Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Video Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Video Ads

Amazon

Earlier this year, advertisers complained in a Digiday article that Amazon lacked a robust video ad platform, which made Amazon less attractive to Facebook and Google as an ad platform. Amazon must have been listening. The company launched video ads as part of a broader reorganization of its ad offerings under Amazon Advertising. In recent weeks, I’ve been blogging about various Amazon Advertising products. Here’s a brief overview of video ads to help you understand them.

1 What is Amazon’s Video Advertising Solution?

Amazon’s video offerings are very similar to their display offering in the sense that they use specific audiences with custom creatives to target people on Amazon as well as Amazon-owned and third-party sites (such as Twitch) and devices. Unlike the display offerings, there isn’t a self-managed option – so you must work with a team throughout the whole process.

2 Why Would an Advertiser Use Video Ads?

Video ads are a great way to tell a story. They complement display ads by sharing the same sentiments but with the ability to expand beyond a single image to show the entire story. Video ads are mainly seen as a branding play, but by using highly specific targeting available on Amazon, video ads can also drive people to complete a purchase.

As reported in Digiday, Lego tested video ads in search results on the Amazon app in the United States in 2017. And Lego liked what it saw. James Poulter, Lego’s head of emerging platforms and partnerships, told Digiday, “The test reiterated the importance video and rich media can have when it’s part of the buying journey, especially when 70 percent of all purchase journeys start on Amazon. Surfacing your content in the same place that people are having those journeys has the potential to widen the funnel.”

3 Are There Any Limitations to Video Ads?

As with Amazon’s Display ads, the main limitation with Amazon video ads is the price. Amazon requires a $35,000 budget for both video and display ad campaigns. This hefty price prevents smaller advertisers from being able to test out these advertising features.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Video Ads?

Maximizing the value of video ads requires a goal, good story telling, and smart targeting.

  • Goals – Since most advertisers on Amazon are selling a product, getting a consumer to complete a purchase is the most obvious goal. Generating brand awareness and recall is another goal that would work well within the Amazon universe.
  • Stories – Visually show someone how purchasing a product will solve a problem for them. Walk them through a product demonstration, but without it feeling like a sales pitch. Showcase testimonials and reviews. Create an instructional video illustrating specific features of a product.
  • Targeting – Leverage Amazon’s targeting options to find highly relevant audiences. Take what you know about your customer and match that up with products they buy and shows and videos they watch. Be very specific to the product you sell.

If you’re interested in Amazon video ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Here are the other posts in my series about Amazon: 

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads 

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Google Uncategorized

Google has been beefing up its showcase shopping ads product to help retailers spice up their holiday advertisements. Showcase shopping ads make it possible for businesses to group together related products to merchandise them more effectively. The format is tailored for mobile viewing. Recently Google added new features such as video to make these ads more powerful. At True Interactive, we’ve been applying showcase shopping ads with favorable results. One of our clients running showcase shopping ads has seen an 80-percent higher click-through rate over standard shopping ads. This blog post explains showcase shopping ads based on questions we’ve received.

What exactly are showcase shopping ads?

Showcase shopping ads appear as a collection of shoppable images displaying different products offered by an advertiser. The ads are built to capitalize on broad keyword searches such as “winter sweaters.” The showcase shopping ads work this way:

  • Someone making a non-brand search for, say, winter sweaters will see in their search results display ads from different retailers with winter sweaters and promotional ad copy.
  • When the shopper clicks on the ad, they are taken to a landing page with a merchant’s line of winter sweaters. The shopping ad display, or showcase, resembles a brand page to the user, consisting of products the advertiser wants the user to see.

A shopper may click on an inventory and complete a purchase.

A business can create multiple showcase shopping ads. The header image can be different based on what is uploaded into each showcase shopping ad. In the above example of winter sweaters, a retailer could run a header image that focuses on sweaters but have another header image that focuses on outerwear for a “winter coat” search. The Google algorithm chooses which products appear based on variables such as the product titles, description, and type.

Who is this a good fit for?

It is highly recommended that you have at least 1,000 products in your inventory. There is no minimum budget. The format is effective for anyone who wants to get their products in front of a large audience because it’s based on broad keywords. It’s not for people competing for specific keywords. For bigger advertisers, showcase shopping ads are a good way to display multiple products for broad keywords. You can create an engaging photo and additional messaging that smaller businesses may not be able to afford.

Why is Google beefing up showcase ads?

The main reason Google is pushing showcase ads is that they are optimized for mobile. Salesforce recently predicted that mobile devices would dominate both traffic and orders for the entire 2018 holiday shopping season (68 percent of traffic and 46 percent of orders). On Black Friday alone, retailers saw $2.1 billion in sales from smartphones, accounting for 33.5 percent of Black Friday sales. The rise of mobile reflects broader shopping trends, and Google wants to capture a share of ad revenue associated with mobile shopping by offering a shoppable ad format.

What is the pay model?

The pay format is cost per engagement, not cost per click. The user has to be on the ad for 10 seconds or more, at which time the advertiser is charged. This approach can be a drawback. A click is a specific action. But having a page open for 10 seconds is a passive way to measure user intent. A person may not be really engaged with a product while a screen is open.

Any tips for getting the most out of Google showcase shopping ads?

Yes. Advertisers need to do two things:

  • Ensure all your products are grouped together in an easily findable way.
  • Have your products accurately labeled in each ad group.

Bottom line: Google showcase shopping ads give multiple advertisers a way to showcase multiple products for generic keywords that can otherwise be very expensive. If you compete for generic keywords in a mobile centric world – and who isn’t? – then you should consider Google showcase shopping ads. If you need help getting started or if you are running Google showcase shopping ads and want to take your game to the next level, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Attribution Modeling

Advertisers have become accustomed to the belief that the final click that leads directly to the conversion is the most important click – hence the affinity for last-click attribution. But it’s important that businesses transition away from last-click attribution. That’s because last-click attribution fails to account for the value of the entire conversion path.

Most marketers would agree that their brand campaigns drive a large number of conversions and have very low costs per action (CPAs). Of course the cost per clicks (CPCs) in brand campaigns tend to be very low, but those campaigns are also benefiting from last-click attribution models.

Let’s think about a customer journey for a moment. With the holiday shopping season upon us, many of us will start our search for the perfect gifts with some online searching. Here’s how one of my searches might look:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers ->Apple Watch

In the example above, the brand campaign housing the keyword “Apple Watch” would get 100-percent of the conversion credit if you use the last-click model. Clearly, I did not start my search on a branded keyword, yet the brand campaign gets full credit. When marketers use last-click attribution, they generally see that non-brand keywords achieve low conversation rates and high CPAs, and brand keywords achieve high conversion rates and low CPAs. But is this approach really a fair way to evaluate our campaign and keyword performance?

Marketers have all seen non-brand keywords fail to work well in a campaign. They may be costly to run, and rarely do we see strong conversions. I have paused my fair share of non-brand keywords as I can’t justify their worth to my clients. Not surprisingly, I see search volume decline; and although my CPA often times improves, my overall number of conversions also begins to decline. What we have been missing is the ability to see the value of the entire conversion path.

Alternative Models

One of the main focuses for Google this year has been transitioning clients from last-click attribution into a model that gives credit to each paid click in the user journey. Currently, there several different attribution models available in Google Ads.

Let’s take a look at some of the choices:

Data-Driven Attribution

The model Google recommends most is data-driven attribution, which uses Google’s machine learning technology to determine how much credit to assign each click in the paid search journey. This attribution model is all based on an advertiser’s own data and continues to “learn” over time.

Data-driven attribution takes both converting and non-converting paths into account, and it’s powered by dynamic algorithms that assign credit to touch points based on fractional credit. Google recommends choosing data-driven attribution when available. Unfortunately, this attribution model is not always an option as it requires 15,000 clicks on Google search and 600 conversions over a 30-day period.  Although smaller advertisers will not have access to this attribution model, there are still some good options available.

Linear Model

The linear model distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all clicks on the conversion path. If it takes four clicks for a searcher to convert, each click receives an equal part of the total conversion credit.

Time Decay Model

The Time Decay Model gives more credit to clicks that happen closer in time to the actual conversion. For example, if the path to conversion takes five clicks, the time decay model would assign an increasing proportion of credit with each subsequent click, with the final click that led to the conversion receiving the most credit.

Position-Based Model

The Position Based Model gives 40 percent of the conversion credit to the first click, 40 percent to the last click in the conversion path, and the remaining 20 percent across the other clicks on the path.

A Recommended Approach

As mentioned above, if the data-driven attribution model is an option for your campaigns, always choose that. But if you don’t have enough data available for that option, how do you go about choosing among the other options? Google offers a few suggestions:

  • Choose a time decay model if your client has a conservative growth strategy, is a market leader, and has little competition. In this scenario, the final clicks in the conversion path will get more credit.
  • If your client is growth oriented, new to the market, and is facing a lot of competition, choose a position-based model where the first and last clicks in the conversion path will get the most credit while the clicks in between will receive a smaller portion.
  • If your client falls somewhere in between, you may opt for a linear model, giving equal credit to all the clicks on the conversion path.

There is no absolute right or wrong choice, and any of the models you choose will give you better insight into the complete conversion path more than the last-click model can. Google also offers an attribution modeling tool in Google Ads that allows you to change attribution models and compare results among the different model types.

Outcomes of Different Models

No matter what attribution model you choose, you should anticipate a decline in brand conversions and an increase in non-brand conversions. The actual number of conversions will remain the same regardless of the model you choose. But you will see fractional conversions reported, indicating each campaign/ad group/keyword that played a role on the conversion path.

So let’s revisit my holiday shopping search from above:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers -> Apple Watch

If I used a position-based attribution model, here would be the new breakdown for conversion credit:

  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “top electronic gifts 2018.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “fitness trackers.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “top rated fitness trackers.”
  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “Apple Watch.”

Using last-click attribution, I would see keywords “top electronic gifts 2018,” “fitness trackers,” and “top rated fitness trackers” appear to be poor performers, as all of the conversion credit would have gone to “Apple Watch.” Conversely, if I were to use the position-based model, I would see that all of those keywords together played a role in the conversion path — and I would have a better understanding of the value of my non-brand keywords. This insight would allow me to make smarter decisions when optimizing.

Without question, we are able to make smarter decisions when we have a better understanding of the full conversion path. I suggest taking some time to experiment with the various attribution models using the attribution modeling tool in Google Ads. Based on your findings, select the attribution model that best suits your goals. I have found the additional conversion path insight to be valuable.

For more insight into how to improve the performance of your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Amazon

Amazon is creeping up on Google and Facebook as an online advertising platform. According to eMarketer, Amazon will become the third largest online ad platform in the United States in 2018, generating $4.6 billion in ad revenue. Amazon’s online advertising market share is way behind Google’s and Facebook’s – but the trillion-dollar company is making strong moves to strengthen its services. In September, Amazon consolidated all its digital advertising services under one offering, Amazon Advertising, which provides the following products:

  • Sponsored ads: sponsored products and brands.
  • Display ads: reach audiences on Amazon sites, apps, devices and third-party sites.
  • Video ads: showcase brand messages on Amazon sites, devices and third-party sites.
  • Stores: create multipage brand stores within Amazon.
  • Measurement solutions: gauge advertising impact across Amazon and third-party sites
  • Amazon DSP: programmatic advertising solutions (formerly Amazon Advertising Platform).

These services have sparked a number of questions among advertisers, such as:

  • What exactly are these services?
  • How and why should an advertiser use them?
  • Do they have any limitations?
  • What’s the best way to maximize their value?

I’m going to answer those questions through a series of blog posts that focus on three products especially relevant to True Interactive’s clients: sponsored ads, display ads, and video ads. Today let’s take a closer look at sponsored ads.

1 What Exactly Are Sponsored Ads?

Sponsored ads are Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution. They are available to sellers, venders, book venders, and Kindle Direct Publishing. Sponsored ads take a consumer directly to a product page or brand site within Amazon.

To reach customers, sponsored ads use keywords (either your own list or a list suggested by Amazon), products, and product categories for targeting. There are three types of sponsored ads:

  • Sponsored products.
  • Sponsored brands (previously headline search ads).
  • Product display ads.

2 How and Why Would an Advertiser Use Sponsored Ads?

Sponsored ads should be used when advertisers want to drive sales and awareness while maintaining more control over budgets. Since sponsored products and brands ads only incur costs if they’re clicked on, it’s easier to see the return on investment of this ad type. Amazon recommends using sponsored ads to showcase offers, clearance items, seasonal offerings, and unique items.

            How to Use Sponsored Products

Sponsored products are used to promote a single product and take the consumer directly to the product page. Additional creative such as images and text are not needed, making sponsored products the simplest ad to set up. Use keyword targeting to match products to a consumer’s search and show ads on the search results page or product detail page. 

            How to Use Sponsored Brands

Sponsored brands allow for multiple products or titles to be promoted together using a custom headline and logo. Consumers are taken to a product page if they click on a product, or to a designated landing page if they click on the image or ad text. Sponsored brands are good for driving awareness, in addition to sales. For example, advertisers can pair new or seasonal items with a related top seller in an ad to increase visibility in other product offerings. Or if a seller has multiple versions of the same product, say different versions of the same phone, using sponsored brand ads would showcase the variety available within a single ad.

            How to Use Product Display Ads

Product display ads use relevant products, product categories, and interests to target consumers and show image ads within product detail pages, reviews, and merchandise emails. These are a great ad to showcase complementary or competing products. This ad format is also a self-service option and is specific to the individual ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) of a product. Think of product display ads as a conquesting campaign, or as a last chance way to capture interest away from another product or brand.

3 Are There Any Limitations to Sponsored Ads?

The keyword targeting can be somewhat limited for sponsored products and sponsored brands. Although Amazon uses the same match types as other PPC platforms, the keywords must be relevant to the metadata on the product page. So, for example, if you’re selling toys around the holidays and want to boost holiday sales, it’s unlikely having keywords around “Christmas Toys” will generate impressions of your ads unless the product page metadata contains those words. But if you’re selling a toy specific to the holiday, then your ad more than likely will show.

In addition, for product display ads, due to the competitive nature of the ad format, it may be harder to generate sales unless the product has a great offer or discount attached to it. Since product display ads are only visible after a consumer shows interest in a related product, the offer has to convince the consumer that the product they were originally interested in is not as good of a product as in the display ad.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Sponsored Ads?

To maximize the value of sponsored ads, spend time to really think through which products and offers would make the most sense on this platform. For example:

  • Putting up ads for a seller’s entire inventory all year round would probably not be a wise use of your money.
  • Pulsing the ads on and off during seasonal or clearance sales and using a promotion or discount would be a better way to generate sales and to raise awareness of your products or store.

Knowing about the competition on Amazon is another way to increase the value of sponsored ads. If you sell unique items that someone may not know how to look for, do a quick search on what related items are already for sale on Amazon. Using that information, you can target those products and categories so that your product ads show up when people search for those items.

Although you also want to give your campaigns time to collect enough data to see what works and doesn’t work, Amazon Advertising isn’t a “set it and forget it” platform. Things can change quickly, and someone else can emerge with better offers or newer products. Updating promotions and switching out products regularly gives you a better chance at figuring out what works best for your inventory.

If you’re interested in Amazon sponsored ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Watch our blog for follow-up posts on Amazon display ads and video ads.

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

Marketing

The past 24 hours have been full of stories rating the Super Bowl ads. The fact that the ads are even rated at all is a testament to their power. We now treat them like movies, talking about them before the big reveal, watching trailers, and then experiencing the moment, after which we discuss how we feel about them (actually, the discuss occurs in real time now, followed by more detailed analysis). In addition to judging the ads, though, it’s also interesting to watch for trends in their format or differences in how they were unveiled in years past. Here are a few we noticed:

1. The Surprise Drop

Usually ads for movies promote releases that are months on the horizon. This year, Netflix dropped a surprise: a film, The Cloverfield Paradox, that premiered immediately after the Super Bowl. The surprise release followed an approach that musicians such as Beyoncé have employed with surprise album drops. In the words of reporter William Bibbian of IGN.com, “All of a sudden, a film most people hadn’t even heard of was now a very big deal.” But the buzz turned to disappointment after critics actually saw the movie and reviewed it. Perhaps that’s what Netflix had in mind all along: drop the movie during the Super Bowl Sunday and attract viewership before word-of-mouth reactions set in.

2. Fewer Stunts

In years past, brands have used the Super Bowl to unleash amusing stunts such as fake ads. This year, advertisers unleashed fewer stunts with the notable exception of Skittles. As we discussed on our blog, Skittles release an advertisement watched by just one person, employing a tongue-in-cheek tone that made us wonder if the ad and person were real. Well, they were. Skittles did what brands struggle to do amid the Super Bowl ad blizzard: capture attention and create conversation. Otherwise, brands focused on the content of the ads themselves.

3. Longer-Form Narrative

As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads were lengthier, taking a storytelling approach that required viewers to follow storylines, such as Aerosmith’s Stevie Tyler reverse aging as he drove a Kia in reverse. Tide released a series of ads starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who appeared in ads mocking the concept of an ad. Apparently Super Bowl advertisers wanted to create more memorable moments during the game itself by telling stories, which might help explain why fewer brands released their ads before the game this year.

4. Measurable Performance

Automobile marketplace Cars.com announced that automotive ads generally drove viewers to Cars.com to check out the cars advertised during the game. According to Cars, the Kia Red Stinger ad resulted in a 4,053-percent spike in traffic to view the car on Cars.com. Cars.com research showed that Super Bowl ads (in the automotive industry, anyway) creature measurable results. Perhaps in the future, brands will dial up their ability to measure and even adjust advertising on the fly based on audience feedback in real-time. With digital, anything is possible.

Super Bowl ads, like Black Friday, adapt to changing times and endure the most withering criticism. The Super Bowl will always be an advertising bonanza. Businesses, though, will tweak their approaches year after year as they try to capture a reward so elusive in the digital age: our attention. For more insight into how to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

 

 

YouTube Fights for Credibility

YouTube Fights for Credibility

Video

For those of you who kept your New Year’s Resolutions: congratulations. Now get ready to break them on February 4, when everyone gathers in front of that big screen to stuff their faces and watch grown men run around and crash into each other during Super Bowl LII. Of course, the unofficial national holiday also includes a huge chunk of the population who could care less about the action on the field (“Who is this Tom Brady? Oh, you mean Giselle Bundchen’s husband?”) and gather in front of the TV to overindulge in wings, nachos, and sweets for the commercials.

Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog post about investing in the power of YouTube advertising, Noting that the cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad was $5 million, I asserted that YouTube could be seen as a replacement for TV advertising. One year later, Super Bowl ads are holding firm at $5 million. Meanwhile, over the last year, YouTube has gotten a lot of flak (rightfully so!) about placement of video ads and banner ads over inappropriate, un-safe, and in some cases downright disturbing content.

Clearly, YouTube has taken some hits.

On January 16, Google announced that the YouTube Partnership Program (YPP) would be updated to address its credibility problem. YPP now requires a channel to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the last 12 months to be eligible to show ads before or during videos. These new rules will apply to everyone, including existing channels, starting February 20, 2018.

By contrast, under the old rules, having only 10,000 views could make a channel eligible for YPP. That’s it. A total view number as the only real eligibility factor is kind of crazy considering bots could hit that number in a matter of minutes.

The new rules were inevitable after a large number of advertisers threatened to pull out, and, in some cases (I’m speaking from experience) pulled out and STAYED pulled out. Moving forward, YouTube will begin to “closely monitor signals like community strikes, spam and other abuse flags,” which will also help keep those videos/partners who show ads more “brand safe.”

At True Interactive, we are results driven and like to see hard numbers. So here is a hard number: the creators who remain part of the YPP after the new guidelines go into effect make up more than 95 percent of YouTube’s reach for advertisers.

Also note that Google Preferred, which aggregates YouTube’s top 5 percent of content into easy-to-buy packages, will now be manually vetted. In other words, there is an actual person watching these uploaded videos before an ad can be shown. In a blog post, Neal Mohan (chief product officer) and Robert Kyncl (chief business officer) wrote that “99 percent of those affected by the new guidelines were making less than $100 per year in the last year, with 90 percent earning less than $2.50 in the last month.”

Looking back over 2017, you would think that YouTube didn’t do very well. Wrong. The number of channels making over six figures in 2017 were up over 40 percent year-over-year. Even with all of the bad press and advertisers pulling out of showing YouTube video ads, the number of channels making $100K+ last year was up 40 percent! That number alone is proof that TV advertising is starting to go the way of the dodo. Consumers are cutting the cord, and it’s time to get ahead of the competition. Elon Musk said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” We are past consumers possibly cutting the cord and are well into the probability of it happening now.