Category Archives: digital media

The Encima Group Donates Tag Management Referrals, Maintains Neutrality

The latest from Encima but a long-time in the making….hopefully more digital analysts and marketers will consider Piwik as an open source alternative to sharing their precious customer data with G. And of course, the DAA is doing some great things for the industry and we want to be a part of that. Special thanks to David Clunes for his vision and support on this initiative.

Encima Group LogoNewark, DE – August 18, 2014 – Analytics consultancy The Encima Group, is pleased to announce the donation of several thousand dollars in referral fees earned through the recent recommendation and subsequent implementation of Signal’s technology platform. Signal’s Tag Management system (formerly BrightTag) was chosen by two of Encima’s major pharmaceutical clients as the best-in-class tag management solution. For one Encima client, their prior tag management system took too much time to use and was expensive. It was replaced with Signal and the client is already seeing ongoing tag maintenance now taking less than 10% of the time that it did before. For another client, Signal was deployed together with an enterprise site analytics solution across several high-profile Web sites making ongoing tag maintenance a snap.

David Clunes, CEO and Founder of The Encima Group explains, “With technology vendors often jockeying on new capabilities, we prefer let them do what they do best without getting caught up. We purposefully do not recommend the technology platforms that make us the most money, instead we recommend what is best for our client’s long-term analytics success. Donations like this help us continue to maintain our neutrality – all while doing some good for the industry.”

The Encima Group, known best for its independent analytics and digital operations services often finds itself recommending platforms for clients. Sometimes viewed as another value-added reseller, The Encima Group sees itself as an extension of their clients’ organizations and vigorously maintains its “Switzerland” status. That sensibility extends from the firm’s analytics practice which uniquely eschews agency media buying and creative services to focus on providing clients with both objective performance reporting and unbiased campaign optimization recommendation.

Clunes continues, “When it comes to analytics, more objectivity is always a good thing. We feel that this is a great way of paying it forward and that hopefully other firms get the idea.” By sharing the referral fees that it earned, Encima is simultaneously investing in two worthy causes known to analytics professionals worldwide: The Digital Analytics Association, a global organization for digital analytics professionals and Piwik, the globally popular open source Web analytics platform.

“The Digital Analytics Association is thrilled by the Encima Group’s donation,” said DAA Board Chair, Jim Sterne. “The funds will be added to our general fund to benefit all members of the DAA. We hope that others in the space will follow Encima’s leadership in this area.” For Piwik, the funds will be used to facilitate continued development of this open-source platform. Available as an alternative to sharing with 3rd parties, Piwik allows digital marketers to control their Web site behavioral data. Maciej Zawadziński, of the Piwik Core Development Team says, “This is great and will help us to further develop an alternative free Web analytics platform.”

About The Encima Group

The Encima Group is an independent analytics consultancy that was recently recognized for its successful growth in the Inc. 5000 (ranking in top 25%). The Encima Group’s mission really is about actionable analytics and flawless execution. Offering an integrated suite of services around multi-channel measurement, tag management, dashboards, technology strategy consulting and marketing operational support, The Encima Group pioneered the notion of Data Stewardship. The Encima Group is based in Newark, DE with offices in Princeton, NJ and Chicago, IL. Its client roster includes leading pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Otsuka, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk.

For more information about The Encima Group, visit www.encimagroup.com. For more information about Signal visit www.signal.co, for Piwki visit www.piwik.org and for the Digital Analytics Association visit www.digitalanalyticsassociation.com.

Media Contact(s)

Jason Mo, Director of Business Development (jmo AT encimagroup DOT com); phone (919) 308-5309; Domenico Tassone, VP Digital Capabilities (dtassone AT encimagroup DOT com); Phone (312) 492-4652.

 

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Recent Privacy & Targeting Coverage

New posts are brewing, in the meantime here is a repost of the OPA’s roundup.

  • Consumers Are Getting Savvier About Behavioral Targeting  (paidContent)
  • Behavioral Targeting On Rise Regardless Of Pushback (MediaPost)
  • Consumers to Behavioral Advertisers: We Know You’re There (eMarketer)
  • Trends in Behavioral and Contextual-based Advertising shows consumers accepting of targeted advertising (Parks Associates release)
  • Digital Media Lesson in Shooting One’s Foot (Part I)

    Ah tax season…with the greedy hand reaching for more tax money around the country (especially in Illinois), digital media today is arguably one of the few areas of Internet commerce that is unmolested by government regulation. It is amazing that so many consumers have benefited from the abundance of free information and innovative services provided by private industry. Management consulting firm, McKinsey recently estimated that consumers enjoy about $145MM  per year worth of free content across the US and Europe alone.


    Like most major media today – this free content is subsidized by advertising. Going forward, McKinsey expects this to nearly double in just 4 years due to broadband adoption. An interesting implication of McKinsey’s study for digital media companies in particular, is that it suggests that consumers may be willing to tolerate both advertising and more pay services.

    Good news! For digital media companies they have a great opportunity if they can find the right balance for them and their audience – but are they up for it? With the hoopla about privacy, threats of “Do Not Track” regulation and developments in browser cookie blocking, it has become painfully apparent that individual digital media companies may not only have shot themselves in the foot but need to take action.

    Well, How Did We Get Here?
    It wasn’t always this way, during the 90s Internet boom, times were great for digital media – they were the darlings of Wall Street. Hockey stick ad revenues came with leveraging offline brands. Astronomical valuations thanks to investor’s fervor made it all seem so easy. Attempt to pay wall digital media continued to fail. Why charge for access when the advertising model realized growth from more users and from increased interest from advertisers?

    Then, the 2001 crash came and money got tight. Scarce capital and advertising sales forced a more prudent, often direct-response approach to digital advertising. Paid search with its manufactured precision boomed while display media floundered. At the same time, little-noticed improvements in display ad targeting technologies continued to get more powerful…and more complex. Ad networks blossomed to help make markets, bundle sites, audiences and do much of the heavy-lifting of ad targeting.

    Meanwhile, the recovering ad business models demanded more traffic: keep hitting the milestones, sales quotas and Internet rankings essentially at all costs. At the same time these promising new targeting technologies were being implemented, digital media legal teams dutifully but quietly continued to revise their Terms of Service agreements to reflect the changing methods. The trouble is that almost nobody read them (except class action lawyer Web bots). More importantly, risking the potential competitive hit in traffic would be a non-starter. The herd mentality that all traffic is sacrosanct created an atmosphere where burying the TOS became the norm.

    Fast forward to today and think Terrence Kawakja’s Display Ecosystem, with it’s dynamic players and shifting definitions. It is safe to say that the advances in behavioral, dynamic creative, site retargeting, data-sharing and use of purchased data represent a major part of the industry today. Many of these systems rely entirely, if not in part on their ability to target cookies and identify specific machines. Sure, there are differences between 1st and 3rd party cookies but this is a nuance likely to be lost in the heavy-hand of government regulators. Deleting all your cookies is not practical and can be annoyingly inconvenient for users. One promising alternative, machine fingerprinting methodology raises other privacy issues.

    Consumers: Something for Nothing?
    Not much is free in life – except it seemed online media it seemed. All-you-can-eat digital media business models made it easy for users to consume content with abandon – seemingly with no strings attached. And by effectively putting the honus on the average user to locate, read and understand the TOS, digital media companies routinely obscured the intrinsic trade-off. This was no accident, but turned out to be colossally short-sighted. Reading the fine print was certainly not encouraged.

     

    At the same time, users probably didn’t care because sites encouraged instant gratification offered by delivering consuming professionally produced branded content and innovative online services for free. With bragging rights added at stake, users became active participants in being there first.

    Unfortunately, the proliferation of the above strategy by created a wider phenomenon:

    •  It just about completely obscured the implicit (if not explicit) value exchange across many sites; this resulted in digital media individually and in the aggregate devaluing their own content
    • By not being more transparent about the tracking techniques that are used to subsidize user’s consumption. Despite TOS being there and detailing everything, the perception is that digital media and their corporate advertisers have something nefarious to hide.
    •  Together, both have allowed fringe elements to reframe a private business arrangement

    Who’s Content Is It Anyway?
    Over the last few years, loud online activists with collectivist agendas have hi-jacked the private relationship between consumers and digital media. The small but vocal and technically sophisticated minority rages on about privacy. Some even take it a step further to prevent ad targeting and ad delivery.
    Perhaps to equivocate their latent content theft, these activists routinely delude consumers to believe that information wants to be free are that all are entitled to consume from private hands without paying or giving up anything for it. In essence, the act of consuming commercial content is being positioned as about “privacy” when it is really about something for nothing.


    Like anything people have gotten for free for a long-time, its value is now perceived to be effectively zero; a variation on game theory’s tragedy of the commons. Not surprisingly, they have gotten very spoiled and a growing number now feel entitled to an inviolate surfing session.

    We’re From the Government, We’re Here to Help You
    More disturbing, is that these same fringe activist types are also clamoring for the federal government to step in and regulate tracking and data collection in a way that other media and businesses have never been. Big government now even purports to help citizens manage their data trail better than the private sector; their National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace program is right out of George Orwell. Some are calling this cookiepocalypse, i.e. the end of cookie-based ad targeting and site measurement.

    Even within the industry ranks, there are some paradoxically misguided and/or very frustrated people that have been bullied into submission. They actually think regulation by the federal government is a good idea to end the uncertainty of it all. Think Stanford prison experiment.

    Have we not seen this movie before? Junk mail, Do Not Call List, Terrorist database, pedophiles registries, FEMA and the list goes on. Rest assured that with high-minded politicians looking for a populist cause to latch onto the likelihood of unintended consequences for the digital media industry is alarmingly high. Trusting the federal government to be the potential monitor and arbiter online activity should be chilling to any liberty-minded citizen.

    And yet user’s expectation of total privacy and entitlement remains in the wake of digital media’s self-mortgaged future. Armed with new Web browsers (thanks to Microsoft and Mozilla) and nascent black lists, recently emboldened users demand to have their cake and can eat it too. Certainly, over time these targeted ad defeating technologies will become easier to use and more widespread

    And that limits the efficacy of a digital media industry that as we’ve seen is largely based on cookies today. If digital media has a plan, advertisers would like to know about it…any day now.

    Next Post, Digital Media Lesson Part II – Saying No to Freeloaders

    Fear & Loathing in the Ad Technology Stack

    Spring is upon us and many of us are coming from and going to conferences this week. With so many interesting events to chose from it is exciting to see all the innovations and industry continuing to grow; analyst Jack Myers put digital advertising at $47.6 Billion last year (8% share of total marketing spend). This is no doubt evidenced by the plethora of technology companies captured in Terrence Kawaja’s ubiquitous Display Advertising Landscape diagram. Yet, the colorful framework belies the complex and fierce co-evolution that is happening behind-the-scenes of the so-called Ad Technology Stack.

    Focused on hitting their milestones and/or quotas, investor-fueled and publicly-traded ventures alike will be putting on the hard-sell this trade show season. Panel and exhibit hall attendees certainly know the drill. Prospects will be dazzled, plans hatched and hopes dashed with the latest BSO (bright shiny object) hanging in the balance. On tap across booth chit-chat, panel pontification, martinis and outdoor activities will be information (not to mention outright disinformation). Perpetual conversion machines are the latest rage!

    After years of consolidation and financial speed bumps the current industry, while seeing more revenue has definitely shrunk in terms of choices. It should not be a surprise that many battle-scarred survivors have benefitted from this and effective technology lock-in strategies. The result for some technology buyers has been worse service levels and slowed innovation. Nonetheless, gaps in the incumbent’s vision or their inability to consistently innovate have spawned mini-me’s up and down the stack; some trying to create their own lock-in. Unfortunately, all this has all been accepted as a cost of doing business.

    To buyers of stack technologies: caveat emptor.

    We Know What You’re Up To

    Once the technology deal is done – it is going to be too late. Control immediately begins to shift from the technology buyer to the seller. Why does leverage shift? In economic terms, the buyer may have just unwittingly entered into a deal with a micro-monopolist. While this could be arguably true for many industries, for stack buyers this has more severe consequences. The kind that are often obfuscated yet pervasive and only become fully understood in time. It goes way beyond simple buyer’s remorse.

    Ad Technology Stack business models that rely on technology lock-in do so because their investors and management have found that such switching inflexibility works for them. One need only look around to find many mainfestations across the stack, mainly in two areas:

    1. Performance analytics – ownership, access and control of reporting data
    2. Behavioral data – for both advertisers and publishers

    Due to information asyncronicity, technology buyers often don’t realize fast enough that they are really signing up to purchase a series of products and services -all when they are at the greatest informational disadvantage. As a result, stack buyers can easily become captives of their own making. A little diligence and research upfront can mitigate the common self-inflicted damage caused by lock-in.

    Switching Cost and Lock-in

    In game theory, a product or service has a switching cost when the buyer purchases it over multiple periods of time and experiences time, cash or opportunity costs to switch from one seller to another. Switching costs can also occur when a buyer purchases additional complementary products or services making substitutes relatively more expensive; increased complexity is positively correlated with higher switching costs.

    Altogether this effectively shifts the supply curve and creates the “lock-in” effect thus raising costs for the buyer. Clearly, switching items in the stack can have unintended negative consequences. More specifically, when a businesses contracts with a stack company there are usually multiple economic components to what is effectively the total cost of ownership (TCO):

    • Implementation
      • Cash
      • Resource time
    • Learning Curve:
      • Application usage
      • Report data warehousing
    • Framework
      • Contractual
      • Network considerations
      • Opportunity

    All of the above combine to create an effective transaction or cost of switching. Although implementation is an obvious one-time cost (sometimes the largest component), other costs are more subtle and may actually increase over time. Practical scenarios might include:

    • changing the ad server or site analytics technology
    • managing research or targeting page tags (and data sharing)

    Staying Balanced in the Melee

    While the lock-in strategy has worked well for technology sellers in the past, many Ad Technology Stack ventures are about to get their legs kicked from under them. Enter tag (data) management companies like BrightTag, Tagman, Ensighten and Tealium.These companies are exclusively, if not mostly focused on managing proliferating page tags which are a major culprit behind stack lock-in. Having one technology locked-in that you’ve planned for is probably better than fifteen that just happened over time.

    In addition to to making the business of digital marketing actually manageable from a logistical tag and data-sharing standpoint, the larger possibilities are tantalizing for stack buyers wrestling with IT/development queues. Simply put, tag management changes the balance of leverage away from the sellers towards their customers. Analytics expert, Eric Peterson called this out  in a recent white paper saying:

    “…as implementations become more involved and sophisticated the businesses willingness to switch vendors declines, even in situations where the relationship has been badly damaged by miss-set expectations, miscommunication, or outright lies”

    Fear and Loathing

    Yes, positive change is in the air for the industry. Widespread use of tag management systems make this an inevitability. However, reactions span the contninuum:

    1. Guarantee us business and we’ll integrate
    2. These companies are risky start-ups
    3. We have developed our own solution
    4. Interesting, but never heard of it
    5. No problem, we can work with anyone
    6. Great idea, we want to get to market first

    No wonder that the reactions from the ad technology stack about universal tag management have been mixed – these tag management companies are upsetting the status quo and threatening lock-in!

    Laggards are doing what they do: delaying and holding out. They are not happy about this. Some are attempting to make tying deals to lock-in even more. For this desperate and unimaginative bunch, it will be a slow and steady burn as the balance of power swings back; some may even get crushed. Others will respond by acquiring companies or being acquired. Still others will hit the wall or just become irrelevant.

    More proactive technology sellers see this as an opportunity for competitive advantage and customer relationship-building. This breed of stack company is already knows how to adapt to the new reality of constantly being tested. They are fast failers and built to optimize, now using the opportunity to proactively to gain compeititve advantage.

    Moving Forward

    Technology stack buyers must balance the fear of being left-behind with a more reasoned approach. Sellers must be able to provide value today without depending on technology lock-in to be successful in the long-term; management discipline and technology agility are essential.

    On the upside, one promising trend is that for the first time since the implosion of the Web 1.0 industry, business development (not strategic sales execs) executives are popping up across Ad Technology Stack start-ups. Having the organizational competency to vet and manage strategic alliances is a step in the right direction. Kudos.

    Interoperability matters. Compatibility across the stack is a must-have and stack players that didn’t learn the lessson of Betamax (in hopes of another iPod) may be deluding themsleves. Such a fast-buck approach has the technology seller helping themselves at their customers long-term expense…almost becoming parastic. Investors and entrepreneurs take note: the new stack won’t tolerate old stack micro-monopolies: plan on more Schumpeterian creative destruction.

    In the end, it is all about risk-sharing: stack buyers that don’t perform adequate diligence, risk being marginalized by lock-in. At the same time, stack sellers that cannot constantly adapt to the marketplace will become riskier bets.

    Just make sure you’re not stuck with them.

    [UPDATE: AdExchanger had an intro which didn’t quite capture the point. Whether you buy a la carte or bundled technologies doesn’t matter. What matters is how those technologies integrate (or don’t) with each other and how easily you can test them. Tag management/data sharing technologies (especially pure-plays) can mitigate the inflexibility of tag based lock-in.]

    Dueling Banjos: Reconciling Uniques from Advertising to Site Metrics

    For firms and folks that are dependent on site metrics tools (Omniture, Coremetrics, Google Analytics, WebTrends) to validate or measure the impact on a site from online advertising (take your pick of agency ad servers), Andy Greenberg’s recent article about Omniture may be of interest.

    Andy’s point about the site metrics application being used to gauge the effectiveness of online advertising raises some serious marketing questions. I’ve personally been working on this on and off myself going back to the Web 1.0 days. Our boutique digital agency Streams Online Media Development’s developed the seminal online marketing tracking tool Lilypad to some industry fanfare. Reconciling these numbers today reminds me of the old Dueling Banjos tune.

    Clearly, each tool bring their own technical process for counting and what is important to emphasize. Like how guitars and banjos are just plain different, so are ad servers and site metrics tools. Yet, well-intentioned people may still want to try to make them match.

    As such, many of us continue to wrestle with these resulting issues…but at some level, unless your advertising campaign (paid media) is being measured on response – the benefit of harmonious tracking is academic. It i certainly safe to say that simpatico metrics does not always add value to the marketing.

    Some initial thoughts:

    • Agency Ad Server-Side. Tools like DFA’s Spotlight offer landing page tracking – assuming there are no site limitations on 3rd party cookies (privacy concerns abound). However, this tool does not allow for total unique clicker tracking other than a proprietary sample-based approach. Others like Mediaplex and Eyeblaster offer this feature (mostly used for reach and frequency) while Atlas offers a sample-based approach with an total unique count available for an additional fee.
    • Metrics Tool-Side. Landing page tracking via a method of inserting query parameters into ads (Omniture/HitBox allow this). More interesting are advanced integrations, like Omniture’s Genesis show promise – such tools help sites manage the many tags and cookies from the various technology service providers out there – potentially enabling the comparison of apples-to-apples. Actually this approach is not entirely new, RealMedia’s Privacy Proxy Module for the Media side offered this kind of functionality years ago – alas, many media companies didn’t get it.
    • Universal Cookie. Common unique cookies across networks, medis sites, agencies and clients seems Utopian and unrealistic but would alleviate a lot of these challenges.

    More to follow…