YouTube is currently the most popular platform for video content. So, it’s no surprise that when Instagram released IGTV, its stand-alone app for long-form vertical video, everyone’s first reaction was to compare the two. And YouTube pretty much always came out on top.
However, in the past year, YouTube has been under fire for brand safety issues. In fact, there was a point when 250 brands stopped advertising on YouTube at the same time in order to protect their assets and brand image. To date, many advertisers still believe that YouTube has done a poor job of preventing its advertisers’ brand safety issues, even though they have gotten better at the response.
This led us to host a panel discussion on October 4th to ponder a key question: With YouTube in its most vulnerable state, and given its ongoing brand safety concerns, is it IGTV’s time to steal advertisers away?
The discussion, entitled “Instagram TV vs. YouTube: Who Will Win the War?”, was moderated by Kerry Flynn of Digiday. The panel consisted of five advertising experts: Kaydee Bridges, VP of Digital & SM Strategy at Goldman Sachs, Elijah Harris, VP, and Head of SM, US at Reprise Digital, Noah Mallin, Managing Partner at Wavemaker North America, Brittany Richter, VP and Head of SM, US at iProspect, and myself.
The discussion offered three key takeaways:
1. YouTube still wins the popular vote.
The majority of panelists agreed that brands interested in video content should be on YouTube rather than Instagram’s IGTV. They pointed out YouTube’s benefits: It’s cheaper, long-form content performs better on YouTube, and it’s better for sharing. Elizabeth Richter, iProspect’s Head of U.S. Social Media, offered a different point of view, arguing that Instagram may work for some brands: “If a brand is struggling with their messaging, or just getting started, Instagram’s IGTV is best because they can experiment with different brand messages and see how consumers respond,” she commented.
2. Instagram’s IGTV is transforming and expanding in promising ways.
For Elijah Harris of Reprise Digital, the early IGTV experience was underwhelming. Its focus was to share long-form content from those he followed on Instagram – something he didn’t enjoy. However, Harris added that the platform currently offers more opportunities worth exploring, raising his confidence in its potential for the future.
3. Instagram’s IGTV isn’t quite ready to compete with the big boys.
Elijah Harris suggested that, if it wants to compete with YouTube, IGTV needs meta tags and better discoverability. To go up against Snapchat, he added, it needs curated content and multi-channel network (MCN) participation.
Noah Mallin of Wavemaker believes that, to compete with Snapchat, IGTV needs “breakout content,” even suggesting that it might fill the void left by the demise of Vine. (“I’m still mourning it,” he confessed). Mallin added that YouTube is “stuck in desktop mode” and must quickly adapt for mobile users.
The consensus was clear. IGTV wants to be the most popular platform for video content. However, it still has a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps Instagram will take note of our panel discussion, and we’ll see a more mature IGTV before we know it.
In today’s crowded digital advertising landscape, consumer attention is a much sought-after currency. The question is: Do consumers respond better to quantity or quality of advertising? I’d make the argument for the latter and many of my industry peers agree. Compelling, informative and relevant ad content – the non-interruptive kind — is what matters the most in gaining consumer attention.
Granted, the six-second video ad (blink and you’ll miss it) came into vogue at the beginning of 2017 when YouTube/Google showcased their best quickie video ads at Sundance, encouraging more brands and agencies to adopt this “snackable” format. The rationale was that consumers’ attention is so fragmented that advertisers need to pick up the pace to keep them engaged.
However, there’s a better case to be made for longer-form advertising that is well-targeted and brings value to the viewer or reader.
I had the privilege to speak on a panel on October 2 during New York’s Advertising Week called If Attention is the Currency for Advertising—What does it take to get More? My co-panelists were engaging executives from digital advertising company Acuity, creative agency BBDO and Prudential Financial.
Among us the feeling was mutual—quality matters more than quantity and giving more control to the user is paramount in gaining their attention.
Compelling, Long-Form Creative Works
There were some great examples of compelling long-form campaigns offered by my fellow panelists. I’ll choose one here: Anna Papadopoulos, VP of Advertising at Prudential described the financial company’s latest TV campaign, “The State of Us,” which included 30, 60, and 90 second commercials centered around its retirement planning services in which real people —not actors — were featured talking about their financial futures. She pointed out that “the magic about the campaign is that it wasn’t about Prudential. It was about people’s stories.”
I shared with the group one of my favorite examples of long-form sponsored content — The New York Times Magazine’s audio podcast that launched in September (to accompany its annual “Voyages” photo essay issue). The audio content was described as a “soundscape ecology project” allowing listeners to hear real sounds of moving lava in Hawaii or bats in Mozambique, for example. GE sponsored this engaging content. This qualifies as an advertising coup in my opinion because as a consumer, I enjoyed the audio so much I actually remembered who the advertiser was!
Consumers Appreciate Native Advertising
Our panel discussion also revolved around native advertising, another long form approach. I know from experience that consumers look at native ads 53% more than display ads and native ads create an 18% increase in purchase intent. It just stands to reason. If the sponsored content that is surfaced is based on reader interests and preferences, it is way more likely to capture their attention.
What’s noteworthy is that non-social native works best. eMarketer recently found that consumers trust information from advertisers on publishers’ sites 24.4% more than on social media platforms, and 69% trust publisher site ads while only 54% trust social platform ads.
Let’s not forget that context always matters. If someone is reading a news article, they are probably more disposed to reading another article that is recommended to them (even if it’s sponsored). A more natural content experience that seamlessly integrates into the media that users are already consuming has to be more attention-grabbing.
Want Attention? Give Users Control
The panelists agreed that we need to give consumers a greater sense of control. Are your videos fully opt-in? (This means no sound and no motion unless the reader proactively opens it.) If the video automatically starts playing, most people tend to “click to skip.”
However, if the advertiser allows the user to choose to open the video, it could be 6 seconds, 30 seconds, or 60 seconds. It becomes less about short attention spans and more about earning the right attention with the right people that will actually drive good content experiences, and hopefully, conversions.
Overall, advertising should be less about the brand, the agency, or the technology company, and more about what will resonate with the consumers viewing the ad. After all, in the words of digital analyst Brian Solis, “attention is a precious commodity.”
It’s difficult for any piece of news to rise above the cacophony of our current political discourse. So give yourself a pass if you missed this recent advertising industry coverage that involved the FBI and subpoenas. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI has issued subpoenas Havas for issues related to rebates and transparency.
Industry publications rushed to provide their take on the news:
Even for a relatively high profile industry category like advertising — which is second only to Hollywood for its number of awards shows and overall narcissism — this kind of news serves as high drama. And the stakes are high, particularly given whispers of sex worker allegations and the Cambridge Analytica mess.
Contrary To The Adage, All PR Is Not Good PR
The current attacks on U.S. intelligence agencies notwithstanding, FBI investigations are generally regarded as credible. (Why else would they allocate scarce resources to them?). And when asked by Congress to report in on its activities, the FBI unsurprisingly points to successful investigations as proof of their worth, using words like “takedown,” “scheme,” and “rampant.”
Needless to say, these kind of investigations create buzz that’s bad for business. This kind of FBI attention from is catnip for industry watchers and general business press alike. This only increases the likelihood of the significant collateral damage, regardless of the investigation’s outcome.
Agencies Scramble To Find New Ways To Make Money
The rebate and transparency issue was outed years ago, and there’s been sort of a slow burn since to address these problems. Along the way, agency executives have slogged through difficult conversations with their peers (and clients) at brands to address questions and explain remedies.
The larger issue is that, even buried in the financials, rebates serve(d) as a profit stream for agencies — an industry that generates income at approximately an average rate of 13%. For comparative purposes, Omnicom generated $2 billion in net income up against $15 billion in sales (13%), while Bristol-Myers Squibb reported $5B in profits on $20B in sales (25%), and Goldman Sachs yielded $11B in earnings on $32B in revenues (34%). By this measure, the agency business is not a particularly attractive category.
That’s not to suggest that potential fraud in advertising is unworthy of examination. Far from it. The U.S. advertising industry topped $200B last year, so just a small percentage of that equates to huge dollars. However, it is nowhere near as profitable as sectors such as financial services or software, where profit margins are 3X compared to advertising.
Systematic and Lingering Implications
The challenges associated with rebates and transparency are grouped, fairly or not, with viewability and fraud (almost exclusively related to digital). These topics have received a good bit of attention in the advertising industry as a whole in recent years, though they’ve not dominated conversations. Of course, there are plenty of other things driving change in the business, from social media and video to influencer marketing and virtual reality, which have been far more interesting for everyone involved.
That’s all about to change, unless the FBI investigation reveals no wrongdoing and the effort is quietly shut down. Not many industry veterans think this is likely, however. In fact, many are preparing for the worst case scenario. An official FBI report, which would most certainly include indictments for most or all of the big agencies, could put the entire industry on its heels for years. And that makes this topic worthy of close attention by industry executives in advertising, publishing, and adtech.
For the first time, spending on digital advertising is greater than television. To experienced advertising professionals, the news didn’t come as a surprise. But its impact is significant for myriad reasons: in 2017, While industry watchers saw this coming for years, it still signifies a monumental shift in the ad business. And all of the players in the ecosystem – brands, agencies and ad tech companies – are scrambling to evolve to accommodate new requirements.
It was with these challenges in mind, and recognizing that digital advertising is now more than 20 years old – IAB/PWC tracks spending to 1996 – that my agency, Anagram, launched in 2015. Our guiding principles from day one have been to focus strictly on programmatic buying. We balance both creative and data inputs in our approach, and embrace transparency. We define requirements based on a campaign’s goals; select the best channels / exchanges / systems for the job; and then execute / monitor / optimize the media buys.
The most significant differences between programmatic and traditional media buying are the reliance on systems and software, amount of performance data available, and an advertiser’s ability to make adjustments on-the-fly (i.e., “mid-flight”). While these options present advertisers with varied new opportunities for performance improvement, they also increase their potential risk exposure by way of wayward spending, fraud, and visibility.
In addition to our guiding principles, we have defined three complementary axioms that continue to govern our company’s direction and behaviors, which we hope will help others better navigate programmatic.
1. ‘Digital-First’ Is No Longer Optional
Based strictly on costs, implementation speed, and flexibility, a ‘digital-first’ approach is a no-brainer. When comparing TV, print and radio options to digital in each of these areas, digital comes out on top.
But that’s only part of the story. A genuine ‘digital-first’ strategic mindset requires significant cultural and business process implications as well. As corporate brands have worked furiously to embrace this approach, the legacy advertising agency business model has lagged to adjust.
What’s worked for us is that we’ve taken the valuable components of the old ad agency structure – talent and creative chops – and fuse them with new agency requirements (technology, data management, speed-to-market) to establish a stronger foundation. This includes a new way to manage staffing, methodology, and partnerships.
2. ‘Integrated Marketing’ is Easy to Say and Difficult to Realize
Big data, for all of its benefits, has also introduced a litany of challenges into the marketer’s day-to-day activities. While the media landscape has fragmented exponentially over the past decade, it has also created an overflow of data (which has resulted in introducing terms like ‘data lakes’ into the marketer’s lexicon) that requires management and analysis. Additionally, the “big three” issues that have been front-and-center in the digital ad business for several years now – viewability, fraud, and transparency – are now on the radars of non-marketing executives. So, marketers must be prepared to involve CEOs and even CEOs in big data discussions.
One way to tackle these “omni-channel” (another popular buzzword) challenges is through integrated analytics dashboards. But these require the incorporation of data from “walled gardens” like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. While difficult to acquire and organize, once wrangled, provide a vital component to solutions that help create an orderly view of the world, and simplify analysis and marketing mix allocations.
3. If You’re Not Confused, You’re Not Paying Attention
While market consolidation in the marketing technology is inevitable – according to one estimate there are more than 5,000 companies in the category – it’s not going to happen in a meaningful way for several years, or perhaps even a decade. For every mammoth, deep-pocketed concern like Adobe, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, there are hundreds of pesky (and often well-funded) startups flooding the market. It is critical not only to rely on a trusted suite of proven technologies to deliver client solutions, but also to constantly evaluate new market entrants, because this market moves fast.
Long-Term Keys to Success: Focus & Adaptability
I’m proud of the progress that Anagram has made in the few short years since our inception. But I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. Staying committed to the core plan, while at the same time being flexible to accommodate evolving marketing conditions, will be an ongoing challenge. But we believe this is how all agencies will need to operate in order to thrive in the new marketing environment. Buckle up!
About the author
Adam Cahill is the President of Digilant US and CEO of Anagram, a Boston-based programmatic agency. A 20-year veteran of the digital industry, he went allin on programmatic in 2009, launching one of the first agency trading desks. Before joining Digilant, Adam founded Anagram, a digital media consultancy built for the modern marketing era. Previously, he served as Chief Digital Officer at Hill Holliday and SVP/General Manager of Carat in Boston. Adam has been named a Media All-Star by Adweek, a Media Maven by the Ad Club, and has led teams that have twice been named Media Agency of the Year.
For more than a decade now, users of social media platforms and internet services have been providing personal data to companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! in exchange for free services like online communities, email, and storage space. The value proposition is straightforward: We give the companies some personal information – name, birthdate, and where we live – and permission to track our activity when using said services, and they let us use their software. In turn, this data drives advertising models. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much.
However, several high profile events over the past couple of years – some directly related to web services, others on the periphery – have presented potential threats to this seemingly too-good-to-be true business model. Take your pick of which event might have raised your ire, as there’s something for everybody: Cambridge Analytica’s hacking of 50+ million Facebook accounts to support its efforts during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections (followed by the hacking of its entire user population); Yahoo’s admission in late 2017 of a massive breach of its 3 billion user base; or the Equifax compromise that affected 300+ million accounts, which the company is still trying to sort out, a year after its announcement. These followed other newsworthy problems in the mid-2010s involving household brands like eBay and Target, which themselves followed the TJX credit card breach, which involved about 45 million records.
Though, of course, 0we can’t predict the next meaningful breach, the past decade or so tells us that we’ll experience a least a couple each year for the foreseeable future. Hackers are an ingenuitive bunch, apparently. The motivation behind the efforts range from the acquisition of political power to greed and just plain hooliganism. For advertisers, though, the big question is: Do consumers care enough about these threats to change their behavior?
Is There a Shift In Consumer Behavior Underway?
According to new research from Pew Research Center, we could be seeing signs of shifting consumer behavior. According to its survey from June, more than half of respondents said they’d adjusted their Facebook privacy settings over the previous year, while 4-in-10 said they’d taken a break of “several weeks or more” from the app, and a not insignificant 25% said they’d deleted the app from their cellphones.
As a snapshot, these results are noteworthy, but not shocking. (And it’s too early to tell if they signal a larger trend.) Facebook seems to be approaching market saturation in the U.S., while the coveted teen demographic is using Instagram and Snapchat more frequently. It stands to reason that more experienced users are likely to tinker with privacy settings, as well as occasional bouts of abstinence.
(Weep not for Facebook or proclaim its impending demise. In the last reported quarter, it added an average of 22 million new users every day.)
It Probably Doesn’t Matter Much For Advertisers, At Least Not In The Short Term
While we may be seeing signs of Facebook user behavior evolution, most constraints on consumer data availability in the short term will be driven primarily by government regulations or self-policing actions by Facebook/Google/Yahoo/Verizon. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law enacted over the summer is the most obvious example of government involvement, which caused genuine angst among American companies, and instigated modifications and new ideas. It doesn’t seem like U.S. lawmakers will follow suit in the foreseeable future. This is due in equal parts to a lack of understanding of the issues, an administration that espouses deregulation, and attention to a litany of more pressing issues.
More practically, most companies outside of the largest 100 U.S. advertisers or so aren’t pressing for more consumer data. Indeed, they aren’t able to convert much of the existing available data to actionable marketing strategies. Weaponizing big data requires major investments in systems and resources that are beyond the reach of small and mid-sized companies. (And the scope of data currently being captured is genuinely mind-boggling.)
The Bottom Line
Given that brands have more consumer data available to them than most can practically deploy for advertising purposes, changes in consumer behavior in response to data breaches like the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica kerfuffle are unlikely to meaningfully impact marketing strategies for the foreseeable future. However, while consumers have historically demonstrated an extraordinary threshold for what they are willing to provide in exchange for free goods and services – and this premise is effectively the lifeblood of companies like Google and Facebook – the combination of high profile breaches, Congressional hearings, and product fatigue could prove to be problematic for the category over the longer term, and it’s certainly something we’ll be watching closely.
Publishers keep hearing about monetizing their data to drive revenue, but there are many ways to achieve this. Selling data, whether through a data exchange or a private marketplace, is perhaps the most obvious option to increase revenue. But if you’re already taking advantage or not interested in that option, selling your data isn’t the only way to make money with your customer data. In fact, there are many creative ways in which publishers can monetize their data. Here are six opportunities to monetize data – without selling it.
1. Sell Audiences, Not Site-Sections
When you’re collecting data on your readers, you can use that data to make their audiences more sellable to advertisers. By collecting and organizing audience data from across various sites and properties, you can sell audiences instead of pages or site sections.
Say, for instance, you have an advertiser who sells kitchenware. The first place you would think to put those ads would be in the recipes section of your site, since the people who visit that section most likely enjoy cooking. With a data management platform (DMP), however, you could create an audience of users who have a lot of interest in cooking and kitchenware. The you can display those kitchenware ads across your entire site aimed specifically at those users, rather than just in your recipes section.
Since your DMP allows you to access information about your audience’s interests, you could sell ad space to a kitchenware company even if your site has nothing to with cooking, appliances or home goods. A DMP gives you insights into your audience’s interests beyond your specific site, which provides you with the opportunity to work with advertisers you never could before.
2. Increase Average CPMs
If you’re focused on selling ads, increasing the price of each one will obviously help increase your revenue. But how can you do this? Offering advertisers the ability to target their ads to the exact audience they are trying to reach means they will be willing to pay more to reach that engaged audience. Better-targeted audiences are more sellable. When advertisers know they are reaching an engaged audience on your site, they’ll pay more to have their ads there.
3. Expand Your Overall Audience
If you’ve got large advertisers signed on for big targeted campaigns, you need to be able to fulfill those campaign targets. If you’re lacking enough uniques to make the campaign a success, 2nd or 3rd party data may help you expand your targets.
It might seem counterintuitive to pay for data to make money. However, if you’ve got gaps in the data available, you may need to spend more upfront to be able to attract more visitors to your site. More visitors means more impressions, which means more people who see the ads.
4. Get More Subscribers
For subscription-based publishers, reducing churn is of utmost concern. And the key to keeping subscribers engaged is serving the content they want. You can use your DMP to access insights into the characteristics of the people who subscribe to your site. You might find that your regular readers have various interests in common, beyond what you would expect based on the content of your publication. Perhaps, for instance, you run an online golf magazine, so you know your readers are interested in golf. Your data might show you that large portions of your audience are also interested in fine wine, bowling or apparel. By offering content that fits your readers’ interests, you can keep them engaged and coming back for more. Alternatively, you can essentially become a marketer yourself by promoting your content to people who are most likely to engage. From the previous golf example, this might include targeting golf fans on wine sites or pages to bring them back to your pages.
5. Reducing Remnant Inventory
Ideally, you’re already selling all of your ad space as premium inventory. However, that often doesn’t happen. It’s possible, though, to convert more of your remnant inventory to premium, which leads to a substantial increase in ad revenue. As the value of your ad space, and the value of your website as a whole, go up, your inventory will sell faster and for high prices. As a result, more of it will be considered premium.
Data is what drives this increase in value. With data, you can sell audiences rather than sections of your site and reach advertisers you wouldn’t otherwise sell to without audience data. This boosts the overall value of your site to advertisers and puts your ad space in higher demand, making it easier to sell ad space. As a result, you’re able to sell more space as premium rather than remnant.
6. Customizing Content
Your editorial team probably has a pretty good grasp on the type of content that performs best on your sites. And as the old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if you’re looking to keep visitors on your site longer, you’ll need to offer them content recommendations that match their interests, so that they can view more content and see more ads.
Once again, the data can guide you by revealing what kinds of content are performing the best with your audience. Your data will tell what a particular reader’s interests are, allowing you to show them content that deals with those interests. If they read a lot about fashion, for instance, you would serve them content related to fashion.
Data is powerful. And, if used correctly, it can help you increase your revenue, even without selling it directly. They key is understanding who your readers are, so you can serve them appropriately. Data is a powerful tool. Ensure that you are using it in every way possible to strengthen your revenue streams and improve your site overall.
In just a few years, the number of publishers building out branded content has soared from 15 to more than 600—and counting. But it’s not just their ranks that have grown. Many publishers have expanded their capabilities, harnessing teams, talent and tech to help brands create sponsored content and capture audiences. The New York Times has gone one better, establishing T Brand, a complete content studio, to create unconventional immersive and artistic projects that go far beyond native advertising.
Through the strategic acquisitions of Hello Society, an influencer marketing agency, and Fake Love, a design-driven agency specialized in one-of-a-kind live experiences, T Brand has also nurtured new expertise in video, 360-degree filming, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Here, Peggy Anne Salz – mobile analyst and Content Marketing Strategist at MobileGroove – catches up with Graham McDonnell, International Creative Director for T Brand Studio, to discuss the company’s mission to create dynamic and innovative content with a decidedly human touch.
PAS: T Brand is leveraging its tech abilities and acquisitions, but it also benefits from audience trust in The New York Times. How do you make the most of both without blurring the lines between content you create for your brand partners and editorial content?
GM: There is quite a clear divide between the newsroom and advertising; it’s very much church and state. We obviously can’t use journalists from the newsroom. However, the studio is staffed with fully qualified journalists, many of whom have come from our competitors. So, we have the strength of a newsroom, in integrity, and talent, and we leverage this for our advertisers. We also maintain a high standard for our audience. After all, the audience coming to The New York Times expects New York Times journalism and content. So, it’s expected that our branded content should hit those heights as well.
It’s also very important to identify branded content as a piece of advertising content. As soon as an audience feels duped or tricked into reading branded content it will lose trust in the publisher and—ultimately—in the brand. Our most common branded content pieces are labeled “paid posts.” Traditionally, that post was a destination. So, it was a URL that readers could visits via our website or via our app—content that was paid, posted and lived indefinitely. The aim was to make that content accessible to audiences. We still make branded content a destination. But we also make it a journey because getting eyeballs on a page isn’t enough. We’ve started to add what we call “branded footers” to each piece of sponsored content we produce. This way, when a user is finished consuming a piece of content, we offer the opportunity to continue that conversation outside our paid-post environment.
PAS: Branded content is a major revenue driver for publishers, but not all publishers have been able to get brands to buy in for the longer term. How can publishers make that connection?
GM: Storytelling is what we as humans do and relate to—going back to cave paintings and hieroglyphics. Storytelling is an intrinsic part of our human nature and the best branded content taps into that. The best stories come when publishers partner with the client and dig deep into the story the brand wants to tell. You want to nail the narrative first, and you want to think about the execution second. It’s important to tell a human story, one that’s relatable for the audience, and not get ahead of yourself by trying to figure out if VR, for example, might be the best way to tell the story. This is a point many brand marketers forget and it’s up to the publisher to remind them. No one knows their business better than our clients, but no one knows our audience better than us. Put the two together, and that’s when you get the best—and most sustainable—results.
It’s all about the ability to marry the storytelling expertise of the in-house team with the advertiser’s goal to address its audience and express its point of view. So, brands come to us with their brand message and they look to us to position that message within a story that will resonate with our audience. Of course, brands will push hard to put their message first. It’s up to the publisher to push back and put the storytelling first.
PAS: Does it requires some “tough love” to strike a balance between the two?
GM: Yes, and that’s what will drive results. For example, some clients come to us and say they want AR or VR. They want all the bells and whistles and all the flashy toys. But we tell them it’s much more important to think about the story first and then how to tell it. Even in the word ‘storytelling,’ the story comes before the telling. This means taking a step back to think about the type of story your audience will want to engage with, not the tech you’ll need to tell it.
We were one of the first content studios. So, over time, we have found what works, and what doesn’t. Over time we’ve seen that we have much more time spent on our content than on the content given to us by brands. Sure, we get brands coming to us saying, you know, “We have got this video of our CEO. He’s very engaging. It’s 32 minutes long. We just want to put it and you don’t need to do anything with it. Just put it on and people will love it.” My response is, “No, that might not be the best idea.” You have to put the brand message in a story people will like – one that will take them on a journey not blast them with details and stats.
PAS:What is the best way to tell brand stories?
GM: There’s a simple sort of formula that all good stories follow called the narrative arc. The first thing you do is introduce an element, usually a character, that the audience likes and is emotionally invested in enough to care what happens to this person. Then you present a problem or a hurdle, some sort of challenge that must be overcome. Finally, you reveal the outcome, some kind of goal or reward. The brand message is an integral part of the story, but it shouldn’t be too obvious. Just like parents who convince their children to eat vegetables by hiding it the food kids are sure to like, branded content blends the brand story within the story—because these are the things you want your audience to digest. Making the brand message part of the storytelling makes it much more palatable. Once you’ve got the story, then you think about the execution.
The biggest trap content marketers fall into is trying to tick all the boxes. Sometimes they are pushed by their brand clients, and other times they are pushed by their own ambitions. They put together a package of four videos, three infographics and loads of cool stuff for impact across every channel. Without a strong narrative to link each piece to the next the outcome is a Frankenstein monster of fragmented content. We have found it’s more effective to limit yourself to telling very focused stories.
PAS:It’s clear that branded content has to be emotive, but it must also be effective. How do accomplish and measure this?
GM: The best results come when you have a deep partnership with the advertiser and a deep understanding of how audiences engage with content. Knowing the time of day people are consuming content on their devices is an important data point. It’s part of a larger, much more data-driven approach to know when to serve the right content at the right time. Targeting context increases engagement. If you have created a data-heavy infographic that is best consumed on the desktop or tablet, then there’s really no point in serving that during commuting times when most users will be viewing their mobile feeds and devices.
We’ve also found that around three-quarters of our programs have dwell times above the Moat benchmarks for audience attention. So, not only are we getting people to visit our content; we know they are staying to engage with it. Moreover, a vast majority of our programs surpass the Moat benchmark for scroll depth. This means they are scrolling down and exploring the content. We have succeeded in building a narrative arc that offers a reward well worth the audience’s time and attention. You’ve really done your job if you can bring rather drab content to life and a great example of this is when a client wanted us to help promote a white paper. We decided to do it in a quiz format that would draw the reader into the content. We had seven questions and after every question they asked, we gave them a little snippet of content, a statistic related to the answer they just gave. It was a reward scheme, and it worked—showing that it’s a very underused tactic but effective tactic to keep people engaged.
PAS: The international arm of the T Brand Studio is perhaps best known for its award-winning campaign for UBS, highlighting AI and what it takes to be human. The native advertising included a chat bot, a five-chapter article and a documentary-style video, surpassing target reach and engagement metrics. Another more recent campaign for Kia brought the Cadenza model to life in a series of live events. Should traditional creative advertising agencies feel nervous?
GM: As I said earlier, the best content comes from partnership. We don’t usually offer our services like an off-the-shelf product; we build a relationship with the client to tell a story in the way our New York Times audience expects it to be told. It’s not a case of jumping in on every brainstorm or every RFP; it’s a case of looking at what the client wants to achieve and answering the brief with a strong journalistic approach because that’s our strength. A lot of the time we’ll partner with other agencies when we create content for brands. We’ve also worked in tandem with other publishers on certain program to suit the needs of the client. The industry is moving fast and getting faster. Therefore, it’s important we all learn from each other, not fight against each other for first place. The bar for branded content is high—and so are audience expectations.
As of May 25, 2018, Google announced that DoubleClick users will be unable to rely on cookies or mobile device IDs to connect impressions, clicks and site activities from DoubleClick logs. Instead, they will be limited to Google’s own Ads Data Hub for those metrics.
For some, this means that they are satisfied to stay within the Google stack. But not every brand’s solution will be and should be limited to Google. If media buyers want to analyze their spend outside of Google’s platform and offer up any attribution, then just using Google won’t work.
This means advertisers will have access only to their own data, and data Facebook collects itself. If an advertiser wants to pull campaign-level insights to inform future campaigns, or use the data for the basis of an attribution model, then they are out of luck.
Introduction of Data Clean Rooms
Data clean rooms allow large inventory partners like Facebook and Google to share customer information with brands, while still maintaining strict controls. Data clean rooms were named for the completely airtight rooms where microchips and other sensitive materials get made. In this case, the rooms enable a shared environment between two or more companies that are completely secure from external access (no wifi), and where each company decides the level of visibility to their data. This eliminates – or severely restricts – the possibility of data leakage (which is what happened with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica).
“We and a partner combine a data set with very specific rules and controls around how each party can operate within the shared environment,” said Scott Shapiro, a product marketing director for measurement at Facebook, who noted thatFacebook didn’t invent the clean-room concept.
The driving force behind the concept is to create a safe space where data can be shared and manipulated without leaving the inventory partner’s environment. Specifically for Facebook, a brand can create anaudience based on first-party data – like a list of email addresses – and then push that list into Facebook, match it, and grab a copy which they can later combine with their data as the basis for attribution, measurement, and modeling.
How it happens in reality is that an advertiser will load a clean or wiped laptop or device that has never been connected to the Internet with that advertiser’s first party data, which in most cases is an email list. A second clean computer is loaded by Facebook or Google with impression-level and non-personally identifiable information (“PII”) campaign data.
Maybe, The Answer to Scaling The Walled Gardens?
For advertisers with reams of data and substantial programmatic advertising budgets, this is a great opportunity to scale the otherwise elusive walled gardens. Data clean rooms create a safe environment for data providers to share marketing information that brands need and crave to model future media buys and advertising strategies. If managed properly, with appropriate methods and standards, this technique would allow brands to really understand their walled-garden ad spends within the larger marketing ecosystem. For both advertisers and publishers alike, the stakes are high in the post-GDPR world of data governance, and there is no room for unintended data sharing because consequences are severe.
Marketers have been eager to get more insights out of Facebook and other walled gardens, but it remains to be seen how aggressively brands and agencies will use data clean rooms to make the most of the spending with the largest inventory providers (e.g., Google, Facebook).
There are two prevailing views for what the future holds:
Glass half-empty: These same inventory providers lack a compelling incentive to play well with others in clean rooms, beyond delivering another level of customer service in a marketplace they continue to dominate.
Glass half-full: It’s been a daunting year or more for the industry category, with virtually continuous coverage related to privacy violations, bad actors influencing politics, and fraud and transparency challenges. The ‘clean room’ concept may be a half-step that the duopoly can get behind, if only as a signal of good faith to the industry.
There is also the overriding issue of what kind of manpower (likely significant) would be involved to make the clean room option a viable reality. The usefulness of data in this kind of an environment may also be somewhat limited No matter, though: The data clean room concept is one that’s getting some attention. And, considering its appeal among the dearth of options out there that seem appealing to all the affected players – brands, agencies and inventory providers – it could be one that ends up getting traction.
About the author
Karen Moked is the Vice President of Marketing at Digilant, a programmatic media company in Boston. A veteran of the advertising and technology industries, she previously worked for Akamai and O’Reilly Media. Karen is a graduate of MBA-ESG in Paris and York University in Toronto. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ensuring the high-quality of inventory across the PubMatic platform, as it flows from sellers to buyers, requires strong policy, which standardizes compliance enforcement and operational coordination across account teams so that we spot issues early and often. It also requires a strategic focus on identifying what lies ahead for quality.
I’d like to share my thoughts on a few growing trends I expect to see regarding inventory quality. These views come from an amalgamation of inputs: my 10 years of experience in managing inventory quality, the signals and other clues arising from my daily quality operational work, and deep-dive investigations. Buyers have shifted their emphasis to quality and are focused on working with other quality-centric professionals across the industry.
Here are three major inventory quality trends:
Over-Reliance on Fraud Detection Technology
The industry has clearly spoken – third-party fraud detection is now considered “table stakes” for any large player, buyer or seller, in the digital advertising ecosystem. Though fraud detection vendors play an important role in helping to identify and avoid invalid traffic (IVT), I would advise treating this service as one tool among others to help improve quality.
No vendor measures quality the same way, yet many of them share the same MRC certification for Sophisticated IVT (SIVT). PubMatic uses a combination of IAS and White Ops to monitor invalid traffic rates and identify problematic pockets of inventory. However, many buyers use different fraud detection vendors and they may report very different results for the same inventory. These variances can be explained by unique proprietary methodology and differences in sampling where one vendor may look at a completely different subset of the same inventory vs. another vendor.
For example, if “Buyer A” is reporting their inventory is 100% IVT, while PubMatic’s White Ops reporting is showing 1%, the promise of fraud detection technology as a standalone method to identify non-human traffic breaks down. Yet, when stepping back and viewing fraud detection as a starting point, conflicts between buyers and sellers are more likely to come to an agreement. I believe this because both parties can recognize that even with big differences in fraud reporting, a deep-dive investigation will uncover other signals that likely support one report or the other.
In this specific example, I may find other evidence supporting the buyer’s claim and could come to a mutually agreeable conclusion (e.g. refund, blacklisting, termination of supplier, etc.). However, as often as not, my investigation might raise no other red flags to indicate poor inventory, and thus I would propose limiting access to that inventory for this buyer.
Growing Importance of Content and Audience
GDPR has impacted the ability of marketers to fully utilize the targeting potential of cookies and audience profiles in EMEA due to the regulatory changes in consent and privacy. One could argue GDPR is a direct consequence of the rise of ad tech and the lack of self-regulation concerning how the data of consumers are used in the targeting of advertising. Therefore, it is not unlikely that similar consumer data privacy and consent laws will spread around the globe. This will further reduce the efficacy of cookies and precipitating the return of contextual targeting for online advertising.
What does this mean? An increased focus on the quality of content—addressing fake news and brand safety concerns—as well as the quality of the audiences who consume this content as important quality trends in the marketplace.
Recognizing the importance of content and audience to buyers, PubMatic evaluates domains and apps not only on the level of IVT but also on the value of the audience and originality of the content. For instance, an organic, loyal audience is preferred to consumers acquired from other sources. We also avoid content farms and look-a-like sites that exist only as a necessary backdrop to sell ad impressions.
While ads.txt is a valuable tool to combat domain spoofing, it provides no inherent protection against IVT (bots and fraud). Further, it does not guarantee the quality of a domain’s content and audience. For example, a domain created solely for the purpose of driving bot and/or acquired traffic through pages filled with content stripped from other sources can have an ads.txt file, but still be a bad source of inventory.
Thus, working with a whitelist of trusted domains is the single best practice for both buyers and resellers of inventory. Being familiar with the domains on which ads are running, and avoiding all other domains, is the best prevention.
I strongly suspect that most of the behavior leading to poor quality inventory comes from the point where money changes hands—the domains and apps where advertising is consumed. By wisely choosing which domains to work with and working with only whitelisted domains, many quality issues will be avoided entirely. Alternatively, when a small group of domains isn’t enough to meet inventory requirements, working with trusted partners can also provide improved inventory quality and improved brand safety.
Marketing professionals, sales teams, and business owners are constantly chasing new audiences to target. This is only natural, as the more your grow your business and the more customers you reach, the greater your success. It is the core element of all business: the need to achieve stronger and greater consumer support.
But we all know that it’s not a “piece of cake” targeting new audiences, especially when they are beyond who you normally encounter or engage with. There are a lot of unknowns in increasing your audience targeting size. And marketers and publishers need to evolve with the technology around them.
While Lookalike modeling isn’t a term that is new to the marketing technology industry, it is still widely misunderstood. It is a tool that has been used by companies to expand their digital audiences while maintaining clear and relevant targeting practices. This piece will take a look into what Lookalike modeling is, how it works, and why it is so important for advertising campaigns.
What is Lookalike Modeling?
If you are looking to increase your targeting efforts with high performing audiences, the answers don’t lie in a mass chain of random messaging to consumers who have zero interest in your product. Instead, your focus should lie on your high performing audiences. What is it about your highest performing audiences that set them apart from the rest? Do they have common interests? Are they from the same geographic area? The best way to acquire new, high performing visitors is to focus on users who resemble your existing visitors, the users who have already shown an interest in your product or service.
Lookalike modeling is a process that utilizes machine learning to statistically analyze a given seed audience (already high-performing audience), identifying the demographics, characteristics, and different combinations of those and other data points. This creates new audiences composed of users that match these learned insights, which are continually updated.
For example, let’s say you’re are hoping to target people who are more likely to click on your ad or watch your video. Lookalike modeling uses machine learning to find more users who will take that specific action. This means your campaigns can scale to reach more people, with a high engagement rate.
How does Lookalike Modeling work?
Let’s say you are a clothing brand looking to boost online purchases for an upcoming sale. The first step would be to place a pixel – a small segment of tracking code – on your purchase confirmation page. This will allow you to track the behaviors of purchasers – during the current sale – as they move throughout the web.
The demographic and behavioral data points of anyone who completes a sale and makes it to the confirmation page can be ingested into a DMP platform and analyzed to identify which behaviors and patterns are most common among the audiences. Once those customer characteristics and data points are identified, you can use them create your new seed audience and ultimately engage with an even greater target audience.
It’s a truly incredible process that uncovers the hidden attributes that can optimize your performance for future campaigns. Icing on the cake? It’s all done in a centralized platform.
Why Use Lookalike Modeling?
Well, I guess the question would be, “Why not”? As an advertiser, when consumers within a specific audience converts, it’s a fulfilling feeling. And while you want to hold on to that high performing target audience, you still want to ensure you are growing your brand following.
By using a lookalike modeling tool, it helps you to identify a larger pool of possible customers. You can use the tool to seek audiences with behaviors that match up to your target audience, and so you have a greater chance to convert them. It’s essentially the same as building a robust profile of existing customers, only you are doing it for the audiences you have yet to reach out to and engage with.
In summary, Lookalike Modeling offers marketers and publishers a valuable approach to reaching new or current consumers in a cost-effective way, ultimately helping companies to grow the scope and reach of their businesses. Why not take advantage of your already high performing audiences and increase your brand awareness? As the industry continues to look for new and innovative ways to reach new consumers, lookalike modeling will help marketers stay true to their core and use what they already know to improve campaign success.
It’s a message we’ve been hearing percolate through the industry now for years: programmatic is the future of advertising. Brands, in search of more control over their media buying activity, have embraced technology-based approaches that promise efficiency, precision, flexibility, and superior ROI. Warts and all — and there are plenty, ranging from flat-out false value propositions to rampant fraud and monopolistic marketplace control by actor behaving badly — programmatic is here to stay.
Media planners and buyers have arrived at this conclusion, however begrudgingly. But other participants in the advertising ecosystem — designers, copywriters, developers, and publishers — are wading into programmatic territory in earnest now as well. Here’s what they need to know about programmatic.
Audiences Increasingly Rely on Programmatic-Driven Experiences
Digital users — across desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones — increasingly expect tailored experiences, from both independent and sponsored content. And the most the efficient way to deliver custom experiences is via programmatic platforms.
For progressive advertising professionals, this is a welcomed opportunity (more on that later). Technology companies and developers benefit from this market evolution via an increased need for their solutions and services. Publishers, however, don’t have much of a choice in this regard. In order to encourage engagement, and minimize the deployment of inhibitive tools such as ad blockers, user experience must be a paramount consideration. Content providers that deliver optimal UX — which includes unobtrusive but effective advertising, such as native tactics — will win in the long run.
Dynamic Ad Creative Is a Genuine Game-Changer
One of the underlying historical maxims of the ad business has been its aim to distribute messages “to the right person, at the right time, at the right cost.” Though this has typically been more aspirational than realistic (and a regular source of frustration for creative professionals in particular) technology-enabled advertising does genuinely provide the opportunity for more specific customization.
To be sure, as a broader umbrella category, “digital marketing” was a step in the right direction on the road to customization (and what will eventually be widespread “personalization”). But due to a combination of hypergrowth conditions and the lack of internal structures to accommodate customization, the industry as a whole has lagged in this regard. As a recent BCG analysis explains, “Within both agencies and publishers, organizational silos with little cross-functional interaction lead to excessive work and rework, including costly handovers, long wait times, and fragmented decision making.”
Programmatic seems poised to serve as the bridge to genuine, industry-wide progress on the customization front. In a few short years, most campaigns will adjust art and messaging to accommodate fluid factors such as time of day, geography, demographics, user interests and behaviors, and the like. This will almost certainly improve campaign performance. It will also impact the underlying cost structure of campaign delivery. This will require more creative labor, for example, so the net ROI effect remains to be seen.
The Programmatic Train Has Left The Station
Like “digital” before it, programmatic will likely lose its specific designation over the next decade, and morph into a marketing channel line item or equivalent. But until it does, it will continue to be popular fodder for industry publications and conferences. And not without good reason. Most estimates peg the U.S. programmatic marketplace in the tens of billions of dollars annually, and growing in the double-digit range. eMarketer sizes the market at $46 billion in 2018, and comprising more than 80% of the entire digital display category, and a major factor in mobile advertising.
That said, in spite of its formidable size and growth forecast, all is not well in the programmatic category, and brands, publishers, and vendors alike are scrambling to address problems related to the big three challenges: fraud, transparency, and viewability. To wit, also according to eMarketer analysis: programmatic growth through 2020 will be driven by “private setups, such as private marketplaces (PMPs) and programmatic direct transactions, as buyers continue to be wary of the open markets’ transparency and quality issues”. [Disclosure: DCN is involved in one such marketplace, TrustX.]
It’s both an exciting and terrifying time to be part of the advertising business. Brand, publishers, and agencies alike are scrambling to navigate the constantly shifting terrain that’s characterized by tens of thousands of vendors competing for share and voice. Programmatic is one of the driving forces of disruption and upheaval in our industry today, and will play a big role in shaping the industry for years to come.
About the author
Raquel Rosenthal is the Chief Executive Officer of Digilant US, a programmatic marketing company headquartered in Boston. A digital industry veteran, she’s held various senior positions at Digilant, DataXu, AudienceScience, and DoubleClick. Raquel splits time between Dallas and New York City, and holds a B.S. from Ithaca College.
Media channels, more than ever before, need to develop consumer relationships throughout the funnel. To do this, they must focus on providing trustworthy content relevant to users as well as context relevant to digital advertisers. The fact is that not all content is equally trustworthy. Marketers who use reach and viewability as their key criteria need to factor trust into their media planning equation.
The new edition of Adtrust’s research, The Company You Keep, offers the latest findings about consumers’ trust in media and the impact of context on digital advertising. The study, based on 4,000 Australian adults, measures consumer trust in content and in advertising being carried by the medium. The study measures the influence of the environment on the advertising on it. The greater the trust in content, the greater the trust in ads, the greater the drive for purchase intent. Yes, environment matters.
The study measures the trust net score (TNS). This measures people’s distrust as well as their trust. The score subtracts the number of consumers who do not trust content (or ads) from the proportion that do trust. For example, if 45% of consumers trust radio content and 20% do not, the net trust score for radio content is 25%.
Among all media (online and off), newspapers earn the highest trust net score (TNS) for both content (48%) and ads (38%). Among digital media sites, news sites earn the highest TNS in both trust in content (34%) and trust in ads (23%). Social media sites earn the lowest TNS in both trust in content (-20%) and in trust in ads (-28%). Importantly, consumers’ trust in news media’s content and advertising has continued to increase over previous studies.
The study asks additional trust-oriented questions about Facebook. The social platform is distrusted more now than it was six months ago. In fact, more than half of all Australians (58%) report that they now trust Facebook less than last year. Further, only one in 10 Australian adults (14%) agree that “I trust the information provided in advertising on Facebook.”
The Adtrust research one again finds that trust of the advertising environment, the place where the ads appear, impacts advertising effectiveness and purchase intent. It reiterates the importance of marketers advertising in a clean environment with trusted publishers.