Tim Longhurst's Blog

Whopperlust invites Americans to trade their attention, dignity for hamburgers

July 4th, 2011 · No Comments

Love creativity? This is a great example of creative advertising. Burger King in the US set up their own “Whopper” interactive TV channel where you are paid in burgers to sit and watch a whopper. The longer you watch, the more free burgers you get. (5 minutes = 1 whopper).

Anyone who’s seen The Meatrix (highly recommended) will know why I avoid fast food burgers altogether, but it’s still clever marketing.

To see this TV channel in action, here’s a guy trying to get a free burger (offensive language warning) skip to 2min20sec to see how the channel can tell if you’re still paying attention.

The audience for this unique campaign isn’t just people who watch Direct TV channel 111, but the various audiences that will extend the campaign through social media and word of mouth. Definitely an example for anyone looking for clues about the future of advertising & marketing… If you’re going to be boring with a standard old ‘product as hero’ shot… Do it in a creative and entertaining way!

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Category: Communication and connection · Corporate craziness · Future

The future of newspapers – the Herald hasn’t found it yet

September 8th, 2008 · 7 Comments

In January this year, 128 year old newsmagazine, The Bulletin was shut down by its publisher. Although there had been attempts to keep the mag relevent, including a move to online, it wasn’t successful enough to justify the cost of publishing.

There are a lot of news magazines / papers who must be looking at The Bulletin‘s fate, and wondering, ‘how long until that’s us?’. It’s a tough question. In a rapidly changing world, spearheaded by web technologies that have made publishing the domain of anyone with a computer and a web connection, rising above the noise and keeping people engaged is hard enough; without having to pay for a newsroom of journos and editors.

I’m currently reading “The Content Makers”, a book that examines the possible futures for media in Australia. Margaret Simons’ book, so far, paints a picture of anxious insiders feeling an awful lot like they’re riding a toy boat in a bath tub.

Well, the anxiety of those in control at the Sydney Morning Herald is starting to show… The SMH website is turning into a wilderness devoid of interaction and overgrowing with foreign content and advertisements.

A bit of background
I grew up with the Sydney Morning Herald – when I was a kid I loved Column 8, the column that was essentially thrown open to Sydney locals to send in their observations: the things they overheard on the train; the questions they had about their city. It was talk-back radio in print: engaging and short. For me, a kid, a great introduction to the paper.

Over the years, various elements of the Herald have held my interest, most recently, it’s been the smh.com.au website, which offers a taste of how things are going in Sydney – whether I’m in town or overseas.

Well, friends, I’ve had enough of the Herald and the way it’s treating me as a reader. Here’s a few points –

Where’s the conversation?
Here’s a fact: media is increasingly about conversations, but only on a tiny fraction of Herald stories do they allow their readers to discuss / object / add to content. Reading Paul Sheehan’s article praising Sarah Palin, I really would have liked to read how Sydneysiders have reacted to the recent Republican pick for VP nominee. Hell, I’d always be interested in reading how people are responding to Miranda Devine. But no, Paul and Miranda talk – we just have to shut up and read.

Where’s the local content?
The whole point of turning to a Sydney-based newspaper is for me to read news written from / for a Sydney perspective. Like many papers, the Herald subscribes to ‘wire services’ like the Associated Press. Unfortunately, instead of taking these stories and updating them or editing them for their audience, the Herald seems to have taken to ‘dumping’ wire stories on their site, regardless of the relevance or possibility of a local angle. It’s lazy and it waters-down the experience – I can read an AP story ANYWHERE on the web… I don’t come to SMH.com.au for cheap, syndicated content.

Where’s the sub-editing?
My blog’s full of typo’s and misspellings – I do my best to avoid them, but it happens. You know why? Because I don’t have a newsroom with sub-editors looking through my content before I publish it. Increasingly I’m wondering if the Herald has a newsroom, because it seems almost every story features the word, “and” twice in a row, or some other hastily-written mistake that even a second reading would have picked up.

What’s with the rotating puff?
The Herald’s website front page is dominated by a litany of photoshopped images of movie stars and Herald “relationship bloggers”, the two Sams… It makes me question my city when ‘those in the know’ seem to think we’re only interested in trying to work out ‘what makes men tick’, ‘how to please a woman’ or WTF Paris Hilton is doing today… Don’t get me wrong, I like the two Sams, it just feels that they’re promoted at the expense of all other contributors.

Why doesn’t the Herald ask me what I want, ever?
It was more than TEN YEARS ago that Excite showed that it was possible to know a little about your audience and tailor information to their interests. I’ve been a ‘member’ of SMH.com.au (I can log in to the site) for a long time – possibly ten years – and I’ve never been asked a question beyond “Which newsletter do you want us to send you?”.

Thanks, but working out how to send me “Electronic Direct Marketing” does not count as taking an interest in me. I would be prepared to answer a reasonably detailed survey of my interests if I was going to get ‘hand-picked’ news served to me daily. In a world of customized content (see Facebook), a ‘one size fits all’ home page is alienating (see ‘rotating puff’ above). And do I need to explain the value of detailed reader information to advertisers?

Flash animation hell
Most recently, the Herald has decided to pledge alleigence to advertisers at the expense of their readers. The gloves have come off and the advertisers are now allowed to fight dirty… In the past seven days I’ve started hearing humming sounds while reading articles – turns out that’s a banner ad for a car – WTF?!… Beyond that, entire videos are starting to play WITH SOUND as soon as I open an article. I click on ‘innovations’ and I’m met with a flash-based advertorial for Volkswagen, completely blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, the section descends rapidly from “brought to you by VW” to “all content is provided by volkswagen“…

If the Sydney Morning Herald were a restaurant…
If the SMH was a restaurant, their walls would feature animated advertisements, their soup would be watered down; the gruff waiters wouldn’t care what you wanted – they’d just bring you what they felt like; the ‘music’ would be advertisements turned up so you’d have to shout at your date; they’d send in photographers and women with flowers to your table (because they’d be getting a cut) and more than occasionally a customer would find that the bolognese had icy bits in it because it hadn’t been microwaved for long enough.

This blog post is being written during a turbulent industrial dispute between Fairfax, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, and many of its workers.

I don’t know much about Fairfax’s innovation program (does it have one?), but it seems to me that the conversation about the future of media and how Fairfax can best position itself is either happening without key stakeholders (such as its readers or journalists), or its happening behind closed doors, and only some journos and readers are being included in the conversation. But I’m pretty sure there’s no conversation, because if there was, there’s no way the Herald would look the way it does now.

A customer for life
Building a great business is about having lifelong relationships with your customers. There’s no way that the Herald advertising team are really interested in building a life-long relationship with their readers and I suspect that may be a big mistake.

I actually believe that newspapers – including The Herald, have a role to play in the future of media, but unless management open up and accept that they don’t have all the answers, the masthead is going to be dragged through the mud and the brand will be destroyed.

So what would you advise Fairfax? Which newspapers are having open conversations? What futures of media do you find appealing? I’ve got smart contributors on this blog – all opinions welcome!

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Category: Communication and connection

Tim Longhurst’s Blog – Behind the Scenes

October 2nd, 2007 · 3 Comments

As part of Blogtober I have decided to make a quick post on how this blog comes together.

There are three elements I’ll focus on: the software, the advertising and the page counter.

SOFTWARE: Wordpress
Wordpress is an open source blogging application that sits on the web – that is, it’s installed on my server and I can therefore post to it from anywhere with an internet connection. I chose Wordpress because when I compared blogging software, Wordpress seemed like the best fit. I’ve found it to be an excellent product and I’d recommend it to anyone.

ADVERTISING: Google Adwords
As a seasoned cynic of corporate controlled media and commercial messaging, having ads on my blog feels controversial. The main reason I host ads is because I believe Google will index your website more often if you host Google Adwords. I have no hard evidence of this, and Google aren’t likely to officially admit to that, but back in the days when my website wasn’t showing up on Google searches at all, I decided it was worth a shot. These days my site indexes really well on Google, and I’m reluctant to remove the ads because I think they’re part of the reason people discover this site in the first place. Also, although my income from ads is modest, it does cover my website hosting costs, which is a good deal for me.

PAGE COUNTER: Sitemeter
I started using Sitemeter over a year ago and whilst it is nowhere near as sophisticated as other counters, it gives me an idea of what articles are showing up in search engine requests and how many people are checking out the blog. You can see my blog’s stats here. Back when I was posting on a regular basis I would average 400 visits a week, but these days it’s a little below 200. I suspect Blogtober might bump the stats up a little… Time will tell.

Well, this concludes my behind the scenes blog tour. If you think I’ve left things out or you have a question about the blog, post a comment.

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Category: Building a better blog

Climate Cleverer – Australian Goverment taken for a spin

September 28th, 2007 · No Comments

The guys at GetUp! and my mate Dan Ilic have worked together to create a spoof of the Australian Government’s Climate Clever greenwashing effort. Amazingly it looks like they’re going to raise $200,000 to broadcast the ads in just a few days.

Check it out.

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Category: election07

‘Celebrating’ 50 years of Television Advertising

June 7th, 2006 · No Comments

Last night the Advertising Federation of Australia’s celebrated fifty years of TV advertising in Australia.

The evening was opened by Russel Howcroft, Chairman of the AFA, gloating that the industry body is all cashed up and ready to defend the industry. From what? People who want to see restrictions on advertising to children? A rethink of tobacco ad bans? A continuation of junk food ads that ignore the obesity epidemic? I’d be really interested to hear

Here’s the top thirty, as listed by Duncan:

Holeproof – Antz Pantz ‘Sic ‘em Rex’

Winfield – Anyhow (Paul Hogan)

World Series Cricket – C’mon Aussie

Holeproof – Computer Socks

D’Decore

Dunlop – Aircraft Carrier

Yellow Pages – Goggomobil

Department of Health AIDS awareness – Grim Reaper

Kraft – Happy Little Vegemites

Harper’s Bazaar – Beauty

Harpers Cat Chow

Tooheys – How Do You Feel?

Qantas – I Still Call Australia Home

Lamb Roast – Tom Cruise (with Naomi Watts)

Life. Be In It. (1970s Government PSA featuring Norm)

AMLC – Lifeboat

Mortein – Louie the Fly

OTC – Memories

Mercedes-Benz – Crash

Coamas (Australian milk authorities) Milkman

Yellow Pages – Not Happy, Jan

Castrol – Oils Ain’t Oils

Tourism Australia – Shrimp On The Barbie (Paul Hogan)

Stainmaster (Sir Les Patterson or Pro Hart?)

Carlton Draught – Big Ad

Holeproof – Underdaks

VB (Victoria Bitter) – Original

Crown Corning – Vision Saucepans

Tourism Australia – So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

Meadow Lea – You Ought To Be Congratulated

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Category: Communication and connection