Editorial: On Advertising

By Adena Schutzberg

Many of you who've been reading my editorials over the years know that I enjoy looking at advertising, especially that of our industry. Two recent ads struck me that I wanted to explore. One is from Microsoft, the other from Autodesk.

Microsoft's Live Local ad

The Microsoft ad is for Live Local (beta). I give Microsoft credit for taking the leap that Google has and tossing beta services not only into the Internet ring, but also into the Internet advertising ring. I doubt it confuses readers and certainly enhances credibility. The ad, which is clearly not aimed at GIS professionals but at consumers, is running only on Microsoft websites. Mostly, I see it when visiting my Hotmail account. Titled "Map Out Your Day!" it has just a bit of that old Microsoft line, "Where do you want to go today?" wrapped inside. The title sits below the Windows Live Local (beta) moniker. Below is a sample of just what the site offers: a map of a day. It includes several colored markers on a map of Seattle keyed to "athletic shoes," "health club" and "pizza." Below the map are the "What?" and "Where?" boxes. Below that is the call to action: a button that says "Free! Try It Now."

While the scenario is a bit hokey, viewers will easily tease out the story: first this person will get new workout shoes, then visit the health club and finally get pizza. The categories are arranged in that order to help make that progression clear. Further, the ad does meet the seemingly universal requirement that every location-based service example have "pizza" in it somewhere! And, I have to give Microsoft credit for including a call to action. I see far too many ads in our space that don't ask/tell the reader what to do next. The "free" comment may seem redundant to those accustomed to so many free mapping sites, but remember that Microsoft has a whole set of Live services, some of which will likely not be free. All in all, Microsoft is packing a great deal of information in the ad; ideally getting viewers involved enough to use the service to map out their day.

Autodesk's new Autodesk Map 3D ad also engages the viewer, but in a more complex way. It's running on many geospatial websites, including that of Directions Magazine, and it's a methodology I've never seen in this industry. I viewed this ad a few weeks ago and intentionally did not write about it to see if anyone would mention it to me. To date, no one has: neither my colleagues, nor my peers, readers, no one. And that's too bad since it's interactive, educational, funny, customized and well-produced.

The purple ad asks that viewers "see what Autodesk 3D can do for you" and offers three examples related to precision, ArcSDE and multi-user editing respectively. When you click the ad you land on a page that explains that you can get a "personalized recommendation from our Map 3D Adviser" that will reveal "exactly how Autodesk Map 3D can make your life easier." That's a bit different from "see what the product can do for you" but is still in the ball park. Frankly, I was intrigued by the "personalized" aspect of this effort. Many recent Web advertising articles describe the effectiveness of personalization in advertising and marketing. They often point to things like "My Virtual Model" – an avatar (computer graphic) of the buyer (or his/her spouse, child, etc.) that can try on clothes "for you."

The interactive assessment that follows requires Flash and audio and is a bit less personal than an avatar, since the company is selling shrink-wrapped software, not something as personal as clothing. At each step, a Dennis Miller-type voice asks you to describe your organization and click on an answer or key in a value. First up, "Which side of the fence are you on?" GIS or engineering? Whichever you pick, you hear reinforcement. "Great, you guys are so much cooler [than the other choice]!" The GIS world is clearly split between Autodesk and ESRI. If you select ESRI you hear: "Oh ESRI, how surprising!" Depending on your inputs you hear some snarky and some rather funny comments. But at the same time you do hear Autodesk's take on how the world should work and what it considers its product's strengths to be. At the end, there is an effective call to action: check it out yourself (free trial), send your colleagues to the site "to talk to me," and let the "other side" check out the software. There are options to speak to someone and to share your address for more information, if you choose.

Autodesk's Autodesk Map 3D ad
The whole interactive experience takes between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on how quickly you respond. During that time, Autodesk is, I suspect, collecting the information you input (how many folks are from each side, how many people work in each side, how many minutes it takes to process an RFI…) in aggregate, for marketing purposes. All in all, this campaign hits on many cylinders: it's informative, funny, and interactive, has a strong call to action, and provides Autodesk with valuable information about its potential customers.

Published Friday, February 3rd, 2006

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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