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Mobile Fix – September 18

Walled Gardens

At the excellent ATS conference this week one of the speakers was from Facebook’s Atlas and the Twitter feedback to their session lamented the fact they perhaps pitched a little hard. And there was a fair bit of muttering about Walled Gardens

The walled garden analogy dates back to the mid 90s when AOL, Prodigy Compuserve etc tried to keep users on their platform rather than letting them wander around the Wild West of the web. We have long seen GAFA as vertical stacks, seeking to offer whatever users may want to minimise the time they spend with the others. But they have been full of links to other content across the web. Now they are encouraging content owners to embed their content within GAFA – Facebook articles, Apple News and Googles emerging partnership with Twitter

We used the Sky analogy last week. Just as TV channels rely on Sky or cable companies to manage the distribution of their content so too could publishers outsource this to GAFA. In a workshop with a major publisher we described this as essentially free marketing, to a vast audience, with a new revenue stream. Of course there is the fear that in the future the favourable terms offered will be substituted for more draconian ones and publishers who have become addicted to this distribution are stuck – but another senior publisher tells us he thinks regulators will prevent this happening. And if/when Ad Blocking decimates web revenues, what’s the alternative for content producers?

There is a certain irony that Apple are facilitating this year zero approach with ios9 and the launch of Apple News – yet it could enable them to reenter the ads market as a big player. If you go into settings on ios9 and click on privacy right at the end – you need to scroll down to see it - there is a link termed Advertising. Click on that and you see that Limit Ad Tracking is pre selected – but below is a line of text in a smaller font saying About Advertising & Privacy. Click on this and you get to the long list of ways that iAds will track you – name and address, downloads, the content you read or listen to etc. Really worth reading, as it sounds quite a lot like the sort of data Google or Facebook use to target ads. The last line of the Apple verbiage says it all; If you enable Limit Ad Tracking you may still receive the same number of ads, but the ads may be less relevant to you.

(One other quick thought – could iAds embrace Peeking and Popping – I can see really interesting ad formats could be developed using these )

The real arguments about Walled Gardens are no longer really about content, but about the ability to take the data that GAFA have on you and use that elsewhere. Atlas lets brands use their learnings from Facebook –including targetting individuals - across the web (with good effect according to the ATS presentation) But they don’t allow other DMPs to see or use that data.

To us that seems like good business – why share your advantage with others? And it also respects users data. The head of Atlas makes this point – again - here. The huge advantage of GAFA is perpetually logged in users that enables cross device and cross session tracking. People stay logged in as they trust the platform, but that trust is easily eroded. That’s going to be the big test for the Mobile Network Operators as they start to take advertising seriously – they have great data and a perpetual logged in connection, but do their users really understand that? Verizon are the canary in this particular mine and they are investing heavily with the acquisition of AOL and Millennial.

Ad Blocking

So ios9 is out and judging by Twitter lots of people have jumped in to play with ad blocking. And the AppStore has a number of paid for apps that facilitate ad blocking – with a couple making the top 20. Peace from the creator of instapaper seems the best but paying for something that eliminates payment for someone else seems a bit mercenary. The guy who built Peace makes his case here. We are not convinced.

So it's game on. There is more and more evidence of the problems with tracking and intrusive ads - including video

Serendipitously, whilst following the ups and downs of Leeds United this week on mobile I have made numerous visits to the AppStore page for the Uber app. I already have the app and am a loyal customer but their ads are all over the mobile web and they have made every pixel of their MPUs clickable - so my fat fingers scrolling down the page keep being mistaken for a click.

Now I hope whoever is doing that campaign isn't seeing this freakishly high click through as a success. It's another use case for the Missing Metric - why can't I say how annoying these ads are? Equally this high repetition shows just how hard it is to manage frequency – especially when you can only cap frequency by site or DSP.

But it does remind us how annoying ads can be. And why so many people are excited about adblocking

This is a good look at the history of adblocking and the main issues. Its interesting to consider we have allowed adtech tracking and inflated files zizes to soak up he benefits of better bandwidth and faster devices – so when people see how quick the mobile web can be, they like it.

But for publishers the prospects for direct monetization look pretty bleak -

Tom Godwin makes the case that this may – eventually - turn out to be in everyones best interest because we have to come up with a better model – including taking branded utility seriously.

But we need to bear that Apple quote in mind –without tracking people are likely to still see lots of ads - especially as whitelisting becomes more common – but they will be less relevant.

What this new form of advertising might look like is something we will cover in our Fix event in a few weeks, as we believe Programmatic has to embrace better creative if it is thrive

Product innovation

Lots of new features in social this week – Snapchat launched a new selfie tool where you can add filters to your selfie and also enabled you to take a second look at something you are sent – but at a price. It’s not unlike the top app in China currently – Face-It from Baidu which lets you add filters to a live video selfie. This video explains it well.

Facebook have been busy too, announcing that a dislike button is coming. We expect the changes to be bigger than just one expression and wonder if they wont use emojis instead of words.

They are also pushing ahead with their At Work service and we think LinkedIn is vulnerable at the moment as their user experience hasn’t evolved and now feels quite clunky. The spam and false identities continue to annoy but LinkedIn does have a lot of sunk capital in the amount of contacts etc people have on the platform and we still find it a useful business tool. They should be able to fight back. Actually why not connect with me on there?

Constant iteration is important for these platforms as it keeps them fresh and minimizes the chance of another (newer) app getting too much traction. But the developments have to recognize the way the app is used. Given how people use Snapchat allowing unlimited repeats - even if you have to pay for them - changes the etiquette and would be a mistake. Allowing one repeat, at a modest cost, seems like a smart compromise.


The ATS event dug deep on Programmatic with some good insight – albeit with lots of jargon. And much of the audience then decamped to Cologne for the massive DMexco – with around 30000 delegates. A friend wrote a good summary.

The whole idea of Programmatic has gone mainstream with the BBC News site explaining it and in the US the ‘hidden’ costs prompted comment in AdAge. The addition of technology inevitably adds costs and whilst some people seem to hanker for the old simplicity of a budget going to the publisher and the agency taking their commission, it’s not going back. The challenge is in making it clear who is being paid what.

At ATS Paul Frampton of Havas asked whether there was anyone there from a Creative Agency – no surprise that there wasn’t any response. But more and more people are recognizing that creative has a huge role to play and we need to focus on this area. Probably the best talk of the day was Terry Kawaja of Luma who shared his thinking on trends. Much of what he talked about has been well covered but he has some new thinking around the changing role of agencies in this new Programmatic world He sees a good future for creative agencies – but not as part of the holding companies.

Our Salon; Does Programmatic need fixing is really coming together. We now have the smart people at OnDevice Research on board as partners – and they will be talking about the work they are doing measuring the brand effect on Programmatic. We are delighted that both they and Google have chosen to partner with us on our first event.

And as we finalise the speaker line up we are getting great delegates signing up – some senior brand people, a couple of smart VCs and some industry folk have got Early Bird tickets, and we have a few more left. This is some more information and if you have any questions, let me know.

Quick Reads

Really good interview with the Buzzfeed CEO – including the surprising fact that 21% of all their eyeballs come through Snapchat.

Interesting look at the problems facing TV – in the US people now spend more time in apps than they do watching TV

Burberry are continuing to invest in music – now with a channel on Apple, Music. We think most brands should curate a Spotify playlist – great way of positioning the brand and providing some value to customers

Brands like Amazon Dash buttons – more proof that the gap between marketing and sales is diminishing.

Old Media buys new media smarts - in this case News Corp have bought our friends Unruly – adding great tech, huge video expertise and really nice, smart people. Given how poorly News UK does in digital to date this is a very smart move for both parties.

Apple investing more in mapping – location is becoming the Holy Grail in mobile. If you know where someone is - and where they have been - maybe a perpetual log in isn’t so critical.

Was the sharing economy wishful thinking? Our experience with Skratch showed it’s hard to get people really involved and this suggests its common problem.

Finally – can you do me a favour? I’d like to ask for your help spreading the word about Fix. We have a superb set of subscribers across Tech companies, Brands and Agencies and we get great feedback. But we would like to grow the reach, as Fix works well for us in driving consultancy work and as a platform to promote our events and projects.

So two asks; First could each of you forward Fix to a few people that you think may find it useful? Second, if you share something you find through Fix it would be great to get a mention and @addictivemobile linked.

Thanks - your support is appreciated.

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