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Ellen is Multi-Screen

Ellen Degeneras hosted the 2014 Oscars last night and was clearly sponsored by Samsung during the show.

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To her credit, she managed to take down Twitter with her group selfie picture.

Think about that for a moment. She took down one of the largest internet services in the world.

This clearly showcases how fragile our internet infrastructure is and it also showcases that the masses are ready for a multi-screen experience. Ellen took advantage of a live medium with a very broad audience and showcased that not only are people willing to participate, brands are also willing to jump on the bandwagon. Being part of the largest re-tweet to date, Ellen managed to get major brands, like AARP to participate for free.

If Twitter wasn’t having such an issue with the bandwidth, I am sure her true impact would have been much larger. At the time this article was written the photo had been retweeted nearly 2.8 million times.

This one interaction marked several changes in the market which all brands should take note of.

  • People obviously have another device right next to them while watching TV.
  • People want to feel like they are participating in a live show, not just watching it.
  • Motivation and coolness are fleeting. EG – the incentive to re-tweet the photo today is almost non-existent.
  • People will do virtually anything if they are told by people they trust.

As a marketer, there are tons of opportunities that these four realizations can lead to. No matter what your content or message is, timing it correctly and anchoring it to a voice that people trust is paramount. Otherwise, you are just shouting into the abyss where no one can hear you.

Ellen may be the harbinger of truly interactive multi-screen content. Being that it took a large scale live event to bring this concept to the forefront, it may indeed signal that multi-screen is more suited for live events rather than pre-recorded content.

If I had to guess, I would say that this “challenge” of creating the most re-tweeted photo is met with other challenges from other shows and celebrities. While this novelty is quickly burning out, the mavens of this experience will be working on new games, commerce experiences, charity events, and other types of content distribution.

Thanks Ellen for realizing that technology and marketing can seamlessly integrate.

 

The most important play of the Superbowl

How did everyone miss the most important portion of the Superbowl?

Easy, the NFL only dropped a short hint about the new NFL NOW service. With all the other ads and the boring game, it was easy to miss. But do take notice, this is about to revolutionize sports and advertising.

What is NFL NOW?

NFL NOW is essentially the foundation for a truly omni-device content delivery network from the NFL. In the initial launch it will offer only clips of videos but it is easy to see where the NFL wants to take this. They want to go direct to the consumer.  This mirrors what the WWE Network is doing but does not have the clear cut billing model nor the full length content the WWE is promising.

The current marketing around the NFL NOW network is really focused on getting the avid fan highlights about their team and their fantasy players. Personally, I think the real long term value of this is being able to see out of market games on any device. Combine this with the ability to do AirPlay or ChromeCast and you suddenly don’t need the bundled cable offerings.

It also adds a whole new layer of entertainment for in-stadium viewing. Imagine being at a Seahawks stadium and watching highlights from any other team in the league.

The additional analytics and additional engagement models are enormous. The ability to cross sell other event tickets, and deliver ultra-personalized advertising really makes this network launch a massive cash machine.

This also has the potential to open up a whole new audience outside the US. However, my guess is that the NFL will keep this a US only product for the near future.

So what could go wrong? 

Given the size of the NFL, there are plenty of existing legal contracts that either have to expire or be reworked to allow for full length content to be delivered in real time. Lawyers know how much money is behind the NFL and the Cable companies, so it makes sense to draw this out as long as possible.

The other thing that could go wrong is that the NFL doesn’t make bite size content well or doesn’t leverage the true power of the mobile operating systems. For instance, if you are repurposing TV spots, the overall length maybe too long and it may not be considered exciting enough for modern consumers. Combine that with 30 second ad spots and you have a poor consumer experience.

However, if you add the ability to do slo-mo scrubbing on the phone or create instant memes, the content amplification could be huge.

NFL Now is certainly a product to keep an eye on in 2014. Seeing a major brand like the NFL go in this direction is a clear indication that 2014 is about delivering content in a whole new way.

 

Starbucks – Mobile Marketing Monster

Starbucks is clearly leading all other brands when it comes to mobile commerce. They are driving massive amounts of revenue and brand loyalty through their mobile channel. How are they doing it? And why are they succeeding so much more than other brick and mortar stores?

Mobile is not a siloed channel for Starbucks

The core of their mobile strategy is that it is not their mobile strategy. It is a customer engagement strategy. What I mean by this is that they coordinate all of the various communication channels holistically. Mobile is just one facet. You will notice a drive to various promotions via physical signage, emails, TV, radio and digital ads. However, the key here is that all of the ads are coordinated and consistent.  They are hitting each user multiple times with a similar message, enhancing share of mind and actual conversion metrics.

Auto-reload / stored value 

Starbucks is great at making it way too easy to reload your mobile payment system. A user can have the system automatically reload or top up the card when you hit a certain balance like $10. The minimum recharge amount is $15. A $15 balance equals at least three of those fancy espresso based drinks or for most people 3 additional visits. This is an amazingly simple way of keeping people coming back to use value they have already paid for. However, I think most frequent coffee drinkers under a certain income threshold use this feature to budget their spending per month. This becomes the equivalent of a  monthly recurring cell phone bill for many households.

Gamification

The most significant differntiator between Starbucks’s loyalty program and other retailers is the gamification element. There are multiple status levels, shortcuts to earn stars, and most importantly the goals are attainable quickly. What this equates to is that people realize the benefits of the loyalty program quickly. The app and website consistently reminds you of where you stand in terms of stars. If you compare this loyalty program to Panera Bread, Panera comes up short big time. The threshold to get benefits is way too high and when you do get a benefit, it doesn’t seem to line up with the time or money spent. Panera also does not push shortcuts or seasonal promotions via email even though their bakery items change quite often.

Geo-Fencing

Many folks with iOS devices benefit from the geo-fencing notifications a person gets when they walk or drive by a Starbucks. This is the equivalent of a impulse aisle constantly following you. It is a great digital offensive that puts local coffee shops in a bind. People are constantly being reminded of the Starbucks but rarely see the local coffee shops ads or promos. This helps keep the Starbucks brand name top of mind when you think of coffee or a place to meet up. These geo fence notifications along with an excellent retail real estate strategy make it easy to make a quick diversion and earn more points at a Starbucks.

Universal Currency

To enhance the loyalty program, Starbucks allocates stars for your in home coffee purchases too. This way more budget conscious coffee drinkers are still driven to the store every once in a while to enjoy a freshly made drink.  The stars earned for a physical purchase are the same currency that is earned for purchase in a Starbucks. The unified system keeps it simple for any consumer and encourages brand interaction at any budget level.

Starbucks is clearly doing a great job in mobile and showcasing that mobile is not a beast unto itself. It is a channel that needs to work well with other marketing efforts. Simplicity and making everyone feel like a winner is something the other brick and mortar retailers should take notice of.

Starbucks is currently leading because they have executed a few things very well. However, I would argue that the consumers are going to demand more very soon.

How Starbucks could take their app to a whole new level

Offers in App and Enhanced Push Notifications

Right now, discount offers primarily come through email and ask users to show the cashier a picture or print out. This is time consuming and not that elegant. The offers should really be in the app and have a coordinating push notification to alert the user of the promo of the day or for that specific time window. This can also be enabled by a passbook integration for iOS users.

The other enhancement I would suggest here is that Starbucks starts to use more enhanced push notifications with sounds and more time based push notifications. This combined with the geo-location push could prove to have massive returns.

Personalization 

Right now, the concept of a gold card or black card is largely lost because the pride in presenting a shiny object is taken away when you simply put your phone in front of the scanner. Enabling a custom icon, app skin, check out sound or other minor touches to the UI of the app could help distinguish ultra-loyal customers.  Staff should also be trained to thank these users in a different way to make them feel special. Allowing Gold status or higher members to share the love with friends is also a way of enhancing the pride aspect. EG – “You and a 2 friends get a free drink today since you are a loyal gold member!”

Order from your phone

The line at Starbucks is probably the most archaic thing about the franchise. Frequent visitors know what they want and need a fast lane of sorts. Being able to submit your order from your phone so the drink is ready when you walk in is going to be a consumer need very shortly. It presents a host of logistical issues but people will pay more for the express lane.

Integrate with health trackers

Since Starbucks represents a fairly affluent demographic, it is likely that a good portion of their customers already use health trackers. When you are serving drinks that frequently exceed 500 calories, it makes sense to have the Starbucks app “talk” to your fitbit, Jawbone Up or Nike. Also knowing when a person has exceeded their exercise goal is a good opportunity to present them with a treat or reward.

NFC / iBeacon / Bluetooth LE

Opening an app and showing a digital card is becoming a bit of a hassle especially if a person is on the phone while in line. Being able to tap your phone or receive special promos by being near the merchandise is where this app needs to go. It is faster, and payment tapping will get a major boost from the major credit card companies in 2014.

As CES 2014 kicks off, the retail sector should take notice not of the new gadgets but the willingness of the consumers to try them. How do you make a great app even better? Test new features aggressively constantly.

 

What everyone gets wrong in local marketing

Local marketing has been touted as one of the most significant growth areas for digital marketing for the past few years. During that time, most ad servers and media strategies have only attempted targeting a consumer based on physical location, usually through latitude and longitude coordinates.

Currently the accuracy of this system varies mainly by the device you are using. If you are using a laptop at home, the ad server may sniff the IP to figure out your location. It is easy to figure out what country, state and county you are in but getting down to the street level or house level, accuracy drops quite a bit. Therefore most companies have attempted to verify the IP data against other signals like WiFi.

Overall, we made some strong advancements but at the same time most media folks became trained to think of location as a single dimension.   Location, especially within mobile marketing, has several dimensions that can affect the outcome of your campaign. Here are a few elements one should consider when building a local mobile ad campaign:

  • Will the weather affect my campaign?  If so, can I target by weather? Temperatures above 100 or below freezing will drastically change the performance of your campaign.
  • What day of the week is it? If I build an auto campaign in NJ and it shows on Sundays, this may have a much lower response rate since most dealerships are closed on Sundays in NJ.  This may also come into play when targeting areas with high concentrations of religious folks who may attend church on Sundays.
  • Is this an offer for one person or a group? If people are with a group of friends or family, they will react differently to offers that do not include the people immediately around them.
  • Travel time – in most cases asking a person to one to five miles to redeem an offer is not out of the question. However, if you are in LA during rush hour, going one mile may take an hour. A way to combat this is to either target at specific times of day or make the radius of your campaign smaller.
  • Time of month – If you are targeting people during the whole month, you may see better results during pay cycles. Creating creative or day parting strategies around pay cycles may drastically improve performance.
  • Transitional times – If you launch your ads at 10 am Eastern, most likely a good portion of your audience will be at work and will not be able to redeem your offer until noon / lunch time. Focusing on times when people can get away from work is important or reminding them again closer to their breaks is also important. This may relate to the type of inventory you buy, day parting or time zones. EG – You may want to purchase weather inventory in the morning before work and game inventory at lunch time.
  • Don’t include useless info – If a person has lived in an area for more than a year, they most likely know their town pretty well. Including a map and directions of how to get to X place is interesting and cool but most people already know how to get there. Focus on the key message and give them a reason to act on the offer as quickly as possible.
  • Loyalty programs are crucial – The ability to know what a person likes, how often they act on it and where they act on it is a crucial boost for local marketing. Otherwise, people are going to get bombarded with messages and the overall effectiveness of them will decrease dramatically.

At the moment, going broad in mobile is still recommended but looking a few months down the road when rates go up, it will be important to know what levers you have available for optimization. Personally, I am a strong believer that weather will be one of the most powerful drivers in local marketing in the coming year. Check out Weather.com’s new platform which verifies this thesis. 

 

Passbook in the next 12 months

Apple is a media machine. They not only get great coverage for the release of their new devices, they get coverage for their software and their failures (Apple Maps).

A good portion of the media said they were unimpressed with the iPhone 5 update, partially due to the massive number of leaks prior to the launch and the relatively small changes made to the device.

In my opinion I think the customers and the analysts are missing the true value of the iOS6 update. Two features can help Apple get a foot hold in the social space as well as the mobile advertising space.

Facebook has no idea what just hit them – Photostreams

Shared Photostreams are a direct attack on Facebook and Instagram, two of the largest photo sharing platforms. Apple tried to create a social network based on music with Ping but the reality is that photos, not music are a major driver of social based traffic. These photostreams have the power to link friends directly, and ultimately decrease the need to share photos on Facebook. These streams are not only helpful for friend to friend interaction, I think that Apple will release an Enterprise level version of streams soon. Think about Gucci or Ferrari sharing a stream of photos with you from a recent event. When this happens, major brands will have a major incentive to duplicate their efforts on Facebook fan/brand pages.

Given the fact that Apple controls the physical device, this poses a major threat to Facebook’s mobile growth, especially within first world countries. I think the uptake in developing nations will take much longer due to device penetration.

PassBook was also part of the iOS6 release and a handful of major brands have already thrown their support behind it. If you haven’t had a chance to play with it, it is a virtual wallet or keychain that helps you store your membership cards, coupons, and tickets.

The major differences between your current plastic membership cards and paper tickets is how the app interacts with the phone itself. Passbook allows updates to be pushed to the coupons, tickets or membership cards. It also allows the device to push a promotion to you if you are within a certain location.

For example, if you are at an airport gate, and you have your ticket in Passbook, it will automatically tell you if the flight departure is delayed or if the gate is changed.

Another example is that if you walk in to Target and they have a special promotion on dog biscuits, they will push you a coupon that is only valid that day. By the way, Target’s system is pretty advanced and already has some data on who is in your family and what you regularly purchase.

One other major feature with Passbook is that you don’t need to have a branded app to get a passbook coupon. You can receive Passbook coupons via SMS, Email or via a download link at the moment.

What are the implications of Passbook on Mobile Marketing?

1) Passbook coupons are essentially new ad units. Two companies – WooBox and Socialize have already launched capabilities to send out Passbook coupons via SMS. Socialize is more of a shell coupon in some ways. It allows the coupon to be replaced daily by a central ad server.

I could see these new “ad units” being used for app distribution. There might even be a scenario where you are at Best Buy and Amazon pushes you a coupon to increase the “showrooming” effect. Dangerous stuff.

2) Passbook is a training vehicle for the mobile wallet. People are eager to get rid of all of those plastic key fobs and just dump the data into one digital place. This starts training users on having their phone ready to go when they are checking out. This is going to set up the NFC mindset in the coming 12-18 months. If Apple does not include NFC in iPhone6, there may be a contract dispute holding things up.

3) Passbook in some ways could be Groupon’s savior. However, if Groupon continues down the route of just pushing random deals to your device, it gives the user incentive to delete Groupon all together. Groupon essentially has to get smarter about how they distribute coupons/deals given the new capabilities of Passbook.

4) Passbook can be a post shopping cart experience. For instance you buy a plane ticket to Miami. Once you arrive in Miami, Passbook may suggest a better car rental deal, a place for dinner, and spa. This is essentially very similar to the deals you see upon checkout of Expedia or Orbitz. They are upsells but often times they are generic and too far in advance. This gives the airline or travel site the ability another chance at an upsell which is more timely or potentially even impulsive.

5) Passbook will get smarter, a lot smarter. Given the amount of data it may collect, and the fact that Facebook has some OS level integration, it might be able to suggest places around you with incentives. For instance, your Facebook profile knows you like Bobby Flay from the Food network, and you are in NYC near his restaurant. It could potentially recommend going to his steak house and offer you a free desert.  Passbook may also integrate social features – eg – I redeemed a coupon and shared it with my friends. This can be facilitated by the Twitter or Facebook integration.

6) Passbook brings relevancy back to QR codes. For the past few years QR codes have struggled in America to gain popularity since you usually needed an external app to read the code or people just didn’t understand what they are. Passbook will make QR codes a standard and help bring the concept to the masses.

7) Retailers may see compressed margins due to the increase usage of coupons. In the past major brands put out coupons for two reasons, one for branding the other to increase sales. They always assumed that only a small portion of the coupons would actually be redeemed. If people are always armed with a coupon, retailers may need to adjust their margin forecasts.

8) Passbook starts to push coupons and membership cards into the male market. Traditionally coupons have always been redeemed at a higher rate by women. This app is genderless and will start to allow men to have their info without having to carry around bulky cards or coupons.  This change in demographic could inherently change what types of coupons we see and will necessitate advertising agencies to re-assess persona profiles.

9) Passbook’s secret weapon is its ability to push notifications to your locked screen. This allows people to know what the deal is without even opening an app. This instant push information is incredibly powerful for influencing purchasing decisions. Think of it like the specials board at a restaurant.

10) In the developer documentation for Passbook they have reserved a template for “Generic.” This wildcard placement will be the hot bed of innovation and/or scammers.

11) Apple has issued design “guidelines” around how your passbook should look. This limitation is good in some ways but I think advertisers may need to learn how to boil marketing messages down significantly.

12) Since Passbook is also time aware, this may allow certain retailers to offer various promotions throughout the day. This will ultimately lead to a much heavier workload for small businesses but hopefully it will also result in more business throughout the day. For instance, Burger King offers free super sizing on Saturdays from 2 to 4 pm. As soon as it turns 2 pm and you are near a Burger King, Passbook may push a notification to you.

13) Passbook takes a lot of fluffy social metrics like engagement and amplification and adds a layer of performance to them. REDEMPTION or in other words REVENUE. Brands looking to see real returns on mobile marketing initiatives are going to love Passbook. It will finally give them more concrete data on how their marketing incentives are working. It may also give them insight into location specific improvements, persona validation etc.

Where does Passbook fall short?

I think Passbook has a long way to go. First, it really needs to integrate with a payments service or a major bank to set up the mobile payments part of the strategy. Without that integration, it may end up being a novelty app.

Passbook is an Apple product. If this were available on Android, I would certainly use it. This isolation may make certain large brands hesitant to integrate with it since it only touches a portion of their customers.

The major issue that I see is that Passbook is not a simple experience. The Target App is integrated with Passbook but it is relatively hard to find, and requires a SMS authentication procedure. If Apple can make the integration process easier, adoption and usage rates could skyrocket. Right now, the process of adding a card or coupon to your Passbook is too convoluted. If you are wondering how to get the Target app into Passbook follow these directions.

Passbook is not supported in the iPad at the moment. I see tons of people traveling with their iPad and I know I would be likely to put my plane ticket on there. If the iPad mini comes out, there is a reason to open up Passbook to other devices in the Apple portfolio.

Right now Passbook uses a stacked tab layout. It seems reasonable for 5-10 passbook items but once people start getting the hang of it and the brands realize the power, I could see people having too many options. This may require a UI redesign or create the need for folders or a search function. At the end of the day, I am sure Apple will find a way around the UI issues but I could see it getting messy fast.

The last major issue I can see is that this app will create too many expectations from consumers and force everyone in to the Bed Bath and Beyond model of offering 20% off all the time. American consumers are highly price sensitive and once they get in the rhythm of getting a good deal, it starts to eat into brand loyalty. This was evidenced by Groupon and its impact on small businesses. Many small businesses never saw any repeat customers from their initial offering partially because there was a competing deal going on the next week.

Overall, Apple has the ability to really revolutionize mobile commerce with this app. It may also unlock a whole new mobile advertising model which will trump the standard banner model.

I highly encourage all the analysts to read more on the Passbook app, it will be the new iTunes for Apple.

Here is a list of current apps that support Passbook:

http://appshopper.com/search/?cat=&platform=ios&device=all&sort=update&dir=desc&search=passbook&whatsnew=1

iPhone5’s implications for Advertisers

September 12, 2012 Apple announced the new iPhone5 which was widely leaked prior to the event. As many suspected the phone is thinner and longer which allows for a larger screen.  This larger screen has several implications for online advertisers. Outside of the screen several enhancements to the phone’s hardware and operating system also will impact advertisers.

Considering that Apple’s products contribute so much of the current mobile traffic, I think it is time Advertisers start to plan for these changes in their respective media plans.

Hardware changes that affect Advertisers:

  • Currently there is no mention of NFC or near field communications which Android phones have been pushing. This means that mobile banking might not become mainstream until next year.
  • The LTE web access which is relatively fast web access is going to increase consumption of information greatly. It will increase the number of web pages you access, the number of videos you watch and the number of apps you check for updates. All of this increases the number of impressions per micro-tasking session. For example if a person is standing in line at Starbucks, you used to just check Facebook, but now you might check Facebook, the weather, and the news.
  • The LTE web access will be so fast, that I can see more and more casual users getting rid of their laptops in favor or their phone and tablet. This clearly requires new ad formats and media plans that take into account more mobile inventory.
  • The larger screen creates black bars on the sides of older apps if they are not upgraded. This could be a new ad spot for something similar to a takeover unit that wraps around the app.
  • The larger screen is longer which has implications on the usability of the phone. People’s thumbs will not grow longer, which means the upper left corner of the screen is actually too hard to reach for most people. Once app developers realize this, they have two options, move the navigation controls to the bottom or make their apps in landscape mode for two handed use. Each of these scenarios potentially moves where ads can be placed in apps and the actual size of the ad unit. Being at the top of the page on a long phone may be the new “below the fold” unit. Just bad CTRs. Being near the navigation of the app will be key to higher CTRs.
  • Given the new physical format of the device, lots of accessory providers are going to be buying advertising this holiday season. There may be a minor bump in online ad competition due to this.  This also takes away spending money from other sectors.
  • Considering that Apple has been rather aggressive with Samsung in terms of patent lawsuits, you may actually see Samsung beef up their advertising of the Galaxy S3 to counter act Apple’s advertising. Once again pushing CPM rates up higher over the holiday season in the tech vertical.

Software changes that affect advertisers:

Apple’s new phone will ship with iOS6. For the most part this is Apple’s first big push to start to eliminate it’s dependence on Google products like Maps and YouTube. From what we have heard, YouTube will not be a default application on the iPhone. YouTube has already announced a native application for iOS6 to counter this. I suspect most people will download this on day one of owning the phone.

  • As Apple pushes out Google, this changes user behavior in terms of how they search and get other basic info. Most of which we used to get from Google. This potentially will reduce Google’s mobile search penetration on Apple devices and therefore lower AdWords revenue from Apple devices. If Siri gets your info via another service, you stop visiting Google Search.
  • The strike at YouTube actually gives advertisers more potential options of video advertising. I think you will start to see new ad units in the native YouTube app over the coming months. This will be an area of strong growth for Google in my opinion especially with the LTE web access.
  • The changes to the email in iOS6 allow you to mark people as VIP which sends them to a different inbox, similar to Google’s priority inbox feature. This potentially puts a major damper in email advertising on mobile phones. If your email ads are not being seen or open your ROI is going to be lower.
  • Given the faster web access, more and more people will be checking their emails on their phones. If for some reason they don’t use the VIP mailbox, and they open your email ad, you need to make sure your email renders properly. Having responsive email design will be paramount to ensure high CTRs.
  • PhotoStreams can now be subscribed to. This is huge for advertisers, especially fashion advertisers. Being able to subscribe to celebrities streams and I am assuming brands, you will see what photos they are taking, similar to Instagram or Facebook. If Advertisers play this well, you will get iPhone5 users to subscribe to your stream and push coupon images to them or pics of new menu items or new clothes in store. This will be a major way to drive traffic to your store and/or website. It will also put a major dent into Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest assuming there is no integration. If Facebook is smart, they will allow the iPhone to publish its photostreams directly to Facebook. As an advertiser it will be important to understand how photostreams work. You may find yourself buying a paid spot in Kim Kardashian’s photo stream sooner rather than later.
  • Passbook seems a bit like TripIt in that it keeps your tickets and travel info in one place. This feature has major potential to monetize geo-location ads. This is  if Apple opens that up. Right now it is more of a pipe dream.
  • Apple switching to its own maps interface, potentially reduces the importance of Google Places or business pages. The effect of this is still yet to be seen but for smaller local advertisers, I would keep asking my customers where they are finding my listing to see if there is a major shift in user behavior.
  • New apps means more consumer spending which means less expendable income for other purchases during the holiday season. In other words Apple will dominate your wallet in the coming months.

Some exciting changes coming up for the advertising world given the new iPhone. Stay tuned for more updates and please feel free to comment.

 

 

 

Responsive Web and Advertising clash

In a recent Digiday article about how the New York magazine online edition is moving towards responsive web design, they describe some of the challenges faced by this school of thought.

As some of you know Responsive Web design is a school of thought that says you should design your web pages in a flexible layout that allows devices with various screen sizes access your site in a somewhat similar fashion.

For instance, you want your website to be usable to the person using a 4 inch iPhone and to the person using a 30 inch desktop monitor. One person would be using their thumb to navigate and the other is using a mouse and keyboard. In the past you would have had to design two different websites but these days you can’t accomodate for every screen size with a custom site, you need to make your layout flexible via the CSS.

I think the majority of online advertisers have no idea what is about to happen to their ads. So let me give you a bit of preview.

  • Currently most ad units are standardized sizes, the IAB standard units of 728 x 90, 300 x 250,  468 x 60 and 160 x 600 etc.
  • These ad units are quite rigid meaning that if the screen is bigger the ads dont get bigger, and if the screen is smaller they don’t really scale down well. The buttons may be too small for a thumb to press or the text might be too hard to read for an average user. They are really optimized for desktop viewing.
  • In recent years mobile advertisers have introduced mobile specific ad units but these too are quite rigid in their design.
  • From a reporting perspective, if your ad unit shows on a small screen but is unreadable, it still counts as an impression. This is a waste of your ad budget.
  • Right now most publishers don’t use ad tags that have operating system detection or device detection. Using a tag like this would help determine what ad unit can be seen given the screen size.
  • Your beloved retargeting campaigns may not work. As more ad networks are allowing cross device pixeling, you are not guaranteed your retargeted ad unit will look correct on the smaller screen.

Some publishers are taking steps to make their websites respond well to the large variations in device size but they need to take steps to monetize this inventory in a comparable manner to their desktop viewers.

As more and more people access the web via their phone or tablet, it will be increasingly important to create responsive ads that scale well and are easy to click on with a thumb or mouse.

Some tips to help make your ads perform better on mobile:

  • Ask your ad network you use, what happens to my ad when a mobile user sees it? Is it possible to show them a different creative size?
  • Test your ad unit on multiple devices. Make sure it is easy to click and make sure the landing page is easy to use regardless of the device.
  • If you don’t have ad units that scale down well, ask the ad network to block those impressions from your campaign. This may cut into your campaign quite a bit but at least you know the user experience is consistent.
  • Ask them if they offer click to call services based on the device. For instance if you are a hotel and a person sees your ad on a smart phone, why not just ask the person to call instead of going to a web page?
  • Use more text based ads which tend to scale a bit better.
  • Do not use Flash ad units. iOS devices do not support flash at all and it renders inconsistently on other mobile devices.
  • Check your analytics data to see what type of devices are accessing your ad specific URLs to get a better idea of the screen sizes
  • Talk with your ad designer to see what they know about responsive web.
  • Check with your webmaster to ensure you are collecting analytics data on your visitors.

Apple the cool kid with no real friends

Apple is always making the news, keeping them cool in the eyes of the media. If you look at most tech blogs the articles around Apple are usually the most heavily commented on and linked to. In other words Apple is good for the media industry.

In the past week or so news leaked that iOS6 would not be including the YouTube app by default. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the app on iOS, it just wont be on the home screen like you are used to.  Is this big news? Not really, it is just Apple putting a line in the sand against Google and it’s Android operating system.

When I saw this news, I started to think, Apple is really good at making hardware and operating systems. However, they come up really short in content generation and social networking. Google is still the most dominant player in search, online video still has the most widely used maps, and is making strides in the social networking space. Facebook clearly dominates the social network space and is making inroads in to the advertising space.

Apple a few years ago buddied up with who they thought was the coolest kid around, Google. Apple these days is dumping Google in favor for Facebook and Twitter offering OS level integration of the two platforms.

I think to some extent these partnerships are keeping Apple a pure hardware and OS play. If they bet on the wrong partnership in the future this could be disaterous for them long term. If they bought a network like Path, which is tiny in comparison to Facebook, could they push it to greatness or would they mess it up and lose market share? Would any of their acquisitions actually cause them to lose partnerships?

I think getting into bed with Facebook and booting out Google is a short cited move in some ways. As a user, I would love the ability to have both Facebook and Google features by default on my iPhone. I don’t want to be tied to one network if possible, and it would be nice if the social integrations were selectable by the user and not just some corporate lawyers.  In my opinion Apple can gain more consumer market share by allowing more than one network to integrate at the OS level.

Otherwise, Apple will continually go through a cycle of being the coolest kid with the best hardware, but it will also be known as the kid who dumps his real friends whenever something new comes by.

Lead Gen and Mobile

Lead generation on mobile is still somewhat a mythical form of advertising. Some are buying lots of cheap inventory and driving lots of leads. I consider this the brute force method. People don’t like filling out lengthy forms on their phones but they will if they have to.

The other issue is that form filling on a mobile phone just doesn’t make sense. Why ask someone to fill out a tiny form when they are ready to talk right now and have a phone in their hands? Mobile advertising should really be focused on click to call campaigns to generate inbound leads.

There will always be varying opinions of what is right and wrong within mobile marketing but our perceptions can be refined by knowing exactly what the does on their phone during the course of a day.

In a recent IAB report, which can be found here, it highlights what users actually do online during the course of the day. The report is fascinating and shows many of the hurdles that mobile advertisers have to overcome. It also shows why slow or lengthy forms are not the way to go into the future of lead gen.

Here are the highlights:

1) Mobile use is highly time sensitive

Mobile usage spikes during commuting times and decreases during work hours. This is the opposite of many display buys that lead generators have done in the past. We used to buy during work hours, this gives us another medium to explore after the person has left work.

2) Mobile is often seen as a tool for price comparison, especially in store.

People on mobile search are much further down the decision path and ready to commit especially with physical goods. Finding a better price can take the consumer out of the store to complete the purchase with an online retailer.

3) Mobile is often used during another activity like watching TV.

61% of mobile commerce happens in the living room/TV room. 49% of people are watching TV at the same time they are using their mobile phone. Speed is a huge issue with mobile offers. If you can’t complete your lead gen process within 30 seconds, you risk a TV commercial or some other media actually taking the user’s attention away. Focusing on getting the person deep into the conversion flow or on the phone can help break them away from the other media.

Another issue with mobile commerce is the issue of “push notifications” which can pop up frequently during a flow and interup the conversion process. Once again speed becomes the biggest advantage.

4) Boredom is a major reason why people are on their phones

People are waiting at stop lights, in line, for something to download, for a commercial, etc. When people are waiting or bored of the primary task they often use their mobile phone to fill the gap in productivity.  From an advertiser perspective it is necessary to understand that people fill boredom with impulse buys. Focusing on low cost, compelling offers, and easy purchase flows can create more success in the mobile marketing arena. Large purchases can be more enticing if there is a special limited time offer or if there is an obvious incentive to engage right now.

5) Mobile is local

The term “SoLoMo” has become a buzz word since it reflects how many people use their phone throughout the day. It is seen as a tool to help them explore their local community, find restaurants, find a tow truck, find movie times, etc. Small local tasks seem to be a major use model for mobile. The social aspect does not seem to be a major factor in motivating a user yet, but this is partially because the number of social local mobile services is fairly small at the moment. I expect that to change in the coming 6-12 months.

6) Re-targeting may be the key to mobile.

Now here is the golden nugget. If users go to an offer on their notebook or desktop, massive value can be derived if the user is “followed” to their mobile device. For instance the user visits a car insurance website on their computer, and doesn’t fill out anything. They get a retargetting pixel which follows them on to their phones through browser synchronization.  When the user is browsing or searching on their mobile phone they will see ads from that same car insurance company, perhaps with a personalized message of sorts.  This model may even work in the TV realm, imagine watching a Geico commercial, your phone is “aware” or “listening” and then starts showing you more Geico ads.

That will be the holy grail of mobile advertising.

Lots of interesting things to come out of mobile advertising in the near future. Understanding more of what people do on their phones will be key to creating successful marketing campaigns in this market.

 

 

 

Yahoo Axis and SEO

Yahoo! Axis is the new browser plugin by Yahoo! which allows people to once again “browse” the web in a visual interface.

My initial thoughts on the interface:

  • It is fast! It is also much more intuitive to use than Bing’s Social Search or So.Cl products.
  • It is a glorified toolbar in some respects. It is attached to the browser which is a great distribution strategy since it works with the major browsers. Any decent toolbar developer with a Yahoo feed could potentially replicate this quite quickly.
  • Ads are either not present or they are very well hidden. I can’t help but think this will not drive more revenue for Yahoo.
  • The flip side of the ads argument is that this tool allows you to stay on your favorite site and search at the same time. So essentially the display ads on the main site still maintain a lot of value since the impressions are much longer now.
  • This is a huge boost for sites like Facebook. Bing should have really done something like this instead of trying to get people to Bing.com. Given that people spend hours and hours on Facebook a day, allowing them to really get true search results while never leaving their “ecosystem” is huge.
  • The touch interface works well with a Mac and iPad but PCs without multi-touch support may not get all the benefits of the simpler UI.
  • Images are an interesting way to browse the web, but when it is not fashion or recipe related, the value of an image is greatly reduced. Just seeing a snapshot of a webpage doesn’t help me know if I should be going to that page.
  • There is not much in the way of social integration.
  • I couldn’t get any video results or image results to appear when searching for things like “lamborghini aventador video” or “lamborghini wallpaper” This seems to be ignoring a large portion of the web.
  • Location at the bottom of the screen is “thumb friendly” for tablet devices.

How does Yahoo Axis affect SEO?

From a technical standpoint, it doesn’t change anything in SEO since the search results are largely served by Bing.

However, from a consumer standpoint, the ranking is not hierarchical anymore. It is horizontal indicating a slightly more egalitarian structure. Subliminally if things are placed horizontally most humans will think they are of equal importance. This is very counter intuitive to Google’s vertical ranking which indicates the one at the top is the most relevant.

Another major point from a laymen consumer is that now your site is largely being chosen based on an image block. Most informational websites are designed around text and navigational elements. For example, if you run a company that provides mortuary services, would you put an amazing photo of a dead person or a fancy casket on your home page? Would this image establish the site as an authority and sway the browswer’s opinion in any way? In other words, would this image get me a click?

This is an extreme example but the reality is that many things can not be conveyed in images. Company logos are a great way of creating trust through branding but Yahoo’s interface focuses on a webpage rather than a logo. Most people don’t associate any brand notions with your webpage especially if they have never heard of you nor interacted with you.

Yahoo! is trying to push the web back to 1999 when we were largely “browsing” or “surfing” versus searching in the mid 2000’s. Visual search is being driven by sites like Pinterest but the content it caters to is inherently a subset of the entire internet. Without support of multi-media searches, the Axis tool seems somewhat of a mobiel accessible toolbar and that is not a huge value generator for the consumer. This tool is really focused on publishers keep their users in one place for the majority of the day.

I think Axis has the bones to become a great tool, but this version is not something I will use.