Early reports are in: this week's ad:tech in San Francisco looks to be the biggest event in the history of the conference. This is just one more indication of something we already know: interactive advertising is back and bigger than ever before!
But the balance of media influence has shifted from the few to the many, and with more people sailing through more media properties -- online and off -- than ever before, navigating these marketing waters has become harder than ever. A new venture seems to be greenlit every time a car horn honks in Union Square, but unlike the bubble, in these days of Web 2.0, the viable business plan is in the ascendant.
With this in mind, it makes sense for the opening keynote to come from a venture capitalist, particularly one with a track record like Mark Kvamme's. With early investments in Google, PayPal, eHarmony, Yahoo!, MP3.com, Zappos, CafePress and, more recently, LinkedIn and YouTube, Kvamme knows why, where and when to sink investment dollars.
Kvamme opened with an amusing PowerPoint slide called "Truth in Advertising," and then he went on to talk about all the failed investments Sequoia has made, particularly in the bubble era when they funded companies like eToys or a company that, they later learned, had a CEO "with a gun in his desk… and who wasn't very nice to his employees."
Nonetheless, with a mission "to be the best investors in technology companies around the world," Sequoia's successes are apparent, and this was particularly clear when Kvamme noted that 10.5 percent of the NASDAQ's current value comes from companies in which Sequoia has invested.
Displaying a 1939 quote from the New York Times that expressed skepticism about whether consumers would take to television in large numbers, Kvamme showed that the rapid adoption of TV has been paralleled -- even dwarfed -- by consumer uptake with the internet. In 1950, TV had a 10 percent penetration in the U.S.; 10 years later it had 90 percent penetration and advertising had exploded, Kvamme said.
The same thing, Kvamme argued, is happening online today. The commercial internet was born on August 16, 1995-- the day Netscape went public. That year, the internet had 10 million users. Today, there are 108 million users. Online ad revenue in 1995 was 66 million dollars; today it's 10 billion dollars, and the internet can boast of creating "real companies" including Yahoo, eBay, Google, Amazon.com, Real Networks, CNET, Netflix and IAC.
Indeed, Kvamme noted, the media landscape has changed so much that 10 of the dominant companies -- including Google, eBay, Yahoo, Sirius, Expedia and Amazon.com -- simply didn't exist in 1990.
Kvamme then quoted-- and agreed with News. Corp. head Rupert Murdoch's recent statement: "We're just now at the very beginning of the shift to digital media."
Dubbing the new age "Modern Media," Kvamme pointed to declining audiences in radio and TV, as well as declining readership in newspapers (which saw a circulation peak way back in 1987), as strong indicators that "we've seen nothing yet." As more and more media goes onto the net, "we are going to the time of the constantly connected consumer."
It's worth noting that Kvamme distinguished between the web and the net. Media is going online to podcasts, RSS and mobile, as well as onto the web.
Yet in spite of the changes in consumer behavior, the media spend still lags behind. Kvamme noted that while average household time spent with TV is 33 percent, the average ad spend on TV is 38 percent. In contrast, average household time spend on the internet is 33 percent, but the ad spend is a "miniscule" five percent.
And, Kvamme said, breaking it down by CPM makes the differences in media weight even more apparent. A $64 CPM on network TV is a bad buy when compared to a premium internet CPM of $30, and it looks downright terrible when compared to an internet ROS CPM of $10.
More significantly, since, "usage doesn't go down; usage goes up" with the internet, "advertisers need to go where consumers are spending time, and they're spending time on the internet."
To show the erosion in the television audience and the corresponding increase in the online audience, Kvamme compared "MASH," "Sex & the City" and Yahoo. The 1983 airdate of the final episode of "MASH" had 106 million viewers. In contrast, the final episode of "Sex & the City" in 2004 had 11 million viewers. Kvamme stacked that against Yahoo's current audience of 45 million viewers per day: five times the size of any of the broadcast TV networks.
The internet, Kvamme argues, has become the de facto remote control for all media. "iTunes is not about tunes anymore. It's about everything." And this includes podcasts, TV, music… "anything that is digital media. It's becoming my remote control for my digital media." From "Lost" to a "local motocross podcast" or the latest Eagles song, "it's about how you get to the media."
Kvamme cited YouTube, one of Sequoia's investments, as a key example. Founded a little over a year ago, in March of this year YouTube saw "more than 30 million videos per day." And an average user spends 30 minutes on the site per day. Moreover, YouTube sees 30,000 uploads each day. "The viewership is phenomenal," Kvamme said, with what is essentially a 4.0 Nielsen rating and a reach that exceeds those of cable TV channels MTV, ESPN and Fox News.
To grow the brand and reach a new audience, Klondike and its agency partner developed the Klondike Everyman Challenges, which celebrated everyday activities performed by average guys in an above-average way. Housed on the KlondikeChallenges.com website, the campaign included celebrity Everyman Challenge videos produced by Adam Carolla, which encouraged fans to submit their own videos. It also included online games that tasked players with "everyday" challenges, and the Klondike Unfoiled smartphone application where users had to unwrap digital Klondike Bars as quickly as possible.
The effort generated more than 322 million impressions and an 859 percent increase in online discussion.
Pepsi Max Football Hero
Microsoft Advertising, PepsiCo International Digital Marketing, and OMD International, 2010
An online experience to expose male consumers aged 18-34 to the Pepsi Max brand, the campaign consisted of five online interactive soccer games and exclusive content from international soccer stars. Game players were immersed in the action as they worked their way up from a "zero" to a "hero" who could receive virtual lucrative advertising contracts and be responsible for a free kick in the last minute of an online game. Players could share the games with friends on social networking sites, email, and Windows Live Messenger. It was promoted across Xbox.com, Xbox Live, MSN, and Windows Live Hotmail, reaching 10 million unique users across 14 markets, each of which spent an average of 10 minutes on the site.
The network's digital partners provided a plethora of options for viewers to connect with program's content in advance of the airing, including a custom editorial website and downloadable "Life"-related desktop themes for Windows 7 users.
Unique to Yahoo, consumers were able to pick from one of several visually striking images of nature's most spectacular critters and display it on their Yahoo homepage in the days leading up to the series premiere, share video from the series, and create a customized "Life" icon on their Yahoo Messenger accounts. In this way, potential viewers were surrounded by engaging content no matter where their online lives took them. "Life" campaign results included 592,493 online clicks and more than 80,000 Facebook fans.
Kinect Joy Ride
Microsoft Advertising, 2010
Seeking to promote the Volt to members of the connected generation, Chevrolet used Microsoft's Kinect technology to create a first-of-its-kind experience. Through a video advertisement viewable in-dash on Microsoft's Xbox Live or accessible via the web, consumers had the ability to unlock and test drive the car within the Kinect Joy Ride. The campaign took full advantage of the growing popularity for Kinect device-powered games and followed on the heels of a campaign for Porsche's launch of the Panamera, which resulted in 20 percent of XBox Live players of that promotion visiting their local dealership, according to Porsche's internal numbers.
BlackBerry All-Access Pregame Show, with the National Hockey League
Starcom Worldwide, 2010
Research in Motion partnered with the National Hockey League (NHL) to reach hockey's passionate fan base and promote its devices. A two-pronged effort, the campaign involved a pregame show for fans streamed at NHL.com; the show prominently featured anchors receiving tips via the handheld device. At the same time, participating fans could get mobile messages from NHL employee "Stanley 10" before, during, and after the game.
Showcasing BlackBerry devices through both web and mobile campaign components reinforced the brand's message as the choice of the always-connected fan. In addition to brand awareness, the campaign also resulted in more than a million video starts by the time the campaign concluded on June 10.
Microsoft Advertising, 2010
ABC garnered attention for the TV series through a multi-screen effort, with components ranging from customized website ads showing creative that could be downloaded to mobile phones, to in-game advertisements on Microsoft's Xbox. Although the show didn't survive, it proved that television content could be strategically repurposed to generate attention for a program on a variety of platforms. The campaign delivered nearly 3.8 million impressions and more than 1.8 million total consumer interactions.
The Hunt for the Unbelievable for Diet Dr Pepper
Yahoo and Initiative, 2011
Diet Dr Pepper worked with Yahoo to create an online scavenger hunt that brought its popular We Exist characters online for the first time. Participants in the scavenger hunt were tasked with locating and then virtually "capturing" a series of the popular characters across Yahoo web and mobile properties in interactive ads for a chance to win a grand prize trip. The campaign smartly translated the inherent playfulness of the characters into interactive executions that played to the strengths of the online and mobile screens.
Hand in hand with this increased connectivity, expect to see more campaigns rely on multi-screen efforts to drive consumer recognition. The most successful, however, will take advantage of the capabilities and designs of the screens -- touch, location, and orientation -- and tie the creative into the same story, as the Diet Dr Pepper campaign did. Not only did The Hunt for the Unbelievable extend the reach of a campaign, but it also enhanced the story, having been designed for interaction across devices.
Creative, technologically advanced, and strategically sound efforts like these will serve as the models for brands looking to execute effective multi-screen campaigns in the future.
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