I’m not one for regular “cardio”, preferring instead to move quickly through high intensity resistance workouts. But lately I have been trying to figure out how I can push it even more in an effort to get into really good condition in 2014 (this is not a new year’s resolution mind you.. I started earlier this month!).

I have long been intrigued by the Tabata Protocol, which is an interval program consisting of 20 seconds of all out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 6-8 times. While Tabata has been around for a while, it has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.

One of the challenges of Tabata is figuring out how to exercise with maximum intensity for 20 seconds nonstop safely. Enter the Schwinn Airdryne.

The Airdyne has been around for years, but you’re seeing them more in mainstream gyms thanks to the popularity of CrossFit and MMA-style training. The Airdyne uses wind resistance and the faster you pedal, the higher the resistance. It also has alternate handles to allow you to use the upper body.

I tried it this morning and found it to be perfect for Tabata, since you can exercise at your maximum right away, but given that you generate the resistance it automatically adjusts as you fatigue. 

After not doing any hard cardio for years, I managed 6 sprints this morning and was totally wiped afterwards. I took this as a sign that high intensity resistance training can provide a lot of conditioning benefits, but also that I have room to improve.

Why Mobile Retargeting is a Big Deal For Twitter, Not Publishers

Twitter announced a mobile retargeting product yesterday. I spoke with Digiday about it and was quoted in their coverage today. My view is that retargeting is an incredibly effective tool for direct response but not one that is really going to move the needle for 99.9% of publishers.

Retargeting is finding the proverbial needle in the marketing haystack. Retargeting essentially tries, via cookies, to find the 1 out of 225,250,000 possible US internet users that has visited a marketer’s site with a message targeted just for them. Obviously this gets amplified by the number of consumers that has visited a marketer’s page and in the case of a business like Criteo or Google, lots of marketers, but there is still a natural limit to the number of potential consumers eligible for retargeting at any given time.

To achieve scale in retargeting an ad tech or media business needs to have high total reach (Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Google) and/or be able to access that much reach via exchanges (DSPs, trading desks, some networks), and/or operate a network (Google via GDN, Twitter via Mopub, AOL via, Undertone). Therefore having the best chance of seeing the users who are eligible to be retargeted. And do so with enough frequency to encourage a conversion (reach x frequency is the reason why Facebook’s FBX is such a beast). 

Retargeting in mobile, as the article states, is trickier due to the nonexistence of cookies. Therefore companies that have a first party relationship with a consumer (usually via a login) AND scale are at an advantage right now. Think Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Back to publishers. The 34th largest publisher in the US as tracked by comScore in October, Fox News, sees about 32 million unique desktop users, or approximately 15% reach. A publisher of this size simply is not large enough to see a very meaningful revenue increase by working with companies to retarget users. Mobile for most publishers is half of their traffic or less. The numbers get even smaller.

Twitter, like Criteo, can certainly build a meaningful retargeting business by aggregating many of these publishers. And they will.

However this does not mean that publishers enjoy meaningful incremental revenue increase by adding retargeting ads (via Twitter or others) to their mobile sites. They should.

The real mobile money for publishers will be made differently.

Viewability: Back In Focus

The conversation about “viewability” - the initiative to count online ads that have the opportunity to be seen, rather than just served - is back. Just this week, Undertone released some data based on an industry survey, and the MRC moved its advisory back to Q1 2014.

Having been an outspoken supporter of the initiative since the beginning of the year, I had a few conversations about it with the media. Here is a collection of links.

Business Insider: This Stat Shows Online Publishers Don’t Care Whether People Can See The Ads They Run

Mediapost: MRC To Lift Viewability Advisory In 2014, Back Its Use As A Digital Currency

MediaPost: Real-Time With Eric Franchi, Co-founder Of Undertone, On Viewability

Do Twitter Image Ads Work?

Over the course of the past year we have shifted a lot of our marketing and communications attention to social at Undertone. We use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and SlideShare as our main platforms. The majority of our activity is organic but at times we use paid placements to amplify news or content. Promoted Tweets have been effective.

After Twitter redesigned the stream a couple of weeks ago - making image-based posts 100% viewable by removing the need to click on them - I thought it was a very significant and positive change. Images can drive far more engagement than text in both content and advertising. So I thought it would be interesting to try images in a Promoted Tweet.

Right now hiring is a number one priority at Undertone so we decided to try it out on a recruiting ad. It took our team just a little while to create a few different versions and we launched it. You can see one here. Jack Marshall of Digiday, who has been following the image based tweet trend closely, noticed it right away and sent this tweet (thanks Jack!)

With Promoted Tweets you look at engagements, defined as retweets, replies, follows and clicks. Our goal was to get people to click on the jobs link. Without getting into specifics we saw a high percentage of engagements going to the link and a very high overall engagement rate. Especially as measured against previous Promoted Tweets without images.

Which is why I thought this article, again by Jack, was interesting. It challenged the notion of image-based Promoted Tweets being good for driving traffic or clicks to the link. Our experiment proved otherwise.

I have a couple of thoughts as to why this could be the case. The biggest thing is that we really tried to create something in the right context for a Twitter user who is quickly moving through the stream and looking for content. We did not just redesign a standard banner ad.

First is the message. Despite Promoted Tweets going to a targeted audience, we have no idea whether they are in the market for a job. Thus the passive, playful message. Second is the creative. This is a shot from a company team-building outing and there are a lot of folks clearly having fun on the beach. This creative is about as social as it gets! Third is finally call to action. We’re not going for the hard close with a “click here to apply”. It’s a softer message but still gets the point across to the user.

So overall, I think that adding images to tweets is a big plus and our data proves it out. I do also think that, just like with all advertising, you need to think about context, creative and message to truly drive better results. Just adding an image is not going to be the game changer.

On Ad Tech Investing and Buckets

Jerry Neumann of Neu Venture Capital did a great presentation on ad tech investing at the Appnexus Summit in NYC last week. He used actual data to take a close look at where the funding market is and where it may be going.

He was nice enough to quote my recent post on “Buckets" as well.

You can see the presentation here starting at 1:49 and his discussing the “buckets” theory at 1:54.

My Reading List: November 2013

Thanks to the Kindle Cloud reader, its pre-ordering and auto-delivery features and my ever-present iPad, I have been reading more than I have in years. And I’m very happy about that.

I’m not much of a fiction reader, preferring instead to dive into topics, stories or people that I am interested in. Here’s the list of books that I have read over the last month or so and some thoughts on each.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday: I am obsessed with how marketing is changing given the influences and capabilities of things like mobile and social. This is a quick and interesting read from someone on the bleeding edge.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk: A good primer, although a little dated, on building social presences for business and personal brands. If you like Gary V’s style, you will love this book.

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk: Good perspective on how social media can help a business become more customer-centric

UnLabel by Marc Ecko: Probably my favorite book of the lot. Marc is a big inspiration for me professionally. In this book he takes the reader through many ups and downs over the past 20 years, and gives a lot of practical and unique advice. What I appreciated most is that he doesn’t hold back one bit; talking about difficult times with his business partner, getting depressed, even gaining weight. Most books by and about successful execs tend to just focus on achievements. This book was as real as it gets and a far more accurate depiction of the entrepreneurial journey. A bonus: the illustrations are incredible. I’m going to get a hard copy for my collection.

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton: I just finished this. It reads like a movie. It is a big departure from the story of Twitter and its founders that many of us know. This one was hard to put down.

So that was my reading list. I’m actually looking for a book to read next. Any recommendations? 

Photo of me in the hot seat. Taken during Advertising Week 2013.

The Importance Of Buckets In Digital Media

A (thing) recently announced their launch along with a big venture round. I used (thing) intentionally not to omit their name but because I have no category to put them in. In their press coverage they refused to be put in a category, instead calling themselves a new kind of digital media solution or something like that.

While this can work for a launch since it gives an angle to the story, it can also be dangerous. The reason is because customers need to put you in a bucket. Physical or mental.

If you are looking to sell media to agencies, you better be able to align to one of the buckets that they use to plan and buy media against: site, portal, network, dsp. Otherwise you literally don’t have a place on a media plan. That’s the physical bucket.

If you are calling on publishers or brands, it can be a little easier, but you then spend more time educating them on why you’re not a x, y or z but a (thing)! And then potentially having the conversation go in a direction other than talking to them about their business and how you can help. That’s the mental bucket. 

In both cases the LUMAscapes are good bucket guides.

A lot of this stems from companies not wanting association with a category since they don’t like the current players’ recent funding valuations or exits. Which I understand, but I don’t agree with.

If you started this business than you believe in it no matter what the category. So rather than spending time talking about what you’re not, just own it. Talk about why you started it, the limitations of the current solutions and why you are better. Your clients will appreciate it and you’ll gain credibility as well.

Don’t try to be the first (thing).

I took this a few weeks ago at the Bank of America Tower, 48th Floor. An incredible panoramic view of NYC.

Are Advertising Businesses Especially ‘Hard’?

There was an interesting post by the founder of Meebo today on how hard advertising businesses are

I read the post, sat back and realized that I disagreed with none of it. The author was 100% accurate. Scale and performance matter. Relationships matter. Salespeople are expensive. You start from (not quite, but closer to it than quota) zero every quarter.

Welcome to the past 12+ years of my life, pal.

It’s not until I read something like this, or have a conversation with someone that is new to the business and in their acclimation/adjustment phase that I realize all of the above isn’t normal. But it’s all I have known.

But isn’t any business hard? Isn’t that one of the reasons why the startup success rate is so low? Businesses are hard, not only in terms of work but figuring it all out. I go to the pizza place on a busy night and think, ‘Wow, this looks hard’.

Or are advertising businesses, with all their ups and downs, really ‘harder’ than others?

Would love some thoughts on this.