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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.

 

Shopping on computer

E-commerce is booming: How business is transitioning online

By | Banner - Advertisers, main blog

Five weeks in, the impact of COVID-19 has already had a major impact on our buying habits as brands shift to online sales. Supermarket supply chains have largely recovered after initial panic buying and consumers have moved on – purchasing items to ease the burden of the lockdown.

At TAN, we reacted quickly, helping clients to repurpose campaigns that had a bricks and mortar focus by changing CTAs to e-commerce channels as retailers were forced to close their doors.

Unsurprisingly, online sales are booming with many dipping their toe in the water for the first time – non-food sales increased 18.8% during March compared to 2.5% last year. MediaCom’s Lockdown Diaries reported that there are:

“…many new shoppers online… March was a record month for online penetration. Annual penetration increased by 0.5%, an incremental 140,000 households. New online shoppers are older, have lower incomes and are more regional – demonstrating a broadening of appeal.”

What’s hot right now

While some retailers without an online presence are facing a challenging time, others are experiencing a mini boom. The latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, revealed sectors that have experienced a big bounce as consumers adapt to the lockdown:

Beauty – 36%+
Electricals – 40%+
Garden – 90%+

Another interesting finding, and something that mirrors our own experience of pivoting campaigns towards online channels, is that:

“…multichannel retailers outperformed their online only counterparts for the first time since April 2019”.

As traditional retailers throw additional resources at their online channels it’s been interesting to see how brands have adapted to their high street doors being closed. Dixons Carphone’s shares jumped this week after the group revealed that UK and ROI online sales increased 166% in the five weeks to April 25th as consumers purchased laptops and other tech for lockdown living.

Born Online

Online only brands were naturally already set up for the situation we now find ourselves in. Whilst fashion has been one of the hardest hit sectors, Boohoo has reported a year-on-year rise in sales during April. A Boohoo spokesperson told the BBC:

“Sales of tops have gone up in particular, with everyone wanting to look smart on Zoom calls.”

Bring on the booze

Other notable success stories include those selling alcohol – the sector was up 22% in March (Kantar) with Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd having to temporally stop taking online orders after its biggest day of digital sales. If a 300-year-old business can adapt, then hopefully other more traditional retailers can follow suit.

Preparing for reopening 

Obviously not every business can transition to pure online sales. Larger purchases, such as buying a new car or home, require multiple touch points usually ending with a physical viewing in person.

Let’s look at a car purchase journey. Detailed Google research conducted over a period of months on one user revealed that she had over 900 digital engagements before committing to the purchase.

With that in mind, assuming lockdown restrictions are eased, even over a period of months, now is the time to build awareness in the upper funnel as consumers spend more time online ahead of physical visits. Doing the brand and prospecting work now will ensure you are ahead of the game when reopening commences.

 

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.

 

Couple of man and woman sitting back to back and reading

Clearing 2020 – how to attract home students

By | Banner - Content Creation, main blog, Uncategorized

The government announced today that students will be receiving their A Level results on 13th August, meaning that universities and their media agencies now have a firm date in the diary to start planning this year’s clearing campaigns.

Despite not sitting exams – 9 out of 10 students say they are continuing their application as planned according to a recent Ucas and YouthSight study. Ucas said:

“Overall applicant behaviour in the 2020 cycle is currently consistent with previous cycles, with the expected number of new applicants each week, and no significant moves to change firm choices or providers, or to defer entry, so far.”

Student concerns

It’s obviously been an unusual year, with grades decided by teacher’s assessments and a wait to discover when results will be announced. As such, the same survey found that:

“Over half (51%) of respondents feel supported at the moment, but want more help. While 37% said felt fully supported now, this is higher amongst white applicants (40%) and lower amongst BAME applicants (29%).”

How content can help

One way universities can help is by producing and distributing useful content that addresses head-on their potential student’s concerns. Some of the best performing articles we’ve run for universities have done just that:

Practical guides to student finance
Articles addressing how to socialise at university
How clearing works and is it for you?
How to balance life with studying
What to expect from your first week

As well as helping with practical advice, you’ve also the chance to explain how your university is best placed to support potential students, remaining front of mind during the selection process.

Who’s your audience?

It’s also a concerning time for UK universities, with overseas students who account for a third of all tuition fees, likely to arrive in far fewer numbers this academic year.

Last year a record number of students found a course through clearing. This, combined with a rush to recruit home students, is likely to make this year’s clearing process even more competitive and important for institutions. 

Why now is the time for engagement online

As we enter the second phase of lockdown, we’ve seen engagement rates increase across our network of premium publishers as screen time increases. With other channels, notably OOH and print are challenged at this time, we’re able to help repurpose assets quickly to get campaigns away while attention time is high. Contact us today to see how we can help you plan a tactical campaign.

 

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.

 

World Travel

Why long form content is key to influencing travellers

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

2019 has been turbulent for the travel industry. 17 airlines have gone bust so far this year including heritage brand (and high street travel agent) Thomas Cook. As a parliamentary enquiry examines the reasons behind the company’s collapse, it’s clear there were multiple factors – from a botched merger to a pile of debt.

However, one reason that can’t be overlooked is changing consumer habits. According to trade body ABTA, only one in seven of us booked our holiday with a high street travel agent last year, and of those people it tended to be older and less wealthy consumers.

For most of us, both the starting and end points of planning and booking a holiday is now online, with many of us choosing to be our own travel agent, purchasing our flights and accommodation separately. But this user journey is far from simple – research from Expedia shows that in the 45 days before making a purchase, British travel consumers visit travel sites an average of 121 times!

Family seaside holiday

Decisions, decisions!

Perhaps the most surprising finding from the same report is that:

“More than half of British online travel shoppers begin their research with multiple destinations in mind — 54% are still considering multiple destinations when they begin their travel booking journey”

So, with nearly half of all consumers open minded regarding destinations, the opportunity for tourist boards, hotels, airlines and OTE’s (Online travel agents) has never been greater – with three quarters of the 50 million of us online in the UK engaging specifically with travel content.

January blues

As we approach peak booking period in the UK, when around 5 million brits secure their getaway each January, now is the time to inspire potential bookers and get front of mind. The way to do that? Inspirational long form content. Indeed, 65% of us are influenced by brand content while planning their trip according to travelagentcentral.com

Cruise Holiday Sunshine

So, what works?

We’ve run hundreds of travel campaigns over the past few years for hotels, airlines, train operators, cruise lines, OTE’s and tourist boards. Here’s three reoccurring content ideas that I’ve noticed driving the best engagement for our clients:

Think ahead – as summer draws to a close, minds turn towards Christmas markets. As the cold dark nights of January hit us hard, thoughts turn towards sunshine and beaches. There’s a good reason the BBC schedule Caribbean detective drama Death in Paradise each January! Use these themes in both article copy and headlines to connect with your audience.

Specialist Themes. Run multiple articles aimed at different interest groups. Think foodies, adventure travellers, solo travellers and even train geeks. Some of the best performing content we’ve run has targeted specialist interest groups, rather than just a broad-brush approach to a destination or country. You genuinely wouldn’t believe how many people love trains…

Build an itinerary. Successful brand content usually includes one of two things – useful or interesting information (and hopefully both!). It’s what we call the value exchange between advertiser and audience. City breaks are now the nation’s favourite getaway, and by their very nature, tend to be for a long weekend. “48 hours in the city of your choice” is a fantastic format that hooks the reader and provides useful information.

For more insights into native travel campaigns or to book a campaign, please contact us

 

5 things we learned planning 2019 clearing campaigns

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

It’s been a busy few months developing university clearing campaigns with our agency partners. As students start to receive their results, applications will soon be flooding in. Here’s 5 things we’ve learned so far….

  1. Clearing is not as scary as people think, so communicate that

Clearing can seem daunting to students who don’t understand the process, whereas in actual fact the whole point about clearing is that it allows students to talk directly to universities. They’re able to quickly find out what courses are available to them and apply straight away, sometimes there and then over the phone.

Clearing cuts red tape and makes it easier for students to apply, meaning more students in the right courses, and more places filled up for universities. It’s up to marketing teams to get this message across to potential students.

Some of our best performing headlines and articles have been reassuring pieces, helping guide students through the process. At the same time, long form content gives institutions the ideal opportunity to position themselves as a viable option and provides potential students with the confidence to contact clearing teams.

  1. Consider your audience groups

Universities spend large budgets targeting potential students and signposting key courses, but should they spend more time thinking about who their audience is?

Whilst students will ultimately make the final decision on where and when to apply through clearing, they don’t have to do this on their own. Parents, teachers, tutors and heads of year all have an impact on a student’s decision, so universities also need to be engaging with these influencers and giving them the best possible information for them to pass on. It’s certainly worth considering producing bespoke content for these groups.

Young people on smartphones

  1. Don’t just focus on traditional school leavers

This year we have seen more universities expand the audience of their content campaigns to engage with mature students who are considering returning to university (or attending for the first time) to change or progress their careers.

The messaging to these potential students has to be really eye-catching and inspirational to encourage consideration and cut through the wealth of marketing aimed at more traditional clearing audiences.

Unlike school leavers, mature students don’t have parents and teachers drilling key application dates into them, so they often don’t realise its application season or fall foul of the ‘there’s always next year’ syndrome. Universities need to reach these students, often found in the local catchment areas, and explain the benefits of career focused courses. We’ve found messaging around career changes or progress have had the biggest impact across our network.

  1. Be strategic with your budget

We know results day is an incredibly important time to reach students as they have a very short window to make a decision. As a result, advertising spends on results day have become mind-blowing due to the sheer amount competition driving up the prices of biddable media.

With a click on Google sometimes costing upwards of £100 have you considered other DR channels like Native Display to diversify your results day strategy?

Another option to take the pressure off a very narrow window is to engage with students in pre-clearing. This gives universities a chance to get their message across with longer form, less DR based content.

That way when students reach clearing, they have already engaged with the university, have some understanding of its offering / courses, and see it as a viable option. Therefore, pre-clearing brand engagement can massively increase performance of your activity on the big day and get more out of your overall campaign.

Young adult at laptop

  1. Try out different content approaches and react to performance

Every university is different in their approach to the content they create. You often hear that copy needs to be authentic, and written in language that students will engage with, but what does that mean?

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to producing content – whilst we’ve a wealth of experience writing for student audiences – it’s still worth trying different approaches; analysing and optimising towards what’s performing best.

For us, that might mean testing an advertorial article full of facts about courses, campus locations and teaching against a softer content-led approach, written to engage students with the brand.

Both have their place in the recruitment cycle, but looking at engagement with the content, CTAs from the article page and back end data from clearing landing pages, you can understand which approach works best for your audience and optimise towards those articles, giving you the best value for your advertising spend.

 

Social media Likes

Brand safety is back in the spotlight (again)

By | main blog

Back in 2017, we published a piece on our blog about a growing scandal in online advertising. Has programmatic become problematic? went on to be one of our most read and shared posts and looked at the risks of buying RTB inventory on the open market and not fully understanding the content your ads were appearing next to.

Ads for some of the world’s biggest brands were found alongside highly questionable content on sites like YouTube. Advertisers scrambled to pull their campaigns, shifting budgets to more brand safe channels.

A familiar pattern

Fast-forward to 2019 and a new Wired investigation has revealed that the site’s problems haven’t gone away. Their research found brand’s pre-roll video ads appearing next to content popular with and commented on by pedophiles. Again, when alerted, advertisers including food giant Nestlé and Fortnite creator Epic Games pulled campaigns.

Why is it so hard to police?

The problem adversely affects any site containing UG (user generated) content. Only a couple of months ago popular micro blogging site Tumblr was pulled from Apple’s app store because filters had failed to spot illegal images that had been uploaded.

Just this week, far right activist ‘Tommy Robinson’ had his Facebook and Instagram accounts deleted for spreading hate speech. In short, despite technology improving all the time, it’s hard to guarantee brand safety on any UG site that is retroactively policed.

Knowing where your ads are 

One way of migrating the risks of your content appearing in places you’d rather it didn’t is moving towards trusted publishers via a programmatic direct or a PMP deal. Indeed, Econsultancy reports that that both media agencies and publishers are looking to reduce their reliance on open exchanges this year. From a publisher perspective, it reduces the risk of poor quality or fraudulent ads appearing on their site and for advertisers, increases brand safety.

The benefits of premium inventory

Aside from brand safety, new research from Newsworks / AOP shows that ads seen in a premium context are viewed for 17% longer and with 29% higher levels of engagement than ads on social sites such as Facebook and YouTube.