By Daniel Herskowitz
In theory, designing a new product should be easy: interview your users, find out what they want, and make it. Unfortunately, in practice the process is never quite that straightforward. In fact, if you’re looking to make a product that gets high levels of adoption, saves companies time and money, and is loved by users, listening to what your customers say they want may not the best place to begin.
What people say and what they do are often at odds. Think about your Netflix queue. Most people make an extensive list of movies they should watch, such as classics and educational documentaries. However, when it comes to actually watching a movie, these titles gather dust in favor of a light comedy or action flick. Ask users a question about a business process and you will inevitably find out about how the process is supposed to be, not how it is.
Don’t get me wrong – user interviews do produce a lot of valuable data, but data is not an end in itself. We use data, in theory, to come up with meaningful insights. But data is often contradictory and fragmented. In practice it is difficult to assimilate large amounts of data and obtain clear insight. While users are very good at pointing out the potholes in their current environment, and excellent at trying to find workaround solutions, it’s difficult for them to imagine an entirely new and alternative environment – and good products often require that kind of a leap. To complicate matters more, in today’s turbulent business environment, the needs of the users may actually be evolving as you conduct the research. You are, in effect, chasing a moving target.
So it’s hopeless, right? Well, no. There is an alternative to listening to what users say: listening to what users do.
According to Steve Jobs, user interviews weren’t useful in developing the iPod. Yet there was immediate user adoption despite the lack of formal user input. So how do you know when you have a good product? Put it in front of your users – if they use it, it’s good. But new products and features often do not get user adoption. Jack Gordon, CEO of AcuPOLL Research, a market-research firm that specializes in new product launches, estimates 80-95% of new product launches fail. No company has enough resources to build complete products or features only to find out, after the fact, whether they will have adoption.
Luckily, there are two tried-and-true methods of learning what will be successful without spending a fortune: 1) build prototypes, and 2) build them small. Successful products have one core feature that builds loyalty and inspires passion – it is the “game changer,” and prototypes help us identify that feature. If the feature actually provides value, users will want to use it immediately. Better yet, they will be willing to pay for it up front, or invest their time in helping you make it better. Stephen Cohen of Validately.com, a web app that helps companies validate insights, calls these features “needle movers.” He says “We spend zero time thinking about how to schedule the non-needle moving features.”
You can’t actually know what the needle-movers are without validating through testing – though we often deceive ourselves into thinking we can! Once the needle-mover is pinpointed, build a very, very, limited version of it – with zero bells and zero whistles – and put it in front of your users. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It doesn’t even have to be 100% functional. The point is not to build an epic software application in one fell swoop but to simply test your assumption that this product or feature genuinely adds value. If you get adoption, build on it. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. In other words, never put all your eggs in one basket or bet your development budget on an untested assumption. It takes humility and discipline to test even what you think are the most basic assumptions, but in the end it may just save you from creating features and products that gather dust.
by Sarah Lawson Johnston
Advertisers can develop and create inspiring video adverts, but if the timing and delivery of a campaign comes second in the pecking order, they will find the impact of all this effort and creativity is completely lost when the ad goes to air. So how can advertisers enhance the effectiveness of their video ad campaign?
It sounds simple, but switching the approach, preparation and management of a campaign can make all the difference.
Online is big business
The video advertising industry is booming. In the UK alone, online video ad spend increased by more than 60% in 2013 – £325 million compared to just £4 million for the first half of 2008 – which represents a staggering increase in investment.
This increased investment runs parallel with the growing numbers of consumers switching to online platforms to view TV content. In response to this trend, a large proportion of broadcasting companies, websites and social media networks have invested extra time and resources into streaming content. For example, during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the BBC mainly used the ‘red button’ to stream extra content, with some live streaming of events made available to UK viewers, and catch up videos available on the iPlayer. Fast-forward to Sochi 2014 and the broadcaster provided 650 hours of live streaming across tablet, PC and mobile, three times as much coverage as the broadcaster actually showed on terrestrial television. This was the first time the BBC had ever offered live coverage throughout the entire Winter Olympic Games.
The significant advance in adoption of this form of media gives a strong indication of the direction in which TV is headed. However, in spite of hundreds of thousands of pounds being invested in the best and most inspired online video ad campaigns, if an ad is not shown in the right place at the right time, then – just as with traditional forms of TV advertising – it is a wasted placement.
Automated delivers the edge
The rise of online video ads presents a real benefit to advertisers. It allows them to be more specific about their placements, whereas traditional TV advertising means buying broader audiences. Purchasing online video ads – as well as ads on devices such as connected TV – via a programmatic approach allows them to be more tailored to the specific consumers they are reaching.
There is currently a great deal of comparison between online video and TV, yet for advertisers they are distinctly different because of the way they can buy, optimise and measure both mediums. However, when online video advertising is delivered correctly, the real visible difference is that advertisers are rewarded with the precision of online display – reaching influential consumers at the right place and the right time – coupled with the traditional branding impact of TV.
But just how do advertisers ensure they deliver the best possible ad?
No room for error
Today, teams still rely on sharing critical information using spreadsheets, word documents, online portals and emails, but with each manual process comes increasing opportunity for error as this approach relies on human accuracy.
An automated advertising process relies heavily on integrating the information, systems and workflows utilised by all participants within the lifecycle of getting the ad to air, and running this process through one central connected system. Various processes within this automated cycle can include creative and traffic departments, dub houses, media outlets, publishers, talent, and accounting teams, so that they can all see and operate with the same information for the duration of the campaign, right through to consumer engagement. It is easy to see how this connected approach can be much smoother, more transparent and less prone to risk when an automated approach is utilised.
The power of programmatic
Advertisers who deploy automated systems to manage and deliver their campaigns can also maximise the advantages of using programmatic buying, enabling advertisers to be responsive and act quickly if, for example, a popular YouTube video or website goes viral overnight. When taking advantage of marketing automation campaigns can be managed instantly, allowing planners to reassess their inventory more frequently. Yearly advertising plans become bi-annual, and bi-annual plans can become a quarterly review, allowing a faster response time to the media channels growing in popularity and more fluidity when it comes to booking and managing video ad campaigns.
Automating data and centralising processes within the advertising mix have cost and timesaving implications – requiring less manual input and a smaller margin for costly errors – and can also help maintain the momentum of your campaign. However, it is important to note that although automation can streamline the online video advertising process, exceptional strategy and quantitative input is what will always give advertisers the edge to win gold.
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More Americans have watched the US soccer team this year than ever before. The increased popularity for pay-per TV sports has catalyzed mergers of two of the biggest acquisitions in the world this year for pay-TV operators— AT&T's bid for DirecTV and Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable.
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By John Bauschard, Mediaocean
“The US has the best research universities in the world, which is why we attract the best students from around the world. Forcing them to leave, rather than allowing them to stay and add their skills and knowledge to our economy, is one of the most short-sighted policies we have.” —John Hennessy, President, Stanford University
America’s top universities are busy graduating a new crop of highly-skilled scientists, engineers and mathematicians — more than half of them foreign-born — but many of them will not remain in the US after graduation. The fact is, many of our foreign-born students will accept jobs elsewhere because current immigration policy makes it difficult for them to stay and work.
Why would we let some of the best and brightest graduates of our top universities leave? The rational, as it is applied across all spectrums of immigration policy by a myriad of political pundits, appears simple: “Immigrants take jobs from Americans.” It’s a supply and demand argument that claims jobs filled by these highly skilled graduates could have been filled by unemployed Americans.
However, the reality contradicts these claims. Foreign-born STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates are actually proven job creators. Arguably, they are America’s single strongest economic driver in the modern era. A report by the Technology CEO Council stated that entrepreneurial “start-ups are disproportionately founded and supported” by foreign-born individuals. According to a report by The New American Economy, 40 percent of the largest US companies were founded by immigrants or first-generation immigrants, including many of the hottest tech startups. A recent example, Whatsapp, which sold to Facebook for $19 billion, was founded by a Ukrainian immigrant. My own company, Mediaocean, was founded by an immigrant more than 40 years ago.
Furthermore, hiring these foreign STEM graduates is anything but cheap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 2.5 computer science openings for every graduate. In fact, the top five largest technology companies in the US have over 10,000 combined unfilled computer science openings. These statistics inspired CEOs from many of our largest tech companies and trade associations to write an open letter to President Obama and Congress asking for a reformed immigration policy. Companies need to subsidize hired workers through a costly and complex immigration process stuck in a bygone era of bureaucratic paperwork with little automation.
As global competition for STEM talent increases, other countries are attempting to capitalize on our dysfunction. One need look no further than the billboards Canada has placed along our technology corridors for evidence of this. Saudi Arabia and other countries are building national laboratory systems similar to our own with an emphasis on recruiting US-trained scientists.
So, how do we solve this problem? It begins with the H1-B visa. H1-B is the designation for short–term, skilled workers visa in the US. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree under a broad list of majors, including some liberal arts, business and STEM majors. The amount of H1-B visas is capped at 65,000 per year for bachelor-degreed applicants with another 20,000 reserved for master’s degrees. This cap was put in place 10 years ago and has not grown to meet the demand, which is estimated at anywhere from two to three times this amount, according to the report by The New American Economy. The US should double the amounts of H1-B visas given every year while increasing the fees substantially, from the $325 an applicant pays today to $1,500 or more. The difference in fees should be used to help fund scholarships for US-born students to pursue STEM degrees.
Even once an employee gets an H1-B visa, there can still be issues. If an H1-B visa holder loses their job today, they need to leave the country if they are unable to immediately find a new sponsor. There is no grace period whatsoever. It again appears short-sighted to lose a highly-skilled worker due to temporary employment status. Work permits should be granted to any foreign students that graduate with a degree from an accredited four-year US university in a STEM field. After working for four years in a STEM field, they should be allowed to self-petition for permanent residency (as opposed to employer-sponsored). This way we keep the brightest people here, but they are free to change jobs or move to new locations as they desire.
Finally, we should create a special visa designation for foreign technology entrepreneurs who wish to relocate their business to the US. This designation should be limited in scope and require the business to have enough capital resources to be a net job creator. As President Obama said last year, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” Now is the time to get the politicians to act on this common sense issue.
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