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Musings on Technology and online advertising

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Intrusive Marketing?

Retailers already use bar-code data to understand consumer behavior and to create and segment customer profiles using purchase data.  

Now retailers are going a step further. A consortium of major retailers (including Walmart, Coca Cola, P&G) is testing a system that uses infrared rays to track track which exact aisle shoppers visited and which ones they ignored. This will help them refine their in-store marketing initiatives like aisle displays or for buying ads on in-store marketing networks.

Do you think this is a bit intrusive?

Potato Burial

A WSJ article talks about how a growing co-op of farmers is trying to boost potato prices by controlling supply. In the process, farmers are destroying part of their crop to avoid oversuppy. The article gives an example of one farmer who buried $10,000 worth of perfectly fine potatoes.

Hello! Are we losing perspective here?? There are millions in the developing world without food to eat. And here we are trying to influence demand-supply by intentionally destroying food. It seems to me that our perspective is being heavily skewed by economic gain, at the cost of being blind to the broader Human context.


I use T-Mobile for my cell phone service. However covereage in my area is practically non-existent. I am planning to switch but T-Mobile's big expansion plans is giving me second thoughts.

T-Mobile has commited more than $4 billion for new radio frequencies in FCC auctions. Its launching a new generation of interet phones that can roam into wireless internet connections at home and T-mobile hotspots. This seems to be a first among all the wireless carriers. I am somewhat excited about this since it might finally give me a chance to be connected, if I stay with them.


AOL lawsuit over Search Data

Three subscribers have sued AOL. Their search data was released as part of an intentional release by AOL of some 19 million search requests made by 650,000 users. The three subscribers are seeking a class-action status for their lawsuit. My guess? This lawsuit will soon gain class action status.  

Leveraging the Power of Internet sells T-shirts. Pretty simple, isn't it? Yes, but they are doing something that leverage the community aspect of the internet.  Users submit designs for T-Shirts. The user community votes on these designs. The best designs win prizes. And of course, you can order T-shirts with any of the designs.

Sounds like a cool business model? I think so!


Sony's New Ad to engage TIVO users

The number of people who use TIVO and other DVRs is growing at a healthy rate. This presents a rather unpleasant challenge to advertisers: How to get users to watch an Ad when they are skipping through to the next program?

The Answer: Engage them. KFC did it earlier this year by hiding a clue in it's ad that can only be seen on recording and playing back the video (aka TiVo users).

Yesterday, Sony launched an ad targeted at TiVoers for its new line of LCD TVs.  The ad has two different endings. One for men and another for women. The engagement part? Viewers will have to click on one of the two radio buttons presented to them on the TV screen: "ending for men" or "ending for women". Of course, after this point, imagery appealing to each gender is presented.

Will this work? we shall find out soon. KFC saw a 40% increase in traffic to its website! 


HP's Dunn Resigns

Finally! The writing was on the wall for a few days now. The question now is if Mark Hurd will survive the storm. His testimony next week in front of the house comittee will be an interesting turn of events in this saga.

Yahoo's Revenue in bottom half of forecast

Yahoo's Q3 revenue is going to be in the bottom half of the forecast range. Yahoo has attributed this to a drop in online advertising revenue from its automotive and financial services clients.

Does this mean a slowing of growth for the online advertising as a whole? I don't think so. As the WSJ notes, a confluence of factors may have made Yahoo more vulnerable than its competitors to the slowing growth of ad revenue from the auto and financial industries.

It is interesting to note that the slowdown was largely in the dispay ad areas. Yahoo's Search advertising is growing at expected levels. This suggests that US auto makers (think GM) who have been having financial difficulties may have cut down on branded advertising. These ads are generally more expensive and it is harder to pin-down the ROI from these ads.

Another factors may be the delay in the release of Yahoo's new ad platform. The market thought so too and amply demonstrated its displeasure by hammering Yahoo's stock by more than 22% last month. Yahoo's existing ad platform is incredibly difficult to use, especially when contrasted against Google Adwords. I expect that Google and its online ad revenues will continue to grow at expected levels.  

What Yahoo has going for it is its strong presence in content. Yahoo properties like, Yahoo finance, photos and others have tremendous amount of traffic. With a more effective ad platform (due for release in early Q4), online advertisers will be able to leverage this audience better.

Google, while having a strong presence in search, lags behind on the content respect. Google Finance, Video and gmail have gained significant traction, but do not have #1 position in most areas.

Audio and Video Advertising

With the proliferation of Audio and Video content on the internet, advertising on these media will likely be part of the next surge in online advertising.

Visitors will access this content in two ways. The user can visit a website and download the podcast/movie. For example by going to or The other alternative is to have have the content directly streamed to them on a non-PC device. For example, Sonos has just released a device that connects to Rhapsody's trove of songs and plays it on the Sonos whole-house system.

There are two advertising avenues possible here. Audio and video ads can  be seamlessley integrated into the content at appropriate points, much like the Ads we see today on TV before/after or in-between a show. There is technology that allows this seamless integration (AOL aquired a company which developed this technology a few months ago). The other possibility is that relevant text ads relevant are shown on the webpage where the content is being streamed.

Both of these require sophisticated technology that allows for understanding/transcribing the content. Companies like Podzinger, TVEyes and Blinkx offer voice-recognition software that translates spoken words into text or audio waveforms that can be searched. Once this is enabled, then text and image ads can be served to users using the Google Adwords or Yahoo ad platform, much like the way it is done today for text content.

It is worth noting that this new technology looks at the complete content in a audio or video clip. Most audio/video search technology today relies on the text tags associated with these clips.

New Ads in New Places

Interesting take on where the furture growth of ad industry is going to come from.


Sept 11th Gaffe

Today is September 11th. Naturally, many ads in the Wall Street Journal are commemorating the Sept 11th 2001 aniversary.

However, emirates airlines seem to have been caught off-gaurd. Here is a snapshot of page A3 from today's WSJ.

The Tiffany and Alger ads (right side column) both speak to the Sept 11th tragedy. The Emirates airline Ad (bottom left) however is the usual one they run on this spot on a regular basis.

This Emirates ad seems inappropriate for today, not only because it is an airline, but also because UAE based. Readers (aka customers) on seeing the ad in the context of the other ads on the page, would probably have a negative reaction to it. The ad is most definitely doing harm rather than good for the airline. In my opinion, this is a PR gaffe for Emirates!