iMedia Breakthrough Summit 2015

Innovation is critical to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. This is one of the reasons I support the iMedia Breakthrough Summit each year.

For the past few years I have served as an advisory member for the summit. As a marketing technologist, I love it when marketing and technology come together to discuss emerging technology and how it can enable new forms of value creation.

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This year, I also took the stage with Jeff Donaldson of GameStop. Jeff was the CIO for 14 years and is currently leading GameStop’s innovation practice.

The GameStop Technology Institute is responsible for enabling innovation within this Fortune 500 organization. This presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to integrating emerging technology into a heavily linear organization.

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We discussed a number of topics from Jeff’s philosophy and approach to innovation to team structure and how he leverages 3rd parties to the role innovation plays when partnering with the marketing organization.

Jeff outlined his approach to innovation which was captured by the iMedia team during our discussion. Below is an excerpt from the session.

Tom iMedia 7

Measurement
The first step is ensuring that everyone in your organization is aligned and on the same page when it comes to measurement. Only when important factors are identified can a strategy be put into action for collecting data and analyzing it.

Equalized channels
The next step is identifying what data you need to collect to drive that measurement and implementing it through equalized channels.

Co-creation
Next, consider the ability to bring in as many people as possible to work with you to get your ideas realized, which include more than just your innovation team. When it comes to the creation of ideas, your employees and your customers can both get involved and contribute.

Build innovation platform
Then comes the step of creating the platform where your innovation can live. Building this platform for innovation also includes test markets to work through the kinks of your ideas.

Collaboration
Finally, collaboration is key to success. Don’t be afraid to incorporate all of your teams (finance, marketing, IT, and executives) into your plans and ideas for innovation.

Multiple factors come into play when outlining the ideal approach to innovation within an existing organization. The role of data, understanding which 3rd parties will align with the existing team structure, how to democratize the process of innovation and what factors will lead an emerging technology into becoming a fully integrated asset to further support marketing efforts all must be considered.

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The key is having the right partner that understands your business, has relationships with the right 3rd parties, (start-ups, technology partners and platforms) has resources with relevant domain knowledge to extend your team and understands how to bridge the gap between emerging technology and full integration into the existing organization.

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International Business Times, Alphabet & Google

I was recently asked by the International Business Times for my thoughts about Alphabet and Google’s Q3 Earnings and it’s potential impact on future advertising revenue.

(IBT) Has Google finally made mobile work?

Google is benefiting from consumer behavior shifts and accessibility to mobile and capitalizing by constantly refining their offerings tied to mobile search, programmatic and YouTube.

(IBT) What spurred this change?

Behavioral shifts highlighting mobile search now surpassing desktop is now a key driver for capitalizing on Google’s micro-moment strategy to align contextual relevance across devices.

(IBT) Can Google keep this up even as Facebook continues to keep getting better at killing the mobile display ad business? 

By clearly defining the boundaries of Google vs. the other entities housed in Alphabet, Google has aligned the core revenue generating advertising products and simplified the value proposition of what Google is.

Moving forward as advertising dollars continue to shift from search into other advertising product lines, Google can further integrate their offerings into a comprehensive ecosystem that can flex to better meet the needs of advertisers and continue to be a core revenue driver to further compete with Facebook.

International Business times

Also, Here is my original commentary outlining thoughts on the potential for Google’s advertising products based on the formation of Alphabet.

Google’s decision to streamline their organization into a house of brands vs. a branded house will ultimately have a positive impact on their advertising business. 

By clearly defining the boundaries of Google vs. the other entities housed in Alphabet, Google has aligned the core revenue generating advertising products and simplified the value proposition of what Google is. 

By elevating the former SVP of Products Sundar Pichai as CEO of the newly restructured Google, they show a strong emphasis on pushing the boundaries of enhancing advertising product lines. 

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Digital Hollywood 2015

I recently had an opportunity to speak at Digital Hollywood and discussed viral and social media experiences in entertainment, media and advertising creativity.

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It was a great discussion and the panel touched on topics from social media, smart data usage, social creativity and monetization.

Digital Hollywood

Below is a recap of my key discussion points and additional commentary:

1) You’ve been in the industry a while, what excites you most about the opportunities in viral and social now?

Epsilon is a part of Alliance Data so for me as a marketer having proprietary data assets to support our creative process is incredibly valuable.

The amount of behavioral, attitudinal and transactional data that is available is incredibly exciting and having the ability to combine our structured data assets with the unstructured consumer data and signals via social is key to creating highly contextual connections.

2) What concerns you about the state of social marketing?

One of the core elements that sometimes gets lost in today’s social world that is driven by reach and frequency is the role of community.

Some of the most successful brands today not only have great visual storytelling and entertaining content, they are also empowering their community to carry the brand.

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3) How are social experiences different than traditional media/content?

For me it’s the flexibility. There is an opportunity to create deeply immersive linear and non-linear experiences or extremely lightweight micro-moments. Social experiences should put the consumer in the center and have an opportunity to be highly contextual.

4) One thing that has been said is that viral and social content can enhance the core creative… what are some examples? Any examples where they missed?

You also look at brands like Dove. They are focused on the overarching theme of real beauty and they are proud to have started the femvertising movement.

Last year for the Oscars the inter agency team created a social campaign around #speakbeautiful with the goal of impacting sentiment about the event, specifically the red carpet from negative to positive and it drove a significant impact on positive conversation.

What about examples where it missed?  

We have all seen examples where a brand over reaches trying to capitalize on a real time moment and the context is lost. It should be less about witty brand personification and more about empowering fans.

5) How do you approach creative different in a viral/social environment?

It all starts with understanding the behaviors and attitudes of the individuals to ensure that what we are creating will resonate.

The goal is to then create thumbstopping creative. This means in a mobile first world we want you to stop scrolling.

Example from Mini Cooper of Thumbstopping Creative

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It has to be authentic, entertaining and ultimately meaningful to the consumer. Content needs to be atomized but consistent with the overarching theme and highly consumer centric.

It’s also important to develop a strategy that aligns the essence of the brand with the core behaviors of the consumer and finally understanding the role of content, be it brand created, co-created with 3rd parties, integrated with existing programs or curated from fans.

6) What, if any, concerns does the talent have with this new environment? How do you manage these concerns?

Balancing reputation management and authenticity is key. Understanding the role and goal of each platform is key to maximizing reach while mitigating risk.

7) What concerns do advertisers have with creativity in a viral/social environment?

Form factors are highly dependent by platform. Ability to amplify messaging varies greatly. Targeting capabilities can be a core area of focus such as Facebook and Twitter.

Others such as Buzzfeed, Snapchat and Reddit are fully reliant on contextual opt-in. Ensuring that the right creative is being deployed in a way that will resonate is always a concern via social.

Buzzfeed does not target it’s sponsored content (see Subway below) it is all based on contextual opt-in. 

Buzzfeed contextual opt-in

Another point of consideration is maintaining authenticity is key.

8) How does the platform impact the ability to integrate content or immerse the audience?

The platforms play a major role. Some are optimized for reach others are focusing on sequential storytelling like Twitter Moments, others are embracing visual language tools to further connect with millienials.

The key is to understand the form factor and approach that is right for the user and the brand.

9) What are the different considerations between direct and indirect monetization?

It is highly dependent on the goals of the organization. Certain categories such as retail and CPG are highly focused on the Impact of social on trip missions, the role of location and direct conversion.

You see platforms like Facebook renewing their focus on commerce, adding shopping into the native mobile user experience and the focus on messenger as a commerce vehicle.

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The key is to map the goals to a strategic framework that define the role monetization will play in the campaign.

10) Are the “traditional” ad impressions dying? Pre-roll, interstitial, etc.

From an industry perspective they are not dying because too many organizations have measurement models built around impressions.

I do see shifts in what is creating connections. We focus a lot on dynamically optimized creative that is built with different behavioral models to ensure the timing and context of the message across devices creates impact.

11) What are the key metrics that your clients care about?

Impressions, incremental reach to television, engagement, share of voice, sentiment, conversions are just a few.  Also, brands are focused on efficiency of media, viewability of video advertising and for some the impact of location on in-store messaging.

There is always the balance to consider between attribution and causality.

12) What will it take to be successful in the next 18 months? (experimentation, risk, etc.)

1) SMART DATA  – Enhanced focus on smart data and having the ability to create predictive models that can pick up on key signals via social.

2) BRAND ECOSYSTEMS – Moving beyond brand partnerships to create brand ecosystems as co-creation and integration are incredibly important.

3) SOCIAL MESSAGING – It will also be important to focus on strategies for social messaging platforms. Face books messenger already supports 3rd party apps, integrating payment and will become their primary commerce enabler.

Monitoring the Asian paradigm around the role of messaging is a key predictor of the potential here in the U.S.

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5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times

My new article 5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times was the cover story for iMedia Connection.

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This article dives into the topics:

  1. How “tactical digital” has not evolved
  2. Embracing the role of the marketing technologist
  3. The importance of strategic partnerships and exclusive access
  4. The true role that innovation plays within an agency
  5. How critical “smart” data is to winning

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Twitter Moments Analysis

Recently, I published a post outlining the launch of Project Lightning which became Twitter Moments. This was a major launch for social/digital marketers as it extends the ability to create contextually relevant content series on Twitter.

Below is my initial analysis that explores the user experience, competitive analysis and comparison to SnapChat’s Live Stories as well as explores the potential of sequential storytelling for brand marketers.

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Ad Age Data Conference 2015

Recently, I participated in a discussion about Data + Creativity = ? at the 2015 Ad Age Data Conference.

Tom Edwards Ad Age Data 2

Here is a recap of the various topics that I discussed as well as additional commentary.

AdAge – Give us an example of a smart use of data to inform creative?

Epsilon’s Conversant partners with Cabela’s to generate and optimize 1 million versions of dynamically optimized creative based on targeting, offers and segments.

We harness transactional and online click stream data to drive actionable insights across campaign initiatives that ultimately informs our creative process.

Cabelas

Data and dynamic creative drive a digitally centric approach to support brand awareness, new product lines, new customer acquisition, geo-targeted retail support and personalized ads.

AdAge – What kind of data do you now have access to that you didn’t have access to a year+ ago?

One of the main reasons I chose to join Epsilon’s agency team are the proprietary data assets. Having access to behavioral, attitudinal, transactional, demographic and contextual data as well as proprietary technology that maps to devices and the individual consumer were important factors in my decision process.

Having the capability to create customer centric approaches to plan, create and distribute contextual content powered by smart data makes my job of mapping the art + science of what we do on the agency side even easier.

AdAge – How are you actually using that data in new ways? How has it been a game-changer, if at all?

Having access to this type of data has changed my approach to consumer engagement planning. There is now a heavier emphasis on consumer need states as well as crafting data driven narratives.

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From an agency standpoint we have realigned our approach to consumer engagement through the lens of behavioral economics focused on aligning data with planning that informs creative territories and strategic themes.

In addition to using previous data, past transaction, behavior, etc. we also focus on predicting future need states through propensity (predictive) models.

Another great data driven asset is our ability to map to individuals across devices. This makes it easier to deliver highly personalized programmatic media and dynamic creative by mapping high level themes through to relevant and constantly optimizing micro-moments.

This allows us to connect with consumers regardless of where they are in a heavily fragmented media landscape.

Ad Age – What’s the danger in over-listening to data/insights?

It is important to balance data driven decisions, originality and innovation.

It is important to ensure that the data being leveraged is “smart data” and is actually applicable to the current goals of the program.

It is important to be flexible, especially with signals from unstructured data and have a process to adapt as necessary.

Tom Edwards Data

Also, it is important to not be over reliant on the past and look for opportunities to create predictive models.

Ad Age – Do advanced tech and data present any other challenges? What are the shortcomings?

Integration, portability, privacy, security and real time access are always at the forefront of my mind when aggregating and integrating multiple inputs to execute a campaign.

Ad Age – Are traditional focus groups (two-way mirror) still a thing?

It depends on the client, campaign and the type of insights that we are looking to glean. There are times when we leverage traditional and digital focus groups, but we more frequently commission mobile ethnography studies as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms to explore natural conversation and domain discussions vs traditional focus groups.

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Project Lightning Has Launched as Twitter Moments

Over the past few weeks I have heard rumblings about Twitter’s Project Lightning launch. As the announcement drew closer I connected with many members of the Twitter team and you could tell they were excited about the pending announcement but still remained very tight lipped about all of the details of the launch.

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Today is the official launch day in the US and as the news was breaking I received messages from the Twitter team with links to the official blog post.

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I then saw the update available on my iOS device and then caught the Periscope reveal of Moments by the product team. Now it’s time to jump into what Moments is and how is it applicable to brand marketers?

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ABOUT TWITTER MOMENTS

When you update the Twitter app you now see a Lightning bolt in the middle of the main navigation. Tapping it opens a list of Moments from the day or various topics that include news, sports, entertainment and fun.

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What you see are curated “moments” that users can engage and subscribe to. The user experience consists of full-bleed images + swipe to engage the next piece of content in the “moment”. Content types can including images, videos, Vines & GIFs.

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By tapping on a moment, users have the option to retweet or favorite content and there is a progress bar that shows how much content remains in a particular moment.

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Users can also follow moments to stay up to date as new content is added. Updated tweets to the moment then become a part of the users timeline without the need to navigate back and forth.

NEW INNOVATION???

From a marketing perspective this is a very similar approach to what Snapchat rolled out recently with their Live Story platform.

snapchat-twitter

This is from last nights MNF game and this moment was curated by both Snapchat & Twitter.

Snapchat leverages event geo-fencing so individuals that are participating at an event or moment can submit Snaps that are curated into 3 to 5 minute live stories.

warriors-live-story

Snapchat has also rolled out a comprehensive mobile ad experience that integrates user-submitted Snaps with Snapchat’s full screen ad units, which normally included four units plus an event geo-filter for content.

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Example of a Snapchat Live Story Ad Type

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Example of a Snapchat Geo-Filter

The similarities are that both Twitter and Snapchat are curating content from specific events and making it discoverable. Twitter does not currently leverage geo-location as a filter to curate content, but Twitter’s goal is soon expand beyond their team curating moments and enabling individual users to create moments.

WHAT DO MOMENTS MEAN FOR BRAND MARKETERS?

Twitter’s goal with the Moments launch is to slow the flow of information down and extend the shelf-life of content while also providing new avenues of discovery to conversations and content across the Twitter ecosystem.

Moments also brings sequential storytelling capabilities to Twitter. By enabling the ability to craft brand narratives that seamlessly integrates with created, co-created, integrated and curated content opens up possibilities to create immersive experiences that can sustain themes for longer periods of time leading to more opportunities for organic discovery.

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Moments allows Twitter users to have a more focused approach to consuming event content beyond individuals they follow. A use case would be an NFL game, a user following an NFL Moment would receive content from teams, broadcasters, players, the league, etc…

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For brand marketers, once Twitter provides the tools for individuals and brands to create moments,  it opens up the possibility of curating conversations and potentially packaging and promoting content beyond a single tweet to provide more contextual relevance.

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Taking the same NFL example above, here is what I think the user experience could look like for a brand with an NFL sponsorship when this ad type is rolled out. You have NFL content, User Generated Content and the potential for relevant brand content.

It will also be very interesting to see how Twitter wraps it’s advertising products around moments. (UPDATED) The Twitter team just told me that brand testing will begin by the end of this month. At first, they will be 100% owned and curated by a brand with no immediate opportunity to sponsor an Entertainment Weekly “Moment” or an NFL “Moment” yet.

Based on past ad types, I assume there will be an option to promote a specific moment to bundle event content and focus the conversation, I also assume that brands will have an opportunity to place contextually relevant ad types into key curated moments.

The benefits for marketers is having the opportunity to reach new audience segments in a highly contextual way beyond simply promoted tweets and this may create more value for brands looking to build a connection with users in the moment.

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Location As A Context Filter

I recently participated in a panel for Mobile Media Summit in NYC as a part of advertising week. The discussion was primarily focused on all facets of geo-location as well as a deep dive into the role beacons can play to connect with consumers in real-time.

Tom Edwards Mobile Media Summit

Below are a few territories that I touched on during the session as well as a few additional thoughts. 

ROLE OF LOCATION:  Location is a great filter to align consumer behavior against. My goal is to seamlessly connect physical to digital while maintaining a highly consistent message architecture that is highly relevant to the consumer.

BEACONS: One of the issues with beacon programs to date is how to achieve scale. Media organizations are looking for opportunities to drive scale while marketing agencies are focused on the ideal message structure.

There are many use cases to consider depending on the behavior you are looking to impact. If the goal is to drive pre-shop behaviors, it may be beneficial to leverage a 3rd party solution like shop kick to motivate a pre-shop mission that can lead to a retail visit.

Shopkick Macys

If a retailer has a robust CRM and loyalty program and wants to connect online behaviors with in-store visits it may be advisable to install a comprehensive beacon network.

I recently worked with a major consumer electronics retailer to test proprietary beacons that were fully integrated across multiple touchpoints. The program aligned with the existing CRM platform, leveraged it’s loyalty program to modify in-store behavior and the test led to full integration into the the retailers app.

gamestop-beacon-zones

This approach provided more flexibility to leverage loyalty points as a currency as well as reduce latency of the passive beacons as app activation is set upon entry. 

This program has allowed for mapping of data and interactions and has also lead to the ability to further refine the approach to regionally specific personalized content based on store visit, online behaviors and loyalty interactions.

FACEBOOK PLACE TIPS: Another interesting development is Facebook’s official roll out of place tips for small to mid size businesses. This program has definitely peaked my interest as Facebook is providing the beacon hardware. It’s a very low barrier of entry for the business owner and they have the ability to append location specific details to the Place Tip.

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A consumer would see a notification in their newsfeed if they are near a Place Tip enabled spot similar to what I received recently at the DFW Airport.

Tom Edwards Place Tips

After a user clicks on the notification they are delivered into a location specific experience that allows them to engage with the location, message the business through Facebook Messenger, rate the business and interact with contextually relevant content.

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The business owner has the ability to modify content such as menu’s and I see this as Facebook’s play at ultimately delivering location specific messaging outside of the traditional geo-targeted ad units.

Facebook Place Tips

Location is a key point to consider when aligning a contextually relevant message. The key is to remember there needs to be a value exchange for location access.

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