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How Digital Advertising Will Change Under the New Administration

I just sent the following email to an Austin, Texas-based colleague:

Hey ______,  Are you aware that an ad for your company, with your name on it, appears on Breitbart’s home page? Screen shot attached. Best, Rebecca

I also tweeted out the alert, copying Sleeping Giants, a coalition “trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars.”

This issue — programmatic ads that appear on racist, sexist and otherwise extreme websites — is going to be an enormous one in the coming year. As is ad fraud.

We’ve already seen the trend developing. One of the most high-profile examples occurred late last year, when Kellogg’s learned its ads were appearing on Breitbart.com, in violation of the company’s corporate values and unbeknownst to the brand itself. Kellogg’s announced it would no longer advertise on the site, which prompted Breitbart to call for a boycott of the brand (a probable first in not just digital, but the entire history of advertising. When has a spurned media outlet ever enacted such a scorched-earth revenge against an erstwhile client?).

The issue isn’t just one of extreme political views and the even deeper polarization between Red and Blue, left and right that currently divide the nation.

Online advertising is already under siege. There’s ad fraud, ad blocking and ad skipping. Click-through rates hover around an abysmal 0.1 percent. Major advertisers, such as Kraft Foods, are rejecting up to 85 percent of marketplace ad impressions. The Association of National Advertisers engaged the help of investigative firms to probe fraudulent agency practices.

And now this.

We have a problem: Fake news and adjacency

“This” is not meant to imply a political argument. Instead, two other issues, (certainly related to the current political climate) are at play. The first is the much newer and highly publicized issue of fake news. The second is an issue as old as advertising itself: adjacency.

No advertiser wants their ads to appear next to news that’s detrimental to their product or that damages their brand. That’s why so many standard advertising contracts have adjacency clauses. Plane crash, no survivors? That page (online or off) is not where Delta, United or American Airlines wants to lure you into the happy skies.

New York Times readers remember this well. Following the events of 9/11, the paper instituted a separate section that ran ad-free to cover news of the disaster and subsequent recovery. If there’s an advertiser that wishes to promote its products directly adjacent to a seemingly never-ending stream of news about death, destruction and terror, I have yet to make that company’s acquaintance.

Fake news is a new wrinkle in the mix, one could call it adjacent to the adjacency issue. Again, no advertiser wishes to be party (or appear to endorse) lies, misinformation and propaganda. Like buying, tuning into or subscribing to a news source, advertising on that same source is an implicit endorsement of the outlet.

Vogue is a fashion authority. The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post convey a certain gravitas to their advertisers. Brands whose ads appear — however inadvertently — on fake news sites may as well be peddling X-Ray Specs in the back pages of a comic book. Or worse.

Another dimension of this newly burgeoning problem is the recent eruption of a bumper crop of hate: xenophobia, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, the list goes on. In fact, the inspiration for this column came from a recent headline on a legitimate news source, DailyBeast.com: “Alt-Right Leaders: We Aren’t Racist, We Just Hate Jews.” As of this writing, my browser is showing a Best Buy and Verizon ad next to the piece. Good luck, guys. I’ve just lost my appetite for faster DSL or a new flat-screen TV.

Again, this loops back to adjacency, even if the authority of the news source isn’t in question.

How the new climate will affect digital advertising

The new climate of fake or offensively virulent news will affect digital advertising and online media in the following ways in the short term.

  1. Already, more than 500 advertisers have pledged to block Breitbart.com from their media plans. This list will only grow. And as advertisers bow to pressure from consumers, expect ad tech players and agency trading desks to follow suit, shedding fake and offensive sites.

  2. Platforms like Facebook are under pressure to assess news stories for veracity before promoting them. Advertisers too will be called to task in the same way. Both human and machine vetting and intervention will be worked on feverishly this year.

  3. Programmatic advertising, already suffering, will descend another peg or two until these issues are at least partially resolved. Abysmal click-through rates don’t cause consumers to rise in insurrection, but supporting (or appearing to support) hate and divisiveness is another matter indeed.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Discussing Native Advertising Trends

interview rebecca lieb native advertising institute

I sat down to discuss trends in native advertising with my friends at the Native Advertising Institute during their recent conference in Berlin.

Overall, I'm seeing enormous movement away from classic advertising, a push strategy, and more adoption of 'pull' marketing techniques. Native advertising, of course, is one strong indicator of this trend. 

The NAI wrote a short piece on our talk.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content & Converged Media Predictions for 2017

crystal ball

It’s that time of year again, in which columnists dust off their crystal balls and peer into the next year to discern the trends, directions, and probabilities of the coming year.

I’ve got five trends on my list, explained below.

1. Contextual Content: Context will be the foundation of the next phase of content marketing. Content is moving beyond screens, and also far beyond mere personalization. Beacons, sensors and IoT enabled devices mean content is more contextual, and hyper-relevant messaging can be delivered in the "phygital" (physical + digital) world at places, times and under circumstances that are meaningful, valuable and helpful to individuals (I recently published research around this topic). Enterprises are beginning to investigate with contextual campaigns and content. They will develop methods for making highly personalized and relevant real-time messages based on triggers such as purchase history, the weather, physical location, and myriad more factors. Such campaigns are highly complex and technically demanding, but as one Disney executive once told me, “The more context there is, the higher the ROI.” Next year will be an experimental year, when trials are floated in this very new and potentially very lucrative arena.

2. Global Campaigns Enterprises are investing heavily in creating global content strategies. Content in diverse countries and regions must both ladder up to central messaging and goals while at the same time containing enough local relevance to resonate with audiences. People, processes, and technologies must be coordinated and synced - easier said than done. Moreover, doing so creates efficiencies and cost-savings, as well as just plain better content. I’ve got research on this topic publishing in early 2017 that was largely generated from work I’ve been doing for clients recently. Over the past year I’ve seen a spike in this type of planning among my clients. I’ve worked on global content strategy for both a major technology firm and helped a global non-profit shape a content strategy that encompasses 93 countries. This trend is already gaining serious momentum.

3. Content Grains Traction in the Enterprise Organizations are looking more seriously at issues surrounding content marketing, whether it be creating a global content strategy as mentioned above, or assessing needs and investments in tools, people, and other resources to ‘get content done.’ Then there’s the importance of gathering stories and assessing content needs beyond marketing into functions and lines of business ranging from sales, research and development, human resources, and other areas. To this end, content is becoming more deeply institutionalized. A fixture of the Fortune 100 list recently hired (but has not yet announced) a global content lead. Expect more formalized content positions and departments in the enterprise in the coming year.

4. Native Advertising Growth Native advertising, a form of converged media that marries content marketing with paid advertising, will continue to burgeon in 2017, providing desperately needed revenue to publishers who are investing in this more premium and customized service to advertisers. The New York Times’ content group T Brand Studio now employs 110 people. In 2015, revenues increased from $14 million to $35 million in 2015, and it now represents 18% of the company’s total digital advertising revenue. Time Inc. employs 125 people at its content group, the Foundry, and the Washington Post’s BrandStudio branded content unit also is growing quickly, as is The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Custom Studios. This trend will be driven by the continued eclipse of more traditional forms of digital advertising (see below), as well as brands’ growing sophistication with and confidence in content marketing. It’s a win-win for everyone but ad and media agencies, as brands partner directly with publishers on native advertising campaigns.

5. “Traditional” Digital Advertising Continues Its Decline Ad blockers. Ad fraud. Set-it-and-forget it programmatic campaigns that push horrible ads to unwilling consumers. Missing frequency aps that run the same ad again, and again, and again. Long load times that eat up consumers’ data plans. Adjacency issues, now particularly with the recent explosion of fake news. Platforms like iOS that block ads completely. Falling rate cards. It seems that display advertising an’t catch a break, and video advertising isn’t far behind (most consumers don’t make it to the 5 second mark. Advertising on the web isn’t going away any time soon (if ever), but it has certainly been regulated to ugly stepchild status, both by consumers and now increasingly by brands, too. In fact, it’s this decline in the efficacy of online advertising that in large part is spurring the shift to content and to other forms of marketing in owned and earned (rather than paid) channels. While it sometimes hardly seems possible, “traditional” forms of digital advertising will get worse before they get better. That, at least, is in my crystal ball for 2017.

Happy holidays and happy new year to all.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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