Tag Archives: Media Buying and Planning

The Canal Street Of Media

If you get off the New York City subway on Canal Street, it isn’t long before you’re approached by someone selling fake goods.  Preeminent among them are the watch salespeople, but it’s not hard to find fake bags, jewelry, luggage, or just about anything else that has a supposed high value at a very low cost (which can be negotiated lower if you press the seller).  I racked my brain to come up with some other example of consumers knowingly buying fraudulent goods but I am unable to do so.  Oh – except for one: programmatic advertising space in media.

In December 2014, AdWeek reported that, according to an Association of National Advertisers and WhiteOps study, digital advertising was projected to take in $43.8 billion in 2015, and $6.3 billion would be based on fraudulent activity. The average bot level for display ad campaigns throughout the study was 11%, but for programmatic ad buys that number rose to 17% (55% more). Bots account for 11% of display ad views and 23% of video ads and up to 50% of publisher traffic is bot activity, just fake clicks from automated computing programs.  They estimate that between 3% and 31% of programmatically bought ad impressions were found to be from bots, with an average of 17 percent.

Despite the fact that everyone buying digital ad campaigns knows that they might be buying fake goods, a study from the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester finds that 79% of marketers have made programmatic ad buys within the past year. (The growth is staggering: In 2014, the number was 35%.).

“While programmatic buying indeed offers benefits, it suffers from complexity and a lack of transparency,” said Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA. “And that is wasteful. The industry — and marketers in particular — would greatly benefit from a rethink of the entire digital supply chain.”  Ya think?  What’s interesting isn’t that many advertisers are moving programmatic buying in-house where, in theory, they can have more control and better oversight or are taking other steps to deal with fraud: it’s that a significant number aren’t doing so.

Like the shoppers on Canal Street, any marketer who is buying programmatically without asking a LOT of questions and taking actions to increase transparency is knowingly buying fake goods.  Are you?


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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Another Nail

Those of us who were fortunate to work in TV used to have a pretty good business, way back when.  You’d find a peach basket, open the window, and watch the basket fill up with money.  OK, it was a little harder than that, but TV has always been a business that grows exponentially in good times and shrinks only a little in bad times.  Growth was as reliable as the US Dollar.  So when I read the piece I’m about to show you, a quote from “The In-Laws” (one of my all-time favorite movies) jumps to mind: 

What do you think will happen when they run off this dough… and there’s trillions of extra dollars, francs, and marks floating around? You’ve got a collapse of confidence in the currency. People are gonna panic. There’s gonna be gold riots, atonal music… political chaos, mass suicide. Right? It’s Germany before Hitler. You can see that. Jesus, I don’t know what people are gonna do… when a six-pack of Budweisers costs $1,200. That’ll be awful.

In other words, when the basic currency of a business has changed substantially, chaos ensues.  It’s my belief that we’ve reached that point in media, as this report states:

For the first time outside of a recession, linear TV ad spend has stopped growing, according to global ad revenue updates by MAGNA Global and ZenithOptimedia, both released Monday. While national TV ad sales grew .3% to $42 billion in 2015, MAGNA predicted it will decrease by .3% in 2016. ZenithOptimedia’s Advertising Expenditures Forecast also found TV’s share of global ad spend will decrease from 38% in 2015 to 34.8% in 2018.

The basic currency – the TV CPM which is tied to the TV rating point – has lost its stability.  There are trillions (OK, billions, anyway) of extra GRPs available.  Pricing pressure has always been downward, but now there are options available that seem to be making that stick. I think we’re in a brief period where live events will hold pricing stable, but when only about a quarter of viewers are watching TV “live”, how long can that last?

This was the most ominous sentence in the piece: A shift in viewer attention and changing advertiser investments may therefore contribute to a decrease in both supply and demand for linear TV impressions.  The shift has happened.  The pretty good business is rethinking itself.  There will be political money and Olympics revenue in 2016 to serve as a band-aid as it does so.  But by 2017, the times could be, in the words of the Chinese curse, interesting.


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The Rise Of The Machines

One of the things I do to amuse myself when the weekend weather isn’t cooperative is to play video games.  I’m almost done playing the Mass Effect trilogy, which I highly recommend.  The games’ story revolves around a galactic war between biotics (humans and other species) and synthetics – machines, basically.

I flashed back to the game as a dozen articles about programmatic media buying came through my news feeds.  I don’t think it’s a shock to any of you to read that media buying has been transitioning from the personal, relationship-based business in which I grew up to programmatic.  People don’t talk to one another in today’s media buying and selling business: machines do. The days (and nights) of long lunches, emailed proposals, phone calls on Friday afternoons to sell out the weekend, and the entire one-to-one negotiating process have become mostly a memory.

I get it.  Programmatic is far less labor-intensive and a lot more efficient than the way I learned to sell media.  Efficiency, however, isn’t the total story and as the machines take over quite a few other things get lost.  The biggest one in my mind is transparency.  In many cases, the current media buying platforms primarily provide breakdowns of networks, and total schedule dayparts, and only after the campaign is complete do you see what has transpired and individual spot affidavits are shared.  Clients (the people who pay the bills, after all) are spending big chunks of their budgets on a plethora of middlemen, each of whom extracts their little pound of flesh for touching the buy.  It’s common for a third or more of the buy’s budget going to pay for services rather than media.

The biggest issue I have, frankly, is the loss of context.  Buying has shifted to buying audience delivery from buying based on content.  The machines buy and sell cookies, basically.  Those cookies might enable the buyers and sellers to learn quite a bit of information who is on the other end but they don’t add context.  Does that matter?  Indeed it does.

“While it certainly offers the opportunity to reach audiences more efficiently, our research shows that advertisers can’t ignore the strength of the publisher’s brand as a fundamental part of the ad experience and overall effectiveness of the campaign.”  That’s a quote from chief marketing officer and chief client officer at Millward Brown Digital as he reported on a study they had done.

According to Millward, as the “Brand Score” went up, so did the fit of advertisements, the consumers’ enjoyment of the ads, the trust consumers placed in the ads and the usefulness of the ads. Millward based its ratings on behavioral and attitudinal data collected about the consumers that visited the 44 sites during February 2014.

It’s not just about getting the right message to the right people at the right time.  It also involves the right place (read site/program).  I think that takes a human touch.  While beer ads make sense to a young male, those ads on a page containing “beer” and “drinking” keywords might also be a report of a car wreck due to drunk driving.

The human touch in media buying alerted us to when an episode might have subject matter that’s wrong for our ad. Buying audiences without regard for the show they’re watching or site they’re reading is allowing the machines to win at the expense of our marketing.  As the guys who spent the weekend battling them, I say no.  You?


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Is DWV Dangerous To Your Business?

It’s an epidemic!  I’m talking about DWV – Distracted While Viewing.  While not as physically perilous as texting while driving, if you are in the business of using television to get marketing messages to you audience, or if you’re a content creator who puts content on a TV screen (and remember that almost ANYTHING can be streamed to a TV), you need to understand what’s going on out there in media land.

English: American family watching TV (cropped)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might have heard some folks in the ad business complaining about web sites whose ads aren’t viewable above the fold.  Let’s put that (specious) argument in the context of a research study released last week from the Multimedia Research Group.  Try this summary on for size:

In general, multitasking while watching TV is a growing trend and that an increasing number of US adults are becoming TV multitaskers. The data show that most TV multitaskers are younger adults between the ages of 18-35.  The 35-44 age group is rapidly adopting mobile device multitasking, but still lags the younger adults in performing TV-related multitasking activities.

In fact, only 40% of folk report they DON’T do anything else with a second screen while watching.  An equal number frequently multitask, but not related to the TV program they are watching.  The final group is TV multitaskers; those who frequently multitask related to the TV program they are watching.  The numbers among younger people in particular (18-24) are representative of how things have changed.  80% are multitasking, split roughly evenly among those doing something related to what they are watching and activities that are not related.  The numbers aren’t much different in the 25-34 group although they seem to do more unrelated to what they’re watching.

So the most attractive demo – 18-34  – has learned to use their tablets and smartphones to view TV differently.  They’re distracted from the main screen although some may be quite engaged with the content on their second screen.  The real question is how are you going to rethink what you’re doing to capture this behavior as part of your engagement with this audience.  Anyone have a good answer?

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Ratings Are Back-Assward

I saw something this morning with which I agree totally. It’s a statement, reported in MediaPost, by Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond about how media is measured and how consumers’ multi-screen consumption makes the traditional methods far less useful. As she said: “We need to invest in new measurement techniques for brands.”  That’s right, except that for the most part what we hear about has nothing to do with brands.  In fact, what we do now, and what I expect the industry will do in the future is completely backward.  Let me explain.

When you read about the most-viewed content of the week, have you ever seen a mention of a commercial?  Nope.  It’s all about programs – The Voice or Idol or Duck Dynasty.  The measurements, as Ms. Desmond said, tend to be channel-specific and, therefore, might not reflect all of the consumption that’s occurring.  The point that’s missed from a marketing perspective is that brands use these ratings to estimate how many times their ad was seen and what value they derived from their investment.  My question is this:

Why are we measuring for one thing and reporting for another?

If what we’re after is how many people are seeing a message, why do we care about the vehicle in which that message is delivered?  The industry makes the programming entities measure themselves (fair, since that’s who’s getting paid to deliver the message) but then assumes everyone watching sees the message (OK, I know some folks adjust the numbers slightly but humor my rant here, please).  Why aren’t we working on a system where a brand message carries some sort of tag across all channels that would allow all the impressions to aggregate?  Further, those tags could be used much like cookies to track conversions.  Since it’s the brands that pay for the impressions, should it be their own results that are tracked?

If the industry follows Ms. Desmond’s thinking and does invest in new techniques to measure cross-channel results, they’ll have a hard time if what they’re measuring are programs.  Many programs aren’t in all the places brands want to go.  Some are sold by different sales entities across channels.  It’s backward to measure an inconsistent series of channels instead of the consistent brand who is paying the bills.

What do you think?

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Are You A Premium Brand?

I read something that the folks at OpenX released the other day in conjunction with Digiday.  It’s the results of a study on Programmatic Buying and how it affects premium publishers. Since 71% of publishers and buyers trade ads programmatically it’s a big deal. You can read the paper here.

Luxury Penthouse rental in downtown Telluride ...

(Photo credit: HeartOfTelluride.com)

Having been a publisher of premium content I can tell you that I hated selling anything programmatically.  I wanted my sales folks involved directly with the buyer.  Not just so that we could get the premium CPM we felt we deserved but because we needed to earn that higher rate by doing a better job of meeting the needs of the client and delivering perfect service.  The study sums it up nicely:

Publishers, fearing the commoditization of the inventory surrounding their expensively produced content and painstakingly nurtured audiences, have every right to guard their investment. They want to make sure that any system that removes “friction” doesn’t also remove the distinction of their brand and the quality of their adjacencies, as measured by audience engagement. And, understandably, they want to preserve the professional relationships that forge the bedrock of their sustainable revenue growth.

Exactly.  But as the Digiday article states, premium is all in the eye of the beholder.  Which raised the issue I’ve been considering:  how do you define a premium brand?  Is it scarcity?  To a certain extent it is although there are plenty of Lexus cars around and that’s a premium brand.  Cost?  Maybe relative to other products in its class but coffee can be premium and it’s still relatively inexpensive.  One factor involved is positioning.  If you usually fly first class, being in business class seems cramped.  To a coach passenger, however, business class is premium.  Another is authenticity of some sort.  I was a publisher of hockey content – there are lots of people who do that.  I was the only official league outlet, however – that meant scarcity, authenticity, and in our minds a greater worth.

I could go on here for another 1,000 words but the notion of “premium” is one that’s going to become even more front and center as content becomes more commoditized.  I mean that not only in media buyers‘ minds but also in consumers’ minds.  It’s hard to ask consumers to pay a premium, either in money or in attention,  for an app or content or anything else if we can’t establish that premium status in their minds.

What do you think?

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What Do You Wrap Something Fishy In? Newspaper!

You might have heard something about the study that was released yesterday by the folks at the Newspaper National Network.  It proclaimed in large type that “Sports Fans Rank Local Newspaper Sports Pages #1” and that “The Study Validates the Unique Benefits of Newspaper Sports Content to Advertisers.” You can read the study here.

Logo of the Newspaper National Network.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now being the open-minded sort of guy that I am, I read through the study with great interest but also with a very large wad of skepticism. You see, it strikes me that everything we read about newspapers has to do with the decline of daily readership. Given the “right now” nature of sports information in particular, I was surprised that the study found that newspapers are still the top source for sports news for sports fans. Let’s see what you think.

Sports news and information is one of the most hotly-contested content areas.  Having lived in it for decades, I know that the competition is fierce.  Other than the big guys – USAToday and Sports Illustrated, I can’t think of a single daily or even weekly print source that can compete for the sports audience.  Still, according to the study:

Wow!  Now I read a couple of newspapers every day but I must admit that I don’t do so for the sports scores.  I’m also out of the demo that was surveyed – Men 18-54.  I was also quite surprised by the second point.  The study shows that 76% of the respondents identified newspaper websites when asked to identify all the places you typically go to for sports news, information, and/or analysis, not including live games or competitions.  Only 65% mentioned ESPN.com and 46% identified either Yahoo Sports or a league website. Given everything I know about traffic numbers in sports, that 76% seems weird, even aggregating all of the newspaper sites (except USAToday) into a number.

That’s when I took the advice I’ve given you here on the screed a number of times:  when the results seem weird, check who was asked the question and how the question was asked.  In this case, half the men surveyed identified themselves as regular sports pages readers (2x or more/week).  Given that the ongoing Pew Study found late last year that only 29% now say they read a newspaper yesterday – with just 23% reading a print newspaper that seems like a skewed sample to me.  In fact, it’s hard to accept that 69% of male sports fans identify the print sports section as the “go to” source when over half of those who read the newspaper do so electronically according to Pew.

The best research is enlightening and can’t be picked apart very easily.  Unfortunately, this does neither.  Do you agree?

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