Instagram could be targeting YouTube’s influencer bucks with 60-minute videos

Instagram is rumoured to be rolling out long-form video in what could be a play by Facebook to poach a growing portion of ad spend from YouTube, owned by arch-rival in ad tech Google.

While Instagram currently supports hour-long live streams, videos are capped at just 60 seconds, but unnamed sources speaking to WSJ say this could be extended to 60 minutes, which could make the photo-sharing platform a whole lot more attractive to influencers.

The news comes despite Instagram already becoming the dominant force of influencer marketing, with MediaKix finding a 33% year-on-year growth in sponsored posts on the app looking ready to account for $1.6bn (£1.2bn) in ad spend by the end of the year. That figure gets closer to $2.4bn (£1.8bn) by the end of 2019.

The reasoning?

While the move would make sense from a strategic standpoint, it would likely be embraced by influencers themselves, allowing for the consolidation of channels and a move away from YouTube, where viewing figures can lag.

It also speaks to today’s video consumption habits. New research by Forester has forecast mobile’s share of the online video ad market to increase from 50% at present to 59% by 2023, with consumers becoming comfortable viewing media on smartphones – and increasingly long-form video.

Taking out the competition

YouTube isn’t the only platform Instagram is limbering up to take a pop at; TechCrunch reported that the company is in further shrouded talks with a number of social media stars and content publishers around an answer to Snapchat Stories, which would see it host scripted video series, music videos and more, optimised for mobile in vertical format.

According to new data from the Pew Research Center, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat are now the most popular online platforms among US teenagers (Facebook sits at fourth place), and the unconfirmed announcements suggest the photo-sharing app is gearing up to take a sizeable chunk out of each of its closest rivals.

– by Mark Jones

LinkedIn rolls out Carousel Ads to ‘humanise’ B2B marketing

In similar fashion to its consumer-facing counterparts, B2B social network LinkedIn has launched Carousel Ads, allowing advertisers to display up to 10 customised, swipeable cards within one ad.

According to a blog post by product manager, Rohin Rajiv, the company hopes the update will “humanise” B2B marketing efforts and add a little colour to an otherwise non-too-descript news feed, encouraging users to engage with brands on both desktop and mobile.

The approach seems to be working; of the 300 advertisers that have conducted beta trials so far including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, RBC and Volvo Canada, some 75% have noted increased engagement and click-through rates.

Wrapping the format up in its broader place among the company’s existing ad units, Rajiv says Carousel will make every stage of the buyer’s journey count, allowing brands to raise awareness and consideration, send traffic to multiple landing pages, and seamlessly generate leads using its Lead Gen Forms product.

For the ROI-driven marketer, meanwhile, metrics of ad performance can be accessed including click-through rates, number of leads generated, and impressions for each individual card, all of which will be integrated to its Campaign Manager tool in the coming months.

Slow and steady

While LinkedIn’s innovation on the ad tech front has been comparatively slow and steady – at least compared to the hotly-competitive arena of consumer-based networks, it has carved out a valuable, if slightly underappreciated, dominance in B2B marketing.

Amid the various ad formats that have been pushed out quietly over the last few years including programmatic display and targeted sponsored content, some 26% of B2B marketers claimed plans to shell out over £300K on its video ad placements alone in 2018.

LinkedIn also ranks highest among social networks for lead generation thanks to its high-intent user base of over 500m professionals, and is considered the safest platform for digital advertisers’ brands, according to a poll by GumGum and Digiday.

– by Mark Jones

Reddit roles out native autoplay video ads with focus on user engagement

Following its recent redesign, Reddit has rolled out a new native video ad format that will auto-play by default when a user scrolls through a feed.

The update is part of the massively popular site’s tentative efforts to monetise its 330m active monthly users, which can be widely resistant to any large-scale changes to user experience, particularly when there’s a commercial slant involved.

Users will, however, be able to turn off the autoplay function, while the ads themselves will only be served to those using the default version of Reddit’s new desktop site and app, with the previous iteration remaining available.

The video ad format will be made available among its managed advertising partners at launch, with plans to roll it out to advertisers within the next few months.

Focused on engagement

Video advertising isn’t a first for Reddit, but the focus now is on engagement, rather than impressions.

The average Redditor spends at least 15 minutes per day on site according to the group, and user-generated video is an increasingly key driver; native video views as a whole have doubled since the start of the year.

As a result, and garnering three to five times more engagement than static ads, Reddit video ads have enjoyed the spillover benefit, and will now be available on a cost-per-view (CPV) basis allowing advertisers to leverage these habits more effectively.

Not just native in terms of placement, however, the brands seeing the most success with video ads are those that are willing to think creatively and adjust their content to the site, and its many subreddits’, dynamics. Reddit also says it encourages advertisers to spark conversation and dialogue with users, even if that doesn’t also mean positive feedback.

For its ‘Think Faster’ campaign, for example, Audi rode on the success of Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) series, which sees high-profile celebrities take questions from fans. Taking questions from the Reddit community, the car manufacturer did the same to stars including Elizabeth Banks and Adam Scott, with an added twist of doing this while driving them at breakneck speeds around a race track.

– by Mark Jones

eBay Enterprise and Innotrac rebrand as omnichannel platform provider Radial

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eBay Enterprise and Innotrac have rebranded as Radial, a new omnichannel commerce technology and operations provider. The move comes after private equity firm Sterling Partners bought Innotrac Corporation in 2014 and led a consortium of buyers to acquire eBay Enterprise, in November 2015.

Using the Radial global commerce platform as a service retailers are able to manage cost and improve profitability for the entire order lifecycle, claims the company. The technology and operations integrate with any mobile app, web store or purchase point to improve how customers’ online orders are fulfilled. The platform also enables the management of orders and inventory across distribution centres and suppliers.

“Despite allocating significant resources to omnichannel, many retailers have not evolved fast enough to keep pace with their customers’ demands and expectations,” said Tobias Hartmann, president of Radial. “Radial empowers brands to take down the ‘walls’ between their physical and digital stores, giving them an advantage to acquiring and retaining customers by delivering the type of personalised experiences that keep them coming back for more.”

The company is based in King of Prussia, Pensylvannia, and operates more 24 distribition centres and six call centres in the United States, Canada and Europe It employs more than 7,000 people globally. Customers include Designer Shoe Warehouse, GameStop, Shoe Carnival and Destination XL.

– by Liz Morrell

Personalisation specialist Blueshift secures $8 million funding

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Marketing personalisation specialist Blueshift has secured an $8 million Series A round of venture financing that will enable it to accelerate the development of its marketing automation solutions.

As well as driving sales and marketing the investment will also be used to allow Blueshift to build out its proprietary Interaction Graph platform.

The platform powers Blueshift’s Segment-of-One marketing automation solutions. The Interaction Graph stores each user’s stream of interactions with products or contents and is constantly enhanced with additional attributes such as affinity scores, email and push notification, engagement data and more.

The company claims that its solutions can allow marketers to individually tailor their messages to customers based on shoppers’ interests, purchase patterns and browsing behaviour which it clams can lead to between a three and ten times increase in engagement rates.

The financing has been led by venture capital firm Storm Ventures who focus on SaaS, mobile and cloud enterprise startups and Nexus Venture Partners who work across the enterprise technology, internet, media, consumer and business services sectors and are already an existing investment partner in the business.

The investment sees Anshu Sharma of Storm and previously at Salesforce.com joining Blueshift’s board of directors to help guide the company’s future growth.

“Storm Ventures has previously backed many of the leading companies in marketing technology and SaaS, and we are especially thrilled with the confidence they have placed in us as we enter our next phase of growth,” said Vijay Chittoor, co-founder and CEO of Blueshift.

Sharma said he had been impressed by the capabilities of Blueshift’s technology. “At Salesforce, I saw first hand the challenges enterprise customers experienced in delivering personalised, relevant messages to consumers who are increasingly tuning out,” he said. “Blueshift has built a unique segment of one marketing platform by leveraging the very latest innovations in big data and machine learning—built by a team of seasoned marketing practitioners. We think this is the future of all marketing automation.”

After segmenting customers Blueshift clients can then choose a variety of merchandising techniques to encourage greater response such as collaborative filtering, affinity based content or retargeting.

– by Liz Morrell

Marketing and ad tech M&A activity hits near record heights for Q3

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The advertising and marketing tech sectors have continued to see buoyant merger and acquisition activity in the third quarter of this year with activity only just falling short of Q3 2014 figures which saw the strongest activity on record.

The data comes from a study released by specialist technology and marcoms corporate finance advisor Results International.

112 deals were announced in Q3 2015 compared with 113 for the same period last year. Compared to the previous quarter, total activity was up by 11% when 101 deals were announced.

Nearly a third of the deals were made in the marketing automation sector, a threefold increase on the second quarter. Deals in the marketing automation sector have more than doubled for the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period of 2014 with a rise from 8% to 21% of all global ad tech and marketing tech deals.

At the same time deals in the advertising platform space fell dramatically down from 35% in the second quarter to 7% in the third quarter. This is thought to reflect a growing emphasis on cross-channel marketing automation for customer engagement as well as ad platforms repositioning themselves as broader marketing automation businesses.

Mobile, e-commerce and video were three sectors that gained market share in the third quarter whilst deals involving social media technology nearly halved, dropping from 20% of the market in Q2 to 11% in Q3.

The study also showed a quadrupling of deals involving private equity buyers – either directly or via portfolio companies — which hit 13% in the Q3 compared to 3% in the previous quarter. This comes as a result of a maturing of the sector which is now attracting later stage buyout capital as well as continued high levels of earlier stage and growth capital entering the market.

WPP remained the most acquisitive company with nine transactions in the first three quarters of 2015 compared to an average of one for three quarters of companies studied. Big deals in the third quarter included AOL’s acquisition of Millennial Media for $252 million and Oracle’s acquisition of Maxymiser.

Julie Langley, partner at Results International, said: “Notwithstanding the fact that the public markets have been very challenging for adtech companies this year, M&A activity has remained robust with high profile deals with new entrants such as News Corp and Verizon entering the fray.

“Martech continues to be a very high growth sector, with a number of players vying to become the de facto marketing software platforms for the marketing function, and the typically SaaS-based revenue models attracting PE interest,” she added.

– by Liz Morrell

2015 native advertising spend set to grow for nearly two thirds of marketers

©iStock.com/tumpikuja 

Native advertising is set for a substantial increase with nearly two thirds (63%) expecting to increase their budgets this year, according to a new report.

In the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 2015 survey, Advertising is Going Native, 127 client side marketers – more than half of whom were senior marketers – were surveyed at the end of last year to understand how they already were using, and planning to implement native advertising within their businesses.

The survey showed that native advertising, while being one of the hottest trends in the industry, is also cited as one of the most controversial. Although budgets are increasing for the marketing option it remains tiny in comparison to other methods and for 68% of respondents accounted for 5% or less of overall budgets.

Fuelled by digital

The survey showed its usage is highest across digital and online where 85% of respondents used the tactic, followed by social media where 71% used native advertising within their businesses.

Its controversy comes from the requirement to disclose that such marketing is advertising. Two thirds of respondents felt this should be made clear while 13% said they felt that it was not required. The report found that disclosure and transparency was the single biggest issue about native advertising that kept respondents up at night.

The study also highlighted the challenge of measuring the impact of native advertising for marketers. Despite the fact that such marketers use multiple metrics to help them understand and measure the effectiveness of native marketing the report showed that no metric stood out as most important suggesting that there is a requirement for a deeper relevant set of metrics that allows better analysis and insight.

“A win for marketers”

But despite its challenges native advertising will continue to rise in popularity according to Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA.

“Native advertising is proving to be a win for marketers, consumers, and publishers. Marketers win because their messages have a better likelihood of being seen and read versus traditional advertising. Consumers win because marketing messages have more contextual relevance than traditional advertising. And publishers win with the business development potential,” he said.

However, consumers must be able to tell the difference between native advertising and editorial. Marketers have a responsibility to be transparent to maintain trust, and they must play a lead role in working with publishers to ensure proper disclosure.”

– by Liz Morrell

AOP offers best practices for native advertising in wake of survey results

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One in three consumers are more likely to trust native advertising than traditional advertising, according to a report from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

The report, which focuses on the impact of native advertising, or advertorial, uncovered a series of interesting statistics. Three in five (59%) consumers claimed to find native advertising “interesting”, while 42% more consumers said they found native ad drivers more interesting than traditional ads.

Intriguingly, native advertising becomes more popular when supported by traditional advertising. Native ads saw an uplift of 38% across key brand metrics, such as brand perceptions, affinity, and word of mouth, when compared with unsupported native ads.

The biggest driver for native ads was that they were informative (32%), followed by interesting (27%), clear and easy to understand (22%), useful (21%) and eye catching (21%). More respondents saw traditional advertising as easy to understand and eye catching, yet 38% polled said the biggest driver was that it was ordinary.

AOP, alongside Tapestry Research, conducted the survey of 1500 respondents through qualitative interviews, using advertising campaigns from the likes of The Huffington Post and Marie Claire to gauge users’ opinions.

The overall conclusion of the research is that, even if you think it blurs the line between advertising and editorial, native advertising is here to stay.

Tim Cain is AOP managing director. He explains the association’s key guides for success in traversing the fine line between brand awareness and keeping a publishing audience happy.

“Native should be bespoke to the advertising brand and reflect the style of the publication,” he tells MarketingTech. “Our rules for success include avoiding overt sales messages, journalistically following the style of the media brand, and being genuinely engaging and adding value to the reader’s experience.”

He notes that, while not each advertorial is created equally, native is an “evolution” of this concept.

“Native advertising needs to be signposted clearly, so it is not seen as surreptitiously claiming to be editorial only to confuse the reader with commercial overtones,” he adds. “It should be stylistically close to the editorial tone and feel of the media brand, and viewed as a natural piece of content consistent with what the reader would expect to see and read on that site.”

The AOP report, available to members, can be found here.

– by James Bourne

Native ad leader Outbrain acquires AdNgin for automated ad content optimisation

New York-based native ad firm Outbrain has acquired AdNgin, a UI (user interface) optimisation specialist built to enhance the reader experience.

The buyout – made for an undisclosed fee – marks the sixth for Outbrain since its founding in 2006, including the more recent purchases of content discovery platforms Zemanta and Revee as part of the company’s aggressive growth efforts and continued leadership in the native advertising sector.

According to the announcement, Outbrain was attracted to AdNgin’s focus on personalising reader experiences to the visual preferences of the individual consumer, from their “personal preferences to the way interact digitally”, in what the company expects to be a revenue-boosting combination for publishers integrating its native ads.

“AdNgin removes the guesswork of digital advertising, allowing us to automate the optimisation of our reader experience,” said Asaf Porat, head of global operations at Outbrain; “It’s fascinating to see a technology that can make continuous improvements and lead to significant uplifts of RPMs [revenue per mille] and CTRs [click-through rate].”

The merger’s unveiling today (June 6) follows a six-month pilot between the two companies, during which a reported “consistent double-digit” lift in CTR rates proved a deal-breaker for the two teams to unite under the Outbrain banner.

“Joining forces with a native powerhouse like Outbrain, which organically outperforms the competition using interest-based recommendations, couldn’t be a more perfect digital advertising match,” added Amnon Lahav, co-founder of AdNgin.

“This is an incredibly exciting start to a high-converting content adventure, both for us, and the end consumers,” he added.

Lahav will bring over a decade’s experience in UX (user experience) and will be instrumental in collaborating with Outbrain’s business optimisation team at the company’s new head of UI optimisation.

According to eMarketer, native advertising spend in the US is projected to hit $32.9bn (£25m) in 2018, a 31% growth which represents a slight tapering on previous years owed to a reduction in overall budgets allocated to social media platforms, such as Facebook.

However, the same report forecasts that native will account for more than three-quarters of display ad spend on mobile, while just shy of 96% of ad spend on social media will indeed be focused on native ad units.

– by Mark Jones

New report shows huge increase in social advertising spend

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Social advertising spend is growing rapidly, according to a new report which shows that marketers spent 86% more year on year in the first quarter of 2016. The growth was driven particularly by a 122% rise in mobile ad spend.

An increase in spend on Instagram ads and Facebook Dynamic Product Ads also helped to drive the increase – a trend that goes against the normal seasonal ad buying patterns.

The figures, compiled by Kenshoo, showed that in paid search advertising spend rose 13% year on year in the quarter with marketers investing 77% more on smartphone ads. They also spent 98% more on Product Listing Ads than in the same quarter last year, which generated a three-fold increase in clicks as a result.

Clicks from paid social ads increased by 54% compared to a year ago with clicks from mobile (including both phones and tablets) jumping by 92%. Mobile ads now account for 71% of all social clicks, 63% of spend and 46% of impressions.

The study also showed that Mobile App Install ads are becoming increasingly important with such ads accounting for 25% of all spend compared to 20% a year ago and 17% of clicks. For mobile app advertisers Instagram generated 14% of total impressions and 17% of clicks in the first quarter.

In paid search total clicks rose by 36% with impressions up by 31%. 29% of spend and 40% of clicks came from smartphones in paid search, Mobile accounted for 52% of clicks and 42% of spend. Desktop keywords grew 5% for both clicks and spend.

Rob Coyne, Kenshoo’s managing director for EMEA, said: “There’s a real opportunity for advertisers to drive significant performance gains in both paid search and social advertising through harnessing new ad types such as Instagram. Marketers are showing an increasing appetite for more direct response product-focused advertising, with PLAs and Dynamic Product Ads now a key part of a strong digital marketing strategy, along with app promotion.”

– by Liz Morrell

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