Some big hairy questions for advertising and marketing technology

It’s an exciting time for the advertising and marketing technology world.  WPP recently acquired up to 25% of Appnexus, Millennial Media just acquired Nexage, and Mozilla recently announced it was entering the advertising landscape (self promotion, I know).

I’ve participated in this ecosystem for a while now and have some big hairy questions for us all going forward.  I think we should spend some time trying to think these questions through as an industry because we are all going to face it them.

What happens when we have five closed ecosystems?

You know, Google, Amazon, Apple, Baidu and Facebook.  These companies are large enough to become “first party” and could redefine the advertising landscape.  What happens to everyone else?  How is measurement accomplished for agencies and advertisers when 3rd party isn’t allowed?

Advertising buyers haven’t thought of the browser much, but they will play an increasingly important role

Back on the agency side, I didn’t see many line items on our media plans specifically for Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera or Firefox but these might play a role moving forward.  Default blocking of cookies, add-ons like AdBlock Plus, and others are impacting ad delivery and targeting.

At large, users are just not in control of their advertising experiences

I spend a lot of time meeting with advertising and marketing technology companies in our sector and I just don’t see the inclusion of user permission/control within the innovation.  Imagine what the results would be if users actually were part of the process around making available the data they wanted marketers to react to.

The display category is much bigger than it was 4 years ago but are we setup to measure it?

Every couple of months a new ad unit is released and every few years, a new medium is created.  Display media has evolved across mediums and units and is at an all-time high; and tomorrow, it’ll be even higher.  Using some quick examples, we have display on Twitter, Pinterest, Firefox, Instagram, Snapchat, and Flipboard… all of which units didn’t exist 1,000 days ago.

We are entering a new wave of marketing and we’re buying the wrong metric

Reach and frequency are the wrong metrics for moving forward but they were the right metrics for yesterdays media buying.  I believe we’re entering the Intention Economy (stolen from Doc Searls) where “intention holders” will be able to make spot markets and evolve the advertising equation.  Why not?  Why not.  Technology has evolved and we’re starting to see the early infrastructure of this existing across Facebook and Uber.

Agencies will exist, they are just setup wrong for the future

One of the more popular questions that gets asked is whether or not agencies will exist in the future… and I certainly believe they will.  Relationships are super important and managed service is not going away.  However, agencies will change and morph.  If we move into the “intention economy” and we have “intention holders,” who becomes the agency for the user?  Who is the user agency?

These are just some of the questions that I’m thinking about – and are part of my industry breakfast conversations.   I hope you are thinking about them too as they are going to impact the next five to ten years of our industry.

First Week with Surface Pro 3

Some people say advertising doesn’t work… but it worked on me.  After seeing countless ads for the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and watching how that keyboard “clicks” into the tablet, I decided to go to the local Microsoft Store (in Westchester Mall in New York) and see what all the fuss was about.  And apparently once the NBA season starts, we’ll be seeing all the announcers using these tablets.  Good job to whoever does the media buying for Microsoft!

MySurfacePro3I have a Macbook Air for work and a Nexus 7 tablet for travel.   I am on plenty of airplanes – almost every other week is either a cross country flight or a global one… so having a device that has solid battery life is a must.  My wife and I recently went away on holiday and I only brought my Nexus Tablet… I absolutely loved having such a light device but I didn’t like the input function… typing on the small screen.

My rationale for the Surface Pro 3 was that the device has better input:  the keyboard. I won’t bore you with the in-store experience but it was actually better than I had anticipated (I still talk to one of the guys as he gave me his business card)  and I have had the computer now for over a week.

After the first 2 days, I told my wife and my colleagues that I was going to return it.  I figured that it wasn’t a tablet.  It’s not.  As much as Microsoft calls this device a tablet…it just isn’t.  It’s too damn heavy.  I think it weighs just under a Macbook Air… if you try holding that for a prolonged period of time, it just weighs too much.  No beach reading with it in my future.  I don’t know why it’s considered a tablet other than for business reasons.

So I was going to return the tablet and luckily had 30 days to do so for my full money back.

Then I realized that I actually liked the experience of the machine.  I like the Windows tiles.  I like being able to multi-task and have up to three windows/programs open on the device.  I like that Firefox works on this device unlike current iOS devices.  And the battery life is pretty good.  Oh, and it has additional monitor support so I’m actually typing this post on the Surface but looking at my desk monitor while typing.

This thing is a desktop or laptop replacement.  The Surface Pro 3 will be my home “laptop” so I don’t need to lug my work computer home each night.  For travel, I bought a Logitech keyboard that pairs with my Nexus tablet (Firefox add-on Invisible Hand got me $30 off!).

I’m enjoying it…. just thinking of it as a tablet was incorrect.  This thing is too big.  But pretty cool at the same time.  And btw – I’ve not owned nor recommended a Microsoft device in over a decade.  Should you buy one?  That’s up to you but at least consider one if you’re in the market for a new laptop or desktop.

FWIW, I can see this being the ideal college computer.

Attention Minutes

Earlier this morning, one of my colleagues sent around a note to a bunch of us pointing to a post by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress (and many others).  In his post, he talks how the Knight Foundation has granted Grist.org monies to build an open-source WordPress plug-in to measure Attention Minutes.

As someone who straddles technology and marketing/advertising, I wanted to talk about why this is particularly interesting.

Note however, WordPress is not the first to go down this path, mentioned in the comments of the post are Upworthy and Parse.ly, two companies who are dabbling in this space too.  I’m sure there are many others.

Lets break down Attention & Minutes.

at·ten·tion (noun)

The dictionary describes attention as the act or faculty of attending, especially by directing the mind to an object.  Since the invention of Internet marketing, attention has been one of the key drivers of increased economic growth…. because it’s measurable.  If you can measure attention by different proxies, you can understand if it’s working or not for you or your brand and can then make rationale decisions as to investing more or less.

Attention KPIs focus around engagement.   CTR is a signal of attention.  Hovers/Mouse overs are a signal of attention.  Purchase is a signal of attention.  Commenting is a signal of attention.  Creating is a signal of attention.  You get the idea.

min·ute (noun)

The dictionary defines a minute as the sixtieth part (1/60) of an hour; sixty Minutes are super important in advertising because much of the ecosystem trades on time based measures such as Gross Rating Points (GRP).  The GRP delivers of the answer of what % of the population is reached during said time period, with some form of content… usually television.   There have been movements to bring the GRP to digital media and I’ve certainly been vocal about this subject in the past.

Attention Minutes

Attention Minutes are interesting to me.  I don’t immediately dismiss them like I do with GRP’s.  I like the idea of a measurable attribute/KPI with some form of time period.  This seems reasonable and something that I’d like to learn more about.  How is it bought?  How is it sold?  What tools measure it?  How can you purchase attention minutes in the programmatic world?

One of my close friends and former boss used to tell the world he’d like to purchase Instantaneous Awareness for his brands.  Maybe we’re coming closer to that?

 

Net Neutrality & FCC

Please take a minute today and head over to DearFCC or any other site about #netneutrality and send the FCC your thoughts as the official comment period is coming to a close soon.  Note, I’m not endorsing DearFCC but I saw this tweet by my buddy Mark and if he’s recommending, I’ll do so as well:

If you are reading this, chances are you earn your living and/or get inspired by the Internet in one way, shape, or form.  What we have collectively been building for the past 20 or so years might change in its commercial intentions which benefit a small number of people.  This is not good for the world at large.

I rarely get political but for something that I’ve been a part of since it’s inception, I care deeply.

#netneutrality

Raising Capital? Watch This Video

I’ve been loving the 30 for 30 documentaries on ESPN.  On my cross country flights for work, I’ve been managing to sneak in a couple between answering emails.

I just finished watching There’s No Place Like Home which is a documentary about a gentleman who has a crazy dream to purchase the official rules of basketball (James Naismith) at a Sotheby’s auction.  Only one tiny problem:  he does not have the finances to make it happen by himself and the estimate is that the auction will be $1M+.

Some lessons for anyone raising capital and/or trying to sell an idea:

1.  Show, don’t tell.  Show a video, show a prototype, show something that can help build emotion with your dream and vision.

2.  Know the social graph.  Investors don’t like to jump alone, nor jump first.  Know who is connected to the vision and work the graph at the same time.  Using boosters, evangelists, or other investors to convince each other is helpful – we all like to do things when we know our peers are doing it too.

3.  No can be temporary.  We’ve all got turned down at one point or another but that’s purely a moment in time.  Stay persistent.  People can change their mind.

4.  If you don’t dream, it won’t happen.   We all have crazy ideas… but even the crazy ideas can happen.  Keep dreaming or we won’t push the world forward.

Enjoy the video – it’s certainly worth it.  I was skeptical before I started watching it but really enjoyed it.  A great 60 min video.  You can learn more about it on ESPN’s page here.

 

 

Why The Self Driving Car Might Actually Work

This week, the inaugural Code Conference took place on the West Coast and much of the buzz was about Google’s self driving car.  Google co-founder Sergey Brin unveiled the car and showed at least one video of a driver-less car which pretty much looks like a gondola.

(image from recode)

I’ve been thinking about self-driving cars for a little while now.  As you might (or might not) know, I enjoy cars.  I’ve blogged about the automotive industry a bit, I got to work on multiple automotive pitches on the agency side, and over the years frequent the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance to enjoy the culture of automobiles.  I’ve also owned my fair share of cars:  some that go fast and some that go slow.

I have a relationship with my cars.   Some cars I care about more than others.  But if I’m leasing, that relationship ends every 36, 39, or 48 months.  I’m onto my next car.   If I own a car, I’m looking at where I’ll achieve maximum value for my sale/trade-in and look to optimize for that.  Note, history tells us that the longer you hold onto an owned car, the more value you get out of it.   For me, value is not correlated to happiness- there might be a slight correlation, but I look to switch my cars more frequently than the typical American of 11.4 years.

As Google showcases it’s self-driving car, the definition of a car doesn’t change, but the value and utility it brings is very different.  Instead of having to worry about driving – and basically concentrating on the road, you now get [potentially] substantial time back in your day.

For me, I am in my car for about 30 mins each weekday.  15 mins to and from the train station.   While those 15 mins each way are not significant, when you add them up over a week, that’s roughly 2.5 hours that I’m sacrificing of my time to drive to the train.  Instead of buying cars that hug the road, sit low, and have 510hp, I can focus on the cabin of the car and basically ride in an office or living room on wheels.  Cars will have more Bentley interior amenities than Ferrari* amenities (though Ferrari is getting Apple’s CarPlay).

I digress.

My relationship is with technology when it comes to cars.  At the end of the day, a car is a set of wheels, an engine, and a lot of modern day computers. Cars today just work….. and for the most part they do.  I noticed my wife had a day-time-running light that was not working today… but that didn’t stress me out.  The car worked fine; when we have a free moment, we’ll bring it back to the dealership and have them fix the light.   Cars have become very utilitarian.

This used to not be the case.  If you ask your pops, your grandmother, or anyone else older than you, you’ll see that they had stronger relationships with cars.  Why?  Because cars used to be a lot more temperamental and they’d break.  They were also newer.  They were to the left on the gartner hype cycle.  When a car had issues, you put on your old jeans and you crawled under your car and fixed it.   You build a relationship with your car.  You might have even named your car.  Or kissed it.  My father named his old Land Rover, Sunny.  That name stuck with me.The self-driving car might actually catch on because replacing your car today is less emotional than ever (IMHO).  For most people**, your car is a utility and you are looking to maximize your efficiency in the day.  If you could check your email or text messages on the way to taking your kids to their soccer game, I’m sure you’d chose that over than actually driving the vehicle.

When we do adopt the self-driving car, the actual car itself will be commoditized (if not already) and will move to the fabric of life.  We won’t think about the car, we’ll think about everything we can do while in the car.

 

* If you’ve ever been in a Ferrari, you’ll be amazed at how little is in the car.  It’s about the driving experience, not the cabin experience.

** Not everyone falls into this bucket.  I’d personally want to keep a car that I could drive.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of driving and taking control of the road.

 

 

 

Some Good Reading for This Week

Been a super busy couple of weeks but wanted to highlight some posts/articles that have been getting my attention as of late:

The Internet of Things by Benedict Evans.  This man is smart and gets me thinking.  Great post.  Fred Wilson posts a follow-up this morning.

The NYC b2b list via Bowery Capital.  A major plus since the list has been open-sourced.

Economics of a Small VC by Charlie O’donnell.  Great recap of how a small VC operates and is a great primer for entrepreneurs to understand how that side of the ecosystem operates.

Who Will Fight for your Digital Rights?  by Andrew Parker.  Short but sweet post making you think about who will stand up for your rights/identity online.  Very Mozilla.

#codecon  Sorta upset (at myself) that I forgot to get a ticket and book my travel.  This conference flew under my radar.  Looking forward to attending next year.

Zero to One.  Blake sent me an advanced copy of his new book with Peter Thiel.  Excited to read it.

Fubnub.  Excited to check out this new project by uberhacker Kevin Marshall.  Should be a better way to take notes.  Also, Amol has a new co that’s focused on note-taking (which pushes email’s boundaries) as well called Knotable.  Check that out.

Any good posts I’ve missed?

Google Controls 41.8% of total Internet Ad Spend

I was doing some financial modeling for a new initiative we’re thinking about at work and wanted to see how many ad dollars there were per Internet user.  Based on my simple calculations, it’s on average* $40.88 per user, per year.

And ….by the way, Google controls around 41.8% of total Internet ad spending.  Wow.

Internet Ad Spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Note, I said average above.  We know that some markets value users higher than others.
** Link to the Google doc with above information is here

VRM, The Intention Economy, and The Thank You Economy

It’s not uncommon for me to get the questions, what looks interesting to you these days? … or where are you focused?  Since joining Mozilla, I’ve filtered pretty much all of my knowledge and history with “user empowerment” and the area I keep coming back to is the quiet but growing VRM space.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s Vendor Relationship Management, the opposite and complimentary tool of CRM:  Customer Relationship Management.

PowertothePeople

The VRM conversation is being championed by Doc Searls of Harvard Berkman Center but at this point, the ecosystem is growing larger than the one individual.  You might recognize Doc’s name as he was one of the authors of the book, Cluetrain Manifesto and followed it up with The Intention Economy.

In the beginning of The Intention Economy, Doc posits that soon, customers will be able to:

  • Control the flow and use of personal data
  • Build their own loyalty programs
  • Dictate their own terms of service
  • Tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost

When you think about these four points, they empower the customer/user and play nicely into the idea of VRM.   Joe Mandese, a VRM list subscriber and all around amazing MediaPost Editor-in-Chief wrote a piece recently titled:  Acronymity:  The Three Most Important Letters You’ve Never Heard Of.  In this piece, Mandese writes about the shift from brands at center to users at center of the value equation.

Per the above points and Mandese’s piece, you’ll start to see some consistency around empowering the user.

On Madison Avenue, there is a lot of talk about empowering the user but the funny thing is, it’s done completely opaque, without user permission (or with permission under a ton of legalese), and the user has been given no access to their data…. among many other things.

Social media has pushed us a little closer to a world of VRM….incrementally- but at least in the right direction.  In social channels, users have a voice – one that can be exponentially radiated.   If I have a bad experience on Delta, a simple 140 character tweet can help solve the problem where not-so-long-ago, it took a penned letter and weeks of waiting to hear back from them.

In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuck writes, now customers’ demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents’ day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.

Books

The power of social media (individual voices) and VRM (individuals being empowered, commercially or otherwise) will put us ahead in the next decade.  It’s a bigger opportunity than search (SEM*).  So, this is where I’m focused for now and hiring people and meeting people who want to experiment here.   If you do, please contact me.

* SEM:  probably one of the purest forms of intentcasting which plays into the VRM space but is not entirely the VRM space.

 

Are You a Mozillian?

I’m sitting in my hotel room in San Francisco having bought a one-way ticket here late this past Wednesday night.   Why did I come out with no-end in sight?  I bought a ticket because we were in the midst of a crisis and wanted to be closer to our senior leadership team and board.

For those who don’t know, I joined Mozilla in December of 2013 and am now a Mozillian.  I lead our Content Services group.

I tweeted last night the following:

But this post is not going to be about what everyone is talking about online regarding Mozilla.  Or my Tweet last night.  This post is what Nick Bilton tried to do with his NY Times article but did not point to something that’s very important to me and ultimately, us as Mozillians.

The majority of the media and world lacks an understanding of what Mozilla does and why we do it.  We’re a non-profit.  We have certain ideals and values.   And much more.

What I’d like to do is point you to a video that is super important to us.  It’s on YouTube and it’s called “Are you a Mozillian.”  In the video, it has many clips from the Mozilla Summit that was held in 2013.  You’ll hear from many different Mozillians about what’s important to us and where we are headed.

What’s important about Mozillia is that it’s not about any one of us.  Darren Herman at Mozilla is just one person.  But the overall Mozilla Project is much, much larger than me or any of my peers.  What we are doing is a big challenge but one that is ultimately needed in this world.   We have come to lean on the Internet and take it for granted.  That’s OK – as long as you know that there are certain values that are being upheld to make that Internet experience innovative, open, and creating opportunity for all.

If this is interesting to you, read more about our mission.

Note, I wasn’t asked to write this.  I just got sick of reading all of the negative articles online.  Life is too short for negativity.  I like to surround myself with people and content that move things forward.  I hope you do too.