Chapell & Associates

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bill May Upend Online Marketing Model

iMedia Connection - February 27, 2006 A Chapell Article
What would happen if companies were legally required to delete the information they collected from and about consumers after a short period of time? This isn't just speculation - legislation has just been proposed that attempts to regulate the data retention practices of our industry. This new legislation could limit online data collection and even change the internet advertising landscape.

posted by Isaac on Monday, February 27, 2006 | |

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spam, Marketing and the Consumer

iMedia Connection - February 15, 2006 A Chapell Article
You know, I'm pretty sure I know spam when I see it, and it would seem most people did as well. Defining exactly what it is, though-- that's a harder task...In the last year, ISPs and email marketers have started turning to two different solutions to navigate this environment and differentiate spam from legitimate email marketing: authentication and third party certification. For a while, it seemed that the first method might gain acceptance, but now AOL has announced that it was phasing out its "enhanced" whitelist and moving towards using a third party certification provided by Goodmail. (more).

posted by Isaac on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 | |

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spyware Fight Attracts a Crowd

CNET - February 10, 2006
Last month, the number of efforts to fight adware and spyware doubled with the announcement of two new initiatives:, a consortium of antivirus companies, and, an initiative led by two universities. These join the Trusted Download Program and the Anti-Spyware Coalition, both formed last year. The new initiatives were the hot hallway topic outside an event hosted by the Anti-Spyware Coalition here Thursday. People there disagreed on whether more is merrier. Some predict the efforts will collide, as each group is dedicated to helping consumers deal with the insidious software. Others say the peer pressure will keep each organization on its toes, helping the cause.

The Chapell View
Ever since lasts year's PEW study on spyware - and other reports that claimed that as many as 80% of U.S. based computers had been infected with spyware, there's been a lot attention paid to what can be done to address these issues. Part of this has meant the formation of industry groups - and as CNET points out, the focus of these groups may overlap a bit.

Currently, there are four main organizations / initiatives on the anti-spyware scene: (,, the Anti-Spyware Coalition, and the Trusted Download Program [disclosure: Chapell & Associates was hired to assist TRUSTe in the development of the Trusted Download Program]). While this may seem like a lot, I'm not convinced that their respective impetuses overlap as much as some might think.

For example,, one of the most recent to be launched, may appear to be treading similar ground to the Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC), but the two are in fact serving very different purposes. The ASC is currently working at "building a consensus about definitions and best practices in the debate surrounding spyware." In other words, the ASC's intent is to define a set of standards for identifying potentially unwanted behaviors exhibited by consumer software. These potentially unwanted behaviors include displaying pop-ups, tracking web usage, automatic updates, and so on., on the other hand, aims at providing standard "third-party evaluation criteria" for reviewing and testing anti-spyware products, according to their website. In response to the suspicious or downright nefarious downloads out there, quite a few different anti-spyware software programs have been developed, some of which may prove to be more effective than others. might be thought of as providing methodology to judge the effectiveness of these anti-spyware products - not the unwanted behaviors involved with a piece of potential spyware.

Moreover, the Trusted Download Program and seem to point at two different, if related, goals. The first intends to put together a set of standards that are geared towards ensuring that consumers will understand the "essence of the bargain" when they choose to download software. This doesn't necessarily dictate that certain behaviors are more risky (or more likely to be unwanted). The focus is ensuring that there is real transparency involved - that when the software is downloaded, consumers are aware of what the software is going to do. is a little different. Its website states that it will "put a spotlight on the worst badware creators" - thereby giving consumers knowledge about which programs do not respect its guidelines. While both the Trusted Download Program and use a set of guidelines to evaluate downloadable software, one aims at certifying the "good" players while other at shaming the "bad". Moreover, appears to be consumer facing - whereas the Trusted Download program is not.

Throughout the different programs, there are some differences in the guidelines used, and we can probably expect arguments - over the guidelines, whether such initiatives should be consumer facing, the legitimacy of adware, et cetera - to continue. Yet I think the growth of these organizations in the downloadable software space is probably a good thing. There may be disagreement about the value of each of these goals - certifying transparency, shaming the worst players, defining spyware and unwanted behaviors, and determining the efficacy of anti-spyware software - but each has its merits. Part of the problem with downloadable software has been the lack of obvious standards, which has left consumers and businesses unsure of exactly what to call spyware, what counts as transparency, what the worst behaviors are, and how to react. So even if the different groups overlap a bit, we'll end up with a clearer picture of what's going on.
posted by Isaac on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | |

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Analysis: Paid search results often not worth the click

Computerworld - February 6, 2006
Microsoft Corp. doesn't think much of Secure Computer LLC. It says that the company and its partners have "exploited computer users" and that Secure Computer's antispyware product is of "questionable effectiveness." And yet, more than a week after the lawsuits were filed, Microsoft is still running ads for the company's Spyware Cleaner software on its MSN Web site. Why? Welcome to the murky world of paid search, where the ads that pop up can lead to big money for the search companies -- and big headaches for unsuspecting users.

The Chapell View
For a while, it had seemed that significant controversy regarding search advertising might have quieted down somewhat. Notwithstanding past controversies over pricing models (Chapell & Associates discussed this in September), the search engines appeared to be doing well, rolling out new advertising platforms and having their stock prices soar - especially Google's.

Turns out that many of these problems have not gone away. iMedia's Kevin Ryan has reported that click fraud has "caught the eye of the Securities and Exchange Commission." While it's not clear if this will lead to any action on the SEC's part, it does place click-fraud back into the news cycle.

Now, ComputerWorld reports on a separate problem for search engines - whether or not they should police who can buy paid advertisements on their sites. In a lot of cases, paid search placement is a largely automatic process - advertisers bid on keywords, and placement is determined according to a particular search engine's requirements. The point here is that there may or may not be any one person looking into which companies are buying ads, or whether or not those ads as misleading. Most search engines do have requirements for ads that can be served with their search results, but as stated by a Google spokesman, this means "If we find that ads in our network are leading users directly to Web sites or products that use tactics inconsistent with our Software Principles, we reject these ads." This may be more a matter of weeding out links users have complained about than proactively restricting what can be advertised.

The example used in the Computerworld article is that of a consumer looking for weather information and having clicked on a paid search ad, going to a website that surreptitiously installed un-requested software.

This does sound problematic; more importantly, though, any misleading search ads can lead consumers to avoid clicking on search ads at all - if they can't trust the advertisers, why should they?

For both marketers and search engines, there's an incentive to keep search ads as accurate as possible. While some of this is a matter of individual marketers making sure that their ads are accurate, there's only so much they can do. Even if most large advertisers have this sort of process in place, smaller advertisers may pay little heed to a search engine's requirements. Moreover, we often hear that adware companies need to police their affiliate networks - but shouldn't we then require search engines to do the same? There is a risk here if consumers begin to distrust the accuracy or value of contextual search ads - and one we'd probably all want to avoid.
posted by Isaac on Wednesday, February 08, 2006 | |

Monday, February 06, 2006

WOM: Full Disclosure

DM News - February 06, 2006 A Chapell Article
I could see the temptation for WOM marketers to NOT want their agents to disclose a relationship. If someone told me, "Here's this new espresso, which I'm part of a campaign to promote," I think I'd be less interested than if they had simply said, "Here's this new espresso-- it's really good." The general view seemed to be that disclosure effectively limited the value of word-of-mouth marketing efforts. According to a study entitled "To Tell or Not to Tell?" just released by Walter Carl, assistant professor at Northeastern University, however, disclosure doesn't hurt word of mouth-- and it may actually be helpful. (more).

posted by Isaac on Monday, February 06, 2006 | |

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Two Approaches to Selling Secure Transactions

NY Times - February 1, 2006
VISA and MasterCard use similar strategies to fight identity theft and fraud, but the companies have come up with two vastly different approaches to market their security efforts. Visa USA has taken its message to consumers, sending out a stream of television and magazine ads highlighting the steps it takes when account data is missing. MasterCard International aims at merchants and other players in the payment chain with a lower-profile campaign using ads that look like articles that encourage protecting the information in the first place.

The Chapell View
In a broad sense, it's good to see more companies - especially financial or credit card companies like MasterCard or VISA, who hold large amounts of sensitive information - focus on their treatment of consumer information. Moreover, it's becoming more common for these companies to see privacy and security matters as a value added to services: a way to differentiate between competitors.

It's also interesting to see the different ways in which this differentiation is aimed at through marketing. As pointed out here, VISA is using the more obvious strategy - focusing on reassuring consumer worry over identity theft and letting customers know what they do in the case of a security breach or lost credit card information. MasterCard, on the other hand, seems a bit more subtle, looking instead at what can be done to proactively limit the possibility that consumers will have to worry about such an event.

Point in fact, both approaches have merit. I think VISA is more obviously using security as a value added; running advertisements based purely on a "pocket of security" really is marketing why consumers should put their trust in a particular brand. While MasterCard's approach might be less obvious, it's hardly inaccurate. Often enough, there's only so much consumers can do to prevent the loss of sensitive information (see Alan's recent article in the DM News), and it makes sense to look to preventative solutions.

I'm not entirely convinced, though, that MasterCard is right when it suggests that security is entirely a "latent issue" - as time passes, more consumers are increasingly concerned with how their information is protected. Selling a brand in this environment might be helped by a little more obviousness - after all, as MasterCard themselves once said, "knowing you're safe and secure when you shop online" really is "priceless."
posted by Isaac on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 | |

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