Advertising is Already Changing

This is the big week when GDPR finally rolls out. No longer can marketers in the EU use data to which users haven’t consented. However, we don’t think this change in how we use data will be confined to the EU. Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has already told CBS News that he thinks the US needs the same kind of national data privacy law as GDPR. We’d be surprised if Congress didn’t begin to consider something, or at least start summoning relevant parties beyond Facebook for hearings. Benioff is one of those Silicon Valley CEOs who is often on the cutting edge, but he’s most often known for taking stronger ethical positions than many of his colleagues.

Respect for data privacy is not even a new position for Benioff, who as far back as 2014 told a reporter for Diginomica

I’m all in favor of consumers having more power and more control over their data. As a consumer, you should have all of the rights. It’s like a cloud Bill of Rights. As a consumer or as an enterprise, you should have the right to be forgotten or to add or take away your data.

Sugar CRM CEO Larry Augustin has the same opinion:

Although GDPR may be the headline right now, there’e been enough public visibility of the issues, and there’s enough public interest, that it would not surprise me to see the US now go down the path of some kind of legislation related to data privacy for consumers.

Data privacy issues are not going to go away. People are thinking a lot here now about GDPR, because Facebook, Twitter, and all of these issues keep coming. And Experian in the US, about managing personal information related to credit card data… there’s just a constant barrage of issues around data privacy and personal information.

Everyone has to address it, whether it’s in the context of GDPR or the next thing that’s going to come along. There is definitely a heightened awareness and interest.

The truth is that advertisers will probably not be able to get consent from consumers, and this will produce fundamental changes in advertising that we’ve been predicting for a long time. We think that both content marketing and influence marketing will grow more important, and that display and video ads will focus on developing the brand rather than trolling for sales.

This is a good thing! Not only will consumers like it better, but ads that seek to brand can run better creative, be more memorable, and YES, actually work better. Our old friend Doc Searls draws a distinction between advertising and ad tech: it’s not advertising that consumers hate, it’s ad tech. Ad tech is the industry that tracks them and obtains their data and steals their privacy.  Fortunately or unfortunately, Facebook ruined it for all of us in the industry once and for all, by showing how data privacy can not only be abused, but actually weaponized.

How to Make Ads People Will Like

Can you make ads people will actually like?

Yes, it can be done.

The TL;DR: Provide useful information. Provide convenience. Build trust. Don’t chase people.

The story behind this, for those who prefer storytelling:

We’re turning over the model year in the US auto industry, and when that happens manufacturers and dealers will up their advertising spend. Traditionally, auto advertising has been brand advertising, and auto ads are part of the American popular culture. You’ve seen it, “the all new 2019 Toyota,” driving along a wooded road next to a cliff.

With the model year turnover will come the expiration of my own car lease, and as a result I’ve begun to start looking at ads, reading Edmunds, KBB, and Consumer Reports, and considering my options. I’ve been looking at brand ads all year without seeing them, and now that I actually SEE them, I am focusing on what I want to know about each brand.

With all the consumer research the auto industry does, I believe it still does not do a good enough job presenting information to people like me, the customer who is actually “in the market.” What do I want to see in the car ad?

1)What kind of visibility does this automobile offer? This could be presented in a video or a VR experience. And yet the only videos I’ve seen in auto ads are cars hugging curves, or golden retrievers driving Subarus.

2)Is the seating comfortable, and how much do I have to pay for lumbar support, adjustable seats, and other “creature comforts?”

3)What is the gas mileage?

4)How quickly does the car gain speed when entering a freeway?

5)What technology is in this car, both for driver assist and for handoff from my devices?

Instead of presenting this information to me online either a native ad on a car site or in an interactive format,  the outmoded goal of a car ad  is just to get me to the showroom, where history has already taught me I will have the experience I had a few days ago.

Customer: does this car have adjustable seats?

Sales associate: Not this model. It’s an upgrade

Customer: does this car have Apple Play?

Sales associate: not on this model

Customer: thank you (heads for the car)

Sales manager running after customer, sport coat flapping: Wait!

Customer: Why?

Sales manager: Aren’t  you even willing to look at some numbers?

Customer: No. The car doesn’t have what I want.

Sales manager: Yeah, but Dave doesn’t get compensated by the hour. He only gets compensated by the sale. You just wasted his time!

Customer: Twitter will hear about this.Picks up cell phone to Tweet.

Lesson: Don’t use your ads to get people to the showroom. Instead, use them for information purposes. Real information will not be rejected by customers, and it will help you identify the RIGHT customers without stalking them through either data privacy infractions or following them out into traffic.


Contextual Advertising and Trust

Marketers are increasingly likely to buy media that consumers trust, that they believe is giving them good value for what they pay, and that their target audiences engage with.  Although that should always have been the case, there’s now a name for this: the flight to quality.

The flight to quality pulls consumers toward publishers who have reader trust that they can “share,” almost like a halo effect, with an advertiser. Last year Galaxy Research, an Australian company, interviewed nearly 3000 Australians to see what kind of media they trusted most. For people 18 and older, the highest levels of trust were in movie ads and newspaper ads, and the lowest  levels of trust were in social. TV and digital news scored in the middle.

One Australian consumer went so far as to say that “I trust the newspapers and their websites to only accept reputable advertising.”

On the other hand, since the American election, there is a new global awareness of the problem of fake news and the spread of digital misinformation like wildfire through networks. This is a problem for both publishers and advertisers, as the Galaxy study showed that greater trust in ads translates to greater purchase intent.

Most apparent in the study was the general decline of trust in all media and all ads by people who are above 55. These people still trusted newspapers the most, but their level of trust was higher for community and local papers than for national papers. They also trusted radio.

Anecdotally, this translates to a high level of trust for “talk radio” in the American 55+ population, and its subsequent support by major national brands.

Given the fact that this study was done in Australia and completed before the revelations of Cambridge Analytica, a surprising fact was the low level of trust consumers of any age placed in social media advertising. One consumer said “So many frauds and scammers on social media at the moment and really no way to be sure the advertisement is legit or not.”

What does this mean? For us it means that advertisers want to buy media whose messages are trusted by consumers. Greater trust in content leads to greater trust in ads, which leads to greater intent to purchase. And news media, both print and digital, have highly trusted content and ads.

As Galaxy says, “brands are known by the company they keep.”


Zuckerberg Testimony Will Change Advertising

One of the most amusing aspects of watching Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress was the wide-ranging knowledge or lack thereof about Facebook ads, and about digital advertising in general. While Zuckerberg sat there for almost two days trying to answer questions completely and explain complex subjects, such as artificial intelligence and the extent it can be useful in detecting fake accounts or fake news, many of the senators and representatives, playing for the galleries, kept asking “gotcha”-type questions that they wanted answered yes or no.

But the big issues, after the Congressional committees got off the initial subject of Facebook Analytica, revolved around selling and collecting data. Most of the questions revealed that Congress actually thought Facebook sold user data, when what it sells is really the ability to target ads narrowly using the data it possesses. Zuck tried to explain and define that several times. This sounds like a minor point, but it is a big distinction that differentiates Facebook from data brokers, and it seemed the one Congress was most focused on after it received assurances that  Cambridge Analytica can’t happen again because the platform is locked down for developers.

For our industry, the other big questions were about the gathering and retention of data. I lost track of how many times committee members asked how soon it would be possible to delete their data. In vain he told them over and over that the feature already existed.  Then, they asked him why the deletion couldn’t take place immediately. But when he began to explain backup servers and why data could be held for a week or two after the account was deleted, they lost interest in the details.

Legislators also asked Zuckerberg about new data protection regulations that are about to go into effect in Europe May 25, and whether Facebook would comply. He said they were already set up to comply. When asked whether American users would get the same protections, Zuckerberg said they would, because Facebook was rolling out GDPR protections globally. But then he was asked whether that would happen on May 25, and he said no.

This hearing opened a big can of worms for the digital advertising industry, or at least for companies that collect and handle user data to be used for advertising. Many larger companies have already begun to comply with GDPR and it would be very difficult  if the US Congress decides to adopt  different set of regulations. That doesn’t seem likely in the near term, as Congress can’t agree on how to regulate these companies, many whom have armies of lobbyists.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was open to regulation, but that the devil was in the details and he’d be glad to be involved in helping Congress regulate the use of personally identifiable information. Of course Facebook has the resources to devote to this.

Zuckerberg may be the visible whipping boy, but whatever is enacted will affect all internet companies that keep data. Look for the rebirth of advertising based on context and content, much like TV ads.






Martech Has to Change Again

A number of trends have converged in our minds this week to convince us that marketing has to change — AGAIN. A pendulum has swung too far without us noticing it, and it’s about to hit us in the face as it swings back if we aren’t careful.

Here are six trends that point to the need for change:

1) the #MeToo moments that have altered the career trajectories of a number of (mostly male) influencers,

2) the publication of Clayton Christensen’s new book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, with its core theory that we hire a product or service to do a job, and products and services must be designed to be hired by the right customers,

3) the growth of the mindfulness movement in Silicon Valley, with entrepreneurs who have made it going off on ten-day silent retreats and starting organizations to curtail the influence of companies they helped to build,

4) the disillusionment all of us early adopters feel about social media, especially Facebook, especially after young, red-headed Christopher Wylie exposed how our own personal data was used against us. This includes a plaintive post by Brian Solis about taking control back, and a five-year old crusade by Randi Zuckerberg to put digital technology into perspective for our children,

5) the coming of the values-driven Millennial generation into the job and consumer markets (hint: they buy on values)

6) and, the upcoming launch of the Global Data Privacy Regulation in May.

These are big events that don’t leave marketers untouched.

For the past two decades, we’ve been focused on becoming data geeks in the marketing department. Old style CMOs were forced out by quants, and the goal was to get “more accurate data” about where the”customer” was on her “journey” to buying our product.

But one thing data has overlooked is values, and I believe values will be the most important piece of marketing in the future. Companies will have to declare their values and live by them. And this is not a mission statement that gets put up on the office wall in the break room. Values are different. You can’t lie about your values, because they’ll show and customers will know. Southwest values employees, Starbucks values connectedness, RichRoll.comvalues a healthy lifestyle.

Once companies have figured out what their values really are, marketers will be able to begin the search for human beings who naturally align with the company’s values, and turn those people into customers. It should be easy, because it converts what used to be a sales process into a reaching out and calling to the people who naturally value what you have to offer.

Wouldn’t it be cool if marketing evolved again from shoving things on customers, to prying into peoples’ lives to find out more about them, to naturally aligning with people who already share our values — for whom we’re the right product or service for the job they want done?

Facebook and the Future of Advertising

Doc Searls was right fifteen years ago. Markets are now conversations. Publishers and advertisers can no longer collude without the omnipresence on the scene of the customer. The customer is now in control, although publishers and advertisers still don’t want to realize this.

This is online advertising’s #MeToo moment, the moment when the insatiable hunger for more data will encounter the resistance of consumers who are increasingly voting with their wallets.

And marketers are beginning to realize this. Publishers ought to as well.

If you think anything is going to be the same in online advertising after Cambridge Analytica, you’re dead wrong. This is even bigger than GDPR. especially because #SESTA also passed yesterday, making platforms responsible for what is published on them and invalidating Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which had protected them up until now.

The first advertiser to publicly defect from Facebook after Mark Zuckerberg‘s appearance on CNN last night was the Mozilla foundation. Mozilla is not a big advertiser but because it is a foundation and not a for-profit corporation it may have greater ethical responsibilities than many other for-profit marketers. It also really doesn’t need Facebook the way other marketers do.

But its defection drives home a number of interesting points. First, Facebook is a publisher. It doesn’t matter who generates the content, the content is published on Facebook.

Second, as a publisher, it has been remarkably exempt from the economic problems of other publishers because of its enormous scale and targeting capabilities. Hiding behind user-generated content won’t fly after #SESTA,

Now Facebook and its advertisers will have to face the same music all publishers will face with the coming of GDPR.

In general, the public has been more sanguine about political advertising than about consumer advertising, but that may be about to change. Some consumers would probably much prefer their data be used by P&G or Unilever than by Russia.

And besides, it isn’t the advertising, it’s the tracking. In consumer advertising, no one cares if a Mercedes Benz driving down a mountain road floats by on the TV, because we can all leave the room for a beer. But they care if that now ubiquitous pair of shoes follows them around the internet. What advertisers don’t seem to realize as they ask for more and more data, is that consumers hate tracking more than ads.

And that’s because even the most sanguine and least informed person on the internet knows that tracking requires the use of personally identifiable data that they have probably given freely in exchange for some convenience, or the ability to read some article, that is now being misused.

And it’s important how Facebook handles this, because otherwise it will just go away. For example, in response to issues around discriminatory targeting, Facebook recently turned off the ability to target by sexual preference. But they did it without consulting the LBGT community, and now groups that run suicide hotlines for gay teens cannot communicate with those teens to save their lives.

Facebook must learn to face the bigger questions surrounding the pile of data it collects. The answer might not be to collect less data. It might be to undertake a more careful study of how collected data can be used.

Mark Zuckerberg’s incredible discomfort last night on CNN was proof that he knows how important this is. After all, he doesn’t just have to deal with American elections and Cambridge Analytica, he must deal with global issues — elections in India, Brazil, and other places where the government could just turn off Facebook altogether.

It’s the trifecta for Zuck this week: GDPR, SESTA, and Cambridge Analytica. No wonder he looked more like an acne-ridden teenager caught in a prank by the principal than a global CEO .

Making Mobile InApp Advertising Better

We all know that mobile app advertising is not as simple as advertising on the desktop through a browser. And yet, all consumers now spend most of their time on their phones, so it’s a problem that must be solved. In theory. IAB has solved it, but there are still outstanding issues:

MRAID, or “Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions” is the common API (Application Programming Interface) for mobile rich media ads that will run in mobile apps. This is a standardized set of commands designed to work with HTML5 and JavaScript that developers creating rich media ads use to communicate what those ads do (expand, resize, get access to device functionalities such as the accelerometer, etc) with the apps into which they are being served.

Without MRAID different apps (incorporating different rich media vendors’ SDKs) have disparate requirements in terms of the APIs that creative developers must use to communicate with the app. Therefore, the same creative must be rewritten in order to run across different apps. MRAID offers a single API that diverse SDK vendors will support, which means that MRAID-compliant rich media ads will run within applications using any MRAID-compliant SDK. MRAID therefore enables creative agencies and rich media shops to more quickly and easily build rich creative that will run in different publishers’ mobile apps.

The first issue is dealing with application developers; getting an advertising SDK into their mobile apps is tricky. App developers may want to monetize their apps, but on the other hand they do not want to destroy their user experience. This leaves brands at the mercy of app developers.

We try our hardest to get those developers to add or update our SDK into their apps. But we’ve found we have to try a different approach in case we can’t get them to do it.

This approach is called MRAID WnE, and it isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

ZINC has built an MRAID creative that has WnE functionality built in. We are currently running some tests on TTD to understand the performance and practical feasibility of this approach.

Where will it be useful?

If we want to run our WnE Ads on Apps that  have not integrated our SDK, we can buy inventory using our MRAID WnE.

Can VPAID JS run in apps? We want to know.

We are also doing other product development experiments. There are many advertising SDKs out there, and many of them offer video. We don’t currently know how many of them are using their own video players, rather than the native player to serve video ads, and how many of them can play VPAID JS.

New learning is very important, and because mobile app advertising is so new, especially video, every bit of new knowledge we gain will help us innovate.

And we are hell bent to keep our reputation as the most innovative company in the business.

Trafficking UI for WnE

We are also making life easy for our AdOps team.  Soon, WnE Ads trafficking will be an automated and speedy task, with no manual work and thus none of the errors manual work generates.


GDPR Innovation

We are at the implementation stage of GDPR, and in London, the center of the European advertising industry, people are finally coming to grips with the notion of fines. Our friend Kevin Marks attended the #GDPRInnovation event at Digital Catapult and did an admirable job of live tweeting the remarks of some of the speakers.

James Leaton Gray, head of the Privacy Practice, used to be head of the BBC’s Information Policy and Compliance Department, in the BBC’s Legal section. There he oversaw the operation of the Corporation’s systems for compliance with the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts. Before he left the BBC he led the development of privacy and data governance for myBBC as it developed its big data capability. He also provided expert advice on media and privacy and lobbying for the proposed EU GDPR. Here is Leaton Gray’s take on what’s coming for the EU and by extension the UK and US.

The GDPR fines have gotten boardroom attention, when those of us wittering on about data for years have been ignored. But more significant than the fines is GDPR stopping you from using your marketing database without new consent. Because  the Data Protection legislation is principles based and does not tell you exactly what to do, we are used to asking all sorts of questions and not being sure how we use it; vendors are still selling databases that can’t be updated. But GDPR extends the Data Protection principles, and now the use of data must be Fair, Lawful and Transparent too. Most existing media systems are not transparent at all. Transparency means  you need to tell people why you are collecting the data, how long you’ll keep it, what you will use it for, and explain it in clear language, not legalese

The Data Access Rights mean that you need to enable people to correct and erase data you hold on them, and export it. And if you use the right to erasure, you will also be take off the marketing suppression list, so you will get untargeted marketing. Consent is not specifically defined to be ‘freely given,’ meaning it can be withdrawn. It also needs to be affirmative, so it’s no longer possible to use default checked checkboxes. Instead, what we need is Privacy by Default – we get there through Privacy by Design, after doing a Data Protection impact assessment.

While the public sector already has data breach mandatory reporting, it is new for the private sector and needs planning for. There is data everywhere; we are swimming in it and we don’t always notice when a bit goes missing. We now need to know that.

The Journalism exemption to GDPR is a bit of a tricky boundary; marketing of programs is not covered by a journalism exemption.

As media we are used to people talking to us. We ask for comments and get them. In the longer term will media want to talk to people more? As we move from broadcasting to more personalised streams, we need information about the audience to provide that personalization. But as companies have to send out GDPR marketing re-consent emails, they are having to give consumers incentives to sign up again.

People are realising that they need an intermediary between them and news or information, but it no longer is our media organisations. We have seen trust in online services drop over the past ten years. But if we want trust we need to be transparent about records of processing, where the data is, how it flows, retention schedules, breach notifications.

And some media companies are asking “do we need this inaccurate data from adtech? could we do it ourselves?” Of course they could. But will they?


Blockchain for Advertisers? Not This Year

We have been personally studying the blockchain technology for a couple of years now, especially when the head of the Mozilla Foundation left to develop a browser that uses it to make micropayments to content providers. And then, as we watched all this develop, we wrote about the blockchain’s capacity to clean up the digital advertising supply chain.

Eight months later, the IAB Tech Lab has released a white paper on the uses of blockchain for video advertising. 

Here are the main points:

• Blockchain technology has ramifications far beyond the financial sector.

As an immutable, distributed, transparent ledger, blockchain is a natural fit for the digital advertising supply chain

• Potential benefits of blockchain for advertising include increased efficiency, transparency, cost reduction, and the elimination of fraud.

• 2018 will be the year that a wide range of blockchain applications will be rolled out across digital and cross-screen video advertising including linear television, with 2019 likely being the year that these technologies begin to see broader adoption – provided certain risks can be mitigated.

• Long-form, premium video and TV advertising, with their high CPMs and low volume, is a compelling use case for blockchain. In the coming year, we expect to see some significant beta tests from both traditional media and new entrants.

In the white paper, we came across a big reason why this will be slow to catch on, despite its obvious utility.  It’s because cryptocurrencies and the blockchain are completely user-unfriendly right now. A company called MetaX in Los Angeles has been working with IAB to make ads.txt more secure. A Q&A with its developer produced this conversation:

How does Ads.txt Plus work?

“We implemented Ads.txt Plus on the Ethereum blockchain and in tandem, built a frontend UI to manage publisher ads.txt files and buyer lists. Publisher ads.txt files can be downloaded in aggregate from one place for buyers. Publishers themselves can maintain their file versions and either keep it on the blockchain endpoint and/or export to their web server.”

What does a publisher do in order to transact in this process? “A publisher has to input their ads.txt file into In order to implement, you need a digital wallet. Using a browser extension called MetaMask (in Chrome), you can implement a digital wallet right in the user’s browser. In this case, the user would be the publisher. They have a public address and they have a private key to this wallet. They take their public wallet address and they add it to their DNS records. In the text field, they add their wallet address. For example, today if you go to, you can see all of the names of authorized sellers. In the future, if you augment that with your digital wallet and then go to, you will see just the wallet address. The publisher can obfuscate all the authorized sellers so that it’s not readable but it’s still verifiable.”

Only people who have the key can read it? “By default, the file is publicly readable (and read only) and can be validated by all third parties. You can obfuscate the text using encryption and provide the key to your buyers. To update the file, you also need a separate private key.”

Let’s just say I’m a publisher, and I am trying to sell ads against my video content. How willing am I to go through the digital wallet setup and the public/private key infrastructure requirements.

Now let’s say I’m a young media planner. I’ve just learned the routines of my job, and now this one site wants me to go through a completely unfamiliar set of hoops? I think I’ll buy elsewhere.

While blockchain technology may be the ultimate solution to ad fraud, it will need a killer front end before it is widely adopted by the ad industry. Right now it’s a bare naked infrastructure that’s not for the faint of heart.  And we say that as experienced users and lovers of



Google Chrome vs. Ad Block Plus

There are almost too many competing initiatives going on to fix what different constituencies consider to be wrong about online advertising. Each constituency has its own point of view and a “proprietary” method of enacting a solution. Over the last few months, we’ve been researching the Coalition for Better Ads, which is run by Google and the other big ad players,  and  how it differs from the Acceptable Ads Committee’s standards. The Acceptable Ads Committee is an independent organization under the auspices of the people who run Ad Block Plus. You can guess that the Google standards favor ad-supported content, while the Acceptable Ads Committee allows only four or five formats.

There are at least two qualitative differences between these standards: first there is no user-side (consumer) representation on the Coalition for Better Ads, and second, Google holds the dubious double role of voting member and enforcer through its forthcoming Chrome ad filter. The Acceptable Ads Committee favors consumers, and the agenda is held by Ad Block Plus.

As the launch of the Chrome ad filter nears, we thought it was important that we point out these differences. Fortunately, the Acceptable Ads Coalition went through each of  55 desktop ad types to arrive at its own blocking criteria (see page 37 on Then it tested whether each format was blocked by the CBA and the AAC. After it did the work, it made an announcement about the comparison on its blog.

It turns out the new Chrome filter will only block 8/55 ad types. Contrast that to the AAC standards at 51/55, and the difference is unambiguous from a user perspective. If you’re really into ad blockers, the Chrome ad filter isn’t good enough for you. On the other hand, if what you dislike is interruptive ads, the Chrome ad filter is likely to give you surcease from the most obnoxious ads without filtering out everything.

And if you are buying ads, and are you’re interested in the ad formats that will make it through any ad blocker, you might want to browse through the spreadsheet we’ve included here. This will be a good way to see if your ads make it through Ad Block Plus, although if you are buying media we hope you  already know this.

AAC vs CBA standards1 – Sheet1