Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Advertising Amazon

On May 31, Amazon said it will acquire assets from Sizmek, an advertising technology firm. The announcement consisted of three paragraphs with little detail. But the deal is valuable for Amazon as the company builds a stronger advertising platform to compete with Facebook and Google.

Amazon Advertising Gains Market Share

Amazon’s advertising business is slowly taking market share from Facebook and Google. According to eMarketer, Amazon will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019. This amount trails far behind Google (with 37.2 percent market share) and Facebook (22.1 percent). But Amazon is building its advertising operation from scratch, and in a short time it has emerged as a threat primarily to Google, as consumers shift their product searches away from Google and toward Amazon.

How Sizmek’s Assets Will Help Amazon

Amazon purchased Sizmek’s ad server and dynamic creative optimization tools, the latter of which helps personalize ads using data. Sizmek’s tools will bolster Amazon’s already strong warehouse of customer data with even more data from ad serving. Doing so will give Amazon more targeted ways to advertise to the millions of people who search for products on Amazon and willingly share their personal information with the company. The deal isn’t making Amazon bigger, but it will make Amazon smarter.

What Advertisers Should Do

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize on Amazon as an advertising platform as part of our broader digital advertising offerings. We’ve been actively blogging about the many features Amazon Advertising is developing, such as video ads on Amazon’s mobile app. Based on our own experience, we suggest advertisers:

  • Examine how partnering with Amazon Advertising will help you attract and acquire customers, even if you don’t sell products on Amazon. As The New York Times reported recently, Amazon is tapping into its rich vein of customer data to help companies create more targeted ads across the digital world – an “insanely powerful” capability, according to the article.
  • Watch as Amazon’s competitors evolve their platforms to compete with the Amazon threat. For instance, Google recently announced new features intended to make it a stronger mobile advertising platform (which we discussed here). And, don’t forget Microsoft. Its own advertising business, while small, gives businesses an alternative to the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Online advertising is changing rapidly as the major players make acquisitions and develop their products organically. Advertisers will benefit so long as you remain vigilant and capitalize on these improvements. True Interactive can help you. As an outside party, we constantly evaluate new tools and ensure that our clients benefit from them with effective digital advertising campaigns. Contact us. We’d love to make your online advertising more powerful.

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Advertising Google

Over the next few years, mobile will drive nearly 90 percent of U.S. digital ad spend, according to Forrester. Businesses such as our client Snapfish are using mobile to achieve benefits such as a 343 percent increase in revenue from mobile app installs and a 756 percent return on ad spend. On May 14, Google made some major moves to accelerate our march toward a mobile advertising future:

App Deep Linking from Mobile Ads

Google announced that in coming weeks, Google will enable app deep linking from Google ads. Business that offers apps and also advertise on mobile will benefit from a more frictionless experience. Google will take users from shopping, display, and search ads right to the relevant page on your mobile app. Users with your app installed will complete a desired action (such as buying a product or booking a hotel stay) in a more personal and easier way with their check-out information pre-populated. As Google noted on its blog, “Early tests have been promising—on average, deep linked ad experiences drove 2X the conversion rates.”

In announcing app deep linking, Google shared the example of Magalu, one of Brazil’s largest retail companies. Magalu, seeing that its app was growing in popularity, enabled deep linking. According to Google, “By enabling deep linking, loyal customers who tapped on a Magalu ad were taken directly to the mobile app they already have installed, resulting in more than 40 percent growth in overall mobile purchases.”

Gallery Ads

Google also announced the launch of Gallery Ads later in 2019. Gallery Ads consist of swipeable images that will display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. As Google announced,

By combining search intent with a more interactive visual format, gallery ads make it easier for you to communicate what your brand has to offer. We’ve found that, on average, ad groups including one or more gallery ad have up to 25 percent more interactions—paid clicks or swipes—at the absolute top of the mobile Search results page.

Advertisers will be able to feature up to eight images. As Search Engine Land (SEL) pointed out, one of the distinguishing features is the large carousel of swipeable images available. Per SEL, people can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears.

Advertisers get charged for Gallery Ad interactions in one of two ways:

  • A cost-per-click basis when a user clicks on the headline to go to the advertiser’s website.
  • After the user swipes through three images in the gallery.

There is no word yet on an exact date when the format will appear. Advertisers can prepare now by experimenting with different ad, headline, and text options that optimize the available digital real estate.

What Advertisers Should Do

These developments have some important implications:

  • If you rely on an app to attract and service customers, creating ad experiences that link to your app is no longer ideal but is essential. As we’ve shared in our own client work, by varying ad formats wisely to account for factors such as seasonality, advertisers can make advertising and e-commerce more tightly integrated than ever.
  • Advertising on mobile is evolving to allow for more sophisticated storytelling. With a Gallery Ad, you can use multiple images to reveal new products with a series of images rather than collapsing the entire ad and offer into one image. In particular, the swipeable format makes it easier for customers to explore your products, which is especially useful for high-consideration products.

Now is the time to test and learn with Google’s new ad formats and tools. At True Interactive, we possess extensive experience helping businesses launch successful advertising online, including the use of Google products. Contact us. We are here to help.

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Google

Google continues to develop new automated bidding products that make it tempting for businesses to hand over their online advertising to Google. The latest tool is a new automated bidding option for app marketers running Google App campaign, target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, an algorithm adjusts bids higher to serve ads to people who are likely to spend more after they install an advertiser’s app. As Google announced May 8:

To grow profitably, it’s also important to also consider how much revenue you generate relative to the cost of driving those installs and actions. That’s why, you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more, and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android globally.

I’m not surprised that Google is adding to its arsenal of bid tools. Automated bidding is important to Google. It’s a source of revenue for a business whose growth is fueled by online advertising. And based on Google’s disappointing quarterly financial results announced weeks ago, the company is feeling the pressure to improve ad revenues – which might help explain why we’re hearing more and more about automated bid tools.

Making It Easy with Automated Bid Tools

When a business lets Google handle its online advertising, Google does all the heavy lifting. You tell Google how much you are willing to bid for a keyword, and Google manages the bidding including any modification, a process illustrated here. Ideally, advertisers connect with their most relevant audiences at an optimal price. And Google rakes in revenue.

Google will tell you that automated bidding is a more efficient way to manage your campaign, and indeed Google offers many tools such as machine learning to change bids constantly.

Proceed Carefully with Automated Bid Tools

If you lack the resources and time to manage your online advertising and you want to do it all in-house, then automated bidding can be very tempting. But it’s also important that you keep in mind a few big caveats:

  • When you let Google do the driving for you, you lose control of the ability to modify a bid as your needs change, and you lose control of any targeting adjustments you might want to make.
  • You have to be comfortable that Google is representing you on its own media platform. It’s like telling a TV network to pick the shows to run your ad on and set the price for the ad for you (would you ever do that?) And yet this is the kind of conflict inherent in having Google manage ads on Google. You lose control over the ability to negotiate and set a price while Google represents your interests on its platform – and the outcome may not always be in your best interest.

You can expect Google to roll out more automated bidding tools powered by artificial intelligence, which promise to manage bid modifications more effectively.

Test the Waters

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, I suggest that you test automated bidding on a few campaigns. Don’t give Google control over your advertising right off the bat. During your test, carefully check metrics such as costs per click and costs per action. Are they improving to your satisfaction? If so, test some more campaigns with variable bids. If you decide to move forward with automated bids, then commit to staying on top of these tools so that you can learn about developments that could have an impact on your bidding strategy. Automated bidding sounds easy, but you do need to stay invested in learning as with any technology.

True Interactive has deep experience managing online advertising for clients such as these. We understand the nuances of manual and automated bidding and are happy to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Advertising Google

Bloomberg’s recent article speculating that Google could make Google Maps a bigger advertising platform, just as Google has done with search in general, has created a stir. On the one hand, the promise of more advertising development on Maps has generated excitement among businesses eager to become more visible on this popular navigation platform. At the same time, the news has triggered some concerns among industry watchers that advertising could become obtrusive. In fact, advertising already happens on Google Maps, and advertising holds promise so long as the ads provide value.

The Worry

As expressed in a recent BGR article, a major concern about advertising on Google Maps centers on the fear that user experience will erode: “Hopefully, Google’s reported interest in leaning on Maps as it hunts for new sources of revenue won’t mean the company goes overboard—like the way you have to scroll down past a slew of ads and highlighted results after conducting a Google Search, for example.”

This is a valid point. No one—including Google—wants to see the user experience on Google Maps become tarnished. Google needs to keep giving users reasons to stay on Google in its many forms. So the company has a strong incentive to monetize Google Maps in a way that keeps the consumer at the center of the experience.

Google appears to be honoring that commitment by exercising caution: Philipp Schindler, Google’s business chief, said at a recent conference that while Google Maps is “a really, really interesting playground [for advertising] going forward,” the basic directions provided by Google Maps are a “utility” that shouldn’t be tampered with. In other words, consumers shouldn’t be bombarded with ads when they are just looking to get from Point A to Point B.

The Reality

If history is any indicator, caution appears to be a feature of the Google Maps playbook. Technically, advertising on Google Maps is nothing new. As Bloomberg points out, “The company has tested ads in Maps for years.” And Google has proceeded thoughtfully all along, keeping the user in mind. Rajas Moonka, the director of product management for Google Maps, notes, “We’ve been pretty careful about not being very aggressive about how we present those to users because we don’t want users to feel like we’re overloading the experience.”

According to The Manifest, Google Maps ads already include features such as:

  • Promoted pins. These purple location pins are meant to stand out from the pack of familiar red location pins. When consumers tap on the Promoted Pin, which is paired with the advertising business’s logo, they access more information about the company and its products.
  • In-store promotions. A business advertising on Google Maps can show coupons and deals right on their ad.

Promotions are a great example of how an ad on Google Maps can be useful to all parties. If I search for “bookstores near me,” I am probably looking for something to buy—or I’m at least interested in browsing. If a ten-percent-off coupon from a nearby bookstore pops up during my search, I might be convinced to choose that store over another. In other words, a great promotion on Google Maps can turn a casual searcher into a bona fide customer, and prompt a scenario in which both business and consumer are winners.

What’s New Under the Sun

The Bloomberg piece isn’t suggesting that Maps is a new advertising frontier. The question being asked, rather, is are there different and more ways to use the app for advertising? We at True Interactive happen to think that the possibilities are legion. Consider the opportunities afforded if Google Maps advertising became personalized with content sponsored by different companies. In that scenario, a bookstore might serve up a personal ad on your Google Maps app based on your usage of Google Maps, just as already happens on Amazon.com when you get a personalized ad from a company that sells products on Amazon, based on your Amazon search history.

What You Can Do

In short, ads on Google Maps aren’t new, and their evolving services represent an opportunity for both businesses and consumers. We recommend that you:

  • Keep track of how Google is transforming itself.

Questions? Contact True Interactive to learn how to advertise on Google Maps and beyond.

 

 

Why the Launch of Microsoft Advertising Is Good for Brands

Why the Launch of Microsoft Advertising Is Good for Brands

Bing

For many businesses, the discussion about online advertising platforms begins and ends with Amazon Advertising, Facebook, and Google. But recently Microsoft stated the case for why it belongs in the same conversation. On April 29, Microsoft announced that its Bing Ads product has been rebranded as Microsoft Advertising. The announcement was more than a name change. Rather, Microsoft reminded advertisers that there’s a lot more to Bing than paid search.

Bing: More Than Search

Bing is already a platform for businesses to launch digital advertising in a number of ways. For example, as we blogged last year, Bing has been rolling out a feature that makes it possible for businesses to target Bing advertisements by relying on LinkedIn data. The feature, known as LinkedIn profile targeting, is an example of how Microsoft is monetizing LinkedIn a few years after Microsoft purchased the popular business-to-business platform. In addition, Bing is piloting a number of products, such as these audience marketing products:

  • In-Market Audiences: targets curated user lists determined to be in market for a particular purchase category.
  • Product Audiences for Search: businesses get remarketing lists for products that allow them to target searchers based on product IDs they interacted with – and promote those same product IDs to them.
  • Microsoft Audience Ads: Audience Campaigns: you can manage your audience budget, campaigns, and optimization separately from your Bing Ads search campaigns.
  • Similar Audiences: targets audiences that are similar to your remarketing audiences.

Bing Advantages

Many advertisers aren’t aware of these and many other Microsoft ad products. But they should. As I blogged last year, Bing offers many advantages. For instance:

  • At True Interactive, we have seen larger average order values on Bing compared to Google. In other words, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. That’s because the average Bing searcher probably has a higher income level than the average Google user.
  • Bing innovates in more ways than the brand gets credit for, such as its use of visual content. The recently launched Bing visual search extends a strong visual search capability across both Android and iOS devices, whereas visual search on Google remains limited to the Android world.
  • Bing is building a stronger network of partners. As noted earlier this year, Bing is the exclusive provider of search advertising across Verizon Media properties such as Yahoo.

Microsoft used the news about Microsoft Advertising to draw attention to the launch of more advertising products. For instance, the new Sponsored Products (available exclusively in the United States) helps manufacturers to boost visibility and drive more traffic for their top products in shopping campaigns. As Microsoft noted,

With this new capability, our clients can achieve better alignment of marketing efforts between manufacturers and retailers. Together, the connections they create with shoppers work harder to drive performance — clicks, conversions, and ROI. Manufacturers gain access to new reporting and optimization capabilities, and retailers get additional product marketing support with a fair cost split.

Microsoft wants the rebrand to do for Microsoft what the launch of Amazon Advertising achieved for Amazon and the rebrand of Google AdWords to Google Ads did for Google: raise awareness for a broader portfolio of products.

Why the Rebrand Is Good

I believe that the expansion of ad products under the Microsoft brand is good for advertisers for these reasons:

  • Businesses have more options beyond the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
  • Stronger competition will lead to innovation with product development.
  • As I noted, Microsoft delivers a valuable audience, more so than many businesses know.

At True Interactive, we work with businesses to develop successful campaigns across all these platforms and more. Contact us to learn how we can help you succeed.

Advertiser Q&A: Ad Customizers

Advertiser Q&A: Ad Customizers

Advertising Google

An ad customizer is an incredibly helpful tool that makes it possible for a business to make fine adjustments to an ad while the ad is still live.  The Google ad customizer is especially useful. But many businesses are not aware of the ad customizer and how it can help them. Let’s take a closer look.

1 What is an ad customizer?

An ad customizer is a feed that allows you to make changes to your ad copy while keeping that ad running 24/7. Put another way, an ad customizer makes it possible for you to make changes on the fly using a feed of business data that you swap as needed.

For example, let’s say you are a retailer running search ads for a throw blanket. Furthermore, let’s assume you need to change your ad frequently – running a 30-percent off price deal one week; then stopping the 30-percent off deal for a few weeks; and then running a 25-percent off promotion for another week depending on seasonal demand.  With an ad customizer, you can update your add accordingly in your feed while running the ad instead of having to take the ad down and create an entirely new promotion.

2 Does ad customizer work only for retail?

Any business can use ad customizer. For example, a service-area business such as a plumber or lawncare service might use an ad customizer to adapt a promotion by different zip codes in a particular city or region. A business might want to do so for a number of reasons, such as noticing an uptick in searches for plumbers or lawncare services in a particular zip code.

3 What are the benefits of using an ad customizer?

Using an ad customizer keeps your costs per click (CPC) steady. That’s because you don’t need to re-load an entirely new advertisement, which would affect your CPC. In addition, an ad customizer, when used well, can increase your click-through rate by making your content more targeted.

4 Is there a downside to using an ad customizer?

Using an ad customizer could result in an increase in CPC, but you’ll enjoy a better click-through rate, which is especially beneficial for seasonal ads or flash sales.

If you’re interested in using an ad customizer and need help, please reach out to us at True Interactive. We help businesses maximize the value of their online advertising.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

3D for Brands: No Longer a Novelty

3D for Brands: No Longer a Novelty

Advertising

3D is no longer a novelty. It’s becoming a way for businesses to share both advertisements and organic content. Case in point: Bing Ads recently teamed with Samsung to create 3D advertisements that display when consumers search for Samsung Galaxy devices on the Bing search engine.

Here’s how it works: an option for a 3D ad appears when an individual (using Bing) searches for the Samsung Galaxy S10 or S9 on their desktop. The ad, which expands to full screen size, can be manipulated by rotating the image, or zooming in on it. But it’s more than a zoom. Consumers see every aspect of the Samsung device plainly, from multiple angles, and can click on an image to access product details.

As Ravleen Beeston, UK head of sales for Microsoft Search Advertising, said in a statement to Netimperative, “These new 3D ads, unique to Bing, herald a new era of search advertising when it comes to displaying products through desktop search since they complement and enhance the experience for consumers looking to engage with a product.”

3D on Facebook

In addition, Facebook has made it possible for both businesses and consumers to post 3D photos, which makes organic content really pop. As discussed in this Digiday article, the 3D photos are “inherently thumb stopping.” If long-form video is showing a decline in effectiveness as attention spans likewise decline, 3D photos promise to be the next frontier. And brands are jumping at the chance to engage consumers in a fresh way. 3D can be especially useful for retailers trying to showcase products that require close inspection—expensive cellphones, for example, or even food. Food delivery service Bite Squad, for one, has capitalized on the opportunity by posting 3D photos, including one of BBQ from Famous Dave’s. “My goal is to catch your eyes as you [are] scrolling your feed,” Craig Key, CMO of Bite Squad, said, adding that just the sudden movement of an image can be a reason for users to scroll back up.

What You Should Do

At True Interactive, we recommend that you constantly look for ways to incorporate technology such as 3D if they are appropriate for your business:

  • Understand how 3D might add value to your paid and organic content. Don’t be gimmicky about using 3D. Have a specific goal in mind, such as increasing engagement with your ads, especially for products that require high levels of consideration.
  • Be aware of companies such as ThreeKit that provide technologies to help you design advertisements in 3D.
  • Work with an agency partner such as True Interactive that knows how to incorporate formats such as 3D into a larger advertising campaign.

Interested in exploring the opportunities inherent in 3D? Call us.