Welcome to the Interact Congress Blog. We have invited some leading European guest bloggers to share their observations on interactive marketing and communication skills within the integrated experience. The blog also offers you a first opportunity to interact with your peers.

For more information about the congress, please visit www.interactcongress.eu

Monday, 2 July 2007

Promoting local services on foreign sites

According to a New York Times article, British sites tend to attract large American readerships. As I’m reading this article, I wonder how much time Belgian readers spend on average on foreign sites.

Apple knows that I’m a Belgian reading this article. The words ‘Apple Store (Belgium)’ appear in a banner next to the article. I can't help noticing. Why? Because country-level targeting gives people a ‘homey’ feeling. And a ‘homey’ feeling generates trust.

A friend of mine who used to sell time-sharing in his not so glorious days in Ibiza, explained to me this trust principle. He told me that they had to learn by heart one café per location in Belgium. This piece of information helped them lure customers. ‘So you’re from Rotselaar, you must know Café De Zijbeuk!”

The same goes for offering local services on foreign sites. However, advertisements targeting foreign audiences is not a common practice, according to the same article: “Though the Internet is theoretically borderless, advertising budgets are still typically carved up according to national boundaries and media format. At media-buying firms, there is no category yet for the newly acquired American audiences of these British papers.”

Let's not be discouraged. We can always try to contact some top international media planning agencies to see if they can target Belgian visitors out there. What visitors? Well you know, waffles, Tintin, chocolates...

Sunday, 10 June 2007

An incredible dance partner

The Future of Interactive Advertising @ the FastCompany blog: "(President and CEO of Agency.com) Chan Suh's prophecies were the most eloquent, although perhaps the most hopeful: he explained that the face of interactive advertising will change to become 'an incredible dance partner, who knows when you are going to take a sudden step, knows when you're going to dip, and who knows what state of mind you're in based just on your behavior.'"

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

This is effective advertising for web 2.0: DOVE video

This 1 minute 14 seconds youtube-video produced by Dove drove three times as many visits to the Dove website as did their whole TV campaign over the past two years:

The findings were revealed by Jaap Favier at the Interact conference in Bruxelles today. Jaap Favier is vicepresident at Forrester Research, and the conference is organised by IAB Europe - the european branch of FDIM.
Jaap Favier did a very convincing presention on the task advertisers need to undertake to reach the consumers of the present web 2.0 internet environment. What you need to do, he claimed, is to understand how to influence the group dynamics, that web 2.0 has brought to the forefront.
Realize these four different types of consumers and act on them: Very few are creators, a bit more are critics (commenting what they experience), some 20 % are collectors finding good stuff and sharing it with their peers, while the rest are couch potatoes, “passively” receiving.
(Live blogging from Bruxelles)

Monday, 4 June 2007

The morning of this big day :

Dear all, thanks so much for your Interactions and posts! I hope I'll get some feedback on the Blog about your Interact experience, and I look forward seeing you next year for Interact 2008 in Germany! Greetings and look forward meeting you all in The Plaza hotel....enjoy some AdEx investments figures ;-)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

SecondLife: a new networking protocol

Of all the speculations that can be made about secondlife, there is one of which I am certain: secondlife as we know it now is destined for a necessary and radical change, which will make this type of application take off.

I am speaking about the way in which the project is owned and run today as the private property of Linden Lab. Here is a link to the company overview page: http://lindenlab.com/press/overview.

I am not able to imagine that a similar project can evolve very much, since it remains in the hands of a single company; the problem is in managing a thing of such enormous complexity.

At least the history of humanity shows us that above a certain threshold of economic, political and social complexity, a community must formally separate political power and the other powers, as is happening in China or Vietnam.

This is not an ideological argument but a technical evaluation of possible management models.

Today secondlife is an environment with very few rules, all decided arbitrarily by the board of directors and the executive management of Linden Lab, in the interests of the firm shareholders, who in my opinion understand the problem very well, given that so far, they have shown great foresight.

If Linden Lab know how to run this process, it will remain the main protagonist for a long time, otherwise it will be crushed by the development of another secondlife environment having resolved this phase; a solution, perhaps the only one, could be to open the standard to anyone who supports the technical interface - meaning anyone will be able to run the servers and decide the rules connecting to a network of servers.

Everyone together will form the secondlife universe and each of us will be able to have our own server, just as every one of us has an intimate and indivisible individual sphere.

Another phase that we will rapidly see will be where a secondlab provider will decide that the rules can be decided by the citizens through voting.

It will be interesting to see which evolutions these neo-democracies will have, that rapidly overtake the efficiency of the democracies we know today. Just think of being able to vote not once every five years but continuously, drastically reducing political intermediation.

Technically, it is not impossible to imagine this in a community necessarily literate in the use of the information technology.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

GoogleBurner is coming your way

What Is The Value Of Online Display Ads?: "Now that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and WPP have spent collectively $10.4 billion to acquire the largest online display ad platform companies (DoubleClick, Right Media, aQuantive, and 24/7 Real Media) on the bet that display ads will be a key driver of growth for online ad spending, it’s fair to ask exactly what the value of an online display ad is."

The answer? Pretty bleak: display banners can "foster familiarity" but since the advertisers themselves obsess over clicks, the ROI is pretty low.

Google AdSense, on the other hand, is sucking away larger and larger chunks of the online budgets every month. Why? Because GoogleAds "use the format of the universal call to action on the web — the text link."

Interesting to see what happens when (or rather, if) Google buys Feedburner, "the leading provider of media distribution and audience engagement services for blogs and RSS feeds". RSS advertising is coming our way and my bet is, that it's going to be mainly text-based too.

Who'll serve the ads? "GoogleBurner" will. Who'll buy them? The same advertisers who are happy with GoogleAds' ROI. But who will be the media? The usual suspects (portal sites and other online media), but also the bloggers. I know some of the bloggers love reading RSS feeds for its ad-lessness, but when they can make money by inserting AdSense (or DoubleClick) ads in their own blog's feed, believe me: they will.

UPDATE (May 23 2007): $100 Million Payday For Feedburner - This Deal Is Confirmed.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Internet advertising complaint department is very busy

The (British) Advertising Standards Authority has just published their 2006 Annual Report: the changing face of advertising. This report (.pdf) reveals that (in the U.K.) the number of complaints about internet advertising in rose by 33%, which makes is the 2nd most complained non-broadcast format. Five years ago, in 2001, the Internet ranked as the eighth most complained about of all nonbroadcast media.
This has of course to do with the importance of internet as an advertising medium. And with the fact that the online audience does not hesitate to use it's own medium backchannel to complain about advertising that is offensive to them.
Curious? Have a look at the Top 10 most complained about ads: the number one is a really weird ad from the Gay Police Association.
The ASA is, by the way, not able to sanction "faulty" internet ads. But they do have a clear mission: "It isn't just the change in advertising that has been remarkable over recent decades, but where and how that advertising appears." The challenge is not to create innovative advertising, but to make sure advertising techniques and concepts remain "legal, decent, honest and thruthful - and socially responsible too."

Found via 901am.com.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

What research will help brands uncover how they can invest more smartly in online?

That’s the question I put to the Leadership Council of IAB Europe last week. For the national IABs the answer will shape their plans, for the pan-European agencies and media owners the answer will focus their budgets, and for those new to the industry, the answer will reveal the breadth of the online research agenda.

Here I’ve collated a few of the key points that emerged:

• Metrix Lab: “The brand- building power of online - translating that into the effectiveness of media is the only way to prove what the new media mix should be”.
• ComScore’s research on users’ behaviour shows how it’s now possible to measure the different types of behaviour online.
• The Search Works: “Everyone is trying to educate the marketers, but we need to teach them how to look at metrics, how to understand campaign activity, how online behaviour really works; more studies, more often”.
• Yahoo: “You can’t just focus on the web, the role of mobile is swelling and that’s where more research attention is needed.”
• Interactive agencies (many): “Understanding the concrete effects of web campaigns is key. Not only on direct response, but also between different media channels. It is easy to measure response but that doesn’t mean people are measuring the right response metrics in the right way. What happens if we don’t go for print as part of the campaign? What happens if we do? We need this kind of mixed media research.”
• “In the Netherlands we need to translate the digital marketing language into more basic terms so that finance directors and marketing execs can shift the budgets quickly and understand what it means for them, how it increases the business, sales, purchase etc.”
• United Internet (Germany): “There isn’t a single simple model in cross media. We need to understand if the metrics work for all of the products. We have to focus on different media mixes for different products. What ideal media mix is there for food? What is the best media mix for cars companies? How does this differ from the media mix for finance sector?”
• Metrix Lab: “When firms like Procter & Gamble decide to invest a lot of money in online to increase their brand awareness, it’s important that the learnings are conveyed back into future campaigns. That means understanding how to use the metrics, and then doing a number of internal case studies. The industry needs to prove that a brand can be built online the same as in tv, radio or other classic channels. Then you need to explain the value each cannel brings. Get the maths right and you have cost per sale figures for the highstreet purchases that can be directly related to the web.”

The question is: what are your thoughts? What do you feel will change the market and get the switch to digital communication channels moving even faster?

Need more? Look out in the Ledership Council pages of www.IABeurope.ws and contact your national IAB for more research studies or Yahoo, Hitwise and i-Level for more about this.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Why multiple media in a single campaign? And at what frequency for each channel?

That’s the question Roy Patel’s team tackled at Metrix Lab when they came to chat with us at the IAB Europe Leadership Council last week. Let’s face it it’s not an easy one. The theory of combining media channels together may seem simple, but quantifying the effects is a massive challenge.

The theory goes that if you see a message in one channel such as newspapers, and it’s echoed in a second channel such as the web, then the combined effect is much greater. A first exposure in an additional channel often delivers a bigger impact than a second exposure in the same channel. When I teach marketing I usually call this the 2+2=5 effect. Add to this the fact that different channels talk to our senses differently, and you start to appreciate the complexity. Then factor in the differences in the nature of the impact – for example how radio needs a high frequency to build recognition, but cinema needs only a few views to do the same. On top of this there are the differences in the price of each media channel, the targeting, the wastage levels and the calls to action: no, being a strategic media planner is not an easy task.

And the web just complicates it all further by creating a marcoms channel that can address pretty much any part of the advertising process from awareness, through brand activation to delivering the sale. You’d need some cutting edge econometric modelling to read this landscape and distil the rules for an effective campaign.

Enter Metrix Lab: their landmark studies in strategic media mix modelling in Europe are showing planners not only which media channels to use, but the exact frequency of exposures you need to get the best results for your campaign.

How does it work? Metrix Lab look at which media channels people are viewing and from that learn about their behaviour and the type of advertising they’re exposed to. This forms the basis of an analysis of advertising effectiveness. By marrying up media channel consumption, advertising exposures, and the viewers’ attitudes to these brands, they’re able to start unbundling cause and effect.

“For me it’s all about OTS: when have people actually confronted media” explains Patel. “The real challenge is that it’s tough to really test the effectiveness advertising across different media. This type of econometric modelling needs big samples and a powerful methodology, but get it right and it changes the way a business behaves.”

Theory: follow the steps...
• The weight of each media channel in a campaign needs to be change
• New research techniques are unlocking the answer
• When they’re run they typically reveal classic media are over used, with such a high frequency of views per person that the final few exposures do almost nothing for the advertiser
• If budgets are moved into the less used media – typically including the web – then the uplift in the campaign’s results are significant
• To advertise smartly online advertisers don’t need to create new budgets, just move the budgets they have around and they can enjoy better results

Case study: Spain
“In Spain the challenge for the industry was really clear: how do you get the big spenders to change their use of the media mix, upweighting online”, says Patel. “On the McDonalds campaign we worked with MSN and OMD Digital to gain the insights, taking large samples of more than three thousand people to look at the impact of the different channels.”

The research explored the branding effect of online: awareness, image and purchase intent. The objective most under the microscope was purchase intent because McDonalds were looking for the link to sales.

In terms of the campaign, there was an integrated look and feel in the creative work across all media, but with very different messages carried in each of the media channels. The web looked like press, but different calls to action.

In terms of results, the campaign proved that online built the brand. The uplifts in brand image were a massive 19% across the overall campaign, but the role of the internet was even greater. With some of the campaigns Metrix Lab researched, the frequency of TV campaign topped 22 views per person, suggesting that there could be significant wear-out. Crunch the numbers and it revealed those last few views were doing almost nothing to boost brand metrics. In fact, after the first 20% of the TV budget had been spent, there was hardly any incremental reach on the campaign: more spend wasn’t touching more people, it was just hitting the same people again and again.

With web advertising running at much lower levels (not much more than an average of 6 views per person), raising the frequency of the campaign would still deliver a significant uplift. And for younger audiences who were less exposed to classic media, it would also reach new people. That was a finding echoed from US research for McDonald’s where it had also become clear that a large segment of 18-34 year olds just couldn’t be reached cost-effectively through television any more.

In Spain, Metrix Lab’s analysis proved that the last 10% of the budget spent in TV delivered no significant change in purchase intent. Conclusion? Ditch the final part of the television budget and switch it into online. The findings for the media planners were that the optimal media mix for this campaign should have had the web on around 9% of total advertising spend rather than the 2% actually invested. It’s a dramatic change, but it echoes the cross-media optimisation research IAB US started back in 2001. The wider implications are even greater. This campaign was a brand building campaign for a product that couldn’t be bought or even researched online. In sectors like finance, motoring and travel, where the web now forms the main place for purchase research, the mix should clearly be even higher.

Takeouts from the session?
• Pioneering study
• Campaign frequency in TV was more than 22 vs just over 6 on the web
• Media wastage was high in television
• There was a 51% increase in message association
• New research proved that media mix should have been 9% in online, not 2% for McDonalds
• Further studies from Metrix Lab have placed the web even higher, at 14% for the best results
• And online with offline is a big boost: same budget, better results.

• McDonald’s has now changed its marketing mix as a result of the work

I'm sure Roy's team will be pleased to share with you more of the details. if you'd like to talk about presenting research at the European IAB meetings then just mail me: danny@digitalstrategyconsulting.com ...or add comments on this blog page.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Let’s get engaged

What is engagement with media all about? How can we define it? What does it tell us? What are the relationships between the impact of communication through the different media channels? And why does online appear to be that much more deeply engaging?

These are just a few of the questions that appear once you start investigating what engagement means, and while the industry doesn’t yet have an answer, it is starting to uncover the roadmap to getting there. Some new insights from NetRatings are starting to show how you can measure some of the basic metrics for different types of engagement.

We don’t have the language that describes engagement yet, but online as a media channel can deliver an intimacy, response and connectedness rarely seen in other media. It can be a brand activation tool that prompts us to act; at the same time it can be a customer service channel or the actual sales process. The advertising copy can encourage real involvement from the customer, and with other media unable to compete on this scale, it’s clear that it’s up to the online industry to seek out the metrics.

Starting metrics for understanding website performance:
• People – this measures the popularity of a website, normally we talk about unique users
• Visits – this is the number of times people have logged on to the site
• Pages – pages per person gives a sense of the amount of involvement people are having with the site
• Time – the new measurement frontier that explores in one way how important the importance of the site in our lives

“Popularity just doesn’t tell the real story. Nor do visits, which might be useful for understanding loyalty, but nothing more,” explains Alex Burmaster from NetRatings. “Everyone uses impressions, but that doesn’t mean it tells the full story.”

A history of engagement
The engagement debate is one the online industry has flirted with since 2000. That was when a group of us came together in the UK to form the joint industry committee ‘JICNET’ project to explore smarter ways to measure website audiences to help media planners get it right. JICNET led to a second project which helped improve the data from NetRatings and other providers, and that led to the JICIMS group that took the work further.

A new landscape
Those metrics of impressions and visits are still valuable, and underpin much of the industry today, but they still represent an era of metrics that was locked into an older generation of web publishing. The landscape has shifted again, and in a world of AJAX, social networking and Web 2.0, metrics like the page impression are looking dated somewhat. Web Analytics 2.0 needs new vocabulary and new structures. That was the thrust of my lectures at the European Emetrics Summit this year (see http://analytics.digitalstrategyconsulting.com for some of the videos).

Page views will matter less as the technical architecture of the web moves on. The model of the page view can’t deal with the environments of chat, technologies, toolkits and virtual worlds that people increasingly use on the web. Add in the way that web pages now might include layers of applications (rather than static content) and you have a completely new set of rules to measure.

Time is one of the keys
Ebay is a case in point. The page impression figures for this retail giant have always been staggering, but new insights from NetRatings show that 100m hours was spent by Europeans on Ebay. Even more extreme are the new virtual reality communities: what comes through is that if you look at the amount of time people spend on a site like Second Life, you’ll discover that it tops seven minutes per person, but ask for the page impression numbers and it barely features on the radar.

Next step? Active focus
As for the future, it’s clear there’s a long way to go. The desktop is increasingly cluttered, multitasking has become the norm, the screen is a gateway to myriad services, and the relations between locally run software applications like Word or Excel, and what lies at the end of a Firefox browser is getting increasingly blurred.

There’s no answer to this yet, but NetRatings are doing some smart stuff with their desktop meter, and by downloading a software tracker onto their panel members’ computers, they’re able to learn exactly what is getting the attention. This could help cut through the chaos that’s coming to measurement and unbundled the mass of activity mashed-up on the user’s desktop into meaningful threads of data that can be read, analysed and interpreted.

Whatever happens in the future of web enabled computing, it’s clear that the metric of ‘time’ will be key, and within that the idea of ‘active focus’ will be one of the most powerful levers.

Need more? Contact Alex and the NetRatings team, www.IABeurope.ws, or your national IAB for more.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

How to make money in web2.0

In answer to Aljosa Japundzic’s post about how to monetize a web2.0 service, here my small reply. Of course you can go for the old school ad-model, or even try to sell your data for marketing use. But there is also a third option: the pro account. I translated a post I made a while ago about how Google could make money with YouTube by creating ProTube.

I was originally inspired by the book “Information Rules” from 1999 that explains how you could give away free software and still make a buck by creating a pro version. I shall write down six strategies that can easily be blended or broken in smaller pieces, and end with an example for the ProTube case.

More Options
This one can be found, for example, by Flickr or LinkedIn. Those who pay have an easier way of browsing and working with the site than those who don’t.

Quantity / Quality
Also a Flickr option (but also found on Live Mail and Gmail), those who pay have more storage, or can use a higher quality version of your product.

Sometimes the case, pro users can download and upload files at a higher speed. Or if it's still the case, can access the version of your site that is hosted on a faster server.

Users who pay can first use your lab and beta features, and can get a higher degree in involvement.

Although it sounds a bit rude, this is what a lot of sites use - annoy the non paying visitors with advertisements, and let the pro-users work ad free.

And the last example, one from the old world, gives support to you users; gives them the possibility to be in contact with a real human. Make them feel you still care.

The ProTube case
Although it seems now that Google is going for the add revenue model for YouTube, it isn’t that hard to imagine how they could make money by selling pro-accounts.

  • Pro users can edit their videos, and can upload several videos a day.
  • Pro users can watch all videos in high quality and can download them in several formats.
  • Features from the lab are first given to the pro users.
  • Pro users don’t have to watch advertisements.
  • Questions of pro users will be answered by humans in a reasonable time.

I have a strong feeling that the people behind Flickr knew all those ideas, and combined them to build a great photo site. Which is still the only web service where I bought a pro-account. So next time you try to finance your project with Google ads, think about the alternative.

This is the first post of Sjors Timmer, who recently graduated as a Master in European Media and is working for an exciting web start-up and blogs for several websites.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Using TV to unlock the power of the web

Back in the mid-nineties the online marketing industry’s research agenda was all about how online could build brands, proving that the exposure to banners worked in a way comparable to press or outdoor. Did banners build brands? Yes. At the time, the research was revolutionary, uncovering a mathematical certainty and a truth of this new media channel for the very first time. Fast-forward to today and it’s about the brand building power of all media; mashed up together in a new diet of consumer behaviour, what should the advertiser’s mix be? Where exactly does online fit?

When i-Level teamed up with Yahoo and Hitwise at the end of last year to look at the new mix of media, their insights were rich and deep. They were digging into the relationship between TV and the web, and how marketing activity on TV triggered an uplift in searched online.

First up some of the basics were proved: online was “a highly effective medium for driving brand awareness and message association,” explained i-Level’s Amanda Davie at the IAB Europe Leadership Council in London today.

Next it went further, confirming that the combination of online and offline delivers the best yield and drives better awareness. It then examined the way that on-air mentions of the Sky brand drove immediate searches and web activity. Back in the late nineties Yahoo stumbled on this and created their ‘Buzz Index’ to gauge how popular a brand was so it’s no surprise they were one of the three partners behind this piece.

This collection of research studies, which included the Sky television network, looked at the behaviour of experienced online advertisers. Sky already put in 11% of their overall advertising budget into online, and the AA motoring breakdown service put 14% of their spend into online. By helping experienced online advertisers improve their media mix, this also reveals the reality that ‘best practice’ is still evolving.

“In the search marketing industry we’re still in our infancy”, explains Davie, “and much of the research we all use comes from the US. But here in Europe there’s a difference in the media mix and what we were trying to do was learn about how search could work with classic media advertising.”

Most revealing of all according to Davie was that “TV advertising can change the way the media mix works, often reducing the cost of other media”. As an agency, i-Level are clear that this work fundamentally changed their advertisers’ use of each media channel.

Two of the often cited powers of online advertising are measurability and accountability. But here with ‘search’, the data can actually be used to measure the impact of other media spends within the media mix. The studies tell us lots about the way people use media today, sliding seamlessly from one channel to another. The challenge many media planners still face is that they are not tracking the activity a campaign creates when that activity is in a different channel.

For experienced online advertisers this will be a familiar story, but for many marketers, understanding the relationship between the media channels urgently needs more attention. Audiences have shifted, new marketing channels have leapt into the mainstream, the strategic media is ripe for radical reassessment, yet many campaigns begin by dusting off the previous plan and applying only minor changes. With audience behaviours changing on the vast scale that they are, this approach prevents the planner from being able to address the real picture.

• Point 1: Online builds brands
• Point 2: Online and TV together build brands more effectively
• Point 3: Understand the precise role of each channel and you can completely change the mechanics of your campaign

Need more? Contact your national IAB for more research studies or Yahoo, Hitwise and i-Level for more about this.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

How big are we really?

Alain already wrote about this, but this week has been a very busy one for me and especially my team as we struggle to gather all the data necessary to answer a simple question. How big is this industry?

The question is of course a simple one and the answer should be too. But the path to this answer is a very difficult one. And not just because gathering the data in itself is a slow process. But there are a lot of things that need to be answered before that in order to get the right data. Let me just start with the first one. NET or GROSS.

Well in fact the question is not so Shakespeare-ian. The right question is: Net, Gross, Gross with volume discounts (or Gross Gross as we like to call it), Rate Card , and so on?. The fact is that different countries use different methodologies to establish the value of a market. And this is of course a big obstacle in trying to set a common denominator for the adspend across Europe. So there is not other way to set the market for the whole Europe but to try to estimate the differences between gross and net.

And this differences can be, believe me, very different by country to country. Luckily enough IAB Europe has a distinct advantage in this matter. People within the country organizations around Europe are the very people that know their online markets inside out. So estimating the differences between one and the other is much easier and precise. The other good part if it is that by doing that people in those markets and across Europe begin to gain an even more extensive knowledge of the other markets.

For comparison is always good. It tells you where you stand and where should you be in a few years time. And it brings people around the table once again. A thing that IAB Europe has always done and always will. :-)

Monday, 23 April 2007

“Why isn’t there more consistency in trade associations across Europe?”

It’s a cracking question from Atlas’ Michael Keaton, and one that reveals a disconnect between the structure of trade associations and the challenges they face in the digital networked society.

Since the mid nineties I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the smartest folks in more than a dozen countries to launch, or plan the development of, digital trade associations. They typically take some phenomenal effort to get going, but once they’re motoring – like IABuk.net, iabeurope.ws, iab.net – they provide cohesion in a fragmented sector, a single focus for debate and a massive momentum for growth. Look at the markets with the longest tradition of successful trade bodies and you’re looking at a short list of the Digital Giants and the countries that top the charts of online’s market share.

But in a global medium the rules are different to press, TV or outdoor. There’s a much greater need for consistency, and when it comes to Standards & Best Practice, the needs couldn’t be more absolute. Why should a banner be any different in shape or size between markets? Why should video ad impressions be counted differently? Indeed why even have the debate in parallel rather than all together?

Yet trade associations have an inherently national focus. The majority of firms the majority of the time are focussed on the national stakeholders and their national needs. Counting audiences or adspend varies greatly between markets, and it varies in ways driven by offline media. All of which is a tad frustrating for those of us at the middle coordinating development.

This morning I kicked off with a workshop to look at the standards and guidelines created so far, those of the present that we’re consulting on, and those of the future we’re lining up. That was for the ad technologists, and tonight I’m rerunning it with the tech vendors. Michael’s comments are spot on and echoed from 24/7 Real Media and Doubleclick directors who join us: moving on industry needs more cohesion rather than less, more coordination than ever before, and a smarter division of work so if the US, Germany or the UK are leading on a project, we all step back from duplicating our efforts.

Trying to build frameworks for a more efficient market has been likened to trying to build the wings of a plane while jet’s still taking off. It’s a challenge our industry clearly needs to embrace more deeply. And if it’s a challenge you’re up for then mail me and I’ll connect you to the right people. Remember to also check out the Standards & Guidelines pages of www.IABeurope.ws

Ad Operations: Turbo charging the online media engine:

I love the way my mobile phone vibrates when a text arrives telling me the taxi has turned into my street. Addison Lee have been doing this for five years plus, but I still like the efficiency. It's neat, one tiny example of how the digital network society lets us do things in ways just smarter and more effective than the old world. Downstairs in my hallway there's a heap of luggage that needs moving. We've had a heat wave in the UK this weekend, with London marathon runners fighting their way through 25 degrees of sunshine, yet outside it's pleasantly cold and dank. Timecheck 4:31am. Why so early? Today is the start of the annual ad technology operations forum, this time in Paris. And if that text message seemed neat, it's nothing compared to what these guys will be looking at.

I've always been a fan of the ad tech systems. The whole potential of digital marketing rests in the large part on the scope, scale and functionality of what these boxes can do. In the early days it was NetGravity, then DoubleClick, OpenAdStream, AdTech,Falk, Accipiter... the vendors mushroomed. My introduction to all this was back in 1996, working on a project to explore bringing the fledgling DoubleClick into Europe, and ever since I've always had a soft spot for the toolkits. And with that the ad ops teams who administer them.

Ad operations execs are the unsung heroes of the industry. The whole potential for digital marketing rests on their shoulders, and the whole power of marketing efficiency hides in the boxes; put the right kit in the right people's hands and amazing things happen. Yet most agencies and media owners relegate ad ops and 'traffic' functions to the status of junior backroom tasks, somewhere as strategically important as ordering the company photocopying paper (though maybe without all the kudos).

No, no, no! Champion the traffickers, nurture their skills, celebrate their abilities, and give them the freedom to create. Yes, create: by digging around in all that campaign data, tuning the engine of targeting, adjusting the torque on ad delivery, a good commercial business engine can get turbo-charged, pulling the business away from the rest of the pack. While trafficking in most firms still means banner-planners, the smart money at MSN, Yahoo and AOL have lifted the group and their status to the dizzy heights of revenue maximisers, directing company policy and taking control of the inventory.

When a few of us came together to start teaching the Ad Trafficker's Academy, it became clear that it wasn't just the traffickers that needed an induction to the process of trafficking and their role in the business, it was the senior executives they reported into! Which brings us to Paris.

As my car hurtles along the empty streets that only 12 hours ago formed that sea of bobbing heads in the London Marathon, I'm collecting some thoughts for the conference. For the next three days we'll be debating the issues that matter most in industry right now. We'll be trying to find ways around them to make smart systems even smarter and to keep them there in the face of the morphing digital landscape.

Since 1999 I've chaired the Standards & Ad Operations Taskforces for IAB Europe. This is the group that looks for ways to achieve collaboration between firms to build guidelines and best practices in the industry. The 'Universal Advertising Package', the 'Auditing and counting' models, 'Creative best practice guidelines', the changes to the ad server counting tools... they all came from here. You can find out more in the standards section of IABeurope.ws. Having teamed up with Admonsters, we now have 60 of us together for a few days every year to do nothing other than think ad-ops thoughts. And that's exactly what starts this morning, in the heart of Paris.

This time around we're looking at a few old favourites, and a host of new challenges:

Broadband and video
The time is right for a massive migration to video based advertising. It's not simply a question of taking the TV spot and putting it online (though that might be an easy starting point), it's about weaving in commercials to non-linear video reportage. There's a new generation of advertising and content coming and we need some clear models for it to all fall into.

Behavioural targeting
Can we build up a framework for effectively trading the new behaviourally targeted inventory. There are several types of behavioural targeting in place and agencies keep telling me how difficult it is to know what they're getting. If we can get the model right then there's a quick win for everyone.

Lavasoft and the cookie debate
Changes in the way this Swedish software firm treats third party cookies could cripple segments of the ad industry online. It's not the first time the cookie has been under threat (remember the 2000/2001 campaign to 'save the cookie' from an over zelous data protection political bandwagon?), but if industry doesn't respond quickly and decisively, then part of the ad revenue that lets sites provide their content for free will be on hold.

Metrcis and analytics
The metrics challenges just keep getting bigger. In our Web Analytics Academy we explored the implications of Web 2.0 on ad data and concluded that while most publishers still focus only on the same metrics of visits, visitors and impressions, that they were ten years ago, the models of Web 2.0 analytics combine the sum of metrics from all other media.

But what else? Over the next few months we need to answer this and get some of those projects out of the door. I'm keen to know what would make your online advertising easier to trade, what would remove barriers in the market, what would help accelerate the industry.

As my car trundles up the ramp into the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo, it's still cold and dank outside. I've finished this blog update and cleared my overnight texts. If these technologies seem neat, it's nothing compared to what awaits in Paris. Time for coffee, croissant and some conversation. For more on the IAB Europe Standards & Guidelines debates either email me, check out the Standards section of IAB Europe.ws, or join the next Standards & Guidelines call or event.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Sometimes size does matter!

A few months ago Scott McLeod shortened Karl Fisch' great presentation Did You Know? and added a slide on MySpace. Some of you might have seen it before. If not, it's definitely worth 6 minutes of your time!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Serial resetters and online gamers distort visitor metrics

Top ten websites by time per visit

  1. RuneScape (the massive online adventure game by Jagex Ltd) - 6hrs 32mins

  2. Electronic Arts Online (online game service) - 3h 07m

  3. Bebo (MySpace Alternative) - 2h 37m

  4. Facebook (social networking service for students, corporate, and geographic communities) 2h 28m

  5. eBay - 1h 55m

  6. King.com (free online games) - 1h 53m

  7. Adventure Quest (Role Playing Game) - 1h 35m

  8. Fox Interactive Media (MySpace) - 1h 11m

  9. Club Penguin (kid-friendly virtual world) - 1h 10m

  10. Cartoon Network (free games featuring Cartoon Network characters) - 1h 09m

Web counting tools 'need change': "The post Web 2.0 world is best represented by measuring time spent on particular websites, argues [Nielsen/NetRatings] analyst Alex Burmaster."

From the same BBC article: ""It is clear that a certain segment of internet users clears its cookies very frequently. These 'serial resetters' have the potential to wildly inflate a site's internal unique visitor tally, because just one set of 'eyeballs' at the site may be counted as 10 or more unique visitors over the course of a month," explained comScore president Dr Magid Abraham."

Monday, 16 April 2007

Cost per influence

The Devil & Online Advertising: "Jim Coudal at The DECK uses the term Cost Per Influence in their advertising model and I think it is a step in the right direction. I think we have to consider the value of the traffic on a site and the influence it has on it’s traffic."

The term Cost Per Influence as an alternive metric was discussed way back in 2004 by Ross Mayfield. The accompanying format would be Sell Side Advertising.

Robert Scoble dug it up again last year (New audience metric needed: engagement) but the funny thing is no one from the advertising industry really picked it up. Anyone?

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Gobal online media measurement: where do we stand?

Is online measurement a national or an international matter? The answer is “both”, and the reasons are twofold.

Most of advertising spends are local, few are international. This leads us to conclude that audience measurement has always been a national issue, and methodologies have been following local particularities such as counting habits, culture, and dominance of a media over any other.

Still, as the text introduction of the I-Com (http://www.i-com.org/) interestingly put it: “Around the world, online media and their audiences are being measured (Ad, Site & User Centric) differently or not at all. Commonalities include a predominant national focus and lack of a big picture about who is doing what and with what results. Meanwhile, advertisers would like to see internationally comparable data based on transparent common metrics.”

Compared to measuring traditional media, online measurement is such a complex and innovative task that operators - including research providers - struggle to provide a stable and accepted currency locally. In some countries, millions are invested to understand and create a standard measurement, while internet technologies continue to evolve.

As a consequence joint industry committees (JIC) along with private research operators felt the need to share experiences and best practices. In September 2005, several leading associations (including EACA, IAB Europe, IFABC, I-JIC & OPA Europe) decided to create I-COM, a joint conference about online measurement, in Berlin. The conference’s achievements were as follows:

- Delivery of an International Overview Study (IOS) of Online Site&User centric measurement status around the world;
- Presentation and discussion of major site and user centric measurement systems;
- Creation of an international network amongst professionals in Online Media Measurement;
- Facilitation through forums on key issues including international cooperation.

Like the harmonization of worldwide online ad spends, online measurement needs to be consistently aggregated on a global scale in order to better represent our media. Measurement operators need to work on common definitions, both across countries and locally to make the Internet media clear and transparent.

In the first “workshop” day of the Interact Congress (4th of June), IAB Europe will welcome all leading associations and players to introduce the global initiative for online media measurement (GIM) and announce the next I-COM conference. Three panel discussions will focus on improving the comparability of metrics across countries, sharing local requirements for research suppliers, and discussing new measurement possibilities along with Web 2.0.

Getting to grips with website analytics

“Which KPIs and metrics should I be tracking?”

I got hit by this question while teaching the
Web Analytics Academy in London this afternoon and figured it was worth sharing a few of the key points. Digital marketing is incredibly powerful, but much of that power can be lost if you’re not tracking what you do.

Seems obvious? Read on…The problem is that most folks who run websites and web marketing don’t give enough weight to the analytics. Sure, it’s not the sexiest part of digital media, but it can be the most profound and the most enlightening.

It’s only by tracking you’ll really know what works and what doesn’t, and while it’s part of the fabric of traditional marketing, there seems to be an enormous gap when it comes to extending that theory online. For example, in a media brand, the core key performance indicators include volume (of advertising), yield (of advertising) and the share (of the advertising and audience market).Those are revenue metrics any publisher would readily seize, but when it comes to audiences the same logic isn’t always there.

That’s why at Digital we developed the 5 Ps of web traffic measurement. If you’re stuck for where to start, then try these tips and see the
video of our Web Analytics lecture…

• People (unique users)
• Pages (impressions)
• Persistence (stickiness / duration of visit)
• Pulling power (repeat visits)
• Passion (intensity of their activity; posts, community involvement, bespoke metrics)

Try these out as your starting point and you’ll be well on the right track. If you need more then ask us about the Management Information Academies we developed for media groups.
Need more help? Post your questions in our
Web Analytics Digital Classroom.

European Online AdSpend will be worth over 10Billions€ in 2006?

Going around from IAB country to IAB country presenting myself, listening to their needs and explaining our IAB Europe Masterplan 2007-2010 exercise, I've the pleasure to meet and great fantastic people but also to discover the web-story from each country. You feel the heat, the tipping point in many countries moving away from a secondary medium towards a primary medium. A key-driver might be for many professionals to see that our digital industry will hit the 10billions€ for the 2006 online adspend investment. We all know that it's only one side of the internet play-ground, but it does mean a lot for decision makers I believe...

A dedicated team is working under supervision of Zoran from IAB Slovania trying to provide a comprehensive benchmark sheet in May 2007 enabling us to compare and understand the figures from one country to another. More on this next month, but wanted to share this already with you ;-)

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Pick their brains

Quick linkdump:
Ads of the World (recent, blog): "an advertising archive and forum discussing great work worldwide"
ihavenidea (articles, blog): "Because the advertising industry we want to work for doesn't yet exist."

Web 2.0 World is a great place, but where's the Money?!

"Everything is free, just take a cookie!" is a line from the video (You can watch it below) that pretty much summarizes the Web 2.0 model. Currently what most Web 2.0 ventures are doing is collecting information and creating an audience, and in some cases, basically waiting to be acquired.
If there is a monetization model out there, most of the Web 2.0 sites and services haven't found it yet, or they just can't apply it. Anyway, here are some suggestions made by experts:

Subscriptions: some very useful services finance themselves with subscriptions, but it's certainly not the way to go for everybody. Even those services that use that model have a hard time fighting with the competition that offers the same services free of charge.

Commission: a nice way to monetize services that offer assistance to shoppers (travelers, and other buyers), but it's really not a model that applies directly to a typical Web 2.0 service. But we can use a Web 2.0 feature combined with a more or less traditional commercial model – and make success.
That is where I see a good monetizing model for the Web 2.0 – using it's main qualities as a feature.

Advertising: even though most investors and financial experts don't really like this model, I still prefer it. It allows the services to stay free, and as the video says, that is what it's all about. As we all know, on-line advertising is growing in numbers, but the Web 2.0 is giving it ways to expand, become more targeted and effective. An average social networking service knows a lot about it's users: besides the general information (name, sex, age, location…) we have an insight to their habits and preferences, favorite brands, hobbies, and relationships.

Something else: Subscriptions and Commission are mostly not applicable, Advertising might bee to intrusive… There are only so few ways to monetize, and so many reasons why we should not use them.
The Holly Grail of Web 2.0 monetization is yet to be found. Meanwhile, everything is free, just take a cookie!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Dick Brandt on Identity 2.0

My first post here, and it's not even about interactive marketing. Or is it?

Watch and learn something about the past and future of digital identity, courtesy of Dick Hardt, CEO of Sxip Identity.

Lonelygirl15 is boring

If, in the midst of all the 2006 buzzwords, we had to go for the ultimate one, it would be "web video" or rather, YouTube. The stats that are published last week in the newteevee.com article Go Stat Wild: February Video Traffic confirm the obsession of marketeers, advertisers, investors and mainstream media over YouTube. The poster child of user generated content. The ultimate fulfillment of Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame prediction. The company that was consuming terabytes per day in bandwidth, and would have succumbed under these costs if it wasn't for Google.

It's ok to obsess over a bright new kid, but the side effects are somewhat annoying me. A few examples:

  1. The majority of web video consumers are not using the hosted services. If they forward web videos, they'll often use peer-to-peer networks, instand messaging or even plain old e-mail (with the video as an attachment!)

  2. Every big internet player feels obliged to launch a me-too-youtube initiative. Me-toos are boring.

  3. Advertisers ask their agencies for campaigns that depend on user generated content. Only an utter minority of, say, the Belgian internet users is able to capture, edit en upload a pretty decent web video. And even if they do so, it wouldn't be to review this or that product. Most succesfull user generated web videos are variants on the lonelygirl15 meme, or the "my cat sneezed" variant. Lonelygirl15 is stuck in YouTube. And for frequent updates on your pet's health the kids now prefer Twitter.

  4. There is no such thing as wisdom of the crowds. Really want to know what pleases the crowd? It's Idols, or any other show involving freaks. Anything involving bikini girls is a good second, and my guess is that cute animals are on the third spot.

  5. It's no use to search for an advertising model. Pre-roll advertising annoys consumers. In-video product placement is tricky but might work in some cases. And launch a tv ad of movie trailer in Tubespace and hope it will go viral? Good luck with that. You'll have to compete with all the freaks, the bikini babes and the cute animals.

Does this mean we have to give up the idea alltogether that advertisers can somehow get in the mix again? Of course not. The only mistake advertisers can't afford to make is to export their "old skool" advertising formats onto the new web videosphere. This means: no intrusive advertising, no display advertising, no dirty tricks, not even subliminal advertising.

The only thing left to do is to re-think advertising. It will take a while before new advertising standards will arise. In the meanwhile, all an advertiser can do is follow this mantra: be passionate, be proud, and be honest.

We Aid - forget the action

Since the somewhat heated debate between Thomas Madsen Mygdal and Matias Palm Jensen at the Danish Internet Award (DIA07) conference some two months ago, my mind has once more been wandering about the limits of advertising.

Is it true that good products market themselves here in the age of the social web, where happy and unhappy individuals have excellent opportunities to make their opinions publicly known? That advertisement in the traditional sense therefore is obsolete, and that marketers should focus on Public Relations-like activities, ensuring the best conditions for the conversation between individuals (whether these are employed in the company selling goods and services or are performing the role of consumers, buying the goods and services)?

One thing I’m sure about is that no ad will succeed in getting anyone to buy anything, simply by saying: “This is a great product. Go to the nearest store and BUY IT”. Com’on! If this has ever worked (what I doubt) it certainly doesn’t anymore. This is 2007. More than a decade after “I’m not a consumer”, “Generation X” and what have you. Consumers are individuals, not masses, making up their own minds.

Phrased differently: In terms of the traditional AIDA marketing paradigm, the last “A” (the one where you get your target-group to Act, that is: buy) has been ruled out. Although the aim of marketing is to get the individual to do “the buy”, it is out of the hands of the marketer to make the individual do so.

However, it’s also true that not even the greatest product has a chance of getting success, if nobody knows about it.

Furthermore I hold it to be a truth, that products are more than their mere physical properties: That sentiments about the product may be a very important reason why anybody would buy the product at all. Take the Apples iPhone as an example: It’s very much more than a smartphone. As anyone who has observed the blogosphere during and after the launch (that is: of the presentation of what is to be in the US market in half a year, and in the European market in one whole year from now) of the Apple iPhone will truly be aware, the hype is tied closely to the expectations of what Steve Jobs and Co. will be able to deliver.)

Similarly: Coca Cola is more than a taste. Nike is more than a device for walking. Etc.

In other words: Marketing still has a role to play as regards to creating Attention of, Interest in, and Desire of products. The first three letters (“A”, “I” and “D”) in the AIDA still holds true.

The loss of the final “A”, the Action “A”, in the AIDA paradigm is not all that has changed. Modern times has not only cut off the most important part of what marketing is about. No – it has done something more. It has added a resource of such powers, that it’s hardly comprehendible. It has given marketers the notion of a “WE” to be working with. It has created the space for a conversation between marketers and the (people formerly known as) consumers.

This conversation does not necessarily need to take place on an abstract discussion-like level. On the contrary, I will suggest that conversation should be understood in the most widely sense of the word. That a game, which attracts an audience, is a kind of conversation, even though it might only have a slight connection to the way the product meets “objective” requirements. That the little green music-making man Pjotro (read my post on Pjotro at my own blog), who’s in reality advertising for Nokia, might be a great advertisement. Because it offers the individuals accessing the Pjotro-figure the opportunities to amuse themselves, while (very much secondarily) connecting the Nokia brand-name to interactive music. And because the creators of the ad has realised, that it doesn’t work just stating: “Go buy the new Nokia phone with MP3 capabilities”, but has succeeded in creating a community, a “WE” involving individuals, who like music, and like interactive playing around and the virtual Nokia-property Pjotro.

This is very much not to say, that only a few things has changed for marketers during the past decade. That the “AIDA” models still holds true, if you only modify it a little.

On the contrary: what we are witnessing is a paradigm shift. The whole instrumental way of viewing the marketing process, where you can move from point a to b, targeting the relevant consumers and eventually making them buy your product, is deemed to end in nothing but failure nowadays. Instead the “WE”-part should have the undivided focus of marketers. Whenever introducing a new product think of: how best to engage the individuals, you’d like to be consumers, in the sphere of your product. Talk to them, provide them with facts about you and the product, and play with them, create virtual universes and invite your “target groups” to get inside. Get them to be your ambassadors, to contribute to, and spread your message through their own viral channels.

Forget AIDA. Think “WE”. But also: think about and take the actions necessary, to create Attention about the product, Interest in the product and Desire for the product. Think “We” and think “AID”. Think “WE AID”.

(I first laid out these thoughts in my post "WE AID – a marketing paradigm for the user-centered era" on my own blog, where also this post originally was published).

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Considering consumers as people

The media digitalization, as much as the contents classification (tagging), is strongly changing our habits starting from the way we communicate and the way we relate with companies. And this is happening very fast. Marketing and advertising have to fit themselves quickly, putting in crisis some of the elements that have been the core of the communication strategies for the past years; for example it needs to shift from the classic approach “consumers considered as target to hit” to “people with whom talking to”.

Considering consumers as people is a significant, complex but necessary step. In this way consumers are no more passive receivers of the advertising messages, but they become individuals with who make sense to start a true relationship, a conversation, a dialogue. Considering that these individuals have become content producers therefore they have become significant purchasing influencers.

To face this new communication ecosystem, it is not enough, naturally, opening a corporate blog or uploading videos on YouTube. It needs to start a real renewal in the way of considering a company, knowing that it is going to be a gradual and complicated process. In theory it seems to be easy: being transparent, building brands with clients, talking with them, etc. The main problem is that companies have always been used to just communicate, not to talk, not to really listen to. It is evident that leaving part of the communication control in the hands of people is something scary. But this is an irreversible route.

ZenithOptimedia: global online adspend to overtake radio in 2008

ZenithOptimedia released an update of its global ad spending outlook. It’s impressive to see how spending in online advertising keeps beating the prognoses: ZenithOptimedia expects the global online adspend to grow with 28,2 % this year. The rest of the media will grow with 3,7 %.

In three global markets online already accounts for more than 10 % of the overall adspend. All three of these markets are European: the UK of course (in 2007 16,6 % of overall adspend according to Zenith), Sweden and Norway.

By 2009 these three markets will be joined by Denmark, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US.

ZenithOptimedia expects the global online adspend to overtake radio adspend by 2008. This is one year sooner than previously expected.

Check out more details in the ZenithOptimedia press release on this link (PDF).

Monday, 2 April 2007

Playing with ad formats at Club Internet

Ad formats, technical requirements, ad guidelines, interactive marketing standards, whatever you call them: interactive advertising seems to be more and more a matter of well defined formats in which we squeeze our creative aspirations.

However necessary ad formats may be, the online world often becomes really interesting when advertisers surprise us by ignoring the rules and coming with refreshing new ways of reaching out to internet users. I call it the Star Trek approach: ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’.

A great example is a campaign by French Club Internet, dubbed ‘Le duel’.

Jan Van den Bergh (i-merge Shanghai) and Marc Bresseel (MSN Europe) mentioned it on their blogs.

An experience that is hard to describe with words. So I propose you just go to http://www.club-internet.fr/le-duel/, sit back, watch the ‘video’ and see what happens next.

Now that is what I call an engaging experience.

PS: mind the details (see for instance the Google search window when the duellists start using modern weapons).

Sunday, 1 April 2007

A blog is for life and not just for Christmas

At Interact we're going to be talking lots about blogging. In fact we'll be blogging about blogging, posting about blogging, commenting on eachother's posts about blogging, and even spreading the news of our posts through social media so they appear on other blogs. The blogging workshop is not one to miss.

That's why, when back in the classroom this week a few of us were talking about corporate blogging, it prompted me to make a couple of posts.

"How can firms test out this web thing?" -one of the agency guys said, adding that “the problem is that these clients want to try, but we just don’t think they can follow through. What happens when they need to pull out, do we just close the blog? Can they do that?”

I've been blogging away on my personal sites for many years and we use blog environments to get students talking in our academies, so I guess I'm a convert to social media.

But the concern of this agency had me panicked. Getting the strategy right for a blog is key; communication without purpose is pointless for sure. But as digital specialists we should be helping firms learn about the power of social media, going in with the expectation of packing-up, going home has me edgy from the start. Too many have written off the web long ago as being a place not to belong. Many of them have gone even further and just capped their digital communications as shovelling the company brochureware from desktop publishing software to FrontPage. Shovelware rocks, right?

When senior managers are starting their thinking with the exit strategy in mind, you know the logic’s going to be upside down. This firm is thinking about creating conversational spaces, but doesn’t yet seem to have either a conversation topic or a reason for the audience to engage. In fact, they seem so absorbed in the exit strategy that I’m wanting to suggest a braver challenge would be to imagine that the route back through the forest has gone. Imagine Hansel & Gretel’s breadcrumbs have been gobbled up and you’re on your own to figure things out.

The problem is the idea of a dialogue with customers; two way, unfiltered, unmanageable. Yet the era of monologue corporate communications has gone for good. Where we’re at now is this space of conversation - billions of conversations – and that means brands also need to be taking part. The world of dialogue may take more after sales support and follow-through than classic media did, but that’s all part of the communication landscape now.I’m wanting to help, but clearly the brand team are still nervous.

Need some help? Here are a few thought I’ve just scribbled up on the way back from today's Academy. Maybe they'll be useful for the workshops at Interact, maybe they're something you can use with colleagues, and if you've more ideas then join the debate. These notes are only a taste of approaches that work, but when we're teaching corporate blogging they work well:

• Try the blog out internally – test in a safe place first. Many firms are doing this to check they can author and figure stuff out in a semi private space. One of the investment banks in this class said “We’re doing it just internally for a year first, making sure we get it right.”
• Accept that some of your posts you might regret, some might be less polished than you’d have liked, but all of them will be you. If it’s an open and honest dialogue, if it’s one that speaks from the heart, then accept that you’ll make a few gaffs – hey, look at my little blog! – but be proud to be taking part in that conversation
• Focus on what the firm believes and write through that lens: find your voice.
• Resist the safe ground of corporate cover, and be bold enough to develop some personality and vibrance. Even if it means running taped interviews with you leadership team so you can hear their own words, try out the tools and gave it a go
• Persevere: I’ve been saying that “a blog is for life and not just for Christmas” for five years or more, and the permanence of digital marketing is one of the big differences companies need to appreciate. Waves of campaign based communication gets superseded with layers that gradually build up. That permanence means marcoms value builds over time: from link equity to FAQs – getting out of the mindset of campaign thinking can unlock something brilliant.
• And commit to being in that conversation for a long, long time, well beyond seeing it as a comms fad washing over the marking team

Social media are democratising content and creating whole new types of connections between firms and their customers. Fast-forward ten years and can you imagine any firm that wouldn't have a place for its customers views like this?

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Newsgame crystalizes the wisdom of the crowd

Danish TVstation TV2 has recently implemented a remarkably impressing new service, building upon the contribution of the users in crystalizing "the wisdom of the crowd".

The service - Nyhedsspillet ("the news game") - is a place for trading opinions on what will happen on a number of different questions (called shares), put forward by TV2. For example you can buy the share "Harry Potter will die in the next book" for the price of currently 61 points. And if Harry Potter really turns out to be dead when the last page is turned in Harry Potter 7, expected this summer, TV2 pays you 100 points for each share in your possesion.
However you're free to sell you shares, before the book hits the shelfs, for the number of points, the other users are willing to pay. If they all firmly believe Harry Potter IS going to die, they'll be willing to pay you very close to 100 points for each share.

What's facinating is, that the price of the share in this ways comes to indicate very precisely how likely the users believe the given outcome of the event (for example that Harry Potter dies) is. If the price is 50, this means that the demand (and therefore belief in dead of Harry Potter) precisely equals the supply (and therefore disbelief in the dead of Harry Potter). A price higher than 50 means the users have a stronger belief in his dead than the other way around. In short: the price of the share at any time is the very probality that the event the share is about, comes true, as percieved by the users.

In this way the News Game is highly interesting cross-over of bookmaking and opinion polling. A way of engaging the users, abstracting their knowledge and translating it into a single and very usefull figure. If the number of users is large enough, and the questions are rightly put, the TV2 news game will actually reveal the wisdom of the crowd, turning "the silent masses" into a vast news generating machine.

(I originally published this post at the New Media Trends blog)

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The user revolution

I accepted very kindly the invitation to write on this blog and I’d like to suggest some topics come out from the massive analysis “The user revolution” recently posted from Piper Jaffray, one of the most famous american business banks. I’m sure that most of topics treated in this research will be very popular during the next IAB European Congress; meanwhile here are the 12 resuming points confirming without any doubt the changes on the way:

  1. Global online advertising revenue to reach $81.1 billion by 2011.
  2. Communitainment: Internet has increasingly become a principal medium for community, communication and entertainment -- three areas that have collided and are impacting each other's growth -- generating a new type of activity: communitainment. Communitainment is taking time away from other, traditional, types of content consumption on the Internet.
  3. Usites - The increasing popular category of user generated sites, which we are calling Usites, are driving traffic away from other destinations and pose a challenge to the advertisers and publishers.
  4. The Internet is now a mainstream medium: The web is the leading medium at work and the second leading medium at home behind television.
  5. Internet usage patterns are changing, favoring Usites,communitainment sites, search, and away from traditional portals.
  6. User Generated Brands. The consumers are taking control of content consumption and branding.
  7. Media Fragmentation: Advertisers increasingly will need to buy more inventory, from nearly all types of media, especially the Internet, to have the desired impact.
  8. The Golden Search: search has become the new portal.
  9. Google's dominance is likely to expand, partly fueled by a wide variety of non-search related products that create a virtuous cycle of brand affinity for Google.
  10. Video ads will be the driver of the next major growth in brand advertising and getting additional dollars shifted from traditional media to online.
  11. Ad networks are experiencing increased demand due to increasing Internet fragmentation, desire for more targeted inventory, increasing usage of networks for branding and increased site visibility.
  12. Agencies are rapidly evolving into more sophisticated, technology-savvy entities that combine best of breed offerings.
It has been several years since Piper Jaffray is involved in studying the online communication business. Their “Golden Search” (2003) has considered the turning point in search marketing analysis and quite all their forecasts have been confirmed.

Interactive marketing channels to watch this year

Another interesting piece of research by Forrester Research I would like to share with you. Earlier this week, Forrester, published its ‘Interactive Marketing Channels To Watch In 2007’ report. The company asked some 170 interactive marketers what interactive marketing channels they use – and plan to use.

The results show that most marketers still focus on interactive channels that have proven what they’re worth: display advertising, search engine marketing and e-mail marketing.

Typical Web 2.0 phenomena such as social networking, blogs and podcasts are becoming more important but for the time being they are clearly less adopted by the marketing community.

Forrester sees a few important reasons for this. One of them is the fact that many marketers seem to have a ‘wait and see’ approach: they only invest in these new channels when their peers/competitors start doing so (but then of course you miss out on the first mover advantage). A second reason is a lack of measurable case studies that show the virtues and effectiveness of these new channels.

The providers know what to do: invest in relevant cases and content, showing advertisers the success recipes and the ways to achieve them…

Forrester has a nice PowerPoint presentation resuming the main results of the report: http://www.forrester.com/Events/Content/0,5180,-1667,00.ppt

Online advertising: UK shows the way in Europe

IAB UK released its 2006 data about internet advertising and online ad spend across the Channel. We, Europeans from the ‘old continent’ can only watch them, say ‘gosh’ and hope that IAB Europe can play a role in helping us to achieve similar results ;-)

IAB UK found that online expenditure overtook national newspaper spending and online was over half the size of the TV advertising market. In the UK, Internet now accounts for an impressive 11,4 % of all advertising revenues.

Also interesting to see how Search Engine Advertising still outgrows display advertising.

Check it out on http://www.iabuk.net/en/1/iabadspend2006.mxs

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Advertising effectiveness

Do you ever wonder about the amount of visual stimuli we all get every day? Especially since most of these are ads? This movie created by Studio Smack will give you an amazing impression of just that. Even if you are aware of the fact that traditional advertising is losing effectiveness, this movie will still knock you off your feet on how real this is.

Here's the official introduction from Studio Smack:

“Studio Smack is a collective of young artists searching for new esthetics and concepts. Commissioned by the De Beyerd Museum three young graphic designers, former students of AKV/St. Joost, Ton Meijdam, Thom Snels & Béla Zsigmond, made a film about legible signs in town. The typo-animation Kapitaal (Capital) is an impression of the enormous amount of visual stimuli that plague us every day. The amount is so big that its commercial effectiveness has become utterly dubious.”

I still find this a stunning video every time I see it, make sure you take a look!

Monday, 26 March 2007

The measuring debate: share your thoughts

Last week Alain Heureux posted an item where he asked what will be the media currency of the future. The debate on how to measure advertising and customer interactions is not new. And it is not obvious. Although advertisers and media companies need objective data to calculate their ROI and compare the effectiveness of media, the simple fact of comparing media is in a way a contradiction in terms. Comparing media by reducing them to absolute data regarding reach is somewhat reducing the media themselves. Worse, even: it is getting harder and harder to compare two INTERACTIVE media. How can you compare, for instance, the impact of a user-generated community where visitors post their home-made movies to the impact of, let’s say, a portal or an online news medium? Comparing quantitative visitor data is one thing but how about qualitative visitor data? Not the plain and simple reach of a medium but the expression of what visitors of that medium do (compared to our targets)? The question is more actual than ever, given the explosion of online communities that invite their visitors to participate and co-create, rather than to simply ‘consume’.

The discussion on how to measure media happens in the online space too. Parameters such as visitors, pageviews and numbers of subscribers are not enough anymore. Think about the discussions about the number of Second Life subscribers: how many of these accounts are used how often and for how long? And is it really that what matters?

Recently comScore announced it adopted a few new metrics that focus more on what people do on online media. Amongst others, comScore, introduced a metric measuring the number of visits per visitor per day, thus trying to measure visitor loyalty.

Maybe part of the answer lies in looking at what happens in the field of Web Analytics, solutions to measure what people do on our websites. In the beginning they were all about measuring absolute visitor data and visiting patterns. Today, Web Analytics vendors focus on KPI’s, Key Performance Indicators, that are unique to every company since they do not measure online media but business criteria. And then the question becomes: what are the KPI’s for advertisers? And is the industry able to shift from a media perspective to a business and user perspective?

There’s a lot to be said about these issues. I will come back to them in later posts. In the mean time, please share your thoughts…

Forrester on Web 2.0 applications: the CIO factor

Since I noticed Forrester Research will be at Interact, I would like to share a recent Forrester survey with you. It’s about Web 2.0 applications and for once it’s not about what (online) marketing people think about it, but what CIO’s (Chief Information Officers) say.

Forrester found that CIO’s are generally interested in so-called Web 2.0 applications, including blogs, social networking applications, wiki’s, RSS, tagging and so on. Especially those applications with a clear user advantage are appealing to CIO’s. Think for instance about RSS as another way to communicate with customers.

However, Forrester also found that large companies tend to prefer big software companies over small Web 2.0 start-ups to buy these applications. They want them to be part of existing software suites (as many content management vendors for instance already do). And that, of course, is a challenge for the industry since many of the Web 2.0 applications are initiated by small, creative, starting companies that have the freedom and imaginative power to launch innovating concepts and ideas.

The fact that CIO’s seem to think from a user-centric perspective, as illustrated above, is great. However, CIO’s also have to think about the future of their corporate IT environment: issues like the integration within existing IT infrastructures, security and trustworthiness are crucial in their mindset. Apparently these values are fulfilled through the large software brands, at least in the CIO’s mind.

So what does this all mean? First of all it shows that new ways of establishing user-centric relationships are not only adopted by the marketing community but also by the IT staff (often first movers when it comes to using innovative IT technologies). Second of all it shows that there still are hurdles to overcome, amongst others from the supplier side. Partnerships between Web 2.0 start-ups and their peers or with larger software vendors are probably the future. This leads Forrester to conclude that a consolidation in the 2.0 software space might be underway.

Third of all maybe this is an issue for Interact: not only asking ‘what can all these fine new applications do for me (the advertiser/marketer) and my customer’ but also: what do I, as a marketer, should do in order to collaborate with my IT staff, and (probably at least as important) to convince my board. Interacting is not only with the external customer: it’s also with the ‘internal customer’: the rest of the company…

More about this topic: http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,41797,00.html

Friday, 23 March 2007

Getting your thinking right for the Digital Networked Society

Back in 2000 I started talking about the Digital Networked Society, and with Interact coming up, it struck me that lots of firms still haven't gotten the thinking on track yet. Everyone's doing 'digital', but not enough are doing 'networked' and even fewer doing 'society'.

Here's the back story: in 2000, while the markets were crashing and depression spreading through the internet commerce community like an epidemic, you couldn’t help but realise there was something major still unfolding. It cropped up in Digital Training Academy class again this week and reminded me how easy it is to forget, so here’s a recap of the weight all three words carry: Digital Networked Society. Sure, embracing digital channels is a smart move for the business, but for the savvy marketer it's not just about being on the network, it's about being networked. And for the real smart communications teams its about engaging with that society on its own terms.

• Malleable data
• No marginal cost in data duplication
• Interoperable; crumbled barriers to data migration between systems

• Ubiquitous connectedness
• Metcalf’s law that value correlates to nodes
• Democratisation of access
• Decentralisation of conversations; activity on the edge rather than the core
• Information wants to be free

• Completeness of inclusion
• Myriad communities
• Social connectedness
• Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society) Tönnies

So the Digital Networked Society is fundamentally different from the analogue, poorly connected world we’ve left behind. Some of this is new, but some of the elements of the Digital Networked Society are easy to trace and possible to predict. And it’s the cumulative effect of the D + N + S that creates the scale of change. Each paradigm in isolation would herald vast upheaval, but combine them and you have something seismic.

The Web 2.0 culture is a core part of this for sure, and a massive leap in making the concepts more accessible to more publishers. If you'd like to chat more then drop into some of the postings on my personal blog , join the debates at Interact 2007, and get your firm to play its own part.