Francis Bea

Joined September 2012

Francis Bea is a New York-based contributing technology writer for Digital Trends, and writes about anything that excites his inner geek.

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Advertisers don't get 'mobile' but they need to before it's too late

Mobile poses an unusual obstacle that advertisers have been trying to navigate but many are clueless about mobile. The issue is that ads displayed on mobile devices are visually different from how they’re represented on web pages and the user engagement is affected by style of the ads on different platforms. There is however one clear consensus that panelists speaking at ad:tech reached - advertisers need to build ads first for mobile devices. The “mobile first” mentality is beginning to take shape and appears even to be the solution for advertisers. The strategy parallels today’s trend with emerging startups and the reason that Twitter has found its stride earlier than its competitor, Facebook. Due to reluctance and a lack of understanding, brands have been developing ads first for the web and then scaling the ads down to size when fitting them to mobile devices. Of course this doesn’t ...
By on Nov 15, 2012

Five tips for attending your next ad:tech conference

1. Approach the speakers After every panel, the speakers stayed behind for follow-up questions or networking opportunities. Admittedly in the majority of the cases, you’ll end up exchanging cards as a gesture of good will and be on your way with few, if any follow-up emails between yourself and the speaker, but you never know if you can mutually benefit until you make the effort. Surprisingly for the number of attendees that sat in on the panels, only a few would approach the panelists at all after the discussion’s conclusion. 2. Come prepared with questions In almost every panel that I attended, the moderators asked the first round of questions since it was apparent that no one was willing to break the silence. Usually if you’re the first to ask an important question that you’ve prepared or thought of during the conversation, it’s more likely that the speakers will spend extra time to a...
By on Nov 15, 2012

Move over billboards - Mirror Bird plays ads in mirrors

Soon, billboards won’t be the only medium that streams m ads. The next generation of advertising products is here and one startup from Luxembourg caught our eye. Mirror Bird has developed a facial recognition ad product that plays ads in a mirror. As a representative told me at ad:tech, Mirror Bird is intended as a technological replacement for bathroom mirrors in public restrooms, pubs or small businesses that see a lot of foot traffic. The mirrors are installed for free, seeing as how the unit is supported by advertising. But the key differentiator of this mirror is the fact that it’s packed with an accurate facial recognition algorithm. Mirror Bird is able to recognize key facial traits to figure out if you’re male or female. This is critical for ad targeting purposes, which are based on gender. For example, an ad for male deodorant would play when a customer walks in front of the mir...
By on Nov 15, 2012

YouTube's growth by the numbers

YouTube is changing constantly, like Facebook, and the way advertisers should approach the social video platform as a marketing channel should be constantly re-evaluated. Laura Lee, YouTube’s Head of Entertainment East Coast Partnerships, and Kevin Doohan, Machinima’s Executive VP of Marketing, spoke at the ad:tech panel “What You Don’t Know About YouTube (And How It Will Change Your Media Plan)” and disclosed some statistics that may be helpful for advertisers to use when pitching YouTube as a viable marketing platform. YouTube by the numbers Lee began by telling us that YouTube is on 350 million devices and 800 million users are visiting the social video site every month. That equals 4 billion viewing hours per month. To put this into perspective, it’s like watching seven Super Bowls every 30 minutes. Lee acknowledged that the future of YouTube is driven by mobile. YouTube has seen a 3...
By on Nov 08, 2012

Spotlight on Virurl, a 'vigilante' for native ads

Banner ads are a dying breed. To drive this point home, Virurl hired “protesters” to picket the Javits Center in protest of online banner ads. While Virurl’s antic is guerilla, the consensus among speakers during ad:tech isn’t so far off from the sentiments that protesters were expressing. There’s no doubt that content-based native advertising units is the next generation of advertising. Virurl’s CEO Francisco Diaz-Mitoma saw this trend as early as February 2010 before contextual native ad units were a topic of discussion. But the soft launch of Virurl didn’t come until October of this year. Luckily, the timing was perfect. This year’s ad:tech New York was completely focused on contextual native ad units that are of high quality and high value to viewers. Essentially 2013 marks the end of the ice age where slipshod banner ads created in Flash or Photoshop ran rampant. This will come as a...
By on Nov 08, 2012

VenueSeen, changing marketers' doubts about Instagram

Visual social media marketing best practices is uncharted territory, VenueSeen CEO Brian Zuercher tells me, and not all companies can easily translate their brand into social campaigns that work seamlessly with Instagram as a social media marketing platform. For example, an oil company may not necessarily know how to best use Instagram to appeal to its customers. This is where VenueSeen comes in. The company offers two products with a third on the way. Zuercher declined to disclose the product that the company would be launching in a couple of weeks. At its core, VenueSeen offers an analytics dashboard where its clients can track the virality of hashtags and Instagram photos shared by location. Its “Monitoring” platform is used by brands to navigate through the noise of the photos shared throughout Instagram and help these brands join in on the conversation by knowing when and where thei...
By on Nov 08, 2012

A look at the underdog and talk of ad:tech: WhaleShark Media's RetailMeNot

Slowly but surely shoppers are turning to digital aids like smartphones as an auxiliary guide or medium for purchasing decisions or transactions. One company that's facilitating consumer interest through discounts is WhaleShark Media, and while few have even heard of the company, it's a lot bigger than you think. Anthony McLoughlin, Director of Internet Marketing at Aéropostale, and John Faith, Senior VP of Mobile at WhaleShark Media teamed up during the ad:tech panel, “Shifting Shoppers: Reaching Mobile and Web Customers Today and Tomorrow” to discuss the results of Aéropostale’s use of RetailMeNot, owned by WhaleShark Media, as a marketing channel for the clothing brand. While Aéropostale rattled off some numbers based on the campaign's results, which of course exceeded expectations, it was an opportunity to take a look at WhaleShark Media and RetailMeNot, a site that has been plugged ...
By on Nov 08, 2012

As venture capitals cut back on funding, VCs get creative with discovering the next hit

The landscape for venture capital has evolved and there’s less money floating around, revealed David Liu, co-head of Digital Media and Internet Investment Banking at Jeffries & Company, Inc., during the ad:tech panel, “Follow the Money: Investors Place Their Bets on the Future of Advertising.” But investors are willing to bet bigger on fewer startups. It’s finding startups worth investing in that is the hard part. Liu says that the valuations of tech companies are lower than pre-recession levels with capital quickly leaving the equity market due to the bearish consumer sentiment in investments like stock for example. Facebook and Zynga’s IPOs haven’t helped to boost consumer confidence in the equities market, especially among tech investors. Liu notes that Internet IPOs this year are stagnant. Of course since this is the case, among of the places that their money can be held, short of hi...
By on Nov 08, 2012

Fred Wilson: Native ad units are today's digital landscape in advertising

With mobile devices so prevalent, the answer to this question still eludes them: “What type of advertising is effective today?” Good advertising is natively integrated into the platform, Fred Wilson, a prominent venture capitalist and cofounder of Union Square Ventures, confidently told a few hundred people during the ad:tech keynote, “Tomorrow’s Digital Landscape – A Conversation with Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures and Dave Morgan, Simulmedia.” During his discussion with Dave Morgan, Simulmedia’s CEO, who moderated the keynote, Wilson was transparent about his predictions and didn’t hold back when taking a jab at the advertising practices of YouTube and his former portfolio company, GeoCities. Mobile has been the game changing elephant in the room that marketers and social media companies want to desperately ignore or have been scratching their heads over. With the speed of mobile a...
By on Nov 07, 2012

OMD Ignition Factory's four groundbreaking syndication startups to keep on your radar

The publishing industry is seeing innovators reshaping how we consume content. Trevor Guthrie, Director of OMD’s Ignition Factory East, and his colleague, Sam Olstein, the Marketing Director at Ignition Factory, shared their choices for the four must-watch startups at the ad:tech panel “Publishers and Tablets: New Strategies for Monetizing and Creating Content” that are reshaping content syndication. Laffster A startup based out of Venice, Calif., and a graduate of LA’s only startup incubator, Muckerlabs, Laffster can be best described as the Pandora of comedy-oriented content. Laffster’s developers have architected a genome based on the studies of “researchers and scholars in humor, including neuroscientists and psychologists at schools like Dartmouth College and the University of Colorado,” which can tailor video-based comedic content for its users. Videos are aggregated from publisher...
By on Nov 07, 2012