Friday, November 13, 2009

Media Innovation - C Squared's Festival of Creativity at Marketing Week 2009

Charlie Crowe, CEO of C Squared, a company that celebrates global media innovation could have (and would have) spent the entire day showcasing brilliant work from every corner of the globe at Marketing Week's Media Day last Thursday in Toronto. The presentation was bursting at the seams with award winning creative executions from C Squared's 2009 Festival of Media Event in Valencia, Spain.

Crowe inspired the 400+ attendees by demonstrating how creativity is the currency for breathing life into traditional media and that fueling this new currency is critical to the new era of marketing.

I caught up with Charlie later to delve deeper into the subject of innovation and into the trends that are emerging in the media landscape.

Because the day had been peppered with publishers highlighting the increasing thought leadership and flexibility they are providing marketers, our discussion started with the obvious trend towards disintermediation of agencies as publishers continue to develop their full service strengths.

Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines presented a great example of this. Black told a story of how Cosmopolitan Magazine the world’s top selling women’s magazine was able to provide P&G with a valuable research platform. The publisher recognized its strength in having unique access to the minds of women and was able to serve as more than just a media vehicle. By surveying its readers, the publisher delivered an unparalleled caliber of qualitative data directly to P&G.

Charlie said that he’s not met a single publisher whose strategy did not include a plan to target clients directly. Disintermediation has been a long-standing issue for agencies as they struggle to maintain their relevance and prove their value.

There are a number of reasons why publishers have developed their sales teams to become more innovative in their service to marketers:
  • Dealing with agencies can be time consuming. Presenting ideas to creative teams as well as media planners and in some cases, account managers can create confusion a lengthy sales cycle.
  • Direct communication with the clients allows the publishers to get a better understanding of the marketing challenges and gives them a chance to prepare more innovative solutions that sometimes bend the publisher's agency rules.
  • Customization of content is much more readily achieved when the clients are in direct contact with he publishers. This is specifically true in magazines and other print.

Adding to the pressure on agencies was Crowe’s observation of a whole new breed of publishers. As brands begin to get a better grasp of their own reach and markets, they too are seeing opportunities to sell media. Crowe gave the examples of a well-known European ice cream company selling advertising on popsicle sticks and of a company that sells ads on their packages of cigarette rolling papers. Earlier in his presentation, there was an example of advertising through airport security bins. The point here is that fragmentation is much deeper and wider than the proliferation of TiVos and online media we’ve been analyzing to death and that the fight for consumer attention is truly relentless. The competition is lurking in a much higher volume and through much smaller channels.

When I asked Charlie to share some ideas on how marketers can stimulate innovative initiatives within their organizations, his advice was simply to attach a budget to innovation. Taking at least 10% of an annual marketing budget and using it for innovation with a back-up budget to support any run-away hits is the ideal scenario.

Charlie also touched upon the notion that brands need to be fully developed and understood before they can afford to flex their big ideas. When a brand attains self-awareness, its natural self-confidence shines through and earns the right to give consumers the gift of entertaining and engaging experiences that often fall outside of the conventional means of advertising.

Talking to Charlie about innovation in media left me feeling inspired and positive about the industry. Too often, we feel a sense of urgency that pushes us into a dark creative corner. Charlie echoes the sentiments of his company's Festival of Media event - to celebrate innovation and to ignite a global wave of creativity that will bring the media industry to new heights.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Digital Day Toronto - Snap Shots of Now...

It was Marketing Week in Toronto this week. Digital Day drew almost 500 attendees and was jammed with colourful presentations from a number of industry leaders and visionaries.

Perhaps it was the event’s theme question “How do we focus our digital efforts” that inspired such down to earth and practical presentations. The line up included representation from all walks of digital from Social Media, Online Video and Mobile to ecommerce and Digital Signage.

The morning kicked off with Kevin (@Nalts) Nalty providing some from the trenches views on what it takes to participate in online video. Nalty is a well -seasoned marketer with a background in pharmaceuticals and CPG and is one of the most-viewed YouTube personalities. This combination clearly brought some great insight into how Fortune 500s can balance the basics of online media with the newer emerging initiatives. I’ll be writing more on Nalty over the next few days but a great line from his presentation was “It’s not an impression unless it makes an impression”. This was an excellent line to describe the migration from traditional CPM buying to creating more advanced media initiatives.

Steve Levy, President of Canadian Market Research, Eastern Canada of Ipsos Reid gave an insightful presentation on the Pulse of Canadian Digital Marketing. Levy revealed that email had completely penetrated the nation as an acceptable form of B2C communication (80% of Canadians sign-up to receive communication) and that companies were taking email initiatives back in-house from the agencies. This theme came up again in the Search Marketing data as he shared that companies are getting more involved in this discipline.

Sears Canada and Canadian Tire, two of Canada’s eCommerce giants sat on a panel and agreed that labeling their businesses as “eCommerce” was becoming a bit outdated. A more holistic view of the business is more appropriate and as with any other business shifting deeper into the digital channel, they voiced some challenges involved with driving the operation to focus more intently on its online presence. When asked about local media initiatives, Chris Thompson, Vice President of Canadian Tire Online expressed that a lot of focus has migrated from Yellow Pages to the free Google Maps service. When you’re as big as Canadian Tire, with search budgets touching thousands of product skews, Google kicks in the labour required to maintain the local listings.

I managed to listen in on a few of the breakout sessions. Igloo gave a persuasive presentation on the use of social networking software to fodder Enterprise 2.0. A great quote jetted around on the Twitter broomstick “If HP knew what HP knows, we'd be 300% more productive." - HP employee via @igloo”. We’re still in early days in terms of understanding a return on investment but there was general consensus that building a collaborative environment was a step in the right direction.

GestureTek’s President, Vincent John Vincent showed some innovative uses of Gesture-based Interactivity. The integration of games and mashing of data like Google Maps was clearly in swing at GestureTek. The presentation gave case studies that showed how interactivity could be implemented to enhance user experiences in-store or outdoors. This category showed clear growth.

Jonathan Lister, Managing Director and Head of Google Canada gave a great talk on the effect that offline media has on search. He cited a Koodo mobile campaign that showed an 800% lift in search terms as a result of a flight of TV ads. Superbowl advertisers saw a 122% lift in searches on their brands following the TV ads. Lister didn’t miss the opportunity to communicate that “data beats opinion” and that “qualitative Media is critical” today. Another interesting observation he shared was that there is a strong trend in finance specialists moving into the digital media space as a result of the numbers game it appears to have become (in Google’s view).

The final keynote was a riveting talk given by Dr. David Weinberger, Author of Everything is Miscellaneous and Co-Author of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Weinberger defined markets as conversations. The Internet and the conversations it fodders now enables markets to form based on common interests. He went further to describe these markets as "ripples". These naturally formed markets have time as an added dimension creating a constant movement based on the ebb and flow of interest levels. A great example of this was of parents with sick children. This interest group is as passionately engaged with the Internet as a source of information and communication as it is transient. The market while constant, is made up of social members that come and go.

Today, markets are emerging without the help of marketers. Weinberger described the traditional ways of defining targets as creating “fictional markets” that are based on “demographics that may be susceptible to the same messages”.

I’ll follow up with a lengthier discussion of this talk as it delved into the importance of transparency and its impact on communicating effectively across the online channel.

Truly fascinating and forward thinking content...

Friday, October 23, 2009

"E" For Everyone - Gaming & It's Hypothetical Pool of Data

While watching iCarly yesterday (because it’s that cool), I was reflecting on all the holiday ads directed at kids and the incredible advancements that have been made in the world of toys. I’m not just talking about the Easy Bake Oven that now comes with awesome new frosting tools and a sleek, smooth shape or the doll that does number one and two (why????). I was particularly interested in the video games that were coming out this season, specifically for the Nintendo DSi.

The Nintendo DSi comes equipped with a built in camera that allows you to take photos and upload them directly to Facebook or to play around with them within the unit. There are hundreds of games available and it’s got wireless connectivity so that you can get online using the DSi browser, chat with your friends, play games online and do all sorts of other cool things that the internet affords you to do.

There’s a fairly new (launched about a year ago) series of games out called “Imagine”. There are about 25 titles under the “simulation” series including Imagine Fashion Designer, Music Fest, Secret World, Interior Designer, Wedding Designer and Detective.

It occurred to me how brilliant this would have been a few years ago when I was working with a major automotive company that really wanted to get a handle on what kids were thinking and doing online and off. We ended up building a (today archaic) social network to cultivate conversations and link trending. Even then, we had categories designed for different groups of interest. The Imagine Series has 25 categories allowing kids to fully interact with a vocational interest or hobby. You can design clothes, create a band, enter your deepest secrets and of course...share everything!

I’m always fascinated by the organization, collection and ultimate use of information and so I can’t help but view this series as such a great opportunity to source qualitative data from an otherwise extremely elusive target. As the users dump their details into the network, there are all sorts of trends that can be observed. Nintendo could theoretically collect anything from emerging fashion to musical tastes and behavioral information (through all the “fun” quizzes) and align them geographically by age and any other identifiable traits collected through registration. Even dialogues can be scraped for content over the chat and email systems.

Here are a couple of examples of how the games are marketed:

My Secret World

· Express yourself in the diary, which is fully customizable like an interactive scrapbook

· Know yourself better with dozens of fun quizzes and your personality star

· Socialize with your friends trading tons of customization elements, sharing secrets, taking quizzes together or playing mini-games

Music Fest - Create a Band, Run the Concert!

· You’ve just scored a chance to attend the premier Music Fest, where you’ll be in charge of creating a band, designing their look, and putting on a rockin’ concert! Design your band's logo, customize the look of their instruments, hair, and wardrobe, and earn cash to buy cool new clothes and accessories for your band!

Fashion Designer World Tour

· Design the next big thing in fashion and travel the world to build it into a worldwide fashion label. Create unique fashion collections; even use the Nintendo DSi™ to take pictures and apply them to your designs! As a young designer, launch your international brand, open boutiques around the world, and design the hottest, most wanted fashion in the world!

Last year Nintendo reported 96,220,000 units sold with roughly a quarter between April-December 2008. A separate analyst’s report stated that by 2011, Nintendo DSi would penetrate a staggering 89% of Japanese households.

100 million (by now) units is a lot of hands. Nintendo’s market has primarily been focused on ages 5-17. A few years ago, this was heavily skewed to males but with the introduction of games like Zelda and the understanding that mothers were a prime target (mother influence 85% of all household purchases), the market has broadened significantly to include girls 5-17 and women 25-45.

Now…take all of this with a grain of salt. It’s really just theoretical but it's so deliciously viable. I'm not suggesting that there's a play here for children's intellectual property (not blatantly at least) but I did check the general privacy policy and found this line fairly close to the top:

“we will only collect the information deemed reasonably necessary to fulfill your online requests and our legitimate business objectives”

I'd be curious to see the policies for the individual games.

Data mining has become a game of survival let alone a "legitimate business objective".

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Short...A Behavioral Masterpiece

Consumed with the topic of behavioral targeting over the past few days and then experiencing what seemed like a catastrophic outage on Twitter recently, I started to reflect on the incredible amounts of data that Twitter has at its disposal and the many uses it has to target consumers behaviorally.

There are so many solutions that are available to target behaviorally. To avoid some of the red tape behind the creepy privacy issues, some solutions providers are labeling the systems “re-targeting or re-marketing tools”. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, keeping tabs on an individual’s user activity and then formulating a profile with rules attached to it and an ad server is behavioral targeting.

Now, let’s look at what Twitter is sitting on in terms of data. Here’s an example of a timeline:
  • Beautiful Toronto day…sun is shining and the lake is gorgeous.
  • @exampleA I can’t wait to go to Cuba next week.
  • Driving the kid(s) off to school – 12 month old is jealous of 4yr old brother going to kindergarten - must be a girl thing...
  • Looking at cars this weekend…can’t wait!
  • Loving the Car1 but the Car2 is good too. Any suggestions?
  • Ugh Air X sucks – lost our luggage – time for mojitos
  • Planning hubbies 40th – glad I’ve got 2 years to savour my youth.
This 7 entry string provides us with:

Age, gender, location, car purchaser, leisure traveler, # of children and their ages.

Now imagine millions of individuals with hundreds and thousands of entries.

Mining this data for advertisers is a huge step forward in marketing. With an integration like what Google is proposing with Wave - communication could be served in real time to garnish any behavioral cue. Sunscreen promotions leading up to the trip to Cuba, financial offers from car companies etc.. But what about analyzing this incredible amount of data from a more general perspective?

Having the ability to understand trending of global car purchasing intentions, travel profiles, financial profiles and the list goes on. Heck it’s almost as good as having access to someone’s personal email content only better because:
  • "Contained context" - 140 characters are much easier and faster to crawl than email communication
  • Micro-entries are not as filtered and contain raw, impulsive communication
  • The ability to index one individual within a network of followers and trend consequential behavior across the individual’s network (influence factor)
  • The real time factor is subtle but enormous in value – the speed of crowd sourced content is unprecedented and can be indexed with news and current events
Those are just a few examples. There are many more.

In closing, here is some food for thought.

On May 29 I tweeted this:

On June 1st, this appeared in my gmail box.

If you’re wondering why Twitter is taking so long to monetize, picture yourself realizing how much data just landed on your entrepreneurial lap and ask yourself what you would do with it all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking Online Video Shots on the Net...Targeting Men

Here are notes and thoughts on the male focused presentations from the IAB Canada Video Day conference in Toronto last month.

There were two presentations that dealt with male audiences and while most of the rules of creating engaging content apply to all demographics, there are some properties that have a clear advantage when brands are looking to reach men.

These discussions showed how Molson Canadian and the US Army deployed online videos to reach their targets and engage them in fresh new content.

Branded Content - The Future of Online Video

David U.K., Managing Director, Worldwide of presented a neatly packaged perspective on the power of video and how it has evolved to become a high impact media vehicle. is a leading online entertainment brand for men. The Heavy Men’s Network is a distribution network reaching more than 45MM men worldwide through music, urban lifestyle, gaming and comedy. The company has been working with brands to create branded content and has done some interesting experimentation in video production.

U.K. stated that brands are a part of the modern fabric of society and have as much legitimacy as consumers to create and share content. He also shared his opinion on the shift in advertising roles from the interruptive model towards less interruptive formats such as video commercials, sponsorship and branded content which help consumers access new content.

Based on the premise that we have the tools and we have the critical mass, the current environment is perfect for the creation and distribution of branded content. U.K. argues that consumers are creating content in unprecedented numbers and that brands that have far more resources at their disposal, should to the same.

"Consumers expect to see and are happy to share it if the content is good" says U.K. So it's clear that creating branded content to be distributed across the global social media platforms, vertical publishers and the web is an effective way to engage this new breed of open mindedness and sharing mentality.

U.K. presented the Molson Canadian Code as an example of engaging content that speaks to the core standards of today’s media consumption – the time people make for humour, brevity and entertainment that can be easily shared.

Molson Canadian Code recently won the MEC Global “People’s Choice Award”

Men Like Custom Content Too: Brings The US Army's Core Values to Life With Their "Hockey's Finest" Integration

Larry Gelfand, SVP Media Sales at NHL presented the league’s approach to video integration and showed the tremendous growth in video consumption on the site.

Quick NHL Stats:
  • 54 million fans in North America
  • 13.5 monthly unique visitors to
  • In Canada almost 50% of the country are NHL fans (14.2 million)
  • The #1 sports property in Canada
  • Over 5 million unique visitors per month on the Network

When the NHL launched video on their site, there were seven channels with aggregated videos from the league and its 30 clubs. All programming featured on the site was original, exclusive and all-access.

NHL has invested in their functionality by:
  • Built in flash for optimal consumer experience
  • Embedded in-page player
  • Extensive, searchable Video archive
The NHL broadband platform has been extended across all 30 team sites providing advertisers a seamless way to reach hockey fans across the entire NHL network – nationally and regionally.

Total video “starts” on the site – including live streams have increased 50% year over year.

82% of fans who started a Video, watched at least 50% of that Video

61% of people who watched a Video, finished watching the Video

Gelfand presented an example of customized content that (clearly) targets males using content. is currently producing an original broadband series (12 features) exclusively for the U.S. Army. The show spotlights U.S. born players and teams who best embody the Army attributes, as it relates to hockey. The featured players will be from amongst those playing in the NBC Game of the Week on Sundays at 3PM ET.

While there were no details on the results, it was clear that the NHL had made a significant investment in customizing their content for the purposes of producing media properties that were once removed from their core focus. On YouTube, the videos are averaging over 5,000 views each, add the home site and other distribution channels, and the U.S. Army appears to be reaching its audience in an engaging way.

Here’s an example featuring Chris Chelios:

Aligning sports with the military…it’s like peanut butter and chocolate I guess…

Notes & Observations:

It’s interesting to see how brands are working out diversification strategies and expanding on their existing content to create new opportunities.

The Canadian Code plays heavily off the trendy quest for Canadians to identify their cultural fibre while working the male camaraderie angle to gain consensus on general life issues. It's simple and that's why it works.

One-dimensional sponsorships of the past relied on multi-media exposure for added effectiveness (PR, rink boards, TV mentions etc.). Now, the sponsorships have morphed into synergistic new productions.

For men, based on the success stories I've seen - Beer, Sports & Chicks – in any order… work.

Friday, April 24, 2009

IAB Canada...Video In Canada Event 2009 - Part Two...

Here are more notes from this week's IAB Canada Video In Canada Event. This post covers the perspectives from the Canadian broadcasters. All three presentations showed a great deal of confidence in the future of online video. It was clear that online video was booked, boarded and has taken-off...

Content Distribution: Secrets For Driving Reach + Monetization

Dan Hill, Senior Director, Digital Programming, CBC English gave an in depth presentation on how CBC views the new online video distribution platforms.

Here are the three salient points they are focusing on:

  • Drive audiences to broadcast and digital.
  • Use new methods of attracting audiences (e.g social).
Creating Deeper Engagement:
  • Use of digital content to form deeper bonds between audiences and CBC.
  • Increased loyalty, participation, community, public value, brand awareness and advertising value.
  • Opportunity to “monetize” the brand
Extended Distribution:
  • Enable audiences to access core Radio & TV content wherever and whenever across multiple platforms.
  • Maintain or grow audience / relevance against fragmenting market.
To reach their objectives, CBC dealing with the following challenges (opportunities):
  • Content Development - They need to create content that can be re-formatted, re-purposed and re-packaged to exist on a myriad of platforms.

  • Focus on Core Business - Success depends heavily on the network’s ability to match audiences to content (targeting) and to adopt new methods of promoting the content (viral etc.)

  • Windowing - There’s a need to manage the content release across a complex portfolio of platforms.

  • New Gatekeepers - Work with the new gatekeepers of distribution – that include traditional and narrowcasting to on-demand.

  • Diversification - Revenue opportunities come from many sources including advertising, syndication, purchase, rent, affiliate, partnerships etc. Diversification strategies are data intensive (data mining, revenue sharing, royalties etc.)
I really enjoyed this slide (among others...) using "being Erica" as an example of distribution:

Hill ended his presentation with some powerful questions that are challenging the network:
  • How do platforms cannibalize each other?
  • When is it important for content to be only available within our environment?
  • Is there a market for professional video content that is not tethered to TV or motion pictures?
Online Video Integrations and Multi-platform Media Executions

Stephan Argent, Vice President, Digital Media, CTV Inc. talked about how “video online and television create an unparalleled opportunity.”.

Argent pointed out that CTV’s (or any traditional television network’s) key differentiator isn’t just online video but that it is “television on the internet”. He cited that the internet has provided television with a highly responsive medium that encourages active participation from their audiences.

Over 1 million Canadians engaged with us to watch TV on last month. CTV served over 300 million videos in 2008 and they anticipate that this number will double in 2009.

Using the 10 X multiple, Argent cited that CTV ranks at similar levels to the size of hulu in the US.

CTV gives a lot of credit to its proprietary platform technology as it allows the network to “respond nimbly and customize solutions”.

CTV recently partnered with Akamai and Microsoft to launch the first ever, Canadian network HD trial online.

Argent discussed the online environment as a conduit to a “meaningful interaction between shows, audiences, and marketers” and shared several nice case studies:

So You Think You Can Dance Canada & Clover Leaf Energy Zone
  • Fully branded engagement opportunity
  • User generated content upload
  • Voting
  • Comments
  • And views display
Sponsorship Results:
  • Over 400,000 views
  • 434 submissions
  • And an average time spent of more than 12 minutes
The Hills & 17 Again / H&M
  • Over 1.3 Million streams in one week
  • 52% increase over previous season
TSN Trade Deadline Day
  • Multiple Sponsors
  • Close to 1 Million unique visitors for this 1-day event
  • Over 500,000 streams
  • A peak of 35,000 concurrent live streams
  • Average view time of 24 minutes
To wrap things up, Argent said that despite the advertising dollar split between search, classifieds and online video, television online delivers better than any other online advertising opportunity that’s out there today. (I’ll follow up on efficiencies later…)

The Rise Of Long-form Video: Project Runway's Advertiser Integration + Custom Content Builds For L'Oreal

Paul Burns, Vice-President Digital, Canwest Broadcasting presented an impressive case study showing the value of full-length content online.

Burns took us through some points on what Canwest knows about their online visitors:
  • 44% go straight to video
  • 16+ videos per user/per month
  • 40 min + monthly time spent/user viewing videos
  • 80% of streams are full-length TV shows
  • 4x growth with the video centre
Here’s a summary of the Project Runway Case Study

Project Runway is an award
winning American reality television series presented on Canwest which focuses on fashion design and is hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum. The contestants compete with each other to create the best clothes and are usually restricted in time, materials, and theme. Their designs are judged and one or more designers are eliminated each week.

Canwest had three objectives for the Project Runway series:
  1. Grow video streams using both long and short form content
  2. Drive brand integration using both long and short form content
  3. Maintain the quality – regardless of length
Canwest created custom content for L'Oreal and made it available to visitors using long and short form content.

Here are some findings:
  • Video Centres work – increased streams by 10x
  • 82% of streams were full length episodes
  • Avg. time spent increased from 40 min/user/month to 60+ min
  • Short form works well when it extends full length episodes
  • 53% of users watched short form content BUT…
  • 94% came to the site specifically for full-length episodes
Burns closed his presentation by reiterating that their strategic web presence of video content has helped to develop very strong audience loyalty to the content.

My questions/observations on these sessions...
  • This idea of platforms cannibalizing content is interesting...I'm waiting (or seriously pipe-dreaming) for a solution that lets broadcasters optimize pricing based on channel usage.
  • Are sponsorships being appraised and sold at levels that are supporting the fragmentation of traditional television?
  • What is the growth of the affiliate model within the bigger networks - clickable content = a lot of opportunities here.
  • I've seen a lot of interesting approaches to driving traffic online from CBC. Rick Mercer is a good example of a persona that has stepped out of the television set and wandered the social networks creating real community building opportunities to tie into the production.
  • I think that Canwest's approach to merchandising their TV content is quite slick - reminiscent of the itunes store experience.
Stay tuned for my notes on men and the universe...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IAB Canada... Video In Canada Event 2009 - Part One...

It was standing room only at the IAB Canada Video In Canada Event in Toronto yesterday. Hundreds of marketers attended the event to get some insight into the current state of online video marketing in Canada.

I've split my report into 2 posts. Here is the content that was covered in the morning.

Canadian Online Video Stats

Canadians are world leaders in video consumption. Paula Gignac, President of IAB Canada connected this to our high early penetration of cable. Although the consumers are showing tremendous growth in video consumption, only 1% of media budgets (at last count in 2008) are allocated to online video. Sound familiar?

Here are a couple of comScore charts on Canadian Online Video Consumption:

Discussion on the recent ACTRA agreement.

Chris Williams, Managing Director, Media Contacts presented a street level breakdown of what the agreement means to marketers in terms of dollars citing that the biggest advantage to getting involved in production is the reduced cost of talent. Prior to the agreement, residual fees for commercials made for new media increased proportionately to the number of web sites the production would be viewed on. Today, the cost reflects the nature of Web 2.0 and as such, is reduced to the same one time fee over a one-year period. Shorter run times are prorated accordingly. For further information on costs, contact your local ACTRA office.

Applying a GRP to Online Video – Comparing Apples to Apples

Peter Farfaras, Solutions Specialist at Sympatico/MSN led a discussion with Peter Vaz, VP Director Digital Communications, M2 Universal Digital and Darren Hardeman, Group Director at Mindshare Excelerator Media about the demand across buying communities to apply standardized measurement to video.

There was some discussion on the agency perspective of how online video is purchased. Hardeman pointed out that most agencies are becoming fully integrated leaving the planners responsible for all media planning and buying. Darren also talked about the retrofitting factor of applying GRPs to the digital planners' learning curve. To date, digital media has been bought without the use of traditional measurement definitions, GRPs need to be learned.

Vaz discussed the value of having cross-disciplines collaborate to present solutions to their clients. One of my favourite lines was “I think we need to remember that digital specialists don’t know everything and that there is value in the experience other, more traditional disciplines bring to the table”.

The discussion revealed just how early we are in the development of truly integrated media plans. Clients are becoming more savvy and are demanding more metrics to justify their spending while agencies are grappling to find effective ways to show value prior to the investment. The bottom line was that we are working towards finding a standardized way to calculate online video so that it can be monetized and marketed accordingly. We need to apply a media score to every element of the media mix and video is just another piece of that pie.

Farfaras noted that in 2009, we are seeing some movement and collaborative efforts to identify the viability of Video GRP calculations.

A great example of these models comes from YuMe and Mindshare. The two companies just (April 6th, 2009) announced their partnership to launch a “GRP audience measurement metric for video ad campaigns.”

Here’s a snap shot at the formula:
  • GRP= Reach x Frequency x 100
  • Frequency = the number of times that the average household or person is exposed to the advertising schedule
  • Reach = Target audience segment/Target Universe size
  • The denominator for reach is the universe size such as the number of video viewers online or total US population.
  • The numerator is actual impressions delivered or the target audience reached.
Here’s an example using the formula:
  • A campaign delivers an average frequency of 4 to 100,000 people 18-34, and there are 4,000,000 A18-34 year olds in the US population.
  • GRP= 4 x (100,000/4,000,000) x 100 =10

Online Video Ad Formats – Creative is King

Renee Hill, President, eye Return presented some interesting usage of video in ads that have been recently been served through eye Return.

Hill offered some visual examples of engaging creative that nicely showcased the use of video. Here’s a great Cirque du Soleil Example

Here were some of the tips shared with the audience:
  • If consumers engage with your ad – your job is done
  • Play the video without sound before any interaction - entertain while it’s loading
  • Short captivating loop – encourage further interaction
  • Encourage click with a mouse over using animation – show large play button, freeze the video play – give the consumer direct rewards for interaction
  • Engage the user with the first frame – show the value proposition faster
  • Use video created for the Internet (resolution and formatting issues)

After all the measurement talk, Renee ran through the metrics that are available today. They include:
  • Time spent on ad
  • Time spent on ad before conversion
  • % of video played
  • % of video played before conversion
  • ad views before interaction
  • ad views before click
  • automatic optimization based on any metric
  • any action within an ad ie. CTR, video play time spent, interaction etc.
  • any post impression conversion point, ie. Purchase
and my personal favourite…
  • Real-time dynamic benchmarks by vertical to compare your campaign performance against billions of other ads.
My questions/observations on these sessions...
  • It occurs to me that the topic of online video is one that can take up 5 minutes in top line discussion or 2 full days of conference sessions and workshops.
  • Is engagement really an indicator of intent to purchase? Video networks like VideoEgg have created a cost per engagement model - is this the answer? I reflect on the amount of video content I consume each month - at least 80% of it is completely untargeted. The chart above shows that the average Canadian video consumers viewed 147 videos in January - how many carried a brand message? How many were intended for the recipient?
  • What about clickable content within the videos and the influence that players like have brought into the market?
  • While the debate on agencies focused on the measurement of video in general, what about the finer details of video advertising like product placement?
  • We swept over cookie deletion during the sessions but when it comes to reach and frequency calculations, these are a critical factor.
Stay tuned for what the broadcasters had to say…and more questions/observations...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Twitter as a Cross-Platform SEO Tool...

I’ve had some discussions within the media planning community about how Twitter can be seen as an extension of the search marketing discipline.

There’s still a lot of head scratching going on about the use of Twitter and it has yet to be embraced by SEM specialists as a search related practice. For obvious reasons, it took an abrupt landing into the social media landscape but looking closely, it’s got all the ingredients of an effective search media tactic.

Amidst the rising conflict about ghost writing and how the network seems to be rejecting the thought of using the platform as a feeding frenzy for publicity, there’s something to be said about moving in the right circles with the right messages. Hiring people to spam a large following of 10,000 plus with random messages is one way to do it. But there are more sophisticated ways of creating dialogue and connecting with the right targets using different writers.

I think it’s ok for one brand to show its range in voice. The tone that a brand x uses with males will be different than the tone used for women. Going a bit deeper, if brand x decides to work heavily on an environmental strategy; there’s a whole new rulebook of communication that needs to be followed. For this to be executed properly, brand x needs to consider setting up more than one @ handle.

It’s not as easy as AdSense in that you can select keywords and attach relevant messages. It’s more about finding groups or clusters in a more literal sense. Rather than focusing on the static ranking algorithms offered through Google, Twitter works more in the recency realm. Once a community is established, relevancy and recency create a potent media opportunity. For now, search results are available on engines like Twitter Search, Hashtags and OneRiot. Tomorrow, the distribution of search may multiply across the net.

Targeting on Twitter is fairly rudimentary right now. It takes some time to set up your broadcasts. As in any cultural situation, it’s important to spend some time observing before jumping in and assuming immediate acceptance. Pay attention to the varying target audiences; understand the topics of discussion and the tone of communication.

Varying strings of tweets across communities act in the same way as SEO campaigns do. Relevant content, frequent updates and link sharing all come into play. Twitter’s distribution across other platforms like Facebook give it an edge of Google because the links are directed straight from point a to point b but have the added benefit of pre-qualified intent for the context.

As long as brands continue to provide value to communities, it won’t be seen as the spam that seems to be surfacing today through mass tweeting into an abyss of followers that are in many cases, only following for the sake of belonging to a “mass tweeter followship”.

Oh, and it’s free…for now…

Friday, April 3, 2009

Can Twitter Become the Ultimate People Search?

These days it seems you can’t read an off-Twitter comment thread without individuals referring to each other using @. At first glance, it looks like a neat way to imply that the commentators are immersed in the world of Twitter. I’m thinking about the significance of this type of labeling from a search perspective.

With all of the recent updates that the micro-blogging monster has developed in the area of search, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which one could search a handle to get a 360 degree perspective of a user. @ handles are tied to personal commentary, articles of interest, and social connections. All of these elements are publicly available on the Twitter network.

Organizing the rest of the web in the context of individual “tagging” can’t be far off…

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fragmentation of Directories on Handhelds...How Many Apps Does it Take?

I’ve been delving into local search applications that have been specifically designed for iPhones and have been struck not only by the sleek designs of the apps but also by the micro view they offer on how the directory business in general has been unfolding. Directories have moved from traditional rigid category-based search experiences to sleeker search sites and have recently moved heavily into vertical directories incorporating user generated content and other social media.

On the traditional side of the spectrum are tools that act as pocket yellow pages. AT&T is a good example of this type of application.

Launched by Avantar, a sister company to Yellow Pages Directory, the app has a number of features including:

• Auto location detection
• Map & Directions
• One tap location modifier
• A contacts area to “bookmark” businesses
• Tap to call

Firmly rooted in the tradition of the directory user experience, the consumer is still faced with fields to fill. Granted, the bolder tap opportunities make the experience a bit easier but for some reason it still feels like the search experience of old.

Remember the first time you held an iPod? Do you recall the slight confusion surrounding the wheel? How long did it take before you realized “wow, this is a better way”? Well, the newer generation of applications is all about this shift in navigation.

One example of this can be seen with the Where To application. Where To is owned by German based FutureTap and while it is based on the same data exchange as any other directory, the app’s unique proposition is a sleeker, more intuitive user experience. It's currently powered by Google Maps but is moving towards enhanced listing data. So the difference between this offering and that of the traditional yellow pages offering is this:

• Find whatever you want without any typing

Finally, I’ve been watching the vertical directory frenzy manifest itself at the app mall. Applications are popping up that specialize in finding anything from Doctors to Burger Kings. Admittedly, I’ve asked myself (more than twice) if these applications have any future. Do consumers want multiple applications on their handhelds to find products and services that were once contained in one access point?

One vertical that seems to be experiencing significant lift here is the travel/restaurant business. Free apps like UrbanSpoon, Local Picks and Yelp are developing some attention. Even the pricey ($29.99) Zagat app seems to be gaining some users.

In the local mobile landscape the obvious user behavior will always win and the categories of growth will undoubtedly reflect these behaviors. I’m not saying that vertical apps don’t have a place in app land but doesn’t it make more sense for consumers to use one app that streams specialized data from the verticals into one access point?

To finish the analogy between traditional yellow pages and their evolved apps, independent publishers started producing competing books and delivering them to consumers. In some areas across North America, consumers have to chose between more than two yellow pages books!

When surfing randomly through reviews of applications (all applications including games and gadgets), the reoccurring theme on a negative review is "don't waste the space...". I think the app mall is starting to fill up with fragments of utility that users may find interesting for one fleeting search...

The Evolution of Widegtry…Planet of the Apps…

In 2007, I wrote about widgets. Netvibes, a company based out of France had caught my attention as they were on the front lines of creating miniature, portable content distribution channels. My attention (and I know I’m not alone), is now drawn more closely to the "widgetization" of content to iphones and other handheld devices.

Monetizing widgets on the web has been associated with portals and sponsorships around the content. Today, there’s a crossroad on how to monetize widgets (apps) on handhelds.

In researching the topic I’ve found that there has been a lot of discussion in the application communities around valuating the route of advertising supported applications vs. subscription (fee based) models.

Interestingly, some of the early data is showing that the biggest issue is one of usage frequency for the applications. The ad-supported models require critical mass to become a viable marketing channel. Some data that I’ve seen shows sharp drop off rates after 1 or 2 uses. I’m assuming that this is for a number of reasons but I think the top one might be that the applications to date have been largely marketed (through word of mouth) as novelty items. Consumers download the applications, use them once or twice and then get bored or forget they have them. This would support the fee-based model we see today from the iTunes store.

Killer applications that warrant sponsorship have yet to arise out of the frenzy. I think that this is because we haven’t even scratched the surface of the content that is available to be widgetized.

There are a number of ways that content providers can get into the game and use the app ecosystem. It’s a fluid environment where the users are fickle and drop applications every day for newer, better ones. This may lead to network solutions that provide multiple channels (apps) on a consistent basis to guarantee distribution.

I knew that there was a connection between Netvibes’ model and the business of applications but it’s been hard to articulate. Maybe I just see iTunes as a major content distribution channel that somehow convinced users to pay for what was once free on sites like Netvibes. These applications are after all, a collection of widgets – no?

With the imminent launch of the RIM application store and the many others that are sure to follow, the need for content providers to re-think their distribution strategies is critical. Thinking out loud…”Creating branded widgets may not be the best use of time and resources”.

It’s early days and it’s already fascinating to visualize the new generation of distribution brokerage.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Funnel Bidding...Adnetik's Approach to Media Metrics & Pricing

I’ve been reflecting on a recent metrics presentation I saw at the IAB Mixx Canada Conference in March. I had a great discussion with Nathan Woodman, Global Managing Director of Adnetik, a Havas Digital company that is attempting to change the way we valuate online media.

I was curious after hearing his ultra logical methodology, why it’s so difficult to adopt change despite consensus that our current methodologies for media evaluation, pricing and inventory are archaic.

Nathan’s presentation outlined the short history of online media models. He walked through the initial bridge from traditional media (CPM) and eventually got to the performance-based models we are seeing now. I think the quantum leap was in jumping from a model that pays for a placement to one that pays for an individual that is in a specific consumer mind-set.

As marketers we must look to the purchase funnel to gain a deep understanding of the distance between awareness and purchase. Each business may have its own particular staging criteria for their respective sales cycle and Woodman was talking about applying a value associated to each of these stages so that the advertiser could bid accordingly.

Google search tells the automotive industry that the value of the “new car” keyword is ridiculously high due to competitive market bids but those dealers or manufacturers that have employed cross platform/media analytics know that they may be much wiser to invest in 3 exposures of the cherry red mini on a vertical site because that exposure is trending to be an indicator of further depth (yes, further than search) down the purchase funnel. All things measured (and bought) equally, the marketer should be able to reallocate funds to bid higher on the display ads.

Deep breath…”So as a marketer, I can start to allocate funds to various stages of the purchase funnel based on my internal intelligence of the likelihood of the prospects changing to customers”…Exhale.. Is that so complicated?

It has the flavour of behavioral targeting yes, but this is not invading privacy as much as it is employing common sense and technology that is available here and now to start buying according to real value. Analytics have become much broader in scope. Optimization is not just about pumping funds into keywords that are working or into display ads that are getting clicked on.

The logic is beautifully simple but the horror sets in when you try to explain the underpinnings of the system and how the values are calculated etc. I guess the answer to the original question is that change is difficult when it’s not easily explained. The more equations you show to prove validity, the more you lose the audience.

My opinion of this model is that it is fair and that it works in a network environment that can provide this volume of inventory. I think it will take a long time for publishers to jump on the band wagon unless there are some case studies produced that show equal or greater earnings potential to the respective properties. It’s interesting to think that inventory that was previously thought of as second tier, could once again be deemed premium (in a micro-transaction kind of way).

It’s all so deliciously complex. Nathan is on to something but I’m not sure the apple hit as many heads as it ought to yet…

Friday, March 20, 2009

Monetizing Video Content on the Social Grid...Overlay.TV

I had an opportunity to catch up with Ben Watson, VP of Marketing for Ottawa based, Overlay.TV to get an update on the company’s development and direction.

I wrote a piece about the company’s launch about a year ago and from my discussion with Ben today, it was clear that the company was not only maintaining its course by allowing users to create hot spots on their videos and photos (a scalable affiliate network model), but that it was also starting to see a greater demand from developers to create rich media experiences using the technology.

With over 750 affiliate partnerships, the company provides its users with thousands of products to promote within their content. As the adoption rises and the product skews increase, Overlay.TV continues to gain valuable insight into best practices for video monetization. "We're starting to get a clear picture of what is working and what is not...some content creators generate click through rates at 6% and engagement rates in the 16% range and some fall at the very low end of the spectrum" said Watson.

There has been a lot of product development going on an Overlay.TV over the past year. Most recently, Overlay.TV announced that it would open its API to software developers so that they could build engaging video experiences. The tools offered include applications, widgets and other customized solutions to enhance the interactive features of online video. Overlay.TV’s new Labs website features the SDK download, registration for a developer key, sample projects and more.

Following are some product offerings that are starting to make waves for the company:

Product Endorsement Videos - As an example, Overlay.TV has partnered with famous vlogger and social media expert iJustine to produce various product endorsement videos, with a tongue-in-cheek tone, where creators have the power to literally put products in iJustine’s hand.

Karaoke - Kids can use this application as they do on Kidz Bop to sing along to their favorite songs using lyrics Overlayed in the music video and their sing along appears right inside the video itself.

In Game Video - One thing that is currently missing from in-game videos like World of Warcraft is player stats, and serious gamers always check out stats. This widget combines data and video so gamer stats are integrated with the video.

iXLd – A tool for creating free band websites which includes integration with XLSuite to provide a fan club-building platform along with the video benefits of Overlay.TV’s technology. Bands have five free design options to choose from.

Ben talked about a case study that really brought the power of these tools to life. Disney implemented a sing along feature to their Jonas Brothers site allowing fans of all ages to record their voices into the sound tracks and submit their masterpieces to be posted on the Jonas Brothers’ wall of fame.

What I found fascinating is the level of engagement that Ben described:
  • 54% of the users that visited the Jonas Brothers site hit record and created content.
  • 10% of those users went on to create two or more recording after the first one. Fans started to invite their friends and use the tool as a new type of video game.
  • 8% of the users ended up submitting content to the Jonas Brothers site in hopes that it would be posted.
From a media efficiency standpoint, Disney’s investment was minimal as the content was re-purposed footage from a previous recording.

I think this case study is somewhat the groundbreaking because to date, advertisers have largely viewed video as a media that could be distributed online. Slap it on to YouTube, promote it through search and hope it grows wings. The Disney application of Overlay.TV tools changes the distribution content to an interactive one. The social aspect is brilliant because user generated content will significantly increase the chances that wings will grow once it hits the social grid.

(Check out this fresh British ComScore release showing Facebook's growth as a video content property from 2008 - 2009 140%!)

Ben was in Austin at the SXSW show as we were having our chat and expressed that bands were showing a keen interest in the Overlay.TV platform. It occurred to me that bands also need a form of CRM and this is a great example of the tools that might be made available to “pwomote band awareness” ;)

This and a number of other social media examples are starting to create an urgency for new media valuation models. There is no question that agencies and publishers are adapting and delivering against the possibilities offered through social media, but the value of delivery is not in line with what the advertisers are paying. We're starting to reach the point where these initiatives can no longer be sold as "tests".

More on this over the next few days...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New York Daily News pushes the Needle...Creating a Social SMB Platform

An interesting press release hit my inbox today announcing that the largest and most widely read newspaper in the New York Metropolitan market, New York Daily News will be launching a Small Business Social Network.

“Upon launching, the site will provide readers with instant access to a network and connect with 500,000 small businesses, download sales leads and information about government grants, and gain access to free and valuable business tools”.

Toronto based, Sales Spider was selected as the partner to build (customize their solution) the New York Daily News’ site. Sales Spider was behind the launch of G&T’s social network (also targeted to small business). G&T's network was designed to help the company diversify into the services category.

At last year's Warrillow conference I really got the sense that this approach was starting to bubble. The solutions provider booths were very busy. I'm wondering now about duplication thresholds in the B2B resource category. Will this be a killer resource? How will business owners make the leap from reading as a consumer to harnessing as a small business owner?

Time will tell if this will open a real revenue stream for the newspaper. Until then, I am applauding New York Daily News for making a move. I'm also proud that they've chosen a Canadian company to build out this network.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Doritos Social Media Case Study - Positive "Brand Hi-Jacking"

Continuing with my notes on last week's IAB Canada’s MIXX Canada Conference which attracted 550 online media marketers here in Toronto, I was so impressed by the magic of a brand "hi-jacking" case study that was presented that I had to share it here.

Fernando Barbella, Interactive Creative Director from BBDO Argentina gave a great presentation on a social media case study for the PepsiCo. brand Doritos. His presentation showed how the brand’s message resonated so completely with its target that it created its own movement.

The Strategy

After 2 years in the Argentinean market, Doritos had built “street cred” with young people - the brand had already been accepted. By 2008, BBDO developed a strategy that would stimulate interactivity and “advocate a truth and a necessity for the target audience”. According to Barbella’s team research, at that young millennial age, men and women are preoccupied with love, and relationships. Doritos’ research revealed a couple of key barriers to individuals connecting with one another:

– At the pubs and discos only techno/electronic music is played (it’s too loud and couples dance separately.
– Flirting and approaching somebody has become a bit difficult at a house party. Shyness and fear of ridicule play an important role.

So, in light of these challenges, Doritos took on the defense of the target audience with a proposal for solving the dilemma. The crusade was entitled “Bring Slow Dancing Back”.

The campaign launched with 5 TV ads. All of them focused on specific benefits of slow dancing. All of them were funny.

Following is a taste of one of the commercials:

Once the crusade was out via TV, they began to expand to other media: billboards, radio, guerrilla and actions at discos, etc. Consistent with the TV ads, each piece told of one benefit of slow dancing.

The Goal

The purpose of the campaign was to gather signatures at (bring back slow dancing) which is now directed to a MySpace page. The petition effort was to lobby the discos in these markets and show the legitimacy of the cause.

The “Hi-Jacking” and Result

Three weeks after the campaign launched, a movement started on the Internet. Two friends decided to throw a party (mob) to celebrate the return of slow dancing.

This is where we would start to classify the project as a “Brand Hi-Jacking”. The idea had been seeded and the target nurtured and grew it to something much larger.

The idea was simply to get gather around the biggest disco ball in Buenos Aires (the Planetarium) to slow dance. Consumers themselves were in charge of the organization and music. News of the event spread through e-mail, Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, Sonico, Twitter, Muxtape, Mixaloo, blogs, messenger, SMS, etc.

The result confirmed that the crusade launched by Doritos was something that people wanted; it was latent in the target audience. On Thursday, March 13, 4000+ people got together to slow dance at the Planetarium, and did so for an hour.

Here are the results:

Social Media Generated:
  • 33 Facebook Groups
  • 20,000 members
  • 240 blogs
  • 200,000 views on YouTube
  • Top TV and radio channels attended the event and reported on prime time news, which generated news coverage in the major national newspapers the day after the event.
$600,000 US in media impact from the “Hi-Jacking”.

Actual Goal Achieved:

Respecting the client's wishes, I've removed the actual sales lift numbers from this post. Suffice to say, the numbers were quite positive across all categories. There were surprising results in increased awareness top of mind positioning.

This crusade was clearly a success. The 2009 crusade is “Make it to the second date”...(by following Doritos advice).

As a testament to the power of subtlety in brand marketing, here’s my favourite line out of the presentation:

“Doritos could have done an advertising campaign to sell their product. Instead, they are wasting money to help me. That´s cool.” Rulo (25), Buenos Aires

It was truly a pleasure to discuss this with Fernando after the event. There are some fascinating things going on in South America, particularly in the Social Media space. I’ll be looking out for similar results generated by Fernando and the innovative team at BBDO Argentina.