A 9-percent year-over-year increase in monthly active users, with 2.32 billion as of December 31, 2018.
Fourth-quarter revenues of $16.9 billion, up 30 percent year-over-year. That number beat Wall Street’s expectations of $16.4 billion.
Facebook is not only weathering months of data-privacy scandals, it is actually getting stronger. At True Interactive, we’ve shared our concerns about Facebook’s scandals and their possible impact on advertisers. We still think it’s important that advertisers watch Facebook closely. The threat of government regulation looms large. The number of fake and duplicate accounts are on the rise, by Facebook’s own admission (116 million fake accounts and 255 million duplicate accounts exist on the site). But advertisers should also be aware of some other numbers:
93 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile.
500 million people use Instagram Stories daily.
2 million advertisers are now focusing on Stories.
Stories play a big part in Facebook’s growth plans for 2019, which Mark Zuckerberg published in a Facebook post. I have excerpted some highlights and used boldface to emphasize some points that jump out at me:
Messaging is the area that’s growing the most quickly, and this year people are going to feel these apps becoming the center of their social experience in more ways. We’ll roll out payments on WhatsApp in some more countries. Private sharing in groups and stories will become more central to the experience. We’re going to onboard millions of more businesses that people can interact with.
On Facebook, I also expect this to be the year where Watch becomes more mainstream. There are now 400 million people who use it every month, and people spend on average over 20 minutes on Watch daily. This means we’re finding ways for video to grow outside of News Feed so it doesn’t displace the social interactions that people primarily come to our services for.
In Instagram, one of the areas I’m most excited about this year is commerce and shopping. There’s a lot of natural activity happening here, and this year I expect us to deliver some qualitatively new experiences around that.
Longer term, I remain very focused on building technology that brings people together in new ways, including through AR and VR. I’m looking forward to Oculus Quest shipping this spring — the feedback there so far has been very positive.
The numbers tell me this:
Advertisers need to understand how to capitalize on messaging. In September I wrote an Adweek column about Facebook monetizing WhatsApp. Clearly, Facebook is going full steam ahead here.
If you aren’t using Stories, you’re behind. Stories are now table stakes for brand building on Facebook’s platform, which includes Instagram Stories.
Figure out how Facebook Watch plays into your strategy. So far adoption numbers are underwhelming. But these are early days. The success of Facebook Live shows that Facebook knows how to make video a branding platform.
Integrate your Instagram with commerce. Brands are getting better at giving users compelling reasons to stop scrolling and buy. Expect new features to make social shopping more of an experience.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are branding plays for forward-thinking businesses, but AR and VR still have a long way to go.
Facebook is not as weak as its doubters said it was. Neither is Facebook as powerful as some would have you think. The company has issues. It’s not the cool place for Gen Z to hang out. A potential recession coming up could take a bite out of its advertising revenues. And as I mentioned, regulation is a constant threat. But Facebook remains a strong platform for advertisers with exciting features worth embracing. For more insight into how to succeed with digital media, including Facebook, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.
Super Bowl LIII achieved its lowest ratings since 2008. The game attracted 98.2 million viewers, down from 103 million viewers in 2018 and 111 million in 2017. And the NFL cannot blame a decline in general viewership from the regular season: ratings were up for the 2018-19 NFL season overall. On a positive note, digital viewership of the Super Bowl increased to a record of 2.6 million.
So what happened? Analysts blamed the appearance of two teams that failed to stir strong interest and a defensive struggle that bored viewers (the game was tied 3-3 going into the fourth quarter).
The decline in ratings has caused some to wonder whether it’s worth it for advertisers to spend $5 million on a 30-second Super Bowl ad. Well, I think that’s the wrong question. The real question is how can businesses maximize the lifespan of a Super Bowl ad beyond the big game itself?
If you’ve followed the Super Bowl year after year, you’re probably aware that businesses preview their Super Bowl ads by dropping teaser videos online weeks before the game, thus creating buzz, just like movie trailers do before a movie release. For example, in January Pringles distributed three teaser videos extolling the virtues of stacking different Pringles flavors while watching TV. These videos were accompanied by a PR blitz that resulted in coverage in publications such as Adweek.
And then after the game, companies enjoy a lift from the post-game analysis of Super Bowl ads. Even ads that get panned by critics create attention for their brands. It’s not like viewers are going to read a post-game ad critique in Advertising Age and boycott a 30-seond spot because it got panned. The criticism might pique their interest. Beyond the post-game analysis come opportunities for brands to distribute ads across multiple venues and optimize them for search. And Burger King is using already its socials to maintain public interest in its well-received spot featuring Andy Warhol eating a Whopper.
In a blog post I published February 1, I share how advertisers use digital media to extend the life of Super Bowl spots after the big game. I discuss the importance of brands exercising creative parity, or ensuring consistent messaging across digital and offline channels. As noted above, viewership of the Super Bowl online increased. Does your digital content match what people see on linear TV? Check out my post for more insight. And contact True Interactive to ensure that your digital ads maximize their value.
The conversation about the voice interface no longer focuses on whether we’re entering a voice-first world. The questions have quickly shifted to who will lead it and how soon using our voices to search for things and manage our lives will be as second nature as texting.
My teammate Taylor Murphy recently discussed an answer to the first question: no single firm “owns” the voice-first world, but both Amazon and Google have a strong lead. The answer to the question about how quickly voice will saturate our lives comes down to how soon people will be comfortable using voice to do tasks that require extremely high levels of trust in the device you’re using, such as buying a product or handling an emergency. Most people use voice to do mundane things like check the weather. Few actually ask Alexa or Google Assistant to order a pizza or conduct other transactions. That’s because we’re not quite ready to trust a device to interpret our speech with enough accuracy.
The major players in voice are trying to address that issue. In Amazon’s January 31 earnings announcement, CEO Jeff Bezos said, “The number of research scientists working on Alexa has more than doubled in the past year, and the results of the team’s hard work are clear. In 2018, we improved Alexa’s ability to understand requests and answer questions by more than 20% through advances in machine learning, we added billions of facts making Alexa more knowledgeable than ever, developers doubled the number of Alexa skills to over 80,000, and customers spoke to Alexa tens of billions more times in 2018 compared to 2017.”
Normally CEOs comment on high-level, visionary messages in earnings releases, such as top-line growth, major product launches, and corporate strategy. I find it interesting that Jeff Bezos decided to talk about Alexa’s accuracy, and the number of Alexa skills developed. What does this tell you? That Alexa is strategic to Amazon. Jeff Bezos already saw the voice-first world coming, and he decided to help shape it.
So what does all this mean to businesses that advertise online? It means that before you know it, we’re going to turn the corner with voice accuracy. Consumers will use their voices for e-commerce. So it’s important to prepare. For example, as noted previously by my colleague Taylor, advertisers should evaluate their search queries and look for conversional text (“Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great phrases to focus on). Also, pay attention to any long-tail queries that include a natural phrase such as “near me” or “can I get the number for . . . ”
The above advice applies not only to optimizing content on your websites but also preparing your paid media, such as paid search campaigns. Thinking like a customer might be the most effective way of ensuring your digital marketing efforts are visible to RankBrain – part of Google’s core algorithm that employs machine learning to draw the most relevant results from a search query. RankBrain collects multiple data points like keywords and the searcher’s location in an attempt to identify the intent of a search to then pair the query with the most relevant and valuable result.
Remember, voice isn’t just about using Echo or Google Home. It’s also about doing voice searches on devices where ads appear.
If you sell products on Amazon, the sense of urgency to adapt to voice is even greater. Amazon is clearly using its own retail platform to sell more Echo speakers, and more Echo speakers means more people using their voices to find and eventually buy things on Amazon.
For the past few years, I’ve discussed on this blog how Super Bowl advertising demonstrates the power of digital video to complement traditional TV advertising. I’ve asserted that you can obtain as much reach on video as you can through a standard TV ad – or, in some cases, smaller but more targeted reach. Now comes a sensible consideration: what you should do after you launch an ad. This post focuses on the importance of creative parity, or ensuring that your creative is consistent across all your touch points.
Remember This Ad?
What happens after you buy video or TV media is just as important as buying that space itself, sometimes more important. Advertisers capitalizing on a huge event – whether becoming a Super Bowl advertiser or Olympics partner, to cite another example — need to support their sponsorship with TV ads, video ads, display/remarketing banners, emails, social media pushes, and paid search support (to name a few). Take Super Bowl LIII for example: we know that a number of big-name brands will all have commercials airing when the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots square off. After Sunday night what will they do? You can’t just fork over the $5 million (or more) for a single 30-second TV spot and call it a day. Instead, you must continue supporting your product. Doritos did a great job of this after the 2018 Super Bowl. You may remember it:
Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage rapping with an ice and fire theme (also a nice allusion to a certain TV show that Dinklage stars in) caught everyone’s attention and was one of the highlights of last year. That wasn’t the end of this spot. During the weeks after it initially aired, this spot was broken out into two distinct ads, one for Doritos and second for Mountain Dew (both companies are owned by PepsiCo), and both continued to run. You could find it during the middle of a Simpsons episode, during an NBA game, and on YouTube (and the YouTube Network) as 15-second in-stream ads or six-second bumper ads. Pepsi dished out the additional marketing dollars to continue the support of both products.
The Importance of Creative Parity
Of course, advertisers have plenty of tools at their disposal besides video — everything from straight display banner support to remarketing banners, from email to social media posts (organic and paid) and all the way down to branded paid search. You can push any and all those tactics after running an ad like Doritos and Mountain Dew did. Just make sure you practice creative parity, or consistent messaging and creative look/feel across all your advertising assets. 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 offline will be wasted when your audience sees a confusing and completely different message in the content you share on your website or social media.
Starting at the Top of the Funnel
The discussion of creative parity begins at the top of the sales funnel. In the example of the Super Bowl, the top of the funnel consists of the Super Bowl TV commercial. If we look at the next step down that funnel, we get to YouTube and video placement. It’s here that we want to continue the concept of parity by cutting our TV commercial into 30-second, 15-second, and six-second videos — and create additional demand via targeting (see my 2017 post about video ad targeting, reporting, and monetization). This approach keeps a product top of mind.
However, it’s here where we can start to tweak our messaging ever so slightly. We may cut the initial commercial to include a high-level deal or promotion that occurs, for example “Free Shipping on Orders $40+.” Now you may want to complement video with display banners. Similar to YouTube, we cast a wide net and try to reach a large audience, but, at the same time, still try to narrow it down from the whole of the internet to, say, 18-34-year-olds interested in food and dining or grocery stores. Again, we use our TV commercial as the basis for our display banners so that our imagery is in parity with our top-down strategy. But we might start to add a little more generic promotion or offer, like the Fridays banner from Reddit below:
Fridays calls out a generic 2/2/2 offer for $20 and includes different variations of food and drink so that it appeals to all users.
The next big step in the top-down funnel is retargeting. Retargeting is where we begin to see direct sales, leads, phone calls, and overall conversions happen. Cookies and data have gotten a bad rap recently, from myself included. The criticism is justifiable in several cases, but from an advertiser’s top-down perspective retargeting is a fantastic tool. If we follow our line of thought on parity, we can target those users who have watched the different cuts of our TV commercial and serve them specific banners.
In our case, we want to create a banner based on the TV commercial but begin to layer specific promotions within the banner itself. If we hit a user who has watched a video and a specific brand page on an advertiser’s site or a specific product page on an advertiser’s site, we are able to start layering in specific offers and promos based on those brands/products. Put another way, we need to start dragging those users who have watched our video ads or have visited our site from display banners further down the funnel. In our branding support (video and display) we haven’t really touched on promos or offers but rather attention to the brand — so once we get to our retargeting banners, we can begin to add any promo to our TV commercial-based banner. No matter what promo is used, however, we need to always keep in mind creative parity. Our banners need to match the style, direction, and language of the creative assets that came before it (video and display). But at the at the same time, we may tweak the content slightly to entice users to convert.
Many of these same tactics can be repurposed to social support. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, these same concepts can and should be applied. The only difference is that you may place your single image banner, video creative, or carousel banner in messenger, stories, news feed, or right hand rail. The social strategy should be looked at in a similar way as display. The importance of parity remains paramount.
After video, display, and social, we begin to get to the bottom of the funnel. It’s here where promotions and call-to-actions really begin to be applied. 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. Search A may not necessarily serve the same promo as Search B, but that’s the beauty of paid search. It’s also here that email can be used effectively. Every advertiser has an email list, but how they are broken out may be different (users who haven’t bought in three+ years, users who buy weekly, users who buy product X, etc.). We can take advantage of how an advertisers email list is broken out and target users with specific emails applying creative parity from the TV commercial. Jumping back to our Doritos/Mountain Dew commercial:
Our email should include Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman.
Our language should make sure to reference fire and ice so that the motif continues.
But instead of being a generic message we can start to include specific promos for email list A and another offer or promo for email list B.
Parity is the state or condition of being equal. It’s an important part of advertising that isn’t practiced as well as it should. Why? Because the ability to collect and analyze data quickly often compels businesses to change creative on the fly. If an ad creative isn’t working, it can be changed quickly. Those changes can achieve temporary results but hurt creative parity in the long run, leading to your brand becoming disconnected throughout the customer journey.
Look at the Big Picture
I typically end these blog posts with a quote from some bigwig businessperson. But this time, I’m taking a line from an intellectual (specifically an astrophysicist and cosmologist). Martin Rees said, “Most practising scientists focus on ‘bite-sized’ problems that are timely and tractable. The occupational risk is then to lose sight of the big picture.” Sometimes, marketers need to stop and look at the big picture to see if it matches.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.