Event Recap: WeWork Startupalooza & Global Innovator Demo Night

Two of the events the IPG Lab visited this week, WeWork Startupalooza and the Global Innovator Demo Night, perfectly illustrated New York’s diverse and dynamic startup ecosystem.

Startupalooza was a combination of speed dating and a rumble.  Twenty-plus early stage startups, from a wide range of industries, were stationed around the WeWork co-working space and were given the opportunity to pitch VCs from NY Angels, GrowthCap, IEA, Inspired Startup, Vendrome Capital, Joshua Capital, and The Nessa Group.  Two startups in particular caught our eye:

  • Canvs: An interactive visual project management platform.
  • Boston Biomotion: A rehabilitation and strengthening machine that tracks, records, plots, and displays human movement in visual 3D.

The Global Innovator Demo Night was a “Shark Tank”-style event that featured five post-seed startups that were looking to expand into the U.S.  The “sharks” were VCs from Comcast Ventures, Greycroft, FirstMark Capital, and BOLDstart Ventures.  In classic fashion, the sharks were relentless, firing questions to learn more about their growth strategy, business model, past metrics, and current challenges.  When the dust, settled two companies came out victorious, both receiving 35% of the audience votes:

  • convertiFIRE: An integration free optimization platform for landing pages.
  • AIMEE: A commerce focused platform that automatically creates several variations of a homepage, then delivers the most relevant homepage variation to each visitor type.

Even though startup investments and acquisitions are at a high right now, it’s still challenging to get in front of a VC, let alone a group of VCs.  At the two events, it was good to see that these young startups brought their “A” game.

OpenCo Comes To NY May 23

On May 23rd, more than 130 exciting NY-based organizations will open their doors to the public for OpenCo NY, hosting 45-minute sessions about what innovation means to them, including the IPG Lab. It’s a conference flipped on its head: think open artist’s studio meets business conference with a music festival vibe. Most of all, it’s free to attend.

So make sure to register by noon on Tuesday, May 21 to hear these thought leaders address their mission, vision, and how they are getting there to an audience of technologists, marketers, job seekers, neighbors, investors, potential partners, and more.

With so many sessions available, the only challenge is deciding which ones to attend. For some inspiration, take a look at the schedules of founders John Batelle and Brian Monahan, along with Jack Pollock of IPG Lab.

Brian Monahan’s Lineup: http://ny-lineup.openco.us/brionic/schedule/2013/05/23

John Battelle’s Lineup: http://ny-lineup.openco.us/user/1151763/schedule/2013/05/23/

Lab’s Lineup: http://ny-lineup.openco.us/user/1226654/schedule/2013/05/23/

The Future Of TV Starts With A Name Change

There comes a time where naming conventions seem to hold back progress.

If we still called music “cassettes” it would be hard to imagine the effect this would have had on the way products like iTunes or services like Spotify would have been developed and marketed.

It strikes me that the future of TV , in terms of how content is searched for, found and viewed and how TV advertising manifests, is being hampered by the concept of TV and it’s antiquated name.

TV’s used to be large boxes in the home that you watched TV shows on, that were broadcast by TV companies on TV Channels.

Especially in the UK and Europe, you were quite likely to sit down at watch Channel Number X for the evening.

Increasingly these separate TV based units are becoming meaningless, the notion of a TV channel seems rather strange, even the idea of a “show” made for TV seems a little odd in an era of long and short form content on Vimeo, Youtube, News Websites etc.

A new name is required and with it a new way of thinking.
Much like we used to talk about records then cassettes, then CD’s and then MP3’s, each with their own cassette player, discman etc, we now just talk about music.
We now need to think not about DVD’s and TV Channels and Set top boxes, but about what it is Video.

Our TV’s are on the edge of being nothing to do with TV. They are merely large screen through which to play video.

We no longer sit down and “tune in” to see what is “on”, increasingly we sit down and think about specific content we watch. Smart TV’s like Samsung with their S- Recommendation engines now surface content based on our behavior and regardless of the format of content and the pipeline that brought it. Your thirst for soccer could be quenched by Live Soccer on Fox Soccer, a match on your DVR, an iTunes hosted video of the top goals ever, or highlights for free on Youtube.

Thinking of the TV as large screen for video allows the imagination to rethink other aspects. As an agency that seeks to serve the needs of brands, why are we now bound by the limitations and expense ofTV advertising.

TV Advertising can be done more accurately.
Digital TV’s can record data about your behavior and can work at an individual level, you now no longer need to buy a show, you can buy a individual house at a specific moment in time.

TV Advertising can be linked to an action.
You are now showing video to people on a large connected screen. Opportunities to buy products featured in shows will soon become common, as will click to find out more, or click to enter competitions

TV Advertising can be done more creatively.
With targeting down to a household ads can be served sequentially to build a narrative and ads can now be based on real time context or other data to make ads richer. They could pull in your feeds from you social graph, show what your friends think of the products etc.

TV Advertising can be done more measurably.
Any action based creative can be used to measure response in real time, thus providing ways for advertisers to test creative.

Even more than this advertising can now be served more quickly and much more cheaply/

So my only question remains, with this new world of the large screen and richer ad experiences, what does the TV’s new name become?Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.30.58 PM

Mobile advertising – turning the dream into a reality.

Since about 2005, every year has been the year when mobile advertising was going to explode.

In 2013 it’s expected Mobile Ad revenue will top $11.4bn after growing 20% in the last year, so it’s pretty safe to say we now live in a world where Mobile advertising has arrived and predictions now show over the next 5 years mobile ad revenue will rise faster than any other media.

While this sounds hugely impressive, by two key measurements Mobile advertising is failing to live up to expectations.

1) The revenues are not keeping pace with the time spent on the media, we now spend 4.5% percent of our time on mobile, but yet only 1.7% of ad spend is on the channel, and this gap is rising as smartphones become ever more popular and ever more used.

2) The value of mobile ads are still low, a typical CPM of $1.31, about 1/3rd of other digital ads and around 1/20th of TV.

What’s more the ability to monetize mobile traffic has never been greater, it’s the largest challenge facing some of the most important companies of our time, be it Facebook, Twitter or any content provider without a paywall.

But what most disappoints me is the very unambitious and extremely uncreative way that people have looked at mobile as advertising platform, it reminds me of how most digital ads have completely failed to make the most of the unique opportunities the channel has to connect with people in incredible ways.

Allow me to follow a brief journey through the history of digital advertising:

Digital ads first appeared around 1994 with the world’s first pop up ad and some banner ads. While this may have been an entirely new media channel, the thinking was basically taking existing print ads like loose leaf ads and newspaper ads, and simply finding digital equivalents.

Around ten years later with much faster internet access speeds allowed video to be streamed and as a result people took 30 second TV ads, chopped them down to 15 seconds and the world of pre-roll ads was born.

It strikes me that this timeline shows how incredibly poor innovation in the space has been, while we may see page dominant ads, or expandable banners, or MPU units, basically the entire world of digital advertising, a new paradigm of targeting, connectivity, measurement, real time, personalized content, and what we got was traditional ads repurposed.

Mobile seems no different.
Whether it was using SMS as a way to clumsily impart basic information or the decision that the mobile internet should be turned into screen real estate in exactly the same way that we approached physical newspapers, the quality , functionality and ambition has remained low.

What I don’t get has been the way that we’ve approached both digital and especially mobile as a screen. Just simply space to take up and put in front of eyeballs.
mobile ads
Our mobiles are far more than screens, they are our diary’s, our address books, our things to do lists, our maps, our photo albums, our location beacons, our coupon collectors and more, in many peoples cases they are their wallets.

The opportunities for mobile marketing are incredible, but it won’t come from thinking of the mobile as a small screen we take everywhere, but as a device that can remind us to do things, tell us where things are, keep our shopping lists, and so on.

And as our phones start to understand more about how we behave and where we are, the opportunities for mobiles to start predicting our behavior and make suggestions to us at the right time and the right place, will soon make advertising as a service the true moment where Mobile advertising really has arrived.

More on predictive computing and the true value of mobile advertising later.

Superbowl Ads From The Eyes Of A Brit

Watching the Superbowl as a Brit it was hard to escape two overriding feelings.

One- The Superbowl doesn’t really seem to be about the sport, instead all those people clattering into each other are rather background to the whole thing, people talk over the action, nobody really supports a side with any vigor and people come and go as the event goes on. The whole thing seems more about sport as an excuse to get together, chat , eat and talk about ads.

The second realization is that for a nation that spends it’s entire year doing everything it can to avoid ads, this seems to be this one curious window where people actually like ads, scrub that, they LOVE the ads, they talk about the ads, they laugh at the ads, they may even listen to them and remember them. For months it’s like ad agencies have rubbed their hands together knowing that for this one time, people will actually be watching and actually may care about what you have to say. That’s rather puzzling to me.

It’s not like this in the UK. While we don’t love ads, we have a curious relationship with them, they are at worst tolerated and at best, beloved. We have TV shows in primetime that celebrate the best ads from around the world. And you can understand why, most TV ads in the UK are rather gentle and sophisticated “films”.  They are often creative narratives with pleasant storylines, feature nice plinky plonky music, they cajole and entertain, and smuther you and endear you. It’s not like that in the US, and I understand why most US ad breaks with their shouty patronizing interruption are not welcome.

It did get me thinking, how is it in a world where we now have no attention span, where we do several things at once, where so many people skip ads on DVD’s and if they do view them, they do so in the context of frustration, why on earth do we still have ad “breaks”?  What rationale is there behind stopping the thing we want to watch, then taking 7 mins or more with the entire screen removed of the thing we were paying attention to, and either force people to put up with “paid interruption” or more likely, tempt them to put on the cooker or do something else for a bit.

What’s the need for the break? Would people not pay more attention to the screen and therefore the ad like message if they were not on together?

Why have we not more found ways to embed messages within the broadcast simultaneously and maybe as a way to add value and meaning?  Sure we have “sponsorships” and logo’s and wardrobes provided (seemingly always by Ralph Lauren), but why not feature more things akin to banner advertisements, or branded utility, and do away with the entire concept of a “ad break” .

I’d love to do some research at the lab and find out if it’s better to get half of someones attentions while they are watching the show, or to take up the full screen when they are not. I’d love also to think of creative ways to get ad content and viewing content blended together in ways far more sophisticated that current techniques like sponsorship and product placement.


Joining The Dots

I think sometimes we look at things in a lens that is too focused.

For many years we’ve looked and laughed at internet enabled fridges and tweeting plants but to make sense future thinking people have  taken a step back and had the imagination to see the whole ecosystem of the connected home, a world where you can turn on your cooker from work, or check to see if you have left the garage door closed.

But I still think these use cases are rather pathetic, relatively fringe and certainly not providing enough value to make the $15k investment in an entirely connected home worthwhile.

But when you really take a step back, where you vision includes things that seem rather peripheral,  you can begin then to  join a lot of things together that show how amazing things could happen.

I don’t think we are far from a world where the world of advertising starts becoming less the use of creativity to get brands and consumers to connect and engage, but a world where creativity is used to allow brands to provide value to consumers. The process of agencies like the IPG Media lab will be to have the imagination but also the knowledge of fringe technology to join the dots together and to do so in the context of business and brands.

We are talking of a world of both creative business models and branded utility.

I think in less than 3 years a connected home will include a fridge that knows what products we like, what food we have, when it is about to turn bad, where we are going to be that week, who we may expect to have come and visit.

This may seem rather out there, but it’s a simple question of taking in some of the utility that apps like “Slice” provide now, advancing it a little, and then pulling data from your google calendar, location and other sources to help suggest solutions, or as we like to call it, the world of “anticipatory computing

In a world like this, an online grocery company could subsidize the cost of your fridge by ensuring that it will only be able to order goods from their own site.

You may find that you never run out of milk because it’s ordered before it’s about to go bad or run out.

You may find ads for food products that sync with your fridge and tell you what else you need to order to make a suggested recipe and order it for you.

This is world far removed from the now, but not because the technology is so advanced, but because our attitude towards “advertising” shifts away from technology as an enabler of better brand messaging, but technology as an enabler of better brand solutions.

The Oculus Rift: Kickstarter Rears Its Head At CES

The Oculus Rift brings everything you would expect to see at CES. Its Virtual Reality experience is “a shock to your system” as users strap on ski mask-like googles and enter into an immersive space that can be controlled through head movement or a gaming controller. It’s high-tech, awe-inspiring, novel and likely prohibitively expensive and impractical for everyday use. But here’s something different. The Oculus Rift actually originally started as a Kickstarter project. The crowdsourced funding platform has fueled plenty of innovation that have moved beyond pet projects to something real. The Oculus Rift is something you can actually buy and it’s debuting at one of the largest tech shows in the world. Stay tuned for more Kickstarter projects reaching the exhibit floor as our coverage continues.