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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, 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.

fake news

Why ‘fake news’ is good news for real publishers

By | Native advertising, Uncategorized

Probably already a frontrunner for phrase of the year, ‘fake news’ is the phenomenon everyone from politicians to publishers; tech companies to the man on the street, is talking about.

Whilst the blame for fake news has been laid squarely at the door of Facebook, indeed it’s forced the world’s biggest social media platform to fact check some of the content on its site, it has caused publishers to take stock and consider the quality of third party content on their own websites.

That content is invariably ad tech, from standard display units, to native advertising, video providers, and content recommendation. Are the ads being run trustworthy? This is particularly important in the programmatic age where they could have been served through a myriad of exchanges.

If not knowing where an advert has come from is a problem for publishers, the reverse is now true for advertisers – not knowing where your ad will actually be served has become a real issue. A recent Times investigation led to some of the world’s biggest brands pausing all programmatic advertising as their ads were found on websites apparently funding extremist groups.

Finding audience at the expense of losing control of the environment, suddenly doesn’t seem quite as smart.

Native: One size fits all?

Native advertising as a term encompasses everything that ‘mirrors the form and function’ of the property it sits on – from a promoted Facebook post or tweet to a sponsored article within the editorial feed, right through to content recommendation.

Because of this execution, trust has never been more important. And there lies the problem – how can a user uploaded misleading ‘get rich quick’ headline, clicking out to a dubious website be lumped into the same category as the lauded New York Times content for Netflix’s Orange is New Black?

Time to grasp the opportunity     

So where does this leave native advertising? There’s no denying how important it’s become for publishers – The Atlantic makes 75% of its ad revenue from sponsored content, Condé Nast Britain, over half of its digital earnings. But this is from high quality, clearly labelled articles – a world away from some of the clickbait washing around the web.

BI Intelligence estimates that Native ads will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. Whilst this will be led by the dominant social platforms, one interesting nugget is that:

“Sponsored content, which is categorised separately from native-display due to the direct relationship between publishers and brands in creating the format, will be the fastest-growing native format over the next five years.”

The renaissance of traditional publishers    

Traditional publishers have a challenge to adapt to the digital world, but the one good thing to come out of the past few months is that, in the words of Luis Hernandez, ‘…fake news is making real publishers look good’. Sites with paywalls like the NYT have seen a surge in subscriptions and UK national newspaper sites a 16% year-on-year uplift to 31.5m daily uniques (Dec 2016).

Why premium sites need premium ad tech     

So here’s the question for publishers: You’ve worked hard to build the trust of your audience. Why would you do anything to diminish that by running poor quality ads, clicking out to some questionable places?

The real value for premium publishers is in running high quality, clearly labelled, stay-on-site sponsored content which maintains trust and delivers value to both the reader and the media owner.

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Native advertising Smartphone

How we helped visualise the native landscape

By | Company News, Native advertising, Uncategorized

I recently wrote a piece entitled ‘Help! Which type of native advertising should I choose?’. Its purpose? To cut through some of the jargon bandied around in the industry when it comes to describing different forms of native.

Given the growing importance of native within the digital ad landscape, it’s no surprise that it’s also something the IAB have been wrestling with. As members of the IAB’s Content & Native Council, we’ve been helping the industry define the various executions of native in the UK.

It all started with a framework back in May. Here you’ll find the three types of native the council decided to define based on how content-based media spends are invested:

Native distribution ad formats:

These are ad units that mirror a publisher’s overall style and layout. This encompasses in-feed click-out and content recommendation units. These are usually a click-out from the headline unit to the brand’s site or landing page. Sometimes called programmatic native display.

Publisher hosted and / or made:

This is for on-site editorial-based content and falls into three categories:

1. Publisher controlled content. Essentially content that the advertiser has no control over. Often this content won’t be directly related to the brand. They are simply sponsoring its production.

2. Publisher hosted and / or made. This is where advertisers partner with publishers or networks such as TAN Media to provide or support editorial-based content. Content sign-off is from the brand.

3. Joint publisher/advertiser controlled commercial content. This is defined as ‘made by publisher and/or brand, enabled by brand but may have been produced even without brand funding’. It’s publisher controlled but with brand input.

Brand-owned:

This defined as ‘any form of content which is conceived, owned and managed by an advertiser.’ This can include social media channels or brand websites for example – essentially anything that’s not on a publisher’s website.

You can find the exact definitions on the IAB Website here. And whilst frameworks and charts are all very helpful as a starting point, actually seeing the various executions in situ is what really brings this project to life.

With that in mind, the IAB tasked suppliers with helping create a Content and Native Gallery. The 50-page PDF is now available for download on the IAB site.

You’ll find our contribution (including case studies) in section 2 – Advertiser-controlled commercial content, following the Guardian and Telegraph, so please take a look.

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How native advertising is set to dominate digital media

By | Native advertising, Technology, Uncategorized

Native advertising is predicted to make up over 50% the display media bought across Europe by 2020.

We may only be a few months in to 2016 but it’s already shaping up to be a breakthrough year for native advertising. A new report forecasts a massive €13.2 billion native ad spend around Europe by 2020 – spectacular growth of 156% compared to the €5.2 billion companies spent on native ads in 2015.

In Britain alone, the market was worth £1.2 billion last year. That figure is set to more than double to £2.8 billion by 2020, according to the study, carried out by Yahoo and Enders Analysis and unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The move to mobile

That’s sweet music to the ears of online publishers who are currently struggling against a number of advertising headwinds, most notably the marked trend among consumers away from the larger screens of laptops and PCs to the much smaller screens of mobile devices.

Display advertising is challenged on smaller screens, so native in-feed advertising makes far more sense from both viewabilty and user experience perspectives.

Opt-in advertising

Additionally, surveys are finding that consumers actually appreciate native as adding value, compared to blaring and brash display ads they’re not overly fond of – one reason fewer people are clicking them.

A true native execution is the ultimate ‘opt-in’ advertising and a world away from the intrusive splurges which shield entire homepages or launch a video that’s impossible to switch off. If the reader choses to engage with on-site, clearly labelled sponsored content, that’s exactly what they get.

The future is native

The new study found that native advertising will amount to 52% of all display advertising in European markets by 2020, and – reflecting the swing to mobile – native ads for mobile will soar from €1.5 billion last year to €8.8 billion in less than four years’ time.

So, it’s increasingly looking like publishers and advertisers are embracing a native future together, with everyone benefiting – even consumers!

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The rules of native engagement

By | Uncategorized

It’s always a sign of acceptance and maturity in any activity when someone comes up with a rule book; and that’s just as true for the phenomenon of native advertising.

In this case, the guardian of all that is good is the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), who have been watching the growth of native for some time. Perhaps waiting in case it just fizzled out like another fad or was destined to be a long-term part of the marketing and publishing landscape. In any case, they have now published the first native ads guidelines.

The latest UK numbers are, according to IAB and professional services consultants PwC, that native accounted for a spend of £216 million in the first two quarters of 2014; that’s over 20% of the total display ad spend – hardly fizzling out! In fact, a number of players on both sides of the advertiser/publisher border have dropped display ads altogether and have thrown their hats very decisively into the native ring – even one of the internet’s opinion-formers, BuzzFeed.

Given that extraordinary level of growth and market share, it was inevitable that native sponsored content would attract the attention of the authorities. The good news for the industry is that the rules in this first part of the guidelines are actually based on customer research and effective good practice.

The danger with native content has always been that if a reader doesn’t know that the content they’re reading is commercially targeted, there is the danger of resentment against the publication and against the advertiser for a perceived deception. So guideline number one is unequivocal: publishers must “Provide prominently visual clues to show that pieces are native ads and not editorial”. They suggest a mix of logos and typographical design tools, such as fonts and shading, to differentiate between editorial and native content.

Well, there’s no argument with that, nor the requirement that publishers must add labels to indicate the commercial relationship, along the lines of “Brought to you by…” or “Paid promotion”. Research carried out for the IAB shows that trust increases with the transparency of the origin of the content and, as trust and engagement are the goals of native advertising, these guidelines really are just good practice.

Those who have been carrying the native advertising torch for many years know that when native content is good, i.e. of value to the reader, labelling and transparency of origin are not bureaucratic annoyances but signs of respect.

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