Dan Mouradian

Designer - Creative Director

LinkedIn Behance



What’s Next for Digital Advertising? Creative Testing

Reposted from my employers blog 

Every planner lit up at the prospect of the perfectly optimized media that programmatic advertising promised. The latest in a long line of industry Cinderella stories, programmatic represents the most significant boost in performance since the IAB’s adoption of Rising Stars. But with every rise comes a plateau prediction or two, indicating that programmatic eventually leads to diminishing returns.

So marketers need to ask themselves, “What’s next?” How can brands and agencies continue to eek results and improve performance once programmatic hits the ceiling? The answer is clear: creative optimization.

Disclaimer: there is plenty of technology at your disposal—ad tech vendors, systems, metrics, and measurement—that can help you optimize creative. PointRoll is, of course, among them, but we are not going to talk about technology. Instead I want to focus on the broader idea of how to strategically conduct creative testing to experiment, learn, and yield statistically significant findings.

First of all, figure out what exactly you want to find out. Determine the objective of your test, and pick the testing methodology that corresponds. If you want to test the colors of a CTA button, use an A/B test and test each variable against one another. If you are interested in testing multiple aspects of a single creative (e.g., CTA color and image), then use a multivariate testing methodology. The goal should define the testing method.

Next you will need to determine how much of your media plan to dedicate to your test. The best way to approach this is to ask yourself how much of your media are you not willing to risk. A good starting place is 20% of your total campaign volume, keeping 80% unaffected by the testing parameters.

Following allocation, isolate the environment. Environments in testing can skew results significantly if you aren’t careful about them. For example, if you are testing which CTA performs best on mobile devices (i.e., swipe or tap) and you have desktop placements included in your testing group, you’ve introduced a distracting variable in your results. Which is precisely why you need a control group.

It is important to maintain some control over your test. Control groups should start out equal in size to your test group of impressions. The test group should be subjected to the variables you plan on testing, while the control group will represent your existing strategy with no alterations or variability.

Before you press the launch button, remember that it is imperative you keep the variables simple at first. The more objectives you add to your tests, the less clear the findings will be. You’ll be able to scale your tests out to include more variables as you progress through your findings, but trying to test everything at the beginning will muddy the waters and keep you from learning anything.

Once your ad tags are live, you get to monitor the performance data as it comes in. It’s tempting to tweak the variations while the test runs, but don’t. Doing so would mean starting over. We’re comparing the users’ reactions to creative versions as they run in real time. Any gaps in our test run can provide impure data.

Let it ride. Results only reveal themselves when a test reaches statistical significance. What’s statistical significance? Statistical significance is a result that is not likely to occur randomly, but rather is very likely to be attributable to a specific cause. For creative testing, you probably want to ensure each version has a chance to reach a set number positives (i.e., clicks, interactions, video plays, or whatever your metric of success is). Calculators are available to help you determine how many positives you will need for your testing. For this example, using an A/B test with “click” as the metric of success, and working backwards from the benchmark of 0.2%, obtaining a set number of 100 clicks (positives) would require 50,000 impressions. A multivariate test would require additional impressions, but the same rule applies.

With your test complete, your next task will be to analyze the results. Resist the urge to look at the results immediately. But after you immediately look at the results, start from the top again. Revisit the goals of your campaign, compare the performance data of each test group directly against the control group.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but occasionally test results will be inconclusive. An inconclusive test typically means that the element you were testing doesn’t affect user behavior in a significant way. While it may seem like a wasted test, any conclusion is a step forward: you can cross this one off of the list and move forward.

Objective results are always better than subjective assumptions. Creative testing is necessary because it is the only way to empirically measure the response of your audience to your message. Not only is creative testing vital, it’s relatively simple to implement, and your campaigns will flourish as a result.

The Future of the Pull Quote?

The pull quote, is a typographic device used to draw attention into an article or to highlight a key topic, they are used extensively in print and newspaper design, and even in web design. As users become more mobile though and spreads have become columns of type, I wonder if the pull quotes days are numbered.

The user behavior pull quotes cater to is scanning. A reader or user scans the page and the pull quote stands out, it’s a quick easy ready, usually a particular salient bit of the story, to get the reader to start reading the article. The question is, does scanning exist on mobile? Do users scroll to the bottom of an article, then back to the top? Or do we tap and read? I am going to argue its more of the latter

We consume editorial is so many different ways on mobile, whether it’s a twitter link, an App, Facebook post, or email. The one consistency is the vertical scrolling of a single narrow text column. I have noticed however that when reading content, a pull quote actually breaks the flow of an article, largely because the pull quote is not contextual to where the reader is in the text. Reading content today is a quick affair, we scroll through as we read. Is the use of pull quotes just another item in the long list of skeuomorphs we should abandon? If the behavior that justifies the use of pull quotes is becoming less common, shouldn’t their use? As a designer who got his start in print, Im sad to say, I think it is time to retire the pull quote. Farewell.


The Unintended Consequence of Responsive Design

Reposted from my employers blog 

If I told you that 40-50% of your display media plan was being delivered to mobile devices, would you keep your current media plan? Would you change nothing about it? What if I told you that you were still paying for rich media and users were seeing defaults? Would you still change nothing about it? What if I told you that over 50% of your clicks on your display media plan were coming from mobile devices? Would you still run the same creative?

I didn’t think so.

Unfortunately this is the situation for most advertisers… and you can thank Responsive Web Design for it.

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices, from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors. Sites designed using the principles of RWD adapt the layout and content to fit the user’s screen through a number of technologies, such as CSS media queries, fluid grid systems, proportional scaling, and others. The end result is a website that “transforms” to the user’s screen. The appeal for publishers, of course, is that there is only one site to maintain, instead of having a separate mobile, tablet, and desktop site, all independently coded. RWD is incredibly efficient, and a good thing.

Wait… Hold on… Didn’t I just say responsive design is to blame for incredibly high default rates among advertisers?

How could such a good thing have such negative consequences?

Well, in most cases, the ad slots on the desktop version of a webpage will be the same ad slots on the tablet versions, and potentially the same on the mobile versions. Tablets and mobile devices don’t support Flash. So if your desktop media plan has Flash ads trafficked to its placements and the site they appear on was built with responsive design, there is a good chance that the user will see a default on a tablet. Many publishers and networks offer mobile and tablet specific placements, but today there are very few guarantees that your desktop buy will only serve to desktop users.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Grab your iPad and laptop and do this for yourself: look at the same site on both devices and see if the ads spaces are the same. I have done this for you for CNN.com below.


There are solutions, however. First, you should understand which devices your consumers are using to see your media. Ask your ad server for a robust “device type” report that breaks out where your media was viewed by device. Secondly, assuming that the default rate on mobile and tablet is sufficiently high, you should consider building ads additionally or exclusively in HTML. You should also ensure that your ad serving platform can determine the user’s device at impression, and then serve the appropriate creative. Finally, you’ll want an ad server that works with you to develop a sound ad serving strategy from the start, ensuring your media is being delivered exactly as you planned.

Content distribution is far more important to publishers than ad distribution – and rightly so. Without good content, accessible on every device, ads don’t matter. Your ad serving partner should do far more than simply accept your media plan and run your ad. They should provide you with the right data and insight to help you decide when to adopt new technologies to reach your intended audience with yourintended media plan.


Photos by Dan Mouradian, Logan Reed, Barbara Mouradian, Brian Kristmann

Last year my wife, Barbara, got me classes at Chicago School of Woodworking as a birthday gift. The classes for new students are each 9-week courses one day a week for a few hours. In 101, students build picture frames, with hand tools and no experience is needed. If you choose to continue to 102, you will build a craftsman style end table, you will need to supply wood but the school works closely with local suppliers and offer a “package deal”. Finally 103 focuses on a larger entry table in the Arts and Craft style, with a drawer. Graduates of 103 may then use the shop for personal projects at an hourly rate, in addition to specialized weekend seminars and classes through the year including everything cabinet making, speaker building, musical instrument building to CAD drawing.

The open class was my hidden agenda all along. I have had the design for a credenza in my mind for several years and always lacked the tools/skills to build it and the finances to custom order it. I had to build it and taking the courses at the school would give me access to the tools and I would learn the skills to build it. In addition to gratification of having made it myself. As I was finishing 103 it was time to start the design process on the credenza, I started by thumbnailing and scale drawing the credenza.


Once i had settled on a configuration I measured the components i would be adding to it, and the wall space it would occupy, and began drawing for scale. I was going to need help. A good friend of mine and design/build architect Logan Reed was kind enough to translate my scale drawing and notes into cad drawings and assisted me in all phases of the build. Walnut stock was purchased at Owl Hardwood in Des Plaines.

Because of its size, everything took longer, ripping, cutting, jointing, planing, gluing, all of it was a fight. Luckily I had Logan and the staff to assist. The design takes cues from mid-century modernism, and vintage amplifiers. I designed the walnut credenza to frame a solid panel with stretched grill cloth so that RF rays would penetrate it, as opposed to a wooden front panel, which would block the remote control signals. The panel is attached with elevating hinges to maintain the flat look as it was lifted. It is finished off with Aluminum legs that have a slight taper. Thank you again, Barbara, Logan and Chicago School of Woodworking.

Next time I’m making something bit smaller. Enjoy.




Credenza-Timming and measuring







The Browser is Dead!

Browser is deadReposted from my employers blog 

In 1993, I got my first email address. A mashup of letters and numbers that almost-but-not-quite spelled the deeply meaningful expression of my 12 year old self@aol.com. That was the first step, immediately following was what would become the Pavlovian bell once associated with going online, which too, has all but disappeared.

“Going online” has been replaced with “being online”. Always. Perpetually, except in the occasional place where free Wi-Fi doesn’t exist or where it’s down like on my last flight, but I digress. This evolution from going online to being online can really be traced back to a single device: the original iPhone (or if you prefer, “the smartphone”) – and with it, a new way of interaction was ushered in: the App.

Apple’s WWDC conference last month unveiled a brand new desktop operating system for Mac, OS X Yosemite, and iOS8 for their mobile devices. The biggest takeaway from the event was that for the first time, OS X and iOS will actually work better when they’re used together. In fact, Apple is playing catch up here. Windows 8, which was released on October 26, 2012, is the same operating system across Windows mobile devices, tablets and PC’s. Many agree that Apple’s announcements are the first step towards platform consolidation, meaning one operating system on every device; and I believe that operating system will be more like iOS.

In a future with phones, tablets and PC’s all running operating systems built for the interactions of mobile devices and the App ecosystem – where http://www.amazon.com became www.amazon.com which became amazon.com and finally just an amazon icon we tap – What will happen to the web browser? An eMarketer report from early June demonstrated that local search on mobile is moving to apps like Yelp, and away from Google via a browser.  People are still seeking information via the internet, it’s just now being delivered in multiple different, and very tailored, ways.

Does this foreshadow the end? I think the web will continue to evolve and, like so many trial CD’s with their screeches and dial-up connections hushed, the browser will fade away too. In its place, the App will continue to change the way we interact, the way we search, and of course the ads we see and build.

Why Ad Viewability Isn’t Good Enough

Reposted from my employers blog
Viewability is the measurement of whether or not an online ad had the ability to be seen; the metric is measured by detecting that over 50% of the ads pixels were on the screen for a least 1 second. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) have published the standard, and adoption of that metric is finally happening with ALMOST every third-party ad server. Yet, it’s time for our industry to admit, it’s just not good enough.

I have no problem with how it is defined – more than half the ad for at least a second – what’s wrong with viewability is that it’s only part of the story. Viewability will tell you that your ad had the ability to be seen, and that it was could have been seen by human eyes. But that’s it. For those of us who make ads, that’s like reading a book title and saying you’ve read the whole thing. It’s just not enough information. User behavior is a huge part of why viewability isn’t good enough.

Let’s say you’re reading a website, and there is an animated placement on the page at the top of the content. If you read the title and scroll to begin the content, you saw the ad, and it was there on screen for at least a second. But as you scroll down the ad disappears yet continues playing above the fold. When you finish reading an article what do you do? Close the tab? Click another article? Scroll back to the top of the page to see how that ad finally resolved into a cleverly crafted CTA and end frame?

Now what about a user who goes to a portal site, with content that refreshes all day? Maybe they see an ad among the content on the page, but instead they click on titles or images or videos that appeal to them, which opens a new tab or window. The page with your ad on it is still there, but one can see it, because they opened content on top of it. Sucks for your ad… but it was still “viewable.”

Viewability is still good and certainly belongs in reports, which is why we include with every campaign. It will help prevent fraud, and that’s good too. Advertisers and agencies are also pushing the supply-side to make viewable inventory available. Meaning they won’t just buy impressions, but will buy viewable impressions. Yet, viewability is not a performance metric, it doesn’t tell you anything that is actionable from the consumer side of the equation. Which is why we developed PointRoll AdView, an industry-first technology that measures the true creative playback on an impression that is deemed viewable.

How does it work? Once an ad renders on the page, if it is out of frame, below the fold, or on another tab, it will not begin playing. It will remain paused on the first frame until the ad is viewable, at which point the ad then starts playing. If at any point the ad is no longer viewable, like if the user leaves the page for another tab or window, or scrolls until the ad is out of view again, the ad stops playing. It will, of course, resume playing if it becomes viewable again. The true playback of the ad is measured in quartiles, and is available in our reporting interface if you’ve activated the feature.

Is it actionable? Of course. Let’s say you have a 10 second ad, and you run a campaign with us where you’ve purchased PointRoll AdView to strengthen your measurement. If post-campaign you find that large percentage of users only saw between 50 percent and 75 percent of your ad’s message, it’s time to start thinking about how you can say what you want to say in 5 seconds. PointRoll AdView allows you to ensure that a user will be able to get your entire message. Without it, advertisers are simply buying static images at the cost of rich media.

Viewability is necessary, but as far as digital metrics are concerned, it’s just not enough information.

The Moral of your Story

Last winter I was stuck in NYC for 5 days because of snowmageddon… I say stuck because i was supposed to be there for two days and only packed for that. While judging the final round of the North American Effie awards. However, being stuck in New York, I did have the fortunate pleasure of meeting and having dinner Jeff Freedman, CEO of Small Army, an agency in Boston. At dinner, we discussed a lot about advertising and how he started his agency. Jeff’s story is an emotional one. One that he was preparing to tell at TEDx.

Storytelling has become the newly minted buzz-word in agency circles. Every brand wants to tell a story, some of them can own that story, some try to invent it. When they are genuine, they work wonderfully for one reason alone, all expression in the human condition is storytelling. Cave art is storytelling, the Sistine Chapel is storytelling, Mozart’s requiem is storytelling. Whether they are heartbreaking or serendipitous. This is not new to advertising of course. What I love about Jeff’s story is that it teaches us that finding the moral of our story is as important to the protagonist as it is for the listener. Jeff uses that moral to make his clients better advertisers, and better advertising.

Thank you for sharing your story with me Jeff.

Please have a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOaey8QpaRA


Net Neutrality can learn from Heartbleed.

Why did people give a shit about Heartbleed and not Net Neutrality? Both are issues that the affect the vast majority of us.

Net Neutrality is the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. Columbia media law professor Tim Wu coined the term in 2003 as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier. [Source]

Net Neutrality is almost universally a good thing.

Heartbleed is a security bug in the open-source OpenSSL cryptography library, which is widely used to implement the Internet’s Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. Heartbleed may be exploited whether the party using a vulnerable OpenSSL instance for TLS is a server or a client. And by some accounts, over 66% of the entire internet was affected by it. [Source]

Heartbleed is almost universally a bad thing.

You have no doubt heard about both of these issues. The difference in the way people reacted to these issues and the action that both inspired, is that Heartbleed made people do stuff: you had to change passwords, notify users of your service if you operate a business online, etc. Rightly so. The supporters of Net Neutrality are desperately trying to inspire action: everything from urging people to contact their senator, to posting animated gifs to your site to simulate the slower load times. There have been many articles written about Net Neutrality, the FCC, and all the effects the current proposal would have on the internet and how we use it every day, but the rally cry is missing. Even the name itself suggests a neutral position.


Pervasive as Heartbleed was, one thing that contributed to its near instantaneous addition to our vernacular, was its logo. The guardian wrote a great recap on the security team who found and branded Heartbleed, and this is the lesson Heartbleed can teach Net Neutrality: branding. Net Neutrality has a branding problem. The preservation of Net Neutrality is the right of everyone who uses the internet and ISP’s are spending millions of dollars trying to do away with it, and yet there are still many questions about Net Neutrality from people who it will affect if it disappears, changing the way the websites we visit everyday work.

  1. What is Net Neutrality?
  2. Should I support/care about Net Neutrality?
  3. What will happen is the FCC passes its proposal?
  4. How will the internet change if Net Neutrality changes?
  5. Does Net Neutrality exist now, or will it exist after bills are passed?

To me, this final question is the most important, because although right now Net Neutrality exists, one day that may not be the case. People who support Net Neutrality view it as the very foundation the web was created under, and that all data should be treated the same. Business and behaviors were built around the idea of an open-internet.
Branding can help answer these questions. Great branding, like that of Heartbleed, and the use of that logo by media outlets in the coverage of the bug, inspired action. That logo made a coding bug real. Net Neutrality is a real thing we take for granted every day. It should be something we defend, something we hold dear, something we protect, something to be preserved.

The following logo is set in Andale Mono, a monospaced font chosen because it harkens back to the foundation of the computer technology, prior to the GUI, when it was all computers could display. An open bracket will be familiar to anyone who has written code. The open bracket is the very first character of every website on the internet.

Source files.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

How to make mobile ads that don’t suck…

The very first ad on television was this 10 second spot for Bulova. It’s little more than a “static” graphic and a 2 second voiceover… with 8 seconds of dead air. As bad as this ad is, it was the very first. Oftentimes, the first of anything isn’t very good; the very first powered flight was 3 seconds. Even the Constitution was flawed at first: it’s had 27 Amendments. Why the Bulova ad looks and sounds like this is simple: the most effective form of advertising at the time was radio. This is little more than a radio spot with an image crudely attached to it. It aired in 1941. Nearly 75 years later we find ourselves making the same mistakes, only this time with mobile advertising.You cannot approach mobile advertising the way you approach display advertising. It is not the same. It is not even close. The only thing they have in common is that they are both connected to the internet.The most common form of mobile advertising is the static 320×50 static JPG. Why? Why on earth are we building shitty JPEGs? Why is everyone ignoring the fact that the mobile devices we all carry around in our pockets are purpose-built for consumption of media? A recent study shows that we check our devices on average 100 times a day, which once every 10 minutes if you happen to sleep only 6 hours a night. The reason these formats are the most common is because they are the easiest – that’s it. We’re being lazy. They are not the most effective, they are not the most engaging, but most condemning of all is that the measurement of these types of units is the worst kind of measurement out there.With these static JPEGs, all anyone can tell you is how many ads were served (Impressions), and how many people clicked on them (Clicks). If you divide those two numbers by each other, you get Click Through Rate (CTR). FUCK CTR; it’s useless when you are talking about conversion. Study after study  after study suggests the same thing. If you are going to make mobile ads that don’t suck, you will need to do a few very important things:

Consider the device you are placing your ads on. Doing this ensures you are not making the same mistakes Bulova did in 1941. Consider the device and how users are actually using it. Nobody taps on ads to go to landing pages on mobile devices. You don’t do it; why on earth would you expect a consumer just like you to do it? What you should be doing instead is create engagement opportunities on mobile. When you pick up your phone, open an app or the mobile web, and an ad does catch your glance, remember the feeling you have when you see it. Everyone feels that way. Instead of asking a user to “Tap to Learn More,” ask them to “Swipe to get a personalized offer” or “Swipe to see a web exclusive trailer” or “Pinch to expand” or “Pinch to reveal the all new 20XX car”. Which leads me to my next point.

Be genuine, give users something for their interaction. If you are an entertainment marketer that makes TV shows or movies, trade the user for content. If you advertise cars, ask the user to explore why your car is better than the car they drive now.  If you want to sell something, give them a place to buy it nearby, or how many are in stock, or a coupon. Do these things and measure your ads by conversion rate, or by interaction rate. See what a better story that gives you for your Effie case study and what it will do for your client retention. Be careful though: as people, our bullshit detectors are pretty dialed-in thanks to evolution. If we swipe, pinch or tap and your ad does not immediately give us what was promised but sends us to some landing page, we’re closing it and telling all our friends what a jerk you are for hiding the saber-toothed tiger in the cave you told us fire was in.

Lastly do not ask them to do anything foreign. Asking a user to “click” on a mobile device instantly turns that cleverly crafted message of yours into the following sentiment: “We don’t know you and don’t care about you, so feel free to ignore us.” There is a vernacular to the way we all use our devices, and clicking is not a part of it.

Do these three things, abandon CTR, and you will have built an experience worthy of being on the internet in our pocket. Start here and you can build something great. You won’t be the first to do it, but your advertising will better for thinking about your consumers and how they interact with content, before creating the ad.

First Time 3D printing.

I have been a huge fan of 3D printing for a long time, I’ve considered even purchasing a Makerbot Replicator more than a few times, but frankly i can’t justify the expense because i can’t see using it even on a weekly basis. That said, the company i work for recently re-launched with a new brand. I thought it would be really great to give our CMO a gift to commemorate our new branding. He and I are similar in that we both have an affinity for cufflinks. I have been collecting them for quite a long time and have even commissioned a few pairs from jewelry designers i know.

I didn’t want to go that route this time, I did a little bit of research and found AutoDesk 123D a free online 3D modeler that will export files for upload to services like Shapeways. An hour later I had what i thought was a great model.


The promise of 3D printing for me is, rapid prototyping, as i finished the model and uploaded it to Shapeways, I was sad to see it was going to take about 2 weeks to receive the ABS plastic prototype, not very rapid is it… Some more googling and I found the Chicago 3D Printer Experience, a brick and mortar shop that has some of the latest tech in 3D printing, i could prototype there in person and make adjustments to the model for final printing in silver. 3 emails later, $10.00 and an hour, and I had ABS plastic Cufflink prototypes.

ABS Cufflinks

A few edits were needed, mainly beefing up the shank making the ball a bit smaller. After I made the adjustments based on the prototype, uploaded the new model to Shapeways, I ordered a pair, I just received the final product and couldn’t be more excited. I know I’m a little late to this party but I’m a graphic guy not a product designer… I’m already looking for another excuse to print off some more items.


Let's make something together.

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