Stewart Buttefield & Tiny Speck: Super Smart Team w/Game for the Future

It’s still such early days. The field is wide open. Zynga, Playfish, CrowdStar and Playdom all started early enough. They could take advantage of the news feed posts to get more users. But there was tragedy of the commons. They put too many messages into the news feed and Facebook viewed it as spam. Facebook cut back on that kind of distribution. There is a big enough audience for games now.


This guy is so, so damn smart. It's very, very easy to see how he got his seed money with minimal effort. I'm in as an alpha tester, and it looks dynamite, very rich so far.

The next generation of digital talent: where will they work? | Creativity_Unbound

This is what’s coming. A new generation of talent, ambition and digital chops. They’re the kind of people we all need in our agencies and marketing departments.

We have two choices. We can offer them opportunity to build things –products, platforms, services – with us, or watch them take their newly learned skills and passion somewhere else.

What is your company going to do?


Peter Merholz: The Trouble With UX from Agencies

The thing is, these agencies do not come at user experience from an honest place.


When criticizing ad agencies, you have to begin at the core — advertising, as it is widely practiced, is an inherently unethical and, frankly, poisonous endeavor that sees people as sheep to be manipulated, that vaunts style over substance, and deems success to be winning awards.


This is a remarkable essay (not your typical post). The main point is: UX from ad or interactive agencies can't be great, because the organizations themselves are not great, the business of advertising is (morally, ethically) wrong.

Merholz' argument is really with the business and work of advertising and how that industry ruins it's people. But, agency problems aside, i'd really like to dig deeper into the idea that better work comes when the organization's soul is well aligned with the work. Can you separate the work from the workers?

If you care deeply about good user experience and you've had experience working in or with ad agencies or interactive agencies, i'd suggest you read this and the follow-up.

What happens when you focus on the wrong metric: A Faustian Bargain : CJR

But then, manna descended. The tech team had finally built a way for us to publish a slideshow. Until then, The Big Money didn’t have the capability to run simple photo galleries that would earn a page view—and display a new ad—after every new click. Within days we ran our first slideshow, a visual essay about the history of credit-card design. Overnight, we found our 100,000 page views. Over the next few days, the slideshow made up 40 percent of our total traffic.


Sometimes metrics work to get you focused. Sometimes, you pick the wrong metric.

Official Google TV Ads Blog: This is big. This is FiOS + Google TV Ads


And the future of TV comes into focus a little bit more…

That Was Then: The Future of Advertising | Fast Company

The ad business became an assembly line as predictable as Henry Ford's. The client (whose goal was to get the word out about a product) paid an agency's account executive (whose job was to lure the client and then keep him happy), who briefed the brand planner (whose research uncovered the big consumer insight), who briefed the media planner (who decided which channel — radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, or TV — to advertise in). Then the copywriter/art director team would pass on its work (a big idea typically represented by storyboards for a 30-second TV commercial) to the producer (who worked with a director and editors to film and edit the commercial). Thanks to the media buyer (whose job was to wine-and-dine media companies to lower the price of TV spots, print pages, or radio slots), the ad would get funneled, like relatively fresh sausage, into some combination of those five mass media, which were anything but equal. TV ruled the world. After all, it not only reached a mass audience but was also the most expensive medium — and the more the client spent, the more money the ad agency made.

That was then.


I'm watching this happen, in very, very slow motion, every day.

The Digital Brand Advertising Maturity Model: Phase 1 -“TV on the Internet”

A lot of big brands are still trying to figure out digital marketing. They are taking a hodge-podge approach to their efforts, with a little bit here (SEM), and little bit there (their website) and maybe a little excitement dashed in (their facebook presence/twitter stream). But, before big, mass market brands can truly wrap their heads around the concept of being "modern brands", they should get comfortable with what they are doing with basic web display advertising. That is, "TV on the Internet".

TV on the Internet

Big, slow, classic mass-market brands have built their whole marketing model around TV. Their planning calendar is driven by their TV buying and TV production cycles, delivering "campaigns" that are like carpet bombs of 30 second tv spots. Their research tools, processes, and partners are designed to deliver the one true "insight" that will make a great TV spot. The creative messaging is driven and shaped by all the tools they use to conceptualize, vet, test and create their TV spots. The marketers and researchers there have built – literally- whole careers on being great at managing and guiding these processes, blending, when it's done well, the science of marketing and the art of advertising together to create breakthrough work that infiltrates our culture. Via TV.

It's a big, well oiled machine that we all take for granted, and we assume, because the machine has always worked so well, that it will also output great digital marketing. But it can't create great digital marketing. Because it was designed.for.creating.TV. That doesn't means the digital marketing that comes out of this systems is bad. It's just not what digital marketing could be.

Before brands shoot for "great", it's worth understanding what "good" looks like. Here are the characteristics of digital campaigns that are "TV on the Internet":

  • A single, broad target – Typically, defined by demographics, like "Moms with kids in the house, 30-55".
  • Key Objective: Awareness – These campaigns are really very much like TV, in that they are  designed to deliver an impression. And that's pretty much it. All the cool interactive stuff that you can do online? Clicks, conversions, online ad driven actions don't really matter in these campaigns.
  • Creative: Persuasion – The goal of the creative is to persuade and change attitudes, not drive action.
  • Campaigns: The campaigns tend to flow at the same rhythm as TV; run for a couple months, and then go dark.
  • Media: "Set it and Forget it" – These campaigns don't get optimized when they run. They are planned and run and aren't really optimized that much over the course of the campaign. 
  • Media: Focus on Reach – Like TV, the main objective of the media buy is almost always to maximize the number of people reached by the message. The placement – where the creative runs – is important, but generally, reach is favored over relevance.
  • Measurement: Offline impact – These campaigns don't measure impact by what happens online.  Like all ad efforts, the most value is placed on what happens offline. Cash register rings. Sales in the big box, or the market, or the retail outlet. 
  • Learning Cycles – The learning cycles of "TV on the Internet" campaigns, as far as i've seen, tend to be like an annual cycle. The iteration and learning cycles tend to be six to eight (or up to 12 months). 

 But, while digital marketers might scoff at these campaigns, they work for marketers for a couple important reasons:

  • They are relatively easy to manage – Agencies and marketers can work and execute these campaigns pretty easily, assuming the marketers don't try to over-work the banners.
  • They work – A lot marketers are finding that banners work well. At the very least, they drive brand metrics. But, they also drive sales offline, too. 
  • They are predictable – Brands can these campaigns pretty easily, and they are getting more and more predictable in their ability to drive results. 

These aren't the sexiest digital campaigns. You'll never see these on the front cover of AdAge. But, these campaigns can form the foundation of great brand-building efforts. They can drive regular results, can be pretty predictable, and can provide marketers with "ground cover" to do more, innovative, and more interesting things.

But, "Modern Brands" should be providing more than advertising, more than their own message. That's the next phase in the maturity of digital brand marketers. 

Next up: PHase 2- Data Driven Brand Marketers



Wanted: A Turnkey Solution to test display ads (Fast, Iterative Learning w/Real Dollars)

I realize this post may open the floodgates of email from the gajillions of readers of this blog, but the "lazyweb" could solve a  problem i've been wondering about. (And note, this is my personal page, and it in no way reflects the opinions or positions of my employer and is not a solicitation of a proposal) 

The Setup:

A lot of the brands i come into contact with are classic, big, mass-market brands. They focus mostly on TV or some sort of instore promotion as a way to grow their top-line sales. As a result, they put tremendous amounts of time and energy into getting their advertising message perfect. This creates a planning cycle that often starts 18 months or so before the :30 second spot airs. 

As these brands move to online advertising, their planning cycles aren't really changing that much. Digital gets planned along with the tv, the creative is often linked explicitly to the tv in the name of "integration", and therefore the digital creative is often planned at least 8-10 months before it "runs". And, a similiar amount of energy/time/planning goes into getting the digital message (the words, the visuals, the consumer "target", the tone, the call-to-action) perfect before they launch. Its' like we're planning our banners like we plan our TV spots. 

Note: It's going to seem counterintuitive to many of us, but the majority of these campaigns focus only on awareness. That is, they aren't concerned about a click, or any sort of action. These are mass-reach, impression driving campaigns, not CPA/CPC, response based campaigns. 

The Challenge: 

We should be able to plan and execute our digital display ads so much faster and cheaper. The growth of exchanges and the proliferation of ad networks has created a flood of cheap, not-quite-free banner space (see: Mediamath, or, for better, higher quality contextual placement There are amazing tools out there that make it easy to do data-driven targeting of the creative unit. There are crazy powerful tools that make it easy to dynamically create, in real-time, creative units from a library of images, messages, and other creative elements (see: Teracent, X+1). And, there's a growing supply of providers who can match up in display impressions w/back office sales data (at least for the industry i work in).

With all this data, all this display space, all this measurement, why isn't there a product that brands can buy that enables them to do the following: 

  • Have a known period of "testing" (like two months)
  • Put a known amount of working dollars into the market (not much money, mind you)
  • Have a set of two to four consumer "targets" to test
  • Have a set of two to four different creative messages to test
  • Have a known result to test against (in this case, cash register rings in the store, not clicks, necessarily)

The goal: Come out of a 1 to 2 month test, with a higher degree of confidence that they've got an advertising message that will drive instore sales with a specific consumer segment. And, all this by putting a significantly smaller proportion of the annual marketing budget (like a fraction) to work, before the bulk of it is committed.

The desired outcome: Risk management for the main campaign; a higher confidence in the combination of message, media placement and consumer target. And, do this in a way where the brand doesn't have to work that hard at it, where it's NOT a big production, and where the brand can learn fast. 

The need: 

This has got to be productized, like something a brand could (almost) buy with a few clicks. This should be something that a brand could buy, a) in a turnkey way b) for a known amount of money c) with a known amount of "working" dollars required. This would be delivered as a service, with some support from the vendor in designing, producing and executing the program. It would be delivered in a standardized window (e.g. 1 month of planning, 1-2 months of testing, 1 month of analysis) with known/consistent deliverables (that would enable cross test comparisons)

There's got to be a productized version of this out there somewhere.

No brand would be interested in:

  • Some technology that the internal/external IT group or agency group can use
  • Smarter ways to buy media
  • Buying media directly from exchanges and or networks
  • Brands won't want to hear about your dynamic, real-time, multivariate testing capability. they'll want this to work automagically
  • Dynamic optimization
  • Your agency creative, strategy or production services
  • Campaign management tools
  • CPC tools or SEM mgmt tools
  • Any sort of customized project from some agency

They'd be looking for a turnkey solution that can be bought off the shelf. There's got to be something like this out there….But i've looked, and i can't find it. 

Lazyweb, any ideas?