By Adam Fraser
The promise of digital was increased transparency and measurement, and a heightened ability to target the right message at the right time to the right person.
In some cases, the promise has been delivered – primarily via Facebook hyper targeted ads and SEO powered Google ads appearing alongside precisely targeted search terms.
However programmatic and the long tail of broader digital ad spend are coming under heightened scrutiny, and rightly so in the face of brand messaging appearing alongside highly inappropriate content. An advertiser YouTube ban remains in full swing.
Brand response is coming in many forms. US bank JP Morgan Chase lowered the number of sites it advertises on from 400,000 to just 5,000. Interestingly it noted very little impact in terms of cost and overall performance – an astonishing outcome.
Chase had unintentionally shone a light on the effectiveness of ads in the long tail, the nooks and crannies of the web, and the results were not favourable for ad networks powered by automation and AI driven ad tech.
The agencies are also responding. Omnicom – one of the worlds largest agency holding companies – is introducing human review across thousands of YouTube videos to ensure brand safety for their clients’ media buys.
Looming in the background is the landmark speech from one of the worlds biggest advertisers, the CMO of P&G, threatening to pull digital spend if transparency didn’t improve.
The business world often works in cycles – are we about to shift back to a marketing world with an increased emphasis on human curated traditional media buying, even across digital platforms?
As the risks of digital brand safety become more apparent I would suspect so.
By Adam Fraser
Interesting times for the big guns in the digital media world.
As we entered 2017, Google and Facebook were increasingly dominant to the point of being labeled a duopoly in terms of digital advertising market share. It seemed they were untouchable.
Suddenly a few bumps are appearing in the road.
Google is in the midst of an advertiser backlash, as brands push back on their ads appearing alongside extremely distasteful content.
Suddenly the risks of programmatic and algorithmic decision making are becoming all too clear to brands – the low cost and ease of process comes with a lack of control and high brand risk that your ad may appear alongside inappropriate context.
Then one of the world’s biggest spenders, the CMO of Proctor and Gamble, sets an open measurement challenge to the big digital “walled gardens” – show us the metrics or we will pull our ads.
An industry-standard audience measurement by year end for the digital universe is a big goal, but if the major platforms don’t play ball, the risks of advertiser backlash grows.
As with the major colonial empires in history, is it at the peak of your powers that a dominant force becomes complacent and vulnerable? It’s always hard to see at the time, but perhaps the first signs of some very faint cracks are appearing for Google and Facebook.
The transparency and measurement issues for the digital publishing sector are certainly not going away.
By Adam Fraser
I was proud to hit a podcast milestone this week as Episode 100 of my podcast “We’re Talking Social and Digital” with Jay Baer hit iTunes. Quite a journey all round, and I remain a passionate podcast listener as well as producer.
So I wasn’t surprised to see a leading industry report in the area of audio content trends, The Infinite Dial from Edison Research confirm that the growth in podcasting as a medium has continued in the past year.
Whilst the report is US centric (based on interviews with 2,000 Americans between Jan and Feb 2017), this is very often reflective (with a time lag) of consumer trends around the globe, and it is an extremely credible report which dates back as far as 1998.
The key trends from the report were:
- 81% of the population over the age of 12 now own a smart phone
- 58% have a subscription to a premium streaming TV service (Netflix, Hulu etc)
- 61% listened to online radio (radio online or streaming audio only available on the internet) in the last month
- The top 3 audio brands were Pandora, iHeartRadio and Spotify
- 81% of the population over the age of 12 are actively using social media
- The top 3 social media brands in terms of awareness are Facebook (95%), Twitter (90%) and Instagram (88%). Note Snapchat is growing rapidly hitting 82% this year v 71% last year
- Amongst 12-24 year olds Snapchat is the most popular social network
In terms of podcasting specifically:
- 60% were familiar with the term vs 55% a year ago
- 40% have listened to a podcast v 36% a year ago
- 24% had listened to a podcast in the last month v 21% a year ago
- 15% listen to a podcast weekly v 13% a year ago
- Weekly podcast listeners listen to an average of 5 podcasts per week
- 65% of podcast listeners use a mobile device (phone, tablet) to consume the audio
- 19% of car users have listened to a podcast while driving.
The report is packed with other interesting data insights and I recommend you have a browse.
The growth in podcasting reflects the on demand economy we know live in – consumers are putting together the precise audio content they desire, and listening on a device of their choice at a time that suits. It’s hard to argue this is not a superior product to scheduled, broadcast radio. With this product advantage tied to the potential upside from connected cars, I would expect podcasting’s growth to continue for some time.
By Adam Fraser
The latest CMO Survey has been released and the findings are both interesting and somewhat contradictory, highlighting the ‘deer in the headlights’ flux many marketers feel when it comes to data analytics and technology platforms.
This bi-annual survey is well respected and is the longest-running survey dedicated to understanding the field of marketing. The latest edition received responses from 388 top marketing executives.
The key finding showed spending on marketing analytics (quantitative data about customer behavior and marketplace activities) is expected to grow from 4.6% to 22% of marketing budgets in the next 3 years. Yet notwithstanding this material increase, marketers say barely a third of available data is used to drive actual decision making in their companies.
Interesting contradiction. The survey participants intend to increase spend by almost 400% on something which 2/3 of the time isn’t driving business decision making. Marketers seem to be saying “we know we need data and should be using data, but don’t have access to the right data when it matters”.
The report explores in some detail why marketers are not utilisng data analytics in decision making, the top 3 drivers being:
- Lack of processes/tools to measure success through analytics
- Lack of people who can connect marketing practice to marketing analytics
- Data not highly relevant to the decision at hand.
Marketing will always be a blend between art and science, something I have often discussed on my marketing podcast. Gut feel versus hard data. Both matter.
The survey shows that marketers still need to up their game in effectively utilising technology platforms and data analytics to increase their depth of consumer insight, drive their strategy and monitor the execution.
We can argue about the appropriate balance between art and science in marketing in 2017, but taking a mature, professional and structured approached to technology and analytics as part of your marketing operations is no longer an optional extra.
By Adam Fraser
The Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 has been released by global PR leader Edelman. This annual report based on 33,000 surveys across 28 countries (now in its 17th year) is is a comprehensive survey of consumer attitudes to trust in government, business, not for profits and media.
The survey rightly garners significant attention as a credible, authoritative piece of thought leadership, and this year’s survey delivered some stark conclusions.
The intro to the report tells the story:
“The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”
Trust in crisis – heavy words; 2017 appears to have represented something of a tipping point for consumers as their trust in institutions of all kinds declines to crisis levels. This is the backdrop in which Brexit, the US election and the increased prominence of fake news took place.
Some of the key findings were:
- 2/3 of countries fell into ‘distruster’ territory with trust levels below 50%
- Only 37% of the population say CEOs are credible with 29% saying the same about government officials
- Media declined the most being distrusted in 82% of countries
- 85% of respondents lack full belief in the system
- 64% of the population find leaked information more credible than press releases
Perhaps explaining some of the underlying drivers, the survey also showed
- 53% believe the pace of change is too fast
- 50% believe globalisation is taking ys in the wrong direction
The report delivered plenty more insights showing just how bad the level of consumer trust in institutions is today.
Some tough messages for the media and marketing sectors alike.
Yet from this ‘scorched earth’ backdrop of consumer trust, opportunity beckons. Brands and publishers alike have the opportunity to consistently deliver on promises and build trust with an audience yearning trustworthy content and business actions.
For marketers the message is clear – tone down the advertising BS consumers are weary of, deliver on brand promises, stand for something beyond making money and listen to your customers (as well as giving them an opportunity to ask questions and provide input). It’s clearly time to change the game.
By Adam Fraser
As content marketing was in the prior periods, Influencer Marketing seems to have been anointed as the “next big thing” in recent months.
People may jump to the idea they need to engage major ‘stars’ like Kim Kardashian, Pewdie Pie or Taylor Swift in order to jump into Influencer Marketing.
However, a recent article from Venture Beat suggested that a more effective “bang for your buck” approach may be to target micro influencers. Defining micro influencers as anyone with a following of 10,000 – 1m followers, the article noted based on stats from a study from Markerly:
- Micro influencers are 4 times more likely than macro influencers to get a comment on a post
- Users with less than 1,000 followers get a comment 0.5% of the time versus 0.04% for those with 10m + followers
- Users with less than 1,000 followers gets likes 8% of the time versus 1.6% for those with 10m+ followers
The study concluded that accounts with followers of 10,000-100,000 represented the best combination of engagement and reach.
The conclusion may be unsettling for marketers used to the reach/frequency simplicity of mainstream broadcast TV communication. Developing effective relationships with a large number of influencers is not easy. This is trench warfare. Hard work which doest scale in the way media buyers would prefer.
There are also subtleties and nuances to influencer marketing based on trust and the necessary transparency required about what is sponsored which dont exist for conventional advertising programmes.
Influencer marketing is new terrain, and the value provided from insights back to a brands from influencers (ie listening), rather than merely broadcasting out via them, should not be under-estimated. Not a topic often discussed based on the almost hard wired “broadcast out” start point for most marketers.
The game is changing. And this makes for uncomfortable times for brands and agencies alike. Legacy behaviour and vested interests are strong, but disruption is alive and well within marketing.
By Adam Fraser
Twitter has delivered its Q4 results, as always eagerly awaited and much analysed.
The key user trends are creeping up but overall the best you can probably say is that they have at least arrested their decline. Far too early to call a turnaround for a business that has never made a profit, The stock market remained unimpressed. The business has substantial cash in the bank but at some point needs to work out how to turn a profit.
If you want to dive into all of the detail, you can check the financials, investor presentation, shareholder letter and investor conference call. If you want the key highlights here are 10 key takeaways:
- Monthly active user (MAU) numbers grew slightly to 319m from v 317m last quarter (up 0.8%) and 306m a year ago (4.6% growth); the steady growth is encouraging but the pace remains insignificant compared to other social networks – Facebook continues to grow in the tens of millions while Twitter crawls in single digits
- 21% of Twitter’s MAUs (67m) are based in the USA; user numbers in the USA are broadly flat with the user growth coming internationally
- Attempts to drive greater engagement and more regular usage on the platform are working, with Daily Active Users growing at 11% on prior year v 7% last quarter and 5% in Q2
- Mobile MAUs were 83% of users, indicating Twitter sits in between Facebook ( 90%+ mobile users) and LinkedIn (approx 60% mobile users) for mobile penetration; note mobile products drove 89% of total ad revenue
- Revenue at $717m was 16% up on the prior quarter of US$616m and 1% higher than a year ago; ad revenue actually declined on a year ago, with data licensing income increasing
- The breakdown of revenue for the quarter was broadly consistent with recent periods, with 89% of revenue coming from advertising and 11% coming from data licensing/other (the ‘big data’ aspect has huge potential for Twitter). Video ads are the most popular and effective form of ads on the platform
- Tweet impressions and time spent on Twitter remained strong, each increasing by double digits on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter.
- Twitter made a loss of US$167m for the quarter but also discloses “adjusted EBITDA which showed a profit of US$215m after adjusting for stock based compensation, depreciation and amortisation Twitter ended the quarter with US$3.8bn in cash.
- In the fourth quarter, Twitter streamed more than 600 hours of live premium video from content partners across roughly 400 events, attracting 31 million unique viewers in its first full quarter of operations. Of these hours, 52% were sports, 38% were news and politics, and 10% were entertainment.
- The key strategic areas of focus in 2017 were identified as product changes to make Twitter safer, investing in core use case and product areas such as live streaming video, among others, simplifying and differentiating revenue products to drive sustainable long-term revenue growth and focusing on making progress toward GAAP profitability.
“2016 was a transformative year as we reset and focused on why people use Twitter: it’s the fastest way to see what’s happening and what everyone’s talking about,” said Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO.
There is no question Jack as CEO has had a positive impact on the Twitter business. The shareholder letter shows a greater willingness towards transparency and the strategic focus is undoubtedly tighter. But Twitter was asleep at the wheel for some time as newer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat stole its thunder. It still seems to be a great business utility seeking a sustainable commercial business model, and remains vulnerable to takeover at current stock market pricing.
By Adam Fraser
The blogger challenge – how to find a different way to describe another sensational quarterly set of results from Facebook, which the market responded favourably to.
If you want to dive into detail, you can find the detailed financial, investor presentation and management conference call. For those without the time to digest all of this, here are 10 key soundbites from the results:
- Monthly active users have reached 1.86bn from 1.78bn last quarter (4.0% growth) and 1.59bn a year earlier (16.9% growth)
- Daily active users hit 1.23bn from 1.18bn last quarter (4.1% growth) and 1.04bn a year earlier (18.2% growth)
- Around 93.5% of MAUs and DAUs accessed Facebook via a mobile appliance with 62% of MAUs exclusively using a mobile (mobile has become so dominant Facebook announced on the earnings call they would no longer separate this analysis out)
- Mobile DAUs approached the 1.15bn level and Instagram now has over 600m monthly users (in impressive 400m logging in daily)
- Video continues to increase in importance as a medium. On the investor call Mark Zuckerberg stated he saw “video as a mega trend, the same order as mobile”
- Total revenue was $8.8bn (exceeding market expectations) versus $7.0bn in Q3 (a massive 25.4% increase) and $5.8bn a year earlier (50.8% growth) – generating a net profit of $3.6bn
- Facebook has reasonably balanced global spread with around 50% of revenue coming from USA and Canada, and growth coming reasonably consistently across the globe
- Average revenue per user spiked significantly by over 20% in one quarter, hitting $4.83 from $4.01 last quarter and $3.73 a year ago; a big (positive) issue for the market analysts
- Facebook ended the quarter with a cool $29bn in cash – enough to buy Twitter approximately two and a half times
- Some interesting random stats: Instagram stories has 150m users – approaching the size of Snapchat; 50 billion messages are sent through WhatsApp every day; 400m people use voice and video chat on Messenger; NYE 2016 was the biggest Facebook Live moment to date; WhatsApp has hit 1.2bn monthly users
“Our mission to connect the world is more important now than ever,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “Our business did well in 2016, but we have a lot of work ahead to help bring people together.”
In terms of future growth, there is no question Facebook is looking to AR and VR as key technologies. Somewhat ominously for the competition Zuckerberg said “We’re still early in our 10-year plan for virtual reality, but we’ve made some good progress”
Another incredible set of quarterly results.
By Adam Fraser
Quite an ambitious blog title…
It can be hard in the fast moving, hurly-burly of the tech, marketing and social media landscape to see the bigger trends. We inevitably get caught up in features and functions, campaigns and month to month incremental changes.
In the EchoJunction podcast, I intentionally go long form (45-60 min episodes) to try to dive deep on particular topics ranging from Blockchain to VR, IOT to the future of advertising and look at strategic developments in the landscape.
Two pieces of content I recently consumed are definitely worth checking out in the context of “seeing the wood for the trees” or “joining the dots”.
On his excellent weekly podcast, Mitch Joel chatted to Google’s resident Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik to dissect the intersection of marketing and analytics. Given the importance of Google in the digital landscape, hearing about their future direction and the importance of AI was fascinating.
Linked to this podcast, Avinash recommended a video by Benedict Evans – “Mobile is eating the world”. Looking at uber long term trends, Benedict looks at the mobile revolution (we have now hit 2.5bn smart phones!) then discusses the impact of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon moving from mobile first to AI first. He talks about the pending massive disruption in the retail industry together with changing dynamics in content, manufacturing, cars and much more.
If you can find a quiet couple of hours to put a wet towel on your head and think about where all of this is heading, I think you will find these two pieces of content highly thought provoking and worthwhile.