Imitation Game: Example of Retargeted Ads

I wanted to watch Imitation Game this week. I used Google to search (on desktop) for movie timings and reviews. I might have visited couple of sites to check out reviews and I checked out movie timings using Google's movie widget/carousel in search results. However, I didn't complete my ticket purchase. Later in the afternoon I was checking my Facebook on my phone and I got Imitation Game's trailer as "sponsored story".

Facebook Re-Targeting
Facebook Re-Targeting

I think digital advertising as a medium is finally maturing and we are seeing relevant ads that make sense. This example also highlights the power of cross-channel and multi-device targeting. This brings up the point -

How come Facebook knew that I was interested in Imitation Game?

1. I visited bunch of sites to check out reviews of Imitation Game on my desktop browser. One of these websites might have partnered with retargeting tools. These retargeting tools "cookied" me. Being cookied in this context means retargeting tools placed an anonymous cookie, which is nothing but small snippet of information that just makes note that I visited said website/product page.

2.  The aforementioned tools have partnered with Facebook Exchange (FBX) and they alerted FBX that I was interested in Imitation Game.

3. I opened Facebook app on my phone and Facebook remembered that I was interested in Imitation Game. At the same time, marketing teams responsible for Imitation Game were running campaigns to promote movie using Facebook's newsfeed ads. Hence I received an ad about the movie.

I'm sure your first thought must be "yikes this feels like stalking". Let me tell you, there is absolutely zero human intervention in this process. All the exchange was anonymous. Privacy concerns are taken seriously by all the retargeting companies and lot of lawmakers across the world are figuring out laws/regulations that will allay privacy fears. However, if you prefer not to be "cookied" then you can disable cookies that track your preferences in your browser (e.g. in Firefox).

It also feels like playing the "imitation game" since marketers are  trying to figure out what what ads are most relevant to you. I personally prefer relevant ads when compared to random junk ads.

Image Credit: Official Imitation Game Website

Should you move to San Francisco to build your startup?

Recently, TechCrunch published an article about moving to Silicon Valley. Author Sten Tamkivi's  advice essentially boils down to:

Startups with global ambitions need to accept that there is no single best place in the world to win, not even the almighty Silicon Valley. If you learn this early on you have the advantage of building your culture, your processes and systems to be able to handle the fluid, distributed and mobile work to come.

I do not agree completely. As an outsider who came Bay Area during last decade, I should say this - Bay Area remains the best place to build technology startup at the moment. High cost of living, competition for talent etc. are secondary issues. In return, you get unparalleled access to capital, talent, and other resources related to entrepreneurship.

However, I generally advise NOT moving to SF if you aren't part of any established networks in the valley. Silicon Valley is giant network of several networks. To be successful in the Silicon Valley you need to be part of at least one of those networks. I often see lot of people making mistakes of moving to Bay Area thinking it will magically transform their business into successful one. What do I mean by being part of the networks?

1. Alumni Networks - You graduated from elite schools/universities like Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. Lot of alumni of aforementioned schools have created lots of successful startups. And number of VCs have graduated from these schools. So it's relatively easy to get started, receive funding, and eventually scaling.

2. Mafia Networks - Mafia not in a literal sense. Mafia in valley parlance means being part of PayPal Mafia, Facebook Mafia, Google Mafia or pre-IPO employee of any successful unicorn of last 2 decades.

3. Accelerator Networks - Accelerators like Y Combinator, Techstars, AngelPad etc. not only provide funding but also place you in the network of investors, founders and startups.

If you have already started your startup and thinking about moving to valley and aren't part of any of these networks then traction is your best friend. Hockey stick graph is the social currency in the valley.

P.S. It goes without saying but if you are building - a. non-tech company or b. addressing specific geo-location market (like Asia) via your offering then don't even think of moving to SF.

Note: I cross-posted this as an comment on Quibb.

What will happen if there is no net neutrality in India?

Couple of days ago, India's one of the largest telecom operator flagrantly violated Net Neutrality. Majority of Indians do not have access to Internet in India. However, smartphone usage is growing exponentially. Thus, lot of people are experiencing the wonders of Internet for the first via their smartphone. An Internet is the single greatest empowering technology of our time, and it's control should not be at the mercy of telecom operators in India. Net Neutrality ensures that the telecom operators do not get to control the Internet. I created following infographic to understand the consequences of absence of Net Neutrality in India. I took an inspiration similar infographic that was posted to Reddit few years back.

Net Neutrality in India

Use following Imgur link to embed this infographic in your website or share it on social networks -

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these logos or trademarks. The views expressed herein are mine alone and do not necessarily represent those of any other person or entity. The usage of these logs, trademarks and any other information contained in this graphic is for illustrative purposes only.

Age of Upgrade

Joshua Topolsky on how far has technology progressed in last few years:

Smartphone adoption in this country has grown to 64 percent. Eighty percent of new mobile-phone buyers choose a smartphone. Only six years ago, the vast majority of people had no idea that a phone could do anything other than make a phone call. The concept of "apps" did not exist at all. The idea of using a phone as a GPS unit or a camera was laughable.

TechnologyDhawal Mujumdar
Adtech 2014 Predictions

As we are approaching 2014,  here are my adtech predictions for upcoming year:

1. Year of content marketing and native advertising in terms of adoption: I think content marketing and native advertising are two sides of the same coin. Native advertising was hotly debated topic in 2013. As someone who runs an adtech company in the said domain I may be biased but I strongly believe 2014 will be year of content marketing and native advertising.

2. Twitter will launch it's own ad exchange: Twitter had a whirlwind year and a very successful IPO. They also made one of their largest acquisitions (to date) by buying MoPub. It was reported in May that Twitter was working on it's own ad exchange. I predict they will formally announce TWX (just like Facebook Exchange FBX) in 2014.

3. Instagram native ad offerings to become roaring success: Instagram introduced sponsored photos and videos this year. Instagram has run some initial ad campaigns and results look promising. Instagram represents a gorgeous visual medium and a community of users who cares about beautiful photos and videos. Glossy print magazines contain visually stunning ads. In fact, lot of people buy fashion magazines just for the sake of ads. Print ads used to be one of the most powerful medium to get brand message to it's intended audiences and Instagram now offers the said platform at scale in digital world (not to mention accompanying targeting abilities and features like click attribution).

4. Pinterest's promoted pins will be a roaring success too: Like Instagram, Pinterest offers an excellent visual medium to marketers to engage with their fans/customers. They have started experimenting with promoted pins and everything I said in 3rd prediction for Instagram holds true for Pinterest.

5. More IPOs in adtech: 2013 was a year of IPOs in adtech. We will see the same trend in 2014. In fact, more adtech companies will go public in 2014 than a year before.

6. Facebook video ads: Facebook has been testing it's video autoplay feature in newsfeed. I personally hated the idea when I read about it. However, I changed my mind when I saw one of the video in an autoplay mode on my newsfeed. I liked it. One of the motivations of this feature was to show autoplay video ads. Like app install ads in 2013, I think Facebook will heavily bet on autoplay app install ads in 2014.

7. Programmatic buying for display to shrink: Everyone has been talking about rise of programmatic ad buying and RTB. I think it's an essential technology that is going to dominate adtech for foreseeable future. I'm not saying programmatic buying/RTB is going to slow down in terms of overall trend. Programmatic is here to stay and social media ad exchanges  (like FBX) will be even bigger in 2014. However, I don't think we will see any growth in programmatic buying of display ad inventory. Banner ads are on a downward spiral and 2014 will be no better for display ads even though we will see exponential growth of programmatic buying in coming years.

8. AdsNative will be rising star: I started it so I can't help it. AdsNative will become the dominant force in content marketing and native advertising. And we will have lot of fun in doing so.

Happy new year, everyone!

PredictionsDhawal Mujumdar
Future of Adtech Startups

Jerry Neumann on adtech startups trends

Programmatic is the big thing in adtech now. Perhaps we are at the same place in the programmatic S-curve that ad nets were when Right Media started. If so, you should expect that there is some company out there right now or will be in the near future–probably viewed with the same opprobrium that Right Media was in 2004–that has started the next S-curve on its way.