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The Shrinking Value of Organic Reach

Instagram proudly highlights how limited organic reach has become

When announcing a new product, it make sense to include testimonials from customers who rave about how it’s exactly what they need in these new and exciting times. What make less sense, however, is to simultaneously highlight a quote from one of those same customers belittling your core offering.

But hey, Facebook-owned Instagram has always been a trendsetter that loves to go its own way. It once again reminded us of this fact with a June 4 blog post trumpeting the ability for brands to promote influencers’ sponsored posts that just so happened to include some perhaps unintentional shade.

The damaging quote, presented in bold and oversized font, comes from the vice president of brand communications at Old Navy and emphasizes the fact that organic reach on the platform — i.e. the ability for people to see your posts without you having to first pay to promote said posts — is mostly a thing of the past.

“We’ve long seen that customers want to discover fashion through trusted sources who have credibility,” explains Liat Weingarten in what is clearly meant to be pitch for Instagram’s latest offering, “but organic reach on that content has become increasingly limited.”

They really don't want you to miss it.

They really don’t want you to miss it.


Weingarten continues that Old Navy is “consistently looking for more sophisticated ways like Branded Content ads to serve partner content to the right shoppers, instead of just throwing it into the social ether.”

Yup, you read that correctly. Likely due — at least in part — to Instagram’s widely despised algorithm, non-paid Old Navy posts relying on organic reach are akin to chucking some ad copy into the ether.

This isn’t surprising. What is surprising, however, is that Instagram would choose to proudly highlight such an assertion on its own blog. 

Buy hey, self-awareness has never exactly been the calling card of anything helmed by Mark Zuckerberg.

Source: Mashable


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Project Feels: How USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times are targeting ads to mood – Digiday

Media companies, including The New York Times, ESPN and USA Today, have rolled out ad products that they say can match ads to people in certain moods.

Lately, media companies, including The New York Times, ESPN and USA Today, have rolled out ad products that they say can match ads to people in certain moods.

USA Today Network in 2016 started categorizing its content by topic and tone, and scoring it based on the emotions it’s believed to most evoke. Last year, it started to sell advertising based on that knowledge with a product called Lens Targeting. Kelly Andresen, svp and head of Get Creative, USA Today Network’s content studio, said the publisher is trying to show a link between the emotions a story is likely to evoke and ad performance. An ad campaign for a nonprofit that was targeted to people reading inspirational stories resulted in a 25 percent higher donation rate than ads that weren’t targeted, she said.

“We’ve seen a gradual increase in RFPs, advertisers aren’t asking for audience by demographic but psychographic,” Andresen said. “This is one step to find those psychographics instead of numbers you can get from outside parties.”

The New York Times rolled out a tool earlier this year called Project Feels that lets advertisers target ads to content based on emotional responses the content is predicted to have. ESPN has been pitching a tool to target sports fans on its digital properties based on their changing emotional state during a game. Now it’s trying to apply all that know-how to the rest of Disney’s properties. The tool is called LiveConnect and takes the sports preferences that its logged-in users provide and overlays that with data about how people feel based on how their team is doing and line that up with advertisers’ goals. That could mean showing ads for travel or other celebratory experiences to people whose team is on a winning streak — or not advertising to them at all if their team is losing.

“We were trying to find any scalable way to deliver the right message at the right time,” said Vikram Somaya, svp, global data officer and ad platforms at ESPN. “Sports, there’s a lot of potential messages around it. The fact is, we’re in the emotion-generating business. We have a lot of first-party data we can use with a lot of transactions with the consumer; why wouldn’t we do it?”

“It’s something a lot of media planners have been trying to do for years,” Chris Wexler, svp and executive director of media and analytics at Cramer‑Krasselt. “It just depends on how rich the data set is. It’s an exciting frontier because we’re looking for people who are open to our message, and emotional state is a key part of it. Demographics based targeting is better than no targeting. Behavior-based is better than demographics. If you put it in order of importance, mood is above behavioral.”

Hitting people with a message when they’re likely to be receptive is as old as advertising, but using artificial intelligence to target people based on their mood is another level of manipulation. Publishers and agencies say they draw the line at using personally identifiable data or data without saying what it’s being collected for. “This is really about focusing on finding better-qualified audiences, but this is not at a point where we can manipulate mood through content,” Andresen said. ESPN’s Somaya said it won’t use information it thinks people don’t feel should be publicly revealed, keeping in mind its family-focused Disney audience, which means everything from health to political preferences to sexual orientation. That data isn’t as commercially valuable as information they willingly provide (like sports interests) anyway, he added.

The biggest challenge is proving mood-based targeting works and at scale. It’s still just an “occasional” part of the ad sell at publishers. It takes a client that’s willing and able to work closely with the publisher on figuring out what the ROI should be, measuring it, and spending the premium that’s often charged.

Agencies also want more information about the methodology. It’s an easier sell with music because it’s easier to believe as companies like Spotify might say that people who listen to break-up music are sad.

Josh Baines, who works on publisher strategy at Oracle, whose Grapeshot product powers mood-based targeting, said the topic is getting more visibility because it provides a deeper level of targeting and chance to qualify people’s mindsets. Showing it drives real business outcomes and not just fluffy metrics will be key to growing its adoption, though, he said.

Other categories outside of music are a harder sell. Some advertisers shy away from being around news because they think it will create a negative association with their brands with readers. For news publishers, one hope of A.I. is to change advertisers’ associations to news. Andresen said USA Today Network found that people are equally drawn to “positive” versus “negative” stories when they come to the site, a finding it uses in pitches to advertisers. “It’s helpful for us to explain that to advertisers: You don’t have to walk away from the whole news category.”

Wexler isn’t so sure. “In music, they can claim to know when you’re sad. We’d be particularly skeptical about news content — are we going to guess that because someone’s in Alabama they’re angry about something versus someone in New York?” he said.

Source: Project Feels: How USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times are targeting ads to mood – Digiday

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P&G’s Marc Pritchard: Clout Finally Speaking Some Sense


Let Triton help fortify your henhouses, by eliminating high probability media and maximizing effective partnerships. 
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Facebook’s David Jakubowski: Audience Network ‘Basically Fraud-Free’ (For Now)

Facebook’s head of ad tech, David Jakubowski, will participate in a panel discussion on sell-side impressions at the May 24 CLEAN ADS I/O conference in New York.

As Facebook expands its Audience Network, it faces a number of challenges.

Keeping out fraud. Achieving high viewability. Ensuring off-site placements still drive performance.

By directly integrating with publishers versus buying inventory through the open exchange, Facebook has given itself back some measure of control.

But it operates a $1 billion business that takes place off its owned-and-operated sites and in environments where it wields less control. And it added video advertising to Audience Network on Monday, an area known for high levels of fraud.

Ensuring Facebook Audience Network meets the same standards as its news feed is one of the jobs of David Jakubowski, Facebook’s ad tech head who oversees Atlas, LiveRail and Audience Network.

AdExchanger talked to Jakubowski about how Facebook is monitoring its publisher relationships, including on Audience Network.

AdExchanger: Atlas played a part in detecting fraud on LiveRail, right?

JAKUBOWSKI: We used our measurement tools, and Atlas is a measurement platform. LiveRail is one exchange. But there are lots of exchanges where we did our testing in programmatic buying. What we found is that very little of the inventory out there has any value at all.

On the low side, you have people saying it’s 17% to 20% bots. On the high side, 30%. That’s known bot fraud. And you have all this gray stuff in the middle, where there are techniques like ad stacking or changing the ads in tabs on top of the browser. We are able to clearly identify who the real people are, on the white end of the spectrum.

So Facebook killed its buying platform because there’s no point of having a buying tool if you can’t buy quality inventory on it?

 That is the reason. It’s not that we didn’t want to do buying. But the open inventory in the ecosystem has very little value. We didn’t want to build a product and sell it to marketers knowing that there was no value on it. We have these unique measurement tools to determine those things. We couldn’t in good conscience move that forward. Now, because we know about it, we feel like we have a responsibility to tell marketers what to do next.

So where should marketers buy if not on the open exchange?

 What I would say to them is make sure you are accurately measuring real people and if they saw an ad. Start there, and here is the crazy concept: Did they buy something? Did they do something that has actual value? One-third of marketers don’t measure squat. Start there.

Now, evaluate each of the places that you buy. Our research suggests that the people who are plugging into the publishers directly are having the higher-quality audiences first. And that makes sense. If you’re a publisher, you’re going to send the things to the exchange that you don’t want to sell to anything else. And that’s why we shifted the strategy on Audience Network as well. It’s curated, publisher-direct only.

What else are you doing to keep Audience Network clean?

The ads go to the white-hat end of the spectrum. Audience Network runs exclusively to the known people side. We started in-app because it is easier to control viewability and it’s a better, safer environment. We’ve now taken those learnings and expanded to mobile web, and on Monday expanded our video offerings. We know we have a base where we can identify those audiences when they are viewable. And we are curating it by going publisher-direct.

Facebook kicked out many of its LiveRail partners because of fraud issues. Why be so public about this?

We’ve been very transparent about how low-quality the inventory is, and it’s because we look at it through a value-based lens. We’ve also been public about the pieces of the business we aren’t going to continue to support because of it. And we shut down a lot of inventory. We pulled back on our buying initiative that was designed for open exchange buying. The biggest marketers in the world don’t want low-quality inventory. The minute you shift to value, the things that are white and black become much easier to see.

Google has acquired companies like Spider.IO and employs thousands of people all to root out fraud and police its network. Will you have to deploy resources like that for Audience Network?

The answer is no. But it raises an interesting question, which is why is our bar higher than others? What aren’t they seeing that we are, when we are not willing to put our name on certain pieces of inventory? And how does a marketer decide how much low-quality inventory they are willing to tolerate? Because if you are buying in those open exchanges, and you are price optimizing and not value optimizing, you are by definition playing in some garbage inventory. If you move to measurement goals like sales, you are more likely to see where the high-quality inventory sits.

I’ve spoken to one buyer that didn’t use Audience Network because it didn’t perform. Another said it used to have performance issues but that’s no longer the case. But that’s anecdotal. What do you see as the gap in value between the news feed and Audience Network, and what does fraud and viewability have to do with it?

The fraud problem with Audience Network is solved for the time being. It’s basically fraud-free. The pricing mechanics are such that Audience Network is benchmarked against the feed, and it shouldn’t deviate too far from performance in-feed. We have a thing called the advertiser outcome score, which was not available at the Audience Network launch, but we added because of this issue. The system calibrates according to whatever you give it – in-app conversions, for example – and predicts the value that an advertiser is going to get from going off Facebook. It then compares it to what you would be getting on feed, and adjusts the price to reflect higher or lower value in news feed. 

How many publishers have you had to kick out of Audience Network? 

We have a self-service tool to apply and a human-curated team that goes through and approves them. It starts upfront. From there, the tech takes every single ad request and looks at it and says, “Is this a quality user?” If it’s not or we don’t know, we send it back to the publisher.

This sounds like a pre-bid solution.

That’s a term for the open programmatic exchange world. We are plugging in our SDK directly to that publisher so we don’t have to do any of those gimmicky, complicated things. We simply return their request to their inventory management system.

So if there is a publisher with lots of bad inventory, they just get 10% fill rates?

At that rate, you’d get a phone call. If 90% of what you are sending us is crap, either something is mechanically wrong or something is wrong with you as a publisher.



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Marketers Growing In-House Media Buying Capabilities Amid Transparency Concerns

More marketers are growing their in-house ad-buying capabilities as a result of heightened concern around fraud and transparency, according to the latest survey from the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester.

The survey was conducted in February 2016 and included responses from 128 ANA members.

Of the respondents, 70% cited higher bot fraud in programmatic buys as a concern, and 64% said a lack of transparency in the costs associated with the programmatic supply chain posed a challenge, according to the findings.

Also, some respondents cited a lack of inventory and data transparency, as well as a dearth of information about whether an agency reaps financial gains from the media seller by using the client’s funds.

“While programmatic buying indeed offers benefits, it suffers from a complex and non-transparent supply chain,” said Bob Liodice, president-CEO of the ANA. “And that is wasteful. The industry — and marketers in particular — would greatly benefit from a rethink of the entire digital supply chain.”

That concern is likely associated with a growing number of marketers buying media programmatically. The ANA found that 79% of total respondents have made programmatic buys in the past year. That’s a 35% boost compared to the last survey the ANA conducted in 2014.

At the same time, 31% of respondents said they’ve expanded their in-house capabilities to manage and oversee programmatic ad buying. They’ve also taken a number of steps to address their concerns: 62% of respondents said they’re requesting detailed campaign guidelines and reporting from their agencies; 51% said they’re aggressively updating so-called “black lists,” which are lists of websites they avoid when planning buys, often due to high levels of fraud; 42% said they’re purchasing inventory through media owners’ private marketplaces; and 40% are adding language in insertion orders to increase transparency.

The survey, being presented at the ANA’s Media Leadership Conference in Hollywood, Fla., comes a year after the advertiser trade organization intensified its focus on the topic of media transparency. Interest was sparked by former media agency boss Jon Mandel, who at last year’s ANA Leadership Conference said media agency rebates and kickbacks, long thought to be something that happened overseas, are actually more widespread.

Since then, the ANA has hired two firms — K2 and Ebiquity — to investigate the issue.



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Advertising Isn’t Dead, But Market Is Changing

All advertising isn’t dead. Just bad advertising.

That was the conclusion from Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group, speaking at The Wall Street Journal panel during the annual Cannes Lions advertising festival in the South of France.

“We are here celebrating 0.5% of the work that actually gets made. The other 99.5% of the work is generally crap. And when that happens, consumers don’t want to see it,” Mr. Jakeman said.

Cannes Lions began as a way for the creative ad community to honor the best ads but has more recently shifted into a weeklong rosé-fueled deal-making session. But this year’s gathering comes during a particularly precarious time in the ad industry. More consumers are using tools that block web ads. Marketers are worried about the transparency of how their dollars are spent by ad agencies. And new media pioneers are producing content on behalf of brands, encroaching on the turf of traditional agencies.

The WSJ panel, titled “Advertising is dead; Long live advertising,” also featured WPP PLC CEO Martin Sorrell, Vice Media LLC CEO Shane Smith and Facebook Inc. ’s vice president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn. It was moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s editor in chief, Gerard Baker.

One of the biggest topics at Cannes this week has been how to win consumers’ attention amid a swiftly changing technology landscape and backlash against a perceived overload of advertising.

Mr. Jakeman said that with the rise of digital advertising and the 30-second TV ad feeling more like a relic of a bygone era, brands feel compelled to churn out hundreds of pieces of work. But that is reducing the quality of the marketing and creating a “digital landfill” of “crap content that gets produced quickly and cheaply and doesn’t connect to the brand’s narrative,” he argued.

Mr. Smith’s Vice Media thinks it has the solution. The company has been the poster child of “branded content,” catapulting Vice to an almost $4.5 billion valuation. Vice works with marketers to create custom videos that feel like regular editorial fare, and Mr. Smith said that viewers don’t mind watching sponsored content so long as it is actually compelling.

“The ubiquitous 30-second spot doesn’t work,” he said. If Vice were to come up with a movie about climbing a mountain, it would approach North Face for a branded deal, Mr. Smith said.

Facebook’s Ms. Mendelsohn said consumers respond to advertising that is “targeted” for them, and that the problem is too many ads are irrelevant to the consumers who see them. While Facebook collects a vast amount of consumer data to make its targeting capabilities more robust, “privacy is the No. 1 thing that we think about,” she said.

Mr. Sorrell, who runs the world’s largest ad holding company, took the opportunity to defend traditional media. He said that videos on Facebook, where a “view” is counted after 3 seconds and users mostly watch with the sound off, isn’t equivalent to a TV ad.

“Traditional media, linear TV, [and] newspapers in their old form are more effective from an engagement point of view,” Mr. Sorrell said.

Still, Mr. Sorrell said that 75% of his company “is stuff that Don Draper wouldn’t recognize,” referring to the fictional ad executive from the 1960s-based television show “Mad Men.” Out of the $73 billion that WPP spent for clients last year, about $4 billion went to Google and $1 billion to Facebook, Mr. Sorrell said. This year, WPP will spend about $5 billion to $5.5 billion with Google and $1.7 billion with Facebook.

“Facebook on its current trajectory will be our second-biggest after Google probably next year,” Mr. Sorrell said.

Meanwhile, the dark cloud of “rebates” has hung over sunny Cannes this week. Earlier this month, the Association of National Advertisers released a report detailing pervasive transparency issues across the industry, particularly a practice where media companies return rebates to advertising agencies if they spend a certain amount of client dollars. The clients, in many cases, aren’t aware that their agencies are being incentivized, the report claimed.

“We have to be aware of where the financial transactions are taking place,” Mr. Jakeman said. The advertising industry until now has had an unspoken policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said.

The panelists also expressed concerns about measurement in the media business. Mr. Jakeman said “billion-dollar decisions” are being made upon things like outmoded surveys, and Mr. Sorrell said the digital world needs to produce agreed-upon metrics made by an independent third party. He highlighted digital measurement specialist comScore, in which WPP has a 16% stake.

“We invested in comScore because we think Nielsen is not a perfect system…and clients believe this, media owners believe this, and agencies believe this,” Mr. Sorrell said, ribbing the company whose industry-standard measurement has long set the currency for ad deals.

As for the future, Mr. Smith predicted a “culling” among media outlets, as brands figure out where to spend their money and media companies scramble for those dollars.

“There’s going to be a consolidation in media,” Mr. Smith said. “Only the strong survive.”



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Google Mixes Browsing History With Account Information – Potentially A Cross-Device Play?


Google is going to start storing Chrome and Google app browsing history alongside an individual’s Google account information, which catalogs what you watch on YouTube and what you search for.

The internet giant previously siloed those two types of information, and now that they’re coming together that data could eventually power more personalized ads on third-party websites, and possibly even fuel Google’s cross-device play. After all, Google search activity happens across desktop, mobile devices, tablets and more. Once that’s tied to a login, you’ve got a connection that hooks together numerous devices.

But all that will have to wait. According to a Google spokesperson, no new advertising products or targeting capabilities are available as of Wednesday.

First, Google needs to get users to give the OK to this data mixing. Data will only be mingled if consumers opt in – and throughout the summer, Google will slowly labor to collect those permissions.

“Like so often, Google is changing policies before it’s changing capabilities,” said Jay Friedman, COO of marketing services firm Goodway Group. “This is a change in policy without being immediately actionable for marketers. Google will gauge consumer reaction and determine whether it needs to be more or less forceful with consumers, and how ‘worth it’ this is, before releasing capabilities for marketers.”

Google declined to provide a timeline for when its advertiser clientele might see enhanced capabilities – and it also claimed not to have any benchmarks around how many opt-ins it would need to comfortably continue with its data-mingling plans.

Instead, Google framed the issue in terms of its cross-screen ad preferences infrastructure, which has frankly lagged behind some competitors such as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. For instance, its ad controls require device-by-device management, meaning users reporting an annoying ad on a laptop would have to do so again on a mobile device. In merging browsing data with account information, Google users can have a central control hub.

As dandy as that is, it’s hard to overlook the initiative’s potential impact on cross-device ad targeting. Even though Google is downplaying the benefits for marketers, it’s also persuading consumers to opt in by promising they’ll see more relevant ads, which naturally indicates advertisers will have better targeting capabilities across devices.

“The ability to provide sequential ads across devices is a big deal, and breaking down the silos is clearly important to help Google leverage its massive ecosystem more effectively – particularly as they’re adding search to the mix,” said Mindshare North America Chief Data Officer Rolf Olsen.

While many industry insiders look at Facebook with its impressive mobile revenue stream and its Atlas ad server as the de facto cross-device giant, Rob Griffin – chief innovation officer at the boutique digital agency Almighty – thinks Google could make a bigger play.

“Google has way bigger potential for being a cross-device solution than what Facebook has,” said Griffin, a former senior exec at French holding company Havas. “So much of Facebook usage is mobile-only. But Google can look at all the things they have and if they combine them, they are by default cross-device.”

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