Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now


Thanks for checking out our blog, we really appreciate it.

However, our blog has moved to

Sorry that you have to visit another site to find us, but it is worth it...we have all of our 'classic' posts and comments on the new blog, plus a ton of new thoughts and ideas.

Why are we moving? Basically, Blogger failed us and never responded to our emails and requests. A clear example of poor customer service...too bad, we liked Blogger.

Come over and see us on the new blog.

Troy and Mo

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travel Trends - AMEX Travel, Experience Finder

Members Know Travel - Earlier this week American Express jumped into the very deep social networking / UGC / recommendation pool with a new, card-member only travel site. The site, Members Know Travel is designed to be an 'online community where Cardmembers share their collective wisdom and experiences about travel.' Interestingly, the site also promotes that AMEX members know more about travel because:

  • 94% more likely to travel frequently
  • 90% more likely to travel abroad
  • 73% more likely to take long trips within the U.S.

Overall, a nice looking site with some nice features...the question is are you a loyal enough member to join the official AMEX social network?

Travelocity ExperienceFinder - Travelocity allows users to experience 'the fun' of planning a trip with the ExperienceFinder Planning Tool from the Travelocity Labs. The site, which features several destinations such as Hawaii, New Orleans and Orlando (among others) provides users the option of selecting one of four themes to bring planning a trip. The site, which relies heavily on Flash, provides videos, photos and reviews in, what Travelocity calls, an inspirational way.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Travel Trends - Odwalla, TripAdvisor

Odwalla Loves Phoenix...and Seattle...and Boston - Natural juice company Odwalla has begun a geographic targeting campaign in several major cities, including Phoenix. The ads, promoting several healthy and fun activities such as hiking and local events, show local residents where to find Odwalla products throughout the city. Similar to previous campaigns from Bugaboo and Volkswagen, the use of local attractions and local events is an interesting twist to show residents that, in this case, Odwalla is in touch with local Phoenicians. The ads also direct to micro-sites for the cities of Seattle and Boston.

TripAdvisor Launches New Beta Site - As reported a few posts ago, TripAdvisor has rolled out a new beta site to reflect upcoming changes to the popular travel-review portal. The site,, is very similar to the recently launched U.K. version.

I Work In Phodalona

Now that Mo and I have shown several examples of missed online advertising opportunities, let's take a look at the way AT&T has tied an online component into a new ad campaign.

Thoughts// Most people have recently interacted with AT&T's first non-Cingular ad campaign, titled 'Where Do You Live.' The ads, filmed in Wes Anderson's cinematic style, show several people working in a variety of locations, such as Kantucornia (Kansas, Kentucky and California). The campaign has also included an outdoor and print component.

For our purposes, let's take a look at the interactive component. While the site relies heavily on Flash, the payoff is worth the possible compatibility issues. Users can enter the locations they work in (Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona) and the site generates your own 'location.' Then, you can select a motto (Honk, if your from...). At this point, the site resembles several previous online campaigns.

Where this campaign begins to differentiate itself is the combination of creating your own custom product (see my bumper sticker above) and the letting you order this customized product from on-demand retailer So instead of simply emailing your funny saying to all your (very interested) friends, you can actually order this case shirts, mugs, bags and stickers...with your user-created content on it.

Granted, while most people, even people who love AT&T, are not going to order 2 or 3 custom Calidolina t-shirts, this type of execution at least creates a path to a valuable viral marketing opportunity. Instead of AT&T, what if your organization was actually loved by millions of consumers...such as Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Southwest...then a viral marketing campaign such as this could be very powerful.

For example, the Discovery Channel store on the popular on-demand product site

Or, how could a campaign such as Colorado's 'Let's Talk Colorado' take advantage of sites such as and on-demand products?

Wondering whether or not someone would actually purchase Oregon-branded products? Do a quick search on for 'Oregon.' Regular users (you and I) have created over 13,200 Oregon-related designs, which are available on 443,000 products.

Say it with me, that is a lot of brand advocates wearing an 'I (tree) Oregon' t-shirt...

...which, just in case you are wondering, is available in 8 different styles starting at $18.00.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where Is My Stanley Kubrick Collection? Or How Warner Brothers Left Me Hangin'...

This is certainly not travel related but dovetails into what Troy wrote on Monday about the "connectivity" of your interactive campaigns.

Thoughts// I was checking up on the news at the NYT website this morning and saw a pretty intriguing banner that offered a special collectors' edition DVD box set the "Stanley Kubrick" collection featuring such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shinning (Parts of which were filmed at Timberline Lodge in Oregon--yes shameless plug).

It's quiet possible that I was behaviorally targeted today based on having just checked my Netflix list and having read movie reviews. Regardless, the ad was compelling enough and I clicked through to a splash page (pictured above) that had more information about the special collectors' edition including clips and more details on each movie featured.

So you see I was hooked. Curious about the price....I clicked on the giant "ORDER NOW" button and was taken to the Warner DVD store. However instead taking me (and the rest of the 0.5% of us who took the time to click on the banner ad) to a turn-key order page, I was taken to an EMPTY search page on the store!

To make things worse, neither a site search nor a quick browse using the left hand navigation yielded any results for the Kubrick collection. I was done. I closed my browser and went back to doing what I was doing. Another pointless banner ad, another potential sale lost.

Is it any wonder that consumers distrust web ads?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Online Influencers Wary of Fakes

The most influential consumers—those who are likely to recommend products to friends and family—are growing skeptical of the opinions they find on product review sites and community forums, according to a new study.

WPP Group PR shop Burson-Marsteller in August surveyed 1,000 influential consumers' trust of online reviews. The study found that, compared to a similar poll conducted five years ago, an increasing number of consumers believed that fake reviews or positive comments left by corporations are a problem. About 30 percent said this is a big problem, compared with 20 percent in 2001. >>Full Story

Thoughts// While marketers may have figured out that seeding comments on a blog or message board is a great way to gain publicity and buzz, it turns out that consumers have figured that they don't like it. While the study does not present any ground-breaking results, it does begin to discuss the issue that some consumers are becoming skeptical of some forms of user-generated content.

To that point, as marketers, we have a responsibility to ensure that we use this medium properly or risk alienating consumers from user-generated content sites (as we know them).

"There's now a skepticism of what is happening online and an expectation [that] if you're in a community site and a commercial entity [is] being discussed, there's someone paid to be weighing in."

While the article should not deter open and honest marketers from using new media and social sites to communicate with an audience, it should make you pause and consider if your approach to this type of marketing is completely transparent.

"There's no rocket science here: transparency matters," she said. "Those entities that are the most transparent and say, 'It's us and we're proud of what we're saying,' do far better than those organizations that don't reveal themselves."

I could not have said it better myself.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Where Did The Abominable Snowman Go? Or, how Ski Utah confused me with this ad

While I was doing some research for an upcoming presentation, I stumbled across a perfect case study showing the value of connectivity and a common theme throughout your entire interactive advertising campaign, rather than just good creative.

Thoughts// I was reading an article on, a non-skiing, social-networking/technology blog, when this Ski Utah ad caught my eye. First of all, this is not the typical place where I would be looking for a Ski Utah (or any travel / outdoor) advertisement. Usually the site is filled with either tech banners or ads for cheap laptops.

Secondly, my family and I are taking an annual ski trip to Utah this January, so I am automatically interested, the perfect customer / demo / target. Speaking of which, I will assume that since I have visited the site in the past few months that Ski Utah either (A) has re-targeted me using behavioral targeting (which would also explain why the ad was on or (B) they got really, really lucky. I am going to guess it some form of option A.

So at this point, I have seen the creative, which is quite good. An Abominable Snowman (or Yeti if you prefer) is seen in the snow-filled banner, holding hand-written signs like a hitch-hiker. The signs display copy such as '500 inches of snow a year', '' and 'I will ride in the trunk. Seriously.'

So, I stop in the middle of my research, in the middle of my day, at work, to click this banner. I am thinking, okay, I will be taken to the yeti's website, see what his favorite resorts are, maybe the snow report and then visit the yeti's MySpace page.

At this point, I am getting ready to send out custom yeti email greeting cards to my whole family. I am that excited about skiing.

So, I click.

And I get...


Well, I should not say 'nothing.' The banner sends me to the homepage, which is a very well developed site in it's own right, like I said, I go there all the time during ski season. But I was looking for a yeti, an abominable snowman, heck, a regular snowman at this point. Alas, nothing, just the standard homepage that I have seen before. I already know when the resorts open, I know what resort I am going to, I have seen the fantastic, snow-laden pictures and no, I don't need a winter vacation planner.

The ad showed me a yeti. I want yeti-branded wallpaper, a special deal that would have encouraged me to visit (read, spend more money) another resort or a snow report widget for my desktop that I could obsess over for the next 67 days! I clicked and I wanted something in return.

They had me, the creative got me interested and I was ready to accept any Ski Utah propaganda that came my way. As Mo would say, I was ready to become the next Ski Utah brand advocate. All that was left was to connect a good creative execution with the rest of the visitation experience...

Instead, I clicked the back button.

Back to my research.

What Your Web Statistics Didn't Tell You

To continue the conversation from Mo's great post last week titled 'How Many Site Hits? Depends Who’s Counting', I wanted to share some additional statistics and secrets from the world of web statistics and analytics.

Thoughts// Secret #1 - Web statistics companies don't track website visitation numbers the same way.

What? Really, they don't?

No, they don't. You could run the same exact set of log files through two different web statistics tools and come up with two completely different answers.

Think of it in terms of a search engine. Yahoo! and Google both have them, but they use slightly different formulas (industry folks like to say algorithms) to present you with the best results. More often that not, those results are slightly different, even when searching for the same word or phrase. Web statistics companies follow a similar pattern.

The Arizona Office of Tourism just recently experienced this exact situation...but using the same web statistics company. We had a set of log files and analyzed them with version 7 and version 8 of a popular web statistics tool. Keep in mind, this was software from the same exact company. The results of upgrading to the newest software version? A sizable difference in page views and unique visitors when comparing the two versions.

For another example, read the summary report from the 2007 Web Analytics Shoot Out, which produces a side by side comparison of 7 analytics packages. Web statistics tools were installed by experts on 4 different sites where they recorded the same data. The report highlighted several scenarios, but for this post let's just focus on the results of unique visitors on the website (by web statistics company):

- Clicktracks - 645,380
- Google Analytics - 600,545
- IndexTools - 614,600
- Unica Affinium NetInsight- 607,475
- Visual Sciences HBX Analytics (or HitBox) - 524,055

As the report shows, the results are similar, but not exact.

So, what does this all mean. Well, to start you can spend less time worrying about what the other guy is reporting as his/her web visitation numbers, because unless they are using the exact same software package (and even then, implementation could be a factor) it is nearly impossible to compare statistics on an equal level.

To use web statistics effectively, you first need to have a solid depth (history) of data for comparison purposes (be sure to save those log files). Then, look beyond the raw numbers that are reported and begin to find trends in the data. Use multiple web statistics tools...WebTrends, HitBox, Google Analytics (which, FYI, is free) see a broader picture of the statistics relating to your site. Finally, keep up-to-date on what those trends are telling you.

While that sounds easy, unfortunately, it is not. And it would take a much longer post to explain all of the details and nuances of web analytics. However, I can recommend several great books on the subject. Including:

- Web Analytics Demystified by Eric Peterson
- Web Analytics For Dummies (basic, but good) by Pedro Sostre and Jennifer LeClaire
- Google Analytics 2.0 by by Jerri L. Ledford and Mary E. Tyler

How Many Site Hits? Depends Who’s Counting

How many people visited, the online home of Vogue and W magazines, last month? Was it 421,000, or, more optimistically, 497,000? Or was the real number more than three times higher, perhaps 1.8 million? Even though online advertising is growing fast, that growth is being stunted, industry executives say, because nobody can get the basic visitor counts straight. >>Full Story

Thoughts// An interesting story from today's NYT about the discrepancy in web traffic numbers reported by publishers and independent audit firms such as ComScore or Nielsen/NetRatings. Both these companies track the traffic patterns of representative panels of people, and use then use those numbers to extrapolate the total number of visitors to a site. Unfortunately, as most online marketers are frustrating aware, the numbers crunched out by panels are vastly different (lower!) that those that we retrieve from our servers.

Now throw in the fact that each analytics tool has its own definition for “visitor” and “unique visitor”….and you’ve got a conundrum of epic proportions. Perhaps, the recent efforts to standardize analytics by the Web Analytics Association (as reported by this blog) might help; but we’ve yet to see how this translates uniformly across an advertising platform.

On a side note, this is a mystery that Travel Oregon is unfortunately all too familiar with. We’ve been on a quest to show the growth in the online “market share” of our digital efforts but as this article points out, none of the third party sources we’ve looked at (ComScore, Hitbox) confirms our metrics as reported by Google Analytics and HBX.

If any of you out there have done “market share” analysis of your interactive programs, I’m all ears!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Travel Trends - TripAdvisor, YouTube, Customer Service

TripAdvisor Shows Off New Look In U.K. - TripAdvisor U.K. rolled out a likely preview of an upcoming site refresh for the state-side travel review site. The updated site, launched in the U.K. this month, features a cleaner look and addresses some of the usage issues that have begun to affect the growing content on the site's homepage. While the new look is not guaranteed to be rolled out on, some of the new design will surely make it's way to the site.

Put the YouTube video on Google Earth - Ah, good old synergy. Google announced earlier this month that users of Google Earth will now be able to upload and view YouTube videos linked to specific locations within the program. So, if you are searching Google Earth for the Tower of London, you could also watch related videos from the area around a specific location.

I Heart Zappos - A fantastic story circulating online about the power of customer service and blogging. A normal woman...a writer, cook and blogger...writes a simple entry into her blog about an extremely positive experience with online shoe retailer People read it, email it, pass it around...and now, if you search for the words 'I Heart Zappos' in Google, you receive 223,000 results, most of which about this story. Public relations and viral marketing that you just cannot pay for. Plus, great customer service at it's best.

Navigation Tops Downloadable Mobile Apps

According to the latest Telephia research, location-based services (LBS) such as navigation, represented 51 percent of the $118 million in revenue that downloadable mobile applications (such as LBS, weather applications, chat/community, and personal organization tools) generated during Q2 2007. Many consumers, says the report, may not realize the utility of a navigation application on their mobile phone until they use it.

While location-based services deliver highly personalized offerings such as friend-finding and other location-aware features, navigation represents the lion's share of revenue. The Telephia second quarter report on mobile applications, reported that:

Approximately 13 million mobile consumers downloaded a mobile application on their phone. Of the $118 million in revenue that these downloadable mobile applications generated during Q2 2007, LBS represented 51 percent. >>Full Story

Thoughts// So let's add up those numbers...of the approximately 220+ million cell phone users in the United States (CIA World Factbook 2007) about 7 million of them downloaded a location-based service application to there phone in Q2. That is a good number of people searching for the nearest Starbucks via there Moto Razor.

However, if we take a step back and look at the larger trend of consumers learning that they can receive location based information on a cell phone, we can begin to understand the future impact of these numbers. The general public is becoming accustom to using cell phones to gather information while on the road (read, traveling). Granted, right now the majority of the information requested is simple directions and locations, but how far away is the day when a tourist can download a trail map from the ranger station, check-out from a hotel or perhaps show a boarding pass all with a cell phone?

Not that far away...anymore.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Do Web Ads Lack Credibility?

A new global study of consumers found that the most popular forms of Internet advertising score at the bottom when it comes to consumer trust. Nielsen, the parent company of Adweek, surveyed consumers in 47 markets about their perceptions of different forms of advertising, both traditional and digital. It found that the older forms of ad messages—appearing in newspapers, magazines and on TV—far outscored the most popular forms of Web ads, search links and banner placements. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Despite a 17% increase in online spending over the first half of this year, this study serves as a grounding revelation that marketing and brand building is a long term process and not a short term problem that can be solved by buying a ton of ads - be it offline or online. That said, marketers have to realize that trust is earned and the fact that the first 15 years of the web has been/(is still!) awash with dancing cowboys, phishing schemes and other deceptive advertising. Other results from the study:

  • 63% of survey trusted newspaper ads
  • 56% trusted TV spots and magazine placements
  • 26% trusted banner ads
  • 34% trusted search ads (Pay Per Click)
The big bright spot for digital (and the travel industry) was social media! 78% of respondents trusted recommendations from peers and 61% placed confidence in blogs and other user generated media.

The key takeaway here again is that trust of the consumer is earned over the long term and that relevance, creative and context are critical factors when designing any advertising plan.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Digital Design Outlook - Should You Kill Your Homepage?

Do homepages still have relevance in this "Web 2.0" world? Do consumers use "tag clouds"?

These and other intriguingly design questions were part of an extensive survey this summer of 500 "connected consumers"
--online users over age 20 who had broadband access, visited socially oriented sites like MySpace or YouTube, and spent at least $200 online in the last calendar year. The study performed by Avenue A/Razorfish and the findings were published last week in 50+ page report, Fast Forward: Designing For Constant Change.

The report consists of thirteen essays and the findings of their "connected consumer" study. >>Download the Report Here (registration required)

Thoughts// While the study is a look at super connected consumers and some of the findings may seem obvious, this is nevertheless a "must read" for online marketers. As Troy can attest, online marketers are constantly under pressure to integrate and feature the latest gizmos or technologies into our digital portfolio. Instead of responding to trends in isolation, this guide provides a framework for interactive design and how it should tie back into the overall brand strategy - both offline and online. Some key findings include:

  • More than 85% of people on the panel used "most popular" links on sites to decide what to look at.
  • 55% made purchase decisions based on user reviews
  • Almost 65% of consumers never use them; a little more than 11% use them all or most of the time.
  • Stop thinking of websites and online campaigns in isolation...instead, create experiences across platforms such as blogs, mobile devices and desktops (via widgets)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Travel Trends - Las Vegas, Earthmine

Las Vegas - To complement new 30 and 60 second spots debuting this week, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority introduced a new section of that allows visitors to loosen up by listening to their 'evil' side. The section, which is surprisingly sparse of content, features an email a friend function that lets users 'impose your free will' via an angel or devil personalized message. The email a friend feature is powered by Oddcast, which is famous for those creepy talking avatars.

Earthmine - A great post from TechCrunch introduces us to another virtual mapping company called Earthmine. Simliar to other companies and projects in the virtual mapping field such as Microsoft's Photosynth and Everyscape, the introduction of Earthmine places yet more emphasis on a searchable visual world.

Will Human Laziness Burst The Web 2.0 Bubble?

...without your neighbor/classmate/sister/girlfriend’s tireless devotion to keeping her profile up-to-date, MySpace would merely be a place for FOX to promote its properties. Without a horde of news junkies yearning to see their username in digital print, Digg would be an ugly page of yellow and white.

And that is why the Web 2.0 era will come to end sooner rather than later. Because if there is one immutable law of humankind, it is that we are really, really lazy. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A thought provoking and possibly ridiculous (at the same time) post from Seth Porges at the CrunchGear blog. The post poses the argument that the 'Web 2.0' bubble, i.e., MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Wikipedia, et al., will burst because of basic human laziness. An idea which has some parallels with a San Francisco Chronicle article we covered last week. While certain elements of the article are valid points, like the idea of losing interest in a project (in this case a social networking site), the overall article should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, the article does make you think about the state of this Web 2.0 movement. In the travel industry, we should be aware of the possible effects because of too much user-generated content. Although we have seemingly not reached that point, when does 459 posts about the buffet at a hotel in Las Vegas become too much? When does a user say to themselves, 'I just want to read what a expert thinks.' Or do we ever reach the point?

In addition, the post does bring to light another 'law of humankind'...that we are always looking for an easier way to do anything. It is the same basic reason why people starting using Google, because it was easier (to search and find what you are looking for) than previous search engines. So, the question is not if the concept of UGC and social networking sites will fail, but what is the next site that will make connecting with your friends, co-workers or book club even easier.

Monday, October 1, 2007

BBC Buys Lonely Planet To Expand Online Content

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp, bought Lonely Planet in a deal that values the travel publisher at about 100 million pounds ($203 million), a person familiar with the talks said.

Lonely Planet founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler will keep a 25 percent stake, the BBC said on Monday.

The couple, who met on a bench in London's Regents Park, started the publisher in 1972 after a honeymoon trip across Asia with "a beat-up old car, a few dollars in the pocket and a sense of adventure," the Lonely Planet's Web site says. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A big acquisition for the BBC and a big move from Lonely Planet. In what may be one of the first consolidation moves in this Web 2.0 online travel industry, the deal begins to show the value of travel content. In what is by far the most obvious statement to date on this blog, people like to travel...and travel content, travel-planning content and travel review content is a big hook for large portal sites (such as Yahoo!, MSN and the BBC) to continue to build visitation.

Two excerpts from a couple of articles on the deal:

BBC Worldwide recently raised £350m in debt to acquire content companies around the world to boost its growth prospects and add to its already extensive content portfolio. - The Independent

The deal will help the BBC become "one of the world's leading content businesses," BBC Worldwide Chief Executive John Smith said. - Washington Post

One of the world's leading content businesses. Not a news business, not an entertainment business, not even a television business, but a content business. As digital / interactive / entertainment companies continue to grow, the most important asset is content.


Travel Trends - NAVTEQ, Radiohead

Nokia Purchases NAVTEQ - In an announcement today, mobile phone giant Nokia will acquire Navteq, the world's top seller of mapping software, for $8.1billion. While this move should not affect the use of Navteq's maps within mapping tools on Google, Yahoo! and MSN, the purchase is a blow to GPS-maker Garmin. Especially considering that Garmin competitor TomTom purchased the other major mapping provider, Tele Atas, earlier this year.

Radiohead Says Pay What You Want - A bit of online news that everyone seems to be talking about, the U.K. band Radiohead has decided to release it latest album sans record label and let consumers decide what they want to pay for the album. Yes, that is correct. Consumers can download the entire album from Radiohead's website and decide during the checkout process how much they would like to pay for the album...anywhere from free to $10.00, or whatever you want. A very interesting concept on how much content (in this case music) is worth to consumers.

Out-of-Context Ads Prove Effective

New research casts doubt on the long-held belief that advertising is most effective when placed near content related to the product.

Yahoo! and MediaVest recently studied a group of consumers passionate about a particular subject area. Product ads displayed out of context had roughly the same impact on brand preference as identical placements shown next to related content. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Not the most ground-breaking study, but still some important data about contextual versus behavioral targeting. Logically, behavioral targeting should be a step-up from contextual targeting. Behavioral targeting takes advantage of a person's interests regardless of what website they may be browsing, while contextual targeting places ads on websites with similar content.

The article does suggest that 'the long-held belief that ads shown in context are more valuable than those seen out of context', which is almost correct. It should note that the ads shown out of context are not merely shown on an unrelated website, but to target consumers on an unrelated website...which is a big difference.

Even with these study results, advertisers should conduct their own research on which type of delivery method produces the best ROI or click-thru rate. In addition, even if your ad is targeted at the right audience, a more important factor may be the creative execution of the ad itself.