Tag Archives: Advertising

Out of Context

Sponsored Stories are a brilliant advertising model by Facebook. Just like  AdWords in 2000, it’s an example of a model that leverages the core value of the company for advertising, without compromising that value’s authenticity. If your friends liked Starbucks, it was of their own free will and in a public forum, so having Starbucks pay to show this more prominently and to other users can only make sense.

So why is it, then, that a simple amusing case of 55-gallon of lubricant made so many bad headlines for Facebook?

And Facebook has more fronts to fight in its battles for transformation into a revenue-driven company. Timeline may be great for brands, but it’s a magnet for popular revolt. Besides resenting the no-alternative approach Facebook took, why are users so upset about the actual Timeline view, which is surely more visually appealing than the boring wall?

I find the answer to both relates to context.

Out Of Context

For the Sponsored Stories it seems pretty clear. “Yes, I linked to a 55-gallon lubricant product, but I did so as a joke”, well then, Sentiment Analysis still has a long way to go with sarcasm despite some recent advance right here in the Hebrew university. Sarcasm is one extreme example, but that missing context could even just be that you’re no longer fan of that company you liked a month ago, and just didn’t get to unlike yet.

And what about Timeline? isn’t it great that all your previous statuses and photos are there, organized along your timeline and telling your story? well, it is, but only if you care to ensure that it tells the story that you really want to tell. The context of that story may depend on where we were, what we were up to at the time, who our friends were… some of this may not even be possible to reconstruct in the Timeline.

In addition, we are used to our stories dropping off the cliff of the page fold and disappearing into oblivion, so we don’t really care to update them or remove those we don’t feel so proud of anymore. Suddenly, they come back to haunt us with Timeline, and we have to scramble to adjust

And in a final associative thought: the tiled UX of Timeline does remind me of the Pinterest-mania that has taken hold on every new social curation site. So why does this look so so much fun on Pinterest? Context again. Pinterest has none of it, it’s a pure fun/discovery experience, each tile is independent and you’re not really trying to follow up a thread, or cover all that you’ve missed since your last visit. For a social network though, that would be, well, out of context.

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MashupAds: the Banner Strikes Back

dapper-logo1A couple of years ago, when I was working on a web 2.0 platform we launched in a previous workplace, we were desperately looking for a simple advertising solution that would boostrap our initial content site revenues. Not wanting to start selling ad space ourselves, we needed some kind of a turnkey solution, but all we could use was the inefficient but simple-to-use AdSense for Content. We had a look at Shopping.com’s API, for which we saw a great implementation in answers.com, but once we dived into the documentation it was clear that the overhead of implementing is huge. So we just gave up and used AdSense.

Text ads are not always the right tool. Banners attract your readers’ attention a lot better, and even give some grace and color to your pages. But we all came to think of banners as irrelevant, annoying “punch the monkey” stuff, and relevant banner designs take costly creative efforts, thus we all let AdSense dominate with a lousy solution for content sites.

So when a friend who works at Dapper told me about MashupAds, which just launched, it instantly sounded like a great idea. Let advertisers stream relevant graphic ads directly from their published content, no need to work on separate creatives (which is a major pain over text ads), and give content startups another turnkey monetization alternative, helping them optimize their targeting by easily specifying the exact hints to use on the page. Dapper’s demos also show the visual advantage of banner ads over text ads in certain cases, but that is, of course, assuming the visual does look good and fits the target site. In fact, I can already guess requests start flowing to Dapper from early adopters – “…can I change the layout of that ad? that pinky background really doesn’t look good on my purple background!”… good luck with that, Avner! 🙂