The great mobile transition
Tim Lovitt, PwC Sydney
Jason Juma-Ross, PwC Sydney
Everyone knows the fable of the boy who cried wolf. Attention seeking child calls out to shepherd father that a wolf is marauding the flock. After several false alarms, a wolf does arrive but everyone ignores the boy's calls for help and he ends up in the wolf's belly. At times, it feels like digital pundits have been guilty of this behaviour, announcing the 'year of mobile' since the early years of the new century. Our analysis has convinced us that it is finally time to take mobile very seriously.
And it is not just a matter of timing. We believe that the extent of the shift to mobile is something fundamental. The Internet we all grew up with is fast being made obsolete by mobile devices, with the implications for media and marketing businesses being profound. Mobile will continue what the web started and reshape media, marketing and entertainment over the next 10 years. Here we try to imagine what characteristics and capabilities marketing and media will exhibit in 2019.
Marketing in a world of perpetual information
The second decade of the 21st century is witnessing a fundamental shift to mobile, affecting both customer attention and media reach. With more than six billion mobile services in operation across the world,1 mobile penetration in North America and Western Europe is approaching 90 percent of adults. In Asia-Pacific the number is closer to 50 percent, in Africa and the Middle East, half of that. Many of these services are for low-end feature phones and some are duplicates but this trend heralds a massive potential hike in future smartphone subscribers.
Australia has one of the highest levels of smartphone penetration in the world, with 75 percent of the adult population estimated to be smartphone-equipped. We expect this figure to reach 87 percent by 2019 and tablet penetration to reach 68 percent penetration in the same year. The magnitude of smartphone adoption is truly impressive: 1.2 billion smartphones were shipped globally in 2014, up 20 percent from one billion the previous year.2 As a comparison, global television shipments are expected to rise slightly to more than 250 million units in 2015, returning to 2011 levels.3
Perhaps the best way to look at the penetration of smartphones, tablets and other mobile computing devices is to investigate mobile data use. There are now more than 2.3 billion mobile broadband connections globally,4 with the number almost evenly split between the developed and developing worlds. This 50/50 split highlights that developing world users are not following the tried and trusted adoption path of desktop to laptop to smartphone/tablet. Instead, many are jumping straight to the smartphone and other accompanying mobile devices. For hundreds of millions of people, their first and only internet connection point will be a smartphone. Consider too our expectation of available WiFi, with cafes and public spaces offering free WiFi more frequently.
A sharp decrease in the cost of mobile data is contributing to shifting usage patterns. In the pre-iPhone era, data cost about $8 a megabyte (MB). Today the cost is generally a cent or two a MB. As the cost of data decreases and end points proliferate, we are witnessing huge increases in data consumption. In 2012 less that one exabyte (one trillion MBs) of mobile data was transmitted each month. By 2020 this number is forecast to have grown to about 25 exabytes a month. In contrast to the past decade, regions outside of North America and Western Europe are expected to account for the greatest growth in data consumption both in absolute and percentage terms.
As the next two billion humans connect to the internet, its character will fundamentally change. Instead of being about fixed, often shared access points, operating on a point-in-time basis in a predominantly English-text world, we will see fluid, mobile and pervasive access focused on non-text media, deeply integrated into users' personal space and being.
Mobile is a paradigm shift, not an extension
In the early 2000s analysts predicted 'the year of mobile' for the first time. But at that stage, mobile internet was plagued by slow download speeds, poor user experience and little content was available through WAP browsers. From 2010, the widespread adoption of smartphones and the new generation of tablets started to change things. A new computing paradigm emerged of accompanying and, later, integrated devices, all supported by increasingly fast mobile access. In 1998 3G introduced a theoretical limit of 200 kilobits per second (kbps). Just 10 years later in 2008, 4G arrived with a limit of one gigabit per second.5
Until the early years of this century, computers were largely destination devices. Users depended on a computer that resided in a university, an office or on a study table. Before the PC, the computer itself was even more remote; perhaps a mini computer accessed by a Teletype Model 33. In the late '90s and early 2000s we saw the emergence of widely available mobile devices (such as laptops, the Compaq iPaq, and the Palm Pilot series) but mobile computing was a niche pursuit until 2007 when the first iPhone launched. At this time, phones did not carry significant computing power, tablets did not exist and HDD-based laptops presented significant barriers to portability and immediacy of use.
The smartphones of today are faster, have more storage and better screen resolution than many desktops in 2005. Today, smartphones are accompanying devices hooked into a $25 billion software industry6 (in Google Play and the Apple App Store, iTunes) and billions of connected users. Smartphones have evolved computers from being destination devices to become devices that accompany us everywhere. While they still accompany laptops as a rule, smartphones increasingly accompany tablets and appear set to be at the heart of the wearable ecosystem.
The next stage of development will see devices become truly integrated. Estimates of the number of connected devices by 2020 vary from 15 to 75 billion and we are just starting to see what they might look like. Since the launch of the Pebble watch on Kickstarter in 2012,7 the wearables market has developed slowly as manufacturers seek to expand out of niche fitness monitoring applications. We expect the launch of Apple's Watch collection to open up the market significantly.
Beyond wrist-worn sensors, connected devices are continuing to enter our everyday lives. For example, the August Smart Lock provides access to our homes through smart devices, Nest Labs' Thermostat and Smoke/CO Alarm8 is establishing a beachhead in the connected home, and outside, Tesla manufactures connected and software-updatable sports cars. If you really feel the need, you can now order an iPhone enabled sous vide kit, cooking your perfect steak from the couch. Consumers who have become used to on-demand services streamed over a mobile device of choice find it hard to go back to more structured linear programming piped through a single end point.9
One significant implication of this explosion of connected devices is that devices will outnumber users, particularly in technology-friendly environments. The old paradigm of shared devices or even one device per user will be shattered and a world of multiple-user access devices will develop. While some of these devices will be fixed, some will be with us wherever we go, providing access to core services. These accompanying devices will become more and more deeply integrated into our lives and our physicality.10
Accompanying and integrated mobile devices demand a completely different advertising paradigm to destination devices, where the framework was built with a broadcast focus. Cookie-based targeting was the first step in developing this model, but accompanying and integrated devices require a different approach, for five key reasons:
1. Integrated devices have smaller screens or no screens at all
This might sound trivial to companies that have made a living resizing ads to fit smaller and smaller interfaces, but the technical, creative and business model challenges are significant on mobile devices.
2. People have multiple mobile devices and this fact explodes traditional assumptions about frequency and reach
In the pre-mobile environment, one cookie was assumed to equal one user but that same user might be visiting sites over multiple devices at multiple times of day, some of which hold cookies and some of which do not. Cookie-based approaches in an accompanying device world have been shown to overestimate reach, underestimate frequency, and play havoc with standard campaign management metrics like frequency caps. A new form of identity that is closer to the individual, rather than the technology, is badly needed. We expect each device and each device's usage pattern to build out links in an identity chain.
3. Mobile is all about speed, ease of access and convenience
Being able to access a Facebook newsfeed on an iPhone or see a notification on an Apple Watch is less than a two-click depth experience. Users now experience the immediacy of content in such a way that the technology itself is becoming increasingly transparent. There is little room for clumsy banners, interstitials and page takeovers that add seconds for time-poor users. In the same way, mobile platforms are streamlining other components of the user experience such as commerce and payments. While Facebook is now hosting New York Times content directly in its newsfeed,11 Woolworths in Australia is using online traffic from eBay to drive in-store footfall by being a collection point for purchases.12 Elsewhere, businesses such as Moxie are helping to rescue customers from clunky mobile and online experiences by having business rules and artificial intelligence direct a sales agent to directly intervene in order to navigate friction points.
4. High-value search is occurring within apps
This can be through social or messaging platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Snapchat, through specific vertical applications such as Yelp, Uber, eBay or even Amazon, or through new in-app mechanics such as Facebook's app install ad unit or Kiip's moment-based rewards. If 'moment' sounds strange to our ears, get ready for 'movement' to become a new data point, as the Apple Watch and similar devices drive a wave of adoption of devices that capture our personal data, well beyond first generation of Fitbit-type devices.
5. There is the potential to close the loop on marketing
Data is native to mobile channels in a way that a post-event survey is not and the transactional capability of mobile can integrate real sales data into the picture. As this happens, marketers will optimise for a business outcome either indirectly, through a better appreciation of attribution over the entire funnel, or directly, through real-time biddable inventory across the digital marketing ecosystem. The outcomes will include business goals such as more efficient acquisition, improved onboarding, retention or service messages, requiring marketers to expand their focus well beyond driving consideration and decisioning.
What are the implications for marketers and media owners?
Few in marketing and media have fully grasped the implications of the shift to accompanying and integrated mobile. The shift is a fundamental transition that evolves the user environment on multiple levels. At its most basic, it moves access and usage from a device-centric to a person-centric world, but there are six key implications for marketers and media owners.
1. Data will be person-based
Good data will propel the next wave of marketing transformation and this quality will be grounded in identity. Knowing it is the same person accessing content or assessing your product over laptop, smartphone and tablet will help marketers build more appropriate content. Knowing that a customer is in the market for a new car will help marketers show her the right stories and offers to drive engagement.
The economic imperative for better data will brush up against policy and societal concerns about privacy. Today, this debate is polarised in the mass media but the real issues are subtler. As customers, we will expect to deal with 'one government' and not to have to fill out the same details for every department we contact. We will expect our bank's call centre to be able to pick up a conversation where we left off yesterday on web chat and be aware of our previous Twitter feedback. Within these organisations, executives are now coming to the view that customer data is too valuable to sit in isolated siloes in the call centre, marketing Data Management Platform (DMP), Customer Relationship management (CRM) system and sales pipelines. There are efficiency benefits from more appropriate messaging that will accrue to organisations, customers and society at large. Rewards will be the more efficient allocation of marketing and media dollars, with products and services better aligned to customer wants and improved service.
We expect a more nuanced view of personalisation and privacy to emerge, driven by consumer demand for relevant communications and services. We are starting to see new technologies that can connect customer and third-party data without contravening privacy and fully expect the regulatory framework to evolve in the context of these moves, reflecting both the potential of data and the public's expectation that their data will be safely and responsibly used. Many of these approaches will come from the leading digital platforms and providers, each having strong incentives to develop solutions for the long term. Content targeting platforms like Outbrain and Taboola already operate on the supply side of this equation while Facebook's patent applications point towards the development of an exchange that combines advertiser data with social graph data to allow relevant content and ad targeting well outside the current Facebook ecosystem.13
2. Partnerships become Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs), not contracts
As the digital ad industry reaches a tipping point in programmatic, more processes will become automated.14 The handshake deals and contracts of the pre-digital world will diminish in importance as more inventory is traded on performance attributes and dynamically placed. Programmatic is extending into premium digital inventory, such as mobile, video and, through companies like Sharethrough, into native. As ad operations and media buying and placement catch up with a new fragmented campaign environment based on multiple niche messages, the only viable solutions will involve the kind of scale delivered by software as opposed to the current labour-based model. Equally, leading marketers are beginning to bring ad-tech in-house to leverage customer data safely and effectively at scale.15
3. Creative storytelling fuses brand and performance
The scale challenge also applies to creative development. Here, the potential will only be realised if message reach can match the volume of niche targets emerging from the data.
- More executions will be required to engage consumers in stories that resonate, delivered via episodes or chapters over time. One brand we know achieved strong results with sequential storytelling to distinct customer segments involving 300 pieces of creative over a three month period: a traditional approach is more likely to have required 16 pieces. More episodes means more volume but that volume will need to come at a lower per unit cost so we expect to see a restructuring of creative supply.
- In many cases, these stories will adopt a life-stage focus, driven by the customer data. Life stages will be relevant to key consumer events and needs. What is different this time is the granularity of the identified needs and the accuracy with which small segments can be addressed.
- The big idea will be more important than ever. First, because multiple episodes will need a consistent brand theme and core values if benefits are going to accrue above and beyond the transactional level. Second, because some brands have meaning as signalling devices for certain consumer segments only through the sense of belonging that brand messaging delivers. Third, because brand messaging will continue to play the role it always has in maintaining customer awareness outside of an immediate purchase event.
Creative agencies that can supply these capabilities are likely to be in even greater demand and media agencies attempting to support this will face pressure, as the requirements of always-on, expanded campaigns are many, requiring integrated asset management and workflow solutions. Once in flight, the granularity of management and reporting requires further focus and investment – all difficult in a time of stretched budgets.
4. Marketing departments become more 'whole-brained'
Marketers are going to be a lot more whole-brained, as 'person-based marketing' requires a combination of rational, analytical and creative skills. Supported by identity-chains, person-based marketing is the step beyond segmentation, where targeting is based on the individual. With the promise of increased efficiency, delivering on this will require a reassessment of roles in the current strategy > planning > execution > reporting process. The prevailing prejudice holds that engineers cannot be creative and creative people cannot be scientific. The software industry, in particular, has shown this distinction does not hold water, yet marketing is one of the few remaining disciplines where the myth still receives airtime. Examples of this are the integration of analytics and creative that we are starting to see as more digital and direct marketers take leadership roles. We expect to see a need for more full-stack marketers16 in enterprise, SMEs and start-ups.
5. Media pricing polarises
With the shift to targeted, measurable activity, untargeted media supported only by traditional attribution models is likely to lose value. Highlighting this issue is the fact that Australian newspaper print advertising revenues fell 40 percent from 2010 to 2014, from $2.8 billion to $1.7 billion.
In contrast, media channels that support targeting and can provide accurate reporting are seeing an increase over time, confident in their creation of value for the advertiser. Programmatic buying – where a range of data inputs are combined with business rules to execute the digital media 'buy' – is increasingly the channel of choice, reaching tipping point this year at 52 percent of digital spend in the US.17 The increase in mobile usage is creating higher levels of mobile ad inventory, with a leading US programmatic buyer reporting 80 percent of clients transacting across mobile and PCs.18
Having grown more than 20 percent over the past few years, real-time bidding (RTB) is now growing even faster. Mobile and video RTB are outstripping even programmatic, forecast to grow at 46 percent and 36 percent respectively.19
Looking back at search marketing over the past 10 years, a few trends become clear. Once-accessible keywords rose in price as an increasing proportion of marketers chose to allocate more of their budget to search. As a result, there was a huge increase in cost-per-click (CPC) for key products as the marketing eco-system matured. Programmatic, in all its flavours, appears likely to follow the same course and make up an increasing percentage of advertising budgets, with price and awareness of value rising in parallel.
6. Business model stress drives industry shakeout
For decades, media agencies held a position of power, investing their clients' media budgets as brokers and intermediaries. A key part of media buying in traditional and broadcast segments has been an annual up-front commitment from media agencies as to how much they are likely to spend over the coming year – a forecast with strings. Those media agencies have often received publisher bonuses in the form of discounts or extra inventory and when media has been withdrawn (cancelled shows, unexpectedly low audiences or circulation) 'make-good' clauses may have been applied, often in the form of further inventory or discounts.
Lumped together, these benefits form a 'value pool' that agencies can dip into at their discretion, with minimal oversight from clients. While these benefits should have benefited the advertiser, tension has emerged between client and agency when it has become apparent that inventory from value pools was sold for profit. Selling for the benefit of another client is also rumoured to have occurred.
Despite the rise of transparency in today's digital environment, recent criticism of RTB double dealing in the US suggests these issues are very much alive. In Australia the ACCC (Competition and Consumer Commission) has indicated it may begin to ask questions about value pool and rebate practices.20
While some agencies have developed trading desks and various black-box solutions, client-side marketers have arguably a larger incentive to invest in technology given their access to first-party customer data, an asset non-specialist agencies traditionally lack. Equally, the 'always on' nature of data-driven programmatic requires a level of resourcing, agility and ability unsuited to a traditional media agency model. As the CEO of one cloud-based programmatic provider puts it, “As rebates die, so does the [traditional media agency] business model.”21
Risk drives Recently, leading marketers have begun to provide a new seat at the table: one for their colleagues in risk. Aware of the power that customer data bestows, risk and internal audit teams also understand the implications of mistakes in handling and applying that data, in addition to the brand and commercial risk for particular channels and activities. Rather than forbidding these activities, forward thinking risk professionals in finance, utilities and education are beginning to engage proactively with marketing teams, co-developing new tools and processes.
What will the media and marketing landscape of 2019 look like?
The ad-tech bull market of 2010 resulted in a bewildering array of new players intent on disrupting multiple pockets of inefficiency in the publishing and advertising ecosystem. Many of these companies received substantial funding with $7.6 billion in venture capital and 'angel' money invested in 2013. Today the climate has shifted and few are making it to the initial public offering stage.22 Instead, the best companies are being snapped up by the major publishers and advertisers that have deep enough pockets and the substantial technical skills required to mature these tools into the next generation advertising platform. We believe the emerging platforms will have five key characteristics.
1. Driven by data
The trajectory of marketing information is moving from aggregated to individual. One marketing technology start-up we know calls this 'de-averaging'23 and says it involves using individual signals of (for example) intent to drive relevance. The identity issue resulting from a population of accompanying devices is being addressed by a technology layer that supersedes the cookie-based identity of the 2000s. Technologies such as Google's Doubleclick Audience Centre24 and Facebook's Atlas25 are now enabling measurement based on a single identity without transmitting any personally identifiable information.
The real-time nature of this insight is a game changer. The dominant mode of traditional analytics used to be forensics, but better signals delivered with less latency allow marketers to shift from reactive to proactive mode. In the new environment, marketers will not have to wait a month for the surveys and sales results to be collated before calling out insights and adjusting campaigns.
The potential of this real-time data will be fully realised only when real-time systems are able to react by tailoring communications, offerings and services at the point of customer interaction. Some of these systems will have levels of automation through technologies such as Adobe's Audience Manager or Media Optimiser, but some will retain a human component, for example the social service communities run by Dell internationally and Telstra in Australia.
The new model will operate across different spatial dimensions in the data too. The advent of the real-time model will see aggregation of multiple data sources across digital channels to deliver the actual voice of the customer, rather than a proxy for it. Data will come from media consumption, social graphs, social services, web chat, apps, online behaviour and even call centres. Previous complications relating to the analysis of large unstructured datasets are being solved by companies such as Clarabridge and Semantria which bring sophisticated language processing capabilities to the table.
2. Offers get personal
The ability to de-average insight and target communications to granular segments over personal devices will transform not just the creative process but its offerings. Accompanying devices are used far more often than traditional media (if you don't believe us, tally up how many times you check your email or your Facebook newsfeed each day) and this, combined with deeper life-stage data, places a new premium on storytelling over time.
Digital marketers have long known that optimising across the stack (from social, to search to landing page and beyond) means getting relevant messages in at each layer. A customer who is a day out from a purchase decision should receive different messaging from one who has just started research. Traditional broadcast channels were unable to cope with differential customer life-stage progression, let alone targeting and measurement. With mobile, customers can be told individualised stories relevant to their needs, wants and stage in any given process – messaging for acquisition, on-boarding, support and retention.
Organisations that successfully deliver relevant and compelling creative stories over time will have capabilities that can deliver:
- Scale creative options. If you have more segments you need relevant messaging for each. Couple this with multiple story windows and the number of execution multiples. To create a consistent link back to brand, story platforms need to be grounded in an idea that is big enough to support this volume. Leading digital creative agencies, such as R/GA, already operate with the kind of quality and pace required but more traditional creatives have a long way to go to catch up.
- Relevant stories that create a connection between brand and performance. The initial 'episodes' in a story to a customer in 'consideration' mode might involve more focus on brand communication whereas a customer further down the funnel would respond better to a qualified, specific offer. Not only will creative departments need to manage this complexity but marketers will need to rethink budgets that have traditionally been fragmented across direct and brand/sponsorship.
- Native to the medium inventory. To ensure continued relevance, advertising will be 'native' in the way that Google AdWords or the Facebook mobile ad unit is. These ads have different incentives to traditional display advertising and will be better targeted, more contextually relevant, and more genuinely useful to the audience.
3. Agile ad operations
Always-on, person-based marketing requires a fluid, integrated approach – and new support tools. Integrating performance feedback such as price, frequency and fatigue in real-time across dynamic segments requires the close alignment of creative, ad operations and governance functions, with a far tighter review and optimise cycle than in traditional and digital marketing to date. As this may include a range of partners, new processes and support technologies may be required. Current systems and process creak under the load, particularly around project, task and workflow management.
Innovative marketers are taking an open IT approach to ad operations in general, ensuring that the various products and channels can provide aggregated data via Application Protocol Interface (API), accelerating awareness and increasing granularity. This is significant given the large amount of head hours involved in traffic management and reporting within the traditional agency model.
4. Universal presentment
Advertising becomes 'addressable' when a unique message based on specific customer attributes and different from other treatments can be delivered. A mobile and/or accompanying device fulfils one key requirement to make advertising addressable and a device-independent identity framework provides the other. With digital multimedia and social networks delivering more video now than broadcasters,26 addressable video is expected to grow strongly.
The addressability of promotional, sales and service messages can yield high levels of performance and pricing transparency when tied back to a customer outcome. The closer that outcome is to a dependent variable (the promotional, sales, or service outcome being measured), the more transparent performance will become. Clicks were considered an improvement over 'eyeballs' or views, but leads, applications or even sales are better still. Accompanying devices provide considerable options for improving transparency and making media more accountable. Closing the loop is simple where the outcome can be tracked back through the ad delivery channel, as with app install ads. But where this is not possible, data partnerships such as Quantium and Woolworths or Facebook, Axciom and Epsilon in the US27 and the integration of payment data into the workflow are starting to provide options to improve accountability and match investment to return.
5. Closed loop optimisation
Outcome-based feedback closes the loop on marketing and drives efficiencies at every level. Ideally optimisation occurs 'all the way down' from brand to search to landing page to e-commerce and again is driven by outcomes, not inputs. Optimisation will occur as a matter of course, across all channels, all the time and is automated wherever possible.
New sources of customer data are now being brought into this equation to drive insight and a greater understanding of the business outcome. Some marketers have had great success optimising campaigns that drive applications, say for credit cards, only to find that they run into roadblocks further down the funnel. We have seen these roadblocks manifest as poor service experience from successful marketing overloading delivery, to getting the 'wrong' customers sold on the product. Credit card customers who switch on rate are not always the most profitable segment, long-term. It is now possible to capture and analyse fine-grained customer sentiment in real time and use this as an early warning system for issues in the sales flow. Some companies we know are deriving live satisfaction and net-promoter metrics from live social and call centre data and incorporating this 'actual' voice of the customer into their funnels.28
Adapting to perpetual information
We started out by discussing the fundamental shift in our industry; the shift to mobile.
The critical point about this shift is that we should not see it as an extension or just another channel but a fundamental change. In this paradigm shift, we have seen devices move from being destinations to companions, to truly integrated devices. In our new integrated world, each individual is at the centre of multiple devices, and each device contributes data to a person-based identity chain.
In addition, the shift gives a dramatic boost to pre-existing consumer trends. Business on the internet has largely concerned two core factors that were not true of the analogue era. First, the cost of distributing digital product is much, much lower than of physical; some would say free.29 Second, the cost of marginal production is, again, close to zero. These two factors, low-cost marginal production and distribution, have contributed to the removal of friction from consumer marketplaces and the attenuation of value chains between producer and consumer. In the analogue world, many business models derived value from this friction; a resource that is now becoming scarce. If publishers and marketers are going to thrive in the mobile world, they will need to adapt to perpetual information flows.
The future presents significant challenges to publishers and marketers. They need to invest heavily, not only in driving customer relevance, but driving relevance for their own channels and offerings. Clues to future relevance can be glimpsed in emerging advertising and marketing technology ecosystems, where there has been a huge amount of innovation. We believe that the winning platforms will exhibit five key characteristics. They will have data in the blood, be able to present personalised offers through addressable channels, have the creative flexibility to create multiple stories that map to the customer's life stage and have full-stack optimisation as the norm. In all, it is a demanding, ever-changing and exciting time to be in marketing.
With customer centricity a key in-market theme, marketing and media are the low hanging fruit on the path to digitisation. Mobile and integrated devices have them ripe for change.
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