Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Devil: Affirmation of Our Vision

Today, AOL announced Project Devil.  Project Devil is AOL's effort to redefine display advertising and to enable a creative canvas that both leverages the richness of today's real time web and drives material increases in end-user engagement.  

AOL's new ads are more like applications that support live updates from Twitter and Facebook, video, photo galleries, store finders, and other app like functions that help move the industry beyond old, boring banners.

At Widgetbox, we could not be more excited to see and read about AOL's new plans. One year ago last week, we signed LinkedIn as our first ClickTurn customer. ClickTurn's vision is to transform display ads into live apps programmed by the best of today's real time and interactive web.  For example, below is an Halo ad that includes video, real time content updates, and delivers on the very vision promised by AOL's Project Devil and AppAds.  

The news is fabulous for several key reasons. First, it affirms our vision that display advertising is moving from static flash files to living apps programmed by APIs, data, and multi-media assets. Second, it underscores a critical shift in the value chain. Publishers are no longer content to simply sell audiences and to flight standard IAB ads against said audience. No, today publishers must differentiate by productizing ad innovation and finding ways to integrate the best of advertiser, publisher, and social content and functions.  Advertisers, in turn, in their search for higher engagement and banner ad dollar ROI, are willing to work directly with large publishers on custom size units.

ClickTurn proudly partners with the web's best publishers to realize both goals - new ad formats that drive 10x improvements in engagement and new business models that allow publishers to win more business by delivering more value.

As Google says, watch this space. An $8bn market is up for grabs!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Company Clock Speed

I am a strong believer in customer-driven company development.  The need to establish product-market fit via an iterative set of engagements. Each engagement helps to both understand the market need, while providing valuable input into the product development process.

One major issue, however, is that the cycle time for customer responses is 7-10x faster than the product release cycle time. As a young company, it really pays to be highly responsive, but it does not pay to whip-saw the product team for one-off features. While the features may eventually help you win, the changing requirements and fire-drill time lines do not support quality software development.

Many start-ups end up with bad blood between development and sales - whereby sales keeps saying yes irrespective of the pain and timelines such promises will bear on the company at large. And, they need to say yes to help win, validate the product, etc.

As ClickTurn took off, the two timelines and clock speeds became an issue.

Specifically, we release software every Tuesday, while customer requests require intra or over night turn around. 

To address the need to be customer and market driven, while protecting the engineering process, we developed an internal services team. The services team and the engineering team defined an extensibility model that allowed us to address the vast majority of custom deliverables via an API. The API, and its iterations, allowed two teams to operate at different clock speeds - each focused on hitting their goals; for engineering, 70+ weekly on-time releases, for services, extremely high client satisfaction and customer success.

Moreover, the extensions ultimately improved the quality of the platform and the robustness of the API.

A social contract based on allowing each team to finds its optimal rhythm via APIs or extensibility models helped us reach our customer-driven development goals while keeping (largely) sane and both teams highly productive. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How to Create an Enemy by Sam Keen

Truth in every word - dehumanizing the enemy is a very dangerous game.

Start with an empty canvas
Sketch in broad outline the forms of
men, women, and children.

Dip into the unconsciousness well of your own
disowned darkness
with a wide brush and
strain the strangers with the sinister hue
of the shadow.

Trace onto the face of the enemy the greed,
hatred, carelessness you dare not claim as
your own.

Obscure the sweet individuality of each face.
Erase all hints of the myriad loves, hopes,
fears that play through the kaleidoscope of 
every infinite heart.

Twist the smile until it forms the downward
arc of cruelty.

Strip flesh from bone until only the 
abstract skeleton of death remains.

Exaggerate each feature until man is
metamorphasized into beast, vermin, insect.

Fill in the background with malignant
figures from ancient nightmares – devils,
demons, myrmidons of evil.

When your icon of the enemy is complete
you will be able to kill without guilt,
slaughter without shame.

The thing you destroy will have become
merely an enemy of God, an impediment
to the sacred dialectic of history.