Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Video

Just when you thought you had a handle on content streaming (Netflix: check, Disney+: check), a new player has emerged with the potential to shake things up all over again. Backed by a boatload of cash and the imprimatur of Hollywood royalty like Steven Spielberg, Quibi is poised to carve a unique niche in a crowded field. Read on to learn more.

What Is Quibi?

 

Quibi is a new premium streaming service that imposes a cap on programming time: the name Quibi, in fact, is shorthand for “quick bites” of video. Quibi aims to showcase stories of 10 minutes or less; content is meant to be viewed specifically on one’s mobile phone. The platform, founded by chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, has installed tech vet Meg Whitman as the CEO, and investors include studios like Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia.

What Kind of Content Will Be on Quibi?

Given the unique mobile phone focus, Quibi will be generating all new content. As Whitman tells Marketplace, “We will be the first streaming service that launches without a library.” As Whitman sees it, starting from ground zero means an opportunity to create something truly fresh: “We have . . . invested significantly in content. This is all about finding the great stories, attaching the great actors and actresses to it and getting them excited about doing something entirely new.”

Quibi expects to deliver 175 shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year. The content promises to be a diverse mix, from long-form narratives to reality programming, documentaries, food shows, and daily news programs. Given Quibi’s format, the long-form narratives will be delivered in bite-sized chunks, serial fashion (think Dickens and the serial way he delivered novels like Pickwick Papers). Whitman is quick to stress that short format doesn’t mean inferior quality. “Nothing’s lesser about the movies [we’re developing] other than the chapterized way we deliver them,” Whitman says.

Content can be downloaded, so users won’t need an active Internet connection to view programming. And quality of the viewing experience is a prime mandate. As Whitman told Marketplace, “[P]eople are watching a lot of videos on their mobile phone today, but it’s an uneven experience. Sometimes, if you’re holding the phone in portrait, it’s a little postage-stamp size, then you turn it horizontally, it’s got big black lines. Some content is only available in portrait, some is only available in landscape . . . we have to be able to have seamless portrait-to-landscape rotation with full-screen video.” To that end, the company is employing what Whitman calls “compression technology,” and reportedly working with Google to ensure flawless video streams. Whitman also notes, “[W]e shot, obviously, to the aspect ratio of the phone.”

How Is Quibi Different from YouTube and Other Platforms?

As noted, story lengths on Quibi are capped at 10 minutes. And Quibi content has specifically been created for viewing on a mobile phone.

There is a distinction between what Quibi promises and the content made for mobile phones on free platforms like, say, TikTok. Services like TikTok offer user-generated content. By contrast, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke are collaborating with Quibi to create programs designed specifically for viewing via Quibi, sometimes even at certain times: “Spielberg’s After Dark” series will only appear on the service at night, for example. An untitled show devoted to zombies is reportedly being discussed with Guillermo del Toro. User experience will also be informed by how customers hold their phones: changing from vertical to horizon orientation will change what the viewer sees.

Who Is the Target Audience for Quibi?

The target audience is Millennials—ages 18 to 44. The idea is that the platform will especially appeal to consumers on the go: someone waiting in line at the bank, say, or taking a quick bus ride during which 10 minutes of content might be the perfect diversion.

When Does Quibi Launch?

The platform is due to launch in the United States on April 6, 2020, but as Whitman notes, “you don’t have to wait till then to get involved.” On Quibi.com, you can learn about new shows, the technology, and any milestones before launch date. Whitman adds, “We’ll let you know on April 6 when you can download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”

What Advertising Opportunities Exist on Quibi?

There will indeed be opportunities for advertisers, as users will be invited to choose between Quibi with or without ads. The service will launch, for viewers in the United States, at $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month without. Whitman shares with Marketplace, “We think that most [consumers] will pick the ad-supported version because it’s a very light ad load. It’s only 2.5 minutes per hour of watching, which is much less than prime time TV, which is 17.5 minutes of advertising for every hour that you watch.” Ads will appear before a Quibi show begins and last six, 10, or 15 seconds. They will be unskippable. Advertisers already onboard include Discover, General Mills, Taco Bell, Walmart, and PepsiCo.

Quibi programming will also come with ratings to help advertisers determine whether a show is geared to mature audiences. At the WSJ Tech Live conference in October 2019, Whitman said, “[Marketers] can feel safe that their brand shows up next to content that they’re OK with.”

And because Quibi programming is structured around serialized chapters, the platform is looking into an alternative where advertisers could serialize their ads, too.

What Kind of Reception Has Quibi Received?

It’s a mixed one. Naysayers insist the endeavor is a gamble, and that the subscription fee will discourage consumers used to video content that can be viewed for free on platforms like YouTube. Katzenberg, however, is confident. “I think we are doing something that is now such a well established consumer habit,” he told NewsDio. “There are 2.5 billion people walking with these televisions in their pocket. They are already watching a billion hours of content every day. I just know that it will work.”

Quibi has tried to get out in front of its critics by building visibility through some (presumably expensive) ads during the 2020 Super Bowls and Oscars.

Not all watchers have been impressed, as this Verge article discusses.

There’s no denying Quibi has attracted some heavyweights to create content. Will consumers be willing to pay for that content? Only time will tell.

Contact True Interactive

Curious about Quibi and the opportunities this new platform affords? Contact us.

Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

Advertising Amazon Google

Last month on this blog I predicted that in 2020 we’d see companies such as Amazon and Google inject more personality in the way people interact with voice assistants. During the Super Bowl LIV advertising derby, I definitely saw some personality shining through with ads for Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant. As businesses embrace voice-first approaches in their advertising and organic content, they can learn lessons from Amazon and Google. People crave a human touch with voice technology.

Amazon: “Before Alexa” 

Amazon relied on humor to make Alexa seem funnier and cuddlier, a tactic that Amazon has been using in recent Super Bowl ads. During Amazon’s Super Bowl 2020 ad, Ellen DeGeneres asked, ““What do you think people did before Alexa?” which triggered a bunch of vignettes of people throughout history asking other people to answer everyday questions, resulting in hilarious outcomes. We saw the Queen of England demand that a hapless jester named Alexi tell her a joke. A man in Dickinsonian England asked a newsboy named Alex, “What’s today’s news?” to which the kid replied, “Doesn’t matter. It’s all fake.” The ad circled back with Ellen DeGeneres asking Alexa to play her favorite song.

With this ad, Amazon wanted to remind us that talking with a machine is as natural as, well, two washerwomen in Medieval days passing the time. We’re just having a conversation, as natural as can be.

Google: “Loretta”

 

Google won over the internet with a touching ad in which an elderly widower asked Google Assistant to call up photos and memories of his late wife, Loretta. Through the man’s gentle instructions, we learned of his life with Loretta, including the favorite movie they shared (Casablanca) and a memorable trip they took to Alaska. At the end of the ad, the man said, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

This ad was emotionally powerful without being sentimental, and it turns out that it was based on the experiences of the grandfather of a Google employee; and the grandfather actually narrated the ad. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be hard to find an ad in 2020 that tops this one for making voice assistants approachable and human. Here, Google Assistant acted as a friendly utility, helping a man remember a loved one.

Voice Assistants Get Personality

As I wrote last month, although voice assistants are growing in popularity, we’re not quite at a place where people are willingly using voice to manage the really important tasks such as making purchases and getting directions to the hospital. We need to trust voice assistants completely in order for voice to make that kind of breakthrough. Journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in a recent Atlantic article, “Is Alexa Dangerous?”:

Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?

But during Super Bowl LIV, Amazon and Google showed us that we have nothing to fear from voice assistants. They are as natural and human as we are.

The takeaway for businesses: as voice-based advertising and customer experiences take hold, showing personality and humanity in your content (paid and organic) will resonate.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

What Comes After the Super Bowl LIV Ads?

What Comes After the Super Bowl LIV Ads?

Advertising

Are you ready for some Super Bowl ads? At this point, Super Bowl advertising has become something like Black Friday: not a single day of activity like it used to be, but a phenomenon that stretches over a period of days. As of this writing, we’re seeing a number of high-profile brands rely on digital to extend the Super Bowl ad experience days and weeks prior to the big game. For example:

  • Porsche has returned to the Super Bowl ad derby for the first time since 1997 with a spot that introduces its new Taycan electric car. Through a 2-minute+ movie, “The Heist,” Porsche depicts the Taycan in an exciting chase shot in Germany, with Porsches flying through Heidelberg and the Black Forest in scenes worthy of James Bond.

  • Budweiser goes for a purpose-driven approach, with an emotional vignette of Americans performing acts of kindness. The spot, “Typical American,” urges, “America, look beyond the labels. You might be surprised by what you find.” Here we see another brand going for a powerful narrative, but without overtly promoting the product in this case.

  • Little Caesars uses storytelling to show that you can do a direct-response Super Bowl ad. Little Caesars’s First-Ever Super Bowl ad promotes delivery with savings of $5 or more versus the competition. But this being the Super Bowl, Little Caesars goes high profile by featuring actor Rainn Wilson in a spot available now.

 

You can see many more Super Bowl ads exploding across the digital world here.

Now here’s the most important question: what comes next after these brands actually run their Super Bowl ads?

Creative Parity

Super Bowl advertisers face the challenge of achieving creative parity, or ensuring that your branding is consistent across all the touch points where consumers encounter an ad.

As I wrote in a Super Bowl related blog post in 2019, what happens after you buy digital or offline media is just as important as buying that space itself — sometimes more important. A 30-second TV ad for Super Bowl LIV costs $5.6 million. That’s why businesses want to maximize the value of Super Bowl ads by sharing them, often through inventive storytelling, well beyond the big game. So, advertisers complement TV ads with video ads, display/remarketing banners, emails, social media pushes, and paid search support (to name a few).

Creative parity is harder to achieve as a brand distributes creative assets online and offline. But it’s essential to embrace creative parity or else all the hard work you put into a Super Bowl ad will be wasted when your audience sees a confusing and completely different message in the content you share on your website or social media.

Creative parity is also about customizing advertising assets across the entire purchase funnel, from top, to middle, to low. For instance, at the top of the funnel, a brand might launch a high-concept Super Bowl ad that raises awareness for a campaign or new product. At the middle of the funnel, a business may share, via retargeting, shorter bursts of content with clear calls to action in order to encourage consumers to take an action such as clicking on a banner ad. At the bottom of the funnel, promotions and call-to-actions really begin to be applied in earnest. In some cases the banners themselves disappear, as in branded paid search, but we are able to use similar language mixed in with specific promos based on the search term a user enters.

You can read a lot more about creative parity in my post, “Why You Should Strive for Creative Parity with Advertising.”

What’s Next for Super Bowl Advertisers?

So, how will Super Bowl LIV advertisers achieve creative parity? Right now, the Super Bowl derby is at the awareness stage, largely through earned, paid, and social media. (Let’s face it: journalists are always looking for content to discuss leading up to the big game. These ads meet that need nicely.) The notable exceptions are Little Caesars, which is using digital to not only raise awareness but also consideration and purchase as it seeks to take a bite out of pizza delivery sales on a huge day for pizza delivery; and Budweiser, which also banks on awareness pre-game to increase sales of its product as people shop for snacks and beverages to enjoy during the game.

In addition, the consumer packaged goods and alcohol brands generally have the strongest opportunities to lead consumers down the purchase funnel after the game, which is why so many flock to the big game with ads. Beverage SodaStream will debut its first Super Bowl ad under its PepsiCo ownership, also creating a hopeful cause-effect. Meanwhile, Planters faces an unexpected disruption of its own Super Bowl plans. The company unveiled a wildly popular “Death of Mr. Peanut” ad days ago, a humorous depiction of the iconic mascot sacrificing his life to save the lives of actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. Planters had choreographed a narrative about Mr. Peanut that would include a funeral held during the big game itself. But the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in a January 26 helicopter crash compelled Planters to put the ad on pause. Whether Planters decides to re-instate the campaign remains to be seen.

I’ll be watching the days and weeks following Super Bowl LIV to see how well some of these notable brands achieve creative parity.

Contact True Interactive

To achieve creative parity with your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

 

 

How the Streaming Wars Benefit Brands

How the Streaming Wars Benefit Brands

Advertising

How will the streaming wars affect the way businesses market themselves in 2020?

This question looms large. A growing number of streaming services, including Apple TV+ and Disney+, now compete with already established players Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. More services, including one coming from AT&T, are on the way. All of them cater to a younger audience that is notoriously indifferent to ads, which helps explain why most – but not all — streaming services remain ad-free. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for businesses to market themselves through streaming services.

Ad-Supported Tiers

So far, Hulu remains the only major streaming company that offers an ad-supported tier, which costs $5.99 a month. (To watch content ad-free on Hulu, viewers need to shell out $11.99 per month.) Hulu tightly controls ad formats to prevent them from being too intrusive, keeping commercial breaks short. In addition, Hulu is said to be experimenting with different types of ads, such as banner ads that appear when viewers pause their content – making Hulu resemble YouTube as a content-watching option. An ad-supported tier apparently works for Hulu. A recent New York Times article reported that the $5.99 tier is Hulu’s most lucrative one:

Even though it charges $6, the service generates more than $15 in revenue per subscriber each month, because of the high-cost advertising sold against those customers, according to two people familiar with the business.

Advertising grew by 45-percent for Hulu in 2018.

In addition, pressure is mounting for Netflix to provide an ad-supported tier, which Netflix does not offer at the moment. But Netflix might cave in because of rising content creation costs and increased competition. A recent stock downgrade by a prominent financial analyst ratcheted up the pressure.

I believe that Netflix will eventually provide advertising (more about that here). For now, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re the type of brand that understands how to capitalize on YouTube ad formats (such as YouTube Masthead), consider the ad tools that Hulu is developing. For instance, Hulu offers “binge watch ads,” which, as the name implies, target people who like to watch multiple programs in one sitting. As reported in TechCrunch,

These “binge watch ads” utilize machine learning techniques to predict when a viewer has begun to binge watch a show, then serves up contextually relevant ads that acknowledge a binge is underway. This culminates when the viewer reaches the third episode, at which point they’re informed the next episode is ad-free or presents a personalized offer from the brand partner.

Expect Hulu to provide more creative ways for brands to attract eyeballs.

Watch Hulu closely. The company’s development of an ad tier may point a way forward for Netflix and other competitors.

Co-Branding

Businesses can brand themselves in other ways beyond traditional advertising, such as having their products placed on shows. Here again, Hulu provides an example of how to do it. According to The New York Times, Hulu has a team dedicated to working with businesses to have their products appear on Hulu programming, with the number of paid arrangements increasing 200 percent from 2018 to 2019.

But Netflix is also cozying up to brands (although it is not monetizing those arrangements as aggressively as Hulu has done). For the Netflix hit show Stranger Things, Netflix has struck 75 co-branding deals, which typically provide Netflix exposure and licensing fees (although they are not product placements, per se). Recently, Netflix and sandwich chain Subway made it possible for Subway to offer a Green Eggs and Ham Sub, an homage to a new Netflix series “Green Eggs and Ham,” which is based on the Dr. Seuss book. The sandwich, in effect, acted as an advertising play for both Netflix and Subway. The awareness included strong digital branding, examples being promotions on Subway’s Instagram and Twitter.

Many other examples abound. For instance, clothing company Diesel paid a licensing fee to Netflix in order to manufacture outfits inspired by the popular Netflix show, La Casa de Papel. Diesel capitalized on the power of digital to run online ads that connected the brand to the show:

 

The Netflix-Diesel relationship is a win-win, generating licensing revenue for Netflix and culturally relevant branding for Diesel.

Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, is no stranger to co-brands. The service, like Hulu, courts product placement opportunities. For example, snack brand Too Yumm! Recently struck a deal with Amazon Prime Video to have its products integrated into a sports drama thriller Inside Edge 2. Amazon recently struck a deal to have Cheerios placed in episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well.

As these examples show, the growth of streaming services does not mean the demise of advertising and branding – far from it. In fact, as the Diesel and Subway examples demonstrate, streaming services create online advertising and organic branding through platforms ranging from Instagram to YouTube. In addition, a new survey from the Trade Desk and YouGov indicates that consumers of streaming services are open to advertising in exchange for lower prices.

In 2020, expect streaming services to generate more advertising and marketing opportunities as businesses look for creative ways to court audiences online.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

 

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Marketing

Part of the price of being popular is being a target. And as we enter 2020, Google is certainly a big target for privacy advocates, who are uncomfortable with the amount of personal data that the master of the search world collects. And when privacy advocates talk about Google, they mean more than Google.com – there’s also Google Maps, YouTube, and a host of other Google-owned properties to consider. Amid the ongoing discussion about Google’s size and reach, search engine DuckDuckGo has emerged as an alternative for privacy advocates. DuckDuckGo is cast as an underdog and defender of personal privacy, partly because of how the company positions itself (“privacy, simplified”) and partly because of DuckDuckGo’s operating model (DuckDuckGo does not store personal information, follow users around with ads, or track users).

What, exactly, is DuckDuckGo, and how big is it? Let’s tackle these and other questions we’ve been getting from clients.

What Is DuckDuckGo?

Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo is a search engine whose claim to fame is protecting user privacy. DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or log user information; and DuckDuckGo uses cookies only when required. The search engine also markets itself with a bit of cheek (according to its website, “At DuckDuckGo, we don’t think the Internet should feel so creepy and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds”) and defiance (“Too many people believe that you simply can’t expect privacy on the Internet. We disagree and have made it our mission to set a new standard of trust online”).

Think of DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine for those who want to maintain a brick wall of privacy between themselves and the digital world when they search.

How Big Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo accommodates 1.5 billion searches a month with nearly 15 billion searches conducted in 2019. By contrast, in 2019, Google accommodated 2 trillion searches a day. Although DuckDuckGo is tiny by comparison, the search engine is growing. Those 15 billion searches represent a 60 percent increase over 2018 (9.2 billion) and nearly a tripling of 2017 searches (5.9 billion). Clearly, DuckDuckGo is catching on – with a small segment of the population, yes, but a growing on.

How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?

DuckDuckGo makes money through advertising and affiliate marketing. Just because DuckDuckGo protects your privacy, it doesn’t mean DuckDuckGo offers ad-free search results. If a user searches for, say, “vinyl records near me,” DuckDuckGo returns advertisements based on the keyword search. But DuckDuckGo does not track or use a person’s data after the search is completed. In addition, DuckDuckGo earns affiliate marketing revenue from sites such as from Amazon and eBay. When users buy something on those sites after reaching them through DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckGo collects a commission. For more insight about advertising on DuckDuckGo, check out this link from the company.

Is DuckDuckGo Reliable?

Your mileage may vary. The search engine has been called out for lacking certain functionality available on Google and Bing, such as custom date ranges. And to be sure, Google provides an interconnected universe of properties (Google.com and Google Maps being a good example). But DuckDuckGo is building out its functionality. For instance, you can do location-based searches through an integration between DuckDuckGo and Apple Maps. The best way to test it is to try it.

Should I Advertise on DuckDuckGo?

Businesses with a limited budget should focus on the properties where they’ll get the most bang for the buck, and without question there are bigger alternative such as Google and Bing that provide much more ad visibility. One of DuckDuckGo’s challenges is that the site itself requires a bit of word of mouth for people to find. But that said, businesses might want to consider DuckDuckGo for discretionary ad spend targeting a smaller privacy-conscious segment of the population.  According to research from SimilarWeb, loyal users of DuckDuckGo love tech, and they use DuckDuckGo as an alternative because they’re concerned about having their privacy protected while they search online. If that’s the type of audience for you, consider DuckDuckGo.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

Advertising

Google takes control of advertising. More businesses feel the heat over consumer privacy. Voice search gets smarter. These are among the trends influencing digital advertising in 2020, according to True Interactive. Here’s a sample of what’s on our minds:

1 Google Takes Control of Advertising

Google is taking away manual control of Google Advertising with the removal of the average position metric and by continuing to implement automated bidding tools and metrics such as top impression share that make measuring search ranking less transparent. As a result, CPCs are going up.

Going forward, Google will continue to push automated bidding strategies. Google’s rationale is that its algorithms are smarter, making it possible for Google to adjust bids per auction. But smarter bids are not necessarily less costly ones in the short term, and there is still much trepidation by marketers in handing total control over to Google, who stand stands to profit from an increase in CPCs and overall spend. Bottom line: as Google continues to make manual bidding more challenging, advertisers will be forced to buy into automated bidding with less transparency.  Expect CPCs to increase at least in the short term as businesses hand more control over to Google.

— Beth Bauch, senior manager

2 The CCPA Throws Down the Hammer on Big Tech

By July 2020, we will see the first major lawsuit against one of the big technology firms – likely Facebook or Google – over a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA, which goes into effect January 1, is evolving. Businesses are still figuring out its vagaries and requirements. Google and Facebook are in interesting and vulnerable position because they touch so much audience data for businesses, increasing their risk level. And we know Facebook’s track record for privacy violations, don’t we? Watch for it: a major lawsuit will happen that forces businesses to come to terms with the CCPA.

— Tim Colucci, vice president

3 Netflix Adopts Advertising

Netflix will need to adopt some form of advertising. Netflix has achieved phenomenal growth, to be sure. But the entertainment company also faces unprecedented threats with Disney+ and, eventually, Apple+ once Apple figures out a long-term strategy that works. (Apple has a lot of cash and time to get Apple+ right. Just wait.)

In addition, the cost of creating content is putting Netflix in an interesting bind: when Netflix has a hit show, it has to spend more money to accommodate audience demand, creating even more costs. On top of all that, for the first time in a long time, Netflix has reported drops in membership levels.

Netflix will likely introduce a less-expensive ad-based model, but the company will also do something it has avoided pursuing: product placements in shows like Stranger Things, which popularized brands such as Kellogg’s Eggos without earning Netflix a dime in return. Those days will come to an end as Netflix responds to pressure from investors to cover its costs and respond to the threat of Disney.

— Héctor Ariza, manager

4 Voice Search Gets Smarter and More Useful

I’ve written often about the rise of voice search, and I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices. But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices. That’s happening because as we get accustomed to the ease of using our voices to manage our lives, we are gradually becoming more comfortable accomplishing more complex tasks. In addition, thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence, voice-enabled devices are getting smarter and more capable of managing purchases and product orders. Frankly, the market got flooded with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home before AI was adequately advanced to make a voice-activated speaker as smart as we’d like them to be. Those days are rapidly drawing to a close.

— Taylor Murphy, manager

5 Google Monetizes Maps and Google My Business

We recently blogged about the fact that half of searches on Google stay on Google properties such as Google Maps, YouTube, and a business’s Google My Business (GMB) listing. In other words, half of searches are not resulting in clicks on a business’s website. In addition, Google My Business is the most important local search signal according to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors. These data points mean that businesses need to invest more time and energy maximizing the value of their presence on Google. Google knows this reality and is getting more aggressive about offering advertising products for businesses on these sites. Earlier in 2019, Bloomberg discussed how Google is evolving Google Maps with more advertising tools. Especially as more cars integrate mapping technology, Google is going to place even more advertising emphasis here. I also expect Google to provide more advertising options for businesses to promote themselves on their GMB listings. I also would not be surprised If Google introduces a premium version of GMB in which businesses will enjoy more features for a cost.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

6 Cause Marketing Faces a Reckoning

Cause marketing has been around for years. Businesses have learned they can create stronger emotional ties with customers and job seekers by associating themselves with a topical issue such as sustainability. In 2019, businesses were falling all over themselves to promote a position on sustainability as the topic reached all-time levels of public awareness. But there’s just one hitch: we’re seeing a glut of cause marketing campaigns, and they’re not necessarily connecting with consumers. I was reading a recent report from DoSomething Strategic that discusses how businesses have struggled to make their cause marketing connect with young people. Gen Z definitely wants to associate with purpose-driven companies. But businesses still have a lot of work to do in order to convince them that they’re aligned with Gen Z values. Businesses are going to become more careful about how they do cause marketing. I believe we’ll see fewer online ads and a more thoughtful use of content marketing, PR, social media, and native advertising in which a business can spend more time having a longer-term discussion about issues it cares about. Businesses will humanize these conversations by sharing their position through the voices of their people.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

7 Agile Advertising Takes Hold

We all know about real-time marketing, in which a brand uses social media to turn a news event into a marketing opportunity. Agile advertising occurs when a business acts on a recent event and creates a connected marketing experience that endures well beyond a single tweet, Facebook post, or other digital impression. We saw Bud Light exercise agile advertising during the World Series when it capitalized on the fact that a fan in the stands stopped a home run ball with his chest while holding two Bud Lights in his hands. Bud Light created a series of marketing moments including creating a branded T shirt depicting the fan stopping the home run ball. Bud Light paid the fan to attend another World Series game sporting the Bud Light attire. We also saw agile advertising in action when Aviation Gin created a slick ad online that gently made light of the controversial Pelton cycling ad. I see more businesses adopting this practice because the digital production tools have evolved to the point where talented storytellers can quickly conceive of an idea and get it into market with an ad that taps into current events and endures for days and weeks.

— Max Petungaro, associate

8 Hispanic Marketing Hits Its Stride

In the United States, 69 counties are majority Hispanic, doubling from 34 in 2010. Hispanics have increased their economic power, reflecting a growingly diverse U.S. population. In 2020, Hispanics will possess $1.7 trillion in buying power. The United States continues to reflect Hispanic tastes in all aspects of our culture (including and beyond the Hispanic community, ranging from movies to popular music). We’re going to see businesses apply research and targeting to do more effective, sophisticated Hispanic marketing that recognizes the diversity and tastes that reside among Hispanics. Brands are already capitalizing on this growing market. (For more insight about marketing to Hispanics, check out our blog post.) And tech companies such as Google are responding to a more multicultural world in general by making their platforms more open to people who speak languages other than English, an example being how the Google Assistant voice software can interpret 44 languages on smart phones. These types of developments will help bridge the world between businesses and Hispanics in 2020.

— Amanda Cortese, associate

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Advertising Google

It’s been a tough week for Google from a PR standpoint.

On November 11, The Wall Street Journal published a story about how Google has been collecting Americans’ personal health data as part of an ambitious foray into healthcare. Although Google was not accused of any wrongdoing, the examination of its data collection practices resulted in the announcement of a federal probe. And then to cap off the week, on November 15, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article, “How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results.”

Let’s just say the title of that second article captured plenty of interest in the advertising world.

Do Google’s Actions Match Its Message?

The November 15 article, like the article about Project Nightingale, did not accuse Google of doing anything illegal. But The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of a company whose actions are not always aligned with its statements. For instance, The Wall Street Journal pointed out examples of Google intervening to manage search results contrary to what Google says on its blog, “We do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Google:

  • Weeds out more-incendiary suggestions in the search auto-complete function.
  • Has made algorithmic changes to search results that favor big companies over smaller ones and “in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser,eBay, contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc.  . . . .” (The comment about Facebook and Amazon is especially interesting given how Amazon and Facebook compete with Google for advertising revenue.)
  • Employs thousands of contractors whose job is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. “Even so,” says The Wall Street Journal, “contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.”

For me one of the most fascinating details in the article is the inference that Google’s advertising growth has influenced how the company treats businesses on Google. According to the article:

Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter. In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.

One former executive at a Fortune 500 company that received such advice said Google frequently adjusts how it crawls the web and ranks pages to deal with specific big websites.

Google updates its index of some sites such as Facebook and Amazon more frequently, a move that helps them appear more often in search results, according to a person familiar with the matter.

For its part, Google said it does not provide specialized guidance to website owners. Google said that faster indexing of a site isn’t a guarantee that it will rank higher. “We prioritize issues based on impact, not any commercial relationships,” a Google spokeswoman said.

I would urge any business to take the time to read the article. Here again, this is not an exposé of wrongdoing but rather an in-depth examination of how well Google’s practices align with its words.

The Core Issue: Transparency

Google is certainly not alone in facing increased scrutiny for its management of data and its relationship with advertisers, and the heat Google is experiencing right now is nothing compared to the firestorm that Facebook is enduring.

To me, the core issue of the November 15 article is this: transparency. Google’s practice of holding its cards close to the vest has created an impression of a business that has something to hide – perhaps not a fair impression, but as they say, perception is reality. As Google manages the fallout from the November 15 story, I do think we may see some interesting outcomes for advertisers:

  • Smaller businesses — which the article characterizes as second-class citizens groveling for fair consideration — may receive more responsiveness than they typically get from the advertising giant when issues arise that demand attention.
  • All businesses may see more transparency from Google, such as how the algorithm works and the explicit impact of the many algorithm changes that Google enacts through the year. A message of “Trust us – we know what we’re doing” just isn’t going over very well. At the same time, Google needs to protect its intellectual property, and the company says that revealing too much of how the algorithm works will make it easier for parties with bad intentions to game the system. It will be fascinating to see how Google reconciles these factors amid increased scrutiny.

In many ways, Google is grappling with issues that social media platforms do all the time – providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas among people while at the same time making it possible for businesses to succeed through advertising and commerce. What exactly goes on behind the scenes to represent the interests of both people and businesses is not always clear. But that situation may change soon.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we live in the world of online advertising. We know how to help businesses succeed with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many other advertising platforms. Contact us to learn how we can help you.