Last week, a few Forresterites and special guests took a break from the end of quarter crunch to participate in a panel event in our beautiful San Francisco office. The theme of our panel was "The Top 5 Social Media Trends You Should Care About." Our audience included tech marketers (mostly from Silicon Valley). We had a great mix of companies in the audience, which included both large enterprises and small startups. I moderated a great panel of local Bay Area thought leaders, including:
Jeanette Gibson @JeanetteG Senior Director, Social and Digital Marketing, Cisco
Dan Ziman @LostInTheFlog VP Corporate Marketing, Lithium Technologies
David Hurwitz @Serena_Software, SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Serena Software
Cannes this year is hosting more and more evidence of the disappearance of lines between “digital” and “advertising”: A mobile category was launched; the new Branded Content and Entertainment category includes subcategories such as “best use or integration of user generated content”; Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was named Media Person of the Year and . . .
. . . WPP used the international advertising festival to announce it is acquiring digital agency AKQA and incorporating it as a separate network within WPP.
AKQA is a great pickup for WPP. It's not only one of the biggest indies left but one of the best at blending creative and technology skills in one organization — a mix that doesn’t always live together easily.
It also fills a hole for WPP. AKQA aspires to a category of agencies I call “brand transformers” that are about more than communications and look to leverage digital capabilities to help clients enter new adjacent product and service areas.
Very interesting that it will be a standalone brand and not folded into one of WPP’s existing networks. Digital agencies VML and Blast Radius bring similar capabilities but are locked in the Y&R network; WPP gains flexibility by having AKQA “at large” in its holdings. In addition, AKQA is a little too big to fold into another network easily, but will need to build heft quickly if it wants to remain separate. Otherwise, in a couple of years, WPP will merge it with other assets.
I think it’s likely Interpublic and Omnicom will react. WPP clearly sees digital as essential to its future. This acquisition definitely puts some distance between WPP and Omnicom, which had been pretty close, and Interpublic, which has a couple of strong assets but doesn’t have the strategic focus that WPP and Publicis do.
Microsoft’s announcement that it is launching its own first-party hardware for a family of Windows tablets is welcome news: If you want a job done right, do it yourself. While Asus, Lenovo, Nokia, Samsung, and Toshiba are expected to launch their own Windows RT products this year, other major OEMs are notably absent from the list, either because they’re focused on x86 devices first or because they were locked out of the launch like HTC. Microsoft's Surface tablets will run on both chipsets.
Microsoft has so many assets to bring to its own hardware: Smartglass, a “Kinect camera,” Skype, Barnes & Noble Nook content, Microsoft Office (although that won’t be exclusive to Windows), just to name a few. While skeptics rightly criticize past Microsoft hardware failures like the Zune player, Xbox is a more recent example of resounding success. With the next generation of the Xbox “720” due out soon, Microsoft will have ample opportunity to bundle and promote the two products together and sell its tablets through the same consumer retail channels — although to start at least, the Surfaces will only be available at Microsoft Stores and online, which certainly limits adoption potential.
This product line marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft’s product strategy. It blends the Xbox first-party hardware model with the Windows ecosystem model. It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise. And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically integrated Apple on more even ground.
Many in the industry have watched with interest (and perhaps a bit of schadenfreude) as Facebook shares have plunged to under $27. Obviously, multiple factors have contributed to some of the luster coming off this once glistening object, but a significant factor has to be concerns over Facebook’s ability to monetize its growing mobile user base through advertising. But here’s the thing, digital publishers: mobile monetization isn’t just Facebook’s problem; it’s your problem too.
If anything, the publicity around Facebook’s mobile challenges brings to light what has become a very open secret among digital publishers – mobile isn’t a great advertising business. And it won’t be any time soon, either.
Rapidly changing consumer behavior has turned mobile into a massive media platform, with over 1/3 of US online adults owning 3 or more connected devices (typically a PC, smartphone, and tablet), going online multiple times a day, and from multiple locations – a segment Forrester calls the Always Addressable Customer. This is a tremendous opportunity from a content perspective – publishers can now engage audiences essentially whenever and wherever they are by building mobile apps galore and optimizing their websites for easy, on-the-go mobile and tablet consumption. But monetizing those content assets is another story altogether.
Sure, US mobile display ad spending will eclipse a billion dollars this year, and network players like Millennial and Google will continue to reap the rewards. Meanwhile, traditional content creators will struggle to find and deliver scale – a complaint we often hear from media buyers eager to engage mobile audiences. If this sounds like a repeat of the history of digital advertising, it’s because fragmentation and lack of scale is true for almost every media innovation.
I’m doing it. Waving three vendor categories at the same time. And I can’t wait (seriously, no satire intended.)
For those of you less familiar, Forrester’s Waves are detailed analyses of technology vendor and service providers done in order to help our user clients select the best partners for them. (Please note: the keyword in the preceding sentence is detailed. A Wave typically takes 12 weeks to conduct and includes multiple inputs like product demos, client reference interviews, and written responses to an RFP-like questionnaire).
Well, over the course of the next three months, I will be waving search marketing agencies, bid management platforms, and SEO automation tools. In the past, I have evaluated only search marketing agencies as many of them provided proprietary technologies, and stand-alone technologies were still quite immature. But since Q4 2011, I’ve gotten more and more inquiries about search marketing technology players as well. And search technologies have really made some strides in the last 12 months.
As an analyst, I make a lot of predictions about various technology offerings. Over the last year those predictions have increasingly focused on the Social Media Management Platform (SMMP) space, specifically about how I expected consolidation as demand increased from marketers, and big tech players realized the necessity and potential of these platforms. It seemed pretty obvious to me that this space would continue to heat up, especially as I fielded more and more phone calls every week from marketers vetting the players in this space. So in answer to the most common question I’ve been getting since last week: no, I’m not at all surprised that a company like Salesforce would buy Buddy Media.
It's not so much a case of paid search being less relevant, but that search and the process of "getting found" across channels has become more diverse with the advent of social media, growth in mobile search, and shifting budgets to SEO in response to rising cost-per-click (CPC) rates in mature European markets.
The last frontier for paid search? Interestingly, despite huge marketing cutbacks the troubled euro zone markets — Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain — maintain growth only just below Western European averages as brands in these markets shift budgets to search and focus on acquisition and return on investment.
Overall, interesting times are ahead for the search agency that can develop multi-channel marketing strategies or the more traditional digital agency which shores up it's search and discovery offering.