Monthly Archives: January 2013

Two Takes on Real-Time From Gartner

It’s been really fun over the past few months to see the growth in the amount of commentary and analysis of the real-time marketing trend. Recently, two Gartner execs offered their own takes on it.

Mark P. McDonald, a group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs, wrote about the role of digital technology in shaping consumers’ behavior and experiences in real time.

Some key snippets:

There are two sides to behavior.  One is marketing in real time, which the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team defines as “a deliberate, sustained commitment to garnering business advantages through speed.”  Real time in this sense focuses on increasing the dynamism within the customer – company marketing dialog to enable organizations to sense and respond quickly to changing demands, for example airlines use of dynamic pricing, dynamic offers, and the like. The focus on real time in this sense is on organization for speed, agility and rapid response to unplanned events — within time frames that can impact business advantage.


A digital edge customer experience realizes that the best experience an individual can have is one that they create for themselves, in real time.  Consider an experience shaped by the customer, open to their context, past experience and delivered in their own time, on their own terms and specific to their situation.

Research VP Richard Fouts wrote about turning an organization into a real-time marketing machine. In his opinion, the transformation doesn’t involve a massive top-to-bottom business transformation. “Those efforts usually fail,” he writes, “because they try to deal with too much, and they often fight well established culture norms that need to handled more delicately. A more measured approach that leads by example is usually the better way to go.”

Good advice to remember for marketers, and for me as I cover this topic in more depth. It won’t do anyone any good to put out sweeping declarations about the need for real-time marketing. Better to show how the things marketers are already doing – using social analytics, doing search marketing, developing creative, etc. – can happen faster.


Real-Time: In the News and Blogs

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been reading lately on the subject of real-time marketing:

How Big Data is Impacting the Big Idea

– Great interview with Moxie’s creative director, Tina Chadwick, on how the creative process is becoming more scientific and analytic. Perfect read right before the excess that is the Super Bowl.

Real-Time Bidding Ain’t Real-Time Targeting

– Dave Zinman, CEO of Infolinks, writes about how RTB is often based on old data and cookies, not on actual in-the-moment intent.

Targeted Serendipity: Thinking Harder About ‘Relevance’

– Opinion piece by Steve Smith of MediaPost, which amplifies a concern that many have over the increasingly automated nature of marketing and ad buying: “the danger of marketers being too relevant all the time.”

How Did CBS’s ‘Hawaii 5-0’ Twitter Experiment Fare?

I meant to write a post about this a couple days ago but a report deadline got in the way.

On Monday, CBS heavily touted what it said was the first-ever use of Twitter to allow viewers to select the ending of a show in real time. 

Variety reports that people in the West Coast and East time zones picked two different endings: West Coasters chose #theStudent and East Coasters chose #theBoss.

“We were very excited about the results,” said Marc DeBevoise, exec veep and g.m. of entertainment, news and sports at CBS Interactive. “Social activity was up 186% according to our social guide numbers, and our site traffic to the show was up 200% from the average.”

DeBevoise told Variety that he estimated over 100,000 votes were cast.

CBS will try a different take on real-time voting next week, Variety reports. It will ask fans of “Let’s Make a Deal,” the daytime game show, to use Twitter to vote for certain aspects of the show while it is being taped on Jan. 25. The episode won’t air until Jan. 30, however.

How Sprint Used Digitas’ BrandLIVE During CES interviewed Anne Marie Kline, of Digitas, at last week’s CES show. In a short video clip, she talked about how Digitas used its new BrandLIVE platform to track conversations online that were related to topics that Sprint was interested in, and then create a response in real-time, or near real-time.

I wrote about BrandLIVE when it launched late last year. 

Some Smart Reasons Why Real-Time Isn’t a Good Idea

I spend a lot of time in this blog thinking about why real-time is a good thing, and certainly most of the people I talk to agree that it is, despite the challenges.

However, I just came across this personal blog post, written by Dan McKinley, an engineer at He describes several compelling reasons why using real-time web analytics to make immediate changes is NOT a good idea. It’s important stuff to remember as marketers figure out what path to take in the push toward real-time.

Here are some of the points he makes:

  • “Confusing how we do things with how we decide which things to do is a fatal mistake.”
  • “Depending on the change that’s being made, making any decision based on a single day of data could be ill-conceived. Even if you think you have plenty of data, it’s not farfetched to imagine that user behavior has its own rhythms.”
  • “Real-time web analytics is a seductive concept. It appeals to our desire for instant gratification. But the truth is that there are very few product decisions that can be made in real time, if there are any at all. Analysis is difficult enough already, without attempting to do it at speed.”

Walmart Labs on the Challenges of Real-Time Social Analytics

Arun Prasath, an engineer at Walmart Labs, describes the retailer’s 2013 social analytics agenda in a recent blog post. What he writes crystallizes the excitement—and terror—of confronting the idea of using social data in real time:

Social data mining comes with incredible challenges, which only makes it all the more exciting for our super smart engineers to come to work every day. Data volume is formidably huge. We are talking about petabytes here. Real-time social data processing requires sophisticated data stores and blazingly fast algorithms. The noise levels are exorbitant, the language used in social forums is heavily informal, unstructured and often ungrammatical, and filtering out that helpful insight out of the huge amount of noise is super hard. Just consider algorithmically parsing – “OMG!!! dis is sooo coool! i luv ma new fone. i cant believ ma luck 4 chosin this! #wellwhatdoyathink”. Popular text analytics and natural language processing techniques based on standard language models simply fail. We need altogether different techniques to filter out and focus on social data that is relevant to us, which in itself is a daunting task. The next step is to map this to meaningful retail products. All of these are difficult tasks.

‘Hawaii 5-0’ Lets Twitter Users Pick the Ending

Tonight’s episode of “Hawaii 5-0” will have a real-time twist: viewers will be encouraged to use Twitter to choose how the episode will end.

According to, the producers have filmed three endings of the episode, about a university professor who was murdered. Viewers in the East Coast/Central and West Coast time zones will be able to go to or Twitter to cast their votes for who they think was the culprit: #theBoss, #the TA or #theStudent. CBS will tally the votes “immediately” and then show the ending that the viewers chose.

I’m not a fan of the show but I’m curious to see how it all works. I’ll watch and report back tomorrow. One question I have is how quickly CBS will try to tally votes.