Posts By: Jack

When outdoor and online ads collide

I’ve been fascinated by the way online and outdoor digital display ads have gradually grown so similar to each other. While it’s important to create specifically for a medium’s unique strengths, if you’re creating a video or animation for digital outdoor ads, it makes sense to think about using it for online ads too – if you aren’t already. You’ll get even more mileage out of your creative asset.

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Online ads are brilliant

Now is the time for all brands to rethink the point and use of online display ads.

I’ve seen two opinion pieces recently about online display advertising, Jonathan Briggs’ piece asking whether online ads are outdated and James Erskine asking why brands persist with banners and MPUs. Both arguments are interesting but are based on clickthrough rates, failing to include data on brand metrics, engagement and offline, as well as online, sales.

Brand metrics, engagement and offline sales

Clickthrough is a useful stat, god knows how addicted I am to monitoring clicks. I love clicks. The problem with clickthrough though, is that it only tells a tiny, tiny part of the story. If I were a brand like Nestle or Cadbury running a campaign to sell chocolate bars and no one clicked on my online display ad – not a dickie bird – but I’d spent £200k on 60 million online display impressions, resulting in people knowing the bar was on sale, were x% more tempted to try it and a week later 2 million people did buy it, would I not be happy? I’d be over the bloody moon!

In fact, Cadbury have gone on record to say that they can make £3 for every £1 spent online. There are thousands of other case studies that prove online advertising’s effectiveness. Burberry is one that saw its revenue jump by 18% on the back of an online campaign.

Now is the time to rethink online display

It’s 2011 and online ads are a billion miles away from what they were in the past. They can carry high quality imagery, animation, video, interactivity like games and forms, and yes, you can click on them. What I would suggest, however, is that you approach them as if you are buying content space on another site.

I believe online ads’ biggest strength is in delivering a brand message. If you want purely direct response, perhaps email, search, affiliate and lead generation are some better options. However, online display ads are brilliant at delivering this too if you plan correctly. The best direct response ads I’ve seen online include all of the response mechanisms in the ad without the need to go to another site, like the O2 ad I showed on this blog a couple of years ago (on the right).

Please, please, please let’s all, as an industry, make this the year that we stop questioning online ads’ effectiveness based solely on clickthrough.

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When brands become broadcasters

Debenhams TV

On 10th January, Britney Spears’ latest single, Hold It Against Me, premiered on iTunes and other online mp3 shops to buy before it was played anywhere. Interestingly, Britney’s single instantly went to number one in the US without any prior airing on radio or online. It was the brand, hype and immediate praise on social media that sent it to the top.

This is one example of a growing trend where brands understand how online turns them into extremely capable broadcasters in their own right, able to significantly build brand themselves alongside paid-for activity.

Using your online presence for brand building broadcast

Britney Spears and retailer Debenhams share one thing in common: they both have a massive audience already. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people visit both of these brands’ sites, sign-up to email newsletters and engage with their social network presence each month. In reality, brands have always been broadcasters because of newsletters and websites, even using high street window displays. However, the last 12 months have seen brands turn a corner because of social media and online video use.

An online presence will rarely exist in isolation from other media and paid-for advertising, but what Britney Spears has learnt is that by placing online at the centre of an integrated marketing campaign, it’s possible to use your own audience for brand marketing. Clearly Debenhams understands this too. It recently invested in a vast amount of video content for its website (using AdjustYourSet), which can also be found on its Facebook page.

“Today is a showcase to the industry to demonstrate that Ben De Lisi [range of products] isn’t about restraint, restraint, restraint”, says De Lisi in one of the recent Debenhams videos. This is clear brand building activity on Debenhams’ own website, and one that well produced online video is brilliant at delivering. Even SME’s are using it, like 5 Minute Angels – an in-office massage company – who’ve experienced an increase in sales enquiries since adding a brand building video to their site.

Can your brand become a better broadcaster?

Online offers a suite of marketing tools, and a brand’s own online presence is one of them. In 2011, due to the growing use of social media and online video, we’re witnessing an adjustment of use of the brand online presence.

As a result, brands like Whiskas, Marks & Spencer and Lady Gaga have successfully turned their own online presence into a broadcast channel. Yours can too, but to act like a broadcaster you also have to think like one.

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10 Things Brands Should Already Be Doing Online

Changes to online advertising over the last 12 months have forever altered how marketers should use the internet. Improved tools, better metrics, greater understanding and new businesses have created a number of new opportunities for brands. Below I’ve listed ten of them…

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5 Tips for Improved Facebook Brand Pages

Smirnoff Facebook PageEarlier this year I co-authored the IAB and Microsoft’s Search & Social Media report with the delightful Amy Kean. Included in this I wrote about brands considering social network pages instead of microsites. Benefits include strong SEO performance and potentially improved user experience because people inherently know how to use the likes of Facebook.

Over the weekend I conducted a sweep of over fifty brand Facebook pages. A minority like Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and other retail, FMCG and electronic brands have clearly thought out pages that have obviously received a fair amount of invested time and money. The majority however looked like they need a little helping hand.

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Is social media the most ‘social’ media?

Social media lets us physically view a record of actual social interactions, which is marvellous. However, as leading social media practitioners know, of more interest are the reasons people socialise in the first place.

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Revelation that online video brand recall is higher at work

Online video brand recall at work and homeNew IAB and Sky Video Ad Effectiveness research reveals that brand recall is higher at work (44%) than at home (39%), which suggests an incredible new opportunity for reaching consumers with brand messaging at their most receptive: in the work-place.

Consumer mindset and the importance of content quality and type

The research, conducted by agency Decipher, states the reason for this uplift in recall is due to differing mindsets. At work, people are highly focussed on the task at hand because they have limited time to visit an online video and watch what they have selected. While at home, people are more relaxed, have more time to browse around and there are more distractions.

Consumer receptivity to online video advertising depending on frame-of-mind is incredibly important, directly affecting campaign success. Viewers are 10% more likely to recall an ad if they enjoyed the content, highlighting the importance of advertising around quality, relevant content.

Type of content also matters, recall was higher around news, entertainment, sport, music, TV preview or movie trailers and then user generated clips respectively. Actively searching for an ad also aids recall, with referrals from friends delivering best (53%), actively looking for the clip second (48%) and just browsing last (39%).

At least 84% of the UK internet audience watches online video each month according to comScore and this study fits nicely into the picture as further evidence of the channel’s strengths. Evidently some advertisers already see this with investment in advertising around video content growing by 82% in the first half of this year, the fifth successive half-yearly increase (IAB / PwC AdSpend H1 2010).

What should advertisers do?

Advertisers should be capitalising on the reach online video offers now, paying particular attention to the work-place. Online video is uniquely positioned to deliver TV-like brand messaging in an environment where people are most receptive. Existing TV ad creative works in this environment as long as it is relevant to the viewer, and placement around highly sought-after or shared quality clips can deliver higher than average results.

Work-place, relevant placement and quality is a killer combination for online video brand campaigns and advertisers should begin planning this premium ad inventory into their schedules. Of course, with online targeting, you can do all of this with minimal waste too, as you target the exact demographic audience you need. This is another example of how you can use the portfolio of internet advertising tools to build brand.

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Online video content a top priority

If there’s one obvious trend across the web, it’s the move to premium video content bymost major publishers, often those with a traditionally static offering.For instance, News of the World hasannounced it will be moving behind a paywall with exclusive video content as its biggest draw (source, NMA).

News of the World joins revamped sites like BBC News, AOL, CBS, IGN, Microsoft and many, many more that are forcing their video content to the forefront of their offerings – no doubt driven by the huge demand from their users.

One look across the homepages of these sites and you’ll find video content immediately, now in many cases with “top 10” most watched videos alongside most read articles.

Over the next 6 months I predict that you will start to hear far more announcements from major publishers about video content becoming a top priority for them. For brands, this is fantastic news because there are far more places to run your pre-roll ads against high quality content.

In the US, video advertising is booming with 3.6 billion online video ads watched in July this year, reaching almost half of the US population. Back in the UK and we’re in the midst of the start of our very own online video boom that’s only going to get louder.

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Google’s trademark change is common sense

Google’s new trademark policy – in place from the 14th September – is a big deal that changes the way paid search is bought but it’s also common sense that will ultimately result in a better experience for users.

The policy allows qualifying advertisers to not only bid on other companies’ brand trademarks (a change made on 5th May 08), but to now include the trademarked term in the ad text. Primarily it means resellers of a product, companies that sell spare parts or compatible products, and information sites like reviews and news can now include trademarked terms in ad copy. For instance, a search for ‘Dell Streak’ could result in paid search ads for the product from a range of other non-Dell sites, like online shops and review sites, without asking Dell for their permission.

All changes to Google’s trademark policy affect brands but are mainly about improving user experience and choice. When a user searches for a ‘Breville Cordless kettle’ for instance, they may be looking for reviews, opinion, comparisons etc. In fact, to be presented with alternative options is actually a good thing from a consumer perspective. A ‘real life’ example would be securing shelf space in a shop. When you go to B&Q’s drill aisle looking for Black & Decker parts, you’re also presented with a range of relevant products.

User experience is echoed in one of the caveats Google has announced, that the only ads to be considered for removal will be those that don’t adhere to the new guidelines or, if they do, those that confuse users. For instance, a site advertising a brand of mobile phone when the site you clickthrough to doesn’t actually sell it won’t be allowed. Nor would a car manufacturer be allowed to mislead users by claiming to have information on a competitor brand in order to generate traffic when in fact it has none.

Brands will potentially face competition on trademark terms previously reserved for their exclusive use in ad text but there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. There may be increases in auction costs for brands on their own trademarked terms, but they are likely to be marginal thanks to Google’s own quality score and relevance system. This ensures the most relevant sites to the search term are up weighted in paid results, significantly reducing cost. A Nokia website will almost always be the most relevant site for that trademark for instance. Likewise, if a user is genuinely only interested in a particular brand site, they will still clickthrough – if they don’t, they probably had an alternative motive for searching in the first place.

The change is in line with European law and will be rolled out across the UK, Canada and Ireland, bringing each territory up-to-speed with the US’ year old policy. In many ways, this move shouldn’t really be a surprise for any brand using search marketing. The best place for full information is Google’s own FAQ.

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Experience Paradox

There has been a surge of industry commentary recently encouraging people to share case studies and research in areas like search, video and social media marketing – I’m guilty of pestering hundreds of marketers myself. The reason is because those of us asking know that we only improve in one of two ways: 1) personal experience 2) shared experience. When we ask for case studies and research in marketing the point is to speed experience across the whole market by sharing.

Frustratingly, very few people want to share what they’ve learnt openly, restricting overall market knowledge and in the long term, potentially their own knowledge as a result. An individual withholding lessons learnt maintains a competitive advantage initially but limits an overall community’s progress, slowing the community’s learning, and in turn slowing the further learning of the individual. This is the experience paradox. Often the result is slow growth or a single market leading monopoly.

To give away your experience is to give away your business. Or is it? The instant after you share, you personally are always worse off while the people you shared with are better off. This is clear-cut if you only think about the present and you ignore the nature of humans. By sharing with a community it’s more likely others will share too – particularly if you agree beforehand – and suddenly that particular community, and its members, is in a much stronger position.

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