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Ken Mandel: The Dilemma of Ad Tech

by Steve Stine

This episode I’m at the American Club Union Bar in Singapore with digital media and advertising sector veteran, Ken Mandel. The topic of our conversation:  the past and the future of advertising. It’s a space Ken knows better than most, having held Asia-wide leadership positions at Publicis, 141 Worldwide, XM Asia, Ogilvy & Mather, Yahoo!, Salesforce.com and Hootsuite.

Advertising is big business and still growing. Today nearly half of the $630 billion in global ad spend has gone digital with Google and Facebook. Together they generate $150 billion per year, feeding targeted ads to billions of digital addicts.

Where will those eyeballs roam in the near future? That’s is, literally, a $100 billion-dollar question.

Ken makes a number of striking observations, including a skepticism about what Facebook and Google advertising has been able to accomplish. Facebook and Google have a lot of data and they combine it with a platform that allows for ease of access as well as scalability. But has it been effective? Will it continue to be effective?

There are some signs that advertisers may be re-thinking their global digital strategies. As Ken points out, the conversion funnel—the Facebook and Google clicks that turn into actual purchases—is narrow. While those social networking and internet search platforms might be effective tools for shifting public opinion, they do not necessarily translate into an O2O transaction.

That’s a key buzzword one needs to know because it’s the holy grail of digital advertising. O2O means “online to offline.” That’s what advertisers are really after, the key to moving someone out of the digital environment to the real world, from seeing a product on their iPhone to actually holding it in their hand.

Ken’s take on what the future holds might be surprising and that’s what makes this episode essential listening.