Ad:Tech Report: What’s Not in a Name? Meaning.

CIQ Trends

IBM, now there’s a name. International Business Machines. Says what it does, does what it says. Okay, so it does other things now too. Not just Big Blue anymore; more like Big Blue Man Group.


Here’s a question: What’s a Lenovo? You’d think having nailed the name game at the start, IBM could do better. Legend, maybe? Plus a soupcon of innovation? Also, it has that dashing ovo ending, suggestive of first person present tense action verbs in Spanish, Italian, and Greek. “I create legends! I innovate!” (Holy Cow, that took a lot of thought. What was wrong with ThinkPad, again?)


This years Ad:Tech made my head hurt in a similar way. It also made me a little afraid. The last time I encountered hip, coy, utterly impenetrable names like the list of Ad:Tech exhibitors was, well, on a list of Ad:Tech exhibitors. Only it was 2001.

  Of course, in any dot-com crowd, there will be the simply bizarre– Blue Lithium, JargonFish– that don’t fit in any distinct category. But the rest are roughly classifiable. Here’s a list. First, the mash-ups. Those Frankenstein’s Monster eponyms that shove together bits of suggestive roots with some kind of suffix to indicate it’s an actual word.


  Then there are the names that use edgy media words and plays on the word “broadcast.”

Next, we have the companies who want to be both cerebral and hip. They may use in-the-know words, implying that if you have to ask, you’re not smart enough to do business with us. F5 Networks seems like they might be one of those. But the more inclusive brainy companies employ gray-matter type words like “knowledge” and “logic.”

Intela (Actually, this last one kinda fits in list #1 too, but who’s counting.)

The next group wants action. With their help, everyone will Do! Click! Go! Racking up responses and ad impressions like pinballs.


Another thing I noticed is that the quirky letter Q has become quite popular. He makes names a little hard to decode and, one would think, to pronounce.


I wonder how the sales folks at those companies say those names over the phone. Am I being qantakerous?

But my favorite of all, after three hours of glossy dot-com brochures, thousands of free pens, mousepads, coffee mugs, and keychains, plus one guy in an enormous dog suit: The Blind Network. Perhaps it is just the humility latent in the name. (And yes, I did check. They’re an ad network and have nothing to do with the disabled.)

Humility. There’s a concept, albeit an old fashioned one. Have any idea what these companies do? Me either. I’m not saying these corporations aren’t terrific, thank-your-lucky-stars-they’re-here, paradigm-shifting, value-creating entities. I’m sure many of them are. But many of them aren’t, created by the inevitable froth that follows in the wake of easy VC money. The hairbrained names are just a metaphor for empty dot-com arrogance. When you arrogate the right to create language, focusing on hip wordplay, and leave out the meaning, will you leave out other important things as well? Say a value proposition?

I blame DoubleClick. They started it all with the silly name thing—back in the time when you actually had to click twice on your Macintosh mouse. Something most of us don’t do any more. And in a nice ironic twist, DoubleClick was just bought by Google—with perhaps the loopiest name of them all, a bastardization of the mathematical “googol.” But if you take what you do seriously, more seriously than your cool name and its marketing potential, I guess you get to create new words like google, and have your fans turn it into a verb.



Greek Mortgages and Dot-Com Deja Vu

CIQ Trends

“It’s a scheme they have in America where the bank buys the house and you rent it from the bank.”

That was my father-in-law at a cocktail party in Athens, Greece, explaining the concept of a mortgage to group of older European guests. Until very recently, American-style mortgages were virtually unknown in Greece and many other countries.


The explanation seemed quaint to me. That is until the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Traditionally, in places like Greece, you might borrow 20% of the purchase price of a house, but certainly never the 80-90% we do here. In much of Europe, property passes down inside of families. And the rest of the world, generally speaking, does not love debt the way we do. Though in some places they’re catching up fast. Along with Big Macs and cigarettes, our credit-card habit is another unhealthy export.


The crisis in the mortgage industry has made me sensitive to another phenomenon: a new dot-com-ishness in the air. Money is flowing again from VCs. The M&A engine is torqued up. Tech consultants’ rates are up at $175 an hour. These consultants are turning down good gigs, or requiring two- and three-month commitments, telling their clients they can get more across the street. People in stable jobs are saying they can make more on the free market as consultants. Does anyone remember 2001 anymore? Or are we all packing our camping rolls, off again to pan for gold?


I believe in startups. I think many good companies went out of business in 2001 simply because they had the financing rug ripped out from under them. I have not heard my father-in-law explain dot-com investing. But if he did, I imagine it would go something like this: “It’s a scheme they have in America where they invest in small companies so that some people can get rich. But then they close them because they don’t really like running companies in America. Just starting them.”

CIQ Headlines for October 16, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Dot-Deja-Vu?: (Business Week) Facebook valuied at $10 billion. RockYou $500 million. TechCrunch $100 Million. Total revenues for all of these sites combined is under $200 million. Silicon Valley is on a gradiose acquistion binge. CIQ: Some say the values will pan out this time. Online advertising, immature in 2000, is now a viable business model. Maybe right. But the dot-comishness in the air is disturbing.

P&G Online Only Soap: (NYT) The inventor of the soap opera re-invents the soap opera. CIQ: We are very optimistic about online-only and mobile shows. We’re also curious: How will the content change. Shorter? More closeups? Better writing? (Please, better writing.)

CIQ Headlines for October 9, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Hachette Plans Digital Books: (Yahoo!) Hachette Book Group USA is developing an program to make their books digitally browsable and searchable online. The books will also be accompanied by “widgets.”  CIQ: As publishing seems to be preparing for the eReader world, it would be nice if the gadget makers could provide a good one.

Portals are the New Networks: ( By aggregating content and audience, the big four, Yahoo!, Google, AOL, and MSN, “are becoming this generation’s power hubs for news, commanding the attention that the networks did in their heyday.” CIQ: This fact still receives less attention than Katie Couric’s job switch.  

New Measurability Standards for Print: (NYT) Ad measurement firm Starch is introducing new parameters into its reporting on print advertising. They include techniques to help determine how advertisements in magazines and newspapers affect the purchase behavior of consumers. CIQ: We can’t help but wonder how much this move was driven by pressure from the ultra-measurable online ad space.

CIQ Headlines for October 8, 2007

CIQ Trends

Publisher’s Jitters in Frankfurt: Attendees at the Frankfurt Book Fair told surveyers what they thought were the biggest the challenges and threats facing the industry:

— Digitization (53 percent)
— Increasing globalization (24 percent)
— User-generated content (22 percent)
— Territorial rights battles (15 percent)

e-Books and Audiobooks lead the list of major areas of growth. CIQ: We are very impressed with those publishers converting their backlists to XML to face the digital future. We’d like to see someone put a big catalogue of OEM content on an eReader to promote adoption.

Google Phone: (NYT) Some call it a phone. Some call it an OS. This story describes the GPhone as a kind of “open-source operating and Web-browsing software that would compete with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.” CIQ: We would love to see an open-source phone plaform. And, our advice based on the iPhone experience we recently had: Get the typing part right.

Big Four on Acquisition Binge: (LA Times) To compete with the New York Times, independent blogs, and others, AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, and Google have been on an acquisition binge. Collectively they have spent $10B. CIQ: Content, these days, is a very rich queen.