Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

Advertising Viewability: Are Your Ads Being Seen?

To start off this post, lets look at different media vehicles and examine how you experience advertisements:

  1. Television:  advertisements appear as commercials in “pods” which run in breaks of scheduled content.  Additionally, you can buy your way into programs through product placement and integration.  The majority of dollars however is in commercial advertising (30 second spots).
  2. Print:  advertisements appear as images on pages; sometimes these are full page ads, others are smaller such as ¼ pages.  Advertisers can sometimes cross the church/state editorial boundaries and influence certain articles, however this is a commonly frowned upon practice.  The majority of print advertising dollars is in the advertising on the page (full page ads).
  3. Radio:  Similar to television, Radio allows for advertisers to purchase time between breaks of scheduled content and in addition, radio hosts can do on-air reads of certain messaging which is similar to a product placement/integration.  The majority of radio advertising is run during pods between scheduled content.
  4. Digital:  There are a myriad of different types of advertising but to keep it simple, there are IAB standard ad units (which have scaled as banners) and custom units which generally appear on the same pages as content and /or between pages.  Search creative, excluded.

Beyond some of the intricate differences which can be extracted above, there is another difference I’d like to highlight:  viewabilityIs the advertisement that you (as agency/marketer) are serving being seen by the viewer.

This is a big question.  In non-digital channels such as the above, we can pretty much guarantee that if the viewer is present in the room (TV/Radio), reading the magazine/newspaper, have the opportunity to hear or see the advertisement.  However, with digital, even if you are in front of the computer or mobile device that is accessing content and actively engaging with it, you might not be able to see an advertisement but that advertisement is being counted as an impression.

This is big.  Let me re-iterate.

Ads that are on the screen but out of viewing sight are still counted as impressions; consequently, you as a marketer or agency pay for them.

Most 3rd party ad serving systems (MediaMind, DART, Atlas) today do not measure viewability in their current form.  MediaMind informed me that they do have a Visibility metric but that costs additional to the typical ad serving setup. It’s also relatively new.  We typically have to get the viewability metric through Advertisement Verification partners such as AdXpose (Comscore) or DoubleVerify.  Over time, I imagine that this metric will be a commonplace in the ad serving system, but right now, it’s not.

This has come to be an issue as publishers try to cram more advertisements on a page.  The more advertisements there are, the more ad slots, and the more ad slots, the deeper down on a page they are served.  Theoretically, if you can fill all the ad slots with paying ads, you can derive more revenue from each visitor.  You can’t fault publishers for trying to make more money from their content.

There are a few solves here for viewability:

  1. 3rd Party Ad Serving Systems add in the viewability metric into their reporting either by acquiring or partnering with Ad Verification companies or build their own solution.  This should be standard in all reports pulled about a campaign performance.  This should also directly impact campaign performance.  Do you think engagement/CTR would go up?  I do.

At my last company, IGA Worldwide, an in-game advertising firm, we built a 3rd party ad serving solution or console and PC based video games.  For an impression to count for an advertiser, it had to meet minimum thresholds of size of screen, angle it’s on screen, and time on screen.  I don’t see why we can’t carry much of that over to the display side of business.

  1. Publishers are forecefully limited to the amount of ads on a page, or the places that the ads appear.  I dislike this solution as it plays itself out anyway.  Theoretically, if an advertisement is served but not seen, the performance of the ad will be very low.  If it’s (performance) low, then the marketer/agency will probably cancel or optimize the ad.  It’ll be fixed basically anyway.  Also, I don’t like top down approaches.

Viewability is going to become increasingly important if the iGRP becomes a common trading currency in digital media.  Apparently, brand marketers want to shift large volumes of dollars to digital and they want to do it using iGRP’s instead of performance metrics.

If you aren’t measuring viewability for your iGRP’s, then as an agency or marketer, you are likely to get burned.

If you have worked in digital marketing, you probably have run a banner campaign at some point

Premium Email – A Customer, Not a Number

I don’t know if the word “premium” is right for the header, but couldn’t come up with another term.

I use @gmail for my personal emails.  I also send the inquiries from this blog to that @gmail account.  The problem I have is that I don’t pay Google.  It’s less about paying Google for my email, but since I don’t pay, they probably look at my account as a number, not a customer.  I have no phone number for support, no direct email support, only a user community and maybe a broad email box I can send my request into, which might or might not get returned.

I don’t know if I want a vanity email address.  While I have, I theoretically could start hosting my own email thru a an exchange hosting company but I don’t think I want that.

Is there a provider where I can pay for a premium account which has a domain that is already whitelisted by many ISPs or large email providers (AOL, Gmail, etc)?  I want to pay because I value my email account and want someone to talk to in case of issues.  I have way too much riding on a free gmail account where I’m one in a-lots-of-million customer.

Maybe there is a business opportunity here?

Demo Day Fatigue

First, let me start off by saying that any opportunity for a startup to showcase it’s “wares” is a good thing.  An idea in a vacuum is never a good thing and getting on stage in front of a group of people to tell your story could put your startup on the map, depending on who is in the audience.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten invited to at least a dozen “demo” days.  This is probably a lot less than many of my peers and colleagues but have noticed a certain fatigue.

With more and more accelerators and incubators, the stigma around Demo Days has diminished, IMHO.  Last year, the excitement around the TechStars NYC demo day (of which I was a part of) was fantastic for NYC… but with all of the Demo Days in NYC this year, it’s just not as exciting.

I’ve watched tweets fly through my hootsuite account about demo day fatigue.  I think I’m feeling that way.  Or maybe it’s just the rain outside that’s contributing to the fatigue.

Looking for talent: new ad tech project, we want you!

3+ month assignment.  Could go much longer, depending on the fit.  Could go much shorter, depending on the fit.

I’m looking for a hybrid 30% visionary, 70% executor who has demonstrated entrepreneurial ability within the advertising technology or financial technology markets.  You should have a passion for media trading and at least a working knowledge of how the financial markets operate.  Experience with Bloomberg, Thompson Reuters, and/or Factset is a major plus.

Your task:  to help me put together the initial plan for an upcoming big idea.  The plan might go nowhere, or it might go very far.  If this post inspires you, then please contact me.  You must be available to work 20-40 hours per week and this is a paid gig.

Read this post on paidcontent to get more insight to the project.


  • Market research – both into the advertising markets and financial markets.  Not afraid to call people for primary research and use of secondary and tertiary research to make informed decisions.
  • Extensive writing – manage the writing of the initial concept after working with the team on strategy
  • Managing initial partners – be able to manage the initial partners who help in the ideation including but not limited to both decision making and administrative tasks
  • Initial business development conversations, less for revenue, more for market feedback

The ideal candidate:

A big thinker but someone who generally plays the role of #2 – the COO/GM/executor.  This is a role-up-the-sleeves role and need someone who loves doing that.  Personable, human, and a distinct eye for detail.  You understand technology but are not an engineer.  Ideally you would have been part of a startup of less than 10 people in your career, but I won’t hold it against you if you haven’t.  You must be entrepreneurial and work without a ton of structure.  There are no right answers.

If this is of interest, lets chat.  Please use the contact form.  In your inquiry, please list your credentials, online presence (if any), and availability.  I’ll be in touch.

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YCombinator Ad Innovation Conference Keynote Breakdown

Today’s opening keynote was given by Paul Graham, at the YCombinator Ad Innovation Conference in Mountain View.  I attended along with @tdavidson and @barryl530 to see the early stage innovation that’s happening in the ad tech space.  We were certainly impressed not just with the innovation but with the amount of great agencies in attendance such as AKQA, Goodby, Sapient, Omnicom, Cadreon, VivaKi, and Jess3 amongst others.  We were in good company, to say the least.

Paul admitted he wasn’t an advertising guy, but knows technology enough to understand how tech will influence advertising in the next few years.  The data he used to back his claims were based on the thousands of applications YCombinator receives and is able to forecast and see trends in where innovation is happening.

Here is a summation of the 9 trends that’s pushing advertising, per Paul, but I tend to agree as well.

1. Tablets are important and might call for their own unique advertising platforms to take advantage of the user interface.  Apple and Android will dominate the market and Apple will dictate the ad formats.   Tablets are genuinely a big deal and we aint seen nothing yet.  My take:  Yes, he’s spot on.  Tablets penetrate and are both a content consumption device but increasingly, a content creation device, as long as we can innovate and create good input devices.

2.  All data lives in the cloud. All data about a consumer, transaction, records, etc will live in the cloud and ostensibly, be located in one database that can be used.  What will hold this back will not be technology, but will be government and policy.  My take:  Totally.  We’re seeing this today.  I’m all about data.

3.  More stuff happens peer 2 peer.  Paul used an analogy that I don’t know if I agree with, but he claims that hotels exist because consumers couldn’t find any other way of staying in a remote city or town, so hotels were built to meet this demand.  Now with services like airbnb, hotels could cease to exist as we know them.  My take:  I like what he’s trying to say, but don’t know if I buy the entire analogy.  Not everyone wants to stay in someone else’s home.

4.  There are going to be a lot more startups.   I liked where Paul went with this.  He basically said that engineers had 2 choices after college:  go to graduate school or join a big company.  Now, they have 3.  The third oppty is to create a startup.  Paul threw out the 1% number which was how many developers/engineers start companies… and if this increases 10%, then that’s 10x the amount of startups in the ecosystem.  Again, we aint seen nothing yet with the volume of startups out there… there are going to be many.

5.  Facebook is already a big deal.   Paul said that the $1.6bln from Facebook is quick and simple money and they haven’t really began monetizing yet.  They are focused on growth and even have a Facebook Growth Group, which is one of the most powerful groups in Facebook.  He thinks that when they start monetizing, they can seriously move into markets and kill competitors such as PayPal or Wepay.  My take:  I agree with Paul, but they have to be careful in how they approach this as to not alienate developers and users.  I don’t want Facebook to be 100% of the services I use as a consumer.

6.  Software eating the world.  Don’t be an advertising company that does software.  Be a software company that does ads.  Having this mentality is obviously valley-driven, but allows you to scale a business and think more product focused, which theoretically, should have better outcomes.

7. Target Ads Precisely.  Google could target their ads much more precise but they don’t have to yet, as the market isn’t necessarily requiring it or does it make economic sense for Google to do it until they must.  Paul said a great quote:  “Assume you can read someone’s mind, what ad would you give them.”  My take:  This is one of our investment thesis at kbs+p Ventures – application of data to drive advertising decisioning.

8.  More things will be done by numbers.  If an investor had to place a bet on quantitative measurement/analytics of creative, bets should be placed on measurement.  Numbers will/can/do drive decisioning and with ROI driven world, we need to quantify it.  My take:  Spot on, another investment thesis of kbs+p Ventures as well as what we apply at VMM and The Media Kitchen.  Couldn’t agree more.  I even treat my fantasy football teams this way.. and I want 2-1 this past weekend!

9.  Creative.  Creative will begin to become “generated.”  Paul essentially argued that the best creative in the “future” world will have to be generated because of all the varieties that are needed.  My take:  I think he’s onto something if we’re able to deliver the right creative to the right person at the right time.

I loved Paul’s opening.  This wasn’t 100% of everything, but was a lot of it.  My friend Roger of IA Venturesc also talks about similar trends on his blog, in a post titled, changing polarity in advertising, if you want to continue being inspired…

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An Ad Tech Roll Up

I’ve been noodling the opportunity around an ad tech dream I had.  Yes, I really do dream about these things.

We all know the positions that Yahoo! and AOL are in.  I won’t go into that here, other than they will need to make some short term decisions rather quickly.

As a proactive entrepreneur, what if you could acquire the assets of Right Media (including client contracts) from Yahoo! and Platform-A (whatever is left of it) from AOL, roll them up, put on top of a 2.0 infrastructure such as AppNexus and scale the business?


  • Client contracts lead to instant revenue
  • RMX has a name for itself in the industry
  • Could probably get it for fire-sale pricing


  • Contacts/clients might not transfer
  • Yahoo! inventory is not guaranteed if moved away from Yahoo!, so that would need to be written into the agreements
  • Implementation of both platforms might be more hassle then they are worth
  • Much of Yahoo! RMX talent has already left, but not all

There is an opportunity here, at least at first glance.  It’s less about the technology and more about the contracts to advertisers.  The hypothesis that the acquisition of these both would lead to a faster time to market and revenue out of the gate.  There are probably quite a few other ad tech companies that you could bundle in here at the same time.  Might be worth investigating?  I’m sure a few people probably are…

kbspVC Portfolio Company, Crowdtwist is Hiring

One of kbs+p Ventures portfolio companies, Crowdtwist, is looking to attract and hire sales folks to join their team.  For those who aren’t familiar with Crowdtwist, it’s a social loyalty platform that bridges the paid-owned-earned media ecosystem.  I’m extremely bullish on them because they bridge the evolving media ecosystem and bring social data into our CRM and data-driven programs.

Mashable has a nice article titled, “Why Social Accountability Will Be the New Currency on the Web” and it highlights Crowdtwist amongst others.  You can start to see why their platform is so powerful.  And if that doesn’t convince you, they are on the Top 25 Startups to Watch list by Business Insider.

I was their lead mentor coming out of TechStars NYC and have been involved with them ever since.  So of course I’m biased about them.

The type of candidates we are looking for:

1.  Must have background in selling platforms and solutions, not just IAB compliant banners.  You must be able to demonstrate that you’ve sold platforms and can handle getting to consensus with multiple parties including IT, social media teams, and media teams.

2.  Must have at least 4+ years in sales background, preferably within a venture backed or publicly traded digital media or information technology company.

3.  Entrepreneurial passion and fire a must.  We want to find hustlers who like being out of the office more than in it.  By being out of the office, we mean knocking on doors of Fortune 500 clients and their respective agencies.

If you know of someone who is interested, or you might be, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  I have to be strict on filtering out per the above 3 filters, and will only pass along candidates who have demonstrated this.  You can reach out to me here.


The Bloomberg Advertising Terminal

(originally posted on Google Plus and then picked up on PaidContent)

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about data recently and it’s become the central investment thesis for kbs+p Ventures, our go to market approaches for The Media Kitchen, and how kbs+p communicates vision. My friend and entrepreneur extraordinaire +Jon Steinberg says it extremely well, advertising is becoming “guided by math, but moved by art.” For many folks in direct mail or other quantitatively driven marketing disciplines, this has been the norm, but I’m loving how this new norm is playing out across all of marketing.

Data isn’t new. Data allowed ancient salt traders to make important investment decisions in Egypt. Data allowed Christopher Columbus to accidently find the Americas. Data allowed Babe Ruth to know which pitches to throw to which batters. It’s been around.

Why it’s become a central thesis to us now is because it’s more actionable than ever because it’s become almost tangible and tools allow it to be ever more moldable. As a focus group of one, I use data to optimize my fantasy football teams thru +Nik Bonaddio‘s Numberfire platform, I use data through our Trading Desk, Varick Media Management, to optimize our biddable media campaigns, and I use data to help me understand where to invest my personal capital to help drive returns that can pay for my kids college tuition and my wife & I’s retirement.

As above, “data” can be used for many different uses.

One area of use that I’d love to see built out (and maybe I’ll pursue it) is legitimately, The Bloomberg Terminal for Advertising Data. If you are in the advertising technology ecosystem, then you’ve probably heard a million pitches with the words, “Bloomberg Terminal” but I think this is a huge opportunity around a very structured product. Let me explain.

Fact: hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions) are being invested in media impressions thru biddable media sources

Fact: brands and agencies are building RTB advertising technologies to take advantage of market opportunities

Fact: publishers are going through an evolutionary period in which they transact their “wares”

Fact: agencies are in an evolutionary period in which they structure their buying decisions and put data front and center

In my theoretical world that I like to play out in my head every now and again, and run past trusted sources, I play out a scenario in which Advertising Traders have multiple screens on their desk, similar to a Bloomberg Terminal in which software is running showing the market dynamics and pricing. This Bloomberg For Advertising will show specific marketplace pricing (AdX, RMX, Rubicon, etc) indexes, demand volume, specific data asset pricing & demand (3rd party data), and the like.

To create this and carry out the vision, I believe as of now, but could be convinced, that this needs to be executed by a unbiased 3rd party company who isn’t tied to media or data volume. They purely are (profitably) motivated thru licensing of their Bloomberg for Advertiser software.

Why is this important?

1. Data assets as simply described above are going to become increasingly important for investment decisions in the near and mid-term.

2. Publishers need access to this information the exact same as advertisers to help drive their businesses forward.

3. Regulation of markets is a commonplace in the USA and the advertising marketplace is heading in this direction, at least at a preliminary level, especially as we increase our usage of spot and forward markets.

I believe there is a very large opportunity to be this for marketing and advertising. If you are out there building this or have a viewpoint similar or dissimilar, I’d absolutely love to hear from you.

Google+, Social Networks, and Operating Systems

I receive @jason‘s letters which he sends out fairly frequently.  If you are into digital media and want @jason’s opinion on the latest topics, then I recommend subscribing.

This week’s topic is: Why Google+ Will Take Half of the Social Networking Market from Facebook (or “There Calacanis Goes Again”)

As you might know from my last post about switching from Apple to Android, I’m obviously a Google fan this week.  In the past two weeks, Google launched +1 and Google+.  Jason spoke at length in his letter about Google+ and covered it nicely (though not sure how bullish I am) but there is one tidbit I wanted to pull out and highlight below because I think he’s dead on:

5. Android integration
Let’s do some deep, deep analysis shall we?

a) Apple has a mobile operating system but no social network.
b) Facebook has a social network, but no mobile OS.
c) Microsoft has a mobile OS but no social network (arguably, Skype is a dormant one [ ]).
d) Google has a social network and an operating system.

Who’s going to have the best mobile social user experience?

If you answered D, you are correct.

I’m not sure how this nets out over time, but Jason is right about how Google has a social network and has an Operating System.  Assuming Google+ can catch on, Google might be undervalued at $167bln.

Don't Come to the Buy Side without Sell Side Experience

The title of the post is a bit of an exaggeration, but after reading below, you’ll see why.  Note, this mostly pertains to technology/digital opportunities.

I had a conversation with an industry colleague the other day and we both came from the sell side (publisher/content distributor) before we ended up on the buy side (agency/client).  We ended up chatting about agency talent and how beneficial it is to spend time on the sell side.

These are some points that we discussed:

  • If you are coming from an ad network, exchange, or other media technology capability, you generally have a better working knowledge of technologies and understand the constraints and opportunities they provide.  It’s also a lot easier to call “BS” on vendors when you’ve participated on their side of the fence.
  • Interfacing with many different types of buyers.  Similar to how the buy side gets to interface with many different sellers, by working on the sell side, you get to understand all of the needs of the marketplace and get privy to all of the questions being asked by different clients.  This is important as you can begin to understand which buy side agencies are stronger than others and what the industry wants in terms of execution.

I really think the first point above is the mega-important one.  As more and more technology penetrates advertising agencies, having a background that can discern the technologies and performance is going to become increasingly important.   I highly suggest that people round out their careers by being on both sides of the fence, then of course, pick the side they like best.