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Zappos’ targeted ads: privacy violation?

About five days ago I decided it was a time to retire my old brown dress shoes so I went online, as I usually do, to shuffle over the hundreds of models that my search yielded.

So I went to my usual first option: Zappos.com, but couldn’t find something I liked so, I went to a few other sites until I did and finished my transaction. All good now, time to forget about brown shoes.

Today while reading a few blog posts at Alltop.com, one of my preferred blogs, I was creeped out by some ads displaying the shoe models I was looking at at Zappos! But on my favorite blog?

As an interactive marketer I had always supported targeted and personalized advertising but now that I experienced it, I think this went too far, it is just creepy.

It’s like I went to the shoe store and five days later the shoe salesman approaches me at lunch, out of nowhere, to tell me to buy the shoes I “touched” during my last visit, I personally find it outrageous!

So I tweeted the following:

@ferdelat 11:40am:
Zappos ads that show the shoe models I didn’t shop are annoying and creeping me out a lot. Stop stalking me!!

And this is the response from Zappos

@Zappos_Service 12:37pm:
@ferdelat I’m sorry. Those ads are running on your computer’s cookies and cache. If you clear them, the ads should go away.

Although Criteo, the company serving those ads, states that the information is anonymous you would have to go to configuration to prevent these ads from showing. What I’m concerned about is that I never signed-in and now I have to opt-out.

What happened to the question: Would you like to receive more information about ____________?

And the fact that a different company, not  Zappos, is controlling that information creeps me out even more! Why does Criteo know what I’m watching online? What else do they know?

When I’m done buying shoes I just want to close the window and forget about that. I don’t want to buy 25 pairs of shoes! Same as when I leave a store.

So, the ad wasn’t relevant, but it did creep me out. I’m blocking these ads and if you want to do so here is the opt-out link: http://ow.ly/2e9fU

And remember, you are being watched and followed – stalked would be a more precise word according to my experience.

What do you think?

Innovation vs. Best practices in Marketing

I recently got into a conversation with a fellow marketer about why an online campaign didn’t move forward. He then explained that his client’s offline campaigns where doing good enough to try something new.

Despite the new online campaign represented (probably) less than 5% of their offline spending, the client decided to focus those resources doing what best practices of marketing spending suggest (which by the way consisted on sending trash over the mail).

“Best practices are the antithesis of innovation*”, you can’t expect to get different (or better) results if you do the same over and over again, that is Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Innovation today is what will dictate the best practices of tomorrow; innovation is what will give a head start against your competition.

Why should they try something new if what we are doing right now is proven to be successful? Well, if you don’t search for new ways to do things, your competitors will, beware if they find something before you do.

And now the question is: How is your competition innovating? Is it with new technology, new processes, new markets? How do you know when your best practices have become old practices?

So, are you following best practices or creating new ones?

To finish this post I leave you with a quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince:

“…And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event. The result, however, is that whenever the enemies of change make an attack, they do so with all the zeal of partisans, while the others defend themselves so feebly as to endanger both themselves and their cause.”

What do you think?

* This blog post was inspired by a presentation by Christian Haas, a group creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, at OMMA Global San Francisco, the premiere online media, marketing, and advertising expo.

Jesse Schell: When games invade real life

Great presentation with an interesting view of the near future, hope you like it.

How many of you use Foursquare? Is this the first step towards Schell’s vision?

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Sentiment Analysis: computers analyzing how we feel about products

Ever since social media came to the web there is more information available for companies to try to understand their customers’ reactions. Before social media, customer information existed and was used to determine emotional reactions on people, but it was never as easily available and as abundant as it is today.

Sentiment Analysis has been out there for a while trying to teach computers to extract emotional context from blogs, articles, forums (sometimes Twitter and Facebook) in order to understand good or bad biases towards particular products.

Illustration by Voris Rodriguez

But this is only one part of the deal, because once you gather the data and make a great pie chart; what do you do with that information? Companies have figured out the way to track (marketing) events with this technique to complement other analytics systems, giving them an extra insight about how people are reacting.

And yes, it is not an exact science, and there are still many questions about how representative the sample is, how correlated is the “sentiment” to a purchase decision, how opinion leaders or influencers skew the results, and even how to identify and correct for metaphors and sarcasm. Despite all these hard questions, in CRM it is always better to know some information than none.

For me it still feels a little bit like black magic especially when considering for example how many times in person-to-person communications messages are misinterpreted. How can you make a computer understand sarcasm and metaphors?

What do you think?

Note:
All this information is my personal insight taken away from the event: How Sentiment Analysis can Make Sense of Social Media (or Can it?) by the Bay Area Business Executives Group, with the following panelists:
Franco Salvetti, Microsoft Bing Search
Jochen Frey, Scout Labs
David Bean, Attensity
Esteban Kolsky, ThinkJar

Lean & Agile Methodologies

February 26th, 2010 No comments

This article was written in collaboration with our primary Lean & Agile consultant, PhD Carlos Mondragon.

As a company with a culture focused on continuous improvement, we are constantly looking for ways to better serve our clients and our employees. With Lean & Agile Methodologies we have been able to better serve both, through collaborative partnerships that instill and promote communication, efficiency, and empowerment.

Lean and Agile practices are helping the software development industry address problems of changes in requirements, timing and efficiency, and they can be applied to general practices as well. One of the several reasons why agile techniques are so effective, is that they reduce the feedback cycle between the generation of an idea and the realization of that idea.  This not only minimizes the risk of misunderstanding, it also reduces the cost of addressing any mistakes.

The basic principles for effective lean practices include:

  • Eliminate waste: Everything not adding value to the customer is considered to be waste.
  • Amplify learning: The best approach for improving an idea-generation environment is to amplify learning. The learning process is sped up by usage of short iteration cycles.
  • Decide as late as possible: As design is always associated with some uncertainty, better results should be achieved with an options-based approach, delaying decisions as much as possible until they can be made based on facts and not on uncertain assumptions and predictions.
  • Empower the team: There has been a traditional belief that managers tell the workers how to do their own job. Most experienced project managers have simply stated the key for a successful project – “Find good people and let them do their own job.”

Agile Project Management is growing in popularity as a method to more tightly involve the customer in the process of delivering a product. Customer involvement is key to Agile. Without frequent customer interaction, the value gained by constant customer inspection and validation is lost. An important agile process is short development cycles; it is much easier to change a three-week cycle than a nine-month design effort.

The agile manifesto states that it is more valuable to focus on individuals and interactions over processes and tools, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan.

Applying these principles effectively result in the following benefits:

  • Rapid Learning
  • Early Return on Investment
  • Satisfied Stakeholders
  • Increased Control
  • Responsiveness to Change

Lean and agile methods have proven to be advantageous to organizations as a result to increased productivity, higher quality, and responding more rapidly to market demands.

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Lets Stick Together

February 26th, 2010 No comments
Stick Together Now

Stick Together

With the heartbreak caused by the devastation in Haiti, came an outpouring of worldwide support. In an effort to further drive this support, Leo Burnett and our parent company, IA Interactive, partnered up early this year and created a site that enables donors to personalize their donations with messages of encouragement. This effort has been updated to also include support for Chile with their recent tragedy.

In difficult times, it is always good to hear someone cheering you on. Donate today and send YOUR message of hope by visiting Stick-TogetherNow.org

Haiti and the power of social media

January 18th, 2010 No comments

Donations for Red CrossIt is certain than in times of crisis we stretch our capabilities to find sources of strength where we thought we had none. This time social media and mobile devices shined as the best tool to collect donations to help Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake in January, 2010.

For the few of you who didn’t see it, here is how it looked on Facebook, Twitter and other sites:

You can donate $10 to Haiti relief by texting “Haiti” to 90999.

As a result, social media helped spread the word about how to make a donation to the Red Cross, yielding a $8 million total donation in $10 increments in less than three days, coming from all corners of US. (here is a map of donations by state on mobile devices)

I see three huge reasons why this worked like magic: It’s simple, relevant and it involves emotion.

I leave this post with my most sincere empathy to the people in Haiti, wishing them a swift recovery, and thanks to the rest of the world for showing that the human spirit will prevail amidst tragedy.

Pepsi’s New Ways

January 12th, 2010 No comments

For the last two years people in the advertising industry have been forecasting a switch in marketing dollars from TV, radio and newspaper towards Internet campaigns, but the following is probably the most visible case so far.

For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi will not run any kind of advertisement during the Super Bowl. This represents a huge switch of around $15 million dollars in marketing spending from TV to an online campaign based on social media.

Ok, a marketing spending switch from TV to online and social media is not news, but what about costumer centric marketing communications as opposed to company/product centric? Pepsi is aiming to help people help their communities. Those individuals that register a project and receive the most votes will receive funding.

To be more specific, Pepsi’s online campaign will be powered by social media and social participation. It’s going to be about communities – online and offline – interacting to create something new.

Find more about it at: refresheverything.com

Mexican digital talent on the rise

December 7th, 2009 No comments

Recently Advertising Age, one of the most respected publications in the industry, posted on it’s global news section an article about a Mexican interactive agency creating award winning productions with global agencies like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Wieden Kennedy.

Congratulations to Grupo W, one of our parent company’s (IA Interactive) industry colleagues, for their achievements, and for putting Mexico in the global market for interactive campaigns.

Do you know what to track on your website?

November 17th, 2009 1 comment

All websites have a goal, but that goal is achieved differently depending on the user. To lead to this goal, several steps may be necessary which is why it is crucial to set your goals from the beginning to properly structure your website and measure its effectiveness.

Your website, as a part of your digital strategy, should help users move to the next step, to take action, or “to convert” – a commonly used web word. Many tools in the market, such as Google Analytics, help you measure your campaign by providing visual snapshots of your campaign’s sales funnel, but in order to properly use these tools, you need to already have the structure to lead to your goal.

So the question is, what structure should your website have? Here is a basic sales funnel and different types of websites showing a suggestion of what to consider on each step of the funnel.

Sales funnel and site goals

*SaaS (Software as a Service), where consumption of the service or execution of a license happens on the website. Examples of this sites could be dating sites, social networks and many many others.

Hope you find this useful.

F.