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Mobile Fix – April 28


One of the (many) dirty secrets of digital advertising is that it is often just a bit slow. Despite all the talk about real time and on demand, often the ads just don’t arrive in time. Try any of the newspaper mobile home pages; usually the page loads, with some blocks of empty space in between the stories and – after a second or two – the label advertisement appears, then the adchoices logo and, finally, the ad. But it’s very likely the viewer has moved on by then.

So depending on how good your ad tech value chain is, your partners viewability police should mean you don’t pay for that ad. But even if the brand doesn’t pay (and it’s worth checking) the media owner has lost potential revenue.

In Flash Boys Michael Lewis talks of people in Wall Street building cables in straight lines so as to maximise the speed of the connection as even milliseconds can make a difference in flash trading of stocks. London traders have been trying to do something similar in Kent with masts the same height as the Shard.

This chart from the economist shows the speed of financial trading – the Nasdaq trades are happening in 177 Microseconds and London and Australia in 3 milliseconds.

For adtech the speed is somewhat different - around 200 milliseconds;

Ads used to load before content in some cases but recognizing that they can slow down the page load, many now load the content first and then the ads.

Both Google and Facebook have been trying to speed things up for content with AMP and Instant Articles and now the Washington Post has a new tech that guarantees all ads are loaded within 2 seconds. And, in an approach that may well be influenced by sharing an owner with Amazon, they are making the tech available to other publishers.

As the plumbing in ad tech evolves we wonder whether speed will become more of an issue. The desire to see the widest set of bids has lead to the rapid adoption of Header Bidding (explained well here) which has many advantages, but can slow down the ad process.

As publishers only get paid for ads that are viewable could we see faster loading ads preferred over better priced ones, as that approach maximizes actual revenue? The Google work on AMP ads is interesting – and explained well here – but not sure how well used this is at the moment?

If we take the transformation of the stock market by tech as an indication of how adtech will evolve – although people wandering in and out of 4G or wifi coverage on their iPhone is quite different to a Bloomberg terminal anchored to a fixed connection - we should expect speed to become a competitive advantage at some point.

And if faster speed means lower priced ads winning more auctions because they will meet viewability – and therefore deliver more revenue, there is a business model that could potentially fund the faster plumbing. Maybe AdTech investment isn’t over just yet.


At the excellent Rutberg event we participated in this week, one of the recurring themes was video – and the likely impact on the various parts of the mobile ecology. A number of the speakers talked about how they were seeing their kids move away from the TV to watching on their own devices. One memorably put it;

My TV is increasingly like the home phone. It gets ignored..

New research from Accenture supports this with data showing that the number of people preferring to watch TV shows on the TV halved from 52% to 23% in one year.

Now, with Netflix and Amazon there has never been more great stuff to watch and as very senior people from P&G and Unilever stressed at Rutberg, TV is still a great way to shift consumer goods. And we have always believed people will gravitate to the screen that best suits them. For me that’s usually a 50 inch LG with Chromecast and a Firestick as well as Sky – and NowTV for the Leeds games. For my kids it’s often the iPad in the bedroom.

The question isn’t about the screen or the programmes. Nor is it really about which platform delivers the programme to the screen. It is about scheduled TV versus on demand. And then how the ads that funds most of that content gets bought and sold.

Right now most TV spend of the type P&G and Unilever are talking about is in linear TV and so goes to ITV or ABC etc. As more and more content is consumed on demand, then the platforms delivering that will get their act together on ads. And start to make inroads into traditional TV budgets. And as GAFA moves into live content like sports they will take money too.

So we may have passed PeakTV in the old sense – ITV revenue is down so far this year. And P&G are looking to save $1bn on their media – some of that has to come from legacy media.

The push into more targeted TV is gaining momentum. Sky AdSmart has been growing its brand count with more campaigns targeted by both postcode and other data sources – and they are about to partner with Virgin which will increase the reach. Channel5 and MTV are also on the system and Sky plan to grow their ad revenue to $1bn by 2020.

Google think its time to get back involved too – they now offer programmatic TV buying though Doubleclick. It’s early days but brands can now construct a plan that marries the power of video with smart targeting and significant reach.

The big shift needed though is to evolve what the ads look like. Despite all the changes in targeting, delivery platforms and sellers the ads still tend to look like TV ads – and, unfortunately, in too many cases they are TV ads.

It is changing, with Instagram and Snap testing shoppable videos and our friends at Wirewax offering something similar. Playrcart is getting great traction selling movie tickets from their ads showing trailers and PhotoSpire enables each video to be personalised using the targeting data. Can we make the creative move as fast as the media?

Quick Reads

We are not keen on the term Influencers as it reduces generally talented people to mere pluggers of products– just like labeling people as consumers contorts how you think ads should address them. The key attribute is their devotion to a platform. So disciple works better for us. But any way, the rules and regulations ate getting tougher - in the US the FTC has been contacting Instagram stars asking them to disclose when posts have been paid for by brands.

The Guardian has pulled out of Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. The revenues haven’t met expectations and it seems more publishers want to deal direct with those who want to reach their audience.

Online shopping isn’t always the best deal – the same tech used to serve up relevant products may also be gaming you on the price. An essential read, which also mentions our favourite story of data driven decisions going wrong – the Amazon book which was (briefly) priced at $24million. It didn’t sell.

Uber upset Apple with the way they try and deal with people who delete their app and reinstall to game the promotions. The PR came out really badly for Uber though

Instagram now has 700m daily active users – up 100m in the last 4 months

We missed the latest Jeff Bezos letter to Amazon shareholders but it’s a must read.

One of the key people behind the ad success at Facebook and Snap makes the great point that what you can measure drives what you build. Really interesting thinking.

Finally…. The Don of digital design Luke Wroblewski spoke at the Google conversion event in Dublin recently and the talk is a must watch. I spoke at the same event a couple of years ago - when Luke also spoke - and was staggered at just how useful hearing Luke is. This is a 3 hour video but I promise you will learn good stuff, so it is worth making the time to watch.

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