Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

Two Titans Merging: Publicis & Omnicom

I work in the advertising industry and this post is my thoughts, not necessarily representative of my employer.

This past Friday, I learned from Bloomberg that Publicis and Omnicom were in plans to merge.  I am sure there will be plenty of reactions to this and I’m one of many who have written about it.  We await the details tomorrow morning but if this goes through, it has repercussions for the entire industry.

Someone much smarter than me shared this line earlier today:  History has proven that size and creativity tend to be inversely proportional, and that scale is the enemy of innovation.  He’s right and proven by our history laden with companies who have tried (AOL/Time Warner, BofA/Countrywide, Daimler-Benz/Chrysler, etc) and failed.

There is absolutely no doubt that having $25B worth of buying power is a good position to be in, but I have some questions:

1.  Is that $25B in the right place for the future of marketing and advertising?  Publicis/Omnicom just made it even harder to evolve for the future.  Turning a juggernaut out of solely a “paid” media agency world to a “paid/owned/earned” is something that’s not simple at all.  Having 25 billion reasons not to do it is tough.  But focusing on paid media only over the next decade is a total miss.

2.  Talent numbers:  Google and Facebook have proved that they can attract talent, but at a certain scale, it’s a different type of talent you need to attract.  I read somewhere that this combined group will be roughly 130,000 employees.  I’m pretty sure the most innovative people in our industry do not want to be employee #94,212.

3.  There will be conflicts:  I have to imagine that there are quite a few conflicts in this new combined entity regarding clients.  In our agency world, it’s hard to work for two clients in the same industry.  If Publicis/Omnicom is looking to unload a client, I’d be more than happy to talk to them.

The big opportunity for this new combined entity, that I see, is to roll out one of the largest biddable media trading desks that the industry has ever seen.  Why this is a big opportunity is because at $25B and 130,000 employees, you are essentially buying and selling pork bellies (there is nothing wrong with that).  If the goal of the merger was to lower media rates for your clients, then this was purely a commodity merger.  Setup the biggest technology enabled infrastructure which has already been started at AOD and Accuen and go-to-market with a real-time ecosystem for every one of the Publicis Omnicom Groupe agencies.  I think that’s exciting.

But for everyone else, including us, the world just opened up.  There will always be clients who want “global scale” and commodity based buys.  Thirty second spots are a necessary component for some clients.  CBS and NBC will be there to solve for this.  But where does the innovation come in?  As the majority of marketing becomes digital, not saying it’s a banner ad, but digitally delivered, a new communications construct is opened up and we’ll be communicating with consumers (and vice versa) in ways we’ve never thought or imagined, all enabled by technology.  I cannot imagine having a $25B legacy balance sheet will allow for the change that this new ecosystem will need.

I’m excited for what’s next.



An New Product – Social Media ROI

A few weeks ago, I posted about my excitement around Twitter’s Analytics product which is now widely available.  I got a note from one of our portfolio companies,, letting me know that their social media analytics tool was almost ready for agency and marketer consumption so I should hold tight.

Why I got excited about what Twitter is doing, and today, what is doing, is because it helps clients like BMW (our kbs+ client) and others measure the impact of social media marketing.  If sharing means caring, then you might as well know who cares about you the most. now does this.

kbs+ Ventures is an investor in, we got an early look at their new product and we helped guide/shape the product to be actionable for marketers and advertisers.  I hope you like it as much as we do.  Reach out to me or them if you have any feedback.  I’d love to make sure you have access to for marketers.


New Twitter Analytics

I read last night that Twitter released their analytics to everyone on the platform.  Really smart move by them and the analytics look pretty sweet.  I have to imagine they will have a freemium version of analytics in the coming months but that is purely speculation.

I took a screenshot of what my follower chart looks like.  While this data is readily available thru other services, it looks pretty sweet thru Twitter and was impressed with their execution.

I especially like the list of “Your Followers Also Follow.”  For me, it’s Jon Steinberg (Buzzfeed), Michael Learmonth (AdAge) and Ben Lerer (Thrillist, Jack Threads, Lerer Ventures).  Not bad company.

The way you access this is thru the Twitter Ads function which is located under the Settings drop down.  Once under Settings (the little widget/gear), go to Twitter Ads then to Analytics.


Twitter Follower Chart

Constantly Changing Ad Products Does Not Help Adoption

For good or for bad, Madison Avenue takes a little bit of time to adopt new features and services en-mass.  Dollars flow into ad units and products once there is a comfort level with them.  Yes, sure we’ll buy the one-off sponsorship or launch that costs a couple million bucks, but beyond that, we probably won’t be back for repeat business.

But your investors and the street want and expect repeat business.  Recurring revenue.  Having a new ad product launch each month and getting a launch advertising sponsor each time dilutes over time.

Constantly changing your ad strategy actually hurts, IMHO.  It takes time for creative and media folks to ramp up knowledge of ad unit specifications and availability – and if they are ever changing, then we do not have enough time to do each unit justice.

I agree consumers like new things.  And brands like being fresh.  And in this whole world of digitally delivered content, being new and fresh is the whole point.

But for a publisher or platform, please be consistent with your offerings.  Don’t keep sunsetting what we’ve gotten good at buying and executing against.  Introducing new ad products every 6 weeks and wondering why others are not getting adoption isn’t rocket science.

This post was in reaction to this piece re: Facebook.

These 6 Companies Controlled 55% of Worldwide Digital Ad Spend in 2012

When I have spare time, I like reading public companies financial reports.  They are very telling not just for the micro trends, but for macro trends as well.  55% of worldwide digital ad spending was consolidated to Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and AOL which according to Comscore, are the 6 top Internet sites by traffic volume.

I am working off the GroupM $113.5B worldwide digital ad spending number from a recent AdExchanger article.  All other numbers come from Lara’s research of these companies Form-10k‘s.

Ad Spend Chart

I ran a similar report in 2011 which is located here.  Read it so you can compare.

Google’s growth is terrific and Yahoo! took a step back in 2013.  I’m always amazed to see Google dominating digital ad spend with 41% share whereas the next closest competitor is around 4%.  That’s 10x.  10x!

Nice to see Amazon and Facebook building out their ad businesses and showing y/y growth but the larger question is of where is it coming from?  Who is losing (or is the whole advertising pie getting larger)?




Thinking About the Full Advertising Operations Stack

If you have been reading this blog over time, you will have read previous posts where I talk about the growing “advertising operations” line item on media plans.   For those not familiar with “advertising operations,” we define it as non-working media that enables the plan to be executed, usually paying for technical infrastructure.  This includes but does not limit to ad servers, business intelligence dashboards, data management platforms, and the like.

Thanks to lots of the innovation in the advertising technology sector, this line item on the media plan is growing.  A couple cents to this vendor.  A couple of cents to that vendor.  A dime here, and a dime there.  While any one point in the ad tech stack is fairly inconsequential to the entire media plan, when you add up all the items, it could amount to material dollars.  The dollars you attribute to non-working media are dollars that are not working to distribute your message or communications to the audience you think would be most receptive (or even moreso these days, an audience who wants to hear from you).

Technology has been bought by Madison Avenue virtually two ways in the past three to four decades.  It’s been purchased thru licenses and seats for many backoffice tasks such as billing (big winner here is Mediabank/MediaOcean, etc) and for front of house tasks such as access to research (Nielsen, SRDI, etc), ad serving and light analytics (Doubleclick, DG MediaMind, Facebook Atlas, Adobe Omniture, etc).  Much of this technology equates to 8-15% of a media plan, which if a marketer is investing $100MM in media, $8-15MM of that goes to fund the famous Lumascape.  Per a recent article about digital ad spending on AdExchanger, GroupM expects that Internet ad spending will reach $113.5B, which is about $9-$17B for infrastructure/advertising operations (per my calculations).

The question I’ve been asking many folks in our industry – both on the sell and buy side, is whether point solutions will win-out or full stacks will win-out?

I believe that the cost of a point-solution derived stack will prohibit them and over time, full advertising operations stacks will win out.  Not a fantastic analogy but when I buy a car, I go to Tesla to purchase a car, I don’t tend to build my own car from scratch and purchase each piece from a different vendor.  Economies of scale happen with a total stack from one vendor.  If this is the case, look for roll-ups by larger players like IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Marketo and others.  These folks will look to strengthen their marketing offering with the acquisitions of point solutions.

What I do on a daily basis

While at the Digital Media Summit last week, a few friends came up to me and asked me what I was concentrating on these days.  I get that question fairly often from people who aren’t involved with me on the day to day so I thought I’d write a post and explain as I figure it will help [you] self-select the conversations and opportunities we should have.

Chief Digital Media Officer:  At The Media Kitchen and it’s parent, kbs+, I work with the teams to help inspire and execute through digital media.  Not all of the media we plan or buy is digital, though about 55% is, so that’s a big chunk of change.  I cross multiple digital channels including display, video, mobile, search, and social and work on making sure we have the right infrastructure and advertising operations setup so that we can execute.  The role of the Chief Digital Media Officer will evolve over the next few years as digital becomes purely a delivery mechanism and the channel itself won’t be as important.  Meaning, we do not have a Chief Radio Officer of Chief OOH Officer, so this thinking will have to change with the time.

Venture Investor:  I invest in marketing and advertising technology companies thru kbs+ Ventures.  This is done not by investing out of a fund but opportunistically off of our balance sheet.  Launched at the end of 2010, kbs+ Ventures has built up a portfolio of companies who are testing different thesis we have in the marketplace.  You can read a recent article about kbs+ Ventures in AdAge.  The majority of all my investments in recent years have been thru kbs+ Ventures but I do make a small handful of non-competitive investments in other areas of digital media including my most recent one (more coming soon!).

Golf Tournament Coordinator:  Many of you know I founded and host The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational almost 9 years ago.  It all started as a way to get founders to network outside of the hustle and bustle of NYC and has grown into an event that attracts sponsors and is home to 100+ founders, execs, venture capitalists, and ecosystem supporters.  I’m in the middle of planning and executing the 2013 SAGI event as it’s coming up on July 22.  For more information about SAGI, you can contact me here.

Digital Student:  While I technically don’t go to University, I am a student of all things tech + web and am constantly learning different platforms.  One of the platforms I’m studying is Wanelo and you can follow me here.  I’m testing the usage of the platform to bookmark things for me and for my family.  Medium is also a platform that I’m noodling around with but less about writing and more about reading.  Lots of good content on Medium so far.

Husband + Dad:  This August, I’ll be celebrating my sixth anniversary to being married to Sherri.  We’ve been blessed with two amazing children who are each coming into their own and developing some amazing personalities.  We live in Westchester County, NY and I try to spend most of my evenings with them.  I’ve seriously cut down on the amount of after-work activities to prioritize my family in recent years.

I hope this helps shed some light on what I do.  The agency work and investor work are like peanut butter and jelly – both can live on their own but when together, they taste delicious.  What makes us a good investor is that we know what the agency wants and needs and vice versa.  It’s a nice feedback mechanism to help make better agency decisions and venture investments.

Put the Service Back in Technology

I meet with plenty of technology companies who sell to marketers and agencies and  I also meet with many marketing and advertising technology startups who are pitching for venture funding.  Sometimes they are one and the same.

I’ve been witnessing companies coming thru the door and telling me that they are a pure technology platform, not a service business.  Most of the time, their motivation to say this is to achieve a technology multiple (on sale) versus a service business multiple.

I think this is faulty and a mistake.

There is nothing wrong with wrapping services around a technology, especially in the early days of your company.

If your idea is new and unique, then most marketers or their agencies will have no idea how to build the assets necessary to deploy on your technology platform; thus a service business is needed.

If your idea isn’t overly unique, marketers and agencies still generally want help to get assets created or implemented.  A services group can help enable this to happen.

At the end of the day, as a startup or technology company, you want marketers or their agencies to have the best possible experience when using your platform.  I define experience by performance and service.  This will have a higher chance of keeping them back (and the dollars flowing).    By creating an organization that can enable this to happen (creating the right assets, trafficking properly, building KPI’s and metrics), you are at least starting off the relationship on the right foot.

Put the service back in technology.  It’s not such a bad thing.


Some Thoughts on SocialFlow, Our Latest Partnership

It was announced yesterday that SocialFlow raised $10MM in Series B funding and our kbs+ Ventures participated along with Fairhaven Capital (lead), Softbank, RRE, AOL Ventures, Betaworks, and Rand Capital.  We blogged about our perspective on why we participated on our corporate blog but I wanted to add a few notes here.

I have been tracking SocialFlow ever since I was introduced to Frank Speiser at an event at Nihal Mehta‘s apartment in January 2010.  After learning about what he was building and why, I quickly saw the opportunity to leverage the technology for marketers.  Later that year, Frank give a talk at The Media Kitchen‘s Digital Media Venture Capital Conference and I’ve stayed in touch since.

When we found out that SocialFlow was raising money and was looking for a strategic or two to participate, it was a no brainer for us because of the trends that we are seeing in the space.  I will explain those below.

1.  Evolution of Communications Architecture:  Way back when, the communications architecture generally consisted of Public Relations, Investor Relations and Paid Media.  While those three still exist today and are still going strong, we’ve now re-arranged the construct to be Paid/Owned/Earned media.  What you [as a brand] do and say in paid media can be made exponentially greater when you leverage owned and earned.

2.  Communications Velocity:  The speed in which communications hits the marketplace has increased rapidly.  I don’t know of a “law” such as what we have with transistors (Moore’s Law), but I have to imagine that the speed in which we communicate has increased so significantly that old media cannot keep up.  Within 15 seconds, I can put out 140 characters to my entire follower-base on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, or whatever other communications tool.  When it was just print ads, television ads, or even radio, it took months… sometimes a year (inclusive of production)!

3.  Big Big Data:  Almost every digital platform we use exhausts some form of data trail.  This data trail can be collected, mined, and optimized into an opportunity or insight for a marketer (or any company for that matter).  With the explosion of digital communications, there is a ton of data that’s available to optimize from.  Making sense of this data thru frameworks, architectures, and algorithms, will allow marketers a leg up in the communication “wars” for customers.  Note: It’s not about the size of the data set, it’s about the insight that’s gleaned.

4.  The Shift of Dollars:  We have all seen the charts that show time spent with a media channel vs. advertising dollars and the gap that exists in digital is still large.  But it’s getting smaller, which means that ad dollars continue to flow into the digital landscape.

SocialFlow capitalizes on the four points above.  They are smack in the middle of all of this.  Many of the kbs+ Ventures portfolio companies also exhibit these traits (and others).

With our relationship with Frank, the evolved management team, and the market traction the company has, we were super excited to green light this investment.



Adobe Strategy: On Point for 2013

I am a fan of Adobe ($ADBE).  You certainly know this if you’ve been reading this blog.  Here is an article I wrote in 2011 about Adobe’s strategy that has pretty much held true and something we all should re-read.

ADBE Stock

This morning I read the 2013 Investor Presentation (PDF) by Adobe and wanted to highlight a few things that I found interesting:

On slide 22 of the deck, Adobe mentions “key digital marketing growth drivers:”

  1. Shift of marketing spend to digital
  2. Re-platforming of the Web
  3. Demand for Cloud-based solutions
  4. Multi-channel campaign and social marketing solutions
  5. International growth

#2 (re-platforming) above is really, really interesting.  I had been looking for a term to capture this insight and I think they nailed it.

The 1990s ad-stack is on the way out, or at least has matured.  The new marketing stack is filled with social, mobile, local, and dynamic delivery.  Marketing tomorrow will not look like marketing yesterday.

On slide 26, Adobe talks about their stack (well, cubes):

  1. Adobe Analytics
  2. Adobe Target
  3. Adobe Social
  4. Adobe Experience Manager
  5. Adobe Media Optimizer

I’d have to say that these cubes/stack are pretty much aligned for the future.  Marketers and agencies are demanding ROI for their marketing spend and quantitative validation is key to success.

Read the investor presentation if you get a chance.  It’s a fast read.  If your organization is not aligned with this thinking, rethink where you are headed.