Ah to be in Paris – this Thanksgiving

French turkeyAs I have posted about both that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and also about whether there is Thanksgiving in China, ever since the unfolding of the terrible events in Paris last Friday, I’ve been thinking I wish I could celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris.

No I would not expect any turkey although I am certain that if one wanted to have an American-style Thanksgiving meal in while in Paris whether that be in a restaurant or at home it could be accomplished.   And I checked.

Yet it’s quite appropriate to think about Paris and the French around Thanksgiving. After all France was instrumental in helping the United States attain its independence. And for whatever reason we Americans have an affection for Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving due to smart marketing by Georges DeBoeuf for example.

I love Paris. I’ve only been there a couple of times and never for more than several days. My wife and I both speak French (and my wife lived in Avignon for six months during her university days) and talk about going to Paris and France often.   Now the desire is stronger than ever.

Why? Paris is a truly international city – like New York. The pace and vibe of Paris is unlike any other place. It’s vitally important that the vibrancy that makes Paris a great world city be maintained and even nurtured.   When I think of Paris today I think of Parisians and French people that are so varied when it comes to background, race and beliefs. And somehow it works. Not perfectly but it works.

After 9/11 here in New York, there was a real need to get people to come back into the city (Manhattan in particular where the Twin Towers fell), to go out to restaurants, museums and Broadway shows.   We New Yorkers were grateful for the support received from our own citizens as well as tourists and visitors from around the world that heeded the call to come back into the city.

As is the case in Paris now, after 9/11 the American people and New Yorkers in particular were and are disturbed, frightened, appalled, and angry just to name a few emotions. The 10th and 11th Arrondissements in Paris which attract so many young people – (millennials were prime targets), are indeed an attack on the Paris life and joie de vivre that goes hand in hand.

Most Americans do not have the wherewithal to, at the drop of a hat, jump on plane and jet to Paris for a few days. Like New York City, Paris is expensive – and amazing. So while I wish that our immediate plans could be changed to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris to show my support and love for the people and customs there, I will also relish spending the day with family and reliving a rich tradition.

And I vow to get to Paris in 2016 as soon as I can. With a little time and planning it does not have to be super-expensive proposition and it’s the least I can do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and…Long live Paris! 

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Did you feel it? $200MM ad spend so far DraftKings and FanDuel

draftkings-vs-fanduel-1024x512If you’ve turned on your television or walked into any sports bar you cannot fail to have seen the incessant ads for DraftKings and FanDuel. On Tuesday New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman shut down the two sites in New York State.

As reported on ESPN:

“New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared Tuesday that daily fantasy sports constitute illegal gambling in his state, and he sent game operators DraftKings and FanDuel cease-and-desist notices in a significant blow to the embattled, billion-dollar industry.”

Schneiderman demanded that DraftKings and FanDuel, the two industry giants, stop accepting “wagers” from New York residents. He did not ask the company to stop conducting its national business in New York.

“Our review concludes that DraftKings’/FanDuel’s operations constitute illegal gambling under New York law,” Schneiderman wrote Tuesday in the letter obtained by ESPN’s David Purdum and Darren Rovell and ABC News.

Inc Magazine reported in October that ‘FanDuel’s investors include Comcast and NBC Sports. DraftKings’s backers include Fox Sports. In addition, two of the NFL’s most influential owners–Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots (who happen to be facing each other this Sunday)–are investors in DraftKings. And the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars have a deep alliance with FanDuel: This season, the team opened FanDuelVille, a dedicated space at its stadium with room for 3,000 fans to watch games, monitor their fantasy football stats, and enjoy a few cocktails.’   Does anyone sense a slight conflict of interest here?

While the issue of whether or not the two companies will be further regulated (I am betting they will be although that may be a poor choice of words) will play out over the coming months the amount of money the two have spent in advertising in 2015 is staggering. DraftKings and FanDuel, are the two of the biggest startups in fantasy sports. Through October 15 2015 $206-million —($131.4 million by DraftKings and $74.5 million by FanDuel) has been spent according to CNN.com for television ads airing nationally.

The impact on advertisers has been kept quiet by media agencies. However when more than $200 million (not even through 10 months) in television advertising time has been taken off the market it follows that costs for advertisers have increased. It’s true that most of the two companies ads have appeared during sports programs. Yet compared to past years when GM, Ford, Mercedes, Lexus, etc., seemed omnipresent, they are now forced to outbid each other (programmatically or otherwise) to reach their target audience.

The argument that somehow fantasy sports ‘leagues’ and more so daily fantasy sports ‘leagues’ are games of skill is laughable. The same could be said for playing Blackjack in the casino –there can be skill involved but nobody believes for one second that playing Blackjack in a casino is anything but gambling. I expect that these fantasy leagues will end up having much stricter disclosure guidelines but won’t and should not be shut down entirely.

In the meantime while all this was going on (the air) advertisers and their agencies have had to make the best of reduced inventory and increased prices. The networks both broadcast and cable win too. Pretty much the rest of us are all losers.

What do you think – should fantasy sports leagues be prevented from advertising themselves as games of skill?

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1111 – Is it Singles Day again already?

ecommerce_spending_1.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeWatching a secondary holiday having been ‘born’ is seldom compelling. Most of the holidays on the U.S. calendar were created before I was born. I know there’s a Grandparent’s Day (I had no idea when and looked it up – September 13th this year and Boss’s Day (October 16 this year) and recalled that there used to be a Secretaries Day (you missed this too April 22nd this year) which is now called Administrative Professionals Day.   Obviously “secretaries” is archaic today, unless we are talking about desks.

The biggest relatively new holiday in terms of participation is undoubtedly Singles Day – in China.

From Wikipedia a little history of the holiday:

Singles‘ Day or Guanggun Jie (Chinese: 光棍; pinyin: Guānggùn Jié; Wade–Giles: Kuang-kun chieh; literally: “bare sticks holiday”) is a day for people who are single, celebrated on November 11 (11/11). The date is chosen for the connection between singles and the number ‘1’.  

In recognition of the day, young singles organize parties and Karaoke to meet new friends or try their fortunes. It has become the largest online shopping day in the world,[2] with sales in Alibaba‘s sites Tmall and Taobao at US$5.8 billion in 2013 and US$9.3 billion in 2014.[3]

Singles’ Day or Bachelors’ Day was initially celebrated at various universities in Nanjing during the 1990s, and originated from Nanjing University in 1993. It got the name “Singles’ Day” because the date consists of four “one”s.

Singles’ Day serves as an occasion for single people to party with single friends. The holiday was initially only celebrated by young men, hence the name, “Bachelors’ Day,” but is now widely celebrated by both genders. ‘Blind date’ parties are also popular during this day in an attempt to bid goodbye to their single lives.

Some schools of a university put forward a special program to gather singles together for celebration. Singles may take on a bemoaning or self-deprecating attitude for remaining single as a university student, but this has helped curb that negativity.

Once again Chinese online shoppers will spend more on Singles Day than U.S. shoppers will spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined (US$4 Billion in 2014)! China’s Singles Day ain’t no Hallmark holiday!

Now there is talk of having Singles Day become a ‘holiday’ in the United States. Move over Valentine’s Day? I am not betting on that. How about you?

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For entrepreneurs it’s not the money, it’s the M-O-N-E-Y

Monopoly Money with real moneyWhen I began working back in the 1980’s I worked at a major NYC bank in the marketing department as a marketing associate alongside a number (more than 10) of very smart women (there were one or two men but that’s about it). The marketing department had a number of initiatives not the least of which was to train bank managers on the sale of bank products and services.   I distinctly remember our ‘mantra’ counseling bank managers with “It’s not the money, it’s the M-O-N-E-Y”.   I thought I understood at the time.

Years later I am not so sure that I ‘got it’. There are so many expressions regarding money that resonate. “Don’t throw good money after bad” and I like that one. Working with start-ups and early stage companies over the recent few years has given me a new take on “It’s not the money, it’s the M-O-N-E-Y”.   How much money founders/owners propose they need is, often wrong.

Here are two principal reasons:

  • Founders/owners don’t ask for enough since they feel it will be more appealing to stage it and in the process try to appear as fiscally responsible as possible.
  • Money raised to help drive company growth (i.e. sales of the product or service), is to be used for company growth and most investors are not inclined to have their investment in marketing and sales growth utilized for operating expenses. Entrepreneurs/founders have a hard time with this.

I, (with intention) am staying away from including research and development funding which is critical in the biotech startup environment. The cost for development and approvals for biotech can greatly exceed all other funding needs and skews everything.

To be clear, the M-O-N-E-Y is the combination of:

  1. The profit that will be generated from the cogent and plausible revenue model created that is mission critical. That realistic revenue model is also missing as foundational for many start-ups as I have written before.
  2. The value of the enterprise itself based on current investment. Not what it would be if everything that was hoped for worked out perfectly.

Investment capital should never be thrown around like Monopoly money. The more I see three and five year plans from young (and sometimes not-so-young) companies, the more I am surprised at the naivety of entrepreneurs when it comes to how investment capital is best directed to grow the company.

It’s not the money, it’s the M-O-N-E-Y! Get it?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Start ups | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Micropayments are almost ready for prime time

tinymoneyThis fall has been a baseball dream season (so far) for this Mets fan. Even when traveling I want to at least be able to listen to the game if not watch on television (or better yet in person). MLB.com is one of the best pro sports licensing operations around.   They are so good that the National Hockey League has tapped MLB.com to power its NHL.com offerings. More importantly MLB.com has exclusive rights to broadcast TV and radio feeds for all 32 MLB teams. So if I wish to listen to my Mets on my smartphone, there is no access to the local broadcast except through MLB.

So say for instance I am at the beach one fine summer day and I wish to listen to the game. Unless I subscribe to MLB.com or have a transistor radio (I know I have one in the basement someplace), I am out of luck.

Having taken this path myself I ended up back at MLB.com (I have subscribed in the past for an entire season but have not over the past few mundane Met campaigns).   However instead of having to pay the full ‘annual’ fee two months prior to the end of the regular season I was given a monthly option of $2.99/month for non-premium TV that included team-by-team radio feeds. That sounded reasonable, I subscribed and it’s been great to have that utility. The annual non-TV feed MLB.com subscription fee was $19.99/season. Add what MLB.com refers to as ‘premium’ TV coverage is over $100 annually.

So when I think about a micropayment (generally considered to be under $10), I consider $2.99/month to fit that category. Much has been written about micropayment platforms such as Bitcoin (I am a believer) and competitors such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Venmo, Pay Pal, Snapcash and Facebook.

Publishing has been hoping that micropayments would be the salvation of an industry based on annual subscriptions. Cable TV and Internet service providers are not nearly as ready to consider a world in which people might not HAVE to subscribe over a long or long-ish period to receive service. Yet publishers have adapted. Users receiving 5 or 10 free articles per month prior to paying for content understand the idea that nothing is free forever. Offering these possible future customers the opportunity to buy month-by-month access at substantially reduced costs (maybe 1/10th the price of an annual subscription) with no future commitment is I admit not the most secure business model, but times have changed and so must the ways people buy, consume, and stay engaged with content producers.

What if after the ‘free’ access articles were offered for cents on the dollar? Read an article it costs $.25. Episodic television shows via platforms such as Hulu.com and Netflix already are far down the road with the pay-as-you-go model. I believe that in the future the bulk of micropayments will be less than $1.

The big difference maker is technology and its ability to assist in processing and keeping (securely) track of all the billions of present and future micropayments. WE have the tools. People just have to get used to the idea and I am 100% convinced they will. Eventually.

Have you been using any of the micropayment services? Probably Paypal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay and Venmo are most well known and I have used three of them however I’ve yet to try Bitcoin. How about you?

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What if accessing the Web was completely a VR experience?

minority_report_intelligent_billboardsSince the dawn of the Internet era (a keyboard and a screen), users have had to stare at a screen and enter by way of typing or voice, commands that direct the user to the desired destination.

It’s worked out well and today with the increased focus on the mobile web, economy of action to ‘do stuff’ on the web has become ever more important.

Well then why only a screen-based and type or speech based interface? Just because it’s the legacy of interfaces created long ago? What if it were completely different?

The Internet as a VR experience would be a sea change from what users today.

For example: Let’s say you wanted to go shopping for clothes. In a VR experience you call for the retailer and a VR assistant (hologram) pops up in your living room and invites you into the virtual store. A door opens and you ‘step’ inside. “What are you looking for today” asks the VR assistant/guide. Red V-neck sweaters. Immediately holographic selection of red V-neck sweaters appears and you can easily choose ones to look at more closely and in fact even virtually try them on to see how they will look on you.

This does mean you would ‘wear’ some sort of technological interface (helmet, glasses etc) and have enough ‘space’ to move around a bit. The sensation of walking will occur in VR is a solvable problem. Once you have decided upon your purchase the VR assistants asks if you will pay with your normal Internet Wallet card (Amex/Visa/ or MC most likely will still carry forth), and once agreed to, the product gets sent to you to arrive the same day (if Mr. Bezos of Amazon is able to deliver on this future).

The VR web will help you find information, places to eat or visit on vacation with the ability for you to virtually walk through the restaurant or take a walk down the center of Dubrovnik (which I liked very much visiting in person) or wherever you may be considering traveling. And while I feel there will be amazing utility in the utilization of the virtual web it in no way truly replaces being there in person. Nor should it and I’ve written about that before.

Do you have ideas on how the web VR experience might manifest itself?

I’d love to start a discussion here.

Posted in Advertising, Advertising to Millenials, Brand Advertising, Consumer Behavior, Internet Shopping, Marketing stuff | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Side of Programmatic Buying


Short and on-point from my business partner. Good stuff.

Originally posted on Diary Of A Media Man:

Programmatic digital can be dicey when it comes to getting what you paid for and you should be concerned about fraud, bots, safety, and viewability issues that result in bad outcomes.

A few months ago a prospective client asked me to evaluate a small programmatic buy her agency had executed for her with one DSP. The agency thought the buy was great, given that they drove a CTR of .48%, higher than most campaigns with a CPM of $1.40. On the surface I would agree.

That is, until I looked at the source of clicks report. This was a small enough campaign, just under 10,000 clicks, that a simple scan of the source of the clicks made me question the real value of the campaign. Many of the URL’s were from out of the US (Belgium, Brazil, Malaysia to name a few) but his was supposed to be a US…

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