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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AdWords in an Ad World

At first, it was the internet, that revolutionized digital advertising. The second half of the 90's and the first half of the last decade was all about the power of the internet to the advertise. It seemed that advertisers had finally found the medium which can allow them to break through the clutter of countless marketing communication messages in a manner more effective than conventional print and broadcast mediums. There was always bound to be the need to non conventional advertising platforms and mediums, since the more traditional mediums were getting saturated and it seemed the marketing message was unable to break through the clutter and reach its desired audience.

While the power of the internet as an advertising medium was still being explored, along came mobile internet technology which was further accelerated by the developments in smart phone technology. Before we knew it, the whole world was going mobile, how people were going about in the same physical world that we lived in was going mobile. Of course not in its literal sense, but internet powered mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets were now driving the market and had become a part of every day life and the consumption of content that went with it for millions and millions of people around the world. Marketer's could not choose to ignore these developments, as the mobile medium offered significant potential as mobile devices usually tended to be on the users or with them at most times throughout the day. These included the ability for advertisers and marketers to develop and transmit customized marketing communication to their desired audience as well as reap the benefits of location based services which added the geographic variable to the user and their involvement with marketing communication.

Internet giants such as AOL, Yahoo and Google have all made significant efforts to be part of this technological revolution and the advertisement revenue benefits that come with the package. Yahoo enjoyed the benefit of having the first mover advantage in this industry through Yahoo OneSearch which was based on their search engine technology. On the other hand, the biggest player in the internet search engine industry, the internet giant Google made its presence felt on the mobile platforms through the development of AdWords program. These were short text based adverts that relied significantly on Google's organic search algorithm to produce the most relevant possible searches for the user. Google's AdWords program gave the advertisers a generous amount of freedom and flexibility with both advert development, placement, as well as how much it was going to cost the advertiser. Advertisers for the sponsored short text placement were charged on a pay per click/visit basis depending on less on the presence of their listing on the organic search and more on the user's engagement with the search result. Google had also thrown in the option of allowing users to engage the advertisers through 'click to call' which allowed the user to directly make a voice call to the advertiser through a single click. Some AdWords placements were even spread across to Google's partner companies like AOL and Netscape.

For Google in particular, there was significant potential from these technological developments, since they now have their very own open source operating system for the mobile smart phones. The Android OS by Google has seen innovation and development in the few years since its debut in the smart phone market and is now the fastest growing mobile operating system platform in the smart phone industry. Complete access through a mobile operating system offers significant potential and opens the door for great new possibilities and innovations in mobile marketing communication. For Google, the possibilities are limitless.

The size of the screen through which these advertising messages are communicated can be a possible concern regarding to their effectiveness and their ability to communicate their message in a rich and engaging manner. In addition let's not forget there will always be a fair few concerns among users or recipients of adverts in the era of mobile marketing communication. There maybe concerns with regards to privacy and security issues, since mobile communication also makes use of location based services, that might be a cause for concern for individuals receiving advertising messages which includes the perception of intrusion. Till then, we can just observe how industry, market and technology evolves in the months and years ahead.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pakistan's ignored minority

The free and relatively independent print and broadcast media of Pakistan has one could argue some what liberalized in their ways and in their points of view. In the recent years they have shown concerns for micro issues which was rarely discussed if ever in mainstream journalism such as the mistreatment of minorities or huge levels of poverty in isolated parts of Pakistan. Digital technology has played a significant role in helping Pakistani media achieve all what is today. A popular topic of discussion in the media has been discussion surrounding the rapid radicalization of Pakistani society, and how right wing radicals are high jacking our society, and our beloved nation which was meant to be a secular democracy based on the vision of the founding father is heading down a path of self destruction. We live in a Pakistan, where religious minorities are often on the receiving end of the worst possible treatment thrown at them, not by law on all occasions, but mostly by society. The so called guardians of the law often also show a blind eye to all what is happening, because such mistreatment of minorities directly or indirectly have religious radicals at their roots.

We often read about persecution of Pakistani Christians in Punjab, and Hindu families living in regional Sindh. Be it major metropolitan cities such as Karachi or Lahore, or regional cities Pakistan is indeed not a safe country if you do not happen to fall into the dominant religion of the land. The minority sects of Islam are no different, they too are viewed with suspicion and disgust, and are often subjected to second class treatment and stereo typing of the worst kind. There is a small minority in Pakistan that our media often fails to talk about, in fact I do not think our media has ever bothered to speak about it. It is is about the persecution of Non Religious and Pro Secular Muslims in Pakistani society.

Belonging to the dominant Islamic sect in the land of the pure is no guarantee of safety and an assurance of one's worth. One also has to subscribe to the values held by the conservative and narrow minded right wing religious radicals or the very overly sensitive religious people, otherwise one is attracting unwanted attention, harassment, mockery and discrimination towards themselves. It is no hidden fact that Pakistani society since its inception in 1947 has always been a religiously sensitive society, people even the liberal one's are usually religiously conservative in the bottom of their heart. Regardless of how society has always been, there was a time when the level of intolerance now shown to non religious Muslims ceased to exist, and now the world we live in it has become a common affair.

There are countless examples that can quoted over the treatment off non religious Pakistani Muslims, even those from the dominant Sunni sect. Some of the types of discrimination that such Pakistanis face from their compatriots are as follows:

1. Discrimination
2. Social boycotts
3.Open and Public Verbal harassment
4.Intentional respect shown to their way of life
5.Curses and Condemnation for not being devoutly religious
6.Death threats for having views that are marginally diverse in nature.
7.Attempts at brain washing us through fear and guilt inducement, as if we are deeply lost souls that need salvation
8.Public mockery
9.The Kafir Label Card

People would be surprised how intolerant other's have become. We live in a Pakistan, where people take great serious offence even on something as basic and fundamental as you not joining them for congregation prayers if their being organized, or even forgetting to say the basic prayer before breaking bread. People do not even think twice before losing their calmness and composure and start accusing others of blasphemy if they deem the other's point of view as even marginally divergent from blind devotion. A lot of people reading this might dismiss this as the bullshit of a Westernized foreign educated Pakistani, but rest assured every word of this is based on personal experiences on multiple occasions and there is no element of fabrication here. I have experienced it all, from dirty looks for not praying, to guilt inducement, to even death threats from an educated young man over me not having an objection to a burqa ban in a far away land (France). I think it is high time the media give atleast minimal coverage to the educated non religious intellectuals of Pakistan and their mistreatment at the hands of society, so some general level of awareness is created, otherwise a day will come when the voices of reason and alternative opinions in Pakistan will be permanently silenced.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spielberg and Horsing around the Cinema

It was a cold wet and windy winter evening in the British Capital. It was a much sought after weekend, the weekend after the hell that was exam week. An enriching cinema experience was eagerly awaited, the last visit had been some time back and turned out to be Mission Impossible in reali life. January marks not just the new year and the end of exams for us unfortunate Post Graduate students, but also marks that time of the year with summer being the exception when new block buster movies grace our cinema screens. Among the new releases was Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' which is based on a children's book and is set during the first world war. Considering Spielberg is the genius mind that brough us movies like'Saving Private Ryan', 'Munich' and let's not forget 'Jurrasic Park', I was kind of looking forward to this movie.

Little did I expect that this would an experience of horsing around at the Cinema. The movie was none the less well made, but seriously Spielberg gave too much on screen time to the Horse, not enough to human characters that were part of this Horse's extraordinary journey through battlefields and war torn country sides on the European mainland. Almost 3 hours of non stop horsing around, imagine the torture of sitting through a movie where almost every scene has the horse in it, who by the way was the lead character of the film.

To summarize the money, long store, poor farm boy owns a good breed horse, his father sells the horse off to the British Royal Army in order to pay off a debt, and it shows the journey of the horse through the war zone, through behind enemy lines, under German posession, and until mysteriously while being caught up in tons of barbed wire ends up back in the British camp, at a time when that same boy was old enough to be serving in the army in that particularly batallion. There were some moments of humour though, when the horse was tied up in barbed wire and there was exchange of comedic dialogue between a German and an English soldier, other than that the film rarely has any light moments to engage the audience humourously. If one is a fan of serious cinema, and can digest a drama like this, with the over glorified horse just horsing around, go right ahead. It's likely to attract some Oscar contention, but yeah this will be a test of one's patience definitely.

This is shorter than my usual blogs, I need not elaborate further, as to why? lol

Bring on the Fire, but Be Kindle with me

Just a few years ago, industry experts would have completely ruled out the possibility of there being a market for the tablet computer and other hand held devices such as the E-readers. Yet when we look all around, whether be it on in the tube, or just walking down the street or even campus, people have in their hands a tablet computer or an e-reader which also manages to successfully engage it's respective user. With these 2 respective devices, I think it would be fair to allocate some of the credit to Apple with the iPad for creating the market for Tablet Computers, and to Amazon with it's Kindle for really making people put down the age old tradition of printed literature.

Apple was by means not the first company to develop and launch the Tablet Computer. There were other's who tried before Apple launched its iPad in 2010. Companies such as Acer and Asus had been working with Microsoft to develop a tablet computer but the reception in those early days of tablet computing was some what cold. Then came the Apple iPad, and it managed to create a market for portable tablet computers overnight which was aided by the portability that those products had to offer, but most importantly the simple user friendly functionality of the iPad. Before we knew it, countless manufacturers and companies wanted to join in and become a part of this multi-million dollar market for Tablet Computers. Be it Samsung, Huawei or countless other's, tech firms were geared up in the development and launch of tablet computers. Most of Apple's competitors chose Google's Android operating system for their Tablet Computers. The limitation of these devices though is that they are more meant for content consumption as opposed to content creation.

Amazon was no different as well, they also wanted to be a part of this multi million dollar market. They had already enjoyed reasonable success in portable digital technology through their Amazon Kindle, which remains the largest selling E-reader in the market. After enjoying success with the Kindle, decision makers at Amazon felt that there was room for a low end, low priced internet tablet as most tablets were expensive high end products, at the same time they felt that they could take Apple head on and give them a run for their money.

What Amazon has working for itself is its strong presence in the online market as an E-Retailer or e-tailer as some would like to call it. Amazon has also a significant digital product offering that they sell to their customers in the form of E-Books, digital music and movies downloadable onto Amazon devices. With the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire, Amazon has managed to integrate its Kindle E Reader with an open source Android based operating system, which has been customized to Amazon's requirments. In a way their product offering is a hybrid between a Kindle E reader and a basic entry level Android tablet, the great thing going for them though is the whole range of digital services available from Amazon that can make having a Kindle Fire a very impressive experience.

What Amazon should realistically do is pro actively compete with Barnes and Noble, as well as other low end Tablet Computers with a similar screen size instead of trying take Apple head on. They should position their Kindle Fire, as an enriching and a more complete Kindle experience which combines the Kindle with the power of the Android Operating system to allow greater flexibility and functionality for end users. By doing this, they would be avoiding alienating the significant user base that they have developed with the Kindle, and they can in the process utilize that same user base by encouraging them to upgrade to the Kindle Fire, for an even more enriching Kindle Experience where they can enjoy countless other services that Amazon has to offer also. Amazon has managed to partially cannibalize it's own market by offering Kindle App's on Apple and Android powered devices, and owners of competitor products might be reluctant to switch unless of course Amazon can come up with that all important differentiation factor to win the minds of its would be consumers.