Viewability, Made Clear.

Viewability Made ClearAt the upcoming Seller Forum on March 12th, I’ll be moderating a thoughtful and – hopefully – productive discussion on the latest thorny issue in our digital greenhouse: ad viewability. Over 50 senior sales leaders will be in the room, and this particular discussion will feature three key stakeholders from the agency world – Mitch Weinstein of IPG Mediabrands, Merkle’s Angelina Eng, and Jon Hsia from Mindshare. The pithy headline of this post notwithstanding, we all know there are no simple answers on viewability. But we can and should be sure we’re asking the right questions. Here are the questions that I think will move us to a better place.

Who wants to be the last one defending the idea that an advertiser should pay for an ad that has no chance of being seen? I don’t think I’ll get any takers on this. So let’s assume that we all agree on a common destination where the currency we exchange is based on viewable ads.

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

What are the true motivations that drive the positions that clients, agencies, publishers and others have taken in this discussion? If we answer with words like greed, laziness, stupidity or arrogance, we’re guaranteeing that we’ll end up making bad decisions en route to bad policies. Underestimating or oversimplifying motivations in a complex negotiation is a tragic mistake.

Do we all really understand the words we’re using? What’s measurable is a subset of what’s served. What’s viewable is a subset of what’s measurable. It’s complex even for those in the thick of it. Before we rush into the technical minutiae or defend our various positions, what might happen if we took the time to say: “Tell me exactly what you mean by that term? I want to be sure I understand.”

Might there be a better way to optimize publisher business outcomes? Our assumptions have always been based on volume. More pages. More ad calls. More streams. In the rush to more, we’ve settled for less. Less quality. Less control. Less trust. We’ve tried building strategies around abundance: should we give scarcity a shot?

Does anyone not think that 17 different “accredited” viewability solutions is too many?   It’s possible that there’s a great new option out there – a fresh idea that nobody’s considered – but I think we have to consider whether the cost of further iterative innovation outweighs the benefit of just settling on one set of referees. TV decided on who would provide ratings 40 years ago, and I think they’ve done relatively OK.

Who benefits if nothing changes? I’m trying to imagine a legitimate marketer, agency, publisher, creative producer or additive technology whose positive future is tied to “more of the same.” There is going to be short term pain and a rethinking of financial expectations all around in the meantime. But maybe it’s time to realize that the only “wrong” choice is no choice at all.

There are just 3 seats left for The Seller Forum.  If you are a qualified national media sales leader and want to be part of this discussion, reach back to us today. 

Six Questions for Terry Kawaja

Six Questions for Terry KawajaLUMAscape architect and dynamic investment banker Terry Kawaja is joining us at The Seller Forum on March 12th to talk about the consolidating video marketing world. To prep for his talk at the Forum, six questions:

 Is the Video LUMAscape starting to significantly consolidate? Some examples please.

We’ve seen 29 transactions across the Video LUMAscape just in the last 18 months starting with Aol/Adap.tv. These transactions range from content plays (e.g. Disney / Maker, Amazon / Twitch and AT&T / Fullscreen) to monetization platforms (e.g. Comcast / FreeWheel, Facebook / LiveRail and Yahoo / BrightRoll). These deals are reflective of the continued growth in digital video but also the coming convergent TV sector.

 Do all those YouTube videos help Google run the table and own web and mobile video or is there hope for others?

Video does not quite have the same network/scale advantages of search so it should proliferate to all publishers. YouTube ‘s strong position (nearly 40% of all video views in 2013) has new competitors (Facebook, Amazon, Vessel) and we will likely see the viewership splinter over time.

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

 What’s surprised you most in the video picture of the last 12 months?

The pace of Facebook’s growth has been staggering and surprising: in October 2014, Facebook actually saw more video views that YouTube. YouTube is more akin to a portal (and people don’t navigate to portals) whereas Facebook’s video discovery is in the feed and shared socially. This will be interesting to watch.

I’ve heard that those crazy young people are streaming their favorite shows over the web now. Are we going to show them commercials like we do on the web or like we do on regular old TV?

The TV ad experience and inherent value proposition is based on interruption. Viewers put up with (or ignore) ads in return for their desired content. I believe that this value proposition has to change in a mobile context and that may threaten the mobile video pre roll or interstitial. Ad creative has to be better (a good thing) and the value proposition may need to change to facilitation, not interruption.

 Deal that looked big but wasn’t? And under the radar deal that’s really significant?

So far the $45 billion Comcast / TWC deal looks threatened. I mused that Comcast could have used the same $45 billion to instead buy a basket of tech unicorn startups that included Uber, Dropbox, Snapchat and Box. One year later, the TWC deal has gone nowhere and the basket is now worth over double! I think the Telstra / Ooyala deal, while under the radar, is interesting because it represents a new entrant buyer (in this case, a monopoly foreign telco) that has set its growth sights on digital video and has more deals to come.

When you did your cameo on Mad Men was Jon Hamm nice to you?

Unlike the character he plays, it turns out Jon Hamm is a super nice guy. He treated the cast and crew very well.

There are just 15 open seats left for The Seller Forum on March 12th in New York.  If you lead a national media sales team, you won’t want to miss key insights on video, viewability, talent, first half outlook and more.  Request your invitation today.

 

The Trading Desk is Dead: Long Live the Trade!

The Trading Desk is DeadThe great thing about writing 500 words about our business every week is that occasionally you end up looking smart in hindsight. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then. Last Friday afternoon – as most of us had already started bugging out for the long holiday weekend – Publicis quietly pulled the plug on programmatic buying at Vivaki.   In an October 2013 post (“Letting Go of the Tiger’s Ears”) I wrote…

…I believe the agencies …did themselves a huge disservice by playing out of position over the last 4-5 years in the run up to “the programmatic age.”…First, there was the decision to create standalone business units in the first place. Might it not have been better to let a thousand flowers of automated trading bloom within the daughter agencies rather than concentrate it all at the holding company level? Perhaps they missed the chance to strengthen ALL the pillars of their business rather than devoting so much time and effort to explain yet another corporate brand and operating model to increasingly skeptical clients?

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

I’m certainly not the only one to predict the demise of the holding company trading desk model: I said as much in that 2013 post:

“….I’ve heard people stand up at conferences and say that the holding company level trading desks will go away within a couple of years; that they’ll be replaced by client side operations (like P&G’s Hawkeye) and by a migration of programmatic bidding to the individual media agency level. Such a monolithic assessment is almost surely going to be right and wrong at the same time. These are wildly different businesses who are making different decisions. For one thing, there’s a lot of work ahead helping clients manage the nuanced business and buying decisions within private marketplaces.”

So now as we edge into 2015 the land grab abates and the real work of programmatic has begun in earnest: figuring out complex private marketplaces and programmatic direct deals and determining how programmatic lives symbiotically alongside the high margin native, branded content and video advertising. This is not work to be done in a silo by a handful of holding company execs. There’s plenty here for all of us to do.

There are fewer than 20 open seats left for The Seller Forum on March 12th in New York.  If you lead a national media sales team, you won’t want to miss key insights on video, viewability, talent, first half outlook and more.  Request your invitation today.

The Great Ones.

The Great Ones.On Sunday night I had the honor of speaking on opening night of the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Scottsdale about the future of digital media sales. After addressing ‘the big lie’ that hangs over our business – that the growth of programmatic buying would somehow drastically reduce or eliminate the need for sales executives – I talked about how the nature of selling would indeed change, and what kind of sellers would be called for in the complex and rewarding days ahead.

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

Transactional buying and selling – trading standard ad units for dollars – is the rust belt of the media landscape, and those jobs ain’t coming back. In fact, those jobs really aren’t about selling at all. The real sellers – the great ones – are already working on a much different level, we have the working template for the Greatest Generation of Digital Sellers:

  1. They are marketing-oriented, not advertising driven. They look at the picture through a much wider aperture.
  2. They organize their work around multi-product, integrated solutions – not around response to late stage, single product RFPs.
  3. They operate “left of budget” and create urgency by working backward from the unsolved marketing problem.
  4. They are patient and thorough in navigating complexity.
  5. They are enterprise sellers, not point solution vendors.

Spend ten minutes watching the embedded video of my talk and share your own thoughts. If you’re an individual contributor, how do you measure up the five qualities above? If you lead a team, how many of your current sellers fit this rubric? More importantly, what are you doing to support and retain them?

The Greatest Generation of Digital Sellers is not a foregone conclusion. It’s something we have to imagine and commit to.   To paraphrase William Gibson, bits of that future are already here; they’re just unevenly distributed.

We’ve just added Mitch Weinstein from IPG Mediabrands as part of an important discussion of viewability at Seller Forum on March 12th. We’ll be discussing video, talent, policies, financial outlook and more. If you lead a team that sells media, you need to be there.  Request your invitation today.

Lies My CEO Told Me.

Lies my CEO Told MeWhen the announcement came down last week that Aol was eliminating 150 sales jobs and consolidating several brands I immediately got a half-dozen emails and calls asking the same question: “Did programmatic technology eliminate these jobs?” The answer Wall Street would like to hear is “yes.” The real answer, I believe, is “no.” As the old backwoods philosophy goes, “Just because your cat has kittens in the oven don’t make ‘em biscuits.” (Translation: Things are not as simple as they seem.)

I believe Aol confronted some core business issues – redundancy of brands, participation in spaces where they couldn’t lead, creeping bureaucracy – by taking swift and decisive action. Investors should reward them for that alone. But if Wall Street wants to infer that a grand automation plan made it all happen… Tim Armstrong might just be saying “Well that was a freebie.”

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

Just as there are two kinds of history that get taught in our country – high school textbook history and real, academically reviewed history – there are two levels of ‘truth’ in our world: the truth that the CEO is forced to tell the investors and markets and the truth about how the business really runs. Your CEO isn’t a liar and he or she doesn’t mean any harm: it’s just a case of dynamic messaging based on audience. Here are a few of the little white lies they have to tell from time to time.

“The technology will sell itself.” Maybe if it was 25 years ago and a small handful of tech giants roamed the earth and ate all the food. But even the best technological leap will have a hell of a time even being noticed in the cacophony of today’s crowded marketplace.

“Media sales is a transitional business for us.” Saying ‘we’re just going to sell ads for a while’ is like saying ‘we’re just sending a few advisors to Vietnam.’ You either commit to the core of your technology business or commit to being a player in the media sales game. Doing neither means half-assing them both.

“Programmatic will eliminate the need for a sales team.” If you “set it and forget it” you will get the results you deserve. And if you have no more imagination than this about how great sellers could create value and margin for your business, then programmatic will likely eliminate the need for the current CEO. Programmatic is real, it’s vitally important, and it’s part of a balanced revenue diet. But it won’t run itself and it won’t create the kind of margin that your high growth business needs.

“We’ll get there in 12-18 Months.” It’s always going to be harder, take longer and require more money and resources than the business plan assumes. Don’t buy into the projection; buy into the quality of the leadership.

The next time you hear your CEO speaking in code like this to the markets, fear not: he probably knows the real truth and will run your business accordingly. If not, you may want to forward him this post.

We’ve just added Terry Kawaja, creator of the LUMAscape, to our discussion of the digital video landscape at Seller Forum on March 12th.  If you lead a team that sells media, you need to be there.  Request your invitation today.

Selling the Exception.

Selling the ExceptionPeople in the business ask me all the time about my position in The Great Debate on Viewability. Truth is, I don’t have one. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important; it most certainly is. But it’s important in the way that long term inflation or interest rates or derivative trading laws are important. Companies and experts will engage in long-term trench warfare over the issue, eventually coming up with a set of compromises. But in the meantime, the rest of us have to make a living.

If you suddenly find that your dollars only buy one bag of groceries instead of two, you don’t argue with the supermarket cashier about the value of the currency. He can’t help you with that. You’re also not going to get very far if you offer to pay instead in Euros or to barter some live chickens. No, you’ve either got to accept the current rules and currency of the transaction or find someone who can grant you an exception or agree to a different kind of currency.

Does your quality inventory stand out in programmatic? Are you getting full value for those impressions? Programmatic has a trust issue, and comScore has the solution. comScore Industry Trust is a multi-phase initiative designed to enable trusted programmatic transactions of quality advertising between buyers and sellers. Learn more today.

The great sellers and sales organizations are the ones who are doing just this: carving out exceptions to current buying policies and metrics or getting the customer to trade in a different currency or at a higher rate. They’re not wasting time arguing at the cash register. The media planning team can’t help you: they are either stuck with the same policies and exchange rates that you are, or are using those policies as a convenient cover for a buying decision they just don’t want to make with you anyway. You think your inventory or services are worth a premium? Or that you should be valued based on engagement levels or social interaction instead of impressions and clicks? The bank teller can only shrug sympathetically or close the window on you. (Oh, by the way…that bank teller is about to be replaced by a programmatic ATM.)

If you’re a seller or manager who’s wringing your hands over issues like viewability or the ROI metrics you’re seeing in RFPs, you’re wasting valuable time and energy. The job now is selling the exception, getting a carve-out for your offering. You won’t get it if you only spend time at the point of transaction. You’ve got to find clients, agency management and others who can consider your ideas way before the budget is formed, the rules are imposed and the RFP is sent to you and 150 of your closest friends.

I work with thousands of sellers and dozens of companies every year. This kind of creative, enterprise sale get executed every day. Great sellers and great companies are having these conversations all the time. Why aren’t you?

You might have noticed that The Drift has a new look. You may also be interested in the remodeling we’ve done back at our company site. Have a look and tell us what you think.

Strategy, 101.

Strategy 101Somewhere out there, early on a January morning, a seller has already been awake for hours. He’s staring at a number – his sales goal for the next several months. His company has a solid product, not a dominant one.

His managers try to motivate and support, but only being a year or two in management themselves they can tell him to ‘be more strategic’ but can’t really tell him how. Here’s how.

Triage. What are the factors that make one prospect more likely than another to become a customer? Are they cranking up spending this quarter? Do you have even one ‘truth teller’ at the agency or client who could give you the straight story? Do their preferred metrics and buying style align at all with your offerings? Have they been a customer before? If you answer yes to all or most of these questions, these are your focus accounts – your A’s. All no’s? It’s a C; drop it. Mixed results? It’s a B, so set it aside for work later.

We’ll be hosting the first Seller Forum of 2015 – featuring special video content – on Wednesday night March 11th and Thursday March 12th in New York. If you’re a CRO, EVP, SVP or VP of sales with national, North American or global responsibility, you need to be in that room. We’ll have a heavy focus on all things video this time, with plenty of other great content and discussion around industry news, financial visibility and lots more. Request your invitation today.

Decide What You Control. It’s easy to waste time lamenting what you don’t have, what a competitor might be doing, or how bad the decision making is at the agency. Instead, inventory those things you can control. They are: (1) your intent – are you really out to do a great job for the customer? (2) your POV on the customer’s business situation – not just what you know but what you think is important; (3) the agenda for your meetings – a good answer for “why are we here today?” (Hint: if it’s about ‘updating’ the customer, ‘introducing them’ to your product or ‘learning more’ about their challenges, you will lose); (4) the quality of your recommendation; stop with the big capabilities deck; nobody cares. Decide what combination of products and services will help this client at this moment in time. If you tell ‘em everything, you’re telling ‘em nothing.

Start in the Middle. In between the CMO and the media planning team, there are a lot of people who can help you: account owners at the agency… strategic planning… group VPs… functional specialists at the client. Put away your pitch for a while and start teeing up honest conversations and email exchanges with these people.

Ask Better Questions. Ask questions customers can say “no” to. Will you buy from me? Do we have your commitment? Do we really have a chance here? Hope is too often the opposite of clarity. What you want to constantly be asking is Where do we really stand? and What can we do to keep moving forward?

Stop Waiting. If things are not closing because you’re constantly waiting on something – a product feature, a call back, a change in the budgeting process – then you’re not making a difference.  You can wait till things calm down, till you get through your inbox, till the weather changes. Or you can simply act. Take chances, try one new thing each day. Ask forgiveness, not permission.

It may turn out that the one you’ve been waiting for is you.

You Bet Your Career.

It’s a dirty little secret that this is the time of year that a lot of things start to shake loose. The end of the year means that year end compensation checks come through, and those who’ve been thinking about making a job change are likely to start moving in the next 4-6 weeks. While this is by no means the only period of intensive recruiting, interviewing and hiring – it’s a year-round phenomenon – it’s certainly peak season.

While I have an iron-clad rule against ever sourcing talent (recruiters: sorry, don’t even ask), I do get a lot of calls from sellers and sales leaders thinking about their next career move. Since I end up giving the same advice, I’m putting it out into the public sphere via this post.

We’ll be hosting the first Seller Forum of 2015 – featuring special video content – on Wednesday night March 11th and Thursday March 12th in New York. If you’re a CRO, EVP, SVP or VP of sales with national, North American or global responsibility, you need to be in that room. We’ll have a heavy focus on all things video this time, with plenty of other great content and discussion around industry news, financial visibility and lots more. Request your invitation today.

Rule #1: Find Your North Star. Job candidates often find themselves in full response mode, and end up comparing one potential offer to another. Instead, write out the specs for your perfect job, right down to how much you want to travel, what kind of meetings you want to be having, and what kind of brands and agencies you want to call on. Now start measuring your options based on their distance from your ideal.

Rule #2: Stand in the Rain. If you want to get wet… First ask whether the space you’ll be entering is growing or contracting. Will this be bigger and wealthier in three years than it is now? A growing market forgives a lot of sins. No matter how good you are, musical chairs has lousy odds.

Rule #3: Don’t Bet on the Business Plan. Like battle plans, business plans get torn up as soon as the shooting starts. While you’re interviewing, subtly probe on how the company developed the assumptions in the plan. You should be looking at the quality of their processes, as you’ll end up living with them from this point on.

Rule #4: Look Past ‘Smart.’  Everyone loves to tell me how smart the people running the company are. Paraphrasing the late James Gandolfini in Zero Dark Thirty, “It’s the internet. We’re all smart. What else?” Are they wise? Generous? Patient? Will they make the right decisions when things go sideways? Remember that you are interviewing them, not just the other way around. Management and leadership are not going to suddenly get better and more virtuous after you’re hired. Take a clear eyed look now.

Above all, start thinking of your career as a narrative… a story of someone who’s getting wiser and more valuable as time passes. Will this next move be a chapter that fits?

Bridge or Parachute?

A couple of years ago in this space, I wrote about objections that we hear from buyers. More accurately, the post was about the statements that sound sort of like objections that we hear from non-buyers – those who have no intention of doing business with us, and who frankly just don’t want to face another option or have another conversation. I call these Scarecrow Objections.

This morning I want to add another bit of language to the canon: Objection of Interest. I’ve just started using this term in sales workshops and it’s proving valuable. An Objection of Interest is a (1) legitimate question or issue that’s (2) raised by a customer genuinely interested in a commercial relationship with you and (3) has the authority and means to advance the deal.   An Objection of Interest is like the bridge to a sale: if you can cross this, we can continue down the path together.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments and provides tools for internal pricing and packaging. Video and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

The Scarecrow Objection, on the other hand, is not a bridge at all. It’s a parachute that allows a disinterested or non-qualified buyer to eject from the conversation. They’re not going to volunteer the fact that they’re not really interested: why would they? So they ask us rote questions about minute differences in technology or policy. Or they tell us they need a case study to prove a point. And sometimes they simply put us off with vague promises of later consideration – an RFP which leads nowhere, a buying cycle that never materializes.

My advice is to measure any objection or issue you hear from a potential customer against the 1-2-3 test outlined above. If you think it fails to meet two of the three standards (or if it does not meet the second one alone) then you’re looking at a Scarecrow Objection.   Do not waste time and energy uncovering facts or chasing down details and case studies: those are hours of your life you’ll never get back. Instead, simply qualify the objection: “If we could successfully solve that issue, would you then make the recommendation to fully invest with us?” On rare occasions, you’ll transform a Scarecrow into a legitimate Objection of Interest and create a new opportunity to sell. More often your “buyer” will show her true colors and the conversation will melt into a puddle of non-commitment.

I’ll talk more in a future post about how to open, pre-close and collaborate with the customer when you’re facing a legitimate Objection of Interest. (If you want to hear sooner, drop me a note.) But in the meantime, I feel good in helping you avoid the costly, pointless exercise of debating with a Scarecrow.

Getting Quiet Again.

In a 2012 post,  I recommended Susan’s Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” It’s no less relevant today — probably even more so.  So take a little quiet time, soak in this re-post, and then check out the author’s TED Talk.  You’ll start to celebrate and appreciate the introverts in your world in whole new ways.

The core idea in “Quiet” is that our culture – especially in education and business – incubates and celebrates extroverts, while giving short shrift to the potentially powerful contributions of the introvert.  We organize our classrooms into “discussion pods,” and reward students for vocal participation and visible group “leadership.”  Our business culture revolves around committees, task forces and work groups, all so we can collaborate our way to success.  Along the way, we’ve come to the conclusion that the loudest voice belongs to he (and it’s very often ‘he’) who is the most confident, and therefore the leader.  If forced to conform to today’s cultural and business climate, introverts like Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Larry Page, Bill Gates and (!) Dale Carnegie would never have emerged as leaders.  The logic is inescapable, and there’s plenty of advice on how companies can better leverage the deep insights and massive potential of the introverted third of the world.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments as well as provide tools for internal pricing and packaging. VIDEO and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

But the thing that really grabbed my attention in the TED Talk was this:  Our celebration of extroversion has brought about the near death of our ability to work alone; to puzzle over a problem or incubate the germ of an idea.  Our individual inability to stay with a problem causes us to lunge at simple solutions.  In sales, this promotes a “grab and go” culture in which the seller over-relies on marketing services to “come up with ideas.”  Often it ends up a shallow, frustrating exercise for all involved.

In the workshops I conduct with sales teams I have started to look for the introverts and carefully draw out their ideas and solutions.   Having spent a little more time in their own heads, their thinking is almost always more complete.  And I’m encouraging all sellers – introverts and extroverts alike – to schedule 30 minutes of unplugged ‘quiet time’ during each business day (and 60-90 minutes on the weekend) to consider problems and ideas on behalf of your customers.  Call it your daily “time in the wilderness.”  You’ll be amazed at what it does for your confidence and effectiveness.

As Susan Cain says, “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”  Try some today

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