Flip your media plan to understand what the hell you're doing

There was this guy who taught us tennis once and he was really good at hitting backhands. Will Starling is his name and he’s all about backhands. 

His theory is that a backhand is a more natural stroke than a forehand, (that’s if you hit the big bottom to top Roger Federer single hander and not the Agassi lycra bike pants in my shorts double hander)  it’s just habit that everyone walks on to a tennis court and hits forehands. Over time, you will get better at forehands just because you’ve hit more of them. My backhand is way better than my forehand because Will Starling used to make us hit backhands first and hit lots of them. 

When you think about or sketch up a media plan you probably do the same thing: TV, print, radio, outdoor….oh and then some digital. Over the years, you’ve probably got used to thinking and working this way so it’s not surprising that you feel more comfortable and proficient working with this type of plan. 

Trad media is the forehand of the media plan and digital is the backhand that everyone walks around and thinks they aren’t good at. 

The way to get better is to start with ‘digital’ and get more experience and practice. Split the generic ‘digital’ out a bit more and it will make more sense to you. For example if you look at the research below you can see they have split out online, search, directories and general advertising (online display, email marketing, integrated site content and online video). 

Of the main segments of the online advertising sector - online classifieds, search, directories, and general advertising (online display, email marketing, integrated site content and online video), search advertising grew 23% in 2013, online general advertising 12%, online classifieds 11% and online directories just 4%. Harpur adds, "From 2013 to 2018, the search market is expected to continue to outperform the other three major segments (online classifieds, online general and online directories), growing at a CAGR of 16%, its proportion of the total online search and directories market increasing from 83% in 2013 to 91% in 2018."

The fastest growing segments in the Australian online advertising market are mobile and online video and both segments are expected to outperform the market significantly over the next five years. Mobile advertising grew very strongly in 2013, driven by high consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets, as well as growing media agency acceptance of mobile channels. It is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 39% between 2013 and 2018 and video advertising is forecast to grow at 31%. By that time advertising served on tablets is predicted to account for 70% of overall mobile advertising expenditure, whilst adverts served on smartphones are predicted to account for 30%.Frost & Sullivan's report, The Australian Online Advertising Market: Year End Review and Market Outlook,

Marketers often have different agencies (or a combination of in-house and agency) working on different parts so you get four or five schedules and never see the complete picture with everything integrated. For your own understanding, pull the numbers out and put them into one spreadsheet so you can see the total activity and spend at a media mix level. Yes- media mix is still important. 

Christmas activity stops on 3 Dec uh oh

Just chunky big numbers, you don’t need all the placements and everything. If you think you don't have time for that just think about how much time you spent making sure the Christmas Creative was 'Christmassy' enough. Exactly. 

You’ll also notice you have overlap. The social media agency is serving display ads on Facebook that isn’t in your online display budget. The Creative you are using on taste.com.au can also be used on Twitter and Facebook. Why are you getting two versions developed? The more you fiddle around with your numbers you’ll start to find better ways of doing things and get more confident to ask questions and not just say yes to all the agency recommendations. Ban yourself from Creative fluffing around and editing and focus on the media and what it’s doing. 

More backhands and less forehands and you'll find digital a lot easier and more natural for you. 

Social and search lead US Top 15 Smartphone Apps list

Of all the millions of iOS and Android mobile apps that US humans could possibly want to choose with their own freewill to put on their mobile phone communications device that number one app is -- Facebook.  Just stop and have a little think about that. People have Facebook in their pocket. Now scroll down the list of the other 14 apps on the list. What do you see? A lot of Google. So search. Search and social. Instagram, Twitter. Social. Maps and discovery. Music and entertainment, YouTube, Pandora. Plus the amazing Yahoo weather app that you should have on your phone just for looking at the tiny windmills on because it's really pretty. Information. 

Search, social and mobile are all great little friends from a customer perspective, it's just the companies that haven't quite figured out how to make money off all this new behaviour so keep that in mind when you get a bit gimmicked out with omni-channel social contextual programmatic realtime demand bidding. The customers are there and they are active. Figuring out how to get the best information to them and how to do something useful with all the search and social signals is the challenging part. 

Facebook ranked as the top smartphone app, reaching 75 percent of the app audience, followed by Google Play (51.8 percent), Google Search (49 percent) and YouTube (48.8 percent) Comscore May 2014

How do we know if our paid online advertising is working?

Comscore did a really good paper with a stupid name about four years ago ‘Whither the click’ (?) and it gives you some good foundations for understanding performance on paid digital ads. 

Like most things in marketing it’s important to not oversimplify to the point of removing the quality audience discussion. So if you were to say ‘does advertising on TV work?' anyone worth their salt would say ‘well it depends on the placement and the reach and the promotional mechanic and the creative execution and what you were trying to achieve in the first place' and work backwards from there. You know- ‘customers’ and all that jazz. With digital you do the same thing however, I think there are a couple of things we can start with. 

First, are you talking about display or search campaigns? So when I go to Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald this morning the first display ad I got served was cloud host Rackspace

If I search for 'cloud provider Sydney' in Google then I get their paid search campaign too (now that wasn’t planned, I was actually looking for a Retail ad to go into the point below from the stupidly named report but you get the idea).  

A combination of display and search. So when you start talking about ‘the online ads’ or the ‘I don’t think the web ads are working’ be clear what you are talking about; display or search. 

Second, it’s very rare in any media plan that one channel is doing all the work, they work in together. Yes that’s annoying and it makes things difficult to measure but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one instance or one channel is making or breaking your campaign outcome:

"In the Retail category, it is also clear that while the lift in sales from a display ad is lower than the lift from a search ad, the reach of a display campaign is typically far higher than that of a search campaign. When the sales lift is weighted by reach, display campaigns generally outperform search campaigns. However, the combination of a display and search campaign delivers substantial synergy, with the sales lift from the combined strategy being greater than the sum of the individual components." comscore 'Whither the click'

So it’s the combination of display and search that results in the retail sales lift in this example. We’re seeing this pattern across a number of industries and you just need to spend some time in paid search forums to see analysts summarising their campaign results with ‘we got the best result from a combination of paid display and search’and then looking at how they can take the intent identified in the search and make it into a display ad to influence behaviour change and/ or conversion. 

The third thing (this applies across all forms of advertising and communications) don’t assume it’s the Creative that is or isn’t doing the work and getting the result you want. 

If you stare at this bar chart for a little while, you can see that the eight bars represent eight different campaigns the company executed. The red bits are display ads that totally missed the audience. Green were bang on and there are some other colours in the middle. It would be easy to look at eight different campaign executions and get in a big discussion about fonts and images and copy without understanding that it was actually the campaign delivery (target and frequency) that was changing in the background. Does that makes sense? The easiest way I think of it is imagine you are in a conference centre with lots of breakout rooms. If you go and deliver eight different presentations to eight different audiences it’s not only the font on the Powerpoint slides that is changing. The audience is changing, so start with the figuring out ‘which room has the best audience for what we’re trying to achieve’ and work back from there. The frequency is how often you deliver that presentation to that audience. Some rooms may cost more to access than others, but if they contain the right people who are going to transact with you, then it’s worth the investment and better than talking to a cheapo room full of dud leads. 

And in the grand scheme of your campaign, the whole room probably isn't going to rush at you with their cash and buy what you're selling after you deliver the first slide. It makes things trickier to measure, this is true but since when has marketing and ad performance been easy to measure? The most important thing is that you have a good understanding of what's actually going on first before you get scrambled in the data. 

Faces and names matter for your Google search results

Updated March 14 2014: Matt Cutts confirms there is a type of author rank in use at Google

I've just been flicking back and forward to the search live blog: Google’s Amit Singhal At SMX West 2014 and just noticed something that I need to update and you might find useful. 

In the update part - in November 2012 I wrote that Twitter will help your search rankings. It did then and it doesn't now so just be aware of that (this Hootsuite -Game of Thrones infographic provides the best explanation-oops only took me a year to update). 

In the hmmm that's interesting part, we can see more humanising of content and search requests (is that a word?) to natural language and voice recognition, voice activated search in Google Now and all that cool mobile stuff. 

Figuring out who the author of content is important for establishing relevance and authority so even more reason to get your people online and contributing quality content with their own names and beautiful smiley faces. Even fugly frowny faces will suffice. Who says something online matters and creates opportunities for agile brands to take ownership of conversations by putting their clever humans out the front on topics. For example, I've recently watched Bill Cunningham New York and it's really great and you should watch it. While journalists around the world are wringing their hands about the demise of the print industry and the great injustices of centralised newsrooms, 80 year old Bill is still the voice, or eye, of authority on fashion. One scene from the movie showed him trying to get into a Paris fashion show and a girl on the door checking him for credentials and generally not bothering with the old fella in the shabby blue coat. A designer swooped out to grab Bill and said to the girl in French 'this is the most important person in the world'.  Bill Cunningham at the New York times is an author and authority on fashion and what he says, especially on topics like hats and shoes, matters more than what other people say. Just to be clear that there is no author rank at the moment but you can sort of see the problem that Google is trying to solve. 

Amit Singhal explains to Danny Sullivan:

DS: Google was built on an analysis of links. Seems like the rules are more complicated now about what gets counted. Do links still work as a ranking signal?

AS: Links are clearly an important signal about the importance of your content. They’re still very valuable. At the end of the day, we take a holistic look at the value of your site. We’re looking to build algorithms that give users what they want.

DS: Let’s talk about social signals. You’re not using any social signals from Twitter or Facebook, right? If something gets a lot of tweets, it doesn’t matter?

AS: That’s right, we’re not using those right now. We don’t have access to the Twitter data, so you can imagine how hard it would be to build a system that relies on those signals.

DS: You do have access to Google+, but you’re not using that for impacting the unpersonalized results?

AS: Right. We think about it from a user’s perspective. They’re looking for high quality content generated by reputed people. We have the authorship program that allows that to happen. They’re also looking for content from people they know, and we have the personalized results for that.

DS: Why don’t you use more signals from Google+?

AS: We have found that use of social signals in personalized mode is far more positive than using in non-personal results?

DS: Are there other things you would look at to determine a page’s relevance?

AS: (points at Danny) What do you find valuable as a user. We look at it as a human problem. What is relevance? What is high quality? And you figure out what signals produce relevant and high-quality signals.

DS: On authorship, there is no author rank, but could that become a signal?

AS: Possibly it could.