OMMA Publish Panel Resurrects Ad Networks

CIQ Headlines

SO, is the new media world creating more pressure for brands and advertisers? 


“It’s wreaking havoc. I haven’t been home in three weeks,” said Ed Montes, EVP Havas Digital at the OMMA Publish show put on by Media post. “A traditional agency is not set up to handle a 200 site buy. It’s very painful. There’s tremendous friction.” 


“And it’s not just the agencies. Publishers are having problems too,” continued Montes. “Months and months go by and I don’t get bills from publishers,” 


“I’ve got some bills here, right in my pocket,” piped up Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO of 


The entertaining panel was convened to address the topic of ad networks. Amidst lots of joshing each other about their use of dot-jargot, the participants came to a surprising conclusion: Ad networks look poised to become a key part of our online media future. Why is this surprising? Ad networks have been clinging on for years through the dot-com nuclear winter, trying to prove their worth. The Burst Media and Valueclicks of the world have been getting the dregs of publishers’ inventory. Their demise was long predicted. But to listen to the OMMA panel, made up of ad network, publisher and agency people, this is about to change. 


[Definition Break: An ad network pulls together inventory from multiple publishers’ sites, including very small sites, and sells that inventory in big buckets. For example, an ad network might sell a demographic of women 18-49. The advertiser’s ad might then run on hundreds of sites all with that demo.] 


According to Spanfeller, ad networks are taking on agencies directly. “Ad networks have wrung the risk out. They buy all the inventory and assume all the risk.” This, he suggested, positions them to succeed. 


Answered ad-guy Montes, “You’re right! Agencies would never do that. I think that’s got to change.” 


An interesting comment. So will agencies be getting into the ad network business? Does online do anything but blur traditional distinctions? 


Apparently not, according to Wenda Harris Millard, Co-CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia and moderator of the panel. “What’s the difference between Yahoo! and an ad network?” she asked. 


Not much, the panel returned. “In fact,” said Spanfeller, “they are the world’s largest ad network. They vacuum up the ad networks. And they’re developing all this differentiating technology to remove the friction.” 


Jarvis Coffin, Co-founder and CEO of Burst Media agreed. “Portals aren’t going away. But ad networks are really pulling down the CPMs on portals.” 


“De-portalization!” piped up Harris Millard. “We love to make up new words in this industry.” 


“Wait,” said Spanfeller, “I haven’t said ‘riff’ yet.” 

YouTube Is Bigger Than France

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No really. I just learned that at the OMMA Video Conference in New York, put on by Media Post.


Here’s how those numbers work. According to Brian Cusack, Sales Manager of You Tube, France is a country of 68 million people. In March, You Tube’s Comscore number was 85 million visitors.


So, according to this logic, YouTube is the 4th largest country in the world, behind China, India, and the US. And, as I mentioned before, already well ahead of France.


YouTubers aren’t the only ones at this conference quoting YouTube numbers. Nor is it only this conference. In fact, citing stratospheric YouTube statistics is getting to be a sport among digital video enthusiasts. Here are some more…


A Levi’s viral ad placed on YouTube shows a guy jumping into a pair of 501 jeans. Literally, he’s bouncing on his bed while a partner holds the pair of jeans. Bounce, bounce, bounce, then WHOMP! He lands in the jeans. In the first day of this video being posted on YouTube, it got 1 million views.


Soulja Boy is a kid who created his own dance craze through posting his “Crank That” dance on YouTube. He got 26 million views. Then others, both amateurs and professionals, did their own Crank That dance videos. If you add up Soulja Boy’s views and his imitators, you end up with 500 million views.


And then (here’s the whopping number) in that same month of March– the one when YouTube beat France– the site had a total of 4.3 billion video views.


So, here’s the thing. Just as a point of reference: The population of Planet Earth is, at this moment, according to the World Population Clock, 6.75 billion. The population of the United States is somewhere around 310 million.


Is it just me, or do the online video numbers not add up? I’m willing to be convinced. I’m a huge fan of online video. Content must move into new formats if it is to survive.  But I have to ask, are the numbers real? If so, what on earth do they mean? Is there any way to compare them to offline numbers?


Put another way, if Soulja Boy’s knock-off videos got 500 million views, how come I never heard of it? Okay, perhaps I do live under a rock, but a lot of other people at this conference hadn’t heard of it either and I can tell just by looking at the attire here they are a LOT hipper than I am.


Jonathan Miller, former Chairman and CEO of AOL and now founding partner at VC firm Velocity Interactive Group, began today’s conference by talking about measurement. He quoted a former boss speaking years ago about Nielsen. That network executive said, “The numbers are absolutely wrong. But relatively correct.” Miller called for better measurement as a key building block to the eventual monetezation of online video.


Is it possible for numbers to be too large? Perhaps it is. How is a brand supposed to understand that YouTube is indeed bigger than France, and that its video views are regularly blowing away Super Bowl audiences? How does all that scale compare to TV audiences? Are products just flying off the shelves for companies that are creating these videos? If not, then what’s different? Is YouTube simply fragmentation aggregated? On an enormous scale? Maybe it’s not France. Maybe it’s more like the Milky Way.


Media buyers here say brands are scared. I don’t blame them.  I’m scared. “Billion” is a scary word, whatever way you slice it. They’re even throwing around the T word.


I concur with Jonathan Miller. Monetezation will require an agreed-upon metric. However flawed. But we also need much deeper analysis than we currently have of what all those numbers mean.


Fine. I buy it. Maybe YouTube *is* bigger than France. But if YouTube is now its own country then it needs a better Lonely Planet guide for marketers.

Ad:Tech Report: What’s Not in a Name? Meaning.

CIQ Trends

IBM, now there’s a name. International Business Machines. Says what it does, does what it says. Okay, so it does other things now too. Not just Big Blue anymore; more like Big Blue Man Group.


Here’s a question: What’s a Lenovo? You’d think having nailed the name game at the start, IBM could do better. Legend, maybe? Plus a soupcon of innovation? Also, it has that dashing ovo ending, suggestive of first person present tense action verbs in Spanish, Italian, and Greek. “I create legends! I innovate!” (Holy Cow, that took a lot of thought. What was wrong with ThinkPad, again?)


This years Ad:Tech made my head hurt in a similar way. It also made me a little afraid. The last time I encountered hip, coy, utterly impenetrable names like the list of Ad:Tech exhibitors was, well, on a list of Ad:Tech exhibitors. Only it was 2001.

  Of course, in any dot-com crowd, there will be the simply bizarre– Blue Lithium, JargonFish– that don’t fit in any distinct category. But the rest are roughly classifiable. Here’s a list. First, the mash-ups. Those Frankenstein’s Monster eponyms that shove together bits of suggestive roots with some kind of suffix to indicate it’s an actual word.


  Then there are the names that use edgy media words and plays on the word “broadcast.”

Next, we have the companies who want to be both cerebral and hip. They may use in-the-know words, implying that if you have to ask, you’re not smart enough to do business with us. F5 Networks seems like they might be one of those. But the more inclusive brainy companies employ gray-matter type words like “knowledge” and “logic.”

Intela (Actually, this last one kinda fits in list #1 too, but who’s counting.)

The next group wants action. With their help, everyone will Do! Click! Go! Racking up responses and ad impressions like pinballs.


Another thing I noticed is that the quirky letter Q has become quite popular. He makes names a little hard to decode and, one would think, to pronounce.


I wonder how the sales folks at those companies say those names over the phone. Am I being qantakerous?

But my favorite of all, after three hours of glossy dot-com brochures, thousands of free pens, mousepads, coffee mugs, and keychains, plus one guy in an enormous dog suit: The Blind Network. Perhaps it is just the humility latent in the name. (And yes, I did check. They’re an ad network and have nothing to do with the disabled.)

Humility. There’s a concept, albeit an old fashioned one. Have any idea what these companies do? Me either. I’m not saying these corporations aren’t terrific, thank-your-lucky-stars-they’re-here, paradigm-shifting, value-creating entities. I’m sure many of them are. But many of them aren’t, created by the inevitable froth that follows in the wake of easy VC money. The hairbrained names are just a metaphor for empty dot-com arrogance. When you arrogate the right to create language, focusing on hip wordplay, and leave out the meaning, will you leave out other important things as well? Say a value proposition?

I blame DoubleClick. They started it all with the silly name thing—back in the time when you actually had to click twice on your Macintosh mouse. Something most of us don’t do any more. And in a nice ironic twist, DoubleClick was just bought by Google—with perhaps the loopiest name of them all, a bastardization of the mathematical “googol.” But if you take what you do seriously, more seriously than your cool name and its marketing potential, I guess you get to create new words like google, and have your fans turn it into a verb.



Greek Mortgages and Dot-Com Deja Vu

CIQ Trends

“It’s a scheme they have in America where the bank buys the house and you rent it from the bank.”

That was my father-in-law at a cocktail party in Athens, Greece, explaining the concept of a mortgage to group of older European guests. Until very recently, American-style mortgages were virtually unknown in Greece and many other countries.


The explanation seemed quaint to me. That is until the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Traditionally, in places like Greece, you might borrow 20% of the purchase price of a house, but certainly never the 80-90% we do here. In much of Europe, property passes down inside of families. And the rest of the world, generally speaking, does not love debt the way we do. Though in some places they’re catching up fast. Along with Big Macs and cigarettes, our credit-card habit is another unhealthy export.


The crisis in the mortgage industry has made me sensitive to another phenomenon: a new dot-com-ishness in the air. Money is flowing again from VCs. The M&A engine is torqued up. Tech consultants’ rates are up at $175 an hour. These consultants are turning down good gigs, or requiring two- and three-month commitments, telling their clients they can get more across the street. People in stable jobs are saying they can make more on the free market as consultants. Does anyone remember 2001 anymore? Or are we all packing our camping rolls, off again to pan for gold?


I believe in startups. I think many good companies went out of business in 2001 simply because they had the financing rug ripped out from under them. I have not heard my father-in-law explain dot-com investing. But if he did, I imagine it would go something like this: “It’s a scheme they have in America where they invest in small companies so that some people can get rich. But then they close them because they don’t really like running companies in America. Just starting them.”

CIQ Headlines for October 16, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Dot-Deja-Vu?: (Business Week) Facebook valuied at $10 billion. RockYou $500 million. TechCrunch $100 Million. Total revenues for all of these sites combined is under $200 million. Silicon Valley is on a gradiose acquistion binge. CIQ: Some say the values will pan out this time. Online advertising, immature in 2000, is now a viable business model. Maybe right. But the dot-comishness in the air is disturbing.

P&G Online Only Soap: (NYT) The inventor of the soap opera re-invents the soap opera. CIQ: We are very optimistic about online-only and mobile shows. We’re also curious: How will the content change. Shorter? More closeups? Better writing? (Please, better writing.)