Category Archives: mobile

Advertisers need a competitive market : The return of Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo

For those of you who have been living through the digital advertising era from the start can not help but notice a little resurgence of what used to be the only names that counted in digital media. In those early and exciting years AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, Excite ruled the landscape until they started to come under fire from the upstarts, not least a start up called Google. The pursuing years saw these companies lose their place in life as more and more competition entered the marketplace. It is not to say of course that they have not always been major players, but without doubt lost their way in the face of Facebook, Youtube and others.

In the last couple of years we have seen a come back, it started with AOL. Launching Project Devil to stamp some brand credentials on what was mostly a DR product through Ad.com, the purchase of GoViral started their video offering and then more recently Huff Post, all adding up to create some powerful content. The final act though has been to embrace the programmatic era and to beef up video with the purchase of Adapt.tv, rounding off what is now a far more interesting offer for agencies and seemingly leading them to a return to the top.

Yahoo have seen a similar track, they had a head start with Right Media in programmatic but did not know what to do with it and in my opinion lost a few valuable years vs Google when they should have been ahead of the game. RM was neglected and allowed to become a down market solution, when it should have been the forerunner of private marketplaces. The much hyped arrival of Marissa has had many words written about it so I wont focus on that but it appears that a series of purchases in mobile is starting to bear fruit. Marissa has in fact bought 35+ companies since joining, the largest of course being Tumblr. The good news is that mobile traffic for Yahoo is on the up, in fact it is up 47% year on year. The approach towards native ads such as ‘Stream Ads’ and away from banner should also increase yields and encourage brand advertisers onto mobile. If you believe the press releases Yahoo plan to phase out all banner ads by the end of the year.

So that leaves Microsoft. Working with Microsoft over the years has been like watching a wildebeest bog down in sinking mud, struggling harder and harder but just getting into a worse and worse situation. Microsoft have always had the ingredients to make an incredible meal, but somehow the planning and then the execution always fell short. I have for many years looked to Microsoft to turn that corner, they have the four screens, an incredible offer in the Xbox and Kinect, turned a corner in mobile and yet stiching these things together always seemed elusive.

I remember for instance sitting in a presentation in Cannes where Microsoft was presenting the new Windows8. It looked great, but telling to me was little or no information about how advertising would work within it. The potential tiles as Ads in W8 was clearly an early example of a Native Ad – although luckily the term had not been coined yet! However these tile Ads would be perfect for programmatic – unique to Microsoft but definitively able to be automated. However no one had planned that far ahead, the company worked in silos. What a shame for them and us.

Programmatic as a whole also demonstrated a lack of future planning. When Google was buying companies and integrating them, Microsoft was desperately trying to protect its direct ad network business. Even today they are behind the curve, they started fast and then went backwards a little with limited targeting capabilities and a seemingly disconnected leadership who were not willing to move faster and embrace programmatic. The recent launch of Microsoft Video Network is both a step forward and a step sidewards versus competition. Microsoft are taking their valuable data and applying it across the video exchanges, where AOL are buying the tech outright rather than licensing. Where Google are buying Invite and Doubleclick, Microsoft bought 5% of Appnexus. Even the Crown Jewels of Xbox and Kinect have been under utilised, I am still yet to see an Ad pushing Xbox as anything more than a games console when in reality it is so much more, I think we will see that change over coming months as Google TV, Apple TV and others ramp up their efforts.

But is not lost because the big picture for Microsoft is changing. The new leadership for a start. Microsoft ended up choosing from within, disappointing for some but as Satya Nadella says himself ‘he is now looking at the business through fresh eyes.’ He is also super bright, passionate and has accelerated change in just a few short days. Recently there have been a couple of large events, the launch of Office 365 and most notably onto Apple devices and the Build 2014 conference. Both these events have revealed that Nadella has big plans and wants to shake things up. Microsoft had already started changing with One Microsoft where they tore down siloes and made sure that cross divisional work and idea sharing started to happen, so someone creating software for the phone was thinking about advertisers as well. The example I sight above about the tiles would probably not have happened today.

More importantly Nadella has pushed through changes inconceivable a few years back. What has changed. As Nadella describes it, we are now in an era of ubiquitous computing. Connected users, devices all relying on the cloud for delivery of ever more complex solutions. Not for today but importantly for Microsoft they see their customers as consumers and IT professionals, the corporate world and only Microsoft really has the range to answer to both of those – this should rediscover for them differentiation.On average the consumer is carrying/using four devices and Windows and Microsoft want to span all those devices seamlessly, they want the canvas for software, Apps and their developers and users to be as wide as possible. So what are they doing?

1. Windows is being introduced across all devices including Kinect for Windows. A huge step forward for users and developers a like. Design once for all devices is crucial in this connected world. Still Apple and Android want people to design for mobile and desktop/laptop. As a user the more seamless the App the better the experience across devices.

2. Use the power of Office – making it available cross all devices is huge, anyone who uses iPads know the big issues is with opening Powerpoint in particular, but to make it free is a massive step for Microsoft, putting it all in the cloud also makes it entirely portable and for developers they can use Office 365 log ins as an identifier

3. Welcome to the new world of Kinect. App developers can now design Apps once that include Kinect technology to make incredible user experiences, this will make that box in your room, even more interesting and put Microsoft right back in the game as far as Apps. Likely end result being even your PC being able to work through motion.

4. Smaller signs of change have been to provide solutions that allow people what they want on their desktop like the start button. Some describe it as retreating, I call it sensible. Microsoft is listening and that is the main thing that we all want and need.

There have been other innovations with Cortana the voice assistant, great that it has been introduced but not sure it stands out vs Siri and of course has arrived considerably later, but again an extra ingredient to create experiences for users.

Microsoft really wants to get into the Internet of Everything and with their very close partner Intel they can start to revolutionise the home and out of home with Windows being the glue to make it all happen.

Microsoft have realised that the world has changed and you need to pull users in with what is still a great set of products used by over a billion people. Microsoft have the opportunity to be a partner to your life in a way that no one else can, I say an opportunity. It is what they do with it that counts. Microsoft have a leading position in the home with Xbox, software and cloud computing has always been their strength, it is just application they must work on, phones and tablets need more work but by making life easier for developers and IT professionals they can solidify their position spanning consumers and corporate.

Overall Microsoft, more than anyone has the plumbing, the hardware and most importantly the software, and they are focused on a mobile world. They need to make room for the marketeer in all of this and bringing them to the table, we as advertisers are desperate to make sure that Microsoft is central in plans but they need to make this easier for us. As with AOL, Yahoo I hope that we see a strong resurgence from Microsoft and it seems that Satya Nadella has the right ideas and guts to push them through. Just don’t forget that the advertiser would like to be involved.

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The least well known, best attended event: Webit 2013

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Probably 6-9 months ago when November seemed a life time away I received my first communication from Webit. Come the day I walk on stage, myself and fellow speakers had received according to the hosts around 36,000 emails in the arranging of this event. Based on my own experiences and those of others, it felt like at least 36,000 as well. As time went by I started to talk to more people who appeared to be attending this mysterious event in Istanbul and so I decided to have a go.

Welcome to Webit, 8000 people from 103 countries all converging on the astounding Istanbul. Link to event here

The 36,000 emails was a precursor to a peculiar event, just as Istanbul sits between Western world and Eastern world so the event seemed to attempt to straddle both but with an emphasis on the Middle East. I think to call it an International event is slightly over stating, I would suggest that 80% of attendees were local or from the Middle Eastern region with a smattering of people from the rest of the globe.  The genius of these conferences is that a smattering of logos gives it the appearance of something that perhaps it will be one day but not yet. Vevo, Yume, VivaKi, Omnicom (Nikki Mendoca flew in for a morning to grace us), Facebook etc all make it look a big deal and yet many presentations were far from International.

As an event I believe it over stretched itself although I am not sure the organiser thought so, there was no hint of embarrassement that they had spammed people with communication in the run up, so much so that basically everyone I met had given up caring and waited until the last minute to work out where to go next. There is less hierarchy in an arilines exec club status than at this event with three or four different tiers of ticket and then corresponding content. As an example the Telco area and presentations was only available to Platinum, consequently there were no people in the sessions! Different rooms, different tiers and thousands of emails led to a pleasantly chaotic environment. 

I think the focus on start ups and innovation is probably very valuable to the area and I think the mentality of networking very strong and so this side of the event was more powerful than other more sedate affairs. The outside areas and exhibition area, actually quite small, was more like a souk atmosphere with human interaction front and centre. I certainly have never had so many spam contacts, apologies, new business opportunities sent to me and continue to be so. A small point but I feel like I have signed up to the biggest direct mail database by attending the conference, as my inbox seems to be now filled with new biz opportunities. My favourite being:

‘We partner with firms to enable you to expedite time-to-market and improve Return-on-investment by providing cost effective solutions’

I think the area that the organiser most needs to focus on is the matching of titles and content, the Big Data session as an example had at least two presentations that niether mentioned the words Big Data or in fact had anything but a tenuous link with it. Some might say that is the norm, but watching a number of the sessions, it felt to me like too much time spent on creating an overcomplicated infrastructure and not enough on the content, both original content and how it is coordinated. The Panels at times had 8 people on them, this format needs some work, too many people not saying enough, less is more definitely springs to mind!

Evening entertainment was very good, especially for the speakers and panelists and the men, a wonderful evening boat ride and dinner followed by cool party on night one and then night two a meal followed by probably the least likely entertainment – a mass naked Hammam..umm. This combined with some liberal belly dancing left a few of the International ladies wondering whether this conference could be a little more balanced in its approach to men and women and indeed I doubt anyone really cared about how many women there were on stage – the answer. very few.

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All that said it was an amazing location, infectious atmosphere led by Plamen and I am sure it will continue to grow and grow. I feel like it needs to take a lead from other large events in how it is set up and run to streamline everything and have less of the workings on show and more of the content. If you want to really ramp up business in the area I also believe it would be a great starting place. For VivaKi expanding and increasing the Audeince On Demand services there it worked well on the back of the AOD Publisher Day we had before it and I am sure many other International teams will see similar opportunity.

The event also created two side lines, the first is that myself and Brian from Digiday have coined the phrase ‘they did a Webit’ and that Brian has big plans for bringing programmatic to the Bazaars of Istanbul, he is particularly worried about the longevity of the exclusive superglue stall man in this new era of RTB!

Persistent Identity – holy grail available to some..

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I am Just back from meetings in Seattle and San Fran with the Big 4. Big 4 you ask? Well in todays world of data connectivity, mobile innovation and growth as well as digital commerce the big 4 has changed. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon are now gunpowder and bullet. The others more and more the barrel.

The message that is coming out loud and clear is that these players in their own varied ways are out to maximise the insights they have on their users and customers through a single themed approach of ‘Persistent Identity.’ I heard it a few times over the time I was out there, I have seen it mentioned in the odd article. But when you get to spend three days with all these market leading companies it becomes loud and clear that the data they hold on consumers is the key to their future and the single most valuable asset.

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Persistent Identity is a fancy way of saying ‘we know who you are, we know where you are and we know what device you are on, the holy grail of data. The kind of data and insights advertisers are crying out for. What strikes me about this data is how much more powerful it is than third party data sold by any number of companies, data which is slightly worn out, like an old apple at the bottom of a bag, still edible but just not as fresh and juicy as when it was picked.

The ability to recognise you, add insights to your iD, serve ads depending on which device you are on, understand you through your behaviour by device, friends, clicks and links is so powerful, so powerful in fact you can see the likes of Facebook being the defacto judge of what is good or accurate data instead of the traditional players. That has already started of course but I think will gather momentum. Watch out panel data.

When you take a step back and realise what data they have you can understand why they are reticent to share it or risk it being stolen, putting up walls of protection around it. Amazon with their marketplace, Facebook only allowing access through API, Twitter pulling info from Google, these are the actions of companies with hidden treasure. These businesses dont need all the old methods of tracking whether it is panels of adserved cookies, they know their people, signed in, registered people at scale.

Persistent identiity is powerful and logical, the only problem is that you have to stack up on these solutions. Like having a car and pulling up at the fuel station and putting 3 or 4 different petrols in to be able to get the car going. I want to recognise everyone through the ability of joining up these players – I would love to spot a FB user who has been updating a status about an iPod, browsing on Amazon and nail them with a promoted Tweet or video Ad to close the deal. I know it is too much to ask to have all these companies reveal their secret source but targeting would be fun..

Either way, data businesses will need to work hard and fast to justify their models in the face of the biggest digital players in the world starting to pull up their sleeves and flex their guns, because be under no illusion they are big guns.

CES My overview: Content and technology at odds when it comes to mobility

CES never ceases to astound, not least because the sheer scale is incredible. Over 150,000 people gathered this year to see the onslaught of new gadgets and software, with over 20,000 new products being launched. However this year I was less surprised by the products being launched.

Yes there were bigger TVs, thinner TVs, TVs with the most incredible picture quality, more tablets, more phones, more games and even fridges that talk to you. Loads of great stuff. But not loads of surprises. The focus as far as I could see was in making all of these things talk, connect and share with each other.

It struck me at CES just how much technology enables a seamless, frictionless ecosystem for us and our consumption of content. There were some fascinating examples on the show floor that all point to the consumer being able to do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it. I can guarantee that our children will be demanding a completely open proposition when it comes to media consumption. They will want and expect it in a non- linear fashion as well.

A prime example of this was DISH, who is trying everything to help us do that. First they allow the recording of every primetime network channel automatically on to your set top box and then they have enabled the transfer of this content to your iPad for later viewing on the go. A brilliant idea which fully utilises the tablet / PC and TV.

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Intel and Comcast are working to make sure that the average home can have a number of different devices wired up so individuals can watch and do whatever they like in whatever room of the house they are in. This allows the consumer a seamless movement of viewing / playing around the house.

And with Intel’s Microsoft Windows 8 laptop come tablet devices users can play with based on their mood – laptop for work, tablet for play. There is no one device that has come to the fore here and I am sure the best route will take a while to play out, but it will.

Samsung’s interactive TV’s continue to delight with the ability to talk with friends via Twitter, Skype etc… and indeed there are now competitors challenging the idea that adding these interactive services does not need to push up the price tag so considerably. Hisense is democratising these services and has entered the market with an affordable Smart TV for everyone.

Interestingly, the superstores in the US are also trying to push this out of the preserve of the lucky few. Both Walmart and Bestbuy will now only sell Smart TV’s, trying to drive further adoption of these ever connected devices. Intrinsic to growth in the connected TV area (there are 35 million connected TV devices in the US) is just that, getting them connected.

The Wi-fi revolution has meant that it is now so easy to connect a new device and adoption rates are high in the Smart TV market. All of this means we are very quickly going to arrive at a world where the lines between your TV and mobile devices are seamless.

This is being accelerated by a need to can the wires, a greater desire for social TV and a realisation that the TV can be a great central hub for all content wherever it comes from, and indeed can be the starting point for finding content and sending it outwards. In addition, on demand services and social apps also mean that people will be looking for Smart TV’s as a matter of course. Driving further adoption.

The key issue, however, is that the devices are seamless but the content is not. Broadcasters in particular are trying to manage a market that is shifting rapidly around them. In my home where I don’t have an aerial and the digital aerial does not work I turn to Apple TV. Apple TV is great for streaming to the TV, but who are the people that won’t let you do it – C4, ITV, Sky etc. How limited and short sighted are they? What are the alternatives? I don’t watch their programmes, or I do?

My Samsung TV has no 4oD, the result is I don’t watch this channel as much as I would. Comcast in the US is not letting people stream programming from the likes of HBO Go, it is being artificially restricted. This strangulation by these broadcasters needs to adjust and fast as viewers will not put up with it for much longer.

One huge irritation I have is the fact that Sky won’t let me have unlimited devices to watch SkyGo on – we live in a world where people often have an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod and perhaps even a Nexus 7 – I want to watch SkyGo anywhere I want,  at any time – that drives loyalty.

How technology will impact advertising

So, we have a seamless technology ecosystem developing, let’s look on the bright side and suggest that broadcasters do give up their old school methods and let us all do what we want. There will be two implications for the advertising business. The first is that measurement of viewership will become an impossible task without some improvement in the technology tracking it – a big ask. And that leads neatly to the second – addressable TV advertising.

DISH is currently piloting zipcode targeting – basically they download ads to the set top box and then fire them to the appropriate household and hopefully in time, person. How can they do that? Well, if a household is governed by a central console like a Comcast box, then we could be in a position to more easily identify who is watching what content and serve them relevant advertising.

Simulmedia recently released numbers that suggest that as much as 75% of TV ad impressions are reaching just 20% of their target audiences. If this data becomes verified, advertisers will be looking to alternatives and addressability will be paramount.

So, after a few days in Vegas we did not see a great deal of change, more a rapid progression of technology that was present last year – more tablets, more Smart TV’s, interchangeable laptops and tablets, sharing technology, social technology. As a result our industry also needs to rapidly progress. The consequences for the media will be far reaching and affect all of us.

Marco Bertozzi is executive managing director of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi

Is this the 2nd most successful paid for social network?

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In the last three weeks I have responded a couple of times to Tweets regarding social media. One was entitled ‘would you pay for social media’ and it got me thinking that when we talk about social we often forget Flickr. Then I see a tweet about the way most of the mobile Apps for Google+ and Facebook are evolving into a series of rich images to scroll through and again I think to myself what a whopping missed opportunity Flickr was and how a lack of foresight led it to be a photo repository for the average user.

Flickr has 50m registered users, pretty good but when compared with what it could have been! It was bought for $35m dollars in 2005 by Yahoo, it seems so cheap and in terms of what it could have been, a steal! I think the timing of the purchase was unfortunate with Yahoo in some of its biggest disarray in terms of position in market anbd future strategy as well as FB etc coming to town. Back then Flickr had a function to bring people together to ‘chat’ around subject matter photos – the equivalent of a ‘Hang-out’ at the time I guess. Basically what Flickr lacked was someone who could see the future and how social and sharing was going to be HUGE.

Would you pay for social media? I do every year when Flickr say to me that if I ever want to see my photos again I better pay up! That is one of the best social media payment models in the business no? Now of course I resent the ransom note every year but begrudgingly admit that they do a job, they hold this for me, allow me to share it, although their god awful privacy controls are difficult to fathom, normally when you want to send a single photo you send people everyone of your private photos!

I notice that Flickr has started to adapt, new interface, new controls and a far more user friendly interface, but they need to do more, they need to create an easy way to share, comment, bring in friends, let people announce things, set up environments for events and..oh is that not Facebook? I would like to see a ‘hang out approach’ on videos you want to share, invite them live and so on, the opportunities are endless and this is what makes me realise what a terribly, terribly big waste of an opportunity it has been thus far. It is however not too late in my mind.

There has been some debate about their revenues, conservative at $50m ranging upwards helped by Getty Images, Advertising on billions of impressions and other partnerships so it is a good business from the outside, I will be intrigued to see if the most successful pay-for-play-social-media-platform in the world can continue to adapt and grab the new opportunities before it is resigned to being a bloody good attempt at a social network from 2005.

Venture capital – are you a write off?

Over the last few months I have been spending more time talking with Venture Capital firms as we start to launch VivaKi Ventures in EMEA and I have to say it has been fascinating. On top of that I have been talking with individuals who have working in multiple start ups. If I am honest I am struck by the combination of instinct, nous, luck, crowd mentality and incredible returns and losses the VCs work off.

Information is extremely varied and disparate but overall it appears that the funds do a number of things, they are looking to make sure they have some ‘skin in the game’ in different sectors – we must be in mobile, we must be in video etc, sometimes buying into companies that from the outside appears misguided – Groupon to the punter on the street just appeared crazy but that did not stop anyone investing. Then we have this emotional crowd mentality where people in the investment community get excited and invests illogically based on sentiment, not dissimilar to the city swings we see on share prices.

In times of financial ups and downs investment firms are then trying to recoup the best returns, again, perhaps not always thinking straight in IPO situations, one of the views on Facebook was that the institutional investment firms had cash, it was making no returns through any conventional financial methods whether the stock market or banks and so the money was burning a hole in their pocket. An IPO like Facebook and others was a great opportunity to hit those return goals.

After all that there is the general rule of thumb that anywhere between 30 and 50% of companies will be complete write offs. I got thinking about that, and in discussions on that subject it struck me how blase they were about it. It is not working, cut it. You may be an owner, founder, an employee in these companies working hard and caring very much whilst backing you is a company that may one day wake up and say – lets pull the plug. It feels like that is an easy thing for them to do, when they are balancing that decision with high returns of 30x somewhere else. It is very matter of fact and shows just how hard it is to be a successful start up, especially in such difficult times.

I know for sure that there are good VC firms and less good in terms of caring for their investments but they all for sure know that they can walk away from companies easily as it is all built into the maths.  Good luck to everyone who starts their own business or joins a start up. It is a brave world.

AOD Summit – 2012

The two days ended with a great talk from one of the godfathers of digital – Scott Ferber. Founder of ad.com the worlds most successful ad net and now founder of Videology. The guy is both crazy and unbelievably bright, engaging and down to earth.

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Two tough days of Audience On Demand and VivaKi bonding, I probably did not plan it brilliantly by accepting an invite from Google to take all 28 of us to the IAA Summer ball! There were some tired faces on day two but it was the right thing to do. The team had a great time.

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We had people from UK, France, Italy, Dubai, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden and Poland. Too many teams claim to have resource and capabilities in different markets but that means clicking the geo buttons on their DSPs. We have established teams now driving markets forward and it’s exciting to see in action.

There are an amazing amount of similarities between markets, there is a curve of adoption that I believe is reflected in most markets but only where companies are pushing the market. It looks very different if you are a follower. Our teams in Dubai for instance are not pushing they are creating it, I highlight it as the entrepreneurial spirit that makes the people in The Vivaki Nerve Center different.

The two days ended with a panel with Stewart Easterbrook, CEO SMG UK, Matt Roche of Weborama, Ryan Jamboretz of Videology, Jon Slade at the FT and Jason Bigler of Google painted a picture for the markets to take back of a world in which programmatic buying and RTB was going to be fundamental to all their businesses.

This Monday sees a new home for us all. We have enjoyed being part of the SMG team at Whitfield street but very excited about having our own office. It has been two years and 4 months of hard work that has taken us to this point and it feels like the time is right for expansion. I do need to get rid of the curtains though!

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The market is still moving fast with acquisitions and evolutions and indeed people moves. Interesting to see Damian Blackden move to Adnologies this week, showing that data and exchanges are still pulling the talent to them and we continue to meet with a myriad of tech companies all trying to carve out their space.