Archive for the ‘online advertising’ Category

What’s Next for Branded Content?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

contentAs proof of the dictum that everything old is new again, the advertorial rises once again as native advertising—branded content that’s designed to look and read like editorial content. But just how effective is native advertising for Tech B2B audiences?

Digiday recently published a couple articles that attempt to answer that question and point to where branded content is headed next.

According to Lucia Moses in her article Hype watch: Does native advertising really perform as well as editorial?, many ad executives claim that, in terms of response rates, “there’s little difference between journalism produced by a brand and by a news outlet.” But Moses points out that there’s not much independent research to back up the claim.

In fact, in a study by Chartbeat (which McBru reported on earlier this spring), readers are able to identify sponsored content, and the more clearly content is identified as native, the lower the response rate: “Chartbeat studied the click-through rates of clearly identified native ads and found them to be between one-tenth and one-third of the surrounding editorial content. When visitors do click on sponsored posts, they were twice as likely to leave sponsored content than editorial content without scrolling down the page.”

So does that mean that native advertising is ineffective? Not at all—but for branded content to perform as well as regular editorial content, it has to be of the same quality. And that means that advertisers need access to writers and designers who can produce content that’s smart and appealing.

Building audiences is something that marketers know a lot about, but for most marketers, creating content is secondary to other activities. For branded content program to be effective, the content can’t be an after-thought.

Why is branded content and native advertising resurgent? Digiday spoke with John Shankman, founder of Hashtag Labs, about Where Brand Content Goes Next. According to Shankman, brands are on their way to becoming their own distribution channels. “A brand like Coca-Cola with 82.9 million Facebook fans has as much distribution power as the networks used to have. The gatekeeper has been taken away, and now production is where the value’s at.”

Shankman sees a rosy future for media companies and agencies that can work with brands to create branded content. But once again, the effectiveness of these brand-advertising programs depends on content quality: “People are going to want to consume content from a certain point of view,” says Shankman. “We need to prove that these branded productions can be as high quality as editorial.”

The take-away from these Digiday articles? If your business is considering native advertising using branded content, make sure that your strategy involves expert content creation from the very beginning. Your audience is smart—deliver content that’s interesting, intelligent or just plain fun, and you’ll succeed in making the brand connections (and CTRs) that can help drive business.

What You Think You Know about Advertising on the Web Is Probably Wrong: Part Two

Monday, April 28th, 2014

online-advertisingIn part two of a series, we further explore Tony Haile’s article at Time.com, “What You Think You Know about the Web Is Wrong.” Here we examine the effectiveness of online advertising, with lessons for how tech B2B marketers can use better design and better content to reach their audience.

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As discussed in Part One of this blog, Haile thinks that the “Attention Web” is a new way to focus advertising based on a user’s attraction to valuable content and design. But first, he debunks several myths of online advertising.

Myth 3: Native advertising is the savior of publishing

With media companies desperate for new revenue streams and looking for ways to capture audience attention more thoughtfully, native advertising has recently been the talk of the town.

With native advertising, companies create original content and place it on specific news sites in a format that looks and feels like editorial content, because they want their message communicated in a way that is non-disruptive. But does this really work? With regular editorial content, two-thirds of people engage with it for more than 15 seconds – but with native ad content, only one-third engage more than 15 seconds. You see the same thing with page-scrolling behavior: with typical editorial content, 71% of readers scrolled down. But with native content, only 24% of people scrolled down the page at, all based on Chartbeat’s research.

That being said, native advertising isn’t all doom and gloom, some sites have worked hard to ensure the native advertising experience is consistent with what visitors come to their site for. Gizmodo does this really well and they have seen their native advertising perform as well as their normal content as a result.

Myth 4: Banner ads don’t work

The next myth discusses why banner ads are NOT dead. If you listen to the ‘experts,’ click-through rates on banner ads are now averaging less than 0.1% and you’ll hear the words banner blindness discussed at length. But the truth is a bit more complicated…

Research has consistently shown the importance of great ad creative in getting a visitor to see and remember a brand. What’s less well known is the scientific consensus based on studies by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Chartbeat that a second key factor is the amount of time a visitor spends actively looking at the page when the ad is in view. Someone looking at the page for 20 seconds while an ad is there is 20-30% more likely to recall that ad afterwards.

So, for banner ads to be effective, the answer is simple. You have to deliver great creative and then place the ad near it for a long enough period for the viewer to truly see it. The challenge for banner ads is that traditional advertising heuristics demand that ads be placed on the parts of the page that capture the least attention, not the most.

Here’s the deal: 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold. That leaderboard at the top of the page? People scroll right past that and spend their time where the content is.

So while the Attention Web may just seem like a way to structure Web advertising based in consumer behavior, it does indeed have the potential to make a big impact. It’s not just the publishers of quality content who win in the Attention Web, it’s all of us. When sites are built to capture attention, any friction, any bad design or eye-roll-inducing advertorials that might cause a visitor to spend a second less on the site is bad for business.

This means better design and a better experience for everyone. A web where quality makes money and great design is rewarded? That’s something worth paying attention to.

How would the Attention Web change how you structure your next web advertising campaign?

Myth: Click-throughs and shares are the best proof of ad effectiveness

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

share-st-1aMany long-held assumptions about Web-based and social media-driven advertising go under the microscope in “What You Think You Know the Web Is Wrong,” an article at Time.com by Tony Haile. Haile is the CEO of Chartbeat, a real-time Web analytics solution provider. The article raises fascinating questions about the effectiveness of online advertising, with lessons for how tech B2B marketers can use better design and better content to reach their audience. This post is the first of two based on Haile’s research.

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At McBru, we pay a lot of attention to the latest trends and research in digital advertising – how they impact customer behavior and customer awareness and affinity towards brands.

In his article on Time.com, Haile talks about some of the myths of online advertising and our understanding of it.  The article discusses the “Attention Web” – a new way of focusing advertising based on a user’s attraction to valuable content and design – and how there are powerful new methods of capturing data that can give media sites and advertisers a second-by-second, pixel-by-pixel view of user behavior.

First though, we need to understand some of the myths of traditional Web advertising analytics. Turns out that these “measurement” methods, which purport to peak into customer behavior on the Web and gauge the success of marketing campaigns, simply aren’t accurate.

Myth 1:  Conventional knowledge suggests that publishers have been chasing page views, the metric that counts the number of times people load a web page. The more page views a site gets, the more people are reading its contents, and the more successful the site is as part of a larger marketing campaign.

Maybe not…Chartbeat looked at deep user behavior of 2 billion visits across the Web over the course of a month and found that most people who click don’t read. In fact, a stunning 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. There is a concept of click fraud but the real issue is that customers aren’t reading what the metrics says they are.  It goes without saying that the most valuable audience is the one that reads our content, and finds it compelling enough to come back for more.

Myth 2: The more we share, the more we read.  As page views have begun to fail as a metric, brands have embraced social shares such as Facebook likes or Twitter retweets as the new measurement and currency of success. Social sharing is public and suggests that someone has not only read the content but is actively recommending it to other people.  Obviously caring about social sharing makes sense and companies are likely to get more traffic if readers share their content as opposed to doing nothing at all: the more Facebook “likes” a story gets, the more people it reaches within Facebook and the greater the overall traffic. The same is true of Twitter, though Twitter drives less traffic to most sites.

The rub is that people who share content are a small fraction of the people who visit that content. Chartbeat tracked specific content with social activity and there was only one tweet and eight Facebook likes for every 100 visitors.

Also, conventional wisdom would hold that the more a piece of content is shared or liked, the more likely it is to be read or otherwise consumed. However, according to Haile, “We looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.”

In other words, using shares as a measure of marketing success ignores the behaviors of a huge portion of your audience. And in general, relying on click-throughs and social sharing as a measure of marketing success can often lead us to jump to conclusions that the data does not support.

Watch this space for Part 2 of this series on the myths of online advertising.

Tips for Your Annual Media Buy

Monday, December 16th, 2013

bannerIt’s that time of year – 2014 media planning is in full swing! If you’re new to the planning and buying for your online advertising presence it can feel like a daunting task. I hope some of these tips will help.

Start with the big picture.

The first step in media buying is understanding your strategy and objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you interested in lead generation or brand awareness? Developing a clear strategy will inform your goals and objectives. If you’re looking to generate more leads, you’ll want to think about activities that deliver contacts; webinars or downloadable assets. If your focus is brand awareness, then you’ll want to look towards banner ads. Once you decide on the objectives of your program, set goals that fit the objectives, whether they are around CTR or contacts generated.

Identify and learn about your audience.

One of the key aspects of planning bears being called out. Who are you targeting? And how will you reach them? It’s time to identify your target audiences and research the publications they’re reading. Tools such as SRDS and BPA Audit can help you understand what your target audience is reading. We also find it never hurts to ask around. What are your clients’ customers reading? It’s important to get this empirical knowledge, and then vet it with data.

Start planning!

Now that your plan is in place, it’s time to get in contact with your publishers. Make your goals clear, ask for what you want, and use their expertise to help you develop your plan. Here at McBru, we like to work closely with our ad reps. While we take our role to meet our clients’ goals seriously, we also rely on our ad reps’ knowledge of their publications to help us make the best suggestions.

Think critically and creatively.

Sometimes the most obvious option is not the best one, and sometimes the most well-worn path is not what’s going to work for you this year. This is where we like to explore new ideas. Maybe there are fresh ways to target banner ads, or maybe there are new lead gen activities. But don’t go overboard chasing the newest offering. You will need to strike a balance here and think critically about which direction you’ll take. How are these targeted ads performing? Is there any data behind a new offering? Answering these questions will help you figure out where program elements fit into your overall plan and how they will meet your goals.

Implementation.

Now that you’re planning is done, the real fun can begin. It’s implementation time! In case you’re looking for tips on making the most of your online advertising, check out one of our previous posts.

Banner designed by Stefan Parnarov from the Noun Project