Discovering the heart of Italy

My family had a very heart warming experience this summer.   I wanted to share the story because I believe it demonstrates the importance of family as well as the basic goodness of people.

Our story begins with my great grandparents who immigrated to America from Italy in 1920.  After a couple of generations, contact was lost with the Italian relatives.  After the death of my grandparents, I began to feel the significance of not having this connection.  I also worried that my two sons may never experience, or build an appreciation of, their Italian heritage.

With our oldest son going off to college at the end of the summer, we wanted to do something special and decided to take our boys to Italy.  In addition to visiting famous cities like Rome and Florence, we planned to venture south to the Puglia region where our ancestors are from.  They lived in a town that no longer exists called Canneto di Bari.  I had imagined how amazing it would be to visit this area and to meet some of them.  While I had previously dabbled with online genealogy services, such as Ancestry.com, I was now focused like never before to try and locate our lost cousins.  Using Ancestry.com, I was able to expand the branches of our family tree finding Italian ancestors as far back as 1781.  In addition to Ancestry.com, I tried using DNA family matching services from two other online services.  Despite all of the progress, and many hours of work, I was still struggling to locate Italian relatives that shared the surnames of my grandparents. While millions of Americans have participated in new DNA family matching services, fewer Italians have.  I was finding lots of cousins in America but none in Italy!

My mother and uncle both tried to assist me in my genealogy research.  While they weren’t certain of any living Italian relatives, my uncle explained that he was connected to someone in Italy on Facebook with a matching surname.  So I began to leverage social media to try and locate family members.  I connected to my Uncle’s contact and then in turn with a number of his connected family members.  I invited them all to a closed group I created on Facebook called, “Our Italian Family” where I introduced myself and explained what I was trying to accomplish.  Thanks to Google translate, I was able to post messages in both English and Italian.  I received mixed reactions from the Italian side.  A few assumed we were related while others cast doubt.  I was unable to find anyone on the Italian side that had an extensive family history which has made it impossible to find ancestors in common.  After a period of time, I connected with a family member who was able to communicate in English. We’ll call her Cathy, to protect her privacy.  Cathy was very sweet and helpful.  Before long Cathy and I were working together to try and find a common family ancestor.  My first thought was to see if any of the elder family members would be willing to provide their DNA.  It would appear that these DNA family match services can help determine relationship up to 4th or 5th cousin.

Cathy approached her father, we’ll call him Gerald, who was willing to assist in our efforts so I had a DNA test kit mailed to him.  Prior to our visit, Cathy informed me that she had a surprise in the works.  Many years ago, Canneto di Bari had merged with a neighboring town to form modern day Adelfia.   The city maintains some municipal records that can be used for genealogy research but a lot of information is missing or difficult to come by.  A variety of other factors, including World War 1 and 2, had further compromised municipal records in Italy.   The surprise was that Gerald had planned a trip to Adelfia (two hour round trip for him) to locate historical records to try and find an ancestor in common ahead of our visit!  Unfortunately, he was not able to acquire a great deal of information on his visit but the city said they would keep looking for the records and would contact him in the future should they find anything.  We knew there would not be time to get the DNA  results back ahead of our trip to Italy.  Regardless, we made plans to visit with Cathy, Gerald, and their family while in Puglia.

Cathy had suggested we stay in Monopoli which is a beautiful seaside resort town.  It is located about an hour south of where her family lives.  We took the train from Florence to Bari and rented a car to drive to Monopoli.  We had booked an extra room at our hotel and invited them as our guests.  We arrived in the late afternoon and visited with Cathy, her husband, and their two small children.  On our arrival, Cathy’s husband spoiled us with appetizers he had prepared including Italian meats, cheeses, bread, and even sparking wine!  Cathy’s young daughter presented us with a drawing welcoming us to Puglia.  Later that evening, we went out to dinner and, before I realized what had happened, her husband had picked up the tab.  They made us feel welcome and very special.

Cathy’s daughter’s drawing

The next day, Cathy’s father Gerald had arranged a special lunch at a local restaurant.  The whole extended family attended!  Gerald, his wife, and all of their children and grandchildren – in total around 17 family members.  I sat next to Gerald and used Google translate to engage in conversation.  It wasn’t perfect but it worked well enough!

I haven’t experienced a meal like this since the holidays when my Italian Grandparents were still alive.  Food is a form of art in Italy and course after course of amazing artistry kept coming out of the kitchen until our eyes were popping out of our heads! Mussels, Oysters, Octopus, Swordfish, Shrimp, Pasta, Zucchini, Fritters, Bruschetta, Fruit, Gelato, and so much more!   Cathy had told me in advance that this meal was Gerald’s treat but I had not anticipated anything approaching the lavishness of this meal let alone the warmth and hospitality of this family.  I found myself overwhelmed as I tried to wrap my head around what was happening.  Forget family trees and DNA test results, this family had decided to embrace my family regardless.

After spending the afternoon together, and sharing the most wonderful meal, we had a lovely picture taken of our new Italian family.  While Rome and Florence were nice, we found the true heart of Italy in Puglia.  It was represented by this loving family who so touched our hearts.

Our new Italian family
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Advanced TV Leftovers = New Opportunity for DRTV Industry

A new trend has emerged where cable networks are collaborating with MVPD and vMVPD partners to turn their national ad inventory into something far more appealing to brand advertisers.  Armed with new capabilities, cable networks are already starting to offer brand advertisers the ability to target their television commercial to their ideal audience.  This creates an opportunity for direct response advertisers to have their commercials delivered, during the same ad breaks, to all the leftover households.

Before we get into how these new “advanced advertising” break types work, let’s look at how national cable break types have worked historically.

On the left side of the diagram below, a cable network sends its signal via satellite to two different MVPDs.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, and haven’t clicked one of the links above, MVPD is short for Multiple Video Program Distributor.  MVPD is a catch-all phrase to describe all of the television distribution companies that sell access to network cable programming via cable, satellite, fiber, or via internet (the latter referred to as an vMVPD where “v” is short for “virtual”).   In the past, we’ve only had to understand and deal with two break types.  We had the national ad break, in which commercials were seen by viewers nationwide, and we had the local ad break.  Most cable networks cut to a local ad break 2 minutes out of every hour.  As shown below, a cable network has sold a commercial to Expedia to run during a local ad break.  Buying this type of ad break is how direct response advertisers have purchased leftovers at a discount for many years.

To help explain, local ad breaks are preceded by a Digital Program Insertion (DPI) signal. Most MVPDs have ad-insertion equipment that listens for the DPI signal. As soon as the DPI signal is detected, the ad insertion equipment begins inserting commercials sold by the MVPD to local advertisers. In the diagram below, one of the two MVPDs is shown inserting a Flex Tape commercial covering up the Expedia commercial. In most markets, including urban markets, the MVPDs aggressively sell local advertising covering up most, if not all, of the ads like Expedia running on the network at the same time.  However, in smaller rural markets, the MVPD may not sell local advertising as demonstrated by the second MVPD below which doesn’t insert an ad allowing the Expedia ad to be seen by viewers in their market.  These are the leftovers that direct response advertisers expect to receive when buying local break inventory from the cable networks today.

With new advanced television advertising models, the networks use a different type of DPI signal to let certain MVPDs, who have a contract with the network,  know that it’s time for them to deliver the advanced advertising commercial to its intended audience.  At the same time, the network may run a direct response commercial on its network feed to be viewed by any households not otherwise targeted by the advanced advertising campaign.  One of the network groups stated that a smaller universe of MVPDs are currently involved in their advanced advertising programs.  To other MVPDs, this new type of ad break looks just like any other national ad break which they are not allowed to cover up.  Accordingly, the audience composition for this new type of ad break is likely quite different in comparison to the traditional local break.

DRMetrix is the first television research company to monitor national cable DPI signals in order to recognize and segment between the two traditional ad break types.  Our company is currently collaborating with cable networks in an attempt to detect the alternative DPI signals that are starting to be used in the marketplace to signal these new advanced advertising breaks.  For now, DRMetrix flags all commercials running outside of normal local breaks as “national”.

Some networks have taken to inserting direct response ads in local breaks and their new advanced advertising breaks billing both types under the traditional “local” billing code.  Some agencies have started to notice the discrepancy as DRMetrix continues to report the advanced advertising breaks as “national”.  DRMetrix has had to explain to various agencies what is happening and quite often the agencies are unaware of the new break type.  So, we thought this article would help to set the record straight!

Please provide us with your feedback and questions on our blog!  We’d love to hear from you.

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3rd Annual AdSphere™ Awards Recognize Top DRTV Advertisers in 2018

Progressive, Nutrisystem, E. Mishan & Sons, Guthy-Renker, Luminess Direct, Proactiv+, and the late George Smith among those being honored

DRMetrix, the leading research company for the DRTV industry announces its 3rd annual AdSphere™ Awards honoring the most effective direct response television advertisements airing on national television outlets in 2018.

DRMetrix created the AdSphere Awards to honor the top advertisers and brands in the industry. The awards will be presented to recipients attending PDMI EAST 2019, where leaders in Performance-Driven Marketing will come together in Miami, Florida from March 31st – April 2nd, 2019.  AdSphere Awards is the first awards program to be inclusive of the entire DRTV industry with advertisers such as Allergan, AT&T Services, AbbVie, Vista Print, Zillow, TripAdvisor, Lens Crafters, and many others being honored.

“The AdSphere awards recognize best-of-class advertisers across four industry classifications including short-form products, lead generation, brand/direct, and 28.5-minute infomercials,” said Joseph Gray, AdSphere Awards founder and CEO of DRMetrix. “Performance-based campaigns achieving this level of scale demonstrate consumer popularity and also best-in-class creative and media execution. The AdSphere Awards are the most inclusive ever for the DRTV industry recognizing nearly 70 honorees including all of our best-of-category award recipients.”

AdSphere monitors a universe of 125+ national networks on a 24/7/365 basis.  In just over four years, AdSphere has identified over 10,000 brand-direct and direct response brands. In addition to detecting over 384,000 infomercial (28.5 minute) airings, AdSphere has detected over 40 million spots of varying creative lengths up to five minutes in duration.  The awards recognize top brands across a wide range of industry categories representing all facets of the DRTV industry. AdSphere segments DRTV campaigns across 20 major categories and 145 sub-categories. The complete list of “Best of Category” AdSphere Award winners for 2018 is online at www.drmetrix.com/adsphere-awards.html.

In addition to the “Best of Category” awards, the following top six advertisers of 2018 will receive the coveted AdSphere Award:

Advertiser & Brand of the Year
Classification -Brand/Direct
Progressive

Advertiser & Brand of the Year
Classification – Lead Generation
Nutrisystem

Advertiser of the Year
Classification – Short-Form Products
E. Mishan & Sons

Advertiser & Brand of the Year
Classification – Long-Form
Guthy | Renker – Meaningful Beauty

Brand of the Year
Classification – Short-Form Retail Products
Luminess Silk Infinite Beauty Collection

2017 – Brand of the Year
Classification – Short-Form Products
Proactiv+

Industry Veteran, George Smith, who passed away on 2/14/19 will also be honored with an AdSphere Award for his lifetime of achievements on behalf of the direct response television industry.

 

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Bringing English & Hispanic Together!

No political statements being made here.  That said, this month we’ll be combining airings for both English and Hispanic networks in our default AdSphere rankings and on our weekly Retail Reporting to make sure advertisers are getting ranking credit for both English & Hispanic buys in one integrated view.   You’ll still be able to change the default filters and choose English only rankings (classic view), Spanish or “both” which will be the new default.  DRMetrix looks forward to monitoring more Hispanic networks in 2019.

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What day of the week is it?

Day of Week field has been added to Airing Detail Reports in AdSphere!

Speaking of Airing Detail reports, forget about manually downloading them! Did you know you can automate the monitoring and reporting of airing details for multiple brands / creatives with our AVS™ system? Now you can create a powerful BI dashboard to provide your clients with an unprecedented view of their competition. Discover the AVS™ API that makes it possible to create REAL TIME competitive tracking solutions.  AdSphere™ clients, ask us about AVS™ and get started today for free!

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Important Update to Retail Reporting from AdSphere

Effective immediately, the AS SEEN ON TV retail reports (both online and email variations) will only include product brands that disclose the product price and provide an 800 and/or web address for ordering.

Direct response campaigns that do not disclose the retail price of the product will be categorized as lead generation and will no longer appear on the “retail” reports.

Short form product and lead generation campaigns can be ranked separately or together using the online AdSphere system which provides for unlimited ranking positions.

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“Thank you” for another great year!

 

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The largest lead generation scandal in history

This is an awkward subject to write about because it really has nothing to do with DRMetrix.  That said, I feel it’s appropriate to make a public statement to the industry before this story breaks on national television.

Back in 2009, LeadCritic.com broke a story which they called the “Largest Lead Generation Scandal in History”.  I was the founder/CEO of REVShare and Lead Generation Technologies and we found ourselves the victim of various white collar crimes including embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duty, theft of business assets, etc.   A man I had hired, Ed Shin was the mastermind behind these crimes.  Ed was convicted of embezzlement but would end up serving no jail time.  This allowed him to commit his next crime, the murder of Chris Smith.  It took eight years for the murder trial to commence and finally, this last Friday, December 7th, Ed was found guilty of first degree murder, special circumstances for financial gain.  I’m thankful that the jury made the right decision and I pray that Chris’s family gets some small degree of comfort in this verdict.

Until today, I have never written publicly about what happened.   I had met Ed Shin at Church and had gone out of my way countless times to help him and his family.   During the depths of the great recession, Ed had lost his own business and needed a lifeline which I provided, giving him a job at Lead Generation Technologies and a new career path.  Ed once said to me, “Joseph, I have never met a person who has been willing to help me and who has made such a positive impact in my life.  I don’t know how to repay your kindness.”

Chris Smith was also hired to work as a consultant for Lead Generation technologies.  Ed conspired to start a competing business, 800xChange, which the embezzlement funded.  The two men collaborated in the formation of 800xChange and were having success but also facing a lawsuit from our company.   Ed was convicted of embezzlement.  In 2010, things took a shocking turn when Ed killed Chris during a fight in their offices.  Ed then disposed of the body and tried to cover up the murder.  Unbelievably, he then stole Chris’s digital identify emailing Chris’s family and friends for months making them believe that Chris was still alive on an exotic vacation.

Back nine years ago, when this story first unfolded, OC Weekly wrote a respectable article.   More recently, as the trial date approached, Gentlemen’s Quarterly wrote one of the most in-depth articles to date.  The story has also been covered by People Magazine and countless other regional and national media.  After the conclusion of the murder trial, Dateline NBC aired a two hour special on Friday 12/14/18.  The TV Show – A Lie To Die For debuted their story on 8/19/19.  ABC’s 20/20 is also working on a report that is expected to air in 2019.

Aspects of what Ed Shin did back in 2009 took a toll on my family and also on my professional life.  As I have worked to pick up the pieces and remake my professional career, I am grateful for all of the support of my industry peers over these past few years.  As hurtful as this experience has been, I refuse to let people like Ed break my spirit and destroy my trust in people.

I wish all of my industry friends a blessed holiday season and much success in 2019!

Warmest Regards,

Joseph Gray

Update 7/26/2019 – After a number of delays, Shin’s sentencing hearing finally took place today.  It was reported that Shin made the following statement to the judge, “Show me no mercy.  All I have to give for my sins is my life and the court should take it.”  The judge came back and gave Shin – Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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