Ads Coming to VR Next Year

One of the benefits of being around Silicon Valley is hearing about new trends in media before they a happen. Although advertisers already know about virtual reality, they are only using it now in limited ways compared to how it will be used next year when Apple unveils its VR program, which is expected to include glasses and a new iPhone that will be VR ready.  Experts agree that Apple’s iPhone 8 will sell more VR than all others combined.

In the mean time, if you are hoping to launch something in VR with Apple, those same experts suggest developing for the HTC Vive, which is available now and is the de facto development environment for the Vive. For those of you who are technicians, or have them, available to you, build in Unity 3D software for the Vive and it will port to what Apple is doing in iPhone 8.

Another option is to build for Oculus Rift, which is also available now. And if you aren’t even playing with VR, you will be too late. Android will take off when Apple does.

Remember, Apple is amazingly secretive. However Robert Scoble, who knows everything before anyone else because he travels around the world looking at new technology, says “remember, next year’s iPhone announcements will be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and also the first it’ll do in its new headquarters. This is VERY important for Tim Cook. Probably the most important introductions of his life.”

In the meantime, there is already one company, Virtual Sky , that promises to deliver targeted, immersive advertising at scale on all virtual reality platforms. Post Fruity Pebbles launched a VR campaign on Virtual sky last summer, in an immersive 360 degree preroll spot that takes the viewer through a series of colorful, vibrant activities like painting a mural and jamming with a garage band.

Past VR experiences

drop the user into an environment and let them explore” for an unlimited amount of time, Pebbles created an edited ad featuring 360 visuals, according to Brian Hurley, creative lead at agency Public Works. Few other brands have limited themselves to shorter VR ads in order to complement users’ real-life experiences, Mr. Hurley claimed.

It’s too soon to know whether consumers will accept advertising in the midst of a true VR experience, but here’s what we know now: ad blockers don’t exist for virtual reality yet, so we have a chance to do it right.


Why the Hype About Analytics Could be Wrong

The Holy Grail for marketers has always been finding a customer just at the moment before a purchase and influencing the customer’s choice. During my entire lifetime, better targeting has seemed like the best way to do that. The crudest targeting tools, first introduced during the Mad Men era, were demographics and psychograpics: finding consumers in the right age, income, and aspirational range.  Before that, advertising was just spray and pray.

The use of data has only grown more complicated since its early deployments.  Companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google have so much information about us that if they could just use it or sell it, advertising would be an exact science (if indeed anything is an exact science). But somehow that hasn’t happened. The ability to know the customer and use that knowledge effectively has both increased and decreased over the past fifty years. Digital advertising, especially, has reached new levels of precision. That’s where the increase has occurred. The decrease has occurred because we chose performance as our first objective, thinking digital advertising should be measured like direct mail, by the percentage of opens, or by the number of people who used the coupon to make a purchase.

Using performance as a metric means we have evolved to the consummate level of targeting: retargeting a unique customer who has already made a purchase. And boy, is the customer angry when we do that to her. So angry that she may even have installed an ad blocker, or learned how to browse in incognito mode.

Now, just at the point where we ought to be re-examining our strategies and tactics, we are being offered new ways to slice and dice data — data lakes, integrated analytics, and a few other buzz words.

It is possible that “better” analytics will only make things worse, because the more consumers sense that their privacy is being violated  — and Millennials are the worst offenders, because they say they don’t care about privacy but they download all the ad blockers — the less open they are to messages from marketers.

Even the ones they used to welcome, like news of a sale, information about the specs on a car, or the premiere of a new film.

Until we have built back the trust of consumers, we believe that many advertisers should focus on brand awareness, using premium publishers to target for them. The publishers have their own data, and have hopefully not antagonized their readers with too many interruptive ads. As marketers, the industry should stop putting pressure on publishers to negatively impact the user experience with interruptive ads. If we do that, we can get back to where we were before all this data, and before 25% of our potential customers became unavailable to us online.


Outstream is In

As we head into an era of better analytics, more precise targeting, and redefinition of reach, more and more media professionals are becoming aware of the power of outstream advertising. Because outstream is video in the midst of other non-video content, it is in a better position to drive online purchases and target consumers without driving them away. More and more brands are using mobile outstream video ads to generate targeted awareness.

As Marketingland reported back in April,

Digital video ad spend in the US is on the rise, with eMarketer expecting it to reach $9.84 billion and represent 19.6 percent of total digital ad spending this year and reach $16.69 billion by 2020. But as this channel grows to account for 13.3 percent of total digital ad dollars, advertisers are stifled by the limited supply of true pre-roll inventory available in the marketplace. Enter out-stream.

Out-stream impressions are video ad units unaccompanied by content. While a pre-roll or mid-roll ad requires a publisher’s video to wrap around, an out-stream ad is a video ad unit not tied to any piece of publisher video content. Instead of running within a standard video player, these high-quality impressions can run within standard ad placements, on the corner of the page, or even within the content of a written article. They are designed to be 100 percent viewable, only deploying and playing when the unit is onscreen and the consumer is moving the page around.

But there are special issues involved in video advertising that the industry must deal with. Viewability is a big one, as is the smaller screen size and shorter attention span of the mobile consumer. Less often discussed is the difficulty of reaching large premium audiences without harming the user experience.

That’s where the unique combination of ZEDO and ZINC can help. ZINC’s  innovation formats perform measurably better than comparable ad formats, even others in the outstream category. That’s because we have a “special sauce” in our secure platform and our unusual methods of serving ads, the result of almost two decades of experience in serving ads for publishers. We also have a highly curated network of publishers, eschewing the garbage and sticking to premium audiences.

Our non-intrusive outstream video advertising solutions are entirely respectful of the user experience, as IAB’s L.E.A.N. standards propose. They launch only when the user scrolls down to where they are, and they never use auto-play sound.

Our customers include premium publishers throughout the world.

But most important, we allow you to use your existing creative, saving time, effort, and dollars.





Agency Creative Structures Need to Change

We’ve long thought the agency business needed an overhaul in favor of more and better creativity. The industry now has the technical tools to target messages to the correct consumers, and the video formats (such as our inArticle video) to produce higher viewing and completion rates. On the workflow side, we’re pretty streamlined. But nothing would raise completion rates as much as standout creative.

Most agencies know this, and have figured out ways to re-combine teams for specific clients. But that might not be good enough. It might be time for agencies to do more than just use existing teams in different ways, especially since agency life has such churn anyway.

We think the entire model of internal teams is outdated, and that creative teams should consist of the best people both inside and outside an agency. This may mean forming an agency entirely out of a network of free agents on call for specific assignments. Some small boutique agencies already do this: their corporate staff is mainly account executives, finance people, and media buyers, and their creative is almost completely outsourced.

Grace Caffyn’s recent article about how the Grey Agency in London has reorganized its offices to provide more unstructured space and changed its recruiting policies so it can look at outside candidates informally at office parties before it’s time to make a hire shows some of the differences. And there are perks at Grey that used to be available only at tech companies, such as ” free beauty treatments and weekly treats, which range from bacon sandwiches to fruit smoothies. There’s also a cafe-bar downstairs that serves free drinks from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday.”

Apparently, the Grey Agency’s London office is taking its inspiration from Pixar, whose president, Ed Catmull, has written a book about his experiences called “Creativity, Inc.”

However, there’s only so far you can go with existing staff, because sooner or later they begin to reflect the culture of the agency, which may not be the culture of the world outside. Although agencies complain about churn, we suspect that churn is actually the salvation of agencies, because it allows them to take in new talent.

Agencies, go further: reach out to people who may want to remain independent and pull them in on specific projects where you know they can shine. Partner more often, collaborate more often, especially on the creative side.


2017: Fundamentally Better Advertising

Strap on your safety belts, digital advertising will be very different in 2017. The IAB is in the process of creating new formats for online ads, reflecting both the LEAN principles it introduced last year and new aspect ratios that take into account cross-device campaigns. The new formats are in response to the shift to mobile, the demand of brand marketers for cross-device integrated campaigns, and new technologies such as mixed, augmented, and virtual reality, which debuted this year and will take over the market in fall 2017 when Apple releases its rumored tenth anniversary iPhone.

One other change that is suggested by these guidelines: we’re not going for scale and reach in the future. We are going for precise targeting that can be measured for attribution. Even in branding, we’re after the right customer, not just random eyeballs.

The draft is open for public comment until Nov. 28 and can be downloaded here. ZEDO has worked with the Online Trust Association to comment on the draft from a privacy, security, and malware perspective.

The following IAB Tech Lab member companies were part of the working group that created this draft: Aarki Grey Advertising Sizmek ABC TV Network GroupM Spongecell AdCade Gruuv Interactive Startapp Adelphic, Inc. Havoc Sublime Skinz AdGear Technologies, Inc. Ipsos TapAd Ansible J. Walter Thompson U.S.A., Inc. Team AOL AOL Kargo The New York Times Company AOL Platforms Mashable The Walt Disney Company Beachfront Media MediaCom The Weather Company, an IBM Business Bloomberg Merkle Inc Undertone CBS Interactive Micro Cube Digital Limited Unity Technologies Celtra Microsoft Advertising Unruly Cox Media Group MING Utility & Entertainment Group Cyber Ideas Monotype Vertebrae Dow Jones & Company (The Wall Street Journal) Flexitive Vibrant Media Ogilvy Xaxis Flashtalking PageFair Yahoo Flipboard PGA TOUR YieldMo Flite PointRoll Zillow Forbes Media R/GA Gannett Responsive Ads Google Saatchi & Saatchi NY .

Among many other changes, the new Dynamic Standards vary according to weather and geography, as well as demographics. Also, pixels are gone, replaced by aspect ratios, so the ads can be used across screens.

Developed by the IAB Tech Lab, the revised portfolio is based on HTML5 technology and comprised of flexible display ads, mobile ads, video ads, native ads, and introduces guidelines for new content experiences like virtual reality and social messaging ads.

The IAB also expects ads to contain emojis and stickers. Guaranteed will be user choice according to the LEAN Principles of lightweight, encrypted, AdChoice supported, and non-invasive advertising.

In some ways, getting rid of pixels will make it easier to create one piece of creative and deploy it across screens. Although we already support this capability, we’re in the process of getting absolutely every piece of this IAB guideline into our product roadmap so we’re ready for it when it comes. Because we are known for fundamentally better advertising, we want to continue to lead the market.




Fundamentally Better Advertising

Yesterday at the Digiday Agency Summit, Valter Sciarrillo, Head of Product Marketing at Quantcast,  gave a talk for agencies called “Differentiating Yourself Through Programmatic.”  This presentation highlighted how far behind the times agencies really are. Indeed, some are so far behind rapid industry change that they risk extinction as the industry moves past them.

Sciarrillo mentioned that only 6% of agencies actually felt comfortable buying programmatically. Indeed, 60% of agencies felt they didn’t even have a good definition of what programmatic actually is. And that’s despite the past five years of rapid growth and diversity in programmatic potential.

The problem is that when programmatic was first introduced, it was used for remnant. So a third of agency execs still think that’s what it’s for.

Not true. Programmatic is just a workflow solution, through which you can buy anything.  When you use a secure private platform like ours, you know exactly what you are getting. Our network is only premium publications, highly targeted. Especially since the introduction of header bidding, media buyers can know exactly what they are buying and they can use programmatic for branding.

Because it will take time for agencies to catch up, those who adopt programmatic for branding early have a competitive advantage in building the agency’s brand, as well as that of its clients.

Our offering, ZINC, is a better way to build brand in digital, whether you use header bidding, direct sales, or the self-service platform we have just launched for smaller agencies.
It is cost effective because actual users, not bots,  really see our ads:  they are in a better place on the page,  are a better size,  and utilize better timing. Right customer, right device, right time. We  also guarantee 100% viewablity and 100% fraud free advertising. No wasted impressions.
 We are able do this because we are a technology innovator in  ad delivery. We take the advertiser’s existing ads and in real time optimize the size, placement and timing in many ways to make sure that users see it.
That’s our secret sauce:  “fundamentally better advertising”  that only needs your existing creative.


ZINC Leads in Outstream for a Reason

The biggest complaint in the advertising industry as we drop further into Q4, its busiest season, is the lack of video inventory. Everybody wants to run video ads, because video completion rates are higher than the CTRs on banner ads. Especially on mobile, consumers seem to have more patience with video ads than display ads. However, when they speak about video inventory many brands still mean content on high-trafficked video sites like YouTube on which they can run pre-roll. There is indeed a scarcity of that.

However, pre-roll is not the best way to achieve results with video ads, as many other companies have already discovered. The unfortunately- named “outstream,” video ads on text sites are the best performers.

In this department, ZINC is the market leader, having been the first to market with this format.  We launched what we called inArticle video almost three years ago, before the term outstream even existed, and we also initiated the term “polite” for these ads, because they only came into view only when a reader scrolled down to them, and they were also easy to close or scroll past. As  a result of the precautions we take, our ads are not intrusive.

Not only that, we never have used auto-play sound, another reason we feel comfortable calling these ad formats “polite.”

We constantly win buys away from our competitors (and there aren’t many), because we get higher viewability scores with resulting higher rates for publishers. Even the competitors are asking us how we win so many good buys.

Here’s how: we have a better format, better technology, and a better premium publisher network. We have tested our viewability with third parties, and we’re at 93%. To be a market leader, you not only have to be a technology leader, you also have to be cognizant of consumer attitudes, and you have to run on only premium publishers. That’s us.

Yes, this is a self-serving post. Every once in a while we have to sneak one in, because not enough people know what we do.


Why Native Ads May Not Deliver

There have been some interesting studies recently on the low return rates of advertisers who try native advertising. Although spending on native ads is increasing rapidly, and is expected to reach $20 billion in 2018, even Buzzfeed is having trouble getting advertisers to re-up for more than a trial buy. There are many reasons this is happening:

1)Native ads are no longer new. Take a lesson from display ads and remember how, two decades ago people clicked on them and then the numbers began plummeting. That’s because the newness wore off, and much of the initial interest was in the novelty of online advertising. The world’s first banner ad had a click-through rate of 44%. Marketers would kill for a rate like that now, and they don’t even get it from native.

2) Native ads are expensive to produce. You can’t just whip out a native ad if you are a marketer. The campaigns require extremely high quality creative, so that a visitor will move past the knowledge that he or she is reading an ad. It has to contain useful information, delivered in a manner that captures attention. And if you have the publication produce your native ads, you will pay a high price to access high value audiences like professionals or Millennials.

3)Marketers may have already gone too far with their native advertising:

The major criticism hitting native ads in 2016 is very similar to the criticism that banner ads have faced: “You’ve gone too far”. Native ads have become so much like the real thing that readers are increasingly annoyed to find the content they’ve been reading is actually a cleverly disguised advert.

Not to mention that in the US, the FTC has issued new guidelines for native advertising, and the Online Trust Association has studied native ads and found that 55% of them fail the transparency guidelines.

4)And Facebook recently threw a monkey wrench into the whole equation by changing the way its publisher partners were allowed to identify (or not identify) native ads. Until June of this year, sponsored content posted on Facebook did not have to be tagged and measured, and publishers could tell brands anything they wanted to about where the traffic was coming from.

But now that publishers have to tag the brand and explicitly acknowledge that they’re sharing branded content, there’s a very good chance they won’t be nearly as effective as the more deceptive system publishers were using before. This transparency is undoubtedly a good thing for users. But it that could cut into margins on native ad campaigns.

Brands are now going to understand how much of their reach is organic, and how much of it is just Facebook users and thus not able to be attributed to publishers.

We find this all very interesting. The same “big data” that everyone claims they want, and indeed that they have, may be the same data that exposes native advertising as less valuable than marketers had originally thought. Q4 could be the big “tell.”

Mobile Advertising Grows Faster than Expected

The Brexit did not stop the growth of digital ad spending, according to a forecast issued by Zenith Optimedia. The global market is, in fact, strengthening, driven by the US, Western Europe, and the Philippines. Even network TV, which shrunk by 5% last year, is expected to return to growth in 2016. However, there was one important surprise: digital desktop spending is declining faster than print spending. This is the first time ever that a digital advertising mode has beat out the decline of print. Social advertising will also grow, and the combined growth number for the US is now forecast to be 4.4%.

Money from marketers is shifting, not so much from print to digital as from desktop to mobile. Desktop will be eclipsed by mobile in 2017  as Zenith had previously predicted, but

 we have upgraded our forecasts for mobile growth for this year (from 46% to 48%) and next year (from 29% to 33%), and now expect mobile adspend to exceed desktop by US$8bn in 2017, up from the US$2bn we predicted in June. By 2018 we expect mobile to account for 60% of all internet advertising, up from our previous forecast of 58%.

We may not have been able to come up with the numbers Zenith has put on the table, but from the growth of our ZINC business and the products from which it is coming we can already tell that mobile’s growth is happening faster and faster. The success of the recent rollout of our mobile ad unit Polite Swipe Up, as well as the ongoing success of our inArticle (outstream) mobile video format, as well as a shift away from some of our older formats, had already signaled the pace of the change.

In the US, the growth in ad spend is due to a good job market and a consumer who is recovering from the Great Recession. The UK suffered a mild downturn after the Brexit vote, although nothing like the dire predictions.

According to Zenith’s report,

Global advertising expenditure will grow 4.4% this year to reach US$539bn, ahead of the 4.1% previously forecast in June, according to Zenith’s new Advertising Expenditure Forecasts, published today. Advertising expenditure will then expand by 4.5% in 2017 and 4.6% in 2018 – up from the previous growth forecasts for both years, which were 4.3% and 4.4% respectively. By 2018 global advertising expenditure will total US$589bn, US$4bn more than forecast in June.

Marketers, it looks like you have your checkbooks out:-)




How ZINC Can Fix Your Media Plan

I spoke at an iMedia conference a few weeks ago, and found out that ZINC isn’t well-known in the market. For the past three years, we’ve been building a stellar roster of clients, but we don’t talk too much about it. So here’s the back story. Don’t be surprised if you see this post on Medium and LinkedIn, as I think it’s time to tell our brand story. Sure it’s a little self-serving, but for the three years we’ve said almost nothing and it is time.
It all starts with ZEDO, which I founded in 1999.  Remember, we’ve been through the dotcom bubble, and the great recession, and we’ve been nimble enough to survive and thrive. That’s because we have an ace development team that keeps ahead of the industry. And if you think that’s easy in our industry, think again.
We started ZINC because we wanted to capitalize on our learnings from ZEDO. ZEDO, which has now been around for more than fifteen years, represents 18,000 Publishers and is the world’s 5th Largest Ad Server. This  exclusive access to publishers provides ZINC with the proprietary targeting data that empowers ZINC to serve ads to your targeted consumers with what we call Real Intent Targeting in Real Time. 
Unlike most campaigns, when you work with ZINC there are  NO WASTED IMPRESSIONS, since your messaging will only appear in relevant editorial,  and when the user shows interest by scrolling. By having the advertiser’s  messaging  “Scroll Triggered, only appearing within requested relevant editorial, clients can be sure that an active & engaged consumer will see and respond to your ads.
ZINC  also has direct partnerships with a very select list of 3400 PREMIER Publishers, representing over 105 million monthly uniques. For those publishers, ZINC specializes in delivering  High Impact Video & Display (Exclusive to ZINC) on Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet
Advertisers simply provide ZINC their existing creative and ZEDO technology will format it to fit our Unique HIGH Impact Units, which appear on all our sites in Exclusive Positions and only WITHIN VIEW. ZINC is completely transparent and provides 3rd Party Verification as well Proprietary 1st Party Data as well as a sample site list.
Here are the numbers:

Our Display units have a 99% Viewability Score and average CTRS of close to .80% (depending on category). Our video units have anAverage Viewability Score: 75%; Average Large Player Size: 670×400; CTR:1.2%: 

ZINC‘s Tru-View Solutions are scroll triggered by the consumer and stay INVIEW an average of 6 seconds.

Average Completion Rates :15’s are 73% and :30’s are 64%  

We can use behavioral, demographic, zipcode, and DMA targeting.

 In this all important Q4, you might want to give ZINC a try.