Boston-based Hill Holliday may be known for helping consumer marketers craft great brands, but the agency just announced some news related to the questionable name of its own latest branding initiative, “Project Beacon.” That’s right -- the same name that most people on Madison Avenue would associate with one of the industry’s biggest digital marketing blunders, Facebook’s ill-fated Project Beacon, which was shut down following howls of protests from users and consumer advocacy groups because of its ability to target ads to Facebook users and their friends based on their personal information.
The timing is especially ironic, because Hill Holliday’s announcement comes on the same day that Facebook is hosting a big marketing summit in New York City, and because some of the Hill Holliday project’s goals are to leverage new digital technology startups to target advertising to consumers based on uniquely personal information.
“We’ve been working closely with startups for years, but Project Beacon formalizes our commitment to emerging companies that can have a positive impact on our clients’ businesses,” Hill Holliday CEO Mike Sheehan, CEO said in a statement, as part of the announcement, made this morning at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin.
Interestingly, Sheehan and Hill Holliday made no explicit reference to Facebook’s ill-fated effort, although parent Interpublic has been an early strategic investor in the social network.
The statement said the agency announced the project earlier this year, although there doesn’t seem to be any coverage about it. The agency described the project as “an agency initiative designed to promote collaboration, proactive partnership, and strategic counsel between Hill Holliday and the ad-tech startup community. In other words, what every other major agency does these days.
Among the partnerships unveiled this morning was one with a startup called Hitchery, which it described as a “mobile hitchhiking game that allows players to create ‘hitchers’ -- virtual characters that have adventures around the world by hitching rides on players' phones.”
The agency did not disclose exactly how Hitchery would benefit its clients, but said it was one of 12 startups it is partnering with from an initial call for entries that generated more than 50 “applicants.” The other partnerships include: Cognitive Match, ChoiceStream CRUNCH, Linkable Networks, SecondScreen Networks, ThinkFlood, MyCityWay, Hitchery, CityVoter,CampusLIVE, Crowdly, Nanigans, and ShareThis.
Cognitive Match is an especially interesting company, because it has developed a method of targeting advertising to online users based on a semantic filter of their personal interests drawn from their online user behavior.