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Why I left Yahoo to join Solohealth

17 Jul

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked in the past 3 weeks why I’m leaving Yahoo or where are you going, I’d be a little wealthier. That being said, figured the easiest and fastest way to address this is to add it to the blog.

First, if you came here to read about the skewering and downfall of Yahoo you can stop reading. That is not what this is. Yahoo provided me with opportunities and education that I’m not sure I could have gotten elsewhere. I’ve met some of the most intelligent people in the digital space over that time and established friendships that will last forever. I’m not naming names because honestly it would take too long. Sure, Yahoo has it challenges but a lot of companies are envious of the position Yahoo is in. This was about the opportunity that presented itself.

I’ve been working in digital media sales since 1998, and because of this my phone rings quite often from recruiters. I’ve had people reach out for opportunities big and small. Major social sites, gaming sites, content creation and others have expressed interest. I decided that when/if I moved I wanted go to a real small startup that provided me an opportunity to grow, be challenged and utilize all my interests.

Solohealth fit that criteria, plus a few others.

The things I was seeking in the next company were as follows:

  1.  Is the product uniquely differentiated
  2. Can it cause disruption in the market
  3. Is it focused

So for those wondering what Solohealth is, I will do my best to sum it up after 1 week.

“We help businesses engage consumers with precision targeted media and content integration, through various health assessments that occur inside retailers stores.” (Yes, it needs work, but that is where I’m at) Consumers are literally logging onto the web at stores like Wal-Mart, Publix, Sam’s Club, CVS and others I can’t mention, and doing health assessments on areas like BMI, Blood Pressure, Vision, Pain Management and others.

Anyone that knows me understands my unique interest in working with CPG manufacturers. I’ve always said half the battle is getting the consumer into the store; the other half is to get them to buy. Well we’ve eliminated the first barrier and depending on the studies you read 65-75% of all purchase decisions happen inside the store.

This solution can help so many businesses ranging from OTC, Pharma, CPG and even companies like Subway and McDonald’s which operate restaurants in Wal-Mart as well as I’m sure a 100 other categories I haven’t thought of yet.

The other thing that appealed to me was our ability to actually work with businesses to integrate content and questions right within the assessments. I can go on and on about the opportunities but that is for another post.

I’ve enjoyed the startups I’ve been part of before, going all the way back to Citysearch in 1998 or when we opened the WebMD office in Chicago. My passion for product development, sales, true measurement at retail, building a team from the ground up has all come together in this role.

I don’t doubt challenges are ahead, I’ve seen a few, but the team at Solohealth is amazing. When you can sit down with the VP of Product and give some feedback and he takes the feedback and starts to think how to implement quickly is an awesome experience. The team is all working, with passion, towards the same goals. They’ve accomplished so much the past 6 months and I can’t wait to help keep the pedal down as we grow quickly. I’ve got a team to build across the country and a lot of people asking to be part of the national rollout.

My tweeting has slowed and my FB surfing will be cut back, but I can’t wait to look back in 2-3 years and see how far we’ve come and think about where we started.

I couldn’t do any of this without everything I’ve learned from my first days at Citysearch to the last 6 years at Yahoo. It was hard to leave Yahoo, it was a part of me, and always will be, but I’m excited to be part of something special at Solohealth.

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Imbalance Creates Opportunity – It’s the Year of Mobile and…..

30 Mar

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join eMarketer for a discussion around “Digital Ad Trends: What’s Behind the Spending Boom.”  David Hallerman provided great insight and some good discussion followed.

It should come as no surprise that the growth is happening around video, mobile and social at a much higher rate than display ads.  A couple interesting things did come to light during these conversations that I thought I’d share

1. 64.4% of all mobile dollars are consolidated between iAds, Google and Millenial Media

2. In 2002 72% of all digital dollars were spent with the top 10 ad selling companies, the number in 2011 was 72%

3. In 2011 banner advertising made up 62.2% of online investment, in 2016 banner advertising will make up 47.7% of the market

So as a marketer, publisher or entrepreneur imbalance creates opportunity. 

From a marketer standpoint advertisers should be looking at ways to own the mobile marketplace, put an early stake in the ground and be a leader.  I realize this is a blanket statement, and obviously each advertiser must look at the goals they have and identify the best way to do this.

The other thing advertisers need to be thinking about is how to engage audience in new ways.  The early days of the internet we all touted how online was the most measurable media, I think many of us are regretting that to some extent.   Digital does offer other unique opportunities.  Look at opportunities that a company like Solve Media is providing, where you can engage audiences in new meaningful ways.  Even here at Yahoo we have evolved to where advertisers can now contribute to content, to give you scale you can’t get from your own site. Imagine taking your content from the 1-10 million users you reach on your site to the 174 million consumers Yahoo reaches ever month.

As a publisher you have to be thinking about how to grow mobile audience and drive share.  The fact that 3 publishers own the space tells me we have a lot of growing up to do here.  It shocks me that publishers haven’t been investing here.  I mean how many years have we been saying that this is the year of mobile.

Having been in online advertising 14 years I’ve seen tremendous change on how consumers engage with content and how advertisers leverage that engagement to reach potential customers. The pace of change will not slow, thank goodness, embrace the change, find opportunity in change, and use data to drive these decisions. These simple things will provide success.

In the coming weeks I will touch on some of the additional things that we discussed in the meeting.  Such as:

–          Programmed media vs. sponsorships and other media

–          Are we all in the media business today?  The evolution of content creation and advertising

–          Social, what is it to those of who are not in the media industry

–          What major disruptions could slow the growth mentioned above – Cost of Data?

Has CES Jumped the Shark?

11 Jan

This week was a week for many years that I’ve always looked forward to. The latest announcements around the latest and greatest technology. The last few years I’ve been able to actually attend the show and while I’ve enjoyed the experience I typically saw things that I’d either read about or we all kind of looked at and thought “What the hell?”

So this year Steve Ballmer announces that Microsoft will no longer take part in CES moving forward.  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but this was actually a good decision, and one that Apple made long ago.   We at Yahoo actually have gotten more involved in CES over the past few years and with good reason.  The advertisers visiting CES now come from all industries.  It is a great opportunity to engage advertisers in technology rich environment.

So has CES jumped the shark?  After reading the Mission Statement from CEA, who actually puts together CES, yes and no.  At its core it still is accomplishing what it set out to do. Unfortunately this seems to be the route these type of conferences, where they are starting to become almost unmanageable.  I remember attending SXSW years ago.  This was before it blew up.   I remember hearing about Twitter at SXSW.  I can actually prove it, I started on Twitter March 23rd, 2007. Just put in dbonert if you don’t believe me

I’m sure other conferences are out there that are somewhere in their infancy that are set to explode.  Love to hear any that you are attending.   So will I be at CES next year?  Most likely.   It is still providing value, and well, it is in Las Vegas.  Although 2 days is enough for me.

Can Groupon, Livingsocial and Other Group Buying Platforms Drive Loyalty?

21 Apr

Three years ago at a street festival in Chicago some women asked me if I wanted to sign up for Groupon. What the heck is Groupon I said? Multiple Groupons later I’m a huge fan. But do the marketers who use Groupon like a consumer like me? Probably not.

I just had an opportunity to participate in the Mobile #AiMA luncheon where Groupon, Yahoo and Insight Express all shared great data on the evolution of mobile media. Each individual shared useful information on trends in the marketplace and how consumer behavior is changing rapidly.

During that conversation Matt Drinkwater, VP of Sales East Coast for Groupon, shared with the group that Groupon will be launching in Chicago an opportunity for consumers to choose what they are looking for when they launch the app. For instance you could see a screen with choices ranging from Pampered, Eat, Shop and so on. Groupon is calling it Grouponnow. To be honest I think it is brilliant for both the consumer and the advertiser. The example that Matt shared was that Subway wants to spike breakfast, you would choose eat, and then find a Subway offer that would need to be redeemed by within the next 6 hours.

During the Q&A the question was posed on how many people return to stores, restaurants or shops after using a Groupon. Matt shared that 89% of all advertisers would participate in Groupon again. Just a quick note on the economics of Groupon as I understand it. If you run an offer for $10 worht of product or services for $5.00, Groupon gets $2.50 of that $5.00. So essentially you are giving $10 in product or services for $2.50. I’m not sure where Matt saw the 89% number but it did get me thinkiing about my own behavior on group buying platforms.

I’ve bought numerous Groupon’s, Livingsocials, Hotdealslive, and others. In fact, part of my daily routine is to visit 8coupons.com which aggregates all the deals locally from around the web.

After the individual posed the question to Matt a small focus group started at our table and surprisingly most people say they are a “one and done” crowd. I will admit that most of my group buying experiences result in me not visiting again. I’d put it at close to 75% of all businesses I visit through group buying I never visit again. On the other hand it did get me to visit places that I would have never visited beforehand.

Gawker had a piece on the love/hate of group buying which can be found here http://gawker.com/#!5787645/groupon-the-business-owner-experience
The more people I talk to, the more people say that they really don’t visit or go back to the places that they buy the deals from.

So the common response is that running a group buying deal isn’t a good investment but other things need to be kept in mind. Here are just a few:

1. What’s the value of a consumer who doesn’t buy but is exposed?
2. Driving short term demand at a loss is still good if a certain percentage returns? (Each business should understand this when they go into the deal)
3. If a consumer spends more on services or product because they have a Groupon, what does that due for your business?

I also sometimes questions the businesses that run group buying discounts. Just this morning I saw an offer for Aqua Bistro, which looked interesting. After reading a few reviews on Yelp it sounds overprices and the service is not good. If the prices are already 50% marked up you are not getting a discount.

So back the question at hand, does group buying drive loyalty? I’d say the answer is not very often. The caveats are when the service or product is exceptional. Unfortunately my experiences have been good, not great. This is okay, you don’t need everyone to be a repeat customer. Do I think we are going through a fundamental change on how people buy things? Absolutelty. I’ve gotten to the point if I don’t buy something with a group buying offer, on sale or that days special it is almost a disappointment. I do think I’m an exception to the rule. But what happens when more and more people start to think this way.

Group buying will not go away and is predicted to be a $6 billion dollar revenue in 2015 from the $873 million it is today as reported by BIA/Kelsey.

At the end of the day I think group buying has a place for businesses moving forward, and I think it is a big one. The ROI will work in some scenarios and in others it probably won’t. Then again isn’t that like most advertising.

On a side note my good friends at General Mills just did the first CPG Groupon today. Looking forward to hearing how that worked for the promotions team. I give them credit for trying something different.

Love to hear what you think.

Advertising and Social, like Oil and Water?

17 Feb

It’s been sometime since I last blogged and a lot has happened. Some quick hits and observations.

While attending CES it became evident that CPG advertisers are beginning to value how Tech, Media and Creativity continue to merge.

The tablet game is evolving and opportunities to engage consumers are endless through this platform. I’ve seen some interesting studies that I will share in upcoming blogs.

On a personal note me and my wife are now residents of Atlanta. Hence, the reason for the tardiness in blogging.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had an opportunity to be part of conversations with marketers from diverse categories in regards to how social advertising is working. What they shared was that from a traditional sense, Social Advertising is failing to deliver on the success metrics they have identified.

So what does that mean? First when we refer to advertising we are talking about pixels on a page, not content that is advertising. This morning I came across an article from emarketer that highlights some of the trends in advertising and social. As you might expect click thru rates are decreasing.

In comparison to the industry standards and that of Google text ads this is quite low. The article does provide insight on how to create higher CTR. These are rather obvious but good reminders.

1. Make your ads social
2. Incentivize the Consumer
3. Lead with insights and make your messaging relevant

For those of you who work in the industry we’ve all heard the term social graph and many of us refer to it but still aren’t quite sure what it means. Wikipedia even struggles to define this but in short here is what they say, “social graph describes the relationships between individuals online, as opposed to the concept of a social network, which describes relationships in the real world.”

So what does this mean and how does it affect you as an advertiser? As more and more publishers connect to the social leaders and activate social on their own platforms we now have vast data to help tell a better story to consumers. Today, Facebooks platform is extremely limiting in letting marketers tell stories via creative. So what happens when you have the proper canvass to tell a meaningful story to consumers using the social graph and various other data? High likelihood of either engagement or CTR substantially increasing. Think of it as having a 1/4 of a page on a magazine versus a full page. From a personal experience what are you likely to remember? Imagine now having all the information to make that full page extremely relevant. New mom – Diapers, Like Twilight – New Movie Release, Enjoy Basketball and live in Atlanta – Hawks Tickets. You see where this is headed.

My title should probably say, “Facebook and standard advertising like Oil and Water.” That seemed a little long and boring. In summation if you can successfully tap the social graph and place it on a canvass that can engage consumers in a meaningful way the impact will be much higher then what you could get using the FB platform as it exists today Where FB wins is when they move advertising into content and it something that they have the unique ability to do, but by my standards have not done it very well. Earned Media will continue to see the increase in investment as exhibited in this emarketer study.

In the coming weeks we will discuss how people are engaging fans in a meaningful way. Today marketers struggle to continue to develop continues dialog with consumers but I have some great examples of who is actually doing this without just relying on promotions.

Do you think there should be a “Do Not Follow” list for the Internet?

5 Aug

I’m going to digress from the Digital and ROI story that we’ve discussed the past few weeks to dig a little into the fuss being made about those wonderful cookies that so many people worry about.

Let me first state that I rarely clear my cookies and I think I’d be shocked to see what data companies  have collected about me.  On the other hand my father who is in his mid 60’s clears his cookies at least once a week.  I’m not sure if it is a generation gap or the fact that we are in two completely different industries that drives this difference.

This week WSJ ran a series on the information that is being collected on you as you traipse across the web.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it I highly recommend that you take a minute to read through this.  Below are a couple links.

First – How do cookies work?  This is a very simple video and pretty educational

http://bit.ly/bxOn5X

Second – The first article on the series around information collected about you on the web

http://bit.ly/bvko5E

So after reading these articles the buzz has all started around “Do Not Follow “ list just like that of the “Do Not Call” list that I think most of us have already signed up for.  I have to assume most people think that this “Do Not Follow” list is probably a really good idea.  I actually disagree.  Do I think that the tracking has gotten out of hand?  Absolutely.  Do I think that leads to overreaction from the general public ? Absolutely.  To compare getting a call at your house when you are enjoying a meal with the family to an ad that you are exposed to while you choose to consume content on the web are two vastly different experiences.

That being said I do think things need to change.  Over the past few years companies have been in a rush to better monetize the web and the heated competition among data provider’s have created a scary world.  Every data company ranging from Blue Kai to Lotame and numerous others are trying to take all this great data and bundle it together and then sell this to publishers and advertisers.  In the process of doing this things are being sacrificed.  Not only that but I’ve personally heard some things that make me scared and I’ve been in this industry now for 11 years.  Talking to advertising agencies and hearing some of the things that these 3rd party data providers are saying lead me to believe a couple things.

  1. They are collecting a lot of data and, I believe, sometimes in a questionable way.
  2. They are overstating the size of the audiences.
  3. The term Behavioral Targeting has been watered down. Ie. Does one action on one site constitute a BT?

For those of you at an advertising agency have you ever been asked by one of these 3rd party data providers to drop a tracking tag or piggyback pixel into a creative?  I’ve heard that story numerous times.  I find this to be a questionable practice as well.  I have numerous stories but I’m not going to use this blog to share all of those.

So back to the original question, do you think we should have a “Do Not Follow” list?  I spent some time on my father’s computer to just trying to get an understanding of what he was seeing.  My dad was served what I would say are “crap” ads.  Need to lose weight, looking for better ways to be better in the sack and my favorite,  get rid of that flabby fat under your arm.  Others ads ranged from the old “Hit the Bullseye” to “Match this high school picture with this actor”.  So then I look at the ads I get served.  These ads ranged from American Airlines, Automotives, CPG companies and other extremely relevant ads.  Ask yourself what you rather see.  Also, keep this in mind, as we the publishers monetize the pages across the web better this allows you to continue to get all that free content.  Nothing is free on the web.  The things you consume are given to you because one of the following things is happening:

  1. Either you are seeing ads
  2. You are paying a subscription
  3. You are taking a survey.

That’s how the world works.  So do we need governing? YES.  Shame on us in the industry for not being better about creating a governing agency or developing a standard we must all follow.  Let’s hope we can figure this out before big brother steps in and takes away all forms of targeting.  If not then we can all look forward to those teeth whitening ads.

Dan Bonert is a Strategic Account Director who has worked in the digital space with CPG companies for the past 12 years with companies like WebMD, USATODAY, Citysearch and currently at Yahoo.  His CPG background is rooted in his early childhood when he worked at his local supermarket where he was first exposed to marketing side of the CPG business.  Follow Dan @ http://www.twitter.com/dbonert