November 2010 Archives

Things We’re Thankful For

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In honor of Thanksgiving, we thought we’d assemble a list (not in rank order) of the things we’re thankful for in the world of interactive advertising.

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  1. We just had the best quarter ever for interactive advertising, and year-on-year revenues have been on a sustained upswing for the past four quarters.
  2. There are myriad challenges still ahead—they make life in the workplace interesting AND they’re good for IAB job security.
  3. 2010 is the year when consumers embraced mobile media wholeheartedly.  So we can finally stop talking about when “The Year of Mobile” is going to happen.
  4. There are always new surprises in digital: 12 months ago, who (outside of Steve Jobs) suspected the iPad would be device of the year?
  5. We know where all our friends are, all the time, whether we want to or not (thanks Foursquare!).
  6. Convergence is happening, in the form of a commingling of the excitement and innovation of digital media with the discipline and marketing expertise of traditional media.
  7. We’re lucky to work in an industry with so many good eggs among the people (at vendors, publishers, agencies, and marketers alike) with whom we interact.
  8. Most of the good eggs are also really smart eggs.
  9. 2011 is the year we will finally make measurement make sense; at the very least we can fix the 15 years of chaos and get ahead of the massive changes still ahead of us.
  10. As an industry, we openly recognize that it’s time to get beyond bad creative (ugly ads), and we’re making collective progress in the aesthetics that drive successful advertising.

- Sherrill Mane and Joe Laszlo

Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President for Industry Services at the IAB.
Joe Laszlo is Director of Research for the IAB.

Nielsen & The Measurement Mess: Why We Need a Fix Now

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Last Thursday, we learned that for some time now, Nielsen has been undercounting Internet usage. Nielsen informed clients in a carefully worded message that the company is investigating an erroneous decline in its Internet usage data. The notification went on to say that Nielsen would be working closely with the Media Rating Council (MRC) on remedying the situation. Last week, Ad Age covered the Nielsen story quite clearly.

What is remarkable is that while for approximately eight months Nielsen clients have been alerting Nielsen to the fact that inexplicable, counterintuitive declines in usage have been occurring, the company chose to investigate and communicate findings at its own unacceptably slow pace. When Nielsen did communicate that the data that have been out there for months are wrong, the sophistication and good citizenship shown by working with MRC were appropriate.

All of this begs the question of why doing the right thing happens so very slowly and poorly in today’s ecosystem? More importantly, what can we do to rectify the situation? A voluntary governing body, a FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) like MRC with broader empowerment by the entire industry could make a significant difference. For example, an organization like that could have a three month rule, that is, if data appear wrong for three consecutive months across multiple sites, the measurement service producing the data would have to communicate that the numbers are off and explain the steps being taken to rectify the problem.

The latest news from and about Nielsen online measurement just confirms what we at the IAB and our partners at the ANA and the 4A’s already knew: measurement is in dire straits and will stay there unless and until we as a community fix the process. Next time too few people are using the Internet for too little time we should not be looking at almost a year’s worth of bad data and trying to assess the damage.

More on this story from today’s Ad Age »
More on Metrics from the IABlog  |  Previous commentary on Governance in Measurement

Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President for Industry Services at the IAB.

I’ve heard many opinions about DSPs, often exaggerated or misinformed. Therefore, I was looking forward to hosting the IAB’s Innovators Roundtable Dinner (IRD) on October 27 in New York, sponsored by Casale Media.  Marketers and agencies came together at Sparks Steakhouse (yes that steakhouse outside of which 2 mafia bosses were gunned down in 1985) for a lively discussion on balancing audience and environment in the age of demand-side platforms.

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Whereas a few months ago (and certainly last year), the discussion would have centered around answering the question what exactly is a DSP, the marketers and agencies at my table had already tested the waters and were ready to swap stories.  They had found demand-side platforms valuable for performance but limiting for branding with the caveat that it always depends.

For direct response, the ability of a DSP to target an audience results in impressive conversion metrics. Plus, DSPs help marketers define and zero in on audiences that they never knew existed by leveraging demographics and psychographics that match the marketer’s profile based on a myriad of data points. If the agency knows the sweet spot(s), media budgets can be better allocated to optimize conversions.

When the discussion turned to brand advertising, sensitivity to context and environment became a top priority. A DSP can help a marketer find soccer moms, but when is a soccer mom most receptive to the brand messaging? If an auto marketer wants to introduce a new SUV model, is that best done when she is reading general news, social networking with friends or even researching household products? Also, the marketers and agencies in attendance had a healthy dose of skepticism about the makeup of audience segments. For example, could a user flagged as a soccer mom by a DSP really be a single urban professional who just happened to click on a link to a parenting article?  Everyone agreed there is a role for finding audiences on DSPs, but it will never replace the need to target by the context and environment of the message as well.

The other issue that always seems to come up is ad verification, and this dinner was no exception. If an agency or marketer is focused on audience, where are the controls so the advertising does not appear next to inappropriate content? At the IAB we created Networks & Exchanges Quality Assurance Guidelines to provide brand safety assurances and detailed information for buyer control over ad placements through certified networks & exchanges. As a next step, we’re kicking off a project to allow technology platforms like DSPs to be compatible with these guidelines. The IAB is also launching a working group to develop guidelines for ad verification in collaboration with the Media Rating Council (MRC).

A few weeks ago, I was in the Bay Area (congrats Giants!) visiting IAB members, and I had the opportunity to tour the nerve center of a real-life DSP—Turn’s office in Redwood City. In the center of the office is a dedicated screen with a graph showing impressions bought and sold on exchanges in real-time. The total number of impressions transacted in real-time today is a small fraction of interactive media buying. However, as marketers and agencies realize the benefits of audience buying, this number will surely grow—but by how much?  Based on the conversations at the IAB Innovators Roundtable dinner, it depends on how DSPs and other intermediaries prove their ability to deliver brand messaging to audiences in context.

Gina Kim is Director, Industry Initiatives, for the IAB.