Best Practice: Product Launches

The launch of a  major product can often be a make or break moment for any company. Whether it’s the launch of an updated version of an existing product, or a brand new product or service altogether, launches can significantly alter a business’ competitive landscape.

Over the years, we have supported a number of brands with product launches, from new over-the-counter medicine, tickets to major new shows and releases of the latest high-end trainers and technology. In order to help you get the most out of your next launch, we have compiled our top tips for creating a successful paid search strategy.

Plan Ahead

Before your product is even on the shelves, you can hit the ground running with a “pre-order” campaign designed to raise awareness and help build up your audience lists. Send this early traffic to a dedicated pre-order landing page to find out more information.

For your launch campaign, keyword planning will be crucial in determining your success. Remember that users might not be searching for the exact product if it’s brand new, so you’ll want to think about other search terms that would be relevant. Generally, focus on brand match keywords for your initial launch to pick up new search terms.

In terms of audiences, be sure to leverage traffic from your pre-launch and early ads in order to engage them at a later date with more personalised messaging. Other audiences that are worth targeting are users who have visited pages related to similar products or those who have purchased a previous version in the past. Past purchasers are more likely to be brand loyal and will already be interested in the latest product.

Be mindful of any other above-the-line activity from the manufacturer or brand, as you can often sync this up with your digital advertising to great effect. For example, if a TV ad is running then you can set up scripts to sync your search activity with the TV times.

Understand the Competition

Competitors can be a great resource when planning your product launch. Review their ad copy and landing pages to see how you stack up. For example, if all of your competitors are offering the product at a particular price point, then where possible you should match this price.

As many will know, your work doesn’t stop once you’ve set your campaigns live. Competitor monitoring tools such as Google’s Auction Insights for search can be used to assess how the market has changed and who the largest players are in the market.

Be Reactive

If you’ve forecasted a large uplift in search volume before the launch, monitor your bids throughout the day to ensure that your ads remain in competitive positions. Search Ads 360 allows you to set up a bid strategy to maintain high positions for new keywords. Given that the majority of searches now take place on mobile and the screen size is a lot smaller, resulting in fewer ad placements, it’s even more important to ensure your bid multipliers will keep you in the top positions.

In the following weeks, you will need to continually monitor and optimise keyword bids and bid multipliers to ensure continued efficiency and stabilised performance. If you notice significant trends between devices or locations, it may be worth splitting out campaigns to have a greater control over your bids.

Find out how we ran a product launch that saw 49% of sales come from new customers in our Fitbit Blaze case study.  

Understanding Comparison Shopping Services

Following the recent launch of our CSS solution and the announcement of our Premium Google Comparison Shopping Partner Status, our Head of Performance, Max Flajsner, led a highly insightful webinar explaining Google’s latest platform.

Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) were a huge industry in the 90s, but after Google launched Google Shopping they noticed that their search traffic was being decimated as they were forced down the SERP. One lawsuit and a record-breaking €2.4 billion fine later, and Google have been instructed to clean up their act. In response, Google has opened the doors for CSSs to buy Google Shopping space.

The biggest benefit of using a CSS is that you can save over 20% just by signing up. As an incentive, Google introduced a 20% discount on CPCs in the SERP, making you 20% richer in the auction, and a Spend Match, giving you ad credits based on your spend within a 30 day period.

How does it work?

CSS Shopping campaigns work almost identically to Google Shopping. While you do need a different Merchant Centre, this looks mostly like the standard one with a few additional functions. You also manage your activity through your usual Google Ads account. Within Google Ads, you’ll see your discount appearing as part of your campaign performance metrics – which should be 20% better – and your Spend Match vouchers will appear like any other voucher from Google.

On the SERP, you will never serve the same product more than once, which means that you will never be bidding or second priced against yourself. When a user clicks on the product name they will be directed straight to your product page, or if they click on the CSS name they will be redirected to the CSS with the search term pre-populated.

When setting up your new Merchant Centre you have two options: to clone your Google Merchant Centre or switch over. The choice will depend on who you are as a brand and the kind of measurement you want to see.


  • You’ll be able to test performance of CSS vs Google for yourself.
  • You can split traffic by Shopping tab/SERP.
  • You will lose campaign data from previous campaigns
  • It will take longs to make changes.
  • We suggest you lower your bids by 15% and slowly scale up to account for the discount. At the same time, you should scale your shopping bids down.


  • You can keep all of your old campaign management.
  • There’s no change to your GMC management.
  • You can’t manually test CSS vs Google.
  • You can’t split SERP and Shopping tab data.

How to pick a CSS Partner

There are 4 main things to keep in mind when choosing your CSS Partner.

  • Are they direct linking? Do they send users straight to your product page or do a redirect to their site first?
  • How strong is their Google Shopping Offering? Since CSS Shopping campaigns are exactly the same as Google Shopping campaigns, you’ll want to investigate their prowess on Google Shopping to give you an indication of how their CSS Shopping will fare.
  • What commercial model do they use? Depending on your needs, be it gap coverage on an affiliate CPA model or the traditional agency model, you’ll need to see who offers what you’re looking for.
  • What level of servicing do they provide? Do they offer reporting or dashboards? How often push feeds to the CSS GMC, and how often do they update their site.

To find out more about NMPi’s CSS solution, visit our Comparison Shopping Services page or read our latest case study from client Watch Shop.




Best Practise: Google Shopping Feed

Google Shopping is one of the most profitable channels for retailers, predominantly because it’s so easy for consumers to use. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest of Google tools for a brand to optimise, and a lot of your problems will stem from the quality of the feed. In our first dive into best practices, we’ll be going over everything you need to know about getting your Feed right.

The Basics

Your Google Shopping Feed comes from the Merchant Centre, and your actual campaigns come from AdWords. What makes it different from a regular campaign in AdWords, however, is that it doesn’t use keywords, but we’ll get into that a little bit later.

As you’re setting up your feed, there are a couple of things to make sure you cover. One of the biggest mistakes we find with Shopping Feeds is short product titles or ones that don’t include the brand for example.

Google Shopping doesn’t work like traditional Paid Search: there are no keywords to bid on. Instead, Google uses information from advertisers’ product feeds to match search terms to relevant products. You’ll need to make sure you’re actively including all distinguishers in your item titles and descriptions of your feed.

As any PPC expert will tell you: if things are performing differently, you need to split them out and treat them as such. Sizes and colours are the big players here. Add these distinguishers to the product titles, and you’ll likely see an increase in your conversion rates.

Other fields to ensure you have taken care of: brand, description, GTIN, product category (which is defined by Google) and product type. According to Google themselves, the product type is the second most important thing in determining which searches you show for. The product type is something which you define, so the more specific and granular you can be, the better you’ll perform.

On a final note, the feeds need to be updated as often as your stock is. Once a day is likely a bare minimum, but we work on feeds that are updated at least four times a day. It’s a constant labour of love, but it gets the job done.

Preparing your feed is key to performing well with Google Shopping, but what happens when you don’t have control over your feed?

Optimising delivery focuses on search query level bidding. In a similar way to bidding higher on specific keywords, you can bid up on the products people are buying or searching for. If you know certain sizes or colours aren’t performing as well, you can reduce your bid. If you know that your women’s clothes sell better than your men’s range, you can increase the bids to match.

Taking it a step further, you can place one product per ad group and follow product level bidding. This allows you to keep a much closer tab on what searches you’re appearing in. For example, if you have a child’s shirt that isn’t appearing in any child searches, you’ll notice this quite quickly with this campaign structure. From here, you can fix the problem within the feed, or you can negative it out. Negative keywords are far more effective when you set one product per ad group.

Imagine you have all of your shirts in one ad group. You find that a particular men’s shirt appears for the search “children’s polo shirt”. To stop this from happening, you add “children’s” as a negative keyword – but this means that any children’s shirt in that ad group won’t appear when you want it to. By placing one product per ad group, you are able to be much more granular and specific in your targeting; as well as being able to make the most of your budget.

When you’re setting up the product title in AdWords, make sure you’ve got the brand in the title, as well as any events which are coming up: “Valentine’s Day” or “Mother’s Day” for example. A little trick that has seen conversion rates improve massively is to include “for Her” in product titles for women’s clothes and “for Him” on men’s clothes.

Google Shopping can be tricky, but when done right it is hugely profitable for retailers and brands. If you need a refresher or want to show your colleagues, check out our one-page PDF with all of the tips you’ll need to nail your Google Shopping.

FACEBOOK: Top 3 Tips to Convert this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day: one of the biggest retail holidays in the calendar. With only 7 shopping days left until the big day, we’ve compiled some of the best tips to get the most out of your Facebook advertising spend and maximise your conversions in the last minute shopping frenzy.

Finding “The One”

With Facebook and Instagram Advertising, you’re able to really drill down on the right target audience, which is particularly important with this specific holiday. Most people have their relationship status on their profiles, making this crucial data readily and easily available to advertisers. This allows you to target users who are in relationships, whilst not wasting your budget on the single population.

When you targeting people in a relationship consider differentiating by relationship type: boyfriend/girlfriend, just engaged, newly weds, or married long term. This will allow you to personalise your messaging for a higher conversion rate.

Make sure to build custom audiences specifically, people who are looking at Valentine’s offer pages on your website that have yet to purchase. You can then retarget these users with the products they were looking at.

Be a Smooth Talker

Since you can do such granular advertising on Facebook, you need to make sure your copy is up to the task. Differentiate your messages between male and female audiences. Make sure you’re highlighting any services like Click and Collect or Free Delivery: these will be hugely important as consumers do their last minute shopping. However, if there’s terms and conditions on these services they need to be clear. Sequential messaging might also be useful as a reminder to the consumer of deadlines for online ordering.

For instance, “Last chance to get delivery in time for Valentine’s Day. Get your order in today and receive free shipping on gifts over £50.”

This puts a sense of urgency into the user and will encourage them to convert.

Another aspect of your ad that is crucial to nail is your landing pages. If you’ve got two separate ad campaigns running as “Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her”, you’ll need to ensure that you have corresponding ad pages for them. If you’re advertising gifts for her, consumers will be less likely to convert if they’re served a generic landing page. Any offers for the holiday such as, 10% all gifts, will have a higher conversion rate with a dedicated landing page.

Dressed to Impress

When creating your ads, the best performing formats are the carousel, and video. Something important to note: keep the copy on the images to an absolute minimum, if you need it at all. Facebook doesn’t tend to serve ads that have too many words on them.

Also, ensure that your images are the correct size for the platform. A picture that is optimised for Facebook on desktop is never going to look the same on Instagram. Speaking of Instagram, video also works really well here. If in doubt, a high quality photo showcasing your product works the dream.

7 Days to Go, the Countdown is on

So, if you want to maximise your conversions this Valentine’s Day: make the most of the targeting capabilities available, keep your copy tight with relevant landing pages, and showcase products using video and carousel formats.

For more tips on how to convert using Facebook, download our whitepaper: 5 Facebook Advertising Tactics to Drive Performance

Cyber Weekend: In the Mad Rush for Volume, Always Remember the Details

As the e-commerce world readies itself for the last push of 2017, in-house teams and agency partners alike will be finishing up their final rounds of Cyber Weekend number crunching.

With figures now emerging, everything points towards 2017 being another bumper year. Black Friday sales up. Cyber Monday sales up. People are both buying and spending more, and perhaps most encouragingly for our sector, an increasing proportion are doing so online.

From above, everything appears rosy. However, what happens when we delve deeper?

Whilst it’s clear that the four-day period is now a critical part of any online retailer’s success, it has equally grown to become a key indicator of how a business will perform over the Christmas period. Consequently, marketers now operate under the dual stress of trying to ensure their brand is ahead of the Cyber Weekend curve, with the additional weight of knowing that results will also forecast their festive bottom line.

We’ve arrived at a point where the importance of this purchasing phenomenon for many has become utterly absolute. So established and entrenched is it in our promotional calendar that advertisers simply cannot afford to get it wrong.

Challenging questions will already be starting to form in preparation for 2018. With more retailers than ever participating in some element of promotional activity, how do you address the competition? As an ever-growing number of channels and devices enter the marketing mix, how can you continue to maximize revenue from your budgets without overspending? What insights can be gleaned from 2017 to ensure you can almost guarantee the same level of performance in the years beyond, without cutting deeper into your margins?

We can’t give you the answers; every business is different, as are the initiatives that will work best. What we can offer however is a fresh perspective on how to tackle these problems by showing you three ways in which we addressed them with our clients.

And the key? Detail. We’re utterly obsessed with it. Not only because an immersion into the ‘nitty gritty’ leads to the best results, but it’s actually linked to the way we are paid as an agency. We’re only rewarded once we drive a sale, and for that very reason, we need to do everything we can to seek out conversions.

So, let’s take the age-old saying of ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’, and turn it on its head.

Study your audience closely

Any strong marketing strategy relies on a solid understanding of the audience your product or service attracts, as well as the levers that drive them.

Whilst Cyber Weekend will attract your core audience, you also need to be watchful of how the gifting season influences the makeup of your customer base.

With a sports retail client of ours, last year we noticed a shift in the demographics of converting users. The audience became more female in its breakdown (Fig. 1.1), and also swung towards older generations (Fig. 1.2) – not the characteristics typically expected when it comes to sports merchandise.

Looking at additional data, we also noticed a greater proportion of sales coming from people in a relationship or two-person households (Figs. 1.3 & 1.4).

By putting all these pieces together, it became clear that women buying gifts for their partners was a significant customer segment to focus on. From these learnings, we created a campaign with tailored messaging and bidding strategies for the 2017 Cyber Weekend and Christmas period.

The next step is to look at how much a conversion costs you from each consumer group. Whilst the bulk of your revenue may be coming from a certain demographic (perceived to be your core audience), this may be because most of your advertising is directed at this audience.

For example, when we look at the consumer age range for a fashion retail client of ours the majority of their revenue came from 18-24 and 25-34-year-olds. As a result, their brand and messaging were geared towards these age groups, as were their rather expensively assembled Paid Search campaigns.

When we took over their accounts, however, we learnt that over the course of the year the most cost-effective age groups to target were the ‘middle-aged’ brackets (Fig. 2.1). Bid multipliers were applied to our activity, which greatly improved results.

Once we entered Cyber Weekend, however, an interesting shift occurred. Firstly, we witnessed a significant improvement in revenue-per-click performance from 18-24-year-olds, along with an uplift for 65+ users (Fig. 2.2).

Fig. 2.3 highlights the scale of this change. Rather than sticking with the same bid multipliers, we needed to respond quickly to reflect the behavioural changes. As a result, the negative bid multipliers placed on 18-24-year-olds were reduced, and the positive multipliers were increased even higher for the 65+ audience.

Understanding your audience is key, and when it comes to your audience over promotional periods, always keep a close eye on two things: how the breakdown of your audience changes, and how this impacts the way in which you should spend your money.

Pick the moments to push

It’s Thursday evening. Campaigns have been prepared, budgets have been allocated, and Digital Marketing Managers across the land can rest easy until it’s time for those Tuesday morning reports.

Unfortunately, we all know it doesn’t quite work like that. It instead involves keeping a close eye on how much money those preciously apportioned pounds/dollars are earning you.

Even during this most promotional of promotional periods, there are still moments to pull back on advertising, and equally, moments to push. Spending as much as you can as evenly as you can over the entire four days is a one-way street to overspending, under-delivering and sleepless nights.

Something we closely monitor with all of our clients is at what point users show the highest propensity to purchase. These insights are recorded and utilised the following year.

So rather than sitting there fretting, why not monitor your own purchasing trends to see when the best times would be to maximize spending?

A trend that we’ve really seen come to the surface in 2017 is what we have called the ‘pyjama panic buy’. As you can see in Fig. 3.1, at 11 pm each night, we witnessed a spike in ROAS from our campaigns. Unaware of when offers end, consumers have a tendency to purchase late at night (around 11 pm) in the fear that the discount will have vanished by the time they wake up.

With retailers extending promotions across the weekend and beyond, the process repeats itself each evening. What’s more, by this point in the day a portion of your competition will have undoubtedly reached their daily spend caps too.

Save your pennies in the morning, and push them later when it really matters.

Being the best at the bottom

With Cyber Weekend becoming an ever more permanent part of our collective consciousness, the number of people directly seeking out offers (rather than waiting for them to magically appear) continues to grow.

Analysing Google Trend data from 2017 in comparison to 2016, Fig. 4.1 demonstrates the year-on-year growth of Black Friday related search terms. Not only did we see a general uplift over the four day weekend itself, but we also saw growth in interest in the weeks leading up to the 24th.

What this tells us is that consumers are more proactively researching which brands will be offering discounts, and what those discounts look like – all before Cyber Weekend kicks off. We can, therefore, make the solid assumption that more and more people are entering the period with a pre-conceived idea of what they’re in the market for.

Pull channels as a result become even more of a race to the bottom. Whilst branding during the research phases is clearly an important exercise, advertisers should be questioning more than ever how they can get in front of the user at that final point of purchase.

One way in which we managed this was by capitalising on the uplift in volumes around Black Friday based terms. Our proprietary Google Shopping technology gives us the ability to target keywords of interest through our performance-based model. In doing so, we ensured our client dominated the space at this crucial stage. This could come in the form of specific products they stocked, or even brands that they resold (Fig. 4.2).

Every single day our platform dynamically pulled out the key terms based on recent data and adapted campaign structures to prioritise the products that drove the best performance.


When assessing the development of Cyber Weekend as a force within the online world, it’s clear that its claws are firmly planted within our promotional calendars.

What comes with this mass awareness is mass competition, with businesses of every shape and size entering the market in an attempt to take advantage of the buying frenzy.

For Digital Marketers, the path to success is becoming ever more complex. Which channels do I use? What offers do I push? Which products will become best sellers? How do I keep an eye on margins?

The answer? Narrow your focus. Ignore the dizzying lights of all that volume, and focus on the detail. From there, your efforts can grow.

Get your hands dirty. Get creative. Get granular.

3 Tips for Black Friday 2017: What You Need to Know

Although we’re still enjoying the final days of summer (summer doesn’t officially end until 22nd of September), it’s already time to start thinking about our Black Friday strategies. Don’t get caught off guard waiting until the last minute to plan your campaigns. Now is the time to go over last year’s metrics and see what worked and what didn’t.

There has been a gradual decline in Boxing Day sales as the popularity of this American retail holiday overtakes the Christmas period. Retailers are seeing better returns after jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, with the increase in traffic in some instances as high as 27%. When comparing Black Friday to Boxing Day, conversions are consistently higher on Black Friday. According to The Independent, last year, UK shoppers spent an astonishing £3.3bn over the course of the Black Friday holiday season. Our client data shows that that Black Friday, and smaller surrounding retail holidays linked to it, are vastly outperforming Boxing Day. Black Friday is here to stay in the UK, and must be taken seriously by retailers and advertisers as part of the marketing mix.

Recent Trends

Black Friday is Coming Earlier and Earlier

Much like the dreaded “Back-to-School” commercials popping up at the end of July, or Christmas jingles before Halloween, Black Friday is beginning to follow that trend with many brands starting sales in the lead up to the actual holiday. In 2015, online giant Amazon started its sales 12 days before Black Friday. Other retailers have started to get in on the trend to make the most of the pre-Christmas season. With companies like Sears Canada releasing their Black Friday deals on October 6th last year, has predicted that in 2017,  the holiday prices will be leaked in early October once again, if not late September.

Sofa Shopping

Online shopping on Black Friday continues to steadily increase. In 2012, 33% of consumers preferred to shop from the comfort of their own homes, to avoid the long lines, fighting, and in-store chaos that the holiday provokes. As of 2016, the stay-at-home shopping figure has risen to 44%. This trend will continue in 2017 especially as most retail sites are mobile and tablet friendly, making shopping from home, the bank, or on the go, a pleasant experience. The top stores reaping the most digital rewards in the UK are Argos, Amazon, M&S, Curry’s and Tesco Direct.

Make it Mobile

It’s a foregone conclusion, but advertisers must make their Black Friday campaigns cross-device friendly. While many people are shifting to digital indoor shopping instead of pounding the pavement, they are predominantly shopping via mobile devices on the go. Desktop is no longer the main digital channel for Black Friday shoppers.  Mobile searches have grown 50% since 2016, with bargain hunters looking for the best brands, and then for the best deals. Mobile and tablets will continue to drive more shoppers to make online purchases. In order to assure campaign success, mobile and tablet channels must provide relevant targeting and seamless shopping experiences.

How to Crack Christmas

If you would like to learn more about spicing up your Christmas campaign you can watch the replay of our “How to Crack Christmas Webinar,” your ultimate guide to holiday success.

Download Presentation Slides

Mood Tracking & Emotional Advertising: What Does the Future Hold

The term ‘emotional targeting’ has been around the digital marketing world for a few years now, although the idea is nothing new. Emotional targeting was around in a ‘Mad Men’ sort of way for decades before digital marketing exploded. But emotional targeting then and now are different beasts.

There are two ways to look at emotional targeting, the first and more traditional method is to create an ad that ignites a strong emotional response from a consumer which will drive them to take action, whether that’s buying something, sharing, or donating. Emotional advertising is incredibly popular because as studies show, we often rely on our emotions to make purchasing decisions, rather than facts and information. A great example of this is Oxfam, whose ads often tear at our heartstrings, encouraging us to make a difference.

As technology progressed, advertising has developed ways to not just ignite emotional responses but to track them.  Affectiva, is a technology company that has created emotion recognition software that can analyse a user’s facial expressions to determine how they are feeling.

Currently, the technology is used by advertisers and media agents to determine the effect their current advertising is having on the end consumer. But, what if we could tailor ads based on someone’s current emotions?

Well, technically the technology already exists. Earlier this year, Facebook was put under scrutiny when it came to light that they were collecting data that would allow advertisers to target emotionally vulnerable people as young as 14 in Australia. Facebook had been collecting data points from items such as post, pictures, and reactions to determine the emotional state its younger users.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the leaked research stating, “Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook.”

So where is this technology and digital advertising heading?

Where It’s Headed

Facial Recognition: Some brands have been quick to try new developments such as eye tracking in an attempt to overcome language biases or lack of clarity.  The drawback here is that this method requires consent – how many people will actually want to be tracked via their webcam by an advertiser? This runs the risk of becoming too invasive. The other issue with facial recognition is that it only gives an initial impression – it’s a partial picture that must be taken with the whole to get an accurate understanding of the customer’s emotional intent.

Wearables and Biometric Data: Watches, bracelets and other tracking devices that detect things like heart rate, and blood pressure – which all change according to our mood – are becoming increasingly attractive to advertisers. Soon, biometric data may be behind all our technologies.

Advertisers are eyeing the possibility of measuring blood alcohol levels and blood sugar. What could this information be used for in an emotional advertising context? Advertisers could deliver restaurant ads when blood sugar is low and a craving hits, or send you an ad suggesting a brand of beer after detecting you had a drink. This can be taken one step further when combined with location data; a food ad would be served for a nearby restaurant when the device detected hunger or that a certain span of time without eating had passed.

Biometric data was used at Wimbledon when Jaguar teamed up with Mindshare to capture spectator’s emotions. The data was collected through cuffs and atmospheric sensors to track global sentiment on Facebook, then shared via social media. This data could be used to target the crowd with ads that align with the emotional state being fed through the sensors.

Video and Voice: Brands that focused on consumers who had the greatest likelihood of emotional engagement saw the most uplift in conversion and purchase intent. With the recent explosion of video advertising, marketers are keen to tap into emotional targeting across this new channel. New Balance targeted viewers in Japan with technology that determined which users were most likely to engage with their videos. The brand saw a 113% increase in campaign completion.  Video has a high rate of engagement, if brands and advertisers better understood, and implemented emotional data from video views, they would see significant increases in conversions.

Voice Search has also recently surged in popularity and advertisers have discovered that due to the greater length, and casual nature of voice search queries, it could often indicate the emotion behind the request. As voice search becomes more adept at picking up on natural speech, the emotional intent will become clearer, enabling advertisers to serve ads/suggest items based on these emotional cues. This platform is still in its infancy so we won’t be seeing anything revolutionary with voice search and emotional targeting for a while.

Emotional targeting has not yet reached its full potential, but it has experienced a resurgence as newer, better technology has evolved to make it one of the most lucrative methods for converting browsers into buyers. Knowing your customer emotionally will always be more lucrative than guess work marketing. Purchases are often made after price comparison, and careful consideration, but marketers can go one step further by building brand loyalties and increasing conversions by developing a strong emotional connection.

The Importance of A/B Testing Social Media Formats

Why A/B test social media platforms? Why not just use the latest social media innovation for your next campaign? The answer is simple: Social media has evolved. If social media isn’t static, why should your advertising be?

Social media advertising is showing increasingly clever and complex creatives to viewers. In this sudden format influx, how does an advertiser, or brand, know which version will interest their intended audience? Just because a new format has hit the scene, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for your brand or relevant to your message. A/B Testing allows advertisers to wade through the clutter to determine the best format, and course of action, for that brand. A/B testing isn’t flashy, it is simple, unbiased, empirical evidence of what works (and what doesn’t) for your audience, giving you the best possible ROI.

The Domino Effect: Campaign Success Through A/B Testing

A/B testing ensures you’re using the creative that gets the best interaction with your service or product, vastly improving your campaign performance.

  • Better Interaction: You’re presenting the customer with what they want to see, not what you think they want to see.
  • Reduced Bounce Rates: Better interaction reduces bounce rates, and increases conversion rates, because people are staying on your page longer.
  • Reduced Cart Abandonment: A/B testing can also significantly reduce instances of cart abandonment, which continue to plague eCommerce retailers. A/B testing helps determine the underlying causes, and shows brands how to reconfigure their sites to improve the chance of purchase follow through.
  • Risk Reduction: A/B Testing also reduces risk to your brand by allowing you to test out a new landing page or website overhaul safely before committing time and money to something that isn’t responding well with users.
  • Education: A/B testing educates brands about their end users. They learn, and then understand, what visitors really need and want from brands. It takes the guesswork out of offering a better experience to them.
  • Experience Improvement: It improves the user experience by adapting to changes, such as adding in a certain function to make navigation easier, or removing an extra step that was a barrier to purchase. Problems that aren’t always evident can be revealed by A/B testing.

How to Make it Less Confusing

A/B testing can be a bit overwhelming with so many options available. How do you get accurate test results when faced with so much data, and so much to choose from?

The key is to not test too much at once. Think about what you want to achieve, and the messaging you want to get across and go from there. For example, focus on your call to action button, so that you aren’t overwhelmed by other external factors that could potentially skew results. Focusing on fewer variables also allows you to easily pinpoint what’s not working. If necessary, run more tests to check other areas, but work in batches, focusing on one or two things at a time. You can run tests on anything, from images, text, videos, to dynamic creatives to see what works and what needs tweaking.

Using A/B Testing for Charlotte Tilbury

We recently helped UK makeup retailer, Charlotte Tilbury to better understand how ad formats were affecting their overall KPI’s on Facebook.

Using A/B testing we were able to prove the value of different formats to Charlotte Tilbury’s bottom line. We tested traditional link ads against Facebook’s Offer Ad format, which instills a sense of urgency using a timer countdown to the offer expiry date. It also dynamically populates the ad with the number of customers who have already claimed the offer.

The A/B testing revealed that Charlotte Tilbury’s audience responded with a 20% higher CTR to the Offer Ad over other formats. The Offer Ad drove 48% greater revenue than traditional link ads, and was 30% more efficient.

This is just one example of how brands can leverage A/B testing to get the best possible insights as to where to put their time and money when it comes to creatives that offer the greatest ROI.

Learn more about our social media capabilities here

Ignorance is Not Bliss: Steps to Protect Your Brand from Bad Advertising

There has been a recent spate of articles calling out brands whose ads have appeared on political websites, sometimes event inadvertently funding terror or hate groups.

This should never happen. So how has it been happening?

Brands are paying a lot of money to have agencies place ads for them and since this issue keeps cropping up, something is clearly broken. Accusations have been levelled at YouTube, unscrupulous advertisers, and shady programmatic advertising practices. So who is really at fault and what should agencies be doing about it?

Why This Happened

This issue became newsworthy as the line between brands and politics became blurred during the recent US election. The ripple effect has become a tidal wave, and brands are being affected globally as consumers are taking cues from the US and aligning their shopping habits with their personal and political beliefs. A pair of jeans isn’t just a pair of jeans anymore, who made them? Who owns the company? Where is the company’s money going in the political arena? All this matters to consumers now.

Public opinion in a heated political climate can make or break a brand. Advertisers have been quick to react to their customer’s political leanings by donating money to certain causes and groups, boycotting merchandise, or taking a stance on government policy.

Who is Responsible

Many brands have been caught off guard when their image has been tarnished by appearing on sites that don’t align with their political or brand beliefs. Sleeping Giants, a Twitter account that names, shames, and encourages consumers to call out brands for appearing on hate sites, has witnessed an unprecedented following. Consumers have been quick to condemn and boycott brands that are found wanting in their political leanings. The claims of ‘we had no idea’ ring hollow when ads appear on Neo-nazi websites or under ISIS videos. Brand managers, advertisers, and agencies are expected to do their due diligence before the company’s logo appears on a terrorist or hate group website. There has been plenty of hand-wringing and finger-pointing, but the truth of the matter is, from a programmatic viewpoint, it’s preventable.


The underlying issue is that RTB programmatic buys an audience, and it’s easier to reach people where they appear online rather than targeting specific sites. There is also the problem of fraudsters pretending to be legitimate sites and bypassing Google’s controls, but in the majority of cases, it’s simply down to inventory that has yet to be classified, or a site not declaring their URL. Where advertisers can run afoul of their clientele is that by not bidding you could lose up to 30-45% of your inventory options. Unknown inventory isn’t always the proverbial ‘bad guy’, it’s just uncategorised. Google isn’t able to keep up and categorise every single site by the time bidding occurs, and not all sites have adequate content to be classified.

Even given the speed at which programmatic buying and selling takes place, there are steps that can be taken to make sure your (and your clients) are protected from landing on dubious websites. Tools exist that provide pre-bid ad-verification, which intercepts the auction, and, based on data passed during the ad call such as, the publisher’s ID, the site ID, or publisher’s site URL, will prevent the buyer from bidding all in a matter of milliseconds. This also taps into third party ad-verification providers who have databases of unsafe sites that are constantly updated, doing the heavy lifting for you so that you don’t have to manage the process manually.

DoubleClick also contains preventative measures to protect clients from ending up on nefarious sites. DoubleClick categorises websites when they receive ads and can quickly scan the site for words or URLs that are problematic. It also will exclude categories of websites when problems are found.

If All Else Fails…

Post-bid, if your ad slips through the cracks and lands on an unwanted site, ad-verification partners can help by preventing your ad from showing. This means that while your ad still lands on the page, it will serve a white box that protects the brand’s ad from being seen by users if it detects unsafe content. While this is far from perfect, since the client is still paying to end up on this site, the good news is that their brand is protected from being inadvertently associated with something that in this climate could, quickly and negatively, impact their reputation. Finally, advertisers and agencies can be more proactive by creating exclusion lists which they are consistently reviewing and updating.

In-House or Outsourced? Answering the Age Old Question

When it comes to deciding between building an in-house digital team or outsourcing activity to an agency the question remains; is there really a best practice? While there are no hard-and-fast rules, we’ve included some suggestions that can help you decide where you want to invest your resources.

Some industry experts suggest that whether you outsource or keep work in-house depends on specialisation – the more specialised the work, the better it is to outsource. The logic behind this stems from the high costs – or more accurately, the hidden costs, associated with hiring full-time staff: benefits, training, pension, and paid vacation. Outsourced agencies are often cheaper – they might charge more upfront, but they are not as costly as on boarding a new full-time employee. There is little overhead involved in terms of provisions.  Another added benefit: the results are highly focused to get the job done.

The downside to outsourcing? Agencies can have many clients and you might be on the bottom of their food chain when it comes to prioritising who gets the most attention. This is why choosing the correct agency is fundamental to success. Internal teams can generally be cobbled together quicker and pulled off other projects to resolve an urgent problem immediately. But ultimately outsourcing is a great idea when you require a  definitive and specialised strategy.

Let’s break it down by category:

PPC – Both

When looking to run PPC activity it depends upon the life stage of your business and campaign size. Most companies start small, with in-house PPC activity but when it comes to trying to scale business growth campaigns begin to get too large and costly. At this stage, the company may be in a better position to afford outside agencies that can conduct efficient and cutting edge campaigns. A good outsourced agency will also develop close-knit relationships with their clients, becoming a veritable extension of the team and it only feels “out of house” by virtue of their location.

Once a company is significantly mid-sized, it’s often better to outsource to a digital specialist, since they often have expertise that multi-channel marketers are lacking and don’t have the time to invest in. Large companies often split efforts between in-house PPC for smaller campaigns while passing off the heavy lifting and high-end campaigns to outside agencies. Sometimes in-house can run spend into the ground because they don’t have the in-depth knowledge or scope to absorb new technologies or techniques as efficiently as possible.

Display – Outsource

The general consensus is that Display activity is better outsourced than held in-house. Why? It’s too specialised and would require a trained individual, fully immersed in Display activity for it to be viable, as they need to provide accurate attribution, and assessment activities. Most small companies rely on having a ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ marketing person dabbling in PPC, Social, SEO and Display. For bigger campaigns, it’s best to spend the money and get a specialist who really knows what they’re doing, has the time to run campaigns across several channels, and the time to devote to using a multitude of tools.

Paid Social – Outsource

Social is like PPC in that, depending on your situation, the pendulum can swing both ways. The basic break down is this: Paid Social should be outsourced, Organic social, kept in-house. If the company is relatively small it’s best to save money and keep activity in-house. Paid Social has moved well beyond just occasionally “boosting” posts. It now has a vast array of complex, time-intensive, targeting techniques that might be best handled by specialists who won’t waste precious ad-spend targeting the wrong group of people, and who can also quickly, and correctly analyse data for the next campaign.

Integrating Your Digital Strategy

Lastly, a benefit that cannot be overlooked is an outsourced digital agency’s ability to deliver a fully integrated approach. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be siloed into just one area. In fact, a cross-channel digital strategy is far more effective. Integrating your strategy means that campaigns results can be deduped for higher accuracy, advertisers gain a better understanding of the customer journey, audience lists can be built and used in retargeting across channels, and it is easier to deliver a full-funnel approach.

If you’re looking to scale business growth and run integrated digital activity in a  quick, efficient and cost-effective manner, a digital agency already has the capacity to hit the ground running with a workhorse of a team behind them.