Dogs eating the dog food

For those of you that missed our joint presentation with Del Monte at Ad Tech San Francisco yesterday AM, here are the slides Doug Chavez and I presented.

The top line is that $200K of Brand.net-managed media drove $1.5M of incremental offline sales for Del Monte’s Kibbles’n’Bits brand.   That’s an additional 2.2 million pounds of dog food sold due to this campaign alone.  That much dog food would fill a bumper-to-bumper caravan of semi-trailers stretching from the Empire State Building to the Bryant Park Hotel – more than a half mile.

Tangible evidence indeed that Brand.net’s Media Futures Platform delivers tremendous results for many of the world’s largest marketers.

Happy Birthday, SafeScreen!

For any of you who may have missed our press release yesterday, SafeScreen, the industry’s first preventative page-level brand safety solution, turned 2 years old earlier this month.  As we proudly celebrate this milestone, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on market developments since Brand.net introduced the digital media market to the notion of page-level, preventative quality filtering for brand safety (or “ad verification” as it has come to be known).

Last year certain of the multiple ad verification technologies that followed SafeScreen to market in 2009 added preventative “blocking” capability to their original retrospective “reporting” offerings.   We congratulate them on their progress, but while 2011 promises to be another action-packed year for digital media, we believe it will also bring some new challenges for third party verification providers.  These new challenges will stem from false positives and billing discrepancies, which add another layer of cost in terms of both cash and cycle time to 3rd party verification (above and beyond the well-documented problems with page-level visibility due to iframes).

False positives cause friction in the context of retrospective reporting, but that friction goes to an entirely new level when ads are preemptively blocked.  Look for this friction to generate increasing heat as blocking implementations become more common.  Ditto for discrepancies, an issue primarily associated with blocking as the verification provider must actually hold up the ad call while deciding whether or not the page content is safe.  This additional hop in the serving chain introduces latency which is a source of material ad serving discrepancies.

So add 5% of spend to the $.10 verification fee to account for discrepancies, 1% for extra manual overhead, another 0.5% for false positives and it’s not too much of a stretch to see 15% of spend going just to verification.

Stepping back for a moment, would we tolerate this in any other market?  For example, would we accept it if the GIA report for a diamond added 15% to the purchase price (whether we paid this fee to GIA or the jeweler did and passed it along)?  Would we accept a 15% SEC fee on each and every stock trade (whether or not our broker “paid it for us”)?  Apparently not, because current SEC fees on equity transactions are 1/800th of 1%.  At up to 15% of spend, verification fees are currently some 10,000 times higher than SEC fees.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

For example, SafeScreen is free, and because Brand.net controls both the filtering and the serving the operational issues of false positives and latency aren’t left to the advertiser and publisher to resolve.  This may appear shamelessly partisan, but I re-introduce the alternative architecture here primarily to make a broader point;  I have been quite surprised that preventative brand safety technology hasn’t yet been incorporated on the server side by one or more of the major exchange platforms.  In doing so they could not only help market principals avoid latency and billing disputes, but would be in a position to minimize refURL-related visibility issues as well.

It will be interesting to watch things shake out in 2011 and in particular whether the need for quality and efficiency drives towards consolidation (happy investors) or aggressive disruption of the emerging verification market (unhappy investors).

What do you think?

Digital Homecoming in Tech Review

Just a quick note to point out a nice article on Brand.net in MIT’s Technology Review magazine.

As an MIT grad with many fond memories, it was especially fun to see this one make the front page!

See what all the fuss is about!

Another quick post today to encourage those of you that haven’t read today’s Q&A on AdExchanger to check out the demo for MFP On DemandTM.     Also see more coverage of Thursday’s press release on Fast Company.

Announcing MFP On Demand!

We’re very excited today to announce the launch MFP on DemandTM, the demand-side interface to our Media Futures PlatformTM, in partnership with Digitas.  Read the coverage in Ad Age here.

Scalable forward buying is a critical gap in the digital media ecosystem and Brand.net has been focused on this huge, unaddressed opportunity since inception.  MFP On Demand represents a big step forward towards the long-term goal of a futures market for digital media.

We’re truly thrilled that Digitas shares our vision!

What Online Advertising Should Learn From TV’s Upfront Market

Just a short post today to steer folks to this year’s Ad Age Network & Exchange Issue.  In it I have a byline that outlines, in a more popularly accessible way, the main ideas of my previous technical piece on on the importance of the futures market for Brand marketers.

We think that the Futures market is a critical and under-served space in online advertising.  So we’re proud to offer the industry’s first and only web-wide Media Futures Platform, which has powered guaranteed delivery of high-quality campaigns with phenomenal offline sales results since 2008.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

An exciting step forward in measurement

I am very excited about today’s release of yet another batch of fantastic campaign results for an Ad Age 20 CPG brand.  I am excited about this release in particular because of the use of both Nielsen and Vizu measurement technology for this campaign – an important step in establishing a link between improvement in purchase intent and improvement in offline purchase rate.

The Nielsen data establishes that this campaign, like our other SalesLink campaigns, drove a fantastic ROI as measured by offline sales compared to media investment. This metric is obviously critical because 95% of retail commerce still occurs offline. It’s easy to forget that in Silicon Valley, but ultimately advertising is about selling stuff and it makes a lot of sense to focus on the 95% rather than the 5%, regardless of medium. The Nielsen data is great in that sense, but it also has two drawbacks; Results aren’t available for 3 months after the campaign ends and those results have very limited granularity so it can be difficult to know what it was about the campaign that worked best.

Adding Vizu to the picture allows us to get granular data about what’s working best (creative, media mix, frequency) during the campaign, when we can still use those results to optimize. Vizu measures purchase intent not actual purchases like Nielsen, but we saw a very intuitive relationship between the two for this campaign. If this relationship holds reliably through further studies, then Vizu can be a very important tool in improving campaign impact. We don’t stop measuring offline sales, we just know a lot more a lot faster about what makes those results better.

Brands repeatedly tell us they want to be confident their vendors are doing what they say, but even more important are a) proving that their campaigns are effective where it really matters and b) helping them understand why.

Say what we do, do what we say and drive proven results. That’s our business.

Online Video: Our Opportunity is VAST

In my guest article today in Ad Age, I state that the IAB’s new video ad serving standard (“VAST” for short) has serious implications for video-only ad networks (e.g., Tremor, Brightroll, etc.) for two reasons:

1. A significant portion of the engineering work in which the incumbents have invested enormous time and money will effectively be marked to zero by the market

2. Existing, technically sophisticated display ad networks will enter the video market quickly and effectively.

To be clear, when i say “video”, I’m not talking about in-banner video or overlays, “bugs” etc.  I am talking about :15 and :30 second pre-, mid- and post-roll video.  This is the video advertising format where the environment is most similar to TV and the creative is directly transferrable from TV.  As such, it represents >90% of advertiser demand for online video and will continue to be the lynchpin in moving TV budgets online.  VAST effectively hits the “reset” button on this market in 2010 and while many current players will face serious trouble, for some companies this is an enormous opportunity.

Brand.net is one of those companies.  Melissa, Elizabeth and I have been astonished how often and emphatically during the past year the top agencies, as well as Top 100 advertisers directly, have asked us to extend our market leading brand display platform capabilities (SafeScreen, SmartScale, etc.) to video.  So our sales force is out taking orders for a platform extension that does just that.

Top 100 advertisers want online video to explode as an advertising medium.  It’s the obvious, and (to stay in front of their target audiences) necessary, successor to the $60B they spend on sight, sound and motion brand-focused TV buys each year.   But today’s video ad networks simply don’t provide the brand-focused capabilities Top 100 advertisers require.   What have they told us for the past year they want from online video?  The ability to guarantee Quality, Scale and Value.

Music to our ears.  Stay tuned.

Forrester Report: Ad Networks for Brand Advertisers

I was happy to see Brand.net was recommended in a recent recent research report from Forrester Research entitled “Ad Networks for Brand Advertisers”.  Forrester’s research suggests that as brand marketers focus on doing more with less, Brand-focused ad networks are a good solution driving increased efficiency and decreased cost without sacrificing quality or control.  The note is fairly brief, but includes some valuable advice for online brand marketers evaluating networks.  In particular,  Forrester recommends careful vetting of potential network partners.  In a crowded ad network market it’s important to separate the networks that can deliver against complex brand requirements from those with more DR-focused capabilities.  Good advice.

The summary of the report is available here.

Lessons in Online Branding: Working the Full Funnel; Balancing Online Measurement With Offline Sales

This past month two of my recent byline articles were featured in the Online Media Daily section of MediaPost.  I thought it was worth a quick re-post on our blog for those that don’t regularly read MediaPost.  While each article stands on its own, they were originally composed together.

The first article offers a different perspective to the steady stream of Direct Response focused press which seems to suggest that performance-based and/or online-only metrics are the only important ones to consider in managing online advertising spend.  I agree that measurement is important and that whenever possible we want to drive toward direct metrics (e.g., ROI).  However, here’s our collective challenge: the vast majority of retail commerce–nearly 90% overall in 2008 and much higher for key Brand categories like CPG and Automotive–still takes place offline. Thus, for the majority of marketers evaluated based on their success in driving offline sales, online-only metrics are likely to be less useful than proven tools like brand awareness/favorability, purchase intent or even reach and frequency, for that matter.  These metrics certainly are not perfect, but they are tested, well-understood and are useful across media.  The Internet can increasingly facilitate the accurate and economical measurement of Brand metrics and there continue to be exciting advances in online measurement capabilities, but there are still some real limitations when it comes to measuring offline impact.  Brand marketing fundamentals remain critical to overall marketing success, even online, and Brand marketers cannot afford to ignore the obvious value available online today.

The second article cites specific evidence to show how critical it is to work the full advertising funnel versus focus only on metrics which are easily measurable and quantifiable.   I use two examples to support this point of view: (1) research published by the Atlas Institute and (2) an example from my past experience running pricing and yield management for Yahoo!’s global display business.  These examples illustrate why value can be difficult to measure and also how models cannot substitute for domain experience and common sense.

As always I would welcome your comments and feedback.

%d bloggers like this: