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A really, really painful photo shoot

We're not really sure how one comes up with this idea, nor are we able to understand why anyone would volunteer to take part in it. We will say, however, that it makes for an entertaining (yet cringeworthy) watch.

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Despite the rise of new technologies and techniques, marketing has largely stayed the same. New data-driven targeting methods are just a more precise form of the kind of targeting marketers have been doing for years, and geo-hyper-local approaches are yet another way to better execute concepts that we know work.

Every once in a while, though, a technology comes around that truly changes how we think about marketing. There is no question that social media has dramatically impacted the relationship between brands and audiences, for instance -- but I am not going to talk about that here. Similarly, real-time bidding and programmatic media buying have transformed some of the most fundamental ways we think about reaching audiences via advertising -- but I am not going to talk about that either.

What's really changing the face of marketing is the confluence of those trends -- the phenomenon of real-time advertising. In a nutshell, this is the practice of recognizing trends and topics as they emerge and then instantly tailoring an ad campaign to reach audiences when they are engaged in conversations about those trends. Yes, on the one hand we have been doing this via social channels for a while -- think Oreo during Super Bowl 2013, or JC Penney's during the 2014 Oscars. A lot of brands see this as just another form of ad targeting. But, peel back a layer, and you see that it changes some of our fundamental marketing operating principles -- namely, how marketers identify the types of people to push ads to.

Consider how brands and agencies define audiences today. At a minimum, audiences are labeled and given a list of attributes. How many times have you heard, "We want to reach college-educated, upper-middle class moms"? One step more sophisticated is the persona. A bit more valuable, a persona attempts to put a little meat on the bone by describing an audience group's situation, their intent and even a bit about their personality: "We want to reach college-educated, upper-middle class moms who want to feed their children healthy meals." The intent is right on -- audiences are not comprised of flat demographics; they are people with interests and goals. Personas head in that direction. But they stop short.

This is because they are static. They never change, no matter how much that audience may grow or change. I have seen agencies and marketers use the same personas for years. But audiences are not static. In fact, they are highly dynamic with interests that change daily, weekly and even by the minute -- and the internet has essentially thrown gasoline on that fire. We have accepted defining audiences with static personas when in reality we know (because we are part of those audiences) that our attention constantly changes, and we engage in all kinds of different conversations over time. Just think about how many different websites you have visited this morning -- some for work, some for your kids, some because you wanted a laugh.

That is what real-time advertising captures, recognizes, and delivers. Beyond the value of placing your advertising where your audience is looking at that moment, it also returns insight back to the brand about what that audience cares about in real-time and over a period of time.

Imagine a brand that runs an ongoing real-time advertising campaign, much like they might run search advertising. Over the course of a year, they connect audiences with relevant topics every day and test those connections by tracking advertising performance. With this information, they now move beyond the classic static persona and start to build a more dynamic persona that better accounts for interests as they change over time.

This approach can illuminate a number of compelling audience attributes. For example, let's say you know your mom audience is interested in recipes. That makes logical sense because she wants her children to eat healthy. But, what else is that audience interested in? They can't possibly only care about recipes 365 days per year. Real-time, trend-driven advertising connects audience interests you knew about to those you didn't. Perhaps your recipe-loving moms might also be interested in education (logical), tennis (makes sense) and hip hop (what? Cool!). More importantly, you can evaluate what kind of ad inventory is associated with those topics and you can see how the moms engaged with advertising placed against each of those topics.

At the end of the day, this information creates a moment-by-moment view of what your audience is interested in and how they respond to it in an advertising environment. Take a few steps back and you may find that there are trends based on time of week, time of month, or time of year -- for instance, maybe moms really only care about recipes on Sunday when they're planning for the week, and the rest of the time, they don't cast a second glance at food blogs or magazines. Interests you knew existed may become more or less important over time or change when associated with big events -- maybe moms change their routine and go crazy for recipes at Thanksgiving. Topics and interests you had no idea existed may emerge to suddenly deliver significant ad performance and thereby inform ad creative, media targeting, and other marketing strategies.

The point is, we all know we aren't static human beings. It is time advertisers moved past the moldy old ad personas and embraced a dynamic, real-time approach to defining audiences. Maybe moms' ad response rates skyrocket whenever Kanye releases a new album. Then again, maybe not. But you'll never know if you aren't advertising in real-time.

Adam Kapel is SVP, marketing and insights, at Taykey.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Many brands have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, and for good reason. It seems like the next evolution in effective marketing is content, and brands are increasingly becoming publishers to establish expertise in their space.

However, there are still several mistakes brands are making when entering the content game. Here are the main culprits.

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Your product or service is totally awesome, completely stellar, and everyone who interacts with your brand becomes an immediate advocate. Obviously you love to hear all of this amazing feedback, as you sit in your office. But are your leads and other possible customers being exposed to these amazing reviews? Are you collecting these reviews and stories in a strategic way to repurpose for the benefit of your company? If not, you really should be.

Studies show that a recommendation carries weight for customers and are sometimes even more important than price or the brand name itself.

Taking the conversation to online outlets, Nielsen reports that 70 percent of consumers trust earned media (online recommendations, comments, reviews) posted online, and 50 percent trust information sent in emails from the brand -- much higher percentages than any form of advertisement.

How to gather reviews

So, now you know customers want this information, but how do you get it? From text stories, to photos of a product being used, to testimonial videos -- there are many forms reviews can take, but the key is figuring out what collection method is the most appropriate for attracting the type of reviews you are looking for:

Polls or questions
Something as simple as an open ended Facebook question, or asking your online audience to vote on what they like most about your brand, can lead to collecting an abundance of reviews.

Since users aren't as apt to write incredibly long or detailed reviews in the form of a social media comment, hosting a contest that has a small incentive can encourage people to expand on why they love a brand. Incentivizing reviews also allows you to get content that would typically have a higher participation barrier for your audience. Launching a photo contest, or asking users to upload a testimonial video, is likely to be more successful when there is a prize at stake.

Look around
If you sell a physical product, you likely have a review section on your website (and if you don't, you need one ASAP!). Look at these reviews to collect useful feedback from your customers.

Social listening
Social listening can be as basic as searching your brand name in Twitter or a relevant hashtag and gathering feedback, to a more sophisticated program in which all mentions of your brand across the Internet are tracked.

How to use reviews

Now that you have all of these reviews, how are you going to use them? There are studies all across the web espousing the benefits of positive consumer reviews on possible buyers, in different contexts. Never fear -- we have highlighted a few of our favorite best practices below, so that you don't need to dig them up on your own.

Blog posts
Consumers want to read your blog -- in fact, 46 percent of consumers say they read the blogs of their favorite brands -- so if you have amazing reviews on a brand new product, wouldn't you want your already loyal audience base to see those?

Sharable images
If you take another look at that chart you just scanned past, you can see that 25 percent of consumers indicate that they seek out social media sites for information and content about a brand. If you already have a solid base of fans, why not turn them into brand ambassadors? They've already told you how much they love your product (remember, you asked them in a status update!), now get their help in extending the reach of reviews by sharing it to their personal online networks. Take short yet powerful quotes from your customers that you received through contests, on your social media properties, or through customer reviews; and turn them into sharable images you can use across your social sites.

Features on website/product page
We're not just talking about the review section that people have to scroll down to read, but instead highlighting a review at the top of a page, above the fold, where people can easily see and read. Customers are actively searching for reviews, so make accessing these reviews easy for them.

Feature in emails
Including relevant videos in emails to targeted lists as part of lifecycle messaging can increase time spent viewing the email, click through rates, and email sharing. Consider including a small customer review module in emails that either extols the brand, or a product that is also featured in the email content.

How are you gathering and using customer reviews?

Blake Del Hoyo is a social media specialist at Red Door Interactive.

On Twitter? Follow Del Hoyo at @blakedelhoyo and iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Acxiom announced, an easy-to-use self-service site that enables business owners and marketers the ability to build and launch targeted, multichannel advertising campaigns.

Conductor announced 50 new hires in Q1 and Q2, its new VP of Global sales Kerry Ancheta, an office expansion in NYC, an office opening in San Francisco, and the launch of Content Insights + Analytics.

Cutwater announced the arrival of Simone Nobili as creative director.

Deutsch LA announced that it has hired Zach Gallagher as EVP, director of digital strategy.

Drawbridge announced that Brian Ferrario has been tasked with taking the company's marketing efforts to the next level as its new vice president of marketing.

Dstillery announced the opening of a new 30,000 square foot office space in midtown Manhattan.

Evolve Media announced a partnership with Moat to help Evolve audit the viewability of all of its web properties, all of which reach more than 93 million people globally each month.

G/O Digital released the results of its new study, "Facebook Advertising: The Social Commerce Lifeline for Small Businesses."

JW Player announced that customers Baeblemusic, SnagFilms, and RiffTrax are using JW Player with Chromecast integration for their video player deployments, enabling users to interact with their content through their television sets.

Kwittken, one of the fastest growing PR agencies, announced its appointment as FreshDirect's PR Agency of Record.

Latin3 announced the launch of Social Lead Generation, a monitoring solution for sales, powered by Socialmetrix.

Live Nation hired Mike Finnegan as VP, programmatic and product innovation.

LiveIntent announced the hire of Ali Swerdlow as the company's first-ever vice president of industry relations.

PostUp announced the new hire of Robin Green as the company's vice president of sales. The announcement follows PostUp's recent rebranding and acquisition by Transition Capital Partners and Petra Capital Partners.

Republica announced its inclusion once again on Inc. magazine's exclusive list of the 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America.

Savile Row Society (SRS) announced the addition of four new personal stylists in their New York City-based showroom.

Searchmetrics announced the appointment of Robyn Forman as vice president of marketing.

SHIFT announced the hire of agency veteran Andrea Wolinetz as vice president of agency partnerships.

Simulmedia announced that it has hired Jayme Beth Frieder as senior director of sales, a newly-created position. The company also promoted Julie Nolan to chief people officer.

Sizmek announced the acquisition of Aerify Media, a company specializing in mobile tracking and retargeting.

Vdopia announced Saurabh Bhatia as its new CEO, Srikanth Kakani as CTO, and Chhavi Upadhyay as president.

Vevo and Pinterest announced a new partnership to make it a breeze to discover, save, and watch your favorite music videos, original shows, and live concert events right on Pinterest.

Viralheat announced an integration partnership with SugarCRM.

wywy, a Germany-based cross-screen advertising and real time TV-ad tracking company, announced the appointment of Alan Ives as its vice president sales and business development, North America.

Yieldbot announced the appointment of Scott Portugal as GM of its Publisher Platform.

Editor's note: This column publishes twice per month, and we are always looking for industry announcements, so please email them to

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Not strategically using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to drive sales via Amazon Prime

Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, is a recent service offered by this e-commerce juggernaut to expose small and medium brands to the global commerce world. FBA allows brands to store their products and content at Amazon Fulfillment centers and have Amazon pick, pack, and ship the merchandise to anyone who orders it. This service is making it possible for small retailers to operate globally because its products can move around the globe with Amazon's expert assistance. Plus, because Amazon Prime members enjoy free two-day shipping, small brands can say goodbye to shipping costs by driving sales through the channel. FBA is a tool that brands have just scratched the surface of, and how it affects e-commerce for small companies is an exciting prospect yet to be seen.

Poor price management

Prices online should be nimble, flexible, and responsive in real time to supply and demand. With the amount of online competition out there and consumers' easy access to price comparisons, it's incredibly easy to see if you are offering unfairly high prices when the market doesn't dictate it. Frequently, your brand should be adjusting the price tags of your products on Amazon to reflect market demand and stay competitive. Brands who don't let their prices adapt to the market look lazy -- or even worse -- up to no good.

Not sending Amazon enough content

Amazon is, well, what it sounds like. It's a massive jungle of products, services, and content that have made it one of the most popular and successful e-commerce platforms on the web. Consumers love one-stop-shopping, and they have come to expect it in the online world. Consumers don't want their e-commerce experience to take them from site to site, directing them to even more niche places to buy products. If you're not sending Amazon a good amount of your content, you run the risk of losing customers to competitors that have kept up inventory. Consumers want to add anything they desire to their online shopping carts, and if you're not making it easy, they have no qualms about jumping ship to another brand.

Few know more about how to successfully position your brand on this platform like Jay Allen, VP of online marketing for FootSmart, a 25-year-old shoe and accessory brand that has expertly embraced digital. Here's his advice on what you may be doing wrong, and how to make changes that give your brand the strongest presence on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to the iMedia YouTube channel.

Article written and video edited by senior media producer David Zaleski.

"Closeup photo of Amazon icon on mobile phone screen" image via Shutterstock and Alexander Supertramp.

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What kind of LinkedIn'er are you? Do you set it and forget it for the day when you may actually start looking for a job? Or do you stir constantly, with an always-on consumption and update of projects, skills, and shared articles? LinkedIn wants you to be the latter, as it increases its aspirations of changing the way members see its service. LinkedIn wants you in the feed, sharing, writing, and commenting on your professional life the same way you do with your personal life on other networks.

6 people on LinkedIn you should follow 

To this end, one tactic LinkedIn has used is creating an ever-evolving, invite-only collection of influencers who share thoughts and insights on their relative industries and specialities. Some of these are the usual suspects like Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki, and Arianna Huffington, but there are others who may be more difficult to find, but offer tip-worthy advice worth seeking out.

So, if you are in marketing or advertising, here are six influencers to follow on LinkedIn (that you may have never heard about).

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Google has changed the way we see the internet.

The idea of the internet has gone from basements, coke-bottle glasses, and Mountain Dew to an easy, everyday occurrence that your grandmother could use thanks to Google.

Neil Armstrong once said that it is human nature to fight against the odds, as salmon swim against the stream -- but he didn�t say anything about the tsunami that is Google!

That's why it's important to find out what the giant is doing and, more importantly, what they are going to do -- especially if you are an email marketer. This article will cover three planned innovations Google wants to introduce for Gmail -- and vicariously, email marketers.

Proper presentation in promotion

Images are about to become a lot more popular in the promotions tab.

Gmail users will soon be able to view their promotion's mail in "grid mode" allowing them to quickly scroll through their promotional emails for the ones that they want to check out.

What this means for email marketers wishing to take advantage of this is that they will have to be resourceful with the limited resources the grid view allows -- the subject line, the sender name, the dominant picture, and the sender picture. Email marketers can check out how to get the most out of this feature here.

This change looks to be a victory for emarketers putting effort into their emails and using attractive design to win over their readers while mindless spammers are soon to be hit with the hammer.

Trials have been underway for this feature since March this year, so we can expect to see this change in the very near future.

SEO -- Search email optimization

SEO experts are about to become much more popular than they ever were in high school!

While this innovation is probably quite far down the timeline, it�'s a feature that could completely change the way we construct content in our emails and thus is worth a mention.

The idea behind this innovation is to give readers more options. Amit Singhal, SVP of Google Search, explains "So if you're planning a biking trip to Tahoe, you might see relevant emails from friends about the best bike trails, or great places to eat on the right hand side of the results page.

You can expect that content, keywords, relevancy, popularity, and properly formatted emails (from images to text) are going to determine which emails are featured on the right of the search results if Google�s current golden algorithm are anything to go by.

Get a little help from Yelp

Although this was mentioned as far back as 2009, this nifty little feature is available right now to all Gmail users who activate it in the Gmail labs tab.

Should this feature pass this stage of testing, it will become a standard feature to all users!

Any email that contains a Yelp link will provide information on that business such as their telephone number, type of business, a combination of five star ratings from Yelp users as well as the link itself.

Email marketers can use this feature to their advantage by including a Yelp link to give their company credibility as well as contact information to readers easily and clearly.

If you want to keep an eye out for future innovations, keep an eye on the Gmail blog or check out the Google labs tab in the Gmail client.

Mark Brown is a copywriter at GraphicMail.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet

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For the past few years, the ad tech industry seemed brimming with optimism. With new devices and media abundantly available to marketers today, advertising seems perfectly poised to make a positive difference for brands. We've seen bright-eyed headlines highlighting the "year of mobile," "rise of programmatic," the "era of wearables," and so forth. So, how, amidst all the creative possibilities, has the issue of ad fraud spiraled out of control in the past year?

The research is damning. Some verification companies are reporting ominous statistics that half of web traffic isn't human, and consequently, brands are losing $6 billion every year to "fake" impressions.

How fraud is disrupting the ad industry

The numbers are certainly incredible. We've diagnosed the problem and, rightfully so, concerns have spread like the plague. Scammers have always existed in the ad space, but the sophistication of modern day fraudsters is starting to make the fraud tactics of yesteryear look like child's play. For this reason, all parties in ad tech -- both buyers and sellers -- are now scrambling for the solution.

When we magnify the problem, we have to take a closer look at several facets: how it seemed to proliferate so rapidly, why it has become ubiquitous in our industry, how numerous parties play roles that support fraud's existence, and finally, what can be done to eradicate the issue.

How fraud came to be

When we think of key performance indicators (KPIs) and success metrics, "clicks" still come to mind. Our metrics are still heavily performance-based, and advertisers still demand to see these numbers. These demands drive vendors to purchase cheap inventory, which may translate to more counted conversions, but little to no increase in sales, revenue, or ROI. And as more and more media are bought and sold in programmatic environments, the rate of ad fraud, as well as the sheer number of transactions occurring daily, is only going to increase due to a lack of human transparency. Open exchanges offer a cornfield of sorts for the fraud industry: The fake sites, or sites riddled with bots, are primed to inflate whatever KPI is needed to hit an advertiser's goal. And with their backs against the wall, buyers have had no choice but to shift budget to those "high performing" environments.

Ultimately, the buying and selling process within the industry has long supported the existence of ad fraud. Wherever media spending is significant, fraud has the potential (and demand) to grow. Only recently have fears reached critical mass due to technological advances on the programmatic front.

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In the court of public opinion, failing to identify and effectively combat a negative rumor doesn't make it any less harmful to the brand it's targeting. Through social media, these persistent brand myths are often read by millions of consumers in a matter of minutes and can seriously threaten the integrity of a brand. In fact, 81 percent of consumers are influenced by their friend's social media posts, so if a brand allows public opinion spiral out of control, word-of-mouth could lead to a lot of lost business. Two companies that have been seriously threatened by negative and untrue rumors are Starbucks and Heineken. When faced with potentially damaging blows to their reputations, both Starbucks and Heineken focused on a key demographic of fans to help dispel these threatening myths: their advocates. By identifying potential threats, getting to know their brand communities, and building a base of advocates willing to rise up in a time of need, brands can combat persistent brand myths and come out stronger for it.

Types of brand myths

In order to defend against an enemy, a brand must first understand what it's fighting. There are two main types of myths.

Heineken's stretched truths
In 2012, Heineken learned the hard way that a picture is worth a thousand words when a photo surfaced of multiple Heineken banners hung above a dogfighting match at a Mongolian nightclub. Heineken's brand team soon learned that the photo was taken after a Heineken sponsored event in the same nightclub the night before, but the club failed to take the banners down before the dogfight. Animal rights activists immediately sent the photo on a viral loop, leaving the global beer brand defending its reputation against an angry digital swarm.

Starbucks' misinterpreted values
In 2004, a Marine Sergeant circulated an email accusing Starbucks of being unpatriotic. He asserted that they didn't support the war in Iraq when they refused a group of Marines coffee beans they had requested in a letter to the company. In contacting the author, the company learned the email was based on nothing more than hearsay and spread quickly through the passionate network of veterans on the Marine Sergeant's distribution list. This brand myth has been spreading across social networks since 2004, and has gained so much steam since that the company has officially defended itself both in 2005 and in 2013.


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