Saturday, February 28, 2015

Corporate Marketers Increase Digital Spend

Econsultancy published a teaser from the results from their annual survey; The Marketing Budgets 2015 Report, which 600 companies participate and help marketing professionals get a read on various marketing trends, across an array of channels and technologies.

This 64-page report looks in detail at how companies are allocating their online and offline marketing budgets for 2015.
The responses from the two below questions republished on econsultancy's site reveal some interesting changes in the approach to digital marketing.
Q: What best describes your plans for your digital marketing budget in 2015?

While marketers clearly are devoting more resources to online channels, those that aren't don't appear to be doing so for lack of desire.  As per below results, while budgets and ROI don't appear to be constraints, clearly there is a lack of resources and expertise available increase allocation of budgets towards digital spend.

Q: What is preventing your company from investing more money in digital marketing?

As a result, it would appear that this is an ecouraging sign for the broader health of the industry, as those with the necessary skillset appear to be more of a scarce resource in light of the growing, and in some cases, pent up demand.

Email Spam hits a new low

In Teaxs this week, spam efforts hit a new low with the latest efforts designed to trick unkowning recipients to give away money as part of threatening a generic law suit against them. While the email has several telltale signs that indicate the email is fake, the email is novel in that it includes both the recipients full name and email address, giving it the sense of authority and more importnalty the spceificity that the target is indeed targetted.

With disclosure of personal information seemingly an every day event with hacking scandals, it appears such personally tailored information and emails are likely to become the norm, perhaps requiring a new level of caution from readers.


Beauty Vlogger Sensations

Reposting about a friend of mine who made major waves this past month in beauty social media. Up and coming vlogger deepicam posted a tutorial on her youtube channel regarding using red lipstick under your eyes to mask under-eye circles.  It is a DIY trick that can quickly and inexpensively relieve women of insecurities regarding the age or fatigue that is portrayed by uneven skin.  I have never seen a video go viral so rapidly - apparently the trick is Buzzfeed.  They picked up her vlog and re-posted and within 2 weeks she had 3 million views.  Currently she has 4.2 million views and has been featured on the Today Show, in Elle France as well as Vogue India.  She is leveraging this early success towards her ultimate goal of becoming a Beauty Personality and having her own line of cosmetics.

I found this inspiring because there are infinite numbers of beauty vloggers trying to make a space through makeup tutorials and product reviews.  Deepicam managed to carve a niche through the DIY approach which is what I think resonated with women so well and she is now transforming that into her competitive advantage.  People underestimate these young social media mavens as un-intelligent and having excess time on their hands but in reality they are just junior entrepreneurs.  I think this type of activity should be encouraged because it allows girls creativity, freedom to be themselves and exercise their talents.  And who knows, it could just become a mega-career.


TV ad needs to wake up

As more and more people choose to stay in front of a computer instead of a television, advertisements on a television returns less value to companies than before. In the past, television was one of the best places companies put their advertisements on because most families were regularly watching televisions to spend their leisure time. However, nowadays, TV shows become available to people on Internet and are even more convenient for customers because they can watch whatever and whenever they want. Less and less people choose to spend time on television. As a result, television advertisement does not produce sufficient value for companies anymore.
Another reason why television advertisements do not have high efficiency is that when Internet ad industry was rapidly developing, television ad industry, as the best ad industry, did not think about innovation and kept their old fashion ways of doing advertisements. Obviously, old fashion advertisement ways were inefficient in terms of having accurate targets. As people know, when people surf on the Internet, browses would create cookies for each user and keep users’ records so that ad companies could utilize the cookies and send Internet users advertisements, which would have higher probability of influencing users. This way is much better than the old fashion television way of doing advertisements.
In order to change the situation, television ad pricing model should be adjusted go beyond the ratings, and stickiness, that TV networks currently measure, and beyond the easy-to-measure data that Facebook collects. The TV industry will need to invest in the type of creative evaluation testing that big marketers use to test their ads, or at the very least, it should review these scores from a third party, like Millward Brown for example, in order to provide a discount to ads that score well.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Customized TV Ads and Cultural Fragmentation

I've been reading about talks by Comcast to acquire Visible World, a company with technology that allows advertisers to quickly create different versions of the same TV ad for various markets. Clearly, this is an advance that has long been waiting to happen in the TV industry.

Online, the problem marketers face is that while it's really easy to send users targeted ads, and even to create targeted ads (in Google's case, simply by choosing the appropriate ad from the millions of candidates), it is not as easy to track users effectively. There are technical workarounds that function admirably, but fundamentally, the advertiser faces an uphill battle. IP addresses can change, cookies can be deleted, users can be on a proxy server - the list of pitfalls is enormous.

In TV land, the problem is the opposite. It's actually pretty easy for companies to know who is watching cable or satellite TV, because they know the precise address of each viewer. Some households may have older folks and young children, but there are far fewer degrees of freedom than in the web case. However, it is extremely hard to make and choose targeted ads, because TV ads are produced in an entirely different context. They are so much more expensive than web ads that spending the necessary time and money to shoot even 10 different versions of the same ad is incredibly expensive for any non-trivial ad.

In that sense, a technology that bridges that gap for TV is a clear win. Users get ads that are more compelling (no more denture ads for me during Jeopardy!), advertisers get to target appropriate segments instead of blasting out generic broadcasts, and media companies get to own networks that are more valuable, simply because the total value of the interactions on them is higher.

But I would caution us to think of some interesting and not immediately obvious long-term consequences. A few decades ago, most people who watched TV did so over-the-air, and there were only a few large national networks. Those people saw the same ads and the same shows and the same movies, and that, while being less rewarding as a short-term entertainment experience, provided a side benefit of cultural cohesion. If you saw something you liked on TV, chances are that many people all around you saw it too, or heard about it, because there were only 5 channels anyway! These days, it can be pretty hard to find someone who watches all the same shows as you do, and pretty easy to find one show that you like that no one else around you seems ever to have heard of. The only thing that TV watchers really have in common anymore is ads, especially the big campaigns from major retail brands like Coke and Bud. I think there is some non-zero value to the kind of cultural baseline provided by common TV experience, and I worry that the revenue-maximizing logical endpoint of the targeted advertising paradigm (individually targeted ads based on historical revealed preferences) will leave us feeling more isolated and fragmented as a society, not to mention a bit embarrassed when our friends come over to watch TV...


Customer Experience Is Clearly Very Important for Marketers to Focus on in 2015

Christian Lowe Blog Post - 2/27/2014 Something that is becoming very apparent, not just in digital marketing but in marketing in general, is that the customer experience is very important for marketers to address and enhance through any and all mediums. With the pervasive cost comparison capabilities the internet provides customers, it is now extremely important for brands to cultivate a higher quality experience for their customers in order to attract, retain and extract more value fro customers. Customers can now easily compare the costs of products that a brand offers, so a brand now finds the only true way to differentiate itself from its competitors y offering customers the best experience possible. For a brand to achieve a competitive advantage in experiential marketing, it must become much more innovative in its marketing approaches. No longer will direct marketing campaigns and loyalty programs suffice in this increasingly competitive marketplace. Brands have to expand its portfolio of vehicles it employs in its marketing efforts to its customer base because information is so expansive and customers have such a diverse array of options through which to consume media. Consequently, brands have to be much more cognizant of the importance of engaging in social marketing and content creation that seeks the consumers' input and interaction. Simply having prime advertising placing in Google searches or simply having a Facebook page will no longer secure the optimal responses to a marketing campaign. To increase its ROI on its marketing spend, brands need to actively engage in Instagram, seek out customers to provide their own input on the content that is created, and seek other ways in which a customer can feel like a contributing participant in the production of their desired products. Below is a link highlighting the need for content creation and experiential marketing:


Do Retargeting campaigns limit serendipity?

I was recently browsing the web when I started noticing books being advertised to me in the side banners. These were the same books, of course, that I had recently been browsing on various book retailers’ sites. One of them had decided to retarget me. At first I felt good: my web browsing experience had just been personalized. Indeed I found myself thinking about those books and whether I should pull the trigger on the purchase. But eventually it prompted to wonder whether now I was going to see only the things that I was looking for. In other words, discovery through serendipity was over. Newspaper editors are proud about the placement of stories and ads in such a manner that serendipity is maximized. A human mind thinks about how readers could discover a service or product that may not actively be seeking out. Is such a type of ‘editorialized serendipity’ extinct?

‘Look-alike’ campaigns where customers with similar profiles are targeted similarly may be one way to achieve discovery. In these campaigns, I will be presented with products and services that another customer (one that exhibits similar digital browsing, social and purchase tendencies as I do) has endorsed (by purchase or otherwise). There is a bit of targeted discovery here certainly. But a deeper level of discovery is still missing.

In fact, as more and more products and services become available online and digitally, the need for discovery deeper into the catalog (whether it be books, clothes, accessories, etc) rises. Platforms like Amazon rely on the customer spending time on their site to achieve the deeper discovery through browsing and taxonomy. But given that Google and Facebook are becoming the highway system by which we navigate our digital lives, a case can be made that advertisers have an opportunity to bring the deeper level of discovery to their target audiences through ads. And in doing so, create a richer, discovery-led advertising experience.


Why Most Digital Marketing Fails -- And How To Fix It

Recently I came across an article on the Forbes ( that illustrates why most digital marketing fails.

If you’re looking for insights about the future of digital communications, it pays to ask someone who’s been there from the beginning. Social media strategist Sally Falkow has been a keen observer of online trends since the mid 1990s, and started her blog, The Proactive Report, in 2003. In 2014, she was named one of Cision’sTop 50 Social Media Influencers on Twitter. In a recent interview, she revealed four issues she sees with the current digital media landscape – and how smart companies can take advantage of the opportunity that presents.

Not Enough Companies Are Blogging. After more than a decade on the scene, you’d think that blogging would have become ubiquitous by now. Not so much. Falkow notes that a UMass-Dartmouth study showed that in 2008, 16% of the Fortune 500 had public-facing blogs. By 2014, that number had only climbed to 31%. She understands why companies aren’t jumping onboard. “Blogging is a commitment,” she says. “Once you start, you have to continue. A blog has a voracious appetite. You have to produce good content regularly, and that takes resources.” But she views this silence as a missed opportunity to communicate directly with stakeholders, share ideas, and stake out a position of thought leadership. Indeed, she says, “With digital, we have new tools. It’s easy to publish and you can use analytics to find out what content is resonating with your readers.” If your company makes the effort, you can speak to your customers in a very targeted and effective way.

Companies Still Don’t Understand ‘Social.’ We’ve heard it a million times: social media is like a cocktail party. Don’t be a jerk and talk about yourself all the time. Don’t try to make a sale before you get to know someone. And yet, Falkow still sees marketers doing this all the time. One particular pet peeve: the common practice of retweeting others’ praise of you. “If someone came up to you [with a compliment], you wouldn’t pull out a megaphone and yell to everyone else in the room, ‘Sally just said she likes my work!’”

Most Digital Communications Aren’t Visual Enough. The rise of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest has shown the hunger for visual communication online. Yet most marketers don’t take full advantage of the possibilities, says Falkow. That’s partly a function of their training. “Most PR folk are not designers and have not had graphics training,” she says. But that’s becoming a major handicap. “Every PR student should take a course in graphic design. Visual content is a must for social media success,” she says. There are no excuses anymore. “With the new digital tools, anyone can be trained to take amazing photos on their camera, or make a short video in less than an hour. You can use tools like Canva or Picmonkey to edit photos and make posters with text on them for Instagram or Pinterest. “

You Have to Mix Paid and Earned Media. Finally, Falkow advises companies to face facts: we live in Mark Zuckerberg’s world, and he wants to monetize. The days when companies could rely on organic reach to connect with customers on Facebook (or many other major social platforms) is long gone. “Distribution and amplification of your messages will need paid social advertising,” she says, and “the lines between paid, owned, and earned media will continue to blur. PR practitioners must master the art of using paid social media to support their content.”

More than a decade into the social era, most companies still don’t fully get it. That’s a competitive advantage for you, if you’re willing to immerse yourself in the unique possibilities online communication presents.


Netflix-House of Cards 3: New business model

The article "House of Cards has no advertising" gives me some idea about the new business model Netflix is adopting. Here is some of my thoughts on the new business model.
The House of Cards season 3 by Netflix released all episodes at the same time as it did before. Because of House of Cards, Netflix's subscribers, subscriptions fees and the stock prices all have all been increased in the past two years. 

Netflix was trying a new business model or was trying to create a new way of television viewing. Based on the huge success of House of Cards, which is the product of Netflix, Netflix's new way of television platform also lead to some discussion. Traditional television series released one episodes each week to catch customers' attention for the advertisement purpose. The more attention the show gains, the more advertising attentions customer will give to the airtime of the show. Traditional TV shows rely on this to generate revenues.

Netflix's new business model is a big step. No advertising (benefit) is associated with the high expectation show House of Cards. In my perspective, all it depends on is the quality of the TV series. On the other hand, the ultimate goal of Netflix is to attract subscribers, not only viewers for a particular TV program. Using this new business model, Netflix lost the opportunity to have control over the cost and charge of the TV program, that is to say, the traditional TV program can make changes to the charges based on the responses of viewers. Therefore, the future of Netflix is till not clear. 

The article I was reading can be found at


As spend on brand apps keeps rising, how to maximize the engagement of brand apps?

This week I came across an article indicates that brand apps are falling short when it comes to consumer engagement. It has estimated that the total spend by British consumers on brand apps has hit £4.04 billion a year – a 24% increase compared to the previous year. Such a strong rise in spend suggests that if brands had worked harder on engagement of their apps to deliver more compelling apps, the results could be even more explosive.
It also suggests that Apple users are the most valuable target audiences for brands since those using iOS spend an average of £89.36 or 29.7% more than those on Android.
Despite the high spend however the study supported the fact that brands must do more to engage their users if they want to maximize user spend and usage. The report showed that the number of apps downloaded by the average consumer rose only marginally from 5.5 to 5.9 year on year. Time spent in app also remained static for nearly a third of those surveyed customers (29.5%) with only a quarter spending more time than ever in the apps.
For those where time spent using brand apps was actually falling, a number of reasons were indicated in the report. One in three said that repetitive or irrelevant notifications were putting them off spending so much time in brand apps while for 16.4% the perception was that brands had got lazy and weren’t being either interesting or innovative enough with their apps to retain users’ attention. Similarly 10% felt that brands’ failure to update apps frequently enough – whether with new content or to remain timely with other marketing campaigns and projects – had been a turnoff.
As for brands, it is always necessary to work harder if they are to increase engagement and release the potential of the app channel and its rising spend further. Brands should not feel satisfied about the current situation – they need to have a content strategy planed in advance, be ready to update their apps with innovative new features at least once every six months, and promote their apps as forcefully as possible through other marketing channels. Most importantly, brands have got to listen to their customers when it comes to things like notifications – if brands fail to do that, they will almost certainly have their apps uninstalled before the apps can actually bring benefits to the company.


Finally, Comcast is on board Yuan Xu (Danny)

Comcast is reported to acquire the TV ad-targeting company: Visible World – Finally.
The transformation towards data driven advertising has been a long march especially in the TV industry. We have seen targeted ads everywhere on the internet for years, same in tablets and even phones. Yet little movement had been seen in the TV industry. Magazines could be hard given the high customization cost of prints, but for TV channels, the cost of customization can be fairly low. Also, given the hardware set up these broadcasting companies already have, it requires minimal hardware changes in the delivery of customized content. This move by Comcast may well be a pioneering act that hopefully can wake the rest of the industry.

Advertisers have long been dreaming to target consumers across different screens. Given the important role that TV has in a typical US family’s life, it is an inevitable part of the ideal comprehensive targeting strategy. I am very curious how Comcast will utilize their new acquisition to better integrate their program with the rest of the advertising industry.

The Wall Street Journal commented:
Such a move would thrust the cable giant into a stronger position in the burgeoning market for data-driven TV advertising.

New York-based Visible World has long helped advertisers deliver ads to specific audiences and households based on zip codes, using data from cable set top boxes and other sources. In 2013, the company rolled out AudienceXpress, a subsidiary whose software tools help marketers buy TV ads the way they do online.


Real-time Marketing at the Oscars

Award shows are increasingly dominated by social media and the second-screen experience, allowing brands to connect with users via real-time marketing and online conversations. While Twitter is typically regarded as the central platform for real-time online conversations, Facebook came out on top at this year's Academy Awards: 21 million people discussed the Academy Awards on Facebook, generating a total of 58 million related posts while only 5.9 million Oscar-related tweets were found on Twitter. 

In fact, Facebook's social activity had increased more than double from last year as there were 11.3 million users who posted, liked, or commented about the Oscars in 2014. On the other hand, the number of tweets fell from 11.2 to 5.9 million this year. The decline is somewhat inevitable considering how popular Ellen's selfie was - that selfie alone accounted for more than 20% of the tweets about the 2014 event. Without anything like the photo, Oscar-related tweets experienced a dramatic decrease this year. Additionally, preliminary Nielsen figures revealed that this year's show was seen by an audience of 36.6 million,  which is a 7 million decline from last year and the lowest since 2009.

Regardless, the event presented a great opportunity for film studios behind this year's nominees to drive engagement and brand awareness. The following blog post analyzes the Facebook content from the film studios responsible for this year's Best Picture nominees:

According to the author, Focus Features distributed a congratulatory post while Eddie Redmayne was accepting his Best Actor award, reaping 23.5K interactions with a single post simply "by playing into the real-time suspense and excitement of the awards with their Facebook content". In contrast, Fox Searchlight's top-performing posts that were posted 5 minutes after their awards saw only 1.7K interactions. In a live event like the Oscars, the speed of posting becomes exceedingly important as evident from the engagement difference between the two film studios that were just mentioned. Once the opportunity to break the news is missed, engagement will necessarily suffer as the show moves on to the next trending topic.


Startups Face Digital Advertising Squeeze

According to this Alleywatch news article, 2014 was a good year for digital media advertising startup consolidation as large players such as Facebook, AOL, and Yahoo in the business scooped up smaller rivals and startups through acquisitions. M&A activity in the digital media space rose 32 percent year on year from 2013 to 2014, with a net acquisition value from $2.3 B to $7.5 B, according to investment bank CoadyDiemar Partners. Also according to the same source, the number of deals has risen from 76 to 100.

The bigger media companies are purchasing smaller firms to reduce competition, gain market share, and build their own digital ad products, and typically claim to offer more comprehensive set of ad servicing vehicles and products than their smaller rivals. Startups, on the other hand, claim to be more agile and nimble than their bigger rivals, reports The Wall Street Journal.

According to the same article, the overall market for digital media ad spend remains one of the highest growth opportunities in advertising industry, with spending forecast to nearly double to $80 B from 2013 to 2017, according to Woodside Capital Partners.

CoadyDiemar also reported that as advertising becomes increasingly more prevalent, and as digital channels become more sophisticated and mature, further consolidation in the sector is likely to continue and increase both in terms of the number of deals as well as the overall transaction dollar amount.