Big Data will Change Advertising Forever

bigdataI had several meetings today with friends from “traditional digital agencies”. [Aside] That sounds so oxymoronic! The reality is that this new course of big data, gleaned from a wealth of unstructured information on the web, has the ability to turn advertising on its head–– at least enough to make media people rethink algorithms for maximizing performance.

Coming from the ad world, I have seen the banner ad rise and fall in a span of 7 years. The value of search marketing (PPC) has had its heyday and now even some of the search pundits are realizing an eventual downturn. Consider this quote from Adam Torkildson, one of the top SEO Consultants in the country who was quoted in this Forbes Article, “The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content” who said,

“Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in 2 years.”

A large part of this statement lies in the the fact that expectations of consumers have changed. In advertising. In content. In brand engagement. Social content is what largely makes up Google’s search algorithm: relevance, recency. What this entails? Shares, comments and reviews.

I would argue that another factor will unseed Paid Search as providing a more relevant prospect framework: social data insights.

The Traditional Ad Model: User profiles

Think back. Acquisition targeting parameters were dictated by marketers. Marketers did the consumer research, mainly expensive focus group testing with questions that largely served to benefit the “business”, structured and moderated by the “business” and highly subject to group-think. To top it off, this “focus” group would provide the basis of “representation” of the target customer, so the results of the research were leveraged to inform the targeting strategy. So… my point: the research conducted was subject to false assumptions, questionable methodology and a strong reliance on the outcomes.

Now, these outcomes provided the demographic profile of the target customer, which was fed into the media buy. User profiles dictated where, when and the type of offer or content was served. At that time there were mediocre optimization opportunities.

The More Sophisticated Ad Model: Behavioural targeting

I was fortunate enough to work for Hunter Madsen, the Yahoo! guru who led the team that developed Behavioural Targeting for our company back in early-to-mid 2005. We were in awe as Hunter explained the mechanics of targeting users within the network, based on where they’d been, what content they consumed, what they searched for… also taking into consideration their geography, demographics and alignment with the target profile. Aileen Hernandez Halpenny, a friend who heads up Rocket Fuel in Canada, reminded me of the “smart ads” — the dynamic ad units that would be served up to you based on geography, profile, search propensity etc. These were seemingly intuitive ads that knew the right offer for you at the right time. Simply put, “Optimize each ad for each user — right down to hyper-targeted local offers — so that you can drive your objectives, from awareness to conversion.”

Now, combine that with ad retargeting that cookies a user and serves up a similar ad when they show up elsewhere in the network. Now we’re talking relevance. No longer do we have to rely on latent conversion and assume that an ad I saw 10 days ago contributed to my online purchase of that same product. Retargeting takes out that guesswork.

The Future Ad Model: Enter Social Data

Now imagine if you had the best of both worlds: behavioural data AND conversation data. Case in point: So Mary Brown searches for information about a future trip to Halifax, NS. She also goes to travel sites, reads hotel reviews and has excitedly spoken to close friends on Twitter and Facebook about her plans and preparations. Now we have not only recent behavioural activity where she’s been on the internet, but we also are aware of her conversations that validate her behaviour. It is safe to assume that Mary will “definitely” be going to Halifax. Imagine what this information does for a travel company? They now have MORE information on that user that will allow them to not only serve an ad, or respond to that user with relevant offers, but DO so with a certain degree of confidence that Mary, will, at the very least click on the ad.

What excites me about social data is that it does the job of the marketer, for the marketer. No longer do we have to guess about “who” is right for our product. The conversation data alone is enough to verify the right target audience. But, coupled with recent/past web behaviour, the two variables will increase response lift significantly.

Caution: this may be a game changer but the way the advertiser needs to treat the user must also change. Ads, for the most part, have becomes irrelevant. Even Facebook is realizing that low Click-throughs (CTRs) on sponsored stories is not enough to drive conversion. They are now relying on “impression-based” ads ie “I saw the ad” vs. “I clicked on the ad” to determine whether this can be attribution factor with conversion.

How do traditional media people feel about this? An ad ops person put it this way: “Conversation data may yield us potentially top 20 people who have a higher propensity to buy. Is this enough? The client wants more volume.”
…to which I responded,

“Social data allows you to target to very niche groups — the tighter the targeting the better. After all would you rather have a much higher response rate, spending less on advertising, targeting a more finite group than doing a blanket campaign across a larger volume with a standard .15% CTR? ”

The value of social data is the amplification value and allowing social strategies for outreach to augment the ad performance. This results in BOTH a higher response rate as well as word-of-mouth effects. It also allows the marketer to spend more wisely and opens the door to developing sustaining relationships with the consumer.

…. after all, why should our work as marketers get any harder!

Personal Branding comes to Infographics: Introducing @Piktochart

So, it was time to update the CV and I passed on my mundane 8-page resume to a recruiter. It read like a book, and anyone even wanting to know about me would not even get passed the first page. The recruiter was blunt and told me I was in dire need of a major clean-up on my resume. I would have to hire a professional resume builder or somehow figure out how to maximize my profile–on my own.

Then I ran into a friend, @carmineporco who directed me to a site called Piktochart. So, I thought especially for those archaic recruiters who don’t go to LinkedIn, and still need to see the standard CV, this is a great way to spice up your profile: your CV in pictures.

Piktochart is a really simple interface: It’s all drag and drop. You can upload images, choose from many different templates that include cool charts and graphics. It’s perfect for people, like me, who have no real design experience. Edit and save your work online and download it as a .PNG file. Try it out for free.  You get 5 different templates to choose from and are only limited to 5 image uploads. Plus, you’re mandated to include the Pictochart watermark. But for $29 per month, you get 80+ themes, unlimited image uploads, better customization and the option to exclude the watermark.

Take a look at my CV below. This one took me about 8 hours – only because I was picky about the colours and how I wanted to present the information. Try it out! It’s awesome!

Mentos Campaign Proves the Value of Consumer Generated Branding

It’s becoming more commonplace to see campaigns that leverage the strength of the consumer’s viewpoint and deliver a spectacular product from a grassroots view. Mentos is among those that has succeeded in this realm.

Yonge-Dundas Square on August 13 was a scene of fun in the sun, with giant slides, gladiator challenges, and hilarious Sumo wrestling competitions. This was an adult fun park, conceived by Toronto resident, Danielle Lamarche, winner of the 2009 Mentos Campaign, “Make your World Go Rounder“.

Cossette was the agency responsible for this campaign. The premise: Make Your World Go Rounder was meant to be light-hearted and fun, and make Canadians smile by reminding them about life’s simple pleasures. According to Alison Neil of Cossette, “In the competitive and cluttered gum market we wanted to bring attention to a product feature of Mentos Gum, their roundness (the only round gum on the market), hence “make your world go rounder… we certainly consider this campaign to be non-traditional. We decided to develop an experiential/User Generated Content campaign to engage consumers, develop a dialogue with them and enhance their brand experience.”

Danielle Lamarche, who received a cash prize of $5000 summed up the day this way: “The event was extremely well received. An unbelievable amount of people came to the fun park. It was so well set up and had blow up games that even adults loved to participate in. It was steady all day and fairly long lines actually began to form after 6pm.”

Lamarche’s winning response : “Put up an Adult Fun Park in Dundas Square with blow up slides and more. We all want to be kids again!” Says Lamarche, “I really wanted to give a suggestion that would be something adults could do to let loose. I knew that it also had to the affordable and executable. It also needed to be an idea that could be Mentos Gum branded. I always watch out of the corner of my eye when kids play on the blow up toys these days and wish I was still able to do it as well. I’m sure many other adults feel that way so why not give them a chance to do it for a day?”

What does she think of the Mentos brand now? She sees a brand that tries to encourage positive thinking. “A lot of the responses that I saw were about giving to others, donations to charity, and making a mass audience happy. … People want to be happy and want to see the world become a better place. We’ve come to a time now where people are becoming much more aware of what is going on in the world and I think it’s important for brands to be aware and responsive to it.”

The campaign focus was the website: (www.makeyourworldgorounder.ca and http://www.pourquevotremondetourneplusrond.ca) but was heavily supported by out of home, transit, radio and web advertising. The latter also included social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to support the contest, communicate the new line of products, begin developing brand loyalty, and help with Mentos Gum SEO.

The response to the contest was overwhelming. Close to 20,000 idea submissions in Canada were received.
According to Neill, “We feel that we’ve accomplished our goals of increasing brand awareness and communicating that Mentos Gum is a great, fun product that is close to consumers.”

In using consumer generated content to help fuel conversation, Neill agrees that UGC (User-generated content) works. Says Neill, especially ” when you listen to your consumers, participate in the dialogue and give back to them. We are big believers in experiential marketing at Cossette.”

I love my Moo

What do you get relatives for Christmas who have spent many years accumulating everything under the sun? Who want for nothing in particular? And who don’t fancy any of the new electronic gadgets or games that technology offers?

I stopped guessing and realized that what most grandparents (I am assuming ages 65+) want is time in a bottle: the luxury of capturing precious moments and recording them and keeping them forever. We have the luxury of having a close family so we spend a lot of time together. But there are so many recorded moments, but not enough picture frames, and little time to print and stuff them all in photo albums.

So this year I decided on something different: I have always loved Moo and their unique concept in business cards. They’ve always been a conversation piece when I’ve distributed mine, and consequently, I’ve been able to create Moo-converts in the process. So, when the Mosaic frame came out, I went to town and started going through all my digital photos and picking out the perfect pictures to fill up the frame.  The grandparents just loved it because it captures all the important events that happened this year — all in one frame.

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I saw a bunch of other ways people have used these Moo cards.  Here’s another one I love: It’s from LUZIEyear. Just fab. Thanks Moo!

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