The word on ad blocking

Mobile ad blocking

I run ad blocking software in the browser on my computer that prevents ads appearing on most web sites I visit. Chrome is my default browser; as I sign in to my Google account in Chrome, and have it sync across all my devices, I have the ad blocker available to me on all those devices including mobile. I have a white list of sites that I’m happy for ads to show, but they are few and far between.

There has been quite a bit of commentary over the past few weeks on the economic cost to business of ad blockers with one influential report saying that more consumers block ads, continuing the strong growth rates seen during 2013 and 2014.  There’s a trend there.

Consider these key points from the PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report:

  1. Globally, the number of people using ad blocking software grew by 41% year over year.
  2. 16% of the US online population blocked ads during Q2 2015.
  3. Ad block usage in the United States grew 48% during the past year, increasing to 45 million monthly active users (MAUs) during Q2 2015.
  4. Ad block usage in Europe grew by 35% during the past year, increasing to 77 million monthly active users during Q2 2015.
  5. The estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 was $21.8 billion.
  6. With the ability to block ads becoming an option on the new iOS 9, mobile is starting to get into the ad blocking game. Currently Firefox and Chrome lead the mobile space with 93% share of mobile ad blocking

I have no compunction about using an ad blocker and I am utterly unimpressed by arguments that actions like this will put websites that have ads out of business, or that such blocking behaviour is unethical.

Marco Arment summarizes the situation very nicely:

Publishers don’t have an easy job trying to stay in business today, but that simply doesn’t justify the rampant abuse, privacy invasion, sleaziness, and creepiness that many of them are forcing upon their readers, regardless of whether the publishers feel they had much choice in the matter.

Modern web ads and trackers are far over the line for many people today, and they’ve finally crossed the line for me, too. Just as when pop-ups crossed the line fifteen years ago, technical countermeasures are warranted.

Web publishers and advertisers cannot be trusted with the amount of access that today’s browsers give them by default, and people are not obligated to permit their web browsers to load all resources or execute all code that they’re given.

Up your game, web advertisers and publishers! Make your ads such that people like me don’t mind them (at least); or can be influenced by them in a way that makes me want to engage with them (at best). You need to be thinking of your advertising as relationship-building content. Quartz has a good model.

See also:

(Image at top via TechAdvisor.)

Idle thumbs: Why commuters are the best audience

Commuter

A guest post by Simon Bailey, CEO of Axonix, an advertising technology company backed by Telefonica and Blackstone.

Any marketer worth their salt knows all customers were not made equal, and that’s particularly true of commuters, where getting the bus or train into work is now a prime opportunity to check our smartphones and tablets to catch up on the latest news, gossip and games. With the average number of devices set to exceed four per person by 2020, we’re increasingly reliant on the small screen, and at no time more so than when we have some time to kill on-the-go.

If you’re not ‘on-board’ with this digital shift in media consumption or don’t plan to be – I’d stop reading now. But if you’re an ambitious business with high growth targets and a clear sales objectives, your ears should certainly be pricking up. The commuter audience is a highly connected and available audience, and it’s these eyes at these times which will stand to convert the most sales leads on your campaigns.

Understanding your audience: Being the early bird

Almost 90 percent of consumers admit to browsing and buying on smartphones and tablets during their commute with over half expecting to shop even more during this time in the future. So reaching the right person with the right message at the right time between early morning and after 5pm is now invaluable to your operational longevity, and it’s critical to be able to pinpoint exactly when that is in order to get the best result.

Commuters have various stages of browsing behaviours: for instance, when bored and browsing as opposed to when they have a definite purpose such as buying a certain piece of music, and so less susceptible to additional distraction.

Elsewhere, there is a natural variation on activity which is preferred by commuters inside and outside of London, with research revealing that 20 per cent use their device to read online news and 25 percent to play games via apps such as Farmville or Candy Crush in the capital, over a third higher than those further afield.

Internet browsing, social media and streaming video content also scored highly, to be expected, and London bus users were found to be the most social, with less than 10 per cent logging on to work systems during this time and empowered with better signal leading to greater use of social and leisure based applications.

Programming into the consumer psyche

So, once your target audience is identified, and when, how can you best connect with them? It’s all about programmatic trading; buying ad-space in real-time using data-led computer algorithms, to reach exactly the right user at the right time with the right content for optimum engagement – consumers are using their devices in rush hour, while commuting – and programmatic will help you specifically target the right people during these times.

Sounds like a ‘no-brainer’ right? Programmatic tools have increasingly been embraced by many, but many more are still reluctant or uncertain about its benefits. This is largely due to a lack of understanding of mobile ad exchanges and their benefits with over 40 percent of marketers admitting they still “don’t have a clue” what programmatic actually means.

Understandably, it’s in many marketers’ interests to avoid taking a chance on new technologies, with many taking a risk adverse attitude to doing so, and preferring the more established ROI they derive from traditional media. However, these individuals could find themselves redundant in a few years’ time, replaced by their more mobile-savvy, and dynamic peers – those that understand when their audience needs to find something to entertain them whilst on the bus or the train, and just so happens to serve them a targeted ad at that time.

Mobile devices are set to keep rocketing in popularity, with vendors and networks collaborating to increase connectivity and availability of services whenever and where ever you are. And transport companies know this. Just take for example The London Underground, which is investing rapidly in a Wi-Fi programme, rolling out internet services to over 150 stations across the capital. People want their phones on the go and it’s becoming easier for them to get online anywhere – even when underground!

There’s clearly a real opportunity here for marketers to reach huge and highly available audiences – provided they take the correct approach to mobile advertising. So, with all that in mind, its never been a better time to join the crowd and connect with your target consumer. As I said above, marketers need to understand their customers – and realising when they are looking for entertainment on the move and taking steps to reach them at those times could be your rush hour jackpot.

Simon BaileySimon Bailey is the CEO of Axonix, a role which he began in April 2015, having previously served as CCO since April 2014.

Previous to Axonix, Simon was at Velti where he was Vice President, Global Demand, managing the global advertising business.

Simon started his career in advertising in 1996 working for The Times. Since then he has spent the past 15 years working in the digital space where he has sold media, developed sales teams and built cutting edge advertising technologies for the likes of Excite Inc, 24/7 Real Media (WPP) and OpenX Inc.

Simon was a member of the founding team at OpenX where he was responsible for the Product Strategy designing and building the first version of the OpenX Real Time Bidding advertising exchange.

Simon is married with four children and has a degree in French and Politics from the University of Leicester.

[Image at top via Mobile Marketing.]

Shell’s big QR code experiment

Shell QR code

When I called in to a Shell station in Reading on Saturday to fill up my car with fuel, I noticed this banner attached to the side of the pump I was using.

“Fill up and go here with our speedy payment service,” it says. “Powered by PayPal.” And there’s a big QR code in the middle of the sign.

It’s called Fill Up And Go and the usage idea is simple:

You’ll be able to use it through the Shell Motorist App. Select a pump on the forecourt, enter the maximum amount you wish to spend, then scan the QR code or punch in the ID number at your pump, all from inside your car. The App then releases the pump for use and you can then fill up and go. When you’ve finished, a receipt will be automatically sent to your phone.

As it says, you use it with the Shell Motorist app for iOS or Android plus a PayPal account, the only payment method you can use. Shell says you can also use PayPal’s mobile app to pay for your fuel purchase. There is a transaction range: £20 minimum, up to £150 maximum (with the price of fuel these days, that maximum doesn’t seem too low).

Station LocatorShell announced this new service earlier this year, saying it was being tested and would roll out later in the year. Shell says it’s the first fuel retailer to offer such a service across the UK. The Shell station in Reading where I saw the banner is one I use pretty regularly, with my last visit about ten days ago. So the sign has appeared within the past week.

I’ve been using the Shell Motorist app for some time – to track loyalty points and see offers, etc – but hadn’t noticed reference to this new service until I looked for it.

And the app does mention it, with the Shell station locator map for my immediate area showing a station not far from my house that is participating in it. So that’s my destination when I need to fill up again, probably within a week or so.

I want to try it out, to see if it is a convenient and easy way to pay for fuel as Shell expects it to be. When it comes down to it, that’s what it has to be – convenient and easy – for it to gain consumer acceptance, especially when it comes to a technology like QR codes that you can’t say has had a warm reception, never mind gained universal consumer acceptance.

Much of the criticism is about how QR codes are presented by those who implement them, often in ways that are simply lame or even mind boggling. But there are great examples of imagination alongside the mistakes (some of the latter potentially brand-damaging such as what happened to Heinz recently).

In the case of Shell’s QR code experiment, I think it’s imaginative and likely to appeal to people who want greater convenience and ease of use when performing a task as mundane as filling up your car with fuel. No more walking over to a cashier and offering a card for payment, or fiddling with a pay-at-the-pump card system (although I can’t recall seeing one of those at a Shell station) – with the new Shell service, you just complete the transaction with your smartphone whilst sitting comfortably in your car.

Use of mobile devices is prohibited on most petrol station forecourts in the UK. But using this new Shell service should be dead easy from the driver’s seat. Then you get out of the car to fill your tank, get back in the car and drive away when done, with the payment receipt automatically sent to your phone.

I wonder how it could evolve in future. Maybe petrol stations could revert to the service ethic of yore when you had someone who came out to fill your tank while you stayed in your car. You’d add perhaps 10 percent to the cost as a service charge. A small price to pay for the convenience and comfort. Could be quite a service differentiator.

Perhaps something along the lines of what Shell reportedly started offering a few years ago.

shell-forecourt-service

But first things first. I’m looking forward to trying it and adding it to my list of imaginative uses of QR codes, not to the lame list.

Dick Costolo: Twitter unfollows the leader as social milestones are missed

Welcome back, @jack !!

The news yesterday that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is stepping down from that leadership role next month has attracted widespread commentary and opinion, not least on Twitter itself.

There’s credible opinions that Costolo is going because he hasn’t evolved Twitter as many observers and critics expected or believe he should have. Indeed, the stock market greeted yesterday’s announcement with a 10 percent rise in Twitter’s share price at one point.

An analysis in the Guardian today – you can read the full story below – is a pretty good assessment of a real predicament confronting Twitter, not only from an investor’s perspective but also from that of users and marketers.

[…] Twitter accounts for 1.6% of the critical US digital advertising market – a market worth $50.73bn – compared with Facebook’s 7.6%. Twitter accounts for 3.6% of US mobile internet ads to Facebook’s 18.5%. And in mobile display ads Twitter has a 7% market share compared to 36.7% for Facebook, according to eMarketer.

On user numbers alone – Twitter has 302m monthly active users to Facebook’s 1.44bn – the share of ad market doesn’t seem so surprising. Yet it’s the slowing down of growth that has concerned investors: Twitter’s monthly active user numbers have fallen 30% from 2013 to 2015, and by 2019 growth – a critical indicator of future potential revenues – is heading for a slowdown to 6%.

Yet there’s a more fundamental element that needs attention – what is Twitter?

[…] who is Twitter for? How does it distinguish itself against Facebook? And how can it expand its service while remaining simple and accessible?

Those questions aren’t new at all. Even though how Twitter itself talks about what Twitter is has become more clear in the past year or so, is it how users, marketers, etc, see Twitter?

Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

I’m not so sure. As a Twitter user since 2006, I’m often asking that question myself even though I’m more than happy to continue my thinking out loud and occasional engagement with others on the platform. I don’t have massive personal expectations of Twitter beyond the implicit simplicity behind that mission statement (but I have a different view if I put on my marketer’s hat).

Yet maybe Twitter’s not entirely sure about that either – the mission statement is slightly different on Twitter’s investor relations page.

Twitter strives to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

Maybe change is afoot already: Twitter also announced yesterday that the 140-character limit on direct messages will be changed to a whopping 10,000 characters. Note this is for DMs only – the 140-character limit for regular tweets remains. For now, at least.

While that news will be appealing to many who will relish the opportunity of penning short stories to DM to their friends, I fear it also opens the door to push marketing – whether you like it or not – on a grand scale.

In any case, might Costolo’s departure herald a pivot of sorts in Twitter’s next steps with the (re)appointment of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey as interim CEO while Twitter starts a search for a permanent replacement?

There are all sorts of opinions about that.

[The Guardian report below is published here with permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.]


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Dick Costolo: Twitter unfollows the leader as social milestones are missed” was written by Jemima Kiss, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th June 2015 09.41 Europe/London

It says something about the extraordinary scale of social platforms when a technology behemoth with 302m active users every month can be seen as failing to achieve its potential. Yet that is exactly why it appears that Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, now has to go from the company’s top post.

In after-hours trading following the sudden announcement on Thursday, Twitter stock briefly fluttered up 8% higher. It was a reflection of the uneasy feelings from investors towards a man who fell under their increased and ultimately poisonous scrutiny as he navigated the social networking firm through its public offering in November 2013, having been CEO since he took over from Evan Williams in October 2010.

Despite being a very different product serving a very different audience, Twitter is often compared to Facebook – and often unfavourably. Therein lies an identity crisis of sorts.

For Twitter’s investors the concern was less about user numbers than the growth and aggressiveness of the company’s online advertising. While Costolo was popular with many staffers for bringing structure and co-ordination to a chaotic young company, and took it to a market capitalisation of .4bn, he also oversaw the process of risk and uncertainty in pushing towards a brand new space.

Costolo and Jack Dorsey, who now takes over as interim CEO, have both insisted that the move was not connected to Twitter’s recent financial results – which saw those user numbers grow just 4.86% – so much as a decision made purely by Costolo himself, as a capstone to discussions that had been going on since last autumn.

Right now Twitter is in danger of becoming a niche product: it is beloved by journalists (guilty) and marketers, yet viewed with confusion by mainstream consumers.

Where the selective friendship groups of Facebook make sense (to varying degrees), Twitter’s public face can be more intimidating. On the other hand, the 140-character simplicity of Twitter’s platform and the potential to be the “civic square” of popular debate offers just as much value and, usually, less flatulent conversations.

In an era of endless feeds and the digital burden of email and obligatory posts from friends, Twitter’s brevity and ambience is a welcome change; what you miss is just missed – not mourned, nor added to a tedious, ever-increasing pile like email.

But in focusing its business Twitter has made some strategic decisions, such as closing off access to selected third parties – Instagram at one point, Meerkat at another, and earlier to a wider stream of third-party developers. Twitter was under pressure to protect its valuable audience and its scale, and in doing so cut off the community that helped it grow.

All of which left many users and especially those investors wondering: who is Twitter for? How does it distinguish itself against Facebook? And how can it expand its service while remaining simple and accessible?

Twitter accounts for 1.6% of the critical US digital advertising market – a market worth .73bn – compared with Facebook’s 7.6%. Twitter accounts for 3.6% of US mobile internet ads to Facebook’s 18.5%. And in mobile display ads Twitter has a 7% market share compared to 36.7% for Facebook, according to eMarketer.

On user numbers alone – Twitter has 302m monthly active users to Facebook’s 1.44bn – the share of ad market doesn’t seem so surprising. Yet it’s the slowing down of growth that has concerned investors: Twitter’s monthly active user numbers have fallen 30% from 2013 to 2015, and by 2019 growth – a critical indicator of future potential revenues – is heading for a slowdown to 6%.

For a young public company those numbers are sounding more and more like a death knell. For investors, Twitter’s plans – and Costolo carried the can for this – have not confidently set out its future. Chris Sacca, a major investor, wrote an insightful essay on the company’s challenges: “Twitter has failed to meet its own stated user growth expectations and has not been able to take advantage of the massive number of users who have signed up for accounts and then not come back. Shortcomings in the direct response advertising category have resulted in the company coming in below the financial community’s quarterly estimates.

“In the wake of this Twitter’s efforts to convince the investing community of the opportunity ahead fell flat. Consequently the stock is trading near a six-month low, well below its IPO closing day price, and the company is suffering through a seemingly endless negative press cycle.”

But he says Twitter “has boldness in its bones” and that it can improve by making the service easier for new users, more supportive for users intimidated by the site, and by making it feel less lonely.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Sprinklr gets satisfaction

Get Satisfaction

It looks like the $46 million that Sprinklr raised from investors earlier this month is powering the enterprise social media firm’s expansion drive with its announcement last week that it has acquired Get Satisfaction, an online customer engagement community platform connecting companies with their customers to foster valuable relationships.

This is Sprinklr’s fifth acquisition in just over a year.

In its press release, Sprinklr said the addition of Get Satisfaction adds industry-leading, community-based customer support to its Experience Cloud and will enable enterprise brands to create, manage, and deliver relevant experiences across almost 25 social channels and brand websites.

Sprinklr said it will integrate Get Satisfaction into its Experience Cloud, the new platform announced in tandem with the $46 million investment-raising – what I described as an “omnichannel offering” – that gives enterprise companies a complete, integrated, and collaborative set of social capabilities for managing social media, brand websites, content, paid advertising, and listening.

Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas noted in an email:

The addition of Get Satisfaction to the Sprinklr Experience Cloud enables our clients to deliver world class community-based customer support, while leveraging the same  practices and processes they use for social customer care with Sprinklr today.

When all is said and done, our clients can create, manage, and deliver experiences that customers will love across 20+ social networks and brands’ websites.

One aspect of this deal that strikes me as especially significant is what it provides to Sprinklr in terms of access to and control of customer data and metrics for social media monitoring and analysis.

Access to data from a social network is typically via an API controlled by the network. If it’s shut down, or access otherwise is no longer allowed, the data flow stops which could be damaging to a business that relies on it for its service. A current case in point is Datasift and Twitter (and see the discussion in Robert Scoble’s Facebook post).

As TechCrunch reported:

[…] This is where Get Satisfaction becomes an interesting acquisition for Sprinklr. What it will give the company is the ability to collect data from customers, about businesses and brands, on its own platform, which it can then use to power its wider analytics services.

“We have to honor third party terms and conditions, and we do,” [Carlos Dominguez, Sprinklr’s president] said, but the data that Sprinklr will have greater control over will give it much more flexibility in how that data is used and also presented, he added. “You can provide a richer experience to people. This tech has benefits for the brand and their customers. It enhances the experience.”

(And remember, Get Satisfaction has been around since 2007, giving it eight years of data collected already that could be used for analytics.)

Sprinklr didn’t disclose the terms of its acquisition of Get Satisfaction nor the value of the deal. Sprinklr says Get Satisfaction’s technology will be integrated into the Sprinklr platform “in the coming months.”

Sprinklr raises $46m to build out an omnichannel offering: Experience Cloud

Empowered Customers

“Omnichannel” is a word to get used to as I expect we’ll hear this buzzword more and more as the technical marketing term to describe something relatively simple: the seamless customer experience. More on that in a minute.

It’s a word used in much of the media reporting on two announcements from enterprise social media firm Sprinklr yesterday, the first being that it had raised $46 million in new investment funding to value the company at $1.17 billion.

As Fortune magazine notes in its report, it’s a significant valuation increase in a short amount of time as Sprinklr’s last round of investor funding in 2014 valued the company at $520 million.

It’s Sprinklr’s second announcement yesterday that caught my attention most – the launch of the Experience Cloud, what Sprinklr describes as “a complete, integrated, and collaborative technology infrastructure that connects all of a brand’s social touch points.” It’s what they raised the $46 million for – to launch the Experience Cloud.

You’ll probably need a bit more than that to fully understand what Sprinklr is introducing, so here’s a 73-second video from Sprinklr explaining the Experience Cloud.

Let’s go back to the word “omnichannel.”

If we are in a world that’s about experiences, as many say we are – and as many of our own experiences as customers illustrate we are – then understanding the landscape and the behaviours of those in or on it become ever more important, whether you’re a marketer or a customer.

As good a definition of omnichannel as any I’ve seen comes from Omer Minkara, Research Director leading Aberdeen Group’s Contact Center and Customer Experience Management research:

Omni-channel: While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers they distinguish themselves through two additional factors: consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. These businesses are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel as well as the messages they receive across each touch-point are seamless.

It’s a bit wordy, but I’d say it describes what Sprinklr’s new offering is about. The above-all keyword is “seamless” as one differentiator from “multi-channel.”

Add to that this piece from Stan Phelps in Forbes magazine:

The Experience Cloud promises a unified view of the customer. It allows brand to manage a multitude of touchpoints. The key question is speed. The problem for most organizations is that response times differ whether its social, phone, chat, e-mail, or snail mail. Sprinklr’s offering allows all of these channels to managed from one central hub. It allows brands to take a channel agnostic view with the ability to deploy resources and a workflow for each interaction. The biggest benefit is that response time can be greatly improved.

And in a marketing email coinciding with yesterday’s announcements, Sprinklr Founder and CEO Ragy Thomas says:

We believe every business must focus on delivering relevant experiences at every social touchpoint.

If you agree, then Experience Cloud may be for you.

Worth a look.

Check out Sprinklr’s infographic:

Disconnected Experiences and Connected Customers [Infographic]