Archive for September, 2007

I’ve never thought much about how many internet companies have had to go to senate or congresional hearings to defend Doubleclick + Google = DoubleGoothe basic principles of the way we do business – championing our ability to progress marketing without violating consumer privacy or creating unfair business practices. Albeit some walk a fine line, the vast majority of digital marketing efforts do not infringe on either.

In fact, the agency I founded, Mass Transit Interactive, was Doubleclick’s interactive agency back in what we like to refer to as the “hey day” (some like to refer to the hey day as “before the early dot com bubble burst”, but I digress). I don’t know how many times I was asked “Don’t you compete with Doubleclick?”. “No” (and duh!), I never understood how seemingly smart people misunderstood Doubleclick’s positioning in the industry. When Doubleclick acquired Abacus (for around $1 billion), they became the first entity to append and merge on and offline consumer profiles and other data. We executed significant campaigns to build what was one of the largest online consumer databases at the time. A lot of money was invested before pressures from consumer privacy and advocacy groups shut down the programs. The practice is fairly common nowadays, but back then Doubleclick’s effort became a martyr for the cause. I remember the full page WSJ ads apologizing to the business community and promising not to do anything with the acquired data until the industry was ready for it.

The harmless approach took some time for society to accept, but there was a fairly long learning curve and evangelical education process.

 So now there is a new education process that is responsible for the delay of the approval of the Doubleclick / Google deal. To throw salt on wounds, Microsoft is lobbying against the acquisition due to the claims that the deal may stifle competition. Well…isn’t that the ‘software giant who lost the biggest anti-competition case of our lifetimes and just acquired the second largest ad server next to Doubleclick’s’ calling the ‘market-share eroding, directly competitive new media company acquiring the largest ad sever in the market’ stifling.

Granted, I see the possible concerns. But there are a handful of major powerhouse media companies in the market – Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo are the “big 4”. They are competing for reach and consumer engagement, as well as technological advances in targeting, and process automation in order to maximize the monetization of each product. Since search marketing accounts for roughly 40% of all online media spending, it is no wonder that the big 4 are the top players.

Microsoft acquired aQuantive, which puts ownership of Atlas, Doubleclick’s main competitor in the hands of one of the big 4, it seems appropriate that the Doubleclick acquisition go through. There is absolutely nothing stifling about it. In fact, just the opposite. In theory, the new scale of consumer reach, data and targeting abilities, combined with providing streamlined reporting to agencies, can be a major benefit to advertisers and consumers alike. Similarly, AOL’s recent purchase  of Tacoda, the largest behavioral targeting network, and rebranding of Platform A, also applies a techinlogical advanement that can benefit both advertisers and consumers.

On a parting note – I took a few minutes to check out the members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights – of course I used Google to do so. Thankfully it seems like a well balanced mix of members. I don’t mean to sound agist, but convincing some of the older-school members of these committees about the competitive nature of this complex marketing and consumer ecosystem seems like an education process that may take a while. I hope I’m wrong on that one. Either way it seems like DoubleGoo is alive and kicking in spirit, even if not officially approved yet.

Advertisements

In an ongoing shift of models that seems to be a moving target (a healthy indication of progress), MSN announced a shift of Digital Videopre-roll delivery based on time spent viewing content, versus running pre-rolls with each piece of video content. The press release states that “New version makes it easier to find, discover and share videos with fewer interruptions.”

Rob Bennett, general manager, entertainment, video and sports for MSN. describes the shift as “increasing the discoverability of our deep catalog…” – in other words, publishers are finally realizing that pre-rolls are not the ideal format that the industry once thought and are merely a surrogate for what is to come. Pre-rolls are innately non-engaging, not entirely accountable and interuptive, not to mention fairly expensive – it’s a traditional media experience, wrapped in a browser, shrouded in untapped potential.

NBC also made a major change earlier this year by shifting the format of video ads for all short form content to :15 or less, based on feedback from consumers and the industry.

 Just weeks ago YouTube opened up the largest inventory of video advertising on the web with an odd choice of format, the overlay, to mixed reviews from the industry. At least they decided to forgo the pre-roll.

Rumor has it that Yahoo is beta testing video ads units that are clickable into a deeper experience. I’m really eager to see a demo! Now that’s what I’m talking about – becoming part of and improving the experience, not marketing on top of or around it.

Ahhh – evolution.

Advertising Week has officially kicked off in New York City. Advertising Week

Media Post Publications is hosting the popular OMMA, a two day event (Mon & Tues.)culminating in the OMMA awards ceremony for the best online ad campaigns of the year on Tuesday evening. Simultaneously, the IAB’s MIXX conference is also going on Monday & Tuesday. If I only had a clone…

 I will be moderating the following panel at OMMA:

The Future of Behavioral Targeting Starts With the Limitations of the Present
This panel will address the current scale, metrics, revenue/cost implications and effectiveness of Behavioral Targeting from both an advertiser and publisher point of view. Representative stake holders from the agency side, publishers, and networks will address current limitations of BT, and a representative from the technology side will speak to where it’s headed based on the key learnings and limitations of today’s marketplace.

Panelists: Jason Heller, Laredo Group (moderator), Dave Morgan, Tacoda, Greg Smith, Echo Target, Jack Smith, 24/7, Joseph Weaver, Media Storm 

There are plenty of events and conferences going on all week. They range from traditional to digital and emerging media, and from formal conference tracks to hip and extravagant parties. If you’re in NYC and not attending at least a few of the Advertising Week functions, you’re missing out on the industry coming together to share and learn about the forces driving the dynamics of marketing today.

See you at OMMA!

 AddThis.com

I’ve been intrigued by the entire social bookmarking phenomenon for some time. As a veteran in the interactive media industry I’m extremely observant of the evolution of every nook and cranny of “website real estate culture”. It’s my job to be in the know.

Enter social bookmarks. Sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Newsvine, Furl and Reddit are among the most popular. Even Technorati, and Facebook are among the popular brands that are tangentially in the social bookmark space.

Last year someone coined an appropriate term for the increasingly cluttered space at the bottom of articles, news pages or blog postings where we have been jamming our social bookmark icons- Iconistan

Competition for real estate in Iconistan is fierce, with new popular brands popping up all the time. The real estate in Iconistan became so cluttered this year that aggregator AddThis.com, has picked up significant steam by streamlining the process. The tool both relegates Iconistan to a nice compact area and simultaneously offers an expansive number of social bookmark options beyond just the top handful.

Why is Iconistan important to digital marketers?

Because it facilitates the distribution of content and increases exposure of brands accordingly. Social bookmarks are part of the web2.0 revolution. With an emphasis on “collective experience”, it allows society access to information and entertainment deemed popular by their peers, not by the most popular media, editors and professional journalists. When you dig into the mathematics of social media growth patterns, the incredible potential for the exponential increase in nodes (consumers – content- place), has really just begun.

For content providers, social media is a facilitator for mass targeted distribution based on relevancy and merit. So be warned – give the people what they want. Social bookmarks and Iconistan are in part defining our fragmented pop culture.

 Amazon Widgets

Congratulations again widget! – in a mere matter of months you went from a buzzword to a tipping point. As I wrote the other week in “Widget Me This: A Buzzword in Perspective”,widgets may be a major buzzword in the current digital marketing lexicon, however the term achieved that status based on merit. The web experience is evolving as we enter a more interoperable and platform agnostic era. Content and experiences becoming portable databased assets with easy connections to any platform or channel will create another major shift in media consumption, and with it will come a world of new marketing and advertising opportunities.

Amazon just announced its official entry into widget-world this week. Of course, Amazon has offered API’s to developers for several years now, but never had offered widgets in such a manner. I think the angle is pretty slick. The original king of the affiliate program, rolled out these widgets for its affiliates.

Some of the widgets are quite clever ways of extending Amazon’s product catalog and opportunity for relevant placement. An example of one of the more clever ideas is the Slide-show Widget, which “Makes elegant slide-show widgets out of images chosen from products across the entire Amazon catalog – CD cover art, DVD’s, books, anything!” They also have rolled out widgets that add contextual links inside blog or site content. Amazon is a big enough player in the ecommerce world to incite a bandwagon…

…and why not?

Like I’ve mentioned before, buzzwords are like folklore, they almost always have some firm root in reality. The trend of increasing demand for and supply of digital content mobility and the interoperability of platforms or systems is driving a lot of innovation and providing consumers with better experiences and features than ever before. I can appreciate this as a consumer as much as I can as a marketer. Welcome to the brave new web.

Mediapost reported this week that Google Gadgets are officially being integrated into the Ad Words program. This is truly big news. Google now is combining the power and breadth of their massive market place of publishers and consumers , with an incredibly engaging and flexible platform.

The concept of digital media portability, which i rant about regularly is approaching a tipping point, or maybe it’s there already. Content and utility are becoming more portable, and the ability to give consumers the experiences they want, and some they didn’t realize they wanted, on-demand, anywhere, any platform –  is going to spawn another spurt of growth for digital media and marketing consumption in the near future. I’m psyched! This is great news!

The interesting part for me personally, is that I am equally excited about these developments as a consumer, not just as a marketing strategist.

[Marketing hat back on] Google is definitely continuing to make moves that enhance its label as a “frienemy” among agencies and publishers. However, with the future integration of Doubleclick, I look forward to the day when all of the reporting for SEM, rich media, and widget-like marketing, will be streamlined in DART, using the same cookies, and output in a unified reports.

In the spirit of Facebook opening up their back end to developers, and Yahoo following suit, Google (in pure Google fashion) is one-upping the rest of the industry by going one step further and actually providing funding to start ups to help develop revenue generating widgets for the Gadgets product.

The big Hollywood talent agencies have their sights set on the web. The revolution has quietly begun…

Earlier this year, one of the top of the bunch, United Talent Agency, launched 60 Frames, a new company focusing on “giving established Hollywood writers, directors, actors and producers the opportunity to create daring, original entertainment programming for today’s web-savvy audiences”. 

The trend is clear. Consumers want video and experiential content online, and they are going to get it.

Case and point – In July, the simulcast of the Live Earth concert on MSN set a new streaming record by delivering the event to over 9 million people. Or…YouTube, Revver, and the sleugh of other video sites. Need I say more? We all know it.

The New York Times reports today that “Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick — who have made films like “Blood Diamond” and “The Last Samurai” and whose ABC series “Thirtysomething” helped to define television drama in the 1980s — have made a deal with MySpace, the online social network owned by the News Corporation, to produce an original Web series called “Quarterlife.” Mr. Herskovitz described “Quarterlife” as a regular television series, made by network-caliber writers, directors and production crews. ” The series premieres on November 11th.

I think the web is finally coming of age for professionally produced, high quality entertainment that has only come in dribs and drabs over the last couple of years. From a marketer’s perspective – the more compelling content that draws consumers in and gives us the ability to engage with them in such an interactive medium, the more opportunity to deepen the impact of our marketing, create efficiency by refining targeting, and to generate insights and enable optimization based on increased accountability through tracking data.

Today you can already watch YouTube videos and shows purchased on iTunes on your Apple TV . What we as an industry once referred to as “convergence” is happening. Maybe not in the ways in which we originally predicted, but it is happening. Expect to see more “made for web” big budget entertainment on any screen near you…