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The Future of Advertising is Social

Ad publishers on major web platforms are expanding the standard display advertising format to include social actions that leverage the user’s contextual experience.

The newest example is Google’s click-to-call functionality, which will allow users of selected smart phones to call businesses directly from a Google ad. And Facebook’s social ads already offer advertisers three alternatives to the standard click: event RSVP, gift giving, and becoming a fan.

Contextual advertising features are available to more than the major platforms. Sites like Twitter, Foursquare, and YouTube – all thriving, user-driven communities – could integrate their own social actions into advertising. Larger platforms like Google and Facebook will bear out this experiment.

Adding social actions to advertising increases potential affinity between brands and consumers by:

  • providing a smoother user experience
  • presenting brands on a human level
  • offering consumers a sense of control

We’ll discuss how the features of contextual advertising accomplish this in future posts.

January 12, 2010 - 4 years ago

Posted In TrendsInsights

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The Future of Advertising is Social (Part 2)

In our previous post we discussed how major online platforms are expanding the format of the display ad.

How would a platform add social actions to the advertisements they carry? Ideally, they’d start by building in features the community already uses to share, vote, or communicate. Examples:

  • Faves and Likes
  • Thumbs up/thumbs down
  • Replies
  • Comments
  • Share
  • Retweet

Adding social actions to advertising increases affinity between brands and consumers:

Social actions in ads present brands on a human level, bringing the user and the brand closer together. Allowing replies and comments on an ad links individual consumers with a real business representative.

Don’t underestimate the power of this personal connection. When a customer talks back to a brand and gets a real response, like they do when they talk to @comcastcares or @BofA_help, the brand feels more accessible. At Bubble Fusion we’ve repeatedly experienced the benefit of connecting directly with our customers, and we’ll share those experiences in a future post.

Social actions in ads provide a smoother user experience. They enable actions that users are used to taking in other parts of the site and keep the user in context. Ultimately, the ad feels like part of the platform and is more likely to be welcomed by the user.

Finally, social actions in ads offer consumers a sense of control. Voting features such as Facebook’s “Like” button or an “X” that makes the ad disappear imparts a sense of power over the ads themselves. Even if users can’t fully turn off the ads, feeling validated and listened to strengthens the user’s connection to the platform and gives the advertiser feedback on their campaign.

January 14, 2010 - 4 years ago

Posted In TrendsInsights

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Ads miss the Mark, Betty, Tom, Dick and Harry

Every (ok, almost every) Ad Network claims to be able to leverage social networks to “super/hyper-target your ad”. Demographic targeting is a fine first step. Sure they can pull my age, gender and hometown from a social network with a quick api call, and target ads based on this information. Yay for them.

The challenge is to leverage social information better. To go beyond the mundane census data and find a way to cull the (potentially more important, interesting and more valuable) non-demographic data to inform ad targeting.

I don’t wanna feel like a row in a database. I don’t want to see ads that target my row in your database. In a social context, ads have an opportunity to re-invent themselves.

Nowadays, the word “Advertisement” is nearly synonymous with “Spam”. Spammy brand blankets or spray and pray type product advertisments think they know (based on my age, gender, location, etc) what I need and want. They don’t.

Imagine a day when ad servers are savvy enough to find out what I really need or want. When I see an ad to “Just do something…”, it’s basically useless. Sure there might be some branding value there, but really all you did was slow down my page load for no good reason.

Now suppose *I am* looking for something — XYZ. If someone I knew said: “Oh hey: You know how you’re looking for XYZ? My co-worker got XYZ at [insert vendor here]. You might wanna check it out…”

That’s basically the same message. The context is better. The pitch is now relevant. Social Advertising is about relevance more than demographics. Get this right and win a prize ;)

January 18, 2010 - 4 years ago

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Choosing Keywords for Twitter Ads

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Search advertisers are attracted to Twitter ads because the format appears the same: a short line of text, a link, sometimes a photo. However, search ads differ in one crucial way: targeting.

Targeting a user in search is very different from targeting a user on Twitter. Why? Your target customer is doing something different in each context. Here’s an example that taught us the difference.

When we first tested 140 Proof's targeting, we ran test ads, including one for server monitoring software made by a local startup. In addition to their Google ad text, their marketing department provided their standard SEO keywords:

network management software, network monitoring software, open source monitoring, Nagios, monitoring software, IT Monitoring, Network Monitoring, monitoring software, application monitoring, IT infrastructure management

After two weeks, the Google keywords had generated only 3 impressions, when they should have seen tens of thousands of Twitter impressions among our beta users.

The issue at work was one of context. The company’s target customers were using different terms on Twitter than they were in search. To generate useful keywords for each context, marketers must ask different questions:

"What is my target customer searching for?" (Search)


"What is my target customer talking about?" (Twitter)

To properly target a Twitter ad, generate a new set of keywords based on words the target customer is likely to use on Twitter. Successful keywords usually fit one of the following use cases:

  1. Everyday things the target customer talks about on Twitter
  2. Unique terms the target customer uses when asking questions on Twitter about the competitor’s product
  3. Unique terms the target customer uses when praising/complaining about other products he/she uses every day
  4. Publications and sites the target customer reads and shares with friends
  5. Sources the target customer follows on Twitter

By focusing on a user’s conversational habits instead of search habits, you can build a Twitter-centric persona to use to target your ads successfully.

January 18, 2010 - 4 years ago

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How to Write Ads (When Ads Are Tweets)

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A Twitter ad network can present your brand’s messages in front of a new audience you haven’t been able to reach before. Picture it: your target customer is browsing her stream, checking for updates from her friends and ready to share the interesting things that catch her interest. What do you want to say to her? How will you say it?

Users will read your ad like a tweet. Write it like one.

The extensive testing we’ve done with our initial clients has borne out a number of solid approaches to engaging a Twitter audience.

The offer. “Get the Shopping Guide app for BlackBerry, now on sale for 99 cents.” Transplanted almost directly from Google AdWords, this ad highlights a special, linked offer. You’ll get the clicks you pay for, but you won’t necessarily get much engagement.

The contest. “Retweet this for a chance to win a new MacBook Pro! #bubblefusion”
Tweets as contest entries have repeatedly proven themselves as a way to quickly build brand awareness. Seed your Twitter contest with a campaign to jump-start your word-of-mouth promotion. You’ll see a large number of retweets and new followers, which all translate to sales leads for your brand.

The question. “How long has it been since you flossed?”
This conversational approach to an ad is ideal for Twitter. In this context, you’re reaching consumers who are primed to listen, respond, and share. Give users a chance to engage your brand, and take the opportunity to turn curious respondents into loyal customers. Most of your payoff from this ad will be in the form of replies, retweets, and new followers.

For those few, brave souls creating a Twitter ad without ever having tweeted, a word on tone:

  • Be brief.
  • Be approachable. It’s OK to sound more personal on Twitter. Write a tweet that users might want to reply to.
  • Keep it light. Twitter is generally an upbeat place where people love to share entertaining, thoughtful, or funny things. You’re likely to be retweeted if you fit your tone to Twitter.

We’d love to hear about examples that you’ve seen work in the past. If you have an amazing story about the response you got from a 140 Proof ad, let us know.

January 19, 2010 - 4 years ago

Posted In CreativeInsights

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Ads Are Conversations: Giving Consumers Control over the Ads They See

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Last week, a coalition of advertising industry organizations announced the privacy “i”: a symbol that will ride on ads that have been targeted to the viewer. The symbol is expected to appear wherever ads are targeted. Clicking on the “i” symbol will lead you to information about why you were targeted for the ad.

Google and Yahoo already share this kind of targeting information, except that they show you your overall ad profile, not how they matched you to a specific ad.

Your Google ad preferences
Your Yahoo! ad preferences

If that was your first time seeing your ad profile, chances are the experience was surprisingly ordinary. Has Google decided you’re interested in air travel and jobs? It’s hard to get angry about that. Taking the mystery out of such things is good for all parties.

However, there’s something important about configurable ad preferences. Allowing users to indicate what kinds of ads they’d prefer to see (even if ultimately they’d prefer to see no ads at all) is a first step in bringing brands and consumers closer together.

Imagine that ads are conversations between brands and consumers, not just one-way messages. Consumers’ ad profiles make them visible to brands that match their interests. In that context, the brand’s ad feels less like an unwanted interruption and more like an invitation to connect. Increasingly, platforms are building functionality for consumers to respond to brands directly instead of being mediated by a website (such as Google’s click-to-call functionality).

Platforms that were built around communication are well-positioned for this change in the industry. Facebook has made strides around integrating social actions into advertising. The biggest opportunity, though, lies in Twitter, which was built for conversations.

Twitter is ideally suited for a brand that wants to show a message to millions of users and get an instantaneous response. With the addition of consumer-influenced targeting, brands that choose to advertise on Twitter have a better chance for engaging customers than they do in most other mass-marketing contexts.

February 1, 2010 - 4 years ago

Posted In TrendsInsights

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Enabling the Twitter Ecosystem to Monetize and Thrive

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By choosing to expose their API, Twitter has built a 75+ million user-strong business, and an entirely new mode of communication.  This open API has launched an unprecedented developer phenomenon and created a unique ecosystem of developers and companies building innovative products on every imaginable platform.

While there has been an exceptional amount of press and discussion about how Twitter will monetize their platform, I suggest that this is a question that Twitter does not need to answer. 

Twitter could very well release next week their master plan for monetization, but I could also envision a world where Twitter applies the same approach to generating revenue that they took with respect to building applications…let the ecosystem lead the way. 

Once the ecosystem has developed multiple thriving business models, you can simply tax the rich.  Twitter has already done something similar with their search advertising partners at Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Effectively they have outsourced some form of search functionality and keyword monetization to the larger search companies in exchange for a tax on data usage and profits (a tax that some report to be in the $10 - $15 million dollar range per partner).  These probably are not the first ecosystem partners that one thinks about when you think about Twitter, but they are the ones that are currently able to pay big dollars.

Our vision at 140 Proof is to build a monetization engine for the slightly smaller-than-Google-sized application developers in the ecosystem which will allow them to grow and thrive.  We feel that our advertising monetization engine is uniquely suited to both the ethos of Twitter (unobtrusive ads that are highly relevant to customers) and to the capabilities of Twitter (full social interaction allowing conversations with advertisers and honest engagement).

Our hope is that Twitter continues to develop and promote their revolutionary infrastructure solution.  They have created a transformational communication medium.  Our mission is to apply our advertising and technological expertise to not only help develop closer interactions with all types of organizations and customers, but more importantly, to provide the ecosystem of developers (just like ourselves) a path to grow into sustainable businesses.  A healthy ecosystem is not only good for the ecosystem, but it is also good for Twitter and will help all parties deliver on the vision of creating a more open and connected global community.

Jon Elvekrog
CEO, 140 Proof

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April 8, 2010 - 4 years ago

Posted In publishersInsights

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Q4 2010 Insights and 2011 Look Ahead (1/3)

In Q4 we reached a level of scale that enables us to give a meaningful high level read out around what is happening for Advertisers and Publishers on our Network of Twitter and other social stream related sites, apps and services. Below we’ll report on the following:

Part I. Top Advertiser Verticals in Q4 and emerging in 1H 2011

Part II. Campaign Insights and Performance — what works and why

Part III. The Publisher Landscape — evolution of an ecosystem

Part I. Top Advertiser Verticals in Q4 and emerging in 1H 2011: Retail, Automotive and Entertainment lead the way

Retail, Automotive and Entertainment were the top Advertiser Verticals on our Network in Q4. Retail driven by holiday season — note general brand campaigns outperformed specific sale/promotion events in December. Automotive driven by 2012 model launches and strong mapping of brand objectives with the large and influential target audience we reach on our Network. Entertainment driven by native viral and real-time event nature of Social Steam.

Travel and Consumer Technology will challenge as top verticals in 1H 2011. Already strong on the Network — we are predicting the success of campaigns we are running now in these verticals will drive further adoption. Travel, deals, social stream audience and sharing are like peas and carrots right? Consumer Technology campaigns are seeing strong results as they tap into a rich combo of vocal influencers, sizable reach across their target audience, and sophisticated platform and device level targeting.

Consumer Finance lags. Not surprisingly, Finance has not been an early adopter of Social Stream Advertising, waiting to see how other verticals are using it and ensuring that when their campaign goes viral on the backs of influencers it is all good. A progressive brand in this area has an opportunity to engage the Twitter and social stream audience ‘on their terms’ and establish a major leadership position.

[Okay, digest! Parts 2 and 3 will be published on Jan 19th and 21st, respectively]

As always chat us up for more. Will call back. Will show up. Will not make you fill out a large form with data we will never use. Hit me at or via our simple contact form.

Posted by Andy Scott

January 17, 2011 - 3 years ago

Posted In insightstrends

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