What Are The Top, Most Advanced, Customer Journey Analytics Tools Out There Right Now?

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” Jack Welch

As we rapidly approach 2019, it is critical that you make customer experience a top priority. In order to better understand these experiences, you must dive deeper into your customers' journey.

When you truly begin to understand your customers' behaviors, you can then develop a more strategic marketing plan. In turn, this will help you not only elevate the customer's experience but also increase your ROI. To assist your efforts, you need to hone in on productive, insightful analytics tools.

6 Customer Journey Advanced Analytics Tools To Consider for Your MarTech Stack

If you have recently made it your mission to map out the "customer journey" associated with your company, then you need to focus your attention on advanced analysis. Only then can you truly uncover the sophisticated behaviors and interests of your customer base.

Here are some of the top customer journey analytics tools available, all which offer their own unique features.

1. Google Analytics 360

Google has been a leader in relation to analytics, showing us that the more you know about your customers, the better equipped you'll be to make beneficial decisions. Google Analytics 360 was developed in order to help you "connect the dots." More specifically, this tool will allow you to link your offline and online information, helping you better understand user behavior.

Regardless of the industry, this analytics tool will provide you with a deeper understanding of your customer journey so that you can provide the best possible customer experience and more importantly, drive results. In fact, Google offers unique machine learning capabilities that will help you discover new insights (i.e. which customers are likely to convert).

The core benefits of Google Analytics 360 include:

  • The ability to see the complete picture, seeing how various channels impact your sites and/or apps. You can also easily connect other systems in order to measure point of sale, CRM, etc.
  • The capability to connect with Google's advertising and publisher products, such as Display & Video 360, AdSense, AdMob, Google Ads, and Ad Manager. You will also be able to share large amounts of data in an instant while using Google's configuration APIs. Google Analytics 360 also supports Javascript libraries, mobile app SDKS, and other collection APIs. Read more about these features here.
  • What we love about Google 360: Endlessly customizable, although it can be overwhelming at first. Natural progression from GA.

2. Heap Analytics

Known as the "new standard in tracking customer data," Heap Analytics automatically captures all interactions. Whether they be mobile, web, or cloud interactions, including events, clicks, emails, and more, you can now effectively and easily analyze your data without having to write any code.

In turn, you will be able to effectively measure the impact of each and every interaction. This is particularly true in regards to customer behavior, as you will be able to analyze and use data to increase conversion rates, better understand your users, and increase your overall revenue.

Overall, the core benefits associated with this tool include:

  • The ability to save time while increasing operational efficiency. Without needing any additional code, you can capture every interaction from your website or mobile app.
  • Access to retroactive data, allowing you to make better decisions. You can also capture on-page data via snapshots, enriching your datasets with ease.
  • The option to enrich data using third-party apps, including but not limited to A/B testing tools, payment processors, marketing automation tools, and CRMs. Cloud apps can also be integrated with just one click, including Stripe, Salesforce, and Shopify.
  • What we love about Heap: It allows for retroactive set-up of events. Mapping of events is extremely easy.

3. Woopra

Trusted by more than 5,000 of the world's most innovative companies, including WordStream and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Woopra is known for its analytics, supporting marketing, sales, product, and support teams.

The benefits associated with this tool include:

  • Real-time analysis on an individual basis. You will be able to see how is interacting with your site, who is opening emails, who is making payments, and more. Helping you tie all of your data points together, will help you understand the customer journey and customize funnels accordingly.
  • In addition to retention reports, trend reports, journey reports, you will be able to create dynamic segments of users based on the criteria you choose. Woopra's visual interface showcases highly robust segmentation capabilities so that you can better understand various customer groups.
  • What we love about Woopra: CDP + Automations with a big library of integrations out of the box.

4. Yandex Metrica

The goal of Yandex Metrica is to help you better analysis both the intent and behavior of your users. Offering some unique and innovative features, you can take advantage of powerful segmentation and tagging capabilities. These features surrounding customer behavior include:

  • Accurate session replay, which helps you understand why a conversion was lost.
  • Click heat maps, which allow you to see exactly what your customers are clicking on so that you can better examine behavior patterns.
  • Form analytics helps you detect the pain points of your customers. In turn, you can see which form isn't performing as it should within a form-funnel.
  • What we love about Yandex Metrica: Great complement for GA. It allows to zero in on individual user's activity.

5. Indicative

Developed with product managers, marketers, and analysts in mind, Indicative will allow you to understand your customers are people, not as data. Connecting your data sources, this tool delivers a complete view of your customer. Whether you would like to optimize marketing campaigns or customer acquisition, Indicative provides you with the insights you need. Best of all, the standard version is free.

Benefit from:

  • The ability to segment customers in order to learn about different groups (i.e. how they interact with your product(s)). Then, identify behaviors that result in higher conversion rates before analyzing the impact of your A/B tests.
  • The opportunity to identify and eliminate points of friction across various segments. This will allow you to maximize your campaigns, as you're able to "slice" your funnel to compare various paths. Learn more about the unique features offered here.
  • What we love about Indicative: A robust platform for advanced segment analysis.

6. Pendo

As they saw over at Pendo, "we make software lovable." Like the above tools, you will be able to access robust product analytics without coding. There are many features associated with this tool, including funnels and journeys. Surveys and polls, user segmentation, product analytics and more.

This tool can help you:

  • Segment users for targeted messaging, allowing for more personalized engagement.
  • Benefit from a wide range of integrations, including everything from Wordpress to BigQuery.
  • What we love about Pendo: Incredibly dynamic tool for the analysis and execution of insights.

Better understand who users engage with your product(s). Whether you want to know which features drive engagement or view historical trends, all of this becomes possible -- and much more

Why Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Real-Time Analytics

You know that old cliche about opportunity knocking only once? It's true. That's probably why it's such a cliche. In marketing, staying plugged into real-time trending topics presents opportunities that can be capitalized on and turned into awareness, engagement, or even selling opportunities.


Oreo is a perfect example of how having a creative team that's ready to act on a whim can be turned into marketing gold:



For context, a power outage interrupted the 2013 Super Bowl that led to a 34-minute delay while electricians tried to get everything working again. Oreo managed to whip this together during that time, garnering over 15,000 retweets, 6,000 likes, and lifelong notoriety as an example of how beneficial real-time marketing can be.


Four years later, more people likely remember this ad than who won that year's Super Bowl (It was the Baltimore Ravens narrowly staving off a frantic San Francisco 49ers comeback).


Or how about this one from Arby's which generated a staggering 80,000+ retweets.



One question made at the right time generated worldwide awareness. Would Arby's ever had generated 80,000 retweets from a conventional tweet that was implemented during their strategy meeting weeks prior? Most likely not. They were able to drum up that much attention and engagement because it was topical and hundreds of thousands of people at the time were tuned into the Grammys and social media.


What's most impressive about these two in particular is they were completely spontaneous and unpredictable. Nobody could have imagined the Super Bowl lights would have went out, nor would anyone have thought Pharrell would wear a hat that looks like the Arby's logo (Barring a secret endorsement deal between the two).


Some brands can write up a tweet in advance just in case of an occurrence, as NASA did here, but it's going to impress upon people even more if you write up an ad that nobody would have seen coming. Then they'll say, "Wow! How did they get that out so fast??" and that's when the awareness and engagement really rolls in.


This is where social media really benefits the marketer. It allows their advertising to be as topical as it can possibly be, reacting in real-time to events the rest of the world is watching and joining the conversation.


Being able to seize opportunities during events is key because most people watching that event are also likely to follow the discussion around it on social media. Twitter, specifically, is the top platform for this since it's where real-time conversations are occurring most.


People have opinions, they want to spout them off, and there's nowhere better for that than Twitter. Thus why Oreo and Arby's immediately turned to Twitter to send their messages heard 'round the world. Nowhere else can people engage on a single conversation with others better than the social media platform that best corrals conversations on specific, trending topics.


Paying attention to real-time updates goes beyond trending topics, however. It also includes website optimizations and data that can also be immediately seized upon. Amazon.com, for example, practices utilizing real-time updates in plain sight without you even really noticing:


“Amazon has at least five sections of recommended items based on your browsing history: New for Your, More Items to Consider, Related to Items You’ve Viewed, inspired by Your Browsing History, Additional Items to Explore. How do they do this? Targeted marketing. Real-time recommendations create a personal shopping experience for each and every customer….

Amazon is able to effectively upsell and cross-sell products at every interaction point.”


Everything you search for, add to your cart, or buy on Amazon is immediately sent to a database used by the company in real-time to find items you would most likely want to purchase. This is how they turn single sales into sales that double, triple, or quadruple amounts spent by buyers, because you just can't have that one frying pan you really wanted without a full knife and dinette set.


You can also even split-test with real-time data, again another tactic used by Amazon to determine the most effective optimization. However, it's a tactic that can be employed by anyone as it simply involves moving things around on a website, determining where people are more likely to search and click, as well as what CTAs they're more likely to click on:


“Let’s say you wanted to test a couple different versions of a new “Purchase” button to see which one received more in-app purchases. A developer can setup a quick split test, let it run a few minutes, and stop it. Within a few minutes, the data they would have would be significant enough to make a decision."


This is a quick and easy way of determining what works and where. Of course it would be better to run it over the course of a week, thus allowing for more volume, but you can still gain some takeaways and insights from a few days worth of metrics.


Real-time analytics allow you to make real-time optimizations, rather than sitting on your hands waiting for a campaign to end. It adds some spontaneity to the rigidity that serves as both a gift and curse to marketing agencies. Having a set, organized campaign is always helpful, but, as we've seen throughout this blog, you raise your chances of going viral by capitalizing via real-time decision-making.


Creativity never takes a day off. Even when the Super Bowl is on and you already made up your ad for TV or social media, real-time occurrences that will make the internet explode need your attention. These are the opportunities that only come around during significant events.


Some of our top campaigns have been a result of noticing these trends. When a coup was being staged in Turkey, we saw this as a perfect opportunity for introducing our real estate client to a new market.


Sure enough, Turkey to this day remains one of our most interested regions, simply because we made ourselves noticeable in a time where people were at their most likely to move.


We could have ignored it. The coup began at 6PM where we were and that was closing time. But rather than let an opportunity go to waste, we wrote up some ads, identified some regions, and sent them for the people to see. We now have an entirely new region to market to.


Just like with everything else in market, going the extra mile can change the course your agency takes. You can be the agency that stays rigid and does everything within a 9-6 block, or you can be the one that makes great marketing campaigns AND pays attention to trends that happen off the clock.

Marketing Automation and Big Data: A Perfect Match

In an age where digital data is not only valuable but ubiquitous, organization and automation becomes a marketing agency's pillars of time management and financial advantage.


More needs to be done to understand the motivations of a consumer. Content creation and targeting are only the tip of this iceberg and the start of a deep dive to converting a customer into a lead or sale. It's data that educates a marketer on what makes an individual tick. Through data, they'll be able to establish what exactly triggers them and the most efficient way to do so.


To do so, you need to build a customer profile:


"Through marketing automation systems, we should be able to build better-rounded customer profiles through variable data field capture during different communication touch points."


Using big data can gain a marketing agency advantages when it comes to developing relevant content and messages, collecting and analyzing data on how customers interact, and delivering a more consistent, positive customer experience across devices.


Digital advertising isn't just posting an ad online and hoping for the best. Leveraging automation enables agencies to determine what type of content is best at attracting leads, how they find you, and why they chose to connect with you. It can help figure out how, when and where customers tend to interact with you, as well as what platforms and devices they're reaching you on.


Even though we're online, you still have to imagine a face and personality behind that screen.


Online marketing may have muddied the border between buyer and seller, but it hasn't completely eroded it. The intimacy of conversation may get down to bare bones quicker, but getting to know one another, in order to build up a level of trust from the seller's side and understanding from the buyer's side, has not been completely lost.


Now instead of asking questions, you're simply provided with profiles through those variable data fields we just mentioned. You get to know their behaviors, tendencies, and interests, while marketing automation and big data work "together to create an effective way to collect, sort and gain insight from thousands of data points about customers, campaigns and products or services."


This can partly be done by the miracle of predictive analytics, which can predict the future by mining the past. Consider Amazon; they gather past purchase data, wish lists, similar purchases and customer ratings to predict future shopping patterns. They simply acquire all the data they need to build up an accurate enough profile that will efficiently usher you from point A to point B:


"With the increased accuracy of self-learning algorithms, marketers will be able to better deconstruct big data to create incredibly targeted and optimally timed user experiences."


Getting a customer from each of those points requires a meld of data and automation; the data working as the blueprint, and automation working as the tools, delivering quickness, accuracy, and an improved user experience, one that puts the user in the driver's seat:


"They can access the exact information they want, how and when they want it. But every potential customer isn't necessarily going to want exactly the same information. With automation, you can also create multiple paths, so each person can have a different experience, based on their own needs and interests."


When "80% of your sales come from only 20% of your customers", automation is a necessity to pinpoint just what type of customers will react and how. For example, say you're running an email marketing campaign and you're trying to deliver the best possible user experience, you might monitor:


  • When your customer open emails
  • When they engage with content
  • What content they engage with
  • The frequency with which they choose to engage
  • Conversions that take place


Platforms like AutoPilot can deliver a tailored experience that accommodates each and every one of your leads as a unique individual, rather than just another part of the catch-all. Sure they might share similarities by way of being interested in what you're selling, but they all have different triggers and ways of going about things.


On the other end, the Zapier platform can help gather that data and turn it into data you can use to create a more efficient workflow and finish routine tasks quicker.


These platforms and tools will not only help you get better organized, but they'll help you draw in more leads. You can't treat your audience as a monolith. They might all like your product or service, but they all arrived there differently, are using different devices, react to different content, and come from different areas where the product or service might serve a different purpose.


You may not see them, and that disconnect and widening gulf isn't helping, but there's still a person behind the screen and the only way to turn them into a sale or lead is treating them like one.

7 Mobile Application KPIs You Need to Pay Attention to for Better Results

First and foremost, no mobile application metric or KPI is going to be more important than the star rating. Before we can delve into the crowded world of digital marketing statistics, let's just get it out of the way: the star rating's superficiality is what will enable many users to decide whether an app is downloadable or not.


A star-rating is so important that it could even deter users from downloading the app of a brand they like. When you see low stars, what immediately comes to mind? Probably crashes, long load times, misleading features; an app that doesn't deliver what it promises.


So to reach the point where an app's star rating is high, developers and whoever else is in charge of production, execution, strategy, etc. needs to focus on the numbers that will facilitate optimized performance and relevant, helpful, and engaging content.


Only through optimization and delivering a polished, quality product can you expect people to download the app and, most importantly, to continue using it.


It's natural to assume downloads would be the key metric. After all, that's how developers make some of their money back if they did in fact create an app that charges for use. However....


"'The number [downloads] means nothing without context. Downloads only enable an app to succeed, they do not indicate actual success,'says Brant DeBow, EVP of technology at BiTE Interactive. Too many brands are still concerned with eyeballs, treating apps as if they were a TV ad.


The best ads have stickiness and offer something inherently valuable to users.'"


That term stickiness is going to show up frequently here. What Brant says makes perfect sense. You can't simply create an app just for it to be downloaded. It needs to offer a "clear solution to a problem their users face with success affirmed by users visiting the app repeatedly."


It needs to have Lifetime Value (LTV), which is "the value of a mobile user as compared to a non-mobile user - if your mobile user is more loyal, spends more, and/or evangelizes more than your regular consumer, your mobile strategy is working."


Is someone going to recommend an app or give it a five-star rating simply because they downloaded it? Or are they going to give it that premier rating because of the features within the app? Getting an app downloaded is just good marketing. Retention within the app is the key KPI to measuring success:


"Retention is one of the biggest challenges of mobile apps today, as 65% people stop using them three months after install,' says Cezary Pietrzak, director of marketing at Appboy...Anyone can download an app, but it takes a special kind of app to compel people to use it with regularity. Your monthly active users (MAU) or daily active users (DAU) are your key users."


Now the question is how do you retain users? To start off, you need to consider the app you're marketing and which KPIs are more applicable and significant to that type of app:


"For games where ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is naturally very low per individual user yet there may be many active users, a good KPI may be focused on keeping users engaging as long as possible. For a SaaS (Software as a Service) app where most users are freemium users, the best KPI is most likely focused on how well you can convince free users to become paid users."

Here's a few KPIs that every app should consider:


  • LTV
    • "How you quantify value depends on your vertical...The point is that knowing the value of various consumers means you can compare users and identify key segments of successful users as well as cohorts that need improvement, says Cipolla."


  • Session Time
      • "Just like page views versus time spent on the web, session length on an can help mobile strategists quantify the depth of a person's relationship with an app, says Pietrzak. You want a sticky, compelling app; stickiness lends an app toward longer sessions."


    • "Measured as the time period between app open and close. It indicates how much time your users are spending in your app per individual season. The more engaged they are, the longer their session length."


  • In-App Purchases


Basically what this means, and let's use a game as an example, is delivering the most basic tenets of the app, but holding out the best stuff for those that either play the game long enough (Retention!) or cave in and buy those extra incentives.


Take for instance a free Poker app I've become accustomed with. Now I can play hand after hand, day after day to reach a certain chip count so I can play with the high rollers, or I can shell out $10 or so and reach that point in a single transaction.


Or, as another example, the extremely popular The Simpsons Tapout game where you get to build your own version of Springfield. I can spend day after day giving characters tasks to complete so that I can have the money and XP to buy certain items. Or I could just spend $20 and get those items with a click.


These are the hallmarks of an effective gaming app. The games are addictive, entertaining, and free, at least to start off. It's not until you play for so long, however, that you're almost required to pay if you want to keep playing. You're left with the choice of either trudging your way through task after task or game after game, just paying to move up a level, or quitting that highly-addictive game.


  • Number of screens/pages visited


This KPI speaks not only to how engaging the content is on the app, but how high-quality the app's performance is as well. A user should be able to seamlessly launch the app, load new pages, make purchases, play the game, or whatever it is the app promises, without thinking, "What's taking so long?"


That momentary delay in seamless transitions can disrupt an entire experience. It's like reading a good article and stumbling across a grammatical error. It just throws you off. Even worse, it makes you want to experience something that isn't buggy and filled with problems that should have been worked out before.


  • Grant Permission
    • "A surprising yet important engagement-based KPI is when users grant permission for the app to access personal information. This KPI is important because it signifies a bond of trust between the user and the app which isn't inherently given to every app."


  • Performance
    • App crashes, app load per period, network errors, etc.


The number one reason an app gets deleted is because of technical issues.


This is where the editing and fine-tuning process play a critical role. It doesn't matter how much you strategize, how quality the content is, how addictive the game is, or how engaging the material is, your app will be deleted if it does not work, is laden with errors, or crashes upon opening.


  • Retention Rate
    • Highlights your most engaged -- and valuable -- users, creating better targeting opportunities and personalization of the app experience.


This, no matter the type of app you choose, is the most valuable KPI to build off of. It's how you know users are satisfied with the app because they'll keep coming back. Your app's accessibility, navigability, performance, content, and longevity have all passed the test if that's the case.

The Art of a Successful Mobile App Push Notification

Locating the fine line between being helpful and being a nuisance is critical to cultivating a healthy relationship between buyer and seller. Unlike in the past when the most annoying part of advertising was seeing or hearing a commercial too much, now it's reaching your potential buyer through too many outlets.


Just consider how many avenues a marketer can go to reach their audience. They can reach them via social media, their email inbox, their search engines, websites they frequent, text message, and now even their mobile apps, through push notifications.


Now this is where the fine line is truly tested. Because push notifications can either be an extremely helpful tool that can maximize conversions when used correctly, or a reminder to that app's users to never buy anything from that company again.


For those who don't know, push notifications are those little messages that  pop up on your phone promoting something from an app. For example, I have an app that encourages me to write every day, so I set a reminder within the app to send at a certain time that pops up on my phone at that time.


But when used by a brand, it can be a promotional selling point. Those who opt-in to push notifications with your app can receive exclusive deals or sneak previews of products offered solely to the people who receive those notifications.


Unfortunately, push notifications have received a bad rap, often justified, because of how misused they are by those who ultimately decide its content, frequency and timing. According to Marketingland.com, "a whopping 52% of consumers view push messages and in-app messages as an annoying distraction."


Just like with all things marketing, you have to know and understand your audience before you develop a strategy to reach out to them. Find out what they like, what they don't like, what they'll be receptive to, when they're awake, when they're sleeping, and when they're most likely to buy. However, few things may be more important when it comes to sending a push notification that works than literally knowing who they are:



Take a look at this example from Business2community.com:



Success through personalizing push notifications is no different from social media or email marketing campaigns. Users are far more receptive to ads when it's directed to them, rather than a generic message that's blasted out to thousands of people connected through the same interests.


But don't think simply personalizing a message is everything you need. A strategy, naturally, still needs to be implemented:


"Personalization depends on a solid segmentation strategy. You can start by segmenting users based on their in-app behaviors or known information about them from your CRM (Customer Relationship Management)."


Your users aren't a monolith. They're all special in their own little way and want to be treated as such. We're here to make conversions and if that means coddling each and every individual to nurture them into following through, then do so.


Also consider the frequency and timing of your notifications. Once again, it's time to step into the shoes of your audience to understand their tendencies and behaviors. Consider local time zones and the time of the day.


Is your audience going to be interested in buying your product at 7AM when they first wake up, or at 7PM when they're unwinding from a day at work? Also, if you send a notification at 7PM to your eastern time zone audience, consider that your west coast audience receives it at 4PM, when they'll still likely be working. It's up to you to develop a method to stagger the timing of the deliveries to fully optimize your notifications.


The benefits of a successful notification strategy can be extremely rewarding, with "users who enable push notifications [being] far more engaged than users who don't. The study found that push-enabled app users logged 53% more monthly sessions compared with users who had not engaged with a push message."


They're also more likely to use your app over a longer period of time:


"Push-enabled users have higher longevity rates. After three months, 41% of push-enabled users were still using the app, far exceeding the 18% of push-disabled users who were still using the app."


Of course, you have to first entice your users into receiving push notifications. There has to be an added incentive other than the occasional offer or reminder. A solution to this could be making the app's experience worthwhile only if the user accepts push notifications:


"Companies often think of push notifications only as a means to re-engage inactive users. What if you changed your perception to seeing push as not just an integrated part of your communication strategy, but an integrated part of a user's mobile experience with your brand?"


There has to be value to your notification if you want people to stay interested. Make it engaging by including a product image, the product's name, the price info, and a CTA that are deeply linked with product views within your app.


Even better, be unique and spontaneous:


"Identify niche mobile use cases and channel them through push. Some examples include location-based offers, price drop alerts, time-sensitive offers. Think of push notifications only when you you want to tell your users about something that's useful in their NOW."

What do you think of push notifications? Let us know on our Facebook or give us a call!

YouTube Demonetization and Why It Should Worry You

Sometimes what's good on paper doesn't mean it's good in practice. Sometimes it veils something far more nefarious in its intentions.


Take YouTube and their recent controversy. In order to combat their definition of 'extremist content', the worldwide video-sharing platform responded to threat of a mass advertising boycott by "implementing 'broader demonetization policies' around 'content that is harassing or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories'".


Honestly, it's tough to blame them for this approach when "analysts are predicting that Google will lose roughly $750 million as a result of an international ad boycott that kicked off last month, when marketers discovered that their campaigns were running against extremist videos on YouTube."


"The latest companies to pull their ads from the video platform include Pepsi, Walmart, Starbucks, FX, General Motors, Dish, JP Morgan, Johnson & Johnson, and Lyft, Variety reports. They join AT&T, Verizon, GSK, and Enterprise Holdings, which pulled their ads earlier this week, citing the same concerns."


Sounds great, right? While YouTube is headquartered in America, the hub of equal and free speech, it still exists as a private company, meaning it can ultimately decide which content it wants on its platform. So if they find a video that promotes harassment and just blind hatred, they have the right to 'demonetize' those videos or flat-out remove them.


Demonetization is the process of decreasing the money a channel can make off a video once it reaches a certain view count threshold:


"While creators can get revenue from ads, individual views don't account for much money until they reach the hundreds of thousands. Making sure your videos can reliably have ads matched with them is essential for creators being able to have long-term revenue."


Here's a list of things that may result in demonetization, according to YouTube's new policy:


  1. Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
  2. Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
  3. Inappropriate language, including harassment, swearing and vulgar language
  4. Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use, and abuse of such items
  5. Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.


How idealistic. Unfortunately, I, as you should as well, have two major issues with this. For one, most of it is completely subjective, and two, it's vague. The fifth point, in fact, is absurd in how broad it's defined:


"Guidelines that contain something as broad as 'subjects related to political conflicts' do not provide creators with useful information. It makes it sound as if YouTube is no longer going to monetize channels that cover current events, which of course is not the case."


And in the case of subjectivity, who is ultimately deciding what constitutes as hate speech, especially in this day and age where something as simple as challenging a different opinion can be defined as such. If I'm a conservative with millions of subscribers and I have thoughts on illegal immigration, what's to stop enough people with different beliefs and a large following to report me enough times to have my video demonetized.


Take for instance the YouTube Heroes program rolled out last September; perhaps one of the greatest attacks on free speech based on subjectivity you'll ever witness on a social media platform:


"YouTube heroes gives users the option to flag a video for being inappropriate, and as a result you can get your video demonetized by it becoming age restricted or removed completely, which will add a strike to your channel and possibly lead to it being deleted."



Oh, but it gets better. And by better, I mean much, much worse. Here's the five-step process:


  1. Become a hero
  2. Learn more in seminars
  3. Unlock super tools that allow you to mass flag videos
  4. Get behind the scenes access, contact YouTube staff directly, and try new products first
  5. Top hero perks, basically become a full-time unpaid Google employee.


Imagine my shock when I saw comments were disabled on the official video, which currently sits with a Like/Dislike ratio of 30,722:956,895.


This is where a huge problem lies. A video can get demonetized simply because it offended the wrong person or people. What offends some may not offend others. This isn't as simple as a hardcore racist saying "I believe Race X is better than Race Y and Race Z is worse than all of them!".  A vast majority of the time it comes down to innocuous beliefs that other people simply don't agree with.


But again it isn't as simple as that, either. What it appears to be is an outright attack on YouTube content creators with good intentions. Because this demonetization process isn't just attacking the likes of virulent racists like David Duke. It's going after creators like H3H3 Productions, Philip DeFranco and even Jenna Marbles, who "have all had hundreds of videos no longer qualify for advertising revenue, and other YouTubers are claiming they didn't have a chance to appeal to their demonetization."




"It isn't just large channels that are being affected by these changes -- YouTuber Tim TV, who has been a fulltime YouTuber for about six months, told Kotaku that he saw that his revenue was, 'tanking faster than ever before,' and that he found the changes 'terrifying'".


Here's a little background from H3H3's Ethan Klein on just how out of line and lacking in transparency YouTube can be when it rolls out these vague stipulations:



You heard that right. Even tagging things like 'Suicide', 'Rape', and 'Drugs' can get your video demonetized, not taking any of the context whatsoever into mind. That means someone who tagged 'Suicide' because they wanted to give advice on suicide prevention, or a rape survivor who wanted to tell their story and tagged 'Rape', or a doctor who wanted to give medical advice and tags 'Drugs' would have had their videos demonetized.


And the worst part of it all? YouTube didn't even warn the creators. Just read how lacking in foresight this approach was:


"In 2012, YouTube began demonetizing videos based on new advertising-friendly guidelines. This was not done by people, but by an algorithm that looked at metadata of videos and other factors to decide whether it was likely to be something as an advertiser wouldn't want to be associated with."


But don't worry, because everything is better now, right? Well..


"Google currently uses a mixture of automated screening and human moderation to police its video sharing platform and to ensure that ads are only placed against appropriate content."


Look, we get it. YouTube is a massive platform with billions of videos from all over the world. Sometimes automation is the only way to keep some things in check that a human can't reach. However, this is a significant issue when YouTubers like Matan Uziel is no longer getting ad revenue on their videos dealing with "women about hardship, including sex trafficking, abuse and racism."


Why did it get pulled? Isn't it obvious? One of those automated screeners saw "sexually suggestive content", maybe some "violence", and "controversial or sensitive subjects and events", and was programmed to demonetize the video of a creator with obvious good intentions.


But they're not alone:


"Dr. Aaron Carroll runs a channel dedicated to healthcare policy and research and discovered this week that 27 of his videos were demonetized and had been for months. It seems likely that the algorithm regularly flagged a program discussing prescription drug costs, the opioid epidemic, and treatments for diabetes because it thought those videos were celebrating illegal drug use."


How is that for a precedent set by YouTube? If you dare used your large following to discuss the evils of addictive drugs or tell the stories of abused victims, no ad revenue for you. Oh, and like Ethan explained in the video, they wouldn't tell you about it, either. You wouldn't get notified and your video wouldn't even become age restricted. Your video would just be demonetized.


Fortunately, this policy changed last fall. YouTube now:


  1. Lets you know when a video has been demonetized
  2. Shows a notice next to demonetized videos
  3. Allows you to request a manual review of demonetized videos
  4. Re-monetizes videos that the review finds to be not in violation of YouTube's ad-friendly policy.


It's a great gesture sure. But why did it take four years to correct, and why were channels not even notified in the first place?


It was a shoot first, ask questions second policy. By thinking they're doing the right thing and acquiescing to the demands of their advertisers (Not surprising considering YouTube operates at a loss), they negatively affect innocent YouTube content creators who treat the platform as a full-time job and livelihood.


As YouTuber Arin 'Egoraptor' Hanson' said, "he wanted YouTube to 'be more clear about what advertisers are opposed to having their ads displayed on. What can creators do specifically to make their content more advertiser friendly?'"


But to really get into the meat of YouTube and its advertisers' intentions with subjective censorship and constant threats of demonetization for ThoughtCrime, I don't think we can go anywhere until we explore what I have dubbed The PewDiePie Situation.


For those who don't know, PewDiePie is basically the face of YouTube. He has over 54 million subscribers, and his videos are basically him talking into a webcam talking about one thing or another. His audience is mostly made up of the younger generation, mainly middle and high school kids.


But about a month ago, PewDiePie was attacked, seemingly at random, by the Wall Street Journal who took some out-of-context jokes and videos and decided to go on a character assassination spree.


"According to the Journal's analysis, over the last six months the YouTuber posted nine videos that included either anti-semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, including one, posted on January 11th, that featured two men holding a banner that stated: 'Death to All Jews'. Another video, posted January 22nd, featured a man dressed as Jesus saying, "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong."


The entire premise was based on Fiverr, a company that asks buyers to pay just $5 to do absurd things, like having two people dressed in traditional native garb to hold up a sign that says 'Death to All Jews', or having a man dress as Jesus and saying "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong." PewDiePie was convinced they wouldn't do it because of how insane the statements were, but they actually did it.


Out-of-touch, narrative-driven journalists who worked for traditional outlets discovered the videos and went on a crusade to take down the evil PewDiePie empire. They went through his videos, chopped up more out of context clips in his videos, and said, "See! See! Look how evil he is! How can parents let their children watch this?"


PewDiePie was not contacted by the WSJ to defend himself for their first hit piece.


As a result of this attack, PewDiePie actually lost out on a partnership with Disney's Maker Studios. Also as a result of this attack, PewDiePie's 50 million+ subscribers realized traditional media outlets are using out of context video clips to defame the character of a YouTuber who had exhibited zero anti-semitic or racist tendencies in the past.


The Wall Street Journal, worth noting, has 2.1 million subscribers. It was also voted as one of the least cool brands by 18-24 year olds.


And isn't it just ironic that the author of the original hit piece of PewDiePie was written by Ben Fritz, who composed a tweet in 2009 stating: "Just attended my first chanukah party. Had no idea jews were so adept at frying." Here's another in 2015 talking about having a "hard on purely for the Nazis" and one more stating "well obviously I'm not counting jokes about black people. Those are just funny."


So what's the meaning of this? Why is the Wall Street Journal of all publications going after YouTube's most popular YouTuber? Well, I did some research into the WSJ and have a theory, but let me preface it with this response from PewDiePie on the whole ordeal:


"Old-school media does not like internet personalities because they are scared of us. We have so much influence and such a large voice, and I don't think they understand that. The story was an attack towards me by the media to try and discredit me, decrease my influence."


While I would like to personally cite and specifically quote the Wall Street Journal's findings and rebuttals, I can't because I need to pay for a subscription. It's exemplary of how a bitter, dying, and desperate publication from the old guard is lashing out and attacking the new; latching onto a statement or joke that could be misconstrued as racist or anti-semitic, which is basically a death sentence to someone working in the public eye, and selling that to uninformed users.


In perfect media collaboration, the Washington Post, Vox (who had the slimy audacity to, once again, use an out of context clip of PewDiePie raising his arm and equating it to a Nazi salute as their cover image for the article), Wired, and Salon were all quick to jump on the "Is PewDiePie a Nazi/Alt-Righter/Racist?" bandwagon.


YouTube content creators, people like PewDiePie, H3H3, and Philip DeFranco, are independent and don't answer to anyone other than what appeals to their subscribers. They don't answer to advertisers, high-profile donors, boards of directors, executives, or producers. These are people armed simply with a webcam, a microphone, and a platform reaching tens of millions.



To the traditional media, this isn't just terrifying, it's a threat to their information monopoly.


Independent media, courtesy of the unbridled internet and social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube, have been on the rise and have shaken traditional media to its core. Distrust in these institutions is sewn as more and more people realize they're not getting the full story, while independent media, free of influence, is providing a perspective that's never discussed.


How do you attack these independents when they don't have a higher power that they answer to? It's simple. You hit them where it really hurts: Their ad revenue, their character through out-of-context clips, enlisting critics with opposing beliefs, employing other mainstream outlets to join your crusade, broad and extremely vague definitions of 'extremism', and using the platform they post on to crackdown on them.


But this isn't just an attack on popular YouTubers. It's an attack on counter-narratives and content creators not shackled by the constraining chains of producers, boards of directors, and advertisers.


So it's only natural that these dying publications in their death throes, like a cornered animal, are lashing out at its threats. Like YouTubers with over 50 million subscribers, or simply any YouTuber who is developing a following strong enough to take eyes off traditional outlets that are pushing a narrative delivered from on high.


Remember: "Whoever controls the media, controls the mind." There is nothing more integral to controlling the whims of the masses than the control of information. There should be nothing surprising that in the age of "fake news" a popular YouTuber is getting randomly attacked, advertisers are threatening boycotts, and traditional media outlets are doing their best to defame independent sources of info.


The only question that remains now is, just how long do the traditional media outlets think they have left?

Generate More Sales and Acquire More Leads with Programmatic Advertising

Creating a narrower, personalized buying experience for online shoppers has become one of the most imperative methods to securing conversions and generating leads in a campaign.


There are simply too many voices speaking at the same time to make a lasting impression on someone. Social media platforms are inundating users with ads that are making the overall online experience less appealing.


Spam emails may be on the decline, but that hasn't stopped advertisers from encroaching platforms in new ways; whether it's a promoted tweet on your Twitter stream, a sponsored ad on your Facebook timeline, or an unskippable 30-second ad on the YouTube video you want to watch.


So rather than painting potential targets with a broad stroke, the idea now is to narrow the audience to those most receptive and likely to buy. This approach limits dilution of the advertisement, costs less money, wastes less resources, and displays your advertisement to audience members that may actually purchase.


This is where programmatic advertising steps in, and why it's become so popular among marketers:


"Programmatic is all about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. It will give your creative team the data they need to improve branding message and make them more personally relevant. Using audience, contextual and environmental signals, you can create highly impactful dynamic creative that performs to each audience segment."


As any advertiser knows by now, "successful advertising all comes down to how well you know your customers -- not guessing or assuming their behaviors, activities, or intent. In the telecommunications industry, for example, the use of CRM data resulted in online campaigns that were 39 times more effective, according to Neustar."


The art of storytelling and investing in perfecting the buyer's journey and experience is becoming a consensus view:


"The general theme coming from thought leaders throughout the marketplace is to build a better experience for the consumer through great content and creative, innovative advertising. The power dynamic has shifted in consumers' favor, which means that marketers and advertisers will only engage target audiences and generate new business if they stop talking at audiences and start creating relationships with them instead."


As we'll soon learn, there are plenty of resources available for marketers to gain a deeper understanding of their audience, thanks in part to programmatic ad buying's capabilities.


Programmatic ad buying is at the forefront of this movement, and growing in popularity, because it "allows brands to pinpoint the audiences that they want to reach. This ensures they deliver the perfect message, in the perfect location, at the perfect time."


This is the most effective approach to targeting while still optimizing. Here's the process and why you'll soon see how it became so popular:


"Programmatic systems can analyze online profiles to determine if the potential customer is the decision maker, and deliver ads and content that can be customized for each step of the buying process. This help to ensure that decision makers see the ads or content, and it allows companies to guide potential buyers through the buying process."


But how does it do it?


"When a potential customer reads a white paper, visits a company's website, views a webinar, or reads a blog article; the programmatic system detects the behavior and display ads and content that are relevant to the potential customer. This can expand a company's existing lead base, generate interest, and establishes a company's authority on the subject."


There is no guessing or assuming. What you will possess, as a result of the metrics provided by programmatic, will be indicative stats of what works and what doesn't. Although skepticism in data-driven marketing spiked with Facebook's overestimations, it certainly hasn't deterred marketers from realizing numbers reliance is the future:


"The recent industry-wide drive toward data-driven marketing has set the stage for a creative renaissance, one rooted in and informed by a deeper, more precise foundation of consumer profiling facilitated by technology.


We now have the ability to apply data to discern the actual moment that people are planning vacations so we can serve them relevant and compelling messages about beach clothing, or to know when they are researching cars to serve them auto ads."


Is this not the overall endgame with any approach to marketing? The greatest challenge and responsibility of marketers is perspective; putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and finding out how they get from point A (wanting to buy something) to point B (buying that something from you).


Advertisers, more prominently before digital marketing's advent but even still practicing it to this day, employed every method you can think of to get a better idea of their audience's behavior and tendencies. Focus groups, phone and in-person surveys, and man-on-the-street interviews were all employed. But this only represented a small sample size, based mainly on anecdotal accounts.


Now you can narrow your audience and also collect vital info for future marketing efforts. This certainly isn't as personal as talking to someone one-on-one, but it is far less time-consuming and more resources can be devoted to the creative side of things:


"Customer data, also referred to as first-party data, paints a valuable picture and enables SMBs with the ability to draw meaningful conclusions about consumers from multiple channels....


Once data is collected, marketers are now able to unlock the full potential of their first-party data by uploading offline data (such as audience segments in a CRM system) to the online environment -- a process called data onboarding or CRM matching. Once there, it can be matched with digital data and activated for a variety of purposes within a Data Management Platform."


Through a lead generation campaign, you can have "names, addresses, emails, lifecycle stages, demographics, purchase histories, and even triggers of your existing customers and most qualified leads."


These are the keys to generating leads and sales. Once you have the metrics at your disposal, you can adjust your creative strategy to their preferences.


The entire process is fluid, as well. If you were to create an ad that wasn't performing well, "programmatic marketing enables the company to make changes to campaigns in real-time without extra expenditures. This means that companies can further refine their campaigns to change which content or ads are displayed to different target markets during the buying process, without starting new campaigns from scratch."


It shouldn't be a surprise then that "According to eMarketer, 83% of all ad buying activity will be programmatic by 2017."


One of the more effective, and most popular, personalization techniques is remarketing. Not every interested buyer is going to pull the trigger upon first glance of your website. They might want to buy something, but for any bevy of reasons they want to delay it. As an example, I have three items sitting in my Amazon cart. This doesn't mean I don't want the products. It just means now is not the right time.


Rather than rely on the user to make their way back to close the sale, you send hints in the form of retargeting ads. In the case of Amazon, it's not uncommon to see ads on the side of my Facebook of those very same items in my cart. If you had recently looked into flight information to a specific city, you'd likely find ads relating to hotels and popular destinations around that city.



It all leads back to one constant: You have to know your audience if you want to make sales and generate leads. And programmatic marketing is especially adept at this.

Programmatic Advertising and Branding: A Love Story

Programmatic advertising is trending up as the new software to streamline digital marketing processes into an efficient, convenient methodology that limits time wasted to completing menial tasks.


The technology is relatively new to the industry, but it's effectiveness as an automated real-time bidder has marketers excited about its possibilities. As we cited in an article on the subject last week, programmatic advertising "spend will continue growing at an average 28% a year to 2018, when it will reach $64 billion", as well as growth of "31% next year, outpacing social (up 25%) and online video (20%)."


While programmatic has its drawbacks, with "23% of respondents in an eMarketer survey citing data privacy concerns and difficulty proving ROI", those concerns have seemingly alleviated. In the same survey, marketers also listed the most crucial benefits to them:



Once marketers become more experienced using programmatic, we can expect widespread integration with the marketing components that turn a good campaign into a great one.


Branding is the key. "As Steve Katelman, EVP at Omnicom Media Group recently put it, 'Historically most advertising dollars are spent on branding and awareness, so programmatic branding is evidence of programmatic growing up and assuming the future of all advertising and marketing."


In the same breath, Katelman also predicted that "in five years time, it will be obvious to everyone that we're living in a programmatic world and have been for a long time."


The end game is the phasing out of traditional real-time bidding. It will inevitably be replaced with an automated process that's able to pinpoint which ads go to the most receptive targets.


Its humble origins have led many to think programmatic's initial affiliation with SEM, and its new segue into branding, was just the start:


"Programmatic started with SEM and display and rapidly expanded into new territories such as Social, Mobile and also Video. Marketers need more video inventory for programmatic branding to be on every media plan. The programmatic landscape is poised to touch on every single channel in the next few years and this includes TV, print, outdoor advertising. 


With the rise of connected cars, homes and cities, it's just a matter of time we live in a programmatic world."


There's that phrase again. A programmatic world. That's two separate industry sources expecting one. And they're not wrong, either. Programmatic is gradually becoming mastered, thus leading to greater expansion, especially when integrating with social media's best practices:


"On average, 40% of programmatic spending goes towards branding campaigns, with marketers expecting a 37% increase in their programmatic ad spend by 2017." 


"Almost two-thirds of marketers are using programmatic advertising for brand campaigns as opposed to direct response, according to the findings from our new Programmatic Branding Report."

Advertisers have even used programmatic advertising for Super Bowl commercial time.


These are the two greatest trends of digital advertising melding together: The efficiency of programmatic advertising with the emotional appeal of branding told through storytelling.


Even we've tried it with ridiculously successful results. Our use of programmatic advertising with a Zumba video received 5X the engagement it had been receiving when promoted on YouTube.

Despite initial hesitation involving the creative aspect, as well as "the establishment of clear measurement and ROI metrics", skeptics are buying in regardless:


"Instead of seeing programmatic as a threat to branding and creativity, buyers and sellers alike are increasingly casting themselves as advocates for automation. By using data to support creative intuition, it means that branding and technology can not only co-exist, but also push the boundaries of advertising into a whole new realm."


The obvious fear behind automating something as sacred as the creative process could be rectified with this reassurance:


"Advertising automation does not diminish the capacity for creativity; rather, it gives brands the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive. In short, automation offers immediacy and data to further fuel branding campaigns, and as the industry matures, there seems to be increasing consensus on this point."


It's coming to the point where a campaign's creative efforts could be altered mid-stream:


"Changing the creative mid-stream, in response to how a campaign performs will become an automatic process. Rather than simply building a handful of creative executions and targeting them at pinpointed audiences, creative will be broken down into elements that can be automatically constructed for the specific viewer. It's a process called programmatic creative and it's the ultimate in personalization."


Personalization is imperative in the creative process. Digital advertising is a burgeoning, inundating weight on the eyes and ears of consumers. It's forcing advertisers to sift their way through the muck in order to have their brand seen by the most receptive audience.


How do you reach out to individuals? Call them out by name. It works:


  • "Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates."
  • "94% of customer insights and marketing professionals across multiple industries said personalization is 'important', 'very important', or 'extremely important' for meeting their current marketing objectives."
  • "73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to make their shopping experiences more relevant."
  • "86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions."
  • "45% of online shoppers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations."
  • "40% of consumer buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels."
  • "80% of consumers like when retailers emails contain recommended products based on previous purchases."


But to reach the audience most ready to convert, programmatic is a necessity:


"This offers brands less wastage as they don't have to pay to reach people who are not in their target market, a common criticism of traditional media buying...but crucially, programmatic also helps brands to learn more about their customers through data and build stronger links with them.

Programmatic can benefit brands in various ways, such as finding people that 'look like' their current customers, for instance those of similar age or interests, then serving ads to them on the sites they commonly visit at times they are most likely to be receptive to the message."

So where do you start? Here are a few suggestions:


  1. Build brand awareness: Use upper-funnel content and formats to raise awareness of your brand.
  2. Change brand perception: Use retargeting based on brand affinity signals to change perception.
  3. Build brand affinity: Use CRM retargeting to strengthen the brand relationship between the consumer and the brand.
  4. Build brand engagement: Use look-alike targeting to find consumers who are going to engage similarly to your best consumers.


And always make sure to consider these variables when using programmatic for branding campaigns:


  1. Evolving KPIs: "Marketers need to change the conversations they're having around KPIs. Newer platforms have access to huge under-saturated markets but may not have access to analytics."
  2. New Creative: "Programmatic advertising is fast and furious, and because of that, agencies need to become more nimble about changing up creative and creating numerous iterations around one creative concept."
  3. Programmatic Layer: "Because brand awareness advertising doesn't have the same types of quantifiable performance metrics as direct marketing, it's important to frame and consider it differently. This approach is best thought of as a complement and extension of traditional advertising campaigns. By giving markets the ability to focus their efforts, programmatic allows storylines from different channels to be presented to targeted audiences in a cost-effective way."


Heed this advice, because if the trends, rise in investments, and trust implanted by industry experts are any indications of the future, it's that programmatic advertising is not only here to stay, but will be deployed on a far larger scale.

Programmatic Ads: What to Expect in 2017

Trends move the world.


They're influential enough to have everybody wear the same style of clothes; for Hollywood to make the same movie or TV genre because that's where the eyes are at the time; for politicians to take preemptive measures and stands to prevent or encourage further trends; and for the technology industry to build on certain products.


Technology, especially, is dependent on trends to transcend its ubiquitous, powerful influence throughout global industries, no matter the product or service being provided.


Last week, we discussed one of those trends: Programmatic advertising. But we only touched the tip of this iceberg. What we didn't explore was what lied underneath the surface; the massive potential that will soon reveal itself with further investment and experience by its users. As we noted in the same piece, the biggest issue concerning programmatic advertising in its early stages was the "lack of sales expertise in selling programmatic."


Deep learning,  "a branch of machine learning based on algorithms that attempt to model high-level abstractions in data", will be heavily used in the future for programmatic buying and selling. Marketers believe that the result will "yield a higher value of conversions and enable advertisers to run advertising campaigns that are extremely effective without larger budgeting."


A lack of experience is an easily reconcilable issue and, judging by the trends we'll soon explore, it has done nothing to deter marketing agencies from investing in what is essentially automated real-time bidding.


There's also a trend of less discrepancy in who employs the technology:


"'Programmatic buying of digital media has become the norm in major markets, and is aggressively following this path in smaller markets,' said Benoit Cacheux, global head of digital and innovation at Zenith."


Seeing as we're an agency that likes to focus on numbers, we found these worthwhile to note:


    • "The group's Programmatic Marketing Forecasts report outlined findings from 41 key advertising markets and suggested that programmatic will grow 31% next year, outpacing social (up 25%) and online video (20%).


    • "Looking forward, spend will continue growing at an average 28% a year to 2018, when it will reach $64 billion."




    • "Marketers have already realized the power of programmatic advertising, and 96% of those surveyed are already using it to buy display ads. 55% of digital display ads were purchased programmatically. In total, 52% of all non-search digital ad transactions were programmatic."


  • "Programmatic video is also on the rise. It will amount to about 60% of all digital video ad spending in the US according to eMarketer, and accounts for almost a quarter of video ad spend in Europe."


Efficiency and convenience are the igniters of this movement, as they are for any technological innovation that replaces the outdated and obsolete. It's called creative destruction. 10,000 workers are replaced by 10 machines; search engines replace encyclopedias; cars replace the horse-and-buggy; the gun replaces the sword.


And to a much, much smaller extent, programmatic advertising replaces real-time bidding in what is another clear indication of what direction digital marketing will be taking towards automation.


Thankfully, copywriters can't be replaced by computers......yet.


Since programmatic advertising is experiencing widespread adoption, marketers are beginning to discover new ways to wield it and expand upon its capabilities:


"Programmatic buying of digital media has become the norm in major markets, and is aggressively following this path in smaller markets. We believe that the growth of programmatic will continue to be fueled by improvements in the quality of media available in programmatic environments -- especially private marketplaces -- and the greater availability of programmatic mobile media, as well as the sophisticated provided by ad tech solutions such as data management platforms and connected ad tech stacks."


And speaking of mobile...


"According to Econsultancy, smartphones accounted for 71% of all mobile programmatic transactions across Europe in Q1 of 2017, up from 59% in Q4 of 2015."


We can also expect the storytelling element, one of the burgeoning traits of social media and digital media (and an all-too-well-known buzzword), to be successfully integrated with programmatic:


"Programmatic provides the platform to reach the right audience, but it's still the content that resonates. This is where programmatic storytelling can really take off. The modern customer expects a journey, an experience and, above all, a story from their advertising, and by harnessing the near pinpoint accuracy of programmatic there's now greater potential to deliver this."


And to take that even further, not only should the storytelling element be added but a personalized touch as well:


"Personalizing your programmatic offering to individual users is, without a doubt hugely important. Whilst we've seen some excellent examples of personalized programmatic this year, we expect that the level of depth and targeting will only grow in 2017...61% of consumers feel more positively about a brand when marketing messages are personalized."


Programmatic advertising has been accepted, and now it's time to build on its early success by integrating practiced elements of digital marketing, such as personalization and storytelling. The end game of all of this, as it is for all copywriting and targeting, is fostering an emotional connection with the user to facilitate a conversion.


The only difference now is that it's more efficient. The message, theme, targets, and intention remain the same. It's the vehicle that has shifted, in order to get those messages and themes to a wider audience.


But why stop at the digital aspect of marketing? Why not pounce on other mediums that could spread a message to an even wider audience?


Well, coming to a screen near you....


"From requesting ad time and purchasing, to displaying the ad and measuring its success -- the manual process can be slow and tedious. Programmatic TV effectively alleviates these problems, with many brands vocally expressing their 'appetite for programmatic'."


What's even more interesting is the concept of one convenience fighting against another convenience. If you use YouTube often, then you've likely become acquainted with AdBlocker, the defender of those annoying 15-second or 30-second ads before every video, even on videos that are less than 30 seconds!


Marketers claim that programmatic advertising will be able to limit users employing ad blocking:


"With ad blocking we know users have actively said 'make it relevant or don't say it'. We need to continue to educate, consult and learn from and with brands to keep pushing programmatic further. Only then will ad blocking abate. 


Programmatic advertising has never been so vital as it is now. With economic uncertainty and the rise of ad blocking, every opportunity to engage with customers need to be maximized and programmatic methods give us that opportunity."


The conclusive reasoning behind all of this is not just efficiency, convenience, and a widespread message, but also cost savings. As we noted earlier, "deep learning will yield a higher value of conversions and enable advertisers to run advertising campaigns that are extremely effective without larger budgeting."


If it saves time and money without compromising the quality of the product or service to such an extent that it bears no resemblance to its original intention, then widespread adoption, which we will undoubtedly see in 2017, will follow.

Programmatic Advertising 101: A New Way to Ad Buying

Automation is strengthening its grip around the digital marketing industry, this time in the form of automated real-time bidding.

It's called programmatic advertising, and it's yet another software that turns menial tasks performed by ordinary marketers into an efficient juggernaut that's capable of doing the work of ten in more than half the time.

It's defined by DigiDay as:

"The use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations and manual insertion orders. It's using machines to buy ads, basically."


Perhaps before we delve into programmatic advertising and its benefits and detriments, we need to discuss what it's an offshoot of: real-time bidding.


Here's a great video explaining how it works:



Digital media was previously bought and sold as blocks of impressions. The issue was that it was too simplistic, resulting in the same ad on a website being seen by the same person. That means an ad for, let's say, high-end vehicles would be seen by both a wealthy 50-year-old who was more interested in vacations and a 20-year-old who was more interested in exercise.

Sure some of the people in the audience would have been interested, but you're only diluting the exposure by showing it to people who aren't interested. It would be like showing a beer commercial on ESPN, but also showing it on HGTV and Nickelodeon.

"Real-time bidding creates an auction where different marketers can bid to show a different ad to a specific user based on data about that user." So instead of that ad for high-end vehicles going to two people who don't care about high-end vehicles, they'll instead get ads contoured to what they like.


Agencies and their wallets are beginning to take notice. "Some agencies now say they're eager to buy as much media as possible through programmatic channels, and some major brands have even built out in-house teams to handle their programmatic ad buying as they spend more of their marketing budgets that way."


"Brands are spending an increasing amount on programmatic advertising, with this channel now accounting for an average of 16% of digital ad spends across respondents, compared to 10% in 2014."


Still, real-time bidding is growing faster than programmatic overall. "RTB revenue will top over $26 billion by year-end 2020, up from $8.7 billion this year."


A recent survey by the World Federation of Advisers also revealed that "approximately $20 billion of the total $70 billion ad spend in 2016 accounted for expenditures on digital advertising, 16 percent of which is on programmatic ads."


While the rise of digital marketing is certainly the igniter to this, efficiency is the driver of automation in the industry. It all comes down to consolidating precious hours that could be used to developing creatives, rather than using that time to fill out spreadsheets or, in this case, buying ads.


Programmatic ad buying expedites the process. Because before it came along, "digital ads were bought and sold by human ad buyers and salespeople, who can be expensive and unreliable." Much like every new piece of technology created, as has been the case since the concept of convenience, it's focused on efficiency and limiting the work done by humans.


"Programmatic ad tech promises to make the ad buying system more efficient, and therefore cheaper, by removing humans from the process wherever possible." Basically, humans are fallible, while machines are programmed to perform a specific task perfectly and repeatedly.


Not all is lost for humanity, though. We still have responsibilities and control over some aspects. As noted by Lori Goldberg of econsultancy.com, both timing and frequency are necessary components of programmatic ad buying that require adjustments from actual advertisers:


  1. Timing: "A great example of this is a recent trip I took to Santa Monica. At the time of this writing, only eight weeks have passed and now I'm being retargeted by hotels and travel deal sites that are offering packages on a return trip to Santa Monica. While I had a great time, I'm not likely to go back across the country eight weeks after I just visited..If they were to cross-reference their data with recent customers, they would know that I've already stayed at the hotel and would be able to serve me an ad that feels more customized. Advertisers should take the time to cross-reference their data so that they save ad dollars and don't waste impressions."


  1. Frequency: "Research published in DigiDay showed that '64% of impressions were out of frequency, and no advertisers had fewer than 60% of its impressions delivered beyond their cap. Often caps are neglected and never tested because they're not straightforward, but not knowing what optimal frequency cap to use can give poor results. Properly evaluating data sources, tailoring the campaign to the product lifecycle, and targeting consumer buying behavior is the key to creating successful and powerful programmatic campaigns.


But it does not come without its faults (besides the obvious of there being too much automation).


For one, ad fraud by programmatic advertising is far higher than when it's delivered through the traditional route. According to Integral Ad Science, "nearly 9% of digital ads delivered via programmatic channels are fraudulent, compared with only 2% of ads delivered through direct deals with publishers."


"The losses to the US ad industry from ad fraud totaled $8.2 billion in 2015. Programmatic exchanges can exacerbate this by neglecting to monitor non-human traffic."


Accurately measuring results is also a source of concern, especially after mishaps by Facebook and Twitter led to their overstating campaign metrics. "Programmatic ads are placed on a vast assortment of publisher sites, and in the process run through an array of ad tech intermediaries." With little confidence in the accuracy and of the rest of the ecosystem, investors will be discouraged and would have to wait for reassurance from the social media networks themselves.


And we certainly can't miss out on this report the Association of National Advertisers which discovered "that the US ad-buying industry was rife with non-transparent business practices.


Unethical rebates were a focal point of the report, wherein agencies were found to be receiving rebates from media owners -- either in the form of cash payments or free inventory credits -- depending on how much inventory that agency had bought from that media owner. Meanwhile, brands -- whom the agencies were representing and investing money on behalf of -- were not privy to these schemes."


Can it get any worse? Surprisingly, yes. Because publishers are also being taxed in intermediary fees; about "$30-$40 for every $100 of advertisers spend."


Advertisers want answers. "Research by the World Federation of Advertisers reveals that nearly 90 percent of advertisers it surveyed are "reviewing and resetting contracts and business models." This equals out to about $2.9 billion worth of ad-spend under review.


There is hope, though. With any technology that's cheap and efficient, there is always hope.


The lower-than-expected ad revenue deriving from programmatic advertising is being attributed to something understandable: A lack of experience. 24.6% of US publishers to a recent eMarketer survey claimed a "lack of sales expertise in selling programmatic" was the main factor that contributed to the price difference between direct and programmatic inventory.

Despite the reasons to give pause, however, the future of programmatic advertising is going to be bright.

After all, it's convenient, and so long as the technology is built upon and perfected, which it will as trust in the software grows, it will become ubiquitous and a staple of every agency. Its success will lead to further adoption, which will lead to further competition, which will inevitably lead to further investment.

Plus, the main issue currently facing marketers, judging by the eMarketer survey, seems to be an overall lack of experience. This is an easily solvable issue that can be resolved with training.

Until then, agencies will continue to be wary of this new technology that still has its flaws. But its purpose is in the same vein as every other automation tool that has stepped onto the scene: Efficiency and convenience.

Is your agency using programmatic ad buying? What do you think of it? Let's connect and talk about it!