Transparency issues in ad tech industry highlighted during Programmatic Media Summit

Let me preface this article by saying I have worked with a number of ad tech vendors, doing some stellar work for clients.

But despite having worked in the industry for the last seven years, there remain problems. Long argued issues of brand safety, measurement and an overall lack of transparency in the process of digital ad buying has followed the media narrative around programmatic for much of the last decade. Since 2011 we’ve seen articles like this one from Digiday on the ‘wild west’ of ad tech. But a year of acquisitions has narrowed the ad tech pool of players – and a noticeable shift to reposition as martech companies has been accompanied by increased conversations of education and adding demonstrable business value.

Well Sydney’s ICC played host to some of the industry’s foremost thinkers in the space at last week’s Ashton Programmatic Summit.

To give a little context, it’s well worth, seeing the opening remarks from the IAB’s Vijay Solanki here.

And for further insight on transparency issues, which were highlighted during the event, see Which-50 cover story from Andrew Birmingham in his post here.

In an effort to address the ad fraud, Ad News reports that App Nexus is enforcing ads.txt which it explains: “The IAB’s ads.txt protocol is an effort to crack down on ad fraud in programmatic trading. It makes it much more difficult for fraudsters to commit domain spoofing, where imitation domains mimic premium publisher’s URLs to trick buyers into buying inventory from an unrelated site.”

During the event, Danielle Uskovic, head of digital APAC for Lenovo pointed to the success in the last 10 years of programmatic, going on to claim it’s the future for all media buying “From print to billboard to radio and TV, it’s all going to be served programmatically – so it’s time to embrace it. It’s time to realise that this is the future.”

Uskovic went on to call out naysayers of ad tech, covered by Ad News, to which Mark Ritson has replied in the comments and points out the industry needs to address issues within the ‘murky’ (P&G’s Marc Pritchard’s wording) value chain.

Infamously sceptical about the effectiveness of digital media, Ritson has dedicated his weekly column in The Aus to highlight the discrepancy in margins for media agencies between digital ad buys (typically 7-10 per cent across the duopoly of Facebook/Google) over traditional media (often just 3 per cent for TV, OOH, radio, etc).

The debate is not going away any time soon as industry events will continue to build on the tension between the diametrically opposed Jason Pellegrino from Google and adjunct business professor Mark Ritson.

Mobile World Copycat – Android competitors mirroring the good and bad from Apple

Barcelona was the destination for most in the world of tech this week, as Mobile World Congress was in session.

But most of the media was underwhelmed by the hardwares on offer.

Indeed Fast Company reports that phone makers are embarrassing themselves by coping Apple’s ideas, as we move towards a future with features ubiquitous across devices.

Following on, The Verge gives the best and worst from the event and explains why the future of mobile is more notches than headphone jacks.

5G was on the lips of most speakers though, as Chinese manufacturer Huawei announced a partnership with BT to bring the technology to customers in the UK, as ZDNet reports.

In a look to what comes after mobile, The Register weighs up options from this year’s event, mainly looking at the impact of AI.

The best of CES – ‘ingredient technologies’ and 5G to expand most industries say CTA tech analysts

The annual tech and gadget pilgrimage to the desert took place last week.

Drones, unnecessary connected devices among some pretty cool and innovative tech.

To discover the real insights behind the event, head over to Juniper Research where there’s a 30 page report on the impact of ‘ingredient technologies’ from CES, ‘those that glue the industry together’ (5G, AI, IoT, mixed realities, AR, VR, etc). It can be read in full here

It’s the first year Google has set up shop at the event – billed as a VAS (voice activated services) battle of epic proportions as the Californian behemoth went up against Amazon which has been at the festival for many years through its cloud offerings. Sahil Patel explains more on Digiday.

Despite a biblical downpour on the first day, Google’s pop-up demo tent received a visit from TechCrunch’s Tito Hamze and you can see what he experienced here.

To read more on the Consumer Technology Association’s 2018 predictions, head to VentureBeat as Dean Takahashi reports from Las Vegas.

Oh and the lights went out. At an electronics festival. The irony was not lost on social media. Engadget with the update and the best Twitter could capture.

ICOs overtake venture capital funds bit by bit

bitcoin, ICO,

This article was originally published in The Australian

Their credit cards were maxed out. They owed tens of thousands of dollars and needed publicity.

So Brian Chesky and co-founders spent their last dollars on making political-themed cereal boxes around the Obama/McCain election.

This PR stunt catapulted Airbnb into the mainstream. Silicon Valley is littered with serendipitous stories of investment — yet now the process is being democratised through technology. Blockchain is shifting access to capital.

At its simplest, blockchain is a record of who owns what. It’s a digital ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, and is now being used by entrepreneurs to raise funds.

In the first half of the year, Goldman Sachs found the pace of investments in initial coin offerings (ICOs) has for the first time overtaken traditional venture capital (VC) funding for early and seed stage.

But why would an entrepreneur today choose this type of funding?

There’s less rigorous pitching required. No Shark Tank style grillings from potential investors. Instead a more serene crowd-funding Kickstarter approach with tokens offered for those investing. The value of the token is dependent on its scarcity but also the demand for that currency, the more businesses that are built using the same blockchain, the higher the demand.

And it’s quick too. Having an idea, taking it to market and letting the crowd decide, can be much faster than waiting for an Andreessen Horowitz to sign on the dotted line. However, traditional VC/accelerator routes do give access to networking, and mentors.

So how do you successfully go about it? First, you need a good idea. You then have to plan how you’re going to get people interested. If you’re in infrastructure you’ll have some competition as 35 per cent of the 234 ICOs this year have been in that sector according to CoinSchedule.

Will your coin be used as currency, only aiming to store value like bitcoin, litecoin or dash? Or will it become a platform, like Ethereum or NEO, where it will not only store value but also be a programmable currency that powers a blockchain’s unique function? Or even a subcategory of platform know as “product coins” like Golem and Sia, where the coins are used to access one thing that blockchain specifically offers.

Once that’s decided, you’ll need to set up the back-end for your denominated coins to be distributed to investors and managed on exchanges where they can be freely traded. Smart Contracts cut out the middlemen. They allow all of the ­financial aspects of an investment, to be coded and run automatically. Ethereum has lowered the barrier to entry by providing a platform that enables anyone to develop their own coin without having to implement their own blockchain.

Often you don’t need a minimum viable product or prototype, with founders opting for a white paper to outline their vision and what investors can expect. Many point to the lack of regulation and protection for would-be investors — no formal “equity” is given, leading to commentators referring to it as the “wild west” of investment. Scams are commonplace.

But stricter regulation is coming. China’s recent ban for start-ups choosing this route will ultimately pave the way for a more robust industry. To ensure both you and your investors are protected, it’s worth seeking legal counsel on the technical set-up of your ICO.

Will Apple’s ARKit help augmented reality reach mainstream audiences?

AR. A technology that’s been around for decades.

But last summer’s Pokemon Go craze provided a new stage.

It placed AR in the hands of people who had never heard the term. Overnight fame. However I can’t help feeling the limelight hasn’t quite been capitalised on.

This could change in the coming weeks.

I’m not a developer. Which is why I sought advice from three minds much more expert than myself to ask what impact they thought, ARKit could have on the adoption of the technology.

What is ARKit?

Well back in June, at Apple’s annual week long geekout, also known as WWDC (worldwide developers’ conference), it confirmed a new “fast and stable motion tracking” SDK for iOS11. Essentially the building blocks for apps that allow objects to look real when using the technology on your phone or tablet.

Since then developers have had a chance to play with this toolkit and the results seem stunning.

Are you not entertained?

Apple already enlisted A-list creative talent to illustrate its potential. Cue Sir Peter Jackson…

So from an entertainment point of view you can see the benefit.

Previously AR has needed triggers to launch the experience. For example Fox Sports Bathurst 1000 race last year allowed viewers to beam the race direct to their coffee table thanks to studio Mod, a Sydney based agency headed by Michela Ledwidge.

However both ARKit, and Google’s recently announced competitor ARCore, strip out that need. Just point and go. No longer do you need a QR code-like mapping point to get the technology started.

Co-founder of Sydney’s women in AR/VR group, Ledwidge believes “AR is a great opportunity, if you have the assets”.

Both Apple and Google now think the time is right for pooling resources into the tech. Google has come out with its jumpstart for developers, ahead of its second handset launch Pixel 2 on October 6.

Style over function

However one of the accusations has been that AR, looks impressive, but lacks real world use. A gimmick.

Speaking with Chris Panzetta, head of creative tech agency S1T2, he’s measured in his excitement about the upcoming updates as he believes we have a way to go before it’s taken beyond just a novelty.

“What ARKit and ARCore are going to do is democratise the technology”. He says that we’ll need to forget about the technology first, to then realise its full potential and what it could be used for. He hopes the way we reference it will change, much in the same way the term digital is now slowly becoming obsolete (you no longer need a digital strategy, but a strategy for a digital world – as argued by Tom Goodwin years ago).

Looking to take the tech beyond ‘fad’ status, the new Neon AR app, made with ARKit, has put together possibly my favourite problem-solving use case. It overlays a neon sign above your friends in a crowd.

Imagine the benefit at festivals. Hopefully coming to Australia in time for Falls fest.

There’s a lot still holding back the tech. Battery life, processing power, not to mention the social issues around mixed reality and someone wearing a headset that could potentially be filming you (not something that has held Air New Zealand back mind you).

The backlash against ‘Glassholes’ still lingers in the memory. Although it’s interesting to see that technology get a recent rebirth in the business enterprise sector.

AR at work

And perhaps that’s where the potential for AR exists too. Construction and floor plans brought to life for architects. Agricultural planning with real-time data on a headset. This mixed reality future already exists and is helping the thriving agritech scene.

A showroom with no cars? Well GM is already taking the showroom to you.

Rob Lang, CEO of AR outfit Auggd has seen these differing sectors reflected in his clientbase. Just last week the company released this fantastic experience for Hyundai, giving car buyers extra info, like difficult to explain animated safety features, customisable colours and versions of its vehicles.

This is just the beginning

All of the people I spoke to were quick to say that it’s great to have their technology potentially in the hands of more consumers. And more importantly developers.

But you still need a good idea at the centre. S1T2’s Panzetta claims “if it doesn’t require a super mega brand for it” to work, then it might be worth pursuing.

“We’re only at the start of a technology here, that’s been around for 20 to 30 years” according to Rob Lang from Auggd. It’s going to be up to the developers and those in the industry to prove its value.

So while AR may not be catapulted to top of our tech habits with this update, analyst firm Telyste thinks it will be enough for Apple to regain its crown as number one phone maker in Australia for the first time since 2014.

Has Aussie creativity lost its edge?

OMA asked Ali Tilling, Simon Fowler, Andrew Howie and Carmen Bekker about their thoughts

Pier One provided the rather opulent Harbour setting for my breakfast this morning, kindly laid on by the folks at the Outdoor Media Association. What got me out for a 7am start, apart from free bacon and eggs? The chance to hear some of the industry’s best debating the relative strength globally of the Australian creative industry.

Contending that we’d commercially fallen behind the rest of the world were ex-JWT Carmen Bekker and Meat & Livestock marketer Andrew Howie. His tagline-laced trip down 80/90’s ad memory lane, helped laugh off any potential for yawning. Kiwi Simon Fowler from WithCollective and Brit Ali Tilling from BMF offered their rebuttal.

    Talent Drain

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but it is an important one. Carmen highlighted that unless Australia can attract and retain the best talent, there are plenty more hotbeds that can offer greater access to global accounts. And it’s that struggle to export work beyond these shores that is often a problem. Advertising at its best celebrates diversity, in thought, culture and background. We need to ensure this is a great place to work so…

    “Don’t let the bland and mediocre run us”

Charmaine Moldrich from OMA spoke of her recent trip to a Swedish creativity awards, and the strength of European work compared with Australia. The depth of great work across Europe is very apparent. “It shouldn’t only be judged on awards, but the level underneath that.”
And inevitably the issue of Sportsbet’s ‘Putting the Roid in Android’ ad came up. In this PR’s opinion a genuinely great ad, that was clearly never meant as anything other than tongue in cheek. I haven’t heard moral compass used as a justification since Tony Blair in 2003.

MLA’s always humourous Andrew Howie, called it: “Australian’s aren’t funny anymore. There’s been a rise in a group I call the ‘Concerned Australian’ who are bothered on behalf of others…for our MLA ad only about 6 of the 746 complaints were valid”, the rest were those appalled on behalf of vegans.

    We need more Lions

Cannes based ones are great, but outside of awards, it’s the everyday bravery of marketers that will get more effective ideas across the line. It takes a brave marketer to trust that daring creative ideas will work for their brand. And agencies have a role to play. An intense level of ROI is needed according to ex-JWT Carmen Bakker, “We need to give marketers the tools to prove that it works, give them the results to be sat at the top table”.
Being ex-agency it’s perhaps easier for MLA’s Howie to accuse most marketers of being ‘shit’. But his reasoning is right, most swim in the middle of the pack, because it’s safe.

    The three P’s

Pitching. Price. And procurement. The increasing role of procurement in the pitch process is potentially dangerous, as decisions may come down to simply price. Not only that but it’s damaging to the industry to have the incessant pitching culture where IP is often given away. All panelists were against this increasing trend. As BMF’s Ali Tilling pointed out, the tenure of CMO’s is continually shortening, averaging just 14 months now. It’s difficult to have the trust need to back creative execution if most don’t get to see a second Australia Day. The creative culture from that perspective needs fixing.

    Data, Insight, Strategy

If the CEO understands the insight, informed by the data, then he/she can explain the strategy. Simon Fowler of WithCollective claimed that we need clients to “buy the logic” behind the magic (aka strategy). And if they understand the strategy it doesn’t matter what the creative is said Howie. “My CEO can simply know that lamb brings people together” whether that strategy means sponsoring Pride or running ads helicoptering Mitchell Johnson from a sun-lounger in Bali for Australia Day.

The Twitter poll on the day agreed that Australia had lost its edge, but there is a lot of great work being produced. It could always be more effective though, measuring business impact of campaigns. Howie’s marketing approach seems obvious, but let’s ensure creative, media and PR are briefed together to allow each to contribute to the success of a campaign idea. Which in turn will hopefully mean the channel is less debated and important, as long as the audience is being reach in the most appropriate platform, be it outdoor, TV or Snapchat.

Australia’s largest IT and tech event CeBit comes to Sydney

This week Commswork went along to CeBit.

In the cavernous new ICC venue in Darling Harbour, those from the government, education, digital, cloud, fin tech, security and technology space came to discuss and exhibit under one massive roof.

There were a host of panel sessions and key notes from Eugene Kaspersky, NASA’s Dennis Andrucyk, Randi Zuckerberg, WIRED’s Greg Williams, Nick Kaye, Naomi Simpson, Daniel Newman and Nicholas Davis from the World Economic Forum Geneva.

As reported by GovNews, the federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos was on hand to play down the loss of jobs to technology, but without much conviction:

“I know some people now ask ‘should we be a bit scared because innovation means that jobs are going in some areas’, but jobs are growing in others. There are jobs being created today that we have no idea. This is the lesson of history. This is the lesson of technological progress. We have to be optimists.”

Earlier in the week NSW Innovation Minister Matt Kean and Federal Trade Minister Ciobo announced applications to Austrade’s second cohort of Landing Pad startups to visit Tel Aviv is now open, as covered by Innovation Aus.

A good summary of the driverless cars, robots, remote working technology and VR on offer can be found on

For a better idea of what the stands looked like, CRN has a photo gallery.

And finally Chris Griffiths from The Aus spoke with the man behind Worker Clicks, the video chat pods dotted around the conference, helping to navigate those who were lost.

Until next year CeBit.

A brief summary from IAB Sports in Digital Media event

Earlier in the week I attended IAB Australia’s first foray into the sports world. Discussing sports in digital media we had Nine Entertainment, Nielsen and Seven West Media at host Telstra.

First up. Big news for rugby league supporters. The announcement of a new app from Channel Nine and the NRL. What does this mean? In short, viewers will have “greater access to what players go through”. Live stats, powered by Catapult Sports, to accompany the game. And what a game to debut in. Launch will be Game I of the State of Origin series. To find out more Mumbrella spoke to those behind the project.

The wearable GPS technology, once considered the realm of just coaches, will provide fans analysis, like distances covered, while the match is happening. Time-syncing will allow you to go back and find out the heart rate of players like Mitchell Pearce while in the tackle. We can’t wait. Let’s just hope the ‘Datatainment’ description for the product doesn’t catch on.

Sam Brennan went on to explain how Nine segments its audience into 30 profiles, “an important tool for customers to optimise campaigns”. One for the media agency planners. While mainly used to better understand behaviour patterns, this also “influences our content pipeline” said Brennan.

Not to be outdone, Seven had its own nuggets to take away. CDO Clive Dickens said the organisation is focused on growing ‘Total Video’ audiences, (SVOD, streaming with the main slice still being linear TV). Which-50 explains what that means in greater detail.

One of the surprising stats was that Seven’s streaming of the Melbourne Cup achieved more traffic at race time, than the rest of the internet combined! Admittedly this was just on Telstra’s network. But still impressive. And for him it’s about growing all audiences, reaching those which might not traditionally have tuned in had it not been for digital. “Powerful stories raise all of the boats” as illustrated when Dickens added that while digital represented only 3% of Seven’s total audience for the Olympics, that still equates to two week’s worth of Home & Away viewers.

Thanks very much to IAB Australia for having us along.

Nike’s ‘Breaking2’ marathon project is marketing…at its very best

It was the attempt that almost never happened. Gusting winds and showers left conditions less than perfect. But as the sun was sinking in the Oxford sky, Roger Bannister informed his pace-setters they’d go for the record. And two years after the disappointment of Olympic fourth, he achieved what others had deemed impossible. Bannister became the first human to run a mile in under four minutes.

Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile on May 6, 1954. “It just didn’t seem to be capable of being broken,” he said. Credit Associated Press

Today, on the 63rd anniversary of the ‘dream mile’, three athletes will attempt to break the next magical figure in distance running, as they battle to complete a marathon in under two hours.

Speaking on this barrier in 2014, Bannister told the NY Times that with the right temperature, wind conditions and on a course that wasn’t too hilly it would be possible. “It’ll be done”, he predicted.

Conscious of controlling those variables, the Breaking2 campaign from Nike has been years in the making.

Today sport tech companies like Catapult Sports can use sensors (wearable tech) to monitor the body’s response to environments. The results can be automated using machine learning to predict when/what an athlete should drink to improve performance. Predictive analytics also selected 5.45am on the Monza asphalt racing track in Italy, to give the athletes’ bodies the best chance to regulate their own temperature.

The conditions too played a role in Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump, a similar project in pushing human capabilities, which was funded by Red Bull in 2012. The energy drink this month making headlines for the success of its RB Leipzig football team.

Source Velocity Sports Equipment

Now despite claims to the contrary, just as with Red Bull Stratos, this initiative from the apparel brand is just part of its marketing. The ‘Moonshot’ project, namesake seemingly to Google’s ‘moonshot factory’, is another way to sell shoes. As the effectiveness of traditional channels is questioned and adblocking levels rise, marketers are increasingly turning to owned and earned media.

Nike has created an event which inspires human evolution, at least in distance running, while showcasing its Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoe. And all the while garnering the attention of the media but also its punters. The ‘live-streaming’ mechanism drives traffic to its site and the potentially historic content itself demands that its shared. It will achieve metrics many digital campaigns would run an ultra-marathon for.

This week self-proclaimed futurist, Anders Sörman-Nilsson, spoke at Orcale’s modern business event, remarking that with Nike+ the sportswear brand had transitioned from the experience economy to the transformation economy. An app with advice, planning tools and even a soundtrack to your marathon run. Yes and e-commerce functionality too.

When you take the jargon out, he’s probably right. Nike is aiming to associate itself with the positive changes you make to your body and life, by offering the tools to get there – aided slightly by psychological grooming, using the Proteus effect (a shift in your behaviour after seeing a future digital representation of yourself).

Nike is changing the way it reaches its audience. But whether the record goes today or not, the media attention and free promotion of Nike’s latest product has been worth the investment in the athletes making this historic attempt.

And if it comes off, will we remember the name like Roger Bannister in 60+ years time? Or will Nike be the one that comes to mind instead of Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa or Zersenay Tadese?

Lessons in PR crisis management from United Airlines CEO – Communicator of the Year

Liam Fitzpatrick, Communications Consultant, asks what B2B Australian marketers can take from the latest United Airlines brand crisis

Over the last 24 hours United Airlines has become the most talked about brand globally. Viral videos. Trending on social media. However for CEO Oscar Munoz, recently crowned Communicator of the Year, it was for all the wrong reasons.

In short, United overbooked its flight from Chicago to Louisville. To accommodate its four additional travelling airline personnel, compensation was offered to randomly-selected ‘volunteers’ already on the plane. Three out of the four accepted, a doctor refused. In line with company procedure, Aviation Security Officers physically removed this customer.

Disturbing camera phone footage of the incident shows the officers assaulting the man before dragging him from his seat through the aisle of the plane. Very far from the customer experience most would expect.

A shot at redemption though lie in United’s response to the events. It was a chance to demonstrate the company’s values in full view of the world.

Which is why it was a little surprising that someone awarded for his aptitude in this area, failed to show any empathy and ended up sounding like a robotic lawyer.

He talks of how upsetting it was for ‘all of us here at United’. But when your company causes distress and physical harm to your customers you should apologise to them – both to those directly affected and to those who witnessed the events. The statement feels cold, it passes on blame and comes across as unrepentant. Where is the commitment to reform?

For those of us in Australian comms it brings a reminder of how not to respond in a crisis. Here are five simple rules to remember:

1) No brand story is local. These events may have taken place in Chicago, but with global media reporting on the story and international online petitions, it’s clear your customers don’t follow your domestic boundaries.

2) Heads will roll. Your first statement is a chance to show you understand the gravity of a situation and you’re doing everything in your power to resolve it. The CEO’s apology for having to ‘reaccomodate’ passengers feels as if it came from his legal team – it lacks appreciation for what has happened to one of his customers. We’re all human, so when seeking forgiveness, it’s appropriate to speak like one.

3) Own the situation. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. And when overseeing any incident it’s vital you have all of the information possible before engaging in comms internally or externally. It will allow you to answer questions, alleviate concerns and appear like you care. It will also prevent you having to use the phrase ‘while the facts are still evolving’ in a letter to your employees a day later.

4) Communication lines are vital. Open dialogue shows a company willing to be transparent with its customers, as opposed to one which refuses to comment on a situation even deferring to a police department not even involved in the incident. You should demand information from all sides, not just your own, to find out what happened. That way your resolution can at least appear informed.

5) Live your values. If your customer commitment says you will notify travel itinerary changes in a timely manner, probably best not to be asking those sat on a plane to get off and wait for another flight tomorrow. This is a chance to investigate your procedures, make changes, and ensure there’s no repeat of these events. Time to publicly demonstrate your company values, instead of paying them lip-service at the end of a statement.

Update: United Airlines had to expect a reaction from competition and here it is:

Further Update: Someone managed to convince United to actually apologise and set a timetable for investigating how they screwed up and how they will change procedure. $1bn wiped off market value and all a little too late.