How Instagram Is Making It Easier for Brands and Influencers to Collaborate

How Instagram Is Making It Easier for Brands and Influencers to Collaborate

Mobile

Instagram understands the appeal—and power—of influencers, and is releasing a new feature, Branded Content Ads, that helps businesses capitalize on that appeal. As Instagram announced in a blog post, Branded Content Ads makes it possible for businesses to use Ads Manager to promote branded content as an ad in their Instagram feeds. Furthermore, businesses can use targeting tools to specify demographics and measure the results: who’s responding, and how many people read the post. Branded Content Ads is a win-win for both advertisers and influencers, especially micro-influencers.

A Win-Win

By tapping into the authenticity of influencer content, and the buzz that content can create, businesses stand to create more awareness for their brand or product. This new tool is especially suited to companies who already know how to work with micro-influencers, such as Swedish watch-maker Daniel Wellington, which already has a strong micro-influencer outreach and does little traditional advertising at all. In a recent micro-influencer campaign, the company thought outside the box and reached beyond lifestyle and fashion Instagrammers to partner with pet lovers. The result? An account that focused—successfully—on the Internet community’s love for cute animals. Pet owners shared images of themselves and their favorite animal friend, with a Daniel Wellington watch always prominently featured somewhere in the mix. Branded Content Ads will provide a company like Daniel Wellington one more tool to work with by allowing the company to take an influencer’s organic post (with the permission of the influencer) and share that post as branded content on the Daniel Wellington Instagram account. Branded Content Ads will also make such a campaign easier to manage and track.

Of course, influencers also benefit from the larger audience that can result from business/influencer collaboration. And because the new Instagram feature allows businesses to target a specific audience and use performance measurement tools to track response, influencers might not only grow but even make some discoveries about their personal brand in the process. This is especially relevant to micro-influencers looking to expand their reach. Consider someone like Christian Caro, a top micro-influencer whose roughly 6,000 followers track his exuberant photos of life in So-Cal.

If he wanted to grow his audience beyond his current Instagram followers, he could capitalize on this new feature and partner with a brand dedicated to topics such as lifestyle, food, or fashion, which overlap with his photography. By contrast, a mega influencer such as Kim Kardashian West, who has 141 million followers, may not benefit as much from this program because she’s clearly doing just fine building an audience on her own.

Keeping It Real

Instagram has laid out specific instructions to help businesses and influencers work together and maintain transparency. Steps include:

  • Businesses must grant permission for the influencer to tag their business in the influencer’s branded content post.
  • As noted, businesses must secure permission from the influencer to promote the post as an ad.
  • Once an ad is created, it is reviewed and approved by Facebook, after which it will appear in the Instagram feeds of the designated audience. Note that businesses won’t be able to manage or delete likes and comments that appear on a promoted branded content post.
  • Once an ad is live, businesses will have access to standard ad reporting metrics.

Eager to learn more about how your business can work with Instagram—and influencers? Contact us.

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Advertising Amazon

On May 31, Amazon said it will acquire assets from Sizmek, an advertising technology firm. The announcement consisted of three paragraphs with little detail. But the deal is valuable for Amazon as the company builds a stronger advertising platform to compete with Facebook and Google.

Amazon Advertising Gains Market Share

Amazon’s advertising business is slowly taking market share from Facebook and Google. According to eMarketer, Amazon will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019. This amount trails far behind Google (with 37.2 percent market share) and Facebook (22.1 percent). But Amazon is building its advertising operation from scratch, and in a short time it has emerged as a threat primarily to Google, as consumers shift their product searches away from Google and toward Amazon.

How Sizmek’s Assets Will Help Amazon

Amazon purchased Sizmek’s ad server and dynamic creative optimization tools, the latter of which helps personalize ads using data. Sizmek’s tools will bolster Amazon’s already strong warehouse of customer data with even more data from ad serving. Doing so will give Amazon more targeted ways to advertise to the millions of people who search for products on Amazon and willingly share their personal information with the company. The deal isn’t making Amazon bigger, but it will make Amazon smarter.

What Advertisers Should Do

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize on Amazon as an advertising platform as part of our broader digital advertising offerings. We’ve been actively blogging about the many features Amazon Advertising is developing, such as video ads on Amazon’s mobile app. Based on our own experience, we suggest advertisers:

  • Examine how partnering with Amazon Advertising will help you attract and acquire customers, even if you don’t sell products on Amazon. As The New York Times reported recently, Amazon is tapping into its rich vein of customer data to help companies create more targeted ads across the digital world – an “insanely powerful” capability, according to the article.
  • Watch as Amazon’s competitors evolve their platforms to compete with the Amazon threat. For instance, Google recently announced new features intended to make it a stronger mobile advertising platform (which we discussed here). And, don’t forget Microsoft. Its own advertising business, while small, gives businesses an alternative to the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Online advertising is changing rapidly as the major players make acquisitions and develop their products organically. Advertisers will benefit so long as you remain vigilant and capitalize on these improvements. True Interactive can help you. As an outside party, we constantly evaluate new tools and ensure that our clients benefit from them with effective digital advertising campaigns. Contact us. We’d love to make your online advertising more powerful.

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

Advertising

Verizon Media (formerly known as Oath) is enduring a transition. But advertisers, especially business-to-business brands, should keep the company on their radar screens and be ready to act on some of the changes occurring at the subsidiary of Verizon Communications.

Verizon Media Shares Mixed News

In recent months, Verizon Media has been the source of difficult news, including layoffs and declining revenues. One piece of news we’ve been following and reacting to throughout 2019: the closing of the Oath Ad Platforms ad server in 2020. As Verizon Media told Adweek,

Following a strategic review of our business, we have decided to close the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, effective 2020. We are working with our customers to ensure they are supported as they migrate from the Ad Server platform. This does not affect our Oath Ad Platforms SSP business.

I see the shutting down of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server as good news for Oath customers. Advertising on the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server means using the Yahoo! platform, which lacks strong functionality and uses dated features. With the shutdown of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, your business will transition to Bing. This change is especially advantageous now that Microsoft organized its advertising products under Microsoft Advertising. The rebrand entails the launch of new features such as Sponsored Products and an enhancement of recently launched features such as Microsoft Audience Network, which is powered by artificial intelligence. Advertisers will be in a stronger position thanks to the stronger role Microsoft now plays.

A New Phase for Verizon Media

Meanwhile, Verizon Media is entering a new phase that includes the embrace of augmented reality and virtual reality, according to CEO Guru Gowrappan. In a recently published interview with Fortune, he said,

The biggest thing we’re investing in is 5G [the faster successor to 4G LTE mobile networks]. Every product is going to have an aspect of 5G. You’re going to have deeper integration of augmented reality and virtual reality.

We not just have front row seat and access to what is happening but we’re also building all of our apps, products, and content in that experience. So if you go to our Los Angeles office, we have the first 5G animation studio [Ryot Studios]. It’s brought down the cost of producing animation, and Ryot does a lot of AR content.

He also plans to integrate e-commerce with advertising more effectively, following the example set by Instagram. As he pointed out,

Let’s say you’re watching the Dallas Mavs and want to buy a jersey while you’re watching. We want to integrate commerce more deeply.

Also, the ad model itself has become combined with transactions. That’s what Instagram does. It’s advertising and sponsorships, but in the end, it’s enticing you to come in and transact on the platform.

These are bold statements for a company emerging from hard times, but the company understands that its previous game plan has been flawed.

What You Should Do

My advice to brands advertising on digital:

  • Take stock of Verizon Media’s considerable publishing assets, such as Engadget, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Yahoo! According to Verizon Media, its publishing platforms deliver an audience of more than 1 billion people.
  • Watch how Verizon Media evolves its ad products under Guru Gowrappan. He has made it clear that it’s no longer business as usual at Verizon Media. The possibility of ad products using AR and VR is exciting, but the more important near-term development is the integration of e-commerce with its ad products for businesses seeking a tighter integration between online ads and sales.
  • Make sure you understand the impact of the demise of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server. Talk with your agency partner if you’re working with one. Ensure that you understand the role of Microsoft (which I see as a positive one).

As always, contact True Interactive if you need help navigating the digital landscape. We have deep experience with online advertising. We’re here to help.

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

Video

YouTube is helping businesses to capture a person’s attention inside six seconds – which is important at a time when it takes just a few seconds for people to form an impression.  At Google’s annual Marketing Live event, YouTube unveiled a product called Bumper Machine, which makes it easier for businesses to create six-second video ads, or bumpers.

For context: in 2016, YouTube rolled out bumper ads. These consist of quick advertisements (six seconds) that are shown before a person’s selected video. A viewer must watch them before the video begins. By contrast, an in-stream video ad is the sponsored video that plays before your video selection on YouTube (and across the entire Google Display Network). You can skip an in-stream video ad after five seconds have elapsed.

According to YouTube, More than 90 percent of viewers say they have discovered new brands or products on YouTube. And as we’ve discussed on our blog, these ad formats give businesses the ability to target audiences and measure results. Not only can you target customer segments, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Advertisers can can also see how much of the video ad an audience has watched. Doing so allows advertisers to determine if a video ad is too long, how much of the video a person watches before deciding to skip it, or see what percentage of viewers are tuned in for the entire video ad. All of these results can be determined the very next day.

But not every business has the resources and budget to crank out bumper ads. So at Google’s Marketing Live event, YouTube announced Bumper Machine, which generates six-second videos from longer video assets. Per YouTube,

Bumper Machine relies on machine learning models that are trained to identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video, like those that contain product or brand information, human faces, motion or contrast. It organizes these moments and brings them together to generate several different six-second ad variations for you to pick from, all in a matter of minutes. Before saving your new bumper ads, you can adjust them with simple edits.

Here is an example of how GrubHub took a 13-second ad and used Bumper Machine to create the 6-second version:

That’s right: Bumper Machine can configure your own bumper ad by figuring out what elements of a longer ad will work best in the bumper ad format – without human intervention. During a Q&A with viewers watching the Marketing Live event, YouTube product managers Ali Miller and Nick Rose answered some immediate questions:

Does Bumper Machine replace video editors and creatives?

No. One great way to use it is to gain inspiration for what you actually want to finally build as your bumper ad. You can take a look at what six seconds can do with a video and then build a customizable version of the video with all the expertise and creativity that professionals bring. But if you lack a budget and resources, it’s a way to get started with bumpers right away without spending on video production.

What was the insight behind Bumper Machine?

The six-second slot has taken hold as a way to create a compelling narrative. Bumper machine does the heavy work to help you create a six-second narrative

Is a six-second ad enough?

A six-second ad is an effective for telling a quick story. If you can fit in a single message, a joke, or an example of how a product is used, then a six-second bumper is a great way to get a message across. Also, it’s advisable to work with existing formats together to get the best results, such as skippable 30-second ads and True View to increase effectiveness, reach, awareness, and ROI.

With Bumper Machine, how does machine learning examine contextual relevance to determine a coherent message?

YouTube uses machine learning to identify the elements of the ad that will tell a story inside six seconds in the most engaging way — such as close-ups of someone’s face or a brand message. Then YouTube puts the content together to create a cohesive message.

What You Should Do

At True Interactive, we’ve been urging advertisers to adopt a video ad strategy for some time. Think of Bumper Machine as the video equivalent of your own Alexa skill, or an easy-to-use tool that enables an effective way of storytelling. Machine learning makes the formatting of the asset easier – but you still need human judgment to ensure that your ad captures the essence of your brand and is consistent with how you’re telling your story on other ad touch points (which I call creative parity, or consistency).

As with Google’s AI-fueled ad products, I suggest you view it as a tool to help, not as a substitute for actively managing your creative. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience with online advertising and are ready to help.

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Advertising Google

Over the next few years, mobile will drive nearly 90 percent of U.S. digital ad spend, according to Forrester. Businesses such as our client Snapfish are using mobile to achieve benefits such as a 343 percent increase in revenue from mobile app installs and a 756 percent return on ad spend. On May 14, Google made some major moves to accelerate our march toward a mobile advertising future:

App Deep Linking from Mobile Ads

Google announced that in coming weeks, Google will enable app deep linking from Google ads. Business that offers apps and also advertise on mobile will benefit from a more frictionless experience. Google will take users from shopping, display, and search ads right to the relevant page on your mobile app. Users with your app installed will complete a desired action (such as buying a product or booking a hotel stay) in a more personal and easier way with their check-out information pre-populated. As Google noted on its blog, “Early tests have been promising—on average, deep linked ad experiences drove 2X the conversion rates.”

In announcing app deep linking, Google shared the example of Magalu, one of Brazil’s largest retail companies. Magalu, seeing that its app was growing in popularity, enabled deep linking. According to Google, “By enabling deep linking, loyal customers who tapped on a Magalu ad were taken directly to the mobile app they already have installed, resulting in more than 40 percent growth in overall mobile purchases.”

Gallery Ads

Google also announced the launch of Gallery Ads later in 2019. Gallery Ads consist of swipeable images that will display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. As Google announced,

By combining search intent with a more interactive visual format, gallery ads make it easier for you to communicate what your brand has to offer. We’ve found that, on average, ad groups including one or more gallery ad have up to 25 percent more interactions—paid clicks or swipes—at the absolute top of the mobile Search results page.

Advertisers will be able to feature up to eight images. As Search Engine Land (SEL) pointed out, one of the distinguishing features is the large carousel of swipeable images available. Per SEL, people can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears.

Advertisers get charged for Gallery Ad interactions in one of two ways:

  • A cost-per-click basis when a user clicks on the headline to go to the advertiser’s website.
  • After the user swipes through three images in the gallery.

There is no word yet on an exact date when the format will appear. Advertisers can prepare now by experimenting with different ad, headline, and text options that optimize the available digital real estate.

What Advertisers Should Do

These developments have some important implications:

  • If you rely on an app to attract and service customers, creating ad experiences that link to your app is no longer ideal but is essential. As we’ve shared in our own client work, by varying ad formats wisely to account for factors such as seasonality, advertisers can make advertising and e-commerce more tightly integrated than ever.
  • Advertising on mobile is evolving to allow for more sophisticated storytelling. With a Gallery Ad, you can use multiple images to reveal new products with a series of images rather than collapsing the entire ad and offer into one image. In particular, the swipeable format makes it easier for customers to explore your products, which is especially useful for high-consideration products.

Now is the time to test and learn with Google’s new ad formats and tools. At True Interactive, we possess extensive experience helping businesses launch successful advertising online, including the use of Google products. Contact us. We are here to help.

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Google

Google continues to develop new automated bidding products that make it tempting for businesses to hand over their online advertising to Google. The latest tool is a new automated bidding option for app marketers running Google App campaign, target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, an algorithm adjusts bids higher to serve ads to people who are likely to spend more after they install an advertiser’s app. As Google announced May 8:

To grow profitably, it’s also important to also consider how much revenue you generate relative to the cost of driving those installs and actions. That’s why, you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more, and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android globally.

I’m not surprised that Google is adding to its arsenal of bid tools. Automated bidding is important to Google. It’s a source of revenue for a business whose growth is fueled by online advertising. And based on Google’s disappointing quarterly financial results announced weeks ago, the company is feeling the pressure to improve ad revenues – which might help explain why we’re hearing more and more about automated bid tools.

Making It Easy with Automated Bid Tools

When a business lets Google handle its online advertising, Google does all the heavy lifting. You tell Google how much you are willing to bid for a keyword, and Google manages the bidding including any modification, a process illustrated here. Ideally, advertisers connect with their most relevant audiences at an optimal price. And Google rakes in revenue.

Google will tell you that automated bidding is a more efficient way to manage your campaign, and indeed Google offers many tools such as machine learning to change bids constantly.

Proceed Carefully with Automated Bid Tools

If you lack the resources and time to manage your online advertising and you want to do it all in-house, then automated bidding can be very tempting. But it’s also important that you keep in mind a few big caveats:

  • When you let Google do the driving for you, you lose control of the ability to modify a bid as your needs change, and you lose control of any targeting adjustments you might want to make.
  • You have to be comfortable that Google is representing you on its own media platform. It’s like telling a TV network to pick the shows to run your ad on and set the price for the ad for you (would you ever do that?) And yet this is the kind of conflict inherent in having Google manage ads on Google. You lose control over the ability to negotiate and set a price while Google represents your interests on its platform – and the outcome may not always be in your best interest.

You can expect Google to roll out more automated bidding tools powered by artificial intelligence, which promise to manage bid modifications more effectively.

Test the Waters

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, I suggest that you test automated bidding on a few campaigns. Don’t give Google control over your advertising right off the bat. During your test, carefully check metrics such as costs per click and costs per action. Are they improving to your satisfaction? If so, test some more campaigns with variable bids. If you decide to move forward with automated bids, then commit to staying on top of these tools so that you can learn about developments that could have an impact on your bidding strategy. Automated bidding sounds easy, but you do need to stay invested in learning as with any technology.

True Interactive has deep experience managing online advertising for clients such as these. We understand the nuances of manual and automated bidding and are happy to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Advertising Google

Bloomberg’s recent article speculating that Google could make Google Maps a bigger advertising platform, just as Google has done with search in general, has created a stir. On the one hand, the promise of more advertising development on Maps has generated excitement among businesses eager to become more visible on this popular navigation platform. At the same time, the news has triggered some concerns among industry watchers that advertising could become obtrusive. In fact, advertising already happens on Google Maps, and advertising holds promise so long as the ads provide value.

The Worry

As expressed in a recent BGR article, a major concern about advertising on Google Maps centers on the fear that user experience will erode: “Hopefully, Google’s reported interest in leaning on Maps as it hunts for new sources of revenue won’t mean the company goes overboard—like the way you have to scroll down past a slew of ads and highlighted results after conducting a Google Search, for example.”

This is a valid point. No one—including Google—wants to see the user experience on Google Maps become tarnished. Google needs to keep giving users reasons to stay on Google in its many forms. So the company has a strong incentive to monetize Google Maps in a way that keeps the consumer at the center of the experience.

Google appears to be honoring that commitment by exercising caution: Philipp Schindler, Google’s business chief, said at a recent conference that while Google Maps is “a really, really interesting playground [for advertising] going forward,” the basic directions provided by Google Maps are a “utility” that shouldn’t be tampered with. In other words, consumers shouldn’t be bombarded with ads when they are just looking to get from Point A to Point B.

The Reality

If history is any indicator, caution appears to be a feature of the Google Maps playbook. Technically, advertising on Google Maps is nothing new. As Bloomberg points out, “The company has tested ads in Maps for years.” And Google has proceeded thoughtfully all along, keeping the user in mind. Rajas Moonka, the director of product management for Google Maps, notes, “We’ve been pretty careful about not being very aggressive about how we present those to users because we don’t want users to feel like we’re overloading the experience.”

According to The Manifest, Google Maps ads already include features such as:

  • Promoted pins. These purple location pins are meant to stand out from the pack of familiar red location pins. When consumers tap on the Promoted Pin, which is paired with the advertising business’s logo, they access more information about the company and its products.
  • In-store promotions. A business advertising on Google Maps can show coupons and deals right on their ad.

Promotions are a great example of how an ad on Google Maps can be useful to all parties. If I search for “bookstores near me,” I am probably looking for something to buy—or I’m at least interested in browsing. If a ten-percent-off coupon from a nearby bookstore pops up during my search, I might be convinced to choose that store over another. In other words, a great promotion on Google Maps can turn a casual searcher into a bona fide customer, and prompt a scenario in which both business and consumer are winners.

What’s New Under the Sun

The Bloomberg piece isn’t suggesting that Maps is a new advertising frontier. The question being asked, rather, is are there different and more ways to use the app for advertising? We at True Interactive happen to think that the possibilities are legion. Consider the opportunities afforded if Google Maps advertising became personalized with content sponsored by different companies. In that scenario, a bookstore might serve up a personal ad on your Google Maps app based on your usage of Google Maps, just as already happens on Amazon.com when you get a personalized ad from a company that sells products on Amazon, based on your Amazon search history.

What You Can Do

In short, ads on Google Maps aren’t new, and their evolving services represent an opportunity for both businesses and consumers. We recommend that you:

  • Keep track of how Google is transforming itself.

Questions? Contact True Interactive to learn how to advertise on Google Maps and beyond.