Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A closer look on Infomercials

Infomercials - as the word implies, are television commercials that run as long as a typical television program. Infomercials, also known as paid programming or teleshopping in Europe are normally shown outside of peak hours, such as daytime or late night (usually 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.). Some television stations have undertaken to air such programming as an alternative to the former practice of sign-off.

The word "infomercial" is a portmanteau of the words "information" and "commercial". As in any other form of advertisement, the content is a commercial message designed to represent the viewpoints and to serve the interest of the sponsor. Infomercials are often made to closely resemble actual television programming, usually talk shows, with minimal acknowledgement that the program is actually an advertisement.

Infomercials are designed to solicit a direct response which is specific and quantifiable and are, therefore, a form of direct response marketing (not to be confused with direct marketing). The ad response is delivered directly to television viewers by infomercial advertisers through the television ad. In normal commercials, advertisers do not solicit a direct response from viewers, but, instead, brand their product in the market place amongst potential buyers.

Infomercial advertisers may make use of flashy catchphrases, repeat basic ideas, and/or employ scientist-like characters or celebrities as guests or hosts in their ad. The book As Seen on TV (Quirk Books) by Lou Harry and Sam Stall highlights the history of such memorable products as the Flowbee, the Chia Pet, and Ginsu knives. The Flowbee and Ginsu were put on air by infomercial guru Kevin Harrington. Many infomercials have limited time offers and/or claim one can only purchase the wares from television, that slightly pressure the viewers into buying their products. Teleshopping is generally taken to mean buying at a distance or real-time transaction processing from a PC at home or work.The Internet is home to a huge teleshopping industry. Teleshopping was invented and pioneered in the UK in 1979 by Michael Aldrich who demonstrated real-time transaction processing from a domestic television and subsequently installed many systems throughout the UK in the 1980s.

It is quite possible that the first Informercial series which ran in North America was on San Diego-area television station XETV-TV, which during the 1970s ran a one-hour television program every Sunday consisting of advertisements for local homes for sale. As the station was actually licensed by the Mexican government to the city of Tijuana, (but the station broadcasts all of its programs in English for the U.S. market), the FCC limit at that time of a maximum of 18 minutes of commercials in an hour did not apply to the station.

Infomercials proliferated in the United States after 1984 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated regulations on the commercial content of television established in the 1950s and 1960s. Much of their early development can be attributed to business partners Edward Valenti and Barry Beecher, who developed the format to sell the Ginsu Knife.

Some televangelists such as Robert Tilton and Peter Popoff buy television time from infomercial brokers representing TV stations around the U.S. and even some mass-distributed cable networks that are not averse to carrying religious programming.

E-mail Marketing 101

Email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to the following:

  1. Sending emails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or old customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.

  2. Sending emails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing old customers to buy something immediately.

  3. Adding advertisements in emails sent by other companies to their customers.

  4. Emails that are being sent on the Internet (Email did and does exist outside the Internet, Network Email, FIDO etc.)

Researchers estimate that US firms alone spent $400 million on email marketing in 2006.

Email marketing (on the Internet) is popular with companies because of the following advantages:

  1. The advantage of a mailing list is clearly the ability to distribute information to a wide range of specific, potential customers at a relatively low cost.

  2. Compared to other media investments such as direct mail or printed newsletters, it is less expensive.

  3. An exact Return on investment can be tracked ("track to basket") and has proven to be high when done properly. Email marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic.

  4. It is instant, as opposed to a mailed advertisement, an email arrives in a few seconds or minutes.

  5. It lets the advertiser "push" the message to its audience, as opposed to a website that waits for customers to come in.

  6. It is easy to track. An advertiser can track users via web bugs, bounce messages, un-subscribes, read-receipts, click-throughs, etc. These can be used to measure open rates, positive or negative responses, correlate sales with marketing.

  7. Advertisers generate repeat business affordably and automatically

  8. Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of email subscribers who have opted in (consented) to receive email communications on subjects of interest to them.

Many companies use email marketing to communicate with existing customers, but many other companies send unsolicited bulk email, also known as spam.

Illicit email marketing antedates legitimate email marketing, since on the early Internet (see Arpanet) it was not permitted to use the medium for commercial purposes. As a result, marketers attempting to establish themselves as legitimate businesses in email marketing have had an uphill battle, hampered also by criminal spam operations billing themselves as legitimate.

It is frequently difficult for observers to distinguish between legitimate and spam email marketing. First off, spammers attempt to represent themselves as legitimate operators, obfuscating the issue. Second, direct-marketing political groups such as the U.S. Direct Marketing Association (DMA) have pressured legislatures to legalize activities which many Internet operators consider to be spamming, such as the sending of "opt-out" unsolicited commercial email. Third, the sheer volume of spam email has led some users to mistake legitimate commercial email (for instance, a mailing list to which the user subscribed) for spam — especially when the two have a similar appearance, as when messages include HTML and flashy graphics.

What to know about Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing or also known as SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs).It is often used to describe acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a Web site within search engines to achieve maximum exposure of your Web site. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: search engine optimization (or SEO), paid placement, and paid inclusion. Other sources, including the New York Times, define SEM as the practice of buying paid search listings.

In 2006, North American advertisers spent US$9.4 billion on search engine marketing, a 62 % increase over the prior year and a 750 % increase over the 2002 year. The largest SEM vendors are Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter. As of 2006, SEM was growing much faster than traditional advertising. As the number of sites on the Web increased in the mid-to-late 90s, search engines started appearing to help people find information quickly. Search engines developed business models to finance their services, such as pay per click programs offered by Open Text in 1996 and then Goto.com in 1998. Goto.com later changed its name to Overture in 2001, and was purchased by Yahoo in 2003, and now offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo Search Marketing. Google also began to offer advertisements on search results pages in 2000 through the Google AdWords program. By 2007 pay-per-click programs proved to be primary money-makers for search engines.

Search engine optimization consultants expanded their offerings to help businesses learn about and use the advertising opportunites offered by search engines, and new agencies focusing primarily upon marketing and advertising through search engines emerged. The term "Search Engine Marketing" was proposed by Danny Sullivan in 2001 to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO, managing paid listings at the search engines, submitting sites to directories, and developing online marketing strategies for businesses, organizations, and individuals. In 2007 Search Engine Marketing is stronger than ever with SEM Budgets up 750% as shown with stats dating back to 2002 vs 2006.

Paid search advertising hasn't been without controversy, and issues around how many search engines present advertising on their pages of search result sets have been the target of a series of studies and reports by Consumer Reports WebWatch, from Consumers Union. The FTC also issued a letter in 2002 about the importance of disclosure of paid advertising on search engines, in response to a complaint from Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group with ties to Ralph Nader.

There is a lot involved with search engine marketing. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming, even for those with a great deal of experience. The good news is that by taking it one step at a time, it is not hard to learn. And once learned, search engine marketing can provide an effective method of driving highly targeted visitors to your web site. The first step is to learn about the search terms that your target audience is using when using search engines. These search terms are the keywords and keyphrases that will be used to market your web site.