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iMedia Connection: Media Strategies

iMedia Connection


Myths about the future of crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing video is a concept that's been talked about for some time, but only recently has it developed serious traction in terms of major brands using it for media content creation and marketing. There are several emerging truths, and even a few myths surrounding the role of crowdsourcing, so I thought it'd be useful to share some perspectives from the front lines of what   several brands are doing. Myth #1: Crowdsourcing is going to displace or replace the role of agenciesFalse. Many of the largest brands, from Procter & Gamble to Anheuser-Busch InBev, have been experimenting with crowdsourced video creation over the past 12-18 months, primarily in commercial form. These brands have uncovered an interesting fact -- you can obtain some pretty useful and even groundbreaking videos through crowdsourced networks of videographers. Stay informed. For more insights into the latest digital marketing opportunities and challenges, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today. However, none of these brands is moving forward with replacing its lead national agency with these growing crowdsourced video providers. That's just not going to happen. But what is happening is that these brands are seeing crowdsourced video creation as an alternative or complementary approach for the many new and previously unfunded video opportunities for brands. Opportunities include videos for website use, mobile, and social marketing sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. For example, FedEx worked directly with their agency, Robinson & Maites, to target small to medium business customers with a unique approach that was only possible through crowdsourcing. Recognizing the power of sight sound and motion from video advertising, Robinson and Maites delivered a total of nine creative commercials developed through crowdsourcing to FedEx, which then emailed the commercials on a monthly schedule to owners of small businesses. Each email included one of the video commercials. The embedded link also took consumers to their YouTube page where they could view any of the other fun spots that had been created. It would have been incredibly expensive, as well as just plain difficult for the national ad agency to come up with nine impactful videos in 45 days, but it was simple through crowdsourcing, where more than 150 videos were produced for the client to choose from for this campaign. Alan Maites, President/CEO of Robinson & Maites stated, "The use of crowdsourcing to create video content was an entirely new experience for us, and for FedEx. We found the quality and quantity of videos we received to be surprisingly good, especially within a 45-day window. Utilizing these videos in FedEx's email marketing campaigns was very efficient and provided an additional reason for the target audience to open, read, and watch the message we're delivering." Myth #2: Crowdsourcing saves moneyTrue. Marketers have recognized the benefits of having video everywhere, thanks in part to the improved indexing by search sites of video content versus traditional language content. The realities of the corporate world these past two years are that budgets are tight, and engaging the lead national agencies to produce secondary video needs is financially irresponsible. With the average cost of a :30 second TV commercial at $350,000, producing a custom piece of video to reach 10,000 Facebook fans makes no sense at all for a brand marketer. However, getting that relevant, custom, and appropriate video for one-tenth of the cost can be considered a more reasonable budget expense, and a better use of resources. Myth: #3 Crowdsourcing is fringe and really hasn't taken hold with established brandsFalse. Let's take a look at how some brands are now using crowdsourced videos to round out their marketing plans. Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. used crowdsourcing to track the progress of five adults following the Atkins Diet over the course of 12 weeks. The campaign, "12 Weeks to the Healthier You," represented an entirely new approach to crow[...]

5 signs your marketing is outdated

Trends in digital marketing move pretty quickly, so it's understandable that most brands do not keep pace with the Apples of the world. In most cases, the bleeding edge is reserved for a select group of brands that build their reputations by taking risks and being ahead of the curve.

On the other side of the spectrum are brands that never really quite catch up. As of right now, these companies are still wondering what social media has to do with them, and they have not felt the value of a robust digital marketing plan.

Stay informed. For more insights into the latest digital marketing opportunities and challenges, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today.

The brands in the middle of this spectrum -- the ones that reside smack in the center of mainstream -- are the ones with the bigger issue. These companies get comfortable. They build a smart website, implement search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, and launch isolated campaigns -- and then they slip into a rut. Their good intentions create solid campaigns, but they fall short of their full potential because they get stale and outdated. Unlike companies on the bleeding edge, these companies do not need to worry about creating trends, so they easily lose sight of proactive improvements that can keep their marketing fresh.

To help these companies in need, I have outlined a few signals that indicate your marketing is outdated.

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Why digital must discover the human element

If you are having trouble using our video player, try watching on YouTube.

In this video:

Stay informed. For more insights into the latest trends in emerging marketing technologies, attend the iMedia Breakthrough Summit, March 20-23. Request your invitation today.

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6 ways to put DSPs to the test
Editor's note: This cover story by Ari Buchalter was commissioned and edited prior to the company's decision to sponsor iMedia's ad serving section. If you're a marketer or an agency that controls display dollars, you've likely been choking on the vapor that has filled the demand-side-platform (DSP) space over the last few years. It's not just the sheer number of entrants claiming to be DSPs (be they pure plays, re-positioned networks, or growth-minded media companies), but the cacophony of claims being made that they are the "first," "best," or "only" DSP that does this or that. Stay informed. For more insights into the latest digital marketing opportunities and challenges, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today. In truth, most of these contenders sound great in the first meeting. Their slides use all the right buzzwords, like "audience," "optimization," "real-time," and "insights." But in many cases, they are writing PowerPoint checks that their technology can't cash (that is, if they really have any technology at all). So what happens if you can't separate the reality from the hype? (And who could?) For those who use DSPs the way they use networks, i.e., as outsourced media execution, they simply either conclude that the DSP performed (ideally better than any other "line item" on the media plan) and continue to send them a monthly IO, or they conclude the DSP didn't perform and move on to other outlets for spending the budget. And that's fine for some. But many advertisers and agencies looking to use a DSP are looking to make digital media execution an internal core competency, not outsource it to a network-like entity. Their choice of a DSP is about choosing a flexible and robust technology platform on which they can build that competency and make it a competitive advantage. If you're in this category, then finding out your DSP doesn't deliver as promised -- after months of internal and external DSP cheerleading, contract redlines, team training, and technological integration -- can be catastrophic. So how do you separate fact from fiction? You ignore what they say and put them to the test -- against each other. The notion of DSP "bake-offs" isn't new, but it does bring with it a set of challenges, notably direct-bid competition and ensuring a level playing field. Having participated in many dozens of such tests, I'd like to propose some best practices for head-to-head DSP testing that in our experience help ensure a fair fight, clean results, and most importantly, no regrets. 1) Pre-vet candidates to narrow the list. For practical reasons such as finite budgets and sheer management complexity, you can only test so many DSPs. As with any such test, a lot of the work comes up front in working to ensure you've got the right candidates to begin with, which is why this part of the recipe is the longest. In our experience, most tests involve two or three partners, because most savvy advertisers and agencies have already done their homework to understand which DSPs are even worth testing, in terms of: Breadth of supply, data, and ecosystem integration -- Not just the number and scope of ad exchange and SSP integrations, but the ability to bring your own seat, to integrate premium display and guaranteed buys, video, rich media, social, and other formats. Just as important as supply is data, in particular the ability to seamlessly integrate and globally manage any and all first-party data as well as third-party data sources, offline as well as online. A DSP should also provide simple access to other value-added capabilities, like dynamic creative, ad verification, and brand studies. For a platform, broad integration into the larger landscape is key. Technical infrastructure -- Often overlooked, but of top importance in choosing a platform, is the robustness of the underlying technology. Ask about global infrastructure -- how many bidders do they have, and where are they located. Ask what QPS (queries-per-[...]

5 hot marketing jobs for 2011

Before I left college, I was determined to find a career in advertising. At the library of the University of Oregon, I poured through the agency Redbooks, looked at who was winning awards, and finally put a list together of the top shops in California and Texas. (I am not one for the cold winters in the agency hot-beds of New York, Chicago, or Boston.)

With that list in hand, I set out to apply for jobs and make connections -- only I wasn't quite sure which job I could get. The focus of my efforts was on anything "entry-level," but if only I was smart enough to find a list of what category of entry-level job was my gateway to a rapid ascent of the corporate agency ladder.

Stay informed. For more insights into the future of digital marketing, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today.

At the time, I was willing to take just about anything at a top shop. I simply lucked out by gravitating to something called "the world wide web" rather early. Now that the internet ship has sailed -- or at least the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria are long gone -- I provide you with an attempt at helping you find the next fleet to board in 2011.

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The fate of ad networks in a post-exchange world
Upset with the Hollywood monopoly on the film business, director Francis Ford Coppola bucked the system in the late 1970s and raised his own money to produce the brilliant independent film "Apocalypse Now." Twenty years later, commenting on the rise of low-cost video cameras, Coppola said, "Well, of course filmmaking is changing because of these little cameras that are out there that cost very little money that everyone has. There's equality of opportunity in filmmaking that didn't exist when I was making films. And right now there's some fat little girl in Idaho who's the new Mozart of cinema using her mother's camcorder to create a new grammar and language of film." The core issue he was talking about was access. A revolution occurs in any industry when the flood doors open and access is granted to many and not just to a few. The same thing is happening in our business. With the rise of the exchanges, any advertiser or agency with a demand-side platform (DSP) can instantly access billions of display impressions from thousands of sites with the cost efficiency and reach to rival even some of our industry's most well-known publishers. Premium publishers will take a hit, but it seems likely that it is the ad networks that will feel the most negative impact as the landscape changes. Stay informed. For more insights into the future of media buying, attend the iMedia Breakthrough Summit, March 20-23. Request your invitation today. So, in a post-exchange world, how will the ad nets adapt in order to stay relevant and profitable? It seems that the first line of defense has been to create dialogue about the true value of the inventory found via the exchange channel. There certainly are some real brand safety concerns with automated buying, and the general consensus from the creative half of our industry seems to be that exchanges help aid in the commoditization of online advertising and push the real issue of "good advertising" further off course. Finally, there's always the issue that the very nature of the exchange inventory (i.e., the fact that it's remnant/perishable to begin with) is a big indicator of its true value -- you get what you pay for, right? The first person I wanted to chat with for this post was Michael Katz, CEO and founder of ad network Interclick. Earlier this year, I sat in on an agency meeting with Katz's company where our teams discussed the changing landscape. I mentioned that I had been recently advised by my DSP (and various exchanges) to change the language of our insertion orders to bar our ad net partners from buying via the exchanges because we would be bidding against ourselves and driving up prices needlessly. As well, why would I need them to purchase exchange inventory with their up-charge when I could buy it myself directly at lower CPMs? Katz's answer was similar then as it is now: "Access does not imply success. If I go to Whole Foods with a celebrity chef, and we each have to prepare the same dish, despite the fact that we have access to all of the same ingredients, the final results will actually be very different. Inventory and data exchanges must be viewed as what they are, which is an access point for raw materials. The difference is in how you are able to transform those raw materials into a final product -- the final product being a highly responsive audience." He takes me deeper into his company's deep process, tools, and expertise -- all components to his current success and future growth. What Katz said made logical sense. Even if I can buy directly from exchanges at half the cost, if at the end of the day ad networks can end up with a better cost-per-whatever than I can, wouldn't it be best for my clients to put them on the media plan? So, yes, the performance approach ad network could work in the post-exchange world, especially for our industry's direct response campaigns. Think about it: When a media buyer's consideration set suddenly gro[...]

The biggest waste of your ad money
As evidenced byYahoo's acquisition of Associated Content, AOL's creation of, and Demand Media's recent IPO, companies are attempting to leverage a cheap news model designed to create more opportunities for online ad sales. These "content mills" rank high in search engines, but low in reader engagement. When you employ an army of unedited freelancers to produce vast quantities of low-cost, crowd-sourced content, you're essentially writing for search bots -- and while search is important, it certainly isn't the formula for brand loyalty. Editorial-side opponents believe content mills threaten the value of content and reduce it to a commodity-like state. This commoditization strikes fear in true content creators because, rather than encouraging thoughtful and engaging feedback, it rewards keyword targeting and other SEO tricks. Meanwhile, marketers agree that neither this content's environment, nor where it lives, engages readers. As a result, ad buyers see low returns as lackluster content does not drive purchasing decisions or brand preferences. And you thought your current campaign click-thru performance was bad enough. This scenario begs the question: "Does this signal the demise of editorial standards or is there still hope in saving our industry's integrity?" Influence is the silver liningInfluence is founded on the notion that people who consistently create influential content will inspire their audiences to spend more time on each article, view more pages, and return more often to a property.  The Online Publishers Association (OPA) recently reported that "those emotionally connected to media sites and consumers who believe these sites fit their needs, are much more apt to purchase from their advertisers." Marketers have long understood that ads placed next to well-written content outperform content mills consistently and across the board. High-quality content drives repeat traffic, generates more page views, and keeps people on the page longer. According to the OPA, 80 percent of respondents who had made purchases as a result of online advertising described themselves as "having a strong, positive emotional connection to the sites where an ad ran." Professional editorial teams have a way of integrating marketing messages into highly relevant content and as a result, they're better equipped to attract engaged buyers. Meanwhile, content mills prioritize copy for emotionless bots first and the live audience second. Regardless of how Associated Content and Demand Media defend the value and integrity of their material, it's hard to make the case that they're creating an emotional connection for brand builders -- and the engagement numbers speak for themselves. Offline metrics like article retweets, Facebook "likes," Delicious bookmarks, and blog comments are the true indicators of the content's value and impact. As such, it is here that the marketers' messages have the greatest impact on their target audience and enable true creators of engaging, thoughtful, and actionable content to continue doing what they do best. Despite the perceived threat of content mills to publishers and advertisers, below are a few easy steps to ensure that you're beating the bots and producing engaging content. Indentify influencersIdentify the sites that resonate with your target, your product, and your brand. For example, in today's technology media sector, for every one editor in the old world of tech publishing, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who have as much expertise. Because this expertise is so widely distributed, marketers must look more closely to uncover the gems that can help make them more relevant to their target audiences. To help you identify the influencers on a given topic, look into the following: Twitter lists, such as, Twellow, and WeFollow will help you hone in on key Twitter personalities, based on topic, [...]

Key tips for better ad control
Conventional wisdom says that an engaged audience of 215 million is an advertiser's dream come true. Yet, many advertisers are hesitant to shift more meaningful amounts of ad dollars to the web because interactive advertising is still lacking in accountability, transparency, and compliance. In the past, verifying that TV ad deals were executed correctly meant simply turning on the TV, watching the program, and waiting for your ad to appear. Similarly, for print, all an advertiser has to do is make a trip to the newsstand. In online advertising, though, the introduction of ad networks, exchanges, DSPs, yield optimizers, and other vendors has muddled the space between the advertiser and the instance when an ad gets served. Online advertising is no doubt progressing because of targeting capabilities and extended reach, but it's not there yet. For example, how do advertisers know their ads appeared next to brand-safe content? Will they appear above the fold? Will they be targeted to the right DMAs and geographic locations? Did the ads appear at all? Stay informed. For more insights into the latest digital marketing opportunities and challenges, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today. Advertisers would never balk at the chance of reaching millions of people online. But they do largely believe in quality versus quantity. For example, a recent survey of more than 140 agency executives representing some of the largest brands in the country found that 72.4 percent of respondents chose brand safety over scale. Brand safety is increasingly more important online and was beaten only by performance and targeting capabilities in the survey. For marketers, it's all about reaching the right audience on the web in an accountable, transparent way. One way they've been able to ensure brand safety online is through media verification -- a process that analyzes and verifies where and in what context ads appear online and ensures ad campaigns run as intended. Advertisers, agencies, ad networks, and even publishers (for their own safety) are investing in media verification. However, with such an enormous landscape to consider, marketers need to know what they're getting into. Here are the aspects of verification that advertisers should be familiar with before they start the process. Understand what can be verifiedAn average of three out of every 10 online ads are non-compliant, meaning they do not appear where, when, or how they are supposed to. That means almost one-third of your ad budget is either going to waste or, even worse, working against your brand if those ads happen to appear next to pornographic or controversial content. Basic media verification will be able to track exactly what sites your campaign is running on and where on the page it appears -- such as above or below the fold. Other types of non-compliance that can be tracked are ads that run on international sites, ads that run next to competitors' ads, or ads that are fraudulent. Additionally, it's important to know to what extent ads can be verified; not all technologies are equal when it comes to what can be seen on a web page. For instance, one of the barriers for verification is how many iFrames can be seen through. To explain, iFrames are how websites display ads served from third-party ad servers. An example would be an ad on a site that was served by an ad network that purchased that inventory from another third-party ad server (which could be another ad network, an ad exchange, etc.). This would equal up to three iFrames deep (the publisher, the ad network, and the third-party ad server). If verification technology cannot "see" through several layers of iFrames, it can't adequately understand where ads are running and how they're getting there. This is difficult, but not impossible. Bottom line: Make sure you demand hard statistics from yo[...]

Why digital-out-of-home advertising needs to change its tune
Digital-out-of-home (DOOH) is demonstrating its value as a relevant, consistent, and effective medium for advertisers. It's predictable and easy to buy. But reaching maturity, and realizing broad acceptance and prosperity, will take more work. Here's my point of view on the key issues facing DOOH network operators, and how they should be addressed. Focus on audienceDOOH media is planned and bought much the same way as broadcast, online, and print -- by audience profile. The significance of people consuming more media out of the home than in-home has become important to advertisers. The right message delivered to the right consumer, at the right time, along the path to purchase -- this premise is now particularly important when targeting an audience. Stay informed. For more insights into the latest trends in emerging marketing technologies, attend the iMedia Breakthrough Summit, March 20-23. Request your invitation today. The chief marketing officers and the agency planners out there don't buy place. They are not looking to get their message running in certain kinds of venues. They want to reach a certain viewer profile broken down by characteristics like age, gender, and lifestyle. The only exception to that is true out-of-home shops that are selling billboards and, thus, selling specific locations and areas. Digital-out-of-home is more of an online and broadcast environment than it is out-of-home. By selling audience and not place, the medium is going to get bought more broadly. Place is a great qualifier on a media buy, but the big dollars in the media world right now are in broadcast and online, and those are bought based on audience. Here's the sort of pitch that we see resonating with people who control media budgets. If you operate a gas station network, for example, don't talk about how many screens are running. Talk about the demographics of the people spending time in front of those screens as they pump gas. You want to convey the size of the audience of men and women, 18 to 52 years old, who have an average household income of $100,000 or higher, and are in front of those screens repeatedly. If you have a retail network, don't talk about the fact that your screens are in a convenience store environment. Talk about how you represent a viewing audience of 10 million alpha moms, or whatever most powerfully characterizes your viewership. Make this easy for advertisers and media partnersIt's been pointed out many times by media pros, but I'll repeat it. It takes far more time and energy right now to plan and execute a small DOOH buy than it does to book a much larger broadcast buy. That has to change. The DOOH industry has to make it easy for advertisers and media planners if it wants to firmly be part of the mainstream. Make yourself available The biggest agencies have their own internal media planning systems. If you want to be part of major buys next year and beyond, you must figure out how your media inventory shows up in those systems. If you're not in there, you're not on the plans. The biggest agencies that control media dollars have in-house systems for broadcast, and they are quickly moving to systems for DOOH, as well. Starcom MediaVest is already using such a system. If you can't beat them, join them You need to use the common nomenclature, measurement metrics, and pricing methodologies of the media business. You can't invent your own and force them on a well-established industry. Adapt to the industry's needsBe ready to transact the way that media industry members want you to transact with them. It has got to be the way they want to measure it. It has to be the way they want to price it. If you have a sight, sound, and motion DOOH network, and you are positioning it up against broadcast, you better be able to convert from cost-per-thousands (CPMs) to gross rating points. You cannot wal[...]

10 digital trends that will dominate in 2011

About a year ago, I published an article where I bravely (some might say recklessly) identified the 10 technological trends that would impact digital marketing in 2010. The good thing about such an undertaking is that you