Consumer Behavior Underscores the Value of Analytics

Consumer Behavior Underscores the Value of Analytics

Analytics

How does an advertiser reach consumers this summer?

On the one hand, consumers say they are living more frugally amid inflation. More than half of consumers surveyed by Numerator said that inflation and high gas prices are affecting how they celebrate major holidays such as July 4. Many are scaling back their spending. They say they’re eating out less, spending less money on decorations and fireworks, and spending less on food for holiday cookouts.

But on the other hand, consumers are opening up their pocketbooks on expensive choices such as summer travel. Airports are overwhelmed with people traveling all over the world. People have been so tired of being cooped up during the pandemic that “revenge travel” is a phenomenon in the summer of 2022, even as the cost of flying has increased.

In fact, as The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s been a surge in travel, concert going, and entertainment throughout the year as pandemic restrictions ease and people continue to get vaccinated, which makes them more confident to be in crowded spaces such as concerts.

A paradox has emerged: consumers are reluctant to spend money in some areas but are happy to do so in others.

Mind Your Analytics

For advertisers, the shifting sands of consumer behavior suggest that they need to pay very close attention to analytics. Data-driven decisions have never been more essential. For instance, search behavior is even more important than ever. Google Search has always been a barometer of consumer purchase intent, and it continues to be. For instance, in the days leading up to July 4 as I wrote this post, Google said that searches for inflatable tent houses and water balloon launchers were trending alongside affordable sports bras, suggesting an interest in affordable, at-home fun and fitness during the holidays.

In addition, your own mileage may vary depending on the type of consumer you are interested in. For example, the Numerator survey indicates that younger generations are more likely to spend more during holiday events, which makes sense: younger generations in general are more willing to spend money on experiences instead of material things.

Analytics do not exist in a vacuum. They need to be applied across a variety of formats – say, text-based ads versus video – and platforms (ranging from Google to Amazon to Pinterest) depending on where your customers spend their time and how they spend their time (e.g., doing searches with intent to buy versus more casual searches for ideas that may or may not be related to a purchase).

To cite one example: recently one of our clients experienced a challenge: its share of branded search was dropping. The client, a photo curating and sharing company, naturally wanted to improve. So, we launched a video-based awareness campaign that spanned display, YouTube, Google Display Network, connected TV, Yahoo Online Video, Facebook, and Yahoo Display. Our focus: mobile and connected TV. We also ensured that YouTube ads could target connected TV screens.

We tested different video ad formats with a large audience (women aged 25-54) with the purpose of hitting as many eyes as possible. That’s because the brand’s low levels of search volume told us that it lacked brand awareness more broadly. Targeting an audience would have been premature. Analytics helped us manage a successful campaign while keeping CPMs down. (Read more about that project here.)

We recommend advertisers take an agile approach with analytics, constantly testing and learning from consumer behaviors as they change quickly in response to important variables such as inflation. In addition, manage your analytics closely. As widely reported, by July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the current version of the popular web analytics service, known as Universal Analytics (UA), and advertisers need to prepare now.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we manage our clients’ campaigns with a robust knowledge of analytics (as discussed here). We interpret the story that numbers tell. We happily work tirelessly to centralize, aggregate, segment and analyze your data, ultimately sharing insights with you in these ways. contact us to learn more.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/YNaSz-E7Qss

Why Google Brought Advertising to YouTube Shorts

Why Google Brought Advertising to YouTube Shorts

Google YouTube

During the past several weeks, the marketing world has been buzzing about streaming companies such as Disney+ and Netflix embracing advertising. And this conversation is more than justified. Both businesses offer advertisers a tremendous inventory for creating highly relevant advertising content to a global streaming audience that continues to grow based on industry research. As we mentioned recently in a blog post, although we don’t yet know what kinds of ad units Disney+ and Netflix will offer, they can certainly draw upon plenty of examples. One of them is YouTube.

YouTube Advertising

YouTube has offered ad units for years. And although the growth of YouTube’s ad revenues has not delivered on analysts’ expectations lately, the app remains an important part of Google’s growth. YouTube’s worldwide advertising revenues amounted to $6.9 billion in the first quarter of 2022, representing a 14 percent year-over-year increase. YouTube is certainly threatened by the rise of TikTok, but the app is still a juggernaut, and one of the reasons for that is YouTube’s ability to offer a diversified slate of ad units.

The most casual users of YouTube are familiar with some of YouTube’s popular ad units such as skippable video ads (which allow viewers to skip ads after 5 seconds). Over the years, YouTube has built on this foundation of short-form ad units with new products. For example, in 2019, YouTube unveiled a product called Bumper Machine, which makes it easier for businesses to create six-second video ads, or bumpers.

YouTube has also embraced connected TV with the Masthead ad format for TV. This allows brands to connect with consumers the instant users access the YouTube app on their televisions. The Masthead format is a response to the fact that while consumers aren’t watching as much linear TV, they are still using their televisions as a tool for experiencing streaming platforms like YouTube. In other words, YouTube understands viewing trends, and is staying nimble in its bid to connect with advertisers in an informed way.

At Google’s 2022 Marketing Live event, the company also rolled out more ad products. For example, Google is starting to offer ads in YouTube Shorts around the world after experimenting with ads in YouTube Shorts since 2021.

With YouTube Shorts, people can quickly and easily create short videos of up to 15 seconds, similar to how TikTok and Instagram Reels are used. The videos are created on mobile devices and viewed, in portrait orientation, on mobile devices. And once a person opens one Short, they get access to tons more of them (again, think TikTok or Reels playing one after another.) According to Google, YouTube Shorts now averages over 30 billion daily views (four times as many as a year ago).

 YouTube Shorts

Shorts, much like TikTok, provides editing tools for people to create slick, high-concept content. And now brands can get in on the action because their Video action campaigns and App campaigns will automatically scale to YouTube Shorts.

 Google said that later in 2022:

  • Brands will also be able to connect their product feeds to their campaigns and to make their video ads on YouTube Shorts more shoppable.
  • Google is developing a long-term YouTube Shorts monetization solution for our creators, which Google will discuss soon.

This all sounds like a wise move on Google’s part. Google needs YouTube Shorts to succeed to thwart TikTok. And making Shorts ads shoppable capitalizes on the social commerce boom.

YouTube Shorts

Moreover, the rise of the creator economy has generated a new segment of influencer creators. As I blogged in January, the creator economy will become even more powerful. That’s because collaboration networks are proliferating. These networks give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential partnerships with brands, and crypto currency sites such as Rally.io make it possible for creators to mint their own currency. The big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators. YouTube wants to monetize this activity and not lose out to its rivals.

What Advertisers Should Do

It’s important that advertisers say abreast of these developments, and if you work with an agency partner, collaborate with them closely on a way forward. (This is what our clients do with True Interactive.)

Not every video ad unit may be relevant to you. Assess the video ad units proliferating – whether from YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other apps – against your audience and business objectives. And think of them strategically. For instance, recently, one of our clients experienced a challenge: its share of branded search was dropping. The client, a photo curating and sharing company, naturally wanted to improve. So, we launched a video-based awareness campaign that spanned display, YouTube, Google Display Network, connected TV, Yahoo Online Video, Facebook, and Yahoo Display. Our focus: mobile and connected TV. We also ensured that YouTube ads could target connected TV screens.

As a result, our client enjoyed significant improvements in both awareness and also revenue – showing how powerful video can be as a direct-response format in addition to brand awareness. Read more about this case study here.

Contact True Interactive

We deliver results for clients across all ad formats, including video and mobile. To learn how we can help you, contact us.

Google Introduces New Privacy Controls – Here Is What They Mean

Google Introduces New Privacy Controls – Here Is What They Mean

Google

Google is upping the ante for privacy once again. At its annual developer conference (known as Google I/O), Google announced a number of chan ges aimed at enhancing user privacy. They include two new tools that give users even more control over their data:

  • Results about the user in Search. With a new tool to accompany updated removal policies, people can more easily request the removal of Google Search results containing their contact details — such as phone numbers, home addresses, and email addresses.
  • My Ad Center. Toward the end of 2022, Google will launch more controls for users’ ads privacy settings: a way of choosing which brands to see more or less of, and an easier way to choose whether to personalize a user’s ads. My Ad Center gives users more control over the ads they see on YouTube, Search, and their Discover feed, while still being able to block and report ads. Users will be able to choose the types of ads they want to see — such as fitness, vacation rentals or skincare — and learn more about the information Googles use to show them to users.

Google elaborated on the release of the new search privacy tool as follows:

When you’re searching on Google and find results about you that contain your phone number, home address, or email address, you’ll be able to quickly request their removal from Google Search — right as you find them. With this new tool, you can request removal of your contact details from Search with a few clicks, and you’ll also be able to easily monitor the status of these removal requests.

Google said the search privacy feature will be available in the coming months in the Google App, and users can also access it by clicking the three dots next to individual Google Search results.

What Advertisers Should Do

The new privacy controls in and of themselves could help advertisers. Why? Because conceivably, users who choose which types of ads they want to see will be more engaged and interested in the ones they do in fact see – which could increase purchase intent. That said, advertisers need to look at the big picture: these developments are another sign that Google is intensifying its commitment to a privacy-first world. And that starts with Google’s depreciation of third-party cookies on Chrome — which is one of the hottest stories in ad tech event though it has not happened yet.

Google will phase out tracking of third-party cookies on Chrome in 2023. And 2023 is coming sooner than you think. The Google Privacy Sandbox projects the following timeline for phasing out third-party cookies:

  • September/October 2022: Google will announce the transition timeline and the actual date when Chrome will retire third-party cookies.
  • November 2022-April 2023: Google will provide insights and guidance for businesses to adjust to the upcoming change; they will publish playbooks and other documentation.
  • May-August 2023: Google will officially retire cookies within Chrome.

It’s important to come up with a transition plan now to measure campaign performance in a world without third-party cookies on Chrome. Yes, Google’s original timeline was delayed – but the 2023 date seems to be holding firm. Contact your advertising partner to ask how they’re managing the transition (at True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting for our clients).

Are you ready?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Who Wants to Play in Google’s Privacy Sandbox?

Who Wants to Play in Google’s Privacy Sandbox?

Google

On March 31, Google shared an update on a number of consumer privacy initiatives under way as part of its Sandbox initiative. And advertisers are not completely onboard.

What Google Announced

Before we get to Google’s March 31 announcement, let’s set the stage with a bit of context. Back in January 2020, Google upended the advertising world by saying that the company was planning to phase out support for third-party cookie tracking on Chrome. Cookies are online trackers that websites place on people’s web browsers when they visit sites. Without them,  businesses have a harder time serving targeted ads based on people’s interests, and it is more difficult to track the effectiveness of ads. But privacy advocates have long contested that cookie tracking increases the risk for people being tracked when they don’t want to be tracked. So, Google has been developing ways that make it possible for advertisers to create targeted ads without tracking people across the Web via cookies.

Google set a timetable for phasing out third-party cookies: at some point in 2023. This acts as a deadline for Google to provide advertisers an alternative to third-party cookie tracking. And Google is under a lot of pressure to do so given all the money the company makes from advertising.

Since then, Google has been slowly announcing the development of alternatives to cookie tracking, all being developed in the Privacy Sandbox. This is an initiative that aims to create technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers tools to build digital businesses. The Privacy Sandbox reduces cross-site and cross-app tracking while helping to keep online content and services free for all.

On March 31, Google said that it is making progress in rolling out some alternatives to the use of third-party cookies to serve up advertising on the Google Chrome browser. They include, most notably, the launch of tests for Topics.

What Is Topics?

Topics is a technology will track people on Chrome and assign them a set of advertising categories (such as travel or fitness) based on the sites they visit. When a person goes to a site with ads, Google will share three of those topics with advertisers on the site. This will allow the advertiser to show them to show a relevant ad.

That is the theory, at least. No one knows how the reality will pan out.

Topics sounds like cookie tracking, but it isn’t. It’s actually a software platform that publishers and ad tech providers will plug into in order to help target ads when people visit their sites through the Chrome browser. After Topics is enabled, the technology will track people on Chrome and assign them a set of advertising categories (such as travel or fitness) based on the sites they visit. When a person goes to a site with ads, Google will share three of those topics with advertisers on the site, which will allow the advertise to show them to show a relevant ad.

Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on a user’s device without involving any external servers, including Google servers.

In its March 31 announcement, Google said Chrome users will be able to opt out of the tests of Topics through their settings. In Europe, consumers have to opt in to enable the tests. As Google noted, participants “will be able to see and manage the interests associated with them, or turn off the trials altogether.”

So far, the ad tech industry has raised questions about how Google is proceeding with Topics. For instance:

  • There is worry that the need to opt into Topics in Europe will be a roadblock.
  • Others have complained that Google is attempting to use consumer privacy to exert its own influence over the ad tech industry.
  • There remains an open question as to whether Topics will even work.

Advertisers and technology firms raised objections when Google launched the predecessor to Topics, an open source program known as FLoC. FLoC was supposed to make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies. But FLoC caught plenty of flak from consumer privacy advocates who believed Google was overplaying its hand, as well as advertisers and agencies who accused Google of strong-arming them into playing by Google’s own rules. As one executive put it, FLoC was “a half baked idea.” It is an open question as to whether Topics will be an improvement.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • If you are succeeding with Google Ads, stay the course. Google is enduring an imperfect transition right now toward a privacy-world. But Google Ads? They’re not going away. Far from it – Google Ads are alive and well based on our experiences helping clients succeed with them.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads as Google continues its assault on third-party cookies. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which, as noted above, give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

True Interactive Named a 2022 Google Premier Partner

True Interactive Named a 2022 Google Premier Partner

Google

You might have noticed that we blog about Google a lot. There are good reasons for that, starting with Google’s enormous influence on the advertising industry. Not only is Google the largest platform for online advertising in the world, but the company also shapes the direction of the industry. We also discuss Google because we work closely with the company. We’re a partner. We advocate on behalf of our clients to maximize the value of their ad spend on Google, and doing that gives us deep knowledge of Google – which we share with our readers on our blog.

And I’m proud to say that our partnership has been recognized by Google. Google just informed us that True Interactive has been recognized as a 2022 Premier Partner and for being in the top 3 percent of the company’s partners. (Being included the top 3 percent depends on a number of factors such as client growth, client retention, product diversification, and annual ads spend.)

What does being a Premier Partner do for us? Our clients? The marketplace at large? Well, we enjoy a number of benefits that will make us a stronger advocate for our client, such as:

  • Product betas: ongoing access to the most current product betas through quarterly, summarized reports.
  • Insights briefings: the latest insights from Google each month to stay ahead of changing consumer behaviors and industry trends.
  • Advanced Google Ads support: 24-hour advanced ads support to help us quickly and efficiently resolve clients’ issues.
  • Executive experiences: invite-only industry events, such as roundtable discussions with Google leaders, sessions with other Premier Partners, and opportunities to hear from industry thought leaders.

And more!

All this means we’ll not only be a stronger client advocate, but also a better thought leader. The knowledge we’ll accumulate through our closer partnership with Google will certainly enrich the ideas we share with the marketplace.

We are honored to be Premier Partner. Thank you to our Google, our clients, and to the incredibly talented team at True Interactive that turns insights from Google into a better experience for our clients.

Contact True Interactive

We help our clients succeed with online advertising. Learn more about our services here and our work here. And contact us to learn how we can help you.

How Google Is Growing Its E-Commerce Advertising Business

How Google Is Growing Its E-Commerce Advertising Business

Google

We all know e-commerce has exploded over the past 24 months. Google knows all too well. The surge in e-commerce was a boon to rival Amazon in terms of search traffic and revenue gained. But as we’ve reported, Google has also been working hard to fight back by becoming a stronger e-commerce player.  And it looks like Google is gaining ground, as a newly published report from Morgan Stanley suggests.

Morgan Stanley says that in November 2021, 57 percent of shoppers first went to Google platforms (including Search and YouTube) to research a new product, up from 54% in May 2021. In addition, the number of Amazon Prime subscribers turning to Google for initial searches increased to 56 percent from 51 percent in the same period.

This is good news for Google, whose core advertising business has been losing market share to Amazon Advertising. Google needs to keep eyeballs on Google in order to attract and keep advertisers. And people searching with intent to buy are incredibly valuable. Morgan Stanley predicts that Google will achieve 37 percent year-over-year e-comm/retail ad spend for fiscal 2021.

It’s interesting to note that according to online selling platform Jungle Scout, 74 percent of U.S. consumers begin their product searches on the Amazon.com site in 2021. It’s impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison with Morgan Stanley’s numbers because Morgan Stanley counts YouTube searches, and Jungle Scout does not. This is a significant difference because YouTube is the second-most popular search site in the world next to Google Search.

That said, the numbers matter.

Morgan Stanley listed several examples of how Google has developed more e-commerce related features in 2021 alone:

Google e-commeerce

These examples stand out for us:

  • Making online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a product results that page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions.
  • Soon introducing a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. According to a Google blog post, “With this new capability, you can tap on the Lens icon when you’re looking at a picture of a shirt, and ask Google to find you the same pattern — but on another article of clothing, like socks. This helps when you’re looking for something that might be difficult to describe accurately with words alone. You could type ‘white floral Victorian socks,’ but you might not find the exact pattern you’re looking for. By combining images and text into a single query, we’re making it easier to search visually and express your questions in more natural ways.”
  • Including in search a feature, “Things to know,” that will make it easier to explore and understand new topics. For example, if a person searches for “acrylic painting,” Google understands how people typically explore this topic, and shows the aspects people are likely to look at first though “Things to know.” Google says it can identify more than 350 topics related to acrylic painting in this example.

These advances are typically fueled by artificial intelligence applications such as multitask uniform model, an algorithm designed to provide answers to complex queries by concurrently assessing information across multi-language text, images, video and audio.

The next milestone: Google’s parent Alphabet reports fiscal 2021 earnings on February 1. Let’s see how well Google’s ad revenues look.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Capitalize on Google’s advertising tools that are designed to be more visually appealing. For instance, Google recently rolled out Discovery ads, which are image-rich ads designed for a more “laid back” search experience (more about that here). Google is clearly doubling down on the visual web, and advertisers should expect more visually appealing ad products as it attempts to become a stronger e-commerce player.
  • Make use of more tools that make it easier to connect online searching and shopping. Google isn’t the only company figuring out search and commerce. Instagram is another, as we discussed in a blog post recently. And there are many more apps doing the same thing.
  • Do a gut-check with your organic search team. How well are they aligning content with visual search, for example? How will Google’s “Things to know” feature affect the depth and breadth of content that you provide on your website, Google My Business listing, and elsewhere?
  • Keep your eyes open and your budgets flexible. The online advertising space is getting more competitive and interesting for retailers. We have been blogging about the rise of Amazon Advertingfor some time – as well as the growth of advertising services from retailers such as Macy’sWalmart, and Walgreens. They’re all using their first-party customer data to build online advertising platforms. Depending on your target audiences, they may provide very competitive alternative to Google – an example being Macy’s for fashion-conscious shoppers or Walmart for advertisers whose audience aligns with Walmart’s multi-channel customer. (And we can help you succeed on all these platforms.)

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/eye-google-detail-macro-face-1686932/

Why Google Launched Topics, and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Google Launched Topics, and What Advertisers Should Do

Google

Google’s FLoC didn’t float. Will Topics fly?

On January 25, Google said it is killing FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which was Google’s alternative to targeting consumers with cookies based on third-party ads on Google’s Chrome browser. Instead, Google is introducing a new alternative, Topics. Topics is the latest twist in Google’s attempt to gain a competitive edge through consumer privacy.

Understanding the news requires a bit of a refresher on Google’s journey with privacy. So, here goes:

  • January 2020: Google said it would phase out support for third-party cookies on Google Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Advertisers rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google said it wanted to make the web more private. Google said it would work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox Google later delayed its plans to 2023 in the face of pressure from U.K. regulators.
  • January 2021: Google announced it was developing an open-source program that would ease the pain of businesses eventually losing access to third-party cookies. This open-source program was known as FLoC. FLoC was supposed to make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies.
  • March 2021: Google doubled down on its campaign against cookies. Google said that once third-party cookies were phased out of Chrome browsers, Google would not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor would Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink. Instead, Google pushed advertisers to – you guessed it — adopt FLoC.

But FLoC caught plenty of flak from consumer privacy advocates who believed Google was overplaying its hand, as well as advertisers and agencies who accused Google of strong-arming them into playing by Google’s own rules. Now, Google is returning with an alternative the company hopes will be more acceptable: Topics.

Topics will track people on Chrome and assign them a set of advertising categories (such as travel or fitness) based on the sites they visit. When a person goes to a site with ads, Google will share three of those topics with advertisers on the site, which will allow the advertise to show them to show a relevant ad.

 

In a blog post, Google said, “Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers. When you visit a participating site, Topics picks just three topics, one topic from each of the past three weeks, to share with the site and its advertising partners. Topics enables browsers to give you meaningful transparency and control over this data, and in Chrome, we’re building user controls that let you see the topics, remove any you don’t like or disable the feature completely.”

Topics

Google will launch a developer trial of Topics in Chrome that includes user controls, and enables website developers and the ads industry to try it out. The final design of the user controls and the other various technical aspects of how Topics works will be decided based on feedback and what Google learns in the trial.

Meanwhile, Google is feeling the heat from the rise of retailer-operated ad networks such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect. These networks leverage their own first-party customer data to sell ad units. Advertisers, sensing the demise of targeting based on third-party cookies (from Google and Apple as well), are increasingly working with ad networks whose first-party data is beyond the reach of Google. And retailer-based networks give advertisers access to consumers who share the same interests and habits.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Do your homework. Stay on top of Topics by following Google’s public blog posts and explainers (such as this one and this one).
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • If you are succeeding with Google Ads, stay the course. Google is enduring an imperfect transition right now toward a privacy-world. But Google Ads? They’re not going away. Far from it – Google Ads are alive and well based on our experiences helping clients succeed with them.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which, as noted above, give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.