Your Eyeballs Are Money

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter were assembled on a panel to discuss advertising. The participants expressed some common views on the industry but also some sharp philosophical differences emerged.

Neal Mohan of Google stressed that for advertising they are trying to embrace context, for example mobile vs. desktop and lean forward vs. lean back settings. He also highlighted that measurement represents one of the biggest unsolved problems in the landscape today. It’s critical to be able to measure the efficacy of digital ads in terms of driving sales. Google is currently investing a lot in solving this problem.

Gokul Rajaram from Facebook agreed that context was important, and pointed out that Facebook has been focusing heavily on creating an optimized mobile experience. In fact, a full 23% of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile at this stage. The guiding philosophy behind the recently-launched Facebook Home was to put your friends at the center of your mobile experience rather than your apps. It was key, he indicated, that advertising not be interruptive, but that it fit into the flow of the natural way people are using an application.

Kevin Weil of Twitter discussed how the site is “a bridge, not an island”, insomuch as it drives action from sponsored content out into the world. He described the platform as the social soundtrack to TV, pointing out that 95% of social commentary about TV is on Twitter. He feels the two platforms thus make each other stronger for advertisers. Mr. Weil also pointed out that no one typically screenshots a banner ad and shares it, the way people actively retweet promoted tweets within their Twitter feeds.

A difference of opinion emerged into how to credit different digital marketing tools for effectiveness measuring purposes. Facebook’s point of view is that the last click before purchase doesn’t necessarily deserve all of the credit; they feel that brand-building interactions (e.g. Likes, Suggested Posts) play a more important role in driving purchase than conventional wisdom would currently say. Meanwhile Twitter feels as though engagement with Tweets and links therein that drive to purchase are critical, and the “last click” before purchase deservedly gets the lion’s share of attention.

Twitter Opens Ad-Buying To All U.S. Users

Twitter took a big step forward last March with its self-service ad platform that was designed for personal branding and social media marketing. And a year later, after much feedback, Twitter is ending its invite-only service and opening ad-buying up to all U.S. users. This means that anybody can now sign up and buy promoted Tweets of their own, with all the same sorts of analytics and marketing tools provided that the big advertisers and campaigns get with their promoted tweets. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see more ads on the social media service per se, but you might start to see some more unexpected promoted tweets pop up as users begin to experiment with the ad-buying service for their own individual projects. 

Exponential Interactive Focuses on Baseball Fans

Ad intelligence group Exponential Interactive released the details of a study conducted in the month leading up to Major League Baseball’s opening day, revealing peculiarities of the fans of various teams in the process.  As it turns out: Yankees fans prefer rap; Mets fans prefer metal.  The details revealed stretched far and wide: Cleveland Indians fans are most likely to own a cat, Cubs fans are the most likely to own motorcycles, the Mets have the most female fans.  Internet activity was combined with outside data sets from Datalogix and others.  The title of “fan” was bestowed only on dedicated users who checked a specific team multiple times, and who lived in that team’s city or state.  The result was an interesting look at baseball fans and their respective locales which could prove useful for marketers in a number of fields as baseball season progresses through the summer.

Turn Report Shows Declines in Mobile, Social; Growth In Video, Display

Advertising company Turn has reported that in Q1 of 2013 the average CPM for video and display ads grew 6 and 15 percent, respectively, while mobile and social ads each saw average CPM declines of 45 and 20 percent, respectively.  The decline in mobile ad prices has been attributed to concerns over a lack of standards for anonymous tracking.  Social ads remain immensely popular with their low price and detailed targeting options, but the growth in display and video ads shows a desire among advertisers to continue to use big canvas formats.  The report also made reference to a highly desirable, young demographic called “the digital elite,” which is drawing up to 85% greater CPMs due to its social nature, strong internet presence, and large amounts of disposable income.

The Future Of TV Starts With A Name Change

There comes a time where naming conventions seem to hold back progress.

If we still called music “cassettes” it would be hard to imagine the effect this would have had on the way products like iTunes or services like Spotify would have been developed and marketed.

It strikes me that the future of TV , in terms of how content is searched for, found and viewed and how TV advertising manifests, is being hampered by the concept of TV and it’s antiquated name.

TV’s used to be large boxes in the home that you watched TV shows on, that were broadcast by TV companies on TV Channels.

Especially in the UK and Europe, you were quite likely to sit down at watch Channel Number X for the evening.

Increasingly these separate TV based units are becoming meaningless, the notion of a TV channel seems rather strange, even the idea of a “show” made for TV seems a little odd in an era of long and short form content on Vimeo, Youtube, News Websites etc.

A new name is required and with it a new way of thinking.
Much like we used to talk about records then cassettes, then CD’s and then MP3’s, each with their own cassette player, discman etc, we now just talk about music.
We now need to think not about DVD’s and TV Channels and Set top boxes, but about what it is Video.

Our TV’s are on the edge of being nothing to do with TV. They are merely large screen through which to play video.

We no longer sit down and “tune in” to see what is “on”, increasingly we sit down and think about specific content we watch. Smart TV’s like Samsung with their S- Recommendation engines now surface content based on our behavior and regardless of the format of content and the pipeline that brought it. Your thirst for soccer could be quenched by Live Soccer on Fox Soccer, a match on your DVR, an iTunes hosted video of the top goals ever, or highlights for free on Youtube.

Thinking of the TV as large screen for video allows the imagination to rethink other aspects. As an agency that seeks to serve the needs of brands, why are we now bound by the limitations and expense ofTV advertising.

TV Advertising can be done more accurately.
Digital TV’s can record data about your behavior and can work at an individual level, you now no longer need to buy a show, you can buy a individual house at a specific moment in time.

TV Advertising can be linked to an action.
You are now showing video to people on a large connected screen. Opportunities to buy products featured in shows will soon become common, as will click to find out more, or click to enter competitions

TV Advertising can be done more creatively.
With targeting down to a household ads can be served sequentially to build a narrative and ads can now be based on real time context or other data to make ads richer. They could pull in your feeds from you social graph, show what your friends think of the products etc.

TV Advertising can be done more measurably.
Any action based creative can be used to measure response in real time, thus providing ways for advertisers to test creative.

Even more than this advertising can now be served more quickly and much more cheaply/

So my only question remains, with this new world of the large screen and richer ad experiences, what does the TV’s new name become?Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.30.58 PM

VineTune Lets You Rock Out 6 Seconds at a Time

We learned earlier this year that 6 seconds of video can make quite a statement, and since the launch of Vine, marketers have been excited about the platform’s possibilities.  Designers at London ad agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay launched a creative use of the service called VineTune that crowd sources Vine videos based on specific set of hash tags pulled from the lyrics of a song selected by the VineTune team and uses them to cobble together a music video.  All of this is done with a slick visual design.  Certainly advertisers will take notice and follow suit with more creative uses for the Vine platform.

Facebook Amps Up Targeting With Acxiom and Others

Thanks to recently announced partnerships between Facebook and data providers Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon, marketers now have a greater degree of control than ever before when targeting their advertisements.  These companies have compiled audience segments ready to be layered on top of the Facebook information-based targeting already available.  These segments give marketers the ability to target based on the sites someone visits outside of Facebook, loyalty program memberships, household size, and more than 500 other criteria.  With a billion-plus audience, Facebook has been attractive to marketers looking for broad spectrum coverage, and with these new additions, extremely detailed targeting is now a reality.

Mobile advertising – turning the dream into a reality.

Since about 2005, every year has been the year when mobile advertising was going to explode.

In 2013 it’s expected Mobile Ad revenue will top $11.4bn after growing 20% in the last year, so it’s pretty safe to say we now live in a world where Mobile advertising has arrived and predictions now show over the next 5 years mobile ad revenue will rise faster than any other media.

While this sounds hugely impressive, by two key measurements Mobile advertising is failing to live up to expectations.

1) The revenues are not keeping pace with the time spent on the media, we now spend 4.5% percent of our time on mobile, but yet only 1.7% of ad spend is on the channel, and this gap is rising as smartphones become ever more popular and ever more used.

2) The value of mobile ads are still low, a typical CPM of $1.31, about 1/3rd of other digital ads and around 1/20th of TV.

What’s more the ability to monetize mobile traffic has never been greater, it’s the largest challenge facing some of the most important companies of our time, be it Facebook, Twitter or any content provider without a paywall.

But what most disappoints me is the very unambitious and extremely uncreative way that people have looked at mobile as advertising platform, it reminds me of how most digital ads have completely failed to make the most of the unique opportunities the channel has to connect with people in incredible ways.

Allow me to follow a brief journey through the history of digital advertising:

Digital ads first appeared around 1994 with the world’s first pop up ad and some banner ads. While this may have been an entirely new media channel, the thinking was basically taking existing print ads like loose leaf ads and newspaper ads, and simply finding digital equivalents.

Around ten years later with much faster internet access speeds allowed video to be streamed and as a result people took 30 second TV ads, chopped them down to 15 seconds and the world of pre-roll ads was born.

It strikes me that this timeline shows how incredibly poor innovation in the space has been, while we may see page dominant ads, or expandable banners, or MPU units, basically the entire world of digital advertising, a new paradigm of targeting, connectivity, measurement, real time, personalized content, and what we got was traditional ads repurposed.

Mobile seems no different.
Whether it was using SMS as a way to clumsily impart basic information or the decision that the mobile internet should be turned into screen real estate in exactly the same way that we approached physical newspapers, the quality , functionality and ambition has remained low.

What I don’t get has been the way that we’ve approached both digital and especially mobile as a screen. Just simply space to take up and put in front of eyeballs.
mobile ads
Our mobiles are far more than screens, they are our diary’s, our address books, our things to do lists, our maps, our photo albums, our location beacons, our coupon collectors and more, in many peoples cases they are their wallets.

The opportunities for mobile marketing are incredible, but it won’t come from thinking of the mobile as a small screen we take everywhere, but as a device that can remind us to do things, tell us where things are, keep our shopping lists, and so on.

And as our phones start to understand more about how we behave and where we are, the opportunities for mobiles to start predicting our behavior and make suggestions to us at the right time and the right place, will soon make advertising as a service the true moment where Mobile advertising really has arrived.

More on predictive computing and the true value of mobile advertising later.

Drawbridge and TRUSTe Let Consumers Opt Out Of Targeting

In a twist from the current digital status quo, Mobile ad startup Drawbridge offers users technology to help identify when multiple devices are being used by one person – an advantageous statistic for advertisers – but is also partnering with TRUSTe so that people who see multiple-device, Drawbridge-served ads can opt out of the targeting if they so choose. Though we’ve seen TRUSTe before, this is the first time that, in working with a partner, users can opt out of data collection on mobile and multiple devices. Described as a conservative approach to privacy management, users can click on an AdChoices icon that will allow users to avoid any interest-based ad targeting from Drawbridge or any other TRUSTe partners. The multi-device, ad targeting space is rapidly evolving, and both companies hope that this is one way to maintain the consumers’ trust during this time of transition. 

Tablets Beat Smartphones In Ad Clicks

As the tablet industry expands, so too has tablet advertising. Indeed, Mobile ad-buying platform Adfonic found that tablets’ share of mobile ads increased from 9% in Q2 2012 to 14% by the end of Q4. Noting this surge in market share, Adfonic examined the performance of tablets vs smartphones, and found that branding campaigns garnered 250% higher clickthrough rates on tablets vs smartphones. Even direct response campaigns performed better, but without as high a margin. However, the legal and automotive industries got fewer clicks on tablets, but the worst performers on tablets were goods and retail. One explanation for these numbers is that consumers artificially bump numbers up on new mediums, and that that’s what we’re experiencing at the moment. More time and data will be needed to solidify these extrapolations, but for the moment tablets are a genuine advertising force to be reckoned with.