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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Want to meet about a young-pro business publication?

I'm thinking about setting up a meet-up to discuss the feasibility/potential of starting a business publication/website for young professionals in Halifax. Let me know if you're interested in having an informal meeting about it sometime soon. Likely at a pub.

What we need to figure out:
1) Demand/Potential
2) Content
3) Costs (I can figure out printing costs before the meeting)
4) Revenue
5) ??
6) Profit!!

Post in the comments if you're interested or, again, reasons why this might be a terrible idea. Also, if I've missed some crucial agenda point, please let me know.

(It should be noted that I used to work in print publishing, have close family working in printing, and currently work in advertising, so I'm not entirely ignorant to the difficulty of such an endeavor)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A younger-skewing business publication?

This was going to be a topic for discussion at the last meet-up, but I didn't get around to bringing it up with anyone. So I'm bringing it up now.

Does Halifax need a business publication aimed toward all the 20-something career-minded people in the city? The current business publications on offer are stuffy and boring, and don't seem to provide any interesting or terribly valuable advice or editorial for the younger workers in Halifax.

I could be wrong, though.

So first, do you perceive the same need I do? And second, what form would this publication take? I mean, it's targeted at 20-somethings, so would it really need to be anything more than a website? Or should it be, as has been suggested, more like the "funny" single-pagers you find in food courts? Perhaps an insert in The Coast?

I think there needs to be a better sense of community and conversation between the young career folks in Halifax. Fusion is, well, it's something, but it's not enough.

Thoughts? (Telling me I'm wrong is a perfectly valid comment, too. And, if you follow my blog you'll notice that I'm reasonably comfortable with a decent dose of hate)

Friday, July 25, 2008

If Adblock scares you, quit

If you're an online marketer and you think Adblock Plus is going to kill the online ad industry, you're an idiot. Quit, and make room for the rest of us a little quicker. I mean, you're going to be out on your ass soon enough anyway, right?

Why Adblock Matters

Yes, the ads we make, and the ads we buy space for, can be blocked by Adblock, for the most part. They're Flash ads, usually, served via a javascript tag. Adblock can pretty easily allow users to stop them from loading.

We typically make and buy standard ad units. Standard ad units have, well, standard architectures. Standard ads can be easily blocked but, let's face it, they're just as easily ignored. So standard ad units are a problem even if the user doesn't even have Adblock running.

Oh noes?!, right? We're done for, right?

Why Adblock doesn't matter

Because, like I just said, standard ads are already a problem. These are exactly the kinds of things that advertisers should be trying to stop cluttering up websites with. Advertisements can allow sites to generate money, can allow users to have access to the content they want (by paying for its delivery for them), without being stupid, without being intrusive, and without being pointless.

Only the sketchy advertisers who serve up ads that just piss people off are, and should, be scared right now.

Look, site publishers need to make money if they're going to be doing what they do full-time. That's just how it works. Selling advertisements lets them do this.

But the advertising space they sell is usually easily ignored by users, or even worse, annoying to them.

Thing is, those type of annoying/invisible (too often it's only one or the other) ads are the ones most easily blocked. So what do we do? Well, we stop using standard, boring, annoying, intrusive, pointless standard ad units.

And, the thing is, thinking a little bit outside the Big Box (the standard 300x250 pixel unit) is the kind of direction we should be going. Oh, and they're more difficult to block. Oh, and users will be less inclined to block them anyway.

Why advertisers and publishers need to smarten up

Because the users already have. Website visitors have already learned to ignore the first 100 pixels or so of websites. They know there's just going to be an ad up there, so why pay any attention?

Advertisers and publishers need to smarten up because there's so much potential out there, opportunities to let advertisers sponsor your website instead of you just whoring it out to them. Let advertisers spend their money on making your site accessible to your visitors. They're willing to do that if there's something in it for them. Well, they should be at least.

That something? An opportunity to talk, a little bit, to your audience, too. An opportunity to let your audience know that they're helping out, that they're footing the bill for the cost of you running your cool website.

And they can do that by making intriguing wallpapers, by getting sponsorship taglines in your RSS feed, by sponsoring your contest and paying for the prizes, or by running static ads as background images in your site's remnant space. Basically, by helping you deliver your content to your visitors. By being a part of the team.

Adblock should scare bad advertisers and lazy publishers

Because bad advertisers just want to interrupt the users and force-feed them a message. And because lazy publishers just want to toss some AdSense boxes around the page, or sign up for another sketchy ad network.

If you're scared of Adblock, well, I guess you should be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Halifax Social & New Media Meet Up Tonight!

Agency folks, bloggers, social media nerds, and people just excited about this whole internet thing will be meeting at the Fourth Thursday Social & New Media Meet Up tonight at the Lower Deck in downtown Halifax.

If you read this blog you're probably already well aware of this but, just in case, I wanted to give it a shout out.

I'll be there, and I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Hits" mean nothing to me

If you measure your site's popularity in hits, you stand a good chance of me ignoring everything else you say. Hits are a measurement of how many file requests were made to your server. So, basically, it means nothing to me. I don't care how many times images were requested to be delivered to browsers. If your site's home page is image-heavy you could easily be getting dozens of hits every time someone loads that one page.

Now, I know that most of the time when a rep tells me how many hits they get they actually mean pageviews (a useful metric), but confusing web terminology makes me a little nervous about giving you my clients' money.

Tell me how many visitors you have, tell me how many visits you get, tell me how many pageviews you receive. More importantly, tell me all the information you have about who your audience is.

Don't tell me how many "hits" your site gets. That only tells me to be wary of signing a contract with you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I can find your audience elsewhere

The internet is not TV, or radio, or print. Lots of people may only watch one or two shows. Lots of people may only listen to one radio station, or only read one newspaper.

Nobody only goes to one website. Your site is not irreplaceable.

I can always find your audience elsewhere.

If you really, really value your website, and see it as a necessary site on my media buy, then you should be trying your hardest to convince me of that. If you see it as so important, so necessary, so irreplaceable that you won't bargain, won't facilitate, won't help, then you're off. I'll find your users somewhere else.

I always can.

SEO in Halifax

I recently proposed SEO services and was told that my company's rates were much too high. Which was a little shocking because I'd basically cut the price in half because I thought it would be a really interesting project to work on, and a great win.

The impression I got from my contact is that they essentially ended up going with the proposal with the lowest price. Not an entirely rare thing for a company to do, but SEO and internet marketing in general seem to be really overlooked and misunderstood means of advertising in this city.

Halifax is in Atlantic Canada. According to comScore, Atlantic Canada leads much of the rest of the country in the per captia people online, and the time they spend online. Canada is a world leader in these same measures. Meaning Atlantic Canada is a world leader. And yet they just don't get it...

If you're a business in Halifax, you need SEO. If you're a business in Halifax, you should be advertising online. That's where your customers and prospects are, for almost any product or service you might offer.

People here are online, a lot. It's really that simple.

Obviously much of the numbers for the region could be skewed by the fact that we have so many post-secondary education institutions, meaning that we have a disproportionate number of the most web-savvy demographic in this city. But those people have friends, they have parents, so even if they might not be your audience, they know your audience. If they see your message they can inform the people who need your message.

To neglect the internet is a silly, silly move. No matter what target you're after.

Mine one of 50+ "Kick Ass Logos" has listed my Ingenioustries logo, by Headspace Design, as one of "50+ Kick Ass Logos for Inspiration." That's pretty awesome. Check out Halifax-based Headspace Design for more sweet work.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Glossary: Hits

Hits are requests for files from a server. When you visit a web page, your browser has to request all the files that make up that page to be delivered to you. Hits do not measure how many times the site was visited, nor how many visitors the site has. They don't even measure how many individual pages were loaded. They only measure how many times the server received requests for files. If your site's home page has 100 images, and a single person visits that page one, you just got 100 hits. Congratulations.

Don't measure your site's traffic in hits, then. Because it's meaningless.

This is how to do a site wallpaper

The Dark Knight wallpaper/companion execution on is pretty rad. This is some great site wallpaper, people. All your typical imdb content is there, unobstructed, but you've still got incredibly effective advertising.

Yeah, it clashes with the imdb colours, so it's all a little ugly, but the visitor gets their content, and is served an ad, all at the same time. It might be a touch annoying, but nowhere near as frustrating and intrusive as a voken. Wallpaper's the way to go, ya'll. Keep that in mind when you're making your commercial websites.

Hardly anyone will tell you about a cool ad that started covering over what they were trying to read on a website. Almost no one will think it was pretty great that for up to seven seconds they couldn't read what they'd been trying to. At best people will think the ad was pretty silly. At worst they'll be pissed off.

With a wallpaper, at best people will think it was kind of cool. At worst they'll think it was ugly.

Pretty easy choice to make when you have to decide which to go with, right?

Well, it should be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sell your site, not your space

If you're trying to get advertisers to buy on your site, remember that it's not about the space you have, it's about your audience. You're not selling blocks of space, you're selling what your site has to offer.

You're selling access to your audience.

So if you want advertisers, you need to know who your audience is. What they're doing online and otherwise. I don't care how much traffic you get, I want to know who those people are. Remember, if it were about traffic I could just buy ads on Hotmail and be done with it.

But it's not and can't be about traffic, and it's usually not about reach. It's about hitting a demographic. It's about finding the people most likely to be interested in the product I'm trying to sell them. And I need to know if your audience is in that demo. If you don't know that, then I'm not interested.

And that means that you also need to find the people most likely to be interested in buying your product. You need to be reaching out to advertisers with the information you have, and you need to find compelling reasons for them to buy on your site.

Too many publishers think that just because their site is popular, or has a niche target, that advertisers will suddenly be interested in buying.

I can find your site's audience somewhere else.

Nobody only reads one site on the internet. I can always nab them when they're checking their webmail. Come find me and tell me why it would be better for me to advertise to them when they're on your site, and then I'm interested.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Skinning -- The Anti-voken

First of all, a voken is an ad that appears over top of the content that you're trying to view on a website. They're Top-Layer Animations, Flash animations that are meant to make it impossible to ignore the advertiser's message.

And they're really annoying.

Because people can so easily ignore typical banners (people have basically learned to ignore the first 100 pixels or so of a website, greatly reducing the effectiveness of top-of-page leaderboards), vokens are often used to seize the visitor's attention. It's usually hoped that if the creative is interesting or entertaining enough, the user won't mind that they're being content-blocked. Odds are greatly stacked against that happening, though.

Skinning, however, is like the anti-voken.

You get the same attention-grabbing effect without the outrageously annoying intrusion. Remnant space on either side of the page content is branded with the advertiser's message or colours, and the wallpaper may fill the whitespace within the content.

Skinning can make a website look like it's "brought to you by" the advertised brand. If the site is highly-trusted and has good visitor engagement, the brand may be looked on quite favorably.

Of course, the opposite could easily be true as a site's loyal visitors could see it as a takeover attempt, or an attempt to siphon some of their goodwill toward the site.

In either case, though, skinning is a better idea than a voken. Vokens, yes, can be interesting and entertaining, but always at the cost of the visitor's time.

With a voken, you aren't grabbing a visitor's attention, you're hijacking it.

So if you're a publisher looking to increase ad revenue and invite interesting executions from advertisers, offer things like skinning or wallpapers. Allow content to be sponsored, "brought to you by" the advertised brand, which is definitely not the same as allowing content to be controlled or affected by the advertiser.

People like me are always looking for new, interesting ways to advertise our client's brands online, and smart publishers with solid ideas for executions stand a much better chance of landing on a buy than a site that's just trying to pitch us on hijacking their users' engagement.

Glossary: Skinning

When you skin (or add "wallpaper") to a website, you typically fill the remnant space on either side of the page content with your branding creative. As well, the wallpaper may show in the "whitespace" within the content. Skinning allows all of the content of a site to remain unobstructed, while allowing for interesting, attention-grabbing branding executions. Skinning can make the site appear as if it's being directly sponsored by the advertised brand.

Of course, a bad skin (too busy, too ugly, too intrusive) can have a negative effect on a visitor's experience. While skinning is better than using a voken, it must still be handled carefully to create a good experience for the visitor, the advertiser, and the publisher.

Glossary: Voken

A voken, or "virtual token" is a Top-Layer Animation advertisement that appears and covers over content on a website. Not necessarily user-initiated, these ads, while able to seize the visitor's attention, can be quite annoying. Advertisers and clients have raved about their effectiveness on a click-through basis, but that's likely because they were tracking the "Close" button as a click, and thinking that accidental clicks on the ad count as being effective.

Skinning a website can have similar attention-grabbing effect without being near as annoying.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Have great reps!

Most of the time my decision to buy on a site is based on these criteria, in this order:

1) Will it hit my demo?
2) Do I trust the rep?
3) Price.

That’s right, my relationship with my rep is usually more important than the price. A good rep saves you time, and comes up with ideas that create greater value. That can effectively make it cheaper to buy on a more expensive site with a great rep. A site with a low CPM and a rep who’s only interested in getting the contract signed and who seems to disappear once it is can cost you more time, and therefore more money, in the long run.

This is of course not unique to web advertising, but nobody seems to stay put for very long in in this industry, since it's so young. So if you’re selling ads online and use sales reps and account managers, try to keep them where they are! I tend to banter with my reps (well, I fill their inboxes with long-winded questions peppered with attempts at humour), and the better the rep is at addressing my concerns quickly, and exceeding my expectations of service and trust, the more likely I am to buy on the site.

If you have to charge more so that you can afford to pay your staff well and keep them around, that should be okay. I’ll still buy because I know I’m getting a much greater value in the long run.

Oh, and they should humour me when I try to be funny. That’s crucial, too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Microsites Suck


If the client asks you why people would actually go to the microsite you're proposing to advertise their product, and you reply, "because that's where all the ads will direct them," you've given a very, very wrong answer.

If the reason someone would go to your microsite is because that's where the ads click through to, don't make it! Seriously, just... stop it.

Office Max's "Elf Yourself" is a microsite, and the reason people go there is not just because some ads directed them there. Burger King's "SimpsonizeMe" is a microsite, and people don't go there just because they clicked on an ad and were directed there.

People go to these sites because they offer something other than another advertisement like the one they just clicked on. People go there because the means (a fun experience interacting with the site) justifies the end (being told about a product). In fact, they'll spread the link around to their friends for the same reason, they'll advertise for the product because, at the end of the day, there's a rewarding experience to be had.

If your microsite doesn't offer an interesting, rewarding experience to the consumer, you're building it because you can't think of anything else to do.

And if your microsite has a loading screen... just give up, go home, and sit in the corner and think about what you've done.