Tag Archives: marketing

2015 Technology, Advertising, and Digital Prediction List

Over the years, I have curated and posted an technology, marketing, advertising, and media trend prediction list on this blog.  This year is no different, I’m going to do it again.  This is a good list to bookmark and reference as you create your presentations throughout the year.

I’ll keep this updated – but I’m not perfect.  Email me if you would like me to include your list (send me blog link and #1 prediction) here.

Predictions for 2015: Uber, Beacons, AdTech, and More (John Battelle)
Thinking about 2015:  Payments, Content Creation, and more
(Darren Herman)
What’s Going to Happen (Fred Wilson)
My 5 Predictions for 2015 and Beyond (Don Dodge)
Mobile Tech Predictions: Android, Amazon, Windows, etc (ZDNet/@jkendrick)
Three Seismic Threats to Marketers (AdAge/@dberkowitz)
The State of Bitcoin and Crytpocurrencies (A16z/@pmarca)
Eight Seismic Changes to the Hispanic Market (MediaPost/Jose Villa)World Economic Forum Predictions: Digital (WEF/Sven Denecken)
What’s Next in Wireless (John Legere)
Tech Predictions:  What Does the Future Hold? (Gary Newe)
20 Questions for 2015 (Benedict Evans)
20 E-Commerce Trends and Predictions for 2015 (eConsultancy)
Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2015 (Adobe/John Watton)
The Future of Digital Media in 2015 (TechCrunch/@pcsathy)
4 Cloud Predictions for 2015 (GigaOm/Barb Darrow)
API Predictions (Steven Willmott)
Predictions for 2015:  There Will be Blood (Valleywag/Dan Lyons)
2015 Tech Predictions (Hany Rashwan)
10 Predictions for Content Marketing (Mashable/Shafqat Islam)
What To Look Out for in Tech 2015 (BI Intelligence)


Why I’m Bullish on Programmatic Media

I’ve been immersed in programmatic media for pretty much my professional career.  Whether in advertising, in-game ads, search, or other areas, I’ve spent a lot of time automating and implementing [technological] pipes into the advertising industry.

I am becoming more bullish than ever on the overall idea of programmatic media.  Let me test out a few proof statements with you and comment below with your thoughts.

1.  When technological progress is not about the technology, it gets adopted by the masses.  From 2008-2012, so much of the conversation was about the features of every DSP, DMP, Exchange, Workflow and other solutions within the programmatic media industry.  One day we’d hear that one DSP was better than another because of a feature but 30 days later, it would change.  I feel like today, we’re not focused on those respective features any longer… we’re focused on the overall business and vision of the companies because we know that the features already exist within them.  I feel like the “Cold War” of DSP’s is over and now we’re into the “business building” phase.

2.    Innovation is happening further from the center.
Again, from 2008-2012, almost every company in the programmatic space was centered around building bidders and pipes… for good reason.  Now that we’ve saturated that specific part of the programmatic stack, we’re now seeing innovation occur further away from the bidder.  Companies like Bionic, Centro, and others are helping marketers purchase programmatically but not necessarily highlighting the programmatic execution.  The execution of programmatic does not matter to most, even though it’s occurring in the background.

Also of note here are the programmatic-DNA companies popping up.  Pre-programmatic-DNA companies were technology organizations that had to pivot and add programmatic technologies to their offering or risk being disrupted (i.e. ValueClick).  Now we’re seeing pure programmatic-DNA companies who are operating from the ground up, completely programmatically and recognizing efficiency and effectiveness gains.

3.  Open Innovation in Programmatic
More often than not, the first industry constituents to solve a problem are private companies with closed ecosystems.  We’ve seen at least one example of the evolution of this into an open ecosystem now with the emergence of RTBKit, a github based project that allows anyone to download the infrastructure of a bidder, the central tool to purchasing impressions in a world of real-time media.

4.  5-20% of Paid [Digital] Media
Agencies and their respective holding companies are talking about how they expect to see their programmatic spend grow to 5-20% of their overall paid digital media.  I believe that this number is low, especially on the lower-side of this number.  I believe that vendors are using programmatic ways of procuring media and most agencies are not aware of this… so realistically, the number will be higher.   It will be telling if/when AppNexus goes public, to see the amount of gross dollars moving thru their exchange as it’ll help us understand the total dollar volume of this industry.

5.  Programmatic Media is Designed for Accountability
Gone are the days of Wannamaker’s famous quote.  If you are still using the above quote to defend your media plan, then you might as well start packing up your agency or CMO-job. Programmatic media is designed to be accountable from the ground up, fully measured and every opportunity to be attributed.  With Chief Marketing Officer’s having to justify every $1 they invest in media in the market, they need to purchase accountable media.  Note, I am not saying in any way that creativity is going away, I’m purely saying that the container for programmatic media is completely accountable so this is a win-win for the ecosystem.

Lastly, I’m bullish on programmatic media because we’re going outside of media for the programmatic conversation. Uber, airbnb, eBay, Zurvu, and many other platforms are programmatic.  In some of the investment circles that I’m in, we’re discussing the businesses outside of advertising that are being transformed programmatically.  This, at least to me, is very exciting.


It’s Time for Next Generation Ad Servers

If you read this blog, you know I like to think about the advertising technology stack, in particular, ad servers.  One of my most trafficked posts was about the 87.5% Luma category:  Ad Servers.  We have been having various conversations with companies who are building technologies that resemble what I like to think are next-generation ad servers.

1984 Won’t Be Like 1984:  Tomorrow’s ad servers aren’t today’s ad servers.

Today’s ad servers are very similar to the original digital media ad serving systems.  Many, not all, have similar attributes to the following:

  1. They are 3rd party cookie-based ad serving solutions
  2. They serve, track (and sometime optimize) standard IAB ad units
  3. They are made for the traditional web browser
  4. Two out of the top 3* ad servers are owned by media companies (Google, Facebook)
  5. They are primarily used by ad operations teams

At Ventures, we get to meet with all different types of marketing and advertising technology companies.  That’s the only sector we invest in.

Over the past few years there has been lots of innovation around upcoming “ad servers” and I want to highlight what we might see adopted by the industry over the short to mid-term.  Note, my bias is from the buy-side (agency, marketer) but we have investments ‘in’ and appreciate the sell-side (publishers, technology companies).

Ad Servers Are Content Servers
As the media agency model adopts owned/earned (they traditionally handle “paid”), the need for serving and tracking content emerges.  The format of choice for traditional ad servers are banners but this will change and we see ad servers serving almost any sized unit.  From this paragraph forward in the post, I use the word Content Servers as the new ad server.

Content Servers Are Platform Agnostic
As we innovate across more technological platforms (tablets, mobile phones, desktop, wearable devices, etc), we need content servers that can serve regardless of the platform.  The server will understand which platform it has seen the user and will react accordingly with appropriate frequency and optimization.

Content Servers Go Beyond Basic Optimization
Many of today’s basic ad servers are rudimentary optimization.  We’re seeing the next generation content servers including dynamic creative optimization as well.  And beyond.  If we believe that “big data” drives performance (which we do), then the Content Server should be equipped for this.

Content Servers Plug into Trading Desk/DSP/Programmatic Direct
As agency trading desks become even more central to their businesses, we see the Content Server connecting thru API’s to become even more tightly integrated.  In some cases, we’ve seen some entrepreneurs creating a trading desk “serving system” which all of the agencies would use, regardless of programmatic or not, so that all the data resides in one central database.  This creates less friction around data transportation and potentially a better/larger dataset for optimization.

Cookies to Brownies
While there is no legislation at this point in the USA, we do anticipate that something is coming.  I don’t know anything more than the next person but we have to plan for a world where 3rd party cookies are legislated against.  We’re seeing different types of technologies being used but all are basically the creation of the Brownie (my evolution of the cookie).  If we are going to measure effectiveness for a marketer, we need a system that knows who the user is across devices.

Planning & Buying
In one system, you can plan and buy.  This is not new.  DART and MediaMind have basic tools. But we’re seeing the emergence of companies who are building workflow tools to create efficiencies for the agency and/or marketer.  This is beneficial in managing FTE’s and helping structure a planning process which exists in Excel today.

Beyond Last Click
The default setting for traditional ad servers is “last click” but we know where that got us… it got us to 60%+ of every dollar being digitally dominated by Google.  We need to go beyond the last click and look at total attribution of the campaign.  We are seeing the emergence of full stack attribution making their way into Content Servers.  And of course, better dashboards/visualizations that showcase performance of the campaign.

If you are interested in any of the above, you should check out companies such as:  AdZerk, TrueEffect, Yieldmo, NextMark, OneSpot, GoldSpot and BrandAds.  There are many more interesting companies but I picked these as a smattering of different spots in the ad stack.

I have not invested in any of these companies both personally or professionally at the time of writing this piece.

None of these companies have all of the above characteristics of the ultimate “content server” but are creating pieces of the value chain that could then go up or down the stack, depending on where they sit.

I still have open questions.

  • I don’t know how cross-platform authentication/log-in will benefit/hurt the ecosystem?  I hypothesize that the bigger players in this ecosystem will have a better chance at winning as they will understand who their users are across devices…and they naturally have more users.
  • In order for the next generation Content Servers to really take-hold based on this post, it’s more of a full-stack play than point solution.   Will agencies adopt a full tech stack versus a point solution?

* By top 3, I use the typical DART, MediaMind, Atlas.  They are top 3 in my mind.  Not by any specific list.  If you have data to show me the top ad servers, I’d love to see it.

#ADX Advertising Week’s 10th Anniversary

Each year, thousands of panels, keynotes, interviews, and talks are held in celebration of the advertising industry.  Thought leaders come together to discuss the future of the industry, the current state, the good, the bad and ugly.  The territories we cover have more or less stayed the same over the past ten years:  storytelling, the growth of digital, “the big idea” and talent.

There is a real fact to the territories now:  digital can disrupt and change everything.  And within advertising, digital is at $40B+ in 2013.

The conversations we used to have about the promises and vision for digital were great, but we never really had any dollars to substantiate with.

But it’s become real, fast.

A couple of bullets to keep in mind coming out of #ADX

  • Digital is going to make formerly unmeasurable channels… measurable.  Lean back channels will become lean forward channels.  Passive channels will become interactive channels.
  • Programmatic buying (and programmatic insights) will be at least 20% of agencies business within the next 5 years.  At The Media Kitchen, we’re close to 21% already.
  • Digital has created fragmentation and with that fragmentation, new channels and properties have emerged.  Those are forcing us to think in new ways and become much crisper storytellers.
  • There will be some form of monetization for the 6 and 15 second spot.  Get ready.
  • One of the biggest opportunities I see is being able to create content at the speed of social.  Traditional agencies are not built for this, neither is their P&L.  The industry needs to rethink their go-to-market here and learn from companies like Relevant24.
  • Could Google be the penultimate winner?
  • Ad tech is increasingly becoming a closed ecosystem, with the larger data repositories having the greatest potential for winning.
  • It’s time to retool the ad stack.

It was a fun week and gave us lots to think about for the next 365 days.


Rethinking the 30 Second Spot

When I joined the agency world, Joseph Jaffe had just come out with Life After The 30-Second Spot but I doubt Jaffe realized that the new spot, if digital media has its way, is 6 or 15 seconds.

I came across an article recently on NPR about how Vine conceived the 6 second spot and it’s pretty much what you would expect:

“One day we did wake up and say, six seconds,” Hofmann joked. Well, one day after many days of experimentation.

He and the other co-founders tried various lengths — 10 seconds, nine, five. And five seconds wasn’t long enough.

“It was actually too short,” he says. Six seconds allowed for the aesthetic feel the creators wanted but preserved the quickness they wanted to promise users. The limit allowed the average person to easily share and make a video on his smartphone.

With 15 seconds of video on Instagram and 6 seconds of video on Vine, it’s at least 50% less length than a traditional 30 second spot.  These shorter videos are a near-perfect snack for consumer generated content.  Anyone with a smartphone can create and upload a fun clip and syndicate it out to Twitter/Vine and Facebook/Instagram with ease… and instant audience attention.

After spending time with entrepreneurs who are building everything from video servers for social media to creative directors executing multi-screen video briefs from Fortune 500 clients, one question that I have been thinking about is whether brands at scale will really start creating professionally produced shorter form content?  If an Instagram video is [at max] 15 seconds, then a pre-roll* for the platform must be no longer than 10 seconds to make sense.  Imagine a 3 second pre-roll.  Can you storytell in 3 seconds?

You might not have a choice.

In advertising, dollars flow to where eyeballs go.  There’s a bit more to that but if eyeballs are heading to Twitter and Facebook at scale, which they are, then brands and their respective agencies need to understand how to leverage these platforms for communicating and interacting with their audiences.

Retooling the creative brief, process and craft to deliver more punch in less time is going to be completely necessary.  It’s going to be interesting to watch how Twitter interacts with brands and how much of the creative process they bring in-house versus relying on their ecosystem partners.

Anytime you are on the cutting edge of innovation, you need to offer services and support to your clients to onramp them to execute on the edge.  Twitter did this in the very beginning with celebrities, basically offering a VIP management team to help increase the Tweets coming from celebrity influencers.  Think of this as a form of managed services.

This next evolution of video in digital media is going to be really fascinating to participate in.  Will Costolo and Zuckerberg force the redefinition of the 30-second spot?


* Preroll:  I used preroll video as an example of how advertisers are surrounding video content online.  Very similar to a commercial on television.  I am not arguing that preroll is the most effective way of doing video advertising, but rather, using it because it’s the most scaled way of doing video advertising.

Intent Marketing

If you have been a regular reader of this blog then you know that I fairly frequently write about the use of “intent’ in marketing and advertising (see this post).  Google has shown us that harnessing intent will lead to good outcomes for advertisers.  When we initially started kbs+ Ventures, one of the investment thesis that we invested along was around finding additional intent online that could be used for marketers to drive measurable outcomes.  Taylor has a good post about intent here.

We continue to spend a lot of time thinking about intent at the agency.  While intent is generally harnessed at the lowest part of a purchase journey, there are plenty of pre-intent signals that pop up prior.  We frame the journey as follows:

Exploration -> Interest -> Intent -> Purchase

MediaPost was extremely kind to us by writing a piece this morning about a chart we put together to frame our thinking.  We use this chart internally at the agency to help people understand the current partners in the landscape and to present a framework for putting together media plans.   I welcome you to check it out and if you’re an entrepreneur who is focused on harvesting/creating intent, we’d love to chat with you.

10 Things You Should Do If You Are In Digital Media

Top 10 lists are all the rage.  Buzzfeed, Business Insider, and other sites use lists to attract audiences and provide some good snacking material.

I wrote this top 10 list for our agency.  Ten things you should be considering as a chef (what we call our strategists) of The Media Kitchen, when working in digital media.

These are in no particular order:

1.  Understand the impact of programmatic buying on the digital media industry.  A good way to start to understand where this is all going is to research Overture and GoTo and understand how Paid Search evolved.  A great resource is AdExchanger.  Programmatic buying isn’t just for remnant inventory.  I see a world where an entire media plan of all tiers of inventory are potentially bought programmatically across most major media channels.

2.   Analytics.  If you want to succeed in planning for digital media, don’t just think about it as purely a “paid media” channel.  You should immediately become familiar with Web Analytics which also covers much of Mobile Analytics.  A great primer is here.  Clients hire us to drive results and much of the results occur off of our creative assets: in our clients stores and their sites.  We must understand how to track all of this.

3.  Serving & Tracking.  In digital, we serve media and we track it using a 3rd party ad server.   Because of this, we can justify our spending and it’s how we’ve grown to a multi-tens of billions of dollars industry.  For us at The Media Kitchen, we use DART or MediaMind.  You should become fluent on how these systems work as they are fairly robust in their offerings.

4.  Content is Marketing and Marketing is Content.  We’ve grown up in digital with 300X250 ad units and 160X600 but increasingly so, digital marketing is not a banner and is more of a content unit.  We must understand how to deploy content units and measure the effectiveness of these new units.  This is sometimes called Native Advertising depending on the context of how it’s being used.  A good person to follow here is Jon Steinberg who provides lots of stats and examples of content marketing as he runs Buzzfeed.

5.  Mobile.  It goes without saying but the mobile device is increasingly prevalent.  Tablets and phones are everywhere and we must understand the opportunities and limitations of what we can and cannot do.  The secret ingredient to these devices are the “location” factor -> understanding location can have a profound impact for targeting.

6.  Cookies.  The FTC and government has come down hard on 3rd party cookies.  Keep your eyes out for articles about this subject as we’ll have to respond and react quickly to any legislation that occurs.  As an agency, we watch this closely and participate in many of the industry workgroups, but you should be aware of this in case your clients as you any questions.

7.  Early stage innovation.  If you are looking for cutting edge, you should check out early stage companies, also known as startups.  You can start here.  Working with startups is not easy as they aren’t at the same scale as most major technology companies but a successful campaign with a startup marketing technology could reap huge benefits for the client and the agency.  Our go-to-market at TMK is to harness innovation so you should not be a stranger at all to this world.  I do not want to be part of an agency that Steve Cheney talks about here.

8.  Read.  If there’s one thing that the digital media world is not, it’s shy.  Everyone likes to write.  MediaPost, AdAge, AdWeek, TechCrunch, Mashable, Digiday, Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet, Charlie O’Donnell, Paul Graham, Albert Wenger, Chris Fralic etc.  All of these sites are chock full of information about campaigns, technologies, vendors, solutions, strategies, early stage innovation, etc.  You should read at least 1-2 of these sites each morning you arrive and maybe one of the sites before you leave.  Subscribe to their RSS feeds or newsletters.  Get up to speed as much as you can with the whole industry, even if it’s another agency or another client.  The smarter we become, the better we all become.

9.  Be Open.  Sounds weird to include in this list, but it’s important.  Don’t be scared of early stage innovation.  Don’t shy away from quantitative measurement because you’re not a quant.  Lean in and be open to anything in digital.  The rate of change in digital media is so fast that you need to lean into things to fully understand what comes next.

10.  Ask Questions.  We’ve got a great support group here at the agency around digital media.  Email me directly.  Stop by my desk.  Talk to Andre.  We’re here to help, inspire, troubleshoot, etc.   Don’t be a stranger.

Two Titans Merging: Publicis & Omnicom

I work in the advertising industry and this post is my thoughts, not necessarily representative of my employer.

This past Friday, I learned from Bloomberg that Publicis and Omnicom were in plans to merge.  I am sure there will be plenty of reactions to this and I’m one of many who have written about it.  We await the details tomorrow morning but if this goes through, it has repercussions for the entire industry.

Someone much smarter than me shared this line earlier today:  History has proven that size and creativity tend to be inversely proportional, and that scale is the enemy of innovation.  He’s right and proven by our history laden with companies who have tried (AOL/Time Warner, BofA/Countrywide, Daimler-Benz/Chrysler, etc) and failed.

There is absolutely no doubt that having $25B worth of buying power is a good position to be in, but I have some questions:

1.  Is that $25B in the right place for the future of marketing and advertising?  Publicis/Omnicom just made it even harder to evolve for the future.  Turning a juggernaut out of solely a “paid” media agency world to a “paid/owned/earned” is something that’s not simple at all.  Having 25 billion reasons not to do it is tough.  But focusing on paid media only over the next decade is a total miss.

2.  Talent numbers:  Google and Facebook have proved that they can attract talent, but at a certain scale, it’s a different type of talent you need to attract.  I read somewhere that this combined group will be roughly 130,000 employees.  I’m pretty sure the most innovative people in our industry do not want to be employee #94,212.

3.  There will be conflicts:  I have to imagine that there are quite a few conflicts in this new combined entity regarding clients.  In our agency world, it’s hard to work for two clients in the same industry.  If Publicis/Omnicom is looking to unload a client, I’d be more than happy to talk to them.

The big opportunity for this new combined entity, that I see, is to roll out one of the largest biddable media trading desks that the industry has ever seen.  Why this is a big opportunity is because at $25B and 130,000 employees, you are essentially buying and selling pork bellies (there is nothing wrong with that).  If the goal of the merger was to lower media rates for your clients, then this was purely a commodity merger.  Setup the biggest technology enabled infrastructure which has already been started at AOD and Accuen and go-to-market with a real-time ecosystem for every one of the Publicis Omnicom Groupe agencies.  I think that’s exciting.

But for everyone else, including us, the world just opened up.  There will always be clients who want “global scale” and commodity based buys.  Thirty second spots are a necessary component for some clients.  CBS and NBC will be there to solve for this.  But where does the innovation come in?  As the majority of marketing becomes digital, not saying it’s a banner ad, but digitally delivered, a new communications construct is opened up and we’ll be communicating with consumers (and vice versa) in ways we’ve never thought or imagined, all enabled by technology.  I cannot imagine having a $25B legacy balance sheet will allow for the change that this new ecosystem will need.

I’m excited for what’s next.



New Twitter Analytics

I read last night that Twitter released their analytics to everyone on the platform.  Really smart move by them and the analytics look pretty sweet.  I have to imagine they will have a freemium version of analytics in the coming months but that is purely speculation.

I took a screenshot of what my follower chart looks like.  While this data is readily available thru other services, it looks pretty sweet thru Twitter and was impressed with their execution.

I especially like the list of “Your Followers Also Follow.”  For me, it’s Jon Steinberg (Buzzfeed), Michael Learmonth (AdAge) and Ben Lerer (Thrillist, Jack Threads, Lerer Ventures).  Not bad company.

The way you access this is thru the Twitter Ads function which is located under the Settings drop down.  Once under Settings (the little widget/gear), go to Twitter Ads then to Analytics.


Twitter Follower Chart

Thinking About the Full Advertising Operations Stack

If you have been reading this blog over time, you will have read previous posts where I talk about the growing “advertising operations” line item on media plans.   For those not familiar with “advertising operations,” we define it as non-working media that enables the plan to be executed, usually paying for technical infrastructure.  This includes but does not limit to ad servers, business intelligence dashboards, data management platforms, and the like.

Thanks to lots of the innovation in the advertising technology sector, this line item on the media plan is growing.  A couple cents to this vendor.  A couple of cents to that vendor.  A dime here, and a dime there.  While any one point in the ad tech stack is fairly inconsequential to the entire media plan, when you add up all the items, it could amount to material dollars.  The dollars you attribute to non-working media are dollars that are not working to distribute your message or communications to the audience you think would be most receptive (or even moreso these days, an audience who wants to hear from you).

Technology has been bought by Madison Avenue virtually two ways in the past three to four decades.  It’s been purchased thru licenses and seats for many backoffice tasks such as billing (big winner here is Mediabank/MediaOcean, etc) and for front of house tasks such as access to research (Nielsen, SRDI, etc), ad serving and light analytics (Doubleclick, DG MediaMind, Facebook Atlas, Adobe Omniture, etc).  Much of this technology equates to 8-15% of a media plan, which if a marketer is investing $100MM in media, $8-15MM of that goes to fund the famous Lumascape.  Per a recent article about digital ad spending on AdExchanger, GroupM expects that Internet ad spending will reach $113.5B, which is about $9-$17B for infrastructure/advertising operations (per my calculations).

The question I’ve been asking many folks in our industry – both on the sell and buy side, is whether point solutions will win-out or full stacks will win-out?

I believe that the cost of a point-solution derived stack will prohibit them and over time, full advertising operations stacks will win out.  Not a fantastic analogy but when I buy a car, I go to Tesla to purchase a car, I don’t tend to build my own car from scratch and purchase each piece from a different vendor.  Economies of scale happen with a total stack from one vendor.  If this is the case, look for roll-ups by larger players like IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Marketo and others.  These folks will look to strengthen their marketing offering with the acquisitions of point solutions.