Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertising Microsoft

Microsoft has been in the news lately. The tech company has expanded its Microsoft Digital Marketing Center, which provides small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with a central site on which they can manage, online, both advertising campaigns and organic content. Read on to learn more about the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your brand.

What is the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center?

The Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is a product from the company’s experimental project lab, Microsoft Garage. When it came onto the scene in October 2019, it empowered SMBs to use one interface to manage digital campaigns across multiple networks, from Microsoft to Google and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In late June 2020, Microsoft announced a major expansion of the product, with additional features such as:

  • Social management inbox, which serves as a central hub for managing likes, direct messages, and replies on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Image ad suggestion, which allows brands to easily create their own effective image ads by choosing from suggested ads.
  • Improved tools for ads, such as a field for an extra headline. The benefit? Advertisers can include more information in their ads and subsequently enhance location targeting.
  • The ability to appeal disapproved ads from Bing and Facebook.
  • A new home page experience that combines social and ad metrics into one user-friendly dashboard view.
  • Twitter support, which is now enabled.

Who is the target audience?

SMBs are the target market. SMBs have captured even more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. As McKinsey points out, SMBs face an even tougher road to economic recovery. They need all the help they can get.

Who are Microsoft Digital Marketing Center’s competitors?

Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is competing with platforms such as:

  • HubSpot, which is already positioned as a one-stop shop for SMBs. Though Microsoft Digital Marketing Center doesn’t have all the CRM features of a HubSpot, it brings its own advantages to the table. (It’s currently free, for one thing.)
  • Google, to some degree. As Search Engine Land explains, “Similar to Google Smart campaigns, which aim to simplify campaign set up and management for SMBs, Digital Marketing Center uses Microsoft AI to power ad keyword and audience targeting and bidding.”

But Digital Marketing Center gives customers more autonomy. Advertisers can build their own ads. They can also use automated ad copy or modify auto-suggestions.

Why did Microsoft launch this product?

Microsoft probably launched Digital Marketing Center to gain a toehold with the market of small-to-medium-sized businesses, which have more aggressively embraced digital advertising to acquire customers amid the spread of COVID-19. And as noted above, they are not alone in their efforts to win the hearts of this group.

What should I do next?

If you are interested in trialing the Digital Marketing Center, start here. The beta is open to U.S. businesses only at this point.

Is there a “gotcha”?

As with many free products, be aware that you get what you pay for. Digital Marketing Center is totally self-service: you’ll be on your own in managing this tool. In short, it invites self-sufficiency! Also, just because it’s free now doesn’t mean the features will remain free.

Contact True Interactive

Do you want to learn more about the Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your business? Contact us. We can help.

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It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

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Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.

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.

How to Adapt B2B Marketing during Turbulent Times

How to Adapt B2B Marketing during Turbulent Times

Marketing

Businesses that market to other business can and should keep engaging with their clients and prospects during the disruption we’re all enduring right now. Let’s take a look at why this is so and how a B2B brand should stay visible.

The B2B Customer Journey Is More Complex

The B2B customer journey is more complex, and the sales cycle is lengthier. The decision-making process for purchasing a product or service for a business requires more research and approvals. So in a B2B setting, it’s even more important for a brand to maintain frequent outreach to stay on a prospect’s radar screen. During a disruption of operations, your prospects may postpone their decisions, thus making the sales cycle even longer. But if you fall off their radar screens, it’s going to be harder for you to re-connect with them when they are ready to re-engage.

What You Should Do

So what should you do to remain engaged? Here are a few tips:

1 Examine Your Analytics

Your B2B customer is just like a B2C audience: likely stuck at home during a period of social distancing (unless their profession dictates otherwise) doing their jobs exclusively online. We’re seeing dramatic shifts in both desktop and mobile search behavior across the board while people practice social distancing. Now, dig deeper into your own audience behavior. For instance:

  • What changes do you see in click-through rates for different paid media campaigns you’ve been running and at what time of day? They’ve probably changed depending on the type of product you offer.
  • What changes do you see in the content your prospects are searching for?
  • Where is your audience spending your time? It’s quite possible they are engaging more on social than they ever have while they combine professional and personal priorities while they work at home. A social platform such as Facebook, which might not have been your natural choice to advertise, might make more sense right now.
  • In addition, if you are a global B2B brand, your mileage may vary depending on where you do business, as different countries are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with varying degrees of severity and with different recovery time frames.

2 Be Ready to Adapt Your Tactics

Depending on what your data tells you, be ready to adapt the nature of your campaigns, for instance:

  • Adapt your keyword strategy to be more in tune with the topics they are looking for right now. Carefully manage your keyword exclusions to avoid having your name appear next to COVID-19 content.
  • Be prepared to invest more into paid social media if your audience is navigating there. In addition, consider that Facebook’s and LinkedIn’s audience targeting tools make them ideal for experimenting with the type of audience segments you want to reach.

3 Mind Your Tone

B2B audiences are experiencing the same feelings of doubt and uncertainty that B2C audiences are. Re-examine the tone of your content. Be prepared to tone down overly salesy, chipper content that will come across as tone deaf. Use phrases and images that emphasize that you are here for your customer and seek to partner with them during a difficult time.

4 Invest in Thought Leadership

Sharing thought leadership (such as blog posts and white papers) is a great way to augment your digital advertising with top-of-the-funnel awareness. Why? Because during a slowdown in operations, it is not uncommon for B2B customers to brush up on professional knowledge, and they’re also going to be more receptive to practical ideas for managing their businesses during trying times.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to create and execute digital marketing for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business clients. We’re here to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

Don’t Go Dark During the Coronavirus Crisis

Don’t Go Dark During the Coronavirus Crisis

Advertising

As businesses scramble to adjust to the spread of COVID-19, some are halting their online advertising, according to Search Engine Land. But pausing online advertising could be a big mistake. Instead, businesses should consider how they might need to change their online advertising approaches.

In fact, people are engaging online more than ever as practices such as social distancing take hold. For example, as discussed in Digiday, at least one agency reports big upticks in online engagement with Instagram content as people spend more time online. Vodafone reports internet usage surging by as much as 50 percent in some countries. And audience engagement online will only increase.

Our advice to advertisers:

  • Don’t go dark during the COVID-19 outbreak. Do adapt your content to be appropriate for the times we are living in (see our tips below). But going dark will hurt you in the long run, especially after the crisis subsides.
  • Navigating a fast-changing environment. Your customers’ lives have changed dramatically. But don’t assume that they want to ignore you as they manage that change. Depending on what kind of business you are in — online streaming, say, or online commerce — they may welcome hearing more from you as they practice social distancing. (In fact, when it comes to getting the news during COVID-19, people are more likely to trust a company over the government or media, according to Edelman.)

Considerations for Advertisers to Keep in Mind

The irony of the current coronavirus upheaval is that people, social animals at heart, are being asked to maintain distance just when they need to feel connected, even reassured, the most. Brands that continue their outreach will want to think about the following as they pursue their campaigns:

  • Look at the content you are sending and be prepared to adapt it. Are your offers in sync with what people need right now? For example, it makes sense for a restaurant to ramp up advertising about the speed and effectiveness of its delivery services.
  • Mind your tone. People don’t want to hear more gloomy reports of disruption. But an overly salesy message will flop. And any ad that seems like it is capitalizing on a health scare will backfire spectacularly. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. As Kristen Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group, wrote recently in Adweek, “If people are afraid, now is not the time to pretend they aren’t. Additionally, it is also not the time to market to a state of fear or panic.” But do be as re-assuring as you can. It is OK to let people know you are there for them, and it is OK to talk about steps you might be taking to help in a time of crisis. In addition, be careful about your use of visuals. By now your audience is already overwhelmed by news media stories with photos of people wearing face masks.
  • Think ahead. You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.
  • Adapt to a new normal — for now. Every day brings changes that affect consumer behavior. As brick-and-mortar stores have elected to close their doors or reduce hours, consumer spending has declined. But as PMG reports, “Online traffic increases help pick up the slack against store closings, work from home operations, and social distancing efforts. We’ve seen upward ticks between six to 18% depending on the scenario.” Similarly, according to eMarketer, digital media consumption is expected to increase: “The spread of coronavirus is likely to boost digital media consumption across the board as people spend more time at home and communicate in person less.” Platforms such as YouTube are likely to experience a surge in use. How well are your online campaigns suited for viewing on these media platforms? How well is your brand suited to online shopping, period? (For a deeper perspective on how one business has adapted to disruptions over the years, read this Advertising Age article about how Walmart learned from disasters such as Hurricane Katrina to change the way it does business and markets itself.)

Contact True Interactive

As you wrestle with questions and the inevitable changes coronavirus brings to daily life— and the rules of engagement — don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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.

 

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Marketing

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?

Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo is a search engine whose claim to fame is protecting user privacy. DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or log user information; and DuckDuckGo uses cookies only when required. The search engine also markets itself with a bit of cheek (according to its website, “At DuckDuckGo, we don’t think the Internet should feel so creepy and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds”) and defiance (“Too many people believe that you simply can’t expect privacy on the Internet. We disagree and have made it our mission to set a new standard of trust online”).

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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To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.