Timmy On My Tranny

There was something faintly exotic about the mad-cap antics and celebritry filled audio that came out of the radio. I imagine today it would seem tame but our only chart fix was Look-In magazine and, when I discovered it, Smash Hits.

I’ve been re-reading my piece about radio and how my love affair with the medium started; all prompted by a certain person making a big splash on a recent TV show.

It occurs to me that in my radio reflection I listed names that, even today, many would be familiar with, and I started to wonder who in that list jumped out when when people read it? I’m fairly certain one jumped out to many: Timmy Mallett. Whenever I tell people that radio story, Timmy Mallett (along, possibly with Chris Evans) is the name that makes people chuckle most. I guess, people think of Wide Awake Club or the spinoff, Wacaday. But those aren’t my memories.

Timmy Mallet was enormously famous in the North West for his evening show – Timmy on the Tranny – on Piccadilly Radio. At least, he was famous at my school which – to me – meant everybody in the world must have known who he was. And years, and a little rationale, later suggests that we were right. Timmy Mallett won Smash Hits awards which, given they were voted for by national audiences (many of whom wouldn’t have heard his shows), seems to suggest a good few others listened-in. Aunty Boney, Padlock the Poet and Chris Evans’ Nobby No-Level where characters that filled out our homework evenings. And then we’d talk about them in school the next day.

To me, Manchester seemed a million miles away from Wigan but had the advanatage that the biggest stars of the day played Mancheter gigs (I don’t recall anybody playing Wigan, not even Kajagoogoo whose front man, Limahl, hailed from somewhere up the road. I think Bucks Fizz played a sports centre once just outside Wigan, but I may have invented that). And long before I would be able to go and see bands, they all visited Timmy Mallett at Piccadilly. No interviews from studios many miles away, if a chart act played Manchester they visited Timmy (or, at least, all the chart acts I cared about as a teenager did). There was something faintly exotic about the mad-cap antics and celebritry filled audio that came out of the radio. I imagine today it would seem tame but our only chart fix was Look-In magazine and, when I discovered it, Smash Hits (of the awards fame).

So, I guess, well done to Timmy Mallett for getting close on I’m A Celebrity but, to me, he’ll always be the madcap voice coming out of my evening radio. And without a foam hammer anywhere to be seen.

ce n’est pas un ‘ad-server’

When we take publisher tools into a multi-platform world we’re taking them further and further away from having responsibly for serving. In the IPTV world, in the online video world and, to a large extent, in the mobile world publisher tools are making a decision and letting something else do the technical side of the delivery.

Je viens de rentrer d’une visite à Paris. If that doesn’t read as, “I’ve just got back from a visit to Paris” then you’l know O-levels weren’t as good as the rose-tinted view of the dumming down brigade suggests. That, or I’ve just forgotten everything Mrs Taylor taught me about cats sitting on tables or buying one-way tickets to La Rochelle.

À Paris, j’ai rencontré des gens très sympas. But, I wasn’t there just to be friendly, I was there for the second part of the pan-European tour for Microsoft Advertising’s regular outreach sessions, MSA Today. And, in case youâre imagining musician-on-a-bus type touring, it was date two of two (the first being last week in the UK) and so a “tour” is perhaps a little “licence artistique” on my part.

I was part of a group of people showcasing Microsoft Advertising’s offerings to publishers: a set of tools that help media owner’s understand advertising inventory; delivery premium advertising content and monetise remnant/discretionary inventory. It’s a neat set of tools that you can find more about on Microsoft’s web.

To give a bit more background to what I noted last week, while working on the presentation (which has been made available over at Microsoft), I became increasingly convinced that one particular piece of terminology was incorrect: the industry refers to some of that technology as an ad-server and, for most publishers, that name isn’t accurate. And before I’m accused of being pedantic, I think we (those of us work in the business of helping publishers manage advertising inventory) are doing ourselves a disservice by not properly describing what we’re doing and what value we are bringing.

I appreciate that my distinction “certainly in technical terms” is overly specific. But for most publishers and ad-server can be said to do around about six things and in the vast majority of cases the publisher system never actually serves an advertisement (my definition here requires the ad-sever to hold the advertising creative and provide the asset or the URL of the asset back to the user’s browser). And I am talking about publisher ad-servers here; the equivalents for buy-side, optimisation or network players in this space might “serve” the ad more often than not.

And now you’re asking “Pourquoi est-ce important?” (or something similar). I believe the serving aspect diminishes the value because it’s seen as a technical not a business process. Not that it should, the development and innovation behind serving digital advertisements is often overlooked but nonetheless we’re dealing with realities in this small space of the industry.

A publisher needs a system that provides order management; that provides inventory analysis (both pre and post-sale); provides workflow tracking for the ad operations team; provides reporting and insight on delivery, sales and finance and, finally, makes the decision on which advertisement should be shown through fast analysis of targeting rules and the browser’s request. In the world in which we operate today, at the point of selection the publisher’s system hands-off responsibility for delivery to the advertiser (buy-side) or network’s delivery system which takes responsibility for telling the browser where to load the ad from.

When we take publisher tools into a multi-platform world (which, to some extent was the point of my pitch for Microsoft) we’re taking them further and further away from having responsibly for “serving”. In the IPTV world, in the online video world and, to a large extent, in the mobile world publisher tools are making a decision and letting something else do the technical side of the delivery. This is not to play down the important of solid, reliable and timely delivery but it’s just not how publisher “ad-servers” have evolved. In the cable television space we’re already talking about a legacy web “ad-server” as being a ad-decision service and that, more accurately, reflects what we’re doing.

Again, I am trying not to be pedantic about this but selection, targeting, analysis, prediction and workflow management are sophisticated tools that power publisher’s businesses. The serving is really the last item, admittedly vital, in the chain but often it is not done by the publisher’s system as we know it today. Why is it not a referred to as a delivery analytics platform or a decisioning system?

I really do wonder if we are doing ourselves a disservice in underplaying the business systems we’re providing. Back when we were just rotating ads every few seconds, and I once worked on a system which selected the ad based on the numerical value of the second you requested it, our tools were primarily a mechanism to deliver. Now they are a mechanism to mange, process, refine, analyse and invoice. Systems have been rightly integrated into CRM and billing systems as well as into content management and analytics platforms. The value a publisher”ad-server” brings is infinitely better than those systems of old yet our terminology hasn’t changed.

As an industry we need to be better at highlighting our real value. I don’t believe “ad-server” serves is well any longer. It’s time to change.

Part One of this piece was written after the UK version of the presentations and can be read in That’s Not An Ad-Server.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer (who sent me) nor customers (who I spoke to while there). You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

That’s Not An Ad-Server

How does your system handle basic sales order workflow, yield management and business intelligence? These days, a publisher ad-server needs to be great at decision making, great at making those decisions for multiple platforms – preferably while understanding the audience across those platforms – great at forecasting and a great optimiser. Serving the ad? That comes next.

If you follow the things that I write here then you’ll know that I am involved in the technology of the digital advertising industry. A few years ago I would have said that I work for an ad-serving company; at a push I worked for a publisher ad-serving business. Just over a year ago, the ad-serving company that I work for was acquired by Microsoft (as part of their aQuantive purchase) and I have been part of Microsoft Advertising for some time now. Putting the fact that Microsoft is an enormous company to one side, I honestly don’t think I can say that I work for an ad-serving company any more (and I don’t mean because I work for one that now makes Xbox and Word). No, I believe that the term ad-server is out-dated and we should stop using it. Ad-serving is dead (at least for publishers).

There are some that will balk at that statement but stay with me.

Microsoft has some big ambitions in digital advertising, just look at the other acquisitions aside from aQuantive: ScreenTonic, Massive and AdECN, and as part of those ambitions we have been welcomed – quickly – into the Microsoft Advertising family. And to that end we’re included in the marketing events. And that is why today I stood in front of a group of publishers, as part of the Microsoft Advertising Today conference, to declare ‘The ad-server is dead. Long live the ad-server’ just without any robes, royalty or a crown anywhere to be found.

Strictly, my part of the day was entitled, ‘Beyond Ad-Serving’ – which is to say if you’re a publisher you shouldn’t be focusing on just the delivery of the advertising because, well, chances are your system isn’t delivering it. Sure, it’s making all the decisions (and you should be very interested in how your system can handle the different prioritisations required by different campaign types) but it’s passing of the heavy-lifting of delivery to a third-party system (or even to a network who will then pass it on to an advertiser system). Frankly, as we move into an era of networks, exchanges and bidding systems, publishers need to think about much more than the serving part.

Those of you vaguely familiar with the kinds of systems I am talking about will know I’m being overly picky in my use of terminology but I do, genuinely, believe that this is an important point. How does your system handle basic sales order workflow, yield management and business intelligence? These days, a publisher ad-server needs to be great at decision making, great at making those decisions for multiple platforms – preferably while understanding the audience across those platforms – great at forecasting and a great optimiser. Serving the ad? That comes next.

So, ad-serving is dead because the ad-server has matured.

Microsoft have kindly put up a copy of the presentation that I did. You may be surprised to hear that I was encouraged to remove bullet points. Yes, at Microsoft (sadly, the pdf rendering isn’t great but you’ll get the point).

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer (who lets me talk about my opinions) nor customers (who I spoke to). You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

In Recovery Mode

For most of the weekend before last (and parts of the week either side) I was in Amsterdam at IBC. IBC is essential an enourmous broadcasting technology conference & exhibition; although its styling itself for the electronic media industry.

How long does it take to recover from a week in Amsterdam? Given it’s now Monday, I will say about five days. Of course, your mileage may vary etc. etc.

For most of the weekend before last (and parts of the week either side) I was in Amsterdam at IBC. IBC is essentially an enormous broadcasting technology conference & exhibition; although its styling itself for the electronic media industry. While the focus appears to me to be technology there is, apparently, a decent representation from the creative side of the industry. It’s been around for years and it’s quite important to many in the broadcast sector. While I’ve known about it for a long time, and have watched colleagues go before, I’ve never been myself. Upon arrival at the conference, prepare yourself: I found the size quite daunting. I suspect extensive, advance planning your visits/meetings etc. is the key to the experience.

Friends often ask me about this kind of event. Is it a trade show, conference, place for old friends to meet/excuse for a drink? Well, I know that this time I probably encountered the lot but I have never been so exhausted after a conference in all my life which is why it’s taken me five days to get the photos up onto Flickr. Although the hotel that they put us up in was very nice, central & restful; there is a lot (an awful lot) of walking. Tip: take a map showing the location of the RAI conference centre and your hotel. Walking between the two may be a trek but it saves waiting for the cabs or trams as the centre closes each day.

The thrilling thing (at least for me) was that it was the culmination of many months of work to have our advertising management tool deliver targeted, addressable advertising to video on demand systems. Microsoft, of course, had a fantastic stand in the Topaz lounge where all sorts of great technologies were being showcased. Check out some of the things Silverlight can do. But for me, the television screens in the corner connecting AdManager to Mediaroom were what it was all about. This meant that I stood, for many hours, watching the same video clips and advertisements (and I still want a pizza despite – or, perhaps because of – seeing a pizza ad several hundred times) but the response from customers, partners & prospects was great. You can read about the Mediaroom Advertising Platform on the official press rele

ase for the event.

I think targeted, addressable advertising is future for advertising; and I don’t think that’s a big announcement at all. Many people in advertising will say they’ve been doing it for years. What’s direct mail advertising, after all? However, in the digital world the key issue will be defining what is meant by targetable or addressable. Many years ago we used ‘targeting’ to describe how we were able place an advertisement on a particular page on a web site. Other areas of the advertising industry have used it describe demographics or audience segments. Isn’t Amazon’s “customers who bought” suggestions a great form of highly targeted promotion? The main problem is that we have no standard, industry definition of what we mean by targeted or addressable. Amazon knows my purchase history – it should be easy to target on that. But what about mobile or television advertising? How to we define what’s targetable. I agree that we still have some research to do in this area.

As an aside, it’s worth recognising that with little effort, many things are targetable, including personal data. But that’s not what I am referring to here. Privacy policies, user information, declared data etc. are all the scope of legislation and deserve a better piece of writing than this. No, I’m suggesting that the industry simply need to standardise what it means targetable advertising as a starting point for us all.

There were plenty of other people demonstrating similar things in this and related fields. It’s interesting to see that the television business is not, contrary to the predictions of You Tube doom, standing still. If IBC is anything to go by there’s a whole heap of innovation for those of us who watch television which could dramatically change our experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing which make it to the mainstream.

Apart from watching television advertising all day, Amsterdam was a fun place to be. It being my birthday in the middle of it all there was a desert with a sparkling candle in it, presented to me a great steak restaurant, whose name I have lost and, therefore, can’t recommend. Thanks to all my UK colleagues for that. After we had packed away, there was a canal tour to pass an hour or two before heading to the airport, arranged by some of my US colleagues (some of whom had not visited Amsterdam before).  There was even a bar showing American football and a late night team of my US friends trying to explain the rules to me. I’m not certain I mastered them, I’m afraid. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to catch up with my old friends from my days in the radio distribution business. Hopefully, another year.

It was an exhausting week but a great glimpse of where we are taking the technology.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer (who sent me) nor customers (who I spoke to while there). You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

 

Update: 29 September: Added some links to related commentary at Connected TV.

Get Your Product Right Or Get In The Liferaft

If your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back.

I wrote recently about the problems I see with an assumption that advertising will pay for everything. Even in the month since I wrote that, world markets are moving in a direction that’s making us all look for the liferaft. All of us excet those who got the big bonuses over the last few years and didn’t blow them on an overpriced city pad. I hear they are in Indian beach huts.
My second point last time, and forgive me shamelessly quoting myself, said, “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”. I’ve been thinking a little more about this and I can’t stress the importance of it. So, I’m going to say it again. And put it in bold: “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”.
There is a counter argument, I know. Get your product right first. When you get all the bells and whistles built into your product or service then people will love/use it and advertiser’s like that. Well, see my previous post: advertising can’t pay for everything in this world. If the advertising experience is poor for the conumser you’ve blown the bit about getting your product right. If the experience is poor for the advertiser then you have a mountain to climb to convince them to come.
No, if your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back and go and join all the bankers on a beach in India for a year or two. It doesn’t have to distract too much from your central product proposition but you need to remember that it is core to your business proposition.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah”. I think that’s what I can hear you saying. “We won’t do that”. But I’ve seen great companies – big and small – make this mistake again and again.
I’ve lost count of the number of websites that I’ve met with who add advertising into the mix after they’ve done the content system design and build. And after they’ve spent a lot of money on the design which happened not to have a brief to include advertising. Then they add the advertising spaces into the look and feel of the site and the whole thing suddenley looks disconnected. The content system isn’t built to pass any itelligence back to the ad system and they struggle to place ads in the right place. Worse, the content system has a content structure that doesn’t map to how the sales team want to sell the ads so from the first sale nobody’s expectations are met.
There are fewer companies I’ve met, but they exist, who build a way to have users register to use a product but don’t coniser how that could enhance the advertising proposition to both the conumser and the advertiser. So it’s a sepearte system that doesn’t share intelligence. Several times I’ve seen teams re-engineer registration interfaces just to faciliate some use in the advertising mix (and remember knowing you’re a registered user of a site can, sometimes, mean you see less – not more – advertising).
And while I’m talking about registration, you are asking for a little more than an email address aren’t you? Gender and country – fields which doen’t identify an individual in any way (unless your country consists of two people and only one of them is a man) can be invaluable in determining which advertisers might be interested in your audience. More data is better but it’s a start.
Remember that you are selling audiences not spaces. You need to know a little bit about them to be able to construct a meaningful advertising proposition. However, you also need to remember that there are laws – with good reason – that mean you can’t invade an  individual’s privacy. It’s a good trade. I get a product for free and I tell you a little bit about me. You need to aggregate and anonymise data. If you have solid aggregated data then you stand a chance at building a good advertising proposition. And in any product development it isn’t a bad idea to know your audience, is it?
Whatever your product think about how the ads will fit into the mix. It’s not just websites. Many years ago I worked with a company that specialised in sponsored SMS messages. You know the kind of thing. My team score and you send me a text. Somebody else pays for the text. All very nice until you remember that you need to send me the score and get the sponsor message in less that 160 characters. And that sponsor message needs to include a message and, often, a response mechanism. You see the problem?
I could go on. But you don’t need me to rub it in, do you?
So, for one final time, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition …, oh you get the point.

I wrote recently about the problems I see with an assumption that advertising will pay for everything. Even in the month since I wrote that, world markets are moving in a direction that’s making us all look for the liferaft. All of us excet those who got the big bonuses over the last few years and didn’t blow them on an overpriced city pad. I hear they are in Indian beach huts.

My second point last time, and forgive me shamelessly quoting myself, said, “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans”. I’ve been thinking a little more about this and I can’t stress the importance of it. So, I’m going to say it again. And put it in bold: “if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans“.

There is a counter argument, I know. Get your product right first. When you get all the bells and whistles built into your product or service then people will love/use it and advertiser’s like that. Well, see my previous post: advertising can’t pay for everything in this world. If the advertising experience is poor for the conumser you’ve blown the bit about getting your product right. If the experience is poor for the advertiser then you have a mountain to climb to convince them to come (back).

No, if your product will rely on advertsing in whole or in part to fund your business model build in advertising hooks and concepts from day one or else you may as well hand that VC money back and go and join all the bankers on a beach in India for a year or two. It doesn’t have to distract too much from your central product proposition but you need to remember that it is core to your business proposition.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah”. I think that’s what I can hear you saying. “We won’t do that”. But I’ve seen great companies – big and small – make this mistake again and again.

I’ve lost count of the number of websites that I’ve met with who add advertising into the mix after they’ve done the content system design and build. And after they’ve spent a lot of money on the design which happened not to have a brief to include advertising. Then they add the advertising spaces into the look and feel of the site and the whole thing suddenley looks disconnected. The content system isn’t built to pass any itelligence back to the ad system and they struggle to place ads in the right place. Worse, the content system has a content structure that doesn’t map to how the sales team want to sell the ads so from the first sale nobody’s expectations are met.

There are fewer companies I’ve met, but they exist, who build a way to have users register to use a product but don’t coniser how that could enhance the advertising proposition to both the conumser and the advertiser. So it’s a sepearte system that doesn’t share intelligence. Several times I’ve seen teams re-engineer registration interfaces just to faciliate some use in the advertising mix (and remember knowing you’re a registered user of a site can, sometimes, mean you see less – not more – advertising).

And while I’m talking about registration, you are asking for a little more than an email address aren’t you? Gender and country – fields which doen’t identify an individual in any way (unless your country consists of two people and only one of them is a man) can be invaluable in determining which advertisers might be interested in your audience. Crude, yes. Simplistic advertising, yes. But more data is better and it’s a start.

Remember that you are selling audiences not spaces. You need to know a little bit about them to be able to construct a meaningful advertising proposition. However, you also need to remember that there are laws – with good reason – that mean you can’t invade an  individual’s privacy. It’s a good trade. I get a product for free and I tell you a little bit about me. You need to aggregate and anonymise data. If you have solid aggregated data then you stand a chance at building a good advertising proposition. And in any product development it isn’t a bad idea to know your audience, is it?

Whatever your product think about how the ads will fit into the mix. It’s not just websites. Many years ago I worked with a company that specialised in sponsored SMS messages. You know the kind of thing. My team score and you send me a text. Somebody else pays for the text. All very nice until you remember that you need to send me the score and get the sponsor message in less that 160 characters. And that sponsor text needs to include a message and, often, a response mechanism. You see the problem?

I could go on. But you don’t need me to rub it in, do you?

So, for one final time, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition …, oh you get the point.

Moscow: War & Advertising In A Week

I went to Moscow to plan an ad-serving implementation but they went to war as I arrived. I missed the war but met smart, interesting people.

I suspect that I am in the middle of the one of the more (if not, most) interesting two weeks in my working career. Yesterday, I returned from Moscow some 1500 miles to the north east of where I type this and tomorrow I am flying 4800 miles, or so, in the opposite direction to Seattle. Russia to the USA. I could be running my own little cold war had Mikhail Gorbachev not done the world a service and taught us all a new word, perestroika, some 21 years ago. It’s possibly my only word of Russian, although I am reminded that we were all happy for glasnost freedoms; even if that meant 30,000 Muscovites had to queue for a beef patty in January 1990 in some kind declaration of the freedom to Supersize ones self. I suspect the Nobel Peace Prize committee didn’t cite Pepsico’s opening of a Pizza Hut when making the award to Gorbachev in 1990. Anyway, it appears the citizen’s of Moscow have, since dissolving the USSR on Christmas Day 1991, embraced consumerism and the market economy to such an extent as to make the upcoming Christmas Day 2008, Moscow-style, a very expensive affair indeed. Truly, the most expensive place I have ever visited. I imagine American Express do very well out of it all, much to the consternation – one imagines – of any members of the Politburo who may be looking down on this megacity.

As I left Heathrow on a, if I am honest, patched-up jet, some parts of the Russian army were taking a less tourist-like approach to Georgia’s South Ossetia, some 3700 or so miles from Moscow. Tbilisi and Moscow have disputed this territory for years. Depending who you ask, some may tell you that the Republic of South Ossetia is a country in itself but I think you’ll, generally, only get that answer from the people around about Tskhinvali (that’s South Ossetia’s capital should your geo-political globe not be to hand right now). In case you hadn’t worked it out, this isn’t an essay on political tensions in the South Caucasus but the dispute is relevant as my parents currently reside in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. In a nutshell, I fly into Russia one way while my parents evacuate ahead of an advancing Russian army. Less than a week ago they were on a bus heading to Yerevan watching Georgian tanks roll back towards me.

History and geography lessons aside, the thought that the country you are visiting is, regardless of a legal definition, at war with another country doesn’t fill your heart with joy or put a spring in your step. However, and this is the unsatisfactory climax to which I have been building these opening paragraphs, the people I met in Moscow were, unfailingly, concerned about my parents’ safety and went out of their way to help me get status updates. I image ringing the international operator and asking for trunk line to Tbilisi so I can ask about the weather would have got me on some kind of watch list. And that sums up my experience of Muscovites: warm, interested and friendly.

I was there to work on a digital advertising project with some people from a major publisher and, in the course of the last week, I’ve met with a large number of people generating digital content from news and sport to managing social media platforms and finding ways to generate advertising interest. The experience has, like many of these projects, shown me that the digital advertising business is truly global and facing more-or-less the same challenges and pressures. Interestingly, because one of the key drivers of this project was to increase display advertising relevancy without the need to serve-up more and more ad placements, we had some detailed conversations that expanded on my thoughts to the mobile conference earlier in the year: understand that each member of your audience is unique and, with the right infrastructure, digital advertising shouldn’t need to drown out the real content they are there to read so that you can make some return.

Hypothesising digital advertising’s future wasn’t the only reason for my visit. I needed to evaluate the the ways in which the technology that I represent fits into an existing workflow and how disruptive a new system implementation may be. The online advertising world has grown, in the fourteen or so years that I have been involved, organically. By that I mean we learnt lessons from our initial trials (hey, I logged on to hard-code ads on Christmas Day many years ago) and gradually adapted them. Software that solved problems ten years ago is still being actively developed today and being taken in many more directions than we could have imagined. As a result I often find customer processes that developed alongside the advancing technology are unique, (occasionally) misunderstood internally and inefficient: systems that too often rely on knowledgeable human gate-keepers or spreadsheets tucked on a machine in the corner. It’s an issue that I see the industry as a whole addressing in different ways but one that acknowledges what we refer to as ad-serving technology needs to integrate into wider business systems. One of the most delightful parts of my visit this week was that the customer I met had a complete understanding of their own processes before I even sat down and I was able to map them onto our products & plans with relative ease.

Although we had a lot of work to complete in the days I was there, and in spite of almost stranding myself in the Microsoft Moscow office for the night (tip: pre-book taxis), I managed to view Red Square and the Kremlin at night. I bought, what appeared to be, the world’s most expensive Beef Stroganoff (but I was sat looking at the Kremlin at the time); saw how the locals take a taxi without having to re-mortgage their house and got an all too brief guided tour (although we didn’t get to ride in the ‘special’ lane). I made it back to the airport – and to the sight of a almost new bmi plane – convinced that the digital entrepreneurs in Moscow will be creating some amazing products in the next few years and that they, perhaps better than some organisations I’ve worked with over the years, understand that developers need to eat. Such insight means that finding the way to make products efficient and advertiser-friendly is central to their thoughts. I’d love to go back but, perhaps, I’ll wait for hostilities to cease.

And now to pack for that flight in the opposite direction. I imagine my own internal war, the one where the jet-lag armies move in on the disputed territory of sleep, will be declared some time on Monday. In the meantime, my thoughts are with all sides impacted in South Ossetia and hope they find a speedy resolution.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer (who sent me) nor customers (who hosted me). You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

Hey Product Manager, Thought About The Ads?

Wherever you sit in product or service development, on or off-line, think about how advertising will be integrated and put it at the heart of your development plans. It’ll pay, in more ways than just with revenue, in the long run.

Where are you reading this? Are you sat in an office or at home? Do you have the television on in the background or the radio in your ears? Maybe you’re mobile in some way? Is it a laptop in a coffee shop or are you on a train? Wherever you are, if you’re reading this you are connected to the the vast web of information, you know all the good stuff on the internet and all the bad stuff the news channels make up.
But you are also connected to a vast web of advertising. Switch on your TV, change your radio chhanel, look out of the window, open the magazine or surf along to my employer’s web page. You see advertising everywhere.
There was a survey once, that I can’t find right now, that counted how many advertisments an average person was exposed to in a normal day. Who’s average? What’s normal? Perhaps they just made up a number. But it was a big number. Quite big. Maybe very big, but – as I said – I can’t find it. Nevertheless, you don’t need a nice lady with a clipboard to tell you that you see a lot of advertising, because you know that, don’t you? From my recollection, it was all the advertising that you come across that you don’t remember seeing that was the interesting point of that survey
Anyway, as I can’t find it, there’s no point talking about it, right? I can summarise the last three pargraphs like this: there’s a lot of advertising everywhere.
I’ve had a fascinating couple of weeks, talking to some very smart people building some – on paper – interesting new online products. We talk about how to interegrate a range of advertsing options into these products.  See how much I’m giving away. Lawyers scare me. I’m saying no more about them.
What’s been clear for a couple of years now is that everybody, from big corporations to small start-ups, is convionced that they can monetise their ideas with advertising. Advertising is, apparetly, going to pay for everything. If you fall into the right demographic, your mobile phone will be paid for if you listen to a few ads. By-the-way, if you don’t want a moile phone paid for by advertising that’s fine. Some people, however, would love not to pay a penny to speak to their friends.
And there are three problems with this approach to product development and innovation. Firstly, many people who think their prodct or service is attarctive to advertisers haven’t actually thoguht about how the advertising experience will work. It’s a kind of approach that says, our product is great, people will love it, people will use it and advertisers will come.
Hey, consumers will have to really love it and come in droves. There aren’t many products that have acieved that level of attention where advertisers know they have to be there. Facebook is a nice exception that springs to mind.
Secondly, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans. Over the years I’ve seen too many great products have advertising added in as an after thought. And it rarely works. This needs to the be subject of another piece but please take the advice now and read a later post when I get round to writing it.
Thirdly, all these advertisers who will come have limited budgets. They can’t place ads everywhere. Your audience has to be very compelling to move budgets. Logic tells me that there is a point when advertising won’t pay for products and services any more. Should this stop your development? Absolutely not. We move on by innovation. But if your product is to stand a chance of making it seriously evaluate the advertising proposition. Then cut the expected revenue by 80%. Then work out how to fund the gap.
I do think the digital space has an advantage here. Increasingly, money is moving into the digital advertising arena from other media. So if you’re new idea is digital and – importantly – you’ve thought through the advertisng model and – most importantly – you’ve worked how the advertising experience with your product (from user and advertiser sides) then you may see advertising as a funding source but I don’t think your advantage is huge.
So here’s my appeal. Wherever you sit in product or service development, on or off-line, think about how advertising will be integrated and put it at the heart of your development plans. It’ll pay, in more ways than just with revenue, in the long run.

Where are you reading this? Are you sat in an office or at home? Do you have the television on in the background or the radio in your ears? Maybe you’re mobile in some way? Is it a laptop in a coffee shop or are you on a train? Wherever you are, if you’re reading this you are connected to the vast web of information, you know all the good stuff on the internet and all the bad stuff the news channels make up.

But you are also connected to a vast web of advertising. Switch on your TV, change your radio channel, look out of the window, open the magazine or surf along to my employer’s web page. You see advertising everywhere.

There was a survey once, that I can’t find right now, that counted how many advertisements an average person was exposed to in a normal day. Who’s average? What’s normal? Perhaps they just made up a number. But it was a big number. Quite big. Maybe very big, but – as I said – I can’t find it. Nevertheless, you don’t need a nice lady with a clipboard to tell you that you see a lot of advertising, because you know that, don’t you? From my recollection, it was all the advertising that you come across that you don’t remember seeing that was the interesting point of that survey

Anyway, as I can’t find it, there’s no point talking about it, right? I can summarise the last three paragraphs like this: there’s a lot of advertising everywhere.

I’ve had a fascinating couple of weeks, talking to some very smart people building some – on paper – interesting new online products. We talk about how to integrate a range of advertising options into these products.  See how much I’m giving away. Lawyers scare me. I’m saying no more about them.

What’s been clear for a couple of years now is that everybody, from big corporations to small start-ups, is convinced that they can monetise their ideas with advertising. Advertising is, apparently, going to pay for everything. If you fall into the right demographic, your mobile phone will be paid for if you listen to a few ads. By-the-way, if you don’t want a mobile phone paid for by advertising that’s fine. Some people, however, would love not to pay a penny to speak to their friends.

And there are three problems with this approach to product development and innovation. Firstly, many people who think their product or service is attractive to advertisers haven’t actually thought about how the advertising experience will work. It’s a kind of approach that says, our product is great, people will love it, people will use it and advertisers will come.

Hey, consumers will have to really love it and come in droves. There aren’t many products that have achieved that level of attention where advertisers know they have to be there. Facebook is a nice exception that springs to mind.

Secondly, if advertising is going to be central to your proposition then make it central to your product development plans. Over the years I’ve seen too many great products have advertising added in as an after thought. And it rarely works. This needs to the be subject of another piece but please take the advice now and read a later post when I get round to writing it.

Thirdly, all these advertisers who will come have limited budgets. They can’t place ads everywhere. Your audience has to be very compelling to move budgets. Logic tells me that there is a point when advertising won’t pay for products and services any more. Should this stop your development? Absolutely not. We move on by innovation. But if your product is to stand a chance of making it seriously evaluate the advertising proposition. Then cut the expected revenue by 80%. Then work out how to fund the gap.

I do think the digital space has an advantage here. Increasingly, money is moving into the digital advertising arena from other media. So if your new idea is digital and – importantly – you’ve thought through the advertising model and – most importantly – you’ve worked how the advertising experience with your product (from user and advertiser sides) then you may see advertising as a funding source but I don’t think your advantage is huge.

So here’s my appeal. Wherever you sit in product or service development, on or off-line, think about how advertising will be integrated and put it at the heart of your development plans. It’ll pay, in more ways than just with revenue, in the long run.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer. You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

Eurovision Is Not A Serious Song Contest

So, what happened this year? Why are you so frustrated? Why are we suddenly upset about the bias? Simply because we did not do well? That’s a little childish, isn’t it?



Semifinal 1 EUROVISION 2008
Originally uploaded by proteusbcn

Dear Sir Terry

This weekend was the Eurovision Song Contest; the annual spectacle of music, strange traditional consumes & dubious musical interpretation of songs (and, as you might say, that’s just the interval acts). It was as it has ever been: a pile of unconnected international pop pap presented as a serious content. The most important thing, you must agree, is to remember your sense of humour. Over the years, you have urged us not to take it too seriously.

I wasn’t around for the 60s Brit-winners such as Sandy Shaw or Lulu. I don’t really remember the song contests of the mid-70s when classics from Abba and the Brotherhood of Man were born. I do remember Johnny Logan, Bucks Fizz and Bobbysocks in all their 1980s glory. When Ireland went on a winning streak in the mid-90s we were holding Eurovision parties in our University flats. It was fun and an excuse – if one was really needed – to get very drunk and laugh at rubbish songs. Which we did with an international feel.

So, what happened this year? Why are you so frustrated? Why are we suddenly upset about the bias? Simply because we did not do well? That’s a little childish, isn’t it?

The Scandinavians always voted for each other (as they did this year). For goodness sake, we always expect Ireland to vote for the UK and vice versa (and we hope Malta does too) while we know the French won’t. Call it political, call it similar musical tastes but that’s how it’s always been. It’s not going to change. But that doesn’t stop it being wonderfully silly entertainment in the best sense.

The last 10 contests have been won by Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia and Russia. If we take the 90s as the point when Eastern Europe started to enter the content then that makes it five wins to the new countries (Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Serbia & Russia) and 5 wins to the older entrants (Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Greece & Finland).

Seems pretty fair to me. So, why have you started to loose your sense of humour?

Jon

Update on the voting from popbitch: “If only traditional Western European countries had voted this year the UK would have been third from bottom, rather than one of three with the lowest points”.

Nice, Mobiles and TeleMedia

The session I was speaking at, ‘The New Monetisation Paradigm: Content, Advertising, and Markets of One’, was surprisingly well attended given the 4pm start time: conferences can be long hard days and 4 o’clock is certainly more ‘retire to the bar’ time than ‘explore new business model opportunities that can generate revenue through advertising’ time.

Last week I was in Nice, which is nice, especially in the sunshine. Truthfully, temperatures were hotter than I feel comfortable in and I had to be really careful as I’d failed miserably to plan for such heat and forgot hats and suncream. Luckily, the bars on the beach all have umbrellas for shade. And beer used for cooling purposes.

I don’t recall ever having been to Nice before, so I was unprepared for the rich and the beautiful people wandering around. Bernie Eccelstone’s doppelganger, in the nicest sense of that word, was drinking beers at a beach-front bar on Thursday afternoon which was unsurprising as the Formula One circus was in town, or rather, in the next town; the Monaco Grand Prix revving its engines in preparation for Sunday’s race. Sitting here a few days later I can tell you that Lewis Hamilton won which means the bruises are worse as I have been kicking myself for not extending my visit and catching, at the very least, some practice circuits. Possibly a golden opportunity missed.

Fortunately, I was prepared for the TM Forum Management World 2008 conference which I was speaking at. I don’t usually speak at this kind of event (large conference) but was looking forward to it, especially as I was in one of the break-out rooms speaking to audiences with an interest in ‘Advertising & Monetizing TeleMedia Services’. The conference is aimed at the telecoms business in general with sessions ranging from ‘End-User Device Management’ to ‘Using SDF/SDP for Rapid Service Deployment’ and not an advertising-specific event. In fact, Microsoft was speaking on a whole range of topics unrelated to the ad technology world I’m used to working in (See also MSFT Press Pass). The session I was speaking at, ‘The New Monetisation Paradigm: Content, Advertising, and Markets of One‘, was surprisingly well attended given the 4pm start time: conferences can be long hard days and 4 o’clock is certainly more ‘retire to the bar’ time than ‘explore new business model opportunities that can generate revenue through advertising’ time.

Given it’s not an advertising-driven conference I wasn’t sure exactly how to pitch the presentation of Microsoft Advertising’s view of monetisation opportunities so I opted for a general view of display-based advertising markets, value & opportunities in a multi-screen environment that a Telco could easily provide. My co-presenters, Grant Lenahan from Telcordia Technologies and Gary Galinsky from Call Genie had taken slightly different views of advertising options on mobile, incorporating non-display opportunities (which include SMS messaging and ad-funded calling). All together, I think the three stories gelled into a very intriguing story for the operators’ representatives in the audience.

Thankfully, all three if us had taken these different approaches to the idea of monetising services which meant that, while we were in overall agreement, our presentations were sufficiently different for the audience. I’ve found one of the downsides of some speaking engagements that are put together by third parties is a lack of, if you’ll pardon me, engagement with your fellow speakers. Last week, I don’t believe it really mattered as there were good stories to tell.

I focused on the Microsoft Advertising suite of tools to tell my story of ‘connected advertising’ which, in a nutshell, suggests that advertising should no longer be considered separate by medium. Advertising is a conversation, a long-term engagement or a multi-layered pitch to a consumer. It’s not a 30 second radio spot, a 728 banner or mobile coupon. It’s all those plus relationships from other communication tools or social sites and a compelling future, at least for me, is one where advertising messages know this and ensure you’re not burned by messages nor are you swamped by irrelevant promotions. Advertising becomes both connected and smart.

So, where does mobile fit in? Well, my co-presenters were able to give compelling success stories for monetisation today: and some things are a long way from traditional thoughts of advertising. My pitch, if you like, was more of a future think-piece. The dots are not connected yet but they could be. I wanted to ask the audience to forget traditional notions of advertising and think how advertising to customers may become part of a larger communication through connected technology. I believe that’s better for everybody and I wanted to hear what they had to say about it.

The discussion that followed the presentations was fascinating for me. I come from a background of working with content owners who need to generate revenue via advertising to provide the services they’re offering. Much of the audience didn’t come from that perspective; many were – understandably – unfamiliar with advertising processes and the roles each player in the ecosystem fulfils. Many represented the service provider in the mix who may, for example, be providing a gateway for others to advertise rather than sell media space themselves. It’s a very different viewpoint and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of adapting my experiences to a different environment. Only the future will show which way it will play out and, unlike the Monaco Grand Prix, I can’t sit here and tell you who the winner will be.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer nor of the conference management. You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?

Boston Legal Series 4 Starts Thursday (but you wouldn’t know it)

If you expressed each year as a percentage of your life to date then each one is worth less than the the one before.

2008. Go on say it, 2008. How did we get here? Not only 2008 but, basically, February 2008. I really want to go and shout it from the rooftops: February 2008. If you expressed each year as a percentage of your life to date then each one is worth less than the the one

before. Back in 2000, each year represented about 3.3% of my life; this year that number will be 2.6% of my life. So, I guess, each year appears to pass quicker because it represents less of the time you have spent wandering the earth.

That reads a little gloomily really. I didn’t intend that, it’s just such a while since I was here yet it feels like such a short time.

January is the time of nostalgia where we review the highs and lows of the previous years. I discovered this year that there were only thirteen episodes of Mr Benn. Honestly, only thirteen yet it seemed like a thousand. See, I can count my life in trivial TV facts. Can it really be 18 (or maybe 19) years since Michael Cashman played Colin in EastEnders? Is it really six years since Gary Lucy last appeared in Hollyoaks? The actor who used to play Adric in Doctor Who now lives in Connecticut. Yes, these are the great televisual questions than we grapple with through the years.

We all love television programmes in some way. So, why then, in this multi-channel age is it almost impossible to know when a new series of your favourit

e television show is on. Boston Legal, one of the best TV shows on today, starts a brand new fourth series on Thursday on Living TV. But you wouldn’t know because it’s not been promoted well. They have been showing ‘coming soon’ promotions for a few weeks but I’ve only just seen the date. I could easily have missed it. Pop along to the Living TV web site and it’s mentioned but I am not checking every day. Perhaps I should, ‘Extreme Skinny Celeb Mums’ must be post in itself .

phil_jan.jpg

Where is the TV episode alert system? Somebody should do it. Get a simple email notifying you when the next series of your favourite shows start. Prison Break back on Sky One? Just a little note to let you know.I don’t want to know when every episode is aired. I can find that out once I know the series is starting but I can’t watch all the channels all the time and would like a little reminder.

 

And a reminder when Phil is back on TV never hurt anybody. The calendar for 2008 is Phil Olivier.

The 2007 Collection

The 2007 MosaicAnother New Year and time for the regular yearly review as seen through the pictures that I take on my mobile phone. At least this year I am posting the pictures at the very beginning of the year! This year’s mosaic features 7 rows (for 2007) of 5 pictures.

The original idea was that pictures captured on a mobile phone provide an interesting view of the year. This year the Flickr photostream for my mobile shots shows 74 photographs – but many are from earlier in the year. See the full collection at Flickr. Of course, they only represent a snapshot of the year; a fuller collection for the year can be seen under the 2007 Flickr tag.