advertising

STOP BUYING REACH AND START EARNING IT

Media is slowly suffocating social media. The relentless optimisation towards media efficiency and mass reach is resulting in shorter, less effective social banner adverts. This is disrupting people’s experience of social and not shifting brand metrics. It is time marketeers shifted their focus away from paid reach and towards organic resonance, writes Jack Colchester, Senior Data Strategist at BBH London.

In 2016, brands spent $27 billion buying media on Facebook, a hefty 57% year-on-year increase.

This is very good news for Facebook, but the transition from an inherently organic, social platform to a paid broadcast channel has had some immense consequences on the quality of social marketing output.

The primary consequence is that with big media budgets come big responsibilities. As brands spend more money they are asking for two things: reduction of uncertainty and proof of effectiveness.

Reduction of uncertainty has largely taken the form of guaranteed reach, through paid media. ‘We will reach 5 million people at a frequency of 2, to ensure your brand and product message is seen 10 million times’.

Proof of effectiveness is a more slippery beast to measure, but companies have shifted the focus away from active engagement metrics such as likes, comments and shares to more high brow efficiency metrics such as view through rates, completion rates, CPV and recall.

With attention spans on social being famously short, the argument goes that in order to maximise the performance of an advert that has reached 10 million people, we need to ensure that it is less than 10 seconds long, has prominent branding in the first three seconds, is formatted vertically and so on. This optimisation towards media efficiency is resulting in the bannerfication of social. In the process, this neglects the very thing that makes social different to other forms of mass broadcast marketing – the potential of immediate earned reach. To achieve it, we need to create work that deserves people’s attention, rather than disrupts it.

In short, earn your reach, don’t buy it.

Earned reach is not as dead as Facebook would have you believe, in fact our last two videos for KFC (here & here) organically reached 60 million people and created headlines across the world . A single organic tweet from Tesco this week about the tampon tax performed better (in terms of resonance and press coverage) than any paid tweet we have ever published.

Social platforms have been reducing organic reach for years in order to generate revenue, however the decline has been compounded by the use of paid media. Using paid media throttles organic opportunities in a ‘media squeeze’. I would suggest embargoing paid media for 24 hours after going live.

Earning reach means creating work that is inherently social and adds to the cultural conversation. This sounds lofty and worthy, but attention seeking, culturally informed work is the only way to combat the utter indifference displayed towards social banners.

The primary objective has to be fame. Achieve fame and all the other metrics will follow.

If you’re in the fame mindset of ‘what would the headline be’? then understandably the next most important thing is the primacy of the idea.

You need an idea that is provocative and culturally informed with brand or product baked in. Will this idea generate high levels of earned reach? Use the plethora of data that exists on customers to aid the strategic and creative process in uncovering what a culturally informed idea might look like. Crucially, this data should be embracing the outliers, you are not looking for generic social insights about how millennials prefer experiences over things. Instead it’s about uncovering social quirks, memes and trends related to your audience. If you want to be an additive to culture, you’ve got to know it.

To achieve the maximum potential of social, we need to stop selling the certainty of reach and start managing the uncertainty of fame.


BBH Live will be giving a talk on the theme titled ‘IS MEDIA KILLING SOCIAL MEDIA?’ at Social Media Week later this year. Stay tuned.

WHY NEEDY BRANDS WILL NEVER MAKE GREAT ENTERTAINMENT

Great entertainment is transgressive. It breaks the rules and provokes your emotions. Brands must overcome their need to be liked and challenge their audiences if they want to create entertainment that truly impacts culture, writes Richard Cable, Editorial Director at BBH London.

If great advertising and great entertainment have one thing in common, it’s that they both provoke a profound emotional response in their audience, be it delight, nostalgia, curiosity, love, empathy, righteous anger or desire. Indifference is the enemy of effectiveness.

Where advertising can only flirt with these emotions, branded entertainment gives you the time to consummate the relationship, building equity through sustained, positive emotional engagement. The same job just longer, right? How hard can it be.

Quite hard, as it turns out. The great branded entertainment revolution is pretty long in the tooth already, but still seems to be churning out an awful lot of what might politely be termed ‘brandfill’. Content that stirs no hearts and stops no thumbs. Entertainment that is unentertaining. More unloved stuff to add to the great slush pile of ‘meh’.

Which is odd, because it’s not as if there are any wheels to be reinvented here. Sure, some of the lessons are new to an industry whose output has been shaped by the constraints of 30 seconds, 48 sheets and double page spreads, but the knowledge of what makes great entertainment has been in development since homo sapiens first evolved the capacity for speech.

Story. Character. Empathy. Structure. Craft. Patience. These are the sort of fundamental principles most brands can really get behind. Yet try and name your top five examples of branded entertainment from the last 12 months and you’ll struggle to get past one. So why isn’t more of it better?

It’s because most brands are in the business of being liked. Their instincts, naturally enough, are to appeal to as broad a church as possible; to avoid discord and accentuate the positive; to veer away from anything that might tarnish by association. While this may serve you well for your next banner campaign, but when it comes to creating entertainment – the sort of entertainment that impacts culture – this ‘needy’ instinct is fundamentally flawed.

Great entertainment challenges. It transgresses. It upsets and bewilders, riding roughshod over your carefully cultivated social and cultural boundaries, and merrily lobbing hand grenades into your calm pools of emotional tranquillity along the way.

A high school chemistry teacher turns sociopathic drug lord. A corrupt president defies every law, including the fourth wall, in his pursuit of power. A repressed father experiences a late blossoming as a woman. A desperate teenager commits suicide and posthumously blames her friends.

What Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Transparent, 13 Reasons Why, and pretty much every other landmark entertainment moment ever has in common is a willingness – in some cases a compulsion – to break the rules, and in so doing take us to some very, very dark places, where the good guys don’t win, where the ethics are murky and where we are forced to ask questions about our own cherished beliefs.

And yet we don’t feel repelled by Netflix or Amazon for doing this to us. On the contrary, we are rapt. We await the next instalment with unrestrained enthusiasm and change the rhythm of our lives to accommodate their schedules. We discuss what it means in intricate detail, binge watching to be first to the finish and wishing bloody retribution on the propagators of careless social media spoilers.

The reason they take us into these dark places isn’t gratuitous. It has purpose. In his famous rant, design legend Stefan Sagmeister berates a rollercoaster designer for describing himself as a storyteller. “No fuckhead, you’re not a storyteller, you’re a rollercoaster designer.”

What the unfortunate rollercoaster designer may have been getting at was that his designs depict the emotional graph of a story well told – a series of climbs to accentuate the drops, constantly hurling you from one extreme to the other with the intention of fully commanding every fraction of your attention while you’re on the ride.

More often than not, brands’ instincts lead them to flatten out the rollercoaster, subordinating the power of emotionally provocative storytelling for fear of diminishing the brand’s appeal. To succeed in entertainment requires brands to reconcile these two instincts and get them pulling in the same, rather than opposite directions. Because a rollercoaster without the peaks and troughs is basically a commute, and nobody commutes for the pleasure of it.

 

What’s love got to do with it?

By Thomas Wagner

Brand love should be dead.

Byron Sharp and the Ehrenberg Bass Institute should have seen to that.

But many in our profession are still pursuing it.
Brand differentiation.
Loyalty beyond reason.
It’s all alive and well.

Perhaps because we have a fundamental need to be seen to make a genuine difference to society that goes beyond selling stuff.
Make love, not commerce.

Perhaps because it helps us to sell stuff beyond advertising to clients.

But by now we should all know that most people won’t love the brands we work for.
Yes, some people might, but they won’t grow our brands.
Because brand love is not a prerequisite to growth.

So what’s our role then, when there’s no love around?

To paraphrase Jenni Romaniuk, Byron Sharp and the Ehrenburg Bass Institute:

Don’t worry so much about what they’ll think about you when they do.
Worry more about them thinking of you at all.

This has a whole host of implications for everything we do, from planning to creative to measurement.

However, incidentally, it also does creates a role for ‘love’ – if one is keen on the metaphor.

Just a very different one.

First of all, we have to make people love our ‘advertising’, ‘publicity’ or ‘content’ – whatever you want to call the ‘advertising-like-object’ that reaches the many people.

Make ads people love. (If not pay for.)

So that they pay attention to it, remember it and subsequently think more of the brand – even, or perhaps precisely because of an absence of deep feelings for it.

Or so they might share it and talk about it and give us incremental reach.

We can make them love the packaging.

An iconic shape and canvas.

So it stands out on shelf and they can find and use it without much thinking.

Or so that the unboxing becomes a moment, to share and remember.

We could even make them love how they can try it, or buy it.

“Nike’s New Massive Store Is the Disney World of Sneakers”

Google Home

So that it is more memorable or irresistibly simple.

We can even have a go at making them love using the brand.

From start to binge in 5 … 4 … 3 … seconds.

Designing rewarding experiences that help build a habit.

So that perhaps, there is less need for thinking.

So let’s ditch the love keys.

They will never love you.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them.

The future of display is native

The final (for now) instalment in a series of cross-posts of some of the monthly tech columns we’ve written for Marketing magazine over the course of the year. This article on native advertising appeared in Marketing’s April issue.

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A wise agency head recently told me that, statistically, a person is more likely to die in an airplane crash than click on a banner ad. Not least because I’m writing this month’s column on a long haul flight to San Francisco (where I’ve been lucky enough to be invited by a client to spend the week immersed with them at Google’s Creative Academy), this is something I’m hoping not to be true.

 It is certainly the case that display ads are woefully ineffective, just witness the average CTR of a banner ad: at 0.2% in 2012 (from 9% in 2000, in case you’re wondering). Indeed, the death of display advertising has been declared so many times over the past decade or so, it’s astonishing it still has a pulse.

 And yet, it’s a sure-fire truth that when anyone declares the death of anything, it’s how often that thing shape-shifts and re-surfaces, alive and well, in a different form (check out one of my favourite articles of all time, ‘The Tragic Death of Practically Everything’ here).

 In the case of display, witness the inexorable rise of Native advertising.

Most jargon makes my blood run cold, but this is a term I increasingly like for a couple of reasons:

1.    The term evokes a sense of belonging and integrity; an opportunity for a brand to show an understanding of natural platform behaviours and a concern with user experience that isn’t associated with traditional display advertising nearly enough.

2. It is one way publishers and media owners may manage to monetize their online platforms effectively, without sacrificing user experience.

In short, the user, the brand and the media owner all stand to win. It’s that combination which makes Native advertising worth paying attention to.

 What native advertising is

Relevant, paid-for content that appears within the editorial stream of a publisher’s site or social network. Current examples include: promoted tweets on Twitter, ads in search, sponsored stories on Facebook, Tumblr Spotlight, promoted videos on YouTube, paid-for editorial content. It’s where publishing, PR and creative content meet.

 What it isn’t

‘Understanding natural platform behaviours’ does not mean producing wallpaper. The very best Native advertising is thought-provoking, creative, even disruptive; witness BBH’s work for the domestic abuse charity, Refuge, featuring the YouTube star, Lauren Luke. Nor is it content that pretends to be genuine editorial. No user likes the brand that duped them by presenting commercial content in an editorial environment, with no demarcation from the publisher’s content or link to the brand involved.

Some thoughts on briefing native advertising

1.    Native advertising is a (paid-for) means to an end, not an end in its own right. Its role might to recruit new users or kick-start an offer or initiative. As such, it’s more a sign-post on a connected path or story, not pure branded content per se. Simple things like including a call to action or a useful link back to the brand can be overlooked, but are critical to progressing an interested user’s journey.

2.    It’s equally important we make sure the team involved knows what constitutes natural behaviour on a given platform and respects it. Etiquette and UX, both crucial at the best of times, are disproportionately important here.

3. Silo-ed organisations won’t fare well here. Look for the people who demonstrate they see the whole picture: they care deeply about user experience, have a strong grasp of your brand voice and the nuances of the different, constantly evolving platforms.

Who knows, perhaps display isn’t dead, it’s just gone native.

The ABCs of Contemporary Creatives

[slideshare id=21330048&doc=abcsbookweb-130517090318-phpapp02&type=d]

As a product of the first dotcom boom in the mid-nineties I have always been digitally minded. I found my way to advertising through a decade of working in some of the finest interactive studios. More so than ever those two worlds have collided. Earlier this year I set out to write a book that took some of that learning and the mindset of working as a creative in a digital world.

The format of the book took on the look and feel a children’s book for learning the alphabet, with each letter referencing a way of thinking or an insight into the modern creative process. The book was lovingly illustrated by 26 of the industry’s best, and to introduced the book, I asked a simple question of five of advertising’s top creative minds. What does it mean to be a contemporary creative in today’s modern world of advertising? Below are three of the responses I received, the remaining responses can be found by reading the book itself.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” What does it mean to be a creative these days? It’s almost impossible to answer this. The tasks of a creative are unrecognisable from as little as five years ago. You must decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly the days of easy three week shoots in the Caribbean are long gone. But when has an advertising creative ever had the chance to make a physical product from scratch? To really make something? Some would argue clients have never been more conservative but some guy just fell from space for a can of pop with no guarantee that his brains wouldn’t splatter across a million screens. It seems it’s wise to be foolish. One thing a creative does need to be is a hustler. There are no easy briefs any more. You have to fight for the crazy stuff. But I honestly believe in a more uniform and conservative world weird stands out, weird – like ‘Greed’ – works. Look at GaGa. When the going gets weird the weird turn pro. Is that what we are, professional weirdos? I can live with that. – James Cooper

“Creativity” is a loaded word – like “war” or “god” or “child.” It has a lot in common with these words too – for it’s a mix of heavy burden and a blinding belief in our own potential to invent. “Creative” is too often reserved for people who are quirky, strange, tattooed and/or mustachioed. But in truth, everyone is creative with the way they solve the needs of the contemporary world – be they juggling numbers, whittling a good spear, or even in the conjuring of creative design and advertising. What we’re talking about here is indeed creativity in the visual, interactive and social-psychological senses. The Contemporary Creative has the ability to excite all of these with ease, telling stories and inciting action. Those before us molded clay, steel, and wood, but we flex our power with pixels and clicks, flash frames and light, code strings and sensors. We are manipulators – hopefully for good. The one trick pony creative no longer exists; instant death comes to those with narrow-minds, parochial interests or inflexibility. Inquisitiveness, fearlessness and an insatiable thirst for The New are the only real mandates for today’s creative minds. So feed your inner child. Create something from nothing. It’s a war of the senses. – David Schwarz

You can’t be of your time creatively if you’re behind in how you can express it. Nice sound bite, that. And like most sound bites, half true, half full of shit. Why it’s half shit: you can be and do whatever you want creatively. There is absolutely no right or wrong, just expression or no expression. That’s the goddamn beauty of it. Why it’s half true? If you want to have an impact, to have other people see or hear or experience your creativity, it’s a good idea to understand the times you’re living in, the mediums and formats are resonating with people – and understand the tools are available to bring your expressions to life. Know those, and all that creativity inside has a chance to be seen, experienced, and shared. Which makes you a creative person of your time, a ‘contemporary creative’ so to speak. – John Patroulis

The printed version of the book is set to be released on June 6th, however in the spirit of the open Web, I have published the book in it’s entirety as a tumblr blog. You can scroll through it contents at this url: abcbook.tumblr.com

The Return of the Barn – BBH NY Summer Session

bbhbarn

Author: Sam Jesse (@sam_jesse), Strategist, BBH NY.

It’s hard to believe the Barn is turning four this summer. During its short existence, the Barn and its interns have had some big moments. From the very first project to receive national attention (http://datingbrian.com/) to another which won two Lions at Cannes (http://underheardinnewyork.com/), the Barn keeps moving onward and upward. We even expanded beyond our borders as the global BBH family embraced the Barn, leading to inspiring work from intern teams in London (http://keepaaroncutting.blogspot.com/) and Singapore (http://www.madebymigrants.com/). And now, BBH New York is looking for the next wave of interns ready to make some noise in the summer of 2013.

This isn’t your typical advertising internship, so we aren’t looking for your typical advertising candidates. We want the mavericks, the ones who would rather do amazing things than talk about them, those who can see the future and make it happen. We especially want the ones who think and create in tech and code. Know how to code a site in html5? Know how to build an app for iOS? Know how to bring a film to life in Final Cut Pro? Great. If not, don’t worry. We want the resourceful ones too. The ones who will learn new skills on the fly in order to get the job done. The Barn is designed to empower these kinds of people. There will be plenty of rolling with the punches along the way.

Now, on to the details. The Barn internship program accepts six students or recent graduates every summer. Interns are split into two teams of three, which are then briefed on the same assignment. Over the next 10 weeks, each team develops a unique idea and brings it to life to answer the brief with a budget of $1000. Both teams will have full access to BBH talent and will be working on client business throughout, so it will be a busy summer. The goal for each team member is to end the program walking away with tangible public-facing work to showcase in their portfolio.

Applications will be accepted until Monday, April 22nd at 9AM EST. If you’d like to apply or know someone who would, check out the application site at www.bbhbarn.com, or follow @bbhbarn.

Global Internet Trends of 2012

Photo: Mary Meeker, KPCB

KPCB Internet Trends 2012

We at BBH Labs are big fans of Mary Meeker. Every year we like to republish her Internet Trends and this year is no exception. The report has changed throughout the years but the insight gets richer and more useful as time goes on. The report is just under 90 slides so for you slackers that don’t want to read the whole thing we have pulled out the information that we found most interesting for your data snacking pleasure:

  • USA has the highest internet penetration with 78%, but that still means 22% of the population is not online
  • In the US and UK, almost half of mobile subscribers are using smart phones at 48% and 45% respectively
  • An impressive 29% of US adults own a tablet or eReader, up from 2% three years ago
  • 48% of American kids want an iPad for Christmas this year, 36% want an iPad Mini

This year we wanted to highlight a few trends and view them through the lens of Advertising. Ask a few thought provoking questions and put our own spin on some. A few of these things are good for our industry and other things will be more challenging.

  • In India, mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop internet usage. Mary Meeker’s team believes many countries will follow. As an industry we can acknowledge that desktop banner ads present a challenge to do great creative but when your space is limited to the size of mobile banner ads it becomes even more challenging.
  • They see a movement from asset-heavy to asset-light lifestyles in space, time and money. As an industry this means that less products are being purchased but it should increase the quality of products brought to market. When the product is good, the advertising is even better.
  • The average person spends 52 minutes per day in the car. As an industry we have relied on radio to reach this audience but as cars evolve in technology with touch screens, mobile and GPS navigation are we innovating to be be creative with this time and space? This medium seems ripe for innovation.
  • The average person spends 3 hours per day in front of the television. As an industry we know that second screen adoption is growing at a tremendous rate, ad skipping is at an all time high, how do we change trends in advertising to combat other distractions to the ads we spend a majority of our time on?

Part 4: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

This is the fourth and final post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

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#7 Big Data, Big Patterns

“No thought can perish” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

“There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Mr. Kleinberg at Cornell. “But the software is scaling up to the task.” ~ New York Times, 09.09.12, ‘Tech’s new wave, driven by data’

According to Gartner earlier this year, the hype curve for Big Data reached ‘The Peak of Inflated Expectations’ (with an estimated 2-5 year gap before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). The accuracy of that timeframe has been debated, perhaps fairly when we consider the exponential growth in speed and volume of data collection and analysis and the collapsing path to purchase that we’ve discussed already here.

In advertising, it seems only likely that algorithms will continue to do more of the commoditised, heavy lifting for brands and their users in terms of achieving reach, frequency and low level message optimisation. And, in monetisation terms, successful media owners will have recast themselves as data owners. To take just one example, The Weather Channel’s CEO, David Kenny, described to us how he sees the growing commercial role of data: (more…)

Part 3: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

This is the third post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2.

The final instalment will follow tomorrow.

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#5 Content Marketing: brands as content owners & partners

By 2020, the difference in value between access to basic information (demands to be free) versus knowledge (“okay, that’s valuable, I may pay for it”) will have been worked through. Mainstream audiences won’t respect old media owner boundaries. A younger audience today already feel that way:

“It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form…”

“One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.”

“We, the web kids”, Piotr Czerski, writing in 2012

When information flows freely, traditional ‘middlemen’ relationships get disrupted, even collapse. Will this lead to the eventual or partial disintermediation of the media owner? Sure, some traditional media owners will make a full digital transition to expert curators, aggregators and creators in their fields of entertainment (music, games, film etc), information and news. Elsewhere, social platforms are connecting owners of great content to their own audiences, allowing their content to be found, searched, shared and watched together easily. Even in 2012, as Brian Norgard at Chill puts it, “Social is emerging as a starting distribution point for content.” Assuming this happens to some degree, it follows that aside from paid-for advertising, more and more successful brands will have:

a) formed partnerships with content owners directly, and/or
b) become bona fide content owners themselves.

With (a), the opportunity is to face the issue together. Brands play a legitimate role, funding the distribution of valuable knowledge or content to savvy audiences who know their attention is valuable too. Think partner, not sponsor. It’s a transparent, transactional relationship with 3 parties: the end user gets high value content and experiences for free or subsidised; the brand earns awareness, earned word of mouth and even purchase in return; the producer gets funding, reach and publicity:

The 3-Party Market (Chris Anderson, "Free" 2009) adapted by BBH Labs here

With (b), brands act as publishers and content owners in their own right, distributing their own content via their own networks, building their own audience databases… rinse and repeat. What content can a brand credibly create that people will want to seek out, share and make their own? Already, brands like Red Bull, Ford, Coke et al are pouring budget into content, eschewing traditional bought media and distributing instead via seeding, PR and the social web. It’s an all or nothing strategy, your content needs to be nothing short of extraordinary. By way of example, DC Shoes’ 9 minute epic featuring Ken Block treating San Francisco as his personal gymkhana playground. It has 27m 35m views and counting. (more…)

Part 2: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

This is the second post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The first, introductory post in the series was published yesterday, here. The structure we’re loosely following: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

Subsequent instalments to follow over the next day or so.

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#2 Everything is Connected: The Rise of the Networked Brand

“The dynamic of our society, and our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks..We are connecting everything to everything.”
~ Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy

A little context as we imagine it: by 2020 the media environment will be fueled by speed-of-light broadband and unparalleled connection. The Internet of Things already exceeds in size our planet’s human population and will number 50 billion by 2020, as Cisco has it: devices, buildings, clothing, even people – all machine-readable, perpetually transmitting and receiving data, universally authenticated. Very few people will care about distinctions like ‘online’ versus ‘offline’; we won’t fetishise IRL. Forget QR codes, if your product could have an interactive communication layer added seamlessly to it, what would it do or say?

The once clearly defined physical experiences of TV, Internet and gaming will continue to blur. By 2020, we will still want to use large screens for shared viewing, MMO gaming and epic, time-sensitive broadcast events, but that’s about it. We won’t bother talking about ‘connected’ TV or Internet TV, that particular war will be over: all devices will be Internet-enabled and capable of showing HD content. We’ll care about context and content (the relevance, cost and quality of the experience), not which cable or cloud it’s streaming from.

In 2012, mainstream TV struggles to integrate web content seamlessly.

In this context, a couple of things seem inevitable in terms of how the advertising model might be disrupted: (more…)