The Power of Voice…Search

This year, home voice assistants have created a stir amongst technology enthusiasts. Voice search, the main feature behind home voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is poised to be the technology of the year.

Technically, voice search isn’t “new”. Apple’s Siri was introduced on the iPhone in October 2011, though initial responses were lukewarm. Users found the system clunky and difficult to navigate without screaming into their phones like lunatics. Fast forward five years, and voice search has vastly improved. Far more sophisticated than the original versions, you are no longer confined to weather updates, or finding the nearest Starbucks.  

Language naturalisation is now an integral component of voice search, making everyday speech patterns easily understandable. It’s come such a long way from Siri’s heyday. Now there are devices that can recognise snippets of lyrics to find the song you want to hear, order your favourite takeaway, or control the lights in your house, and in the case of the Amazon Echo, it will even play rock, paper, scissors with you.

The latest voice search devices are inserting themselves into daily activities in useful and meaningful ways. But will they ever move from ‘nice-to-haves’ to ‘must-have’ devices? What are the challenges they pose not only for the digital industry, but for brands?

The Unknown

It is predicted that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice based. This is partly due to the continued improvements in quality that will make it easier for users to voice search, taking full advantage of being able to speak four times faster than they can type.

Marketers have a challenge ahead of them, as voice search continues to enhance the way users interact with the everyday world. There are so many unknowns for how this technology will unfold, but one thing is certain, this is far more than a passing fad. Whilst it may not happen in 2017, it is only a matter of time before Google, Amazon, and Apple find a way to monetise their voice search technologies.

So, what will that look like?

Websites are already seeing a shift towards longer tail keywords, as users speak more words than they would type into a search bar. For website owners, this means SEO will need to be adjusted to these changes.

But in today’s push for mobile-first digital advertising strategies, we need to ask ourselves if we will see a time when voice-first strategies dominate boardroom conversations. Will bid modifiers for voice sit beside those of desktop, tablet and mobile in our paid search activity?

In a world of monetised voice search, the industry will have to evolve quickly to keep up. Search query analysis will pose an interesting challenge as we try to make sense of the data from an array of dialects, and languages. How will we be able to measure results? Will we need to hire CRO specialists specifically for voice searches?

There are far more questions than answers at the moment, but if Amazon Echo shows us anything, it is that there is a future for voice search purchasing, and with purchasing capabilities comes the desire to advertise and get ahead of the competition.

The Future

Within the last six months alone, voice search use has increased by 41%.   Whilst at the moment users tend to be older adopters, men between age 36-66 with a median household income of over $100,000 we can expect to see this continue to grow over the next year. Due to the fact that voice search devices are still relatively new to the market, it is hard to say what the long term implications for marketing will be. But, I think it is safe to say that there is a future for voice search advertising.


Google to Improve YouTube’s Cross-Device Metrics and Satisfy User Privacy Concerns

Google recently announced that it will take steps to improve YouTube metrics reporting for its advertisers, while addressing privacy concerns for users. It will rely less on pixel and cookie data to give advertisers an idea of how their video campaigns are faring, and focus on developing better mobile video tracking tools. On the user side, viewers will be able to mute advertisers that track them with irrelevant ads. Google is trying to strike a balance between transparency and control for viewers, and better, highly refined metrics for advertisers.

Why the sudden move away from pixels and cookies?

Google’s blog, Inside AdWords, indicated that 50% of all YouTube video viewing now happens on mobile. Traditional desktop tracking tools don’t provide an accurate overview for mobile based video campaigns because pixels and cookies were not designed for the way users interact with YouTube on mobile. This means measurement can be skewed. Google is developing a new way of measuring viewership to rectify this discrepancy.

How is this a win for advertisers?

In addition to a clearer view of campaign dynamics, it allows advertisers to reach the right audience. The new tool will provide accurate metrics to advertisers across devices. Information from a user’s Google account, such as past searches and Customer Match, can be used to suggest the ads they see on YouTube. In addition to this, Google will also allow advertisers to use their own data to target high value YouTube shoppers.

For viewers, Google will put the control back in their hands by allowing them to mute a particular advertiser across multiple platforms. For example, if a user has purchased a gym membership and is still being tracked with gym promotions, they can mute that advertiser.

According to AdExchanger, the new system will be cloud based with Google collaborating with several Media Rating Council third party vendors. This initiative was recently rolled out to a few select advertisers.

#12DaysofStrategy: How does Christmas on Sunday Effect Shopping Behaviours?

Christmas falling on a Sunday leaves an entire day free for last minute shopping, sometimes referred to as “Panic Saturday”. In addition to this retailers may also see instances of showrooming, whereby a consumer sees an item in-store but completes their purchase online, sometimes at a lower price.

A typical consumer experiences a digital touch at some point along their journey to an in-store conversion. Hence, to make the most of this year’s Panic Saturday on Christmas Eve, retailers should consider how they can best leverage their digital channels to drive in-store conversions for last minute shoppers, and also ensure that they are prepared for showrooming consumers to make their purchases online following an in-store visit.

For last minute buyers in the run-up to Panic Saturday, information such as click & collect deadlines, and store information such as locations and opening times are necessary. Both sitelinks and location ad extensions can help with this and drive a consumer from visiting your retailer online to in-store. On Panic Saturday itself, local inventory ads will be imperative in creating a digital storefront and enabling a user to find the exact item they want, and then driving them to your store. Again, location extensions are important; search queries involving “near me” have historically peaked over the Christmas period, and so the easier a consumer can find your store, the better.

For showrooming consumers it is the use of singular marketing messaging across your channels which will create a consistent user journey. Being the opposite of in-store last minute buyers, this presents an opportunity to use sequential messaging for showrooming consumers to increase brand affinity and conversion rates.

Even with two categories of consumers that we can potentially expect on Christmas Eve, the common thread between these consumers is the importance of mobile devices. Last minute shoppers will be using their phones to find stores which stock the items they want, or store information such as directions. Showrooming consumers can be conducting their online research on the go using their mobile devices and may make their online purchases on the spot.

Ensuring mobile websites are fully optimised to capture this traffic and serve the user the most relevant information will be important in order to make the most of this peak for retailers during the festive season.

Hopefully these tips and insights from cross-device performance and cross-channel attribution post-Panic Saturday can enable retailers to make the most of Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, and increase revenue between offline and online activities.

Stay tuned to more from our ‘12 Days of Christmas Strategy‘ blog series.

Fashion Made Easy with Google’s Shop the Look

Last year, Google made mobile shopping from search results a cinch when it launched ‘buy on Google’ and ‘checkout’ buttons, turning casual browsing into cash. They’ve taken it one step further in 2016 by partnering with Polyvore, Curalate, and to get users to purchase items directly. The goal: to make search even more lucrative.

It seems to have been successful venture. Google tested Shop the Look recently during New York Fashion Week. Those within the US who searched for details of the event on their mobile would be shown curated images which enabled them to shop for products directly.

IMG_3471 After clicking on 'Shop the show' fashion fans are taken to a page where they can purchase what they've just seen.

After clicking on ‘Shop the show’ fashion fans are taken to a page where they can purchase what they’ve just seen.

Even if shoppers don’t have a particular brand in mind, Shop the Look can still can guide users towards a purchase. How? Users can Google an article of clothing, such as “cocktail dress”, and like items will be shown in the form of Google Shopping ads. Images will be sourced from bloggers, retailers, and publishers, whilst products will be sourced from Google Shopping inventory. Retailers will be charged on a cost-per-click basis, with impressions and clicks reported within shopping campaigns.

Shop the Look offers retailers another opportunity to turn the casual browser into a buyer by making shopping for favourite designers and clothing, an easy, convenient experience. Combined with behind-the-scenes access, videos and images, mobile users can engage with the latest fashions, and designers, and with a few easy clicks, purchase what they see immediately.

This is a clear attempt to vie for space in online shopping against retail giants Amazon and eBay. Google hopes to take the success it garnered from Fashion Week and move further into apparel, and expand into home decor. Shop the Look is currently available in limited locations.


Facebook Ad Blocking: What You Need to Know

Facebook recently announced that it will be blocking ad blockers on desktop. This move has advertisers and privacy advocates buzzing, and has reignited the heated debate around ad blocking that’s been raging since autumn when Apple introduced mobile ad blockers.


Facebook has become an advertising tour-de-force, and has a lot at stake here with thousands of advertisers flocking to its platform to promote their brands to Facebook’s 1.7 million users. By preventing ad blocking on desktop, Facebook protects its advertisers by ensuring their ads are seen, and ultimately, protects its bottom line.


Facebook Ad Blocking currently only affects desktop, but this doesn’t preclude the social platform from moving to mobile in the near future. According to a recent article in The New Yorker, Facebook may also be looking at Apple’s closed eco-system as one they’d likely adopt. Apple’s mobile platform is not built on web-based sites but on closed system apps. Apple’s mobile blockers only block web-based ads, but cannot block any ads served within an app. By doing this, Apple is trying to push advertisers towards the safety of its unblockable closed-app platform, and away from blockable web-based advertising. Facebook hopes to achieve similar results by making its platform unblockable. This offers advertisers some assurance than their ads will be served and seen on Facebook’s platform.


Facebook Ad blocking was officially released across desktop on August 9th, 2016.

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

This is an advancement that will make advertisers rejoice. Facebook is offering a safe space where advertising is protected and will continue to reach the user. Advertisers don’t have the same worry they do with other advertising channels about their ability to reach their audience with their ads, and the harm it is doing to their bottom line. If you are an advertiser who has seen a decrease in impressions within the last year from programmatic display activity, Facebook desktop is definitely an area to start putting more ad spend.

What Does This Mean for Users?

Ad Block Plus has already discovered a work around, but it looks like it will be only a matter of time before Facebook circumvents it. The ad blocking wars are raging, with each side trying to outwit the other in a race to protect, (in Facebook’s case), advertiser interests, (in Ad Block Plus’ case) and user interests. Once Facebook finds the next solution to working around Ad Block Plus’ current block patch, users will be forced back to manage ads by updating their advertising preferences.

4 Tips for Driving Conversions with Video Advertising

2016 is shaping up to be the year for video advertising. While serious forays into video advertising surfaced at least three years ago, the medium didn’t hit full stride until 2015 and is rapidly gaining ground in digital circles. The following four tips and insights will help advertisers supercharge their video marketing strategies and reach the right user in the most effective ways.

Focus: Mobile

While video advertising for desktop remains important, mobile use is driving the a large proportion of video advertising. According to an article in eMarketer, video advertising is set to double by 2019, and the majority of this video consumption will take place on mobile. It has been estimated that mobile video will account for 75% of total mobile data traffic by 2020.

Mobile video viewing has already surpassed desktop, so advertisers serious about seeing strong video advertising ROI need to optimise campaigns to mobile devices. Mobile video receives a higher level of engagement than desktop due to its screen size, and is well designed for remarketing capabilities. In addition to this, Facebook, which has been making a serious dent in YouTube’s video advertising lead, favours video over text for mobile users in its latest algorithm tweak.

Cover All Bases: Cross-Channel Advertising

Video is ideal for cross-channel advertising throughout the entire consumer path-to-purchase. 90% of users say that seeing a video about a product is helpful in the decision making process. Channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, can be used by advertisers to promote video content, and reach potential customers during the various stages of the sales funnel, from brand awareness to purchase.

Mobile, in combination with paid social activity such as Facebook and YouTube, has shown high levels of engagement, and higher intent to purchase. According to Invisia,  after watching a video online, 64% of viewers are more likely to buy a product online.  Adding call-to-actions or overlays to your video will help you leverage this information to your advantage.

Targeting: Paid Social is Video Gold

The top video advertising platforms offer excellent targeting capabilities, including retargeting and look-a-likes, and with tracking pixels, they can easily pinpoint conversions.

Facebook and Instagram, when paired together can have a greater impact on consumers, and increase campaign success rates. Facebook and Instagram offer the same targeting capabilities, allowing advertisers to easily target leads and deliver videos to move viewers further down the purchase funnel. Advertisers can use Facebook’s advanced targeting, first and third party data, DMPs, and custom audiences, to create successful video campaigns.

Other Video Advertising Solutions: Alternative Ad-Formats

There are several interesting alternatives to social media and traditional video advertising channels, for instance immersive in-article videos. Videos are played when a consumers is reading a relevant online newspaper article, and is delivered on top of the content as the reader scrolls through.

Immersive in-article video has become popular over the past year with advertisers because they pay on a strictly cost-per-completed-view (CPCV) basis, meaning they are only charged once the ad has been viewed for more than 30 seconds.

Video ads span the length of the article and are also available in a new vertical mobile format. According to video advertising company, Unruly, 53% of users were annoyed by having to turn their phones horizontally to watch content. Vertical viewing, only plays when the ad is in full view, and can be scrolled past at any time, giving users full control of the experience. The new ad format was successfully launched at the end of June with The Sun and the New York Post.

Another successful ad format has come via in-app monetisation. Gone are the days of annoying banner ads with low engagement and CPMs. Mobile game players are rewarded with game boosts and extra lives for watching a video ad, or signing up for a newsletter. The ads can be intuitively placed in the app during specific points of the game and can combine a strong call-to-action, encouraging a service upgrade or purchase. Reward videos can also be used for social media and music apps. Users can be rewarded with free premium streaming for a select period of time as a reward for watching a video ad. Spotify is a great example of a company that uses this strategy.

Reward videos are unskippable, but the viewer retains control by being presented with the ability to opt-in. These incentives result in a higher number of users remaining in-app, or upgrading due to immediate rewards and longer game play.


Video is providing a fresh, exciting, and expansive format for advertisers to reach new audiences and revenue streams. 2016 is video’s year; there is no better time to invest in this platform. Brands can be successful in video advertising if they remember to focus on mobile optimised campaign strategies, use cross channel promotion effectively, explore alternative ad formats, and invest in paid social video opportunities.

Panel Discussions at GADM’s Ad Blocking Friend or Foe?

The first session of the day’s conference, Ad Blocking: Friend or Foe was formal, but for the remaining guest speakers, talks were broken down into casual panels, giving the audience a better chance to ask questions and join the conversation.

This first panel, The Big Questions – Adblocking Friend or Foe?, caused lively debate because it featured Christian Dommers, Head of Development of AdBlock Plus, defending the ad blocking perspective from a volley of heated panelist and audience questions. He argued that although this issue seems to have exploded fairly recently, with the advent of mobile ad blocking, it’s not new, “Ad blocking has been an issue for years, it’s about the user, and his rights, and his right to protect himself.”

AdBlock Plus recently came under fire from advertisers and publishers for their part in the creation of the Acceptable Ads Board. The Acceptable Ads Board is an independent industry-wide group that determines which ads will make it past AdBlock Plus’ filters. The sticking point has been the accusation that AdBlock Plus are making money off the backs off advertisers and publishers while pretending to be the Robin Hood of web clean-up. AdBlock Plus faced harsh criticism this past September when the Wall Street Journal reported that several large advertisers had come forward, claiming they were being asked to fork over a portion of their ad traffic in order to be whitelisted. Dommers was adamant that AdBlock Plus was not earning at the publisher’s expense, nor engaging in underhanded tactics; he argued that this has been an issue since 2002, and that whitelisting certain ads is best practice.

The discussion then moved onto whether charging advertisers and publishers for whitelisting was acceptable. Martin AshplantMetro’s Digital Director challenged Dommers, asking, “Why do you get to say whats OK, and not OK? You’re the arbiters of a system that penalises”. Dommers stood firm saying, “AdBlock Plus are not arbitrating, the users of Adblocker make the decision of what’s deemed an acceptable ad, and what’s not an acceptable ad.”

Ashplant took a harsh stance towards ad blocking activity; Metro actively bars content to users who have ad blockers installed. Ashplant says it’s a big issue for the Metro, 19% of their impressions were found to have ad blockers installed. Other large publications have followed suit, The New York Times has recently experimented with similar messaging with some users. When the user with an ad blocker installed visits the page, a message pops up saying: “The best things in life aren’t free.” and then prompted to whitelist the paper or subscribe to read content. Ashplant felt publishers were being punished for the ‘worst in class’ players, and users who had one bad experience weren’t going to turn ad blockers off for advertisers who did have decent ads. “There is certainly room to improve at the moment and also, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. We have to work very hard to convince those who use adblockers, not to use them.”

More control for publishers might be around the corner with Google’s launch of AMP, which creates web pages that load quickly. This may be an avenue worth looking into for advertisers, Ashplant added, “What will the monetization from this look like? It could be an interesting proposition, and give publishers more control.” Another suggestion was for publishers to look at apps to circumvent ad blocking and to better engage with consumers. Ad blocking on mobile is still relatively minimal because people spend a lot of time in app on their phone, but it’s still popular on desktop.

57% of people polled by the IAB had no clue that advertising funded the content they saw online. IAB CEO, Guy Philipson suggested that in light of this grim statistic, advertisers need to reframe the conversation with the consumer and better educate them about the relationship between ads and content. Philipson also mentioned that retargeting is an issue; users don’t like being followed around the internet, or like having their transaction data used later for advertising purposes.

What do we need to do to move forward towards change? Dommer concluded the session by maintaining the that its up to the individual to be able to control what they view online, while Ashplant appealed to advertisers in the audience to take the issue very seriously, “Companies and organizations will be forced to close down, or put that charge on the consumer because someone has to pay for that content.”

iStock - Angry manThe second panel, Creative, the Value Exchange and Targeting Millennials, focused the conversation on ad quality, creative spend, and native advertising. Lolly Mason, Head of Media Partnerships EMEA at Celtra issued a challenge to advertisers: “Let’s create something awesome that people want to interact with. We’ve been disrespectful as advertisers to users, so it’s not a surprise to see an increase in ad blocking. People are annoyed by interstitials that won’t close down, or ads blasting loudly on your desktop or mobile, it’s a horrible experience. Millennials are not used to seeing the rubbish sites of the 90s.”

The panel agreed that people don’t necessarily hate ads, citing the earlier Ipsos example of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s Christmas ads. People talk about them, anticipate them, and like sharing them. The same holds for movie goers, who go to the theatre early to catch movie trailers. People will watch these ads and engage with them because they are done well.

Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner at Mr. President felt that the balance between creative and message spend is out of whack. Brands are not spending enough on the message, and the quality of message is suffering. “You forget the person on the end is a human being and might want to be inspired.” The creative element is under a tremendous amount of pressure, with many creative agencies dying out because they can’t keep up. Bambach added, “The split between media and creative has really done us a disservice. We’ve become very lazy as an industry. There are opportunities to do really exciting thing, workout side the box.”

Panel moderator Bob WoottonISBA, noted that the creative being offered now is clearly insufficient, with all the ad blocking taking place, and Dale Lovell, Chief Digital Officer at Adyoulike suggested that the technology that underpins the ad process is struggling to catch up. Lovell works with native advertising and indicated that the majority of native ads are user initiated. He also said that Millenials are very demanding, very impatient, and have set the bar high for advertisers. The session concluded with all panellists optimistic about the future.

The final panel discussed The Future of Ad Blocking. What should advertisers do about ad blocking? How are they affected?

Nigel Gilbert, VP and Strategic Development EMEA at AppNexus, said, “The commercial issues are fairly obvious, if 30-40% of ads are blocked, it creates scarcity and prices will rise. The other issue is that with ad blocking, there is a part of the demographic you can’t advertise to, and that’s a problem and something advertisers need to get ahead of.”

Piers North, Strategy Director at Trinity Mirror noted that the monetization issue is more of a desktop problem than mobile at the moment. While mobile will be impacted, it’s a much smaller share of the pie in terms of ad blocking activity.

The panelists were asked if they felt there was an onus to educate publishers and advertisers? Nigel Gwilliam, Consultant Head of Media and Emerging Tech at IPA, responded, “The short answer is yes. It’s a very important wake up call…Consumers are telling us there is an issue here. The way forward might be to ask what do we do about that other than threatening to turn off content. Are there better ways? We need a better understanding of what is OK vs what is entirely unacceptable.” He concluded by suggesting that “badges” might be a solution.

Dr. Johnny Ryan, Head of Ecosystem at Pagefair felt that advertisers want a reduction of clutter, and cut right to the chase saying, “The meat of the discussion is this: advertising 1.0 is over. We have a smaller sandbox. Focus on premium ads.” 

The common refrain of the day was that ad blocking is a wake up call to advertisers and publishers. While ad blocking activities have been around for several years, the renewed interest and surge in the installation of ad blockers, especially on mobile, is sending a clear message that consumers are not happy with what they’re getting. Advertising is no longer about captive audiences, users are actively participating in, and now controlling, what they want to see.  Advertisers with shoddy practices and ads are being taken to task. This is a call to action; consumers are no longer willing to be subjected to intrusive, disruptive advertising. The advertising industry must sit up and take note, listen to consumers, or face the very real prospect of being shut out across all screens.

Ad Blocking: Friend or Foe? Strategies and Tips from GADM’s Ad Blocking Conference

Damian Ryan (GADM) welcoming audience to Ad Blocking - Friend or Foe at IAB UK

Since Apple introduced the ability to block ads on its latest mobile iOS9 platform in September 2015, and Samsung followed suit on its Android phones in early 2016, advertisers and publishers have become increasingly concerned about being shut out of one of the most lucrative channels in advertising history. Damian Ryan, founder of the Global Academy of Digital Marketing welcomed academics, mobile, and digital representatives, media and industry bloggers, as well as ad blocking agencies, to get the whole picture, and discuss this contentious issue.

Ryan introduced the day-long conference by speaking about ad blocking’s recent upswing in popularity, its growth in advertising, and the future ramifications for the industry.

The first speaker, was Nick Hugh, VP EMEA, Yahoo. Hugh lamented that while everyone is talking about ad blocking, it pains him to see much stronger, and more definitive action taking place overseas. Countries like France have been proactive in foiling users with ad blockers, and as a result, have seen significant reductions in the use of ad blocking software.

How bad is it really? Hugh surmised that even with the more proactive stance being taken by advertisers on the continent, the percentages are worse in Continental Europe than in the UK. Ad blocking in the UK is an issue, but it is not as high as in Continental Europe. An Ipsos study discovered that only 17% of people in the UK use ad blockers. The key to combating further encroachment of ad blocking lies in understanding why people block ads in the first place. The following issues are cited as the top reasons for installing ad blockers:

  • Interruption
  • Annoying ads
  • Slows down web browsing
  • Privacy concerns
  • Irrelevant advertising

Hugh suggested that advertisers need to engage with users, shape better experiences for them, listen to their concerns, and prioritize user needs. He also touched on the issue of ad blocking on desktop versus mobile, and the benefits of native advertising. Native ads appear to be favoured by users across mobile and desktop, and will continue to thrive since they are perceived to be ‘less irritating’.

Strategies to Prevent or Lessen Ad Blocking Activity
Hugh covered some of the tactics advertisers have been using to combat the influx of ad blocking. Some advertisers pay to get “white listed”, meaning they pay to add themselves to a “safe list” with companies such as Ad Block Plus so that their ads are shown through ad blockers. This ‘pay-to-play’ didn’t sit very well with advertisers and publishers in the audience, as it left the onus entirely on the publisher to subsidize the cost for their ads, with the feeling that the ad blocking companies were making money at the publisher’s expense. Several audience members pointed out that such strategies paint all advertisers as ‘bad apples’, and not every advertiser can afford to constantly cough up money to circumvent all the ad blocking technology now available. There were suggestions for a model where the user is charged a fee to subsidize the cost.

ad-blocking-slide - Yahoo, Nick Hugh. Other advertisers are playing a cat and mouse game of using blockers to block ad blockers, but this is a band-aid solution that doesn’t resolve the crux of the issue. Then there is the completely transparent approach where an advertiser can message their users saying they’ve detected they’re using a blocker and politely request they turn it off because advertisers need ad revenue to survive.

Lastly, there is a more hostile tactic: Users are sent a message stating that the advertiser is aware that they are using an adblocker, and to uninstall it or they will be unable to see any of the content on the site. This draconian strategy has been used France and Sweden to combat ad blocking but it has been met with some criticism fot pitting the advertiser/publisher against the user in an antagonistic way that further frays the customer-advertiser relationship. According to Hugh, advertisers have to evolve; ad blocking is a wake-up call for change. He closed his talk with the following strategies for ad blocking under the acronym “DEAL“:

Action, not Inaction

  • Detect ad blocking in order to initiate a conversation
  • Explain the value exchange that advertising enables
  • Ask for changed behaviour in order to maintain an equitable exchange
  • Lift/limit restrictions/access in response to consumer choices

Following Hugh, Adam Gagen, Director of Legal and Public Affairs at the World Federation of Advertisers, spoke more on why people ad block and what advertisers and publishers can expect to develop on this front in the coming year.

According to Gagen, ad blocking is essentially the consumer saying “no”, they want a different deal from advertisers. Media is not free, services aren’t free, and ad blocking is really only the beginning, and has been growing steadily since 2010.

Why? Gagen posited that it’s mainly, because it’s free and easy to do. Ad blocking radically changed how users experience advertising, and often, all it takes is one bad experience to have someone download an ad blocker. Privacy is another big reason for installing ad blocking software, and for some users, it can be the main reason depending on their socio-economic demographic.

Gagen drove home the idea that this is a serious issue, “A lot of money is being lost and real people are being affected because they can’t continue to work without an income.” Ad blocking can impact the ability of users to get great new material because publishers are unable to continue producing content for free. How do we find a balance? Gagen suggested a more nuanced approach may be required. Some tips for weathering storm included:

  • Expect to see more tools, trackers that tell you if you’re being tracked.
  • Expect and learn to embrace disruption. “Disruption in the ecosystem is now deciding who has the power”
  • Brands must lead: look at imperical, granular data to understand user thresholds, i.e., what is the point where people get annoyed and tune out?
  • Make standards and definitions a reality, Gagen warned, “We need to change the reality out there.”
  • Make people understand that they won’t get these cool new products and services if advertising doesn’t happen. In theory, this in turn, should produce better advertising.

The third speaker of the first session was Thomas Mendrina, GM, Sourcepointa company that helps publishers and advertisers come up with stratgeies to retain compensation for content while balancing consumer privacy needs. Mendrina spoke about the situation in Germany with regards to ad blocking. Germans are very privacy sensitive; when ad blocking software landed in Germany, publishers felt like victims with little to no power. Lawsuits were were filed against ad blocking companies, but to no avail; the adblock rate did not reduce. In 2014, 24% of German users were using ad blockers on their desktops. How did German publishers combat this issue?

Mendrina said that explaining the value exchange of why advertising is necessary is an important part of winning the war against ad blocking. Advertisers must demonstrate that their content is important and worth either paying for, or permitting ads. This conversation gave publishers the power back to engage with the user and work out a solution. The heavy-handed approach used in some countries on the continent, where users are blocked and not allowed to to visit a website unless the ad blocker is uninstalled, is not a consumer-centric approach, but at least it took concrete action to impart why advertising, and compensation for content must happen.

Key Take Aways

  • Publishers need to stay user-centric and offer users multiple compensatoin options, but that no compensation is not an option.
  • Advertisers must make better ads for all users – especially those who whitelist.

Our final speaker for the opening session was Tara Beard-Knowland, Senior Director at Ipsos. Beard-Knowland, like others, looked at the reasons behind ad blocking from polls conducted by Ipsos.

How big is the problem? 73% of the people Ipsos spoke to used an ad blocker. That’s 1 in 6 users, which is a fairly significant number. Much as with previous presentations, the issues were similar:

  • Intrusive ads getting in the way of what user was doing. 57% of users cite interference as a reason for installing ad blockers.
  • Irrelevant advertising 56%: Ads need to be relevant and in the moment, to capture user interest when they are likely to need that product or service.
  • Annoying – 69%

Ipsos discovered some interesting points from its research: People were less averse to offline ads, educational or entertainment advertising. Users were interested in “old school” forms of advertising, such as print. If the ad furthered their knowledge of a particular item, or brought attention to an important issue, users were more likely to tolerate it. Ads were also accepted for the entertainment industry, such as a movie trailers letting people know what they will see in theatres. It came as no surprise that gambling and dating ads were cited as the most annoying, as high as 74% by male users between the ages of 18-40

Beard-Knowland reiterated the fact that advertisers need to make better advertising,“Advertising needs to be relevant, otherwise what’s the point?…it’s about getting the basics right”. Quality was also problematic, but if an ad was done well, people clamoured to see it, such as the famous UK John Lewis Christmas ads. People tune in and discuss them endlessly over the Christmas season. They capture people’s interest and are emotionally invested. They are a great example of how an advertiser can share the right message, be relevant, and engage users.

The Benefits and Challenges of In-App Advertising

In-app advertising is a medium that has grown since marketers have taken advantage of the upswing in mobile usage over the past few years. Optimising for mobile web use is a great start, but it’s only one part of the mobile advertising equation. Seeing as 80 million people will pay for mobile apps at least once a year (that’s 1/3 of all mobile users) and 93% of mobile (and 90% of tablet) users will download and install apps, it’s hard to ignore the strong engagement and app installs brands can earn going through the in-app advertising route if done properly. Here are a few things to know before you dive into in-app advertising.

In-app advertising provides a better consumer experience than display advertising within the mobile web. Ads on the mobile web are often compressed and unappealing to smartphone users. In-app ads are scaled to fit the screen and look better, thereby improving over all engagement.

Location is a big factor in being able to deliver relevant ads in-app to users. Certain technology providers, such as specialist DSPs, have the capability to determine where the user is at that exact moment and offer real time services or products that take into account location. For example, if you’re male, 18-25, and near a JD Sports store, you can be served a relevant ad based on this information.

Accessibility is another beneficial factor to consider when creating in-app ads. Since most users have their phones with them around the clock, wherever they go, it’s easy to reach them with in-app mobile advertising. You have access to a captive audience, i.e., users who are already using the app and interested in you. Since they’re already engaged, it makes the conversion process an easier win.

Many mobile users are unwilling to pay for an app so developers have had to come up with creative ways to monetise. One of the ways to do this is through subscriptions on app purchases. Gated levels are another means to monetize and move users from a “freemium” app version to a paid one by allowing them to use the app, but barring some functions such as ads.

Tracking is another area where advertisers are facing challenges. Advertisers may find it difficult to track post-view conversions and tie it in with in-app conversion. Many advertisers have been falling back on using CTR as a form of measurement but this model is inaccurate as it a doesn’t account for accidental clicks, which are common with smartphone use. Adwords offers the ability to track through their free conversion tracking tool to capture iOS and Android app installs, and in-app activity.

For more information on how to maximise your mobile advertising performance, download our white paper: To Mobile, or Not to Mobile

Back from the Dead: The Purchase Funnel is Alive – It’s Just Different

There have been a chorus of voices sounding the “death of the purchase funnel” for quite some time now. Since mobile’s explosion in 2014, the demise of the funnel has been discussed at length in digital marketing circles, with most marketers coming to the consensus that it’s in its final death throes since no customer follows the traditional funnel directly anymore. 

Or is it?

ImageBefore we put the proverbial nail in the coffin for the traditional purchase funnel, it might be wise to re-examine this conclusion and call it a metamorphosis rather than a death. Yes, the purchase funnel has changed, of that, there is little doubt, but it’s not dead.

“The traditional conversion funnel is out-dated – we now have something more akin to a waterpark; customers speed through, skip sections, cycle back and repeat as they need to across multiple channels and touchpoints. The industry has to adapt to this new non-linear journey.”- Paul Ricebury-Crisp, Account Director at NMPi

The purchase funnel has simply changed shape, and players. Buyers have more control over the path to purchase now – potential consumers are no longer passive participants being pushed and pulled along by marketers into the final conversion phase. Customers are the ones calling the shots now as they enter and leave at different points along the funnel, deciding how the discovery process takes place.

Several factors have caused this shift. Firstly, consumers are becoming their own advocates and taking initiative. Social media, online communities, and mobile micro-moments (i.e., anywhere, at any time, at your finger-tips) have all impacted the development of the sales funnel.

What can marketers do in light of this change?

Look at the funnel from more than just one approach – see it as a series of possible outcomes, and scenarios. Get a jump on the tools that help you quickly identify exactly where the customer is in their journey and what you can do to facilitate movement to the end of the funnel (whatever that shape looks like because it varies from organisation to organisation). Advertisers must create positive experiences at every touch point regardless of point of entry, channel or device used. Global and local targeting also needs to factor into the new shape of the funnel. Advertisers need to understand that the journey is still taking place, but it’s unpredictable and they are no longer in the driver’s seat.

The funnel is not necessarily irrelevant, it might be better to christen it something else; a web perhaps, or even a pretzel, instead of a funnel. This would be more accurate than its current cylindrical shape, but no matter what it looks like, it’s still a process users have to pass through on their conversion journey, however they get there. Change isn’t always an game ender, sometimes it’s just a shift in how we go about achieveing results, or perceive a new structure. The game has changed, the players have moved, but end result is the same and the conversion funnel is far from dead.

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