Is Facebook Readying Its Secret Ad Weapon Vs. Google?

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From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It looks like Facebook is getting ready to add a new button to let people signal not just what they “like,” but what they “want.”

Software developer Tom Waddington flagged the possibility on his blog on June 27, but we all just got around to noticing it yesterday and today. The button is disabled right now, and Facebook isn’t saying anything about it, but  Waddington thinks it could become the basis for a sort of universal wishlist that developers and sites could get access to.

This could prove to be a pretty big deal for a company whose challenge before and after its initial public offering has been persuading marketers–and investors–that its advertising works. Although many examples have surfaced that seem to indicate the value of Facebook ads, one central doubt remains, especially vs. Google, the king of online advertising: Can Facebook ads ever provide an indication of purchase intent that’s anything close to that of search ads?

A “want” button would add to the wealth of data about Facebook users’ interests, demographics, location and, yes, likes. Because it’s an indication of something people clearly desire, it gets a lot closer to the surpassing value of Google’s AdWords system, widely acknowledged by marketers as one of the most concrete indications of intent to buy, and buy soon. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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Don’t Kid Yourself–Project Glass Will Produce An Advertising Bonanza For Google

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

One of the first questions about Project Glass, the augmented-reality glasses that Google debuted in fine style this week with a skydiving stunt in San Francisco, was whether we’d see ads plastered on the tiny screen in front of our faces.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has been championed this project to create a new kind of wearable computer, couldn’t have made his intentions clearer: No plans for ads. That’s despite the helpful video above that one wag created to show Google just how ads might work on Glass.

But make no mistake: While I think that, like the driverless car, Project Glass is cool and groundbreaking enough that Brin and the company for now simply want to see where it goes, Google’s advertising business could be a big beneficiary. And maybe not too long after they hit the streets next year for software developers and the year after that for consumers. Here’s how:

* Google will now know what you’re likely to want next–right here, right now. Already, smartphones are providing Google and others the ability to know where you are and serve you ads from nearby businesses. But potentially with Glass devices, Google will also be able to see and analyze not just where you are but what you’re looking at. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

LIVE From Google I/O, Day 2: Google Compute Engine Takes On Amazon Web Services

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior VP of Chrome and Apps, at Google I/O June 28

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It’s all about the Web here on Day 2 of Google’s annual I/O developer conference–Google’s Web. In contrast to yesterday’s focus on the search giant’s Android mobile operating software, today will focus on the power of the Web, in particular Google’s Chrome operating software for cloud computing.

There’s another keynote whose highlights I will liveblog below, though it’s hard to see how Google will outdo yesterday’s skydiving demo of Google Glass wearable computers. No doubt Google has reserved a surprise or two, though.

Update: The big announcement is Google Compute Engine, a rival to Amazon Web Services, which powers many websites. It’s promising it will offer 50% more compute power for the price. Also, Google Docs now will work offline when you don’t have an Internet connection, solving a big obstacle. Offline presentations and spreadsheets to follow later. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

For Once, Google Tops Apple: Today’s Death-Defying Demo

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Apple is legendary for its demos at its software developer conferences, introducing products that surprise and delight the crowd and then consumers. Even with the passing of cofounder and master showman Steve Jobs last year, Apple will likely continue to set the gold standard in launching products in the most public and desire-inducing way.

Google? It’s known more for rather geeky demos, and even one or two that didn’t work very well, like the demo of Google TV two years ago.

Today, however, it outdid itself–and even more amazing, outdid Apple. Reminiscent of Jobs’ famous “one more thing” announcements, Google cofounder Sergey Brin bounded onto the stage at the Google I/O conference keynote to “interrupt” VP Vic Gundotra with a demo of Google Glass, those wearable computer glasses he has been seen wearing in the last few months.

But this wasn’t just any demo. Google had a few people in an airship wearing the glasses, and when they looked down on San Francisco, it was pretty cool in a vertiginous sort of way.

Then it became apparent that these guys (and a woman) weren’t going to stay in the airship for long. They were going to jump. Over a heavily populated city. Onto the roof of the very conference center where Brin and 5,000 engineers were gathered. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

LIVE at Google I/O Conference: New Tablets, Home Media Player, Google Glass and More

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Google’s annual conference for developers, Google I/O, is about to begin here on the morning of June 27, with the usual secrecy about what it will announce to thousands of engineers attending. What’s likely: a cheap tablet, a Google cloud service, and more.

Update: See much more below, but here are the big things Google introduced: the new version of Android, called Jelly Bean, completely expected; the Nexus 7 7-inch tablet, also as expected; and, in a surprise, Nexus Q, a home media device. Also, software developers will be able to pre-order Google Glass, those wearable goggle computers, which cofounder Sergey Brin demonstrated as colleagues did a skydive from an airship to the roof of the conference building.

I’ll be liveblogging the highlights here, so keep refreshing to see what will be unveiled. Remember, this is a software developers conference, so even the keynotes tend to get very nerdy; I’ll spare you the most arcane details as much as I can.

Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of engineering and longtime emcee, opens up the proceedings for this fifth annual event. “We still have some surprises left,” he promises. …

See the complete post, including an appearance by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, at The New Persuaders.

Google’s Android Kills Apple’s iOS On Facebook Mobile Ad Performance

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

More evidence is piling up that Facebook’s mobile advertising–the lack of which was probably a factor in Facebook’s underwhelming IPO–could turn out to be a pretty good business after all. Major brands, in fact, are finding that people tend to click on mobile ads, and buy products as a result, much more often than they do on the rest of Facebook’s ads–and the best may be yet to come.

But what hasn’t come to light is how much differently consumers respond to ads depending on what type of smartphone they use–and the results are surprising. On average, people using Google’s Android devices click on ads up 10% to 55% more than they do on Apple’s iPhones, according to data from Optimal, an ad management firm that uses massive amounts of audience data to help marketers run ads on Facebook and other social media services.

What’s more, conversion rates on those clicks–the rate at which people then proceed to become a fan by “liking” a brand or brand page post–are 28% to 109% higher for Android users. The data comes from four advertisers that spent up to thousands of dollars on their campaigns. …

Read the complete post on The New Persuaders.

Why Google’s New Tablet Could Be The iPad’s First Real Competition

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Google is just a couple of days away from debuting a new tablet that could finally shake up a market utterly dominated so far by Apple’s iPad.

Reports from Gizmodo and others say Google is likely to introduce the diminutive 7-inch tablet at its Google I/O developers conference (whose Wednesday keynote I will be covering live here). The kicker, according to the reports: The tablet, built by Asus, will start at $199 for an 8 GB of memory, up to $249 for a 16 GB version.

Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire already plowed this pricing ground, of course, so such a tablet wouldn’t be entirely new. But while the Fire has been reasonably successful for Amazon, it hasn’t made much of an apparent dent in the iPad because of its limitations, including a somewhat app platform controlled by Amazon itself. And the Fire doesn’t run a standard version of Android, making it tougher yet for developers to do apps for it.

Let’s not forget Microsoft’s coming Surface tablet, either. But the reported pricing on that device, introduced last week, sounds quite close to the iPad’s. So unless it’s significantly better, which seems doubtful, it seems unlikely to mount a serious challenge.

But Google’s tablet, assuming as Chairman Eric Schmidt has promised (and this is a very big assumption) that it performs well, could for the first time challenge the iPad. And it would come at a time when tablets are the focus of everyone in tech from chipmakers and hardware manufacturers to app developers to marketers and publishers hoping to capitalize on a new mobile Internet device that could give them the creative canvas to rival (or exceed) the appeal of television and magazines. Here’s why Google might have a hit this time:

* It’s cheap. Now, merely being cheap won’t guarantee people will buy it in sufficient numbers to matter. But at $199, it doesn’t have to be every bit as good as the iPad. As Clayton Christensen has noted in cases dating all the way back to the transistor radio in the 1950s, a rival can most successfully challenge an established incumbent not by matching it feature-by-feature, but by offering something good enough for most people for a lot less money.

* The rock-bottom price will attract more app developers. If it’s decent enough to sell a lot thanks to the low price, that suddenly makes Android a more attractive platform for app developers. One of several reasons the iPad is the most popular app platform is that Apple controls the operating system version so developers don’t need to rewrite an app for each device running different versions. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Here’s How One Marketer Made Google Mobile Ads Pay Off

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Amid widespread concerns that mobile advertising may never work as well as ads served to people’s desktop and laptop computers, several companies are attempting to prove the naysayers wrong. Facebook partners piled on earlier this week with studies showing the social network’s mobile ads produce way more clicks and revenues than its desktop ads.

Now it’s Google’s turn. This morning it’s trotting out, along with updated mobile search ads, a case study of how T-Mobile last year used Google mobile search ads to try to get more new customer activations to its cellular service. Kari Nicholas, T-Mobile’s director of media, said in an interview that the company aimed to do that by making it easier to sign up online or reach them via their existing mobile phone to visit nearby stores.

The main goal, given that most people doing a search on T-Mobile or other more general wireless-related words such as smartphones or 4G are likely to be well down the path to getting a new phone or service, was to guide those searchers quickly and easily to the nearest store. So the campaign served separate ads to mobile users, automatically showing both the nearest store on a map and a click-to-call button. The company also served different ads depending on whether the person had an Android or an iPhone or was on a particular service such as Verizon or T-Mobile.

The results: In one month, the campaign attracted 162,000 people to T-Mobile’s website. The mobile search ads tied to a person’s location got a lot of clicks–a 13% click-through rate, which is orders of magnitude higher than standard display ads. And the ads also generated 20,000 phone calls to stores. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

By the Numbers: How Facebook Social Ads Paid Off for Two Brands

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

With its IPO quiet period shackles off, Facebook has been pumping out the case studies and numbers, hoping to counter the constant drumbeat of stories about how its ads don’t work. It’s releasing a few more today, a couple of them focused in particular on how paid ads can supplement the free pages that some brands like GM believe are all they need on the social network. They also indicate that Facebook ads can help drive actual sales, not just a higher propensity to consider a brand or a purchase.

These numbers are from Facebook, so judge them in that light. But they’re also from the brands themselves, which are often wary of releasing data like this that might help competitors. So they’re worth paying attention to.

Videogame giant Electronic Arts had built up a Facebook fan base of 1.5 million by last October, when it was readying the launch of Battlefield 3. At that point, EA spent $2.75 million on Sponsored Stories, which are ads that highlight people’s Likes and comments on a brand to their Facebook friends. In this case, the ads led people directly to online ordering sites.

The result: EA reckons the ads resulted in an additional $12.1 million in game sales. So for each dollar EA spent on Facebook ads, it generated $4.38 in additional revenues. …

Read the complete post on The New Persuaders.

Is the Online Ad Industry Too Obsessed With Technology?

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

When two data collection companies you’ve barely heard of, Epsilon and Acxiom, are named by the trade magazine Advertising Age as the top ad agencies in the country, you know technology has arrived as the key driver of advertising innovation. But not everyone thinks that’s such a great thing for a business whose purpose, at some level, is still to elicit in human beings an emotional connection with brands.

The issue was explored in some depth at two panels at a recent Google online advertising event for advertisers, agencies, and publishers. The discussions, lively at times, shed some light on when technology is the answer and when it’s the problem for marketers as they try to reach consumers in new ways.

On the first panel, which looked at what’s needed for the rapidly emerging ad tech ecosystem to serve advertisers, agencies, publishers and ultimately consumers, were moderator Terry Kawaja, CEO of boutique investment bank Luma Partners; Omar Tawokol, CEO of ad data firm BlueKai; ex-agency exec Greg Stuart, global CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association; Kurt Unkel, president of the digital ad buying unit of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi; and Shishir Mehrotra, VP of product management at Google’s YouTube. Here (paraphrased in some cases, with a few comments of my own in italics) is what they had to say:

Q: How do we get to $300 billion to $400 billion in display ad revenues? Is the fragmentation of media that media people worry about actually a way we might get there? …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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