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December 19: Best & Worst of 2007: Experts Weigh In


In 2007, what worked? What didn't? What was hot and what was definitely not?

We queried a wide variety of industry experts to postulate on the most memorable campaigns, tools, strategies and best technologies of 2007, along with some strategies that are better left gathering digital dust.

Our experts include:

Adam Broitman, director, emerging and creative strategy, Morpheus Media

Sean Cheyney, VP, marketing and business development, Accuquote

Chad Currie, VP/group creative director, T3

Tom Deierlein, COO, Dynamic Logic

Chas Edwards, publisher/chief revenue officer, Federated Media

Corey Kronengold, senior director, marketing and communications, Tremor Media

Andreas Roell, CEO/president, Geary Interactive

Doug Schumacher, president/creative director, Basement, Inc.

Glen Sheehan, VP/group creative director, T3

Barry Stamos, senior director-strategy, Responsys

Check out what they have to say!

Brands & Industries

Which brand made the best use of new media? How?
Doug Schumacher, Basement, Inc.: Microsoft, just because it puts its money where its mouth is, in terms of its online spending ratio. But Diesel had two campaigns this year that I thought were exceptional: "We hijacked Diesel" and "Denim Dating." Most companies can't fathom taking risks like that with their site, but Diesel does it and makes it seem effortless. They sell a progressive image, and lead by example.

Glen Sheehan, T3: Burger King has been a clear winner over the last few years and continues to be committed to using all modes of new media against a wide array of its targets. Its BKGames that launched in late 2006 continued selling and getting in the hands of gamers in 2007. Its tie-in to the Simpsons movie was a breakthrough. Its experimentation with mobile and activation of just about every program with new media proves online media can drive offline behavior.

Which brand, in your eyes, missed an opportunity?
Schumacher: The brands we're not seeing anything from online.

What industry made the best use of interactive in 2007?
Sean Cheyney, Accuquote: Entertainment and CPG.

Sheehan: There are three industries that have shown great commitment to new media, each achieving very different objectives. The auto industry drove consideration and relation; the fast food industry created affinity and awareness, driving consumers to stores and the entertainment/film industry drove buzz and patrons in seats with an array of tactics.

Schumacher: The music industry. Collectively, they try it all. Interactive music videos, sites that are all brand experience and everything from mobile to widgets. It's interesting that an industry so many regard as xenophobic is at the forefront of emerging technologies.

What was the biggest shake-up on the brand side?
Sheehan: The shake-up is not really a brand, but more a category -- the pursuit, consolidation and acquisition of ad serving companies by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!. The shift in publishing companies owning the primary data systems for delivery and targeting of our messages is like nothing we have seen in advertising. It will be very interesting.


What was your favorite campaign of the year? Why?
Chas Edwards, Federated Media:'s sponsorship of Ask A Ninja, in which the ninja invited his viewers to search for made-up ninja words at Not only did the campaign bring's campaign to an influential audience of young, influential heavy-internet users in a compelling way, it also drove more than 8 percent of the Ask A Ninja audience to for a trial.

Schumacher: The Diesel "We Hijacked Diesel" campaign. The most homepage real estate campaigns can usually snag is a module letting the visitor know that "yes, we did run that ad." Homepage space is allocated very conservatively, for the most part. So what better way to fuel (couldn't help it) its progressive, unconventional image than for one of its campaigns to completely take over their own site? It's also the single place on the web where a brand is most likely to be addressing its most avid customers, so it makes sense as the right place to stage such perceived risky business. And the content they put on the site was exceptional. Funny, sexy, irreverent. Overall, a smart strategy executed extremely well.

What campaign had the best use of mobile?
Tom Deierlein, Dynamic Logic: Hampton Inn partnered with Weather Channel Interactive.

Schumacher: It's a campaign by an entire industry. I'm amazed at the music industry's ability to get people to pay $2.50 for ringtones. They're a snippet of a song selling for less than half of that, and with a higher bit rate.

What campaign had the best use of email?
Barry Stamos, Responsys: Philosophy is a premium, boutique beauty brand. To avoid the mailbox clutter that can be associated with birthday offers, my company designed an email to be delivered one week prior to the recipient's actual birthday. Automation of the email trigger assured that no additional resources would be necessary for deployment. Integration between email and a web analytics provider not only automated the campaign but also the reports, including revenue generation, clickthrough and open rates.
Not only has the birthday campaign provided increased overall email revenue by presenting a positive brand message and appealing gift offer, but it also continues to contribute to the elevation of consumer-based devotion to Philosophy itself. Given that the return on initial investment was recouped within the first 30 days of the email deployment, this has proven to be an extremely profitable and worthwhile investment for Philosophy.

What campaign featured the best use of viral?
Stamos: Virgin America is a new player in the domestic airline business. While it waited for final approval from the Department of Transportation earlier this year, it needed a way to keep its potential customers interested and engaged and to expand its marketing contact database. Email offered an affordable, viral, interactive way to promote the brand and stay on the radar screen. The company launched a campaign with my company, Responsys, called "Name Our Planes," a viral contest that engaged potential customers and grew its permission email list. Virgin America used an email design and message that complemented the contest, which utilized personalization and references to the sender in several places throughout the copy. The email was a user-generated trigger. Sending the email to a friend was optional after a user entered the online contest. The user was also given an option to include a personal note to their friend, which was then passed along in the trigger email.
What campaign featured the best use of user-generated content?
Cheyney: TurboTax's Tap Rap; Heinz.

Edwards: HP iPaq 510's sponsorship of "voice posts" on blog sites such as Boing Boing, Searchblog and OhGizmo. It sponsored technology to allow leading blog authors to add audio content to their sites -- editorial content, not influenced by HP. One, it was highly relevant to the iPaq 510's brand proposition: smart phones that specialize in voice-to-text and text-to-voice functionality. Two, it left content to the experts in content-making, which resulted in a high audience engagement level. Three, it added value to blog publishers and their readers, and HP got the credit for it.

Which campaign garnered attention but shouldn't have?
Edwards: Big investment in branded entertainment that scored with the industry press but missed with Bud's audience.

Agencies & People

What agency pushed the envelope this year? How?
Edwards: Goodby. First, for its Sprint site and the Sprint Cuts concept. The campaign invited visitors or online publishers to try out the Sprint Cuts or submit their own, such as this one by Eric Wilhelm at Instructables. 

Second, there was its HP iPaq 510's voice post program.

Third, there was the HP Blackbird gaming PC launch.

Who's the biggest name in online marketing this year?
Roell: Apollo Group, the leader in adult education. Its purchase of Aptimus Media (the verdict is still out), an online ad network, showed to me the amount of strategic importance online as a vehicle has to large organizations. Being able to literally own your own ad inventory was to me a very smart move, and I expect other large companies to start to internalize online service providers, ad networks and technologies.

Cheyney: John Durham, Michael Walrath (founder, Right Media), Sean Finnegan.


What technology advanced the industry the most in 2007?
Chad Currie, T3:
The steady march of broadband ubiquity is quietly changing the industry under our noses. And it's not just in video. If not for the always-on nature of broadband, widgets, desktop push apps, data-driven banners and web office apps could not run. Those millions of tiny pings required to keep Web 2.0 utilities going depend on a bedrock of server availability. The increasing tolerance for high K sizes in banners is diminishing our tolerance for low-value production in digital advertising. Advertisers will have to up their production game to stay with customers.

Deierlein: Some may say something like widgets, but the reality is that video did the most for the industry by far. I am not sure that advertisers and media companies have quite solved the puzzle -- but even from the upfront and consumer behaviors and video consumption numbers it would be hard to argue that anything other than video in it's various formats and underlying technologies or platform did the most.

Andreas Roell, Geary Interactive: Analytic tools simply based on increased competitive forces led to significant improvements this year. We are starting to normalize the data variances from one tool to the next and are able to start integrating with offline data as well.

Schumacher: Widgets. They've gone from simple content embeds to push out an entire site in a couple years. Not many technologies progress that quickly. They place low demands on the user, they can push your brand out everywhere and they build search optimization. Not bad for something called a "widget."

What technology was the most overrated?
Currie: Second Life again. Put all marketing complaints aside for a moment. I have not yet found a consumer computer with enough juice to run it adequately.

Deierlein: Anything associated with user-generated content.

Roell: Social networks and the ad promise behind social networks is overrated. Consumer engagement levels have started to top off and are actually in decline. It is a lot of burden for time constrained individuals with hundreds of options to keep their profiles up to date. So besides an already identified low advertising in social networks, we will start to see declining usage data in all networks. The only growth will come from international expansions.

What technology was the most overlooked?
Currie: Google code. Okay, it's not one technology, but the concept is simple and powerful. Google solves all the common coding problems one at a time. They give those solutions away. The barrier to entry for making a compelling web app is now much lower, and the computing public will reap the benefits very soon.

Roell: We are still not embracing mobile as I thought we would do this year. Have you ever travelled to Australia and obviously Asia and Europe? Ads on cell phones, special web campaigns for mobile devices are very common and found everywhere. I thought that we would start seeing more traction around providing users tools, information and fun. I guess I have to wait another year.


What was the biggest innovation in video?
Currie: Adoption of full episode players across the four big networks. This is an innovation in business rather than technology. It is a brave leap forward for networks to tinker with how they are paid for the content they produce. It's a game-changing decision, and the writers strike is only one example of the fallout that is coming from it. As acceptance picks up, this format could share screen time with DVRs.

Roell: The start of speech recognition on UGVs and making them related to a user's search or interest. We, as marketers, are then obviously in the advantage to place targeted and relevant promotions around them, so good for the user and good for the marketer.

What was the biggest innovation in mobile?
Currie: Surprise. It's the iPhone. It's either innovation or just a breath of fresh air to simply offer the same web experience that PCs have. Also, the sliding panel interface metaphor is a blueprint for lots of small screen applications to come.

Edwards: Google opening up the platform. Combine this news with the iPhone's aggressive deal with ATT, and perhaps the carrier stranglehold on innovation is loosening.

Roell: The integration of GPS-based systems into marketers' messages and tools. Having the campaign or the tool know what my current location is makes it so cool to get nearby information.

What was the biggest innovation in targeting?
Facebook's Beacon still feels like the right direction even if Facebook did it wrong and got its hand slapped. This is what digital has been promising for a long time. And while it may not be a good idea to broadcast my purchase behavior to all my friends, it is the beginning of an era where I do not have to look at ads that are completely wrong for me.

Edwards: Facebook's Beacon. It fumbled the initial roll-out but will recover fast. Friend-based targeting has a better shot at understanding context or behavior than the current technology-only solutions.

Did anything come to fruition this year that you thought you'd never see?
Cheyney: Facebook's open API.

Currie: Sony stumbles with the PS3 and it may cost it the fight for the living room screen. Console gaming is really a fight to own the next digital media distribution and social networking platform. Sony worked so hard on hardware, but neglected developer relations. That's one area Microsoft has down and it made all the difference.

Deierlein: I think that mobile is finally hitting and is real. I have been in the space for more than a decade and waiting for the promise of mobile. I think it has officially arrived and will be a bigger part of buys in 2008, even if it still comes from the "experimental budget" or "media slush fund."

Roell: A big surprise was The Wall Street Journal sale to News Corp. I am worried about the content of my popular daily read, and I am afraid that the world will become even more about sensations, gossips and crime, as one of the most reputable media outlets was sold.

Headlines: Targeting, Social Networks, Metrics

Late in the year, AOL said it would begin offering a do-not-track list that would be similar to the do-not-call list for telemarketers. At the same time, behavioral targeting (BT) has come under fire from the FTC and some consumer advocacy groups. Is this much ado about nothing, or should online marketers be concerned about a backlash in 2008?
Corey Kronengold, Tremor Media: Without a doubt there is going to be some backlash as consumers become more aware of all of the different tracking going on. ISPs are now getting into the BT game as well. It will be interesting to see specifically what the consumer reaction is. People say they want more targeted advertising, and we can certainly deliver that, but they aren't willing to participate in the value exchange that it takes. And, will users be willing to give up their "Triple Play" packages if BT is implemented at the ISP level? We'll have to see how the opt-in and opt-out mechanisms develop. Cookies are deleted so often these days that people who have opted-out may be tracked because their "Do Not Track" cookie gets deleted. That's just how it works right now, and I'm sure it will change in the future. The irony to me, though, is what most people casually do every single day that are much larger privacy risks than BT represents. Would you rather have 128-bit encryption and security engineered by the brightest in the business or give your credit card number over the phone to some random person in a call center in the middle of nowhere?

Adam Broitman, Morpheus Media: This is certainly not "much ado about nothing" but I am not sure that online marketers need be afraid; they just need to be prepared. Studies such as the one by eMarketer have shown that consumers feel that recommendations based on prior action are helpful. If marketers and ad platforms don't abuse technologies such as behavioral targeting (as we did with email, pre canned spam law) and make sure to educate consumers on what is being tracked, why it is being tracked and how that can add value, there should be nothing to fear.

Deierlein: I think that the media and politicians are making a bigger deal of this than the average consumer. Advocacy groups and politicians aside, people want more relevant content, and that includes their advertising. It simply needs to be better communicated and easier for the average consumer to understand so that it is easy to opt in and easy to opt out.

Cheyney: It's all a matter of execution and communication. It's much ado about nothing.

Edwards: The hoopla made its way to "60 Minutes" about 10 years ago, when the mainstream had a fleeting worry over DoubleClick's cookie-based ad serving technology. A decade later and even the EU regulators aren't concerned enough to block DoubleClick becoming part of Google. Online marketers and publishers should be very concerned that one company that already controls an enormous share of online advertising will soon control an even larger share of the technology used by their competitors

Roell: It brings up the opportunity to educate the user around internet technology. For me, increased user knowledge generates the ability to improve products. So why not have a now-knowledgeable user base participate in relevancy of the ads and have them tell us if they like the ad or not.

Social networks got a lot of attention in 2007, with most of the press going to Facebook and MySpace (in that order). Will social networks continue to captivate marketers in 2008, and will Facebook and MySpace be the big names next year?
 I'm confident social networks will continue their run. And it will probably take more than a year to unseat Facebook and MySpace as the leaders in the category. But it's a highly protean industry. It feels like there are still gaps that Facebook can't fill. Something more personal; less of a catch all. I like the early glimpses of Google's Open Social. It will appeal to the more personal niche networks, while cutting development time. Developing for social networks is a mess right now. Making it easier for developers to create a body of content and tools that can be used in a broader range of applications seems like a tight strategy.

Cheyney: Facebook will capture major attention when in 2008 it figures out a revenue model that is accepted by the community.

Roell: User engagement levels will reduce in 2008 for social networks. Ad irrelevancy on social networking will be increasingly discovered as networks are unable to find solutions to better match users with ads. What I do see, though, in 2008 is the continued trend of brands using these networks as a platform, versus their own websites or micro-sites. An open social network platform will be finalized giving users the opportunities to integrating its centralized social networking information into multiple vertical networks. Vertical social networks will be the winner next year.

Deierlein: Yes, brands will still be trying to figure out how to best engage with people on social networking sites and whether advertising will work in this context. As new media platforms develop, we'll need to figure out how to evaluate them and include them in media plans to strive for the optimal mix for brands. Where consumers go is where research and brands will go. Research will be needed to help to guide and advise brands through the ever-changing media landscape. And video is still a space to watch. There's still much to learn about how consumers will react and interact with video advertising online.

Edwards: Absolutely. 2007 was the year that the business world took notice that 100 million or so consumers were spending quality time within social network environments. 2008 will be the year that business applications join SuperPoke as popular apps, and existing apps like Graffiti Wall develop meaningful relationships with business. Maybe Facebook or MySpace will accelerate its move into the professional space by acquiring LinkedIn.

By all predictions, online advertising is expected to see amazing growth in the next few years. But a New York Times story found that digital could be missing out on major ad dollars because of the lack of uniform metrics. Do you agree with that assessment, and how do you see questions of measurement shaping up in 2008?
Broitman: While online metrics may not be uniform, they are more insightful, directional, precise and productive than any metrics we have seen in the past. The lack of uniformity within these metrics makes marketers lives more difficult but far from impossible. If marketers are not willing to take the time to make sense of new metrics, and these metrics relate to their bottom line, they will be the ones missing out. I do feel that this lack of uniformity will shape (to some degree) where ad dollars go, but it is my, and other members' of the interactive communities jobs to help make sense of these metrics and ensure marketers understand the outcome of their investments.

Edwards: Oh please! For years and years and years marketers have thrown billions of dollars into televisions production and media with very limited accountability formulas. Online advertising, with its own flawed metrics, is precipitating the demand for better TV and print metrics. We need better metrics and will continue to improve them, but growth in online media spending won't slow down to wait for perfection.

Deierlein: As online becomes a bigger part of the media spend it will be important that marketers are using comparable metrics to gauge the performance and contribution of each media within a given campaign. Using traditional brand metrics and recognizing that each medium is unique in what it brings to ad campaigns, measuring online and other media platforms will be critical to helping marketers understand the best performing and most efficient media mix to reach their audience. New media platforms such as mobile and podcasting will need to be assessed and measured as well to see how the campaigns are performing and whether the effectiveness will justify the cost.

Roell: Bottom line is we will see phenomenal growth disregarding this issue or not. The consumer is moving more online, online technologies are more prevalent and everywhere, so we will grow even if we don't move.

Cheyney: I disagree. This may have been true several years ago, but most online advertising is highly measurable with standard metrics. Emerging media within interactive will firm up uniform metrics over the next few years to bring it in line with the rest of the industry.

Headlines: Video, Blogs, Online Growth

At the NewTeeVee Live Conference, more than a few panelists predicted that the slew of video sites out there may not last much longer. At the same time, most of the talk about video has been about which ad units will work best for the medium. Will video disappoint next year, or will marketers figure out a way to monetize all that traffic and save some of those video sites?
Kronengold: They are correct, there's going to be a huge shakeout of video sites because they won't be able to sustain their business models. If your site is dedicated to video that advertisers won't support, and you don't have a subscription model or some other mechanism to generate revenue, you've got a tough business model. The ad unit discussion will continue on, but people will come to agree on the basics. Pre-roll will continue to be a dominant ad unit for high quality, professionally produced content. We're also going to see more interactive rich media ad units as companion banners that a user can engage with during the video without interrupting the video experience.

Broitman: I do feel that there are far too many video sites out there than are needed. However, I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. I feel that competition between these sites drives innovation, and we have still not found the holy grail of online video or online video advertising.

Cheyney: Video will disappoint due to lack of innovation, causing case after case of video failing to deliver ROI and other success metrics to brands.

Edwards: Brands are desperate for opportunities to articulate their value propositions in video ads. They know that video and rich media do a better job of creating impact, shifting perception and driving awareness than any other ad formats. The challenge is finding scalable digital-video outlets to replace TV. Broad-based video portals such as YouTube struggle to convince marketers that their content is safe and high-quality enough for major brands, while many independent producers have quality without the reach.

Roell: User-generated video content will disappoint next year. How many more dancing students can you see? Will it remain popular? Yes, yet the amount of self-publishing and viewership will go down. In return, quality and professionally produced content will rise. Brands and marketers will produce professional content as users are shifting more to viewing than reading.

In the last Presidential election, we saw the importance of blogs. This time around every candidate seems to have some sort of online presence. Will we see significant online ad buys from the major campaigns going into 2008?
Yes, this is a critical touch point to the potential voter and donor.

Edwards: Yes. And the embarrassing misfires so early in the campaign season might even make 2008 the year that presidential campaigns start spending wisely online.

Kronengold: We've already seen significant ad buys from a few of the major candidates from both parties. The benefits of online advertising lend themselves very nicely to political advertising. Campaigns can target their messages to the places where they resonate most, or where they are trying to rally more support. It's much more efficient than TV. We're currently running ads with multiple videos that enable users to see where a candidate stands on a few key issues, and they are performing quite well.

Cheyney: While the online ad spend for the election will be the largest to date, it will still only garner a small percentage of the overall ad spend.

Roell: I don't think we are there yet. In this case video and online video distributions needs to be improved and widened. Candidates still rely on habits based greatly on TV as a medium. So for us to take away from this slice we need to give something equivalent, which is online video. We need to improve the quality, give large scale, targeted reach opportunities and introduce features that are unique to online video versus TV, e.g., interactive components.

The threat of a potential economic slowdown and the sub-prime mortgage crisis have a lot of traditional marketers worried at the end of 2007. At the same time, predictions for online growth continue to be strong. Should online marketers be concerned about a potential economic slowdown next year?
Edwards: Economic slowdowns hit the experimental and untested sections of the advertising ecosystem hardest. In 2000-2002, online was a relatively new channel for most marketers and was the first to go. By 2008-2009, online will become a predictable and highly measurable channel relative to print, television and outdoor. This go-around, it may be that online is the most resilient sector.

Roell: Not at all, we are actually in an extremely strong spot. Digital or online media will fast become the core of the campaigns as we are more cost efficient and provide detailed data points over other media. So, others will be cut and we will increase.

Deierlein: Yes, folks need to pay attention to what is happening on Wall Street and Main Street. We as an industry cannot go unscathed if a major recession hits. That said, I am looking forward to radio as the solid number four medium in terms of spend.

Cheyney: The potential online slowdown will hit the financial sector the hardest, which currently represents more than 30 percent of online ad spend. In 2008, we'll see a reallocation of those ad dollars shift towards online marketers outside of the financial sector hardest hit by the slowdown. It will mark a major opportunity for opportunistic companies to forge their online presence. If opportunistic marketers fail to jump into the online fray, then sellers will be hurt harder than marketers and we'll see an increase in remnant inventory as well as inventory shifted towards ad exchanges.

Kronengold: I don't think there are too many advertising agencies that are underwriting sub-prime mortgages. 2008 looks very good from where we're sitting.

2007 saw a slew of major mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital seems to be flowing fast and easy. Will we look back on this year as a bubble?
Roell: Not at all, maybe some valuations were higher than they could have been, but overall, these acquisitions are extremely smart as we have only reached the beginning of our climb for growth in online usage, information and engagement opportunities. We will see strong multipliers for another two years, the main focus on acquisitions being done on niche, emerging solutions as the majority of large entities have satisfied their foundational need.

Deierlein: I think it is a bubble but not sure if it will burst in 2008 or 2009 -- but the valuations are out of whack in ways we saw in the late 90s.

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom.

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