Tag Archives: Verticals

Dry Cleaners As Media Channels: The Eco-Hanger Network

Out of home advertising is the next frontier and a big one. Usually, we’re focused on digital forms of it, whether electronic billboards on the side of the freeway, an elevator monitor, or a screen by the grocery checkout.

But in a true sign of our “post digital” age (thanks Dan McCarthy), new forms of non-digital out of home are being developed. The latest is a dry cleaning network developed by Vesta Green Marketing Solutions that puts ads on higher quality “eco hangers.” The idea is that consumers will accept colorful ads on hangers because they’ll better support their clothes in the closet, and won’t contribute to the 3.5 billion hangers annually deposited in land-fills.

Dry cleaners, themselves, are a premium service used by 35 million high value households at 40,000 locations. They certainly provide a better demographic cut for media. Thirty-nine percent of college graduates use dry cleaners, for instance, although they make up just 22 percent of the population. They’re also highly targetable. Advertisers could target retailers within blocks or miles of a dry cleaner – or in the same mall.

Vesta believes that printing high quality and graphics on hangers will give consumers an “intimate” look at ads every time they peer into their closets. “There is no place like ‘in home,'” goes their presentation. To me, the whole thing initially sounded like a Saturday Night Live gag. Who wants to put beer ads in your own house?

Then again, inventive uses of out of home can grow on you. The LA Times has started printing ads on their delivery bags. Last Sunday, a large, colorful ad for a “Georgia O’Keefe” movie on The Lifetime Network caught my eye –and I ran to the DVR to record it. These things work.

Vesta says it is focused on rolling out its network with national advertisers. But local advertising is an obvious next phase, given the high targetability of the dry cleaner shops.

Jacobsen: Verticalizing Newspapers and Grabbing GeoTargeted Ads

Hordes of vertical sites have been popping up and grabbing the geotargeted ads that could theoretically go to newspapers. In response, design and business consultant Alan Jacobsen – who last year developed RealPeopleRealStuff, an online video classifieds site — is reworking newspapers so they can build their own vertical sites on the go.

The idea is to develop demographically targeted niche sites that serve up local ads on every page adjacent to compelling and relevant content – especially user generated content. Ad clutter is eliminated by a sponsorship model that provides advertisers with exclusive deals. “CPM is DOA,” says Jacobsen.

Jacobsen’s first vertical product, TweenTribune, targets tween audiences between the ages of 8-14. Jacobsen reports that TweenTribune is being used as a Web-based learning platform by teachers, and is being used by newspapers such as The Valdosta Daily Times to drive kids to the main site.

Meanwhile, along the same theme, newspaper consultant (and longtime Hearst exec) Henry “Buzz” Wurzer has compiled a newspaper publisher “checklist.” Wurzer says he would:
1. Fire myself as Publisher and rehire myself as CEO, Local (Your Market) Information Utility
2. Reinforce my leading and trustworthy local brand identity by unifying all my existing and future channels of news, information and advertising in both digital and print formats
3. Aggressively and continuously promote my brand and various information channels locally, especially to young consumers
4. Lead a culture change throughout my organization that all future strategic plans would be initiated digitally and then employ traditional formats such as print in a supportive role
5. Retrain as well as hire staff to retool existing products as well as to create new products to fulfill our company mission as our local markets leading information utility
6. Insist that what makes any and all content we produce compelling and necessary is that it provides local context to help consumers better understand how news affects them and have advertising content available to make the goods and services they buy of greater value
7. Embrace outside vendors to initiate search and behavioral target marketing efforts
8. Embrace any and all rich media embellishments to maximize time spent on my sites
9. Make available multiple links to other information channels to enhance the content I provide
10. Retrain my sales force to provide consultative advertising advice as well as the ability to place additional advertising in other pertinent advertising mediums
11. Join any and all advertising networks to add traffic to my sites, to use their ad serving technology and to allow placement of their advertising via behavioral targeting techniques at increased CPMs
12. Invest in as well as join any source that can best measure the effectiveness of all the content I provide
13. Require that any and all content I produce starts digitally and thus can be redistributed to my entire market in a platform neutral manner
14. Continuously rework financial modeling efforts to best understand the changing margins on ongoing print and web revenues and expenses in order to radically change the current broken business model we are operating under
15. Be vigilant on a daily basis internally to staff and externally to consumers and competitors to promote the ever increasing share of the audience in our market we enjoy given the multiple channels of information we provide
16. Tell my story and successes to my industry peers and encourage all of us to direct our trade association to tell our collective story which is that the information industry is alive and well and your local information utilities (formerly newspapers) are leading the charge.

Parking Data Ventures Teams with 6 Parking Cos

The next big vertical is…parking? Parking Data Ventures has been created to tackle all things parking. The five person, Baltimore-based service has created a database of 10,000 parking locations. It has partnered with six of the largest parking lot companies in the U.S. and Canada, and has info for 15+ other leading parking companies. It competes with Urban Mapping Inc., which has created its own parking garage network.

Parking Data Venture’s database is broken down into numerous useful categories, including address, entry points, hours of operation, accepted forms of payment, height restrictions, pricing schedules and amenities provided (i.e. my airport garage offers a car wash, coffee and free copies of USA Today).

Formerly known as Mobile Parking, the service is available on the Web and is also enabled for location-based services such as mobile and GPS apps. It is also looking to expand with promotional services, including coupons and loyalty programs, reservations and even real time payment.

One kind of transactional service it performs today is prepaid event parking. For instance, it has handled pre-paid parking for the Baltimore Ravens for the past three seasons. Consumers order online, pre-pay, and print their parking passes at home. The company has also been working with regional transit authorities, search engines and others.

Founder Jason Boseck, a former finance trader, tells us that the parking business is basically divided into “event,” “airport” and “transient/city” parking. The potential of the business “goes beyond location,” he says. “Utilitarian content is increasingly worth more than distribution.” Indeed, in a way, parking might be seen as a vertical that ties in with other verticals, such as transit, traffic and events.

One fundamental key to online parking success is to source the content correctly. Many existing data providers don’t think about it and will list a parking garage’s leasing office as the address and entry point, says Boseck.

Boseck launched the company in 2002, but ultimately decided he was too much on the bleeding edge. The assumption was that onboard navigation was going to be hot four years ago, he says. “But it is just now coming online.”

The parking lot owners are also just getting interested in online as well. “They are (generally) real estate owners and operators,” he says. “They are now realizing the opportunity that exists via local mobile search.”

Centro Sees Upturn with Growth of Regional Advertising

Centro, the media planner that tries to “simplify the entire local online media buying process for agencies and media partners,” took a hit from auto advertising last year. But it has continued to grow overall, thanks to gains in regional-and-political advertising.

The 112 person, Chicago-based company now has 11 regional offices and was named to Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies with $82.2 million in verified revenue for 2008. Four or five more regional offices are slated to be opened in the next 12 months.

CEO and Founder Shawn Riegsecker says automotive advertising has been down 25-30 percent for Centro, which has worked closely with General Motors and others to place local advertising. But the company more than made up for it with the boom in its regional-and- political advertising .

“Regional is just starting to take off this year and next,” he says. It is “the fastest growing segment.” Expectations are “we will grow it in the triple digits.”

Riegsecker aknowledges that regional advertising continues to have its pros and cons. On the pro side, these advertisers will be “the best advertisers in the next three-to-four years,” based on their compounded growth rate. On the con side, they typically have smaller budgets, and they need more help and more extended services. But that’s really a plus for Centro’s business, which provides a comprehensive software solution, he says.

On a category-by-category basis, the biggest gains are coming from government and politics; financial; insurance; and Energy/Utilities. “Insurance is up significantly Year over Year,” says Riegsecker. He also explains why financials are shown to be up in a terrible year. “Regional banks weren’t hit quite as hard” and see opportunities to pick up new customers,” he says.

Political advertising, meanwhile, has become a real bread-and-butter category for the company, now accounting for up to 15 percent of revenues. Riegsecker says the company has transitioned from the 2008 campaign, where it handled advertising for Obama, Clinton and McCain, to the present advocacy-driven environment, which is largely driven by health care and green initiatives. Next year, it will be back to elections again, as 37 governorships will be decided in the mid-term elections.

Internet Broadcasting: Verticals Key to TV Stations’ Online Success

TV stations can only grow their Internet businesses by leveraging their local credentials and focusing on vertical categories such as automotive and health. That’s the word from Internet Broadcasting’s President and CEO David Lebow, the former AOL Media Networks exec who was interviewed by TV NewsCheck’s Harry Jessell.

Minneapolis-based IB, which is partially owned by Hearst Television, Post-Newsweek Stations and McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, has aggressively pushed TV stations in new directions for advertising and content. This has especially been the case as many stations have now taken on their own Web site development, a former strongpoint for the company. The company also provides a national ad network.

“Whether the advertiser is a local car dealership or a national advertiser that’s looking to reach people in a certain geography, there is no doubt that all arrows point to local,” Lebow told Jessell. “All advertisers are looking to have a better local presence and target the consumer as close to the purchase decision as possible.”

One advantage that broadcasters have is their ability to produce content – something we‘ve just seen this week with the launch of TheLaw.TV. That’s critical as stations branch out to serve online and other digital channels, says Lebow.

“They need to have enough vertical content — health content or auto content, say — to satisfy advertisers,” Lebow says. “In a world of specialists, we see a world where a station might have four or five different sites in a market based on certain verticals. We see that with our partners who are verticalizing their weather now.”

Lebow also says that the networks ultimately can prove complementary to the needs of local broadcasters. CNN, for instance, “is a national brand and they have a content sharing and distribution agreement through Newsource with many local television stations. They have a great understanding of what it is that the local station is the expert on and where they can add value. They’ve really figured out how national and local work together on content.”

TheLaw.TV Provides Online Infomercials for Local Attorneys

Online video is increasingly being segmented into vertical themes, creating on demand networks for specific subjects. The latest network to launch is “Thelaw.tv,” a legal site that, according to reporting in TV NewsCheck, uses former broadcast talent to product legal advice snippets with local lawyers.

The lawyers pay $5,000 for the infomercial, and a year of geographic exclusivity. Web maintenance fees add several hundred dollars per month.

Subjects on the site are broken down by legal specialty. Personal injury, for instance, is broken down into 12 sub-topics.

The site, which hopes to partner with local TV stations around the U.S. for talent, sales and traffic, as well as newspapers and radio stations, is the brainchild of four vets from WPBF, the Hearst-owned ABC affiliate in West Palm Beach. It will compete with other consumer-facing legal sites, including lawyers.com, findlaw.com and avvo.com.

Idearc’s EveryCarListed.com Debuts ‘All Video’ Car Listings

EveryCarListed.com, a 25 person car portal quietly acquired by Idearc in February, has formally rolled out its new look-and-feel. It includes an unprecedented effort to provide videos of every car on the site.

The site currently has two million car listings, with one million listings already attached to videos. The site will be “all video” by the end of the year.

The site also includes consumer reviews, auto news, and manufacturer video, but the differentiator is the push on the all video listings. Given the logistical difficulty of acquiring video for millions of car listings, the “enhanced” video is computer generated, patching together composite photos, and informed by vertical information numbers. The technology can use up to 32 pictures sent in by a dealer.

To my eyes, the video quality is as good as “real” video shot by videocams. There are no obvious cut-and-paste issues. The technology also enables customized audio, and a photo gallery.

The ECL site offers free basic listings, which it heavily emphasizes in marketing materials (although the other auto sites also have free, non-featured listings). Its primary business model is based on AutoTrader/Cars.com-like bronze/silver/gold monthly subscription packages for dealerships.

A top-of-the-line package in Los Angeles costs $2,600 per month and patches together all the synergies of the Idearc relationship. It includes the video enablement; featured listings on top of the page; a half page ad in the local Idearc (Verizon) Yellow Pages; a premium listing on Superpages.com; and two direct mail pieces a year, using Idearc Direct Mail. Dealers that pitch their service departments as well as their new and used cars will have their repair work covered under Verizon’s “SuperGuarantee” program.

The outreach to service departments, in fact, might be the best path in for Idearc sales people. Service departments tend to be better Yellow Pages customers. Otherwise, less than one percent of dealer marketing is typically aimed at Yellow Pages. per NADA.