- An enthusiastic blog post from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. Google Senior VP of Mobile and Digital Content Andy Rubin enthused “If you walk around the Android stand., it’s also evident that our hardware partners are thriving. There are 100+ devices on display at the conveyor belt bar…just a small portion of the 800+ Android devices that have launched to date.” Rubin recalled announcing 150,000 apps in the Android market at last year’s MWC, and claims the number has tripled to more than 450,000 apps today with more than one billion app doawnloads per month. “Think about the astonishing number of songs Shazam’ed, places Qype’ed and foursquare mayorships!”
- Buddy Media, which claims to be the social enterprise software of choice for eight of the world's top ten global advertisers, has announced the acquisition of Brighter Option, a London-based Facebook Ads API partner providing innovative social ad management software. Buddy Media believes it is now “the only company to combine social publishing, applications, analytics, commerce and paid advertising in a unified software suite.” Buddy Media spent six months shopping among 20 Facebook advertising technology partners, and concluded that Brighter Option had the most scalable technology, team and business model. Last quarter, Brighter Option’s social ad management software managed more than 92.5 billion impressions for more than 291 advertisers in 42 countries.
- MediaMorph, which provides technology for cross-platform media tracking, audience measurement and analytics, has raised $8 million in funding from Motorola Mobility and from London-based Smedvig Capital, reports Multichannel News. This investment round brings MediaMorph to a total of $11 million raised to date. MediaMorph clients include Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, E! Networks, Starz, HBO, A&E Television Network and Cablevision Systems. In addition to media usage research, the startup provides rights and royalty management services.
- Coupon company Valpak has redesigned its iPhone and Android apps, and has launched its first-ever iPad tablet app, reports DMNews. Valpak is best known for its thick envelopes stuffed with coupons for local businesses (e.g., pizzerias, dentists, pool builders and cleaners). The company first launched its iPhone app in 2009, and last March, launched a location-based digital coupon service. The company says it was prompted to upgrade old apps and launch the new iPad app in response to increasing tabloid downloads, and a tripling in app downloads over the past 13 months.
- MTV has launched “Under The Thumb” in Europe, a new social TV app, reports TechCrunch. MTV partnered with digital agency AKQA to create the app, which MTV and Viacom call a “world first” in alowing users to watch MTV on mobile devices, share the content, then watch on-demand programs simultaneously with those (remote) friends. It has launched in Europe prior to migrating to the U.S., and will be free and ad funded.
- ABC will premiere another Titanic retelling. The four-part miniseries will premiere on Saturday, April 14 from 8-11 P.M., then conclude on Sunday, April 15 at 9-10 P.M. At four hours, this version is not much shorter than the 1997 theatrical release, but bears the same name—“Titanic.” One of the producers is Juian Fellowes, who was behind “Gosford Park” and “Downton Abbey,” which explains the intertwining stories of haves versus have-nots. It also jumps off the ship for political intrigue, featuring Winston Churchill and Russian revolutionaries. The April 15th conclusion airs on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. No big-name U.S. actors in this “Titanic”: the cast includes BBC and London West End actors like Linus Roache (of “Law and Order: UK”), Perdita Weeks (of “The Tudors”), and Lee Ross of the long-running UK soap “EastEnders.”
- Adult Swim has picked up the live-action series “Loiter Squad,” a 15 minute show featuring sketches, man on the street segments, pranks and music from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. “Odd Future” is a Los Angeles collective of rappers, artists, and skateboarders. “Loiter Squad” is produced by Dickhouse Entertainment, the Hollywood production partnership of Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze who were behind hits including “Jackass,” “Nitro Circus” and “Rob & Big.” As Adult Swim describes it, “The Dickhouse sensibility provides a perfect match for the unique viewpoints, masterful pranking and artistic inclinations of the Odd Future crew.”
- ESPN has announced some early scheduling plans for its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) college football coverage. ESPN’s Labor Day prime time telecast on September 3 will pit Georgia Tech at defending Coastal Division champion Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. ET. Its Thursday night series “ESPN College Football Primetime” will feature four matchups, including three telecasts featuring at least one team ranked in an early ESPN pre-season poll.
- Syfy will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with troubled teens and vengeful leprechauns. Its Saturday, March 17 9 P.M. original movie broadcast “Leprechaun’s Revenge” stars Billy Zane of “Titanic,” and William Devane of “24.” The horror series has six entries so far, including “Leprechaun in Space” and “Leprechaun in the ‘Hood.” This entry has the murderous leprechaun preying upon descendants of settlers who stole his pot o’gold.
- Fox has announced its sunsetting plans for “House.” On Monday, April 2, “House” will move to a new time (9 P.M. ET/PT), with all-new episodes leading up to House’s final diagnosis. Fox will air a retrospective of the last eight years on Monday, May 21 at 8 P.M. ET/PT, followed by the series finale at 9 P.M. ET/PT. Fox promises additional details as the air dates approach.
- It’s Digital “Conan.” The new Team Coco tablet app, presented by launch sponsor AT&T, uses Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology to provide late-night TV host Conan Obrien’s “hyper-connected fans” with exclusive synchronized content delivered while they watch the show on TV. “Conan draws the youngest and most digitally connected audience in late night,” said SVP Dennis Adamovich of TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). “Team Coco is transforming Conan into an immersive interactive experience that can be enjoyed whenever you want.”
- Social commerce network PowerReviews has launched a new program aimed at directly measuring how social activity impacts sales, reports Direct Marketing News. The Essential Social Suite enables marketers to "gamify" customer engagement and content creation, and to measure which individuals and what social interactions lead directly to sales, site traffic, or other business objectives. Brands that integrate the Suite into company websites can reward customers with points when they review products, ask questions of other customers, or share a product with their friends.
- Tumblr is searching for an ad sales chief, which as Business Insider reports “seems to indicate that the blog platform is finally getting serious about revenue generation.” A source who spoke to Business Insider said the job will not have an "ad sales" title attached, but the job will entail creating partnerships for relevant exposure on Tumblr and “extracting revenue from them.” In short—ad sales. Thus far, Tumblr has had only Cartoon Network as a significant advertiser.
- The Washington Post has launched its WP Politics iPad app, its “most significant attempt yet to charge readers for digital content,” describes Poynter Institute. The Post’s website and digital content is free and ad supported, thought it experimented with charging $1.99 a year for an iPhone app (later offered free). The new iPad app is free to download and is supported by a banner ads, and much of its content will be free, but users (even print subscribers) must pay $2.99 a month to access more in-depth content.
- Details are emerging on Google’s entry into the eReader/tablet fray, reports CNET. The Google tablet would be presumably ad heavy, and about the same size and form factor as the Amazon Kindle Fire. The tablet will have a 1280x800 resolution (versus 1024x600 for the Fire) and 7-inch display. Production begins in April, with a planned run of up to 2 million units. CNET first reported on Google’s plans in January. With a 7-inch Kindle-sized screen, analysts treat it more as a challenge to the Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook than to the Apple iPad.
- National cable ad sales topped $22 billion in 2011, according to revised Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) calculations, reported in Multichannel News. That $22.1 billion represents a 7.8% increase over $20.5 billion in 2010. And, it is an 18.1% jump over 2009, at $18.7 billion. CAB attributed the uptick to growth during the upfront selling season for the 2011-12 TV year, and the industry’s commitment to original programming.
- Peel has released its channel-surfing app, aimed at simplifying selections, according to a Reuters story. The Peel app uses Netflix- or Pandora-like analytics, in which a user enters likes and dislikes to arrive at personalized recommendations. The app also has social-media capabilities, enabling viewers to share recommendations among friends. Peel is a free app for US viewers.
- CBS has greenlighted a sitcom pilot starring Martin Lawrence as a widowed father of two teenagers, who joins the police force at 46. Martin has not had a network series since “Martin” bowed on Fox in 1997, after six successful seasons, an arrest at LA Airport on gun charges, and a sexual harassment filing by co-star Tisha Campbell Martin. However, he has proved to be a stable team player in films like “Wild Hogs” in 2007 and Disney’s “College Road Trip” in 2008.
- Lionsgate Entertainment is shopping out its TV Guide channel, brand name and online property (TVGuide.com), and Discovery Communications and CBS are both interested, reports the New York Post. Also in the bidding, JPMorgan’s private-equity arm, One Equity Partners, and Open Gate Capital. Discovery’s cable channels include the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC. By contrast, CBS has little cable presence, other than its ownership of Showtime. The TV Guide channel is expected to fetch as much as $350 million, and the website about $50 million.
- “South Park” returns for Season 16 with seven all-new episodes, beginning Wednesday, March 14 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central. The all-new episodes from Season 16 will also be available in HD on xBox Live, iTunes, Sony PlayStation Network, Amazon Video On Demand and Vudu, and in SD on Samsung Media Hub and InDemand. Just two weeks after the premiere, Comedy Central will release “South Park: The Complete Fifteenth Season” on Blu-ray and DVD.
Fast on the heels of Gannett announcing its paywall around 80 community newspapers, the Los Angeles Times (LAT) on Friday announced it will launch a metered paywall on Monday, March 5.
The mechanics are the usual. Print subscribers will have free and unlimited Website access. Web-only visitors can read 15 LAT stories per month for free, after which they will be charged an introductory rate of 99 cents for four weeks, then $1.99 per week for a website-plus-Sunday-print-edition package. Kathy Thomson, president and COO of the LA Times Media Group, says the company “priced the digital subscription with the Sunday newspaper at a lower rate because they are complementary products.” A Web-only subscription is $3.99 per month, but the LAT sweetens the digital subscription with “retail discounts, deals and giveaways.”
The paper will also launch a print-only Saturday section called “Lifestyle.” This will combine the health, food and home sections, which the paper will phase out as standalones, in a cost-cutting measure. Those sections will remain live on the website.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the LAT has an average daily circulation of 572,998 (down 200,000 from two years ago, says the LAT) and the website has 34.8 million unique monthly visitors. The LAT points out to readers that it is following the example of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News; as well as the 80 Gannett properties.
A Gamble Worth Trying
If LAT's web advertisers fear they will lose exposure, LAT is saying "fear not."
According to ComScore data, the LAT was the third-most-viewed U.S. newspaper website in 2011, with 17 million unique visitors a month; the New York Times and Washington Post ranked first and second. The LAT points out that the New York Times has signed on 390,000 digital-only subscribers, without damaging its traffic. The New York Times charges between $14.99 and $35 a month, depending on the digital subscription program.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) introduced the IAB Standard Ad Units in 1996 and updated them in 2003, and now over 80% of display ads follow the IAB standards. IAB has released a new Standard Ad Unit Portfolio, which it claims will “drive the industry forward and create new opportunities for dynamic brand advertising.” IAB unveiled the new portfolio over the weekend, at its fifth IAB Annual Leadership Meeting “Ecosystem 2.0: Beyond Time and Space.”
The portfolio includes a new range of formats designed to “meet marketers’ communications needs across the purchase funnel,” said IAB in a release. Among these formats are the IAB Rising Stars Display ad units, six new interactive ad units developed and tested in partnership with digital publishers and agencies.
As Adweek reported from the Leadership Meeting, IAB’s head of brand initiatives Peter Minnium told the crowd “This new [collection of ad units] varies not only in size but in functionality and, of course, in interactivity.” Without standardized units, advertisers had to handcraft creative ads as needed, whereas the new units “will enable them to craft [an ad] once and run it broadly.” Industry bodies including the Online Publisher's Association (OPA) have clamored for larger and more intrusive ad units that attract bigger brands and larger premiums.
Of the Rising Stars, the Portrait may be the most high profile, says Adweek. The Portrait was unveiled by AOL’s Pictela division in 2010, and enables advertisers to include interactive apps embedded in a 300-by-1050-pixel display. IAB has also added two full-page units to the portfolio, called the "Sidekick" and "Slider."
“The new IAB portfolio allows creatives to tell bigger, bolder brand stories,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “The new units offer more space, greater functionality, and a broader range of user experiences—providing a collection of next-generation interactive canvases designed to leverage the rich, immersive benefits of digital.”
Higher Engagement, Interactivity
To measure the new units’ ability to deliver at scale for brand advertisers, IAB partnered with IPG Media Lab to conduct proprietary research with Affectiva, GazeHawk and Moat that looked at attentiveness, emotive response and brand lift. Working with BBDO, BBH, Razorfish and SapientNitro, campaigns were tested from AT&T, Jeep and Westin Hotels & Resorts, leveraging all six Rising Stars units for each. The test creative, which was showcased on MSN.com, was built by AOL/Pictela, DoubleClick/Google, MediaMind and Microsoft Advertising.
The research findings revealed that consumers interact significantly more with Rising Stars ads than with incumbent standard ad units (such as the leaderboard and medium rectangle). Users were 2.5 times more likely to interact with a Rising Stars ad unit than a standard ad unit, spent twice as much time interacting with the ad and took less time to react to the ad (two times quicker than with standard ads). Along with increased interaction, eye-tracking showed that users viewed ads longer (31% more) with Rising Stars units versus standard formats.
In addition, study respondents found the Rising Stars ads to be more “enjoyable” and “engaging” when compared to regular displays ads, and they were more likely to say the Rising Stars ads “improved my impression of this web site” and their opinion of the brand.
"Being able to combine eye-tracking and facial-coding with more traditional behavioral analytics and brand lift survey data, and to do all of that in a respondent’s home using their webcam, gives us an amazing new view into the true impact of these cool new ad formats” said Tim McAtee, Research Director, IPG Media.
"As marketers we are all going to be more efficient in maximizing our production resources by having more structure around rich digital advertising units,” said Christi Gettinger, Senior Director Brand Management, Westin Hotels & Resorts. “To date, publishers have been fairly fragmented in their offerings to advertisers and this ultimately drives up production costs to effectively reach our target audience. We are thrilled the IAB team is taking the lead in creating more opportunities for marketers to be effective in connecting with consumers online.”
“The Rising Stars Display ad units have already proven themselves in the marketplace with exponentially higher interaction rates and interaction time—the core metrics that matter for brand advertisers” said Minnium. “They can only bring the interactive industry to new heights as part of the IAB Standard Ad Unit Portfolio.”
Out-of-home advertising revenue rose 4% in 2011 over 2010, to reach $6.4 billion, says the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). That increase was consistent for each quarter of the year with total growth up 3.0% in the fourth quarter.
This comes as a bit of a surprise. As Media Life observed, when media think tank Kantar Media releases its final tallies for 2011 in March, out-of-home “will probably be the fourth-fastest-growing category, behind Spanish-language media, cable TV and the internet.” Out-of-home or OOH advertising at 4% significantly outpaced the 1.5% growth pace of overall advertising through the first three quarters of the year. It is also well ahead of radio, the only other media to announce full-year results so far, and which was up 1% in 2011.
Out-of-home advertisements come in the categories of 1) billboards, which includes posters, 2) street furniture like bus benches and kiosks, 3) transit like bus exteriors, and 4) alternative, a catch-all category that encompasses skywriting, blimps, cartons and cups and dry cleaning bags, among others.
“Out-of-home performed well last year,” said OAAA President & CEO Nancy Fletcher. “More brands are recognizing the value out of home advertising can add to a strategic media plan.”
Several industry categories performed well all year, most notably the Schools, Camps & Seminars sector, which was up 22.4% for the year. Other notable growth categories were Media & Advertising; Financial; and Miscellaneous Services & Amusements, which is comprised mainly of local brands. The Communications category flattened in 2011 after a decrease in the fourth quarter.
Four of the top five advertisers increasing out-of-home media spend last year were financial brands; namely Chase, Prudential, JP Morgan, and Citi. Five of the top 20 advertisers increasing out of home spend were in the Media & Advertising category.
“Out-of-home advertising outpaced the overall ad business and other local media last year,” said Stephen Freitas, OAAA Chief Marketing Officer. “The industry has grown steadily for the past seven quarters, and that growth trend is expected to remain strong.”
OAAA issues full industry pro forma revenue estimates that include, but are not limited to, Miller Kaplan and Kantar Media (which is not adjusted to reflect changes in data sources), and member company affidavits. Revenue estimates include billboard, street furniture, transit, and alternative media, as well as digital platforms for advertising spend.
Advertisers, take note: of 26 current affairs personalities, most elicit strong positive or negative reactions. That according to Harris Interactive, which has released The Harris Poll results of a survey of 2,016 adults.
As Harris observes, current affairs consumers a few decades ago were restricted to the three network anchors, being Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley—all fairly staid and uncontroversial personalities. Today’s viewers have the choice of three network anchors, plus a multitude of personalities via cable stations, and “even a radio personality who transcends many of his brethren on television,” being Rush Limbaugh.
Harris Interactive offered the list of 26 current affairs personalities and asked those surveyed which three are their favorites. Almost one-quarter said ABC News' Diane Sawyer (23%), while one in five chose CNN's Anderson Cooper (19%) and NBC's Brian Williams (19%). Rounding out the top five favorite current affairs personalities were Bill O'Reilly (15%) and Barbara Walters (15%). A little further down the list are George Stephanopoulos (14%), Matt Lauer (13%), Katie Couric (13%), Rush Limbaugh (9%) and Sean Hannity (9%).
Looking at the flip side, when asked to identify their least favorite, almost half chose Rush Limbaugh (46%). Three in ten chose Bill O'Reilly (31%) and almost one-quarter chose Nancy Grace (23%). Rounding out the top ten least favorite news personalities are Sean Hannity (14%), Katie Couric (10%), Piers Morgan (10%), Barbara Walters (10%), Chris Matthews (10%), Rachel Maddow (7%) and Wolf Blitzer (7%).
All News Is Political
The political bent of a network (real or perceived) and of individual personalities affected the survey results dramatically.
For Republicans, the top three favorite current affairs personalities are Bill O'Reilly (29%), Sean Hannity (25%) and Rush Limbaugh (22%) while for Democrats and Independents the top three are Diane Sawyer (28% and 25% respectively), Anderson Cooper (24% and 21%) and Brian Williams (24% and 20%).
Interestingly, one person is in the least liked top three for all three political parties. For Republicans, the three least liked current affairs personalities are Nancy Grace (25%), Rush Limbaugh (24%) and Chris Matthews (18%). For Democrats, the three news personalities that are the least favorite are Rush Limbaugh (66%), Bill O'Reilly (45%), and Sean Hannity (23%) while for Independents it is Rush Limbaugh (49%), Bill O'Reilly (31%) and Nancy Grace (25%).
Harris acknowledges that viewers tune into these personalities for different reasons. A broadcast network personality is (in theory) supposed to provide the news objectively, while that is not what a viewer expects of, for example, Sean Hannity. Thus one viewer may watch Brian Williams because watching NBC for news is simply a habit, while another tunes into conservative personality Bill O'Reilly for his political leanings. So O’Reilly is more likely to be tagged as a “least favorite” than Williams. In short, one will both lose, and gain viewers, by advertising on an O'Reilly broadcast.
The luxury mags continue to thrive. As Folio and minOnline report, March 2012 has proved a very successful ad month for almost all fashion magazines, compared with March 2011. Four of the top five ad-page gainers in March (out of 150 magazines that min tracked) were fashion mags, being:
- Marie Claire with 42.95 more ad pages in 2012 compared with 2011
- W at +40.65
- InStyle, +38.22
- Harper's Bazaar, +37.20.
Beating them all was Vanity Fair, a lifestyle magazine, with its gatefold Hollywood issue, at +44.09 pages.
These gains are in stark contrast to the consumer magazine industry overall, which for Q1 2012 is down 6.32%, with only 34 magazines gaining. March is a slightly stronger month for consumer monthlies, down 2.85% and 66 magazines gaining.
Marie Claire reported its largest march ever, with growth in core categories of fashion/retail/luxury at 25%, and beauty at 31%, plus strong repeat business from Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, among others.
W raised some interest with its dual “Good Girl/Bad Girl” covers of Kate Moss, looking like a bride on one cover, and Batman villainess Poison Ivy on the other.
Harper’s Bazaar's March issue likely benefited from advertiser curiosity over its redesign. The home-delivered cover features a simple design, with actress Gwyneth Paltrow being its only feature. The newsstand design is the more traditional table-of-contents-on-the-cover design.
The Obama administration has made it formal: in a report released yesterday, the Administration calls upon Congress to enact a privacy bill of rights for web users, and it calls upon companies like Google and Facebook to develop those standards, reports Business Week. Key among the rights is a simple, one-click opt-out of data collection. President Obama said in a statement “Consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules…consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy.”
Putting Google and Facebook in charge is a matter of fox guarding hen houses. Google was caught last week bypassing privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser, which by default blocks cookies. Somehow, as CNN reported, Google tricked the browser into believing the viewer had interacted with an ad, thus giving Google permission to install a test cookie and collect user data. CNN called this just “the latest high-profile flap over online data privacy.” The Federal Trade Commission in 2011 settled complaints against Google, Facebook and Twitter over their handling of consumer data.
But, those companies are just three members of a consortium, which will also include the member organizations of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). Those member organizations include the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI). DAA said in a statement that the Administration had called upon it to “[create] robust self-regulation to protect consumer privacy rights and expectations in the advertising-supported Internet,” and claimed to be “honored.”
How honored DAA is has yet to be determined. The DAA earlier in February argued that it “wanted to put all the force of self regulation” behind ensuring consumer privacy, according to an Adweek story. It would police itself. But Adweek also observed that the Google snafu would likely put the kibosh on self regulation: the Administration is likely to legislate privacy measures. In fact, The Commerce Department will with with those companies and organizations—plus privacy advocate groups like the Center for Digital Democracy—to develop those (for now) voluntary standards.
Until any such legislation passes (if indeed), The White House report prescribed broad principles for the use of personal information, which includes giving consumers clear control over what data is collected and how it is used, the Business Week story describes.
Ad Targeting and Do Not Track
As the Business Week story described, privacy advocates are simply opposed to tracking consumers without permission, for purposes of targeted advertising.
DAA General Counsel Stu Inglis argues that online ad networks are willing and able to adhere to the anti-tracking tools available in most Web browsers (e.g., the “InPrivate” option available in Internet Explorer). Thus it is up to Mozilla with Firefox, Microsoft with Internet Explorer and so forth, to solve the opt-in/opt-out dilemma. Google said yesterday it would enable a “do-not-track” button to be embedded in its browser to let users limit information gathered on browsing habits.
No experts have weighed in on the potential impact to targeted advertising. But if Google, Microsoft and the DAA have their way, behavioral tracking will remain standard, and targeted advertising will survive it—perhaps for the better. Opt-in is of course the sign of a qualified sales lead.