On cross media advertising October 13, 2006Posted by fukumimi in Internet, IT, Japan.
Media watchers in Japan will note the increase in advertisements on TV, the printed media, posters and the like using keywords rather than (or augmenting) URLs.
The findings related to a recent poll relating to this phenomenon are discussed in recent articles (here, and here, in Japanese) and dutifully reported in English here (What Japan Thinks is a great resource for translated opinion poll summaries and commentary).
I believe the popularity of keywords is not unrelated to the fact that the majority of the Japanese population are still not as comfortable with the latin alphabet as is required for a truly pain-free web experience. Alternative strategies have been attempted, Japanese URLs are available, and initiatives such as Internet Number have also been around for a long time, but neither have really hit the mainstream.
I think it could be argued that the success of QR codes (2D barcodes, most cameraphones have bundled readers which can read the encoded URL data which allows users to jump to a (mobile phone optimised) web page by pointing the camera at the barcode and then allowing the phone to access the internet) is also related to this aspect of the language barrier, not just the inconvenience of typing out an URL on a phone keypad (and this would suggest that other geographies where the latin script is not ubiquitous will be fertile markets for such technologies, starting with the mobile phone interface).
Anyway, getting back on topic, this trend is no doubt a boon for the SEO/SEM businesses, several of which are publicly listed here in Japan. (Here is an example of a blog written by an employee at a SEO firm showing examples – there is no disclosure as to if the examples are related in any way to the firm’s clients) However, the use of keywords may expose companies to the risk of being targetted for an alternative cybersquatting type attack, or at least exposing search users to results which may not be in the best interests of the advertiser. A company with a not so shiny corporate social responsibility profile may be targetted by social activist groups for example, and because the keywords are chosen deliberately for their lack of results returned, it may be easier for such groups to get to the top of the results page. A less socially useful example may be if gray market importers, porn merchants, spam website operators or sploggers get in on the act.
Given the fact that the TV and major print media advertising is firmly in the possession of major advertising agencies, one could take the view that this cross media advertising is an attempt by the old world advertising agencies and media to maintain control over the advertising relationships whilst giving advertisers an opportunity to expand into internet advertising. The preferred model for the incumbents is of course for them to retain the customer relationships and relegate the new internet advertising shops to a sub-contractor relationship.