Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can Answers save Yahoo!

Was looking at the March Neislen Netview figures and one thing really caught my attention - the phenomenal growth of Yahoo! Answers in the local market.

How much growth - well ... 123% YOY ... which is staggering. It's at 1.99m users as of March 2008.

These users use Answers on average twice a month, and spend just under 6 minutes per month on the site viewing 8 pages.

This must be encouraging for Yahoo! and especially Yahoo!7, who it can be said aren't enjoying much user growth right now. Rohan Lund came out early in the year ambitiously proclaiming that Yahoo!7 wanted to be a players in search, mail, homepage ... and truth be told (according to audited Neilsen data), they aren't seeing much growth in any of these areas.

Answers is interesting for Yahoo! as it's a property that essentially doesn't rely on editorial staff or syndication. Users direct the dialogue through asking questions, and other users submit answers ... these answers are then ranked on relevancy.

I have used it to find everything from unblocking a dishwasher to good restaurants in San Francisco - information I found difficult to obtain using straight search.

One of the areas I feel causes Yahoo! grief is it's reliance on pushing out editorial and syndicated stories to its users ... it lacks a personality or a point of difference as I can get AP feeds EVERYWHERE. It could be argued that in this era of quote Web 2.0 enquote they haven't done the best job of utilising their greatest asset, their users.

Now they are embracing 'social media' -

"Once complete, the company plans to discontinue some of its less popular services and integrate the rest to create a more social environment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Yahoo will allow users to create applications for its service and integrate those programs across its entire group of offerings"

Interesting moves. Hopefully we see Yahoo!7 locally rolling out this direction as opposed at trying to compete head on with the 5 big players in spaces they perhaps aren't equipped to compete in.

Online Video as DR?

In todays Mediapost Video Insider there's an article by Direct Response, Meet Online Video Advertising called "Direct Response, Meet Online Video Advertising "

From the article - "Online video is still a nascent medium for most advertisers and agencies. Today most spots consumers view are a branded effort, a repurposed TV commercial, and bought on a CPM basis. Video is a powerful branding tool, but imagine taking that branded message and adding a strong call to action along with a CPC or CPA payout structure; well, this is the new frontier for online video. "

Now with overlays, click to watch and enhanced ad serving products for video from the likes of Eyeblaster - driving response through video is probably a reality.

Two things may get in the way

- will clients devise creative especially for online video, creative which takes into account the possibilities online video offers and also compels action?
- will publishers finally realise that video perhaps isn't the premium goldmine they've thought it is for the past 5 years and look at more nimble pricing models?

Overlays to some extent remove the need for online specific video communications - but I don't think it really solves the problem nor uses the media to its best use.

So far, online video has been promoted as a branding mechanism by most involved in the mechanisms of the domestic digital industry. Minimal call to action, 'hey, give us your TVC and $30k and we'll extend the reach of your TV campaign' ... is this the right direction? Probably not?

There's no question that online video is taking off in terms of usage. Now what needs to be done is find effective ways to use it for advertising. There was a comment made at Ad:Tech that the 'pre-roll' format perhaps isn't the problem ... it's the way it is used by 95% of advertisers that means it often is ignored by consumers. Maybe if we see more 5/10/15 second edits with relevance to the channel they are running in digital video could start to boom.

Article is here -->

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Big Brother 08 online - where are the ads?

Is it just me or are there no direct advertisers on the BB08 website?

All I am getting are Google Syndicated ads for Celebrity Soulamates, iPhone giveaways and 'management tools' ... I even got one for a place called - a place to find Big Beautiful Women. Link is here if you're interested --> --> the downside of content matching.

Are advertisers finally tiring of BB? Or did everyone just miss the deadline to be live at website launch? There are ads being served to other areas of the Ten site (AFL, Before The Game) so it doesn't look like a technology issue.

Edit: 4:58pm - found an ad for 3 Mobile on 1 page ... doesn't seem to be any others visible -

Monday, April 28, 2008

09 and beyond #1: David Whittle, MD Mark

So what are the big issues we face moving forward in digital ... and all media? Well, we've asked six respected industry people to give us their opinion.

First up, David Whittle from Mark.

1. Recession
Economic markets demand increased and improved marketing accountability. Accountable advertising service providers prosper

2. People
The digital skills shortage plateaus due to increased supply. Staff churn rates decrease, recruiters move inhouse

3. Community
Value of ambassador and community marketing programs grow. Sites like and proliferate and prosper

4. Affiliate marketing
Pay for performance marketing takes off in Australia 10 years too late. Publishers, creative and media agencies struggle with the model and battle over the budgets

5. Mobile
iPhone takes the mobile web mainstream, telcos introduce reasonable capped data plans. Publishers, creative and media agencies struggle to make their mobile model work.

Next week we have Monique Talbot from Tempest Media.

To view of Mark Sydney's work check out ...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2009 and beyond: What are the 5 key areas of interest? The big players talk ...

I guess if you read this blog you are interested in peoples opinions. I know I am, and as a result I have asked 6 key figures in Digital in Australia to talk about the 5 key areas of interest for them moving forward and the potential repercussions.

From the 6 people I have picked I have tried to pluck thoughts from a wide variety of areas - not just agency land. The only hole so far is having the opinion of someone from the 'offline' world - but I am working on this. If anyone can assist in this area please email me

Who are they?

Tony Faure - CEO, ninemsn
Monique Talbot - CEO, Tempest Media
David Whittle, MD, Mark
Guy Gibbs - Head of Agency Relations, Google
Angus Beattie - 3 Mobile
Liam Walsh - GM, DrivePM

We will be covering both macro and micro issues ... and the above group will give readers a broad opinion from all kinds of angles - publishers, sales house, telco, advertising technology, search, DR and creative.

It kicks off Monday - first up is David Whittle from Mark.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Game changer? Facebook launches Instant Messenger

New product alert - Facebook have launched an in browser IM client and from a quick play it's pretty good.

Facebook chat works within the web browser and gives you access to all your friends on Facebook.

The interface is relatively clean and unobtrusive ... it doesn't require any software install and you begin using it with a pre-existing base of friends. Two huge benefits.
Myspace should have done this 2 years ago - I guess it's not surprising they missed this one. Their idea was a seperate app - and who needs ANOTHER IM app?
It sits at the bottom of your Facebook window ... and allows one-click conversations. You can also turn the feature off - which is handy.
If I look at my ACTIVE msn contacts - 80%+ are on Facebook. This would mean it would technially be easy for me to migrate over.
Since it launched a few hours ago I have had loads of friends already message me - so people are keen to trial ... which is the biggest obstacle to messenger takeup.
Definitely one to watch. Will this impact local messenger apps? Probably not - in the short term ... but it definitely has the potential as it evolves and awareness increases.

Oops Patrol - IAB - why your workplace is a great place to work

So IAB are undertaking an initiative where publishers/agencies etc involved in digital media make a short clip as to why their workplace is a great place to work.

Nice idea - you can view the videos here -

However, word has it one of the people featured on one of the videos saying how great the place was was actually walked from their employer a few weeks ago ...

Facebook launch Lexicon

Facebook have launched 'Lexicon' ... it's a tool that allows you to measure the comparitive buzz on Facebook of up to 5 seperate terms.

Here's an example I prepared earlier - (you must have a Facebook account to view)

The official Facebook release is here -

"At Facebook we love tools that allow you to see what people around the globe are searching for or discussing on blogs, such as Google Trends or Technorati. We thought it would be cool to show trends on the public and semi-public forums across Facebook (also known as Walls)."

I had a chuckle when the example they used was 'Juno' (great movie btw)

So how useful is this for us in AU. To be honest, not very ... but that doesn't mean it's not interesting.

The main issue is the data isn't localised. The second is we don't actually know the volume of 'buzz' ... thirdly it's only based around Wall posts (profile, group, event)- which is only one component of the Faceboon experience.

But it shows Facebook have some interest in allowing their audience to make some sense of the millions of conversations going on each and every day on the platform.

9 and 10 go 'Catch Up TV'

Episodes of Canal Road and Sea Patrol are available via -

And they're free - utilising the new Hiro technology

It's not ... BUT it is a pretty good start.

Ten are also doing it via

They have episodes of Back To You, Biggest Loser, Meet The Press, Bondi Rescue, Good News Week and Supernatural that you can watch using their inline player on the page.

Yahoo!7 - they don't have seem to have anything available to view in full that I could find on their TV or Video sections. is still the clear leader in this on demand TV type model - - with loads of downloads. They have been doing this successfully for years.

Who isn't playing in this space who should be - MCN. They have great, unique content that is specialised that they could look to make on-demand ... Comedy Channel seem to be dabbling with it ( but the experience is pretty shabby if we're honest about it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lion Nathan engage agency only to work solely on digital

From B&T -

"Margaret Zabel, national marketing director at Lion Nathan Australia, said: “Digital helps us connect with our consumers effectively and is enormously important to our ongoing success in the marketplace."

Question remains, if digital is that important wouldn't you consider it core or even central to your overall communications agency relationships? Personally I don't see how stand alone digital specialists operate when most media has moved beyond broadcast and is central to all media ...

Congrats to Holler on the win.

Oops patrol: Yahoo7, Total Girl and football tipping

It's hard to take Yahoo!7's behavioural targeting 'sophistication' seriously when they run an ad for their AFL footy tipping on a tween girl site.

Quality placement.

Prime slashing Destra already

Prime have wasted no time getting to work on getting rid of the unnecessary baggage at Destra.

I must say for a digital media company, Destra don't really seem to make much noise outside of the media they generate about themselves. What do they actually do?

And what value do destra's media assets have within Prime, who seem to have a heap of digital assets that I havce no idea about.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ad:Tech SF - Day 3 - Update 2

It's just gone 6pm here in SF ... I have literally just walked out of the closing keynote (which was awesome) and am in the hotel summarising the afternoon. I have to say Ad:Tech was an incredible experience and I really feel I have learnt more here than I have for a long time. The downside - I now know how far behind Australia is in the digital media world in terms of approach, views and execution - I think together we all have a long way to go ... the upside is we have great technology and content to do it with and I feel an understanding of the challenges at hand.

So, onto the sessions.

2:15: Finding, Grooming and Keeping Your Digital Sales Talent

I think working on agency side you really have to have a solid understanding of what motivates sales people and the challenges they face, and I hope (but doubt) that sales people have same interest in agency side ... so this was a good and pretty topical session. It was also interesting as I worked sales side for 3 years and crossed over to the agency side ... which from the discussion would see me in the minority ... in the US a lot of sales roles are being filled by agency people.

It was discussed that the lack of sales talent was indeed a 'crisis' ... where we had a lack of talent, burnt out sales people finding new things to do, and people being paid more than their true value. I would have to agree with all three. It was agreed money wasn't everything - there are other motivations ... most people want to work for a progressive, winning company ... so I guess you can pay your salespeople all you want, but if all they are motivated by is money then they'll split as soon as a better offer comes unless you can make them feel wanted beyond salary.

The idea of 'digital sales' was discussed ... and what is more important ... 'digital' or 'sales' ... it was commonly accepted that you can TEACH digital media to a good sales person ... but that person must have that balance of intelligence and aggression (or motivation) that defines a good salesperson ... Jennifer from MEC (who like myself had been sales and moved to agency) also said for an agency person it is important for their sales rep to have a fundamental understanding of marketing and essentially solving the problems strategically briefs put forward.

As this was an open discussion I chimed in and voiced my frustration that I don't find (generally) that the sales people I deal with are what I would consider 'trusted advisors'. I stated that ideally I wanted to be a trusted advisor to my clients but sales people (in Oz anyway) find it very tough to hold a conversation about the industry outside of their four walls. Personally (and I don't mean to vent) this is absolutely ridiculous ... how can you work in an industry but not really care about it or want to learn about it? Worst still, what are publishers doing to educate their staff in the wider world of MEDIA ... not just revenue growth areas and sales targets ... this is a responsibility of sales directors, and to be frank no one is doing it well at all.

There was a rebuttal to my comments from a sales director from over here, citing the fact that a lot of agencies don't provide adequate briefs or feedback. I completely agree - and some agencies are as to blame for this lack of communication that would be extremely beneficial to improve responses moving forward. I used the Maudsley analogy, "put shit in you get shit out" which got a few laughs. See Mauds, your legacy is extending across the Pacific.

Lastly the question was raised of where the next generation of digital sales people will come from? It was generally accepted that publishers need to look beyond
- poaching
- agency side
- traditional media

... and look at areas like tech, enterprise and software sales people. These are charismatic, intelligent people selling a sophisticated product and generating results. Personally I agree.

The only downside of this session was it would have been handy to have it on retaining and attracting strong agency staff - I think everyone is facing the same issue right now.

3:30: The Mid Tail and The Promise of Engagement

This was supposed to look beyond CPMs and standard ad units and look at how to truly engage using the mid-tail of sites ... ie sites that sit outside the top 100 (0ver here) but offer a resonable and most importantly engaged audience.

There were speakers from Gorilla Nation, AdBrite and Traffiq and honestly I thought this was the weakest session aside a couple of interesting, albeit general, zingers.

Essentially these providers are vertical networks with a overriding ROI premise - reach a large audience off one buy in contextually relevant areas ... so essentially what they DO specialise in is standard ad units and metrics. I am not sure how this missed the mark so badly but I think the core issue was having a panel that didn't really have the answers about measurement beyond what we already know.

It was the first time I'd come across and I think the concept is pretty interesting - as an ad marketplace platform with some pretty nifty audience information.

A few decent points

- Audiences essentially care about content. Advertisers care about audience. Neither really care about 'publishers' ... especially large ones. People don't watch the AFL Grand Final because it's on 10 do they? No ... they watch it because of the content regardless of who it is on.

- Mid tail or ANY sites with a sizeable and valuable niche audience need to protect the value of the audience as this ultimately gives the publisher the latitude to charge what they want to. If they start accepting any old 'punch the monkey' type rubbish creative ultimately it will impact yield. They can't have their cake and eat it to. Myspace take note.

- 'Drinkers unhappy with booze prices might open their own bar.' I think I have probably ballsed up this analogy but essentially what they were saying was that advertisers may become jack of paying high or unreasonable CPMs to reach their audience, and they will set up their own content area and utilise large amounts of SEM and sophisticated SEO to actively compete against sites they once advertised on. Baby Center is an example of this with Johnson & Johnson. Also look at Map My Fitness for Special K on ninemsn.

I guess it wasn't all bad as a session, but it kind of felt like the same sort of discussions that have been circulating for years.

4:45: Closing Keynote: Internet Superstar: Live At Ad:Tech

Internet Superstar is a show on online TV provider Revision3 - - which is billed as the TV Station for the Internet age ... they have a whole heap of shows including Diggnation and Tekzilla ... to be frank I had only briefly heard of them and see a couple, but their numbers are strong and the content is cool. They filmed Internet Superstar live for the last Ad:Tech session with an array of special guests.

Check them out at - it's sort of like Wayne's World but funnier and less mullets.

We had ...

Kevin Rose from Diggnation and Digg. This guy is pretty big over here. Diggnation gets around 250,000 views a week ... and Rose is worth approximately $60m as a co-founder of Digg. He is also co-founder of Pownce and a load of other start ups ... and he is always featured on Valleywag, who allege he is nailing all kinds of San Fran and surrounds tech-babes. ;

Kent Nichols from This show is hilarious and very clever. It does over 800,000 views a week - which is staggering ... and they have been approached to work on theatrical projects as writers.

Jeff Macpherson from Tiki Bar TV.

Gary Vaynerchuk from The Wine Library - - This guy is on the verge of becoming a proper celebrity over here ... he's early 30's from Jersey and loves wine. He has already been on Ellen and Conan O'Brien and he is awesome. Charismatic and extremely passionate about wine. He sort of reminded me of a younger, less gangster Joe Pesci but the guy has star written all over him.

When seeing these people speak I kept thinking - where are these people in Australia? Sure, we have some 'online TV presenters' but most are boring and flat and I challenge most producers of said shows to watch them in their own downtime ... these guys in the US MAKE you want to watch their programming ... they twist TV on its head and give you cool content you can't get elsewhere and in a way that makes use of the medium. Watching something like askaninja made me think that people like MTV and Spike would KILL for this content ... even something like Diggnation ... this is the TV that should be on the TV. It makes you sad that both Channel 9 and 10 thought it'd be awesome to run 1 hr show formats of funny youtube videos ... and that 9 is bringout to screens a show based on a campy Japanese game show that had a funny 3 minute video on YouTube that got a few office chortles.

Not a lot was discussed about how these shows are monetised (aside saying that brings in around 1.2m USD per year in gross revenues) ... but the vieweship across all was pretty solid. It won't be long until an Internet show has over 1m viewers a week over here. And numbers I think cloud the real benefit - fantastic niche content viewed by an enthusiastic, engaged and vocal audience.

That's a wrap

So what are some of they key Ad:Tech take outs ...

- There are more affiliate networks than anyone could possibly consider regardless of whether they worked 24/7 for the next 100 years
- Internet TV such as Revision3, Ask A Ninja and Hulu are crossing over here - will it happen in AU?
- Measurement is a real focus area for agencies and clients but not so much for publishers
- Social Networks are widely a mystery in terms of marketing use and the impetus is on the networks themselves to make sense of when their unique proposition really is
- TV isn't dead - far from it. It has evolved
- The agency side has a tough ride ahead in adapting to the new media landscape - creative, media, measurement, client service, staff, training. "It will be bloody" said one COO of a large US agency.
- Robust growth will continue - some are quoting 100% growth over the next 2-3 years

So that's it - hopefully all those who have invested the time in reading this found it useful. Thanks to MindShare for giving me this opportunity, it has been an amazing experience and a real professional highlight.

Ad:Tech SF - Day 3 - Update 1

So it's the last day of Ad:Tech ... with a stack of smaller sessions to round out the event covering some pretty interesting subject matter. This morning I went to 2 sessions, both of which were great ... especially the session on optimising across media, but more on that later.

10:45: Marketing with Downloadable Media: Podcasts and Vidcasts

Good panel - we had panelists from Revision3, National Podcasting System, Podtrac and Roxanne Darling who hosts her own podcast 'Beach Walks with Rox'.

First thing that grabbed me was that there are standards for podcasts and vidcasts in the US - yes, standards across the board that all podcasts use ... I thought this made complete sense and has no doubt helped the use of these channels as it removes any potential logistical/material problems that can be faced when using the medium.

Some statistics were shown - 9% of the US pop. over 12 had listened to an audio podcast in the past month, and 8% had watched a vidcast. Demo wise the split was pretty even but what struck me as interesting was the audience was a little older - this isn't your 16-35 heartland ... 62% were aged 25-54.

Another interesting stats - 71% of podcasts are listened to on a computer - be it a desktop or laptop. AND 78% of vidcasts are watched on a PC or laptop ... so less than 30% of each are actually watched or listened to on a portable device.

Revision3 showed their use of Google AdSense for Video on an episode of Internet Superstar - nice overlay but the contextual match was way off. Here is the official word on Google's video ads from Google -

Jim Louderback from Revision3 also showed a great clip from diggnation - - where they incorporated in programming product placement but did it in an entertaining way. Louderback said the key to ensuring people don't fast forward your ads is to make them entertaining enough that people want to watch them. Makes sense, sure, but what is also important is that the delivery of said marcomms makes sense - authenticity. The diggnation example was a great one - albeit very blokey (ribs, beer and lingerie)

Revision3 claim 100% unaided recall on at least 1 of their advertiser, and 93% on at least 2 ... he also commented on emerging ad serving technology such as freewheel - - that would make reporting on podcast/vidcasts more robust.

Kim Nobles from the National Podcasting Service also spoke on the 5 key principals for making a great podcast - he called these the 'Rules of Engagement'

1. Pre-pre production. Make sure you are committed. There is no such thing as 'A Podcast' ... it is 'A SERIES of podcasts' ... make sure you are doing this over a period of time. Another key was engagement - don't just try and fit existing content into this new medium - you need to engage people to make them WANT and NEED the content. You also need to promote - especially internally ... make sure all consumer touchpoints know about the podcast and can spread the word.

2. Pre-production. Map the series before you start - what do you want to do, what do you want to cover? How do you want to communicate? When? Where? What will the elements be ... this will create efficiencies from the start. Do you invest in pro-talent or use a subject expert. Nobles said he would almost lead to a subject expert as they are saying things people WANT to hear ... and you can fix up any amateur delivery in editing.

3. Production. Ensure the delivery/output is quality - audiences will not forgive poor production. Invest in what you can to create the best possible output for your budget.

4. Post Production. Use of stingers, graphics and editing to create something sharp and exciting

5. Delivery. He touched on the issues you can face with hosting (as you need a fast, reliable connection given the bandwidth you will be transferring). Formatting - what do you use? Flash, WMV, Quicktime? And lastly, compression. He referred to compression as a 'black art' ... you need to find someone who understands the complexity of reducing the size of data without compromising quality.

Next up was Mark McCrery from Podtrac, they are an ad network giving clients access to thousands of podcasts and really making sense of the audience, they also assist in research and reporting. He touched on the 3 key distribution areas (iTunes, YouTube/video aggregation sites/podcast website) and as well went through some case studies for GoDaddy, Netflix, Audible and Honda. The increases across the key metroics of unaided recall, awareness, intent and favourability were impressive ... my only question (which I didn't get to ask) was whether the medium has such strong cut through now due to minimal advertising ... and whether when/if it becomes more clutter the effectiveness will drop. I grabbed his card so will email him later.

Lastly we had Roxanne Darling - her website is she touched on authenticity being critical and discussed the way advertising utilsing podcasting can be extented - across blogs, comments, contact and even live activation.

She also discussed quickly Ford's Bold Moves initiative - which they spent 1m USD on.

This was supposed to be a candid look into a company seeking to transform itself, the reality was it was a scripted piece of corporate communications. She mentioned that for the first 6 weeks the rss feed on the site was broken (she offered to fix it) and that it really missed the mark in terms of the medium. In this case you have to wonder whether the 5 rules of engagement above were actually followed/considered.

12 Exchange Series: Optimising Across Media

The timing for this couldn't be better as a lot has been said about cross media measurement at Ad:Tech and I think a common consensus is developing that the amount of data online creates and often celebrates is causing the industry more harm than good. The real want now is to make sense of the data and be able to apply it to total media planning across ALL comms channels both above and below the line. This is a monumental challenge for the media industry and one that I think will be bloody.

Hosting this discussion (it was actually a discussion with a lot of audience feedback throughout) were Bill Bean from Colgate Palmolive, Peter Storck from Points North Group and Damon Ragusa from ThinkVine.

Initially the gauaged from the crowd what field they worked in - most were agency side with some client side marketers. They then asked whether many of us had used Media Mix methodology to determine spend and results. A few of us put up our hands ... they then asked whether anyone in the audience felt they were doing a good job of optimising across media.

1 person put their hand up out of a room of 200.

Funnily enough, he worked for Microsoft and only in digital analytics ... so wasn't really relevant to the question. The rest of the audience just sat around, moving around somewhat uncomfortably ... as I think a lot of us in media often feel the measurement and science behind what we do is archaic and based on outdated consumption principals.

Bill posed the question of whether digital actually has ROI nailed? It was an apt one ... I think sometimes digital takes credit for all the activity that revolves around the sales funnel pre the digital action. Case in point, search and some ROI focussed clients obsession around it.

The discussion revolved around HOW you determine a proper media mix - and how can you explain and quantify real rationale around decisions that is based on the here and now ... not 3 months, not 3 years ago and not 3 decades ago.

The concept of data inconsistency across mediums was discussed. In OZ TV measurement and currency is diffetent to Magazines and online. Outdoor doesn't even have a real currency ... how can we be sure that we are making the right decisions. Or do we just consistently trial and over time find learnings ... and if so how do we really know what is working or HOW when consumers change over time and our decisions may be based on something that worked 2 years ago in a different climate.

Media mix models were deemed to be limited as most cannot measure effectively
- Entire impact of campaign (from ATL to BTL, wom etc)
- Unprecedented behaviour
- Change in market conditions
- Granular factors
- It's not reusable/flexible/cost effective or fast

Think about it. You commission a piece of solid research, often it takes 3-6 months for you to get the data back ... by that time the market and your consumer could have moved. This makes you wonder - what is the value, moving forward, of this commissioned research? Is research about patting yourself on the back for what you have ALREADY done ... or arming yourself with information for what you WILL DO in the future?

Damon Ragusa said that more data IS NOT needed. We have enough ... we just need to shift how it is used and the science behind it.

They cited Agent Based Modelling as an answer. It doesn't just look at the who (they are) and what (they consume) it looks at the how and why and when ... it is essentially the same science used behind a lot of war strategy.

Forbes article:

Definitely worth a read ... unfortunately this session was only an hour and they barely scratched the surface ... but it really was a great thought starter ... and hey, that is exactly what these things are all about.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ad:Tech SF - Day 2 - Update 2

Relatively tame afternoon at Ad:Tech - which was good considering the whirlwind that was this morning. The exhibition packed up at 5 today but the conference continues all day tomorrow with 7 must-see events. I attended 2 panels.

2:45: Consumer Insights: Leading Marketers Share Their Vision

I felt, to be honest, there wasn't a whole lot of vision sharing if we really break down what this means. A lot of ambiguous marketing macro stuff was tossed around but in essence it really didn't amount to too much. I really enjoyed Zdenek Kratky from Philips - he was pretty frank and discussed the way he likes to leverage digital media. He talked about:

- knowing your audience
- entertaining your audience
- inviting dialogue
- activating further communication

Pretty basic framework - but one that I think gives some structure to the way he approached marketing on digital platforms. He stated that it's important to remember that marketing is storytelling and the medium used is the one that best allows you to tell that story. If digital isn't as well suited to doing this in an instance that TV there's no point trying to make it fit.

Mel Clements from Nike was asked whether the spectrum of digital options available was overwhelming ... "I think they're underwhelming" he replied, saying that there were so many ways and none of them really stood out as being any better than the rest. In this case they go back to the basics - content, creative and storytelling.

Kratky made a great observation: "We can't allow technology to substitute for content" he said, "Walking around here I see a lot of great technology but what does it really do?"

I think, as an agency person, it was helpful to get some candid insights from high level marketers on how they view digital. It's often something we don't really know - is it an after thought, do they understand? Am I getting through? One thing I took away is one of the keys is to make things easy ... cost, time, approval, agency touchpoints - these are all areas I think digital often convolutes what could be relatively simple processes. In hindsight, just that take out alone probably made the session useful.

4: Gamer Nation: Exploring Advertising Effectiveness in the Gaming Eco-System.

We have at Mindshare recently executed some in-game campaigns and have been using virtual worlds like Habbo and Neopets for the past 3 years ... so it was great to have access to some learnings and insight from the US market as to where gaming is heading and the best way to activate it for clients.

The turn out was slim compared to some of the other keynotes - I get the feeling that in some ways in-game isn't viewed in as high esteem as display/mobile/search - however the panelists seemed enthused. I was speaking to Christopher Thomas of Massive in the US after and I got the sense from speaking to him that some of the same frustrations are felt in the US as in Australia for the in-game players and agencies looking to use the platform. What are those frustrations - creative adaption and the value advertisers can bring to the player.

Panel wise it was moderated by Mark Friedler ... with Adam Naide from Gametap/Turner, Chuck Frizelle from Microsoft/Xbox New Media, Julie Schmacher from Doublefusion and Dave Williams from MTVN.

'So why are games valuable?' was the first topic. Generally it was accepted that games had, indeed, become 'media' ... no longer just a packaged good. They had crossed out of the 20-something male pigeonhole and become almost universal (they quoted the fact that The Sims franchise has sold over 100m units, with the majority of players young females).

Julie from Doublefusion said games were 'the first digital communities' ... saying games had always been about community and citing LAN parties during the 90's as examples of shared networking in an entertainment sense. Friedler interestingly said that you could even look at ebay as the worlds largest online game - given it's a dynamic, multiplayer strategic play ... which is kinda correct when you think about how some people transact!

Similar to the earlier session with the Marketers - strong game advertising/integration came back to storytelling - giving the gamers relevant currency. The notion of gaming being a muliple touchpoint one was discussed - with T-Mobile for NBA 2k08 having hard coded in game product, dynamic in-game display advertising, sponsorship of a NBA 2k07 tournament on XBox 07 and live event activation.

Chuck from Massive talked about an anonymous agency wanting to incorporate their roll-on deodorant product into Halo ... they literally wanted the lead character to apply the roll-on in game ... "They had a straight face the whole time" said Chuck ... the audience had a chortle as I think most of us in agency land have had a least someone want us to pursue something as interruptive on a digital channel, be it client or colleague. His answer, "Agencies have a responsibility to ask themselves - 'would I want this?' If you do this and you are truly honest with yourself than you will sort through the 95% rubbish ... the other 5% we can evolve together."

In terms of innovations moving forward, xbox has just integrated the MSN Ad Expert platform into in-game ... the exact same system you see across MSn and Messenger etc ... I asked whether this meant consolidated reporting in the future across all MS platforms and Frizelle said yes ... it just may take a while as they have 6 platforms to integrate.

There was also talk of Massive and Doublefusion working closer together with the IAB to come up with a standard for in-game placement ... right now it's not consistent. "We are doing the industry a disservice" - Schumacher.

Friedler touched on Virtual Worlds - he asked whether they were really "3D Web Environments" ... which is a great descriptor. I look at things like Habbo and Neopets as primarly communication tools with some dynamic graphic elements ... but if you look at the core motivator it's about communication ... Schumacher said these areas are "The Web meeting games halfway" and said they are a great first path for advertisers to look at activity in games. First hand I would agree, we have had some outstanding campaigns on Habbo and Neopets that have placed traditionally conservative brands into fresh environments.

So two days in, what are the 5 main take outs from Ad:Tech thus far? Well ...

1. The US is primed for agency integration and publisher integration
What does this mean? Well ... it means no more [publisher or agency name] Digital ... digital departments will cease to exist and the term 'digitally led' or 'digitally equipped' will become the norm. My gut feeling is over here, if you don't understand the new digital platforms and how these are being weaved into broadcast then it will be touch to continue to work in media. Publisher wise, cross platform selling makes total sense ... the only thing that will stop it in AU is skilling up sales teams ... ditto for agencies. As for agencies, a digital specialist is essentially redundant if all media is digital, right? And creative agencies here that make their name on f*ck off 30 second TVCs have already been made extinct. Agencies like AKQA in SF are winning business of established, big name, 'traditional' agencies ... why? Because clients are demanding competence across all channels. Will this happen in AU - lets hope so!

2. Broadcast and traditional media is more important than ever
By no means is TV or print dying (well newspapers may be struggling but that is another story) ... what is needed is uniform measurement across ALL channels. The notion of isolated reporting channel by channel is antiquated ... we need to quantify HOW all media works together to influence consumption and generate a solution to an objective. We know broadcast activates online ... and we know online can activate broadcast. How can we measure how all these media work together? And who is going to create the software that makes it all make sense?

3. Mobile has a cheer squad in 08
I think there is a strong will for mobile to tip in 08 ... from carriers to manufacturers to agencies to advertisers. There is also better understanding of the user and what will motivate them. I think we'll see some great, VALUABLE mobile campaigns ... which will spur more innovation and more trial. Personally I think it's ready to go in AU.

4. The US publishers are more open to collaboration than their Australian counterparts
From seeing how the big publishers speak, and most importantly, act over here ... they realise the user is in control and have adapted to this. They are pushing content out to alternative channels and realising it's not all about bringing people to your destination. They have relinquished some of the controls around their content and are finding more people are becoming engaged and advocates. An example of this is Hulu on Yahoo! ... would we ever see Network 7 extend their programs onto youtube - doubtful ... I realise AU is a little different given a small amount of people own most media sources, but we don't see much sharing of content. I think this is to the detriment of users, and most importantly the publishers. It's an ego play that clouds what needs to happen.

5. Social Networking has a long way to go to win over marketers
I think over here the jury is still out on the advertising value of Social Networks. I think from the panels where Social Networking advocates have spoken the responses have been extremely lukewarm when it comes to hard metrics and measureability. It is acknowledged users are there and they are engaged ... what is unknown is can brands play a valuable role in this space?

Ad:Tech SF - Day 2 - Update 1

Whoa - a jam packed morning at Ad:Tech with 4 sessions back to back from 9 to 1:15 ... no breaks and no breakfast :( (those who know me will know I need my morning muesli.)

ANYWAY - on to the recaps.

9am: Keynote: Content and Control; Big Media in the Digital Age

The room was packed for this and rightly so as it saw George Kliavkoff (from hereon referred to as George K) being interviewed by Adam Lashinksy from Fortune. George K is the Chief Digital Officer for NBC Universal - this means he is the main man when it comes to the groups digital plays, and believe me there are a load of them. He was also interim CEO of (which is being talked up a lot over here and is ridiculously cool) and has worked previously at MLB and also Real. NBC's digital plays include Hulu, ivillage,, nbc direct, cnbc, Inside Hollywood and more. George K is responsible for over $1bn USD in revenue

First of all hats off to Lashinksy - he was a great interviewer and asked the right questions ... I think at times George K was trying a little too hard to be diplomatic but I think Lashinksy pushed him as much as he possibly could in such a public forum.

The session was introduced with a quick sizzle reel of NBCs plans for the Olympics. For them they want it to be largest digital media event of all time and the positioning was around 'Your Olympics.' For them it's not all about broadcast anymore - it is for them a 3 screen play - TV, mobile device and Internet. Get this - NBC are offering 2200 hours of LIVE footage online plus 3600 hours of on demand content. This is just staggering and something I haven't heard of being done in Australia. For NBC they sold packages across the 3 screens from the beginning for the Summer Games ... and try and utilise this across their key TV - with the sales team for a show such as 30 Rock or The Office, selling both TVCs, online and mobile packages. "NBC is a 3 screen experience." We have seen this done in Au through ventures such as Yahoo!7 with Kath and Kim ... however in my opinion the online component has been significantly weaker than the TV. Mobile doesn't appear to be a thought in AU for these assets.

I really like George K's comment about competitors. "They are anyone who is going to take the consumers attention." I think this is really apt and something often forgotten when people start focusing too much on their immediate competitors. A movie distributor needs to be as aware of what digital media plays are doing to engage eyeballs as they are of other movie distributors. Are they? Unlikely ... Same with AU's big 5 media players - stop always trying to compare your efforts with your large scale immediate competitors - these ARE NOT your competition ... the rest of the wide world of the web is and they are beating you.

K talked about the rollout of Hulu and commented on its softly softly approach. They realised that resolving potential internal issues was as important if not more than purely logistical ones and they spent time ensuring that Fox and NBCU management were aligned with a single agreed vision for the service. Hulu has distro deals with MSN, AOL, FIM, Comcast and yahoo! - combined these reach 97% of the US Internet population. They also have 50 content deals ... so they are doing a solid job of pushing out their content to external sources, but also using external content providers to create a more robust offering.

Hulu has a strong focus on targeting - demo, psychographic and contextual - as a way of increasing yield moving forward. They also give the user (who is watching a 21m EP of, lets say, The Office, the choice of watching a longer TVC pre the show beginning, or having 5 x 15 sec TVCs sprinkled throughout the episode. I felt this user choice was a smart move - however, who would choose to watch 5 TVCs instead of 1?

K talked about NBCs decision to take their paid TV downloads off iTunes ... claiming the decision was based around Apple's reluctance to allow NBC to set the wholesale price. Lashinsky asked "How did it feel to give Steve Jobs the finger" ... K didn't really respond aside commenting that "everyone platform in the world allows you to set your wholesale price aside one."

There was talk about how NBC content now fits into YouTube. K commented it is a "great promotional vehicle" and it was the "amateur content" market leader. I noticed that the larger scale broadcast guys are very pointed in pigeonholing YouTube as "amateur content" ... and the general consensus amongst this group is that the core demand is for premium content. K mentioned the piracy issue with YouTube had improved and gave credit to YouTube for "significantly" reducing the amount of pirated material. He felt with YouTube the reason the situation had improved was due to collaboration between NBCU and YouTube - "The threat of a lawsuit won't motivate people to do the right thing."

I liked how K acknowledged that "the best defence is a good offence" and mentioned that one of the reason YouTube worked so well was that it could offer an experience quicker and better with NBCU content than NBCU was ... now this has changed with Hulu and NBCU have a much more robust format in terms of player, duration and speed.

Very exciting was to hear that they are working on global expansion for Hulu. Now - what will this mean for NBCU assets in Australia - will we see 30 Rock, Law & order, The office, ER, Heroes, Las Vegas, Medium etc available on-demand with full episodes in Oz? And how will this affect the local carriers?

On mobile K stated that video on mobile hadn't taken off due a lack of marketing and also technical issues, but the idea was "compelling."

"We deliver content to screens, and that is the screen that is always with you."

They spoke briefly about - which is NBCU's digital (online and VOD) TV Auto channel. K called it "car porn" and spoke briefly about the business model behind it. Auto in the US is the number one advertising category and for NBCU it made sense to pursue this model due to car enthusiasts being underserved for high end video content online.

When asked whether tools such as Hulu and NBC Direct would affect live TV viewership, K stated that people are using services like Hulu as a personal DVR ... it's catch up TV as opposed to cannibalisation. He mentioned that it was yet to be determined whether having such a huge amount of TV readily available in strong quality would affect syndication/repeat models moving forward.

I really enjoyed this session.

10: Keynote Roundtable: State of the Industry presented by IAB

It's refreshing to see the IAB are visible and active in the US - they really do take a leadership role (generally) in setting standards for most (not all) digital formats. Michael Theodore from the IAb chaired this with Todd Teresi from Yahoo, Jeremy Wright from Nokia, Jennifer Moyer from Newsweek/Washington Post and a guy from Starcom MediaVest who for some reason isn't in the infobook. Anyway - we had agency guy, publisher girl, mobile guy and ad network guy ... a good balance for talking macro/micro trends.

Areas discussed were

Economic Downturn (US). This is web 2.0's first economic downturn, however it was acknowledged that the economic factors now are different to those in 99/00 when the tech crash happened. It was commented that in tough times finance/travel and classifieds revenue will suffer ... and Auto may also suffer in the future. This would have sounded some warning bells in the audience as Auto is biiiig over here. It was also commented that Ad networks/Affiliates offering direct response/CPA type campaigns will benefit as they can show instance ROI on cost ... and that premium areas (ie high CPM) may suffer. Todd from Yahoo! felt the industry was robust in terms of usage which was a positive entering uncertain times. Jeremy from Nokia felt recession could expeidate the shift to digital and felt that once dollars are shifted they won't go back to traditional broadcast. The guy from Starcom made a valid point - broadcast and digital need to work hand in hand - both need eachother to work ... now the key in these times is understanding how to set the balance. He felt an economic downturn would see significant changes in agency structure - data being critical.

Measurement - Do we need to find move definite numbers to encourage CPG/FMCG advertisers to use online more? Do we need more measurement around attitudinal shifts and the longer term affects (positive or negative) of consistent web presence - as opposed to campaign by campaign isolated analysis. There was discussion of a need for everyone to work at more concrete social media analysis. Starcom guy: "So I had 1000 friends and 500 comments. What does that even mean?"

Mobile - Is 2008 the year of the mobile? Jeffrey from Nokia spoke about the 3bn mobile phones globally. He asked for a show of hands of people using mobile tools such as short code etc for their clients - very few hands went up. He also commented that he felt some of the issues with mobile not tipping is due to agencies not spending enough time and money understanding the area ... it's not solely the carriers faults for data charges. It was commented by the guy from Starcom that mobile is a focal point in 08 - clients want to know about the area and ways it can be used. He cited a few areas such as utility and local search, commenting it wasn't about 'banner ads'.

Video - The IAB's Theodore commented that video hadn't really exploded like everyone had thought. Some impediments to this happening were raised - lack of standisation across platforms, the TVC approach doesn't really utilise the medium as well as it could be. "Advertisers need a clear reason to move dollars into this area." I think the fact that people are using it and the inventory is there is not at all a compelling reason to move TV budget to digital ... the creative execution needs to offer something on digital it can't offer on broadcast. It was raised by the Starcom rep that traditional broadcast brands have a clear advantage in this area as they already have built up trust with advertisers they can leverage onto this platform - the content and delivery is deemed trustworthy. He said amateur video such as YouTube had huge potential due to the numbers, but that model was yet to be figured out. He also commented that potentially the way brands and advertisers are going to use online video is become broadcasters of their own. "Why just limit your use of this channel to a pre-roll, some brands have some amazing content they could use themselves in their own experience."

11: Keynote: You Don't know Jack - Teens Speak Out

Moderated by Samantha Skey from Alloy Media and Marketing, this wasn't too bad. They wheeled out 5 'Millenials' on stage ... it's always weird how marketers view and explain kids ... they almost view them like another life form ... at the end of the day they're just people!

Skey touched briefly on the millenial - aged 12-24, there are 53.9m of them in the US. They have over 400bn combined discretionary income and 9 out of 10 are close to their parents. They are confident and have high aspirations. For them technology is a life enabler, not something that makes life more difficult or something 'to keep up with.'

The 5 panelists were a good mix. There was a precocious 14 yo girl who was sort of like a real life Lisa Simpson (without spikey hair), one 16 yo guy, one 16 yo girl and 2 freshman college students. It's important to acknowledge this probably wasn't an average mix of 12-24 Americans ... they were all very confident and very educated.

Asked what device they could not live without the two answers were Mobile (2) and Laptop (3).

4 areas were discussed

Convergence: Most of the Millenials agreed that if one device could do everything for them (ie music, phone, laptop, text) then they would embrace this. Most hardly watched TV on TV ... in fact, it seemed the notion of watching TV on TV was so far fetched for them that it was almost antiquated ... most were watching tv on their laptop or other devices ... TV for them was something they watched on their own time ... the notion of appointment viewing is gone. They understood the economic realities of advertising but also mentioned it was hard for advertising to catch their attention. They didn't mind ads IF they provided value. They touched briefly on social networks and most seemed to lean towards Facebook - cleaner interface and they felt it wasn't as interruptive with advertising.

Saving The world: 89% of millenials would switch brands if like for like the other brand is associated with a good cause. The website was discussed and all were fans ... it was also asked whether if they had the choice of being rewarded themselves for engaging with a brand online OR the brand donating something to a chartiable group they would choose charity over self-gain. Interesting, but I highly doubt that if you were in front of 2,000 people you would take the selfish option. One of the college students gave the example of brands offering lame merchandise in exchange for an action (like a t-shirt with a brand logo on it). "Why would I even want that" he asked ... "to me it's just them extending their advertisement onto me. It'd be better if they used the budget for this to do something good for others." whilst most were do-gooders ... it seemed pretty easy to influence their opinion of upstanding corporate behaviour - both Chevron and Starbucks were quoted as organisations they thought were doing good ... word of mouth is the key for credibility in the world of social good.

Virality: The Obama 'yes We Can' video was discussed - over 14m views ... it was mentioned that the star power definitely plays a roll in this being taken in. In terms of viral content the main triggers/impulse for forwarding were legitimacy (ie - it's not a link to a virus), Cause and Humour ("I want to share something that has made me happy"). A strong value proposition also encouraged people to forward (like a sale, something free) and the College student guy said for him he wasn't all about laughs. "I want something original")

Utility: The most important utilities were search (ie finding people on Facebook/myspace) and Photo's. "Photo's tell the story of who you are." It was discussed by the group that sponsors must offer a clear value proposition when using these social networks - something different, something new.

The highlight was right at the end, when the younger Lisa Simpson-esque girl addressed the room (2,000 marketers) and said "Don't try to be cool - you're just not. Don't use like crazy spelling in your ads like K-E-W-L ... what I am? Like 5??"

12:15: Emerging Platforms: TV 3.0

To be honest I sort of tuned out during this as it was recapping a lot of content from the earlier George K keynote. Daisy Whitney was a good moderator however.

Only real takeout was the VP of Ad Sales Research from Turner threw a cat amongst the pigeons when talking about TV.

"The sky isn't falling for TV" she muttered ... before rolling off some figures in regards to digital video use. NB - these figures were from Sept 07 but are still valid.

In Sept 07 there were 113m individuals in the US streaming video. These people watched 61bn videos which worked out around 54 videos per viewer. Per month they spent 2.3 hours watching online video. The average TV viewer spends 158 hours per month watching live TV (ie not including TiVo).

An interesting hypothetical was raised - could we see in future makegoods being made up across channels. Ie - if your TV weights are less than booked, could the network make up that audience online ... or vice versa ... or even across other media (Magazines/papers, outdoor). It was discussed that this may become common soon.

Ok so that's a wrap of the morning - back to it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ad:Tech SF - Day 1 - Update 2

After lunch (well, a trip back to the hotel room - no lunch involved unfortunately as the area was packed with Ad:Techians) I returned to Moscone North for an afternoon packed with some great sessions.

Here's a rundown of what I found interesting from each.
2:15: Media and Entertainment - Programming, Distribution and Advertising in a Multi-Platform World.

Moderated by Shelley Palmer from Advanced Media Ventures (and a great moderator - take note AU Ad:Tech mods) this session was a bit of a let down overall. Firstly, 3 of the billed speakers didn't actually speak and secondly a lot of the sentiment was a little vanilla. Shelley was trying his heart out to get some animation from the panel but everyone aside Julie Roehm was pretty flat.

By default this session turned into more of a video-centric session ... Palmer identified 3 core areas of online video - snacking, download to own and Internet TV (ie long form). He also identified 3 core areas of advertising - transactional, call to action and brand ... unfortunately nothing was really done to marry the two into some sort of pointed dialogue.

Palmer raised the question 'Does Advertising Suck' ... it was commented on by Roehm than advertising for some generations 'sucks' becuase their exposure to advertising in past has been all about interruption ... not about value ... and that the next generation won't have the same strong blanket opinion of advertising as it will become more relevant and targeted, hence valuable.

Roehm also touched on the issue of publishers claiming that they have strict quality control whem it comes to advertiser integration, but in the harsh reality of a soft market these restrictions become a little easier to avoid ... the Sales Director of Martha Stewart said this wasn't the case with her network but I thought the wider concept was an interesting one and one we should feel confident bringing up with our publisher partners.

Shelly also (moreso to be controversial) asked whether advertisers should pay a premium for bad creative ... reason being bad creative makes people tune out hence impacts ratings and impacts results for other advertisers.

3:30: Power Panel: The Modern Agency

Obviously being an agency guy this was of huge interest to me - they had assembled a really strong panel with senior management from AKQA, Carat, Neo@Ogilvy and Organic ... and all had solid opinions. Grant McDougal - VP of Carat - was an Aussie too ... so was good to hear an Aussie accent.

This notion of the 'modern agency' is one being thrown around a lot now and the panel acknowledged that the session would probably spark more questions than answers ... but they did identify 3 key trends impacting on the role of 'the agency'

- consumers changing media consumption and how they connect with brands
- average CMO/Marketing Director tenure is 26 months
- Clients are often in the middle of agency partners trying to wrangle control - hence the client becomes more a referee.

Greg Smith from Neo@Ogilvy said that 'Clients get the Agencies they deserve' which was pretty apt. He felt the agency had almost become a chameleon and was guilty of sometimes keeping clients happy rather than challenging them.

Asked their opinion of key attributes in a 'modern agency' some of the responses were

- ability to really adapt/change across the board ... not selective change.
- Data literacy across all staff
- True creative - creative that can work across platforms
- consumer centricity
- improved tools - data, aggregation - making things less labour intensive

The question was asked if clients have given away too much of their strategic thinking - and whether the example of a 'lead agency' that acts as the brand cop is detrimental. Most agreed the client essentially needs to be the brand cop - and bring to the table the overriding vision that their agency partners execute.

Grant from Carat commented that agencies such as naked are becoming more popular as they are media neutral and take a communications and problem solving lead. 'You can't mark your own homework' he said.

Consensus was reached that the modern agency will be ideas led and will craft media around what needs to be delivered to solve a problem. The idea of 'clout' or buying size/scale will become irrelevant as bid management and algorhythms and data become king.

Greg from Neo commented on agencies using antiquated data to make decisions on digital media ... I felt the example of Roy Morgan in Oz was relevant as Morgan's measurement of digital is embarassing however the agency environment has done a great job of making clients feel consumer insights need to be based on a framework of Morgan data ... despite the fact it's sketchy at best. This moved onto the agencies with the strongest propietary data sources having a strong advantage moving forward as they can use this to craft campaigns and also develop real metrics. Perhaps moving forward Media Agencies and Data Analysis type agencies (such as Wunderman) would work closer together or even as one?

A question was asked from an audience member re the fee structure for this new, expanded service offering ... which was greeted with mininal response. Tom Bedecarre from AKQA went as far as to say that media agencies and large scale advertising holding companies are solely to blame for the commoditised nature of service pricing particularly in media - that they had commoditised the industry. Greg from Neo added that client procurement approach is often misguided as some view marketing and comms services just like they view purchasing raw materials like metal or sugar ... there's a strong lack of understanding of value as the procurement people don't look beyond the raw costs.

Tom from AKQA asked whether we are asking too much of digital media practitioners in an agency structure - expecting the one staff member to be great at client facing, able to formulate strategy, buy media, optimise and analyse as well as manage the business ... and whether agencies have done enough to train their digital and, in fact, all staff to make them digital literate. The consensus was no.

The final takeout was an apt one. 'Don't drive the channel, drive the ultimate result.'

4:45: Power Panel: Social Network Marketing - Exploring the value proposition

This panel saw speakers from AKQA, Myspace, Target and EA - so it was a good mix of client, creative and publisher. The only missing element was a media person .... and the session needed it as we saw some pretty ambiguous metrics thrown around!

Initially some topline stats were gone through - usage across demo's, revenue increases and the inability of the main publishers to crack the killer ad model. Nothing really new.

Myspace and the EA client went through a case study for their Burnout game. The EA guy acknowledged straight away that he has an immediate advantage in this sort of space having a 'high involvement' product ... and the Myspace guy chimed in with 'research' that showed that users want to be friends with brands. I'm not that sure what 'friends' means exactly.

The EA campaign was case studied by Isobar, Carat, FIM and also Marketing Evolution ... some interesting results but nothing that definitive. The main takeout is that passalong advocacy (ie word of mouth) is a lot more powerful than b2c comms ... which I am sure no one disputes.

The digital guy from Target presented the Brand New Dorm campaign on Facebook with their creative agency AKQA ... a campaign aimed at college students (hence FB was a no brainer). The numbers to me didn't seem that 'wow' ... but one thing I have noticed today is the emphasis in the US with brand marketers is all about quality not quantity - I would argue that in AU this isn't the case. The US marketers (even those from mammoth FMCG and retail brands) talk about quality dialogue with 7,000 people as a win ... whereas in AU the emphasis is always on mass reach and often interruption. I think in these areas we have a long way to go.

Ross from AKQA likened 'traditional media' to a theatre show. It's rehearsed and controlled - it's a 1 way dialogue with the focus on the audience accepting the message and content. Social Media is like a house party ... the participants become the content and the excitement comes from the guests.

Great points but it fell down when measurement was discussed. The guy from Target claimed that the Facebook campaign was a big success despite the metrics being ambiguous at best. They quoted friends and comments as metrics - which I find odd as these aren't forms of measurement ... he then also claimed he had a sales uplift directly accountable to Facebook ... but then retracted this when pushed saying 'I think it helped sales, we can't directly account sales to that channel.'

Fox Interactive Media/myspace claim that in 09 they will have measurement that fills the gap between media activity and sales activity - which is a helluva gap at the moment and in my opinion the one issue that is going to see Social Network spend flatten unless rectified.
So - Day 1 down ... some great sessions. Only real downside was a reasonable percentage of billed speakers did not attend - which is pretty lame. I didn't get much of a chance to check out the exhibitors hall but from my quick look there are a shedload of remnant and behavioural targeting suppliers - more than anyone could ever entertain seeing!

Ad:Tech SF - Day 1 - Update 1

Great first morning at Ad:Tech SF. I woke up nice and early (6am to be precise) and had a quick walk around downtown SF - very cold but a beautiful city.

I arrived at Ad:Tech around 8:30 - everything was easy and the free WiFi is handy. It's great to see a stack of bloggers and people Twittering regarding the keynotes and panels and it's clear to see that digital media is a far bigger deal in the US than it currently is in AU.

Keynote 1: This is Not Your Fathers Kodak

This opened proceedings and saw Drew Ianni from AdTech as well as Jeffrey Hayzlett from Kodak speak.

Ianni started things off with a little chest thumping - telling us Ad:Tech SF for 08 has had over 14,000 registrants ... up from just over 10k in 07. Amazing numbers. The keynotes are happening in the Ballroom of the Moscone North Center - it's about 3,000 capacity and it was around 80% full for the Kodak keynote.

Ianni introduced the underlying theme of the conference as 'How is digital media transforming ALL media' ... and so far both keynotes have tried to address this. Ianni explained that was time goes on digital media won't 'mature' per se, but more so 'evolve in waves of consolidation.'

He also spoke about the 'Mobile revolution' and commented that this would not take place until downloads are affordable and most impotantly accessible ... regardless of how many handsets are in circulation.

He spoke as well about the MS/Yahoo merger - he likened MS to a 'schoolyard bully' that has basically ran out of friends after 20 years of posturing ... and he also touched on PR firms now actively entering the digital space.

So what is the next big thing? Well according to Ianni it's 'realigning organisations to execute in a digital world' ... which is definitely on the agenda in AU with plenty of agency management types talking up this exact mantra with enthusiasm. Whether or not it's lip service or PRing remains to be seen.

Jeffrey Hayzlett was up next and was a great speaker. He's a big guy - 6'3" and probably about 300 pounds ... which was equalled by his charisma. He was responsible for the Winds Of Change Kodak video that did the rounds a while ago -

For Kodak, 70% of their total revenues come from 'digital' products and 60% of their total revenues are from b2b ... which was surprising given most would associate Kodak as a b2c brand. The rule for Kodak now is 'If you can't be either number 1, 2 or 3 then don't participate' and what really shocked me (I am not sure why as I am sure this is the case across a lot of companies) but 2 years ago 50% of their current products didn't exist!

Hayzlett talked about 2 key marketing rules.
- Is anyone gonna die?
- Are we going to be break the law?

If the answer is 'no' to both an idea can be considered.

He feels that 'marketers exist to create tension' and his role is to push people - Internal and external - to the edge ... without pushing them over. This raised an interesting point and one I think extremely relevant to most media people - are you pushing your clients ... or are you looking to give them 'what they want' ...

Hayzlett spoke about the importance of retraining staff if you want to redesign how you communicate with consumers. You need to create an organisation open to change ... when Hayzlett joined Kodak he only brought with him 1 person ... his team was made up almost entirely of existing marketing staff.

Kodak have pulled out of the Olympics - a relationship they have had for a long time. Hayzlett felt that it was 'no longer relevant' in a digital age. Kodak want to be a 'fast digital company' and the premise of the Olympics (only every 2 years and short duration plus huge expense) meant given Kodak's want to be more digitally focussed and also the shift from being b2b from b2c meant it was a no brainer. Instead Kodak has partnered with the US PGA to create a sponsorship they feel they can activate more inline with their needs.

He calls these 'blended campaigns' and believes the notion of a pure 'broadcast campaign' is irrelevant. He has even created a role under the title 'Convergence Media Director' to ensure for all comms online is considered (ie with talent, rights, budget etc). Smart idea.

He also spoke about ROI being paramount but didn't have the opportunity to really elaborate on this - which would have been interesting because most of his examples were more 'brand' than DR in my opinion.

Keynote 2: The Art of Conversation: Building Great Brands in the Digital Age

This was more a roundtable/panel featuring players from Nestle, Levi Strauss, Neilsen, MTV and Sony as well as a token Agency guy.

I thought a few of the panelists here didn't have much to offer. Jordan Warren from was excellent ... he added a good dose of reality to the discussions and you could tell that he was speaking from experience not just giving the audience a few cliches. Jordan called a 'Digitally Led Integrated Marketing Shop' ... which I thought was a good descriptor and shows that in the US 'digitally led' is now the norm ... not 'digital' ... the pigeonhole is now gone.

Todd Cunningham from MTV didn't offer much aside a claim that 'MTV had been doing this for ages before anyone else' ... which I would think many in the audience would have disagreed with. He did, however, say that MTV were going to release a definitive meausrement on 'engagement' and I liked his point that MTVs bloggers were now the strongest consumer touchpoint and the whole idea of 'consumer insights' and how these are measured and accumulated has changed.

Rick Clancy from Sony was solid - he has a blog ( worth viewing.

All panelists spoke about 'Authenticity' and how you create that ... Rick Clancy touched on those who are involved in these social media channels in a marketing sense need to go from a 'we' to I' mentality - and put their own beliefs on the line - totally agree.

Jordan hit the mark by saying 'the best place to get consumer insights is from consumers' and all agreed that if you don't faciliate dialogue with consumers (through fear of negative sentiment or due to legal red tape or whatever) someone else will do it. Being involved on a corporate level should be seen as 'offering balance' rather than taking control.

Beth Thomas Kim from Nestle spoke about traditional CRM being 1-way inbound ... and needing to move to 2-way outbound communication ... actively seeking out dialogue with consumers rather than passively responding only when prompted.

The million dollar question - how do you measure ROI on social media ... no real answers there.

Session3: Power Panel: The buyers weigh in

Very informative panel with some management types from Optimedia and Starcom amongst others ... no real direction but it addressed really well some very important topical issues in the traditional 'media agency' landscape

Pre-roll and Streaming Video: Running 30 sec TVCs online isn't necessarily a bad thing because of a perceived 'user experience ' ... the main issue at hand is running a 30 second TVC is a waste of the potential the medium offers. There was a shared want for the sophistication of video advertising to improve.

Social Networks: Mixed banter re networks but some believed these aren't necessarily Advertising platforms. 'Just because a publisher has an audience doesn't mean advertisers have to use it ...' Hulu - the new Fox/NBC video site was explained by one as classic absorb media ... not a digital platform but moreso TV the way it should have always been.

Advertising: 'Just because you can ad stamp a page does not make your site an ad platform.' Interesting considering the rush now to vertical ad networks.

Premium versus remnant: The gap between the 2 is so large because the gap in spending between the 2 is so large. Publishers utilise remnant strategies when required to maximise revenues ... so do clients, they utilise cheap remnant to generate quick ROI to enhance reporting. One panelist estimated only 10% of digital advertising revenue is actually 'brand' ... and many big CPG/FMCGs are still only dedicating 2-3% to digital.

Search: Mobile search was considered by all as a quick area for growth. It is utility based, doesn't require high bandwidth or big screens ... it was also discussed that many marketers will become more sophisticated when measuring search - ie, not considering search spend directly accountable for all results achieved through search engines - being able to measure and track the effectiveness of ALL MEDIA through search data and analytics. One panelist said digital had a problem with the naivety of data ... lots of clean, easily digestible data but minimal application and commercial value. Reporting and analysis needs to improve - it needs to relate back to strategy and business objectives.

Economic downturn: There was a shared consensus (these were media people after all) that an economic downturn would be positive for digital media as it would placed heightened awareness on ROI and tangible value ... from both response, data and consumer insights.

What is media?: The idea of a 'publisher' has changed ... brands are now media. Or they CAN be media ...

Vertical networks and the future of 'reach': The concept of mass reach through a Yahoo/News/MSN etc will be redundant and the new 'mass reach' with contextual relevancy will come through vertical networks. The single destination will disappear but the concept of buying large amounts of eyeballs through one buy will remain. They cited Glam Media as leaders in this area.

So now it's 1:27, sessions start again at 2:15. Off to get some lunch now! Stay tuned for another update in a few hours.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ad:Tech San Fran is go

So I have arrived in San Fran and am ready for 3 days of Ad:Tech goodness followed by a daytrip to the Googleplex.

Stay tuned over the next few days for updates on all the keynotes and noteable sessions. I have 21 sessions down over the next 3 days to attend so it's sure to be a fast paced experience and hopefully full of a stack of learnings and knowledge I can bring back to Oz.

If anyone is over in San Fran who is reading this - hit me up at

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Web journalism hits a new low thanks to The Australian

The Australian should take a good look at themselves after running with this piece of junk.,25197,23526150-7582,00.html

Not only is their initial argument completely flawed ... they then lose direction and start talking about seemingly irrelevant information regarding Google exec's in AU.

Seriously who cares? The Oz is a fantastic news provider 99% of the time and a daily staple for me, but this to me seems way off the mark for News's premier masthead.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Blogbreak - Ben is in the US

Hi everyone.

Just a quick note to let you know this blog will be pretty slow for the next 5 days. I will be in (hopefully) sunny Los Angeles and Las Vegas enjoying some r'n'r, c-grade celeb spotting and shopping before I hit San Francisco for the big Ad:Tech conference over there.

But don't despair ... come next week I will be posting multiple times a day to update everyone on what is being discussed at Ad:tech and the key insights hopefully we can all apply.

Enjoy your break (from my rants)


Monday, April 7, 2008

Fairfax Digital launch The Vine

Personally I don't see the point at all as there are plenty of other sites easily accessible doing this much better and with more sincerity ... but hey, I am not in their target demo anyway.

Time will tell if the kids embrace this.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Google CIO departs Search Giant to join EMI Music

I think this indicates that EMI are serious about understanding the new digital world. They have hired poster boy Google CIO Douglas Merrill as their new President of Digital Business.

This is a coup for EMI as they are getting one of the most, if not the most, respected brains in digital today to help them map out a plan to remain viable as the mechanics behind the music (and, lets face it, the entertainment industry) change dramatically.

Apparently Merrill is a music nut and a technology nut, so the two combined made sense for him.

Info is here -->

Merrill reportedly loved his role at Google as it involved 'technology driving the business.' At EMI this hasn't been the case and it'll be interesting to see how he goes from a company built on robust technology to a company and an industry that has spent years seemingly rallying against that exact thing.

Will we see data and analytics start to drive the music industry? Will make a pleasant change from the current crop who can't seem to get their heads around the Internet let alone digital channels.

Facebook ads are starting to feel less relevant

Check this one ... not to mention all the sh*tty singles ads and random text with small image placements I am seeing. Daft - a burger no mere mortal could digest with an ambiguous call to action.

Be careful Facebook, no one likes a social network full of rubbish advertising. After all, isn't it the reason many chose you over your busier brother?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

SBS Cutting Edge - Monday 1 April

This aired last night on SBS at 8:30 - it's called 'Growing Up Online' and was produced out of PBS in the US.

This is the best doco/program I have seen about the way digital channels play a role in the lives of teenagers today. It is insightful, must watch content.

Nielsen and Morgan face off regarding online measurement

Roy Morgan has launched an attack on Nielsen, specifically citing the latest 2007 Internet and Technology Report has inaccurate.

William Burlace from Roy Morgan told Ad News: ""The Internet is being used more often and by more people. However, to say the Internet is the number one media for Australians . . . is just wrong."

Basically the Morgan and Nielsen figures seem to tell different stories - it's difficult to take any side. Personally it's interesting Morgan is defending it's online measurement when generally it's hit and miss anin terms of depth and relevancy of measurement.

Tony Marlow from Neilsen had this to say to AdNews: "The key objective of the Internet & Technology Report is to provide a reliable comparison of Australians’ attitudes and behaviours surrounding various media and this report is highly effective in this regard. It is in this vein that it is crucial for content publishers across all media as well as their advertisers to understand that the internet is playing an increasingly large role in the lives of the vast majority of Australians and the media time metrics we provide use a consistent comparison across the media measured and we stand by that information,"

AdNews article here (sub. required) -

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In Game Advertising from the game developers perspective

I'm thinking a lot about In Game Advertising and the possibilities it offers right now ... probably due to the fact I have meetings with the US guys from Massive tomorrow (Wednesday) which I am excited about, and we're about to launch our first in game campaign within the next few weeks with more planned between then and the end of Q2 ... but as an area generally it provides something exciting to digest and evaluate.

It has always interested me how users and also developers view dynamic in game advertising within their carefully crafted games ... and how they will react to the often 'subtle as a sledgehammer' attitude of the traditional media world.

Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software has recently come out and given some rationale as to why his company has started utilising in game advertising across some of its titles. I really like his openness to not only listen to the opinion of his audience but also provide some logic and rationale as to what has motivated his decision to monetise the games titles/assets they have.

He finds three core areas in game can help

- improved authenticity
- increased budgets
- out of game promotions that help attract more gamers

I think in some ways Pitchford is too much of an idealist and really ONLY wants advertising if it's relevant and value adding (which is a nice dream but a difficult premise to maintain in a commercially motivated industry) but he must be commended for actively asking for feedback

ROO buy remainder of Sputnik - change name to KIT Digital?

from Paid Content -

"On March 30, 2008, ROO executed various individual share purchase agreements with the shareholders of Sputnik Agency, in a process that once completed should provide the Company a 100% ownership position in the subsidiary entity. The all-in cash cost to ROO for the buy-in of Sputnik (including consummation of the Company's original 51% ownership) will be approximately $4.0 million, to be paid by April 30, 2008. Sputnik Agency reported 2007 revenues of $5.2 million and an operating profit of $371,000. "

"The integration of Sputnik and ROO Media Services will strengthen our operations by bringing our online video enablement and interactive marketing solutions under one product offering. By offering a single source solution we will be able to better serve current and prospective clients."

On the name change ...

"The ROO name has served the Company over time, but the team felt that the integration of Sputnik and ROO Media Services represented a good time to introduce a fresh, new brand. The 'KIT Digital' brand underscores my commitment to our success, and reflects in part the changes made since KIT Capital's involvement in the Company several months ago."

The name change is effective April 7.

April 1: Hilarity takes an RDO

Sorry Google - but mega FAIL on your April Fools Day 'joke'

News tried to get in on the gag -->,25642,23460961-5014239,00.html --> but it didn't quite have the punch it needed.

Valleywag has a great piece on some of the memorable April Fools Day pranks from when Dr. Eric was at Sun -->