There’s been a lot of scepticism recently about where advertising is headed. Online advertising has seen massive growth over the past decade thanks to its flexibility, transparency and measurability—not to mention the ROI. But with this growth comes a new challenge: more than before, marketers must fight to break through the clutter and connect with their target audiences. The rise of obtrusive and irrelevant ads on the web has led to a concurrent surge in ad-blocking software as consumers become frustrated with or indifferent to the content bombarding them. In response, some of advertising’s biggest spenders have started to shift their focus back to real-world tactics such as experiential marketing. This leaves advertising at a tricky crossroads, and got me thinking: Will digital advertising always remain an important instrument in a company’s marketing toolbox? And as an advertising company, how can and should we push advertising to adapt if we believe it to be the way forward?
Xaxis wholeheartedly believes that digital advertising needs to deliver tangible results to continue to be relevant, and as such has repositioned to focus its entire offering on client outcomes. The best way to do this was to understand the client’s advertising goal that ties as closely as possible to the true business outcomes they are trying to drive. So what do marketers need to think about and do differently to truly engage consumers and drive measurable business results?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has completely changed what we can achieve in advertising, from media buying and planning, how to achieve set targets, and the metrics used to understand success. As my colleague Sara Robertson, VP of Product Engineering for Xaxis once said: “AI is like a spreadsheet on steroids”. The potential of AI lies in its ability to see the bigger picture. We’ve made AI and machine learning an integral part of our offerings, used to find and define audiences, refine our creative messaging, generate audience personas, and develop bidding strategies, all of which can transform a digital advertising strategy to drive remarkably improved results for clients.
And while it is true that consumers hate interruption, it’s never a bad thing when advertisers are forced to adapt by creating content that consumers enjoy. One example is a creative new type of ad that has emerged in China to play in breaks of TV dramas online. These ads utilize the TV shows’ original content and narrative arcs, and feature the same actors in their on-screen costumes, making the ad almost indistinguishable from the original content to hold the audience’s attention and pique their interest. This type of advertising is expected to surpass 2 billion yuan (US$311 million) in sales revenue this year, up from 800 million yuan in 2016.
Advertising with influencers also holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to create trust and credibility with consumers. Over the last few years, influencer marketing has skyrocketed to the point that it has become a category of its own. The premise for this is that consumers trust people they already follow rather than an obvious advertiser. Brands are therefore working to get attention from consumers by channelling their message through people with extensive and trusting networks, commissioning influencers to co-create ‘native’ content that advertisers can then amplify. All of this shows that content needs to mimic what consumers already enjoy in order to engage, but advertising itself won’t disappear.
At the end of the day, approaches such as experiential marketing can be a highly valuable way for many companies to increase brand exposure and customer loyalty. But they shouldn’t necessarily replace advertising altogether. Marketers need to look at the bigger picture and focus on reaching business objectives by quantifying success with real metrics and conversions—regardless of the marketing tactics they choose to convey their messages. That means connecting with your customers authentically and holistically, wherever they happen to be – though as we know, people are spending more time online now than ever.
For Xaxis, repositioning our offering to focus on client outcomes was the most logical move. To align with a client’s true marketing and business objectives—and deliver results to hit those objectives and maximize ROI—should be the goal of any marketing tactic. What really sets digital advertising apart is its ability to do exactly that, with more transparency, efficiency and measurability than any other approach. For this reason, we don’t see it dying out anytime soon.
The scale and scope of influencer marketing is growing at pace and holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to reach consumers. In this column, Charles Tidswell from Socialbakers provides his top tips for executing social media and influencer marketing campaigns in Asia, including measuring ROI, finding the right influencers and avoiding fakes, artificial intelligence, macro and micro influencers and the specifics of influencer marketing in the Asia Pacific region.
1. Find the right social media influencers
Finding the right influencer is crucial.
A good starting point is to define the brand’s audience personas. This allows the brand to truly understand their target audience, and thus identify an influencer who has values and audiences that line up with that of the brand’s. It is important to look at how aligned an influencer’s content is with your messaging. This can be determined by understanding key traits such as their likes, dislikes and the content they have previously posted.
Brands should ensure that the influencer they select has good engagement and reach.
Engagement is an indicator of how interactive an influencer’s audience is with the content they are posting. How much, and how often audiences engage with the influencer are indications of how meaningful those relationships are. This includes how many readers like, comment or share the influencer’s content.
While not the most important, ‘reach’ is a valid metric for consideration. However, brands should resist the urge to only look at unique visitors as a measure of reach. Traffic and followers are only meaningful to the extent that the influencer is reaching the brand’s target audience.
With the rise of influencer marketing platforms, finding the right influencer can be easy and efficient, eliminating the need to manually sift through influencer profiles. Brands can easily search for influencers based on their audience size, interests, location, age, and gender. It is also possible to see an easy-to-understand score estimating the performance of the influencers, in order to determine the most effective influencer to work with.
2. Measure the ROI of influencer marketing
There are a multitude of ways brands can measure ROI.
The two most common ways are to measure engagement rates, as well as frequency of mentions and hashtags.
Engagement rate is possibly the most common form of measurement. This metric will differ according to the platforms you are evaluating, so brands must be sure to measure the engagement of each individual post in order to better understand what’s working. To put the effectiveness of influencer posts in-context, brands can also analyse their non-sponsored content along with sponsored posts from previous partnerships to benchmark content performance. Since there is no magic number for what a “good engagement” rate should look like, this analysis can be a way to put the engagement rate into context. Brands can even consider looking into the Cost per Engagement (CPE). CPE breaks down how much you are paying for engagement: likes, comments, clicks etc. To get to this number simply divide your total influencer budget by the number of engagements.
Brands looking to see if their influencer marketing campaigns are sparking conversations can tap on social media listening tools. These tools dive into the conversations taking place across social media to find out if the brand is appearing more frequently. Aside from brand mentions, setting up a unique hashtag is also a great way to measure success. If you are creating a campaign with an influencer you can assign a specific hashtag to that campaign and monitor if it’s gaining any traction.
3. Detect and manage fake influencers
Fake influencers are notorious for buying fake followers, hoping to trick brands into a paid collaboration. To make sure the influencer of your choice isn’t ‘fake’, look at their volume of interactions per 1,000 followers. A fake influencer will have a low share of engaged fans, which is a red flag showing you shouldn’t work with that person.
With Socialbakers Influencer Management, marketers can are able to search by location, age, and interests. Influencer posts’ data can be pulled up for inspiration and likes, sentiment of comments, brands they’ve worked with before, and how they performed in the past for marketers to make an informed decision. By doing so, fake social media influencer profiles can be sieved out more effectively.
4. Make use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence
AI can help take the guesswork out of Influencer Marketing; from recruitment of influencers based on the brand’s objectives, provide the ability to forecast influencer performance, predict optimal incentives that would encourage influencers to take a certain action etc.
We will continue to see advancements in AI-powered Influencer Marketing that will help brands understand what content is most likely to resonate and influencer the purchase or adoption decisions of the end consumer.
5. Remember the difference between macro and micro influencers
Micro influencers are those who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. This category of influencers have a tight-knit relationship with their audience and tend to have higher engagement and conversation rates. While micro influencers often cover a wide range of niches, they are often more affordable than macro or celebrity influencers.
Macro influencers, on the other hand, have a significantly higher follower base – this ranges from 100,000 up to 1 million followers. Given their wider reach, macro influencers tend to have a more diverse audience as well as an established position within a given community.
Deciding which category of influencers to work with largely depends on the scale of the campaign and its objectives. Brands looking to create product awareness or to reach a wide audience may choose to use a macro influencer, while brands keen to encourage customer conversion or retention may prefer to work with micro influencers. They can convert customers cheaper and more efficiently than any of the other options, making them a powerful option to boost ROI.
6. Choose the right social media platforms for your market
Asia has become one of the most important emerging regions for social media marketing. The hunt for social media influencers requires extensive knowledge on metrics that brands find most important, aspects they value in an influencer the most and more.
Regardless of the industry or region, brands are increasingly interested in incorporating influencer marketing as an inherent part of their digital strategy. We have seen it for some time in industries like fashion and beauty, but today influencer marketing is ubiquitous and is one of the fastest growing categories in advertising, projected to be a $5-10 billion market by 2020, according to Mediakix.
Platforms that are the most used for influencer marketing in Asia include Facebook, WeChat and Instagram which have a high volume of monthly active users in the millions. One significant platform to take note of is China’s WeChat, with about 963M monthly active users. The functionality of WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, and Facebook are integrated into this application.
The app also takes it up a notch by allowing Chinese users to order meals, book taxis and doctor’s appointments. WeChat even offers an assistant chatbot called WeSecretary to manage administrative tasks such as paying bills, booking airline tickets and much more. With such a wide array of integrated functions on a single platform, WeChat paves the way – and provides opportunities for influencers to build closer relationships with fans as well as potential fans.
Last December, a new game became an overnight mega-trend in the blockchain world. CryptoKitties allowed users to buy, own, and trade unique collectible cartoon cats on the blockchain. Around the time of launch, CryptoKitties was so successful that it slowed the Ethereum network.
This is a big deal, as the Ethereum blockchain is, without a doubt, the most active smart contract platform in existence. Of the top 100 tokens by market cap, 94% are built on top of Ethereum. Of the top 800 tokens, 87% are built on Ethereum. Most of these tokens are ERC20 tokens, which made possible the majority of the $5.5 billion raised through ICOs in 2017 and the $6.5 billion raised in token sales during just the first quarter of this year.
The driving principle behind the creation of CryptoKitties was to demonstrate the potential of Ethereum and the blockchain ecosystem for trading and securing digital assets. In the white paper, the founders discuss the narrow focus of most blockchain projects on payments. Ultimately, they hoped CryptoKitties would help people expand their vision of what a blockchain could do.
A few weeks back Digital in Asia met with Benny Giang, the founder of CryptoKitties, to talk Ethereum, cats and art on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: So Benny, where did the inspiration for CryptoKitties come from? How did it start?
Benny: We love cats, and we know it’s a fact that the internet and cats is just married, right? Basically any new internet technology always starts with cats.
We also thought that blockchain seemed pretty interesting, but we wanted to make it more accessible. We saw so many ICOs happening, and we loved the variety. Some were solving really big interesting problems, like world hunger level. But there were some that were just … I don’t even know what they were doing. It’s just getting DJ Khaled to hype up their ICOs! It felt like what was missing was the education and accessibility piece. So we had the idea of putting cats on the blockchain to drive our education and accessibility agenda.
This turned our attention to a couple of existing crypto collectibles like CryptoPunks and Spells of Genesis. These were the first to use the ERC20 token standard from Ethereum, and then create a collectible on the blockchain. But the limitation with the existing collectibles was that they were only an image. We wanted to take it to the next level. So we started exploring the game play, and we arrived on this interesting idea of allowing people to breed their kitties on the blockchain.
We then spent a month on genetic simulations, trying to figure out how deep we could go and how we could evolve the idea. We established a 256 bit genome. That results in about 4 billion variations of kitties. In terms of human genetics, that’s nothing, it’s very controllable. But in game play, 4 billion potential kitties is quite a lot of variations. It was more of an experiment, playing around, and that was the initial genesis of CryptoKitties.
Digital in Asia: Where did you get started with blockchain? Because it seems as if you were already very familiar with the technology. CryptoKitties was more about doing something in blockchain, as opposed to doing CryptoKitties.
Benny: It started in the spring of 2017. I began reading more, specifically on Ethereum. Most of our team, except a couple of members, were already involved in blockchain, the Bitcoin side. They mined Bitcoin, they bought them, they sold them from way back.
From a more typical internet technology perspective, a lot of the product teams and my background was around building B2B Enterprise SaaS Software. I was interested in the concept of the world computer, and creating a decentralised app store to build real utility. That’s really fascinating, and the whole decentralised aspect really caught my attention.
But I love the quote: “Any disruptive technology starts off as a toy”. And in there I saw the opportunity to bring the educational piece forward, in a way that people could learn, but also have fun.
Digital in Asia: Crypto can be complicated. How long did you think it would take people to get their heads around digital wallets, Gas price and all the other complexities of blockchain, and Ethereum specifically.
Benny: In the first week about 80,000 people signed up. These are new users we had never interacted with, and probably don’t even know what a digital wallet is. So that was already a huge factor. 80,000 new people were so attracted to this game that they were willing to jump through all these hoops.
My biggest goals always involve optimizing the experience for the end user. That’s all I care about, that’s all our team cares about. But in blockchain, and Cryptokitties, we’re still pretty far away from having it where you click on the button and everything just works.
Are people scared of Gas and all these things? I would say they are. Sometimes Gas price goes up and they don’t understand why, but that’s kind of our role, and part of why we created the game. Right now we’re building a whole new onboarding process that will help educate: “Hey this is what Gas is, this is why we need it, this is why it keeps fluctuating.” So people will understand.
Digital in Asia: Why did you decide to build on the Ethereum blockchain? There are alternative blockchains out there like Neo, and as we’ve seen with Gas price increases, and congestion, it’s not always an easy environment.
Benny: It was a timing thing and also more of a mission alignment thing. We met some of the Ethereum team last year and saw that these people really do have the builder mentality, they’re very product focused and development focused. Looking at other blockchains there is potential scalability, but in terms of full production readiness, with thousands of dApps already built on top of it, and battle tested, I would say there is only one at this point.
There are some blockchains being talked about in terms of being Ethereum killers, and that may be true, but let’s see when they get full production ready. Practically, if we were to consider these other chains then we wouldn’t have launched CryptoKitties when we did, as we would’ve waited six more months. It was more of we need to do it now, and we need to ship the product because the timing was right, it was when ICOs were popping like crazy. But as you know we didn’t do an ICO. We actually did the reverse ICO where we built the product, and we sold people kitties!
Digital in Asia: Where is CryptoKitties going? What are your future plans?
Benny: We’re going to work towards deepening the user experience. That means more game play features and expanding to new ways of thinking about the platform. It’s very interesting the three areas we play in. One is crypto, the other one is gaming and the final area is art. We were invited to the Rare Art Festival New York, and we asked a bunch of people to basically talk about this new contemporary art form which is digital collectibles. And some people laughed, definitely.
What’s interesting to me is these Kitties will live for thousands of years. What we have done is basically made history. No matter if we are alive, or the company is alive, these kitties will live. We have this concept of infinite extensibility which is related to the kitties as art form.
Digital in Asia: This is an interesting area. What do you mean by infinite extensibility?
Benny: You buy a painting, let’s say it’s the Mona Lisa. It’s pretty old. You just keep it, and you just look at it, right? And as it ages with time, it just deteriorates. But with the digital collectibles as an art form, as time passes, more functionalities can be added. Right now all you can do is buy and sell and breed. But what if you could walk it, what if this kitty could be a real kitty in your mind. So it’s like an art piece that you can continually interact with as time progresses.
Digital in Asia: It’s apparent you’re not actually a blockchain business, you’re a gaming or collectibles business. Blockchain is just the technology you’re building your business on, in the same way that the internet is the technology that Uber or Amazon build their business on. But we don’t – for the most part – talk about that any more. Every business built on the blockchain right now is called a blockchain business, and this is just about the early stage nature of the space really. What other projects do you feel are good enough to transcend blockchain, and become real businesses?
Benny: The whole blockchain gaming and collectibles category is going to be huge this year. In regards to ICOs, there are a few products I find interesting. They’re more related to AI blockchain, and the convergence of the two. But I don’t actively get involved with many ICOs because the space is almost too hot right now. I would rather hang around the people who are developers or product people, who focus on the end view. There is so much work to do on protocols, all these different things. If we want more businesses to transcend blockchain, we need better and more secure blockchain platforms.
Digital in Asia: Okay. On that, are there any ways in which Ethereum limits you?
Benny: Limitations? We really support the Ethereum ecosystem. We have a team of six that are focused on long term scaling of Ethereum, talking to other chains, working with side chains, trying to find the right solutions. Introducing Casper, or at least the MVP of Casper, will be a big milestone for Ethereum this year. If they pull it off without doing a super hard fork, and the community comes to a consensus, they’re going to be way ahead of other people. Because again, they really have the masses, they just need to move the masses to the next level.
Digital in Asia: Do you think there is a danger that they won’t successfully deliver, or build consensus around, sharding or proof-of-stake? We don’t want Ethereum Classic 2.
Benny: No, No, No. Nobody wants that. Ethereum is below 600 dollars right now, which is low compared to a few months back. When CryptoKitties started it was at 400 dollars. So it’s back to a level of normality for us. It’s good for everybody to calm down, and come together around common goals, because we need to think long term. We all know the market was bound for a correction, and while that’s sad because I own Ethereum, it’s good as it lowers costs to build and operate on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: What plans do you have around mobile? Any sort of AR functionality? People think it would be cool to see your kitties.
Considering new features like AR as a blockchain gaming company who really believes in the philosophy of decentralisation is tricky. If you walk your cat, should that be on a blockchain? When you have a kitty for a thousand years, we think that entire history – including any AR excursions – should be logged. But that’s not easy, and we can’t handle all of the transactions yet. But we are brainstorming a bunch of these new gaming features because that will help keep the experience interesting.
Digital in Asia: Thanks for your time Benny. This has been an interesting conversation. Any final words of advice?
Benny: Blockchain is only just getting started. Thanks again.
From consumer engagement and privacy to technological advances, content strategies and monetisation, data in its various forms is everywhere and companies are challenged with harnessing and analysing it smartly for greater returns.
Here are some of the top trends driving media companies:
Mobile and Social – What Consumers Want
Audiences today expect video to be on mobile. According to Ooyala’s Q4 2017 video index, mobile’s share of video plays in Asia-Pacific surpassed 60% and the medium had the most share of plays amongst other devices in the region.
Social media video continues to grow, driving media companies to lean more on social to promote and enhance their content, and grow their audiences. Content, strategic partnerships, innovation and branding are key to their growth in the future.
The focus on more granular applications of asset metadata has also led companies to AI capabilities. Modern data-driven media platforms connect and streamline content supply chains to help media companies search their content archives for video, audio or text files with facial recognition, language translation, visual text identification, and more.
Immersion with AR and VR
With mobile devices getting more ubiquitous and advancements in 5G connectivity, we’re looking towards a future of more immersive video content, thanks to continuous progress developing virtual reality (VR), 360-degree video, and augmented reality (AR) technology.
A study confirmed that VR increases viewer engagement with journalism, particularly with larger-scale experiences. And VR360 ads were found to perform better than traditional ads, with advanced platforms supporting VR360 playback for VOD and live.
Interest for AR is rising within the wider industry. Consider The New York Times’ integration of AR into its stories, including features published during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Data at the centre
As media companies strive to be innovative in monetising content and diversifying revenue streams, it is data that will increase their chances for success and lead them into the next era of media.
2016 was an eventful year for marketers: New technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) captured the imaginations of marketers globally – as Nintendo’s new AR offering, Pokémon Go, took the world by storm. 2016 was also a big year for digital transformation (DX), as enterprises rapidly prioritised DX at the center of their corporate strategy, and marketers rapidly embraced data analytics in order to drive marketing decisions.
Marta DeBellis, Adobe APAC Vice President of Marketing offers her views on some big milestones and game changers that will shape the digital marketing landscape, as we move into 2017.
1. AR, VR and Machine Learning will continue to have an impact in 2017:
The emergence of technologies like AR, VR and machine learning will shape marketing in 2017 and beyond. AR and VR will change the way marketers can engage with customers and drive experiences beyond what is possible today. AR and VR will change the way marketers can engage with customers and drive experiences beyond what is possible today. The challenge for marketers will be to learn how to create content for these formats to fully leverage the opportunities they offer.
Machine learning and data science will offer significant productivity opportunities for marketers, allowing them to focus their time on their overall strategies and away from day-to-day analytics and data management. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become ubiquitous in the technology industry, and a lot of great work has been done to build out horizontal frameworks to solve large-scale problems – from accurate speech recognition to computer vision.
We recently introduced Adobe Sensei, a framework and set of intelligent services, with deep expertise in AI, machine learning and deep learning, built into the Adobe Cloud Platform which dramatically improve the design and delivery of digital experiences.
Understanding how customers are consuming video content remains an opportunity for marketers in 2017. Video has been the ‘next big thing’ for several years now and I don’t think marketers have it all figured out yet. Marketers will get one more shot at leveraging this opportunity fully next year. Adobe’s acquisition of TubeMogul shows our focus on video in marketing campaigns. It will create the first end-to-end independent advertising and data management solution that spans TV and digital formats, simplifying what has been a complex and fragmented process for brands.
2. Competitive advantage (through exceptional CX) will be the biggest driver of digital transformation
Competitive advantage is the biggest driver of digital transformation and underlying that is customer experience.
Customer experience is the new competitive differentiator of success and is separating those brands which are pushing ahead with transformation, and those trapped in a business model of yesterday. Today’s digital landscape is overflowing with people interacting across multiple devices, whether it’s mobile devices, wearables, tablets or even car dashboards. When new products and innovation come onto the market, people want to be able to use it. The increased expectations of consumers have brought us to a tipping point where experience must be at the center of everything brands do.
In 2017 marketers need to walk in the shoes of customers and truly understand the experience their brand is offering. Customers are interacting with brands across many different touchpoints and marketers need to be aware of how this experience affects the overall customer journey.
3. Digital marketers must still place emphasis on creativity.
Data has given marketers the power to demonstrate ROI and drive business growth. However, it’s crucial they remember that creativity still plays a significant role. Creating amazing content that is personal and emotive is key to delivering incredible customer experiences.
Creativity and design-led thinking are central to business success. Adobe’s 2016 Creative Pulse survey highlights an overwhelming number of respondents who think so. 89% of APAC respondents say their businesses are placing more importance on creativity and design thinking. 56% of APAC respondents feel that they are creating a bigger impact within their organizations, compared to two years ago.
Content velocity – being able to create amazing content quickly, and at scale, should also be a focus for marketers in 2017. The key is to not make more content, but to make content more personalized and engaging.