Posts filed under ‘irony’

Augmented (Demented?) Reality: Fictional B&B gives tripadvisor.com a huge boost

Quite possibly my favorite media cross-over story of, well, ever.  Proving most Americans do have a sense of humor, and likely, too much free time.  A throw-away joke from NBC’s The Office sitcom boosts tripadvisor.com’s mindshare among the pop-culture obsessed.

As a constant female traveler who prefers to go solo, trips can be made or broken by a lodge/ hotel/ pension; wherever I choose to stay in any given place.  The safety, help, food, security, cleanliness and especially the advice from the proprietors is the most indispensable tool a traveler can have in a far-away, unfamiliar place.  Yet, few people I know (including myself) do more than rate a place by clicking on one to four stars, if they do anything at all.

We’ll spend days obsessing over the possible meaning of a specific article of clothing on LOST, or the many bad days of Jack Bauer on 24, the injustices (and fashion disasters) of the Academy Awards, churning out blog after tweet after Facebook status about any number of things- as long as they’re not real.  Music and books and iPads and bubble tea inspire furious commenting and speculation, but the truly useful information regarding experiences for families, business folk and leisure travelers alike-in numbers or alone inspire less effort, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

I’m not blameless, I do and don’t do the same things.  Though I realize how important accurate, descriptive and diverse-perspective travel advice can be, I rarely take the time post-trip to warn or recommend, to describe or lament missing an event or destination or critical interaction with hotel staff, restaurant owners, local guides, you name it.

But a fictional, thoroughly improbable establishment run by a non-existent ridiculous character (and beet farmer) from what isn’t exactly a hot-spot destination in Pennsylvania?  Well, that warrants a post and a piece in The New York Times, now doesn’t it?

For a B&B That Doesn’t Exist, the Online Reviews Keep Coming

By STUART MILLER
Published: March 28, 2010

One recent TripAdvisor review of the agrotourism destination Schrute Farms awarded four stars, lavishly praising the food, while another yielded just one star, casting aspersions on the owners’ sanity. This wild disparity is especially odd because Schrute Farms doesn’t even exist.

The farm “belongs” to Dwight Schrute of the NBC series “The Office” (and his eccentric cousin Mose). In September 2007, the show asked to use TripAdvisor, a travel Web site, in an episode in which Dwight turns his beet farm into a bed and breakfast. Christine Petersen, the chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor, was thrilled. “We don’t have a big marketing budget and don’t do TV ads,” she said. “This was the big time.”

TripAdvisor set up a review page, thinking it would be good for a quick laugh or two. Paul Lieberstein, who wrote the episode, called “Money,” never even went back to the site afterward. “We thought it would be fun, but then we didn’t think about it anymore,” he said in an interview.

But Schrute Farms is still doing big business — for TripAdvisor. Reruns and DVDs keep inspiring new visits to the site and there are now over 600 reviews (more than for many major Manhattan hotels, Ms. Petersen said).

Many reviewers add their own funny flourishes, enhancing the show’s mythology: Mandy Pyszka from Milwaukee, who stumbled upon the TripAdvisor site while searching Google for Dwight Schrute quotes, raved about the beet pudding.

by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, beet farmer and agrotourism hotelier.

Carla Harrington of Fredricksburg, Va., was surprised to find 82 percent of reviews recommended Schrute Farms. “I thought about what it would feel like not to know them as TV characters but to really go to this B & B,” she said in an interview. Her one-star slam called Dwight “an overbearing survivalist who appears to have escaped from the local mental asylum.”

Mr. Lieberstein, who also plays Toby Flenderson, a human resources staff member, on the show, said that “The Office” might someday revisit the farm. TripAdvisor executives said they would love that. “We’ve started many a meeting with Dwight’s quote that TripAdvisor is ‘the lifeblood of agrotourism,’ ” Ms. Petersen said. She has contemplated adding the Bates Motel and “The Shining’s” Overlook Hotel.

But not everyone gets the joke. Recently, TripAdvisor added a caveat explaining that Schrute Farms was fictional, Ms. Petersen said. “We had a complaint from someone who had wanted to go there.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 29, 2010, on page B4 of the New York edition.
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2010/03/31 at 22:35 1 comment

Be careful watch you wish for: what happens when your marketing campaign is *too* successful?

A really interesting post from Wired’s Epicenter and blogger Peter Kirwin about the problem everyone “wants to have:” a wildly successful marketing campaign that has taken on a life of its own.  Do you trade dollars for eyeballs- and is that just a short-term question?

 

Epicenter The Business of Tech

Wired-o-Nomics: Mad Men, Media, Marketing and a Fine Mess

Suppose they gave a marketing campaign, and everybody came?

Back in September, Hasbro launched Monopoly City Streets, a massive multiplayer online game that transforms Google Maps into a globalized version of the well-known board game. In the run-up to Christmas, the online game was supposed to promote a boxed version of the game that Hasbro sells for $40 list.

Three months on, however, Hasbro’s MMOG – constructed by ad agency Tribal DDB working alongside engineers from Google Maps – achieved something unexpected. It became vastly more popular than anyone expected. Monopoly City Streets now ranks as the world’s 12th-largest example of the genre, according to Matt Ross of Tribal DDB, attracting 15 billion page views a month.

Presenting his agency’s campaign at last week’s Creativity and Technology conference in London, Ross announced: “We’re trying to invent things that are useful to people. We never know if our stuff is going to work.”

“Now Hasbro don’t know what to do with it,” Ross said. “They have a kind of new product on their hands.”

Unexpected popularity has had unintended consequences for Hasbro. If it scraps the game next month, as planned, it risks alienating 1.5 million registered users. If it allows it to continue, it will need to find a way of monetizing all of those eyeballs that may cannibalize buyers of the game they want to sell who are happy enough with the online version it was supposed to promote.

Oh yeah — Ross also noted that his agency’s wildly successful campaign was achieved with “precisely zero media spend.”

Interesting things happen when advertising slips the moorings that have traditionally bound it to Big Media. In particular, Hasbro’s dilemma underlines the fact that the message-carrying capacity of traditional media has always been constrained. As a result, media owners have always carried promotional messages to audiences on a time-limited basis.

The cost of traditional media doesn’t decline appreciably during a campaign. Accordingly, the cost of reaching new consumers increases exponentially as a campaign proceeds. The risk of over-exposure increases, too.

Hence the advertising industry’s traditional ability to take pride in brilliantly crafted, but transient, promotional efforts.

So what happens when scarcity-based constraints disappear? What happens when advertisers and their agencies produce their own campaigns and distribute them on the web?

Attitudes change. As permanence becomes a possibility, pride in transience starts to look questionable. The ad campaign that Hasbro thought it was buying from Tribal DDB may yet turn into an enduring product. In a similar vein, Anders Gustafsson of Crispin Porter Bogusky Europe told last week’s conference: “The stuff we’re doing should last for years, not months.”

Several years after adland produced its first throwaway virals, this suggests that something much larger than frustration with search engines lurks on the horizon for Big Media.

For a century or more, the advertising industry and Big Media have operated on the basis of mutual dependence. Big Media offered unusually broad reach and attracted big budget creatives as a result. In adland, watching your creatives play out across major media was always a mark of high seriousness.

Now this historic pact is coming under pressure. In places, it has started to unravel. The crude appeal of banners and buttons remains important, but long ago ceased to be at the center of the digital action. For marketers who need to engage massive audiences, the web offers a genuine alternative to press and TV, one that allows advertisers to create their own content.

With no small sense of irony, last week’s conference of digital creatives took place at the galleries constructed by Charles Saatchi out of the elegant hulk of the Duke Of York’s barracks in Chelsea.

Yet the Big Media outlets that carried Saatchi’s inspired advertising copy three decades ago merited barely a mention. Among other things, delegates were asked to consider what might start to happen when we, our devices and the built environment become seamlessly networked.

Adam Greenfield, head of design direction at Nokia, describes one possible outcome:  an urban landscape filled with “dynamic advertising that covers every surface and knows everything about us”. He talks of a “shroud of awareness” surrounding shoppers and pedestrians with “dynamic advertising” constructed on the basis of “sensor readings that record place, time and event”.

The future of outdoor advertising has rarely looked so full of potential. The future of Big Media has rarely looked so marginal.

Kevin Slavin, another speaker at last week’s conference, lectures alongside Greenfield at New York University. He is also the co-founder of Area/Code, a New York-based hotshop that develops games on behalf of agencies and advertisers.

According to Slavin, “the idea of being able to see the value of everything all at once” is “grinding down” the price that retailers in particular can charge their customers. “Meaning,” he claims, is shifting from physical products to the “informatic layer” embodied in devices and networks.

This isn’t a particularly controversial notion. What is controversial is the conclusion drawn by Slavin: “If you’re in the consumer packaging and branding business, you’re fucked.”

Perhaps. But ubiquitous computing also represents a further threat to the historic pact between adland and Big Media. In the not-too-distant future, the cereal packets that contain my daughter’s Coco Pops may carry a cheap screen, wirelessly connected to the web, that plays cartoons across the breakfast table. As a result, BSkyB, the BBC and ITV will lose access to eyeballs.

Disintermediation of this kind is already a reality in some shopping malls, where retailers have started sending promotions to handsets carried by approaching shoppers. According to one analyst firm, 35 start-ups and established companies across Europe are developing technology for use in such digital proximity campaigns.

This won’t result in the death of retail advertising in the weekend editions of national newspapers any time soon. But there’s more to come. The next steps involve the gradual splicing together of three separate disciplines: mobile advertising technology, real-time search and the long-established science of retail footfall analysis.

Coincidentally, Twitter this week released its long-awaited geolocation API into the wild. In this context, one statistic is worth noting: according to the digital ad agency Razorfish, 44 per cent of US consumers who follow a specific brand on Twitter say they do so in order to gain access to special offers.

Campaigns that cut out Big Media with a mix of gaming, location awareness and social networking aren’t yet an established fixture in adland. But we might not have to wait too long. The iPhone’s crystalline screen was made for opportunities like these.

The fallout could make Rupert Murdoch’s dispute with Google look like the proverbial storm in a teacup.

Among the digital creatives who gathered together last week, a few are already looking toward the future. “Now that we’ve been invited to the party and have money, influence and power,” said Ian Tait of Poke London, “I worry we are like a bunch of kids with the keys to the sweet shop.”

Judging by the heady optimism on display at CaT last week, Tait’s concerns aren’t yet widely shared by his peers. But they will be – and soon enough. As Google knows all too well, disruptive power brings serious responsibilities in its wake.

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2009/11/30 at 22:47 2 comments

Hotels.com: when simple and direct meets generic, the consequences are vast

HOTELS.COM, HOW GENERIC—TRADEMARK LOST ITS LUGGAGE!

© Cheryl Hodgson 2009 | Posted on October 23, 2009

The costly and belated attempt of Hotels.com to create a protectible trademark and brand from a generic domain name illustrates a point I have been ranting about to internet business owners for several years.  A generic term will never be a trademark or brand for the product or service being sold. Before investing thousands of dollars in marketing and advertising solely under a generic or descriptive domain name, consider adopting and registering a term that can be a valuable brand.  A strong trademark will distinguish your services and can be used to stake out your turf in the marketplace.  Otherwise, you will end up just like HOTELS.COM.  It is a nice location on the Internet, but they have no fence to keep out the competition!

Early internet marketers and domain aggregators have spent the last 10 years creating misinformation and leaving many internet businesses with weak or no brand protection.  Marketers in their quest to secure easy search rankings, as well as domain resellers seeking to drive up prices, failed to communicate this important message.  Now it is not just my pet peeve, it is the law according to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Despite spending huge amounts in legal fees to convince the court that HOTELS.COM could be a trademark, the efforts to retrieve its lost luggage failed.  In re Hotels.com, L.P., 573 F.3d 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2009) affirmed that a generic word can NEVER be trademarked, at least not for the goods or services being sold under that name.  The whole point of having trademarks is to identify source.  By definition, a generic term cannot identify source.  Do not be generic.  Be unique.  Get protected.

Hotels.com thought that by adding a dot-com to the generic word “hotels”, they could get trademark protection.  That is not the case.  A word is still generic regardless if it has a dot-com or not.  A dot-com merely shows internet commerce.  For example, the court referenced the Lawyers.com case.  See In re Reed Elsevier Props., 482 F.3d 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (online interactive database featuring information exchange in fields of law, legal news and legal services denied registration of generic mark LAWYERS.COM).

The only argument available to business owners who are wedded to a weak or generic term, is to throw money and legal fees into attempting to prove the term has “acquired distinctiveness” so that the public identifies the term with a particular business or source for goods and services.  As was the case here, such efforts after the fact are an uphill battle not easily won.  The company failed to persuade the board that its survey showing 76% of 277 consumers thought the domain name was a brand name was sufficient evidence.  The board stated that “the survey design did not adequately reflect the difference between a brand name and a domain name.”

original article by Cheryl Hodgson, Hodgson Law Group from Licensing, Merchandising & Brand Management Group

 

So what does this mean now that HOTELS.COM is not a trademark?  It means that Hotels.com cannot sue other companies who use the term “hotels.com” to trigger ads on Bing™, Google™ or other search engines.  Try doing a search for “hotels.com” and see what comes up—the official website, plus Travelocity®, Priceline® and many more.

What about www.all-hotels.com, www.web-hotels.com and www.my-discount-hotels.com?  The TTAB cited these websites to demonstrate a competitive need for others to use “hotels” as part of their own domain names and trademarks.

The holidays are just around the corner…which site will you use to book your hotel stay?  Save money and just go with the generic brand—Hotels.com!

2009/11/05 at 21:08 Leave a comment

truth in advertising: when reality meets the tsa

so, on one of my many early morning jaunts to the cleve of late, i was standing in a very long security line at about, oh, five thirty in the morning. nervous travelers abounded, anxious to catch their flights, but the line was not moving. this gave me several long minutes to really take in the ambience of the continental terminal at lovely LaGuardia airport.

i look to my left and there’s a life size poster for the TSA or the Port Authority of NY/ NJ and their amazing dedication to customer service. It read something like this: “We’re dedicated to your comfort and satisfaction as much as we are your safety” with a nice smiling lady assisting a customer. Next to this was an actual, though decidedly less smiley, airport employee.

cue the really late and extremely nervous woman who runs up to said employee and asks if she (the employee) can help as she (the flyer) is definitely going to miss her flight because the line has not moved. to which she (the employee), clearly inspired by her calling and mission responds:

“lady, that’s too bad. ALL these people (sweeping hand gesture) gonna miss their flights. now get back at the end of the line. next time you might wanna get here early.”

and, scene.

2007/05/07 at 22:36 Leave a comment


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