Achieving Cost Per Viewable Person. Interview with Michael Connolly of Sonobi

Michael Connolly, CEO of Sonobi was, according to his own description, “always an entrepreneur in the business of finding creative opportunities” including his service in the Army as Battle Captain during the Iraq War in the aviation unit. He then built a private publishing network that garnered over 30 million viewers per month. But his mark on media has to be his concentration on building tech solutions to reaching the individual user so advertisers can veer away from individual impressions based buying to individual consumer target buying. This major shift is what he has brought to Sonobi, an independent advertising technology developer.

Charlene Weisler: What sets Sonobi apart from others in the programmatic space?

Michael Connolly: We make people plan-able at Sonobi, which is different than impression-based buying. Our goal is to deliver guaranteed impressions against specific individuals. This is in contrast to the older, print-inspired model, where you use impressions as a proxy for people. In that case, you are buying ad space and not people. We want the metric to be cost per viewable person and not an impression metric. Digital now has the model to execute on this.

Charlene Weisler:  So why is it not being done now?

Michael Connolly: Although technology and the data sources are getting to the place where they are reliable enough, the technology generally used now in the industry is just available to plan on audience. But we are beginning to see the adoption in companies such as Omnicom and Merkle, for example. We are now crossing into the capability to connect with the individual person. In the next decade we will see this as the standard.

Charlene Weisler: If Sonobi focuses on reaching the individual user instead of the individual impression, how do you comply with privacy?

Michael Connolly: We utilize data sources that buyers define. Then we connect a variety of data sources to individual people, with CRM data as the primary mode. As we connect brands to consumers we respect all consumer privacy rules. We take privacy seriously and are concerned with offering a better advertising experience. We bring the research to bear on end users for better experiences.

Charlene Weisler: How will the Internet of Things help connect brands to individuals?

Michael Connolly: Technology is now hard wired into lifestyle from your computer to your auto to your Fitbit. It is all connected. Messages that are informed by data are meaningful to the consumer as a service rather than an intrusive ad. We will be able to bring it down to the individual experience to make it highly personal.

Charlene Weisler: Sonobi is in the programmatic space. What is your definition of programmatic?

Michael Connolly: Programmatic 1.0 is designed to auction off the remnant inventory that the publication could not sell directly. It is an impression based marketplace where the sales team sold what inventory they could, and any inventory that remained was auctioned off to the highest bidder. It was great for publications because they were able to sell off what they could not sell directly. This grew to a $9billion industry, not just because of the low price points for the publication. Not because of the buyer non-guaranteed environment. Not because of the three specific ad square sizes. It grew because the buyer could define their audience and make it meaningful.

Programmatic then took one big step forward. Instead of selling the stuff at the end of the chain, we wanted to look at all of the inventory, and buy it at multiple price points. This resulted in header based technology. But the low price didn’t change. For Sonobi, header bidding was the launch pad that truly opened up the opportunity for a direct marketplace. Sonobi is at Programmatic 2.0 (though as a marketplace we are not quite there yet). Sales teams used to sell impressions. Now they are selling people. It will take time for the market to get there, but our tech is purpose built for this type of selling and always has been.

Charlene Weisler: How does Connected TV fit with your business model?

Michael Connolly: The direct audience market is not just traditional or programmatic. All types of channels can benefit from TV, radio with digital and mobile. This is a natural extension. The end result for our platform JetStream is to make people plan-able across all platforms.

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Programmatic Attribution Modeling

In an environment of cross-platform media and the Internet of Things, marketers are grappling with programmatic attribution modeling. Attribution, according to Cynopsis, is defined as “the process of identifying a set of user actions that contribute to a desired outcome, and then giving each of those actions a specific value.” Ideally, good attribution would enable marketers to get the correct and fair sequencing of events that truly influenced a consumer’s behavior.

Last Touch Attribution
Most common is last touch attribution, which gives full credit to the last-touch point before the desired action takes place. This essentially negates the value of all previous actions leading to activation. The IAB is addressing programmatic attribution modeling, specifically on last-touch, with an update to their 2012 guidelines. According to Benjamin Dick, director, industry initiatives, IAB in a recent Mediapost article, the update was to, “account for the many developments in cross-screen measurement, data collection, and usage, and ultimately provide a common language when discussing attribution tools, technologies, and methodologies.” The intent was to show the limitations of, and alternatives to, last-touch methodologies.

Read my full article on the Videa blog.


Defining Success in Brand Engagement

A recent article in AdExchanger talks about the need to move to brand engagement measurement instead of the traditional metrics of audience delivery and reach. Brand engagement has always been the ultimate measurement goal for marketers because it presumes that engagement with a message will result in action towards sales.

But what does engagement measurement really mean and what is the best metric for measuring it? For the past decade, industry experts and organizations have tried to reach a consensus on the definition of engagement and have come up with hundreds of possibilities. If not everyone can agree on what engagement is, how can we agree on a measurement for it? It’s a conundrum.

Defining Engagement
Read my full article on the Videa blog.


Getting a Jumpstart on the Automotive Market. Interview with Libby Murad-Patel

Libby Murad-Patel, VP Strategic Insights and Analytics at Jumpstart Automotive Group, oversees the creation and implementation of innovative audience research and key performance metrics across Jumpstart’s automotive partner websites.

Charlene Weisler: How did you start in the business and what is your current job responsibility?

Libby Murad-Patel: I started my media career at an agency and experienced the rise in digital media from the ground up. I was hired under digital ad operations (ad trafficking), and then moved to planning and buying for regional dealer associations at GMPlanworks. In 2007 I moved to Jumpstart, where I first worked in Ad Product, which at the time consisted of contextual audience targeting via standard display ads, and audience retargeting or behavioral targeting. Over time we recognized a deficiency in data and analytics and started focusing on finding new ways to test effectiveness and gaining a deeper understanding of the overall consumer shopping process. At that point the company spun off a new department dedicated to audience insights and analytics and that was a pivotal point in my career. I now oversee all of our audience research and key performance metrics for internal and external purposes.

Charlene: Can you tell me about Jumpstart’s True Market Impact™ which is described as a proprietary digital metric that informs advertisers and marketers of a brand’s health based on shopping patterns?

Libby Murad-Patel:  As an auto publisher we have a lot of interesting, insightful data for automotive marketers. This is valuable to marketers because it broadens their view on their potential customer. They always have the ability to see what a consumer does on their brand site, but they don’t see what happens on a publishers’ site unless we share that information with them. With True Market ImpactTM, we are able to create different metrics that detail how a consumer moves through the shopping process and—more importantly—how vehicle consideration changes over time. We are currently working on new developments to simplify measurement. When all metrics are weighted together they form an index score of how the brand is performing, taking advertising as an influencer into consideration.

Charlene: You have been in the digital world for more than a decade. How has it changed or evolved since you first started?

Libby Murad-Patel: It’s an exciting environment that is always changing. The auto industry is the second-largest spending category in digital media, which means that we’re always at the forefront of all the latest developments. We are always pushing hard to stay ahead of technology, and to be in-step with the changing habits of consumers. Because nothing is static, new challenges arise on a regular basis. For instance, viewability and ad blocking are recent issues that the industry is still trying to tackle in terms of setting standards and best practices. We’re certainly never bored.

Charlene: How do you achieve work / life balance?

Libby Murad-Patel: One of the hazards of the digital age is that we are always connected and accessible. I am just as guilty as the next person, but I believe that when we truly take time off to unplug, we’re able to be more creative and productive. I try to lead by example and practice this to the best of my ability.

Charlene: Do you have any advice for the next generation?

Libby Murad-Patel:  I’ve come across many people who are eager to rise through the ranks quickly, but often overlook how critical it is to dedicate the time and the focus to master their current role. I have a strong work ethic and look for people who share this principle. My advice to anyone—especially a person who is just starting their career—is to work hard, master your skills, and prove your worth to the company. Focus on your current responsibilities and continue to think about how you can continue to contribute to the organization. Hard work pays off, and advancement will come from that.

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Embracing Change and Going Freeform. Interview with Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, SVP, Strategic Sales Insights at Freeform, has always balanced the qualitative with the quantitative. She began her career as an agency media planner before moving to NBCU Marketing. 

While at NBCU, her responsibilities went from creating sales marketing collateral materials to a more integrated marketing role in the larger branded entertainment world.

From there she moved to ABC Family (now rebranded to Freeform) where her job expanded from sales marketing to sales forecasting that includes responsibility for budgets and long range planning. She is essentially the conductor in a sales symphony of creative marketing solutions and revenue / inventory management.

Charlene Weisler: How do you manage the qualitative and quantitative demands of your job?

Laura Nelsen: Get a good team and figure out the balance. I have a good team in place and I feel that strategically we are going in the right direction. At a certain point you cannot know everything. With all of the possible platforms, devices and opportunities, we have to ask ourselves, should we do a certain partnership or not and does it benefit the network? It took me time to get the processes down but we have a good integrated team composed of Marketing and Revenue Planning.

Charlene: The TV landscape is changing with new platforms emerging every day. How do you manage all of this change for Freeform?

Laura: Because of the increase in platforms, data, devices, etc, it is becoming a much more complex and convoluted marketplace that touches many departments. My role is to help simplify all of those issues for my management. We take all the information, synthesize it, simplify it and use it to better understand what our message should be to the street. It is a big challenge to stay on top of things. With linear TV we certain of the amount of inventory we had to sell. Now we are always launching new platforms and we sometimes struggle with all of these changes.

Charlene: How did the rebranding from ABC Family to Freeform start?

Laura: We did a research study comparing ABC Family viewers to non-viewers. We spoke to ABC Family fans who had positive attitudes towards our brand - Relevant, Fun and Modern.  When we spoke to non-viewers, they only thought of us as Family Friendly.  Clearly there was a disconnect that we wanted to fix. We saw the need to build off the strengths of the current audience and make it more aligned to today’s young viewers. So we then conducted marketing studies to find a name that is representative of the digital world. We wanted our brand to represent the fact that we are a part of a much larger Disney family of networks with our own digital platform that is also part of many other digital services such as Apple, Hulu, Roku, cable ecosystems, Dish and Xfinity, etc. We have to manage inventory from ten different platforms so that our viewers can watch our content on any platform they choose and on their own schedule. With the name Freeform, the initial research we did showed positive attitudes to the name and to the tested attributes. We will continue to monitor our viewers to be sure that we are on track.

Charlene: What advice would you give the next generation of media executives?

Laura: I am incredibly impressed by the strong interns we have here at Disney. They seem much more serious and focused earlier in their professional lives. What I would say to them is that I started out as an administrative assistant which gave me time to decide on a career path. You have time to figure it all out, even if your first job is not a great fit. You will find your path over time. And you have many resources for advice at your disposal such as the parents of friends where you can learn about other industries. I learned about media from my roommates. Always network.

Charlene: How do you achieve work / life balance?

Laura: It is a challenge with everyone. When I took more responsibility at work for sales revenue, I was also just getting married and later on had a child. It is a busy time at both home and work. I am very lucky in that my boss and my company allows for flexibility – sometimes I can work from home or be late. Balance has its ebbs and flows cycle. There will be busy periods. It is always a challenge and I am not sure that I have the solution but I know that I can talk to my boss and we can make it work.

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Smart TV Will Evolve. Not From Apps But From Media Companies. Interview with Oded Napchi.

Oded Napchi, CMO of HIRO Media, is currently immersed in the world of programmatic video for brands and traditional TV content providers. His media career, which began in the 1990s in Israeli radio and television, soon moved into online with work on a start-up called Valis which was the first telecom based community in SMS. 

Napchi explains that his current firm, HIRO Media, derived its name from the protagonist of the book, Snowcrash, which is a science fiction novel mapped out how mass media will look in the future. HIRO Media, the company, founded in 2006, was founded to enable legal peer to peer downloads for content providers. “We always wanted to expand the numbers of sites that present video beyond the major five,” he added.

Charlene Weisler: Tell me about HIRO Media.

Oded Napchi: We are a programmatic distributor of videos with a network of over 20,000 sites, 3 billion video views and 3 billion ad views. We allow publishers to present videos from the top content owners without the need for technical integration. It is a seamless feed from their original site. We can target videos to the viewer and also target ads. These videos are not user generated. They are professional videos only from top content sites such as MGM, Discovery and BBC for example. These videos can be short – 15 seconds – or longer like a telenovela. You can click on the site and see full-length videos but usually cases the content providers put on shorter videos that then lead to the longer form videos on the content owners sites.

Charlene Weisler: How do you generate audiences and discover new sites for the videos?

Oded Napchi: We reach out to people via our distribution to over 20,000 sites. It is always a big challenge to build audience so we go to content brands that don’t have enough sites and partner with them too. We tap into sites and blogs – anything that has legitimate audience such as Salon, the New York Times and the New York Post. We also love vertical niche sites because advertisers often seek something specific like political sites or sports sites for example. Interestingly, we’re finding that many are seeking Republican-centric sites but also food blogs, pet blogs. Fifty to 60% of our viewers come from the larger sites and all the rest come from smaller sites.

Charlene Weisler:  What type of data do you collect and use?

Oded Napchi:   We collect anonymous data. No cookies. We tend to work with different type of data beyond the standard age and gender that is easy to buy from third party sources such as Oracle. What we want to know is how long someone spent on the site and how they scroll through the site so you know where to place the ad. We look at super users who look at the ad and have a high engagement rate. We keep data on all of the sites.

Charlene Weisler: You don’t use cookies?

Oded Napchi: No. There are pros and cons with audience targeting. We have found that analyzing sites gave us more predictive information about users, better than using cookies. When you buy on cookies, it is often the household computer and often there are discrepancies between different providers of data. Anyone can be using it. But by entering a site, you can be more confident that it is the individual who is interested in that site content. We have had some surprises handling data in this way. An example – young Republican men in their 30s were especially interested in female mixed martial arts … and trucks. Both of those types of ads worked well on Republican sites.

Charlene Weisler:  What about fraud and viewability?

Oded Napchi: Fraud is an easy problem to fix. There has been great advancement in the past three years on fraud. We work with several very good anti-fraud companies as well as our own proprietary technologies and best practices and as a result fraud is now less than 1%. Viewability is more challenging. But you can optimize against it.

There are two newer problems worth noting here though. The first is adware fraud where some creative has malware that hijacks sites. We developed technology to completely block this behavior. We have an exchange hotline to let others know about that creative. The second is that there are a huge amount of ads that do not play because of problems that could crash the browser or block the screen. This is not intentional. Sometimes it is a tech problem. Several industry researches claim that over 50% of sites have problems presenting ads.

Charlene Weisler: What do you think the impact of Smart TVs will have on your business?

Oded Napchi: I have been thinking about this for three years and am always wrong. First I thought that app stores would rule Smart TVs but now I think Smart TV will evolve more from larger video companies such as Youtube, Netflix and Amazon as the way forward

Charlene Weisler:  What do you think the media landscape will look like 5 years from now?

Oded Napchi:  It is logical to think that traditional major media companies will merge or partner with the new digital upstarts because these newer digital companies are not really content providers and some major companies do not have major online offshoots. Comcast may be the one major traditional media company that has made this move into digital most successfully - with its acquisitions of Freewheel, Visible World and most recently StickyAds. The others may have to play catch up.

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