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Reciprocity between users is a core principle of social media, users are constantly trading social capital in the form of likes, follows, retweets etc. thereby spreading content they see as valuable to them. But for brands, capitalizing on this earned social capital and converting it to sales is a delicate process that is constantly evolving. Users are generally willing to consume branded content containing a tasteful amount of sales messaging. However overdoing it in this regard is seen as a violation of trust that can quickly result in an unfollow and swift end to the brand-user relationship. Brands essentially must fulfill their unspoken quota of supplying valuable or entertaining content (ideally both) to their audience and in exchange are granted permission to promote their agenda, which most often will be sales. This is content marketing 101. In the digital popularity contests that are most social platforms, brands are often regarded as the ugly ducklings, with users more hesitant to follow and engage with their content in comparison to other profiles. There is a constant underlying scepticism that generally permeates the brand to user social media relationship and it goes something like this “Okay (Brand X) you seem cool I guess, with your engaging value driven content and acceptable level of sales promotion, I will follow you. But I still suspect one day you will turn on me and send me spiralling down your dreaded sales funnel!”. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, many high profile brands with loyal followings will attract and retain core audiences to a point, but reaching that less invested user and cultivating a sales relationship with them from scratch can be a complicated and often tedious long term proposition. For low profile brands and start-ups especially, this is an incredibly daunting scenario. Producing high quality, remarkable digital content is frequently at the mercy of time and budget constraints. For the aforementioned small brands these challenges can be extremely difficult to overcome and result in a poor social media presence that does not add value to user timelines or the bottom line of the brand. Lack of creativity is the most common culprit here, without the resources to create compelling content, brands too often resort to a steady stream of boring sales pitches with no incentive for user engagement or discussion. For brands struggling to consistently produce high quality production heavy content, things like contests & giveaways can serve as cost effective vehicles for audience growth and provide value to followers but transparency with these is key. Winners need to be prominently showcased to ensure users know their spent social capital is not a waste. Brands most often stumble in the sales process when they fail to understand and respect the rules of promotion in the digital space. Users carry all the power in this relationship and delivering them consistent value in return for their attention is essential. Your social sales strategy must at all times respect this paradigm and repeatedly demonstrate an awareness of it. It is then and only then that users will begin trust the brand in question and consider giving consent to enter its sales funnel through email sign-up or other form. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Well sorry to say, this was the easy part. Completing the process with a sales conversion is a whole new challenge, which in almost all cases demands the delicate transition of guiding the user gently to your website or external e-commerce solution through a well designed user experience, but that is a topic for another day. Be sure to check out Ashu Avasthi of LinkedIn at this year’s Digital Media Summit as he gets in depth with how social media has fundamentally changed the selling process and gives useful tips and best practices that will help convert your social media audience into paying customers! Chris Giles is a freelance digital marketing strategist and Digital Media Coordinator at Niagara Parks. Follow him on Twitter @chrisgiles87   More
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Last Updated on Friday, 10 February 2017 04:31
How many articles have you read about understanding the millennial generation? There is no shortage of information about who we are, but there is a great deal to be said about how that affects your marketing strategy. Forget that we represent roughly 50% of all bloggers, or that we now represent the majority of the workforce. Millennials now represent $200 billion in annual buying power and that number is only increasing. You don’t need to understand us so you can give your office millennial a fist-bump in the hall way, you need to understand us because we make up more and more of your bottom line. Here are the top three things you need to remember when selling to the millennial generation: #1 Your grand-daddy’s ads don’t work on us. Only 1% of millennials said that a compelling ad would make them trust a brand more (and we know how important trust is to millennials). Part of that is volume – we’re exposed to well over 2,000 ads a day and we know now from Buzzfeed articles (and other equally credible sources we get our news from) that most of them are trying to show us an ideal state. So, we put up a wall. It comes in the form of a PVR to skip ads on television, or browser plugins to avoid ads on YouTube. We know the ways you’re used to advertising to us, and we’re taking measures to get around it. If you’re skeptical: ask a millennial how many t.v. shows they watch? Then ask them how many of those are actually on a live television set. Point being: try something new if you want to break-through. #2 We’re not slacking, but we are lagging. 61% of millennials admit they can’t afford a house. The fact is, the economy has left many of us in our parents’ homes, with debt and underemployment rampant. What does this mean? All of the major milestones that our parents achieved in their 20s such as marriage and having kids, are happening later in life to us. So when you’re putting up the ad about empowering the 25 year old whose career has taken off, know that resonates with far fewer of us than it would have with you. #3 We trust reviews, but not all of them. 33% of millennials rely on blogs before making a purchase. And you’ve probably heard this contrasted against the fewer than 3% who refer to TV news, magazines and books. But that doesn’t mean we trust all reviews because they’re online. We’re well-aware you can pay for positive reviews on your products, and many of you do. This is why we hold endorsements that come from our personal networks in high regard. That’s why Facebook pages show which friends have ‘liked’ before the overall number, and why Twitter accounts show users who you follow that also follow a third party. Prioritize testimonials and authentic reviews if you want to break through and create that 1:1 effect with millennials. Want to learn more about marketing to millennials? CEO and bestselling author, Shama Hyder will be discussing strategies and approaches you need to reach the millennial market including how we think and what we expect from companies. Register here. Read more from Adam Rodricks via his blog: More
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 4 May 2016 10:45
MichaelWekerlePortraitTORONTO, ON - (October 6) - Digital Media Summit is pleased to announce Michael Wekerle as our 2016 opening keynote on Thursday May 5 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. Michael is a rock star in the world of Canadian finance, known for his shrewd value spotting in the fields of tech, biotech and media. As the founder and Chairman of the merchant bank Difference Capital Financial Inc., he oversees a fund that includes such successful growth companies as Hootsuite, Vision Critical, BuildDirect and Blue Ant Media. He also holds significant real estate assets, including an impressive portfolio of high-tech commercial properties in Waterloo, Ontario, as well as the historic Toronto entertainment venue the El Mocambo. And he is a partner in the Canadian franchise of Wahlburgers -Paul, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg's Boston-based burger chain.
dragonsDenLogoMichael lives in Toronto and is a doting father to six children. He donates millions of dollars to a wide variety of philanthropic interests, including UHN, CAMH, SickKids and Holland Bloorview, as well as the youth outreach organization Seeds of Hope and the acclaimed Baroque opera company Opera Atelier. Michael is currently featured on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, highlighting his entrepreneurial spirit.
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 5 April 2016 10:17

This article was originally published in Brand Quarterly.

In the summer of 2014 Pinterest unveiled its much-anticipated business model, Promoted Pins. The company recruited around twenty beta partners, such as Target, Kraft, General Motors and Expedia, each of which invested significant dollars to get first taste of this new media channel. Six months later on January 1st, 2015 Pinterest announced that the program was a success and that it would expand. Something must have worked. Our company had a chance to work directly with a significant percentage of the beta partner marketers. We worked with brands to set strategy, source content, and optimize pins. While specific results are proprietary data, Pinterest has started to share impressive numbers publicly. Through our work with brands’ earned Pinterest accounts over the past two years, we have also learned several lessons on what it takes to succeed in this exciting new media. Marketing Must Be Meaningful Easily the number one lesson from Pinterest is that informative and useful pins are the key to winning on the platform. People use Pinterest to find inspiration and ideas, so marketers win by offering content that meets these needs. In fact, according to Pinterest, a majority of all pins come from businesses. These are not ads and product images, but useful content such as recipes from a food brand or lip-gloss looks from a makeup product. On Pinterest, brands can be more trusted and appreciated than content from other sources. If you look at the collection of Promoted Pins on this board, you will see that marketing messages take a second priority to ideas and inspiration. Financial services companies do not pay to pin their loan rates, but instead share tips on how to plan for buying a home. Travel brands do not pay to pin airfares, but instead share tips on what to see in Thailand. Our experience suggests that including branding on a pin is neutral to positive, but make sure you are delivering added value first. Re-Pin Rate is the Prime KPI Since success on Pinterest comes from delivering value, the best way to judge the performance of a pin is the number and percentage of people who chose to re-pin it. Getting a re-pin is very powerful; it combines the best features of a search (sends traffic) and social (drives shares). In our experience, Pinterest’s re-pin rate is highly correlated with the click-thru rate, so optimizing for one tends to get to the other as well. There are various ways to judge re-pin performance. This is straight-forward with a promoted pin buy, as Pinterest reports the percentage of people who saw a pin and chose to re-pin. If you are just looking at activity from your brand’s earned activity this is a bit tougher, as total pin impressions are not reported. In these situations we prefer to look at the number of re-pins (the number you see tallied on the pin itself), divided by the total followers of a Pinterest account. While less precise, followers can be a way to estimate initial impressions. Earned Activity Informs Paid Success Many promoted pin beta brands had been active on the platform for months or years by the time they launched a paid campaign. They discovered that frequent pinning allows the best content to bubble to the top and be worthy of promotion. Our research shows that 18% of pins drive 80% of engagement on Pinterest, meaning the best content gets viral-like growth. As a result, advanced brands pin often across a variety of content to let the most successful pins rise to the top. Interestingly, you do not have to own a massive amount of content in order to be highly active and gather insights to maximize results. Active Pinterest marketers pin to external content multiple times a day across their boards. By watching how their Pinterest audiences react to this external content, they can see what is resonating and then direct their creative content resources accordingly for branded pins. Paid Drives an Earned Bonus Perhaps the least-publicized but most amazing benefit of Pinterest is that it is the first marketing platform where paid media can lead to a massive amount of earned activity. In other social media, like Facebook or Twitter, sharing is a secondary user choice; we read the promoted item and must choose to click a share button. But with Pinterest, a social share automatically happens whenever something is pinned to a personal board. According to Pinterest, promoted pins saw an average 30% bonus in earned (free!) impressions. Since that’s just an average, it suggests that companies that work hard to optimize can see even stronger results. Even better, this earned bonus does not stop when your Pinterest campaign ends. The pins you promote at scale continue to sit on thousands of people’s boards. Traffic and re-pins continue weeks, months and even years later. Your effective CPM keeps dropping and ROI keeps rising with promoted pins. Little Things Mean a Lot When you closely examine Pinterest from the consumer’s perspective, you learn that it is much more of a search tool than a social media platform. People decide to open the Pinterest app when they are looking for ideas and planning for projects. They frequently type into the prominent search box at the top of the Pinterest app. Even when scrolling through our home feeds, we are unconsciously scanning images and descriptions for relevant needs. Just like search engine optimization, successful Pinterest optimization depends on attention to the little things that mean a lot. Marketers that win take the time to crop images, carefully craft pin copy, and ensure their mobile landing pages are optimized—after all, 75% or more of the traffic from Pinterest is mobile. ROI is a Work in Progress Probably the biggest challenge for marketers is that return on investment with Pinterest is still a work-in-progress. For ecommerce companies it can have a noticeable impact, but others still need to fit it within their measurement programs. The good news is that Pinterest connects with consumers across the purchase funnel, and people use the platform with high intent to buy. One mistake is to immediately throw Pinterest into the direct response budget and compare last click economics. The problem here is that people often see your brand content months before buying, but most marketers lack long-term purchase measures. Another error is to assume that the CPM price of Pinterest should be the same as a programmatic banner ad buy. People want to interact with your brand content on Pinterest, while banner ads are wallpaper at best and interruptive at worst. As any salesperson can tell you, this warm content lead is much more valuable than a cold call pitch list. In addition to the fascinating lessons of how paid pinning performs, we learned that the Pinterest partnership team is passionate about marketing. While some startups look at advertising as a necessary evil, Pinterest has built a team of brand strategists that are looking far beyond how many media dollars they can book this month. This commitment to partnership with agencies and brands is key for long-term success of the platform. The year ahead will be a big one for Pinterest. The company recently announced new advertising features, such as more precise targeting and access to intent data. Now could be time for your brand to apply these lessons and begin the learning journey. Bob Gilbreath is co-founder and President of Ahalogy, a leading Pinterest marketing company, and author of  The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect With Your Customers By Marketing with Meaning. Follow him on Twitter. More
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Last Updated on Friday, 10 April 2015 06:41
All customers are not created equal. This is also true for relationships. No business has the same relationship with their customers as you intend to have with yours. The thing is though, you must first define what a relationship with your customer looks and feels like and in turn, how they would describe it to their friends and colleagues. This is where the future of customer experience begins. At a time when technology is affecting how people go through life, one thing is becoming clear, everything is changing and that also affects the business of business. At the same time, technology is introducing new opportunities to improve customer relationships and ultimately the experiences we want them to have and share. In fact, I’d say that as crazy as all this new stuff is (social media, mobile apps, smart watches, smart phones, smart cars, smart appliances, wearable computers, virtual reality, etc.), companies now have the opportunity to become more human and more relevant than ever before. Every one of these new technologies provides us with greater insights into customer behaviors and aspirations. We can better know our customers, appreciate their expectations and in turn, deliver more personal and valuable customer experiences.  The challenge is that we have to want to and we need to do things differently in order to do so. The good news is that consumer technology isn’t the only sector undergoing great innovation and disruption. Innovation is also underway in the world of enterprise software. Now well-intended businesses have the technology that facilitates improved customer relationships and experiences. Again, businesses will have want to make investments in innovation to do so. Continue reading via More
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Last Updated on Monday, 13 April 2015 01:36
One question you hear a lot in digital media has to do with advice: in a world where over 100,000 Twitter accounts identify themselves as “social media gurus”, how do you know who to listen to? The answer is to stop looking to individuals who boast their expertise, and focus instead on gatherings of professionals. If you’re based in Toronto, here are the top 5 reasons to attend this year’s Digital Media Summit. Get Tips On LinkedIn from LinkedIn If there’s one keynote I’m looking forward to more than any other at this year’s Digital Media Summit, it’s Jason Miller’s ‘How to Achieve Face-Melting Content Marketing ROI’. The senior manager of content marketing and social media didn’t say he’d say “good” metrics, or “great” results, he said face-melting ROI. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools in a social media marketer’s arsenal, and regardless of your industry, your company page and profiles are of the utmost importance to business development. Jason will share real world examples and real time results which will generate the very thing I go to conferences like this for: actionable takeaways. Get Insights Your Vendors Won’t Tell You When it comes to social media services, software and support, there is no shortage of vendors in the space. It can be hard determining which is really right for your business, and how many of those bells and whistles you’re going to take advantage of on a regular basis. Polling your colleagues is one of the best ways to learn about new technology, and how they’re getting around common pain points. We can’t blame vendors for selling us a pretty picture, but we have to be smarter with our marketing dollars to drive results. Understand Crisis Management Before You Need To One of the top searches on my website is “what to do in social media crisis”. I wonder how many of these proactive queries rather than someone under fire are in the moment. In any case, it’s a great idea to have an understanding of how to handle a social media crisis before you’re faced with one. This panel headlined by leaders at Microsoft, Royal Caribbean Cruises and MLSE will shed some much needed light on the topic, from brands that have fought the good fight from the trenches. Up Your Native Advertising IQ Having worked at Canada’s largest daily newspaper for the past year leading a division from a Digital Strategy perspective, I can tell you that “native advertising” has gone from a buzz word, to one of the most heavily debated content marketing topics today. Whether you’re for or against it and how it’s being used, there has never been more need to understand what native advertising is, and how sites like Buzzfeed are harnessing its power to super-charge their content strategies. If you work in the traditional media space, this is a must-attend. Get Connected to Each Other By far my favourite part of attending events like this is engaging with my peers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my hands up in the air upon hearing a fellow Social Media Manager shares my pain in some way. The bottom line is: events like these open doors and start conversations that you would otherwise never have. It is information-sharing in its purest form, and I’ve taken away (and implemented) many ‘work hacks’ from chatting with my industry peers. A good amount of us even keep the conversation going long after, and look for similar events where we can once again reconnect. Social media is a tough space to work in: when these candid conversations happen organically online, there’s a good chance someone is trying to sell you something. Use gatherings of your peers to get the advice you need from those who’ve been in your shoes. The Digital Media Summit takes place on May 7th at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto and I hope to see you there! Read more from Adam Rodrick via his blog HERE. More
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Last Updated on Monday, 13 April 2015 01:36

Hear more from Screenburn’s point of view when Tom Raffe speaks at the start-up portion of our Social Music Summit on Thursday May 8, at 3:45PM.

Back in the “olden days” before the internet came along and changed pretty much everything, the business model for the music industry was a relatively straightforward one. The artist would record a song and the label would work to promote it. However, as the market becomes increasingly fragmented across any number of new and emerging platforms, things aren’t always quite so simple.

For the latest music news, many fans these days turn to social media; expecting the latest tracks and videos to be uploaded or promoted in some way across Facebook and Twitter. Many fans have become influencers in their own right, holding easily as much weight as major music journalists through blogs and Twitter accounts.

Things have changed within the industry itself too. Now it’s just as important that artists themselves are heavily involved in the marketing process. Many of the world’s biggest stars such as Katy Perry and Rihanna maintain their own social media accounts to stay in touch with fans in the same way an unsigned artist will look to craft their own digital voice to grow their audience both locally and online.

At Screenburn, we look to work with all manner of content owners to market their video online and there are similar conversations and strategies that we talk to marketing teams about across the board. This blog post highlights a few of those to give you a flavour of how social media and music are evolving together.

How integrated is your digital strategy?

Practically every brand has a social media team these days. A report last year by Altimeter revealed that 78% of companies have a growing dedicated team. However, the same report showed that only 26% of the businesses surveyed had a holistic approach to social media. It is becoming increasingly important to monitor the results of your social media activity that can then help to inform the wider marketing strategy and maybe even the position of the brand. Using tools such as Facebook Insights, for example, you can begin to see what kind of content your fans respond to the best and at what times of the day. This can be useful when you’re planning your upcoming marketing focus for a new release for instance. Does your online audience prefer images over links? Which video outperformed all the others and what were people saying about it? Do women tend to respond to the latest updates more than men? Where are the most popular countries and towns? In many ways, your audience response is a piece of real-time market research and it should really be treated as such.

Informed marketing with added value

When you have a good idea about the demographics that make up your online fan-base, you can begin to tailor and target content and ads towards this. This could come in the form of providing some real added value for fans. Makeup brand Essie saw that their customers loved to make style decisions using the in-store colour wall. This was replicated online and saw an uplift in organic Pinterest pins as a result. It doesn’t necessarily have to be revolutionary – maybe you’re able to provide some useful information about a gig or some behind-the-scenes information about a music video. West Hollywood’s legendary music venue The Roxy worked with other local venues to offer fans special deals and discounts through Twitter and Facebook. Understanding who your fans are and what they’re passionate about is key to driving your social media activity.

Direct marketing

Perhaps one of the best aspects of digital is that it’s auditable. You can see how many people have accessed your social media page or website and it’s possible to track conversions and streams too in order to attribute an ROI. This means direct remarketing can be incredibly powerful. Many e-commerce sites will target ads at users who have abandoned items in their baskets. Knowing who has expressed an interest in your brand already can be a good way to begin to build an engaged audience that’s keen to know more about you. One of the obvious ways this has been done in the past is with email mailing lists and this is still a good way to keep your latest work front of mind. MailChimp isn’t huge for nothing!

With social media, you can take this a stage further. If you’re already sitting on an email list of fans that has grown over time, using Facebook’s Power Editor is a good way to target ads to this same group through the platform too. Although we couldn’t cover all the advertising options with Facebook in a single blog post, there are numerous possibilities to tailor an ad that will work well for a certain audience whether they’re using desktop or mobile. This traffic can be tracked through to your website depending on how you would like it to convert. Screenburn works with clients to build their potential to market directly on Facebook by retargeting users who have opted in using the VOD platform and engaged positively with content.

Measuring the online conversation

As more and more fans become vocal online, it’s vital to keep an eye on the conversation that might be taking place beyond your own social media page. For starters, Social Mention is a great free tool that keeps an eye on social media sites for you. It captures some of the recent posts around your chosen brand and also gives an indication of post frequency and unique users to provide you with a picture of how passionate or influential some of the conversations are. IceRocket is another tool that organises blog, Twitter and Facebook monitoring, allowing you to see the period of time you’re interested in. Organising your influencers into Twitter lists is also a good way to ensure you don’t miss out on anything important. This could be split by music genre or fans of a particular artist.  Many marketers swear by TweetDeck and it is a good way to organise your lists in one place so you can monitor the conversation in real time.



Tom Raffe is the founder and director of Screenburn, a Facebook platform enabling artists and brands to sell music, videos, and more directly on their Facebook pages. He gives us a deeper look into the impact of social media on music marketing today.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 08:46

@scott_jaworski - Head of Buzz Marketing, Intel

What do you do?

The industry and space in which I work is moving at warp-speed; to the extent of which I truly live AND work real-time.  Based on this, the best answer I can give is a directional one.  I’m a part of Intel’s Incubation Marketing Team where I focus on driving non-traditional, digital, and social programs aimed at driving buzz, awareness and demand for our new product lines.  My role has many touch points both internally (cross-orgs) and externally (consumers, influencers, partners, and retailers) and it’s the collective effort of all parties involved that net results.  One day we’re diving deep on a content strategy, the next we’re focused on community engagement.  The one thing I’ll stress is there’s no cut & paste equivalent that will lead to success.  Each program, initiative and target goals/audiences has a unique finger print; however unlike finger prints, they keep changing.  

Which companies or partners do you conduct business with as part of your day-to-day job?

It runs a wide spectrum based on the varied programs I’m running at any given time.  Here’s a few:

  • Influence Marketing: CollectiveBias, Dynamic Signal, and SocialChorus
  • Maker Space: Arduino, Crowd Companies, Make Media (aka Makezine), and TechShop
  • Digital Agencies: Noise, Ogilvy Interactive, Razorfish, Vice, and W2O
  • Social Platforms: Jive, Sprinklr, and Sysomos

What are your goals when participating in networking events and conferences such as Digital Media Summit?

I have three primary goals:

  • Education – as it pertains to the industry, case studies of real-life experiences, and new tool sets (sites/communities, apps, and softwares)
  • Forging relationships – the social space is great for this, but what’s better is when you get to put a face with a name. In essence, changing your relationship from a “connection” to a colleague (my definition of colleague extends outside the confines of Intel).  My friend Mike Ambassador Bruny (@ambassadorbruny) has a great saying: #hashtagstohandshakes
  • Experiences – we all know the best way to learn anything is to experience it.  I try to dive in deep, no matter how uncomfortable or new.  If you hit this threshold, you know you’ve done something right and will benefit from the learnings.

What is the one thing you aim for your panel discussion to cover?

Understanding the challenges of information overload at events like these, we’re not only looking to address the larger social content strategy, but we’re hopeful we provide succinct nuggets of actionable items/tactics the audience can take away and deploy (or investigate the opportunity of).

Dos and Don’ts of approaching you regarding business opportunities? 


  • …your research to ensure relevancy with my line of work and industry
  • …know your product inside and out (hint: I may take us straight into the weeds J)
  • …be professional and respectful of one’s boundaries in regards to your persistence and methods of outreach; it simply might not be a good fit at this time

Do not…

  • …pitch your opportunity.  If you’re pitching, you’re fishing.  If it truly resonates, you’ll be able to have a discussion about it showcasing an example of it in action; better yet, the example will be relevant to my brand
  • …send me a large PowerPoint or PDF and think I’ll be excited to hammer through it
  • …think if we can’t work together now that it will never happen or I won’t recommend you to someone else
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Last Updated on Thursday, 3 April 2014 11:05
   Follow us on Twitter @whurley co-founder of Chaotic Moon

What Do you Do? 

I lead innovation at Chaotic Moon, a creative technology studio based in Austin, Texas.   


 Which companies or partners do you conduct business with as part of your day-to-day job?
Most of our clients. especially the larger brands (GM, Toyota, Starbucks, Whole Foods, American Idol, XFactor, etc.)  


What did you do previously? 
I worked in Apple R&D and IBM R&D early in my career. At IBM I was named a "Master Inventor'. Before starting Chaotic Moon I led Open Source and Open Innovation at BMC Software.
What are your goals when participating in networking events and conferences like DMS? 
I like to meet as many people as possible. All too often people meet people they like and end up hanging out and not taking advantage of the amazing group of people that are participating in such an event. I want to meet and experience as many of those people as possible.
 Do's and Don'ts of approaching you regarding business opportunities?
Do always approach. It doesn't hurt, but please be respectful to others who may also want to talk and avoid monopolizing the conversation. :)


Learn More About Chaotic Moon 
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Last Updated on Saturday, 1 March 2014 01:28

Of all the widgets and long-forgotten apps on your phone the one with most mobile mindshare is your map app. We have become a mobile society, and in the 2010s, map apps personify our wanderlust. When we open our mobile map, we have intent, direction and purpose. It is vitamin “M”: the ultimate upper and highly addictive.

And map real estate is hot: Apple buys Locationary, Embark and HopStop; Google buys Waze;  Bing is rumored to be in talks with FourSquare; Zillow, the map real estate tycoon, buys EasyStreet, and indoor mapping app company, Aisle411 raises a hefty seed round in the valley. As OEMs beef up their services, we are entering a new phase of map building. Location has always been a data grab. Now, the industry is starting to focus on monetising subway stops, street corners and highways across the world.

The principal challenge is that maps are a new and unique advertising paradigm, and the incumbent search business models, mostly designed for the web’s previous era as a stationary, desktop experience may need to be adjusted.

Galileo to Google

Google Maps, the grand daddy of digital mapping, was born in 2004 as a skunk works project by two Danish brothers in Australia.

First designed as a heavy client app, in 2004 the software came full circle as Lars Rasmussen and his brother were acquired by Google after making a web-based pitch. The same year, Google acquired Keyhole, Inc. and proceeded to use Keyhole’s mark-up language to launch Google Earth in 2005.

During the next five years, Google started to revolutionize digital maps. It is quite possibly the most exciting innovation effort by the company. Not since map mavericks Ptolomy, Copernicus and Galileo has mapping accelerated so profoundly. Within a few short years Google has redefined the way we see the world around us.

Google Maps rolled out road directions in North America in 2006 and their PC-based maps became the pre-GPS automotive assistant. However convenient and customizable, Google maps for the desktop were a print-on-demand version of London’s A-Z pocket maps. In many ways, a Google map printed out before a trip was no different from John Ogilby’s 1675 Britannia detailed strip maps that travels bought to find their way from Norfolk to Newmarket with inns, stables and other points-of-interest as well as clear directions and distances clearly marked. They balanced behind the horse on the coach seat as our laser-printed version would sit on our car dashboard.

But the small screen was the true game changer. The capacitive screen touch invented by Andrew Hsu, combined with the pinch-and-zoom mobile interface developed by Apple made complex map navigation simple, user friendly and, most importantly, mobile.

With multiscreen map adoption, Google Maps expanded. The company launched in Latin America and Asia, and started the subterranean mapping of subways in 2007. In 2008, a view from space; in 2009, a POV from the street and 3D rendering.  And more. Google mapped canals and bike paths, endangered forests and the ocean floors,  the moon and Mars and the ultimate conquest, Macy’s in-store experience.

This was phase one: Build a dominant innovative platform with simple APIs, establish market stickiness and trust by the point-A-to-point-B public.

Now add metadata

Google+ Local launched in 2012, allowing users to post reviews and images into pages hosted by third party sites. This year maps are becoming more customized, providing location-specific information on points-of-interest. While Google has maintained a focus on road navigation with its 2013 acquisition of the crowd sourcing road-warrior Waze software, the operative term on the new Google map is “explore.” Explore photos, recommendations, and restaurants.

Maps plus Google Glass makes the possibility of on-the-go exploration more immersive. Using the Google Mirror API developers can feed real-time GPS info and pre-rendered map images into the eye window of Glass wearers for “dexterous” driving, cycling or walking to the local mall. Glass becomes “a Segway for your head.” And taking maps to the edge of utility: Google Sky (which maps the stars based on your GPS location and vision angle) can be integration with Google Glass to show the outlines of constellations through a transparent filter to view the night sky.


And then at the end of this epic journey, Google announces local advertising. Google Maps now allows short sections of advertisements to be placed directly onto the map itself. Local advertising is one of Google’s core business and Google Maps ad purchases are made through the same Google AdWords auction that buyers are already very familiar.

For Google this is simply a terrestrial version of browser-based search. When a consumer enters “Starbucks” in her browser, she finds links to buy “Starbucks Instant Coffee Bundle” on When a consumer enters Starbucks in Google Maps, she finds local Starbucks to get the real deal (or if Tim Hortons is bidding, an ad for a competitively located Timmy’s coffee store.) Both these use cases involve path to purchase. One is virtual, the other is proximal.

Google hopes Map-based ads will follow the same digital success that Google has had with its search-based ads. Instead of auctioning AdWords at point-of-search, Google auctions ads at point-of-navigation.

Ptolemy what? There has to be more than just that. We’re just not fully there yet.

Don’t forget the Big Apple

Apple recognized the value of maps and knew that they had a Trojan Horse lurking in their mobile operating system in Google Maps. Google’s map app had become the dominant phonetop service with the most unique visitors of any app in-market. When Appl­e launched and preloaded its own proprietary map app in August 2012, Google’s traffic dropped making Facebook the winning app for unique impressions as well as time spend.

(After a few geographical faux pas) Apple started to establish its own relationship with the map consumer. But Google Mappers are loyal. When Google launched its new map app for iOS 6 in December there was a 30 per cent rush of Apple folk upgrading to the new operating system ( Affinity to a map app had influenced these consumers’ mobile behaviour. Quite remarkable.

However, Apple is committed to build a map following. While the company no longer needed to pay licensing to Google, which was good, the key reason for ousting Google Maps was that maps had become a data pillar. By replacing Google, Apple had direct access to a wealth of consumer data and potential advertising revenue.

Yahoo! Maps, Bing Maps, Nokia Maps, and MapQuest all use the NAVTEQ electronic map feed (best known for its automotive navigation services), and like Apple now, they own their own consumer data layer, which is crucial for generating advertising and marketing revenue on maps.

Bing is the major map contender.  In September, the company added 13 million square kilometers (316TB) of aircraft and satellite photography to its service. Microsoft’s large investment in Facebook in 2007 ($240 million) led to the 2013 decision adopt Bing as FaceBook’s mapping and search provider. To do this effectively, and compete with the market-leader, Google, Bing needs to beef up and differentiate its map offerings. Bing has already rolled out “Local Scout” which helps consumers find food and fun across all its screens. Rumors of a FourSquare acquisition (or possibly financing) may be part of this grand strategy.

(Microsoft acquisition of Nokia did not come with their HERE maps assets. Nokia’s HERE maps include road networks, traffic patterns and urban landscapes and as licensed by major properties such as Garmin, Oracle and Will Nokia take the lead as the premier mapping and location services across different screens? Will they just sell off the asset to Apple after the Microsoft acquisition is complete?)

And the open-source mapping movement is also growing. Washington D.C.-based startup, MapBox, provides more custom navigation and interesting APIs built on top of Open Street Maps. Open is good and allows developers greater flexibility and affordability; Foursquare uses MapBox’s services to display its users’ check-in histories. However MapBox is not preloaded on your Android or Apple phone and while they have an iOS mapping SDK they have no Android footprint. MapBox will certainly play a roll as an embedded technology in sites all over the web; however, it is unlikely that they will be a standalone consumer utility on top of your phone and tablet.

With the proliferation of WiFi networks in retail, vendors such as Cisco drive mobile mapping solutions for shoppers that join the free network. The maps allows for hyper-local, custom mapping that includes restroom as well as promotional information on retail stores.

All of these digital map offerings are entering the mainstream at a time when advertisers are questioning consumer engagement on mobile, and trying to understand how best to follow their consumer in a contextual and relevant manner. Brands and retailers are re-evaluating the way we sell and, more importantly, engage across multiple screens. Their assumptions on path-to-purchase, built during the era of the desktop web, are no longer fully valid and reliable. The classic consumer narrative of home-to-store has changed and retailers and brand can no longer simply hire a Director of Shopper Insights and hope for the best.

Advertising and marketing is about providing a consistent message at aisle, and checkout, wherever the shopper finds the retailer. If the advertisers wants to get back in the game, possibly the most exciting place to be right now is on the map. When the consumer and shopper opens their map app when they have intent to meet someone, go somewhere or buy something. All this drives commerce. Maps provide unadulterated path-to-purchase.

Narrative: Going beyond advertising

So what is the new advertising paradigm for maps? Maps have layered functionality: terrain, roads, satellite, traffic, public transport and images. Then there is the exploration layer: recommendations and general points-of-interest. And now Google has provided an additional local advertising layer.

However, the adding an advertising layer may not prove to be effective in a map environment. There is more value to the exploration layer. Yes, maps help us move in a utilitarian fashion from Point-A to Point-B and that is why Waze and other transit acquisitions have been so important.  But maps also have a very non-utilitarian function.

Maps help the consumer simply “explore” and is what will ultimately connect map users to brands and content owners. Maps tell stories because precisely they have a beginning and an end, and are defined by intent and clear purpose.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook already situate the user’s photos and comments at a latitude and longitude: a country, a city, a bar. However these social graphs are not map applications and location is an important but secondary metatag.

The opportunity is to build a new bespoke map layer for brands and content owners. Think map first.

Startups such as Findery and CityMaps have map based UGC (user-generated content) engines. Where is the content input engine for brands? How can brands visualize content and actively map this data across all their customers’ screens?

One company called Mapiary, based out of Singapore, is developing the tools to allow brands and retailers to layer rich navigation onto the map. How can Unilever’s Becel margarine be more relevant to power walkers globally? Or how can Heineken weave narrative into a city pub crawl? Diageo, can map a DJ tour for Smirnoff. The NYTimes can map their 36-Hour travel series in a rich contextual manner. This is new digital cartouche and as important as the underlying map.

Where is the new vision of brand advertising? After all the innovation that Lars Rasmussen (Google Maps) and John Hanke (Google Earth) brought to maps we surely need to go beyond paid search models and allow owned content to become a rich and valuable layer in the 2014 map.

BNN Interview on the “Battle to Monetize Maps” discussing the positioning of Apple, Google & Microsoft. 

Gary Schwartz is the CEO of Impact Mobile. Having been at the frontlines of the mobile industry for over a decade, Gary is the author of two books, “The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers” and “Fast Shopper. Slow Store: A Guide to Courting and Capturing the Mobile Consumers,” both of which highlight the current state of the mobile commerce space and chronicle the significant impact that mobile is having on consumers, retailers and brands. Gary is also a chair emeritus for the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Mobile Entertainment Forum NA and global director of the Location Based Marketing Association.

Read more of Gary's posts at The Impulse Economy.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 11:50