Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

Controling Your Image

All too often, Startups get compared to other startups.  Spacely Sprockets is Foursquare meets Yelp.  Widgetsly is Appnexus meets Legolas.  Usually, startups don’t pick who they are compared to as it’s up to the writers or editors of whoever is writing the press piece.

I was recently chatting with Chris Dixon, the CEO/founder of Hunch and angel investor in over 70+ companies, and he said something that really stuck with me.  I’m going to paraphrase here but he said something along the lines of, “when you are designing a product and crafting the positioning and messaging strategy, you need to keep the above in mind so that you, as the startup, controls who you get compared to.  If that means making your interface more like one company so you can be compared to them, that’s what you should do.”

Remember, once you contact the media to talk about your startup, the story is out of your hands and in someone else’s.

Of Acceleration, Inspiration Spaces, and Funds: 2011 TMK Digital Media VC Conference

One of the areas that I focus on is bridging Madison Avenue with Silicon Alley/Valley.  I think it’s unbelievably important for the future growth of both ecosystems.

At The Media Kitchen, in 2008, we launched our first Digital Media Venture Capital Conference.  We haven’t looked back since and we’re going on our 4th year of doing this.  We’ve had venture firms such as Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, DFJ Gotham, Spark Capital, Betaworks (not a full VC firm), and IA Ventures present in the past with a wealth of CEOs and founders from amazing startups including but not limited to Meetup, 33 Across, AppNexus, Pinch Media, Izea, ContextWeb, DoubleVerify, Boxee, 5Min, TargetSpot, ChartBeat, Bit.ly, Zenetics, Metamarkets, FourSquare, GetGlue, Tumblr, and Twitter.  Here’s a link to my post from our 2008 conference.

This year, we’re changing it up a bit and not focusing 100% on Venture Capital funds, but around the ecosystem that surrounds entrepreneurship.  I think this is very important to present because the more people that we inspire about the surrounding ecosystem of entrepreneurship, the more people will feel comfortable with the possibilities of innovation.

We’re holding our TMK Digital Media Venture Capital Conference entitled, Accelerators, Inspiration Spaces, and Startups on May 17, 2011 here in New York City.  I have the ability to give 5 lucky readers of this post admission to the event which will be from 8;15am-12:30pm.  It’ll be an intimate group  of <150 awesome people.

If you are interested in attending and want to come, please reach out using this form with 1-2 sentences of why.  I’d love to give the right people the opportunity to be here to mingle with our entire agency, our clients, and our friends from the entrepreneurial world.

Data Dashboard: eBay Auctions, Autotrader, Manheim Data Sets

I’m in the market to make a new automotive purchase. Because of the nature of the purchase, I’d like to do as much due diligence as possible.

I’ve spent the last week watching new auctions pop up on eBay Motors and the like for a few specific models of cars, but realized that unless I keep a detailed manual spreadsheet of all I’m tracking, I’m going to be wasting my time watching different auctions.

The data geek in me is excited.

I’m wondering if there are any data dashboards or software that can scan eBay, Autotrader, Manheim, and other automotive datasets and record the following:

  1. Automotive Make (i.e. Toyota)
  2. Automotive Model (i.e. Camry LE)
  3. Exterior Color
  4. Interior Color
  5. Mileage
  6. Condition
  7. Source (eBay, Autotrader, Manheim, etc)
  8. Seller Name
  9. Seller Email
  10. Seller Phone

If I had just the 10 items above, in a structured data set for a rolling 90 days of data, I think I’d be very much ahead of the game.  I’d then port the data table into visualization software such as Tableau and then manipulate it so that I can figure out which cars I should be focusing on.

So, my question to the Interweb:

  1. Does this type of software already exist?
  2. If not, can it exist?  (if so, please contact me if you’d like to build it)

I don’t think this is too difficult but I could be wrong.

2011 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

It’s that time of year again… an excuse to leave the office for a day and play a round of 18 holes with some of the top founders, investors, and supporting cast of the digital media ecosystem.  It’s time for the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  While I’ve personally held this event for a bunch of years now for a smaller group, last year is the first year where I opened it up a bit and went from 12 to 40 players.  This year, I’m expecting about 60-70 players based on the amount of positive response so far.  We even had some coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and NY Convergence, last year.

This year, we’re doing much of the same though switching the course, adding additional players, and maybe a few new prizes.

If you would like to play and can hold your own on the golf course, or would like to come up for the outside BBQ luncheon & awards ceremony, and you are a solid member of the Silicon Alley ecosystem, please fill out this form.  Due to space restrictions, we cannot accomodate everyone but will add an additional 5-15 people over the next month or so once I get a better grasp on RSVPs.

The date is July 18 and location is a country club in Westchester County.

The hashtag for the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is #SAGI11

The Innovation Equation

I attended a talk at the Summit Series led by Chip Conley, the author of PEAK (and various books) and founder/CEO of Joie de Vivre.  Here’s his TED talk.  Over the past 25 years, he’s studied many different emotions and has broken them down into equations.  An example of this is:  DESPAIR = SUFFERING – MEANING

I’m working on a presentation about Innovation.  I’d like to break down the word innovation into an equation as inspired by Chip.

Here’s my stab at it:  Innovation = Execution + Evolution + Inspiration

What are your thoughts?  Is this equation good?  Did I miss anything?

Ari Gold & Moneyball Theory

I’ve always been fascinated with how talent agencies operate.  Back 4 years ago, I wrote about creating a Talent Agency for video game athletes. The idea of a “Talent Agent” is sexy to me because they get to identify and grow people.  In some ways, I do this for early stage technology, as both an investor and advertising agency executive.

While I’ve not walked the halls of Creative Artists Agency or William Morris Agency in quite some time, though I did back in 2001-2003 when I had a music company, I would hope that they are investing in tools and capabilities to digitally mine petabytes of data to identify the next Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.  I’d argue it’s all in the data, similar to Moneyball, and finding the next big franchise requires servers, algorithms, formulas, and a few quants.

The story of Bieber is told almost every day now – his mother uploaded videos of him to YouTube playing various instruments and they started gaining momentum… and was found by a music industry exec and ultimately signed to a big deal. Now he’s a huge pop star sensation and a true early stage success story.

But what interests me is less about the star herself, but the tools and resources necessary to identify the potential star.

Lets start with YouTube since we spoke about it above and it’s the lowest hanging fruit.  With billions of views and hundreds of millions of viewers, the data that YouTube has on video viewership is tremendous.  Are there any companies who have built platforms on top of YouTube that allow the big (or small) talent houses to be alerted when videos are catching fire (or going “viral”) or the ability to track certain upcoming artists for their views and ratings?  If CAA or WMA wasn’t doing this, it’s almost negligent.

Could CAA or WMA be one of the largest purchaser or subscriber of the bit.ly database?   I’d hope so.

But digital doesn’t just start and stop with YouTube.  What if you could take all the YouTube output from above and cross reference that with Google Insights for Search: and examine all the trend volume around specific artists or videos.  By doing this, you get a linguistic and geographic context to the output.   Is Artist A trending in Sweden and Switzerland or just one of the above places?

Taking YouTube and adding Google Insights for Search is getting better, but what if you could layer a social media monitoring solution on top of this?  So for an A&R executive at a record label, or an artist manager at a management firm, they could not only see media hits (stories), but sentiment and momentum numbers?    There are way too many monitoring solutions in the marketplace today so I’d have to think that one or two of them have cracked the code to sell into the talent industry.

Trendrr has done some interesting things for this space as they allow the pivoting of different datasets together.  You can pivot Gaga album sales (Amazon) with Twitter followers to see if there are correlations.  A good start, especially in bringing together different databases and making them queryable.

While I’ve done virtually no research into this post about whether or not these platform(s) exist or not, it’s something that should and someone should build it.

Don't Let QR Codes Go the Way of RSS

I’ve been wrestling with QR codes lately as both a consumer and advertising agency executive.  I’m a bit scared they will go the way of RSS feeds.  Let me explain a bit.

I don’t know what to do with a QR code, and I don’t think mainstream America does either.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but you get the idea.  Do you need a specific QR reader?  Do you need to text the code somewhere?  Do you cut it out and mail it somewhere?

A QR code is a good idea – append a unique image to a print, billboard, or other campaign and entice the user to scan it in for some form of value exchange (ideally).  The brand that is using the QR code can now measure response of that particular media vehicle.

I’ve seen far too many pieces of creative that have a QR code on them, but do not have a call to action or instructions for the user to figure out what to do with it.  It’s almost like an orange RSS icon that sits next to content on the web without any instructions.   While I imagine that the “Techcrunch-crowd” knows what RSS is, I’d gather that most Americans don’t know how to setup feeds and readers and the utility and value of RSS is not being recognized fully by the masses because of this.

I’m worried that QR codes might go the way of RSS feeds. Without education to consumers about what to do with them, they are worthless – they take up space on our marketing collateral and are generally pretty ugly.

So who will educate?  Will we see the creation of a trade association to take out a broad-reaching QR awareness and education campaign?   Or, will we see brands who utilize these codes educate their audiences on their marketing collateral.

I do not know where this will net out, but it needs to be figured out.

Marketing measurement is here to stay and this is one way that we can further prove ROI.

Long Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE)

I’m going to buy my 2 kids, David and Ava, some Adobe stock.

I figured I’d start this post with a bold statement.  Hopefully I got your attention.

Adobe is upping their game.  They historically have been a software company focused on the creative & production industry.  They could have stayed this way and built a nice business for the future.  But, someone there is leading a charge and they IMHO are spot on with where they need to go.

Adobe was rumored to have tried to acquire Invite Media in 2010.
Adobe acquired Demdex, a data management platform.
Adobe just partnered with MediaLets for mobile rich media serving.
Adobe is rumored to be now flirting with Triggit.

Adobe, while historically never spoke to agency media teams, are now building a media foundation for the future.  While being able to tie creative into metrics, analytics & media delivery, they are able to get to the future state of marketing we all talk about.

Some other companies I’m liking due to their recent acquisitions and intentions:  IBM, GSI Commerce, Marketshare Partners

Note:  All of this is predicated on whether or not Adobe or any of the above companies can deliver on the potential that each acquisition or partnership brings to the table.  We’ve all seen how acquisitions don’t work, but in theory, I like all the above.

View Thru: Undervalued Power Metric

Digital is a double edged sword, as it’s measurable.  For those who work in digital media, you understand what I’m saying.  How often have you sat there in frustration shaking your head and wondered why digital gets so much scrutiny when most other channels don’t get nearly the same precise questions from clients?  I know I have.

One of the areas that I spend a bit of time focusing on both from a media agency and investment perspective is around the valuation and understanding of the “view thru.”  For those not familiar with VT, it’s essentially a media impression that gets served (and tracked) but isn’t interacted with.  If the user visits the website (and takes action) of the advertisement within a set period of time (attribution window), the user is counted as a view-thru conversion.   This is opposite of click-thru (CT) where a user would actually click on the ad unit and go to the website.

The view thru in itself is interesting.  It’s similar to television.  You are exposed to an advertisement and over some period of time, you might make a purchasing decision in which that ad impact had some (or no) contribution.

Some marketers take 100% of VT and give it credit to a sale and others take 0%.  I’ve seen both attribution numbers and everything in the middle.  There is no “right” number, at least, right now.

While this post isn’t to argue VT vs. CT as ways to measure media, I would like to highlight how VT needs to be logged into site analytics solutions so that one can measure total effectiveness.  While Google Analytics and other tools are able to measure click based references on ad units, I’d also like to see them measure view-thru based conversions.  I can’t imagine this is easy as the site-analytics tool needs to be mapped to the ad server of record,  but this is important as generally there are 8x as many view-thru conversions for every 1x click thru.

The view thru raises questions:

  • In a world of banners and buttons, how do you create a compelling experience which doesn’t focus on the click, but rather delivers content optimized for the view-thru?
  • Do you assign equal or differentiated credit to view-thru and click-thrus?
  • How long should an attribution window be?

From an investment thesis, I’d love to look at attribution and measurement companies.  I think the view-thru is one of the most underrated measurement tools we have and with an increase in online video, VT will be a power metric to watch.

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Day 5: Advertising Revenue for Startups

This post is part of a 5 day series where we lay the groundwork for a startup to generate advertising dollars from agencies or brands.  Note:  while this is focused on startups, it could apply to any company of any size.  Day 1 is located here, Day 2 is located here, Day 3 is here, Day 4 is here, and it’s based on this presentation.

Since it’s the last day of the series, I thought I’d wrap it up with a few specific points in no particular order:

  1. If you have non-traditional/non-standard units, an internal sales force will generally always work best.
  2. Treat agencies as you would venture capitalists.  While you spend so much time prepping and pitching VCs, you should take the same time prepping to pitch agencies and brands.  In our world, perception is 9/10 of reality and if you come in sloppy asking for tens of thousands of dollars, you’ll get a quick and abrupt answer, “no.”
  3. The biggest mistake I see startups making (other than #2 above) is that they price themselves too low and the perception of the value of the product gets written off.   You do not have to give anything away for free.  Brands have budgets and agencies have to invest them.  While you might give away “research” along with a media buy, you should not position your media as “free” just to earn the business.
  4. Ad units are evolving.  While I still believe that the industry will always have standardized units which will scale, there will always be “custom” units that are sexy and get lots of press.  Measuring these custom units against sales or other key performance indicators is tough.

I’m sure there are tons that I’ve missed.  Hopefully this series was a good and helpful start for startups to start generating revenue.

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