How Brands Are Winning March Madness

How Brands Are Winning March Madness

Advertising

March Madness means great basketball. It also means creative brand activations. And this year, perhaps inspired by the returning energy of in-person fans (because of Covid, fans hadn’t been present at the games since 2019), the campaigns seem more innovative than ever. The slate of advertisers is certainly robust: “We’ve written more revenue in this tournament than we ever have before, record-setting revenues for this year,” notes Jon Bogusz, the executive vice president of CBS sports sales and marketing. Let’s take a closer look at what brands are doing for this event—and what that means for you.

Gaming Online

Video game streaming platform Twitch is embracing March Madness with two new brand activations. /TwitchSports, Twitch’s sports streaming service, has revived two shows—“Let’s Go! College Hoops” and “SuperFan FaceOff”—with sponsorships by Wendy’s and Philips Norelco. It’s a win-win (no pun intended!) for both the brands and the platform: the brands help Twitch expand its reach and popularity in the sports community, even as the brands benefit from /TwitchSports’s huge viewership. “With hours watched of sports content on Twitch growing in the triple-digit percentages last year, we’re thrilled to open up some of our original content on /TwitchSports to both returning and new advertisers on Twitch,” notes Sarah Iooss, head of sales for the Americas at Twitch. As Iooss explains it, /TwitchSports gives brands exposure to sports fans in the powerful Millennial and Gen Z demographics.

The campaigns capitalize on the power inherent in the Twitch platform. Philips Norelco, which is sponsoring “SuperFan FaceOff,” makes use of Twitch’s integrated chat feature. Meanwhile, Wendy’s returns to Twitch to feature a segment of “SuperFan FaceOff” in which hosts call out their fave daily menu items from the fast-food chain. Branding from both sponsors will appear on the Twitch platform and livestreams.

Gaming in Person

Wendy’s has also pursued an in-person activation at the Entertainment Capital of the World. Partnering with Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” animated series, the chain participated in “Morty’s Mayhem,” an immersive LED experience housed at Resorts World Las Vegas. Running from March 17 through 20, “Morty’s Mayhem” featured games, an area to watch the basketball tournaments, swag from both sponsors, and the not-to-be-missed Pickle Rick Frosty, a salty take on Wendy’s Frosty graced with dried pickle garnish. The Pickle Rick confection was offered for free; Wendy’s also got the chance to promote treats such as the new Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit. As Tricia Melton, chief marketing officer for Warner Bros. Kids, Young Adults and Classics, notes, “It’s a perfect trifecta. You’ve got Vegas, you’ve got college basketball at its apex and you’ve got this ‘Rick and Morty’ partnership with Wendy’s that brings this other whole layer of surprise and silliness and fan experience altogether.”

A New Look — and New Products

For Coldwell Banker, the basketball tournament represents an opportunity to unveil not only a new website but three new tools: CB Estimate, Move Meter, and the Seller’s Assurance Program. Called “Dream,” the campaign aired March 15 during March Madness, and leaned into the idea that Coldwell Banker can help make people’s dreams of home . . . come true. As the real estate franchise sees it, even our fondest dreams may require a jumpstart from data, and Coldwell Banker aims to help with its seller-focused tools.

They do address a need. As reported in MediaPost, almost half of American homeowners don’t know the current value of their home. The campaign also underlines the seismic changes that have taken place in brand outreach. As David Marine, CMO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, says, “The pandemic changed some aspects of media with the surge in streaming, and the fact that early on some media outlets that we wouldn’t ordinarily focus on, like cable news, all of a sudden became really efficient.”

Hitting the Road

Meanwhile, Nissan, an official partner of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments, has launched its “Road 2” campaign featuring mascots from 27 teams. The message? The path to the Final Fours can be . . . unpredictable. The campaign, which embraces media like TV as well as onsite activations at both the men’s and women’s tournaments, features eight new spots and incorporates new Nissan models like the all-electric Nissan Ariya crossover. And fans who complete both the men’s and women’s online bracket challenge, created in partnership with CBS Sports, may have a chance at winning some brand-new wheels in the form of the new Nissan Frontier.

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from the brands who have hitched their wagons to the March Madness star? Some takeaways as we see it:

  • Know your audience. Brands like Philips Norelco surely understand that a platform like Twitch is frequented by Gen Z and Millennials. By making themselves visible on Twitch, they are increasing exposure to these key demographics.
  • Don’t be afraid to have fun — and take some chances. Wendy’s pulled out the stops with a fun take on an old favorite. While we may not immediately associate pickles with a Frosty, Wendy’s made the leap, and it’s been a successful one: this isn’t the Pickle Rick’s first rodeo. It first debuted in Los Angeles in 2021.
  • Give your audience a little gift — and a lift. Free Pickle Ricks. Free tools like Coldwell Bank’s CB Estimate. Consumers the world over respond positively to getting something at no cost.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Nissan’s “Road 2” campaign reaches out to consumers in different ways, from the television commercials to social and onsite activations.
  • Stay flexible — and informed. Coldwell Banker’s understanding of how the pandemic has shaped advertising helped them formulate a campaign that makes sense for how consumers connect with messaging in 2022.
  • Finally, think about what annual events might represent a good opportunity for your brand. Is there a connection to what you sell or do? Does the event draw the same audience you hope to woo?

Contact True Interactive

March Madness illustrates how brands can harness the power of popular events to reach a broad audience. Want to learn more? Contact us. We can help.

How Brands Are Celebrating Women’s History Month

How Brands Are Celebrating Women’s History Month

Advertising Social media

In March, businesses are stepping up to celebrate Women’s History Month, not to mention International Women’s Day on March 8. Of course, it’s always a good idea to uplift women; savvy brands also understand that women happen to possess incredible purchasing power. As Inc. points out, women drive the majority of consumer purchasing, making buying decisions not only for themselves but for their families, in so doing driving a whopping 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing. Here’s how some brands are responding to Women’s History Month:

Taking Action

According to Adweek, Pinterest is honoring the month by supporting 10 women-owned businesses on its platform. The initiative is part of the company’s Pinterest Elevates program; participants receive not only ad credits but also a personal coach to help boost their brand visibility and better connect with Pinners. As Pinterest global head of inclusion and diversity Nichole Barnes Marshall blogged, “At Pinterest, it’s important that the content on our platform accurately represents and reflects the world we live in. We’re excited to honor these women and the work that they do, bringing them greater awareness and attention this Women’s History Month and beyond.”

Hershey’s, meanwhile, is highlighting the SHE in Hershey: as the candy powerhouse sees it, those three important letters in the middle of the iconic Hershey name deserve to be celebrated, and one way to do so is with limited edition packaging. Perhaps the Hershey site puts it best: “there is no Hershey’s without SHE.” This year, the company’s award-winning #HerSHE campaign, which originated two years ago in Brazil, will brighten seven international markets, from Brazil to Canada, with the Hershey’s milk chocolate bar wrapper celebrating cultural female icons in each country, their accomplishments, and the impact they’ve made. The chocolate company has also brought in a special influencer to help get the word out: actress and comedian Mindy Kaling appears in a special Celebrate SHE ad. As Kaling notes, “Girls rule. Celebrate accordingly.”

London-based jewelry brand Missoma has found a partner with which it can honor the month—and do good. Fifty percent of sales of Missoma’s limited edition Shine On necklace will go to Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise dedicated to raising the aspirations of teen girls in the U.K. Marisa Hordern, CEO and creative director at Missoma, gets why this collaboration is so powerful, explaining, “As a female-led brand with a female founder and CEO, and just over 85 percent of our leadership roles held by women, we [at Missoma] are invested in the female leaders of tomorrow. We really believe an important part of increasing female leadership is mentorship, confidence, and giving girls and women the opportunity to have a voice.”

Here in the U.S., American shoe brand Keds has been honoring women since the company first came on the scene in 1916. Their Champion Sneaker has always been made for men and women; the design remains iconic more than a century later. This year, Keds pledges to donate $25 from every pair of Champions sold on the official Keds e-commerce site to global nonprofit Dress for Success, an enterprise that supports low-income women by providing professional clothing to aid in the job search and interview process.

Online grocery platform Instacart has announced that it’s allocating $1 million to support women-owned food and beverage brands that advertise on the company’s website and app. Instacart has partnered with three women-led brands: gluten- and dairy-free cookie brand Sweet Loren’s; Three Wishes Cereal; and Twrl Milk Tea to expand an initiative that began last year to support Black-owned CPGs. According to Ali Miller, the head of ads product at Instacart, highlighting women entrepreneurs is a no-brainer: about 80 percent of Instacart customers are women. Women also make up 70 percent of Instacart’s shoppers—the folks who collect, purchase, and deliver items ordered by customers. As Miller notes, “Our goal is to continue to identify and amplify more women entrepreneurs and brands with Instacart Ads to help them drive discovery and business growth.”

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from the example these brands have set? For starters, it’s important to understand that:

  • Tone matters. Women’s History Month is about celebration! Hershey’s exemplifies this upbeat tone in their partnership with Kaling, who brings a spirit of lightness and fun to the topic of gender equity. Also celebratory: the bright designs on the Hershey milk chocolate bar wrappers.
  • Visuals have power. Missoma has encapsulated its messaging in a beautifully designed piece of jewelry. Every time a customer wears their Shine On necklace, they might think about the themes of Women’s History Month, long after March is over.
  • Actions matter. It’s not enough to talk the talk—savvy brands also demonstrate a commitment to equity and lifting women up. Keds’ efforts to support low-income women with sales from their shoes illustrate this principle perfectly.
  • Overthinking things can muddy the waters. In short, stay focused on uplifting your audience (see point 1), because getting too clever with purpose-driven advertising may distract from your message. One need look no further than McDonald’s disastrous 2018 International Women’s Day campaign, in which the brand tried to playfully overturn their logo, from an M to a W, on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The stunt backfired, with critics ridiculing the brand’s purported commitment to women’s success—or anyone’s, for that matter—and calling on McDonald’s to pay its employees a living wage. McDonald’s learned the hard way that in this case, a cute stunt didn’t cut it.

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand authentically, creatively, celebrate your customer base in the right spirit? Contact us. We can help.

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

Advertising

Welcome to a new, adventurous year of advertising and marketing. The traditional tech giants are going to continue to fight each other for dominance – while TikTok will tap into the burgeoning creator economy to challenge them all for a slice of the advertising pie. Retailers everywhere are creating ad networks, but Amazon and Walmart have already established strong leadership early on. For the most part, businesses will be spending more – more on TikTok, more on Amazon, more on Google, and probably more on Apple’s fledgling ad business. But will they spend more on Meta? Read on for our insights into the year ahead.

Retailer Media Networks Proliferate – and Meta Loses Ground

One of the big stories of 2021 was the proliferation of media businesses operated by retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart. In 2022, we’ll see more of them. Retailers are under great pressure to squeeze more margin out of their core businesses as the industry endures uncertainty. The most well established networks – Amazon and Walmart – are thriving because they tap into the data they collect about their customers (first-party data) to sell targeted advertising on their sites. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site, too, as an antidote to Apple’s privacy controls. In addition, non-retailers with large troves of first-party data, such as TikTok, will expand the same way.

I also believe Meta’s ongoing push into immersive reality will lose momentum. Meta has made an even bigger push into immersive reality (e.g., virtual reality and augmented reality) as part of its attempt to become the builder of the metaverse. Meta also intends for immersive reality to help the company maintain a dominant hold on social media and to squeeze upstarts such as Roblox out of the market. But the horse is already out of the barn: there are just too many players such as Roblox and Snapchat developing immersive reality applications for Meta to play copycat and use its size as an an advantage. And Meta has faced so much public blowback over its size and reach that squeezing out smaller players makes Meta more of a target for anti-trust regulation. Meta will lose ground, and gaming platforms such as Roblox will ascend in power.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

TikTok Dominates

TikTok is the world’s most visited site in the Internet in 2021, toppling Google, according to Cloudfare. TikTok will become the leader in paid social. Videos and fast-breaking cultural trends are becoming more prominent factors across all social media marketing, and TikTok has mastered both. Oh, and TikTok has another big trump card to play: the site is a magnet for Gen Z and Millennials, who together comprise about 42 percent of the U.S. population. As a recent New York Times profile noted, advertisers “are present like never before, their authentic-seeming advertisements dropped in between dances, confessionals, comedy routines and makeovers.” But TikTok is just beginning to monetize all that interest from advertisers. TikTok will follow the example set by Amazon Advertising and roll out more ad units that capitalize on the customer data the company is collecting. And look to TikTok to become a social commerce giant. If you thought 2021 was the year of TikTok, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

The Creator Economy Gets Real

The creator economy refers to a class of businesses comprising millions of independent content creators and influencers. We are reading more about them partly because apps such as TikTok have given them more power and influence. 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. More businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Big-name partnerships with stars will still thrive, but the social media icons will need to make room for the new kids in town.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

Tech Titans Roar

We hear a lot about the big technology firms facing increased scrutiny from Congress and legislators around the world. But to me the more intriguing story is how the tech titans keep trying to outmuscle each other for advertising revenue, an example being Apple enacting privacy controls to hurt Facebook’s ad business. 2022 will ratchet up the fight:

  • Apple will start leveraging and monetizing the data they are collecting (and not allowing others to collect) in the form of some type of advertising platform. This is the culmination of Apple’s stricter privacy controls.
  • Google will remove more visibility and targeting options in the name of advances in machine learning and automation, thus protecting its core ad business by taking more control of it.
  • An increasing number of platforms will emerge that use first-party data to target and track and savvy advertisers will take advantage of this and diversify their advertising spend
  • Amazon will grow with even more ad units for Amazon Advertising and marketing offerings such as livestreamed commerce for businesses of all size, especially smaller ones. Google and Meta will lose market share.

Unfortunately, we can count on CPCs to rise across all platforms as they attract more businesses competing for ad inventory and keywords. It’s going to be a more expensive 2022, but also a more interesting one with more ad units proliferating.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Google Ads Become More Powerful

Given the evolution of keyword matching (now AI-powered to serve ads based on the meaning of a search query), and the simplification of the ad product offerings (as Google deprecating Expanded Text Ads next summer), we will see Google Ads become leaner but more powerful. Advertisers will be forced to rely more and more on Google’s algorithm to drive results – all this, at the expense of reduced control advertisers have over campaign settings (ad content, keyword matching, targeting choices, etc.). I believe the biggest changes will continue to happen on Google’s back end as it seeks to make the algorithm (automated bidding strategies used in ad campaigns) smarter. Thus, we will see increased focus on cookie-less conversion tracking and an expansion of first-party data collection capabilities in Google Ads (i.e., scaling up enhanced conversions).

— Héctor Ariza, digital marketing and analytics manager

Social Media Ad Dollars Get Redistributed

Lush Cosmetics recently said it is quitting Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok over concerns that those platforms have a negative impact on teens’ mental health. (The company will remain active on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.) Lush said it will happily lose $13 million in sales because of the digital detox. It remains to be seen whether Lush will reactivate the accounts it quit (Lush quit some social sites in 2019 before returning), and of course a big question is whether more businesses will take such a drastic approach. I don’t think we’ll see more businesses take the Lush approach – social media is just too important – but they will shift some of their ad dollars away from Facebook and Instagram. In the past, businesses have remained loyal to Facebook (now known as Meta) because the site is critical to their advertising and marketing strategies. But the whistleblowing activities of ex-Meta employee Frances Haugen have raised the stakes. She asserted that Meta has kept internal research secret for two years that suggests its Instagram app makes body image issues worse for teenage girls. Businesses will monitor what their customers, investors, and employees say about Meta especially in this era of purpose-driven branding. Some will shift their advertising to Snapchat and TikTok while Meta takes the heat for brand safety issues. But this shift may be temporary. Meta will probably mollify brands with some updates to its products to create more brand safety, as it is already doing with its news feed to address concerns over lack of user control over their news feeds. In addition, Meta faces the ongoing threat of regulatory oversight. More accountability will come to Meta in 2022.

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the ever-changing world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/year-2022-track-new-year-calendar-6786741/

 

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Advertising

Best Buy recently announced the launch of Best Buy Ads, a new in-house media company. Best Buy Ads offer a range of ad units including paid search ads, onsite and offsite display ads, onsite and offsite video ads, social ads, and in-store ads. According to Best Buy, Best Buy Ads capitalizes on the fact that Best Buy interacts with its customers three billion times a year. From those interactions, Best Buy learns about the search and shopping habits of its customers. This makes it possible for the retailer to sell ad units that target a specific demographic: people with a strong interest in consumer technology.

Best Buy is the latest retailer to launch an ad business. Other examples include:

  • Walmart Connect, the leading ad business run by a brick-and-mortar retailer.

As with Best Buy, they offer services ranging from display to media buying. They all have one thing in common: they monetize their customer data.

Why an Ad Business Appeals to a Retailer Like Best Buy

An online advertising business is appealing to Best Buy for a number of reasons, including:

  • This is a proven model. The growth of Amazon Advertising (Amazon’s own in-house ad operation) speaks for itself. Amazon Advertising is so successful that Amazon is now challenging Google’s and Facebook’s dominance of online advertising. In light of this, we’ve witnessed a slew of retailers jumping into the ad business. For example, Walmart Connect (Walmart’s ad operation) has enjoyed strong growth.
  • Customer data is a competitive weapon. Retailers such as Best Buy collect a treasure trove of data about their customers, starting with their search and shopping preferences. This data gives each retailer an edge because they can promise advertisers access to a targeted audience with intent to buy. As noted, Best Buy targets consumers in the market for home electronics. By contrast, the recently launched ad platform from retailer Macy’s targets a fashion-conscious consumer. Walmart promises entrée to grocery shoppers and price-conscious consumers. Of course, retailers must know how to mine all this data and then develop attractive ad units. But the data provides a built-in advantage.
  • Retailers’ customer data is getting more attractive to advertisers. Businesses are looking for alternative ways to reach consumers amid the demise of third-party cookies, which are crucial for third-party ad targeting, and the advent of stricter consumer privacy controls on Apple’s iOS, which has also made it harder for businesses to target consumers with ads. With third-party ad targeting across the web threatened, platforms that give advertisers entree to shoppers within retailers’ walled gardens are more appealing. Basically, retailers are using their own customer data to do what Apple and Google won’t do for advertisers anymore.
  • e-Commerce is booming. Online ad businesses in particular are catching fire because of the e-commerce boom. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, “The e-commerce industry is expected to hold on to pandemic-elevated sales into 2022, with big retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc set to benefit as consumers stick to new, hybrid shopping patterns.” S&P Global Market Intelligence says U.S. e-commerce sales are on track to exceed $1 trillion for the first time in 2022. Businesses want to reach those shoppers, which creates a demand for online advertising. The surge in online commerce also means more people are using retailers’ sites to search and shop, which creates more valuable customer data that retailers’ ad businesses can monetize. This also means advertising.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Do, however, monitor the effectiveness of your advertising on Facebook and Google amid the demise of third-party cookies and the onset of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which includes more privacy controls that may make Facebook ads less effective (which remains to be seen).
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we complement our history of helping businesses advertising on Google and social media with expertise across retailer ad networks such as Amazon and Walmart.
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site – meaning advertising across the web, as well as via connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

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

For More Insight

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business,” Tim Colucci, May 19, 2021.

Amazon Unveils New Ad Units Across Its Ecosystem,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos, May 4, 2021.

Why Macy’s Launched an Advertising Platform,” Tim Colucci, March 3, 2021.

Walmart Asserts Its Leadership in Advertising,” Tim Colucci, February 8, 2021.

Advertising and Marketing in the Metaverse

Advertising and Marketing in the Metaverse

Advertising

The metaverse is hot. One need look no further for proof than the fact that Facebook changed its company name to Meta in October 2021. Consequently, the metaverse is one of the most talked-about topics in business right now. Companies are already figuring out how to make the most of what it has to offer. How might the metaverse help them make money? How might brands embrace advertising and marketing there?

The Metaverse Defined

As was the case with the internet back in the day, new definitions of the metaverse are constantly cropping up, from all quarters. There is a lot of speculation about the metaverse arriving in the future. But the term was actually coined decades ago in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash. Aspects of the metaverse — a shared virtual world where people can work, play, and live through digital twins, or avatars — are here already. Every time someone uses a digital currency, every time someone hangs out on Fortnite or Roblox (gaming is currently a big slice of the metaverse), we’re engaging with parts of metaverse (they’re just not yet connected seamlessly).

As the metaverse takes shape, savvy brands are already planting a flag in this rich terrain. And to do so, they are looking at things a tad differently. Brittan Heller, counsel with the American law firm Foley Hoag, puts it this way: “When you think about advertising in XR [extended reality, one of the building blocks of the metaverse], you should think about it as placement in the product instead of product placement.” Heller may be thinking of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Marc Jacobs, which have designed digital products for the game Animal Crossing. Or Balenciaga, which has collaborated with Fortnite to drop exclusive wearable skins for in-game characters. She notes, “An ad in virtual reality may look like buying a designer jacket for your digital avatar [but] that’s an ad for a clothing company that you are wearing on your body.” Coveted digital fashion sometimes bests even real-world counterparts: in Roblox’s virtual world, for example, a digital-only Gucci bag sold for more money than the bag would have netted in the physical world.

Some metaverse advertising, of course, falls back on real-world models. Consider games like Tiki-Taka Soccer and FIFA Mobile, which are already incorporating billboards as part of the game universe. The billboards are meant to raise awareness —just like the billboards we pass on the highway — and if players wish, they can access more intel about the product.

But there is also a concerted effort to create advertising unique to the metaverse experience. The day when users can interact freely with embodiments of a brand — an avatar for a celebrity or an existing character from, say, Disney — is not far off.

The takeaway: there are already opportunities for brands to flex advertising muscle in the metaverse, and those opportunities are growing exponentially.

What Businesses Should Do

What does this mean for your brand? Does delving into the metaverse make sense for you? As you consider these questions, we recommend that you:

  • Remember your audience first. How attuned are they to immersive worlds such as the metaverse? Is marketing and advertising in the metaverse a good fit for them? Currently, the biggest audience for the metaverse skews young: Gen Zers who have grown up gaming and for whom the intricacies of a virtual world are already familiar. But some brands are addressing this divide by reaching out directly to an older cohort. Roblox, for example, has developed features to appeal to older users. And so, the attendant question to ask yourself is: do you have the energy and resources to think outside the box and woo your audience, no matter what generation they inhabit?
  • Assess your appetite for experimentation. This is a brave new world that’s constantly changing. How comfortable are you with that dynamic?
  • Learn from businesses that have been getting involved in advertising and marketing in immersive gaming worlds, which are, as noted, extremely popular in the metaverse. A really good example consists of brands that have been embracing in-game ads, as we blogged here.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to make online advertising deliver measurable results on all platforms and apps. To learn how we can help you, contact us. Learn more about our services here.

2021 Holiday Ads: Hope and Realism

2021 Holiday Ads: Hope and Realism

Advertising

Ready for some memorable holiday ads? In response to widely reported supply chain issues, some brands have teed up their holiday ads to come weeks ahead of traditional schedules. And as was the case last year, the campaigns are tasked with addressing the elephant that hasn’t left the room: Covid-19 and its lingering effects. If striking the right tone somewhere between hope and realism can be tricky, a few reliable themes — from connection to music, humor, and cheer — are helping brands thread that needle. Here are some examples:

Connection

We may live in divided times, but Etsy’s hopeful Give More Than a Gift campaign for 2021, which highlights unexpected connections, reminds us of our best selves. In one spot, a friendship springs up between two people from different walks of life. The tightly edited ad runs a mere 30 seconds, but it packs a wallop. The e-commerce company’s focus on unique, handmade items figures into the story, and the implicit message — that Etsy’s constellation of DIY sellers may help shoppers avoid the headache of larger retailers with supply chain issue delays — doesn’t hurt the brand, either.

Music and Surprise

The right music is key to a successful ad campaign, and brands have long been incorporating modern interpretations of classic hits in hopes of connecting with shoppers on a nostalgic level. In fact, according to Chelsea Gross, director analyst at research firm Gartner, nostalgia is particularly resonant this year as consumers potentially gather with loved ones after a year or more of pandemic-era separation.

For financial reasons, advertisers don’t always use the original song. It’s also worth noting that employing a cover can also add a unique spin, beyond the song’s original interpretation, to a nostalgic favorite. Consider the spot from Dutch e-tailer Bol.com, which is set to a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” In the ad, a boy who originally asked for a doll turns the soccer ball he got instead into an imaginary friend. Cue all the expected cozy feelings — but Bol.com is mining a different theme here, and an unexpected twist at the end of the spot gives Lauper’s familiar song added resonance. (Spoiler alert: this kitten has claws!) By subverting expectations — of a familiar song, of a storyline that, at least initially, seems familiar — the brand grabs our attention.

For a brand like Amazon, deep pockets can mean the freedom to use a song in its original incarnation. This year, the e-commerce giant debuts “Hold On” from Adele’s new album 30; the song hits a home run on several levels, playing backdrop to a spot that doesn’t shy away from the lingering challenges people face from the pandemic. The storyline isn’t overtly festive: two women share a quiet connection over their love of birds. But the ad, which is aligned with the launch of Amazon’s Christmas gift shop, covers a lot of ground, addressing mental health, loneliness, and the power of connection in a subtle two-and-a-half minutes.

Humor

Like Amazon, Extra gum isn’t afraid to look at the curveballs life can throw, but it takes a different tack, using humor to lean into some inconvenient truths about the holidays. As Extra spins it, while it’s great to be gathering for the holidays in a way 2020 simply didn’t allow, some time-honored traditions — from passive-aggressive presents to long-winded relatives — remain as tricky as they ever were before the pandemic. The solution? “Chew it before you do it.” In other words, chewing a piece of Extra gum can give that extra moment of pause, and transform a potentially awkward moment into a time of grace and connection. And who can argue with that?

Cheer

Of course, holiday ads for time immemorial have succeeded by tugging on the heartstrings, and a few notable campaigns from 2021 take that approach and run with it. Consider the McDonald’s U.K. ad that introduces us to a little girl and her imaginary monster friend, who bond over the Christmas ritual of leaving out bags of McDonald’s carrots as treats for Santa’s reindeer. Time passes (a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” plays in the background – apparently 2021 is Cyndi Lauper’s year), and we think the girl has outgrown her joyful friend. But — spoiler alert! — you might need to pull your hanky out. Some friendships are meant for the long haul.

Finally, consider Apple’s spot, which was filmed with an iPhone 13 Pro by the father-and-son team of Ivan and Jason Reitman. The three-minute short follows the efforts of Olive, a little girl determined to keep her snowman buddy alive all year ‘round. An unexpected finale doesn’t quite cue up as expected, but the overall vibe — and a dedication to the ones we’ve waited all year to be with — goes for the feels in a big way, and succeeds.

Contact True Interactive

Looking to navigate the nuances of a complex world and connect with audiences via digital? Contact us. We can help.

How Advertisers Should Respond to Supply Chain Uncertainty

How Advertisers Should Respond to Supply Chain Uncertainty

Advertising

A global supply chain crisis has created uncertainty for manufacturers and retailers alike. How are these problems changing the way business advertise for merchandise that may or may not be available when consumers shop?

The problem many advertisers – especially retailers – face right now is uncertainty of product availability. This is a different problem than scarcity. When a product is scarce, but retailers can predict how many units they will have on hand during the holiday season, they can set ad budgets with confidence. But when a business has no idea how many products it will stock, figuring out how to stoke demand with advertising becomes very tricky.

For example, as reported in Advertising Age, Jay Foreman, CEO of toy company Basic Fun, usually sends new products to influencers for promotion through product unboxing videos. But this year, he’s being more cautious because he cannot predict with certainty whether retailers will be able to carry his products.

“I don’t want to get the influencers going and the merchandise is not in store yet,” he said. “The consumer views that [influencer] unboxing and they’re like, ‘Cool, let’s buy it now,’ and if it’s not there, they’re not going to look at that unboxing video again.”

According to Ad Age, some advertisers are scaling back their ad spend. But many others are taking a more nuanced approached that we recommend:

  • Shift offline advertising to digital. Tactics such as paid search give advertisers more flexibility to calibrate their spend as supply-and-demand levels fluctuate. National Tree Company, which sells artificial trees and holiday décor, will focus its advertising on online search with some social media advertising as part of the mix. This approach makes sense especially as more product research and purchases occur online:

Research online

 

Purchase online

 

Because Amazon and Google dominate product research and purchase, look toAmazon Advertising and Google’s many ad units to capture holiday spend. By the way, Amazon Advertising offers ad units for businesses even if they don’t sell products on Amazon. Those ad units include Sponsored Display and Video Ads.

  • Increase advertising now. Many businesses are ramping up their advertising to encourage shoppers to buy products as soon as possible before retailers run out of products. We noted a “buy now while you can” surge in holiday promotions weeks ago. Those promotions are coming from big, well known retailers such as Target and Walmart. Be aware that when big retailers launch holiday promotions, they create general consumer awareness of the holiday shopping season. As a result, retailers should expect an uptick in searches for holiday sales and promotions. Now might be a good time to capitalize on that increased search activity to activate your own campaigns.
  • Keep brand advertising spending levels strong. As Ad Age noted, auto makers are promoting their 2022 models even though a global chip crisis has created a short-term shortage of available inventory at dealerships. Per Ad Age, “Auto brands continue to push out broader marketing campaigns touting new vehicle launches, including Toyota, which this week rolled out a new campaign for the 2022 Tundra pickup truck that it described as the largest U.S. ad campaign for a new vehicle launch in Toyota’s history.Ad spending cutbacks are more likely for locally-focused ads aimed at getting people to dealers for sales events.”

Whatever you do, don’t cut advertising because of uncertainty. Procter & Gamble’s approach during the Covid-19 pandemic offers a great lesson as to why. To say that the early days of the pandemic created uncertainty is a massive understatement. Businesses everywhere faced economic uncertainty and a global supply chain crisis (yes, the supply chain crisis was going on back then – it just was not getting the attention it is now). And who can forget the great toilet paper panic of 2020, when a spike in consumer demand resulted in retail shelves being stripped of this essential product?  Procter & Gamble was affected by this uncertainty – the company manufacturers toilet paper brands as well as many other household products that faced shortages. But Procter & Gamble kept advertising, and as a result, the company’s earnings in 2020 exceeded analysts’ projections.

As Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said, “We view this as a time to spend forward in terms of our advertising levels, not to spend back. First, there’s never been more media consumed than there is currently, as we all try to entertain ourselves and our families and survive. And two there’s a heightened need to spend on hygiene and health.”

Procter & Gamble was, and is, looking at the long game: before the pandemic, people were spending more time online, and the pandemic accelerated that behavioral shift. The company understands that although demand and supply for products will always fluctuate, the long-term shift in behavior is here to stay. So, Procter & Gamble is taking its ad spend to where shoppers are: online.

How about you?

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Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

True Interactive Blog Posts for Additional Insight

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

Five Lessons Learned from the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Why Procter & Gamble Is Succeeding (Hint: Advertising!)

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Don’t Go Dark During the Coronavirus Crisis