It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

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Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.

How to Succeed with Google Discovery Ads

How to Succeed with Google Discovery Ads

Google

It’s official: Google has launched Discovery ad campaigns globally. “Discovery ads,” so dubbed because they are designed for Google users who might not be actively looking for things to buy, have already been adopted by True Interactive in our client work. In fact, we’ve seen higher conversion rates on Discovery campaigns than on traditional display campaign, which have translated into lower cost per conversion numbers. Read on to learn more.

What Are Discovery Ads?

Google Discovery ads are designed to appear exclusively on mobile devices, with the exception of those discovery ads showing in Gmail (these also appear on the desktop). As noted, they are called “Discovery ads” because they are designed for the “laid back” individual: someone who didn’t necessarily access Google with an intent to make a purchase. As reported in Adweek, this is in fact a receptive group: Google says that 86 percent of online consumers exploring the web or watching videos are also open to shopping ideas. That’s a sizable audience: according to Google, Discovery Ads can “reach up to 2.9 billion people across multiple platforms, including Gmail social tabs and YouTube’s Watch Next feeds,” all in a single campaign. As Search Engine Land points out, Discovery ads tend to be image-rich: advertisers can run a single image ad or a multi-image “carousel,” meaning an ad with multiple images users can scroll through. The ads may be similar to ones brands are already running on Facebook, which means advertisers can repurpose existing ad creatives.

On what platforms do Discovery ads appear? As one might guess, they occur on Google Discover (the new name for Google Feed). They also show up on Gmail, which The Drum reports enjoys more than 1.5 billion monthly users, and YouTube, cited by Forbes as the second-largest search engine in the world. Heavy hitters, in other words.

True Interactive and Discovery Campaigns

True Interactive has been an early adopter of the format for our clients. As noted, we have seen an increase in conversion rate and a decrease in cost per conversion. Why? For one thing, the ad format applies the power of the Google algorithm to target the right consumer. And the format has simply hit at the right time: mobile usage is increasing.

Some basics about our experiences and requirements follow here:

  • Targeting: as with any regular Display campaign, we can use remarketing, in-market, affinity, custom intent and similar audiences.
  • Bidding: these campaigns can only use automated bidding strategies such as Target CPA and Maximize Conversions.
  • Ad Placements: ads can show on YouTube (mobile home feed only), Gmail (Promotions & Social tabs—as noted, ads are served on both mobile and desktop), and the Discover feed (iOS, Android Google app, and mobile Google.com site).
  • Ad Formats:
    • Two options:
    • Asset requirements:
      • Images: high-quality images are needed (they can’t be blurry) in either 1200 x 628 (landscape) or 1200 x 1200 (square)—preferably in both sizes.
        • Note that ads with call-to-actions inside the images will be disapproved. You can have Google include a Call-to-Action button in your ad by choosing one from Google’s predefined list (e.g., Learn More, Subscribe, Shop Now, Apply Now, Get Quote, etc.)
  • Text:
    • Carousel requirements: one main headline (40 characters max), one main description (up to 90 characters), a business name (up to 25 characters), as well as one headline for each individual carousel card of up to 40 characters.
    • Single image requirements: at least one headline no longer than 40 characters (can include up to five different 40-character headlines and Google will optimize for performance), along with one description line of up to 90 characters long (can include up to five different descriptions of 90 characters each and Google will optimize for performance).

What You Can Do

What should your takeaways be? We recommend that you:

  • Capitalize on this format.
  • Monitor Google ad innovations on an ongoing basis and understand the powerful nature of Google and how it is evolving.
    • As we’ve blogged, Google draws on several advantages as it grows its ad business:
      • A massive user base that relies on Google across multiple platforms and apps.
      • A head start in using AI, with the specific aim of making advertising more effective—and smarter.
      • An established global presence that showcases how Google tailors advertising products in support of international ad campaigns.

Google has a good track record of recognizing needs, and creating products—Shopping campaigns with partners, for example, or location-based digital advertising—to meet those needs. That proactive stance will no doubt continue.

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Eager to learn more about what Google might offer your brand? Contact us.

Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google

Google has a track record of recognizing needs, and creating products to solve those needs. In the book How Google Works, authors Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg describe a strong culture in which problem solving is encouraged—and facilitated. How Google Works came out in 2014. Six years later, Google continues to prove that problem-solving and innovation are core strengths: one need look no further than a product like Shopping campaigns with partners. Still in beta mode, Shopping campaigns with partners has been created by the tech giant to make it easier for nonretailers such as manufacturers to sell their own products online. How? By giving those brands a way to run advertising that links directly to any commerce site. Read on to learn more.

What Is Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

Shopping campaigns with partners essentially puts products in places where shoppers will see them. Increasingly, that means a digital presence: according to Google, 56 percent of consumer time spent with media is on digital. Shopping campaigns with partners capitalizes on the importance of digital, facilitating a collaboration between brands and retailers, and then connecting the two by directing consumers from ads that appear throughout Google ad touchpoints like Google Search or YouTube.

Why Shopping Campaigns with Partners Matters

It’s easier and more efficient for businesses to advertise when they don’t have to manage a commerce site of their own, and Shopping campaigns with partners takes that burden off of manufacturers. But the partnership the product forges clearly benefits both parties: as Google notes, “brand manufacturers . . . promote their products while increasing traffic to retailers of their choice.” The mutual benefits don’t end there. As part of the partnership, manufacturers partially fund the retailer’s advertising cost for the manufacturer’s products. In return, retailers provide attribution reporting for the products highlighted in the campaign.

Who Is Using Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

Shopping campaigns with partners will eventually be launching in every country where Google Shopping products are offered. Some manufacturers, such as the Estée Lauder Companies, have already had an opportunity to test the capabilities of the product during its beta phase. In this instance, Shopping campaigns with partners paired Estée Lauder with a retail partner in the United States; the campaign was specifically meant to position and promote Estée Lauder designer fragrances, and maximize holiday demand. The strategy paid off: thanks to Shopping campaigns with partners, clickshare of the targeted fragrances increased 70 percent.

True Interactive is ahead of the curve. We’re working with businesses to use the product to support their online commerce needs. We’ll report on results later!

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Eager to learn more about how Shopping campaigns with partners might benefit your brand? Contact us.

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

Automated bidding with Google Ads continues to take hold among advertisers. And it’s easy to see why: with automated bidding, Google does all the heavy lifting. But my advice to advertisers is to proceed carefully with automated bidding. In fact, as businesses around you adopt automated bidding, you might want to do manual bidding carefully and thoughtfully. Zig while your competitors zag.

For context: with an automated bid strategy, Google Ads automatically optimize bids based on a simple goal that the advertiser sets. But with manual bidding, an advertiser sets a maximum CPC bid at the ad group or keyword level. In addition, the advertiser can use targeting to modify bids based on variables such as income, location, and time of day, among others. Google’s own website mentions how automated bidding saves time and effort. And that’s certainly true. But, also consider this:

  • If you adopt automated bidding, you’re competing with everyone else using the same tool. You’re using the exact same algorithm that other advertisers are using, which eliminates your ability to gain a competitive edge by customizing your own bid strategy.
  • With automated bidding, you miss an opportunity to achieve the results that you can get with manual bidding. We know from our client work that manual bidding gives an advertiser more flexibility and control. For example, with manual bidding, you can set and adjust bids based on multiple KPIs (such as online orders and online leads). By contrast, with automated bidding, you give Google one goal, and Google sets your bid based on that goal. That’s it. No flexibility. No nuance. In addition, manual bidding lets you set your own maximum CPC for your ads and adjust them as needed. You are in the driver’s seat.

At True Interactive, we are zigging while the others zag with bid strategies. We have used manual bidding for clients and have experienced dramatic increases in year-over-year results. For one of our clients, a cable company, we realized a 67-percent year-over-year increase in online orders and an 80-percent increase in online leads thanks partly to using manual bidding. Why? Manual bidding has enabled us to adjust bids as needed based on our customer acquisition experience and knowledge of the client’s industry. We can be more targeted in our approach, refine our KPIs, and adjust our bids as needed.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: as more competitors use automated bidding, we see opportunities to outsmart them and achieve better results with manual bidding. Contact True Interactive to learn more.

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Google

At True Interactive, we use tools such as Google Analytics to monitor and measure everything we do. And doing so includes keeping close tabs on referral traffic. Referral traffic consists of visits that come to your site from sources outside of Google’s search engine. When someone clicks on a hyperlink to go to a new page on a different website, Google Analytics tracks the click as a referral visit to the second site. Referral traffic is a recommendation from one site to visit another — like an assist from one basketball or hockey player to another leading to a score.

Referral traffic helps you understand how people find your website. With good referral data, you can understand, for instance, whether your Facebook or Instagram pages are sending traffic to your site (and how much traffic).

But you need to keep a close watch on how Google Analytics measures referral traffic in order to get a true measure. Recently, for one of our clients, we noticed that Google Analytics was reporting a sharp increase in referral traffic from payment sites such as Affirm and Paypal. When we looked under the hood, we noticed that Google Analytics was giving those payment sites credit as the referring sites for customer transactions.

Now, payment sites are essential for a transaction to occur. They make the web more seamless by making online checkout happen faster. Customers making purchases on ecommerce sites probably don’t even notice when they’re referred to a third-party payment site to complete a purchase. But that doesn’t mean Affirm or Paypal should get credit as the referring site. Affirm ensures the purchase happens easily. But Affirm becomes part of the picture after a customer has decided to make a purchase, not before.

Fortunately, we monitor Google Analytics data closely. We acted quickly by adding the third-party payment sites in question to the referral exclusion list, or a list of domains whose incoming traffic is treated as direct traffic (instead of referral traffic) by Google Analytics. We were able to course-correct quickly enough to ensure that we continue to provide our clients accurate data.

The lessons here:

  • Watch your referral traffic closely.
  • If you find a spike in referrals for third-party payment sites, take a closer look at your referral exclusion list. The payment system might be getting an inordinate amount of credit that another site should be getting credit for.

How closely do you monitor your Google Analytics data?

Contact True Interactive

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

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

Google

Get ready for a world with fewer intrusive video ads.

On February 5, Google announced that video ads deemed to be intrusive will stop appearing on Chrome beginning August 2020. Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show the following kinds of video ads:

  • Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds.
  • Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience.
  • Image or text ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the video content.

These restrictions apply to short-form video content defined as eight minutes or less in length.

Why Google Announced a Change

You might be wondering why Google identified those specific ad formats. Google is following recommendations from the Coalition for Better Ads, the organization responsible for the Better Ads Standards that inform companies such as Google on user feedback about ads that work and ads that do not. On February 5, the Coalition for Better Ads announced the recommended changes to video ad formats based on research from 45,000 consumers globally. According to the Coalition for Better Ads:

The research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for these environments globally. The Coalition’s Better Ads Standards identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and are most likely to drive consumers to install ad blockers. More than 100,000 consumers have participated to date in the Coalition’s research to develop its set of Better Ads Standards.

As a result, Google said that starting August 5, 2020, Chrome will stop showing such ads on sites. Google also said that it will review YouTube video content for compliance with the standards. In addition, “Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.”

Note that the standards for short-form video do not apply to other environments like feeds or over-the-top (OTT).

What You Should Do

Change is coming. It’s time to prepare:

  • Per Google, if you operate a website that shows ads, consider reviewing your site status in the Ad Experience Report. This is a tool that helps publishers understand if Chrome has identified any violating ad experiences on your site.
  • Review your YouTube game plan. YouTube will be affected by the blocking of midroll ads but not the other two types identified above.
  • Ask your ad agency how they will ensure that ads they create are compliant.

At True Interactive, we are monitoring this development closely and are well prepared to help our clients thrive in this new environment. We manage video ads all the time and understand how to ensure compliance.

Contact True Interactive

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

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Recently Google announced that over the next few years, it will stop supporting third-party cookies on Chrome. With Chrome currently accounting for more than half of all installed web browsers, this is big news. It follows actions by Apple and Mozilla to block tracking cookies in Safari and Firefox respectively, too. In light of this news, we’ve answered some questions you may have. A big caveat: this is an evolving story, and one being played out over the next two years. A lot can happen yet. That said, here’s what we know:

What Exactly Is Google Doing to Third-Party Cookies?

Google announced that over the next two years, it will not support third-party cookies on its Chrome browser. Let’s break down what this means:

  • A third-party cookie consists of text stored in a person’s computer that is created by a website with a domain name other than the site a visitor is visiting.
  • Third-party cookies make it possible for an advertiser to track a person’s browsing history and, in theory, serve up more personalized ads that follow a person around the web.
  • Typically web browsers allow third-party cookies.

But over the next few years, Chrome will replace third-party cookies with browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy. So, third-party cookies are going away from Chrome – but that doesn’t mean advertising is. Far from it.

Google said it will replace third-party cookies with a (vaguely defined) browser-based mechanism as part of a new “Privacy Sandbox.”  The Privacy Sandbox is an evolving and (equally vague sounding) “secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” Google describes the Privacy Sandbox an “open source initiative is to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers.” In an August 2019 blog post, Google said the Privacy Sandbox would be a place to collaborate on better ways to provide relevant ads while protecting personal privacy:

Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only. Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy.

The unplugging of support for third-party cookies looks like a way for Google to get the industry to start playing in its Privacy Sandbox, resulting in a mechanism that will replace the cookie, protecting user privacy while also supporting advertisers. No one knows what that mechanism is going to look like yet.

Why Is Google Going to Stop Supporting Third-Party cookies in Chrome?

Google says it’s trying to balance personalization and privacy. Google’s stated objective is to create “a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” In announcing the change, Google said, “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used — and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.” At the same time, Google wants to make it possible for businesses to continue to offer personalized content. Google intends for the still-evolving browser-based mechanism envisioned by Google to do that.

How Will Ads Be Affected?

If you use a Google ad products, you will not be affected. Google will still be able to use data from its own search and other properties to target ads to people. But once Google phases out third-party support, you won’t be able to use third-party cookies to follow users around on Chrome and retarget with an ad them after they’ve visited your website.

How Has the Industry Reacted?

The move has received a mixed response.

Some critics point out that phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome is a cynical play to strengthen Google’s ad business because Google’s ability to use data from its own search and other properties to target ads to people remains unaffected.

Others have speculated that the change will make obsolete many tools that advertiser have been relying on. As Adweek noted,

Marketers wary of the industry’s reliance on Google will have to figure out how they can adapt their first-party data strategy as some of the de rigueur marketing tools of recent years are rendered redundant in most internet browsers. These include third-party data and data management platforms, and multitouch attribution providers, all of whose days would appear to be numbered (at least in their current guise), as third-party data has been a critically important part of how marketers shape their communications strategies with consumers for close to 25 years. For instance, Procter & Gamble, one of the industry’s largest-spending advertisers, this week effused over its frequency capping efforts at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference.

The Association of National Advertisers and American Association of Advertising Agencies issued a joint statement that said, “We are deeply disappointed that Google would unilaterally declare such a major change without prior careful consultation across the digital and advertising industries. In the interim, we strongly urge Google to publicly and quickly commit to not imposing this moratorium on third-party cookies until effective and meaningful alternatives are available.”

In fact, it’s possible that backlash will cause Google to reverse its course. A lot can happen in two years.

What Should Advertisers Do?

We reached out to Google to find out what near-term steps businesses need to take. Here’s what Google says:

First, you don’t need to do anything with your Google ad products. Google will be updating the cookies that Google sets and accesses for our advertising products prior to the deadline

Google recommends that you:

  • Confirm with your own engineers that they have conducted testing on your sites to assess impact and are updating any third-party cookies they control. It is important to also check non-ads use cases (e.g., logins, shopping cards).
  • Confirm with your vendors (ads and non-ads) that any cookies they set and access on your sites will be updated.

This is an evolving situation. We recommend keeping a close watch. At True Interactive, we’re following the situation closely and will be ready to help our clients sense and respond.

Contact True Interactive

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