by Andrew Frank | March 4, 2013 | 2 Comments
Reviewing email on my iPad, I get a message from LinkedIn reminding me that I have important invitations waiting. I’ve been remiss! Fortunately, LinkedIn totally gets convenience: there’s an “Accept” button right here in the email, which I tap thankfully. Being a web link, it takes me to a LinkedIn URL in Safari which, detecting I’m on a tablet, informs me that “Opportunity is tapping” so I should get the LinkedIn app for iPad. Frown. I already have the LinkedIn app for iPad, but there are no choices on this page other than “Get the app.” So I tap and I’m transported to the app store, where I learn the LinkedIn app has a mere three stars and I’m due for an update. Again I have only one choice, so update it is. Next comes the challenge for my Apple ID password, which fortunately I’ve committed to memory – such is Apple’s rarified role – and, after a brief 30 second delay while the update downloads and installs, I’m finally invited to open the app.
But here comes another challenge: I need to log in to LinkedIn to use the app. That’s a problem. Although I’m extremely fond of LinkedIn, I have not committed my LinkedIn password to memory since my PC browser knows it, and I’m the kind of paranoid who actually keeps separate random time-based passwords for all of my websites, generated automatically by a program I use for this purpose. So I leave the LinkedIn app and load my password app, find and copy the password, go back and paste it into the app, but, alas, the password is not recognized.
Now I’m down the rabbit hole: there’s no way to reset the password from the app on my tablet. Determined to prevail, I put down the tablet and head for my laptop, where I open my browser and go through a simple five-step process to reset my password (“resetting your password is easy!” reminds LinkedIn helpfully) and, returning to the tablet, at last I’m in. Success! What was I trying to do again?
I don’t mean to single out LinkedIn here. This sort of pattern is repeated across so many sites. As the debate pitting mobile apps against websites continues to rage, it often seems to me that the attraction of superior app-based user experience hides the usability costs of going native: the loss of simple web linking (with parameters to establish context); browser-based security and authentication; ease of distribution and updates; universal standards-based implementation; search-based discovery…these are not virtues to be taken for granted.
This is not to say mobile apps don’t have an important role to play, but the essence of customer-centric design is to understand the entire customer experience, from impulse to fulfillment. Consider that as you plot your native app strategy.
Category: Applications digital marketing Media Tags: Add new tag, digital marketing, eCommerce, LinkedIn, Marketing, User Experience
by Andrew Frank | February 28, 2013 | Comments Off
If there was any doubt that social media and big data are joining forces to revolutionize marketing, this announcement from Facebook should put it to rest:
“Today, we’re expanding custom audiences to allow businesses to use Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai to further enhance the ads they run on Facebook.”
In other words, marketers will now be able to use the same third-party big data sources they’ve used elsewhere to create and target Facebook campaigns. To protect privacy, the four big data partners will use the hash-encrypted anonymous matching process that Custom Audiences already employs to protect personal information exchanged among Facebook, marketers and third parties. Details and debate are available elsewhere, but marketers already have the capability to upload customer databases in order to target existing customers on Facebook using such privacy protection technology.
This news has broader implications than just improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Facebook ads. It shows how far we’ve come in the consolidation of data from all available sources – both online and offline – to drive marketing processes. If you use a loyalty card, then you may soon be reading sponsored stories based on your shopping habits. Whether you find this creepy or cool, it’s the new reality of data-driven marketing, and social media, once considered off limits, is now becoming the main stage for these data-driven experiences.
The larger issue for digital marketers is how to wield this newfound power. If you play solely by the numbers, you’re likely to find that, broadly speaking, targeting works: if you can constrain your cereal ads to cereal buyers, you’ll save money and boost ROI. But there are risks. Your models are not likely to be able to predict when too-personal copy will elicit a negative reaction (yet), nor will they forecast when you might be likely to face criticism for lack of transparency in your data collection practices, or lack of authenticity in your pitch. These are judgment calls. But one thing is certain: where restraint was once imposed by law and the difficulty of connecting the dots between disparate data sources, it will now need to come from the instincts and principles of marketers themselves, who will need to hone them with first-hand experience.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Media Tags: Advertising, Data-Driven Marketing, digital marketing, Facebook, Privacy, Social Media
by Andrew Frank | February 22, 2013 | Comments Off
Last fall, my colleague Stephanie Baghdassarian and I found ourselves in an interesting situation. We were working on our annual mobile advertising forecast (subscription required), and the data was telling us that mobile advertising revenue worldwide was growing almost 60% faster than we had predicted the previous year – a difference that amounted to almost $3 billion in 2012 – and it looked like 2012’s North American revenue would come in 90% higher than we thought. This was ironic for two reasons: first, our 2011 prediction was widely received as aggressive, and second, we also knew mobile display ad rates were only 20% of online and most of the mobile publishers and developers I spoke with didn’t seem to be experiencing an ad revenue bonanza. Even more curious, our surveys showed little indication that advertisers were shifting significant media ad funds to mobile from other media. If demand was this weak, how could growth be so strong?
After further analysis, we developed a theory that this discrepancy was largely due to:
“…a situation in which a significant portion of mobile ad inventory is taken up by app developers paying for ads to promote their apps and get them more downloads, a category known as “paid discovery.” While the revenue basis of paid-for app store downloads provides some economic justification for this category, for many developers the outlay for ads is close to their maximum ad income or even exceeds it.”
Based on this, we forecast that in-app display advertising growth would nearly stall in 2013 as the app paid download economy ad bubble deflated.
Enter Millennial Media, by many measures the leading independent mobile ad and data platform, which, in its latest earnings call, attributed revenue below guidance to its decision not to participate in what it called “lower end performance segments” – and, elsewhere “lower value incentivized downloads.” We have confidence in our forecasts; still it’s relatively uncommon in my experience to get a signal this clear so close to a non-linear prediction.
But what does this mean to mobile marketers and developers? First of all, the good news for publishers is that mobile ad prices and fill rates are both rising, a sure sign that brands are starting to take the medium more seriously. For marketers, the good news is that mobile ads still look like a bargain compared with other media, and the availability of desirable features like location-based targeting and real-time bidding is on the rise. One source tells me that supply of location-targeted ads is growing at 36% month over month, while real-time inventory is growing about 83% per month. The combination of these two capabilities gives marketers a great deal of flexibility in structuring agile targeted campaigns that really do get the right message to the right individual at the right time.
We’re still in the early stages of the mobile marketing revolution, but it looks like 2013 is shaping up to be the year that quality apps and premium advertising start to displace a lot of incentivized pitches for more app store downloads.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Media Mobile Uncategorized Tags: Advertising, Data-Driven Marketing, digital marketing, Marketing, Media
by Andrew Frank | February 7, 2013 | 1 Comment
Google’s announcement that its new “enhanced campaigns” upgrade to AdWords will soon eliminate (or at least limit) the capability of its customers to specify explicitly whether they want to include mobile devices or desktops only in their campaigns is generating a predictable range of responses, from anger over loss of control to praise over simplification and improved access to mobile opportunities. Adobe argues that Google’s changes may result in lower ROI for advertisers as Google seeks to raise its revenue per search on mobile devices.
There are valid points on both sides, but the simplification argument bears repeating: the complexity of having to manage unique campaigns for every device-location combination is clearly an impediment for digital marketers, and Google is removing much of this burden with smarter context-based automated adjustments.
A central detail here is Google’s treatment of tablets. “Enhanced campaigns” (scheduled to roll out in mid-2013) will no longer distinguish between tablet and desktop/notebook searches. From an ad format viewpoint, this is rather natural since tablets tend not to require resizing of ads, and Google points out that tablet computing is replacing desktop and notebook computer usage in the home, and that they both have a pretty similar mix of search terms and ad performance. But there’s more to it than that. First, many advertisers have formed an impression that targeting tablets is better for their brands. More on this in a moment. But, second, the thorny issue of whether to count tablets as mobile devices for media measurement purposes just got thornier. If, as a result of Google’s accounting, the universe of mobile devices shrinks from smartphones and tablets to just smartphones while tablets join the PC side of the ledger, the tremendous growth rate of mobile advertising might appear to have stalled. This could have major implications for investors and innovators, but don’t be fooled: mobile adoption is still way ahead of marketers, and we can thank Google for encouraging us to think beyond devices to contexts and multichannel relationships.
But back to that tablet branding thing. The great success of PPC advertising has been its appeal to direct marketers, who are squarely focused on the hard economics of ROI. In that world, it doesn’t really matter if click rates are lower on smartphones or higher on tablets; since they only pay for clicks the only things that matter are click-to-conversion ratios and revenue-per-conversion. Knowing these, the value of a click is clear and the device it comes from is hardly relevant. Brand marketers still tend to disdain this engineering approach to marketing and feel that context and experience matter a lot, even if they’re harder to measure. This is one reason they’ve been wary of smartphones for advertising – the units are so small, the contexts so brief and lean-forward. This was part of the promise of the tablet: a hi res, lean-back experience made for brand discovery and impact. So will Google be able to sell an undifferentiated AdWords channel to brands? …or will Google’s Invite Media solution remain a better answer for them? It’s nice to have choices.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Disruption Media Tags: Data-Driven Marketing, digital marketing, Google
by Andrew Frank | January 23, 2013 | 1 Comment
Here’s a riddle.
A marketer is using an attribution modeling tool to analyze how her digital display, search, and social campaigns are working. The tool looks at all the conversions on her web site and, for each conversion, determines which touch points were present in the customer’s path to conversion. It then uses this data to determine each touch point’s independent lift in conversion rates (a technique you may recognize as “algorithmic attribution.”) As you might expect, some touch points had zero effect on conversion rates – it made no difference whether a customer saw the ad or didn’t. A few were moderately effective, adding a point or two, but one in particular stood out: when this ad was seen by users, on-site conversion rates almost doubled from 6% to 10% (this is based on a true story). So, the marketer is happy: she knows where to cut her media spending, where to hold, and where to double-down.
Here’s where it gets tricky. She also uses an ad verification service (possibly from the same vendor) to ensure that all of the ads she buys are visible on the pages where they’re placed. (You might recall that the problem of marketers paying for ads that users never see because they’re below the fold or failed to load reached a fever pitch last fall.) To her great surprise it turns out that most of those ads with the highest conversion rates were identified by the ad verification service as never having actually been seen by users! How is this possible?
Was one of the systems simply mistaken? Were the higher conversion rates some kind of strange coincidence – or some sort of fraud? An anomaly with cookies perhaps? If you’ve guessed the answer then congratulations: you’re a bona fide student of marketing data science.
To understand how this is possible we need to consider two things. First, the algorithmic attribution model as described doesn’t actually measure causality (although it seems like it should) – it just measures a correlation between events. Second, the touch point it’s looking at isn’t actually an ad exposure – it’s an exposure to the page that ad is on which causes the ad server to be called and the user’s cookie to be credited with a view (whether they saw it or not). So, what the attribution model is actually telling us isn’t that the ad had any effect – it couldn’t have – what it’s telling us is that people who bought our product are likely to have visited a certain web page in the days leading up to the purchase – perhaps because it was relevant to our product category and had good search traffic among people who were in market doing research and likely to buy.
But wait – there’s more.
Duly enlightened, our marketer kills the ad buy on the page where the ad was invisible and, lo and behold, her conversion rates drop! How can this be?
It turns out that page was such a good predictor of intent that her intelligent bidding system had learned to use it to bid on ads on other sites those visitors were found on. When she killed the ad buy, she also cut off an important source of predictive data that was responsible for improving the effectiveness of those other ad buys.
So, are we led to the absurd conclusion that marketers should happily pay for ads that people never see? No. First off, attribution modeling generally works better than this example suggests. Second, the real conclusion is this: sometimes, data is more valuable than media. So, perhaps an ideal sponsorship arrangement between an advertiser and a publisher might consist of nothing more than placing an invisible pixel (a.k.a. beacon) on relevant pages – reducing clutter while increasing inventory! (Yes, privacy needs to be addressed, I hear you.) This is what data brokers do – but their data is available to everybody in the market so it’s harder to use it to gain a competitive advantage – and, they take a cut. Maybe it’s time to consider some private exclusive data arrangements….
The moral of the story: don’t just measure the media, analyze the data too! …and you might need to hire a data scientist.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Tags: Data-Driven Marketing, digital marketing
by Andrew Frank | January 11, 2013 | 1 Comment
Following the revelation that Super Bowl ads sold out this year for an average $3.7-$3.8 million, we took a small, unscientific poll of our digital marketing analysts to see if we collectively believed such an investment was still worth it in the digital age. The results were far from unanimous, but more analysts agreed with the statement, “…given the buzz, these ads could be a bargain” than thought they were “…a complete waste of funds better spent on digital.” Of course, we all believe that brands generally need to do a better job of integrating their TV ads to digital activities, as I’ve been saying since the “shankapotamus” days, but the point is, despite a continuing drumbeat of spending shifts from mainstream to digital media, mass media seems to still have a place in the digital marketing world.
Doubts? First read NY Times’ David Carr’s timely run-down, Old Media’s Stalwarts Perservered in 2012, which dispels any misgivings about the ability of traditional media companies to still turn eyeballs into gold. Then, consider David Lieberman’s observation that these companies didn’t just do well – they actually outperformed the hot technology group composed of Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft! Take that, Silicon Valley.
OK, I know what you’re thinking: 2012 was an election year, we had the Olympics, and anyway the financial performance of media companies says little about their long-term strategic value to marketers which is still in doubt. TV viewing is going down, online and mobile viewing are going up, and eventually the lines must cross.
There’s still a problem, however, with the theory that digital media (or “unpaid media”) will displace mass media banding campaigns, and, evidently, the digital brands know this, as Apple, Google, and Microsoft continue to spend heavily on traditional media. My colleague Mike McGuire, who had the good fortune to witness Qualcomm’s 2013 CES keynote live, points out how the company hoped to generate consumer brand-awareness without the mainstream media buys, and rely on social media instead to achieve buzz and reach. It’s safe to say they achieved that, although The Verge headline “Qualcomm’s insane CES 2013 keynote in pictures and tweets” highlights the risk of relying on the audience to carry your message for you.
The point is this: there’s still no substitute for TV’s brand-building capacity (that is, brand building over which brands still have some measure of influence if not control), but the role of digital in both optimizing and amplifying mainstream media investments can’t be understated. Millions more superbowl ads will be viewed on YouTube than during game, but without that media buy, those earned views would not occur. The most important thing a marketer or agency can do about this is to tear down the wall between traditional media and digital and get people in the same room to coordinate strategy and tactics rather than compete for budget allocations.
Do you agree?
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Media Tags: Advertising, digital marketing, Media
by Andrew Frank | December 7, 2012 | 6 Comments
From da Vinci’s flying machines to Alan Kaye’s Dynabook, history is filled with visionary technology concepts hatched well before they could be built. It’s been nearly 20 years since Peppers and Rogers brought the term “one-to-one marketing” into the popular lexicon and inspired a wave of mostly ill-fated pioneers to chase the powerful idea that the long-standing edifice of mass-media, mass-marketing, and mass-production was on the verge of being overthrown by products and experiences tailored to the unique and specific needs and circumstances of every individual.
That compelling notion quickly ran up against the wall of scalability. Few service sectors had the combination of customer intimacy and operational capacity to pull off true one-to-one marketing on anything approaching massive scale and most fell back to notions of segmentation and clusters instead, embracing labels like “children first” and “collegiate crowd” (try it at Acxiom!) as adequate proxies for the individuals they sought. Web sites and marketing campaigns grew more targeted and dynamic, but individualized experiences remained elusive – with the notable exception of social networks.
Now, some are looking at the Nexus of Forces – the combined power of Big Data, Mobile, Social, and Cloud-based services – as a sign that technology is at last catching up, and a reason to anticipate a resurgence of interest in the concepts of one-to-one marketing and mass customization. But will it work this time?
For Exhibit A I’d offer the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign. It stands to reason that national politics would be the earliest adopter and proving ground of such techniques, given the high stakes of the outcome and the massive funding available (per Politico, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both topped $1 billion in fundraising in 2012). A recent op-ed in the NY Times (subscription may be required) by Ethan Roeder, data director of Obama for America, laid it out thus:
“Campaigns are moving away from the meaningless labels of pollsters and newsweeklies — “Nascar dads” and “waitress moms” — and moving toward treating each voter as a separate person. …New technologies and an abundance of data may rattle the senses, but they are also bringing a fresh appreciation of the value of the individual to American politics.”
Much has been made of the Obama campaign’s superior use of data-driven marketing techniques to reach voters with tailored messages (in contrast with reported technical difficulties that hampered Republican efforts on election day), and, while it’s not possible to attribute the outcome to any single factor, it’s probably fair to say that the election will be remembered as breaking new ground in the successful application of one-to-one marketing techniques at a national scale.
So what does this mean for more modest marketing realms? I’d point to three things:
First, one of my favorite quotes from futurist Paul Saffo: “Never confuse a clear view for a short distance.” True one-to-one marketing is coming, and for a select few it is already here, but for most marketers widespread application is still years away.
Second, the current wave of data-driven marketing adoption is neither a fad nor a marginal side-show – it’s changing the fundamental way marketing works and the way organizations grow and amass power. In 1967, the “one word” was “Plastics.” Today it’s two words: “data science.”
And third, like so many technology-driven revolutions, this has its dark side and its light side. Where some see Big Brother, others see “a fresh appreciation of the value of the individual” as Roeder puts it. That’s because, no matter how much data and technology we put behind our efforts to sell one unique individual at a time, the human element cannot be removed from the equation.
Category: Advertising Cloud Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Disruption Media Tags: Data-Driven Marketing, digital marketing
by Andrew Frank | November 30, 2012 | 1 Comment
Hey readers! Banner blindness got you down? Tired and confused by slick ad tech jargon like “RTB” and “programmatic trading” and “algorithmic micro-segmentation”? Are your click-through rates so low you need to widen the columns on your monthly spreadsheet to accommodate all those leading zeros? Perhaps you need a fresh approach. Introducing Native Advertising from the nG Network™. Our exclusive service offers you guaranteed placement in some of the world’s most sophisticated and reputable publications and blogs – like this one here! But that’s only the beginning! Unlike a traditional ad network, your content is custom adapted by our trained professionals to each unique context to make it look and sound just like authentic editorial – it’s even matched to the topic of an individual article or news feed! So what are you waiting for? Stop being ignored, and engage your audience with relevant content today.
Want to learn more? This week’s Marketing Leader’s page (subscription required) explores both sides of the controversial topic of native advertising: its many benefits for marketers, publishers, and, yes, even consumers, as well its significant risks and abuses. In case you’ve missed it, native advertising is a hot trend right now involving ads designed to blend into their surrounding placement – like sponsored stories on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter – and many brand-name publications are getting into the game, such as Forbes, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and The Atlantic.
While these ideas and their controversies are hardly new, native advertising marks a noteworthy reaction against the commoditization of media on real-time networks and exchanges, the low yields a lot of this advertising offers publishers, and persistent questions from brands about the effectiveness of basic display ads – especially when shrunk to the dimensions of a mobile screen – despite the impressive array of technology and big data available to optimize them. If nothing else, the trend marks the decline of a long-standing mentality and ad ecosystem that elevates advanced targeting techniques and automation above creative and custom sponsorship arrangements, and offers a new challenge to innovators, brands, and standards bodies to make digital advertising not just better targeted, but better.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing
by Andrew Frank | October 25, 2012 | 1 Comment
The 2012 Gartner Symposium in Orlando (#GartnerSYM) told the story of how our new hero – the Nexus of Forces, with its ability to combine the powers of Information, Cloud, Social, and Mobile – has met a mysterious new love interest called digital marketing. In a well-attended session called, “Why Digital Marketing Is Going to Rock Your World (or Commoditize You)!” Yvonne Genovese set the stage and established the baseline of the Strategic Initiatives track for the 5-day conference that focused waves of IT leaders on the quest for a deeper understanding of digital marketing.
At the center of this union we find the digital marketing agencies, who have long awaited the world to recognize the deep strategic significance of their craft. Gartner shined its spotlight here with the release of its first Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Agencies which has created buzz throughout the event. We’ve also weighed on in what marketing agencies (and not just digital ones) need to do with their clients to gain competitive advantage and prevail over the challenge from digital technologies that threaten commoditization in a report called IT Must Prepare for the Impact of Value-Based Compensation for Marketing Services.
Meanwhile, the plot thickens as we look ahead at the future of digital marketing and its wild and dangerous liaison with the Nexus. In a pitch called “The Rise of Influence Engineering,” I laid out a scenario in which organizations learn how to master techniques of applied psychology to bring marketing and IT together around powerful “patterns of influence” set loose in the Nexus. Unfortunately I can’t share the pitch here, but ZDNet commented on it in an article called Can Big Data Engineer Marketing Influence? Watch for more on “influence engineering.”
We also covered numerous digital marketing-related topics from attribution modeling to sentiment analysis to selling to the CIO. The climax of this chapter is a CMO panel hosted by Jennifer Beck – “Marketing in the Digital Age: What we need from our CIOs” – to be repeated in an upcoming webinar of the same name.
As the event winds down, two things are clear: Gartner is now focused squarely on digital marketing’s starring role in the nexus story, and the technology world is paying attention. And so is the marketing world.
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Disruption Media Tags: digital marketing, Symposium
by Andrew Frank | October 1, 2012 | Comments Off
“The payback interval for a Mercedes ad is 10-15 years,” a highly successful creative director once explained to me, “that’s the average length of time from when a person first becomes interested in the brand to when they might be able to afford one.” Such thinking is clearly at odds with the emerging practices of data-driven marketing which set ad attribution windows in days or weeks rather than years. The idea that data and digital have killed advertising – and, with it, creativity and long-term thinking, was on display at Advertising Week in NYC which opened with a funeral for advertising, under the hashtag #RIPadvertising.
Charlotte Beers put it this way: “today, we embrace ever smaller ideas because they’re analyzable and predictable.”
Has “big data” killed the “big idea” in marketing? For every “Man your man could smell like” viral campaign that generates awareness, we’re exposed countless bottom-of-the funnel promotions whose only motivation is that we were observed on a travel or retail site a few days ago. These tactics move the revenue needle, so they get the resources in the age of analytics. Yet, as we’re forced to sit through more skip-proof prerolls, one wonders about their lasting effects.
Part of the problem is that, if we really want to analyze long-term effects of digital advertising on brand equity we have to go back to the dawn of “web 2.0” – see how dated that sounds? – to see if any of the metrics we were able to gather about new forms of brand exposure since that time can be correlated with any relevant factors today. But today’s digital branding media – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – are still relatively recent phenomena, so there’s no history to mine for clues as to their long-term, top-of-the-funnel effects. Even if there were, the ability of analytics to accurately isolate specific causal effects over such long time periods remains dubious even in principle. This sends a lot of brands back to more traditional top-down approaches to media and will keep the gap between digital and broadcast mindsets open for a long time.
The Advertising Week funeral ended on an upbeat note: the expired giants of the Mad Men era – Bill Bernback, David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, and one other I didn’t recognize – were brought back to life with an artless video effect to reveal the casket was empty and the Madison Avenue Gospel Choir sang “Today is a Happy Day” because advertising was still alive after all.
But the question still lingers: will big data ever embrace the long-term value of “big creative?” Or has our collective patience simply worn too thin?
Category: Advertising Data-Driven Marketing digital marketing Media Tags: digital marketing