Tag Archives: advertising

Is There Anybody Out There?

Over the years, I’ve been privy to a lot of data. My own business analytics (my website, blog posts, social presences, etc.), as well as those of my clients, kick off a lot of information. Combine that with the ongoing streams of data from the various marketing campaigns – both search Engine ads and social media ads – I’ve administered over the years and I’ve seen a lot of information about how readers are captured and interact.

Except I don’t believe much of it anymore. Let me explain why and what it means to you.

A few weeks ago, there was a report that Facebook was breaking up an “extensive fake account scam” targeting publisher pages with false “likes.” The idea was to obtain more “friends” for the scammers they could later spam. USA Today was the biggest page hit, losing nearly 6 million “likes.“ because they were fake accounts. Facebook also came under fire for giving publishers and advertisers faulty metrics to evaluate audience reach. Even in the last day, Facebook found an error in how its video carousel ads were reporting and is having to give back cash to advertisers. I don’t think it’s news to anyone that a huge percentage of Twitter accounts are bots, and impressions generated against those bots are a complete waste.

If you read web analytics, you’ve probably encountered “referrer spam.” This has the effect of goosing your visitor numbers up while providing no value. It skyrockets bounce rates and kills conversion rates among other things, but the worst part of it is the added time it takes to address, either through filtering or other means.

Programmatic advertising, which is now nearly all of display and other ads on the web, is rife with fraud. The industry is struggling to verify if ads are seen by humans or even if they’re visible at all. Middleman after middleman “clips the ticket” as money moves from advertiser to publisher, and with over 2/3 of those dollars going to just two entities (Google and Facebook), it’s slim pickings in the publishing world. That means the pressure is on the generate big numbers and bigger results. Of course, if you can’t believe the numbers, how can you evaluate anything anymore?

Here’s how. I know I’m old school and what I’m about to say isn’t as efficient as a trading desk’s programmatic solution, but it actually works. First, take the time to look at the only results that matter. It may be revenue, it may be downloads or app installs, it may be the phone ringing, it may be physical store traffic. I used to worry about conversion rates but since we don’t really know who’s a human out there, the conversion itself is what’s key. Make friends with the sales reps from key publications. Have face to face meetings. You don’t want your sales rep to be a bot either. Pay premiums for premium content and premium results. Programmatic is a race to the bottom, even after you cut through the fraud and waste.

We need to rely on people and only upon the data that can’t be subverted or corrupted. Yes, there are people out there. Let’s go find them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, digital media

Learn To Shut Up

I don’t suppose it will be a great shock to any of you that there is new research out that shows marketers can be their own worst enemies. The study comes from Bridge Ratings and is entitled The Facebook Fatigue Dilemma. There is quite a bit in the study but the section I found of relevance to us today concerns why users unfriend or unlike a brand. Not surprisingly, it’s because they are being inundated with marketing messages, and while they can’t really control which ads they’re seeing (more about that in a second), they can control what pops up in their news feed by telling the brand to go away via unfriending.download

What they study shows, as reported by eMarketer, is “44% of respondents “unliked” a brand on the social media platform when the company posted too frequently. Likewise, 43% of those polled said they “unliked” brands because their Facebook walls became too crowded with marketing posts, forcing them to cut down on the number of brands that they follow.”

As marketers, we forget sometimes that our brilliant messages are not the only messages the consumer is seeing. While what we have to say is important both to us and the consumer (hopefully), we are just one of a thousand messages the consumer is seeing that day. We need to learn to shut up unless and until we have fresh content that’s relevant to the consumer.

Of course, we can also do a little educating. Going off on a tangent here, I’m convinced, based on my discussions with many Facebook users, that most people have no clue how to tune their Facebook feeds to serve them. I’ve yet to see any marketer run a campaign within Facebook helping users to use the platform (and to presumably keep your incredibly helpful posts front and center). Do you use the little drop-down tab in each and every news feed post to tune the stream? How about using lists to segment various things? Do you actively report your feelings about various ads to the Facebook algorithm to help make what you see more relevant?

Media isn’t a megaphone. Marketing isn’t a monologue. We need to learn to shut up until we really have something to say, don’t we?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, digital media

Digging Out Of A Hole

Let’s begin the new year with some (more) sobering news. People think marketers suck and don’t trust us. Actually, that’s not a recent development according to the Gallup folks who conduct an annual poll about various professions and how they’re perceived. Since Gallup has been conducting the survey (as far back as at least 2001), “advertising practitioners” have always appeared near the bottom of the professional rankings:

When it comes to rating the honesty and ethical standards of people in various professions, American adults rate medical professionals highly. But advertising practitioners? That’s a different story. In fact, just 11% of adults rate advertising professionals highly for their honesty and ethics.

That’s from the Marketing Charts summary of the poll. You can see the chart listing the various professions off to the side. Is anyone shocked by these results? Let’s think for a minute about many of the prominent ad stories of the past few years. They’re a litany of theft and fraud but those don’t really affect consumers. The big consumer ad story is probably the rise of ad blocking which is a response to irresponsible behavior on much of the advertising/publishing ecosystem.

That’s just the online world. Offline, one needn’t look very far to find examples of “free” offers that require one to submit a credit card, businesses suing their customers for accurate but negative comments on social media, and just about any political ad this last year. Each of these things further reinforces the negative perception that this study finds.

It’s a new year, and every new year brings the possibility of fresh starts. Maybe this is a good time for any of us who make a living within the marketing community to start digging out of this perception hole? We can do so by reminding ourselves that our families and friends are the consumers we’re pitching. Would you try to run a scam on them? Would they find the ad you’re running offensive? For those of you not engaged in the ad business, you’d do well to ask yourself the same types of questions. My guess is that we’re going to hear a lot about ethics this year. Let’s try to make our profession a better example of the right kind of ethical behavior. You with me?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Huh?

Fighting About Data

I think everyone knows that a lot of data is collected as we conduct our daily digital activities. Google and the other search engines know what we’re looking for, Amazon and other commerce sites know what we’re shopping for, Facebook knows what we like, LinkedIn knows who we know, etc., etc., etc. These data footprints are collected and in many cases sold to marketers and their agents to allow them to serve ads to you. If any of that comes as a shock to you, I’m not sure where you’ve been for the last decade or more.

What you might not have thought about, however, is that the ads themselves collect data. How many times has someone seen it? What kind of person (that pesky data that the aforementioned guys have) has responded to an ad, and how well do the ads translate to sales (lovingly called the conversion rate as if someone is changing religions…). As it turns out, there is a bit of a controversy about who actually owns that data: the advertiser or the agency. The marketers believe that they are the rightful owners while the agency folks believe just as strongly that they are. Neither side feels that the publishers who serve the ads and, therefore make data collection possible, have much of a claim to it. Of course, even publishers came out ahead of one other group as the rightful owners in the survey: consumers.

As you can see in the chart, only 10% of advertisers and 15% of agency respondents believed that consumers had a claim to their own information. That’s tragic. Why? Because it represents a mindset that is ultimately self-defeating. It can lead to legal problems at worst and consumers opting out (if they can figure out how) at best. What have the advertiser or the agency done to give the consumer value for the data? Nothing, in my mind. One could argue that the ads they serve make possible the content the consumer enjoys, but those very ads make that enjoyment nearly impossible given the state of ad-serving today, particular in mobile.

Unless and until we on the marketing side see the consumer as at least an equal partner in our business and not as a bunch of rubes or just as “data”, the problems with ad blocking, anti-spam rules, and other protective measures aren’t going to go away. What will go away are the people represented by the very data over which the agencies and marketers are fighting. You agree?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Coming Vast Wasteland

Back in 1961, a man by the name of Newton Minnow was appointed to run the FCC. He gave a speech soon thereafter called “Television and the Public Interest” in which he coined a phrase with which he described commercial television, calling it a “vast wasteland.” He urged us to tune in our favorite station for a day and watch from sign on until sign off:

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few.

Fast forward 55 years. One can see something similar happening in our new media landscape. The public networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and others – are becoming vast wastelands. You might not be aware of it, but in the last year, more content is being posted on private networks such as Snapchat, Messenger, and WhatsApp than on the public networks. That private content tends to be what’s meaningful to people. What’s left is increasingly clickbait, corporate shouting, or, worst of all, content generated by bots. In short, a vast wasteland.

All of this is happening at a time when many companies are pushing hard to create and distribute content yet something like 80% of the content we publish is never seen by the intended audience. We are increasingly reliant as the shift moves to untrackable (by anyone other than the platform owners themselves) places on the folks who run the platforms for data. We can’t listen and respond to things that we can’t hear, and unless the consumer reaches out (vs. complaining to everyone they know in private), we’re deaf and blind with respect to being proactive and customer friendly.

The challenge for all of us is to foster engagement and to be proactively supportive. The expanse of the coming vast wasteland in the public networks is going to make that much harder, and subject to the will (and business models) of the walled garden gatekeepers. How do we address thins? Thoughts?

Leave a comment

Filed under digital media, Reality checks

Why Apple Improving Privacy Has Marketers Upset

Apple announced a bunch of new stuff yesterday including the release date of the newest version of their mobile operating system, iOS10. You can read about all of the enhancements here (or just about any other place on the interweb) but one thing you probably won’t hear about piqued my interest because it gets to the question with respect to ad blocking that we’ve pondered before here on the screed.

First, a little tech talk. Apple has something called IDFA – Identifier For Advertising – that they use instead of a simple UDID (your device ID) or a cookie (which don’t work well in the mobile space). It’s used to track you, serve you ads, and also for privacy controls. What they’re doing in iOS10 will change how the IDFA behaves. When you opt in to limit ad tracking, the IDFA will return a string of zeros, effectively opting the user out of advertising. It will also prevent the previously permitted “frequency capping, attribution, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, advertising fraud detection, and debugging” uses of this ID.

Needless to say, many in the ad world are very unhappy. “Ad blocking is stealing” according to the IAB. Pretty harsh, but I get that it’s a reflection of the disruption in the attention/value equation that underpins much of digital commerce. Here is the thing, though. Other media, many of which were built on the same equation, suffer from ad blocking and yet have figured out other business models. One blocks ads on TV either by watching on a delayed basis and skipping through the ads or by changing the channel until the program returns. Way back in the ’70’s, my fellow TV execs cringed at the thought of VCR‘s and felt they would irreparably harm the business. That thinking was repeated when DVR‘s (now at over 70% penetration) came out. Both lines of thinking were wrong.

The same is true of radio. No one is thinking about removing the buttons from your car that make it easy to change channels, nor is anyone thinking taking away your TV remotes would be a good thing. Ad blocking in print is as easy as turning the page. There is research that found people only fast-forward through about half of all ads during playback, and other research has found that even fast-forwarded ads make an impression on viewers. Even so, the business model for TV has changed a lot, and “ad blocking” was part of the impetus for that.

Maybe instead of worrying about Apple (or consumers, for that matter) doing what they can both to improve the web and mobile experience and to protect privacy, those of us involved in the digital marketing ecosystem need to keep refining our business models and whine a lot less? What do you think?

Leave a comment

Filed under digital media, Reality checks

How To Stay Engaged With Your Consumers

OK, so you buy into my thinking on the need to stay engaged with your customers and potential customers in a meaningful way. Now what? That’s a question my clients and I face all the time so let me share a few things we’ve done to promote that engagement. Feel free to borrow!

The first and most obvious thing you can do is to support listening via social media channels. If you haven’t set up a listening dashboard, I’d make that a top priority. Hootsuite is a good place to start, and it can also be useful in populating those channels with content. There are plenty of other tools out there for listening, but listening and responding when appropriate is what we’re after.

Part of what we’re after is to become a friendly subject matter expert in the eyes of consumers. There are plenty of channels in which to do so, but what’s important is that you not try to be in every single one. Unless you have a support staff of a dozen people, you’re going to have to pick the channel that is most meaningful to your customers and focus your efforts there. My guess is that it will be Twitter since it’s the most interactive.

Next would be a decision about some longer form content. This might be on your own website, a blog, maybe a post on LinkedIn or Medium. Try them all and see which drives traffic and engagement. Remember, there is no garbage can on the Internet so whatever you write for one platform is probably reusable on another.

What do you write about? Start with thinking about how many questions do customers ask you in a week. The answers to each one of those questions can serve as the basis for a post. Unless you’re a masochist like me, you needn’t write every day either. A couple of times a week is a lot for most folks. Write about your customers. Featuring a long-time purchaser rewards them and shows all the others that you’re grateful. Explain a common problem your customers have and how you’re solving it for them.

Ask yourself how you keep in touch with your best friends. Don’t treat consumers any differently and you’ll be on the road to a productive, engaged relationship. Make sense?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints