Tag Archives: digital

CES : My review of the 2014 show – Just because you can, does not mean you should

 

 

This article was first published on The Drum link here

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The annual pilgramage to CES this year created quite an impression. The big themes were relentless connectivity and tracking, the concept of the Internet of Everything from Cisco, basically the intersection of humans, objects and technology and finally wearable technology.

These themes provided us with huge opportunity and some not inconsiderable challenges as humans, businesses and marketeers. This year felt a little like companies were connecting things just because they could; objects were transmitting data, even though they did not know what to do with it. As a marketeer you were left scratching your head, knowing that somewhere in all this incredible innovation there was opportunity, but just did not know where to start.

Even as a self proclaimed tech enthusiast I was still overwhelmed by the range of companies that want you to invest from both a money and time perspective in their ecosystems. Although the end result could sometimes be fantastic, such as the house you could entirely control from your phone, the lack of cross system interoperability leaves you wondering if we will be able to cope with the plethora of apps needed to manage all this and whether it will be safe, especially as regards the connected home.

So all that said, I wanted to have a look at some of those big themes and try to eek out the challenges and opportunities for us all whether as a connected consumer or a business trying to benefit from it.

Technology designed for simplicity, creating complexity
CES looks to the future, identifies innovation and on that basis we should embrace all it has to offer us. At the same time it leaves the head spinning, trying to understand how to manage the plethora of ecosystems. Even as things stand we are all coping with the battle of the operating systems, more and more we are being encouraged to package our lives into Apple,Android or Microsoft. Just looking at the art of watching TV we are provided endless choice on how and where to watch content. Roku, Netflix, smart TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast and on and on, but after a few days here you realise that there is more to come, a lot more.

The connected home has allowed companies such as LG, Samsung, ADT, DISH and others to offer the ability to hook up your whole house all the devices talking together. The problem is none of these systems are talking to each other, they are building closed systems. Yes it is incredibly clever but this has to work for us and has to have an element of open source wiring so we can consolidate different streams of data and functionality. Interestingly, companies such as Cisco and Intel may hold the key as they create smaller, faster chips that can go in multiple devices they may help us join the dots a little and perhaps find ways of at least consolidating data into a single dashboard. Apart from complexity of devices and systems there is also a cost perspective, how many different 200 pound devices and systems can we sustain?

Just because you can does not always mean you should. It feels at CES that the technology is coming first and the consumer second in some regards. Let’s take the amazing 4K televisions with this year’s big twist – the introduction of curved screens. People were left a little cold by curved sceens, an innovation that lacked a real consumer demand and required a change in our approach to viewing. The suggestion from excitable sales people was that even on an 80-inch TV you need to sit close to it to enjoy it. That fails on a number of levels – not least big TVs go in big rooms and you dont want to be crowded around a TV like you are warming yourself around a fire. Secondly, I don’t want my kids sat on top of a massive screen. The other relatively important area is that none of the broadcasters have any content that is delivered in 4k. Instead of enhancing, sometimes the viewing experience is diminished – even on good old HD we still don’t have all content delivered in this fashion, so pretty as they were, I would not rush out and buy one.

Similarly with features such as iBeacon from Apple – the idea that you can be fired messages from retailers and merchants as you browse stores sounds great but first you have to download an app from that retailer to be able to receive the messages. I for one do not want 50 Apps on my phone dedicated to retailers, as well as one for the Samsung fridge, cooker, the one for my BMW i3 outside and another for my ADT home security set up. Some how we need to link this together and make it user friendly and applicable.

We need guardians of our data
Data is a word that comes with a very wide remit, but one thing is for sure, we are creating it at a horrifying rate. Wearable technology, the smart home, the Internet of Everything, means this is both a positive and a negative for us all to consider. Imagine sensors on your body or clothes sending data to your health provider, your home consumption data being linked directly to retail stores, home utilities controlling themselves based on weather data, traffic data giving you immediate ways to avoid the latest gridlock. The opportunities are endless. Individuals become nodes on the internet transmitting data constantly to the internet. Much as we focus on the devices, let’s not forget we are being tracked. We will be tracked in every way possible and we have to make our peace with that.

The best example of this was ‘Mother’, an object that sits at home and comes with many small sensors called cookies. You place these cookies anywhere you want to understand what is happening around your home – how often and long are you brushing your teeth, footfall through the door, how much coffee are you drinking… the list is endless. Those cookies then relay all this data back to Mother for you to analyse it. As with many things at CES, there seems to be a lack of clarity on exactly how this will all help, tracking for tracking sake. But at the end what we are doing is passing incredible amounts of data to third party companies. This data is becoming ever more intimate and needs to be carefully controlled. The most important area is the ability to decide what happens to that data – many of the devices do not allow you the opportunity to influence what is happening with it as it gets passed to the company servers. One commentator at CES also pointed out the fact that even among family members or flatmates there should be the ability to have more ownership of your information and set it apart from that of others in the family or home, again something not possible right now.

As with all Wi-Fi data services the final consideration is the ability of hackers and tech thieves to access sensitive data from your life, or indeed in the case of the connected home, be able to easily hack into your ecosystem. These are all solvable issues and should in no way slow progress but as individuals we need to take control and encourage these companies we are entrusting our lives with to help us do that.

Marketing will become evermore native
As I toured the conference floor and we explored all these opportunities I was with a number of advertisers who were expressing their clear concern about how this was going to impact them. We already talk a lot about story telling and content. The proliferation of personal devices and tracking technologies means that each one of these companies – whether it is LG, BMW, Samsung – are all going to want to create their own ways of allowing advertisers to engage with people.

Native advertising is a hot topic but will become increasingly relevant, bringing complexity to marketing and advertising as they have to work across a multitude of different ecosystems and platforms. We already mentioned the iBeacon technology; how will BMW or Audi want to deliver messaging in car to their passengers? The upside for large advertisers is that the more forward thinking may have an opportunity to work directly with tech partners higher up the food chain and scope how they can be integrated closely into this development. But all that requires time, people, cost and the old methods of advertising will become evermore distant, increasing pressure on wholesale reinvention.

The tight rope they will need to walk will be avoiding too much disruption or even intrusion in the consumer’s experience. Tempting as it will be to use the incredible amounts of data available, people will be wary of that and given the intimacy of some of this data will expect it to be treated with respect.

CES is not about advertising but we are reaching a crossroads where marketing and technology will need to work closely together. It currently resides a firm second to technological advancement from a utilitarian perspective. It does however promise much for marketeers as long as they realise more than ever they will need to deliver value. Value can come in many guises, but if you want me to download your app then I need something for that because there will be significant competition.

Mobility technology reaches the car
The big standout this year was the rise of technology in the car. A flurry of launches at CES shows that this event is becoming very popular for car manufacturuers. There seems to be two directions manufacturers are moving in: the open platform based on Android or Apple where your car and phones are linked or proprietory technologies in the cars such as Audi that will turn your car into an intelligent hub. The car becomes the brain, it is able to make decisions based on commands and external data. As an example you could look up directions in the house and send them to the car, the car automatically plots that route using latest data and finds you an optimum route. Perhaps you are heading to a meeting and the car realises you are going to be late so it emails your meeting organiser with your current telemetry showing where you are and how far to go with an ETA.

Since your journey will now be forever linked to the wider net, showing you relevant ads, perhaps for the next coffee house, petrol station or relevant shops to you based on previous journeys will be common place. Cars will also become social – with linkages between you and your friends as we see with recommendations – if you travel to a new town for example your friends recommendations can be presented to you – or even their route for getting there. The opportunities are endless and we will see the car completing the triangle between you, your home and your car.

The final frontier is of course the self-driving car. All we have seen in this space has been the Google work but then up pops Audi and explains they have a self driving car up to 40mph, legal in Nevada. When did that happen? Well it has and even more than that it can find you a parking space, park it for you and if you want you can programme it to avoid red lights by adjusting its speed based on the traffic light data base that it has connected. As we mentioned earlier though that comes with limitations, not least you may find yourself driving very slowly as it seeks to avoid the next red light. I would suggest this is not for driving fans.

Some of this connectivity will be useful though as you can start your car from the comfort of your own home and in winter make sure the windows are defrosted and the seats nice and warm as well as wider beenfits, I can see that being a winner for sure and with some clear upsides for advertisers.

An incredible array of innovation, fantastic product explosion, and an inevitable and unstoppable march towards the Internet of Everything. As marketeers we will have to develop an incredibly open mind to reaching consumers. We will look to these companies to be guardians of our data using the highest level of integrity. As humans we are going to be linked inexoribly to the cloud and as Cisco say ‘be nodes’ of the Internet through our connected homes, cars and objects. There is so much to work out, but the future is exciting and we should embrace it.

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Time to reinvent the Global Chief Digital Officer

A head hunter sent me a job spec recently for this role. The thing that struck me about it was that it was designed from the same script I would have read when I was assessing the UK Head of Digital role at Zenith many moons ago. It had the same ring to it. Basically it asked the applicant to be a God of all things digital, drive digital strategy, pitch and win business, develop a content role, run teams and be a social guru amongst other things.
The fact is even since 2008 life is a lot more complicated. The demands are greater all around. Since then the word strategy actually means something, we have added a real need to develop a social and content strategy, search has become evermore complicated, advertisers want a Youtube approach, there is RTB more recently and the top of the pops – Partnerships. We only have partners now, with that however comes work on both sides. All of which our heroic Global chief digital officer is meant to keep and eye on.
The reality is something very different, running from one global pitch to the next, spending less and less time on strategic direction, becoming more and more removed from each of the specialist topics and ultimately not having any control of anything as your scope is too wide to even know what one country is doing from the next, and when it comes to the US one city to the next.
The one thing that digital promised and never delivered was efficiency through technology, in fact the opposite happened, it created carnage amongst organisations. Multiple adservers, platforms, bid technologies, tag solutions, DSPs and so on. The organisation and consolidation of tech has not been achieved by any of the media groups. This is not just a problem of technical and data driven turmoil but also wasted man hours. There are analyses of technology solutions going on all over the world, evaluating tools country by country at any one time. How many adserving reviews across EMEA across any given group. This all takes time and stifles the opportunity to create efficiencies and economies of scale. Why is this happening? It happens because no one has the true authority or bandwidth to control it. I use tech as an example but could be a number of other areas.
I am reminded of a meeting I was in with Carolyn Everson as she joined Microsoft, OK may not be the best example but I wondered how you join an organisation like that and succeed with so much going on. As it turned out that was too much for her too but I liked her first stab as she made it clear the three things she was going to focus on. And that was it. Three things. I believe the Global Chief Digital Officer needs the same. There is too much for one person to be all things to all subjects. You become generalist to the point of irrelevance, better to focus. And more than ever be commercial.
There should be less KPIs and more focused on bringing about business benefit to the organisation through a commercial approach and that means driving a few parts of the business in directions they might not like but will benefit the whole. Strategy needs strategists not CDOs, let them be part of the team. People clamour and claim that digital is at the heart of the business, and you know to some extent it is, at least compared to ten years ago, but what is not is a global, commercial and focused digital business plan, that needs work and a lot of it. I would argue that teams of specialists need to grow in this mould with a CEO of digital, A team focused on achieving less, but better, running a business that delivers to the bottom line through creating a commercial framework focused on scaling and consistencies.
Last and focused on one individual point in the title, the role should be global. That works in both directions, if it is a US role then don’t forget the rest of the world, and no that is not a cliché, and if it is a European lead, you better spend a lot of time in US, ASIA as well as EMEA. If you focus on global and a few things, you can achieve a lot.
I look forward to seeing the first Global Digital CEO, that comes with the same weighty KPIs as any other CEO role.

Trading Desks – the latest darling of the Pitch consultant

I will let you into a secret, this whole RTB thing is a real hot topic..I know, I know I hear you say but it is not with the people you would imagine, no it is with the auditors and intermediaries. They have seen an opportunity to turn a buck and are starting to get really interested in the subject.

‘Advertisers think this is a murky world’ is what I hear time and time again, but then I often wonder how they have come to that conclusion. Experience suggests that very few advertisers are engaging to any great degree, that is a shame in my view as we do all our best work with those advertisers who co-build the solution. My hunch is the plethora of intermediaries and auditors who don’t understand this subject and cant see how to make it work in their one size fits all race to the bottom approach to dismantling our industry step at a time. I also think that there maybe some advertisers who have had a bad experience and then try to spread that and tar everyone with the same brush without having a close grasp of the facts and of course, the competition in all its forms.

It is a diverse market place with many different offerings available and everyone approaches commercials and operations differently, so there is no simple way to do this, it is incumbent on communication between us and our advertisers and an ability to talk openly about how and why we do what we do. Audience On Demand for instance in display is 100% RTB, 100% transparent on inventory, buys only VivaKi Verified inventory, takes no position and does not arbitrage so we have a pretty simple approach to life that if an advertiser wants to discuss, we are more than happy to do so. I would say though that we also need to make sure we evaluate all companies in the same way, not just look at Agency Desks but all exchange trading operations.

We want a constructive dialogue in this space as opposed to a series of companies all trying to build their own businesses on the back of the latest hot potato of RTB and through scare mongering. There are so many fantastic opportunities in RTB, Google Search re-marketing, Youtube retargeting, mobile innovation, data design and execution, the best of that work comes through a very close collaboration, if we can do that, we will deliver some great, great work. 

 

 

Have Publishers learnt from the past?

I was recently prompted to think about the sales policies of publishers when Criteo approached us to buy their inventory through a Criteo network. On the face of it one could argue it would be a good buy for us, potentially unique inventory, sourced through publisher deals that by many peoples opinion is good quality and high up the adserving priorities of the publisher. Obviously after about 1.5 secs I decided I was unlikely to contribute to the clever business model of Criteo by filling their coffers so they can then go pitch direct to our clients and move the business. That is not what this post is about but it set in motion some ideas that I think publishers should consider.

Companies like Criteo, have created a good business and are doing well in their niche but they got there through persuading publishers that they should sell to them quality impressions, in some instances first look, even above direct and brand channels at a low cpm vs those direct channels but high vs the RTB market. They deliver good business for them and everyone is happy.

Problem is that they buy a lot of it and need to get rid of it and so they want other people to buy it from them ie trading desks and potentially Ad networks / Managed DSPs. The demand in the exchanges has increased significantly since many of those deals were done and so cpms for quality inventory like this will likely create a higher cpm than they bought from the publishers. So that means then that trading desks are buying good inventory from Criteo rather than direct from the publisher? Is that what the publisher had in mind when they sold or agreed to the positioning of the sale?

I think it raises questions that publishers yet again have to face, is it better to sell at a flat cpm or find other channels to monetise. A lot of big names are doing this and for me makes no sense, if you want your inventory to be monetised, come see us rather than put us, your direct buyers second to someone who is re selling it to us? It is time to ditch the flat cpm and embrace the auctions and private market places.

We can also offer transparency to the publishers as to how well their inventory is performing and we can partner to create improvements for them and us. The alternative is sell and see no insights. In my view that era has ended. Publishers, come talk to us we can help you with that.

In defence of Jargon

It annoys me when people say that our industry uses too much Jargon. Do we? Or do we use shorthand? Do we not all use shorthand in life? Anyone for a BLT? No wrong time of day I would rather a G&T or maybe a JD and coke. I make the point, we all use short hand in our discussions and conversations, I would not describe it as jargon.

I listen to advertisers talking about their business all the time, more jargon than you can shake a stick at! RTB – you want me to say Real time bidding every time? CTR? CPA? Life is too short to say that every time. No where we all go wrong is using them at the wrong time. Conferences, advertiser presentations, these mixed audience scenarios we need to all tread more carefully and explain what we mean.

The ability to explain a complex notion to a crowd that has less experience of your topic is where the art comes into its own. The programmatic buying business is technology obsessed and too focused upon it. It is this that we need to cut out, less the jargon. We should have learned from the past that technology is not the subject, it is what it can create for our advertisers. I met with an advertiser recently outside of our group and he seemed positively relieved as I focused on a more simplified approach to the business and a less techie pitch. As he put his algorithm back to basics manual away he seemed positively lifted.

And this is where Trading Desks can add value, the value of cutting through the jargon and the bullshit. As an advertiser with limited resources focused on this complex marketplace, they are pitched by everyone, each with their own shiny optimisation and algo (shorthand for algorithm) and it is daunting. Our job is to help navigate this world and design strategies that link up all of these marketplaces and technologies. We should focus on the outcomes of jargon, not the jargon itself and slowly for many the jargon will turn into normal day to day shorthand.

Well it is EOD so maybe a G&T?

We have reached a new level of self harm in digital measurement

ImageAh the Ads are on – cup of tea anyone?

Digital media will eat itself then be sick all down us. Viewability is the latest craze to hit those who must have historically worked offline with frustrated metrics and now want to take it out on digital. When I moved to digital in 2000 we beat our chest with just how much we could measure. We could measure every time an Ad was shown! Every time someone clicked on it! Every time someone bought something! On and on it went, glory times. Until we realised that just because we could measure it, it was not necessarily a good thing.

Digital tracking issues started with no reach and frequency metrics! Everyone has been scrabbling to replicate the TV world. I am often asked how we measure brand metrics – well we can look at certain key numbers like engagement etc but ultimately if you want to track brand engagement then measure it with a survey, just like you do on every TV campaign. As we have evolved so have our measurement approaches but we are entering a new era of self harm. Viewability.

I am not even going to get into the fact that the tech is ill tested and nascent and needs some really thorough analysis. Or that the measurement can be carried out by any number of different companies each with a different way of tracking, so no consistency whatsoever. No lets look at what we are doing to the industry vs the offline world.

Could someone explain to me how marketeers (and / or agencies) are starting to nail digital on something like viewability and yet TV and Press are sat laughing at our complete stupidity. The TV market has it sorted. They came up with a plan 40 years ago, they got everyone to buy into it. Ratings, indexes, context, reach, frequency and a brand survey. Nuff said everyone liked it, pretty simple – lets not dig too much further or upset the nice little market place we have going. Otherwise how can you explain that in digital there are people clamouring to only pay for viewable impressions when a multi billion pound TV marketplace trades off people leaving the room, making tea, talking, texting on Twitter when the Ads come on. Press? Lets not go there.

If we are not careful in this digital business of ours we are going to measure ourselves into the ground. In TV the metrics are broad and deliver against some key criteria that they plan against, the industry has made it simple for advertisers to spend money and not question the fact that a 20,000 person panel in the US powers $65b TV market . Viewability is a classic example where we are setting a bar so high vs the other the channels because we can. For those who are challenging the industry from an advertiser perspective – should then turn the spot light on their other media expenditures. I would ask that we take some time to establish some very clear guidelines and transitions and not go in like a bull in a china shop just so we can show off at the next pitch. Lets do things right, for the good of the industry, not just the next sell.

Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) – heard of it?

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I attended a seminar this morning called something like ‘Is your brand safe online’ A number of parties were there, all worried about their brands, namely trade bodies, Ad nets, Agencies and global digital media companies. The one group severely lacking was the advertisers! It is notoriously difficult to get clients to turn up to events and this was obviously not an event that they thought important. Why would they? Don’t they have their agencies to do this stuff?

It is a similar story with ePrivacy, although almost all the onus falls on the advertiser to make sure their site is compliant and that their advertising is as compliant as one can be in this area, there has been limited discussion on the topics since ‘the date’ came and went. How come? Maybe everyone thought that someone else was worrying about it?

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The group is focused on getting self regulation principles about where Ads appear to be taken up by media vendors. They want to suffocate the advertising revenue streams for unsavoury or illegal sites by making sure that all the major suppliers of inventory agree not to use them.

So today’s agenda showed that again we have a topic that appears an important one and yet again we have the merry go round of whose responsibility it is to make sure we are compliant. Well today we heard it loud and clear, The Police and Fact think that it is the advertiser who has to take responsibility for making sure that their Ads do not appear on illegal or inappropriate content. We were given an example of the client EasyJet that the guy from Fact kept repeating has not been able to be reached. He was very annoyed by that..I asked if he had contacted their agency to be told that it was not his job to spend time looking for who Easyjet agency was – umm maybe ask your IPA friends? No it was better to keep sending letters to Easyjet when the agency would have had those Ads down in about 15secs.

So bearing in mind that the Police think the advertiser should take responsibility, the advertiser thinks the agency should, the agency thinks the Trading Desk should and the Trading Desk things the suppliers of inventory should we have a beautiful example of sequential liability (without all the legal jumbo jumbo!) – I took a decision. I decided that the suppliers of inventory should be taking responsibility for where my agencies, advertisers’ adverts are being placed and I wrote them all a nice letter asking them to abide by the Principles of the DTSG.

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I just did it. It was easy to do to be honest. I wrote to them and said ‘ please can you confirm that you won’t put Ads on porn sites, children sites, illegal sites (the special police list), Torrent sites and basically anything else unsavoury because our agency’s advertisers will not want it.’ And why was it easy? Because it is so bloody basic and common sense that I am trying to work out why everyone has not done it, apparently some are reticent at this stage to do it. Well for me I am all for it because it is straight forward and I don’t want another ePrivacy debacle involving 10 different bodies and loads of political bull. I just want to buy ads in nice places.

Our whole VivaKi Verified approach means we are already vetting, categorising, white listing inventory so this is a no brainer for me, I appeal to everyone else to get on with it as well. It will be one less committee meeting to go to and will mean everyone can get back to dealing with the nightmare that is ePrivacy, I would hate for another topic to come along and hijack every media conference panel debate!

After this cause is put to bed I am starting out on Ads appearing alongside prostitute cards in phone boxes – now who is responsible for making sure that does not happen?

I only recruit from NASA – you?

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Well I say that, in actual fact I have recruited two people into the Head of Product roles from within our agency group, NASA did not really come into it, although I am sure some people would claim it! It is something I am asked all the time – where do you recruit from? What type of people should we hire? Will my Head of adserving do? 

One thing I am sure about is that I fear the return to the days of when search took off and they became a hugely overpaid, under experienced, high churn group of individuals, around 2005 it was a merry-go-round of people in the search teams with each agency ignoring their best search strategies and allowing us all to  bid up the price endlessly. It was partly this factor that led to search teams not being as efficient as they could have been since staff costs got out of hand. There is a danger of us returning to those days within the exchange space, but at the same time I believe we have more choice, on the basis you are a little more open minded.

As I said at the top a common question is what type of people do you employ, I struggle to answer that. Looking round the team we have people from adserving, mobile DSPs, agency, Data, and so on, so yes of course they all have some common DNA but that is not the key. Curiosity is the key, the desire to want to learn, to want to look under the bonnet and see what is happening and to do it all the time not once a month. Everyone in the team has that, and in my opinion that makes them different from the majority. Too many digital planner buyers have become a little too process driven and not inquisitive enough. They are not questioning the numbers, they are not trying to work out a different way, or challenge a target, too much is paper pushing and and that is why the new generation of people, as much tech as media are different BUT because you work with tech does not make you an immediate candidate.

When I interview I want to see passion and interest, I want to see a history of someone who likes the ecosystem and has been reading about it before they even got the job, I want them to know all about the space, without really knowing all about it because the one thing they lack is working experience. Come in and challenge us, come in and want to understand more. We don’t mind what your background is, just show us that you don’t just want a job in this new space because you think you should.

I have seen some really good candidates, often those who are actually working in competing trading desks, we have never employed one. Too many of them looked like they fell into it rather than wanted it.  So for those starting to recruit the interview recipe to grow a team is curiosity plus desire sprinkled with a big dollop of instinct (perhaps the key ingredient at the end of it all).

Audience One Demand is always happy to receive CVs and always on the look out if you want to fire them over.

CES. The death of panel based measurement in TV

CES

Everyone told me that Las Vegas was a crazy city and CES even more so but they did not do it justice. The scale of the city and the event beggars belief. There is a real buzz around the event with every major tech company represented (except Apple of course) and on a scale I have never seen before.

Executives from business, government, entertainment, automotive, consumer electronics and every major industry converged on the 2012 International CES to experience new ways of doing business at the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow.

The 2012 International CES was the largest in the event’s 44 year history, with a record number of more than 3,100 exhibitors across the largest show floor in CES history – 1.861 million net square feet of exhibit space – and drawing a record of more than 153,000 attendees, including more than 34,000 international attendees. More than 20,000 new products were launched at the 2012 CES, and as we know it has become the second largest event for Agency Groups with Levy, Sorrell, OMG Board and 500+ people turn out from VivaKi amongst others. My boss Curt Hecht comments on this in an article in Adage – read it here.

Although there was an enormous amount covered at the show I wanted today to focus on the converged TV topic and the challenges we all face in this space. Let me start by giving you some of the highlights of the TV space for me and then look at the implications.

The TV is no longer lean back but lean in, it is being designed to draw you in and pull you from your stupor. The TV is being assaulted by set top boxes, App stores, satellite companies, it’s now no longer able to sit quietly in the corner of the room, it has to be your communicator through Skype, your music system, social media entry point, picture frame, cinema etc, it is also on a diet and becoming more colourful! (more on that later). Before looking at specifics, I have to say that above all the point I was left with was that the role of the main broadcasters and channels seems antiquated and slow at this stage and being left behind a very fast moving wave of tech.

The TV manufacturers are all looking for an angle on how to interact with their devices. Microsoft want you to wave at their TVs via Kinect, LG want you to speak to their machines and have created a unique remote control that acts more like a cursor, this worked for me more than waving hands etc. The video below shows the users scrolling around the TV screen between all the apps using the very simple cursor method.

The Rise of Apps: The first thing that strikes you about the LG is that this is now all about the Apps and not about the linear TV stream. These apps remember will hold TV catchup, movie download services, Facebook, Linkedin, games etc, it will be a while before you start turning to your fav TV show at the allotted time, it is this the vast array of other ways of interacting that leaves you with the feeling that the main broadcasters have a big job on their hand. Check out this LG and it’s Apps.

 

In this screen you have not only the Apps but also the advertising slots available on the left under the screen, in this case Toyota, if you click on these Ads you can be taken through to full video or sites or Facebook pages, the opportunities are impressive and again this raises questions of measureability

All the manufacturers have led with the App approach, take a look at the Samsung picture below, an awesome TV with incredible layout and design, again all driven by voice commands. The Samsung TVs really stood out as being very impressive both in terms of design and functionality.  You will notice the social apps in the TVs, previously they have been a little clunky but now they are seamlessly integrated so you can be talking with people, tweeting or on Facebook alongside the TV programming, the second picture below shows an example of that in action. Social TV is going to be huge and will again swing the stats away from dual behaviours / screens whilst watching TV.

 

Facial recognition and personalisation

Right now if we want to personalise through TV it is down to the very early attempts and basic targeting alla Virgin or Sky, if we want to measure TV viewing in the family we have to press buttons or in some cases in the US people are still filling in diaries that a multi billion pound industry relies on. What about a future when the TV recognises you as you sit down, or whether you are with people, whether you are doing something else as well – are you distracted, advertiser pays less!? All this and more is coming in the new TVs. Facial recognition will be huge, imagine logging in and the TV suggesting the Sopranos episode you missed or show what your friends have been watching or even some Ads based on those you have previously watched all the way through? Facial recognition is going to transform your viewing experience and again will present you with a myriad of entertainment opps before you even get to the first channel you would normally watch!

The battle of the software

So LG and Samsung have built their own platforms for all of this to run on, so has Microsoft and Google of course, Sony was the more open minded of the manufacturers we looked at who were turning to Android to provide their operating system. Apple will have their infrastructure and others will too. So where does that leave us? Well it leaves us with the same argument we have always had – Open vs Closed. In the world of TV that debate favours closed with LG, Samsung, Microsoft, Google and Apple all running their own platforms, this is crazy in reality and a brain fade for advertisers and users. Interestingly this does not stop at the TV. Sony, Samsung and Apple in particular are all trying to wrap up your living room and online experience, trying to get you to link tablets with TV with mobile, thats the big win. What is open is the App and online companies, with all of them working to be available everywhere – email, movies, social etc are common to all, so those companies are having the time of their lives with all this innovation.

Sony went a step further by connecting their PSP to their TVs, tablets and phones, meaning as a user you can get anything everywhere. A gamer who was on the PS at home and had to run could get to the bus and then turn on their PSP and it would remotely fire up their home system and stream all the gaming to their handheld meaning they carried on exactly where they were, its a cool piece of work from Sony and needed. I felt their TV and tablet experience was behind the competition.

Measurement

We have a problem. In one TV set or should we just say large screen we have social media, photography, communication with tools such as Skype and Facetime, we have movies through all the Apps, TV shows through the Apps, the weather, an ecommerce hub and so on and yet somewhere in there people are watching TV in a linear fashion..or are they? Then on top of that we have all this on top of different platforms and players and across thousands of TVs. How as an advertiser can you a) be expected to navigate this and b) measure it in current methods. Lets face it the panels as we know they are over, they are basic and cannot fully give the advertiser a faith that they are paying for the right information. There will be ways of consolidating advertising by companies such as YuMe but on top of that everyone will be selling advertising in their Apps or via video resellers and exchanges and we have to add all this up? We need ASAP a universal tracking initiative such as online adserving etc to at least pick up a big chunk of those metrics, but outside of that the role of the TV panel either needs to reinvent itself and fast or die.

And finally..

Oh my the TVs look amazing, they are getting slimmer and slimmer and brighter and brighter, see some of the images below, they dont do the reality justice but you get the idea. The colourful images are from the 4K. The 4K from Samsung basically means 4 x HD, the pictures were so real you could barely tell and check out the TV as slim as a card! The innovation is incredible and mind boggling, but I am so glad I got to see it first hand, the world of TV is an exciting one!


 

Why Ad networks can’t become agencies but the reverse is not true.

The latest debate in the display space is whether or not ad networks are going to have to become agencies and go direct to clients to sustain their business. It’s a fair assumption, the likes of Specific and others will hire agency people, create better strategies and approach clients. The latest article can be found here on exchangewire.

It’s a believable concept but one that is out of sync with the way the industry is heading. Although there is a lot of hype around ad exchanges and targeting / data opportunities, within an agency, exchange trading remains a line on a schedule, albeit a complicated one. The exchange space asks many questions of agencies but that is around change and adapting, once its all settled down, it will revert to being an important channel like search and crucially will be integrated into all the other channels.

Over the last few years clients have been on a journey where in the main they have consolidated channels, first digital overall and then they have dragged search in where specialists have held on for some time. It’s not only channels but they are integrating their media agencies both within countries and between countries with more and more international pitches. Anyone in a major agency will have lived that in the last few years. So after all of this integration I think it is unlikely they will want to start farming individual channels out again, especially when it may be big news in the exchange world but within agencies, it’s just another new channel. Time and time again through research, better coordination and integration has shown better results for the advertiser so there is no reason to split out exchange trading.

There is also some realistic areas to take into account. Clients spend 80% of their budgets on offline, 60% of their digital budgets on search, the rest is split all over. So its fine for an adnetwork to go direct but they will never fill the roll of an agency. The agency roll is more than buying and is across all media channels, its events, experiential, etc etc, it’s also highly people heavy and Ad networks have been used to high margins, low headcount.

So direct is fine but will struggle in the UK marketplace, however I think with time the agencies could start to deliver an ad network experience and product within the context of their huge global corporations. Of course there is middle ground, some chameleon organisations that act as an agency or a network, but their offer only goes so far to be a real threat.

I dont think we need to start a war between agency groups and ad networks, I am sure we will all find a way, but I know what side I would want to be on.