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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

White Paper
Consumer Hijack:
How Consumers are using Browsers to
intervene in your
Internet marketing & communication efforts

Prepared by William Doust

TechnoPhobia Ltd.

March 2007

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

I won’t take
this anymore!

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

Setting the Scene

Web advertising growth & search engine use for product/service discovery

Web advertising has seen such a phenomenal growth to the

extent that spend towards the last quarter of 2006 was
estimated to have equalled the levels of advertising spend of
press and radio.

Search now attributes to around 70% of consumer’s activities

in the process of identifying products and services on the web.
(Source: Marketing Week)

A record £7.66bn was spent online in the UK ten weeks before

Christmas 2006.
(Source: the Internet Advertising Bureau)

Broadband, social media and how consumers are hijacking brands

The explosive growth of profitability within eCommerce as the above figures
have indicated, online consumer behaviour and the penetration of broadband
has translated into greater interruption based “online advertising”. Companies
are shouting more, but consumers are listening even less. Why?
One reason is that the voice and the message of the company or corporation is
competing with the voices and wisdom of the crowds. The barrier and cost of
publishing on the web has come down to zero. Consumers now have the power
to “hijack” the brand to amplify their opinions, perceptions and experiences of
products and services. Platforms such as Blogger.com, YouTube, MySpace,
Facebook, and Flickr, enable individual self-expression that can be explored;
while “opinion aggregating” platforms or sites such as “tripadvisor.com” (UK) and
epinions.com (US) enable consumers to aggregate expressed opinions. Opinion
platforms are impacting the consumer buying process when evaluating and
qualifying product or service offerings. According to technorati in Q4 21006, 22
blogs made it into the top 100 ranking of the world’s most linked to media
sources (internet retailing issue 4 Vol 1, pp. 23). The marketing message can
now be hijacked by the consumer.

Browsers are further empowering consumers with the brand hijack

The capabilities of the browser are being extended to the point hat it can
interfere with some of the communication and marketing efforts companies are
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William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

undertaking. The power of the consumers’ total hijack is upon us- what can you

The magnificent 7 – Browser add-on technologies that may have an impact

on your marketing efforts
Imagine, you’ve spent a bundle on banner-ads, sexed-up your landing page
with the right music/and or animations to create the right atmosphere to
persuade your customers, and then it’s all completely stopped in its tracks.
Some of your prospects have hijacked your campaign even before it’s had a
chance to be get-off the ground let alone be viewed! welcome to the world of
the user centred browser hijack. We are now entering an unwelcoming terrain
where browsers can be loaded with weapons of mass-disruption. Campaign
can be automatically terminated …no prisoners, no emotion just simple browser
empowerment for consumers. The magnificent seven consumer browser tools &
categories that can make or break your campaign:

§ Banner Ad blocker(s)
§ Browser based-website opinion & navigation reviews
§ In-built price comparison
§ Multimedia Killers - Bringing audio & flash intros to a halt
§ Multimedia asset extractors/downloaders
§ Content aggregation/update - RSS: tickers, aggregators, readers
§ Social book-marking

But these add-ons also address the marriage of the social web & the browser.

From Word of Mouth to Word of Mouse: the emerging social web, its network
of influences and the new souped-up browsers
Much of the retail-space available for the browser has become an on-going
battle ground. Companies and individual developers have created and offered
(freeware) a myriad of “add-ons” that provide an enhanced user experience
that fully addresses digital-life styles, and the need for privacy in a non-intrusive
ad-free world .

Alongside the aforementioned magnificent seven, the myriad of “add-ons” for

browsers include but are not limited to the following functionality:

§ Day-to-day: data entry into forms; Spell checkers/dictionaries

§ Security: Script blockers
§ Net-tertainment: Website Surfing remote control (button)
§ Design/Developer related add-ons
§ eBay add-on (all negative comments on an individual in one window)
§ Social networks (instants connection/updates)

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William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

Banner Ad blocker(s)
Ad-blockers can be deployed at the browser, desktop or combination of

AdsNoMore-desktop (1),
Firefox’s Adblock add-on
(2), and NoScript (3) are 1 3
One of many Ad-blocking

Browser based- website opinion & navigation reviews

Consumer opinions and attitudes expressed on forums and message
boards can be easily identified through the use of search engines. Such
forums are pretty open and transparent often with immediate read-
access and the ability to post following the free sign-up process.

However, less transparent opinions about your brand can be represented

as direct overlays on-top of your website. These shared opinions and
attitudes are graphically visible to members of the same browser based
opinion-sharing network.

As a company you will have no idea of what consumers are saying about
your products/services and
websites unless you join these
networks. These

Trailblazer (1) & Fleck (2) enable users to

comment, annotate and share website journeys 2
or opinions within a social network
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads


Fortunately, for most companies, our research has uncovered that a

significant number of the most sophisticated type of banner blocking and
campaign halting functionality lies mainly within the Firefox browser.

In-built (browser) price comparison

Web based price comparison websites were very 2006, where as browser
based price comparison are the new kids on the block. Smart price
comparison engines are making it easier for buyers to compare the best
offers available online. By including this browser functionality and by-
passing standard search-based comparison, buyer have greater
immediacy to best value for money offers while by-passing carefully
orchestrated campaigns and the corresponding search engine’s keyword
With most browser based comparison scripts that link to corresponding
engines, consumers can either right click on a product description or have
a message appear automatically, depending on their preferences. Some
visual examples include:


The Dealio widget (1), The Pronto add-on (2); and the
ComparePricesOne Click (3); allow consumers to compare prices and
bypass banner-ads and persuasive campaigns.

Whilst free for Firefox, there are commercial paid-for offerings for IE that
bolt on to the browser to offer similar

Multimedia Killers-Flash intro Killers

and music killer
So, your company beat the odds
and bypassed selective banner
blindness.. Great, right? Perhaps

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust GreaseMonkey Scripts can
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(in many, many ways)
Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

not. The prospective consumer can still hijack your campaign by

destroying your mood setting and persuasive flash multimedia splash
presentation and/or whiz bang website. How? The answer is simple, by
deploying the corresponding technologies, consumers can easily disable
your efforts. Such technologies can be provided by third party
commercial or open source programs, and special scripts that can
enhance the corresponding capabilities within the IE or Firefox browsers.
These can range from simple JavaScripts that can be activated in
browsers like “bookmarks” (a.k.a. bookmarklets) to other types of scripts
such as GreaseMonkey (as in the visual example in the previous page).

Multimedia asset extractors/downloaders

Some consumers have gone even further and hijacked corporate
multimedia messages and remixed them their own way. Some brands
have benefited from this, whilst others have suffered.

This extraction process can be achieved by the consumer via Firefox add-
ons, third party commercial products, greasemonkey scripts, or
bookmarklets. The outputs can be saved in native video or audio formats,
and, if so desired, edited for further manipulation with corresponding

UnPlug & DownloadHelper
(1), and GreaseMonkey (2),
are in browser add-ons,
2 while ReplayAV (3) is third-
party software that captures
AV files or streams.

Content aggregation/update - RSS: tickers, RSS-aggregators, readers

Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is also reducing the time consumers need to
spend on websites. Less time on websites translates into less exposure to
banner ads. Thanks to RSS feeds consumers can receive content right on
their browsers, enabled by browser based RSS feed extensions. The growth
of blogs with corresponding RSS feeds ensures that consumers can easily
gain access to information that they feel is more credible, unbiased and

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William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

The RSS related syndication technologies can be deployed with their

party applications or directly within the browser. Our research has
uncovered that Firefox provides a much richer and varied experience for

Social book-marking
The phenomenal growth of web-based bookmark archiving and sharing
enables users to mark-up websites with keywords and corresponding
descriptions. Viewing these descriptions requires joining the particular
social book-marking website (sign-up is often free). The expressed opinions
could either propel interest towards merchants or plummet their


The more content gets tagged the better for SEO.

Here Del.ico.us (1-2) was used. But there are many
Alternatives (3)

Social book-marking providers aggregate collective interests on central

website. The annotation of websites performed under a social-
bookmarking service provider is usually undertaken via browser extensions
thanks to keywords and descriptions that can be shared with a
community. This process is also known as “folksonomy”.

1 2 3

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William Doust
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(2) Collective aggregation of individual interpretations of data objects/content (wisdom of crowds);
(3) Interaction of shared categorization through enablers such as tagging makes folksonomy powerful
Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

A brief examination of the “technologies”

There are several ways in which consumers can soup-up or put their browsers on
steroids. The “technologies” deployed to increase browser functionality include:


According to wikipedia bookmarklets are defined as:

“A bookmarklet is a small JavaScript program that can be stored as a

URL within a bookmark in most popular web browsers, or within hyperlinks
on a web page.”

Bookmarklets are as easy to save as normal web page bookmarks and

have been described as, “simple one-click tools that can add substantial
functionality to the browsers”.

Bookmarklets are compatible with both IE and Firefox.

Grease Monkey Scripts

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way
webpages look and function. There are already hundreds of free scripts
(DHTML) out there under this “umbrella” development movement.

Web surfers can search for scripts at websites such as Greasespot

(http://www.greasespot.net/) which collates results from userscripts.org,
which is a website that enables anyone to upload scripts. For example, at
the time of writing, a search using “ad-blocking” produced results that
were displayed at user userscripts.org
The corresponding ad-blocking scripts were displayed. These range from
general ad-blocking to site or search engine specific, such as blocking
“google ads”.

There are is also availability for IE compatible “greasemonkey” scripts.

Other Firefox Ad-ons

The Firefox browser (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/) can have its
functionality further enhanced through “ad-ons”, which in the case of
banner-ad-blocking can be automatic or controlled.

Microsoft’s IE Browser currently dominates over 50% of the market,

what’s there to worry about?
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As of March 2007 Microsoft’s IE had 58.7%*** market share, with Firefox

only holding really a 31.8% share of the browser market
(www.w3schools.com). However, can companies afford to dismiss their
audiences’ ad-blocking capabilities within the growing volume of Firefox
browser users?

Other technologies that may hijack consumer attention outside the scope of
this paper

Vertical Search Engines

Customized search engines that can be topic specific and therefore
narrow in their scope compared to conventional search engines. Rolling
your own search engine is simply a case of adding URLs related to a
specific category/topic of interest. Industry experts, and speakers have
rolled their own, with their “personal brand”, and therefore their vertical
search, in terms of usage, is recognized and acknowledged for trust
worthiness and reliability.


“Roll your own search engine” or community search engines such as

Rollyo (1) and Eurekster’s Swicki (2-3) develop narrow vertical search
engines for communities of interest. Their websites generate the
corresponding codes that can be copied and pasted into blogs,
websites, or forums. Whole tribes of users can avoid commercial
websites by simply searching within user generated vertical search
Wikipedia describes a "web widget" as: "a portable chunk of code that
can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web
page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They
are akin to plugins
or extensions in
applications. Other
terms used to
describe a Web
Widget include
Gadget, Badge,
Module, Capsule,
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Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe
Flash or JavaScript programming languages."

There are plenty of desktop-based incarnations, such as the thousands

provided for free (and created by the user community) at the Yahoo!
Widgets site (http://widgets.yahoo.com/). Below are some examples of
the widgets available at Yahoo!:

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William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

The Ad-skipping or Ad-blocking phenomenon is not new, the broadcast TV

ad-skipping experience is being mirrored on the web and growing…

Technology is allowing
consumers to time-shift content
to suit their life-styles within
broadcasting and the web.

However the struggle for

consumer is a historical battle.
Since the days of Sony’s
proprietary Betamax player /
recorder format in the late 70s allowed consumers to tape TV programs, to fast
forward through adverts, technology began to empower consumers… Betamax
gave them a first taste of neutralizing technology against the advertisers’
weapons of mass distraction. They could now choose to view and engage with
content on their terms and skip adverts.

Fast forward three decades and the current digital landscape has seen
corresponding developments of Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) and Digital
Video Recorders (DVRs) which also enable ad-skipping. In essence these
devices are made up of “firmware” or proprietary software that facilitates the
process of scheduling at its most basic level and stores programming via hard-
disk technology. The smartest of these new breeds of animal is known as TiVo
which allows user preferences to be stored and locate related content to be
recorded. For example content could be filtered by director, actor, producer,
subject matter and other keywords.

In the parallel universe of the web during the late 80s and early 90’s and its
dominant ‘Netscape Navigator’ browser, the same interruption based mind-set
to advertising was being applied. Therefore the opportunity arose for technology
that could block pop-up banner ads (for more details see our article on banner-
ads). This is what could be termed as the era of ad-Blocking 1.0 which, in its
wake, nurtured a whole industry of ad-blocking-software.

The browser has evolved rapidly since - spawning a stable of browsers that have
gone beyond the original ‘Netscape Navigator’ (see the O’reilly website for more
technical details). These include: Microsoft IE (which has dominated since 1999),
Firefox, Opera, Safari (Mackintosh), AOL browser and Camino (Mackintosh) to
name the most popular browsers (as cited by Wikipedia). Current market share
for these browsers*** as of February 2007: IE6 - 49%, IE7- 29%, Firefox - 14%,
Safari - 5%, Opera - 0.8%, Netscape - 0.7% (source: wikipedia).

The impact on terrestrial broadcasting due to ad-skipping has been

estimated… But what about the web?

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According to a recent article on the BBC website, “TV's future in the hands of
viewers”, it is generally acknowledged that the US leads in the trends for digital TV
viewership. Supporting research in the US about the impact that DVRs / PVRs has
had on terrestrial advertising provides a picture of what may be heading to the
shores of the UK.

The forensic evidence is quite clear and unequivocal; consumers have switched
off from interruption based marketing within terrestrial broadcasting / cable and
the web. Advertisers now need to think deep and hard on how to re-engage
their audience, given that their potential customers now have the power to filter
out unwanted interruptions. We have entered a consumer empowered market.

The parallel between PVR/DVR advert blocking behaviour and its counterpart
browser based ad-blockers may provide a tantalizingly seductive insight which
may assist in decreasing the impact on audience reach and advertising return
on investment.

Taking the US market as a view of the future, and returning to the statistics and
research of PVR / DVR trends in the US, the estimates vary. According to In-Stat
market research there are an estimated 12 million DVRs in use in about 11% of
U.S. homes and 87% of DVR users don't bother with commercials. BusinessWeek
has taken these findings and represented them alongside research under the
title, “What's on Your DVR?” which looked at DVR / PVR viewership in comparison
with regular TV viewership.

‘JupiterReseach’ disputes the aforementioned high figure through its own

research, “The DVR Dilemma Managing Consumer Behavior”, finding that 53%
of Digital Video Recorder (DVR) users in America have used their DVRs to skip
commercials. This more conservative estimate has been equated into a
potential revenue loss of $8 billion from the $74 billion US TV advertising market.
Less eyeballs translates into less advertising impressions.

On the contrary research at London Business School found that people using
personal video recorders (PVRs) such as Sky+ are almost as likely to sit through
the adverts as people without PVRs, and that some even search for the ads they
like! They also found that fewer than 20 per cent of programmes and 30 per
cent of adverts were time-shifted - a much lower proportion than anticipated?
However these results focused on the early adopters of the technology and not
the late adopters that represent the vast majority. This research was reported by
VNU net publishers. The findings represent views of different markets at different
stages of adoption which, together with cultural related behaviour, needs to be
taken into account.

But has the impact of website ad-blocking, on advertising revenues and

impressions, yet been calculated?

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William Doust
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Consumer Hijack: How consumers are using browsers to avoid banner-ads

There is no simple answer as the problem goes much deeper than

calculating just the effect of ad-blocking software on browsers. Setting this
technology to one side, selective banner blindness has often been
conditioned into users due to past unwanted advertising interruptions to their
web experiences.

User interface guru, JaKob Nielsen of the Nielsen

Norman Group, revealed insights of such banner
blindness from the eye tracking studies his
organization undertook in 2006. In a telephone
interview for the Ziff Davis technology blog, on the
ZDnet website, Jakob described individuals eye
movements across the screen as “flittering” with “F”
patterns which lasted barely a few seconds (Fig. 1 on
the right). An interesting factor that Nielson’s findings
highlighted was that
advertising was largely
ignored regardless of its
placement on the page. This
also included text based
advertising links. The extent of
this purposeful conscious
behaviour, which leads to
automatic selective blindness, Website glance
proved detrimental on the patterns: “F” shapes
popular ‘Gateway Computers’ in a few seconds
website. The research (Fig. 1).
demonstrated that areas of activity, visually represented
through “heat-maps”, highlighted a pattern of skirting
product information that was framed as it was
perceived to be an advert (Fig. 2 on the left). Other
research into banner blindness has supported these
Ad-like content
ignored (Fig 2). Ziff Davis is a U.S based magazine publishing group that owns the
ZDnet website.

If this type of conscious and purposeful banner-ad blindness behaviour is being

undertaken by website users / visitors as part of their daily online experiences,
then technologies that automate this process without the need to incur
cognitive efforts, must be seen as a God send to the consumer.

Does the proliferation of banner ad-skipping / blocking technologies imply

that there is an identified market that is looking to reduce interruption based
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The US Research and trends seem to shine some light on the subject. In the past
two years, the number of consumers using pop-up blockers and spam filters has
more than doubled, according to a new report, "Consumers Love to Hate
Advertising", from Forrester Research (also cited by InformationWeek). This report
also identified that more than half of all American households stated that they
used ad-blocking technologies to block unwanted pitches. In addition, an
insight from the research revealed that broadband households, “have become
even harder to reach: Some 81% of those with high-speed Internet access
employ pop-up blockers and spam filters”.

Although supporting research that painted a similar picture could not be

identified for the UK, some of the explored elements could be weaved to
create a speculative scenario within the UK. Speculation based on behaviour
is a good starting point to generate proactive planning and debate about
the way we can engage prospective consumers through advertising.

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust
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UK internet and broadband access – the statistics & the scenario in the UK
According to the National Statistics Online, an estimated 13.9 million households
(57%) in Great Britain had the ability to access the Internet from home between
January and April 2006. 9.59 million (69%) of these ‘online households’ had a
broadband connection. If the UK mirrored the research findings from the U.S
which identified that 81% of households with broadband used ad-blocking
technologies, this would equate to 7.76million British households shutting out
advertising interruptions. This is roughly one third of the total number of
households in the UK (with or without internet access), according to the 2001
census. Even at the more conservative estimate of 50% of UK broadband users
utilising ad-blockers, surely 4.79million households is a figure that cannot be
ignored… But how far from the truth could these guesstimates be?

This report has examined the “attention” arms-race between advertisers and
consumers. So far, this report has highlighted that such consumers are actively
excluding advertising from their online experiences via ad-blocking or selective
blindness… To put it bluntly, banner ads are often perceived as intrusive
interruptions and annoyances. However web based banner-ad serving
technologies have deeper and murkier undercurrents - watching your online
activities in order to target specific adverts at you without your knowledge or
consent. This is creating headways in the U.S with regards to the infringements of
civil rights and privacy.

Privacy is a growing concern for online users and an additional stimulus for
deploying ad-blocking software
The way the advertising industry frames online ad-serving is as a means of
providing targeted advertising based on users’ “internet roaming” activities so
that they can receive offers related to their interests and search behaviour.
These so-called ‘practicalities’ that are embraced by web advertising agencies
and networks as common practice are not always in the consumers interest…
After all, do users really want to have their every online move traced by an
external party without their knowledge or consent?

Therefore the picture presented to the consumer is not as transparent, as it

seems. The “primed behavioural conditioning” established by pop-up banner-
ads with their surreptitious use of cookies and web bugs is an intrusive practice
which skirts around the issue of privacy.

Privacy? They’ve got you by the “cookies” and even these may be full of
The general understanding of a “cookie” is that it is a small data file that certain
web sites write into prospective consumers’ hard-drives when they land on a
website. These transient cookies last for the duration of the visit / transaction and
once the browser window is closed it’s gone. For example tracking shopping

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William Doust
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baskets associated to specific individuals can form part of how session cookies
are deployed.

However not all cookies are this sweet. Persistent cookies have an ongoing shelf-
life (on your computer) and can be used in several ways. For example, these
cookies are usually encrypted and hold information that records your online
activities. Therefore a particular website that personalizes your experience (i.e.
layout and content preferences) can create a persistent cookie on your hard
drive to store the corresponding information. Both session and persistent cookies
that arise directly from the website itself are known as first-party cookies.

The other type of persistent cookie that can be saved on prospective

consumers computers are related to advertising and are known as third-party
cookies. These perform ad-tracking and click-trail compilation. In practical
terms, what this means is that all of your click activity can be recorded to
enable advertisers within the advertising network to specifically target you. For
example if you looked at a car review in a website, and then visited another
affiliate site, the advertising targeted at you on the affiliate site would be related
to cars. This process is also known as “profiling of prospective customers”. One
way of facilitating tracking (which leads to profiling) is via banner-ads that are
“tagged” with a 1pixel squared image known as a web-bug. Such bugs have
been used in email advertising.

Specific banner-ad legislation is on the cards and consumer watchdogs are

on the rise
Banner-ad misbehaviour with regards to privacy infringements is not going
unnoticed! The US congress has engaged in several rounds of expert
consultation addressing banner-ad intrusion to enable them to draft future
legislation. In addition, pressure groups and consumer watchdogs are warning
web-users about privacy infringing banner-ad practices and informing them of
solutions on how to defend themselves whilst online.

Unfortunately the UK government is still lagging behind with regards to creating

legislation that specifically addresses banner-ads. The current Privacy and
Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which came into law in 2003,
covers only unsolicited mail. This is not adequate enough to cope with the other
areas of intrusion depicted in this paper.

Conclusion: opportunities are available for forward thinking organizations

that deploy more creative approaches that engage consumers on their own
“What’s in it for me” (WIIFM)?... If companies engaged in eCommerce cannot
address this question within the consumer’s daily internet interactions in a non-
intrusive manner, then the impact of their marketing efforts will continue to
provide ever diminishing returns on advertising investment.

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust
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In a world of ever expanding consumer choice, advertising will have to re-invent

itself in order to engage and rise above the clutter of messages. The message
and the format may have to relinquish the paradigm and mind-set which was
inherited from mass advertising. Forward looking companies are realizing that
they no longer control the message or the conversation, and that consumer
now have access to the social web and the corresponding technologies (web
2.0) in order to ascertain the “real value” of marketing propositions.

eCommerce will have to work harder and creatively use a mix of engaging
technologies that will: provide the synergy, build conversations and trust.
The journey does not end here because customers are continuing to
evolve and companies are either leading or following this evolution.
Looking at trends is like following jet streams, someone out there is leading
the way, taking the risks and the glory – if they succeed they will be able
to set a precedent and implement new engaging models. Because as
Seth Godin put it, once a company or an individual does something (that
is novel and profitable) the rest follow. The rules of the game change –
once again. He called this “The Red Queen Effect”, after the Red Queen
in Alice in Wonderland (a Video that I must watch!).

Companies or leaders therefore have

to constantly strive to be different, and
get the message out there through
very intelligent PR because this is non-
intrusive (from the company’s
perspective itself) and has more
credibility. There’s way too much push
marketing that is interruptive, and the
consumers have become deaf as a
result. Your consumers will be creating Red Queen: Actions change
much bigger influences in every Business effectiveness as in Alice in
aspect of operations and Wonderland (Seth Godin)
development within companies. Those
that listen adapt and respond quickly enough, and pay credit where it is
due, will experience more customer engagement. The result? Consumers
will be championing your products, becoming part of your sales force and
the developers of new products and services. You just have to be able to
evaluate the feedback by implementing corresponding mechanisms and
company structures that have a tighter fit with your consumers. In business
1.0, customers had to adapt to themselves to companies’ operations in
order to receive what was perceived to be a good level of service. Now
companies need to truly fit around the consumer!...in practice and not jut
on paper.

© TechnoPhobia 2007
William Doust
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Consensus and clarification of what customer engagement actually is…

Will the real “engagement” please stand up, please stand up!
Not another one for the buzzword band wagon, surely?

What is it…really?

“Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the

surrounding context”

We are fortunate enough to be in the process of being “Yank-ed” away

from the hydra of various interpretations of what “engagement” thanks to
the task force that has come together to define it: the American
Association Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Advertising Research
Foundation (ARF), and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

Where as prior attempts at re-engaging consumer attention were

interruption based an firm driven and encompassed by initiatives that
used the terms “website stickiness”, and the creation of “buzz”, this time
round firms have to compete (and in instances firms have collaborated)
with user generated media.

Activate your audience to engage : from passive reading to


According to the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), they

acknowledge that the best way of engaging customers is through
participation in the co-creation or co-development process of the brands
product and or service that consumers select to invite into their lives and

Will you play the numbers game? – What the research & stats are saying

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Rather than just reiterate the statistics that are out there on the web, I
thought that it would be simpler to include the web addresses and a
header description.

§ Internet Advertising Bureau: looking back on 2006

§ Popularity of Social Book marking Sites 2
§ Ofcom: trends & changes in consumer behavior
§ We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and
§ Hitwise: consumer generated media report (reg. required)
§ Customer Engagement Survey 2007: Cscape and eConsultancy (reg.
§ eConsultancy: internet research & statistics (subscription based)
§ Clickz.com: web-marketing-internet commerce…industry best
(And many more reliable sources)

About the Author & TechnoPhobia

I’ve been nick-named “The Yoda” by my colleagues at
TechnoPhobia, due to my obsession and passion with all
things web-related. Social connection and family
businesses have had a strong influence and impact on my
world view, as in Latin America, the personal touch speaks
volumes about a business. My family lives in Venezuela, but
I also have an extended family in Colombia.

Expressing my passion for the web and its business benefits to clients and
sharing my thoughts with other likeminded individuals is what drives me. I
have been fortunate to have finally landed in a second-home:
TechnoPhobia…That’s why there’s always a smile on my face, because I
love where I am, and I love what I’m doing.

I hope that this research has provided some insight into all things web and
I would appreciate your feedback to identify how my dedication has
faired in assisting you towards your goals.

What next?
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Nothing, if that’s the way you want it. I can’t stand pushy sales people, it
drives me nuts!!! So if you like our IdeaSeeds and want to grow them with
your team, then go ahead. All I would want in that case is feedback and
acknowledgement. If on the other hand you like the way we think and
feel that we could be of assistance in concept or website development,
then you know a little bit more about us. You are now aware of our
knowledge and how many ideas we can generate.

And as BusinessWeek put it…

“The Knowledge Economy is giving way to the Creative Economy…focus
on Innovation and design as the new core competencies”

The best of 2005 – BusinessWeek, December 19, 2005

Ideas generated for Customer’s and in the pipeline

The following sample ideas I have generated are bearing fruit for the
following companies:
(some of the idea details cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality as they are currently
under development. I can facilitate upon request contact details so you can interrogate
representatives as to verify whether TechoPhobia has generated these ideas).

§ Concept for SURVIVE (to be developed)

SURVIVE (Safe Use of Roadside Verges in Vehicular Emergencies
group) was founded and funded by the AA and the RAC in March
1999. The purpose of this group is to promote the safety of persons
working on or stopping on motorway hard shoulders and high-speed
dual carriageways. The objective of the group was to examine and
report on key issues surrounding hard shoulder and roadside safety
and make recommendations for change.
The focus has shifted from roadside safety professionals to the general
public, thus extending good practice to this latter group.

§ Concept for Best Western Hotels (UK)

What follows may sound like a “marketing plug” (God perish the
thought!), but it illustrates the context for the concept.
We recently redeveloped Best Western’s UK website, and as part of
our continuous commitment to our clients, we met up with the
Franchise representatives to discuss ideas for the future. One of the
propositions was a system that could be integrated into the new
website in the near future to capture the “hotel-guest” experience
through rich narratives. This new functionality would serve multiple
purposes, such as: a persuasive PR tool, customer intelligence, future
needs identification and “democratic quality control”. The latter
would identify quality issues from a customer centric perspective:

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“quality” and “good service” are in the hands of the beholder. The
results cannot be disclosed.

§ Concepst for OGC buying Solutions (formerly SCAT – under

The only concept that can be revealed at this stage for this renowned
Government public sector procurement portal (which we also built),
has been a “security verification budge”. A supplier specific unique
code enables participating suppliers to display the badge on their
website to demonstrate customers their privileged status.

Other Research that may be of interest

Persuasive Architecture – useful in a time where interruption based
marketing is running out of steam.

If you would like to get to know us a little bit more, we are situated
opposite the Sheffield Hallam Hubs. You can book a free consultation to
explore further ideas with our experienced business development
consultants please feel free to contact us:

( - 0114 2212123 | * - busdev@technophobia.com |

Or William directly: William.doust@yahoo.co.uk

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A little bit about TechnoPhobia…if one must – or you can skip it!
Established in 1995 and based in Sheffield, TechnoPhobia are an
experienced eBusiness provider who has delivered solutions to some of
the UK’s highest profile brands and organisations.

Applying the principles and our knowledge of eBusiness, have enabled us

to assist clients across various sectors. Customers such as Best Western
Hotels (Europe), Yes Insurance, The Co-op Bank, and OGC buying
Solutions a few have capitalised on our cross-sector insight, best practice
and experience. We have developed strong competencies with smarter
forms that can be deployed within customer websites, as well as being
repurposed for rich-media web-banners. We have developed a suite to
optimize these in-banner data capture forms which reduces the need of
landing pages and feeds data right-back to the user. Let us show you
what we can do for you.

Review Status
This section of the document is for internal reference and ensures our document control
procedures comply with ISO9001:2000 standards.

Version Author Issue Reviewed by Approved by

number Date /date /date

1.0 William Doust 22/02/07 MD 22/02/07 WD 22/02/07

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