Affiliate Marketing, Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing, Social Marketing

Content Marketing – Challenges and Recommendations

 

As previously discussed, Content Marketing is becoming a key element in every marketing strategy. It now stands out as one of the most powerful techniques available for businesses that wish to strengthen their relationships with existing followers and reach new customers. However, not all businesses know exactly how to use it wisely and effectively.

According to Forrester, most B2B marketers have a difficult time creating relevant and engaging content that customers will want to read and share. Less than 15% of surveyed marketers have said that they believe their content greatly contributes to their businesses and actually provides an added value. Hence, the huge potential of Content is definitely far from being maximized, and there is quite a long way to go. Keeping the following points in mind could greatly increase your engagement with users and improve your Content Marketing effectiveness altogether:

Self-promotion Overkill

Elegantly showing how proud you are of your brand vs. over-pushing this notion is a fine line to walk; It is a skill content marketers should develop and carefully adopt when executing their daily activities. It is a strategic decision for marketing departments to make, one that can have a tremendous positive impact on a brand’s content creation aspects.

  • According to recent studies, almost 90% of brands nowadays share only their own research and views with their readers. This makes it difficult for their audience to regard them as objective sources for information, and will surely have an effect on reliability and engagement.
  • Referring tastefully to your own brand on one hand, while maintaining a broad-scale informative tone on the other, can be the key for balance and success. For example, quoting researches and studies carried out by other brands, or adding explanatory user-generated content into the mix could be a great way to create balance and lead to success.
  • Other studies show that more than 50% of online readers are altogether distrustful of various types of sponsored content. The extent is so great that some users have already developed “banner blindness” and do not pay any attention to online ads and banners. It is therefore not surprising to find that readers appear to be even more skeptical and distrustful of overly-promotional content that excessively promotes a specific brand.
  • “Trust” is the keyword for creating successful engagement, and its importance must be recognized for successful content implementation. Your content should therefore be smart, subtle, non-intrusive and relevant. Consumer attention span is rather short, and you don’t have many chances before being “blacklisted”. So make sure you do it right.

Lack of Focus on the Target Audience

According to research carried out by The Content Marketing Institute, some 65% of brands fail to grasp one of the most basic principles on which marketing strategies are built: Realizing who the target audience is, understanding what they want, and focusing your messages on what they need. This concept is the bread and butter of online marketing at large, and becomes even more relevant when referring to Content Marketing. Content marketers create the actual words and messages that at the moment of truth either intrigue a user or make them move on. Assuming your intention is to make them read your content, and hopefully spread it to others in their network, you must understand who your potential readers are, and what things interest and excite them at this moment of truth.

  • First, it is important to get the basics right: Your target audience must be specifically and clearly defined. The better you carry out your research and understand your audience, the more granular you can become, making your message sharper and more effective.
  • Continue by defining your demographics and identifying your customers’ problems and challenges. Afterwards, use your content to solve these and simplify things for them. Many marketers reach this point, but then commit the mistake by creating content that they think is interesting, rather than content that their customers would find interesting.
  • Try to zoom out and put yourself in their shoes. If you find it too difficult, you can even conduct a small survey: Prepare a few questions, and present them to a number of people within your target audience. It is most likely that you will not receive any surprising answers, but even one different angle that you haven’t thought about could be meaningful and significant enough.
  • For example, imagine your website revolves entirely around cooking, and features various explanations and recipes of different cuisines. If you are a big fan of Italian food, but your target audience lives in Asia, and is mostly interested in Asian food, they would obviously prefer reading more about the latter. On the other hand, do not forget that they still like food and cooking in general. A balanced mixture of content would therefore be a good path to take: You can discuss other cuisines, but keep the bulk of your content about the Asian kitchen. Always keep in mind that in order to make things meaningful and relevant, your content’s balance should lean more towards your audience’s interests and needs.

On a final note, if you acknowledge these points and implement them in an organized manner, sticking to a clear strategy and documentation routine, you will already be ahead of the game.

Mars Media Group’s Marketing Team regularly stays current with the latest Content Marketing trends, and is always on the lookout for more creative and innovative ways to further push the conventional limits.

Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing

Programmatic Media Buying – Trends and Expectations

As year 2015 approaches the finish line, we can already look back and examine how the online media world has behaved so far. While some predictions were less accurate than others, nearly all predictions regarding Programmatic Media Buying turned out to be correct. It is indeed becoming part of the mainstream standard, and sooner than later it will turn into a must-have for advertisers. As many media experts have predicted, Programmatic has started to become a widespread sensation, and the entire industry has already started shifting towards that direction and making proper adjustments.

Here are a few interesting trends that stood out so far in 2015. These have only started gaining proper momentum, and should become even stronger in 2016. It is therefore good to keep them in mind:

Mobile Video Media Buying Goes Programmatic:

According to several researches, Video is the media format most sought after by users.
Demand for video is currently greater than supply, and it seems that as time passes, users seek to see more and more video content. There is a good reason behind YouTube’s popularity, and behind the emergence of platforms such as Vimeo, LiveLeak and Filmon.
Cisco claim that by year 2018, some one million minutes of video are expected to flow through the network every second.
They are not the only company to have similar claims, and with the trend proceeding in that direction, we should see more and more companies investing additional funds in video content and programming.
We have already witnessed this in the past couple of years, with big players such as Amazon, Google and Yahoo, acknowledging this rise of the Video medium, and taking actions accordingly. It should be interesting to follow these major names in the industry, and to keep an eye open for the smaller names, to see how they adjust their game plan to match the growing video content and programming trends.

On the other side of the fence, we have the users. There has also been a great increase from their end, and we gradually see more user-generated video content: In fact, while brand-created videos make up some 17% of content on YouTube and less than 1% on Facebook and Vine – user-generated content makes up 32% of the top videos on YouTube, 17% on Vine and more than 50% on Facebook.
This increase is significant on both sides, and it implies that that video ads, real-time video bidding, and programmatic video advertising are growing, and should continue in that direction.
Video is big in 2015, and only getting bigger. More and more companies are expected to jump on the bandwagon, and production cost will be driven down even further. To deal effectively with the large amount of video content and demand, programmatic media buying and real-time bidding will further be implemented. These trends will make video buying more affordable, easy and efficient.

On the broader scale of things — With mobile already dominating the scene, and with all the video content consumed on mobile devices, we should definitely expect massive usage of Programmatic in that area.

“One-stop-shop” Advertising Platforms will gain popularity:

Along with Programmatic’s shifting into the mainstream, integrative solutions for simplifying media processes have begun emerging. Solutions for self-service real-time bidding and programmatic buying dashboards have become more popular, and are expected to develop even further. Technological developments and specific needs have sped up the development of such platforms. These solutions were required for dealing with several issues that hindered the marketplace’s fast pace, mostly caused by the fragmented advertising ecosystem: Mainly ineffective targeting, inability to calculate advertising ROI, clumsy integration in terms of UI and lack of standardization.

Such platforms have managed to solve these by putting together several ad exchanges and marketing resources under one umbrella. This actually provides a single, user-friendly simplified interface, through which advertisers can manage all their campaigns efficiently. We should also see an improvement in terms of cross-channel and cross-segment efficiency. The data accumulated by users will be provided as feedback to advertisers and help them optimize audience segments and creatives.

Big Data-Driven Targeting will step up

As established, judging by the powerful trends in 2015 so far, it is safe to assume that Programmatic and RTB will only continue to evolve. One of the keys to its fast-paced evolution is the user data that feeds it, optimizes it, and helps to shape and evolve it. Some of the big players in the social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have already begun further implementing segmentation and targeting based on big data. At the same time, third-party big data companies are likely to become key players in the ecosystem. While major companies can afford to invest resources in developing their own big data capabilities, others still need to rely on outsourcing. These big data companies have provided services up until now, and should continue doing so in larger scale, to meet for the growing needs of advertisers that seek to leverage their personalized marketing capabilities. With Programmatic being utilized all over the place, the massive amounts of data could be efficiently processed and analyzed, using machine learning and algorithms to optimize and provide clever insights.

Throughout the past few years, we at MMG have made great efforts in the Programmatic field and set ourselves as a leading force in the industry. This has led us to developing our own strategic buying methods and technologies, positioning us on top of the programmatic buying game.

To hear about MMG’s Programmatic Media Buying solutions, please drop us a line at info@m-m-g.com

 

Online Marketing, Performance Marketing

Content Marketing to Continue Growing

Entering the fourth quarter of 2015, we can see that Content Marketing is indeed continuing to lead the herd, as predicted.

It has been around for some time now, and has made a powerful impact since day one – Mostly due to its cleverly subtle nature and its ability to go viral through social networking.

However, it has only recently been acknowledged as a truly essential and highly effective form of online marketing. With 89% of Content Marketers saying it works and delivers results, Content Marketing really does live up to its title as “The Future of Marketing”.

Here are a few trends and forecasts to keep in mind for the near future of Content Marketing:

1) Annual spend should continue to grow:

With the growing understanding of how much Content Marketing is important, more and more content marketers find themselves abandoning the need to fight for budgets. Instead, they are taken more seriously, are given more funds and accordingly – are expected to deliver better results. In 2013, the budget allocated for Content Marketing in the US was 12.4% of total marketing spend. Two years afterwards, in 2015, the budget is about 23.3%. According to assessments, the budget in 2017 is believed to reach 33.1%.

With the budget allocation continuing to expand, it seems to only be a matter of knowing how to use it wisely. To fully maximize the annual growth, the next step seems to be obtaining the proper expertise and developing industry standards for measurement and optimization.

2) Measurement tools will develop further:

According to several researches, the majority of participants (58%), from various business sectors, believe that Content Marketing is completely measurable. Participants from the media sector have even more faith, as 65% of them believe that Content Marketing can be completely measured.

When asked about the importance of developing tools for further advanced measurement, 66% of total participants responded that they are more likely to invest in measurement tools now than 5 years ago.

The numbers speak for themselves, and it should be interesting to see what the future holds in terms of advanced designated measurement tools.

3) Standardization of the micro-targeting approach:

Targeting, in many aspects, is the bread and butter of online advertising. Digital marketers are always on the lookout for improved and more advanced targeting options. According to assessments, Content Marketing will continue going with the micro-targeting approach, taking it even one step further.

This means that businesses could actually get to connect better with their customers and know them in a more personal and deeper level. From a customer’s point of view, receiving personalized and granular bits of content encourages trust and leads to loyalty. From the business’ point of view, this process results in loyal and highly engaged customers, who remain devoted to the brand. These site personalization technologies, with which we are familiar from the E-commerce world, are now being utilized by other industries for personalizing content distribution to customers. This trend is expected to become more and more popular, and best practices should improve as time goes by – leading to more targeted responses and better results.

Affiliate Marketing, Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing

Display Advertising in 2015

The world of digital advertising never stops changing, and the pace isn’t getting any slower. New technological developments and marketing concepts set the tempo, and it is important to keep up and stay on top of things.

With 2014 already long behind us, becoming familiar with the big picture of 2015’s online marketing trends is quite essential. This includes continued mobile optimization, increased social media spend, and growth in content marketing. However, there are some rather interesting developments in the field of Display Advertising, which are also important to keep in mind:

 

1. Data as a key player: Perhaps one of the more important trends to impact the online advertising world as a whole, and Display Advertising in particular, is related to data itself. Companies are looking more and more into big data-driven analytics to cross-reference between search activity, sales, purchase history, site interactions and browsing habits.

This information allows a better understanding of exactly what their customers are looking for, where they are likely to go next, and what actions they might carry out. Big data analytics and metrics have already begun being an integral part of an online marketer’s agenda, and their role in 2015 should be even more significant.

2. Context will be just as important as the content itself: Another notable prominent development is the understanding that quality content is just as important as its location and surrounding. The awareness to context has been recently growing, and it is expected to skyrocket to new levels in 2015.

Thanks to new and improved data-driven technology, it is now becoming easier to make sure your content reaches audience in the most contextually-relevant places, making it very likely for people to be interested in what you have to say.

3. Cross-device measurement and channel attribution: Understanding exactly which channel has made a conversion has always been relevant. However, major developments in the field have only been made quite recently. Initially, Facebook raised the bar in 2013, with acquiring Microsoft’s online ad serving and measurement service Atlas.

The people at Google haven’t been fiddling around either, and acquired advanced marketing attribution platform Adometry in 2014. These big players have realized the great importance back then, and the rest have started following.

Since 2014, we have seen more and more advertisers and agencies focusing on developing solutions for understanding exactly which channel has brought the lead and made the purchase. This trend should continue and become even stronger throughout 2015, due to technological developments and to a more profound understand of its importance.

The impact should be felt throughout the entire world of digital advertising as a whole, and on each individual marketing channel specifically – including Display. It should make things easier in that regard, and shed some light on precise performance metrics attributed specifically to your Display campaign.

4. Cookies will lose their importance: Up until recently, tracking users was done quite easily, using a simple cookie that followed users around from place to place. However, user behavior has changed, and things are now different: With the strong foothold mobile has gained, many users now regularly browse the web through several different devices, making it difficult to track them with simple cookies.

In addition, awareness to online privacy has grown, and cookies are being disabled more and more often. As a result, ad-tech companies have started developing new tracking tools, and advertisers have begun realizing even more that the information found in a user’s online ID and profile can be quite useful and reliable. Learning how to use this information can lead to more accurate targeting and eventually better performance. We should expect to see significant progress in this direction throughout 2015.

2015 has only kicked off, and it already seems packed with a whole new set of exciting dynamic developments. To keep track of these trends and to make sure you stay on top of the Display Advertising game, contact us at info@m-m-g.com

Affiliate Marketing, In-Game Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing, Social Marketing

Life Time Value (LTV)

Most companies nowadays regard users as their most valuable asset, simply because good, loyal and long-term users are not easy to find. There is no doubt that customers are the bread and butter of every company’s business model. However, too many businesses tend to focus more on transactional customer value, without dedicating enough thought and resources to the user experience that takes place after the conversion.

Needless to say, it is important to invest in making your product or service better. However, it is equally important to focus on finding ways to ensure your existing customers are satisfied, and stay with you for as long as possible after the conversion is made. Otherwise, the cost of acquiring each and every customer can seriously outweigh the amount of revenue that could be made from them. Specifically when referring to the world of mobile applications, in which both users and budgets are plentiful.

So how do you actually measure their value? Quite easily, through LTV (Life Time Value). In a nutshell, LTV describes the amount of profit that could be generated by a customer throughout their lifetime. Many companies are already using this business metric to help them understand how much a customer is really worth to them, in terms of actual revenue. It is broadly based on the concept that investing more money in early stages and ensuring a high-quality experience can help in gaining loyal customers whose increased business and engagement will yield more profits in the long run.

In other words: If you know that a certain customer is three times more valuable, for example, than some other customer, it would be wiser to invest more in the first one and make sure they fulfil their potential. When it comes to the competitive world of mobile applications and games, measuring users’ LTV may be a highly challenging task. However, once you manage to have it figured out, you will be on top of things and know where it would be most effective to invest your attention and marketing budget.

In order to help our partners gain easy access to these useful insights, we have developed a unique technology-driven platform: The LTV Optimizer. By tracking in-app events and analyzing user behavior, this tool finds and targets the optimal users who are most likely to engage as much as possible with a specific game or application. The optimizer features advanced targeting options, and can provide valuable information on users, including OS, device type, category, and country. It can make your life as an advertiser pretty easy, as all optimization is carried out on our end.

Every time a user completes one of the tracking points, their action is measured and evaluated. The points we measure may slightly vary from time to time, but the general idea roughly remains the same. For example, in order to assess a user’s value in a game, these are the typical four stages that are measured:

1) Tutorial completion: The user receives an initial explanation of how to play the game and explores its features.

2) Registration: The user registers and starts playing the game, becoming actively involved in it and engaging with in-app events.

3) Stage completion: After the user becomes initially involved in the game, they continue playing and progressing within the game, completing more and more stages.

4) Significant in-game stage: Eventually, the user reaches a certain point within the game, which is difficult to complete without making an in-app purchase. This is the most crucial stage in terms of ROI, and a user who completes it receives high ranking. These are the optimal users, as they have made an in-app purchase once, and are likely to do so again. This is why they usually receive the highest score.

The more advanced a stage is, the smaller the amount of users who reach it. I.e., some 70%-80% of users reach the first stage, while only 3%-5% reach the final stage.

The optimizer tracks the users’ action in each and every stage, and analyzes the accumulated information. Factors such as in-app events and social engagement are important as well, and are mapped and categorized, along with all other parameters. These are then added up, weighed and measured, and essentially lay the foundation for a comprehensive user profile. The evaluation and ranking are then carried out accordingly, based on the profile. The concept is fairly simple: The higher a user ranking is, the better their engagement with your app.

The in-app behavior analysis is executed in real time, thanks to our proprietary technology, based on complex large-data driven algorithms. The platform’s metrics-based predictions allow precise optimizations to be carried out per our partners’ requirement, according to factors such as performance, user engagement with the app, social interaction, and potential revenue. Knowing in advance which users are likely to receive a high score can assist in ensuring that more marketing efforts and budgets are allocated towards their direction, in terms of reach and segmentation. This will ensure that your apps/games reach the right customers, who will remain active and loyal in the long-run and increase your ROI.

For more information on how to get that edge over others and seize the future, contact us at info@m-m-g.com

Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing, Video Marketing

Real Time Bidding

There is no doubt that real-time bidding has significantly changed the face of online advertising. However, there may still be some confusion regarding what it actually is. To make sure we are all on the same page, let’s break it down:

 

So what exactly is RTB?

Real-time bidding refers to the buying and selling of online ad impressions through real-time auctions that take place during a webpage’s loading time. These auctions are often facilitated by ad exchanges or supply-side platforms.

How does RTB work?

The process is rather simple: As an ad impression is served in a user’s browser, the ad exchange receives information about the page on which the ad is to appear and the user viewing it. The exchange then auctions it off to the advertiser who is willing to pay the highest price for it, and the winning bidder’s ad is then instantly loaded into the webpage. Advertisers typically use demand-side platforms to help them decide which ad impressions to purchase and how much to bid on them. The decision is based on various factors, such as the sites they appear on and the previous behavior of the users loading them. For example, ASOS might recognize that a user has previously visited their site looking at a specific dress. It may therefore be prepared to pay more than Amazon or Best Buy to serve ads to that user. The price of impressions is determined in real time based on what buyers are willing to pay, hence the name “real-time bidding.”

Why Is RTB Important?

Before RTB was introduced, advertisers used websites as a proxy for their ads. If they wanted to reach gamers, for example, they would buy ads on a gaming-related site. Now, since real-time bidding has emerged, they can target their ads to specific users instead, as mentioned in the above example.

Why is real-time bidding good for advertisers?

In one word: Efficiency. With RTB, ad buyers no longer need to work directly with publishers or ad networks to negotiate ad prices and to traffic ads. Using exchanges and other ad technology, they can access a huge range of inventory across a wide range of sites and carefully select only the impressions they find most valuable. Not only does that reduce the number of impressions wasted on the wrong users, but it also minimizes the need for costly and sometimes unreliable human ad buyers.

Is RTB also good for publishers?

Some major publishers regard RTB with caution, as they feel it enables advertisers to pay them less for their inventory. However, as time goes by, they are increasingly becoming more comfortable with it, as exchanges and supply-side platforms enable them to control the minimum prices at which their inventory is sold, often called price floors. This enables publishers to open their ads up to an auction, and at the same time set a reserve price that must be met in order for a transaction to take place. As a result, costs are often cheaper than some traditional advertising forms, such as Google AdWords. All of these make RTB a win-win situation for everyone.

As a technology-driven company that offers real time bidding solutions, we know that this form of marketing keeps on growing as marketers are becoming more and more familiar with it.

If you would like to have that upper hand and ride the RTB wave, simply e-mail us. Our experts will be pleased to assist you, utilizing our practical knowledge and state-of-the-art technology to make sure you are on top of the real time bidding game. Contact us at info@mmg.com.

 

Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing, Social Marketing

Facebook Advertising: What Is It Good For?


Facebook, as most of us probably know, is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload posts, photos and video, and interact with other users in many ways.

As of June 2014, there are more than 1.3 billion active Facebook users.

This large number of users has significant implications in general, but even more significant when it comes to one of its powerful features: Advertising.

The large amount of users that only keeps on growing, combined with the advanced targeting/segmentation options, make advertising on Facebook extremely effective. Unlike other online advertising platforms, which allow you to reach about 38% of your intended audience, with Facebook you reach some 89%.
Ads on Facebook are unique by their nature, and are shown to very specific groups of highly interested/engaged people, on desktop and/or mobile, allowing better market segmentation.

The rapid flow of information on Facebook means that if your ad content is creative and properly targeted, it will receive more likes, comments, and shares. This makes your ad even more popular, and causes friends of friends to see them as well – potentially increasing the reach even further. It is only fair to assume that a friend of a person who has interacted in any way with an ad might share at least some of the same interests, and find the ad relevant as well.

Here are some of the most popular targeting options you can use in Facebook:

1) Location: Probably one of the first options that come to mind. It basically allows you to reach people in cities, countries and communities where you want to do business. For example: If you’re a local business, you can show your ads to people who are near your shop. Currently, Facebook allows you to target between 1-25 countries at once, and to optimize accordingly, based on the local options, Facebook pricing, and competition. In the U.S., for instance, it is possible to use Country, State, City and Zip Codes for narrowing down audience targets. The idea is using a similar ad strategy, but tweaking it and making slight modifications, to increase relevancy even more.

2) Age: Another basic way for increasing relevance between your ad and target audience. Facebook allows you to target people anywhere from the age of 13 to 65 years old. It is also possible to remove the maximum age, and by that – target people older than 65.

3) Gender: As implied by its name, this simple option allows you to choose whether to show your ads to men only, to women only, or to everyone. It may be easily used for campaigns in which the target audience is supposedly clear, such as women’s clothing or men’s perfume. However, in many cases, brands can be relevant to both men and women, and the difference can be in the ad itself and the message that you bring across. It is therefore recommended to test several ad combinations, to see what works best.

4) Precise Interests: With this option, advertisers can target Facebook users who have listed a specific interest on their Timeline. These precise interests are pulled from their Facebook profile activities, interests, job titles, education, groups they belong to, and pages they have liked. It is very powerful, as the users themselves define exactly what interests them. Advertisers can assume that if a Facebook user is interested in a certain reality TV show, for example, it is quite likely that they will find interest in other TV shows of the same nature.

5) Broad Categories: Unlike the “Precise Interests” option, here the users do not define specific things they like. In this case, Facebook creates the categories by looking into the users’ basic information, pages visited in, online activity, etc. Such broad categories could be “Basketball fans”, “People who got married in the past year”, and “Atheists”, for example. The targeted audience here is larger, and it is too broad of an option to be used by itself. However, if combined with other options to narrow it down a bit, it can prove very useful.

6) Connections: This option allows Facebook ads to be targeted according to the relationship a user has with a Facebook page. Advertisers can choose to either include or exclude users, based on their connections. To many, this option is essential and provides advertisers with a tool for achieving the best conversion results with Facebook ads. According to Webtrends, the CTR can be 7 times larger when existing fans of a page are targeted. “Connections should be the number one criteria used by advertisers. Nothing increases a click-through rate more,” said Justin Kistner, Director of Social Products at Webtrends. Another aspect of this option is using the basic social aspect of Facebook: Ads with the “Target friends of connections” option enabled show Facebook users which of their friends already like a certain page, app, or event. An ad may become more relevant to someone if they see that their friends have already interacted with it.

7) Advanced Targeting Options: Several demographic targeting options can be found under the “Advanced” section. Unlike the previously mentioned demographics option, which is based on information the user is required to fill in, this option is based on optional information. The advance options include:

· Interested In: This allows advertisers to target users according to the gender they are interested in for a friendship, dating, a relationship or networking.

· Languages: Best used when targeting an audience that speaks a language that is different from most of the people in the targeted geography.

· Relationship Status: This allows a business to target Facebook users that are married, single, engaged, or in a relationship.

· Education: This option enables the targeting of Facebook users who are in high school, college, or graduates. Businesses can also target Facebook users who went to a specific school, study a specific topic, or the expected graduation date for current college students.

· Workplaces: Targeting Facebook users by where they work can be useful in various B2B, job search, and industry specific scenarios.

Again, these are usually not used as stand-alone options, and can be best utilized for fine tuning and optimizing audience.

In conclusion, Facebook advertising is a great method for reaching highly targeted and relevant audience. If used wisely and according to a well-planned strategy, it can make your message come across and increase your ROI.

 

Online Marketing, Performance Marketing

Sponsored-content, Native Advertising, and The Thin Line In Between

The world of online content has always been dynamic, but in recent years, the changes have become more rapid than ever.

This means that the level of distraction is higher than ever, as many brands use various marketing means in attempt to grab user attention. At the same time, users gradually lose patience and pay less and less attention, ignoring many distractions thrown at their direction. On the other hand, unique and high-quality content surpasses bland and generic content, and actually does the trick. Therefore, putting effort into creating remarkable and engaging content still has great returns, and is probably worth that extra mile.

In this brave new world of content, terms such as corporate journalism, vendor content, brand publishing and custom content are used very often, and are seen almost everywhere.

The term “Native Advertising” plays an important role in the content world terminology.

Native advertising is basically a subset of the content marketing field, in which content is used to build trust and create engagement with potential customers.

A promoted tweet on Twitter or suggested post on Facebook, for example, can be regarded as native advertising. However, it is more commonly referred to as how brands now work with online publications to reach people.

Brands have been doing this since the early days of digital advertising, but mostly through display advertisements and various other promotions. The new native approach is what makes the difference, in this regard.

The key difference between the traditional display ads and native ads is that the latter are part of the flow of editorial content, seamless and native – hence their name.

Publications and content pages that make use of native ads are usually good at ensuring that the quality is of high content. By definition, they work with individual writers or marketers to guarantee that the content feeds a specific audience need, rather than just placing any random content.

The results of this approach speak for themselves: According to research from IPG media lab, “Native ads are viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content and is much more likely to be shared than a banner ad (32% versus 19% of respondents said they would do so).”

These results may resemble those of researches done with “Sponsored Content”, and many people indeed regard the two as interchangeable. Reuters’ Felix Salmon has sketched out what he calls The Native Matrix in order to formalize and clarify the nuances that to his belief make the two different.

According to Salmon, the difference between sponsored content and native ads is that “native content tends to aspire more to going viral” and are generally shared more.

For instance, when a publication such as BuzzFeed works with a brand like Virgin Mobile, they set the goal beyond creating great native content for their users: The plan is for it to go viral, gain hype, and spread throughout the web. Such a thing could not be achieved directly through Display advertising.

According to Go/Digital, even though sponsored content has a reputation for being ignored, some evidence suggests that readers spend equally as much time on sponsored content as they do on news stories. Meredith Levien, the executive vice president of advertising for The New York Times, recently said that “readers of the Times are spending roughly the same amount of time on advertiser-sponsored posts as on news stories… Brands are storytellers and they’re going to tell stories that are tied to what’s happening in the news.”

Sponsored content sits alongside editorial content, and can therefore go a long way in building a brand’s credibility and strengthening its message. However, it is important to keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility: As mentioned, in order for the medium to be effective, the content must be relevant and remarkable, or else the user will lose patience and move along. The distractions are various, and the users’ attention is limited.

In-Game Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing

Shopping Around For Cheap Prices [Not Mobile Payments] Is The Most Popular In-Store Activity Among Mobile Users, Says Google

By Ingrid Lunden, techcrunch.com

Most people may not yet be using smartphones to pay for goods when they are out shopping, but that doesn’t mean that they are not glued to their handsets anyway. Some research out today from Google indicates that among smartphone owners, some 79% can be classified as “mobile shoppers,” using their devices for some aspect of the shopping experience, from finding store locations through to finding goods. On top of that, among those who use smartphones for any kind of shopping or browsing, some 84% do so in physical stores. And when it comes to investing in experiences that consumers like, retailers should stick to mobile web sites: 65% of consumers prefer these to apps.

This means that while we are still slowly inching towards for one of the holy grails of mobile commerce — using devices for actual transactions at the point of sale — there are still plenty of retail opportunities to snag people along the way.

“Some stores promote their expanded inventory online or implement a price match guarantee to retain savings-hungry shoppers. Others are putting smartphones to use with QR codes that share more information about products, or apps with store maps and real-time inventory,” writes Adam Grunewald, Mobile Marketing Manager for Google, in a blog post. “Whatever tactics marketers choose, it’s clear that smartphones are changing the in-store experience, and that winning the key decision moments at the physical shelves mean owning the digital shelves too.”

And while Google didn’t spell this out, this research also speaks to how Google appears to be spending less time these days pushing its own mobile wallet solutions, and more time presenting itself as an enabler of more holistic mobile shopping experiences.

Working with retail research group M.A.R.C. Research, the Google Shopper Council surveyed some 1,500 consumers who indicated that they use their smartphones for some form of shopping activity. Apart from finding that the vast majority of them use the devices in stores, they found the average time spent on shopping-related activities devices was around 15 minutes. Within that, the most popular service was not so much shopping, as it was shopping around: some 53% of respondents said that they used their devices for price comparison searches. The second-most popular service was closely related: it was looking for offers and promotions (39%). After that it was store practicalities — finding store locations (36%) and opening hours (35%).

Google and M.A.R.C. also looked into how users were using handsets in the lead up to going to stores. As you would expect, some of those practicalities around store logistics are more popular at that time. (These results also closely mirror some of the predictions that Google made about how mobile shopping was likely to play out in the months ahead.)

In reality, retailers potentially are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to mobile commerce. Short of them gaining the expertise and making the investment to capitalize on this themselves, there are a number of third parties tackling the opportunity of targeting shoppers who use mobile devices, and capitalizing on it. Startups like Shopkick, which in January of this year told me it was already profitable, has built a business partnering with major retailers like Best Buy and Target to offer users deals on goods while they are in store, with the offers pushed to them just as they are in the vicinity of the products. Shopkick says that usage of its app contributed to some $200 million in sales in 2012.

On the other hand, there are others that are actually seizing the opportunity afforded by smartphone usage to offer users cheaper alternatives that can be found via e-commerce channels. When Amazon launched its price check app in 2011 — a way for shoppers to quickly look up items just before buying them in store to see if they can find cheaper alternatives online (and on Amazon) — Forbes noted that it “may be evil, but it’s the future.”

The Google research seems to indicate that there is a clear opportunity to target avid smartphone users, as well as to encourage people to use their smartphones more: in general people using their mobile devices for shopping turn out to be bigger shoppers in general, with those buying health and beauty products increasing their median “basket size” the most, by some 50%. (Incidentally, Google doesn’t give any breakdowns between how males and females fare in these categories.)

In the wider world, apps have come to dominate how many interface with their mobile devices, but interestingly when it comes to retailers, mobile web experiences appear to be preferable to consumers. This may be because it is far more likely that a user will just want to look up information about something quickly rather than take the time to download an app in order to obtain information. Unlike Instagram, e-mail or your favorite game, it may be less likely that you will be returning to a retailer’s app on a regular basis enough to merit parking it on your handset.

Some of the research seems too directly self-serving to Google’s own interests — for example the stat that some 82% of mobile shoppers use mobile search to help make purchase decisions. But on the whole some interesting insights into the ever-growing connection between our smartphones and our wallets. The full research report can be found here

 

Affiliate Marketing, Mobile Advertising, Online Marketing, Performance Marketing, Social Marketing

Google, Yahoo ad networks fund online piracy websites, USC report claims

Article by Andrew Couts, Digital Trends.com

A report from the University of California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab claims that Google, Yahoo, and others are helping fund online piracy through advertising – a claim Google says is “mistaken.”

Google and Yahoo are among the top ten largest contributors of advertising revenue to websites that facilitate online piracy, according to a report released Thursday by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. A similar report will be released by the USC Lab each month.

Online and mobile advertising network Openx, which was backed by AOL Ventures, topped the report’s list, while Google came in at number two. Yahoo, and its ad exchange Right Media, ranked sixth, followed by Quantcast, another major player in online analytics and advertising.

The report’s rankings were based off of the number of “top infringing sites” on which code from these ad networks were found.

While Google landed one of the highest profile spots on the Annenberg list, the search giant provided the researchers the components for their ammunition. Google’s own Transparency Report, which lists the domains that have received the most Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown requests, filled out the report’s top piracy website list. Further, the report was inspired by a study, “The Six Business Models of Copyright Infringement,” funded by Google and PRS for Music on Brands, which found that peer-to-peer websites that feature illegally distributed content received 86 percent of their revenue from advertising.

Jonathan Talpin, director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and a former film industry executive, does not hide his motivation for releasing the report.

“Large pirate sites distribute illegal content and continue to steal trademarked, copyrighted content and siphon millions of dollars away from the creative community, making it much harder for artists to make a living,” said Talpin in a statement. “We do not believe that government regulation alone is the answer to the Piracy problem, but rather that the self-regulation of major sectors like the online advertising industry could make it harder for the ‘Kim Dotcom’s’ of the world to unfairly exploit artists. We look forward to working with advertising agencies and networks in the coming months to address this issue.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the fight against online piracy is a personal one for Talpin, whose friend, musician Levon Helm, was forced to go back on tour to pay for throat cancer treatment after the rise of pirate sites like LimeWire and The Pirate Bay.

“All musicians know … why their incomes have plummeted,” Talpin told the L.A. Times. “Everyone knows piracy has destroyed the music business.”

Despite Google’s data being used in the Lab’s report, the company says that it believes the researchers are a “mistaken” in their findings, and asserts that it has been a leader in the fight against online piracy. Long criticized by the Hollywood entertainment industry for its role in the online piracy ecosystem, the search giant announced last August that it would begin pushing websites accused of copyright infringement further down in its search results.

“We have not seen a copy of this report and don’t know the methodology, but to the extent it suggests that Google ads are a major source of funds for major pirate sites, we believe it is mistaken,” a Google spokeswoman told Digital Trends in an email. “Over the past several years, we’ve taken a leadership role in this fight, partnering with industry organizations to cut off the flow of money to piracy sites, as well as investing significant time and money to keep copyright-infringing content out of our network.”

“The complexity of online advertising has led some to conclude, incorrectly, that the mere presence of any Google code on a site means financial support from Google,” the spokeswoman concluded.

Yahoo did not deny that ads served through its Rights Media Exchange business have ended up on piracy websites. But it did say that it has rules in place to stop the flow of advertisements to “sites that violate laws or Exchange Policies,” and will stop running ads on those sites once it has been notified of such a situation.

“Our customers are contractually obligated to comply with our Exchange policies, which specifically prohibit introducing content that appears to promote unauthorized use or reproduction of material that is covered by copyright law,” said a Yahoo spokesperson in an email with Digital Trends. “We take several active steps to enforce this policy using a combination of targeting technology and human intervention to locate, isolate and eliminate suspect sites. Once we detect sites that violate Exchange Policies, we block them from receiving ads via the Exchange immediately. When we are notified about ads serving via the Right Media Exchange on sites that violate laws or Exchange Policies, we investigate and block the sites as appropriate.”

The Annenberg Innovation Lab was not immediately available for comment.

Here is the Lab’s top-ten ad networks that help fund piracy:

1. Openx
2. Google (including Double Click)
3. Exoclick
4. Sumotorrent
5. Propellerads
6. Yahoo (including Right Media)
7. Quantcast
8. Media Shakers
9. Yesads
10. Infolinks