Category Archive: AD Vice

Navigating the Digital Video Landscape


Digital video by the numbers:

  • 400% increase in mobile video views from 2012 to 2014
  • 50% of video views will occur on mobile devices in 2016
  • 50% of U.S. Facebook users watch at least one video per day
  • 6 out of 10 people prefer online video to live TV
  • 8.5 million Millennials use mobile, streaming or gaming devices every minute
  • 1 billion YouTube users (To put that in context, that’s 1/3 of all internet users.)
  • 6 billion Snapchat views per day

Digital video is taking over.

Everyone has a smartphone or tablet, even grandma. YouTube reaches more Millennials and Gen Xers than any broadcast or cable network. Primetime is losing a significant chunk of its Millennial audience, and even those watching aren’t solely focused on the TV. 84.6% of U.S. internet users peruse the internet on their smart devices while they watch TV, according to eMarketer.

The sheer volume of digital video services is expanding rapidly. Premium channels like HBO and Showtime, which were previously only available with bundled cable subscriptions, are now offering standalone subscriptions. Consumers are “cutting the cord” in droves, ditching Comcast and Fios to stream Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO from their smartphones and smart TVs. Who can blame them? We’ve all heard horror stories of dealing with Comcast customer service, and constantly increasing prices for even basic cable make the switch seem like a no-brainer. With the prevalence of digital content, cord-cutting is quickly becoming the practical, even preferred option.

And Millennials aren’t the only ones making the switch. According to a Nielsen study, Boomers are also spending more time on streaming devices, smartphones and gaming consoles. They may not be glued to their devices like Millennials, but the increase in time spent streaming is comparable. Boomers are more digitally savvy than many give them credit for, and you would be remiss to ignore them.

The digital landscape is a constantly moving target.

We already know mobile-optimized content is crucial to this “what I want when I want it and fast” audience. What is changing is how people are consuming digital content, and it’s all about convenience. While well-executed comedy videos often attract high engagement and occasionally virality, they disappear into oblivion just as quickly; however, videos that focus on teaching a skill, whether that’s a fun calligraphy tutorial or how to use your product, can not only be useful to your audience, but they can be repurposed and even provide cost savings in customer service.

Take BuzzFeed for example. BuzzFeed has always excelled at providing highly specific content that connects with niche audiences, and they’re knocking it out of the park with foodie channels Tasty and Proper Tasty. The Tasty pages showcase brief, “snack-sized” cooking videos that are almost therapeutic to watch. Tasty capitalizes on Facebook’s autoplay feature, which starts the video as soon it appears on the viewer’s screen, and you don’t even need sound to get the whole step-by-step cooking tutorial. Proper Tasty, Tasty’s British counterpart, quickly picked up 3.7 million followers and 190 million video views in one month, making it BuzzFeed’s fastest-growing Facebook page.

What does this mean?

Online video will continue to increase in importance. As the market inevitably becomes oversaturated with content, engagement, as well as view completion, will decrease. Shift your dollars to where your audience is. Tailor your content to your audience instead of casting a wide net. Choose the correct channels to deliver your message. For example, viewers watching via a smart TV are more likely to watch longer videos than those watching on social media, so sharing a 5-minute tutorial video on Facebook likely won’t receive high engagement; however, that same video on YouTube might get thousands of views.

The one-size-fits-all approach is dead. Don’t get lost in the clutter.

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Spring cleaning

You may have noticed Google’s search engine results pages look a lot less cluttered. Google did a little “spring cleaning,” removing paid-search ads from the right-hand column. This change will allow users to search seamlessly across various devices.

So what does this change mean for advertisers?

Though Google added an additional ad to the top of the page, it’s a major decrease in ad space, reducing the total number of text ads to 7 versus the previous 11. Moving forward, only 4 text ads will be displayed above search results. The good news for consumers is the change will boost page position for relevant ads, which will ultimately increase click-through rates for those ads; however, organic search results will be pushed below the fold on many devices. For advertisers, this reduction in ad space will increase competition for ad space, and even campaigns with great page position will see their impression share drop.

 How can advertisers adjust?

Monitor your campaign performance each month (which you should already be doing!) With an increase in competition for limited ad space, bid adjustments may need to be made to get better page position. Review your ad positions and cost per click, adjusting as necessary. Most importantly – write effective ads. The more relevant your ads are to users, the more prominently they will be displayed in search engine results pages, and prominent ads produce higher click-through rates.

Can’t increase your budget? Boost your organic search rankings by focusing on SEO. Regularly adding relevant content to your website will help deliver more traffic and improve search engine visibility.


Don’t understand these changes? Need to revamp your SEM strategy? Let us help you.

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Breaking the fourth wall

A year ago, I didn’t even know who Deadpool was. (And I’m not the only one.) That all changed when Ryan Reynolds tweeted a teaser photo in his Deadpool suit à la naked Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug.

Screen shot 2016-03-01 at 8.50.28 AM

By now you are familiar, if you weren’t already, with the Deadpool movie. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably haven’t tuned into TV or social media over the past 6 months. Deadpool’s marketing team saturated every platform imaginable — social media, emojis, billboards, email newsletters, TV cameos, talk show appearances, click bait ads, Comic-Con, Pornhub, 3-hour long blocks of only Deadpool ads on five networks, timely holiday-related ads, and even Tinder. Yes, Deadpool had his own Tinder profile. Because who wouldn’t swipe right for Deadpool’s witty charm and muscly spandex suit? (The answer is no one.)

Deadpool’s marketing team pushed the envelope of traditional movie marketing, exploiting their protagonist’s vulgar, comedic demeanor to promote the film in unconventional ways. Unlike typical Marvel superhero movies, 20th Century Fox primarily used the irreverent, anti-hero Deadpool character to promote himself by breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to viewers rather than utilizing typical superhero movie-based promotions. And Deadpool didn’t hold back.

It was a risky strategy, but the loud, in-your-face marketing tactics paid off. Deadpool raked in over $152 million in its opening weekend and broke numerous records, including biggest opening ever for an R-rated movie, despite being released in February, which is often considered a “dump month” for less successful movies.

So what can we learn from Deadpool’s marketing team? Stay true to your brand, or in Deadpool’s case, your main character. Be fresh. Nothing turns consumers off quite like overdone, unoriginal content. And above all — completely understand your brand and what you’re trying to sell.

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Ad Blockers: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Pop-up ads. Nobody likes them. They slow down your web browsing, and they’re everywhere. When one pops up, you can’t escape quickly enough. It’s like running into your ex at the grocery store. Your mind begs you, “Abort aisle! Abort!” and you exit as quickly as you can before a casual smile hello turns into an awkward conversation you don’t want to have.

Tired of digital ads? There’s an app for that. (Disclaimer: does not block awkward run-ins with exes.)

While ad-blockers for web browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari are nothing new, Apple recently approved ad-blocker Been Choice, which allows users to block native ads within their mobile apps, like Facebook or the New York Times. No more will users be subjected to pre-roll videos on YouTube or sponsored posts on Twitter. It even works in Apple’s own app Apple News.

Uninterrupted scrolling, tweeting, viewing and reading. Sounds awesome, right? Not so fast… before you rush to the app store, you may want to consider the downsides because this isn’t a win for consumers in the long run. Here’s why:

The good: faster Internet surfing, no annoying pop ups or accidental clicks directing you offsite
The bad: advertisers will have to find alternative ways to reach their target
The ugly: many free sites rely on advertising to survive. No advertising = no funding = no free content

Do you use ad-blockers? You’re not alone; Approximately 47% of internet users in the U.S. use them too, which is projected to result in a loss of $20.6 billion (that’s billion with a capital “B”) dollars of advertising revenue next year. Advertising pays for your free programming. Cut out those ad dollars, and you could end up paying the price.

What does this mean for consumers later down the road?

Online vendors rely on advertising dollars as a main revenue stream. Your favorite free websites will cease to exist if they can’t adapt and find funding elsewhere. Formerly free content will come at a price. Retailers will subsidize the cost of advertising by upping the price you pay for its products and services. If there’s one thing people hate more than pop-up ads, it’s paying for something that used to be free. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it?

How are websites coping with ad-blockers?

Some websites are restricting content for users with ad-blockers. Want to watch your favorite show on Hulu? You’ll have to disable your ad-blocker first. Looking for the latest breaking news article from the Washington Post? Expect to sign up for their newsletter or subscribe to their site to gain access. Some retailers are even jacking up prices to compensate, leaving the consumer to pay for their lost revenue.

So what’s the solution?

There is no easy solution. Eventually, if not already, consumers will have to accept online advertising. It’s just a matter of in what form, whether embedded in the webpages you view, sent directly to your inbox, or paying a hefty price to opt out altogether.


UPDATE: At the time this post was written, Apple had approved numerous ad-blocking apps like the aforementioned app Been Choice. Apple has since removed Been Choice and a number of other similar apps from the App Store.

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Product placement or overload?

If you saw the latest big blockbuster hit Jurassic World, you may be wondering what you saw more of in the sci-fi film: dinosaurs or product placement. Most would say the latter.

Product placement is nothing new, dating back as early as the nineteenth century. It’s a marketing strategy based on including or referencing products in entertainment, such as movies, events and even Instagram posts. Brands spend billions and billions of dollars each year to put their latest product in front of a captive audience, some more egregiously than others.

The iPads and iPhones used in that Modern Family episode? Product placement. The Coke your favorite NASCAR racer is drinking after winning the big race? Product placement. How about that Neiman Marcus dress worn by your favorite Instagram celebrity? You guessed it – product placement. Our favorite example of product placement has to be Wayne’s World‘s blaringly obvious parody in which Wayne and Garth proclaim they won’t bow to any sponsor.

So what makes product placement successful? Product tie-ins can be extremely valuable when executed correctly, but it takes more than just paying to have your product on screen. Truly successful product placement occurs when the product is an integral part of the story line.

Reese’s Pieces saw sales triple just weeks after E.T. was released. FedEx paid nothing for their brand’s inclusion in Castaway and saw major increases in brand awareness in Asia and Europe. While Newman’s Barbasol can in the original Jurassic Park is one of the most recognized products in a movie, Jurassic World lacked subtlety or even moderation in its product placement.

Here’s what we learned from Jurassic World:

  • Jurassic World: Where everyone owns a Samsung smartphone.
  • Mercedes-Benz conquers jungles and battles dinosaurs.
  • Drinking a Coke helps you pretend to be really busy.
  • Ignore your parents, while listening to Beats by Dre.
  • Killer hybrid dinosaurs are brought to you by Verizon Wireless.
  • What theme park (or any place for that matter) would be complete without a Starbucks?

The only brand placement not on the receiving end of an eye roll? Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. A brave man (aka Jimmy Buffet) saved himself AND his two margaritas during the Pteranodon & Dimorphodon’s aerial attack. A true hero. Well played, Jimmy. Well played.

Worse than the product placement, however, was the possibility that Claire, or anyone for that matter, can outrun a T-Rex in high-heels. But just for fun, enjoy this video of Chris Pratt prancing around in heels.

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Are you optimized?

Remember surfing the web from your T-Mobile Sidekick, circa 2005? You were so amazed you had the Internet in your pocket you didn’t care you had to scroll for days to see an entire web page. Or maybe you were like me, stuck with a brick-like cell phone and jealous of everyone’s technologically-advanced phones. (Zack Morris called. He wants his cellphone back…)


Nowadays, everyone and their grandma have a smartphone or tablet. If you can’t find what you’re looking for within 10 seconds, you’re probably off to the next website, never to return. With an infinite supply of knowledge at our fingertips, we expect to be able to access it wherever, whenever and as quickly as we want. It’s revolutionized the way we live.

Mobile search takes over.

Mobile Internet usage surpassed that of desktops in early 2014, so it should be of no surprise that over 60% of searches come from mobile devices. What is surprising, however, is that over 2/3 of Fortune 100 company websites (and almost HALF of Fortune 500 company websites) are not considered mobile-friendly.

Consumers are demanding and impatient. Over half of mobile users will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, and 79% probably won’t buy from you again if they’re dissatisfied with your website’s performance. As mobile search volumes continues to increase rapidly, businesses can expect to lose a significant amount of traffic if their web presence isn’t optimized for mobile.

Mobilegeddon” is here.

Google, which controls over 75% of the US search market, has become synonymous with and even replaced the word “search.” (Haven’t you ever heard or said, “Google it”?) Google aims to take the frustration out of mobile searches by altering their search algorithm to serve users relevant, mobile-friendly results. Many have referred to this change as “mobilegeddon” due to the monumental impact it could have on businesses.


Google’s new search algorithm rewards sites that are mobile optimized and penalizes those that aren’t. How sites rank in Google search results is now significantly influenced by their mobile-friendliness, or lack thereof. It’s a win-win for Google, consumers and mobile-optimized websites, but it could be crippling for businesses whose websites are behind the times. While the change was quite the “mobilegeddon” people anticipated, it’s only a matter of time before websites that aren’t mobile-optimized become obsolete.

Are you mobile-friendly?

Are you using Flash? Tsk tsk… Flash is not commonly supported on mobile devices, which means Google will dock you for it. Check your site against Google’s mobile-friendly test. Google will check components like your website’s load time, design elements and whether your content fits the screen or requires scrolling. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time to give it a facelift.

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Any PR is good PR, or is it?

Last Sunday at exactly 8 A.M., women across America descended upon Target’s Lilly Pulitzer racks like a pride of hungry lions on an injured gazelle. Running, pushing and shoving to grab anything with a Lilly Pulitzer tag, some even crawled on the floor, scavenging for colorful shift dresses and palazzo pants that had fallen in the scuffle. Within minutes, eager shoppers devoured the entire 250-piece limited-edition collection, leaving not even a trace of its existence in the store. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was Black Friday or even The Hunger Games.

Unfortunately for most, the odds were not ever in their favor. Some greedy shoppers tossed every item from the Lilly racks in their carts to resell on eBay and reap a profit. Many who waited in line for hours or arrived too late left Target empty-handed and exasperated. Disgruntled shoppers took to Twitter and Facebook to express their displeasure. Lilly Pulitzer quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, remaining there for days after the launch.

If you didn’t know what Lilly Pulitzer was before, chances are you do now, which begs the question…

Is any PR good PR?

Definitely not. Let’s take a look at some PR blunders of decades past:

In the early 2000s, Phillip Morris released a study in the Czech Republic, claiming smoking deaths have a “positive effect” on the economy (read: saving the government money like federal medical costs because of smokers’ early deaths). Needless to say, they received a huge backlash from the public for the insensitive claims.

Let’s not forget the infamous “nipplegate” of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Do you even remember who won that year? It certainly wasn’t Janet Jackson… While Timberlake escaped the “wardrobe malfunction” unscathed, Jackson’s subsequent albums were blacklisted from radio and music channels. Ouch!

The financial collapse of 2008 was the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, leaving the Fed to bailout certain financial institutions. What did AIG do after receiving a massive government bailout to the tune of $85 billion dollars? They threw a lavish half a million dollar corporate retreat. Can you say misappropriation of tax-payers dollars? Uncle Sam was not happy.

Moral of the story… Not all PR is good PR. But not all PR is bad PR either, which brings us back to Target and Lilly Pulitzer, who have been in the spotlight since the Lilly Pulitzer for Target launch.

How will this PR impact Lilly Pulitzer?

Hate all you want, but Lilly Pulitzer nailed it. Sure, many were angry and “literally could not even” handle the fact that the collection sold out and would not be replenished. But isn’t that the allure of Lilly Pulitzer – the idea of exclusivity?

After the collaboration was announced in January, many devout Lilly fans were appalled, claiming a partnership with a low-end store like Target would devalue the brand; however, the limited supply of the Lilly line at Target prevented that. While a number of consumers will be sporting Lilly for Target, the majority were shut out, bolstering the brand’s exclusive reputation even within its low-end collaboration.

It’s a win-win situation for Target and Lilly Pulitzer. They built immense hype leading up to the event, and the launch sparked endless streams of chatter about both brands when people realized they wouldn’t be getting their hands on the highly anticipated collection. Not to mention the collaboration was great for profit — selling out of the entire collection in mere hours brought in some serious dough. The only losers in this scenario are the empty-handed customers.

Who was the big winner in all of this?

Lilly Pulitzer, hands down. Lilly Pulitzer’s brand recognition is off the charts. Media outlets and consumers alike have been talking about Lilly Pulitzer all week, and what better time to launch your new summer collection than at the height of all the chatter about your brand? Now that’s target marketing at it’s best (no pun intended.) Slow clap for the Lilly Pulitzer marketing team.

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Who is Gen Z?

You’ve heard of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials, but what about Generation Z? If you’re scratching your head, read on. Gen Z is here, and they’re rapidly developing clout in purchasing decisions.

Let’s start with the basics.

Gen Z represents a whopping 72 million people born after 1995, typically between the ages of 2 and 20. Unlike Millennials who embraced technology, Gen Zers were born in a digital world, unaware of life without the Internet. These digital natives live and breathe everything digital, spending up to 3 hours a day in front of a screen and sharing their lives on multiple social media channels.

How does Gen Z differ from Millenials?

While Millenials tend to expect success and hand-holding, Gen Z is quite the opposite; they are self-educators who make their own success. Gen Z has the drive to learn, a passion for individuality and the spirit for entrepreneurialism. They’re independent, innovative thinkers, and you won’t reach them with cookie cutter dialogue.

How do you reach Gen Z?

Gen Z is technologically savvy, and they expect to engage with brands digitally. No longer can brands exist in the digital world just to be there. Brands must be authentic and visually engaging. Brands communicating in a manner that speaks to and encourages Gen Z’s individuality will be most successful at reaching them.

Gen Z

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Ad Buzzwords

Welcome to our second segment of “What the heck is my ad agency talking about?” If you missed our first post, check it out here. This time we’re diving deeper into digital, defining terms like conversion, responsive web design, video pre-roll, geo-fencing and geo-targeting.


In the digital realm, conversion pertains to the percentage of users who complete a desired action. For example, when you are shopping on, a conversion would be making a purchase. Subscribing to a newsletter, downloading an item or registering for membership are examples of potential conversions.

Conversion rates depend on a number of variables – value proposition, the user’s interest level, ease of use. How many times have you visited a website but given up because it was slow to load or confusing to navigate?

Responsive Web Design

Isn’t it aggravating when you visit a site on your smartphone but can’t find what you’re looking for because you’re lost in a never-ending scroll? Or worse, for iPhone owners at least – you can’t view any of the content because it was designed in Flash (which isn’t compatible with iPhones or iPads).

Mobile optimization is crucial, and responsive web designs speak to that, providing optimal viewing no matter what device you’re on. Navigation is easy, with little scrolling or resizing required, and the website layout adapts to your screen size.

Web Video Pre-roll

You may think you’ve never seen video pre-roll, but chances are, you have. You know those :10 to :15 second advertisements that play on YouTube before your selected video? That’s web video pre-roll. One of the great things about pre-roll is it targets engaged users – the user clicked a video link he or she wanted to view. Now they have to watch your ad before they can watch the video they selected.

Sometimes pre-roll offers an interactive component, customizing the experience for the user. Kate Spade shows a great example of an interactive video in their holiday ad, starring Anna Kendrick. The ad allows users to purchase items Anna wears in the ad simply by clicking on the screen. Check it out here.


Geo-fencing is location-based marketing. It allows an advertiser to target an audience within a certain geographical area by putting up a virtual barrier and delivering ads to an audience within that radius of interest. Have you ever set a reminder on your iPhone to remind you of something when you arrived at work? Your iPhone detects your proximity to your designated location and sends you a notification once you reach that location. That’s geo-fencing.

Retailers often use geo-fencing as a way to pull you away from the competition. Shopping centers also use it to monitor your movements and behavior within the center.

Sometimes geo-fencing is used for legislative purposes. TV shows you can watch on Hulu in the US might not be available to view in New Zealand due to digital rights laws, and Facebook usage was banned for those in countries such as China and Iran. This method of preventing access based on a user’s location is called geo-blocking.


Like geo-fencing, geo-targeting is also location-based. Geo-targeting serves content specific to the location from which the visitor is searching. This can mean a variety of things – targeting users in certain locations, offering websites in a different language based on the user’s location, serving local offers, running different campaigns in different regions, etc.

Geo-targeting allows the customization of advertising for a specific market and provides a higher lever of measurement and personalization than traditional media can provide. Pay-per-click or organic search are widely used forms of geo-targeting.

Are there terms you hear a lot but don’t quite understand? Let us know, and we’ll debunk them for you.


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Deciphering Digital Jargon

You’re sitting in a meeting with your ad agency. Words like SEO, native advertising and engagement fly around the room, and it’s beginning to feel more like Advanced Latin class than a strategy meeting. “Content Marketing? Responsive web design? What does that even mean?”

For those not fully immersed on a daily basis, advertising lingo can be confusing. Here’s a little “cheat sheet” to help you translate.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

This involves the visibility of your website in organic search engine results. Most web traffic is driven by search engines, and when you search a site like Google, the most relevant and popular results populate first.

It’s important to optimize your website utilizing useful information and descriptive keywords so your site will appear higher and more frequently in search engine results. “Why?” you may ask.

Think about it. When you search Google, do you go past the first page or even the first few search results?


Have you ever been perusing the web and noticed an ad for a pair of shoes you were eyeing yesterday? That’s retargeting.Retargeting serves ads to you based on your previous engagement using something called cookies (no, not the delicious treat you can never have just one of.)

When you visit a site, a piece of data, called a cookie, is stored in your web browser. Cookies help websites remember information, such as items in your shopping cart, or record your browsing activity. These cookies are then used to serve you ads once you leave the site to engage you to return to the site and ultimately encourage a conversion.

Content Marketing

Blog posts, white papers, infographics and YouTube videos that provide educational or entertainment value are examples of content marketing. Distributing relevant and valuable content instead of ads helps to increase your target audience’s engagement with you. Valuable content that is highly targeted is more likely to be shared and increase traffic.

Native Advertising

Native advertising is essentially a customized, paid media placement, often editorial content, that takes on the form of the format in which it’s published. Promoted tweets and Facebook suggested posts are both examples of this. It’s similar to content marketing in that it’s used to build trust and increase engagement with a target audience.

Next time you get sucked into the latest BuzzFeed article, check under the headline to see if it’s sponsored. You’ll be surprised by how often the content you’re reading is actually native advertising.

Stay tuned for the next chapter, where we’ll cover conversion, responsive web design, geo-fencing and geo-targeting.

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