Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

An Ad Tech Roll Up

I’ve been noodling the opportunity around an ad tech dream I had.  Yes, I really do dream about these things.

We all know the positions that Yahoo! and AOL are in.  I won’t go into that here, other than they will need to make some short term decisions rather quickly.

As a proactive entrepreneur, what if you could acquire the assets of Right Media (including client contracts) from Yahoo! and Platform-A (whatever is left of it) from AOL, roll them up, put on top of a 2.0 infrastructure such as AppNexus and scale the business?

Pros:

  • Client contracts lead to instant revenue
  • RMX has a name for itself in the industry
  • Could probably get it for fire-sale pricing

Cons:

  • Contacts/clients might not transfer
  • Yahoo! inventory is not guaranteed if moved away from Yahoo!, so that would need to be written into the agreements
  • Implementation of both platforms might be more hassle then they are worth
  • Much of Yahoo! RMX talent has already left, but not all

There is an opportunity here, at least at first glance.  It’s less about the technology and more about the contracts to advertisers.  The hypothesis that the acquisition of these both would lead to a faster time to market and revenue out of the gate.  There are probably quite a few other ad tech companies that you could bundle in here at the same time.  Might be worth investigating?  I’m sure a few people probably are…

Examples of Applied Data Visualizations

This past week, I tweeted the following:  “the data itself isn’t overly interesting.  the application of data is what is fascinating.”

Tweet about data

This wasn’t the first time I tweeted something along these lines and if you’ve heard me speak publicly (or inside the agency) over the past few years, I’ve probably touched upon the topic, if not spoken all about it.

A few people reached out and asked me to write about where I see this playing out – as to illustrate the point about the application of large data sets to make decisions.  I thought I’d use this post to do just that – give 3 sites that you can check out to see what I mean.  In no particular order, they are listed below.

#1:  Numberfire

Numberfire is a fantasy football GM’s mecca.  If you are managing a fantasy team and want to compliment (and/or replace) watching ESPN Fantasy Football Now, reading all the blogs, etc, why not apply large data sets worth of performance data to predict performance of players?  If you can aggregate plenty of data sets, normalize them, and run regressions/etc, then you can figure out which players have a higher probability of performing better each week.  I used Numberfire last year, which was their first year and they continuously outperformed the ESPN and Yahoo! rankings (7/10 times).  What’s nice too is that Nik, the founder, has an eye for design and made his site very usable and IMHO, probably the best site within this space.

Numberfire Chris Johnson visualization

#2: TRUEcar

I read last week that a site named TRUEcar raised $200MM for vehicle-data related purchases.  Anything that has a nine figure capital raise and data related to it immediately got my attention.  What TRUEcar does simply is help people decide what to pay for a used or new car, based on historical information.  Seems simple, right?  Have you ever tried buying a used car and all you had to rely on was the KBB value of the car (kelly blue book)?      See the image below, as it illustrates a search I did for the 2011 Range Rover Sport, a car I fancy.  Their visualization of large amounts of data is what is extremely important and will help separate them from forthcoming competitors.

TRUEcar Range Rover

#3:  NFL Decision Maker

I did not realize that Bloomberg launched Bloomberg Sports and it includes a decision making program for fantasy football rosters.  Essentially, Bloomberg is leveraging it’s data infrastructure and visualization tools to help make informed decisions of whom to sit/start each week for your fantasy or handicapping needs.  This product certainly competes with Numberfire (and vice versa) but it’s not as robust.  However, this is a great start for Bloomberg Sports.

Bloomberg Sports NFL Decision

PaidContent recently re-posted a vision I had regarding the Bloomberg Terminal for Advertising.  This is an area that is ripe and one I’m currently exploring.  Would be really interesting to bring advanced visuals and analytics to the world of real time bidding and media trading.

I believe that just having data or access to data will be table stakes in the next few decades.  The organizational winners will be ones who can apply the data to whatever they might be working on.  These are early days for this now, but I believe this will play out over a long term vision.  Data scientists + Data visualizers = data visioneers = people I’d like to meet.

Kids & Content Consumption

My almost 3-year old son, David, loves watching Thomas & Friends.  We have countless DVDs, iPad apps, and other Thomas inspired entertainment.  When Thomas is on television, my wife either DVR’s it or David ends up watching it live.

However, when online, David watches Thomas & Friends, but it’s not the Thomas and Friends you’d expect.  There is a sizeable amount of professional content uploaded on YouTube but David prefers the custom home videos produced by kids about Thomas.  YouTube says there are about 123,000 results for “Thomas the Tank Engine.”

It’s amazing how long David will sit and watch UGC content of Thomas the train, which were created by kids and their parents.

A video called “Accidents Happen” has been viewed 13.4MM times… yes, 13.4 million.  All created by a kid and his dad for Thomas.  I’m sure David has been 50 of those views in the last 2 weeks alone.

There is also a ton of this content on YouTube, not just for Thomas & Friends but for plenty of other shows.

I almost think David prefers this kid-produced UGC over the professionally done content.

There’s something here… a hypothesis, an entrepreneurial endeavor, a marketing opportunity… just can’t put my finger on it.

You can learn a lot from your kids, be sure to keep your mind open.

Areas of Interest from kbs+p Ventures Summit

We launched kbs+p Ventures about 6 months ago as an early stage investment arm of our agency, kbs+p.  Last Friday, we hosted a summit where we brought a small group of people with both visionary and tactical backgrounds to help us filter the areas that are of potential investment focus.  While most firms keep this confidential, following Fred’s recent post over at AVC, I’ll open these thoughts up as well.

Why?  I hope that any of you reading this blog might help point me/us in the right direction of entrepreneurs who are innovating in any one of these spaces.  You can easily get in touch with me here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.

In no particular order:

1.  Virtual Currency – what will the impact be of Facebook Credits?

2.  Measurement – how do you measure engagement?  How do you value “social”?

3.  Fan Acquisition – what are the best ways to acquire “fans” and “followers”?

4.  In-Stream – should brands participate in the stream of conversation and if they do, what are the rules to play by?  A company who is participating here is 140Proof

5.  Influence – how do you buy influence?

6.  No two networks or channels are used the same way.  I.e. While Facebook is a social channel, so is Linked In.  Think about the differences in your usage.  Compare this to 20 years ago when ABC and NBC, both television stations, were used similarly.

7.  With millions of web publishers, how do you match creative to each individual publisher?  It’s tough.

8.  We spend a lot of time targeting specific audiences, but an additional filter to overlay is “mindset.”  Are they currently in the “mode” to purchase? How do we differentiate messaging based upon where audiences are in the funnel?

9.  How do we combine SEM + social media monitoring.  If a topic is trending, how do we buy SEM against it?

10.  Predictive Trending – how do we predict what might trend and then purchase advertising around it.  (current company doing this is buzzfeed)

11.  How do we create video at low-cost, and then scale the distribution

12.  There currently isn’t one cohesive “stream” of me.  How can we harness the entire stream?  Where will the meta-stream live?

Leave comments and/or questions.  Would love to elaborate on any or all of these.

We (and they) are hiring!

At my last startup, we used our investors not just for business guidance, but also as talent scouts.  They were constantly meeting interesting people who were looking to join or build the next big idea and they helped us place some great talent within our organization.

Now, as an investor at kbs+p Ventures (and still an entrepreneur), our portfolio companies are asking us for hiring help.  Taylor and I are working on an internal & external talent management tool but I didn’t want to wait to publish these until it’s polished and released as it could be another month or so.

Here are some awesome opportunities from our portfolio (and friends of ours) who have asked us for candidates:

Crowdtwist:  A New York based startup who drives customer engagement through next generation loyalty software. CrowdTwist’s activity engine intelligently tracks consumer interactions with your brand (i.e. consuming, creating, sharing, purchasing, etc.) within your own site and across other destinations online. They are currently looking for:  Director of Engineering, Project Manager.

Adapt.ly:  A New York based startup who has made it extremely easy to buy media and audiences across the social web.  I personally call these guys the first social DSP.  They are currently looking to hire:  Ruby Developers, Data Scientists, Account Managers, and Summer Interns

The Media Kitchen:  New York based communications planning and buying agency (part of kbs+p) is hiring an Associate Director of Media Technology.  This position will be reporting into myself and will be an awesome role for someone who understands the infamous GCA/Luma Partners slide and reads AdExchanger daily.  Job description is located here.

If I missed any opportunities, I’ll post again in a few weeks.  If you are interested in applying for an opportunity, please contact the company directly (follow instructions on the opportunity page).

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Incentivized Viewership

I wrestle with whether or not I like the notion of  Incentivized Viewership.  It’s coming up a lot lately around the office as we’re starting to see more and more vendors offering us solutions to have viewers watch or interact with our clients ads because they are being compensated to do so.

I decided to write this post to get my thoughts out in the open and hopefully have a dialogue with all of you who can help create a better informed POV.

My general thought is that incentivized viewership is negative for the ecosystem because the quality of the view is diluted because the person did not decide on their own to watch or interact with the ad unit.  The person is only watching the ad unit because they earn a Facebook credit, a game credit, or some other form of compensation.  Here are a few posts about Facebook and some partners incentivizing video watching to earn Facebook credits.

Does anyone have any research that uses a control and variable group to measure conversion and/or brand metrics around people who are incentivized to view?  I’d love to see it.

Do you believe that incentivized viewership is good for the ecosystem?

Measuring Integrated Advertising

I have a lot of respect for Mark Suster, an entrepreneur who turned venture capitalist and now is investing out of GRP Partners.  He writes a terrific blog called Both Sides of the Table and his posts are picked up on TechCrunch and other major outlets.

He recently wrote a declarative post called The Future of Advertising Will be Integrated.  The post went up on April 29th but I’ve been noodling it ever since. Due to some personal obligations, I’ve not been able to respond, but finally, here it is.

As an entrepreneur turned ad agency guy, when I hear the word “integrated,” I immediately think media and creative under one roof, such as my firm, kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners.  I personally believe this is really the only way to go if you want to get to a big platform.  With media and creative all under one roof, under one P&L, and with a cohesive team, you can create big ideas that know no creative or media boundaries.

We have a saying internally at the agency, E=(MC)2, which is obviously repurposed, but it means a “[brand] experience” is exponentially greater when media and creative work together.

Enough agency speak for now but keep this last sentence in the back of your mind as you read the rest.  I hope you do.

Mark came at his post a bit differently and took the above tenants, whether he realized or not, and applied them to the digital media ecosystem today.  He highlighted a few companies such as my buddy Ari’s company, Solve Media, along with Adly and Kontera (amongst others).  The creative is the media in most of these, along with the media being the creative.  I’d argue Paid Search links play here as well.

The Elephant in the Room

One of the largest issues that the digital advertising ecosystem faces today is that we as an entire industry, are not setup to measure the “integrated” nature effectively. Because of this, at scale, this is not a near term reality.  There, I said it.  The elephant is in the room.

The digital advertising ecosystem by default rewards the intent harvesters, not the intent generators.  The primary reason why is that many agencies and marketers are using 3rd party ad serving systems that reward the last click or last action.  In the world of rewarding the last click or action, generally, the ad networks are the ones who win out.  There are 400 (or 700 depending on who you talk to) or so ad networks in the world who have nice businesses.  Just look at ValueClick or InterClick’s financial statements as they are public.  Not too bad.

THE Digital Opportunity

Because of the above, therein lies an opportunity.  If we believe what Mark wrote last week and I’ve been saying for years, then an opportunity lies in being able to create a measurement platform that allows us to understand intent harvesting and intent generation/creation. Piecing together a DART (3rd party ad server) report with a ComScore or Knowledge Networks study is inefficient and frankly, annoying.   There needs to be an evolution here.  This is a big opportunity.

Where We Are Today

Many readers of this blog don’t work in advertising agencies but are awesome entrepreneurs looking to figure out the next big idea to go and tackle.  Being that you are not in the walls of agencies on the daily basis, I thought I’d take the remainder of this post to outline where the industry is in terms of advanced analytics and then open this up for commenting in the thread below.

I highly request that you engage in the comments as group knowledge will benefit the community at large, you might find your next co-founder, and I love open conversations.

Ad Serving:  The Madison Avenue ecosystem basically uses one of three third party ad servers to “serve” and “track” different pieces of creative.  We use Microsoft’s Atlas, DoubleClick’s DART, and MediaMind.  In Q1 2011, we moved the majority of our clients off of Atlas and onto MediaMind because I personally have a strong viewpoint of independence of my ad-server and it’s relationship to media. (should be separate)

Data Warehousing:  This is a relatively new area and somewhat unchartered territory for many agencies.  Many agencies rely on their third party ad-server to be their main data warehouse for tracking. This is good, as you’d be surprised how many people don’t use a 3rd party ad server, but this is not great. Using a full on data warehouse such as VisualIQ, Neteeza, Artemis, or others allows for a larger capability to manipulate data and understand the relationships between touchpoints beyond “last click.”

At the agency, we’ve been using VisualIQ with some of our most progressive clients and the reports and results we’re seeing are fascinating.  One of the biggest questions we’re tackling is “optimal touchpoint analysis” and we’re seeing the relationships between display, video, search, social, and beyond.  We can now determine a value to each one.

Brand Lift Studies:  While I’ve argued time and time again, that “brand” advertising for the sake of brand advertising online is dead, many marketers continue just spending on “brand.”  Agencies use 3rd party brand study vendors such as ComScore, Knowledge Networks, Vizu, and others that help measure the “lift” (or change) associated in any one of many categories including but not limited to awareness, intent, and consideration.

Opportunities

·     The basic ideas behind today’s ad serving systems were conceptualized in the mid to late 1990s.  Online video, social, search, etc were not around then.

·     Product placement and integration into online video and social are hard to quantitatively measure with a 3rd party ad serving system as the only metrics you can pull back to your ad server are by using a click-tag.

·     The Display ecosystem is being fractured into traditional display (i.e. banners on ESPN) and social display (i.e. creative/textual units on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).

·     I see Paid Search and Display converging on each other within the next 12 months. In some cases, they already are: Google Content Network.

·     I challenge you to ask your 3rd party ad-serving vendor to recommend an attribution model – report back what they tell you.  Not much – there is no standard yet.  It’s unchartered territory.

Next Steps

I would obviously love to hear your feedback.  Please post it in the comments section below or shoot me a note.  I believe that we won’t see large integrated opportunities that get their portion of the measurement/attribution credit until there is a way to measure these.  While we might try one or two of these integrated opportunities on each media plan, if you ask the agency how they really performed, the agency won’t have much to tell you because the tools for measurement are ancient.  With the data warehouses mentioned above, we get much better, but not perfect.

While we don’t need perfect to make the industry move forward, we do need better tools.  If you are building them, I’d like to speak to you.

Of Acceleration, Inspiration Spaces, and Funds: 2011 TMK Digital Media VC Conference

One of the areas that I focus on is bridging Madison Avenue with Silicon Alley/Valley.  I think it’s unbelievably important for the future growth of both ecosystems.

At The Media Kitchen, in 2008, we launched our first Digital Media Venture Capital Conference.  We haven’t looked back since and we’re going on our 4th year of doing this.  We’ve had venture firms such as Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, DFJ Gotham, Spark Capital, Betaworks (not a full VC firm), and IA Ventures present in the past with a wealth of CEOs and founders from amazing startups including but not limited to Meetup, 33 Across, AppNexus, Pinch Media, Izea, ContextWeb, DoubleVerify, Boxee, 5Min, TargetSpot, ChartBeat, Bit.ly, Zenetics, Metamarkets, FourSquare, GetGlue, Tumblr, and Twitter.  Here’s a link to my post from our 2008 conference.

This year, we’re changing it up a bit and not focusing 100% on Venture Capital funds, but around the ecosystem that surrounds entrepreneurship.  I think this is very important to present because the more people that we inspire about the surrounding ecosystem of entrepreneurship, the more people will feel comfortable with the possibilities of innovation.

We’re holding our TMK Digital Media Venture Capital Conference entitled, Accelerators, Inspiration Spaces, and Startups on May 17, 2011 here in New York City.  I have the ability to give 5 lucky readers of this post admission to the event which will be from 8;15am-12:30pm.  It’ll be an intimate group  of <150 awesome people.

If you are interested in attending and want to come, please reach out using this form with 1-2 sentences of why.  I’d love to give the right people the opportunity to be here to mingle with our entire agency, our clients, and our friends from the entrepreneurial world.

Don't Let QR Codes Go the Way of RSS

I’ve been wrestling with QR codes lately as both a consumer and advertising agency executive.  I’m a bit scared they will go the way of RSS feeds.  Let me explain a bit.

I don’t know what to do with a QR code, and I don’t think mainstream America does either.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but you get the idea.  Do you need a specific QR reader?  Do you need to text the code somewhere?  Do you cut it out and mail it somewhere?

A QR code is a good idea – append a unique image to a print, billboard, or other campaign and entice the user to scan it in for some form of value exchange (ideally).  The brand that is using the QR code can now measure response of that particular media vehicle.

I’ve seen far too many pieces of creative that have a QR code on them, but do not have a call to action or instructions for the user to figure out what to do with it.  It’s almost like an orange RSS icon that sits next to content on the web without any instructions.   While I imagine that the “Techcrunch-crowd” knows what RSS is, I’d gather that most Americans don’t know how to setup feeds and readers and the utility and value of RSS is not being recognized fully by the masses because of this.

I’m worried that QR codes might go the way of RSS feeds. Without education to consumers about what to do with them, they are worthless – they take up space on our marketing collateral and are generally pretty ugly.

So who will educate?  Will we see the creation of a trade association to take out a broad-reaching QR awareness and education campaign?   Or, will we see brands who utilize these codes educate their audiences on their marketing collateral.

I do not know where this will net out, but it needs to be figured out.

Marketing measurement is here to stay and this is one way that we can further prove ROI.

Long Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE)

I’m going to buy my 2 kids, David and Ava, some Adobe stock.

I figured I’d start this post with a bold statement.  Hopefully I got your attention.

Adobe is upping their game.  They historically have been a software company focused on the creative & production industry.  They could have stayed this way and built a nice business for the future.  But, someone there is leading a charge and they IMHO are spot on with where they need to go.

Adobe was rumored to have tried to acquire Invite Media in 2010.
Adobe acquired Demdex, a data management platform.
Adobe just partnered with MediaLets for mobile rich media serving.
Adobe is rumored to be now flirting with Triggit.

Adobe, while historically never spoke to agency media teams, are now building a media foundation for the future.  While being able to tie creative into metrics, analytics & media delivery, they are able to get to the future state of marketing we all talk about.

Some other companies I’m liking due to their recent acquisitions and intentions:  IBM, GSI Commerce, Marketshare Partners

Note:  All of this is predicated on whether or not Adobe or any of the above companies can deliver on the potential that each acquisition or partnership brings to the table.  We’ve all seen how acquisitions don’t work, but in theory, I like all the above.