Archive for the ‘The Web and advertising’ Category

Clicks/Bricks: the Kogan/Norman controversy

In The Web and advertising, The Web and democracy, Uncategorized on September 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’VE decided to renege on my promise of a photo extravaganza (see last week’s post), because something more intriguing – and pertinent to the theme of this blog – has caught my eye this week.

ON last week’s highest rating episode of the Gruen Transfer (Season 3, Episode 9), the panel discussed the battle between the new online TV retailer Ruslan Kogan and Harvey Norman. Somehow, I’d managed to miss the whole shemozzle (perhaps because I get my news from ABC News Breakfast and Jon Stewart rather than Today Tonight). For those of you who are similarly behind on the news, and don’t have time to watch the Gruen episode (the Kogan segment starts around 23 minutes in, but why would you watch just part of the show?), here’s a summary from blogger Renai LeMay on Delimiter.

The Lowdown

IF you refused to be distracted by the link minefield I’ve just laid, the battle between the Kogan CEO Ruslan Kogan, and Gerry Harvey (no introduction necessary) made it on Gruen Transfer because of a cheeky ad Kogan had made in the style of those insistent and eminently lampoonable Harvey Norman ads. The Gruen panel, especially Todd, were glowing in their praise of the parvenu’s advertising strategy, and pointed to the fact Kogan has saved a packet on advertising, relying on the viral spread of the advertisement instigated in part by the story that Channel 7, a longtime partner of Harvey Norman, refused to show the ad during the Ben Cousins documentary (Kogan announced in advance that he’d booked the spot). Russell used a great term to describe the contest between the internet-based business model over the mass-market franchise model Gerry has thrived on for so many years: clicks versus bricks.

ANYWAY, why might this all be of interest to us? Well, another strength the panel pointed to was Kogan’s online community building (over 2000 people ‘like’ Kogan on Facebook). I thought I’d look into Kogan a bit further, through their Web site.

The site

It’s not the prettiest of sites, but then perhaps we don’t want that in a bargain retailer. All the same, it’s not amateurish. In fact, it’s reassuringly average.


It’s also roguishly militant, in its taunting of Gerry Harvey and Stephen Conroy’s internet filter (see Delimiter’s commentary on the latter); the company’s blog has the combination refreshing directness, quasi-diplomacy and insolence that characterises much Web 2.o communication.

And, along with all that swagger, it’s inclusive, encouraging readers to help name TVs and and take their own swings at Harvey, Conroy and big brands.

Also, though consumer reviews are not given prominence,  Kogan appears to be unafraid of what its customers might say:

My one big disapointment is the location of the page turn button. In my opinion, it’s a design flaw, especially if you read with the unit in it’s case. It also requires quite a bit of pressure to turn a page. Not good for repeated page turning.

(From customer review of the 6″ Kogan ebook Reader)

This, I believe, is called crowdsourcing.

IN SHORT, not only has Kogan embraced an efficient internet business model, its site seems to have tapped the Zeitgeist of Web 2.0 – or at least makes a damned good impression of doing so.

BUT once the novelty has worn off, will Kogan’s community suspect (/realise) that they are being manipulated just as the Gruen panel was, just as they are lured into Harvey Norman stores by those tantalisingly interest-free months? The curious and skeptical reader might look at the list of domains Kogan’s acquired and wonder whether they are just another unsuspecting gnat in a rapidly expanding corporate Web.

Now, I just have to make sure my partner doesn’t see Kogan’s site (or this post), otherwise I’m afraid we’ll see the unwieldy but perfectly fine CRT in our lounge room replaced with a Kogan whatchamecallit.



Gerry Harvey takes Kogan’s bait in this SMH article: Go Harvey!

Mumbrella’s commentary on Gruen’s commentary: meta-meta-advertising moments