1. Alexa, sign me up for a savings account

Credit: Amazon 

Here’s a new one for you: Ad Age reports that JPMorgan Chase has brought on VaynerMedia as their agency of record for voice marketing. As far as we know, this is the first instance of a major advertiser appointing an AOR for voice — but you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be the last time.

Voice is approaching escape velocity

Voice marketing is shaping up to be a massive new platform for marketers, with the ability to fundamentally shift the marketing landscape (though likely not the companies that own the landscape). Research from eMarketer predicts 45 million voice devices are now in use in the USA and they expect that to rise to 67 million by 2019. However after the Alexa Super Bowl ad, those projections may end up a touch conservative.

Assuming voice-first devices continue to grow in popularity, marketers have to start asking how they can reach their customers in this environment. Does ranking 5th for a keyword still matter if users only hear the first few options? How do you show the quality of your product when potential customers can’t see it? Do I want Amazon and Google to know even more about my customers’ purchase paths and habits?

Big opportunities for content creators

We’re already seeing examples of marketers and publishers testing out strategies for voice. In the Ad Age story about Chase, they discuss plans to build banking-specific skills for Alexa so that consumers can answer questions like “What’s my balance?” or “What can I spend on vacation next week?”.

Building brand specific skills may be a killer app for brand marketers, enabling them to provide value to customers in an authentic and meaningful way. For example, you can ask Tide how to remove a stain or Zyrtec whether today is going to be an allergy day.

Meanwhile, Digiday covered plans from Vogue and GQ to test content distribution strategies on the Echo Look (the one with the screen) focused around product recommendations and trending stories.

Curious how other agencies and marketers are thinking about voice? Check out this great overview from Adweek.

2. “Technology is hijacking our minds and society”

Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In an article sparking conversations across the technology and media ecosystem, The New York Times profiled the “Center for Humane Technology”, a group of early Facebook and Google employees speaking out against the effects of social media and smartphones on our society — and particularly on children. We’re going to stay in our lane here and discuss what this means for marketers and leave the thinkpieces and societal discussions to the professionals.

What to expect

This group (you can read more about them on their website) has a big conference planned for today in Washington, D.C. to discuss consumer addiction, which you can be sure will produce ripples across the government. Axios reports that a Senator is already working on legislation to “commission a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to examine the role and impact of electronic media on the development of children.“

Expect there to be heightened focus on these issues in the coming months, with bi-partisan political action, investigative journalism, and a slew of opinion pieces across the media. The pressure will ramp for the platforms to make more changes — and for advertisers to ensure they’re acting as responsible members of the platforms they use.

Now it all makes sense

Platforms like Facebook are certainly now aware of the impact they can have, which is why we just saw a big push from Facebook to focus on “Time well spent”. Don’t be surprised if you see more efforts on the part of Facebook and YouTube to introduce more controls or other mechanisms to change user behaviors. These will likely be — at least in part — at the expense of marketers, so make sure you’re planning accordingly.  Counterintuitively, we may even see Snapchat and Twitter try carve out a competitive position around well-being and user safety.

3. One big trend - and what it means for content marketers

Credit: AdStage

Something we’ve been thinking about a lot lately is where paid social marketing is in its adoption lifecycle — (see Geoff Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” for a solid treatment).Every marketing channel tends to follow the same general pattern:

  1. Early adopters rush in to take advantage of the new format
  2. Those who figure it out generate outsized, exponential gains, and other marketers start to copy the winners
  3. An ecosystem springs up around it, the channel reaches ubiquity, and everyone develops similar capabilities, tactics, and tools
  4. Large, power-law like gains disappear and returns begin to accrue linearly in proportion to overall spend

We’ve seen this pattern with display, SEO, SEM, and organic social, and now it seems like paid social has finally arrived at the last stage.

How can we tell? Rapidly rising costs (171% jump in Facebook CPMs in 1H 2017 alone), nimble startups starting to rely on it less it as a primary growth strategy (Hubble Contacts hitting walls as covered this great New York Times profile; MVMT Watches predominantly relying on paid micro-influencers on Instagram), and increasing in-housing of overall digital operations (which began with display — now 86% of brands are bringing some programmatic in-house as per Adweek).

The real hallmark of entrance into the last stage of marketing channel maturity is a renewed emphasis on creative in search for gains. When everyone is able to optimize campaigns with access to the same tools, tech, and data, great creative becomes the only differentiator. And in an increasingly platform dominated-world where “everything is native” (FB news feed, Twitter feed, Snapchat stories, etc), this means that the major differentiator in creative is the quality of the content.

Just this week, Marketing Dive covered Unilever’s plans to bring more marketing functions in house, which included “Pivoting to focus on fewer, high-quality ads”. And it’s not just Unilever — the new CMO of Deloitte listed “fostering creativity and undertaking inspiring creative” as one of his top goals in his role.

So, what’s next?

First, look for marketers to increase spend on new channels they can arbitrage (which is easier than a wholesale transformation of the quality of your creative approach). Right now, the channel driving the most attention has to be Amazon, who just reported 60% growth in their Ads business. They’re one of the only platforms that has the data to match Facebook and Google, along with the traffic volume and ad capabilities brands look for.

Second, don’t be surprised when Facebook makes more efforts to encourage quality — or to expand their ad formats and capabilities. News broke recently that they’re looking to expand Watch, their long-form video hub, to more directly compete with YouTube by opening the platform up to more creators.

Third, expect to see more technology emerge focused on helping create better content and video using advanced AI, similar to what companies like Persado and Bloomreach have been doing in other formats.

4. Monthly Branded Content Benchmarks Update: Quantifying the Q4 bump

We’ve just released the monthly update to our Branded Content Benchmarks (check it out if you haven’t yet). If you aren’t familiar, our benchmark data reflects the first 30 days in a content item’s life after being published, and with the calendar turning to February, we now have a full picture of how content created in Q4 performed. Some notes:

  • Compared to Q3, content published in Q4 had 4% higher Average Engaged Time, 6% more Social Actions, and 18% more Page Views
  • Unsurprisingly, some categories had bigger bumps than others, given their relevance to the holiday season (or its immediate aftermath). For example, Health and Fitness content had a 130% Quarter over Quarter increase, while Technology and Computing content saw a 55% jump.
  • Fascinatingly, Social Actions take on a real power law dynamic, with a few categories representing almost the entirety of the increase in Q4, while most other categories actually saw a decrease relative to Q3. The improved categories were: Health and Fitness (+307%), Sports (+55%), and Travel(+25%)

8 more browser tabs to open

  1. Vox Media’s CEO publishes a letter about about new changes and their strategy going forward
  2. A seasonal content marketing conundrum for the NFL — how do you keep international fans engaged with always-on content after the Super Bowl?
  3. An interesting experiment and deep dive on evaluating content marketing for B2B startups (with a ton of graphs and data) from Unbounce
  4. Buzzfeed and NBC partner to create a new video channel targeting parents
  5. A peek into Tide’s Super Bowl war room from Adweek
  6. “Measurement and attribution are still major challenges for B2Bs as they connect their content marketing programs to revenue” as per an eMarketer report
  7. On the value of live video for content marketing in 2018, via MarketingLand
  8. Chrome ad blocking stats are out and it’s better than expected for most publishers

 Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Alexis Krantz, and Matt Levin in New York City.

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