Archive for September, 2008

Go ahead, scan it!

The short answer – I sure hope so! We need a universal standard and although it does not exist yet, ScanBuy  seems to have the leg up on creating a global standard. They currently read both their proprietary code format as well as other QR codes. This doesn’t mean that they will monopolize the market, but certainly does give them a head start to remaining the major player for some time.

Earlier this year it was announced that Sprint would promote the installation of the ScanBuy reader. When I saw the ad  (at the bottom of this post) in Wired magazine in Dec 2007 promoting the Scanbuy reader I was really excited. Here we are one year later and nothing.

For some reason the US is lagging behind in the QR code market, and I just don’t get it. QR codes can be a great way to activate and marketing and even non-marketing communications in all channels, and in a fairly engaging manner. Is it because our phone models and high speed data connections have lagged behind? That’s my main guess. Of course, using QR codes requires a level of education among consumers on how to use the technology, but the benefits are certainly there and we all have a vested interest in becoming part of the solution in our own ways.

Scanbuy announced that it has secured a global agreement with Samsung, the second largest phone manufacturer in the world (samsung is expected to sell over 200 million handsets in 2008). As part of the deal Samsung will preload the ScanLife mobile 2D barcode application on Samsung’s camera phones.   Samsung will begin selling these phones in Spain, Italy, and Denmark starting as early as next month.  Availability will quickly expand to other major markets including Mexico and the United States. Samsung’s extensive line of popular phones includes the Blackjack, Glyde, and the recently released Instinct.

Once this rolls out in the US, we will have a consumer base with a pre-installed QR code reader among the 18% of the market that Samsung represents. The ScanBuyreader is also currently available in the iPhone App Store, but I don’t know how embraced it is. Since next year has been the year for mobile for several years now – next year really does seem to be a good year for mobile marketing.

As Advertising Week wraps up, two things are clearer than ever. First – the data exchange business is more embraced than ever before and is alive and kicking. Second, the data exchange business has a target on its back…and the FTC is aiming right at it.

Cookies are good, data is good, relevancy is good. Lack of disclosure is bad! In fact, last week at OMMA, Eileen Harrington, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for the FTC said the FTC and legislators are not satisfied with the level of information provided by the industry. In fact her actual words ere “They haven’t been forthcoming much at all in any meaningful way.” I have to ask, is that true, or do the FTC and legislators just not understand? Apparently giving consumers access to an easy global opt-out mechanism via the Network Advertising Initiative is not enough for them.

As much as those of us in the industry know that many of the methods in which data is collected and utilized is not only harmless, but beneficial in creating relevant experiences for consumers, those outside of the industry do not seem to understand this and have perceptions of big brother following them. Of course there is plenty of private and sensitive data collected as well, and guidelines and even laws probably will be required to ensure that nobody pushes past the line of acceptability.

FTC intervention is inevitable, as calls for self regulation by the FTC do not seem to have yielded any industry collective body or effort to define and enforce self regulation. The IAB last week ceded that they do not feel that they are the body to do so. But someone has to, and soon.

In the wake of NebuAd getting shot down for working with an undisclosed number of ISP’s to collect vault-loads of consumer data, this is a real issue and expect regulation to happen one way or another.

Companies like BlueKai are hedging these steps by giving consumers access to the assumed preferences collected in their profiles through behavioral observation, which are anonymously cross referenced by ad servers via cookies. Consumers will have the ability to simply adjust their interests and preferences to help cater more relevant web experiences, or of course they can opt-out altogether.

Ad exchanges have yet to fulfill on the promise of buyer-seller connection at scale, due to the commoditized inventory running through the exchanges. The addition of or evolution into data exchanges   will certainly change that by creating more value in commodity ad inventory.  We’re seeing constant progression in the data exchange marketplace, although I’ve noticed how delicately the behavioral targeting players dance around the term “data exchange”, in light of the many microscopes aiming in their direction. Each of the big four (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL) have some type of exchange, and therefore the investments will be pursued until successful. Yahoo’s Apt rolled out this week as well, and promises to combine behavioral data with Right Media’s exchange platform to offer publishers and advertisers the ability to better address specific audience segments. I look forward to this next era of the data exchange, and hopefully a self-regulated one.

The TV spots weren’t thrilling me, but this longer piece of content is pretty damn funny! I was beginning to doubt Crispin Porter on the whole Gates/Seinfeld thing until I saw this. Coupled with the Mac-counter image campaign, which includes a consumer collaboration running in Times Square, I’m thinking that I owe the campaign a second opinion 🙂

Marketers and agencies pay attention – the future of mobile is unfolding before our eyes, and it is important to understand the foundational building blocks of how this is all happening and what it means for us…

The industry’s been eager for the release of the first Android OS mobile device, which together with the cult-like movement of the iPhone, will be catalysts for our mobile future. T-Mobile revealed the device as the G1. We’ve all been previously referring to this device as the HTC Dream.

The focal point of Android is of course an open platform, but apparently  it is launching with a significant dependence on third party developers to add some advanced functionality to what seems like a basic default feature set. According to the Android Developer’s blog, the Android Market (app store equivalent) will allow any applications to be offered.

We chose the term “market” rather than “store” because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available.

While the potential benefits of this openness are evident to guys like me, unfortunately this is not a selling point to the average Joe! That being said, remember that over 100 million apps have been sold in Apple’s app store, 10 million in the first weekend release of the 3G iPhone alone.

Will Android stack up? Well, not at first – mainly because we are only talking about one initial device from a carrier that is not exactly the market leader, T-Mobile., not to mention the lack of enterprise support like syncing with exchange. Seriously, what is with first generation launches lacking support for the people who want these devised the most!

The first generation iPhone took 74 days to sell 1 million devices, while the second generation took just one weekend to do the same. In a device driven consumer market, Android is not about the device but the open nature of the operating system. Although the iPhone has a unique OS as well,  it is the pop culture icon that Apple has become and the slick device design that sells the phones, not the OS. The HTC device I’m sure is well crafted. I have used nothing but HTC phones for the last 4 years – they rock – plain and simple. The marketing message of “Hey get an Android phone and support the next generation of the open mobile web and application ecosystem” is a difficult one for the average consumer – you and I may be sold, but the average Joe is another story and will take time.

A couple of key take aways about the T-Mobile G1…

A Few Downsides

– No ability to sync exchange (sorry, that’s a killer for me!)

– No desktop application or syncing

– Many features are going to be 3rd party dependent and not present yet

– The only current video capabilities are YouTube videos (what!?!)

– Soft cap of 1GB data transfer per month with T-Mobile’s option to throttle back to a mere 50kbps!!! (bad, very bad)

A Few Upsides

– 3G Speed (with the exception of the last point above)

– The potential feature set from the openness to third parties

– Touch screen AND QWERTY keyboard (good ‘ol HTC)

– Integrated Google Maps & Street View

If you are wondering why all of this all matters to you, the marketer or agency, it is because that the future of mobile marketing is bright and  we have entered a in a new phase of evolution that will soon become part of your marketing plan if it has not done so already.

I moderated a panel at the OMMA Global conference today titled “Competing With Search”, which I thought from day 1 was an interesting title, but somewhat of a misnomer for any conversation relating to digital media. I knew then that this would make for an interesting panel and hoped for some different perspectives and opinions (after all, what fun is a panel when everyone just agrees on everything).

The official description was:

Search advertising continues to attract 40% of today’s online ad budgets, and some projections have search growth continuing to outpace display spending over the next decade. Plus, the direct response model seems to have affected the success metrics applied to all campaigns. How do publishers-armed with a portfolio of display, email, video and sponsorships compete with almighty search for budgets that increasingly demand ROI? How are publishers making the case with clients to maintain or grow their non-search budgets. Is video proving to be a hedge against budgets moving to search? Can a content provider create unique packages that complement or replace parts of a search spending strategy? How can sales teams create compelling display and direct response programs that complement and enhance existing search spends? And how can the sites themselves use search engines to increase the value of their own inventory to clients?

I’ll pull out a few interesting sound bites from the panel…

  • The panel agreed that it’s not about “competing with search” for web publishers, but rather maximizing the value of an audience and packaging advertising in a way that maximizes monetization
  • The last-ad attribution model is broken and unfairly credits search for the entire influence chain rather than the activation of it. Multiple attribution protocol needs to emerge as the standard and is emerging far too slowly. Agencies and marketers need more education about these things.
  • The impression doesn’t mean anything – the value of the impression matters. Applied data helps increase the value of the impression.
  • Video can create emotionally compelling consumer experiences, but successfully adding video to a website requires good content, which requires a real investment.
  • MySpace is apparently so big that Jason Oberfest calls a site with 10 – 20 million unique users “mid-sized” (for the record 10 – 20 million uniques is still quite big, it’s just not MySpace big)
  • Scale matters when it comes to addressability, segmentation and the maximization of profitability for publishers

Ok, no revelations made, but the air was cleared for many in the room. I directed the audience to check out Atlas’ Engagement Mapping demo, and also mentioned Doubleclick’s Multiple Attribution Protocol, neither of which are perfect sciences, both of which are far better than the last ad standard and help to more accurate apply credit to advertising influence.

Ok, from the title of this post I assume I need to tell a few of you to get you minds out of the gutter!

Now on to my point – First TheWB.com launched a pretty much fully baked in-content video search function, now YouTube is taking the first step towards interactive video, albeit a baby step. Artist and now popular video blogger Val from Valsartdiary.com launched YouTube’s first “interactive riddle” (apparently on June 15th??? how am I and the entire industry late on this?)

Merely a chose your own ending type of execution, this is nothing new to the world of rich media, but is new and long overdue to the world of mass video distribution (13 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute). The end of the 2 minute video (embedded below for your convenience) has an engaging element that simply poses a riddle and provides three different answers (optional endings), each leading the viewer to subsequent videos. She even offers a prize (a free coloring book, or to us digital marketers, a distributable asset, which can actually be downloaded for free from her website anyway, but that’s besides the point) to those who answered correctly. Besides the interactive video aspect of this, Val does a great job of generating interest in her as a personal brand and her content, all as a conduit to sell her art. Kudos indeed.

So why am I so excited? No it’s not because Val’s cute, although of course she is, (and that always helps the numbers!) it’s because the two vital components to the future of online video advertising has both materialized by major players this month. Interactive video on YouTube (ok, technically the tip of the iceberg that will eventually lead to true interactive video), and in-content contextual search functionality by Warner Brothers. The future is getting brighter quickly.

No acronym brings more digirati and open source advocates to their knees than “DRM” (digital rights management). However, we do live in a world where consumers’ digital content habits are increasing and the ability to buy once and play anywhere on any device, and in any format, (interoperability) still seems to elude us.

A potential standard may in fact finally emerge as a result of a meeting of the minds of major forces in Hollywood, retail, consumer electronics brands, and select IT service companies, called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). They are trying to create a “uniform digital media experience”, but apparently won’t reveal the details until the CES show in Jan. Currently the companies involved are Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Fox, HP, Intel, Lions Gate, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, VeriSign, and Warner Bros.

Noticeably absent is Apple, who obviously has employed their own  DRM standard within iTunes, and surely is contemplating the ramifications of the existence and participation in DECE.

Reuters quotes DECE president Mitch Singer as saying:

“The new digital framework would turn Apple Inc’s “closed” iTunes model on its head.

“This is very different from the Apple ecosystem,” he said. “We encourage Apple to join the consortium. We don’t ever anticipate Apple going away or this consortium replacing it.”

Anyway – I guess we’ll know more in January!