The Soccer World Cup begins June 14th. Marketers have been preparing for years for the global quadrennial event, buying up sponsorships and creating ads to tap into the audience of billions who will watch the games.
Paddy Power, the popular sports betting site, will probably have other plans. An interview this week with former CMO Ken Robertson revealed the strategy behind their infamous “ambush marketing” tactics they’ve successfully deployed at major sporting events, including the 2014 Word Cup in Brazil.
Deviousness is very on-brand for Paddy Power. But they outdid themselves in 2014 in a collaboration with Greenpeace where they pretended to chop down portions of the Brazilian rainforest for an ad. It was an utterly fake story, pure content marketing designed to draw attention to their brand without spending a cent on a formal sponsorship. Paddy Power reported that the Shave the Rainforest campaign generated 35 million Twitter impressions within 48 hours.
Paddy Power had already shifted the conversation around content marketing at major sporting events two years prior with a single pair of boxer shorts in 2012 (to the point of requiring a formal rule change around the permissible scope of sponsorship). Why do something even more extreme—with no direct tie to the Cup? Robertson had an explanation. "We became part of the World Cup narrative by perpetrating this hoax and then revealing it was actually a collaboration with Greenpeace. All of a sudden, you go from sinner to saint, you elevate the brand into the narrative." It’s a combination of a great hook, great content behind it, and effective distribution—amplified with earned media.
Content marketing (with a viral flavor) is a creative way to have a dialogue with consumers. It may even have much higher ROI with significant reach than ads on a football pitch with zero context. Per Patterson: “Any CMO who spends £100m on a category sponsorship at a World Cup should be shot, I think it is an appalling waste of money. It is a wallpaper logo. People expect more from brands now than seeing them on the perimeter boards during a major event. These partnerships show a lack of imagination and even some insecurity from the brand.”
But Nissan (who recently extended their sponsorship of the Uefa Champions League out to 2021) would disagree. They believe using traditional ads at live sports events reach a uniquely captive audience. Global head of marketing and brand strategy Roel de Vries asserted last week: "Live sports is the one area where people want to engage, they still want to watch it. It is not as exciting to watch the game on the DVR the next day. You may watch highlights but if you are a fan of the game you are going to watch it live."
Visa on the other hand is trying to split the difference — it's briefing both its creative and media agencies to hit business outcome targets, vs awareness alone. Visa CMO Lynne Biggar wants to incentivize her agencies to "create more assets that can be targeted more specifically," with more than 20 versions of a linchpin video asset having been created for TV, display, social, print and out of home in 45 markets and 24 different languages.
Official World Cup sponsor Adidas is also taking advantage of the captive audience with a major influencer-driven strategy. They filmed a campaign using 56 different athletes/creatives, producing 30, 60, and 6 second versions that will be targeted and tailored to audiences across platforms over the course of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Gatorade has produced a short animated film about Lionel Messi that they’re sharing across platforms, including a 4-minute full version on YouTube and a 30-second “premiere” on the Facebook page for FC Barcelona.
So what approach is more effective: Paddy Power’s or Nissan’s? For content marketers, it has to be a mix of both. Contextual audience targeting is a more attractive option in a post-GDPR world and it’s forcing brands to reconsider strategies. Grey Goose is tapping into this with their branded series Off Script with Jamie Foxx, targeting viewers that have already opted in to content from distributor Thrillist.
But while audience targeting matters, marketers still need enough reach and need to do it effectively. 81% of digital video marketers surveyed by AdWeek last week reported that 6 second pre-roll ads were the most effective type of digital ad — hinting at the content-fueled direction to get reach programmatically. The survey also noted marketers’ most common challenges with this strategy: annoyed viewers (55 percent), ineffective creative (46 percent), and ad skipping (43 percent).
The World Cup is a big enough event that we may expect more blending of TV and digital to target customers in the moment. But last week, a report from Advertiser Perceptions showed no signs of that trend taking place (yet) — only 53% of surveyed marketers said they were planning to blend strategies for the two mediums. AMC Networks is a notable example of how to do it right. Its new campaign collaboration with ACTV8me delivers contextual mobile ads to customers who watch commercials live on AMC programs.
The conclusion: Great content is both unique and properly contextualized. At it’s best, content both a core pillar of a bigger campaign and is an input to other initiatives like paid marketing. Content has the potential to help answer the age-old tradeoff question of “reach or targeting?” with “both”.
It’s been 10 days since GDPR went into effect. Publishers are obtaining consent with toggles, pop-up forms, and even offering premium packages featuring “no tracking” as a perk. EU versions of websites are loading up to nine seconds faster than their American counterparts who kept all those third-party ad servers and plugins. But overall, last week’s developments were all about the ad marketplaces themselves.
Google nailed the consent-gathering game early and is already reaping financial benefits. The company’s strict stance on gathering consent has made their GDPR-approved targeted ads a hot commodity. Facebook’s lessening dependence on third-party data has also made it an attractive choice for ad buyers looking to comply with standards.
CPMs at Facebook have increased 51% in 14 months, likely due to news feed changes and the dampening of organic reach. This isn’t the first time questions about Facebook’s ROI have come up. Its efforts to comply with GDPR (and address user privacy in general) may not stop marketers from seeking other options.
Google isn’t looking perfect either—at least not its activity around its DoubleClick Bid Manager tool. The company actively discouraged buyers from buying from third-party exchanges during the week GDPR took effect. They claimed that these third-party options may not be fully compliant. Fair enough. But the net effect was a spike in demand on Google’s own AdX marketplace. As an anonymous ad exec quoted by Digiday said: “It’s the concern of the last two years playing out. We always said, "‘What happens if Google is the only demand source in the market?'"
Last week, Vox Media’s Concert ad platform added New York Media, Rolling Stone, and PopSugar as advertising partners. This publisher-focused marketplace boasts access to 122 million unique site visitors along with a stated dedication to brand safety. Expect to see more and more iterations of this with more and more premium publishers.
On the other side, both AT&T and Verizon’s Oath are tracking enormous amounts of data from devices on their network — including location data and the media that users consume — to serve a mobile and video centered ad marketplace. They’re offering more interactive ad options (such as augmented reality) for brands looking beyond text and image ads.
And what about the advertisers who ultimately control the purse strings? They’re finding someone else to deal with the problem — and outsourcing GDPR liability to agencies.
Still stressed about GDPR? Try listening to a soothing voice in a meditation app read you excerpts of the legislation — it will put you right to sleep.
There were two fascinating looks at teen and tween digital behavior over the last week.
The first was Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 presentation that dropped last week, which had plenty of gems about the current state of content distribution platforms. Among them:
The second was The Atlantic’s must-read dive into how Instagram threads are becoming the default way for tweens to get advice. The wildest quote comes from a world-weary 19-year old who noted “When I was young I googled my issues instead of DMing someone on Insta about it, but I just think that’s how the younger generation does it.”
And if you think your parents are bad at technology, take a look at how tweens are throwing digital tantrums on the floor:
“Teens say they’d basically do anything to avoid searching for answers to their problems outside of Instagram. Unlike threads, web pages don’t follow any standardized format, and teens say that navigating the open web, especially sites with ads and pop-ups, was a frustrating waste of time.
“The format is just a lot easier to read than stuff like Google,” says Sophie. “You can read longer things in little chunks. It’s not like reading this giant paragraph at once. No one wants to do that.”
Here’s to hoping that the content world isn’t completely reduced to single sentence platitudes on stock photos.
YouTube has officially passed Facebook as the most heavily used social media network for Generation Z. Why? It’s all in the content. 45% of teens report that they are online “almost constantly,” with 95% of that group reporting that they own (or have access to) a smartphone. They’re using those phones to consume and create content of their own.
Brands are already taking notice: Digiday reported this week that Muscial.ly — with user base that is 43% teenagers — is initiating a big advertising push now that it’s officially been acquired by Chinese content platform company Bytedance.
Consumers of all ages have closer associations with specific brands than ever. Media and Entertainment brands passed Automobiles in the MBLM Brand Intimacy report for the first time, a full seven percentage points higher for (slightly older than Generation Z) Millennials. This suggests that the modern consumer’s identity is no longer tied to cars or objects they can purchase and show off. If a brand is inherently tied to consumption and creation, it’s easier to let it become part of your routine.
It’s easier to express yourself through a brand with a digital presence, particular one in the business of creating media. You can make a video about it, write about it, and chat with fellow fans — all potentially with a lower barrier to entry than an expensive purchase presents.
However while media brands may have a built-in advantage currently, there’s no reason why other industries can’t create just as much content and ways to engage and interact with it.
And in fact it may just be a matter of survival in a future fragmented, adblocked, advertising-immune, always on digital world where now grown-up teens and tweens expect every physical experience to have a seamless, interactive digital extension.
Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Brit McGinnis, Janelle Elfar, and Matt Levin in New York City.