Platform A: Too little too late for AOL?

Shar VanBoskirk

The online advertising world is abuzz this Monday morning about the press release from AOL which just crossed the wire.  Specifically, AOL announced that it will:

  1. Create a new online advertising platform, called Platform A, which will integrate the media and technologies across all of AOL's current ad networks including Advertising.com, TACODA, Third Screen Media, Lightningcast, and ADTECH
  2. Relocate its corporate headquarters to New York City

I see this announcement as further fodder for my argument that online advertising is trenching for a comeback, and moving forward will be the backbone of every marketing campaign.  Particular to AOL, I think this is interesting timing for a very aggressive move.  Leadership in the online advertising space was AOL's to lose 5 years ago and that is exactly what they did.  The decision to create an integrated marketing platform and locate themselves where the advertisers are is a great move, but is it too little too late?  Why now for AOL?  Why didn't they make a decision of this scale years ago before they fell into fourth place in the race?

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The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Shar VanBoskirk

I'm right in the middle of researching Forrester's Interactive Marketing Forecast -- our big sizing report which forecasts spending in different interactive channels five years into the future.  In addition to leveraging a quantitative study of marketers (which some of you helped with -- thanks!), I'm also conducting a series of interviews with media providers, vendors, agencies and interactive marketing experts to help me prioritize trends and build out an accurate market sizing. 

Last week as part of my research I spoke to Jim Nail, ex-Forrester analyst and current CMO of TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony and Jeff Lanctot, VP of Media and Client Services for Avenue A/Razorfish.  Both independently mentioned a key theme defining the future of interactive marketing which I've been noodling on since my conversations with them.  I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the theme is that of immersive marketing -- that is the idea of creating marketing programs that:

Create a cohesive and all-encompassing experience across any channel where the customer is.

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aQuantive Acquisition Signals Major Shift In Media/Advertiser Relationships

Shar VanBoskirk

Early this morning Microsoft announced it will buy online marketing company aQuantive -- the holding parent of interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish, display and paid search ad mangement platform Atlas and inventory management system DrivePM.  The $6 billion deal cash deal represents an 85% premium to aQuantive's closing price last night and will likely close during the first half of 2008.

I think there are two obvious calls to make based on this deal:

1.   The acquisition certainly builds out Microsoft's access to the entire online advertising supply chain.  Prior to the acquisition Microsoft had the execution channel -- sites where advertisers could buy ads.  Now, they also have the upstream pieces of this chain:  planning, strategy, creative.  WPP is working toward a similar goal with its recent announcement to acquire 24/7 Real Media.  But WPP had the planning, strategy, and creative pieces and bought 24/7 for access to the downstream channel.   

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What a Microsoft/Yahoo union could mean for marketers

Shar VanBoskirk

As the day continues, the talk of a Microsoft/Yahoo! union is sounding more and more specious.  None-the-less I thought I'd weigh in with my take on what this pairing would mean for interactive marketers.

I still think Yahoo and MS are wrong to continue to chase Google.  If that is what this potential merger about it just seems really naïve.  Billions of dollars to try to “catch up” to a company that will only continue to out-innovate them.

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Google Takes DoubleClick for $3.1 Billion

Shar VanBoskirk

I'll admit.  I had my money on Microsoft taking DC as a technology solution to their ad serving need.  And I think if the deal were only about technology, Microsoft would have made a solid suitor.  But DoubleClick brings Google much more than an ad serving solution.  What's my take on this deal?

*Google wins.  We've been watching Yahoo! and MSN chase Google since paid search marketing exploded as a marketing channel and major revenue source for the three portals.  This deal ends the race.  With its DoubleClick purchase Google extends its capabilities into online display advertising and completes its set of online services.

*Its not about the technology.  Google already had ad serving.  This deal gives Google access to publishers outside of its current AdSense network and to behavioral data that will help them with ad targeting.

*Now Google can move offline.  I agree with Charlene Li on this one.  With the online space locked up, Google can focus on maturing its current offline efforts and on defining its next moves into traditional channels.

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Is "Lost" class teaching students to avoid ads?

Shar VanBoskirk

WBUR, Boston's NPR news station ran a story this past Tuesday about a new Tufts University class studying the phenomenon of ABC's hit series Lost.  The class -- "The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon" -- is part of Tuft's Experimental College, an undergraduate forum focused on pioneering innovations in education and faculty/student collaboration within the Arts and Sciences (which in addition to the "Lost" class also offers courses like: "Sabermetrics: The Objective Analysis of Baseball," "Ethical Leadership in Business," "Obesity and Children" and "Television in the Age of YouTube,").  The Lost course meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening this semester and is taught by a current Tufts Senior.

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Boston's Recent Marketing Prank Turned Terrorist Scare

Shar VanBoskirk

No doubt many of you are already well aware of the ad-campaign-turned-terrorist-scare that rocked us in the city of Boston on January 30.  I'm a little behind the 8-ball in writing up my thoughts about it.  But since it is still coming up -- both in our team conversations here, and out in the world at large -- I thought it would be worth talking about, even a few weeks after the fact.

The redux of what happened:

In an attempt to promote its Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," Turner Broadcasting positioned LED displays of one of the show's characters around significant city structures, including bridges and i-93, Boston's central artery. (See images of the devices here).

The question we've been debating internally, is: Was this good marketing?

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Consumers As Media: How Far Will This Go?

Shar VanBoskirk

AdAge just announced Gino Bona, a sales exec out of Portsmouth, NH as the winner of the NFL's "create your own Super Bowl commercial" contest.  And the NFL is not the only sponsor of viewer-created commercials.  Chevy and Frito-Lay sponsored similar contests for their own Super Bowl spots.

Then last week the news broke about the entrepreneurial "J.P" who was seeking corporate sponsors to pay him to propose to his girlfriend during a Super Bowl commercial.  The notion of using consumers to create ads isn't new and clearly consumers are actively creating their own media.  But these last few stories got me to thinking:  What happens now that not only are consumers creating media, but consumer actually are media?  Reality TV is huge.  And I would bet most of us have some fairly close connection with someone who has been on a reality TV show (my ex-boyfriend was fraternity brothers with the guy who "won" ABC's second season of "The Bachelorette."). 

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How should marketing service providers evolve?

Shar VanBoskirk

We're all finally settling down from our blockbuster of a consumer forum in Chicago last week (check out http://blogs.forrester.com/consumerforum for summaries, thoughts, and highlights from the event) and processing some of the learnings that came out of our client conversations. I didn't end up listening in on very many of the main tent speakers as I was pretty booked with one-on-one sessions. These are 30 minute, in person meetings that forum attendees can book with the analysts of their choice to discuss business issues. I was definitely tired after my few days of back to back one-on-ones, but to be honest, I came back to the office pretty recharged. I've been so heads down on research of late, that it was really nice to engage with clients face to face. I really enjoyed sharing ideas and meeting the real people who are out there reading my research!

One topic that came up several times in one-on-ones with different clients is: the role of the service provider in the next era of marketing. We've all been talking about integrated marketing for years. And this year's forum theme pushed integrated marketing even further by looking at how to "Humanize the Digital Experience." This means the entire integrated customer experience.

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Interactive Marketing Spending Maturing, But Not Slowing Down

Shar VanBoskirk

I’ve gotten a number of press calls since Yahoo announced it has missed its earnings on October 5 asking if I think this indicates a larger slow down of interactive marketing spending overall.  My response to these qualms “No way, Jose.”  Here is what I think is happening:

*Interactive marketing spending is definitely different today than it was in the boom times of Bubble One (circa 1999-2000).  But this is a good thing.  Today, more traditional marketers are including online advertising, email and search marketing in their marketing mix.  This provides stability and legitimacy to interactive media which it did not have when it was supported solely by dot coms.

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