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The Good, the Bad, and the Unviewable—The State of Ad Viewability

By September 13th, 2016

Digital advertisers are worried about ad viewability. How worried are they? According to a survey that Mixpo conducted this year, 69% of them are “extremely concerned” or “very concerned.” That’s the bad.

As we mentioned in our post on programmatic buying transparency, the environmental transparency of an ad is as important as the campaign’s message or who’s being targeted. By “environmental,” we mean viewability, ad fraud, and brand safety.

We also stated that there’s no consensus on how viewability is even defined or how to determine the tradeoffs between measurement, accuracy, and associated costs.

Still, the debate continues. As viewability becomes a greater concern for digital advertisers and vital to the success of their campaigns, solutions and standards continue to be defined and refined. In this article, we look at guidelines, outline what to consider, and recommend a few tips for ensuring your ads are viewable.

Current Verdicts: What Determines if an Ad is “Viewable”?

The Media Rating Council (MRC) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) basically define viewability as who sees your ad, how much was seen, how long they saw it, and where the ad showed up. Further, the IAB states that viewability “is not about ad effectiveness nor ad engagement. It is simply the delivery of ads that render on the screen. In other words, the opportunity to be seen.”

What does that mean?

Specifically (according to MRC and IAB guidelines), a display ad is viewable if 50% or more of its pixels appear on-screen for at least one continuous second. On the other hand, GroupM believes 100% of pixels need to be in view for at least one second. Like GroupM, other large holding companies also have their own standards.

The reasons for these discrepancies often lie in creative technologies. For instance, moving from Flash to HTML5 can slow down page loads, making verification pixels time out, which can then prevent accurate measurement. And, according to the MRC, bandwidth and network speeds make load times even worse for mobile ads.

The various viewability definitions are a way to get around these speed bumps, allowing for a departure point to effectively measure viewable versus unviewable ads. Meaning, there are standards, but they depend on the governing body or other constituents determining the guidelines.

What About Brand Safety?

Brand safety is easier to define, but it’s just as important in ensuring your brand is creating a positive user experience and maintaining your brand image. Simply put, your brand is safe not only if your ads are showing up in the right context, but also when the right ads appear on your website. For instance, if not-quite-safe-for-work ads suddenly appear on your site, your brand image will likely suffer, causing buyer-seller trust to erode.

Once again, the IAB and its standards can help. Its Content Taxonomy identifies when companies are brand-safe based on a two-tier system:

  • Self-certified
  • Certified by an independent third party

Third-party certification providers offer a list of DSPs that filter bought inventory according to IAB’s taxonomy. In this way, programmatic guidelines and technologies can be established, automated to safeguard against risky ads and hazardous placements.

The Difference Between Viewability and Fraud

Remember there’s a difference between viewability and fraud. Integral Ad Science (IAS) defines ad fraud as “the deliberate practice of attempting to serve ads that have no potential to be viewed by a human user.” However, a positive trend that IAS reported reveals that overall programmatic ad fraud dipped by 20.9% between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016. Still, the U.S. has the worst rate of ad fraud when compared to Australia, France, Germany, and the U.K., the countries the IAS profiled.

This is part of why digital marketers in the U.S. are so worried.

Something to note, however, is that the same study showed that viewability is actually up, presumably because publishers and other players in the industry increasingly have stopped getting paid for inventory that’s fraudulent—so they’re more motivated to increase viewability and reduce fraud. An article in the Journal of Advertising Research, however, states that global advertisers are expected to waste roughly seven billion dollars in 2016 on unviewable ads. Whether the forecast is sunny or gloomy, all sides are working harder to reduce fraud and increase viewability.

Why is there as much fraud as there is? In a word—bots. Specifically, bots that mask as a user and click fraudulent ads, making it seem like your website’s getting more clicks and click-throughs than it actually is.

Marketers are right to be concerned. They must continue to be vigilant about and aware of both unviewable ads and bots’ calculated attempts to muddy the ad pool. To make matters (and your measurement efforts) worse, bots don’t use ad blocking software like humans do. So, if you’re trying to measure campaign effectiveness through the average ad blocking rate and optimize accordingly, you have your work cut out for you.

Why Is Viewability So Important, Anyway?

It’s obvious that you’d like people to actually see your ads. And, you’re no doubt interested in measuring the effectiveness of these ads and adjusting as needed.

A third angle to take into account—many new vendors are trying to monetize viewability, assigning costs to only those impressions that are viewable. Here, however, there’s a tradeoff between the page actually loading, the time it takes, and how these measurements will or should affect cost.

For brand awareness and to know your true cost of doing business, viewability is essential. As we mentioned in our post on the programmatic supply chain, if your impressions aren’t viewable, you should get a credit toward them. We’ll add here—if your impressions aren’t viewable, not only did a tree fall in the forest and no one heard it, no one has any idea what the tree looks like. So much for lifting your brand awareness.

Who Measures Viewability, and How?

First off, as far as measurement goes, who should bear the burden of proof? Publishers, vendors, and agencies are working together to measure and combat viewability issues. Each of these entities, however, has a unique motivation for ensuring viewability is maintained and measured:

  • Publishers: want to optimize yield and inventory management and ensure a positive user experience
  • Vendors: want to increase brand awareness, leads, clicks, CTR, and ROI
  • Agencies: want to increase viewable impressions and customer satisfaction

As mentioned earlier, there are issues gleaning accurate viewability metrics—such as latency and the creative technologies that cause it. Third-party measurement vendors can also be problematic, since they use tracking pixels that can, ironically, result in longer page loads and add to the murkiness of precise measurement.

The answer lies in adopting standards to level the playing field. In its Primer for Publishers on Improving Ad Viewability, IAB recommends that publishers establish performance benchmarks, and have a remediation plan in place to determine what happens should an ad placement miss the benchmark by more than 10%.

The landscape’s not perfect, but the outlook’s positive. That’s the good.

The Cost of Being Seen

What factors go into determining the cost of viewability? Viewability tracking, brand safety tracking, and brand lift studies are paid by either side in an effort to run cleaner campaigns. Ad verification and brand safety tools also come with a cost, and have their own issues, but they go a long way in creating environmental transparency. These all play a role in ensuring ads get seen, but marketers must determine how these weigh against their budget and how much are overkill.

What about the costs of the future? Will all ad formats be bought on a viewable impression basis, i.e., vCPM? Time will tell.

Tips for Making Sure Your Ads are Viewable

Now that we’ve gone over definitions, standards, and budgeting considerations, here are best practices you can use to combat viewability issues and maximize the likelihood of your ads getting seen:

  • Share information: As quality/ad fraud companies continue to work with the MRC, IAB, and other groups to develop standards, advertisers and publishers should rally around recommended guidelines, so that standardization can lead to equity and visibility.
  • Experiment: Bring on one vendor at a time, make sure they’re MRC-accredited, and measure the results.
  • Have frank discussions with verification partners. Ask them how they measure viewability or what they’re doing to control for fraud.
  • If you’re a publisher: Work out any discrepancies with your advertising partners. Make sure there’s agreement between what each side says about what was viewable and what wasn’t.
  • If you’re a vendor: Regularly check your tags in order to determine whether an ad was in view or not. Note, however, that doing this chews up data and power—be careful not to degrade the user experience for the sake of viewability measurement.

Better Ad Viewability Is on the Horizon

If the virtual nail-biting is any indication, viewability will continue to occupy its high-anxiety, top-of-mind position until the major issues get smoothed over. Take heed, though, that help is not only on the way—the conversation has expanded to video and audio. In the long run, continued standardization will result in better guidelines and (more) common practices.

In the meantime, remember the tradeoffs between viewability, practicality, and the costs of measurement. Do what’s appropriate for your business and budget, with the understanding that better days await you.

Captivate Your Audience with Facebook Video Carousels

By August 31st, 2016

This is a guest post from Sarah Burns, Content Manager
at Boost Media.

The Most Engaging Ad Format on Facebook

Arguably the most engaging ad format available on Facebook, the video carousel is growing at a rapid pace. Since Facebook first evolved the format by giving advertisers the option to display video in the carousel ad in fall 2015, advertisers have seen success with lower cost per click and increased traffic.

Showcasing video as a creative option can bring sight, sound, and motion to help advertisers improve both their brand and direct response objectives. You can exhibit any combination of up to 10 photos or videos, but only five cards will appear at a time. Video carousels provide not one, but many opportunities to engage with customers.

New Ways to Get Your Customers’ Attention

Having more images, videos, and links in a single ad opens up new opportunities to talk about your business and reach your audience. You have several creative ways to get the attention of potential customers with video carousels:

  • Show more products
  • Highlight multiple features
  • Create a larger canvas
  • Tell a good story
  • Show the steps
  • Change with the seasons

Generating Facebook Creative Concepts

A good place to start when generating creative ideas is reviewing past performance of organic Facebook posts. Has there been a particular piece of content you’ve shared in the past that performed really well?

Another good source of creative ideas is your content or marketing calendars. You can create Facebook ad campaigns and ad creative to support your brand’s events and product launches, play off of industry events, and capture attention related to seasonality and holidays.

Remember, the point of running Facebook Ads is to reach a larger audience than your current follower base, so all creative needs to be tested, even if something similar has performed well organically in the past. What works for one audience in one context may not apply universally. Once you find what works, continually discover new concepts to explore with Facebook creative.

 

About the Author

sarahSarah manages Content Marketing at Boost Media and leads a team of marketing professionals to drive revenue through complex B2B marketing campaigns in the ad tech industry. Prior to joining Boost, Sarah developed marketing and sales strategy at BNY Mellon, a top 10 private wealth management firm. In a former life, Sarah worked in journalism writing for magazines including Boston Magazine, The Improper Bostonian, and Luxury Travel. When she’s not writing engaging content, Sarah enjoys cooking, running, and yoga.

About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale. The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.

4 Underutilized Functions and Features of Google Shopping

By August 22nd, 2016

Shopping has been a hot-button topic for some time now. While many customers have launched successful Shopping campaigns, there are some lesser-known features that may provide a quick additional boost or improvement to your current efforts.

Four such features are:

  • SKU-level reporting (Marin)
  • Campaign priority settings (Marin)
  • Automatic item updates (Google Merchant Center)
  • Promotions (Google Merchant Center)

SKU-level Reporting

Marin fully supports performance reporting at the SKU level. With this extremely valuable data, advertisers can review products on a regular basis to see where individual SKUs prove to be candidates for segmentation or exclusion. If the SKU data warrants it, you can indicate a more aggressive or conservative bid.

01. SKU-level reporting

To see SKU-level reporting enabled in Marin, work with your platform representative to append the appropriate parameter to the product groups, and to have the new feature enabled and backfilled. 

Campaign Priority Settings

Priority settings are extremely useful for advertisers who invest the time in building out multiple Shopping campaigns and want to maximize their effectiveness.

As Google describes the setting, “When you have the same product in multiple Shopping campaigns, you can determine which campaign should participate in the auction for that product with campaign priority. Your campaigns already have a priority: Low. But you can change this priority to Medium or High. These priorities determine the bid for any product that the campaigns share.”

  • The highest priority campaign will bid
  • If the highest priority campaign runs out of budget, the lower priority campaign bids
  • When multiple campaigns have the same priority, the highest bid is used

02. Campaign priority

The right mix of priority assignments and bid strategies by campaign solve the tricky issue of being able to control products that exist across multiple campaigns.

Automatic Item Updates

If you have metadata enabled on your site, it may be prudent to enable Google’s Automatic Item Updates feature. This allows Google to crawl your site and update Shopping based on the site’s inherent microdata information. This is mostly valuable in reconciling price discrepancies and/or availability.

Advertisers can choose from Google’s attributes for automatic updates:

  • Price only
  • Availability only
  • Price and availability

03. Automatic item updates

Merchant Promotions

Enabled in Google Merchant Center, a Promotion is an excellent way to differentiate your product from the competition and advertise your sale. You can assign Promotions to a subset of products or across all products in the feed, as applicable.

04. Merchant promotions

05. New promotion

Google manually reviews all promotions for accuracy, so be sure to schedule these well in advance of the actual promotion launch so that the approval process won’t cause any delay. Also be sure you know Google’s Merchant Promotions Program Policies.

Get ahead of the competition by testing out some of this readily available advanced functionality! If you’re interested in speaking with a Shopping Consultant from Marin, get in touch with your platform representative.

How to Use Search to Enhance Your Facebook Dynamic Ads

By August 17th, 2016

When Google released product listing ads, it dramatically changed the way retailers advertise online. Because of their huge success, retailers are constantly on the lookout for the next game-changing ad format.

If the results our retail clients have been seeing are any indication, the next frontier for product ads is harmonizing Google Shopping and Facebook Dynamic Ads (DA). Even though there’s been steady growth in the number of advertisers using Facebook DAs since their launch in 2015, many retailers are still managing their search and social channels in silo.

In this post, you’ll learn how to supercharge your shopping ads by combining the best of search and social. Using these techniques, our customers have seen a 68% higher revenue per conversion from their campaigns, when managed together with social advertising campaigns.

Seed Facebook with your best Google Shopping campaigns.

Savvy advertisers take advantage of their existing Google Shopping campaigns to optimize—or simply test—DAs for the first time. By identifying your best-performing products from Google Shopping campaigns, you can export high-ROI products to advertise using DAs.

Through Facebook’s new Google Shopping to DA product (available to Marin Software customers), advertisers using Google Shopping can take their best-performing campaigns and easily create Facebook DAs in a few easy steps, without the need for lengthy setup and extensive IT resources.

01. Workflow

Build out the right types of campaigns.

To easily increase your average order value and/or customer lifetime value, be sure to offer products related to what a customer’s ordered. As you’re building out DA campaigns, you can create upsell, cross-sell, and prospecting campaigns using the same process.

  • Upsell and cross-sell: With these types of campaigns, you can increase the chances of selling complimentary, relevant products to your customers via upsell (higher profitability items) or cross-sell (similar product sets).
  • Prospecting: Take shopping on Facebook beyond retargeting through Facebook’s DA prospecting campaigns. Advertisers can now reach new customers within the Facebook universe who haven’t visited your website. Facebook allows you to automatically create the best ads and find the best users for prospecting, giving you an efficient, effective way to find new audiences for your products.

Use search intent data to power DA creative.

Search intent retargeting is the smartest way to maximize the ROAS of your search budget. As cross-channel marketing strategies become commonplace, digital advertisers have started using search intent data to power their social campaigns. This strategy can be extended to Facebook DAs.

One example: using search intent to optimize DA creative templates. If the right users see them, these dynamic changes to creative can lead to significant lifts in CTR, conversion rates, and ROI.

Let’s say you have three users who’ve reached your website using different levels of search intent.

Example keywords:

  • Discount-driven (keyword: discount shoes)
  • Product brand (keyword: Buffalo Shoes)
  • Store name (keyword: PowPow Shoe Shop)

Through DA creative templates and search intent data, you can dynamically tailor your Facebook creatives based not only on the products users have seen on your website, but also on the keyword they used to get there in the first place. This allows you to show hyper-targeted ads, resulting in higher click-through and conversion rates.

02. Creative

In the above example, our users see different things depending on their keyword group:

  • Sales-driven user (keyword: discount shoes) sees an ad with a sales message.
  • The user who’s shown product brand infinity (keyword: Buffalo Shoes) sees a creative with a large product brand logo.
  • The user who’s shown brand affinity for the shop/advertiser (keyword: Marin Shoe Shop) sees a large advertiser logo.

Use cross-channel product reporting and optimization.

Once you start running Google Shopping and Facebook DAs, you should look at product performance and optimization in a more holistic way. The challenge with cross-channel tracking is normalizing conversions across multiple devices, ad buys, and other variables. However, with a third-party platform like Marin Software, the problem’s solved, so you can focus on the most important task—making sense of all that rich data and finding synergies.

With consistent third-party conversion tracking, you can also deduplicate conversions across search and social. And, through attribution modeling, you can gain deeper insights into how your Google Shopping and Facebook DAs are affecting the overall path to conversion.

Your future shoppers are spending an ever-increasing amount of time on Facebook and Google. In fact, 78% of all new ads were on either Facebook or Google last quarter. Now’s the time to think smarter about how you can cost-effectively engage and convert these users.

By combining search and social shopping strategies, not only do you break down channel silos—you gain a holistic view of product performance, and the ability to optimize across channels and improve overall product performance.

Introducing Marin’s Cross-Channel Shopping Solution: An Interview with Anil Channappa

By August 9th, 2016

Shopping season is here. To help retailers navigate the current terrain of shopping ads and digital marketing, Marin has developed new features to help retailers maximize revenues and efficiencies this back to school and holiday season.

In this post, we’ve asked Anil Channappa, Senior Director Product Management for Marin Social, to talk about these features and how they’ll benefit retail and ecommerce advertisers.

Anil Channappa

Anil Channappa

From the lens of your role, what is Marin’s cross-channel shopping solution?

It’s the ability for marketers to maximize the sales and revenue of their products through advertising regardless of the publisher. Without such a solution, advertisers have to coordinate advertising campaigns across Google and Facebook (in the same or different tool), without a way to measure the effectiveness across publishers.

With a solution like Smart Sync for Shopping, advertisers can mirror a Google shopping campaign so that the same campaign is running on both Google and Facebook, without needing to know much about leveraging their product feed on Facebook. The cross-publisher reporting helps our advertisers make smarter bid and budget decisions to maximize ROI. And this is a unique and innovative solution in the market today.

Why is it important?

Customers and prospects are browsing freely across Google and Facebook. So, advertisers shouldn’t be bogged down by publisher-specific differences, and should be able to reach customers where they are. Being able to reach shoppers where they shop with one product feed and campaign flow, will improve campaign management efficiency and the effectiveness of their campaigns.

How does this solution enhance how retailers approach their ad campaigns, and impact their business needs?

Campaigns should be geared towards business objectives and needs. Does a customer want to run a promotion that aligns with events like 4th of July, Black Friday, or a major sale of specific products? In most cases today, customers have to replicate these campaigns manually across all publishers.

With Marin’s cross-channel solution, advertisers can rely on technology to create, measure, and scale campaigns across publishers, while spending their time on critical decisions and optimizations.

Why now? What motivated Marin Software to invest in this feature rollout?

Publishers are racing to offer innovative products to keep pace with emerging customer behaviors. Mobile technologies (tablets, smartphones) have been a huge disrupter. Publishers are forced to innovate rapidly to offer advertising products that fit this new paradigm.

Shopping Campaigns and Dynamic Ads are all visual ads that are easier for users to preview and click on mobile devices. Depending on your source, anywhere from 75-95% of mobile users click social ads. Marin’s research shows that during Q1 of this year, closer to 95% of all social ad clicks were on a mobile device.

In the past, we’ve invested heavily to streamline advertising within channels (search, social, and display), but we can only go so far in our value-add, because the channels themselves are very different. Given shifting user behaviors and publishers offering similar products, there is a huge convergence of ad products across publishers. This is a perfect opportunity to help marketers who are used to streamlining their channel-specific advertising and extend it across channels.

If you could describe how a company would use this cross-channel solution and come out with strong results, what would that scenario look like?

Google is the dominant player for most retailers to drive demand and new customers. This is the place where advertisers have gone back, time and time again, to drive their sales.

With Facebook stepping up their ad products, we’re hoping it’ll be a great source of new customers, and provide advertisers with increased scale and higher revenue across the board. As a secondary benefit, the streamlined solution could help advertisers save time, reduce cost, and balance their budgets more effectively.

What tips would you like to share with Marin customers who are gearing up for the upcoming back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons?

Think about people-based marketing rather than channel-specific marketing. From the outset, we suggest that customers set up cross-channel campaigns and measure the impact to net revenue and ROI. The channel-specific team should still focus on channel-specific optimizations (creative, audience and bid optimizations in Facebook and product group, bid optimization in Google), but share cross-publisher learnings from platforms like Marin.

For more information on Smart Sync for Shopping, watch the video.

Key Takeaways:

  • Depending on your business, consider people-based marketing rather than channel-specific marketing – or utilize a hybrid of both.
  • Suggest that customers set up cross-channel campaigns, and measure the impact to net revenue and ROI.
  • A streamlined, cross-channel solution could help advertisers save time, reduce cost, and balance their budgets more effectively.

How to Maximize the Value of Your Product Feed

By June 16th, 2016

How do you get your product feed in front of as many eyes as possible? Are you using Facebook Dynamic Product Ads? Just Google Shopping? Do you have an effective social prospecting strategy? Do you know how to get your product ads in front of people who’ve never seen them before?

If your answer to any of these questions is “meh,” then this blog post is for you.

How to Get More People to See Your Product Feed

There are two ways to get your products in front of potential customers on the web today:

  • Paid placement (cost-per-click)
  • Marketplace (revenue share)

If you’re a retailer, it’s in your best interest to blast your product feed far and wide to make sure your product is available whether a potential customer is searching for it on Google or Amazon, or browsing the Yahoo News feed. Heck, maybe they just need a reminder that they didn’t complete their purchase of those cute red pumps.

The obvious next question is—how do I ensure my product is reaching all my potential customers across the many channels and publishers on the web? Full-blown shopping capabilities allow you to get your products in front of millions of customers through all the major paid avenues—and all the leading marketplaces like Amazon and eBay—from a single product feed. This is the easiest way to execute a true “omni-channel shopping campaign.” (Request a demo to find out how we can help you do this.) 

Facebook DPA: The Value Proposition

Facebook Dynamic Product Ads (DPA) help you promote relevant products to shoppers browsing your product catalog. Once they’ve visited your website or mobile application, you can retarget them on Facebook with the specific products they showed interest in, dynamically displayed with information from your product feed (price, name, in stock or not, etc.).

There are several great things you can do with DPA:

  • Upsell or cross-sell campaigns to increase the chances of selling complimentary, relevant products to your customers.
  • Show your products to people who haven’t seen them.
  • Reach audiences no matter what channel, publisher, or device they’re on.

Here’s how this works.

Upsell and Cross-sell

Suppose a shopper buys a pair of designer shoes online, and then they see an ad for handbags from the same designer. By showing products related to what a customer orders, you increase your average order value and customer lifetime value. Upsell and cross-sell campaigns automatically extend the reach of your campaigns, and increase the chances of selling relevant incremental products.

Prospecting

With a prospecting campaign, you can offer products from your catalog to new audiences most likely to use your products (by way of a Facebook algorithm or dynamic ads across the web). This feature is meant to give you an optimal workflow—one that allows you to bulk-edit ads and duplicate DPA campaigns for retargeting, upsell, or cross-sell, all in one function.

So, for example, instead of having four separate campaigns and workflows, you can create just one workflow that handles everything you would’ve included in those disparate campaigns.

A small number of Facebook partners (including Marin) can edit product sets, add URL tags, choose creative templates, and see full previews as you make selections. These features have excellent workflow capabilities, so they deliver both fantastic targeting and ease of use. Contact us to learn more.

Shopping

Having shopping campaigns on both Google and Facebook catapults the power and performance of your product feed. Do you have the time and resources, though, to manage your shopping campaigns on two different platforms?

If you do, you should definitely include your product feed on both channels to extend your reach. If you don’t, Marin’s Smart Sync for Shopping feature automatically clones and syncs your shopping campaigns from Google to Facebook, eliminating the need for lengthy IT support. With Marin Display, you can use your same product feed to run prospecting campaigns to those outside Google and Facebook.

About Those Omni-Channel Campaigns….

Even more powerful than Google Shopping or Facebook DPA alone, omni-channel distribution allows you to advertise across a wide array of channels and publishers—native, search, social, eBay, Amazon shopping…the list of both paid and non-paid platforms goes on.

Distribution1

Distribution2

To wring every last drop of value from your product feed, you should showcase it through as many online venues as you can. You should also make sure you’re constantly optimizing your feed for the greatest possible returns.

A Word on Cross-Channel Advertising

Retailers who combine all of the above functionality with display retargeting can boast of having a full cross-channel solution, one that automatically puts in overtime to expand your reach and boost revenue. Make sure you’re taking advantage of all channels, and heighten your brand effectiveness in time for back-to-school and the Q4 holiday season.

Digital advertising is a fast-evolving organism. For retailers, this means constantly looking for new ways to meet and exceed business goals. Promoting your product catalog across channels is a powerful way to upsell existing customers and for finding new ones. To learn more about how Marin can help, request a demo.

Your Guilt-Free Webinar Binge Watching List for This Summer

By June 13th, 2016

Summer. It’s the time of year when I get serious about my binge watching. All of my shows are off the air, and I have precisely two months between the airing of the finale of Game of Thrones (Cleganebowl will be a thing) and Nathan Adrian’s first swim in the Rio Olympics.

But I would never limit my binge watching to just my personal time. I’m always happy to fall down the YouTube rabbit hole at work, and really, so should you with this hit list of Marin’s most popular and highest rated webinars. My colleague Maria shared a fantastic roundup of our best quickie blog reads, but our educational, half-hour to hour-long best practices webcasts are the sort of content you want to chill out with on a long summer workday.

  1. Your Guide to Native Advertising: Best Practices for Commanding Audience Attention (35 minutes)
    National native advertising spend ballooned to $10.7 billion in 2015, a 150% increase over only two years before. There’s no better time than now to learn how to take advantage of its ability to connect and attract the attention of your target audience.
  1. Scale and Optimize Your Social Campaigns Starting Now (40 minutes)
    We joined forces with our partner, Twitter, for this educational webcast on how to best leverage direct response advertising and utilize Twitter’s ad environment in combination with your search and display campaigns.
  1. The Newest Way to Reach and Convert Facebook’s 1.4 Billion Users (55 minutes)
    In this webinar, one of our most popular ever, we teamed up with our partner, Facebook, to tackle the topic of Facebook Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs). Are you taking full advantage of Facebook DPAs to promote your product catalogs? We discuss best practices for utilizing this feature to zero in on your best consumers and boost sales.
  1. The Path to Mobile Advertising Success (40 minutes)
    Whether you’re a skeptic who doesn’t see a reason for mobile to be a top priority, an advertiser unclear on how mobile bid adjustments work, or a seasoned mobile marketer looking for advanced recommendations to improve your mobile game plan, Google’s outlook on the future of mobile and Marin’s mobile-optimized advertising strategies will set you on the path to mobile success. Another partner webinar! This time it’s Google.
  1. Increase Your Display Advertising Performance with Image Optimization (40 minutes)
    Approximately 5.3 trillion display ads are served to U.S. users per year. Yet historically, the click-through rate of display ads is less than .1%. How can display advertisers leverage image optimization to increase performance and gain insights? Marin Software and Boost Media give you answers. 
  1. Integrated Search and Social Advertising: Transforming Trends & Tactics into Revenue (55 minutes)
    It’s an oldie but goodie. We’re joined by one of our agency partners, iProspect, for a webinar on integrating your search and social strategies. We walk through 15 proven tactics to help you better manage, measure, and optimize your campaigns for improved ROI and maximum customer lifetime value.
  1. 8 Reasons View-through Attribution Should be Working for You (30 minutes)
    This webcast provides viewers an introduction to and better understanding of the value and necessity of view-through conversions. It also offers best practices to drive more profitable display ad spend.

It may not rival your Battlestar Galactica binge watch, but it’s the only one you can get away with at work, so happy viewing, online marketers!

 

Get Your Creative Ready for Google’s Expanded Text Ads

By May 31st, 2016

This is a guest post from Sarah Burns, Content Manager
at Boost Media.

By now, you’ve heard about Google’s Expanded Text Ads. This is big news for search engine marketers. Initial Google reports cite click-through rate increases of up to 20% for some advertisers. With more than nine billion ads impacted by Google’s change, a massive amount of copywriting is required to adapt.

All advertisers will have to react quickly, and spend more marketing dollars to adjust and profit—or else miss out on a huge opportunity. What can you do now?

Start planning early

Advertisers who move fast and adapt to the new format stand to benefit in two ways:

  • Leveraging the additional creative real estate allows you to weave in new messages as you communicate to your customers, resulting in more clicks and purchases.
  • Ads in the new format will look more aesthetically appealing, compared to the older ads that advertisers who don’t switch over will have to settle for.

Don’t rely on the traditional methods

The new format allows for an extra headline with more characters, a longer description line, and a customizable URL. Don’t waste the extra space by employing Excel spreadsheets or ad templates to update ads. The traditional methods won’t work for a seminal shift of this scope.

Mashing description lines one and two together will leave you with a confusing and disparate message. Most advertisers write the two lines of text as separate ideas, and when they’re pushed together, they don’t flow as a logical and cohesive message.

Where to go from here

Advertisers need a solution that makes it possible to write and rewrite ads in the new format with speed, quality, and scale. Through an exclusive partnership with Boost Media, Marin Software has an automated tool that can rewrite your ads to be ETA-compatible. If you’d like to get up and running on ETA ads today, you can get started here.

 

About the Author

sarahSarah manages Content Marketing at Boost Media and leads a team of marketing professionals to drive revenue through complex B2B marketing campaigns in the ad tech industry. Prior to joining Boost, Sarah developed marketing and sales strategy at BNY Mellon, a top 10 private wealth management firm. In a former life, Sarah worked in journalism writing for magazines including Boston Magazine, The Improper Bostonian, and Luxury Travel. When she’s not writing engaging content, Sarah enjoys cooking, running, and yoga.

About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale. The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Expanded Text Ads, but Weren’t Afraid to Ask

By May 27th, 2016

In today’s blog post, we’re focused on three topics: sharing results from early Expanded Text Ad users, discussing support for Expanded Text Ads in the Adwords API and a brief discussion of automated transition options to get you on Expanded Text Ads quickly and profitably. If you’re unclear what Expanded Text Ads are, read our full coverage here and then come back to read our in-depth coverage in this post.

Case Study – Expanded Text Ads

As the largest partner in the Adwords ecosystem, Marin was fortunate to be in a position to help many of the advertisers invited into the early beta program for Expanded Text Ads. In today’s blog post, we’d like to share with you a few of the insights we’ve learned from our early exposure.

How will Expanded Text Ads impact my performance?

Google’s introduction of dual headlines, both with longer character limits than its predecessor, creates a problem that some marketers will find easier to solve than others. We all know how important well written copy is to connect with your target audience, and ultimately run a profitable campaign. From our early exposure to Expanded Text Ads, choosing the right strategy for the new dual headline format will separate the winners from the losers.

Performance Gains Aided by Creativity

In one instance, we observed a customer who fully embraced the dual headline capabilities by not only rewriting their ad copy, but fully changing their message to better suit the additional characters now at their disposal. This customer realized a tremendous engagement lift that exceeded our expectations (+50%). An increase in engagement can be unprofitable if conversions do not also increase at a similar cadence. We were impressed (and relieved) when we observed that conversions increased in lockstep (+70%).

There’s no doubt that the increased engagement was due in part to the enlarged footprint of the Expanded Text Ads format. But, based on other observations, it’s clear to us that the larger footprint does not account for all of this improvement. We believe that this customer’s decision to not only rewrite, but fully rework their creative was the key to their above average results. We applaud their savvy embrace of Expanded Text Ads and would be happy to speak with anyone who is struggling with how to get started, or looking for an experienced team to help guide their transition planning. Please contact us here for more information.

API Timings

As expected, this landmark change in Adwords has created a beehive of stories, speculation, and misinformation. One point of contention in the Adwords Partner Ecosystem is timing to support Expanded Text Ads. We’d like to touch on this topic for a moment.

Our Heritage – Partner in your Success

Marin Software recently celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary, and I’ve personally been a member of the team for 8 of them. During our time in business, we’ve prided ourselves on being a true partner to our customers. And as a partner, we’ve always been transparent on our timeline to support new API features. We’d like to remind our readers that, unfortunately, the same can not be said for all software partners that operate in the Adwords ecosystem.

For example, anyone who claimed to offer immediate Expanded Text Ad support on the day of Google’s announcement (5/24/16) was not telling you the full truth. We know this because Google just released support in the Adwords API for Expanded Text Ads today (5/27/16). Three days after the original feature announcement. We’ve been discussing this change with Google for over a month, and Google did not give preferential treatment to any partners.

Now that the API has been upgraded to support Expanded Text Ads, we’ll continue executing our plan to incorporate them into Marin Software’s platform. We’ve been advised that our timeline ranks amongst the fastest to support Expanded Text Ads in the partner ecosystem.

Automated Transition Options for Expanded Text Ads

Given the promising results from early testing of Expanded Text Ads, Marin is encouraging our customers to actively plan their transition to reap the rewards. As a partner in our customer’s success we’ve designed two ways to help you get up and running on Expanded Text Ads quickly and profitably.

Option 1 – Ad Rewrite

For advertisers who would like help rewriting their ads, Marin Software has an exclusive partnership with Boost Media. By tapping into Boost Media’s network, you’ll get access to hundreds of professional writers who will create new, optimized creative for the Expanded Text Ads format. We believe the ROI of working with Boost will yield tremendous results for all of our advertisers. If you would like to learn more, please contact us here.

Option 2 – Transition Planning

For advertisers who would like strategic help, Marin’s Center of Excellence is staffed with experts ready to run a marginal analysis on your accounts and create a roadmap of the most profitable path for your program as you begin the transition to Expanded Text Ads. The demand for this service has been overwhelming, we encourage you to contact us to get started today.

Exciting times! Stay tuned for continuing coverage on Expanded Text Ads and the other announcements from the Google Performance Summit.

Google’s Expanded Text Ads – Things to Know and What to Do Now

By May 24th, 2016

Google has made a historic change to its creative format with the introduction of a mobile optimized format called “Expanded Text Ads” (ETA). In this post, we provide information to help you understand what’s changing, why it’s a positive thing, and how to automatically make your existing ads ETA-compatible. (Pro tip: Skip to the end of this article if that last point is what you’re after.)

What Are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads are a mobile-optimized ad-format designed to maximize an advertiser’s performance in mobile search results. This is accomplished by providing the advertiser significantly more ad copy to highlight their product or service. Expanded Text Ads also apply to desktop search results.

This change is a big deal because it’s a fundamental shift away from the legacy AdWords text ad format that’s existed for well over a decade. As such, this change will require every AdWords advertiser to rewrite their ads to be ETA-compatible. To learn how to automatically do this, skip ahead to the end of this post.

What’s Changing, Exactly?

Advertisers now have two headlines instead of one, and these headlines are joined with a hyphen. The good news – this copy expansion allows ads to occupy 50% more space on the search results page. Early results indicate that this increased presence improves CTR, which makes sense when you compare the old format (left) to the new format (right):

ETAs

Here are the nitty-gritty details:

  • Headline 1 and headline 2 are 30 characters each. This is a 240% increase over legacy text ads, which historically had just one headline and a 25-character maximum.
  • For the description line, the character count is also increasing. Instead of two 35-character description lines, there’s just one that’s 80 characters.
  • The display URL will now be automatically extracted from your destination URL. You can set up to two path fields like “golf” and “shoes” (e.g., www.powpowsports.com/golf/shoes).

As marketers, we’re excited by all of these updates, and think that the addition of a new headline is only going to help performance, especially in a mobile world.

A Positive Change, for Multiple Reasons

Why is this change a net-positive for advertisers?

  • You gain a new, second headline.
  • More characters for longer messaging increase the odds of connecting with your target audience.
  • We’re seeing better overall performance in our early results.

Why is Google Making This Change?

A couple of obvious questions are: Why is Google making this change? And why now?

The short answer: Consumers have shifted to mobile as their primary method of accessing the Internet. And, advertising dollars are following in rapid succession. eMarketer estimates that in 2016, over 60% of all digital advertising spend will go to mobile. It’s also expected that mobile will continue to gobble up market share through 2020.

Google is staying ahead of this trend by shifting to mobile-optimized ads, which is consistent with the elimination of right-hand ads back in February. In the next 12-24 months, we should see more mobile-centric changes from all major publishers, as they train their attention on perfecting mobile monetization.

How Can I Automatically Make My Ads ETA-Compatible?

Through an exclusive partnership with Boost Media, Marin Software has an automated tool that can rewrite your ads to be ETA-compatible. If you’d like to get up and running on ETA ads today, you can get started here.

Stay tuned for more details, insights, and data as we continue to report on Expanded Text Ads.

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