September 2013 Archives

The just-completed IAB MIXX Conference & Expo 2013 themed “Advertising is__________?,” explored the changing definition of advertising, with the two days focused on showcasing competing points of view, highlighting their differences, and looking for points of commonality. As part of this debate, the IAB convened a discussion on “Native Advertising: Fact and Fiction,” with the similar goal of creating a framework for understanding this hot new concept.

This session complements the work of the IAB Native Advertising Task Force, a group of companies 80+ members strong who are working to establish a framework for the native advertising space by putting forth a prospectus that clearly lays out today’s “native” landscape. This prospectus, targeted to advertisers, publishers, and ad tech providers, will provide a focused, guiding light to the industry while being broad enough that it can expand over time. In addition, it will provide a basis for further IAB initiatives in this space.

While the Task Force plans to publish their work in the fourth quarter, the IAB MIXX session attendees were given a sneak peak and chance to comment on the Task Force’s early findings. A panel of industry stakeholders led the feedback: Task Force Co-chair Patrick Albano, Vice President, Sales, Yahoo!; Steve Kondonijakos, Sr. Marketing Director, Federated Media; Stacy Minero, Leader, Content Marketing, Mindshare; Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist, Edelman; and Geoff Schiller, Chief Sales Officer, Hearst Digital.

The session kicked off with a discussion of the duality of “native advertising,” with the concept encompassing both an aspiration as well as a suite of ad products.  On the one hand, we all aspire to deliver “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated with the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.”  On the other, tactically, advertisers must use ad products to achieve this, and the IAB Native Task Force has identified six categories commonly used today in pursuit of this goal:

1. Search Units, e.g. 
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2. Promoted Listings, e.g.:
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3. Recommended Content Units, e.g.:
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4. In-Feed Ads, e.g.:
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5. In-Ad (IAB Standard) Units, e.g.:
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6. Custom, e.g.:
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The group discussed at length the core dimensions of ads that feel native, including form, the extent to which the ad fits with the overall page design; function, how well the ad matches the editorial feel of the content in which it is nested; and technology, the degree to which the viewer can treat the ad like they can any other content on the site.  Amid a spirited debate, consensus is emerging that you can achieve a native experience through three, two, or even one of these, depending on the site, brand message, and audience mix. 

There was a great deal of enthusiasm in the room about the unique benefits that the advent of “native” has brought to display advertising. First and foremost, display advertising has been freed from the “ad ghetto” of the right rail and leaderboard to which it has long been confined and now has license to settle anywhere on the page. The horse is now out of the barn, and advertising will not be forced back into solely those positions. A corollary benefit of this move is getting advertising into the user’s natural activity stream—where print and TV advertising have always been. Allowing the viewer to interact further without leaving the site is much preferred to clicking through to a new website.  Finally, “native” is decidedly and overwhelmingly a form of brand advertising, a category that display has long fought with marginal success to conquer.

The lively conversation provided useful feedback to the IAB Native Task Force. Audience members encouraged the IAB to find the right balance between standardization and customization—giving enough firm guidance to help make the market, but not too much to stifle it—while best practices around disclosure were also highlighted as a need. 

Have we answered the question, “Native Advertising is__________?” The IAB Native Task Force and feedback for the IAB MIXX session clearly show that there is real agreement around what it is not: a single, uni-dimensional ad product. Rather, it is an end goal—an aspiration—that folks seek to attain via a number of paid advertising tactics. The IAB Native Task Force will absorb the advice and carry forward the enthusiasm of the IAB MIXX session as it works to publish the IAB Native Prospectus that details these principles in the fourth quarter.

About the Author
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 Peter Minnium


As the Head of Brand Initiatives at IAB, Peter Minnium leads a series of initiatives designed to address the under-representation of creative brand advertising online. He can be reached on Twitter @PeterMinnium.

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IAB releases Publisher’s perspectives on programmatic as first part in educational series

Programmatic buying and selling of advertising, real-time  bidding, and marketing automation is changing the way we transact digital media. Though numbers are very sketchy, by some accounts over 20% of all digital advertising is sold “programmatically” - and it’s growing rapidly. 

Programmatic-IAB_RTB.jpgYet programmatic competes with Native advertising for the title of “Buzzword of 2013”.  And the hyperbole couldn’t be more extreme. Concerns are rampant. Sales people are worried about becoming obsolete, losing their jobs to machines, and declining yields. Some buyers of digital media are worried that only crappy inventory is available programmatically. Aside from perhaps the ad tech community, there’s a great deal of smiling and nodding going on when people talk about the importance of programmatic, and not a lot of understanding. Ad agencies are worried that automation will mean standardization and less of a role for creativity and creatives.  On the other side, many see new technological innovation as the source of great potential value - creating significant efficiencies, new markets, and continuing to drive advertising dollars to digital.

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There is significant confusion in the marketplace around the meaning of terms like “programmatic”, “RTB”, “programmatic direct”, “programmatic premium”, and other verbiage, often being used interchangeably. New technologies are emerging which are creating significant value, but there is also a lack of clear technical standards to ensure interoperability across different platforms. Buyers and sellers are concerned with the limited transparency and number of vendors involved in the programmatic transaction.  And programmatic raises internal, organizational challenges for brands and agencies, and particularly for publishers with their existing direct sales teams and incentives.

Agencies and their clients have a lot to lose if programmatic isn’t implemented coherently: a set of technologies that aim to create market efficiencies could, instead, create a fragmented, illiquid marketplace if each media agency insists on creating its own proprietary marketplace with its own standards and its own technologies.

In the spirit of creating value for the entire marketplace and driving advertising dollars to digital, the IAB is working to tackle many of these challenges. Today it is releasing Digital Simplified: Programmatic and Automation - The Publishers’ Perspective,  the first in a new IAB educational series that offers easy-to-understand documents for the industry.  The piece aims to provide clarity, from the publishers’ perspective, on the different “programmatic” transaction types.  It outlines the four main ways of buying and selling “programmatically” and provides a clear framework for distinguishing between them.  It also highlights other factors commonly associated with each of these types of “programmatic” selling.

This is the first output of a newly created IAB Programmatic Publishers Task Force, chaired by Alanna Gombert, Senior Director Programmatic and Trading at Condé Nast and formerly of Ad Meld and Google.  The new Task Force is aimed at providing premium publishers a forum to come together to work on issues related to the programmatic agenda and how it impacts them.  Its goal is to help publishers establish market clarity and education around the programmatic ecosystem - both internally and externally. Barely a month after its launch there are now over 30 premium publishers participating in this initiative and the list is growing. In addition to working on clarity around definitions and terminology, the group is also working on issues around transparency across the value chain and sales force organizational issues.

The Programmatic Publishers Task Force is a key part of the overall IAB programmatic agenda.  This agenda focuses on firstly identifying and addressing the key business issues in the programmatic landscape, and secondly working on technical standards and implementation of standards to address these issues.   On the business side, in addition to its work with publishers, the IAB, in conjunction with The Winterberry Group, is conducting a thought-leadership research study to provide an effective roadmap to “programmatic” capabilities based on surveys and interviews with its members, to be released by the end of 2013. It is also working on mobile specific programmatic issues.  On the technical side, it is working on both digital automation implementation and open RTB standards.

For more information on the IAB’s work on programmatic marketing please go to iab.net/programmatic or contact Carl Kalapesi (below).

About the Author

Carl-Kalapesi-Bio-Picture-June-2013.jpgCarl Kalapesi is the Director, Industry Initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) focusing on Programmatic, Quality Assurance Guidelines (QAG) and brand safety, performance marketing, networks & exchanges and multicultural.  He can be reached on Twitter @carlkalapesi or via email at at [email protected].

The IAB's Top 8 Digital U.S. Universities

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The latest annual ranking of U.S. universities by U.S. News & World Report came out on Tuesday, and while I’m personally pleased with how some higher learning institutions performed (Go Tigers!), I’m a bit dismayed that none of the top 10 has much of a reputation for their Digital Marketing or Advertising programs. In fact, only one school in the top 20 offers an undergraduate major with a digital focus.

Why does any of this matter? Because there’s a growing disconnect between the needs of the market and the available resources at universities. Marketing and Advertising— digital marketing, in particular, and digital advertising—are driving the mobile and digital revolutions which have created billions of dollars in equity value and hundreds of thousands of jobs.  While academic programs struggle to incorporate current trends into a semester-long course, IAB member companies express exasperation at finding qualified college graduates to fill entry-level positions.

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The timing is right for all of this to change. Struggling under mountains of college debt, students (and parents) want assurances that their degrees will lead to careers, not just jobs. Colleges face their own financial crises and as the competition for students increases, every institute of higher education—from community colleges to state universities to liberal arts colleges—will recognize that there are worse academic sins than preparing students for life and work after the classroom.

The IAB Digital University Study

Digital advertising and marketing aren’t the only sectors of the economy that are growing, of course. But they might be the most underrepresented among university programs. IAB recently commissioned a study of current offerings of undergraduate programs in advertising, marketing, and digital media studies at recognized U.S. institutions. Choosing “best” of anything is clearly subjective, and so we chose our criteria carefully. We looked at five requirements for colleges to satisfy in order to make our list:

1. The university is nationally and internationally recognized in various disciplines

2. The university offers undergraduate degrees in advertising, marketing, media studies, or business

3. The advertising program includes an emphasis in interactive advertising, digital media, or at least offers several courses with a focus on interactive and social media advertising

4. The marketing program allows for elective courses outside the business school

5. The university offers courses in digital media design that are available to non-art majors

Location, while not a primary factor, was also taken into consideration. Programs in New York and California received additional attention.

The following programs, in no particular order, show the most promise in addressing the five factors (the U.S. News & World national rankings are listed in parentheses after each university):

  • University of Texas at Austin - BA in Advertising with an emphasis in Media Studies (#52)
  • New York University - BBA in Marketing or BS in Media, Culture and Communication (#32)
  • Syracuse University - BA in Advertising (#62)
  • University of California at Berkeley - BA in Media Studies (#20)
  • Southern Methodist University - BA in Advertising with Media Emphasis (#60)

The following programs have established and recognized interactive advertising programs but may not meet other requirements.

  • Michigan State University - BA in Advertising with an emphasis in Management and Media (#73)
  • University of Washington - Master of Communications in Digital Media (#52)
  • University of Michigan, Dearborn - BBA in Digital Marketing (#36 Regional Ranking)

There’s a lot here to consider. The digital industry needs more top schools to introduce relevant digital courses and majors. IAB, as an industry leader, need to become actively involved in the programs that are being offered and figure out a way to enhance their reputation.

And here’s why: In order for the digital economy to continue to flourish, the current and next generation of post-secondary students must be prepared for interactive advertising careers. On-the-job training can only go so far and can be much more efficient if new employees have the requisite skills and knowledge before entering the workforce.

IAB is committed to professionalizing the digital advertising workforce of the 21st century, creating accredited credentials that set industry-wide standards of knowledge and expertise. We started in 2012 with the Digital Media Sales Certification program and have certified nearly a thousand sales professionals in little more than a year. Now, this week, we launched the Digital Ad Operations Certification program, the first-ever certification for digital ad ops professionals at ad agencies, digital publishers, trading desks, demand and supply-side platforms, exchanges and brands. We will continue our efforts in 2014, introducing new certification programs wherever the marketplace deems necessary.

But education, training and workforce development need to occur further upstream. Private industry—the digital employers who represent the greatest need for a trained and capable workforce—must make its need for qualified graduates known to colleges and universities, and to partner with these institutions, providing scholarships, endowing chairs, funding programs, and joining faculties. IAB sees a major role for itself in helping to make these partnerships possible. Look for further developments in 2014. 

To learn more about IAB Professional Digital Certification Programs go to iab.net/certification or email [email protected]t.

 About the Author


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Consumers are listening to more audio content than ever using an array of devices from computers to smartphones to connected stereos and cars, but audio advertising still only makes up a miniscule portion of digital ad dollars. Standardization and education are required for this to change and that’s what the IAB Audio Committee’s work is focused on.

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Advertisers, agencies and digital audio publishers gathered recently for the IAB Digital Audio Agency Day at Pandora HQ in Oakland to learn from industry experts about the future of digital audio and why it needs be included in their media buys. Kurt Hanson, CEO of AccuRadio, presented a history of the radio industry and his predictions for the future, to a stellar panel on the Connected Car with representatives from Spotify, Aha Radio at Harman International, TuneIn and Slacker (left picture). The ever-entertaining Norm Pattiz, Chairman of PodcastOne/Launchpad Media (right picture), proclaimed that podcasts are the future of digital audio.

One common theme has become clear: in order for the digital audio industry to scale, fragmentation at the technology layer must be overcome. Dean Mandel, Vice President of Broadcast Services at PROXi Digital (Formally Katz360) and active participant of the IAB Audio Ad Serving Template Spec Working Group, outlines the three key challenges that the IAB’s Audio committee is currently working to address: 

1. Digital audio ads are being bought by both traditional radio buyers and digital buyers, and both types of buyers need a way to accurately measure delivery of their campaigns. 

Radio buyers are used to “posting” their campaigns based on Arbitron ratings. However, since digital audio is technically online, there is a need for reporting equivalent metrics to other online campaigns. Online buyers are used to providing third-party tags like Dart For Advertisers (DFA) and using specifications like the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) to track their digital display and video campaigns.  Similar standards must be developed and adopted by the digital audio industry.

2. The fact that audio ad units don’t have a visual component makes the use of a “tracking pixel” unpractical.  

One workaround for tracking audio ad units is to apply a third-party tag (in the form of a 1x1 pixel) to a companion display banner (a visual component to an audio ad), but not all audio devices have the visual interface necessary to fire a pixel. Accordingly, some advertisers have chosen to only serve audio ads in environments where a companion banner is served, yet in doing so, they are missing a large potential audience.  

We must find a better way to track the audio ad unit itself; a way that proves whether the ad has played, how much of the ad was played and any other possible interactions the user may make with the audio ad unit.

3. Several digital audio ad serving companies have developed proprietary methods to apply third-party tracking tags to audio, but there is a need to standardize this technology across the audio marketplace. 

The IAB Digital Audio Committee has launched a working group that includes several thought leaders in the streaming-audio industry who are addressing this task.  Over the past several months this group has begun the development of an ad serving template specification for audio ads similar to VAST for digital video. Once this important specification work is complete and adopted throughout the marketplace, media buyers will be able to easily run and track digital audio ads in a consistent manner across multiple platforms, similar to the way they do today with other digital platforms, allowing for growth in the digital audio market. 

IAB is excited to lead the effort to standardize the delivery of streaming audio advertising in order to ensure that advertisers, agencies and audio publishers may all share in the continued growth of the audio industry.

Stay tuned (pun intended!) for more to come on this topic.

About the Authors
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Dean Mandel
Dean Mandel is Vice President, Broadcast Services, PROXi Digital (Formerly Katz360). Dean was one of the founding members of Katz360 and has been helping the industry to monetize streaming audio for over 6 years.  He currently works with audio and video technology partners and content providers to help the streaming sales efforts for the Katz Media Group sellers. He can be reached on Twitter @deanmandel.

Leigh Ferreira
Leigh Ferreira is the Director, Industry Initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and oversees the Digital Audio, Digital Video and ITV Committees. She can be reached on Twitter at @leighleighsf.
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