Learning from the App Strategy Workshop – Los Angeles March 26th, 2015

Learning from the App Strategy Workshop – Los Angeles March 26th, 2015

The running joke at the recent Application Developer Alliance’s App Strategy Workshop in Los Angeles was that 2015 has been declared the year of mobile.  It’s funny because the years 2011 through 2014 were also declared the years of mobile. Humor aside, all this shows how growth in mobile is only accelerating.   In reference to mobile apps, a recent white paper by comScore announced that in 2014 “Mobile app usage exploded on its way to becoming the majority of all digital media activity.” With that trajectory in mind over 250 app-entrepreneurs joined companies such as Ad Colony and Millennial Media to learn how to turn an app start-up into the next big digital media success story.

As distinct from the “mobile web” where content is viewed through a browser, mobile apps enable deeper user interaction with the content. With the well-defined and highly engaged audiences that apps create, high CPM advertising is often the best choice for monetization. However, with a lot of money on the table, app startups face intense competition to win users.

A winning product-market strategy (and some luck) is required for apps to be discovered and downloaded.  But with more than 1.5 million apps in each the iOS and Android stores, it’s easy for even the best apps to go unnoticed. Of course, the Holy Grail of app discovery for developers is to be featured prominently in the iOS or Android stores. More exposure equals more downloads, a larger audience, and more revenue.

During the conference, much of the discussion centered on how to get apps downloaded. There was a spectrum of viewpoints on the best approach. Some speakers advised attendees to build and iterate rapidly, exposing their apps to rigorous testing from of a live audience. Other experts held that apps need to be largely bug-free and polished, in order to take root with early adopters who will evangelize it. Everybody agreed that successful apps need to have robust features and that entrepreneurs must be bold and decisive to make their product catch fire in the market. Several speakers even endorsed spending more money on app distribution than on the actual product development.

App creators face many challenges familiar to all media businesses. For example, continuously expanding the audience is essential; but staying highly focused on the core product attributes is required. Even with the best planning, app releases can be buoyed or eclipsed by just about anything else happening in the world.  In short, having a great app is no guarantee of success in the market. Fortunately for app entrepreneurs there is a well-developed ecosystem of vendors to service and support their projects in every way conceivable. This conference showed the strength of this industry. Of course we should expect no less in this age of mobile.

As apps become ever more engaging and essential, revenue opportunities will increase. However, monetisation must respect the intimacy that exists between a user and her device. Native, in app advertising enabled by technology such as Coull’s SDK can not only deliver revenue, but also add value to the user experience.

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What’s in a Word? The Reality of Native Advertising – Part Two

Last week I posted my overall thoughts on the first half of the IAB’s first Content Conference held in London. Its focus was the notion and reality of ‘native advertising’. The second installment of this blog covers – you guessed it, the second half of the conference which was insightful, if not a bit, well – quirky.

(photo from the IAB)

A picture tells a thousand words

Krane Jeffrey from Yahoo/Tumblr presented some of the trends in branded content marketing that are helping it become more accepted by audiences.

The age old ‘a picture tells a picture tells a thousand words’ still holds true today. In fact, with shorter attention spans, and ‘less time’ to consume ‘more content’, visuals are more effective than ever. Creating relevant content with copy less than 300 words is really effective for brands because audiences can consume on any device, without taking up too much of their precious time, and, importantly- it’s easily shareable.

Jeffrey explained three basic components of successful branded-content marketing:

  • Authenticity

There needs to be value in the content and it needs to be written with authenticity, rather than being evasive as to its true nature. Audiences are used to branded content now and won’t so easily fall for something that’s disguised, be honest.

  • Commitment

There needs to be a real belief and investment in the strategy, if you only go in half way, it shows. Publishers and agencies need to work together to create engaging content and a long term relationship.

  • Distribution

If you’re investing in the content, you also need to invest in the distribution, there is no point making great content if it never gets seen – it’s like buying an amazing leather jacket and never wearing it. Shameful.

(Photo from the IAB)

Feel the love

Alex Cheeseman of Outbrain and Kohlben Vodden of StoryScience spoke about the parallels between online dating and online advertising including the common denominators of trust – commitment – and ensuring it’s all being done for the right reasons. This metaphorical presentation included two other really important points:

  • ‘Scale isn’t a dirty word’

We should be looking for reach through quality content that might well proliferate through social channels. Branded content can be authentic and scale, it just requires dedication and a good partnership between publisher and brand.

  • Useful, engaging, emotional content – is gold dust

We now live in a content ecosystem that enables us to consume something arbitrarily, that interest us, and out of that, serendipitously discover another. By sharing content we’re genuinely interested in and following publishers we’ve come to trust, we build our own hub from which we continuously discover content we love.

The fame game

Average Joes and plain Janes have been given a voice through the medium of video, and this means those guys and gals next door, can become stars in a matter of clicks. Hamish Nicklin from Google spoke about how the very nature of fame has changed dramatically thanks to online video. Brands are starting to look to this new fame making machine because when anyone can be famous, it’s important to realize that famous people, in turn, have fans – and fans? ‘Well, fans are nuts!’

Brands want to be famous, because ‘true fans are loyal beyond reason’ – Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi

Hamish presented three key areas to remember when creating content with the goal of building brand awareness and loyalty.

  • Hygiene – Be the most compelling answer to consumers searches on topics related to your brand

  • Hub – Give ‘browsers’ and ‘searchers’ a reason to return with relevant, inspiring content.

  • Hero – Inspire browsers with impactful stories.

Phillip(Philly) Byrne of BuzzFeed gave us this line which is as good as any to end on. ‘Great content finds the right audience’!

If brands and advertisers can harness quality content to tell their own story without ‘tricking’ audiences, the relationship between publisher and advertiser (which is now becoming more and more prevalent through programmatic advertising), can thrive in the native sense, as long as we keep the content and the audience at the heart of the story.

Of the panels and presenters heard over the day, there were differing opinions about what native is, how it’s being created and whether it’s a good thing or not. The only clear realization was that there is a need for a simpler term and a more efficient and understandable way to attribute engagement and ROI from this format of advertising. Hopefully a year on from now we’ll be seeing some real breakthroughs in regard to just that.

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What’s in a Word? The Reality of Native Advertising – Part One

I recently attended the IAB’s inaugural content marketing conference focused specifically on native advertising. What came out of this? The term native advertising has been deemed bullshit (at least by the majority of panellists and attendees) – and what the industry needs is transparency, truth and a little thing called trust.

But wait, let me take you back to where it all began…sex. Teenage sex in fact, 16 year old teenage sex to be even more specific. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not what you think. Native advertising was not spawned from a teenage romance turned horribly wrong – this is just the opening line of the conference as delivered by our host Clare O’Brien, Senior Industry Programmes Manager at the IAB. To be fair, I’m sure she was testing to see if the audience was suitably caffeinated for the conference to commence – we were and it did. Her metaphor was used to provoke the idea that while everyone may be talking about native advertising, no one seems to really have a firm grasp on what it’s all about, and even fewer are truly doing it.

Kunal Gupta – from Polar, a US based advertising platform was the first speaker to take to the podium and presented some benchmark data the company has collected about global audience response to native advertising. He provided some great insight specifically into UK audiences.

The section of his presentation I found particularly interesting was his analysis of UK audiences. It seems the UK is far more accepting and engages much deeper with native content than audiences across the globe. The fact that UK content is largely still created and controlled by the publishers could have a lot to do with this high engagement rate. The quality of content remains firm, and so, it’s not surprising the trust between reader/viewer and publisher isn’t severed.

Kunal also revealed figures that support the accelerating trend of native content engagement on mobile devices, showing a 50% higher click-through rate than that of desktop.

Nick Bradley – Head of digital sales at Northern and Shell took a strong stance with his topic – ‘Is it just me or is native shit?’

The focus was on audience’s growing appetite for quality content and how publishers need to continue to tell compelling stories with content and maintain the trust of their audiences. Nick did draw attention to the power of native advertising when it’s done really well and gave some of our favorite examples in Red Bull and of course the New York Times with their ample supply of engaging and ground-breaking long form pieces and branded content extravagance.

Nick took a quote from George Parker of the Financial Times to make a poignant statement.

‘It’s all about the content.  Shit will always be shit, no matter what platform it is delivered on.’

The impression I got was that Nick isn’t convinced in any way shape or form by native, and his stats showing that 24% of people scroll native content as opposed to 74% on standard content is invariably evidence that it does still have a long way to go before it truly impacts audiences. He is however, willing to accept that if publishers are authentic, discerning, transparent and use the right tone with their audience, even sponsored content can result in a positive, valuable user experience that matches expectations. 

Kenneth Suh of Unruly posed the question of how brands can win attention through their videos when interruptive ads such as pre-roll are so unpopular with audiences?

Online video is the medium of the moment with high engagement rates and publishers flocking to create their own content, but, without learning the lessons of the often negative impact of disruptive advertising formats they really aren’t taking advantage of the brand association and native ad integration that is possible.

  • Video sharing has increased 50x since 2006.

  • It’s predicted that digital video ad spend will reach 22.5B by 2017.

  • YouTube now only accounts for 24.3% of views and this includes embeds.

There is so much opportunity across platforms on different players – it’s now about advocacy, action, awareness and attention.

Anna Watkins of Guardian Labs talked us through some of the high profile work The Guardian has been doing on the native side with case studies from EE and Unilever. The success they’ve achieved with these campaigns is astonishing but the great thing is they’re going about it with the reader/viewer at the fore of the creative. She talked about how the content was collaborative with their audience, shareable and probably the most important – it was authentic.

Matt O’Neil from Unanimis spoke about native at scale which takes into account many elements including the ability for brands to be seen by consumers within the editorial space, be engaging enough for them to take notice, to function on mobile devices and appear natural within that space; and be tracked alongside other formats.

To do this, clear attribution solutions are needed and we should learn from the past that a simple click metric is not going to give you the data you need to understand performance or audience perceptions.

So far there have been mixed opinions as to how ‘native advertising’ has performed over the past year but the evidence certainly suggests there is opportunity when brands and publishers come together with audience engagement being the overarching goal. The second half of the conference was just as intriguing with panels and presentations on how human behavior dictates campaign strategies and how video is changing the fame game.

I hope you’ll check out part two where I give you the best bits of what I took from this, the very first IAB content marketing conference.

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We’re supporting Byte Night 2014

We’re supporting Byte Night 2014

On behalf of Coull I’m proud to announce that we are taking part in Byte Night 2014, a charity event dedicated to fundraising for Action for Children, with the specific aim of tackling the root causes of homelessness.

Byte Night was established 17 years ago by a number of technology companies, and culminates in a sponsored sleepout across eight locations across the UK. With Coull headquartered in Bristol, we’ve taken a seat on the board of the South West group and will be organizing a number of sponsored activities over the coming months to raise as much money as possible for this deserving charity. The South West sleep-out takes place outside the M-Shed on Friday 3 October.

We’re particularly passionate about Byte Night because all the funds raised in each region are distributed to frontline services in those areas, meaning we can make a difference to the people in our own community. If you’d like to find out more about Byte Night and how it supports Action for Children, why not take a look at the official website?

Here’s a taste of some of the fundraising activities we’ve got coming up:

Three Peaks Challenge: During September several of the Coull team will be digging out their maps, compasses and supportive footwear to tackle three mountains in 24 hours. Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon all need to be scaled and driven between in the allotted time.

Aden Forshaw Charity Shop Fortnight: July will see our esteemed CTO Aden Forshaw, well known for his sartorial elegance, leave his brogues, pastel shirts and tasteful chinos at home, instead dressing in a selection of charity shop clothing for the duration of this challenge. Aden hasn’t been seen in jeans and a t-shirt since mid-2005, and the level of intrigue to see what ‘casual Aden’ looks like has already generated generous pledges towards Byte Night.

Summer Bake-off: Last Christmas saw many of us take part in a seasonal bake-off, with a smorgasbord of tasty treats tantalising the tastebuds of the Coull team. During July we’re bringing tasty back, with the sale of all items going towards Byte Night. This event has previously created a fractious atmosphere at Coull HQ, with serious disagreements over rating methodologies. We’re hoping the philanthropic nature of this round will make it a better-natured affair.

Mario Kart Tournament: If there’s one thing guaranteed to get cash out of Coull employee pockets it’s the promise of being crowned Mario Kart Champion 2014. With over 6,000 races in the Nintendo Wii statbank this promises to be a high-quality tournament that will be taken very, very seriously.

If you would like to donate to Byte Night and support our fundraising activities you can do so via our fundraising page.

We’ll be sharing photo and video updates of all the activities as they happen on our Facebook page. So like us if you want to stay up to date.

Thanks for your support and let the games begin!

Posted by simonholliday in Coull news

Programmatic is Problematic

At a roundtable event hosted by Coull at the Parcel Yard, Kings Cross last week, a stellar panel of industry experts got to grips with the topic of programmatic advertising, with a particular focus on video. The general theme that ran throughout was shaped by Coull CEO Irfon Watkins’ opening line: “Programmatic is problematic.”

This thought was echoed by the rest of the panel, which also included: Adam Hopkinson, Commercial Director, Ziff Davis; Paul Hood, Director of Digital, Archant; Toby Dawson, Head of Publisher Partnerships, Google DoubleClick for Publishers; Steve Chester, Head of Data and Programmatic, IAB; Andy Oakes, Publisher, The Drum; Ben Humphry, Head of Demand EMEA, Coull; Ronan Shields, Reporter, ExchangeWire; Andy McCormick, Editorial Director, 12Ahead; Mindi Chahal, Reporter, Marketing Week.

The panel recognised the challenges that programmatic advertising, a technology still in its infancy, gives the different players in the ad tech economy. However, there was also optimism about how those challenges can be overcome, and the potential to start realizing the increased efficiencies and ROI the technology promises.


A few of the key takeaways

Adam Hopkinson on the challenges of integrating a programmatic solution:

“For us the value is in time saving. If we have things that are done genuinely programmatic – by that I mean automatic buying, that will save an awful lot of time. When we get there that’s great, but we’re nowhere near there at the minute. It’s not a value add for us. It’s a cost, if anything. We’ll get there eventually but we’re not there yet.“

Irfon Watkins on using content-level data to make advertising more effective:

“Programmatic/RTB without relevant, valuable data is like closing your eyes and throwing things at a dart board… but a bit faster. Data is the key. Our job as ad tech companies is to do a better job of exposing and indexing that. Unless we can separate out quality video content everyone is going to be buying blind and the price is going to go down. How long was the video watched for? What was it about? Did they engage? That’s the data that’s needed, in order to inform the ad buyer and to be able to drive the prices up for a publisher.“

Paul Hood on understanding the value of audiences:

“We’re working hard to understand the value of our audience. I don’t think programmatic, in isolation, can really work that context out. I think it’s going to be a case of programmatic platforms meeting with publishers and this human bit in the middle trying to figure out how you attribute proper value to those audiences.“

Steve Chester on the importance placed on programmatic by agencies:

“According to the IPA, 90% of all display is controlled by agencies and agencies have an inherent investment in programmatic. If you’re not investing in programmatic to respond to that, are you losing out on up to 90% of potential spend and therefore writing yourself out of plans? There is no doubt that native and branded content offers a massive opportunity, particularly to publishers that have a loyal audience and really understand content. Agencies don’t have that heritage. But if you’re selling display ads and you don’t have a programmatic solution, are you then cutting yourself out? It’s a possibility.”

The discussion clearly highlighted the fact that regardless of the part we play in the digital ad industry, there’s work to be done to make integrations simpler, to establish common guidelines and to work together to use data to expose the true value of publisher inventory and ensure the cream rises to the top so that premium eCPMs can be realized by digital publishers and campaigns are executed effectively for advertisers.

We followed up the roundtable with a beer and cider tasting session with the irrepressible Jane Peyton of the School of Booze. If either the great discussion or the free booze and cheese tickle your fancy and you’d like to be involved at our next Coull roundtable event, get in touch here!

Thank you to all who participated. We’re excited about the next one.

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IAB Digital Britain – Coull wrap up

The IAB Digital Britain Conference was recently held in Manchester – the most important subject on the agenda? Digital Advertising revenue spend for the year of 2013. Attendees gathered from around Britain to hear the big figure revealed, but that’s not all that was on offer.

CEO of IAB UK, Guy Phillipson revealed the projected revenue spend for the full year of 2013 was £6.1bn but announced an official spend of £6.03bn – an increase of £853m in a full year and a 15.2% increase on a like for like basis. The figures show a positive forward momentum that really encourages those in the industry to keep pushing, challenging, and participating in innovation to help not only improve revenue, but improve the longevity of digital advertising by:

  • keeping it brand safe

  • protecting privacy

  • working to make advertising more and more contextually relevant for audiences.

From our perspective, the really juicy part of the Adspend Study came in the form of the figures for online video which made up 17% of all display advertising with strong signs of increasing.


  • Video itself grew to £325m in 2013 which is a growth of 2/3rds – very positive figures.

  • It was made clear that digital advertising has shifted from a click to purchase model of conversion, to having real value in creating brand awareness and purchase intent.

  • Mobile ad spend grew to £1.03bn which is a massive increase of 93.3% on a like for like basis.

Multiple screens and multi-tasking

IAB Senior Research Manager, Hannah Bewley spoke about the IAB RealView research project that showed how people use their mobile in conjunction with other devices (#omniscreens) in everyday life. Perhaps the most intriguing finding was that many people were interacting with their devices while conversing face to face with friends and family and not even realizing their distracted behavior. A lot of participants were also making use of multiple devices/screens at the same time to complete tasks more quickly or easily, or to in fact, multi task.

More technology, more problems?

Amit Kotecha – Head of Marketing EMEA at Quantcast spoke about the vast amount of data that we now generate and have access to, but that without insight, data doesn’t mean anything.

‘Data is dumb until we give it meaning’

Amit stated that we used to be happy with a simple report detailing impressions, clicks and CTR but we now require much more granular information relating to the consumer conversion journey.  We need insight into attribution, viewability and brand safety and data can reveal this information if it’s analyzed and reported in the right way.

Social video

Oliver Smith from Unruly spoke about how we can make video that get’s shared, watched and ultimately remembered.

The key learnings where the reasons people share videos and how brands can invoke a positive response:

  • Make your video emotional

  • Negative emotions may well get you noticed, but they are risky

  • Exhilarate your audience –  exhilaration delivers 65% brand recall

  • Be proud of your brand – put emotional and interesting content in front of your audience and they’ll be more likely to share even branded video.

  • don’t over invest in the content and under invest in the distribution – there is no point spending time and money on content creation if you don’t have the means to make it visible to your audience.

A video that results in a positive physiological response is much more likely to be shared socially.

Oliver identified nine different reasons for sharing a video that range from sharing similar interests and being charitable, to participating in current trends, self expression and opinion seeking. Video should appeal to a user’s emotional needs and give them to opportunity to fulfill those needs online.

The IAB Digital Britain conference encapsulated the progression of the digital advertising industry and gave a good picture of not only where it might be headed from an industry perspective, but from a user perspective. Understanding how consumers interact with media technology and how they use digital media is the key element in driving innovation, better experiences and sustainable and increased revenues.

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The National Association of Broadcasters Show – Tech City

The biggest show last week in Las Vegas was not at Mandalay Bay or the Bellagio. It was instead the NAB show.  The NAB is the advocacy group for American broadcasting, and the show was one of its biggest ever. Over 17 thousand exhibits regaled ninety-eight thousand attendees with the latest audio and video production and distribution technology.

Across 35 football pitches of floor space, companies wowed attendees with the latest broadcasting innovations for content production, distribution and monetization.   One company showed off their aquatic satellite relay stations, while another displayed acoustical nano-dongles for noise filtration.  Nielsen, a global leader in measurement and information, specifically of how consumers interact with media – announced their upcoming digital-ad-attribution system. This project will help big brands place a value on ad-engagement, and shift more ad dollars online.

One high profile pavilion inside the show featured 27 tech startups and was sponsored by such iconic media brands as Disney, Gannett and Google.  It was interesting  (and telling) to see a Hearst Newspaper executive literally embrace a Googler on the stage.  The startups there are solving issues and exploiting opportunities created as vast troves of video are delivered digitally through the internet.  For example, one startup called Tomorrowish displayed a type of social media DVR where video is time shifted, shared, commented on, personalised and curated by vast audiences.

The NAB selfie

Overall, the show was an impressive display of the extensive supply chain that creates and delivers great content.  As a side note, WiFi access was a prohibitive $80 per day. Without it, I couldn’t interact with all the important show content.  To me, this symbolised old distribution models that restrict access to great content.  Next time I’ll hope to engage the NAB  on all my devices with free personalised, interactive programming, and sponsored by partners and a long chain of digital value-adders. Unleash and Expand!

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