Displaying

aol posts

Aug 4th 2014

Inertia Is Stifling Innovation - and the 'Tech Tax' is No Myth

As I reflect upon my first anniversary as global CEO for AOL Platforms, I've gained a unique perspective on the industry after years on the agency side of the business (most recently as global CEO of Razorfish and CEO of Publicis Groupe's digital technology division), to now being fully immersed in the technical innovations that are powering the rapidly evolving digital ad and publishing ecosystems. AOL has given me new insight into the many challenges and opportunities that marketers encounter when navigating the complex and crowded world of programmatic buying, data analytics, attribution, mobile, online video and more. Here are a few things I have learned in the last year -- both the good and the bad:

1. The "tech tax" is no myth. The words "confusing" and "complex" are used to describe the current ad tech landscape for a reason. A multitude of highly specialized product vendors are all vying for a sliver of the marketing pie. Currently, for every dollar that a brand spends on a digital placement, more than half is siphoned off to a complicated web of trading desks, private exchanges, DSPs (demand-side platforms), SSPs (supply-side platforms), data aggregators, tag management vendors, ad verification vendors, retargeters and more. Having seen the waste inherent in our bloated publishing and advertising ecosystems first-hand, my take is that the industry's No. 1 objective should be to unify and simplify the technologies that automate the planning, buying, execution, optimization and measurement of cross-screen and cross-format campaigns. The innovation exists. Our job is to harness it, simplify it and deploy it to increase the power and reach of every advertising dollar.

2. Inertia is stifling innovation. Things that worked in traditional media -- like "splitting the buy" across broadcast networks and static one-month-ahead planning -- don't make sense in today's data-driven digital world. Today the wealth of data and technology available make it possible to continually analyze behavior and performance data, empowering brands to zero in on the most relevant audiences and inventory in real-time, rather than hedge their bets. We wholeheartedly agree with WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell that data experts have an important role to play in this changing agency landscape: "You need to have programmers, engineers, scientists and mathematicians, and it needs different types of agency people working together." Marketers and brand executives that don't evolve from doing things "the way they've always been done" will be left behind. Those that adapt their strategies to the digital age will grow and thrive.

3. The value of data is exponential. Too many marketers lock information in silos (separating mobile, social and desktop analytics for example), which leaves them unable to realize the full potential of their data. Confirmed in a soon-to-be released study on social media marketing conducted by Convertro (the multi-touch attribution vendor acquired this year by AOL), we've long known that consumers don't engage with content in silos -- they move between devices throughout the day. And while a lower number of conversions happen on social, engagement on this channel is important to customer awareness and consideration of products. This will be increasingly important as, according to a study from the ANA and Nielsen, by 2016 nearly half of media campaigns are expected to be multiscreen. The bottom line is that data increases exponentially when it can be integrated, analyzed holistically and used to optimize decisions across all marketing channels. And marketers need to know how campaign performance is impacted by each individual impression, regardless of which screens or types of inventory are engaged.

4. Don't bother with meaningless distinctions. Our industry spends way too much time asking where the dollars are going to go next: TV or video? Mobile or display? Broadcast or digital? All decisions, whether media, creative or format-driven, should focus on reaching the consumer wherever they are, whenever they are ready to engage. And optimizing the allocation of total ad spend successfully depends on automation and data optimization that can tell you what's working, what's not and where improvements should be made, regardless of the channel.

After a year of focusing on how to make advertising technology better, faster, smarter and more efficient, I'm looking forward to a future where advertisers adopt the tools and processes they need to accomplish their most important goal: engage with consumers and move their business forward. Working together, the CMO and CTO will drive business results. Period.

Read the original article on Ad Age here.

Jul 29th 2014

AOL Series, "Follow Me" Documents the Lives of Modern Day Digital Creators

What happens when the vlogging, tweeting and instagramming stops for modern day digital creators? That's the question AOL is striving to answer through its newest original series, "Follow Me."

Launched today, the 10-episode series documents the lives of modern day digital creators who are redefining the definition of celebrity. Each installment features a different star, allowing unprecedented access into their lives.

In the first episode of this eye-opening digital series, viewers will get an intimate look at the busy life of Brittani Louise Taylor- a self described "digital ninja," actress and filmmaker with more than 1.1 million subscribers and over 200 million video views - as she preps for production on her YouTube videos as well as all of the behind the scenes work that goes into maintaining her brand.

Also premiering today, JC Caylen and Ricky Dillon of "Our 2nd Life" (O2L) take us behind the scenes of O2L, one of the most popular millennial brands today with more than 8 million YouTube subscribers and over 280 million views collectively. At AOL's 2014 Newfront, one tweet by JC Caylen garnered 325,000 likes and 2,000 retweets, higher than all other A-list talent.

Watch the latest episodes here, and join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #AOLFollowMe.

Jul 22nd 2014

AOL UK Makes All Reserved Inventory Available Programmatically

Today, AOL UK announced that it is putting 100% of its reserved inventory from all its owned and operated sites into AOL's proprietary Demand Side Platform (DSP). Automating the sale of reserved inventory, that is currently done manually, will free up a vast amount of time that is lost in the standard IO process, in addition to driving efficiencies and effectiveness with digital campaigns. A number of agencies and advertisers are partners of AOL's DSP including eBay, Amnet, Cadreon and Vivaki, and they will now have access to AOL's complete reserved inventory.

Advertisers can now buy all reserved inventory on AOL UK's owned and operated sites including AOL, The Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch, Parentdish and MyDaily, in an automated way on a self-serve basis. Four of AOL's existing premium formats including the award-winning multi-screen Project Devil/IAB Portrait, Billboard and Monster MPU will be available exclusively through AOL's DSP, with more set to come. Advertisers can also scale their brand message beyond AOL's owned and operated sites, utilising a wide range of premium formats through AOL's network of premium third party publishers.

According to a recent IAB UK study the share of ads bought through programmatic technologies is estimated to grow from (47%) in 2014 to up to (60-75%) of total UK digital display advertising by 2017. AOL has invested organically in programmatic technologies over the past few years, building both a proprietary Demand Side Platform (DSP) and Supply Side Platform (SSP). In the past 12 months, AOL acquired Adap.tv, a leading video trading platform and Convertro, an attribution modeling technology among others, as well as announcing AOL ONE by AOL in March this year: a cross screen programmatic platform that will include linear TV once rolled out in 2015 .

Jul 17th 2014

AOL Chief Technology Officer Teams Up With All Star Code

Today, AOL's CTO, Bill Pence spoke to a group of NYC youth participating in All Star Code's Summer Intensive Program. This year alone, AOL has partnered with All Star Code on a number of initiatives, including hosting an event in March for 40 students interested in tech, inviting over 60 students to AOL for career exploration visits, providing students with the opportunity to meet engineers and gain access to different career paths in the technology space.
After becoming involved with All Star Code on AOL's Monster Help Day, Bill Pence offered to speak to the students during the Summer Intensive Program. The program runs for 6-weeks for a group of 20 students who visit high profile tech companies – such as LinkedIn, AOL and Spotify – coupled with intensive computer science and interpersonal instruction.

Bill aimed to engage with the students about the importance of failure and resilience, as well as sharing personal details about what life is like in the tech, startup and VC worlds. Throughout the hour, our CTO spoke about his experiences and career path. Key takeaways from the session included:
  • Keeping interests broad, and never being afraid to ask questions to stimulate new ideas
  • Understanding the importance of coding, and how it relates to logic
  • Learning to approach a problem and dissect it, rather than focus on learning specific coding language
  • Maintaining a high-level of curiosity

We were inspired by the students' passion for learning and curiosity in the tech world – and are thrilled to see young students taking advantage of the amazing opportunities that All Star Code is offering.

We look forward to keeping in touch with the students and seeing how these future leaders grow! To learn more about the program and ways to get involved, visit http://www.allstarcode.org/.

Jul 16th 2014

Adap.tv's Patented Conversion Tracking Brings Accountability and Measurability to TV Advertising

Conversion attribution on the Internet is ubiquitous, and many methods – including "last click" and cookie-based matching – are used to match a conversion event back to the initial search or banner ad that the user saw or clicked on.

This technology is seamless, automated, and taken for granted: marketers just drop a conversion tracking script onto their websites, and, presto, they have conversion counts and rates for their various ads.

The widespread availability of conversion data has arguably led advertisers to be able to confidently optimize their ads online with a greater degree of granularity than ever before. Different ad creative, devices, mediums, keywords and times of day can all be used in optimization using conversion data that has been collected on them. Indeed, one could argue that conversion-tracking systems – with their incredibly fine measurability – have been the engine that has powered the online advertising revolution.

In contrast to online, conversion measurement in TV is nothing short of an unsolvable labyrinth for advertisers. When an ad airs on TV, conversion events can happen on the Web, over the phone and even retail stores; and there's no way to know whether those sales were driven in part to the original TV ad, let alone what particular TV airing caused it.

With the goal of bridging that gap, Adap.tv has been hard at work in aligning television closer to digital within attribution modeling. Today, we are happy to share the news that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Adap.tv an important patent for TV conversion tracking.

This patent validates our work in solving a critical problem for marketers: Online advertising systems have a problem with over-attribution. They tend to be very good at taking credit for – well – everything! TV has the opposite problem; TV tends to take no credit at all.

For example, because online advertising systems are often designed to attribute everything that is last click, it is not uncommon to see branded search keywords (eg. Verizon.com) with an amazing cost-per-acquisition in the pennies thousands of conversions. At this kind of incredible cost-per-acquisition, shouldn't a marketer just shut off all other marketing campaigns on TV, radio, etc. and pour those budgets into online keywords?

Experienced marketers know that such an approach is likely to result not only in a bloated keyword campaign, but could also spell the end of their business by shutting off one of the most important parts of the sales funnel – people who need to learn about and be exposed to the product for the first time.

The reality is the people who typed in the brand's name into the search box overwhelmingly already know the product's name and what it does. The paid keywords are being used as navigational links to reach the site. To put it bluntly, keywords can receive credit by simply being in the right place while a user's navigating to the site. It'd be like a promoter going up to fans waiting in line to get into a concert, giving them a coupon, and then claiming credit for the fans walking through the door. (Recent reports corroborate this phenomenon.)

This dichotomy between over-attribution in digital and lack of quantitative data in television makes it extremely difficult for marketers to calculate how much budget to apply towards TV. Further increasing the difficulty, the lack of granular conversion tracking also makes it impossible to do things like optimize TV media towards the media that is producing the highest number of conversions. In a media environment where every dollar counts, this can be incredibly wasteful.

This patent describes one of Adap.tv's automated conversion tracking systems for television, designed to go beyond last click-type attribution to credit assignment based on properties of the conversions and media event.

US 8,768,770 "System and Method for Attributing Multi-Channel Conversion Events and Subsequent Activity to Multi-Channel Media Sources" describes a process where a machine-learning system is trained to recognize conversions that come from TV, based on cases which are clean enough for deterministic attribution – often about 1% of the cases. The system then estimates the probability of conversion for the larger set of TV airings based on those learned patterns between airing and conversion. The technique makes it possible to probabilistically separate organic Web activity from Web activity driven from TV.

This kind of signal source separation is similar to the "cocktail party problem," where one tries to segment specific conversations out of several conversations happening simultaneously within a room. The system can also report on conversions that are due to marketing events that were not TV; for example, it would be equally bad to over-assign credit to TV for understanding which TV airings have been more effective. In order to do this, not assigning credit is just as important for optimization purposes as assigning credit.

Adap.tv has worked diligently to disambiguate, measure, and report on TV's impact and make it possible to budget TV in a rational way. Adap.tv and Convertro, the leading multi-touch attribution platform recently acquired by AOL, have years of experience running television campaigns and measuring television sales response. In general, our results suggest that TV effects are extremely large, distributed across multiple channels, extended in time, and are woefully under-reported.

With better measurement techniques, we believe that it will be possible to bring hard ROI measurement to TV and put it onto a similar footing as online advertising. That's good for everyone, not only in television, but also in online advertising too. Optimizing your marketing campaign using keywords only is equivalent to looking for your keys by only searching under a street lamp – just because there is some light there, doesn't mean that's where you should be focusing.
The objective should be to cast light on all parts of your marketing campaign.

Further Resources
Read the patent contents here: http://bit.ly/1oCejXA
A scientific paper on the algorithm was published at IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, along with attribution results from various television advertisers. You can read that paper here: http://bit.ly/1zpDXEE

Conversion attribution on television, radio, offline, and digital channels, is performed by Convertro who use a multi-touch attribution (MTA) algorithm to measure effects across channels. You can learn more about Convertro's technology at www.convertro.com.

Search the blog

Follow us

RSS feed

Subscribe

AOL Blog Archives

Select Month