How to Improve Google Landing Page Experience and Ad Quality Scores

If you run a small business, transitioning from print ads in local media to Google Ads can involve a steep learning curve. When you purchase an ad in the alt-weekly people grab as they leave the grocery store or the coupon mailers that come in the mail every Tuesday, you know exactly what to expect — you know when, where, and how often your advertisement will appear.

With Google Ads, there are no guarantees. You create an ad and set a budget, but will anyone see it? This is a source of frustration for many businesses that are new to using Google Ads, and it’s one of the reasons why a lot of people end up throwing in the towel.

Today, I’m going to demystify Google Ads by explaining one of the key factors in getting Google to display your ads: Landing Page Experience.

Ad Quality Scores and Landing Page Experience

While search engine ranking algorithms are essentially a mystery, Google Ads has a little more transparency when it comes to their Ad Quality Scores. The better your score, the more often your ad will be displayed to users searching for your keyword.

Landing Page Experience is one of three important criteria Google uses to assign an Ad Quality Score. Many people agonize over finding just the right keywords and crafting the perfect copy for their Google Ads, but they spend no time working on their landing page — this is a huge mistake. Google wants to ensure that there’s congruence between your ad copy and your landing page; they also want to see that once people click through to your site, they’re not quickly leaving because they’re not finding what they need.

What Does Google Look for in a Landing Page?

If you’re struggling to get your Ad Quality Score up so more people see your ads, it’s time to take an in-depth look at your landing page. Take a step back, look at your site from the perspective of a user, and ask yourself the following questions:

Is your landing page clear?

Your landing page should be easy to read, with the information people need front-and-center. Include calls to action and be judicious with the number of links on the page — you don’t want it to be too easy for people to click away from the page and leave.

Is your landing page useful?

Remember: your landing page needs to serve your customer’s needs, not yours. You may want them to sign up for your newsletter, but what’s the benefit for them in doing so? How are you helping the user? How will following through with your call-to-action (CTA) improve their lives?

Is your landing page related to your keyword?

Your landing page should be specific, not generic. If you’re an HVAC business and you’re advertising air conditioner repair in Houston, but you’re sending people to your homepage instead of a page specifically tailored to that keyword, you’re losing business. Every additional click people need to make in order to find what they need increases your drop-off rate.

Is your website transparent?

In both search and in ads, Google is increasingly looking for transparency. They want to know who you are and why people should trust you — in other words, they want to vet your business to make sure it’s legitimate. Providing links to social media, customer reviews, and other social proof can give Google (and potential customers) confidence in your business.

Does your website load quickly?

Your landing page isn’t the place to pull your Instagram feed, have display ads, and showcase ginormous high-res images. Instead, your landing page should be streamlined. Optimize it for mobile, reduce image sizes, and remove all scripts that cause lags.

Does your website have intuitive navigation?

In addition to optimizing your landing page, you’ll also want to make sure your entire website is organized in a way that makes sense. Implementing a website taxonomy with clear page hierarchies and logical categories is also great for SEO, so it’s worth taking the time to get right.

Learn More About How to Perfect Your Google Ads Campaign

Your landing page is just one of the key factors in your Ad Quality Score.  If you’re struggling to increase your Quality Scores, then click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads checklist to help uncover areas to improve your campaigns.

7 Engaging Ways to Advertise to Upcoming Generations on TikTok

In a post-COVID world, people are using content to fill their time and find daily satisfaction, thus creating a greater need for content creation. This gives marketers a real opportunity to reach their target demographic in an engaging way.

If you are looking to market to the under-30 age group of Millennials, Gen Z, and upcoming Gen Alpha, then TikTok and its 800+ million worldwide active users is a great place to explore. TikTok has only been running ads for under two years, which means less oversaturation for marketers and lots of room for creativity in future ads.

Key TikTok Advertising Methods

TikTok has created a few different engaging advertising methods for marketers to choose from. Marketers partner with TikTok advertising reps directly to select the best options and ensure a smooth execution. The choices are:

  1. Top View and Takeover Ads: This is an ad that is displayed as soon as a user opens the app on the home “For You” page. It can be a photo or video, and has 100% share of voice.
  2. Hashtag Challenges: Brands can create a hashtag challenge that encourages users to follow an action, trend, dance, or something else that users can post on their feeds (and encourage their friends to do the same).
  3. Creator Marketplace: These are the content-creator royalty on TikTok. Brands can work with creators that have demographic-relevant followers to promote a brand or product on the creator’s page with custom videos.
  4. Branded Filters and Effects: These are branded 2D or 3D camera effects users can add while creating videos in a fun and interactive way.
  5. Infeed Video Ads: This is the widest, most direct advertising method on TikTok; it includes an in-feed video ad whose appearance is native to the platform.

Now that we know the TikTok advertising methods, let’s talk strategy. The platform is a unique world that brands must familiarize themselves with before entering. Since marketers are just becoming accustomed with this new advertising landscape, it’s easy for ads to look out of place or even worse, “cringy.” Here are seven engaging ways to advertise to the upcoming generations on TikTok:

1. Know the culture

Before advertising on the platform, take some time to understand the unique characteristics and the popularity of different voices and content types. Whether it be a prank, dance, sound bite, or skit, TikTok content that performs well is all about authenticity and having fun. Right now it’s truly about showing people’s everyday lives during this unusual year, making for very entertaining video content.

2. Be in with the trends – and start some of your own!

TikTok is very “in the moment” driven, and trends come and go. Get to know what’s trending and hop on! The platform is a community and everyone can join in on the fun — even brands. TikTok also offers brands the opportunity to create paid hashtag challenges, which is great for starting trends that audiences can participate in. Make sure your content is fun, engaging, and that it truly aligns with your brand’s message.

3. Follow the rules

TikTok is new to advertising, so many marketers are still getting familiar with its layout and best practices. It’s great to stand out from the masses, but standing out because of a mistake could have negative consequences. Know the guidelines of the vertical feed before creating and publishing. To up your engagement, make ads specifically tailored for TikTok; an ad taken off of a different social media platform and recycled for a new one can come off looking out of place on the feed, causing people to skip right past it.

4. Create content-like ads

TikTok offers in-feed video ads that can look like a post that users see on their For You pages. Other than a very small, opaque “Sponsored” button, everything else looks exactly the same. Use this to your advantage to create content similar to what people use TikTok for: sharing entertaining content with friends. Try creating a short, amusing video that intertwines with your brand or product messaging.

5. Tell a story

Storytelling is huge on TikTok, but you only have 60 seconds to do it. Ads should only be nine to 15 seconds anyway, so quickly tell your brand’s story in a way that catches a viewer’s attention. Create a scene with a few likable characters partaking in an action that will relate to your targeted demographic.

6. Include characters

The majority of the videos on TikTok, especially now, are at-home videos taken of individuals, their family members, or their close friends. Lean into that and do the same, with either a TikTok creator partnership engaging with your product/brand, or existing footage you have with people.

7. Be unique, but be quick to standout

Gen Z and Millennials love to try new products and test out new trends, so consider what you can offer to the content community, and how your brand or product can improve someone’s life. The goal is to make them stop and watch your 15-second ad while bringing value to their day, thus captivating them to click the “Learn More” button and engage with your brand further.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have TikTok downloaded, take a moment to get the app and start exploring the world and culture that awaits.

A Map or a Matrix? Identity Management Is More Complex By the Day

A newly published white paper on how advertisers and brands can recognize unique customers across marketing platforms underscores just how tough this important job is for data-driven marketers.

As technologists and policymakers weigh in themselves on the data universe – often without understanding the full ramifications of what they do (or worse, knowing so but proceeding anyway) – data flows on the Internet and on mobile platforms are being dammed, diverted, denuded, and divided.

In my opinion, these developments are not decidedly good for advertising – which relies on such data to deliver relevance in messaging, as well as attribution and measurement. There is a troubling anti-competition mood in the air. It needs to be reckoned with.

Consider these recent developments:

  • Last week, the European Court of Justice rendered a decision that overturned “Privacy Shield” – the safe harbor program that upward of 5,000 companies rely upon to move data securely between the European Union and the United States. Perhaps we can blame U.S. government surveillance practices made known by Edward Snowden, but the impact will undermine hugely practical, beneficial, and benign uses of data – including for such laudable aims as identity management, and associated advertising and marketing uses.
  • Apple announced it will mandate an “opt-in” for mobile identification data used for advertising and marketing beginning with iOS 14. Apple may report this is about privacy, but it is also a business decision to keep Apple user data from other large digital companies. How can effective cross-app advertising survive (and be measured) when opt-in rates are tiny? What about the long-tail and diversity of content that such advertising finances?
  • Google’s announcement that it plans to cease third-party cookies – as Safari and Mozilla have already done – in two years’ time (six months and ticking) is another erosion on data monetization used for advertising. At least Google is making a full-on attempt to work with industry stakeholders (Privacy Sandbox) to replace cookies with something else yet to be formulated. All the same, ad tech is getting nervous.
  • California’s Attorney General – in promulgating regulation in conjunction with the enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (in itself an upset of a uniform national market for data flows, and an undermining of interstate commerce) – came forth with a new obligation that is absent from the law, but asked for by privacy advocates: Companies will be required to honor a browser’s global default signals for data collection used for advertising, potentially interfering with a consumer’s own choice in the matter. It’s the Do Not Track debate all over again, with a decision by fiat.

These external realities for identity are only part of the complexity. Mind you, I haven’t even explored here the volume, variety, and velocity of data that make data collection, integration, analysis, and application by advertisers both vital and difficult to do. As consumers engage with brands on a seemingly ever-widening number of media channels and data platforms, there’s nothing simple about it. No wonder Scott Brinker’s Mar Tech artwork is becoming more and more an exercise in pointillism.

Searching for a Post-Cookie Blueprint

So it is in this flurry (or fury) of policy developments that the Winterberry Group issued its most recent paper, “Identity Outlook 2020: The Evolution of Identity in a Privacy-First, Post-Cookie World.”

Its authors take a more positive view of recent trends – reflecting perhaps a resolve that the private sector will seize the moment:

“We believe that regulation and cookie deprecation are a positive for the future health and next stage of growth for the advertising and marketing industry as they are appropriate catalysts for change in an increasingly privacy-aware consumer environment,” write authors Bruce Biegel, Charles Ping, and Michael Harrison, all of whom are with the Winterberry Group.

The researchers report five emerging identity management processes, each with its own regulatory risk. Brands may pursue any one or combination of these methodologies:

  • “A proprietary ID based on authenticated first-party data where the brand or media owner has established a unique ID for use on their owned properties and for matching with partners either directly or through privacy safe environments (e.g.: Facebook, Google, Amazon).
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a PII- [personally identifiable information] based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy.
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a third-party, PII-based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy; leverages a deterministic approach, with probabilistic matching to increase reach.
  • “A second-party data environment based on clean environments with anonymous ID linking to allow privacy safe data partnerships to be created.
  • “A household ID based on IP address and geographic match.”

The authors offer a chart that highlights some of the regulatory risks with each approach.

“As a result of the diversity of requirements across the three ecosystems (personalization, programmatic and ATV [advanced television]) the conclusion that Winterberry Group draws from the market is that multiple identity solutions will be required and continue to evolve in parallel. To achieve the goals of consumer engagement and customer acquisition marketers will seek to apply a blend of approaches based on the availability of privacy-compliant identifiers and the suitability of the approach for specific channels and touchpoints.”

A blend of approaches? Looks like I’ll need a navigator as well as the map. As one of the six key takeaways, the report authors write:

“Talent gaps, not tech gaps: One of the issues holding the market back is the lack of focus in the brand/agency model that is dedicated to understanding the variety of privacy-compliant identity options. We expect that the increased market complexity in identity will require Chief Data Officers to expand their roles and place themselves at the center of efforts to reduce the media silos that separate paid, earned and owned use cases. The development of talent that overlaps marketing/advertising strategy, data/data science and data privacy will be more critical in the post-cookie, privacy-regulated market than ever before.”

There’s much more in the research to explore than one blog post – so do your data prowess a favor and download the full report here.

And let’s keep the competition concerns open and continuing. There’s more at stake here than simply a broken customer identity or the receipt of an irrelevant ad.

Needed Again? The Ad Campaign That Saved New York

It’s midsummer, yet we are at a moment in time when tourism and travel ad campaigns are practically at a standstill, due to COVID-19 and our economic shutdown. Here in New York, the lights of Broadway will be out for not just the rest of summer, but the entire year (subscription required). Who knows if New Year 2021 will bring the bright lights back – and if so, the audiences, with billions in the balance.

The city also was recently met with the passing of Milton Glaser, the founder and publisher of New York magazine, and the graphics genius behind the now-ubiquitous “I❤NY” graphic.

A wise soul never bets against New York.

Another advertising genius, Mary Wells Lawrence — the first woman to found, own, and manage a major advertising agency (Wells Rich Greene, in 1966) – was honored last week with a Cannes Lions “Lion of St. Mark” for lifetime achievement. Her agency – with Glaser’s design – literally took a “deteriorating” New York and launched a Broadway-focused campaign that began the city’s (and state’s) path toward the world giant of tourism that it is today.

Here are some samples of work from this campaign in the early 1980s – note the direct-response call to action. Also of note, Glaser developed the graphics pro bono, and the jingle also was donated by composer Steve Karmen.

A Campaign That Sparked Imagination, Captured a Moment, and Practically Created a Category

New York will need nothing short of another seminal ad campaign – or campaign extension — to revise its fortunes once again.

This work was indeed seminal. Until that time (campaign launch, 1976-77), there were few state-funded tourism campaigns that captured America’s imagination as much as “I❤NY” – only “Virginia is for Lovers” (1969) comes to mind. “I❤NYmay not have invented the category, but it took travel and tourism marketing to new heights in public consciousness.

Famously left for bankruptcy by President Gerald Ford, New York City’s perceived state in the mid-1970s was nothing short of disastrous. Depopulation, crime (Son of Sam), blackouts (and looting), decrepit public transit… one might argue the city barely functioned, if at all.

But New York always fights back. The truth is the city never lost its global mantle atop finance, fashion, night life, the arts, and retail, among other sectors. Broadway is uniquely New York and – other than London’s West End – there was no greater concentration of live theater in all its forms than the Big Apple, so of course Broadway was going to be the initial focus of an ad campaign, which happened to open the door to New York’s comeback.

And oh, did it work, perhaps far beyond tourism and economic revival. It created an energy and mystique for the city that touched a chord with many – not just to visit New York, but to come to the city and live, take a chance, and forge our path in the pursuit of happiness. (When our pop heroes of the time – Blondie, the Rolling Stones, Kiss (Ace Frehley), Michael Jackson – are singing in and about you, adding a dose of parody, it’s also hard not to notice.) What followed in New York City is truly remarkable – a booming economy that even periodic stock market corrections and September 11 could not dislodge. These latter events, merely interruptions.

That is, until now.

A New Marketing Challenge – Who Wants to Step Up?

Even prior to COVID-19, New York has had new images and realities to contend with: a population that peaked in 2016, even amid a wildly successful tech and biomedical boom; Gen Z and Millennials with vitality and genius who can’t afford the price of entry – or, worse, feel it’s not worth it; strangulation by repugnant and short-sighted immigration curtailment and visa restrictions that serve to fail the American Dream. And now, it was the epicenter of a pandemic, which has brought into question the safety of dense population centers everywhere.

So how will NYC & Company, the State of New York Division of Tourism, and Empire State Development perhaps unite to revive New York’s fortunes this go-around?

It’s time for a Next Generation to dream big, strategize, and present the next seminal campaign (extension) that will “save” New York. I ask, who’s going to do it? Where are the next Mary Wells Lawrence and Milton Glaser?

How about you? If you and your agency are creating successful work right now, you can prove it: The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has now issued its 2021 International ECHO Awards call for entries. What makes the ANA ECHOs so unique is that each campaign is judged by peers based on data-informed strategy, creativity, and results in business outcomes that any c-suite would love. “Brilliant results. Executed brilliantly.”

Like the State and City of New York, thousands of brands right now need agency and marketing leadership that inspire, motivate, and move business and the economy. In both consumer and business markets, domestic and global, earning an ECHO shows data prowess in real campaigns that make a difference on the bottom line – attributes and outcomes that are in high demand. Take your best work from 2020 and enter, and I’m proud to say, I’ll have the opportunity to help judge that work this fall.

I’m eager to see the best. New York’s image curators ought to be watching as well.

Get More From Your Advertising While Spending A Lot Less

At a time when there seems to be a new national crisis daily, it is hard to justify moving forward with big marketing spends not knowing what the purchasing climate will be one day to the next. Clever copy, relevant content, and big promotions just can’t overcome the hurdles of spending freezes and cut backs many of your target customers are experiencing. When this happens, its really tough to make marketing pay off. At least the kind of marketing you might be used to executing.

Fortunately, marketing platforms today give us the opportunity to manage our marketing spend to be accountable for every dollar, and to eliminate waste by paying only for results, be it impressions, clicks, likes, contact information, and so on.

Regardless of COVID-19 economic challenges, and civil rights protests that disrupt business as usual in every sense of the term, spending dollars on performance marketing programs that are highly measurable is smart marketing under all circumstances. Such programs enable you to reach only who you want to reach, and only cost you money when they perform. This makes sense in good times, certain times, and the reverse.

The key to getting more from these media channels (e.g., Google Ads and LinkedIn ads) really boils down to two things:

  • What you say and how you say it
  • How you use them to spark a multi-step journey to YES for the leads you generate

Here are some considerations.

What You Say and How You Say It

Emotional and psychological relevance is more important than ever. It’s fair to say that most of us are operating from a perspective of fear, anxiety, and doubt most of the time. Every day there’s another setback to our respect for humanity, our belief in governments, our sense of security, and a lot more. So ads that appeal to just about anything but the above are likely to go unnoticed or unacted upon. Copy that directly appeals to a solution vs. boasts a brand’s expertise is likely to influence and persuade, the goal of all marketing. Yet so many ads across all platforms are still brag sheets that are meaningless to purchasers seeking solutions to the fears and anxieties that consume them.

You need to use powerful words that speak to how you can add confidence and security to those struggling to find both in their jobs and personal worlds. Even with the strict word counts for Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads, you can do it. The best way to identify the words or issues that move your customers the most is to ask them. Use your website, social media pages, and email programs to ask one to three questions that identify the greatest concerns and needs on customers’ minds today.

If you find fear of job loss or the great unknown to be top of mind among your customers, use words that speak directly to these fears in your Search Ads. Back up the promise implied by these words with all the other touch points you prepare to keep them on a journey to YES.

How You Spark a Multi-Step Journey

Its amazing how many marketers spend a lot of money on PPC and other performance marketing programs and then stop there. The intent of these programs is most often to create a lead or get people to a website where further engagement takes place. Yet many marketers don’t plan well for the next touch point.

This is why Customer Experience (CX) strategies and plans are so critical. And putting a strong CX plan in place is really quite simple. Some tips:

  • Map out the steps that take place from first introduction to your brand to closing the first sale and then what you do to keep them purchasing.
  • Document the triggers that keep customers moving from one step to the next. Was it a price incentive? A free trial? Content or actionable information? Was it simply a phone call or additional email?
  • Promote these triggers in a carefully concerted customer journey, starting with your website.

Once you get people to your website from your digital advertising campaigns, keep them there by making these same triggers or offers the first thing they see on your home page. Use them as reasons to go deeper in your site, sign up for a demo, download a paper, and so on.

The next step to doing more with less is to train your customer service and sales team members to follow up with each lead that lands on your website or responds to an email. As you are already paying for these people, having them follow up with a personal touch does not cost you a lot more, but most often gives back a lot more in terms of getting customers to take the next step in that critical journey to the first sale. Quite often it’s the phone call or personal email that makes all the difference, and yet this is often overlooked.

While it may seem like advertising is a big waste right now with all the uncertainty we face daily in this new normal state of the world, if you use the right emotional appeals, and keep engaging customers with a strong workflow and customer journey plans, you can actually achieve a great deal at a fairly low cost.

How Your Landing Page Is Sabotaging Your Google Ads Success

You’ve read all the tutorials. You’ve spent countless hours poring over demographic data for targeting, crafting the perfect ad copy, and tweaking your campaign. In fact, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do — but you’re still not seeing any success with Google Ads. Does this sound familiar? If so, the problem probably isn’t with your ad campaign. Instead, look to your landing page for answers.

Here are five ways your landing page could be sabotaging your success with Google Ads.

Your Landing Page Doesn’t Match Your Ad

I’m big on the concept of congruence, which is a fancy way of saying that your ad and your landing page need to make sense together. A landing page is your opportunity to expand upon the copy in your ad. Rather than thinking of your ad and your landing page as two separate pieces, think of your ad as the synopsis or introduction to the landing page on your site.

If you own a furniture store and you’re creating an ad for bunk beds, but your landing page goes to a category page for all beds, it’s frustrating for your customer. They want to click the ad and see exactly what they came to your site for. The more they have to poke around your website to find what they need, the more likely you are to lose them in the process.

It’s also important to note that Google also wants your landing page to match your ad — they give higher quality scores to landing pages with text that is relevant to the text in the ad.

This leads us to our next mistake…

Your Homepage Is Your Landing Page

Repeat after me, “My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page.”

I’ve reviewed countless Google Ads accounts that were making this mistake and it was costing them hundreds to even thousands per month. If you’re advertising a service, your ad should go directly to a landing page focusing on that particular service; if you’re advertising a special deal or promo code, your ad should go directly to a landing page explaining how customers can take advantage of it.

To further expand on a point from above, you simply can’t expect potential customers or clients to find what they need. People are busy, impatient, and they don’t want to do the work. Hold their hands and guide them to the actions you want them to take. Create unique landing pages customized to all of your ads. Is it a bit of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

Visitors Are Met With a Wall of Text

There are some boilerplate landing pages out there that are heavy on text, with a “Buy Now” button placed between every other paragraph. These are old school, but you still see them around occasionally and even businesses that don’t use these templates often borrow from the concept.

People aren’t interested in reading a dissertation about your product, service, or offer. That’s not how you make a sale. Instead, use bullet points, headings, and short paragraphs. Incorporate images and graphics and have a good headline that is congruent with your ad copy.

Your copy should be clear and concise—your landing page isn’t the place to write bloated SEO-style text that uses a lot of words to say very little. Keep it snappy and include calls to action.

It Loads Slowly

This one is self-explanatory so there’s not much more to add here. Google hates slow sites and so do consumers. Audit your site speed and replace or eliminate any code or plugins that are causing lags. People aren’t going to sit around waiting for your site to load — they’ll just click the back button and try another site instead. This is especially true for mobile, which leads to…

Your Site Isn’t Optimized for Mobile

It’s 2020. Smartphones have been around for a long time now. There’s no excuse not to have a site that’s optimized for mobile. These days, there are people who do virtually all of their internet searches on their phones. If your site requires a lot of pinching, zooming in, scrolling to the side to read long lines of text that don’t fit on the screen, etc., not only are people not going to bother, it also sends a message that your business is behind the times.

Want More Help With Your Google Ads Campaigns?

Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads Checklist.

How the Impact of COVID-19 Is Changing Marketing

Well, it’s not as if we can start 2020 all over again — we’re already halfway through this year thus far. Yet, we can say one thing, COVID-19 and its recessionary impacts may be hanging around awhile. How may this have changed marketing mid-year, and possibly changed it permanently?

Well, it’s not as if we can start 2020 all over again — we’re already halfway through this year thus far. Yet, we can say one thing: COVID-19 and its recessionary impacts may be hanging around awhile. How may this have changed marketing mid-year, and possibly changed it permanently?

Such prognostications have kept The Winterberry Group, a marketing research consultancy, plenty busy since March: reading the tea leaves of government data, industry interviews, marketing dashboards, econometric algorithms, and the like. Principal Bruce Biegel told a Direct Marketing Club of New York audience this past week that indeed June has been better than May, which was better than April — when the U.S. (and much of the global) economy was in free fall.

So what’s underway and what’s in store for us midyear? Have we turned a corner?

Our Comeback Will Not Be a U-Turn — ‘Swoosh!’

When unemployment shoots up to 17.1%, and 40 million American jobs either furlough or disappear, there’s going to be a lag effect. The “wallet” recession is upon us, as consumers hang onto their savings, or eat through them, so there’s not going to be the same level of demand that drives upward of two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

New York City is a COVID-19 epicenter — and the commercial real estate market may take five to 10 years to recover, reports The Economist (subscription required). Knowledge workers will return, eventually. But densely populated urban centers, where innovations accelerate the economy, may look and feel different for some time, and that in and of itself could hamper national and global growth. Can other innovation clusters stave off the virus to protect collaboration?

And then there’s our world of advertising. Biegel sees digital being a “winner,” as traditional media continues to take a drubbing. Linear TV spending dropped by a quarter this quarter, and direct mail by half. Experiential and sponsorship spending has been slashed by 75%, as concerts, live sports, conferences, and festivals all took a public health-ordered hiatus. Yet, even in digital categories, Q2 has yelled “ouch.”

Email is the only channel to have held its own, though pricing pressure has cut margins. Social, search, and digital display all have posted drops from 25% to 40% during the quarter — and though all our eyes were home watching Disney+, Netflix, and the like, even OTT/addressable TV ad spending was down by 5%. With the Newfronts coming this week, it will be interesting to see what types of digital media may post gains.

So if June’s “recovery” in media spend is any indication, Q3 (sans Olympics) and Q4 (yes, we’re still having an Election, last time I checked) should be solid though not buoyant. Biegel says it may be a “swoosh” recovery — think Nike’s logo — down fast, but up again slowly, steadily and resiliently. Which begs the questions: Can ad businesses, business models, and brands cope with a new reality?

The “new normal” is about coming out of the COVID-19 crisis — and half of executives surveyed by The Winterberry Group aren’t expecting miracles:

Medium-Term Budget Cuts

IAB-Winterberry Group State of Data (2020)

 Q3 Will Start a Recovery … of Sorts

Source: Advertiser Perceptions, Pivotal Research Group (2020), as reported by Winterberry Group

And, Biegel reported, that it may indeed take to 2024 — with COVID-19 firmly in a rear view mirror — for a recovery to be complete, according to IPG Mediabrands Magna. It is predicting a 4.4% ad spend contraction this year, a 4% recovery next year, and “subdued” results thereafter until mid-decade.

So How Have We Changed — and Will These New Behaviors Stick?

Some effects, though, may indeed have permanence in how Americans consume media — perhaps hastening trends already underway, or creating a whole rethink of how we act as consumers. Consider these impacts:

  • Streaming to TVs more than doubled during COVID-19 crisis. Have we rewired our video consumption habits away from scheduled programming for good?
  • Mobile data traffic surged 380% in March alone. Consumers have taken to their smartphones everywhere — so how has mobile viewing altered consumer’s screen habits across devices, and will it stick?
  • DTC brands and catalogs know all about remote selling — and so do millions of consumers who have now come to love shopping this way.
  • Video game use is up 60% — opening the door to more in-game advertising opportunities. This may change the mix of brands seeking to engage consumers there.
  • In January there were 280,000 posted job openings in data analytics. There are 21,000 today. More than half of marketers expect predictive modeling and segmentation to occupy their marketing strategy concerns for the balance of 2020.
  • Tangible value matters. Consumers will be demanding more pricing benefits from brand loyalty, and less VIP experiences. We may be getting tired of lockdowns but we are steadfast in a recession, savings conscious mindset.
  • Business travel – yes, your clients may be returning to the office, but do they really want to see YOU? What can B2B marketers and sellers achieve virtually?

It’s ironic, Biegel said, that privacy laws and the crumbling cookie are making customer recognition harder in the addressable media ecosystem, just as consumers expect and demand to be recognized. Identity resolution platforms will evolve to cope with these new marketplace realities — both of which are independent of COVID-19 – but the solutions will bring forth a blend of technologies, processes, and people yet to be fully formulated. These are still open and important marketplace issues.

So assuming we’re healthful health-wise, we have some challenges ahead in ad land. I’m glad to have some guideposts in this unprecedented time.

WWTT? 4 Years of Reviewing Marketing Campaigns

It’s another revolution around the sun, and I have spent another year looking at marketing campaigns, talking about what I think works really well, and the things that are less than stellar for “What Were They Thinking?”

It’s another revolution around the sun, and I have spent another year looking at marketing campaigns, talking about what I think works really well, and the things that are less than stellar. And while “What Were They Thinking?” formats have switched a bit to include more written content alongside video, it’s still been a pleasure to dig into the marketing creative being put before consumers on a daily basis.

During that time, I’ve looked at Burger King’s Moldy Whopper campaign, discussed creative marketing from a cemetery, and shared how Pedigree helped get some shelter dogs their forever homes during the pandemic.

And of course, who could forget about the marketing campaign that married a box of House Wine with Cheez-It? Absolute proof that if you tweet about something you love enough, you might be heard:

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Or what about that time Popeyes kicked off the Chicken Wars … then ran out of chicken? (I still haven’t tried that sandwich yet.) While fans of the chicken restaurant tweeted excitedly about the new sandwich last summer, Popeyes’ own tweet about the new sandwich is what caused Chik-fil-A, Wendy’s, and other restaurants to jump online to tout that their sandwiches were better.

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The past 12 months of marketing campaign coverage has brought my total up to 158 videos and 32 posts, and I’m excited to see what the next 12 months will bring for “What Were They Thinking?” What will be the new marketing campaigns that will cross my path? How will marketers come out of our current hot mess of a world (thanks to COVID-19) and find new and creative ways to connect with consumers?

In the words of my favorite TV president, Jed Bartlet: “What’s next?”

If you have a marketing campaign you think I should discuss — whether it’s your own or that of a peer’s — drop me a line at mward@napco.com. I’m especially interested in campaigns that feature innovative print marketing as part of the overall omnichannel marketing strategy!

Social Commentary in Authentic Brand Messaging

Should brands act, behave and communicate like people? Authenticity must be the measure. The content of any social commentary needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for — rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

Should brands act, behave, and communicate like people?

I’m sick and angry. It may seem like 1968 this past week — but folks, it’s 2020. Can’t we have a generation raised that eschews privilege based on race, and just respects each individual, all individuals, with love and merit as our default?

Obviously this is a personal perspective, and thank you for allowing me to indulge. So let me also ask again: Can and should brands make such statements of their own?

Content: Getting Past the Predictable to the Unique

This past week, I was fortunate to listen in on a Direct Marketing Club of New York “midweek recharge” teleconference on COVID-19 and brand loyalty, led by current DMCNY President Ginger Conlon and Deb Gabor, principal and founder of Sol Marketing (Austin, TX). How ironic that our inboxes are filled with “We’re all in this together” type messages from brands, while this past week we’re also very much reminded that, in reality, we really are not all in this together. People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, just as they are with police brutality and a host of other societal aspects.

Gabor was insistent that brands very much act like people — and should. Authenticity must be the measure, however, in what they have to say, she reported. The content of such messages needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for, rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

With regard to COVID-19, one might think of ways brands could communicate to customers about how they are protected when doing business with the brand. But is this the best, first message?

Perhaps, a more important constituency might come first: how these messages are stronger when they focus on employee well-being and a thankfulness for first-responders and essential workers. I duly appreciate Wal-Mart and Amazon brands for emphasizing these aspects in their current advertising and marketing. Certainly, these brands are not without vulnerability. There’s much attention on such brands regarding living wages and labor participation in the management of their business strategies, even as they hire thousands of workers amid this employment crisis.

Unique Statements Anchored in Core Values and Empathy

We cannot forget about empathy, and how this must be part of any brand social commentary regarding race, gender, sexual identity, or housing and economic status. As Americans, we need to draw a line anywhere where discrimination and hate, ambivalence or indifference, rears its ugly head. Ben & Jerry clearly shows where it stands on Black Lives Matters, and minces no words:

Even in the world of ad tech, we’ve seen some powerful statements, such as this one from San Francisco-based TechSoup, a company which offers software solutions in the philanthropy community, and is putting its resources to work. In an email, CEO Rebecca Masisak and Chief Community Impact Officer Marnie Webb co-wrote:

We need more than the reallocation of resources; we need systems changed. We need to be a part of that, in our organization, in our communities, and in our country.

This is what we are doing right now to address a piece of the crisis in the U.S.:

• Continue to investigate our own privilege so that we can embed racial equity into our work.

• Make the reach of our platforms available for the voices that need to be heard. Right now, at this moment, that means:

• Active listening

• Amplifying the messages of Black-led community organizations, philanthropists, and journalists

• Inviting others who want to make use of our platform to use it to share their messages and engage others in communication

• Raise money to defray the costs and support the optimization of technology for Black-led organizations and community groups.

Brands and Support for Democracy

Among trade associations, cheers, too, for the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) for enabling its employees this week to dedicate paid time off each month to work for social change:

These brands are indeed acting like people — because they are composed of people (investors, owners, customers, employees) who are motivated to share their values in a powerful way. Not every brand may be in a position to speak on racial injustice, or COVID-19, with authenticity. But we — as members of the human race — might best stand for each other. What other choice do good folks, and good brands, have?

 

Use Your Ideal Customer Avatar to Boost Google Ads Performance

There are a lot of components involved in a successful Google Ads campaign, but there’s one overarching theme that connects most of them: thinking like your customer.

There are a lot of components involved in a successful Google Ads campaign, but there’s one overarching theme that connects most of them: thinking like your customer. Many small business owners who do their own marketing are simply too attached to what they do to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. An ideal customer avatar can help.

What Is an Ideal Customer Avatar?

An ideal customer avatar — also known as an ideal customer persona or profile — is a hypothetical person who would purchase your goods or services. You may have one or a few, depending on your business, but you don’t want to have too many — the key word here is “ideal.” Avatars are quite granular, which helps you really get in the mindset of your customer. To start creating an avatar, think about your customer’s:

  • Basic demographics (age, sex, location, marital status)
  • Income bracket
  • Education level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Occupation
  • Household size

This is all useful, but next, we’re really going to dig deep. Here’s where you think about the mindset of your customer and go beyond the numbers and stats. Ask yourself:

  • Why do they need your product or service? How will purchasing your product or service improve their lives?
  • What are your customer’s goals?
  • What are your customer’s core values?
  • What challenges do they face? What are their pain points?
  • What would they be searching for on Google that would lead them to your business? (This question will also help you decide which keywords to target.)

To really help you connect with potential customers, you can take this a step further an write a profile of your avatar in narrative form.

Using an Ideal Customer Avatar for Google Ads

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with Google Ads is to market what you think the benefits of your product or service are. When you do this, you can easily fall into the trap of being too vague and assuming that the very existence of your business is compelling enough to drive sales.

When your Google Ads aren’t customized to your ideal customer, it’s just like launching a campaign with no parameters in place. Throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks is never good marketing — it’s all about targeting the right customer.

Take the ideal customer avatar you created and think about what would prompt them to click through to your website and make a purchase. Go back to those questions we asked earlier and use them to create customized ad copy. Tell them how your business:

  • Will make their lives better.
  • Will help them meet their goals.
  • Fits in with their values.
  • Will help them overcome their challenges.
  • Is what they’ve been looking for.

Use your most compelling call to action in your Google Ad; keep it short, punchy, clear, and direct. Then, build on that call to action with a custom landing page for each ad you create. The landing pages should touch on all of the points above and flesh out the CTA in your ad.

Naturally, you’ll want to take the demographics you’ve decided upon for your ideal customer avatar and use those in targeting your ads. Remember, you don’t want people clicking on your ads if they’re not going to make a purchase, so don’t be afraid to target a very small subset of Google users.

Expanding Beyond Google Search Ads

When you’re ready to expand your ads beyond Google Search, then you need to expand on your customer avatar. Ask and answer questions like:

  • What publications do your customers read?
  • What podcasts do your customers listen to?
  • What types of websites are your customers visiting?
  • What other complimentary businesses are your customers buying from?
  • What products or services do your customers buy before or after purchasing from your business?

The answers to these questions will help guide your decisions about how to expand your campaigns to other ad networks like Google Display, YouTube Ads, and Facebook Ads.

Want more tips to improve your Google Ads performance? Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads checklist.