All Posts By

James Murphy

Online advertising

Headlines that perform: Why your creative matters

By | Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, main blog, Native advertising

There’s a task in The Apprentice where the candidates have to make some adverts – usually TV, but more recently audio and digital OOH. Each year, without fail, Lord Sugar will berate one of the teams for producing an ad which doesn’t clearly portray the product. Here, for example, is a classic of the genre – adverts for two tissue brands…

“I don’t know what your bloody adverts about!” shouts Sir Alan to the producers of the ‘I Love My Tissues’ ad. The rival team, having created ‘Atishu’, win the task with a “…horrible advert, a horrible box” because they sold the product, it’s features, and benefits in the ad.

There is, of course, a place for high-end branding ads which barely mention the product, but in all honestly a new tissue brand probably isn’t it. But it’s not just apprentices that sometimes forget that the end user needs to understand what you’re in the business of selling! You can have all the digital adtech and targeting in the world, but if your creative is unclear, it’s unlikely to perform.

Here’s some anonymised ads (both direct response and sponsored content) headlines I’ve seen recently online:

Headline: Time for change Sponsored by: B2B Brand 

A change in your business, a change in their business, a change in the world? It wasn’t clear who the change was aimed at, what the change was, or who the change benefits. When we create headlines (and select images) for native sponsored content, we always think about the end user – what benefit will they get from spending time with this content? If there isn’t any clear reason to click, it’s destined to underperform even if what it’s clicking to is actually good.

Headline: Save £300 with our early bird pricing Sponsored by: Consumer Brand

I was unaware of the brand, so didn’t know what they sell. The image was of some electrical equipment, but it wasn’t clear what it was for, or what it did!

Outside of the very biggest brands, you should never assume that even your target audience has heard of you. Start with the basics – features and benefits! Features describes what the product does, benefits describe how buying this product can help you. So, how do you cover all of this in a snappy headline with a short character limit? Here’s a headline we recently ran for a water softener company:

Why a water softener is the ultimate beauty hack”

So, in 40 characters we’ve explained what we are selling and how it can benefit you. If you were considering a water softener, you can discover how it may help you look your best, if you weren’t considering a water softener but beauty is a priority in your life, you may well be enticed to see how it could help you achieve better skin. Put simply, it works both ways.

Here’s five essentials for producing crystal clear headlines that work for your audience…

5 ways to create headlines that perform

Be prescriptive. A prescriptive statement is stating what should happen, and in the context of advertising, that something desirable should happen if you follow our instruction. “Looking for promotion? Study at TAN University to boost your prospects”.

Be relevant. Clickbait only annoys the user and will result in poor results when they realise the headline isn’t related to the content.

Be positive. Think about the benefits to the reader’s life. Explain how buying this house will cut their commute in the headline.

Be educational. Think about the value exchange with the reader. Provide useful information they’ll find useful – the more engaging it is, the longer they’ll spend with your brand and content.

Be aspirational. Use emotive, aspirational adjectives. Words like stylish, amazing, luxury, stunning, dream, perfect – promise something valuable or emotionally stimulating, and in turn, generate high CTRs.

 

Influencers on mobile

For influencers with impact, look closer to home…

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog, Uncategorized

It’s been a rough couple of months for influencers. From ‘working’ holiday trips in the peak of the pandemic, to being caught using filters to boost the results of beauty products, it’s fair to say the general public’s view of those who ‘insta’ for a living is probably at an all-time low.

Pre-COVID, YouGov and Grey London found 96% of people do not trust influencers, as what started as a once noble profession, spiralled out of control. Has this stopped brands working with influencers? Nope. Not when the majority of millennials admit to having been influenced by a social media content creator, and that despite growing mistrust in social media platforms, 25% of us say we are using them more.

Are all influencers the same?

So, what counts as an influencer? Well, the dictionary definition is quite simply “a person or thing that influences another.” In marketing terms, we expand this to include the idea that this person has the ability to boost their audience’s purchase intent of a particular product or service though content. But are all influencers someone we haven’t met, or someone being paid by a brand to promote their wares? Quite simply, no. There are more credible unpaid influencers right under your nose…

It’s often said that the very best form of advertising is word of mouth, but is that an analogue proposition in a digital age? Not quite – according to Nielsen, 92% percent of worldwide consumers say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. But the word-of-mouth recommendation has to start somewhere – so if the recommender hasn’t themselves used the product or service; how do they recommend?

So, what if the information came from the brand and the message was delivered by word-of-mouth? Well, that’s what we’ve been measuring digitally for the past six years – we look at how many people have read brand content in our premium publisher environments in two ways: article page reads where the user has come through a sponsored headline unit, and reads from those who have arrived by way of a shared link.

Growth of messaging apps

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 as they viewed it as a major rival with explosive growth – they were right. In the UK, around 80% of 18-44s use the platform – it has 50% more users than Instagram. You might not think of them as direct competitors, but they both do the same thing, share content – it’s just one is in private, and one is in public.

Social Platform users graph

Which brings us back to our analysis of sharing across out network. Six years ago, the majority of sharing we saw was public – on Facebook and Twitter (via the sharing buttons on articles), now it’s private – sending the URL via What’s app, iMessage, email. On many campaigns, we’ll see hundreds of additional reads registered this way – essentially word-of-mouth delivery from your family or friends, and we all know the power of a personal recommendation.

We run across every vertical from B2B to Travel, but I wanted to look at some of the best performing campaigns we’ve seen recently over a selection of categories. 

Sharing percentages by vertical graph

As you can see, one clearing campaign for a university achieved almost a quarter of its page views via sharing – the content focused on what university was going to look like in September 2020, so answered many prospective students’ questions in an uncertain time. Other verticals that performed well were property (How to buy an apartment in London for under 400k), and Home & Garden (How to get a fantastic lawn in time for summer). So, what’s the recipe for success?

What makes content sharable?

The value exchange: either lots of insightful details about a product or service I think you’ll be interested in, or brand content that provides useful tips and tricks to help the user

Trust and Authority: A university writing about how to complete your UCAS application, a housing developer explaining how Help to Buy works, a haircare brand with tips for keeping your lockdown locks perfect. There must be synergy between the brand and the content

Well-structured content: 75%+ of traffic is mobile and it’s likely that your content will be shared on mobile, so think short punchy paragraphs, bullets, bold and sub-headlines that help navigate the user through the content

So next time the discussion turns to influencers, consider the value of engaging brand content in credible publisher environments. Get it right and it could well have the additional impact of being sent by the ultimate influencers – friends and family!

 

internet video conference with friends

The language of now: Communicating during COVID

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, main blog

It there was a prize for the most hated phrase of the year, I’ll happily bet you a socially distanced pint that “The new normal” would walk any public vote. I think the level of hatred is justified for two reasons: 1) It’s overuse in absolutely everything, from B2B marketing, to signs in your local pub 2) It’s incredibly depressing – basically you’re saying what you are experiencing now (which is invariably worse than what went before) is here, without an end date, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Positivity matters

So, how do you express that things are different right now, but in a positive way that makes people want to engage, rather than resent?

We’ve been experimenting with the language used in many of our campaigns – emphasising the positives of now and avoiding the negatives. We’ve seen lifts in performance when thinking this way – from highlighting outside space in property headlines, to articles explaining the many reasons why you shouldn’t wait to start a university course – keeping it positive: what CAN you do right now, rather than what you can’t.

Looking forward, not back

Many recent campaigns have chosen to focus on what we’ve been missing these past few months. The now notorious Detol ads were positive in their tone, they just mistook some of the things we really cared for – turns out we didn’t really miss many features of office life! I’d also argue that we’re now at a point where copy should be looking forward, rather than back, at a period of time many of us would rather forget. Here’s a more forward-looking campaign running now for LNER:

LNER Advert - Dad with son at BBQ

They stray dangerously close to the NN with the use of the word normal, but this feels warm, rather than annoying. YES! I am ready for a BBQ with my Dad – great, something genuinely good to look forward to.

Christmas is coming

There’s no doubt Christmas is going to look quite different this year and brands are going to have to negotiate a tight line between celebration, and the realisation that we are still very much in the middle of a global pandemic. When thinking about Christmas 2020 content, here’s three things to consider:

1. Look forward, not back. People are understandably fed up

2. Think about what people want right now. Family trumps consumerism – research from Havas found that nearly half of all shoppers it surveyed in the UK cared less about Black Friday this year

3. How can your product or service make someone’s life better? Give reasons to be optimistic.

Here’s to looking forward to all the good stuff!

female shop assistant holding open sign

Business reopening? How to be reassuring…

By | Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

I’ve just bought a carpet. If you’d told me in January when we moved house that I’d have to make an appointment to visit Tapi Carpets, would be met by a lady in medical gloves wearing a full face visor, and be asked to sanitise my hands before so much as flipping through the shag, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s just what happened, and you know what, it didn’t feel as strange as I thought it would – we just got on with it. A few jokes about the store never being cleaner… “just imagine the germs that were on credit card terminals before – yuck!”… and we were done.

As I walked home, I started to think about the reason it didn’t feel that odd or unwelcoming. Obviously, we’re a few months into this now, so we kind of know that when we buy products or services it’s probably not going to be conducted how it was prior to COVID-19. However, I think the main reason it wasn’t completely weird was because Tapi did a great job in preparing me for the experience.

From the phone call booking the appointment, to the email setting out what to expect, everything was reassuring. We were told we’d be the only people in the store, that their staff “may look a little strange” in PPE, and that the credit card machine would be sanitised with “fluid alcohol or a bleach solution after each use”. This was their first day back open since the government closed all non-essential shops, and they nailed it.

The UK is nervous 

As someone not in a high-risk group, I’m more comfortable than many – we’ve already booked a holiday; I’d be fine getting on a plane in the next couple of months. In short, I’m not representative of the UK. According to a YouGov poll in April 2020, just 32% of us would feel comfortable going back into a pub or restaurant and only around half of adults would be happy to go back into a clothing store (54% men, 42% women). Given these findings, how businesses communicate reassurance is going to be key to attracting physical customers back.

Crafting comforting copy

We’re currently working on many campaigns which include reassuring copy – from a developer offering socially distanced show home viewings, to a university explaining why joining a virtual open day will be just as good as being there in person. Here’s three things to think about when writing re-opening copy:

1.     Be upfront. Don’t pretend that COVID-19 hasn’t changed things – we all know it has. Instead talk honestly about the changes you’ve had to make for the benefit of both your staff and customers

2.     Be detailed. Long form copy gives you the freedom to explain exactly how things will work. Unexpected surprises will unnerve those who are already anxious

3.     Be upbeat. It’s a positive that you’re able to serve your customers. Don’t focus on the negatives. Tapi told me about the “success” of their opening trial and some great reopening offers, not that I might have to wait for an appointment and can no longer just turn up to their stores

If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on brand content in the age of COVID-19, you can find them here

Family with two kids in masks in airport

Pitching for tourists: How and when to market post COVID-19 travel

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content Marketing, main blog, Uncategorized

Unquestionably, travel has been one of the hardest hit sectors since COVID-19 hit. New data from Pubmatic has revealed a 96% drop in ad spend from the first week of March to the second week of April, as country after country locked down, and airlines pulled flights.

As we hurtle towards June, we’re starting to see some green shoots, as thankfully infection rates decline across Europe. Flights are once again being scheduled, with British Airways predicting “a meaningful return” to the sky from July.    

The importance of tourism

Many countries who are heavily reliant on tourism, such as Spain and Italy (around 12 – 15% of GDP), already have plans to bring visitors back as soon as possible. Sicily announced that it will discount plane tickets and pay for every third night in hotels in an effort to lure back tourists. Spain’s tourism minister has said they hope to welcome foreign tourists back by the end of June.

After the banking crisis in which the country was badly hit, Iceland turned to tourism, which now accounts for 9% of GDP.  The country is already preparing for tourists in June who will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at Reykjavik airport.

In Britain, the focus has turned to domestic tourism to save the summer season. Visit Britain have proposed an extra bank holiday later this year to help businesses who were closed during the first stage of lockdown. Domestic tourism alone is worth £80 billion a year to the UK economy.

Advertising when?

The Irish Examiner recently reported that Tourism Ireland are tendering for a COVID-19 research programme. It’s essentially a piece of work designed to tell them when to begin marketing Ireland as a tourist destination again.

This week, Visit Scotland reported “a slow but steady return to traffic on visitscotland.com and an upturn in long lead (90+days) flight bookings.

Given the long consideration phase when booking a holiday (see our blog on Why long form content is key to influencing travellers) and strong signs that we’re moving to a more optimistic phase (see Why your brand content should now be optimistic), perhaps that time should be now?

Hitting the right notes

Getting the tone right in the current climate will be key – I’ve already seen some great campaigns including Visit Switzerland’s activity-packed “Dream now, travel later”…

Visit Britain have grouped a selection of quintessentially British content together, creating a hub containing everything from recipes you can make at home, to 360 degree videos, and articles on binge-worthy British TV shows.

Finally, Travel Saint Lucia have been hosting live streams twice a week, showcasing activities from kite surfing to live island sunsets. There’s also been interactive content you can join in with, from cooking classes to yoga classes with a stunning backdrop!

Remaining front of mind

All these campaigns have one thing in common – encouraging us to think ahead to when we can travel again. Those that remain front of mind will benefit the most when people start booking in serious numbers again.

Let us help you generate some wanderlust ahead of re-opening. Contact us today to see how we create and distribute inspiring on-brand travel content that performs.

 

Family seaside holiday

Why your brand content should now be optimistic

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content Marketing, main blog

I’ve just booked a holiday for the first week of January. Will it happen? Probably, but there is of course a chance that it won’t.  Does that matter? No, it’s fully refundable. Like many, I need something to look forward to. It seems I’m not the only one – social platform Pinterest has just released some interesting stats on where they believe consumer sentiment is right now.

Four phases based on consumer trends

Pinterest have split their timeframe into 4 parts:

Phase 1: Triage + Information (First 21 days)
Phase 2: Empathy + Relevance (Days 7-45)
Phase 3: Escapism + Optimism (Days 45-120)
Phase 4: Recovery + Rebound (-10 days from quarantine lift onward)

In the first few weeks of lockdown searches centred around recipes and things for kids to do. These have now levelled off in line with phase 3 according to the platform, with planning for the future now growing strongly. Thoughts have once again tuned to categories such as travel and wedding plans.

This mirrors what we’ve seen across our own network with engagement across food, home and garden performing exceptionally well during April and education campaigns for September university courses taking off during the past few weeks, as students plan their future.

The research phase lengthens

Whilst we may be entering a more optimistic phase, one thing that has changed is how we research potential purchases. New research from Bauer Media found that 32% of consumers now take longer to look up and consider a product or service than they did pre-lockdown. Notable category finds were that:

“59% spend longer when buying kitchen equipment, and 52% spend longer when purchasing entertainment electronics”

Cars, houses and holidays

We know big ticket items have a far longer funnel even in more normal times. As we explored in a previous travel blog, research from Expedia shows that in the 45 days before making a purchase, British consumers visit websites an average of 121 times!

The journey to purchasing a car typically lasts around 24 weeks according to Facebook research. 13 weeks of that time is spent researching and building knowledge online through content before a potential customer even sets foot inside a dealership.

Buying a new home can involve an even longer consideration period (16 months), with online research lasting 7 months before an active search begins according to the digital house hunt (Google).

Planning content ahead of trends 

Given that the research and consideration phase has more likely lengthened during lockdown, it makes sense to be in market with useful content to aid the buying journey now, ahead of expecting consumers to be comfortable with booking travel / visiting a dealership / viewing a show home.

Even if people aren’t ready to commit to booking the trip of a lifetime right now, they have almost certainly started the process. Producing and distributing optimistic content now will sow the seeds for conversion when the time is right.

 

Up arrow

2019 full-year IAB UK Adspend results: Unstoppable smartphones

By | Ad Spend, main blog

So, the full-year numbers are in – the UK’s digital advertising market is up 15.4% YOY and was worth an incredible £15.69bn in 2019.

We submit our spend numbers to PwC twice a year, along with 57 other participants, including all the major publishing and adtech companies.

The key takeaways this year are:

  • Smartphones account for almost all growth – up 26.7% YOY
  • Over half of all digital advertising (56%) is delivered on smartphones
  • Video remains the largest display format – making up 46%
  • Sponsored content spend increased 7% YOY
  • 95% of native advertising on smartphone appeared in-feed

Content formats

From a content perspective, both native and sponsored content registered increases in spend (up 9 and 7%) but it was video formats that experienced the majority of growth (34%) thanks to smartphones. In fact, smartphone video spend has doubled in two years thanks to the availability of 4G and faster handsets.

Video and social formats

Pre-mid-post roll video was overtaken by outstream in 2017 due to the scale offered by the format – it now makes up 62% (growing by £400m YOY) of all video spend including social. Talking of social – it now accounts for 23% of all digital adspend, with 25% growth YOY.

What the future holds

This year’s report is obviously released against the backdrop of COVID-19 but includes long-term Brexit uncertainty. Pre-COVID, GroupM’s 2020 forecast was for a 11.1% increase in online spend, nearly double the general ad market. As print and OOH suffer during the current lockdown, it remains to be seen if digital can pick up some of the slack until we return to some semblance of normality.

You can discover more & download the full report at https://iabuk.com/adspend

 

corona virus covid-19

Brand content in the age of COVID-19

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

We’re now several weeks in to living life as we’ve never known it before. Coronavirus has changed everyone’s plans, from that city break that never happened, to multimillion-pound ad campaigns. But in times of crisis there are opportunities for some brands, as consumers take comfort in certain products and look for leadership from companies they trust.

Let’s split this into three parts: who consumers want to be advertising, who is advertising and who is succeeding in advertising during these uncertain times. And when I say advertising, what I mean is communicating. If you’ve never read Jeremy Bullmore’s definition of “What Is Advertising” – perhaps now is a good time as it’s a great read – his 1976 definition basically stands true today:

‘Any paid-for communication intended to inform and/or influence one or more people.’

Who do the public want to hear from?

So, let’s start with who consumers want to be advertising. Rather than make the bold assumption that now is not the time to be communicating, selling, or even discussing coronavirus, Opinium asked the British public just that.

The first surprising finding was that majority or those surveyed wanted to hear the same amount or, in certain sectors, more from brands – it wasn’t deemed to be a time to go dark by most. Perhaps less surprising were the sectors people wanted to hear more from:

Healthcare and pharma – 33% wanted to hear more
Supermarkets – 33% wanted to hear more
Food and drink – 28% wanted to hear more
Retailers – 21% wanted to hear more
Household goods – 20% wanted to hear more

When looking at who should be fronting the messaging, the response, without question, was those in the front line, with influencers and celebrities coming bottom. Practical, authentic information is in demand during a time of crisis. A 12 market brand trust report from Edelman found that brands should sell solutions…

84% percent of respondents said they want brand advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges.”

Who’s active right now

Aside from the Government, the most active sectors according to Winmo have been FMCG (comfort food in particular), home improvement (homes & garden) and entertainment (subscription streaming services, toys, computer games). There’s also been a big shift in channels with OOH and print budgets shifting online. From our own perspective, we’ve seen incredible engagement with home and garden content as people spend every day at home looking at all the jobs they’ve put off!

Who’s succeeding

Brands seen to be adding value by directly helping with the crisis are generating plenty of brand love online – from Barbour manufacturing scrubs, to Tesco donating millions to food banks, but there’s also plenty of space for those brands helping the public maintain some sense of normativity – Nike, for example, has made it’s training club app free of charge.

We’re currently helping brands react to the new “new” by using long form content to communicate information. Our tips on how to communicate in a crisis are here, or feel free to get in touch to see how we can help you distribute brand content across premium publisher’s here.

 

Reading a morning newspaper

Communicating in a crisis

By | main blog

Well, that was a strange week. We’ve all been working from home for the past two weeks as thankfully we were already set up to work remotely, but this week has been the first under lockdown, with all our partners and clients “WFH”.

On the face of it, nothing has changed – many campaigns are still running, reporting and optimising continues; new content is being created – but in reality, everything has changed. Campaigns have been pulled; campaigns have been tweaked in record time to adjust to the new “new” – tactical content has been created in a flash. Here’s my thoughts on how to communicate in these difficult times:

Don’t run what doesn’t need to be run. There are umpteen articles on the danger of brands turning silent at the moment, but frankly if you’re not selling hamburgers right now, why would you advertise? Use the time and save the budget to plan something spectacular for your return. “Did you miss us?” Expect plenty of that narrative from big brands in hopefully the not too near distant future.

Do run if you are still open for business but adapt. We’ve re-versioned several live campaigns this week to switch CTA’s to different ecommerce partners or send traffic to virtual tours. Some budgets have understandably shifted to digital in the past week as fewer people see OOH or are unable to buy / be given print.

Be tactical. Whilst this is a tough time for everyone there are opportunities / needs for certain sectors. Sales of frozen food and gym equipment are booming. Banks and the government need to communicate often complicated messaging. People have more time to consume content, so perhaps use this time wisely to feed the top of the funnel with longer form brand content for awareness and activate DR once restrictions lift?

Be purposeful. Chances are, if you are serving your customers right now, you’re performing some kind of service. Perhaps now is a good time to communicate how you are adapting your products or services for the benefit of consumers.

Tell your story. In times of crisis there’s often uplifting stories too. Is there some positive news you could tell? From the couple who got engaged in an Iceland Supermarket to breweries producing hand sanitiser, there’s some wonderful stories that have come out of this as we all pull together.

Above all, stay at home, stay safe and prepare for making up for lost time. If you’d like help with something tactical, we can help turn campaigns around in a matter of hours – please get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

 

Hands showing signs

How to produce brand content that performs in 2020

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, main blog

January, by its very nature, often allows for a period of reflection. The madness of Q4 has passed and it seems like an opportune moment to take a look back at what worked well in 2019 and do more of the good stuff in 2020. With that in mind, I’ve been revisiting some of the most successful content we ran last year to see why it worked so well.

I’m going to keep this quite top line as we’re planning more regular sector specific pieces throughout the year (health, property, fashion, food & drink) – if you missed our recent travel content tips, you can find them here.

So, in no particular order, here’s some recommendations for your future brand content campaign:

Be authentic

We’ve been running multiple articles for a leading London hotel over the past 12 months. Whilst London recommendation pieces have worked well (arts, restaurants, events), the most powerful theme was actually under our noses – the hotel itself. Writing about the history of this iconic hotel and how you can feel it in the building proved to not only to be the most successful content in terms of engagement but also CTAs. The audience were keen to discover how they could buy into the magic.

Be useful

Campaigns that provide useful information based on the specialism of the brand continue to perform exceptionally well. Examples include an eye drops brand explaining how you can tell if you’ve dry eyes via a blink test, a housebuilder detailing exactly how Help To Buy works and a children’s food company with top tips for teething toddlers. If you’ve earned the right to talk expertly about a subject, use it for all its worth!

Be inspiring

It’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re in the market to sell something, whether that be the wider brand or an individual product. Think about how the content you are creating gives the reader inspiration to do something, whether that be create a spectacular cheeseboard for Christmas, start a new university course, or go and explore a new country. Three very different outcomes, but all successful this past December.

Computer keyboardBe data driven

Whilst the creative process is unlikely to be replaced by AI anytime soon, a good content strategy should make use of the wealth of amazing insights we can now report on. For several brands this year, we’ve tested advertorial content alongside softer, less product led content. Each article produced different outcomes, but broadly we found that advertorial content produced better CTAs, with the content marketing style pieces producing better CTRs. Map these to your business goals to produce better outcomes going forward.

Finally, if you do all these things, don’t be ashamed that you’ve something to sell in return – It’s what the value exchange is all about!

Contact us today to discover how we can help you create meaningful engagement with your target audience.