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Young people on smartphones

Creativity + UX. The ultimate guide to creating great online ads

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, main blog, Native advertising, Uncategorized

In 2005 Bill Gates declared:

“The future of advertising is the internet”.

When asked about building big brands online he said:

“That is the thing that traditional advertising is better at…. but as it moves to the digital realm it will be hard to talk about what is and isn’t internet advertising.”

With UK advertisers spending £11.55bn a year online, it’s fair to say the gap between online and offline has not only been closing financially, but also creatively as new formats develop and old formats are redesigned for new distribution channels – vertical video for example.

Whilst TV, print and OOH were once considered the creative and brand formats, the world of online advertising has upped its game in the battle against ad blockers. Nobody wants poor digital advertising – consumers don’t want annoying interruptive ads and publishers (reliant on ad revenue to keep content free) certainly don’t want people leaving their site due to bad ad experiences. The answer is twofold – creativity and ensuring the UX is seamless. Research has found that 78% of UK adults dislike ads that are not suitable for the device they are using.

With this in mind, the fine folks at IAB UK have brought the industry together to produce a creative best practice guide. It started life, as most things do, with a good moan-up about all the bad ads we’ve seen and happily manifested itself into a useful guide of things you can do to make sure your creative is as good as humanly possible!

The aim of the project was to produce:

“A simple and actionable set of guidance to help you ensure that your digital advertising not only looks great but also works beautifully on the platform that it is served.”

You’ll find my missives on why you should select the right native format for your campaign and the value exchange between brands and consumers here.

Digital content creation best practice

Native distribution best practice

You’ll also great advice on creative best practice across a range of channels: native, content, video, mobile, audio, performance and search. The full guide is here.

Dissecting 2017’s full year IAB UK Adspend results

By | Ad Spend, Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Native advertising, Uncategorized

So, the headline news at the IAB yesterday was that the UK’s digital advertising market is up 14.3% YOY and was worth a staggering £11.55bn last year. The numbers have finally been crunched and there’s some interesting nuggets in the report which we, along with all the key players from publishing groups and adtech companies, submit to twice a year. The key takeaways are:

  • Smartphones are driving the bulk of the growth – an increase of 37% YOY
  • 45% of all digital advertising is delivered on smartphones
  • Online video is now the largest display format – accounting for 39%

Separating native and sponsored content

From a native perspective, one of the interesting changes to themethodology is separating sponsored content from native. As native advertising becomes a catch-all, encompassing click-out formats and promoted social media posts, it’s become important to work out exactly what is stay on site brand content and what may have simply shifted from traditional display budgets. For the record, Native (which includes Facebook and Twitter) is now worth over £1 billion, with sponsored content making up £124 million.

Growth chart

Video formats shift

Pre-post roll has lost its crown as the largest video format, having been overtaken by outstream in 2017. With budgets shifting from television to online, this could be because of limited pre-roll availability and the need to find audiences online at scale.

The growth of the private market place (PMP)

With 4/5 of display budgets being traded programmatically, it’s clear that programmatic has been a huge success. What’s more interesting is the shift to programmatic direct – up 10% YOY and now making up 63% of trading. Mary Healy from Accenture is Chair of IAB UK’s Display & Data Steering Group. She said:

”Programmatic direct and PMPs will continue to take the lion’s share of the spend as brands realise that context is just as important as it is in other media. 2017 certainly highlighted a number of concerns across the digital media ecosystem, which has forced the industry to re- evaluate many of the practices we had followed in the past”

With GDPR looming, it could be that these deals – essentaillty selling named inventory rather than just finding the audience regardless of the environment, will grow further during 2018. A lack of reliable data combined with brand safety fears could well mean that buyers are increasingly looking for high quality, contextually relevant publisher environments rather than open RTB.

Digital is the big winner

Finally, gazing into the crystal ball, GroupM predict that digital will outperform the UK ad market again in 2018 – a 10% increase versus 4.8% generally. One thing is clear – as we continue to look downwards on our smartphones, spend on digital continues to head upwards.

How to split your ad budget in 2018

By | Ad Spend, Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, Native advertising, Uncategorized

3 ways to split your ad budget

With the new financial year comes a new advertising budget – but are you spending yours as wisely as possible? The savviest advertisers are in on the secret that there are three particularly important ways to invest your native ad budget in 2018. Bump these to the top of the priority list to give yourself the best chance of success…

Three is the magic number

It’s that time of year again when advertisers set about the task of allocating the budget for the coming months. While it might be daunting to deviate from the tried and tested plans of old, the most successful marketers set aside a try and test budget for new channels – those who have yet to try native content might want to consider branching out.

But first, as any good multi-tasker understands, you need to work out your top priorities in order to make the wisest decisions for your business.

In an interview with the Native Advertising Institute (NAI), Trine Lundahl, Client Service Director at Aller Media, recommends that advertisers invest in three core areas: production, testing and distribution. It’s on these three pillars that the success of your native advertising campaign is likely to rest.

Let’s take a closer look…

Production. Investment in production is crucial; without the right content resonating with your target audience, the power of native is severely compromised. And without high quality content that offers real value, native is reduced to the same relevancy as the rest of the background noise – i.e. the countless other ads you’re fighting to be heard over.

Testing. Testing is critical to allow you to both scale and convert your content that’s performing best. It’s a smart tactic to try multiple pieces of content to see which perform best. Then you can take the learnings from this when briefing the next batch. Just remember to clearly define how and at what point during the process you’re going to test format and content, right from the start.

Distribution. There’s no point in having top notch content if nobody gets to see it. Your budget needs to focus on getting that quality content out there and in front of the right eyes. This can be done by investing time and money in distributing the content in credible editorial environments to allow new audiences to discover it.

So, you can see what needs to be done. The real question is: do you try to accomplish it all yourself, or bring in a network that can help with the planning and execution of campaigns to simplify spend and give you a welcome breather?

Collaboration with an agency – is it for you?

DIY is a tempting approach, at least on the surface. By shouldering the burden yourself you can cut down on spend. However, not only will you be limited to the level of expertise you possess and the resources at your disposal, but it may also take much longer to implement your strategy.

The production, testing and distribution stages of a native advertising campaign are increasingly significant and important to success. Anyone looking to invest their budget wisely should be particularly aware of these elements and how they should feed into campaign planning and strategy, or else look to partner with an agency that can demonstrate this understanding.

At TAN Media, we combine all three for end-to-end campaign management and in-depth analysis, allowing our customers to simplify their budget, reduce production time and enjoy access to premium publishers.

To find out more about true native for advertisers, contact us today.

engaging content student audience

Why engaging with students requires engaging content

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Content, Content Marketing, Education, Native advertising

The shifting landscape

Declining application numbers have been a shock to the system across the higher education sector and have led to several major shifts. This year we witnessed a squeeze at the top, with the highest ranked 20 institutions competing for the brightest. Russell Group universities accepted ABB in the summer which had a knock-on effect right down the rankings and led universities to rethink their recruitment strategies.

Students are aware that it’s a buyer’s market, so are now shopping around, visiting multiple campuses to find the perfect university for them. Others are leaving it later to apply and some are waiting until August in the knowledge that even higher ranked institutions will offer places through clearing and confirmation.

Last year St George’s University became the first to offer medicine through clearing. This year, universities that used to mop up their last few places on results day, still had courses available days after to accommodate for late demand. Most institutions now offer a clearing open day to engage with students before they apply.

Making a first impression

The university is a unique institution, in that it’s marketing team must work to a particular cycle, communicating with a largely new audience each year. This presents a great opportunity to fine-tune your brand over time.

As a result, it’s crucial to make a high quality and lasting first impression with each student, each year. It makes such a difference if potential students understand who you are and what you’re all about before they are signposted towards course lists, prospectuses and open days.

student content

The power of your brand

With tightening budgets to work to, most unis are opting for high-intensity campaigns at key periods – January deadline, open days and clearing. This offers maximum impact and ensures that students are given every opportunity to register or apply. A downside of this strategy is that ads that feel transactional are less likely to influence students in making an important decision.

This problem is compounded by the intensity of competition for share of voice, making it hard to be heard above the crowd. Students are likely to see multiple university ads in a day, so how can any one ad stand out above the rest? Will students click on the first one they see? The most colourful? The most relevant? The most impressive stat?

Or will it be a brand that they have engaged with before and feel they recognise and want to explore further?

Education agency, SMRS, recently drew attention to the importance of brand in their HE marketing survey. 97% of respondents pointed to the increased importance of brand, above other recent impacts such as Brexit and the Teaching Excellence Framework.

student content

Being inspirational

When we talk about online brand engagement, we refer to the execution of meaningful, prolonged interactions with university content. Campaigns are often judged on the price of their clicks and the traffic they drive to a site, but this isn’t always the best way to build lasting and impactful brand awareness. Sometimes we should look beyond the click to really understand the results of a piece of activity.

We should consider the potential student’s experience and ask ourselves what students want from their interaction. If the aim is to win hearts and minds, we can’t be pushy, sending students to fill out a form without having something to offer. Universities are great at producing content but not so good at sharing it!

Departments, lecturers and student groups produce fascinating research every day and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that grabs attention and excites young people about getting stuck in and starting their student journey.

Be the one to spark that idea, that conversation, that inspiration, whilst quietly reinforcing your brand identity as an authority on the subject.

Engaging with a digital generation

The last few years have seen the rise of programmatic display ads which have led to campaigns that mine for direct response, opting for quantity over quality. At the same time, a digitally savvy generation has started holding advertisers to a higher standard. To have a chance of generating quality engagement with potential students, interactions have to become less transactional and more inspirational. To get engagement you must be engaging!

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Why native advertising is having an identity crisis

By | Banner - Advertisers, Banner - Content Creation, Banner - Native Video, Banner - Publishers, Banner - Reporting, Banner - True Native, Native advertising

I’ve just read an extremely thought provoking article on what I believe to be the biggest challenge to both the native advertising industry (publishers and networks) and media agencies looking to sell native in to clients.

I didn’t just read Chad Pollitt’s piece ‘Native Advertising has a Terminology Problem. And It’s Not Pretty.’ once through – I read it three times. Not because Chad didn’t make sense, but because we’ve got to the stage where even for someone in the thick of this industry, I was still briefly confused.

If someone who works day in, day out in native advertising is having to re-read definitions, then what hope do media buyers (working across multiple platforms, media and formats) have? If one person’s native is Outbrain, and another’s long-form content on a premium publisher, then we have a problem. And that’s before we even look at the myriad of hybrids in the UK market.

Back to basics

Perhaps, it’s best to start with what most people agree is the definition of native advertising:

“Native advertising is paid advertising (media) where the ad matches the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which it appears.” (Native Advertising Institute)

This snappy description seems bulletproof, but it only tells half the story. It accurately describes the sponsored headline unit, the social media sponsored post – the shop window if you like. It’s what happens next which really defines the native format. What happens once the user has read the headline and clicked?

It’s all about the content

This brings us to the content. There’s long been confusion in the market between content marketing and native advertising.

This is one of the easier definitions to solve: Content marketing = your brand content. Native = the distribution channel. I could get into content marketing vs advertorial here (not overtly mentioning your product vs it being all about your product) but that will have to wait for another day.

Social media is somewhat ‘ronseal’ – a sponsored tweet looks like any other tweet, the same for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. These usually contain heightened CTAs such as the ‘Learn more’ or ‘Shop now’ banner on Instagram, before clicking to brand sites. Often, the post is simply re-targeting.

There is content, right?

So, what about the traditional publisher’s site? This is where it gets confusing for media buyers. I’d argue it’s all about what happens post-click. This is where the definition of native advertising seems to be far too broad. Any of the following could happen – the headline unit:

  • leads to content on the same publisher’s site
  • leads to content hosted on the brand site
  • opens up a lightbox containing brand content
  • plays video
  • doesn’t actually lead to any content at all. It’s a headline unit that simply clicks to a product page!

Essentially, your headline unit could behave in several different ways and in some instances, is no more than a re-badged direct response banner ad.

Here’s my attempt to clarify the main (non-video) formats on publisher’s sites:

Native advertising (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, publisher direct sold headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

True Native (sponsored content)

Non-programmatic, ad served headline units that lead to article pages in the same premium environment.

Native display

An in-feed headline unit on a publisher site that clicks to a brand site which may or may not contain content marketing. Usually programmatic demand from exchanges and often re-targeting.

Content recommendation

The likes of Outbrain, Taboola and Rev. Self-serve headline units which click out, usually in blocks of 6 or 12 at the bottom of article pages. Usually DR campaigns or arbitrage.

Should ‘native advertising’ be redefined?

Chad argues that the confusion in the market is all about the definitions of types of content, I’d argue that there’s far more confusion over what a headline unit does.

Perhaps now is the time to separate premium sponsored content (in editorial environments) from what recent IAB UK native conference called ‘next generation display advertising’. Perhaps, the term ‘native advertising’ has had its day!