Category Archives: Case Studies

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We Now Spend More Time On Mobile Devices Than TV

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Apps are driving the increase in time spent on mobile devices.

Users spent more time on mobile devices than watching TV for the first time last quarter. That’s according to new insights from Flurry, the mobile ad network now owned by Yahoo.

Time spent on mobile devices the U.S. increased 9.3 percent in the past 9 months from 2 hours and 42 minutes to 2 hours and 57 minutes, while TV usage remained flat at 2 hours and 48 minutes.

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Mobile usage was app driven, as time spent on the mobile web remained flat.

The growth came not from the top 25 apps (as ranked by comScore), but from apps that aren’t necessarily blockbusters.

Flurry found that time spent in the top 25 apps grew by 1 percent in the past 9 months, while the remaining apps saw usage time increase by 21 percent.

Rather than seeing consolidation taking over the app ecosystem, Flurry says “independent developers have survived attempts by large players to consolidate the ecosystem” and are flourishing. There are now some 590,000 applications on the Flurry network in 180 countries, the company says.

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Enhanced Ecommerce For Google Analytics Rolls Out Of Beta

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Also announced, a new Shopping Campaigns report to analyze AdWords performance in Analytics.

Google’s overhaul of ecommerce features in Google Analytics is now officially out of beta.

Launched in May to provide merchants with a more complete view of how visitors navigate through the purchasing funnel, “Enhanced Ecommerce” is being released today with more tools. Also new for e-commerce advertisers, Google is rolling out a new Shopping Campaigns report in the AdWords section of Google Analytics.

With these new features, Google says Analytics is now “a complete solution for ecommerce businesses” as retailers approach the holiday rush. Enhanced e-commerce runs on Universal Analytics and relies on retailers tagging their sites with the ec.js plugin.

The new reporting is meant to help merchants focus, not just on what is selling, but on where and why other visitors aren’t converting. It can also track and report refunds. Google states:

Importantly, Enhanced Ecommerce gives you the ability to identify segments of customers who are falling out of the shopping funnel. You can then focus on these high intent-­to­-purchase customers with remarketing or by optimizing your checkout flow.

Product Lists And Product Attribution

Product Lists are “logical groupings” of products on a retailer’s site, based on the tagging. Product Lists can report on catalog and search results pages, related products and cross-sell and up-sell blocks of products. Merchants can then see which list users saw, the products that displayed in those lists and the performance metrics — clicks, views, click-through-rate — for each list, list position and product.

The Product List Performance report lets retailers identify how customers find and interact with products before purchasing them. The report includes Product Attribution data such as a “last action” attribute. That attribute gives credit to the last Product List that the user interacted with before converting. Merchants can use the Product Attribution functionality to understand which Product Lists drive conversions.

Mobile App Analytics

The Google Analytics SDK supports Enhanced Ecommerce, so retailers with mobile apps can analyze product performance and customer behavior across mobile and web.

Shopping Campaigns Report

The new Shopping Campaigns report in the AdWords section of Google Analytics will begin rolling out over the next few weeks and will appear automatically for advertisers that have linked their AdWords and Analytics accounts. The report will offer deeper insights into Shopping Campaigns performance including the product categories that drive site engagement and revenue for bid optimization.

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Beyond Tag Management: The Future Of Advertising Data

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In part 6 of this multi-part series on tag management, contributor Josh Dreller discusses where advertising data is headed and and what we can do to get there.

Throughout this series on Tag Management Systems (TMS), you’ve read about tags, how to manage them, how to evaluate TMS vendors, and other tag related issues.

Tag management is certainly an important part of online marketing to date, but marketers are beginning to realize that better tag management only takes advertisers and the digital marketing ecosystem so far.

Simply put, tag management is just one slice of the advertising data pie that marketers need to wrangle. Yes, tags are a crucial component for collecting web data, but your data doesn’t just live on a website, mobile website, or where JavaScript can be implemented.

Your customers interact with your emails and your ads. They engage with you within tablet and smartphone apps. As well, some of your valuable, offline customer data can be translated into digital signals that cannot be collected with tags (such as what lives within your CRM, your point-of-sale systems, your kiosks, and even your call centers.)

Also an important aspect to consider is that much of the future of digital marketing data will live in wearables, Apple Pay, beacons, etc. which can’t all be collected by tags either.

Of course, a lot of your data lives where tags can reach, so comprehensive and easy-to-use tag management is still going to be a very important component to your future advertising data strategy, but for you to unlock the full power of your advertising data, you will to think beyond simple tags.

Tags = Data Collection

What are tags anyway? When a technology vendor or publisher sends you a tag to place on your site, what they’re looking for is access to data. These tags give them a small window of insight into the engagement you have with that customer and then each partner uses that intel to power their systems.

For example, just some of the marketing actions that can be powered via site tags…

  • A Retargeter Or Ad Network can target media to specific customers based on the products they viewed or purchased
  • An Email Platform can segment customers into the most ideal segments for future messaging
  • A Dynamic Creative Or Content Personalization Engine can automatically begin to customize paid or owned media assets to be more relevant to each customer
  • A Measurement Or Attribution Platform can track customer behavior to better assess and analyze how your media works together to impact and influence customers to take action

So, if the purpose of tags is to enable an advertiser to share data with its partners and platforms, and tags can only get you part of the way there…then the future of advertising data is for marketers to share their entire dataset with their partners, not just what can be collected with tags.

The concept that marketing will be highly data-driven is not a new one. In fact, most marketers would agree that it is inevitable. But how do we get there as an industry?

Making Data Easy To Use Is The Real Future Of Advertising Data

Long term, if working with data becomes as easy to marketers as any working on any other ad tech platform, it will eventually be distributed throughout the marketing ecosystem and finally impact marketing goals across every channel.

To realize this vision of ubiquitous ad data, the marketing ecosystem must make using data simple and approachable. To do this, four things must occur:

• Simplified Data Interfaces. For the most part, raw data is something only someone with coding and/or SQL skills can easily manipulate into useful streams. Third-party audience data has taken off because of its ease of use, allowing programmatic marketers to easily choose audience segments from drop down menus.

For years, media planners have subscribed to research firms such as comScore and Nielsen which provide very easy access to powerful market data. But your most valuable asset, your first-party data, is likely trapped in various technology silos. Imagine if all your data was easy to access, and you didn’t need to be a data scientist to use it.

• Easier Data Collection. Getting to their customer data has always been a problem for marketers. As more and more ad tech platforms emerge, the more disparate data there is. Tag management takes marketers pretty far with website data though the full dataset is still hard to reach for many marketers.

However, new tools are coming online that will help to ease this pain point. There are only a handful of methods that are actually needed for a marketers to be able to collect their entire ad data set (pixels, tag containers, SDKs, APIs, etc.) so we will certainly master data collection over time.

• Universal Data Standards. It’s still a bit of the wild west when it comes to data. Even if you can get your data easily out of your various customer engagement points, it’s hard to match up files from different systems.

For example, one of the most common data fields in digital advertising is impressions. In some systems, it’s called impressions, but in others, it is called imps, served impressions, display impressions, viewed impressions, purchased impressions, etc.

There’s literally a language problem between ad tech platforms that needs to get figured out before data can truly become as portable and flexible as it needs to be.

• Every System Handling Data In Real-Time. Marketers know that the value of data decreases rapidly over time. Many marketers haven’t yet studied the effects of data decay but most understand that data does have a “use by date.” Customer signals (such as which search terms brought them to your site, which email offers they just clicked, what actions they just performed within your app, etc.) must be acted upon quickly before the window of opportunity with each consumer closes.

To really be able to maximize the power of ad data, the speed between the collection of a customer signal to marketing action has to occur in near real-time.

If the previous four challenges can be overcome, more marketers will begin using advertising data more frequently and the data-driven approach will go mainstream.

The First Step Is Centralization

Data has been a bit of a bane for marketers. The marketer skill set has generally revolved around campaign planning, targeting consumers, and messaging, while data has been handed off to other teams (i.e., web analytics, IT, business intelligence, reporting, etc.) However, as data becomes more portable, easier to manage, and tangible, marketers are getting involved.

Even though the future of ad data is “data everywhere”, the first step is for each advertiser to finally get their customer dataset into a centralized hub so they can use it wherever and however it can help them or their partners to maximize the results of their marketing.

Final Thoughts

Remember, tag management is certainly an essential way for a marketer to gather and distribute their website customer data, but the future of ad data goes far beyond the browser. Mobile apps, wearables, connected TV, Apple Pay, beacons, all can provide valuable customer signals which marketers must wrangle to truly become data-driven.

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Have We Reached “Peak Android”?

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Google should be happy that Android may have topped out.

Just as Google’s US search market share seems to have topped out at about 67 percent, Android’s global market share may also have peaked at 85 percent. So says hardware counter Strategy Analytics.

As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, a Strategy Analytics analyst opines, “Unless there is an unlikely collapse in rival Apple iPhone volumes in the future, Android is probably never going to go much above the 85 percent global market share ceiling.” Rival firm IDC similarly shows Google with a roughly 85 percent share of smartphones shipped in the most recent quarter.

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While shipments are not equal to sales, I would submit Google doesn’t want its Android market share to go much higher. Any higher and the company would face the likely eventual wrath of regulators in Europe and elsewhere (except the US).

The Journal article points out that Google has made increasing efforts to consolidate Android and permit fewer manufacturer variations and “forked” versions. This benefits the company, platform and developers by reducing fragmentation. However it also brings Google closer to antitrust scrutiny.

Indeed there’s an Android antitrust investigation pending in Europe. And it would be easier to fashion Android-related remedies than it is to try and regulate search results.

Google’s argument against any potential Android regulation is that it’s an “open” platform and anyone can do anything they want with it. In fact the company has been working hard to control that among the top-tier Android OEMs with contracts that require pre-installation of Google apps and define the placement of those apps on the home screen. If you want access to Google Play you have to abide by these rules.

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Google is walking a fine line between exerting more control over its operating system and not so much that it’s vulnerable to antitrust arguments, given its market share dominance. According to Gartner Android devices will be nearly 4X as numerous as Windows devices by next year on a global basis.

Simply put, Android is the dominant computer operating system across the globe. That’s a remarkable accomplishment in only six or seven years.

The following is how StatCounter reports global internet traffic by platform (mobile and PC):

  • Windows: 60 percent
  • Android: 19 percent
  • iOS: 13 percent
  • Mac: 5 percent
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Tablet Traffic: Samsung, Microsoft Gain, iPad Remains Dominant

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iPad still drives roughly 80 percent of tablet traffic.

Ahead of the holiday shopping frenzy, ad network Chitika is releasing its semi-regular report on the tablet usage in North America. The iPad remains far and away the traffic leader, though Samsung and Microsoft have seen year over year usage gains.

Market share figures from Gartner and IDC show the iPad losing share to Android tablets. But those data are based on shipments, not actual sales or usage.

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According to Chitika, looking at millions of North American ad impressions in September, iPads were responsible for about 80 (79.9) percent of traffic. That’s down somewhat from 81 percent last year.

Samsung saw a nearly 1 percent (0.9 percent) gain during the same period. Microsoft grew 0.6 percent. Chitika clarified that the Microsoft gains do not include Surface Pro models but are a result of Surface 2 sales and usage. Had Surface Pro been included I suspect the numbers would be larger.

The Verizon branded Android tablet, introduced in 2013, also saw traction, with now a 0.5 percent share.

Compare the following StatCounter North American tablet traffic data. The numbers are generally in agreement with the Chitika data:

  • Apple/iOS: 78.2 percent
  • Android: 15.7 percent
  • Linux: 5.1 percent
  • All others: 1 percent
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Native Advertising Disclosure & Transparency: Who’s Responsible?

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The need for native ads to be clearly marked as such is clear, but columnist Rebecca Lieb notes that the onus hasn’t been placed firmly on any one party to make that happen.

We can all pretty much universally agree that with native advertising comes the obligation of disclosure and transparency. That means clearly and unambiguously indicating that yes, this is an ad, paid for by Acme Corporation.

Yet, how to provide disclosure remains a murky area — hardly surprising given how quickly an extraordinarily wide variety of native advertising products have emerged on all sorts of platforms, ranging from traditional publishers, to in-app and in-game ads, recommendation engines, display units, and a host of other formats.

As the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) puts it in a newly released white paper on the topic, “the key principle is one of transparency.”

Readers and consumers have the right to know (in WOMMA’s language) “when the content was written by or placed by a marketer, or someone acting on behalf of or at the direction of a marketer, rather than the publisher of the editorial content in which the sponsored content appears.”

And, as WOMMA correctly points out, the FTC has been issuing guidelines on disclosure dating back as far as the 1960s (advertorial) and as recently as search engine advertising (in this millennium).

WOMMA is calling for clear and conspicuous native advertising disclosure, as has the IAB.

The paper, while correctly noting that native is clearly an evolving and therefore difficult to define sector, asks an interesting question:

Who is disclosure incumbent on?

Is it the publisher? The brand? The marketer, agency or “widget”? (Note: “Widget” could be interpreted as ad unit or vendor, but in this case appears to refer to recommendation engines, e.g., Outbrain and Taboola.)

WOMMA has a distinguished history of working for ethics and disclosure in innovative forms of digital marketing; but, in this case, I’m not sure I agree with the question.

In my view, the “who” is everyone above. Yet, I believe there is one party that bears the overwhelming burden of responsibility for ensuring disclosure guidelines are clear, transparent, unambiguous and enforced — and that party is the publishers upon whose properties native ads appear.

Ethical publishers have always had advertising policies, standards and practices (as have broadcasters). This legacy of traditional publishing needn’t change significantly in the digital channels.

Additionally, these same publishers have long upheld “church and state” guidelines that govern how, when, and sometimes even if the publishing side of the house can interact with editorial (and vice versa).

The problem in native advertising now is that publishers, desperate for native advertising dollars, are too often adopting an “ads first, policies later” approach to the medium. Unfortunately, the lack of a clear distinction between ads and editorial content likely isn’t sustainable long-term, as it compromises and erodes consumer trust.

While WOMMA is to be commended in calling for greater transparency and disclosure in native ads, it must be noted that the organization counts zero publishers as members. Overwhelmingly, it’s brands that comprise WOMMA’s membership. They are to be applauded for the effort, but the rubber hits the road elsewhere.

The IAB does count lots of publishers among their members, and that body has issued (only) two native advertising disclosure guidelines [PDF].

  • Use language that conveys that the advertising has been paid for, thus making it an advertising unit, even if that unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising messages. 

  • Be large and visible enough for a consumer to notice it in the context of a given page and/or relative to the device that the ad is being viewed on.

Research my team and I published on native advertising goes further. We also recommend that disclosure be provided in a link that provides deeper information, as well as access to a channel for consumer inquiry.

We also maintain that publishers establish, before (not after) native advertising products are developed and sold, clear church-and-state policies, something many, even the venerable New York Times have — quite shockingly — not yet addressed.

Setting transparency and disclosure guidelines for native advertising isn’t something anyone’s waiting for the FTC to do.

The FTC last year called hearings on the topic, routine operating procedure. Just as they’ve done with email, search and word-of-mouth marketing, these hearing are a signal to the industry: “regulate yourselves, or we’ll do it for you.”

With the exception of email (which was already headed to Congress for legislation, the CAN-SPAM Act), this has been a clarion call for trade organizations to rally and set standards.

The IAB’s standards are fine, but inadequate. They simply don’t go far enough, unsurprising for a body devoted principally to advertising, not publishing.

WOMMA wants to encourage marketers to lobby for publishers to uphold better standards. Noble, but unrealistic. The OPA has (characteristically) maintained a low profile. The American Press Institute held an excellent native advertising forum (at which I participated), but has issued no publisher guidelines.

As someone who has been deeply and actively involved in researching the topic of native advertising for a year and a half, this lack of response and initiative on the part of publishers is alarming, to say the least. Native advertising has many detractors and finger-pointers. Prominent and influential commentators such as Bob Garfield call it indefensible, duplicitous and unethical.

It needn’t be, and it shouldn’t be. But if publishers don’t get their houses in order, native advertising, which could be a salvation, will instead be their downfall. Publishers, after all, are the ones who create the product, and oftentimes, the content that comprises native advertising.

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Google Patent For Ads That Follow You Surfaces

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To combat “garish” banner ads, expandable text ads could link to relevant content while remaining present on the user’s screen.

Imagine if after clicking on an ad, it expanded and then persisted as you navigated to additional web content linked to from the ad itself.

That’s what’s laid out in a Google patent that recently popped up in the public records and has gone unnoticed. The patent, which dates back to 2003 with a continuation made in 2011 (US 8838479), is titled “System and method for enabling an advertisement to follow the user to additional web pages”.

In a vision for moving beyond “garish” banners, the patent outlines a system for delivering ads that enable “a user to obtain additional Internet-based content while still viewing the advertisement”.

The problem the patent aims to solve is: “The annoyance factor of ads today causes many people to not want to investigate what the ads are offering, even if they really offer something useful. Clearly, people are not happy with existing advertisements, such as graphical banners,” wrote the patent’s author, Ross Koningstein, one of the inventors of Google AdWords, and now Director Emeritus of engineering at Google.

Interestingly, the patent shows examples for these ads appearing on both search results and third-party content sites.

Morphing Ads

These days, rich media ads that transform are nothing new, but in this patent a standard text ad would be able to “morph” into an expanded format that gives users more information about the advertiser.

In the example below, a user searches for “wildlife tours” and is presented with two ads. A magnifying glass icon (110) appears on the second ad signifying that there is more information available.

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The expanded version of the ad could then look something like this below with images, additional copy, a business listing and menu tabs (230, 240) for more information.

(On a side note: nothing is mentioned in the patent about the “Interest” bar that appears in the ad examples.)

This ad is depicted in both the search results setting shown here and in a content network setting.

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From the patent: “Offering users expandable advertisements gives them the ability to safely investigate information about the advertiser and/or its products before going to the advertiser’s designated target location (e.g., its target web page).”

Linking To Additional Web Pages

The menu tabs are where the bonus comes in.

Advertisers would be able to designate related pages to display when a user clicked on a menu tab (or some other kind of navigation functionality). Clicking on a tab could bring up additional content in the existing browser window, trigger a new browser window to open, or activate pop-up windows with additional information, according to the patent. The ad remains persistent on the screen and “follows the user” as they navigate other web pages linked to from the menu tabs.

The link could bring up related search results, content from the site the ad displaying on, content from a different site entirely or map listings and weather information.

When I was first reading the patent, I assumed the additional web content would typically be from the advertiser’s own site. But instead, in both examples provided, the pages are for related content from the site or search engine the ad appears on.

In one example, a menu tab in the Wildland Tours ad below for “Logowear” (Fig. 7), triggers a page of pictures relevant to the advertised wild life tour – it’s a search results page of images related to what users might see on a tour displays.

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While the patent does have a caveat for linking to other third-party sites, the idea of linking to the advertiser’s site isn’t explicitly mentioned. The emphasis is on linking to pages that are “hosted or affiliated with the content/advertisement system to again provide the feel of a safe confined experience for the user”. More from the patent:

“As people get used to such advertisements, it decreases their inhibitions to investigating advertising content, and increases the exposure of advertisement host’s information (if not their web sites)”

In another example, a menu-driven ad includes a link to view gear items for sale that are related to the advertiser’s suggested items for bringing on one of its tours.

Users can navigate around that page, and even make a purchase while the ad remains present. “Thus, the advertisement may record feedback from the user at the point of purchase to determine the effectiveness of the advertisement, etc.” Again, the odd thing here is that in the example, anyway, the items aren’t being purchased from the advertiser’s own site.

If the user wanted to return to the original content or search page, they could do so by clicking on the home icon (220 in the first image above) shown next to the menu tabs.

Advertisers could also potentially block out other ads. “Given the finite amount of space for such advertisements, advertisers may be given the opportunity to exclude other advertisements and thereby gain additional space for their particular advertisement by expanding to cover those advertisements”. In the display context, this isn’t particularly radical, but it certainly is in the context of search.

Will We See Ads That Follow Us?

Today, when video and rich media ads can be served quickly to any device, the banner is as threatened as ever. But this patent, in part, is a reminder of how far we’ve come since the days of swinging monkeys and blinking slot machines. Low click-through-rates on today’s ads are seen as a result of “banner blindness” as oppose to safety fears about what happens if we dare click. Let’s not forget that banners weren’t left behind as mobile has taken off.

And, that’s one thing that sticks out when reading this patent: there is no mention of mobile, not to mention mobile apps, even after the 2011 continuation. It’s interesting to try to re-imagine this format in today’s mobile environment. The patent does note that the ads wouldn’t necessarily have to morph for the ads to be able to link to other content, which could be more conducive to mobile screens.

So now that this has been made publicly available, will we soon see ads that follow us? Asked about the patent, a Google spokesperson said, “We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”

I have trouble seeing the value in either of the patent’s examples in terms of persuading users to click through on the tour company’s ad. I can’t envision this playing out in any way other than having those links go to the advertiser’s own site.

It would be pretty nifty to be able to book concert tickets, buy a new bag or submit a quote for car insurance without having to leave the article I was reading.

I could see the expandable text ad format itself working in a number of scenarios, particularly in local listings.