Data

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Mobile Experts Weigh In at CES

 
Excitement around the mobile web was palpable at 2012 International CES. While consumer electronics hardware and product launches dominate headlines, CES has quietly become a must-attend event for digital media and marketing professionals, many of whom were in attendance this year for the first time.
 
With dozens of sessions on mobile content and marketing at Digital Hollywood and other CES conference tracks, the Las Vegas Convention Center was abuzz with discussions about delivering quality mobile experiences to consumers while efficiently capitalizing on the channel for marketers.
 
What follows is a summary of insights from some of the best minds in mobile content and marketing who appeared on panels I attended throughout CES.
 
“Mobile technology is enabling an important and disruptive transition in content distribution, and interactivity, as content becomes aware of users and consumers have a greater ability to interact on multiple devices and from any location,” said Jeff Demian, research strategy and business development director at Intel Labs.
 
Creating contiguous experiences and measuring behavior were recurring themes throughout the week, as marketers prepare for the onslaught of a multi-screen universe and the need to create compelling, tightly integrated content while catering to the unique characteristics of each platform and device.
 

Content and Revenue

 
Saul Berman, global strategy and change leader at IBM spoke about the consumer experience needing to be additive, and in so doing, how it forces the “devaluation and revaluation of content.” In other words, changes in distribution and payment models may result in less revenue per eyeball in the short-term, but leveraged across an entire publishing enterprise, can become an even more valuable asset over time.
 
Murray Solomon, vice president, digital business development at Time Inc. validated Berman’s assertion, saying early indicators suggest its all-access model of providing both print and digital versions of its 21 publications at a single subscription price is paying off. Bryan Moffett, vice president, digital strategy and sponsorship operations at National Public Media noted how more than 100 million streams of PBS Kids content on the iPad didn’t cannibalize its web streams, and that with ten to 20 percent click-through rates on the iPad, digital is “leading the conversation and resulting in big radio sales.”
 
Daniel Tibbets, vice president, digital media, Bunim/Murray Productions, says it’s the quality of content that matters most. “Product decisions need to be made on the basis of what consumers want, and their needs to be treated in a way that is unique to each platform.”

Mobile Advertising

Although today’s banner ad paradigm is understandable, display on mobile won’t be effective for long, as consumers demand a deeper experience. Andrew Maltin, CEO of mobile development studio MEDL Mobile, says “the most engaging apps are technologically advanced and highly interactive.” Cameron Fiedlander, vice president and director of creative technology at Designkitchen/WPP Group notes “we’re seeing mobile formats evolve into deeper, more socially-driven experiences, making mobile display much less relevant.”
 
Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile at eBay, points out that “consumers will dismiss ads altogether if they get in the way of their intent to do something else.” The solution is to have better contextual and geo-fencing capabilities. According to Time, Inc.’s Solomon, “there is no reason why an immersive advertising experience with applications is not also possible in the same way which ads are viewed as valuable content to magazine readers.”
 

Context Matters

 
While the need to create a great product is always implied, context may be even more important in mobile.
 
“If content is king, then context is queen,” says Ashley Swartz, senior vice president marketing at Digitas. “Mobility gives content creators the ability to know more about their audience, and to include the audience in unique ways that before now were not possible.”
 
Consumers want to pick up the experience where they left off on different devices, and marketers need to be ready to accept them at those nonlinear entry points, while at the same time moving them through a story line or a funnel that ultimately results in some desired action.
 
Lori Schwartz, chief technology catalyst, North America at McCann Erickson says the near future is going to be all about “long-tail narrowcasting and less about broadcasting. “If you can build a community of uber-influencers down that funnel, it’s possible to create micro-franchises around brands.”
 

The Year of Big Data

 
Notwithstanding a slew of legal and regulatory concerns, also on the minds of mobile marketers is the use of real-time data and how it can be used to create relevant brand experiences. While panelists were quick to coin phrases like “the year of big data” and “data is the new creative,” few specific solutions were offered.
 
On the contrary, caution was urged when considering integration of social graph data into applications. Schwartz suggests pulling data from social media APIs into a custom solution a brand can control for its own brand experiences, rather than integrating in ways that could leave brands vulnerable to the decisions of social media platforms in the long run.
 
Martez Moore, executive vice president, digital media at BET Networks, says media and brands “need to be very thoughtful about how to integrate third party data that could potentially cannibalize their CPMs were providers to leverage that data too.” Instead, Martez says BET uses social to market, promote and engage traffic, which results in the ability to sell ads at a premium around shows like 106 & Park.
 

Production Trends

 
From the production standpoint, the industry is embracing HTML5 as a baseline when developing across platforms, but recognizes there are still gaps in functionality that must be addressed. In the meantime, hybrid approaches are emerging and native apps for iOS and Android are still best when it comes to creating feature rich experiences. While some, like eBay, still develop for Blackberry, Sol Lipman, senior director, mobile at AOL says the BlackBerry PlayBook has “fallen off a cliff statistically for AOL.”
 
On the issue of whether to develop on multiple platforms concurrently, Lindsey Turrentine, editor in chief, CNET Reviews, points out “these are difficult choices and you have to be very smart about how to proceed. We started with iOS Native hybrid HTML5 approach.”
 
Swartz suggests building with an eye toward reach and ubiquity, but to do so with a dose of pragmatism. “It’s expensive to develop and promote an app in a world where 60 percent will open it once and never go back, and where app discovery is still an issue for lesser known brands.”
 
Strong distinctions are also being drawn between developing for mobile phones and tablets, with several describing the iPad as the more engaging experience. Chrisophe Gillet, product manager at Fanhattan, describes mobile as “a start and stop experience,” where users get the information they need and then put their device away,” whereas tablets “have become more of a companion device due to their more comfortable form factor.”
 
Mandar Shinde, director, mobile monetization at AOL also sees tablet co-browsing as a big phenomenon, citing 50 percent more browsing traffic in the evenings, presumably while consumers are also watching television. The complexity and lack of tools for accurately tracking the integrated viewer behavior across devices was also raised as an issue yet to be resolved.
 

Growth Through Collaboration

 
Top of mind for agency executives has been improved collaboration and breaking down silos that prevent marketers from achieving their goals and giving consumers the best of what the medium has to offer. “We’ve been living in the construct of television versus digital for too long,” says Schwarz. It would be a mistake to cannibalize television for digital. We need to look at it more holistically.”
 
So how do we do we get there? Alexandre Mars, CEO, Phonevalley and head of mobile at Publicis Group suggests all of the agency stakeholders – creative, digital, media and mobile – need to be part of the conversation. Only then will everyone get the budgets required to achieve the goals of marketers and to create more powerful experiences for marketers.
 
Yahav Isak senior vice president, project management at Digitas Health, says “everything is digital — it’s really more about understanding the different channels of digital marketing and how they can best be integrated.”
 
According to Tibbets, “the only thing we are limited by is bandwidth and our imagination to create amazing immersive experiences.”
 

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Fixing Advertising Los Angeles | July 2010

CaptureRarely does a panel discussion achieve an optimal mix of education, entertainment and controversy the way the Fixing Advertising session did on Monday night in Los Angeles. The education series, sponsored by Dapper, has now made its way to every major U.S. media market in an effort to not only make sense of the fragmented display advertising landscape, but to actually do something about it. Bravo!

Credit for the effective cadence and tone of the session goes to Pete Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds, who clearly being qualified to serve on the panel himself had the audience on the edge of their seats just by knowing just when to dial up and down the intensity. He began by asking the audience what level of discussion they wanted to hear, which was promptly met with shouts of “deep dive” and “hard core!” And the panel did not disappoint. 

So what is being done to “fix” advertising? Kim began the conversation by asking the panel to articulate what’s broken — and everyone had an opinion about given the theme of the evening. 

According to Zack Coelius of Triggit, advertising is broken because it’s fragmented. It’s broken when it costs 20 to 30 percent of the media budget just to plan, buy and manage the process, especially when you don’t know where your ads are going and when you don’t have control over the buy.

Frank Adante of Rubicon echoed his sentiment from the publisher perspective, explaining how the sell side is fragmented too. Finding the money is difficult, he says, when an estimated two million advertisers are buying from one thousand sources and at least 500 sales teams worldwide. Not to mention the difficulties presented by multiple billing, collections, reporting systems. The solution, he suggests, is a central platform for selling and the  need for automation.

According to Jon Aizen of Dapper, people enjoy the web and get great value, but they don’t like display ads, which cover 10-20% of the visual real estate. After all, banners haven’t changed much since 1994. Advertisers actually have sometthing people want, but the advertising isn’t reflective of their offering, which Dapper hopes to change by matching visitors to relevant content.

Amy Lehman of United Online made a compelling case for how expensive it is to manage campaign reporting, metrics and attribution and how insane it is that we have not dealt with this as an industry already. Furthermore, she said, the industry is “beyond commodotized” and we make enable fragmentation which only makes it harder on ourselves. Ultimately, according to Lehman, most facets of the fragmented ecosystem (analytics, rich media, creative optimization, ad verification, etc.) belong resident in the ad server. 

As automation of these processes takes hold, will jobs actually be eliminated? Probably not, since machines can’t do creative or strategy, but more junior level roles centered around manually running reports and  managing pivot tables may evaborate, or at least their jobs will change, as the industry continues its rapid trend toward automation. According to Adante, automation is partly the cause of the fragmentation, referencing how a huge SEM/SEO services industry was built upon the backs of the major search engines.

Jon Aizen spoke about page saturation, consumer immunity (banner blindness). Unlike how a half page ad in print is half the cost of a full page, more ads on the page online are sold at the same rate, thus creating banner blindness. In Aizen’s view, sometimes it is more prudent to know when not to serve an ad. He also claims display units are too small and not intrusive enough. After all, when was the last time a banner ad made you laugh or cry?

The days of arbitrage models where middlemen add no value are over. If Terrence Kawaja’s now infamous GCA Savvian fragmentation slide is an indicator of some future consolidation, the Kim asks “by whom?” According to Coelius, “it’s going to be a going out of business process, not a buying process.” For those vendors who help to add insight and extract real value for advertisers, however, the outcome may certainly be acquisition by those larger media players and agencies who must continue acquiring such technology to compete long term.

Partly justifying the need for so much data and analytics is how much more multi-dimensional and dynamic display is compared to search. The mere fact that campaigns are distributed among thousands of sites in and of itself is complex. Then add in the critical creative component, which according to Michael Baker, a recent DataXu study found was the single most important factor in driving conversions, followed by consumer and context.

Being hosted at The Rubicon Project, Adante diligently represented the voice of publishers, whose role in all of this cannot be overlooked. According to some, a publisher backlash related to how networks use their data is looming, but there shouldn’t be any at all if publishers are simply paid for each impression based on what it is worth to the advertiser, which is what DSPs and sophisticated ad networks are set up to do.

Best quotes of the evening:

“We’re trying to kill online advertising and replace it with content.” – Jon Aizen

“Arbitrage just needs to die.” –  Zach Coelius

 “These little buy and sell side technologies are like plaque in the teeth of Google.” – Michael Baker

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From left to right: Amy Lehman, SVP Advertising, United Online; Zach Coelius, Founder & CEO, Triggit; Frank Addante, Founder & CEO, The Rubicon Project; Jon Aizen, COO & Co-Founder, Dapper; Peter Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds; Michael Baker, CEO, DataXu, James Beriker, CEO, Dapper.

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