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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.

Jan 7th 2014

Engadget Launches New, Mobile-First Product at CES

On Friday, we launched a new product for Engadget called Engadget Mini: the first test of a new microblogging platform we built for delivering real-time updates of all sorts of different content, including headlines, links, photos, videos, tweets, and comments.

We made this because we wanted to create a new kind of content experience designed for the screen in your pocket, not the one on your desk. We also wanted something that reflected the ways media has changed over the years, so there's a big emphasis in Mini on curating great content from across the social web.

Why launch at CES? Because there is no bigger event in the consumer electronics world, and we thought it'd be great to offer a real-time stream of everything interesting, important, and fun going on at the show.

We're going to keep Engadget Mini going after CES ends, and after making some improvements from what we learn over the course of the week, we hope to bring Mini to other brands here at AOL later this year. You can find it on the right-rail of Engadget.com and at mini.engadget.com, but the best way to experience Engadget Mini is on your phone or tablet using the iOS and Android apps that are available for it.

Sep 11th 2013

AOL Networks Announces Pictela Product Enhancements and the Launch of its New Global Innovation Lab

Rich, interactive ads with high quality content and engaging features offer a compelling way for brand advertisers to connect with digital audiences-especially as more and more people are tuning out static banners. AOL Networks cloud-based Pictela platform simplifies and streamlines the creation of premium formats. The Pictela platform also empowers users to create and launch beautiful, highly engaging content-led advertisements for display, mobile and tablet efficiently and at scale.

Today, aligning with our goal of simplifying advertising at scale for advertisers, publishers and agencies, we are announcing a number of product enhancements to Pictela that make working with premium formats easier and more efficient than ever:
  • Turbo boost the creation of custom ads. Pictela has always been distinguished by its library of premium, award-winning templates (like the IAB's Rising Star formats including the 300x1050 Devil unit) that can be used to launch rich ads quickly and easily-no coding required. Now, Pictela also provides a platform for bringing custom formats of any size to life, allowing valued in-house developers and designers to automate some of the more basic and mechanical aspects of ad building so that they can shift their focus to creative innovation.
  • Cloud-based collaboration. Pictela's new centralized, browser-based workflow tool enables designers, producers, clients, traffickers and other key stakeholders to collaborate on ad design, testing and approvals in real-time. This feature helps reduce the inefficiencies involved in endless email chains and back and forth phone calls, resulting in fewer errors, more effective collaboration and faster time-to-market.
  • Real-time control. Advertisers and publishers want to be able to act on incoming data about how premium ads are performing. Pictela now allows users to update or publish changes to live campaigns in real-time, in order to optimize impact. Pictela also supports greater control of cross-platform ad development, ensuring that premium messages look great whether they are appearing on a desktop, smart phone or tablet.
The new Pictela platform puts publishers, agencies and advertisers on the fast track to building rich, high-impact premium ad formats, at scale.

AOL Networks is also launching a global Innovation Lab. The Lab will bring together top tier advertising tech talent from AOL Networks and marketing brand and technology executives to solve core business challenges they face in the ad technology space. The goal is to run hackathon style collaborations and deploy a creative solution within a 48-hour timeframe that delivers on the clients marketing business objectives, using AOL's mix of scalable solutions, technology and platforms. The lab aims to challenge the status quo in internet advertising by delivering premium, industry first solutions for brands at scale.
For updates and the latest news from AOL, follow @AOLPR on Twitter.

Sep 10th 2013

CrunchBase Launches Mobile Site

We're pleased to announce the launch of a mobile version of CrunchBase for your smartphone!
Now, you can easily search for startups you're following and view general info, people, acquisitions, investments and competitors – all optimized for your mobile phone. You can also easily go to the desktop view to contribute to the database.

Check it out at m.crunchbase.com.

For updates and the latest news from AOL, follow @AOLPR on Twitter.

Nov 19th 2012

AOL's Vicki Draper Talks Mobile-First and Results From Award-Winning Research

There is no denying the growing importance of mobile devices these days – people of all ages, professions and locations are constantly on their phones for work and social purposes. What may not be as obvious is the "why". AOL's Vicki Draper, Senior Manager Consumer Analytics and Research, and Denise Brien, Director of Consumer Analytics and Research, partnered with BBDO to find out. Their study, "Seven Shades of Mobile," just received the annual EXPLOR award, and we thought it would be a perfect time to catch up with Vicki to chat about the study and learn a bit more about her. Here is what they uncovered...

"Having the consumer in mind and being able to engage and meet their needs is critical," says Draper. In her role, Draper conducts and coordinates research initiatives across the organization, which, in turn, helps to position AOL as a thought leader in the industry.

The study was conducted in order to learn more about the behavior of mobile users, specifically smartphone users. "To truly see the deeper motivations behind what people are doing in the mobile sphere. A lot of research is out there on this, but no one answered what we have found on this research," she explained.

Vicki was surprised by three results of this study in particular: "We found out that 68% of all smartphone use was in home - flying in the face of conventional wisdom. Also, we learned that it's not about utility; it's actually much more about 'Me Time' and people spending time on themselves. We found it very interesting that people have different, non–intuitive motivations and paths to get to apps and website in the mobile space. For instance, some people will visit shopping sites on their phones to buy things where others will use shopping sites and apps as a way to relax and get their 'me time'. This has huge implications for the way publishers and marketers program for mobile."

The study has proved to be a trailblazer in mobile research, earning the EXPLOR award last week, at The Market Research Event, for their innovation in technology, as applied to market research. There is only one winner each year for this award and Vicki along with the rest of the team earned this year's title. "Winning this award was my single proudest moment," Vicki said.

In January, Vicki will be presenting Seven Shades of Mobile and several other studies during Engadget's "Tablets of Change" forum at the globally recognized Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

What does Vicki do when she's not finding insights? When she's not in the office Vicki finds her enjoyment as a competitive Latin Ballroom dancer. In October, she won first place awards in cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive at the Paragon Open Dancesport Competition in New Jersey. She also enjoys going on wine tasting vacations and recently traveled with her husband to the Pfalz and Mosel wine regions in Germany.

For additional information on Seven Shades of Mobile click here. To see the full results from the study visit http://advertising.aol.com/research/research-reports/seven-shades-mobile

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