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Rise of the Intelligent Publisher

Posted November 10th, 2014 by Jonathan Mendez in Media, CPC, Performance , Publishers, Data, Analytics, First Party, real-time

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Last week was yet another digital advertising event week in New York City – ad:tech and surrounding events. Everyone involved was talking about all the great advances in advertising technology happening right now. Nobody was talking about the advances in publisher technology. Frankly, there isn’t much to talk about. Except that there is.

A certain group of publishers have advanced light years ahead of the current discourse. Advanced beyond the idea of programmatic efficiency. Advanced beyond the idea of creating segments by managing cookies. Advanced far beyond unactionable analytic reports related to viewability. These publishers, many of whom are the most revered names in media, have deployed machine learning and artificial intelligence in their media. They have moved beyond optimizing delivery of impressions to predictive algorithms optimizing ad server decisions in real-time against the performance of their media.

The movement towards publishers understanding and optimizing their media is one of retaining the value of ownership. It may seem obvious that publishers own their media but they don’t really. In reality when the buyer is the one that is optimizing the performance of that media and keeping the learning – even using that learning as leverage in what they are buying – the value in ownership, in fact the entire value of a publishing business, is called into question.

The smartest and most forward thinking publishers understand the stakes. We are entering a world where all media is performance media. Brands are getting smarter about attribution and measurement. They are getting smarter about marketing mix models and seeing the value in digital over other channels. They are gaining insight into how digital influences purchase. In this new world the imperative of publishers to be as knowledgeable about their media as brands is not about competitive intelligence. It is about better performance for these very brands – their customers!

Publishers will not survive in a world where they do not know when, why, where, how and someone is walking into their store. They will not survive if they do not know what customers are buying and how much they are paying. No business could survive that lack of data and intelligence. In fact, no customer really wants that type of store either. Customers want to buy products that serve their intended purpose. Customers want sellers to understand — even predict — what they will be interested in. Customer experience extends to buying media the same as buying anything else. This means marketer performance.

Publishers are ultimately responsible for the performance of their media and the happiness of their customers. Yet, many never think about it or feel helpless to do anything about it. They are the ones that will not make the transition to the performance media economy.

Like all intelligent systems at the core this is about data. Vincent Cerf famously said Google didn’t have better algorithms, they just had more data. The reality is no one has more data than publishers. Each landing on the site, each pageview by a consumer has well over a hundred dimensions of data. That data is fundamental to the structure of the web – it is linked data – and the serialization of it through each site session creates exponentially more of it. Unlike cookie data that does not scale this data is web scale. And it can be captured, organized and activated in real-time.

The data is a window into the consumer mindset and journey. Importantly for publishers it is an explicit first-party value exchange between the publisher and the consumer. It is an exchange of intent for content, of mindset for media. It is what brands want more than anything else. The moment, the zeitgeist, the exact time and place a consumer is considering, researching, comparing, evaluating, learning, and discovering what and where to buy. It is the single most valuable moment in media. It is right time, right place, right message. It is uniquely digital, uniquely first-party and owned solely by the publisher. It is a gold mine that Facebook and Google recognize and they have focused their recent publisher-side initiatives on capturing from publishers either unsuspecting or incapable of extracting the value themselves.

As publishers begin to understand these moments themselves, activate them for marketers and optimize the performance of the media against them, an amazing thing happens. The overall value of the media increases. It increases because of intelligence. It increases because of performance. Most important, it increases because of value being delivered to consumers. It also opens up new budgets. Over time, these systems will get smarter. With more data, publishers can even begin to sell based on performance thereby eliminating a host of issues around impression based buying and increasing overall RPM by orders of magnitude with higher effective CPMs and smarter, more efficient allocations of impressions.

Unfortunately for the hungry advertising trade publications you will not hear these most advanced publishers talking on panels about this or writing blog posts. Does Google talk about Quality Score? Does Facebook talk about News Feed? You will not hear industry trade groups arguing for publishers to sell performance to their customers either. In fact not one panel all of last week discussed first-party data created by the publisher.

Thankfully there is no hype related to this. Only performance. The people who need to know, know. As much as I’d like to share the names of every one of those publishers and agencies with you, more so I want to honor their competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The best publishers have the best content. The best content delivers the best consumers. The best consumers deliver the best performance. This is not new. The rise of the intelligent publisher in collecting, organizing, machine learning, activating and algorithmically optimizing this first-party data stream in real-time is. It’s the most groundbreaking thing in media happening right now and will be for some time because it has swung the data advantage pendulum to the publishers for the first time since data has mattered in digital media.

How Yieldbot Influences Consumer Actions Online and In-Store

Posted December 2nd, 2013 by Jonathan Mendez in Advertising , CPC, Performance

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Driving Coupon Conversions and Measurable Lift in Purchase Intent

Search is often leveraged to “close the loop” for other marketing channels. Some go as far to call it “the net” for its success catching previously exposed consumers and funneling them to online purchase or brand engagements. Display and traditional advertising are generally utilized to fill that proverbial “intent” net and build demand for specific products and lift in brand metrics. In tandem and through measurable attribution models they work to fulfill an efficient customer acquisition funnel.

Yieldbot has created a new marketing channel in the premium publisher environment leveraging intent signals and the buying and matching principles of Search (1st party data, in-session/real-time matching, CPC pricing, and keyword targeted ad creative) that does both. Yieldbot closes the loop on consumers by meeting the real-time consumer intent with a relevant ad to drive immediate action and builds demand for products by putting in-view, visible relevant ads when consumers are most receptive to the message, during lean forward content experiences ultimately increasing the likelihood of ad engagement and message receptivity.

As evidence, a major food brand was bringing a new product to market. Their major holding company Search agency ran a campaign using Yieldbot with the goal to drive offline/in-store purchases. To measure effectiveness of the campaign, Yieldbot, in partnership with Nielsen, ran a control vs. expose study to measure Yieldbot’s effectiveness with respect to consumer purchase intent and utilized a 3rd party ad serving tracking technology to measure coupon downloads that occurred on the food brand’s website.

For this brand the Yieldbot campaign was crafted into several thematic groups of keywords, creative and publishers. The keywords (used as proxy for the consumer’s real-time intent) and ads (HTML text) were matched with each other based on messaging. Additionally, the ads are written to match with the context of the publishers in the grouping and their design automatically matched by Yieldbot to the look and feel of each publisher. This combination creates hyper relevance and allows for a seamless consumer experience.

The campaign results spoke volumes. Yieldbot, targeting real-time intent groups for energy, healthy living, fitness, wellness, and healthy eating drove a campaign average 19% coupon download rate, and a 33.7% lift in consumer purchase intent for those that either “definitely will” or “probably will” purchase the product within the next 30 days. Additionally, the campaign drove 6x above industry average engagement rates (CTR). We were not given specific data points for other marketing channels (Search, display, video) however when budget cuts for the brand had to be made Yieldbot was still standing.

The campaign’s success can be attributed to three major components:

  1. Text ads built specifically for the Yieldbot publisher marketplace. The Yieldbot marketplace leverages the same principles as Search, as mentioned; however there is an added layer of data that Yieldbot sees in order to determine intent, the publisher environment. It must be taken into consideration to ensure hyper relevance.
  2. Custom premium publisher marketplace and above the fold placements. The Yieldbot marketplace is comprised of the most premium publishers on the web including the websites of 3 of the 5 largest magazine corporations in the world. These environments contain the highest value and most desired consumers for advertisers. Yieldbot technology and algorithms matched the desired intent, demographics, and psychographics for the advertiser. Also, all ads in the Yieldbot marketplace are delivered in above the fold placements significantly increasing viewability and overall effectiveness.
  3. 1st party data used to target real-time intent. Yieldbot captures, organizes and activates 1st party data from the visitor click-streams our publishing partners to inform ad decisioning. An ad is delivered only if there is a real-time match of intent and advertiser on that specific page-view. No 3rd party cookies, no unknown URLs. The Yieldbot technology is constantly running machine learning and using pattern recognition across these click-streams and pages to deliver the benefits of relevance to the advertiser, the publisher and most of all, the consumer.

Redefining Premium Content Towards CPM Zero

Posted August 2nd, 2012 by admin in Advertising , CPC, Publishers, CPM, Performance

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Say Goodbye to Hollywood

When Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of talent agency William Morris Endeavor said that Northern California is just pipes and needs Premium Content it’s clear that he just doesn’t get it. There is no such thing as premium content. There are only two things premium on a mass scale anymore - distribution and devices.

Massive media fragmentation fueled by the Internet has forever redefined what is ‘premium’ content. The democratization of media – the ability for a critical mass of people (now virtually the entire world) to create, distribute and find content killed the old model of premium. Modern Family is a good TV show but when I can more easily stream a concert like this through my HDTV at any moment I want I’m pretty sure “premium content” has been redefined.

Since the web is the root cause of death for premium content it makes sense that the effect is no better exemplified than in web publishing. Since the advent display advertising publishers have sought to categorize and valuate their content in ways that were familiar to traditional media buyers. No media channel has promoted the idea of or value for premium content more than digital. Thus, print media’s inside front and back covers became the homepages and category pages on portals. Like print, these were areas where the most eyeballs could be reached.

But a funny thing happened in digital behavior. People skipped over the front inside cover and went right to content that was relevant to them. Search’s ability to fracture content hierarchies and deliver relevance not only became the most loved and valuable application of the web, it destroyed the idea of premium content all together. In reality, premium never really existed in a user-controlled medium because it was never based on anything that had to do with what the user wanted. It was based on the traditional ad metric of “reach” when in this medium, decisions about what is premium are determined by on-demand ability and relevance.

Sinking of the Britannica

The beauty of this medium is in the measurement of it. Validation for the drowning of premium beyond the fact that Wikipedia destroyed Encyclopedia Britannica rests in the performance of digital media. A funny thing happened as advertising performance became more measured. Advertisers discovered premium didn’t nearly matter as much as they thought. There were better ways to drive performance that yielded better and more measureable results. The ability to match messaging to peopleon-request and in a relevant way was more valuable in this medium than some content provider idea of what was “premium.” In this medium the public not the publisher determines what is premium.

As realtime rules based matching technology continues to improve performance advertising and marketing itself continues to grow at the expense of premium advertising. Today, despite those trying to hold on to the past, premium is little more than an exercise in brand borrowing and little else. Despite the best efforts of the IAB to bring Brand advertising to Digital it has fallen as a percentage of ad spend for five straight years. In the world we live in today Mr. Emanuel’s $9 billion dollar upfront for network TV primetime advertising is $1.5 billion less in ad revenue than Google made last quarter.

What this all means for the future of digital media (and thus all media eventually) is that it’s headed to “CPM Zero.” Look around - all the digital advertising powers - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon - are selling based one thing. Performance. They are not selling on the premium sales mechanism of CPM. When ‘CPM Zero’ happens, and it will, these forces pushing the digital ad industry forward win. They own the customer funnel and they will own the future of marketing and advertising. It begs one big question. Where does this leave content creators and publishers?

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Publishers will never be able to put the CPM sales genie back in the bottle. CMOs and advertisers are already finding out that they are paying too much for premium. Go ask GM what they think. What publishers are finding out is that they are no longer selling their media; it’s being bought. Purchased from a marketplace with infinite inventory in a wild west of data. Therein lies the publisher’s ace in the hole and the strategies and tactics digital publishers (and eventually broadcasters) can use to combat the death of premium.

Like Search, Publishers need to have two crucial components to their marketplaces. They need the tension of scarcity in the marketplace.That will drive up demand and force advertisers to spend the time working on improving their performance. This was the cherry on the sundae for Google as a $1billion industry - Conversion Testing and Content Targetinggrew out of nowhere to support spends in Search. Most every dollar saved with optimization went to drive more volume – or back to Google. They need a unique currency for the marketplace. Keywords were a completely new way to buy media. Nothing has ever worked better. Facebook is selling Actions with OpenGraph. Ultimately advertisers are buying customers not keywords or actions but there is a unique window of opportunity for publishers at this moment in time to create something new and uniquely people, not page focused.

The tactics used to fuel these strategies all rely on one natural resource - data. Publishers have diamonds and gold in beneath the surface of their properties. Mining these data nuggets and using them to improve the performance of their media is the sole hope publishers have competing in the world of “CPM Zero.” Only publishers can uniquely wrap their data with their media and drive performance in a manner unique to the marketplace. That’s what Google does. That’s what Facebook does. That’s what Twitter does. The scarcity mentioned above is created because the realtime understanding of site visitor interest and intent is only derived using first party data as rules and integration with the publisher ad server for delivery. So pubs are really left with one choice – take control of their data and use it for their benefit creating an understanding of WHY people are buying their media and how it performs. Or let Google, Facebook, third-party et al come in and grab their data and know nothing about why it’s being bought and how much it’s being sold.

The ability to match messaging to people on-request and in a relevant way is within the publisher’s domain. It is the most premium form of advertising currency ever created and will deliver an order of magnitude more value. It will fuel the 20% YoY growth of digital advertising and marketing for the next 15 years. Who captures the majority of that value, the advertiser or the publisher, is the only question remaining.

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