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Within the last year, the integration of mobile into our daily lives expanded in a huge way. In fact, the Pew Internet Project found that nearly a third of all smartphone owners describe their phone as "something they can't imagine living without." So far in 2015, we've gotten a glimpse at just how ubiquitous mobile connectivity will become -- this year's Consumer Electronics Show showcased everything from connected watches to smart t-shirts. For marketers, the continuing mobile revolution presents a wealth of opportunities to engage with consumers. However, it also brings with it a set of challenges: We all know high-performance mobile content is important, but creating the best mobile experience while keeping up with such a fast-evolving ecosystem is difficult.

This year, just being "good" isn't enough for mobile marketers. Search engines are tightening quality standards, consumers have higher mobile expectations, and digital content is being consumed at a faster pace than ever before. However, the road to exceptional mobile content isn't simple, as marketers are often faced with identifying what it is that is plaguing the performance of their mobile site. Many marketers get stuck in a cycle of spending time and resources to fix an aspect of their site, only to see no major impact.

To avoid blindly guessing what works, invest in measuring the performance of your digital content. Once you understand what specifically needs fixing, which changes will make the biggest impact on performance, and how to prioritize those changes, the whole digital content machine will work more smoothly. Below are a few common issues that mobile marketers can address immediately to boost the performance of their mobile presence.

Identify your mistakes

It seems like common sense to ensure the type of mobile site you choose -- be it responsive, dynamic, or separate -- is implemented correctly. However, according to the 2014 Mobile Share Report, 27 percent of mobile sites are misconfigured in some way. What's more, because of this misconfiguration, marketers are losing out on a whopping 68 percent of traffic and falling two spots in search results. This puts you at a huge disadvantage to competitors. Misconfigured sites only generate an average of 7 percent of total smartphone traffic for brands, whereas correctly configured sites see 23 percent. There are various technical errors that lead to incorrect implementation, but the main roadblocks are a lack of understanding around demand and cutting corners with mobile optimization.

Get to the nitty-gritty of demand

First, identify why mobile users are coming to your site. For example, desktop visitors on retail sites are primarily there to make purchases and view products, whereas mobile users are usually looking for more basic information, like location or store hours. Measure the traffic to your various pages and gain insight into what content mobile users are specifically looking for and interacting with on your site. Then, tailor your site page-by-page to match. Mobile marketers are realizing the "one size fits all" mentality no longer works across all devices. Instead, responsive design may work for certain pages, but dynamic might provide a much better user experience for your most highly trafficked and important pages on mobile. Mixing, matching, and layering mobile site types can make a huge difference for users accessing your mobile content.

Prioritize sticky content

Once you've identified what brings mobile users to your site, figure out what will keep them there. Measurement can help you find the "stickiest" content for your mobile site. Across the board, rich media like videos perform particularly well on mobile devices, but this can vary amongst industries and target audiences. When you know what engages your mobile visitors -- and what doesn't -- you can boost the quality of their experience in a big way.

Another major factor that affects the "stickiness" of your site are the lingering "cut corners." This can be as simple as an image that's not resized for mobile. If a user is scrolling through content smoothly and then comes to a screeching halt when an image is 10 times too large for the screen, they'll likely abandon ship. Many marketing teams today still aren't putting enough time and resources into the top-to-bottom optimization of their mobile experience. This year, this disparity will matter more than ever before. Test, measure, redesign, and test again. "Close enough" doesn't cut it anymore in today's mobile world.

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge.

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Offering differentiating strategic services

The traditional monetization strategies that agencies have relied on for more than 50 years are becoming commoditized. Tactics that agencies used to specialize in are becoming more and more mainstream, to the point where a variety of brands and publishers are offering their own technology services. Agencies must admit that the days of the RFP and IO are coming to an end. Their survival lays in becoming the masters of brand strategy. Agencies understand the marketing landscape and consumer trends in ways that publishers and brand marketers do not. Agency marketers are experts in informing the right decision, therefore they should own that knowledge. Let brands and publishers develop all the platforms and technology they want. The agencies that focus on being the strategic partners for brands are the ones that will remain relevant.

Becoming champions of brand activation

Technology can't replace emotion. Creating a long-term emotional connection with consumers is a goal that all brand marketers want to accomplish. The problem is that they generally don't know how to do it. Creative agency marketers do. Agencies need to position themselves as the creative homes for brand activation in a variety of verticals. Agencies have the ability to bring brands to life and encourage positive interaction. From there, brands have an easy time offering products and services. Create a culture of storytelling and emotion at your agency and brands will follow your lead.

Jason Burnham from Burnham Marketing is an expert in how to navigate the future agency model. He speaks to iMedia about how agencies should evolve in 2015 and some industry key trends to watch for in the coming years.

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Article written by media production manager David Zaleski and video edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"Saving a drowning man" image via Shutterstock.

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Every year as the ASPY Awards are announced, I take time to reflect on all that's changed over the years -- how many people, technologies, and services I've worked with. And I realize that all too often, I take those relationships for granted. This industry's success hinges upon innovation and change, and often the way I learn about new things is from my partner interactions.

When I think back to the early days of the ASPY Awards, there was a lot of in-fighting in the industry. Agencies were concerned publishers were going direct. Clients were concerned that their agencies weren't keeping up. And there was a lot more finger-pointing than back-patting happening among partners.

Today, we seem to be in a better place, with a lot more cooperation. And I still believe in the importance of taking the time to recognize our partners and celebrate their part in our industry's success. So if you haven't yet, please take a moment to nominate your partners. I look forward to celebrating with you all at the ASPY Awards dinner at the iMedia Agency Summit in May!

Click here to see the 2015 iMedia ASPY Award categories and to submit your nominations by March 6.

Peter Platt is president of PSquared Digital and chairman of the 2015 iMedia ASPY Awards board of advisors.

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Instagram is far from a new platform, and yet I'm constantly surprised by the number of brands that aren't yet on the photo-sharing site. Or, worse yet, are using it like an irresponsible teenager.

For those of you who have solid, time-tested Instagram chops: This article isn't for you. But for those of you who are only newly getting acquainted with the platform or are tasked with managing people who manage Instagram on your brand's behalf: Read this article closely. Make sure you're up on your Instagram marketing do's and don'ts. Not knowing the best practices won't always bite you in the butt in the form of an epic social media fail. But it might be biting you in the butt in terms of lost opportunities on this incredibly valuable platform.

If you adhere to these 10 commandments for marketing on Instagram, you'll automatically find yourself in the upper echelon of brands on the platform.

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When it comes to companies hoping to create ambassadors of their brands by offering "friends and family discounts" and "refer a friend" benefits, the attempts have been somewhat successful. In fact, a study from the Wharton School of Business found that a referred consumer is 18 percent more likely to stay with a company over time than the average, off-the-street consumer.

But imagine that, in lieu of this passive introduction, your brand "passionates" could more significantly impact your top-line growth. For companies looking to stimulate incremental purchases, encouraging "gifting" might be the key to unlocking sales growth. As the following examples show, inspiring those who have affinity for your brand to actively promote and generate trial by buying your product for themselves and buying for a friend can translate into exponential growth in sales and a foundation for a stronger base of loyal consumers.

Share

What Coca-Cola started in Australia in 2011 has spread across the globe to the U.K. and now the U.S. The "Share a Coke" campaign replaces the iconic Coca-Cola labels with 250 popular names, such as Andrew, Miguel, Nicole, and Brittney, and encourages drinkers to buy two: "one to keep and one to share." Can't find your name in store? The "Share a Coke" tour will be traveling across the country to allow visitors to personalize two mini cans -- again, to keep and to share. Through its campaign, Coke gives consumers the opportunity to gift a relatively low-cost product to spur delight at the receiving end, ultimately leading to incremental sales and positive sentiment.

Donate

Slim Jim is taking a slightly different, more comedic, route by likening the giving gesture to a rescue mission. Developing a campaign targeting those suffering from "Male Spice Loss," Slim Jim is recruiting "meat donors" to give the gift of meat. The meat sticks and jerky brand is looking to help men everywhere cure their most embarrassing "spice loss symptoms" with a Slim Jim. Men are encouraged to "grab a Slim Jim, then grab another Slim Jim" for a friend who could use the "man-medicine." As a result, the givers experience a feeling of doing some "good," and the receiver is encouraged to spot another friend in need. Though all in good fun, Slim Jim benefits from a chain reaction and exponentially greater sales of its product as they are shared and shared again.

Gift

When Nestlé first discovered that its chocolate wafer bars, Kit Kat, sounded roughly similar to kitto katsu, meaning "you will surely win" in Japanese, it didn't expect the success it would eventually achieve. The practice of gifting Kit Kat bars as a form of good luck wishes before higher-education entrance exams has become so widespread that Nestlé has paid keen attention to this market, developing unique flavors that cater to the Japanese market: Green Tea, Sakura Cherry Blossom Green Tea, and Red Chili are just a few. By marketing its products as simple gifts, Nestlé has been able to imbue Kit Kats with greater meaning. In addition, the tradition of passing along Kit Kats to a friend has lasting potential since the receiver may reciprocate the favor or share it forward with someone else.

Whether you call it sharing, donating or gifting, by encouraging your consumers to buy incremental products to "Share it Forward" with a kind gesture of giving your product to another, brands can achieve a trifecta of business objectives: they can reach new consumers in a more personal way, generate incremental sales and strengthen loyalty. Leveraging this marketing tactic to motivate your consumer base to do the job of spreading awareness and effectively sampling in the name of your brand can be more impactful and effective than a typical referral campaign. The personal connection the giver has with the receiver through a simple gift creates a greater likelihood of developing more loyal consumers in the long run. Uncovering the benefits for both end users will be the key to success for this tactic. As you craft marketing plans, consider what benefits might motivate the giver and also add value for the receiver, who then may be encouraged to do the same in the future. This next-level, word-of-mouth tactic can be a powerful tool to unlock incremental sales and build the next group of brand passionates.

Tammy Chung  is a brand strategist at Anthem.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Since brands like Volkswagen and E*Trade started teasing out their campaigns about five year ago, the Super Bowl has grown from a single Sunday to an advertising season that stretches weeks before and after the game.

The benefits of pre-game seeding -- building excitement and awareness -- were seen early on, and brands adopted the strategy. According to Visible Measures' assessment of more than 200 Super Bowl advertisers and 350 different creative executions over the past five seasons, campaigns with pre-game content released before the game drove 175 percent higher viewership, on average, than campaigns that promoted the content on game day only. As a result, 75 percent of brand released Super Bowl content in advance of the game last year, an increase from 5 percent only four years earlier.

But there was a consensus that there wasn't as much pre-Super Bowl noise this January as we've seen in previous years. Was it a result of fewer auto brands advertising in this year's game? Or was it a bit of pre-game seeding backlash?

Maybe it was a little of both, but my hypothesis is that we have just experienced another shift in how brands are thinking about the Super Bowl. For most of the history of the game, all of the emphasis fell on the 30-second game day spot, and pre-game seeding could be as simple as a 15-second teaser or a longer cut of the spot. Now, the spot is just one piece of a more integrated content campaign.

Brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are thinking about their Super Bowl sponsorships as the chance to create full stories, which include video, native, and social amplification, and build a narrative to support that full-length game day spot. The new name of the Super Bowl game is extending consumer conversation by extending the storyline, not just releasing content further in advance of Super Bowl Sunday.

One of the best examples of this new Super Bowl outlook comes from Budweiser.

Budweiser was the No. 1 brand on the January iMedia Brands in Video chart, where it generated a True Reach of 58.7 million views during the month. More than 76 percent of that viewership was garnered by the brand's Super Bowl campaign, "Lost Dog," which was the most viewed campaign of the Super Bowl.

A sequel to "Puppy Love" -- the winner of Super Bowl XLVIII -- "Lost Dog" continues the story of an unlikely friendship between a golden retriever puppy and one of Budweiser's iconic Clydesdales. In the full-length spot, the cuddly puppy goes missing, while trying to tag along with his equine friend, and ends up in real danger. Try as you might, it's hard not to get choked up during this video, no thanks to the cover of The Proclaimer's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" that plays under the story.

While the campaign generated 44.8 million views during the last week of January, it has now accumulated more than 61.9 million views, making it the third most-viewed Super Bowl campaign of all time.

The popularity of the campaign can be attributed to several factors:

  • There was anticipation. "Lost Dog" is the sequel to one of the biggest campaigns in Super Bowl history. Viewers were looking forward to seeing the next chapter in the story, which might be because the story stars an adorable puppy.
  • The content elicited emotion. Heartfelt emotion is one of the strongest drivers in the engagement and sharing of online video. "Lost Dog," like "Puppy Love" before it, has it in spades.
  • There was controversy. Budweiser's spot was not controversial. But GoDaddy.com released its Super Bowl ad, a spoof of "Lost Dog," on the same day as Budweiser, and it certainly was controversial. GoDaddy's ad was promptly pulled after viewers complained about GoDaddy.com's twist, which inferred that the puppy was from a puppy mill. That controversy drove headlines, which seems to have helped Budweiser more than it helped GoDaddy.com.
  • The brand used new platforms effectively. Budweiser's use of Facebook as a platform contributed greatly to its viewership. The most-viewed asset of Budweiser's "Lost Dog" campaign was the full-length spot, and more than 50 percent of those views were garnered from the brand's video on its Facebook page, where the brand ran almost all of its teaser material as well.

In addition to all of these factors, though, Budweiser was one of those brands that thought not only about the Super Bowl spot, but also about the whole story of America's favorite puppy. The brand started building the "Lost Dog" story long before it released the full video online. It released teasers -- both videos and images -- on Facebook that generated interest in the idea that the puppy was lost. There were behind-the-scenes videos of the adorable puppies running around the set. Budweiser even extended the story offline, posting "lost dog" posters on the streets of major cities.

While all of those extra tactics -- native, video, social, and promotion -- might not have driven as much viewership as the feature Super Bowl spot, they did help to create a deeper level of engagement in the brands' Super Bowl stories. And, at the end of the day, it is engagement that creates affinity and loyalty in consumers and moves business.

Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.

iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.

Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.

Learn more here.

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It's an advertiser's dream to build a loyal and passionate fan base for their brand, and it's even sweeter when it happens organically. Through social platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, and WeHeartIt, brand enthusiasts are going farther than posting comments to a brand's profile, and creating dedicated fan accounts, blogs, memes, and art that celebrate the brand and products they love.

5 brands with the craziest fans 
The following brands have reshaped consumer trends, dictated fashion styles, inspired the imaginations of multiple generations, and they all have crazy, passionate followings!

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It has long been established that companies such as Red Bull and Coca-Cola have produced some of the most highly successful videos. These companies, however, are no longer standalones when it comes to standing out in this highly competitive field. In this article, we are going to take a look at eight different brands that have utilized video as a primary medium for building their brands.

These eight companies span a wide range of industries. Some are large corporations and others are small businesses. Their video topics run the gamut from being deeply serious and personal to rather lighthearted. The one common thread among all of them -- and ultimately the crux of their success -- is the use of the videos as part of a larger, fully integrated marketing campaign.

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Understanding digital attribution to a direct purchase

Some CPG brands have it lucky and can easily track a marketing action to a point of sale. Starbucks, Chipotle, and others with direct line-to-purchase can see how promotions affect business and traffic. For other brands, however, it's not so easy or so clear. One of these companies is PepsiCo. With millions of individual products on shelves spanning dozens of iconic PepsiCo brands, it's incredibly difficult to have one point of sale and attribute it to a marketing effort online. If this is the case, how does PepsiCo measure success for multiple online campaigns?

Engagement rates are one valuable insight. The time spent on page and other analytical actions that indicate consumers are interested in certain products and promotions are very helpful in dictating campaign effectiveness. Marketers have been hearing the mantra "engagement over clicks/impressions" for years. PepsiCo actually takes a firm stance in its importance. It has to. PepsiCo also works closely with retailers to learn purchasing behavior on a case by case basis. These things all help create a new model of ROI metrics.

Mike Scafidi, director of digital marketing operations for PepsiCo speaks with iMedia about how his brand works to understand when consumers have products in hand, and gives agencies valuable advice for navigating the new marketing landscape.

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Article written by media production manager David Zaleski and video edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"SWINDON, UK - JANUARY 25, 2014: Can of Pepsi cola on a bed of ice" image via Shutterstock.

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You've probably heard the old expression that says an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a renaissance man of the 18th Century who had no idea that his wisdom on the subject of health would be important for the 21st Century programmatic media market. Let me explain.
 
For those of us who have been observing the development of the digital media market, it's pretty clear that much of its growth is being driven by programmatic innovations. Quite simply, programmatic lets buyers reach a larger pool of sellers more efficiently. In this case efficiency means faster transactions conducted by machines working 24/7 with no time off for vacations, meals, and bio breaks.
 
The number of impressions being processed through RTB is staggering and the speed of an RTB transaction (200 milliseconds) is quite remarkable. Yet the speed and the volume of the process can lead to questions of abuse. With this abuse becoming an increasing part of the digital media buying and selling landscape, it's something agencies and marketers are dealing with every day.
 
This is not to imply that there is more fraud in programmatic versus non- programmatic buying and selling.

What we can say is that there is technology to help reduce ad fraud in the programmatic stack quite effectively.
 
Here are two ways you can do it right now: 
 
You can score impressions for risk in the pre-bid stream. This is a pretty simple statement, but it's quite hard to do technically. Currently, you're looking at more than 1 trillion bid requests monthly and are scoring every one of them for fraud risk. For the potential buyer of an impression the data provided offers a very binary decision: Should I bid on this impression or not? If you bid and subsequently buy a fraudulent impression, it's never going to do anything positive for your business. It's never going to get anyone to buy anything nor influence them to buy something in the future. What's more, if you buy that bad impression you also may decide to re-target it at an even higher CPM than you paid originally. This is like throwing good money after bad.  Or as Ben Franklin once said, "An investment in knowledge pays the most interest."
 
Speaking of knowledge, tagging ads can offer even greater insights into ad fraud. Clearly, you can't factor in things like device forensics or ad stacking in the pre-bid. So tagging provides you with a much richer set of information. With the data you get after an impression is served, you'll catch even more fraud and then use the knowledge so that you won't make the same mistake twice.
 
Programmatic media buying and selling is going to become a larger part of the digital media equation. What's encouraging is that it's an equation where companies can subtract useless, fraudulent impressions. This can be accomplished with available technology that's very easy to implement and inexpensive to use.

To pull it all together, eliminating ad fraud from the digital ecosystem is good for everyone (except for the fraudsters). Marketers will get better results from their digital investment and will spend more on what works. Publishers will get improved results from their fraud free inventory leading to greater demand and higher CPMs. Plus, programmatic sellers who deliver fraud free inventory will benefit from a more robust, better valued marketplace. It all adds up to significant savings, better ROI and can lead to dramatically better results today.

So here's the new age expression: Invest money on fraud free media that delivers better ROI. Invest more money. Sell more. Repeat.

Dean Harris is chief marketing officer at Forensiq

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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