Tag Archives: inspiration

kbs+ Ventures: Creative Entrepreneurship

Just last week, we launched our first book at kbs+ Ventures.  The book was derived from the insight that our agency‘s staff wanted to learn more about innovation frameworks and what entrepreneurs have to do in order to build a business.  You can download the book here (more formats for the book coming in the near future, follow me on twitter to find out when launched).

Creative Entrepreneurship Books

Last summer, Lara, Eugenia, Taylor and I embarked on the process of creating this book with the support of our agency and MDC Partners.  A few months later, we had a finished product of the book in-hand and were ready to launch it.  We turned the book around in about four weeks.

We decided not to re-create the wheel and write all new content.  Some friends of ours are top venture capitalist and entrepreneurs who already write amazing content online so we asked them to donate some content to our book.  And they did;  some old posts they had written and some brand new content for our book.  A huge fist bump to all the contributors including Blake Masters, Tim O’Reilly, Paul Graham, Jay Jamison, Sarah Lacy, Felix Salmon, Mark Suster, Steve Blank, Marc Averitt, Fred Wilson, Charlie O’Donnell, Chris Dixon, Andrew Chen, Seth Levine, Scott Weiss, Babak Nivi, Matthew Waterman, Dave McClure, Dan Shapiro, Adam Penenberg, Robert Ackerman Jr., Walter Kortschak and Rutul Dave.

We plan to use this book for our Fellows Program.  We also plan on making the book much more widely available – it’s free to you.  We will be distributing the book thru different accelerators, incubators, venture capital offices and other places of entrepreneurship.  Reach out to me if you want to put a bunch in your office or in a place which could reach many entrepreneurs.

Here are some pics of our launch party for the book.  It was a blast.  And here is the writeup on our Tumblog.

We believe this book can have an impact and I’m super proud of the team who made it happen.


What does scale mean in an advertising world where it doesn't matter?

I have been thinking a lot lately about scaleable ad units and how they relate to digital media.  This is a question I ask myself as an investor and as a media buyer.  The latter part is probably more important as I’m consistently buying media in market each day thru The Media Kitchen.

Today, for the most part, we have text ads and display banners (of different shapes and sizes).  Both of these types of units (search & display) have been adopted and make up the majority of global digital advertising spend.  For the online world, they scale.  There are deep takeovers and experiences that can be bought, but they don’t scale nor do they makeup the majority of online spend.

For the offline wold, we too have very defined creative units which provide scale for publishers.  These defined units can be a 30 second spot, quarter page advertisement, FSI, or a 10 second live read (amongst others).

Scale allows dollars to flow, as it provides less friction to move money to purchase many media impressions.  If everyone accepts a 300X250 advertising unit, then its easy to invest behind $1,000,000 in media because there is enough inventory to support it.  There is even enough for $10,000,000 or $100,000,000 of media.

TV advertising is significant not only because it is one of the only mediums to convey both audio & video, but its mass reach with standardized units is almost frictionless;  it’s also really easy to buy.  Additionally, when it emerged as a media channel to purchase, it trumped it’s peer set and with limited other options, it became almost a must-buy.  TV ad spend as a percentage of United States GDP has been a pretty consistent 2.2% since 1919 (since first commercial).

Fact:  There are many ‘haters’ of online display ads because they are standardized.

Well, television advertising is standardized too, and there are some recent examples of run away creative (and business) success:  Nike’s Write the Future spot, NFL Play 60, and the older Jordan/Bird/Barkley McDonald’s commercials.  Note, these are all sports examples as I am a focus group of one, but the common thread they have were that they debuted not only against a high target audience composition but also with contextual relevance.  I generally see the NFL Play 60 spot during NFL games and the Write the Future spot appeared during the World Cup.   Audience plus context helped give these advertisements meaning.    In the future, audience plus content plus location will give advertisements meaning.

Within digital, we are still nascent, but we are starting to figure out some of the native characteristics of the digital platform.  A few recent examples of successful digital campaigns such as Elf Yourself, Old Spice Man, Whopper Sacrifice, BMW ActiveE (our agency), Giorgio Armani/The Room (our agency), have a common thread:  the foundations of the campaign are not immediately scalable.  Why?  Because unlike offline media, these examples require user interaction to be successful, which is virtually impossible with unplugged offline media.  In a television world, the best spots allow us to reflect on our emotions as we watch.  In a digital world, the consumer/viewer is able to create emotions with engagements on the fly. Think about this (*).

When creating effective digital communications, take advantage of the medium.

Paid media dollars are no longer the only dollars that are driving scale.   This is where the POEM (paid, owned, earned media) strategy becomes vitally important.  The best digital strategies are done with the POEM approach in mind.

A couple more words about scale:

1.  Historically, advertisers rent audiences.  We pay large media companies to rent their audiences for a period of time.  This is not a winning proposition, as the minute you stop spending, your audience returns to zero.  However, this is changing with the ability to use digital means to connect with your audience and disintermediate the media companies.  Nike’s Trevor Edwards (VP Global Brand & Category Management) had a great quote in the NY Times about 5 years ago, “We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive,” Mr. Edwards says he tells many media executives. “We’re in the business of connecting with consumers.”

2.  Scale is still used to help get word out and will be necessary in the future.  I’m not saying that media buying and advertising is going away, but the way we look at the traditional paid media model is changing.


* Inspired by a pre-read of this post by buddy Chad Stoller

** This post started out about native advertising opportunities and quickly morphed into a post about scale.  It wasn’t my original intention but that’s the way my brain worked while writing.  So, pardon the inconsistencies but I think I do get my point across.

*** Scale does matter in certain businesses and within components of the advertising ecosystem.  Example:  the more you buy (larger scale) on an exchange platform, the more bid requests you see.  Theoretically, the more bid requests you see, the better the performance you might drive.

A Few Things I'm Thinking About

If I were to write a substantive post today, it’d probably get lost in the Advertising Week black hole.   I can’t compete with all of the AOL announcements.

However, I do want to put a few things out there and see what sticks… and maybe I’ll turn them into full posts in the coming weeks.

1.  The web is UGLY.  Step back and look at the majority of the web; it’s may be developed but not designed.  The Huffington Post website reminds me of Conway on 34th and 8th here in NYC.  I’m not saying this because I’m part of the AOL Creative Consortium, but I’m saying this because experience and design needs to step up their games.

2.  My daughter (and son) may never use a desktop computer.  How unbelievably weird but awesome is that?   It’s crazy to think this but what are the implications?  I remember my first Apple IIe.

3.  I think I have a crush on online & offline products- products or services that can be delivered and touched thru both means.   An example of this is Threadless and their pop-up shop.  I think there is an opportunity for web-only retailers such as Zappos and Amazon to open pop-up shops for the holiday season… it’s less about retail and more about marketing.

4.  I’m amazed at how many people play Fantasy Football.  Myself included.  Fantasy Sports is a REAL category.

5.  Terence Kawaja is dead on about the changes in media.  He’s also a rockstar for updating his infamous ad tech chart.

As always, leave your feedback.

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My Recent Bookshelf

One of my guaranteed impulse buy categories are books.  I’m a sucker.  If there is a book that I think might want to read, I’ll buy it; even if I’m half way thru a current book and still have 5 new ones sitting on the table.

99.9% of my books are paperback/hardcover (non-digital) and 90% of those are within business, strategy, marketing, and biography categories.  I admit I have a one track mind.

Here are some recent books I’ve read:

The Facebook Effect (David Kirkpatrick):  I really enjoyed this book.  I think I enjoyed it because it was a biography of how Facebook started, the people, and the drama.  It was less about the actual business in itself, and not at all about “social media‘ and “social” marketing.   I felt like parts of this book could be made into an HBO show… oh wait, there’s a movie coming out about Zuck.  This was a VERY fast read for me (and I’m slow!) despite it’s voluminous appearance.

Open Leadership (Charlene Li):  I totally respect Charlene Li but I found this book to be a dud.  Note:  I’m engrossed in social technologies on a daily basis but found most of this book to be very elementary to what I do and what we talk about inside of our agency.   For people who are leaders in non-marketing services organizations who are not early adopters, this book might serve them much better than it served me.

Here are some books I’ve recently ordered (but not read):

What’s Mine is Yours:  The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (Botsman, Rogers):  I got introduced to this book thru an Umair Haque tweet.  I highly respect Umair and generally follow along with his ramblings.  Once I read the description of the book, I instantly 1-click ordered it from Amazon.  Should be here later this week.

Everything I Know About Marketing, I Learned from Google (Aaron Goldman):  I actually forgot how I heard about this book but I do remember reading a review about it on someone’s blog.  I’m very curious to see what angle this book takes about Google as I think Google has failed in marketing quite a few of their projects (almost everything but Search).  The book actually arrived this past Friday and hope to start it over the coming weeks.

Are there any books I should be concentrating on?  Anyone care to share their reading list?

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Big Ideas vs. Distance (My Dilemma)

Ideation Dilemna

Anyone else have this dilemma?  What do you do to overcome it?

I always love traveling or working in remote coffee shops because that’s where my mind frees up.

IGA Worldwide was a brain fart of mine when I was walking thru the woods in Saratoga Springs.

Tomzy was ideated when Sherri and I was traveling to a beach location.

I spent a lot of time working on Varick Media Management while working at the Muddy Cup in New Paltz, NY.

The Advertising Collision

This post was inspired by Fred Wilson’s post today and Chris Dixon’s post back in 2009 about online advertising and it’s potential share gains.

Quite simply, Chris outlines that there are two types of advertising:  brand advertising (ATL= above the line) and direct response (BTL=below the line).  Much of the ad dollars have historically been centered in ATL media which is understandable but something big is happening.

A major collision.

ATL mediums are becoming BTL mediums.  BTL mediums are becoming ATL mediums.  There is no such medium that is one OR the other… both mediums are working together.

This is very important to understand.

Display, search, mobile, social, television, print, radio, ooh, and all others can be used for any format and are not mutually exclusive to the types of messaging you choose to use.  We like to call it branded-response, but I’m sure every agency around town has their own name for it.

Now that we can measure to some extent, the traditionally measurement-untouched ivory tower media channels dollar allocations will start to be reallocated to more measurable channels.  Or alternatively, as the ivory tower media channels become digital ivory tower channels, they in themselves will become measurable and will receive a dollar allocation based on their contribution to the brands marketing performance.

Companies like Vizu are releasing products that allow marketers and their agencies to optimize to campaign lift (awareness, consideration, etc).  Traditionally, most digital optimizations happen for a KPI that is quantitative (click, transaction, etc) but now we can optimize to emotion.  This is an example of startups looking at the future and innovating early.

It’s early in this game, but take note of this collision as it is going to create some amazing opportunities for the industry.

Challenge to the Dave Matthews Band and review of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

For those of you who do not know me too well, I’m a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band.  I’ve been to more shows than I can reasonably count, have gigabytes of their live shows, my living room has a framed DMB art collection, and my son is aptly named David Matthew Herman.

For those of you who do know me well, you’ve probably traveled with world with me to see the band in one random location or another.

This post has two parts.  Read both because they compliment each other.

Challenge: Go back into the recording studio and re-record songs from previous albums.  Why am I saying this?  When you guys (members of the band) record your albums, many of the songs are “new” and are not fully baked yet.  Your songs have a tendency to “breathe” (like wine) on tour which gives them new life.  I’d love for you to take an album or two and re-record some of those songs.   Many fans know that album lyrics and concert lyrics are sometimes totally different and would love the updates to studio albums.  In terms of musicianship on the recorded albums, the studio is obviously not The Gorge or Alpine or even SPAC (venues), so this would add a dimension of taking something that’s been on “tour mode” (i.e. Warehouse or All Along the Watchtower) and transition back to “studio mode” and I think this would be  a challenge that you’d all enjoy.  If I could pick the producer:  Rob Cavallo, but beggars can’t be choosers.

If you guys want to take me up on the challenge, you can contact me through the contact section.

Review of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

I waited 5 months to write this review because the album needed to sit and breathe a bit.  I’ve always tended to favor DMB live-shows because of the band’s spontaneity and on-stage energy.  I also favor instrumental-ism over vocalism (is that a term?) and in the live setting, a 20 minute jam during Two Step is not out of the ordinary.

This album breaks the mold.  Big Whiskey has been in my CD Player, HDD Player, and iPhone (ipod) for the past 5 months and only on occasion, have listened to a live show or two.  The album in totality tells a story but each song individually has their own chapter that can stand alone.  This is the first DMB studio album that I’ve gravitated to more than for “casual” listening.

Just like most fans, I initially gravitated to Funny the Way It Is because it was all over the radio and Spaceman because it was played at many of the shows this past tour.  Shake Me Like a Monkey became a favorite around months 3-4 and the back to back combo of Shake Me Like a Monkey + Funny The Way It Is rocks.

Recently (no pun intended), I’ve become a big fan of Lying in the Hands of God and Time Bomb.  Why I Am doesn’t do much for me “yet” though like where Dave has taken the lyrics on the song.

IMHO, the most unfinished but greatest potential song is Alligator Pie.  This song has significant potential.   The song starts strong, builds, has a great “live concert” beat, but doesn’t seem to get anywhere.  Dave comes across very strong in the song almost controlling the instrumentals but I think there is still opportunity for this song to develop.

I’ve given the album out to over a dozen people and most have come back with positive experiences.  I love the sound and the heart of the band that went into the album and can’t wait to hear these songs “breathe” on the 2010 tour (or if I get over to Europe for the upcoming).

You can bet that I’ll be giving some of the albums out for the holidays.

Rational Expectations

When I was a doctoral student in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a powerful theory known as rational expectations suggested that it was difficult to profit from widely anticipated, or predictable, events, since rational actors would already have taken the action necessary to arbitrage any such opportunities.  When I become a student of management, I assumed that an extension of rational expectations would apply in business; that is, any straightforward profit-enhancing opportunity in competitive markets would already be exploited and hence unavailable at the margin.

Well, thank goodness for me and the shareholders of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. that rational expectations is far from complete characterization of management behavior.  In short, opportunities abound to employ simple analytic methods to marginally or substantially increase profitability, especially in large businesses such as mine where a single insight can ring the cash register literally thousands or millions of times. – Gary Loveman, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, Harrah’s Entertainment

I just wanted to share this passage as it’s written well and taken from the book, Competing on Analytics, The New Science of Winning by Harvard Business School Press (Thomas H. Davenport & Jeanne G. Harris).

Expect more quotes from this book in the coming days/weeks as I finish it.

Thanks on Thanksgiving: Social Graph Style

I decided to be part of the status quo and write a “thanks” post as it’s Thanksgiving.  Other than being extremely thankful for my amazing wife and our newborn son, I’m extremely thankful for my health and all of the opportunities that have crossed my path.

Technology has allowed me to keep in touch with dozens of people I’d not normally speak to on a daily basis.  Because of the connections (both direct and indirect) created, many opportunities have come my way for investment, friendship, consulting, networking, mentorship, and otherwise that I wouldn’t normally have.

The image on the left is a screenshot of my facebook social graph, as produced by the TouchGraph application.  The top 50 relationships I have by Touchgraph’s algorithm’s are listed.  While you can’t really see much in this very small image, I’ve linked to the larger one here.

I’d like to personally thank the following people for pushing my intellectual curiosity further this year (2008) and for providing some sort of opportunity (that’s probably too confidential to post).  If you haven’t met these folks before, you probably want to get on their radar screen:

Charlie O’Donnell, Andrew Sispoidis, Joe Zawadzki, Brian O’Kelley, Nat Turner, Zach Weinberg, Barry Lowenthal, Brandon Berger, Nat Westheimer, Michael Galpert, Howard Lindzon, Roger Ehrenberg, Morty White, Thatcher Bell, Fred Wilson, Chris Fralic, Bijan Sabet, Steve Thibodeau, Jon Bond, Aaron Reitkopf, Erich Wasserman, John Battelle, Omar Tawakol, Satya Patel, Noelle Weaver, Andrew Parker, Brad Burnham, Josh Stylman, Greg Verdino, Joseph Jaffe, and Grant Lyons.

Besides my family and health, the most important thing to me is being intellectually stimulated and my friends above are doing amazing things and I’m thankful for knowing them.  Please note that I did not mean to leave anyone off the list, I may have overlooked a few people!

Inspirational: A New Look and Feel

Every year and a half or so, I’ve released a new look and feel for this blog.  I’m not a web designer (those were my early days) ]so it’s not like I want to show off some new skills that I have just learned.  I release a new theme purely for inspiration and to keep the blog fresh.  For those who want to see what this blog looked like over the past few years, check out Archive.org’s history.

I hope you enjoy the theme as it was designed by my friend Cristian Neagu of CandesProjects.  For those of you who have talked to or met Cristian, you know he’s one talented designer/developer who can handle many tasks.  I’ve known Cristian for a few years now and even opened my home to him when he came to America to work on an in-depth project with me.  He’s one heck of a guy and his skills are fantastic as well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the new redesign – and happy early Turkey Day.