The Zen of Advertising Technology

Lesson One: Know Yourself

Developing a new advertising technology, bringing it to market, and getting it adopted is not an easy task. It is nearly impossible, however, when you haven't decided what you are. As strange as it sounds, many technology companies don't recognize they are technology companies. At first they think they are Media companies that just happen to make technology, even though 90% of the workforce are engineers. They don't want to be just a good widget: they want to be the means by which the advertising is bought and sold. They want a little piece of every transaction. Ex-advertising technology company Sticky Networks fell prey to this idea.

The other problem is when a production company believes it is a technology company. They create a very cool advertising application and think it can then be licensed to other people. What they fail to realize is that there is no intellectual property connected to what they have done. They have just created something cool: somebody else could create something just as cool. But underneath it all there is nothing proprietary about it, no barrier to entry, no patents pending. They are a good production company, but they are not a technology company.



Lesson Two: Focus

Find a problem and focus in. Most technology companies try to solve dozens of problems: throw a bunch of stuff up on the wall and see what sticks. Or they change their direction every few months: they're an e-commerce company... no they're a CRM company... no, wait, they're a solutions company. Meanwhile the market can't figure out what they are, since they have never driven a stake in the ground and said, "Here I Make My Stand." Each wind blows them further and further off-course.

Lesson Three: Listen

Believe it or not, many companies who service the advertising industry developed their products without ever having stepped into an advertising agency. Their knowledge of how an agency does business, looks at technology, buys media, and deploys campaigns is sketchy at best. Often they meet a media buyer or creative director for the first time while they are demonstrating their cool new products.

It's important to listen to what the agency needs for their client. In the first meeting, let the agency do most of the talking. Nothing drives a busy advertising executive crazier than scheduling a demo and then being forced to listen to a half hour presentation on how the technology company got started, who its founders where, how they came up with the idea, etc. Get to the point and then listen to what the response is. The agency is willing to work with a technology vendor to get things right if given a chance. Don't waste their time, engage them in the process, and you'll be surprised how quickly you get a second meeting rather than wondering why no one returns your phone calls.

Lesson Four: Breathe

Make one point on how you are going to change their lives, not a dozen. Even if your software does dozens of things, talk about only one. Most people can't absorb more than that on the first meeting and you only end up confusing whomever you are talking to. Keep it simple. And breathe. As the Zen master says, be in the moment. You don't know how many times I've picked up the phone and the person on the other end, trying to impress me with their software, rattles off reams of buzz words, information, and catch phrases geared to make themselves sound impressive and knowledgeable, but only make them sound incomprehensible. Sorry, what is it you do again?

Lesson Five: Don't Lie

There is no shame in not doing everything. Don't say you can. If you average 40% click through - fine... say it. But if you only did that once because you were giving away free bars of gold bullion, don't set expectations that this is what the client should expect. Underplay. You only get one chance. If you lie, or mislead your product's capability, you won't get a second chance and the guy right behind you might not get his change either as a result. The number one complaint I hear from agencies is "The sales guy lied to me."

Don't do it.

-- Bill McCloskey is Founder and CEO of Emerging Interest, an organization dedicated to educating the Internet advertising and marketing industry about rich media and other emerging technologies. He may be reached at

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