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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.


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.

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.

A Guide to Creating a Shopper Marketing Plan to Win

9 Nov

In my last blog I talked about how at the Shopper Marketing Expo the focus of digital was overwhelming and marketers are quickly trying to identify ways to use all the data available to create a marketing plan to win. We are still in the learning phase but things are moving fast. I’ll share you with you some of my thoughts and how to effectively use digital in shopper marketing, but like I said the space is moving rapidly, so this is an evolution.

Today Marketing Daily actually had an article on how Shopper Marketing is growing faster than Digital and Social. In the article Matt Egol, who moderated a panel on “Recipes for Success with the Digital Shopper,” talked about how the traditional vehicles have staying power but how consumers are engaging in the digital environment.
A few blogs back we talked about all the technologies and targeting that can be used to drive high ROI for Shopper Marketing initiatives.

I don’t want to devalue other means of driving ROI through shopper marketing; in fact I believe in-store marketing still is driving the highest ROI for CPG manufacturers.

Over the past years I’ve seen a lot of companies talk about capabilities to target consumers based on geo, surf behavior and offline purchase data. Some of it has validity and some it is smoke and mirrors. Some fundamental issues that I’ve seen in these proposals are lack of scale or in some cases even remote ability to show how the targeting really works.

I’ve taken part in numerous digital shopper marketing campaigns and some key learning’s have come out of these programs and I will try to highlight some guidelines as you move forward.
1. Targeting
a. Geo – by creating zip code bundles and in some cases grouping DMA’s we’ve been able to reach large amount of consumers who are more likely to shop at one particular retailer. This is a great way to go broad and deliver scale. We’ve been successful with retailers as big as Wal-Mart and retailers as small as Food Lion.
b. Offline Data – Things get a little funky when thinking about offline data. We have all kinds of companies talking about targeting based on offline data. My recommendation here is use something like Vizu or Dimestore and asks the offline data partner to show you, via a simple question such as “Have you shopped at Target in the past 30 days for food, soda?” or whatever product you are promoting. Offline companies can provide scale but I’ve also seen a lot of these companies lack true audience sizing. Make sure to manage R/F when running these programs

2. Creative
a. Dynamic Ads – I’ve talked about these before but just a refresher. The use of dynamic ads let you pull in appropriate banner stores creative it also can help to deliver creative messaging based on the retail trading area.
b. Personal Retargeting – for brands that have large websites that attract numerous visitors this data can be extremely powerful. For example if you are a large CPG manufacturer and people are visiting a site like Green Giant you can now serve up a Green Giant offering. If they had visited Yoplait now you can serve up a Yoplait ad. Extremely powerful.

3. Publishers and Platform
a. DSP’s – So the DSP’s definitely offer the ability to manage R/F on a global level but the transparency on where the ads run is a little tough to swallow for most CPG companies. The first time you show up on a questionable site you might want to reconsider the DSP angle
b. Networks – Networks definitely provide some control over where you may or may not be seen. Think about scale when trying to determine the right network. Smaller networks will give you transparency but you might be sacrificing scale
c. Publishers – This is the safest environment but most likely the most expensive of all the options. Again thing about scale when running this campaign. Yahoo, Facebook and Google provide some of the largest reach. Figuring out who can overlay 3rd party data or do zip bundles is something you need to figure out. FYI: Yahoo can do both
d. Search – This is probably the cheapest way to reach consumers and obviously you only pay for the click. You will not get scale when you do this but it typically can deliver effective ROI. Today, only Google allows for zip code bundling

By linking the 3 pieces above you can start to create a Shopper Marketing plan that will allow you to learn, react and adjust. Utilizing these 3 areas effectively will put you ahead of the curve of most of the things I’m seeing in digital around shopper marketing.

On a personal note some things are changing for me and my wife, Sara. As some of you may have noticed it’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged. We’ve been extremely busy trying to get ready for our big move. Over the next few months I will be transitioning from Yahoo Chicago to Yahoo Atlanta. I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and some year round golf. My blogs may be sporadic in the coming weeks but I will do my best to continue to share my thoughts.

How Can I Use Dynamic Ads to Make My Marketing Better?

26 Aug

The holy grail of marketing has always been right message, right person at the right time.  I’ve been working with advertisers for the past 15 years to solve this problem.

In the early days we put print advertising in the contextually relevant areas to reach consumer when they are in the right state of mind.  We evolved it to using consumers surfing behavior to serve appropriate ads in the most relevant period of time based on the buying cycle of the category.

In the past few months we’ve evolved it even further.  We can now reach consumers with relevant messaging based on numerous data points.  It is a fundamental change that is occurring across the industry and the early results are staggering.

So what is a “Dynamic Ad?”  People sometime refer Dynamic ads as smart ads.  The concept is simple; it’s about serving multiple messages to consumers based on various data points.  It the simplest form it could be serving up an ad for Target Stores for women that highlight beauty products and that same ad for a man could show men’s clothing.  One way that I’ve discussed with CPG advertisers to tap the capabilities of dynamic ads is to use BDI (Brand Development Index) and overlaying that date with RTA (Retail Trading Area) to serve up messaging that is relevant.   Imagine being able to message to consumers differently who are heavy buyers, low buyers and buyers of your competitors product all on the same media buy.

Numerous companies are offering dynamic ad serving capabilities.

  1. Tumri
  2. Teracent
  3. Dapper
  4. Pointroll
  5. Mediamind

I’m sure there are more companies implementing these technologies but that is what I’m aware of today.  Tumri has done numerous case studies and can be found here.

While ad serving is only one component of creating a successful campaign, the real power lies in the data.  You have to have strong data to drive the decision.  That data  can come from companies like Blue Kai, Experian or tapping into the insights from websites like Yahoo or AOL.   Yahoo refers to these ads as Smart Ads.

Techcrunch did an article on Yahoo Smart Ads.

Barriers still exist to the adoption of dynamic ads.

  1. Creative companies aren’t exactly sure how to implement
  2. Time needed to launch historically has been 4-8 weeks
  3. Misconception around the cost of creating dynamic ads (Costs are typically the same)

There are numerous benefits to dynamic ads and here are just a few.

  1. How different consumers are reacting to messaging
  2. Which offers perform the best
  3. Which components work best from background color, brand images and call to action perform the best

I think we will continue to see high adoption of the offerings as advertisers start to see some of the great results that dynamic ads have to offer.   Think about all the social data we could tap into to serve up more relevant messaging  We are just touching the surface on what we can do with these capabilities.  I look forward to seeing the evolution.

How the Heck Do I use “Check-In” as a Marketing Tool?

17 Aug

If you aren’t actively engaged in the “Check-In” craze you‘ve at least heard about sites like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and Twitter Check-in.  The news today is that most likely to be announced this week the Facebook Check-In.

Read Techcrunch article by MG Siegler for more information on the Facebook announcement.

So let me caveat, that while I still don’t know why I “Check In” to places, I still find myself doing this all the time.  Currently I’m the mayor of 7 places and looking to regain a few titles I’ve recently lost.  Al O. you are going down at Panera on Clybourn.

So as part of my job I concentrate the majority of my time thinking about how to help CPG manufacturers grow their business.  So last week it finally hit me how they should be using this tool.  All you CPG marketers feel free to steal the idea.

Subway, Starbucks and McDonald’s have been extremely active on advertising on Foursquare.  Rightfully so, based on this article by Kunur Patel in Adage

So anyone who is in CPG and works in advertising understands that the best ROI typically comes from in store advertising.  That might be shelf talkers, in store radio and all the other things that the grocery chains have to offer.

Now think about this if you “Check In” to your grocery store I can’t think of a better place to reach consumers.  Now you, the advertiser, will not know if they buy your category, but either did the person who saw your ad on the floor of your local grocery store.

I realize one grocery store isn’t going to give the scale needed to move a large level of product, but if you aggregated Supervalu, Kroger, Safeway, Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and all the other places you offer your product this adds up to a large amount of users.

You could offer up a coupon to these consumers or maybe you have a current promotion that will help drive case movement.  I’m not going to dig into creative execution but I will say that the opportunity has real power and would love to see someone execute and share the results.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea or if you think you have a way for CPG advertisers to use the new “Check In” to move product feel free to share.

Thanks for reading

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 @

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

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

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 @

Part 2: Make Your Brand More Social

26 Jul

In my previous blog in this series we talked a little bit about how Social Media can’t drive short term sales ROI and some of the challenges advertisers in facing.  In this posts I want to touch on what you can do to be more successful if you choose to take part in the conversation and how you can start to measure success.

So what can you do today to create a more Social Brand:

  1. Use on pack space to drive people to Facebook accounts
  2. Just as your website address is on every advertisement you should be promoting your Facebook site as well, this is a great way to use TV/Print/Digital to drive further engagement
  3. Make it easy for the consumer, use online creative with “Click to Fan” right in the ad unit
  4. Bring life to offline advertising by tapping into consumer sharing on Facebook page.
  5. Deliver additional value for those who become fans.  Below is a great execution by Campbell’s

These are just a few ways, I’m sure you can find many more if you think about how you are currently implementing your advertising.

While many brands still can’t point to an ROI for Social Media you seek other metrics.  Before implementing a Social Media plan think about your Return on Marketing Objective.  If the below objectives can be outlined you should start to think about what you want to do with Social Media.

  1. Fans/Followers
  3. Coupon usage
  4. Buzz

If you are looking to understand the social buzz you are creating you have a slew of options to measure your Social Media.  Some of the large companies such as, Nielsen Buzz Metrics and Buzz Logic can help you understand what is happening in cyber space around your brand.

Many challenges exists around Social Media such as understanding ROI, staffing a team to monitor, keeping up with the changes, dealing with upset consumers, reporting, legal implications and many others.

So should you be investing in Social Media?  YES.  While the challenge exists the opportunity in Social Media far outweighs the negative.  Don’t think that if you build a Facebook fan page consumers are going to flock to your site.  The old adage, “If you build it they will come,” does not apply.  You need to buy advertising to create a base.   In part 1 of this blog I said I think we will be able to measure short terms sales impact around Social Media.  I think this is going to happen sooner than later.  I also think that the long term value of consumers that you engage through Social Media is extremely high and over time you will reap the benefits of these connections.  Things are moving quickly and I recommend you jump on for the ride.