EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

The Survivors Will Be Stronger: Q&A With Adap.tv CEO Amir Ashkenazi

From its beginnings in 2006, when the online video advertising industry had little revenue, to an estimated revenue of over US$900 million this year, the industry has exploded.

Amir Ashkenazi, CEO of Adap.TV, a San Mateo, Calif.-based online video advertising platform provider, shares those thoughts in an exclusive interview with ECT News Network.

He reports that the online video ad spend is projected to grow to about $3.9 billion to $4 billion by the year 2012. And he expects the continued movement of traditional TV advertising to the online space.


Listen to the podcast (22:23 minutes).


Ashkenazi believes that the keys to continued fast growth of the industry include the following:

  • A rapid increase in the consumption of online video
  • Ubiquity of high-speed broadband connections
  • Growth in CPM rates due to increased targeting capabilities

The online video ad industry does face a couple of big challenges, though, he said. First, the economic downturn will impact the industry as advertisers reduce spending. Secondly, there exists a lot of friction between various industry players (publishers, ad networks and advertisers) due to the challenges of the online video ad process.

He added an important note to Web site publishers: Making money right now is not guaranteed. However, lots of experimentation with ad formats, ad frequencies and content should eventually yield a winning formula.

The most popular content types for advertisers include sports and women-focused. However, publishers should also keep in mind that advertisers are migrating toward more professionally produced content, and being very wary of user-generated content, he said.

Here are some excerpts of the interview.

E-Commerce Times: I’d like to get started by having you describe, sort of in a nutshell, what the state of the online video advertising industry looks like right now.

Amir Ashkenazi:

It’s very interesting. The industry started in 2006, those were the early days of both consumption of broadband video and advertising. We saw a lot of experimental budgets coming in 2007, that was the experimental stage. Many advertisers tried things with very, very small budgets. In 2008, it really turned to real investments from a growing group of advertisers. So EyeWonder reported about $909 million ad revenue for this year, and I’ve read some reports of $3.9 or $4 billion in 2012. The expectation is to have at least double-digit spend growth in 2009, so the wild card is obviously the economic downturn. Nobody knows exactly what will be the impact of that, but one thing we may be experiencing already is the movement of inefficient TV ad spend in the shift to online video.

ECT: It looks like the industry is growing very rapidly. What do you think are the keys to that growth?

AA:

There really are two components to that growth. One is the rapid increase in consumption. With the improvement in broadband speeds and penetration, online quickly becomes a good alternative to the old TV. So there’s definitely, we see, even faster increase in video consumption. The other component is eCPMs, or the amount advertisers pay to be placed on those videos. That is growing too with the increase of targeting capabilities compared to the TV world. So the question should be, “How can we make it grow even faster?” Because I think if you speak with advertisers, it’s funny because advertisers complain that there is not enough content, and publishers complain that there is not enough ads.

They’re both correct from their perspective. The main problem that we see in the industry is just a lot of friction. And one of the main goals of Adap.tv is to remove the friction from this process — basically build a really efficient way to connect publishers and advertisers, enabling publishers to get the ads from multiple sources and maximize their revenue. So we did many stabs in that direction, one of which is expanding the support of ad formats and we pretty much support all ad formats right now, the other is make it really simple for publishers to serve their own ads — the ads their sales teams sell; and the last one I can mention is the ability to use display creative and display formats on videos, basically bridging the gap between the two industries.

ECT: So, when you talk about display in the video sense, is it analogous to display in the text advertising format sense?

AA:

One of the challenges is just the production cost of creating a video ad — not all advertisers can afford, not all advertisers want to spend this kind of money, so one of the things we allow them to do is to use creative that they’ve already created for display advertising, and use it on video. The brand impact is a lot stronger without the cost of creating a dedicated video ad format.

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The Coolest Stuff From CES 2022

CES 2022 Show Opening | Credit: Consumer Technology Association

This year I did not go to CES again because of the pandemic. I was less worried about being in Las Vegas than I was about the travel to and from the event because the infection rate where I live is a bit off the charts. As a result, I rarely leave home.

In any case, much of the event is streamed, and I was able to find several things that caught my eye at the show. Let’s cover those things this week — and we’ll close with my product of the week, which appropriately enough is my favorite product from CES 2022.

Bed of the Future

I often talk about my Ooler sleep system which has been a godsend over the years because it assures I am always at the proper temperature for a sound sleep. Well, at CES there was a bed that caught my attention that is more of an integrated approach to this sleeping problem. It is the Sleep Number 360 smart bed.

This bed has integrated lighting that supports your circadian rhythm, an integrated Bluetooth connection for white noise and other audio sources, an optional table for late night snacks and breakfast in bed, a storage pocket with built in charging for your tablet and phone, reading lights with color and intensity adjustments, and optional mobility accessories to help you move around the bed as you age.

The Sleep Number 360 also has back lift and recline for reading or watching TV. The bed produces reports on the quality of your sleep and provides suggestions on how to improve it. It helps you keep cool and has a foot warmer feature that can help keep your spouse from using the cold feet wake up method, which is seldom funny to the person getting it, but is surprisingly hilarious to the person doing it.

Teleportation

Over a decade ago I attended an event hosted by Marvell Semiconductor where I got to meet Stan Lee, (yes, that Stan Lee), and where several future technologies were showcased. One of the most interesting was a large, high-definition screen display placed in a door frame and tied to a video conferencing solution.

The experience was like walking up to a doorway and talking to someone through the door. You saw the whole person, hand gestures and body language, and even though we were not yet at 4K resolutions, it felt far more natural than the upper-body-focused and conference room solutions we have today.

Two companies at CES showcased more advanced solutions like this.

Portl had both a desktop and a human-sized teleportation booth. The desktop solution was surprisingly compelling because it has a broad variety of uses and provided a credible 3D experience and a digital assistant capability that was amazing. It also looks like you could use it to really freak out your pets.

PORTL M

The Portl  “M” tabletop holographic communication and media device. (Credit: Portl)


La Vitre had a solution more like what I saw at Marvell. It lacked the 3D capability of the Portl device, but it was less expensive at full size and more focused.

Coolest Computer Case

I still build my own desktop computers and I am always looking for that next cool computer case. Cyber Power released its Kinetic series of computer cases, and this is something that is just over the top cool. It has active vents that dynamically and visually open and close automatically when needed. Check this out:

This case looks like it has huge jewels in front that move into open ducts progressively as your workload increases. It is like nothing else I have ever seen, and it is on my short list for cases to buy when I do my next build, assuming it is available in black because I am not buying a white case no matter how cool it looks.

Robotic Vacuum

I have three robotic vacuums in my house. The best one from iRobot has a docking station that sucks the dirt out of the small container on the robot, allowing it to go weeks without a human needing to empty the bag.

Well, Roborock went one better with its Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra that not only vacuums but washes the floors as it goes.

It also has a dock that both replaces the water and gets rid of the gunk the robotic vacuum/mop picks up.

I have tile floors and while the existing vacuums do a nice job picking up the dirt, whenever I wipe the floor, it is clear it needs to be mopped. Finally, a robotic vacuum that can deal with folks that have lots of pets and hard surface floors.

Desktop PC

I know I mentioned that I build my own PCs but that doesn’t mean I don’t lust after prebuilt models. Every PC vendor of note announced new products at the show, but the gaming PC design that caught my eye was the HP Omen 45L.

HP Omen 45L Gaming Desktop

HP Omen 45L Gaming Desktop (Credit: HP)


What made this machine interesting was how the radiator is isolated for water cooling, so you don’t use either the hot air out of the case to cool the radiator or pull the hot air in the radiator into the case. Most of my builds do one or the other, but that’s sub-optimal because you want cool air in the case and through the radiator for the most effective cooling.

This Omen 45L reminds me of using an intercooler for a blown car which has the same effect (another one of my hobbies is building hot rods). The isolated cooling solution also helps with cleaning up the interior of the case and carrying it. This was the most innovative case design from a major vendor at the show and I lusted for it a bit.

I should note that my favorite laptop from last year was also an HP product, the Elite Folio laptop.

Best Monitor

The best monitor at the show was the Samsung Odyssey Ark which likely comes with the warning that if you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it.

I use a forty-nine-inch Dell monitor on my desk which I thought was pretty big, but this Samsung monitor is a 55-inch monster that curves over your head, creating not only the largest workspace I have yet seen but that should be incredibly immersive for driving and flying simulators.

Samsung’s Odyssey Ark, a new 55-inch curved gaming screen, takes immersion to the next level. Exhibit at CES 2022 (Credit: Samsung)


While I am pretty sure I would need to redesign my home office to use this monster, I am okay with that given how awesome the resulting experience would be. Due out in the second half of the year, this is on my Christmas list for 2022.

Best Laptop

The laptop that caught my eye this year was the amazing Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3.

For working at home, I think a seventeen-inch form factor is ideal because you are not traveling as much during the pandemic, but you are moving around a lot at home, particularly if you have pets and kids.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3

ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 (Credit: Lenovo)


This laptop has twin displays and a pen dock that allows folks who are better than I at drawing to express themselves without taking up main screen real estate. Plus, you can still work on your primary project while using the second screen for media, social networking or for your security cameras to make sure your pets or kids aren’t doing things they shouldn’t.

I have three dogs and three cats; and while the dogs are pretty good, the darned cats are constantly getting into trouble. This configuration is ideal for those of us who are mobile inside the home but rarely travel, which appears to be my life for the foreseeable future, thanks to this pandemic.

Best Over the Top Offering

This has to be the LG Media Chair. It couples a recliner with a large screen TV into an integrated offering for couples who want to watch TV together but cannot agree on the same program. That happens a lot at my house as I like action movies with lots of bloody violence and my wife is anything but a fan.

LG Media Chair

Granted you would need two of these and they are not going to be cheap. It uses a fifty-five-inch OLED flexible screen that can reorient horizontally or vertically at the push of a button. It has a unique sound capability that uses the screen itself as a driver.

I have two LG OLED TVs in the house now and I can attest to how awesome they look, but I’d certainly be up for getting two of these chairs so I could watch my shows without having to go hide in my office to do so.

LG also introduced a curved screen exercise bike concept called Virtual Ride that was interesting as well (Peloton eat your heart out).

LG Virtual Ride exercise bike

Best Automotive

I really struggled with this one. GM Silverado Electric was the most practical, the Sony Prototype car was the best looking, and the Cadillac and Mercedes prototypes were over the top awesome.

I have always wanted to be able to dynamically change the look of my car. You can use lights and I’m tempted to do this:

But that tends to be too distracting, not to mention a ticket magnet.

The BMW iX Flow concept uses E Ink panels to darken and lighten the car dynamically and create unique optical designs and effects.

I have seen color E Ink efforts that suggest that, in the future, we might even be able to dynamically change the color of our cars as well.

E Ink panels have improved a great deal over the years and become much cheaper. They even put the technology on the wheels. Though the information capability of these panels would get some of us in trouble. Here’s the video:

Best PC Feature

There was a time when CES was dominated by Intel and Microsoft. Now PCs represent a small part of the show. However, AMD, Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm all had major PC-oriented content at their respective keynotes.

While I think Nvidia had the most captivating keynote overall (heavy use of the company’s technology and videos really held my attention through the keynote), what caught my eye was Intel’s announcement about creating greater interoperability between smartphones and PCs with Screenovate technology.

Ever since I worked at IBM and co-owned a lab focused on PC phone integration, I have been waiting for this capability to emerge again and become compelling. Today, both Dell and Microsoft have integration efforts that work okay but do not yet truly approach what we were prototyping back in the 1980s.

What Intel spoke about suggests it may get there with the support of Dell, Google, and Microsoft (assuming Apple does not break this on the iPhone that should work as well). I have been waiting for this for three decades, and it finally looks like there may be light at the end of this small tunnel.

Wrapping Up

It was an amazing CES this year. Although it was unsafe for me to travel to the show, I saw a number of amazing products.

I am not a fan of BMW, but that E Ink solution has me reconsidering that position. I am planning to buy that robotic vacuum, and I am lusting after that LG chair and Samsung Monitor.

A new computer case is clearly in my future, and I am on the waiting list for the desktop Portl.

That Lenovo ThinkBook may displace the HP Folio as my favorite laptop for 2022.

This may turn out to be the most expensive CES I have ever attended. It would be ironic if the most expensive CES for me was one of the times I did not travel to the show.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition

All my gaming rigs are currently AMD-based and they are desktops. But I want to game someplace other than in the house, like down the river (my back yard is a river) and cannot.

Typically, AMD gaming notebooks, while certainly affordable, have not been that interesting and have been full of tradeoffs. At CES this year Dell and AMD showcased the Alienware m17 R5 that has the ideal balance of technology, unique design and performance I want in a gaming rig I can take with me.

This is also a showcase product for Frank Azor, chief architect of gaming solutions at AMD, who is an old friend I met years ago when he was running Alienware.

Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition

Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition (Credit: Dell / Alienware)


Alienware claims this is the most powerful seventeen-inch AMD Advantage laptop in the market, and I believe it. AMD Advantage is AMD’s better-together effort (like Intel Evo), and this laptop is not only awesome to look at, but when fully configured, it should handle our gaming needs.

As I have mentioned earlier, I like big screens. This laptop has seventeen inches of 4K awesomeness at 120Hz. For a gaming laptop from a top tier provider, it starts at a reasonable $1,599 — and it comes in my favorite laptop color: black.

If you have ever wanted to see what would happen if AMD pulled out all the stops for a mobile product, this Alienware m17 does not disappoint — and it is my product of the week.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Remote Work Transformation Calls for Prioritizing Employee Tech Choices

Image Credit: Lenovo

The global remote work revolution the pandemic caused has accelerated and reinforced the need for companies to prioritize the employee experience. This necessity includes providing tech equipment and consumer products from select retailers via a “choose your own device” (CYOD) reimbursement program.

That is the view from two top suppliers of computers and other electronic devices. Lenovo-Intel research found that a solid majority (72 percent) of employees feel that their employers need to focus more on listening to workers to get clarity on their tech needs. That response ranks in the top three things companies should do to improve the employee experience. 

The Lenovo and Intel study, “Empowering Employees Through Technology Can Supercharge Returns,” is now one year old. But companies still face the ongoing challenges of outfitting their remote workforce with the technical tools they need to work away from the physical office productively, suggested Stefan Engel, Lenovo’s vice president and general manager of Visuals Business.

TechNewsWorld discussed the implications of remote workers’ technical support needs with Engel, who sits in the catbird’s seat in seeing how employers are responding to the realities of the high-tech survey.

TechNewsWorld: How is the shift in meeting employees’ WFH priorities impacting companies?

Stefan Engel: The remote work revolution has put employees more in control of their work technology devices than ever before. We found that improving the employee experience, starting with the tech they provide to employees, is more important than previously anticipated.

Both IT departments and employees agree that satisfaction with their work technology has a direct impact on improving employee satisfaction.

This shift has certainly propelled monitor design forward to becoming the center of communication, interacting with all kinds of devices, not just PCs and laptops, but also mobile phones and gaming consoles, basically anything that can benefit from a fully-actualized visual experience.

How widespread is the remote working demand?

Engel: I saw a recent Gartner survey that noted about one in 10 companies that planned to reopen their offices in the third quarter of 2021 have now pushed back their reopening date to sometime in the fourth quarter.

According to Lenovo’s own customer surveys, 90 percent of businesses plan to keep a hybrid model in place where at least some of the workforce is remote. Workers have grown accustomed to flexibility over the last 19 months and have shown that productivity can be maintained regardless of location.

That increased productivity brings new levels of screen time both day and night. Modern modular technology has become key to keeping employees satisfied with their tech options by allowing for personalization.

Modular options include ergonomic stands that lift, tilt, pivot, and swivel to let workers customize their home setup to best suit their needs, or monitor webcams designed for hybrid work with features like a smart traffic light showing colleagues or family members when a user is “busy” in a conference call.

Is this WFH movement driving new purchases or just moving equipment to the workers’ locations?

Engel: From the same survey Lenovo conducted with Intel, 84 percent of employers are upgrading devices, software, and services as part of employee engagement initiatives to improve team engagement and satisfaction.

The pandemic placed greater emphasis on employees using an at-home monitor to expand the screen real estate of their laptop, making their set-up more productive for working with data and graphics.

This resulted in a large uptick of PC monitor shipments in 2021 according to IDC and other industry researchers. Monitor technology is evolving rapidly. Employers should think about replacement after approximately three years to keep work productivity at high levels. It is also worth it for talent retention according to several employee satisfaction studies.

What other tech concerns did the survey indicate?

Engel: Half of employees still say they are frustrated with their PC hardware and software experience. It is evident that technologies are instrumental in driving employee productivity and engagement. Part of what is making this work is the adoption of video calling and collaboration software.

remote employee working on notebook

Image Credit: Lenovo


Potential exists to bridge these two groups and improve employee experience and satisfaction by making new up-to-date purchases, refreshing cycles, and remotely integrating hardware and software.

For example, an upgraded external monitor that supports high refresh rates and is connected to your PC can leverage the enhanced color performance of HDR 10 brought to life by the latest Windows 11 OS experience — certainly an improvement to your day in front of a screen.

What impact on data security does the remote workforce pose?

Engel: Data security and the feeling of still having control with employees working primarily outside of an office are top of mind for IT decision-makers when considering digital transformation solutions.

Malicious attacks targeting businesses moving their critical functions to the cloud are on the rise, as are attempts to exploit human vulnerabilities via phishing and ransomware, which have increased 11 percent and six percent respectively in 2021, according to Verizon.

Besides security software, one way employers can protect their remote workers is by encouraging them to use their physical shutter when not on camera as an added protection to user privacy.

A new feature I really love is the presence detection sensor that detects if a human being is in front of the monitor. If not, it goes to sleep mode to ensure privacy from prying eyes as well as potentially reducing your home’s power bill.

What other options are employers providing to remote staff?

Engel: As we near the second year of primarily remote work, employers are encouraging their staff to design their at-home workspace smarter than before; where they can easily switch between their workstation and laptop with a single keyboard and mouse combination for a more intuitive user experience.

We have seen several models used to equip/update the workplace at home around the world, all of which are better than companies just leaving their remote employees high and dry.

Here are a few examples:

  • Full free choice: The company reimburses employees fully, often with a max cap per item;
  • Flat amount reimbursement: This approach often leads to the user choosing a standard monitor that skimps on important features, like natural low blue light, in an effort to save money;
  • Preferred list offered: Companies provide a short list of approved monitors that employees may purchase to be eligible for reimbursement, which is a win-win because it caters to the employee’s needs while ensuring that the company is considering the impacts of a healthy work environment;
  • Delivering equipment: Companies make the selection and ship the monitor to the employee’s home.

What equipment baseline do remote workers need?

Engel: Day-to-day remote collaboration requires tailored technology that can improve video calls and even large online meetings, meet the unique needs of businesses, individuals or classrooms, and keep IT costs manageable.

Our user insights point to advancements in flexible modular tech, including enabled high-definition cameras and better device privacy and manageability. Our users also want monitors that feature high-performance displays, ergonomic capabilities, one-cable docking solution, easier video collaboration, smart software management applications, and built-in natural low blue light technology.

What are the priorities that ITDMs want for strategic IT integration?

Engel: IT decision-makers can better improve employee engagement and business outcomes by realigning investments, focusing on PC devices, and involving employees in technology decisions.

Create employee investment in your company’s digital transformation. Listening to employee feedback can go a long way towards establishing the hybrid security, software, and device framework with which IT decision-makers are tasked.

One thing that is different now is that the responsibility for meeting rooms or collaboration spaces in offices and conference centers moved from the care of facilities management to the IT department due to all the smarter technology and influx of high-tech devices. I predict this will soon become the standard for most offices.

How can OEMs address this remote technology divide?

Engel: OEMs must recognize the new realities employees face with remote work and provide technology that can not only help boost and maintain productivity at home, but also keep their work from home space minimal and organized. Organizations can improve employee experience by providing a choice in flexible with mobile and modular technology that adapts to employees’ working style from no matter where they choose to work.

Any final thoughts on how remote working is changing employer options?

Engel: I was struck by one of the study’s takeaways for IT decision-makers. It advises IT to also prioritize tech investments that focus on stated employee needs, such as building a strong ecosystem of PC devices, data security, and exploring easy-to-use collaboration tools.

In large organizations, it is common to have employee advocates working behind the scenes making sure that the long-term health and well-being of employees is factored into any equipment purchases. But this same level of compromise happens less often at smaller companies, or when people are left to buy equipment on their own as part of a company reimbursement program.

I think it is important for IT decision makers, employees, and managers to consider an issue that is just below the surface of all these connected devices. That is blue light emissions from digital displays.

Companies are starting to ask the right questions on behalf of their employees, but much more education is needed to make eye health part of the broader conversation when considering new equipment purchases.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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