Google Expands Ad Muting Tools, Letting Users Dodge Retargeting

With the launch of Chrome’s native ad blocker quickly approaching, Google is now expanding its ad muting tools as well. Users can now opt out of retargeted “reminder” ads for specific websites if they choose to.

Google account owners have been able to mute individual ads since 2012, but with this latest update they will be able to silence a website’s reminder ads for 90 days. In its current state, users will only be able to avoid retargeted ads on DoubleClick ads on third-party websites and apps, but Google promises to expand the feature to YouTube, search and Gmail ads in the coming months.

Though this may seem to work against the interest of its advertisers, Google claims this new feature is part of its ever-growing efforts to deliver more relevant ads to its consumers.

“Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for [a website’s products] anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them,” wrote Jon Krafcik, Google’s group product manager for data privacy and transparency, in an announcement.

Though the advertiser may miss out on occasional impressions, users moved to delve into Google’s ad settings to explicitly opt out of a retargeted ad weren’t a likely conversion to begin with. And since the ads are simply not served in the future (as opposed to blocked outright), the advertiser won’t pay any extra for the increased ad muting.

In addition to letting users mute specific advertising retargeters, Google is expanding its individual ad muting tool, “Mute this Ad.” The feature is now device agnostic, meaning that any ads a user mutes on their phone will likewise stay muted on their desktop, and vice-versa. Additionally, the company plans to expand the tool to more of its ad network.

“Mute this Ad” isn’t just a consumer tool, however. Google acts on its ad muting metrics, promising to remove ads from its network when too many people declare them irrelevant.

“Millions of people use Mute this Ad on a daily basis, and in 2017, we received more than 5 billion pieces of feedback telling us that you mute ads that aren’t relevant,” Krafcik wrote. “We incorporated that feedback by removing 1 million ads from our ad network based on your comments.”

“The momentum we’ve seen with this tool is really encouraging,” he added.

IAB Urges Marketers To Ask Publishers Questions On Influencer Marketing

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released a guide for marketers building influencer marketing strategies through publishers. Among the infographics and case studies runs a common theme: ask a lot of questions and don’t assume.

Inside Influence: Why Publishers are Increasingly Turning to Influencer Marketing—and What That Means for Marketers” addresses the specific needs of marketers as they relate to the benefits and challenges of influencer partnerships made through publishers.

IAB lists five ways that marketers benefit from publisher influencer marketing programs: objectivity, creative strategy, editorial credibility, personalization and distribution. Objectivity here refers to the fact that publishers do not usually have a hidden agenda in terms of influencer selection. “This allows them to deliver on a brand’s KPIs in a meaningful way through strong, authentic casting,” says IAB.

Over the past few years, marketers have seen the rise of publisher content studios that develop a range of branded content for marketers. In its guide, IAB notes that even with built-in audiences and distribution methods, publishers seek ways to get even more traction.

One IAB case study explores a partnership between clothing brand Lane Bryant and publisher Refinery29. Lane Bryant sells plus-size clothing for women, so it partnered with Refinery29 to create social content with body positive messaging. Refinery29 hired influencer Danielle Brooks to serve as both a spokesperson and creative director of the initiative, which resulted in over 295 million social impressions.

Marketers stand to benefit from the use of publisher influencer marketing campaigns, but every situation will be different. That being the case, IAB strongly urges marketers to ask publishers questions upfront.

Examples of questions to ask publishers include, but are not limited to:

  • How does the publisher identify the influencer(s)–what is the criteria?
  • Will we be able to review/approve the influencers in advance?
  • How can we be sure that the influencer activities align with the brand strategy or other requirements?
  • How much control will the brand have on the creative?

Clear communication between marketer and publishing partners will help protect brand safety, prevent fragmentation and measure ROI based on pre-determined goals.

“There are still important questions that should be asked before approving an influencer program and publishers should be prepared to answer these questions,” said IAB in the guide. “At the end of the day, it’s all about getting your message to your audience in more authentic ways and influencers can be a good way to achieve your goals to make your publisher content studio partnership efforts even stronger.”

Top 4 Marketing Trends For 2018 According To The Shorty Awards

The Shorty Awards is an international awards competition that honors the best people, brands and organizations on social and digital media. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this season, the Shorty Awards have become the leading resource for discovering the most popular platforms, content, strategies and industry trends that are changing the way consumers interact with their favorite brands in the new age of marketing. In this inside look, their team shares insights and top content that are influencing overall trends in social media and digital marketing in 2018.

Diversify Platforms

Based on the trends of the 2017 Shorty Awards, brands are seeing the most amount of success when not doubling down on a single platform but engaging consumers in each of their preferred platforms with a cohesive and farther reaching strategy. Here’s an award-winning case study that explains how Google used analytics to support a multi-platform news campaign during the 2016 Olympics.

Combine Old & New Media

As much as social media continues to grow, marketers are still seeing a lot of success when it is coupled with more traditional marketing strategies. Brands who can successfully bring these different worlds together can use the power of social media to bring their campaigns to the next level. Last year’s winner, HBO’s Westworld Campaign, shows how they broke past traditional campaign limits to bring a digital campaign to life.

All Content Is Branded

Brands need to think creatively about the way their content is consumed to decide if their branding can be overt or more subtle. Brands are finding that the more natural incorporation of branded content is an effective strategy, as seen from this winner, Royal Caribbean, who produced a highly rated branded series starring well-known social media influencers.

Video, Video, Video…

Video is one of the fastest-growing forms of content that marketers are using on social media. Brands that are able to master the perfect recipe of length, content and creativity will stand out, much like this winning campaign by Dollar Shave Club that successfully used long-form video to produce mind-numbing ads that their audience just couldn’t stop watching.

Think you have what it takes to win a Shorty Award? Enter your work into the 10th Annual Shorty Awards! There is a wide variety of categories, grouped by industry, strategy, content, campaigns and more. See a full list here.


Entries are open now! The regular entry deadline is on February 8th. Start your entry here.



Banking On Host-Reads, Podcasts Want To Provide ‘Influence At Scale’

With podcast advertising revenues almost doubling between 2016 and 2017, it’s safe to say that the medium is still a growing market. And despite its content crossover with radio networks like NPR, podcasts offer distinct advantages for certain marketers through the idiosyncratic format of host-read ads.

“The host-read ad is really all about the relationship that host has with an audience,” said Korri Kolesa, head of sales for Midroll Media, in an interview with AListDaily. “It’s almost like they’re providing a personal recommendation and endorsement of the thing that they’re talking about.”

“I always feel like our host-read podcast ads are influencers at scale,” she added.

Midroll Media, a podcast content company that runs comedy-network Earwolf and listening platform and subscription service Stitcher, certainly has a vested interest in pitching its ad products, but third-party research supports Kolesa’s point.

According to research by Westwood One, 55 percent of podcast listeners prefer to hear ads voiced by show hosts, compared to just 30 percent that enjoy more conventional radio ad creative.

And Midroll isn’t the only company experimenting with more integrated podcast advertising methods. Gimlet Media, producers of Tinder’s branded podcast DTR, conducts interviews with advertiser spokespeople in addition to reading from talking points.

“I love the work Gimlet’s doing,” Kolesa said. “They do really beautiful, creative executions, and I do think it’s a good way for brands to tell a little bit of a deeper story.”

Kolesa attributes this preference to a sort of audio banner blindness: “Your brain automatically, almost unconsciously, knows an ad is coming when you hear that break in programming,” she said. “When it’s pre-recorded, you’re not as engaged, you’re not listening in the same way.”

Overall, podcast listeners seem highly tolerant of ads on the medium. Seventy-one percent of podcast listeners claim not to mind pre-roll (or prestitial) ads, a practice so unpopular for mobile web users that Google intends to block all ads on sites that rely on them. Additionally, 65 percent of listeners would not mind listening to extra ads per show to support the podcasts they enjoy.

Even though the podcasting audience is predominantly receptive, ad viewability (or listenability) is still a concern for marketers. Because podcasts are distributed as simple audio files, listeners are free to play them as fast as they like—on Apple’s podcast app, users can up to double an episode’s play speed—a practice known as “speed listening.” Westwood One’s research indicates that 42 percent of podcast listeners have tried speed listening at least once.

For Midroll, the trend isn’t as much of an issue. “It’s part of the conversation,” Kolesa said, “but it’s not something I’m giving a lot of pause to.”

Part of this nonconcern stems from the extemporaneous nature of host-read ads. Even when sped up, on-the-spot ad reads tend to be much longer than standard pre-produced spots. On one of Earwolf’s flagship podcasts, Comedy Bang Bang, ads can meander as long as two or three minutes apiece, which still nets an impressive airtime when sped through at double the normal rate. By comparison, pre-recorded spots on podcasts like The Daily and This American Life peak at 30 seconds.

Despite the relative strengths of host-read ads, the industry seems to be shifting away from them. Research by the IAB saw the share of podcast advertising revenue increase by 3 percent for pre-produced ads between 2015 and 2016.

As brand safety becomes more threatened by programmatic placement, the lack of granular message control for host-read ads may put off some marketers burned by other platforms’ content moderation problems. So too is the lack of all-important data in the medium.

“In the school of direct-response advertisers, they’re qualifying the success of a campaign based on an action that happens that they’re tracking on their side,” Midroll’s Korri Kolesa said. “We don’t usually get insight into that side of the house.”

Brand awareness campaigns, a type that went from 17 percent revenue share in 2015 to 25 percent in 2016, rely on even less direct data: “We will often run brand recall studies, or we’ll work with a third party like Nielsen,” Kolesa said. “We can do some of that now, and some of that we do with third-party research vendors.”

However, this dearth of data isn’t going to last long. Apple, whose podcasting app accounts for 50 percent of all podcast downloads, has released detailed analytics tools for podcast publishers. Although still in beta, these tools will finally allow marketers to see in-episode listening habits like completion rates and ad skipping.

Unfortunately, no information is as yet publicly available, but publishers interested in appearing more credible will undoubtedly provide metrics to interested advertisers. Additionally, the second-place podcast provider, Spotify, already tracks listener data, though its ad offerings are much more conventional.

“I’m a champion of more insight, more transparency, more data,” said Kolesa. “I think it’ll help more people get comfortable with what we’re doing in our space.”

Although thorough data isn’t as available as many marketers would like it to be, Kolesa was quick to point out that the industry is still developing.

“For an early-stage industry, you find that the people who are moving first are fans,” she said. “We’re just at the beginning.”

GrubMarket’s Branded Mobile Game Offers Real Food

Keeping with its brand slogan, “The farm has never been closer,” grocery ecommerce site GrubMarket just released an iOS game with real product rewards to teach users about farming.

GrubBox FarmBox, the online organic produce’s branded mobile offering, has players manage a virtual farm and get rewarded with points as they advance through the game and bring food to harvest. These points can be spent inside the game to purchase virtual goods and farm tools, or they can be spent at GrubMarket for the purchase of real groceries. Social gameplay will be added in the future, according to the company, that will allow friends to compete for the most points.

According to GrubMarket CEO Mike Xu, the purpose of FarmBox is to educate consumers and their children about real steps and processes involved in managing a farm, from different soils and weather systems to seeds and animals.

While FarmBox may have missed the Farmville craze by a few years, offering real food is a unique twist, and branded games have become a popular—and often effective—means of reaching consumers.

Other food brands, like Chipotle, GrubHub, Jack in the Box and Kraft, have developed games to educate or otherwise engage potential customers through mobile, web browsers and Snapchat ads. Carnival has developed a series of mobile games called PlayOcean for its cruise passengers not to sell games, but to encourage interaction. To spread awareness for the grand opening of its new hotel in Seattle, W Hotels released a free mobile game called Belle the Bear

While these branded mobile games are free and without microtransactions, the mobile gaming sector is currently experiencing a boom. Mobile accounts for over a third of global game market revenue at 34 percent last year, and will grow to 41 percent of the market by 2020 according to Newzoo.

Nielsen Social Content Rankings Now Include Instagram

Nielsen has added Instagram to its Social Content Ratings (SCR), allowing it to measure TV engagement across all three top social networks.

Launched in 2016, Nielsen SCR is a standardized third-party measurement of TV program-related social media activity on Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram. To put it simply, TV audiences talk about shows on social media and Nielsen tracks it so networks and advertisers better understand reception and ROI. This measurement includes organic audience activity as well as social content through official talent, network and program accounts.

Adding Instagram to SCR makes sense—with over 500 million daily active users, the Facebook-owned social network creates a conduit between TV networks and cord-cutting millennials. According to a recent study by the Consumer Technology Association, 55 percent of millennial respondents expressed a preference for self-recorded and on-demand TV, compared to 45 percent who prefer live broadcasts.

TV networks already use Instagram to reach audiences prior to and during a show’s run. While onboard analytics provide engagement results for promoted posts, measuring organic conversations are another matter.

Nielsen SCR has observed increased social media engagement while a show is on the air, driving 68 percent of weekly program-related Tweets. For the 2016-2017 TV season, fans of The Walking Dead generated an average of two million social interactions about the program across Facebook and Twitter. Empire also created a lot of social buzz to the tune of 860,000 social interactions per episode.

Social interactions inspired by TV shows aren’t limited to the subject matter alone, Nielsen found.

“Through our Twitter TV and Twitter brand data, we found that the people who Tweet about TV are more likely to Tweet about brands,” Erika Faust, SVP client service at Nielsen Social told AListDaily. “Therefore, marketers who are looking to generate more earned media around their brand should use the social TV signal to identify shows with high social ratings as well as those that have a high alignment to their brand Tweeting audience.”

According to a 2016 study by Simply Measured, over half of the marketers surveyed named “measuring ROI” as the number one challenge they face. In fact, only 9.4 percent of marketers said they were able to quantify the revenue driven by social media.

Nielsen hopes that by adding Instagram to its SCR, marketers will gain better insights into how their shows impact audiences across different social networks.

P&G To Cut Marketing Spend Even Further While Increasing Transparency

Spending $7.2 billion on advertising in 2016, Procter & Gamble consistently tops lists of the largest marketing budgets in America. P&G marketers intend to change that, cutting its ad spending by hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming year.

The company has already reduced its ad spending by $750 million in the past year and plans to excise another $400 million in the near future.

“It’s clearer and clearer to us that there are additional ways to eliminate waste,” said Jon Moeller, P&G’s chief financial officer, in an earnings call with investors.

Part of the “waste” Moeller identified came from the number of advertising agencies the brand works with, which the company cut from 6,000 to 2,500 last year. Over the course of 2018, Moeller expects that number to shrink to 1,250.

“We need the contribution of creative talent and are prepared to pay for that,” Moeller stated. “We don’t need some of the other components of the cost. We will move to more ‘fixed and flow’ arrangements with more open sourcing of creative talent and production capability, driving greater local relevance, speed and quality at lower costs.”

This move continues the company’s efforts to move away from traditional digital advertising, which P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard described as “complicated, nontransparent, inefficient and fraudulent.”

Ironically, it was P&G’s supply chain becoming less nontransparent that led to its further digital budget cuts, as Moeller credited more forthcoming media vendors with pointing out just how much of their messaging was misplaced, invisible or served to bots.

“There is more opportunity to eliminate waste by reducing excess frequency within and across channels, eliminating non-viewable ads and stopping ads served to bots or adjacent to inappropriate content,” Moeller said. “Through these efforts, we’ve been able to eliminate waste and cut losses, while simultaneously increasing reach the number of consumers we’re actually connecting with by about 10 percent.”

Sundance Film Festival Activations Highlight Inclusion, Change And Escape

In addition to the usual glitz from the star-studded event, brands running activations at this year’s Sundance Film Festival are focusing on supporting women and longstanding social issues.

Events Putting Women In Focus

This is a pivotal time for women in the entertainment industry, who are banding together against sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. Inclusion, solidarity and change are driving conversations at Sundance, and several activations have female empowerment as a main theme:

  • #HereWeAre Brunch, specifically brought women and men together to celebrate women and underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers, artists and advocates. The invite-only event was hosted by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY and Twitter. 
  • ICM Politics and YouTube partnered to celebrate female filmmakers the night before the Respect Rally, which returned to Sundance for a second year in the spirit of the National Women’s Marches.
  • The Safe Movement launched its first Safe Space activation—a private lounge with panel discussions, luncheons, private cocktail parties and an exclusive After Hours Lounge featuring DJs and intimate performances so that attendees can discuss issues affecting women. Events were presented by Global Citizen, Teen Vogue,’s foundation, the CNN Freedom Project, Interscope Records, Electronic Music Awards, The Respect Rally, the Alliance for Women Directors and “YES Means TEST” by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).

Spotlighting LGBTQ And Social Justice

GLAAD and The LOVELOUD partnered with HBO and LiveNation to host The LoveLounge in recognition of artists and filmmakers who are “accelerating equality and acceptance for LGBTQ people everywhere.” The event coincided with the premiere of HBO’s documentary Believer, which also discusses artists and filmmakers of LGBTQ-inclusive films.

KIA Supper Suite hosted three days of premier events, including presenting Nancy starring Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo and Andrea Riseborough; Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Awards Dinner Gala; and A Dinner for Change Celebrating: Masters of the Sun, an event hosted by, Black Eyed Peas and Rosario Dawson to shed light on social injustice.

A Look At The Lounges

Shifting away from activations with any political relevance: this marks the first year Lyft is being featured as the official ride sharing partner for the Sundance Film Festival. The Lyft Lounge features snacks, hot drinks, phone charging stations and conversations between film showings. The brand is also offering The Driver’s Hub, offering ride share drivers virtual reality and catering by Impossible Foods.

Other lounge highlights:

  • AT&T’s DIRECTV lodge is presenting pop-up dining experiences from Los Angeles restaurant Craig’s, along with viewing parties and celebrity hosts.
  • Music Lodge returns to Sundance for its 14th year to entertain stars as a hospitality suite. Outdoor sports brand Spyder is hosting a hot chocolate bar there while gifting its ski apparel.
  • Rock & Reilly’s Daytime Lounge—presented by J.Crew, Nylon and Roku—features brand activations such as the “Denim by You” customization bar, where guests can curate J.Crew denim looks. Roku is giving away media streaming devices and hot drinks in the “Hygge Lounge,” and visitors can have their hair, nails and makeup done by beGlammed.

Activations With An Element Of Action

For those not just lounging:

  • TAO Group marked its tenth year at the event with three days of pop-up events, featuring DJs Mel DeBarge, the Deux Twins, Vice and DJ Politik; Tequila brand Don Julio returned to serve Don Julio 1942 for the third year in a row.
  • California-based “semi-private” airline, JetSuiteX, has an on-site check-in counter that prints ticket vouchers good for Burbank, San Jose, Oakland, Las Vegas and Mammoth while a flight attendant serves coffee, wine and Essentia Water to guests from a drink trolley. 
  • SundanceTV’s highest rated show, Hap and Leonard, is promoting its third season premiere with an escape room experience at the SundanceTV HQ. The space transports participants to 1989 Grovetown, Texas, where Hap and Leonard were mysteriously “swallowed up” on a mission to rescue their friend. Attendees are challenged with finding clues to their whereabouts—before they end up vanishing in Grovetown, too.

HBO Promoting ‘Harry Potter’ Stream With Team-Building Games

HBO is using experiential marketing to promote all eight Harry Potter films streaming on its network with the “Hogwarts House Challenges” in Boston, Denver and Atlanta throughout the second half of January.

HBO commissioned Wink Back to create an interactive challenge for fans. The company specializes in team-building games and is also behind The Go Game. The intention behind these team-building exercises is to inspire a stronger workforce through play and common goals. By engaging Harry Potter fans with a similar formula, HBO is effectively training an “external marketing team” that will share their experiences—and details about how the films are streaming—to other fans.

Those who attend the Hogwarts House Challenges, for example, will take part in an original Harry Potter-themed game that includes a mix of trivia, puzzles and video challenges. Prizes will also be awarded for best costume and best team photo. Teams will receive extra points each time they share photos of the event on social media, using the hashtag #HarryPotterHBO.

Original movie props will also be on-site for viewing, including:

  • Tom Riddle’s diary with Basilisk fang
  • Lucius Malfoy’s “Caught” poster
  • Horace Slughorn’s hourglass
  • Bellatrix Lestrange’s dagger
  • “Magical Drafts and Potions” textbook

A limited number of tickets are available through HBO’s Facebook page. Atlanta, Boston and Denver were chosen for their “particularly devoted fan base” and proximity to area colleges, according to the network.

Supporting its team-building campaign, the HBO website has devoted a section to the Harry Potter film franchise, complete with hand-written pages that outline charms, spells and the care of magical creatures; Happy Potter composer Ramin Djawadi will lead a concert series and begin touring later this year; and a 10,000-square-foot interactive museum debuted in Barcelona, with future locations to be announced at a later date.

HBO has previously used experiential marketing to promote its other programming—especially Game of Thrones. For the show’s seventh season, Deliveroo UK opened a Game of Thrones-inspired pop-up bakery called “You Know Nothing, Jon Dough.” Actor Ben Hawkey, who plays Hot Pie on the show, served real-life versions of his character’s “direwolf bread.”

Worldwide Digital Game Sales Reached Nearly $10B In December

Worldwide digital game sales reached nearly $10 billion across console, mobile and PC in December, according to SuperData Research’s monthly digital game sales report highlighting the purchasing trends outside of physical copies sold. Game sales grew 17 percent year-over-year, and revenue for the entire holiday quarter increased 19 percent from 2016.

SuperData Research attributes December growth to an increase in premium PC, console and mobile game purchases.

Nostalgia Wins Big

Call of Duty: WWII had the best quarter of digital unit sales ever for a console title, launching as the number one console game for December.

“This was the right time to return to the series’ original World War II setting,” Carter Rogers, senior analyst at SuperData, told AListDaily. “Gamers were getting tired of each successive entry going further into sci-fi territory, culminating in relatively poor sales (for a Call of Duty game) of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. For longtime fans, Call of Duty: WWII was a nostalgic return to form. For many younger gamers, this was their first WWII shooter, since the last major WWII Call of Duty released in 2008.”

Still Stealing The Spotlight

Grand Theft Auto V set another record month in December, SuperData reported. With the release of its “Doomsday Heist” update, GTA V Online broke its previous revenue record back in June 2017, making it the title’s best month to date for its multiplayer segment. Users reached 22.7 million across console and PC in December—the highest player numbers for the game since 2013.

Player Well-Known

Microsoft launched a port of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) onto Xbox One consoles in December, and players responded by purchasing over two million digital copies. The game holds the number five spot on PC and number three for digital console sales in December.

PUBG has spawned a popular new genre much in the way that Doom spawned first-person shooters. Inspired and named after the 2000 film Battle Royale, this free-for-all game mode pits massive amounts of players against one another—up to 100, in the case of PUB—and the winner is the last one standing.

Other game publishers are riding the battle royale wave of success, including mobile PUBG clones Knives Out and Rules of Survival—each experiencing successful launches in December.

The biggest competitor to PUBG is currently Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale, which earned $89 million in December. Epic Games’ entry into the Battle Royale arena continues to gain traction with gamers, but at the expense of its massive online battle arena (MOBA) title, Paragon.

Fortnite‘s success will certainly be Paragon‘s loss,” Rogers explained, and also mentioned Epic has moved some staff from Paragon to support Fortnite, as the former made $862,000 in December, while Fortnite earned $89.1 million. “[So] Epic has a good reason for doing this. Paragon has never been able to break into the top tier of MOBAs.”