We Can Fix a Leaky Digital Branding System in 2014

By Chip Meyer, CEO of Reactx

After years of grumbling, industry-wide complaints about wasted brand spending and missed opportunities for publisher revenue have reached a fever pitch. Earlier in February, Netscape co-founder turned big-time VC investor, Marc Andreessen, let loose on Twitter about how tech vendors are continuing to drop the ball in digital branding, and how publishers are failing to hold ad tech companies to a higher standard. “The issue,” he tweeted, “is that most ad tech is optimizing against the local maxima of price, rather than consumer relevancy.” Immediately a chorus of notable voices from both the vendor and publisher sides chimed in to support Andreessen’s sentiments (there’s certainly something to it).

Andreessen’s argument was simple: We see too many poorly-targeted ads with poor ad content, which does no one any favors. The core problems he hinted at go fairly deep. For brands and publishers to thrive in a digital setting, we need to see a more advanced alignment of brands ads and publisher content. Tech companies need to take advantage of media that delivers highly relevant, targeted ads across quality content, to make programmatic the valuable digital branding tool its proponents have long claimed it could be. And campaign performance must be measured in a way that makes sense for the way 21st century consumers interact with content and ads, rather than concentrating on click-throughs or assuming every impression is worth the same as any other impression delivered to the same targeted consumer.

It’s a tall order, but that’s what brands and publishers want, regardless of whether or not they know how to ask for all of it right now. They will soon enough, and there are vendors in the market right now who are happy to deliver the goods.

Brand marketers also demand rich content — like page take-overs, overlays, skins, peels, IAB Rising Starts, rich video and a variety of other dynamic digital ad creative that is needed for the depth and rich feel branding necessitates. However, for programmatic to serve these high impact, custom premium ads that brand needs to move the needle for branding online, the industry at large needs to get over the old idea of having to pre-qualify them (i.e. pre-determining that custom digital ad format will render properly on a specific publisher’s domain or page, before it is served).

Pre-qualifying custom ads is holding up the delivery of billions of dollars in high-quality, engaging digital ad content served via Real Time Bidding (RTB). The process of pre-qualifying digital ads is fraught with costly RFPs and custom one-off creative development for individual publisher domains and pages. It’s effectively neutering the speed and scale advantages of programmatic and impression level targeting, turning the delivery of custom ads into a time-consuming, clumsy and expensive process that is not adaptive to cross-device designs and auto-customization of creative and brand messaging. Pre-qualifying ad is a poor fit for the highly competitive, real-time digital environment. By eliminating pre-qualification for custom ads, brand marketers and publishers will save nearly $5 billion in what is now simply wasted spending — money they should be spending with publishers instead of on coders.

Let’s look at measurement. Andreessen hinted at something very important here: Not all impressions are created equal, even when they’re delivered to the same consumer. What matters is how the consumer engages with the ad, and the content around the ad, where it’s served. To that end, we need to look at new metrics for ad engagement, like time spent with the ad. If the consumer spends more time with the content around an ad, that’s a more valuable placement than one where the consumer quickly clicks away. Understanding time spent with the ad can be a great boon for publishers to entice brand marketers to shift their spending from television to digital. For marketers, taking advantage of metrics around time spent with the ad is simply good branding.

The seeds have been planted for an industry-wide move toward more premium, high impact (relevant) ad placements and metrics. In the coming year, an increasing number of solutions will be suggested for the problems of garbage ads and wasted spending. But for change to happen, brands and publishers need to understand what smart branding and smart measurement mean today. Whatever happens, buyers and sellers alike will have to adjust their mentality — and the tools they use — to account for the value of branding in a digital environment.

Do you know what you’re working with?

By Steve Denner, co-founder and director Adestra

Technology is well and truly in the hands of the masses – almost 80% of UK consumers own a smartphone. I recently read that in 1991 the cost of buying all the iPhone components would have been around £2million – but are we really making the most of all the computing power now available at our fingertips?

Remaining up to date with the latest technology can be difficult. As soon as you’ve got to grips with the capabilities of the latest tablet or games console, the next model is already being prepared for release. This game of cat and mouse also applies to marketers, who need to maximise the technologies available to them, meeting (and even predicting) customers’ needs.

But as businesses and consumers rush ahead, are we missing out on anything, from handy user shortcuts to deep-rooted capabilities? The promise of automation carries the same risk for marketers looking to simplify their strategies at speed. Once businesses have invested in marketing automation programmes, they need to ask: are we getting the most out the increased functionality at our disposal?

There’s a danger that business leaders could adopt an attitude along the lines of: “we might not use all the functionality we’ve invested in just now, but it’s good to know we’ve got it”. This increasingly common sentiment proves that marketers aren’t making the most of the functions they’ve invested in, and are wasting money in the process. This could be the result of a lack of knowledge about how to use the technology – or an overestimation of the technology companies actually need. Both represent a waste of resources for marketers.

I don’t mean to suggest that marketers are at fault here, but simply that technology is evolving so rapidly that there isn’t always sufficient time to adequately train marketers to maximise the potential of new technologies. In their bid to keep abreast of consumer expectations and technological developments, businesses might also be investing in automation systems without accurately evaluating their brand’s actual requirements. Without understanding basic brand needs and objectives, technology will never be able to fulfil them.

To make the most of any automation investment, marketers must make sure they have the right people in place to implement and maintain their systems. If not, the next stage is to skill-up, skill-shift or recruit new talent into the workforce. These are implications that technology vendors should be able to advise and help clients with. It’s risky and, quite frankly, inaccurate to assume that one person alone is capable of developing successful and profitable large-scale automated marketing campaigns – even with the help of powerful technology.

One way to ensure marketers fully understand and capitalise on the potential of a specific marketing automation system is to work with a partner who can offer valuable on-going support and guidance. The benefits of working with third-party customer service experts include real-time support, training, project management or access to specialist designers. On-site and third party expertise provides much needed backup for automated campaigns.

If marketers are armed with powerful technology, given expert insight and training and have access to tech support, they have a far better chance of winning the battle to drive customer loyalty, and unleashing the full potential of automated marketing strategies and campaigns.

Platform-as-a-Service: The New Black?

By Ramesh Loganathan, Vice President of Products at Progress 

Are you a dedicated follower of fashion? Don’t worry if the answer is no. Today, fashion is no longer the sole domain of devout catwalk copycats, and we all follow trends whether it is a conscious decision or not. Some designs are timeless, but I think it is fair for us all to say that, despite being ‘cool at the time’, some past clothing purchases can quickly become outdated after finding themselves replaced by newer, more fashionable alternatives. In this way, it’s similar to the way we use and consume technology, both in our personal and professional lives. From this perspective, an old Discman, fax machine and desktop computer are all comparable to a pair of fetching tie-dye flares from the 70s. It is rare we see people using Commodore 64’s to do word processing!

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Why Poorly defined Requirements destabilise IT Projects

By Huw Price, Managing Director, Grid-Tools

It’s a staggering statistic but over 60% of IT projects still fail in that they either run over time (74%) or incur more cost to complete (59%) with an average of only 69% of the functionality of the product actually being delivered. For larger projects it’s even worse. According to the Standish Group’s ‘Chaos Manifesto 2013’, failure rates for projects $1m+ are as high as 93%.

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Breaking the Refresh Cycle

By Kevin Linsell, Head of Service Development, Adapt 

If you manage IT in any capacity, you will be familiar with the unsettling feeling that emerges as your hardware approaches the end of standard support/ warranty, or your software comes up for renewal/ end of support. Sound familiar?

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How to Approach Applications Performance Management in Financial Services

By Tom Levey, EMEA Tech Evangelist at AppDynamics

Delivering a first-class mobile banking service to customers relies on multiple different applications and IT systems working seamlessly. The latest string of mobile banking app glitches should serve as a strong reminder to organisations that having robust analytics and application performance management solutions in place is crucial to ensuring customer satisfaction in today’s digital economy.

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Security is Only as Good as its Manager

By Klaus Gheri, vice president and general manager of network
security, Barracuda Networks

The technology behind network security is evolving all the time, with years of enhancements and continuous intelligence added to security technologies such as firewalls. All this is designed to improve processes and minimise the risk of human error impacting businesses. However, there is one element that limits the effectiveness of the security in any business – the IT manager.

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