Folks Couldn’t Bypass Ads Written into a TV Show

2014 03 29   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

At a time when more and more people are recording television programs and, upon viewing, fast-forwarding past the commercials, The Atlantic caught my attention with this article about the potential for advertising within TV shows.

The article gives us some truly valuable data, examining viewer and revenue trends and postulating what the trend lines mean.

While reading it, I thought: “Okay, so now we’ve got an element of native advertising that transcends mere product placement and offers advertisers an extraordinary value if their products can make the jump to relevance in a show.”

This has the potential to be far more powerful than any other form of native advertising being used or even contemplated.

Pay-Per-Call Isn’t New or Flashy - Just Effective

2014 03 29   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

I came across this interview with Drew Thorne-Thomsen, vice president of Business Development & Partnerships at Invoca. Here is someone who understands the power of garbage in, garbage out, and has chosen to embrace and endorse offline pay per call the way Higher Power Marketing has been doing it for nearly 15 years.

More importantly, he has helped blaze the trail for those who follow to understand that conversions from high-quality pay-per-call media (either offline, or highly sanitized online sources) are significantly better than ordinary online advertising.

Of particular importance is the fact that his range of 2 percent-to-3 percent conversions for online advertising is for the absolute best, blue-sky conversions, while his 15 percent estimate for pay-per-call is on the lower end.

In our experience, we have online clients coming to HPM for help who have experienced online conversions of less than 1 percent. When they use our pay-per-call systems, they regularly experience 18 percent-to-22 percent conversions.

The value of pay per call vs. online advertising is extraordinary!

Amazon’s Volley Buries Samsung’s Serve

2014 03 29   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Much news from the world of Internet radio in the past week: First, Samsung debuted a service it says is better than Pandora and Spotify; then Amazon was reported to be adding its own music-streaming service.

I think competition is a great catalyst for constant improvement, with the consumer being the long-term winner.

But the timing of Amazon’s move – coming after Samsung decided to enter the market – effectively reduces Samsung’s service to near irrelevance. Don’t get me wrong. Samsung will likely capture as much as 2 percent-to-3 percent market share – but that’s not its mission, so it’s kind of a deflator of the South Korean giant’s ambition. I hope it has more in its strategic plan than it’s sharing with us right now.

With the real possibility of Amazon’s music-streaming service on the near horizon, I foresee it taking market share from Pandora and Spotify. People who are Amazon fans and Prime users but listen to Spotify or Pandora are likely to abandon the latter in favor of Amazon’s superior-formatted service as a part of their Prime memberships.

Beneficial Give & Take Was Hallmark of Response Expo

2014 05 05   Peter Feinstein   Trade Show    

Our annual pilgrimage to Response Expo was once again an exceptional business success! Far and away, the overall sentiment I experienced from the people I ran into was for our mutual ongoing success, along with hope that we’d find solutions to some of the challenges we’re facing in keeping our clients’ conversion rates up and growing.

While many with whom I spoke had experienced downturns in response rates to broadcast and cable TV, several people had, like me, been actively looking for ways to accurately attribute any kind of sales or investigation activity to the top-of-the-waterfall action that a DR TV message created. At Higher Power Marketing, we’ve actually found a couple of different methods to be successful in recapturing between 13 percent and 18 percent of the response-rate decline we’ve seen hit the industry in the past two years. We shared what we know with those willing to listen – which was just about everyone.

In addition to the technology that allows our clients to accurately see what’s happening from offline media to elements of online activity, we also helped at least one major mobile network see how using our open-source “Press-5” technology can be a significant profit center as long as they follow our standards for implementation. We’ll see how that develops.

Response Expo also helped us set the bar on new-client development, with several new offers that we’ll be taking on in the next 30 days.

It was a very exciting show, for the time that I was able to be there. I cut short my stay because my wife became very sick Tuesday night. It’s always family first, so I found my way home Wednesday to take care of the true love of my life. She’s better, after a few very scary moments; I’m so very thankful for everyone’s kind wishes!

HPM Glossary - Warm Transfer

2014 06 17   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

Warm Transfer - a customer service process in which a call center operator ends a customer inquiry by asking if the caller is interested in hearing about a related product. The caller answers “yes”, the operator dials the call center handling the related product, briefs the operator there about the caller and then connects the two. That saves the caller from having to explain his or her situation all over again to the second operator.

Still Feeling Out ROI for Online, Social-Media Ads

2014 07 11   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

I’ve come across a spate of articles looking at the effectiveness of online and social-media advertising. The growth of these platforms has outpaced the ability to measure responses, making it virtually impossible to get an accurate gauge of return on investment (ROI).

There are many folks offering suggestions, but most of those are self-serving. The stories below take more of a “big picture” approach to the issue. Here are my thoughts:

We Have No Idea If Online Ads Work (Slate) – Don’t buy into the hype of the internet and its wonks. One passage captures the essence for me: “In 2013, Randall Lewis of Google and Justin Rao of Microsoft released the paper ‘On the Near Impossibility of Measuring the Returns on Advertising.’ In it, they analyzed the results of 25 different field experiments involving digital ad campaigns, most of which reached more than 1 million unique viewers.” The gist: Consumer behavior is so erratic that even in a giant, careful trial, it’s devilishly difficult to arrive at a useful conclusion about whether advertisements work.”

Changing the Channel: Why Programmatic Isn’t Ready to Deliver What Brand Marketers Want (Advertising Age) – This item makes several salient points, the most important of which is that the standard online ad-delivery vehicles are largely held in contempt by users. Thus, they aren’t going to deliver value on the brand dollars spent – essentially falling on dead ears and blind eyes.

Facebook, Twitter ads have little sway on purchases, Gallup says (Silicon Valley Business Journal) and Why Brands Don’t Respond on Social Media (Social Times) – It’s all about humans trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In social media, it’s still a roll of the dice. It’s crucial to test – over and over – to identify what works.

There are so many choices out there, not only technologically but also strategically, that it seems a waste of time to prescribe or latch onto any broad approach. Every advertiser needs to focus on his or her message and target audience and then find an approach that meets those goals.

Successful Advertising Targets Audiences’ Interests

2014 07 14   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

One of the keys to creating successful adverting is to look at a potential message from the perspective of the intended audience. The needs of the sender may have little relevance to the recipient. For a message to be accepted and digested, it must appeal to its audience.

Put another way: If you want to influence people, don’t piss them off. Unfortunately, that is just what many online and social-media ads do.

When an ad interferes in a conversation between friends, the results are uniformly lower. It’s because human psychology resents and revolts against its friendships being interrupted.

A couple of recent articles look at how this applies on different platforms:

Why Twitter’s Buy-Now Button Won’t Be a Gravy Train for Brands (Advertising Age) – Many advertisers commit the faux pas of allowing simplistic social media sites to present them as unwelcome interruptions to users’ conversations – a social gaffe for social media. Instead, advertisers should find an agency that can help them become friends with these networks’ users. Otherwise, their efforts will simply be more blather and failure.

Readers Often Don’t Trust or Understand ‘Sponsored Content,’ Survey Finds (Public Relations Tactics) – This is the fault of platforms that use terms such as “sponsored content” instead of simply calling ads what they are. Clearly, they are afraid that, if they tell the truth, users will reject their ads just as they do banner ads. It’s brilliantly stupid to misrepresent oneself while taking advertisers’ money and exacerbating the sense of distrust consumers have toward online pitches.

It really doesn’t matter what online or social-media platform you use. If you want your ad have even a chance of success, look at things from the recipient’s point of view. It’s not about you!

US Is In Slow Lane on Information SuperhighwayForbes.com recently posted an item to its Tech blog he

2014 07 23   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

Forbes.com recently posted an item to its Tech blog headlined: “Using A Second Screen While Watching TV Is The New Normal.” It said 56 percent of Americans use a smartphone, laptop or tablet while watching television – more than the global average but far less than folks in most Asian countries. While some might cite cultural differences, I believe the answer lies in technological infrastructure.

It comes down to bandwidth and connectivity speed. Americans are hamstrung by this country’s pathetic internet-service providers (ISPs), which dribble the world’s slowest connection speeds while marketing it as “high-speed.” High speed compared to what … dial-up? You bet. The rest of the connected world? Not even close.

Americans are in a class by themselves, paying the most money for the least service and speed. The fact that 56 percent are accessing second or multiple screens with such slow connections should be fair warning to the ISPs that just one forward-thinking company could own the market if it simply rolled out light-speed connectivity to more than a few beta-test markets. It will happen; and when it does, the cable and DSL companies will simply fade away.

Hey Twitter, Don’t Let a Client Ruin A Good Idea

2014 08 11   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Twitter is launching an advertising option called “Flock to Unlock,” the website AllTwitter reported. According to writer Lauren Dugan, “The idea is to ‘unlock’ a deal only when a certain number of followers retweet a particular message.”

I love the idea. But …

For the launch, Twitter is partnering with sportswear company Puma as part of Puma’s “Forever Faster” campaign. The unlockable content, Dugan writes, is a set of TV ads that Puma’s fans can watch two days ahead of their TV airing.

Really? If that’s the best the folks at Puma could do, and Twitter approved it, then both parties are nuts. Sorry, let me explain:

The idea of participating in a retweeting barrage to simply see a commercial two days before it airs on TV is stupid. There, I said it. It’s stupid. There is literally NO reason to Flock to Unlock for Puma — to be able to watch a TV commercial two days before it airs on national TV presents no value proposition to the consumer.

My best guess on the campaign’s prospects? In a sane world, there would be a huge backlash from tweeters, calling out both Twitter and Puma for their sheer stupidity. But I witness enough insanity every day that I can’t discount the potential success of this inane idea.

A note to Twitter: Next time a company approaches you with the desire to latch onto your Flock to Unlock, demand that they offer something of value to the consumer. Don’t ever sell yourselves out for something that has no value.

And my note to Puma: You couldn’t come up with anything better? Perhaps offer everyone who retweets a chance in a sweepstakes to win two pairs of Pumas — one to wear and one autographed by your sponsored athletes. It’s a “no brainer” and would guarantee huge participation. It would unlock social media value and generate some significant brand power. In order to move up the food chain, Puma has to do better.

Sketchy ‘Native’ Ad Will Alienate Consumers

2014 08 12   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

So-called native advertising is back in the spotlight following a viral rant by John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. Check it out if you haven’t already. Not only is it really funny, he also does a good job of defining the issue.

There is nothing new about native advertising except the terminology. It has been around for decades – in print (advertorials) and radio/TV (infomercials) – placed like content but clearly advertising.

Under the term native advertising, online advertisers and publishers are throwing everything they can think of against the wall to see what sticks. Sadly, the reason there is so much fuss about native advertising online is because many advertisers push the envelope in disguising this form of advertising as editorial content.

Practitioners of native advertising are trying to have it both ways: Creating advertising that look as much like editorial content as possible while, at the same time, asserting that they aren’t trying to deceive the consumer.

There are no industry standards regarding display or wording online. It’s up to the consumer to recognize what is advertising. And a recent survey from Contently, a startup that connects brands with content writers, found that, while most publishers assume that readers know what it means when a post is labeled “Sponsored Content,” consumers don’t really make the distinction, so they go about their merry way, thinking, incorrectly, that they’re reading fact, when it’s really fiction.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. There is such a thing as “commerce with a conscience,” and I am a big believer in it. There is no profit in alienating customers, whether you’re making deceptive claims or merely showing up where you’re not wanted.

That same survey from Contently found that:
Good advertising doesn’t annoy its target audience. And nothing appears to irritate online users, especially on social networks, than advertising that looks so much like content that it is virtually indistinguishable. Doing that is the surest way to get torched – wasting the time, effort and money you put into the ad and the buy. I’m not saying all native advertising is deceptive or evil, but before you decide to go that route, I suggest you be absolutely certain that the ad content is value-rich and clearly identified.

  • • Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
  • • 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
  • • 59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
  • • As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.

A recent Yahoo Advertising item about how to do native advertising correctly highlighted native mobile ads that Pantene recently placed in The Weather Channel app. Along with the standard weather stats for a particular location, the app also offered “Today’s Haircast” – a fun way to bring abstract data down to earth.

At some point, genuine online news platforms are going to require that content advertising be labeled as such in order to save any vestige of credibility they have. Clean and easy. Those who resist will do so because they’re more interested in making money than being open and honest.

Media Giants Treat Print Like Yesterday’s News

2014 08 26   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

A number of large media conglomerates – including onetime industry titans such as Gannett, News Corp., E.W. Scripps, Tribune Co. and Time Warner – made headlines earlier this month by spinning off their newspapers into separate companies from their broadcast and online operations.

“The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street,” David Carr wrote in The New York Times. “For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is being kicked to the curb.”

From Wall Street’s perspective, it seems most lucrative for these media behemoths to divest themselves of their print anchors, letting them survive (or not) on their own rather than keeping them buried within the financials of the larger company.

Looking at the most recent profit-and-loss statements from the companies that already have undergone this transition, such Time Warner, the print side is all but hemorrhaging money while the broadcast and digital businesses are vastly more profitable. It must be so much more so, in fact, that the additional taxes and other expenses aren’t big enough to deter the splits.

Carr writes that nothing wrong with this in a fundamental sense: “A free-market economy is moving to reallocate capital to its more productive uses, which happens all the time. Ask Kodak. Or Blockbuster.”

Perhaps the bigger question is why this is even news. Newspapers have been on the ropes since the arrival of 24-hour broadcast networks. They can’t match the speed with which news is spread via the Internet. The newspapers that show up on our driveways each morning are literally yesterday’s news, and they lack the analysis and insight to compensate for that time lag. It seems as if irrelevance has become the basis of the business model.

I think the prospects for the spun-off newspaper companies are bleak unless editors and publishers choose put on a new pair of glasses, examine their daily output and find a way to make something in print relevant, even if it’s a day late. I’m certain the formula is out there, but it’s going to take a creative genius to find it and deliver it. I don’t know if they’re up to the task.

Political Ads Get Granular, Squeeze Out Local Buyers

2014 08 28   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

It’s the silly season for political advertising, which has serious supply-and-demand implications for media buyers.

As The New York Times reported in an item headlined Candidates Dip Their Toes in Summer Advertising Pool, it we’re seeing widespread expansion of local candidate and issue-oriented media buys. This can be a mixed blessing: Media outlets score revenue windfalls from campaign ads, but regular advertisers may be priced out of the market. Meanwhile, consumers suffer through months of inane chirping.

One thing I’ve noticed is the spending on do-called down-ballot races – local contests that usually draw little interest. I live in Phoenix and have been surprised by the amount of advertising in the race for the Arizona Corporation Commission. Similarly, a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article highlighted increased spending on judicial races.

Two years ago, I recommended that advertisers priced out of their regular platforms during election seasons look to online-radio platforms for relief. But this year political advertisers are heading there as well: “Pandora Knows How to Cash In on Nasty Politics. So this time around I suggest looking to their advertising agencies for guidance on which weeks to buy, and which weeks to avoid. And be prepared to have some of your spots bumped and made-good in another week. If your schedule is dependent on every spot running as ordered, you may find yourself pushed aside by political and PAC money. It’s a sad state of affairs, the solution to which is for each of us to express ourselves in unison to our representatives.

FB Ads Offer Illusion of Engagement, But Not ROI

2014 09 09   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

A recent article on the technology website VentureBeat – “For many brands, social media ‘conversations’ are only whispers” – buttressed my long-held skepticism about advertising on social media.

Basically, there is no engagement – no path to ROI for advertisers.

And the explanation, according to VentureBeat? “A central reason for the minute engagement is that so little of a brand’s message is getting through Facebook’s relevance algorithm.”

How little? Only about 16 percent of a brand’s fans actually see its advertising.

If you use an absurdly small response estimate of just 2/10 of 1 percent, and a brand has 10,000 fans (very few have anywhere near that number), the absolute best-performing Facebook ad would yield some kind of engagement with 20 people.

But wait, I forgot! Only 16 percent of those 10,000 fans are actually going to receive the ad in their news feeds, so the potential for engagement falls to 3.2 people.

Take heed. While spending money on Facebook has become a common practice, it offers no practical pathway to profit.

Elvis May Be Everywhere, But Ad Campaigns Can’t Be

2014 09 19   Peter Feinstein   Trade Show    

My main takeaway from the Electronic Retailing Association’s D2C Convention in Las Vegas this week is the omnipresence of the buzzword “omniscreen.” The direct-response (DR) advertising industry has become obsessively focused on the term, which refers to the need for an advertiser to be everywhere a consumer could possibly see, hear, touch, taste or otherwise experience it.

While I understand the desire and motivation, it’s both unrealistic and absurd to think one can be everywhere and reach everyone. Given the conference’s location, it calls to mind Mojo Nixon’s satirical 1987 tune “Elvis is Everywhere.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knc9LKjukSQ

Successful media has always been about evaluating spending vs. return on investment (ROI), but the fragmentation of consumer media consumption has created a dangerous shift in beliefs at the client and agency level that it’s essential to be everywhere, or a campaign will be dismissed as insufficient, defective and unworthy – therefore a failure. Poppycock and balderdash! The idea that an advertiser must be everywhere in order to succeed is as absurd as it is impossible to achieve.

Now, if someone wants to take a stand and offer the idea that omniscreen presence is a lofty end, worth pursuing, I might agree with that – as long as it’s accompanied by the understanding that even with access to very expensive “big data” it still isn’t going to be possible to fully achieve. We have to become willing to experience progress, not perfection. And in so doing, as advertising agencies, we actually help talk our clients off the proverbial ledge, and offer them the sense of reason, proportion, sanity and stability they’re seeking from us.

The diversity of media and expansion and fragmentation of advertising platforms makes the notion of achieving this omniscreen nirvana insane.

Ad Platforms Must Produce Proven Results

2014 10 13   Peter Feinstein   Per Inquiry Advertising    

Charlie Rutman, executive vice president and managing partner at Horizon Media, uttered one of the smartest things anyone has said about media:

“The future of media will be about delivering business outcomes, not media outputs. Media delivery measurements are fine, but only if they produce business results.”(MediaPost)

The bottom line is so simple for any media: Perform (i.e., demonstrate actual value) or go away. All the amazing gyrations the technology-driven Millennials are attempting to sell the rest of humanity are garbage.

Notice to the media: I don’t care how many people you reach, what depth of data you have, the algorithms you wheel out or what the click-through rate is; if it doesn’t make our clients money, you don’t get their business.

Big brands may waste their unmeasured soft money on this kind of tripe. But when it comes down to having to prove performance, we’re absolutely rabid about protecting our clients’ interests – and in our experience, digital doesn’t come close to delivering dollars compared with any offline media. ANY.

Be Ahead of the Curve

2014 10 15   Peter Feinstein   Per Inquiry Advertising    

I found some powerfully salient points in a recent post headlined “The New Realities of Advertising Costs” – from a blog that caters to folks who work in the non-profit world.

The most compelling of which is the idea that product marketers must accept the reality that the market will determine their relevance. This is Truth with a capital “T.”

We’ve had clients tell us they wanted more call volume, telling us that as soon as call volume goes up they’ll pay us more per call. Sadly for them, the winner’s logic is the inverse of their perspective. The product marketer who understands there are far more products chasing dramatically fewer available slots – in radio, for example – will be at the forefront of the process, asking how much they must pay to maintain or increase their response rates. They understand the process, and know that safeguarding marketshare, with the potential for increasing it, only comes at paying more per call than the competition, who is most typically ready to jump in and steal what the leaders are unwittingly willing to give away.

The smartest marketers out there are the ones who understand that they can actually lead the market, setting the bar for what is relevant, and make the market follow them. The answer is to lead!

Targeted Local TV Ad Buys Could Boost Efficiency

2014 10 20   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Earlier this week, MediaPost published two articles about what it calls “the most significant development yet to bring programmatic media-buying to local broadcast television.”

Here are the links:
On the surface, this looks like a pretty nifty use of technology.

I had lunch recently with the general manager of a major cable operation. His informed commentary on local TV was that it remains very transaction-oriented – a real paper-shuffle in which programming changes tie up sales staffs selling, shuffling and reselling advertising slots to accommodate clients’ preferences for time or program. Sounds like a nightmare to me – and to him, which is why he went back to cable.

Should Wide Orbit’s system succeed in tapping the actual inventory of open slots, rather than what a sales department says is available, it has the potential to cut out the middlemen – salespeople who think they can better manage and maximize inventory. This would streamline the process for both stations and media buyers.

The opportunity to reduce paperwork and boost efficiency at the local level would be powerfully attractive. We’ll see what the advertising community and its clients say after the WideOrbit platform been implemented and tested a bit.

Developing Metrics is a Deliberate Process

2014 10 21   Peter Feinstein   Per Inquiry Advertising    

I was reminded recently that what I take for granted to be common knowledge is really not so common – and that I shouldn’t make assumptions when I speak with people who call Higher Power Marketing for help.

What I’m talking about is how we establish metrics for performance advertising – also known variously as pay-per-call, cost-per-action, direct-response and per-inquiry (PI) advertising. Since I live in that world 24/7, I sometimes forget that most people don’t know how we establish success or failure of a product or service offering.

It’s all about testing client copy/creative on reliable media to learn what works – and, more importantly, what doesn’t. The process is simple and repeatable, with easy-to-interpret results that show whether to advance a client into pay-per-call advertising or guide him or her in another direction. To get to these metrics, we test – both the front end of a campaign (i.e., the client’s creative) and the back end (the client’s call center or web-sales solution), so we can get a complete cost and revenue picture.

On the front end, we do what’s called an A/B Test; that is, we test two different creatives on identical media over a two-week period (one week each) to study the inbound call activity. After the two weeks, we look at everything from calls per run to calls per outlet, calls per schedule and calls per dollar spent. We also study call length on each variable. By the time we’ve looked at all the inbound-call data, we have a very clear idea of which piece of copy performs better.

Thus, we’re able to establish very solid and reliable measures of inbound performance. How do we know they’re reliable? Our selection of paid media is based upon more than a decade of experience in weekly ad spending. This helps factor out the wobbles, flatten out the extreme highs and lows of response rates, and set a clear benchmark for measuring client creatives.

Then we do an about-face and sit with client representatives in their sales center. We re-examine everything to get a full picture of how the sales system’s conversions affect the front end. From this vantage point, we know the revenue per call, the client’s break-even point, the profit margin and the super-profit point. By developing the full picture, we’re able to offer our clients a clear path to predictable growth and profit. We know very quickly whether to recommend continuing cash buying, moving to pay-per-call media or integrating the two.

Observing the back end often reveals ways to improve conversions with tweaks to the call-center scripting. It’s also common for us to identify a weakness in the offering to which we can make minute changes on the front end that yield incremental sales on the back end! It’s a fair amount of work, and we’re very careful with the process – especially in evaluating what happens on the client’s back end, because that’s where the profit that drives the offer is made.

And that brings us full circle. My recent wake-up call was from a prospective client who wanted to know if he could run a paid campaign with us to arrive at pay-per-call metrics, while at the same time paying us as if the media was placed on a pay-per-call basis. When I asked him what he wanted to pay per call, the answer was “$25.” I asked how he arrived at that figure, thinking that perhaps the company already had reliable metrics in place. The answer, which shocked me, was: “I don’t know. It just seems like a nice round number.”

I was shocked, because I’d just assumed he understood the process of setting metrics. I realized that we had to alter that “nice round number” thinking and replace it with firm, reliable, tested numbers that offered true insight into the relationship between media spend and profit.

Whenever HPM undertakes such testing, we remind the client not to go into it with the idea of being profitable. We explain that client will get something far more valuable than a few dollars on a small media spend: real-world, highly actionable data on the creative and media that can be used to leverage data week after week – whether it’s in paid media, pay-per-call advertising or a combination of the two. Without testing, ‘nice round number’ is all you have. That’s unsafe at any spend.

This column was first published by Response Magazine, October 2014 issue: http://www.response-digital.com/response/201410/m3/Page.action?pg=48

Annoying, Yes, But Political Ads Good for Economy

2014 10 27   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

With Election Day less then two weeks off, the cacophony of political advertising is deafening – almost mind numbing. Still, I can’t dispute Forbes’ assertion that, “Campaign Spending Freedom Is Great For Speech and The Advertising-Media Sector.” I understand the power associated with creating a non-connected Super PAC and how it can do some remarkable things to ignite the economy, as well as enhance our freedom of speech.

CNBC eyes a single platform in “Political Ads Flood Pandora Before Mid-Terms.” I like the depth of this article, which covers several different perspectives. The one that often gets overlooked is consumer reactivity.

Early in my career, I had the good fortune of being mentored by Chuck DeBare of ABC Radio. He often quipped that they did an enormous amount of research to find out what annoyances might cause people to change their station … and they sought to avoid that at all costs. Wise words from back in the day that still ring true!

My Impression? Ad Buyer Beware

2014 11 14   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Online properties are betting that an impression is an impression is an impression – or, more simply: All impressions are equal. But that isn’t the case.

There may be as many definitions of what constitutes a payable impression on digital video as there are potential places to see a digital video ad. Okay, so I know I’m exaggerating, but the reality is that there is the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s definition – which to me looks like online robbery but carries some weight – and then other definitions that range from:
All of this is a backdrop to this acquisition (“Yahoo Acquires BrightRoll For $640 Million To Strengthen Programmatic Video Advertising”). Yahoo’s adaptation of the IAB’s definition is certain to generate a significant stream of revenue … as long as the impressions produce return on investment (ROI) somewhere down the line.

  • one-half of the video screen visible to the consumer while the video auto-starts; to
  • several high-value sites that require the user to manually start the video and watch it to its conclusion.

But I don’t believe all impressions are created equal. And for my clients’ money, I’m not willing to pay for impressions that aren’t really there.

Access to ’Net Not a Partisan Matter

2014 11 18   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

If you saw a headline last week along the lines of “Obama calls on FCC to toughen proposed net-neutrality rules,” here’s the deal:

Telecoms, left to their own devices without any oversight or accountability, will play rough with everyone who wants access to the Internet because – and you have to accept this because it is the truth – they believe they own it. They actually try to cite case law that, in a roundabout way, might suggest that broadband is an information service, not just access to information. That’s really as complicated as this gets.

If you think any provider of access to the Internet via a high-speed connection actually owns the rights to the information its service provides, then you likely believe there is no province for any sort of regulation. But if you view their broadband-connection services as merely an accessway, like a telecommunications portal to every single data source on the Web, then you likely should be aligned with the notion of these service providers having to grant everyone equal access.

It is not a Democratic or Republican issue. If you think it is, you do not understand the process – nor what’s at stake for access and what we are charged by these companies for what already are among the world’s slowest Internet-connection speeds.

Fragmentation Hits TV Advertisers, Platforms

2014 12 01   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

You know, I’d rather just stick my head in the sand than talk about the effect data has begun to have on TV advertising, but a MediaPost article this week – “How Data Will Do To TV What the Internet Did To Computing” – got my mind on the topic again. I’ll keep my head up and, instead, just dip my big toe in the water because I don’t want to get bitten by the sharks.

Here is my take on data and its effect on TV, in viewership and advertising: It’s compromising both, making it all less valuable. We have virtually the same number of viewers consuming way more diverse video entertainment on dozens more “channels,” accessing all this stuff through a dozen or more devices. This makes ALL of them less valuable because none can claim the mass reach that broadcast and the largest cable networks still can – at least for the moment.

The general direction is toward increased fragmentation and dramatic devaluation of each media source in terms of the ability to produce a return on investment (ROI) for the advertiser. Television is in for a rough ride; it’s going to look like one big party as each new device, channel and show rolls out its advertising offerings – at least trying to do some of it programmatically – but I think that, in the end, those who continue to embrace the human-to-human experience will win the day – if not monetarily, then certainly in every other respect.

Simple Fact Is, TV Remains No. 1

2014 12 01   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

Boom! A home run by Maarten Albarda!

This post rings true because there is no hype. It’s just easy-to-understand facts. And the things he posits as his opinion are facts for him, but he leaves that open for you to integrate into your own experience.

The most telling things here are his lack of exaggeration. At nearly 100 percent penetration, television already is the standard. And with equal lack of hype, he offers the true numbers of cord-cutting and the fact that most people who are companion screening while watching TV are using the companion screen for stuff that is entirely unrelated.

I’ll add my own spin to Maarten’s piece: In preparation for an upcoming column, the research I’m doing demonstrates to me that the most successful online brands at getting venture capital are using that money to buy TV advertising. TV! The tip of the iceberg on my research shows me that the reason they’re using it is because it works at bringing them new customers, who come back over and over again

Facebook vs. Apple: Only One Offers Value to Users

2014 12 08   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg slams Apple CEO’s statement on advertising (The Next Digit)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s take on Apple and his platform is so far off base it’s kind of funny. To me, his vision has become so clouded that he can’t even see through his own delusion.

Mr. Zuckerberg actually thinks he’s entitled to collect as much user data as he can so he can convince advertisers to buy into his ineffective platform. For now, he is legally entitled to do that. But market forces will change that eventually. It’s inevitable.

But back to the article I noted above: In reality, Mr. Zuckerberg is wrong both about Apple and his own company’s entitlement. Here’s why:

  • Everyone – everyone – who buys an Apple product does so willingly, with an innate understanding of what they are doing. They know exactly what they are buying and make the conscious choice to spend their money that way. And Apple products offer every user considerable value – many would contend far beyond the money they gladly paid. I’m no Apple homer: I own some Apple products, and they are not the panacea. But, in my experience, they do work better than everything else out there. That’s value.
  • Mr. Zuckerberg’s service is free and offers no discernible value. If it did, it wouldn’t be free. That’s how business works; it’s an immutable law. Ask yourself: If Mr. Zuckerberg charged even a dollar a day for access to Facebook (about a quarter the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee), what do you think would happen? It’s likely that he would lose tens of millions of users instantly – perhaps hundreds of millions – proof positive of the absence of value.

But Facebook users are not his customers; they’re his bait to lure potential advertisers. He trades on the identities of his platform’s users through the use of carefully worded privacy policies that entitle him to co-opt key elements of every user’s identity and online browsing activity for the sole purpose of making money from his real customers. He offers no value to users, other than marginal convenience for people to talk to each other. He stands in the middle of the conversation, with the ability to control it and ostensibly sell access to very small, controlled portions of that conversation.

It’s brilliant! Genius! I honestly wish I’d have thought of it. But I would have reversed the business model: Users would have to opt-in to receive advertising. I’d only want to present advertising to users who want to receive them. It would instantly make my platform more valuable to both users and advertisers. But Facebook is what it is and, as such, Mr. Zuckerberg’s tantrum rings hollow to me. Maybe he could find better use of his time and money – like paying off the national debt?

Ad Platforms Must Reassess Meaning of ‘Impression’

2014 12 11   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

A couple of recent articles have reminded me how poorly constructed the existing metrics for online-ad impressions are – and how Internet publishers and the online world need to step it up a notch. Right now it’s still the Wild West, where only the lucky survive long enough to talk about it.

News Sites Top List of Slowest-Loading Web Pages: Ads may not appear before users move on (Adweek)

Well, the headline pretty much says it all. It’s ironic. The very things driving site design and implementation (i.e., the pursuit of money and application of technology) are holding back the very companies trying to escape the limitations imposed on them by everything that actually works well.

What we see online is a mirror of what we’ve always experienced offline: Different formats of the same media have dramatically different consumer attention spans. For example, news/talk radio has many different kinds listeners tuned in for shorter periods of time, while Classic Rock likely has fewer unique listeners who stay tuned for much longer. Same thing on TV and, obviously, online.

More Than 56% Of Ad Impressions Are Not Seen, Google Says (MediaPost)

The rub here is the notion of what constitutes an impression. The fact that advertisers actually accept the most recently updated definition: 51 percent of pixels for one second, for their campaigns is absolutely beyond me. That measurement is arbitrary, and frankly absurd. The value proposition to advertisers is less than half the price, regardless of what’s being charged; it’s too much. The only winners here are the sellers and the sites collecting their commissions from their brokers/agents. And so operating in a win-lose scenario practically guarantees that it will devolve into a lose-lose situation. Something needs to change.

A smarter definition would be at least 85 percent of the pixels viewable for at least five seconds. And if the ad is a video, then auto-starts should be automatically excluded… that isn’t an impression, it’s robbery.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but when you begin to extrapolate the results curve on this kind of a change, the pendulum moves closer to the middle between the sites and the advertisers. Value and ROI are intertwined and, right now, the value proposition online for advertisers is nearly absent.

Tech: Think Past Desired Outcomes

2014 12 15   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

There is so much to write about the unintended consequences of technology.

I love that the conversation about technology and the thinking, or lack thereof, behind it has entered our consciousnesses, and that we’re having an intelligent discussion about it. Last month, Canadian consultant Gordon Hotchkiss posted a great follow-up to an earlier commentary by New Zealand entrepreneur Kaila Cobin. He made some great points, to which I’d add some of my own relative to technology and the human experience.

Typically, human beings focus on outcomes and work assiduously to make those reality. Yet it never seems to work out just that way. There are unforeseen consequences, more so than unintended. These are things about which no thought was entertained because we – human beings, using the tiny little power of our egos – can hardly see past our own narrow thinking. Trust me, our thinking is so very little. The proof is in all the unforeseen consequence that litter our lives, so aptly described by Hotchkiss’ story about the Yir-Yoront tribe of Australia.

We do, however, manage to produce technology capable of doing far more than we can understand, and certainly more than we can manage. If we cannot see what’s coming, yet we know that the technology we deploy makes for largely unmanageable situations, shouldn’t we be spending more time thinking about its consequences, so that at least we can map out some of what might happen?

The process of actually contemplating other outcomes can be very powerful. Say we each asked ourselves the question: “Is there another possible way of looking at this?” The honest answer would have to be “yes, of course.” And that’s why we, as human beings, must do the legwork of identifying other possible consequences of the technology we so blithely roll out.

It’s All or Not for Online-Ad Viewability

2014 12 29   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) set off an industry brouhaha in mid-December when it said that 100 percent viewability is an “unreasonable” expectation for online advertisers.

“It’s never a good idea to announce what you can’t do,” blogged P.J. Bednarski for MediaPost’s Online Video Daily. “So when the [IAB] basically admitted last week that for now, a little bit of dishonesty would have to do, you could have predicted someone would object.”

That “someone” was the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), but it is not alone. Advertisers shouldn’t be charged for anything less than 100 percent. That’s how the market is set and the value proposition is established.

The IAB’s backpedaling in the face of significant advertiser blowback is a great start – and make no mistake, it is just the beginning. Look, I know I’m no big fish in the digital pond, so I’m not deluded enough to think that my postings are difference-makers, but they add to the singular voice of disgust and revolt with the IAB and those they represent.

Ad Exchanger quoted IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg saying, “It’s time to set the record straight about what is technically and commercially feasible.”

I don’t know Rothenberg, but his comments offer insight into his fear. He’s petrified, as he should be, that many large advertisers and their agencies are questioning the commercial viability of online advertising in its present state. His knee-jerk reaction of floating the 70 percent-visibility threshold is likely a calculated move designed to quell the vast majority of the complainers. Some might say, “Yeah, that’s better.” Nonsense. It’s a red herring – nothing more than a tactic designed to move the conversation away from the central issue of value to advertisers.
I was particularly disappointed by what Kevin Scholl, digital marketing director at Red Roof Inn, said of the 70 percent idea: “Honestly, it’s better than what we’re seeing and what I expected [the IAB] come in with. For the last couple years, the thing I’ve said most about buying display is that it’s like throwing money into a dark room and hoping that somebody sees you.” It sounds like he places online advertising knowing that it’s a black hole, with only a marginal hope a having someone – anyone – see it. That’s insanity, but it shines the light on just how untenable the status quo is. It’s the model that’s been tolerated, and because there’s been no organized resistance it’s flourished.

The notion that 100 percent visibility isn’t feasible is absurd, but Rothenberg and his minions offer all kinds of excuses, from format and device differences, to … actually it doesn’t matter. The fact is, there is only a very small piece of real estate involved in measurement of any online ad: the device screen being used. An ad is completely visible or it’s not. If it’s not, the advertiser shouldn’t be charged. Period. All the other blather being offered up – technical and business reasons for needing to “talk about it” – is nothing more than rationalization meant to try and shift the conversation from accountability to almost anything else.

That didn’t fool anyone.

Pressure will mount until something breaks. My prediction is that before the end of 2015, online advertising will begin to be judged more the way offline advertising is: an impression is a fully viewed ad.

IAB supporters assert that offline advertising, particularly on television, isn’t really 100 percent viewable – that people leave the room or are otherwise distracted during a commercial. That logic is both faulty and incorrect. There is no such standard for TV. Here’s the deal: Online, only 100 percent visibility is payable. Everything else is just garbage.

One other thing about online video: Autoplay constitutes nothing. If the consumer doesn’t click to watch, it’s not an impression. Autoplays must go away, and they will. Genuine value online is generated only when the consumer is actively engaged.

The people at the IAB and their ilk just don’t understand that they’ve created the lack of value in their medium. They will be held accountable for its performance or lack thereof as sellers/sites that can’t manage visibility and prevent fraud on their platforms lose advertisers, or price themselves out of the market based upon arcane, value-deficient models.

Unbundling: A Battle of Ideas, Hardware

2015 01 13   Peter Feinstein   The PI Blog    

A number of articles have been published in the last two weeks about the various options for “unbundling” of TV entertainment. Some of these stories address individual ideas in a vacuum. I’d like to discuss how they fit into the bigger picture.

To me it makes perfect sense that unbundling likely will lead to higher prices for cable subscriptions. À la carte is always a more expensive approach, whether you’re ordering food from the menu at a restaurant or options for your new car at any dealership. Onesie, twosies always turn out to be more expensive propositions than taking a package, even though the package usually gives you something you don’t really want.

Without a doubt, it is the packaging of live sports that keeps a percentage of subscribers tied to cable. The great thing about the passage of time, and new offerings such as ESPN’s no-cable streaming, is that we’ll get to see firsthand just what that percentage is.

That’s a lot of content, with an easy-access business plan. But Sling TV will have plenty of competition in the marketplace:

“Sling TV adds to the growing competition in subscription streaming services, including Hulu Plus and CBS’ All Access. Sony and other companies are expected to introduce streaming video services in 2015.”

The article also notes that Sling TV works with select Samsung and LG Electronics smart TVs, with Xbox video game consoles and a variety of streaming-TV devices by Amazon, Google, Roku and others. As yet, there is no standard hardware for steaming. Providers have their own approaches, often the result of existing business relationships.

As long as Netflix uses an objective set of criteria, so its recommendations have a uniform baseline, this could be a very useful service. If gaining access to this service comes free with any Netflix subscription, it would be an additional benefit to the company’s subscriber base, and might be enough of a benefit to attract new subscribers, in which case they’ve expanded their potential customer universe to anyone with an interest in finding the best stuff to watch on video. That’s a pretty compelling place to stand!

What This Means for Advertisers

For advertisers, the continued fragmentation of video is going to have at least two dynamics:

  1. 1. Devaluation of the worth of each “channel” to potential advertisers; and
  2. 2. An increase, at least temporarily, in cost per thousand views (CPM).

As these new channels begin delivery and seek to demonstrate value, the earliest adapters of new technology, on the client-side, will test the waters – at what are sure to be ridiculously high rates. The windfall is waiting for the company that can be the one place consumers can find everything video – whether it’s broadcast, Hulu, Xbox, Netflix or YouTube.

Before we get there, we may experience an updated version of the 1980s battle between VHS and Betamax. The market settled that decisively. (As I type this, spell check is accepting VHS but flagging Betamax.) The market will weigh in on the unbundling of television as well, and I suspect we can expect the Millennial generation to wield a lot of influence.

’Net Access: Will Lawmakers Listen?

2015 01 23   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Two congressional committees considered Wednesday whether Internet service providers (ISPs) should be regulated and, if so, how.

Here is the news account from USA Today:

There must a way to prevent ISPs from throttling data streams, and assure stable prices across the entire industry, without hampering their ability to invest in infrastructure and reap the benefits.

Many Republicans have been out of touch with the people they represent. As the USA Today item notes:

“In the past, Republican lawmakers have generally sided with large ISPs, [saying] new FCC rules aren’t needed because competition and consumer demand would dictate how services are sold. But they’ve been caught off guard by the visceral and overwhelmingly pro-net neutrality consumer reaction among their constituents, who see the issue beyond the political battle lines.”

The folks back home are telling lawmakers that ISPs are utilities. Period.

Oh, and if you think they’re not, then all you have to do is read Verizon’s panic-induced rant about pursuing litigation. No one in a position of strength uses that tactic; the posturing demonstrates Verizon’s clear understanding that it already has lost.

And Sprint further confirms the correctness of the utility classification, underscoring the fact that they will continue investment. You think Verizon, AT&T or other ISPs are going to stand by and watch Sprint invest without acting in-kind? Not likely.

I don’t know what the answer is, because whatever path is taken is going to be fraught and fought with egos, virtually assuring that no one gets what they really want. Yet, in the final analysis, everyone really wants the same thing; it’s a matter of sitting down without hidden agendas and working through the process of coming to an understanding.

Understand Those Targeting Our Privacy

2015 01 30   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

FTC to Ad Companies: Don’t ‘Play Games’ With Privacy(Response)

FTC’s Rich Says Self-Regulation Is Fine, But Ad Industry Must Be Aggressive On Tracking (AdExchanger)

I appreciate the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) motivation for issuing its warning and believe that it will change the minds of those who have an active conscience, and have been operating outside the guidelines. The problem is the people and organizations who have no such moral compass, focusing single-mindedly on making money, at any cost.

When we view success as a zero-sum game, i.e., that he who has the most money, regardless of how he makes it, wins - and everyone else loses – we all lose. Not to get too existential here, but the fact is that the Universe gets it, sees it and does what it needs to do to balance itself. In all matters, large and small.

Self-regulation is a very high-minded ideal. With the right set of guidelines and/or boundaries, it can be mightily effective.

But it has its limitations. There are always people and companies who act as if the rules don’t apply to them. I get it: We all want to fight against “The Man”, and sometimes it’s actually the right thing to do. But when you are benefiting financially or otherwise from other people’s private information – which they haven’t explicitly given you permission to capture, use and spread – that isn’t getting one over on “The Man”. At the very least it’s unethical; the FTC and courts will ultimately decide if it’s criminal.

The idea of actually giving back something that was taken wrongly never happens without a revolution – in thought if not action. When the dust settles, privacy will have to be wrestled from the cold, dead hands of the mercenaries who stole it

Branded Content Invisible on Social Media

2015 02 05   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” noted Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late U.S. senator from New York.

That is as true in business as it is in politics – which brings me to a column that ran this week in MediaPost’s Social Media & Marketing Daily.
I would add a five-word preface to that headline: “Billions of Ad Dollars Wasted.”

Fact: Branded content on social media is invisible. It has been from the beginning; it is today; and it will be tomorrow.

The idea of having to ratchet up the “intens-o-meter” to provoke some kind of reaction on social media confirms the waste and invisibility. Something that has visibility doesn’t need help to be seen. Only those whose message lacks effect need worry about finding ways of intensifying that message. It’s tough to do that, especially when you’re invisible, but I am certain that crazy people will jump the shark on social media in vain attempts to get noticed.

It’s not hard to understand why branded content is invisible: It is irrelevant to the conversations people are having on social media. Yes, there are hundreds of millions of eyes flipping through their news feeds, but none cares a whit about anything other than what their friends, enemies or frenemies are saying. Think of it this way: You invited everyone you knew to a Super Bowl party, and while everyone was hooting and hollering about the last great play of the game, off in the corner a party crasher whispered something about being able to save you $39 a year on shaving supplies.

The question to answer, if you intend to spend money in social media, is: How are you going to become relevant to the users’ conversations? Relevance is the only thing that matters. Intensifying an irrelevant message only leads to boomerang reactions that kill brands. (New Coke comes to mind.) Intensity doesn’t change irrelevance, it confirms it.

Only relevance works; so what are you going to do to be relevant to the people you’re attempting to reach and move?

Quality Tops Quantity in Advertising

2015 02 09   Peter Feinstein   Per Inquiry Advertising    

More isn’t better. More is only more.

The growing diversity of choices available to advertisers has fragmented the market to the point that it’s virtually impossible to make the same impact with a posting or ad as it was six months ago, or even six weeks ago in some media.

The answer isn’t more. The answer is better.

In a brief titled “More Is Not Better Without Effectiveness,” the Center for Media Research contends that: “Smart content can overcome bad distribution, but smart distribution cannot save bad content.”

Advertisers need to understand better:

  • who they want to reach;
  • what will trigger response; and
  • how to integrate their message into the lives of those in the target audience.

Perhaps most of all, advertisers must accept the fact that, due to the explosion of available channels of delivery (aka choice), it’s not possible to reach as many people as before. So they must gain a better understanding of how all these factors conspire to make the mission of producing return on investment (ROI) much more challenging.

This understanding reveals the path ahead. Less is more; less panic about how to be everywhere and everything to everyone. Instead, focus more on concentrating the effort.

“For marketers, the real challenge, and real opportunity, lies in the initial content creation phase” the CFR report concludes. “Improved analytics empower marketers to course-correct their content strategy in real time for maximum long-term impact.”

Using what’s known about the target audience – what will draw responses – can help advertisers focus effort and energy into a more powerful, compelling message that moves the market.

Protecting Data Will Be Hard Work

2015 02 16   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Data privacy has gotten a lot of ink in the last two weeks. Two large companies were caught with their hands seemingly in their cookie jars – pun intended – creating the potential for a consumer and regulator backlash.

The issue is broad, complicated and infused with human nature. By now, I feel like I could pen an opus on it. But I have a day job running my ad agency, so I’m just going to cite some relevant articles and give my 2 cents.
In a rush to deploy the their latest whiz-bang technology, Verizon and Samsung gave the impression of overreaching. It didn’t take long for privacy advocates to point out the nefarious potential. The information industry really needs to set aside its enthusiasm for each new application and think through the implications.

In the Comments section following the Samsung story, a reader notes that, regardless of what companies say they’re doing with data today, it can be stored and used for other purposes in the future – which brings the government into the picture.
The rhetoric already is flying.

“This relatively new technology has major implications for people’s privacy,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., noted in one of the articles. He urges companies to adopt clear and comprehensive privacy policies, as well as disclose data-sharing arrangements with other companies.

Democrats press the panic button largely because they want more power and control – though they get neither. Meanwhile, Republicans incorrectly frame data privacy as a red/blue issue.

Will Congress act? All it will take is for one high-ranking Republican to suffer the unintended yet inescapable consequences of advanced data collection.

Looking ahead, whoever hoists the banner of personal privacy in 2016 wins, regardless of party affiliation. That said, I maintain that in order to get this addressed with action, we’re going to need a Republican champion who can appreciate and articulate the big picture.

In terms of regulation, the Federal Trade Commission must not only study the implications of big data consolidation but also prevent the consolidation of the personal, private information in the hands of a few entities.
Privacy advocates demand that consumers be empowered to make informed decisions about the use of their personal information, but that isn’t realistic. Americans are bombarded with all manner of new technology. Convenience is the reason so many give away their personal data. Few of them are going to take ownership of their information if it entails more work. Those who do must minimize their outbound “footprints” as best they can – which might not be enough.

Privacy advocates demand that consumers be empowered to make informed decisions about the use of their personal information, but that isn’t realistic. Americans are bombarded with all manner of new technology. Convenience is the reason so many give away their personal data. Few of them are going to take ownership of their information if it entails more work. Those who do must minimize their outbound “footprints” as best they can - which might not be enough.

Quality Media Give in to Native Ads

2015 02 17   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

“The march of native advertising continued this week, as Forbes dispensed with another traditional taboo. It put a native ad on the cover of its print edition for the March 2, 2015, issue, due out on newsstands on Monday.”

~ “Forbes Puts Native Ad On Cover,” Media Daily News, Feb. 13, 2015

The premise of regulations that eliminated broadcast and electronic (TV and radio, respectively) advertising that could be confused for news (or other authoritative content) was to protect consumers from the likes of advertisers who wanted only to make a buck. As long as it brought in the money, the ends justified the means.

No such laws or regulations affect print or online advertising… yet. Presently, all we have are the dictates of self-regulation; not very weighty or effective, apparently.

But there will come a time when some industrious attorney identifies a “class” of people deceived into participating in some money-making scheme for which the sole point-of-entry was native advertising. At that point, the Federal Trade Commission may step in, call a spade a spade, and outlaw it.

Until then, we’re going to see even heretofore well-thought-of brands (i.e., Forbes) skirt the ethical fringe by accepting and placing these kinds of ads, which post no identification as advertising and look identical to the magazine’s cover content. There is only confusion, not clarity; editorial content and advertising content are the same. Even worse, really, is the fact that the on-cover Native ad points to a full-blown Native ad in the magazine.

So much for trust. Forbes and others have embarked on this path of deception for the three key reasons cited in this column by Bob Garfield. The rest of Bob’s piece is right on-point, and the commentary below his posting is equally entertaining, if not downright brutal and funny! The sad fact is that it’s become rampant; if the likes of The New York Times and Forbes are all-in, then who the heck is out?

What You Don’t See Is What You Get

2015 02 24   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

I understand Mikael Mathison’s quest to bring some kind of a standard to all video advertising. (We Need New Standards In TV Ad Measurement, AdExchanger, Jan. 29) It’s a noble pursuit!

But there are a number of hurdles to getting media buyers, my company included, to move away from broadcast or cable TV and into online, over-the-top television (OTT), or any of the other several dozen video-delivery vehicles.

There is one fundamental tool for “comparing the results delivered by linear TV and online TV.” It’s called return on investment (ROI). It’s the most basic of all business concepts, and it’s determined by using the most basic and reliable of tracking tools available to most any marketer.

So let’s look at the fundamental challenges that most in the media-buying world are facing with non-linear TV: online fraud and unviewable impressions. Those are deal killers for almost anything other than broadcast or cable, and here’s why: The cost per thousand impressions (CPM) of these potentially high-flying online video delivery channels isn’t priced to account for the fact that half of all chargeable impressions don’t actually happen.

Once the pricing compensates for that, more of us may dip our toes in the water and test the viability of online, OTT or one of the increasingly fragmented ways of delivering a video message.

And that increased fragmentation, which is fodder for an entirely different post, affects the value proposition of ALL other video delivery vehicles besides broadcast and cable television.

Things get even more complicated with the introduction of programmatic buying. (Programmatic to Grow in Connected TV, OTT Video, Response, Feb. 18) My biggest takeaway from Doug McPherson’s story is that more than 35 percent of agencies surveyed either don’t trust or don’t understand programmatic media placement, yet they’re going to shovel more money through that “portal.”

It’s crazy! The groupthink at these agencies must be something like this: “Okay, so we promised our client that we were going to buy x-million impressions at y CPM – even though we don’t get the transparency we think we need. We don’t really know what we’re buying because we’re buying through an automated portal (i.e., “programmatic”), but we’re going to do it anyway. We have faith that the portal we’re using is going to do right by us, even though it doesn’t tell us what we’re buying and where.”

That’s really scary to me. The concerns only mount as I ponder the limited availability of programmatic buying for online and OTT video. There is a veil of secrecy between the seller and buyer – for what looks to me to be the desire for the middlemen to overcharge buyers and underpay sellers.

That’s Just my take. What’s yours?

Don’t Cry for Comcast’ It’ll Be Okay

2015 05 05   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Comcast’s aborted attempt to merge with Time Warner Cable was a stinging defeat – but small potatoes compared to the power associated with Comcast’s being an internet service provider that will rack up subscriber fees even beyond its cable systems.

The takeaway here is that the people wringing their hands about the deal being called off are living in the past – about 14 months - when the deal was first announced. Technology has leap-frogged the power of what the merger would have made, so both parties (and many others) are actually going to benefit exponentially from the “fallout” of the failed merger.

I’ve contended from the beginning of March, when it became apparent to me that the merger attempt was doomed, that Charter Communications and Time Warner could reprise their merger conversations, and that the government-delayed denial of the Comcast-Time Warner deal actually benefits Comcast, allowing more than a year’s advances in video distribution and ad-buying technology to illuminate where it can find deeper acquisitions in both fields.

Even within the context of a new regulatory reality, everything will be okay for Comcast.

Fighting Fraud Is an Ongoing Effort

2015 05 07   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

I like the idea of lopping off the bottom 10 percent of ad volume to establish a baseline for eliminating fraudulent traffic.

That has to be the starting point. Based upon nearly everything authoritative that I’ve seen published, there must be means to effectively reduce the volume and cost of, at least, another 35 percent of ad-driven Web traffic, unless you have absolute bulletproof evidence of a human presence in a visit. And to date, that is virtually impossible.

In the offline world, we see “toll-free number pumping.” That is the fraudulent use of such numbers by criminals to defraud carriers by reporting non-existent calls on toll-free numbers to rack up additional dollars from the shared revenue that carriers pay for the transmission and retransmission of calls made on toll-free numbers.

Mind-numbing, right? It’s as ubiquitous as online fraud. However, in the offline world, we have countermeasures we can apply that these criminals have no means, for the moment, to defeat. So we’ve temporarily rendered their tactics useless, saving our clients and their call centers an astonishing amount of money – and safeguarding our integrity at the same time.

In the long run, whether online or offline, fending off fraud appears to be a game of cat-and-mouse – move and counter-move – in order to keep up with, or get ahead of, the criminals.

Treat Online Audio Like Its Rivals

2015 05 08   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The solution to establishing the value of digital audio, if you want to lump it all into one platform (which it’s not), is to measure actual listener response against the results a commercial has experienced on broadcast or even satellite radio. Short of that, there is no real value measurement.

At my agency, we use response rates to determine all our cash buying in audio – and hold everyone to the same standard. When we’re confronted with an audio channel that’s overly proud of its platform, we very quickly level that interaction down to requiring its level of performance to match what we experience in broadcast radio with the identical ad.

Apples to apples is a business approach that always works. Any other key performance indicator (KPI) really is outlet-oriented and irrelevant to the actual purchase of media. If it works, we buy it. If we don’t know whether it works, we test it and share the metrics so that the outlet knows where it stands.

Presently digital audio’s metrics warrant a spend of about a $0.40 CPM. Sure, I know that sounds absurd; but when you can extend a proven buying methodology to the platform, and the platform accepts it as valid, they have to accept the buying threshold we set. Most don’t, and so we don’t spend with them. Those that do have seen a constant stream of money coming from us week after week, month after month, year after year … for over 15 years now.

Make Authenticity Your Calling Card

2015 05 11   Peter Feinstein   The Higher Power in HPM    

Being authentic means holding to one’s core values. It means shutting off the chatter between the ego and the spirit, and allowing the spirit to guide and direct.

I concur with just what the author wrote: “Those with the boldness to put authenticity at the heart of their strategy will be rewarded by battle-hardened American consumers — who despite everything they’ve experienced are still optimistic enough to expect a relationship with brands based on the simple but powerful ideas of honesty, transparency, integrity and idealism.”

Exceptionally focused advertising will result in high initial sampling of a product or service. Authenticity in advertising will result in repeat acquisition and customer loyalty. If all you want are one-and-done customers, then skip authenticity. Otherwise, make it your calling card and win!

Tech is a Tool, Not an Answer

2015 06 11   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

In a recent post to AdExchanger‘s Data-Driving Thinking column (Where Did All The Marketers Go? June 1, 2015), Patrick Hounsell makes one of the strongest statements supporting my own belief that technology is simply an enabler of more refined communication – that it is simply a conduit through which communication flows.

Think how easy it is for us to become entranced with a shiny new toy, widget or technology. So much so that our eyes glaze over, and we forget the true purpose of what we do. It’s an addiction, and many of us become powerless to see our way clear. We think that if we can just play connect the dots on all the possible places people could see, hear or otherwise experience our client’s message, then we’ll be okay. That’s the insanity of addiction – and so we do the same thing over and over, expecting to make progress, but all we get is what we got.

The awakening takes place when we see the true purpose of technology – as a tool to help us deliver our most finely crafted marketing messages for the benefit of our clients and the end users. That’s a worthwhile use of human brain power, because it almost requires more than one person to get the job done. That is when we have at least a fighting chance to engage a more enlightened and inspiring consciousness.

Google/YouTube ‘News’ Is Scary

2015 07 16   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

So Google – which has no formal training in ethics, journalism or human psychology – “thinks it can teach YouTube Newswire journalists to verify content and become impartial observers by forming a group it calls the First Draft Coalition, a group of social media journalists who will create educational resources on how to verify eyewitness media.”

Am I on Candid Camera?

If some of these video feeds weren’t going to become instant viral hits and actually shape public opinion, I’d be laughing about how amazingly stupid this is. But, sadly, this is about as insane as it gets. You have an company with no ethical standards to follow, no prime directive other than to increase shareholder value through reducing expenses and increasing revenue, attempting to “scoop” the real news organizations and present us with … what?

The truth is, no one can answer that question accurately. This is when the law of unintended consequences comes into play. We’re moving into dangerous territory when we allow, even encourage, bystander videos to become the news sources of the day.

It’s Not About Us; It’s About Them

2015 07 21   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I really like Melissa Parrish’s recent post for AdExchanger headlined “The Fact That You Can Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You Should.” Her commentary is a beacon in the night.

It isn’t enough merely to change the words we use to describe those we want to influence – although that’s a nice start. What is needed is to roll back this idea of doing things to people, instead of for them.

Without consumers, the worst thing in the world happens: nothing. If you don’t understand this, then you need to get out of the advertising business, because you don’t get it.

Advertising should offer people ideas to help them improve their lives in ways they may not have thought about … yet. The notion that ad-tech can be the Holy Grail entirely misses the true prize – communication. Too many in the industry are way off-base when it comes to understanding human motivation and psychology. They had better wake up quickly, before they realize nothing has happened.

Print Media Have Value in Simplicity

2015 07 29   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

Precisely right! While the metrics for return on investment (ROI) may have shifted ever so slightly for print, rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated – predominantly by those with a vested interest in it vanishing: folks in online media.

The truly wonderful thing about print media is there is no fraud, no question of viewability. It simply exists; its presence making its value self-evident.

The rainmakers of online media have enjoyed a windfall but are orchestrating their own substantial downsizing with their vain attempts to deflect attention away from the true business issues of non-performing media: 50 percent-plus impression fraud and no cohesive standard of viewability.

No, online media isn’t going to disappear, but I believe a near-cataclysmic series of events will reveal online media for what it is: the ugly stepchild of offline media that actually work and don’t suffer from all the obvious detriments inherent online.

We Put Manual Buying to the Test

2015 08 03   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

During an age of increasing automation, in which most inventory of online display advertising is accessible via programmatic systems, manual buys are likely offer to the only real opportunity for finding value.

My firm has undertaken an online-display-ad campaign to examine firsthand the dynamics of ad fraud and lack of viewability. While the campaign is still in progress, we’re already certain that more than of 6 percent of ads served have been fraudulent. That is significantly lower than most campaigns, but falls quite in line for a B2B campaign. Our agent has credited back all such impressions, allowing us to respend the money to reach actual human beings.

We’ll have more to report in the next 60 days, so stay tuned for a full analysis.

Prepare for Flood of Political Ads

2015 08 04   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

There are three essential takeaways from this article:

  1. Except for political-candidate advertising, pricing for all radio and TV advertising time is based upon supply and demand. When political candidates buy up time on the cheap, the stations’ supply dwindles, and pricing on the remaining inventory rises.
  2. You often can buy time in bulk annually with the ability to cancel with minimal notice. Some outlets require two weeks; some require four. So you still can get advantageous pricing.
  3. An experienced advertising agency often can negotiate better rates than you can for yourself because it’s what the folks there do, day in and day out. Don’t be afraid to contact an agency for help; the best ones actually will save you money!

I Don’t Have Time for Your Surveys

2015 08 07   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Cheers to Gord Hotchkiss for telling it like it is for him, me and millions more who despise the whole “rate me” me mentality we’ve devolved to online.

More than 20 years ago, the automotive industry infused its sales (and then service) experience with customer surveys. The online world grabbed this as its panacea for demonstrating its worth. It possesses neither organically.

I disdain all the requests for feedback – even for stuff I use every day. Since I’m connecting to businesses’ servers, they can infer that I perceive enough value that I keep returning.

I would take the time to offer up a rating only if, in one of those idiotic surveys, there was a ready-made box under the “Yes” link that let me choose the number of stars I wanted to award and the opportunity to select from, say, 20 emotion-descriptive words, with the option to add my own.

But will I offer a freehand, off-the-cuff review when I’m busy living life? Forget about it.

Ad Blocking: Beyond Tech vs. Tech

2015 08 10   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The ongoing battle between online publishers and Internet ad blockers is like a baseball game. Inning after inning, publishers dream up new ways of delivering ads, only to have the ad blockers catch up in the bottom of the frame.

Two articles last week eschewed the game-replay format, instead looking at the whole season, and beyond.

In “Ad Blocking: A Problem in Need of a Creative Solution” (Ad Age, July 28), Kevin Conroy of Univision Communications argues that instead of blocking the blockers, we should focus on making advertising better.

One of the best concepts he expresses is: “The fact is that strong, relevant, entertaining commercials have always done well. Great creative gets viewed, discussed, shared, talked about and remembered for years to come.” Radio, TV and print still get this and, to a significant extent, practice creative excellence on a daily basis. Online, aka digital media, just hasn’t figured it out, except for the offline brands that have turned to digital for add-on’s to their offline campaigns.

In another article, British Vogue’s Emma Geary suggests “How Apple’s embrace of ad blocking will change native advertising.” (Digiday, July 28)

This is certain to end up in the column of unintended consequences. I think we’re going to have to wait and see how the human spirit responds to the gauntlet being thrown down by Apple. I applaud it’s stand, and hope to see truly creative approaches to online advertising that are relevant, engaging and not stupidly disruptive.

Transparency Crucial for Programmatic TV

2015 08 13   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

After reading “Context vs. Targeting: Which Matters More For Programmatic TV?” (AdExchanger, Aug. 3), I think I have a man crush on Bryan Noguchi. It’s so refreshing to come across someone who so clearly expresses the real need for media to deliver and be accountable for more than just impressions!

Noguchi nails it: All impressions not only are not created equally; some have the potential to do harm.

HPM doesn’t buy TV programmatically yet because there is so little transparency. Yeah, we know that the programmatics suggest we run a female 35-54 oriented health-care product on a series of networks, but when three of the nine nets are more than 63 percent male-targeted, I stop the process right there. In order for programmatics to work for TV, we need to know, right down to the show, where the impressions are. Without that transparency, it fails.

Our clients hold us accountable for fulfilling our promise to fill their sales funnels with qualified calls (because their outstanding creative plays to the right consumer segment). So if the best we can tell them is, “This schedule is guaranteed to deliver targeted impressions and we saved you $200,000,” we also fail. It all comes down to context. I understand the human desire to build a better mousetrap; I have it too. But that thrill to implement deeply flawed programmatic TV buying must be tempered with staying true to being of real value to the people whose money we’re spending. We treat it like it’s our own money, and that’s served everyone’s best interests.

Thanks for sounding the clarion so clearly, Bryan. We stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

The Life of Louie…

2015 08 18   Peter Feinstein   The Higher Power in HPM    

This is a different kind of post; unlike advertising, it addresses the very essence of life.

Our boy Louie turned 14-1/2 years old (that’s like 60,000 in dog years!!) a few days ago (8/12)... He’s an amazing soul! As one of our two company mascots, he’s been carrying that torch by himself since his brother Clark’s passing last October 27th.

Over the past few weeks we’ve watched him decline pretty rapidly. Today he’s mostly blind, deaf, with virtually no sense of smell, a heart murmur, heart arrhythmia and dementia that has overwhelmed the meds we’ve been giving him to help keep him “here”.

In the past week he’s all but stopped drinking any appreciable amount of water, not drinking from his bowls, nor taking it from our hands.

All of these things make for a vacant life for Louie… Living in the dark and silence, with an ever-decreasing number of moments of presence. All of these things are so painful for us to watch. It’s with so much sadness, yet love for him, that my wife and I have decided to help Louie shed all these bodily-centered defects, so that he can return to peace and wholeness. We’ll be taking him to the vet, for their help with this, at about 4 this afternoon.

Our hearts are breaking, more for our loss and the hole his absence will leave…but we have some relief that at least he’ll know it’s his mom and dad who set him free to return home. He deserves to pass into sleep with us being at his side, so he truly knows he’s loved, as the last thing he experiences here.

Please say a prayer, or whatever comes to you naturally, whenever it occurs to you today, so that Louie can more easily travel the path of love he so richly deserves! He’s the cleanest, most loving soul we’ve ever encountered!

Programmatic Is Not a One-Stop Solution

2015 08 31   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I ‘get’ where Andreas Schroeter is coming from in “Why the Traditional TV Buyer Will Never Use Programmatic TV” (Media Daily News, Aug. 20), but he’s offered only sweeping generalizations that don’t work in a general way.

I’m 55 years old, and I have more tech understanding than most of the software engineers graduating these days; the son of one of our neighbor says I scare him because I know his world so well. And I’m a media buyer, and have been, for radio and TV for more than 16 years with my own agency. None of the reasons Schroeter rolled out have any application to my situation, and I’m betting that I’m not unique.

There are two primary reasons why I’m not diving into programmatic very quickly (and at least a dozen secondary reasons, but that’s another story):

  1. Our clients want to run spots and have people to whom they must answer based upon the number of runs they receive any given day. I’ve spent many hours educating them on the benefits of programmatic, including cost savings and efficiency, and they nod their heads like they understand. Yet when it comes down to it, they still want to know how many runs they’re going to get. They don’t understand. And if my clients don’t understand – and they pay the bills – I’m not going to buy it for them. I’d be an idiot, never mind violating my fiduciary responsibility to them.
  2. All impressions are not equal. The failure of programmatic comes down to not really integrating an understanding of who watches what, why and how viewership patterns on TV affect response rates. Case in point, and it’s a beauty: We have a health-product client whose primary consumer demo is women 35-49 who buy oral-hygiene products. We integrated some very compelling retail sales data into cable TV targeting data, and the programmatic schedule suggested we buy many of the cable channels you’d expect, such as TBS, Comedy Central, National Geographic, E! and FX, and then included one or two runs on TVLand, VH1, Syfy and the Military Channel. Yep, one or two runs – the programmatic thought being that an impression is an impression, and we can buy those impressions cheaply, so let’s do it.

The truth is: Until programmatic gets over itself and understands that it does nothave the universal answer – that an impression is not an impression and we’re buying the psychology of the human beings watching the content into which commercial breaks are inserted – then it’s just not going to be a legitimate consideration for media buyers with real money to spend. Who wants to go to a client and try to explain a programmatic schedule plan that a seventh grader wouldn’t be caught dead presenting?

Want to have even more fun? Read all the comments below Schroeter’s post

ROI Remains the TV-Ad Metric that Matters

2015 09 09   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The premise at the heart of this post – that the way in which TV (assuming writer Mark Keeney means broadcast or cable TV) “… creates tremendous waste, and perhaps more importantly … a lack of tools for measurement” – ignores the long-held reality that return on investment (ROI) on TV, or any medium for that matter, is readily available if a brand or their agency is willing to be accountable for sales.

I know, I know. How ridiculously traditional of me to roll out that old, hackneyed metric. But the truth is, nothing else matters. What I find largely entertaining (as in funnier than Welcome Back, Kotter) is that today’s movers and shakers in “ad tech” are under the strange impressions that:

1. They are inventing all-new kinds of advertising that needn’t accountable for a hard-dollar ROI.
2. ROI should be measured by delivery of impressions or engagement – whatever that means.
3. They can create their own fantastic array of measurement-like metrics to rationalize their version of what they are presenting.

I see it every day, in every trade publication, and I just have to laugh. In the end, the only question that matters is: Are consumers who are impressed by our clients’ ads taking measurable actions that can be tracked from the start of the sales funnel through closing?

That’s the standard to which we hold ourselves; it’s the standard our clients expect us to deliver. That’s the world we live in. It can be accomplished through traditional media and buying, or programmatic.

Humans Must Reject, not Solve, Facial Recognition

2015 09 21   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Privacy is an interesting matter, and facial recognition is fast coming of age as a component in the looming dogfight. As we learn in “GAO Stares Back At Facial Recognition” (Data and Targeting Insider, Sept. 9), even the government is catching on.

Interestingly, a recent Advertising Age article revealed that a significant percentage of the much-maligned Millennials are quietly revolting against a vocal minority’s undisciplined sharing of their lives by keeping private everything they can – revealing only the smallest shards of their personal lives. Because they are so quiet, they’ve nearly been overlooked. This is the group on which we’re going to have to rely in order to recapture our privacy from the pirates of commerce who operate without consciences.

But how should the market deal with this issue? If you dig deeper into “Yes, Anti-Facial-Recognition Glasses Are Coming” (Fast Company, Aug. 27) you get to the meat of the matter – the call for a real solution, not another market to defeat what should be illegal anyway.

Consolidation Needed for TV to Please Advertisers

2015 10 09   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

So while there’s one segment of the television industry complaining that business isn’t what it was, another camp says: “TV is everywhere; shut up and watch.” The truth is somewhere in between.

Linear TV isn’t what it was even a year ago, and won’t be the same as it is now in another 12 months. But make no mistake, TV is not as ubiquitous as some would suggest (or sell it). Tiny little segments of what’s on linear TV are available piecemeal across probably close to 100 different devices, services and platforms. And they’re all competing with one another for your eyes. Each offers you what it thinks is the hook that will get you to subscribe – conveniently forgetting, or willfully denying, that it offers only marginal value.

Here’s how you can test the ubiquity of a medium: Turn on your radio and see how many stations you can tune in. All of them, right? Right. And you easily can select satellite or Pandora, even Spotify if you like. Apple Music will be next with in-car access. That’s ubiquity; a single device that gives you universal access.

TV isn’t there yet – and may not get there for some time. The first thing that has to happen is consolidation of content-delivery services. Once that’s been brought down to one or two systems, then television might be considered ubiquitous. Until then, the best we can say is that segments of video entertainment are everywhere. Hardly attractive to me as a media buyer. Even less so as a consumer.

Responsiveness Is Part of Social-Media Contract

2015 10 12   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Here is the bottom line to having a presence on social media: If you put it out there for customers or non-customers to use for service, don’t ignore them.

It’s not about how many followers you have or can get, but what you offer of value. If you’ve got a customer-service focus in social media, be prepared to respond. If you don’t have the resources to address all the incoming messages, then shut it down by posting an auto reply explaining where people can find you, where you will be responsive, and then be responsive.

Whoever pushed forward the idea that people don’t call toll-free numbers for service is disconnected from reality; toll-free numbers, with live human beings talking to live human beings, are still the predominant way customer-service issues are resolved for many companies.

While many businesses took the plunge into social media, specifically Twitter, many soon found through experience that the 140-character rant is just enough space to communicate rage or love – but not the nuances of real customer service. The smartest went in one of two directions:
Either way, there are success stories, but the common element is people talking to people.

  1. Pulling off social media and dedicating human resources to live telephone conversation, or
  2. Dedicating human resources to being on-call with customers on social media.

Time to Value User Experience with Online Ads

2015 10 13   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The recent surge in attention to ad blockers and their implications for online marketing have shifted our focus to where it should have gone long ago – the user experience. Too bad so many of the resulting articles, which have had a field day recounting the many negatives, have been light on proposing workable solutions.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not just that the online experience is rife with lousy ads – Next On Consumers’ To-Block List: Content Marketing! (MediaPost, Oct. 5) – but that there are way too many of them, in all the wrong places, that don’t ever get my attention. They simply annoy me, so I glide on by, never even noticing them, other than their repulsive shapes. And I’m an ad guy!

Multiply that revulsion 100-fold for consumers, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the problem online advertising faces. Nice ad, lousy ad; it matters not. They’re intrusive, ill-planned and ill-placed. Their downward spiral of ineffectiveness is testament to their lack of relevance.

An item from AdExchanger (Mobile Consumers Use Browsers and Apps Equally – But For Different Reasons, Oct. 5) had a promising headline but a dearth of data about mobile Web usage vs. app usage – just a couple of tidbits and references to what others have said about mobile apps. My app usage is way up, and I often wish that, when I’m on a mobile page for one thing or another, that there was an app for it. I’d use it, skipping the browser experience entirely.

So what does this mean for online marketers? In a “Sell Sider” column for AdExchanger, Peter Spande, chief revenue officer for Business Insider, asserts: For Successful Publishers And Their Ads, Small Will Be The Next Big Thing (Oct. 2).

That’s nice, as far as it goes. At this point, however, I think moving to smaller, less memory-intensive ads would be kind of like closing the barn door after the horse had bolted. Even if they had less tracking baggage associated with them and presented themselves as truly engaging to the mobile user, it would be too little, too late!

I am an eternal optimist, though, so I’ll keep monitoring industry news for fresh, creative approaches to online marketing that value the consumer experience.

Don’t Take Social-Media Metrics Too Seriously

2015 10 14   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

I like the simplicity of the explanation for each of the three terms. My challenge is getting them to fit into the nice, neat box of return on investment (ROI).

They don’t fit into that box, and only a very few forward-thinking players in direct response are even trying. Everyone else is attempting to pave a pathway to attribution, which hopefully should enable tracking conversions that ultimately might reveal ROI. It sounds like an Easter-egg hunt gone awry.

If that’s the case, and it is, then why spend all this money on the branding, especially when so many brands fail to actually complete the connection with those who do engage via social media? Because “everyone else is.” Lemming behavior strikes again!

My business uses social media for one thing, and one thing only: to communicate our point of view and let people know who we really are, on a very broad scale. If anything comes of it, wonderful, but we don’t spend any money telling our story. Instead we build our brand organically.

Mainstream Media Catches Up to Online Ad Fraud

2015 10 21   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

Attention Advertisers: How much of your audience is fake?” That’s the headline for one of the latest cover stories in Bloomberg Businessweek.

I wish I could say that some of magazine’s stats blow my mind, or even come as a surprise, but they don’t. Still, it’s important that mainstream media begin to catch up to what is happening online.

No one buys online media on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis, even if that’s how it’s sold. The buy is in ads-served, because online publishers (and everyone in that supply chain) will tell you that an ad served is an impression, even if they camouflage it with media performance-like language.

If you’re contorting your face into a squirm of disbelief, you’re not alone. It gets worse: The percentage of ads served by/to fraudsters (human and ‘bot) ranges from about 18 percent to more than 51 percent, depending upon whom you believe.

Right now, I don’t know whom I can trust for online media placements, programmatic or otherwise; there is so much fraud built-in that it’s all but impossible to create and run a campaign that develops the same return on investment (ROI) as radio, television or even print.

Responsiveness Is Part of Social-Media Contract

2015 10 29   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

Here is the bottom line to having a presence on social media: If you put it out there for customers or non-customers to use for service, don’t ignore them.

It’s not about how many followers you have or can get, but what you offer of value. If you’ve got a customer-service focus in social media, be prepared to respond. If you don’t have the resources to address all the incoming messages, then shut it down by posting an auto reply explaining where people can find you, where you will be responsive.

Whoever pushed forward the idea that people don’t call toll-free numbers for service is disconnected from reality; toll-free numbers, with live human beings talking to live human beings, are still the predominant way customer-service issues are resolved for many companies.

While many businesses took the plunge into social media, specifically Twitter, many soon found through experience that the 140-character rant is just enough space to communicate rage or love – but not the nuances of real customer service. The smartest went in one of two directions:
Either way, there are success stories, but the common element is people talking to people.

  1. Pulling off social media and dedicating human resources to live telephone conversation, or
  2. Dedicating human resources to being on-call with customers on social media.

ROI Reveals True Value of Media Ad Buys

2015 11 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

Almost since I started blogging, I’ve been beating the drum for Return On Investment (ROI) to be the most important metric in advertising. Finally, it seems, others are seeing its value.

Anything that moves the price of advertising into alignment with its ability to deliver ROI is welcome news. Therein lies the true value of every media transaction. This is noteworthy, and something all of us in the agency world should stand up and applaud. It makes our jobs so much easier: We get to produce branded direct-response (DR) messaging, which means we get to be creatively relevant. That’s powerful!

  • Moving Beyond Branding: Holding TV Accountable For ROI, Media Daily News, Oct. 13
  • While I get the gist of this item – that ROI for TV is lagging that of online video, and that changes are coming – I don’t possess quite the certainty the author does. The changes I’ve witnessed to TV in the past year or two are nothing close to the certainties offered by many pundits, who have applied linear thinking to a non-linear, inherently disruptive process – just as we see here. I think that there are a great many unintended consequences coming to TV that virtually no one sees coming. Time will tell.

IAB Recognition of Ad Problem Too Little Too Late

2015 11 04   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I’m impressed that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has stepped up and acknowledged the problem with annoying online ads. (Ad-Blocking Horse Leaves; IAB Closes Barn Door, MediaPost.Com, Oct. 16) It’s the first step toward any kind of recovery or redemption.

Sadly, IAB officials still don’t get the big picture. It’s not just that many online ads are lame; it’s that there is no standard by which they are placed or run. Every publisher/property makes up its own rules, and the user experience is so uneven that the Internet can’t even be called a medium. It’s just a bazillion pages of interconnected data, each of which presents itself differently, offering what designers think is the most enticing user experience.

Even more to the point than this maelstrom of icky ads (yes, that is the technical term - ok, not really) is the fact that they’re served to us in the most inane ways, based upon the notion that “more is better.” More is not better; it’s only more. And, for all the much ballyhooed superiority of online ad tech, I – like hundreds of millions of others around the globe – get inundated by ads that are a day (week, month or year) too late. So, like the hundreds of millions of other consumers who’ve decided enough is enough, I’ve chosen to block every ad from my online experience.

I credit the IAB with waking up. Finally. However it’s too late. The horse indeed has left the barn, in a full gallop, and getting it back in is going to be more difficult than herding Jell-O!

HPM’s Feinstein Up for Direct Marketing Award

2015 11 20   Peter Feinstein   The Higher Power in HPM    

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m honored and grateful to be among the eight nominees for the 2015 DRMA Member of the Year Award.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’d like to introduce myself. I am the founder and head of Higher Power Marketing, a Phoenix-based Direct Response (DR) ad agency.

I’ve filled a number of roles on behalf of DR in general, and the DRMA in particular:
I’m an evangelist for ‘commerce with a conscience,’ – including cross-media accountability, development of strategic business partnerships and industry innovation through the vetting of technology before application – and a consistent advocate for business ethics. Higher Power Marketing has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been nominated for the BBB’s Torch Award for Ethics four times in the past five years. Further, I have been:

  • • Semi-regular guest columnist for Response Magazine.
  • • Regular contributor of case studies to the DRMA/Response website.
  • • Blogger from, and annual sponsor of Response Expo.
  • • Active member of DRMA
  • • Social-media thought-leader, commenting regularly about industry issues on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • • Originator of “The HPM Bridge,” a formula that closes the gap between clients’ and media partners’ payment preferences, ensuring that everybody is paid when they want.
  • • Provider of free online educational videos introducing DR to potential advertisers.
  • • Named as Best in Business for Marketing Consulting (2009, 2013 and 2014) by the Small Business Commerce Association.
  • • Named to the INC 500/5000 List (2011).
  • • A fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and annual contributor to the American Cancer Society, the ALS Foundation, Feed the Children and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Brief Visit to Big Apple Buoys Holiday Spirit

2015 12 10   Peter Feinstein   The Higher Power in HPM    

There is nothing quite like being in New York City for the holidays, which I was lucky enough to experience earlier this week.

Unlike many previous holiday trips, when going down Fifth Avenue was a race to get from one store to the next just to warm up from the cold and wind, Manhattan this year was comfortably chilly (i.e., 40–to-45 degrees), balmy in fact by New Yorkers’ standards. Having spent the last 20 years in Phoenix, I’ve become accustomed to slightly warmer temps, so it was really refreshing to feel the chill, bundle up and absorb the fun holiday spirit all around me.

I was blessed with a great reason for my visit. As one of eight finalists for my professional association’s member-of-the-year award, I flew in for the Direct Response Marketing Alliance’s annual Winter Bash, at which the winner was named.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. Congratulations to Denira Borrero of Miami-based Omni Direct, the 2015 DRMA Member of the Year. She is a gracious, talented and most deserving winner – truly a great ambassador of/for the DRMA.

Meanwhile, attending the Winter Bash was a real joy. It lived up to every expectation, except one: The food was way better than I ever would have guessed for a beer pub! The New York Beer Co. put out an amazing spread, from fresh veggies and hummus to thin-crust pizzas, wings, onion rings and more. The vibe matched the food; everyone was in the holiday spirit in a big way!

Thanks to the DRMA for nominating me, prompting this all too-brief, but beautiful holiday travel experience.

Truth in Advertising Goes Beyond Facts in Ads

2015 12 15   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

It’s always amusing to read articles in which people who have no discernible experience are quoted as experts.

In this item, the professor of marketing at Cal State San Marcos stumbles rather mightily when he says: “I don’t know if it’s necessarily that much worse than what we normally get.” The truth is exactly as he claims: He doesn’t know. More than 90 percent of commercial radio stations have strict separation protocols preventing the same advertiser from running even similar copy twice during any hour. So in real radio you won’t hear the same advertiser more than once per hour, or once every 14-to-18 songs, depending upon the music format of the station.

What I find peculiar about Pandora running six-to-seven ads an hour, and repeating the same ads multiple times an hour, is: Where are the other advertisers? Do they have only two or three advertisers, or does Pandora need coaching in how to traffic commercial content so as to not drive away users?

Even more fun is to bear witness to the gyrations of trying to connect many points of big data into a cohesive, relevant marketing strategy for advertisers, when all they want is to connect to the right consumer with the right message. I can tell you this: There isn’t any service out there, Krux or not, that is capable of accurately connecting those dots making campaigns sing the way Pandora sells it, or its advertisers want it. If they’re selling perfection, I suggest they get off that line of thinking and instead try a humbler approach – something along the lines “Pandora for Progress … we offer better targeting than ever before, and we strive to make it better every day. But we’re not perfect.”

On second thought, who’d buy that? The truth never works because it isn’t flashy enough, especially when compared with a competitor’s gold-plated fairy tale. Right?

Shortsighted Business Threatens Common Good

2016 01 08   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Whenever I read someone saying they’ve got some very cool tech gizmo that’s been thoroughly tested, is completely safe and will be rolled out immediately, I think: “These guys have found a way to dramatically reduce their hard costs and don’t give a rat’s ass whom it impacts.”

In the case of Verizon’s push to use unlicensed spectrum, we’re talking about a chip set that lets it invade unlicensed radio frequencies and take command of existing Wi-Fi networks. These impatient corporate executives don’t want to wait because they’ve done the research and it doesn’t matter what it shows; they only care that it can save them billions of dollars and boost profits into the stratosphere.

I’m all-in on cost reduction and profit boosting – as long as it causes no harm. It’s called “commerce with a conscience” and it’s how all good business is conducted. These tiny little minds at Verizon and irrelevant Qualcomm don’t care about what happens in the wake of their actions; their concern doesn’t extend past their greedy little minds.

What will happen is that someone is going to venture into this space, find out that it is far worse in disrupting and disabling existing Wi-Fi than even the critics are warning, and the lawsuits that will be filed against Verizon and Qualcomm will dwarf the potential savings they coveted. And they will deserve every penny of loss they pass along to their shareholders.

These are not bright people running these companies. And time will demonstrate their lack of thinking and foresight. They’re all about commerce without a conscience!

Subscriber-Based Netflix Confounds Competitors

2016 01 25   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

I find it almost indescribably funny how advertising-driven TV execs are so desperate to know Netflix’s viewership numbers. Almost, but not entirely.

  • We’ve got Tweedle Dee over at NBC spending an obscene amount of shareholder money on a company using technology that can’t possibly deliver accurate information on the prospective outlet being examined. What makes it even funnier is that NBC rolls out its results at a special news conference. Comical!
  • Then we have Tweedle Dum at FX clearly not understanding that Netflix doesn’t care about actual viewership because it doesn’t sell advertising. This guy thinks that Netflix should have to reveal what information it has!
  • Together these two are better than the Sunday comics. They represent the worst of the old-time, small-minded TV execs who fail to realize not only that they’ve already experienced their zenith, but also that their revenue models are obsolete.

The truth is this: Netflix has to answer to only one group – its subscribers. By every measure, it is meeting the demands, needs and desires of its sole target market; witness its worldwide subscriber growth.

I can tell you one thing: When Netflix begins selling advertising, it will have far more information about all its viewers than any other TV content provider could hope to have. And it’s when, not if. You heard it here first.

Truth in Labeling Essential to Native Advertising

2016 02 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

Tobi Elkin’s piece is a masterstroke at smoking out the nonsensical doublespeak coming from publishers on the matter of native advertising.

You have high-level execs at some well-respected publishers claiming they aren’t desperate for the revenue from native advertising – when their behavior says otherwise: They mask the true source of native advertising, apparently not wanting consumers to know that the content really is advertising.

Having consumers notice that something is sponsored content is not the same as saying it is advertising. Sponsored content is editorial content presented or underwritten by an advertiser – where the advertiser is named, and its bona fide ad appears elsewhere for consumer attention, or is integrated into the content but is obviously advertising. The way many online publishers want to post notice indicates that they do not want to tell the truth; they want to fudge and mislead consumers. They are afraid that – if they tell consumers the truth – many fewer will consume native content, which means they’re precious premium CPM isn’t so precious, nor so premium. The question becomes: Do you tell the truth and sacrifice the short-term money, or do you continue lying and let everyone who comes to your site begin to question the legitimacy and authenticity of everything they see on it?

Well, what’s it going to be? Truth in labeling, or the disintegration of integrity?

The offline world figured out a long time ago that truth in labeling is the only real option. The online world simply needs to follow this simple path for the controversy surrounding its native ads to go away – and they can make great money selling this available advertising inventory, known in the business as “avails.” They just need to get out of their own feeble-minded way.

Agencies Judged on Responses They Deliver

2016 02 17   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) wants to have its cake and eat it too. That’s not how life works.

We don’t tell our clients what commission we take; it’s none of their business. We’re held to the highest standard in business: We’re graded on how well we deliver sales for our clients. When we miss the mark, we’re given an opportunity to correct. If we can’t correct, we lose the business. Aside from that, clients are entitled to no insight on how we operate and what margins we take. The ANA may think otherwise, but it is incorrect.

For our part, we do not participate in kickbacks or rebates – but we always expect and accept the media’s standard 15 percent agency commission/discount. That’s where it starts and ends.

Scale Drives Viability of Broadcast, Cable Ads

2016 02 24   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

A recent blog by Viamedia President and CEO Mark Lieberman (“The Power of Local Cable TV Advertising Is The Opposite of ‘The Big Short,’” Broadcasting & Cable, Feb. 12) offers an insightful point of view. It’s neither right nor wrong, but it does represent an informed opinion, upon which I place appropriate value. It definitely paints a clear picture by using topical comparisons for those deep in the conversation about buying TV media.

My agency buys TV too, but we aren’t hostage to ratings, per se. We look at a variety of trends in-process, and evaluate value based upon each outlet and platform’s capacity to deliver a return on investment (ROI). We use both experience and analysis to make our determinations. We’re accountable to our clients for actual sales results, so our mission is to buy frequency that is scalable.

That’s why we’re not shorting TV in any way, shape or form. In fact, we’re bullish on it. Even if cord-cutters and cord-nevers made up 30 percent of the market, which they do not, that 30 percent loss in reach is a fallacy. All the non-linear options – i.e., over-the-top (OTT) platforms – are so fragmented that there is no legitimate way to find and buy the delta. You certainly cannot buy on true scale like broadcast or cable.

All the pundits who scream that you must give up buying linear TV because you can’t buy targetable scale demonstrate their ignorance and how hypnotized they are by inaccuracies and lies.

Look, it’s simple: I can buy 100 million households any number of ways with either broadcast or cable, but I can’t with any of the alternatives. There isn’t any one, or even two or three, OTT options that offer the opportunity to buy half that scale. And the pricing of the options that do deliver on what might be considered approaching scale are priced at such absurd CPMs that they effectively chase our clients back into the loving arms of broadcast and cable.

Nielsen Numbers Don’t Add Up for Media Buys

2016 03 17   Peter Feinstein   TV and Ratings    

I remain a skeptic of Nielsen’s much vaunted (by Nielsen) NPX. I don’t buy the validity of mathematically modeling demographic data.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist; all I do is follow the money. NPX sounds like an authoritative, deeply analytical tool that dramatically improves viewership attribution while simultaneously eliminating costly paper diaries. In reality, it’s a profit play.

It’s Nielsen’s market to make, so why not just say that it wants to bolster profits while relying on sound mathematical models to arrive at provable viewer data? Because it isn’t true. Anytime you see statistical wobbles – i.e., going from flat to submariner depths in one short week – you have to know that the math is just wrong. The kind of swings we’re seeing are reminiscent of the days when Arbitron would roll out monthly diaries and we’d see double-digit swings from one month to the next. And they have all the validity of those bogus Arbitron numbers.

I’m not saying that these outlets aren’t experiencing downdrafts in their viewership; I’m simply suggesting the measurement methodology is deeply and irretrievably flawed, and shouldn’t stand up as the numbers we use to buy media.

Acknowledge Native Advertising for What It Is

2016 03 23   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

‘South Park’ Lampoon of Native Advertising Highlights Important Issues,” by Maria Shinkevich (AdvertisingAge, Feb. 24), is a nice primer on the pride and pitfalls of online Native Advertising (NA).

What I find so patronizing is the desire to treat NA as some kind of innovation – so new and exciting that the online community has to find a way to disclose it to consumers. I’ll be blunt. (Some may say rude.) It’s so easy a 6-year-old can figure it out: Just tell the flippin’ truth. Don’t sugar-coat it; don’t misrepresent it; don’t lie about it; and don’t try to confuse people. NA is advertising. If you don’t have the guts to label it as advertising anywhere it appears, then stop doing it; otherwise you’re lying to everyone who views it.

Contrary to Shinkevich’s assertion that it’s all about content, with NA, the content is a fait accompli; it is instead about clear disclosure. I don’t care if the content is truly hard-hitting news. If it’s advertising and not labeled as such, it’s a blatant misrepresentation designed to deceive me into taking some kind of action that lines someone else’s pockets.

Nielsen Numbers Don’t Add Up for Media Buys

2016 03 23   Peter Feinstein   TV and Ratings    

I remain a skeptic of Nielsen’s much vaunted (by Nielsen) NPX. I don’t buy the validity of mathematically modeling demographic data.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist; all I do is follow the money. NPX sounds like an authoritative, deeply analytical tool that dramatically improves viewership attribution while simultaneously eliminating costly paper diaries. In reality, it’s a profit play.

It’s Nielsen’s market to make, so why not just say that it wants to bolster profits while relying on sound mathematical models to arrive at provable viewer data? Because it isn’t true. Anytime you see statistical wobbles – i.e., going from flat to submariner depths in one short week – you have to know that the math is just wrong. The kind of swings we’re seeing are reminiscent of the days when Arbitron would roll out monthly diaries and we’d see double-digit swings from one month to the next. And they have all the validity of those bogus Arbitron numbers.

I’m not saying that these outlets aren’t experiencing downdrafts in their viewership; I’m simply suggesting the measurement methodology is deeply and irretrievably flawed, and shouldn’t stand up as the numbers we use to buy media.

Nielsen Numbers Don’t Add Up for Media Buys

2016 03 23   Peter Feinstein   TV and Ratings    

I remain a skeptic of Nielsen’s much vaunted (by Nielsen) NPX. I don’t buy the validity of mathematically modeling demographic data.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist; all I do is follow the money. NPX sounds like an authoritative, deeply analytical tool that dramatically improves viewership attribution while simultaneously eliminating costly paper diaries. In reality, it’s a profit play.

It’s Nielsen’s market to make, so why not just say that it wants to bolster profits while relying on sound mathematical models to arrive at provable viewer data? Because it isn’t true. Anytime you see statistical wobbles – i.e., going from flat to submariner depths in one short week – you have to know that the math is just wrong. The kind of swings we’re seeing are reminiscent of the days when Arbitron would roll out monthly diaries and we’d see double-digit swings from one month to the next. And they have all the validity of those bogus Arbitron numbers.

I’m not saying that these outlets aren’t experiencing downdrafts in their viewership; I’m simply suggesting the measurement methodology is deeply and irretrievably flawed, and shouldn’t stand up as the numbers we use to buy media.

Programmatic Buying Doesn’t Need New Process

2016 03 28   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I really like the ideas Operative CEO Lorne Brown expressed in “How To Make Programmatic TV Grow Faster? Simplify It.” (AdExchanger, Feb. 25)

I’m in favor of keeping things simple. When the industry transitioned from analog and standard definition to high definition, there was some very temporary discomfort and confusion; entirely manageable because it didn’t involve deciding whether to spend money in a new media channel. It was cut and dry: I’m buying TV; it works; and this is what it takes.

Programmatic TV needs to be simple. Let me sign in, see the inventory and pricing and make my buy. Then let me upload my client’s creative in the same specs we’re all using today.

Why do we have all this hand-wringing and teeth gnashing? Because the ad techies, in order to establish job security, complicate things and attempt to baffle us with their BS. We need ad tech to write the code to automate what we need – and then get the heck out of the way. If they’re half as bright as they claim (and seek to charge), they should be able to do this easily.

This isn’t coming from ignorance – rather, precise understanding of the process and what it really takes to get the job done.

Big Cable Must Admit Landscape Has Changed

2016 04 04   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

What the cable systems don’t understand is that they are basically utilities. I know they think themselves so much more, but they are mistaken. Gravely. They are the conduits through which data passes. They own none of what they deliver, yet their words and actions make me think they believe differently.

I read their commentary and legal arguments and come away thinking that they believe they own the rights to everything they transmit. They’re wrong. The truth is, they are merely well-paid delivery services desperate to keep their profits flowing by holding onto the entertainment they deliver in exchange for excruciatingly high prices (that promise to go higher).

They charge the owners of the entertainment for access to you and me, while charging us for access to the entertainment. It is an ingenious business model for as long as they can stand in between the owners of entertainment and its consumers. But that middle ground is disappearing. If the cable companies want to survive, and I mean literally stay in business, they’re going to have to come to the basic understanding that the business model upon which they were founded, and under which they’ve flourished, is going through a radical reconstruction that promises to shutter them – unless they accept what’s happening and find a way to shift their place in the revenue-generation stream through relevance.

Misrepresenting themselves as guardians of innovation – or worse, intimating that, by taking all those neat toys from their grasp, the government and other “interlopers” will actually inhibit the innovation of data delivery to consumers – is a specious argument that any second grader can see through. Even kids know the cable systems are becoming irrelevant to their day-to-day entertainment experiences.
This post is simultaneously entertaining and brilliantly business-savvy … and quite possibly the most accurate descriptor of what’s likely coming to the set-top cable-box struggles we’re seeing unfold.

Netflix Aims to Save Data; AT&T, Verizon Just Take

2016 04 07   Peter Feinstein   Media and Politics    

The small minds at the phone companies who decry Netflix’s reduced image quality don’t know how stupid they sound.

AT&T executive Jim Cicconi’s claim of outrage – “Netflix throttling video for AT&T, Verizon users” (USA Today, March 25) – is so bombastic that it’s funny. He doesn’t seem to understand the difference between throttling data on his company’s side being criminal when it’s direct claims are otherwise, and Netflix’s, which reduces image quality so that subscribers of AT&T’s expensive services don’t get dinged for watching the shows they want. And just in case Cicconi and the others at AT&T, or Verizon for that matter, still can’t discern between the two, here’s a quick insight: Anyone watching video on their phone will easily be able tell the difference between 1080p and 480p resolutions, but that same consumer will be mystified as to why his or her connection speed plummets due to the phone companies’ throttling because they don’t want to marginalize their profit performance.

Netflix broadcasts lower resolution video to save its subscribers money, while the phone giants throttle their data flows to reduce their costs and boost profits, without informing their customers of what they’re doing – a tactic that often violates their very own terms of service.

As I always say: “Follow the money.” I suggest AT&T and Verizon learn to keep quiet before they raise the ire of more subscribers. T-Mobile will, I’m sure, be happy to help those who defect.

Publisher Issues Aren’t Relevant to Advertisers

2016 04 19   Peter Feinstein   The Higher Power in HPM    

The world of online advertising is fraught with pitfalls that most of us on the agency side never contemplate – and for good reason: They don’t matter.

As a publisher, if you want me to pay to rent your viewers’ presence for the couple of seconds they’re going to potentially see my clients’ ads, then you’ll charge me whatever you need to charge me. You either make the CPM cut or you don’t. I don’t care what your costs are, what your initiatives are or what ad tech you have to install or invent in order to make my agency experience love you. That’s yourbusiness; however you manage it is up to you.

I’m an empathetic guy. I’ve experienced a lot in my years and have a lot of compassion. Except in business. You go into business with a purpose in mind, and you have a business model that you run, or it runs you. In the end, the only businesses I truly care about are my own and my clients’; I want to know the minutiae so I can be of great service and value.

But as a buyer of media, I don’t give a whit about what you have to do to make ends meet. That would be like crying to my clients that I need to increase my commission rate to pay for a new employee, or because I need to license expensive new software or pay for my expensive new car. Do you know what my clients would say if I pulled that line of crap on them? “You’re fired” – that’s what they’d say. And they would be absolutely right in giving me the boot.

If you’re a publisher and you’ve got to invest in your business to make it attractive or valuable enough for me to consider, then put your best foot forward, listen to what I and my clients need and fulfill based upon your understanding of those needs. Do not cry me a river about how you only get to keep X percent because of all the extra stuff you have to do, or decide between doing. It’s unprofessional, and it demonstrates to me you have no interest in being of service to me or my clients; you simply want my/their money.

Some may laud you for your honesty; I simply look at your rationalizations and laugh, knowing my media buying has just gotten easier by one less publisher I need to worry about.

Supply Side Must Take Control of Programmatic

2016 04 21   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The author of this item, Bryan Noguchi, and I are cut from much of the same cloth. He espouses the same safeguards that I’ve held as the necessary basis for any kind of depth and scale in programmatic TV buying.

In order to ensure that pricing does not become a race to the bottom, which could decimate the medium, those who are playing on the supply side need to set the rules. It is, after all, their inventory. Adopting minimum pricing reserves and setting aside certain key inventory avails in exchange for higher-value media buys should all be a part of it. And with the sophistication of technology that we can apply to all kinds of inventory-management situations, the supply side should be able to carefully orchestrate a system that sells available inventory for top dollar, but without gouging the media-buying community.

I recommend Noguchi’s article as a must read, and I’d be interested in your take.

Presumptuous Brands Will See Customer Backlash

2016 04 25   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I enjoyed Chuck Martin’s point of view about brands wrestling control of the sales process away from the consumer. (“Negative Options Rule in the Internet Of Things,” IoT Daily, April 10)

If one is going to read between the lines – and I’m kind of surprised that I’m the first to voice this – it seems to me that brands think that they deserve my business, and that it’s up to me to deny them their due or they get to make money off of me. Isn’t that what the Domino’s app is all about? The short answer: Yes. The correct answer: They are wrong. I have the money; guess who makes the rules? I do.

If a brand wants my money, it’ll play by my rules. And my rules say: “If you take my money without my explicit permission, that’s stealing, and I’d be delighted to press criminal charges.”

Yeah, I know that, with the Domino’s app, one has to go through a number of steps requiring conscious effort and decision, including connecting a payment method and agreeing to its absurd 10-second rule by checking a box, but the premise has the business relationship backwards. Instead of Domino’s asking me if they can serve me, it is telling me it’s going to do something if I don’t deny it that right.

Tip to Domino’s (Sorry to pick on you so mercilessly, but you did put your insane app out there and then got totally set up by Martin.) and any other company that believes it deserves my money by virtue of its mere existence: You are wrong, and may experience the power of consumer backlash against your presumptions in the form of decreased sales – and class-action lawsuits by disgruntled consumers and attorneys who are hungrier than even your mediocre pizza can satisfy. It will happen, and it will force a rethink of the rules, back to putting the consumer first.

On the flip side, you have companies that use their presence on the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve their clients’ individual brand experiences. I wear a Shine by Misfit. I sync it every day, and with that sync Misfit is able to tell how much juice is left in my device’s battery. When it’s getting low, the company emails me, asking if I’d like it to send me a new one. Whichever way I respond, it lets me know what it’s doing. Thus far, I’ve opted to receive the free battery, and each time it has sent me two – which further impresses me!

In the IoT world, there is Domino’s way and then there is Misfit’s way. I’ve taken a shine to Shine! I prefer Papa John’s pizza anyway.

Addressable Ads May Become Big, But Not Yet

2016 05 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

Addressability has been a popular topic in the trades recently. Two particular articles struck me as worthy of detailed responses.

Google’s Rany Ng wrote a great piece: “Preparing For A Robust Addressable TV Advertising Marketplace” (AdExchanger, April 21). Sadly, though, the scenario is at least five years off – even at the ever-accelerating pace of technology that could make some of this possible. Some. Now let’s add some business reality: Addressable TV (ATV) becomes much more expensive on a CPM basis; let’s say by a factor of 30 percent. Probably more.

Add to that the fact that there is never more than a very low single-digit percentage of the population who can be considered even remotely “in the market” for whatever commercial may air, and the numbers may not work.

The real downside to ATV goes unspoken, until now. The reason TV is so effective is because it persuades the masses, often on a massive scale, to take action they otherwise would not be inclined to take. So, big deal, right? Wrong. ATV’s claim to fame is to use data to eliminate waste, but what ATV really does is shrink delivery to a mere fraction of a market, rendering return on investment (ROI) virtually impossible to achieve. And completely gone, robbed by the use of superior data, is a commercial’s inherent power to persuade viewers who mightnot have been in the market for the advertised product or service, and with it the opportunity to deliver a truly powerful ROI.

Is ATV a good idea? Perhaps. Unintended consequences? Absolutely. Lack of scale and reduced cost-efficiency? Clearly.

Proponents Must Document Benefits

I think Jennifer Pelino makes some really great points in “Addressable Media: Gaining Clarity On Ways To Reduce Wasted Reach” (MediaPost, April 20). She nails the nuts and bolts of addressable media, but, before she ever gets there, we’re met with, for me, wholly irrelevant and even incorrect assertions.

“Brands need to embrace the fact that premium inventory leads to incremental sales and increased performance,” she writes. In what medium? TV? Not even remotely; ATV is a complete non-scale, boutique type of targeting tool, with which you’re guaranteed to pay rather astonishingly high CPM’s in exchange for a few hundred thousand households. Maybe.

Yes, Pelino rolls out some pretty impressive uplift numbers, but she offers no attribution whatsoever. To whom do these impressive in-campaign and post-26-week period percentage increases belong? There’s no tangible association made, so we’re left to scratch our heads and wonder. True, we are given a hit list of seven categories, such as pet and frozen foods (among others), that could experience short- and longer-term benefits, but we have no legitimate reasons to connect the dots.

That’s the quandary when dealing with addressable media: There is much spectacle about what it can do but virtually no tangible proof, where actual cause and effect are given to us as clearly as any real media-plan case study would offer. I’m left wanting, and really just wanting to stick with what continues to work for our clients.

‘Native’ Offers Consumers a Glossary of Deception

2016 05 24   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

What’s even more vexing than the insanity of trying to wade through the terms of deception is one of the comments responding to “Native Advertising Definitions Continue to Confuse” (MediaPost Native Insider, April 27).

The article itself is tongue-in-cheek , taking a poke at the industry from the inside. At least one of the comments below the post, however, demonstrates just how institutionalized the art of native deception is: The commentator offers up 15 years of expertise on how to jump the shark and reveals how publishers can be trusted … if you’re an advertiser.

Guess who is omitted there? The consumer. All of the puffery and misdirection would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the end game is the deception of tens of millions of consumers – all in the name of greed.

The pursuit of profit without a conscience is the special province of online; print, radio and TV have rules about what you can say and how it must be identified. No such standards exist online. Sure, the Interactive Advertising Bureau spouts off a variety of terms it claims are clarifying, but when the Federal Trade Commission issues guidelines, the IAB pooh-poohs them. Then you get further obfuscation of the truth of what you’re reading, with a 15-plus year history of institutionalized consumer deception.

Online Ad Metrics: Keep Them Simple

2016 08 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I love the desire to simplify what is complicated.

In “Viewable Cost Per View: The Ultimate Metric For Video Advertising” (AdExchanger, June 27), Todd Tran tries to cut through all the digital BS and arrive at a measurement standard that accounts for the most critical elements of online video advertising.

He falls short only because of the complexity of the digital video universe and the absurd range of what constitutes viewability, duration of view, etc. But what he’s able to wrangle, he manages really well – and for that I’m grateful.

At my agency, we take a very simplistic view: If the add isn’t 100 percent viewable and doesn’t run to completion, it’s not payable. Period. That’s how Hulu operates, and we have no reason to expect less from anyone else.

TV Sports Plays by Its Own Rules

2016 08 04   Peter Feinstein   TV and Ratings    

We Americans love our sports. Because of that, advertisers do too.

So, finding ourselves on the heels of Wimbledon and the Euro 2016 soccer championship, and on the cusp of the 2016 Summer Olympics, here are a couple of thoughts on TV sports advertising.
Writer Anthony Crupi posits that all the major sports-broadcasting deals have been locked up: “For all intents and purposes, there are no more major sports portfolios left to be acquired. The cupboard is bare and will remain so through the start of the next decade.”

Every time I read that we’ve reached the end of the rainbow, I remember it’s just someone trying to run counter-culture and be the first to correctly predict the future. And while they certainly mean no harm, they just don’t seem to understand the notion that the sports and entertainment industries are not bound by common sense.

They play by a different set of rules, by which the only thing that matters is leverage. If there’s still room to leverage multiples against a spend, they’ll do it. To me, these most recent deals are simply that. Not the last, just the most recent.
For ad buyers, the intention people bring to viewing content is the key to determining value. Whether live or purposely delayed for later consumption, it is the viewer’s intention that determines real value.

The sports and entertainment industries are not bound by common sense.

Beware: Innovation Wasted If Unneeded

2016 08 26   Peter Feinstein   IoT and Innovation    

The challenge for most inventors, whether they are working with ideas, products or technology, is getting out of their own way. They invent something they value, something that addresses one of their peculiar needs. Then they mistakenly think that everyone else has this same need.

We’ve all been there at some time in our lives. I started a company that grouped multiple radio stations together to make the media-buying process easier for advertisers. It was brilliant in every respect, except one: It was so ahead of its time that some stations and advertisers didn’t even realize they had the need.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is much the same way. There are so many possible things that can be connected that some of these devises look like they’re ideas wanting for a need … except there is none. The simplest approach to looking at who is going to win and lose in these games – and that’s all these are – is to identify who truly understands human psychology enough to bring relevant solutions to real problems.

Humans, by and large, do not consume preventive measures; they go wild for solutions to real problems. Find real pain points and, if an IoT solution presents itself, bet on it. That’s just the way it is.

Marketers Shouldn’t Overvalue Big Data

2016 09 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The idea that’s its mission critical to understand every movement and moment of a brand’s consumer journey is incorrect. It ultimately leads to sub-par decision-making and, worse still, paralysis in the face of mass confusion.

Use of Big Data does not guarantee accurate insight into any brand’s consumer pre-purchase behavior, and offers virtually no understanding of consumers’ thought processes. For as nuanced as Big Data purports to get – and the parsing of that data down from a fire hose to a drip line – it’s still incomprehensible and, even more frustratingly, fails to offer enough actionable information to be useful. The consumer path from apathy to purchase is not linear, and even the most gifted coder cannot produce an algorithm that comes close enough approximating the growing fragmentation of stimuli that ask/demand the consumer’s attention on a daily basis.

The brands that say they’d use more offline media if better tools existed clearly have no inkling that there exists a culture of accountability in the pay-per-call, pay-per-lead and pay-per-sale worlds of advertising. They not only are not the province of online media but also have a heritage that always has existed in TV, radio, print and direct mail … and continues to this day.

Publishers to Blame for Ad-Block Boom

2016 10 28   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

First, the answer to the question above: Yes.

It’s that simple. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is wrong. I don’t care what content providers think they “deserve” in the way of my attention to the obnoxious advertising they put on their sites. They’re wrong. If the IAB or the sites don’t like it, they can sue me.

Or better yet, instead of crying and pointing fingers at everyone else, they should look at the common denominator to all their problems – themselves. In every instance, ad blocking happens because publishers vomit on consumers the most vile stuff that they call advertising, annoying everyone who has had to endure the assault – just so they can deliver the impressions they promised. I’d lay money and give you huge odds that the loudest complainers, including key execs at the IAB, use ad-blocking software. Wanna bet? Thought not; I’d win. Big.

Next, I don’t care what Apple has done or is going to do. Guess what, the market will decide if Apple’s way is going to be the way. Publishers shouldn’t waste time crying about it; they should innovate an alternative. Life isn’t fair; publishers need to put on their big-person clothes, grow up and innovate. And stop pointing their lazy, self-absorbed, falsely self-entitled fingers at everyone but themselves. They’re the only ones to blame for the position in which they find themselves.

Think I’m wrong? Think again. If folks had bought the IAB’s line of thinking in 1941, Americans would have complained about Pearl Harbor being bombed. Instead, we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and took the battle to the Japanese, intent on demonstrating the error in judgment. Online publishers are in a battle for their very existence; they’d better step up, stop their pity party and innovate.

It’s their only hope.

Quality Content Is Carrot for Consumers

2016 11 18   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

The whole reason for buying advertising is to rent the minds of the people who are listening, watching or otherwise partaking in meaningful programming content. The more actively involved someone is in consuming the content, it’s thought the more susceptible they might be to a relevant advertising offer.

So when you combine extraordinarily entertaining content with highly topical/relevant advertising, you have a successful advertising campaign. That’s why there is such a clamor for great content (Content Is Still King, MediaPost, Oct. 28) – because you don’t want to run your ad – or your client’s ad – with subpar entertainment content that delivers little-to-no value, i.e., little-to-no scale. Scale wins. Every time.

As the generational demands continue to gather steam and momentum, we’re likely to see a tipping point when costly first-run content that has little-or-no entertainment value falls victim to the power of truly entertaining shows. (The New Golden Age of TV Is Hurting the Lucrative Reruns Business, (Businessweek, Oct. 19) It’s kind of like paying for YouTube; most who got hoodwinked to do that have found the smartest thing they ever did was cancel it.

When the content saturation point is reached, the money will fall away and the pied piper’s music will stop. I have to wonder how many, and which, shows are going to be without a home when the shell game ends? The smartest players are already planning their exit because they’ve already forecast the coming bubble.

Chasing Rainbows … and Specific Buyers

2017 01 13   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I am likely to spend quite a bit of my time in 2017 attempting to educate the more youthful and considerably less experienced in our industry on the folly of believing everything they read about the power of data and technology to solve what appears to be any problem.

Truthfully, my more youthfully exuberant colleagues have no understanding why some things work the way they do, how some things have worked for decades and that those things don’t necessarily need to have today’s tech applied to them to fix what isn’t broken. To wit, dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is not dead on arrival (DOA) – though perhaps it should be.

The first and most alarming aspects of DAI are the “fixes” it supposedly brings to TV. Actually, TV isn’t broken. Well-targeted mass-reach delivers scale that literally makes markets. Choose a business category, any business category where TV has been used, and you can see how the sheer scale resulted, for the best creative, in making something out of nothing. Where no business previously existed, a new one sprang to life.

This is not because of hypertargeting – precisely the opposite. Human beings analyzed the available data and determined that the best approach was to use mass-reach TV in order to impress a mass market. The reason? It’s not because we don’t want to have better data; it’s because we know that businesses are built not just on immediate response but over weeks, months, quarters, years and decades.

There are so many unpredictable human complexities inherent in every market that there is no effective way to target just the buyers and have it work to the scale needed to pay for the production and the advertising. The only way the numbers actually work is with the human capacity to come up with a well-targeted group of mass-scale outlets so that the response rate can cover the costs associated with the ad and advertising. The whole idea of paying a premium to super-selectively target an ultra-narrowly focused group of consumers who fit a tidy little set of massive data selects is absurd.

Want an example?
Let’s try this hypothetical: Our advertiser is a home-warranty company. Let’s say it spends $20,000 producing a TV commercial. (That’s an almost laughably small production budget, but it’ll do for our purposes.) And then it produces a second version of the spot for another $15,000. That’s also absurdly low, but for this example it lets us see that we’ve got $35,000 invested in TV production. Now we go to market to test which spot will work better. We decide on a weekly budget of $50,000 with which we might be able to buy three national cable networks delivering about 18 percent of the client’s 35-to-54 target market with weekly frequency of about 2.0.

Leveraging Mass Reach

We’re now $105,000.00 in and don’t have the first sales dollar yet, but our media plan will deliver well-targeted reach in excess of 20 million households (homeowners ages 35 to 54 with income of at least $75,000) per week. The first week’s spot produces a meager tenth of a percent response rate (1,000), and the client converts 23 percent of callers (230) at an average sale of $799.00, or about $183,770 in revenue. Week Two’s ad doubles the response rate (2,000), which the client converts at a lower, 17 percent (340) rate at an average of just $699.00, for revenue of $237,660. Both weeks the client is in the money. The return on investment (ROI) is through the roof, and they keep on buying, adding staff and spending more and more to replicate these efforts. Obviously, with increased scale comes softer conversions, but they’re still at a 2-to-1 ROI.
Now we take the same scenario but use hypertargeting to buy only hypercostly “premium” inventory based upon what the ad techs tell us are 12 different, critical pre-selects for this consumer group. The investment is identical to that in our first example; we’re in for $105,000. Our hypertargeted campaign reach is a little more than 5 million households, but it projects a four-tenths of 1 percent response rate and anticipates a client-conversion rate of 30 percent. These are real estimates by the way, not made-up figures. So let’s do the math. It should yield us an impressive 2,000 respondents, with 600 converting at $799.00, producing a whopping $479,400.

Using Hypertargeting

But it fails to meet projections by 50 percent at each stage of the funnel, yielding just 1,000 respondents and 150 conversions at $799.00, for $119,850 – and an ROI of 1.13 the first week and 2.28 overall, compared with 4.0 in the first example. That is because you cannot parse out all the undesirable elements of a target market without taking the segment of the market that is responsible for producing the most profits. The latter are the engine that leverages all the power in business and make rapid and successful expansion possible. Why? Because you cannot accurately predict human behavior or motivation from past behavior.

The securities industry, and nearly every other business sector, gets that and disclaims the notion that past behavior must not be used to measure future results. Why is it the advertising industry persists in demonstrating its complete lack of business acumen, focusing instead on fairy tales and myths to earn its living?

Combined Approach Yields Higher ROI

2017 01 17   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

I’m always wary of surveys or research studies that are self-serving in nature; they’re usually far too limited in scope, seeking only the narrowest of information and answers to serve a predetermined end.

I believe that’s what I see in this article. Yes, the research was conducted by an industry leader, so it certainly followed all the proper statistical methodologies, I just wonder about the premise, questions and results.

In my decades of experience with package goods and fully integrated marketing programs, it is the combination of marketing, promotion and advertising that leverages the highest return on investment (ROI), usually exceeding vendor projections by 25-to-30 percent. All the funding comes from product case movement, and every moving piece of the program is funded through incremental sales generated by leveraging additional displays with each vendor’s retail channels.

This is far more powerful than marketing, and significantly more robust than just advertising. So, while the study Turner commissioned is accurate about how shifting even small portions of promotional budgets can easily double sales dollars per-spend, the real story is what was missed in the analysis: Whenever you have an opportunity to leverage display space and drive consumers in-store with a fully integrated marketing promotion (display, point-of-sale setup, consumer pull and significant media spend), you’ll find ROI in the $3.36 neighborhood – with a guaranteed sell-through.

Who wouldn’t want that? Turner, for one – because you actually need business people to be sales reps, not order takers, and at that level of advertising, sadly, all you have are the latter. No one “needs” to work on the real business of business; they’re simply taking time orders. I get it – but on some level you’re going to have to fill the air time with something, so why not the details of a fully integrated retail marketing program? Just asking …

Ad Groups Bite the Hand that Feeds

2017 01 27   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Look, I’m not a political partisan on any of this. I’m just a guy – an owner of a nice-sized advertising agency that respects consumer privacy.

It’s been my belief all along that internet service providers (ISPs) are mere utilities, nothing more, and need to be regulated as such. They are not, in my opinion, entitled to sell, rent or otherwise monetize my private data, or something as seemingly innocuous as my web browsing, without obtaining my permission or compensating me at least 50 percent of the revenue they make from it. Period.

It’s not a Democratic or Republican thing. It’s just a matter of doing the right thing – and looking past the money. But it appears we’re headed into a more-lawless time in which commerce will cease to have a conscience, or at least as much of a conscience as it was looking like it might be required to have.

I’m sad for what appears to be coming because it is bad for consumers and, therefore, bad for business too. Unfortunately, businesses forgets who drives their business – consumers. When you bite the hand that feeds you, sooner or later you’re going to stop getting fed.

Online Ads Can’t Match Radio’s Scale

2017 02 02   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

While the headline “Why Digital Hasn’t Killed The Radio Star” (AdExchanger, Jan. 6) begs the question, the answer is straightforward: Digital has no scale; it offers only mass fragmentation and minuscule reach. That is not a recipe for instilling advertiser confidence, and with good reason. It needs scale to drive return on investment, and everyone in business knows that only ROI matters. Everything else is merely wishful thinking.

Yes, it’s true that the smartest broadcast owners are attempting to integrate data they get from their digital assets with third-party data to try and get intelligent guidance on offering advertisers better targeting. But they must understand that the targeting they can offer still is only as good as the third-part data they’re using – and their integration science. Mostly, it’s just too new for them to offer any true insight. But at least they’re trying!

Ads Tied to State of Viewer Experience

2017 02 06   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

Last year was symbolic and symptomatic of what is to come – the intensification of human fatigue as the unstoppable march of technology trampled our ability to manage all the noise being thrown at us. As it becomes unmanageable, we tend to disengage, sit down and ignore it as best we can. Or we fly to the other extreme and charge headlong into the battle, giving it our all until we’re so bloodied by sensory overload that we fall back, disengage and shut down.

I heard variations of these two ideas more times than I can count in 2016, and experienced it firsthand on an overnight flight home from overseas on election night. The announcement that Donald Trump had won the election elicited no audible response from more than 200 passengers. The next morning, I was assaulted by every news organization’s vain attempts to lure me back into the fracas, along with the back-and-forth posts in social media about this and that.

The fatigue factor is only now being recognized as a real force needing to be met. The human species is capable of digesting only so much sensory input; after the saturation point is reached, apathy results. If those of us in media don’t recognize this and act as good stewards of our human race, we may just find ourselves being ignored too.

Over the past 50 years, what used to be the inextricably intertwined relationship between program and network has morphed into the reality that programs are available almost anywhere. It’s in that absence of that old-fashioned relationship that viewers are compelled to search high and low for what they want to watch. That’s the reality we face today, and it is bound to expand as content (program) fragmentation accelerates.

The answer to the question is, of course, yes and no. Yes, because it affects an entire chain of revenue events. But no, since it cannot truly be quantified, nor addressed thanks to a lack of useful, measurable data. 18

Stop Wasting Time, Money on Digital Ads

2017 02 27   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

The good news is that marketers are beginning to withhold their money from fraud-rich advertising environments. In the article to which I link above, Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, laid it out for digital media – and guess what, P&G is only the first of some very big names that no longer are going to sit still for the man-made complexity and purposeful opacity of the digital-media landscape.

While I was reading this article, I wondered to myself what impact major brands would have if they just stopped advertising in digital media. I thought about it a bit, and came to the conclusion that they would feel virtually no impact. Here’s why: They would have tens of millions of dollars to put back into real media, whether linear, addressable, programmatic, over-the-top (OTT) or all of the above, and each and all would perform with a transparency that is missing from virtually every digital-media buy.

As it is, the term ‘digital media’ is an oxymoron; it does not offer scale or value, and is the one stream of ad messaging that is consistently, consciously and deliberately blocked by those it’s intended to reach. The question becomes: “Why pursue eyeballs that don’t wish to be reached?”
Why spend the money when reach and frequency cannot really be bought? Sure, you can buy insane frequency, but that tends to chase away your target market quickly. I look at this cycle and I see insanity at work, doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.

“Don’t you get pissed off when all of these retargeted ads follow you all over the place when you already bought the shoes? That’s basically a marketer saying, ‘I have so much data. I’m going to show you how stupid I am.’”

~ Rishad Tobaccowala, Publicis,AdExchanger, Feb. 8

In order to get a different result, you have to get off the spinning wheel and find another path; in this case, the road to redemption for most brands and marketers is going back to what always worked (and still does): TV.

Try Dialogue, Not Friction, to Sway Ideas

2017 03 01   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

There is always another way to look at something.

My understanding of M&C Saatchi’s mission – as described in “Think different: Can advertising defeat ‘alt-right’ propaganda? (The Guardian, Feb. 15) – is that it is to help bring focus to the opportunity for people to see other points of view.

Critical to the success of this approach is to avoid, at all costs, finger pointing, name calling or telling people the far right is wrong. Nothing makes a person more defensive than being told he or she is wrong. Better to offer an understanding of the right’s messaging but then suggest a different point of view on a more emotional, connective level. Humor, if truly well-done, can be quite effective, because it connects the power of positive energy in reducing the negativity and serious tone of the message it is combating.

We’ll see how this plays out; perhaps if even mildly effective, we may want to try and combat hate with love here in the states.

For Credible Attribution, Keep Ads Offline

2017 03 16   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

I think Goodway Group COO Jay Friedman nails it in “Holistic Attribution Will Not Be Achieved Anytime Soon” (AdExchanger, Feb. 16). He draws attention to the contrast between the brilliance behind the development and implementation of Amazon’s Alexa and the ready, shoot, aim mentality behind many ad campaigns – where the desire for results often negates the thinking process needed to track the source and origin of each response.

The sad truth is that, in all but the smallest niches of advertising, the ability to successfully track ad response is a lost art. For example, one of those niches, the pay-per-action segment in offline media, pays such close attention to this process that necessity became the mother of invention. Players there can track clicks, form-fills, leads and even complex sales with simple yet elegant solutions.

Taking a wild foray into online media (“digital,” if you wish – just to make it sound legitimate), you lose virtually all capacity to connect the dots. Whatever your ad-tech solutions may be, they’re really just adding layers of opacity because you can’t get transparency and clarity by adding more hands in the pot; it stirs up and thickens the soup. And that makes divining intent nearly impossible.

At my agency, we have clients that come to us to escape the end results of their online advertising: “Virtually every online lead has one thing in common,” they lament. “They have no intention of actually buying from us.”

Marketers are willing to foot the bill for real, accurate attribution. That means moving back to what can be tracked cleanly and accurately, via offline media.

YouTube TV: Lots of Sizzle, Little Steak

2017 03 17   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

This news has a great buzz to it because it features a well-known name. But it’s known for trivial content, which is why its free material is watched so avidly and its paid content not so much. This announcement was a great public relations move, with few teeth to it. It sure got the trades buzzing.

And even I’m chiming in – debunking it, but still talking about it. So I guess we’ll see. Meanwhile, the video-delivery jigsaw puzzle becomes more fragmented and devalued – while linear TV still looks vibrant, healthy and capable of delivering scale with a return on investment (ROI).
OK, so YouTube is a near-household name. I get it. But I don’t watch it. My 33-year-old son doesn’t even watch it. I concede that the 12-to-18 year old does, and that may be important in a decade or two. But it’ll be at least 10 years before it’s relevant.

Think I’m missing something? You tell me. YouTube boasts about delivering a billion hours of content watched every day worldwide – compared with linear TV delivering 1.25 billion hours of content each day in the U.S. alone.

YouTube’s U.S. daily content viewing is nowhere near a billion hours. Less than 20 percent of its views are from the U.S. And by YouTube’s own stats, only 58.2 percent of U.S. internet users have a YouTube account. The company’s own research shows that only 10 percent of its viewers would be willing to pay $10 a month for premium content, while more than half (54 percent) aren’t willing to pay even $1.
Really? It offers no scale. YouTube is a late-comer to the online-TV party and won’t be the last big name to get in the pool. That there will be no meaningful scale is pretty much a lock.

Beyond the extraordinary lack of scale, YouTube has even bigger problems to solve: viewability, audio on/off and the fact that its own research in the past 18 months shows that more than half its users aren’t willing to pay for premium content.

So why would I recommend my clients spend their advertising budget on YouTube TV? I wouldn’t.

FCC Boss: Commerce Over Conscience

2017 03 28   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

This is a shining example of how personalities get in the way of principles.

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems more interested in setting his feet into the quick-dry cement at the FCC than in maintaining a sound set of policies designed to protect the rights and privacy of more than 300 million Americans. He’s way more interested in currying favor with the internet service providers (ISPs), which are factually common carriers, mere utilities, than in siding with the citizens his little fiefdom is supposed to protect.

It’s a shame, because commerce over conscience can be changed easily to commerce with a conscience.

Consumer groups lobbying against Pai’s policy changes have valid arguments on many levels, but let’s be honest here: Nothing will change the new chairman’s mind faster than some enterprising black-hat entrepreneur scoring a direct hit on Pai’s own private data and exposing it publicly for our delight and his despair. That would likely shift Pai’s point of view, converting him into one of ISP broadband control’s most passionate proponents. It’s exactly the kind of shift needed to get the support these consumer advocates really need to win.

Beware of Self-Branded Industry Pundits

2017 04 10   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

Shareen Pathan hits the nail in the head in “‘Bullshit can work’: Advertising’s real fraud problem” (Digiday, March 17).

Our industry is made up of the largely immature and untrained, who mysteriously think they have the answers to everything. Comically, they don’t even understand the basics of business. They don’t know how to earn money, understand how a sale contributes to cost of sales or know how to calculate the break-even and profit threshold of a product or line.

Stuck in ignorance of even these most basic concepts and our industry, these know-it-alls (but done nones) talk ’til they’re out of breath. They spout jargon that they’ve made up and tell us it’s the next real measure of advertising success.

To my more youthful and inexperienced colleagues, I suggest a couple of strategies:

  1. Find someone with 20 years of experience, ask him or her to mentor you and listen to everything; and
  2. Use your intellectual curiosity to delve deeper and learn the business of business.

At least then, if you’re going to spout off, you might actually say something intelligent.

For Quality over Quantity, Advertise OFFline

2017 04 10   Peter Feinstein   Advertising    

It’s no surprise that, as The Center for Media Research has found, “B2B Marketers Choose Quality.” (MediaPost, Feb. 16) At Higher Power Marketing, we’ve operated under the mantra of never wanting to have to apologize to our clients for the quality of the calls/leads we deliver.

And we’re good to our word. The reason? We don’t let our clients get involved in too-good-to-be-true online advertising, where conversions run in the 0.001percent range. In general – and I understand it can be dangerous to generalize, but in this case it’s based upon experience – online advertising produces the poorest-quality leads.

Yes, we could generate tonnage and leave it to our clients to sift through the debris for the single gold piece in among the garbage, but we choose not to. We prefer, even for our online clients, to take them into offline media – where we can apply the truly powerful principles of advertising and tell their story to highly attentive consumers in a meaningful and relevant manner.

Online advertising can deliver a lot of leads; no one argues that. But you only get out what you put in, and online’s Achilles’ heel has been, still is and shall be that it starts with no regard for quality, so you get leads that have no relationship to quality.

If B2B brands and marketers are really concerned with quality over quantity, they should be actively seeking ways to exploit the power of offline media – TV, radio and, yes, even print.

TV Sports’ Big-Money Bubble May Burst

2017 04 11   Peter Feinstein   Online vs Offline Media    

There will come a day of reckoning for ESPN and other media-rights holders that pay out billions of dollars to show sports. At some point, what once was considered a very good marriage is going to be seen less favorably, clearly benefiting only the top college and professional sports leagues.

Here’s why: The ability to leverage huge viewership numbers into a nearly bottomless supply of advertising money is dropping. While brands still like to spend on giant events such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four and others, the trend is clear: Viewership of all live sports through these single media points of entry is on the decline as consumers find other ways of seeing the action. And that’s going to spell declines in ad revenue, as brands will be less willing to spend against fewer and fewer eyeballs.

Unless the media entities slow the pace of their spending for live sports content, they’re going to find themselves in a rather substantial hole. If the scenario progresses too far, we’re likely to see a bubble of significant proportions burst, affecting the media; entire sports; individual colleges and pro-sports franchises; their staffs, players and sponsors; and, ultimately, fans.

I know, I know. “It’s just sports.” But when you stop to consider all the ripples created when these huge sums of money change hands, it’s not so far-fetched to paint a scary picture of what might happen to that entire chain when the music (and money) stops. The consequences go beyond even what I’ve described here. ESPN, whether it likes it or not, is the canary in the coal mine – our early warning sign. What happens to it is going to happen elsewhere. Advertisers and content providers need to pay attention.

No Common Stake in Common Standard

2017 05 11   Peter Feinstein   Social Media    

The simple acknowledgement that siloed media and data channels are reality is probably the most powerful tidbit I’ve read in quite some time. It’s a fact I’ve been talking about since the more brash in digital began touting convergence. It’s gloriously wishful thinking and nothing more.

The silos are not coming down, and here’s why: It’s not in any of the individual media outlets’ perceived best interests to risk adopting the standardization that open gardens require. I’m not judging whether their perceptions are right or wrong, or even good or bad. I’m just presenting my observations.

In recognition of the myriad standards of data and reporting of data, we continue to seek solutions that yield half-measures. They’re pretty worthless because they don’t take into account all the different formats and variables, nor do they learn all the new bits of data increasing the flow daily.

What’s needed is a flexible template that can digest all the different standards and output the results accurately in one universally accepted format. Is it coming? Maybe. We may need to create it. If so, then we will. And then we’ll give it away so that it benefits everyone who wishes to use it.