Now, I adore pigs, saw “Babe” 11 times, don’t eat ‘em, and pet them at the kiddie zoos.  Yet I would never encourage lipstick for an oinker.  So why do developers of digital products that won’t sell, chirp: “Let’s spin the click potential, sell advertising on it, and give it away?”

Why is advertising the solution to products that won’t sell?  Do the trumpeters that suggest this salvation path understand the dynamics of advertising – really get it?  Perhaps, just perhaps, these are lousy products that need to be put out of their misery – or the misery of the marketing and sales team.  Marketing cringes at having to pitch a pig in a beauty contest.
 
Brand marketers and ad buyers know every shade of lipstick used on the grin of a porker, so why are they hearing themselves chatter, “Well, that is a lovely shade of Fuchsia #129; it makes his smile brighter.”
 
What are those digital products that are painted pigs and what are those DPs that are attractive, will sell, and are leveraging incremental ad revenue on top of subscriptions and stand alone sales to maximize profit?  Here are a few that caught my eye during last few years:
 
Twitter – it’s free, it’s attractive.  However, can advertising on Twitter really influence the user?  There are some smart companies like 12seconds.tv that get that brand or call2act advertising is challenged by the learned behavior of Tweeters living in gists of ideas of concepts created in 140 characters.  In this case, both Twitter and 12seconds.tv use heavy gloss to stave off the need of a full swipe of paint.  So here’s to hoping Twitter takes a pass on ad support.
 
Fandango – it has an ad supported business in the works.  If it is an online concept, it is a beauty contest winner.  If you can view the site on a mobile browser and click the ads into movie poster screen savers, then there is the possibility some revenue will be made by the tween and teen consumer leveraging their limited allowances.  If it’s a free application that will be totally supported by ads, can the banner advertising generate enough revenue to Fandango to re-invest in a forever polished and perfected app so that it is a deserving channel for brand advertising?  They may need swipes of lip plumper.
 
Boomerang by adNav – painted pig; there is a ton of color trying to hide this GPS product.  And, the ad supported model is dangerous.  This device encourages drivers to take their eyes off the road to review digital advertising discounts for hotels, dining, and weather on a portable GPS navigation device attached to windshields or the dash.  There is a reason digital outdoor board advertising on freeways is banned in many metro areas.  Perhaps, if the adverting review on the device only worked when the car was stopped, then this might be a safe product.
 
Funambol for Nokia S60 – its mobile applications are attractive and are sort of free.  It has an equally attractive ad supported model that is non-intrusive, relevant, and respects user privacy.  No lipstick needed.   Maybe just a schmear of pink gloss over the fact that WAP ads – as they are created today - on phones are rarely remembered.  Is that the product makers or the advertiser’s challenge?
 
NHL/National Hockey League mobile site – its mobile website is a squished version of its on-line property that didn’t cost that much to squish or to run.  So why did the NHL paint and parade this less-than-engaging product to ad buyers and why was ad space bought? 
 
Foneshow mobile talk and sports radio – painted pig.  I only need to say this one comment and you will get it:  “Listening to the advertising is killing battery life.” 
 
Cellufun mobile game community – it’s a cool idea with cool advertising strategists at work.  Again, WAP ads aren’t doing it for most of us, but Cellufun does raise the heat on brand marketing for the casual game player – 35 year old female.  The Thanksgiving Butterball game was hilarious and nearly 325,000 virtual Butterball Turkeys were purchased for use in the game.  The Butterball logo was seen 3.7M times.  No painted hams for these turkey players.
 
When it comes to evaluating a free product to support with advertising, consider running a litmus test – what would you pay to use this product without advertising?  If you answer is “Nothing” then file all the trend reports that promote the product as the next best thing since the word “Cool” was created.
 
Maybe you’ve seen a few painted pigs.  If so, we’d love to hear about them.