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In 2017, agencies and brands alike began to see the importance of digital marketing in targeting and connecting with niche audiences, the IAB Digital Video Centre of Excellence says. This was particularly evident with video ads. The results of the March 2018 survey of 353 media buyers and brand marketers conducted by Advertiser Perceptions indicated that 23% of video advertising budgets in many businesses are set aside specifically for ads on social media sites. IAB revealed the results of the survey in April, with 50% of all respondents claiming they intend to spend even more money on video ads over the course of the next 12 months.

Social media advertising spending

Ads on social media often incorporate video content in the form of advertisements on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Professional guidance can help these video ads to increase their click-through, conversion and customer acquisition rates. A third-to-a-half of a company’s advertising spending should be spent initially on content that allows scaling, according to Chamber Media’s Travis Chambers. As the advertising spending grows, content will need refreshing every quarter for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that content will become less effective as the audience watches that content multiply over time, and another is that social algorithms are aware of this and that content’s reach will also begin to decrease if there is not enough new content being uploaded. However, evergreen content can be served to new audiences continually and still retain its effectiveness. For high-converting mobile video, the most effective format is to have a hook within the first couple of seconds that will keep the viewer interested. Make sure both the problem and its solution are referenced very early, and then use humour, strong calls to action to entice a purchase, with press references and testimonials included to enhance credibility.


With social media videos, many advertisers have rather polarised strategies, either being of a more traditional mindset and expecting to get results with a focus on brand awareness or more focused on e-commerce and immediate sales, often at the brand’s expense. These mindsets are correct together but not independently. Both avenues are required to achieve success, with several brands making huge top-funnel video adverts for social media but lacking any plan to ensure the customer stays engaged afterwards. Once the high funnel video has been served, it should be followed up to the same consumers with mid-to-low-funnel content that gives credibility, offers reminders and creates a sense of urgency, such as offers, origin stories and product demonstrations.

Mistakes to avoid

One easily avoidable but common mistake in regard to social media buying is viewing numbers in a vacuum, with many marketers examining ad platforms individually rather than as a whole. This mistake can result in a misinterpretation of failure when the opposite is true. A holistic mindset is vital when judging the effectiveness of campaigns. Another common mistake is using lower-paid junior ad buyers with limited experience, which rarely works out. It is far better to invest more in elite advertising buying talent, which over time can end up being worth millions.


Matt Hancock, the UK culture secretary, thinks that children should not be allowed to have overnight access to mobile phones, and he does not allow his own children to have them at all. However, he does not agree that the nation should follow the lead of the French government by creating legislation on the issue. Digital issues are included in Hancock’s brief, but the culture secretary says that while it is everyone’s responsibility, including parents, to ensure that children remain safe online, the government can make certain that internet companies properly police terms and conditions on their sites.

Hancock draws the line at the idea of more direct intervention by the UK government to control the level of exposure that children can have to new technology in a manner like that employed by the French. A law enacted in 2010 in that country bans phones from classrooms. Emmanuel Macron, the nation’s President, has gone even further, with youngsters under the age of 15 not allowed to use them at school at all from September this year. Hancock does not believe it is appropriate for the law to go this far, saying that society needs to mature to get the most from the “amazing and brilliant” technology instead of using it badly. However, he acknowledges that it is difficult for parents when children often understand the new technology more than they do and there are no previously established social norms to help them with guidance.

Despite this, Hancock is more stringent when it comes to other ways of regulating the internet, reiterating his intention to enact legislation forcing social media companies to be responsible for the content that is available on their platforms. He says that the UK may choose to craft its own legislation on the issue if an international coalition could not support such regulation. He made these comments ahead of the start of London Tech Week, which is designed to promote the digital industry in the nation’s capital city.

The rules regulating children’s access to the internet on many high-profile social networks have been tightened with the advent of the European General Data Protection Regulation. The law sets the minimum age that children should be allowed to have a social media account at 13, with fines of up to €20m or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, depending on which is higher, for those firms breaking that law. The age at which users can consent to data processing has also been set at 16 by default unless countries enact specific legislation to lower it. This action has already taken place in the UK, with the age lowered to 13 because of the Data Protection Act 2018. Several social networks have already tightened their practices as a result, although the government has given few details as to the nature of any possible future legislation on the issue.


Brands are only spending a fraction of their advertising budgets on mobile content even though smartphones now account for more than two-thirds of measured site traffic, according to a new in-depth report published by Gartner L2.

Mobile devices have soared in popularity for content consumption during the last few years as the public pivots towards small-screen devices to read the latest news, articles, blogs and watch videos. However, it appears that brands have yet to fully adapt their campaigns and strategies to cater towards this latest trend.

Gartner L2 noted that mobile content consumption was traditionally associated with “top-of-funnel” awareness but has now evolved into something much greater that can have a real and lasting impact on revenue and growth. Gartner L2 studied 400 consumer brands to identify new trends, best practices and case studies as marketers continue to optimise their content and ad campaigns across devices and platforms.

The major takeaway is that brands that don’t optimise their content for mobile consumption are missing out. A sizeable 67% of measured site traffic for brands is now attributed to smartphones, and to a lesser extent, tablets, but brands are investing just 13% of their total ad spend on mobile content.

“Mobile has expanded from a top-of-funnel awareness device to a legitimate transaction point for brands,” Gartner L2 VP of Intelligence, Evan Neufeld said. “However, even as consumers increase their reliance on mobile phones, the majority of brands continue to underinvest in mobile marketing initiatives. Those who fail to prioritise mobile risk losing sales and consumers to competing brands who understand the degree to which mobile phones are constantly connected to their customer bases.”


Gartner L2’s Senior Associate, Evan Bakker, added that brands can overhaul their mobile marketing efforts by delivering higher quality content and ads to smartphones, improving their targeting with sophisticated platforms and investing more money in Google’s Shopping Ads. Bakker said this is very important in an era where “cross-device purchase” journeys are becoming increasingly prevalent.

In other branded content news, research from online news site Topix has found that brands that tap into a consumer’s history and nostalgia during the creative process can reap the rewards through higher levels of engagement. Audiences also react strongly to schadenfreude and humour.

Topix looked at the highest grossing brand stories since 2013 with the aim of uncovering the emotions that lead to the highest levels of engagement. The study indicates that marketers can benefit from being more attuned to the emotions of their customer base, as knowing how they will react and behave can help brands serve up more relevant and personalised content.

“We’re in times that are very challenging,” Monster’s vice president of marketing, Margaret Magnarelli said. “If we don’t combine feelings with facts, we’ll lose customers. They want to feel validated.”

Nostalgia, history and schadenfreude – which is defined as a person taking pleasure somebody else’s misfortune – topped the list of emotions, with humour and pride of knowledge rounding out the top five.


Tailoring content for search terms is vital for driving clicks and engagement, so it is no surprise that brands went to great lengths to tap into the excitement of the royal wedding to amplify the power of their articles, videos and messages across the web in the run-up to the big day last weekend.

Analytics expert Adthena has analysed a raft of organic and paid searches conducted before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married on 19 May with the aim of determining the winners and losers for the week. Total spending on search ads is set to soar to $95bn (£71bn) this year and represents 42% of digital investment, so this feedback should help brands ahead of other trending events this summer, such as the World Cup.

The big winners were those that referenced the potential designers of Markle’s wedding dress. Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store in New York City, and Matches Fashion both used the keyword “Erdem” to boost their click share significantly. Erdem is a fashion brand and one of Markle’s favourite designers.

Stella McCartney eventually got the honour of making the dress, and several fashion sites battled it out over the use of a “Stella McCartney Wedding Dress” keyword. This increased click-share for fashion site MyTheresa from 45% to 85%. However, Farfetch had the lion’s share of ad clicks on the actual wedding day, with a 72% share.

Adthena’s analysis shows how brands can optimise content campaigns around popular events with the view to driving engagement through click share. The royal wedding was a particularly attractive event for brands, as it was popular across the globe and especially in the US. In contrast to fashion sites, news outlets focused on the drama surrounding Markle’s father to improve their ranking in SERPs.

In other news, a new study from the CMO Council has highlighted the importance of brand storytelling and putting the consumer at the centre of marketing campaigns. New customer acquisition is a prime growth driver for 68% of marketing leaders, and they will need to improve end-user experience and serve up compelling and engaging content to achieve their aims.

“What we hear from our CMO clients is that they are attempting to tackle some of their organizations’ toughest challenges, sometimes losing sight of keeping the customer at the center of it all,” said Sheryl Jackson, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and CMO Customer Transformation Leader. “For the CMO to be effective, they have to keep the customer at the center of every conversation and figure out solutions that will drive growth. But then translate the strategy into the languages of their c-suite peers.”

A separate study by the CMO Council has also found that engaging visual content is central to any marketers’ aim to differentiate their brands in increasingly competitive e-commerce marketplaces. Brands are turning to content to offer something different to the likes of Amazon and eBay, which are yet to realise the power of engaging creative content.


Data privacy is a hot topic this month with the imminent arrival of GDPR, and a new study from ExpressVPN has revealed that almost three-quarters of consumers are worried about how brands use the information they collect.

Data and analytics is a key part of content marketing in 2018, as it allows the brands to serve the personalised videos, articles and ads that consumers crave. However, the study suggests that the recent focus on security has strengthened sentiment among audiences that brands need to have processes in place to ensure that personal data is handled correctly.

Just over a third said they didn’t trust tech companies to maintain their privacy when collecting data. Amazon leads the way in terms of consumer trust, ahead of Google, Apple and Microsoft. Unfortunately for Uber, they finished at the bottom of the pile on trust, while Snapchat and Twitter also didn’t fare well in the latest survey.

The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s grilling over data use has resulted in lower public confidence, and a recent Pew Research study found that consumers believe they have lost control in terms of what data is collected and used in the digital sphere.

The ExpressVPN report noted that marketers can get consumers back on their side by being transparent about what data they are collecting and how exactly they are using it to inform content campaigns and target ads towards specific consumer groups. The arrival of GDPR will also force brands to be clearer about how they collect personal data, so the future looks brighter for consumers eager for more transparent usage of sensitive data.

In other branded-content news, a new report published by Digimind has found that Instagram has quickly become the king of social media in Asia, as more than half of brands are now on the platform. In addition, those brands that are using Instagram are driving significantly more engagement compared to their campaigns on Twitter and Facebook.

Three-quarters of consumers now look at content on social media platforms before they purchase a product or service, so brands can benefit by publishing engaging pieces that inform and educate their audiences. This content can also support meaningful and lasting relationships while nurturing loyalty and enhancing brand recall.

“As fashion trends are constantly evolving, brands must keep their ears to the ground to capitalise on latest fads, and understand motivations behind consumers’ buying behaviour,” Digimind APAC general manager, Stephen Dale said. “Social intelligence can help fast fashion brands create strong brand differentiation and brand preference simply by understanding what customers want and developing targeted product and marketing strategies to resonate with them.”

Brands in the fashion industry are well placed to maximise the potential of visually focused platforms, such as Instagram, as consumers enjoy sharing aesthetically appealing clothes, the study found. “Shareability” has been a buzzword in content marketing this year, and it can certainly amplify the power of messages. Therefore, brands should tap into consumers’ desires to express themselves by reposting trendy images and clips on social media.


According to a new study of the industry released by the news site, most large brands are now publishing at least one piece of content marketing material every day and are investing a significant amount of resources and time to drive a better return on investment.

Content marketing has been a focal point for some brands for more than a decade, but the study suggests there has been a laser focus on the practice during the last two years. In 2016, just over one-third of digital marketers said it was important to allocate resources to the strategy, but this number has since soared to 53%. When next year rolls around, the figure is likely to be even higher.

Brands are now recognising how the right content marketing formats can make a difference to engagement levels. Therefore, marketers are increasing their publication rates significantly, with 51% saying they now push out videos, blogs, editorial articles, infographics and other resources every day. It appears that it is no longer an either-or situation for brands in terms of quantity and quality.

“Even ten years ago, content marketing was seen as a new buzzword,” said Lauren Fairbanks, CEO of S&G Content Marketing. “But over the last few years, it’s really moved into the marketing mainstream. Marketers know that content marketing is essential in reaching consumers in a very organic way.”

Thus, content is king, and more brand managers are eager to ascend the throne with targeted and relevant pieces that can strongly drive positive actions. The desire to think big is more evident at larger organisations, as 62% of enterprises with more than 5,000 employees said a new form of content is published every 24 hours.

The report said that this frequent schedule is now considered as the “gold standard” in the industry but admitted that keeping up with the pace may be challenging for an SME. A marketing agency is an excellent resource for anyone struggling, as the knowledge, expertise and general infrastructure offered by a third party can support higher quality creativity and busy schedules.

Video has emerged as the de facto content option for many during the last two years due to the rise of social media, but the written word shows no signs of losing out in relevance. A sizeable 69% of organisations said blog posts were their most popular content type, which suggests these are still desirable outlets for thought-leadership pieces and high-quality editorial content, while 72% said they prefer to use video.

As always, a unique mix of content formats is usually the best option, as brands need to target different subsets of consumers across a wide variety of different channels. Moving forward, marketers revealed that they are aiming to improve how their content ranks in search engines and their ability to optimise content for a range of connected devices. About 10% of marketers also want to create more actionable content to boost their engagement levels.


Data and analytics have often been cited as a key factor in delivering more relevant content to audiences, but that may not be the case on YouTube, where a new study by Zefr has found that more basic content targeting methods are actually better at driving engagement and favourability with viewers.

Zefr worked with Magna and IPG Media Lab for the study, which took in the responses of over 3,000 people who consume ads on Youtube through three primary methods of targeting: content, demo and channel. The results are somewhat surprising as the power of content targeting may have previously been underplayed.

Content targeting is defined as a method for placing ads alongside content at video level, which means that ads served up are generally more relevant to the content that is being viewed. In contrast, demo targeting leverages demographic signals such as age and gender to determine reach, while channel targeting merely focuses on channels that are the most popular on YouTube.

Content targeting was found to be the most effective overall as it did a better job of capturing the interest of end users. The study noted that the method was particularly good at keeping users engaged for the entire run time and cutting down on the number that skip or click away elsewhere after a few seconds. This is because the ads were more relevant.

In terms of raw statistics, content targeting for ads resulted in a 34% higher completion rate for viewers on smartphones when compared to demo targeting. It also provided much better user experiences as content targeting was also deemed to be 33% less intrusive than the other methods studied.

“Because YouTube is an intent-based platform, aligning video ads with relevant content is a key for consumer experience, without the broad strokes targeting of channels and demographics,” a Zefr representative said. A failure to align content correctly can also annoy audiences, which can have a detrimental impact on engagement and brand reputations.

“The way advertisers operate on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is under more scrutiny than ever before,” Zefr Co-Chief Executive Rich Raddon said in a statement. “We’ve long been big believers in the power of content targeting at the video level and how it can help brands effectively reach consumers without relying on audience data or violating their privacy, but this study takes our information to a whole new level.”

While analytics may not need to be the foundation for successful campaigns on YouTube, the 2018 CMO Pulse Study has found that data is crucial for connecting the success of content efforts to the wider business. More than a third said that data and analytics need to be improved to empower CMOs to deliver better return on investment.

“Today’s marketers have more data and analytics than ever before, so it would seem they should be able to tie their efforts directly to the success of the company,” Korn Ferry Global Marketing Officers Practice Managing Director Caren Fleit said. “Unfortunately, many measure the effectiveness of initiatives only in terms of marketing metrics and miss the opportunity to connect it to overall business performance as measured in terms of sales and profit, among other factors.”


Brands would be willing to boost their spending on online video ads and other forms of content if they could access timely and consistent reporting systems with improved transparency that gave them a complete understanding of how their campaigns are performing.

That conclusion is the major takeaway from a new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council member study titled “Engage at Every Stage: An Investigation of Video Activation,” which found that one-fifth of marketers are now spending less on ads, as they are not satisfied with the transparency of metrics and insights. Seven in ten brand leaders also admit that recent negative stories and headlines about online safety and advertising metrics have had a detrimental impact on their budgets.

The study found that 95% of marketers believe that digital media platforms must finally deliver reliable advertising measurements. The fact that just 3% agree on the “viewability” standards set out by the Media Rating Council highlights the scale of the task.

The lack of transparency has been a hot topic in the industry for a while now, as social giants, such as Facebook, continue to shift the goal posts and admit to making major errors in their recording of metrics. The unhappiness also stems from the fact that even though digital marketing and advertising can potentially have a positive effect on an enterprise’s growth and revenue, unreliable metrics remain a limiting factor.

“The frustration across the marketing ecosystem is palpable, and new headlines that breach trust and showcase systemic carelessness have inflamed the issue,” CMO Council marketing vice president, Liz Miller, said. “The industry as a whole must align on transparency and reliability. If we don’t live up to these expectations, we will see more accounts up for review and more orders being pulled. That’s not to say all is lost; there is still excitement about the next evolution in digital engagement, especially through online video content.”

Marketers are eager to glean more from their content investments and want the industry to deliver total transparency for reporting metrics, such as engagement, viewers and traffic. Almost half also want real-time access to intelligence, analytics and customer data, while a similar number want to know exactly how much they must spend to achieve specific performance outcomes.

ViralGains CEO Tod Loofbourrow added: “This research indicates that the timing is right for a massive revolution in digital video. Marketers can’t continue to judge success through superficial metrics like impressions when they are increasingly held accountable for driving meaningful, bottom-line results. Unfortunately, current industry solutions and standards are failing to facilitate this change on a number of levels—from antiquated definitions and measurements to massive breaches of data privacy.”

While there are growing concerns about transparency, 95% of the 233 senior marketing leaders surveyed said they would increase their investments in online video advertising in 2018, with a quarter planning to boost budgets by up to 25%. Loofbourrow concluded by saying that advanced technology and high-quality storytelling would enable marketers to generate the insights they need to drive more related messaging and improved results in the long term.


Many businesses and online marketers have been using Facebook quite successfully to market their products and services through Facebook posts and target advertising. However, with the revelation that the data of millions of users was handed over to Cambridge Analytica – a political consultancy group that managed US President Donald Trump’s successful bid to the White House in 2016 – data privacy has once again come to the forefront.

Now Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has acknowledged that the company tracks people irrespective of whether they have an account with Facebook, and this has deepened the issue surrounding data privacy.

During a Congressional hearing, Zuckerberg said that Facebook collects data of even those who do not have an account with the social media networking site. He said that this was done for security reasons.

Lawmakers and privacy supporters protested this practice by Facebook. Many said that Facebook had to come up with a system that allowed people without an account to find out the details that the social media networking site had about them.

US Representative Ben Lujan asked Mark Zuckerberg to fix this problem during the hearing. It is unsure how this disclosure will affect Facebook’s ability to offer advertisers targeted ads. In fact, Zuckerberg did not respond to Representative Lujan, and two days after the statement, Facebook announced that it had no plans to build a tool to let non-users know the extent of data the company holds on them.

Mark Zuckerberg has his share of critics, who have said that he has not disclosed sufficient details about how much data Facebook collects and to what extent it is used.

Chris Calabrese, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), an advocacy group based in Washington, pointed out that it was unclear what the social media site was doing with the vast volume of data.

Facebook attains data of people who do not have an account with the site when they upload email IDs of their friends, who do have a presence on Facebook. It also gets information via cookies, which are stored on a person’s browser to track their internet usage. Usually, this is done to send targeted ads to people.

In a statement, Facebook expressed that the kind of data collection it carried out was in alignment with the way the internet works. When questioned whether people could opt out of giving Facebook access to their data, the company stated people had the option of deleting cookies from their browser and device settings.

Cookies are installed on users’ browsers when they visit websites that have Facebook’s Like and Share buttons. This happens even if the person does not click on the buttons. According to Facebook, the data is used to create analytics reports – not for targeted advertisements.

In the UK and Europe, Facebook will meet its first regulatory challenge when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. The new regulation requires companies that collect data to get consent from the public and let them know what their data will be used for.

Woodrow Hartzog, Professor of Law and Computer Science at Northeastern University, said that Facebook would have to find ways to give non-users the right notice. However, Facebook has said in a statement that it complies with applicable laws, including GDPR.



Culture may have a more profound impact on the way people consume content than previously thought. A new study found that ads, articles and videos tailored to an audience’s language and social beliefs have a much greater chance of resonating with said audience and driving positive customer actions.

Digital Lives 2018: World of Digital ‘Everything’ through a Cultural Lens is a new study published by the Culture Marketing Council: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing (CMC). It aims to uncover exactly how culture affects the behaviour of users in the digital realm, with a sharp focus on content sharing and consumptions, as well as the types of platforms used.

The CMC studied 3,500 respondents between the ages of 13 and 49, with an equal number of Hispanics, Hispanic African Americans and non-Hispanic whites taking part. The main takeaway is that brands can increase the power of their messages by advertising and publishing organic content in a person’s “cultural space”. This is true for all ages, languages and segments.

Almost three-quarters of non-Hispanic African Americans said they are more likely to make a purchase from a specific brand if they try to advertise in cultural spaces, while around two-thirds of Hispanics said the same. It is perhaps no surprise that Spanish language content drives more engagement with Hispanics. This highlights the importance of transcreation and translation when creating content campaigns.

“Demography and digitalization are the two most transformative and disruptive forces in our society today,” CMC Research Chair Nancy Tellet said. “The growth and influence of the Hispanic consumer, coupled with the pop culture and political clout of African Americans, is transforming the American cultural landscape. At the same time, digital platforms are emerging and evolving, giving consumers more control over the on-demand content they crave.”

While the study is focused on the Americas, it also offers a general insight into how content tailored to different cultures can amplify the power of brand messages. Authentically diverse content appears to be a positive factor across the board, as it increases engagement with the majority of multicultural audiences and also a portion of millennial non-Hispanic whites.

“The results of this new study re-emphasize the strategic imperative of placing culture at the center of your campaigns and valuing culture specialists as key advisors,” said CMC Chair Isaac Mizrahi, who is also co-president and COO of Alna. “We hope this study can help marketers maximize success with in-culture, multicultural segmented efforts and avoid costly cultural gaffes in their mainstream marketing.”

A few tips for successful content transcreation include creating an audience profile covering preferences, lifestyle, language and goals to build a persona for creatives to tailor content towards. The profile also helps the audience grasp the keywords they are searching for by considering localised keyword behaviour. It is important that cultural content is topically and stylistically relevant to audiences. Beyond transcreation, more basic translation can also work if the content can engage with audiences in a positive way. Either way, culture is set to play a big part in content creation in 2018.