Engaging consumers in micro-moments


This article first appeared on WARC.com and summarises an article written for Admap magazine on behalf of On Device Research.

Mobile consumption often involves ‘micro-moments’ of usage but these slivers of time can be successfully exploited to build brands and drive action, an industry figure argues.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Ian Gibbs of On Device Research, looks at how consumer behaviour on the path to purchase has evolved in the age of mobile and the impact of creative depending on where a consumer is in the purchase journey.

He outlines four key considerations, derived from On Device’s own research including an analysis of over 170 mobile brand effectiveness studies, for marketers wanting to engage consumers effectively in micro-moments.

First is the extent to which people routinely use their smartphones for product research: almost half of mobile users across 19 markets have used the device to look for a better price, while 43% searched out product information and one third looked at product reviews.

“For upper-funnel metrics such as brand awareness and ad recall, a combination of video and interstitial or banner creatives works hardest” in these moments, Gibbs reports.

Secondly, mobile purchase is becoming more common as the process becomes easier with the uptake of mobile wallets. At this end of the funnel, simple interstitials and banners work best.

“Finding that micro-moment when consumers are considering making a purchase on mobile (a micro-moment that can be identified by overlaying behavioural analytics and search data), and swaying the decision-making process in a far subtler manner than would be done by a more intrusive ad, can pay real dividends for brands,” says Gibbs.

Marketers also need to appreciate where mobile fits into a wider pattern of cross-channel research and purchase, where showrooming and multi-screening are commonplace and where mobile micro-moments are fully integrated with people’s day-to-day lives.

This trend is being driven by millennials, who, according to Gibbs, respond differently to mobile advertising and can process multiple communications at once. Varying combinations of video, interstitials and banners will drive purchase intent among different age groups.

Finally, Gibbs reports strong evidence that exposure to mobile ads drives store visitation, citing a 46% uplift in the case of one UK supermarket.

“In the world of mobile, what people say they do, and what they actually do, are strongly aligned, again providing evidence that reaching them with a piece of comms at a micro-moment of hyper-receptivity will have a tangible real-world impact,” he states.

Cross-platform brand effectiveness: Where consumers go, ad impact follows


This article was first published on ondeviceresearch.com. On Device Research are a mobile surveying and digital ad effectiveness research company with whom I work in my capacity as an independent data consultant. To find out more about On Device please get in touch.

Newly released preliminary data by On Device Research reveals that mobile is significantly outperforming desktop when it comes to brand building online.

There are early signals from On Device Research’s cross-platform measurement database that mobile is the key driver of brand effectiveness in cross platform campaigns. An average of five campaigns tested has shown mobile to drive brand metric improvements that are between 3% to 5% points higher than desktop throughout the branding funnel: from awareness right the way through to purchase intent.

The challenge and opportunity in cross platform measurement

The world of digital and cross-platform are now virtually synonymous. Where once “digital” simply conjured up the image of a media plan consisting of a handful of desktop display impressions and some search spend, the proliferation of devices and fragmentation of media consumption across multiple platforms throughout the day, means that no digital campaign is now complete without a schedule spanning desktop, mobile and tablet web, combined with a presence in both android and IOS apps.

According to September 2016 figures from UKOM, three quarters of us now access the internet on multiple devices, with only a minority doing so on a single device. Cross platform measurement from an ad exposure perspective is a far from easy task however, with different devices employing different technologies to serve, track and measure ads. On Device Research, in collaboration with Ad Brain, has just the solution however and is able to boil down campaign exposures to a set of unique user IDs, enabling the tracking of campaign delivery, brand impact and in store visitation at an individual level: a crucial process in the analysis and optimisation of cross platform campaigns.

Time for mobile to shine

Due to its relative screen size, mobile has often been considered less of a creative platform than desktop when it comes to building engaging ads. Many consider the mobile web to offer fewer quality contextual environments in which to place branding campaigns, and that overall the mobile ad experience is so poor that clicks on mobile ads are more likely to be by accident rather than by design (60% of mobile ad clicks are accidental according to Retale.)

Across an average of five cross platform campaigns tested, On Device Research can reveal that in terms of impact it is in fact mobile that is now consistently outperforming desktop however:

Throughout the branding funnel, significant uplifts in brand metrics have on average been seen in mobile that are way in excess of those seen in desktop. Brand Awareness shifts driven by mobile ads have on average been 3% points higher than for desktop, while purchase intent has been 4% points higher.

While it should be noted that these results only relate to an average of five campaigns, they reflect the findings of nearly 2000 responses and are a body of work that will continue to be built upon and unpicked as more studies are added to ODR’s cross platform effectiveness database. Over time, the key drivers of mobile’s consistently strong performance will also be uncovered, but in the mean time the power of mobile creative should not be underestimated. Expandable ads and video creative have moved mobile beyond a world of simple banners and buttons. There have been commonalities between the mobile ads tested so far with most displaying more product shots than can be crammed into a desktop banner, and most providing geo-location services (such as “find your nearest store”) that are more relevant for those consumers on the move than those who are stuck behind a fixed desktop.

A combination of emotionally engaging ads which harness the full power of mobile creative real estate will likely see smartphones continue to shine when it comes to brand building. In a cross-platform world where consumer attention is scarce, the mobile opportunity should not be overlooked.

Why the laws of supply demand don’t work online, and how quality content is the answer


This opinion piece first appeared on the Mediabriefing.com on 12 December 2016

It’s a curious thing, ad blocking. Given that the increasingly commoditised display ad industry is suffering from such an oversupply of ad inventory, you might have thought that restricting supply a little might actually allow publishers to raise prices. After all, anyone with a basic grasp of the laws of supply and demand knows that by making something scarce whilst demand remains the same, prices will rise accordingly until supply and demand are matched.

Unfortunately, that’s nothing short of wishful thinking when it comes to digital ad inventory. It’s a model which was not built for a world in which more ad impressions can be generated with the flick of a switch: ad loads can be boosted and low quality, viral and click-bait style sites can simply publish another story infuriatingly spread over ten separate pages, each click generating more and more ad impressions to spew forth into the automated advertising ecosystem.

Arguably, the knock-on effect of this obesity crisis in content is not just damaging the display industry, but is damaging the branded content industry too. Consumer attention is reportedly at an all time low. We live in an age of continuous partial attention where brands and publishers have to find new and creative ways of engaging with consumers.

Branded content (whether or not you believe it’s a discipline in its own right as per Mark Ritson’s recent Marketing Week article) leverages media owner and publisher trust and reputation to do just this and if research from the Swedish ad effectiveness research agency RAM is to be believed, it makes a pretty good job of it if done correctly.

What’s perhaps more interesting is that branded content works slightly differently in print and online, depending where on the consumer purchase funnel you’re pitching your campaign objectives at. The average scores of a number of print branded content tests by RAM for example, reveal that at the top end of the branding funnel print tends to be a great driver of awareness.

As Newsworks will tell you, News print commands some of the highest attention levels of all media and this clearly shines through when it comes to the attention people pay to branded content that sits within the paper. It makes sense intuitively too: What else can you meaningfully do with your attention whilst reading?

Digital branded content on the other hand works harder at the bottom end of the branding funnel according to RAM. There’s a lot more noise in the digital world and lot more distraction, but while it maybe be harder for content to cut through, the myriad opportunities available to target more granular audiences using first, second and third party data, can drive more efficient results when it comes to purchase and action.

A debate I chaired at the IAB a few weeks ago made it abundantly clear that the measurement debate around branded content and native is far from over. In the post-truth environment in which we live, trust is at a premium and brands will increasingly want to do whatever they can to enjoy the halo effect of a media owner’s trusted status amongst its audience. Branded content seems like the ideal solution, yet without the correct measurement systems in place to assess its long term value, we risk commoditising it as we have done with display, and arguably stifling the rich creative opportunities it affords.

It’s a fine balance, but if the industry gets it right, data-inspired branded content should be able to match quality supply with quality demand and help cut through the noise generated by the obesity crisis that currently pervades our industry.

Mobile Brand Effectiveness: Worth Getting Emotional About


This article was first published on ondeviceresearch.com. On Device Research are a mobile surveying and digital ad effectiveness research company with whom I work in my capacity as an independent data consultant. To find out more about On Device please get in touch.

Data released today by the mobile ad effectiveness specialists On Device Research provides proof that campaigns which pack an emotional punch deliver an uplift in purchase intent over four times greater than those which do not. Newly unearthed insight from On Device’s database of 170 mobile ad effectiveness studies also shows that the use of emotion has a brand multiplier effect throughout the branding funnel: from brand awareness, through to consideration and purchase intent.

Why does this matter now?

We live in the age of the mobile majority. Where once Mary Meeker was quick to highlight the disconnect between the time consumers spend with mobile devices and the amount of ad spend devoted to the medium, news last month from the IAB that mobile display ad spend in the UK has finally overtaken desktop, suggests that this balance is now being redressed. Furthermore, with the programmatic trading of mobile inventory on the rise and half of all mobile display activity being accounted for by rich media formats, there are also clear signs that automated trading practices and creativity are not as mutually exclusive as they were once thought to be. Programmatic advertising in the mobile space can provide a rich platform for delivering and optimising highly creative brand-driven messages.

With all of this in mind however, one key question remains:

What is it about mobile creative that’s going to resonate with consumers?

The answer lies in driving an emotional response. Across the 47,000 interviews completed over the course of 170 campaign effectiveness research studies, On Device Research has proven that those ads that achieve the highest emotional reaction amongst consumers drive between a 4-percentage point and 12-percentage point uplift in brand metrics.

The crucial role that emotions play in ad creative is a long-established fact of advertising theory. Pringle and Field’s analysis of the IPA databank has shown us that emotional campaigns are twice as effective as rational campaigns, while Daniel Kahneman’s oft-quoted theories on the human decision making process point to how the use of emotion appeals strongly to our brain’s system one. For the first time in the mobile space however, On Device Research’s mobile effectiveness database has proven that there is a robust link between emotions and brand effectiveness.

Mobile ads that elicit a positive emotional response work harder. They stick in the mind and create more deep routed neurological connections. The top 20% of ads that perform well in terms of emotion, on average drive spontaneous brand awareness scores that are 12-percentage points higher and ad recall scores that are 6-percentage points higher than the bottom 20%.

Measures closer to the harder end of the branding funnel perform well too, with the top emotion performing mobile ads not only driving a 4-percentage point uplift in brand consideration, but a further 9-percentage point boost to purchase intent as well. As the author Colin Shaw pointed out in Mediaweek last month, the link between emotion and brand loyalty is a strong one.

This relationship is now clear in the age of the mobile, and through ongoing campaign tracking, measurement and optimization the branding rewards of mobile can now be fully realised.

Branding on mobile works. Not only that, but ads that play on the emotions work harder than the rest. When it comes to mobile branding, don’t be afraid to show your emotions!

Data might be getting bigger, but its definition is getting smaller


This blog post was first published on insight-intelligence.com

Data is getting big right? We all know that by now. We’ve got the message. It’s getting so big that it’s bursting at the corporate seams, bubbling up from the research, insight and analytics floor in to the boardroom where more often than not it’s deposited as a vast incoherent mass on the CEO’s, CMO’s, CSO’s or C-whatever-O’s floor, in the hope that someone spots a number that they like and doesn’t ask any difficult questions.

Possibly a bit cynical, and to be fair it’s widely acknowledged that data storytelling is of paramount importance for the modern-day analyst or researcher. One often unacknowledged challenge however, is educating the rest of organization on exactly what data is.

For some reason it seems that the practice of web analytics increasingly has a monopoly on the use of the word “data.” It’s a mistake I’ve seen time and again in organizations that I’ve worked with and for: more often than not, at a senior level, the word “data” is being used synonymously with analytics data. i.e. behavioural, metered, observed and tracked data. For some reason, the vast amounts of research, analysis and insight produced through “traditional” market research methods no longer seems to count.

Suddenly self-reported, attitudinal, ethnographic and surveyed research doesn’t fall within the definition of “data”. I’ve even heard a piece of survey-based market research being referred to as “qualitative research” … heaven knows what the results of an actual focus group from the UX lab would be referred to in this context. A “quick catch-up” with our audience maybe?

I’m no Big Data luddite by any means. Helping publishers harness the power of their own first party analytics data to tell compelling stories for brands and consumers alike is something I’ve had a lot of fun doing, I just think we need to remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water as we become mesmerized by the shiny and new promise of what big data can deliver.

Behavioural web analytics data can only ever tell us so much in isolation. It struggles to tell us about people’s attitudes, or what their sentiment is towards something or indeed what it is that’s driving their behavior on a deep routed cognitive basis. Big Data has been fantastic at raising the profile of insight teams, at placing data at the heart of the strategic decision making process and at democratizing data analysis, but it comes with its own warning too. As the recent facebook video metrics debacle highlighted, if behaviours can be gamed, then so too can behavioural metrics, and often such nuances are undetectable to the uninitiated.

At the same time, the traditional research and insight world cannot rest on its laurels, safely assured that only they have the technical rigour to bring data to life. The world of Big Data (however you choose to define it) and market research become greater than the sum of their parts when combined, and indeed some of the most interesting projects I’ve ever conducted have done just that.

Nothing is going to stop data getting bigger, guiding the strategic process with ever greater degree of accuracy and accountability. If you’re going to get big with your data however, make sure you stay big with how you think about its definition too.

Measuring a deeper impact…. And why ad measurement matters more than ever before

The online advertising ecosystem has been built around an unsustainable preoccupation with clicks. Why is brand impact measurement so important and how do you do it in a scaleable cost effective way?

Presented at the Research and Analysis of Media Client Day, October 2016

Content may be king… but it’s still answerable to someone


This opinion piece was first published on IABUK.net and Mediashift.org in September 2016

I read a good opinion piece in Mediatel a few weeks back by Thinkbox’s Matt Hill in which he unpicked the hierarchy of ad exposure and provided a much-needed refresher course to those who seem to have forgotten the difference between ad delivery, viewability, and attention.

The distinction is an important one: you can trade on delivery and viewability, but currently trading on attention is rare (although the Guardian have recently joined the FT and Economist in doing just that by selling time based ads). The story of how attention based metrics need to feature more prominently in programmatic algorithms in order to do justice to premium contextual environments is a story for another today however. Rather, for now I want to unpick what this all means for the still relatively nascent branded content measurement market.

Just because a metric can be traded on, it shouldn’t be confused with a measure of impact and it seems that the content industry is all too eager to repeat the same mistakes of the display market in using binary behavioural measures to assess effectiveness… and most of the ills of the digital ad space at the moment, from fraud to ad blocking, can be traced back to that same mistake.

Consider a survey from eMarketer earlier this year which claims that over three-quarters of European marketers are using website visits as their primary measure of branded content effectiveness, yet less than half are measuring ROI (whether that be brand return or actual sales return presumably). Visits are important, of course they are: Every brand manager wants people to actually see their content right? But to use a simple behavioural measure as a metric of impact on your brand is arguably doing more injustice to the rich immersive nature of branded content (when it’s done well!) than clicks do to display ads. So why do we do this then? Simple: it’s because it’s often too hard to do anything else.

The measurement of branded content shouldn’t even stop at measuring brand impact. Quality of content is the very measure by which our readers judge us, and media owners need to acknowledge that what they produce has an impact on both their own and their commercial partners’ brands… and this impact needs to be measured too.

So what might a simple hierarchy of branded content metrics look like if you want to measure impact in its entirety then?

1) Content Delivery: There are all sorts of great platforms out there that allow you to interrogate your branded content and native analytics to within an inch of its life. Polar, Sharethrough, Simplereach, Parsely, Chartbeat and of course Google Analytics to name but a few. They can tell you how much, what and where your content has been viewed, shared and engaged with, with many now offering trading desk integration to allow you to optimise traffic driving assets as efficiently as possible. BUT, these are all just behavioural metrics.

They’re really important yes, but they only answer the question of how people are engaging with you content, not how the content is impacting on your brand. The metrics they track exist above the traditional branding funnel and we need to go deeper to understand longer term impact.

2) Ad Impact: Whether it’s brand or sales impact, measurement of branded content effectiveness can be hard. It’s hard to scale, it’s hard to find sample and it’s hard to assess long-term impact. But it’s not impossible, and if you’re clever about how you doing things – building reader panels, keeping a consistent methodology to build a  normative database, and using sales proxies such retail store footfall using mobile location data – you can really start to build rich datasets which exponentially unearth new insight in to how branded content and native works in general.

In their analysis of the IPA databank “The Long and Short of it,” Peter Field and Les Binet are quick to remind us that the optimum split between long term (brand oriented) ad spend and short term (response oriented) ad spend is 60:40. An immediately served branded content ad survey is by its very nature only going to measure short-term impact, but the brand metrics measured will be a better proxy for long-term impact than clicks or behavioural metrics will ever be.

3) Media Impact: This is the piece that so often gets overlooked, yet at the same time is so necessary for completing the circle in terms of content impact. Branded content doesn’t just have an impact on a sponsor’s brand, it impacts perceptions of a publisher’s own brand too. It has to be seen to be of sufficient quality otherwise the knock on effect will be a more mistrustful readership who themselves become a less attractive prospect to advertisers… and vice versa too of course!

Call it what you will – A Media Impact Framework, A Content Feedback Loop or a Theory of Change – either way tracking editorial inputs and outputs, metrics and attitudes, behaviours and impact with a bird’s eye view is vital if branded content and native advertising are to help the industry alleviate the pressures that the forces of commoditisation have brought to the bear on the market, while providing consumers with ad content that has real utility and which, fingers crossed they’ll be less inclined to block.

Content maybe be king, but just because it is, it needs to be held as accountable as everything else in the ad ecosystem if it’s to thrive.

Follow me on twitter @IGDataStories

R-Net Interview


This interview first appeared on MRS.org.uk in August 2016

Ian Gibbs is Head of Commercial Insight at Guardian News & Media, where he has taken numerous award-winning research and data initiatives to market. He joined the organisation as a Commercial Planner in 2007 after graduating from the University of Exeter with a BSc in Business Economics and several years as a Research Analyst/Manager at IDC and Dynamic Logic, Millward Brown’s Digital Practice. Ian will be joining the debate panel at the MRS Technology and Data Summit on 13 October.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career that if you’re not enjoying your job you should just get out of there. You have the freedom to chop and change things a lot more at the start of your career.

I most admire anyone positive and enthusiastic who doesn’t just default to the negative mindset, which you can see so often in the workplace. Those sorts of people get places.

The best research project I have worked on during my career is “Audiences Not Platforms”. It has been the big one for me over the past few years. It’s a cross platform media planning and research tool that we developed and which had transformed how we (and many of our competitors!) sell ads.

The worst research project I have worked on during my career was probably the one at the start of my career where, with little experience, I had to produce a press release on the European tech market. Someone took a quote from my release that was in direct contradiction to something Bill Gates has said and tried to make out I was some sort of tech contrarian. As if a twenty-two year old me would ever have disagreed with Bill!

The most amazing or memorable experience when I was doing research is, coincidentally, also Bill Gates related – though at the other end of my career and in a completely different role. We’ve done some work assessing media impact for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was fun and rewarding going out to Seattle to meet lots of other organisation from around the world doing the same thing.

The one story I always wanted to tell but never had a chance? Everyone always has the chance. Self-publishing an ebook these days is easy!

A research project I wish I had done is Channel 4’s “In VOD we trust” from last year. People are still talking about that.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be helping my other half set up her massage therapy business in Ibiza.

The biggest challenge for our field in the next 10 years is watching the ad tech world encroach on the audience insight space. There’s a lot to be said of the reputation of more established research suppliers, however. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to big data.

My advice for young researchers at the start of their career is be curious and be enthusiastic. Don’t be overly cynical. This is what will get you noticed.

Media Voices

This interview appeared on Mediabriefing.com in August 2016


What does your role include as Head of Commercial Insight at the Guardian? How has this role changed over the past 6 years?

My role is all about harnessing the power of data of all shapes and sizes and transforming it in to compelling narratives for brands, agencies and advertiser partners. This includes building the tools and planning systems to get data-driven insight in to the hands of our commercial teams and partners as effectively as possible.

The work my team does touches all stages of the media planning cycle: from opening doors for the sales team through thought leadership research, to “traditional” media planning, to tracking and measuring campaign performance.

The market has transformed at such pace over the past six years that it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to thinking about what has changed! I think overall though, there are probably four key trends I’ve seen:

1. A real shift towards measuring true campaign effectiveness.Measuring ad impact is nothing new, but measuring it using the correct metrics – particular in the digital space – is. Our industry has built an entire advertising ecosystem upon acquiring clicks: clicks on content and clicks on ads. Such a binary measure might be fine for a DR campaign, but it does a huge disservice to the effectiveness of a brand or content campaign and that’s what we look to address with our research.

2. A focus on first party data. Everyone has access to the same off-the-shelf planning and research tools these days. They’re simply a hygiene factor now and are no way to really differentiate your audience from a competitors. First party data absolutely is though and we’ve been using it more and more to inspire creativity and campaign plans amongst advertisers.

3. Cross platform campaign planning: Print and digital planning and buying in agencies and publishers used to exist in splendid isolation from each other which was an incredibly inefficient way of doing things when you think about it. We’ve built tools like our award winning “Audiences Not Platforms” planning system to allow agencies to plan in a truly audience centric multi-platform way. The third iteration of ANP is being released later this year.

4. Internal truths vs external narratives: I think a lot of organisations are sometimes guilty of confusing their externally facing sales bluster with their own internal truths. Keeping the two separate is really important and over the past half-decade, a culture of using strategic insight in the commercial decision making process has noticeably evolved.

How do you use first party data to cooperate with your advertisers?

Through a system that we call Audience Explorer we are creating an advertiser audience-centric, rather than Guardian-audience centric view of our data. The Guardian reaches over half the UK online adult population each month so arguably has more information on the nation’s quality content consumption habits than anyone else.

We use this data to inspire branded content. For one educational establishment about to launch a forensic science degree, for example, we were able to see that their audience was really engaged with crosswords and “Scandinavian Noir” content (all very “Guardian!”). What better way to raise awareness of their new degree than through an online interactive crime scene perhaps—sating the desire to solve both puzzles and crimes simultaneously?

And of course our data can be used to make planning decisions on the delivery of display campaigns. We have data scientists using our data to build audience segments that are delivering far more efficient results than those that can be bought from third parties. This is the sort of stuff that agencies and brands are getting really excited about.

How is the data then filtered through the rest of commercial team? For example, do you have a feedback system?

We attempt to democratise data as much as possible at the Guardian. Everyone in the business can access our live Editorial analytics dashboard “Ophan” – and this is how we aspire to deliver all insight. There are also plenty of cross-functional and cross-departmental working groups or huddles that have been brought together to solve specific business issues and it’s proven to be quite an inspiring way to work.

What measurement tools do you use to evaluate return on ad spend?

It’s a mixed bag. For years we’ve partnered with the Swedish ad effectiveness research company RAM to assess the brand impact of campaigns across all platforms: web, print, mobile and app. We’ve got to the point now where we’ve built up a really robust normative dataset that we can use to unearth new insight. For example, evaluating the value of context in digital display. You can see the results here.

Over the years we’ve worked with Aimia and Kantar to prove ROI and there’s now a noticeable shift towards proving that advertising prompts action in our audience. We’ve commissioned YouGov to track the online and offline impact of one of our largest branded content deals from Guardian Labs this year and are also talking to a number of vendors about using geolocation information to measure store visitation after campaign exposure.

What is the purpose of Facebook advertising for publishers if they are already publishing content on Facebook?

How a publisher’s content appears in user’s news feeds is always rather at the mercy of the Facebook algorithm, so I suppose with advertising you have more certainty! That’s not really the point though. Facebook is a vital source of traffic for many publishers and initiatives like Instant Articles just make that content even more accessible in a mobile first world.

What are your thoughts on Facebook paying media companies/celebrities to create Facebook Live videos?

Facebook needs content just like everyone else. Who better to produce it than the experts? With fewer people sharing personal updates on Facebook these days, it makes sense to constantly be looking for new ways to keep audiences engaged. Facebook obviously benefit enormously from the engagement that content brings with it but I suspect in the long run a more sophisticated model of reimbursement will need to be found.