Entrepreneur, Explorer, Angel.

Sometimes all at Once.

24TH May 2013

Leadership - Mobile - Mojiva - Timely - Uncategorized

Don’t Worry, everything will be the same again. Now give me your money.

Epic Cover from Popular Mechanics c'94

Epic Cover from Popular Mechanics c’94

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when you pull up some information on your mobile device or tablet like today’s Weather Channel outlook or last nights scores on ESPN? Ever been annoyed by the ad intruding on what you want to look at, or if it’s behaving but not being relevant at all. What goes on behind the scenes, in about 1/1000th of a second, is a remarkable battle for the right deliver a message from someone who wants to engage you.

Flattered? Well you (and about 6 billion other people) are one of the two pillars that anchor a giant eco-system that is defining our times. Congratulations.

But the pipes that run between the brand that wants to reach you and the mobile device you are looking are new, not fully developed, filled with billions of dollars, and clogged with FUD. For the un-initiated, that’s Fear-Uncertainty-and-Doubt. When it gets solved, it will mean more and better content supported by relevant and timely ads that actually add to the experience.

In the meantime, let me (try to) explain what we (the businesses behind this) are working on to bring you to that point…

The pipe is all the different ways a brand can reach a consumer on a mobile device (explained below). The hold up revolves around people’s natural resistance to change, and their comfort with the familiar. I’m not immune to that, and I can remember a turning point about mid-way through the dot-com era when I lamented to a few of my old school buyout friends “remember when we used to be able to buy a company and phone it in for 5-10 years without anyone messing with us”?. Thomas Friedman got that right in his World is Flat, stating that our ability to learn and adapt will become the greatest skill set for the modern world. As markets and models change overnight, those that resist change and evolution will inevitably become a smaller and smaller island, if not altogether sunk. And who’s to blame for all this?

The information super highway for one. And for two, creative destruction went from Generational to 140 characters. Which brings us back to mobile ad-tech.

For an outsider, there is nothing more exciting than the tectonic shift of time spent from TV and PC to Mobile and Tablet. Though I write this on a PC (Mac) there are fewer and fewer tasks that get completed in front of this screen. And the brands that want to reach me are beginning to figure this out: the ads are getting smarter, more relevant, less intrusive and – dare I say – value ad on occasion. And this is done without cookies (on mobile) but with many more interesting parameters. But, like the internet’s early days, it’s still got a long way to go.

Segue here for first timers: my theory remains that as consumers get access to more information faster, they want more information, faster. And, like the internet, they will not like to pay for any of that. So the brands who want to access those consumers will subsidize that content with advertising support. And one way or another, that’s how we’ll roll for a while here.

So why do outsiders and first timers make such a big deal about the complexity and fragmentation of the mobile ads ecosystem? FUD. Listening to the CM Summit – thanks Google for the live stream- Luma’s Terry Kawaga  (start at 1:17:45) uses a showman’s flair for ridiculous sound effects and funny mash-ups while drawing out the following truth: there are only two pillars in digital media, consumer and brand. Everyone else is an enabler to that connection. If you get confused while looking a LumaScape, just repeat the preceding sentence. Here are the rest of the players, per Terry:

  • Publishers create content of interest, where consumers flock like birds of a feather.
  • Agencies create interesting ad units, and control lots of ad buys
  • Networks buy and sell the remnants the publishers can’t sell themselves
  • Exchanges automate the process
  • Data targets users for more unique ad delivery
My world. Welcome.

My world. Welcome.

And if you are gazing upon the Mobile LumaScape for the first time, you might say I guess I won’t be able to phone it in for 5-10 years without anyone messing with me. So this is where it gets interesting, as Terry again point out. Those enablers between the consumer and the brand tend to welcome the newbies with the following line

Oh, yes it’s very confusing. Give me your money and I’ll make it better.

Which is a lazy way to look at it. Yes, there’s a bunch of logos up there but he has the basics in the right place: Consumer and Brand. In between, there are a bunch of petri dishes founded by innovators, funded by vc’s, helping find better solutions between the two. But playing the game of fear (this is so confusing) and hero (but I can save you, give me your money) will not advance any of the said petri dishes. What will advance and differentiate them is seamless integrations between the petri dishes such that a brand can plug-in and gain the benefits of any and all of the innovations that allow it to best reach the consumer at the best time with the best ad.

And all this will normalize into something pretty logical I think. Just look at the same video at 1:28:00, about pop-ups. They were hated online, and they eventually receded or were trimmed back. They are no less hated in mobile, and likewise they will not win by dominating the screen. They will win by being relevant and timely and reaching the consumer when they need it most.

So that’s what’s going on each time you pull up a page on your mobile.


While not mentioned directly, I’d be remiss if I did not disclose I founded a mobile ad-tech company that powers several logos above: Mocean Mobile.


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