NMPi AU Crowned “Best Digital Agency” at NORA Awards

We are delighted to be able to say that NMPi AU took home the gold last night at the NORA 2018 Excellence Awards, winning “Best Digital Agency” in the evening’s proceedings.

These awards recognise the best of the best in Solution Providers for the retail industry of Australia. Most importantly, these awards are voted on by the retail industry itself. This win demonstrates our experience and expertise across retail, and that this has translated into real results for our clients.

A big thank you to all the retailers and clients who took the time to vote for us, and a huge congratulations to our amazing team. This award recognises the phenomenal work they’ve been doing to drive performance for our clients and partners.

Check out all of the winners from the evening at Noraawards.com.au.

A Story About Facebook Stories

Like every good story, this one begins once upon a time, last summer to be precise, when, a social media giant went through one of the biggest one-day losses in US corporate history. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was reported to have lost more than £11.5bn in one day.

What was the reason behind his recent loss of fortune – or at least a small portion of it? Well that my friends, is a new chapter in the Facebook tale.

Reacting to a surge in popularity of short, visually-engaging formats, Facebook began rolling out Stories to its users and advertisers.

Facebook has restricted its newsfeed ads and has switched their focus to the new Stories format. While the format doesn’t currently bring in as much revenue as its more established counterpart, the bet is surely worth taking if the last five years are anything to go on.

What’s the Stories?

It all began back in 2013. Snapchat, an app with a camera at its heart, designed a tool which allowed its users to create a narrative from a collection of images and short videos. Named Stories, the format was unique in that posts would only have a lifespan of 24 hours. Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, said: “we learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence, but also empowered through ephemerality.”

With point-and-shoot now more accessible than ever, the environment was ripe for Snapchat users to neglect the use of text. Instead, what they saw could be captured, edited and shared, creating a makeshift story for all of their friends to see.

Enter, Instagram Stories

Now, this wouldn’t be a story if it didn’t contain a bit of foreshadowing.

In August 2016, Facebook-owned Instagram had a problem: their product had become too high-end. In fact, many users felt the bar was set too high, and that their everyday pictures were not worthy of being posted to their feed.

So Instagram took a drastic step, copying their competitors to introduce Stories.

The new format was placed at the top of the app, inviting users to post to an audience made up of their existing social network. Now boasting 400 million daily users, the radical implementation has produced an engaged audience and now offers an effective way to speak to customers.

With this platform, though, it is more important than ever to adapt to the environment, a lesson learned quickly by The Guardian. Initially, their posts were tv-quality videos with high set up costs and did not generate the engagement they would have liked. They later adopted a form of native advertising, using short-video explainers and static graphics on news topics – fun content which is easy to make. By adapting to their surroundings, the news outlet has seen their Instagram account grow from 860,000 to one million followers over the last four months.

The Climax of the Story – Facebook Stories

To go forward you must go back, an ethos certainly practised by Facebook as of late. As the Newsfeed begins to reach its limit, the tech giant has planted the seed for the latest addition to paid-social advertising.

A change to the Newsfeed’s algorithm earlier in the year means that brands struggle to reach users organically and instead must rely on sponsored content in order to reach users on the platform. This is all part of Facebook’s desire to make the feed a place of “meaningful interactions” and consequently a shift away from newsfeed-focused advertising.

Introducing a new character to the tale, Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer of Facebook recently announced that “the Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.” A prediction with stats to support it, the consulting firm Block Party stated: “since early 2016 Stories creation and its consumption is up 842%.”

The Plot Thickens

On the brink of a visual communication era and a filling newsfeed, Facebook is shifting users towards Stories despite them monetising at “materially lower” rates than the Newsfeed, Brian Nowak of Morgan Stanley states. He believes that Facebook “will now need to increase its execution around stories engagement and ad innovation.”

With the introduction of Spotify and GoPro on Facebook Stories through third-party app integration, the foundations are set for our vertical protagonist. Perfect for brand-building exercises, the price to advertise through Stories is currently lower than to advertise on the Newsfeed.

And they all lived happily ever after

Perhaps the story is missing a Liam Neeson, David vs Goliath or even a frog-kissing princess, but the potential of Stories means there’s always a chance of a sequel.

A high degree of its success can be attributed to the short lifespan, giving users the freedom to post how they wish without the worry of an old post being quoted against them if they were to become Prime Minister (you never know). Once the feature was introduced to Instagram and the engagement it produced could be analysed, it was only a matter of time before Zuckerberg adopted and monetised Stories on the biggest of all social media platforms.

With ads at the heart of Facebook’s growth, Stories will allow them to create an environment which both elicits the greatest possible connection and allows their revenue model to flourish. Even if it does temporarily mean losing some loose change.

The end.

NMPi Shortlisted at The Drum Agency Business Awards

More good news for NMPi following our win earlier this week at the IPMAs, as yesterday The Drum Agency Business Awards announced their shortlist. These awards focus on agencies as a whole – rewarding exceptional work from back office teams and overall business performance. We are very proud that we have been shortlisted in both the Business Expansion and Digital Agency of the Year categories.

The last 12 months have been incredibly exciting at NMPi. We’ve brought on a slew of incredible clients, finished a year of international expansion by opening 2 offices in the US, and strengthened our proposition with 2 acquisitions. With MediaPact, we’ve solidified our Paid Social expertise, and with Joystick we’ve grown our proposition to include creative solutions. Our team also worked tirelessly to develop our own Comparison Shopping Service solution which, combined with our award-winning Google Shopping strategy, drives phenomenal performance for our clients.

NMPi has gone from strength to strength throughout 2018, and we’re looking forward to seeing where we can go in the future. For now, though, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the 27th of November and another addition to the cabinet.

NMPi Scores at the International Performance Marketing Awards

We have a new addition to the trophy cabinet this morning after another great night at the International Performance Marketing Awards. NMPi took home a new win and received 3 highly commended in these hugely competitive awards.

We hit the back of the net with Fanatics, winning in the Best Use of Data category for our bidding strategy that leveraged the power of in-game moments. Working together with CJ Affiliate, the use of data was well automated and efficient in boosting online sales targets for Fanatics football clientele.

Our work with Liverpool FC earned us recognition in both the Best Use of Data category and the Best Use of Programmatic category. Our final highly commended was in the Best Paid Search Campaign for our work with Harvey Nichols.

We are hugely proud of our continued success this year, from the acquisition of creative specialists Joystick to the launch of our CSS to our winning streak at awards ceremonies over the last 12 months. We’re incredibly proud of the innovation of the NMPi team and look forward to what this will bring in the months to come.

NMPi on the Shortlist at UK Search Awards

We are delighted to announce that we have received another set of nominations, this time in the UK Search Awards. These awards, celebrate the expertise, talent and achievements of the search industry, focusing on SEO, PPC and content marketing in the UK.

This time, we’ve been nominated in the Best Use of Seach – Retail category for our work with Harvey Nichols, and in the Best Local Campaign and the Best PPC categories for our work with East Midlands Trains.

We’ll have to wait until November 29th to find out if we’ll be taking hold the gold, but until then you can find out more about our work with East Midlands Trains here, and Harvey Nichols here.

The Battle for Stories Ad Supremacy

Despite a growing user base and significant backing from Facebook, the Stories ad format has yet to be wholeheartedly embraced by the digital marketing community. Facebook has even taken to advertising Stories placements across the web to drum up interest.

Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have been leading the charge on this new type of ad format. While Facebook Stories remain a fairly new advertising proposition and Snapchat struggles to win over advertisers around the world, Instagram Stories are currently the go-to for many companies, even if they haven’t been universally adopted.

Despite widespread hesitation to adopt this format, some retailers are keen to jump on the opportunity. We recently ran a large, full-funnel campaign for one of our clients across the different Stories platforms. This allowed us to test the benefits of each one, to find out how you can maximise performance with Stories ads.

Snapchat: the Originator

The originator of Stories, Snapchat, is the first to come to mind when thinking about this particular format. However, having previously been plagued with conversion tracking issues, many advertisers have lost faith in the platform as a home for paid social. While projected to earn £104.8M this year, the channel has only generated £68.4M – a solid 34.7% below target.

With that being said, there has been a big push to improve the advertising offering over the past few months, making us think the time was ripe for a retest.

The biggest selling point for Snapchat is its price, coming in 4 times lower than our Instagram activity. This meant that our budgets went even further, allowing us to reach even more of Snapchat’s highly sought after youth audience.

Ultimately,  we do have concerns about the quality of traffic, having seen a higher bounce rate than Facebook or Instagram. While it’s great to reach a wide audience, it’s even more important to have high-quality traffic.

Instagram: the Innovator

Instagram is the most widely used way to advertise with Stories content, and its innovative formats pave the way for the industry.

We were able to test new features for our campaign including, the Stories carousel and Facebook’s video editor; which allows you to create videos from existing images. At the time of writing, these opportunities were not available on any other platform.

Despite forecasting strong performance, we saw the weakest engagement from the Instagram campaigns. The higher cost of media, likely caused by increased competition, and lower CTR resulted in the highest cost per conversion across all of our tests. However, this could be the result of doing the majority of our testing within this platform.

With this in mind, Instagram remains the easiest to use with the most opportunity to test new features and ideas. Most recently, a Shopping feature has been released for organic Stories, which means if it’s successful it’s likely to become available as a paid format.

Facebook: the Newbie

Facebook Stories are the new kids on the block, only recently launching as a paid advertising format. Sadly, this becomes fairly apparent when you come to build a campaign. The innovation present on Instagram hasn’t crossed streams onto Facebook just yet, and so we were limited to single images. Also, at the moment you can’t just target Facebook Stories, you have to include Instagram as well. This means that you don’t have anywhere near as much control over your budget – we only saw 11% of our budget going into our Facebook Stories ad placement, despite having a 34% lower cost per visit. This is likely due to a lack of inventory available on this platform.

Facebook certainly has promise with a cheaper price and similar CTR to Instagram. Unfortunately, the current reduced inventory does hinder performance, and a lack of budget control will certainly put some off. This is one for the early adopters to play around with before the inevitable rise in CPMs as more businesses get on board.

NMPi: the Decider

Each of the different platforms inevitably has their strengths and so if you aren’t currently making use of them, you definitely should be. However, it is important that advertisers treat Stories, as well a mobile in general, with the respect they deserve. Content specifically designed for Stories will achieve greater performance, and the more holistic the viewing experience for the user, the more engagement you will see.

Your mobile site is just as important as the content you produce; the battle isn’t won once you’ve made the user swipe up. If your mobile site is a chore to navigate with a long load time the users will click off.

However, as is to be expected with such new platforms they don’t come without their problems. You cannot run Facebook Stories ads without also running ads on Instagram Stories, which makes it difficult to recommend the platform on its own. While Snapchat drives high volumes of traffic, there was a high bounce rate to match and so wasn’t the best option for our ads.

On the other hand, while we saw our weakest engagement on Instagram, it’s still our platform of choice. It is the most sophisticated option, which continues to roll out new features to further differentiate its offering, and we believe that the low engagement rate was mostly down to our high level of experimentation throughout this campaign. Further, the traffic we attracted on Instagram was of a higher quality than from Snapchat. So, if you’re trying to decide which of the three to trial first, make it Instagram.

With that said, keep your eyes on this space. It seems inevitable that they will continue to grow and expand their solutions, not to mention improve any current shortcomings.   

A Day in the Life: Lucy Smith

We let one of our Senior Account Executives – Lucy Smith – loose with our Instagram account and asked her to give us a look a what a Day in the Life looks like for her. She was more than happy to oblige.  

8.45 – An earlier start than usual, but worth it to set up for our annual Macmillan Coffee Morning. This is my third year organising the event and it’s really nice to be able to do activities like this outside of my day-to-day.

In perhaps the office’s best effort to date, I had almost a full patisserie’s worth of treats to choose from for breakfast. Nothing like a bit of sugar to get you going in the morning!

Having a lot of European clients means that they’ve had an extra hour in the office before I’ve even arrived – so responding to their emails is the first order of the day. The next task is to check the performance of the day before and make any optimisations to bids or budgets that need to be made. Some accounts are more reactive than others so it’s important that we keep on top of performance and how we are pacing against our targets.

11.00 – On Tuesday mornings, I have a weekly catch up with my team. Between us, we work on accounts in 8 different countries so we need to make sure everyone is supported in terms of workload and is kept up to date on performance and any upcoming changes.  It’s also a great chance for us to discuss projects outside our client base that can contribute to the business as a whole.

12.00 – Time for another cake! The trick to avoiding a sugar crash is to just replace the calories as you burn them off. My next job was to storyboard a deck for a quarterly strategic review. These happen (you guessed it!) every 3 months and are an opportunity for us to look back at performance before looking ahead to our strategy for the next quarter. We present our ideas to our clients and work with them to put together a roadmap that incorporates their business goals with our view of success for the accounts.

15.00 – After reports go out on Mondays, clients often have questions and updates for the week ahead. That means Tuesdays and Wednesdays are busy with client calls. Today I had a catch up with clients based in Switzerland and Italy to talk through last week’s numbers and review any actions or updates there might be from both sides. After the call, any actions get added to a Google Sheet so everyone has access and can update as required.

16.30 – The main event of the day – the drawing of the raffle prizes! Thanks to the generosity of our clients, partners and some local businesses we had a great selection – from theatre tickets to Japanese snacks and restaurant vouchers.

17.00 – As the day winds down and people cannot physically ingest any more sugar, it’s time to count up our donations. Thanks to the amazing generosity of everyone in the office, we raised just over £1,000 for Macmillan! The atmosphere in the office has been amazing (again, this might be a side effect of the sugar), and we’ve been able to support a great charity that provides essential support to those diagnosed with cancer.

Facebook Announces New WhatsApp Ads for 2019

In February 2014, messaging platform WhatsApp joined the Facebook family with their adless reputation still intact. Since its launch in 2009, WhatsApp has drawn in users with its “no-ads” mantra and its end-to-end encryption, but those days seem to be numbered with the announcement of ads which will appear on the Status page coming to the service in 2019.

What Do We Know?

The WhatsApp Status feature was introduced in early 2017 and works much in the same way as many other Story platforms like Facebook and Instagram Stories, and Snapchat. Users can upload photos to show their contacts what they’re up to, with the promise that these videos will be gone in 24 hours. However, uptake has been weak with less than 50% of account holders making use of the feature.

Despite this, and against the platform’s long-standing commitment to providing an ad-free service, Facebook has confirmed that ads will be rolled out into the Status feature at some point in 2019 to the dismay of users and stakeholders alike. WhatsApp’s co-founders didn’t originally know that Facebook wanted to start sharing data across platforms to help target ads at users, which in part led to Brian Acton leaving the company last September.

Users are also unhappy about the news, as it appears many of the platform’s main selling points have now gone to the wayside. WhatsApp’s founders never wanted to know more than your phone number and promised end-to-end message encryption, but many are worried about how much information will be scraped from their private conversations.

What Don’t We Know?

A big question that many advertisers will have is how linked it will be to Facebook, as this will have an impact on the level of targeting available, how much information about a user is made available, and how tied to the Facebook Ads Manager it will be.

For instance, by linking a WhatsApp profile to a Facebook account, this gives an advertiser access to all of Facebook’s targeting methods, raising the question, how easy it will be to integrate WhatsApp advertising into your social advertising campaigns. Will WhatsApp be part of the Facebook Ads Manager – like Instagram is – or will it be managed independently?

WhatsApp operates on a very low barrier to entry, only requiring a phone number to sign up. As such, will the platform be able to link this mobile number to a Facebook account? This will provide more information than is currently available on WhatsApp alone. With account information, advertisers will be able to apply similar targeting strategies to those on Facebook such as interest segments and lookalikes.

It will be interesting to see what kind of creative formats are available: will there be a variety, as there is for Instagram Stories, or will it be more like Facebook Messenger where you can only use single image ads.

There will be a lot of questions about how much information will be scraped from messages and just how much personal data will be shared between Facebook’s platforms. This will be crucial to getting consumer buy-in, as many users will be frustrated if they feel like information from their private conversations is being exploited.

Furthermore, the only ad format being put forward at the moment will appear in the WhatsApp Status, similar to Facebook or Instagram Stories, which are viewed by less than 50% of users. Whether this is extended out into Chat remains to be seen, as this may result in people deserting the service and thus making it unprofitable as an advertising platform.

Currently, we have more questions than answers, but monetising WhatsApp was going to happen at some point, even if it has been soon than many would have liked or even anticipated. This is certainly a platform to keep an eye on as the potential is enormous, but testing will be necessary to assess the actual value.

Boosting Performance with Expanded Text Ads

Last August, Google expanded the character limits within their text ads in SA360, ahead of the Responsive Search Ads launch tipped to launch in autumn this year. In true NMPi fashion, we’ve been testing the effect of the increased SERP real estate on campaign performance.

What are they?

The extra character limits are designed to give you more room to convey your message to the user. It allows you to add a third headline, a second description, and use up to 90 characters for each description. Ultimately, giving you much more control over your messaging.

With these larger ads you’re able to take up more space on the SERP, meaning that the top spot is even more lucrative. Note that sometimes your ads might be cut short if there isn’t enough space. So, make sure your copy still works without the third headline or second description.

What can you do with them?

The most obvious thing you can do with the extra characters is include more detail. You have more space to provide more information about your product or service. It’s easier to call out any offers or deals, or your USP. With all of this additional information, users are more likely to click on your ads.

It also gives you another opportunity to test your messaging within your ads. There are greater variations which you can compare to discover which resonates best with your audience.

Google claims that these longer ads receive 15% more clicks than other formats, so we decided to test it for ourselves.

How do they perform?

We ran a preliminary test between the standard text format and the new expanded format. By the end of the test, we could clearly see the difference in performance. Impressions for the expanded format were significantly higher, matched by higher clicks. In fact, we also saw a 10% uplift in CTR.

 

The campaign did see a lower conversion rate, however, this may be attributed to the 30-day cookie window and the short period in which the expanded format has been available to test.

It is easy to see how effective the expanded text ads are: more impressions, more clicks, and higher click-through-rate. We highly recommend taking advantage of the extended character limits and testing their performance for yourself but do keep an eye on your conversion rates.