YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

Video

YouTube once again finds itself in hot water.

Recently, businesses such as Disney and Nestle pulled their ads from the platform after a concerned YouTuber called attention to the number of predatory comments and videos targeting children. In response, YouTube terminated more than 400 channels and tens of millions of comments and then announced on February 28 that it will ban comments completely for most videos of kids. In addition, YouTube said it is “continuing to grow our team to keep people safe.” But just as it seemed the uproar was beginning to die down, YouTube was hit with more ugly incidents:

  • The resurgence of the Momo Challenge on YouTube – a viral hoax that reportedly encourages self-harm – caused YouTube to demonetize all videos about Momo.

Events of recent days are not the first time YouTube has found itself in the news over the posting of inappropriate content. Two years ago, I blogged about how YouTube’s lax reviewing standards and an easy monetization process resulted in mainstream ads appearing alongside disgusting content such as videos created by extremist groups. Although YouTube has vowed repeatedly to devote more resources to policing its content, obviously the platform is not completely safe.

Of all the firestorms engulfing social media platforms lately, I can’t think of anything that approaches a level of severity than the exploitation of children. But can YouTube stamp out the problem through the measures it has announced?

Meanwhile, as my colleague Kurt Anagnostopoulos noted in a blog post, social media is a messy place for brands to live. No matter what steps YouTube takes, the site will never be free of inappropriate content. I suspect most businesses will tolerate occasional flare-ups so long as they are dealt with swiftly. It’s the pattern of abusive content that causes businesses to pull their ads. For YouTube, gaining and keeping trust will come down to how well the platform stops the flare-ups before a pattern emerges.

For more insight into how to manage your brand in the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

The Super Bowl Is Over — But the Ads Endure

The Super Bowl Is Over — But the Ads Endure

Advertising

The Super Bowl was a super bust.

Super Bowl LIII achieved its lowest ratings since 2008. The game attracted 98.2 million viewers, down from 103 million viewers in 2018 and 111 million in 2017. And the NFL cannot blame a decline in general viewership from the regular season: ratings were up for the 2018-19 NFL season overall. On a positive note, digital viewership of the Super Bowl increased to a record of 2.6 million.

So what happened? Analysts blamed the appearance of two teams that failed to stir strong interest and a defensive struggle that bored viewers (the game was tied 3-3 going into the fourth quarter).

The decline in ratings has caused some to wonder whether it’s worth it for advertisers to spend $5 million on a 30-second Super Bowl ad. Well, I think that’s the wrong question. The real question is how can businesses maximize the lifespan of a Super Bowl ad beyond the big game itself?

If you’ve followed the Super Bowl year after year, you’re probably aware that businesses preview their Super Bowl ads by dropping teaser videos online weeks before the game, thus creating buzz, just like movie trailers do before a movie release. For example, in January Pringles distributed three teaser videos extolling the virtues of stacking different Pringles flavors while watching TV. These videos were accompanied by a PR blitz that resulted in coverage in publications such as Adweek.

And then after the game, companies enjoy a lift from the post-game analysis of Super Bowl ads. Even ads that get panned by critics create attention for their brands. It’s not like viewers are going to read a post-game ad critique in Advertising Age and boycott a 30-seond spot because it got panned. The criticism might pique their interest. Beyond the post-game analysis come opportunities for brands to distribute ads across multiple venues and optimize them for search. And Burger King is using already its socials to maintain public interest in its well-received spot featuring Andy Warhol eating a Whopper.

In a blog post I published February 1, I share how advertisers use digital media to extend the life of Super Bowl spots after the big game. I discuss the importance of brands exercising creative parity, or ensuring consistent messaging across digital and offline channels. As noted above, viewership of the Super Bowl online increased. Does your digital content match what people see on linear TV? Check out my post for more insight. And contact True Interactive to ensure that your digital ads maximize their value.

Why You Should Strive for Creative Parity with Advertising

Why You Should Strive for Creative Parity with Advertising

Advertising

For the past few years, I’ve discussed on this blog how Super Bowl advertising demonstrates the power of digital video to complement traditional TV advertising. I’ve asserted that you can obtain as much reach on video as you can through a standard TV ad – or, in some cases, smaller but more targeted reach. Now comes a sensible consideration: what you should do after you launch an ad. This post focuses on the importance of creative parity, or ensuring that your creative is consistent across all your touch points.

Remember This Ad?

What happens after you buy video or TV media is just as important as buying that space itself, sometimes more important.  Advertisers capitalizing on a huge event – whether becoming a Super Bowl advertiser or Olympics partner, to cite another example — need to support their sponsorship with TV ads, video ads, display/remarketing banners, emails, social media pushes, and paid search support (to name a few). Take Super Bowl LIII for example: we know that a number of big-name brands will all have commercials airing when the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots square off. After Sunday night what will they do? You can’t just fork over the $5 million (or more) for a single 30-second TV spot and call it a day. Instead, you must continue supporting your product. Doritos did a great job of this after the 2018 Super Bowl. You may remember it:

Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage rapping with an ice and fire theme (also a nice allusion to a certain TV show that Dinklage stars in) caught everyone’s attention and was one of the highlights of last year. That wasn’t the end of this spot. During the weeks after it initially aired, this spot was broken out into two distinct ads, one for Doritos and second for Mountain Dew (both companies are owned by PepsiCo), and both continued to run. You could find it during the middle of a Simpsons episode, during an NBA game, and on YouTube (and the YouTube Network) as 15-second in-stream ads or six-second bumper ads. Pepsi dished out the additional marketing dollars to continue the support of both products.

The Importance of Creative Parity

Of course, advertisers have plenty of tools at their disposal besides video — everything from straight display banner support to remarketing banners, from email to social media posts (organic and paid) and all the way down to branded paid search. You can push any and all those tactics after running an ad like Doritos and Mountain Dew did. Just make sure you practice creative parity, or consistent messaging and creative look/feel across all your advertising assets. Creative parity is harder to achieve as a brand distributes creative assets online and offline. But it’s essential to embrace creative parity or else all the hard work you put into a Super Bowl ad offline will be wasted when your audience sees a confusing and completely different message in the content you share on your website or social media.

Starting at the Top of the Funnel

The discussion of creative parity begins at the top of the sales funnel. In the example of the Super Bowl, the top of the funnel consists of the Super Bowl TV commercial. If we look at the next step down that funnel, we get to YouTube and video placement. It’s here that we want to continue the concept of parity by cutting our TV commercial into 30-second, 15-second, and six-second videos — and create additional demand via targeting (see my 2017 post about video ad targeting, reporting, and monetization). This approach keeps a product top of mind.

However, it’s here where we can start to tweak our messaging ever so slightly. We may cut the initial commercial to include a high-level deal or promotion that occurs, for example “Free Shipping on Orders $40+.” Now you may want to complement video with display banners. Similar to YouTube, we cast a wide net and try to reach a large audience, but, at the same time, still try to narrow it down from the whole of the internet to, say, 18-34-year-olds interested in food and dining or grocery stores. Again, we use our TV commercial as the basis for our display banners so that our imagery is in parity with our top-down strategy. But we might start to add a little more generic promotion or offer, like the Fridays banner from Reddit below:

Fridays calls out a generic 2/2/2 offer for $20 and includes different variations of food and drink so that it appeals to all users.

Mid-Funnel

The next big step in the top-down funnel is retargeting. Retargeting is where we begin to see direct sales, leads, phone calls, and overall conversions happen. Cookies and data have gotten a bad rap recently, from myself included. The criticism is justifiable in several cases, but from an advertiser’s top-down perspective retargeting is a fantastic tool. If we follow our line of thought on parity, we can target those users who have watched the different cuts of our TV commercial and serve them specific banners.

In our case, we want to create a banner based on the TV commercial but begin to layer specific promotions within the banner itself. If we hit a user who has watched a video and a specific brand page on an advertiser’s site or a specific product page on an advertiser’s site, we are able to start layering in specific offers and promos based on those brands/products. Put another way, we need to start dragging those users who have watched our video ads or have visited our site from display banners further down the funnel. In our branding support (video and display) we haven’t really touched on promos or offers but rather attention to the brand — so once we get to our retargeting banners, we can begin to add any promo to our TV commercial-based banner. No matter what promo is used, however, we need to always keep in mind creative parity. Our banners need to match the style, direction, and language of the creative assets that came before it (video and display). But at the at the same time, we may tweak the content slightly to entice users to convert.

Many of these same tactics can be repurposed to social support. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, these same concepts can and should be applied. The only difference is that you may place your single image banner, video creative, or carousel banner in messenger, stories, news feed, or right hand rail. The social strategy should be looked at in a similar way as display. The importance of parity remains paramount.

Bottom Funnel

After video, display, and social, we begin to get to the bottom of the funnel. It’s here where promotions and call-to-actions really begin to be applied. In some cases the banners themselves disappear, as in branded paid search, but we are able to use similar language mixed in with specific promos based on the search term a user enters. Search A may not necessarily serve the same promo as Search B, but that’s the beauty of paid search. It’s also here that email can be used effectively. Every advertiser has an email list, but how they are broken out may be different (users who haven’t bought in three+ years, users who buy weekly, users who buy product X, etc.). We can take advantage of how an advertisers email list is broken out and target users with specific emails applying creative parity from the TV commercial. Jumping back to our Doritos/Mountain Dew commercial:

  • Our email should include Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman.
  • Our language should make sure to reference fire and ice so that the motif continues.
  • But instead of being a generic message we can start to include specific promos for email list A and another offer or promo for email list B.

Parity is the state or condition of being equal. It’s an important part of advertising that isn’t practiced as well as it should. Why? Because the ability to collect and analyze data quickly often compels businesses to change creative on the fly. If an ad creative isn’t working, it can be changed quickly. Those changes can achieve temporary results but hurt creative parity in the long run, leading to your brand becoming disconnected throughout the customer journey.

Look at the Big Picture

I typically end these blog posts with a quote from some bigwig businessperson. But this time, I’m taking a line from an intellectual (specifically an astrophysicist and cosmologist). Martin Rees said, “Most practising scientists focus on ‘bite-sized’ problems that are timely and tractable. The occupational risk is then to lose sight of the big picture.” Sometimes, marketers need to stop and look at the big picture to see if it matches.

Interested in learning more? Contact True Interactive to maximize the value of your digital media. We’re here to help.

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Google Uncategorized

Google has been beefing up its showcase shopping ads product to help retailers spice up their holiday advertisements. Showcase shopping ads make it possible for businesses to group together related products to merchandise them more effectively. The format is tailored for mobile viewing. Recently Google added new features such as video to make these ads more powerful. At True Interactive, we’ve been applying showcase shopping ads with favorable results. One of our clients running showcase shopping ads has seen an 80-percent higher click-through rate over standard shopping ads. This blog post explains showcase shopping ads based on questions we’ve received.

What exactly are showcase shopping ads?

Showcase shopping ads appear as a collection of shoppable images displaying different products offered by an advertiser. The ads are built to capitalize on broad keyword searches such as “winter sweaters.” The showcase shopping ads work this way:

  • Someone making a non-brand search for, say, winter sweaters will see in their search results display ads from different retailers with winter sweaters and promotional ad copy.
  • When the shopper clicks on the ad, they are taken to a landing page with a merchant’s line of winter sweaters. The shopping ad display, or showcase, resembles a brand page to the user, consisting of products the advertiser wants the user to see.

A shopper may click on an inventory and complete a purchase.

A business can create multiple showcase shopping ads. The header image can be different based on what is uploaded into each showcase shopping ad. In the above example of winter sweaters, a retailer could run a header image that focuses on sweaters but have another header image that focuses on outerwear for a “winter coat” search. The Google algorithm chooses which products appear based on variables such as the product titles, description, and type.

Who is this a good fit for?

It is highly recommended that you have at least 1,000 products in your inventory. There is no minimum budget. The format is effective for anyone who wants to get their products in front of a large audience because it’s based on broad keywords. It’s not for people competing for specific keywords. For bigger advertisers, showcase shopping ads are a good way to display multiple products for broad keywords. You can create an engaging photo and additional messaging that smaller businesses may not be able to afford.

Why is Google beefing up showcase ads?

The main reason Google is pushing showcase ads is that they are optimized for mobile. Salesforce recently predicted that mobile devices would dominate both traffic and orders for the entire 2018 holiday shopping season (68 percent of traffic and 46 percent of orders). On Black Friday alone, retailers saw $2.1 billion in sales from smartphones, accounting for 33.5 percent of Black Friday sales. The rise of mobile reflects broader shopping trends, and Google wants to capture a share of ad revenue associated with mobile shopping by offering a shoppable ad format.

What is the pay model?

The pay format is cost per engagement, not cost per click. The user has to be on the ad for 10 seconds or more, at which time the advertiser is charged. This approach can be a drawback. A click is a specific action. But having a page open for 10 seconds is a passive way to measure user intent. A person may not be really engaged with a product while a screen is open.

Any tips for getting the most out of Google showcase shopping ads?

Yes. Advertisers need to do two things:

  • Ensure all your products are grouped together in an easily findable way.
  • Have your products accurately labeled in each ad group.

Bottom line: Google showcase shopping ads give multiple advertisers a way to showcase multiple products for generic keywords that can otherwise be very expensive. If you compete for generic keywords in a mobile centric world – and who isn’t? – then you should consider Google showcase shopping ads. If you need help getting started or if you are running Google showcase shopping ads and want to take your game to the next level, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Google

School is always in session at True Interactive. We regularly learn about Google products through Google’s Partner Academy, which keeps its advertising partners in the know about key product updates.  At a recent Partner Academy event in Chicago, we got immersed in Google’s recently launched smart shopping campaigns. Smart shopping combines multiple campaigns running on Google ad networks and uses machine learning to maximize their performance. My take: retailers should jump on smart shopping now to maximize your holiday campaigns.

Smart shopping combines shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns into one product available on all networks where people are conceivably shopping:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Remarketing.
  • YouTube.

Smart shopping provides an efficient way for advertisers to roll up multiple campaigns into one. In addition, Google optimizes performance of your campaign across each network. According to Google’s blog,

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.

The main advantage of the product is that Google serves your ads among the four networks where they perform best. In addition, smart shopping offers a more efficient spend, more sensible budgeting (you fund only one campaign and let Google optimize your budget), and a simplified approach to campaign management. The product is a boon for large retailers running complex campaigns, including, of course, holiday campaigns.

There is a downside, though: you cannot break out results by the four types of shopping experiences. Therefore you cannot really optimize toward the best performing format. When I asked Google about this limitation, I was told that providing this breakout is one of Google’s highest priorities for smart shopping campaigns in 2019. So, stay tuned.

In addition, you cannot apply negatives, such as negative keywords and topics, to your campaign. So if you want to, say, exclude news topics to avoid having your ad appear alongside an undesirable topic, you cannot do so.

The format also has limits. Smart shopping supports only two bid types: maximum conversion value and target return on ad spend. You also have to install the dynamic remarketing tag on to your site, which drops a cookie on users’ browsers and draws on the product ID as well as the revenue and other attributes to create audiences. (By contrast, with standard remarketing, you don’t need to fuss with this tag. You can use a generic tag that applies everywhere.)

Since smart shopping campaigns take about 15 days to really take effect, make sure you plan ahead so that you hit peak performance on days that matter most to you, such as Cyber Monday. If you have questions about how to deploy smart shopping campaigns, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Note: this post is the first in a four-part series on recently launched ad products from Google. Watch our blog for more posts.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/working-macbook-computer-keyboard-34577/

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Marketing

I know of businesses that consider Microsoft’s Bing search engine to be a “cover-your-bases” alternative to Google. But Bing continues to grow as a strong advertising platform on its own terms. As The Verge reported recently, Bing is contributing to surging growth at Microsoft:

Microsoft’s search advertising revenue from Bing has been growing steadily over the course of the financial year. Each quarter it has consistently grown by around 15 percent, and Q4 is no exception. Search revenue is up 17 percent, thanks to higher revenue per search and an increase in search volume. While many are quick to dismiss Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Microsoft might have a unique opportunity to capitalize on its search engine after the EU ruled to force Google to unbundle its search app from Android. Phone makers will certainly be looking for opportunities to bundle rival search engines and browsers in the coming months.

Here are two reasons to invest in Bing as an advertising platform based on its own merits:

1 Bing Is Valuable

At True Interactive, we have seen larger average order values on Bing compared to Google. In other words, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. Why? The average Bing searcher probably has a higher income level than the average Google user.

2 Bing Innovates

Bing has been a forward-thinking innovator from the start. For instance, Bing’s visually stunning layout, emphasizing crisp graphics, has always been light years ahead of Google, making Bing literally a more attractive-looking platform in the Instagram age.

Bing continues to raise the bar with visual content. The recently launched Bing visual search extends a strong visual search capability across both Android and iOS devices, whereas visual search on Google remains limited to the Android world.

Bing innovates in many other ways, too. Recently Bing announced Spotlight, which relies on artificial intelligence and an extensive knowledge graph to provide a more well-rounded perspective on news that evolves over time. As Bing explained on its blog, “Spotlight shows users the latest headlines, a rundown of how the story has developed over time, and relevant social media posts from people around the web. Spotlight also shows diverse perspectives on a given topic so users can quickly get a well-rounded view on the topic before deciding what they want to go deeper on and read by clicking on any of the articles.” Here’s an image from the post:

Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn gives Bing more fertile ground to innovate. Bing recently made it possible to allow advertisers to target LinkedIn audiences. By contrast, Google Ads lack this option.

Google remains the top dog in search because of its market share alone. But Google is not the only option. Bing provides advertisers a tool to tap into a wellspring of innovation especially as consumer behavior continues to evolve with visual search.

For more insight into how to integrate Bing into your own digital marketing, contact True Interactive.

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Analytics

Amazon is testing a new attribution tool as it ramps up its platform for holiday advertising. According to Digiday, Amazon has invited a select number of advertisers to test Amazon Attribution, which “lets advertisers compare whether ads on its sites are more effective than those on its rivals.” Amazon Attribution includes page views, purchase rate, and sales among the conversion metrics advertisers can select to understand the impact of their display, search, or video ads outside of Amazon.

As we have reported, Amazon’s advertising services are growing as more brands capitalize on Amazon’s popularity for search. As Marketing Dive notes, Amazon is positioning itself for an uptick in brand advertising for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Even if you are not one of the businesses using Amazon Attribution, I suggest you get a jump on the holidays by building awareness now inside and outside Amazon. You don’t need to do holiday advertising just yet – but you should prime the pump for the holidays by:

  • Building your name awareness on Amazon by using some of the advertising tools that Amazon has rolled out. Amazon has launched products such as display advertising designed to make it easier for merchants to reach its vast audience with paid media. Some of those products also help businesses advertise outside Amazon. Amazon’s advertising products were recently bundled under Amazon Advertising. For more insight, check out this Amazon page.
  • Step up digital advertising outside Amazon, too. Rolling out holiday ads in September is not the point – priming the pump by building general name awareness is.

You can measure the effectiveness of your pre-holiday campaign by expanding the conversion pixel of your display ads for a maximum of 90 days. Per Google, a conversion window is the period of time after a customer clicks your ad during which a conversion, such as a purchase, is recorded in Google Ads. The default window is 30 days.  But you can change the conversion window as often as you’d like. Doing so can makes it possible for you to track behavior all the way back to the click someone made on your display ad.

A Caveat

A caveat is in order: if you use the Google Ads conversion pixel as your primary source for tracking purchases, then it may not be the best idea to expand the pixel window to 90 days. Doing so can cause results to become inflated. If you are using another source as your true north (e.g. Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or a third-party platform like Marin or Search Ads 360) then the inflated conversion totals aren’t as much of an issue.

How are you preparing for the holiday season? Contact True Interactive if you need help. We collaborate with brands on all aspects of digital marketing every day.