What Kids Can Teach us About Marketing’s Future

Here are some events from my children’s lives that illustrate the future of marketing:

  • We moved into a new place and chose not to sign up for cable. Neither my 12-year-old daughter nor my 9-year-old son seems to care. Instead, we have a big fat Internet connection, and they buy what they want from Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and others.
  • Neither of my kids “own” music. My daughter, the family’s music aficionado, loves to use Spotify.
  • My son is more interested in watching videos about games than watching TV shows. This year, he requested a video-game birthday party.

These trends make me believe in a data-driven audience, and that distribution and consumption have fractured into niches. No matter what my kids are consuming, you want to know what they want to buy.

** Originally posted on Yahoo’s Advertising Blog on  10/18/12

Will Search Engines One Day Be Overcome With Display Ads?

Last month, Google’s famously streamlined white homepage was plastered with something different: an animated banner ad.

Since Google has been credited as an ad-free (or, at least, display-ad-free) search engine, the animated banner ad for the Nexus 7 Android tablet came as a bit of a shock to both Google users and the wider industry. While this wasn’t the first time Google used its homepage to showcase products, was it a smart move by Google?

In today’s shareholder-value-centric paradigm, companies are principally run by profitability. Whenever a company says that it will never do something, that never ultimately restricts its ability to generate revenue and increase profits.

Google’s Change Of Heart

In Google’s case, its promise to put user experience above profitability was broken long ago. Good examples of Google’s change of heart include when the search engine included Google+ within search results, at the expense of other social networks, and when it decided to feature Zagat results at the expense of Yelp or other local search providers.

Search for the term [tablet] and there’s a chance Google will include a sponsored section at the top of each search page, which features its products alongside those of RIM but excludes Apple, presumably because Apple doesn’t pay to be included. As a result, when one searches on Google for [tablet,] results related to Apple’s iPad are barely visible at the very bottom of the screen. Given Apple’s huge market share in the tablet market, its products should really be showing up at the top of any search screen.

But this whole strategy isn’t entirely wrong. Despite its famous Don’t Be Evil slogan, Google is ultimately a major, publicly-traded company – albeit one that brings immense utility and pleasure to its users.

Return Of The Portal?

Like any other big company, Google is trying to make as much money as possible for its shareholders, and sometimes accomplishing this requires the application of a degree of strategy. Here, the strategy requires locking users within Google’s platform to as great a degree as possible.

Google is not alone in pursuing this strategy. Each of the big media players (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) are doing everything within their power to keep consumers within their publisher network and away from their competitors’ sites.

The real trend here is that these companies are all attempting to win the war by monetizing eyeballs, clicks, shares and recommendations, creating a virtuous circle of user engagement and revenue generation.

So how will Google’s move to animated banner ads on search pages affect the industry? One thing to remember is that this isn’t the first time that Google has done something of this nature, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Less Is More

While Google is generally held to higher standards than other search engines, consumers and the industry should expect that the company will move forward with plans that promote its own products. However, Google’s strategy to use display ads rarely is key; pushing ads out on a regular basis would hurt both its reputation and its products. Google is tactical when placing ads on its prime white real estate and is aware that people wouldn’t use Google as often if it were bursting with ads.

Of course, from my point of view, there is a little bit of irony in this most recent example: the search giant reverting to display ads to push its products. Because that’s what search retargeting is: remembering what consumers search for and then serving display ads based on those searches as consumers move around the web. Now, whom should I call to buy inventory on the Google home page?

Article originally published on MarketingLand on 10/1/12

Data Hunting Season: Most Effective Times Of The Year To Add Data To Your Media Plan

As with buying stocks, timing is everything when it comes to leveraging data to reach your target audience.

Today, brands have the opportunity to capitalize on the abundance of inventory and data available to plan their marketing initiatives. When combined with media, these ingredients create the perfect recipe to apply targeted advertising to seasonal events.

From the Super Bowl to holiday shopping and political events, there are a multitude of seasonal opportunities for marketers to strategize against. Below, I have highlighted the most effective times during the year for marketers to add data to their media plans.

1. Seasonal Shopping Periods

Consumers spent more than $35.3 billion online in 2011 between November 1st and December 26th alone. Marketers planning a holiday retail strategy must look closely at consumer behavior from the previous year. This will help to determine the most optimal time to reach their intended audience and which strategies to implement.

While big picture marketing strategies differ by brand, all retail brands share a common goal in this seasonal period: to drive conversions and sell products.

Retargeting is the best method to drive sales because it leverages display advertising for performance marketing in two effective ways:

  1. Site retargeting enables brands to reach consumers who have indicated interest through website behavior.
  2. Search retargeting helps brands to scale their display targeting strategies by focusing on consumers who have searched for specific keywords. These keywords might be specific brand terms, lifestyle terms or even competitive terms that signal a consumer is in-market for a product.

Retail brands should also consider additional online marketing opportunities such as Valentine’s Day, back-to-school, President’s Day sales and more.

2. Entertainment/Lifestyle Activities

The 2012 Summer Olympics was a great example of a global event where a variety of brands had the opportunity to apply data to their media buys. In the case of the Olympics, and other major, live events such as the World Series, Super Bowl, Grammys and Oscars, brands can utilize data to amplify their branding campaigns and forge deeper connections with their audiences.

According to David Elms, head of media at KPMG, “The demand from the public for online coverage and other digital offerings during the Games (Olympics) was overwhelming. It has given a huge boost to advertisers in this area and shows that the various growth predictions we have seen over the last few months are probably not far off the mark.”

Data-driven marketing can also be extended across seasonal campaigns during sports seasons. An example of this was seen in last year’s Jack in the Box promotion, which incorporated a Twitter hashtag #marrybacon and a display campaign encouraging consumers to visit a dedicated microsite, www.Marrybacon.com.

Mobile and tablet components were also part of the quick service restaurant’s digital strategy. John Gross, strategist and account director at StruckAxiom, said Jack in The Box’s digital campaign “focuses on extending the TV ad’s story line,” to drive users to other platforms. Of course, all of this digital activity produced additional data points for Jack in the Box to optimize against and leverage for future multi-channel campaigns.

3. Other Notable Seasonal Events: Tax Season & Political Events

We all know that April is an important month for Americans preparing tax returns and budgeting for the forthcoming fiscal year. Brands such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block should incorporate targeting strategies, such as retargeting, demographic targeting and even behavioral targeting into their marketing campaigns. This will allow them to build consumer awareness and locate those customers in need of tax assistance.

For instance, a brand might choose to target consumers who have searched for specific terms like “online tax prep.” To further leverage the data points available to marketers, they should personalize these messages according to additional data relevant to income and geographic location.

These techniques are equally powerful in the political sphere. Applying data to online campaigns is a great way for politicians to tap into areas of the country that need additional exposure. For instance, candidates can apply additional ad dollars to target a specific demographic in particular swing states.

Candidates can also choose to target voters based on their interest in a particular campaign issue. For instance, fiscal voters could be targeted with banner ads advertising a candidate’s tax plans, while social-based voters would receive similarly appropriate ads. By applying a variety of data-driven advertising to these particular events, brands can cost-effectively drive response and increase brand visibility amongst specific, yet highly relevant, audiences.

The bottom line is that to remain competitive, brands must plan their campaigns with seasonal opportunities in mind to drive conversions and increase brand awareness.

Search retargeting and site retargeting are two powerful strategies that can be augmented by other data-driven opportunities within digital advertising, and even other areas of display media such as mobile, social and video.

To capitalize on the endless opportunities available, marketers must utilize strategies that balance precision with scale. With the largest shopping season around the corner, as well as other huge events like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl, the most successful brands will be those that tap into big data and media in the digital space.


Article originally published on Marketing Land on 9/4/12

Targeted Advertising: Gaining Ground For Branding Campaigns

To date, branding has often been associated with billboards, magazine spreads and million-dollar TV spots. In online advertising, this translates to large media buys with premium publishers, including spots such as site sponsorships and homepage takeovers.

However, where do data and ad targeting fit into the branding equation? Is there a place for branding campaigns within the world of ad targeting and real-time media buying? The answer is yes.

Large brands such as Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever have already commented publicly about moving brand dollars to digital — crediting their shift in ad spend to the cost savings and ability to have more 1:1 conversations with target consumers.

Other brands, both large and small, will likely follow suit and spend more of their advertising budgets on digital. We have already started to see this trend come alive in search retargeting — especially as more brands begin to couple data with more engaging ad formats, such as rich media and online video.

The truth is, branding campaigns have an opportunity to tap into digital channels and take advantage of the data revolution, which we typically refer to as “targeted awareness.”

Let’s first begin by clearly defining the online world of branding, targeted awareness and direct response:

There are two distinct catalysts for brands choosing to integrate ad targeting into their online advertising strategy:

  1. Data: The rise of data has created an opportunity for marketers to couple data and media together. With an improved access to data, brands can now leverage search retargeting and behavioral ad targeting for their branding campaigns.
  2. Digital Innovation: The innovation behind digital display allows brands to reach consumers with high-impact advertising in real time. This includes the integration of online video, rich media and interactive ad formats with data intelligence.

How To Tame Targeted Advertising For A Brand Campaign

So, how can advertisers leverage targeted awareness for their branding campaigns? Targeted awareness is all about using data to complement branding initiatives.

For starters, there is a lot of content being consumed beyond the large publishers. With this in mind, when brands purchase site buys or sponsorships, it’s imperative that they also immediately consider ways to amplify their reach.

For example, a brand may choose to align with ESPN.com for sporting content. However, the same consumers who read and visit ESPN.com may also be found cruising sites such as nbcsports.com, allsports.com or menshealth.com.

To extend the scale beyond what a single publisher can offer, brands should consider purchasing access to audiences through ad exchanges in real-time. Doing so allows brands to reach and target consumers throughout their experiences across a multitude of publisher channels, and at a lower price.

Let’s take our example one step further and consider that Under Armour is running a large ad buy on ESPN.com. To augment their reach, Under Armour should consider additional ways to increase its media exposure amongst relevant audiences.

By leveraging data, Under Armour could target consumers who have previously searched for sports-related keywords or who have indicated interest in key categories such as sports and fitness.

One way to accomplish this strategy would be to purchase audiences and ad placements on remnant inventory via the ad exchanges. Such ads might be video, standard banners or rich media — and could re-direct consumers to Under Armour’s larger media buy on ESPN.com or to a specific landing page for the brand.

Measuring Branding Success

Another key component to consider when running a targeted awareness campaign is measurement. Measurement for branding campaigns might be based on clicks, driving new traffic to the brand’s website, site activity or ad engagement.

Before testing targeted awareness, marketers must define their goals and work with their partner on the best targeting strategy for the campaign. A great way to test if a campaign has performed well in the targeted awareness bucket is to conduct a short-term brand study, through which you are able to measure brand lift. Companies like Vizu and comScore are great partners to consider for brand studies.

Ultimately, times are changing and brands now have many more options when moving ad dollars to digital. Ad targeting, real-time media buying and data are no longer just for performance campaigns — brands do have a place within the targeting arena.

With this in mind, consider how ad targeting can magnify your brand’s exposure and strengthen reach amongst relevant audiences for your next branding campaign.


Article originally published on Marketing Land on 8/6/12

Not All Digital Ads Are Created Equal

Digital advertising is on the rise, which is good news for us — the people that live and breathe in the online world.

However, as audiences migrate to digital media, better creative and more strategic ad placement is necessary. In today’s digital world, there is one point that must not be overlooked: not all digital ads are created equal.

Think about the traditional advertising world of billboards, TV ads, print magazine and newspaper ads. Each medium offers a different experience for consumers and can be associated with how consumers are spending their time.

Volkswagen knows which ad to place on a billboard while consumers drive by at 60 mph, and which ad to place in a newspaper, which consumers read on their commute to work or while they sip their morning coffee. The point is, marketers use different ads for different experiences. The same thing should be happening online across the various screens that consumers engage with.

New research from the Online Publishers Association shows that, for reading, 59% of tablet users surveyed prefer their tablet to their computer, 58% prefer tablet to a newspaper and 53% prefer tablets to magazines.

Other research dives deeper into how consumers use mobile devices throughout the day. According to InMobi, the average mobile web user consumes more than 7 hours of media per day — and 27% is spent on mobile devices (nearly 2 hours). Of that 2-hour period, 25% is spent while commuting to work, 15% while shopping, 67% while lying in bed and 39% while watching TV.


InMobi, Decision Fuel & On Device Research, Mobie Media Consumption Research, February 2012


The growth of innovation in mobile devices and tablets has led to heightened consumer engagement across all screens, at all times. Each of these technologies offers different experiences to the end user, engaging them through various features.

What Are They Doing On Their Tablets, And Where?

Consider when someone uses a desktop computer vs. when they use a tablet vs. a mobile device. Consumers may use their tablet device while lounging on their couch at home — which replaces activity they might have conducted in the past on their home desktop computer.

The Pew Research Center has uncovered multiple findings on time spent across devices and how consumers are using tablets and mobile devices compared to laptops. The site traffic from mobile provides advertisers with insight into user activity, as well as insight into on what device the activity is taking place.

One finding concluded that 42% of tablet users regularly read in-depth news articles and that people are using tablets as their primary news source. Prior to tablets, 79% of consumers retained their news from their desktop/laptop, 59% from a print newspaper or magazine and 57% from television. Research proves that times are changing.

Ads Should Match Activities And Mindset

The reason for using each digital device, and even when and where they are being used, then comes into play and should be reflected in the ads that are presented to users.

If advertisers layer on information about usage when they’re considering campaign buys, they can better decide which messages should be reaching what audience and what type of ad unit is served. Essentially, campaign goals and measurement will vary by device, by ad unit and creative.

Some research firms have started to explore how consumers use search on laptops more often vs. tablets and smartphones. For an advertiser, this means that consumers may be conducting more research from a laptop or desktop.

This might lead marketers to leverage strategies like search retargeting or behavioral advertising, which influence brand preference and buying decisions during the consideration process.

A new study from Adobe suggests that consumers are most engaged when watching video ads on tablets and smartphones. Additionally, Adobe’s study suggests that the number of people watching video content online could grow as much as 50% over the next five years.

One of the reasons for rapid growth of online video consumption is the use of social media. The rise of social media has led to easier sharing capabilities for video, making them more widely viewed — and social media has also provided advertisers with the ability to reach new audiences beyond their current ones.

For example, Facebook allows brand advertisers to show ads within users’ news feeds, and Twitter features promoted tweets that users are unable to ignore. Social media’s core is all about sharing, and this gives advertisers the opportunity to target a broader audience.


Article originally published on Marketing Land on 7/9/12

“Search” Beyond the “Engine”: Alternative Search Sites

By now, you’ve all heard about this new whatchamacallit – the Googles. We all use the Googles quite a bit in our daily routines, and some of us even do a bit of marketing on them, too.

However, as search evolves and continues to be fused with display, it’s important for marketers to take a step back and consider how and why consumers use conventional search engines, what type of data is afforded from these search engines and what types of results marketers want to gain.

Why Do Consumers Use Search Engines?

1.  People use search engines to decide ifthey want to buy a product or service. 

Most people use Google, Yahoo! or Bing to initiate the purchase cycle when seeking a product to buy.

The goal at this point of the consideration process is to decide whether or not they’re interested in a product at all. Think of the moment (hopefully years ago) that you finally decided to replace your Blackberry (sorry, RIM) with an iPhone or an Android.

Note: If you haven’t yet switched, then this means you’re currently performing the search example I’ve illustrated below. Or, you should be.

Say you visited one of the larger search engines like Google and searched “iPhone vs. Android” or “smartphone comparison.” You weren’t planning on purchasing a replacement on the spot, but rather, you wanted to research both types of smartphones with the plan of eventually narrowing down your choice to just one of the two.

The goal of your search was to begin the product consideration process and decide if you wanted a replacement for your Blackberry (in this example, the “Blackberry replacement” itself is the product).

2.  People use search engines to find the exact product they want to purchase.

After you’ve performed the above search, you likely won’t come back to search on Google, Yahoo! or Bing until you’ve decided on the exact product that you want.

Something important happened between the first round of “iPhone vs. Android” searches and your final search, “Verizon iPhone 4S NYC sale” – but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The point is that once you’ve made up your mind, you are less likely to navigate Verizon’s website. You want Google to do the work for you, so you type in a super-descriptive search as a way of saying “Hey, Google, the least you can do is save me some time by navigating me to the product page.”

Google obliges by providing you with the exact result that you were seeking, and you then go on to purchase your shiny new addiction.

To summarize the above example: you used Google to confirm that you wanted to replace your Blackberry, and then you circled back to Google when you were ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.

But What Happened In Between?

If you’re like most consumers, you did quite a bit of research in between your first wave of Google searches and your final “purchase search” on Google.

Earlier this year, PwC surveyed consumers’ online behaviors and released a report showing that nearly 88% of consumers conducted research online before purchasing a product.

In the Blackberry replacement scenario, consumers most likely conducted their research on vertical sites with product reviews and shopping comparison engines, such as CNET, Engadget or even eBay.

The time during which consumers gather information about a product that they are interested in represents the optimal time for brands to influence customer brand preference and purchasing decisions. Consumers want to research product features, user reviews and average prices.

Throughout this process, how did those consumers conduct their online navigation? Through search! However, they did not search on search engines; instead, they were searching within alternative search properties that have a search box within their site.

According to comScore data, approximately 62 million U.S. searches will take place on search engines on an average day – and more than 33 million will take place on alternative search sites. These numbers indicate a lot of search activity happening beyond search engines.

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

Users begin and end their purchase processes on major search engines, but they’re actually deciding on the specific product that they want, the vendor they want it from and the price that they’re comfortable paying for it by performing searches on alternative sites.

comScore data also shows that searches on alternative search websites can be up to 14% greater in length than searches on traditional search engines.

Because of this, brands can reach deeper into funnel stages through alternative search, as the more specific consumers are with their search, the easier it is to target those consumers that are in purchase mode.

This also means that alternative search properties are collecting higher quality search data. (You can read more details around alternative search behaviors in a new report from my company, Magnetic, Searching Beyond Search: Life Beyond the Googleplex.)

To target people that have an idea of what they want, or people who have already made up their mind about a purchase, using data from Google, Yahoo! or Bing is the right approach.

However, in order to target people who are actively comparing your product against your competitors’ products (and to then help them choose your product over all others), marketers should consider data that comes from alternative search sites.


These “alternative” sources of data can drive new marketing strategies and provide brand marketers with a new mindset when it comes to whom they want to reach.


Article originally published on Search Engine Land on 7/5/12


Take an often lithographic and iconic bunch of classic American folk and protest tunes, some dating back to the 1800’s, and paste them up in a well-equipped garage full of meat-and-vegetables 20th century rock music equipment. Populate said garage with some seasoned personnel who know how to use the gear and let them go for it with a brief to ditch much of the original music arrangements but to stay faithful to the lyrical content. Finally, wrap the results with some clean 21st Century engineering and add child-like choirs doing harmonies, ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ to taste, as they will add gossamer to balance out the stressed-out amps of Neil Young and Frank Sampedro.

“Americana” occasionally borders a fine line between mockery and respect for the tunes it reinvents but it is never trivial. As usual, Neil Young’s vocal floats between scathing and lilting and the guitar-rock foundation that is Crazy Horse has not lost any of its enthusiasm for broad-grinned noise making despite being at it for 40 years or more. Tracks like “Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, and “God Save The Queen” are musically repainted (in a good way). Their lyrical content remains mainly intact but the message is perhaps even more pronounced due to the fresh delivery. There is a common thread throughout – death and the struggle of life – but rarely does the album dip into anything one might call morose.

“Americana” is occasionally challenging and at around 56 minutes long it is a commitment. However, the rewards are there to be had for the patient listener and for this listener repeated listens yielded even more rewards. A future Crazy Horse classic, to be sure.

Magnetic CEO James Green Speaks Out On Forbes

Not all companies should be focusing on their exit strategy — according to Magnetic’s (the leader in search retargeting) CEO, James Green. In the article “Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Have An Exit Strategy” published on Forbes.com, Green shares 5 key points on why he believes leaders should not have an exit strategy. These insights include:

1. Focus on  profitability   vs. who will buy your company

2. Establish a customer base

3. Build a company for success, and consider your employees while doing so

4. Think long term strategies

5. Believe in your product or service offering

Read the full article here >> Forbes: Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Have An Exit Strategy