Digital Marketing

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Ad Spend Versus Marketing Spend

Will Facebook absorb five percent of online ad spend by year's end? According to how many media outlets are interpreting a recently published forecast, yes.

I say, not so fast.

There's spend and there's spend. Some of it is on digital advertising, and some is on digital marketing. There's a world of difference between the two - particularly prior to one of the year's most eagerly anticipated and ballyhoo'd IPOs.

The report in question is Efficient Frontier's Global Q4 2011Digital Marketing Performance Report. It states Facebook's spend share "reaches 2.7% of biddable online advertising spend in Q4 [2011]."

OK, I can buy that estimate, give or take.

It's the 2012 forecast, however, that's highly questionable. Note that Facebook's 2011 spend share is qualified: biddable online advertising. I know what that is. Efficient Frontier's Facebook forecast for the coming 12 months is all over the board:

FaceBook [sic] WILL REACH 5% OF ALL ONLINE ADVERTISING SPEND BY THE END OF 2012. As marketers improve their ability to acquire and engage Facebook fans, brands will continue to pump new budgets into Facebook to capitalize on the social network’s reach and the amount of time users spend there."

Five percent may be a great headline, but it's highly unlikely that Facebook advertising is what's being referred to here. Will advertisers double their "biddable online advertising" budgets to "acquire and engage Facebook fans"? Don't bet the farm on it.

What I do agree with is that marketers will "pump new budgets into Facebook" to reach and engage consumers. Every single one of the 56 marketers I interviewed for my forthcoming research report on content marketing are creating more content, much of which is going into social media channels, such as Facebook.

What's important to understand (and it's hard to believe media reports on this have been so sloppy) is these are by no means advertising budgets. This is marketing spend, and much of this money is not funneling directly into Facebook's coffers. These new budgets are going into strategy, creative and production.

Anyone considering buying Facebook's stock would do well to understand the difference.      

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Learning in 2012: My 10 Top Digital Marketing & Media Topics

Another year, another stream of predictions. Not that predictions aren't interesting, mind you, but I've never been one to focus on them. Sure, I avidly follow trends in digital marketing and media, but what really jazzes me about following the sector for a living is the surprise factor. It's not knowing what comes next because next can be so out-of-left-field disruptive.

The other cool thing about this job is it's like being permanently enrolled in grad school. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love constantly watching and learning. So rather than share predictions for 2012, it seems more grounded and sensible to share a list of the top things I plan to study more closely and learn more about in 2012. Perhaps one or two of these topics will turn into a formal research report, perhaps not (oh, to be able to deep-dive into everything!).

  1. Behavioral Targeting: Not to begin on a negative, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced BT plain doesn't work. That's why I'd like to examine it more closely. Having done all my holiday shopping online, as well as extensive research and buying for a home remodeling project, it's appalling how many wasted BT ads I see, most for the selfsame products I actually bought from the advertiser. "This can't be right," says my consumer persona to my analyst persona. "Look more closely at the methodology of all those studies out there that 'prove' BT's effectiveness."
  2. Personalized Search This has been going on a while now, of course, but more and more, your search results differ significantly from my search results. Location, time of day, social graphs, search history -- a zillion factors figure in to what search results are displayed, and as a result, what ads and data appear in your browser. Need to keep up with this continually moving target.
  3. Social Media Fatigue Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Miso - and that's just a few off the top of my head. Just as consumers never watched all of the 200 or so cable channels bundled into their subscription packages, there's only so many hours in the day to update where you are, what you're doing, what you're watching and eating and with whom. This space seems primed to shake out, doesn't it? How will consumer behavior and adoption change, and how fast can new social plays keep launching?
  4. Big Data Collecting, crunching and making actionable data from disparate on- and offline sources will require significant investments in technology, manpower and learning for companies. Big data is all the buzz, yet many marketers still don't know precisely what it is. Everyone needs to bone up on this topic in 2012.
  5. Real-Time Marketing Top consumer brands, notably Pepsi, are starting to take this topic very seriously, and even some B2B giants such as GE are looking at the space. Monitoring, assessing, triaging, assigning, and responding to real-time conversations, events, posts, tweets and other digital information increasingly matters. And like Big Data, the challenges and resources it requires are formidable. A fascinating area to keep an eye on.
  6. Regulated Industries It's fascinating to watch highly regulated industries, such as pharma and banking, attempt to embrace digital marketing in general, and social media in particular. They face formidable barriers and more interesting challenges than most. I'm hoping to speak with more marketers from regulated sectors to learn more about how they're coping.
  7. Internet of Things When everything has an IP address, everything gets a lot more interesting. Once devices from cars to refrigerators and the dog's food bowl are connected, the implications for marketing, communication and even society will take surprises turns. This space is quite simply mesmerizing.
  8. Effects of Social Movements Occupy Wall Street fallout, the presidential election in the US, societal shifts in the Middle East. Social change resonates in digital channels (and vice versa). It's going to be a big year for social change, and that will inevitably impact digital.
  9. What's Starting Up? As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on start-ups. What's launching trend-wise? Who's getting funded? Who isn't? Following the money and the technology is not optional - it's integral to watching this space.
  10. Content Marketing A pet topic, the subject of my most recent book and my forthcoming research report. Keeping a close eye on how marketers are moving into content, which requires a rebalance of thought processes (ongoing, not episodic, campaign-based thinking), as well as new budgets, agency relationship and staffing requirements - not to mention a shift in corporate culture.

That's my 2012 syllabus. What's yours?

Please reply in the comments. And if you're behind a company active in one of the above areas, perhaps we should arrange a briefing sometime this year.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

A Content Marketing Conversation at Digiday Agency

It's always a good thing when industry conferences share their content, speakers and insights with the wider world. We can't all be in the same room at the same time, after all.

This week at Digiday Agency, Pulsepoint's razor-sharp CMO Rose Ann Horan and I kicked off the day with a half hour chat about content marketing. Because my upcoming research examines how agencies and enterprises alike are shifting resources and strategy to meet new demands in a world shifting from media buying to content creation, it was exciting to take the discussion into an agency context.

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A Mass Audience for Mobile?

What will it take to achieve mass in mobile?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately (in part because I'll be addressing it at Publishing Apps Expo in a keynote tomorrow). There's a lot that stands between mobile, its audience and advertisers: platform incompatibility, development problems, and just plain old lack of a real advertising model. Mobile tends to conflate utility and content into new hybrids we don't intuitively understand yet.

So it was interesting being briefed yesterday on Flipboard's next foray out of the iPad and into the iPhone. As you'd expect from one of the most visually stunning iPad apps, great care was taken to adopt Flipboard to its new and inherently more mobile home on a smaller screen.

Co-founder Evan Doll expained the new app is intended to "fill in the gaps in daily moments," like standing in line at the coffee shop. Browsing is therefore one-handed, flipping is vertical.

What's really compelling is how this new Flipboard aggregates content into just one app. Not just newspapers and magazines, but also social activity from multiple sources including Facebook and Twitter. This indicates the iPhone version of Flipboard could be the go-to app for iPhone owners. It puts a lot of information into one place with one very pleasing and intuitive interface.

Why this matters from a media perspective is that we're a long way - a very long way - from mobile mass media. In fact, we'll likely never get there. But by migrating to the iPhone from the iPad, Flipboard has put itself with reach of millions more users than it's already more-than-respectable 4M user base. And it's built compelling content into a beautiful, intuitive UX.

Exactly the direction mobile needs to take to become attractive to advertisers.

Update: The service has proven so popular that Flipboard services have gone down. See what I mean?

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Marketing: How to Play It Forward

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

One essential difference between content marketing and episodic, campaign based advertising is the former is a continuum. It has a beginning and a middle, but the end should ideally recede somewhere over the horizon.

It’s therefore essential to plan for continuity in content marketing. Without a story, characters, a theme or a hook that has legs over time, the well will run dry awfully fast and marketers will find themselves staring at the proverbial blank page, puzzling over how to fill it.

What strategies and tactics can marketers adopt to ensure longevity? There are several, and they fall into fairly neat categories. The following is by no means a comprehensive list, but instead aimed a getting you thinking about the themes that make content sustainable.

Character: Marketing is rife with mascots, from sock puppets to Mr. Clean, from Mr. Whipple to Madge the Manicurist (“You’re soaking in it.”). A strong character drives narrative. JWT’s “Believe” campaign for Macy’s is centered around a fictionalized version of Virginia O'Hanlon, the real-life girl who wrote the letter resulting in the famous editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Virginia (pictured above) appears in animations on the store’s website, as an augmented reality character in certain points of the store itself, and even stars in an animated television special. There are supporting characters in her story, and licensing agreements are underway for a line of dolls and toys.

Yes, Virginia, characters can be a content marketing tent pole.

Curation: Just as Virginia existed in real-life, so does a lot of useful content in the wild. No matter your product, service or industry, there’s lenty of content about it out there already, and likely more every day: news, trade publications, conferences, blogs, online videos, interviews and much more – more than your target audience is likely willing to wade through without guidance.

That’s where content curation comes in. Rather than reinvent the wheel, curation is a continual approach to judiciously finding and presenting relevant, topical and current content on a given topic, industry or area. It’s a common tactic. Nearly half of marketing executives (48%) are using content curation according to a 2011 survey from HiveFire.

People inherently rely on trusted sources: friends, family, brands, companies, experts, you-name-it, to help keep them informed, educated and even amused. Just as you probably have one go-to friend for car advice, another who can tell you what new books or films are worth seeing, or another who’s got the lowdown on the latest places to eat, business are collecting, organizing and filtering content around their own fields of expertise.

Community: Build it and they will come – and create content for you. OK, maybe it’s not that simple, but plenty of companies have benefited tremendously from creating communities in which consumers can gather to discuss given topics. This holds particularly true in the tech sector, where brands such as Apple, Microsoft, IBM and any number of major electronics manufacturers run forums in which members can discuss business problems and product issues, offering one another help and support.

The benefits go far beyond ongoing content creation. By listening and participating in discussions, the sponsoring brand has an early-warning system regarding problems, issues and often, competition in the field. Monitoring discussions can lead to advances in product development, and customer service expenditures can be dramatically reduced when customers are empowered to help one another.

Rubrics: News isn’t predictable, but newspapers are (magazines, too). Pick a periodical, any periodical, and you’ll find a wealth of regularly scheduled features and columns: the editorial page, a daily horoscope, or a weekend “What’s On” section. Wednesdays may be devoted to cooking and recipes, Thursdays to cars, or home design, or science. These regular features anchor the publication. They give readers something to look forward to (and return to).

Content marketing can work on the same principle. Develop regular, repeatable content units: an events calendar, expert opinion columns, how-tos, a video of the week. Make it original, repeatable, and schedule it to appear regularly. Rather than re-invent the wheel, these editorial calendar foundations drive their own momentum while providing the audience with both new material and a reassuring sense of familiarity.

The above is only the beginning of ways you can play content forward. We haven’t even begun to discuss user-generated content (hey, why should you do all the work!), or ongoing initiatives in how-to, utility or educational content.

But by now, you should get the idea: sustainability. It sure beats looking at a blank page and wondering how to fill it, day in and day out.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Why Isn't There More "Immersive" Advertising?

What ever happened to “immersive”?

You know, those campaigns that are so absorbing, so experiential, so deep and rich and mesmerizing that the viewer/audience/consumer is swept up in the experience. Transported, and in some small way, transformed. They’re also compelled to share and pass on campaigns like this. Truly immersive ads are always viral.

Digital was supposed to be more immersive than present reality allows. Arguably, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken was immersive. People spent hours commanding the chicken to do things, and even hacking the chicken to do NSFW things. According to the advertiser, the campaign even sparked a spike in the sales of the chicken sandwich it oh, so subtly promoted.

As digital technology has evolved, you’d think there would be more immersive campaigns, wouldn’t you? We’ve learned and grown, have more tools at our disposal and sophisticated developers who can manipulate them, working in tandem with inspired creatives.

I’m not talking world-class video here. Not to denigrate top-notch video, but even at its best video is engaging, not immersive. I’m making that call because video – even digital video – is so rarely interactive, even when it is beautiful and breathtaking.

What recent campaigns have been genuinely immersive? Not a lot comes to mind. Two are Facebook integrations. First, Intel’s breathtaking Museum of Me,  Intel's visual representation of your social life as a museum installation.  Because the rich, sweeping and breathtaking visuals pull data from the viewer’s Facebook profile,  some critics decried the initiative as creepy.

The Museum of Me wasn’t as creepy by half as its evil twin, Take This Lollipop. This Facebook integration (now offline, with a page cryptically stating “it has begun”) was the fastest-growing Facebook application ever. But it wasn’t a marketing campaign, but rather a side project by Jason Zada who, according to Mashable, created OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself.

Another fairly recent example of a truly immersive execution was the Google Chrome HTML5 experiment, The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive film built on (among other things) Google Maps. It eventually brings the viewer home. Literally.

What do all these immersive campaigns share in common? The oldest, most hackneyed truest truism in digital marketing: it’s about the user. All these executions are, literally, about the user, who is front and center in the action. The viewer is the star of the show, and firmly in the driver’s seat.

So why aren’t we seeing more of this highly creative and utterly interactive immersive stuff?

In many ways, what technology enables, technology taketh away. At least, it does in this still early stage of  digital evolution.

As rapidly as the cool new technologies are being rolled out that enable this stuff, so too are new platforms (especially mobile ones) being introduced every day on which they’re incompatible. Even on PCs, they require updated browsers and installed plug-ins.

Making an app? Is it for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire or Blackberry? Digitally, we still live in an era many of us have experienced before. Bet you remember some of these: 8-track or cassette? Betamax or VHS? Regular DVD or Blu-ray flavor?

The point? To be immersive, a campaign has to be really, really interactive. But it also has to provide an utterly flawless user experience. Otherwise, it’s immersive in all the wrong ways.

It’s hard to conceive how, with a proliferation of new technologies and new platforms, many of which have not yet figured out how to meet in the middle, campaigns can be truly immersive – and reach everyone.

We’re just not there yet.                  

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Roundup

Most of my writings on digital marketing, advertising and media don't make it to this blog. Instead, they're published elsewhere - and a girl can do only so much typing sometimes.

So herewith, a roundup of recently published thinking that's appeared elsewhere over the past month or so:

My new book! Obviously, this is the big one.  Content Marketing published in late October. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you read it. And thanks for waiting at least a couple of months before asking when I plan to write the next book!

The Altimeter Blog Some topics I've address on my company's blog include covering a Pilot Event at company HQ on the future of media at which I spoke with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang; Occupy Wall Street: Disruption & Leaderless Leadership; and thinking about how content marketing is impacting the advertising ecosystem, the topic of the research report I'm currently working on. It will look at how organizations are rebalancing to incorporate content marketing into their other marketing activities.

TopRank Blog I was honored when my friend (and interview subject for the above-cited research report) Lee Odden) asked me to guest post on his TopRank blog on Mastering the Content Workflow. It's a bit of tactical advice for getting a marketing operation running like a newsroom.

iMedia Connection For the better part of the year, I've been writing a fortnightly column for iMedia Connection. My editors there just invited me to write my first feature (or as they call it, "cover story") on mastering geek speak. It's practical advice for marketers struggling to communicate with their developer and programmer and generally more techie colleagues. Never have left brain/right brain schisms been deeper than in digital marketing disciplines, but there are ways to bridge those two hemispheres of the brain.

Other recent columns for iMedia include a guide to getting started with content metrics (based on a recent talk I gave at eMetrics New York); and avoiding brand embarassments in real-time.  

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Transmedia Storytelling: Once Upon a Time

Transmedia storytelling. Quite the buzz term of late, particularly in content marketing circles. In case you're not au courant, Wikipedia define the term as "the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies, not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchisessequels or adaptations."

If you haven't already heard the term bandied about, you will. With the decline of any real form of mass media, a fundamental strategy of publishers and broadcaster, not to mention brands, will become getting consumers to follow stories across channels, media and devices, each bit a stepping stone toward the total brand experience (even if some of those steps are skipped or eliminated).

It's a concept I've been discussing in interviews I'm conducting for my in-progress research report on the impact content marketing is having on the advertising ecosystem. It popped up several times in discussion just today. Yet transmedia storytelling is at this juncture more likely more aspirational than it is a reality.

Print brands such as Hearst, Rodale, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Motor Trend, Vice, Slate, Thompson Reuters and The Onion have signed on to become programmers. Each will run one of the 100 or so original, branded channels YouTube is on the verge of launching, primarily with media companies and celebrities (Madonna, Jay-Z, Amy Poehler, Ashton Kutcher and  Deepak Chopra) but also with brands such as Red Bull.

Sure, it's a way of extending the brand, and hopefully of raking in some additional ad revenues. But when a traditionally print brand extends its reach into video, is it transmedia storytelling?

Don't bet on it. Indeed, many of these publishers have dabbled in video already, from running their own YouTube channels to adding video elements to digital stories.

We won't know until we see it, but it's more than likely these new YouTube channels will read as brand extensions, not extensions of the stories the brands are telling in other digital or analog channels. It's a gut instinct, but it seems likely that the considerable editorial talent at these brands has yet to acquire the skills, the thinking and the mindset to arc their stories across multiple channels, in multiple places. Print, digital and video departments aren't yet tightly integrated, not to mention orchestrated. Writers aren't necessarily telegenic. Eloquent as they may be in print, their storytelling skills don't always translate into talking to a camera (nor is that what they were hired for).

Real transmedia storytelling is something we've barely seen in digital yet. It borders on aspirational. Achieving it may require a new generation of storytellers who are digital natives with mad storytelling skills and production know-how who are really, truly platform agnostic.

We're not there yet, and it's much, much too soon to be calling print publishers' experiments with digital "transmedia," interesting as they'll be to observe.

Image creditdeanashour

Rebecca Lieb's picture

CMOs Want Technology and Content

I spent this afternoon immersed in a briefing on IBM's most recent research effort, perhaps the most exhaustive survey of CMOs ever conducted. In a four month period, the company interviewed over 1,700 CMOs in 64 countries to learn more about their priorities and their pain points. The full report is available for download (registration required).

There are many fascinating insights in the report, as well as much information that's validating, if unsurprising (CMOs feel they need to better understand social media, data, and technology in general, for example). Two tables are of particular interest given the rise of content marketing and social media.

When asked in which areas they plan to increase the use of technology, responses are overwhelmingly geared toward content-oriented initiatives. Social media, content management, tablet applications - all these are heavily oriented toward the creation of content, not advertising and not direct marketing. SEO made the list, but search advertising didn't. Less than half plan to invest in more email technology - unthinkable a mere five years ago.

Of course, this naturally doesn't mean CMOs plan to abandon email marketing (or any of the aforementioned channels). But these planned investments indicate that worldwide, companies want to create content, interest and dialogue with customers and prospects.

This indication is borne out in their plans for partnerships. In the chart on the left, red indicates near-term, yellow longer-term plans. Call and service centers, community development, and new media strategy outweigh more traditional agency considerations for either traditional or digital advertising.

These are all themes I'll be digging into shortly in a research project: how organizations are reallocating both internal and external marketing resources to balance their need for advertising with the demands of content, social media and conversational marketing  

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Future of Media: Altimeter Group Pilot Event

Advertising: is it dying? In an ecosystem where rolling your own media has never been easier or cheaper, why would advertisers buy media from publishers to spread their messages? What's the new model: advertorial; advertent (as one attendee dubbed it); content marketing? And hey, aren't ads content, too?

Last night a group of advertisers and marketers from all sides of the equation (tech, buy-side, media and agency) got together at the Hangar to discuss these and other very topical issues around the future of media and advertising. As is traditional, we kicked off with a Wiki Wall to rev our brains. Questions included: "In what year will advertising die?" "What works better online, ads or content?" and "When do you build content versus buy media."

There were passionate opinions, dissent, and even +1s.

Fueled with wine and lots of food, conversation began in earnest (ably facilitated by my colleague Jeremiah Owyang - also the event photographer). Some of the major points we touched on encompassed the following.

Advertising isn't dying but...there are more options. Roll-your-own-media is a viable option, and one paying off handsomely for all types of advertisers and marketing, from the biggest CPG brands to B2B and even mom 'n' pop operations. Yet striking a balance between paid and non-paid (more about that below) media is complicated. It means new skill sets, budgets and resource allocations.

Media is changing, often painfully A point that really resonated with the group was the statement that the New York Times has more Twitter followers than it does print subscribers. Ouch. When should publishers throw up a paywall, follow a freemium model, or throw open the gates? It hasn't been easy to monetize Google traffic. To make things more complex, publishers (not to mention media companies like Spotify) are playing in a Facebook world. That means lots of eyeballs, but scant tolerance for buy me/click here now-type messages. Some publishers, particularly in the magazine world, are establishing in-house agencies to provide advertorial for advertisers. But when advertisers begin content marketing initiative, publishers suddenly find themselves in a situation where clients are also competitors. Talk about disruption!

Content assumes multiple guises, resulting in a high level of complexity Where does content come from? Seemingly everywhere. It can be earned, owned, user-generated, aggregated or curated - or a combination of all of the above. Determining what to use, which goes where, how to integrate content with other marketing initiatives, governance, measurement and quality benchmarks is no mean feat. It requires new attitudes, resources and skill sets. Adding element such as targeting to the conversation, and addition channels such as mobile, only underscore how much there is to grasp...and balance.

The conversation was animated and lively - with a fantastic level of participation from the group. But it was the tip of the iceberg. Happily, it lay some solid foundations for my first Altimeter research report on how content marketing will impact the advertising and media ecosystem.

Missed the discussion? No you didn't. We recorded the evening's proceedings - watch the conversation here.

Rebecca Lieb

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

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