Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency

Google

We recently blogged about a consumer privacy feature being built into iOS14.3, Apple’s latest operating system. As widely reported, under iOS14.3, users of iPhones will now need to agree to allow a business to collect information about them – known as an opt-in policy (in Apple’s words, app tracking transparency, or ATT). This imminent change has triggered a spat with Facebook. The world’s largest social network is upset because its advertisers will have a harder time tracking its users off Facebook and serve up personalized ads to them. And now Google has weighed in on iOS14.3.

Google’s Reaction

In a January 27 blog post, Christophe Combette, Google Group Product Manager, Google Ads, wrote:

Apple’s ATT changes will reduce visibility into key metrics that show how ads drive conversions (like app installs and sales) and will affect how advertisers value and bid on ad impressions. As such, app publishers may see a significant impact to their Google ad revenue on iOS after Apple’s ATT policies take effect.

He recommends that developers to upgrade to version 7.64 of the Google Mobile Ads SDK for new features like SKAdNetwork support.

He also encourages advertisers to monitor the performance and delivery of all iOS App campaigns — and, if necessary, make adjustments to budgets and bids to achieve their goals.

How Will Google Advertisers Be Affected?

Now, it’s helpful to consider his post in context of how Google makes ad revenue. Google makes most of its ad revenue from people searching on Google and being served up ads alongside search results. It is unlikely that advertisers will see a performance drop from search ads on Google.

But advertisers using the Google Display Network may see an impact on their ad performance. That’s because the Google Display Network encompasses a vast collection of  websites, including specific Google websites like Gmail, and YouTube,  that show ads. This network also includes mobile sites and apps. If iPhone users decide they don’t want apps on the Google Display Network tracking them, then advertisers using those networks may see declines in performance because they won’t be able to track user behavior and serve up more personalized ads.

What Advertisers Should Do

No one knows for sure when ATT takes effect – there’s a lot of speculation that it will happen in March 2021. In the meantime, we suggest that advertisers:

  • Prepare your app for iOS14.3. Google has published detailed steps here.
  • If you use Google Analytics, be aware that Google recommends advertisers upgrade to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase for new features like SKAdNetwork support.

If you work with an agency to manage your advertising on Google, ask them how they are preparing.

Contact True Interactive

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

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

Facebook

If you operate a business on Facebook, you’ve probably received pop-up notices from Facebook warning you about ominous changes coming because of Apple’s latest operating system update. What’s exactly happening, and why? Our new advertiser Q&A takes a closer look.

Why Is Facebook Upset with Apple?

The conflict comes down to access to customer data.

Apple’s new operating system update, iOS14.3, contains new privacy tools that prevent apps from being able to track user activity across the internet. All applications need to ask iPhone users for permission to track their activity for the purposes of advertising. There an estimated one billion people around the world who own an iPhone.

Put another way: under iOS14.3, if a person has a business’s app on their iPhone, that person needs to agree to allow the business to collect information about them. iPhone users now have more control whether they actually want personalized ads generated as the result of an app following them around the internet.

Facebook believes that this opt-in approach could create a major problem for Facebook’s app. Most Americans have expressed discomfort with the way Facebook tracks their personal data. Since almost all of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, Facebook sees the new opt-in policy as a threat.

How Has Facebook Responded to iOS14.3?

Facebook has attacked the update publicly. For example, in December, Facebook argued on its own site that tougher privacy controls will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook advertising to reach people. Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of Ads and Business Products, wrote that Apple is “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic.” He elaborated:

These changes will directly affect [small businesses’] ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.

Facebook has also reached out to businesses, news media, and agencies (including us) to voice its position through content such as webinars.

What Is Apple’s Response to Facebook?

Apple continues to go about its business without a corporate response with one exception: the following tweet from CEO Tim Cook, which speaks for itself:

Tim Cook tweet

Otherwise, Apple has spoken with its actions by going forward with the iOS 14.3 update.

When Does the iOS14.3 Update Happen?

Although Apple made iOS 14.3 effective in December 2020, the company has not yet enforced the opt-in prompt. None of the changes discussed here is happening as of this writing. Apple has not announced when it will make these changes and enforce the prompt.

What Should Advertisers Do?

First off, we recommend monitoring the development closely. But don’t panic. No one knows how many iOS 14.3 users will opt out with their apps – Facebook or otherwise. To be sure, people opting out will compromise everything from conversion data to attribution to custom audience sizes. Facebook says it plans to roll out new features in events manager to help mitigate the impact of those changes. We are monitoring this situation for our clients. Stay tuned.

Contact True Interactive

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

How Nextdoor Helps Businesses Connect with their Communities

How Nextdoor Helps Businesses Connect with their Communities

Advertising

As people are spending more time close to home, Nextdoor, the social networking service for neighborhoods, is capturing more interest: from users, and also from brands. That’s because Nextdoor is more than a place for people to hang out and talk to one another about what’s going on in their neighborhood—it’s also a place to advertise. Nextdoor is especially appealing to businesses that have a local presence. According to a national consumer survey by Access Development, 93 percent of consumers typically travel less than 20 minutes to make their everyday purchases—a powerful incentive for local businesses to make themselves known. As the platform grows, there is serious talk of Nextdoor going public, too. Let’s take a closer look at how Nextdoor can play a role in connecting brands with their communities.

What Is Nextdoor?

Nextdoor, founded in 2008, describes itself as a platform “where communities come together to greet newcomers, exchange recommendations, and read the latest local news.” Users can report on local news, ask about local service-provider recommendations (according to Hootsuite, “67% of members share business recommendations with their neighbours”), and access local-community alerts during extreme weather. Think of it as a sort of virtual town hall.

Who hangs out on Nextdoor?

The app is currently used in 11 countries worldwide—countries including Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. In the U.S. alone, according to Nextdoor, one in four households use the platform. Sixty-two percent of users are female, and 74 percent are homeowners. But insights derived from Nextdoor go beyond clinical stats. In an article that appeared in The Atlantic, writer Ian Bogost notes how the platform can offer a nuanced peek into life in any given neighborhood. Bogost says, “Nextdoor’s virtual communities—which cover more than 180,000 U.S. neighborhoods, including more than 90 percent of those in the 25 largest [American] cities—are becoming representative of the country’s actual populations.” In short, the platform is a mirror a community holds up to itself: “this is who I am.” And that’s powerful intel for a brand looking to connect with the people who live nearby.

How Does a brand Engage with Nextdoor Users?

Once a company creates a business account on Nextdoor, it can use the platform to run Local Deal ads, which could look like anything from $2 off a sandwich to an online discount code. By connecting with the community on the platform, brands can also get a sense of how they are perceived by locals. As Hootsuite details here, a participating business should track metrics, anything from how many recommendations it’s earning to the number of times users clicked on its Local Deals to see more information.

Companies can also elevate awareness through participation in initiatives like the annual Nextdoor Favorites Competition (according to Nextdoor, winners of this competition benefit by earning up to 30 times the recommendations on their business page as compared to the average).

Finally, sponsored posts on Nextdoor allow brands—usually large regional advertisers—to reach out in myriad ways, from videos, to carousels showcasing products and services, to “click to call” functions allowing users to call a brand directly from Nextdoor’s in-app newsfeed.

What Makes a Successful Sponsored Post?

Like any advertising, sponsored posts require an understanding of the audience and the medium. Nextdoor recommends that sponsored posts be:

  • Content might offer tips or solutions. Brands might also include a deal to inspire consumer interest—and action.
  • Tone can be everything! A neighborly tone paired with appealing imagery encourages engagement.
  • A post that references local landmarks or a specific neighborhood invites recognition and resonance.

Contact True Interactive

Does Nextdoor’s friendly outreach look interesting? Wondering what next steps you can take to connect your brand with local consumers? Call us. We can help.

How Adjusting Your Facebook Ad Objectives Can Deliver More Conversions

How Adjusting Your Facebook Ad Objectives Can Deliver More Conversions

Facebook

Facebook’s user base keeps growing as a reflection of an increased adoption of digital among the general population in 2020. Businesses want to use advertising to squeeze as much revenue as they can from this massive audience, as well they should. At True Interactive, we’ve been helping advertisers succeed on Facebook for years, and one way we do that is by trying different approaches with Facebook’s advertising tools. Recently, we’ve been demonstrating to our clients how a fresh approach to choosing Facebook ad objectives can make Facebook ads more effective.

The Conventional Wisdom about Facebook Ad Objectives

When businesses set ad goals, they typically have two strategies in mind: build brand awareness with prospects (i.e., people who have never been to their site before) and also retarget website visitors and existing customers to drive conversions. From there, businesses select ad objectives for a given campaign. Now, conventional wisdom says that when a business wants to attract new customers (as opposed to retargeting existing ones), it’s best to choose brand awareness or consideration ad objectives such as reach, traffic, engagement, and app installs (among others). But for a retargeting campaign, it’s better to choose conversion-based objectives such as conversions, catalog sales, and store traffic.

Makes sense, right? Why set the bar too high for brand awareness by actually trying to measure conversions? It’s far better to save conversion-based objectives for retargeting existing customers, who already know about your product and are more likely to buy it.

Setting Conversion-Based Goals for Prospects

And yet, we’re delivering results by setting conversion-based goals for prospects, too. It sounds like a simple thing to do: set a conversion goal for a prospect. And you can literally do it with a click. By experimenting with some of our campaigns, we’re learning that a powerful ad targeting prospects can indeed drive them to conversion.

Now, I’m not talking about running the same ad for a prospect that you would for a current customer. You still need to customize different ads for different audiences. Ads for prospects require different calls to action than ads for existing customers, and indeed you may need to do completely different ads for each, such as special offers that apply only to new customers.

To be sure, conversion costs for retargeting-oriented campaigns are lower. But so far the conversion rate for prospects justifies the effort of running brand-awareness ads on Facebook – because these ads can do more than raise awareness.

What Happens If You Lack Conversion Data?

What happens if your business lacks enough conversion data to set up a conversion goal? In that case, we suggest that you use the conversion step before your final conversion so that the Facebook algorithm will have more data to optimize towards (example: if you don’t see a lot of sales, then don’t set your conversion goal to sales — set it to “add to carts”).

So, why might conversion-oriented ad objectives work for prospects? I believe that social media in general is becoming less of a lean-back-and-scroll experience. More users are spending time on social with intent to learn more about products and buy them. That’s because more Gen Zers and Millennials are growing up with a social experience that includes the presence of ads, more so than their predecessors did. They’re more comfortable viewing social as an intent-based platform. So they’re more likely to convert on an ad that introduces them to a new product.

Have you been experimenting with ad objectives? What have your results been?

Contact True Interactive

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

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Instagram Reels: A New Way for Brands to Connect with Gen Z

Instagram Reels: A New Way for Brands to Connect with Gen Z

Facebook Social media

On August 5, Facebook released a new feature on Instagram called Instagram Reels: “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.” Sound familiar? Facebook has been accused of cloning multiple popular social media app features in the past; given the rising popularity of TikTok, especially with Gen Z, we knew it would not be long before Instagram debuted its own short-looped video feature. The release of Instagram Reels also comes at an interesting time, as TikTok and Microsoft try to hammer out a purchase deal in the face of concerns that TikTok poses security threats.

Regardless of TikTok’s path forward, Instagram Reels has legs. And while Instagram Reels may seem identical to TikTok, that doesn’t mean brands should ignore it. Here are some reasons why:

Connect with Gen Zers on Instagram

It’s no secret that Gen Z is growing up in a world where many aspire to be an influencer or creator. TikTok, which became available worldwide in 2018, quickly gave teens the creative opportunity to do so. Many brands whose main customer base is Gen Z started using TikTok as a way to engage with that demographic. But some brands have felt hesitant about working with a new social media platform.

Now with the release of Instagram Reels, many Gen Z influencers and creators are bringing their successful TikTok content over to Instagram. The shift gives those brands reluctant to engage with a new social media app a familiar platform on which they can connect with Gen Z. And on Instagram Reels, brands have an opportunity to create fresh, engaging content to reach that audience.

Refresh Your Content for Your Instagram Community

If you were already seeing success with TikTok, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. On Instagram Reels, you can share the same or similar content with your Instagram following, which most likely will include a broader age range than Gen Z alone. Instagram Reels is a great way to refresh your current Instagram content and stay relevant.

If you don’t know where to begin on Instagram Reels, scroll through Instagram to get a feel for the popular short videos of dancing, lip syncing, or tutorials already on view. And consider making Instagram Reels part of your Influencer strategy.

Post Creative Videos Without Breaking the Bank

Instagram Reels doesn’t just help brands stay relevant. The platform makes sense economically, too. Because let’s face it: when it comes to video content, many brands, hampered by limited resources or limited budget, struggle to produce high-quality videos. Instagram Reels (and TikTok) allow brands to be creative without needing a full production team or deep pockets. A variety of editing tools include audio, AR effects, timer, speed, and more, giving users the ability to share high-quality videos in minutes.

Brands Already On Board

Brands eager to appeal to young consumers are already giving Instagram Reels a go. Dunkin’, for example, has posted a video, set to original Dunkin’ music and making good use of the platform’s filters and stickers, promoting the brand’s drive-through service and cold brew coffee.

And Maybelline has debuted a video starring influencer and model Nikkie De Jager, who lip-syncs Maybelline’s catchphrase—Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline—while applying makeup.

Red Bull, Louis Vuitton, and Sephora have also already posted to Instagram Reels.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to learn more about how Instagram Reels can bring attention to your brand? Contact us.

 

Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Microsoft

A couple of months ago, I mentioned on our blog that dark clouds were on the horizon for TikTok because of lingering concerns over the app’s security. Those dark clouds are here. On July 31, President Trump said he planned to ban the app in the United States because the U.S. government is concerned that TikTok poses a national security risk. TikTok’s detractors say that the popular app, owned by China-based Bytedance, could have personal data from its American users fall into the hands of the Communist Chinese government – a form of foreign espionage. But just as the issue reaching a crisis point, on August 2, Microsoft confirmed a rumor that it intends to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok. President Trump gave Microsoft and TikTok until September 15 to work out a deal, which would pave the way for TikTok to have a future in the United States. The drama is intriguing especially to the many businesses that have a presence on TikTok either through organic content or advertising. In addition, TikTok stakeholders are asking: What does Microsoft get out of buying TikTok and taking on the headaches of securing user data? Here are two reasons why:

1 TikTok Gives Microsoft a Social Media Card to Play Against Big Tech

Google has YouTube. Facebook has Instagram (and many other cash cows). But Microsoft lacks a go-to social app on which to build an advertising business. And this is a major drawback especially in 2020 as social media usage surges. Facebook’s recent quarterly earnings announcement underscored this reality: with people turning online for safer ways to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook’s monthly average users across all its apps has risen to 3 billion. Microsoft is missing out on a consumer-focused social app. True, Microsoft owns LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is not a business-to-consumer ad powerhouse. TikTok gives Microsoft an instant platform.

Granted, TikTok is still in the early stages of earning revenue from advertising and in-app purchases. And the app shows promise as well as challenges. According to the Financial Times, one 24-hour TikTok campaign ran by Guess logged a CTR of 16% compared to a 4% average. Kroger, which ran a #TransformUrDorm challenge, attracted close to 477 million views across hundreds of videos over the course of approximately one week. But in November 2019, The Verge said TikTok ads were the Wild West. Self-serve ads on the platform deliver CPM of $10 (compared negatively to Instagram’s $8).

TikTok has plenty of room to grow, and Microsoft sees the potential. If TikTok were fully developed as an advertising powerhouse, it’s possible the U.S. assets would have been too expensive to buy – so now is the right time to make a deal.

It’s all about Gen Z

Microsoft has been trying to build a presence with the surging Gen Z population for the past few years, and with good reason: Gen Z is set to overtake Millennials as the largest age cohort in the United States. Thus far, Microsoft has relied on gaming to connect with Gen Z, as witnessed by its development of Xbox, a Gen Z favorite. TikTok gives Microsoft another powerful way to connect with Gen Z: 60 percent of TikTok users are Gen Zers. TikTok also gives Microsoft a way to cross-promote Gen Z friendly products such as Xbox. As The Verge notes:

Microsoft could take advantage of that direct access to TikTok users with ads for Surface, Xbox, and other products, or even as another base for its game-streaming ambitions. Google is planning to leverage YouTube to integrate its Stadia streaming service, and TikTok would give Microsoft a response with xCloud game streaming. Microsoft had been planning to use Mixer for Xbox game streaming, but the service never gained enough traction, and the company was forced to strike a deal with Facebook for xCloud integration instead. It’s not hard to imagine watching a Call of Duty video on TikTok and then being able to click and instantly play the game as it streams to your phone via Microsoft’s xCloud service.

Microsoft, in addition, could reap the benefits of revenue gained when businesses tap into TikTok to advertise to Gen Z, as well – something that businesses might be reluctant to do while TikTok’s future remains in limbo.

What’s Next?

In addition to giving Microsoft and TikTok a deadline of September 15 to work out a deal, President Trump has said the U.S. government should get a financial cut of the transaction, which complicates an already tricky process. Microsoft is taking on a risk with this political hot potato, to be sure. The company has put its reputation on the line by stating that it will “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” But there is also potentially strong reward for Microsoft. With an American owner, TikTok may become a more attractive place for American businesses to build their brands with advertising and other forms of activity that would enrich Microsoft’s bottom line.

Meanwhile, as if to underline TikTok’s importance, Instagram launched on August 5 a feature, Instagram Reels, that competes directly with TikTok. Instagram Reels benefits from Instagram’s cachet and Facebook’s muscle. The pressure is on for Microsoft to land the TikTok deal.

To learn more about TikTok, check out this treasure trove of statistics.

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To learn more about how to build your own brand on the digital world, contact True Interactive.

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Advertising

One of the big stories of 2020 is, of course, the surge in people going online. It’s not just that people are spending more time online watching movies and connecting on social media. They’re also making purchases: as consumer behavior moves online, we’re seeing a surge in eCommerce. As reported in Forbes, the latest research suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated the progress of ecommerce adoption by four to six years—within a matter of months. What does that mean for your brand? A look at what the tech giants are doing provides some clues:

Instagram Shop

Instagram is embracing the online shopping trends with its July roll out, in the United States, of Instagram Shop. The online shopping feature allows consumers to view products on Instagram: personalized recommendations drawn from brands you as a consumer follow, plus recommendations suggested by Instagram’s @shop team.

Businesses can also add hashtags to product descriptions to make those products more likely to be featured. On Instagram Shop, shoppers can save items of interest, contact businesses, and place orders directly using Facebook Pay. In short, the feature allows brands to set up a single online store consumers can access via Instagram. Instagram Shop is set to go global in coming weeks.

Google’s Shoploop

Meanwhile, Google is making its own bid to snag the attention of online shoppers with its video shopping platform, Shoploop. Introduced by Google’s experimental Area 120 division, Shoploop spotlights products in short videos of 90 seconds or less. The videos illustrate how to use the product, and interested shoppers can make purchases online, directly from the app. They can also like, share, and save videos.

As reported in MediaPost, Shoploop “helps brands get product reviews from real people who know and use the products.” One of the beauties of Shoploop is that it streamlines a process that used to involve several apps or websites. Consumers can now discover products, see how they are used in real life, and make a purchase—all in one place. Currently, most Shoploop clips highlight skincare and makeup, but plans are already underway to expand reach to products including clothing, jewelry, and electronics.

What This Means for Brands

Store closures/state lockdowns during COVID-19 undoubtably spurred development of shopping experiences like Instagram Shop and Shoploop. But there’s a good chance that consumer habits formed during lockdown will persist indefinitely. “We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” notes Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, in the Forbes article cited above.

And because companies like Google and Instagram are making it even easier for people to buy things online by giving them more access points, shoppers will have more reasons than ever to continue those habits forged during the pandemic. The headline for advertisers is this: online advertising not only creates visibility for a brand, it is becoming an increasingly important, even mandatory, strategy for brands to draw shoppers directly to their commerce engines.

The Challenge for Advertisers

The challenge for advertisers is to capitalize on all these access points, while understanding what types of advertising work best to attract engagement online. That is, what kind of ads does a brand now need to create in order to draw shoppers to their Instagram page, as opposed to their website? How should a business build an advertising presence on Instagram that complements the organic content it posts, especially for brands that sell products on Instagram? Different access points can mean different audiences: online ads will not necessarily all be the same.

Contact True Interactive

Need help navigating these new opportunities? Contact us. We can help.