What Is Machine Learning?: Advertiser Q&A

What Is Machine Learning?: Advertiser Q&A

Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning is affecting the way businesses operate – including how they advertise. Google, for instance, uses machine learning to help businesses optimize the performance of their search ads. But not everyone understands exactly what machine learning is. We thought we’d take a moment to break the topic down and answer some common questions.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) in which computers literally have the ability to learn, and subsequently make increasingly more intelligent decisions. The learning happens when a computer program accesses and analyzes data — data in amounts generally too vast for humans to read through quickly or accurately. The computer looks for patterns in the data and learns automatically, without human assistance. Spotify, for instance, uses machine learning to understand the musical tastes of its subscribers in order to recommend songs that are more likely to match their interests.

Is machine learning the same as AI?

Machine learning is one aspect of AI. AI in fact encompasses many things, including:

  • Natural language processing, or NLP, a technology that equips machines to interpret what people say in words or text. Advanced NLP not only deciphers speech, it teases out context and detects nuances like sarcasm.
  • Chatbots, the programs operating inside messaging apps or on websites, which allow consumers to accomplish simple tasks like e-commerce transactions.
  • Neural networks, which are AI programs that use the human brain as a model. Neural networks incorporate aspects of AI like NLP in order to perform duties such as recognizing handwriting.
  • Dynamic pricing, in which programs use consumer data to set prices that are most likely to ensure a sale given various factors.
  • Content Curation, an aspect of AI that can be used to figure out what specific goods to recommend to consumers based on data about that consumer.

In short, AI is a supercategory describing and encompassing the many ways computers emulate the way people think and act. In the vast universe of AI, machine learning is one subcategory.

How are businesses using machine learning in online advertising?

Machine learning can help businesses test the effectiveness of different forms of advertising. Not only can it prioritize ads that are doing better, machine learning can even pinpoint what ads are performing best at certain times.

Google’s efforts to stay competitive in a field shared by powerhouses such as Amazon and Facebook exemplify an effective use of machine learning. As we recently discussed, Google’s responsive search ads and responsive display ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines, descriptions, and logos. Machine learning figures in by automatically testing various combinations of these factors and highlighting the ads that perform best.

What are some tips for succeeding with machine learning?

Like any tool, machine learning can be used wisely—or abused. To glean the best results, keep in mind that:

  • Machine learning is not a replacement for humans. Use it as a complement to human judgment.
  • Machine learning is a dynamic field. This is not a topic you can learn once and then consider it mastered. Machine learning tools evolve quickly, with new ones coming along seemingly on a weekly basis. Stay on top of the changes.

Contact True Interactive

Curious as to how machine learning can help you with your digital advertising? Contact us.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

Advertising

Verizon Media (formerly known as Oath) is enduring a transition. But advertisers, especially business-to-business brands, should keep the company on their radar screens and be ready to act on some of the changes occurring at the subsidiary of Verizon Communications.

Verizon Media Shares Mixed News

In recent months, Verizon Media has been the source of difficult news, including layoffs and declining revenues. One piece of news we’ve been following and reacting to throughout 2019: the closing of the Oath Ad Platforms ad server in 2020. As Verizon Media told Adweek,

Following a strategic review of our business, we have decided to close the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, effective 2020. We are working with our customers to ensure they are supported as they migrate from the Ad Server platform. This does not affect our Oath Ad Platforms SSP business.

I see the shutting down of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server as good news for Oath customers. Advertising on the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server means using the Yahoo! platform, which lacks strong functionality and uses dated features. With the shutdown of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, your business will transition to Bing. This change is especially advantageous now that Microsoft organized its advertising products under Microsoft Advertising. The rebrand entails the launch of new features such as Sponsored Products and an enhancement of recently launched features such as Microsoft Audience Network, which is powered by artificial intelligence. Advertisers will be in a stronger position thanks to the stronger role Microsoft now plays.

A New Phase for Verizon Media

Meanwhile, Verizon Media is entering a new phase that includes the embrace of augmented reality and virtual reality, according to CEO Guru Gowrappan. In a recently published interview with Fortune, he said,

The biggest thing we’re investing in is 5G [the faster successor to 4G LTE mobile networks]. Every product is going to have an aspect of 5G. You’re going to have deeper integration of augmented reality and virtual reality.

We not just have front row seat and access to what is happening but we’re also building all of our apps, products, and content in that experience. So if you go to our Los Angeles office, we have the first 5G animation studio [Ryot Studios]. It’s brought down the cost of producing animation, and Ryot does a lot of AR content.

He also plans to integrate e-commerce with advertising more effectively, following the example set by Instagram. As he pointed out,

Let’s say you’re watching the Dallas Mavs and want to buy a jersey while you’re watching. We want to integrate commerce more deeply.

Also, the ad model itself has become combined with transactions. That’s what Instagram does. It’s advertising and sponsorships, but in the end, it’s enticing you to come in and transact on the platform.

These are bold statements for a company emerging from hard times, but the company understands that its previous game plan has been flawed.

What You Should Do

My advice to brands advertising on digital:

  • Take stock of Verizon Media’s considerable publishing assets, such as Engadget, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Yahoo! According to Verizon Media, its publishing platforms deliver an audience of more than 1 billion people.
  • Watch how Verizon Media evolves its ad products under Guru Gowrappan. He has made it clear that it’s no longer business as usual at Verizon Media. The possibility of ad products using AR and VR is exciting, but the more important near-term development is the integration of e-commerce with its ad products for businesses seeking a tighter integration between online ads and sales.
  • Make sure you understand the impact of the demise of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server. Talk with your agency partner if you’re working with one. Ensure that you understand the role of Microsoft (which I see as a positive one).

As always, contact True Interactive if you need help navigating the digital landscape. We have deep experience with online advertising. We’re here to help.

Coming to the Amazon App: Video Ads

Coming to the Amazon App: Video Ads

Amazon

As consumers increasingly shop online, Amazon’s app is a popular go-to destination, and the company is clearly paying heed. Recent Mobile Marketer and Bloomberg articles underscore Amazon’s sensitivity to consumer habits and the way the company is responding to what it sees: for example, by testing video ads in the Apple iOS version of Amazon’s shopping app. The move makes Amazon a stronger advertising alternative to Google and Facebook, and signals not only the e-commerce giant’s increased focus on advertising, but also its recognition of the public’s hunger for mobile ads.

Savvy and Lucrative

Incorporating video ads on the Amazon app is a savvy move. As an intent-based app, Amazon tends to draw consumers who already possess a desire to buy. The video spots, which pop up in response to users’ search results in Amazon’s shopping app, are meant to capitalize on this intention. It’s also a lucrative move for the company: though prices range depending on the ad category and not everyone pays a fixed rate, Amazon is charging roughly a $35,000 ad budget to run the spots at five cents per view for 60 days. The plan is to start with iOS, then expand to Google’s Android mobile operating system later this year.

Growing Along with Digital Advertising

As we’ve been discussing at True Interactive, the news is a sign of Amazon’s continued growth as a platform for businesses to advertise on—not just sell products on. And although Amazon’s April 25th first quarter earnings announcement reports a slowdown in that growth, the announcement also makes it clear: Amazon’s advertising business remains strong and highly profitable.

Furthermore, Amazon is making inroads into others’ share of the spoils. eMarketer reports that Amazon’s advertising business will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019, eating into the percentage enjoyed by the duopoly of Google and Facebook (Google, while still enjoying the lion’s share of digital ad spending, is projected to drop by one point in 2019). And Amazon, though still trailing behind Facebook and Google in advertising spend share, seems uniquely positioned to step up. As eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart notes, “Amazon offers a major benefit to advertisers, especially CPG and direct-to-consumer [D2C] brands. The platform is rich with shoppers’ behavioral data for targeting and provides access to purchase data in real time.”

It’s a good time for Amazon to expand in this way: as we discussed in a recent post, mobile ads are on the rise. Forrester reports that between 2017 and 2022, mobile will drive 86 percent of growth in U.S. digital ad spending. The digital dollars are being siphoned from other, more traditional ad spending shares, according to eMarketer: directories like the Yellow Pages, for example, and traditional print resources like newspapers and magazines. “The steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenues which are disappearing in traditional media advertising,” Peart said.

What You Can Do

Whether or not you advertise on Amazon, the news offers a compelling reason to have a mobile ad strategy. We recommend that you:

  • Remember that mobile is its own beast. Take a page from Amazon’s book: listen to the signals of consumer behavior and shape your mobile advertising accordingly.
  • Watch for Facebook and Google to respond with more mobile ad products, and see how they do it. Watching these giants maneuver and attempt to one-up one another can be a great way to learn what works.
  • Consider how video plays into your advertising mix. Video has its own set of requirements for production and creative concepting: what does that mean for your business and the resources you have at hand?

True Interactive works with businesses all the time to develop their video advertising campaigns Call us, and see our recently published case study with Snapfish, to get an idea of the kind of work we do.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Advertising Powers Google’s Future

Advertising Powers Google’s Future

Google

In recent weeks, we have seen a flurry of earnings announcements from the major digital advertising platforms, including the big three: Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Together these companies account for 62 percent of all digital ad spend, according to eMarketer.

Google dominates with 37.1 percent market share. And yet, during earnings season, Amazon and Facebook have dominated the news even though Google’s ad business grew by 20 percent (year over year) for the final quarter of 2018. Google’s advertising revenues for the quarter were $32.6 billion, accounting for 83 percent of Alphabet’s revenue. For the full year, Google achieved $116.3 billion in ad revenue compared to $10 billion achieved by Amazon Advertising.

Where’s the Love for Google?

So where’s the love for Google? Here’s what I think is happening:

  • Surprise is more interesting than predictability. Facebook surprised analysts by reporting strong advertising growth for 2018, as we noted on our blog. Here is a company that has been rocked by data privacy scandals for months. And yet, the world’s largest social media platform just keeps growing, which raises questions about how important data privacy really is to Facebook’s community. As for Google? Advertising growth is expected. Even when Google surpasses analysts’ estimations, the pundits say “Yes, but . . . “ With Google’s latest quarterly earnings, analysts noted that Alphabet is spending more to support its ad business.

Google’s Advantages

But make no mistake: Google is going to continue to grow its ad business and in doing so will draw upon several advantages, such as:

  • A massive user base that relies on Google across multiple platforms and apps ranging from the Google search engine to Google Maps and YouTube.
  • A head start in using artificial intelligence to make advertising smarter and more effective. True, Google faces competition from Amazon and Facebook. But as I’ve noted, Google’s extensive AI tools are rapidly evolving.
  • Global reach. Amazon and Facebook are improving their advertising products to support international ad campaigns, but Google commands an already established global presence.
  • Strong content marketing that educates advertises on Google’s products. You can see for yourself from Google’s blogs.

What Businesses Should Do

My advice to businesses:

  • Stay abreast of advances in Google’s ad tools, especially with AI.

To maximize the value of your digital ad spend, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Get Ready for AI Everywhere

Get Ready for AI Everywhere

Artificial Intelligence

In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) will make digital advertising more targeted, thanks in part to the efforts of Google. But marketers will need to invest more time and effort to make AI pay off.

It’s clear that AI is essential to Google’s growth. In February 2018, CEO Sundar Pichai said AI is more profound than electricity or fire. A few months later, he published a statement of AI principles in which he outlined seven ways Google will use AI (and ways that Google will not). The post focused on the importance of using AI for social good. Pichai did not mention using AI for advertising, but Google is certainly applying AI to make advertising smarter.

For instance, in 2018, Google launched a number of products that use machine learning (a form of AI) to improve online advertising performance. I recently blogged about one such product, responsive search ads. As I noted, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

2018 was just a warm-up for what’s to come in 2019. Businesses demand more accountability and ROI from their online ad spend, and AI does just that. I expect Google will focus more on using AI to make YouTube more effective. Google has already injected AI into YouTube with features such as maximize lift, which is a smart bidding tool that automatically adjusts bids at auction time to maximize the impact a company’s video ads have on brand perception. Maximize lift is supposed to help businesses reach people who are most likely to consider their brand after seeing a video ad.

One concern we often hear from advertisers is that YouTube is not as useful for direct-response campaigns as it is for brand building. In 2019, we’ll see the emergence of tools that do a better job targeting video ad content to people who are in shopping mode and ready to buy as Google makes YouTube more of a lower-funnel platform.

AI will make online advertising better. But AI will also require marketers to invest more time and energy to make it pay off, as I discussed in my post about responsive search ads. It’s important that businesses understand its uses and requirements. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We help businesses maximize the value of their online advertising and understand where the industry is headed.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/artificial-intelligence-robot-ai-ki-2167835/

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google

Our clients have been asking us about some recent news regarding how Google defines exact match. Here’s what’s going on and what you need to know:

Broadening “Exact Match”

Exact match is a keyword match type. With exact match keywords, a business can conduct a paid search campaign and reach potential customers searching for a specific keyword that you’re bidding on; or some close variant of it.

Google recently broadening the meaning of an exact match. Google is now looking at user intent when matching a query against a keyword. As Google noted in a blog post, Google will show ads for searches that include implied words, paraphrases, and other terms with the same meaning. Here’s how Google explains the change:

Let’s say you’re marketing for a travel business. If you’re using the exact match keyword [yosemite camping], your ads may show on other terms like “yosemite campground,” “campsites in yosemite,” or “yosemite national park ca camping.”

In each case, the intent of the search still matches the original keyword: to go camping in Yosemite National Park. However, you wouldn’t show on terms like “yosemite hotel” or “best yosemite camping,” because while both refer to staying at the park, the intent is different. Instead, these terms would match to the broad match version of this keyword.

This update represents a major change to Google’s algorithm. Why the change? According to Google, roughly 15 percent of searches conducted every day are new. As a result, potential customers might be looking for products and services using terms and phrases that are not even on your radar screen. But now, with machine learning, Google can cast its net wider without advertisers needing to manage an ever-expanding keyword list.

Benefits

Both advertisers and Google should benefit from this change. Businesses should be able to reach more people using Google’s advertising products. According to Google, advertisers using mostly exact match keywords see 3 percent more exact match clicks and conversions on average, with most coming from queries they aren’t reaching today. Google also benefits by matching user queries to a broader pool of keywords – which means more clicks, traffic, and revenue for Google.

What You Should Do

I advise any advertiser to keep a close eye on your search query reports (SQRs). You may notice unexpected queries matched to your keywords. You may need to add keyword negatives to modify your campaign. All algorithm changes have an impact. So watch your reports closely and be ready to adapt as needed. If you have additional questions about exact match targeting, contact True Interactive. We’re happy to help!

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.