Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google

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

What Is Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

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

Why Shopping Campaigns with Partners Matters

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

Who Is Using Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

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

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

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

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Advertising

The week of April 27 was especially important for the online advertising world. The three companies that account for nearly 70 percent of online ad spend – Amazon, Facebook, and Google – all announced quarterly earnings. Here was the first time advertisers would see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ad spend. And the news was better than expected.

Amazon Advertising Surges

Amazon announced a rise in quarterly revenue as people sheltering in place increasingly relied on digital to manage their lives, including purchasing products. Amazon’s Advertising service saw a 44-percent increase in revenue (advertising is included in the “other” category in Amazon’s earnings). Why did Amazon’s advertising business do so well?

  • For one thing, consumers on Amazon are searching with intent to buy. And a lot of people are searching on Amazon. According to CivicScience, 49 percent of product searches start on Amazon, versus 22 percent on Google.
  • Amazon without question became a more attractive place to find things to buy as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. According to Learnbonds.com, Amazon’s monthly unique visitors for March, 4.6 billion, easily exceeded competitors such as eBay and Walmart.
  • Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during the surge. As we have reported on our blog, over the years, Amazon’s advertising service has developed a number of products that have served Amazon and advertisers well. Those products include Sponsored Ads, Video Ads, and Display Ads, among others.

Amazon said it will plow its profits into COVID-19-related relief activities. As CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement, “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren’t normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”

Amazon’s steady development of an advertising service helped put the company in the position to be able to accommodate this expenditure.

Facebook and Google: Signs of a Turnaround

To no one’s surprise, both Facebook and Google saw a slowdown in revenue earned from online advertising, especially in March. But stock shares for both companies rose after they announced earnings. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Facebook: More Users and Engagement

Facebook announced that even though ad revenue had dropped during the quarter, it was showing signs of turning around in April. Overall, quarterly revenue rose by $17.74 billion. As Facebook said in a statement, “After the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, we have seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April.”

In addition, Facebook said that monthly active users had increased 10 percent year over year to number 2.6 billion, and engagement was up as people sheltering in place increased their use of social media.

The advertisers who maintained their spending levels during the dip in March benefitted by being present during the surge in user engagement, as we discussed on our blog.

Google: YouTube Is the Star

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported quarterly revenue of $41.16 billion, a 13-percent year-over-year increase. Revenue from advertising rose 11.6 percent, with advertising from YouTube surging by 33.5 percent.

Alphabet acknowledged that online ad revenue had taken a hit because of COVID-19. But in an investor earnings call, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, said that “We have seen some very early signs of recovery in commercial search behavior by users.”

Because Google is very active in the travel and retail – industries that have been rocked by the pandemic – its performance actually exceeded expectations.

As with Facebook, advertisers who maintained their levels of spending benefitted as the general population shifted its behaviors online during the first quarter. As we noted on our blog, many businesses adapted their tone and content to demonstrate empathy with ads running on Google sites such as YouTube. Those businesses positioned themselves well.

What You Should Do 

Amazon, Facebook, and Google will continue to dominate the world of online advertising for the foreseeable future. Here is what we suggest:

  • Don’t go dark. Businesses that maintained their visibility online during the March advertising downturn benefitted from the increase in online engagement. Even as states ease up their shelter-in-place orders, social distancing is not going away anytime soon. We’re living in a digital-first world now amid longer-term behavioral changes. Being present with paid media means taking a digital-first approach.
  • Mind your tone. As I blogged in March, businesses need to do a gut check on the tone of their content. Many businesses have successfully incorporated empathy into their advertising while others have changed their messaging to focus on health and safety. Taylor Hart shared some examples of successful social media advertising in this blog post.
  • Be open to different forms of engagement. It’s important that businesses be ready to adapt different forms of engagement to reflect changing user behavior. For instance, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out during Facebook’s earnings call, livestreaming on Facebook is a more attractive alternative to live events. Moreover, Facebook had already been seeing a marked increase in use of its Messenger app before the pandemic. Héctor Ariza recently shared examples of ad products that capitalize on the popularity of Messenger. Given the increase in Facebook’s monthly average users, now is a good time to try those products.
  • Capitalize on new ad products. Google is fighting hard to protect its turf amid the rise of Amazon Advertising. The company continues to roll out new products to make the Google universe more appealing to advertisers. For instance, I recently blogged about how Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV. As Mark Smith discussed in December 2019, Google has been developing some impressive location-based advertising tools.

Contact True Interactive

We know how to create and manage online advertising that is appropriate for the times we are living in — don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help.

 

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

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

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

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Google

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

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

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

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

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

The lessons here:

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

How closely do you monitor your Google Analytics data?

Contact True Interactive

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

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

Google

Get ready for a world with fewer intrusive video ads.

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

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

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

Why Google Announced a Change

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

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

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

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

What You Should Do

Change is coming. It’s time to prepare:

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

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

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

Google

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

What Exactly Is Google Doing to Third-Party Cookies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Will Ads Be Affected?

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

How Has the Industry Reacted?

The move has received a mixed response.

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

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

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

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

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

What Should Advertisers Do?

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

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

Google recommends that you:

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

 

Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

Advertising Amazon Google

Last month on this blog I predicted that in 2020 we’d see companies such as Amazon and Google inject more personality in the way people interact with voice assistants. During the Super Bowl LIV advertising derby, I definitely saw some personality shining through with ads for Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant. As businesses embrace voice-first approaches in their advertising and organic content, they can learn lessons from Amazon and Google. People crave a human touch with voice technology.

Amazon: “Before Alexa” 

Amazon relied on humor to make Alexa seem funnier and cuddlier, a tactic that Amazon has been using in recent Super Bowl ads. During Amazon’s Super Bowl 2020 ad, Ellen DeGeneres asked, ““What do you think people did before Alexa?” which triggered a bunch of vignettes of people throughout history asking other people to answer everyday questions, resulting in hilarious outcomes. We saw the Queen of England demand that a hapless jester named Alexi tell her a joke. A man in Dickinsonian England asked a newsboy named Alex, “What’s today’s news?” to which the kid replied, “Doesn’t matter. It’s all fake.” The ad circled back with Ellen DeGeneres asking Alexa to play her favorite song.

With this ad, Amazon wanted to remind us that talking with a machine is as natural as, well, two washerwomen in Medieval days passing the time. We’re just having a conversation, as natural as can be.

Google: “Loretta”

 

Google won over the internet with a touching ad in which an elderly widower asked Google Assistant to call up photos and memories of his late wife, Loretta. Through the man’s gentle instructions, we learned of his life with Loretta, including the favorite movie they shared (Casablanca) and a memorable trip they took to Alaska. At the end of the ad, the man said, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

This ad was emotionally powerful without being sentimental, and it turns out that it was based on the experiences of the grandfather of a Google employee; and the grandfather actually narrated the ad. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be hard to find an ad in 2020 that tops this one for making voice assistants approachable and human. Here, Google Assistant acted as a friendly utility, helping a man remember a loved one.

Voice Assistants Get Personality

As I wrote last month, although voice assistants are growing in popularity, we’re not quite at a place where people are willingly using voice to manage the really important tasks such as making purchases and getting directions to the hospital. We need to trust voice assistants completely in order for voice to make that kind of breakthrough. Journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in a recent Atlantic article, “Is Alexa Dangerous?”:

Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?

But during Super Bowl LIV, Amazon and Google showed us that we have nothing to fear from voice assistants. They are as natural and human as we are.

The takeaway for businesses: as voice-based advertising and customer experiences take hold, showing personality and humanity in your content (paid and organic) will resonate.

Contact True Interactive

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