Hungry For Flesh (Ahem)...For Engaged App Users

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zombiesHalloween 2014 might be dead and buried, but the Zombify app is still alive and well.

Zombify is just one of the many “-ify” apps created by developer Apptly, the publisher behind Wolfify, Santify, Vampify, Fatify, Oldify and a host of other face-morphing apps that allow you to apply animated effects to selfies and the photos on your camera roll.

User acquisition is always a challenging prospect for developers, but an app associated with a specific holiday or time of year can benefit by riding the wave of associated engagement. But what about afterward?

“Though Halloween is obviously a high point, zombies certainly capture people’s imaginations year-round,” said Geoff Warren-Boulton, Apptly’s CEO and founder.

[This is arguably true. Although dubious of Warren-Boulton’s claim, the author of this story downloaded Zombify and subsequently spent approximately 45 minutes overlaying bloody zombie features over her own. See image at right.]

But there’s more to it than that. While it’s true that apps go unexpectedly viral or get fortuitous lift from related events, that’s not something a developer can always depend upon, which is why Apptly called on app marketing company Tapstream to encourage installs and engagement.

“Zombify is a good example of an app that’s really cool once you see it and use it, but has challenges when it comes to user acquisition,” said Slaven Radic, CEO and co-founder of Tapstream, whose other clients include Hootsuite, Rosetta Stone, WebMD, Twitch, edmunds.com and The Bleacher Report. Tapstream’s SDK is installed on nearly 100 million devices.

Apptly tapped into Tapstream’s word-of-mouth tool, which acts as a referral reward system, to drum up acquisition using Zombify’s existing user base. The app saw more than 540,000 installs during Halloween, roughly 14% of which came through Tapstream’s word of mouth. Users acquired through WOM, which were earned rather than paid for on a CPI basis through an ad network, netted approximately $100,000 in profits for Apptly.

And the engagement continued long after users had finished eating their Halloween candy.

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Publishers Must Put A Price Tag On Attention

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tonycassonupdated"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tony Casson, senior director of ad tech products at sovrn.

When I stopped at a local store the other day, there was a sign on the door that read, “Back in five minutes.” With my phone in the car 30 yards away in the rain, I assured myself that I could survive five minutes without it. I looked around, first at the cars in the lot then at the door, studying the patterns and the color of the paint. If some enterprising sort could have slapped an ad on that door, they would have had my full attention.

Thinking about attention leads to some fascinating revelations. Thirty years ago, our attention was largely focused on the physical world. Attention to media was very specific to time and place, such as the radio in the car or the television program in the living room. It was a scarce resource, so advertisers paid premiums to be there as frequently as possible when that attention was available. Then, as now, context and audience mattered most for advertising dollars.

Today, personalized attention is available to advertisers at almost any waking moment, including at our desks, in our cars, walking down the street or waiting in line. And sitting at the center are publishers, which act as attention exchanges for an Internet ad market worth $140 billion dollars. It’s more important than ever that publishers accurately establish the value of each reader’s attention.

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Move Over, Mobile: Here Comes Cross-Device

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kamakshiddtData-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, founder and CEO at Drawbridge

For the past five or six years, we’ve been told that it will be the “Year of Mobile.”

Not this year. With companies like Google likely making big moves, 2015 will be the “Year of Cross-Device.”

Mobile growth will still be dominant, but the brands that adopt mobile as a real channel to reach consumers in 2015 will do so because cross-device solutions make mobile attributable. Increasingly, it’s because of cross-device that big brands are beginning to think beyond mobile and across all connected devices, including smartphones, tablets and personal computers, connected TVs and even smartwatches and other wearables.

Since cross-device will be a major topic in 2015, let’s define a few pieces of cross-device jargon. “Attribution” in this case means tying a digital ad impression to an action, such as a purchase or store visit. “Identity” may seem self-explanatory, but this can and should refer to an anonymous identity, too, not just one tied to a consumer’s personal information. “Reach” and “scale” mean the size of an audience.

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Hewlett Programmatic; WPP Gets A New Chairman

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HP’s Behind The Wheel

HP is on a quest to take control of its programmatic buying and force pricing transparency in its automated dealings, Ad Age reports. HP’s programmatic and media planning business sits with Omnicom, whose Accuen trading desk has come under fire for its lack of transparency. “Hewlett Packard intends to take direct contractual control of their technology partnerships,” the company stated in an RFI, adding that “[f]uture plans include scaling our programmatic deployment across a growing number of marketing programs as well as supporting our ecommerce business geographically." Also raised in the RFI were concerns about ad fraud and the need to protect data privacy. Read more.

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16 Vendors Under The Glass, As Gartner Releases First Digital Marketing Hub Quadrant

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KihnGartner Research’s first-ever Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs, released Wednesday, assumes that ad tech, marketing tech and CRM will naturally converge. As such, it pits enterprise platforms like Salesforce.com against ad tech regulars like Rocket Fuel [x+1] and Turn.

No doubt many in the industry will debate whether or not this is fair, or whether Gartner might be jumping the gun using the same criteria to evaluate these very different vendors.

Given Gartner’s parameters, the vendors most commonly associated with marketing clouds – Adobe, Salesforce.com and Oracle – led the pack as “Leaders," gauged in terms of “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute.”

The “Visionaries”  include ad tech regulars including Rocket Fuel/[x+1], IgnitionOne, Turn, Sitecore and Neustar.

The “Challengers” – vendors that need to match lip service with execution – include IBM and Marketo.

Finally the “Niche Players” – vendors expanding beyond their core backgrounds – include Alliance Data’s Conversant, MediaMath, DataXu, Teradata, HP and Infor.

Martin Kihn, research director at Gartner who co-authored the report alongside fellow analysts Andrew Frank and Jake Sorofman, is aware of the risk comparing apples and oranges.

“Gartner’s putting a stake in the ground and we feel the world of CRM and advertising are no longer separate from a marketer’s point of view,” he explained.

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CEO Shuffle Follows Epsilon's Acquisition Of Conversant

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Andy frawley epsilonOne week after completing its $2.3 billion acquisition of ad tech company Conversant on behalf of its Epsilon subsidiary, Alliance Data Systems has made some C-level org changes.

Epsilon President Andy Frawley has become Epsilon’s CEO, reporting to Bryan Kennedy, the former Epsilon CEO who has been placed in charge of a joint Conversant-Epsilon unit. His title? That's right. CEO of Epsilon/Conversant.

Conversant CEO John Giuliani will remain.

“I wouldn’t say this has always been planned,” Frawley told AdExchanger. “When we announced the acquisition of Conversant, we started talking about the best way to operate the combined companies. It became clear we needed to divide and conquer a little more.”

As such, Kennedy will focus on integrating Conversant more closely with Epsilon and driving cross sales. Integration and exposing mutual clients to joint Conversant-Epsilon solutions are the immediate priority.

As always, integration is a heady task. Conversant – formerly known as the ad network ValueClick – had been working to integrate its disparate technologies even before it was acquired by Alliance Data. Now, Alliance Data must help finish that task, then integrate the Conversant technologies and services with Epsilon’s technologies and services.
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21st Century Fox To Acquire Video Ad Platform True[X] For $200M

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21truexChristmas came early for digital video ad platform true[X].

The ad platform, which serves both advertisers and publishers, revealed Wednesday that News Corp. spinoff 21st Century Fox intends to acquire it. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal pegged that figure at about $200 million. (Read the release).

This acquisition indicates 21st Century Fox has realized the traditional ad model (17 minutes of ads per hour) won't translate to streaming or video-on-demand environments, where content isn't consumed in real time, said Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

The deal comes on the heels of other recent video ad acquisitions, such as German media conglomerate RTL Group's summer purchase of video sell-side platform SpotXchange and Yahoo's recent purchase of BrightRoll.

But Nail said the motivations behind the true[X] deal aren't the same.

"This is very different than some of the consolidation we've seen between ad exchanges and programmatic and technologies and data management platforms," he said.

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Adelphic Racks Up $11 Million In Series B, Plans To Spend It On Tech And Global Expansion

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adelphicfundingAdelphic has mobile programmatic on the brain – which makes sense for a mobile DSP.

The company said Wednesday that it had closed its Series B to the tune of $11 million in a round led by Blue Chip Venture Co., Google Ventures and Matrix Partners, bringing its total funding to $23 million.

Adelphic – which was founded by the many of the same people responsible for iAd, née Quattro – is earmarking the cash for more development around its cross-device targeting solutions, as well as a push into Europe and APAC.

“Right now, most media plans are put together on a channel-by-channel basis – something separate for mobile, for radio, for broadcast, for print, for out-of-home,” said Adelphic CEO Michael Collins. “But there’s a significant shift happening right now from channel-focused buying to an audience-focused approach, where it’s not about buying mobile, it’s about reaching a specific group and having a seamless dialogue with them wherever they consume media.”

Adelphic’s current cross-device identification technology uses a combination of deterministic and probabilistic methodologies to get the job done. It’s not a matter of either/or, Collins said.

“We’re not choosing sides because that can be quite limiting, actually,” he said. “We’re not dependent on any one piece of information. Our method is to get to scale by listening to and ingesting as broad a set of signals as possible.”

What, then, of the value of high-profile deterministic players like Facebook and Google?

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Sharethrough Brings Its Version Of Twitter Cards To The Masses

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SharethroughNative is a bit like awkward teenager – it’s still trying to figure itself out and it just wants to fit in.

Sharethrough is looking to help native advertising blend in a little better with a new unit that takes a cue from the way players like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest display third-party content on their own properties.

Native Cards, available Wednesday, enables brands and publishers to dynamically create ad units that fit into the flow of a publisher’s existing content by entering a URL into Sharethrough’s platform. When a user taps or clicks on on the unit, it neatly expands to fit the screen, allowing them to view the ad content without leaving the site.

Intel partnered with Sharethrough on the launch.

The technology behind Native Cards is an extension of Sharethrough’s existing real-time templating tech, which lets clients to match their ad to the style attributes of any publisher site.

The point is immersion, said Chris Schreiber, Sharethrough’s VP of marketing and communications.

“With ‘Native Ads 1.0,’ the entire focus has been on in-feed ads that only match the colors, fonts and layout of a publisher’s site [and] these ads almost exclusively take users off of a publisher’s page,” he said. “There is still a need for this type of ad unit and type of engagement, but now, with card, we’re ushering in what we’re referring to as ‘Native Ads 2.0.’”

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Data Sharing, Modularity And Video Creative: AOL Platforms Lays Out Its 2015 Road Map

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aol platformsIf data is currency, then it’s no wonder most companies lock it in a safe (unless you’re Sony Pictures Entertainment, in which case you just put it on a Word document somewhere).

But this can be a tremendous point of frustration for brands that want to use the data housed by the big dogs of ad tech – Facebook, Google and Amazon – to optimize their marketing beyond those relatively closed-off portals.

Because it’s unlikely these already-existing walls will soon crumble, AOL has an opportunity to push an open platform vision to differentiate.

Walled gardens send the ad tech industry backward, said AOL Platforms CEO Bob Lord during a programmatic forum AOL hosted at its headquarters Tuesday. As a proof point, he noted that about 50% of brands it works with will likely own their own data-management platform.

“We’re going toward an open stack, an open data strategy,” he said. “We will allow advertisers to import data into our platform and activate that against media, and we’ll share that data with our partners to activate in their channels and put in their CRM.”

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