On April 1, I blogged about some trends in mobile behavior based on a 2020 App Annie State of Mobile report. As if on cue, App Annie then revised its report to note the incredible surge in mobile usage during the first quarter of 2020 as people have practiced social distancing on a widespread scale. These numbers should convince businesses to invest in mobile advertising now more than ever:
Q1 2020 was the largest-ever quarter in terms of consumer spend on apps: $23.4 billion.
The number of new app downloads in Q1 totaled 31 billion, a 15 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2019. As Tech Crunch reported, “That’s notable, given that the fourth quarter usually sees a big boost in app installs from holiday sales of new phones, and Q1 managed to top that.”
The United States and China were the largest contributors to consumer spend on the Apple iOS operating system.
Users of the Google Android operating system spent the most on games social, and entertainment apps, in large part due to Disney+ and Twitch.
The Top Five apps worldwide for Q1 based on downloads and consumer spend: TikTok, WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
All of that time people devote to managing their lives with mobile devices creates opportunities for businesses to engage with customers. The key is to create a sustained presence and to be mindful of using tone appropriate for the times we’re living in right now.
At True Interactive, we have deep experience helping businesses thrive on mobile. For instance, for Snapfish, we launched a digital media campaign that combined major platforms such as the Google Display Network with mobile-centric display networks that serve up ads to consumers on mobile devices. Revenue from mobile app installs grew 343 percent year over year during the holiday season. Mobile app installs grew 23 percent during the same period. Overall, Snapfish saw a 756-percent return on ad spend. Meanwhile, Snapfish saw a 56-percent decrease in costs per install.
Just when you thought you had a handle on content streaming (Netflix: check, Disney+: check), a new player has emerged with the potential to shake things up all over again. Backed by a boatload of cash and the imprimatur of Hollywood royalty like Steven Spielberg, Quibi is poised to carve a unique niche in a crowded field. Read on to learn more.
What Is Quibi?
Quibi is a new premium streaming service that imposes a cap on programming time: the name Quibi, in fact, is shorthand for “quick bites” of video. Quibi aims to showcase stories of 10 minutes or less; content is meant to be viewed specifically on one’s mobile phone. The platform, founded by chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, has installed tech vet Meg Whitman as the CEO, and investors include studios like Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia.
What Kind of Content Will Be on Quibi?
Given the unique mobile phone focus, Quibi will be generating all new content. As Whitman tells Marketplace, “We will be the first streaming service that launches without a library.” As Whitman sees it, starting from ground zero means an opportunity to create something truly fresh: “We have . . . invested significantly in content. This is all about finding the great stories, attaching the great actors and actresses to it and getting them excited about doing something entirely new.”
Quibi expects to deliver 175 shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year. The content promises to be a diverse mix, from long-form narratives to reality programming, documentaries, food shows, and daily news programs. Given Quibi’s format, the long-form narratives will be delivered in bite-sized chunks, serial fashion (think Dickens and the serial way he delivered novels like Pickwick Papers). Whitman is quick to stress that short format doesn’t mean inferior quality. “Nothing’s lesser about the movies [we’re developing] other than the chapterized way we deliver them,” Whitman says.
Content can be downloaded, so users won’t need an active Internet connection to view programming. And quality of the viewing experience is a prime mandate. As Whitman told Marketplace, “[P]eople are watching a lot of videos on their mobile phone today, but it’s an uneven experience. Sometimes, if you’re holding the phone in portrait, it’s a little postage-stamp size, then you turn it horizontally, it’s got big black lines. Some content is only available in portrait, some is only available in landscape . . . we have to be able to have seamless portrait-to-landscape rotation with full-screen video.” To that end, the company is employing what Whitman calls “compression technology,” and reportedly working with Google to ensure flawless video streams. Whitman also notes, “[W]e shot, obviously, to the aspect ratio of the phone.”
How Is Quibi Different from YouTube and Other Platforms?
As noted, story lengths on Quibi are capped at 10 minutes. And Quibi content has specifically been created for viewing on a mobile phone.
There is a distinction between what Quibi promises and the content made for mobile phones on free platforms like, say, TikTok. Services like TikTok offer user-generated content. By contrast, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke are collaborating with Quibi to create programs designed specifically for viewing via Quibi, sometimes even at certain times: “Spielberg’s After Dark” series will only appear on the service at night, for example. An untitled show devoted to zombies is reportedly being discussed with Guillermo del Toro. User experience will also be informed by how customers hold their phones: changing from vertical to horizon orientation will change what the viewer sees.
Who Is the Target Audience for Quibi?
The target audience is Millennials—ages 18 to 44. The idea is that the platform will especially appeal to consumers on the go: someone waiting in line at the bank, say, or taking a quick bus ride during which 10 minutes of content might be the perfect diversion.
When Does Quibi Launch?
The platform is due to launch in the United States on April 6, 2020, but as Whitman notes, “you don’t have to wait till then to get involved.” On Quibi.com, you can learn about new shows, the technology, and any milestones before launch date. Whitman adds, “We’ll let you know on April 6 when you can download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”
What Advertising Opportunities Exist on Quibi?
There will indeed be opportunities for advertisers, as users will be invited to choose between Quibi with or without ads. The service will launch, for viewers in the United States, at $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month without. Whitman shares with Marketplace, “We think that most [consumers] will pick the ad-supported version because it’s a very light ad load. It’s only 2.5 minutes per hour of watching, which is much less than prime time TV, which is 17.5 minutes of advertising for every hour that you watch.” Ads will appear before a Quibi show begins and last six, 10, or 15 seconds. They will be unskippable. Advertisers already onboard include Discover, General Mills, Taco Bell, Walmart, and PepsiCo.
Quibi programming will also come with ratings to help advertisers determine whether a show is geared to mature audiences. At the WSJ Tech Live conference in October 2019, Whitman said, “[Marketers] can feel safe that their brand shows up next to content that they’re OK with.”
And because Quibi programming is structured around serialized chapters, the platform is looking into an alternative where advertisers could serialize their ads, too.
What Kind of Reception Has Quibi Received?
It’s a mixed one. Naysayers insist the endeavor is a gamble, and that the subscription fee will discourage consumers used to video content that can be viewed for free on platforms like YouTube. Katzenberg, however, is confident. “I think we are doing something that is now such a well established consumer habit,” he told NewsDio. “There are 2.5 billion people walking with these televisions in their pocket. They are already watching a billion hours of content every day. I just know that it will work.”
Quibi has tried to get out in front of its critics by building visibility through some (presumably expensive) ads during the 2020 Super Bowls and Oscars.
Part of the price of being popular is being a target. And as we enter 2020, Google is certainly a big target for privacy advocates, who are uncomfortable with the amount of personal data that the master of the search world collects. And when privacy advocates talk about Google, they mean more than Google.com – there’s also Google Maps, YouTube, and a host of other Google-owned properties to consider. Amid the ongoing discussion about Google’s size and reach, search engine DuckDuckGo has emerged as an alternative for privacy advocates. DuckDuckGo is cast as an underdog and defender of personal privacy, partly because of how the company positions itself (“privacy, simplified”) and partly because of DuckDuckGo’s operating model (DuckDuckGo does not store personal information, follow users around with ads, or track users).
What, exactly, is DuckDuckGo, and how big is it? Let’s tackle these and other questions we’ve been getting from clients.
What Is DuckDuckGo?
Think of DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine for those who want to maintain a brick wall of privacy between themselves and the digital world when they search.
How Big Is DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo accommodates 1.5 billion searches a month with nearly 15 billion searches conducted in 2019. By contrast, in 2019, Google accommodated 2 trillion searches a day. Although DuckDuckGo is tiny by comparison, the search engine is growing. Those 15 billion searches represent a 60 percent increase over 2018 (9.2 billion) and nearly a tripling of 2017 searches (5.9 billion). Clearly, DuckDuckGo is catching on – with a small segment of the population, yes, but a growing on.
How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?
DuckDuckGo makes money through advertising and affiliate marketing. Just because DuckDuckGo protects your privacy, it doesn’t mean DuckDuckGo offers ad-free search results. If a user searches for, say, “vinyl records near me,” DuckDuckGo returns advertisements based on the keyword search. But DuckDuckGo does not track or use a person’s data after the search is completed. In addition, DuckDuckGo earns affiliate marketing revenue from sites such as from Amazon and eBay. When users buy something on those sites after reaching them through DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckGo collects a commission. For more insight about advertising on DuckDuckGo, check out this link from the company.
Is DuckDuckGo Reliable?
Your mileage may vary. The search engine has been called out for lacking certain functionality available on Google and Bing, such as custom date ranges. And to be sure, Google provides an interconnected universe of properties (Google.com and Google Maps being a good example). But DuckDuckGo is building out its functionality. For instance, you can do location-based searches through an integration between DuckDuckGo and Apple Maps. The best way to test it is to try it.
Should I Advertise on DuckDuckGo?
Businesses with a limited budget should focus on the properties where they’ll get the most bang for the buck, and without question there are bigger alternative such as Google and Bing that provide much more ad visibility. One of DuckDuckGo’s challenges is that the site itself requires a bit of word of mouth for people to find. But that said, businesses might want to consider DuckDuckGo for discretionary ad spend targeting a smaller privacy-conscious segment of the population. According to research from SimilarWeb, loyal users of DuckDuckGo love tech, and they use DuckDuckGo as an alternative because they’re concerned about having their privacy protected while they search online. If that’s the type of audience for you, consider DuckDuckGo.
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Let’s just say the title of that second article captured plenty of interest in the advertising world.
Do Google’s Actions Match Its Message?
The November 15 article, like the article about Project Nightingale, did not accuse Google of doing anything illegal. But The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of a company whose actions are not always aligned with its statements. For instance, The Wall Street Journal pointed out examples of Google intervening to manage search results contrary to what Google says on its blog, “We do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Google:
Weeds out more-incendiary suggestions in the search auto-complete function.
Has made algorithmic changes to search results that favor big companies over smaller ones and “in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser,eBay, contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. . . . .” (The comment about Facebook and Amazon is especially interesting given how Amazon and Facebook compete with Google for advertising revenue.)
Employs thousands of contractors whose job is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. “Even so,” says The Wall Street Journal, “contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.”
For me one of the most fascinating details in the article is the inference that Google’s advertising growth has influenced how the company treats businesses on Google. According to the article:
Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter. In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.
One former executive at a Fortune 500 company that received such advice said Google frequently adjusts how it crawls the web and ranks pages to deal with specific big websites.
Google updates its index of some sites such as Facebook and Amazon more frequently, a move that helps them appear more often in search results, according to a person familiar with the matter.
For its part, Google said it does not provide specialized guidance to website owners. Google said that faster indexing of a site isn’t a guarantee that it will rank higher. “We prioritize issues based on impact, not any commercial relationships,” a Google spokeswoman said.
I would urge any business to take the time to read the article. Here again, this is not an exposé of wrongdoing but rather an in-depth examination of how well Google’s practices align with its words.
The Core Issue: Transparency
Google is certainly not alone in facing increased scrutiny for its management of data and its relationship with advertisers, and the heat Google is experiencing right now is nothing compared to the firestorm that Facebook is enduring.
To me, the core issue of the November 15 article is this: transparency. Google’s practice of holding its cards close to the vest has created an impression of a business that has something to hide – perhaps not a fair impression, but as they say, perception is reality. As Google manages the fallout from the November 15 story, I do think we may see some interesting outcomes for advertisers:
Smaller businesses — which the article characterizes as second-class citizens groveling for fair consideration — may receive more responsiveness than they typically get from the advertising giant when issues arise that demand attention.
All businesses may see more transparency from Google, such as how the algorithm works and the explicit impact of the many algorithm changes that Google enacts through the year. A message of “Trust us – we know what we’re doing” just isn’t going over very well. At the same time, Google needs to protect its intellectual property, and the company says that revealing too much of how the algorithm works will make it easier for parties with bad intentions to game the system. It will be fascinating to see how Google reconciles these factors amid increased scrutiny.
In many ways, Google is grappling with issues that social media platforms do all the time – providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas among people while at the same time making it possible for businesses to succeed through advertising and commerce. What exactly goes on behind the scenes to represent the interests of both people and businesses is not always clear. But that situation may change soon.
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Digital advertising is not only growing, it’s becoming more mainstream. As noted in two recently published research reports, internet advertising spending is hitting record highs and is projected to soon exceed 50 percent of all advertising spend for the first time. Let’s unpack what this information means for your business.
Trends in Growth Reflect Value
According to a report issued by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) on August 6, “U.S. digital advertising revenues reached a landmark high of $28.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019. This is the industry’s strongest Q1 on record.” The 18 percent rise over Q1 2018 digital revenues are part of a trend, as David Silverman, Partner, PwC US, sees it: “These historic Q1 figures are in keeping with digital’s ongoing rise,” he notes. The leaps in growth are also telling, reflecting the value digital ad spend can yield. Sue Hogan, IAB’s Senior Vice President, Research and Measurement, says that “[t]he continued growth of digital ad spend is a reflection of its ability to help brands and publishers reach consumers and build meaningful one-to-one relationships.”
The Balance Is Tipping
Digital advertising isn’t just strong and growing, it’s also overtaking offline advertising. In a report released July 8 by Zenith, internet advertising is predicted to account for 52 percent of global advertising expenditure in 2021. This development would mark the first time digital advertising exceeded the 50 percent mark of all ad expenditures, overtaking analog advertising formats such as linear television, billboards, and print. According to Zenith, print in particular is on the decline, and traditional television ad revenues can be expected to dwindle every year from now to 2021.
Brands should note that internet advertising isn’t a monolithic spend. Ongoing technological improvements to smartphone technology and connection speeds, paired with strong content investment, have informed the growth of ad spend in online video and social media, in particular.
What Does It All Mean?
The reports suggest a few takeaways, including:
Digital ad spending is finally becoming mainstream. It’s no longer part of a company’s advertising, it’s central to a company’s strategy.
Businesses are getting more sophisticated about how they advertise. They are increasing and decreasing their digital spend in different types of digital advertising to suit the specific needs of a campaign, and to adapt to changes in consumer behavior. The fact that advertisers are upping their spend in video and social media reflects an understanding of the surge in consumer social media usage and, as we’ve noted on our blog, the demonstrated appetite for visual content.
What You Should Do
Taken together, these reports underline how important it is that advertisers constantly assess and respond to consumer behavior. By staying current, savvy advertisers can be leaders, not followers—and reap the benefits of being an informed early adopter. For example, businesses that reacted early to the rise of visual storytelling already have a leg up on those that waited too long. You want to be one of those businesses that monitor how consumers are acting and adjust advertising strategies accordingly — before your competitors do.
A really good example of a trend to watch? Voice search. Per Zenith, “A lot of innovation in search is taking place in voice, which is currently not monetised.” Voice-based advertising may not be paying off yet across the board—but it’s only a matter of time before it does. Smart brands will keep an eye on voice search and take action before it’s mainstream.
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Generation Z is a fast-growing demographic, and savvy businesses are getting to know them and how to connect with them, as good marketers have done with generations that precede Gen Z, such as Millennials and Baby Boomers. Who makes up Gen Z, and why are they important? Read on for a thumbnail sketch of the generation that has grown up in an “always on” technological environment.
Who Is Gen Z?
Pew Research defines Generation Z as anyone born from 1997 onward. Bloomberg research indicates that in 2019, Gen Z will comprise about 32 percent of the population, making it the most populous generation — larger even than the Millennial generation, which, for years, has dominated the imagination and attention of advertisers.
Gen Z is different from any other generation because of one simple fact: they are true digital natives. They don’t know life without smart phones. In addition, they are growing up in an economy where ownership isn’t mandatory or even preferable: Older Gen Zers are comfortable renting someone else’s belongings to get from Point A to Point B (think Uber) or spending time in a new city (Airbnb), a pattern that will probably persist once they come of age and have real spending power. And this is a generation invested in meaningful social connection and expression, where “friend” count, or quantity, is less important than the quality and personal nature of one’s connections.
5 Way to Connect with Gen Z
It’s important that your business understand how to communicate with Gen Z. What are the keys to a meaningful connection with a tech-savvy generation that values just that — connection?
1 Lead with Digital
Use online advertising as the cornerstone for all your advertising. Remember, this is the generation that is growing up digital. As Jonah Stillman, the co-author of “Gen Z @ Work” and a 2018 panelist at Advertising Week in New York City, has noted, “[Generation Z] sees no difference between the physical and digital worlds. This is a generation that is native to technology and has complete comfortability with [their] phones.” This is also a multi-screen generation: if Millennials are known to use three screens at once, you can plan on Gen Z using five. Make sure your ads are present across multiple platforms in order to optimize views and clicks.
2 Be Visual
Gen Z is growing up in the age of YouTube and Instagram. For example, online videos are a key brand discovery platform: Marketing Dive reports that 56 percent of the group has indicated “they want video to reflect the products and services they already own or are specifically interested in.” As we have blogged, creating great visual content is no longer a nice to do – it’s a must-do.
3 Look beyond Facebook
In 2018, eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Oscar Orozco told Business Insider that “[o]utside of those who have already left, teens and tweens remaining on Facebook seem to be less engaged—logging in less frequently and spending less time on the platform.” A 2017 Piper Jaffray survey, in which only nine percent of teens designated Facebook as their preferred social-media platform, confirms this trend. As nineteen-year-old Ishan Goel, a marketing strategist with the Mark Cuban Companies, observes, being on Facebook is “not cool.”
So where is Gen Z spending its digital time? According to Ishan Goel, “Because Gen Zers are individualistic and value their privacy, they prefer anonymous social media like Snapchat, Secret, and Whisper rather than Facebook,” An Hodgson, an income and expenditure manager at Euromonitor International, notes that Instagram is also a go-to.
4 Be Authentic
This isn’t necessarily a generation invested in status. Piper Jaffrey reports that “refined-classic” brands like Ralph Lauren or Vineyard Vines are suffering record lows in the Gen Z market, dropping from a 14 percent average to a 5 percent market share among teens. (That said, according to a recent report from consultancy Irregular Labs, 25 percent of the 1,000 13- to 24-year-old females surveyed indicated that they are saving up to buy a luxury product.)
Gen Zers also value ads with everyday people in them, as opposed to celebrities. Look to retailers like Target for a sense of how to get it right when it comes to authenticity: in Target’s online as well as in-store advertising for women’s fashions, for example, models come in all shapes. And in the store itself, even the mannequins showcasing the clothing are different sizes.
5 Tread Carefully with Cause Marketing
Gen Zers value social issues. In a new study from the consulting firm DoSomething Strategic, two-thirds of Gen Z consumers indicate that there is a correlation between a brand’s association with a social cause and positive impressions of that brand. That said, authenticity (see above) must be established: any whiff of a disconnect between the cause marketing and a company’s values, and Gen Z will not be impressed. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research suggests that businesses should avoid relying on guilt in any cause-related marketing they pursue.
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As more cord-cutters embrace connected TV, advertisers don’t reach as many people as they used to. We blogged recently about the fact that even blockbuster TV shows like Game of Thrones attract a fraction of the audiences that used to gather in linear television’s heyday. The change has created an environment in which content creators and advertisers are invited to find new ways to make money from digital audiences. The shift isn’t limited to shows or series, of course. It also includes live sports, with platforms and publishers such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, and YouTube landing rights to broadcast games from the likes of Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NHL. Yahoo!, for example, has adapted to the connected TV era by providing the NFL Live experience, which, in turn, creates an opportunity for advertisers: a less expensive, more targeted way for brands to reach NFL fans.
What Is NFL Live?
NFL Live is currently the only free mobile site for watching live NFL games. Yahoo! makes free NFL viewing a reality by empowering businesses to advertise on NFL Live. Some of the advantages to advertisers are straightforward: brands get their name in front of six million+ people who have downloaded the app, for example. But it’s not just the volume that matters—it’s the ability to target viewers. Instead of buying advertising spots for certain times during a game (the third quarter of a Bears/Packers game, say), advertisers on NFL Live can reach out to particular audiences. By targeting a group as specific as women ages 25-34 making $100,000+ annually, an advertiser may not reach the largest audience — but they can reach a market they determine is uniquely suited to their brand. It’s a trade-off that can be lucrative, bringing to mind the maxim “quality versus quantity.”
Another perk: it’s less expensive to advertise on NFL Live. A typical network ad during an NFL game costs about $300,000. By contrast, there is no minimum spend for advertising on NFL Live. Advertisers can spend as much or as little as they want.
How Is Yahoo! Expanding NFL Live to Yahoo!’s Fantasy Football App?
Yahoo! has done something else. The company is ramping up its NFL Live offering by also streaming NFL games on Yahoo!’s popular Fantasy Football app. As Yahoo! Fantasy analyst Liza Loza recently said, “NFL fans all over the country can root for their favourite teams and watch all local and primetime games free and unauthenticated in the Yahoo! Fantasy Football app, the Yahoo! Sports app and other Verizon and NFL media properties on phones and tablets.” Multiple streaming locations mean a larger audience. They also hold the promise of attracting new fans. Yahoo! Sports general manager Geoff Reiss said that the digital platforms have brought in a “concentration of younger fans watching the NFL . . . Half of our fans were under the age of 40. I think one of the reasons the league was interested in working with us is we would be a means for them to reach younger audiences.”
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Yahoo! is a prime example of a business that’s adapting with the times. It’s important that advertisers remain nimble and aware of what companies like Yahoo! are doing, and capitalize on the opportunities that the changing market affords. Accept the fact that you won’t be reaching as big of an audience. Embrace the reality that you can in fact reach a much more targeted audience: one that’s smaller but more measurable. Call True Interactive for more insight into how to do that.