Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Mobile

Google’s recently launched outstream video ads are the right format at the right time.

The ads appear as auto plays on mobile devices without sound, with users activating sound by tapping on the video. According to Google, mobile is key to the success of the outstream format: “Over the past year, we’ve been working on a way to extend the reach of your video campaigns to people beyond YouTube, especially as they spend more and more time interacting with applications and sites on their mobile devices . . . Outstream ads drive incremental, cost-efficient and viewable reach beyond YouTube.”

By capitalizing on the growth of mobile, Google is building its presence in the right place. As we noted in a recent blog post, Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 report revealed that U.S. adults are online 5.9 hours per day, and more than half of our time spent on mobile. Mobile is our preferred way of being online.

In a new column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I share insight into outstream video ads and their importance to Google in light of the company’s problems keeping inappropriate content off YouTube. I think you’ll find the column to be useful. Please check it out and contact us to discuss how to incorporate video into your advertising strategy.

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Marketing

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple showcased a new and improved Siri voice assistant, which was a must-do for a company that pioneered voice only to fall behind competitors such as Amazon and Google.

As we have discussed on our blog, voice is without question an important wave of innovation fueling how businesses interact with their customers. In her widely read Internet Trends report, Kleiner Perkins Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker said, “With voice, we’ve hit technology liftoff with word accuracy, and we’ve certainly hit product liftoff with Amazon Echo’s install base estimated to be around 30 million plus.”

Indeed, adoption of smart speakers alone has skyrocketed in the United States. According to NPR/Edison Research findings, 39 million Americans owned smart speakers in January 2018, an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Businesses such as Jim Beam are literally figuring out their brand voices through voice assistants. Jim Beam, for instance, offers a playful bourbon container that relies on a voice assistant.

Apple knows voice is the future, but the company has struggled to shape that future. Its Siri voice assistant is widely viewed as a weak alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and the HomePod smart speaker didn’t launch until 2018 (to tepid reviews). At WWDC, Apple did not unveil any dramatic breakthroughs in voice, but it did showcase some tangible improvements to Siri.

First off, Apple has made Siri more efficient by incorporating short-cut commands through an app known literally as Shortcuts. With Shortcuts, users can rely on commonly used commands that Siri learns to act on. The idea is to make Siri more convenient. As Mark Vena of Moor Insights & Strategy noted, “Shortcuts could also be used to help proactively plan for your day. For example, if you were about to go to the beach, Siri might suggest that you check the weather and remember to bring a beach towel with you.”

But as Vena also wrote, Amazon and Google have already developed a short-cut capability in their own voice assistants. The more interesting development from WWDC is how Apple is making Siri smarter. The voice assistant can actually learn from the way you use Siri to suggest to you activities based on your habits. For instance, Siri might suggest to a cup of coffee at a time of day when the user often seeks coffee. But here again, Apple is achieving status quo instead of leading. As Kevin C. Tofel wrote on Stacey on IoT, “If you open the same exercise tracking app at roughly the same time and location — say at the gym at 5pm — Siri will eventually pop up a suggestion to open the app at the same time and place for you. This is similar to Google Assistant, which I love, but it’s just Siri starting to catch up since Google’s product  has done this for nearly five years now. In fact, I get my contextual alerts on the Apple Watch from the Google Assistant app today, although I’ll test Siri in this capacity once watchOS 5 arrives.”

Amazon is leading the marketplace for voice-based products and experiences and possesses a formidable platform with which to integrate voice to search, discover, and buy. Google and Microsoft are strong challengers. Apple is still catching up. But don’t count out Apple. The company has the money, talent, and patience to get where it needs to be.

 

 

Mobile, Voice, Amazon, and Personalization: Four Big Themes from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Mobile, Voice, Amazon, and Personalization: Four Big Themes from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Marketing

The Internet Trends 2018 report from Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins is a must read for any advertiser. This sprawling report – a presentation, really – provides pithy insights into the state of digital and offers clues for how advertisers should invest their time and money. Mary Meeker released the report on May 30 and delivered its findings at the annual Code Conference. We reviewed all 300 pages and came up with the following key observations from just some of the content:

  • We’re increasingly online and mobile. U.S. adults are online 5.9 hours per day, and 3.3 of those hours – or more than half of our time — were spent on mobile. Both these numbers represent steady increases year over year. In 2010, adults were online a total of 3.2 hours per day, which doesn’t even match how many hours we’re on our mobile devices today. With more of consumers’ time going online, it follows that more brands need to be, as well.

  • Voice has reached a tipping point. The Amazon Echo now has more than 30 million users, which is astonishing for a product that launched only a few years ago. In addition, thanks to artificial intelligence, voice assistants are accurate enough to achieve widespread adoption. Businesses need to be thinking of how they express their brands through voice. And with the advent of tools such as Alexa Blueprints that make creating voice-based experiences easier, businesses need to start understanding how voice-first interfaces change the way their customers interact with them in industries such as retail.

  • Large technology companies are converging around advertising and commerce. Amazon, traditionally a commerce platform, is expanding its advertising services as more and more people rely on Amazon as their primary search engine. Meanwhile, Google, which built a robust online advertising business, is expanding into commerce with services such as Google Home Ordering, which makes Google Home a vessel for doing business with Walmart. Amazon is an advertising destination even for businesses that don’t have any products on Amazon. Just capturing a share of eyeballs on Amazon is motivation enough to advertise on Amazon.

  • Despite concerns about user privacy, people are willing to give up personal data if they can get a personal experience. As Meeker pointed out at the Recode conference where she delivered the report, “With personalization, data improves engagement in experiences and drives growth and scrutiny. Personal collective data provides better experiences for consumers. They’re 2.2 billion Facebooks, 200 million Pinterests, 170 million Spotifies and 125 million Netflixes . . . People putting their data into these products to make their experiences better and then there’s the collective data of many other users that effect a lot of real time products, whether it’s Waze or SnapMap or NextDoor, or Uber Pool.” What this finding tells us is that despite all the bad press that Facebook has received for the way it manages our personal data, everyday consumers are going to remain receptive to businesses asking them to share personal data because the overall value delivered exceeds the occasional negative headline.

We believe that advertising will continue to become more mobile – and, as artificial intelligence adoption ramps up, even more personal. Meanwhile, Mary Meeker’s report offers a useful snapshot for what the near-term future holds. Contact us for more insight into how to grow your brand in the digital world.

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Marketing

For many marketers, Google means advertising. But Google also wants us to associate its name with artificial intelligence. Recent events illustrate how the company has one foot planted in the present and future. Can Google have its cake and eat it, too?

The Present: Advertising

The latest quarterly earnings announcement of Google’s parent, Alphabet, shows that Google remains a formidable force in the world of online advertising. Alphabet’s first-quarter revenues, $31.1 billion, outperformed analysts’ expectations. Why? Because Google is an advertising cash cow. As much as Alphabet likes to tout its forays into emerging technology, its money comes from Google’s ability to secure revenue via time-honored advertising tools such as AdWords.

Approximately $26.6 billion, or 86 percent of Alphabet’s quarterly revenue, came from Google advertising. Think about that: $26.6 billion. That’s enough to land a company in the Fortune500. Google is protecting its position by refining current tools such as AdWords while rolling out new tools to make online advertising more personal and mobile-centric. Although much has been said about Google’s struggle to make YouTube a safer advertising platform for brands, probably Google’s bigger threat is Amazon, which continues to ascend as a major search platform – and offers advertising tools of its own. As reported, Amazon is now a multi-billion dollar advertising giant. Google needs to adapt or fall behind.

The Future: Artificial Intelligence

The 2018 Google I/O event, occurring May 8-9, illustrates Google’s intent to change itself and the world around it. At this year’s I/O, Google has been pushing artificial intelligence through its products. For example, Google announced the creation of Duplex, an “AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone” in the words of a Google blog post. As Google noted:

The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how accurate Duplex already is when he showed how Duplex can make Google’s voice assistant (Google Assistant) smart enough to place a call to a hair salon and book an appointment with a real person, sounding so natural that a human being is not aware they are talking with a voice assistant.

Google also unleashed a number of AI-based product improvements ranging from a smarter, more personal Google Maps to a customized Google News. So why the push into AI? Because Google knows that the company needs to become more than a leading search platform. Google has long been evolving as a media platform for accomplishing everyday tasks, and in recent years, it has looked to emerging technology such as virtual reality to do so. Google needs to demonstrate to its advertisers that it can keep consumers inside the Google ecosystem, and simply making search better is not enough to do that.

If Google can pull off a future defined by AI, it will protect its advertising base. But here again, Amazon looms as a threat. Amazon is making its own investments into AI to be a smarter platform for its customers, both online and offline.

The competition between Google and Amazon is good for consumers and advertisers. Consumers should benefit from more personalized services while businesses have more choices to advertise. Choice is good. And Google wants to be the first choice. Contact us to learn more about how to thrive with online advertising with giants such as Google and Amazon.

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Social media

I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.

Google Pushes Businesses Toward an Augmented Reality Future

Google Pushes Businesses Toward an Augmented Reality Future

Marketing

I recently blogged about businesses adopting augmented reality to make the consumer experience more dynamic and exciting. On March 14, Google reminded businesses that augmented reality is coming whether they use it or not. The search giant and media company said that it has developed a tool that makes it possible for developers to turn Google Maps locations into augmented reality enhanced make-believe settings.

In a blog post, Google said,

The mobile gaming landscape is changing as more and more studios develop augmented reality games. In order to mix realities, developers first need to understand the real world — the physical environment around their players. we’re excited to announce a new offering for building real-world games using Google Maps’ tried-and-tested model of the world.

Game studios can easily reimagine our world as a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city. With Google Maps’ real-time updates and rich location data, developers can find the best places for playing games, no matter where their players are.

Now let’s connect the dots about what’s going on here. Remember how the skyrocketing popularity of Pokémon GO turned real-world businesses into make-believe Poké Stops and Gyms where Pokémon GO players could do battle with Pokémon and collect rewards? Well, nearly two years later, millions of people still play Pokemon GO, proving that a game using augmented reality:

  • Has staying power.
  • Can draw people to real-world location – creating foot traffic and sales for brick-and-mortar businesses such as coffee shops, stores, and restaurants.

Now, we’re seeing an explosion of more games that will probably have the same impact on businesses – experiences such as the forthcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World, and Walking Dead: Our World.  All those augmented reality games are coming in 2018, and the Jurassic World, Ghostbusters, and Walking Dead games were developed with the Google ARCore toolkit for developing augmented reality experiences.

Here’s what’s going to happen this summer:

  • An uptick of augmented reality promotions from the studios producing the movies associated with the games. These promotions will likely involve co-brands with restaurants and other locations where fans can play the games.
  • Brick-and-mortar businesses jumping on to the augmented reality bandwagon when they see how many consumers are using their mobile phones to play the games near their locations, even if those businesses don’t co-brand with studios. We’ll have businesses promoting themselves as the hottest place for Harry Potter fans to battle Lord Voldemort, and stores offering promotions for fans to celebrate the joy of playing Ghostbusters together – just as brick-and-mortar companies did with Pokémon GO at the height of its popularity.

At the center of all this action: Google. Google, like Apple, is developing the tools to make augmented reality spread. Google sees the future and wants to be an active participant by creating augmented reality based marketing and advertising of its own. And Google has the power to shape that future.

By making an augmented reality toolkit available, Google is opening the door for many, many more augmented reality games to get developed way beyond the major titles being released by studios and Niantic (creator of Pokémon Go and the new Harry Potter game). If Google has its way, more businesses and developers will work together to create their own customized games relying on a business’s location. The development could become huge – or also create some augmented reality burnout if too many games get developed at once. Ultimately, consumers will decide which games win and which ones fall by the wayside. As Pokémon GO showed, people will respond to an experience that engages them.

To discuss how to create a more engaging digital brand, contact us. We’re here to help.

True Interactive Predicts 6 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

True Interactive Predicts 6 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

Marketing

What trends will influence how businesses spend their digital marketing dollars in 2018? To find the answers, we asked our own people. The following six predictions from True Interactive employees cover a lot of ground befitting the sprawling nature of digital marketing. Our predictions include:

  • A big year for augmented reality – for both brands and consumers.
  • Possibly rough sailing ahead for Facebook, but exciting times for LinkedIn.
  • A more thoughtful approach to influencer marketing.
  • Growth of visual search.

Check out the following predictions, and let us know how you believe 2018 will shape up for your business. Thank you to True Interactive employees for sharing your thoughts! Learn more about our subject matter experts here.

Augmented Reality

In 2018 the use of Augmented Reality will become an increasingly popular tool used to engage shoppers. Online shoppers sometimes miss out on the in-store experience when searching for a product or service through the web. The use of AR will help create this virtual experience for online shoppers; in return it will increase engagement rates, brand awareness, and hopefully conversions. While the technology to effectively use AR will still be developing well into 2018, I predict that many companies will begin to incorporate these features into their brand awareness and digital marketing strategy. —Bella Schneider, digital marketing associate

Facebook

With the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users. Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. In 2018, advertisers will need to keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. — Beth Bauch, senior manager

Influencer Outreach

Celebrity influencer outreach took a major hit in 2017 through some dubious events such as the collapse of the Fyre Festival, which relied on influencer outreach to lure tourists to a disastrous event. But influencer outreach is alive and well. Why? Because people tend to trust other people more than they do brands. Businesses will get more micro-targeted with influencer outreach in 2018, segmenting audiences more carefully and building outreach around influencers who index high in popularity and credibility with those audiences even if those influencers lack national cache. Influencer outreach will become more targeted and scientific. — Mark Smith, co-founder

LinkedIn

LinkedIn will become a more popular platform for companies to build their brands. LinkedIn has been adding a number of features such as Matched Audiences and Website Retargeting to make it a stronger advertising platform. As my colleague Beth Bauch noted on our blog, recently LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting. In early 2018, LinkedIn is going to launch for enterprises organic videos and then native sponsored videos in its feed, thus capitalizing on the more visually oriented culture we have become. Businesses should take a closer look at LinkedIn as part of their advertising and content marketing strategies. —Taylor Murphy, digital media manager

Social Media

Social media will remain a messy and imperfect place for brands to live. The major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will roll out more programs to police user activity on their sites in an effort to protect their integrity for advertisers. Recently we saw YouTube do just that by committing to hiring more people to teach computers to police its site, which YouTube hopes will prevent advertisers’ content from appearing next to inappropriate content. But as my colleague Tim Colucci argued recently, YouTube’s ad problems aren’t going away. Social media sites have become incredibly effective destinations for advertisers and will continue to be. But part of the appeal of social media is its openness. On social media, anyone can have an opinion. In 2018, advertisers will need to come to terms with the imperfect nature of social while capitalizing on its many advantages.  — Kurt Anagnostopolous, owner/founder

 Visual Search

As voice-based search continues to gain momentum, 2018 will bring more interest onto visual search. Although they both use artificial intelligence, they have a different focus, thus their use is not the same. Voice search is best suited for providing access to information on known objects, as systems become more capable distinguishing the context of a certain request. Visual search, on the other hand, is ideal for in-the-moment discovery, as it can provide contextual information for any object we can see. Now that Google has improved its visual analysis software Google Lens, and Pinterest has adopted the trend with Pinterest Lens, we’ll most likely see more social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram exploiting visual discovery technology. In this way, they could serve ads based on what people take pictures of. They could even combine location service intelligence with visual product recognition technology to provide even more relevant ads. So if you snap a selfie at McDonalds, and you are wearing a Nike hat, you will be served ads from Burger King and Reebok on Snapchat. —Héctor Ariza, digital marketing associate

Image source: ancient-code.com