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When a Mom Is More Than a Mom: People Are Complex

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Loved seeing your daughter’s soccer photos on LinkedIn yesterday! And thanks for endorsing me for Project Management on Tumblr.

Wait, that’s wrong. Kid photos go on Facebook. Resume stuff goes on LinkedIn. And gifs from Sunday’s Game of Thrones go on Tumblr.

Different Social Networks for Different Things

You know instinctively to use different social networks for different things. Maybe you don’t use that many social networks (though we encourage you to try Snapchat, just once, because it’s fun), but if you’re online more than a couple hours a week you probably use more than one.

For example, most people reading this article probably rely on LinkedIn for business, Facebook for family, and Twitter for news. A scrappy few among you may also use Path for friends or Pinterest for collections or Snapchat for those random thoughts. The fact that you follow Recode on Twitter and you “like” Angry Birds on Facebook means something. It means that while you might be the same person wherever you go, you say and do different things in each place.

When a Mom Is More Than a Mom

Okay, social data company. What does this have to do with marketing? It means that researching our audiences often reveals associations that we expect and some we didn’t expect.

It means that some of the same audience members show up in different personas. Moms are not only moms. Some moms plant flowers. Some of them love TV. Some of them listen to heavy metal.

For our customers, sometimes it means we’ll suggest the most common related personas for an audience, to help broaden targeting. And it also means that the campaign wrap-up report sometimes highlights a surprising new trend for a target audience. (Hey, CPG marketer! Next time you think about including “Home Automation” in your target or your ad creative!)

People Are Jewels

When you work with interest graph targeting as opposed to demographic targeting, you quickly learn that people have many sides, like jewels have facets. Rather than let ourselves be overwhelmed by their complexity, we should appreciate all we can learn from people and their varied interests.

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April 10, 2014 - 1 week ago

Posted In trends Targeting tumblr Pinterest facebook Twitter foursquare

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Three New Digital Ad Developments You Gotta Check Out

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There’s always something new in digital advertising, which is a big reason why we love working in this industry. From deciding which trends are worth following to testing out newer platforms like Vine and Snapchat, we’re constantly learning from innovative brand teams and re-evaluating the most effective ways to reach the right audience. In the spirit of sharing new ideas, here are three strategies that caught our eye recently:

1) Mike’s Hard Lemonade quits TV

As the warm months roll around, alcohol brands will begin running commercials that position cold beverages as the staple of an American summer. Everyone, that is, except Mike’s Hard Lemonade. 

The flavored malt beverage recently announced that it is bowing out of the traditional TV arms race and is instead shifting all its dollars to digital advertising. No longer interested in duking it out with competitors like Bud Light Lime and Smirnoff Ice over televised ads, Mike’s will instead be making a splash on sites like Woven, Vevo, Buzzfeed, Discovery, the Weather Company, The Onion and Complex Media.

We’ve heard ad nauseam about how budgets for TV campaigns will start moving to digital – indeed, this is one of the goals of the upcoming Digital Content NewFronts – but the examples of brands actually going all-in on digital are few and far between. Mike’s is blazing a trail that has been long-heralded as the future of advertising, and we’ll be keeping a close watch on the results of their efforts. 

2) Snapchat wins over McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Grubhub 

While Facebook and Instagram continue to reign supreme as the most-used social networks, Snapchat comes in a close third, counting 46% of US teens and young adults as users. Much like Vine and Instagram Video, Snapchat has become the new social darling for brands to try out – and while it doesn’t offer traditional ad buys, marketers are experimenting with ways to promote product launches, drive sales and offer discounts through the app.  

For starters, McDonald’s has been using the “stories” feature to unveil new products, and TacoBell employed the app to introduce its new Beefy Crunch Burrito last May. But some of the most creative snaps to date have been from GrubHub, which uses the social platform to share promo codes and contests. Last month, the online delivery service began snapping daily scavenger hunts. Fans were invited send back a drawing of food for a chance to win $50 in GrubHub orders, and winners were selected at random (regardless of artistic talent).  

What’s interesting about these food companies’ use of Snapchat is that millennials and college-aged audiences don’t view the snaps as intrusive; on the contrary, a recent study by Sumpto revealed that nearly seven out of 10 college students said they would add a brand on Snapchat, with 67% citing potential discounts and promotions as the top reason. One-fifth specified that they would add a brand in order to receive humorous communications. 

3) UNICEF gets people off their phones, Heineken gets people out of their comfort zone

Some of the most creative campaigns we’ve seen recently focused on real world actions in lieu of digital engagement. UNICEF’s Tap Project challenged supporters to see how long they could go without using their phone to raise awareness about a much more serious commodity. For every 10 minutes in the month of March that participants refrained from touching their devices, Giorgio Armani Fragrances agreed to donate the equivalent of one day of clean water for a child in need. For this campaign, not taking action was the intended action – and while that seems counterintuitive, it’s a refreshing change of pace. 

Another example of action as its own form of content was Heineken’s “Departure Roulette.” In an encore performance, the beer company surprised folks who had tweeted about their first campaign and invited them to drop their plans and journey to a chance location. The resulting video was not only entertaining but also authentic – proving that just because we’re focused on digital doesn’t mean we can’t also find ways to engage with our audience in the real world. 

The common thread in all of these examples is that brands must think creatively in order to stand out in an increasingly crowded landscape – and often the best way to do that is to have a little fun. 

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April 9, 2014 - 1 week ago

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Social Media’s Ad Revenue Evolution: Jon Elvekrog on WSJ Digits

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Jon Elvekrog met with the Wall Street Journal “Digits” team to talk about Yahoo’s pending acquisition of video services network NDN.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Jon Elvekrog:

“There’s two really big points about NDN. First is video; obviously it’s a huge, growing market. And I think it’s an area where they had been underrepresented. Thry brought in Katie Couric, they’re trying to develop more of their assets, but this focus on video is a big opportunity for them. The second piece is this concept of going off-network. Clearly they don’t have huge video assets at Yahoo, Inc., but NDN gives them reach into the rest of the video world and allows them to scale their digital assets off-network.

“Social is another huge macro trend along with video, and for us the most compelling bit (and maybe the most important bit for Yahoo) is the data. Yahoo has Tumblr, their social network, but then there’s Facebook, and Twitter, Pinterest, huge other properties that they’re not going to be able to go out and buy, but that data, we enable advertisers to leverage that social data across various networks to build audiences at scale. And that’s a really powerful opportunity.

“[With regard to pre-roll advertising being annoying to users], everyone wants to jump right to the content. For us, one of the reasons we started 140 Proof was we thought that the idea of getting relevant content in front of people was a more enjoyable advertising experience. For example, pre-roll ads can actually be targeted to things that you’re interested in. It’s the spoonful of sugar that makes that ad go down a little bit easier.

“We fundamentally believe that social data, this idea of what you’re publicly sharing — whether it’s pinning a product on Pinterest, following someone on Twitter or liking something on Facebook — is this mesh that will give advertisers this hook into what people actually care about (their interests), as opposed to what demographic you are.

“Native, both in pre-roll format, and also something that is more sponsorship integrated into the video playing experience is a pretty positive thing for users. Again, we have a littleb it of a bias from a targeting perspective. The better you can get that content matched to the things you care about, that is a big win for advertisers.”

April 1, 2014 - 3 weeks ago

Posted In trends technology

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Publishers Are Feeling the Social Squeeze

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Publishers who don’t have access to social data are facing a growing challenge—social squeeze. When it comes to digital advertising market share, they are losing out to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

AOL’s acquisition of Gravity in January shows that AOL knows it needs to make its ad offering more social. Likewise, Marissa Mayer’s recent statement that the interest graph is the future of understanding what consumers want shows that Yahoo is aware it has the same problem.

With Facebook recently laying claim to the second-largest share of digital advertising dollars in the country, this is actually every publisher’s challenge today. The cash flowing into social platforms is not new money being spent in digital for the first time—these dollars are coming from the pockets of existing publishers, and few are avoiding the social squeeze.

Publishers, then, must keep Facebook and Twitter from further encroaching on their home turf. The social companies have made their presence known far and wide—so how can publishers defend and grow their revenue when media buyers are increasingly buying into the power of social?

Just playing defense won’t cut it. Publishers have to change their game plan—the only way to compete with social is social. To do so, they’ll have to make three critical adjustments:

1. MAKE DATA MORE SOCIAL
As Mayer so accurately noted, understanding an individual’s interests allows for more personalization, which is great for consumers, and better ad targeting, which is great for advertisers.

At the confluence of these two are the publishers, who need both eyeballs and ad dollars. AOL’s intention is to use Gravity’s data as a proxy for interests, which shows effort in the right direction, and Apple may be taking a similar step with its acquisition of Topsy.

Social data gains more value the closer to the source you get—that is, to individuals and to what they express about themselves on social platforms. It can be used to make recommendations to people on content sites driving an alignment of content and advertising to make the advertising more premium—or it can be used to ensure that ads appearing in many places will be relevant to the consumer. In this way, advertising can take on aspects of CRM.

2. MAKE ADS MORE EFFECTIVE
Ads must move away from the much loathed and widely ignored banner. Similarly, the word “native” is becoming one of those overused industry words that has accrued so many meanings that it’s meaningless.

We learn from social that ads in line with the content and with the same appearance and tone of the platform around it are very effective. Some publishers have dealt with dropping rates by adding more ads to each page, but that is unsustainable. Others have placed ads in whatever they can call a “stream” or a “feed,” but because there is no social targeting, they wind up with belly fat ads that are undesired by most audiences and, even worse, undermine the quality of the publisher.

Fewer ads of greater quality and relevance will drive rates back up because they are truly valuable.

3. MAKE A MORE CREDIBLE CLAIM ON BRAND SPENDING DOLLARS
Lastly, the real opportunity for publishers lies in capturing brand dollars. Action-based data and lookalike models that third party Big Data providers sell haven’t convinced brand advertisers to do their image-building work in digital—and they never will. While they may be comfortable with content alignment, that’s often difficult to scale via the Web.

Brands willing to build awareness online and in mobile will require a deep understanding of the real interests of the people on the other end of the ad server. And, interestingly enough, Twitter and Facebook don’t seem to have gone up to the plate swinging for brand dollars.

Facebook Exchange, Twitter Custom Audiences: these are retargeting techniques, and, while they are effective for driving action, they continue to leave much potential brand spending on the sidelines and keep new dollars out of digital’s reach.

If publishers can accomplish the first two points—making their data more social and their ads more appealing—then they’ve got a chance to bring in brand advertising in a much bigger way. Google’s new Custom Brand Exchanges are a step in that direction, as they’ve been reverse-engineered to capitalize on demand from brands and match them with premium inventory. Targeting audiences through social data with ads that they are interested in will expand the pool of inventory, whether served through exchanges or sold directly by publishers.

Some publishers have taken strong first steps toward understanding the competitive advantages that they should bring to the table. The social squeeze is avoidable—if you learn from social.

By 140 Proof CEO Jon Elvekrog.

This article originally appeared in Fast Company on 20 March 2014.

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March 28, 2014 - 3 weeks ago

Posted In facebook Twitter trends

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You Won’t Believe What This Jerk Thinks About Click Bait

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Click bait: the enticing headline that, like much fast food, smells great before you bite but leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, HuffPo, Gawker and dozens more have perfected the formula.  “This Kid Found $20 and What Happens Next Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” “This Outrageous GOP Blunder Changes the Whole Game for the Dems.” “This Gyrating Animatronic Doll Will Haunt Your Dreams.”

It’s a race to the bottom and while it’s good for publishers, it’s caveat emptor time for readers and (especially) advertisers.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, still shame on you.  We are afraid of missing a cultural party our friends are already in on, so we often can’t resist. Marie knows which Downton Abbey character she is.  Rob’s Travolta-fied name is funny. And gyrating animatronic dolls.  Sometimes the promise is so good that, even though we know we’ll regret it, we click anyway.

There’s science behind it, the same kind of science that understands how to turn that first Dorito into an empty bag. It’s all there to drive page views, the thing publishers care about more than anything else. The Travolta name generator was the single biggest revenue generator for Slate last year. Upworthy is so reliant on social sharing of their click bait that when Facebook recently throttled them in users’ feeds, their traffic dropped like a name at a book party. For publishers that load ads onto their pages, the only thing that matters is that the ads load – so their job is done if you stay on the page for a few seconds.

But put yourself in the advertiser’s shoes. You care about more than the ad loading, you care about people noticing it and understanding the message. That takes time. Some of the most successful distributors of this pop content are pushing the idea that the advertising should be the click bait.  To wit, Upworthy’s “native advertising” headlined “Watch the Spread of Walmart Across the Country in One Horrifying GIF” that was paid for by the labor union AFL-CIO. Kudos to that one, as all the union intends is for you to dislike its nemeses, but if you’re actually selling a product it’s often difficult to make the connection between the “native content” (if it’s any good) and what’s being sold. Sometimes the brand finds a way to work it’s way in to the content well, but more often it’s a “brought to you by” line in the subtitle that is as flimsy a brand association as you can buy… how clear is it that this promotion is for Schick?

And, finally, using a click bait headline as your audience targeting mechanism may get a lot of eyeballs on the content, but there is no way to know whether they are the eyeballs you want to reach. Just hopping on a trending topic does not mean you have found the right audience. If both a 23-year-old woman who lives in New York City and a 50-year-old man in Vermont get pulled into the same piece of irresistible content, chances are that the ads on the page aren’t relevant to both of them.  

We’re still in the early phases of branded content – and we are in no way suggesting that branded content cannot be a valuable thing. But if you are after a specific audience, message association with your product, and having your best chance to be visible, consider this headline: “I Bought Into Click Bait And All I Got Were These Snuggling Puppies.”

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March 25, 2014 - 4 weeks ago

Posted In trends

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Box’s SVP of Engineering, Sam Schillace, speaks at Hack Deploy Scale

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Box, the enterprise file sharing company, made headlines today with its S-1 filing. Our friend Sam Shillace, Box’s SVP of Engineering, dropped by to speak at our monthly Hack Deploy Scale tech talk series.

Sam spoke about startups, leading engineering teams, the VC perspective, mobile trends, and the “primadonna death spiral.”

Our thanks to Sam for a great talk. 

Don’t see a video above? Watch on YouTube

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March 24, 2014 - 4 weeks ago

Posted In Events

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Earned Media Isn’t Free

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There is no free media. That may fly in the face of the “paid vs. earned” dichotomy that has become a big part of digital strategy in the marketing world.  But it’s a mistaken dichotomy.  You’re still paying for what you earn, just in different ways. 

Paid media is easy to define: exchanging dollars for batches of impressions of an advertisement or other message.  Earned, a word that makes everyone feel like they’ve done their job really, realy well, generally means putting out a piece of content that, by virtue of its quality, news value, or other appeal point, takes on a life of its own merits and gain millions of free impressions across blogs, news outlets, video sites, and social media.  

But the truth is that the road to viral success is often paved with hefty price tags and significant manpower. Great content doesn’t make itself. Think about RedBull, which spent millions to sponsor Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump from the edge of space. The stunt was aired on nearly 80 TV stations in 50 countries, and the webcast received more than 52 million views. Did they earn that media? You bet they did and it came with a nice price tag to boot. Those free views cost millions. Few brands would do what RedBull did, but few brands also have such amazing affinities to mine. RedBull is about energy and aligns itself with extreme sports. What could be more extreme than breaking an unthinkable record? 

Even if you’re encouraging your audience to be the content creators – like Doritos did during the Super Bowl — this requires significant planning and resources. People need a reason to participate, which means that you need to add some advertising muscle to spread awareness of the program and provide an incentive. And if you are Doritos, you then buy the most expensive airtime of the year to show that great content to the world.  You got over eight million “free” views on YouTube?  Yes, a success.  But not a free one.

Sometimes you do earn it all at a very slim price tag.  Wren “First Kiss” video, which was a huge success for a company was made on a shoestring budget. They captured lightning in an inexpensive bottle; the video cultivated a ton of attention, with more than 60 million YouTube views, and earned the homage of parody videos that showed “First Kiss” had become a cultural moment. Was this exposure earned? You bet.  But the lesson here is that if you have a brilliant idea that pulls on people’s emotional heartstrings and you execute it beautifully, than you stand a chance at earning media. However, these things don’t happen often and there is a good reason for that. Brilliant ideas are hard to come by, and if you’re a big company with many corporate hoops to jump through, even an exceptional idea is a challenge to execute authentically and flawlessly. Part of the reason “First Kiss” did as well as it did was that it was almost completely unbranded, which makes the branding benefit of the attention questionable. Audiences don’t easily share what is clearly commercial.

Even some of the earned media successes we’ve seen trumpeted in the trades aren’t as cleanly “earned” as you might think.  Many companies place paid digital media in order to drive up YouTube views, so the metrics of “wow, look how many YouTube views” doesn’t always correlate to “earning” views, it more correlates to how strongly a marketer emphasized YouTube views as a KPI to their boss.

It’s not wrong to use paid to promote “earned.”  Marketers are in the scale game and all tactics to promote important content are legitimate.  But perhaps we could do without the false distinction of paid vs. earned so that we can have a more honest conversation about how we reach audiences with marketing messages today. Paid media can light the fuse that enables virality to begin.  It has to because it is not possible to reliably predict what content will become viral on it’s own.  There was no guarantee that the Wren video, as good as it was, would catch on; the company seemed as surprised as anyone.  What you must do is create the best content you can, content that your brand can authentically make given what it stands for, and then combine seeding with paid placement until that critical mass takes it as far as it can go.  Earned is not a strategy: it’s an outcome. 

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March 18, 2014 - 1 month ago

Posted In technology trends

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Geographic Drift: Understanding Location in Social

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Marketers value location for targeting their social ads. But identifying where people are isn’t as simple as it seems. Users’ locations are more nuanced than simply “where are they now?” Social ad firms discussing location often leave this out, for simplicity. We don’t blame them: with billions of interest connections being generated every day, social offers a lot of data for analysts to crawl.

Public social data can show us the difference between where people say they are and where they’re actually spending time. For example, you might have added “Austin” to your social profile, but all your latest check-ins and geo-tagged posts are in Louisiana.

This article is part one of a two-part series on understanding location in social.

What is Geographic Drift?

So you may state you’re somewhere but be observed somewhere else. The difference between your stated location and your observed location is your geographic drift.

It’s tempting to think of geographic drift as a measure of honesty: why would people say they’re somewhere they actually aren’t? But people’s conception of location doesn’t stop at cartographic borders.

In fact, stated location can illustrate how people imagine a geographic area. We’ll explore geographic drift and the reasons behind it with a few visualizations.

When a City Is Bigger Than a City

US map

The map above marks out six different metro areas. The circles around each city is a hint at how how widely (or tightly) people conceive of the city.

Take Chicago, for example. Of all social users who say they’re in Chicago, more people were observed outside of Chicago’s blue circle than inside it. Put another way, people who say they’re from Chicago are often not even near Chicago.

By stark contrast, the geographic drift for most who state their location as Jackson, Mississippi is much more tightly confined. The same principle applies to this part of the chart — more people who say they’re in Jackson are observed outside the circle — but the drift is much less.

Measuring Drift: Defining Location in Social

The idea that people aren’t where they say they are is huge. Let’s back up and talk about how we measure geographic drift. How do we know to attach locations to people?

Contrary to what many people might think, there’s no single way that people record and report their locations. In social platforms, it happens a number of ways:

  • People on all social platforms add real or vanity locations to social profile bios
  • Foursquare and Facebook users check in at locations on platforms
  • Twitter users elect to attach GPS location data to their posts
  • Apps use IP addresses to distinguish their users

Stated vs Observed Locations: What’s the difference between where I am and where I say I am?

The 140 Proof Labs team differentiated between stated locations (“I’m from Chicago!”) and observed locations (You’re actually in Indiana!) by starting with a few assumptions. One assumption, for example, is that automated location tagging is less likely to be affected by user bias and thus can be an observed characteristic. So observed location data includes GPS tagging and IP addresses. If it happened without much help from you, you were observed. And stated location data includes profile-reported locations and check-ins. If you clicked or tapped it, you stated it. 

Why Do People Drift?

Major factors affecting drift can include: commuting, clarity, credibility, and social graph distribution.

The map below (right) hows how commuting can increase geographic drift for a population in Los Angeles, a city known for its freeway traffic.

-borIt’s the same story for New York (left): wide availability of transit makes it easy for self-proclaimed New Yorkers to show up well outside of the five boroughs.

Geographic drift for New York and Los Angeles

The chart on the left is mapping people who say they’re in New York (defined with a yellow border). All the colored shapes outside the five boroughs show where those “New Yorkers” actually are. Same for Los Angeles: people who say they’re in Los Angeles are actually observed in a wide distribution across Southern California.

Another explanation for drift around very large cities could also be that people understand that names like “Los Angeles” and “New York” are more recognizable than “Bridgeport” and “Santa Ana”, so people in social are more likely to just say they’re in LA or NY. It’s simpler that way.

Why DON’T People Drift?

Here is an example of two cities that, by contrast, show little geographic drift.

Geographic drift for Napa and Irvine, Ca

People who say they’re in Napa tend to be observed in Napa. Why? You might already know that Napa, California is famous for its wines and attracts tourists year-round. But what about the residents? They’re largely retirees, families, and local business owners. So they don’t have as much reason to leave Napa as a high-octane Manhattan resident or an LA road warrior.

And Irvine, California? It’s another suburban town of about 215,000 people — most of whom are families and over 10% of which are college students. While Irvine-dwellers get around a bit more than the Napalese, they generally stick closely to Irvine.

Stay tuned for part two, in which we examine how diverse interests (defined as personas) are represented regionally.

This study was authored by @williamcotton, @jm3, @NotoriousKRD, and @vnaylon of the 140 Proof Labs team.

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March 14, 2014 - 1 month ago

Posted In trends technology dataviz

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