If you want to understand Ad blocking, look to the youth.

Original article posted on The Drum here

So much of the talk on ad blocking is focused on battery sucking ads, data sucking ads, bad ads and so on. There is hand wringing at every corner of the industry.  Today I saw a tweet from an advertiser bemoaning how it is messing with their site analytics.

The solutions are diverse and range from technical to blocking the blockers or even worse paying the organised crime like protection rackets that some of these ad blocking companies are offering up.

If you really want to understand ad blocking you have to look to the youth.  Because the youth are not moaning about ads sucking their data and they aren’t obsessed with being followed around the web.  They don’t care about any of that.  They do talk about the quality of ads.  They just don’t understand the relationship between ads and free things.  Those free things are many and varied and they have not stopped to think about the reality of paying for them.

I’m part of a project called Speaker4Schools where I run educational sessions on the media industry for 16 and 17-year-old school children.  Recent presentations I’ve given have involved talking on the subject of the value exchange between advertising and the free services the children receive.

As I work through the presentation I ask how they would feel paying for Facebook (no one), what about Instagram? Yes, but a tiny amount and email? You get the idea – they don’t want to pay and can’t actually get their heads around having to pay.  As I explain that advertising is subsidising all these great services they feel are essential to their lives, I see the realisation dawn that they have really never considered the relationship at all.  Ads are just there to sell product.

I also asked the students if they use ad blockers.  30-50 per cent said they do or have done so.  They do it just because they can.  They do it because ‘there is an app for that’.  These are the young consumers of the future.  The problem of course stretches further in to older age groups which are where I agree with publishers blocking people from seeing their content.  The problem is however that fundamentally if we can’t explain to the younger generation that they get all this free stuff because of advertising, and it won’t be free for long if the use of ad blocking continues to rise, we have a much bigger problem.

It’s time to get together.  Just like the alcohol industry and its ‘drink responsibly’ campaign we need a major advertising push.  We have a massive job to do on educating the population, and perhaps along the way, help our industry attract new entrants.  It’s imperative we do this rather than lining the pockets of every ad blocking and ad blocking-blocking company and the myriad of other tech companies claiming to solve this issue.  Let’s put our energy towards a true industry effort to change perceptions and save our business.

At the same time we do have to improve creative, reduce ads, agree some standards on viewability measurement and reduce fraud.  But first and foremost we have to educate the youth that if they want to Snapchat for free they need to see ads.

2016 will be the year of breakups in programmatic


First published in Campaign – link here

In the programmatic space, 2014 can be summed up as a year of snap decisions and bad relationships. There was a considerable amount of hot air and publishers, agencies and advertisers, to varying degrees, reacted to it in the heat of the moment. But 18 months later, I believe we will see a number of these relationships start to unravel.

Today I am so pleased to see that almost all major clients are embracing programmatic with a cool hand, understanding the pros and cons and planning for a future where data and tech are front and centre. The heat has come out of the programmatic kitchen and been replaced with good old fashioned brain power.

But that is not what I am writing about today — although related — I want to return to 2014. At an ANA event in New York last year, I joined a panel on the programmatic revolution, which followed the usual headline-grabbing presentation of whoever had run a survey that day. The air was full of fear and suspicion over transparency and media agencies were in the dock as usual. At that conference I called 2014 “the lost year” of programmatic in regard to advertisers and how they approached it. This was because the entire year had been a series of meetings, conferences and emails concerned with transparency and agency trading desks and all the good stuff we have come to know and love. Very few of those meetings were about the strategic direction advertisers should be taking in the programmatic space.

What happened last year was not just the headlines and the deafening ring of the cash till, as the myriad of consultants counted their earnings on the back of the fear and suspicion. It was worse: some big decisions were taken under those conditions. Major partnerships were signed, deals done and monies committed with an eye on outsmarting whatever the danger was — and that varied. Perhaps it was an advertiser that wanted its own tech deal to go around the agency or publishers wanting to out gun Google and Facebook. Perhaps it was procurement or the CEO asking questions of the brand manager and making them act. Whatever the catalyst was, decisions were made that are already starting to become irrelevant or just plain bad.

Next year will see the unraveling of these relationships; It will be the year that those deals and partnerships formed under intense strain will come apart. Publishers, advertisers and agencies all made decisions — some more than others — but with a new calm descending on the programmatic landscape, and the strong wind of transparency, clarity and understanding blowing through, we will see some of these deals undone. This will likely cause serious financial difficulties for some ad tech companies who sold the dream only to discover that waking up next to a partner who has already checked out of the relationship is a lot harder than they thought.

Anyone who tried to sell a service built around the notion that this topic was simple and easily solved will get called out this year. The market has moved so much in the past 12 months. Whether you are a publisher, agency or client, making a big decision last year was brave because the landscape today looks very different. We can only wonder who the jaded lovers are and who is thinking about how to break up the rather heat of the moment relationship.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.com/article/why-2016-will-year-breakups-programmatic/1373982#z2CbdEY2Q3jC5yxj.99

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.
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.


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.