Sunday, February 19, 2017

Programmatic Creative – future of creative?

Read an interesting article that Bloomberg now user programmatic creative. When Bloomberg writes a story about a public company or commodity, it brings market information dynamically into the adjacent Ad. Provides financial information of interest to Bloomberg’s readers in the right rail. Bloomberg’s data is married with an advertiser’s message to drive relevance and Bloomberg does all the work on behalf of the advertisers to eliminate the burden on advertisers to build creative variations; creative variations are built in automatically.
Here’s an example of Ad displayed by Bloomberg’s programmatic creative.

This raises an interesting question about the future of creative in advertising. I did a Google search on the role of creative in advertising and found this description – “Creativity is the soul of advertising and branding. It is what gives life to messages about products and services that may otherwise be boring or insignificant in the hearts and minds of target customers.”. - sounds like something only humans can do. Will programmatic creative change that? Can Programmatic Creative based on Big Data + Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning replace the human creativity in advertising? Can machines one day possess human characteristics like imagination, inspiration and ingenuity and eliminate the human role in creative part of advertising? As I think about this question, I am reminded of some famous quotes from history

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”
 --Dr. Lee DeForest, "Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television."

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
-- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist


YouTube Nixes 30-Second Unskippable Ads

In my blog 4, I wrote about why the current video Ad formats will change to shorter format; I used YouTube as an example and the fact that people don’t like viewing the Ads and usually skip them. Last week YouTube announced that they will nix the 30-second unskippable Ads by 2018 and replace them with shorter format. As much as I would like to claim that my blog influenced YouTube’s strategy change, exploding mobile video viewing is the main driver behind this strategy. Several advertisers have already adopted the short format video Ads; for example, Geico plays a 10 second Ad on YouTube and you see the brand placement immediately. I think Geico’s Ads are very clever, their advertisement actually says that you can’t skip the Ad because the Ad just ended. This is a great example of an advertiser that is aware of the fact that people don’t like to view ads. Most other advertisers on YouTube have not adopted the shorter version and product / brand is not even displayed before people skip the Ad. That’s just a waste of money with no ROI – they still have to pay to YouTube because the Ad was played, but don’t get any ROI because people skipped the Ad and don’t even what the product / brand was.

By 2021 78% of world’s mobile data traffic will be videos. Advertisers and marketing companies that understand that 30 second Ad, as short as it may be, is too long, and quickly adopt the shorter Ad formats like Geico, will benefit the most. 


Consistency across sales, marketing and branding

I am constantly receiving offers from companies via email - 20% off this, free shipping that, etc.  However I am often shocked at how the emails from these companies, while often attractive and perhaps generate positive revenue, are inconsistent with the company's brand.  And over time, if the brand image is sufficiently negatively impacted, the short term benefit of the email marketing campaign will pale in comparison to the damage done.

Just this morning I received an email from Ralph Lauren touting a 65% off sale plus an additional 30% on select items.  This isn't such a luxury brand experience for one of the most expensive clothing companies in the world?

Companies need to take a deeper look at integrating their sales, marketing and branding teams to ensure that there is a consistent strategy across all three.  Without this, the marketing efforts can actually be detrimental to the long term goals of the company.


Snap IPO

Snapchat has been revolutionary in the mobile space, allowing users to integrate disappearing pictures and videos to document their lives.  Because Snapchat has really reinvented the way that cellphone cameras are utilized, and has an incredible first mover advantage, there is considerable opportunity for them to continue growing.  With over 150mm daily users, Snapchat has become a rival to Facebook for advertising dollars with marquis brands finding ways to market their goods and services on Snapchat.

Snapchat has also integrated messing services to increase the time that users spend on the platform, another benefit to advertisers.  Between disappearing pictures, stories and chats, Snapchat has created a unique platform.

One of the risk for advertisers is the same benefit that users appreciate - the disappearing nature.  Advertisers want to quantify the value which is very difficult in a product like Snapchat.  Additionally, Instagram has created a stories feature and upgraded their photo tools to try and compete.  With the backing of Facebook, Instagram will be a real competitor.

As Snapchat raises money through the public markets, it will be very interesting to see how they evolve and can monetize their product further.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Twitter's Trouble

For the first time since the IPO in 2013, Twitter had a decline in ad revenue ($638 million over the holiday quarter vs $641 million over the same period in 2015).  This appears to be part of a growing trend, with slowing ad revenue over the last year.

There is growing competition for ad dollars - Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc, and it looks like Twitter is starting to fall out of favor.  User activity has increased, with increasing time spent and tweet views increasing.  However, advertisers are losing interest in the platform.

Part of the problem is the toxic tone on Twitter - harassment and bullying, that can affect brands hit with negativity.  Twitter is trying to shut down offensive users and prevent them from creating new accounts, while also hiding offensive tweets better.

Interestingly, advertisers say there aren't many positive tweets on Twitter - it's not the kind of place inspiring things brands like, and they end up in that same negative space.  Brands end up in tweet-wars; for instance T-mobile and Verizon had some brief back-and-forth during the Super Bowl about network speeds.
Twitter itself acknowledges the negativity as a major problem.  They now push themselves as a media service, as a way for people to keep up with events.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Does more Facebook help or hurt?

Mark Zuckerberg recently shared a renewed mission statement for Facebook - kind of. He goes into great detail about the reinforced commitment to create a social infrastructure that brings people together and connects the world. He has an emphasis on creating supportive, safe, informed, civically engaged, and inclusive communities within Facebook.
There were many positive reactions and also hesitant/negative reactions to this statement, one of which was done by WIRED. One statement stuck out to me in the WIRED article: "To keep your attention, Facebook tries to figure out what you want and shows you more of it. It’s optimized for engagement...". The WIRED article seemed to think Facebook over-tailored and optimized the content for users and in fact this renewed mission is more challenging to craft than currently stated.

This made me think about our digital marketing class and how many new marketing campaigns are very focused on showing you what you want to see to increase engagement and not necessarily something outside of your comfort zone that would make you think differently about how you use a product or go on your next adventure. I'm curious to see how many marketing campaigns are taking a new approach to gathering users outside of their comfort zone and exposing them to more than just what they want to see.

Mark Zuckerberg's note:

WIRED reaction:


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking for Trump leaker ads on Facebook

Facebook ads are being used for a very specific target audience – people working for certain federal agencies. As the new president continues to lash out on media and intelligence community, Gizmodo Media Group is looking for people to anonymously send tips. Facebook has been running political ads during the election. The goal is for the Facebook ads to steer potential leakers to which shows secure ways of passing sensitive information. Additional physical ad spaces are planning to be bought near the federal agencies the website targets.

These ads are targeting extremely specific segment, who not only has to work in the agencies but also has a level a security clearance to have access to certain information and on top of that be willing to leak it. I imagine success would be defined by even a single digit percentage of conversion rates on leaking classified information. If we remember what happened to Edward Snowden, it would be rather difficult to imagine someone taking such risk, even if the website assures security and anonymity. However, seeing how David Petraeus is being considered for national security adviser with the current administration, there might be less concerns of the consequence which makes the ads effective.


Facebook Video Ads Change

Happy Valentine's Day to Facebook users?  In a new move, Facebook has decided to change the way video content is played on your phone - previously, the videos would play automatically and you would tap the video to hear sound.  Facebook states that is has tested videos playing with the sound on in News Feed and has been hearing positive feedback.  Now, they will be showing videos with sound that fades in and out as you scroll through videos in News Feed.

If your phone is set to silent, you won't hear anything.  Also - you can disable the feature through a "Settings" option also.

Also - vertical video has been changed to appear better on mobile devices and it is also possible to watch a video picture-in-picture at the corner of your screen while you scroll around.

What does this mean? Advertisers, such as Unilever and its agency GroupM, which only buy video ads with the sound on will be more interested in advertising on Facebook videos.

Snapchat has noted that 2/3 of the videos in its app are watched with the sound on, which plays videos with the sound on by default.  Facebook found similar results in its own study: 70% of the time, the viewers left the sound on, including when ads played.


The Future of Digital Ad Formats

Landing on the ESPN homepage today I was served a beautiful, “full bleed” video intensive, evidently custom ad, that canvased most of my laptop screen. After a 15 second play, the ad collapsed, and my usual ESPN homepage user experience resumed. I watched the full ad because it was relevant and was served in a pleasant way that didn’t intrude on my ESPN experience.

The digital ad world has yet to evolve much from the earliest versions of advertising formats, developed when website coding was in its infancy. Since early HTML and Angelfire websites, web design has evolved into much more striking visual appearance, made accessible to the masses by major progress made by site-building services like Wordpress, Wix, and Adobe among others. Within minutes, an amateur can have a website built that looks like it belongs in 2017, with beautiful user experience that translates well to mobile and the remaining tablets out there.

Yet given an option to “monetize” their site, the site builder will pull in a network, usually Google, to serve ad creative that hasn’t changed at all since the infancy of the internet. Appearing awkwardly on the bottom of a glossy new website is typically a standard “banner” ad, usually static, that sits awkwardly on a web design that befits its time period. And these standard banners still comprise the bulk of internet advertising.

This gap in progress between web design, and ad unit incorporation, has resulted in a significant breakdown of digital advertising. The industry will recover once the use of standard banners has hit rock bottom, and networks become capable of running beautiful, video based ads that cover nearly the whole screen but don’t interrupt user experience, in a way similar to the aforementioned ESPN ad (which is clearly a custom job). The industry will evolve to mimic television advertising more than standard display advertising – large video units will proliferate as broadband access becomes cheaper and more accessible, and advertisers will come full circle back to video as being their primary advertising medium, as it was before the internet.


The Pursuit of Effective Email Capture

I read the following article which got me thinking about the most effective way for businesses to capture customer emails.

The premise of the article is that the most common way of collecting a customer's email (enrollment upon checkout) is not a very effective way because the transaction is already complete and we are all increasingly wary of adding another daily email to our inbox just for occasional sales in the future. The article focuses on three strategic ways to capture email that offer more to the consumer:

1) Enter email for free wifi in store. While this may be a good idea in concept, it doesn't seem to be the best area to focus on as we are moving towards a world of unlimited data packages and ubiquitous wifi. It also requires the customer to be focused on his/her phone, enter email etc. Given the cost to the retailer to maintain wifi, this does not seem to be the best option to me

2) Digital Receipts. Again, in concept this seems like a smart idea and I agree that we will eventually move away from paper receipts. However, typing in an email on a small touch screen at POS is still not efficient enough for me to use it. I can see this being the norm as soon as the technology advances enough where people do not have to type in an email at a time when they are frequently just trying to leave the store as soon as possible. In my opinion, this will become very valuable to retailers as soon as it can synced with some form of voice control/scanning/auto-population.

3) Technological Innovations. It was reported today that Warrett Buffett sold off $900m worth of Walmart stock in the last quarter, primarily because of their belief in the future of brick and mortar and Walmart's failure to advance its e-commerce. In my opinion, this pretty much sums it up for the future of conventional brick and mortar retail. Brick and mortar will need to advance its technology to find a middle ground between e-commerce and the in-store experience. An example given is how Crate and Barrel offers its shoppers tablets, with which they can scan items and receive more info (once they enter their email). Although this approach requires a much larger investment on behalf of the retailer, this is where I would focus my efforts (in order to get emails as well as grow sales).


Monday, February 13, 2017

Responsive Ads for Google Display

On January 31, AdWords publishers will no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads for the display network, as Google is encouraging the adoption of responsive ads instead.

To begin with, what are responsive ads?
Responsive ads can automatically adjust themselves to fit into available ad space across GDN, the Google Display Network. The ad’s format, appearance, and content will be tailored to match the look and feel of the web page. Theoretically, this new development means a more naturally and visually pleasing ad experience for the users and better campaign performance for the advertisers.
What are the responsive ads’ main advantages?
  • The “one size fits all” approach spares advertisers time and money since they do not have to create multiple variations of the same ad in different sizes. To set up a responsive ad, you need to upload the assets including the business name, logo, headline, a description, images and a final URL to the AdWords interface. Also, you can customize the URL parameters if you want.
  • Based on the ads’ past performance, Google will optimize the creative assets you have uploaded, so as the ads begin to get more data, you will see the incremental improvements in their performance.
  • Responsive ads are also able to adjust to the type of device used. With the rise of ad inventory available on mobile and tablet devices, ads of this sort will give advertisers more freedom to place their ads and ensure the ads are shown, harmonizing with screen size and page content.
But, everything has two sides; there are also some disadvantages of responsive ads.
  • The advent of responsive ads limits the option available for ad testing. In the past, you could split out the performance by text and image ads and look at metrics for each ad size independently, allowing you to adjust bids for ad formats and optimize the best performing ad sizes. Now, for advertisers, this is no longer possible.
  • Make sure you remember that not all uploaded creative assets will appear when ads are displayed, some elements, such as description or headlines will not be shown, which depends on who Google determine which kind of combination is the best for CTR.
How are they performing so far?
Initially, advertisers witnessed the poor performance of responsive ads when compared with standard ads, but it usually takes about two or three weeks before they start to outperform the old ones.
As stated earlier, Google will optimize responsive ads based on its historical data to obtain more traction. It will usually take the algorithm several weeks to build up performance knowledge. This is also why we run standard and responsive ads simultaneously before ultimately switching to responsive ads.

To conclude, it seems Google has already recognized the need to make Display campaign setup easier for advertisers, as well as the underlying need to create and place ads that harmonize with the look and feel of the webpage on which they are displayed, ensuring a positive and beneficial ad experience for the user.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

How to Win the Inbox in 2017

For email marketers, a new year means a fresh start as well as an opportunity to outperform the year before. However, anyone in the marketing world knows that things change fast, and innovation matters more than anything.
Email has a bad reputation, and most of us regard it as being annoying, static, and boring, which is not true, especially when you look at the ROI charts comparing it to other channels. From that perspective, email is downright sexy, depending on how you practice the email marketing. The secrets are to make it mobile-friendly, animated, and easy to share, and then email can be just as effective as any other channels. Marketers always need to look ahead and get prepared for what is going to come, so there are some tips that you can use to win the inbox in 2017.
1. Interactive email will be appearing everywhere
Simple name personalization and catchy subject lines won’t cut through the clutter and increase the open rate anymore. Customers want to experience more entertaining content from email marketers, and that’s where the interactive email joins in.
Interactive email by definition means adding elements like tabbed menus, collapsible content, image carousels, rollovers and you name it to the content. An email will behave more like an actual website in the inbox, acquiring data about the person who opens and interacts with the email, allowing marketers to know their prospects better and track their behavior. Email of this kind help to provide the data that helps move potential buyers down the sales funnel.
It will take some experimenting to get it right, but you can expect to see more of it in the year ahead, the key to success is testing and optimization.
2. Integrated solutions are necessary
As the demand from customers increases, marketers need to see a full picture of the audience behavior. By adopting the integrated solutions, marketers will save time in their research as well as be able to organize all marketing activities under one umbrella.
A comprehensive technology stack allows marketers to understand how their customers are engaging with the brand across different channels, and to provide critical data that informs how and when to communicate. Compared with five years ago, there are 11 times more B2B organizations utilizing marketing automation now.
3. Email blast is the history
Getting irrelevant email blast on a daily basis is annoying, but in 2017, they’ll finally make their way toward the history books. With 76 percent of marketers considering the personalization of all emails within the next five years, according to Econsultancy, make it clear that the blast days are numbered.
Also, consumers are smart; they instantaneously know which email should be deleted. With the increased use of web tracking, data integrations, and automation, there is no excuse not to know the target customers, and the newly-emerged technology has all made it possible to deliver tailored emails to individual subscribers at scale, helping marketers avoid the dreaded trash bin.
4. Concrete ROI will be the golden ticket
In 2017, marketers will look at the past open and click rate and focus on concrete results, like conversions and revenue. The alignment between business strategies and results matters most, and marketers need to find out which is generating the most ROI. To achieve such an objective, marketers need to keep track of the entire customer journey and know its impact, which can be achieved by emails, a main measurable channel. 


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Do Organic Keyword Rankings Matter Anymore?

Do organic keyword rankings matter anymore?

The article discusses that in the present day your rating and reputation on YELP or Trip Advisor are taking over the need to spend on organic search words. The main reason is these are micro/niche communities of many users that have similar interests - therefore they are more trusted than a simple google search. 
     It baffles me that people still don't know the difference between paid and organic ads and many times they blend together. The article talks about how for commercial queries they even have 4 paid spots which makes it less likely that someone clicks on an organic ad. It talks about the "Free snippets" that don't even require to click on any link but still use a calculator or currency converter. 

It's clear that there are many factors that are making organic SEO not the only thing to worry about for a company as they focus on attracting new clients.. .Having said that there are enough benefits that organic keyword rankings won't go away anytime soon.

If you'd like to read the full article please see the below link:


Local Search... It's all about the mobile

The first interesting point of the article is the difference between mobile and desktop search. They discuss the notion of 'instant gratification' when doing mobile search vs. desktop search - these people are typically making plans for future.  This makes sense since most people who are in the moment and need something immediately will search on mobile vs. desktop.

The other interesting elements of mobile search is that consumers are less likely to use longtail key words so marketers must be aware of this and purchase keywords accordingly.

In summary the article discusses how more and more people are searching for local businesses on mobile. Businesses must be ready to optimize with links, ads and extensions.

If you are interested in reading more see the link below.


Digital Marketing and Virtual Reality

Forbes magazine article, How Virtual Reality Can Revolutionize Digital Marketing, had an interesting example on how Golden State Warriors used VR as one of the tools to lure Kevin Durant to San Francisco. Using VR goggles, the representatives of the team showed Durant footage of San Francisco, team practice and the coach addressing the team.

VR is an emerging technology. It will have a profound impact on digital marketing. When VR and artificial  intelligence (AI) begin to gain critical mass, customers will expect a significantly high quality of experience. In coming months, marketers will do a lot of experimentation. Successful companies will have to experiment a lot, fail fast and embrace agile development in order to leapfrog past the initial stages.

A potential application of VR is for a hotel salesperson to show future bride and groom how their wedding day would look like. Another interesting example is to take a shopper of  car on a virtual test drive.


How Virtual Reality Can Revolutionize Digital Marketing

Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Digital Marketing


How much are you willing to share when entering a stadium?

Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR), launched in May 2016 by Kraft Group which owns New England Patriots, started as a cloud-based platform that stores data and from three years ago regarding information about customer purchase history, open rates in email campaigns and anonymized data on website traffic. KAGR tracks and quantifies fan behaviors ranging from when fans buy game tickets, when the tickets are unused, to whether they read emails sent from the team.  Since 2013, the KAGR’s platform has allowed the NFL to capture anonymized data about which applications were used when fans’ mobile devices are connected to Wi-Fi the stadiums. KAGR’s CEO explains the underlying goal is to better understand the customers and provide a better experience. Through this effort, KAGR has been able to create a successful marketing campaign which generated over half a million customers. However, with a CEO saying “The Holy Grail is you want to know every person that’s been in your building (stadium) and you want to know every person who’s come to your website. And you want to have them as people that you can communicate with on a daily basis”, it is rather scary how all information is flowing just one way without customers necessarily being aware of how much they are being monitored. There should be some level of consensus of how much data customers are willing to share and how much communication is desired with KAGR.


The Trump Effect on Digital Marketing

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, the media is aflutter with stories about rejected ads.  In one particular example, Fox rejected an ad by 84 Lumber, which featured a border wall, for being too political.  The newly revised ad, which was accepted for broadcast on Sunday, now shows text that guides viewers to watch the original ad: “See the conclusion at”. 

In the same week, Tech giants including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Uber, have been working together on a letter opposing President Trump’s controversial travel ban. The president’s actions have driven big businesses to publicize their stance on the issue.

Not sure if you see what I’m getting at, but I suppose I am wondering what this means for digital advertisers...  There is clearly a trend developing in ads against the backdrop of a highly charged, polarized political climate in the United States (and a global reaction).  While traditional media platforms  – like broadcast television – have long had policies in place, and regulatory bodies – like the FCC – to guide them on acceptable content for public viewing, are digital platforms entering uncharted waters?

For digital platforms that have taken a public stance on the issues, what role will they play in permitting digital ad content that expresses opposing views? And if they do play a role, (e.g. only allowing content agreeing with the platforms’ political views) are we now facing an increasingly segmented digital content environment?

Waiting with bated breath to see how this all plays out...