Friday, August 21, 2009

Hey IAB – forget about new recruits, look after the ones you have

The IAB ploughs on with its education programme, espousing the virtues of online to the die-hard traditionalists who haven’t still haven’t ventured onto the interweb. Whilst a noble (& one wonders how fruitful?) pursuit, it does mean that certain boring, but necessary housekeeping matters are being left to grow wild in its backyard:

1/ Standardisation. Whist we are at a point (nearly) where formats are standard across most sites, creative specs still vary wildly between publishers. Key to increasing spends is decreasing production costs. Often the media / production ratio for online is totally out of whack, too heavy on the production side as a result of having to build multiple versions of the same format to answer multiple creative specs. In some cases, specs within the sites themselves aren’t even consistent. One large portal requires both left & right expansions for a rectangle, as it may appear on both sides of the site. When multiple versions of a creative are required for a single site, let alone a whole plan, you know something is awry...

2/ File weights. I know we aren’t at the forefront of broadband speeds here, unlike Korea where you can download a movie in seconds, but is a 35kb limit on flash really necessary? Small file sizes are limiting creatively & force standard ads to be rich-media adserved to account for the weight. Sure page loading is important – so why not implement iframes, allowing the content to load, with the ad loading in last. Don’t think you would find users complaining about that!

3/ Research. Who can we rely on if not our industry body to provide us with the research to back up our planning decisions. Looking at the wealth of research on IAB UK & IAB US sites, much of it available to members only, makes one wonder why the IAB can’t perform the same service here. After client’s want case studies, planners want proof – you want Brands to spend more online? Give them relevant NZ research, showing how successful other brands have been. Without a prohibitively expensive brand study, we are at a loss to prove the positive effect online advertising has on brand measures – a generic NZ based study, across the industry would do much to help our case.

So whilst fancy breakfasts & Thurs night drinks are warm & fuzzy, we need a focus on less glamorous, but perhaps more important issues.

The industry needs more structure, not more knees up’s (as nice as they are).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mobile Advertising - Groundhog day?

Mobile advertising is still in its infancy in terms of share of budgets relative to share of media consumption time, however there are aspects that make me feel like I'm back in the bad old days of early 2000. Remember those? Back when we didn't have third party adserving, when we had to dispatch multiple creative to multiple publishers, when there were ridiculous resource overheads from collating multiple media owner reports to present a single view to a client.

It seems that we've learnt nothing from the growing pains of the past few years and now that online is a proven media channel we're looking for another battlefield to forge.

So how can we accelerate mobile advertising growth? Looking backwards to look forwards is a good start.

We need true 3rd party adserving for mobile. Adserving, not click and impression tracking. Adserving provides targeting options and optimisation flexibility, and as any media planner knows, a centralised reporting structure with up to date data for all publishers is a mandatory for daily optimisation

What's the hold up? Obviously it's chicken and egg - without investment, publishers are loathe to incur further cost, however without technology, it's a harder sell for the media agencies.

Where to? Third party counter tags are a good start, so that we have up to and auditable data. However this doesn't allow for the smarts that we now take for granted in the online adserving space and I think the responsiblity has to be pushed back to the media owners to provide 3rd party adserving for mobile. Can I guarantee that they'll immediately see increased share of budgets? No. But it will remove one of the adoption barriers that currently exist.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Social Media not just for the Kids

It seems the bright young things have finally discovered an application suitable for older Internet users – although I’m not sure the founders of Twitter quite had that in mind when the idea was first scribbled on a notepad way back in 2000.

In New Zealand Twitter has grown from a base of 9,000 users in December last year to 151,000 in the latest June data released by ComScore. The growth in users is no surprise. News of the plane crash on the Hudson broken by tweets from people actually on the flight certainly had the wow factor. Then there was Obama’s presidential campaign, the race between Oprah and Ashton Kucher to see who could be first to gain 1 million followers and the news of Michael Jackson’s collapse - broken by TMZ using Twitter. So the attraction to Twitter is understandable.

What is surprising is the demographic profile of Twitter users. Since March this year, ComScore has reported over half of Twitter users in NZ are aged 35+. And since April this year there has been significant growth in the 55+ age bracket – from none in April to 21,000 in June. And this isn’t just a New Zealand trend.

We’ve seen growth across the entire social networking category in the older age groups. And while they may have only joined a social media network to spy on the kids, it seems they’ve not just crashed the party, they’ve started their own right upstairs and tweeted all their friends an invite.

So why are the older demographics so keen on Twitter? For a start, the technology is simple and easy to understand, and there’s no need to post personal information and family photos for the world to see. Then there’s the content which can actually be quite useful – serious news from reputable sources and industry news and views from key personalities. Indeed, for the majority of users the real value is in the content that can be received, not in the content that can be sent.

Whatever it is, it seems that what is attracting the older audiences is exactly what is repelling the younger ones, and if this is the case Twitter could very well have a goldmine so long as whoever figures out how to monetise it does it well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Going Local with Google

Recently I’ve noticed that Google Local is still being relatively underutilized here in New Zealand.

Google Local is Google’s answer to the growing call for local information online. It’s a free service that allows you to leverage any local search volume for your products/services.

When a user searches on a localised term such as ‘Auckland Restaurants’ Google shows a map and up to 10 local businesses near the top of the organic search engine results page.

The free listings service allows businesses to define their address on Google Maps and include additional useful information such as opening hours, contact information, photos & even videos of the business and their products.

Google verifies that the listing has been created by the business by sending out a confirmation code either by phone or a card mailed through the post.

Once the listing has been validated and starts to appear online consumers are able to post reviews about the business. Having good customer reviews is a great way for your listing to stand out from your competitors. A good way to encourage your customers to create a review is by having a link on your website that points to your Google Local reviews.

Set up your free listing at
Google Local.

Dwelling on the Future

During our (colder than ever?) winter months I've found myself on the couch turning to 'that other' entertainment medium of TV. I’ve seen one TVC doing the rounds of late, for none other than TVNZ, promoting advertising on TV. For those of you who are not familiar with it, they label Radio listeners as distracted, uninterested zombies (that might be a little bit of an exaggeration.)

For us in digital, we could argue, we have the most active and engaged medium out there. Television audiences are regarded VIEWERS, Radio has its LISTENERS, and online has USERS. Surely by definition, online users are more engaged? How do we show this, and better yet, how do we know this?

Click Through Rates have long been the benchmark of success for digital campaigns. As we have seen CTRs fall, our friends at Eyeblaster have been doing some excellent research in new metrics, Dwell Time and Dwell Rate.

Dwell Time measures any interaction with a Rich Media Ad, whether it be in the form of a user initiated video, expanding media, data capture or any other custom interactions built into the ads. Dwell rate is similar to CTR, action divided by impressions. In a sample of 42 Billion rich media impressions (that’s 42,000,000,000), 8.71% of users actively engaged with the brands for an average 53.08 seconds. That’s the equivalent of two TVCs, back to back, not changing the channel, and actually paying attention to what is happening. Better yet, its within your desired content.

People are willing to be actively engaged with brands online, can do more and be entertained by your brand. Let’s get inventive with what we're putting online. I'm looking forward to seeing dwell time and dwell rates from some of our own clients campaigns.

The full 'Eyeblaster Analytics Bulletin: Trends in Time and Attention' report can be downloaded free from here

Monday, August 3, 2009

Carrot Time (or Bing vs Google)

If you venture around to PHD at around 3pm, you might see some of us partaking in what is fondly known as carrot time. Whilst carrot time is an important part of the IQ team getting their 5+ a day, it also provided some interesting search insights for us last week.

Some of you might be aware that Google, whilst massively dominant, isn’t the only search engine on the block. Bing, the redesigned & rebranded Windows Live search recently relaunched amongst much fanfare & a 100M USD media campaign. For those of you on IE (& let’s face it, most of the world still is) it is now your default search engine. And to strengthen the assault on Google, Microsoft have (after years of courting) reach an agreement with Yahoo to make Bing the default search across all their portals.

And why should we care? Microsoft have worked long & hard on semantic search (ie the engine understands what you are asking rather than just mindlessly indexing pages). With functionality such as:

• Sports. Bing can directly display scores from a specific day, recent scores from a league or scores and statistics on teams or players.
• Finance. When entering a company name or stock symbol and either stock or quote in the search box Bing will show direct stock information like a stockchart, price, volume, and p/e ratio[17] in a webslice that users can subscribe to.
• Math calculations (e.g., 2 * pi * 24).[18] Users can enter math expressions in the search box using a variety of math operators and (trig) functions[19] and Bing will provide a direct calculation of the expression.
• Package tracking and tracing. When a user types the name of the shipping company and the tracking number Bing will provide direct tracking information.
• Plane ticket info. When 'flights from (to)' is entered in the search box in combination with city names or airport codes Bing provides info on ticket prices and a prediction for the future price trend.
• Flight status. When 'flight status' and/or a flight number is entered in the Bing search box, Bing provides direct current information on the flight status of the particular flight.
• Encyclopedic answers (What is the capital of Germany?). If the search phrase entered in the search box contains a simple question whose answer can be found in the Encarta encyclopia, Bing provides a direct answer to the question from Encarta.

How is this relevant to carrot time? Well the proof is in the searching.

When another team member tried to introduce a rival celery time, we asked the enginges - carrot vs celery

Top result from Google:

A random recipe that happens to have both keywords on the page

Top result from Bing:

A definitive, audiovisual & comical answer to a philosophical question

I know which result I like better. Try it - Bing, it's not just a funny name

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pencil bookings - a campaign to remove this

Is there really anyone in the NZ market that actually likes the pencil booking system that exists for premium display media? For those of you who don't know, several large publishers (and a few small ones) maintain a pencil booking system.

How does this work? I enquire about availability for a specific placement on a specific date, and it's available, I have the option of 'pencil booking' the placement. This means that although I am not accountable for confirming the booking, I have first right of refusal on it if another media person 'challenges' for the booking. A challenge means they're committed to buying that spot.

Which brings the second point - if I'm investigating availability, and I get told that something I want is 'pencil booked', I'm more inclined not to bother going through a process to get the client to agree to a date, then challenge the booking. I'll find a way to reach the same audience elsewhere.

Over the past few months I've been struggling to understand what value this system provides to anyone, except the few media people who like the security blanket of knowing that they have first right of renewal on placements, and that their media plan will be able to go ahead if the client signs it off. Or the media owners who have a false economy based forecasting system.

I understand that there are dates - e.g launches where a date is preferable. However it's time for clients and agencies to put their money where their mouths are. If you're committed to a date and ready to book, book. But not hold onto a placement because it 'might' go ahead. Let's leave this hokey system back in the dark ages where it originated.

Michael Jackson

I am fascinated by the insights that we can develop out of looking at search engine data - as I think everyone in the agency is now well aware of due to random announcements eminating from my person. However the Michael Jackson episode (death + funeral + tribute + legal issues etc) over the past few weeks has been a source of constant amusement and distraction for me.

In June, one of the top rising search terms for searches from NZ, Australia and UK was 'michael jackson jokes'. However we obviously got over this pretty quickly as in July, all three countries then searched for 'michael jackson memorial' as their number 1 breakout search phrase. However, the second highest search term was related to 'michael jackson ghost' - again for all three countries.

The US on the other hand had a little more respect - the term 'michael jackson jokes' didn't enter into the index. And they also searched on 'michael jackson memorial', 'michael jackson service' and 'jackson memorial' before they looked for the ghost! I can then only assume that the searches for 'michael jackson live' and 'michael jackson tickets' were related to his service. Or maybe people in the US thought they could see the ghost perform?

Mashup ads

The team at PHDiQ have worked hard over the past few weeks to get a campaign live for Vodafone, using Eyeblaster Mashup ads (a NZ first!)

You can see these on NZ Herald, and websites. The ad unit on the NZ Herald appears as a button on every news story page, and when clicked, expands to reveal a full size Nokia mobile, with the same news story formatted into the mobile phone. You can then scroll through the exact same story as you were viewing online in the mobile, shpwing that accessing content on your mobile can provide a great experience.

Similar on Surf and websites, however this time the up to date webcam photos are pulled through along with the surf/snow report for the region selected.

Full credit to the people that made it happen; the team at ColensoBBDO, Eyeblaster, APN Digital and Surf/ And most importantly, the client.