Understanding the Amazon Advertising Powerhouse

Understanding the Amazon Advertising Powerhouse

Marketing

Amazon is moving into advertising with breathtaking speed. In doing so, the company is solidifying its position as Google’s biggest advertising and search rival. In May of this year, Amazon stopped advertising on Google with the Product Listing Ads (PLAs). Shortly after that, Amazon announced it would begin testing a display ad format with select merchants that follows shoppers around the internet. And Amazon is reaping the benefits of its current advertising offerings, reporting more than $2 billion in advertising sales in Q1 2018.

As an advertising platform, Amazon will continue to grow. Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to consider incorporating advertising on Amazon into your digital marketing game plan even if you don’t have products for sale on Amazon for the simple reason that Amazon has become such a popular platform for people to search for things to buy. But it’s not always easy to understand where to start. Here’s a quick overview of tools available to you to gain more visibility on Amazon:

Untangling Amazon Advertising Solutions

Amazon has collected its advertising services under Amazon Media Group (AMG), a premium solution for venders to create campaigns and run advertisements on Amazon. Underneath the AMG umbrella are Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) and Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP).

Amazon Marketing Services

AMS ad formats are based on a pay-per-click model. AMS consists of three main ad types:

  • Product Display: uses a display ad to promote a product, based on product or interest based-targeting.
  • Sponsored Products: keyword-based campaign promoting a single product.
  • Headline Search: promotes three or more products using a keyword campaign structure.

These ad formats are eligible to show on Amazon, either above, below, or alongside search results; in the product detail pages; reviews and other offer listing pages; and in Amazon-generated marketing emails. To see a more thorough breakdown of these PPC formats and placements, read True Interactive’s Tips on Incorporating Amazon into Your E-Commerce Strategy post.

            Amazon Advertising Platform

APP charges using a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) model. For AAP, there are two options for advertisers:

  • Amazon Managed Service: Amazon manages display ads on an advertiser’s behalf.
  • ESS (Enterprise Self Service): A self-service portal allowing agencies to access Amazon’s Display and Remarketing features on the behalf of brands.

AAP uses the following ad types: desktop display, mobile banner, mobile interstitial, image and text, and in-stream videos. Advertisers can also include targeting layers such contextual, demographics, geographic, time of day and device.

Digging Deeper into Amazon Marketing Services and Amazon Advertising Platform

Amazon also has the ability to retarget based on either a pixel placed on the brand site, or purchase and browsing behavior based on product, brand, and similar product lists. The ads will show within Amazon; on Amazon-owned sites (IMDB and audible, websites that are part of the AMG ad network); and on the home or lock screens of the Kindle, Fire Table and Fire TV.

For people familiar with Google advertising solutions, think of AMS as search ads and AAP as ads typically run on the GDN or programmatic ad networks. This distinction is very important when it comes to forming an Amazon advertising strategy. Your approach depends on what goal you are trying to achieve and where in the search funnel you would like to hit consumers:

  • For brand awareness, using the advertising network and placements available in AAP would be a good way to reach new customers.
  • If an advertiser that wants to capture people’s interest in the consideration, purchase intent, and purchase experience phases, a combination of AAP and AMS ad formats could be deployed, bringing potential new customers to a purchase decision.
  • And in that final stage, the actual purchase and product display ads through AMS are a good way to bring people back to the products they’ve show interest in before to make that final purchase.

If you’re interested in advertising on Amazon, but need help deciding where or how to begin, contact us at True Interactive, where we can guide you through the entire process.

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

Social media

Sometimes businesses stay successful by defying expectations. A case in point: Instagram’s recently launched IGTV feature. At a time when goldfish have longer attention spans than human beings, Instagram wants its one billion monthly users to spend more time watching longer-form video.

What Is IGTV?

IGTV makes it possible for users (both businesses and people) to upload video content for up to one hour in length, a dramatic change from the one-minute ceiling that Instagram used to impose on video content posted in the main feed of an account. Instagram understands that even though we have short attention spans, people also reward compelling stories. And businesses are already jumping on the opportunity.

The Mobile-First Platform

As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced on June 20, IGTV is engineered for mobile phones. In other words, the format is optimized for uploading and watching content on a vertical full screen, the way people naturally watch content on their mobile phones. As Instagram noted on its own site, by 2021, mobile video will account for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic, but recording video on mobile phones remains a somewhat clumsy experience. By being mobile-first, IGTV wants to be the go-to resource.

How to Use IGTV

It’s easy to use IGTV. You simply tap on a television icon at the top of your screen and follow the prompts to start recording video. In addition, the icon leads you to content that others have created. You can view what’s popular, who you are following, or what Instagram suggests for you. The videos appear like Instagram stories, but the videos last much longer than stories do. Users cannot livestream on IGTV, though.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

IGTV is not an advertising format – for now. The time may come soon when businesses can create bumper ads or banner ads as they can on YouTube. Meanwhile, businesses are already creating content by setting up their own channels similar to the Snapchat approach. IGTV has been especially attractive to media/entertainment brands. The BBC is posting informational content such as an overview of plastics done with amusing Monty Python style graphics. Guns N’ Roses has been uploading scenes from the band’s concerts, such as soundchecks and an inside look at what it’s like for the band to take the stage before a concert. Shira Lazar, who hosts her own internet show, has been sharing you-are-there segments from her travels to events such as VidCon. The content ranges from organic to very slick. More examples include:

  • Health/nutritional/cooking brands and influencers such as Vital Proteins are posting instructional videos on workouts, recipes, and nutritional facts.
  • Make-up brands are showing how-to videos for their products. For example, Sephora shows skin care routines and how to apply certain products.
  • Clothing/Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott and Red Dress Boutique are posting behind-the-scenes/sneak peaks of their new collections. Kendra Scott recently gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new jewelry collection. Red Dress recently took viewers behind the scenes of a photo shoot for new arrivals.

It’s also not uncommon to see businesses posting content they had posted already on YouTube. But brands need to be careful: if your YouTube content is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may render poorly on IGTV.

Influencers on IGTV

IGTV has given influencers another channel to share their content. For example, I have noticed influencers are turning their online blog posts into “interviews” where they basically post a video that describes their blog post for that day. In fact, Instagram has called out IGTV’s potential for helping individual content creators become stars as they have done on YouTube.

“[W]e’ve learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals,” Instagram noted on its blog. Instagram indicated that IGTV will connect users with more individual content creators. But clearly, IGTV has quickly become a format for businesses based on my early experiences.

What Brands Should Do about IGTV

To capitalize on the value of IGTV, I suggest brands do the following:

  • If you are creating video content already on channels such as Snapchat and YouTube (or Instagram for short-form video), start using IGTV, especially if you want to connect with the mobile generation. The fact that Instagram now has one billion monthly users should be reason enough for IGTV to get your attention.
  • As noted, be careful about how you re-purpose video created on other channels. Re-purpose content that has been optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Use the launch of IGTV to examine your influencer strategy. As we have noted on our blog, influencer outreach is getting bigger as brands look for ways to circumvent their content being marginalized by Facebook algorithms. IGTV creates more outlets for influencers and brands to collaborate.
  • Learn from others. Do an audit on all the content exploding across IGTV. Don’t limit yourself to businesses in your own industry. Look for businesses that are already doing a great job posting long-form content that tells a visual story.

Finally, watch IGTV closely for opportunities to advertise. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram opens up the platform for advertising. First things first: get comfortable creating content on IGTV, and get ready to engage your audience. Contact True Interactive for more insight into how to use apps such as IGTV to create more engagement.

 

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

Facebook Seeks Transparency with View Ads

Social media

You might have heard that Facebook is testing an advertising format that makes it possible for businesses to see other businesses’ Facebook ads. And you might be freaking out. If so, relax. Facebook is becoming more transparent, but not at the expense of advertisers.

Here’s the context: Facebook recently discussed the testing of a new feature known as View Ads. With View Ads, anyone visiting a brand’s Facebook page can see all of the ads connected to that page regardless of who the brand is targeting with the ads. In other words, if you are a brand, your competitors can see all your ads and vice versa.

Facebook is reportedly rolling out the feature more broadly this summer. Regardless of the timing, brands should expect Facebook to implement more measures such as View Ads. Facebook has to become more transparent as a response to myriad controversies surrounding manipulation of the platform during the 2016 presidential election and mounting concerns about the platform’s trustworthiness.

Being able to view your competitors’ ads should not change your ad strategy, nor should the fact that competitors can see yours. The only reason to view competitors’ ads is to fine-tune your own approach so that your brand stands apart. But if you keep the focus of your attention on your customers and take care of your people, your competitors’ Facebook ads won’t matter. In addition, measures to make Facebook more transparent will ultimately help businesses that advertise on Facebook. Transparency is needed to build trust. And Facebook has a trust problem, to say the least.

For more insight into Facebook View Ads, check out my recently published column in Adweek Social Pro Daily. And contact us to understand how to build your digital brand.

The Importance of Typography in Marketing

The Importance of Typography in Marketing

Marketing

Since 2010, the number of websites in existence has increased from 200 million to nearly 1.8 billion, according to Internet Live Stats. How is a brand supposed to stand out? We’ve often discussed on our blog the importance of using strong visuals. In addition, brands need to take a careful look at the typography on their site. Typography is an analog-era term referring to the style, arrangement, or appearance of typeset matter. But typography also applies to digital content in a very important way.

When you look at content on a webpage, your eyes tend to jump around from object to object. Our job as marketers and designers is to make sure each webpage is well balanced in order to increase maximum viewability. In return, a visually appealing webpage creates more engagement with users and increases the amount of views, clicks, and conversions. Users are also more likely to remember content, images, or the brand name when the webpage is more visually appealing — thus, creating more brand engagement. Here is where typography comes into play.

What Is Typography in the Digital Age?

Typography consists of all the written elements on a page that make up its style. These can include specific colors, typefaces, the space between characters and paragraphs, the font style, size, and weight, and other embellishments.

In a sense, typography is a balancing act. The content and images on a page need to be perfectly balanced in order for the content to maximize the space on the page and to appear visually attractive to the consumer. Each element needs to be executed to perfection in order to create this essence of balance.

Typography and Brands

Typography is especially important for brands to engage a user. The typography a brand selects says a lot about the brand itself: its name, values, style, etc. A livelier typeface, such as Disclaimer or Gatsby, suggests that the brand contains an element of fun and flair. A more elegant serif or cursive font, such as Adelaide or Hamilton Grand, suggests a more sophisticated style from the company. The same goes for serif and non-serif fonts. The fonts can give off a more serious versus youthful vibe.

Brands need to be consistent with typography, including considerations such as the color, word choice, typeface, size, and spacing. Without these there would be no clear focus, and the webpage content would appear cluttered. Here are a few examples of considerations brands need to keep in mind when choosing typography:

  • Readability. Tracking, kerning, and leading are equally if not more important than selecting the most suitable typeface for the brand’s style. These three elements of typography help with the readability and legibility of the content. They maximize the spacing of the letters, words, and paragraphs so that the reader is able to read with ease. Additionally, a piece of content that is easier to read will draw in more readers.
  • Hierarchy. With typography, it is important to maintain a balanced type hierarchy. The goal is to direct the user to the most important points on the page. The most important element on the page should be the most dominant item on the page, or the easiest for the eyes to locate. Following a hierarchy allows for the readers to read with ease and locate the most important elements on the page first, with all other elements following depending on level of importance. If the title or main headline is the most important message, then it should be the easiest for the eyes to locate on the page, with sub-headlines, descriptive text, images, captions, etc., following. The hierarchy does not need to follow this order specifically. It can vary depending on the level of importance to each business.

Other factors that influence typography include the use of responsive design. A site that uses responsive design adapts to the size of the screen regardless of the device a person uses to view a site. A webpage that uses responsive design also demonstrates good hierarchy and maintains a sense of flow and balance, drawing the reader’s eyes to the most important aspects of the page first. Some of my favorite examples include the Milwaukee Ballet, Food Sense, and Forefathers Group.

The Importance of Consistency

Although this post has focused on the use of typography on websites, businesses should choose typography that creates brand consistency everywhere people encounter the brand, such as webpage, business cards, flyers, posters, etc. Everything should create a sense of overall flow and should be recognizable to the brand itself. In order to maintain this “flow,” marketers should familiarize themselves with the brand’s standards guide, and if the brand does not currently use a guide, the company should create one.

A brand standards guide contains all of the typography elements that pertain to a brand: size, color, tracking, kerning and leading, typeface or a specific font style, as well as guidelines around the company logo such as where to use a logo. By being familiar with the guide, marketers can create consistency. If a company is looking to rebrand, it is also important for marketers to consult the branding guide in order to revamp the new brand but keep intact the integrity of the old brand. Doing so ensures that the new brand does not stray too far from the current view and perception of the company and maintains brand permanence.

Company Examples

Amazon

Amazon is an example of a company that uses elements of its logo across multiple media. For example, the packaging calls out Amazon as well as directs the user to the Amazon website. The packaging also uses the same arrow on the box that it does within the brand logo, going one step further to create a more memorable brand experience and demonstrating consistency across all markets.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has always used typography and color to distinguish between various products. The original Coca-Cola logo uses a lively script font unique to the Coca-Cola brand. Diet Coke uses a similar script to distinguish the “diet” aspect of the product and then uses a modernized serif font that intertwines creating that same script feel. The colors used in the cans are unique to the flavor of the drink. The website also uses these colors to tie the brand together. On the homepage, silver is used as the main background color, with black as a secondary color for type and other graphic elements, and red being used to indicate the most important features on the page. Each product’s subpage is unique to the specific product itself and is similar to the can in which each drink is sold. Coca-Cola uses different dominant colors for each: Coca-Cola red, Diet Coke silver, and Coke Zero black. This application demonstrates good brand consistency since consumers are familiar to the style of each can.

True Interactive

We recently rebranded from KeywordFirst to True Interactive. While rebranding the company, we maintained the integrity of the old brand by continuing certain aspects into the new brand. Our colors remained the same—orange and grey—as did the placement of the type. The main difference is that the style of the type was revamped.

Across all our social media we use similar profile pictures of our logo that contain the full logo or portions of it. Our cover photos are also consistent across all media using either a photo that depicts our brand in a clear and concise manner, or colors that are consistent with our company vibe. Our website uses the same orange and grey colors, as well as the same font style, to create a sense of unity across all of our pages. 

How well does your choice of typography reflect your brand?  The answer may not be obvious especially if you are undergoing a major corporate change such as a rebranding or a merger. If you’re not sure about the answer, it might be time to take a closer look at what your brand stands for and how well your style reflects your brand values.

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

Social media

Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.

By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.

Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:

“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.

But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.

The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.

It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.

For more insight on how to succeed on Instagram, contact us. We’re here to help.

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.