Click Here Digital Trends 2010

Anytime, Anyplace - Digital Is Everywhere in 2011

By Jill Krumsick

The digital marketing stage continues to evolve – our perception of digital has expanded from
an online medium into a mobile medium and, in 2011, we’ll see digital engagement as an everywhere medium. With advancements in technology and changes in consumer behaviors, digital marketing will be reaching consumers throughout their daily routines – whenever, wherever – and providing a more engaging branded experience. Here we will look at trends in place-based digital and RFID technology to see how digital will be more seamlessly incorporated into our real-world activities in 2011.

Digital Goes Out-of-Home

Now, digital billboards are not groundbreaking technology – in the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen the introduction and adoption of LED boards provide the opportunity for valuable real estate to be leveraged by multiple marketers. What is groundbreaking is the way we are seeing these being enhanced and utilized to create more relevant messaging. Digital displays are enabling marketers the opportunity to break clutter, to deliver more targeted messages and to create engaging experiences through interactive billboards, digital projections and even 3-D holograms.

Out-of-Home Gets Personal

Digital marketing has the ability to create a more personally relevant advertising experience, but now we are “seeing” this ability with out-of-home digital marketing. In 2010, marketers in Japan began testing facial recognition technology to enhance the digital billboard. Using billboards with embedded cameras, passersby are scanned, their gender and age are determined and then a more relevant advertisement is served. While the segmentation abilities of these smart displays are rudimentary and simple at this point, this is a huge leap in delivering more qualified impressions. In addition to more selective impressions, this advancement creates the opportunity for gathering important consumer data that will improve marketers’ ability to better target outdoor placements in general. Digital technology in 2011 has the ability to make public spaces more personalized.

Out-of-Home Gets Interactive

Another way digital is making headway is through disruptive engagement. Digital displays are amusingly catching audiences off guard through unexpected placement and the ability for consumer interaction. We’re seeing the use of digital projections expand our idea of placement from the billboard to entire facades of buildings. And we’re watching as digital creates the opportunity for consumers to personally affect the message experience.

A great example of digital marketing delight is a recent Aquafina execution. The brand used LCD screen mirrors to take over a public bathroom with branded messaging. And when a person was ready to use the mirror, the advertisements were simply moved out of the way.

Digital is our opportunity for experiences, not just static messaging. The ability to interact with a message not only surprises consumers, but it does so in a way that increases time spent with a brand and builds positive brand associations.

Out-of-Home Gets Lifelike

In 2010, augmented reality was our foray into mass-marketed 3-D technology, but in 2011, we might be seeing 3-D come off the screen. Hologram technology is becoming smaller, more commercialized and more viable for marketing – Sony’s recently released device makes this technology not just a futuristic marketing dream, but a real option for in-store and event marketing. Coca-Cola recently experimented with holographic technology using a bottle and 3-D projections. And in Japan, they are taking hologram technology one step further by using directed airflow to add weight and create “touchable” 3-D images. With the newness and wow factor involved with the technology, holograms have the ability to build brand strength and awareness through capturing consumer attention.

RFID Tags

RFID is another “not new” technology that is getting a 2011 makeover. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been used for years in supply chain management operations in many sectors. What’s happening now is that marketers are beginning to apply the technology’s ability to automatically capture accurate, real-time data to create more engaging brand experiences and build brand loyalty.

One way marketers are leveraging the technology is to create more efficient opportunities for brand engagement. One example is Coca-Cola’s recent RFID enhanced event. The brand used RFID-tagged bracelets during a 2010 amusement park event for teenagers that integrated with Facebook and immediately updated their activity on the social platform. Fans swiped their bracelets at different spots to instantly “like” an attraction or be tagged in a photo taken by an amusement park photographer. This interaction provided users the ability to seamlessly engage with the brand and their social network in real time by lessening the barriers – an update was as easy as a swipe of your arm, not accessing through a mobile app. For Coca-Cola, this was an opportunity for increased social media presence and viral impressions generated from their network.

But engagement is only one aspect of RFID uses for marketing – creating a better user experience through increased utility brings new ties between consumers and a brand. One example of how RFID technology can add depth to a consumer experience is the Epic Pass for Vail Ski Resorts. For the 2010 winter season, Vail embedded RFIDs in all lift passes and installed scanners on all lifts. While this makes the actual process quicker, it also allowed for greater consumer data to be captured and leveraged to enhance the user experience. Syncing the RFID with a mobile application and site, consumers have the ability to track their activity on the mountain. While the overall product includes additional enhancements such as location-based services, social networking and informational resources, the RFID technology is integral in creating a user history and capturing valuable data to benefit both the user and Vail Resorts.

In 2011, we expect to see RFID come out of back-end logistics and into the forefront of providing more personalized brand experiences. Expect to see RFID technology as a part of loyalty programs and watch as it acts as a pivotal aspect of contactless payment.

Marketing in a Digital World

The way we define digital is changing in 2011. Digital is no longer confined to a computer monitor or mobile screen, but we need to think bigger about new ways to bring digital’s unique capability of providing a more in-depth, experiential brand marketing to the wider scale of the world. Consumers are looking for increased connectivity, so look for ways to use new technology to enhance brand experiences and ties with consumers through event marketing, packaging and loyalty programs with RFID. In addition, marketers are realizing that the world is a digital canvas. As display becomes “smarter,” think about digital experiences when concepting for out-of-home, in-store messaging. Our connection to digital is becoming ubiquitous in 2011.

Is Social Media Killing the Brand Website?

By Pete Lerma

There was a time when having a website was considered the end-all, be-all of a brand’s digital footprint. Whether your company sold books or oil, the strategy was the same: buy a domain name and promote it. Over time, as additional digital platforms have become more hospitable to branding efforts, brands are no longer confined to existing within their website.

No such platform has changed the game as much as Facebook. With more than 500 million global members and several million official pages, Facebook has proven its staying power, while other social networks fall by the wayside.

We’ve seen this shift affect traditional media as well. At the World Cup in South Africa earlier this year, official tournament sponsor Adidas chose to use its multimillion dollar ad to drive consumers not to its URL, but instead to the brand’s Facebook page. The goal was to create buzz around the brand during the tournament and also to promote its new F50 adiZero football boot.

As a result of the campaign, more than one million people connected to the Adidas Football Facebook page, which produced an average of 500,000 daily impressions. A brand tracker survey that polled Facebook users showed that awareness of the F50 boot rose by double digits in the European countries that were targeted by the campaign.

But the trend goes beyond just Adidas. Companies such as Toyota and Uniball, as well as several motion picture studios, are all using their traditional media efforts to drive traffic to Facebook. It has become increasingly common to see a TV spot end with the URL of its Facebook page rather than its website domain.

As this trend continues to develop, some companies are beginning to ask the question, “In the age of social media, when Facebook can often provide a more engaging and targeted online experience, are brand websites still relevant?”

The question shouldn’t be, “In the age of social media, are brand websites relevant?” but rather, “In the age of social media, are brand websites less relevant?” The answer might be yes – if only because social media, specifically Facebook, has become such a dominant part of consumers’ digital lives.

Think of it this way: A brand’s online presence is not an island, but rather an ecosystem of distinct yet interrelated digital touchpoints. Today’s ecosystem includes the branded website, along with other platforms such as microsites, display ads, search, email, mobile and social media efforts. Each part of the ecosystem serves a specific purpose and provides its own set of unique advantages and disadvantages.

Even though branded Facebook pages are growing at a rapid pace, they remain secondary for most consumers. A recent study from Invoke Solutions found that even among frequent social media users, people are nearly twice as likely to visit a company’s website than its Facebook page.

In Defense of the Brand Website

No matter how many other digital spaces with which a brand is involved, the website still usually serves as the online “home” for the brand. Site traffic most always outranks a brand’s Facebook following, and it’s where people naturally go to find out more about a company. They offer several distinct benefits with which branded Facebook pages simply cannot compete.

Depth and Richness of Content

Since you wholly own a brand website, it means you create the rules, and the site is limited only by your imagination. Websites are the one place where you can create as much content as you want, in whatever platform you want and make it as rich as you want. A Facebook page, on the other hand, has strict guidelines on what can be customized and the technology used. Brands can create custom tabs, but real estate is limited. In addition, these tabs are often fairly static, as multimedia interaction such as Flash requires a click on the tab before the user can interact.

Discovery Is Second Nature 

The most common way people find their way onto a corporate website is by guessing the URL, according to recent research from the E-Tailing Group. The Web is universal and no login is required to join. The content on a website is much easier to find through search.

Data Ownership 

When you set up a brand page on Facebook, you don’t really own it. Your content is subject to the company’s own set of policies, which often change. It can lose data or even go out of business someday. Also, if all your brand’s exposure is confined within Facebook, then it runs the risk of muddling its unique identity.

Reach

Although it may seem hard to believe at times, not everyone is on Facebook. In fact, while Facebook has 140 million users in the U.S., there are 240 million Internet users in the country. By confining your brand’s online presence to Facebook, you are excluding 100 million consumers from your messaging.

E-Commerce

U.S. consumers first learned to buy products online through the Web. We have become accustomed to making purchases online through branded websites and third-party retailers, but placing product orders through social media still seems foreign to most Americans. In the future this may change; companies such as Best Buy and 1-800 Flowers are experimenting with importing their inventory to their Facebook pages, but the success of these efforts remains to be seen.

Advantages of Facebook

Facebook now has more than 500 million members worldwide. In the U.S., it’s the most heavily trafficked website, surpassing Google earlier this year. The social networking site allows brands to connect with consumers where they are more active online.

Exposure

One of the biggest strengths of Facebook is that when fans interact with a brand, their friends also get exposed via the news feed. This relies on pushing out communications that encourage many of your fans to interact through commenting and liking your updates.

Targeting

The high volume of personal data that is self-reported by Facebook members allows advertisers to be more precise than ever in its targeting efforts. Everything from age and gender to interests is available as criteria to target your campaign.

Continued Engagement

It’s extremely simple to update certain types of content of a Facebook page, including posts, photos and brand videos. This makes it easier to facilitate conversations about the brand and give fans a reason to make repeat visits to the page.

Conclusion

Despite the rise in buzz around Facebook pages, brand websites are every bit as relevant as they’ve ever been. They remain the only true digital channel that can be completely and wholly owned by you, the brand. While some social media sites may come and go, websites are an enduring digital touchpoint.

Every great digital strategy relies on utilizing multiple digital platforms and allocating marketing efforts where they will be used most effectively. Consumer behavior will continue to evolve, and expectations of what brands should be online will continue to shift as consumers become more dependent on digital platforms for product information, reviews and shopping. And for now, at least, a brand site still serves an important role in that process.

Practical Considerations

If you have an idea for an online execution for your brand, but aren’t sure where it would be most appropriate to live, refer back to the advantages of each platform and weigh which benefits are more important for the execution you’re considering.

If you are considering replacing your website with a Facebook page, you should first make a tally of all the functions and roles of your current website and ask yourself whether a Facebook page would be capable of taking over. How much do you rely on selling products online? How much traffic is your site pulling in currently? Is your focus to display product information or facilitate brand affinity?

If you think there is duplication in some of your efforts, decide whether the effort should live only on the website, only on Facebook or remain on both. You don’t always have to choose between the two; many brands are choosing to make their websites more social by implementing Facebook social plug-ins, which are extensions of Facebook that live on a website. They have the potential to show users a completely immersive brand experience on the Web while allowing them to share branded content with their friends at the same time.

The answers to each of these questions should factor into your decision on how to share your brand’s online presence between the website or Facebook page.

HTML5 vs. Flash: Who Wins?

By Randy Bradshaw

Should we continue to invest in Flash and business as usual, or do we abandon the platform altogether and fix our sights on the promise of HTML5?

We are hearing this question more and more. Before we can answer, we first need to step back and take a more serious look at these technologies to gain a better understanding of exactly what they offer.

What Is HTML5?

HTML5, as the acronym implies, is the next major revision of the HTML standard. It is still under development and not expected to be “feature-complete” until mid-2011. This means that if you choose to chase this rabbit, you will likely still run into a few unexpected challenges. HTML5 is a pretty big step in the markup standard, and it will most likely take some time before it’s “ready for prime time.”

There are a large number of improvements over the previous HTML4 standard, but, for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on four of the more prominent features.

Audio/Video Streaming

This is probably one of the most touted new features of HTML5 umbrella and is largely responsible for the friction between Flash and HTML5. No longer are you required to stream your audio and video files through a Flash plug-in. This significantly reduces download times and, theoretically, reduces the load on the CPU.

The “Canvas” Tag

This new feature allows for rendering of graphics or other visual imagery programmatically. This also means that such rendered graphics can be animated programmatically based on user interaction or other behaviors.

Offline Applications

HTML5 takes advantage of technology that allows the user to continue to work with web applications (if appropriately architected) even when offline. This feature will prove to be of great benefit to those who travel frequently or find themselves in locations where Wi-Fi isn’t available.

Geolocation

This new feature provides location-specific information for the user based on triangulating Wi-Fi signals or GPS, when available. This information can be used by a web application to provide the user with content or other data relevant to their physical location.

These are only a few of the more prominent features offered by the pending HTML5 standard. You’ll also find a more detailed breakdown on HTML5 at Focus.com if you’re interested in learning more.

Another factor that comes into play is browser support for the new standard. Currently, support for HTML5 varies greatly between web browsers as the chart here illustrates.

It is important to note that the same rules don’t necessarily apply if you’re targeting a specific device or platform, such as the iPad or iPhone. These devices are well ahead of the curve when it comes to support for HTML5, as they don’t support content created on the Flash platform.

It’s going to be really difficult to ignore the need to convert to HTML5 as the popularity of these devices continues to soar. Apple sold three million of these glossy little items within the first 80 days of launch. Add to that the fact that analysts are now expecting sales to be in the neighborhood of 11-12 million in 2010 and 20 million more in 2011. It’s safe to say that the iPad and new iPhones have considerably changed the mobile landscape. As of this writing, the adoption rate has reportedly surpassed that of the DVD. If your target audience fits within this group, you’d be remiss in not capitalizing on their support for the HTML5 feature set. This includes things such as embedded video without requiring a Flash video player, browser-based geolocation services and the ability to localize and store data and application information for use offline.

To get an unbiased point of view on when to choose HTML5 or Flash for your website, we asked some of our own developers from both camps to weigh in on where these technologies are best suited. We’ve compiled their responses below.

When to consider HTML5:

  • Mobile – Content for smart phones is a great opportunity to leverage HTML5 as most of the web browsers shipping on these devices offer excellent support for the new technology.
  • Video/Audio Streaming (non-DRM) – If the content you’re streaming is not proprietary in nature and does not require rights management, HTML5 is a great option for providing that content with very small overhead.
  • iOS – If your target audience includes the iPad or other iOS-based devices, you’ll want to leverage HTML5 to enrich your message.

When to stick with Flash:

  • Non-Mobile Effort – When the mobile demographic is NOT a significant target for your message.
  • Webcams – If you need more advanced access features to your computer itself, Flash works best (webcam, computer clipboard, etc.). Augmented reality experiences are a great example of this type of functionality.
  • Video/Audio Streaming (DRM) – When you need to protect the rights-managed content you’re streaming to prevent pirating, sharing or unauthorized downloading of that content.
  • Experiential Sites – When your design dictates a more immersive, interactive experience for your visitor.

Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface here as there are many other factors to consider when deciding how and when to leverage each of these powerful technologies. A year from now we’ll be looking at newer devices and technologies, many of which may take a more flexible approach to support Flash. This will be especially true within the mobile landscape.

More often than not, it may make sense to leverage them both to some degree when designing your web presence. The main point we’re trying to present here is that we need to look beyond all the hype and focus on what makes sense for your brand, your audience and your message. If you consider these factors beforehand, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve your goals when designing your website and executing on that design. In the long run, it will save you both time and money.

Mobile Advertising

By Cheryl Huckabay

The ad industry has waited a long time for mobile to be a viable place to reach consumers. In 2010, great strides were made for mobile advertising, including overall growth, localization, targeting, rich media advances, the introduction of iAd and the inclusion of tablets in the mobile category. In 2011, mobile advertising will provide more opportunities for advertisers with rich technology, a unique daypart, more customization and more tracking.

Rich Technology

The release of iAd called attention to the use of mobile devices’ functionality to enhance a consumer’s brand experience in ads. In 2011, we will see HTML5 and mobile apps provide opportunities for advertisers to truly take advantage of these functions with “tap-through,” scrolling, accelerometer ads, etc. Brands can take advantage of more rich formats outside of iAd, including expandable units, video interstitials, accelerometer and tap to email or call. Apps can also map a user’s location or pull it into the text of the ad with location-based data collection. Enhanced functionality will increase engagement for brands, and advertisers should give special consideration to creating ads that complement this.

Video
Video
Localization
Localization
Accelerometer
Accelerometer
Expandable
Expandable
Tap to Call
Tap to Call
Tap to Email
Tap to Email

While many types of traditional digital targeting are available via mobile ads, such as demographic and behavioral, geotargeting and localization deserved to be discussed on their own. With GPS capabilities, this is possibly the most accurate way to geotarget a consumer. With most traditional forms of media, we geotarget a consumer’s household or computer. Mobile ads can geotarget consumers as they come within a certain range of a desired product or service. We will see huge growth in this targeting in 2011 and the growth of mobile couponing.

Unique Daypart

Dayparting has always been an important consideration in media planning to understand when and how to reach consumers within each form of media. Mobile is an important consideration in this discussion as it reaches a new “daypart” that caters to the evolving on-demand relationship between media and consumers. Traditional online advertising brought an “at-work” audience to advertisers and brands; mobile now brings an on-the-go, 24/7 audience. Not only do consumers carry their mobile devices everywhere with them…they are also shopping, eating, socializing and consuming forms of offline media, including print, audio and video formats. Millennial Media’s Q2 2010 S.M.A.R.T.™ Report shows that 30% of consumers accessing retail data on their phone could not be reached through traditional online or offline media channels. Because of this, mobile advertising will see strong growth in 2011 to reach this unique “daypart” that no other form of media can provide.

Content Shifting

As mobile use continues to grow in 2011, consumers are taking content with them. We will start to see more opportunities with mobile TV shows as part of the total video viewership for programming. We will continue to see mobile radio be a huge audience to reach consumers with audio messages and more print publications launching tablet versions. In Q2 2010, Pandora’s mobile listening hours exceeded its web listening hours for the first time, and Condé Nast has led the effort in tablet print editions. Like the Web, print, video and audio channels offer additional targeting to reach an audience, not just a show or station format. Print is lagging a little bit as the traditional marketing sales departments control these ad opportunities, but it may benefit them in the long run. It’s taken a while to get advertisers to view online television as just another screen to watch the same programming. Since print is targeting the print buyers first, there may be a more seamless transition; however, their knowledge of tracking and digital standardizations may impair digital growth.

Tracking

Mobile has been somewhat of a poster child for privacy, as it learned from online’s track record. Spam issues are minimal, and privacy is key as it is one of consumers’ most personal possessions, but tracking has become a necessity for digital channels. Currently, smart phones and iPads default to disable cookies, which limits advertisers’ tracking abilities. As we think of digital advertising, we assume that everything can be tracked down to back-end metrics. This is the big hole in mobile campaigns right now. In 2011, new advances in tracking will emerge to get closer to completing the circle to a conversion with possible cookie-less conversion tracking. Privacy will continue to be discussed as this progresses, to ensure consumers’ personally identifiable information is protected.

While we can’t tell what consumers are doing on a mobile website in most cases, it’s important to move consumers through channels we can track. There are more immediate end actions to take on a mobile device than there are with any other channel. MYDAS shows that placing a call, submitting a form and watching a video top the list of consumer interactions, and all of these can actually be tracked.

In 2011, advertisers need to pay special attention to how they use mobile. Stay cutting-edge to keep consumers engaged. Understand and use the functionality of the phone to enhance a consumer’s experience. Dig deep into how and when a target audience is using mobile to provide relevancy, immediacy and value. And, finally, consider alternative actions to track to provide mobile insights.

Cheryl Huckabay - Principal, Digital Media Director

As a multichannel marketing expert, Cheryl oversees Click Here’s overall media strategy, campaign implementation and analysis for clients such as Chick-fil-A, The Salvation Army and Red Lobster.

Micro UGC: The Emerging Power of the Status Update

By Brian Kress

User-generated content, or UGC, is simply any content that is produced by end users. The term UGC entered into our collective vernacular around 2005 when people gained access to media production and publication through new technologies such as digital video, blogging, mobile phone photography and wikis. They began to take control of content, developing and uploading whatever they wanted.

Eventually, Internet users weren’t interested in communicating through larger platforms such as blogs or videos. They found smaller venues that spoke to a more focused audience and that took less time to update.

This was the birth of “micro UGC.”

What Is Micro UGC?

As its predecessor “microblogging” has done, “micro UGC” describes a short, low-involvement form of user-generated content. Think status updates, star ratings, “likes,” check-ins and “you may also like.”

It all started when America Online introduced the world to the instant messenger in the form of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). In addition to chatting with your friends, AIM included a feature that allowed you to establish an online status letting your friends know whether you were available to talk.

As social networking entered the scene, the founders of Facebook/MySpace/Twitter each began to incorporate a similar idea into their world, asking a single, perpetual question that defines the social experience at the time:

“What’s on your mind?”

It was with this question that our digital culture went from long-form UGC to micro UGC.

This is the world in which we now live – a world consumed by the litany of status updates, check-ins and perfunctory product and service reviews (e.g., “Try the pizza, it’s great!”) – this is the world of “micro UGC.” Posting pictures to your Tumblr is micro UGC. Giving a movie a star rating on Netflix is micro UGC. Each and every one of these tiny interactions is micro UGC.

In this light, micro UGC might seem insignificant, but the real power of micro UGC comes in the aggregate. Take, for example, these two star ratings from two similar books on Amazon.com:

I, for one, if interested in both of these books, would choose the top selection. Why? Because of the sheer number of quality ratings. While a single five-star rating may not convince, 72 five-star ratings out of 80 are hard to ignore. In aggregate, micro UGC defines which book is better.

What Classifies as Micro UGC?

We’ve found many different types of micro UGC out in the wild. Here’s a classification of the most common types of micro UGC:

Status Updates – These updates exist on Facebook and Twitter and tend to answer the question: “What’s on your mind?”

Check-Ins – Through location-based social networking services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla, users “check in” to wherever they are. Often these check-ins are paired with comments and reviews about the location.

Likes – Likes or recommendations through Facebook allow a user to tell her network that she “likes” a website, product or service. After liking something, the user’s profile is connected to it as if it were a friend.

Reviews – Reviews in micro UGC are any user-generated review of a product or service on a multitude of sites such as Amazon or Best Buy.

Why Do People Get Involved in Micro UGC? 

Aside from the goodness of their heart or a simple need to speak their opinions across the Web, there are a couple of built-in incentives that bring people to create their own micro UGC:

  • Tailored Recommendations – One major purpose for creating micro UGC is to get customized recommendations from a website that knows what you like already. When a reviewer gives a star rating to a product on Amazon, that rating, good or bad, helps Amazon point that user in the direction of a product they would like.
  • Building a Digital Identity – Micro UGC creators also hope that creating content will put their fingerprint on the Web. Through “liking” articles, checking in at restaurants and showing fandom of Nike Running, users are doing more than connecting to their friends on social networks, they’re connecting to brands, places and ideas. In doing so, they’re demonstrating more and more who they are through their social presence.

Both of these incentives revolve around the same thing: personalization. By incorporating micro UGC experiences into their lives, users can expect a personalized Internet, one that filters content specifically for them.

What, Exactly, Does this Mean for Brands?

Principally, we’d argue that now, more than ever, you’ll have your customers weighing in on your brand in ways that you can’t necessarily control. The technologies providing these micro UGC opportunities mean to serve the end user, the user who both creates and consumes the content, both egalitarian and utilitarian in nature.

We’ve found many different ways that brands utilize micro UGC for marketing good.

  • Incorporating Reviews on the Brand Website – Often, in the world of consumer products, brands will allow users to write reviews of their product directly on their website or crowdsource these reviews from Twitter and Amazon.
  • Creating Pieces of Content for Users to “Like” – As liking a certain activity on Facebook is becoming more common, brands that create content have added “recommend” buttons to their content so all Facebook users can easily share the content that they like with their network.
  • Building a Forum for Users to Talk About the Brand – From putting up a simple Facebook page around the brand to designing a custom forum dedicated to the brand, many brands have found benefit in allowing micro UGC to happen under their own roof. These forums not only allow advocates of the brand to share with one another, but they also provide a valuable resource of insight into the brand.
  • Monitoring Micro UGC – Through buzz monitoring services such as Nielsen Buzzmetrics and Visible Measures, brands can see the conversations that are happening online about their product. This aids in damage control and customer service, and is invaluable for insight gathering.

What it truly means for brands is that they need to focus more on building an advocate base through the delivery of a consistent brand message. The brand promise must be pervasive throughout the business. When we break the promise of our brand to a single customer, it could (and often will) send a shot heard round the world. Consistency is key in the age of micro UGC.

Brian Kress - Digital Strategist

An avid gamer and digerati, Brian tracks digital consumer lifestyle trends and emerging technologies to uncover meaningful, actionable insights.  He’s a pro at translating brands into the digital world.

More than Fun & Games

By Brian Linder

The holidays have many meanings for many cultures. For the culture of gaming, the holiday season is that special time of year when the big console manufacturers engage in a head-to-head battle royal for a spot in your living room and in the hearts of gamers everywhere. This year’s console face-off has created more than an evolution in how we play games. This could potentially be a revolution in how we use computers. And in 2011 we’re going to see this revolution in action.

But first, a little backstory: The game console war this holiday (December 2010) is all about game controllers. PlayStation has come out with a Wii-like controller called Move, and Xbox has a hands-free controller called Kinect. Writing this article in November, it’s too early to tell who this year’s winner will be at the cash register, but when it comes to advancing the casual computing experience, Xbox Kinect is the clear winner.

For those of you who may not yet know, the Xbox Kinect (which has garnered a lot of attention in its development stages under the moniker Project Natal) is a little box that hooks up to your console and sits under your TV. It uses cameras and microphones to make your body and your voice the game controller. There is nothing you hold in your hand or put on your body to control the game; it’s all you. While you jump around in your living room, your avatar jumps around in the game. Pretty neat, right?

This is how it works: The device houses three cameras, two of the cameras are stereoscopic infrared cameras that work together as a 3-D camera and the third camera is a simple webcam. The two infrared cameras capture your image as a 3-D wire frame that the game can use to translate your movement as action in the game.

The 3-D camera can also determine the difference between you and your background, allowing the device to create a mask around you. So, while the webcam captures the image of you jumping around your living room, the 3-D camera can separate your image from your background and place your live image on-screen in-game. That’s right, you in your pajamas and your bunny slippers will easily appear on-screen on top of a waterfall kicking the collective butts of a fire-breathing ninja clan (how demoralizing for the ninjas).

With these two significant features – green screen and 3-D motion capture – the Kinect popularizes a technology that allows for a significant advance in augmented reality and gesture control. Based on these two fundamental capabilities, 2011 will no doubt be filled with people reinventing, reimagining and repurposing the Xbox Kinect to do all kinds of amazing things. What kind of things? Recently, I had lunch with a digital analyst and a multimedia developer. And I asked them how we might use the Kinect technology for purposes outside gaming. In that one lunch hour, we had no shortage of ideas – here are the top five from that conversation:

1. Take Your Air Guitar Skills on the Road

The Kinect’s 3-D camera can track the position and movement of my hands. And the processing power in an Xbox can interpret my movements as sound. Put those things together, and I can easily imagine standing in front of my TV wailing out some blazing air guitar riffs and seeing myself on screen rocking the house for real. That’s no Guitar Hero avatar; that’s me up there. But why stop there; I can form a band of air instrument masters and take our show on the road. I bet we’ll see a Kinect-powered air guitar band performing on stage somewhere before 2011 is over.

2. The TV Goes from Theater to Production Studio

Now that our big-screen TV has a camera that can automatically isolate a person from their background, we will have the ability to make special-effect-based movies in our living room. With Kinect’s built-in green screen feature, you might be able to feature yourself on the moon or on a volcano battling scorpions. That green screen technology isn’t as sophisticated as a James Cameron flick, but I don’t think that’ll stop us from making movies of ourselves in any setting imaginable.

3. Living Room Becomes Retail Dressing Room

Can’t make it in your private jet to visit the Prada store in Manhattan? No problem. Stand in front of your Kinect-enabled TV and use voice commands and hand gestures to search through the Prada racks, and just stand there as the outfits are superimposed right on your body. That’ll look good at the Oscars.

4. Never Lose Your Remote

With the Kinect’s ability to interpret gestures and voice commands into actions, we will no longer need that remote control. Point your finger at the ceiling to raise the volume. Wave your hand left to right to change channels like you’re wafting away a bad smell. Want to watch an episode of “The A-Team,” all you have to do is say “A-Team” and Mr. T will come running. I pity the fool who is stuck at home rummaging under his couch cushions looking for his old-fashioned remote control.

5. Be Better than Tom Cruise in “Minority Report”

In the movie “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise’s character would do all those crazy hand gestures to navigate through the on-screen applications he used to solve murders before they happened. But to do all that cool stuff on his computer, he needed to wear gloves. Well, when someone figures out how to hook up Kinect to your computer, you’ll be better than Tom Cruise because you won’t need fancy gloves. Just make a grabbing motion in the air to select that “Minority Report” movie file in your iTunes, and then with a free throw gesture you can toss that file into the trash can because with the Kinect, that “Minority Report” stuff will be old school.

While these ideas offer a sense for how the Kinect can serve a purpose beyond gaming, you might be asking yourself, “What will marketers be able to do with this technology in 2011?” While this technology may not have immediate application in the marketing realm, keep the Kinect on your radar because 2011 will be the year that the tinkerers do their tinkering with the device. You might see some fascinating YouTube videos of bright men and women using the Kinect to do surprising things. We might even see someone giving a TED conference presentation that uses the Kinect to present a vision of the future human interface.

Perhaps one or two brands will find a way to use the hardware to give their campaign a buzzworthy next-gen interactive experience. Maybe a marketer will use the Kinect in-store like Lego did with augmented reality. Perhaps some forward-thinking marketer will figure out how to use the Kinect functionality to make an interactive window display that blows all previous interactive displays away. These progressive marketers will no doubt receive a flurry of PR love for their innovative spirit. And everyone else will be asking, “Why didn’t we think of that?” (Well, now you can “think of that” first).

While 2011 will be the year we see a lot of experimentation with this new hardware, it’s what comes next that should excite marketers. Consider how multitouch and mobile apps transformed the mobile device into an opportunity for meaningful engagement with audiences away from computers and TV screens. GPS functionality transformed social networks into a local experience. Even the humble webcam has evolved well beyond its original function as it has been repurposed to serve up face recognition and augmented reality experiences. The Kinect’s technology is positioned to lead a transformation of similar magnitude.

By the end of the year, the marketplace might start seeing laptops or mobile devices with the Kinect’s dual infrared camera built in. And that’s when things will get interesting. I might be able to navigate a website with gestures I make in front of my computer. The 3-D camera will allow my computer to make a 3-D model of me that I can use to virtually try on outfits in digital retail experiences. If I’m redecorating my kitchen, the infrared cam can grab a 3-D image of the space and reinterpret it for me with brand-new appliances. I could use my mobile device to snap a 3-D pic of a wall in my garage, and a handy app could use the dimensional information to give me exact specs and custom instructions on a workbench that would fit that space perfectly.

Exactly how and when all this will come to pass is anyone’s guess, but, rest assured, there are plenty of folks out there much smarter than me dreaming up ways to use this device to make serious changes in the way we live our digital lives. So, keep an eye on what they’re doing so you can be ready to meet your audience when they start using this technology for a lot more than fun and games.

Brian Linder - Principal, Digital Creative Director

Brian creates multimedia design for brands in nearly every sector, including most recently GameStop, Chick-fil-A and Travelocity.com. His work has been published in Graphis and received recognition from Ad:Tech, The One Show, DFWIMA, iMedia and various marketing blogs.

The Constant Evolution of Search Engine Marketing

By David A. Wright and Derek Louden

Some recent search engine marketing buzz has claimed that in an “Instant,” Google killed unpaid search engine optimization (SEO) and struck a blow to pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising. Also, the Yahoo!/Bing merger to create your choice of “YaBing” or “Binghoo!” has set the paid search community buzzing. Before we get too angst-ridden or grief-stricken, let me suggest that reports of SEO’s death are greatly exaggerated and PPC can fight back with renewed vigor.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the most evolved media on the Internet, in part because it was one of the first, and continually so because of intense environmental pressures causing ongoing adaptation to change in terms of the greater Internet environment and user behavior.

Several trends have recently come together to once again further evolve search engine marketing. First, SEO saw the rise of personalization, then localization and socialization entered the fray, and now with Google Instant, we’re seeing changes to how variable results instantly appear on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Although not new to the Internet mix, video continues to expand as it becomes a dominant source of media consumption. By parsing these trends, one can see how they are all tied together in the knot that is SEM. Untying the knot is the job of a good search marketing strategy.

Caffeine Jitters

With the Google “Caffeine” update late in 2009 and early in 2010, we saw search become personalized, localized and socialized, especially via smart phones. Localization was achieved with the introduction of Google Places as a more robust way to search for business locations. By allowing Google to know where you are, search results became more personalized. If you are searching for a business, nearby locations are displayed. Bing Local and Yahoo! Local provide similar services and results, and, importantly for search engine marketers, basic listings are free. If half of life is just showing up (and I would extend this to marketing), then clients with retail locations need to show up in searches related to location.

Google’s stake in local search, and by extension social search in 2011, is to work “on figuring out how to take on the Yellow Pages business in a new way, answering people’s questions before they ask them…if Google knows what type of sushi you like and a Japanese restaurant nearby has a canceled reservation, Google could alert you on your cell phone,” according to The New York Times (October 13, 2010).

Google stepped up to become “social” when it started, in late 2009, returning social media results on SERPs. Arguably, this was in response to the buzz that social media would overtake traditional search engines as the go-to search platform, especially in light of the immediacy of content that outlets such as Twitter provide. Google social results are shown in almost real time if there is any current social media buzz related to a query.

Similarly, Google and Yahoo!/Bing have integrated social media and localized data support into their interfaces. Bing announced in October that searches will have pictures of Facebook friends next to web pages that they recommend if you’re also logged in to your Facebook account when searching. Google almost immediately countered by showing social shares in their search results.

The integration of social media with search is definitely something to think about in terms of a Facebook/SEM strategy in 2011.

Another new phenomenon that set the search industry all atwitter was the introduction of “location-based social networks” (LBSN) such as Google Latitude, Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla. These applications allow you to know in real time where your friends are, and vice versa, allowing your friends to see where you are. This is not exactly search, but it is intimately tied to location indexing, which has its roots partly in the search indices. The full effect of this has yet to be felt in any significant manner because of a small percentage of users, but this phenomenon bears close watching.

Video Segue

Although it’s been around for a while, online video is an important touchpoint for reaching audiences on the Internet. comScore Video Metrix reports that for the first time in August 2010, the social media site Facebook overtook Yahoo! as a top video viewing site in the U.S.

Google still leads the way in online searches for video and video viewership, and this is important to note in terms of SEM. A Q2 2010 Brightcove and TubeMogul study showed:

Overall, 81.9% of video streams were discovered via direct traffic or navigation within a publisher’s own site. From third-party referral traffic, 64% comes from Google, followed by Yahoo! (11.9%), Facebook (4.3%), Bing (2.6%) and Twitter (1.2%).

Add to this the growth in availability of web-enabled televisions along with the Google TV and Boxee TV portal platforms, and it’s easy to see where this is going and why businesses need to have an online video presence. Also, you can see how this data might make the search engines nervous just as social media encroached into their space. Remember, though, Google video search referrals are 64% and Facebook referrals are 12%.

Google in an Instant

The newest twist in search is Google’s “Instant” search algorithm that dynamically shows SERPs as a query is typed or clicked from Google’s instantly provided drop-down list of suggestions or predictions. The actual first page of results repopulates while you click suggestions or enter and edit queries.

What this means for the marketer trying to capture the eyes of the searcher is to pay special attention to the search terms and phrases Google suggests. Quite simply, these “Instant” terms and phrases are a valuable insight into the content for which a website should be optimized or for which paid search should be used. Ranking factors have not changed. What may change are the keywords and phrases being suggested or predicted. Depending on how user habits develop, multi-word phrases may increase in searches as searchers use more precise queries. Make sure to consider using these multi-word phrases suggested by Google because they may provide insights into keywords and phrases to use on a website and in paid search.

What Google Instant will mean for paid search is that bidding for top keywords and phrases in 2011 will become more competitive and that more research and tracking will be required to discover the best-performing keywords and phrases. Perhaps the most immediate impact on advertisers’ paid search campaigns will be an increase in the overall impression volume. Simply the appearance of a paid search ad is not enough to generate an impression. Users must take an action such as clicking a listing or suggestion, or pausing for three seconds before an impression will be tallied. Thus, advertisers should be mindful of the potential effect this new technology could have in depressing campaign clickthrough rates. Long-tail keywords and phrases might just pop to the top of Google suggestions. This may also keep people on the first page of search results as the search phrase is typed or edited, or as the drop-down list is presented and changes. Getting search listings on above-the-fold rankings on the first page of SERPs, whether through SEO or PPC, will be more important than ever in 2011.

Summary

First and foremost in 2011 will be the necessity to build a website that lends itself to successful search engine indexing and that, with the all-important keyword-rich content and linking efforts, can return high rankings on SERPs. Renewed attention to website titles and descriptions is important so that a succinct point of difference, value proposition or promotion “instantly” captures the attention of the searcher.

Good search engine marketing must make sure a business’ website is optimized to be found by keywords and phrases AND location AND in social media AND video. Short of getting found through natural search listings, the best alternative is still pay per click. Combining paid and natural search to achieve first page ranking for both will provide the greatest return on investment of any online marketing effort, except maybe email marketing via in-house lists.

The future is now for the vast majority of websites that have not taken heed and advantage of the above SEM opportunities. As these trends further evolve, we may see profound changes in searchers’ behavior. Will social media dominate search, or maybe just video search? Will instantly recommending search keywords and phrases keep users overwhelmingly on the first page of search results? Marketers and their clients need to be discussing how they will address the answers to these questions now, before search engine marketing further evolves in 2011.

David Wright - Search Media Specialist

David creates and effectively executes many of Click Here’s successful integrated media and search campaigns. He is a certified paid and natural search veteran and is a frequent guest columnist for leading business journals, industry sites and SEM blogs.

Derek Louden - Search Marketing Specialist

Derek analyzes clients’ businesses and crafts custom PPC marketing plans to drive maximum ROI and bottom-line success. He’s created award-winning search strategies for many of Click Here’s clients, including MetroPCS, Centex and Sewell Automotive Companies.

Sources

http://files.brightcove.com/brightcove-whitepaper-online-video-and-media-industry-q2-2010.pdf

The Future of Shopping Is Social

By Colin Hogan and Lori Wittig

Word-of-mouth advertising has been around, well, forever. It’s one of the most basic, most trusted, most effective forms of advertising. Now the digital space is changing how it works. It’s giving people louder voices. Instead of telling four or five friends about the amazing new cupcake bakery on the corner, people are telling their 130 Facebook friends (on average) with a single post.

But a Facebook status is only the beginning. For a long time, the Internet has been one of the best places to find both product reviews and discounted prices. It’s also been one of the best tools for bringing people together. More and more, brands are starting to recognize this and take advantage of opportunities to bring people, discounts and reviews together online. Specifically, recommendation engines and group buying sites are becoming increasing popular and integrated into social networks such as Facebook. You may not even recognize them, but these shopping tools are showing up all over the place and will give shoppers a lot of power in 2011.

Recommendation Engines

Several years ago, companies began implementing customer ratings and reviews as components of their e-commerce websites. These features allowed brands to begin to harness the power of shopper word of mouth.

But online reviews were only the first step. In 2010, Facebook launched the “like” button, which further merged e-commerce sites with the most popular online form of word of mouth: social networking.

Instead of asking consumers to use a standard five-star rating system, brands have now been able to integrate with Facebook and to simply ask them to “like” which products interest them.

When you “like” a product, the product is automatically listed under your interests in your Facebook profile, and it will most likely also be published in your news feed. Every “like” publishes to an average of 130 friends’ news feeds. This means that all your friends will be able to see that you like a certain type of jeans, for instance, which increases brand awareness.

Examples

Clothing retailer Levi Strauss was one of the first brands to incorporate the Facebook “like” into its site. So instead of asking consumers to “like” the brand as a whole, the site allowed them to “like” individual products, such as pairs of jeans. The site also includes a friends search tab, which shows you the products that your friends liked on the site.

Another early adopter, Urban Outfitters, uses similar features and even ranks its product lineup by the number of “likes” each product receives.

But this feature is not just limited to clothing retailers. National bookseller Borders encourages its online shoppers to “like” books that they have enjoyed. If one of your friends, in this case, Lori, likes a product at which you are looking, then it will show up as well.

By implementing the Facebook “like” functionality, these brands are hoping to segment their fans to be able to send direct messages to different categories of consumers. So instead of sending a promotional message about men’s jeans to everyone, they can target only those who have expressed interest in those products through “likes.”

Search Integration

In 2011, information about social liking will soon be available through search. On October 13, Bing announced a more advanced integration with Facebook into Bing’s search results. Bing will display data from Facebook, including the pages of brands your friends have “liked,” as part of the web search.

For example, if you search Bing for Levi’s, you might see the names of your Facebook friends who have “liked” the brand.

We expect the shopping rush of the 2010 holiday season to further drive the growth of these technologies in 2011. Once consumers get their first experience with personalized e-commerce on a grand scale, the pressure will be on for companies to embrace these new features.

Group Buying Sites

These are sites that leverage collective buying power through the convenience of the Internet. Usually, they work with local businesses to offer deals of 50% off or more. To add urgency, the deals are limited quantity or for a limited time. Then they rely on people telling friends to spread the word. And the word is definitely spreading. According to CBSnews.com, there are individual 500+ group buying sites. One of the largest is Groupon, which is close to 13 million customers and growing according to their site.

It’s a simple idea, but it makes a lot of sense. Especially in this economy, businesses are willing to give deals and consumers are looking for them. It’s hard to pass up a $115 haircut for only $75, a $70 round of golf for only $35 or even a $20 lunch for just $10.

Although some of these sites have been around for a few years, 2010 was definitely a year of huge expansion. Look for the popularity and growth to continue in 2011. Both businesses and customers will have plenty of options from which to choose. So these group buying sites will need to start differentiating themselves to stay successful. There seem to be two big ways for these sites to stand out in 2011: personalization and integration.

Personalization

These coupons offer huge discounts, but the key is to make sure the right target is seeing them. Some sites have already started personalizing their sites by showing users customized deals based on preferences and buying history. For smaller sites, personalizing their target could make them more valuable. For example, a site that only has baby deals but also gives advice and product reviews for moms, or one that offers outdoor gear, activity packages and suggests local trails for the outdoor adventurer.

Integration

Integration with other social networks and mobile devices will make the deals accessible and convenient. Some of these sites already have mobile applications and a presence on Facebook, but most are fairly basic. As sites fight to stand out this year, look for more interesting mobile app features, the possible collaboration of customer review sites such as Yelp, and more sharing features on Facebook and/or Twitter. For example, Scoutmob.com’s mobile application provides deals on the go, but also has a fun extra mustache camera.

Scoutmob's mobile application
Scoutmob's mobile application

Keep in Mind

Mine existing data. When implementing a recommendation engine or planning a coupon, first take a look through the data you already have. Incorporate existing company sales, loyalty programs, discounts or promotions instead of starting over online.

Decide between “like” and ratings. There are differences between a Facebook “like” and five-star reviews online, and both options present advantages and disadvantages. A “like,” while spreading the message to lots of other consumers, lacks the depth of traditional reviews. Online reviews, on the other hand, may lend more credibility to the product, but they are anonymous. Each brand must decide which method is more effective at achieving their desired goals. For a deeper look at the differences between reviews and “likes,” see one of our other 2011 trends, “Micro UGC: The Emerging Power of the Status Update.”

Choose a good partner. Implementing recommendation engines can be approached several ways. ChoiceStream is one of the largest companies that provide these services, but there are numerous other options out there, such as Aggregate Knowledge and CleverSet, that may fit your brand better. For group buying, look for sites that not only have big customer bases, but also have customers looking for what you are selling. These sites will be making money off the deals, too, so make sure they are willing to really work with you to make the deal effective. Be sure to shop around.

Set limits and be realistic. Especially for smaller businesses, a big group coupon could quickly get out of control if your deal becomes too popular. But even for larger brands, there’s always a limit to what your business can handle.

Follow up with excellent customer service. Good and bad news spreads very quickly online these days. So make sure to monitor your social networks, reviews, likes, comment sections, etc., very closely and take action if problems arise. When customers are reviewing your products and/or services, you want them to be positive. Also, to make the deals worthwhile, you need customers coming back and telling their friends.

Lori Wittig - Digital Brand Creative

Lori explores the insights that lead consumers to brands and then flips them on their head to create interesting, innovative work for clients including Amstel Light, Chick-fil-A and Flexjet.

Colin Hogan - Digital Strategist

Colin is passionate about emerging trends and technology and how they impact the way brands relate to consumers in the digital realm. He delivers strategic insight and opportunity for brands including Corner Bakery Cafe, Ram Trucks and BenefitMall.

Sources

http://www.grouponworks.com/
http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php
http://tomuse.com/
http://www.cbsnews.com/

The Rise of the Demand-Side Platform

By Cort Gorman

What would you do if you had $70 million between the couch cushions and your name rhymed with Woogle? Well, you might consider buying a two-year-old start-up company that promises to help change the course of an industry that is ironically still fairly new.

That’s effectively what search and advertising juggernaut Google did when it made headlines for buying Invite Media on June 3, 2010, hoping to augment its display ad business. By leveraging the start-up’s technology platform, Google now touts a product that allows advertisers to bid on ad display space in a live-auction-based environment. Invite Media is one of a growing number of companies called demand-side platforms (DSPs), which advertisers and ad agencies are hoping will automate the media buying process amid an increasingly cluttered digital media landscape.

The plight of the advertiser or ad agency today is filled with difficult decisions on where to place online advertising and whether the ad space (hundreds of billions of available impressions) purchased on carefully selected websites will result in a memorable brand experience or, better yet, a direct e-commerce transaction.

  • Longtime inventory aggregators such as ad networks (Advertising.com, DRIVEpm) and ad exchanges (Right Media, DoubleClick Ad Exchange) have made a business out of consolidating ad space across the Internet and offering single-point access to almost any site on the Web.
  • Audience data companies such as Experian and data aggregators such as eXelate and BlueKai are tracking web audiences and selling or bundling their historical behaviors to advertisers looking to enhance the value of those impressions and offer a peek into the user behind the impression.
  • Rich media companies such as PointRoll and dynamic creative solution Tumri happily offer their creative optimization services, hoping to use unique ad executions and targeted messaging to bolster marketing effectiveness.
  • Third-party ad servers are hosting creative files and tracking every ad impression and click down the path to conversion and eventually to the user transaction on an advertiser’s site.

Now breathe! If only there were a central hub that plugged into all these companies and centralized their offerings, ultimately streamlining an otherwise complicated and time-consuming media planning and buying process.

Enter the DSP, a media buying “software” that gives buyers powerful bidding tools and direct access to industry suppliers of ad space and consumer data, all accessed through a clean yet powerful user interface. The DSP sits between ad space buyers (advertisers, agencies) and ad space sellers (websites, ad exchanges, inventory yield managers), acting as a neutral facilitator of the buying and selling of online display media in an auction-based bidding model similar to the stock market.

Valuable user information – such as recent online behaviors, characteristics and even offline buying information from the aforementioned third-party data companies – is integrated into the system and available as à la carte add-ons for unprecedented ease of targeting across media buys. The DSP’s “secret sauce” optimization algorithm processes thousands of data points, such as advertiser targeting criteria, and bumps it up against the billions of ad space impressions in auction to identify the best possible match, then bids in real time according to desirability on an impression-by-impression basis. Within milliseconds, an impression is brought to market, scored, sold and delivered. In this way, advertisers are only paying for the true value of each impression. For savvy e-marketers that have long established their core online audience and yearn for a transparent view into optimization tactics, most demand-side platforms seamlessly blend technology with marketer-defined rules when making decisions against an impression in auction. Harvesting user data and gleaning intelligence on the person that unknowingly waits for an ad to load on a web page is the industry’s most current obsession. DSPs play an integral part in the data movement and enhance the seemingly endless amount of user information made available today by marrying it to an abundance of otherwise worthless remnant inventory. It’s a shift to buying audiences, not sites or even placements per traditional media buying practices.

The Plight of the Ad Network

The impact of the DSP movement is being felt industry-wide, and its emergence is applying serious pressure on the Web’s original ad space aggregators: ad networks. Both the DSP and ad network offer single-point access to inventory and targeting across the Internet, and both players heavily source inventory from ad exchanges.

Though both entities may ultimately provide access to the same ad impression, a classic network falters in its core business model. In its heart of hearts, a classic network is a reseller of pre-bought inventory. Arbitrage is the name of the game and to charge a healthy premium and turn a handsome quarterly profit, many networks will bundle inventory one thousand ways to the sun and force advertisers to take the good with the bad by charging a flat CPM rate. Because networks purchase inventory on a CPM basis and therefore fulfill CPM/guaranteed ad buys first, pay-for-performance (CPC, CPA) campaigns are often resigned to leftover or lower-grade inventory and limited in scalability. A standard network buy is chock full of remnant impressions buried deep within a user’s browser session, with premium inventory only peppered throughout.

In contrast, DSPs are agnostic technology companies that simply provide the access and tools to an auction-based marketplace. The impression-scoring ability of demand-side platforms allows advertisers to pay according to the value of each ad impression. Simply, customers who buy into the DSP model are awarded with more desirable inventory. Not surprisingly, many networks like Turn have successfully engineered their own bid algorithm and eagerly joined the DSP rate race. Others are taking a more refreshing approach and focusing on their core strengths, capitalizing on the limitations of a new technology still very much in its infancy.

Networks such as Tribal Fusion and Specific Media are taking a stand and aggressively enhancing four key areas that will help them differentiate and stay relevant in today’s marketplace.

  • Unique/Premium Inventory – Instead of acquiring inventory from ad exchanges, some networks employ a strict “no exchange” policy and purchase inventory directly from sites. Networks that have site-direct relationships can reserve premium inventory (above-the-fold, early session impressions) across the Internet at scale, not remnant inventory that is eventually sold to exchanges.
  • Rich Media Integration and Products – Because of the nature of the long-tail inventory available through DSPs, rich media is not widely accepted across its vast inventory pool. Networks can offer a welcoming environment for brand-rich executions such as synced ads.
  • Insights and Research – Networks with in-house analytics departments and access to MRI and other third-party research tools have been a longtime resource for marketers looking for a statistical edge, but not wanting to pay the annual licensing fee.
  • Service – Pure DSPs are technology companies first and media channels second, which means the customer service layer aspect is lacking. Networks, on the other hand, typically staff an account with cross-functional layers of service throughout the entire sale process from presale to post-campaign wrap-up.

Second-Generation Demand-Side Platforms

After making a splash in 2010, marketers will look to DSPs to expand their product offerings and become much more than a technology company that merely lends out its bidding platform. In 2011, look for these companies to go to market with turnkey and unique products that will further drive efficiency and attract large marketers. DSP [X+1] is leading the charge by teaming up with creative optimization technology company Tumri to provide a “new retail-focused solution” called Shopper Retargeting. The packaged solution combines Tumri’s dynamic creative technology platform with [X+1]’s dynamic optimization capabilities to deliver personalized ad retargeting.

The ability to access digital media channels outside traditional online display will also be key in how quickly DSPs grow and assimilate. Marketers are already asking for ad-decisioning technology when it comes to video and mobile advertising. Mobile is still widely considered the new frontier of digital media, with little standardization and an ongoing debate on measurable success. WPP Group’s global media management group GroupM is hoping its recent launch of the first-ever demand-side platform for mobile advertising will help their agencies measure, value, buy and optimize mobile ad space with the same efficiency and accountability as display inventory. Mobile ad spend and the accelerated maturity of that space should follow as other DSPs rush to market with similar capabilities. Video on the Web in all its glorious formats (pre-roll, mid-stream, post-roll, overlays) has historically been too expensive or not targeted enough to yield great results outside a select few big-brand marketers. Ad exchange adBrite recently announced its rollout of their video auction marketplace, which means DSPs that the exchange plugs into will soon have access to biddable video inventory. Marketers that can’t wait can look to YuMe, which just debuted a buy-side video ad management platform of their own. As DSPs expand their technology across all media channels, not just online display, advertisers can better adapt to the media-meshing habits of today’s consumer.

The onslaught of demand-side platforms triggers a shift in the way marketers buy media, taking the focus away from where and shifting it to who and how. For buyers, the promise of unprecedented visibility, more control and greater ROI at scale is almost too good to be true. For now, the promise made by the growing number of DSPs overshadows the reality of today’s technological capabilities, and where the movement will actually pan out in 2011/beyond is uncertain. One thing’s for sure, technology will advance, and more consolidation and Invite Media-like headlines will rock the trade publications, so certainly keep an eye and ear out for news regarding this dynamic new space.

Cort Gorman - Principal, Digital Media Director

Cort’s 25 years of extensive experience in all forms of media allow him to effectively guide our clients through the ever-changing digital landscape. He currently oversees digital media direction for clients such as Travelocity.com, Centex, MetroPCS and Fruit of the Loom.

The Year of the Mobile Website

By John Keehler

2010 was an important year for mobile. It was the year that Apple raised the bar for mobile advertising by introducing the iAd platform. Apple also introduced us to a new kind of mobility, the iPad. Finally, the new Android platform began to see its market share grow. You could say that 2010 was a year of introductions to new experiences. It will certainly not be the last year.

This coming year will be a time to get re-introduced to a mobile technology that’s been around for a while, but has become new again…the mobile web.

There are a few reasons why the mobile web is once again becoming an important channel, but it all comes back to smart phones. People with smart phones browse the mobile web. Smart phones provide a faster connection through Wi-Fi, and they have better built-in browsers and larger screens to accommodate mobile web browsing. The increase in smart phones will be huge in the coming year. According to Nielsen, right now only one in four mobile subscribers is using a smart phone. That number is poised to double in 2011 to roughly half of U.S. mobile subscribers. It’s not hard to imagine, since you can hardly find anything but smart phones through most major carriers.

In 2011, the net result of this increase in smart phones will be a drastic increase in mobile web usage.

Brands have been slow to create the mobile websites to support this increase in browsing behavior. In fact, earlier in 2010, Internet Retailer reinforced this, noting that only 58 of the top 500 retailers had a mobile website or application. This question of whether to create a mobile website or a mobile application has been a central one for many brands. In 2011, more brands will begin to create mobile websites instead of applications. Here’s why:

Mobile Websites Are More Cross-Platform

One of the great things about mobile websites is that developers don’t have to build a separate application for different phone platforms. This is an advantage that translates into savings, since the cost to develop a mobile website is often far less if you want to be accessible on multiple platforms.

Mobile Websites Don’t Require Downloads

Another important reason why mobile websites will become more important is that they don’t require a download. Applications don’t just mean different mobile platforms; they also require that happen through different app stores. A mobile website doesn’t require getting approvals from an outside party or sending your customers to another brand’s property.

Mobile Websites Are Becoming More Feature-Rich

Mobile websites can, in many cases, provide some of the same interactivity as applications. We know that mobile websites can already provide more than just brochure websites, with many retailers enabling more complex interaction, such as mobile purchase. With the added interactivity of HTML5, we will see much more feature-rich mobile websites.

We count ourselves among a much smaller number of agencies that have created a mobile version of our websites. However, there are a few brands that have embraced the mobile web as well and are worth looking at for some important lessons to think of when creating your mobile site in 2011.

Amazon Lets You Decide

The Amazon application is a great example of a fully functional mobile commerce website, but they’ve also done something smart by promoting their application via the mobile site as well, in case you prefer to use an app instead of the site.

McDonald’s Gets Simple

The singular focus on finding your location on the McDonald’s mobile website is a great example of understanding the context of your mobile site visitor. Mobile visitors to the McDonald’s site are more likely interested in location, so why not put that front and center.

Nike Leaves No Stone Unturned

Nike has a mobile site for everything! Not just a repurposed site, but a well-considered mobile website for most of their product lines.

2011 will see a dramatic increase in mobile web activity, and we’re poised to see that same increase in new mobile websites. Now is not the time to be asking if you need a mobile website, but to start planning for how and when you’ll launch it in the coming year.