5Qs with SocialVibe CEO Jay Samit


Display, according to SocialVibe‘s CEO Jay Samit, is on its way out, along with traditional methods of targeting audiences. SocialVibe recently garnered $20 million in equity investment from Norwest Venture Partners and plans to use the funds to support their vision of behavioral targeted ads. That model is based on the idea that banner ads, regardless of relevance in regard to context and audience segment, interrupt and irritate consumers, rather than connecting with them when they are truly receptive to brand messages. “The present model of delivering advertising is broken,” Samit told Digiday: DATA. Samit spoke to us about the future of display, targeting and alternate views of rich media advertising.

Why do you believe Display is on its way out? 
Four trillion display ads ran on the Internet last year with less than a one-tenth of one percent click through rate. Defining success as having only wasted 99 percent of your budget is not a viable model.  Display ads provide little of value for consumers, and even less for advertisers. In fact, they not only lack value, they devalue the content by interrupting the consumption experience, whether that’s playing a game, reading an article, or interacting with friends online. And that’s not a good way to connect your brand with consumers.  Brand interactions should reward consumers for paying attention to the message. Moreover, at a time when so many online interactions are social, display has no social component at all.
How can we judge if consumers are really being engaged? Click-throughs? Time on site? What metrics are valid? 
Brands need to be able to measure meaningful results. This has been just about impossible to do when you’re talking about traditional online advertising. You can talk about impressions, but that has become a meaningless metric – and at any rate, it tells you nothing about the level at which the consumer is engaging with the brand, but simply the likelihood someone may or may not see an ad. But when you offer an interaction that personalizes the brand experience – with features like poll questions, interactive games, or photo uploads – and then go a step further by letting consumers share this interaction with their friends, it becomes very easy to measure impact. Since the consumer is actually interacting with the content – and many times creating new content with a uniquely personal touch – you know precisely how much time they are spending with the brand, and how often they share the message. This allows measurement across several metrics: completion rate, total video plays, photo uploads, number of interactions per user, time spent, CTR to Facebook or to other sites, share rate, CTR on shares, and others. Moreover, when a consumer shares a brand measure with their friends, that is probably the most meaningful measurement– they embraced the brand message and passed it on.
When are consumers most receptive to advertising? Why? 
Well, as I said, certainly not when they’re being interrupted by display ads or pre-roll. We believe consumers are most receptive to brand messages when they are already fully engaged in the social environment. It’s the place where they are actively sharing and paying attention to what their friends are doing. We call this the crucial point of value-exchange online: If you give consumers what they value at that moment – like a virtual good connected to a game they are playing, or access to premium content — they see the value in interacting with the brand.
What we’ve seen as a result is consumers on sites like Zynga and Gaia spending an average of 63 seconds engaged with branded messages – and depending on how the interaction is constructed, we’ve even seen average interaction as high as almost three minutes for a campaign. You won’t get that from display. The CTR on display advertising is 0.1 percent
What happens to all of this data if there is a consumer backlash against tracking and data collection in general? What can a CMO do to connect with consumers effectively in an uncertain legal climate? 
Because customers make the choice as to whether or not they want to participate in these interactions, they are less likely to be concerned about their actions being tracked. We are all about transparency and honesty with consumers. Our publishers never share with us consumers’ identities, and all of our hundreds of millions of users are opting in for the experience. The CMOs we work with embrace this philosophy. As a result, consumers are willing to spend time with the brand, share it with their friends, and like it on Facebook.
Will display ever resurrect? What will the future of “engagement” advertising look like? 
The Internet is the first 100 percent consumer initiated medium. One can not push things at a consumer who is in control of the conversation. The future is about giving the consumer options and valuing their time. Let them chose their own experience and reward them for paying attention. Actually, the future is here now in the sense that we’re already creating engagements that are being embraced everyday by millions of moms, dads, kids, travelers, students, professionals; people like you and me. And once they’re exposed to engagement advertising, consumers expect that same experience across all their media.  We have the same response on mobile devices and we’re moving to the living room with new value-exchange opportunities on game platforms and set top boxes. In short, the future of media is making the consumer the message.

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