Archive for the ‘Emerging Media’ Category

At the risk of sounding cliche, welcome to a new decade of marketing. Indeed it is an exciting time to be a marketer. The past decade may prove to be the most pivotal ever in terms of the changes in how we communicate with consumers. It was also the decade of aggregation – or better put, the decade that killed the “big idea”. The era of the big idea is over (in the context of marketing communication). Since the explosion of digital marketing during the last decade, the new big idea morphed into an aggregation of many smaller “ideas”. This aggregation has a bigger impact than any one “big idea” ever could, by distributing risk and providing more chances to develop successful approaches.

Marketing evolution continues in 2010, and here are some of the areas to keep your eyes on.

Mobile Forges Forward

We keep joking about how “this year has been the year of mobile for the last few years”. Well, we’re waist deep the age of mobile and moving further along every day. We’ve crossed the proverbial tipping point. The handsets and data speeds provide better experiences, and the data plans are affordable. Over 60 million US consumers access the web via mobile device.  Globally we’re on track for more people to access the mobile web than the PC web (of course I’ll need to save that post for Jan 2020). The thing is, the distribution of this access is skewed, significantly towards the iPhone. While the iPhone catalyzed mobile web usage, competition is not far behind with the Droid, Pre, new Blackberries and other devices to come in 2010. Consumers are using, and even paying for mobile applications and mobile websites that provide value. Of course, as with any marketing channels, there are plenty of misguided executions that do not focus on the consumer, provide little value and flop. Unfortunately oftentimes the medium gets blamed for poor strategy on the part of the marketer and/or agency. Provide experiential or utility-based value to consumers and you’ll reap the rewards of consumer engagement. Additionally, keep your sights set on the convergence of mobile and social experiences as well. This will prove big in 2010.

Location Based Applications

As consumers become more comfortable with GPS enabled smart phones and the first generation of applications that incorporate GPS into the experience, the marketing opportunities that utilize geo-location data will come to fruition. However, it will be 100% predicated on permission, transparency and trust. Of course the recurring theme of providing actual value to the consumer experience is key as well. An early success story is FourSquare, which combines social actions and geo-tagging. But FourSquare is definitely not for everyone. Marketers will have to provide utility in order to gain access to consumers’ private lives and  geo-location data. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch very easily here. Where your brand attributes meet consumers’ needs is a good crossroads to  aim for. Note: If would be interesting to see Facebook acquire and incorporate FourSquare into their current platform.

Real Time Search & Social Search

As social media has become ingrained in the digital media experience for consumers and marketers alike, real time search was inevitable. Information is distributed via so many channels including consumers’ social media feeds, that not including real time data in search results created a void in the relevancy of search results at the major engines. Google’s roll out of social search results from “people in your social circle” also fills the void that was otherwise filled directly from the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Real time search will indeed make search results more relevant, but the algorithms for filtering signal to noise will be an interesting evolution to watch and participate in.  The implications for marketers is a new era of SEO that ties even more tightly into social media.

Social Media Expands Its Journey

There are two major areas to keep an eye on here. First is the portable social graph. Facebook Connect really took off in 2009, and 2010 marks the tipping point for social graph / data portability. The social graph is just beginning to become part of the overarching digital platform. Through this ubiquity consumers are empowered, taking the influence and social activities of their social connections with them everywhere they go (well not everywhere, but soon enough). Check out one of my favorite implementations of Facebook Connect so far in the Prototype trailer. Try it out. It takes a minute to load, but it’s worth the wait.

The social graph has become portable on the PC-based and mobile web, and the second area to keep an eye on is the expansion of the social graph to your television. Samsung was the first to release high end flat screen TV’s with internet based widgets that allow you to access Twitter on your TV (currently via Yahoo, but inevitably this will become more open very soon). Expect the social graph to become a standard part of our TV viewing experience in the future (note: not in 2010).

Multiple Attribution

While all marketers would agree that reaching consumers at multiple marketing touch points is essential, most marketers still maintain disparate data systems and utilize the last ad standard protocol when it comes to attribution of influence or conversion.  Multiple attribution tracking capabilities have existed at the major ad servers for a couple of years now, provide a solution to attribution modeling, yet are underutilized by the industry. Third parties, such as ClearSaleing, also offer dashboard, reporting and analytics platforms to provide multiple attribution reporting for marketers. Let’s face it, we are constantly increasing the number of digital marketing channels we are working in and as an industry our analytical capability, or more accurately – marketers’ and agencies’ willingness to utilize the tools available,  has been lagging behind . Some of the dashboard tools can also incorporate a limited set of non digital channels as well. If you are not using a multiple attribution system currently, make 2010 the year to do so. There is simply no excuse not to.

The Privacy Issue Marches On

Privacy is always a heated topic. This has been true since the dawn of digital data collection. The issue is over-hyped by the media and advocacy groups, however there are some underlying truths to the hype. As we have seen with the privacy policy changes on Facebook over the last year, if nothing else, consumers do pay attention and now have the means to spread the word quickly.  As digital marketing technologies evolved, more parties gained access to more data. Although most of this data does not actually contain personally identifiable (PII)  data, in some instances it can be associated with other data assets that do. Tying the  vast amounts of anonymous and PII data together will become a bigger focus of the FTC and advocacy groups as the portable social graph  continues to morph the internet as we knew it into one big social web. The FTC warned the industry in 2009 that a day of reckoning was near, and that the self governance was not working due to a lack of enforcement. The industry will have to take the issue more seriously in 2010 or the government will do so for us.

Augmented Reality

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world. On the PC, AR utilizes the webcam to overlay data, usually in the form of a virtual hologram. Most of the augmented reality executions to-date have focused on the novelty factor and have not provided consumers with much actual value. The few mobile AR applications available, including Yelp, are beginning to provide actual utility. I see a bright future there. On the PC side of things, the USPS Priority Mail box simulator is by far the most useful application of PC/webcam based AR implementation to date.

The key to AR is to hone in on the utility aspect, and provide real value to the consumer. (That concept is starting to sound awfully familiar, huh)

Long Live Display

Display ads get a bad rap. The reality is that online advertising works, and not only for direct response. While search see’s the lion’s share of industry ad spending, display is a standard part of the mix and will continue to be for the long term. That is not to say that display doesn’t have its issues. Lack of creative prowess, challenges with media currency and an inefficient process still plague the industry, but all are common topics of conversation and ad hoc work-arounds are being implemented every day. Most agencies and media buyers have had to develop large infrastructures to support the inefficiency of digital media. Clients constantly challenge the process and costs. Yet very little industry-level research is being conducted to better the situation. The IAB, nor any other industry body has set forth to develop the correlational research required to make advertisers feel more comfortable about the market-level impact of online advertising. The last industry-level research was released almost 10 years ago. Some individual agencies embark on this type of research on a client by client basis, but there is little public domain research readily available for most marketers, who for the most part, park the vast majority of their brand budgets elsewhere. Hopefully in 2010 we will see more industry collaboration to develop research and studies and the tools and systems to create more efficiency in the media buying and management process, without commoditizing it.

Even with all that said, display ads do work at creating influence, this can be and is measured by many marketers and agencies, and display is a standard part of the media mix just like any other medium. The degree of inclusion is what is in question, and hopefully we will at least see more discussion and proposed improvements that make advertisers confident to allocate more brand dollars online.

The Elephant in The Room … The Economy

All indicators lead to a slow and steady economic recovery ahead of us.  But this will happen at a different pace for each category and client. The reality for digital marketing is that most marketers have not been and won’t be experimenting much, and focusing on the more accountable (read – DR) focused channels and tactics. I do expect budgets to open up for social media and mobile. Amid the greatest recession of our lives we witnessed the explosive growth of social media. Some marketers had the budgets to allocate proper resources to understanding, monitoring and integrating social media into their corporate culture, while others put forth a minimal effort and yielded an equal impact. The brands that embraced social media have developed social voices separate from their brand voices and are on their way to becoming accepted social brands. Most are still playing catch-up, and we’ll see a lot of that in 2010.

So there you have it, some areas to keep your sights set on for 2010 and beyond. Have any additional thoughts about what else will be big in 2010? Post your ideas in the comments.

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mobile-socialFollowing last week’s DigiDay Social & DigiDay Mobile conferences,  I had a chance to brainstorm about how social and mobile marketing were becoming such interconnected bedfellows. The trend is only strengthening.

Consumers are looking for experiential and utility value in social and mobile channels. The experiences we provide consumers are converging, and becoming less about the channel, platform or destination, and more about experience itself (I’d argue that it was always that way),  the development, distribution and measurement of these distributed experiences must strive for complete interoperability.

Currently, devices and platforms have various protocols and standards that make this a lot of work for developers, and more importantly, a major expense for companies. The end result – few companies have a consistent digital experience to offer consumers that transcends any platform or device the consumer chooses. Consumers want this, marketers want this.

Enter Adobe…yes, Adobe.

Apparently Adobe plans on creating uniformity across social and mobile applications.  Essentially a developer could build flash-based apps in a to-be-released authoring tool, that will be customized to deliver experiences to consumers in each native environment. Sounds like the holy grail of a uniform experience across various social platforms and channels. Of course the acquisition of Omniture will provide deep analytics into the performance of these distributed experiences. Adobe, I applaud you for taking this stand.

Not The First Time

Flash has been the basis of rich experiences online for over a decade. And why wouldn’t the makers of Flash want to maintain and even bolster this ubiquitous position? Those who have been in the digital media space for sometime remember when Macromedia (original brand that developed Flash) partnered with Doubleclick to develop DART Motif. Well, Macromedia’s involvement was limited, but the strategy was the same – create a level of uniformity between otherwise disparate systems that develop and deliver Flash-based experiences. Times have changed, and Adobe has far more skin in the game now. This is a big play. This can be a major boon for the  entire ecosystem – developers, marketers, content providers, and of course consumers.

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supertvAdjectives sound familiar?
Two years ago former Carat CEO David Verklin left the media agency to become CEO of Canoe Ventures, a company that has a sole focus of making television advertising addressable, engaging and interactive.

Canoe has been working with MSO’s around the country and Cable Labs , the non-profit research and development consortium of cable operators that is dedicated to pursuing new  technologies for  MSO’s, to establish what you may call the framework for the evolution of television advertising’s potential.

Benefits and functionality sound familiar?
The new framework provides format standards, increased availability and usage of metadata, measurement & reporting, and interoperability across different systems.

Convergence here we come, finally.

The Official Word
From the press release today: the new “Advanced Advertising 1.0 Specification” comprises a set of component specification and standards that, individually, allow cable companies to provide more innovative types of advanced ads, such as interactive advertising, Video on Demand advertising within existing VOD platforms, and advanced forms of addressable advertising. Taken together, the Advanced Advertising specification allows multi-system operators (MSOs) to offer such products with consistent technologies, metrics and interfaces across a national footprint. The Advanced Advertising 1.0 spec was developed and will be maintained by a CableLabs Working Group composed of MSO, Canoe and CableLabs technical leads, with selective input from the vendor community.

For the techie geeks like me, the current version of the spec includes the following component pieces:

  1. Specifications:
    1. ETV – A CableLabs specification for interactivity that can be implemented on millions of digital set-top boxes deployed by cable operators. ETV, based on the Enhanced Television Binary Interchange Format or “EBIF,” is part of the OCAP specification so advertising applications written for ETV can run on OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform) specification, intended to enable developers of interactive television services and applications to design products so that they can run successfully on any cable television system in North America.
    2. VOD Metadata 2.0 – A CableLabs specification for descriptive data associated with a package of VOD content, whether a movie or a long-form advertisement. This metadata is used in MSO and programmer VOD systems today, but in the future will assist in the delivery of prospective ad products for the VOD space, or in adding greater addressability to different types of ads.
  2. Interfaces: There are currently four interfaces for advanced advertising, targeting EBIF, that are in the early draft phase but will be added to the 1.0 spec
    1. Service Measurement Summary Interface (SMSI) – enables MSOs to export information about the execution of a campaign.
    2. Interactive Fulfillment Summary Interface (IAF) – provides a means for messaging generated by an interactive application to be exposed to an external entity.
    3. Interactive Application Messaging Platform (IAM) – provides a critical interface between interoperable applications (apps distributed to more than one MSO) and MSO systems, defining the common form of messages instantiated by interoperable apps and how MSO systems decode them.
    4. Campaign Information Package Interface (CIP) – provides information to the MSOs on the configuration of application messaging processing, such as identifiers relevant to the messages.
  3. Standards: Relevant SCTE standards that the CableLabs Working Group has decided should be supported as part of the Advanced Advertising 1.0 spec
    1. SCTE 35 – enables measurement, enhanced applications and ad placement on linear and on-demand content – includes related support from SCTE 30 / 67 / 104.
    2. SCTE 130 – separates new addressable ad delivery systems from ad decision systems that allow for dynamic ad selection for interactive, linear and on-demand content.

What Does This All Mean?
Canoe has propelled the industry forward, and the first step of creating the standards and framework for a national roll-out was the biggest step. Within the next few weeks the first pilot programs will deliver custom creative to consumers in different geographic locations across a national campaign. The anticipation is to next move addressability to a household level.  Later this year we’ll see what has been a drab implementation of VOD pushed into the iTV promise that we have all been waiting for – where a consumer can interact directly with ads and click into more engaging experiences.

On top of all of this, the new framework also sets the stage for the eventuality of centralized ad delivery, and direct set-top box-level research. It’s a bright day for the TV industry.

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dgdYesterday I had the honor of being the emcee for two half day conferences, DigiDay Mobile & DigiDay Social. During hard economic times, the turnout for these conferences was actually almost shocking. I was amazed to see a standing room only crowd as early as 7:45am.  This was the first mobile and social media conference for DM2 Events (soon to be renamed DigiDay Events, I believe), run by Nick Friese, formerly of MediaPost & OMMA.

If you couldn’t make it in person, there were many attendees in the audience posting play-by-play sound bytes via Twitter, and others blogging about it. Presentations will be available via slideshare as well.

While it was a long day chock full of interesting presentations, I’ll whittle it down to a few paragraphs…

DigiDay Mobile

The mobile conference kicked off the morning discussing the elephant in the room – the economy. The main take away was that although many marketers still look at mobile as an experimental channel, usage and adoption among consumers is still increasing. The ability to easily integrate mobile into an overall marketing mix presents tremendous opportunities to engage consumers.

The presentation that resonated most with me and many of the conference attendees was by Jeremy Wright from Nokia (co-founder of Enpocket, which was acquired by Nokia several years ago). Jeremy provided a truly global perspective of how ubiquitous and powerful the mobile channel has become, how in emerging markets the mobile web is THE web, how the world is becoming clickable, and how reach matters (imagine that).

DigiDay Social

This was a fun event to emcee. Social media marketing is the hottest topic in the marketing world today. Everything is becoming infused with social media tools and experiences, and the tipping point on diving into the social media world is behind us. It is no longer a “nice to have” capability for an agency, nor an ancillary tactic for marketers – social media marketing has become its own discipline and requires the strategic planning and acumen as any other marketing discipline.

The opening keynote for the social media conference was Scott Monty from Ford.  Scott has become a social media brand himself and has helped Ford become a leader in social media for the automotive category. His keynote focused on how Ford uses various social channels to connect with consumers. Ford’s positioning is “Drive One” and their social media positioning is “Meet One”.

Other notable presentations included a case study by Don Steele, VP Digital Marketing for MTV Networks, who preached engaging consumers where they habituate online. The four pillars of MTVN’s social strategy: Organic, Smart, Engaging, Honest. It was great to hear about how MTV works within and monitors social networks, social bookmarks, picture and video sharing sites, Wikipedia and more. This was one of the few holistic presentations I’ve heard in a while. Way to go Don!

The panel on social media measurement and ROI, as expected, was a highly tweeted panel. Although there are no standards for measuring social media ROI, it’s become a given that as any business investment, it has to have a return, even if the return is hard to measure and part of a bigger picture – which of course social media is on both counts.

The last panel of the day was about “What are you doing/buying right now? Where can you get the best ROI on your social marketing investment?” – this panel reflected the advertising side of social media, a topic not discussed for most of the day that focused on the marketing applications versus advertising. Although audience members probably wanted to walk away with a short list on what to buy beyond Facebook and MySpace, not many specifics were discussed. Although mainly focused on advertising, the panel reminded the audience that social media is still about providing value to the consumer  and engaging them in the right manner. A solid point driven home was that the “click” is inherently an anti-social behavior – why make someone move away from a social activity they are participating in (not that anyone is foolish enough to use clicks to measure anything, right?!?). Panlist Eric Wheeler, CEO of 33Across helped to end the panel with a great line that he quoted from David Olgilvy  “Never stand between a client and their drink.”… and a lively cocktail hour (or two) followed!

See you at the next event!

video_iconI could not agree more that the industry needs a new video standard. Amen to that. I interact with enough senior agency folks to know that we all want a new standard. So I’m not quite sure how the new effort from Publicis’ VivaKi launched without the collective support and participation of any of the other holding companies. To that I say “Really? You couldn’t rally the support from any of the other agencies?”. That in and of itself could possibly put a damper on things. VivaKi managed to incorporate participation from some of the industry’s top online video publishers (AOL, Broadband Enterprises, CBS, Discovery, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo, and a handful of VivaKi clients who will be testing new permutations of video units throughout the year with the intention of rolling out what VivaKi hopes to dub as a new standard by year end (thus allowing enough time for publishers to package it with the 2010 up-fronts). Of course, VivaKi clients will then have first  dibs on the new units.

Although in my humble opinion, the partial collaboration doesn’t wreak of a process that standards will emerge from, it should shake things up a bit, and I’m glad to see someone doing it (albeit I would have rather seen a collective of active agencies pool their collective thoughts together on this versus just VivaKi).

I’ve been preaching this for at least 3 years now. The online video model should focus on harnessing some of the unique attributes of digital media. Currently it replicates the TV model. I’m hoping to see the new formats include all of the following:

From the consumer’s perspective:

– Interactivity & Interoperability: Video as an experience not solely a message

– Relevancy: Improve the segmentation of content and the ability for consumers to find specific video via improved search functionality and recommendation engines

From the industry’s perspective:

– Interactivity: marketers need the ability to engage the consumer and provide the necessary depth of experience consumers have become accustomed to online

– Addressability & Improved Targeting: current targeting parameters for video are pretty weak, this is a major area that needs imrovement – delivering different content and ads on the fly to specific consumer segments

– Evolution Of Ad Serving  For Video: if agencies had the ability to serve video themselves, they would have more control over on-the-fly changes and the benefit of  immediacy of data for analysis

– Portability & Syndicatability:Video content providers and publishers with a need for more video content would benefit from a standardized method for dynamically serving these new video experiences, sans the restrictions of one video player versus another

New Metrics? Not So Fast…
You’ll notice that I did not mention common or new metrics. We have a slough of metrics already, such as levels and duration of engagement, increases in branding effectiveness and DR metrics that can and should be applied based on the client’s goals. If anything, we need more data on the correlation between advertising metrics and market impact (this is true for other aspects of online media as well). For example – what is the interrelationship between engagement percentage, duration of engagement, reach and impact on influence, brand preference and purchase intent (and over time, market share)? Ultimately every marketing investment is being compared to every other option available, so we must look at the overall ability of channels, formats and options to influence the target, not just the subset of engagement (or worse yet, response)… and this must be analyzed in the context of a media mix.

The Model & The Media Mix
The media industry has come come a long way and yet we never have been able to definitely develop media mix models that are universally accepted – why? Because there is no such universality. But furthermore there is little industry-level research on the correlation between various advertising metrics and the true influence within a market. The GRP/TRP has been used as a surrogate for the inter-relationship between reach & frequency and market impact, but this metric is predicated on the replication of historical performance and has not evolved to include the unique attributes of digital media so therefore it is not a standard used online. Hence so many career marketers and traditional media folks pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out how to integrate the canary in the coal mine.

The Moral Of This Online Video Story
We must focus on mapping the features and requirements of online video standards to the unique attributes of the medium itself, while evolving the consumer experience. Specifically, we must provide engaging and relevant experiences with the ubiquity of text, the interoperability of functionality beyond video, the discoverability and contextual relevancy of search, and the portability of RSS, we then have a platform that has aligned with the trends of online consumer behavior. Increased consumption will follow, and advertisers will follow the light.

What do you think about the next generation of online video standards?

brainI’ve been meaning to put the pen to paperkeyboard to blog on this one for a while now…

Have you started to feel overwhelmed by your growing social networks? We all have growing networks of friends and followers. Not only are our networks growing, but they are growing across multiple platforms – social networks, blogs, microblogs, video subscriptions, photo sharing, forums and other social media platforms. With many of these platforms we unintentionally obtain a new “inbox” of sorts. Trying to keep up with the barrage of communications and updates, and maintaining relationships can easily overwhelm you. Even with the influx of aggregation systems, increasingly people are starting to have a hard time keeping up. Between the pressure from peers (and old high school friends that you may have fallen out of touch with on purpose) to connect, and for marketers the seemingly equivalent pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s sometimes enough to drive someone crazy. Earlier this year I learned about the existence of the Information Overload Research Group …but I was too caught up in my own information overload to attend their conference at the time – ah the irony. Last April the NY Times even ran a story about bloggers dying from trying to keep up.

You are not alone. Enter the Dunbar Principle.

The Dunbar number (first published in 1992 by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar and made popular in the marketing industry by Malcom Gladwell in 2000) is “a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”. According to Dunbar, “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortexsize, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”

For the record the approximate number is 150. Although it makes sense that new technologies will facilitate the growth of the Dunbar number, just how far can it go?

A recent HP report “Social Networks That Matter: Twitter Under The Microscope“, shows a unique effect of technology facilitating pushing humans past the Dunbar number. As the graph below points out, gaining followers (growing your network) is easy, but as followers increase, your true social connections rapidly become near meaningless. Interesting theory. Think about the ramifications as social media matures and our networks thin out a bit. Deeper social connections versus larger and less valuable ones.

From "Social Networks That Matter", HP 2008
From “Social Networks That Matter”, HP 2008

 Long story short, social media is still in its infancy and has a long way to go. We are about to enter into the era of data portability, where you can take your social graph with you anywhere you go online, rather than simply watching your networks grow at specific destinations. That’s huge – absolutely huge. The ways in which consumers interact with each other and consume content will continue to eveolve over the next several years, not to mention that the monetization models for the platforms will need to emerge for them to stick around. The crossroads where consumer desires meets social media platform monetization has proven thus far to be an elusive place and a disproportionate one. Yes I mentioned monetization (better yet and more accurately, profitability). After all, it must happen eventually and continually sweeping it under the carpet is absolutely the wrong thing to do, as many self proclaimed “social media experts” tend to do. No it is not straightforward, it may not even be on the immediate horizon, but it will happen – it must happen. But make no mistake about it – that crossroads and balance will exist. The consumer has a taste of experiential freedom, and you just can;t put that genie back in the bottle – nor would we want to.

Yesterday Google revealed some new information on the beta testing they have been doing with in-game advertising. Apparently the beta was conducted with Sprint, Sony & eSurance.  include video, sponsorships & integration and extend into social gaming, which means even on MySpace & Facebook. The new foray into delivering in-game ads is described as an extension of the Ad Sense program and it will be integrated into the Ad Words advertiser interface, allowing easy extension of existing Ad Sense programs into the gaming network, but it feels like this is something that Doubleclick made possible. I guess it doesn’t really matter (except to a media geek like me). Either way, we are watching the Google empire grow before our eyes – the first Android phone officially hits the market this month, YouTube is rolling out an affiliate program of sorts to help content providers and Google monetize the 13 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute – with the click to buy programGoogle TV is evolving and with the current economic state of affairs, will most likely gain even more traction, and now the roll out of Google in-game. Wow – talk about being recession resistant! Note to self – buy Google stock in the down market…