Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

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.

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?

 

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.

 

The Apprenticeship I Would Want

I received an email from an industry friend and fellow Silicon Alley Golf Invitational player who alerted me of the TubeMogul/IPG Apprenticeship program.  I’ve been living under a rock lately so I totally missed this when it first came out in early March but here is one of the pieces written up about the program.

I don’t have any more information than anyone else reading the websites but looks like you spend 6 months learning the ins/outs of TubeMogul and then the next 6 months learning the ins/outs of IPG, a very large and respected agency holding company with a nod towards advertising and media technologies.  I wonder if it’s paid?

This apprenticeship is fantastic.  Forget TubeMogul or IPG for a second.  Just think of spending 6 months at a leading video publisher and then 6 months on the agency side.  You will learn a lot.  This is the opportunity to get your footing in the right place, learn what you like/don’t like, and start to form an opinion in the ad tech industry.

So, if you’re not gainfully employed, graduating University or are looking to jump ship, you should check out this apprenticeship.  More here.

… and absolutely love the initial question re: LumaScape – place TubeMogul + IPG on the landscape.

Why I Still Pay for Content and An Opportunity for Publishers

Image from Juliette Millien

Fred’s post this morning inspired a response from me.  I haven’t done a response post in a while but then again, I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I used to (hopefully that changes in 2014 but you heard that in 2012).

I pay for content, at least the majority of time.  I subscribe to the NY Times and WSJ – annual digital subscriptions.  I also pay for Wired Magazine, Netflix, Cable, and the Stocktwits50.  I also subscribe to Satellite Radio in my cars and purchase the enhanced traffic package.  I used to subscribe to a couple of Letter.ly’s while they existed and Business 2.0 Magazine.  While I could get access to much of this content other ways, having a login/password allows me to access it quickly when I’m on the train commuting to and from work or while laying on the couch enjoying a few minutes before my kids wake up in the AM.

Years ago, my brother and I would sit on Hotline SW, Kazaa, Napster, eDonkey, and other p2p services and download an album or two but most of the time, we had a greater chance of getting a computer virus than finding the album we specifically wanted.  I quickly realized that driving to the Borders or Barnes and Noble was faster to get an album then waiting for it to download on on a 14.4, 33.6 or 56k modem…. and so, I kept buying albums but mostly in the retail store.  *

“Time” is the reason why I pay for content. Saving more than a few minutes to access content is what I pay for.  We have very limited time on this earth, so I’m willing to pay a premium for things to happen quickly and efficiently so I can do more of what I love.  I’d rather die playing on the tennis court than sitting in front of Google Maps trying to find the court.

I cannot believe I’m alone in my thoughts about “time.”  So, if “time” is the reason why we pay, then we can create a mutually beneficial business model around it.

Publisher case:
Strategy:  Create revenue streams thru the sale of access to first party content.
Insight:  Based on my own habits, I hypothesize people might pay for content because it removes any friction of access to content in turn making it much quicker to access.  Speed.Opportunity:  I wrote about this opportunity here in 2010, but I still think it remains true.  IF publishers are going to wall-their-garden, then only wall-it for the first 12-24 hours of an article’s life.

So yes, I pay for content and believe there is a way to get publishers paid for the great content they create.  Advertising is not the only way to support great content.

* Now that we have much faster Internet access, I pretty much buy all my music from iTunes and Spotify subscriptions

Why I’m Bullish on Programmatic Media

I’ve been immersed in programmatic media for pretty much my professional career.  Whether in advertising, in-game ads, search, or other areas, I’ve spent a lot of time automating and implementing [technological] pipes into the advertising industry.

I am becoming more bullish than ever on the overall idea of programmatic media.  Let me test out a few proof statements with you and comment below with your thoughts.

1.  When technological progress is not about the technology, it gets adopted by the masses.  From 2008-2012, so much of the conversation was about the features of every DSP, DMP, Exchange, Workflow and other solutions within the programmatic media industry.  One day we’d hear that one DSP was better than another because of a feature but 30 days later, it would change.  I feel like today, we’re not focused on those respective features any longer… we’re focused on the overall business and vision of the companies because we know that the features already exist within them.  I feel like the “Cold War” of DSP’s is over and now we’re into the “business building” phase.

2.    Innovation is happening further from the center.
Again, from 2008-2012, almost every company in the programmatic space was centered around building bidders and pipes… for good reason.  Now that we’ve saturated that specific part of the programmatic stack, we’re now seeing innovation occur further away from the bidder.  Companies like Bionic, Centro, and others are helping marketers purchase programmatically but not necessarily highlighting the programmatic execution.  The execution of programmatic does not matter to most, even though it’s occurring in the background.

Also of note here are the programmatic-DNA companies popping up.  Pre-programmatic-DNA companies were technology organizations that had to pivot and add programmatic technologies to their offering or risk being disrupted (i.e. ValueClick).  Now we’re seeing pure programmatic-DNA companies who are operating from the ground up, completely programmatically and recognizing efficiency and effectiveness gains.

3.  Open Innovation in Programmatic
More often than not, the first industry constituents to solve a problem are private companies with closed ecosystems.  We’ve seen at least one example of the evolution of this into an open ecosystem now with the emergence of RTBKit, a github based project that allows anyone to download the infrastructure of a bidder, the central tool to purchasing impressions in a world of real-time media.

4.  5-20% of Paid [Digital] Media
Agencies and their respective holding companies are talking about how they expect to see their programmatic spend grow to 5-20% of their overall paid digital media.  I believe that this number is low, especially on the lower-side of this number.  I believe that vendors are using programmatic ways of procuring media and most agencies are not aware of this… so realistically, the number will be higher.   It will be telling if/when AppNexus goes public, to see the amount of gross dollars moving thru their exchange as it’ll help us understand the total dollar volume of this industry.

5.  Programmatic Media is Designed for Accountability
Gone are the days of Wannamaker’s famous quote.  If you are still using the above quote to defend your media plan, then you might as well start packing up your agency or CMO-job. Programmatic media is designed to be accountable from the ground up, fully measured and every opportunity to be attributed.  With Chief Marketing Officer’s having to justify every $1 they invest in media in the market, they need to purchase accountable media.  Note, I am not saying in any way that creativity is going away, I’m purely saying that the container for programmatic media is completely accountable so this is a win-win for the ecosystem.

Lastly, I’m bullish on programmatic media because we’re going outside of media for the programmatic conversation. Uber, airbnb, eBay, Zurvu, and many other platforms are programmatic.  In some of the investment circles that I’m in, we’re discussing the businesses outside of advertising that are being transformed programmatically.  This, at least to me, is very exciting.

 

Cross Country Flight Q&A: Digital Media & Advertising Conversations

I posted a tweet asking the Interwebs/Twitter Stream to ask any questions they’d like.  Sorta like a reddit AMA.  This page will be continually updated with the tweets and the answers.  I am using my blog because some answers will require more than 140 characters.  Follow along, the hashtag is #dhqa.

First Q: @bridgetwi:  How does a new site break through for one of our clients?
My Answer:  
One of two ways, though not mutually exclusive.  One is idea led.  The other is relationship led.  Lets start with idea led.  At The Media Kitchen, we love innovative ideas that push the boundaries between creativity and media.  If you have an opportunity that matches that with the relevance for our clients (which is a must!), then we want to hear about it.  Relevance is key.  Do not pitch an entertainment site for a financial services client without some really, really, really good justification.  The second way is relationship based.  Just like in any other case, having a relationship with us is key.  You should work hard to establish yourself with rapport with our media team and they should know who you are.  I tend to want to answer emails faster to people I know and trust over people I don’t yet know.  But I do get back to everyone.

Second Q:  @bridgetwi:  What’s the best media idea I’ve seen?
My Answer:  I’ve seen a ton.  We’ve executed a ton.  The “best” is purely subjective and is relevant to a moment in time.  Rather than giving a very specific example, I’ll talk about why it was the best I’ve seen.  The best ideas presented to the agency generally are the ones that actually come-to-life in the presentation.  Since much of what we’re working on is new, we like to see how things “feel” – so mockups and wireframes certainly help.  In addition to mockups, we want to make sure that the audience and context is right for the marketer.  Any research that shows this is extremely helpful.   Companies who do this well are Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, Quartz, and The BBC amongst many others.

Third Q:  @rjjacobson:  Where do I see the strongest defensibility for ad tech companies?
My Answer:  Really good question… I’ll add my two cents.  I’d like ad tech companies to play offense, rather than defense.  I believe the majority of the Lumascape is allowing companies to compete against Google.  Why?  Google controls 50%+ of digital advertising dollars.  That means .40 on the dollar is for everyone else.  So rather than playing defense against Google, lets play offense and look for areas to out innovate.  Hot areas that I’d focus on:  solving cross device recognition & attribution, another search engine, location services, and redefining another gold-mine of an ad unit (what’s the new AdSense?).

Fourth Q:  @chrisohara:  Bloody Mary or Not?
My Answer:  I’m not really a big drinker to begin with and I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink on an airplane.  That will change soon on an upcoming trip to South Africa where I’ll be in the air for some crazy amount of time like 16 hours.  Might have a scotch or glass of wine on that trip.  Or two.

Fifth Q:  @aexm:  How do you approach defining & evaluating success metrics for newer types of advertising formats like native?
My Answer:  Ana, it’s a really good question.  To be honest, I don’t think native is really anything different.  All the native stuff that’s landed on our plates recently are just new creative interpretations.  We can measure their effectiveness for marketers one of two ways:  if the campaign is about moving the needle of some “brand” isolated metric, then we use tracking studies and surveys.  We can also look at correlated or uncorrelated increases in other things like sales or searches based on those results.   The second way is if it’s more “direct response” focused – we can measure directly the affect it has on sales or whatever the conversion metric is.  At the end of the day, we need to define KPI’s (key performance indicators) for an entire campaign.  If “native” units don’t match up to the KPI’s, we’ll probably not deploy them.  Simple as that.

Sixth Q:  @dandotlewis:  Favorite place to watch a DMB show?
My Answer:  I was waiting for a Dave Matthews Band related question.  For those that don’t know, I’ve been to many, many, many of their shows.  100+.  Some of my more magical shows have been at SPAC Night 2.  That’s code for Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 2nd night of show.  For whatever reason, they play a much more laid back and “older” set for night #2 of their SPAC performances.  It’s also set back in the “woods” and it’s amphitheater style seating (although I like to stand in the pit).  And truth be told… I’ve never seen them at the Gorge, which is on my bucket list.  That will change in 2014, hopefully.

Seventh Q:  @mhill1066:  Which side is winning, data-tech or operational efficiency tech?
My Answer:  Good question and it could be interpreted in many different ways.  I’ll define data-tech as folks who help capture, segment, and operationalize data for the use in analytics or media targeting.  Operational efficiency tech are folks who are more enterprise players trying to streamline the whole process.  I’ll attack this question from the filter of an agency.  So that’s my public bias.   Up to today, I believe that data-tech has captured much of the mindshare.  Folks like BlueKai, Exelate, VisualIQ, Adometry, Lotame, Cross Pixel, and others have nailed the data-side of all of this.  I don’t know how they play out, but at least have captured the initial intent of the industry.  For operational efficiency tech, I have seen a ton of solutions over the years but only now is the time becoming more ripe, though I still think there is a ways to go.  WIthout a doubt, agencies need to shift their process from siloed excel sheets to a full suite of workflow tools.  It’ll make them more efficient which will drop dollars down to their bottom line.  But the issue has always been around payment for these technologies as agencies already run on razor thin margins.  With the shift to programmatic, it’s putting pressure on agencies to adopt technologies and I think the rate of adoption will be higher in the next 1-3 years than it has in previous years.  Folks like Bionic are trying to capture this and just might be part of this new ecosystem.

Eighth Q:  @ericfranchi:  Twitter IPO, are you buying or waiting it out?
My Answer:  Let me begin by prefacing that I’ve only recently gotten into speculating in the stock market.  Thanks in part to @howardlindzon and @stocktwits.  Some background:  my wife and I have allocated a certain portion of capital for pure speculation (though isn’t everything speculation?) and I actively manage that in partnership with a financial institution.    Since I do not have unlimited access to funds unlike some super wealthy individuals, I have to really prioritize where I am placing bets.  Over the past few weeks, I have sold off some holdings in order to make room for $twtr.  I expect that this will be a long holding for me and know that in the first month or so, it’ll be fairly volatile in terms of going up/down.  I believe in Twitter as a long term utility and will speculate as such.  I’m in.

Ninth Q:  @keithepetri:  With the shift to mobile, what do I think is the major reason for resisting a shift in budget?
My Answer:  Great question Keith.  One that I’ve talked a bunch about on this blog in the past.  The biggest factor in the mobile-time-spent-advertising-lack chart that Mary Meeker and others have popularized is, IMHO, time.  Time to shift budgets.  Time for mobile ad tech to catch up with desktop based ad-tech.  Budgets shift when there is no way to measure them and validate that they are performing.  Budgets generally stay when we can validate that they are driving the KPI’s we need.  There are some key things needed in the mobile ad tech stack that will help us validate KPI’s for a campaign and they are currently being built out by many companies both large and small.  Media buyers are tasked with hitting goals for clients, CMO’s are setting those goals, so dollars will shift when the advertising industry can measure towards those goals.  And man… will those dollars shift.

Tenth Q (woo hoo!):  @terryalj: Whats your take on smart watches? Does a potential google adoption mean anything? Is this, or glass, a real next step?
My Answer: Ubiquitous connectivity will exist, in some form or another.  When thinking about where to place connectivity/value, companies are looking at items in which consumers use every day.  Cars, watches, etc.  $GOOG has a driverless car.  $GOOG is in the car navigation (they were in my Audi).  $GOOG and others are now going into watches.  Why?  People drive their cars and use watches everyday.  I know there is research as to millennial not using watches as much as other generations but there are still plenty of people with watches.   Now the larger question is why?  Why do tech companies want to play here?  Data.  It’s all about the data.  Having access to where people are, what they are doing, and how they are feeling (sensors in watches?) is very valuable to enrich data sets.  Not all data will be used for advertising but it will be used to make our experiences [expected] better with the platforms we engage with.  I think Glass right now is a bit premature.  I can see watches getting adopted more, IMHO.  I’d like to see a smartwatch co & Panerai partnership.  I’m a buyer.

Eleventh Q:  @ericfriedman:  Can you post a pic of your phone home screen so we can see what apps you have on it?
My Answer:  Yes, but wasn’t so easy as I’m typing this all on my Macbook Air.  I took a pic of the phone home screen which is below.  It doesn’t help much as it’s small but let me tell you what’s specifically on my home screen.  It’s setup for speed/utility.  Across bottom is Phone, Mail, Gmail, and Social (folder).  In social is Fb, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Pinterest, and BBM (yes, really).  In the homescreen there are four folders:  News, Weather, Travel and Utilities.  I commute everyday into the city (use Metronorth) and travel a bunch, so I need access to my train schedules, Delta App, FlightAware, GateGuru, Passbook, etc.  For News, it includes a range of apps such as Stocktwits, Pulse, Circa, Prismatic, Quora, Pocket, Mashable, CNBC, and Gawk.it.  Weather, well, is weather with WeatherBug, DarkSky, and Forecast(.io).  My second screen (when you flip to the next screen) is filled with Folders including Sports, Shopping, Music, Finance, Utilities, Entertainment, Storage, Photography, Wine, Hotels, and Lifestyle.  I specifically like the Wine folder for when I’m at a restaurant or a wine store and need a recommendation or two.

phone
Twelfth Question: @benkartzman:  Will creative and media agencies ever truly get along? Would ad tech be better for it?

My Answer:   My real answer here is that anytime there is a P&L between two companies, the one company or the other is looking for the advantage.  If we live in a capitalistic society (which I believe is good), then companies are going to maneuver for capital.  This comes at the detriment to client service, support, and innovation sometimes.  Agencies fighting for budget doesn’t help anyone and actually hurts people who are trying to help innovate, such as your example around ad tech.  Unfortunately, there is no holy grail but I’d have to think that integrated agencies (such as kbs+) are better off for having 1 P&L which allows for ultimate collaboration on accounts.

I will update this post as more questions come in.  Thank you for participating and help spread the word!

 

It’s Time for Next Generation Ad Servers

If you read this blog, you know I like to think about the advertising technology stack, in particular, ad servers.  One of my most trafficked posts was about the 87.5% Luma category:  Ad Servers.  We have been having various conversations with companies who are building technologies that resemble what I like to think are next-generation ad servers.

1984 Won’t Be Like 1984:  Tomorrow’s ad servers aren’t today’s ad servers.

Today’s ad servers are very similar to the original digital media ad serving systems.  Many, not all, have similar attributes to the following:

  1. They are 3rd party cookie-based ad serving solutions
  2. They serve, track (and sometime optimize) standard IAB ad units
  3. They are made for the traditional web browser
  4. Two out of the top 3* ad servers are owned by media companies (Google, Facebook)
  5. They are primarily used by ad operations teams

At Ventures, we get to meet with all different types of marketing and advertising technology companies.  That’s the only sector we invest in.

Over the past few years there has been lots of innovation around upcoming “ad servers” and I want to highlight what we might see adopted by the industry over the short to mid-term.  Note, my bias is from the buy-side (agency, marketer) but we have investments ‘in’ and appreciate the sell-side (publishers, technology companies).

Ad Servers Are Content Servers
As the media agency model adopts owned/earned (they traditionally handle “paid”), the need for serving and tracking content emerges.  The format of choice for traditional ad servers are banners but this will change and we see ad servers serving almost any sized unit.  From this paragraph forward in the post, I use the word Content Servers as the new ad server.

Content Servers Are Platform Agnostic
As we innovate across more technological platforms (tablets, mobile phones, desktop, wearable devices, etc), we need content servers that can serve regardless of the platform.  The server will understand which platform it has seen the user and will react accordingly with appropriate frequency and optimization.

Content Servers Go Beyond Basic Optimization
Many of today’s basic ad servers are rudimentary optimization.  We’re seeing the next generation content servers including dynamic creative optimization as well.  And beyond.  If we believe that “big data” drives performance (which we do), then the Content Server should be equipped for this.

Content Servers Plug into Trading Desk/DSP/Programmatic Direct
As agency trading desks become even more central to their businesses, we see the Content Server connecting thru API’s to become even more tightly integrated.  In some cases, we’ve seen some entrepreneurs creating a trading desk “serving system” which all of the agencies would use, regardless of programmatic or not, so that all the data resides in one central database.  This creates less friction around data transportation and potentially a better/larger dataset for optimization.

Cookies to Brownies
While there is no legislation at this point in the USA, we do anticipate that something is coming.  I don’t know anything more than the next person but we have to plan for a world where 3rd party cookies are legislated against.  We’re seeing different types of technologies being used but all are basically the creation of the Brownie (my evolution of the cookie).  If we are going to measure effectiveness for a marketer, we need a system that knows who the user is across devices.

Planning & Buying
In one system, you can plan and buy.  This is not new.  DART and MediaMind have basic tools. But we’re seeing the emergence of companies who are building workflow tools to create efficiencies for the agency and/or marketer.  This is beneficial in managing FTE’s and helping structure a planning process which exists in Excel today.

Beyond Last Click
The default setting for traditional ad servers is “last click” but we know where that got us… it got us to 60%+ of every dollar being digitally dominated by Google.  We need to go beyond the last click and look at total attribution of the campaign.  We are seeing the emergence of full stack attribution making their way into Content Servers.  And of course, better dashboards/visualizations that showcase performance of the campaign.

If you are interested in any of the above, you should check out companies such as:  AdZerk, TrueEffect, Yieldmo, NextMark, OneSpot, GoldSpot and BrandAds.  There are many more interesting companies but I picked these as a smattering of different spots in the ad stack.

I have not invested in any of these companies both personally or professionally at the time of writing this piece.

None of these companies have all of the above characteristics of the ultimate “content server” but are creating pieces of the value chain that could then go up or down the stack, depending on where they sit.

I still have open questions.

  • I don’t know how cross-platform authentication/log-in will benefit/hurt the ecosystem?  I hypothesize that the bigger players in this ecosystem will have a better chance at winning as they will understand who their users are across devices…and they naturally have more users.
  • In order for the next generation Content Servers to really take-hold based on this post, it’s more of a full-stack play than point solution.   Will agencies adopt a full tech stack versus a point solution?

* By top 3, I use the typical DART, MediaMind, Atlas.  They are top 3 in my mind.  Not by any specific list.  If you have data to show me the top ad servers, I’d love to see it.

#ADX Advertising Week’s 10th Anniversary

Each year, thousands of panels, keynotes, interviews, and talks are held in celebration of the advertising industry.  Thought leaders come together to discuss the future of the industry, the current state, the good, the bad and ugly.  The territories we cover have more or less stayed the same over the past ten years:  storytelling, the growth of digital, “the big idea” and talent.

There is a real fact to the territories now:  digital can disrupt and change everything.  And within advertising, digital is at $40B+ in 2013.

The conversations we used to have about the promises and vision for digital were great, but we never really had any dollars to substantiate with.

But it’s become real, fast.

A couple of bullets to keep in mind coming out of #ADX

  • Digital is going to make formerly unmeasurable channels… measurable.  Lean back channels will become lean forward channels.  Passive channels will become interactive channels.
  • Programmatic buying (and programmatic insights) will be at least 20% of agencies business within the next 5 years.  At The Media Kitchen, we’re close to 21% already.
  • Digital has created fragmentation and with that fragmentation, new channels and properties have emerged.  Those are forcing us to think in new ways and become much crisper storytellers.
  • There will be some form of monetization for the 6 and 15 second spot.  Get ready.
  • One of the biggest opportunities I see is being able to create content at the speed of social.  Traditional agencies are not built for this, neither is their P&L.  The industry needs to rethink their go-to-market here and learn from companies like Relevant24.
  • Could Google be the penultimate winner?
  • Ad tech is increasingly becoming a closed ecosystem, with the larger data repositories having the greatest potential for winning.
  • It’s time to retool the ad stack.

It was a fun week and gave us lots to think about for the next 365 days.