Imagine a big, important football game. Imagine the match-up takes place in a huge stadium. Like any big game, there is a lot at stake for the players, the coaches, the owners, and, of course, the fans.
Now imagine this is the first time such a game is set to play at night. All the stakeholders agree: The field needs to be properly illuminated so the game, and by extension the league, can be successful.
Now envision there's a collective decision made that allows the coaches and owners to determine the lighting -- both in terms of what parts of the field need lights and what approaches are best to do so.
The coaches and owners choose to give each player a flashlight under the rubric that the player is in the trenches -- and that personal vantage point provides the best view of the game. The field is now filled with chaotic beams of light crashing and flashing and inducing headaches and confusion among the paying fans, all of who came for a football game and got a Pink Floyd laser light show instead. From the booth, the teams' statisticians decide and post the results, based both on the viewable evidence before them and the notion that they knew what plays were being called.
It sounds ridiculous. But wait...
This is exactly what happens in today's digital video space when it comes to viewability. As an industry, we are hard at work trying to define standards around viewability (or at the very least make sure digital video ads have OTS, or the "opportunity to be seen"). The silly example above certainly gives each play the opportunity to be seen. But is this the best light available?
Advertisers, like rabid fans, take a predictably hard line, demanding 100 percent viewability when they do not stake the same claim across their television vendors. Most publishers are all over the field, where they shine their own flashlights on the parts of the field that look best, in an effort to deliver guarantees to advertisers and healthy margins to investors.
Chaos and confusion reign in any marketplace that operates in the dark. It is not the ideal way to grow a market, especially one that is poised to potentially help TV marketers reach digitally savvy consumers through expertly crafted branded video narratives (delivered via IP). Video has been, currently is, and will continue to be the most powerful advertising medium on the planet.
So who is going to switch on the stadium lights onto this dark field and shine the klieg light into every dark corner so the view of the game is clear?
VivaKi, a unit of Publicis, just did. VivaKi recently forged a partnership that will enable it to track and measure the quality and viewability of video ad placements for Publicis Groupe, which has agencies in more than 100 markets worldwide.
It is the world's biggest agencies that understand the need for stadium lights. Today's agency leaders understand that tying viewability to ad serving platforms can shine broad lights across the industry's currently dark field. Such actions inspire confidence in big brand advertisers. Publisher views can't capture the entire field, and they can't bring objectivity to the game. Furthermore, approaches that leverage existing ad serving technologies as a backbone (vs. supplemental integrations) make it easier to turn on the lights.
The industry can't afford to operate in the dark. Big brand advertisers can't be fans of what they can't see clearly. It's game day for digital video. Like today's leading agencies, let's show the fans how good this game can be.
Matt Timothy is president of Vindico, the sponsor of this article. VivaKi recently entered an agreement with Vindico to leverage Vindico's Adtricity, a comprehensive measure of quality, as its preferred verification and viewability partner.
You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you are. You might think you know where you are, but without a thorough website content audit, it's likely you don't.
Why perform a content audit (which admittedly is a painstaking and exacting exercise)? Lots of reasons. It helps determine if digital content is relevant, both to customer needs and to the goals of the organization. Is content accurate and consistent? Does it speak in the voice of the organization? Is it optimized for search? And are technical frameworks, such as the content management system (CMS), up to the task of handling it? Finally, an audit helps assess needs: teams, workflow, management, and identifying gaps. It will also shape content governance and help determine the feasibility of future projects.
A content audit is a cornerstone of content strategy, which governs content marketing. The aim is to perform a qualitative analysis of all the content on a website (or in some cases, a network of sites and/or social media presences -- any content for which your organization is responsible). A content audit is often performed in tandem with a content inventory, the process of creating a quantitative analysis of content.
Create a content inventory by recording all the content on the site into a spreadsheet or a text document by page title or by URL. Organize this information in outline form (i.e., section heading, followed by sub-sections and pages). If it's an e-commerce site, these headings and sub-headings might be something like Shoes > Women's Shoes > Casual Shoes > Sandals > Dr. Scholl's. A company website's headings would align more closely with X Corporation > About Us > Management > John Doe.
Content strategist Kristina Halvorson recommends assigning a unique number to each section, sub-section, and page (e.g., 1.0, 1.1., 1.1.1, and so on). This can help tremendously in assigning particular pieces of content to the appropriate site section. Some content strategists also color-code different sections on spreadsheets. It gets down to a matter of personal preference, as well as the size and scale of the audit in question.
It's also highly recommended that each section, sub-section, or page contain an annotation regarding who owns each piece of content, as well as the type of content: text, image, video, PDF, press release, product page, etc. Was the content created in-house? Who created it? Was it outsourced (e.g., third-party content, RSS feeds, blog entries, articles from periodicals)? Who's responsible for creating, approving, and publishing each piece?
The resulting document is a content inventory. Now, it's time to dig into the quality of the content -- the content audit. For each of the following steps, it's helpful to assign a grade or ranking to every page (e.g., a scale of one to five, with one being "pretty crappy" and five being "rockstar fantastic").
Some practitioners say you can shortcut through certain site pages or sections, arguing that certain pieces of content are evergreen. While that can certainly be the case, a thorough perusal of every piece of content on every page just might surprise you. Elements that you thought were set in stone, or changed site-wide, have a nasty habit of coming up and biting you in the behind. For example, the page displaying the address of the office your company moved out of five years ago, or the "contact" email address pointing to a long since departed employee.
So long as you're taking the time to audit the content, it pays to audit all the content.
What subjects and topics does the content address? Are page and section titles, headlines, and sub-heads promising what's actually delivered in the on-page copy? Is there a good balance of content addressing products, services, customer service, and "about us" information?
In a word, is the content topical? Are there outdated products, hyperlinks, or outdated and/or inaccurate information lurking in nooks and crannies of the site? As mentioned above, localities, employees, pricing, industry data and statistics, and other information change over time. In addition to checking for factual accuracy, content that is outdated should be identified as "update/revise" or "remove."
Many constituencies feed into a company's digital presence: senior management, sales, marketing and PR, and customer service, to name but a few. Different divisions could be trying to achieve varying goals in "their" section of a site or blog, but fundamentally all content must very gracefully serve two masters: the needs of the business and the needs of the customer. This means, for example, that calls-to-action must be clear, but not so overwhelming that they get in the way of the user experience. The content audit grades content on its ability to achieve both of these goals while staying in balance.
More money in our paychecks, less traffic on our commute, faster speeds for the internet are all reasonable wishes -- especially for online marketers. Imagine the impact these could have on our happiness, mind-set and productivity.
Google Fiber can't make any monetary promises or ease the squeeze on the highways, but it does carry promise for speed so far out of the box it's hard to comprehend.
With speeds as high as 1,000 megabits per second, we're looking at an online experience too fast for buffering, too quick for status bars, and swift enough to deliver data at the pace you want it, not at the clip your internet provider's network can muster.
What a godsend, right?
Although Google Fiber's potential promises to put your marketing in the spotlight, remember that your competitors -- and those in your field with less refined, more spammy content -- will navigate at the same speed. So, what to make of the potential logjam of data?
First, let's define the speeds. Fiber.Google.com provides a tale of the tape that makes 5 mbps internet feel like dial-up (although it still doesnï¿½t feel slow for most functions). By comparison, the site says Google Fiber will be able to upload 100 photos in 3 seconds flat with its 1000 mbps speed. The same task would take 9 minutes and 20 seconds at 5mbps.
We get it. You'll be able to upload a movie in a flash. But how will this shift in expectation of speed impact the way marketers do business?
Let's compare Google Fiber to stock-car racing. Differences in car speed, technology, and infrastructure all impact the quality and speed of each vehicle's performance. Factors such as the driver, race conditions, engine quality, and racing strategy play into the ultimate success of the car. Some are good and some, not so good.
But what if the car speed, technology, and infrastructure were all the same?
That would mean that all teams would have the same speed, regardless of the driver's skill -- pit crew's expertise or car's structural quality. Even bad drivers and teams would move as fast as the good ones.
What it means in marketing
With equal access to unheard of internet speeds -- for home and mobile use -- that could mean you've lost ground you've worked hard to establish. This is where attention to metrics, quality in correspondence, and investment in target strategy will allow you to reclaim your territory.
With so many digital distractions in our society, brands have a very small window to connect with consumers in a meaningful and memorable way. Today, consumers are glued to their mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, leaving brands only seconds to catch the attention of a potential customer. I'd like to offer a few tips to leverage these circumstances and create a modern out-of-home (OOH) experience.
Let's picture a pedestrian at an intersection surrounded by moving cars, deafening horns, and numerous other visual distractions. To grab their attention you must surprise them with a sensory alternative. For example, instead of creating another visual or sound disturbance, appeal to the consumer's sense of touch. In Argentina, the chocolate brand Milka developed a unique vending experience that "reconnected" people by making them hold hands in order for the machine to dispense chocolate. The stunt combined touch with taste and was incredibly successful for the brand.
This is just one example; creating a connection between consumer and brand can come in different forms, but it must always incorporate a combination of sensory elements. From smell and taste to touch and sight, this is where the real brand experience begins.
High-impact is the result when you effectively combine sight, smell, touch, and hearing simultaneously into one ultimate sensory surprise. To achieve high-impact, you can't be afraid of taking risks. For example, McDonald's created an OOH campaign that made it look like the ingredients of a hamburger on a billboard were dripping onto a car parked below. The car, covered in pickles and mustard, grabbed people's attention and embedded the brand's message by leading viewer's eyes up to the billboard.
In another interactive vending machine example, the coffee roaster company Douwe Egberts created a coffee-vending machine with facial recognition software that would pour customers a cup of coffee every time they yawned. Placed in an airport, you can imagine the shock when a customer would get poured a free cup of fresh coffee on their layover!
Memorable moments are created first and foremost through our emotions. As such, our marketing strategy must target emotions first in order to hold a place in the conscious and even subconscious minds of consumers. We want to awaken people's deepest desires. We want to appeal to a consumer's highly sensitive fibers that inspire a purchase and eventually a long-term loyalty to the brand.
When you are conceptualizing your campaign, think about what type of emotion you want to convey -- is it excitement for a new TV show, nostalgia for a popular brand? Make sure your concept and execution are always centered on this key emotion.
Our responsibility as marketers is to engage, and what better way to do this than by utilizing OOH media as an entertainment tool. Inject storytelling into everything you do. Whether it is street furniture or a billboard, find a way to amuse potential customers through dynamic visuals and messages so that the brand becomes a source of entertainment. Interactive games or original characters are great ways to transmit emotions and are often much more effective than using a simple logo or tagline.
For the DVD release of the film "Transformers," an 11-foot Optimus Prime model was created that had a crane connected to his arm that would lift people up for a fun photo opportunity. This is a situation where the OOH campaign was so entertaining that the potential customer got lost in the experience and made for a memorable moment that they could share with friends and family.
For your next OOH advertising project, remember to think extraordinarily and captivate your viewers through multiple touch-points.
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Everyday, the things we use to conduct daily life become more integrated with the cloud. Cars are no exception. Unlike smartphones, which can be upgraded frequently, consumers tend to hold on to their cars until they absolutely need a new one. Perhaps this is why connected cars have sat on the sidelines as a novelty item. However, with the rise of Telsa and older cars becoming obsolete, consumers are now entering the era of the connected automobile. Here's what marketers need to know to prepare for this massive shift.
The main thing to remember as a marketer is that your options for reaching consumers digitally out of home are about to get a lot broader. Prior to connected cars and smartphones, marketers were fairly limited to billboards, radio ads, and bus-stop posters to attempt to advertise to commuters. Connected cars are going to change all of this. These cars are connected to wireless, 3G, and to a consumer's smartphone. Start thinking of strategies today. Make partnerships with these manufactures and begin to mold a plan for incorporating your brand seamlessly into the connected car and mobile experience.
The days of separate campaigns for every screen are over. You need to have an omni-channel strategy for your marketing efforts, and connected cars will only feed the fire for having a single, easy way to reach consumers on every device at once. When a consumer is in their car traveling, they are with their smartphone and usually one or two other devices. Imagine if you could send push notifications via your branded app at the same time your commercial airs on the radio? How many consumers could you turn into customers with a smart omni-channel campaign? The possibilities are exciting and seemingly endless.
Another important thing to remember is to structure your connected car marketing efforts to be opt-in. You'll need to incise consumers to want your brand apart of their commute. Start thinking about how you will attract consumers. What will you offer? What real value will you be providing that is so attractive that a consumer cannot resist? Put yourself in the commuters shoes, identify their problems, and think of ways your brand can help solve their issues.
iMedia traveled to Dreamforce 2013 to discover how the cloud is evolving and how marketers can get ahead. In this interview, iMedia's Bethany Simpson speaks with ExactTarget's Jim Eup about the main things marketers need to keep in mind about the connected car revolution.
Programmatic media buying is now generating a huge surge in interest from advertisers and their agencies. Marketing dollars are being increasingly shifted to this form of buying, and with seemingly good reason -- it allows us to be exponentially more efficient in our selection and pricing of ad impressions.
Combining this with the data and analytics tools -- built in as "apps" to most of the top DSPs -- improves the ability to segment audiences, evaluates responder profiles and interests, and communicates more effectively with customers at every level of the conversion funnel.
Since programmatic media buying is such a hot subject right now, here are some of the key issues surrounding it.
A concern that many people share is that algorithmic media buying eliminates the need for the human element. If the campaigns are being optimized automatically, then do we need as many humans to manage them? The answer is yes, but you may need a different type of human.
The task is changing from negotiating and buying media placements, to analyzing and manipulating data. Experts are predicting an increase in demand for data scientists.
In addition, programmatic media buying is meant to be a part of the overall buying strategy, not the whole. Media buyers are still needed to execute direct buys and custom placements. With the abundance of data tools we are also getting better insights into our audiences that media buyers are using to identify premium and sponsorship buys.
One of the concerns for agencies and advertisers is that there are still too many "black box" traffic sources out there. This is due to a combination of SSP and DSP ad networks not wanting to disclose what they consider proprietary information, as well as publishers wanting to stay anonymous.
The challenge for marketers in these situations is that they miss out on the value of being able to identify the sources and/or the consumer segments that are performing (or not), and apply that knowledge to their broader marketing effort.
Vendors themselves are increasingly calling for more transparency from the programmatic industry as a whole. We should see increasing visibility become more available to marketers in the near future.
As we shift gears from social media 1.0 to social media 2.0, this next phase is becoming more interactive than ever before -- just like the AT&T commercial where "Faster is Better," "Bigger is Better" in marketing. Communication has moved from a ration of 1:1 to few too many, and with the power of social media, companies are enabling employees to share their voices and have true many to many conversations to communicate a company's message, brand, and thought leadership. While opportunities for maximizing social media are rapidly evolving, so are the challenges. The most common issues overheard from companies trying to messages out -- specifically through social channels -- are curating quality content and growing audiences.
For a majority of companies, social media efforts are assigned to a small team responsible for a single company voice. Basically this small mode of communication with the masses may maintain consistent messaging, but it can lack authenticity and a real human-to-human connection. Developing sticky content that drives people to share it with their own networks or take some other action continues to be an ongoing struggle -- one that's often lost as social marketers get caught up with trying to keep up with a set cadence for posting.
It's also becoming increasingly difficult to grow a company's reach given the information overload out there on social networks coupled with the limitations of having just a handful of individuals sharing content on behalf of an entire organization. It's even harder to motivate fans and followers without incentivizing them (over and over) in some way.
How can companies address these important issues to maximize social media efforts? Here's the next wave of many to many interactive social communications:
Most companies have a huge untapped network at hand -- the employees. Till now the idea of employee engagement through social media has been a behind the scenes means of keeping employees informed, connected, and communicating through internal social channels like Yammer and Chatter.
However, employees are typically proud of where they work and want to talk about what they do externally. That said, people are busy with their existing job responsibilities and it can be time-consuming to figure out relevant content to post. Plus many companies have not provided clear direction on how employees can engage in social media.
Enabling employees to share information about their company through the social networks -- they're already active in -- has the potential to amplify the brand on a significantly larger scale than what current efforts can accomplish alone. As described in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," you may see mavens emerge amongst employees that are extremely knowledgeable about the products and services they design and promote, and great with sharing insightful information, which in turn builds their own reputation as experts or thought leaders. The influence real people have with their own high quality networks is priceless, and these extended networks don't need the same incentives as other fans and followers -- given the established relationship with employees.
In fact, according to EveryoneSocial's data, 100 employees, on average, command a network of friends and followers of over 90,000 people, and they can generate 13,000 brand impressions and 6,100 clicks back to their site per month. That's powerful.
This is a big one. The reality is that companies don't truly have control over every aspect of communications beyond the messages pushed out given the interactive nature of social media in today's digital world. Conversations are happening with and without companies. This is both a challenge and an opportunity that requires changing a mindset and empowering others with the right tools to speak about and on behalf of the company.
While some Fortune 1000 companies like Dell and Adobe are emerging as leaders mobilizing employee advocates as evangelists, fear of losing control of communication is still a key concern paralyzing some. In the big picture though, better equipping employees with simple tools, brand-consistent content, some accountability plus some freedom to share their own thoughts on things can not only create an even more high performance organization, it will also help companies compete as more and more organizations employ this strategic social media tactic.
Granted it will be important to provide a policies and procedures framework to guide employees with how best to communicate about the brand and company values. It's key to leave some room for original ideas and authenticity so that messages can be infused with an individual's personality and perspective. With that, providing support and resources for how to manage conversations, or advice on when it's better to step back and disengage is essential to helping employees inspire productive dialogues across networks.
There's no doubt a bit of a culture shift that may also need to happen if employees have been previously discouraged to share information via social channels. When you take away the taboo and provide the tools and encouragement, you'll find that there are a lot of people that will want to talk. Even those that don't regularly engage in social media will have context for how to do it appropriately and effectively when they do.
Now back to the hot topic of content. In general, creating relevant content for social media channels is challenging and there is still a lot of experimentation going on. Some product deals and promotions are okay, but if overdone, it often comes across as noise similar to how verbatim marketing messages are perceived and ignored by the very people a company is trying to engage.
Quality content are the blog posts, videos, news articles, and photos that we like to consume and want to share with our networks that will potentially share with their respective networks. A blog posts lifespan is around a year but for a Facebook post or tweet, it's maybe a couple hours or less before it gets buried. Though this is obviously a very short window of time, it still has potential to benefit the company if done well.
To sum it up, more is better. Great content drives trust, authority, and ultimately sales -- add an army of employees sharing this content with some direction and simple tools and listen to the social media volume turn up overnight. Ironically, letting go a little can actually increase a company's influence.
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Twitter is great for Millennials. Millennials have had the fortune of growing up with Twitter from the beginning and feel an affinity toward the platform because they were there from its inception. Facebook has the same loyalty for similar reasons. However, the social users of Generation Z are a group who does not remember the birth of Twitter, and they therefore see it as an old mainstream social network. Already, marketers have noticed that Generation Z is moving away from established platforms and are more attracted to niche social networks that their parents might not have heard of. Marketers trying to reach this generation of consumers will have to direct their social media marketing efforts to places other than established and mainstream networks. Twitter and Facebook may be popular, but obsolete to certain groups.
Generation Z does not have a monopoly on stereotyping without evidence. Marketers and Millennials have their own prejudices about this new generation of consumers. One of the biggest is that most of Generation Z is on Snapchat. Snapchat has risen to become one of the biggest game changers in social media, attracting a large group of teens and tweens looking to connect with their peers in places that are out of the mainstream. However, just because Snapchat is popular does not mean it's savvy for every age group. At age 10 or 11, Snapchat may not mean a thing. It's not until age 12 or 13 does this rising social platform gains significance. Assuming that young social networks such as Snapchat, Kik, or 4chan are popular across the board with Generation Z is a mistake marketers shouldn't make.
Lewis Dvorkin, chief product officer at Forbes, has a unique and personal insight into how Generation Z differs from Millennials and Generation Y. He speaks with iMedia about the main misconceptions and how marketers should be more nuanced when targeting this new group of social consumers.
Brands need to help customers with content, not just pretend to be useful. In every content marketing decision you make, ask yourself if you're providing useful information that the regular reader can learn from and take actionable advice out of. If you're punching out content that is fluffy, vague, and doesn't make a strong point about a relatable topic, you're not living up to what is possible with meaningful content marketing.
If you don't distribute your content, nobody is going to see it. More and more, brands are encouraging employees and senior staff to become writers and contributors in the industry. However, very few companies give stock to how they are going to spread their material to those who matter. It's a challenge that some brands (such as American Express) have solved by creating their own online magazine and growing a reader base. But not every brand has those resources. When it comes to distribution, brands will have to get creative on social and word of mouth to make sure their material is seen while it is still relevant.
Your branded content needs to be relevant, and a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work. Once you have attracted a following, focus on the issues that are affecting them, don't distribute your content to channels that won't find it relatable. Marketing challenges are different across the many areas of the industry. Find your niche and stick to it.
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Consumers' growing taste for media is the result of three major trends in the media landscape -- three trends that, if done right, are ripe for brand picking and have the ability to help brands better reach and connect with consumers.
As a few brands have recently -- and successfully -- discovered, the days of purchasing or sourcing existing content have long passed. If your content isn't unique to your outlet, consumers have no reason to visit your site or purchase a subscription to your service. Rather, original content is now the name of the game. Brands that develop premium, original content will keep users coming back because they can't access that content anywhere else.
Take, for example, Netflix's Emmy-nominated series "House of Cards." The show has won over millions of subscribers becoming just another reason for people to switch to premium content subscriptions. Why? These viewers wanted to watch the series and couldn't do so anywhere else.
Another great example is HBO, a brand that started off serving only sourced content but now provides a mix of sourced and original content that's exclusively available to its subscribers. Think "Game of Thrones," "Boardwalk Empire," and "Entourage," to name a few.
Brand strategy: Provide content people care about
Often, brands will provide press releases, blog posts, and other forms of media content promotions that not many users are actually interested in consuming. But, if a brand can provide content that consumers actually want -- even if it's not directly about the brand -- it has the ability to engage consumers and eventually push brand-relevant content.
Media integration doesn't just mean tying your social/online presence in with TV content. Instead, think of integration in terms of multiple media streams for your brand to allow access to content whenever and wherever the consumer is.
"Glee" is a great example. As a brand, it's able to create original media content for TV, and then syndicate the music created by the show through iTunes. This provides not only an additional revenue stream, but it also helps increase engagement among consumers when content is unavailable offline. Consumers are now enjoying the brand on-demand and à la carte -- exactly what a brand needs to offer to survive in today's media landscape.
Brand Strategy: Provide content that is consumable across all forms of media
With the many different outlets including television, online publications, mobile, and more, there shouldn't be a platform your brand doesn't at least attempt to engage. HBO again does a good job of this, providing not only on-demand television but also interviews and webisodes through outlets like HBO GO, which is available online and through connected devices like Apple TV.
One of the biggest things to remember about mobile content and brand engagement is that the reason mobile does -- and will continue to -- succeed is that it provides anytime, anywhere convenience. Still, there are many attempts at mobile branding and media that simply do not work.
To succeed, a mobile offering should serve at least one of three main purposes. First, it could serve as a necessity, such as banking apps that allow for easy money management. Second, mobile can provide convenience, such as management systems that keep track of your schedule. Finally, the mobile offering can entertain, as is the case with apps like Angry Birds. Many applications and mobile content offerings fail because they don't meet at least one of these benchmarks.
Brand strategy: Provide on-the-go, useful content
By focusing on creating media that customers are interested in consuming and then making that content available in a package that crosses platforms to meet consumers' on-the-go demands, brands can successfully engage a loyal customer base.
Today's media audience is capable of anytime, anywhere consumption and, in turn, requires premium, on-demand content. New brand strategies that adapt to these trends will have the power to both capture consumers' attention and even get consumers hooked on brand-made content.
With that kind of opportunity, it looks like the media landscape isn't so bleak after all.
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