July 2011 Archives
Insights from the IAB Ad Operations Community on Meaningful Choice
The consumer Internet is reshaping how businesses—not just consumer Internet or digital media businesses—understand and meet consumer expectations. Consumers expect control over their web experiences, as well as the data that sits behind the decisions companies make in shaping those experiences. They want to define the location and timing. When they show up, they would like to be recognized. Even harder, they expect their needs to be anticipated before they arrive. Finally, they expect hyper-efficient, machine-driven experiences that still feel human, personal, and catered to their needs.
In that spirit, our collective goal in digital media should be pretty simple: To make sure consumer web experiences are always meaningful, never creepy, and safer in the sense that they respect the end user’s wishes. Some consumers will opt-out of targeting entirely because they’re worried about privacy. But as a recent Krux poll clearly shows, 86% of US consumers want to actively control their online personas because they seek more meaningful, more relevant web experiences. Their principal concern is less about privacy, more about choice. For them a safer web experience isn’t about opting out; it’s about gaining control of their data signature. Many of us are investing time, capital, and sweat to make this happen, particularly on behalf of the publishers and marketers where most first-party consumer relationships reside.
Media begets data. Data begets more valuable media. They exist together in a virtuous circle that savvy operators use to deepen consumer relationships and improve business results.
Data is both media’s exhaust and its precondition: As users engage with media, they leave behind valuable data signatures via gestures, mouse-overs, clicks, conversions, and search, all of which hold the possibility of energizing more relevant, and thus more valuable, consumer experiences. Media is the mechanism by which a website transmits and creates value for its audience. Content (user-generated, curated, or publisher-produced), ad slots, commercial offers, communication services (text, social posts, or email) are the raw grist for the web operator’s revenue mill. Media begets data. Data begets more valuable media. You can no more weed out data from media, or media from data, than you can decouple heat from sunlight.
The opportunities to enrich advertising, content, and commerce experiences using consumer data are limitless. Amazon is a terrific example of a firm that seized on the potential early and practically wrote the book on how to manage consumer experiences to the benefit of both the user and the bottom line. The average user feels like Amazon knows them because it does. Amazon’s customers seldom worry about Amazon invading their privacy. To the contrary, they’re delighted by Amazon’s intelligent, personal touch. Soon, intelligent and personal connectivity will become part of everyday life (such as user-defined location aware alerts), and users will start to insist upon some measure of tracking and targeting so long as there is a fair exchange of value in doing so. As a result, I believe we’ll also see the often-frothy consumer privacy dialogue slowly shift to a more thoughtful discussion of what really matters: Consumer experience and consumer choice.
Despite how revolutionary the last decade of digital media may seem, we’ve really only scratched the surface. Our industry is the proving ground for technology and techniques that will soon power consumer interactions across enterprises, organizations, and institutions of every stripe and color. And while this digital future may be instantaneous and machine-driven, it will still be premised in human connections and a basic understanding of individuals’ needs and desires. It will be powered by intelligent, always-on services that continually make sense of the flood of data flowing across IP-enabled devices to inform decision-making and to anticipate and respond to peoples’ needs. At Krux, we see companies understanding and embracing this reality every day. Through the adoption of our Consumer Internet Data Management (CIDM) platform, many publishers and website operators are developing new ways to communicate and deepen relationships with the consumers they serve.
I worry, however, that if we don’t nail the choice questions early, we could see lots of smoke but no ignition from the Consumer Internet Data Management (CIDM) rocket as it sits on the launch pad. Our industry’s self-regulatory push—and delivering on meaningful choice—needs to go well beyond opt-outs and ad unit icons. It must be counterbalanced by choice and control, not as abstract policies or rules, but as infrastructure that give consumers enhanced web experiences and hews to their wishes one ad call, one cookie, and one page view at a time. Average consumers know very little—and care even less—about the vagaries of OBA, RTB, and DMPs. But those same consumers absolutely recognize a meaningful experience when it happens and can see plain as day whether or not their choices are being respected. Ultimately, delivering on meaningful choice is about leading with the value and clearly demonstrating to consumers the benefits they can reap from more relevant, personal web experiences. Only when that value proposition is cemented will the notion of choice become meaningful as we invite consumers to the table to have their say.
Since this blog series is intended to catalyze discussion, I’ll close with a few questions for the reader. Let’s take off our digital media hats for a moment and just be people. Far too often, the question is posed as how “we” can help consumers. Let’s dispose of that dividing wall. After all, we are the consumers we’re trying to help. Take a long look at what you did on the Internet today…reading the news, paying a bill, buying a sofa, whatever. Did you see your data signature at play in shaping your experience? Where did we get it right? How did we get it wrong? And when you put your digital media hat back on, what steps can we take to make experiences for all consumers, yourself included, cooler, safer, smarter?
Continue the discussion on this IAB Ad Ops blog series on Twitter by adding #MeaningfulChoice to your tweets.
Ernesto Gonzalez, founder and president of IAB Caribbean, shares a few of his impressions from the recent Interact Congress and IAB Global Summit in Barcelona. In the dialogue below, we chat about the ways that Europe inspires him and the ways in which markets of all sizes can propel the digital marketing industry forward.
Mary Block: Did you find the presentations in Europe applicable to you and your market?
Ernesto Gonzalez: Definitely. Everything was really useful. Every day I learned a lot about the different countries and their issues. It doesn’t matter if a person was from Hungary, Poland, Norway, Chile Russia, the U.S. Spain, or Puerto Rico, we are in the same situation in terms of opportunities and growth. Maybe in some countries there are more men than women, for instance, but mostly I found that we are all in the same boat, with the same problems.
When we sat down to discuss the situations of our markets, they were quite similar. The growth of “social” use, for instance, is everywhere; it’s not just the situation in Europe. Mobile advertising, the way that people are using tablets and iPads and the growth of these types of devices is something that is also happening in Puerto Rico and the U.S. It was interesting to see how global these situations are.
What differed were the strategies for approaching these opportunities: how to approach, how to react and teach the market how to use this medium. It was very interesting to see how a brand like Heineken, when they started a social media marketing effort to get to a million fans, they got the idea to send girls to give hugs to people in bars. They were wearing brand t-shirts and saying, “Thank you for helping us get to a million fans.” So it was quite interesting to see how they approached the social media opportunity—connecting to people in bars in the offline world. It was really funny! They showed a great video—ugly guys, common-looking guys getting hugs from these beautiful ladies, and they were all like “What’s going on here? Why is she hugging me?”
I think they’re very open-minded in Europe. They’re open to trying risky things. I think in other markets, people are less inclined to take risks. I think (Europeans) have a more open view of the world. You can see it in the advertising and in the TV there. But again, that’s my perspective.
Roberto Castro, Televisión Nacional de Chile (L) and Ernesto Gonzalez, IAB Carribean (R) at IAB Global Summit e Interact 2011. Courtesy IAB Latm.
MB: What struck you as particularly open-minded?
EG: Well, when I say open-minded, I mean that they really try things that I don’t think corporate America would try. The ads are less conservative. They’re definitely more sexually explicit. They’re willing to try more risky things in Europe than in the U.S., and I think that’s something that we, in these other markets, should remember. In these media, we really have to look beyond the traditional things that we’ve always tried to do.
MB: What have you been doing since you got home to Puerto Rico?
EG: This week I’m trying to go through all of my photos and notes from the trip. There were a lot of things happening! First there was the global meeting. At the global meeting you see people from all over the world, and we all sit down and start talking about how to help our industry, and you find out that we are all part of a global media with the same situations. One may have a bigger market or a smaller market, but at the end of the day, it’s the same situation.
Then I went to the Europe elections. That’s something that not many people have the opportunity to participate in. Frankly I think I was the only one (from outside Europe) that got to participate in the agenda board general assembly of IAB Europe. I really appreciated the opportunity to see how they are organizing the whole region of Europe. That was something that I envisioned a long time ago—when I asked permission to lead IAB Puerto Rico, I saw what Europe was doing. That was four years ago, that I asked them to get IAB Caribbean in place. Puerto Rico being such a small market, I said “We should do IAB Caribbean, like Europe is doing.” So we were the second collective that was created. Then came IAB Latam, an online community, which is still in progress.
MB: What is IAB Latam?
EG: IAB Latam is a networking site that we in the region of Latin America contribute to and have a presence within. I’d like it to grow into more than just a website. If you go to the site now you’ll see pictures of Interact 2011. So in the future we’re looking toward having IAB Europe, IAB Caribbean, IAB Latam, and who knows, maybe IAB Asia!
And all this happened because, a few years ago, I participated in the general assembly of IAB Europe. It was quite interesting to see how they’ve grown from 2008 to 2011—I saw huge growth not only in terms of the countries that are joining the effort, but also in terms of the sponsors that they’re getting. Every year there are more and more sponsors joining the region of IAB Europe, and they are organizing in terms of policies and how they’re working. Because, as you know, they’re based in Belgium, and they’re working with policymakers to make sure that the legislation doesn’t affect the industry negatively. So they’re doing a great job, especially for such a young organization.
I was impressed by how democratic the IAB Europe elections were. Everyone was allowed to say so if they wanted to be a part of the board. The elections were really instructive for me. I think we can learn a lot from them. They have some strong missions for 2012: they want to “Promote, Protect, and Prove” that they are a commanding force in the region. They want to promote the Internet media industry. They want to protect the industry, meaning preventing legislation that will negatively affect the European region. And they want to prove that they are the leaders of the Internet marketing field. For me it was a great experience.
MB: Do you feel that the things you learned at the Congress and at the Global Summit are things that you can fully introduce to the Caribbean market?
EG: Oh definitely! They have a white paper, Mobile Media; Consumer Insights Across Europe, that I found particularly useful. Of course they always say that the mobile market in Europe is more advanced than any other markets. I think that’s true, but still in its early stages. Maybe the penetration is bigger, but in terms of advertising, you know, they’re moving, but I don’t think it’s like, “Wow, they are way, way, way ahead of us!” You know?
MB: So these insights are applicable across a global spectrum. It’s not like Europe is so far ahead that other markets can’t relate and share information.
EG: No, no no. I think it’s completely applicable. I don’t see them as Pluto and me as Mars. We’re much closer in terms of opportunity. Again, I find it’s the same situation requiring a different approach.
MB: How would your approach differ? For instance, is there anything, strategy-wise, that they can do in Europe right now that we can’t do in Latin America or in the United States?
EG: No. I don’t think they’re doing anything over there that we can’t do over here. That’s my way of seeing it. I can apply everything I learned there about how they’re approaching their market. Definitely. The implementation might differ from market to market. But they’re talking about things that we’re talking about on this side of the world: gaming, real-time web, TV and how it’s moving—that will be the next big thing. They’re talking about mobile, locals like Foursquare—the multi-faceted communication links. Again, it’s the way that creative approaches these opportunities that differs. I think (Europeans) have really good taste and an open mindset.
MB: Do you feel that the various global perspectives present in Barcelona were utilized fully?
EG: Completely. Completely. We networked and found that we shared the same problems, and learned from each other about how to approach them. It felt like one big community. Good ideas came from the smallest countries and the biggest countries. Puerto Rico is a market of roughly 4 million people; the Caribbean market is still not that big. But I sat down and talked with people from Spain and Mexico, which are huge markets. We can still collaborate and share ideas.
MB: What’s one idea that really stands out in your mind from your collaborations with larger and smaller markets?
EG: Well, at this event I really felt like more of a spectator, because it was Europe’s event, but I can tell you that in our meetings, we always push to exchange ideas. For instance, at the meeting in New York, our country was the one who really supported this IAB Latam effort, and pushed larger countries like Mexico and Chile to do it. That’s part of the global idea: the effort and the energy can come from anywhere, not just from the big ones.
So what I really appreciated from this event and from the U.S. events is the opportunity to talk and to share ideas. For instance, it was so interesting to speak to the marketing manager from Heineken, which is based in The Netherlands, as you know. It was great to see their approach to online and social media. It was also interesting to hear from a company like Orange, another great presentation. Their marketing director spoke about mobile marketing and about TV and how TV is moving.
MB: What was the thing that you were most excited about telling other people when you got back to San Juan from Barcelona?
EG: The first thing I thought was, “Wow. We need to keep working as hard for our industry as they are in Europe.” I’m in the process of planning a global event here, and I can’t wait to invite all of them to come to Puerto Rico in March! I’ve invited speakers to come from Spain, Hungary, and all over Europe and the U.S. to fly to the Caribbean and join us at our big event in March. So I feel that I really need to work hard and harder to make it a great event. I would be thrilled for my friends from Europe to come by and see this side of the world.
MB: What do you hope to be able to share with them in Puerto Rico?
EG: Basically I want them to see what I’m seeing—that no matter how big or small the market is, we are one community. We can all help each other.
I hope that they’ll learn from our culture the way that I learned from theirs. Some people think that the Caribbean is just beaches, rum, and parties, but we are a well-educated people with a strong economy and good facilities. We’re much more than beaches and rum—we’re a bridge to the New World. Their ancestors, when they came to the New World, stopped first in the Caribbean. My goal is to show that Puerto Rico and the Caribbean are still that bridge into markets on this side of the world.
For instance, I’ve encountered some businesses that don’t have any efforts in the U.S. or in Latin America, they’re only focused in Europe. I wondered why, and I realized that they need to have this link. They need to meet people like us to develop links to help their businesses grow. I think the IAB can help these companies to establish themselves and create this economic interchange. They need us and we need them. I think it’s a big step in the right direction to improve networking between the Old World and the New World, and the IAB is making that possible.
Insights from the IAB Ad Operations Community on Meaningful Choice
An amazing era in advertising is emerging when we can finally deliver a much-heralded but yet-to-be-realized promise: the right ad in the right place at the right time. We worry about how Do Not Track, Opt-Out, the FTC, and privacy enthusiasts will negatively impact our business models. But while we fret, we often fail to recognize new innovations making consumers’ lives better each and every day.
Yes, consumers need the ability to opt out. However, they also want options to improve their online experience. They may want help shopping for shoes. But they may not want to see the same Zappos ad after they just bought a new pair.
We call this Meaningful Choice. Through this blog series, we’ll explore perspectives on this exciting new concept with the IAB ad operations community. Our focus will be on two questions. What does Meaningful Choice mean to you? And how do we, as an industry, deliver Meaningful Choice into the hands of consumers?
As the blog series moderator, I want to avoid unduly influencing future contributions by describing what I think meaningful choice is. But, I am willing to say what it is not.
When provided with a choice of mostly incomprehensible options, a person is going to choose the one thing they understand. Take this overly dramatic metaphor for example: Your naturopathic physician friend offers you a bag of pills of different sizes, shapes, and colors but with no discernable markings. She tells you, “You can live without these—most of them are harmless and some of them are extremely beneficial, but one is deadly. Choose any combination of them that you would like, or, of course, you can opt out altogether and take none of them.” The only real choice in this scenario is to opt out completely. You would not have a Meaningful Choice.
When the average consumer sees an industry opt-out page, she is presented with a similarly well-intentioned yet meaningless set of options. We give her a list of companies of which she has no knowledge, no understanding, and no reason to trust. Often, the only choice is to opt out of all of them.
One may argue that the average consumer is smarter than that, but if I had a dollar for each time an industry insider shared with me a story of buying something only to be aggressively targeted with ads for that same product over the following months, I would have at least $20.
“I don’t want to have to opt out, I just want to tell somebody that I already bought those shoes.”
This lack of choice is not just affecting display advertising:
“Whilst I’ve always thought of interest targeted ads as a good thing (who wants to be presented with something completely different to what you like?) they are starting to get on my nerves a fair bit. Every day I’ll go onto the web and see the same old adverts, day after day. I’ve already signed up for these products…why are they still trying to get me again? So yeah…I’ll be turning this off.”
Online behavioral advertising self-regulation is a huge step in the right direction. It has been slow, but that is, in part, because we are still thinking about it as self-regulation. The infrastructure behind the Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) program is exactly the vehicle we need to open a meaningful dialogue with the consumer. Instead of, “How do we meet the minimum bar for self-regulation?” we should be asking, “What should our dialogue be with the consumer?” After all, that dialogue is the future of advertising.
Steve Sullivan is VP of Digital Supply Chain Solutions for the IAB. You can follow him on Twitter @stevesullivan32. Continue the discussion on “Meaningful Choice”, and this IAB Ad Ops blog series, on Twitter by adding #MeaningfulChoice to your tweets.
To establish the Five Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement and forge ahead to their implementation, the Making Measurement Make Sense cross-industry coalition, composed of IAB, ANA, and 4A’s, and facilitated by management consulting firm Bain & Company as well as the strategic advisory firm MediaLink, is exploring some of the most intriguing issues in the interactive industry today.
Sherrill Mane, SVP Industry Services, IAB, provides a window into the coalition’s strategic thinking, discussing the need to balance the value of cross-media commonalities with interactivity unique to digital media, the role of the research vendors, and how social, search, and mobile fit into the initiative.
Willow Duttge: Now that the Five Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement are defined, what actions should publishers, brand marketers, and agencies take today to be ready for the changes?
Sherrill Mane: They should begin examining the ramifications of change that are coming because that’s what we’re doing. Now that there are principles and there are solutions embedded in those principles, those solutions are being vetted and tested. We need to understand the impact of the changes and set up as smooth a transition as possible. I’d love to wave my magic wand and make it all happen. I think at the end of the process, we’re going to have a better ecosystem, be more transparent, and have better ways to evaluate good inventory and bad inventory. Price elasticity and inventory differentiation will be possible. The improvements in metrics and currencies will enhance the credibility of transactions and streamline the selling and buying of the ads in a cross-platform world.
WD: How do you protect the value of interactivity as you emphasize the need for measurement commonalities with traditional media?
SM: Interactivity can’t have a metric in common with static media. By definition, static ads are not interactive. While we are going for comparability across media with GRPs, we also have to be careful and consider how interactivity is associated with brand building. You need a fundamental currency, and then you need metrics to assess the interactive portion. The interactive portion is always going to be something that’s unique to interactive. But as other media evolve, they’re going to have interactive metrics as well. It is therefore, even more important that as we work through the intricacies of interactivity metrics, we view everything through the prism of the future of all media. The solutions we develop today should serve us well tomorrow.
A big breakthrough, in terms of commonality, is for everyone to have agreed on a viewable impression, because the viewable impression can also incorporate duration. It’s the amount of real estate visible and the time you stay there. And that takes you to cross-platform measurement.
WD: Do you think the emphasis on viewable impressions will inspire change in the way websites and ads are designed?
SM: Yes, it should. But it’s not just about the viewable impression. It’s all the other things that we’re doing to make the advertising quality and environment more appealing to the consumer. If advertising is going to work, it’s going to work because it appeals to consumers. It’s not about data analytics. It’s about the magic that occurs when the consumer gets the ads. If creative is not working well, then consumers are not going to be heavily involved with the messages no matter how good the environment is. Metrics have to show what works in a way that the industry can believe in.
WD: Does Making Measurement Make Sense apply to social media and search?
SM: We’re not changing the fundamentals of search. They are not going to be transformed here, that’s direct response, and we’re talking about brand advertising. But if seeing an ad is somehow correlated with search activity, that’s an interactive process that applies. For example, to buy a car everyone does research online. You’re on the Internet and you see an ad, and that ad leads you to search activity. Metrics must illustrate: Where does it lead? How does it help you to build a brand? It’s the same thing with social. Social media has elements to it that can only happen in social, but that’s really just interactive.
What we’re trying to avoid is getting into the trap of counting the number of “likes” and not understanding what “likes” really mean, because it’s different for every brand, every ad, and every context. Making absolute counts be the answer is the same trap that clicks got us in. We need to find out: What does social activity around ads mean? We can’t go the route of stupid, simple, easy.
WD: As mobile marketing develops, how will its unique opportunities become incorporated into Making Measurement Make Sense?
SM: We’re looking at creating a structure for a measurement governance body, and that group will be responsible for seeing that change management evolves in a timely way. That group will also see to it that standards are implemented correctly. That’s a big piece. It could be like an MRC on steroids.
WD: What role do research vendors have in the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative?
SM: While they aren’t directly part of the process, they’re stakeholders, and we’re consulting all stakeholders. We’re not, however, letting them make decisions. Leadership from brands, agencies, and publishers are participating in this, and they recognize that metrics are not solely a research problem, they are a business problem. Any overarching changes to measurement and metrics must be made strategically based on common sense, common practice and where necessary, rigorous science. Making Measurement Make Sense is structured this way because it is meant to strategically reconfigure the way we do business at the highest level. It is not a research RFP. Some research vendors, though, do have plans for new products that fit where we’re going.
Willow Duttge is a writer/marketing consultant for the IAB. She can be reached through WillowDuttge.com.
Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President, Industry Services, at the IAB.
The IAB loves Doug Weaver. Our members love Doug Weaver. Doug speaks at our conferences. I personally have nothing but the highest regard for Doug and have agreed with much of what he has written and said over the years.
Last week, he wrote a surprising piece in his blog, The Drift. The piece entitled, “The Myth of Digital Measurement” is well written, but stunningly out of synch with the realities of competitive media selling - and ignorant of the work the industry is successfully prosecuting to make measurement make sense.
Doug builds his argument on four “facts.” Unfortunately, it is his facts that contain myths. Let me detail his errors- and then tell you how a united marketing and media industry, led by the IAB, the ANA, and the 4A’s, are going about addressing marketers’ need for actionable measurement standards in digital media.
In his blog posting earlier last week, Weaver argued that, “Fact One: Digital is Permanently Dynamic. Not only do digital capabilities constantly evolve, but the pace of that evolution is constantly accelerating. Which leads to……Fact Two: ‘Measurement’ Can Never Keep Up”. By Doug’s reasoning, digital media are separate from other media for the long term because their measurement is a myth. This kind of thinking keeps us forever on the experimental lines of big brand ad budgets. Finding a way for brand advertisers to evaluate digital media in terms they understand and can use to justify investments, by definition, does not either stop or deny innovation nor dynamism.
In “Fact Three”, Doug writes about being onto the next things as soon as something becomes stable enough to be measured in a scalable way. And, he links that to commoditization. The reason other media, particularly television, have avoided commoditization is because they built simple, transparent currencies for the basics and then dedicated resources and creativity to proving why a rating point was not equal all the time in every piece of content.
Commoditization happens when you lose sight of how to prove value. In a world of intangible goods and services and make no mistake, the selling of advertising and the placing of it are intangibles, the smart money is on differentiation through measurement. Without a baseline, you cannot be different or better than something else. Metrics determine benchmarks and baselines against which to differentiate and to do so in transparent degrees of magnitude. Differentiation permits markets to ascribe higher and lower value.
In his “Fact Four” Doug makes the point that “Measurement Supports What We Already Want to Do” and he mentions that marketers use research for support rather than illumination. Perhaps that is true for some. I have seen quite the opposite since the IAB, ANA, and 4A’s launched “Making Measurement Make Sense”, facilitated by the consulting firm Bain & Company and the strategic advisory firm MediaLink. I have been in the room with marketers who believe in digital media’s power to build brands, marketers who want insights and want to understand how to use digital media better. These are not people looking to substantiate dusty old models; these are people who want tools to show that innovation pays.
Had Doug looked into Making Measurement Make Sense and had he talked to either the IAB, the ANA or the 4A’s about the who, what, when and how of this groundbreaking collaboration, he would have been pleasantly surprised. More than 40 senior executives, business leaders, functional experts and thought leaders, from across the ecosystem, have come together to define metrics and currency that facilitate cross platform transactions and also to identify the metrics that put value on elements of interactivity that contribute to building brands. Moreover, the fundamental underpinning of this initiative is to develop a structure for a measurement governance body that will manage change, develop standards, and provide a rapid mechanism for cross ecosystem business needs to be addressed by measurement systems.
Doug, dear colleague, please rethink how measurement, currencies and markets work in disruptive times.
Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President, Industry Services, at the IAB.