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    Entries in advertising (20)

    Tuesday
    May092017

    Never gets tired, never stops learning

    Sharing another dispatch from the 'robots are coming to take all our jobs away' world with this recent piece from Digiday, "Who needs media planners when a tireless robot named Albert can do the job?".

    The back story of this particular implementation of AI to replace, (or as we will learn, perhaps just augment or supplement human labor), comes from advertising, where the relatively new concept of programmatic digital advertising has emerged in the last few years. Part of the process of getting things like banner ads, Facebook ads, display ads, and even branded video ads in front of consumers involves marketers choosing the type of ads to show, the content of those ads, the days/times to show the ads, and finally the platforms upon which to push the ads to.

    If it all sounds pretty complex to you, then you're right.

    Enter "Albert." As per the Digiday piece once the advertiser, (in this case Dole Foods), set some blanket objectives and goals, then Albert determined what media to invest in at what times and in what formats. And it also decided where to spend the brand’s budget. On a real-time basis, it was able to figure out the right combinations for creative and headlines.  For example, once Albert determined that Dole’s user engagement rate on Facebook was 40 percent higher for mobile than desktop, Albert shifted more budget to mobile.

    The results have been impressive; According to Dole, the brand had an 87 percent in increase in sales versus the prior year.

    Why bring this up here, on a quasi-HR blog?

    Because it highlights really clearly, a real-life example of the conditions of work that are most ripe for automation, (or at least augmentation). Namely, a data-intensive, detailed, and heavy data volume environment that has to be analyzed, a fast-moving and rapidly paced set of changing conditions that need to be reacted to in real-time, (and 24/7), and finally, the need to be constantly assessing outcomes and making comparisons of choices in order to adjust strategies and execution plans to optimize for the desired outcomes.

    People are good at those things. But AI like Albert might be (probably are) better at those things.

    But in the piece we also see the needed and hard-to-automate contributions of the marketing people at Dole as well.

    They have to give Albert the direction and set the desired business goals - sales, clicks, 'likes', etc.

    They have to develop the various creative content and options from which Albert will eventually choose to run. 

    And finally, they have to know if Albert's recommendations actually do make sense and 'fit' with the overall brand message and strategy.

    Let's recap: People - set goals, strategic objectives, develop creative content, and "understand" the company, brand, context, and environment. AI: executes at scale, assesses results in real-time, optimizes actions in order to meet stated goals, and provides openness into the actions it is taking.

    It sounds like a really reasonable, and pretty effective implementation of AI in a real business context.

    And an optimistic one too, as the 'jobs' that Albert leaves for the people to do seem like the ones that people will want to do.

    Monday
    Dec052016

    Signs of the Corporate Death Spiral #4 - Competing like it's 2005

    While I was busy over the weekend watching my beloved Knicks researching some blog posts, I caught a TV spot from the wireless company Sprint, which features an actor who became pretty well known several years ago as the 'Can you hear me know?' guy from a series of spots for Sprint's arch-enemy Verizon Wireless.

    If you don't recall the once ubiquitous Verizon ads take a look at an example below, (email and RSS subscribers click through)

    These Verizon ads ran constantly back in the early aughts, as Verizon (and its competitors in the wireless market), were all feverishly building out their networks, trying to expand coverage to more places, and importantly, working hard to improve sound/voice quality for calls and reduce dropped calls. I would guess most readers are old enough to recall when every second or third cell phone conversation would be barely audible, if it wasn't cut off completely (and randomly). And back in 2004 or 2005, a cell phone (and network), that could not be counted on to reliably carry good quality voice calls was, well, pretty much worthless. Yes it's true, in 2004 you used your cell phone mostly to talk to other people. 

    So let's jump back to 2016 and think about what Sprint is trying to do with their messaging and spots starring the actor formerly known as the Verizon 'Can you hear me know?' guy? On the surface Sprint is trying to poke the bear (Verizon), with these spots, showcasing (in case we are all dumb enough not to realize this guy is an actor, and not a real customer), how Verizon's most famous advocate has now defected over to Sprint. In the Sprint spots the reason given for 'Can you hear me know's?' defection has something to do with overall network comparability and equivalency between Sprint and Verizon, coupled with Sprint's claim that its plans are less expensive than comparable Verizon plans.

    Or something like that. Who knows for sure because once the 'Can you hear me know guy?' starts talking, (and immediately reminds us that he is in fact the 'Can you hear me know?' guy), that is pretty much all I can focus on. Can you hear me know? Can you hear me know?  Blah, blah, blah and suddenly we are back in 2005. Back when dropped calls, heck when making calls was a big deal.

    Now? Not so much. A couple of years ago when my son wanted to get his first phone I was surprised by the request and asked him why he needed a cell phone because I wondered who was he planning to call?

    He replied, and he was maybe 12 at the time, that I was being silly because 'Cell phones aren't for talking to people, they are for watching videos, playing games, and getting on the internet.'

    And he was/is right. That is (mostly) what cell phones are for today. And that is why Sprint, who in 2016, running ads that like it or not, make us think about what used to be important, (dropped calls, bad call connections), is missing the entire point. What matters now is the device itself, its capabilities, the apps, the camera, etc. And oh yeah, once a day or so when we make a call we want it to go through, but who worries about that any more?

    Sprint in 2016, is still in a way, probably non-intentionally I grant, trying to compete with Verizon by harkening back to what used to matter about a decade in the past. And by that, they are missing the point completely. 

    Or they are making another point entirely. Which is, we are pretty much out of ideas. But at least we are now ready to compete with Verizon in 2005. We even got the Verizon guy from 2005 on our team. As if that matters.

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Sep212015

    This content is not sponsored

    No doubt you have heard or read about, and possibly (more like probably), installed for yourself one of the popular Ad blocking programs or browser extensions in order to improve your web browsing experience, protect your privacy, and even perhaps to send a message to the internet publishers of the world that you are sick and tired of a terrible, ad-filled user experience.

    While Ad blockers have been around for quite some time, their usage has recently seen a dramatic uptick. A study released last month by PageFair and Adobe reported that the usage of Ad blocking tools worldwide has grown by 41% in the last year, and now about 45 million US internet users use these tools, (a 48% growth rate in the 12-month period ending in June 2015).Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954

    Finally, ad blocking has hit the news more openly due to the recent release of Apple's update to the iOS operating system that powers iPhone and iPad that now supports Ad blocking apps and Safari browser extensions to enable ad blocking. Immediately, Ad blocking apps shot to the top of the App Store popularity charts, (although the number one app, Peace, was quickly withdrawn by its creator for reasons of 'conscience').

    And the short-tern and pretty obvious repercussions to online publishers from this rise in user Ad blocking? 

    A loss of revenue, for sure, for those sites that rely heavily on banner and display ads for revenue. If these ads are not seen, they can't be clicked on, and therefore can't produce revenue. From the user/reader perspective this is great, you never clicked on any of these ads anyway, and they drover slower page load times, potentially ate of monthly data allotments on mobile, and were just plain creepy and annoying. 

    But for the publishers, you or me or anyone blocking these ads presents to their point of view almost a breach of understanding of sorts. The deal, such as it it, is that for non-subscription and non-paywalled sites, the publisher would provide 'free' content, and you, the reader, would 'agree' to put up with seeing and occasionally clicking on ads to fund the content creation operation. It is impossible to tell for sure the number of sites that if Ad blocking continues to grow at the current pace will end up either having to shut down, or adopt an alternate business models, (subscriptions, donations, or more 'sponsored conent'). Sponsored content, for now, looks enough like 'regular' content that the ad blockers can't easily identify it as such.

    The deep backstory behind some of what is going on here, and not really worth diving into on an HR blog, is the macro battle being waged for user time and attention, and the corresponding advertising dollars that follow, between Apple, Google, Facebook and if you wanted to be generous, probably Twitter and LinkedIn too. The iOS 9 updated placed a non-deletable 'Apple News' app on your iPhone, Facebook wants every important publisher to publish direct to Facebook, and LinkedIn and its Pulse app want to be the sole source for your news as well.

    Some of these companies, (Facebook and Apple for sure), want to control and segregate user's interactions with the internet into their own platforms, devices, and/or apps - formats where they can define the rules of engagement and protect their advertisers ads from being blocked. Others like Google, want to continue to drive traffic to sites (again, especially on mobile), that don't attempt to drive users to download individual publisher apps as opposed to using the mobile web.

    It is still really hard to know how these trends are going to play out, how we find and consumer information might change, and how the revenue models will adapt. But ads are like water - they will continue to push and flow into whatever openings they can find to get in front of our eyeballs on on our mobile phone screens. 

    But to tie this back, if I can, to the HR/Talent/workplace space, I think the potential for the reduction of independent voices in our space is the real threat and the thing to worry about longer term. If indeed the rise of Ad blocking, combined with the ubiquity, wealth, reach, and influence of the world's largest tech companies drive us to an environment where fewer, siloed, and single-entity controlled sources of information dominate the conversation, then that can't be good for the generation, discussion, and spread of new ideas.

    This, to me, is worth paying attention to in the next couple of years. Sure, web pages free of ads do look better, load faster, and are less frustrating.

    But if the tradeoff is a world where all of the news (or at least most of it), gets filtered, approved, and distributed via Apple, Google, and Facebook can't promise to be a less frustrating one either.

    Have a great week!                         

    Saturday
    Feb142015

    Rob Lowes, Ranked

    Your definitive ranking of DirectTV commercial Rob Lowes.

    10. Far less attractive Rob Lowe

    9. Scrawny arms Rob Lowe

    8. Super creepy Rob Lowe

    7. Rob Lowe (the normal one)

    6. Peaked in high school Rob Lowe

    5. St. Elmo's Fire Rob Lowe (I know that one has not been in the DirectTV spots, but he should be)

    4. Painfully awkward Rob Lowe

    3. Crazy hairy Rob Lowe

    2. Overly paranoid Rob Lowe

    1. Meathead Rob Lowe

    Monday
    Jan262015

    Sprinkles are for winners

    Over the weekend during an extended period of extensive reading and research that keeps this blog full of interesting and provocative content, (I was mostly watching basketball on TV), I ran into this little beauty (video embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click though), one of the latest in the long-running series of 'Flo' spots from Progressive Insurance. Watch the quick 30-second spot then some FREE comments from your humble correspondent.
    I, like you too probably, was just about done with Flo, she has been seemingly telling us about how fantastic discount auto insurance can be for literally YEARS.

     

    But with this little bit of wisdom, 'Spinkles are for winners', she is all the way back on Steve's 'approved' list.

     

    Why is this spot perfect, and relevant too?
    Because it reminds us that in life, sports, business, sales - whatever, that losing is sometimes the inevitable outcome. Sometimes the other guy/company/product/candidate is bringing is simply better than what you have to offer. And sometimes you just have to accept that.

     

    But, and here is the key, you don't get a complete pass, or a do-over, even if the other guy really is better. You get an acknowledgement, sure, (if you are lucky), but you don't get many more chances probably, and you definitely don't get a prize.

     

    You have to figure out a way to win, eventually, even when no one blames you for losing. 

     

    Sprinkles are for winners, Jimmy.

     

    Have a geat week!