Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Garfield unlocks the brands-as-apps box.

In this week's AdAge, Bob Garfield looks at Widgets and asks, "Widgets Are Made for Marketing, So Why Aren't More Advertisers Using Them?"

Indeed! Good to see this most mainstream of mainstream ad pubs picking up on the Brands-as-apps opportunity. Must be we've reached the tipping of that point. A key graph:

Wanna get away ... from the Old Model? Look no further than widgets, the mini software applications downloadable to browsers, desktops, social-networking pages, home pages and mobile phones. The widget may not be the holy grail, but it's arguably pretty damn grail-ish -- maybe the highest expression so far of online marketing in the Post-Advertising Age. And though it is very much on the cutting edge of Web 2.0, it is based on the hoariest of principles. In fact, to be properly visionary on this subject, you must begin by looking way back to the future. The article gives some nice ink to Lindzon-backed Buddy Media. My favorite part of this section has gotta be the wonderfully evocative image that Garfield captures of the Buddy office-factory. Great stuff: Buddy Media, one of the biggest creators of branded apps, fills two floors of a slightly skeezy office building on Broadway just above Columbus Circle. It used to be a Fred Astaire Dance Studio, with a ground-level Indian restaurant and water seeping down the bare-brick walls after every rain. Now it's a code factory, where workers load raw zeroes and ones into their Macs and forge software parts -- parts that are in turn assembled in various combinations to form custom applications. Using that small inventory of a few hundred in-stock parts, Buddy Media can turn out widgets fast and cheap.

"If you're going to do a 728-by-90 banner ad," says CEO Lazerow, "you might as well do an app. Because it's going to take the same amount of time and cost." What he doesn't advise is buying for reach and frequency. His buzz term is "reach and engagement," the idea of cultivating a few people instead of pestering a lot more. "Instead of reaching 80 million people, let's reach a million in your target and spend 10 minutes with them." Buddy Media has no difficulty establishing the engagement part. Its hairdo widget for InStyle magazine had more than 300,000 installs, 185,000 in the first six weeks. The average time spent on each visit was seven minutes -- three hairstyles' worth -- and nearly half of the users returned to it more than 25 times. "They basically cost less than traditional banners, and you get 75 times greater time spent than with regular banners and five times more time spent than with TV ads."
Social Media, the adoption of mobile roaming as a way of life, the comfort with which people now feel entitled to demand "payment" for attention from an advertiser, all combine to make it not only timely but essential to rethink brands and their role. Is the brand serving the community in some useful way, bringing added utility, function, enjoyment to the brand interaction? Relevant, yes, of course! And, hopefully, just one rung above expected. The opportunity is there, and great, for minimal cost.

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