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Jason Alleger

Digital analytics is booming, but it’s still so new and everchanging that there aren’t any textbooks yet. Sure, there are online certifications like Google Analytics, but those are really specific to a channel. And those keep changing too! After teaching a course on digital analytics and interacting with students every day, here’s what I have learned:

You don’t need to have technical skills to be an excellent analyst. You need to be curious. Ask questions. Be unafraid to shake the boat. Oftentimes, the big insight isn’t in the raw data – it’s in the patterns.

I’ll walk you through an example.

After running a digital campaign with interactive banner ads (the user could draw on them), we had a standard summary report which included impressions, placements, clicks, actions, interactivity with the units, time of day, and all the normal stats that come with a summary report. But then we were curious – did the interactive units really move the needle? Would it have been better to have just run static ads with more impressions? Here’s the data:

Type Impressions Clicks CTR Submissions Submission Rate
Rich Media 5,135,652 1,326 0.03% 121 0.00236%
Static Images 477,143 1,110 0.23% 11 0.00231%
Total 5,612,795 2,436 0.04% 132 0.00235%

Rich Media additional stats:

  • Display time – 322,395,407 seconds (613.39 years)
  • Interaction time – 970,907 seconds (1.75 years)
  • Average interaction time – 5.0 seconds
  • Interaction rate – 3.6%
  • Total interactions – 184,702

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If we would have just looked at CTR, then the static images were far better (0.23% compared to .03%). If we were to just look at the submission rate, then the rich media units barely beat out the static ones (.236% compared to .231%). But then we started to weigh interactions. On a static banner, one can just see it and click. On a rich media unit, one can interact with it. The rich media units had a 3.6% interaction rate, with each user spending five seconds in the unit, spending a cumulative time of 920,907 seconds (1.75 years) interacting with the units.

So to take it the next step further, does 1.75 years of interactivity outweigh a lower click through rate? Does it justify a higher ad serving cost? We did the math and found the cost-per-click to be 9x higher with the rich media units. However, if you looked at cost-per-action (interaction or click) the cost was actually 2x lower with the rich media units. The end goal was awareness and submissions, and the rich media units played a vital part in the success of the campaign.

Lastly, if you’re asking yourself why the conversion rate was so low – first please apply for a job at Penna Powers, but then rest assured that we dove into this as well. We looked at the conversion funnel and identified an area where most users were dropping off and were able to correct it.

Obviously every campaign is different. If one learned to always look at CTR, then one would miss the impact of the rich media units.

Curiosity helps in the approach. None of these calculations required more math than division or multiplication.

When teaching my students how to approach problems analytically, we start with creativity exercises, such as writing down 20 uses for a thumbtack. We then do a mountain of case studies. Even though every problem is different in the real world, the case studies help students become familiar looking at patterns. Lastly, we just do a lot of analysis on real companies. Again, every analytical problem is a little different, but for example it helps to see a few ecommerce problems along the way.

Teaching students entering the workforce has so many parallels to our self-learning at work. I’m amazed at how few professionals develop the analytical skills necessary to excel in their jobs. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “not a numbers person” I just think to myself that few people are. We’re humans and all like pretty pictures over an Excel spreadsheet. But we all are curious. So take an hour out of your day and go hunting for some patterns. You might be surprised what insights you find.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) used to be seen in Sci-Fi movies featuring intergalactic travel. Now, companies such as Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are implementing the technology throughout various products and services. In the social media space, Facebook is leading the charge: taking AI mainstream and merging the term with its previous connotation. Using the 900 million monthly users of Facebook’s messenger app, the social AI will interface with bots for simple tasks, such as ordering flowers or answering customer service related questions.

Facebook’s ultimate goal is to transform the industry. By simplifying day-to-day tasks, a whole new industry is hatched, similar to the app revolution paving the way for companies such as Uber. From an agency perspective, this does seem interesting, as one of the most time consuming tasks is managing audience responses that require simple replies. Aside from selling products, these bots could direct people to the appropriate phone number for customer service assistance, or help you find the bakery department in your local grocery store. The sky is the limit when it comes to this technology. But, we will have to wait to find out whether shoppers are interested in dealing with artificial intelligence, or if they still prefer face to face. We expect that the large brands will continue to test Facebook Messenger, watching the performance carefully to see if the initial glitches will be worked out. As of right now, developer interest in messaging/bots has greatly outpaced consumer interest thus far.

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You may be asking yourself, “Are there risks associated with having clients utilize bots on their social media?” The answer is yes, it is similar to the risk of having a human handle social media interactions, even with the tightest social media policy in place. The best way to introduce these bots is on a small scale, using simple customer service responses and scaling as you see fit. No one wants to hear that it’s the bots fault, as we’ve all seen with the Microsoft fiasco. Many of today’s tech leaders are pushing artificial intelligence and bots at a feverish pace, leaving some to wonder what the boundary is for such technology. Until such a boundary is established, there will be a race amongst the social and tech company elite to unleash bots on the masses, especially in the social media realm.

 

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We know our reputation for being a fun and eclectic agency precedes us, but have you ever wondered what it would really be like to work for Penna Powers? Look no further! Here are some tips and tricks for you if you decide to join our team:

  1. If you have no will power (like me), avoid the conference rooms at all costs. There are peanut M&M’s everywhere, and your consumption of them is bound to skyrocket. If you don’t see them, they won’t see you, right?
  1. Take the necessary precautions when entering the basement. The threat of being pelted with a Nerf gun is imminent, and you never know which member of the Underground is lurking around the corner.
  1. Staff meeting seating is a free for all. As soon as that “All Page” call goes out, you’d better get yourself to the food line and snag a seat, or you’ll end up eating your Café Rio against the windowsill.
  1. Your position title is sure to get mixed up more than once, but don’t worry too much about that. “Social Media Content Coordinator” is quite the mouthful, so I’ve become known in my inner-circles as the in-house “Meme-Maker.” (Using free apps like Font Candy and Adobe Post, here are a couple of my favorites that I have created…)

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Visit Zero Fatalities Nevada or Zero Fatalities Utah for information on safe driving, and also to check out more of my awesome memes.

  1. Our open office atmosphere is super fun, but if your mind wanders like mine does, I would suggest noise-canceling headphones.
  1. Star Wars is a way of life around here. If you’ve never seen it, be prepared to be publicly shamed.
  1. You will inevitably get comfortable enough here to give EVERYONE some sass. Wait until you see Stryker in his Prom photos…
  1. Don’t touch Chris’s lamps. Just don’t.
  1. We all know that the holiday season is one of the best times of the year. Don’t be afraid to confront Charlotte about her “drinking problem” at the Bowl-fet or the holiday party.
  1. When you call someone’s office, don’t just breathe into the phone waiting for someone to answer. Call their name. If they don’t answer – they’re not there. The only time I ever get a call is when someone is trying to reach Jason (FYI, Jason is not extension 159 anymore).
  1. Generally I am quiet, and a little shy. But if you’re like me, no worries! 99.99% of the other P2ers are friendly and full of life, and aren’t afraid to yank you out of your shell.

All joking aside, Penna Powers is full of personality, and is a great place to work. Check out our current openings here.

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What does “Digital” even mean?

That’s a question that industry trade publisher, Advertising Age asked itself when planning for its annual Digital Conference held last week. They toyed with the idea of removing the word “digital”, but ultimately kept it because otherwise “no one would come”, said editor Ken Wheaton, only half-jokingly.

Yet, this semantic confusion over “digital” has most marketers shrugging their shoulders. It’s now a post-digital world, where a 728×90 “digital” banner ad is as traditional, if not more so, than the ancient 30-second spot. Penna Powers was at the conference and came away with these top insights from the proceedings:

  1. Traditional Digital is Dead – Marketers need to move beyond the traditional online elements of banner ads and other push methods. If you’re just going to do that, you might as well tell a story on television. A digital presence has less to do with the “ad unit”. It has more to do with what kind of experiences you’re allowing your customers to have and what kind of relationships you’re building with them. The traditional elements still have their place, but they cannot take center stage.
  2. The Power of Place – Twitter co-founder and Medium CEO, Evan Williams, discussed how the dramatic increase of migration to cities is similar to how people behave online. Traffic to the top 10 websites makes up 75% of all online traffic. While the average person visits 25 apps per month, 80% of the time is spent on his or her top 3 apps. People plug themselves into established communities on the web and stay there. Just as people need city life for better networking, so too do brands need to establish a community for their customers. And Evan Williams’s solution, of course, is his online publishing platform, Medium. Check it out.
  3. Popular Culture is the New Competition – Think about it. Your marketing is competing for the attention of the customer. What else is competing for that attention? Everything else the customer consumes, from the latest cat video to the newest Netflix or Hulu series. We’re now in the Age of the Customer and the customer is very much in control of what he or she chooses to watch.  Will they choose you?
  4. Stop Being a Perfectionist – Advertisers are used to being in control of everything that happens within that 30-second spot, which can take many weeks and months to get right and presentable for the masses. But that’s too long, and by the time you’ve created your awesome piece of marketing, it may no longer be relevant to the world the customer is now living in. According to Frank Cooper, CMO of BuzzFeed, “content needs to match the rate at which pop culture changes”. This requires us to trade long-gestating perfection for speedy, and sometimes raw, relevancy. It also requires much patience and courage to do.
  5. Try it, Nail it, Scale it – Change doesn’t happen all at once, it occurs in bite-sized chunks. That was the message from AT&T’s Valerie Vargas, who showcased the brand’s foray into original content series like Summer Break and Snapper Hero. Ms. Vargas’s bosses weren’t going to sign off on a huge investment in something so unproven, so she needed to take baby steps in setting aside some budget for experimenting and incubating new platforms. Once she saw success in something small, she could justify larger investments and scaling those small successes to larger ones.
  6. Digital and Traditional Work Together – Cruise ship brand Royal Caribbean and its shop MullenLowe set out to convince jaded New Yorkers that going on a cruise could be exciting and unique. So they streamed the Periscope feeds of over twenty key social influencers having Royal Carribean vacations into out-of-home bus shelters and kiosks all across the city to prove that cruises weren’t touristy and boring. They also re-purposed much of the footage and incorporated it into TV campaigns.
  7. Using Influencers? Let Them Do What They Do – As more brands and agencies use social media influencers to be more relevant to consumers, they often try to dictate the terms of how the brands will be showcased. For example, a sunglass brand wanted Snapchat celebrity, Julz Goddard, to take pictures of herself donning the shades poolside. “Boring”, she said. When the brand allowed her to use the brand more naturally within her Miami partying lifestyle, it scored more authenticity points with her audience.
  8. Use Data to Create More Shareable Content – When we think of using data, we often think in terms of optimizing a digital campaign for better performance. That’s all well and good, but we’re missing a major opportunity to use data to craft better brand storytelling. Using the Facebook Audience Interest Index, Shareablee CEO, Tania Yuki, showed that factors like “usefulness”, “happiness” and “emotion” engaged more women than men and that men were more likely to share content that was “funny” and “exciting”.  For 18-24 year-olds, content that enabled them to be “in the know” was the most likely to be shared.

So will next year’s conference just be titled “Advertising Age’s 2017 Conference”? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? But what’s true is that buzzword value of the word “digital” will continue to diminish as we brands and agencies drop the semantics and just do what works.

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The year was 1954, and Japan was flush in a technological resurgence following the end of the second World War. While Japan’s focus was mostly centered on rebuilding its defeated nation, a few individuals gathered in secret and began work to bring a new terror to life. What started as a simple metaphor for the power and destruction of nuclear weapons quickly turned into a cultural phenomena, a worldwide icon and a horrifying monster: In 1954, Godzilla was born.

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Though Godzilla was originally designed as a destroyer of mankind, his role has transformed to become that of a dangerous ally, often fighting side-by-side with humans to defeat a common foe. Regardless of his relationship with us, however, there are some interesting lessons that can be learned from the Godzilla franchise that apply to marketing (and maybe even life).

1. The impossible can happen

As far as I know, no human in recorded history has encountered a 300-foot-tall whale-gorilla monster (but I’m no history buff). Because a creature of this size has likely never existed, most humans have difficulty believing it, even after Bryan Cranston makes it known that something fishy is going on.

The truth is, though, just when you think the world couldn’t get any weirder, the impossible happens. While in marketing you won’t find any giant city-destroying monsters, the impossible can still surprise you.

56f40115c36188bb7a8b45a3Take, for example, Microsoft’s latest artificial intelligence campaign, “TayTweets” (@Tayandyou). Tay was created as an AI that could learn from the messages and posts she received (mostly via Twitter). From there, she could post responses to questions or images for the whole world to see. I’m sure Microsoft assumed Tay would be a wonderful research experiment. Instead, the internet turned her into an incredibly inappropriate racist! Though Microsoft took her offline fairly quickly, I think it’s safe to say they were surprised by Tay’s response to the internet. Microsoft is now tweaking Tay’s code and plans to bring her back after they’ve (hopefully) added some filters.

In marketing, you can never truly prepare for all the different ways people might respond to your brand’s messaging. But, just because you can’t explicitly prepare for the impossible, you can at least be ready to roll with the punches (even if those punches come in monster-sized claws).

2. Tanks aren’t always the answer

In many Godzilla movies, puny humans foolishly think that they can defeat the might of Godzilla with simple tanks and missiles. Godzilla’s thick hide is impenetrable to most man-made weapons and as a result, less conventional weapons are required to bring down the beast. In fact, in the original Godzilla movie, Godzilla was ultimately defeated by something called the “Oxygen Destroyer” which destroyed the oxygen atoms inside Godzilla, leaving him to die of rotting asphyxiation.

Similar to this, the “answer” to a particular marketing campaign might not be to bring out the big guns. Traditional media will always have its place, but sometimes a different approach is required to really get things done.

Have you considered an interactive solution before? Check out this awards website, which lists eight different interactive campaigns that truly rival the Oxygen Destroyer. While your campaign might not have the same budget or breadth as those campaigns, thinking about potential solutions in an interactive way could yield results that might actually be able to pierce Godzilla’s thick skin.

3. You don’t need to help Godzilla fight the other monster

In a lot of different Godzilla movies, Godzilla goes toe-to-toe with some other giant monsters (known as Kaiju). These fights are often good for humans because Godzilla is very good at beating up on monsters that are threats to all life as we know it. Here’s the thing though, Godzilla usually doesn’t need any help in beating the other monsters, and frankly you don’t want to get caught in the line of fire. Those who do don’t always make it out alive.

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As a brand, you want to be on the cutting edge, involved in all of the latest and greatest things. If there’s a new viral trend, you might be tempted to participate. But just like you don’t always need to help Godzilla fight the bad guy, you don’t have to jump on every bandwagon. JP Morgan, for instance, thought it would good idea to have an AMA (ask me anything) on Twitter featuring one of their top executives. People could tweet any question they wanted and JP Morgan’s Vice Chairman would answer it for a whole hour. Of course, this happened in 2013, amid a recession and with various banking scandals still fresh on most consumer’s minds. Needless to say, the AMA was canceled.

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Trends come and go, and a brand can earn plenty of gold stars by taking advantage of them. But not every trend will be right for your brand. So the next time a giant monster is threatening to destroy your brand, maybe let Godzilla handle it.

4. Save your Atomic Breath for when you really need it

Godzilla isn’t a dragon and does not breath fire. That being said, he gains strength from radiation and can shoot an atomic blast from his mouth (called “Atomic Breath”). Not only is Godzilla’s atomic breath incredibly effective at decimating buildings, Godzilla also uses it to defeat his giant, hulking foes.

On more than one occasion, Godzilla has 360-no-scoped his enemies with this concentrated burst of radiation. But while this is very strong, he can’t go around spewing a non-stop stream of the super explosions. As a result, Godzilla sometimes saves his atomic breath for dire situations.

In marketing, saving an atomic blast for the right time can be very important. Revealing too much too quickly can be a bad thing. Imagine if Apple announced its next iPhone in January, complete with some innovative, earth-shattering new feature, but still didn’t release the phone until September. Not only would this give all other competitors plenty of time to implement similar (or better) features into their phones, but by the time the phone actually became available, that feature would be old news.

So if you’ve got some big news to share, considering waiting. Maybe try weakening your fans with a giant roar before completely blowing them away with your atomic reveal.

5. You can always make a comeback

Godzilla pretty much always wins, but each victory comes at a cost. In fact, sometimes it seems like the King of Monsters is all but defeated before he triumphantly rises to beat back his foe. In other cases, it seems that only in Godzilla’s very last breath is he able to conquer his enemies, sometimes falling down, as if dead, at the conclusion of a battle. But the truth is, Godzilla always gets back up. Godzilla’s regenerative capabilities rival even that of Marvel’s famous Wolverine and (outside of a few select cases) Godzilla is never down for long.

In marketing, it’s almost impossible to do everything perfectly. Mistakes will likely be made, but it’s important to remember that even when something goes wrong, it isn’t the end of the world (although if Godzilla messed up really bad, it just might be!). In hindsight, there’s always room for improvement, and every misstep is an opportunity for a comeback.

While Godzilla might not be the best role-model when it comes to marketing (or really anything except for breaking stuff), there’s actually quite a bit that can be gleaned from his savage roar and destructive endeavors. So remember, the arrogance of man is thinking nature is in his control… next time you’re trying to think up some marketing strategy, stop. Take a break and ask yourself this important question: What would Godzilla do?

 

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