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That’s how you debate.

In order to keep our game tight, the Razorfish media department will be convening for another rousing debate this Thursday, March 17th. Following tradition, we’ll be divvied up into two teams and argue like crazy for one side of a polarizing issue which probably has reasonable answer somewhere in the middle.  

Andy Dutter, Razorfish VP of Business Development will be our guest judge so lookout for the recap next week to see which side emerged victorious.  In the meantime, we’d love to hear which side you’ll be pulling for in the comments below.

Without further ado, here are the battle lines:

Team 1: View-based conversions are totally legit. ComScore’s Natural Born Clickers studies have continually shown that click-based metrics effectively ignore the 85%+ of web users who don’t click on banner ads; view conversions allow us to paint a more complete and inclusive view of ad effectiveness.

Team 2: View-based conversions are totally wack.  They hardly provide a “holistic” view of the impact of digital campaigns and are largely at fault for the industry’s over-investment in bottom funnel display tactics. 

 If you need some help getting in the mood for debate-day, here’s some food for thought:

  • In a February white-paper titled RTB Hits the Mainstream, Forrester Research reported that more than $350 million was spent on real time bidding platforms in 2010 with the figure expected to top $820 million in 2011.  Last-view conversions have precipitated this escalation of investment in DSP’s/ad exchanges by providing a highly standardized metric to optimize towards while underscoring the ROI efficiency that can be obtained through RTB models. As we increasingly treat impressions like commodities, will we continue to evaluate exchange inventory through a generic lens (such as last-view/CPA) or will there be a trend towards more customized, advertisers-specific evaluation criteria. 

 

  •  Recently released data from Medialets offered a view into benchmarks that are starting taking shape in the mobile rich media space.  Particularly interesting: full-screen iPad rich interstitial units are garnering an average engagement rate of 11% and a CTR of 4%.  Assume for a second that we are at the dawn of a new era where content is consumed increasingly through the fingertips and decreasingly through the click of a mouse.  Given all we know about how the intent behind a “click” has become less and less meaningful over time should make the same assumptions about taps and swipes? Will these new screens be as heavily reliant on view metrics now that engagement has been redefined?

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John Koenigsberg

About Blogger:
John Koenigsberg is currently a Media Planner at Razorfish. Since 2008 he has worked to perfect the art of putting “heads in beds” for Starwood Hotels. At present, he oversees media planning initiatives for the Fortune 500 hotelier’s Westin, W Hotels, Le Meridien, and Luxury Collection brands. He brings with him his passion for social media, video game advertising & game mechanics. John was born and raised in Greenwich Village, NYC and has a BSBA from Boston University School of Management. Twitter: @jmko

10 Organizational Lessons from the Ordeal of the Chilean Miners

By Cynthia Edwards

Luis Urzúa, the leader of the trapped miners and the last of the 33 to be lifted to freedom, celebrates with President Piñera at San José Mine, during "Operación San Lorenzo". (Image Source: wikipedia)

The saga of the 33 miners in Chile who were imprisoned underground for 70 days claimed the hearts and attention of the whole world. Millions of people were riveted by the scenes of the final phase of the rescue operation, as one by one, the trapped men were successfully restored to freedom and their families.

There are important lessons to be learned from this event and the way it was handled that can be applied in any organization that finds itself in serious trouble.

1. In dark times, live lean.
Is your business crumbling? Has a key project imploded? Does your organization’s future look doomed to failure? Think about this: for 17 days, the 33 Chilean miners had no contact with people on the outside and no way of knowing if they ever would. They lived on two teaspoons of tuna fish every other day. Their world was sunless, airless, and seemingly hopeless. They survived physically through the strength of their determination and strict self-discipline. If times are hard in your business, tighten your belt and run lean until the situation turns around. Postpone new purchases, use up excess inventory, sell off non-essential assets.

2. Keep some perspective.
Whatever you are going through right now, it is not as bad as what the miners endured. Nor is it ever likely to be as bad. Don’t panic, don’t go to pieces, and never give up. Be grateful for every single thing you can do to effect a turnaround. Dig deep inside yourself for reserves of strength and endurance – which every miner will affirm are there.

3. Establish leadership and a routine.
Whether you are battling the recession, a corporate downturn, a scandal, or any other cave-in equivalent, the way to manage through it is to stay focused on what you can do and maintain discipline in the ranks. The miners organized themselves in teams with leaders and specialists, which created an orderly framework that supported morale in their darkest hours. Give your employees specific tasks that are within their capabilities, communicate expectations, and organize them under respected leaders who will put their shoulders to the same wheel to set a clear example.

4. Keep your spirits up.
One miner testified that he met both God and the Devil in the pit – and God won. Employees too can feel beaten down and depressed when they work in a company or department that is failing. Identify your corporate demons and don’t let them win. Give pep talks. Go back to your mission, vision and values to find your motivation to keep fighting. In what belief or power – higher than yourself and your situation – can you find faith and strength?

5. When you see a ray of light, get galvanized.
17 days after the cave-in that trapped the miners, rescuers finally punched a hole the circumference of a grapefruit into their dank chamber. The miners tapped on the drill bit to signal their presence, and then painted the tip red! That narrow conduit was their salvation, as it brought them food, water, medicine, clothing, sleeping cots, and a host of ingeniously packaged survival gear. In your battle, stay alert to tiny signs that things are turning around: grab hold of them, make the most of them, and – why not? – paint them red!

6. When you can’t do everything yourself, work with outside experts.
The miners could not tunnel out by themselves, and the rescue teams above ground sought and received help from the international community, notably NASA. A drowning business often, if not always, needs outside help, from organizational, financial, advertising, PR, or other appropriate experts. This is not the time to be proud – get the best advice you can and learn from professionals who have been instrumental in triaging other companies like yours.

7. Participate in your own rescue.
As soon as the drilling of the escape route began in earnest, the miners set to work clearing rubble and enabling their own release in every way possible. They even exercised so they could be sure to fit inside the Phoenix, their narrow rescue pod. You too must take ownership of your turnaround, working hard, following expert advice and neutralizing any internal politics that may work against your greater interests.

8. Lead from the top.
Against the urging of his advisers, who feared he would suffer political damage if the very real hazards inherent in the rescue mission resulted in disaster, Chile’s President Piñera took the visible helm of the rescue effort. He was present throughout the 30-hour dénouement, and hugged and congratulated each miner who emerged from the rocky tomb. Piñera’s moral courage and dedication to doing what was right earned him global respect, and enhanced Chile’s national reputation all the more. Likewise, your senior leadership must be seen to be rallying all their forces on behalf of the company. Cancel the CEO’s vacation and any boondoggles for the senior executives until your business is in the clear.

9. When you are above ground again, enjoy the moment but keep your head.
The miners are now heroes, and understandably have been offered jobs, vacations, money to tell their stories, and all manner of honors and emoluments. Yet they have asked to be left alone, for time to be with their families, to process the ordeal, and readjust to normal life. Eventually your business will turn around, and when it does, you, too, will be experiencing a new normal. By all means, celebrate! Reward those who stood with you in hard times and helped pull the business through. But now you must operate on the principles you have learned, maintaining a steady keel, better than ever prepared to meet the next challenge. Don’t let old, bad habits reassert themselves, or overextend your reach.

10. Hold responsible parties accountable.
The mining disaster in Chile could have been prevented. Safety violations, dangerously overworked mines, and slovenly, callous management all had a part. Wisely, the company that operated the mine in Copiapo was not permitted to take part in the rescue effort, and many government heads rolled as soon as the truth was known. Don’t let the people who contributed to your disaster go unscathed, and never allow leaders who are dishonest, untrustworthy or incompetent to participate in your turnaround. The sooner you show them the door, the sooner you can regain the respect and trust of employees, investors, consumers, suppliers, media, and analysts, and ride your own Phoenix to freedom.

Cynthia Edwards is a Senior Copywriter at Razorfish and business writer living in the Dallas, TX area. She has had a successful career in advertising and marketing communications and is a popular contributor to Media Post’s Email Insider. Her articles have also been published in the Dallas Morning News. Click here to contact Cynthia by email or follow her on twitter @simmerings.

What can we learn from Kanye?


by John Koenigsberg

“We look at the game completely different now.”                                                – tweeted by @kanyewest

The first-ever use of the term “album” to describe a compilation of recorded music is generally credited to the release of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite by Odeon Records in 1909; the term itself is derived from the fact that the square-shaped contraptions that held the multiple vinyl records looked a lot like the leather-bound photograph albums that were commonplace at the turn of the century. Over the next fifty years, interest in longer form classical music waned, the appetite for bite sized pop music exploded, along with hit-driven radio, and the notion of the “single” took root. Record companies soon observed that you could maximize profits and charge a premium price by bundling a hot single with a grouping of not-so-hot songs—thus the modern pop album was born.

The abbreviated history above brings to light an important point: “albums” as a creative vehicle have somewhat artificial origins and create implicit boundaries by virtue of having a beginning and an end.  Increasingly, we are seeing creativity become unfettered from the bounds of track one-through-twelve, adrift in an endless loop.  This opening up of the creative process has come to the forefront in the digital age. It is not at all uncommon now for bands to tweet previews of new songs or for authors to gather feedback on an unfinished chapter through their blog. This past Saturday evening, as the final credits rolled on Kanye West’s thirty four minute film ‘Runaway’, I could not have felt this conviction more strongly, nor could I ignore the overwhelming sense that I had just experienced something significant.  Since late August, Kanye has been releasing never-heard-before music every Friday for free and plans to continue doing so until Christmas—he has christened this weekly holy-day “GOOD Friday”. By year-end he will have released at least twenty-five new songs, produced, directed, and acted in his first feature film, conceptualized a Broadway Stage extension and animated version of his ‘Runaway’ concept, and released a new album called ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ for good measure.   The continuous, conveyor-belt style of this creative outpouring has been coordinated superbly through twitter, facebook, youtube (VEVO), and his own KanyeWest.com.

I ask “What can we learn from Kanye?” because of the masterful job he has done diffusing his message through such a rich variety of creative mediums.   As digital planners, we have a parallel aim—to disperse a message as creatively as possible, and in a manner that animates an underlying truth between brands and consumers.   As we survey Mr. West’s approach, I see room to incorporate some of his philosophies into our own methods.

  • Lesson #1:  Be prominent.  The debut of ‘Runaway’ aired simultaneously on MTV, MTV2, BET, with live steaming available on MTV.com, BET.com, and VH1.com—make sure people can’t miss the message.
  • Lesson #2:  Don’t limit yourself. Many of today’s most creative minds are striving beyond the formats which have traditionally characterized their field.  Kanye’s vision, for example, is being expressed through dance, fashion, photography, painting, film, art direction & set design, not to mention what he is doing musically and with live performance—each format is intended to impact people in radically different ways.  As we help shepherd brands into new and unchartered digital territories we should be just as open to experimentation; just as eager to create diverse representations of and interactions with a unified message.
  • Final Lesson:  Tend the flock.  Effective use of social channels has been critical to Kanye’s success in reinvigorating his image and exciting his fan base.  It’s not that these channels were used to invent a new persona or articulate new brand-positioning, they simply facilitated access to truth that was previously obscured.

As our paid media campaigns start to orbit around social platforms, consumers must discover that there is value, loyalty, and of course truth at the gravitational center of that universe, not a black hole.

The Tablet Landscape: It’s more than just the iPad

by Alex Mitchell-Hardt


Tablet computing is not just a trend that will begin and end with this year’s headlines about the iPad. According to Forrester Research, US sales of tablet computers will surpass that of netbooks in 2012 and desktop computers in 2013. Much of this growth will come from devices other than Apple’s iPad. It’s time for advertisers to begin thinking about these other tablets.

To be clear, the hype around the iPad is well deserved. It’s going to lead the charge in the tablet space, and Apple’s app store is so ahead of the game that the competition may never catch up. Nevertheless, advertisers need to prepare for the upcoming barrage of tablet devices that will be entering the market. These tablets will be able to do some tasks that the iPad cannot and they may provide the easiest entry point for many brands to begin advertising on this new platform.

Google and Microsoft will be two of the major players and their tablets’ ability to run flash will open the doors for brands to run media in the tablet space without taking on incremental development costs. This means brands can run media that drives directly to their rich, flash-based website that they have been investing in for the past 5-10 years. This creates a much easier transition for advertisers that are hesitant to pump production dollars into a format that currently reaches just 3MM+ people. Development of iPad specific assets definitely makes sense for many advertisers, however I think many other brands would feel more comfortable with the seamless transition that comes from using existing assets.

It will be interesting to see how publishers will sell inventory on the non-iPad tablets. Will new units emerge? Will they try to sell targeted impressions to tablet users, deeming them a “premium” audience? From a user behavior standpoint, will tablets continue to be seen as “coffee table” computers, often used as a companion to TV watching?

I’m excited to see how this story will play out. Ultimately, it highlights how a growing role of a digital media planner is to evaluate/understand new technologies and devices (See The Continued Evolution of the Media Planner).

Reap the Rewards: Tips on How to Get Great Service

By Mike Cassidy, CEO, Undertone Networks

At a recent dinner with agency executives the conversation turned to vendor relations, and I heard rants and stories about the poor level of service that they had recently experienced. One vendor didn’t respond to RFPs completely and did not return phone calls; another didn’t provide accurate and timely billing; yet another forgot to turn a campaign live. The list went on. These experiences are inexcusable and shouldn’t be tolerated.

If stories like these are common in our industry, agencies aren’t holding their vendors accountable for providing the level of service that they deserve. Think about this offline example: when dining in a restaurant, most people tip 15-20% regardless of how they’re treated. If reward becomes the norm, where is the motivation to provide excellent service?

Advertising has always been and will always be a relationship business. While the latest technology may excite and algorithms impress, they don’t replace the value that service brings to the equation. Agencies rely on vendors to be responsive and knowledgeable and to get things done. The less time they spend chasing vendors, the more time they have to dedicate to their clients.

Below are three tips for agency executives to consider when evaluating their vendors’ commitment to service:

1. Don’t discount the value of human interactions
Meet and speak with the support staff of all vendors. It’s important to know many— if not all—of the key players working on the business. Consider how important each player is to a campaign. The vendors with exceptional service will make your jobs easier on a daily basis. (And are the ones who can and should earn your repeat business).

2. Set high expectations – and stick to them
Communicate your expectations at the outset of a relationship. Letting your vendors know that “the bar is high” can ensure your account is getting the proper level of attention from the start.

3. Provide feedback, both good and bad
Develop open and honest relationships with vendors. It’s important to communicate to them whether they fall short of, meet or exceed your expectations.

The current industry landscape is crowded. In fact, it’s often hard to differentiate one vendor from the next. But even in today’s complex and crowded ecosystem, people still matter and service is still a crucial part of the business. You have the power to expect this from all your vendors. Don’t settle for less.

Michael Cassidy

About Michael Cassidy:
Michael Cassidy founded Undertone in 2001 and serves as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Under Michael’s leadership, Undertone has become one of the industry’s foremost online advertising networks. Today, the company has partnerships with more than 350 top-ranked media properties and counts many of the Fortune 500 as customers.

Prior to starting Undertone, Michael founded Intercept Interactive, an interactive marketing and media buying firm that came to prominence for its work around the launch of Orbitz.com.

Previously, Michael served as the Vice President of Sales for About.com, where he was responsible for opening the company’s Midwest office and guiding development in the region. Michael joined About.com (then known as The Mining Company and now owned by The New York Times Company) as one of the company’s first sales executives and was responsible for developing many of the company’s major agency and client relationships across North America.

Michael received a bachelor’s degree in communications from the State University of New York at Oswego.

The Changing Media Landscape: Ad Networks, Ad Exchanges, and DSPs

The media landscape is cluttered with a seeming overabundance of ad networks.  The proliferation of ad networks has occurred over the past five years with counts as high as 300. Making the marketplace even more crowded, ad exchanges have emerged over the last 18 months providing access to the same type of inventory that media agencies have historically acquired through ad networks.

The question now becomes what is the future of the marketplace.  Will ad networks and ad exchanges co-exist?

It seems as though the demand side platforms, which provide access to the ad exchanges serve the same basic purpose as ad networks with some added benefits:

  • Access to a wide scale of inventory
  • Pricing controls through real time bidding
  • Ability to control/purchase media and data separately
  • Increased transparency of media costs and data
  • Optimization technology
  • Elimination of multiple levels of re-selling of inventory (daisy-chaining)

On the surface, it seems ad exchanges could simply replace the ad networks, but there are some areas that the ad exchanges fall short:

  • Little to no availability for rich media, robust ad executions or video
  • Self-service platforms may lead to agency needs that were previously covered by  sales teams unanswered

The benefits of the ad exchanges seem to outweigh the drawbacks, so it appears they are here to stay and will continue to gain share from the ad networks.  As a result, many predict that there will be a shakeout in the ad network space.  What will it take for networks to survive?

Image source: Terence Kajawa of GCA Savvian’s IAB Networks and Exchanges Keynote.

Inflated iPad Ad Premiums Leave Media Buyers Wondering

John Koenigsberg, a media planner at Razorfish, teamed up with Vivaki’s Domenic Venuto to write an article for MIN about iPad advertising.  You can check out the original version here.

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I guess Apple didn’t need the spectacle of long store lines to feed the frenzy of iPad sales. It was announced that the iPad eclipsed 3 million units sold—a faster rate than the iPhone took to reach similar milestones. With the PR around these record sales approaching a steady roar, it’s safe to say that Apple’s “magical” new bling has gained some serious traction in its first months.

While this is great news for Apple—they just pulled in at least half a billion dollars in revenue in under one month—we’re going to go out on a limb and predict that no one will be quoting these stats with as much zeal over the next few months as publishers’ digital sales reps.

In the days leading up to and soon after iPad’s launch, Razorfish media planners had the honor of reviewing an array of app sponsorship opportunities. While our initial impressions of each app were fairly diverse, what stood out consistently was the outrageous $500K+ premium attached to virtually every partnership. We say “outrageous” because, as a media opportunity, the iPad is untested and almost entirely un-trackable. By banning apps from transmitting data to third parties, Steve Jobs clearly does not want the iPad to become a traditional direct response medium filled with fat-belly ads. His hope is that this policy will suck the lifeblood out of ad networks, namely Google’s AdMob, which rely on data inputs and analysis for their survival.

The resultant fear among marketers: Quantifying the value of an iPad ad will become an impossible dream. Without the ability to derive learnings from in-app behaviors, top tier publishers, as well as ad networks, will be limited in their capacity to report on much of anything. In a number of cases, Razorfish media planners have been told that app downloads will be the only data point made available to us. In the face of these serious concerns, digital sales reps will surely jump on iPad’s early sales success as justification for the fat price tags they’re floating in the marketplace at present.

Jobs wants us to believe that the iPad will give rise to the optimal blend of emotive and interactive advertising experiences, and this appears to be the impetus behind all of the premium iAd pricing that’s getting thrown around. Surprisingly, digital sales reps have not been leading with engagement as their core selling point; instead iPad’s “newness” factor and the associated PR that launch partners will receive appear to be the driving force behind initial pricing. When the dust settles—perhaps after the release of a few rival tablet devices—we’ll need to actually assess the relative value of iPad in comparison to more mature media vehicles.

The pricing structure that we’re headed toward appears to be a hybrid model of cost per impression and cost per engagement. Advertisers will pay a nominal sum for surface-level brand exposure—essentially the same thing as a banner advertisement—with additional payments if consumers interact with their ad. The key then will developing a more nuanced understanding of engagement. Acting on this knowledge, marketers will have the ability to engineer consumer interactions with their products that are actually valuable and worth paying for.

If we can do that, then we’ll surely deliver on Jobs’ vision of emotional experiences that stand out, with a different sort of composition than anything we have ever seen before.


The Continued Evolution of the Media Planner

As technology evolves, media fragments and consumers adapt swiftly to new devices the job of a media planner becomes increasingly complex (no, I’m not looking for sympathy here…) and in a constant state of change.  From a planning and buying perspective, we are developing an understanding of platforms individually and together in addition to publishers and content.  As part of our research and strategy development, we need to ask questions that address consumer behavior, messaging, experiences, known data points, assumed behaviors and content navigation.

  • How does the content and navigation experience differ from print, to the .com to the iPhone to the iPod Touch to the Blackberry to the iPad to the touch-screen at a retail location?
  • What are the uniques, pages views, time spent by platform?
  • How do the demographics of the user change by platform?
  • What messages make sense from one platform to the other?
  • What ad types are going to drive the best chance of the consumer having a good experience with the brand?
  • Will this eventually end up on a flat screen in the living room as the TV and PC converge?
  • Is one platform replacing the other?  Do they complement each other?  What is the overlap?
  • Do we see trends in usage by category?  Does weather and mapping content just make more sense on the mobile device?  Can there ever be enough sports content across all of these platforms?

In the end the answers should drive more effective budget allocation, smarter targeting and better experiences with the brand.

Are we becoming Platform Planners?

Bringing the Brand Conversation into the Living Room


Update: Xbox unveiled the name for Project Natal. They are calling it kinect.

As the console gaming industry expands its technology and audience, brands will be able to bring their conversations into consumers’ homes in ways that have previously been impossible. With the launch of new gaming advances like Xbox’s Project Natal, consumers will be introduced to new and more immersive ways to interact with brands.  These innovative developments will help to give consumers the option to bring their favorite brands into their everyday activities in ways the internet has not.

While retailers will have the option to create fully branded catalogs and channels, the real win will be in the many subtle ways brands can enter themselves into the gaming world.  Rather than having to wait the average lead-time of a year to be hard-coded into games, retailers can now have their specific product scanned into the system by consumers in a matter of minutes.  Consumers won’t have to wait for games to bring their favorite products to them – they’ll be able to take control and bring brands into their living room themselves.  In this type of environment, retailers can capitalize on being invited into the conversation, rather than starting it.

With all the upcoming available features, retailers should be on the lookout for the next wave of remote consumerism on the gaming console.  As the product matures, tracking on these types of uploads can open up a wealth of consumer data, and help to foster rich interactions between consumers and retailers.

Twitter Advertising Opportunities

We’ve been exploring the Twitter advertising landscape and trying to put order around the various types of opportunities that have surfaced over the past 6 months.  Below is how we’ve classified existing models:

1.   Paid Search

-  Targeting paid Tweets to users based on searches

-  Who offers this? Promoted Tweets and TweetUp

2.   In Stream

-  Targeting brand/advertiser Tweets to users based on a Twitter user’s interests/keywords

-  Who offers this? 140Proof

3.   In Stream

-  Buying sponsored tweets from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or brands such as E! Online

-  Who offers this? Ad.ly, Sponsored Tweets

The current Twitter advertising landscape is disparate and fragmented.  The models we talk about today are just the beginning.  New products will continue to enter the marketplace and many will go away.  It may become similar to the ad network space where many networks all sell similar inventory but are differentiated by technology and service.  It will also be interesting to see how consumers react to the influx of ads within their Twitter stream as brands and advertisers ramp up their efforts via this channel.

Has anyone seen any other ad models or seen success?