GroupM media agency Mindshare announced in early June that former Digitas exec Jordan Bitterman would become the agency's new Chief Strategy Officer for North America. While at Digitas, Bitterman co-founded the Digitas NewFront, which was a pre-cursor to the Digital Content NewFronts industry-wide event held most recently in April and May.
In an interview last week, Bitterman discussed a variety of topics near and dear to his agency's strategies.
AdExchanger: Native advertising has been around for ages. But, native advertising in digital appears to be really “hot” right now. Why do think that is?
JORDAN BITTERMAN: First of all, there’s obviously a fascination around properties like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others. Each of those properties has embraced native advertising as part of their user experience platform - consumers experience it in news feeds, tweet streams, comments back and forth and so on. Brands want to be a part of that conversation.
The default real-time communication mechanism on social channels has become native-based. When you add in the notion that “native” is really the first standardized or commoditized unit in the social space, and that social has become so big, so fast, you see the adoption going beyond digital to [traditional] media company publishers. There are obviously a lot of emerging tech companies that are filling the niche in the space.
If you think about the way in which content has been created to date, it’s time-consuming and expensive. Native has become a way where it’s a little bit more standardized. The pricing makes sense to marketers, who may not have been spending as much money in social to begin with, and so it gives them an entry point.
Looking back at some key insights from your days at Digitas, which ones could be very important at Mindshare going forward?
I’d start here: There are technologies that have been developed over the last two to three years that sit on top of the social graph - or are infiltrating the mobile space - that involve media agencies working in concert with technology companies. You don’t necessarily need as much of a creative agency to build out those experiences. In certain cases, you absolutely do. But, there are a lot of quick “wins” that clients can get in the space of real-time marketing that can be handled technologically in concert with a media [agency.] Native advertising is certainly one of those pieces. Programmatic obviously is a place where media agencies are playing a big role.
Beyond that we’re moving into a world where analytics is critically important. Media agencies have a real opportunity to play a strategic role far up on the brand side.
AdExchanger: Is Mindshare presenting “programmatic media” as an opportunity to the marketer today?
JORDAN BITTERMAN: Yes, absolutely. Programmatic media is an important part of the mix. Clients want speed and efficiency, and programmatic helps them with both. And, this is not something that Mindshare looks at as a threat to our existence - hopefully no agency would look at it that way. At the end of the day, this is part of the toolkit for a marketer, and if we’re able to drive efficiency of rates, speed in terms of time to market, and optimizations, it’s a tool that we need to have.
Moving on to traditional TV, online and its integration, we’ve heard about “convergence” for 10 or 12 years now. I don’t hear people using that word too much these days... but do you think we’re getting there in terms of “convergence”?
Yes, we’re starting to get there. It doesn’t look exactly like we thought it would, and maybe that’s why you’re not hearing the word convergence as much. Back in the day, we thought that convergence might be when the TV and the Internet blended into one, but a good deal of consumer adoption of other digital elements, have made that past take a different turn. Like “social,” for instance - think about the video that you consume. How do you learn about it, where do you watch it, etc? For many of us, that’s happening on properties like Facebook or Twitter, and certainly YouTube, which is a big social player in and of itself. So, you’re consuming video content in a lot of cases, through social referral, and that’s changed things a lot.
Then, there’s the big juggernaut coming that going to change the future of convergence: mobile. Video adoption in mobile is skyrocketing. If that video adoption in mobile continues at its current pace, video in mobile is going to become a bigger part of our [default] web experience, and will thus have a greater impact on what convergence looks like.
Also, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see addressable video in multiple channels - in mobile, in social and so on. I would guess that we will get to [digital] television addressability at some sort of critical mass over the next three to four years. Then, the big trick a couple of years after that will be how do we bring all these channels together in cross-platform addressability.
Regarding TV dollars moving online, and in particular, into online video advertising, how do you see that evolving?
Online video dollars had been coming from online budgets until about a year ago. Initially, marketers were saying, “I’m not willing to move my dollars out of television. This is not a proven medium for me. Therefore, I’m [only] willing to move my online dollars - some of which I know exactly what I’m getting when I spend it, just like I do on television. Some of it I don’t necessarily know what I’m getting for it, or it’s experimental, or I’m doing it for objectives that might be secondary or tertiary - I’ll play around with those dollars.”
From my perspective, when I look at the industry numbers, you are starting to see large tranches of investment going in – real, meaningful dollars. You know that those dollars are coming from somewhere other than online or print, or radio - it has to come from television at that point. It might not be coming from current budgets, but it’s likely coming out of planned growth in television spending.