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For those like me who love music as much as they love marketing, last week marked the sad passing of what was once a groundbreaking new video game: Guitar Hero. On February 9th, Activision announced it will be shutting down its music game division, home to the Guitar Hero series of video games. Activision also announced the lay off of about 7% of the company's workforce and discontinuation of game development slated for 2011. While there is speculation about the causes of the layoff and discontinuing of the music game offerings, many point to one culprit: oversaturation. In the years following Guitar Hero's initial release the music game genre exploded into it the current offerings of Guitar Hero I, II & III, Rock Band, Band Hero, DJ Hero and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. In just five years, wallets drained and living rooms across the nation began to look more like a Guitar Center then a room in the family home. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg highlights the company's inability to make the games profitable, largely due to current economies and consumer demand. Despite the reasons for Guitar Hero's end, it will have a great impact on those who used the music games as a marketing channel, particularly independent record labels. From across the continent I can hear my friends weeping. Not only for the loss of new games to incorporate into the monthly beer-fueled, Guitar Hero rock-a-thons, but for the lost opportunities to market their new artists to millions of potential album and concert ticket purchasing fans. It is this tight group of musicians and independent record labels who will be the most deeply impacted by the loss of the marketing opportunities presented by music genre games. When it first appeared in 2005, Guitar Hero developers at Red Octane and Harmonix Music Systems offered low cost opportunities to independent record labels and bands to appear on video game soundtracks. Record labels jumped at the chance to market artists using a new channel with a large potential reach. Today, Guitar Hero has shipped over 25 million units, having put budding indie bands like Attack! Attack!, Band of Skulls, Amon Amarth and countless others into the hands of fans that might not necessarily hear them. In the wake of this loss, I'd like to hope the developers will find new homes, fans will retreat to their Rock Band guitars and drum sets, and just as they always have, independent record labels will search out the newest (often gratis) ways to market bands to the masses.
In early November, Twitter launched a new type of paid ad that would place tweets directly into the timelines of Twitter users regardless of whether the user follows a brand or not. This latest launch is the third phase of Twitter's paid advertisement offering which currently includes Promoted Trends, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets. Ad placements will be targeted based on the types of friends and brands a user already follows. The initial roll out of the new paid ads will only be appearing for consumers who use the third party client HootSuite to manage their Twitter accounts (reaching some 900,000 users). Depending on ad effectiveness, Twitter will roll out the paid tweets to other third party clients, and eventually Twitter.com. The greatest advantage of paid tweets in timelines over other paid Twitter ads available is paid tweets provide increased reach over all other paid ads. While users have already expressed concern over timeline ads sullying the Twitter experience, a Twitter spokesman insists paid tweets are intended as means of extending a brand's normal tweets to a larger audience. Through analysis of link clicks, 'favoriting'? and re-tweeting, Twitter promises to scrap tweets that aren't 'working'?. While I'm inclined to believe that Twitter seeks to preserve the user experience at all costs, I highly doubt the company has the bandwidth to keep promoted tweets in timelines in check. Spammers currently run amok on Twitter creating a lack of confidence in Twitter's ability to ditch the ads that aren't garnering user attention, or prevent paid timeline ads from containing blatant and overt ad messaging rather than 'normal tweet'? language. The act of monitoring tweets from a brand that pays for ad placement also seems to be a conflict of interest for Twitter. In the end, what will Twitter sacrifice? The ad revenue (that it will be sharing with its third party clients)? Or the user experience? So what are the implications and challenges for advertisers, marketers and brands? Remember that Twitter, like most social networks, exists for its users, not brands. Social media is not a space where the brand 'talks'?, but rather listens to consumers. Don't discount the savvy of the social network user. Users today, especially the XYZ generations, can see right through poorly concealed ad messaging and will ignore it faster than a text from their mom. The key to receiving the most benefit from a promoted timeline tweet will be to use the tool as it's intended, spreading your normal tweets to the masses. Remember to keep your messaging and content engaging. Users will already be turned off by the yellow box exclaiming your tweet was promoted, but if the content is truly engaging a user might consider ignoring the paid attempt to reach them. In the end, a promoted timeline tweet could not only build awareness for a brand, promotion or product launch, but could also aid in growing a brand's network. Sources: http://www.thestar.com/business/media/article/885243--twitter-moving-toward-paid-tweets-in-users-timelines http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=146822 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/02/twitter_ads_in_user_timelines/