Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

Cookies, The President, and Ad Tech

There is lots of chatter in the government and the digital advertising industry around privacy and cookies.  You can do a simple Google search and get all the details about self regulation vs. government reform.  I even created a Slideshare document on this back in October 2010.

I wanted to write this post to document something:  if the government steps in to intervene in the privacy and cookie war in the digital advertising industry, lets look at what President Obama used to help win his re-election.

Obama has at least 30 providers of marketing & advertising technology working for him.  Romney as of 12:19PM ET today (11/7/12) has 18 trackers.  This Obama screengrab was taken at 11:55pm ET last night on his official homepage.  Ghostery provided the insight on the right of the screenshot and we can see many cookie-enabled technologies.

Next time you hear about the government coming down hard on cookies & privacy, remember this post.

(This post is not supposed to be a political ding in favor of one party over the other.  I’m one of the least vocally political people in the USA.  It is supposed to provide insight into cookie use for political candidates, in this case, the President Obama.)

 

The Rise of the Independent Agency

I spoke a few weeks ago at the Digiday Agency Summit.  My talk was in response to Jack Marshall’s original post on the End of the Indies, a post about how independent agencies were decreasing.  I wrote a post in response to Jack’s in July of this year and Digiday asked me to come and speak at their conference about it.

Here is the practice run of my speech.  The quality of image is terrible as this was my first time using screen capture but the voice over is fine.  Enjoy it.

Click here to watch the video on Vimeo:  Rise of the Independent Agency

If you are into agencies, advertising, career opportunities, and future of service and technologies, you might like this video.

What does $GOOG’s driverless car and marketing have in common?

I’ve been thinking about the Google Driverless Car.  Why in the world would Google create a driverless car?  I know Google maintains the 80/20% policy of creating new projects in the 20% of time but this automotive project is a bit of an anomaly when compared to Google’s other 20% projects that have gone on to become legit businesses for them.

For those not familiar with the Google Driverless Car you can check out the wikipedia page here.

Caveat:  I’ve not been in the Google Driverless Car nor have seen one in person or even spoken to anyone on the Google Driverless team; so anything I type here is purely speculation.

My hypothesis:  I believe the Google Driverless Car, or the driverless system that they eventually will license out to automotive makers will help close the loop from online to offline (and vice versa) marketing.

I speculate that whomever is sitting into the driver seat of the car has to log-into the navigation system.  Since they need to authorize, they will use their Google credentials.  Since Google has a single privacy policy and all data across its various services are stored in one platform, the Google car and/or navigational system will recognize the Google cookies and search history and match up any parking lots you might park at with cookies you’ve been exposed to.

Example:  I’m on Google.com (while on my Macbook Air or iPhone) and search for a Thomas the Tank Engine for my son.  It brings me to a host of search results and I select a page on Walmart.  I do not order the Thomas the Tank Engine online but during my errand run thru Westchester County, NY, I stop into Walmart to pick up a few things.  Since I am in a Google Driverless Car (or using a licensed navigation system), Google will know I parked in the Walmart parking lot.  This new dimension of data:  parking lot(s) and driving details will help create a significant barrier for Google (against competitors) but more importantly, will help solidify and protect marketing budgets that are given to Google.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 63.5MM light cars were sold (via retail) from 2000 to 2007 in the USA.  If we double the number to account for additional cars on the road, that’s about 130MM cars on the road.  I do not know if this is low or high, just guestimating.  If Google had 100% marketshare of the navigation and/or driver systems, they’d have a very solid network of knowing what parking lots and stores people were visiting to validate their online searches, display ads, pre-roll video, etc.  100% marketshare is totally unreasonable but even 25% share will allow for a significant sample that can be extrapolated for the population.

My conversations with our marketing clients and visibility into my peers conversations have shown that marketers now more than ever need to show a return on marketing investment:  sometimes via sales, favorability, or whatever metrics are important to their respective organization.  So, marketing partners such as Google need ways to validate that the media spend we invest with them are moving the needle for our clients. Dollars flow to where we can measure.

Google and their driverless car is a very powerful value proposition to measure offline marketing impact.

Google is worth over $200B based on the marketing dollars it attracts from clients, so protecting (and growing) that is what Google needs to do.  It’s a media technology company.  The driverless car can help protect (and grow) their current business.

The Missing Word in Big Data

I keep hearing the phrase Big Data.  Whether it be conferences, blog posts, or due diligence requests from VCs about different startups, it’s probably one of the most used phrases in 2012.  The chart below shows “Big Data” search volume in Google over the past 4 years. ‘Nough said.

The phrase Big Data, in my humble opinion is missing a word:  Applied.

Big Data means two things to me.

#1:  Capturing and structuring the voluminous amount of data that gets exhausted across digital channels.  Includes clouds, servers and infrastructure.

#2:  The application of whatever is in the database to make meaning.  The application of this data to make better decisions, or at least more informed decisions.  This is generally software based.

I’m using Big Data to make roster changes to my fantasy football teams.  I’m using it to optimize billions of impressions that are in month on behalf of clients.  I’m using it to understand my DNA.  More and more people are using it as well in order to make many types of decisions.  The more digital we become as a society, we should be able to make better decisions.

5 Marketing Trends & TASC

It was a big press week today with back to back articles in AdAge and AdWeek, two periodicals I highly respect in the advertising industry.

Meet the Five Big Trends Changing Marketing:  This was an article I wrote for AdAge which is based off of The Media Kitchen‘s Menu (2011, 2012 version), a document we release each year that talks about five trends and associated companies that are poised to grow with this trend.

Below are the five trends I highlight and if you want to read the whole article, click here.

  1. Communication across many social platforms will be seamless
  2. Location will play an increasingly important role for targeting
  3. Cross platform plans will be driven by data
  4. Content is marketing and marketing is certainly content
  5. Experiences will be linked across many devices

Technology, Advertising and Startup Council (#TASCNYC):  On Monday, David Berkowitz, Ian Schafer, Mark Silva and I will be hosting the inaugural event for TASC at the Soho House here in New York City.  The goal of the event is for create more of a bond between Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley/Alley through spending time with different startups to help them accelerate themselves.  It’s not a pitch for media budget but rather a business building exercise where we can help these companies position themselves better to work with Madison Avenue.  I’m super excited to be working alongside David, Mark and Ian and look forward to what future events might bring.  You can read much more about #tascnyc here.

 

Stuck In A Rut of Incremental Innovation

I have been in the digital media marketing ecosystem since its inception.  The first documented digital advertising was born as banners and buttons (1996) that lived on webpages.

Ad servers were built to deliver these banners.  Incrementally better ad servers were built to better serve these banners, video, and buttons.

Sites federated together to create ad networks.  Incrementally better ad networks were built around technologies such as contextual, behavioral, semantic, etc.

Boxes on websites were created to house advertisers’ creative.  These lead to banners.  Incrementally better banners were created that yielded rich media units.

Search engine marketing solutions were built to manage and optimize voluminous keyword lists.  Incrementally better SEM platforms now include Facebook buying

Lots of incremental-ism.  Being incrementally better sounds like a rat race.  Or the cold war.  I’m better today.  You’re better tomorrow.  Its a no-win game and becomes all about marketing and salesmanship where it should be about the product and performance.

So where is the 0-1 going to happen in this industry?

Maybe we focus so much on going from 1 to n because that’s easier to do. There’s little doubt that going from 0 to 1 is qualitatively different, and almost always harder, than copying something n times. And even trying to achieve vertical, 0 to 1 progress presents the challenge of exceptionalism; any founder or inventor doing something new must wonder: am I sane? Or am I crazy? (Blake Masters class notes of Peter Thiel CS183)

Its happening.   But it’s not overly obvious to all.

The social marketing space inclusive of content creation is unbelievably sloppy and inefficient right now, but I propose we will see tomorrows DoubleClick-like, Advertising.com-like and Google-like come out of the social landscape.

Why?  Because it’s fundamentally different.

There are no banners or buttons.  The way we’ve acted in the past is not the way we act in the future of this space.

Communication does not scale.  We need to re-think the way we communicate and participate in this space.  The role for earned and owned media becomes just as important as paid media.

The 0-1 innovation is going to come from the social places in ways we cannot imagine today (or some people already are).

 

* Note, I’m not down on paid media buying.  I’m all for it.  I work in it. It’s evolving quickly and there are some fantastic companies participating in the space.  But when looking out across the marketplace, and looking for disruption, this (s0cial) area is ripe.

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned Planning Events, Taken From the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

This past Monday was the 2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational, which has been abbreviated over the years to SAGI.  The day was fantastic (here is a review) but getting to the day, especially in the last 48 hours before was one of unbelievable logistical nightmares.  I thought I’d write a post of what I’ve learned over the years of hosting hundreds of executives at a golf event.  Hopefully some of this can be used for your startups or companies for the events that you host, regardless of golf or not.

I am not a professional event planner, but having hosted 8 golf events for the past 8 years helps justify why I’m writing this.

Invites Early On, Reminders Consistently
Give people time to reserve the event date in their calendar.  The more senior the person, generally, the more lead time they need.  Since the invitation probably went out months before the event date, keep them reminded with a quick note each month so that the date does not fall off people’s calendar.

You Can Get Event Schwag Cheap, But Service & Quality Is More Important
I spend a fair amount of money on event schwag.  I remember walking around the early days of Ad Tech, MacWorld, and other conferences and coming home with some really cool tchotzkes.  While you can find dozens and dozens of vendors who can deliver you a personalized product (such as a golf shirt), and all might be Nike Dri-Fit, the difference is in the service and quality.  You cannot afford both in money and time to get your schwag wrong while planning an event.  You need to find a trusted partner who can service your schwag needs and get them right the first time and have only the highest quality schwag.  I’ve made it a rule of thumb to only give away a few things, but make them really useful and interesting in that they are used beyond the end of the event (I see people wearing our SAGI shirts on the streets sometimes).  I’ve also learned that people enjoy brand names – so having Nike or Footjoy golf shirts make a real difference.

Ask The Venue, They Are Full of Wisdom
I’ve hosted the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational at a different golf club each year.  This means that I’ve worked with different event planning teams from each club and all were full of wisdom.  Sometimes I ignored it and I paid for it in the end, and always thought, “man, I wish I had listened to them.”  What I sometimes forget, or any event planner for that matter, is that these event spaces such as the golf clubs are always hosting events.  They know best what works and does not work for their space.  I do not use an independent event planner, I do everything myself, and the event space almost acts as an event planner for me around very specific items.  Use the team as much as you can at the event space to make recommendations to service providers, tell you how other events have laid out the space, and other ins/outs of what went well and what failed miserably at their event spaces.  They will tell you, all you have to do is ask.

Hands-On Planning
The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is my event.  I curate the guest list, I hand pick the quality of shirts, I pick the foursomes, and I taste test the food.  Everything.  I call this hands-on planning.  If you are going to throw and event, I believe this is the only way to do it.  Many people have asked whether I outsource this to an event planner and I’ve never done so.  I want to make sure that I have control over every aspect of the event but use help around logistics.  Over the years, I’ve had fantastic assistants who have helped but I was involved with every aspect behind the scenes.

Get Feedback Fast
At the end of each event, I let the crowd know that they should expect to receive a form asking how the event was.  I use Google Form (docs) to receive the responses.  I ask anywhere between 5-10 questions about all the details about the event (food, golf, overall, networking, etc) and I use this feedback to help make the next event better.  I send this request out no more than 48 hours after the event has ended so that the event is still fresh in people’s mind.  I cannot stress how important this feedback is.  It’s genuine.  It’s not all positive.  It’s real.  It will make you better.

My two biggest mistakes this year:

I was not ready with a Plan B in case of rain.  Sounds somewhat obvious but we’ve never had a rain issue in 8 years.  This year, we did.  What I specifically did not have was the cellphone or mobile device number of each attendee, so it made getting in touch with everyone hard at the last minute with an agenda change.  I learned for next year.

I used an event management software solution from Eventbrite on the front end.  I overpaid for it.  I think I spent close to $700 on this software and it was not worth it, IMHO.  I found that managing thru Google Docs as I have done in the past better to manage the final attendees.  I do give it credit for being able to “sell” three different types of tickets and that was all nice and such, but on the backend, it was difficult to manage the final event.   This is probably a contrary thought to manage who hold events, but just something I’ve found.

Hope this helps.  Anything that you’d add to this list?


 

When A Drink Gets a Facebook Page

St. Regis Bloody MaryMy wife and I just came back from a little rest and relaxation trip in Deer Valley, Utah.  We went to the hotel bar one evening before dinner and the bartender offered up one of their signature Bloody Mary’s.  Since both of us enjoy a good spicy Bloody Mary, we ordered them and the bartender told us how they were made.  He provided some good interesting back-story and context to what he was about to serve us.

He handed us our drinks and we immediately took out our mobile devices to take a picture.  They were very unique looking, enough so to warrant an appearance in my Instagram and Facebook feed.  The bartender laughed and told us that since so many people do the exact same thing, they created a business card to hand out to join the Facebook page of this particular Bloody Mary.

A Facebook page for a drink? 

I asked the bartender, Alex (I’ll leave his last name out) about how this came to be.  He said that he witnessed so many people taking cameraphone pics of the drink that he asked his manager if he could create a FB page.  After about a week or so, he got the greenlight and made it happen.  Didn’t ask upper management nor get the permission of anyone else.  He just did it with the go-ahead from his boss.  He even printed special business cards with the hotel logo and the link to the Facebook page.

Alex talked to us that he uses the page to promote local events and other happenings in and around Deer Valley.  He said it would cost too much to promote them separately but with the Facebook page, he has an audience and he can do it for free.

What can we learn from this?

1.  Authenticity and uniqueness works well in the social world:  make sure to tell your story.  It might not be interesting to everyone but to the ones who are interested, they become part of your community.

2.  Be ready to talk about it:  when the timing is right, be ready to talk about your story.  What was genius about what Alex put together was not only a unique drink for the hotel, but a business card that helps promote it.

3.  Empower your employees:  Alex asked for very little permission to get this going.  It’s also interesting because you’d not think that this particular hotel, known for luxury and professionalism would go in this direction.  Maybe it’s because the executives at the corporate level do not know about this but if they did, I’d recommend they create Facebook pages for all of their unique drinks.

Mobile Display Networks & DSPs

At both The Media Kitchen and Ventures, we’ve been watching the mobile display networks and DSP space evolve.  At The Media Kitchen, we’ve been testing and running with about a dozen mobile display companies and at Ventures, we’ve been talking to many of the mobile DSP’s over the past year or so trying to figure out how the market will evolve.

A buddy of mine, Ryan Griffin of Digitas had a great quote in Crains this week talking about how mobile display networks are unfolding very similar to how web desktop display networks did in the late 90s and early 2000s.

“A year and a half ago, we were at the stage of where we were in desktop [Web advertising] in 1998,” said Ryan Griffin, group director of media and mobile at Digitas. “It’s now feeling like 2004.”

I’ve been following that party line as well as things are very, very similar.

If we look to the early desktop display networks to predict the future of the mobile display folks, we know that there will be plenty of mobile players, some early exits and some mobile display companies remaining strong independent companies (potentially even going public themselves).  It’s played out this way… Quattro, Admob, Greystripe, and others have already been acquired by strategics and there are plenty of independent mobile companies still in the mix including but not limited to Gradient X, SessionM, Fiksu, mdotm, StrikeAd, inMobi, Adelphic, and dozens of others.

Some open questions I have for the ecosystem:

  1. Will desktop based DSP’s or networks merge or acquire (or be acquired by) mobile DSPs or networks?
  2. Will desktop based DSP’s build their own mobile components? Similar to DataXu.
  3. How are current mobile networks and DSP’s tackling the measurement and attribution issue?  The UDID ban has really put a dent into the measurement space so wondering who will tackle this.

#3 above is important.  The reason why it’s so important is because if you are a vendor on a media plan and can measure/track your performance, then it’s much easier to substantiate yourself on a plan and have a higher chance of getting extra media budget.

Areas that I’d stay away from in the mobile media ecosystem:

  1. Rich Media – if we look at desktop display, rich media CPM’s used to be in the $1-3/cpm range but now, we’re down in the $0.20-0.80/cpm range. The CPM’s have fallen dramatically and I expect to see this within mobile.
  2. Network – if the DSPs succeed and mobile inventory flows to exchanges, then networks have a much smaller role in the evolution of his new media marketplace.

Just some thoughts on the mobile media ecosystem.  Would love to hear yours, leave them in the comments.

 

We Are Going to See Many Independent Agencies

Jack Marshall recently typed a piece about how there are very few independent agencies left after Razorfish, Digitas, Schematic, Blast Radius, AKQA, and Huge have all been acquired by Big Four ad holding companies (WPP, Publicis, IPG, and Omnicom).  The piece was titled “End of the Indies” and I wanted to respond to it with this blog post as its right in my passion wheelhouse.

For the most part, the advertising world innovates and acts similar to it did way back when.  There is not much foundational change.  Sure, there are pockets of brilliance (I’d like to think we’re doing very interesting things) but as a whole, the industry is working on a model that existed a long time ago.     Many people accuse this old model of being “bad” but then again, isn’t salt sold the same way it was bought by our ancestors thousands of years ago?

I think we are in the early days of the rise of the independent agency.   In fact, a whole wave of these indies.  In a couple of years, it will be the perfect time to start an agency.  There are a few reasons for this and I’d like to explain them:

People:  One can argue that the world is not becoming any more creative, but creativity now has a democratized platform to be distributed.  The new entrants in to the workforce never knew a world without a keyboard and mouse, ever-present connectivity, and digital cameras.  The DNA of this new breed has technological understanding as part of creativity.

This is very different than when I grew up; fewer rather than larger numbers of kids gravitated towards computers and it was typically known as a specialty.  I was known as a nerd, even while I was just playing games on my Mac IIe or LC (remember Stunt Copter?)

With this newly trained workforce, creativity is now at everyone’s fingertips which will unfold itself not just in better client strategies, media planning & buying, creative execution, but in organizational re-engineering, organizational behavior, and talent management.  The whole way we think about the advertising and marketing business is going to be impacted by this currently young group of people and they will be ready to start running businesses in the next few years.

Economy:  While I do not pretend to be an economist, it’s hard to debate that our economy is not overly stable right now.  Hearing stories of recent college graduates trying to find jobs to no avail is a commonplace.  Expect to see many of the recent graduates either create their own companies (made easier thanks to the Jobs Act) or go and work for a friends startup.  Just by the laws of large numbers, we should expect to see many new agencies created by people who have no other opportunity than to start their own company.

Technology:  While the workforce certainly understands technology such as how to use a mobile device  or download apps to tablets, technology is going to move to the center of the new independent agency.  And this will happen from Day 1, not retrofitted like many currently large (non) independent agencies.  Because it will be there from Day 1, we’ll see increased efficiencies and effectiveness, plus an open armed approach to welcoming new ways to leverage this technology.  Data will be part of all decisions including those in creative and the art of advertising will emerge in leveraging many of the sciences to derive insights that inform strategies.  The independent agency should be able to deliver on this vision.

Insurgents Become Incumbents:  I gave a pre-read of this post to a colleague of mine who reminded me of Clay Shirkey’s quote in a Wired article.    There are plenty of insurgents today who have become the incumbents, many named above and with the notion of the incumbents being much slower than an insurgent, plenty of talent is probably ready to jump ship and start all over again.  We see this happen all too much and expect it to happen again here.

I think there are significant opportunities for that emerging independent agency.  Plenty of them.  I’m curious to see if Adobe, Oracle, SAS, SalesForce, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! start to fund some of these agencies with both capital and technology.  I think that could be a really interesting model or eventually, where the insurgent goes to become an incumbent.