Archive for the ‘Digital Practice’ Category

Tailored Digital Ads – They Know Where You Live!

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

Not since the advent of the television ad in 1941 has the potential for new ad formats been so great.  The emergence of digital platforms is enabling marketers to experiment with a number of new ad formats, each of which could revolutionize marketing as we know it.  Throughout 2014 we will be highlighting the most effective of the techniques being broadly adopted.


Part III: Tailored Digital Ads

In 2004 subscribers of reason magazine received a potential shock.  The front cover of their June issue included a satellite photo of their neighborhood with their own house graphically circled!  Nick Gillespie, then Editor in Chief, “used the stunt to illustrate the cover article about the power and importance of databases”1.  Specifically, the article highlighted the emerging dynamic tension between consumers’ desires for privacy and those for a more convenient and relevant product experience.

Fast forward a decade and we see this same tension playing out within digital advertising.  In today’s world ad content can be personalized on-the-fly based on a variety of information associated with the viewer.  A geo tailored ad for a business can include a map showing the nearest location or a phone number for making an appointment.  A clothing store ad can change the gender of the model and the style of clothing based on gender and age.   Within e-commerce platforms, ad content may be tailored based on previous purchases.  And, perhaps most impressively, “socially” tailored ads can highlight brands liked or used by friends and family based on social media information.

The upside for consumers is that the more granular the information available to marketers the more pertinent and useful the ads will be for them.  The downside for consumers is the perceived lack of control of how information about them is being used.  An example of this later experience is LinkedIn’s experiments with its “social ads”.  In this ad format users are alerted to relationships between the advertised brand and people in their LinkedIn network.  Such ads improve relevance by leveraging commonality of need and personal trust.  In some of the original test versions names and photographs of the networked individuals were included.  Based on concerns from some of its members, LinkedIn revised this format to lesson the level of detail and also provide its members an easier opt out method.


Experiences like this beg the question, how do consumers look at the use of such information for advertising?  Given the explosive growth of consumers sharing information with social media and e-commerce platforms there is definitely a willingness to exchange some control of private information for a more valuable experience.  In response to client requests research was conducted in 2010 among 1380 census representative consumers.  The goal of this heretofor unpublished research was to understand their comfort levels2 with using this type of information for various marketing purposes.

One general finding was that approximately two-thirds of consumers were at least somewhat comfortable with their personal information being used to provide more relevant ads.  The results were similar whether the ads were for television content or more traditional online display (69% and 67% respectively).  And while this supermajority demonstrated that greater relevance was valued, comfort didn’t reach the same level of other marketing uses which provided financial benefits (e.g. saving money) or greater convenience (e.g. better search results and product recommendations).  Also, a review of open-ended responses suggested that the tailored ads may also suffer from a lack of confidence that they will provide more relevance.  In the words of one respondent, “profiling does not always yield results consistent with a particular person”.  This highlights that care should be taken in choosing the content of tailored ads for instances where they are directed outside of the intended profile.

Comfort with personal information being used to…


Another finding was that comfort levels varied greatly by age group thereby showing a potential difference in the relative valuation of personal information.  As an example, looking at the results for online ads, there is a striking range in comfort from 76% among the youngest group to only 61% among the oldest.  A best practice based on this insight is to reserve more “forcefully” tailored ad content for campaigns targeted to younger audiences.


Comfort with personal information being used to…


As the technology to tailor ads continues to evolve, advertisers and their partners will continue to wrestle with finding the right balance between relevance and privacy.  In cases where there is potential for controversy, communication research such as copytesting may very much be warranted before campaign implementation.

1Putting 40,000 Readers, One by One, on a Cover; David Carr, The New York Times April 5, 2004

2Closed ended-question wording: Businesses sometimes use personal information to customize offers or show more relevant advertising.  This can include data such as geographic location, age, gender, number of children, and approximate household income.  Please indicate your degree of comfort with information like this being used for each of the following marketing purpose


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Are illuminated User Generated Product Review Videos… The Ultimate Testimonial Format?

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

Not since the advent of the television ad in 1941 has the potential for new ad formats been so great. The emergence of digital platforms is enabling marketers to experiment with a number of new ad formats, each of which could revolutionize marketing as we know it. Throughout 2014 we will be highlighting the most effective of the techniques being broadly adopted.

Part I: Illuminated User Generated Content

Aristotle noted that “man is by nature a social animal”, a concept which has been reinforced over time by findings in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience. Simply put, humans have an innate desire to share their experiences and learn from each other. But as marketers it has always been a challenge to draw upon this truth in the creation of advertising. Even well-crafted testimonial ads can fall short of the sincerity, authenticity, and believability that organic conversation produces.

Enter the internet. From its first killer app, email, to the sophisticated social media website s of today the internet has expanded the ways in which people share information about the brands they use. And marketers are tapping into this dialogue.

At first, this primarily consisted of fostering creation of content. Like, share, and review buttons made it easy for ‘browsers’ to become ‘brand advocates’. The growing penetration of webcams and smart phones made it possible for these new brand advocates to transition from the world of text into the world of video. Here is an example of a user generated product review video submitted to the EXPO social media website:

Example of Typical User Generated Product Review Video

With content like this being created by product users, marketers and their social media partners turned to the task of curating this content. Systems were put into place to house and review the content to find those which could be leveraged in marketing campaigns. And most recently EXPO upped the ante by automating this process with a dashboard that not only algorithmically quantifies production quality but also draws in scores from MSW.ARS to help locate the reviews with the greatest probability of being memorable and persuasive. This makes choosing content for distribution onto e-commerce, owned, and earned media channels a breeze.


Screen Capture of ExpoTV Dashboard


But the most recent evolutionary step is perhaps the most important. Techniques gleaned from television advertising are now being applied to enhance their messaging and emotional power. Music is being used to set mood and tone. Screen cuts are being used to manage pace and draw in scenes from multiple reviews. This new breed of illuminated content retains the sincerity, authenticity, and believability of the original reviews while increasing breakthrough and engagement.

Example of Illuminated User Generated Product Review Video

Exactly how powerful is this format? To answer this question we’ve begun actively testing these illuminated user generated product videos in our Touchpoint Plus copytesting system. We’ve seen Brand name recall over fifty percent higher and persuasion twice as high as a typical 30 second television ad for the brand! This suggests that illuminated user generated product review videos may be the most powerful testimonial ad format to date.

Categories: Digital Practice, User Gen Tags:

2014: A year for radical change in advertising formats?

January 6th, 2014 Comments off

1941 was a turning point in the history of marketing.  On July 1 of that year, the world’s first paid television commercial aired.  Costing the Bulova Watch Company $9 it was a pre-roll to a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Simple in nature, just a graphic and a voice-over, the ad extended Bulova’s reach from radio, print, and in-stadium presence to the emerging audience of television.



Despite its simplicity, it served as the launching point for the highly visual branding vehicle that has come to dominate the advertising landscape.  Fast forward nearly 75 years to today where marketers eager to tell their brand stories compete for Super Bowl placements costing $4 Million!



What made this breakthrough and subsequent evolution of the television ad format possible?  It was a confluence of factors.  Technology adoption among consumers provided another means of reaching them… while simultaneously fragmenting the existing radio, print and sponsorship media landscape.  FCC changes in legal frameworks in April 1941 provided security to companies willing to experiment in the new space.  But the final ingredient was marketers willing to change the way they developed their campaigns to simultaneously take advantage of the richness of the format while maintaining the practical underpinnings learned from the other media channels.  It was a time when “mad men” and “marketing scientists” were drawn upon in equal measures to create something new, great, and systemic.

We at MSW-ARS Research see this same convergence happening in 2014.  Digital platforms have finally reached the point where their reach and capabilities move beyond being just an inexpensive frequency vehicle fueled by banner ads and pre-rolls.  And the legal framework of what is and isn’t permissible has solidified. Finally marketers are experimenting with a number of new ad formats which have the potential to extend the art beyond the traditional TV spot.

Over the coming months we will be highlighting in this blog the most effective techniques we are seeing adopted, including:

  • Illuminated User Generated Video – consumer created content is being enhanced with professional editing techniques to create the ultimate testimonial and product focus ads
  • Long Form Video – the 30 second limit is being breached and the resulting ads are structurally very different from their shorter counterparts; especially in terms of emotional content
  • Micro Ads – mastery of mobile requires a shift in thinking the other way, how to best engage with consumers in short, effective bursts
  • Music – well recognized as an effective means for setting the tone, new research has tied it more directly to sales effectiveness, thus elevating its role
  • Privacy – while consumers desire privacy they also desire relevance in their advertising and convenience in interacting with their brands
  • MediaMesh – congruence in messaging and execution across media vehicles is as important as ever and even out-of-home advertising is leveraging the new technology and learning
  • Creative Is Still King – even with the cost savings of digital reach, the largest return will come from the power of the creative itself