Speaking at Adobe's London Digital Marketing Summit, Will Hayward, vice-president, advertising at BuzzFeed said native advertising was currently seen as an example of the "blurring" of editorial and commercial.
This sounds a lot like the old marketing tool, the advertorial. And if native advertising is to challenge the advertorial format, it needs to be seen as a grown-up part of the media mix.
Advertorial – a one-sided approach
From my perspective an advertorial is an agency and client’s last ditch attempt to make a low interest category or brand interesting.
The reality is that the well qualified editorial team are often too busy filing interesting content to worry about the brand pillar of a personal toiletry product or holiday destination to provide scintillating content that aligns the best interests of all parties. The task is inevitably farmed out to interns or freelance writers, often on short timelines. The publication in this instance holds all the cards and takes a commercial approach.
In essence it is a parasitic relationship where a lot of the power is held by one side of the arrangement.
But publishers and media owners are facing a changing consumer consumption model that demands content 24 hours a day (accelerated by mobile devices). Current staff structures can’t support that and just replicating the same content onto every media outlet will surely erode any business model in the long term. Until these stakeholders find a way to financially monetise their digital offering, this is not viable in the long-term.
Native advertising – equal inputs and outputs
In comparison, native advertising offers equal benefits to all parties. Content, stories, opinions and points of view are all written in the brand’s tone of voice. Plus, the product managers still get their brand endorsed by a credible media publisher.
Yes, it requires more work from all parties: the brand to understand they are aiming to create true ‘content’ not just a picture with a publications endorsement, and the publication to understand that it should be seen as a solution to a content problem they are experiencing not just fast buck onto their bottom line. But as this approach is more collaborative – it offers a symbiotic relationship as opposed to a parasitic one.
If native advertising is such a win-win it shouldn’t be a particularly hard sell. However, the same barriers that come up every time a new development in digital media takes place are alive here.
Firstly, what role does it play in the media mix?
Native Advertising is about leveraging the valued, trusted editorial of the publisher in a way that doesn’t distract from the users’ experience, but instead provides an engaging content experience. If we believe this, then planning native as a way of combating lowering response rates from direct response display formats surely is not the answer. As an industry we need to make sure that clients don’t see it in that way, but instead see it as another string to the bow of digital media and measure it accordingly.
Secondly, who creates it? By its nature, native advertising doesn’t adhere to set formats; there can be no IAB standard. This hugely increases the number of creative assets needed for a campaign. However, as with other developments in digital media, formats that sit outside of standard creative (e.g. mobile ads, search ads, social ads) tend not to have been picked up by the creative agencies. This has increased the responsibility for media owners and media agencies to work on brands’ creative, or opened the door to niche companies to take advantage.
However, the first steps needed to over-come these challenges must be taken by media agencies. We must educate our clients on the features and benefits of native, as well as identifying the publishers who’re building out creative service teams to help brands create content that fits the voice of the outlet – an area which advertorials don’t match up. Finally, and most importantly, unless agencies and clients are prepared to effective measure native campaigns, we’ll all miss an exciting opportunity to satisfy consumer’s desires for engaging branded content.
Unless you live in a cave you’ll probably have had the mandatory summer email for sweepstakes; be it on the Open, World Cup, or Cannes. But now some of the smartest minds in our industry are pitching man against machine to predict the winners of Innovation at Cannes 2014.
Decoded, a coding training academy, have developed an algorithm called ‘The Oracle’, which they claim can predict the outcome using ‘big data’. This will be pitched against stiff competition – the Leo Burnett team who claim that its Cannes Predictions reel has an 84% success rate in forecasting Lion winners over the last 26 years. Leo Burnett has only missed a Film Grand Prix twice, and one of those years was 1997, when none was awarded.
So, what are they predicting? Leo Burnett have picked the Samsung ‘Smart Bike’ which claims to be the world’s safest bike. This is based on last year’s judge’s focus on ideas which have real human impact; combined with monitoring online buzz, local insight, and gut instinct.
The Oracle has picked ‘Beats Music’, the music streaming service. This decision was made purely on the basis of last year's data, looking at which agencies, which regions, which cities, which holding companies, and which kinds of campaigns had the greatest success.
So who will predict correctly? You’ll have to tune in to the last day of the festival on June 21st to find out. Personally, I’d like to think The Oracle is most informed, since it is predicting a 77% chance that WPP will outperform Omnicom in Film Lions. Come on WPP!
Last week saw an intriguing announcement from Sky for a service called #WatchOnSky which is enabled through Twitter. It will appear across Sky’s Twitter feeds and allow people to see the epic 'Game of Thrones' the gripping 'Mad Men', through to sporting events and movies.
The mechanic itself is simple to operate with Sky providing tweets about shows to people and if it includes the ‘#WatchOnSky’, it can be expanded to reveal ‘Watch’ and ‘Record’ icons that link directly to Sky’s mobile TV service Sky Go to either watch it on the go or record it to your Sky+ box to watch when you get home.
Sky currently offer 54 channels through Sky Go and this service builds on the Sky Go and Sky+ apps. This is all very handy for the consumer and puts them in total control of when and where they watch TV as more and more people move towards time shifted viewing.
Looking at this from a planners perspective this seems like a very clever move and will allow Sky to tap into a rich stream of customer data irrespective of the device the content is being consumed on as people have to be logged in to get access the service. As Sky moves towards a majority of Sky+ boxes and therefore Adsmart enabled households any additional data that can be collected and collated will allow them to build a richer picture of the makeup of individual consumers. This in turn will allow Adsmart campaigns to be more targeted and accurate than the standard BARB audiences that TV campaigns are currently bought against.
It’s no full solution to evolving the standard buying audiences and I can hear the digital teams scoffing at the prehistoric levels of targeting but it’s a strong step in the right direction. Let’s just hope that the twitter activity doesn’t retweet any guilty pleasures we record for everyone to see!
Marketing Mix Models(MMM) have, in recent times, increasingly come under attack from various sources, who question whether or not flaws in the underlying methodology mean that far too much emphasis is placed on short term volume driving activities (such as price and promotion), at the expense of more longer term strategies such as advertising investment:
The problem however lies not in the underlying methodology behind MMM, but rather, in its application to understanding the impact of different marketing strategies on the consumer’s journey to purchase a product.
Let’s look at the typical purchase journey:
Quite clearly, the consumer’s journey is a complex one and often begins long before the actual intention to purchase, with a shortlist of possible brands being drawn up through a mix of past experiences, peer recommendation and general brand awareness brought about through marketing and product availability. This brand shortlist is then continually refined the closer the consumer gets to the point of purchase, again having being influenced by past experiences, peer recommendation and general marketing activity.
At the point of purchase, the decision to purchase is likely to be heavily influenced by pricing, point of sale marketing and the alternatives available, and less so heavily influenced, by marketing more highly geared to influence higher up the consumer funnel.
Exposure and interaction between media touch points is complex too, with many channels (such as digital and social) interacting with traditional channels to influence consumer response.
Couple this with the fact that no two consumers are ever the same, then it becomes clear that today’s marketers are, now more than ever, in need of a framework that can help them understand this complexity and subsequently develop the right strategy to grow their brand.
MMM is the ideal methodology to accomplish just this task, yet many marketing mix models
fail to truly recognise this complexity in their design, instead condensing the consumer journey merely to the point of purchase, examining just the direct link between various marketing factors and sales rather than examining the true impact across the consumer journey.
It is therefore little wonder that such models fail to give marketers the depth of insight they so desperately need, and indeed overvalue the more direct sale marketing activities at the expense of their more brand led counterparts.
So what’s the solution?
The advent of so called ‘big data’ has meant that the breadth and depth of data that can be gathered on consumers is on a scale never before seen. This, coupled with the application of more advanced modelling techniques than the familiar time series based approach, has meant that over simplification of models and subsequent insights no longer need be a problem for MMM. At Maxus we believe that there are three areas of improvement any practitioner can make to their models so that they deliver true insight to their clients:
1. Include more granular, better tracked data sources
Combining the already well-established tracked data sources of digital and social media with customer level sales data and new customer level ratings data for offline media, means that models can, like never before, be built at the consumer segment level.
Modelling at this level means that marketers will be able to glean insight into how different media strategies influence different consumer groups. Ultimately marrying the delivery of the results with the segmentation and media planning work that was done in advance of a campaign at the consumer segment level.
2. Include additional KPIs within the models
Since the 1990’s, much has been made in accountancy circles of the so called ‘Balanced Scorecard’ (Kaplan & Norton, Harvard Business School) approach to evaluating business performance. Such an approach advocates the use of a more ‘balanced’ set of KPIs including softer brand and internal measures, as well as the
usual financial measures as a means to evaluating business performance. Quite obviously, such a framework has a place in evaluating the consumer journey and as such can be applied to an MMM framework to encompass a whole range of consumer KPIs, such as brand awareness and customer satisfaction levels in addition to the usual sales KPIs common to most models.
Inclusion of such KPIs would mean that marketers could gain insight into the true role more brand led marketing is playing, rather than focusing purely on its role at the point of purchase, an area where it is likely to be significantly undervalued.
3. Make use of more exotic model frameworks to model results
The big problem with the standard statistical modelling approaches to MMM is that they are unable to cope with the inclusion of multiple KPIs, or indeed the interaction effects that are likely to exist between them and the individualvariables they contain. However, a number of other modelling frameworks, such as SEM (structural equation models) mean that more complicated model designs involving multiple, interrelated consumer KPIs and associated explanatory variables can be handled within a single framework. This in turn makes estimating the effect of different marketing activities on all elements of the consumer funnel relatively simple, so that marketers can at last understand the true role different media play in eliciting a consumer response.
It’s clear then that MMM isn’t necessarily a flawed concept when it comes to measuring the impact of marketing on the consumer. Rather, that it can, with a few tweaks to the underlying data, model design and application, become one of the most powerful tools marketers can call upon to help decide on the correct strategy in today’s consumer landscape.
Last night I went to The Guardian to see the now infamous Sheryl Sandberg, be interviewed regarding her new book. This is the second book following her International best seller of Lean In, the purpose of which is to provide a little more practical help on how women (and in particular new graduates) can actively Lean In, and hear more stories (and voices) from other women who have done just that.
Sheryl was a very impressive speaker, with the right balance of performance towards the incredibly positive audience she was addressing. The main points of her argument clearly struck a chord, and she defended criticism and challenges from the interviewer well.
It clearly is something she feels incredibly passionate about, and she embraces the debate from her critics because at least the subject is being kept in discussion.
Honesty was a reoccurring theme from her; in her personal style regarding this crusade – she knows that she is speaking about this from a privileged position, but with an honest acknowledgement of this and an arsenal of very strong (and saddening) facts and figures she was able to articulate the inequality around us. Honesty was also the overwhelming theme of how she believes this inequality is best challenged; from having an honest conversation with your partner about what really constitutes an equal partnership, to honestly acknowledging that women may not be progressing up the ladder because of cognitive discrimination but because ‘men are scared to be alone in a room with a woman’; and the realities of human nature are we favour and support individuals we are friends with and like. If a male boss never spends time with female employees but is comfortable building a support group amongst male colleagues on the golf course or pub, then really the problem becomes self-perpetuating.
There was one interesting moment in the evening when the interviewer challenged Sheryl’s real commitment to the cause of inequality, stating that if you really want to make a change then the only way you can really instigate this is from within a government structure. – Individuals and business can really only do so much, without fundamental change in government policy women will always be fighting to swim upstream in a tide flowing the other way.
Her response was exactly the same as she has answered this question before: a small change is still a change, and she loves her job and has no desire to change that at the moment.
But she also said she was nervous of any one person becoming the spokesperson for ‘women’ everywhere, and that her hope is that by instigating one-on-one change at a small level maybe one of those women who are naturally inclined to a political future will take on the mantel into government.
It was an impressive talk from an impressive and very likeable woman, and walking away you felt that the responsibility for change does not lie in one singular place. As individuals we need to ‘sit at the table’ and unashamedly close the ‘ambition gap’; as corporations we need to be mindful of instinctive prejudices from building exclusive support networks and automatically labelling ‘leadership behaviours’ in women as ‘aggressive’; and at a government level more needs to be done to free women to have ‘choice’ through policy.
It is sad that in today we are still having the debate as to why there are not enough women sitting at the leadership table, and it is a complicated issue for which there is more than one pressure point.
Ultimately, however, as an optimist I still believe that the biggest way to achieve great things is to have a go at doing great things. To actively Lean In, and get your hands dirty. For me this is much better articulated by another Cheryl – Cheryl Strayed. Who wrote in her book giving advice to another woman who wished to be a writer but felt she was being held back by inherent discrimination.
“Don’t write like a man, don’t write like a woman. Write like a mother-f***er”
So when is a divorce not a divorce? Well when it is a conscious uncoupling and you are Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.
Within minutes Goop.com had crashed underneath the weight of visitors, gawping and speculating about this new example of a celebrity partnership imploding. But even for a society where you regularly hear about bomb threats made to super clever females just because they dared suggest it might be a good idea to have a woman on a bank note; the extent of the vicious comments was incredible.
Because what were we talking about really? A couple of people who by all intense and purposes were very good at their individual jobs, who would give back to society through effort and money, and who seemed for a long while to genuinely seem happy and managed to raise two children who as yet, have not been found blotto outside a drug den.
So why the unbridled glee at their horrible news, why don’t we like them, and what on earth could this have to do with media? And I think the answer lies in that phrase in the first line ‘conscious uncoupling’, because it feels phoney, it feels like they are trying to be something they are not, and in a country who has the idiom: call a spade a spade, it jars against our natural tendencies and internal instinct to identify a charlatan.
Which got me thinking as to why didn’t they just call their uncoupling a divorce? As a couple they have built a certain degree a mythology around themselves, and new-age terminology is part of this along with a macro-biotic diet and the Tracy Anderson exercise method. It feels that the language they use to talk about themselves has become deliberately complicated and obtuse in order to separate themselves from us. It’s almost as if it is a barrier to protect the ‘secret’ – psssst don’t tell anyone but really anyone can have this life / body / success, but in order to make it feel ‘difficult’ and ‘hard’ we will wrap it up in terms that will confuse the average Joe.
And that is really not too dis-similar to the average day in a media agency. Acronyms – CPT, CPA ASBOF, UGC, KPI’s and SEM: Phrases – engagement, native, demographics, real-time adaptive, deliverables, customer empowerment. A lot of words which distance ourselves from the average Joe, to allow us to sprinkle science and sparkle onto what we do; and without deliberately doing a dis-service to the wonderfully intelligent people I work with, can build the mythology around our jobs.
And I suppose I am beginning to wonder if, like Gwyneth and Chris, we might be doing ourselves and those we deal with a disservice? Because all the people I work with are good people, trying to strive to do things a bit smarter, and a bit faster and with a bit more magic. And our regular practise in the dark-arts of myth creating, might just be distancing ourselves from the people we need to engage with? Maybe we need to learn a lesson from Gwyneth and Chris and smash the protective bubble around ourselves and start to talk the talk.
We might make a few more friends along the way and deliver some amazing work that the ‘average Joe’ see’s, likes and maybe, just maybe, does something of the back of it.
If you have been anywhere near Facebook or Instagram over the last week then your timeline will have been filled with an overwhelming number of your friends and family uploading photos of themselves with the #nomakeupselfie and variants of this (left).
This internet ‘meme’ has come under a lot of criticism in the wake of the influx of soft-focus photo uploads. Not least because the origins of this phenomenon are slightly dubious. It does not seem to a considered campaign by any of the cancer charities, but breast cancer seems to be reaping the benefit with more and more uploads urging you to text ‘cure’ to 70099. In fact according to The Telegraph £8m has been raised in six days for Cancer Research UK.
The criticism has also flooded in that this is at its heart a self-indulgent activity by participants to receive messages of support from their friends to affirm to them that they are ‘gorgeous’, and ‘don’t need make-up to look good’. With an additional wave of criticism that ‘what on earth has this to do with cancer’? and, how is going without make-up ‘brave’ in any way?
To be honest, they are all right; but surely the big question in the wake of such a phenomenal response is ‘does it matter’?
For me this campaign works because it utilises the driving factors of the media channel it is communicated in well. And these factors are overwhelmingly a little bit narcissistic and self-indulgent. It works because rather than a charity appealing to your altruistic self to do something good, it asks people to do something that is inherently appealing to the audience – who doesn’t want affirmation from their friends that they really are not a dogs-dinner first thing in the morning, pre-slap?
It’s also easy to do, no real effort required except maybe access to a soft-focus lens to soften the impact of your pillow-lines and a text number to type in.
Placing it on Facebook has the added incentive of tapping into the ‘social proof’ we all talk about – seeing other people doing it, seeing the volume of participants (the added benefit of ‘tagging’ mates means that immediately your social circle widens as you can see friends of friends who have taken part and tagged your nearest and dearest), and importantly seeing the support they are all receiving makes it compelling and slightly shaming if you have not participated.
The alternative would have been to start with the business or brand problem – everyone supports cancer charities as a good thing, everyone knows about our charity, but no one donates on a regular basis, what do we do? You could clearly have seen that this would have resulted in a brand centric message, tugging at the heart strings of the audience which would be lost in a sea of other charity messages. It would have ticked all the boxes in what should work and yet would not have had anywhere near the impact of the last week.
In short, what has happened over the last week is a campaign which has started with the media channel, understood the motivations of the audience when consuming and participating in this environment, and then made a campaign which works here. It might be a little narcissistic but it sure as hell has worked.
There are shady characters lurking in darkened rooms, in some of the less developed markets around the globe, re-directing ad impression revenue to their own murky bank accounts. Sounds all a bit Jason Bourne doesn’t it? Worse than that though, allegedly there are
also unscrupulous large online publishers deliberately inflating impression volume for their own gains.
No one seems to really know the scale of this problem, although the litigious leaning
Americans see it as an even bigger issue than us on this side of the Atlantic. Estimates vary
enormously but on the more conservative end, Integral Ad Science estimate that 15% of all internet impressions are fraudulent. Whatever the percentage, it’s billions of dollars of global ad revenue.
Not exactly a drop in the Cyber Ocean and certainly not something to be ignored.
This raises two big questions for brand owners and agencies: Is this important to me? And
what should I be doing about it?
But first, what exactly is meant by online fraud?
Depressingly there are a huge number of scams, something for everyone if you will. They include :
Bot Traffic - non human traffic designed to mimic users and inflate audience numbers. The
program imitates legitimate users by repeatedly loading the page or ad for the purpose of
generating higher fees in CPM advertising.
Pixel Stuffing – stuffing an ad into a 1x1 (i.e. invisible) pixel at the bottom of the page.
Ad Stacking – placing multiple ads on top of one another in a single ad placement.
Online fraud is essentially a volume game driven by the demand to drive huge numbers
of impressions at the lowest possible cost. Consequently media buys that deliver high
volume inventory at low prices, such as Ad Networks & Real Time Bidding, are the easiest
So question one, is this important?
Well of course. No one wants to be ripped off do they? So we should be doing all we can to stop it. But it runs deeper than that.
Online display advertising seems to be going through its difficult teenage years at the moment. Media vendors have more to concern themselves than just fraud. There’s also privacy, viewability, brand safety. The list goes on and on. In some ways it would be easy for advertisers to put their online display budgets in the too difficult box. But that would be a short term response to a long term problem. For starters RTB has generated enormous benefits to advertisers and has helped reduce ad pricing and improve performance. More to the point, online buying techniques and the benefits of programmatically traded ad space aren’t confined to the ubiquitous online banner. Programmatic buying is likely to become the pre–eminent
technique for all screen based media, so it’s incumbent on all parties to address the post pubescent online display challenges.
Which takes us nicely on to question two, what should we be doing about it?
Broadly the response to online fraud, whether from publishers, advertisers or media buyers,
falls into three areas:
We can fight fire with fire through technology. Publishers need to continue to invest in Bot identifying software and all parties should use ad verification techniques to truly understand the scale of the problem and the level of fraud inflicting individual sites or groups of sites.
(ii) Due Diligence
All respectable media buyers will have built black lists (GroupM’s covers a whopping 40,000 sites) and buyers should only ever use sites that have been validated through 3rd parties. But respectable publishers and agencies also need to use human intervention to spot irregular activity that looks like fraud. This needs to be done at a domain and a seller level.
iii) Think Differently
Finally we all need to beprepared to think a bit differently. At a trading level this might simply mean changing the buying currency from an easily mimicked click to something no bot would be prepared to do, spend money. Cost per acquisition deals might not be everyone’s cup of
tea but they’ll never work for the fraudsters.
Other media have experienced degrees of fraud, whether it’s the multiple copies of the same free newspaper that get shoved though your letter box or the legitimately paid-for billboard that gets covered with flyposters. But online fraud, and all the programmatically bought channels that are to come, is a little different. This is a multi-billion dollar challenge, but one that with a cohesive approach from all parties can be overcome.
Sir Martin Sorrell wasn’t being controversial when he said, “that the future of advertising and marketing services belongs as much to Maths Men and women as it does to Mad Men “, he was stating the obvious. His comparison of the media industry to the fund management industry is spot on and can lead to some great analogies. We both advise our clients on how much to invest and whereas fund management deals in investment vehicles we deal in media channels. For example response marketing can be seen as our equivalent of income stocks whereas Brand marketing is our growth stocks. In media using maths to split budgets isn’t new; we’ve always used some sort of maths or stats from the crude rule of thumb to advanced analytics like econometrics. The rise of digital has just made this job more complicated as the number of channels has increased. What is new is the amount of information we have available to analyse, the speed at which we can collect it and within some channels the pace with which we can optimise our investments.
The opportunity for clients is simply to improve the return on their investment, giving them more for the same or the same for less. We will do this by using the influx of data available and the speed that we can use it to optimise the channel mix to both maximise and the speed at which we can accomplish this. Some channels are already there, in search for instance we can change what we want to buy and how much we want to pay almost instantaneous and this will increase and spread across the digital channels as they turn to programmatic buying strategies or similar. Of course there are still huge challenges to address, both in the analysis and the technology. There is a tendency to confuse association with causation and working out the best variables to optimise against is going to be an ongoing challenge, not made any easier by the sheer volume of available data. There are challenges on the tech side too as anyone who has tried to work with cross channel data sources will have experienced. To improve and to take full advantage of what technology could allow us to do we’re going to need to employ and increasing number of Maths men (and women), to both build models and to implement them.
As Sir Martin points out our relationship with our clients is changing too. We have to talk with people outside the marketing department. The return on media investment, the point of our work, has to be extrapolated from our Clients data. It will become increasingly important that we are building relationships with the people who are best placed to tell us this, at the speed of which we want to be able to optimise our investments. This means that our relationship with Chief Information Officers and Chief Technical Officers and their teams will become ever more important.
Changing the way we want to plan media will alter the channels we want to use too. It’s not good enough just to know how to increase return you also need to be able to effect the change. This is where digital channels have a huge advantage over traditional media. In search or display we can change what we want to buy and how much we want to pay almost instantaneously. TV’s two month lag feels like an eternity when compared to this and adds an intangible cost to using the channel.
Conversely as engineers and computer scientists have developed machines that can perform twenty thousand trillion calculations a second the value of good Maths brains is higher than ever. Being able to sift the gold from the deluge of data being produced and then being able to use this to gain advantage is a real talent and those who have it will become increasingly in demand. Clients will know that those that embrace data and the optimisation strategies will out compete those that don’t. Therefore our clients are going to demand that we provide this for them and either we do or they’ll go to the agency down the road that will. Clearly this doesn’t mean we’ll be able to function without the Mad men and women, they’re still just as vital as ever. If anything they’ll have to be even more on top of their game as their work comes under ever increasing scrutiny. The Maths men and women won’t replace the Mad Men but they’ll become instrumental in making their great work more successful.