Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

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.

 

 

Facebook, Ad Servers, and $344B in Media

There is $344B in media* market cap that own and operate ad serving systems now.  

Google acquired DoubleClick ($274B mkt cap), AOL acquired AdTech ($2.86B mkt cap), and Facebook acquired Atlas ($65.4B mkt cap).  ValueClick owns MOJO and retained Mediaplex ad-server ($2.05B mkt cap).

When we think about ad servers for Madison Avenue, our guts tell us DART and Atlas**.   Both of these two ad serving solutions are now owned by larger-than-life media platforms.  MediaMind, the challenger of ad serving solutions is making inroads across Madison Avenue and believe it or not, has surpassed Atlas as the number two platform.***

Having heard the speculation turned news recently about Facebook acquiring Atlas and reading Gokul’s post on AdExchanger, I still do not understand why they did this acquisition unless Facebook thinks they can convince Madison Avenue to use them as their 3rd party ad serving tool of record.

My question to Madison Avenue:  Wouldn’t you want an impartial 3rd party to be your ad serving tool?  Why would you rely on a media property who is going to make more money off media than ad serving to deliver you your attribution models?

And with this, I’m not saying Google is any better.  It’s a big reason why the majority of our clients are not on the DART ad server.

In the finance world, there is significant rules around proprietary trading (prop desk) and analyst/research work.  The two basically do not intermingle and in the recent laws, the two might have to split.   This is FINRA rule 5280.

(a) No member shall establish, increase, decrease or liquidate an inventory position in a security or a derivative of such security based on non-public advance knowledge of the content or timing of a research report in that security.
(b) A member must establish, maintain and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to restrict or limit the information flow between research department personnel, or other persons with knowledge of the content or timing of a research report, and trading department personnel, so as to prevent trading department personnel from utilizing non-public advance knowledge of the issuance or content of a research report for the benefit of the member or any other person.

I understand that advertising is not finance, but wouldn’t we take clues from a more robust industry?

If you are a marketer or agency and put all your media plan data in a company who is selling you millions of dollars of advertising media, don’t you think that the data will be used against you?

Here is an example, purely from illustrious purposes:
Property A – $6/cpm $3/cpa
Property B – $8/cpm $3.50/cpa
Property C – $7.75/cpm $3.40/cpa

Imagine the three properties above have their data in an ad server controlled by Google, AOL, ValueClick, and now, Facebook.

When you go to purchase media from any of these four properties, they can see what you are currently paying and what the actual performance is.

This gives these media platforms a significant leg up on pricing & performance as they know where they need maintain or beat.

Is it just me that’s skeptical?

On a completely other note, I do not run M&A for Facebook but I would have suspected they would have built their own Ad Server and maybe acquired an attribution company such as Adometry, C3 or VisualIQ (or the many others in that space).

* Companies who own significant media properties.  Google, AOL, Facebook, ValueClick.
** There used to be a trade magazine that showed ads served each month by ad server, but I haven’t seen it in a while.  Purely based by my conversations with other agency heads, Atlas and DART are the primary ad servers that come up in conversation.  MediaMind is coming up more and more.
*** Updated after an email conversation with MediaMind.

Evolving Corporate Strategic Investing

We had a nice piece written about kbs+ Ventures in the WSJ today that spoke about the evolved model we are bringing to market.  I’m glad the WSJ initially reached out because it’s truly a great story to tell.  You can find the article here.

A month or two ago, we also put a short video online to explain kbs+ Ventures within a Made Here series that our agency is releasing.  The video showcases Taylor and myself talking about our investment vehicle as well as how we incorporate Ventures thinking into the larger agency.  You should check out the video if you’ve not already seen it.

I’ve always said that the world does not need another investor.  There is no lack of venture capital available today to startups of all shapes and sizes.  But, what Madison Avenue needs is to get closer to the technologies that have the power to disrupt our business in the future.  Some agencies are going to wake up 5-10 years from now and realize that they do not have a business any longer.  Other agencies such as ours and some of our peers will embrace this change and start investing in the future.

Its been fun and we’ve really only scratched the surface with what the big opportunity is for us.  Thank you for all of your continued support.

On a side note, if you haven’t yet downloaded our kbs+ Ventures book, what are you waiting for?  You can download Creative Entrepreneurship here.

Marketing Technology that Powers $42.3B in E-Commerce

Quick link:  Download report here.
This was our second year releasing the Marketing Technology Holiday E-Commerce report.  It’s no Lumascape, but it’s damn interesting.

It started as a simple project for me to understand which top e-commerce players were using different Marketing Technologies.  This year, we included trending information from last year’s report.

Here is a link to the new 2012 report (PDF), and a link to the old 2011 report (PDF).  The actual data set that it is derived from can be downloaded here for your own analysis.

I owe a big thank you to my friends at Evidon for providing me this information as Ghostery powers much of it.

AdExchanger was kind enough to write up the report late yesterday and hopefully you had a chance to read it.

Here are my takeaways:

1.  Social.  100% of the 20 surveyed sites were using social plug-ins or another form of social connectivity.  While social is the grouping, this shows the power of “earned” media; or at least the potential power of “earned” media.

2.  Audience.  I’ve been harping on this for years now.  We need to understand audiences in marketing.  Not just online, but in store too.  We’re seeing these top e-commerce sites learning about their audiences by deploying different marketing technologies that could help shape audience experiences, products, customer service, etc.

3.  Mixpanel.  I was surprised to see them in the top 10 marketing technologies utilized.  They are an analytics platform for the desktop and mobile web.    Impressive to see them breaking into the top 10.

4.  Slow decline of the ad networks.  Not the death as many folks have predicted but 51% less ad networks year over year.  Google AdWords was the top ad network (no surprise).

Again, the report isn’t perfect due to classification of companies but it’s directionally accurate.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Facebook, Attribution and Cookies

I thought I’d put this out to the community since I would love to engage in conversation around this.

At the agency, we have recently seen significant positive performance on a FBX campaign; performance as measured by an online sale (lets keep it vague).

I have been thinking about this and emailing with a few folks about why we might see such stellar performance.

I think I know the answer but want to run it by all of you, to help me think it through.

Facebook is used by over one billion people.  Many of the users of Facebook keep it open in a browser tab all day but it might not be “in view” most of the time.  However, there are consistently six ads in the right rail, all of which consistently update (and theoretically, drop cookies).   Using Ghostery, I see that DoubleClick has a tag on my Facebook newsfeed as I write this.

Is Facebook the new AOL Instant Messenger or Pop Under where it persistently is refreshing cookies all day long and taking credit for conversions?

Triggit recently ran a study where they converted 36% more re-targeted users than Google Display Network, Rubicon, Admeld or Pubmatic.  Is this because they have 36% more reach (I’m not sure if they do, I’m not logged into comScore at the moment).

In a world that is using last view/click attribution, then this could be a real issue for measurement.  If you are using a more advanced attribution method thru VisualIQ, Adometry or Encore Metrics (amongst others), hopefully it get teased out.

Just thinking out loud- lets discuss.  Leave a comment or email me thru the contact form.

 

Thinking About Google Fiber

I spent some time thinking about Google Fiber and it’s opportunity and threats to the consumer and business ecosystem.  This is not supposed to be a fully thought out piece but rather some raw thinking that I’m putting out to the Interwebs for continuing a conversation that was started by many of you.

Why is Google building out a Fiber Network?

After reading many articles on Seeking Alpha and other arm-chair analyst blogs, I believe the primary motivation to their planned (and current – Kansas City) fiber rollout is to protect their business and to allow for future growth.  What they are creating is stability for themselves and the pipes in which they can deliver whatever they’d like.

Lets think about this.

Google has done pretty well at maximizing paid search thru harvesting intent on the web.  This is a genius business and will continue to do well, even if there is an advertising downturn (lets hope not).  GOOG’s market cap of around $230 billion which is about 6x 2011 GOOG advertising revenue ($37.9b) could use some more growth prospects to satisfy investors.

Video is a big growth area for Google and YouTube will be its delivery mechanism.  YouTube streams over 4 billion videos per day and is looking to increase this (and the quality of videos) thru YouTube’s original programming partnerships.  The top 5 television markets are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas-Fort Worth; these account for roughly 12.5mm households and there is also some serious purchasing power in these markets.

You can bet that Google would like to put Fiber down in these markets as to gain access to distribute YouTube original programming distribution.  Note, they can currently distribute any of their content in market but if the last mile players like $TWC and $VZ utilize metered pricing, then YouTube videos might face consumption challenges.  If Google delivers the last mile, then viewership of YouTube content theoretically would be free as Google would be monetizing it from the other side (or at least Google would control it’s destiny).

Data is abundant and Google wants to learn from as much data exhaust as possible to make themselves better.  Larry and Sergey are engineers.  They are excited about technologies and want to build big systems.  Google Fiber will give them access to a truly big data set that they will then be able to tap into in order to optimize their systems for better content experiences and advertising delivery.  Advertising deliver is extremely important as Google derives much of its revenue from Madison Avenue.  The better the dataset that Google has, the better performance its advertising should yield.

Just thinking outloud about Google Fiber.  Did I miss any major points?