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Mediaplex and Greystripe working together on mobile

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

The growth and potential of mobile advertising continues to be a topic of interest for Mediaplex and our clients. Recently, Mediaplex completed discussions with the mobile network Greystripe , and confirmed that Mediaplex is approved for impression and click tracking on Greystripe’s mobile advertising network.

 Greystripe is the world’s leading independent mobile advertising network. Greystripe delivers the highest engagement for advertisers, the maximum revenue for publishers and app developers, and the best ad experience for users across all major mobile platforms, reaching tens of millions of mobile users. Greystripe’s proprietary advertising platform currently serves ads into more than 2,500 application titles and mobile websites, supporting over 1,400 handset models globally.

To learn more about Greystripe, visit their website at www.greystripe.com

Categories: Product

Ringing in the New Year – Online Privacy in 2011

January 12, 2011 2 comments

2010 saw various developments regarding online privacy, concluding with the December release of the FTC’s long awaited Privacy Report.  While not overly negative of industry initiatives so far, this report does call for more and faster action in the industry, foreshadowing 2011 as the year the online advertising industry will need to put in place the sort of initiatives the FTC is looking for.

As challenging as this ultimatum may seem, the good news is that the industry has already been working on various initiatives in response to the concerns about online privacy, and these initiatives will not have to greatly impact online advertising business in order to meet the requirements for protecting online privacy.  As I have already summarized these initiatives in my previous blog post, now would be a good time to review some suggestions for what advertisers can do to help promote online privacy as good “internet citizens”, as well as the overall impact of these initiatives. 

1.       Privacy Policies

If you are an advertiser collecting information about consumers, you should have a privacy policy on your website that states what information you collect and what you do with it. Even if you are not a member of the Network Advertising Initiative, the NAI principles are a helpful guide to “best practices” for managing consumer data.

Naturally, as an NAI member Mediaplex adheres to these principles and is audited against them on a yearly basis to confirm compliance.  Our own privacy policy outlines details such as how we collect user data, and how long we keep it.

http://www.mediaplex.com/mojo-privacy-statement

2.       Opt-out

If you collect consumer data online, providing a mechanism for users to opt-out of data collection and targeting is a must.  As well as providing information on how we collect user data, the Mediaplex privacy policy includes a link to opt-out of that data collection.

Even if you do not have your own technology to collect user data, working only with NAI members for ad serving technology and providing a link to the NAI Opt Out page will help consumers find the information and mechanisms they need to control their privacy online.  Naturally Mediaplex is integrated with the NAI opt-out page.

3.       Consumer Education

Even if you do not collect consumer data yourself, you can help contribute to educating consumers on privacy issues and the industry initiatives.  For example, both the NAI and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) provide information on their websites summarizing privacy issues and industry initiatives:

Linking to these pages will help consumers find the information and mechanisms they need to control their privacy online.

4.       Enhanced Notice

By all indications, 2011 will be a watershed year for online privacy, and in particular, for online advertising.  The “Enhanced Notice” initiative will be a major piece in demonstrating that self-regulation is a feasible solution to privacy concerns in online advertising, and its main goals of providing consumers with both notice and choice with regard to data collection and targeting are not incompatible with our own goals for providing users with meaningful and effective advertising.

Remember, the goal is not to stop behavioral targeting or the collection of user data on the internet outright, but to keep consumers informed and give them access to the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about how they are being tracked.

The good news for advertisers is that there isn’t really anything you yourself need to do for this, other than work with vendors who provide Enhanced Notice functionality. For example, Mediaplex has been keeping track of progress on specifications for Enhanced Notice, and is working to ensure we can provide our customers with the functionality they need.

More information about enhanced notice can be found at the Aboutads.info website: http://www.aboutads.info/home/

5.       Do-not-track

This last item is perhaps the most controversial, and the one that is also the least well-defined.  The FTC has proposed a do-not-track program, but did not define any details around it.  How this can be implemented, and even if it can be implemented are questions that still remain unanswered.  This item falls in to the category of “issues you should be aware of”, rather than that which advertisers need to be concerned about now.  Like enhanced notice, this is functionality that will be implemented either by vendors, or in the browser, and so will not require advertisers to do more than be aware of the issue, and work with vendors who can provide this functionality.

So for 2011, expect more change as the industry quickens its pace to answer privacy concerns from the FTC, Senate, and privacy bodies.  However, the online advertising industry has proven itself both resilient and flexible in adapting to market changes – both in terms of operation and technology. I am confident that we can collectively and effectively respond to the FTC’s call for change.  In the long run, these changes will provide users with more confidence and trust in online advertising, which is good for the industry and advertising itself.

Categories: Industry

FTC Privacy Report

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week, the FTC released its long awaited privacy report. Many points covered in the report are not new to the ongoing discussion many of us in the industry have been engaging in regarding online privacy for consumers. For example, the report proposes three main approaches to improve consumer privacy:

1. “Privacy by Design” – the idea that companies should build into their operations privacy protections. This is something that companies like Mediaplex are already doing through opt-out mechanisms, privacy policies, etc.

2. Present privacy choice to consumers in a simple, clear to understand and easy to use format. This is where the Commission suggests the implementation of a “Do Not Track” mechanism for third-party ads, and is basically the same as the shared opt-out mechanism provided by the NAI that Mediaplex currently participates in.

3. Improve transparency – clearer, easier to understand privacy notices. Mediaplex has also been working with the NAI to incorporate concise, consumer-facing summaries of what we do as part of the shared opt-out mechanism.

These three approaches can be summarized as (a) greater consumer education, (b) industry efforts to provide privacy mechanisms, and (c) improving consumer notice and choice. As members of the NAI and IAB, Mediaplex and ValueClick have been actively working toward providing industry self-regulation to address these concerns. In fact, in the Preliminary FTC Staff Privacy Report, Chairman Jon Leibowitz does recognize the online advertising industry’s efforts at self-regulation, and acknowledges this as a viable option for achieving the goal of protecting consumer privacy and rights online. He does, however, comment that “We’re going to give them a little time, but we’d like to see the companies work a lot faster and make consumer choice a lot easier.” Full text can be accessed here: http://www.ftc.gov/speeches/leibowitz/101201privacyreportremarks.pdf

It is important to note that the second approach mentioned above regarding the suggestion from the FTC of a “Do Not Track” mechanism has been contentious and has created some concern in the industry. Following on closely to the privacy report, a “Do Not Track Hearing” was held by the House Commerce Committee (Subcommittee on Consumer Protection) on December 2, 2010. During this hearing a number of different opinions were heard, including the concern about the technical feasibility of implementing such a system, as well as how appropriate it is for the government to make decisions on this and how this would affect advertising subsidized content.

Although there is still more that the online advertising industry can and should do, at this point it is important to also look back and review how much progress has been made, even in just the last year.

- The Network Advertising Industry (‘NAI’ – http://www.networkadvertising.org/) maintains an opt-out mechanism that in a single action allows consumers to opt-out of tracking from over 60 separate online advertising companies.

- The NAI has also released a Firefox add-on designed to work with opt-outs from its member companies: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/protector_license.asp

- A group of major media and marketing associations released a Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising: http://www.aboutads.info/principles/

- As part of this program, the NAI and the Internet Advertising Bureau (‘IAB’ – http://www.iab.net/) – as well as other participating organizations – are collaborating on standardizing an “Advertising Option Icon” as a means for providing enhanced notice of online behavioral advertising practices.

- Companies like Google and Yahoo! have already implemented their own versions of this Enhanced Notice.

The above mentioned points represent both the time and resources that organizations and companies in the online advertising industry have already contributed to improving consumer privacy protection in the online advertising industry.

Overall I believe that the FTC’s Privacy Report demonstrates that the online advertising industry has been moving in the right direction, and that the FTC is willing to give the industry more time to organize solutions to the goals they outline as long as progress continues to be demonstrated.

The following are links to more information on this issue, and related organizations or activities:

- More information on what the NAI is doing can be found here: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/.

- More information on the IAB’s public policy efforts can be found here: http://www.iab.net/public_policy, and the IAB review of the FTC’s Privacy Report can be read here: http://www.iab.net/public_policy/1481209

- The FTC press release can be read here:
FTC Staff Issues Privacy Report Offers Framework for Consumers, Businesses, and Policymakers
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/12/privacyreport.shtm

- Full report is accessible here:
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/12/101201privacyreport.pdf

Categories: Industry

Mobile Ad Industry Update: The Ever-changing Mobile Landscape

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

The mobile advertising landscape continues its rapid evolution this year, as marketers refine their technologies and business models to reach users across a wider array of portable devices. Leading trends affecting the mobile display ecosystem include increasing smart phone penetration and the rise of tablet devices, and deeper integration of ad delivery capabilities by mobile content and platform providers. The utility of mobile is changing, as is the ability to deliver targeted ad messaging and useful branded services across the mobile web.

Mobile display advertising is changing with the adoption of devices capable of rendering an immersive in-app or in-browser ad experience. Bigger screens and new creative technologies allow advertisers to experiment associating their brands with the right mix of devices and channels to build new customer relationships. With increasing frequency advertisers are designing campaigns around the social and real-time elements of mobile that set it apart from other online display channels.

Display activity is also benefitting from increased knowledge of mobile user behaviors. Mobile’s higher CTR and deeper post-click activity can be a boon to advertisers who understand the medium’s informational and social aspects, and design ad experiences around them. Shifting mobile user attitudes also present new  opportunities.  Although the majority of mobile web users are uneasy about having location-based ads pushed at them, more and more users show a willingness to share location in return for a useful experience or service. Branded, ad-supported applications for couponing and directions to local retailers are popular, for example.

The mobile ad industry is changing rapidly for the better as advertisers learn how to work in it. This change is good, but there’s more to be done. Mobile needs to get beyond some important limitations before it’s fully integrated into the standard advertising mix:

• Tracking and analytics capabilities must rise to the level available in online display, and beyond.  Marketers should avail themselves of ad serving tools like those provided by Mediaplex to integrate mobile with other channels, and mobile inventory providers can do more to let advertisers use their own tools and data for campaign management and optimization. The future belongs to cross-device measurement and analytics, and we must work together to achieve this.

• The need for better tracking and conversion correlation should never trump privacy, however. For example, if the industry is to utilize the features of HTML5 to compensate for mobile cookie limitations, it needs to communicate this clearly. Fuzziness in this area will not serve the new medium well.

• Advances in display purchasing models must be ported to the mobile space. RTB integration, for example, should be part of the process that makes mobile as easy to purchase as online display. Removing friction from mobile inventory acquisition should go hand-in-hand with today’s advances in targeting and creative technologies.

• New ad formats and units should be easy to create and work with, and platform providers must allow mobile campaigns to be created with the efficiency of other media. Leveraging the capabilities of tools like MOJO Adserver should be the expected practice, rather than today’s trend of pushing marketers into walled gardens of proprietary technology. Content developers need the freedom to give marketers access to the best technologies for meeting their goals.

• The work driving mobile forward must not be done in a vacuum. Advances in mobile display should drive the greater goal of creating truly user-centric experiences across all of the advertiser’s customer touch points. Building a portable, data-driven brand experience starts in mobile but doesn’t end there, as what’s learned from your mobile relationships will become critical as users become the hub of their own media experiences.

As mobile goes mainstream, Mediaplex will continue to provide tools that make it quantifiable, simple to use and easy to understand. We’ve already enabled MOJO Adserver mobile device recognition and ad targeting, so you can tailor you campaign delivery and creative messaging to specific portable devices. Mobile campaigns and be managed side-by-side with your display, search and mail programs and we’ve added mobile channel support in reporting. For more information about working with mobile in MOJO Adserver, please contact your account manager.

Categories: Industry

Google Instant: A New Search Experience

September 23, 2010 4 comments

 The recent announcement of Google Instant has created quite a bit of conversation among people in the online advertising industry.  With Google Instant, searchers will see a full-page of results with each keystroke as they type in their search query.  Considering the billion+ daily searches that Google servers responded to before Google Instant, it’s easy to recognize the impressive engineering feat required to accomplish this.  Interestingly enough, feedback on Google Instant has been mixed.  Some, for example, are touting it as the first true innovation in search for some time, while others have been wary of this new experience and impact for SEO.  Let’s consider this from the perspective as users, advertisers, and Google itself.

 What does this change for search users?

Google Instant presents a brand new experience for search users.  The auto-complete predictions (up to four at one time) and the relevant real-time results that appear as you type may initially be jarring.  The “flickering” sensation can be considered distracting, but it’s important to realize that part of the intent is to train users to scan the predictions and results as they’re typing rather than watch what they’ve already typed.   Arguably, the harsh transition from one set of results to the next can be improved, but after some use, I’m sure users will come to appreciate the option to scan results while typing.  I certainly did, and after using it for a week, the need to complete a query and hit the enter key before seeing results is already starting to seem a bit backwards. 

In addition to having found a few relevant search results without having to finish typing my query, some of the predictions have helped to guide me to other useful queries that I might not have found on my own.  There is certainly room for improvement, but my opinion is that it helps connect searchers to the information they’re looking for more quickly, even if it is only by a few seconds. 

While Google will need to be mindful of the responsibility that comes with the influence of their predictions and instant results, in general, this will benefit users by providing functional benefits and pushing technological innovation in the search space.

What are the Benefits for Google                                                                                                                    
What’s most obvious is that Google Instant grows the available impression inventory for monetization.  However, since their revenue model is predominantly based on CPC, we’ll have to see if this translates to more click activity.   What may not be as obvious, but very likely, is that CPCs on high volume keyword terms will probably rise since predictions should steer competition to the head and lift revenue.  The monetary effect on long tail keyword CPCs are difficult to gauge now as it depends on user behavior.  I’ll cover more on this in the next section.

It’s also notable that Google Instant offers a response to the enhancements and progress Microsoft has made – and spent heavily to make us aware of – this past year.    Google Instant is both functional and visually exciting, and serves as a reminder that Google is still capable of and willing to bring innovation even though they have a strong hold on market share. 

How does it affect businesses?

Google made it clear that there is no change to the algorithm which determines the list of results.  This should give some comfort to SEOs and SEMs as their positions on the search engine results page should remain consistent as Google Instant is rolled out. 

There are concerns that the long tail of keyword searches (and SEO along with it) will disappear if Google’s predictions funnel traffic to the head terms.  Though the concern is understandable, I find this unlikely.  As Google indicated, the algorithm is unchanged with Google Instant so results are not altered.  With that in mind, the set of results generated from head and mid-tail searches prior to Google Instant still won’t yield the higher relevancy of results that long tail search queries are intended to unveil post Google Instant.  The real question is whether the predictions will alter user behavior to stop typing through to the completed long tail search query.  As it depends on user behavior, only time will tell as we collect more data, but from the initial statistics since Google Instant’s introduction, the volume of traffic and variation of keywords are holding steady.

Still, there are a few areas that you may want to start monitoring as momentum grows for users turning to Google Instant:

  1.  Auto-Complete Predictions – pay attention to the predictions that appear alongside your keywords as they’re typed in to find new relevant keyword opportunities
  2. Impression – variations on impression count can help indicate whether predictions are steering keyword traffic towards or away from your business
  3. Position/CPC – this can be telling of increasing competition on the high traffic head keywords and the need to respond with relevancy improvements or adjustments to your bid strategy
  4. ROI –  watch this to ensure that if there is added competition on your head keywords, you’re making adjustments consistent with the overall campaign ROI objective

 In summary

 The search ecosystem with its users, advertisers, and even Google will adjust accordingly, and we’ll be watching where this new user experience steers it.  Ultimately, Google Instant is consistent with the goal to connect searchers to the information they’re seeking more quickly.  That is fundamentally why we use search engines.

Categories: Industry

Flash on the iPhone? Don’t hold your breath!

September 10, 2010 1 comment


The lack of Flash support on the iPhone and iPad has meant fewer tools for online advertisers to create compelling advertisements on those platforms.  Recent announcements from both Apple and Adobe indicated a slight thawing in their long-term feud, but unfortunately don’t suggest Flash will be coming to the iPhone or iPad any time soon.

The topic of Flash support on the iPhone has been a contentious one since the phone’s release back in 2007.  The lack of support for Flash was seen as a huge drawback for a device that was obviously positioned as a mobile internet browsing device, given the vast amount of web content that is built on, or using Flash.  In spite of this, the iPhone – and now iPad – have sold well, indicating perhaps that Flash was not as essential to the web as was claimed by some.

Regardless of whether it was good or bad for consumers, Apple’s decision to not support Flash on the iPhone was obviously driven by their need to have tight control over the content available on the iPhone.  As Flash allows applications to be downloaded and run from the web, by allowing Flash on the iPhone Apple would have relinquished all control over content available to users.  Apple has always placed great importance on the user experience their device provides – publishing very detailed “Apple Human Interface Guidelines” since the late ‘80s.  However, putting aside the performance or aesthetic concerns Apple may have – and they are valid to some extent – Apple’s key concern is obviously that Flash is a great threat to the business model they have built their iTunes App store on.

Apple’s decision to not support Flash on the iPhone (and iPad) was obviously a big blow to Adobe, and was followed up by the similarly detrimental announcement in April, 2010, when Apple banned developers from using non-Apple tools to develop applications for the iPhone and iPad (See Article Here).  This latter announcement came from Apple literally days before Adobe was scheduled to release “Flash Professional CS5”, which was to be the debut for their “Packager” feature for converting Flash applications for use on the iPhone or iPad.  With one announcement Apple effectively rendered useless Adobe’s “Packager” feature.

However, this week has seen a reversal on that decision, as Apple just yesterday announced that it would allow iPhone and iPad developers to use third-party tools (See Article Here).  Close on Apple’s heels, Adobe has today announced that they are resuming development on their “Packager” tool (See Article Here).

This is good news for developers of iPhone or iPad applications, as they now have access to more tools to create applications for those platforms, as well as relatively easily transferring their existing Flash application to those platforms.  However, this does not bring us any closer to having support on the iPhone or iPad for Flash itself – given the competition Flash would provide for Apple’s own iTunes App Store, we may never see true Flash support on the iPhone.

So if you hear news or rumors of a thawing in the relationship between Apple and Adobe, don’t get too excited because it does not have an impact on online advertising.  In fact, it’s HTML5 that you should be paying attention to (See MPLX Blog Entry Here). 

Categories: Industry

Saving Too Much on Your Paid Search Campaigns could Cost You a Bundle!

July 12, 2010 13 comments

Those familiar with SEM (Paid Search) and SEO (Natural Search) understand the distinct advantages both can bring to any search engine marketing strategy. Over the years, SEM and SEO have both proven to be effective marketing channels in driving clicks and conversions. In this article I’d like to take closer look at what happens when SEM and SEO converge and attempt to answer this question:

Should you remove pay-per-click keywords that generate Natural Search results from your paid search campaign?

The initial response from some may be, “Of course! Why pay for a click if you can get users to click on the free Natural Search result?” In theory this may sound great, but there are some drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look to understand the potential downside. I’ll frame it by asking two basic questions:

A. What cost savings do I gain by removing paid search keywords that also have natural search results?
B. What are the hidden costs of removing paid search keywords that also have natural search results?

What cost savings do I gain by removing paid search keywords that also have natural search results?

If your business generates both natural and paid search results when a user searches on a particular keyword (e.g. oranges), and users click on the natural search results instead of the paid search results, you then eliminate the cost of that click (e.g. 50¢). Multiply that by the number of clicks the keyword receives (e.g. 25 clicks) and the savings are obvious (25 x 50¢ =$12.50). Make the same calculation for all your keywords that generate natural search results and you have your potential cost savings.

However, don’t remove all keywords which appear in natural search results just yet! The example above assumes that there will be a natural search click after removing a keyword from your paid search campaign. In reality, this will not be the case more often than you might think. I will provide more details on that in the next section.

So then, in which cases can you remove paid search keywords from a campaign and be confident that searchers will continue to click on your natural search results? Removing paid search keywords is probably a good move when you satisfy ALL of the following characteristics:

1. The paid search keyword is an EXACT match type.
2. Your paid search listing is north (stacked above the natural search results)
3. Your natural search listing(s) is in the top position within the natural search results section
4. There are no other competitors appearing as a paid search result for the keyword

These keyword scenarios provide great opportunities for cost savings. Choosing to remove keywords that stray from the above characteristics may give you additional savings, but it’s likely that you’ll also be leaving some of your clicks on the table. It’s important to monitor whether or not your total clicks (across natural search and paid search) are decreasing for these keywords. If they are, you need to be sure the tradeoff with the reduced number of clicks does not affect your conversions, which leads us into the next question.

What are the hidden costs of removing paid search keywords that have natural search results?

If you’re not careful when removing paid search keywords, and simply expect the natural search results to recoup those clicks, the hidden costs can come in the form of lost clicks and conversions. Here are a few ways you might end up leaving conversions on the table:

1. Removing a keyword from paid search can open the door for your competitors

There is the potential here that your competitors will occupy the paid search result that was vacated. This is especially true when the competitor may already occupy the north paid search position (located above the natural search results).

2. Clicks will be lost from paid search results which were not in the top positions

Paid clicks that historically have not come from the very top paid search positions (i.e. position 1 through 6) are likely the result of searchers who canvassed the entire search engine results page and then found your paid search ad and clicked as a result of the compelling nature of the message in your paid search advertisement. Because businesses cannot control the text abstract that appears with natural search results, you should consider whether the small abstract on the natural search results will capture the interest of the users without the tailored message from the paid search advertisement.

3. Loss of exposure from free impressions

The vast majority of search advertisers have their campaigns running on the pay-per-click model. By definition, for any impressions that your keywords generate which do not register a click, there is no financial cost. Removing those keywords from your paid search campaigns will eliminate all the impressions that were potentially generating free brand awareness, and any searchers who clicked only because of the more frequent exposure to the advertisement.

In conclusion – Proceed with caution!

The savings from removing paid keywords are obvious: no click on a paid search result means zero cost. However, before removing these paid keywords, you really want to consider how likely you’ll be able to recover that potential click from only the natural search results. Individually evaluate the tradeoffs for keywords that you consider removing, and ensure you have a tracking system, such as MOJO SEM and Mediaplex Natural Search, in place to understand if you’re still capturing clicks and conversions through the natural search results for each keyword you remove from your paid search campaign. If not done properly, your initial cost savings may turn into a larger loss to your bottom line.

Categories: Industry
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