Stunned by Microsoft Hololens : Future in our hands.

Over the years I have been asked to join a number of client advisory boards for a multitude of companies. Today I was with Microsoft, I was expecting to be discussing data and tech and some of the hot topics of programmatic. However there was an agenda item I was certainly looking forward to. Hololens.
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The whole Virtual reality, hologram excitement had passed me by to date. Oculus was gaming with a motorcycle goggles on and although not correctly in the same camp, Google Glass was just a let down. That said I am a techy at heart and so was keen to see what it could do.
I was left absolutely gob smacked, I think the room was and even more so when we found out that everything I was seeing was actually real, not mocked, real. I know I was not the only one who left that room thinking that we had just seen the future, a future that changes everything and I am talking about how we see, think, learn, and do. I will come back to marketing later but first let me try and explain it.
You slip on the goggles with visor that gives you a big visual canvas but still allows you the opportunity to look down and out the sides, giving you a sense of stability and less motion sickness. Once you put on goggles they take in your surroundings and you can start to create a VR world layered upon yours. There were so many highlights – check the video here, but let me list a few of the simpler ones!
  • Watching – open the Netflix App and turn it into a 40″ viewing experience or a cinema experience on your wall – or at least that’s the impression you get.
  • Communicating – take Skype app and have it float in mid air, following you as you walk and chat simultaneously or just there as you sit.
  • Educational – Need to change that fuse but don’t know how? Get your dad to dial in via his tablet on Skype. He sees what you see and can annotate and point right in front of your eyes so it looks like he is actually circling the wire, he can show you exactly what to do.
  • Schooling – your son needs to understand the body? Well have him see a life size body being stripped to bones / organs and more in a non gruesome way and see how the body functions.
  • Gaming – let’s face it Warcraft gets dull in the same old environments, turn your house into the playground, right up to knocking huge holes in your walls to reveal another universe the other side.

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What I love about this tech is that you can pin Apps to locations – so when you put the glasses on, if you want to have the Netflix app always on the same wall – it will be there just like your big TV screen. If you want the weather and your to do list on the fridge door, so be it. Alternatively if you want them to follow you around, it can do that too. You create another parallel world that appears every time you put on the glasses.
Don’t you have to wear those crazy glasses all the time? Well yes you do but first expect to see the tech get smaller and smaller and secondly imagine at least to start with that they will be used in a task led way. Watch something, talk to someone, demonstrate something, I could see it working. As the apps that are created grow I can see this being something that truly changes our world and from an educational, human support perspective very much for the better. Some have made comparisons with Google Glass but they wanted you to walk the streets with Glass, these are more for home and office which makes the act more manageable.
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Of course in our business we have to answer the big question of what it means for marketeers. The first thing I thought was that this was another topic to add to my blog ‘the death of advertising.’ When asked by Microsoft about advertising I think we were all suddenly shocked to find that we did not want to think about it, it was too blunt in this environment. As we chatted though we started to realise that the role of marketing is to provide experiences not Ads. We have talked about this theme for some time but this was the opportunity. Live chat customer service turns into holographic walk through of what to do, car configuration is life size in your room, hotel reviews include walking into the room to see it and so on. What it is not is Blade Runner esq Ads talking at you from every angle when you put the goggles on.
The overall sentiment was that we as an industry have an obligation to protect this new world and enhance our marketing opportunities rather than ruin the Hololens experience. We also get that the data generated by such a system will mean an even deeper lense into how we behave and consider purchases and again we need to have the utmost respect for that data and privacy. As this whole system will be on the Windows 10 platform it will also connect with all your other Microsoft activities and be just another ‘screen’ meaning further data connectivity.
Be clear though, in this session we saw the future in our hands today, scary, amazing but bringing a world of opportunity and I think for the first time Microsoft just made the others look ordinary.

Powerful internet fraud – Moneyexpert360 & Swoggi

It is not often that I write about consumer issues but I came across a lovely little scam the other day that took some money off me, luckily I worked it out before it was too much but it left me amazed that these businesses still exist and are not challenged by trading standards or Action Fraud. The story starts with a fake site called http://www.moneyexpert360.com where one of the writers talks about this amazing site called http://www.swoggi.com or http://www.swoggi.co.uk where you can bid for ipods and ipads etc and win at very low pricing. It does of course look too good to be true but at the same time professional and backed by Moneyexperts360 who of coursed ripped off the moneyexpert url.

So basically the site encourages you to bid but every bid will cost you 50p. The other clever feature is that the auction runs one penny at a time. So imagine trying to get to a £150 ipad – do the maths and consumers pay http://www.swoggi.co.uk thousands to get that ipad. The final twist is that people get bored of doing that and so employ the bidrobot to do the bidding for you and you set how many bids you want to do – all without realising that you are paying 50p a click.

The one line of explanation is hidden in reams of writing and frankly its hard to find and understand. Nowhere obvious does it state that you are paying with every bid, they know what they are doing and it is mis representation and as good as fraud.

Please share this blog, retweet the tweet and do anything you can to help shut down this scam site – if any of you are journos then please spread the word with your huge followers and lets stop these sites thrive on ignorance.

Digital foot print of parents

It struck me the other day as I posted an image of my wife and I plus friends on a no kid ski trip and the comments that came after that we are actually saying a lot about us as parents and revealing so many thoughts that would have disappeared into the sky in our day. We have all done it and seen it! ‘YES! weekend away without the kids!’ ‘Finally they are in bed’ ‘they have been little shits today’ and so on, you get it.

Now we all know that we don’t say anything with any malice but at the same time if you were to go back and read some of it, maybe it would strike a nerve. I know if I was posting about my wife, ‘thank god I am going to get away from her for a few days’ I may come in for some problems at home! So what is the difference and will they understand? Will kids understand for the first time just how much pleasure we got from ‘us/me time?’ All those photos from glamorous locations that some friends I know who travel a lot for work (not me of course), will they understand that you were actually working and not playing instead of being with them at home.

We are all creating a digital footprint, not just the teenagers we so often talk about when it comes to this subject, our lives are there for ever splashed across the various platforms – I wonder what other people will see in them when they look back. I hope for all our sakes that actually our children will see just how much we loved them, took them places, photographed them and showed them off with pride because they are going to need it to make up for some of those ‘brilliant another holiday ruined by sick child comments’

Ryder Cup of programmatic – my review of US vs Europe programmatic

First published in The Drum – click here

Back in 2010 when I started the European arm of VivaKi’s Audience On Demand, I had to turn to the US for everything. Half the companies I dealt with at the time had to turn to their data centres in the US just to make a bid, something that today would be impossible to imagine.

The US led the programmatic revolution, my own colleagues kicking things off in 2008. I was certainly wowed by the work going on in the US and the sophistication with which they approached this new and complex advertising technique.

Europeans often complain that Americans just don’t understand us. Having spent five months in the US last year, I realise that the reverse is also true. We just don’t understand the sheer scale and complexity of the US market either and because of that it creates more challenges for a single country than for Europe as a whole.

People would say without hesitation or doubt: ‘Oh so how is the UK, what are you, about two years’ behind us?’ Frustrating. So often the opinion was based on scale, not sophistication, and the two are fundamentally different in a market like the US. As I consider my time there and compare it with the UK, I would say there are three primary differences:

Scale vs campaign sophistication

There are advertisers in the US who at times spend more individually than two major European markets combined. Daunting as it is, this type of scale drives innovation and startups. It powers research and learnings because budgets are so large that testing new technology and funding research is that much easier than in smaller markets. But take a narrower view of the work, the strategy, and this is where Europe starts to come into its own.

While scale equates to innovation on a macro level, smaller budgets often lead to more rigorous optimisation on a campaign level.

Let’s take something like centralising retargeting. In the space of about a year the UK revolutionised the marketplace. It was a marketplace where an advertiser routinely had 10+ ad networks and publishers each with a pixel on the advertiser’s site. They would happily retarget their first-party data, creating incredible internal competition and price inflation on their audiences as well as data leakage. This is like letting multiple companies bid on brand search terms. It would never be allowed in search so why in display?

UK advertisers realised relatively quickly the problem needed fixing – and it was fixed. The US is still pondering the complexity.

Vendor management

Vast agency networks across multiple cities creates an opportunity for publishers and media sellers to find money in any number of cracks. Policing spend and agency-preferred partners in the US is incredibly difficult. Say no to a tech company in one city, and they will pitch to your counterpart in another.

Europe appears to have a much better grasp on that process. With relatively smaller teams, overarching strategies can be put into play and monitored effectively. This may not be to the liking of some media companies, but it needs to be done to ensure best-in-class partnerships.

Invented in the US, adopted in Europe, private marketplaces (PMPs) are another of Europe’s success stories. The speed with which the UK alone created PMPs surprised my US colleagues and competitors. Building bespoke PMPs is now the norm in Europe to drive programmatic business. In the US there are still DSP providers without PMP functionality, which I find incredible.

At a dinner I attended in New York, publishers were bemoaning the lack of buyer demand. In Europe we see the opposite – publishers and agencies are driving an ever higher proportion of spend via PMPs and there is massive innovation as well.

La Place Media in France is a prime example, and another more recent is theglobal launch of Pangaea, the publishing alliance led by The Guardian but including FT, CNN, The Economist and others. This is not happening in the US, as most players consider themselves too large to need that kind of collaboration. I think this is a mistake as Google, Facebook and others are only getting bigger and stronger.

Agility and innovation

Things just seem to move faster in European markets. Ideas are put into action very quickly. Geography helps. When AOD launched in the UK, I would walk down Charlotte Street in London, dealing with just a handful of leaders. The same approach in the US spans as many as six cities, 10 agencies and an army of people.

This is not a criticism, it is a fact.  Even when you have a well-developed idea, beta-testing is much quicker in a European market as you work with smaller teams who work next to each other.

Innovation is a hot topic and one that I think we lament when we look at the hotbed of Silicon Valley and the burgeoning New York scene.  However huge strides are being made in EMEA with hot new companies emerging from Israel to Amsterdam and Moscow.

One continent awe-inspiring in scale and opportunity. One continent agile and swift.  Operating in parallel? Formidable.

Premium publisher alliances and their benefits : My piece in Drum on Pangaea

Originally posted on The Drum click here.

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Exciting news from the new consortium called Pangaea. It has been a long time coming and represents another big step forward for the programmatic industry. Another step towards the word ‘programmatic’ being a thing of the past as the whole industry normalises as regards the use of tech for the targeting and delivery of ads.

I am still having conversations with advertisers who ask if we are dealing in long tail, unsold inventory. Initiatives like Pangaea add further evidence that the concept of not being able to buy premium, or build brands through programmatically traded media is a thing of the past.

This list of publishers sounds like a starting point and I am sure it will grow. It is exactly the collaboration that all publishers should be looking at.

Important to note however that although many advertisers do not want the long tail and want to avoid fraud we are still faced with a side by side comparison on lowest CPM wins driven by auditors. Pangaea will undoubtedly be at the more expensive end of the pricing spectrum in exchanges. Advertisers can’t have it both ways. We now need to make sure they are not priced out of the market by all the things the advertisers fear most but end up accepting for the sake of lower pricing.

The other plus point for Pangaea is that the advent of technology and data management platforms has changed the dynamics for advertisers. They can now play a more central role by controlling their audiences at the centre and then execute either globally or allow local markets to plug in. Either way, having the ability to partner with a single alliance to work with allows them to act at scale in premium inventory and access strong data to enhance their own.

Being global is essential. It is vital that publishers adapt to a marketplace where advertisers are doing deals with the Facebooks, Googles etc globally as a starting point in their media planning. Scale is becoming paramount.

The alliance will also allay fears from advertisers around brand safety and fraud, a critical issue right now. This group of companies can offer advertisers a vehicle to avoid many of those issues. The combined investment in tech from Rubicon, the publishers themselves and the nature of the sites means this should be a staple part of any global advertisers plans and safe in the knowledge it will bring quality, brand safe inventory.

BertozziBytesize: Are we seeing the Demise of advertising?

First published in The Drum – click HERE

You only write these titles when you spend a few days at CES. When you return to the day job you realise that it is an impossible title. Billions of pounds of spend across too many channels you care to think of. That can’t be wrong. And it’s getting bigger almost every year.

No, advertising is not dead. But the whole point of shows like CES is to make you think differently, to look at the world through tech-tinted glasses. It forces you to listen to thousands of people who are not encumbered by the past, not designing for the here and now.

These people are concentrated on only one thing – the future. Some of them well into the future, one that has no room for presenting ads to millions of people in one go. They just don’t care about that caveman approach to advertising. They are designing a future that is built around the human being connected to everything they use and consume and who is hard wired to the world around them. As Gary Shapiro said, “the show is about moving us forward”.

There are thousands of column inches filled with articles on the tech itself, but when you take a step back and consider the connected home, the connected car, tracking devices, health and wellbeing apps, virtual reality design, we are moving more and more towards a world designed around us, around me. The space to broadcast is being reduced. Despite this, advertising today is still broadcast. Even what we call ‘targeted’ advertising is really not that targeted.

Yet simultaneously, technology is allowing us to customise our world around us. As someone who travels a lot, it is with a heavy heart that I sit through another Lebara ad while watching an in-flight film, the same one I have seen 50 times, knowing I am never going to pick up a SIM at the airport when I arrive. The likes of Facebook and Google know so much about me and yet I still see junk ads at every turn.

Our physical experiences are driving our commercial choices to the extent that advertising is being squeezed and advertisers need to evolve and integrate into a new generation of consumers.

Take the CPG category and the common fridge. Advertisers push messages telling you to fill up that fridge but the fridge is getting clever. It’s connecting to multiple data sources and information It can now keep tabs on what it has inside, making it best placed to answer your questions about what you need to buy. Now I don’t want to have my world ruled by my fridge but if I can’t remember if I need to buy milk as I stand in the supermarket aisle, then it’s the perfect opportunity for the fridge to suggest options pre-purchase based on my lifestyle.

Think buying comparison sites or TripAdvisor for all your food stuffs. LG HomeChat, for example, allows the basic part of that equation, where one can text their white goods. It’s only a matter of time before it goes that last mile. Advertisers and retailers will need to be a part of that.

The fridge is an example, but the car will be the same. Just as you are told your tyres need replacing by the man in the garage, would it not be more useful to have your car suggest which tyre you should buy and at the best price. In the case of Range Rover’s connected app which tells you your fuel range and when you need to fill up, it’s only a matter of time before it can tell you where to fill up at the cheapest price locally.

The internet of things will hold so much information that our worlds and choices within it will be determined by us and the information we hold rather than something as far reaching as the Super Bowl ad. Right now we still have a plethora of connected ecosystems (although they are being concentrated on a few big operating systems), but over time we will see our ability to combine data sources become more seamless and without the need to re-qualify as a data scientist. Merging my health data with my weekly shopping list will mean I can design my eating habits around my health and companies who integrate themselves into these ecosystems will be the winners.

The examples are endless but the trend is here, we are moving to an uber-sophisticated world of CRM but facilitated through technology and apps rather than address databases.

CES has the ability to make you rethink everything and as you see the potential personalisation opportunities of technology, and the ambition of the 200,000 start-ups that joined CES, you realise that our current day advertising looks one step ahead of cave drawings. Companies like Samsung, LG, Mercedes and Audi are all starting on that journey alongside Google with Nest and Facebook who are fully aware of the opportunity.

Ultimately we will shape our own destiny and relationship with brands over time as we continue to get closer to the images we are used to seeing in sci-fi movies.