Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

Alto Email, The Open Graph, MBA Mondays, and Las Vegas CES

Happy Wednesday.  I thought I’d write another post that points to discussions or products that I’ve been part of recently.   Leave some comments below or reach out directly if you’d like to talk further about any of these.

It’s amazing how much an interface can make or break a product, go Alto!.   In early October, I heard AOL was launching Alto, it’s upgraded mail platform.  I signed up for the limited release and was granted access to the system late last night.  I am impressed so far.  I like the interface a lot.  It’s amazing to see how much of a difference the interface can make.  Font selection, user flow and the overall idea of classifying emails is fairly smart and spot on.   I do not use Sparrow so do not have a point of comparison, but it seems to me like accessing Alto over Gmail (even though Alto is a layer on top of Gmail for me) is the way to go.  What do you think?

The big question for Google, especially if users start accessing Alto as the portal to their Gmail is at what point do they disallow this?  Gmail is a revenue driver for Google in relation to AdWords (ads on the sides and above your emails) and Alto basically gets rid of these.  Will AOL roll out an ads product in Alto?

Get Your MBA On, Advertising Models.  Fred Wilson, a friend, venture capitalist and AVC blogger wrote his latest MBA Mondays post on Advertising Revenue Models.  Being that he and I both know that this is in my wheelhouse, I helped write the piece and linked it back to a presentation I gave in 2011 to the NYC TechStars class (I mentor).  The post was not specifically used to quantify or justify advertising but rather expose the different models within advertising revenue.   I think the post is fairly comprehensive and is a good primer for anyone considering taking advertising dollars.  I’m more than happy to talk more about it which is why I created the short-lived but very specific Marketing Wednesday series.

Fb Open Graph Innovation.   At kbs+ Ventures, we see lots of companies who are innovating around advertising and marketing technology.  This is our core area of the marketplace we invest in and one we’ve considerably doubled down on over time.  An area that we see companies spending lots of time thinking about is the Facebook Open Graph.  FbOG is an underutilized asset/utility for brands and there is a ton of room for brands to engage with it.  We are sniffing around this space to understand the forthcoming players in the FbOG space so if you are someone, know someone or are just genuinely excited about the FbOG, leave a comment and we’ll hook up.

2013 Consumer Electronics Show.  I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas for 2013 CES.  I’ll be there for meetings on Monday/Tuesday so if you’re heading out and want to meet up, certainly reach out and we’ll try to coordinate some time to meet up.  I’m specifically looking to meet entrepreneurs or other folks innovating in/around marketing and advertising technology which actually had solid representation at last year’s (2012) CES.

 

Multi-Platform Measurement, Social Referrals, Frothy Times, and Too Much Supply

Back when I was blogging more often, I used to write posts that provided perspective on other industry conversations around the web.  I did this fairly frequently in the 2000s but have stepped back a bit over the past couple of years mostly because Ive been balancing the family and work  and blogging has been the one activity that I’ve forgotten.  I do miss it.  And I will try to be better at it but Ive said that for the past few years.

Anyway, there are a couple of posts that I’d like to react to or at least point you in the direction of.

Multi-Platform Measurement:  comScore announced a new product in which allows us to measure the audience of desktop and mobile (right now, only in the US).  It’s called Media Metrix Multi Platform.  Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist over at Union Square Ventures points out some insights:

There’s a bunch of interesting stuff in there. Take Google. They have 189mm users in the US on desktop/web. They also have 109mm users in the US on iOS and Android. But the unduplicated total audience is 211mm, meaning only 22mm of Google’s users are mobile only in the US.  Pandora and Twitter stand out as highly mobile user bases. Pandora’s mobile user base is >2x their desktop/web user base. Twitter’s mobile user base is almost equal to their desktop/web user base.

I’m not shocked at all about the Pandora and Twitter data.  As a user of both services, I notice my usage is higher via mobile.

It’s Basic Math That’s Killing Display@jhlava over at Varick Media Management (I co-founded in 2008) posted a piece on AdWeek that looks at a top down approach of supply and demand of display inventory, specifically that of RTB.  He puts together an argument that shows how much money there is in RTB/display and how much supply there is and makes that case that there is not enough dollars today to increase the overall CPM’s of inventory.  The imbalance of supply/demand is hurting the industry overall.

He’s pointing out a 101-issue that is the big elephant in the room.  It’s a big issue.  We’ve never witnessed a medium such as the web which has provided us with infinite supply.  You cannot do that on TV, radio, print, etc without significantly hurting both the user experience and business margins.  But on the web, another banner or video play has marginal cost so creating supply is not an issue.

The creation of supply has led to problems for a few constituents.  The entire Lumascape is affected.  The investors on the Lumascape are affected (me too).  Marketers are affected (so many decisions).  Pretty much all sides of the table are affected.

I have no doubt that over time, more money is going to flow into RTB.  It’s growing.  Adweek posted that over the holiday weekend, RTB prices jumped.  Dollars will come into the space but we need to figure out what we’re doing with inventory.  We just cannot keep creating infinite supply as it’s going to hurt the entire web.

RIP Frothy Times:  There’s a meme going around now about the shakeout of early stage companies and the Series A crunch.  Well known folks have argued both sides of the table on this.  I might as well add my two cents.  The next 24 months are going to shake out many of the companies in the ad & marketing technology space.  I’ve predicted this before and I’ll say it again, getting from $1-10MM in revenue is the easy part but we just don’t see many $10MM+ companies.  Note I said revenue and not billings.  The ad tech space likes to inflate their numbers and talk about revenue but realistically, most of the time is media billings.  The companies with out core differentiated tech will fizzle out and we just don’t need fifty mobile DSP’s or undifferentiated DMP’s (who are now selling media, too).

Social Referrals:  I was reading Jason Goldberg’s blog, founder of Fab.com and he has a post up that talks about the referrals to Fab.com.  For the record, I absolutely love how open he is about their business.  Black Friday to Cyber Monday traffic on Fab.com was 25% social driven.  65% of the social traffic came from Facebook, 20% Pinterest, 5% Twitter and 1% Coolhunting (there are more, click to the post to read it).  That’s pretty powerful.  Jason also states that about 20% of Fab’s revenue from this period came from users who originally joined Fab via Facebook.

Lots of good stuff happening in the industry.  I’m excited to be part of it.  Happy Holidays!

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.