The Mobile Video Ad Serving Frontier

Mobile advertising technologies are swimming in an incredibly fragmented space right now in terms of streaming content and integrating paid advertising.  Mobile is the wild-wild west of online advertising right now.  It is the final frontier of video, which is arguably out there today already.

While we scramble to figure out which cell phone we want to carry – the iphone or something that comes close to it – people with content are racing to figure out how to get it to you while making a buck doing it.  We know it comes down to either a subscription model or an advertising model, and the latter is the most likely path. Continue reading

Behavioral Targeting, What Ethics?

Earlier this month, Doug Wintz gave us an inspiring article in iMediaConnection.  The Ethics of Behavioral Targeting offers a glimpse into what behavioral targeting could be like in the offline future.  Transfixing our imaginations into the likeness of the futuristic worlds painted by author Philip Dick, Wintz helps us to question interactive advertising beyond the banner.  But there is a big leap between the 728×90 banner and the beams of light that could be reading our retina in the shopping malls. 


Several years ago people screamed about the use of cookies: “VIOLATION OF PERSONAL PRIVACY!”  The industry cried that we must educate the population so that they realize that cookies are not bad, spyware is bad.  Antispyware came out, and adware came out.  People now feel protected from persistent spyware and third-party cookies now get deleted 45% of the time.  The dust cleared from the cookie fight and yet cookies are still in common practice.  The funny part is that people still don’t understand cookies.  But the industry has moved on; it has stopped trying to educate and now the next crisis has moved to the forefront – behavioral targeting.


BT still involves the use of cookies but the technology is less of the issue.  It is the overall concept of tracking and oversight that people care about.  Once again there are those in the industry that are trying to educate, but then there are many of us that know that you can’t educate people coming from a position of fear.  Moreover, once politicians get involved it’s about swaying popular opinion and not about providing rational explanations.  Remember that some people get charged by the fight while others stay in the background, continuing to develop and position their cards so that they are ready when the dust clears.  A new crisis always moves to the forefront to replace the existing one, right?  Where will you be when that happens?  Battle scared or primed?


Is it ethical to behaviorally target?  Is the internet really free?  Is it ethical to target consumer behaviors like catalogers do?  Doug has a fair argument when he says we probably won’t even care by the time the technology is mainstream.  Right now there is kickback on behavioral targeting, but that doesn’t stop publishers and networks from offering it or from advertisers from buying it.


So where are the ethical lines in all of this?  Publishers use site-side analytics to track your patterned behavior while you are on their site.  It is their site.  You use much of it for free.  So is it ethical?  Is it okay for Safeway or Kroger to track your shopping habits in the supermarket?  You get discounts for using that shopper’s card that also tracks your behavior.  What about Amazon keeping track of your book-buying preferences?  You get recommendations right?  You get benefits in return for providing information about yourself, even online.  So where is the difference between what we have come to accept offline and what we protest online?


Why do people get so crazy about the web?  The point of the whole thing is to put advertisements that are more relevant in front of you.  Contextual advertising has done a great job at this and nobody seems to complain about that.  In fact a lot of people don’t even know that the links along the side of the Google and Yahoo pages are paid listings, nor would they necessarily care since they are usually relevant links that often lead to qualified destinations.  Relevance.  If Behavioral targeting has the ability to present a user with advertisements that are relevant, is there still an ethical violation? 


P-ersonal I-dentifiable I-nformation (PII) is the red line that can’t be crossed and yet it is crossed all the time in the offline realm.  I think that in the end it’s not a question of ethics.  It’s a question of fear.  The futuristic movies like the Minority Report scare people.  They don’t get it and other people take advantage of it to promote their own agendas (like politicians looking for platforms).


 Customer re-targeting introduces the ability to recognize customers – not anonymous individuals – anywhere on the web in real-time using first party ad serving.  Advertisers can recognize their existing customers, not based on events but based on customer profiles.  This is identical to what already goes on in the offline world.  A different message can be positioned to a customer than to a non-customer based on customer profiles – not based on event-based behaviors.  Is this a violation of privacy?  We can go around and around on this one, like we did with the cookie.  And it is the cookie battle that leads me to believe that the smoke will clear before we settle it.  When the next technical invasion comes to the forefront it too will shadow this one.  Maybe it’ll be iTV, which will be more invasive and wider-spread when it hits people while they are relaxing in their living rooms! 


You can go down the ethical rabbit hole if you want with behavioral targeting, just like you can jump into the political debate or stand up on the soap box and try to educate.  But frankly, people will continue to develop and drive forward with anonymous event-based targeting, customer re-targeting, site-side analytics and first party applications that empower advertisers to message to users with the most relevant information, advertisements and content.  Operating as if the dust will clear as oppose to getting caught up in the fight makes more sense.  Helping the web to become an increasingly more efficient use of people’s time with behavioral targeting techniques is not a violation of privacy, it is a provision of relevance.


Reactionary with Insight

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Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide

Ted Shergalis is chief product officer and founder of [x+1], and he contributed Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide to iMediaConnection this morning.


Ted’s experience in working with marketers should be significant and therefore I would guess has relevance to the topic.  What concerns me, however, is the generalization with which he describes the silo organizational structure between his clients’ external marketing (media buying and advertising) and customer marketing (web site management, etc.).  Not only does Ted confirm that the teams working on these two functions are usually physically separated but so too are the technologies they use.


External online efforts – media planning, buying, ad serving, email marketing, mobile, search and analytics – are all operating independently from site-side efforts –  like landing page optimization, content management, eCRM, site analytics. 


First, let’s gain a little perspective here.  Ted is from [X+1].  Their whole gig is about optimizing conversions and customer penetration within a site.  Furthermore, they also tout their skills at connecting these two silos together.  Their Media+1 and Site+1 products connect Ad Serving and Site-Side optimization together like an adhesive to offer marketers a cohesive view from the external efforts through to the internal efforts.


I am not going to dive into those two products here much.  Media+1 is basically the former Poindexter ad server, a tier-two player with a couple of marquee clients that has been folded into their primary core competency which is what the Site+1 product is all about.  The rebranding of the company from Poindexter to [x+1] has enabled them to carve this great niche in the industry and now they partner with tier-1 ad servers like DoubleClick when strong ad serving is required or when major clients are on the table.


Anyway, I know I bitch and moan when people get on iMediaConnection and self-promote, so I can’t criticize ted here for not mentioning [x+1], but I like it when people also give us some direction.  In other words my narrow rules say its okay to mention your company so long as you do it in context with other companies as well.  Serve as a resource and not a self-promotional artist.  In this case, however, maybe Ted didn’t feel he could come up with anyone else that could do it like [x+1] J


One thing that comes to mind, however, when I read his characterization of the outward and inward marketing silos is how the head of marketing in those organizations must be failing.  Online is a component of marketing.  If the org is big enough to have a head of interactive – s/he is failing.  If it is not that big and it has a head of marketing alone, then s/he must be failing.  I say this because in this day and age there are too many different ways to pull these two efforts together and if they are not talking to each other the problems are obvious, the tension will be thick as butter and the questions that can’t be answered about the performance of the organization will be more significant than the performance that can be measured.  Intelligence will recognize that there is a major problem.  So I wonder either, (a) if Ted has really screwed-up clients or (b) he is using his worst clients as examples in his articles or, (c) the type of opportunities that I am encountering represent more of what is out there than what is not.


Is it really that screwed up on the back end of the curve?


External online marketing needs to tag web sites and calculate data.  So internal marketing has to get curious about what is going on.  Internal marketing is using analytics to track internal behavioral and CMS to maximize conversions.  A Director-level person who oversees these two units has to be gathering data from both groups and must begin to get curious about the relationships between the two – this would represent common sense intelligence.  If not, then stupid people are running a lot of marketing organizations.  Maybe that is a truth.  But I am meeting a lot of intelligent people.  I work on the front of the curve too … so maybe I work with smarter people … but I think our industry as a whole is comprised of people on the top and front-end of the curve.  I think that a lot of people struggle with these problems, but I also think that the technologies are in place or are being put in place to take maximize.  As always, time is the limited resource.


Anyway, placing these two efforts together is just common sense.  This is why behavioral targeting has become so popular.  This is why lead generation advertising is becoming so popular.  This is why landing-page A/B testing with companies like CoreMetrics is gaining so much attention.  None of these initiatives can happen without internal marketing being at least engaged.


First party ad serving requires the marriage of internal and external marketing.  Maybe that is part of what is so unique about where my projects have taken me.  I sit in meetings with people who know each other, and look at each other and we work together to figure out ownership.  eCRM or site-side analytics will set first party cookies for external marketing to target with the ad server.  Media Planning and buying will set strategy based on the customer profiles that internal marketing establishes.  Creative is built accordingly.  Ad serving targets new and existing customers in real-time.  Leads and prospects and existing customers are all driven back to the site(s).  Internal web site management receives users and pushes them into different directions based on cookie variables and eCRM records transactional patterns while site analytics records behavioral patterns and sets new cookies for future targeting.  New customer profiles are created and new segments are built for future re-targeting and the cycle continues.  With first party ad serving and the marriage of first party ad serving and site side analytics, you have the integration of internal and external marketing within an advertiser.  Everyone works together with a product like DirectServe™ and WebSideStory.


But there are other ways to do this too.  If internal and external are coordinated by a single leadership role, they should be made aware of the benefits of each other’s efforts.  And in my experience they usually are.  Ted could have shed some light on how different technologies can be used to do this in his article, because I think he did a good job at challenging us to question whether our organizations are functioning properly or not.  If you are falling prey to the problems ted describes, what do you do about it?  I guess you can call Ted.  But first you should have some idea as to how you should diagnose your problems.  Then you should have some directive as to who you should call, in addition to Ted, for some insight.  You can’t get all of that from one article I know.  But I’ve given you some thoughts.


Evaluate your chain of command.  If you are the head of the organization, challenge your people to construct an information flow chart to see what they each can capture and then line the two groups up and see where they connect.  Ultimately this is about the acquisition of new leads, conversions and the growth of customers. 


Your external marketing team needs to be empowered to attack the market with tools that will enable them to generate new leads and re-target existing customers simultaneously, since both will exist within any pool (website) upon which they advertise. 


Internal marketing needs to have the capacity to capture both audiences when they come in, continue the messaging strategy, leverage CMS to position the appropriate content and leverage the knowledge gained by the ad serving process (what worked and what did not work) to maximize the conversion rates on prospects and the recurring revenue opportunities on existing customers. 


Finally internal marketing needs to convert the knowledge it gains through its conversion processes into media decision-making recommendations for external marketing so that the cycle can continue specifically with regard to re-targeting existing customers.


Reactionary with insight

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3 Steps to Targeting Nirvana, Bennett Zucker Gives Us Open Market Benefits that will Improve BT

Go-Bennett, a great article in iMediaConnection on Thursday.  Three Steps to Targeting Nirvana defines behavioral targeting today and outlines an open marketplace, an open technology platform and what he characterizes as ‘an open mind.’


Up front, Bennett makes the argument that the onus of responsibility for accurate and aggressive BT should not fall on publishers.  Efforts results in wasted inventory, poor performance and lack of attention that should truly benefit the advertiser.  Advertiser-directed BT is where it’s at.  We have the technology and the science is far more impactful.  In fact, Bennett does a great job of presenting an example of a car-buying scenario which illustrates how advertiser-driven BT better serves publishers.


In the section on open market place, Bennett tries to present a clean argument.  Advertisers ideally should have the opportunity to cherry pick the inventory they buy, so as to promote the opportunity to select the inventory that will meet their BT needs.  I know that Bennett has struggled with the “I don’t want to be a self-promoting author” and so kudos for giving us several examples in your story.  Right Media is clearly the leading auction exchange model in the space.  But AdBrite is a solid player and a good alternative for people to be looking at, especially if they want to have an alternative to Right Media or want to investigate options before jumping into bed with a specific vendor (if you can even call RM a vendor, more like a facilitator). 


Anyway, Bennett is trying to paint the utopian picture for us here – advertisers cherry picking inventory.  I know that in theory that is what the auction model enables you to do – bid on the inventory that you want and forego that which you don’t want.  But most of the inventory on the Right Media Exchange is network  inventory so you really can’t be so laser targeted.  The RM Direct Exchange, however, may be something to look at in terms of publisher-specific inventory.


Bennett is honest to himself and us insomuch that he acknowledges that networks are inherently limited by the design of only being able to offer BT within their own network.  So even if you could cherry pick the inventory you wanted, you could only deploy BT on that network.  Using an ad server with BT would overcome that, if the ad server BT can be deployed across the networks.  Bennett surprisingly does not go into this in his article.


Here is where I think the article could use a fourth and maybe even a fifth section.


Requirement 4 – Ad serving that Re-targets With BT Agnostically


Several ad server offer BT that can extend across multiple networks.  Event-based BT like Boomerang by DoubleClick for example can enable and advertiser to track behavioral of people who have been on their site and then target them across the web – including across networks.  If an advertiser were to deploy event-based BT in conjunction with selective inventory buys on an auction exchange, they could be deploying BT with far more refinement.


Deploying first party ad serving by TruEffect is a second alternative.  With first party ad serving, the inventory acquired through the auction can be targeted using re-targeting methods of the first party cookie and any existing customer can be recognized and re-targeted in real-time.  Treated like any other inventory, all inventory bought through the network could easily be re-targeted using a DirectServe™ implementation.


Requirement 5Ad Serving that Integrates


A final consideration today, and a growing requirement is a concept that I have heard advertisers call a ‘universal’ or ‘megapixel.’  In the days where sites are getting tagged by ad servers, publishers, networks, site-side analytics and pretty much any other tracking mechanisms, there is a need for a single pixel that can shoulder other tracking beacons.


Dynamic Logic’s Universal Tag is one example of this kind of technology.  Shouldering multiple tags, this universal pixel enables an advertiser to tag the site one time.  DoubleClick has an alliance with DL so that they can offer this solution to their clients.  TruEffect has a similar technology called TruTags™ whereby they have one tag that is placed on the site and through it, multiple tags can be managed so that an advertiser only has to tag the site one time and any other tags can be added or removed through a single common interface.  The piggy-backing enables the advertiser or agency to eliminate the need to go back and keep tagging the site eveytime a new netrok buy comes into play.


The great benefit of these megapixels is that with Bennett’s story, one could buy inventory at auction – which will almost always be network inventory – use an ad sever that deploys BT like event-based or First Party DirectServe™ and then use a universal tag or megapixel to reduce tagging requirements as each new network is bought.  Snazzy.  Good article Bennett.


Reactionary with Insight.

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Predict Your Audience’s Preferences, Digging into [x+1]

[x+1]‘s VP of product development, Howard Fiderer explains in iMediaConnection how to make consumer data actionable so that you can tailor users’ experiences to their tastes on their very first visit in Predict Your Audience’s Preferences.


 


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, [x+1] is the former Poindexter.  Originally a primary ad serving company, Poindexter raised an eight-figure round of private financing in March of 2005 and used the funds to re-define the company from product, to target market, to brand.  Starting with adapting the mathematical formula x+1, Poindexter reset itself in the marketplace.  “We’re using this as an opportunity to mark a stake in the ground for a category we’re trying to define, marketing optimization,” the company’s CEO Toby Gabriner told ClickZ News in April 2005.  [x+1] proposed to focus on advertiser-marketing within the advertiser’s site while maintaining their advertising business, or ad serving business.  Ideally, they saw the opportunity to integrate the two products into a prospect-drawing and customer-targeting model as the ideal go-to-market.


 


First problem to overcome, Poindexter’s ad server was not viewed as a tier-one ad server in the market.  Although it had respectable market share, their reporting capabilities were commonly considered to be sub-par.  Major advertisers like American Express, who had termed contracts with Poindexter, complained about the lack of report diversity and the limitations of data availability.  Other agency users also had issues with their reporting, when their advertiser clients forced Poindexter on them.  That was the model for Poindexter, they sold to the advertiser so the agency would have to use them. 


 


Actually, it was more of a resultant model.  Poindexter sold to advertisers because they were looking to sell their ad serving and their developing predictive customer targeting back-end solution.  They promised improved reporting but it was not coming fruition on the ad serving side for customers. 


 


A Perfect example with regard to reporting shortfalls is the concept of ‘view-through.’  A view-through is when a user sees an advertisement served by an ad server but does not click on it.  Later that user visits the desired landing page which is tagged by the ad server and can be measured back by the ad server as having seen that particular ad on the associated site (placement) where it has been displayed.  This is known throughout the industry as a ‘view-through’ and [x+1] can not measure it, or at least does not report on it to its advertising customers.


 


But what [x+1] was particularly good at was/is the site-side customer analytics and applying those anaytics for targeting.  Like Howard’s article describes.  This is what secured their relationships with large advertisers who were using their ad serving as well.  The conversion from Poindexter to [x+1] was incredibly intelligent because it was a migration toward their core competency.  Following the April announcement, rumors spread that [x+1] would be abandoning their ad serving business altogether.  However they have maintained their media+1 product line, which is their ad server.  With that, however, they are hardly ever encountered as a competitive bidder in the ad serving sales arena.


 


One likeable aspect of Howard’s article was that it was not self-promoting.  Howard opens the door to site-side predictive modeling and website customer conversion and retention but he kept it very high level.  In fact, it would have been nice if he had gotten more granular for us so that we could have a better understanding as to how to apply his concepts.  I never have a problem when people mention providers – even their own companies – so long as they mention competitors and highlight the best solutions without bias. 


 


[x+1] offers up two primary products: media+1 and site+1.  Howard’s article is focused on a capability delivered by the latter, a tool that matches messages and offers with audience segments to simplify and optimize visitor acquisition, enable a site to up-sell conversions and promote customer retention.  This of course is according to the [x+1] web site.


 


My experience, and the feedback that I have received from clients is that site+1 is [x+1] true wheelhouse offering.  As I have described, this is where their ability to enable an advertiser to confidently target excels.  Ad serving is a secondary competency.  In fact, [x+1] has partnered with ad servers like DoubleClick to allow an advertiser to take advantage of site+1 while working with another ad server.  If not already, I would expect integration with more ad servers to come.  Clearly the company respects to obvious stats.  The first is that people are not going to change ad servers to utilize site+1 – they are not going to adapt media+1, known to be inferior, just to have the ability to utilize site+1.  Secondly, if someone is already using an ad server – and DoubleClick represents like 50% of the market (good first partner to choose), then better to enable integration to open up a new customer base than to compete.


 


Reactionary with Insight

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