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Study Shows Canadian Consumers Increasingly Looking to Branded Content (Infographic)

As our data showed last year, traditional display ads are continuing to decrease in popularity online, and brands are looking for new and better ways to reach and engage audiences.

At StackAdapt we’re focused on helping brands make the most of their content through native advertising. We recently commissioned a survey with Leger Marketing to determine how Canadian consumers discover and interact with content to allow us to better understand consumer attitudes toward native and traditional advertising. The results? Canadian consumers are losing interest in traditional forms of online advertising, and this is the case especially with the younger generation (age 18-44). The study uncovered three key insights about the consumer decision-making process as it relates to advertising:

1. Consumers prefer learning about new brands through online content.

The study discovered that nearly 68% of Canadians prefer to learn about new brands online, and consumers between the ages of 18-44 are 33% more likely to prefer discovering new brands online (84%) than those above the age of 45 (56%). Online discovery further proves to be generational, as we found traditional methods to be more popular among those aged 55 and older, including print (33%), direct mail (21%), and radio (17%).

 2. Content helps consumers build trust toward a brand. 

 Consumers are well-informed in today’s purchasing landscape and with consumers exposed to hundreds of online advertisements, brands need to find a way to stand out and establish trust with their audience. The study revealed that 40% of Canadians trust a brand more after reading branded content or a brand’s blog. Younger Canadians (51% of 18-44 year olds) are more likely to trust branded content and feel that they are less likely to be misled by native content than those aged 45 and older (38%), further proving that consumer attitudes about a brand’s trustworthiness seem to be generational thing.

 3. Branded content is more likely to influence purchasing decisions. 

 More than half of Canadian consumers (57%) find informative and educational content most useful when making a decision about a brand online. Consumers are recognizing that they can discover brands that are more interesting and relevant to them, and native content is a much more engaging method to learn about brands than static ads. The generational gap shows that older Canadians (aged 65 and up) are more likely to find educational content useful (64%), while those aged 18-44 would prefer to learn about brands through entertaining content (24%).

Purchasing decisions are also heavily influenced by word of mouth, and branded content is easy to share with others. Two-thirds of Canadian consumers said they often share information about brands they like with friends through methods including customer reviews (17%), news articles (15%), engaging articles (15%), and videos (14%).

These discovery methods online lead to purchasing decisions, and more than half of Canadian consumers (55%) said that the type of content they read about a brand has in fact influenced an online purchase decision before. We found the types of content most likely to influence online purchasing decisions are:

  1. When consumers read about how other people are helped by the brand (22%)
  2. When the brand makes it easy to purchase by helping consumers navigate the market (20%)
  3. When the brand explains how it can improve or better service their life (19%
  4. The brand showing it understands the consumer’s values (11%)

Native advertising is proving to be a more effective method for brands wanting to communicate with audiences online. Especially with the younger generation of Canadians, online advertising is struggling to make an impact, and Canadians are looking to brands who deliver content that is informative and engaging in order to establish trust and influence purchasing decisions.

What does this mean for brands? Perhaps it’s time to steer away from traditional advertising and plunge into the world of well-distributed and high-quality branded content.

**A survey of 1,563 Canadian was completed online between June 6th – June 9th, 2016 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/–2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 475,000 members nationally – with between 10,000 and 20,000 new members added each month.

4 min read

Top 5 Reasons Media Buyers Love Native Outstream Video

What is native outstream video? Some marketers call it “in-text”, “in-line”, or “in-article”, and while there is still disagreement over the terminology, one thing all marketers can agree on is that Native Outstream Video is…

VIDEO THAT DOESN’T INTERRUPT

Shifting consumer behaviour demands that brand experiences be less interruptive, and the rise of mobile calls for a video format that addresses the evolved digital media landscape. With these considerations in mind, native outstream video is gaining huge momentum in the industry.

Here are the top 5 reasons media buyers are falling head over heels for native outstream: 

1. Always Viewable 

 The term “viewability” is a desperate attempt to regulate ad formats built 20 years ago and does not address the reality of today’s largest channel, the web. Because the native oustream format was born at a time when publishers were already taking the mobile-first approach to building their properties, the format is viewable by design.

Native outstream video auto-plays only when in view and pauses if the viewer scrolls past. Since playtime is not forced, but is rather determined by user activity, this format is serving advertisers hungry for deep, accurate data.

2. True Completions

Unlike pre-roll video that doesn’t pause when a user scrolls past, completions for native outstream video are ‘true’ in the sense that the video only plays through while in view. This means that every video completion was actually watched by the user from start to finish. And isn’t this the ultimate goal of every advertiser?

3. Massive Scale on Tier 1 Publishers

Video advertising on Tier 1 sites has historically been largely reserved for direct deals due to the limited inventory designed for pre-roll format. Native outstream allows Tier 1 publishers to monetize not only video content but also editorial content. This additional scale gives advertisers access hundreds of Tier 1 publishers, and most notably, scale programmatically run campaigns.

4. Support for Long Form Format

With more brands looking to create value adding content, the length of videos has gone up significantly. The barrier that many marketers are running into is that most pre-roll inventory only supports video up to 30 seconds. The native outstream format provides marketers with a content distribution channel for long form video

5. Superior Performance

Automatic play and pause not only render this format highly viewable, but also guarantee that completed views more accurately demonstrate user intent than more traditional formats. Because of the scale of inventory and the non-interruptive nature of the format, marketers find native outstream very cost effective on the cost-per-completed-view metric. In addition, StackAdapt has noted that these ads, loaded in-view, yield a five to 10 times higher click-through-rates than their pre-roll counterparts. Perfect for mobile, this format is spreading like wildfire throughout the industry.

 While there are many benefits to native oustream, the main challenge is that the majority of brands are only now catching up to the idea that they should start including subtitles in their videos. According to Digiday, only 15% of videos played on Facebook are viewed with sound on. Things are better with native outstream, clocking in around 50% of videos viewed soundlessly, which is certainly better for advertisers.

Understanding how to make the most of your outstream video content can be a challenge. According to StackAdapt COO Vitaly Pecherskiy, “We are starting to notice more videos accompanied by subtitles or high impact text to ensure people who watch video without sound can understand what is being said. All things considered, we can see that video creation for the modern web is still in its infancy.”

Whether you are generating campaigns for clients or for your own brand, it’s an important fact that video has taken hold of the advertising industry. Organizations that value audience engagement through storytelling are leading the way through compelling video content that speaks to their audiences, and distributing said content through the native outstream format.

To quote Brian Halligan of HubSpot, “To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products.

4 min read

2016 State of The Industry: Native Outstream Video

Outstream native, often referred to as “in-article” or “in-text”, is a widely traded programmatic video ad format. Despite many challenges, outstream is gaining tremendous momentum within the industry due to the availability of inventory across publishers, networks, and buy-side platforms. And in case you’re new to the format, here’s an overview of where we stand in the Summer and Fall of 2016.

Brands are not sure how to create content for modern video formats

While outstream resembles its older brother pre-roll, it’s unique in the way it’s consumed. Outstream is the staple for mobile, so it’s highly viewable. However, sound is becoming a concern.

If we consider that the typical mobile experience includes listening to music or browsing the web on the way to school or work, this means that most users are consuming ads without sound. Digiday recently stated that up to 85 percent of Facebook video is consumed without audio. Across the wider web, approximately 40-50% of outstream videos are also viewed soundlessly. While we are starting to notice more videos accompanied by subtitles or high impact text,the vast majority of this creative lacks these elements. All things considered, we can see that video creation for the modern web is still in its infancy.

 

Users don’t mind native outstream

A major concern surrounding outstream was the disruption of user experience. However, the numbers tell a different story. Unlike pre-roll ads that users are forced to watch, outstream ads provide users with a choice to pause the video or scroll down to continue reading. This positive reception, combined with high completion rates and low cost-per-completed views (on par with pre-roll), means that brands are now making a bigger case for outstream.

Just look at this beauty!

 

Viewability is high but needs more support from verification partners

Outstream had a unique opportunity to create an ecosystem for highly viewable ads. While most sites only load ads that are in-view, we are seeing some early offenders, indicating that you will likely have to work with a viewability partner to make sure your money is spent wisely.

Thankfully, due to the novelty of the format, it’s easy to tie viewability to click-through rates at a basic level. We’ve see that outstream ads loaded in-view yielded five to 10 times higher click-through-rates than their non-viewable counterparts.

Figuring out which format you are buying programmatically is hard

Considering that most platforms still have some undisclosed inventory, it’s no surprise that there are issues surrounding transparency. For companies that only create outstream video, it’s simple. However, for those that support multiple formats, it’s more challenging. Currently, very few exchanges or buy-side platforms that offer both pre-roll and outstream can easily separate the inventory due to the fact that it requires a lot of heavy lifting on their end.

Both pre-roll and outstream have a place in every media plan. However, brands’ ability to choose only the format they are interested in when buying programmatically still requires a lot of improvement.

Lower barriers to entry for brands to be on Tier 1 publishers

Historically, brands could only run video advertising on Tier 1 publishers since only they had video content that could be monetized through pre-roll. Outstream then opened the doors for smaller publishers to monetize their content with video, and in the process, enabled Tier 1 publishers to extend their video inventory. Seeing as these publishers create ample static content, it naturally became a great environment to deliver outstream ads. Now, we are witnessing outstream helping brands to scale video campaigns on Tier 1 publishers of sizes that were traditionally reserved for direct deals.


What’s Next for Outstream?

As seen with native advertising, content creation and transparency remain the largest challenges for brands to adopt modern mobile-first formats. That being said, with these few barriers left to overcome, outstream is showing great promise and can swiftly rise to become the most prominent high performing channel for video advertising.

4 min read

How To Choose The Perfect Photo For Your Native Ad

As marketers we want attention. We try to craft and phrase the perfect headline that will pique a reader’s interest, and then labor over clever copy that engages, entertains and educates. But when it comes to our visual content, a lot of us struggle, become frustrated, and end up going with an image that doesn’t measure up to our copy.

When studying user attention, consider the popularity of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. You will quickly realize that visual based social media dominates the landscape. Even before our audience looks at our headline, the image is what captivates them.

Are you confident in your ability to choose an impactful image that will compel a reader?  Let’s look at how to get the results you want by choosing the perfect photo for your native ads.

1. Use a human!

Increase your chances immediately by using a human in your creative. You may think an article about high powered race cars demands a great picture of a German engineered automobile, but readers are more likely to respond to someone they can relate to enjoying the car. People react to other people more than they do to inanimate objects. Need proof? Next time you’re on Instagram, take a look at a popular model. Look at the number of likes and comments their selfies get, and then compare it with a post of a quote, or an inanimate object. The difference is staggering.

*The above is a captivating example of a native ad using a human.

 

2. It’s all in the eyes.

 Eyes telegraph a broad range of emotions. Be it joy, sadness, surprise, embarrassment, every emotion can be expressed through our eyes. They also connect. You can hear it in a person’s voice; see it in their body, but you will know it in their eyes. Eyes have an unparalleled way of communicating  We’ve heard it before “eyes are the windows to the soul,” and it’s true — Don’t market without a soul; give your campaign personality, life and truth.

 

3. Composition, Color, Light

We’re not asking you to become photographers, but having a grasp of the basic elements in an image will put you leaps and bounds above less knowledgeable media professionals.

Composition:

How the picture is framed. Where the subject lies in a photograph has a strong impact on the message of the photo. Are they walking away, or coming towards? Are they small in a big room, or big in a small room? These considerations will have a strong bearing on your message.

There are also practical things to consider. If you plan on putting text over an image, it’s best to make sure there is space to write over. Nothing distracts from your message more than text that is difficult to read. If your text runs over the busy part of an image, you’ll do just that. Look at the image balance. Here’s a great article by the folks at Nokia on composition rules. Conversely, this post by National Geographic discusses breaking the rules of photography.

Color:

Color is the first thing we notice and has a significant effect on viewer reaction. We’ve all covered the effect of color in advertising in our marketing courses (or learned quickly on the job!), but how well do we apply it in our articles and native advertisements?

Did you know that reactions to color vary based on culture and even gender? For example, orange is the most sacred color in Hindu religion and black can sometimes have a negative connotation associated with it, which is why we see campaigns for Drug Free America and Mothers Against Drunk Driving with a strong black presence, to reinforce the negative feelings associated with those colors.

Light:

You may think of light as a very technical consideration, better mulled over by photographers, but you’d be wrong. Light is critical to setting a mood. It also directs your eyes to a part of an image and adds style. We see things we otherwise wouldn’t when we vary our light. That’s why we always try to see things in a new light.

 

4. Who is your audience?

Would your grandma get it?

Determining the right audience is the first step in all of our marketing strategies, and it’s a very important factor in choosing an image. When we know who our audience is, we can choose images that resonate with them. I’ve seen advertising campaigns aimed at an older demographic that used funny memes with Bad Luck Brian. While the copy was humorous, the advertisers made the assumption that the 35-50+ demo browsed reddit and imgur looking for funny pictures. Know your audience! Imagine what they look like. Imagine their age, their style, marital status, occupation, and even race. The more the user feels like the article is about them, the more likely they are to read on.

 

5. Go with your Gut!

While the technology to choose images based on their efficacy is emerging, there are reactions and emotions that AI hasn’t figured out yet. That’s where humans come in. What is your immediate reaction to the image? Does the image represent your article? Is the image engaging, and does it draw in readers? How you react to an image the first time you see it is probably how other people, in the same conversation you’re creating, will see it as well. There’s no metric for a first impression, so let it be a strong consideration.

Conclusion

Make choosing your image fun. Consider the above guidelines, expand your knowledge of photography, and gain an edge in the busy world of paid media. You have the power to choose effective and compelling images for your next native ad campaign, and doing so with certainly will help you achieve the results your content deserves. Happy browsing!

4 min read

Digital and Native Advertising Growth: A Full Assessment on Media Ad Spend

Increasingly mobile lifestyles and new innovations in advertising technology have created a new set of opportunities for marketers in the world of digital advertising.

Now, brands and agencies in search of vast audiences and consumer attention have to consider budget allocations and long-term strategies in a fast changing sphere.

As many of us will be heavily influenced by future marketing and advertising trends, we decided to do a full assessment on media ad spend, including the growth of native and video advertising, to see where media spend is (and should) be going.


Print Decline Accelerating; Television Poised for a Takedown

Recently, Victoria’s Secret discontinued their famous direct-mail catalogue which had been helping the brand increase awareness for 29 years. The event illustrates the current state of print, whose decline is expected to accelerate 20% by 2017. Over the same period, total media ad spend will increase by 11%, from $177.76 billion to $196.95 billion (eMarketer). 

As recently as 2014, Television accounted for 39.6% of all media ad spend globally. This number will shrink to 37.4% by 2017 (a 5.5% decline), opening the door for a new champion.

 

Watch the Throne, Digital Will Be New King by 2017

Digital ad spend is set to officially surpass TV in 2017, and by 2020, digital will account for 44.9% of all media ad spend (eMarketer). Within just four short years, digital is expected to have an impressive 12% margin over TV.

With this uptick, many brands have allocated a higher proportion of their marketing budget towards digital and found success with their target audiences, especially amongst certain channels.

Mobile Leads Digital Video Advertising’s Growth

Thus far, mobile has been the catalyst for digital’s ascension over TV due to their unique ability to reach audiences anywhere. Currently, mobile ads are achieving over 2X the amount of brand awareness and up to 3X the level of purchase intent as their desktop counterparts (Opera MediaWorks).

Mobile video, in particular, has seen the greatest success, where spending in the US jumped 80.6% in 2015. That trend is expected to continue, albeit at a more reasonable rate, well into the future.

Set to experience doubledigit growth every year, the US digital video advertising market will nearly double by 2019, at which point it will account for roughly 43% of all media ad spend. (eMarketer)

Mobile video has been a goldmine for advertisers who have been able to show targeted audiences more personal ads in real time, everywhere they go. A marketing budget that doesn’t include mobile video ad spend will soon be a rarity.

Native Advertising Also Anchoring Digital Growth

Many sources estimate that accidental clicks on banner ads are as high as 50 percent (Business Insider). This wasteful spend has hurt brands and brand equity, leading to a massive shift towards native advertising.

By 2021, native display ad revenue in the US, which includes native in-feed ads on publisher properties and social platforms, will make up 74% of total US display ad revenue, up from a 56% share in 2016.

Total media ad spend on native ads will grow 20%+ up until 2021 and beyond (eMarketer). During that span, we will witness spend on digital banner ads decline for the first time, as brands produce more content and resort to storytelling as a way to better connect with their digital audiences.

Native Advertising Top Digital Focus for Marketers

Brands and agencies have found success with native ads, including in-feed sponsored content and outstream video, which integrate well with the user experience.

Recently, native ads ranked as the top priority for  B2B marketers when asked where they will focus their mobile ad buys over the next six months (VentureBeat).

As a result, native display ad revenue in the US is expected to rise to $36B within the next 5 years (Business Insider).

Media Ad Spend Growth and Trends (Summary)

  • Print media ad spend (newspapers and magazine) will decline 20% by 2017
  • Long-time king TV set to be surpassed by Digital in 2017
  • Digital now accounts for roughly 35% of all media ad spend, roughly $60Billion USD. This number will grow to 45% and about $90Billion USD by 2020
  • Digital triumph will continue to be led mainly by mobile video (80% increase in spend in 2015), and native advertising (20%+ growth each year into the foreseeable future)

 

Conclusion

We see that digital will continue to soar and its ascension will be led primarily by mobile video and native advertising, where brands have achieved the best outcomes.

As the industry continuously changes, brands will accelerate their search for new and innovative ways to tell their unique story across the mediums and channels that best resonate with their target audiences. Currently, that means good news for native and non-intrusive video ads.

4 min read

The Future Of Advertising Is Content ‘Performance’ Marketing

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

 

Content marketing is mainstream. Whether it’s a B2B startup or a large consumer enterprise, most marketers now understand that stories are superior to ads because they’re simply more impactful. More than half of Canadian consumers who have bought online responded that branded content had influenced their purchase decision.

However, at the moment, “gut feeling” is the reason marketers put content at the centre of their marketing. If probed about how to measure the ROI of content, many marketers would offer differing opinions.

Despite this uncertainty, the question of content marketing’s role in bringing tangible business results is moving to the forefront of all marketing conversations. The challenge of measuring ROI is largely tied to the lack of attribution models that would work specifically for content.

For such an attribution model to exist, it would have to be possible to connect the dots of who is reading your content and what impact that content creates. While some pieces of this puzzle are still missing (for example, the absence of qualitative metrics around the impact of content), there are some promising movements in repurposing existing technologies to serve the content marketing space.

One of particular note is the adoption of programmatic technologies for the distribution of branded content. Programmatic native advertising is quickly becoming the default channel for distributing branded content in an efficient and attributable way. Why so? Because it provides a fundamental edge over traditional channels: the ability for advertisers to speak only to their audiences of interest without creating unnecessary noise.

What does this ability to reach only relevant audiences with content on-demand mean for brands?

First, targeted storytelling lets brands build deeper relationships with consumers. Gone are the days of the transactional approach to doing business. Driving revenue from existing customers is simply much cheaper than continuously acquiring new ones. As competition becomes fiercer across all verticals and product categories, building brand loyalty is of paramount importance for brands that want to stay relevant in the years to come.

Second, if you have several buyer personas, it becomes a powerful channel for segmenting your messaging. Instead of doing what most marketers do—that is, “pumping” content out—granular segmentation allows marketers to step away from the shotgun approach of content marketing and towards a “sniper” mentality.

At the end of the day, it’s the right content delivered at the right time in the purchase funnel that truly moves the needle for brands. “Spray and pray” is simply not an approach that marketers should take two decades after the first ads appeared online.

Third, it brings convergence between brand advertising and performance teams. This can help brands and agencies build leaner teams, consolidate multiple platforms, and avoid an expensive overlap in reaching the same users. Awareness campaigns that have become synonymous with lack of accountability can start being closer tied to on-site engagements, events and ultimately sales.

Last but not least, as content-driven initiatives start moving down the funnel, we’ll see more brands invest in value-adding strategies to connect with consumers. Content’s non-interruptive delivery through native advertising creates a better user experience on the web and slows the ad blocking trend.

At the end of the day, all marketing and advertising efforts should accomplish one goal and one goal only: to drive sales now or in the future. With the adoption of real-time, data-driven technologies for the distribution of content, we’re witnessing a shift from content marketing to content “performance” marketing—a more sustainable and accountable way to drive business results by delivering value—adding content to consumers in a timely manner.

4 min read

How to Run a Successful Native Advertising Campaign

Each and every minute of the day, blog writers publish 1,400 new posts, Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content, and Twitter users tweet 277,000 times. Enough to make your eyes glaze over, isn’t it?

Internet users are relentlessly publishing content, and in order for it to be seen, it not only has to cut through the noise—it also has to get in front of the right people. For this reason, more and more advertisers are looking to new and effective distribution channels to get the right eyes on their branded content—channels such as native advertising.

The question becomes: how do I run a “successful” native advertising campaign? No need to worry, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we outline five essential steps to ensure that your campaign goes off without a hitch.

1. Know your audience

You wouldn’t leave your house before putting your shoes on, would you? Well the same goes for audiences and native ad campaigns: Knowing who your audience is and what their pain points are is vital to success.

It’s a well-known fact that branded content is most effective when it targets specific audiences and that content writers should always have an audience in mind when crafting a content piece. The same is true for when advertisers are setting up their native ad campaign. Take StackAdapt‘s platform, for instance. It allows users to target audiences across a number of categories, including geo-location, demographic info, device type and more. Knowing where your target audience fits within these categorical subsets is key to running a successful native ad campaign.

If you need help developing your buyer personas, you can check out this blog post on how to create and use personas in your content marketing strategy. But in any case, before you even think about running a native ad campaign, you need to get a handle on who your audience is.

2. Create compelling content

It’s no secret that native advertising is most effective when it’s used to promote branded content—i.e. when a native ad clicks-through to content as as opposed to a sales-y landing page. Why is this true? Well, it has to do with a basic premise behind native advertising: that by reaching audiences when they’re in a content consumption mode, brands are more likely to grab a user’s attention and entice them to read their content.

But not just any old content will do. How successful your native advertising campaign largely depends on how engaging your content is. Serve up something useful or educational, incorporate visuals, and, as we mentioned above, speak to specific audiences.

3. Set goals

As with any type of advertising, the best way to gauge effectiveness is through monitoring key metrics—click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-mille (CPM), etc. And which metrics you choose to monitor largely depends on your overall business goals:

  • Brand awareness: If you’re looking to expose your brand to as many people as possible, try a CPM bidding strategy. It will focus on delivering as many impressions as possible, and ensuring that your brand’s message gets in front of your audience. With a CPM bid, you have the option to optimize towards a CPC goal.
  • Drive traffic: If you’re looking to drive traffic to your website, a CPC bidding strategy may be most effective as it drives more clicks to your site.
  • Engagement: If your goal is to gain user attention (engagement), CPE is the bidding strategy that we recommend. It works best with engaging content such as blog posts or videos.

Pro tip: As we already mentioned, brands tends to see the best results when their native ads click-through to branded content. With that in mind, CPE is the metric for securing engaged readers as campaigns will automatically optimize towards readers who demonstrate post-click engagement with content (measured by time on site).

4. Build a “killer” native ad

What makes a “good” native ad? It’s a question we hear a lot at StackAdapt, and unfortunately it’s one there’s really no simple answer to. Every brand, every campaign and every audience is different, which means there’s no hard-and-fast rule to producing a compelling native ad creative.

However, with that said, there are some guidelines which we believe can turn a good native ad into a great one:

Don’t be overly promotional

While it might seem counter-intuitive to not be promotional in your native advertising, it’s a fact that users are more receptive to native ads that appear to offer valuable content. In other words, if your native ad reads like a press release or television commercial, you’re doing it wrong.

Instead of thinking primarily about how your ad is going to drive sales, think about how this piece of content is going to meet the needs of your prospects. How will it provide value and educate your readers? Will it help to inform them and leave them willing to click for more information? How can you use this to generate more leads?

Use engaging images

Images and videos have become a significant part of our daily browsing experience, so why not leverage the power of visuals to boost your campaign? Visuals significantly increase user engagement—especially on mobile devices where the screen is small. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an image:

  • Keep images uncluttered by having one main subject
  • Avoid text on the image if possible
  • Stay away from generic stock images

Make it “mobile-friendly”

Mobile native advertising is proving to be one of the most effective ad strategies, and this is partly to do with the massive growth in mobile content consumption. 2014 saw mobile content consumption tip over the 50 percent mark—we now spend more time on mobile devices than we do watching TV. What’s more, mobile data traffic is expected to grow by 762 percent by 2018.

For this reason, brands need to ensure that the content they create is designed with mobile in mind, taking into account the close screen and feed-based environment of the mobile user experience. Best practices for mobile-friendly native ads are to use concise, minimal copy. This will ensure that the unit translates well when served via mobile.

5. Optimize

Once your campaign goes live, it will automatically optimize towards your goal, whether that’s CPC, CPA or CPE. But besides this, some platforms now offer analysis beyond the click. It can be as as simple as installing a conversion pixel (tailored to a specific action on the site), or something more sophisticated, such as getting a platform-specific analytics pixel that can measure things like average time on site, page views, content shares, new vs. returned traffic, etc.

That said, If your campaign is pacing behind (not hitting your intended goals), it could be for a number of reasons:

  • Click destination not content: As we mentioned before, native ads are about more than simply pushing your product. If your ad clicks-through to a sales-y landing page rather than a value-adding content page, users may simply “bounce.”
  • Ad creative is “off”: Did you lay text over top of your creative? Are you recycling banner ad creative? Did you forget to A/B test creative and content to see what works best? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you need to make some changes. Here’s a great guide on how to maximize the value of your ad creative.
  • Targeting too narrow: It your targeting is too narrow, you probably aren’t going to win enough impressions. Increasing your targeting (geo-location, contextual, audience, etc.) to increase volume.
  • Bid too low: Like the above point, if your bids are too low, you probably won’t end up with many impressions. It’s an easy fix: increase your bid to see more volume.
  • Not using platform-specific optimization engines: If you aren’t taking full advantage of a platform’s optimization capabilities, you’re missing out. They exist to help you tailor your content delivery to contextually relevant environments.

Conclusion

Creating content is only half the battle—getting that content in front of the right people is the other half. Native advertising can be the key to bridging this divide, in a way that’s beneficial both to brands and their customers.

4 min read

How are Brands and Agencies Measuring the ROI of Content?

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post. Below is the full version of the Q&A. 

As the digital revolution continues to transform the way in which companies market their products to consumers, brands and agencies are facing a whole new set of challenges previously unencountered in the industry.

There remains industry-wide confusion as to how to effectively track the success metrics of both content and content distribution. In fact, according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2014-2015, measurement is the number one challenge marketers face, with nearly 30 percent of those surveyed reporting that proving the financial return of their content-driven marketing activities was a widespread problem.

So how are brands and agencies attempting to  overcome this stumbling block? How does their approach vary? I recently spoke to Leanne Brinkies, Global Head of Native Advertising at Sydney-based content agency, King Content, and Darin Diehl, Director of Content and Shared Services from direct bank Tangerine in Toronto, to find out.

Note: King Content and Tangerine have no affiliation and do not directly work with one another.

Industry-wide, we’re quickly learning that organic content distribution can only get you so far. How important do you think paid amplification is as part of an overall content strategy?

LB: My personal opinion is that if you don’t invest in any amplification of content, your ability to assess ROI is much lower because you have a smaller pool. That’s why King Content has created a specialist native advertising division—because we realized our clients weren’t seeing the returns they needed. If you’re not getting enough eyeballs on the content you’ve paid for, to me that isn’t a very good equation.

DD: In terms of content distribution, you have to start with your owned and earned channels. And then of course there’s paid channels, and we generally work with a media agency for that. The agency helps us devise a paid strategy that we can continuously optimize and track to ensure we’re getting the most out of our paid distribution dollars. This year we’re all about trying new things, seeing how they perform, and then optimizing them to ensure we see the results we need.

A problem facing most marketers today is how to track and measure the ROI of content. Are you any closer to solving the quandary?

LB: I think it goes back to the metrics we talked about before. It’s about how many are viewing the content, where they are in the funnel, how they’re engaging with the content, how they’re sharing it, and how this is affecting sales and performance over time. At the end of the day, all our clients want to know how many sales they’re making and at what cost per they’re going to deliver. But so far it’s been difficult to prove that case with content.

The last-click attribution model doesn’t really work with content. It doesn’t effectively demonstrate how content is performing or how engagement with content positively impacts a business’s bottom line. For example, with a last-click attribution scenario search will always offer the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA). But what we should see is that that CPA, even for search, should reduce over time with a content-driven approach, because you’ve brought so many more people into the funnel that the number of searches a user does should decrease, and when a user comes through they should be lower down in the funnel.

A perfect attribution model is the holy grail of content marketing that we’re all trying to discover, but we also need to find a way to demonstrate the value of engagement metrics and draw attention to those top-funnel awareness considerations.

DD: We closely track and monitor a range of metrics and KPIs so we can see what the results are, learn from the data, and then make adjustments accordingly. I would argue that we’re always going to be in the process of figuring it all out. Things are constantly changing—Google makes changes to its algorithms and user behaviour changes, so to truly understand the ROI of something, you’re going to need to constantly revise the ways in which you’re measuring to understand the impact your content is making.

I like to break our strategy down into three separate components because success looks different for each of them. Firstly, we look at whether the content is being consumed—it’s important to break through the noise by creating something that’s going to make a connection with your audience. Then we measure engagement to see if the audience is sharing or taking some kind of measurable action, including following through on a call to action. And then lastly, what’s the impact on brand perception and are we influencing conversion.

You’ve both mentioned the importance of user engagement with content. Have you found an effective means of measuring the impact your content is making on your audience?

LB: We definitely track key metrics like views, shares, and how much time a user spends reading a piece of content, which I think are all key from an engagement perspective. On our end we also measure what types of audiences or personas engage with content. This enables us to create themes, pillars and topics that relate to different audiences when we’re creating our content calendars. We also have a proprietary measurement system, Communiqué that allows us to categorize all the data we collect, so we can see how each of these audiences or personas is performing. This allows us to track the data over time and could potentially completely change who we’re trying to talk to.

Another important element we track is the connection between the audience reached through content amplification and the amount of time a user has spent with a piece of content subsequent to this connection. A positive outcome is if the user has spent a considered amount of time with the content and potentially shared it. On the flipside, where we’d say there’s a negative outcome is if someone has gone to a piece of content and has left pretty quickly. In this scenario, we would assume that either the content wasn’t right for the reader, we’ve reached the wrong audience, we need to work on changing the content, or there’s something wrong with the site itself that’s causing people to leave. We would then look for ways to tweak and change the amplification strategy and/or the content to improve a clients result. In terms of what our clients look at the most, I would say that time on site is definitely an important key performance indicator (KPI) many of them are looking at.

DD: I would say that it really depends on the type of content. One example is when all the changes happened with the TFSA last year, we put out some content that explained how that product works, and it got was highly consumed and engaged with because there was a need people had to understand a product that was in the news. This is perhaps an example of content that sits lower down the funnel. But sometimes you might create a post or a video or an infographic that focuses on not so much a product, but instead on a habit or behaviour that’s based on a personal story or experience that touches people. Something that tells a story, about a personal finance victory, big or small. It could be how someone was able to pay off their student debt or was able to pay off their mortgage early. It’s all about storytelling that people engage with, find helpful, and provides insights. And how do you measure the impact of that? Maybe metrics like views and engagement in the form of clicks if there’s a call to action, and then on social you might look at interactions.

We’re currently looking at all those things, and we’re learning along the way just like everybody else in this space. We’re all students of content marketing. We’re learning as we go, and that’s exactly why we measure things—so we can optimize it as we go.

How do you benchmark the success of your efforts?

LB: We have enough data in our system now that has allowed us to create benchmarks across different categories and different types of audiences. We generally try to allocate a period of time at the very beginning of a content marketing plan and say that during this time, we’ll be benchmarking performance to guide future initiatives. Content marketing isn’t a set-and-forget strategy, where we lock in 12 months of content we’re going to deliver. It actually needs to be very much a live plan, and after the first month everything is up for discussion based on how well that first month of activity went. This allows us to see what content is being engaged with and in what ways, and then we can set benchmarks for those key metrics. Some clients will come to us and say “these are the metrics we want”, but most of them aren’t like that because content marketing is so new to them that they don’t know exactly what success looks like for them.

My view is that the more data and insights we can provide clients with the better. Clients can read data, but where we can add value is by providing insights that can show how things need to change so we can improve ROI.

DD: There’s an interesting debate going on out there at the moment. Recently, Seth Godin did an interview where he explained how you can’t over-metricize and industrialize content if you’re doing it to a point where you’re sacrificing its integrity. But still, we need some way of measuring whether or not our strategy is having an effect. As I’ve said we’re creating benchmarks across a few sets of metrics. First, is the content being consumed? Second, are people actually reading it? This would include metrics like time on site, views, clicks, and so on. Lastly, we track whether consumption of the content has influenced conversions. Are prospects becoming clients, or are existing clients opening new accounts? We also want to track the effect our content is having on the brand—we want to know how this content affects a client’s perception of Tangerine overall. Are they aware of us? Does it evoke a positive feeling towards the bank and its products?

Closing thoughts

There will likely never be a hard-and-fast, one-size-fits all solution to measuring the financial return of content marketing. “It’s really a constant learning model,” explains Diehl. “I don’t think there’s a ‘plug and play’ for this yet, and perhaps there never will be because the ground beneath us is always shifting. You’ve got to learn as you go and adjust as you go.”

4 min read