Friday, December 19, 2008

Pro or Anti Search Engine Advertisements?

This journal seems to have taken a turn toward examining the ethics of new media advertising as a whole. For the most part, many of the discussions within the class have been sort of one-sided. All in all, the class has--for the most part--agreed when it comes to ethics. I do not remember reading any posts that say "there's no immoral issues involved in marketing to children or minorities."

However, this week's discussion has taken a very interesting turn. The discussion was about advertorials, paid advertisements in search engines, and whether or not the practice of placing paid advertisements into search engines was ethical. At first, I figured it would be a discussion about how this type of advertising can be immoral if not used properly, but then I read the posts and it turns out that there's a wide variety of opinions when it comes to the issue of paid advertising and search engines. In order to develop a clearer analysis on this topic, we need to look at both sides of the argument.


Believe it or not, companies such as Google have to pay in order to run their search engines. With consumers using their searches for free, how can a company like Google or Yahoo! cover their internet expenses and make a profit? One solution that many search engines have discovered is allowing paid advertisements to appear on the results page. Companies will pay the search engine sites money for the priviledge of appearing on the page and for each time a user clicks on their link (McLaughlin, 2002). How profitable is this type of advertising? It is difficult to collect the actual numbers since companies such as Google remain silent about the statistics, but on average it is predicted that they generate over $3 billion in annual revenue (Karr, 2004). Trough this form of advertising, it helps to benefit both the advertisers through exposure and the search engine through revenue.

Another reason why this form of advertising may be seen as favorable is because of its appearance. The Federal Trade Commission has taken charge of evaluating search engine industries and demands that these industries provide “clear and conspicuous disclosure” of their search engine advertisements. Therefore, the more successful companies such as Google have decided to separate their results from their advertisements through colors and labeling (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008).

A final argument that was mentioned was the idea of search results actually working as a form of information in itself. Advertorials take it a step further by infroming the user that "this is an advertiser-related feature which offers extra value via information and/or entertainment” (Creative formats: Impact and interaction, 2008). This way, the user gathers some benefit from reading the advertorial.


I mentioned earlier that some companies, such as Google, separate their searches from their advertisements in very clear ways. However, there are other websites such as Alta Vista where the searches and advertisements are more difficult to separate. One out of every six users can not tell the difference between a paid advertisement and a legitimate search result (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008). Add to the fact that often times these paid advertisements are either inside the results or not clearly labeled as advertisements and you have a recipe for deception (McLaughlin, 2002).

Another argument against this type of advertising is the deception and loss of credibility that search engines receive once they are discovered to have accepted money from advertisers for appearances on result pages. Sixty percent of internet users did not have any knowledge of websites accepting fees from companies that paid for advertisements on the result pages. Along with this information, other companies such as Google keep their revenue counts a secret in terms of how much they make off of search engine advertisements (McLaughlin, 2002). With this type of secrecy, it becomes rather difficult to discern between what is legitimate and what is paid propoganda and this adds another level of difficulty when it comes to FTC regulations on paid advertisements within search engines.


For the most part, many of my fellow classmates within the discussion fell into the gray area. Some believed while this type of advertising can have its pitfalls, it is not necessarily the worst type of ethical violation within advertising. However, what I want to know is what you think about paid advertisements in search engine results. Do you think they help those that are looking for information? Do they annoy those that are not looking to purchase a product? Are they an ethical issue or just another thing to ignore while you are searching for information on a topic?
Creative formats: Impact and interaction. PPA Marketing. Retrieved December 18, 2008, from

Karr, R. (2004, April 14). Search engine wars: Making money off search. NPR. Retrieved December 16, 2008, from

McLaughlin, L. (2002). Straight story: Search engines. PC World.

West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Lesson 9: Walking the line: Eithics in new media IMC. Retrieved December 16, 2008, from

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Viral Videos

I have a trip coming up this weekend, so I have been rushing through my work, my homework, my papers, my travel advice book (which will be published around New Years), and have spent maybe a total of one hour watching television at most and that is while eating dinner. However, when the head honchos at my workplace are not around and I have a few moments to relax during lunch, I will occasionally pop onto YouTube or Hulu and watch a video. Most of these videos are usually professional music videos or snippets of television shows, but there is the occasional viral video that catches my eye.

What is a viral video? According to ZDNet, a viral video is "a video that spreads quickly via the Internet. It is often a short clip on a video sharing site such as YouTube that people reference in blogs, e-mails and instant messages" (ZDNet definition for: Viral video, 2008). Without using wikipedia, it is difficult to find other sources that discussed when viral video began and when it became popular, though some speculate that it was shortly before 2000 with the creation of flash animation. There were some of the earlier animations such as the "Dancing Baby", "The Hamster Dance", and "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" (Peters, 2007). Now, it has grown into an amazing world-wide phenomenon and has generated sites such as Youtube, JibJab, and has encouraged social sites such as Myspace and Facebook to add a section for viral videos.

What is the importanct of viral video when it comes to marketing? Marketers have caught on to the popularity of viral videos and marketers usually will not turn down a good opportunity to advertise their products. One of my favorite examples is the Hydro "Train Coaster" advertisement video they used in order to promote the power of future resources such as kids. The company is a major aluminum and energy supplier in Norway, but this video of a group of kids building a roller coaster out of train tracks has allowed them to win a gold medal from Europe's most competitive advertising championship called Epica (Our business, 2008; More gold for Hydro's train stunt film, 2007).

Now, let's say you are a new company or a company that does not want to risk everything on a video that may or may not become popular. What do you do? Well, you can do what Mentos did and take an already popular viral video and turn it into a promotional tool. Steve Spangler first started this craze in 2005 when he was on a television news network where he had a weekly segment and performed this experiment (Marketing that's hot, 2008). Mentos later on heard about this stunt and turned it into a campaign where they challenge their own customers to post their own videos for a prize. This boosted avenue by $10 million in free advertising, which means they received over half of their usual alotted amount of advertising dollars for free (Nauert, 2006).

Still nervous? If you are still feeling doubtful about the power of viral marketing, then you may want to take a look at these statistics (Viral marketing study, 2006):

* 89% of adults share content with friends, family and associates by e-mail
* 63% of the respondents share content at least once a week
* 25% share daily or almost daily
* 75% forward content up to six other people
* 89% have no adverse feelings to brand sponsorship

So, what are some of your favorite viral videos? Personally, I am a fan of the "Drama Prairie Dog" and the "John McCaing Gets Barack Rolled". I'm also a huge fan of Mortal Kombat viral videos as well, but for censorship purposes I will withhold the link from this entry. Feel free to list your favorite viral videos and who knows, maybe you will see your favorite video reenacted or see a commercial based off of your favorite video.
Marketing that's hot. WebProNews Video. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

More gold for Hydro's train stunt film. Hydro. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

Nauert, H. (2006, June 14). The Mentos an Diet Coke sensation. ABC News. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

Our business. Hydro. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

Peters, A. (2007, July 7). Pick of the week: The history of viral video. APLink. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

Viral marketing study. Justilien. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

ZDNet definition for: Viral video. ZDNet. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advertorials and Paid Adveritsements

How many of you remember your school yearbooks? Well, when I was younger I would ask my parents to buy me a yearbook and it would cost around $65.00. When my parents looked through the yearbook, they were shocked to see how many advertisements were listed within the yearbook. "Why should we have to pay for a book full of advertisements?! When I was in high school, the school banned yearbook advertising because they didn't want the students to pay for advertisements." Yearbook staffers and companies defend these actions by claiming that advertisements keep prices low.

The world of advertisements is blending with everyday society more and more with each passing day. With people and businesses looking to save money or cut production costs, many businesses are starting to utilize the money-making power of advertisements. One high school teacher in San Diego decided to raise extra printing money for his tests by placing advertisments on his students tests. Another school in Florida sold McDonalds advertising space on school report cards (Teacher sells ad space on test, 2008).

While some people don't see the harm in this form of advertising, some psychologists believe that advertisements end up affecting children subconsciously (Teacher sells ad space on test, 2008). Advertisemetns are starting to become even harder to avoid and they are becoming more difficult to spot with search engine placements and advertorials. What is an advertorial? An advertorial is "an advertisement designed to simulate editorial content, while at the same time offering valid information to your prospective clients." Since consumers are more likely to believe editorial content than advertisements, this type of advertising leads the consumer to believe the claims that are made (What is an advertorial, 2008).

What about paid placement in search engines? How many of us have ever clicked on a link expecting to seek answers about a search and suddenly realizing that what you clicked on was an advertisement? You are not alone. One out of every six internet users could not tell the difference between an unbiased search and a paid search advertisement. Due to this confusion, paid search engine ads tend to have a click-through rate of over 18 percent in comparison to natural listings which only receive a click through rate of 4 percent (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008).

With the possible ethics issues of deceit within advertorials and paid seearch engine advertisements, how can companies avoid poor corporate reputations and censorship from the Federal Trade commission? For paid search engine advertisements, the FTC requires these ads to have "clear and conspicuous disclosure" of advertising on search engines (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008). For example, on Google there is a separate listing on the side that says "Sponsored Links". In terms of advertorials, there are a few suggestions for clarifying the meaning of advertorials (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008):

* Use "paid advertising" labels in order to specify that it is an advertisement.
* Make the advertorial distinctive in order to separate it from the actual editorials.
* Use a third party disclaimer to show that it is a paid advertisement and not an editorial created by the news source.

Teacher sells ad space on test. Mom Logic. Retrieved December 15, 2008, from

West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Lesson 9: Walking the line: Ethics in New Media IMC. Retrieved December 15, 2008, from

What is an advertorial? Retrieved December 15, 2008, from

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Online Consumers Want

As I mentioned in a past entry, the online world is becoming a very important medium for marketers. With online sales predicted to hit $230 billion of the total sales made by the end of the year, it is very important to make sure that you have a winning website that will reach the consumers (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008). We last discussed the importance of websites, but there's another aspect to online marketing that is even more important than the design and equal to the importance of the product.

I'm talking about the consumer. It's common sense that without a consumer there would be no sale. With this in mind, the question is how do we get inside of the consumer's head to know what they want. Are they interested in the product? The design? The contents? Knowing what the consumer wants and how to persuade them that you have what they need is vital to any good business. So, how do you get into the consumer's mind?

The first step is to figure out your target audience. Who do you want to sell the product to? I know, many of you wouldn't mind selling your products or services to everyone, but for the sake of saving money so you don't spend a ton of money on mass marketing, the best way to figure out the mind of the consumer is to identify who is the consumer that is most likely to purchase the product or services? This identification includes age, sex, ethnicity, income, education, etc. Here are some questions to ask in terms of a target audience (Lake, 2008):

* Who is your target audience?
* Where is your target audience located?
* What do they think about your current brand?
* What would you like them to think about your brand?
* How will you attract them to you products or services?
* Who is your competition?

Once you understand your target audience, you need to consider what draws your target audience to a product. For example, the most profitable age demographic according to many marketers is the Y Generation which has the average spending power of $90 a week (Cozzalio, 2008). So, what does a member of Generation Y look for when it comes to purchases? A few key components that interest a member of Generation Y are: speed, individuality, and personalization (O'Donnell, 2006). This generation is not willing to wait on a slow website to load, so quick website speeds is vital to keep the attention of a potential consumer. This generation deems individuality and uniqueness to be very important (Cozzalio, 2008). Therefore, a website that allows a person to take charge and personalize their experience to their own individual preferences is more likely to gain sales than a website that gives these consumers very little choice (O'Donnell, 2006).

After discovering what draws your target demographic into purchasing a product or service, then you need to adapt to their needs. If your audience is older or has trouble reading, then you may want to make your site simple and easy to read. If your audience is aimed toward a specific ethnic group, then make sure the images and content relate to this group and not become too generalized or too stereotypical. Either way, getting into the minds of the consumers is a very important part of online e-commerce.

Cozzalio, D. (2008). Meet generation y. Siskiyous College. Retrieved December 14, 2008, from

Lake, L. (2008). Focusing on your target audience. About. Retrieved December 14, 2008, from

West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Lesson 8: Creative considerations in emerging media. Retrieved December 14, 2008, from

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Website Design

How many of you have ever judged whether or not to used a website due to the basic design and information of the website itself? I know recently I signed up for a couple of websites in order to purchase Christmas gifts, and there were some websites where the simple design or name of the site made me question its validity. I will give you two examples and would like to hear what you think:

Example 1:

Example 2

Which site are you more likely to purchase an iPhone 3G from? I'm not purchasing one, but if I were to purchase one I would trust the site from example 2 more than example 1. Trust is a very important aspect of any business, especially when it comes to online sites. In 2006, the estimate of total losses due to identity theft reached over $15.4 billion dollars, which is a dramatic decrease from a few years ago, but it is still a rather high number (FTC-2006 identity theft survey report, 2007). With consumers becoming more informed of the different styles of identity theft, online consumers have become more discriminating when it comes to what websites they trust for their purchases.
What does this mean for businesses? First of all, online businesses can relax a little in regards to consumers not purchasing as much online due to these sorts of dangers. E-commerce is growing at a rapid rate and it is expected to account for almost 10 percent of U.S. sales--or $230 billion--by the end of the year (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008). With the United States officially in a recession, many shoppers are turning to the convenience and low costs of shopping online for merchandise rather than wrestling through the hoards of shoppers and full parking lots and waiting in line for almost an hour before making a purchase (Robbins, 2008). This means that websites such as Ebay will have competition from both small businesses and large corporations looking to reach the internet niche market.
What can a company do in order to improve sales? One important aspect discussed amongst the class in general was the aspect of internet design. First impressions tend to matter when it comes to a user searching the site, and usually a consumer will make his/her decision about a site within 1/20th of a second (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008)! Don't believe me? How many of you have ever saw a site you could not stand to look at and still read it or trust whatever information is listed on the site? The asthetics of a site do matter and this is what a company needs to consider when they are deciding how to create a website that will best represent the company. One important aspect of web design that businesses need to remember is that--regardless of how much you plan--you will not be able to satisfy everyone since humans are often subjective creatures (Lee, 2007).
With that in mind, there are a few things that can generally impact the revenue created by a website. A couple of aspects to website content are information and entertainment (West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2008). With both of these parts blending into one another, it is vital to decide what is the right amount of information and entertainment for a business site. While you want to avoid having too little information on your site, having too much information or clutter can drastically affect sales as well. In one study, when the format of a website was changed from one column to two columns in order to fit more information on one site, the sales generated from the site failed by almost half! Imagine one little change such as a second column created a 50 percent decrease in online sales (Usborne, 2005).
What can a company do in order to increase online revenue without risking possible losses? First of all, a pre-test should be run of a website before it is relased. A pre-test will inform the business on how a sample number of cosumers react to the website and what changes need to be made in order to improve the functionality of the site (Usborne, 2005). Secondly, hiring a professional web designer can take the burden off of the company's shoulders and cover even more helpful tips such as (Learn about website design, 2008):
* Satisfying customers
* Attracting search engines
* Avoid technical glitches
Online shopping is becoming a very profitable business for those who want to buy things most stores do not have, for those who are looking for a good sale, or even for those who do not have the time to deal with a store that is crowded with shoppers. The way a site looks has a lot to do with site traffic and whether or not a consumer will trust a site enough to purchase an item from the company. If businesses hire an expert web designer and test run their sites before releasing them to the public, then they have a greater chance of generating site traffic and catching errors before they lose the loyalty of the consumers.
What are you waiting for? It's almost Christmas! Go do some holiday shopping and support your favorite businesses. Though, if you want I can also introduce you to a site where you can make homemade crafts and fight the power of materialism ;).

FTC-2006 identity theft survey report. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from
Learn about website design. Network Solutions. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from
Lee, S. (2007, June 26). Human-to-human design. A List Apart. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from
Robbins, T. (2008, November 25). More online holiday shoppers expected this year. NPR. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from
Usborne, N. (2005, November 8). Design choices can cripple a website. A List Apart. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from
West Virginia University, P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Lesson 8: Creative considerations in emerging media. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from

Friday, December 12, 2008

Online Advertisements

We live in a world where everything is rushed. Everyone wants everything now and they do not want to wait. There are more things that we want to do, more shows or music videos that we want to see, more live bands and adventures that we want to experience. Somewhere in between the hustle and bustle of this world, we occasionally take a nap, read a book, or hop onto a social network or any other interactive website in order to talk to friends or watch a video.

So, why is it that, knowing we live such busy lives, online businesses want to invade our down time and cram advertisements into our space. Log onto Myspace and you will sometimes see an advertisement that takes up the entire page before you reach your homepage. Download the widget and your entire page will be surrounded by an advertisement for JC Penny when you just want to check the weather. Now there’s an innovative tool where all you have to do is hover over a link and suddenly a preview pops up of a website. This can come in handy when you are at work and want to make sure a site is work friendly before clicking on it, but when you are on news sites where this type of activity can actually slow down the website (Foremski, 2005). For instance, I was on a website and was trying to scroll down. Well, when I scrolled down using the arrow keys, my mouse accidentally moved over an advertisement, which slowed my computer down while it tried to load the rollover advertisement. It could be my computer, but this is just one example of how advertisements are starting to find ways around the system.

In the old days—about a decade ago—most users would have to worry about neon banners flashing and alerting them that they won some fantasy prize or they would have to worry about having a screen flooded with six or seven pop-up items before they could view their site. Many businesses have used these types of advertisements in the past, but the question that everyone wonders about these advertisements is: Does this form of advertising really work? In terms of pop-up advertisements, they were tested against banner advertisements and were 50 percent more likely to be noticed in comparison to banners. However, this is both a gift and a curse since the study found that pop-up advertisements were considered 100 percent more intrusive into the viewer’s Internet activities and were looked unfavorably upon (Jackson, 2001). In terms of banner advertisements, there seems to be a more favorable view on this type of advertisement over pop-up advertisements. There are no blockers for banners, and they are easier to sneak onto a website and you cannot exit out of a banner like you can a pop-up advertisement. Overall, they are seen as less intrusive, but with the exception of the flashing banners they are fairly easy to overlook (Kamborj, 2008).

With these types of complaints from consumers that are sick and tired of seizure-inducing ads and a computer full of pop-ups, you would think that companies would relax their attempts at online advertising. Nope, instead the field of online advertising is boosting its attempts and the online advertising market should double to 18 percent within six years. With more than 52 percent of people spending more time online than watching television, marketers are evaluating this trend and are now seeking new ways of reaching the growing amount of online consumers (Online advertising ‘growing fast’, 2007). Now, I am not entirely against online advertisements, but I do believe that there should be a limit to how much annoyance they can cause. I do not mind banners about legitimate businesses, but banners that claim “You are the 1,000,000 customer! Pick up your free laptop now!” and then they either fail to mention the circumstances or place in small font that there are conditions that apply, this becomes quite an annoyance. Especially when they try to use this technique in order to get innocent people’s e-mail addresses so they can expand their spam count.

I do believe there needs to be a line that is drawn when it comes to online marketing. Some companies, such as Yahoo!, will allow companies to take over their website for the day such as Adidas. Depending on how the users relate to Adidas, this could either create a boost for both Adidas and Yahoo, or it could create a loss for either company. Users tend to be subjective, so a person looking for good athletic shoes or an Adidas fan might see the site and think, “I like those shoes!” or “That seems interesting, I’ll check them out,” and it may help business (Lee, 2007). On the other hand, you might have a Nike fan who looks at this site and becomes offended. It may not fully deter them from the site, but it could impact page views and whether or not they decide to use Yahoo’s other services.

I do believe in some forms of online advertising. After all, this type of media is still relatively new and contains a load of marketing potential. But I do want to ask all of you a question: Do you believe these new innovations in advertisements are going a bit too far? Would you rather be able to go to the sites you want to go to without worrying about rollover advertisements, having to click “skip this advertisement”, or waiting for the commercial to play before you can see the video?
Foremski, T. (2005, December 6). The new media needs new types of innovation—not more banner ads. SiliconValleyWatcher. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Jackson, J. (2001, July 2). While pop-up advertisements are more likely to be noticed, consumers tend to think poorly of the advertisers. Does the extra visibility pay off? Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Kamborj, D. (2008, October 10). Effectiveness of a banner advertising. Article Base. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Lee, S. (2007, June 26). Human-to-human design. A List Apart. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Online advertising ‘growing fast’. BBC News. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brainstorming Session

For class, I was asked to give an update on my blog project. In terms of site visits, it looks as though I am averaging about six a day, but in terms of actual responses to my posts and generating larger amounts of traffic it seems to appear less than satisfactory. However, I like to think of this as more of a learning lession in marketing. This means I need to think outside the box of normal advertising and start getting creative.

One idea I had for generating more traffic to the site is to create an interesting video and post it on the streaming video sites such as YouTube, Hulu, and Myspace. Streaming video is becoming a popular form of advertising since it's growing popularity has resulted in video streaming becoming as effective as television advertisements (Independent study confirms effectiveness..., 2004). I have Pinnacle 10 editing software, so I need to either find my video camera and make an entry through real life footage or create my own dramatized footage through video I find online.

Another idea is to join in with cross-promotional advertising. One form is to create a quiz called "What Type of Media Are You?" in order to fit into the theme and then figure out a way to link the quiz back to my profile. At first, I was thinking that possibly I can send the format to others blogs and have them add it to their blog in order to create more interactivity between their blogs and their users (while adding a link to my blog in case they want to know who made the quiz), but seeing as how it may not be enough of a benefit for other blogs, I need to think of another form of cross-promotional marketing.

I'm mostly brainstorming ways to build traffic at the moment. I could try to join Google AdSense. I could add more interactive activities such as polls and quizzes to the blog and publicize it on social sites such as Facebook and Myspace. LOL, or maybe I can pull a Stephen Colbert and declare war on another blog. I'm looking at you...Apple Blog! I shall continue to brainstorm ideas and I'm willing to accept any other ideas you have for me.

Independent study confirms effectivness of streaming ads on MSN Video is on par with TV ads. Microsoft. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from