What the Living Room Revolution Means to Brands

Download the whitepaper “OTT: What The Living Room Revolution Means to Brands”

Television has been the core medium for the advertising industry for decades. While other media such as web and mobile-based content have eaten into its share of audience attention, it still offers brands the widest reach. Moreover, the audience’s desire to relax on the couch with their families and be entertained by a big HD screen is a unique desirable experience that newer mediums can’t replace.

What is beginning to change, however, is the underlying structure of Television. The idea that TV shows are arranged in linear numbered channels is no longer a technical requirement. A generation is rising that is less receptive to the concepts of expensive bundles, traditional interruptive ad breaks, and being locked into accessing certain content on some screens but not others.

In an on-demand, de-bundled, cord-cut world, the big question is “What now for marketers?”

In this paper we attempt to lay out the current landscape, the promising technologies that are budding, and the exciting future possibilities that lie ahead.

Download the whitepaper “OTT: What The Living Room Revolution Means to Brands”

R/GA, Techstars and the Rise of Connected Devices

The Lab attended a demo day for the R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator at SXSS 2014. Powered by Techstars, the program showcased nine exciting startups that have been incubated and mentored at R/GA’s NYC campus in recent months. The common thread between these startups, as the name implies, is that they are all connected devices, products that have both hardware and software components and are connected to the Internet (and thus, your life). Of the nine companies that presented three in particular were particularly relevant to marketers looking to reach audiences:


Simply put, Ringblingz is smart jewelry. It is a ring that can light up in up to 300 different colors and/or vibrate. It is meant to make the most important smartphone-based notifications simpler to see and interpret, in that you don’t even need to look at your phone. First you pair your ring with the mobile app. To set up a notification, you simply choose a color, a contact, and an app that will trigger the notification (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat et al.). As the founders put it, a device like this that traverses the worlds of fashion and tech creates “wearable social currency”. Brands could leverage Ringblingz capabilities to deepen engagement with consumers who are using their mobile app and may want to be notified about deals or events.


Similar to Ringblingz, Hammerhead’s product “Hammerhead 1” seeks to change the way technology visually communicates information in a subtler way. The Hammerhead unit, rather than convey social interactions, is meant to provide directions for bicyclists. You pair the device with the Hammerhead app, which is loaded with crowd-sourced bicycle routes. You then clip the device onto your bike and stow your phone. The app communicates with the Hammerhead device and indicates directions to turn using patterns of flashing lights. This replaces having to look down at GPS on your device screen. Thus this elegantly enhances navigation for those on bikes while increasing safety.


Based on BLE beacons that retailers can distribute around their stores, the Footmarks platforms can beef up both a retailer’s mobile app as well as those distributed to sales associates. In one scenario, someone who has a retailer’s mobile app and walks into the store can be welcomed and served a relevant offer. This might even take the form of a discount especially tailored for that customer based on their loyalty and purchase history. In another scenario, a sales associate with a tablet can be alerted that a particularly valuable customer has entered the store, and can review their purchase history, wish list and other relevant information. While many different companies are duking it out in the BLE (aka “iBeacon”) space, Footmarks aims to make their platform more adaptive and secure than their competitors.

Publishers Weigh In On Programmatic At IAB Mobile Marketplace

As part of today’s IAB Mobile Marketplace event, a panel was held on the effect on digital advertising of programmatic tools from publishers’ perspectives. In the panel were Liz White from Time Inc. and  Jeremy Hlavacek from The Weather Channel.

Time has been pushing to optimize the responsiveness of mobile web sites and ad experiences. Over 50% of the audience for people.com is coming from mobile devices. They now have a dedicated team working on their private exchanges, trying to act on 1st party data that they have across their publications. The challenge now is how to add value to their premium inventory. They have expanded their private exchanges globally.

Meanwhile, The Weather Channel mobile app – which currently has 130 million users – is launching a new version in a couple weeks with optimized ad experiences. 30% of their revenue is from programmatic-bought ads. Programmatic tools help them deal with large audiences at scale. They actively use their SSP, moving away from a network-based mindset where they pass off inventory to third parties.

Their new app is going to have 300×250 ads as well as native ads. 1st party data includes weather, UV data, wind speed, and dozens of other pieces of weather data within their  programmatic solution so buyers can buy on those factors. Platform is called Weather Effects, also takes geo-location into account. they don’t currently sell that product in the exchange, as it is considered premium inventory. They look to offer cross-platform solutions including cable network. With the rise of programmatic TV-buying in the future, the sorts of 360-degree solutions they may be able to offer should become very powerful offerings for applicable brands.

The State Of Programmatic At IAB Mobile Marketplace

Today’s IAB Mobile Marketing event featured a deep-dive track on programmatic buying and selling in mobile, sponsored by Google. The first speaker was Marc Theermann, the head of mobile platform sales for Google, who shared a number of interesting insights. From a technical perspective it’s useful to note that HTML5 is emerging as the standard for building mobile ad experiences, having now eclipsed Flash.

Rich media is overwhelmingly commonplace on desktop, but has yet to take off on mobile. Meanwhile, mobile impressions are set to eclipse desktop impressions in the coming year, but the advertising spend on the latter is many times that of the former. This discrepancy is fueled by what basically amounts to inertia (or lack thereof) and client demand. Also, validation metrics and attribution have not matured quickly enough in the eyes of many marketers.

Programmatic is exciting for publishers because they can see who is buying their inventory, and is exciting for buyers because of more precise audience targeting. In recent years, the Google-owned DoubleClick ad exchange has grown enormously. It currently handles more daily transactions than NYSE and NASDAQ combined.

Next up was a discussion with Brian Long, CEO of TapCommerce. TapCommerce is exclusively focused on mobile and buying it programmatically. 95% of their revenue is from RTB activity. A major KPI of ads they place is app re-engagement, i.e. get people who have lapsed from using an app to use it again. Churn is enormous in mobile, as an app popular today can drop off enormously tomorrow and vice versa. That kind of churn not as apparent on the web. As such, the majority of in-app mobile advertisers today are for app downloads. TapCommerce has seen the best performance in full-screen interstitial units.

Programmatic is important because the efficiency that customer gets allows them to differentiate on price. Click-through rate is not as indicative because of accidental clicks. TapCommerce doesn’t usually look at CTR as a measure of success. Focused on conversions as measure of success. Meanwhile, Google focused on reducing click-spam (including accidental clicks).

Digital video programmatic buying on mobile is in a very early stage, but buyers are asking about it more. The trick is to make sure units are skippable because on mobile video ads can be obtrusive. Creative needs to be especially strong and a good user experience. Many apps have experimented with video ads and then dropped it because of user complaints. There haven’t been enough buyers so users of the same app saw the same videos over and over. Apps employing video ads need frequency capping in order to maximize ROI.

In general Q4 2013 was huge for retailers advertising on mobile, reaching people on tablets who were shopping. Game developers still dominate in-app advertising, whereas the mix on mobile web is more heterogenous.

The key suggestion given for publishers interested in programmatic was to try and send as many parameters as possible into the system; it helps catch more bids on the exchange. First party data, if available, is critically important for adding value in this context.

UN Exhibit Uses BLE to Demonstrate The Danger of Landmines

A one-day exhibit at the New Museum in New York City and sponsored by the United Nations Mine Action Service sought to educate the public about the dangers and horrors of landmines throughout the world. What made this exhibit unique was its use of a mobile app and BLE beacons (aka “iBeacons”) to power the experience.

Users were encouraged to download an app ahead of time called “Sweeper“. From the start screen you can proceed with the experience or learn more about landmines. If you choose to start, you are told to walk around the exhibit.

IMG_1934   IMG_1949

The exhibit was arranged with large scale photographs of landmine victims, as well as small informational stations about different types of landmines typical across the world.




Visitors were encouraged to wear headphones. If they didn’t have their own, headphones were provided. Every few feet, when the user entered the range of a particular BLE beacon, the user would hear an explosion, and a voice would explain that you had just stepped on a landmine. The voice would proceed to describe the horrific injuries you have received and the extent to which you have been killed or maimed. Lastly, it went on to describe the overall threat of landmines across the world and how they represent a terrible threat to civilians. On the app, when a landmine is encountered, it shows the type of landmine that you encountered and offered the opportunity to share the event socially to Facebook or Twitter. It also had a prominent button allowing you to donate to the cause of ridding the world of landmines.

IMG_1940     IMG_1942

The beacons were not coordinated with the explanatory signage, so there was no telling which landmine you were about to come upon. The beacons themselves were sourced from Roximity and worked fairly well. A staffer mentioned that they tuned the app to listen for the beacons at medium range. Too short a range would not trigger the “explosions” unless you were extremely close to the beacons. If the range were too large, the beacons could trigger before the guests even got off the elevator. It is a testament to the fact that with current technology, deploying a BLE beacon-based campaign includes a bit of art as well as science.

SXSW 2014: Some Interesting Location-Based Projects

SXSW has no shortage of official events, but there are many unofficial events worth attending. One such event that the Lab team swung by was the Location based Marketing Association (LBMA) “Retail Loco” event in downtown Austin. It featured a series of presentations and panels covering location-based marketing with special emphasis on the retail environment. During the keynote presentation by Asif Khan I took note of the following location-based  campaigns from recent years that I thought were relatively clever:

Parking Douche

Mobile app in Russia designed to shame people who park where they shouldn’t.


McDonalds Happy Table

NFC-enabled table triggers animated experience on a mobile device that follows you as you move it across the table. An entertaining game for kids.


Tesco Shoppable Wall

A digital OOH kiosk installed in Gatwick Airport that lets shoppers scan barcodes with their Tesco app and order groceries to be delivered to them when they return from their travelers.


eMart Wifi Balloon

A series of branded truck-shaped balloons floated around a city in South Korea. By connecting to these floating wi-fi hotspots, customers were served mobile coupons redeemable through the eMart mobile app.


Digital Billboard Collecting Donations

Users could donate to an organization supporting small business loans for African entrepreneurs. Donations from mobile devices are represented in real time by pennies forming a portrait on the digital billboard.


Volvo Trunk Delivery

A service called Roam from Volvo would arrange for your online orders to be delivered to the trunk of your car. Delivery people would have a one-time code to open your trunk and place your items in it.

Sesame Street Celebrates Pi Day

Today Sesame Street launched a fun splash page starring The Count to celebrate “Pi Day” (3/14). The count is shown holding up a square sign which is rotating through each digit of pi. The fun twist is that the digits he’s showing are user-generated by kids. They are encouraged to draw digits and have their parents post them to Twitter or Instagram using the tag #SesamePiDay.

See the page here: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/piday/

It’s a really simple, fun activation designed to appeal to nerdy parents with young kids. In general I think hashtag-based campaigns can get too complex and layered in rules, messages and moving parts. Sometimes it’s nice to do something really really simple to bolster brand love and have some fun with an otherwise dry topic.

Full Disclosure: My wife works for Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street

SXSW 2014 IPG Media Lab Recap

Each year the IPG Media Lab sends a small team to the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin with three primary objectives:

  • Gather strategic insights on trends that affect the media and consumer behavior landscape
  • Find new technologies that are relevant to marketers
  • Create content that is useful to the IPG network, our clients and beyond

Over the course of the week we attended many panels, met with several dozen startups, and posted lots of content.

Download our SXSW 2014 Recap

SXSW 2014: A Battery Delivery Campaign

I was outside the Austin Convention Center Monday morning when I saw this poster:

Power On SXSW

And I thought: “Hey, actually I could really go for that. My battery is not holding a charge very well these days.”

And so, doing something I almost never do, I participated in a hashtag-based campaign. It went something like this:

Screen shot 2014-03-11 at 12.59.20 AM

So I sent them a direct message with my phone number. And then I got a text message telling me a bike messenger was on his way, and I would find him just outside the convention center. I went outside the convention center as instructed, and here was this guy:


And he gave me a fully charged Galaxy S3 battery, and I gave him my old one, and then he biked away.

It was a pretty interesting experience, but I have my doubts whether this sort of campaign could scale efficiently beyond a small geographic area packed with people who blog and tweet a lot.

SXSW 2014: Putting The Audience Front And Center

Today at the Austin Convention Center, Roy Sekoff of Huffington Post held a talk entitled “Is Online Video Killing TV?” In short, his answer was that the two forms would converge to form a new heretofore unnamed medium.

He told the story of his stewardship of HuffPost Live and how it has grown and succeeded by taking the learnings from the Huffington Post and applying them to a live video format. The Huffington Post, in its nine year history, has collected over 365 million comments. And 70% of those were responses to other comments. So it became clear that a conversation was going on. Traditional TV news networks with their 24-hours of pundits interspersed with the occasional reading of a tweet didn’t have this kind of feeling to them. HuffPost Live has attempted to bridge the gap.

The UX of the site devotes half the screen to live community comments. It also includes a big red button that offers viewers the opportunity to be an on-air guest. Using Google Hangouts, a viewer can record a short video. A small team of screeners reviews the submissions, and then clears people to join the live programming from their webcams. Since launch 19 months ago, over 17,000 viewers have participated in the programming and the site gets 22 million unique viewers per month.

Part of what makes HuffPost Live so compelling is that it is live and brings viewers into the conversation live. It is effectively the complete opposite experience as binge viewing, which is often a solitary, non-participatory endeavor.

As digital forms of video entertainment continue to erode the dominance of traditional linear TV, this sort of immediate hyper-participatory entertainment seems like a naturally prominent piece of the new landscape that is set to emerge in the coming years.