Civil Union And Domestic Partnership Targeting On Facebook, Great Opportunity For Online Marketers?

If you are advertising on Facebook and want to target users who have set their relationship statuses to Domestic Partnership or Civil Union you’re out of luck, kind of.

Previously, Facebook users could set their relationship status to: single, in a relationship, married, engaged, it’s complicated, in an open relationship, widowed, separated, and divorced. Facebook has now added two new additions to the relationship status, Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions. With these additions, you would think that Facebook would allow for online marketers to target these users. Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions theoretically open up new doors for marketers to reach these demographics. The problem is, as of today, Facebook only allows advertisers to target by the following; Single, Engaged, In a relationship, and Married.

Facebook Relationship Status Targeting

Advertisers will hopefully be able to create specific campaigns and corresponding landing pages to target gay and lesbian users on Facebook in the near future through Facebook Ads.

As it currently stands, advertisers and marketers have to get a little more advanced and target users that have previously granted permission through the Like button and application installs to be able to target users who’s statuses are set to Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions. An advertiser would in theory need to go through a company like Zynga, or a company that had access to large amounts of user data to be able to target users whose relationship statuses were set to Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions.

Hopefully in the near future, Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions will be added to the advanced demographics section through Facebook advertising to make this a more mainstream option for marketers.

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How Apple And Google Can Make The Subscription Models Work for Advertisers

This past week there has a been a lot buzz surrounding Apple’s announcement that they would be offering a subscription service, only to be followed by Google’s announcement of their own subscription service a day later. Both services support auto-renewal, a huge opportunity for advertisers to increase revenue. This is obviously a great revenue generator for Apple and Google, but what about the advertisers?

Apple will charge advertisers 30% of the revenue through iTunes and its App Store, while Google will charge an estimated 10% of the revenue through its own Android mobile operating system, or what is being rolled out as “One Pass”. Advertisers are already balking at the price. Many advertisers claim this would make the transaction unprofitable, but is that the truth?

Let’s use the Wall Street Journal as an example. If you search for Wall Street Journal Subscription, the sponsored listing takes you to. Let’s assume this is one of their better offerings online (it should be noted that both Apple and Google will require the product/service they promote must be at the same price-point as what can be found outside of their platforms). The promotion states that the user can subscribe for $1.99/week if the user is a first-time subscriber.

Wall Street Journal Subscription Landing Page

Outside of the promotional method used, after scrolling down, I noticed there were two payment options (assuming the user is not a first time subscriber).

There are two price points. The first is the annual Payment of $103, and then there is the Monthly Payment of $8.62. Most users will of course take the Monthly Payment of $8.62, particularly as there is no fiscal advantage or call to action, driving users to the annual payment of $103. There is a small advantage to this – if the user pays for the annual subscription, they do save $0.44 cents. Outside of this promotional method, the WSJ should consider incentivizing the user towards the annual service with a 10-20% reduction in price, in order to get more users to convert to this more profitable (annual) plan. All that being said, the model is simple.

If you look at what the WSJ pays affiliates, it is generally anywhere from 15% – 35% on a revenue-share. Let’s assume the average user is worth about $80.00. This means the cost to acquire a new users is anywhere from about $12 – $28 per user using this model. The same cost on a Cost per Action (CPA) model may be anywhere in the $35 – $55 range, so perhaps a bit higher acquisition cost. Internally, through targeted search, the WSJ may acquire users on average, lets say for about $25 per user. All acquisition models have pro’s and con’s and will of course produce different LTV’s. You get the picture.

Apple and Google are now stating that they want 30% and an estimated 10% respectively of the revenue for themselves. It’s probably safe to assume that publishing companies like the WSJ are against this, but should they be?

Look at the cost to acquire users using the above models, it’s not cheap and it takes a lot of effort to do so. Apple and Google in this regard are the marketers and the distribution source. Is a new $80.00 newspaper reader not worth the 30% cost of $24.00? I am not in the newspaper or publishing business, but I’m guessing it is.

If the current model does not work for advertisers, perhaps the below models could. Here are a few ideas:

  • Charge advertisers a tiered percentage of revenue with performance metrics tied in. For example, a subscriber to the WSJ subscribes to a monthly plan but subscribes for less than six month. Instead of Apple charging 30%, it could charge 10%. If the user stays on for more than six months, but less than twelve, charge 20%. Finally, if the user stays on for more than twelve months, charge 30%. There are clear advantages for the advertiser using this model, but less so for Apple, particularly given their current model.
  • Charge advertisers on a set CPM, with advertisers paying for premium placements. This way, advertisers have more control over their placements and can asses value and placements appropriately based on their individual goals.
  • A hybrid model incorporating performance with organizations individual goals.

Regardless of the model, by presenting alternative models to what is currently offered, and perhaps viewed by some, at least in the press, as being perhaps to aggressive, Apple and Google could remove these barriers and provide other options. Obviously the model will continue to evolve. With this evolution, one would anticipate more options down the road.

Tien Tzuo, the CEO of Zuora, provides some great examples in an article that appeared through PaidContent.org. Among the examples:

• “Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is a great example. Through the Amazon Prime program, Amazon customers are provided unlimited, free shipping for a $79-per-year membership fee. Though Amazon is primarily a transaction-oriented company, Amazon Prime provides a stream of ongoing, predictable subscription revenue. (Prime provides arguably a much bigger benefit to Amazon, too: by offering free shipping, customers are far more likely to purchase their goods at Amazon and remain a loyal customer.)”
• “Software developers realize they stood to make a lot more money by offering their iPad and iPhone apps on subscription vs. simply as one-time purchases. They stand to make significantly more money by offering an annual subscription to their applications (say, $3) as opposed to merely getting paid 99 cents up front.”

This is an exciting time and clearly there is a lot of opportunity for all parties involved. To capitalize on it, advertisers and developers need to have a clear and open mind. Let the creativity flow!

No matter how you look at the model, it is a work in progress and clearly holds a lot of promise, particularly given the scale of Apple and Google. Right now there are only so many players in this arena. There is Apple, Google and let’s not forget Facebook and their 600 million users with Facebook credits. Like Apple, Facebook takes a 30% cut of revenue, but is much more at this time, focused on social gaming.

One thing is for sure; advertisers simply cannot ignore these new opportunities. Advertisers need to jump on this now, test the model, assess the lifetime value of the users and hope that the space becomes more competitive, so the prices drop. Advertisers need to ask themselves if the 30% fee Apple charges for the subscription service and the increased conversion from once click purchasing justify the acquisition costs. Likely for some companies this will make sense and for others, it will not.

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Creating Conditions | Disease Branding and Online Marketing

I recently came across a very interesting article on CNN.com titled, How to brand a disease — and sell a cure. Initially, I was drawn to the article because of the branding spin in the title, but after reading it, I started getting a few ideas. How could creating conditions, or what I interpreted as alternative calls to action increase conversion in online marketing campaigns?

Before I answer that question, I will use an example from an online dating advertiser that had a great campaign, I will call it, “lt’s ok to look”. To give readers some perspective, the campaign emphasized an innocent and curious looking Facebook type profile picture of an attractive female or male user (depending on the targeting). The ad copy simply said, “It’s ok to look”. The campaign was prevalent on sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Classmates.com and was targeted to users from 18-49 years of age. It was a very well thought out performance branded online marketing campaign.

As all media buyers know, a big challenge is getting the highest possible CTR or click-through-rate after you have already negotiated the rates you need. This dating advertiser created a condition, users simply had to click; after all, it was ok to look. This condition-focused call to action was highly effective, particularly when incorporated with sequential messaging and tailored, consistent ad copy not only on the creative, but landing page and when applicable lead/sale flow. This performance based branded marketing online increases conversion.

This is a primary example of an advertiser that understood their user and branded the “condition” in a manner that the user would imply as a call to action. The condition was to elicit the user to follow their impulse through a targeted well thought out campaign. After all, dating and much of CTR’s for that manner are emotional and impulsive responses. Good advertisers understand this and capitalize on it.

The disease branding is of course nothing new, all you need to do is watch the nightly national news to see just how pronounced this type of marketing actually is. Does Viagra or Cialis ring a bell on commercials between the nightly news segments? There is of course condition based branding going on online as well, but perhaps online marketers should consider incorporating this further into their campaigns.

Perhaps one of the biggest take-always outside of the power of disease branding or what I refer to as interpreted calls to action marketing is a question that I will pose to readers. Where have all the well through out performance branded online marketing campaigns gone? I will attempt to address this in a later post…

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The Rise Of Reward Payment Methods Online | Zynga And American Express Partner

It was last spring while attending F8, Facebook’s annual developers conference that it hit me during a presentation on Facebook Credits by Debie Liu, that the rise of alternate payment methods online had now become very important. I left the presentation motivated by the sheer amount of opportunity. Facebook had a made a very good move and understood the market and where it was going.

Facebook credits allow Facebook users to pay for goods and services through credits. These credits can be earned through taking actions, for example liking a page, filling out information, or beating a section of a game. Alternatively, these credits can be used to purchase virtual goods and services. As Facebook Credits expands, there will be more than just virtual goods that can be purchased through Facebook Credits. This of course will increase conversion for products and services purchased online, thus attracting more advertisers.

Today, there are some 200 games and 75+ developers using Facebook Credits. There have also been some significant partnerships announced with organizations such as Rockyou, who will exclusively support all virtual payments for the next five years. Most recently, Facebook has partnered with Playspan which has a larger global reach for accepting different payment methods outside of the primary payment methods in North America, Credit cards. Users of course can also purchase Facebook credit gift cards at stores such as Target, GameStop, Safeway, Walmart, RadioShack, and Best Buy.

While doing some Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping on Amazon.com last week, I noticed that American Express was allowing Amex users to pay via their Membership Rewards program. I had previously only seen this payment method available through a partnership Amex had with Ticketmaster. Clearly, Amex is expanding their offering to users as a means to use Membership Rewards.

Just last week, it was announced that Amex and Zynga had formed a partnership that will allow Amex users to use their Membership Rewards towards the purchase of virtual goods through Zynga’s games. This is the first time that virtual goods can be purchased through rewards points and further legitimizes (as if it was needed) the virtual goods business.

Perhaps this will lead into Amex also becoming a partner with Facebook to allow users to use their Membership Rewards to purchase Facebook credits in the near future. One thing is for sure; these alternate forms of payment could prove to be very lucrative to all players involved.

As an American Express cardholder, I am very familiar with the Membership Rewards program and the pros and cons. For example, some rewards are highly beneficial and cost-effective with others are less beneficial and cost-effective. A lot depends on the end users perception of value. Clearly with the scale of Zynga with their games online and huge virtual goods business rumored to be north of $500 million annually, there is huge demand for what they have to offer.

What will be interesting to assess is how many users actually opt to use their Membership Rewards towards virtual goods like windmills for Zynga’s hit game, FarmVille. To increase usage and introduce the alternate payment method to Zynga’s users, there is a planned release of some 20 exclusive virtual goods products in the very near future.

Look for more alternate payments methods to made available, particularly with high-growth online business that are hungry to acquire and retain new affluent users. Perhaps in the near future, we will be paying for our purchases on sites like Groupon through Amex Membership Rewards.

Marketers should be paying very close attention to this growing opportunity as a highly efficient way to attract new users to their products. After all, who wouldn’t want affluent American Express cardholders to purchase their products! Throw in a recession where consumers are looking for added value and you have a nice recipe for success.

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Hooked On Technology

If you are like so many other professionals, you are always online. You may not physically be in front of your computer, but you are “online” at all times via your Blackberry, iPhone, iPad or other smartphone devices. I am one of the individuals that is always online. In fact, it was not until my honeymoon last fall that I even knew there was an option to turn off data on my Blackberry . This (arguably) good feature disabled my email – how pathetic is that!

Now, with more recent studies and media attention, the “always online” mentality is being addressed. Naturally the news is not always that positive. Recently, the New York Times started an investigative series addressing how computers are affecting us called Your Brain on Computers. The first part of the series, Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price is a great read.

Like many of us who are always online, there are really no vacations. However what price are we paying for the effects on family and children? I’ll leave readers to figure these questions out for themselves. For a little more perspective, read Working At Home: Family-Friendly?

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Facebook Social Plugins Hits 100,000+ Sites In Under A Month!

While attending the F8 Conference last month in San Francisco, I remember sitting through the Keynote and individual breakout sessions thinking to myself, “Wow Facebook really has something big going on.” I left the conference excited by what I had heard. During Mark Zuckerberg’s demo, he showed how the Facebook social plugins would integrate into sites like CNN. Of course, right when I went back to my hotel room that night, I tried it out.

There is was, right on the CNN homepage, the activity feed. I could see not only what Facebook users were recommending or had liked, but also what my Facebook friends recommended and liked. This of course made me that much more interested to read the articles they were referring to. After all, these were my friends and we have many shared interests.

Today comes news that since F8, there are now 100,000+ sites that are using Facebook’s social plugins. This is very impressive. By the way, if you haven’t noticed, this site uses the, “like” button also, go ahead try it! Below is an except from the blog post:

More than 100,000 sites have already integrated social plugins. Across various industries, people have shown that they want to interact and share and see what their friends recommend. We are excited to report some early results that website developers have shared with us:

  • News: News sites have implemented social plugins to help surface individualized content for readers, and in the process seen significant increases in daily referral traffic from Facebook. For instance, Facebook referral traffic increased by 290% for The Washington Post, 250% for ABC News, and 80% for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest-circulation national newspaper. The Globe and Mail has also found that people who have liked their Facebook Page are more engaged on their site — and comment, share, and read more.
  • Movies & Video: IMDb.com has seen daily referral traffic from Facebook double, and its users have generated more than 350,000 likes. Dailymotion, one of the top 50 most-trafficked websites in the world, has seen users click the Like button tens of thousands of times per day on their site. As an example, more than 250,000 users have engaged with one of the most popular videos on Dailymotion, PIXELS by Patrick Jean, and a quarter of its views are from Facebook users.
  • Sports: NHL.com, the official website of the National Hockey League, has seen an 80% increase in referral traffic from Facebook, as people interact with articles, scores and videos.
  • Publishing: Scribd, a site that helps authors publish their writing, has seen their referral traffic from Facebook double as authors gain followers among groups of Facebook friends.

No matter how you put it, the Facebook social plugins add value. As an avid Facebook user, I enjoy them – particularly as I am also a news junkie.

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Facebook And Privacy – A Brief History

Facebook has been in the news a lot lately regarding their privacy changes and at times, issues. I came across a great interactive post recently titled, The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook by Matt Mckeon that all readers should spend some time with.

Click on the years on the right-hand-side and you can see how over the last few years, more and more of users information has become public. Search and organic listings, obviously played a role in doing this, but Facebook also has a philosophy to open-up the internet or to enable sharing. As much as this has come under fire by privacy watchdogs, there has also been a lot of good that everyone seems to forget about.

For myself personally, Facebook has been about getting in touch with old friends and staying in contact with new and existing friends. Friends I otherwise with my schedule would not be able to keep in contact with. The challenge for Facebook now seems to be balancing the ambition to share or map the social graph, as Facebook refers to it, with the need to protect users privacy.

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Demand Side Platform’s (DSP) And Why You Should Care!

As the online marketing space continues to evolve, Demand-Side Platforms or DSP’s are on the rise. Increasingly so, online marketers have been asking who offers these services. Some examples of DSP’s include Turn, Appnexus, Lotame, AdBuyer.com and X+1, to name a few. But what makes up a DSP?

There are many definitions of what a DSP is. The one I like the best comes from Zach Coelius, CEO of Triggit, “At its core, a DSP is software for transparent automated media buying across multiple sources using unified targeting, data, optimization and reporting”. A DSP should allow buyers to have complete control through a web-based interface – it should be a customizable, fully functional one-stop shop. To learn more about what makes up a “true DSP”, Nat Turner, CEO of Invite Media provides a great overview.

Technology will be the key differentiator when it comes to an increasingly competitive DSP marketplace. A huge theme towards the end of last year that has continued to gain momentum this year is Real-Time Bidding or RTB.

RTB allows buyers to make changes to their buys – you guessed it – in real-time. By allowing buyers to make these real-time decisions on an impression-by-impression basis, it allows for much better control. Given that we are still in a recession, and that when we fully come out of it, the marketing landscape will be forever changed, this higher level of accountability will be that much more attractive. In the past, the fragmentation in the display space made digital media buying very difficult and extremely time-consuming. Buyers had to work with multiple platforms and contacts to execute a buy. Through this DSP RTB data aggregation, media buyers are able to target that much more effectively.

Transparency, particularly for the brand-sensitive agency business, also was very difficult to come by with the older method of buying.  This increased transparency and targeting is of course all very attractive to the lucrative agency business. The technology allows for marketers to find micro-segments of inventory that converts best for them in a transparent manner. DSP’s should be fully transparent and neutral, not favoring any publisher, advertiser or inventory over others.

Like the ad-network space, which some say is overcrowded with some 450+ networks, the DSP space will also become fairly congested. There is a great post that appears in today’s Cogmap Blog, Looking to start a DSP? Look no further than ten lines of code. The post describes how easy it is to start a DSP based on the technology that exists (some 10 lines of PHP). The challenge will be to provide competitive differentiation. A great way to do this is of course through technology, transparency, rates and premium inventory.

The DSP and RTB technology is not only promising, but it is here now. Furthermore, the technology helps to move the space into a more accountable and attractive landscape – a win-win for marketers and publishers…and that is why we should all care!

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The Online Value Chain

MediaPost used to, and still may, put out charts that provided graphical overviews of the online space. Today, via AdExchanger.com, I came across a great ad ecoystem map. The map was presented during an IAB industry overview session by Terence Kawaja, a managing partner of investment bank GCA Savvian.

View a larger size of the image by clicking here.

Although I was not in attendance, some of the same themes sound familiar (via adexchanger.com) including an overcroweded marketplace, Google pushing into display, and data being of high importance.

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Connexus Corporation and Epic Advertising Announce Merger

NEW YORK, March 24 /PRNewswire/ — Connexus Corporation, owner of Traffic Marketplace, the premier online ad network and social media company, and Epic Advertising, the world’s largest privately-owned performance network and search marketing company, today announced their intent to merge. The two companies will combine to form one of the largest private digital media companies globally, offering advertisers and publishers the ability to access display, search and social media internet traffic from over 225 countries and territories around the world.

Traffic Marketplace is a top 10 comScore ranked ad network while Epic works with more than 45,000  advertisers and publishers in the United States and internationally. Together, they reach over 80% of the US internet audience. The combined company will provide a full spectrum of digital marketing services, from brand building to customer acquisition. Moreover, by combining both technology platforms, the company expects to deploy a tightly integrated demand-side ad platform for its clients, creating the most efficient means to access target audiences across all forms of digital distribution channels including search, display, social media, video and mobile. The combined companies will focus on building integrated campaigns for advertisers and marketers that utilize a multi-channel approach and leverage intent data from a variety of sources to improve relevance.

Don Mathis, CEO of Epic Advertising explained: “Delivering successful digital advertising campaigns requires scale, technology and execution. Integrating our technology architectures will provide the combined company with an unparalleled demand-side ad platform capability. Moreover, we will be the leading private player of scale in the sector, and that matters: scale is reach and scale begets data. And data begets relevance for the advertisers’ campaigns.”

The Traffic Marketplace technology platform integrates data from multiple sources to increase relevance for its advertisers, with a specialty in correlating intent-based data to improve its targeting and analytics. Epic’s technology leverages a patent-pending approach to improving the effect of branding focused campaigns on customer acquisition programs. Together, the companies will be unmatched in providing relevance and performance for their advertisers and publishers on a global basis.

“We’re combining two market leaders,” said Connexus CEO Art Shaw.  “Traffic Marketplace has been helping Fortune 500 companies build brand awareness and acquire customers by targeting consumers online, and Epic is the dominant player in customer acquisition for a range of advertisers. Both companies will continue to grow their core competencies, while we combine our data and technology to increase relevance across all our businesses.  In addition, as experts in understanding consumer trends, we will continue to aggressively expand our reach internationally and within emerging social, video and mobile markets.”

The combined entity has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit and the Silicon Valley.

ABOUT CONNEXUS:

Connexus Corporation (www.connexuscorp.com) owns Traffic Marketplace, the premier B2A™ (Business-to-Audience) digital marketing company, Traffic Marketplace delivers relevance in online display, registration path, mobile and social media advertising by empowering advertisers to reach, target, and engage their ideal audience. With access to over 140mm unique monthly users, Traffic Marketplace reaches more than 71% of the U.S. Internet population. Through powerful esp targeting technology, Traffic Marketplace can intelligently identify and deliver virtually any target audience. By employing proprietary engagement solutions such as eyengage® rich media, livemarkets™ in-banner chat technology, and inFact™ content creation service, Traffic Marketplace helps advertisers intrigue, inspire and engage their customers. For more information, log on to www.connexuscorp.com.

ABOUT EPIC ADVERTISING:

Epic Advertising (www.epicadvertising.com) is a global online performance network and search marketing company that provides advertisers and agencies with measurable Internet advertising impact. Leveraging proprietary and patent-pending technologies, and more than 45,000 publishers, Epic provides its advertising partners with performance and direct response marketing services, search engine marketing, media planning, branded marketing campaigns and targeted, worldwide online reach. For more information, log on to www.epicadvertising.com.

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