where individual episodes are purchased, such as through iTunes. This is unlikely to be viable unless the show has a serious profile, either through having already appeared on TV/in the cinema, or featuring well-known celebrities.

3: DVD: The programme may be available online for free as a barebones show, but a DVD release brings together extras and behind-the-scenes looks. This is the model that Beyond The Rave will be using, though I think it is most likely to be used in conjunction with other models e.g. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog is available via iTunes (purchase) and Hulu (advertising).

4: Merchandising opportunities: I’m not aware of any specific examples of this, but if Dr Who can sell merchandise by the ton, there is no reason why a made-for-broadband show cannot. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t be surprised if physical Dr Horrible comics are released.

5: Events: This would be an attractive option for the online expert. There are many stories of bloggers making money from lucrative speaking gigs as a result of their blogs (Content marketing) – I’m sure this can apply to vloggers

6: Get bought out: Alternatively, one could forget about a business model. Concentrate on finding an audience first. So long as there are venture capitalists, the business side can wait. And if you are successful, someone can buy you out, and you won’t need to worry about it. It’s worked for some people.

Interesting times lie ahead. Whether it is through industry-adopted standards, or research “proving” the efficacy of a solution to a format, at some point a consensus will (hopefully) emerge.

In the interests of exhaustiveness, I’d be grateful if anyone could point out any options that I have overlooked in the above summary.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29607812@N08/

Links – 13th June 2008

Due to the two ATP festivals last month, I made a conscious effort to take a short break from my link updates. Once the habit was broken, it inevitably became difficult to get back into the groove. Grand Theft Auto and Euro 2008 have not helped matters.

I did toy with the idea of dispensing with them altogether, but I like the idea of this blog as (partly) a repository of all the great thinking, reporting and happenings out in the wide world.

And so I present the highlights of my web reading from the last 6 weeks or so. I’ve included the news items as although they will have dated, they may have slipped through the net.

Rather than dump the hundred or so links into one unwieldy post, I’ve cut them up into manageable themes. I will split the themes up into one post a day over the coming 4 days. By which point I should be fully up to date and in a position to get back into the habit of weekly updates. Well, until I go on holiday in um… 3 weeks.

The first theme I present to you is…

Marketing links

Creating fast strategy (Adliterate) – excellent post on quick strategic planning/thinking

What every good marketer should know (Seth Godin) – originally written 3 years ago but recently updated

A day mapped out by brands (Jane Sample)

Ten ideas for conversation (Conversation Agent) – tips on how to create compelling content, with example links to some great blogs

Can there be too much of a good thing? – Academic study by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper showing that people were more likely to purchase jam when there were 6 choices than when there were 24

Planners are adventurers (I’m Only Doing This Because I Have To)

Interesting look at the Net Promoter Score (CNN) – Personally, I like the NPS as it indexes a factor that can both be rationalised and be genuinely insightful. I’ve seen other indexes either based on emotional scales, and on self-evident truths that completely fail to convince

Billboards that look back (New York Times) – as mentioned, the lack of an opt-in may be an issue. See phorm.

Bookmarkable Advertising (Adverlab) – very thought-provoking

What makes an idea viral? (Seth Godin)

Is the Surface Unsigned new bands competition a scam? (Pete Ashton)

Very good review of the 4 hour work week (W+K London)

Why marketers shouldn’t create campaigns around fear or disgust (Fast Company) – I agree. No matter the product, the positives should always be highlighted. In my eyes, Obama did a better marketing job than Clinton (aside from the fact that he won)

Why Zappos pay new employees to quit (Harvard Business Leader) – a stroke of genius

Starbucks rolls out energy drinks (Seattle PI) – this seems like a rather ill-conceived brand extension to me

50 greatest commercial parodies (Nerve)

Portrayals of George Bush in international advertising (Creative Bits)

Email checklist (Seth Godin)

Expansion pack for an advertising spoof of World of Warcraft (Creative Beef) – very funny

Product placement rose 6% in Q1 in the US (Nielsen)

List of product placements in Sex & The City (Vanity Fair) – I assume this includes prop placement as well as paid product placements

Yet Andy Burnham indicates the government will block the loosening of product placement laws in the UK – while I am biased (working as I do as an advertising researcher for a commercial broadcaster), I think this is a terrible decision. It underestimates the intelligence of the general public, it ignores that we are generally exposed to it as it is (through US imports and the cinema), assumes that production teams aren’t capable of subtly integrating brands, and stifles a potentially new revenue stream that would provide funds for investment in quality programming

I feel quite strongly on this and may revisit it in a future post, though for the time being I am fully occupied with fleshing out a few different ideas in the limited “free” time I have

Of the above links I would particularly recommend Creating fast strategy, Interesting look at the Net Promoter Score, Why Zappos pay new employees to quit, What every good marketer should know and the comments on Product placement not coming to the UK though they are all worth reading, given that they represent the best of what I have read on the topic for the past 6 weeks

The remaining themes and the days I plan to publish them are (Hyperlinks will be included as they are published)

Saturday: Trivia, and Interesting/thoughtful articles

Sunday: Interesting websites, and useful tips

Monday: Technology and web2.0 links

Tuesday: Miscellaneous random links

I’m also planning to write another post during this time, but this will depend on how distracted I get by other events