Archives for posts with tag: Forbes


Personalization is all around us. Especially online, where companies retarget people with banner ads, bid on competitor terms or even follow prospects who didn’t click on an ad by figuring out a lot about who the possible prospects are. A few years ago, when brands wanted to communicate with C-executives, companies had to run a few hundred thousand banners on a WSJ or Forbes section, read heavily by executives and pay the price of two Ferraris. Then brands tagged the computers of these executives to serve more impressions downstream, for the price of a used Honda Accord.

Suddenly, the audience of Forbes and WSJ was addressable through cheaper means, slashing media costs, aligning offers with the target and making content on high-end sites less valuable.

Personalization lifts response.

Or does it?

Personalization assumes that an offer with high relevance, based on your unique needs, will get your attention, convert you easier to a sale, and keep you as a loyal customer.

It can work. And I’ve seen it work pretty well. Still, personalization is only one aspect of three major pillars of competition: Perceived value and product. Most husbands love their wives but many of them still chase younger girlfriends. Or boyfriends. Apple couldn’t care less about personalization, they make their profit through product design, selling out new computers/phones in a day or so. All of us want a better perceived value (deals) and cool products – personalization can’t help to achieve any of these goals.

Personalization is for generic or necessary sales. It’s not for market revolutions.

Show me the person who yelled out: “I need to get this minivan.” and I’ll buy you three drinks. Nobody screams in delight: “I need to buy this DVD player.”

Market revolutions have high margins because they all have high perceived value and amazing product design. The personalization happens in the head of the customer. They adjust to the cool new product by suddenly being so much more hip.

Here’s a dirty little secret: Advertising makes tons of money off waste.

The average American watches 5 hours of TV each day. Let’s say 30 minutes of that time is advertising. If all of us would suddenly get only personalized ads, the advertising time would be cut down to 10 minutes or the average American would see the same commercials over and over again. Making advertising less valuable and profitable. The advertising industry thrives on waste. True targeting on TV would erase billions of dollars. Just like it did in the digital marketing world. Ask Forbes.

The real problem with personalization.

Human beings are not unique data sets. While I love the personalization of Amazon and Netflix, it also frustrates me to no end because I chose products for others. My kid’s birthday is only once a year and I don’t need to see the newest Lego set as a recommendation each and every day. I wish personalization offers would come bundled with a modality dial: Today I’m shopping as me. Tomorrow I’m shopping as a dad. In 2 weeks I’m shopping as a husband. That’s easy. It’s harder when it comes to my personal preferences: 2 days ago I was a Kings fan. Yesterday I was interested in technology. Tonight I am a German soccer fan. I have no clue who I’m going to be tomorrow, what I will be interested in, what might peak my interest.

We are human beings: Non-linear, all over the place, integrating a multitude of interests.

We’ll keep trying. Still, it remains a sisyphean task. Advertising was always “Spray and Pray”. We used to have 100 bullets to spray. Now we have 103 bullets.

We have to do better.


Yahoo!, the last traditional media company, is in deep trouble. Just like AOL, MSN and – dinosaurs founded in a time where media agencies had to manage scarcity. The Yahoo! Homepage used to be part of a digital media plan just like buying commercials during the NFL season for beer brands. Two things changed: ad networks, DSP’s and ad exchanges changed the focus of media agencies from placement buying to audience buying. And, more importantly, people are less interested in reading professional content and pay more attention to content created by their friends.

What is Yahoo’s response to a changed marketplace and customer behavior?

More content, more video, more, more, more. I wonder if Albert Einstein’s “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” has become Yahoo’s mission statement. More is not the answer. Traditional media companies will never be able to compete with the amount of content created on Social Networks, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Blogs, sites, Tumblr, etc. I’m not predicting the death of Yahoo!, nothing ever dies. VCR’s are still flashing “12:00” in millions of households, papers are being delivered to millions of door steps each morning and millions of faxes are being delivered each week. It took decades after the telegraph

was invented until the last telegraph was sent. (January 27, 2006, to be exact.) Yahoo! will be around for a long time to come. More irrelevant and less valuable by the day.

The demise of Yahoo! points to an important development

Online advertising is in the middle of a radical evolution but the majority of agencies/brands are acting as if it was still 2005. During that period, the majority of digital marketers were complaining about silos and the fact that they were cut off from the traditional campaign. Digital advertising had no place at the table and was not more than an afterthought: “Make sure the banner ad looks like the commercial.”

The disconnect is now between display advertising and social media

I see more integration between TV/Print campaigns and Social Media compared to Display Advertising and Social Media. The challenge is that Display Advertising continues to be deeply anchored in the world of Direct Marketing, creating a massive disconnect between that display advertising and Social Media. When your goal is to convert prospects into leads, a Social Media integration seems nothing than a silly distraction. Or, is it?

We’re reliving 2005 in the display advertising space: SEM/SEO is always at the table, Social Media the hot new toy and display advertising was relegated to the basement and algorithms.

What is the remaining value of media buying agencies?

The agency role in this new ecosystem will be re-evaluated by brands. The main challenge for media buying agencies will be their unique value proposition. It used to be access, buying power and custom tools. That competitive advantage is slowly disappearing because content created outside of traditional media properties gains importance and relevance over time.

The secondary challenge is the lack of trusted measurements. Ask 100,000 marketers about trusted and reliable measurements and you will get 150,000 answers. Is it impressions, clicks, conversions, engagement, connections – what the hell is it? It’s a lack of industry leadership but also a lack of confidence by agencies based on the fickle brands. “Oh, you focus on conversions? Sure, we can do that.”

Sorry, I don’t know the answer. I just have a lot of questions.

The marketing landscape continues to evolve rapidly. We’re still trying to answer the questions of 2005, while our clients expect us to answer the questions of 2012. As a industry, we need to find better ways to measure, to attribute and to communicate our value proposition to clients.

The conference season is upon us. I hope we can spend less time talking about case studies and acting as if we knew the answers. Instead, let’s ask more questions.