Is Social Media a good investment for eCommerce sites?

Marketing budgets are under attack, earning less of a percentage of company revenue in 2017, coming in at 11.6% (according to the Gartner CMO study). According to the study, the decrease has to do with the heightened focus on results; buoyed by P&G’s Marc Pritchards now infamous rant about measurable results. The decrease in budget doesn’t necessarily mean that decreases in performance will be tolerated. Marketers are asked to invest in channels that produce the highest return on investment.

Since its inception, social media has been one of the channels that has gotten a pass from a direct response performance standpoint. Citing numerous studies, social media rarely drives direct conversions, and it shouldn’t necessarily be the driver of direct conversions.

Why Social Media isn’t Built to Drive Conversions?

Social media is often thrown into the same bucket as traditionally direct response mediums, such as Search Engine Marketing, SEO, email, and affiliate, however, it is more inline with passive mediums such as print, out of home, and broadcast TV; it just happens to be digital in delivery.

One reason is that Social Media is a lean back medium. Consumers rarely open their social media app of choice and instantly seek out an answer to a product related inquiry; choosing a search engine for that activity. Consumers use search in a very transactional manner, while social media is a medium often used to pass time, update themselves on the day’s activities, etc. The mass audience rarely shows up to social media with an inherent intent to seek answers to a question; the fundamental task in which search is utilized.

Social Media’s role in Conversion Process

A myriad of studies have highlighted the low rate of purchase intent a consumer has while on social media, however, marketers continue to allocate funds into the medium in an attempt to drive what is called Social Commerce (eCommerce via social media). The social platforms themselves are also looking to drive marketers to allocate funds to the platform, by adding features such as buy buttons (they have been around for years), product takeovers, product tagging, and more. And allocate funds marketers have, as marketers have invested more than $30 billion in social advertising in 2016 alone. 2017’s metrics are estimated to be significantly higher.

Social Media is for Discovery, not Conversions

I feel the primary issue with looking at social media as a driver of direct sales is that we are lost in the attribution model. Much like broadcast TV is not seen as a direct contributor to sales (meaning you will not watch a commercial and then immediately get in your car to go purchase that roast beef sandwich), social media is about discovery. A Cowen and Company study in December 2017 highlights a finding that 38% of younger people (millennials) have discovered a brand that they ended up purchasing on social media. The trick, they didn’t purchase the product right away.

Where are they buying it?

According to the study, the consumers who discovered a brand on social media are primarily purchasing this product on Amazon (42%), which speaks to the benefit of availability. However, just behind Amazon was the brand websites in which were featured in the social media post (40%). This provides a heightened awareness for the brand’s eCommerce site and ultimately leads to product purchase, just not on the initial visit.

Should you allocate part of your marketing budget for social media?

The short answer, yes. The long answer, it depends on your goal. If the intention of your social media marketing strategy is to drive awareness, discovery, and ultimately trial, then social media is a place to invest. If your goal is to drive direct response purchases exclusively, then social media is not the place to invest. Moving those funds to a more direct response medium such as search would be recommended.

As with anything social media today, a sound advertising strategy is the key to reach relevant consumers, even those not currently in your ‘like’ sphere. A well executed social media strategy is less about how much you spend and more about how well you are targeting your intended audience. If you need help building that strategy, we would love to chat.

Justin Emig’s 2018 Super Bowl Ad Report

5 Million dollars for 30 seconds. That was the going rate for an ad in this year’s Super Bowl. Despite reports of declining ratings throughout the NFL season and 2017’s game drawing a smaller audience then 2016’s game, this was the most expensive a 30 spot has been. While many big name advertisers bowed out of the game, choosing to allocate their funds elsewhere, many other advertisers happily agreed to run 1, 2, or even 6 different ads in hopes of reaching what many feel is the largest audience for one event all year.
Leading into the game, it already felt much different this year. The political landscape, the turmoil the NFL has dealt with all year, general growing unrest, and the spotlight placed on brands today makes using the Big Game as your moment to be edgy and controversial fell on deaf ears. Many in the advertising community, me included, expected a very sterile approach to the game. Tradition, nostalgia, unified approaches, and safe were the adjectives I expected to see used when describing the ads.
Come Sunday at 6:30 EST, that is what we received. However, a few brands stood out, a few brands fell completely flat, and a few raised some feathers will disjointed, disconnected from reality commercials. Without further ado, my 2018 version of the Super Bowl Ad Report: The Nice, The Crap, and The What Were You Thinking.

The Nice:

With such a vanilla display from most brands, the bar was set relatively low, but one brand absolutely dominated the Big Game.

Tide:

Proctor & Gamble and their agency Saatchi & Saatchi made a very smart and calculated move. Coming off some very bad press for P&G’s Tide brand (a TidePod shot anyone?), the brand took the opportunity to leverage a few things in their run of spots during the Big Game.
First, P&G used its variety of brands, of which have advertised in the Super Bowl previously and saw those as an opportunity to tie in nostalgia, to promote one of their flagship brands. Additionally, P&G made another calculated move, by finding something that ties EVERY ad during the game together, and use that to add mystery to their own ad. What do I mean? The first ‘Tide Ad’ spot mentions that typical Laundry Detergent ads have stains on their shirt to promote the product, and a Tide Ad is one that has clean shirts. They then instruct you to find other ads that have clean shirts and they are Tide Ads also. This puts the user on a scavenger hunt, carefully eyeing other commercials. At first, this didn’t work, but when Tide started to pop up in what looked like other people’s commercials to then hijack it with ‘Its a Tide Ad’ and move on, this put all consumers on the hunt.
They tied in other P&G brands such as Old Spice, Mr. Clean, and even non P&G brands to tell this message. By the end of the night, it felt like all ads were ‘Tide Ads’ and that was the exact thing they were going for. Using David Harbour from Stranger Things was also a very nice homage to nostalgia feel. Thought out the whole way through.
Well done Saatchi & Saatchi, and well done Tide.

Amazon:

While Amazon is still winning the connected speaker war against Google (and now Apple, in what feels like the latest entry in history), they continued to outpace Google with a genius concept, humanizing Alexa, the voice assistant powering the Echo. Google’s Home doesn’t have a name, Amazon’s does and they used that humanization to drive home a very human point; sometimes we lose our voice.
The commercial outlines what would happen if Alexa actually lost her voice and even stars Jeff Bezos. The ‘replacements’ they select were genius, from Gordon Ramsey absolutely owning the guy asking for a recipe for grilled cheese, to Cardi B refusing to play country. It was just well done, fun, but generally will surely have people asking more ridiculous questions to Alexa.
Others who did a descent job but do not warrant a specific writeup:
– Jeep: Just one of their ads was strong, the one where the Jeep drove across the river and up those ridiculous rocks like it was NBD. Yea… well done. The rest were snoozers.
– Winter Olympics: I would have given this a writeup but it feels like a house ad, since NBC is covering the Olympics and there were about 200 different spots for this. Volume doesn’t constitute success.
– Mountain Dew: Another Super Bowl, another announcement of ridiculous Mountain Dew flavors. It was funny, but felt SOO cliche.

The Crap:

These are the ads that well… were just terrible. No other words, except the ones listed below.

Persil:

Yea… They are another laundry detergent brand and I bet you forgot they had an ad right? That is because it wasn’t long after Tide’s and it was TERRIBLE. Your generic white guy holding the bottle saying how it gets shirts clean. Not only is this a brand we still never heard of, but the ad belonged during daytime TV, not a Super Bowl. Non memorable. It is not even worthy of vanilla, it is more like imitation vanilla. They got absolutely DOMINATED by Tide. $5 milly = down drain. (see what I did there??)

Dodge:

Did they even have a good ad amongst their seemingly 500 different spots? Their first ad including Dr. King’s speech will be covered below, but the rest of their ads were just horrendous. An honorable mention might be for the Vikings ad, but it was very tough to realize it was actually a Dodge commercial.

NFL:

Did we really need 5 commercials leading up to a awkward rendition of Dirty Dancing? NFL… you hired the wrong Manning brother for your ad. Eli just didn’t seem funny and the ad felt so forced. Too much buildup for such a poor delivery.

Australia:

The Dundee ad… really? Nothing says we love stereotypes like using one of our oddest famous characters. What looked like a movie ad the whole time, failed to deliver anything worthwhile for a traveler looking to go to Australia. Heck, Delta did a better job of selling Australia after the spot ran, when they barraged Twitter with ads related to going to Australia.
This section could have gone on forever, including Pepsi being extremely scared to say anything new after last year and insert brand you already forgot had an ad here.

The What Were You Thinking

This really is only one spot… The MLK Dodge ad. Seriously… how did this make it past the cutting room to not only be an ad, but the FIRST ad out of the gate for Dodge. I am not an expert on civil rights, but pretty sure MLK’s message wasn’t that of buying more vehicles. Just out of touch for today’s landscape and a very poor idea. Nothing about that would have been successful. Stuffing a bunch of African American people into an ad with MLK overtop doesn’t make Dodge seem like a civil rights hero brand, it makes them seem even more out of touch.
There you have it. Tide dominated, Amazon widened the gap, Dodge was a waste of space, and others did ok. Let’s hope the Oscars and other events produce some better spots.

What Happens When Search Marketers Buy TV ads

While still a small percentage of total television viewers, the numbers around cord cutting are staggering. 1/3 of American adults have a subscription to Netflix, 400,000 people cut the cord in 2015, the average cable subscriber has 200 channels, yet only watches 17. Couple that with the fact that the average cable subscription has increased 5% in the past year and you have a recipe for discourse. (source) Fortune boasts that 1/5 of all U.S. households have cut the cord. These are staggering numbers. Numbers that are forcing the traditional TV media buyer to find new ways to reach the same audience. Luckily, there is still 4/5 of the U.S. households to target, but with things like completely addressable TV media buying is becoming a much different place then buying audience based on gross rating points (GRPs), the question is not if the traditional TV market will continue to erode, but a matter of when. Even in its current state, buying ads on TV is significantly different then it was a few years go. Yet the same strategies and methodologies to buying TV ads remains the same, while the need for more advanced skillsets is present.

What is addressable TV?

According to Google, Addressable TV advertising is the ability to show different ads to different households while they are watching the same program. With the help of addressable advertising, advertisers can move beyond large-scale traditional TV ad buys, to focus on relevance and impact. Now I purposely selected this source from Google since they really pushed this addressable TV tactic back when they launched the much-hyped, poorly received Google TV.

Why is addressable TV important?

Let’s take the season finale of the critically acclaimed show “This is Us.” I purposely picked this show because it is one of the big network darlings, while Amazon and Netflix’s original programming are winning many of the awards, “This is Us,” dominates viewership and buzz. According to Nielsen, 12.84 million people tuned into the “This is Us” season finale. Now think of the “This is Us” audience. Is it families, interested in watching a heart-heavy show boasting the highs and lows of marriage, family, and life, is it the single love thirsty person longing for their chance to enjoy that sector of life, or is it the casual one-time viewer, interested because of the hype, yet hasn’t watched a previous episode; they just want to fit into the water cooler conversation.
These can be very different audiences, with different brand profiles, different income levels, different needs, yet we market to them with the same creative, promoting the same message. Doesn’t this feel clunky just saying it out loud? Our typical bet is to just bank on the primary audience it reaches and hope for the best. A show like “Empire” did a great job of targeting the young, urban group and brands flocked and drove up the cost per commercial rates. Addressable TV allows you to implement targeting to show a different creative/message/show your ad altogether to one audience and not the other. This is the thing that could make TV advertising more palatable for the small/medium/local business.

Addressable TV and Targeted TV Ad Buying Is Just not Their Bag

Yet targeting isn’t necessarily a skillset that comes natural to the media buyer; since they are taught to focus on GRPs and mass awareness. While the idea of targeting based on previous user behavior, user location, user interests, serving the best ad to the consumer at the best time, and platform specific messaging, it does to another group of advertising professionals… the Search Marketer. 
When Google released information about YouTube TV, my head instantly went to a world in which you are buying ads within the Adwords interface, addressable to targeted consumers (much like a YouTube ad would be), self service with actionable measurement and delivery insights, on-demand. Think about that for a second… that could definitely happen, and it would change everything you know about TV advertising. Addressable TV is available now on OTT devices, Smart TVs, and Video On-Demand, so if Google is building a platform in which they control the ad content, couldn’t they sell ads against it in their own platform?
Facebook is now doing it with their Mid-Roll ads within ‘Live’ broadcasts. Facebook is controlling the content, controlling the environment, and ultimately controlling who and when you can buy ads. Why can’t the largest digital advertising platform in the world do it?

The Ultimate Omnichannel Marketing Mix

Digital is slowly (or not so slowly, depending upon who you ask) eating away at the budget dollars previously allocated to TV, yet marketers that require mass reach find traditional TV a mainstay in their marketing mix. Smaller advertisers who have a product that does not appeal to the general population are usually boxed out of TV due to cost restraints and the lack of targeting available. By introducing a way to buy TV ads, inclusive of targeting they know and love from Adwords/YouTube ads, marketers could extend their message across channels and devices, thus delighting the consumer, and allowing the marketer of a true way to improve reach and frequency.
The search marketer, historically known as a specialized skillset fluent in keywords and feed management, could be the same person employing their targeting first mindset to an audience bored with irrelevant ads, increasing commercial breaks, and a cord cutting mindset. By focusing on them and serving them ads relevant to their geographic market and interests, could be an answer to the disinterested consumer, drunk on ad blockers, and a binge watching mentality.

Hey Brand Marketers: You STILL don’t understand Video Advertising

We started with text based ads, then visual ads, and then motion visual ads. Video advertising allows us to take a 5,000 word post and convert it to motion graphics in a way that tells a story, compels, and entertains. While video advertising is still in its relatively nascent state, the symmetry to traditional TV advertising has caused brands and agencies to re-purpose those mass media assets and showcase movement to the new digital front lines.
Social and video advertising platforms quickly adopted terminology and buying methodologies that matched those used by mass media buyers and the like. This further increased the adoption of video advertising and more money continues to flood towards video advertising platforms and social networks. Now with programmatic making its way to video advertising, this meteoric rise is only set to further increase.

Focusing on the wrong performance target

However, while reviewing the study from Sequent Partners and Eyeview, published by Emarketer relative to how Brand Marketers Measure Success from Digital Video Advertising, the number one item… the most important metric they are measuring is…
Measuring Site Traffic at 71% of the respondents.
Items such as ROI, CPA, and ROAS come in much lower. This tells me that brand marketers are more interested in a potential vanity metric such as site traffic than they are that their advertising dollars are generating the revenue and return that they hope for.

Brand Marketers just don’t get it

This continues to showcase the misalignment of brand marketers when it comes to performance, which is driven by the insatiable need of the C-suite to deliver audience increases. The size of the audience continues to be the most important metric, whether it is page likes, followers, pins, site traffic etc. All of these metrics denote the size of the audience, yet are not indicative of a consumer, actively interested in your brand.
All of these metrics denote the size of the audience, yet are not indicative of a consumer, actively interested in your brand.
This arms race relative to audience size continues to follow traditional mindset of mass, while niche focused brands such as Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and others focus less on audience size and more on audience relevance.

What the platform is supposed to be used for

Video advertising on a social platform or video platform such as YouTube, offer you targeting options that are borderline creepy. Big Data sets and consumer self-disclosure allow us digital marketers to pin point a advertising target so refined, that it ensures the highest relevance of impressions.
However, the misalignment of performance targets from brand marketers prevent the platform from being used for what it should be used for, and not following in the footsteps of other mass media channels such as TV.
Come on brand marketers… you know better. Combat the C-Suite’s thirst for audience size with several micro-audiences of extremely relevant consumers; evangelists for your brand, empowered through custom made video ads that speak directly to their loyalty and interests. These well placed ads are cost effective and highly valuable.

Is the Real TV Killer Hidden in Plain Sight?

The impending death of TV due to cord cutters is a story that’s long been told. 2013, 2014, 2015, and even this year, pundits have been proclaiming that the cord cutter movement is well on its way to putting an end to TV. Then the UpFronts and NewFronts happened in 2016 and the renaissance of TV posts came flying from countless purists.

The reality is that people are not cutting cords, they are shaving cords; but not at the rate that everyone feels. The losses in TV subscribers due to cord cutting is less than a rounding error for the big Telcos.

Even with Digital Video spending increasing tremendously each year, advertising spending allocated to TV is not going anywhere; actually it is also increasing. A ‘dead’ platform with increasing allocation of spend? Hardly.

What most feel will kill TV

While most traditional TV providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish, etc. are worried about Netflix and Amazon Prime causing the end of cable television watching as we know it; the real disruption vehicle to television remains hidden in plain sight.

Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Snapchat, and highly trafficked social media platforms similar to them (and even those still to come) are the ones who are going to disrupt the television industry and do something that all of the other ‘TV killers’ before it have not been able to do, change consumer behavior, at scale. Let me explain… but first.

TVs and Dishwashers

Now let me clear something up right away that you are surely asking. TVs aren’t going anywhere, how they receive their content, is. Chromecast, Apple TV, and other devices allow you to take content from your smaller screen and ‘throw’ them up to your TV, thus making your TV less of a content delivery vehicle and more of an appliance. A medium for which you use, solely for its format. Additionally, while many consumers are viewing digital video content on smaller screens, the lion share of video content viewing still happens on what we know of as a TV set. But in there lies the disruption point for Telcos.

If your TV is nothing more than an appliance that displays the content brought to it by another connected device, then is it just a monitor? What happens if the device that connects content to our viewing appliance comes from multiple sources? It is already happening today with Smart TVs and the ‘traditional’ streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like. Why can’t it come from more traditional websites instead of ‘apps?’

The disruption of TV will not come in the form of direct appliance and format disruption, as it will come in the form of content delivery.

According to GfK’s recent study, 49% of the sampled American population has a subscription to at least one Over-the-Top service, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. 17% has subscriptions to 2 services and some even subscribe to 3 or more. This new consumer phenomena is dubbed the ‘self-bundlers’ and while it shows an age of discerning consumer, it doesn’t allow scalability. The average income for ‘self-bundlers’ comes in at about $90k a year, quite a bit more than the average American household. Again, self-bundlers will not provide a big enough disruption for TV and is nothing more than another rounding error. Interestingly enough, the largest over-the-top provider Netflix, just has over 80 million subscribers, compared to roughly 100 million pay-tv subscribers, according to Business Insider. In order to combat this, companies like DirecTV are launching a ‘skinny bundle’ which includes limited channels delivered multi-device.

Disruption, hidden in plain site

All this chatter about skinny bundles, cord shavers, cord cutters, time shifting and over-the-top solutions make up such a small percentage of disruption to the TV giant, but receives all of the press. The unfortunate nature is that everyone is missing the biggest potential disruption, hidden in plain site… Social media networks as the content delivery method.

We can all agree that internet connectivity has never been easier to obtain and with easily accessible internet-enabled television appliances, internet connected devices a plenty, and connectivity dongles such as Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire Stick, and you have a recipe for “if there is internet, there is TV.”

At this year’s Republican and Democratic National Conversions, something very interesting happened… News outlet CNN was live streaming the whole event; not on their traditional network, but on Facebook Live. While this seemed like just a smart usage of social media and another way to sell ads, it fundamentally poses a significant threat to TV and with an audience of 1.7 BILLION on Facebook, does the piddly 55-100 million cable TV subscribers who could watch your traditional channel even matter?

I like butter and precedents

When the Southern cooking maven Paula Dean was removed from her position on the Food Network in 2014, she started her own channel, available completely online. This business soon after showcased strong growth and with someone like Glen Beck’s BlazeTV earning 300k subscribers (in 2014) and the WWE channel boasting close to 1 million, there is demand for online content, and those willing to pay. Not to mention the juggernauts already mentions in Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

The Live Sports Tipping Point

Live sports is one of the few sacred places left in TV, since you can’t easily timeshift a live sporting event AND be online at the same time. All it took was someone like the NFL or NCAA College Football to start opening their walled gardens to allow streaming, such as what is happening today with Twitter’s Thursday Night Football and you bring streaming on social, to the mass. This social streaming allows users who do not necessarily own a pay-TV service to watch one of the most restricted events, the NFL, for free (ad supported). Add in the partnership deals between Twitter and College Football finalizing and you add yet another seminal event that was once strangle-held by ‘traditional’ Telco delivery networks, to be distributed to the masses, on a free channel, with connectivity as the only barrier to entry.

Election 2016: The Happening?

While the streaming of NFL games on a ‘free’ ad supported social network seems like a huge jumping off point, ratings for those games have been less than ideal, yet consistent with rating declines felt by the NFL in general, perhaps the 2016 election in early November will be the ‘event’ that brings ‘streaming social’ content delivery to the masses. Their live streaming of the Presidential Debates, has been a tremendous viewing success, outpacing that of the NFL game streams.

On election night, millions of Americans flock to their TVs to see who is going to be the next president of the United States; an event made for TV. However, BuzzFeed announced that they are going to live stream their election night coverage on Twitter; free to users, but ad-supported. Users will follow.

The Social Networks are Hustling

Twitter has its partnerships with the sporting associations and news outlets to live stream events for free on Twitter (ad-supported), and now Facebook is allowing users to ‘throw’ Facebook Videos up on their TV (appliance) using their Chromecast or Apple TV. Soon it will be Facebook Live streams ‘thrown’ onto TV (appliances) and voila… you have a TV delivery network, without Telco interaction.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have the audience and a growing share of our time everyday. Publishers are having an increasingly more difficult time creating content that receives strong ratings and generates a profit. If a producer or publisher of digital video content took their show and brought it live to Facebook and Twitter as an original program (similar to what Netflix, Amazon, etc. have done with their own original programming), could we be seeing the rise of a new ‘cable’ network? One with well over a billion people worldwide and over 200 billion within the United States who care more about revenue per user, than they do about charging for the content. There, we will have disruption brought to Telcos by organizations who have substantially deeper pockets, and a dead set mission of providing a vertically integrated solution to consumers. Telcos… I’d be cautious and holding onto my internet connectivity deals because in a world with freely distributed content to TV appliances, whoever owns the pipes, owns the content.

The Future of Google AMP: Taboola and Outbrain Killer?

With Google expanding their AMP project to sites outside of news and initial test sectors, released AMP for Ads (A4A), AMP Ad Landing Pages, and is rumored to be placing  articles from AMP into native apps, curious marketers surely have the following question…. Are they going to monetize these content placements, similar to their other products?  It is no secret that Google wants to speed up the web experience, from content consumption, to advertising, speed is paramount. Now that Google has brought AMP to one of their other profitable properties (Search), it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that other properties could be on the horizon. There is one in particular that could bring the much-maligned Google Display Network back to the forefront as marketing cache.

Why couldn’t Google use AMP to build a better content recommendation engine? A better Taboola? A better Outbrain? Let me explain.

I thought Display Network didn’t work? 

Every digital marketing pro knows Google display network is one the most overused, misused, and misunderstood medium digital marketers have at their disposal. Brands and clients request awareness and what says awareness more than slapping banners on a few hundred thousand websites, accounting for millions and millions of impressions, even if they are wasted impressions with terrible targeting (That’s a discussion for another day). Blame it on TV and the way that TV was bought historically, I guess? 

But the best part about GDN is the ability to rent attention earned by the website owner using Adsense and put your brand in front of their consumer. You get your brand in front of their consumer, they make some money, and everyone is happy. This transaction means Google already has all of these websites in their inventory, an understanding of the user base, the content they consume, and ultimately, what value that website would have for content that matches the consumer’s interest, if the advertiser is using Google Analytics.

Content has a Supply and Demand Problem

According to Nielsen, in Q1 2016 U.S. Adults spend more than 10 hours a day consuming content, up over an hour from Q1 2015. It isn’t television driving that growth either, as online content makes up for over 3.5 hours of content consumption everyday, up almost an hour from the prior year and driving the year over year growth.

Couple that with the fact that marketers produce at least one piece of content EVERY DAY. According to Content Marketing Institute, 76% of B2B marketers said they plan to produce MORE content in 2016. This combination proves that we have an ever-increasing gap in supply then we do demand, even with consumers foaming at the mouth for more content and consuming it at a higher rate each year.

If we have learned anything from Social Media and Search, it is that producing MORE content isn’t necessarily the driver of growth. Producing GREAT content, even if less frequent, is how you allow your content to be consumed. And let’s face it, most of the content that is produced everyday goes unnoticed by consumers.

According to a CMI study, 66% of marketers promote their content with Search Marketing, and if you are able to give them yet another promoted outlet to share their content, of course they would sign up and join the auction.

But why Content Discovery Engines

Outside of click-bait images featuring persons in varying stages of dress and what feels like completely completely irrelevant articles, Content Discovery Engines (or whatever you want to call them)  do what their name suggests and do have the potential to provide significant consumer value. Consumers have an unquenchable need for content and are apt to look for additional content when they conclude consumption of that particular article. If served with relevant information, additional consumption would be in order.

Content Discovery Engines also allow you to place your content on high-trafficked, authoritative sites, without requiring substantial budgets for native ad buys. This makes them almost a text based, article sharing, Content Network….. almost like GDN, but for text/content.

The case for AMP as the Next and KILLER Content Recommendation Engine

Let me make the case for why AMP would be a great Content Recommendation Engine for Google and a potential growth platform for them.

  1. Ad Blockers: Let’s face it; one of the primary reasons that Ad Blockers came into existence is partly due to the speed delays caused by ads on publisher websites. Users block ads, they speed up their experience. While many claim that ads are the problem, the latency might be the more important issue, of which Google is working to remedy with AMP. If an advertiser uses an AMP Landing Page from the AMP Content Discovery Ad, the experience is still promising for the consumer, without the negative connotation of the traditional banner ad. A business could easily drop a form on this AMP page for conversion, and everyone wins. This could negate the primary uses of an Ad Blocker.
  2. Personalization: One of the things Google could provide over the likes of Taboola and Outbrain is years worth of searches and personalized results. Google knows the content you like and they could use that data to recommend content you are interested in, and one they can charge a higher CPC/CPM for. By deploying AMP cards at the bottom of articles, pointing to personalized content relevant to the target audience, you have a positive, content first experience, which Google can sell that inventory to advertisers.
  3. Inventory Available: Additionally, the SERP change (elimination of right rail ads) in February put a higher relevance on the top 4 ad positions and expansion of the Shopping ads (PLAs) from 8 to upwards of 16, allows Google the opportunity to recommend 4, 8, or 16 positions for promoted AMP content, with an auction for each.
  4. Reward those already Advertising on Google Platforms: By taking one of the mediums garnering an increasing share of budgets, Google is able to bring yet another piece of the marketing budget onto one of their platforms. Couple that with rewarding advertisers who are already active on their owner properties, such as Adwords, YouTube, DoubleClick, etc.and you have that one platform home that all marketers request.
  5. Helps Google stay in front of Facebook: Quality score could follow a similar model to what it does today, with a higher preference towards Landing Page experience, allowing advertisers yet another medium to promote multi-touch marketing strategies, and staying in front of Facebook.

Google expanding AMP further into their advertising properties, but focusing on content as the product, provides them another product they could sell advertisers, allows advertisers a way to promote their content, provide users with a positive experience, and allow website owners (publishers) another revenue source from Adsense, while keeping money away from Taboola and Outbrain.

New customers are the ONLY customers that matter

O the infamous introductory offers; benefits for new customers and the aggressive drive for acquisition, our eyes are solely focused on the untapped farmland of new customers.

Eyes faced forward without the notion of looking back at the seas of satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers who have already fell victim to your marketing and promotional messaging, this is the successful model used by an overwhelming majority of businesses and pressed on heavily from the C-suite.

New is the only barometer for growth right??

As Joseph Jaffe brilliantly communicated in Flip the Funnel, why spend high sums on new customer acquisition when some of your biggest potential evangelists are sitting in your AS400 and CRM software, waiting to be engaged?

These consumers saw value in your product and service, trusted your messaging, and parted ways with their ever shrinking dollar to buy your wares. Once they have entered your store and purchased your widget, you pass them off like a bad one night stand…..never looking back.

While particular industries feel that the new consumer is the ONLY consumer (one time and seldom purchase categories, please stand up), some of your most engaged consumers are sitting silent on the backlines, completely satisfied with their purchase and your product.

Why not speak to them, thank them for their loyalty to your brand and look to reengage and create a community of completely satisfied customers. If these people all spoke up and shared to their community the benefits of your product and how wonderfully your product satisfied their needs, you would be on board right?? Why not create that environment?

Why we don’t care about existing consumers…

Attracting new customers is fun…and the thrill of the kill is more engaging them dipping your toes in the water of a previously visited lake. The thirst for newness and untouched farmland seduces us into creating a tunnel vision approach on the unknowing prey.

The thrill of obtaining a new customer or a new lead is a high that many marketers consider to be euphoric. It makes you feel like you just slaughtered the unknowing bison. You pillaged the weak town and took all of their assets. You are the king of the jungle….

All of the effort you put into finding and capturing that new consumer, could have went into rekindling the old flame of your previous customers and created an army of “I will do anything for you” consumers willing to spread your message at the drop of a hat. The acquisition cost you are saving from now just focusing on the new prey, can be used to incent your existing customers to reach out to the new customers. The multiplier effect from this practice makes your quest for the new fruit, feel like a bad pick up line.

Treat your existing customers like new customers

Loyalty and rewards are the new currency. Incent your consumers to do something they have already agreed to do (trust you and purchase from you) and the ROI speaks for itself. Why climb the mountain on foot, if you have a ATV right next to you? O because the thrill of climbing the mountain makes the victory lap that much more exciting….

Do you know what I think is more exciting…. Loyal customers willing to pay FULL PRICE for your wares… profit margin and low acquisition cost… that is exciting.

Facebook and the Media Identity Crisis

Do consumers really know the media outlets they view content on?

Recently, Vice CEO Shane Smith made the comment that Facebook bought 2/3 of the media companies in the world without spending a dime. His point is that Facebook is taking over the media business. And he is dead right….

Do you know what you read?

I was interviewing a recent college graduate looking for an opportunity in digital marketing and primed with a hint to do some homework, we ask the candidate what pieces of content they have been consuming. They express they have been reading hours of content everyday and I ask, “What is your favorite site to read content and who are some of your favorite authors?” The response I received? “I have no idea.” I initially thought he didn’t actual read anything and thought he was not being truthful.

But then I thought about Mitch Joel….

Almost a year ago on the Beancast (or maybe longer), Mitch Joel made the comment that to many people “Facebook IS THE INTERNET.” This comment is a perfect segue to Mr. Smith’s point.

Facebook’s Catch 22 User/Attention/Advertising Problem

Facebook has always had the audience, but lacked the rich content consumers wanted to enjoy. Facebook was great at putting this content in front of their massive audience, but what was Facebook’s problem? You leave the site to go to the media platform. Exit Facebook’s experience and enter the media company’s funnel. Bad for Facebook.

Facebook slowly pinches off organic reach until the media outlets (and brands) need to pay Facebook to reach the same customer. If you are Facebook, why wouldn’t you charge them. You are using YOUR platform to drive customers to their funnel. People bark and complain, but quickly adopt to the pay for play model and Facebook’s revenue from advertising continues to increase.

But Facebook still has the fundamental problem, users leave their site. Why can’t they keep the customer within the Facebook ecosystem and still enjoy the content? Enter Facebook Instant Articles. Now you do not have to leave the Facebook walled garden to enjoy the content that OTHERS already created. The media outlets initially jumped on board, drunk off of the previous success they saw with Facebook and googly eyed over the audience. Until the constant stream of consumers slowed down.

Now, media outlets are less likely to put content directly on Facebook and they are going to go back to using Facebook as a customer acquisition medium, through advertising. This is bad for Facebook.

However, Facebook continues to hold the cards because the consumers want content and they do not care who they get content from. Thus, the identity crisis amongst the media landscape today.

Commoditization of Media

Think back to the last few articles that you read. Do you remember where you read them? Was that site syndicating the content or were they the author of the piece? Are you sure? Many media sites are syndicating content originating on other sites and masking it as their own and continuing to increase the identity crisis.

Facebook is in a ripe position to absorb media companies/publications/etc. and bring the content that consumer request, native to their platform. Why hasn’t Facebook done this yet? Perhaps they are trying to squeeze media outlets tighter and tighter until they lose their value, or Facebook wants to preserve the advertising revenue. If publishers top buying ads in search of customer acquisition, no revenue increases every quarter.

This is quite the predicament for Facebook, but with the unwavering interest of consumers thirsty for a constant stream of new content from countless sources makes the stakes quite high. If consumers never have to leave ‘the internet’ and could consume their content, quickly and easily, from outlets they trust (even that isn’t necessarily required), and it is easy to share, they would surely spend more time on the platform and allow more monetization of their attention.

When Facebook is the landlord, be prepared for rent increases, and dwindling apartment sizes, especially when they are buying up all of the available units in town.

 

WhatsApp: Next Round on Facebook’s Unquenchable Thirst for Monetization

1.71 Billion Users on Facebook (as of Q2 2016)
1 Billion Users on WhatsApp
500 Million users on Instagram (as of May 2016)
Facebook (as an organization) has amassed an audience so great in a short 10-ish years, that they are going to get to a point of saturation. A point in which growth slows and shareholders squawk about long term valuation. According to Statista, Facebook earns roughly $13 per user in the US & Canada, however, roughly $4 per user Worldwide, with Asia/Pacific driving the lower average.
Since becoming a public company, Facebook has increasingly brought more revenue generation strategies to market. A few examples are bringing ads into the Timeline, adding remarketing, Facebook Audiences, and monetizing their other own assets, such as Instagram. Estimates show that Instagram will generate over $3 billion in advertising by the end of 2016 and since Facebook earned over $17 billion in 2015, up from roughly $10 billion in 2014, Instagram is a strong driver to keep that number growing.
Facebook Revenue Growth

Mission: Monetize WhatsApp

With the recent announcement that Facebook’s WhatsApp will be sharing data with Facebook, this is the inevitable next step for Facebook finding a way to monetize the ‘pseudo’ non-monetized application. As of right now, WhatsApp is monetized by users who have been a member longer than 1 year, who are charged $1 a year. But without a timeline or right rail region for ads, it makes it difficult for Facebook to find a place for ads…. unless… they introduce a timeline or even place ads within messages.
This would allow Facebook to use similar methodologies for Messenger, which has been the platform Facebook has been innovating a great deal. Could they find a way to monetize yet another platform in Messenger with a similar methodology that they could use for WhatsApp? Chances are Messenger would be first, but this could allow them to grow beyond the Timelines.

Another random thought…

With Ad Blockers (and Facebook’s public battle with them) all the rage and consumer adoption reportedly increasing, if Facebook is able to monetize messaging, the encryption could prevent Ad Blockers from getting in and could provide the advertising ‘safe haven.’
If this could work, it allows personalization and arms marketers with the targeting that makes Facebook Advertising so much more beneficial and could allow a one up over Google.

Big Game Advertisers STILL Fumble, even with an Absence of Storylines

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the “Big Football Game that happens once a year and is a big spectacle” (of which I will not use the actual name for fear of the NFL smackdown) and has been an event the NFL has been looking forward to for years. They are opening a brand new stadium in Santa Clara, welcoming 1 (or maybe) 2 teams back to the West Coast, and again the nation’s attention is on the game.

Or is it…

There is a significant lack of storylines surrounding this game, which allows the ads to take center stage.

“Big Game” storylines

The storylines that are surrounding this game are obviously manufactured hot buttons that were generated to provide fodder to what has the strong potential of being a snoozer of a game. Take manufactured story #1…. Steroids use amongst one of the sport’s aging legends.  At least when this happened in baseball, it was after their aging legend broke one of the most untouchable records in sports, not coming off statistically one of the worst seasons in history.

Manufactured story #2… the race of the league MVP. With #blacklivesmatter and other social movements surrounding race as hot as ever, what is a way to stir up conversation? Race. Unfortunately, Cam’s demeanor and lack of bulletin board commentary failed to have this story gain much steam, except on the media outlets who are pushing this issue hard.

Here are the realities that are harming the potential ‘sexiness’ of this “Big Game:”

  • This will surely be a defensive game with little scoring, not exactly what satisfies the primary “Big Game” audience, the casual viewer.
  • This has the very, very strong potential of being an absolute blow out, similar to the last time the aging legend was a part of a “Big Game.” A blow out would be detrimental to all, including advertisers.

Advertisers: This is your 2-minute drill:

The reality is that with such little attention being spent on the actual teams, this allows the ads to take center stage and dominate the attention, and hopefully the water cooler tomorrow.

With the very public exodus of some prominent “Big Game” advertisers and the continued growth of streaming for the game, the Spanish telecast owned by another network, other live events garnering more interest, and the increasing consumer attention being thrust into our devices, the allure of advertising on the “Big Game” appears to becoming a fleeting advertising endeavor, or one ripe for new entrants to restore interest.

Historically, the “Big Game” was time for the advertising agencies of beer companies, car companies, and insurance companies to prove their worth; not by selling cars, policies, or beers, but by generating buzz and attention. Success is measured less by consumer conversions, but more by journalistic conversions, in the form of being in the top 10 lists associated with the games.

But the onset of digital marketing and measurable advertising have forced many advertisers to realize they are able to enjoy similar success, without having to allocate significant percentages of their marketing budget to the game (see Loctite from 2015’s game who bet the house on the “Big Game” and are not back for 2016).

This has focused the attention away from being the most memorable ads, but to being the ads that actually drive consumer adoption, interest, and most of all dollars. This tectonic shift has been happening over the past half decade, but needed a low football interest “Big Game” to make its debut… SB50, marks that day. However, you might want to tell the advertisers that.

Big Game Advertisers have fumbled in 2016

There has been little pre-game hype in the form of ad series, sneak peaks, etc. and most advertisers are taking the lazy way out and just releasing their ads in their entirety, weeks prior to the game. So much for build up… unless the goal is that journalistic conversion of yesteryear.

The big winner of the “Big Game” pre-hype so far has been Ritz, a NON-Big Game advertiser. Last year, the winner of the “Big Game” hype was Newcastle, another NON-Big Game advertiser.

TL;DR Version / Summary

In a year where the actual play on the field has less luster than a tarnished Big Game ring, the stage was set for advertisers to make that goal-line interception, steal the attention, and score big on measurable results.

The reality is those who invested a sizable portion of their marketing budget to reach the mass “Big Game” audience have fallen prey to the faults of their elders. Focusing more on journalistic attention and back pats, and less on conversions and understanding pre-game hype.

The reality is those who invested a sizable portion of their marketing budget to reach the mass “Big Game” audience have fallen prey to the faults of their elders. Focusing more on journalistic attention and back pats, and less on conversions and understanding pre-game hype.

First time advertisers should listen to Wanamaker and the rest of the Advertising Folklore as it pertains to that whole frequency thing… They satisfied the reach, hitting the biggest audience of the year, but miss the important frequency aspect, with the whole ‘one and done’ mentality. Pre-game hype, sneak peaks, contests, user generated activity, etc. press that frequency button, get more mileage out of your investment and keep your brand in front of the consumer more often leading up to the game. This allows your “Big Game” ad to be the climactic ending to your story and one that hopefully garners the consumer interest needed for sustained, measurable growth. Unfortunately, your ‘ad leak’ 3 weeks before the game does not satisfy frequency, it increases your chances at Cannes.

Let’s remember that the audience will be on 2 devices the whole night and create immersive experiences, not consumption plays in which you hope that the consumer is watching, interested, not on their device, and most of all able to recall your brand 20 seconds after your ad airs, when the next hail mary ad from the next advertiser is shown.

It is not about football or advertising

The “Big Game” event has less to do with the game and more to do with the experience. The experience of getting together with friends and family, enjoying wonderful edible delights, potentially adult beverages, but most of all laughter, TV yelling, and consumption. Why can’t we as marketers and advertisers do better. We invest huge budgets in an event that we probably perform the worst at. It is like us being the starting QB in the “Big Game” and going out drinking the entire week prior.

Consumers deserve better. Marketers deserve better. Let’s be better.