How to Make Ads People Will Like

Can you make ads people will actually like?

Yes, it can be done.

The TL;DR: Provide useful information. Provide convenience. Build trust. Don’t chase people.

The story behind this, for those who prefer storytelling:

We’re turning over the model year in the US auto industry, and when that happens manufacturers and dealers will up their advertising spend. Traditionally, auto advertising has been brand advertising, and auto ads are part of the American popular culture. You’ve seen it, “the all new 2019 Toyota,” driving along a wooded road next to a cliff.

With the model year turnover will come the expiration of my own car lease, and as a result I’ve begun to start looking at ads, reading Edmunds, KBB, and Consumer Reports, and considering my options. I’ve been looking at brand ads all year without seeing them, and now that I actually SEE them, I am focusing on what I want to know about each brand.

With all the consumer research the auto industry does, I believe it still does not do a good enough job presenting information to people like me, the customer who is actually “in the market.” What do I want to see in the car ad?

1)What kind of visibility does this automobile offer? This could be presented in a video or a VR experience. And yet the only videos I’ve seen in auto ads are cars hugging curves, or golden retrievers driving Subarus.

2)Is the seating comfortable, and how much do I have to pay for lumbar support, adjustable seats, and other “creature comforts?”

3)What is the gas mileage?

4)How quickly does the car gain speed when entering a freeway?

5)What technology is in this car, both for driver assist and for handoff from my devices?

Instead of presenting this information to me online either a native ad on a car site or in an interactive format,  the outmoded goal of a car ad  is just to get me to the showroom, where history has already taught me I will have the experience I had a few days ago.

Customer: does this car have adjustable seats?

Sales associate: Not this model. It’s an upgrade

Customer: does this car have Apple Play?

Sales associate: not on this model

Customer: thank you (heads for the car)

Sales manager running after customer, sport coat flapping: Wait!

Customer: Why?

Sales manager: Aren’t  you even willing to look at some numbers?

Customer: No. The car doesn’t have what I want.

Sales manager: Yeah, but Dave doesn’t get compensated by the hour. He only gets compensated by the sale. You just wasted his time!

Customer: Twitter will hear about this.Picks up cell phone to Tweet.

Lesson: Don’t use your ads to get people to the showroom. Instead, use them for information purposes. Real information will not be rejected by customers, and it will help you identify the RIGHT customers without stalking them through either data privacy infractions or following them out into traffic.

 

Contextual Advertising and Trust

Marketers are increasingly likely to buy media that consumers trust, that they believe is giving them good value for what they pay, and that their target audiences engage with.  Although that should always have been the case, there’s now a name for this: the flight to quality.

The flight to quality pulls consumers toward publishers who have reader trust that they can “share,” almost like a halo effect, with an advertiser. Last year Galaxy Research, an Australian company, interviewed nearly 3000 Australians to see what kind of media they trusted most. For people 18 and older, the highest levels of trust were in movie ads and newspaper ads, and the lowest  levels of trust were in social. TV and digital news scored in the middle.

One Australian consumer went so far as to say that “I trust the newspapers and their websites to only accept reputable advertising.”

On the other hand, since the American election, there is a new global awareness of the problem of fake news and the spread of digital misinformation like wildfire through networks. This is a problem for both publishers and advertisers, as the Galaxy study showed that greater trust in ads translates to greater purchase intent.

Most apparent in the study was the general decline of trust in all media and all ads by people who are above 55. These people still trusted newspapers the most, but their level of trust was higher for community and local papers than for national papers. They also trusted radio.

Anecdotally, this translates to a high level of trust for “talk radio” in the American 55+ population, and its subsequent support by major national brands.

Given the fact that this study was done in Australia and completed before the revelations of Cambridge Analytica, a surprising fact was the low level of trust consumers of any age placed in social media advertising. One consumer said “So many frauds and scammers on social media at the moment and really no way to be sure the advertisement is legit or not.”

What does this mean? For us it means that advertisers want to buy media whose messages are trusted by consumers. Greater trust in content leads to greater trust in ads, which leads to greater intent to purchase. And news media, both print and digital, have highly trusted content and ads.

As Galaxy says, “brands are known by the company they keep.”

 

Zuckerberg Testimony Will Change Advertising

One of the most amusing aspects of watching Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress was the wide-ranging knowledge or lack thereof about Facebook ads, and about digital advertising in general. While Zuckerberg sat there for almost two days trying to answer questions completely and explain complex subjects, such as artificial intelligence and the extent it can be useful in detecting fake accounts or fake news, many of the senators and representatives, playing for the galleries, kept asking “gotcha”-type questions that they wanted answered yes or no.

But the big issues, after the Congressional committees got off the initial subject of Facebook Analytica, revolved around selling and collecting data. Most of the questions revealed that Congress actually thought Facebook sold user data, when what it sells is really the ability to target ads narrowly using the data it possesses. Zuck tried to explain and define that several times. This sounds like a minor point, but it is a big distinction that differentiates Facebook from data brokers, and it seemed the one Congress was most focused on after it received assurances that  Cambridge Analytica can’t happen again because the platform is locked down for developers.

For our industry, the other big questions were about the gathering and retention of data. I lost track of how many times committee members asked how soon it would be possible to delete their data. In vain he told them over and over that the feature already existed.  Then, they asked him why the deletion couldn’t take place immediately. But when he began to explain backup servers and why data could be held for a week or two after the account was deleted, they lost interest in the details.

Legislators also asked Zuckerberg about new data protection regulations that are about to go into effect in Europe May 25, and whether Facebook would comply. He said they were already set up to comply. When asked whether American users would get the same protections, Zuckerberg said they would, because Facebook was rolling out GDPR protections globally. But then he was asked whether that would happen on May 25, and he said no.

This hearing opened a big can of worms for the digital advertising industry, or at least for companies that collect and handle user data to be used for advertising. Many larger companies have already begun to comply with GDPR and it would be very difficult  if the US Congress decides to adopt  different set of regulations. That doesn’t seem likely in the near term, as Congress can’t agree on how to regulate these companies, many whom have armies of lobbyists.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was open to regulation, but that the devil was in the details and he’d be glad to be involved in helping Congress regulate the use of personally identifiable information. Of course Facebook has the resources to devote to this.

Zuckerberg may be the visible whipping boy, but whatever is enacted will affect all internet companies that keep data. Look for the rebirth of advertising based on context and content, much like TV ads.

 

 

 

 

 

Martech Has to Change Again

A number of trends have converged in our minds this week to convince us that marketing has to change — AGAIN. A pendulum has swung too far without us noticing it, and it’s about to hit us in the face as it swings back if we aren’t careful.

Here are six trends that point to the need for change:

1) the #MeToo moments that have altered the career trajectories of a number of (mostly male) influencers,

2) the publication of Clayton Christensen’s new book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, with its core theory that we hire a product or service to do a job, and products and services must be designed to be hired by the right customers,

3) the growth of the mindfulness movement in Silicon Valley, with entrepreneurs who have made it going off on ten-day silent retreats and starting organizations to curtail the influence of companies they helped to build,

4) the disillusionment all of us early adopters feel about social media, especially Facebook, especially after young, red-headed Christopher Wylie exposed how our own personal data was used against us. This includes a plaintive post by Brian Solis about taking control back, and a five-year old crusade by Randi Zuckerberg to put digital technology into perspective for our children,

5) the coming of the values-driven Millennial generation into the job and consumer markets (hint: they buy on values)

6) and, the upcoming launch of the Global Data Privacy Regulation in May.

These are big events that don’t leave marketers untouched.

For the past two decades, we’ve been focused on becoming data geeks in the marketing department. Old style CMOs were forced out by quants, and the goal was to get “more accurate data” about where the”customer” was on her “journey” to buying our product.

But one thing data has overlooked is values, and I believe values will be the most important piece of marketing in the future. Companies will have to declare their values and live by them. And this is not a mission statement that gets put up on the office wall in the break room. Values are different. You can’t lie about your values, because they’ll show and customers will know. Southwest values employees, Starbucks values connectedness, RichRoll.comvalues a healthy lifestyle.

Once companies have figured out what their values really are, marketers will be able to begin the search for human beings who naturally align with the company’s values, and turn those people into customers. It should be easy, because it converts what used to be a sales process into a reaching out and calling to the people who naturally value what you have to offer.

Wouldn’t it be cool if marketing evolved again from shoving things on customers, to prying into peoples’ lives to find out more about them, to naturally aligning with people who already share our values — for whom we’re the right product or service for the job they want done?

Where is Video Most Effective? Not Facebook

Last year, we wrote about the expense involved in producing good video content, and the pivot to video that threw sites like Mic and Mashable into financial disarray. They were producing that video content for Facebook at great expense.

With all the focus on video, advertisers began to look at video as a place to run their ads. But mobile video ads only work in certain circumstances, and they have to be really relevant and interactive. Consumers don’t visit sites for advertising, they visit for good content, or to fill a need.

That’s why interactive formats are a better solution for effective mobile advertising. Pre-roll and mid-roll, although they are often valued by advertisers, are actually less effective and more annoying to consumers. And  brand ads work better than direct advertising in video.

 

It took a while for the industry to get their arms around how to deploy both video and video advertising. It’s evolving as a format that, like text and photography, has its pluses and minuses. It isn’t the ultimate route to engagement. Now we have seen Facebook, which for the past couple of years has been emphasizing video, decide that in 2018 it will allow less video in newsfeeds.

In a recent article for Wired Magazine, Facebook’s Adam Mosseri explains the changes.

There will be less video. Video is an important part of the ecosystem. It’s been consistently growing. But it’s more passive in nature. There’s less conversation on videos, particularly public videos.

This is primarily trying to help newsfeed deliver on its core promise of bringing people together, about connecting people with stories from their friends and family that matter to them. But also content that’s not from friends, right? You might have a really engaging conversation with someone who shares interests in a group, for instance.

But connecting people with each other is the value proposition on which our company was built in a lot of ways. So I do think that it’s consistent with what our values have been for a long time. But it’s really about creating more good—helping newsfeed become a place where there’s a vibrant, healthy amount of interaction and discussion. It’s less about reducing any sort of problematic content types, which is another area of work that we focus on intently.

What does the pivot away from video on Facebook’s part signify?

Nothing for the rest of us. Facebook has a special reason for existing, which is to connect people. Over the years, it has constantly experimented. Its users, however, are tiring of this kind of experimentation, and we believe that the last election turned off many American (substitute high economic value) consumers. Those consumers will go back to the publishers they respect and admire, although perhaps not on Facebook. They will engage with ads that are relevant and informative.  Some of those ads will come from publishers, who will now have to pay (like everyone else) to reach Facebook users.

 

 

Happy Holidays!

As we close out this frenetic year of 2018, we can’t help noticing how the bulk of the digital ad industry is located on the east and west coasts. And yet, the bulk of consumers, especially for b2c brands, are located in what we variously refer to as the heartland or the flyover zones.

As we have learned from extensive election polling and voting trends, politicians have paid a big price for ignoring those populations. How can we make sure the advertising industry doesn’t do the same?

We don’t think it’s just a matter of targeting, of artificial intelligence, of programmatic buying, header bidding, or any other jargon word.

Rather, it’s time for the people who create and buy advertising to get to know other Americans — ones who don’t necessarily share our beliefs but also buy toothpaste and toilet paper, cars and coffee. Once we know our fellow Americans we will make fewer mistakes with our targeting, and we’ll produce better creative that respects the people it is aimed at. It’s the one way we can reach back into the past for the positive things about advertising — the way it drew Americans together and created unified experiences that have since become fragmented.

I’m not saying any amount of advertising can heal the wounds opened during the past year. But as we rejoin our families and begin to celebrate the joyous festivals that are Christmas and Hanukkah, we also ought to think of and consider the Muslims among us, the Hindus with their Diwali, and indeed those of no particular religious belief.

We ought to take this season to draw them to us, and to begin a process of acceptance and healing that comes from The Golden Rule. Do not do anything to someone else that you wouldn’t want done to yourself. That’s a paraphrase, because the rule is stated slightly differently in every religion.

Advertising can help rebuild bonds with its creative; this is what advertising is good at. The need for brand advertising never goes away, not even at Christmas, so let’s bear in mind that the right creative can work for the public good, making a win-win that could start 2018 on the right foot.

We at ZEDO and ZINC wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons, no matter which ones you celebrate, or choose not to celebrate.

In-App Advertising Must Be Interactive

In the past couple of years, more publishers than ever have pivoted to video. They did that to prepare for the big moment when TV ads would migrate to digital media, and they wanted to be ready.They made the mistake of thinking that similar formats and business models would translate. But they don’t.

MG Siegler, a Google VC who follows media, has already noticed the shift and writes about it here:

At the same time, we’ve spent the past couple of years watching content site after content site “pivot to video”. Why? Not so much because video is great — it can be great, but often isn’t the ideal format for content — but more because, to quote Willie Sutton, “that’s where the money is.” That is, large content sites have reached the bounds of monetization at scale for text. The real money in advertising, as everyone knows, is in video — because it’s the form on which television has survived and thrived.

And so everyone has been waiting for all of this video advertising — again, television advertising — to move online en masse. That was what “pivot to video” was all about. Video content just waiting there with open arms to embrace the TV ads when they inevitably make the jump.

But again, what if that jump isn’t coming? Not because these sites/services can’t provide scale — obviously they can — but because the era of dominance for that format is ending?

We’ve known for a long time that something new was coming. Perhaps it is the 6-second commercial, as several brands are attempting. But perhaps it is a combination of options including better creative in brand advertising, and better incentives to consumers for watching ads. Consumers on mobile phones using apps are a different breed of cat.

We already know that consumers are willing to sit through ads at home for live sports. It’s one of the only instances in which they will. However, eventually that, too, will stop unless advertising during live sports becomes as good as it is during the SuperBowl, in which brands reward fans with memorable creative that is often as good or better than the game itself.

But consumers have now moved to smartphones, and spend most of their time there. Not every day is the SuperBowl.

So the best way to make consumers watch ads is to reward or incentivize them, and that’s another thing advertisers are trying, especially with in-app advertising. Rewards-based ads are ads that allow a consumer to get a benefit from seeing or from interacting with an ad. Brands have used them to reward consumers with coupons and discounts.

But why just require users of an app on their smartphones just to watch a video? For brand recognition, we think it’s important that they interact with the brand. And At ZINC, we have a way.

 

Brand Advertising That Leads to Conversions

If you are wondering why Facebook is grabbing so much of the online ad spend, it’s because the company does more research into what makes ads work than most brands do, and it makes its research available to brands. But what makes a digital ad work isn’t just buying into Facebook’s targeting mechanism, which is getting the company in trouble right now and may ultimately lead to new federal regulations. It’s what we’ve always said it is: good creative.

According to the most recent research,  there are 7 elements of a good ad:

  • Focal point : The image has one obvious focal point
  • Brand link : How easy is it to identify the advertiser?
  • Brand personality : How well does the ad fit with what you know about the brand?
  • Informational reward : Does the ad have interesting information?
  • Emotional reward : The ad appeals to you emotionally
  • Noticeability : While browsing online, this image would grab your attention
  • Call to action : This ad urges you to take a clear action

These seven elements were used to rate over 1500 ads that ran on Facebook. Some of the elements were more useful to direct response advertisers, but for brand marketers the ads that scored highest were the ones that appealed to the audience emotionally, and had a clear link back to the brand. They also had to grab attention, which is not the same as being viewable.

Based on this research, conveying a clear brand story is really important, so a clear “brand link” is key. A brand logo, or in Bud Light’s case, iconic packaging, works well here. When developing online creative, a brand should know what it represents and know to leverage existing brand awareness. When it comes to “brand personality,” it’s really important that a brand understands who its consumers are and communicates with them consistently through their creative.
One consumer packaged good ad that we rated for this research lacked this brand connection, and the results suffered. The ad featured an engaging, people-focused image, but the ad copy and the image weren’t clearly related to the brand. If you saw the image from the ad, you’d have no clear idea of what brand or industry the ad came from. The creative ended up scoring 30% less than average in both “brand link” and “brand personality.” The sole element for which the creative scored higher than average was emotional reward. But that’s probably because of the excited expressions of the people in the image.
Bottom line: it doesn’t matter how precise your targeting is if you do not have a compelling brand story and content that “grabs” the attention of a scrolling reader. Yet the ad must grab attention in a positive way, not the way too many of us have been grabbing it — by forcing the viewer to watch the ad without any emotional reward.
We in the industry still have much to learn about digital advertising’s effectiveness, especially about digital video, since it’s so new. Let us show you some of our innovative brand formats.

 

 

To Avoid Fines, Buy Carefully

We recently had breakfast with the head of a regional advertising agency in the Southwest. After he finished telling us about how much native advertising and influencer marketing he was doing, he told us about how he also buys advertising beyond the social platforms to reach specific niches. Of course he does that programmatically.  These are the sort of cross-channel campaigns we read about in marketing blogs.

And yet he had never heard of the European law taking effect about 8 months from now, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that will probably change the advertising business globally. “As of next May, if advertisers have not obtained specific consent from individuals, they cannot market to them in any shape or form,” writes Ad Exchanger, one expert source on programmatic advertising. Ad exchanges, its core constituency, stand to lose most when these regulations take effect.

Although the world sometimes seems pretty small, especially to mobile Millennials, most day-to-day American advertising decisions are not made with European consumer data in mind, even though many marketers do have customer data on European citizens who have bought their products.

The EU’s new privacy rules are likely to disrupt the global digital marketing scene by preventing companies from using an EU citizen’s data unless they have obtained their direct consent. This will apply to the data of every EU citizen, regardless of where in the world their data is being used or stored. This means that US companies, such as Facebook and Google, which no doubt possess a large amount of EU citizen data, will have to pay attention to the regulation across the pond and take the same steps as everyone else to become compliant.

Come next May, if these companies have not obtained specific permission to market to individual Europeans, they will be fined heavily. The precursor to this was the $4 billion fine just levied against Google. The European Commission is not fooling around.

The easiest way to become compliant is to offer some kind of bonus to consumers who give their data willingly, and many marketers are already doing that. Business to business marketing has done it for years: “give us your email address to download this free white paper on privacy.”  But consumer brands have simply adopted automated relationship building, buying for reach across dozens of exchanges, and marketing to people they only know because the media buyer has targeted a specific demographic and the algorithm claims to deliver it.

Although every advertiser and marketer who is in possession of customer data (we are not) will be affected by these regulations, they’ll fall hardest on those ad tech companies that offer data for targeting.  This may affect how programmatic advertising is used in the future. At the very least, it will be used more carefully in specific situations, mostly as a workflow improvement  rather than as a way to guarantee reach.

The emphasis on reach, in our opinion, has nearly destroyed the advertising industry, and we can’t wait for niche advertising, based on real customer relationships and customer choice, to return.

 

Geo-Location Doesn’t Guarantee Anything

An  experiment that took place during Hurricane Harvey has given us some worthwhile data on the status of programmatic advertising on mobile.

We tend to forget that programmatic tools are still in their relative infancy, and that there’s more to advertising than simply data. But Augustine Fou’s Houston v. Bozeman test should bring us back to how much we still have to learn.

On Monday morning [August31], the torrential rains and flooding caused by tropical storm Harvey gave Houston residents plenty to worry about. Yet that didn’t seem to keep them from using photo-filtering and music-discovery apps between 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time—largely the same rate as did people who were out of harm’s way some 1,500 miles northwest in Bozeman, Mont.

At least that’s what it looked like when programmatic digital buys were placed across 18 exchanges early Monday in a test conductged by cybersecurity researcher Augustine Fou of Marketing Science Consulting Group. Buys in the two cities went to the exact same group of 15 apps, despite the very different circumstances.

Fou’s experiment showed that fraudulent traffic came in equal numbers to a forest fire public service  announcement from both cities, despite both time and weather differences. The ad ran on 18 exchanges, and the traffic came from  fake devices through data centers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, using proxies indicating it had come from various residential IP addresses.

the test showed all the geo-located traffic he bought … was fraudulent. Even though [Fou] didn’t specify by type of device, 100% of the buys came from Android mobile apps. The traffic was proportional to the relative populations of Bozeman and Houston despite all the power, cellular service and evacuation issues in the latter. And none of the ads generated a single click, despite the fact that accidental “fat thumb” clicks always occur when human traffic is involved, Fou says. “Common sense,” he adds, “says this cannot be real.”

All the fake data came, however, from Android mobile apps, and none from iPhone. There’s plenty of awareness about the security leaks in the Android system, but the numbers are so large that the ad buys are attractive for brands that need scale. The lesson here is that there’s a big difference between “scale” and “real,” even with ge-fencing.

It’s not that geo-fencing never works. It’s just that we’re not at a stage yet where fraud detection has much visibility on mobile apps,and geo-fencing isn’t a guarantee. Advertisers may pay higher CPMs for geo-targeted data, but they still have no guarantee that they will get good data.

Most fraud detection systems were designed to work on desktops, and despite the fact that most advertising dollars have now shifted to mobile, fraud detection hasn’t yet caught up. It will. It must.

The good news is that the major apps, like Google Maps, Facebook, and Foursquare are not among those sending the fraudulent data.