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Real Time Advertising is here to stay

RTA is an acronym that is certainly here to stay – especially after this week’s Real Time Advertising conference at the prestigious Royal Opera House.

The agenda included contributions from Amex, BSkyB, Infectious Media, Criteo, Yahoo, Real Media Group, Vivaki, Efficient Frontier, ValueClick Media, Google, Guardian, Jemm Media Group, Admeld, RightMedia Exchange, adnetik, MediaMath, Crimtan and Havas.

The day was peppered with insights to help brands, agencies and publishers understand this complex industry better. Here are what I would consider the day’s top ten takeaways

1. RTA is still growing and growing and growing
The display market is growing and RTA is following. The proportion of display advertising now being bought through exchanges is now 9% (PwC IAB AdSpend Study 2011). There was a consensus by all speakers that this number will increase in 2012. All companies involved in this space have invested in an infrastructure which has created considerable improvements to the way display advertising is traded resulting in reduced wastage, increased transparency and efficiency and higher quality inventory and improved yields.

2. Creative has to get better
What creatives were in the 60s and 70s, math men are to the 21st century. Creative has to work harder than it ever has before. If we are to use RTA to its full benefit we have to work at differentiating advertising from the clutter. RTB improves the ability to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience. However, “relevance” is wasted if the consumer doesn’t realise its designed to be relevant to them.

3. Testing is key
If companies (both publishers and advertisers) are interested in Real Time Advertising they need to test different technologies and work with their intermediaries to make it work.

4. Brands
Should be sitting up and paying attention however, not many brands have embraced RTA. This is down to it being a confusing area packed full of acronyms and mathematical analogies. The fact is it can work for advertisers – 18% of Sky’s display ad activity is now being processed through exchanges – this is predicted to double this year to 36% and hit 50% by 2013.

5. Publishers
It’s not just about buying in real time. Publishers have to begin to embrace RTA and not just use it as a medium to sell their remnant inventory. The Guardian says that RTA contributed to 16% of their display revenues in Q1 2012.  Private exchanges offer an opportunity and can deliver what agencies want to see, high quality inventory available in a data-enhanced marketplace, which continues to allow premium publishers to make money and maintain more control over their inventory.

6. It’s not just about DR
RTA has always been considered as a DR mechanism to drive a performance metric however it’s important to look beyond this. Video is now making a big play within this space. Brand advertising is possible through the use of controlled environments like private exchanges. Once the inventory is available there will be value through Real Time Advertising. Videology stated that RTB is predicted to account for 15% of all video display buys by the end of 2012 and up to 25% in 2013”.

7. Man vs. Machine
There is now a lot more to consider and gone are the days where you can rely on your intermediary to make display work for you. It’s important to understand how to make the data that you have work for you. It is not about replacing humans with machines it’s about using humans to make decisions based on the data collected. Selecting both the right partners and the right platform approach is key.

8. Multiple platforms
The next phase of display will be more like search, delivering ads based on behaviour. If the industry has cracked Search and is now beginning to understand how to make display work then there is no stopping video, mobile and in game advertising to join these platforms in the future. The Guardian stated “We think about what we’re selling, when & who to, more than how we are selling it.”

9. RTB is not the end
RTB (Real Time Bidding) is more like a tipping point. Technology has evolved slowly in this space and it’s taken a long time to get technical coordination amongst buying and selling platforms. Now that engineers are talking to each other innovations beyond RTA are likely to be right around the corner.

10. Lack of education
The industry is clearly moving forward with technology leading the way however this has led to marketers becoming confused by fragmentation and an increasing number of acronyms. 2012 has to be the year of education and research. The IAB Display Trading Council has been put in place to tackle the misconceptions and demystify the digital display ecosystem to advertisers, agencies and publishers. To find out more information click here.

Location Based Advertising – what does this mean for marketers?

We live in a world where communication and technology are at our fingertips, nearly every second of the day we are immersed in our laptops, PCs, tablets and phones. Though it is arguable that we’ve become dependent on these devices, mobile marketing has flourished with their use.

There has been a lot of hype around Location Based Advertising (LBA) – companies like FourSquare and Groupon have flourished by building a business that uses location to offer a service.

Location Based Advertising (LBA) has actually been around for years. With the rise of regional and local newspapers in the 19th century there was an influx of advertising which was tailored to your local area. These adverts were relevant, split by sector and some even offered vouchers and coupons which could be cut out to be claimed. Although static they bear a lot of resemblance to what is happening in this space today.

We are all part of a technological revolution – smart phone technology is rapidly growing and the rate of consumer adoption is matching it at 55% penetration in the UK [ComScore]. It is technology that has driven the capabilities of Location Based Advertising and has opened the door for marketers to use clever techniques to get their customer’s in store.

So what does this mean for marketers?

As new parents, my wife and I are bombarded with vouchers and special offers for anything from bibs to buggies. Half of these are catching dust on my fridge, one served as a coaster and the rest have probably expired. This is simply because when we go to the stores we forget we have them. As a consumer, imagine a world where the promotions/offers are available when you are physically able to use them instead of saving them (and probably forgetting about them) for later.

We are in a time where consumers are voucher obsessed always cherry picking the best deals. The problem for marketers is that this can make customers less loyal. When a once faithful customer can be tempted to a competitor with the word ‘BOGOF’ – you know something has to be done.

LBA can drive footfall by giving customers that little extra incentive to shop with you. This fast-paced marketing tool allows brands to be at the forefront of their customers’ minds when out shopping. In return, customers are reassured that they have opted into a service that gives them offers that are relevant and to hand when needed, giving them no reason to look elsewhere.

So how can you make it work?

Well, the IAB has come up with a whitepaper that outlines three key business models in which marketers can take advantage of LBA on mobile (banners, SMS and vouchers), not to mention countless case studies of some of the brands putting it to use.

Five key reasons why now is the time to invest in training

In a time of austerity, training isn’t always front of mind. However there are five key reasons why I believe now is the time to invest, not just money but also time, in getting good at digital.

1. Digital is no longer an add-on; it is very much here and now. The 2011 ad spend figures which we revealed yesterday show that digital is worth a whopping £4.78bn and for H1 made up 27% of all marketing spend (the full 2011 % figure is yet to be announced). All marketers, experienced or inexperienced, old or young, need to get on board to ensure they don’t miss the boat.

2. The UK economy is far from rosy. The growth of the digital advertising industry is one of few positive stories. The internet now contributes 8.3% of the UK economy, that’s more than healthcare, construction and education. Anything that paints a positive picture in the business world should surely be celebrated and more importantly capitalised on.

3. The advertising industry is inherently competitive, and so are its employees. Marketers cannot rely on their employer to pave their career path for them, but must be proactive to keep ahead of the game, seeking out the latest news, views and trends for themselves.

4. Hiring new talent is expensive. A recent study by the CIPD reported that half of the UK organisations surveyed have had to reduce their recruitment budget, and are focusing their energies on retention. Investing in people is a better way for businesses to improve their staff, nurture digital leaders and keep employees engaged.

5. It is one thing to know what digital is, but only those who truly understand how it is changing business and how to act upon this will survive. Thinking strategically, knowing how to use data, how to structure your team, how to respond to your consumers or your competitors are all essential skills to ensure success.

Mobile World Congress 2012 – the IAB’s ten top takeaways

Jon Mew at MWCBarcelona is slowly starting to recover from another amazing Mobile World Congress.  The stands are coming down, the bars are still counting their takings and the Catalans can start to use their 3G network again.

The IAB last week  spent an action packed 3 days out there, learning, networking and checking out the latest developments in mobile. I thought I’d share my ten main take outs from the event with you.

1. Working with regulators – this topic came up continually in keynote speeches and was a constant topic of discussion at industry events. The consensus seems to be that one of the key issues for mobile to grow is to make sure that the industry is engaging with regulators effectively.

2. Less focus on handsets – in previous years there was definitely more of a buzz around new handsets and the amazing technological developments that had been made. This year still saw some great new devices, but less than normal, and companies like HTC who launched 4 new devices focused more on music and their tie up with headphone manufacturer Beats.

3. The growth in connected devices – the Mobile World Congress is no longer just about mobiles, but is increasingly focusing on the growth of other connected devices. Obviously tablets are big news, but from the Porsche on the Blackberry stand and the vending machine on Visa’s, to the keynotes of Ford and Ericsson, companies are increasingly starting to explore how connected technology can improve customer experiences.

4. The growth of M-Commerce – it was interesting to see more companies in the M-Commerce space this year with even the likes of Ebay and PayPal having a presence. NFC was another hot topic with lots of demos of NFC enabled gadgets like the Google Wallet, which is now starting to role out in the US.

5. The Windows and Nokia fight back – Nokia announced the global roll out of their excellent Windows based Lumia 900 and the new Symbian based 808 PureView which has an amazing 41mpix camera. Microsoft also showed their confidence by having a competition on their stand to win €100 if anyone could beat a Windows phone for speed.

6. The cult of Android – as ever the Android stand was a sea of people eagerly checking out Google’s latest stuff like the Google Wallet. The cult of Android shows no sign of slowing with people flocking to collect Android pin badges and real ice cream sandwiches. It also left the IAB in a sticky situation when Google very kindly opened a box of Android special edition toys, gave us 2 and then legged it, leaving us to face an angry mob.

7. More focus on services – along with what felt like slightly reduced noise from some handsets and technology companies, there was an increase in the talk and attendance of service providers, from of course app developers, to PayPal and Ebay’s presence.

8. Positivity – the general mood of the conference was incredibly positive. Given the financial climate around the globe, mobile seems to have weathered the storm and in fact in many areas is still growing exceptionally quickly.

9. More focus on advertising – this year saw a bigger focus on advertising and for the first time we started to see UK agency folk coming out to the event in increasing numbers. The only notable absentees were brands, with only a handful in attendance.

10. Big mobile advertising announcements happening outside the event – probably the biggest mobile advertising announcements were from Facebook and Twitter last week and both were made outside the conference. Facebook’s decision to integrate advertising is likely to have a massive impact on the market with around 50% of all consumers’ time on mobile internet spent solely on Facebook.

Overall the event was, as ever, a great experience. With some 60,000 people there, a slightly shifted focus and a pretty positive vibe, everyone seemed to be coming home in good spirits – and I’m sure that had nothing to do with the sangria and sunshine.

Enough already- the IAB says the tablet isn’t a phone OR a laptop

In 2011, one question sparked more debate than any other in the IAB towers: “Is the tablet a mobile device or a laptop?”  As soon as this question comes up, the room splits in half. Someone shouts “ It doesn’t make calls, it’s no way a mobile”, but just as quickly someone retorts  “If it runs a mobile operating system- it’s a mobile device”. It’s easy to forget that the iPad was launched only in April 2010- less than two years ago, and already we are scrambling to categorise it in the context of the other devices we own.

With this in mind, the IAB recently undertook the research project “Three Device Lives” to study how tablets are being used by over 600 consumers in the UK. Working with research agency Sparkler, we recruited 413 smartphone and PC owners, and 256 tablet, smartphone and pc owners. We asked them to ‘check in’ to a very short mobile survey every time they used the internet/an app over 2 days so we could understand how they were using these three devices differently.

Immediately, some key differences between the three devices jumped out from looking at usage by time of day. Mobile usage peaks in the evening and morning, PC/laptop during the daytime, and tablets come into their own in the evening. In fact, over half of all tablet interactions happened after 7pm- more on this can be seen in the infographic below

Beyond this though, the research identified that consumers already use their suite of devices to fulfil different needs and roles within their day to day lives. Looking firstly at the group that don’t have a tablet- the laptop/pc is the device for admin and work content, compared to the mobile which dominates for news, social networking and information finding. When you compare this to the group that does have a tablet, there are some changes in the usage of both the PC/laptop and mobile – but most interestingly it seems the tablet appears to be being used for a whole new set of content needs. Retail, video content and entertainment dominate tablet usage- making the tablet a place for ‘laid back entertainment’ that currently neither smartphone nor PC completely fulfils.

It seems that just as those of us who don’t have tablets already use our mobile and PCs for different content needs, tablet owners are repeating this habit by assigning the tablet its own set of usage patterns. With this in mind, I think asking the question ‘is the tablet a mobile or a laptop?’ becomes defunct- much like asking of the television when it was invented ‘is this a magazine or radio?’. Just like the television did, the tablet has carved out its own particular niche amongst those who own them, and has created its own unique place in people’s lives.

After some head scratching at the IAB, we’ve gone so far to say this is how we position the tablet now- not a mobile, not a pc or laptop, but its own distinct platform that needs to be treated as such. So there, let’s put an end to the debate “Is the tablet a mobile device or a laptop?”, and watch with interest how this new platform grows after what will surely be a bumper “Tablet Christmas”.

Enhancing transparency in social media

The internet is a great enabler of choice, helping us to make decisions about our everyday lives. Oceans of information – to inform, educate and share – are available at our fingertips, wherever, however and whenever. Many of us lap up new fast-moving technology and enjoy the opportunities it brings. However, for some it is bewildering and confusing.

Transparency is therefore key. Choice is only real and effective if we’re presented with all the relevant information in a clear and transparent way. In social media, it needs to be our guiding benchmark. In light of all this, the IAB – supported by ISBA, the Voice of British Advertisers – published new guidelines last week to help a brand or marketing practitioner when paying to promote a brand, product or service using editorial content within a social media environment. You can read all the details (including a short Q&A) here and below is Robin Grant from We Are Social and member of the IAB’s Social Media Council giving a quick overview of the guidelines.

What does this all really mean?

Essentially, the guidelines themselves set out what a brand or marketing practitioner should be doing by law: ensuring that the author or publisher of a marketing communication discloses payment when using editorial content to promote a product or service. The law is over three years old now (and it’s EU equivalent dates back even further). So – in a social media environment (which obviously won’t have been top of mind when the law was devised) – how does a brand or marketing practitioner ensure it complies? The guidelines therefore provide some practical examples of what you may want to consider doing. For example: if a brand owner or marketing practitioner pays a Twitter user (eg a celebrity) specifically to promote a brand, product or service that user should disclose the fact that he or she has been paid to do so by simply including ‘#ad’ within their tweet. As a result, the person reading or engaging with the tweet / message is then clear. Simple.

The guiding principles can stand the test of time but obviously the practical examples will need to evolve as the world of social media moves on. But we think this first step may be helpful in offering some consistency across the market. We welcome all comments and suggestions on this and these will help to ensure we can evolve these as time goes by.

Follow the IAB and / or me on Twitter.

10 UK Video Game Audience Stats

The IAB Games Steering Group has released a ground-breaking new study, titled Gaming Britain, proving the enormity of the video game playing audience : 32.9 million people. Using a nationally representative sample of 4,000 people aged 8 – 65 years old, the study proves that games provide not only a mainstream audience but one of the biggest, most social, demographically varied and most engaged audiences.

In this respect, the study confirms a lot of what people in the games industry already know. For brands however, it shows a painful neglect of an incredibly important platform for reaching consumers. The breadth of advertising opportunity in 2011 is exceptional, it’s easier than ever to buy advertising in and around games media, and when done correctly, game players are incredibly receptive .

10 Awesome Online Ad Galleries

As you may recall I’m on a personal mission to help people make even better use of online display advertising by driving innovative new ideas, formats and highlighting great creative – because online ads are amazing and we can only continue to improve them.

Earlier this year we hosted the 120 Hours ad exhibition in partnership with Brand Republic to put the spotlight on a select few great ads. Now it’s time to open the floodgates to show the massive variety of ads flying around the net.

Research released last week by the IAB’s mobile department and John Lewis proved the integral role mobile plays in increasing unprompted brand awareness.

Many of us in the mobile industry have always known that mobile advertising works and this study of over 1,250 panellists* proved this once and for all. Those who saw the mobile advertising within the study were 822% more likely to state John Lewis as the top retailer that sprung to mind when questioned they were also far more likely to remember seeing advertising for John Lewis, and associate the clearance strapline with the brand.

UK first:

For the first time ever in the UK, the study carried out with On Device Research dug deeper into the effects of rich media advertising on mobile.  As we expected, the rich media expandable banner outperformed the static banner in most brand metrics, with 25% more people likely to remember seeing John Lewis advertising than those who saw the static banner.

Marketing industry still undervaluing search (yes, even now!)

IAB Search for Integration

First, some facts: over 35.5 million people in the UK use search each month (UKOM) and advertisers spend over £2.3 billion on paid search in the UK every year (IAB / PwC). Search is gargantuan for brands and consumers alike.

Yet over two thirds of UK brands, 70.4%, state search is only partially integrated or not at all integrated within their wider marketing mix (IAB). When pushed further, an incredible 99% of brands in the UK say there is still greater opportunity to integrate search with the likes of TV, radio, print and even online ads.