Vodafone rebrandsVodafone has a new version of its speech-mark logo and a new slogan: ‘The Future is Exciting. Ready?’

The bright red colour stays. Although there will be less of it. From today the white on red will become red on white.

The changes are all part of a global brand make-over. According to the company the new look shows that Vodafone is confident digital technologies and services are “going to make our lives better”.

New Vodafone logo
New Vodafone logo
Old Vodafone logo
Old Vodafone logo

Change of brand, change of emphasis

There’s a clear change of emphasis. Vodafone has positioned itself away from being a mobile phone network with add-ons, to being a more general technology service provider. In New Zealand this includes television.

This move was first noticeable earlier this year at the Vodafone NZ Gigabit Summit. The company held an Auckland event in August where there was little talk of phone networks and far more about how we’re going to live in the future.

At the Summit product director Sally Fuller outlined a world where drones make deliveries, we work from home and make occasional forays in driverless vehicles. There were smart devices and artificial intelligence, but barely any discussion of networks. All that becomes background.

Vodafone New Zealand Consumer Director Matt Williams says “We think the future of technology is very exciting. Our focus now is to ensure our customers are ready to make the most of it.”

Phone, network MIA at Vodafone

Actually Williams said a lot more words in the official press statement. Yet, once again, the words phone and network are conspicuous by their absence.

Vodafone’s brand strategy is global. Vodafone says it heralds the biggest advertising campaign in the company’s history. New Zealanders will be able to see this in a new TV commercial which will show from today. Australia doesn’t get the new advertising until later this month.

As part of the marketing activity Vodafone asked people in 14 countries about their views on the future. It says New Zealanders are more optimistic than Australians or the British, but all three come in behind India.

Also on:

Technology journalist Bill Bennett discusses Russia’s move to crack down on virtual private networks. Also, two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising; and the day the music died: the Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia.

New technology – Bill Bennett

From my speaker notes:

Virtual Private Networks

Virtual Private Networks allow people to surf the next anonymously. They also help keep data safe from online criminals.

A VPN is a safe tunnel, usually from your computer, phone or tablet to an end-point elsewhere on the internet. They are a form of encryption.

You can use a VPN to make it look as if you are connecting from elsewhere in the world. So, if you want to see content that can only be accessed from, say, the UK, choose an endpoint in the UK.

Earlier this week Russia followed China cracking down on VPNs.

Putin pushed a law banning VPNs through the Duma. China has been cracking down on VPNs since January. I had personal experience of issues with a VPN when I was in China last year.

Apple pulls VPNs from Chinese app store

Also this week, Apple pulled VPNs from its App Store in China.

Critics say Apple should have stood up to China and refused, even though that would mean losing sales maybe even pulling out of the Chinese market. On the other hand, it is complying with the law. Chinese law says VPNs need to be licensed.

The consequences of pulling out of China are huge. It is Apple’s second largest market. What’s more, China is where most of the company’s products and the components in its products are made. Bloomberg’s Gadfly has an interesting take on this.

Meanwhile… perhaps New Zealanders ought to be more familiar with VPNs

Symantec, which sells a VPN service, says New Zealanders take risks with public wi-fi – something that a VPN can protect against. About two thirds of NZers think they are safe with public wi-fi and the same number take no precautions when using it. Hardly any NZers know whether they are transmitting data safely or not. I wrote about this earlier today.

Online advertising failures and successes

Two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising:

Procter and Gamble cut US$100 million from its online advertising spend in the last quarter and noticed no discernible impact on its business. This is taken as evidence online advertising doesn’t work. Part of this is a lot of ads turn up at dubious sites and are only seen by fake traffic or bots.

Sounds like a lot of money, but P&G spent a total of US$2.5 billion on ads in the quarter.

Also says niche advertising on Facebook didn’t work either.

Motorola is a much smaller company, but it reports the money it spent on Facebook ads did nothing to help its campaign to relaunch its phone brands. It too spent on highly targeted Facebook campaigns that didn’t work.

…And yet: The New Scientist reports that ad campaigns that used artificial intelligence to target voters on Facebook were enough to swing both the US Presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

So why does one type of advertising work and the other fail?

My take is that you don’t need to shift wavering individual voters by much to swing their vote. That’s part of it. The other part is that you don’t need to influence that many voters in a tight ballot. Clinton actually won the US popular vote by around two percent, but a tight focus on key states meant moving only a tiny fraction of voters was enough to win it for Trump.

One set of researchers also pointed out that it can be more important to persuade some people to vote or not vote, than to change their choice.

The day the music died…

Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia. Meanwhile Apple has dropped almost all its non-iOS iPod models. The two stories are closely related. First, the streaming music market is consolidating. That was always going to happen. Global scale is important here. It also seems users don’t like the advertising supported model much.

Meanwhile Apple’s iPhone, which, arguably is a brand extension of the iPod has eclipsed its granddad and rendering it almost obsolete. Cue squeals from people, like me, who still love their old-school iPads.

HTC pop-up ads

The phone maker says the pop-ups have been seen because of an “error” to the annoyance of users.

Source: Backlash over pop-up ads on keyboard – BBC News

HTC has responded to the fuss over the pop-up ads on its Android keyboard. The company says the move was “an error”.

Yeah right.

From the outside it looks as if some bright spark thought selling pop-up ads could claw back revenue for the phone maker. HTC was already on the ropes. This error could be the last straw that finally kills the brand.

There’s a big picture here too. Many technology consumers have had enough of flaky business models where they are the product. HTC’s keyboard ads is a mere extension of a trend that was already well underway.

 

facebook-ads
facebook-ads

For years publishers, broadcasters and anyone else in the media business have wondered if Facebook could be their salvation.

The old publishing business model has crumbled. Building mass audiences with entertainment or information then selling advertising no longer delivers rivers of gold.

Some saw Facebook as an answer. Perhaps not the answer, the question is too complex for a single response. And anyway, Facebook has always been part of the problem.

Yet for a moment it looked as if the social media giant could breathe life back into the advertising-lead business model.

Mighty empire

After all Facebook is a mighty empire. It has greater reach and more influence than any organisation in history.

Yet it turns out the emperor has no clothes. Well, fewer clothes.

The Wall Street Journal reports Facebook has misreported its viewing figures for the past two years.

Advertisers have been given numbers that overestimate the amount of time Facebook users watch video by between 60 and 80 percent. This comes after the social media giant talked about the rapid growth in its video numbers.

Advertiser fears

There’s a growing fear among advertisers that Facebook and Google hide too much of this kind of information. That’s ironic, because one reason advertisers tell traditional publishers they prefer online media is ‘accountability’.

This isn’t the only bad news Facebook has for traditional publishers. In June there was an algorithm change which saw Facebook prioritise material from human accounts while decreasing the number of posts users would see from media companies.

Those publishers who depend on Facebook to deliver readers get less traffic as a result.

Many publishers feel they have no choice but to throw in their lot with Facebook. After all, it is the largest source of traffic for most big media companies. And Facebook has consistently pushed itself to publishers in a bid to fill its pages with their, free-to-Facebook, material.

Fickle, unsympathetic

Yet Facebook has proved a fickle and unsympathetic partner. Its relationship with traditional media is asymmetric.

It’s not clear if Facebook’s recent misreporting was deliberate or accidental. The difference doesn’t matter much to publishers, either way they suffer.

Facebook’s business is all about building compelling services that win large audiences. It then sells that attention to advertisers. Google is the same.

Scale

In many respects both are following the traditional media-advertising model, although there are huge differences of scale and neither invests heavily in producing original material. Instead they let other people do the heavy lifting.

You can see this as a parasitic way of making money. Despite all the goody-two shoes rhetoric about extending the reach of the internet into the poorer areas of the world or bringing people together, the pair are vast empires that care little for what goes on down at the grass-roots level.

Facebook is not the answer to publishers’ prayers, it is yet another nail in their coffin.

Wired ad blockers

 

If I used an ad blocker Wired’s pop-up screen would be annoying but deserved. Publishers need to sell advertising. Ad blockers undermine their business. You can’t argue with the logic.

Sure some publishers abuse readers. They serve inappropriate, even offensive advertising. Many ads overstay their welcome. Others disrupt viewers with noisy video. Or they get too much in-your-face.

Online ads can make reading an ugly, disjointed business. And yet they pay the bills.

Wired isn’t guilty of those bad things. Or at least not in recent memory.

Journalism is not free

It’s reasonable for publishers to ask for readers to contribute something in return for journalism. That something could be seconds of attention to an online ad or it could be a form of pay-per-view.

But here’s the other thing Wired, I don’t use ad blockers.

My browser doesn’t have one installed. If Wired let me past the front gate, I’d see its advertising in all its glory. From that point of view, I’d be a good reader. Maybe even a lucrative one, because I read a lot of tech stories. Back in the day I’d buy the printed version of Wired if the cover story appealed enough.

I may not have an ad blocker, but I do use a browser extension to block intrusive data collection.

There’s a Ghostery in my house

At the time Wired’s pop-up message appeared, I was using Ghostery. I’ve switched since to Disconnect.

These extensions aim to stop companies from collecting data. I’ve no objection to Wired knowing I’ve seen a page or an ad on its site. I’ve every objection to the commercial snitches watching all my online interactions then selling that data to bottom feeders so they can make my life a misery.

When Ghostery was installed, I didn’t use all its blockers. I customized the settings first to protect against possible malware injections and second to stop tracking firms I’ve never heard of from spying on me. I also object to Facebook knowing what I’m up to away from its site.

But that’s it. So it appears Wired’s pop-up message is doing something naughty.

Zealous

Either it is over-zealous and springs into action at the merest whiff of a user taking back control of their online experience. That’s the benign interpretation.

Or, it’s more evil and Wired has a commercial arrangement with one of the nastier data collection outfits and damn well wants to intrude on my privacy if I visit the site.

The other option is Wired’s coders are incompetent or its business managers are too clueless to discriminate against different types of blocking activity.

Whatever the reason, it’s not good business to punish your customers. No doubt I’ll return to Wired again, but until this is fixed, it’s going to get less, not more of my traffic.