Collecting New Data Points in Advertising. An Interview with KERV’s Marika Roque

Image result for marika roque kervMarika Roque, EVP Media and Technology, KERV Interactive has spent years on the agency side, working on brands in technical, media, production, operational and senior leadership roles. 

“I have worked in digital from its beginning,” she explained, “My understanding of the inner workings of the digital ecosystem help me understand how to quickly filter through the clutter and get to what is real. The goal is to never build a team that you can automate. Build one that will help you along the path to automation and actually get there.”

I spoke with her regarding the programmatic infrastructure side of adtech. 

Charlene Weisler: Tell me about KERV, where does it sit in the media ecosystem?

Marika Roque: KERV is a video technology company with proprietary, patent-protected technology that represents a new genre of advertising; One in which images and objects within entertainment properties, video advertising assets and other forms of display technologies are optimized and made interactive.  This technology offers consumers a deeper, more personalized experience. Consumers can click on a featured object in midstream to obtain information about that particular object. KERV is the only technology available that recognizes images by their pixel edges to create a real-time, interactive in-video experience in every scene. Every object within an in-stream ad or piece of content can be interactive, clicked on and linked out to a unique page.

In addition to the entertainment value delivered to a consumer’s fingertips and the resulting monetization opportunities, the same platform has the ability to collect substantial data points that others aren’t collecting regarding consumers’ behavior – data that goes far beyond industry standards.

Weisler: What TV services can use your technology? Connected TVs? Linear? Streaming services?

Roque: In Distribution we can currently connect to any content that can accept a VPAID tag from a distribution perspective. In Content we are in the integration stages with several content-heavy companies which will allow custom integrations with their consumption infrastructures, while users are watching any 10 foot device. We plan on taking advantage of the multi-screen consumption behaviors that exist on the consumption side. We are agnostic, as long as the streaming service can accept a VPAID tag. This will be a different story when we get into next year. 

Weisler: Is this technology added in production or post? Can it be added to legacy content?

Roque: No production costs! It can be added to legacy content. We simply need access to the raw file, such as an MP4. It is very turnkey to work with us and we provide unique, creative data points. We are a data-driven video lab, from one angle. 

Weisler: Do you direct viewers to websites?

Roque: Yes, we can direct viewers to websites. Currently, most in-stream and pre-roll ads only allow
one click out. Some technologies allow for customizable buttons, but those only add one link out. Most longer-form content doesn't click out at all! Our technology allows for an infinite amount of link outs per frame of any asset which is KERVd. When a user is consuming content/ads wrapped with our technology, any object (down to the pixel level), can be identified and linked out to a unique landing page/website/app/Google Map (the customer can drive the experience of their choice through the link out story). Visualize an ad for a retailer that has a frame with several models in it. All of the models are wearing different clothes that the retailer sells. Every item on each model can be uniquely clicked out to its unique landing page or we can click out to a pre-populated map which locates stores near you! For instance, a Michael Kors dress can be linked out to that SKUs product page uniquely, as well as the necklace, the earrings, the shoes, etc. This not only allows a layer of shop ability and data collection, but can also allow the brand/advertiser to provide additional information, right in the experience, without having the user leave the page.

Weisler: Do you collect any data and if so what? And if you collect data how do you use it to gain insights?

Roque: We currently collect all of our unique interaction points throughout the experience, down to the object, frame, user and device level. We are able to analyze certain interactions, first, second, third, down to the object level, of any scene, within any KERVd video asset. This allows us to provide unique insight on the creative, from a true interaction perspective, and also allows us to add data points to current attribution or lifetime value models. 

Weisler: How do you manage privacy?

Roque: We currently anatomize groups of unique users, when modeling internally. When passing along PII insights to license/MSAAS customers, we have established very strict “Terms and Conditions” within our MSA and take protecting our users' data very seriously. On the distribution side, we work with technologies and content/sites, which are all GDPR compliant and are on the front of data trends.  

Weisler: What are the challenges in your form of ad tech and how to overcome?

Roque: For one, there are multiple configurations for the many different video players (literally the players that host content on websites) across the programmatic ecosystem. Every publisher has their own custom configuration of 1 of 5 or so, video players (ex: JW Player, Brightcove), if they don't have a proprietary player. We are addressing this by gaining partnerships and integrations with all of the premium content creators and are asking questions, which are not standard practice within the RTB, Video Player, SSP, etc., spaces. Definitely trail blazing.  We are also modeling user behavior based on new/patented interactions, within a time where data is becoming more and more private. We are not currently defining the users from their cookies but instead by their behaviors within our patented technology. 

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Q&A With ANA’s Bob Liodice: The State of the Advertising Industry

Image result for bob liodiceWhat’s the state of the advertising industry? Ask Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). He’s steering his organization through unparalleled change with a call for greater marketplace transparency. He’s also changing the business model by reappraising the agency and client relationship that helps advertising keep pace with technical advancements.

Described as “a most unlikely revolutionary” by MediaPost, he was named Media Executive of the Year in 2017. Liodice shares his thoughts on industry challenges and opportunities.

Weisler: What is the state of the advertising industry today?

Liodice: Technology has wrought tremendous change to our industry, both good and bad. Some issues remain particularly challenging including the ongoing debate over media transparency, diversity, and gender equality in the workforce; brand safety; brand purpose; ad blocking; [and] talent issues that agencies, marketers, and media companies are trying their best to solve.

What do you see as the industry challenges next year?

There are many challenges, but one of particular importance is influencer marketing. At the last Cannes festival, Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announced that Unilever would no longer partner with influencers who buy followers. This was powerful. The rise of fraud in influencer marketing has become a growing issue as marketers pay influencers based on their follower count. Because influencer marketing is centrally built on top of two platforms—Google and Facebook (Instagram)—and the platforms control what data is available and how it is accessed, marketers will continue to remain in the dark and limited in their abilities to tackle this growing issue without greater collaboration and transparency from the social networks.

What are the opportunities next year? 

Read the full article on the Videa blog.


The Marvelous Mrs Maisel Carnegie Deli Pop-Up Serves Up Immersive Experience

It takes a certain deftness and eye to launch a nostalgic, historic pop-up experience. The group charged with creating the Carnegie Deli pop-up as part of the launch for season two of the Emmy award winning Amazon Prime original series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, had their work cut out for them. 

I was able to gain entrance to the November 30 pre-opening of the pop-up, located at 201 Lafayette Street in Manhattan and experienced “The Susie Sandwich” of turkey and coleslaw on rye with a Cel-ray soda while my husband sampled “The Maisel” sandwich of pastrami, salami, coleslaw and secret sauce. This all served by wait staff dressed as if it was 1958. The experience was not exactly like the original Carnegie Deli but it did create a fun 1950s vibe that sets the show. 

The menu is full of nostalgia from the 1958 prices - 99 cents for the sandwiches, 75 cents for the mini knish, 50 cents for either the black and white cookie or the cheesecake and 50 cents for pickles and the beverages. The venue has a 1950s jukebox, photo booth, photographs, telephone, signage and even a cash register. 

Experiential experiences have been more popular among brands as a way to more fully immerse audiences within the essence of a program, service or product. As Retail faces challenges from technology and online shopping, consumer expectations and desires are shifting to more immersive experiences, especially among younger consumers. Notably, millennials are seeking experiences, not material goods and this has had a spillover effect to other groups and generations.  This trend is not slowing down as more established brands try to capture the experience by creating a more unique environment. 

In fact, companies such as Conde Nast, are buying live event companies to facilitate the creation of immersive events. Recently, Glamour magazine, going completely digital, added that they see a great new revenue flow coming from events. Major decades-old brands are pivoting to capture the momentum as much as newer brands.  

According to publicist Emma Wolfe, the Maisel team worked with an activation agency called Tool which “wanted to integrate Mrs. Maisel with the Carnegie Deli which has been a New York City institution” and create synergy. According to the Tool website, the agency worked closely with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel production team and the owners of the iconic Carnegie Deli, which shut its doors in 2016 after serving New Yorkers for 79 years. The response has been amazing according to Wolfe where the reservations to dine at the pop-up filled up within 12 hours.

The Carnegie Deli pop-up opens officially to the public on December 1 and runs one week. Unfortunately, dining is by reservation only but there is also a take-out line for those who didn’t book early. Continue the nostalgic experience by tuning in for the second season,  scheduled to be released on Friday December 5.

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Figuring Out the Impact of Algoritms. An Interview with Kantar’s J Walker Smith

Algorithms’ impact on the media marketplace “are more prevalent than people realize, although not nearly as prevalent as it will be soon,” according to J. Walker Smith, Kantar’s Chief Knowledge Officer. 

And he should know. He is in the business of monitoring “the shifting dynamics of the marketplace context within which consumers live and shop.” Now, with a media measurement industry that is increasingly moving towards artificial intelligence and algorithms, his work is involving more of these technologies.

Charlene Weisler: How prevalent is the impact of algorithms and AI on the marketplace?

J. Walker Smith: It is important to distinguish algorithms and AI.  Algorithms are structured decision rules that, nowadays, are executed through software used to run automated marketing programs or consumer apps.  AI consists of learning systems that modify and (hopefully) improve algorithms or decision rules over time.  AI is still being tested and assessed, although we hear a lot about many of its big early successes.  Algorithms are the beating heart of programmatic marketing and real-time targeting, and they are the way in which all kinds of apps work.  Algorithms make the matches for dating software, figure out which cars are available that meet your preferences and which new music your streaming service pushes at you.  They determine which movies to suggest you watch or additional products you might want to add to your basket.  Looking ahead, predictive software systems will get better at profiling consumers (within regulatory restrictions about data) and matching inventory to individual profiles.  Personalization or customization is a process driven by algorithms.

Weisler: What are the positive and negative aspects of this?

Smith: An enormous amount of time and money is wasted on bad matches.  Nobody wants to spend money on a product that isn't a good fit or waste time learning something that is a bad fit.  Nobody wants to get entangled in a bad relationship that could have been avoided with an algorithm.  Economists care about this because they study efficiencies and bad matches are a drag on the economy.  It's hard to measure, but economists can point to things like people finding jobs faster and being better matched as direct improvements to macroeconomic welfare.  The negative aspects are two-fold.  First, people like to choose and to be involved in deciding.  An algorithm that does everything for you takes away the pleasure of discovery.  However, this can be solved with future software that builds in discovery.  People can also control themselves by using algorithms to aid decisions rather than to make decisions.  We refer to this as the "algorithmically enabled consumer" — using algorithms to make better, smarter, more satisfying decisions.  The second thing to protect against is data security.  Algorithms require data about consumers, so considerations of data privacy are front and center.  Activists and regulators are more worried about this than the typical consumer, though.  I believe we will eventually reach an equilibrium point, and then from there, consumers will still want algorithms that can predict or aid in decision-making.

Weisler: How fast will it grow?

Smith: It's growing fast and is very prevalent already.  There are no good metrics to track algorithms per se, but the take-off rate of the Internet of Things is the best proxy, because algorithms will be embedded in all of these devices.  Thye are in every consumer app too and that has become the new interface for content and products.  So, the question of how fast it will grow is a bit of looking backwards because algorithms are already present en masse.

Weisler: Can algorithms be "gamed" and if so, how?

Smith: Everything can be gamed.  You game algorithms by figuring out the inputs and the relative value an equation places on each input.  This is how people have tried to game Google, and it's why Google keeps upgrading its algorithm.  Indeed, gaming algorithms will become a large part of tomorrow's marketing landscape — not to do anything inappropriate or illegal, but to increase exposure to consumers and to boost the likelihood of consumers choosing one brand over another.  If this sounds familiar, it's because this is what marketers have always tried to do — not necessarily by gaming something, but just by putting more effort and money into the things that are known to work best in getting consumers to choose one brand over another.

Weisler: Algorithms can be wrong - what can a consumer do in that case?

Smith: In fact, algorithms are wrong a lot.  Marketers play the odds, looking to increase the likelihood of consumers choosing their brand—and they want to do so affordably.  Structured decision rules to accomplish this have always been embedded in media buying equations and marketing rules-of-thumb.  Algorithms are just the 21st century version of that.  So being wrong per se is not bad for marketers, as long as they are being wrong less frequently by using an algorithm.  For consumers, they must apply nothing more than normal diligence.  Consumers also know that many decisions will be less than optimal, so a good algorithm is one that minimizes not eliminates bad choices.  Algorithmic mistakes are not life-threatening, at least not yet, so for consumers, wrong outcomes are just an inconvenience. 

Weisler: How do they evolve?

Smith: Algorithms evolve through experience that improves the models embedded in the algorithmic system.  This can be done periodically over time or it can be done in real-time.  Validations are run to assess predictions and then once enough data has been accumulated, updates are made.  The latter is the AI future that is getting so much press.  By the way, the next frontier of evolution is voice assistants.  Algorithms will be a big part of voice-based systems, but this is just in its initial stages right now.

Weisler: What can marketers do to not only prepare but excel?

Smith: Marketers need to learn to operate and change their own systems more quickly.  The battleground in digital is better data and better models, which is to say, better algorithms.  For the algorithms that consumers use, marketers must learn how to be responsive to their systems and how to build these systems into their understanding of the consumer decision journey.  Right now, marketers implicitly assume that it's the same ol' consumer taking in information and making decisions.  Yet increasingly, it is consumers using algorithms to do that, so algorithms are the audience not consumers.  Marketers must learn how to "advertise to algorithms," as we like to say.

Weisler: What types of datasets are needed to get started? To progress?

Smith: We need better databases of consumer profile data, better databases of in-market response to advertising and promotions, real-time databases of actual choices or searching or consideration or queries, better validation databases of actual outcomes and more servers and processing power to use algorithms that can perform and take actions in real-time.

Weisler: Doesn’t this type of marketing lead to "fishing in the same pool" for consumers. What about potential customers who may not know about your product or service?

Smith: There is nothing new about this with algorithms.  In fact, algorithms are about standing out in this crowded pool, and so are a new source of competitive advantage and a new kind of barrier to entry.  Algorithms are not simply about marketing to past consumers or modeling past behavior.  Going after existing customers is profitable when done well, but marketers are aware that they have to grow their franchise and the category itself. 

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Age is Not a Factor in Digital Fluency According to Hulu

“Digital fluency is more about attitude and behaviors than it is about age,” stated Julie DeTraglia, Head of Research, Hulu. Her company just released the results of a major new research study on what constitutes digital fluency, focusing on how consumers adapt different digital journeys throughout different forms of media, in ecommerce and across lifestyle brands. 

The results confirmed tested truths while also offering some surprising insights.

Charlene Weisler: What were the major takeaways of the study?

Julie DeTraglia: We found that digital fluency is not driven by age. It was the impact of technology that prompted behavior change. Digital connections are now normal for people, media and brands. We also found that media is core to digital identity because social and streaming are gateways to digital consumption. 

Weisler: What were the major surprises?

DeTraglia: The biggest surprise was that across all generations, including Gen-Z, just as many people identified themselves as Minimalists and Averse (lower end of spectrum) as they did Maximizers and Creators (higher end of spectrum). We also were surprised and happy to see that social media, streaming video and online transactions are all tightly intertwined when it comes to changing habits. 

Weisler: Do the consumer profiles of the younger generations differ along the spectrum? For example do the most adverse have a different demo profile to the Maximizers?

DeTraglia: No, they are demographically similar which is the point behind the study. Just because people are mapped to a generation doesn’t mean they have the same attitudes or perceptions of technology. It ranges more on the behavior than the age. 

Weisler: What about the older generations? How do they fall on the digital fluency spectrum?

DeTraglia: Specifically, for Boomers (55+), 2% are Creators, 7% are Maximizers, 15% are Connected, 34% are Confident, 26% are Enlighted, 12% are Minimalists and only 4% are Averse. The biggest difference we saw is that Boomers have a much lower percentage of Creator, Maximizer and Connected identified users and that they are higher in Confident and a lot higher in Enlighted. They over-index in the middle of the spectrum which is surprising to most.

Weisler: Your hierarchy of digital needs looks to be patterned like Maslow's Hierarchy. Can you talk about each hierarchy stage and what it means in the digital journey?

DeTraglia: There is a hierarchy of digital needs that the user travels along, starting with media, which is where the trend towards connectivity started back when Facebook and social media launched. What we found is that media is the foundation to a digital identity which is then closely related to transactions and shopping.  The trend towards connectivity started in the social and media and entertainment sphere, which eventually impacted every product of service, how we communicate, eat, date and transact. Once you’re comfortable with media, you slowly move along the journey, you become comfortable with transacting through digital, and eventually begin using applications that make life easier and more convenient like eating, dating, traveling. Advanced technology is the next level which pushes the consumer to use virtual reality and voice activated systems which eventually lead to curating a personalized lifestyle.  Depending on applications like HelloFresh and Aaptive and StitchFix, in turn make your life more convenient. 

Weisler: Is it possible to move someone who is more of a technophobe across the digital spectrum?

DeTraglia: Great question. We continue to explore this more at Hulu. It is diffidently a larger barrier for a consumer who is completely averse to move along the spectrum.  The only wave of movement would be if they were to try something first and realize how much better it will make their lives before they jump in. But we believe it is possible, as some later adaptors of technology are functioning as more connected, which means it is always a possibility. 

Weisler: Are there certain consumer categories that attract more Maximizers and Creators (aside from the obvious tech categories)? Any surprises?

DeTraglia: The direct-to-consumer businesses are the ones booming right now which certainly attract Maximizers and Creators.  They feel more comfortable to use them and feel like it is a great addition to their life for the convenience factor. From a Hulu standpoint, we learned that our users are further along the spectrum so they are more likely to use direct-to-consumer apps and social media.  There wasn’t anything too surprising here, but we are continuing to explore.

Weisler: What ad messages can be used to reach people by their place in the spectrum? Different messages for the Adverse vs Maximizers for example?

DeTraglia: Marketers and advertisers need to understand that it is more about where they reach these consumers vs. the language used. For example, it is about where the brands capture attention, which we know Hulu and other streaming services do that.  Consumers at the higher end of the spectrum prefer a different type of ad, they want them to feature people, make the consumer feel like they are a part of the ad, give them a sense of brand personality, take the consumer along a storyline. This came from follow-up work that we worked on for creative best practices for our advertising partners. These were the aspects, more immersive commercial experience, that consumers urge for and that video can offer.

Weisler: What are the next steps in this research for Hulu?

DeTraglia: We are a direct-to-consumer business, in this space for a long time, and we know that the people on our service are ‘empowered consumers’. They are important to us from both a marketing and advertising partnership perspective because they are valuable to reach. We used this data when we designed our new brand campaign, “Better Ruins Everything”. We will continue to explore these segments to align with our consumers’ needs and expectations. From an advertising partnership perspective, continuing to understand how our consumers are different and what they are more receptive to, help guide our advertisers as to how best reach and engage their targeted consumer.

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