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Online Retail in China

“It is ‘one of the few bright spots in the Chinese economy,’ says Zeng Ming. He is talking about e-commerce. Mr Zeng, the chief strategy officer for Alibaba, a giant Chinese internet firm, predicts that digital transactions on his firm’s platforms will top 1 trillion yuan ($159 billion) this year—more than Amazon’s and eBay’s combined. That is a bold claim; but consider what happened on Singles Sunday.

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Making Online Advertising Work

I love the internet.
Online advertising makes the internet work.
Therefore, I love online advertising.

That’s not meant as a confession, but more a statement of wobbly logic to introduce something very close to any online business: online advertising.

An advertiser and a publisher have a huge learning curve to tackle if he or she wishes to use the latest innovation in ad technology to unlock the promise of higher returns on ad spend (for the advertiser) or yield (for the publisher). The great catalyst for this innovation over the last 5 years must surely be ascribed to the increases in cheap, scalable computer power and digital storage. It’s a full time job now to keep abreast of new ideas and technologies, especially if you are trying to derive an income from online advertising, lead a marketing department or talk to an ad agency. Encouragingly, many a conference speaker continues to implore the world to look beyond the technology and focus on the online value chain (it’s just a deal between buyer and seller after all!). That’s all good sentiment, but you still need to figure out your ad servers from your trading desks, your DSP’s from your exchanges.

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History Lessons from Advertising

“We may gather up a beautiful collection of words, arrange them in charming style with a handsome picture to top off, and print this final product in the best medium in the world. If the advertisement does not help to make more sales, we had better throw it away. It has been an interesting experiment – and nothing more.”

- The Thompson Blue Book on Advertising (J. Walter Thompson Co., 1906)

Ours is not a new problem. We use sophisticated technology on the most exciting and effective medium of the internet but we should never forget that the challenge to present a relevant and engaging message to our viewers is an age old problem. Whatever our objective, history does have something to teach us. And advertising – more specifically – can show us how to engage and influence a potential customer efficiently and quickly.

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Wisdom about growth

Excellent interview with Jason Fried from 37Signals.

“I’m a fan of growing slowly, carefully, methodically, of not getting big just for the sake of getting big. I think that rapid growth is typically of symptom of… there’s a sickness there. There’s a great quote by a guy named Ricardo Semler, author of the book Maverick. He said that only two things grow for the sake of growth: businesses and tumors. We have 35 employees at 37signals. We could have hundreds of employees if we wanted to–our revenues and profits support that–but I think we’d be worse off.”

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