Top 20 most expensive keywords in Google AdWords [infographic]


Those of you who have had to navigate a Google AdWords campaign, especially for a small business client, will know that it can be hard to get your (or your client’s) head around the fact that the 5 keywords they most want have clickthrough prices of $10 or more.  Most of the words on this list didn’t surprise me (though I admit I wouldn’t have put ‘rehab’ and ‘treatment’ in the top 20), but I have to say that when I got to #20, ‘cord blood’, I did a bit of a double-take.  I mean, I know (having recently been one myself) that pregnant women spend a lot of time Googling stuff late at night – but cord blood?

Anyway, here’s a colourful infographic, for your delectation.

top Google Adwords

Professional earworms

Some career-related comments just sort of linger in your mind

When you spend most of your days running around after a 12-month-old (and a sort of clingy cocker spaniel), you don’t have a lot of time to do stuff, but you definitely have time to think about stuff.  And this week, as I perambulated with the small creatures in my life, I found myself reflecting on some of the more memorable things that have been said to me over the course of my career.  

Since they’ve now turned into a sort of verbal earworm, I offer them to you now in the hopes that in doing so, I will be free to think of other, possibly more important, things.

mental earworm

The manager of the drugstore where I worked in the dispensary during high school:
“You’re a good worker, Sarah, and I’m glad to have you.  But I’m glad you’re not my daughter.” 

The office manager of the real estate office in which I worked part-time during university:
“If you don’t learn how to clean the coffee pot correctly, I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep you on.” [in writing]

Co-worker (who was a fairly devout Baptist):
“But how does it feel to be a heathen?  I mean, aren’t you worried you’re going to hell for all eternity?”

Co-worker at the first ad agency I worked in:
“Well, when we saw your short haircut, we knew you’d get the job.”

Senior copywriter at the same ad agency, who is now quite well-known:
“Sarah, you’re probably smarter than I am, but you’ll never be a copywriter.”

Recruiter in Philadelphia, where I had just moved, prior to an interview at Anderson Consulting:
“Do you think you could sort of fluff up your hair for the interview?  I’m afraid they’ll think you’re too cosmopolitan.” 

Recruiter in Toronto, upon hearing I had been offered the job he’d sent me to interview for:
“Gee – I thought you’d never get a job, but you’ve been my easiest placement in months!” 

President of the agency I was leaving, when I told him my new job was a promotion (and a big jump in salary):
“Well, it’s a nice opportunity, but I hope it’s not too much for you.”

My boss, to others, in my presence:
“Sarah needed kneepads to get this job.  Ha! Ha!” 
(I didn’t get it at first, either) 

A new junior who reported to me, but who was hired without my input, at the end of her first week:
“At the beginning of the week I thought you were really kind of weird, but you really know your stuff.”

New communications director at a Montreal-based company who had hired me to consult to improve sales in the English market:
“I don’t know why we hired you anyway – you don’t even speak French!”

Member of the senior management team at a company where I was director of marketing (and had been for a couple of years):
“I just don’t see how you add any value to the business, so you’ll have to convince me.”

Client with whom I’d been working for 3 years:
“Wow, I always thought you were just sort of a wacky creative thinker – I didn’t realize you were so good with P&Ls.”

New(ish) client, upon asking me to edit a 40-page report:
“I just figured you’d do it for nothing – I mean, it’s not like it’s actual work, and you’re just at home with the baby, right?” 

[Some years have been changed to protect the guilty. Heck, some years have been redacted entirely for the same reason.]

Strange digital video advertising: Ad tech targeting has a long way to go

Sometimes I have no idea why I see the ads I do

I know that there are lots of you out there who worry about the trails you’re leaving all over the internet, and are concerned that, thanks to Big Data and The Cloud and the NSA, pretty soon advertisers will be beaming perfectly targeted predictive ads straight into your head and you’ll become a consumer culture zombie, mindlessly buying things you never needed and definitely didn’t want.

I myself, however, do not fear such an eventuality.  And here’s why:

This is an ad that I have now been served 3 times in the past 24 hours when I went to watch a video on YouTube.

Digital video advertising is the Big New Growth Thing in online advertising. One of the more recent related trend subsets on YouTube has been for content providers to run their own videos as ads.  It’s a good strategy, because if you’re not paying close attention, you can be fooled into thinking that the ‘ad’ is actually part of the video you’re trying to access.  It seems to work particularly well for musical artists, because listening to 30-60 seconds of a song (before you realize it’s an ad and click the ‘skip ad’ button) can actually give you an opportunity to like a song you probably wouldn’t otherwise have heard.

But this Xiaochu video isn’t undiscovered music – it’s a weird mashup which seems to reference K-pop, Pikachu and even that old strange favourite, Magibon. I found it incomprehensible (and I probably know more about K-pop fandom and Magibon than you do), and not just because of the language barrier.  

I expected the comments section to be filled with ‘WTF?s’, but no – it’s got plenty of likes and lots of positive comments.  So it’s hitting the mark with some kind of target audience.  The thing is, I’m so far outside the target audience, I’m practically in another solar system – so why did YouTube serve me the ad?

Well, it could be because I have a strange YouTube viewing history; it could be because Google thinks I’m a 24-year-old shopaholic who lives in Ottawa (that’s what they came back with when I checked my Google stats a couple of years ago); it could be that whoever wrote the ad tech algorithms that apply to this particular situation had a hangover that day.

But the bottom line is this: As long as I’m getting served ads like this on a regular basis, I know that Big Data really has no clue who I am or what I’m interested in.  And until they do, I’m not panicking about whether advertisers (or the government) knows too much about me.

Good lord: 60% of small businesses say they’re still using Yellow Pages


I’m not sure I even know what to say about the information in this infographic, put together by some outfit called Adology Marketing Forecast.  I think my best hope is that this data represents a sample size of, say, 17 respondents. Because otherwise I just don’t know how to explain some of the breakdowns here.  I mean, I get that small businesses aren’t going to use billboards or cinema advertising – it’s usually far too expensive for a small business – but a whole lot of them are going to keep spending on Yellow Pages (!) while ignoring online ads and not even trying cable tv.

I suppose maybe the good news is that only 20% are going to be using ‘coupon books’.

smb marketing 2014 

Volkswagen Winter Relief: The intern really should have Googled this


As any first-year advertising student knows, Volkswagen has produced some iconic, and even just plain great, ads over the years.  (My personal favourite is 1997’s ‘Sunday Afternoon‘ spot, mostly because I love the soundtrack.)

So it was with some dismay that I noticed their recent ‘Winter Relief’ campaign:

volkswagen winter relief

Now, I’ve been stuck at home with an 11-month-old baby for the past few months, so no one is more in need of some ‘winter relief’ than myself.  And I always like campaigns which have been tailored specifically for the Canadian market.  


Go Google “winter relief”.  Can’t be bothered?  Here, I’ll help you:  The first search return for “winter relief” isn’t Volkswagen – it’s the Wikipedia entry for Winterhilfswerk, described as

“…an annual drive by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization) to help finance charitable work. Its slogan was ‘None shall starve nor freeze’. The drive was originally set up under the government of Heinrich Brüning in 1931, though Hitler would later claim sole credit. It ran from 1933-1935 during the months of October through March, and was designed to provide food, clothing, coal and other items to less fortunate Germans during the inclement months.”

Sounds okay, until you realize it was one of those Nazi programs that sounded good but was really just another excuse for Hitler’s Storm Troopers to terrorize people without actually helping anyone at all.

And of course it came with its own advertising materials, such as this one (which I’m almost reluctant to post here, in case someone does a Google image search for me and this thing turns up – I had problems with that Ramzpaul blog post and the resulting Southern Poverty Law Center piece.  But when you censor yourself out of fear of these people, they win – and they shouldn’t):

Volkswagen already has a bit of a public relations challenge vis a vis its relationship with Hitler – choosing a campaign name or tagline that is reminiscent of a Nazi program seems like a bad idea.  Yes, ‘winter relief’ is catchy and lends itself to all kinds of taglines, but it’s not genius and I’m sure that the creative team over at Red Urban (Volkswagen’s Agency of Record in Canada, if I’m not mistaken) could have come up with plenty of alternatives. (I myself like ‘Winter Solace’, since it sort of sounds like ‘winter solstice’, which is a phrase people are already familiar with.  But maybe ‘solace’ is too fancy.)

So what happened?  

Well, my guess is that no one bothered to Google ‘winter relief’ until the campaign was already halfway through the approval process and everyone was excited about it – and they just figured no one would notice the connection.  And maybe they were right:  I wouldn’t have noticed it unless Max (a history geek) had mentioned it, and I haven’t heard or seen anyone else talking about it, online or otherwise.  Since Max and I aren’t in the market for a Volkswagen, maybe it doesn’t matter what we think.

I still think it was a bad idea.