November 21, 2013

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Big Data Meets Programmatic Buying The pace of automation, interconnections and change in digital media buying is staggering. And while there’s still considerable blabbing, handwringing, stalling and excuse making about programmatic buying, reality is way ahead of the rhetoric even if media firms and their clients aren’t leading the charge. The days of armies of young media planners and buyers wielding spreadsheets are being replaced by a business rules that instruct computers to buy and optimize in real time. Think about it. Americans are spending much more time online than on TV, yet most of the ad dollars flow to TV. Similarly people are using mobile media extensively yet there’s just a trickle of brands experimenting with mobile advertising. The likely reason is the continuing need for efficient reach, measured in gross tonnage of eyeballs, mixed with 6 ounces of conventional wisdom and 2 tablespoons of inertia. As social and mobile media ascend to dominance, advertisers will be looking for transparency (who saw their ads) and performance (who clicked, signed up or bought) according to Sephi Shapira, CEO of Massive Impact. These rough equivalents of general and direct marketing will become increasingly important as smartphones and tablets merge into Phablets, which in Q2 2013 have 25MM units in market. Ultimately everything on the phone/phablet will talk to each other and be available to marketers to enable ad serving. Consumers will be targeted by device, by apps installed, by the games they play, by names in their phone book, by browser or even by the pictures they take. And while this has a 1984 feel to it, the concentration and mining of data will make messages more relevant to each individual. To accommodate these needs real-time bidding (RTB) is accelerating and becoming more sophisticated. In terms of inventory control and access, auction style bidding puts each unit and each potential customer up for bid. Prices are determined moment by moment in relentless auctions managed by demand side platforms (DSPs). In terms of targeting or retargeting, by using contextual data rather than demographics as the principal targeting criteria, brands can track what consumers do and where they go in order to direct the messages served to them. Ads can be directed by device, by location, and by collaborative filters that, like Amazon, infer what people want based on what they’ve done or what their friends do. “For a generation that live their lives entirely online, there’s no such thing as TMI,” in Sephi’s opinion. “And while this may feel creepy to some, younger consumers appreciate the behind-the-scenes filtering that delivers information and offers about things they actually like and care about.” Facebook, on the strength of FBX units, has gone from zero to sixty in record time transforming both the timeline and the right column ads into direct response and pay for performance vehicles. With the number of Facebook users accessing the platform on mobile devices now approaching 50%, real time mobile ads are likely to play an increasing role for brands. Ninety percent of the automated inventory is now being sold on a cost per action basis. Publishers display messages as often as necessary to drive a guaranteed number of actions. Brands pay only for performance; less for a click and more for a sale. But with guaranteed performance and predictable costs, there’s very little risk. Automated performance based ads, which can course correct on their own like heat-seeking missiles, are transforming eCRM which enables repeat sales, upsells and cross selling. Data swapping is a refinement on its way to the US, says Shapira. In Europe and Asia it’s not uncommon for a telco to share data with an insurance company in order to mutually enhance databases and improve segmentation, targeting and conversion. Sephi’s message to brands is “Don’t miss the revolution. Social and mobile platforms, games, apps and real time bidding are emerging tools that savvy marketers are embracing and mastering to gain first-mover competitive advantages. If you are buying banners and hoping for the best, you’re not really in the game.” Related articles Why Real-Time Bidding Is Going To Completely Change The Equation For Mobile Advertising By 2017, it projects that programmatic buying (Real-time bidding) will account for 87% of display, 69% of video and 88% of mobile advertising buys. (U.S.)
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Optimizing Holiday Email The holiday email frenzy is in full swing as Black Friday offers clog everyone’s inbox.Email is becoming increasingly formulaic as marketers test, learn and apply lessons learned from responders. This is troubling to some creative types who don’t want to be confined by research or constrained by conventions developed by left-brain analytical wonks. But the reason email is so widely accepted, used and effective is because we have shared learnings collectively and continuously found new creative ways to illustrate our offers and craft our language. Here are seven new findings from Marketo, MailChimp, Pamorama, MarketingSherpa and the Center for Media Research who looked at billions of emails to help make holiday email more effective at engaging and converting customers. 1. Visuals matter. 65 percent of people are visual learners so communicating with images is critical. People scan email. They don’t read it. This explains the explosion of infographics. Maybe this is why video on landing pages increases conversion by 86%. Email should be visually stimulating and telegraphic. 2. Add social sharing buttons. They increase click-thru rates by 158%. People mix and match their media and share things broadly. If you make sharing easy, consumers will reward you with pass-along impressions. 3. Personalization counts. But surprisingly the use of both first and last name is 3.5 times more effective in driving open rates than first name only and twice as effective as using just the surname. Psychologically we are less casual than we think we are. People bridle at brands or strangers addressing them in too familiar a way. 4. “Freebie” tops “free” in subject lines for prompting more opens. The difference in value perception drives more than 10X more opens. Free is abused, overused and burned out in medical, retail and travel sectors. 5. Urgency matters but threats of loss don’t fly. Words like urgent, breaking, important and alert resulted in open rates way above normal. Invitations and announcements (and all the variations of these words) still trigger curiosity opens. But consumers hate being told they are missing something or it’s their last chance. These messages yield widespread ambivalence and opt-outs. 6. Thanking drives extraordinary response. Asking them to sign –up has the opposite effect. Aggressive opt-in requests are counterproductive. Similarly asking for donations and charitable actions fall on deaf ears. Aggressive fundraising language is a turn off. Email marketing is a hard working tool for all marketers. Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred form of communication with brands. Applying lessons from on-going research insures that consumers will continue to rely on email for ideas, offers and purchases. 7. Forget Weekends. Email response is the least on Sunday and Saturday. Consumers aren’t glued to email on weekends. They actually do real stuff. Midweek --Tuesday and Wednesday – are your best bet for optimizing opens and clicks. The jury is out on the best time of day, though there are several vocal advocates for 6am to set the day’s agenda. Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred communications mode with brands. Applying the lessons from our collective research will maintain and expand that preference.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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