The lifespan of online content is nasty, brutish and short

The lifespan of online content is nasty, brutish and short. What to do?

The above video interview is from Internet Week in NYC.                               
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brands, webtv, webisodic series, content marketing, consumers, eyeballs, display advertising, ana, association of national advertisers, iab, 4as

An ugly truth about online media is the incredibly fast decay rates of content objects. Even the most compelling content once published experiences a quick drop off in engagement relative to its perceived value.

Like Thomas Hobbes’ analysis of man in a state of nature, the life of online content is nasty, brutish and short.

Even with our most successful viral hits, an initial spike of aggregated activity around the work is followed by a dramatic plummeting of interest. Sure, search allows for some Long Tail discoverability but the fragmentation and capriciousness of our audiences dooms content of all types to obsolescence.

To stem the tide we build social ecosystems and construct SEO savvy strategies around that which we do in order to sustain the original audience lift just a little bit longer.

What I find interesting though in the above interview Peter Cervieri conducted with Federated Media’s Peter Spande is Spande’s observation of the engagement platforms audiences use for different categories. With business and technology news it’s Twitter. With men’s lifestyle it’s Facebook. And with Women’s lifestyle it’s on site comments. (The discussion starts at approximately 9:08.)

The goal, of course, is fewfold: to sustain the life of the original content object and build loyalty around the brand.

The lone piece of content can’t create that loyalty but by extending engagement with it, and engaging those that are engaged with it, we increase the likelihood that our next greatest hit will be viewed, shared and otherwise promoted… albeit briefly. Rinse and repeat.

So while an individual work suffers the nasty, brutish and short life an unforgiving online environment has in store for it, eventually doomed objects work in tandem to give life to brand loyalty.

Digital optimism: It’s really not as brutish as it may sound.

Nielsen’s David Gill on Where Tablets Are Now

Should advertisers and marketers be bearish, bullish or agnostic with Tablets?

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Audio: David Gill – Internet Week 2011 NYC

The above video interview is from Internet Week in NYC.                          &nbsp
Sponsored by
brands, webtv, webisodic series, content marketing, consumers, eyeballs, display advertising, ana, association of national advertisers, iab, 4as

It’s Internet Week in New York and we had a chance to meet with Nielsen’s David Gill after he spoke on a panel called Marketing and Media Opportunities in the New Tablet Habit.

Topics in this Podcast:

  • Bringing a research angle to tablets with metrics and numbers.
  • Who are tablet owners and how is that changing.
  • What it means that tablet adoption is “normalizing” by moving behind the early adopters.
  • Who’s on what platform at what time of the day.

Run Time – 7:08

Image: Geek And Poke via Creative Commons.

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Video Ad Measurement Holds the Key for Online Video Monetization

Online video ads account for just 1% of total video viewing time in a typical month.

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Did you know that online video ads account for just 1% of total video viewing time in a typical month? While the debate rages regarding the risk of trading traditional dollars for digital dimes, it is easy to miss that the tonnage does not give digital a fighting chance in the first place. Even taking into account the higher brand favorability metrics relative to traditional channels that are commonly observed with digital video campaigns, something more is needed to bridge the gap and to help video take its place at the table.

Video as a platform has consistently shown impressive growth across a range of viewing metrics, both here in the US (as well as in all the countries that we measure including Canada, UK, France, Germany, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia). Below are several key metrics demonstrating the growth in U.S. online video consumption:

In addition, the growing engagement with video can be seen across all age groups, not just millenials – though 18-34 year olds are growing at the fastest rate.

So with all these positive growth indicators in terms of viewing, what is the current state of online video advertising?

Eager to expand both audience size and time spent viewing, video sites have erred on the side of fewer ads so as not to disrupt viewing or give the user any reason to navigate away. This is particularly noticeable on sites with long format TV content, because the contrast in ad loads to the same program on television are so marked (typically about 25% of TV ad loads make it online, with video ads comprising 6-8% of viewing time online on sites that focus on long format TV programming).

However, although audiences continue to grow in both size and engagement, this approach has resulted in challengingly low ratios of ads to content, and a business model around online distribution of TV programs that is difficult to sustain for many content providers. This is true despite the fact that online video is achieving higher CPMs than TV in many instances due to single pod placements, less clutter, high demand, greater innovation in ad units and creative quality and strong engagement.

While we are not suggesting that the ad load should merely replicate TV, based on the findings about how little advertising there really is, there is definitely room for growth in terms of increasing ad loads. The other important opportunity lies in standardizing a few key video ad formats that will simplify video ad ops and provide scalability across multiple publishers and ad networks. The IAB has suggested guidelines, and there are also some interesting developments in this regard from Vivaki’s The Pool and their ad selector product. High quality video creative (created with the online platform in mind as well as having at least the same quality as the programming surrounding it) will also become increasingly important.

We recently introduced video ad reporting for our Video Metrix service in order to bring further transparency into industry trends such as ads to content ratios, ads per content minute, and overall reach of video advertising. As viewers continue to time shift and platform shift, we need greater understanding of how video advertising currently works, what online publishers are currently doing, and where the opportunities for future growth lie. This all starts when we can innovate and experiment from a baseline understanding of the video ads that are reaching consumers.

Seeing the Patterns

Advertising’s role in the purchase process.

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The role of the Internet in American consumers’ shopping behavior evolves constantly as new innovation and advances in the space emerge. As if the change in media consumption and technology isn’t enough, the struggling economy has also greatly impacted consumer sentiment and buying behavior. The complex nature of this amalgam demands that marketers better connect and engage with consumers, specifically through digital advertising.

In “Seeing the Patterns”, Yahoo! and MediaVest set out to understand the current state of advertising with respect to the purchase process, while also providing insights to enable marketers to better understand and engage their audience through digital advertising. The larger questions we asked were the following:

  • What is the impact of the economy on consumer shopping behavior and thinking? Is marketing communication reflecting how consumers think about “value”?
  • How is digital advertising pushing, pulling, persuading the path forward? What kinds of digital ads do people remember and why and when?
  • Are there more effective strategies to inform and influence consumers?
  • How can retail marketers further strengthen their online advertising strategies?

For this study, Yahoo! & MediaVest drew from the wealth of experience and knowledge from others. One example is from Marco Bertini and Luc Wathieu’s recently published study around pricing strategy in The Harvard Business Review. Bertini and Wathieu wrote that “commodization is as much a psychological state as a physical one…buyers display rampant skepticism, routinized behaviors, minimal expectations, and a strong preference for swifter and effortless transactions regardless of product differentiation.”

The authors go to discuss how pricing to the bottom has created “low expectations” that “will make consumers more disengaged. They start to fixate on price and nothing else… with constant undercutting to capture customers can spur efficiency gains through mass, but more often damages brand equity and erodes profit margins.”

This point is important because retailers currently leverage digital advertising with primary focus on “price and deal informing”. “Seeing the Patterns” discovered that consumers feel overwhelmed and over informed before a purchase decision leading to frustration. These feelings about the noise in the digital space results in consumers being defensive about the marketing messages they are encountering. As such, we are seeing a new set of “control strategies “ emerge as a way to cope with the following:

  • They don’t trust advertising because everyone claims to have “lowest price!”, or “best deal!”
  • Consumers feel the majority of messages they encounter are irrelevant to their needs, and glazing over most ads has become common practice. They are now seeking relevant information on their own terms.
  • Consumers are facing a crisis of confidence when it comes to making online purchases and are going to great lengths to gather the information needed to make a confident purchase. This is reflected with purchases across the entire price spectrum, not simply high ticket items, resulting in a longer buying process.

These coping strategies should serve as a wake-up call. What marketers are feeding consumers currently might be tempering the influence they want to have in the first place.

Consumers today are no longer just interested in being told brands have the best deals or lowest prices. In fact, regardless of the economic sentiment – whether they have been impacted negatively or not at all, when it comes to their purchases, quality is the differentiator over the lowest price. This may prove counter intuitive in a rocky economy.

Consumer definition of value has also evolved to more than just price. They define “value” as a combination of extra’s + quality + what the brand means to them with price as the counterpoint. While that may seem intuitive, marketers are certainly not messaging to consumers that way today. Consumers are expecting marketers to teach them about value through their messages and willing to pay more to both get more and feel more.

Going back to Bertini’s article about pricing strategy, “pricing to the bottom is not the answer.” Nor is communicating that end benefit so strongly to the end consumer through digital advertising. If advertisers plan to cut through the clutter with their marketing messages, they must consider varying their approach to speaking to consumers online:

  • Message both definitions of value online: Value for less & Value that matters
  • Leverage online advertising to create emotional bonds, stronger ties with consumers, and differentiate from the competition
  • Understand the new dimensions of “value in 2010” and leverage communication that resonates by category
  • Minimize the triggers for “control” strategies and speak authentically
  • Seize every opportunity when consumers are online, manage the environment because they are rarely in purchase mode

The implications can be applied directly to the way marketers speak to consumers today. How do w re-engage a buyer who is past caring? In the same way, what are the better ways to understand messaging and communication based on consumer’s talk about the concept of value when it comes to their last purchase?

Download the study today and let’s work on connecting better and seeing the pattern.

You Got a Friend in Remnant Ad Inventory

What if a publisher can reclaim some remnant ad inventory and sell at a higher CPM?


Amiad Solomon, President of semantic targeting company Peer39, recently taught a seminar at the IAB. The above video is a teaser from that seminar. One comment he made that caught our attention was that online publishers should “learn to love their remnant.” We asked him to elaborate on that comment.

Many online marketers seem to be resigned to the notion that a small minority of highly targeted ad impressions usually drive the vast majority of attributed conversion activity.

Some brands believe that in order to generate their desired consumer engagement and achieve the appropriate performance from their campaigns, they can take up a large portion of their ad buys with low-value, poorly targeted ad spots to promote branding, and they expect very little activity from those ads.

As such, these marketers are willing to devote a significant chunk of their online advertising budget to page impressions with no data and unknown relevance to the brand.

On the other side of spectrum, it has become fairly clear from the recent and ongoing growth of innovative networks, DSPs and yield optimizers that many publishers have chosen to make their non-directly sold inventory available to the highest, or sometimes lowest, bidder. Yet even despite the emergence of these platforms, some content owners are OK with getting very low CPMs on the majority of their content as long as their ad spots are filled. Hoards of well-known publishers delegate the great majority of their inventory to the remnant bucket where it is tremendously undersold.

The inefficiencies associated with this system are rampant – especially given the power and ease of semantic data. Semantics brings a true understanding of content meaning and sentiment at the page level, and can help both ad buyers and sellers fully monetize on every impression and maximize consumer engagement with campaigns.

Today’s outdated attitude towards “branding” and remnant impressions leads to under-monetization across the board, and needs to be shown a new and innovative light. Content targeting systems today can offer actionable data and insights on oceans of impressions across massive inventory networks. There is no need for advertisers to waste impressions and for content owners to delegate a significant chunk of inventory to the remnant bucket with no hope of serious monetization. Brands can see significant conversions from that mass of impressions, by infusing them with helpful data and making them more relevant and valuable.

Publishers and brands should change the way they approach remnant. As soon as inventory is labeled as remnant, there emerges a defeatist attitude which says “I cannot monetize on this inventory.” Instead, think of it as mass targeting. Most of the inventory in the remnant bucket today has value that is just beginning to be exploited.

Are Publishers Responsible for Their Advertisers?

Can publishers just say no to misleading advertisers?

I was clicking around through news sites this morning and stumbled upon Examiner.com.

A headline about Acai berry on the side navigation caught my attention. I drink Acai juice from time to time and when the headline screams, “Want to use Acai Berry..You’ll be SHOCKED what we found”, I decided to check it out to see if research now shows that Acai berries are bad for you.

When I clicked the link, I was brought to what seems to be the news site of the local news channel. The site is news6daily.tv, and the “report” / “article” was evidently posted this week and geographically from Wakefield, RI. So my initial reaction was that this must be a local Providence TV network web site (ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX).

The gist of the “journalists” intrepid story is as follows:

“I was skeptical about all the rave reviews Acai pills have been receiving for weight loss, so I decided to try it myself and shocker of all shockers, it actually works. After 4 weeks I’ve successfully lost 25 pounds. Oh, and here’s the brand I used. The manufacturer let us put a free sample coupon on our site. They’re great!”

When I tried to click on one of the top Navigation items, such as Business, Home, Sports, I was redirected to the same Acai article. It was only then that I realized this “article” is actually an advertisement made to look like real news.

That’s when I realized that the date on the story page is probably always updated to display today’s date, and the location is probably coded to display whatever location the end user comes from (via their IP address). In my case, my ISP is in Wakefield Rhode Island. Hence the story “location” is Wakefield.

Now, I give all this detail and background to ask both the advertising industry and the publishing industry whether supporting misleading advertising is in our long term collective best interest?

In the short term, cash is cash, and Examiner.com is willing to take money from an advertiser that will pay up. Actually, upon further review, Examiner.com is a content farm, cranking out articles to attract audience to maximize the number of targeted ads they can place next to those articles.

I’m not sure who is serving up the Acai ad, because every time I refresh the page it seems like Examiner.com changes who is serving their ads (e.g. btrll.com, videoegg, Pulse360, etc). I assume Acai Optimum (a subsidiary of Nutrition Craze), the company mentioned by the fake journalist, is the advertiser. Not sure who their agency is, and whether there was a “creative” meeting between brand and agency that determined that the best “digital media” idea would be to create a fake news site and buy ad space to drive traffic to the fake news site. I do know the end goal is to get people to register to receive a free trial.

Below is the free trial page users are funneled to:

I reached out to Acai Optimum, the company mentioned in the article that was “nice enough to give our readers a free trial of their amazing product”, to see if they are indeed behind the fake news site with the fake article from a fake journalist who initially expresses fake skepticism about the miracles of Acai pills but is then won over after a fake 4 week experiment, during which time she loses a fake 25 pounds.

We’ll see what they say…

So do publishers (even content farms), advertisers, technology enablers (ad serving platforms) bear any responsibility to the public, or the good name of their respective industries, to self police and ban totally misleading advertising or, in this case, an ad that brings the reader to a fake news page which is really just a giant advertorial disguised as a real breaking news story?!?

I don’t know the answer, but if I never really clicked on ads before, this certainly makes me less interested in clicking than ever…which probably explains why the ads themselves look more and more like side navigation “related story” headlines than ads…so people think they’re clicking on another story, not an ad.

Whither Mobile Advertising?

The underwhelming performance of mobile advertising.

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Language matters and it reflects what we think we know. Some years ago a client, a wise, senior executive at a cpg company, explained to me that the first TV ad was produced by pointing a camera at a radio show. That’s what they knew, that was their frame of reference.

Over time, brand and direct marketers learned that combining moving pictures with audio could result in a unique set of characteristics and attributes for the purpose of commercial persuasion.

The early internet was characterized by ”brochureware,” an inelegant word meant to describe the transfer of content (and form) from a print brochure to a web site, again based on the current frame of reference. Early web advertising was not even that advanced with few standards or measures.

And now we talk about mobile advertising. Let’s review some numbers: mobile devices today are distributed at a scale representing two of every three people on earth. This includes approximately 290 million people in the US or a penetration of over 90%. This is just below the 292 million in the US who have access to a television, and above the 228 million who are online. Annual TV advertising expenditures are approximately $70 billion and $24 billion online.

But after a decade of trying, mobile advertising accounts for approximately $400 million, while celebratory pronouncements of its growth rate predict it will be $1.6 billion over the next four years. Why the celebration? More importantly, why the dismal performance?

The characteristics of commercially successful communications channels can be thought of as a combination of scale, precision, efficient utilization and effectiveness. Mobile has scale. And it is a uniquely individual device with the ability to be “precise” in its targeting. What it does not possess is an efficient “eco system” of standards, platform, proposals, purchasing, data, reporting and metrics. And therefore it cannot yet demonstrate its true effectiveness.

The mobile industry continues to be dominated by brilliant technologists who produce brilliant consumer devices and wage the fight for platform world domination. A business point of view, a more commercially viable “attitude” would see and embrace the opportunity to network the distribution, standardize the advertisER experience, and most importantly, make the consumer advertising experience relevant, seamless and measurably effective.

Mobile will win. User acceptance will insure that it will be a major advertising medium. The question is how many years, or decades more will be lost before the total commercial value proposition is understood and practiced by an industry, rather than by a collection of powerful individual players?

The Emergence of Neuromarketing

How will biometrics, neuro-science and other innovative research techniques change advertising in the near and long term?

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The recent ARF Audience Measurement 5.0 plenary panel on neuromarketing, or brain measurements in advertising and media research, reflects the dramatic growth of interest in this area. Not only is the number of neuromarketing suppliers increasing but the technologies on offer cover a wide range from heart rate and skin resistance, fMRI and brain waves or EEG.

At Neuro-Insight, we have been offering advertising and media neuromarketing services based on exclusive access to Steady State Topography (SST), a new brain measurement technology invented in my university research lab originally for basic science and clinical research.

Commercial Significance

One of the exciting developments has been our discovery of a strong relationship between SST measures of brain activity during advertising and consumer behaviour. In the only peer reviewed study* examining the relationship of brain activity and change in consumer brand preference, we showed that the storage (or encoding) of brand information into long-term memory was a powerful indicator of advertising effectiveness.

The Big Break-Throughs

Throughout our advertising & media work, we have been struck by some extremely interesting findings that our clients have been able to put into action:

  • How small, and apparently minor, changes in the execution of an advertisement can powerfully optimize its effectiveness.
  • By identifying the ‘match’ between message and media, marketers can routinely optimize advertising effectiveness through their media buy.

1. Minor Changes – Major Improvements:

Two brief examples illustrate how small effects yielded a dramatic improvement in advertising effectiveness. The first concerns a television advertisement for frozen fish. From our assessment of the advertisement, it was clear that long-term memory encoding for facts was low during delivery of the key message and product benefits. Based on our findings, the advertisement was re-edited slightly and the modified version flighted the subsequent year. Not only did brand linkage (independently assessed) rise from 8% to 44% but market share increased by 14%. Interestingly, the improved advertisement performance occurred even though the media spend in year 2 decreased by 50% on year 1.

The second concerns a pharmaceutical advertiser that was unsure which of two slightly different soundtracks should be used in a television advertisement advising individuals to visit a corporate web site for further information. Previous research conducted by the client and advertising agency was unable to differentiate between the rhythms in terms of their possible impact on advertising effectiveness. The ad was a successor to a similarly styled ad that had run in the previous two year period. We found that there was a dramatic difference in our SST measure of effectiveness with one background soundtrack being twice as effective as the other. Interestingly, our data also indicated that the more effective soundtrack was also twice as effective as the previous year’s campaign and we advised that the recommended advertisement rhythm combination would be more than 50% more effective than the previous years’ campaign. The campaigns’ sole objective was to drive web traffic. The advertiser accepted our recommendation and in the following year, average web traffic increased by over 100%, an amount consistent with our findings.

2. The Media / Message Ecosystem:

The ‘Neuro signature’ of the media environment can have a significant influence over the advertising within it…the message and medium interact much like an ecosystem. This point has been intuitively obvious to most media and marketing experts for some time, however, it has been a highly subjective decision to invest marketing funds against. By matching the signature between message & media, we can advise on how to optimize the effect that the media environment can bring to the impact of the advertisement. Marketers can routinely identify a repertoire of TV programs that fit their TV advertisement and enhance its effectiveness.

Finally, while I believe that valid neuromarketing methodologies will make valuable contributions to advertising and media research, I do not believe that such neuromarketing methodologies will render established techniques obsolete. Rather, neuromarketing and established market research methodologies are complementary. It has been our experience that SST based neuromarketing services have enhanced the effectiveness of qualitative techniques and provided incremental insights that clients have found highly actionable.

* Silberstein, R.B. Nield, G.E. (2008) Brain activity correlates of consumer brand choice shift associated with television advertising. Int. J. Advertising. 2008; 27: 359 – 380

Cloud Computing Entrepreneurs

Interview with Boomi’s Bob Moul and Apprenda’s Sinclair Schuller on technology entrepreneurship.

I had a chance to speak to Bob Moul, CEO of Boomi, and Sinclair Schuller, co-founder and CEO of Apprenda, about entrepreneurship after an event we did last night with the MIT Enterprise Forum on Cloud Computing and Software-as-a-Service (Saas). The event was hosted by Greenhill SAVP in their NYC office.

An easy way to think about Boomi and Apprenda is as infrastructure companies on top of which we can all build our SaaS solutions for our respective markets.

Bob and Sinclair come at entrepreneurship from two different vantage points. Bob was brought in by the Boomi investors to work with the founders. He has a big company / business background. Sinclair started Apprenda, with a background rooted in programming and technology, but not much business management experience.

We covered a variety of topics:

  • What was your aha moment that inspired you to start the company or jump ship from a big corporate gig to join a start-up?
  • What are the various skill-sets of the core founder / management team? Did you all work together in the past? How did you know whether you would get along successfully?
  • With each new hire critical for a small company, whether it be a software developer or a sales position, what is your process to ensure that each new employee works out?
  • How did you make the jump from the technologist role to the CEO / leader role?
  • What are the different skill-sets required to grow a business from $0 – $1 million in revenue and then the next step of $1 – $10 million?
  • Once you had a product that was ready for market, how did you go about pricing it for customers?
  • What was the biggest lesson you learned from a down economy in 2009?
  • Did you have to prove to the investors that a former technologist with no real management or business experience was the right person to fill the CEO role?
  • What accounting / finance, CRM, sales force automation, project management, email, and other operations / productivity tools do you use internally?

Tools mentioned include: Microsoft Office, Sugar CRM, DemandBase, ParDot, Basecamp, Assembla, Google Analytics, Gmail, NetSuite, SalesForce, Marketo.

Olympus PEN Campaign Does Stop Motion Right

How do you promote a digital camera? How about with amazing stop motion animation.

When done right, stop motion animation — a technique of stitching together photos across a video timeline — is sheer joy.

Olympus does it right and brings on the joy.

The global company released the video above to promote its PEN series of digital cameras. This video comes on the heals of an original stop motion video the company made that’s been seen about 2.4 million times since it launched 10 months ago.

The video above was created by taking 355 photos, printing them out at billboard size, and then reshooting them for the video as they moved throughout the city.

Well done and thumbs up from our side of the Webs.

Here’s the original PEN video: