Tag Archives: retargeting

Advertising At The Right Place but At The Wrong Time

The main rule in contextual advertising is simple:

Ensure that your contextual advertising is done on right context.

Sounds redundant but it isn´t. Let me show an example of advertising aimed at particular time-of-the-day:

Hmm, it is 11AM on Monday morning. I have barely woken up. I don´t necessarily want to be up, but generally if you work at the office you don´t have choice. Or are you referring to my stand-up desk?

I don´t even know what I will do tomorrow, not to mention knowing will I oversleep or not. I was planning to go sleep early, but do you know more about my Netflix addiction?

I have already eaten breakfast and I am already dreaming about my lunch. Would you have any lunch deals? Or will you be targeting those ads at my dinner time?

This ad was definitely at the right place because I noticed it. Probably in the media report it will also be really effective because I replayed it zillion times to get proper screenshots. So probably we will get more of this kind of lazy targeting in the future.

In many ways the opportunities in digital media are really interesting right now: ability to target people at the right place, right time and to retarget based on their behavior is fascinating. Unfortunately media and the media agencies are too often just too damn lazy to really utilize these opportunities, or just plain creepy.

This experience was not without silver lining, it reminded me to listen this awesome song by Dr. John to cheer up my Monday:

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The Difference Between Invasive and Innovative Advertising is The Interest

I have mentioned earlier that I practice CrossFit. As a part of the addiction, I have become a victim of advertising and started spending on CrossFit apparel. When I started to train, it was ok to just go with regular running sneakers and whatever gear you had. Now I have different shoes for weightlifting and other exercises. I cannot even think of going back to training with normal (read: non-branded but equally functioning apparel).

Talk about taking your own medicine.

I was reminded of my Crossfit-addiction, when I noticed this ad on my Gmail:


I had not heard about the brand (Rhone) before, but it had the magic words that sparked my interest and also a discount. Discount is an interesting thing: if you are offered it, it already feels like bargain before you even know the starting price. Uncharacteristically I clicked on the ad (which was probably the first Gmail ad I have clicked ever).

The site offered apparently sweat and smell-proof shirts with quite steep prices. With my excessive sweating and vain ways I am of course the ideal target audience. After checking a while there came a pop-up which offered an opportunity to participate in lottery. Discount is interesting, but even more interesting is an opportunity to win something for free.


Naturally I signed up, so they have now my contact details.

After that I have been encountering Rhone advertising in my FB feed. They have been smartly changing the picture so I have noticed it every time:



Again uncharacteristically I clicked and again there was a pop-up with time-limited offer:


Nothing Rhone does is crazy innovative or cutting edge: just simple retargeting. They are essentially using the oldest bribes in marketing world: discount, rewards, exclusivity and lucky draw. If I would encounter as much communications from a brand in different field I would be super pissed off. Now I am more delighted and pondering should I actually test those shirts. That is exactly what smart marketing should do. From the starting point of not even knowing the brand, becoming a potential buyer within only a week is quite a feat.

So the lesson is: if you are able to find audience with natural interest, you can almost borderline spam them if you offer them something rewarding. People get touchy about marketing when it is totally irrelevant for them. It is not so much about what you say, but to whom you say it.

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Why You Should Still Care About Banners?

No one likes banners.

They are not as sexy as “native advertising” opportunities. Although native advertising is a little bit like gluten, no one really knows what that means.

Banners are not as effective as search marketing. And when we rave about social media and mobile, display advertising is seldom part of that equation (although they are present in both).

Display ads are more of an afterthought. Sausage factory agencies churn mediocre banners out to keep junior designers busy.

But here is the disturbing thing:

Banners still account for 32% of online ad spent. Over one-third of online media investment is going to a format no one could care less. How can that be?

Main reason is laziness. Lazy marketers substitute lack of great idea by producing mediocre or lackluster display advertising to just fill the media space. Lazy agencies do not put any creative thinking behind banners and just do the bare minimum standard static formats.

So banners are not really dead, majority of them just looks really bad.

In last couple of years there has been plenty of innovation within online display advertising. Unfortunately many still live in 90´s banner advertising and have not really recognized the opportunities banners have. NEWSFLASH: banners can and should still play a role in your online advertising. Here are three reasons why:

1. Banners can be more relevant & effective

Thanks to real-time bidding and retargeting, we are able to catch the user based on their behavior. Within right amount of video, search, social media and display advertising we can have relevant message to our audience at the right time throughout their whole digital journey. Banners are not anymore random colorful announcements to buy Viagra, but can truly add value to the consumers based on their online usage.

There are naturally still some growing pains within some shady ad networks and disturbing retargeting, but mainly the future of online display looks more optimized and effective.

2. Banners are now more flexible

Thank you HTML5.

It used to be pain-in-ass to do really kick-ass rich media banners. They cost a lot and needed extra work and multiple rounds with media outlets. You had to mess with Flash and eventually they would not work in mobile devices. Nowadays you have highly innovative ad units straight off the shelves, which work in any device. You do not need to limit yourselves only standard formats anymore. You can innovate more, while still being able to use the reach of ad network.

3. Banners are now more innovative

At the end of the day, it is the creativity you put onto the table, which separates the great brands from mediocre ones.

I agree that banners are the print ads of the digital.

Good creative print ad still works. It gets noticed. It sparks emotion. It makes you think.

That is the first goal for banner as well. With digital you can take it to the next level. You can surprise, delight and interact with the consumer in a way that static ad never can. Just because majority of banner ads are done really badly does not mean they could not be done well. For passionate creative display ads provide great opportunity to flex creative muscle. Just look at this example connecting banners to real-time:

I also recommend watching this “behind-the-scenes” clip about creating the above Nike Phenomenal Shot. Important quote is that you can create “app-like experiences within the ad”. Quite seldom that is the way we approach display advertising, although we probably should.

Online advertising is not a zero-sum game and wise marketers use multiple channels to get results. Brands need to be digital-first and comparing different formats in isolation is not really beneficial. It is about how they work together.

For example, it is not surprising in the studies that pre-rolls work better than traditional display. Pre-rolls are highly forced one-way interruption and also cost more than display (in terms of media and production). How can you compare interactive display ad unit with high engagement rate to just forcing your TVC as a non-skippable pre-roll? Well, you can´t. Pre-rolls play a role in digital marketing mix. And so do banners. And as long we spending shitloads of money to do and show them, could we make them count?

Digital-savvy brands have first and foremost strong creative ideas to catch the attention and interest of their audience. These brands are also fast to adapt and optimize their online media mix to make every dollar count.

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Who Will Be The Master of Internet Universe?

Web is dead.

That is the title of one of the greatest articles ever written about digital revolution four years ago to Wired. The main points about that brilliant piece are still valid, although speed of mobile revolution surprised many of the players for a while. The main idea of the story is that web starts to resemble more and more traditional industry with handful of players. Web is oligopoly and certain verticals almost resemble monopolies.

If you simplify the consumer-facing web business (so I am excluding infrastructure and other boring things which is where the real money is), it is about three things: products, commerce & advertising. Products enable you to connect to the Internet: smartphones, computers, watches, television sets, fridges and whatnot. Commerce is about being able to buy things from Internet and advertising is what it is: bombarding you with messages to buy more stuff.

Product category as we know it will eventually be commoditized. If you want to remain premium, you have to innovate constantly. That is the only way to remain luxury brand in this realm. Cheap smartphones will eventually beat the premium ones. In the future you are able to connect to Internet in whatever device and you do not really have to pay that much of that privilege.
Where the growth will come? Wearables can be the future winner product category, although they have not really yet taken off. The changes are rapid though. iPad was launched only four years ago, created totally new category and is currently at risk of vanishing because of the phablets. So is the life.
Current champions: Apple, Samsung
Challengers: Xiaomi and other cheap manufacturers
Disrupters: Luxury brands (Would connectivity enhance Rolex? I say not, but I might be wrong as well)

Commerce will become even bigger and you are able to buy pretty much everything online. Will all the physical retail vanish? Not necessarily, but the point is not about that. It is about that you are able to buy everything online, and majority of people will do exactly that, because it is more convenient and affordable.
Commerce is the biggest opportunity and a space I follow most closely. Strong brands will definitely start to create their own online retail experiences, which would enable them to bypass the more traditional retail channels. In the next decade there will be lots of turmoil in this category and many big players will fall and new challengers will arise. Biggest challenges are not that much about technology (lots of payment innovations happening), but about logistics.
Second interesting point is that idea of commerce has changed with shared economy. Both Uber and AirBnB are selling physical service, which would not be possible without digital channel. How far collaborative economy can be stretched remains to be seen. It can potentially be really big disruptor to the way we do business in general.
Last point about commerce is the ecosystem approach. Apple makes money constantly through App Store by enabling others to make money. Facebook is building app ecosystem with the acquisition of Instagram, WhatsApp and Parse. Both Amazon and Alibaba are enabling developers to build things on their platform.
Current Champions: Amazon, AliBaba, Ebay
Challengers: Google, Facebook, WeChat, Line, Apple (Apple Pay) 
Disrupters: Brands, FMCG brands, Collaborative economy players (Uber, Airbnb…)

Advertising will be important, because people will keep on buying stuff. Stuff makes us happy. More stuff makes us even happier. How are you able to buy that stuff if you do not know that it exists?
Will advertising become smarter in the future? Yes and no. In last decade or so, we have had one revolutionary advertising idea. That is SEM. You show people ads when they actually want to see ads. Contextual advertising and retargeting have been nice inventions, but mainly advertising is still based on interruption (some of it being more relevant like app install ads). One of the most innovative companies in the world, Facebook, makes most of its money by interrupting its users in various ways.
The advertising business is relatively simple: it is all about reach. All of the most successful advertising platforms are based on firstly to reach and then secondly the quality of those who you are reaching. That is unlikely to change. However, the biggest task is to try to narrow the gap between the interruption (advertising) and purchase (commerce). The monetary exchange is the only tangible KPI we have and less you have to travel to do it, the better.

Current Champions: Google, Facebook
Challengers: WeChat, Line, Twitter (was tempted to leave it out completely, but I give it a shot still), “Traditional media companies”(although I do not really have high hopes for their complete digital transformation, but they will remain influential on this space as well)
Disrupters: Amazon (the closer you are to the actual transaction, the less you have to interrupt), Content owners (although none of them has done any major moves and have mainly milked the status quo)

The lines are naturally blurry. The quote from Eric Schmidt summarizes the whole situation:

Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

That is also the reason why these big companies are testing weird things and buying obscure companies. Internet has made it easier to disrupt a category and also connect categories in new way. Facebook & Google test drones, so it can bring Internet the people who don´t have it yet. Thus increasing the reach. Amazon tests drones, because shipping is the biggest bottleneck of eCommerce. When your business can start to flourish rapidly, it can also vanish rapidly. There is no time to sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death.

What do you think, who will become the master of the Internet universe?

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Disturbing Retargeting Pt.2

Speaking of retargeting, this creepy ad popped in my screen today:
Creepy retargeting
No, I do not remember that one time I visited your weird site. And even if I would remember, I would surely want to forget that time. Why I would want to visit sites with bald guys with glasses with weird look on them? Was I drunk? Is there something else I should remember? Or try to forget?

I did not click the ad, although I googled the company. Apparently they are company offering retargeting services. Go figure. Probably visited their site when I was writing the post about retargeting last week.

They continued bombarding me with that scary dude later on:
No shit, Sherlock.

Catching the attention is one thing.
Catching relevant attention which converts to engagement is other.
The latter requires more finesse.

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Retargeting: The Thin Line Between Hyper-Effective & Hyper-Creepy

During the last year the amount of behavioral retargeting has exploded. In layman´s terms retargeting means:

1) You visit brand site for the reason X.
2) They attach cookie to you, which enables them to detect you when you are surfing on other sites.
3) The brand starts stalking you and populates majority of the sites you are visiting with their ads (as majority of sites sell at least part of their ad inventory through ad networks).
4) Retargeting has usually quite high ROI as it usually employs RTB (another media buzzword). Real-time bidding is explained in the video below:

How Real-Time Bidding (RTB) Works (in 30 Seconds) from Dr. SiteScout on Vimeo.

5) Eventually you break and buy something from the brand.
6) Or you are just super annoyed and block all the ads.

Don´t get me wrong. I think retargeting is a great asset in your digital toolbox like programmatic marketing in general. However, it is not the silver bullet that some vendors make it out to be. The hype around programmatic buying resembles little bit the over-excitement around SEO/SEM few years back. Too often retargeting is done too sloppily and you are harassed by irrelevant brand message because you almost accidentally happened to visit brand site. Visit is quite often too weak metric for retargeting especially if combined with a generic message.

Recently I visited these two retail websites (Dodocase, Mutewatch) and got served these retargeted ads:

Dodocase Retargeted AD


Guess which one I clicked and also bought from?

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