My First Apple Watch Experience

My household has become an Apple household. We have Macbook pros. We use iPhones. We have iPads. And there is even an iPod Nano in active use around here. So, believe me when I say we have been ecstatic about the Apple Watch for about two years now, ever since we heard it was a real thing that was happening.

And yesterday, my fiance and I showed up at an Apple Store for an appointment to actually look at the new Apple Watch.

Spoiler alert: this post is mostly a list of complaints about it. So, let me just get this out of the way: The Apple Watch is pretty. It’s well-designed like pretty much everything Apple makes.  I was worried it would be too thick, but it’s not. It’s light, sleek, and comfortable.

Here’s what I don’t like about the Watch and didn’t like about the experience.

The price is too high.
For all that is good about the Apple Watch, the price is still too high. I get that Apple is trying to go luxury and fashion, but this is still primarily a consumer electronic and there are some good smartphones that don’t cost as much as this gadget. The tiniest one with the aluminum case costs $350. The larger (which is more the style these days for men and women in watches) is $400.  If you bump up to the Watch Watch then you’re up in the $600+ range.

The names are confusing.
First of all, calling it The Watch is dumb because the thing is a watch. Can you imagine if the iPhone were simply called the “Apple Phone?”  You would have the same stupid conversations I keep having now about The Watch where I’m not sure if I’m saying watch or Watch. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. (See what I did there?)

Secondly, the different levels of The Watch are confusing. There’s the Apple Sport Watch, the Apple Watch Watch, and the Apple Kanye Watch. And just as with Kanye West, I do not care about that last one at all because it is ridiculous and obnoxious.

The bands aren’t interchangeable.
Actually, you can interchange the bands, but Sport bands won’t go on the Watch Watch and the Watch Watch bands won’t go on the Sport Watch.  This means that if you, like me, were imagining wearing The Watch to the gym with a brightly-colored, fancy rubber (fluoroelastomer) band and then swapping the band out for something classy and metal or leather for the office… well, you can’t do that.

Also, Apple really wanted to stick it to you and gave each level of Watch a different finish. The Sport Watch is matte and the Watch Watch is shiny. Not that it matters because the friggin’ bands aren’t interchangeable between the two.

I find this extra, extra annoying because part of Apple’s messaging is about how you can mix and match and configure the watch in so many ways that it becomes a personal expression. Maybe that’s true of the screen, but it isn’t really true of the hardware.

I still don’t know what it’s like to use it.
If you go to the store like I did on an appointment in order to get a hands-on experience with the watch, you won’t actually get to USE the watch.  The screen just plays this demo video loop that shows you what the different things are. It also does the shaky “taptic” thing so you can feel that. But you can’t scroll, touch, press, or anything like that. It’s just a non-responsive video loop.

The non-responsive video loop is nice and really shows off the display, but Apple has bragged about how they created a whole new interface with the digital crown and the force touch thing.  And you can’t really get a sense of what it’s like to use these new inventions.

The iHelper didn’t know everything about it.
I know. It’s not fair to expect them to know everything about the new gadget two days after it arrives in stores.

But this is Apple, so yes, it is.

There were all sorts of little questions I had that she just didn’t know about. I happened to know the answers because I’d heard/read things about them, but I wanted confirmation from a first-hand authority. She was very sweet, but she couldn’t tell me what I wanted to know.

The price is too high.
I know I mentioned this already, but seriously. The price is kind of ridiculous for what it is. The Watch is expensive. The bands are expensive. It’s expensive.

And you know there will be a new one next year and the year after that.

So, I think I’m going to hold off on this. As nice as it seems to be, I just can’t wrap my head around paying so much for so little.

Apple Watch Pricing

Everyone is talking about Apple’s event from Monday in which they revealed a few more details about the Apple Watch.  So, I’m talking about it, too.

I want to discuss the pricing. And how everyone seems to be bugging out a bit about it.

I think Apple’s pricing on the normal people options for the Apple Watch are pretty much right in line with those sportsy watches with GPS and heart monitors. For instance, the Garmin Fenix 3 is going for $620 right now on Amazon.

Many point out that the Apple Watch doesn’t hold a charge as long as those, but I think if you look closely, they’re actually pretty close. The Garmin Fenix will hold a charge for 6 weeks… in watch-only mode. If you’re in training mode — which the Apple Watch is arguably in all the time — it only lasts for 20 hours.  And the Apple Watch seems to do more than those watches.

The question that one has to consider in this comparison, though, is this: is all that functionality worth the same to the people who buy Garmin Fenix 3 watches? I have serious doubts about that. Sports watches tend to be for a market that values durability and the Apple Watch doesn’t strike me as being all that durable. It’s water resistant, not waterproof, so it’s not recommended that you submerge it.  You probably shouldn’t even shower with it. [See edit below regarding the Apple Watch’s water resistance.]

So, given all this, I tend to think the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport are priced a little high for what they are.  The value to justify those $350+ numbers just is not clear enough yet and that’s how you know if the price is right.  Sales will tell!

Price is determined by value perceived by the buyer.

However, I think this $10K (AND UP!) number is reeedonkulous. Yes, it’s in line with lower end luxury watches, but I don’t think it offers the appropriate sort of luxe to match. Sorry Apple, but it’s not THAT pretty. Based solely on the design, I can’t imagine that there’s that much overlap between the Apple Watch market and the luxury watch market. Meaning: I don’t think the Apple Watch will be on many people’s list when they think, “I’d like to spend over $10K on a really nice watch.”

I really want an Apple Watch, but I don’t think I want one that badly.  I will need to see one in person and even then I’m probably going to wait a couple of months before I actually shop for one.  That’s kind of how I buy all Apple products, but the prices do have me moving more slowly than usual.

EDIT: I inferred incorrectly that the Apple Watch’s level of water resistance which is appropriate for “washing your hands” would not be OK for showering.  Here’s what the IPX7 designation actually means:

Under the IPX7 designation, the Apple Watch will be able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. This means that a session in the shower, getting caught in the rain, or washing your hands will not cause damage, but prolonged exposure — such as swimming — would be harmful.

This still does not seem like it would be durable enough for the sportsfolks who buy those fancy watches.

Musing Over Semantics

Do the terms “online” and “offline” really mean anything to marketers any more?

If I walk into a store and a beacon pinpoints my location and triggers a notification of a special offer on my phone, am I online or offline? If I am in a store looking at a product on the shelf for which I have a coupon I received in the mail and I decide to compare the product and offer against what I find using my smartphone, am I online or offline?

The terms are traditionally used as opposites, but the addition of mobile really blurs the line.  What’s more, the introduction of mobile technology has also augmented the amount of data that can be brought in from “offline” channels for marketing use.

So, if you’re a marketer who is interested in collecting as much data as possible to understand your customers and their habits, is it really necessary to say that you’d like to collect data from both “online and offline” sources?

I really don’t think so.

#DailyDigital Hair’s on Fire Edition

This month is going to be a really crazy month, but I am going to do my best to squeeze in some of these daily digital posts where I can.

Authorities Issue Native Transparency Guidelines
You may recall last year when there was a lot of talk about native advertising after John Oliver went on his show and says that the lack of transparency about what is and what is not an advertisement has led some to cross lines of journalistic ethics. Well, that debate never really stopped and here now we have some guidelines from the IAB on how to make sure everyone knows what’s what online.

SlideShare: The Marketing Playbook Is Dead
Over at my seat in product marketing, we’ve been doing some talking recently about what “engagement” is and how traditional measurements seem to fail at capturing what the essence of it is and what impact, if any, marketers have in driving it. This slide deck has some really excellent observations and data on this front. Very worth the read.

The 15 Digital Trends Getting the Most Buzz Online
Who doesn’t love an infographic?  This is just neat, so check it out.

Direct Mail Specialist Pitney Bowes Makes Digital Strides
Here’s an interesting piece on Pitney Bowes.  I’m going to have to re-read this interview later, but skimming it I saw a few interesting nuggets.

One last blast:

Mattermark Has Focus And So Should You

An acquaintance of mine, Danielle Morill, is the CEO over at Mattermark, a startup tracking and research tool.  It’s a great product. I signed up for the 14 day trial to see how it works and to look into a few companies that I’d been hearing about.

A few months ago, I sent her some DMs on Twitter suggesting that they should add a job-hunters version of Mattermark. I proposed a pared down, cheaper account version that just provides information that job hunters are interested in.  Secondarily, by aligning with the hunting/recruiting community, I think that it would give Mattermark some interesting exit options as sites like LinkedIn seek to expand their capabilities.

She didn’t reply to my DMs (I’m positive that she gets a zillion DMs from all over the place and we are just acquaintances.) but she did tweet a few days later that they were not interested in job hunters as customers because they aren’t there for the long haul. So, I’m also positive that I’m not the only person to have suggested this to her.

And just the other day she tweeted this:

She’s right.

In that blog post, she focuses on how job seekers are different from their core customers and she provides some really nice advice to job seekers. But I’d like to talk about why it’s good that Mattermark isn’t pursuing them as customers because I think the reasons given in that post are superficial qualities; it isn’t because they churn. It’s because of this:

Focus is a vital and necessary quality in startup product strategy.

When we talk about a market, what do we mean? I mean a group of people who share the same problem.

VCs come to Mattermark because they have a problem: they need to find startups to invest in.  But job seekers who come to Mattermark are trying to solve a different problem: they need to find jobs at startups.

Now, you might think “they’re both looking for startups,” but they aren’t really. VCs want investments and job seekers want jobs.  It just happens they they both want those things from startups.  Finding startups is not the problem they have.

Adding a new market to your product strategy is not the same as adding a new product to your product portfolio. And that’s the mistake my suggestion to Danielle makes.

If you’re adding a new product to your portfolio, the assumption is that you’re still building something for the same market, the same people who have that one big, overarching problem. And you add products so that you can address the various mini-problems that exist within that big one.

If you’re adding a new market, you have to restart your product development process from scratch. You have to make sure you’ve defined the market correctly. You have to make sure you understand the buyer and user personas. You have to define your position in the market.  Basically, you have to start building a whole new product strategy!

Focus! Focus! Focus!

It’s not impossible to run a company that has products that are focused on different markets. People do it all the time. But if you have two markets using the same product, then you have two separate interests driving the direction of your product development.  And what would you do if those interests compete?

At some point you’re going to run the risk of failing to satisfy one or — more likely — both markets with whatever changes you make to the product.  By maintaining focus on one market, Mattermark is ensuring that their attention is given to satisfying those customers’ needs.  So, they’re building a great tool for investors.

Perhaps at some point in their growth they can create a Mattermark Jobs division which could take the Mattermark tool and start driving it on a separate evolutionary path that is focused on job seekers.  But not today.

 

#DailyDigital Earningspalooza. I made that up. “Copy written so don’t copy me.”

This week was earningspalooza with LinkedIn, Pandora, Twitter, and many, many others doing their earnings calls this week. So, there has been a swell of commentary on those things. So, today’s post has a lot less to do with ad tech than usual. Happy Friday!

The Psychology Of Notifications
OK. This isn’t an article I would ordinarily call out for attention because it has little to do with ad tech directly. It’s much more of a UX/interaction type of article. But it’s really, really fascinating to me. Especially because I’ve turned off all but one or two notifications and badges on my phone.

Vice takes Snapchat users on a tour of a secretive Chinese bitcoin mine
Another odd article to share. I’m sharing this one because I was talking to my manager just yesterday about the marketing potential of SnapChat.  We thought it might help a television show to send behind the scenes snaps or snaps of clues to the mystery in a show in order to drive additional interest and excitement.  So, here, Vice is using Snapchat as part of their journalistic efforts. I think that’s pretty clever.

5 things we learned about brands this week
No real commentary to offer here. It’s just a nice read about the brand perspective.

One last blast:

#DailyDigital Looking at Some Publisher Challenges in Ad Tech

Today, everyone seems to be talking about Twitter. Tweets in Google search, tweets in Flipboard, tweets everywhere. And there are lots of other headlines about the company.  But I think the biggest, most alarming news this morning is about the huge data breach over at Anthem. It’s the second largest insurer in the US and the hackers got lots of PII including birthdays and social security numbers for about 80 million people.  That’s bad. Real bad.  So, maybe press coverage will pick up over the next few days.

Publishers hunt for the new ad-sales unicorn
The publisher perspective in ad tech is one that a lot of people have a hard time really grasping.  It sounds simple at first — hey, they’re just selling ad space — but when you dig in, it actually gets more challenging — how do you monetize data in a way that delivers results for advertisers, but doesn’t give the milk away for free.  This article is a nice read over the ad sales challenges in the space today and it helps see how publishers themselves are trying new approaches in order to evolve with the market.

Facebook is bigger than anyone knew, even Facebook
So, remember how late last year people were talking about the problem of dark social?  No? Well, it’s just web traffic that a website (publisher) can’t tell where it came from because it lacks referrer data.  Well, this article is about how a huge chunk of that traffic is coming from Facebook and there is data to prove it.

The New Premium: How Programmatic Changes The Way Advertisers Value Inventory
I don’t have a lot to say about this article. I just thought it was an interesting read about the evolving meaning of “premium” in ad inventory.

Broadcasters Like Digital Amplification, But Demand More Credit For Their Content
OK. Here’s a rather innocuous-seeming article. It’s just about how television “publishers” like NBC Universal are looking at the way their shows get boosts in viewership thanks to people talking about it on social media.  But there’s more going on here that is only hinted at in this piece. First of all (BTW, did you see that “firstable” is apparently a thing in some corners? I can’t even.) the GRP from Nielsen has been under attack for several years now and to their credit, Nielsen has been rolling out new measurements.  But also in this story are signs of how television is grappling with… partnering with… frenemies with the over-the-top trends.

One last blast:

#DailyDigital Water, Water Everywhere…

After complaining yesterday that tech news was overwhelming I find myself struggling to find items worthy of commentary.

What product features should I focus on?
Here’s something a little different.  It’s more product management-y. The gist of the post is that when you’re choosing features to focus effort on, you should choose based on the number of customers and the amount of time they use the feature.

I think this is a pretty good heuristic if you don’t have anything else. The biggest issue I have with it is that it seems incomplete. I mean, lots of people are willing to use Facebook and they use it often, but how much are they willing to pay to use it? Not a lot and that’s why Facebook has to sell ads. (You could argue that Facebook isn’t a product for users, but is for advertisers. Most people can’t afford to build products on the timeline that Facebook used to introduce advertising.)  The second issue I have is that frequency of use seems kind of fuzzy.

I much prefer Pragmatic Marketing’s three axes approach: pervasiveness, urgency, willingness to pay.  Basically, you should focus on the features or products that are highly ranked in all three categories. If everyone has the problem and the need is immediate, but no one is willing to pay for it… don’t bother.  If the market has urgent need and is willing to pay, but the market consists of only a handful of customers, well, save that for another day.

Twitter Finally Reveals Its Plan to Make Money From All Those Free Tweets Posted Everywhere
This is nice. I’m happy to see Twitter aggressively pursuing revenue, but I have to admit I’m having a hard time imagining what a tweet looks like when it appears outside of Twitter.  I mean, tweets are tweets because they’re in Twitter.  Twitter is what sets the 140 character constraint and puts it within the context of a “real time communications platform.” So, why limit yourself to 140 characters if you’re not inside Twitter? The medium is the message, right?  Sooooo… if I were an advertiser who wanted an ad to appear on websites, why would I choose the platform that limits my copy and creative?  Twitter has amazing data possibilities, but will that offset those other limitations for advertisers?

I dunno, but I will keep watching.

Half Of Biggest Publishers Have Viewability Problem: comScore’s Fulgoni
Here’s a nice set of videos around the viewability challenges in ad tech. (It’s also an advertisement for comScore a bit.)  The topic has been widely discussed, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to hear the issue applied to different situations and reworded. Be sure to watch other videos as well, like the one with Jane Hong from Google.

One last blast:

#DailyDigital Swimming Back to the Surface

I’ve been trying to figure out a more efficient and quick way to do my Daily Digitals, but I just don’t know that there is one.  To put together these posts, I click through my RSS aggregator and choose stories that at a glance seem interesting to me. The worst part about this is that I often end up with more tabs open than my browser can handle, which might be a good thing because it adds another filter to the production. Then, I go through the selected stories and give them a closer look or even a full read.  Finally, I have to do all the copy & pasting and comment composition. My goal is to complete the whole process in under an hour, but work life being what it is these posts often don’t get done until several hours into the day.  This is why when I fall behind it can be overwhelming to get back into the flow of producing these posts. Anyway, enough whining. I’m open to suggestions, though!

If you can tear yourself away from the post-Super Bowl commentary, here are some interesting articles from my feeds this morning:

The 10 Best Digital Marketing Stats of the Week
AdWeek started doing these pieces a little while ago and because I just love numbers and trends I always find them fascinating.  This one is no different, but there are two interesting trends that I think they missed and they’re even more interesting when put next to one another. First, Facebook ad prices are still trending upward and they’re serving fewer and fewer ads! Google’s ad revenue is also continuing an upward trend, but their ad prices are heading down.  I think both trends are reflections of the distinctive positions that the two companies occupy in the market, so comparing them is a bit unfair.  And THAT is something of a trend I’ve noticed in my own thinking about the space: “we” as marketers need to get better at understanding the nuances of each touchpoint in the customer journey. Facebook is not Twitter is not Google is not Medium is not the corporate website is not the mobile app. Measurement probably needs to be different for each as do our expectations.

Verizon will now let users kill previously indestructible tracking code
The biggest ad tech story right now in terms of my own interests is this business with Verizon tracking.  If you weren’t already aware, ProPublica did an article in mid-January revealing that Verizon’s use of a persistent ID in URL strings on mobile traffic was being used by Turn to create “zombie cookies.” Basically, these cookies come back after you delete them because they’ve been cross-referenced with the Verizon ID.  When this ID rolled out initially, security and privacy people pointed out the risks, but Verizon brushed aside those concerns saying no one would do that. I was genuinely shocked that it was Turn that turned out to be doing that because Turn is well aware of the privacy concerns around online traffic. To their credit, they responded fairly quickly and stopped using it, but it took Verizon two more weeks to announce that they would allow users to opt out of the tracking program… but not that they were killing it altogether.

People Erasing Digital Footprints Out Of Privacy Fears
Speaking of privacy, here are some numbers to help quantify the level of concern the public has about online privacy and some of the numbers were higher than I expected.

Why QR codes are the blinking VCR clock of the 21st century
I make no secret my love of QR codes even though I know most people think they are super duper lame. But I’m also a person who always set the clock on his VCR. *shrug*

The splintering TV consumption landscape, in 5 charts
I have more stories to share this morning than I have space for and I had to choose between commenting on cloud computing trends or on television because I’ve seen a few stories that confirm my predictions about those spaces and if there’s any kind of bias I like it’s confirmation bias. So, anyway, Television won the coin toss.  This piece is all about trends in television that I think are worth noting because they explain a number of the other trends in technology and advertising practices that we’re seeing.

What Role Should Agencies Play In Data Management?
I know I’m over my five story limit, but this was one of the first stories this morning that caught my eye and it’s extremely relevant to the ad tech market. I think this piece is spot-on.

One last blast:

#DailyDigital Trey’s 2015 Tech Trends and Predictions

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation to our sales teams about important ad tech and marketing tech trends that I see. It went pretty well, and it wasn’t — I don’t think — complete BS, so I thought I would turn it into a blog post.  Here it is. Enjoy!

To start, almost every marketing presentation includes a slide with a “map” of the zillions of tech companies that stand between advertisers and publishers. Another cliché of marketing presentations is the line from John Wannamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

The reason these appear so frequently is because they reflect challenges that all marketers face:

  • New tools, new channels, new partners… new everything
  • Marketers are always fighting to get more bang from their buck… not just spending more bucks

These facts bring with them a number of common complaints that we need to address, but we need to do so in a way that speaks to each of our clients’ and prospects’ individual needs.

So, I’ve picked out some trends and predictions that are a step more specific that I think will be part of a lot of our conversations this year.

I should warn you: any predictions you see here are my own, so my own interests and biases probably color them. I’ve tried to include a lot of links to supporting materials, but only time will tell what will actually happen. My hope is that this presentation will give you some food for thought.

Here are the major categories I’ve picked to discuss today:

  • Measurement & Metrics
  • Privacy & Security & Fraud
  • The On Premise-to-Cloud Glacier
  • DMP vs The Marketing Cloud
  • Mobile & Television (R)Evolutions

Measurement & Metrics

Viewability has been a huge topic of discussion for some time and culminated in the IAB issuing a standard for what counts as a viewable ad. Unfortunately, the standard they offered made no one happy at all. It was 50% of the ad viewable for 1 second. Advertisers didn’t like it because it wasn’t strict enough to reflect any significant level of exposure to the ad message and publishers didn’t like it because it wasn’t a high enough bar to distinguish premium publishers from the rest of the pack.

Thankfully, the IAB has improved their recommendation to 70%, which seems more reasonable. So, look for continued discussion around standardizing how this is measured and an increase in the number of advertisers asking for it as part of their CPM negotiations.

Engagement, though, is still an unknown. What do people mean by “engagement” really? Does it mean clicks? Does it mean expanding an ad or watching a whole video? My opinion is that it varies by ad format and even by brand. Even so, I think you can expect to hear lots of people clamoring on about engagement this year.

Both of these, of course, are extensions of the recurring desire for measurement. And EVERYONE is saying measurement is “going to be” huge. I would say that it is already huge and will always be huge.

Privacy & Security & Fraud

I’ve lumped privacy, security, and fraud into one group because they are all concerns related to the viability of the digital advertising business. None of these headlines should be a surprise to us, but what it means is that these topics are going to get even more attention.

In the realm of security, there were over 780 data breaches last year including Sony, JP Morgan Chase, Staples, and Home Depot. Some of these made huge headlines and have spurred some legislative proposals around when businesses have to disclose to customers that a breach has occurred.

And that naturally pushes consumers to be even more concerned about their privacy and what happens to their data. I agree with Acxiom’s Chief Privacy Officer’s, predictions that we will surely see even greater government inquiry and involvement in the realm of consumer privacy.

And, naturally, ad fraud has to be a part of this conversation as well.

I think fraud levels really reached critical mass in 2014. Google said that less than half of ads are ever seen. The WSJ reported that a third of all web traffic is bots. And the IAB issued a reports that said click fraud costs marketers $11B a year. But we saw a little movement from the industry to start taking fraud seriously as well. Google bought Spider.io. The IAB formed an anti-fraud working group. So, I think we will see more market-wide attention given to fighting fraud, although I do also think it will be a long, long fight.

The On Premise-to-Cloud Glacier

I see the move to the cloud as something of an inevitability for 90+% of the market, but it’s going to be a very long, slow process. But the Cloud Computing War is not over. Amazon is clearly in the lead – so much so that the aggregate capacity of the top 15 cloud providers is only a fifth of what Amazon has. But Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM, and Google are still in the fray.

Big Data is such a 2013 buzzword, but it’s real. That means that scale is becoming a major challenge and expense for IT and marketing teams. Some have said that it’s a “red alert” situation already and aside from the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that Big Data strikes for CIOs there are definitely some advantages to moving to the cloud. Nevertheless, businesses tend to be understandably conservative about making major changes that could put major assets like consumer data at risk.

The cost benefits seem pretty clear for most companies, but questions about security, a lack of skills/knowledge for handling cloud-based systems, and general worry about change and the unknown are all issues that loom large for many.

So, I think this trend will pick up some additional speed in 2015, but it’s still a very long road.

DMP vs The Marketing Cloud

When it comes to ad tech adoption, one of the big questions is whether marketing clouds will dominate or if advertisers and publishers will cobble together their own solutions from the various offerings out there. And as much as we hear about marketing clouds from folks like Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, and IBM they are far from dominant.

On one hand, we know from our own experience that there are a lot of customers out there who aren’t comfortable putting all of their eggs in one basket. They prefer to buy solutions piecemeal.

On the other, the value proposition to a marketer looking at that Lumascape diagram is pretty clear and once they’ve adopted one of the solutions within a marketing cloud it’s pretty easy to buy in to another one. And consolidation via M&A activity has been a constant for the past few years and now it’s a real challenge to find a standalone DMP that also has the scale to do what marketers need to connect channels.

A lot of these marketing clouds are being built by M&A activity, though. That means there are likely questions about how well integrated they are with the other solutions. There’s a ramp-up period.

In either scenario, there are gaps between the different solutions that marketers actually use. They don’t live their work lives only in the marketing cloud or on the DMP or in their CRM system.

Mobile & Television (R)Evolutions

Let’s start with mobile. Everything mobile! No surprise: 20% of the world has a smartphone. I was listening to a Forrester webinar recently and they mentioned that something like 70% of Walmart shoppers access their cellphones while in their stores as part of their buying process. I may not have that statistic quite right and I’m not sure what they mean by it exactly, but it’s pretty undeniable that phones and tablets are a major part of the customer journey today.

But marketers are struggling to really break in to it and the numbers on mobile ad tech make it look like it’s still an emerging space. Part of that is because the platforms themselves are so tightly controlled by the carriers and that mobile is still technically constrained (smaller screens, fewer cookies, protected IDs, etc.) compared to desktop. I don’t see anything changing with that any time soon.

And even though ad spending is shifting toward mobile in some pretty big ways the ROI remains unclear. Marketers seem to be following the traffic, but the traffic isn’t necessarily resulting in the desired “engagement” or conversion activities. My best guess there is because the UX isn’t yet completely optimized for mobile and simple tasks on a desktop can be rather tedious on a small screen. The biggest recent change to overcome that is Apple Pay, though. That stands a real chance of changing mobile commerce in a big way. So, keep watching.

Television is a similar story. Overall, television is saddled with antiquated regulations and lots of old technical infrastructure. And, ironically, one of the biggest barriers to technical advancement for TV is the nearly $70B they rake in each year in advertising. It makes them very, very reluctant to do things that might compromise that revenue stream. But progress is being forced upon them.

Spurred by the rise of original content from online-only systems like Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as over-the-top providers like Roku and Hulu, we are seeing ad tech providers moving to anticipate the technical shift in traditional television providers. For instance, Adobe has relaunched Auditude, their programmatic video system and integrated it with their cloud. And that technical shift is definitely happening. Comcast took a major leap forward in the last 18 months with their launch of their X1 platform. So, the capabilities to manage some portion of the television advertising spend and delivery from digital systems like the Marketing Cloud are coming.

Bonus Bloviations Lightning Round
I know I didn’t touch on some of the key trends and buzzwords that came up in 2014, so I want to do a lightning round on some of those items that came to mind while I was brainstorming for this presentation.

  • Programmatic is here to stay. I am actually kind of shocked that the adoption curve hasn’t been steeper, but I feel like these tools legitimized themselves in 2014 and we’ll start seeing this become more of a capability or feature of other tools rather than a distinct set of tools unto themselves.
  • Wearables are emerging tech and the marketing opportunities are not clear yet. I did see a couple of weeks ago that a company announced some capability for advertising on the Apple Watch which isn’t even out yet. That sounds like the most obnoxious user experience ever, so I’m not hopeful for that company. In fact, I hope they never sell a single unit.
  • My tech feeds love talking about new communities and emerging social apps like Kik and Yik Yak. It’s always about what the kids are or aren’t doing these days. I think, though, for marketers the best approach is going to be to wait and see. Monetization strategies for these apps aren’t always clear and advertising opportunities seem experimental. There are going to have to be some major brands willing to just throw some money and do some experiments.
  • The Internet of Things is similarly emerging. Could it feed into that Big Data nirvana that so many marketers imagine? Maybe, but if this is the silver bullet then we have a couple bazillion years to wait until it’s ready.
  • Last year there was an increase in use of the phrase “Deep Learning.” I find the notion to be a really nerdy and interesting evolution in the Big Data story. But developing Deep Learning capabilities is expensive and time-consuming. It’s also an area where there may be a lot of people talking about insights that either aren’t all that actionable or don’t deliver any notable incremental lift in revenue. But I’ll keep watching it because it’s neat.

So, there you have it! My 2015 trends, predictions, and observations.