Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bill Simmons, a prime example of the power of digital audio

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Bill Simmons, ESPN sports columnist, was suspended yesterday for calling NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, a liar.  He even dared someone (presumably ESPN) to call him and say he was in trouble.  Well, sure enough, Bill was suspended three weeks for his pre-birthday rant. (Happy Birthday Bill!)

Take a listen here:

This is not the first or second time Bill has been suspended.  And if he stays at ESPN, I’m pretty sure this will not be the last.  What does this have to do with digital audio and advertising?  ESPN has a $15B relationship with the NFL to protect.  As a publisher and broadcast juggernaut, ESPN is the destination for all things sports.  Essentially, ESPN is to sports what Google is to search.  Except, ESPN is not just online.

On the other hand, Bill’s BS Report is a podcast.  Yes, a podcast.  Some words saved as an audio file, uploaded to a server, and available 24/7 for anyone with an internet connection.  Simple, yet powerful.  Powerful enough to threaten ESPN.  Now, some may argue that Grantland is powered by ESPN so any reach associated with the blog should be attributed to ESPN.  Fair point.  But what about Tony Manfred?

Tony Manfred, an unknown sports writer for Business Insider, took a snippet of the infamous rant and posted it on Soundcloud.  In less than one day, Tony has over 200k+ listens.  Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.  This is a prime example of the power of digital audio.  Tony’s snippet (the audio above) is traveling around the “internets” and is referenced by anyone and everyone who wants to click site hear Bill.  Timely, relevant, and engaging.

A block text quote is great, but listening to the words is a completely different experience.

So what’s the point?

If I have to spell it out, you’re missing a golden opportunity.  Publishers, it’s gold mine ripe for the taking.  Advertisers, it’s a hidden gem.  Call us if you want to make it shine.


Yes, Bob Hoffman is full of sh*t!

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Bob Hoffman‘s keynote to the Radio Advertising Bureau was something special.  Profanity laced and full of contempt for online advertising, Bob played to a room full of terrestrial broadcasters asserting that “the advertising industry has become the web’s lapdog.”

As a person who prides himself on “breaking the rules” and cursing with conviction, I can sincerely relate to Bob.  With that said, he is either in denial or truly does not understand digital media or how programmatic advertising works.  Given his tenure (41 years in the agency business), agenda (selling books), and constituents (traditional media outlets), it is easy to see why his bullshit was met with thunderous applause.

To be fair, many of Bob’s arguments have some truth.  Traditional media (TV, radio, print) is not dead.  Brand building in the digital world is not the same as in traditional channels.  Fraud is a problem in the display advertising ecosystem.  However, it is these half-truths and misinformation that will continue to keep the radio industry in the 20th century.

Here’s where Bob’s message misses the boat.  Traditional radio can no longer use “reach” as its sole value proposition.  When is the last time you purchased a radio?  Do you even know where radios are sold?  The key differentiator for broadcasters is the power of audio.  This power can take the form of your favorite artist’s music, the radio host’s voice, or a brand’s distinct sound.  I challenge the industry to articulate the unique characteristics of radio that make it the best channel to share an audio message.  This brings me to my first point. Audio is a medium.

Musicians are no longer tied to radio in order to develop a brand.  Ask Justin Bieber what digital has to offer.  “Radio” personalities aka podcasters can now build a brand and audience by simply posting a link on SoundcloudAudioboom, or Hipcast to name a few.  Brands are also utilizing the audio medium to target specific audiences.  Ask Trulia where 50%+ of their leads originate.  Then ask, how do they target college-educated married women aged 25-44 accurately using traditional media.  This leads me to my next point.

Digital allows for real and relevant targeting.

I can anticipate the Hoffman zealots ready to play the Nielsen card.  It baffles me how we can send people to the moon or drive cars with batteries and still rely on statistical extrapolations and inferences to identify an audience.  If you’re in New York and you listen to 105.1, who is your real audience?  There are many marketers and agencies today who cannot operate without a Nielsen rating.  If I was a brand, I would be very concerned.  While digital is not the holy grail, it affords marketers with the capabilities to identify their audience, target their audience, and most importantly adjust their campaigns during the process.  Mr. Hoffman refers to the “scientific method” when referencing his distrust with advertising experts, but traditional channels do not allow for the level of specificity or control that true science requires.  Simply saying “this genre reaches this type of audience” and “yes, the spot ran” will not be a sufficient answer for the CMOs of the future.  This leads me to my third point.

Digital is accountable.

If a spot runs on the air, did someone hear it? “Yes, didn’t you receive the affidavit?”  For all the talk of online fraud, even the holy grail of measurement is not the bastion of authentication.  When John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”, he was not talking about digital.  I will certainly acknowledge fraud in online advertising, but at least there are methods to detect it.  Saying traditional media does not have this issue reminds me of the line in The Unusual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  And now for my final point and one not addressed during the keynote.

Audio is mobile and mobile is digital.

Mobile devices are everywhere and mobile advertising is growing faster than any other channel.  Some may even argue that mobile is not a channel.  At any rate, audio is a natural medium for mobile.  If we use the “evidence of our own eyes” (I love that quote, Bob), we can “see” the number of headphones plugged into mobile devices around us.  We can see Apple buy Beats.  We can see the next evolution of audio devices such as Pono and Nrml.  Marketers who fail to recognize the seismic shift in consumer behavior and the proliferation of new distribution platforms will not lose today or even tomorrow.  I’m not being apocalyptic.  However, marketers will find themselves battling a brand that “gets it” and they won’t even see it coming.

So Bob, thanks for ruffling feathers and being contrarian.  The industry needs people like you to help distinguish people like me, digital defenders and champions of innovation.  I think Edgar Bronfman Jr. may have some sound advice:

“We used to fool ourselves … We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”

It’s getting cold in here.

4 Good Ways to Protect Your Brand and 1 Phenomenal Way

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Click on the following SoundCloud file to listen to this blog. 

There’s no shortage of discussion about quality in digital advertising.  On the publisher side, content producers are concerned about the quality and validity of advertisements delivered on their websites.  On the advertiser side, brands are concerned about delivering advertisements on unsavory and/or fraudulent websites.  Concerns are exacerbated by the continued shift to buying and selling via programmatic buying methods, specifically real-time bidding.

I am a proponent of RTB, having served as the Director of Publisher Sales at the world’s largest independent advertising exchange, AppNexus.  I’ve seen the benefits it can provide for the advertising ecosystem – creating efficiencies in connecting buyers and sellers, allowing buyers to value impressions individually and connect with their desired audiences, introducing data for more intelligent buys, and so forth.  With the benefits come some headaches, much of which revolve around quality.  Last week, Jamie Elden, Chief Revenue Officer and Head of Entertainment at LIN Digital, wrote an article about how brands can prevent serving on “sleazy” websites.  The article has valid points and I’m adding a few concrete tips myself.

  1. When buying across an advertising exchange, determine if the provider has an audit process for vetting publisher inventory.  At AppNexus, this was referred to as “platform audited.”  Some exchanges use a human-based process, while others have automated tools.  In either circumstance, you will want to serve on inventory that has been vetted in some capacity.  If the exchange has no native tools, consider working with a data provider like Peer39, now under Sizmek, as they provide similar services.
  2. Make sure that what you’re purchasing makes sense relative to the amount you paid.  If I met you in the street and said, “I’ve got Christian Louboutin pumps for $50,” you will likely know they are not real Loubous.  The same applies when buying digitally.  If your team pulls a report indicating you paid $0.10 for New York Times home page, you likely purchased fraudulent inventory.  Tricky, bad-acting publishers inappropriately use referrer URLs to mask the real domain name with a domain they’ve manually entered.  To get a better handle on pricing, contact the publishers and networks from which you buy or want to buy, and ask about their price ranges.  They are likely setting price floors to meet these ranges so anything beneath that is not their inventory.
  3. Use a piggyback pixel for verification in your ad server.  This allows you to track delivery and reporting using your own technology.
  4. Stay in control of your ad dollars.  If you are the marketer, it can be easy to hand off budgets to your agency-of-record who then hands it off to the agency trading desk who may implement the buy or may again hand it off to a network who then implements the buy.  Regardless of what you want, when you’re dealing with a chain this long, your needs will be lost.

Those are four strong ways to protect your brand when buying digitally.  Here’s one phenomenal way:

Try digital audio.  It’s a highly-engaging, underutilized medium with a number of reasons why it will work for your brand.

  • There are no fraudulent streaming radio stations, pure-play music stations or podcasts.  You may not like the content of them all, but they are real.  And fortunately, we can serve on audio publishers with which you feel comfortable.
  • You have 10, 15 or 30 seconds to tell your brand’s story.  You have an opportunity to pitch your consumer on your products and services.
  • You can incorporate data in your targeting to deliver differentiated, one-to-one messaging at scale.
  • Digital audio ads are measurable and reportable.
  • Did I mention it’s highly-engaging?

The benefits go on longer than your patience for this blog.  Get in touch with us and we can talk about it.

Targeting Is Like Dating, Without Indigestion

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It’s Sunday evening, the time of week most statistically desirable for online dating. As you log into your imaginary profile on your imaginary site, created for the purpose of this story, you decide that you’re looking for a nice guy. That’s it. Someone to accompany you to the movies and not judge when you sneak in your own popcorn. Someone to go for a jog on Saturday mornings that eventually turns into a casual walk to the yogurt shop. Someone to attend your company’s holiday party, dress nicely, speak crisply and not drink too much. The initial asks are basic.

Once you log in however, and see the myriad of selections, the asks grow. Now Mr. Nice needs to be 6’4″, have the muscular structure of a clay figurine, Samson’s hair and a Master’s degree. Before you know it, you’ve asked to produce a fantasy or Jason Mamoa, also known as a living fantasy. Needless to say, search results are slim and while it’s every gal’s dream to have Roman Reigns within a 25 mile radius of her apartment, it just doesn’t work that way.

That’s the beauty and curse of targeting. It allows you to specify exactly what you want and where you want it, but once you finish specifying, is there is anything left?

In advertising, targeting is a valuable tool that helps advertisers not waste their dollars. It is inherently designed to help them connect with their desired audience quickly and efficiently. Without it, advertisers would spend countless amounts reaching everyone with the hope of resonating with a few. However, too much targeting, like online dating, can lead to narrow and fruitless results.

A more fruitful exercise is to determine the bare minimum of what’s required. Is your product strictly for women? Fine. Are stores located in the NYC Metro area only? Fine. Does your product marketing research demonstrate that it works best for women 18 to 35? Fine. These targeting parameters all make sense and are easily accomplished in most mediums, including audio. But what often happens next is a series of assumptions that narrow the scope of the campaign and limit your prospective customer pool.

For example, a company sells yoga pants in wildly colored prints in a style that clearly appeals to younger women. They have several stores in NYC so targeting women, 18 to 35 in the NYC area makes perfect sense. What about going a step further and targeting a specific streaming radio station? A specific time of day? Is that necessary? I say no, not until that audience proves itself to convert at a high rate. A far better tool for determining the right audience is what I will dub “Target Lite + Optimization.” What this means is we start with the basics of targeting – the fundamentals we addressed (e.g. age, gender, location). From there, we run several campaigns in a number of venues and closely monitor performance to determine which channels are working well. Does a particular podcast have a crowd who loves yoga pants and flocks to your stores? Are pure-play music listeners converting between 5PM and 9PM (gym time)? Great! It’s time to invest more money there. But we have to start broad and then narrow. This is especially important when advertising in a new medium.

In order to do this – Target Lite + Optimization – advertisers need to work with companies who don’t just drop their ad dollars in a channel and wait for the campaign to end, but rather monitor spend closely, making fine-tuned adjustments based on the campaign, messaging and call to action. There are a lot of nuances to this process and it’s best done by professionals. Good thing we’re here to help.

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