Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

This Decade Will Welcome The End of The Branding Campaign

Yes, that’s right.  For someone who has spent the past few years inside of a very well known marketing agency, I am calling this decade the death of the pure branding campaign.  This was inspired by the comments in Fred Wilson’s blog post, Affiliate Marketing Undervalue’s the Link.

Before I proceed, let me preface that this is my personal blog and these are my thoughts, which may or may not be reflected by my employer.

A branding campaign is a proxy for “we do not have or have access to the right measurement tools to substantiate a fully measured campaign.”  Think about it.  Hollywood typically uses “branding” campaigns to launch movies because there is very little technology out there that can report back to say how many people actually saw CommercialX and went to Loews to purchase a ticket this passed Saturday.

There is $250bln spent in measured US advertising each year and we do not have the tools to adequately measure the entire marketing campaign.  Something seems off, right?

If we look to Wall Street for guidance on where importance is placed, goodwill (brand) is recognized on the balance sheet but at the end of the day, earnings is most important.  Google’s goodwill is a lot less than it’s operating income, which is where Wall Street tends to place it’s bets and the stock is performing well.

With technology penetrating the advertising ecosystem – i.e. Ad Servers, Databases, Optimization Engines, Bid Management Platforms, one would think that we’re closer to a measurable ecosystem.  We can only get to the end state if all of our media channels are digital (not necessarily laptop or desktop driven) as we will be able to measure and analyze.

As television (largest medium for ad dollars), print (Kindle, Nook, etc), radio (satellite, HDD), and OOH (digital-OOH) are all becoming digitized, then we can get closer to measuring campaign success.

What many of us deem as extremely important in both optimization and conversion is the actual path to conversion.  Atlas and DART all have special names for this but lets use Engagement Mapping.   If you are exposed to 7 different advertisements across multiple channels and you convert after the 7th, then generally the last exposure gets all of the credit.

Where this model breaks is upon any non-measured exposure component (today:  tv, print, radio, ooh, and sometimes search, yes, search if it’s not part of the database).  This is why we need all channels to have a digital backbone or be measured by one (and one without a biased panel set).  Lets assume this is fixed (big assumption) and we can measure all the way through from first exposure to conversion (and post).

If we are at this end-state, THEN why do we need a branding campaign?   Why should we not include a full call-to-action on each piece of media that drives the user to take some action and to properly associate value with each?

It may take 10 years to get us there, but at least it will be in this new decade.  If this happens, two radical things will occur:

  1. John Wannamaker will roll over in his grave as we will have figured out which part of his ad-spend is working for him.
  2. Marketers may realize that they are overspending or underspending with their media dollars.

1990s – playing around and innovating
2000s – making things work, starting to track and monetize
2010s – realizing the potential and investing in the infrastructure to make this happen

One could argue that you need awareness before you can get to conversion.  Yes, that’s correct, but you can go from instant awareness to conversion much faster now.  We also know that consumers enter a purchase funnel from many different places and that some arrive at the funnel much lower than the awareness stage.  Just go with it.

If you can understand the technology infrastructure needed to make this all happen, then you can understand why I love where advertising & marketing is headed.  Happy holidays – @dherman76

Visualizing TechCrunch, GigaOm, and Mashable

There is no lack of content online that I’m particularly interested in.  The issue is not finding the content, but rather it is consuming the content in a reasonable amount of time while I try to balance family life and all of the other joys in my life.

This morning I ran an experiment:  use Wordle to visualize TechCrunch, GigaOm, and Mashable by their RSS/Atom feed.   This is part of a larger experiment that I’m pursuing but that story is for a later date.  What I find particularly interesting is that you can quickly see the distinctions between their reporting; as an example, GigaOm focusing more on tech (VMWare, infrastructure) where Mashable covers lots of consumer web (Dorthy launch, WordPress).

TechCrunch – Content Cloud (below)


Mashable – Content Cloud (below)

Picture 8

GigaOm – Content Cloud (below)

GigaOm Cloud

2010 Predictions & Trends "Cloud"

I aggregated 25+ trends & predictions for 2010 centered around technology, media, and advertising last night (see them here) and created a “wordle” based on them.  See below.  You can obviously see that Facebook, Mobile, Google, Social, and Twitter are popular.

Some not-so-big (in terms of volume) but still important trends and predictions that appeared:  data, cloud, devices and acquisition.

Blogs/sites that I aggregated include but are not limited to Mashable, Read Write Web, Clickz, AdAge, Alley Insider, Center Networks, GigaOm, WSJ, MediaPost, CNBC, Adotas, and many, many more.

happy new year – @dherman76

Trends Cloud Large

2010 Predictions & Trends: Technology, Media & Marketing

I created an uber prediction list back in 2007 and it was a hit.  Here are some of the predictions already posted across the net re: technology, media, and marketing – three things I’m very interested in.  If I missed your post and you’d like to be listed, just leave a comment and I’ll add you.

My Friend David's New Book – Releasing on Dec 31 – Semantic Web

I met David at a dinner hosted by a MD of a hedge fund a few years back who happens to be one of the most connected digital guys.   Little did I know, I was sitting next to the guru of the early web design books of the 90s of which I had 2 of them on my shelf at home.

I maintained friendship with David beyond the dinner and have gotten coffee over the years to chat about his entrepreneurial engagements, chocolate, roller skating, candidacy to become Apple’s next CEO, and of course, children (he’s also a father of a young child).

David’s big day is tomorrow, when Portfolio Hardcover is releasing his next book entitled Pull:  The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business.  The title is a mouthful and a bit boring but if I know David, the book will certainly impress.

Per his book description:  Pull is the blueprint to the next disruptive wave. Some call it Web 3.0; others call it the semantic web. It’s a fundamental transition from pushing information to pulling, using a new way of thinking and collaborating online. Using the principles of this book, you will slash 5-20 percent off your bottom line, make your customers happier, accelerate your industry, and prepare your company for the twenty-first century. It isn’t going to be easy, and you don’t have any choice. By 2015, your company will be more agile and your processes more flexible than you ever thought possible.

For those who are interested in learning about the semantic web further, you can purchase his book on Amazon.

Other ways to learn about the semantic web:  wikipedia, w3c,, avc (fred wilson), oreilly

Apple: Ads Coming to OSX – Get Paid to Use the Computer

I received a very timely email from my friend David Siegel pointing me (and a very small group of recipients) to Google’s Patent search database.  On October 22, 2009, Steven Jobs (et al) received patent US2009/0265214A1, Advertisement in Operating System which was originally filed of April 2008.

The abstract of the patent reads:

Among other disclosures, an operating system presents one or more advertisements to a user and disables one or more functions while the advertisements is being presented.  At the end of the advertisement, the operating system again enables the function(s).  The advertisement can be visual or audible.  The presentation of the advertisement(s) can be made part of an approach where the user obtains a good or service, such as the operating system, for free or reduced cost.

A few things to point out:

  • To re-state the obvious:  Apple is exploring ways to provide their OS or other services/products for free or a reduced cost
  • Apple is looking at both audio and visual (can probably expect video to be in here) types of ads
  • The user is forced to watch an ad per the below statement “disables one or more functions while advertisement is being presented”
  • The screenshots in the patent filing show an OSX desktop, not an iPhone screen.

Where can Apple roll this out?

  • I initially gravitated towards thinking that my next MacBook or iMac will be probably be ad-supported but now I’m thinking that it might be my next iPhone or even the increasingly popular (still not present) Apple tablet.  With increasing pressure from Google moving into the mobile space and recent acquisitions in which both parties (Apple & Google) were at the table (i.e. Admob), advertisements could help drive down the price (or subsidize) the service of a cellphone or Tablet.

Media Distribution

  • The opportunity for Apple to become a media distribution hub could be tremendous.  Think about how many Hollywood films or video game trailers they could distribute through their desktop advertising network.

Using advertisements to subsidize a service or make it completely free is not new.  This patent however is potentially important to the industry as Apple looks to future ways to monetize it’s platforms with increasing pressure from competition that has no or very low-cost.

Dell and other PC makers sell advertisements/distribution to companies to place their applications on the desktop of a new computer.  Ever wonder why those icons are there when you open up your brand new machine?  Business development deals place them there and pay-for-distribution.

AllAdvantage was a tool that users downloaded from the Internet during late ’99 in which compensated users for browsing the web.  They made popular their tagline, “Get Paid to Surf the Web.”

Will Apple make famous, “Get Paid to Use the Computer”?

RIA – Rich Internet Applications

Imagine if the web didn’t have to live in the browser.  In many ways, we are experiencing that today (i.e. Foursquare or Tweetdeck) but what if we put it onto the desktop?

For those unfamiliar with RIA or “Rich Internet Applications,” they can be defined here:

Rich Internet applications (RIAs) are web applications that have most of the characteristics of desktop applications, typically delivered either by way of a standards based web browser, via a browser plug-in, or independently via sandboxes or virtual machines.[1] Examples of RIA frameworks include Ajax, Curl, GWT, Adobe Flash/Adobe Flex/AIR, Java/JavaFX,[2] Mozilla’s XUL and Microsoft Silverlight.[3]

I think there is an opportunity to take much of what is happening on the web and put it into it’s own desktop application which can have many different uses based on what the user wants.  Companies and projects like Stocktwits, Tweetdeck, Snackr, and others are building ontop of this philosophy and it seems to be working.

Check out Adobe’s gallery of AIR apps.

To be open and candid, I am seriously contemplating an investment in this area.  If you go back to many of the blog posts here, you can probably figure out what the investment will be.  What I’m looking for right now are talented RIA (Flex, AIR, and ActionScript) developers who have some open bandwidth to work on a project (paid of course) as well, as, anyone (investors, entrepreneurs, consultants) who have some war stories building a RIA based consumer and B2B product.

If you know anyone or are interested in conversation, please reach out.

Open Letter to Ms. Internet

Dear Ms. Internet,

As someone who has spent 8+ hours a day with you over the past 10 years, both for professional and personal needs, I have to say that having a long term relationship with you is challenging at best and you are starting to get a reputation for your celebrity-length relationships.

You are young and in your prime and are the hottest girl at the dance.  Your reputation precedes you wherever you go, from Sand Hill Road, CA to Varick Street, NY, and even then, we all want a piece of you.

The problem with this is that you are breaking hearts everywhere you go and businesses built on-top of you fail before they ever have the chance to breathe.  If you are here for one night stands, then let us know as many of us expect you to be marriage material.

Let me explain.

Marriage material is when ecosystems (family) can bloom and everyone expects them to last so that society can adopt them into the fabric of life.  Ms. Internet, you are making this impossible.

Consequences of your actions:
The rapid pace of innovation (which I love and made my name in) within the digital media space (including you, Ms. Internet) is going to contribute to its very demise.  How can we build sustainable businesses when the life expectancy of an online business is virtually one capital raise and the entire industry is onto the next-biggest thing?

Why this whore-ish attitude does not work:
· Advertising:  have you ever written a check for $100MM to one digital media partner?  No.  Let me explain why:  Digital media partners (i.e. Hulu,, AdMob) deliver a structured product (sometimes service) to meet the needs of a particular client. Generally, there is never enough inventory to spend significant dollars (scale issue) or by the time we have tested the particular product, the industry is onto the next best and greatest product (innovation issue).

· Venture Capital:  I’m speaking from an outsider but there is a real movement from within the industry to change up the deal mechanics as within the digital media space, it’s just not sustainable.   The speed of innovation is important here because if a company spends it’s venture money building a product for the market tomorrow, in two weeks, it may be out of fashion. I wrote a blog post about this a few years back about how social communities are like clubs – you do not want to be the hot one or you are the un-cool one next Fall.

We do not need more Friday or Saturday night flings.  We need companies and services that have the time to breathe and blossom into something sustainable.  My frustration comes from within the advertising world – we (you) are making it very hard to shift large amounts of money online with this type of attitude. Scale issues are solved when the market has time to mature and so far, we’ve had very little time because of the pace of innovation.  I’d like to write a check for hundreds of millions of dollars, similar to how my television brethren do so, and with that, think about how much value that would be created within the digital media ecosystem.

Having said all of this, I love innovation.  Innovation is important to any ecosystem and allows the ecosystem to keep evolving.  As a person, I tend to be just ahead of the innovation curve but as a marketer, I can see that we’re moving a little too fast for the online advertising community to evolve.

All the best,

Darren Herman
(t):  @dherman76

Black November – Holiday Shopping Has Officially Begun

Holiday shopping mayhem used to begin on Black Friday.  Many of us all have our own crazy shopping stories and there are even some YouTube videos of people filming their Black Friday shopping experiences.  For retailers, this marked the official date to begin holiday displays and holiday discounts and for American consumers, it was the “unofficial but official” nod to take out the plastic and start purchasing gifts for friends and loved ones.  If you go into a retail store during this time of the season, you can almost be guaranteed that there will be a musical bell in the song playing over the sound system.

But something different is happening this holiday shopping season:  it’s happening earlier than ever before.

  • Stereotypical holiday season television commercials are appearing on television already (saw some back in October)
  • Fun loving holiday season music is already playing in malls and department stores
  • Holiday look & feels are starting to appear on websites earlier than ever (look at, Radioshack, Dell, Brooks Brothers)
  • Serious retail discounting already both offline and online

All of the above was deduced from a 1-person focus group of myself.  I’m allowed to do that because it’s my blog.

But to make this larger than just a 1-person focus group, I did some digging around online for some holiday season research and one of the top studies that retailers and periodicals are referencing is an October study done by Accenture which states clearly in it’s title:  Holiday Shopping Season to Start Early But Discounts May Disappoint, Accenture Study Finds.

“Holiday shopping in 2008 was defined by the huge discounts that were available – and available very early in the holiday season. In 2009, however, retailers will be reticent to offer such generous incentives in the face of rising commodity prices,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice.
The survey of 526 U.S. consumers found that 69 percent of shoppers expect to do the bulk of their holiday shopping by December 7 (vs. 60 percent in 2008) and more shoppers will shop on “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving – this year (52 percent vs. 42 percent in 2008). However, the vast majority of consumers (86 percent) will not be moved to buy without a discount of at least 20 percent, and a quarter of shoppers will be looking for an aggressive 50 percent discount before they open their wallets.
If you are an entrepreneur, how do you take advantage of the holiday season?
Putting my idea-hat on, I can think of a few areas where entrepreneurs could impact the holiday season:
  • An AdobeAir app built for shopping discounts
  • Promo code online exchange
  • Holiday deal of day website (maybe on Twitter?)
  • Outsourced wrapping
  • Online gift giving concierge
If you are a brand, how do you take advantage of this time?
What specifically interests me about holiday shopping season is how, when, and where retailers create a dialogue with current clients and potential clients.   CRM programs built around direct mail, display advertising, email, and mobile,  are extremely important during this time as brands should be sending different copy/offers to different client segments.  While this sounds simple, it’s not simple to do at scale without the right infrastructure.  Brands who spend time investing in the infrastructure (either internal or through a 3rd party) will be the winners during this holiday season.
If you are a consumer, how do you take advantage of this time?
Start collecting discount coupons and use as necessary.  The assumption is that the discounts are going to be greater as the holidays draw closer however the selection will be less as retailers have put less into production due to the financial environment.

Advertising Industry Presentation – Need Your Help

I’m taking a cue from Fred Wilson on how he crowdsourced his Web 2.0 Keynote presentation.  The wisdom of all of you are much smarter than myself, so why not work together on this upcoming presentation.  What presentation you might ask?

Announced today, I am the keynote speaker at the Admonsters Ad Ops Forum on December 3 here in New York City.  I am excited about this forum because the people who will be actually going to it are the people who actually pull the “levers” in the industry.  Not that I ever “BS,” but this audience is a very wise one and I’m excited to speak to a very intelligent audience.

The goal of the keynote address:

Where once traditional publishers and portals were able to command the CPMs they wanted for all their inventory, they now struggle to provide differentiated, premium inventory that they can sell directly. Agencies have gone from thinking of online as an afterthought to seeing significant investment in systems to help them drive performance for their clients. Networks continue to evolve in every way possible as they attempt to develop their own secret sauce that will make them a top player among hundreds of others.

Following the shift of power is complicated by the fact that all the players are continually redefining their roles:  publishers and agencies are creating their own networks and ad exchanges. Publishers and networks are offering services akin to digital agencies.

This redefinition of roles not only applies to the companies themselves, but internally as well. The importance of Ad Operations for all the players has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Ad Operations ability to help connect technology and process to the business side of online advertising makes it a focal point for our further evolution.

This focus is of particular interest to Networks who sit at the center of many of these changes and must remain nimble to survive. This creates unique challenges for Ad Operations leaders.

Darren’s keynote will take us through the macro level shifts in the balance of power, how that is redefining the roles of all the players involved and focus on how Ad Operations need to position themselves – especially at networks – for today and the future.

I have setup a few public and private conversation spaces for this presentation.  I will do my best to respond to each and every comment and will give attribution to the comments that I do use within the presentation.

  • Leave your comments below in typical Disqus blog format.
  • Give a call to 646-495-9271 x 44195 and leave a voicemessage with your thoughts.  This goes into a account that I’ve setup.
  • Send an email to with your thoughts.

For those of us in the industry, the Pubmatic Ad Revenue Summit guide did a very good job of showing the landscape, but I’d like to dive as deep as possible.

Thank you in advance for participating!  I will post the slides up here as they are created… (and certainly the finished deck).