This time it is a one way ticket

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As anyone who is crazy enough to regularly read this blog will know, every so often I intersperse the world of digital media with some of my own personal experiences. Well today personal and professional collide as I contemplate for the first time in my career getting a one way ticket to the US and taking my family with me. Many people have done it before and many will do again but to me this is a big deal and one that brings equal quantities of nerves and excitement. 
 
I am moving to the US, the Big Apple no less to help shape a new chapter for Audience On Demand with a focus on client relationships and delivery. The crucial relationships we hold with our large agency partners and their customers as well as our direct customers. I am retaining my management of EMEA at the same time. I leave that business in incredibly safe hands and the management team of Geoff, Danny, Jean Baptiste, Anke, Sara, Lothar and Cesar who I know will continue to work as always in a collaborative and market leading fashion.
 
The US market is a behemoth that I think us Europeans take some time to understand and just as Europe is often over simplified by Americans,  I believe we have the same capacity in return. I stand in awe of the scale and complexity but the complexity I can handle, Europe with its multiple markets, currencies, characteristics, politics and all is hard to rival, you just need to spend time and effort getting to understand it all, and above all listen.
 
I join a great team in the US, my colleagues are a group of experts second to none and I know that we have a winning formula, I am excited to learn from all of them and I hope in return I will add value to the people who I will work alongside.  I have read headlines recently about consistency of leadership and a teams that have been in it from the early days as regards other agency groups well we have that in spades. The people I am working with have in the main been together for 5 years and more with leaders such as Frank from the very start of VivaKi so we have a strong bench. We live in times where mobility and global capabilities and sensibilities are central. When I started my career we were all living and working in our own domains now we are a single connected globe with advertisers looking for global insights and a joined up approach. I am excited that my amazing European adventure has now expanded into a US one, it makes sense and to any global advertiser I hope will be additive having someone who can discuss their business across the globe and for that reason I am grateful to VivaKi for giving me this opportunity.
 
Interestingly, when you look at different organisations I am proud of what VivaKi has allowed me to do and I have to also comment on my wife’s company Unilever who have allowed her to move to the US with me, with out missing a beat, it was truly impressive to see how empowering an organisation can be when it makes these moves possible. Just in a few short months we have moved people from US to UK, UK to US (not including me), US to Singapore, and many more before that, this is the new world we inhabit, and it is exciting to be part of it.
 
Now perhaps the hardest part will be navigating New York streets on my motorbike, or getting used to a new culture but I can’t wait, from memory there are very few motorbikes in NY so you will spot me around Hudson street! This is not just a work move but an adventure, our four year old son does not get it yet, but he will and he will love it, I need to keep my eyes focused keenly on him to try and soak up his wide eyed wonder and not get blinded by work stress and strain, it is vital for us all to enjoy our time here. I fully intend to do that, and can’t wait to get my feet under the desk and get stuck in, so New York, here we come.
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Ad Fraud: Advertisers and Auditors have only themselves to blame

Its Official! There is fraud in the Ad network business and it is big. The New York Times has written about it, see article here and so now at last it must be real. Why has it taken so long for people to take notice on the subject? VivaKi have been pushing this agenda for so long now and it is not being grasped or maybe more importantly valued by many. I will come back to what we are doing in this space, but lets get back to the ad fraud.

The media industry has always been pressured by constantly reducing pricing, every contract, every agency, every buy cheaper than the next. The advertiser is looking to reduce the costs and the ‘pitch consultants’ or rather auditors have done nothing to help that situation by creating a vicious circle of ever decreasing cpms, one agency bidding against the next. On and on it has gone, with those consultants taking their nice fees while the agencies get squeezed and squeezed. So where does this all take us? Well lets put aside agency fees and just focus on buying cpms and hope the agency gets to charge for it’s value in other ways.

The buying cpm is being reduced year on year on year and so agencies are turning to networks and other avenues to be able to hit the cpms that advertisers want. To be able to do that the only option at a certain point is to buy low cpm network inventory that is blind and very very long tail, all wrapped up in a glossy $35m marketing budget by the Ad network.  And with a nudge and wink everyone rolls over, the agency, the advertiser turn a blind eye. Years later, surprise surprise when the relevant technology becomes available and we discover that there is a lot of unsavoury, poor quality inventory being bought, there is uproar. Well come on – how did you think these companies made money?

I have no sympathy with the wailing and thrashing of bare backs about the state of the inventory because those same advertisers and auditors are the same that would not accept that if you take appropriate brand safety metrics including proper verification of inventory, whitelists, viewability tech and tracking to make sure the buy is quality and safe that there came a cost and a higher cpm. VivaKi Verified, the protection part of the Audience On Demand offering have been focused on all of these areas working with Adtricity and many others as well as having our own in house team that determine the best, safest inventory, but often times the cpm is deemed too high. Well there is a reason for that, because we are not buying click fraud, long tail, non viewed ads. 

So part of me wants to throw my arms up when an advertiser questions the well worn path of Agency Trading Desk transparency – we have the safest most robust approaches to brand safety and ability to show where every one of our ads appears – for that we have to invest. So for all the wailers out there currently, here are my final thoughts.

  • When considering the media purchase, when the glossy Ad Net is offering you a rock bottom price – you might want to ask how they get it? 
  • If you care about brand safety and every advertiser says they do – you cant accept a blind buy, I say it again – if they don’t tell you where every ad appears – you are fuelling the business that NY Times has picked up on. 
  • A challenge to auditors; seek value not price, it is in all your brochures, live it out and have the strength to tell a client they should pay more for better inventory, change your own business model away from ‘savings’ 

These headlines will become louder and let us see what happens, I will tell you, CPMs are going to rise, they have to because all those that have not been playing fair, who have been playing fast and lose with your brand, will have to improve because technology is going to find them out. When they are found out and they have to act more appropriately, their cpm will rise and then advertisers and auditors will have a dilemma – accept higher cpms for quality or continue to bury their heads in the sand and hope all this goes away.

Either way this is a good omen for those who have been banging this drum for some time and of course for genuinely premium inventory providers and for the rest I hope they suffer a lingering demise.

 

Content that you want to share : An advertiser gets it right.

Over the last few years the consistent hot topics of media and marketing have been around social media and content. Our world has been shaped by three words. Paid, Owned and Earned. The magic ingredient has been how social media channels have allow advertisers to super charge each of these areas of focus. That said this is not entirely new, or not as new as some may think.

Having worked in digital for many years, going back to the rise of viral videos in the early 2000’s we used to urge advertisers to create content for digital and not just repurposing their TV Ads. We explained that online users were looking for something extra, to be able to engage on their small screens with content other than TV Ads. Normally we did not succeed.

Years later and now every advertising initiative includes content and social and advertisers have realised they have to add value to earn the attention of their consumers. The bar has been raised as to what adding value means. Only the best work will cut through and so it was with a smile that I watched the recent work by nestle #ShareYourGoodness in India. This work has generated the highest viewed FMCG video,in India at 7million views and counting.

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The campaign focuses on the fact we all have kindness and capacity for goodness that has come from family and friends and the world around us. The crux though is the sharing of that, passing it to others and making the world around us a better, happier place.

The campaign mirrors that by encouraging people to share goodness amongst their friends and colleagues. To me what stands out is the amazing quality of the story telling and execution. YouTube, Twitter have all been used extensively and powerfully with an amazing response on Twitter – the best sharing mechanism of all. The impressive part of this campaign was that it started online – an advertiser realising that TV does not have to come first and from an FMCG advertiser that is even more significant. The TV followed of course but allowing the content speak for itself and the physical sharing of the content mirroring the message itself was a clever strategic decision.

SYG Cake

Nestle created two fantastic films to inspire viewers to #ShareYourGoodness, take a look below. The first was about two siblings and their insecurities, and how they bond with each. The second a heart warming film shows the life of Dabba-walas of Mumbai and how Nestlé India showed its gratitude to these precious people who deliver hot home-made food to Mumbaikars every-day, and thanked them for their values of dedication, punctuality and commitment.

I posted one of them, the second can be found by searching ShareYourGoodness

Enjoy the films and in the spirit of the work, why not share it!

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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.

just a thought on..

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