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Ding, Dong, the Mobile Web is Dead (but not really)

Some sensational headlines have been popping up in the last few weeks (including this one) about how the “mobile” Web is dead. There is no doubt that a tad bit of sensationalism was employed when making this claim, but is there any credence to the statement and what does this mean for a company’s marketing and advertising presence?
 
The topic sprung up on Twitter around a blog post from Flurry, a company specializing in mobile analytics. The gist of the study is that there was a 6% overall-decline (from 20% to 14%) in generic web surfing on mobile devices compared to total device usage, where the remaining 86% was classified as app usage.
 
I’m no statistician but I think these numbers can easily be massaged to make whatever case you want for mobile development and the article wasn’t really clear whether there has been an overall increase or decrease of mobile usage as a whole… but I’ll go out on a limb and bet people are using their devices more this year than last. Regardless, it shows that consumers are firing up their phone’s browsers less frequently than the year prior when looking at their overall device use, à la Candy Crush, Facebook, etc.
 
The conclusion that some are quick to draw is that companies should be looking to create native apps for mobile devices to stay relevant and get a piece of the time-spent pie. If businesses heed this advice, it’s likely we’ll see growth in the mobile app sector, but it’s a good idea to think through what this data really might imply for your company’s web presence.
 
“I’m Not Dead Yet”
To allay any fears you might be having, let me first reassure you that no, the Web—mobile or not—isn’t dead, dying, or taking a turn for the worst. While you can certainly expect to see the trend of using custom apps grow, there is no way of getting around using mobile browsers (at least, as of now). Current trends suggest that mobile traffic is on track to overtake desktop in the near future, so it’s highly likely that users will be finding your content on their phones or tablets. Whenever users click links—in native apps, emails, feeds, etc.—the links will be viewed in either the device’s native browser (Safari, Chrome, and the like) or through the device’s WebView class, which is essentially the same thing. While this traffic may be categorized as app usage, the point is that having the need for a Web presence won’t be going away anytime soon. So yes, even if mobile apps make up 99.99% of usage, you’ll still need a mobile-friendly site. After all, your phone’s web browser is a mobile app.
 
Then, There are Those Web App Things
The impact of native apps for iOS and Android is changing the way that users view the web and user interfaces as a whole. How many times have you reached out towards your TV or monitor to physically touch on screen prompts? I just did it yesterday. As mobile apps become part of the fabric of users’ collective digital experience, digital agencies are being asked to make mobile site’s look and behave more like native apps. With the advancement of mobile hardware and the improvement of their Javascript engines, many of the bells and whistles that come with native apps are becoming more possible on mobile sites.
 
The balancing act would, therefore, seem to be between whether your mobile site should be a small screen incarnation of the desktop experience or a separate entity all together, a.k.a. the mystical Web App. In a response piece to the Flurry report, CNN/Fortune put out an article proclaiming the “the web will live on” and noted that “Webapps = software, websites = content. The two serve separate purposes.”
 
One obvious point to get out of the way: building a separate, unique mobile experience means more content creation, more UX/UI/IA, more development time… i.e. more money. With that said there are other things to consider. Simply formatting content to be viewed on a mobile device to save on some costs doesn’t necessarily provide the greatest benefit to the user. A question to ask yourself is whether your audience will be coming to your site via a mobile device expecting the same content as they would see on a desktop or is this a new opportunity to provide a different user experience with more-relevant content? Furthermore, while mobile users are increasingly tapped into Wi-Fi, the site must consider the lowest, common denominator of mobile users visiting your site on a sub-3G connection. Add to that the limitations (features) that the mobile operating systems bake into their browsers—such as not preloading and automatically playing AV files—and it’s fair to say that the mobile experience will certainly be different.
 
There is a limit, however, to what a mobile web app is capable of delivering. Performance, interactive capabilities, rich media delivery—these are all points of friction when developing and at some point, a native app is the only way to achieve a higher-end experience.
 
Increase Your App-etite
Ultimately, if you consider the trend towards native apps away from web browsing, the takeaway is that you need to shift your thinking about mobile web to see it as a separate and unique aspect to your marketing presence rather than just another facet of your website. If your brand lends itself to producing an encapsulated mobile app or even a browser-based web app, you’ll want to start by thinking about what new opportunities you can provide your users who interact with your product on a mobile device and find a digital agency or tech company who can help you build this new tool in a way that maximizes your ROI and take home a piece of the time-spent pie.

Brand Heartbleed

On Monday April 7th, OpenSSL published an advisory that by April 9th became a catastrophic level security hole that affects practically everybody who uses the internet. You may have heard it called Heartbleed. It even has a nifty logo.  The threat may be summed up as this: “The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software.

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Figure 1 Example of Heartbleed bug

OpenSSL is a commonly used software mechanism that encrypts data between two or more systems. It’s what enabled people to start shopping online, store privacy information online and identify themselves with usernames and passwords.  There are a number of implementations of SSL, but OpenSSL has been favored by open-source developers for years.

The bug itself is a relatively common one and easily fixed. It’s how the bug exists that pushes this into the catastrophic category. With little effort and without tripping any alarms, a malicious program can get peeks of unencrypted data (that is otherwise on its way to being encrypted) 64kb at a time.  The bug has been in existence in > 25% of the top 1000 websites for the last two years, with virtually no way of tracking it or proving someone used it.  Consequently the reach implicitly extends to anyone who uses a username/password online, at least potentially.

Exploiting this defect is a bit of finding a needle in a haystack – you’d need to randomly pull 64kb of data (65535 characters) and compile it over and over again, over a long period of time and run pattern matching search algorithms against the data to see if your 64kb “peeks” contained anything good.  Eventually, with enough samples, you might find administrator passwords, or security certificate challenge phrases that would in turn allow you to get into a system to do something more.

A group of online brands fixed the problem and then alerted their users as to the vulnerability, and instructed them to change their passwords. Flickr, Youtube, OkCupid and many others were directly using the flawed OpenSSL implementation and fixed it immediately.  They also, for the most part, contacted users and kept them in the loop as to what to do next and the seriousness of the problem.

Other brands remained a little more obtuse and posted blog entries or made a general statement. For instance Amazon made an announcement that they weren’t affected by the bug, only to later state that most of Amazon wasn’t affected, but their EC2 cloud-based load-balancing servers did use OpenSSL, so they were vulnerable: whoops, lol, r bad.

Statistically speaking the chances you’ve been exposed to the bug are about 74%*.  That doesn’t mean your information was taken (the odds of critical data being comprised are incredibly small) it just means the potential for the bug to have occurred is probable.  This is because most Software as a Service companies use tools that themselves utilized OpenSSL.  By extension, the risk of exposure goes up with as many services the original service has visible to the outside world.

Brands that operate in any meaningful way online should have already have fixed the bug and alerted users to change passwords/encryption keys. Even though the probability of your data being exploited is remote, the volume of opportunities that existed to attempt to exploit the bug is exponential to the number of minutes that have passed since the bug was first deployed.

In an online and increasingly connected world, businesses have to adjust to a PR model that goes beyond damage control and is proactively transparent with its users.  Instances where companies have attempted to downplay or cover-up data thefts have backfired – typically because of the perception of what might happen, rather than what did to those affected by the theft. The causes of the problems are understandable. Not communicating it immediately and clearly on the other hand, is not.

* Bayesian theorem with Probability (P|H) of using a site at least once that requires a U/P =.5, Probability (P(D|H)) those sites are vulnerable * number of OSS tools that use OpenSSL and are exposed to the internet =.7 and Probability (P(D|H)) that a site is using OpenSSL but never had it exposed to the internet .25

P(H|D) = [P(D|H)P(H)]/[P(D|H)P(H)+P(D|H')(1-P(H))] = .074 / 74%

A Bot Viewed My Digital Ad And All I Got Was This Bill

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Given that almost half of all digital display ad impressions served are never seen, eMarketer’s just released report on The State of Ad Verificiation is timely.

Historically, ad verification tools have provided advertisers a post-campaign report to use as guidelines for potential make-goods and credits. But because of programmatic buying, forward thinking advertisers are now using verification as a pre-bid, preventative tool to ensure that their ad dollars never get wasted to begin with. “In a programmatic environment where you’re looking at cookies or browsers or geography, knowing what you might get before you decide what you’re going to pay is a much better use of verification technology than an after-the-fact report of what you got,” said Dave Martin, SVP of Media at advertising agency Ignited.

Here are a few reasons why ad verification and viewability should be a key ask in all of your media RFPs:

  • Independent research indicates that 60% of impressions purchased programmatically are never seen by humans. According to some 3rd party tracking companies, that number may be as high as 95%.  That’s a real problem for any advertiser buying on a CPM.
  • It is impossible to predict if a consumer is going to scroll down a page or not.  Anyone claiming to be able to buy, or bid on 100% viewable impressions is likely not telling the whole story.  There are certainly positive instances (ads that don’t scroll with the page, a screen that is 100% viewable and not scrollable, etc.) but these don’t usually scale well enough to generate the reach most advertisers need.
  • There is no perfect solution.  Even the leading players in the space admit there is an arms race between the technologies that detect fraud and the technologies that perpetrate it. That’s why you need to push for preventative actions up-front.

Bringing the Romance Back to Careers in Advertising

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On Friday, March 28th, Ignited hosted 30 students from the ThinkLA and Multicultural Advertising Training Program (MAT) for an office tour during their annual Career Day event. The purpose of the Career Day is to help students discover new, career opportunities within the advertising industry and to teach them more about each agency’s culture. Since MAT has such a large network in the industry, many of the students visited two agencies that day. MAT also facilitates internship outreach for the students in hopes of placing them in an agency where there is a possibility for a future career.

During the students’ visit, our Recruiter, Jackie Leung Taise and I talked about the culture at Ignited and emphasized that Ignited is an excellent place to be for a great learning opportunity. Many of the students had questions about Ignited’s internship program and they wanted to know what they can do to stand out from the rest of the applicants. This is always the number one question when it comes to internships or other roles with a high volume of applicants. Jackie answered it best – The key is to highlight yourself as an individual, on your resume, rather than just a shopping list of skills for recruiters to pick from. The students also had the chance to learn about the experiences of Jordan Atlas, SVP Executive Creative Director; Diego Espana, Executive Producer of Film; Curtis Anderson, Interactive Developer; and Dave Martin, SVP of Search & Media Services. Our speakers gave the students so much insight on what it means to be in advertising, and explained some of the lessons they learned along the way.

While I was in school, I participated in many internship programs at a variety a large entertainment companies such as Sony Music Entertainment, and Fox Entertainment Group. I know first-hand how beneficial this experience is and that it can open many doors. One might ask, ‘how can I find time for an internship, while I am trying to finish classes to graduate on time?’ I would say to them, you have some control of the pace of your own professional growth. So, if that means you need to take the Metro-Link train from Orange County to be in Beverly Hills by 8:30 am for your internship, then make it happen. Internships are a good way to test-drive the career path you chose. You can determine whether or not that path is for you. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, approximately 1,606,000 students are projected to graduate this year at the bachelor’s degree level. That means, more competition in the job market. If you have the opportunity to intern at a company and walk away with experience, project work and a larger social network; then you can make yourself a serious contender for the competition.

Internship programs are not just beneficial for students, but they benefit the organizations hosting them as well. At Ignited, we strongly believe in enhancing the workplace by fostering a learning environment at all levels. We do this by providing training to current employees, but also by providing the opportunity for fresh, new faces to participate on our team so that we can teach them what we know. Who knows? They might even teach us a thing or two. In order to foster a learning environment, the company culture must include transparency and remain open minded for feedback. Staying present and active in our local community allows us to take in that feedback and work collaboratively with organizations like MAT and ThinkLA and to provide opportunities like the internship program for students.

How Marketing Has Changed – A Musician’s POV, Part One

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I’ve been a working musician for more than twenty years.  In that time I’ve been signed to a record deal, dropped, signed again, dropped again, had bandmates go to prison, played shows in front of huge crowds and played shows in front of literally no one.  And while my career as a musician has taken a backseat to my career in advertising, it continues to amaze me how much things have changed in the way we spread the word about our music.

I’ve been a working musician for more than twenty years.  In that time I’ve been signed to a record deal, dropped, signed again, dropped again, had bandmates go to prison, played shows in front of huge crowds and played shows in front of literally no one.  And while my career as a musician has taken a backseat to my career in advertising, it continues to amaze me how much things have changed in the way we spread the word about our music.

Let’s go back to the beginning…

In the early nineties, we had what we thought was a fairly slick process for spreading the word about our shows.  It worked well; when we played in LA we always had large crowds come to see us.  One show at the Dragonfly was so packed with fans that the police had to shut down Santa Monica Boulevard.  As you can imagine, it’s always more fun with a big audience.

The process essentially consisted of four very basic marketing elements.  First was customer acquisition.  Our version of customer acquisition was extremely technical.  It consisted of our best looking, female fans, walking around clubs signing people up to our mailing list.  Our only cost was making sure these product ambassadors were on the “free list” for our next show, and they regularly delivered 20-30 high quality leads every time they were deployed.

The second element was direct mail outreach to our potential customers.  We used a Microsoft Word label printing template (very sophisticated) and stuck address labels for everyone we had on our database onto flyers (custom designed by a very artsy friend) which we stamped and mailed two weeks before a show.  When we first started this process, we literally sat around licking hundreds of stamps.  Those were the days.

Example of one of our flyers

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The third step was influencer outreach.  We all have certain friends that for some reason drive the behavior of others.  These are the folks whose name you hope to hear when you ask the question, “Who else is going to be there?”  For my band, there were about twenty-five people who we knew if we could get them to commit to coming to the show, they’d either directly or indirectly bring at least three people for every one of them.  For this elite group, we made personal phone calls wherein we’d use every bit of charm we could muster to convince them that our show would be the place to be that coming weekend.

The final phase was delivering a measurable consumer benefit.  What I’m about to reveal is an industry secret that’s been true since the beginning of time on Sunset Boulevard.  It’s a story about the “list.”

Being “on the list” is a designation that brings with it both convenience and prestige.  The act of approaching a large-armed bouncer and having him look for, find and put a check mark next to your name is always a wonderful, empowering feeling.  And we loved giving that feeling to our fans.  The secret is that there are always two lists.  First there’s the “free list,” which is usually only about ten to fifteen names.  This list is reserved for girlfriends, family from out-of-town and maybe a very, very important person or two.  These people walk right up and walk right in.  No waiting, no questions.  But in addition to the “free list” we used a second list called a “discount list.”  This simply meant that you didn’t have to pay “full price” to see the show.  Here’s the secret.  Everyone is on the discount list.  The discount list has no fixed limit.  So we would take every person who even hinted they might be coming to the show and put them on this list.  This meant that nearly 100% of our fans would get the chance to say, “I’m on the list” when they came to see us; and we believed that small but significant benefit made a big difference to the folks who couldn’t decide between our show and some other show across town or across the street.

With all of this effort, we were able to regularly bring 175 to 200 people to every one of our shows in LA.  That may not sound like a lot, but it meant selling out the Viper Room every time we played there, which also meant that clubs like the Viper Room loved us and wanted us back.

They still do.

Stay tuned for part two where I’ll talk about what we did for our most recent show, and how drastically different and more complex our approach had to be in order to get fans to show up.

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MY FIRST AD

You can call it #ThrowbackThursday.
You can call it taking a walk down memory lane.
You cannot call it pretty.

These are…our first ads.

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My first ad was for the Acura CL Type-S. The Type-S meant it was faster and appealed to a certain “type” of audience. – Graham Simon, Creative Director

The first ad is about the most important moment in a Creative’s life. It is the dream coming to fruition. It is the culmination of lots and lots of hard work.

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First ad. Small space newspaper. The year was 1995. No judgments. – Jordan Atlas, ECD

The content and creativity of the ad is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is calling up your Mom, telling her to look toward the rear of The LA Times and to bask in all the glory of your very first ad.

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First ad for Carson Marketing Inc. Dad’s agency. 2002. – Jeremy Carson, Senior Art Director

Seeing your art and/or copy come to life for the very first time is a feeling that is truly unmatched. For a copywriter, art director or designer, it is the equivalent of a baseball player getting called up to the show (maybe even better.) It’s your first baby. And that baby is awesome.

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Newspaper campaign for boutique hotel in Vancouver.
It ran in the Globe and Mail, Canada. – Dan Elmslie, Senior Copywriter

For the record, my Mom couldn’t have been more proud. She bought 20 copies and pinned them on her fridge.

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Ad for Belastingdienst (Dutch Tax Department). Noel Woolfolk, Creative Director


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One of my first ads as an art producer for Bacardi&Cola, Sam Helphand, Sr. Art Producer

To see more of our ads and to submit your own, please check out the My First Ad on Tumblr.http://my-first-ad.tumblr.com/

Inspiring the Transformation of Advertising

The world of marketing continues to evolve rapidly. While technology is creating new opportunities, consumer expectations for brand interaction keep getting higher. Does this make the role of advertising irrelevant or essential?

Last week’s 4As Transformation Conference brought together agencies and brands who shared their perspective on our industry. The short video below captures their excitement for the ideas and people that are inspiring them to reboot the role of advertising in their businesses.