Tag Archives: Data

The End Of Search?

A version of the end of Search is what Google’s Amit Singhal presented at Google I/O. And, while the implications can certainly scare or annoy many, there are just as many that are excited about its implications. But, there are considerably fewer who can begin to fully comprehend the possibilities. Of those few, I can bet most are within Google’s walls.  As I have already gotten into a debate about this with some friends, the only end of search in sight is just the form of the verb we choose to assign to the act of search.

Courtesy of Google/IBTimes

Courtesy of Google/IBTimes

I’m excited about the possibilities presented in Google’s plans to remove the verb.  What I mean is this: we now think of search as going to google.com and entering a question or query. Upon entering that, the results are given and we react from that.  What Google presents for their (and subsequently our) future is the action of presenting items that might be of interest due to the knowledge graph of our actions.  While Facebook made waves with the Social Graph, Google jumps further with the Knowledge Graph.

As we continue to move toward those simple and “free” products that help find, share and purchase, Google is gathering that much more data so that they can dynamically provide information they think we want on an individual basis. That predictive presentation of content is what is both exciting and scary. While I can see the things that are relevant on a Google map or Chrome or some other Google product, the mere fact that it knows so much about me is cause for concern.

But, as written in this blog before, we’re collectively moving past the concerns of privacy and on to the embrace of simplicity of information. By best utilizing the available data (that is growing exponentially by the day) there are so many permutations and executions we can only dream of.  It is possibly the truest form of crowd-sourcing to determine our next steps in most everything we do.  With the right applications and products, automation of mundane actions and events would lead to higher productivity and expanded experiences – if we want that.

This all leads us back to the end of search as we know it.  If things pop up based on predictions that we might like or be interested in something without our action of looking for it, is that a search?  If I am walking from the office to the coffee shop and see a cool object in a store that causes me to walk in the store, does that constitute a search for that object in that store?

I feel that the coincidental discovery of a product while doing something else is not a search – something a good friend of mine disagrees with. But, based on my theory, if systems are going to get smarter based on the massive data it receives and start presenting options and items that make sense as my possible next query, without the action of my thinking to ask the question, does that not mean we have reached the end of search?

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Privacy Irrelevance?

Another season and another Digital Hollywood ended yesterday and is officially in the books. While there were a couple of recurring themes – social, Netflix, Big Data, social and social – one of the larger “Eureka” moments was the clarity on the idea that debates on privacy and social or browsing are somewhat irrelevant. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that conversation will come to Privacy when discussing Big Data and the growing opportunity to gain insights from the many bits of data collected on every one of us.  One stat bandied about was that most adults already have amassed 2-3 Terra-bytes of data and will continue to drive 1TB for every year forward.  When you think about that on its own – along with the omnipresence of tracking-enabled products from entities such as Google, Microsoft and others – there is more than enough reason for people to have a growing concern. But, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, those concerns of relevant to the invasion of personal privacy might not be what they seem.

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There are a few elements to consider when determining how concerned we should be about Privacy:
– The make-up of the data packs,
– The proper use of that data,
– User Differences by Generation,
– and what should be done to protect ourselves.

Before getting into details, the company line across the board is that security of data is of the utmost importance. But, as we’ve seen, that accounts for little to those who really want to breach security – just ask the US Veteran’s Administration, credit card providers and, just last week, Living Social (whose data was breached to the tune of 50K users’ information.) In all of these examples, None of these examples are tied specifically to social activity, or browsing history, or targeted advertising. When the politicians or privacy experts start railing against privacy in big data for use in targeted media, remember that.

The Data Packs

Those TB of data per person mentioned above is a LOT to parse through on an individual basis. It’s effectively counterproductive to draw up pictures of individuals for targeted media as it’s too much work to get to the numbers you need for an effective campaign. In the case of Big Data, the data packs need to be broader in order to be effective. Could some government look to use the specific data for nefarious or “1984-ian” means? Sure.  But remember, credit card companies have effectively had more telling data on us over the past  40 years.

The Proper Use of Data

When you poll most people about their use of the web and mobile, the majority will say they are sick of ads that have no relevance to them.  As those data packs come into play for more targeted media plans, people will receive content and advertising that is more aligned with their interests.  As long as that placement is not uncomfortable or “Big Brother” like, most people will find those well targeted pieces beneficial and the content distributors/advertisers will appreciate their optimized impressions.

Generational Differences

The general perception of the older generation about the younger one is that of disbelief about what people are sharing about themselves. A simplified perspective on the difference in generations is found when looking at mobile; the Brick phone (Motorola DynaTAC 8000X) was introduced 30 years ago and mobile phones that were cheap enough and small enough to sort-of fit in pockets were introduced 20 years ago. Those who are in college or just graduating high school have never been bound to their homes in order to communicate with others who were far away. That difference is just one of many leading to a completely different consideration of privacy.  In fact, ever since any one of us got our first mobile phone (or credit card, for that matter), we should have been concerned about privacy for that matter.

Which brings us to the second part of this element and leads to the next one. What do we care to share and what don’t we?  The beauty is that each platform provides the choice of participation and security settings. The sad part is that some make it harder to refine security settings than others. It comes down to personal consideration of how much benefit one can derive from the information they are sharing. And, looking into the future, everyone needs to consider what they can stand to have on on the internet in perpetuity.

Many older generations question youth (Millennials) and what they share, but shortchange youth on their social intelligence and savvy. As these mediums are ones that they’ve never lived without, they intrinsically have a better beat on how to get around things.  That could be in the platforms they use. Or, the act of children leaving their mobile phones at a friend’s house during a “sleepover” while they head out to have fun. Or, self censoring what they share and how they share it.  In all cases, young and old, we can’t really control who we share it with. Leading us to…

Protecting Ourselves

Just as we wouldn’t step into the street without looking both ways, we shouldn’t be interacting via digital platforms without recognizing where we’re going.  And, just as we can’t decide not to cross the street just to alleviate risk, we can’t disconnect from all devices and still hope to remain connected and vibrant.

Marketplace Tech from American Public Media ran a segment this morning that illustrated exactly what we can learn from the younger generation (listen to the audio as it is not in the text.) While most of Jeremy Hobson’s interview with New Jersey high school students focus on the platforms they use and why, they do end with suggestions for “their parents.” Those suggestions convey exactly how this younger generation understands exactly what the long-term effects of sharing and data are.

That request is that parents need to consider what images they post of their kids as there could be nothing more mortifying than seeing images of yourself as a child on a beach popping up when you are 17.

In the end, the concerns about privacy in the era of Big Data are effectively moot as that ship has already sailed. As systems and algorithms are refined, people (or users) will find content served up to them where they will consider seeing irrelevant content to be as annoying as being tied to the home phone or digging around for coins to feed the payphone.

All through time, the conveyance of personal information has been a personal decision.  Those who want to be more secretive work hard to do so.  Those who don’t care, don’t. The only thing that has really changed might be what people consider to be truly personal information and how that information is used.

In the past, we didn’t have the bandwidth to parse that information to target at scale. Now we do.  There are certain sensitivities we have to be conscious of, but as the interview with the high school students shows, those concerns about data privacy are becoming less and less relevant.

Netflix Brings A New HOUSE OF CARDS To Viewing And Measurement

With the Netflix release of their entire 13 episode first season of HOUSE OF CARDS today, it opens up solid discussion on many levels.  The biggest buzz is related to the mere fact that they are making all of the episodes available from day one. There’s grumblings about spoilers and the effect on social media. In the end, Netflix is being quite smart about releasing all in one day, but it’s not all that groundbreaking. Hopefully, its how they treat it after the release that’ll be groundbreaking.

HOC

We’ve seen all episodes of a season released before in a show’s Home Entertainment window, but those episodes had already aired.  We’ve even seen marathons on cable networks to entice new viewership – I’ve even picked up some current faves through that sampling – but, again, its all old content. What is different is that the larger release is all new original content. So, what can Netflix glean from having everything go out at once?

Absolute metrics.

None of the examples above can fully track all of the variables…

Netflix should be tracking all of the outgoing and incoming information. Whereas other shows with breaks between airings can not attribute exactly what caused drop-off in viewers (and takes 2-3 weeks to start getting the data to figure it out.) Netflix will be able to see how people like t by how quickly they get into the next episode. They’ll even know what times of the day their marathon-style viewing occurs.

If they’re smart, they’ll be able to draw conclusions about viewers and what types of shows to suggest based not only on genre preferences, but on the “marathon” ability. Some people just like to binge view.  Some like to spread it out and have something to look forward to. And some people can only view in holes in their schedule. Netflix will be able to garner deep insights that they might not have been able to before because they never had a case-study based on exclusive original content viewing.

Soon enough, they’ll have a strong enough sampling to determine quickly whether the show warrants another season order.  How many creatives in Hollywood would love to have the opportunity to know the viability of future seasons as quickly? Where it used to take 4-8 weeks of a season to truly know if you’ve got a hit, you could know in a week if the sampling is there.

While Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman shares his concern about how social media might unleash inopportune spoilers, we’re already at risk due to DVRs and the time shifting of our favorite shows.  If people haven’t figured out how to shield themselves, it probably doesn’t matter to them anyway.

Looking more deeply at social media, Netflix should look to glean as much information as possible from when people are tweeting or posting. This “controlled” release environment provides further opportunities that just don’t usually exist when releasing shows, movies, whatever. To be able to review social to see when the most chatter happens by episode or time of day or completion – when you know the exact release for everyone is invaluable.

As Netflix is doing something new in this controlled environment, it allows them to delineate best practices in a way that traditional television cannot.  Whether traditional TV viewing is disrupted by news, sporting or natural events, there are always variables that are hard to pin down when pondering why viewership may have vacillated. Kudos to Netflix not for trying something new, but providing the opportunity to truly garner insights that can help not only HOUSE OF CARDS, but all of their programming (and ours) in the future.

In Digital Media, Old School’s Not Where Its At

I Like MediaMind. I really do. They have been tremendous partners in assisting me in numerous game-breaking marketing executions over the years.  The ability to pull off some really cool things in the media space is helped greatly by their drive for trying new things and pushing the boundaries for rich media. That’s why I can only shake my head and wonder why they are wasting time rallying about old-style data points. In this fast-paced age of digital media, why do providers keep going back to the dated modicum of click-throughs that are such old news – especially when there’s so many data points that are so much cooler. As we all try to convey the possibilities of digital media at scale, its time that we invest in the future and not go Old School.

As the leader in digital media serving around the world (especially in light of their acquisitions of large rivals over the past year), MediaMind can steer advertisers toward using metrics that matter – both in providing richer context and clearer benefits in the medium. Instead, it just feels that they are hinging on the same-old, same-old. Their recent study examined 24,000 ad creatives serving over 12 billion impressions to compare effectiveness of rich media versus standard banners in driving site traffic. The take-away was roughly the fact that users who interacted with rich media ads incorporating video were almost 6x as likely to visit the advertiser’s website than those who saw standard banners.

The entire basis of comparison is out of whack to begin with. Obviously, those who interact with rich media banners are paying attention and you can count those as a true impression (for the most part). But standard units are ignored or not even seen for most of the time. Why would you even want to compare them unless your numbers were even more exponentially higher?

Additionally, with rich media, there is so much more that matters like dwell time and even the opportunity to track type of engagement and purchase completions. I would have rather seen a straight comparison between types of rich media engagement rather than between what can technically be considered oranges (rich) and apples (standard) – and in some circles, juicy oranges and rotting apples…

Perhaps its the scale and the feeling that people are impressed by larger aggregate numbers that a CTR stat can bring you. Perhaps it is because not enough advertisers are sharing sales completion stats with MediaMind for their study. I believe we are slowly (OK, extremely slowly) moving toward planners warming to more meaningful numbers on a smaller scale than useless numbers on the large-scale. If anyone is in a place to lead the charge to more meaningful data, MediaMind (DG) would be it.

GM, Gal Trifon is quoted saying, “By investing in more engaging experiences powered by rich media and video, advertisers increase the chance that consumers will spend valuable time with their brand.” This would have sounded pretty great a few years ago, but it’s not where the planners’ or advertisers’ heads are today.  They want to know how it will enhance conversion to sales or clear ROI. Unfortunately, digital media was pitched for so long as being able to provide exact conversion data – which traditional media has not absolutely been able to do.  Because of that, those details have been waited for and they aren’t readily available.  How much longer will we be able to rely on the esoteric or the warm-fuzzy figures of dwell and engagement?

As I said at the beginning, I really like MediaMind.  I’ll just like them more when they are able to provide that real data that advertisers are looking for – even if they themselves don’t know what that is. They should take advantage of  their innovative spirit, size and market share to force that shift by providing that data that matters. They can do so much more to lead the industry into the future rather than keeping it relatively anchored to a couple of years ago.

Groupon Deals Lead To Bad Reviews?

Besides the possible new customers, transactions and, hopefully, loyalty that might come from doing Groupon deals, there’s another by-product that businesses should consider. That by-product is the reviews left on social media sites. I just came across a study that was done by a Boston University computer sciences associate professor, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and a Harvard University computer science professor and the study is thorough but not pretty. John Byers (BU), Georgios Zervas (Yale) and Michael Mitzenmacher (Harvard) researched a huge amount of data over a six month period and they found that the reviews that could be tied to the Groupon deals were not as strong as those that weren’t.

They monitored 16,692 deals over six months in 20 cities and also collected data on Facebook, Living Social and Yelp and found that those who used the word “Groupon” or “coupon” gave “strikingly lower rating scores.”

It got me thinking further about the connotations that might come from a business running a deal on Groupon – is it now being considered an act of desperation to drive revenue by consumers? Do they feel that they are getting cut-rate services for the cut-rate costs of those services or experiences? Perhaps businesses need to think deeply about whether they want to risk consumers thinking they are struggling as opposed to just marketing their product. Or, could it be that their staff is providing a different experience for those who are coming in with Groupon certificates? If the experience is not the same, than you have absolutely negated your entire reason for offering the deal in the first place.

Whichever way you look at it, this is just one more consideration that needs to be made when determining whether your business should be offering Groupon deals. Be sure to weigh how you are representing your business in relation to Groupon – or any other deal site – to make sure that your original intentions don’t backfire.

Wanted: Strong Guidance In Slicing the Digital Video Pie

The first night of iMedia’s Video Everywhere Summit was a mess – and that’s not because of the organizers.  The mess was actually a welcome change to the norm at these types of things.  The problem was the “norm” that the mess was illustrating.  Vindico’s President, Matt Timothy, got everyone in the room to simultaneously throw “stress cubes” toward the front of the room near the beginning of his presentation.  He didn’t have to ask twice and the amount of cubes that missed the garbage cans signified what the video model is for television advertising.  In that model there’s not a real way to evaluate how many impressions were wasted (the many cubes on the floor) and how many hit their target (the few in the cans.)  He then asked everyone to do the repeat the exercise, but this time the attendees were asked to throw them randomly around the room.  This version exemplified what online video advertising impressions are like – with a lot of information going back and forth in two-way communication.  The key is tapping into that information and formulating better ways to connect with people.  All in, the example illustrated that there is so many ways we can slice the digital video distribution data pie, but there are too many people who are still looking for the cutter to slice it with.

Even with the additional data that can be culled from video campaigns – and the optimization that can come from that – the “norm” referred to above is that there is still a lot that is left on the table.  Perhaps it’s because there is too much confusion about the data, or that clients and planners just don’t have the vision to see what’s possible.  In many instances, we’re running into an issue of the chicken or the egg.  We’re not trying things because the client or their agency doesn’t deliver creative executions that would effectively enable the research, or the vendors aren’t presenting examples of solutions to the challenges the clients might not even know they have.

Many brands or advertisers are still looking for the click-through as signifiers as success, but that doesn’t work completely in the realm of video.  When you look at what companies like Vindico can do with the data, those who only look at click-through are just drinking the punch and not getting all they could be through digital video media.  In the image above, the slide is showcasing the point that those who click-through the video (represented by gray blocks) are not interacting with the brand/content as strongly as those who visit the site within 30 days of viewing a banner (red blocks.)  It’s not to say that click-throughs are bad, but they are only part of the picture. The straight click-through that might have really been an errant click while trying to close the unit result in much less interaction on the back-end. Again, this requires more knowledge on the client side and more education from the media agencies (and vendors) who are booking these media solutions.

Vindico is one of numerous video ad serving companies and they offer the support and knowledge to be able to optimize not only impressions and interaction but creative. In reality, the ad serving companies really need to become the de-facto educators for marketers and media planners about what the possibilities are. Whether through partnerships with creative vendors or just visionaries who can clearly convey what is possible, they need to be actively presenting solutions because we can’t just rely on clients or planners to package it the right way for success on their own.

The last slide of Matt’s deck had a few things of importance regarding buying video media.  The one that stuck out to me was Storytelling Innovation.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Video is the strongest storytelling format. The digital platforms only increase those storytelling mechanics through interaction. I also see huge opportunities innovation, but am frustrated because we go back to the chicken or the egg conundrum.  When I asked Matt in front of everyone to elaborate on those wonderful buzzwords – Storytelling Innovation – he did a little dance.  I understand the dancing a bit because of client sensitivities in presenting specific examples. In the end, he squeezed out a little bit of the essence by talking about branching opportunities, iterative messaging and interactivity.

After the presentation, somebody came up to me and intimated that it isn’t the job of someone like Matt to provide the examples of Storytelling Innovation – that it was up to creative agencies or media planners or the clients themselves to do that.  I whole-heartedly disagree.  Even if there were some mapped out samples with fictitious products to prove some past successes or even dreamed ones, the examples have to be drawn out.  Sadly, media planners are not built to envision those types of things and I would argue that even creatives and marketing executives don’t have a strong enough vision for matching technical capabilities with innovative storytelling.

With all of the successes that I have had in the past, I was only able to get them launched because the providers talked about possible solutions that led me to believe they could pull it off in partnership with my vendors.  I was able to crystallize the stories (and the mechanics behind them) and sell them within the company because of that shared knowledge.  If the providers don’t do a good enough job of laying the kernels of imagination and innovation in digital video media — hell, even just the basics of what can be tracked — we’ll all be destined to forever be collectively looking for that thing to slice the video pie with.