Uber Takes on Mayor de Blasio

Uber took out a high-profile ad today on the homepage of the New York Times to protest de Blasio's plan to limit Uber drivers in New York City. This is just the latest on a big push by Uber to generate support among their user base and get users to email the mayor's office in support of the service.

I believe, as does everyone else I know (an admittedly biased view) that Uber is the way of the future and the move by de Blasio and other government's is just delaying the inevitable. I do understand the need for safety and regulations but limiting a service like the mayor is suggesting is just foolish.

I for one feel much safer in an Uber than I do in a cab. In a cab you have a guy who barely speaks English, doesn't follow any traffic laws, constantly whispers into their Bluetooth the entire ride and usually tries to take you the long way to jack up the fair. In Uber you get a clean car, a quite driver who provides you with water and gum, has a clear GPS of where you are going and if they do take the long way Uber will usually refund you part of your fair. 

I'm rooting for Uber here and while it looks like they'll still have to fight, in the long run they will win. To support their efforts in NYC you can fill out a short form here: http://petition.uber.org/nyc/

Chrome Makes Major Updates to Flash, Affects Most Advertisers

Last week Google Chrome announced that they will be making major changes to their next version of Chrome, slated to come out sometime in September. The changes are aimed at Flash which specifically affects advertisers who build ads in Flash, aka Almost All.  

Adobe Flash is the main coding type of standard banners that internet users see every day. However Flash requires a lot of computer power and Chrome is looking for ways to reduce the stress on your machine and therefore make browsing the web easier and faster. These new changes will automatically pause any animated banner ad to save processing power. To start the animation a user would be required to click on the ad (but who would want to do that?)

This might not seem like a big deal to the average internet user because most people ignore ads as it is. It's one of those things that we're exposed to everyday and often times tune out. The average Click Through Rate (CTR) for a banner ad is 0.09%. This means that less than 1 in 1,000 people click on an ad. If these ads no longer animate, which is a main way to get a user's attention, that CTR will decrease. At face value the difference between 0.09% and say 0.04% might not seem like a lot, but if you're an advertiser spending millions of dollars on banner ads and all of a sudden their performance drops by over 50% it is a HUGE deal.

The solution to this is to build in HTML5. HTML5 is a lighter code which requires less computing power. Therefore Chrome will not pause any animation in an HTML5 unit. And anything you can do in Flash you can do with HTML5. Plus HTML5 has the added benefit of working on mobile where Flash does not. 

At this point most advertisers have already started building in HTML5 or have at least considered it, meaning that this change to Chrome might just force advertisers to make a move they already planned on doing a little sooner. 

Chrome commands about 47% of all browser traffic worldwide, according to StatCounter That number is closer to 40% in North America. It is by far the biggest browser meaning that if they make a change, people take notice. 

While it seems that a change like this was inevitable, the timing isn't great. As a side note, most advertisers do agree that it's the right move in the longer term. HTML5 is lighter and runs on desktop and mobile meaning that only one ad unit is need where before you would need two. However the announcement was made in mid-June with a launch date of sometime in September giving advertisers only four months to make the necessary changes. 

Most advertisers plan on a yearly basis and aren't prepared to redo all their ads in just a matter of months. Advertisers who might be hit hardest would be retailers and anyone gearing up for the holiday season. Many retail advertisers spend significant parts of their budget in November-December around the holidays. If those ads were in the process of being produced now, which in all likely-hood they are, they would need to be paused and totally redone. 

For its part Google does have an option in DoubleClick that can take a Flash ad unit and create an HTML5 version of it. However it doesn't always work and doesn't tell you how to fix it. If it can't convert an ad unit it says it failed, but not how to fix it. Also, this HTML5 version is setup as a back-up in the event that the Flash version doesn't fire. However it appears that with these changes the Flash version will still fire, just not correctly, meaning that there could be a perfectly good HTML5 unit sitting in the background that would never be seen. 

Advertisers are still figuring out how to approach these changes and everyone has a lot of questions. The big takeaway is to start building in HTML5 and while we do that we'll get more details. 

The 2015 Newfronts are done. Who won? Hint: He had a show in the 90s

The 2015 Digital Newfronts have wrapped up and as was expected the focus of many was on original content with Hulu, Crackle, Defy, AOL, Yahoo! and more showcasing their new programs as well as how much their original programs have grown over the past year.

One big change from 2014 though was the focus on original movies. In the past couple years most of the original content for digital properties has focused on TV shows ranging from 30-60 minutes. Now Hulu, YouTube and other companies are making their own movies and with big names. James Franco is staring in Hulu’s movie 11/22/63, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel while Crackle is producing a sequel to Joe Dirt staring David Spade. 

Many companies focused on the growth in consumption. People are consuming more and more content with video being the main time waster, I mean type of content being consumed :). Defy Media focused on the growth of their video platform which now exceeds 500 million video views a month. They also discussed how their growing partnership with influencers such as Smosh. YouTube also announced a Smosh movie coming in 2015, showing just how popular that group has become.

However at the end of the day the surprise winner of the Newfronts may have been Jerry Seinfeld. Hulu purchased the rights to all of the original Seinfeld episodes for around $130 million and Crackle renewed Seinfeld’s original Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee for another season and continues to feature it as one of their tent-poll programs. Looks like an old dog can learn new tricks!

As usual advertisers are left with the idea that digital is growing and kicking TV's ass and if we aren't doing something custom, mobile first and cutting edge then we're just behind the times. While that's necessarily untrue, I'm not sure this year's Newfronts told us anything we didn't already know or convinced me that someone has a product that truly beats the competition. 

Periscope is good, might need a little work

Twitter is making a big push to get users to adopt their new app Periscope and stop using Meerkat. I had never really used Meerkat but when Periscope came out I gave it a try. I think overall it works well and could signal a change in the way people share content but there are some issues.

The first is finding a way to categorize content. I opened the app for the first time on March 26. It just so happened that on that day a building exploded in the East Village (2 blocks from my apartment). Some people were broadcasting videos from the location or showing the smoke. I thought this was a great way to use the app because it's broadcasting news in real time and people are able to comment on it. Where was it, what happened, what did people know as of this vary moment? Much better reporting than going to CNN.

That being said there was one glaring issue. For popular posts Periscope shows hearts along with the comments (see below). I did feel that hearts next to people commenting on a deadly building explosion wasn't really appropriate. 

I'm not sure if this was thought through and I wouldn't blame them for not thinking about this type of situation, but there needs to be some kind of filter for the app. If someone is sharing something that is NSFW or even just sensitive, people should be warned ahead of time and I don't think the hearts always make sense.

As is the case with every new social sharing app there are still things to iron out. Assuming they figure it out, I think it's a great app and great idea. I could see people sharing live streams not just on twitter but on Facebook where video is quickly becoming the most shared content. But before my newsfeeds fill up with live streams I want to know that what I'm going to see if safe content.

Now I guess I'll just sit back and wait for people to live stream their meals before eating and their cats wearing funny hats. Its just a matter of time.

WellDeserved Pokes Fun at Start-Ups and Tech Perks, Isn't all That Crazy

This video is about a fake start-up, WellDeserved, that pokes fun at both start-ups and their culture by creating a company that lets people sell the perks they get for working at a tech company. For funding they say "We expect VCs to give us money because this is San Francisco and we have an idea." I must say I've heard worst reasons for company's to be funded (remember Yo?).

As someone who gets gifts from tech companies almost weekly, I have to admit that my first thought was that this was a real service. Anyone who works in media planning has at one point gotten a gift or perk that they don't want or need. Anything from a lunch at the newest trendy restaurant to a tot bag, sun glasses, watches, wine, etc.

I myself have re-gifted a lot of things for friend's birthdays or the holidays. I've even put things on ebay (like when I randomly got 3 Jawbones one holiday season). I'm not proud of that and would never tell the sales rep that sent me the gift that I just sold it and used it to pay for a bar tab or towards a flight somewhere, but I don't think twice about doing it.

This video is funny and I thought it was worth sharing, but if you work in the tech/digital media/start-up space I'm sure this will make you laugh, followed immediately by a slightly uncomfortable sigh as you realize how close to home this hits. 



I'm not going to back a Smart Watch Kickstarter, here's why

Let me start this off by stating two things: 1. I fully support the idea of Kickstarter and crowdfunding and I have done an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign myself. 2. I love watches and new tech. I think a staple item for any man's wardrobe is a quality watch.

Now that we have that out of the way I want to say that I think the amount of money that Pebble is raising is flat out insane! It's not their fault, they put out a goal and people blow past it. Today they started with a goal of $500,000 over 31 days and as of 4:00 PM they have more than $5.6 million raised. This is on top of a $10 million Kickstarter they ran in 2012 which had started with a $100,000 goal.

Good for them, they are raising a ton of money and basically collecting pre-orders for their next version. Kickstarter has stated that they don't want to just be a platform for people to sell their products, but they don't enforce that very well and with a project raising so much money, why would they? (Kickstarter takes 5% of all successful campaigns).

My question is, why are so many people willing to fork over money for a piece of technology from a small start-up when that same tech is being developed by multiple large corporations with billions to throw at it? Apple, Samsung, LG and other major brands are all developing their own smartwatches, many of which are available now or scheduled to ship this year. In my opinion some of the major brands have much more attractive offerings, such as the LG G60, a round smartwatch (see picture below). 

There are obviously some limitations to some of the major companies, such as only working on Apple or Android, but those issues aside it still raises an important question: Do you want to shell out nearly $200 on a piece of technology that will be outdated nearly as soon as you get it (the new Pebble is estimated to ship May 2015) or would  you rather wait until you have more options, many of which will be more advanced than what you can currently pre-order?

I would chose to wait. With the speed that technology improves these days it seems crazy to fork over hundreds of dollars every time a new trend comes along. I'm not surprised that Pebble is meeting or even exceeding their goals, just given how popular smart-anythings are today, but I am surprised at just how many people consistently are ready to throw money at what really boils down to a novelty item.

Now, all that being said, I will likely buy a smartwatch one day, I'd just rather wait until the technology advances a little and I have more options. I've seen the first Pebble and honestly I wasn't impressed. The only real reason to have one is to say that you have it. It is bulky, black and white, and doesn't do anything that I wouldn't rather do on my phone. That might change with the new one which is in color and looks a little more stylish, not much more but a little. However, right now, I just don't see it.

Expedia buys Orbitz, still only has 6% Market Share Worldwide

The announcement that Expedia bought Orbitz has been making the rounds today. Expedia is clearly on an acquisition streak and according to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi they have no plans to slow down. Expedia bought Australian travel site Wotif at the end of 2014 for a cool $650 million, then picked up Travelocity in early 2015 for just shy of $300 million. The Orbitz deal is by far the biggest at $1.6 Billion.

Acquisitions and consolidations are no surprise, but I think the biggest news here is that even after all that Expedia still only commands around 6% of the global travel industry. In the U.S. we often have a very ethnocentric point of view, forgetting that the U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world's population.

For anyone in the travel business (I'll throw myself in that group) that has got to be a driving force and exciting number. According to Skift the global travel market is a $1.3 trillion industry. That obviously leaves room for many players. 

A quick search on Angel List lists 1,227 travel related start-ups. That can vary from Uber type companies to Hipmunk, bustripping, and hundreds of others. Expedia and Priceline lead the way in the U.S. but the real growth opportunities are international. 

According to Venturebeat 40% of Americans booked travel on a mobile device in 2014. This is up 20% from the same period last year. The growth in travel and the biggest opportunities are in mobile. Pair that with a developing country that hasn't historically been big in mobile, say almost every country in Africa for example, and it's quick to realize there are still HUGE pockets of opportunity.

Africa historically hasn't had huge internet penetration due to the cost and infrastructure limitations of running phone and cable lines into homes. Those limitations don't exist with mobile though. One tower can cover miles and miles of a country side and a cell phone is much less expensive than a desktop or laptop computer. Mobile use in Africa is expected to grow 20x in the next five years according to The Guardian. And that's just one example. South America and Asia are huge markets with billions of people that are quickly catching up to the U.S and Europe when it comes to travel and eCommerce. 

So as big a deal as this is in the U.S., it is still the tip of the iceberg when it comes to international travel companies and opportunities for incumbents and start-ups alike to jump on board and get a piece of this trillion dollar pie. That excites me way more than another billion dollar buy-out.



The Media Math App is now FREE in iTunes

After being available for purchase for a few months I've decided to make the Media Math App free for everyone. At this point I'm more interested in seeing how many people use it and what they think about it. Maybe one day I'll make some crazy updates and charge for a "premium" version, but not today!

So check it out, leave me feedback, review it, share it with friends, etc. etc. 

Generation Z is here, but how important is it?

(Ad Age) Ad Age has published a great article outlining the newest generation of consumers, Generation Z. As is to be expected this new generation has different values, different beliefs, different buying trends and different motivating factors from the previous generation. 

Marketers love this kind of information because it helps them understand how to shape their messages in away that will resonate with consumers, as well as understand where to place that message so that it will actually be seen. If you are buying broadcast, print or out of home ads, this kind of information is vital. However, if you're buying digital, is it really that important?

My opinion is no. 

I won't go as far as to say that these types of labels no longer have a place, because as I just mentioned, for certain advertising options they are important. However in the digital world I do not believe that advertisers should worry about what "generation" they are trying to reach; but instead focus on reaching their consumer. 

We know for example that Generation Z is the first generation born into the digital world. This is compared to Millennials who were not born into it, but grew up with it. While it's fair to say that Gen Z would be an attractive market for a mobile gaming app, we know that some people in the Millennial market would be interested in that game as well. And there might even be some older generations who like gaming. If we target by generation or use broad generalizations, we end up with a lot of wasted impressions going to people who have no interest in our game, as well as missed opportunities by not including interested consumers in a different "generation." 

Now advertisers can start to target just those who download and play mobile games, regardless of race, age, income, etc. They can use CRM data or even a DMP to collect data on their consumers and further refine their targeting based on information from their actual consumers.

We can put blocks in place so that we don't run ads to a consumer who might not fit our target, or is in an inappropriate place to be targeted. This covers the basics such as porn or illegal websites, but can also be as simple as not serving an ad for ski trip to someone who has been searching for beach trips. You might know that Millennials like to travel and have money to spend, but the mind set of someone who wants to go a beach in winter is very different from someone who wants to go skiing in winter. Understanding that difference and being able to act on it gives advertisers huge advantages.

As programmatic buying expands outside of the digital world into TV and radio buying, these "generations" will be less and less important. If you can buy a TV spot with the same type of targeting you use in digital, then everything we have known about TV buying and planning will change. Everything from the target audience to ratings and impressions. (I'll expand on why I think GRPs are no longer important in another post). 

Categorizing and naming a generation will never go away though, even if advertisers stop using them. It's important to track consumer behavior and changes over time at a macro level and it's interesting historic information. However in our digital, 24/7, data-centric, programmatic world, I believe the idea of targeting a generation will go the way of the of CD.



Snapchat charges BIG money for small ads

A $750k price tag for disappearing ads is rising more than a few eyebrows

(Ad Age) Recently Snapchat has started releasing ads on the disappearing video and photo app. The minimum spend for these ads is reported to be $750,000, a very step asking price that is leaving many in the advertising world wondering if it the social app is worth it.

It’s no question that Snapchat is growing with over 100 million reported users, and it’s very popular among younger audiences, a target that advertisers are constantly struggling to reach. The ads that run in Snapchat also require users to initiate them, which means you’re only getting an engaged audience as opposed to a passive view that most video and banner ads get. However, in an increasingly crowded environment, Snapchat still lacks many key features that their competitors can deliver.

The biggest issue appears to be reporting, or lack thereof. Snapchat fails to deliver basic information such as gender or age ranges, two main staples of any advertising target. In a digital world where big data is the name of the game it’s surprising to think that Snapchat can get away with charging huge minimums and not even deliver on basic reporting metrics.

There is something to be said for being one of the first to market though. When the Ouija Board movie came out, they released an ad on Snapchat which got a lot of attention. A Google search of “snapchat ouija board,” results in over 35,000 results and generated millions of social media impressions. However this won’t be the case for every advertiser.

Additionally, one of the biggest talking points for advertisers and agencies today is viewability. Many digital advertisers are looking to not only measure if their ads were actually viewed, but bill only on impressions that were in-view. Many large platforms and ad networks still lack the ability to do this, which is putting a strain on pricing and where brands chose to place their ads. If Snapchat can’t meet these kinds of requirements, it seems like it would be hard for many agencies or Snapchat themselves to justify why they still have a place in a brand’s advertising campaign.  

All-in-all there is no doubt that Snapchat is an attractive platform with huge potential. However, the large price tag and lack of data means they are limited to only a handful of large advertisings that spend enough money that they can take a $750,000 risk. That seems to be just fine for Snapchat right now, but to court the rest of the advertising world to spend enough money to justify Snapchat’s $10 billion valuation, they are going to need to make some major changes to their platform and the advertising experience. 

Twitter as a broadcaster

Twitter is positioning themselves as a broadcaster

Twitter is looking for ways to extend their reach beyond the twitter platform

(WSJ) Following slower than expected growth and a dip in their stock price, twitter is looking for ways to extend their reach and more specifically, find ways to target and reach individuals who are not logged into twitter. Twitter feels that if they can successfully accomplish that, they could have a much larger reach than just their 250 million users.

YouTube has successfully extended their reach outside of just the YouTube platform by allowing users to embed YouTube videos into any other website. That feature essentially made them the default host for online videos.

Twitter believes they have an opportunity to follow a similar plan with embedded tweets. It is possible to embed twitter feeds into websites through twitter or third party widgets. However there are few main issues to take into consideration before jumping to the conclusion that this technology can turn twitter into a broadcast player the likes of YouTube, facebook, or TV.

1.       Content Hosting Options: With YouTube they provide a service that before their launch was not readily available. That was the ability to host video online. Video is a heavy digital file that has complex requirements, and was not something all web developers had access to prior to YouTube. Before YouTube if you wanted to host a video on your website you would need a video player, many of which cost money or weren’t reliable. YouTube filled that void and provided something few others did. Twitter however, does not solve such a problem. Most twitter content or content twitter links to, is text, which anyone can host on their own with no special tools. They don’t need twitter to share text and news like they need YouTube to host and share video.

2.       Tracking KPIs/Engagement: When advertisers buy ads on twitter currently, they are buying and tracking engagements. Twitter can track that information on their platforms but they are having issues tracking it outside of the platform and in embedded feeds. Currently they don’t seem to have a solution that advertisers or investors are comfortable with, meaning they currently don’t have a good way to sell ads in this environment.

3.       Limitations to inserting messaging: To make use of these widgets and twitter feeds outside of the twitter platform, twitter would need the ability to insert messaging (aka tweets) into custom feeds. They might be able to do that with widgets twitter owns, but third party widgets may be able to restrict what twitter could insert into their feeds. If twitter is limited by third party software platforms then they could essentially be cut off from a large portion of the audience they claim to be trying to reach


What does this mean for advertisers?


Overall the idea that twitter has reach beyond just those who login is valid, but monetizing and reaching that audience isn’t that easy. They face issues both from a technology standpoint and from a value add standpoint. Twitter needs to first convince a large portion of websites or other news outlets to use twitter feeds on a regular basis and prove that it adds value to what they currently have. Once they’ve done that, they need to tackle the technological barriers which could be hindered by third party developers.

At this point I do not consider twitter a broadcaster and would not recommend planning that way. Twitter does have value as a compliment to other broadcast mediums such as TV and that is where advertisers should be focusing their efforts. I will continue to monitor this idea though, and if circumstances change I will update my POV accordingly.