Category Archives: Advertising & Marketing

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.

 

 

Golden Age of Ad and Marketing Technology

On AdExchanger yesterday, Terrence Kawaja talked about how Ad Tech was going through a potential Golden Age.  There have been some recent acquisitions/mergers that have helped validate some of this thinking.  But why?  And why now?

List of recent ad tech acquisitions or mergers, not complete:  33across/Tynt, SAS/aiMatch, DG/Peer39, OpenX/LiftDNA, Pubmatic/MobiPrimo, Rubicon Project/Mobsmith and Syncapse/Clickable, Google/Admeld, Google/Meebo, Yahoo/Interclick, ValueClick/Greystripe, Adobe/Efficient Frontier, Oracle/Virtrue, Salesforce/Buddy Media, IBM/Core Metrics

I was talking to a potential client yesterday and we were discussing advertising technology.  We talked about how media is transitioning into the paid, owned, and earned landscape and more importantly, the rent vs. own (audience) scenario.  In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital and platforms can help harness the audiences who engage with you (and your brand), then having marketing technology platforms will help you not only harness this audience, but it’ll allow you to segment, target, engage, and draw insights amongst many other things.

Gone are the days where we continually rent audiences from media companies and pay them significant dollars time and time again.  We should not have to do that continuously if we have platforms that allow us to engage with audiences, have them opt-in to participate with us (as a brand) and interact with them over time.  I’m not saying there is not a role for paid media as there certainly is a role for renting audiences to help us refresh out funnels.

Why this is so important for marketing and advertising technology is because most brands (and their respective agencies) are new to this.  An ad-server is not enough anymore.  Over the past few years with increased velocity, we are re-writing what it means to be a marketer from a technology perspective and using this technology to make ourselves more effective and efficient, which in turn, benefits the consumer.

The Golden Age might be here because many forward thinking strategic companies see the future and need to button and scale up their infrastructure.  The world is their oyster right now and we’ll continue to see additional acquisitions and mergers.

Ghostery, Google, and Privacy

A couple of months ago, I wrote up a report that talked about the marketing technology behind $35 billion in 2011 holiday e-commerce sales.  I pulled the data from Ghostery, a browser plug-in that allows users to understand what trackers and beacons are on individual websites.  After I released the report and got some initial traction, Evidon, the owners of Ghostery reached out and asked me to be a guest editor for their Global Tracker Report.  Fast forward to today, their first report is out and you should download it.  Also, the New Media Age wrote a solid piece on the report.

Why?

Not only is it a good read about the current state of privacy, advertising technology, and data, it’s a piece that both the novice and advanced marketer can understand.

Based on the data, the top 5 most prolific trackers are owned by both Google and Facebook.  Google has 3 of the top 5 including Google Analytics, Google Adsense, and Google +1.  Facebook includes both Facebook Social Plug-ins and Facebook Connect.  It’s amazing to see the dominance of Google on this list, as their Google Analytics tags are down on a disproportionate amount of websites scanned by Ghostery.

I’ve recently stated on this blog that Google is both the house & the card player (in relation to a casino).  They know the odds, the cards in the deck, in the current hand, and are playing the game.  The more and more data that Google has access to, the more they can optimize for a Google beneficial outcome.  Note however, this argument falls a bit when you realize that Google can do this short term, but will lose advertisers long-term if (Google) only optimize outcomes for themselves.

If you have a second, download the report to learn more.

Google's Dominance and Why I Will Continue To Invest in Ad Tech

There have been a couple recent announcements in the marketing and advertising technology worlds.  Salesforce/Buddy Media last week, and now this week, DoubleClick Digital Marketing Suite.  For those of you not following the DoubleClick announcement, read here and here.  This morning, Digiday came out with a an article entitled, “Is Google Running Away With Ad Tech?” which I’d like this post to generally respond to.

Google is Intent Rich
As a media buyer, one of the best performance signals we have for buying media is Intent.  Murthy Nukala, CEO of Adchemy wrote a visionary piece recently that explained a bit about Intent and you can read it here.  Intent is way far down the purchase funnel and in a last click world, it generally gets all of the credit.  Being that Google is an Intent harvesting machine, it will continue to manufacture dollars.   Most of the Intent comes from its search engine, so the biggest risk to Google’s advertising dominance is if Google remains a top search engine.  As of now, it does not look like it’s going anywhere.

Google has Vision
I have a few very smart friends who have sold companies to Google for ad tech.  They are true visionaries and have a common vision.  Inside of Google, they are harnessing that vision and leading the way with it.  Neal Mohan has one of the best jobs in the world, IMHO.  He gets to execute this vision, not just talk about it, with Susan Wojcicki and continue to build one of the largest ad tech stacks we know of as an industry.

Google’s Enemy Is Themselves
At some point, which is unknown, there is a good chance a modular home falls apart because there is a stress fracture.  With Google, they are basically building a modular home with ad tech.  They are buying fantastic companies and piecing them together.  The recent announcement about rewriting their backend onto their own platform is extremely important, but one would have to think that mixed cultures and many different technologies will eventually be a potential kink in their armor.

There size is another reason to be concerned.  Publishers are realizing (some have realized a while ago) that Google is a big threat to them.  Google is the casino and knows both the dealer and the player.  They have the data.  This data can and will (might) be used against either party when it benefits Google.  This is a serious issue, essentially as Google continues to satisfy both the demand and supply side.  If publishers pull away, this means Google has less data.  The less data Google has, the less significant they become.

Google Needs to Watch the Government
We know that Google is big.  They are big enough that they need to seriously be concerned with how they are fronting to the industry.  In many circles, the term “monopoly” comes up.  From an entrepreneurial perspective, monopoly is pretty phenomenal because it means you’ve out executed every competitor and basically have won the war.  However, we know the USA doesn’t like monopolies and there needs to be competition in our economy.  Privacy concerns are serious and Google needs to keep these in mind going forward.

Why I Will Continue to Invest in Ad Tech
We believe that Google is strong.  There is no doubt.  Using a sports analogy, they are a team that you can bet on to make the playoffs each year and have a good shot at the Finals.  However, one has to bet against them.  There needs to be competition in the space and there are many companies impacted by Google’s dominance and won’t let Google take over the entire industry.  Each one of those companies, either direct or indirect competitors of Google will be stepping up their M&A game over the next 12-36 months to build an ad stack that’s comparable or better than what Google has.  Remember, in ad tech, features are very important – and Google with their early lead may have a legacy stack fairly quickly because the features they acquired might get old and stale.   This leaves the door open for many players.

Additionally, we don’t know where the next search engine might come from.  Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, DuckDuckGo (no cookies, I know), and maybe a few other players are building this.  If Intent breeds dominance in advertising, then these players cannot be overlooked.  Either Google buys them (probably not most of them), or they could be the foundation for the next big advertising tech companies.

Some of the players I’m watching to make moves are:  Apple, IBM, Adobe, Accenture, WPP, SAS Institute, Salesforce, Microsoft, Experian, ValueClick, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Akamai, SAP and Oracle.

Friday Ad & Marketing Technology Insights

I thought I’d write a post before the weekend set in.  This weekend is going to be a special one as my brother, whom some of you might know, is getting married tomorrow night to an awesome bride.  I could not be any more happier for him.

Back to the post…

Some interesting insights that I’ve been uncovering and/or thinking about over the past few months:

1.  Large publishers are becoming increasingly wary of Google.  I’ve spoken to two major publishers in the past 7 days as I’ve been doing some diligence for startups we’re looking at and they are increasingly becoming wary of Google’s power in the marketplace.  “Monopolistic” is a term that I keep hearing about Google and it’s one that I think holds some ground.  One of the main reasons why pubs are increasingly becoming worried about Google is the amount of both demand/supply side data that Google has… if they were playing cards in a casino, they would be the player and the dealer.  It’s a ridiculously powerful position to be in.

2.  Amazon.  I’ve bought dozens of books from them over the years, but now, I’m starting to buy a lot of advertising from them.  And quite a few other agencies and brands are as well.  Amazon is becoming a quiet power in the advertising marketplace.  Why? Intent.  I wrote a whole post on this in March 2012.  Amazon has a search engine which it acquired and has millions of people with real intent coming to their platform.  Intent data married to advertising can yield very positive results.  A big reason why we invested in Yieldbot (not currently in relationship with Amazon).

3.  Social Media Monitoring.  We see a new platform in the social media monitoring space every other week or so.  We’ve not invested in this space because we feel that these platforms are becoming commoditized and are table stakes.  Yes, there has been some value created (i.e. acquisition of Radian6) but that’s few and far between.  In order for a platform to generate real value for shareholders, it needs significant market share at a fair price point.  I’ve not seen any significant breakout companies yet.

4.  Where are the $30-100MM ad tech and marketing technology companies?  Many companies I’ve seen lately are all $1-10MM organizations.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I’d like to see more ad tech companies maturing their business.  Randall Rothenberg has a hyperbolic quote in a Forbes interview he did with John Battelle that offers one reason why, but as many people point out, VC’s don’t force exits generally.

Battelle: What are the biggest obstacles in our industry?

Rothenberg: Venture capitalists. They create new businesses, but they incentivize companies toward short-term cash-out potential, not long-term growth. So if I were a marketer, my worst problem is chaos–not knowing what will make a difference. Venture capital has supported and financed a bunch of chaos.

5.  The next 12 months are going to drive returns to shareholders (including entrepreneurs) and continued investing will occur.  I’ve had first hand conversations with many companies who are sniffing around the marketing & advertising technology industries who are looking to acquire.  We recently saw this with Salesforce/Buddy Media ($800MM-$1bln +), SAS Institute/Ai Match, etc.  I think there is going to be another 3-4 deals by the time 2012 is over.

Just some food for thought going into this weekend.