CMOs are feeling increasingly comfortable diverting or devoting larger percentages of their budgets online, convinced that the benefits of online advertising are as revolutionary as promised. Brands spend tens of billions of dollars online, and they expect results.
How campaign performance is measured varies by brand or agency; some seek simple impressions, others seek clicks and conversions. One of the key selling points of online advertising is the ability to measure campaign performance against objectives in real-time. Tracking technologies record every visit and every impression, but the validity of these measurements have recently come into question. A major concern is falsely inflated impression counts, artificially inflating CPM prices for media buyers. Impressions are traditionally counted in tandem with page visits, which has proven to be a deeply flawed system of measurement.
AdXpose is changing everything.
Led by CEO Kirby Winfield, AdXpose verifies impressions by telling advertisers where their ad was placed on the page and, if below the fold, whether or not a visitor scrolled down to see the ad.
“If you’re counting every impression as viewable when only 50% are viewable, then every metric that you’re using to value your media is inefficient and inaccurate,” Winfield said. “You’re pulling in a bunch of impressions that have no chance to be viewed.”
The company also identifies the content the ad was placed next to, an important tool for CMOs demanding their ads be served beside “brand safe” content. Winfield argues the consolidation of advertising measurement data is vital if digital wants to slice into the holy grail of ad dollars, television.
“You have to go to one vendor to get viewabililty data. Another for survey data. A vendor to get audience verification. Another to get conversation data,” Winfield said. “You’re taking a buying process that is already 4-5x more difficult than buying TV and making it 4-5x more difficult to get metrics.”
comScore CEO Magid Abraham believes a pricing revolution is underway.
“Prices are going to adjust. All of the junk inventory is going to be significantly slashed,” Abraham said. “If you’re charging $.25/CPM but only 20% are visible, then the unit price is actually $1.25. We will move from a medium from where there is no scarcity to an industry where there is scarcity.”
comScore and AdXpose serve as a powerful duo at a critical juncture. As TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld astutely notes, “it’s not about clicks and conversions, it’s about attention.” Innovation in online advertising is at an all-time high; it’s no longer simply text and banner ads. Rich media, branded content and social solutions are transforming the industry with the aid of real-time exchanges.
Ferociously accurate data is the catalyst that can launch online advertising to the forefront of brand spending in the digital era. CMOs are demanding stronger performance, media buyers are getting smarter, auditors are more closely scrutinizing campaign performance, and this industry evolution is good for everyone. Brands get accurate, verified audience data, and publishers are able to charge premium CPMs through guaranteed, validated ad presentation.
The revolution has begun, and AdXpose is poised to create a shakeup with financial implications that will dwarf its $22 million price tag.
Under the tutelage of Bill Gates, Microsoft exploded into one of the world’s largest and most valuable companies, generating billions of dollars in profits annually for shareholders. The dot-com boom made many employees and investors millionaires, and the company appeared unstoppable.
As the company matured, growth stabilized and new tech darlings like Google stole the spotlight. Delayed product launches of centerpiece operating systems, failed products and advertising campaigns, broken acquisition deals and an apparent lack of internal innovation gave Microsoft a reputation as a “has been” that had passed its prime, and current CEO Steve Ballmer lost the confidence of many investors.
However, new data is showing that Microsoft may be experiencing a reversal of fortunes, as the company’s investments in search are beginning to pay off. The brutally competitive search engine market has had one dominant player for the last decade – Google – which has held as much as 80 percent of the United States search market.
In October 2010, the U.S. search marketshare breakdown was as follows: Google (72.15%); Yahoo + Bing (23.64%). The most recent Hitwise data shows Bing has made substantial gains at the expense of Google and Yahoo. Bing-powered search now controls 30.01% of the U.S. search market, while Google’s share has fallen to 64.42%. (See below: Image courtesy of Mashable.)
These gains may be the result of a major multi-platform ad push by Microsoft for Bing, but the trend is a positive sign for investors and spectators that have remained loyal to the company.
Strong performance in search, high expectations for tablet and PC versions of the upcoming Windows 8 platform, new developer confidence in the Windows Phone platform following the recent Nokia partnership announcement, the smashing success of Kinect and Xbox 360 and widespread adoption of Microsoft’s iPhone and iPad apps are powerful indicators of a possible Microsoft mindshare and marketshare resurgence.
Less than a decade after Wall Street and Silicon Valley critics alike pronounced the death of Apple as a legitimate player in the lucrative personal computer market, the world has witnessed the resurgence of the Cupertino-based company as the dominant force in the rapidly-growing world of consumer electronics. Could we be seeing the beginning of an Apple-esque Microsoft turnaround? Critics will call it wishful thinking, but with Google in the process of a massive leadership change, Yahoo! undergoing a drawn-out transition phase and the tenure of Apple CEO Steve Jobs uncertain, the competitive landscape is changing and Microsoft has substantial opportunities in search, PCs and mobile.
Today Yahoo! announced a new search product, Search Direct, that integrates richer content and instant results to the search experience.
Could this be the product & morale boost Yahoo! needs? It just may be. After months of public hits and high-profile executive departures, Yahoo! has taken a significant step forward in reversing the company’s downward trend. Competition from Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have put pressure on Yahoo! to release an innovative, revolutionary product to capitalize on the company’s massive Web audience.
Search Direct is clearly an effort to make Yahoo! Search more of a destination and less a sea of links. Search is about content and information discovery, and reducing the number of steps it takes to get a user from query to information is vital.
View and test Search Direct here.
Google Instant was a start – it brought links to users faster. Yahoo! Direct Search takes it one step further, providing a richer experience and faster, more comprehensive access to answers, not just links to answers. It’s early and the product is still being refined, but it has big potential.
Here is the press release from Yahoo! announcing Search Direct:
Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO), the premier digital media company, today announced Search Direct, which delivers answers and direct access to websites before you complete a query, hit the search button, or go to a search results page. This search innovation supports Yahoo!’s strategy to fundamentally shift the way people experience the Web – by providing the richest, most integrated content faster and more efficiently.This new feature, currently in beta, taps into Yahoo!’s unique opportunity to combine content and structured data and to provide a rich search experience. Search Direct predicts search results as fast as a person types, character by character, and presents those results dynamically, generating a fast, simple search experience that goes beyond a list of blue links. Search Direct rolls out in a public beta to Yahoo! users across the U.S. today, and will be available in other Yahoo! products and markets later this year.
“With today’s launch, direct answers – not the search results page – is the primary focus. We are redefining the search process and prominently displaying direct answers where search decisions are being made,” said Shashi Seth, senior vice president, Yahoo! Search and Marketplaces. “Search Direct is evidence of Yahoo! continuing to lead innovation in search, enabling people to take action faster, find what is most important, and sample what is possible with the next stage of search technology.”
With Search Direct, Yahoo! content is combined with information from the Web to provide rich answers, not just links, and to give people the option to immediately engage or continue to a traditional search results page. In this beta release, coverage includes top trending searches, movies, TV, sports teams and players, weather, local, travel, stocks, and shopping categories now available at search.yahoo.com.
· Trending Searches – The moment the cursor hits the search box, top search trends appear and are updated every 10 minutes to display the latest and greatest search trends.
· Search Previews – Search Direct predicts the search term as you type, providing the 10 most likely searches. You can then easily scan each option to see the related top results and find the best match for your needs.
· Direct Answers – For many common searches, Search Direct provides instant answers before you click the Search button. Find an address or phone number, a three-day weather forecast, financial stock performance, the top trending stories at Yahoo! News, or when and where a movie is playing – all without going to a results page.
· Direct Results – When you scan the search options and find the site you need, Search Direct provides exactly that – direct access to the site. No more overwhelming pages of links.
· Rich Content – For all top searches about sports, top news stories, and finance, Search Direct displays rich content that only the world’s largest digital media company can provide. For example, type “n” to get the Yahoo! News display, which always shows the top two trending stories.
Yahoo! will continue to enhance and update Search Direct with new content, such as popular music and local listings. For more information and a demo video of Search Direct from Yahoo!, visit search.yahoo.com and our company blog, Yodel Anecdotal.
After weeks of speculation, Amazon officially announced the launch of an on-demand streaming video service, free of charge for Amazon Prime members. Subscribers (who pay $79 per year for unlimited two-day shipping) will now have instant access to more than 5,000 movies and television shows. But can Amazon – a company that has recently branched out into new businesses – make any significant impact in a streaming video market dominated by Netflix?
Netflix boasts more than 20 million subscribers in North America and enjoys some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the country. CEO Reed Hastings has led Netflix to the height of corporate and consumer dominance, and in spite of the recent pullback in the company’s stock, the widespread growth is expected to continue. Netflix offers a massive media library of licensed content more than four times the size of Amazon’s, and with a growing number of instant streaming companies launching, the ability to host the most (and best) content is a key determining factor in the battle for customers. On the heels of the Amazon launch, Netflix announced a two-year, non-exclusive partnership with CBS that will bolster Netflix’s current content offerings.
Many agree that while Amazon’s new streaming service will be a valuable deal-sweetener on top of the unlimited shipping, Netflix isn’t currently facing a significant threat from the market newcomer. Perhaps more intriguing is the precarious partnership that exists between Netflix and Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, Amazon Web Services (AWS).
In early 2010, Netflix transferred a significant portion of its Web technology to AWS, a move that brought the streaming giant from massive data centers to Amazon’s massive cloud service. The transition freed Netflix from the massive financial costs and resource allocation demanded by the Oracle and IBM data centers it had previously used. Amazon’s cloud service allows Netflix to focus its engineering resources on customer-facing innovations and more importantly, allows the company to scale more efficiently. AWS offers a pay-as-you-go model that allows Netflix to add and subtract capacity as needed, eliminating contract commitments and resource-devouring depreciation costs.
In light of Amazon’s push into the instant streaming market, the two companies now face an intriguing competitive partnership. For Amazon Prime subscribers, the new perk will serve as an additional fringe benefit, but Netflix subscribers aren’t likely to abandon the company they so passionately enjoy and support. Neither the content offering nor the price point from Amazon are currently compelling enough to initiate the switch. Can Amazon leverage its impressive distribution channels and massive network of users to lure consumers to the company’s new video service? Will Netflix look to Rackspace or Microsoft for its cloud computing needs as competition from Amazon strengthens?
The ties between the two company are significant and will undoubtedly play a role in the future of the video streaming market, but the extent to which these two industry titans will co-exist or compete remains to be seen.
[UPDATE]: Microsoft has changed its tune, announcing it is now “excited” about the Kinect hacks. This surely will endear consumers more than their initial reaction, which included a note that the company was “working closely with law enforcement” to prevent hacks of the device.
Microsoft’s original Xbox was a commercial success, and the incredibly popular Xbox 360 helped guide a video game revolution, but recent competitor’s products have pushed Microsoft’s consoles to the backburner. Product malfunctions like the “red ring of death” have further damaged the tech giant’s public image. This holiday season marks a significant turnaround for Microsoft and the Xbox 360.
The disruptive motion-controller technology that debuted on the Wii helped stage Nintendo’s resurgence one laugh-filled family room at a time. Microsoft has taken everything that made the Wii successful and improved upon it. The remote-free motion-sensing camera on Kinect has inspired hundreds of Minority Report fantasies, and it looks as though a hacker may have made it a reality. (Update: Microsoft isn’t pleased with the reported “hack”). While most of us won’t be resizing files and shooting documents from screen to screen with our hands (yet), Kinect is an impressive innovation, and it is going to change the entire landscape of the video game industry.
The Xbox 360 is experiencing a surge back to dominance with blockbuster game hits like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Kinect can only expand the market. Critics love to berate Microsoft, but it seems mum is the word when it comes to the Kinect.
“If we’re innovating, if people have the tools to let their imaginations run, then there’s nothing we can’t do in this country.” President Barack Obama
At a political fundraiser in the humble home of revered Google executive Marissa Mayer – a mere stone’s throw from the famed garage that spawned Hewlett-Packard – President Barack Obama delivered these energizing words to approximately 50 Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. heavy-hitter Democrats who reportedly paid $30,000 each to attend the intimate meet-and-greet in Palo Alto, CA. While these words may be perceived by some to be little more than populist political Utopianism, they speak to the heart of what Silicon Valley and burgeoning entrepreneurial pockets across the globe were built on.
The inextinguishable fire that burns deep within every entrepreneur is fueled by the kindling wealth of knowledge, tools and skills accumulated through experience and education. The latter is perhaps the most under-recognized factor leading to effective entrepreneurial success.
To be certain, visionaries by the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jerry Yang, Sergey Brin and Larry Page each have an overwhelming presence of talent, passion, creativity, insight and natural intelligence within them. However, it would be incorrect to assert that these personal traits and qualities are the sole defining characteristics leading to their success. Siamak Taghaddos, the 29-year old millionaire co-founder and co-CEO of Grasshopper Group, noted that “education helped polish the inherent entrepreneur” within him and his partner, David Hauser. As Malcolm Gladwell famously outlined in “Outliers“, Bill Gates had unlimited access to a computer at the exclusive middle school he attended in the late 1960s to early 1970s – a time at which computers were far from being considered “personal”. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page join Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo as (sort of) alumni of Stanford’s famed school of computer science.
These tech legends understand the importance of education, and they want to pass along that gift to young students today in hope of giving them the tools they received along their path to success. Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $100 million to New Jersey public schools, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with its $33.5 billion (and growing) endowment, has contributed billions to initiatives that advance and improve education across the globe.
Most would agree that education facilitates learning, growth and development. But what many fail to recognize is that education allows passionate young individuals to discover and nurture the entrepreneur within them. It offers them the chance to mine their natural talents and fuse them with new tools, knowledge and skills that can catapult them to a higher level of thinking and understanding.
Education has helped cultivate bright young minds and shape them into entrepreneurial successes and legends of industry, and its importance can no longer be underestimated and ignored.
The way we watch television has evolved as technology has transformed our desires and expectations. New content delivery systems made possible by Internet connectivity have exponentially increased the control we have over what we see and how and when we see it. As the Web integration progresses with Boxee, Google TV, Yahoo! Connected TV, Xbox360, Roku and others, the lines between our televisions and computers are becoming increasingly blurred.
The concept of televisions with Internet connectivity is by no means new. In the mid-1990s, WebTV offered a set-top box with 2 MB of RAM and a 33.6 kb/s modem and Netscape Navigator/Internet Explorer browser compatibility. The service has advanced considerably and is now operating as MSN TV. Though it is no longer being sold by Microsoft, the company still supports the subscription service.
Most recently, Google released what many consider to be the most advanced and capable “connected television” device, Google TV. This product allows users to search for television content from many sources, which Google aggregates and displays on your television screen. With this feature, Google TV supplies and displays content not available through your cable subscription with content from Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, and other websites, consolidating each of these individual platforms into a central experience accessible through Google-powered search. Currently, Google TV is the only device with full internet capability. Several devices from SONY and Logitech already feature Google TV, and more will be rolled out in 2011.
One of the most important elements of the connected TV movement is the availability of apps and widgets. Apps, the central value leading to the success of the Apple iPhone, are becoming available on select new televisions. Devices like the VIZIO XVT473SV leading the revolution are enabled by Wi-Fi technology, allowing users to connect to services including Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody, Netflix, Pandora, and others through apps and widgets on their television. This integration of services delivers the “all-in-one” value by combining televisions and computers in a manner similar to the way smartphones integrated telephones and computers to phenomenal success.
With successful mobile operators like Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) staking their claim in living rooms, the growing circle of integration is likely to become more seamless as technologies advance and adoption expands. We are continually moving forward in an era of interconnectivity and integration, and Internet/app-enabled devices will drastically alter the traditional definition of televisions and their capabilities.
Image Credits: VIZIO; ecoustics
[UPDATE 10/14/10] Google shares soar as the company reports impressive 23% YoY growth after the closing bell. CEO Eric Schmidt attributes growth to strength of Google’s core businesses and “significant momentum” in its newer display and mobile advertising businesses. For the full report from Google, click here.
In a move intended to diversify their revenue stream, Silicon Valley giant Google launched a sprawling multimedia campaign named “Watch This Space”, announcing their increased efforts to grow their business in the display advertising sector.
There was a time when Google could do no wrong, and investors witnessed the search engine’s share price rocket into the stratosphere, reaching its peak at $741.79 in November 2007. Google shares are down approximately 16% YTD ($525.62) and many indicate this is the result of growing concern over the company’s dependence on search. As the New York Times highlighted in September, over 90% of Google’s revenues come from text ads.
The new campaign includes a massive interactive billboard in Manhattan and seemingly omnipresent display ads across the web displaying bold messages: “This Space Can Be Smarter” and “Display ads are big. They’re gonna be huge.” The ads often occupy every open display ad slot on their platform sites, making it difficult for readers to miss.
Earlier this year, Facebook surpassed long-time industry leader Yahoo! to become the leading publisher of display ads in the United States with 16.2% of the market. Yahoo! sits in second with 12.1%, and Microsoft has a 5.5% share to hold third place. (It is critical to note that comScore does not include ads from Yahoo! and Microsoft’s partner networks, which would undoubtedly vault Yahoo! beyond Facebook as number one, and advertisers pay significantly less to display ads on Facebook than Yahoo! and Microsoft.)
Notice the glaring omission? Google is nowhere to be found. Back in 2007, when Yahoo! acquired Right Media for a total of $725 million, the display ad market was growing but the future of success was not set in stone. The fear was that with a wealth of new websites competing for visitors and advertisers, the average price of display ads would decrease. As it turned out, the fear was not to be realized, as ad exchange services like Right Media and Google’s DoubleClick increased the average price of ads as a result of the tracking information and user behavior metrics they were able to provide.
With display advertising now solidified as a powerful revenue source, growing faster than the overall ad market, Google is at a key competitive disadvantage by not having a meaningful presence in the market. These new efforts indicate Google’s recognition that they can capitalize on a rapidly growing advertising sector by leveraging their incredibly talented human resources, expansive networks, and powerful financial position. Its search dominance not in doubt, Google needs a blockbuster new business unit to reassure investors that they aren’t a one-trick pony.
Will Google become a major player in the display advertising sector? Share your thoughts with a comment below.
Like many of world’s Internet users, when I browse my favorite websites my eyes tend to scan past the navigational elements of the page, take a quick glance at any advertisements, and move directly to the content of the page. This week, Dave Morgan and Joe Marchese of OnlineSPIN took to the headlines to debate a critical question: “Is advertising content?” Before presenting my argument, here are the key points outlined by each side.
Advertising Is NOT Content:
- Consumers would rather experience content without advertising
- Consumers are even willing to pay to remove advertising
- Regardless of the quality of the advertising, users don’t want to be interrupted
Advertising IS Content:
- Consumers value advertising content as much as media/editorial content
- In a recession consumers prefer free services, advertising provides that
- Consumers don’t hate all ads, they hate being bombarded by irrelevant ones
Each position has its own validity, and neither can be universally applied to every user and every platform. However, after careful analysis of the facts, it is evident that if done properly, advertising is content, and plays a critical role in the success of any website or business.
When an advertiser develops and releases a powerful, relevant, meaningful ad that adds value to the consumer experience by eliciting strong feelings and inspiring interest in users, the advertisement becomes a portal for a potential customer/subscriber/user to learn something new, experience something different, or discover a product or service that enriches their lives. However, when consumers are overexposed, constantly flooded by too widely-targeted ads, their effectiveness is dramatically reduced, and the value added the the viewer becomes less and less.
For every one hour of television, there is between 14-18 minutes of advertising. So when I watch Fringe live on Thursday nights, between 23-30% of my time is spent viewing advertisements as I wait to return to the show. When I’m watching live I am offered very little choice as to whether I see the advertisements, and more often than not, the ads are more of a necessary transition than valuable content. To combat this, advertisers utilize integrated product placement to more seamlessly mesh the content of the program with the content of the ad. As the original debaters noted, television commercials can be content in the proper context. Super Bowl advertisements, with a hefty price tag of $3 million every 30 seconds, are a critical element of the viewing experience and undoubtedly provide additional value to the viewers (some of whom believe the football game is the “commercial break” until the next set of ads).
Online, the dynamics of advertising as content change as choice, customization, and interaction become increasingly available to users. Display advertisements from industry heavyweights like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Microsoft have revolutionized the way users view and feel about the advertisements they see. By involving users, advertisers create an interactive, participative environment in which ads become a source of entertainment, and have the potential to overtake the page media to become the primary content on a website.
I visited the Yahoo! Sports Golf page today, checking in on the commentary about the PGA Tour FedEx Cup Playoffs, and encountered an ad that I spent more than six (6) minutes interacting with. The American Express video ad featured several levels, allowing me to select a topic, and control a video featuring David Toms, a prominent PGA Tour player. I viewed three short instructional segments, and absorbed tips that I can use next time I am out on the course. When I had completed my interaction with the advertisement, I continued down the page to read the rest of the article.
The ad did not get in the way, it did not distract from the original content, and it did not detract from my experience. In fact, it did the exact opposite. I wantedto interact with the ad, and it became a critically important and positive part of my experience on the website. Relevant, engaging, dynamic, and complex advertisements can become content as elemental as the site media itself. There is no doubt that if done properly (adding true value to the consumer/user experience through engagement, choice, and interaction), advertising is content that can be as important a definition of the user experience as the core page media.
See how intent targeted advertising is reshaping the way publishers target users to give you the most relevant ads, click here.