The Revolution Will Be Televised … With Set Top Box Data

Set Top Boxes and their ability to passively collect tuning data has been an exciting development for the world of TV measurement for the past decade. The IAB defines a set top box simply as an electronic device that connects to a TV providing connectivity to the Internet, game systems, or cable systems. But its capability to not only feed out content but also receive back usage data expands its value to the media industry as a measurement device.

CIMM (The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement) released a STB Data whitepaper listing the following uses of Set Top Box data:

Read more on the Videa Blog.

Becoming a Creative Technologist. Interview with Trevor O’Brien

Trevor O’Brien, Partner and Chief Technology Officer at Deutsch has found a career that perfectly balances his right and left brain talents. He studied computer science at university in London and, upon graduation, veered away from the prescribed IT career path, accepting instead a job in media. “I got into a creative environment right out of school,” he explained, “and I realized that I liked the freedom to work in creative forms.” 

His creative/computer science background was well timed in the age of media data and analytics. It led him to a career in advertising helping agency clients leverage technology to best reach their target consumers. Today, his work in Deutsch’s NY office involves the use of A.I. (artificial intelligence) to build intuitive sites and mechanisms as part of a greater agency team that includes talent from across the agency landscape.

Charlene Weisler: You studied IT and yet found yourself in a completely different type of IT-based career. Does that surprise you?

Trevor O’Brien: Yes. I didn’t know about this world of creative interest in technology when I was a student and even today, when I talk at schools, they don’t know that a career on Madison Avenue is an option. The students only know the big tech players. I knew nothing about the creative space and the use of technologies to do creative things.

Charlene: How has the advertising industry evolved since you first started?

Trevor: When I first started my agency career, they were trying to figure out what to do with people like me - for example, which meetings to attend. And the project process was linear – once the creative was done it was then passed on to the technologists to place on platforms etc. But now we are collected into a project team, which is much more intuitive. Technologists, like creatives, are problem solvers and it all works well. At Deutsch, all participants working on a project that will take a month or two to complete meet in a room called a War Room in order to organize and prioritize. The team works on the project through its duration including design and software within and through the creative phase. The space has matured enough so there is value in having a creative technologist alongside a director, for example.

Charlene: Can you give me an example of a War Room project?

Trevor: Yes. We are excited about our client ACUVUE which is the premier contact lens company owned by J&J. In February we started a global website that was specifically developed for that brand. It allowed us to use the War Room model – with a producer, designer etc – to envision the user experience from all angles with all of us sitting together in the new development process. Every two weeks we would deliver a new piece of the project for review by the group to assess and attach storytelling to the general brand advertising and media mix. This was a business changer for the client. We will be launching in multiple markets this year. A.I. will impact how the content will connect to consumers.

Charlene: How important is TV in the media mix at this time and as it moves into connected TV?

Trevor: My expertise is primarily in digital but I work closely with our Chief Creative Officer, Dan Kelleher. We try to look at ideas with both a TV and digital execution. I was involved in personalizing TV ads for some time, based on browser data, so the consumer can see different versions of the creative at the same time. I see the future of TV as more addressable, more cloud based technology where the video is rendered dynamically creating the potential for thousands of personalized versions that can be targeted to your TV set top box. I believe that online will move to TV and other screens. TV today is an awareness driver and measurement is still tough – it is still not a perfect science. With the move to smart TVs, then TV will move from awareness to a more personalized messaging to you to better connect you with a brand.

Charlene: What advice would you give to the next generation of IT students?
Trevor: For me, the days of tech people being confined to dark backrooms are gone. The nerd is the new cool. There are new ways to take your talent in new creative ways. Take your technical knowledge and discover new ways to use it to do new things. There is so much data and there will be so much more. We need amazing data scientists who are also creative and have the ability to tell stories using data. The data scientist who can bring a narrative to the numbers will be golden.

This article first appeared in


Rubicon Project Reveals the Secret of Programmatic Buying and Selling Success in Contexxt

Rubicon Project, a programmatic buying and selling firm, recently completed a study with data firm Contexxt that demonstrated the effectiveness of programmatic advertising. The study concluded that buying ads programmatically can increase return on investment by 20 percent, and raise bottom line sales by 5 percent.
The study, to be released this week, carefully noted that these results will not be realized unless there is a strategy at the onset of a campaign. Mari Kim Novak, Global CMO Rubicon Project, explained, “You also need smart a thoughtful strategy with smart allocation across desktop, mobile, and video. Brands that are thoughtful about their channel-specific investment are the ones that will maximize returns from their overall programmatic strategy.”

The study set out to understand the impact of programmatic across all channels, how properly executed programmatic campaigns could impact sales and the impact of marketing return on investment via programmatic. “Programmatic will continue to grow in revenue and importance to advertisers as we continue to increase the level of consumer response level data,” noted Shelly Zallis, CEO Contexxt.
The methodology included a focus on $20.0 Billion in spend analyzed across Fortune 500 companies in ten vertical categories. Multivariate data sets were created to determine the channel allocation, creative unit and sales impact. Included was competitive action and cost data in order to determine measurable business results. Additionally, comprehensive tactics included time decay, reach, frequency and flighting.

Here are the conclusions:
           The average brand should double their programmatic allocation
Doubling the percentage of programmatic media spend from 4 percent, which is the average for Fortune 500 brands, to 8 percent will yield the optimal return on investment and sales outcomes. Investing less, according to the study, means that brands are leaving sales and ROI on the table.
           Use private marketplaces to leverage first party data
Applying a brand’s own customer data and intelligence to campaigns is one of the most impactful ways a brand can leverage programmatic. More advanced tactics using customer data can present even more incremental efficiencies.
    Allocating for the future
      There are differences in media behavior between younger and older audiences. Younger audiences are more fragmented and their media consumption habits are more on-demand than appointment based. The younger your target, the greater the media budget allocation should be towards programmatic. Twelve percent is the optimal level for this audience, according to the study results.
          Mobile and video
Mobile and Video are two areas where programmatic buying can help brands reach consumers where they are and make the right decisions about what to show them and when. The study concludes that mobile should represent 33 percent of a brand’s programmatic investment, and video should represent 35 percent, keeping in mind that video and mobile can overlap.

“We at Rubicon Project believe that the average brand should double their programmatic allocation, advertisers should use private marketplaces to leverage first party data and brands should be allocating for the future, especially in Mobile and Video,” concluded Novak.

This article first appeared in

Making Agencies Better Than Ever. Interview with Ben Kirshner

The agency business has been undergoing change, not least of which is through the ability to leverage new technology to deliver the best messaging to the right consumer at the right time. 

Fourteen years ago, Ben Kirshner, CEO of Elite, started Coffee for Less, which was an online store for all things coffee. “When I hired an agency for search marketing, I realized quickly that the people who cared most about my business were the salespeople, because they got commissions. The account managers were the most important people, but the agency kept switching them on me. I was re-educating account managers four times a year, and none of them had any passion for my business.” So Ben decided to create Elite, an agency which gives all employees a share in overall agency profits. With such a provocative agency offering, I asked Ben about his business, how it impacts the industry and how it might impact the future of agencies in general.

Charlene Weisler: Tell me about your current job. What exactly does your agency do?

Ben Kirshner: We don’t do the creative; we plan and buy the media so that more people click on clients’ ads and buy their products. We started in paid search marketing, and now we also do organic search, display advertising, social media advertising, and shopping ads with the data feeds supporting them. We’re also growing fast in the area of conversion rate optimization, which means getting people who come to your website to buy more. 

Charlene: Who is in your competitive set?

Ben: We typically get contacted when a brand is looking for a digital specialist to partner with their full-service or creative agency. That said, we mostly run up against 3Q Digital, Rimm Kaufman group, iCrossing and iProspect. They’ve been around a long time, so they were leaders out of the gate. We’re of similar sizes and client bases, in the middle ground between the five-person startups and the 1,000-person giants. The five-person startups lack thought leadership, while the 1,000-person giants fall into anarchy.

Charlene: What is your definition of performance marketing?

Ben: Anything where the medium and the goal are measurable. We are held accountable for achieving clients’ advertising goals. There’s no subjectivity in what we do. Our clients count money, not impressions. We have to deliver enough customers, paying enough money, to meet cost-per-sale goals on weekly and monthly bases. When we set realistic goals, we meet them. If we didn’t, we’d get fired immediately.

Performance means digital now because the media is more measurable. Eventually, all media will be, from a TV ad to a billboard.

Charlene: What is your agency doing to help marketers deal with a more demanding digital environment?

Ben: We’re bringing clients broader counsel and deeper execution across digital media. Over the past year, we’ve created specialties in four key disciplines – shopping and feed (data), CRO (conversion rate optimization), performance display, and paid social. These operate as pieces of a whole, thanks to the way we share information and successful practices. You can’t be good across the frontiers without specializing, because each of the emerging areas is complex and deep, and the real value comes from knowing things that a generalist would miss. You have to know how the engine works at the level of each bolt. It takes master mechanics working together. Every week, our teams come together and share what’s working, and what’s not, so we can bring all of our client work up a notch.

Charlene: What data, if any, do you collect and how is it used to forward your business?

Ben: Data is our everything. Our account teams are analyzing data and making adjustments day in and day out. We’re constantly looking at website analytics – store information, revenues, traffic, purchases – to determine how much it’s costing to get each visitor and buyer. For example, if we see our campaign’s leading 40% more people to our client’s site, but they’re not buying the unique products with higher gross margins, we can immediately focus marketing on those items. Also, we’re always exploring new terms and new ways to segment campaigns for optimization.

From a business standpoint, we look at client NPS, or net promoter score, twice a year. We also ask our clients quarterly, using the Client Heartbeat tool, what we can improve upon. We want to identify issues and solve them in real time.

Charlene: Looking ahead the next 3-5 years, give me some predictions about how the agency and media landscape in general will look.

Ben: Google will be the place all media flows through to be placed, traced, tracked, optimized and reported on. If you want to buy TV commercial programmatically you’ll do it through Google. The same with radio ads. As a result, all of the media planning and buying teams will use the same toolkit. We will have solved the attribution problem because we have one persistent tracking mechanism. And mobile will be the ideal place to buy. Your phone will be more than a wallet; it will be your computer to buy, browse, and compare. People will still need to work on big screen, but mobile will be gatekeeper for everything we buy. It will be considered normal to walk through Macy’s, scan an item and click to have it shipped to your home from the nearest distribution center.

This article first appeared in


Indifference Kills Advertising. Interview with Nielsen Chief Neuroscientist Dr. Carl Marci

Dr. Carl Marci, EVP and Chief Neuroscientist for Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, is the former co-founder of Innerscope Research and a globally recognized leader in the new field of social and consumer neuroscience. His extensive work has been put to good use at Nielsen where neuroscience techniques are increasingly being used to ascertain viewer reception, involvement, attention and engagement. Nielsen recently partnered with Nielsen Catalina Solutions to facilitate the connection between a viewer’s non-conscious emotional responses to advertising messages and in-market sales.

Charlene Weisler: Carl, tell us about your recent study combining single source sales data with neuroscience.

Dr. Carl Marci: This was a groundbreaking study where we combined in-market sales from single source data from Nielsen Catalina Solutions, across sixty consumer package goods ads and then looked at the ability of different neuroscience measures including facial coding, biometrics and EEG (electroencephalogram) to predict those outcomes.

Charlene Weisler: What brought about this study?

Dr. Carl Marci: Leslie Wood (Chief Research Officer at Nielsen Catalina Solutions) and I worked together in Las Vegas at the CBS Television City testing facility and she said they were really excited because, with their data, they were close to a pure measure of the creative – meaning they could control for the, aim the media weight and the timing of the advertising and really isolate just the impact of the creative itself without those other variables.  We thought that was fantastic. We have a great measure on creative so what if we put the two together? David Poltrack (Chief Research Officer, CBS Corporation and President of CBS VISION) said that he would be very interested in that and provided the funding. It was a great meeting of the minds.

Charlene Weisler: What are some of the components of creative measurement?

Dr. Carl Marci:  If you think about traditional copy testing using surveys, particularly online, there are three dimensions – do you remember it, do you like it, will you buy it. If you think about the neuroscience measures, there are three non-conscious dimensions – attention, emotion and memory. The tools that we put together in this study allow us to measure passively, without asking any questions, as viewers experience the ad. We can measure each of those dimensions second by second. And then we put all of those metrics that we derive from that measurement into a statistical model and see if they relate to sales.

Charlene Weisler: Which neuroscience technique measures which non-conscious dimension?

Dr. Carl Marci: EEG is the most complex. We are using 32 sensors coming off of the brains of consumers and from those sensors we can derive each of those three measures - a measure of attentional processes, emotional motivation and then memory activation. With the biometrics we can get to another dimension of emotion which is the emotional intensity and then with facial coding we can get at a third dimension of emotion which is does someone like it (Do they smile, do they frown or do they look surprised?). If you think about emotion and all of its complexities, we are able to capture three of the most important components: How much energy is in it? Is it something I want to approach or avoid? Or is this something I like or dislike?

Charlene Weisler: Are you able to parse out those expressions where someone may have a negative expression but are highly engaged?

Dr. Carl Marci: A negative response is not a bad thing. A commercial about a headache remedy could elicit a concerned look on the face of the viewer that registered negative but in fact they are heavily engaged. What we are finding is that indifference is what kills advertising. Getting any response is better than no response. What we have found in the research is that a negative emotion did not have a negative effect on sales.

Charlene Weisler: What is the correlation to sales?

Dr. Carl Marci: We found high measures of correlation – around 10% for facial coding, around 30% for biometrics, 60% for EEG and when they are combined it goes up to 77%. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And it also gives us great explanatory abilities when we are looking at second by second ad creative.