Ashton Kutcher Media Visionary…Yes.

How Ashton Kutcher is pioneering a new kind of media business, bridging Hollywood, technology, and Madison Avenue. Really? Who would have thought I would be grabbing pearls of wisdom fro m the star of Punk’d but I found some interesting insights.
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His new company Katalyst HQ is a Web-based video serial that puts the staff of Kutcher’s production company, Katalyst, through a loosely scripted, hopefully funny parody of its workday. The current 16-week “season” is sponsored by Hot Pockets, the savory pastry item whose creators want us to “eat freely,” unencumbered by a knife and fork.

The program is a collaboration between Katalyst; Slide, a Web company founded by Max Levchin of PayPal fame; advertising titan Publicis Groupe; and Nestlé, which owns Hot Pockets. It has been a huge hit, with millions of reposts of the videos on Facebook, each one reaching an average of 65 friends. What a diverse group.

“There is nothing really like this out there,” says Mike Niethammer, Nestlé’s group marketing manager.

The Katalyst HQ series illuminates what Kutcher’s production company wants to become: not just a home for his television and movie projects but also a go-to source for brands looking to deploy what’s called “influencer marketing,” a squishy hybrid of entertainment content, advertising, and online conversation that finds its audience via video, animation, Twitter, blogs, texts, and mobile. “Entertainment, really, is a dying industry,” says Kutcher. “We’re a balanced social-media studio, with revenue streams from multiple sources” — film, TV, and now digital. “For the brand stuff, we’re not replacing ad agencies but working with everyone to provide content and the monetization strategies to succeed on the Web.”

Kutcher, 31, is not exactly the image of a business visionary. He’s still best known for his eight seasons as Michael Kelso, the pretty-boy lunkhead from That ’70s Show, and as the executor of cringe-worthy celebrity pranks on the hit MTV show Punk’d. (Not to mention his marriage to Demi Moore.)

But his future, Kutcher insists, will be all about business. He intends to become the first next-generation media mogul, using his own brand as a springboard. “Punk’d is part of who he is,” says Sarah Ross, Katalyst’s director of new media. “We’re using his brand as a syndication system.”

If this all seems far-fetched, hang in there. Mask off, Kutcher holds forth nonstop on his multi-platform plans. He talks of Web trending, content pirating, and the fact that Twitter has yet to make any money. “If we in this industry don’t figure something out, we’re going to go the way of the music industry and be cannibalized by the Web,” says Kutcher. “It’s really a war to make money.”

It’s not just talk. Some 3.9 million people follow Kutcher on Twitter (@aplusk), and he has nearly 3.3 million Facebook fans. Those numbers have helped attract corporate clients beyond Nestlé — including Pepsi and Kellogg — and supporters such as Oprah, Larry King, and former News Corp. No. 2 Peter Chernin.

Kutcher and his partner, Jason Goldberg, spent the better part of two years courting the wizards of Silicon Valley, converting them from teachers and skeptics to friends and allies. For all their pranks, Katalyst’s digital division can claim one thing most other social-media businesses can’t: profitability.

Even if Kutcher turns out to be more style than substance and Katalyst doesn’t become the Next Big Thing, Kutcher’s experiment points toward a new model for the evolving media business that connects Hollywood, tech, and Madison Avenue. No kidding.

Kutcher in making the case for his business takes jabs at the companies that have fueled him in the social space, specifically Twitter and Facebook. And he’s pretty funny about it, even if he’s also sorta serious.

“When I have a conversation with someone and they say, ‘I’m not worried about monetization yet,’ that scares the shit out of me,” he says poking fun at social Web companies that run up their user base without regard for how they’re going to make money. “I’m part of an industry that is struggling daily. Daily. And I’m always worried about the numbers.”

“You cannibalize this business…a profit-positive business that trades at a decent multiple, and you’re just going to put people out of work. And these folks are counting on just figuring it out. And if they don’t, we’re fucked! That’s not okay.”

“I can sell a more-targeted individual based on the content that you want — blah blah,” referring to Facebook, “Fucking awesome, dude. Go do it. And make a ton of money off of that, and I’ll make programming for that all day. But nobody is actually doing that.”

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Kutcher on ad agencies.

“For years, the ad business has been happy to have a completely ambiguous accounting system that they’ve been monetizing off,” he says, referring to Nielsen ratings. “Now that the Web offers a slightly more granular dollars-and-cents audience-acquisition metric — now they’re going to get completely granular about how they’re getting money?”

What the Katalyst team is planning, he says, is simple: Make entertaining stuff, give it to people where they already are, let them have some fun with it, and mix in brand messaging. And because of the viral nature of the Web, each new consumer is cheaper to win than the last one. “The algorithm is awesome,” Kutcher says. “Katalyst is a merger of three industries.”

“A piece of us is connected to ad agencies. Because we get the complex overlay of the social Web, we know how to engage an audience and how to make entertainment for the social Web. And we know how to gain and activate and retain an audience. So we create social networks for brands.”

This is the way things are going, says Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. “Katalyst is way out on the leading edge in terms of thinking this stuff through.” Katalyst steps into the gap left by ad agencies that gave up on the Web after the dotcom bust. “Banner ads aren’t going to cut it,” he says. “And media companies have not been creative or aggressive about making products designed for engagement marketing. Now that’s changing, giving brand advertisers a new way and reason to buy.”

Garrit Schmidt, who leads the experience design and client-strategy practice for digital marketing firm Razorfish, agrees. “People are discovering that experience matters more than traditional advertising now,” he notes. “Using celebrity as a personal sphere of influence is an interesting [distribution] model.” Of course it’s risky, Schmidt adds, because the more commercialized personalities become, the less influence they have. Kutcher acknowledges this: “I am consciously risking my career on the edge of what’s too much information. Eventually, we’ll open up this platform to others, just like Facebook and developers. For this to work, it has to be open.”

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A Snapshot of Women and Interactive

The power of the female customer will not only influence how brands market this year and next; it will define the business and marketing strategies for at least the first few decades of the 21st century.

Women are calling for recognition in the form of consumer parity. They want to be acknowledged as an individual consumer with individual needs, rather than anonymous members of the female demographic. “I know I’m a woman,” she’s saying. “But I’m not like every other woman. Would you please start speaking to me about what matters to me?”

What’s causing this wave of feminism to spread at an epidemic rate? The emergence of the newest form of communication technology – the Internet and smart devices like the Blackberry.

Women are devoting more and more of their highly valuable time to researching, reaching out, and shopping online. It fits their multitasking lifestyle perfectly, with instant access to products, services, and each other – completing a full circle in the purchasing and influencing process.

Technology has made women the mainstream customer base of today and tomorrow. And it’s not going away.

New Harris Interactive Study: During Economic Downturn, Mobile Advertising Seen as Key to Reaching O

A new Harris Interactive study on people’s attitudes toward the economy and technology reveals that despite skyrocketing fuel prices and rising costs for daily household staples, over one-third of consumers say the dire economy will not affect their spending habits.
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Harris Interactive reports that the majority (60 percent) of consumers who will now limit their discretionary spending will curtail going out to restaurants (74 percent) and limit their purchase of electronics (71 percent), among other choices like buying fewer clothes and taking fewer vacations.

Grabbing consumer’s attention through their mobile devices is seen as an increasingly viable advertising channel. To many the use of mobile phones has become an indispensable part of their lives.
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People are actually severing ties to land lines with increasing frequency. According to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, 16 percent of U.S. homes are using wireless phones exclusively – more than double the amount from the same period in 2004.

These trends support the push by marketers to leverage mobile advertising as part of an integrated marketing program to promote their brands and sell products and services, Harris analysts conclude – especially during difficult economic times.

Business may be slowing for many companies but, the fact is, there are a lot of people who are still spending money and even those cutting back still need to buy essentials. The key is to reach out to them through innovative marketing including mobile advertising and provide the right incentives to capture their business.

The Harris Interactive research indicates that mobile advertising, especially via mobile phones, can gain a foothold among this large and growing group if it is unobtrusive, targeted toward an individual’s personal tastes and offers something unique.

Among adults surveyed, 37 percent said they would be interested in viewing mobile ads with incentives.
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No other advertising medium approaches the personal relationship consumers have with their mobile devices. This relationship needs to be respected, but can be leveraged by marketers through robust segmentation and personalization.

The key is to gain consumer interest by providing them with something traditional advertising cannot.

Harris Interactive asked survey respondents to identify the best mobile advertising incentives. Cash is king, with 80 percent of adults identifying it as the top incentive for responding to mobile advertising.
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Among adults, free minutes (49 percent) and discount coupons (37 percent) are appealing incentives. Free entertainment (31 percent) and music (24 percent) downloads also captured the attention of adults.

In terms of how these incentives should best be delivered, the Harris Interactive research indicates text messaging is the most preferred advertising approach among over two-thirds (69 percent of adults consumers.

The allure of video imagery in mobile advertising is key and 30% more of these adult mobile technology users are open to ads being transferred automatically to their email than in the past.

“Adults are growing more accustomed to mobile advertising, but it appears this technology in general has yet to deliver the needed advertising experience to consumers, but this will surely come as the medium evolves,” said Judith Ricker, division president, Harris Interactive research group.

“No matter how mobile advertising messages are delivered, our research shows that consumers demand that if a company is going to invade their personal space with advertising, it better be for something of interest to them so personalization is hyper-critical.”
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Providing personal information to marketers to help them target advertising messages and products has always been a sensitive topic, but more than half, 54 percent of adult respondents said they are comfortable doing so for mobile advertisers, especially if offered for the right incentive.

Like any good advertising, mobile ads must be relevant to consumers by conveying a clear value proposition, as well as tightly integrated into marketing campaigns that are aligned with the overall brand strategy. Adult consumers in will provide some degree of personal information to help marketers achieve this.

Google: This is your Brain on Advertising

This article appeared Mediapost and it shows how although tradition is considered “dead” by many it has now invading the web very aggressively.

Madison Avenue is increasingly turning to neuroscience to refine the art of crafting successful ad campaigns. The Nielsen Co. jumped into the field earlier this year by investing in Berkeley, Calif.-based research firm NeuroFocus, which applies neuroscience to advertising research.

Now Google is applying “neuromarketing” to video advertising. In a study released Thursday, Google and MediaVest used NeuroFocus findings to show that overlay ads appearing in YouTube videos grab consumers’ attention and boost brand awareness.
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YouTube-owner Google has championed overlay ads–which appear in the lower third of video screens–as a less intrusive alternative to pre-roll ads. But the format has failed to gain much traction with advertisers, and earlier this month Google announced it would begin running pre-, mid- and post-roll ads with the launch of full-length videos on YouTube. Sounds subliminal doesn’t it?
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With revenue from YouTube ads falling short of company expectations at an estimated $200 million this year–mostly from display ads–the pressure grows to find new ways to monetize the Web’s largest video site.

Through the overlay study, Google is clearly trying to make the case for the format to brand advertisers that may be skeptical. “Overlay ads are a format used primarily for branding campaigns, so measuring click-through rate is not the most effective way to measure success,” said the company in a statement.

Ruby Pseudo’s “Teen Commandments for Brands Wanting to ‘Do Digital’”

I thought this was frank and useful…the teen market is now bigger than the Baby Boomer market and although they have less to spend than their parents…they will be the consumers of the future for many brands today.

1. Too often, I think brands believe frippery is fantastic, it’s not – get to the point. Kids – like adults – probably want to know something along the lines of the following from your site… a) where your nearest store, event or retailer is, b) what your product/event/etc is going to cost them, c) how to get in touch with you or d) something pretty much damn nothing like playing a game whereby you click a cursor so some girls knickers fall off.

2. Present the freaking facts. Have a place where kids can put their own opinions down, and be approachable.

3. Don’t redirect them, that’s just rude – they’ve just turned up at your digital door. Sort your URL out.

4. Don’t put some tune you think is ‘hip’ on in the background; it won’t be.

5. And don’t turn up on their Facebook page and think you know what’s going on – you don’t.

6. Also, whilst we’re at it, if they’re recently broken hearted, they won’t want to speak to you about it. Secondly, they don’t want you shoving some ‘Single? Broken-Hearted?” quip questions at them either. Have some manners.

7. Bebo… is not looked at by anyone over the age of 12. I’d say 8, but they’ll have some statistic to wak back at me that would disprove my point.

8. Do not, whatever you do, appropriate youth culture on your site, but hell, we hope you know this.

9. Avoid pop-ups. Kids hate them.

10. Finally, with Facebook and MySpace etc, please remember that you’re in their (digital) space: they didn’t ask you to be there, and they can’t very well ask you to leave, so talk nicely. And if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

Getting an ‘Eagle Eye’ Film Experience Via Mobile Marketing.

In “Eagle Eye,” the Dreamworks/Paramount Pictures thriller set for release this weekend, the lead characters are driven to extreme acts by a mysterious woman who contacts them via their mobile phones.
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So what better way to promote the movie than through a mobile-marketing campaign?

The effort, created by Millennial Media for Paramount, follows the movie’s plot, without giving too much away, and drives consumers to opt in for voice, text and mobile-web messages similar to what “Eagle Eye” protagonists Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) experience.

Eric Eller, senior VP-marketing at Millennial, said his definition of a great mobile campaign is one that creates compelling content that is easy to share with others and links to the consumer mobile experience. Thanks to the content of the movie, the last parameter was a given.

“In this case it was easier than usual, and it’s even more interesting because we could bring into play all the ways people use mobile phones — calling, text and mobile web,” he said.

All will be revealed…The first message the user receives is a call, voiced by the same mysterious woman in the movie, warning that “you’ve been activated” and that the line is no longer secure. Other warnings and hints come via text messages, interactive voice response and SMS. The upshot of all this builds to hype the movie, when “all will be revealed on Sept. 26.”
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There was also a sweepstakes for a chance to win a $1,000 gift card from Circuit City for those who opt in.

Millennial placed mobile banner ads across its network at a wide variety of websites, including the homepages for Major League Baseball, CBS News, TV Guide and Weatherbug, to drive consumers to opt into the campaign. Consumers can join by inputting their phone numbers right into a box on the banner.

“This groundbreaking campaign is an excellent example of how advertisers can creatively use today’s mobile technologies to connect their content to consumers,” said Michael Rosenberg, manager of national advertising at Paramount, in a release. “We are delivering a highly distinctive theatrical marketing vehicle which brings the ‘Eagle Eye’ film experience to its consumers in a new and exciting way.”

This mobile campaign marked the seventh time Paramount tapped Millennial for theatrical or home-entertainment releases. It is also the latest in a series of aggressive marketing pushes for the anticipated blockbuster that includes not only outdoor, radio, print and TV, but also digital marketing, including well-received alternate-reality game “Eagle Eye Freefall.”

Internet and the Election of 2008

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The following facts and figures are from http://www.pewinternet.org, As I studied for my MBA last year I used them a great deal as a source of accurate information especially since I was studying international marketing and the web is such a key element to successful business these days.
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I thought is was appropriate to share this as we are all Xanga freaks and use the web daily to express ourselves, so too do the parties and candidates. Although McCain says he doesn’t know the web very well his staff certainly realize its power and Obama is using the web more than any candidate in history.
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A record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.
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Barack Obama’s backers have an edge in the online political environment. Furthermore, three online activities have become especially prominent as the presidential primary campaigns progressed:

First, 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos, a figure that nearly triples the reading the Pew Internet Project got in the 2004 race.

Second, 10% say they have used social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved. This is particularly popular with younger voters: Two-thirds of internet users under the age of 30 have a social networking profile, and half of these use social networking sites to get or share information about politics or the campaigns.

Third, 6% of Americans have made political contributions online, compared with 2% who did that during the entire 2004 campaign.

A significant number of voters are also using the internet to gain access to campaign events and primary documents. Some 39% of online Americans have used the internet to access “unfiltered” campaign materials, which includes video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements, as well as position papers and speech transcripts.

Online activism using social media has also grown substantially since the first time we probed this issue during the 2006 midterm elections.

More web facts regarding this election:
1. 11% of Americans have contributed to the political conversation by forwarding or posting someone else’s commentary about the race.
2. 5% have posted their own original commentary or analysis.
3. 6% have gone online to donate money to a candidate or campaign.
4. Young voters are helping to define the online political debate; 12% of online 18-29 year olds have posted their own political commentary or writing to an online newsgroup, website or blog. Led by young voters, Democrats and Obama supporters have taken the lead in their use of online tools for political engagement. _
5. 74% of wired Obama supporters have gotten political news and information online, compared with 57% of online Clinton supporters.
6. In a head-to-head match-up with internet users who support Republican McCain, Obama’s backers are more likely to get political news and information online (65% vs. 56%).

Obama supporters outpace both Clinton and McCain supporters in their usage of online video, social networking sites and other online campaign activities. Yet despite the growth in the number of people who are politically engaged online, internet users express some ambivalence about the role of the internet in the campaign.
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On one hand, 28% of wired Americans say that the internet makes them feel more personally connected to the campaign, and 22% say that they would not be as involved in the campaign if not for the internet. At the same time, however, even larger numbers feel that the internet magnifies the most extreme viewpoints and is a source of misinformation for many voters.