Podcasts: The New Wild West

The IAB expects podcast advertising to exceed $500 million in 2019, which represents growth of about 65% in just two years. It’s a fast growing medium with limited standardization where only a small handful of categories have had ongoing success.

Part of podcasts’ allure (to brands) is the quality of its core demographics, which skew ages 25 to 40 with higher income levels and education. This is often an audience that’s tough to reach and they’re not typically watching a lot of TV.

The other allure is credibility. Most listeners are highly engaged when tuned into a podcast and usually don’t mind hearing ads. Ads tend to be kept to a minimum and are relevant to the program’s content, often via host-read ads. Trust and brand recall for podcast ads is also high when compared with other ad formats.

Based on data from nearly 50 custom studies Nielsen has conducted over the last 18 months, podcast advertising has demonstrated that it can move the needle on many important key metrics like awareness, ad recall, affinity, recommendation and purchase intent.

US Podcast Penetration

Podcast Ad Effectiveness

Why Its Hot?

The podcast advertising market in the US is poised for strong continued growth in listenership and ad dollars, but without meaningfully addressing current friction points, it might remain a niche advertising vehicle primarily suited to direct-response advertisers in the near term.

The ability for sellers and buyers to talk the same language is holding back the value proposition for brands more than anything else. There is a question of scale and fragmentation still – with only a few programs reaching the masses and many more reaching only smaller, niche audiences at far less frequent intervals than other media.

Newspapers existed before the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Radio existed before Arbitron, TV existed before Nielsen and the internet existed well before the IAB and comScore.  Podcasts are still living in this dawn of pre-standardization and governance, and how downloads and audience size is measured from one show or network to another is varied, making it harder for larger brands to execute – and measure – any meaningful effort.  Anyone want to start up an independent 3rd-party measurement company?




Few Marketers Use a Single System of Record for Data Management

From social listening insight to email metrics, US marketers rely on a slew of data sources to inform their decisions. But less than 9% of those polled by mobile marketing provider Tune in March 2017 said they use a single system of record to bring all that data together.

Instead, roughly 21% of respondents rely on multiple databases, and 16.5% use a marketing cloud service to house data.

Though not quite the same thing, a well-integrated marketing cloud could potentially serve more functions than a single system of record. It could not only bring data together, but also deliver actionable insights to marketers and operationalize them through email marketing, social media and other channels.

Why it’s hot?

  • Having no centralized repository of data has been a challenge rife amongst my clients. By having disparate and at time conflicting metrics for success, silos have been established, and politics increase.

TV & Digital Measurement Methods Moving Closer Together

TV advertising has never been as predictable, provable and performance-oriented  as new digital channels like display, video, search and social have become for marketers, but the times, they are a changin’.

Image result for addressable television

The rise of digital media, which is measurable to the nth degree, is creating a desire for the same accountability from all media. Historically, TV’s performance has been assessed primarily by MMAs (media mix analyses), which required months of data accumulation, followed by weeks of analysis, only to determine a channel ROI, or daypart ROI, at its most granular. However, with connected TV penetration increasing and more and more TV inventory being reserved for addressable advertising, new methods of measuring and optimizing with much greater granularity, are becoming feasible. Soon, discussions about the performance of TV schedules may sound quite similar to discussions about digital media performance.

Why It’s Hot: For nearly two decades, digital media performance recaps have  included metrics that are common to offline media (reach and frequency, GRPs/TRPs and channel ROI), along with metrics that facilitated optimization at the most granular levels (e.g., revenue per site/placement/target criteria/message). First, digital metrics required education, then clients became comfortable with them and now, they are desired….even demanded, of all channels. After years of trying to bridge two worlds, those worlds are converging, and we have the know-how to continue to thrive; to lead discussions about channel roles and performance.

Elaborate Click-Fraud Scam Makes Headlines, Questions Digital Integrity

As reported today by AdAge, a Texas jury last week ordered TriMax Media, a digital advertising agency specializing in search engine marketing, to pay one of its competitors $2.3 million for executing an elaborate click-fraud scam.

After TriMax,  lost a client to competitor  Wickfire,  TriMax began bidding on search terms associated with 140 Wickfire clients and clicking on those ads in search results, driving up clients’ search advertising costs.

Wickfire clients became frustrated over the small returns they got from their ad spending, even though it seemed like potential customers were clicking on their ads. “(They) couldn’t believe it,” Chet Hall, CEO and founder of Wickfire said. “I had to spend months talking to them.”

TriMax also created false Google AdWords accounts in the names of key WickFire employees and used them to buy fake ads that looked like they were coming from Wickfire. That made it appear as if Wickfire was in direct violation of contracts with its clients, affiliate networks and Google, creating reprehensible damage to Wickfire and the brands it represents.

Why It’s Hot:

Such high-profile examples of ethical violations are the exception not the norm. They do however, erode the public’s (and business’s) credibility in digital marketing, bad news for all. While brands take diligent, deliberate steps to build their reputations over years and years, it can wash away in a blink with one fowl play. It can easily be indirectly caused by the hand of a partner they trusted to act ethically on their behalf, pressured to differentiate or shave off valuable pennies on a CPC, CPA or CPM to maintain competitive edge.

One of the pillars of digital media is its culpable trackability – reliant on our sources of data and measurement to be accurate and unbiased. But amid several other recent examples of measurement missteps- from bigger entities Facebook and Google, to name a few – we’re reminded how reliant we are on standards, checks and balances (such as those constantly iterated by bodies like the IAB or MRC) to stay far enough ahead of the curve so we can maintain this delicate balance we make our daily trade.

Study Proves That Display Ads Precede Many Search Clicks

It’s tempting to credit a sale to the last thing a customer saw or heard before it happened, even though the reason is often far more complex. Even direct marketers with full access to their sales data aren’t immune to this tendency, called the “last-click attribution” fallacy in digital marketing analytics.

But now Facebook’s Atlas ad serving and analytics unit has some proof it can share from one of the biggest direct marketers – Guthy-Renker’s Proactiv – that just because someone completed a sale after clicking a search ad, the search ad doesn’t necessarily deserve all the credit.

By tracking the digital “path to purchase” through anonymized monitoring of Facebook users’ online activity, Atlas found that 16% of the online buyers clicked on search ads after first being served an online display ad.


Why It’s Hot

This research illustrates how an ad doesn’t have to produce an immediate click or conversion to prove that it’s working. These results can help us and our clients to effectively measure display advertising beyond last click attribution.


Viewability Still Hot Topic to MRC, IAB, 4A’s

Holding viewable ads as the standard that advertisers transact upon is theoretically an idea everyone can agree upon. Advertisers benefit from knowing their ads are actually being seen and publishers benefit because eliminating non-viewable ads should reduce the supply of inventory and thereby raise prices. So why all the fuss?

This discussion is not going away and dates back to three years ago when the online ad industry’s top trade organizations together set a goal to make viewable ads the de facto standard. And so measurement-focused Media Rating Council set out to accredit a group of third-party technology vendors to track viewabilty. The group ended up accrediting 16.

It is important to note that in 2013 there were 6, and now the field has widened to 16 – with 3 noted vendors cited with the capability of 100% viewability. The field is soon professed to consolidate again to 3-4 credible vendors that rule this space. Regardless if you choose 6, 16 or 3 – test campaigns run synonymous with multiple vendors have resulted in wildly diverging results, far exceeding acceptable standards (per MRC). The IAB believes that 2015 will be the year of transition.Viewability2

For a while, the MRC warned against doing business using viewabilty metrics. Their advisory lifted in March of last year. As the marketplace started to adjust to this reality, in December Google released a report showing just how many ads are not viewable (56%!).  Then the Interactive Advertising Bureau issued a public declaration that publishers should aim to guarantee 70% of the ads they deliver will be viewable. Soon after, the American Association of Advertising Agencies got involved as well and  fired off a missive of its own,essentially rejecting that 70% figure.

Why It’s Hot

So where are we now?

Depends who you are.  Some publishers (ranging from AOL to Forbes) are redesigning portions of their websites on the fly, worried about both revenue and user experience in light of potential new standards. On the other side, many buyers are taking the stance: you knew this was coming, you should have been ready. Most discredit any viewability percentages >100%  and makegoods are not uncommon. There is reluctance to pay higher prices after publishers are perceived to have sold tons of worthless inventory over the years under the guise of ‘it’s all good’.

Naturally, Google is one of the vendors that believes it has a solution. They feel the industry isn’t that far away from having only delivering ads that can be viewed in the first place (with the help of Google’s product–Active View), by having this built into ad serving software. It may have a point for publishers aspiring to meet market demand for 100% viewability –  which involves baking that technology natively into the ad server as opposed to an after-the-fact report…at which point it’s too late, and you have a make good.

A couple things remain clear while the powers that be continue to shake out this discussion:

1. Viewability should be part of the conversation around campaign goals  – not a metric on which to measure.

2. We could see a domino effect from this outcome that spills into other media and redefines even traditional measurements.

The Attraction of Real-Time Data can Kill a Channel Strategy

This fall I will watch a ton of football, which means I will see a ton of ads for trucks.  What if the success of those ads was measured on the number of phone calls to a Chevy dealer in the minutes following a commercial? To measure TV in this way would be absurd. After all, it takes time to sway the hearts and minds of consumers who will buy these products in the future.


However, when it comes to digital advertising, where data is available in real-time, marketers often cling to this data, use it to evaluate all digital ads and optimize accordingly. As a result, “assisting” media is cut and marketers pour more money into “converting” activities; those that occur immediately preceding the purchase. the primary beneficiary is branded search (e.g., “Vitamix Blender”). Without marketing to grow the pool of prospective buyers and to stimulate demand, potential sales are limited and the well can even dry up, unless the marketer uses offline media (for which these metrics are not easily and quickly available) to build awareness. As a result, digital struggles to gain traction as a brand-building medium and win big brand budgets.

This article, The Underappreciated, Unrecognized Value Of Non-Brand Search Campaigns, focuses on the detrimental impact to paid search programs. Real-time site activity data implies that “non-brand” search (e.g., best blender) does not work. In reality, this type of work puts Vitamix into the searchers limited consideration set. A searcher may conduct a dozen more searches before finally deciding to make the $500 investment. This sale will most often be credited to a branded search “Vitamix blender”, though the “best blender” search put the Vitamix on the buyer’s radar and had the greatest influence on the eventual purchase.

More and more marketers are attempting to account for and measure all steps in the decision-making process. A study by one travel site found that its non-brand search campaigns were valued at an additional 43% after moving from a last-click attribution model (which would assign credit only to the very last, likely branded, search); which led to a dramatic change in their allocations across search campaigns. In the absence of robust and comprehensive data though, simply considering the typical path to purchase can greatly improve data interpretation and prevent teams from taking potentially harmful action.

Why It’s Hot: It’s hot because it has a major impact on the way that clients perceive our marketing programs. Data’s great, but it often has limitations (e.g., last click only). Before acting on it, we must consider the bigger picture; consumer insight, the user journey and the metric’s place within it.