Category Ads Don’t Make Sense

I just saw on TV an ad by Bigpond for DVD home movie rental. Creative, humorous ad … but nothing really special. The only thing is, the main thrust of the message was to sell viewers on home DVD rental, not necessarily Bigpond home DVD rental.

So they’re really just promoting the “home DVD rental” category, and not saying anything at all about how different they are to competitors like QuickFlix and others.

Epson have been doing the same thing lately — ads on the back of IT magazines advertising their products, but again showing no difference compared to competitors like HP and Canon.

The current ad shows how a stapler isn’t as good at multi-tasking as an Epson printer — yet Canon and HP multifunction printers are in the same category and perform the same functions.

Another recent Epson ad showed how their printers had individual cartridges for each ink colour (the main image was a case of pencils with one nearly used up) — again, just like their competitors HP, Canon et al.

If consumers are “duped” into believing Bigpond and Epson are the only companies to offer such products … once they realise that’s not the case, what will their perception be of Bigpond and Epson? Will it be lowered when they realise competing products also offer the same features?

So in that case, what’s the point of promoting a “category” of product like multifunction printers when consumers later realise yours is just of several choices? You might convince them to pick a multifunction printer, or get home DVD rentals, but you’re not ruling out your competitors in your marketing.

Wouldn’t you rather get people hungry for your own product, and see good reason to choose you over a competitor?

Optimising images online

One of the graphic aspects that business site owners sometimes overlook on their website is using HTML to change the display size of an image or graphic.

Here’s an example: on a website today, I noticed a tiny image loading really slowly (even though I’m surfing the web on broadband and the rest of the page loaded quite fast).

It was a sure giveaway that the image was really large and that it had been resized (width and height settings) in the HTML coding to display much smaller.

The display size was tiny: just 186 pixels wide by 25 pixels high.

When I viewed the actual image, it was a whopping 3456 pixels wide by 2304 pixels high!

In total area, that’s 4,650 pixels at the small size vs 7,962,624 pixels at the large size. So, in effect, the display size was less than 6 percent of the uploaded image size.

That causes a few problems:

  • The image loads very slowly, making the website visitor’s experience worse because images aren’t displayed quickly
  • With the way the image was displayed (186×25), the proportions have distorted the original image to a more landscape shape (squashing the image) — which results in a poorer display
  • In turn, that reduces the “professional” appearance of the website (which you want to maximise)
  • It also means that instead of “serving” up an image of around 2kb, the image is 3.56Mb (3,567kb) — that’s a lot of data allowance being wasted (which you might need to pay for!)

Any kind of resizing will generally make the image display look like it’s of lower quality.

So what should have happened?

BEFORE the image was uploaded to the server and displayed via the HTML code, it should have been resized to the exact display size. That’s what “optimising” an image is all about: making sure it is the optimal size for how you’re going to display it.

How do you do that?

The image should be opened in an image editor (offline editors like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Fireworks, the free Picasa etc; or online free editors/apps like Picnik or Photoshop Express) — cropped and adjusted as required and then exported/saved at the size it will be used online (186×25 pixels).

The cropping is important so there’s no squashing/distortion of the original picture. And also, a good web graphics operator would have lightened this image a fair bit, as the original was quite dark (so it’s hard to make out what it is supposed to be).

That would then create a tiny file (under 2kb as mentioned), at the size it will be used (“100% sizing”) on the webpage.

I actually cropped, lightened and resized the image as a test, and the resulting optimised image turned out to be 1.75kb.

So why does this kind of problem happen?

Usually because it’s a non-experienced person who has edited and uploaded the changes to the website. I can tell from this file that it was taken with a high end Canon EOS 350D camera — which is why such a large image (around 8 megapixels) was produced.

They then grabbed the image, included it in the page design, resized it within the HTML to the tiny size, and uploaded the image and new page coding (and probably wondered why it took so long!).

In the middle, they simply missed the step to properly prepare the image (optimise it).

An optimised image means page loading is faster, visitors are not slowed down by an image “taking forever” to display and there’s no excess data usage on the server (potentially saving 100’s of Mb of download data).

In this case, it’d save around 3,565kb for EVERY visitor to the home page — even with just 100 visitors per day (which is probably a conservative estimate for the site in question), that would add up to over 10.6 GIGABYTES of data saved every month!

For all of these reasons — make sure YOUR images are optimised on your web pages!

Business advisers send wrong money message

Last night I happened to watch about 5 minutes of the “Your Money, Your Call” show on Foxtel’s Business News channel.

A caller phoned in to say that he and his wife disagreed on pocket money for their children (from memory, one was about 12, and the others about 8 and 5. I didn’t write down the details, so my ages/pocket money amounts are only estimates!).

The caller gave the kids monthly pocket money ($20, $5 and $5 respectively) because he wanted his kids to have their own money and get used to being responsible for it.

His wife disagreed, saying the kids should do some kind of small task around the home to “earn” the money instead.

The two business advisors on the show for this particular episode sided with the caller’s wife, agreeing that the money should only be given to the kids as “reward for effort.”

Oh no.

They’re teaching the kids that the ONLY way to get money is to work hard for it — to swap “time for money”. They’re saying in effect that if you don’t work hard, you’re not entitled to any money (even just $5 monthly pocket money for a 5 year old!).

They’re teaching the kids the WRONG money message. They’ll grow up thinking that earning money is hard work, and only comes to you because you deserve it. How did these guys ever get to be put up as exerts on a business channel?

I think there’s a big difference between giving kids responsibility for money and telling them it must be earned. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of an allowance/pocket money!

This is not the same issue as expecting a handout — or giving in to every demand for money/things… you can still teach responsibility about money without sending a message that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and can only be swapped for hard work.

Let me illustrate.

When I was growing up, we were given money for things like days out with friends at the cinema, or trips to the annual show.

Here’s the difference though. When I was given the money (say, $20), it was mine to spend as I pleased. When one of my mates Sam was given his money, for example, he was told to bring home any change and give it back to his mum.

Sam spent every cent that day. There was no change for mum. It wasn’t Sam’s money, so he saw no need to have any left over. Because the $20 was mine and my responsibility (and I’m talking early 1980s here), I didn’t spend it all, as I didn’t need to. I put aside what was left over and saved it up. Neither of us had to “earn” the $20 we got, but only one of us took responsibility for it. We still got to do the same activities for the day (tram to the city, watch a movie, have lunch etc) … but only one of us had money to call their own at the end of the day.

I’d rather kids learned that lesson than be told the only way you’ll get money is to toil away working hard for the rest of your life!

Lazy-breaking news?

News is “instant” nowadays, right? We are in the accessible 24/7 broadband information age. “News as it happens” has been a media catch-cry for several years.

So I did chuckle this morning when seeing this “breaking” news about the end of daylight savings — four hours AFTER it actually ended.

Daylight Saving breaking news

When I was a teenager, working in a golf shop, the end of daylight savings was always a good day in the shop: golfers turned up early, and with time to spare, spent it in the shop and made extra purchases. And plenty of golfers who were regularly “last-minute” arrivals got to relax for a change (unlike the chaos at the start of daylight savings!).

Maybe back then they’d appreciate the 6am news in a “breaking” sense, but in 2008 that time delay — given the “instant” environment of news reporting — is actually noticeable.