YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube

Who knew? YouTube is an advertising giant in the streaming industry. And YouTube is becoming increasingly vital as more people stay at home and stream content in light of recent news events.

According to App Annie, in 2019, YouTube made a whopping $15 billion on ads alone. The news comes courtesy of Alphabet (the parent company of Google): for the first time since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, Alphabet has released YouTube’s ad revenue. And the figures are staggering, accounting for almost 10 percent of Google’s overall $161 billion revenue in 2019.

Why This Matters

The news is important because it underlines YouTube’s dominance in an increasingly crowded arena. As App Annie points out, on Android phones, about 70 percent of time spent on the top five video streaming apps worldwide was on YouTube. The platform, a pioneer in the world of video streaming, continues to hold its own. That’s telling. As Forbes notes, “In a market where new streaming video services seem to spring up overnight, YouTube isn’t losing viewers or ad money.”

Also notable: while many of the top apps are Chinese brands, enjoying strong support in China, YouTube isn’t active in the Chinese market—and yet it is still number one in rankings measuring time spent on the top streaming platforms. By a significant margin.

How YouTube Does It

So how is YouTube achieving this cash cow status?

  • For one, YouTube delivers an audience, and you need an audience to attract advertisers. As Lifewire points out, YouTube is one of the most popular sites in the world. It’s arguably the favorite video-sharing and viewing site on the web today, offering a range of long- and short-form free content. And as Lifewire notes, “Youtube.com is the second most popular website in both the global market and in the U.S for 2020, even though a huge portion of YouTube views are from outside the U.S.”
  • But YouTube also does something else: it continuously offers advertisers attractive products. As we’ve blogged in the past, YouTube’s Masthead ad format for TV allows brands to connect with consumers the instant users access the YouTube app on their televisions. The Masthead format is a response to the fact that while consumers aren’t watching as much linear TV, they are still using their televisions as a tool for experiencing streaming platforms like YouTube. In other words, YouTube understands viewing trends, and is staying nimble in its bid to connect with advertisers in an informed way.

What Can Be Learned from YouTube’s Success?

We can draw two conclusions from YouTube’s enduring popularity:

  • First, streaming platforms, especially Netflix, cannot help but notice how well an ad-supported format on YouTube has been working. Netflix—and other competing platforms—certainly must be feeling more pressure to create advertising products. And that’s good news for brands. (I blogged about Netflix’s potential adoption of advertising in this post, “Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising.”)
  • Second, YouTube’s growth likely bodes well for apps like Quibi (another destination for streaming video that relies on ads). Quibi is endeavoring to carve a niche in a crowded field; YouTube shows them what’s possible, and arguably creates an environment ripe for inspiration.

Clearly, streaming platforms offer an attractive opportunity to advertisers. Note also that in light of recent events, it is expected that more people will turn to streaming platforms such as YouTube. Per a blog post from PMG, “Popular media platforms such as YouTube and Tik Tok will also likely see a monumental boost as kids and teens spend more time online and at home” during temporary school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube, with its combination of innovation and reliability, is proving to be a model for succeeding with ad-supported shorter-form streaming. In its quiet bid for dominance, YouTube has become a leader.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about YouTube, and the opportunities that exist for advertisers in the streaming community? Contact us.

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

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

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

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Social media

Snapchat has experienced its ups and downs in the past few years, but one undeniable truth prevails: the app continues to flourish. Snapchat is, in fact, exceeding growth expectations: eMarketer, for one, expects Snapchat to gain more than 63 millions users by the end of 2023, as contrasted to an original estimate of 52 million. In addition, according to The Street, Snapchat is on course to be profitable in the very near future, after years of losses: “Analysts expect Snapchat to soon reach its ‘break-even’ point in profits, most likely by 2022. A group of 34 technology analysts estimates the company will earn a profit of $48 million in 2022.”

Why the Growth?

Why is Snapchat continuing to grow despite increased competition from apps such as Instagram and TikTok? Some possible reasons include:

1 Continued Innovation

Snapchat’s owner, Snap, was just named Fast Company’s most innovative company in 2020, which speaks volumes about why Snapchat has rebounded from the brink. TechCrunch also reports that new products are bound to boost engagement with Snapchat and, crucially, ad views. Snapchat’s recent innovations include Cameos, which allow users to edit their own face onto an actor in an animated GIF. And Bitmoji TV features comical cartoons that star the consumer’s customizable Bitmoji avatar. For users who have always dreamed about being a secret agent, say, or a zombie president, Bitmoji TV brings those fantasies to life via episodes featuring a main story as well as shorter, single-gag clips. User avatars appear in the regularly scheduled adventures, which range from sit-coms to soap operas and infomercials. “It’s scripted but its personalized,” Bitmoji co-founder and CEO Ba Blackstock has said. “First and foremost, I hope that everyone who watches this has kind of a mind-blowing experience that they’ve never had before.”

2 Excellent Timing

Snapchat came along at the right time, as the Millennial and Gen Z population began to swell—and come of age. Launched in 2011, the app appeals to the Millennial and Gen Z populations with its promise of content that is both ephemeral and authentic. As co-founder Evan Spiegel noted in the company’s first blog post, “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.” And the platform has captured a sizable demographic. As Statista notes, Millennials and Gen Z, together, now comprise about half the U.S. population.

3 International Expansion

Snapchat continues to expand effectively into international markets, one profound example being the uptake of Snapchat in India. As TechCrunch observes, “Snapchat’s user growth has been on [a] tear thanks to international penetration, especially in India, after it re-engineered its Android app for developing markets.”

The Challenges

It’s not all smooth sailing, of course. As 24/7 Wall St. points out, Snapchat’s features can be—and in fact have been—easily copied by competitors like Facebook. When Snapchat introduced Stories, which allows users to share snaps in a narrative style, it was making a successful bid to keep users engaged and coming back for more. Facebook’s response? Its own version of Stories on both Facebook and Instagram; and the release of Instagram Threads, a camera and messaging app for “close friends.”  As Wired notes, Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear to employees that doing what’s best for users might include replication: “Zuckerberg’s message became an informal slogan at Facebook: ‘Don’t be too proud to copy.’”

Furthermore, Snapchat lacks the reserves of cash that Facebook enjoys. 24/7 Wall St. opines, “While it’s still too soon to assess the impact of Instagram Threads on Snapchat, the salient point is that Instagram’s owner (Facebook) has a virtually unlimited war chest and a seemingly visceral need to stomp on Snapchat, if not to stamp it out entirely.”

Staying Viable

The key for Snapchat? Staying nimble and creative in the competitive and ever-evolving social landscape. In short, the app will continue to thrive if it keeps on generating features that both users and advertisers will love – especially advertisers, whose revenue Snapchat needs. One example of courting advertisers with more features: Snapchat’s Swipe Up to Call ads, which give users the opportunity to swipe up on their screen and immediately and directly call or text the advertiser.

Contact True Interactive

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

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Google

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

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

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

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

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

The lessons here:

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

How closely do you monitor your Google Analytics data?

Contact True Interactive

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

Why Brands Are Flocking to TikTok

Why Brands Are Flocking to TikTok

Social media

Brands used to creating awareness via social networks like Instagram and Facebook now have a new option to consider: TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. Read on to learn more about a platform that is gaining currency through a blueprint involving music, quirk, and innovation.

What Is TikTok?

A free video-sharing social networking app that launched in the international market in 2017, TikTok was once predominantly dedicated to lip-synching. But now the platform, which features short looping videos of three to 60 seconds, and music and lip-sync videos of three to 15 seconds, has evolved into a short-form video content hub. And it’s becoming something of a powerhouse: in 2019, TikTok was declared the seventh most downloaded mobile app of the decade spanning the years 2010 to 2019.

Mobile-first 18- to 34-year-olds are the dominant market for TikTok, and one need only take a look at user numbers to recognize the platform’s significance—even beyond that primary market. According to Search Engine Journal, the app boasts more than 1.5 billion users. Adweek reports that “[i]n the U.S., Messenger was the top app of 2019 by downloads . . . followed by TikTok and Instagram.” Those users are engaged, too: on average, they spend 52 minutes per day on TikTok.

Brands Getting in on the Action

Brands, particularly those catering to younger consumers, are taking an interest in TikTok. The platform is an ideal place to engage audiences and demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges. Examples of the wildly diverse brands who have already invested in a TikTok presence include:

  • Guess: the clothing brand and retailer worked with TikTok to promote its Fall ’18 Denim Fit Collection during the back-to-school shopping season. The #InMyDenim Hashtag Challenge on TikTok, which invited users to show their fashion style in Guess denim with an overlay of Bebe Rexha’s “I’m a Mess,” exhorted consumers to “Transform your outfit from a mess to best-dressed! All you need is denim!” The six-day campaign was the first branded challenge on TikTok to go viral.
  • NBA: the NBA uses TikTok to show off a lighter side, posting videos of players working out to music, for example, or the adventures of team mascots. The app’s musical features help the organization lighten up its branding—and make the athletes seem more relatable. The videos still promote basketball, even as they fit in well with other quirky or musical posts on TikTok.
  • The Washington Post: the newspaper was one of the earliest brands to adopt TikTok, and uses its account to post comedic behind-the-scenes videos and newsroom skits. Serious in other arenas, on TikTok The Washington Post demonstrates its quirky side, taking advantage of TikTok’s weirdest special effects to create funny, musical videos. The cheeky installments, meant to entertain TikTok’s young viewers, present The Washington Post’s journalists as real—and trustworthy.
  • San Diego Zoo: capitalizing on the fact that many people love cute animals, the San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account posts videos of adorable animals with fun music. It’s a simple strategy that has earned the account more than 50,000 fans. And the zoo has “dueted” with other animal-friendly accounts, like the Monterey Aquarium, to cross-promote using TikTok features, thus introducing zoo followers to the aquarium, and vice versa.

There’s still an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with TikTok: as noted in the 2019 Sprout Social Index, 89 percent of marketers are adding Facebook to their social media marketing plans for 2020, while only four percent are adding TikTok. But those numbers are likely to change. As Search Engine Journal opines, “Getting your brand or business on TikTok does not have to be difficult. But at some point, it is going to become a must.”

Advertising Options on TikTok

So how does one become part of the TikTok revolution? The platform offers a variety of advertising options, but in terms of a quick overview, note that:

  • Costs start at an average of $10 per CPM, and can go up to $300,000 total budget for larger campaigns.
  • TikTok campaigns require a minimum investment of $500.
  • TikTok ads are still in beta so you must fill out a form to set up an account.
  • The platform offers video creation tools.
  • A couple different ad formats/types, audience targeting tools, and placements and optimization objectives/goals are available.

In addition, this article from Social Media Examiner contains more insight on getting set up.

TikTok and Influencer/Brand Collaborations

As for what’s next, look for TikTok to increasingly help brands find influencers to work with. In the TikTok Creator Marketplace, brands can already search through the app’s top creators, a list of more than 1,000 TikTok stars including Zach King and CJ OperAmericano. The marketplace, launched last year and still in beta testing mode, allows interested brands to search using filters like topic, the number of followers a creator has, and location by state.

A Caveat

There is a dark cloud on TikTok’s horizon, as the platform faces security concerns. Last fall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton asked U.S. intelligence officials to investigate the security risks posed by TikTok. In a letter addressed to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators wrote, “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” The concern that the app could be used for intelligence-gathering and foreign influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party was also voiced.

To date, however, the negative coverage has not appeared to deter brands.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about what benefits TikTok might bring to your business? We can tell you more about the options and how to get started. Contact us.

Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Video

Just when you thought you had a handle on content streaming (Netflix: check, Disney+: check), a new player has emerged with the potential to shake things up all over again. Backed by a boatload of cash and the imprimatur of Hollywood royalty like Steven Spielberg, Quibi is poised to carve a unique niche in a crowded field. Read on to learn more.

What Is Quibi?

 

Quibi is a new premium streaming service that imposes a cap on programming time: the name Quibi, in fact, is shorthand for “quick bites” of video. Quibi aims to showcase stories of 10 minutes or less; content is meant to be viewed specifically on one’s mobile phone. The platform, founded by chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, has installed tech vet Meg Whitman as the CEO, and investors include studios like Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia.

What Kind of Content Will Be on Quibi?

Given the unique mobile phone focus, Quibi will be generating all new content. As Whitman tells Marketplace, “We will be the first streaming service that launches without a library.” As Whitman sees it, starting from ground zero means an opportunity to create something truly fresh: “We have . . . invested significantly in content. This is all about finding the great stories, attaching the great actors and actresses to it and getting them excited about doing something entirely new.”

Quibi expects to deliver 175 shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year. The content promises to be a diverse mix, from long-form narratives to reality programming, documentaries, food shows, and daily news programs. Given Quibi’s format, the long-form narratives will be delivered in bite-sized chunks, serial fashion (think Dickens and the serial way he delivered novels like Pickwick Papers). Whitman is quick to stress that short format doesn’t mean inferior quality. “Nothing’s lesser about the movies [we’re developing] other than the chapterized way we deliver them,” Whitman says.

Content can be downloaded, so users won’t need an active Internet connection to view programming. And quality of the viewing experience is a prime mandate. As Whitman told Marketplace, “[P]eople are watching a lot of videos on their mobile phone today, but it’s an uneven experience. Sometimes, if you’re holding the phone in portrait, it’s a little postage-stamp size, then you turn it horizontally, it’s got big black lines. Some content is only available in portrait, some is only available in landscape . . . we have to be able to have seamless portrait-to-landscape rotation with full-screen video.” To that end, the company is employing what Whitman calls “compression technology,” and reportedly working with Google to ensure flawless video streams. Whitman also notes, “[W]e shot, obviously, to the aspect ratio of the phone.”

How Is Quibi Different from YouTube and Other Platforms?

As noted, story lengths on Quibi are capped at 10 minutes. And Quibi content has specifically been created for viewing on a mobile phone.

There is a distinction between what Quibi promises and the content made for mobile phones on free platforms like, say, TikTok. Services like TikTok offer user-generated content. By contrast, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke are collaborating with Quibi to create programs designed specifically for viewing via Quibi, sometimes even at certain times: “Spielberg’s After Dark” series will only appear on the service at night, for example. An untitled show devoted to zombies is reportedly being discussed with Guillermo del Toro. User experience will also be informed by how customers hold their phones: changing from vertical to horizon orientation will change what the viewer sees.

Who Is the Target Audience for Quibi?

The target audience is Millennials—ages 18 to 44. The idea is that the platform will especially appeal to consumers on the go: someone waiting in line at the bank, say, or taking a quick bus ride during which 10 minutes of content might be the perfect diversion.

When Does Quibi Launch?

The platform is due to launch in the United States on April 6, 2020, but as Whitman notes, “you don’t have to wait till then to get involved.” On Quibi.com, you can learn about new shows, the technology, and any milestones before launch date. Whitman adds, “We’ll let you know on April 6 when you can download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”

What Advertising Opportunities Exist on Quibi?

There will indeed be opportunities for advertisers, as users will be invited to choose between Quibi with or without ads. The service will launch, for viewers in the United States, at $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month without. Whitman shares with Marketplace, “We think that most [consumers] will pick the ad-supported version because it’s a very light ad load. It’s only 2.5 minutes per hour of watching, which is much less than prime time TV, which is 17.5 minutes of advertising for every hour that you watch.” Ads will appear before a Quibi show begins and last six, 10, or 15 seconds. They will be unskippable. Advertisers already onboard include Discover, General Mills, Taco Bell, Walmart, and PepsiCo.

Quibi programming will also come with ratings to help advertisers determine whether a show is geared to mature audiences. At the WSJ Tech Live conference in October 2019, Whitman said, “[Marketers] can feel safe that their brand shows up next to content that they’re OK with.”

And because Quibi programming is structured around serialized chapters, the platform is looking into an alternative where advertisers could serialize their ads, too.

What Kind of Reception Has Quibi Received?

It’s a mixed one. Naysayers insist the endeavor is a gamble, and that the subscription fee will discourage consumers used to video content that can be viewed for free on platforms like YouTube. Katzenberg, however, is confident. “I think we are doing something that is now such a well established consumer habit,” he told NewsDio. “There are 2.5 billion people walking with these televisions in their pocket. They are already watching a billion hours of content every day. I just know that it will work.”

Quibi has tried to get out in front of its critics by building visibility through some (presumably expensive) ads during the 2020 Super Bowls and Oscars.

Not all watchers have been impressed, as this Verge article discusses.

There’s no denying Quibi has attracted some heavyweights to create content. Will consumers be willing to pay for that content? Only time will tell.

Contact True Interactive

Curious about Quibi and the opportunities this new platform affords? Contact us.

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

Google

Get ready for a world with fewer intrusive video ads.

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

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

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

Why Google Announced a Change

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

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

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

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

What You Should Do

Change is coming. It’s time to prepare:

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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