Category Archives: strategy

Google vs News

It seems like a good 20% of the news produced on the internet in the last few months is about news on the internet. Declined as newspapers are doomed, journalists are doomed, journalism is doomed, we are doomed.  And if you’re looking for the killer, you should probably head to Montainview.

Perhaps that explains why like Google has recently joined the club or the more-or-less enthusiastic supporters of micro-payments, using the Google Checkout platform.

However media companies shouldn’t be celebrating, as I think this will turn out to be little more than a PR initiative from a company that’s being accused of being a parasite.

The reasons why micropayments are very unlikely to work still stand:

– In the math of consumers, unlike the math of business models, the difference between zero cents and 1 cent is not one cent. It’s the difference between the feeling of grabbing something for free and the feeling of paying with your limited resources, plus the hassle of registering into and going through a payment verification system. (Dan Ariely has done lots of interesting research on behavioural psychology, check him out)

News can be easily replicated and divulged. Apart from any ideological considerations now why news should be free, it’s simply impossible to keep them from spreading. The same applies to editorials and any other from of digital text.

The analogy with iTunes is wrong: music is something that you own and use over time, whereas for everyone but researchers news are disposable.

The analogy with iTunes is misleading: from every song purchased on iTunes, an estimated 99 are still downloaded via p2p piracy. That’s not what I would call a successful business model for an industry.

Pricing policies would be a nightmare: is an all-you-can-eat model feasible for a search-driven, snack-size consumption? Can you fragment a newspaper down to its elementar financial value? (Clay Shirky suggested you can’t back in 2000, it’s funny to see how the debate hasn’t moved further.)

– They provide a massive advantage for free-riders: the one news organization that will publish news for free will receive almost all the traffic, and the related ad-driven revenues.

It’s no coincidence that 2009 was supposed to be the year when media starts demanding its money back, and so far everyone’s waiting for someone else to take the first step, and the risk of being considered a fool.

Final Burp: So, why is Google going down this route? PR. Why are media owners doing it? Self-delusion.


Random thoughts about Cannes Lions

Domino’s “You got 30 minutes” won a Bronze in Titanium and Integrated. They deserved at least a silver.

Hyunday’s Assurance also won a Bronze in Titanium and Integrated, and this is more controversial. If you see creative agencies for what they have become and are going to be more and more, and that’s idea factories, this deserved a Grand Prix (or at least a Gold, since one could argue that Obama For America was actually bigger and more influential).

If instead you see creative agencies for what they traditionally were, then you value the tv-execution more than the business idea (“if you lose your job you can return your car to us”), and in that case it doesn’t even deserve to be shortlisted.

But if you’re honest about it, you have to give it a Gold. (Cmon, it’s way more influential than Sprint’s Now, that is just a cute, contemporary idea…)

More great, inspiring work? Google “HD loves HB”, “Best job in the world”, “The village where nothing ever happens”, “This is not a jersey”.

Final Burp: Any, litterally any shortlisted entry from 2009 would kick the ass of any winner from the 90s. Despite all the predictions of doom, this IS a great age for advertising.

Pizza Hut made me feel like an idiot. (And I’m not sure it’s a good thing…)



I found a link to the above site from Pizza Hut, and I thought: wow!, what a brilliant and simple idea!

The privilege of having your face featured on a pizza is no longer reserved to Jesus, Mary and Kurt Cobain…

This is what I would expect from Domino ever since they started working with Crispin, and instead it comes from the same Pizza Hut whose latest brand initiatives were,  let’s say, debatable at least…


So I gladly uploaded the picture I wanted on my pizza:





and this is what I got back:




And it made me feel like an idiot.

Now,  I don’t know who pitched this idea to Pizza Hut, but I’m pretty sure they said that it would be “fun social content” that would “engage your hard-to-reach, on-the-go, web-savy consumers”,  allowing the brand to “entertain them”, and of course “it would go viral”. 

My problem with this is that April’s Fools are designed to make you feel like an idiot because they are clearly  hyperbolic stunts that no person with a sense of reality would fall for. (Like, let’s say, building a global financial system on mortgages paid for by people who can’t afford them, backed by houses that noone would want to live in…)

In this case, portrait pizzas are feasible. You need a relatively simple algorythm (one that you can find online for free), a variety of different ingredients (the same you can find in any Pizza Hut) and a little time (maybe more than what Pizza Hut is currently taking to bake a pizza, but I have no doubt taht consumers would be willing to wait 10 minutes longer to have a personalized portrait pizza).

So, to sum things up:

  1. Pizza Hut came up with a feasible and unique marketing idea
  2. Instead of making it happen, they used it as an April’s Fool
  3. In doing so, not only they walked away from its marketing value: they made their potential consumers feel like idiots


The irony of all this is that the more people try to customize their pizza, the more an evidence it is that it could have been a great marketing idea. And instead, it’s just more people that will be annoyed at Pizza Hut.

Quite an achievement for a brand under pressure.

It will be interesting to see how many people actually redeemed the coupon, and how this influenced brand perception…


Final Burp: Do you want to do something audacious, engaging,  edgy and viral as a marketer? Make a damn good product! That’s your job.

Internet Explorer 8 tells the history of the web

I have a feeling that there’s something new about Microsoft, but I may be wrong. Here’s what I’m talking about.

To celebrate the arrival of Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft has produced a pretty nice and cute ad that tells the story of the internet. It’s sweet, and it treats the web with a sense of humanity.


Now, someone could say that it’s the same old story we experienced with Vista already: MS pours money into advertising to fool consumers about a poor product, instead of fixing it.


However, there are two things I like about the ad for IE 8.

Firstly, it’s sweet. Tender. It shows genuine affection for the web, something users all over the world are reluctant to give Microsoft credit for, given how disappointing its web properties, and namely IE,  have been so far.  And it shows this kind of affection in a human way, celebrating the flaws of the web alongside its virtues, and loving them both.

Secondly, if you visit the Internet Explorer 8 channel on Youtube, you find more good stuff like this: ok, it’s been online for six months already and so far only reached less than 600 views; ok, I don’t quite get the point of what it’s trying to say; but it has a nice tone of voice. And that’s quite something, considering how poorly Microsoft has historically performed in terms of brand personality.


I’m left wondering if CrispinPorter is somehow behind this…


Final Burp: if Microsoft keeps going down this route, they will soon and for the first time become the non-arrogant side of the big PC vs Mac divide. And who knows what will follow…

What will the next successful agency look like?

FutureLab has put together an interesting analysis on the communication industry, and particularly on the gap between what clients need (and expect) and what agencies can deliver. You can download it here.

I don’t quite agree with a few of the predictions, and I think it fails in reviewing the most innovative business models that a few agencies are currently exploring, most significantly the entrepreneurial experiments by BBH and the content creation by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky.

However, there are interesting considerations, among which this should raise the greatest concerns among agency leaders:

The consulting machines are coming: McKinsey, Accenture, Bain, IBM all have marketing specialists. When faced with unaccountable agency behaviour, they don‟t take prisoners. In fact, their analytical mindset and access to the C-suite puts them in a perfect position to capture premium strategy work which today still goes to agencies. As they are media and creative agnostics, their interventions are seen as neutral and efficient.


Final Burp: It’s up to the agencies to either build reliable, solid, in-house consulting expertise, or set in place partnership deals with traditional consulting firms.

Anti-abortion Ad following Obama’s first presidential choices

I’m pro-abortion but I must admit that this is a brilliant ad. It’s the first time that I see the catholic movement opposing abortion not on the base of a religious principles, that are expression of individual sensitivity and shouldn’t therefore affect regulations, but on the ground of common interest.

In a secular, free society a woman’s right to choose abortion is more important than the religious views of others , even if they represent a majority. But is it more important than the right of the society to be benefitted by the man that fetus could potentially become?


Final Burp: This response to one of Obama’s first act as president is way more effective than the traditional dogmatic position of the Catholic Church.

Predictions for 2009: Social Media

Ok ok, everyone’s talking about social media, it’s gone mainstream, there’s plenty of parliamentary petitions all over the world that take Facebook more seriously than they should, and we’re all tired of it. Still, social media is here to stay. At least for 2009.



“Friend Synchronization Tools”, as well as “Tools to reduce noice, deal with RSS overload

“Doors are going to close all over the social web. The money didn’t come the way people thought it would”. Interesting, but I doubt it’s going to  happen. Money always flows to the latest trends that everyone talks about, especially in uncertain times.

“B2B goes social media” Yes, this is something I would bet on. (If I had any money, of course.)

“Google will buy Twitter

“Mobile marketing takes off”. I wish.

“Live: as it happens content”. Now, this would be interesting.

“People will really become the media”


Final Burp: Social media will not dictate trends, it will deliver them.