Tag Archives: Online 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.

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Restoring The Balance And Destroying The Blocking

If you are in business and you market that business at all, chances are that you’re using digital media of one form or another to do so. I suspect that much of your budget for that has shifted a bit based on how widespread the ad-blocking phenomenon has become. I’ve written about it a few times and the practice of installing ad blocking software on computers and mobile devices continues to grow.

While several ad agencies and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) continue to denounce the software as violating the value exchange compact (attention to ads in exchange for free content), they’re finally getting around to studying ways to get consumers to turn off the blocking software. Both the IAB and Omnicom published some results of their studies and they’re enlightening.

Advertisements, Salem, Massachusetts

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First Omnicom. Their study found that many ad-blocking users don’t dislike all advertising. They hate popups (who doesn’t!). 44% of those polled associate ad blocking mostly with blocking pop-up advertising. Popups are a type of ad that interrupts the content consuming experience, and that’s what’s pissing consumers off. As an aside, TV commercials do the same interrupting – is a remote control an ad blocker? Then there was this, as reported by MediaPost:

If consumers perceive a positive value exchange with websites, most are willing to go back to an ad-centric experience. In fact, consumers can be motivated to not only turn off their ad blockers, but will also disable them. Among those factors that would entice them to disable ad blockers, 28% would do so if the blockers slowed down their browsing speed, 24% if the ad blocker allows advertisements via payment, and 23% if they trusted websites to not serve annoying ads.  Consumers would disable their ad blockers if the website promised non-intrusive ads (35%).

In other words, people get that publishers need to monetize their content and don’t mind ads per se. They do mind being overwhelmed by ads or having to close several popups to get to the content they want. The IAB data echoed this:

A total of 330 people who said they used ad blockers blamed ads for making websites slower, either because the ads were too data-heavy or because there were too many of them…Not surprisingly, animated, moving and autoplay ads irritated consumers who used ad blockers the most, as did ads that covered up content and long video promos.

All of this sounds like common sense to me. Consumers don’t want their content consumption interrupted, delayed, or slowed-down. They don’t want to expend excess data loading ads. They understand the basic economics of the attention/value exchange but feel that publishers have tilted the balance too far in their own direction and are retaliating by blocking the ads that do so. If we’ll restore the balance the chances are good that they’ll go back to looking at the ads. Make sense?

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

Snapping Up Value

The hottest platform in social media these days is Snapchat. I’ve been a user for quite some time and I’m not sure I completely get how to use it yet. I’m amazed by the stories of those who do even if I’m discouraged that they all seem to be under 15.

As with all things eyeball related, advertisers are flocking to Snapchat because FOMO. Snapchat recently surpassed Twitter in terms of average daily users and even Facebook is feeling the heat as evidenced by their development of a Snapchat-like product. When you’re hot, you’re hot! Of course, heat has nothing to do with the success of a business unless it’s translated into revenue and profit, and so the Snapchat folks are actively selling themselves to marketers.  It’s therein where lies today’s business thought.

Advertisers are complaining about both the pricing and investment level needed to gain access to the Snapchat audiences. This from the Digiday folks:

Snapchat started selling ads in late 2014, and early products — one that went to every user and disappeared within 24 hours — cost about $750,000. In 2015, Snapchat brought down the price for video ads to 2 cents a view, or $20 for 1,000 views. This year, prices were back up with premium animated lenses that could cost millions depending on how many an advertiser bought in a given day, and interactive ads, where users can swipe up for more content, cost about $55 for 1,000 views.

I’ll agree that the level of investment required here is steep, even for big brands.  Other than special events, most unit investments in various media don’t require close to a million dollar outlay.  Obviously, and perhaps by design, the pool of advertisers becomes rather limited as well. Providing an API that will let marketers serve ads through third-party technology companies with a smaller outlay makes sense.  But that’s not the business point.

Where I disagree with Snapchat’s thinking is in dropping the CPM. We can’t ever allow price and value to become confused, whether we’re selling media or anything else. This platform has tremendous value – which I measure by both reach and engagement – and to drop pricing is a mistake. It’s the same thinking we faced in my TV days when trying to sell Super Bowl ads. High CPM? You bet. Tremendous cash outlay? Uh-huh. But the value of that exposure is unlike anything else in media, and in the nearly 20 years since I sold my last Super Bowl ad the value has only gotten higher.

The cost/value equation is one everyone in business needs to learn. Have you?

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A Thought About Budgeting

Where are you in your annual planning cycle?  The end of March always seemed to be a time when I would have to begin looking at marketing budgets for the upcoming fiscal, so I had a thought you might want to keep in the back of your mind if you’re entering the process now.  It will be worth thinking about if you plan later on as well.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us spend a lot of time looking at the plethora of marketing channels available to us.  Mass media such as TV, more personalized media such as social, and very specific, time-based media such as search tend to dominate our thinking.  That’s the pattern I see with many of my clients at least, and it might be where you are as well.  It’s probably misguided thinking, however.  The reality is that how our customers want us to communicate with them is via email:

MarketingSherpa commissioned an online survey that was fielded August 20-24, 2015 with a nationally representative sample of U.S. consumers. We asked consumers, “In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer to receive regular updates and promotions from companies that you are interested in doing business with? Please select all that apply.”

After summing up the numbers of consumers who prefer email at a frequency chosen by themselves and email at a frequency set by brand, email emerges as the most preferred way to receive updates and promotions (60%). Notably, subscribing to receive emails at a frequency consumers choose is twice as popular (49%) as subscribing to receive email at a company’s pre-determined frequency (24%).  Email is perhaps unexpectedly followed by snail mail (49%), leaving visiting the company’s website in third place (38%).

In other words, we need to stop thinking in terms of what’s new or what’s sexy and focus on our customers’ wishes.  While you’re spending your time trying to get them to follow you on social media (where the algorithms of the services will probably hide your message anyway), your customers are reading something meaningful.  You should be spending your time – and resources – on re-engaging your email database, building up open and response rates, not blasting out messages that fall on deaf ears.

Something to think about?

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Call First

Do your friends just show up at your house around supper time?  Do any of them knock on your door unannounced as the game is starting so they can watch on your big screen TV and drink your beer?  I suspect most of them don’t.  It’s common courtesy to call first, isn’t it?  Even those folks who might have a standing invitation of sorts will generally do so, if for no other reason than to see if you’re home. 

I find it interesting, therefore, that many marketers don’t think about the same common courtesy.  That thought came to mind as I read the latest State Of Content report from the Adobe folks.  You can read the whole thing here (pdf), and there is a lot to digest.

Consumers understand the benefit of content recommendations, as long as those recommendations respect privacy. In the US, 73% believe they are meant to enhance the viewing experience. At the same time, 62% believe they don’t respect privacy.  In other words, sure, you’re a friend but you’re also showing up without calling.  Most Americans who use digital media (82%) are comfortable with sharing at least one piece of information about themselves in order to improve the recommendations they see. In other words, CONSUMERS ARE WILLING TO SHARE INFORMATION, BUT EXPECT RETURN ON VALUE.

Calling first means making the consumer comfortable about data collection. Those who are uncomfortable with predictive recommendations believe companies can do something about it, and the biggest thing companies could do is to ask permission to collect their data.  That’s why 63% trust content from a friend or family member and only 23% feel the same about content from a company whose products they don’t buy.

So how about it?  Are you calling first, or are you just showing up?

 

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Standards And Practices

After selling a schedule of TV ads to a sponsor, there always came a moment during which you held your breath.  It was the time when the sponsor’s commercial was reviewed by the Standards And Practices folks.  They reviewed the commercial to be sure that it complied with governmental and network rules about such areas as comparisons to competitors or “taste.”  Any claims about a product’s efficacy had to be supported by actual research. We weren’t even allowed to present avails (the beginning of a negotiation) unless a new advertiser could pass a background (read Dun and Bradstreet) check by the finance folks. 

I have no idea if those processes are still in place at my old network homes (I suspect they are), but I know that they’re not in the digital world.  Marketers often wonder about the ad blocking phenomenon but one aspect of it might just be the tremendous number of scams and consumers’ wariness of all ads as a result.  As a former web publisher, I always had a concern about the ads that came to our site via an ad network and I felt incredibly bad when we accidentally ran some banners that installed malware.  In retrospect, there were a number of red flags on the order that we should have caught, but the desire for the cash outweighed our wariness.

It’s much worse today, given the number of “imported” pieces of advertising and advertising disguised as content most sites run.  Even the best of publishers have revenue pressures that can blind them to the dirtbags to which they routinely direct their readers.  One solution?  Maybe the industry – publishers and advertisers – need to set up and pay for a central review board through which all ads need to pass.  Call it the digital advertising Standards and Practices department.  No sign off from them, no seal of approval, and the ad won’t run.  Maybe not every site will take that on, but promoting it to your readers as a scam-free site might just help both readership and ad blocking.

Worth a try?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Hurry Up!

I know you all want to hear another rant on ad blocking about as much as you’d like to hear an endless loop of Tiny Tim singing Tiptoe Thru The Tulips.  I’ll keep it brief, therefore.  A company called Soasta did some research with the Harris folks about what website users were looking for as they surf around.  Not surprisingly, they found the following (as reported by eMarketer):Most Important Attributes of Website Performance According to US Internet Users, Sep 2015 (% of respondents)

When it comes to website performance, internet users say personalized content is less important than a website’s ease of navigation and speed, according to a September 2015 survey. More than three-quarters of US internet users said that a leading attribute of website performance was that it was easy to navigate. Another top attribute was speed; 73% of respondents indicated so.

Here is a truism (at least one I’ve found) about digital interactions: people hate impediments.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a landing page from an ad that doesn’t go directly to the reason someone clicked on the ad or if it’s just a plain old web page.  People are pressed for time.  Any impediment we put in their way has a high likelihood of derailing the interaction.  Web pages that are slow to load because of external calls get closed.  For you non-technical people, that means when the page calls out for an ad (especially if it needs to fill the ad via a programmatic auction), or some behavioral tracker, or anything else like analytics.  Popups are an impediment as well – it’s something in between the user and what they are trying to do. The research bears this out.  Personalization, on the other hand, can help speed up the interaction since it’s based on the user’s likes and preferences.

Ad blockers generally speed up page loads.  That is one of the main reasons people use them besides avoiding tracking.  If we help people hurry up, maybe they will, in return, be more responsive to the marketing information we present instead of doing all they can to avoid it.

Make sense?  What are your thoughts?

 

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