Monday, August 21, 2017

Google Tests Subscription Tools for Publishers

The article explains that Google's subscription tool allows readers to access articles from subscription publications through search. The company is is also exploring publishers’ tools around online payments and targeting potential subscribers. It’s all part of Google’s broader effort to keep consumers and content-makers returning to the web, the lifeblood of its ads business.

Initial testing publishers include NY Times and Financial Times.

This is really interesting as it shows how Google is approaching more "Strategic Partnerships" with large publishers of content. Content is continuing to become a very important part of advertising and firms that generate ad revenues.


Spotify's Ad Ambitions

The article outlines Spotify's prior strategy of generating streaming awareness and creating a "network" effect of users. Now that Spotify is public, it is attempting to convince investors that there is a long runway of ad growth ahead of it due to the captivated user base.

While I think it is smart of Spotify to drive ad revenue, it will also be difficult to prove to investors that users are open to paying for services while also being subjected to advertisements. The vast majority of revenue still comes from subscriptions with core users.

Further the CMO points out that marketers are chiefly concerned about "brand safety" in this competitive environment.


Delloitte Digital Acquires Acne Consulting

Delloitte Digital has acquired creative agency Acne. The move expands it's European operations. According to the article,  Acne was founded in 1996, Acne has offered creative, digital, strategic, film and digital services for clients including Ikea, Spotify, H&M, Max and Telenor.

This article highlights the growing importance of highly-value added consultative digital marketing services. Spotify, a highly sought after digital music streaming company, has utilized Acne for years.

Interestingly, PwC, Accenture Interactive, International Business Machines Corp.’s iX and Deloitte Digital make up four of the top 10 biggest providers of advertising services. This diversity in business models demonstrates how vital marketing services has become in order for consulting services to offer a "full suite" of advisory services.


Facebook and In-Stream Video

An interesting development in Facebook's quest for driving ad growth is their decision to place "in stream" video ads for marketers. The ads are similar to commercial breaks as they work to weave in more "original content". This is a relatively large break in strategy for the company as it used to be focused on ads separate from "user generated content" and on separate streams. This is yet another sign that it is (i) the ad market is getting more competitive (which should benefit advertisers) and (ii) the rising importance of original content.


Total Eclipse of the Marketing Budget

It is even more imperative in today's digital environment to capture trends. What is curious, is that most brands are trying to capitalize on this event given that it is so ubiquitous.


Friday, August 18, 2017

PINTEREST...Will it Interest you???

Pinterest is a user generated image content platform. It facilitates in ways to search through images (i.e. converting clicking on an image to a search query, targeting advertising based on image searches). They are different from Instagram and Snapchat where one shares the images. Pinterest has been unabashedly vocal that it is not a social network. Its plan is to make it as easy as possible for a user to convert their purchase decision to a buy. It is influencing people to buy an item that they have been planning to buy but have not been able to hit the purchase button yet.

Their ultimate goal is to maximize the capabilities available through Lens, a resource on Pinterest through which users can take a picture on their phone and Pinterest will display pins related to the objects in the photo (for example, if you submitted a photo of a pair of shoes you would see pins of outfits including those shoes, or even links to purchase the shoes).
Due to the relationship between Pinterest and the brands that utilize Pinterest to promote and advertise their products, Pinterest believes it has an "edge" over other companies that have tried to build visual search platforms.

Pinterest’s initial user base was driven by women but now it has expanded to other age groups such as millennials and middle aged groups. Pinterest’s users have driven its growth because more people generate more ideas. People save their favorite ideas from around the web on a single platform. This user base growth and rich content in a single platform allows brands to reach their audience on Pinterest. As they continue to grow faster than ever, they are adding new business programs too. Recent initiatives include bringing ads to new markets, launching promoted app pins and introducing Pinterest propel, new program for small businesses and agencies.

As more people discover the magic of Pinterest, community keeps growing. Pinterest now has 175 million monthly active users around the world. This number is almost equal to the user base of Snapchat. Much of the recent growth comes from international markets, where word is spreading fast about Pinterest’s unique blend of utility and inspiration. They have seen 3x year over year growth in Germany and Brazil and 2x year over year growth in France and Japan.

Pinterest describes itself as not a social media site, it's a visual discovery engine focused on helping people discover ideas, and not about socializing with friends. Hence it is different from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat but the concept is similar, to grow data base of user generated content. The additional number of users added is less compared to social platforms like Instagram where it boasts four times the number of monthly users compared to Pinterest.

Pinterest expects to make more than $500M revenue this year compared to $300M last year. It started generating revenue from advertising in The company said its growth potential depends on improving its product to match people with images that reflect their interests and inspire them. They have e-commerce and content aspects like its counterparts Instagram and Facebook. Pinterest is aiming to become a shopping platform like Amazon. Pinterest recently invested to improve its recommendation engine, which delivers targeted products to a user’s feed based on search and pin history and this could be a game changer.

The company is raising funds to improve its computer vision and visual search technologies like its Lens camera search, which lets users take pictures on their phone and search for similar items or images on Pinterest. The company will also use the new capital to improve its offering for international users.

As per study, brands achieve return on investment with Pinterest that blows away Facebook and Instagram, but that only happens when marketers share useful content and inspiring ideas. It will take time to shift habits, but the company is headed in right direction and has lot of potential unless competition catches up to it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to survive as an Electronics Retailer in the Age of Amazon

With so much growth happening for digital and technology companies, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at how the traditional retail space is doing.  We’ve seen some companies, like RadioShack and Circuit City sink as they failed to keep up with the rapidly changing tech environment. Others, like Best Buy, have been able to keep their heads above water.

As a traditional retailer, how do you continue to be successful? Is this truly a dying industry or do companies just need to change their strategies?

Continuing to use Best Buy as an example, they have able to continue being profitable by pivoting their value proposition.  What was once a product company is now positioning itself as a service company. They are currently planning to rull out a service that brings employees to their homes to ensure consumers are utilizing all of the benefits and upgrades of the products they purchase. While this has allowed them to maintain market share in the electronics and technology space, time will tell if this will work long-term.  Amazon and other companies are taking notes and are releasing their own service-style programs to keep up with the competition. 


VR Marketing Pioneers

With our final Digital Marketing class ending with some new and exciting virtual reality demos, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at how some companies are already using VR in their marketing campaigns.  These companies are really pioneers; being among the first to reach audiences with a new type of digital experience in order to leverage their brand.

TOM’s: Utilized VR to allow the audience to watch their story as it happened.  This increased the emotional connection the audience had with story. 

MERCEDES: Used a 360 VR tool to show off their new SL model.  This gave consumers a more realistic and exciting experience than a a regular car commercial by putting the viewer IN the car rather than outside of it.

OREO: Created an entire animated virtual world full of milk and cookies to excite people about their new cupcake flavored cookies.  The video has over 3.2m views on Youtube!

NASCAR: Allowed viewers to feel the rush of being a Nascar driver by placing the audience inside the car, on top of the car, in the pit, etc.

View the full article to see other examples:


Monday, August 14, 2017

What's Next?

This article focuses on a topic that we’ve discussed heavily in close- how the future of search will impact business.  It features human language search, digital personal assistants, “everything in-platform” and hyperpersonalization.
                Consistent with what we’ve discussed in class, the article expects to see continued growth in the voice search. It suggests that this format suits search engines well because we tend to be clearer with our search intent when we express it in the form of voice rather than other methods. An interesting idea brought about is a keyboardless computer experience. This article suggests that machine learning and personalization still have to evolve significantly to achieve that.
                The article also references digital personal assistants like Google Home, Alexa, etc. This search helps the consumer to bypass all of the additional data one sees on a search engine screen. It also brings you straight to the answer, vs providing links to different answers that the searcher then chooses.
                Another interesting trend is hyper-personalization. We discussed in class how search and display advertisements can be customized based on demographic, consumer behavior, etc. As machine learner and platform integration continue to develop, our ability to search will continue to be refined to cater exactly to ourselves.
                It will be interesting to see which companies thrive in the digital marketing and search space by leveraging these new technologies, and what other technologies will emerge in coming years.  What an exciting time to be in digital!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Microsoft vs. Snapchat

Recently, Microsoft has completely revamped the look of its video calling software "Skype" and loaded it with several cool features which makes it very similar to other picture/video sharing social media networks like SanpChat. Skype now allows a user to publish videos/photos which will be available for one week (vs. SnapChat's 24 hours) and is only visibile to people who follow you rather than all your contacts. Also, an individual's followers/contacts can comment on your posted photos/videos similar to Facebook. This can be viewed as a significant step by Microsoft to compete with similar messaging platforms like snapshat, whatsapp, Facebook etc. 

Microsoft's push seems to be a testimony for increase in the demand for sharing videos/photos instantly with your family and friends. These technologies help to user to visualize and are much more intimate than text messages. The adoption of this new Skype will heavily depend on the ease of operation and user experience which it will provide its customers. 

Will Microsoft's Skype be successful in breaking through as a popular social network? Only time will tell...



Adaptive or Responsive Mobile Site...

There are primarily two ways in which the mobile websites are designed  to serve the customers -Adaptive or Responsive. An adaptive site is one which identifies if the user is accessing the web page via a mobile device and displays the appropriate mobile size. Adaptive sites generate a different page baaed on the user's device, irrespective of the browser size. Whereas in the case of responsive site, the sites respond to the change in the size of the browser irrespective of the device being used.  Responsive sites allow optimal browsing no matter the screen size and usually expensive to design.

Sometimes, a website can make use of both these elements and is called RESS (Responsive with Server Side Elements). For example, is a perfect example of this kind of website.

The applications of the two methods vary and the choice can be made based on the type of site required. Responsive sites are usually slower as compared to adaptive sites and hence, could be a key factor in mind when speed is the prime focus (e.g. website used to check train, flight schedules). While selecting the procedure it is extremely important to keep the user preferences in mind. Adaptive sites are better for companies with budgetary constraints as these are relatively cheaper. The techniques vary and all the important factors should be kept in mind before designing any solution. 




Take Back Your Reputation with Twitter

When Patrick Ambron founded BrandYourself, he saw a need in the market for managing information about yourself on the internet. This has turned into a profitable company with a toolkit of resources for evaluating your online reputation and minimizing and burying potentially harmful search information.

This article zooms in on one avenue any person can optimize on their own, and it stems from Google somewhat recently including Twitter information in search results. If you search for most people's names, as you'll see below, a Twitter handle comes up as one of the top results. This is an opportunity to control what people find when they search for you, and there are a few things you can do to make sure your Twitter account is a top search result.

Coca-Cola's Twitter account in Google search results

While your personal brand may not be as important for digital marketers, managing your company's brand follows the same logic.

The first piece of insight is just simply to utilize all the fields that Twitter offers to input information. Make sure you enter information into the Full Name field, the Bio, and the URL fields. Through out your design, always be thinking of how someone searching for your company/product would enter information into the search bar. It's important to include these search words in your bio and to make your handle relevant to this search.

As with normal SEO, you want your handle to seem important, so establishing links to your handle from your webpage and from other social media pages helps boost the search score. Tweeting often and incorporating emojis also make your tweets more relevant and thus rank higher on the search results. Things like posting pictures on your Twitter account and setting up Twitter Cards also help.

There are a number of other tricks listed out in the article, but the general principle is that you need to be active on Twitter through posting and re-tweeting, build your user base, and post quality content.

I think this article is interesting and relevant for another reason, a future potential challenge for Google. For all the bad press Twitter gets as a failing company, it's relevance is undeniable, and other social media sites are also growing in relevance. The choice to include Twitter feed/Tweets in Google search results, takes up real estate on search results, which pushes other results down the page. Maybe it's indicative of what is actually relevant to search these days, but as other companies grow in legitimacy, will Google include those posts in search results also? How do certain elements of social media breach the threshold relevancy? And how much real estate can Google afford to dedicate to social media results? It's interesting to see how Google's algorithms  act as sort of a stamp of approval on what makes things 'legitimate' enough to include as search results.

Twitter SEO Ninja Tricks


Can Facebook's 'Watch' Take On YouTube?

Facebook has announced the launch of Watch, a tab for TV-like content where users can watch and organize videos. Facebook intends for Watch to overtake YouTube as the go-to video consumption hub. This article analyzes whether Facebook can really rival YouTube and capture digital ad spend from TV advertising.

YouTube has already mastered the separation between creator-driven content and professional content with their Red strategy, but Facebook has yet to announce how they’ll distinguish between the two. There’s a huge opportunity with Facebook’s newsfeed and 2 billion daily active users that actively engage with video content regularly. The general consensus here is that it’s too early to tell what kind of impact Facebook Watch will have on media agencies and advertisers since the platform caters to user engagement rather than advertisers at this time.

I agree with the article that it’s too soon to speculate. However, YouTube started in 2005 as a video platform for users to upload their own content, and it didn’t really cater to advertisers until after the Google acquisition. Facebook Watch is starting with a robust built-in audience. Although it has less brand recognition than YouTube as the go-to for video content, over time I don’t see why it can’t surpass YouTube altogether. 


I hate to say I told you so but…

I don’t even think but that a post is due for this final week, but there are two things that I have an inexorable need to do: (i) get some extra credit (wink, wink – talking to you Jeremy), and (ii) rant about Snapchat.  If you have taken the time to read any of my previous blog posts, you might have noticed that I have neither any affinity for nor understanding of the phenomenon known as Snapchat.

My understanding of the Snapchat investor value proposition is that the platform will be able to scale and penetrate an older user demographic – me. Yeah right. It looks like that value proposition might prove to be untrue as the number of daily active users in Q2 is down from the prior quarter. Ominous much? I think so. The hype around Snapchat will never be higher and in order to realize the potential underlying its value proposition, I would have thought that the growth in new users would have continued to increase.

If the new trend is augmented reality, this seems like old hat to a degree – didn’t Niantic (on of Google/Alphabet’s “Other Bets”) capitalize on this over a year ago with Pok√©mon? This doesn’t seem like any sustainable competitive advantage unique to Snapchat. From my perspective, the only real barrier to entry is the switching cost that Snapchat’s asinine interface imposes on its users. I’m not going to lie, I can’t figure out how to use the app and don’t have the need (none of my friends, colleagues, or family members on using the app) to attention to take the time to figure it out.

I’m still baffled that they keep pushing ad tech to appeal to a younger generation because they have soooo much disposable income that isn’t devoted to Taco Bell (I do love that taco head). I would have thought that this demographic would be at risk to jump off the platform if they are bombarded by ads.  To be fair, Snapchat does do some cool things – who doesn’t like a dancing hot dog! They also had something Game of Thrones related for the premier, but alas they couldn’t capitalize on this avid fan of all things Westerosi as I’m on their platform. I even went so far as to open the app on my phone but then got bored and didn’t set it up…I just don’t need another platform. To put this in appropriate context, I lobbied incredibly hard to keep my $400 replica of Long Claw hanging in my now three month old’s nursery – and I mean incredibly hard. Now, if the allure of looking like a White Walker isn’t enough for me, an ardent supporter of the King in the North, to sign up for Snapchat I’m not sure how they are going to penetrate into their older target demographic.

Oh and have we talked about how great a leader Spiegel is? If you had any doubt, this little excerpt from the article really sums it up:

At one point in the quarterly conference call, Spiegel sounded impatient with one of the questions from an analyst who asked about "growth hacking," which apps use to attract more visitors by sending notifications. The analyst asked which types of techniques Spiegel didn't like. There were plenty of examples to look for online. Spiegel told him to Google it.

Really, you are the CEO of a publicly traded company and you have the gall to tell someone on your earnings call to ‘Google’ an answer…way to go BRO.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Google loves advertising revenue, but hates annoying ads as much as you do

Google is standing up for those of us who are annoyed by pop-up ads and other obnoxious forms of advertising as a part of the Better Ads Standard group that is reaching out to publishers who show "annoying, misleading, or harmful" ads. Google has pledged to block these types of ads starting next year on the Google Chrome browser - they are currently going through the process of testing which websites would be impacted and publishers including Betty Crocker, The New York Daily News, TV Guide, and Forbes have been found to be violators. Google clearly isn't opposed to advertising but they are committed to helping advertisers get their message out in a less annoying (and ideally Google-sponsored) manner. It will be interesting to see if the web browsing experience does improve next year when Google's block begins.


Voice & AI: The Next Frontier of Brand Marketing

Here’s What You Need to Know About Voice AI, the Next Frontier of Brand Marketing

When Tim Reis spoke to us a few weeks ago, he left us with a quote from Google co-founder (and billionaire) Larry Page: "Imagine a world with no keyboards". Tim was saying what happens when all of us have voice activated devices in our homes- what happens then to advertisers? This article is a great preview of just that and discusses how marketers could be ok.

A few key points of this article that I found really interesting:

*Combining the specifics of voice search (ie: telling the device exactly what you are looking for) and what the device already knows about you (from linked browsing and social media data) will allow for more personalized and targeted ad opportunities

*we have learned that brands look to be in the top 5 of search results; how does that change for voice devices? Will we really listen to 5 advertisements? This will drastically change how advertisers thing about result ranking AND likely lead to increased bidding amounts for the top 1-2 places in results.


Influencer Marketing: Fraud?!?

This article is about an influencer marketing company and how they highlighted the issue of ad fraud afflicting advertisers and brands. The company created two Instagram accounts to show how easy it is to create a fake influencer and gain paid brand deals.

The rise of Influencer Marketing is well known at this point. This article says that $1B has been spent on Instagram influencers this year alone. The amount of fraud, however, is not so well know. I have long been weary of the "promoted" posts I see on my social media feeds. I believe that there should be a regulatory body set up to monitor this issue. Social advertising will continue to command dollars and with that, fraudulent accounts will continue to exist.


Emerging Market SVOD Platform gets New Round of Funding

The subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platform, iflix, targets emerging markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. They have recently received a new round of funding, 133 million dollars, and plan to use it to develop local content. They face stiff competition in their markets of choice, going up against Netflix and even YouTube in their markets of choice.

iflix believes that generating local content and targeting a lower income customer base will be the key to grabbing market share. However, they are not alone in these beliefs, or at least not the only one willing to invest in hopes of success. Netflix has already begun releasing original content targeting the India market. Even if iflix sees some future success, will it be enough to build a strong enough foot hold in the market? As competition grows, will consumers now be open to paying for more than one SVOD service? Looking forward to seeing where this goes, especially if it lowers my monthly bills.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

His name was Steve. Remember him. #WeAreSteve

On July 16th, 2017 something tragic happened: A K5 security robot built by a company called Knightscope attempted to commit robo-suicide by rolling itself into a fountain. The response to this incident was nothing short of remarkable. On the one hand, there were those who celebrated a very minor victory of human ability over a machine. Others were celebrating the failure of a machine that was supposed to take away human jobs. But on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, you had those who were saddened by the loss of a treasured friend. Regardless of where you stand, this was potentially a PR disaster for Knightscope and its "intelligent" robots.

But then something magical happened: Instead of trying to cover up the incident, Knightscope embraced its quirkiness. They quickly created a persona for Steve the robot and started tweeting along with the hashtag #WeAreSteve. The seized upon the incident as an opportunity to raise awareness for their products with a little humor. Their response is a model of how to take what could be a really bad story and flip it to a positive one.


Facebook Is Finally Launching Its Long-Awaited Original Video Tab

Facebook recently announced it will be releasing a new tab for original video content, which will be available across mobile, desktops, laptops and TVs. With the launch of the new tab, called Watch, Facebook hopes to “…siphon video advertising budgets and users away from TV networks, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.” The new feature will be personalized and allow users to share and discover content based on their networks and friends. This sharing and discovery of video content within user networks highlights the power of Facebook’s ‘social graph.’ Daniel Danker, Facebook director of product, wrote “watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation and foster community…On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos.”

The new functionality appears to be an attempt by Facebook to emulate the SNAP content feature. As Instagram has unabashedly copied many of the SNAP features, this development aligns with Facebook’s strategy to capture SNAP’s current user base. As Facebook bolsters it’s ad channels, SNAP will need to ensure its metrics improvement effort retains advertisers while maintaining or growing its current user base.