Google, Facebook Provided Highest Mobile Marketing ROI In 2017

Singular, a mobile attribution and campaign analytics platform, has released its annual ROI Index that ranks global return on investment across mobile platforms. Google AdWords yielded the best return on investment (ROI) on Android devices in 2017, but Facebook still holds the top spot across iOS devices worldwide. For game marketers, iOS provided the highest return, but Android is closing the gap.

Ranks are Calculated based on 30-day ROI taking into account revenue, cost and fraud.

Previously, Facebook held the top spot across both Android and iOS platforms in terms of ROI, but Google AdWords took the lead in 2017. This was the case across all regions except Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). There, Google was out-shined by Facebook, Unity and Vungle at first, second and third place, respectively.

Mobile marketing ROI varied depending on whether the campaign was gaming-related. Apple’s iOS yielded 1.2 times higher return for mobile game marketers than Android in 2017. Non-gaming marketers experienced similar ROI on both platforms. Android is catching up, however, driving eight percent annual growth in ROI since 2016.

Spending on Twitter marketing increased across both iOS and Android devices last year. Compared to 2016, marketers achieved improved ROI on Twitter in 2017, especially among non-gaming campaigns. Twitter delivered the second highest ROI in 2017 across both Android and iOS for non-gaming marketers.

When game marketing performance added in, Twitter jumped from 13th to the 8th highest ROI on iOS and from 18th to the 7th highest ROI.

Marketers also increased spending on Snapchat in 2017, with positive results. On iOS, Snapchat drove the sixth highest ROI for non-gaming marketers and the 15th highest ROI across all verticals. This revelation bodes well for Snapchat, which opened its marketing API to the masses just this week.

Video-focused media sources Vungle, Unity Ads and AdColony all moved to the top five on Android in 2017. This is the second year in a row that all three earned top spots for ROI, shining a light on the effectiveness of mobile video marketing. Each of the media sources also captured a greater share of marketing budgets on both platforms last year.

Despite launching less than two years ago, Apple Search Ads has delivered high ROI for iOS mobile marketers. It’s no wonder, then, that marketers poured more money into it last year. Apple Search Ads rose from twenty-third to sixth highest-volume media source on iOS based on total ad spend between 2016 and 2017.

Apple Search Ads drove the second highest return on iOS in 2017. The platform jumped six spots in the rankings, from the 10th highest return in 2016 to fourth highest in 2016 worldwide.

History Shows Marketers Won’t Pull Ads Even If Fraud Persists

Despite a lot of posturing, history and studies show that most marketers will not reduce digital ad spending even if fraud and brand safety concerns persist.

During the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference on Monday, Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed challenged tech giants to stop spreading toxic content or the company would take its money elsewhere. Companies like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever have been vocal about their threats to pull digital ad dollars, but most companies can’t afford not to advertise on these platforms.

When asked if brands would reduce their digital ad spend if brand safety, viewability and fraud aren’t resolved, 49 percent of brands and 47 percent of agencies agreed, according to a recent study by Warc.

The hard truth is that Google and Facebook are just too big to be seriously impacted by a boycott. Even after the “great YouTube boycott of 2017,” ad revenue for parent company Alphabet climbed to an all-time high in the fourth quarter.

Forrester predicts that 70 percent of companies will spend more on both mobile web and app advertising in 2018. In fact, 39 percent of companies that spend more than $5 million per month will up budgets by more than 30 percent.

This leap in digital ad spend is planned despite the risk of fraud. Of the marketers it surveyed, more than a third estimated that over 40 percent of their budgets were at risk of fraud. Only 19 percent reported taking systematic action to prevent fraud, though assigning high priority to fight ad fraud in the next 12 months was almost unanimous.

The ends may also justify the means when it comes to brand concerns. Google Adwords still has best ROI in 2017, according the Singular ROI Index released Wednesday.

Under Armour’s App-Connected Shoe Ties To Long-Term Strategy In Gaming Space

This month, the Under Armour has had professional athletes test out its new UA HOVR Phantom and Sonic sneakers, which have an embedded chip that tracks data like time, distance, cadence, and speed. All of this data is fed into Under Armour’s apps MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness.

Under Armour’s new line of sneakers that gamify running comes during a year of embracing games and gaming culture, as the brand is focusing its marketing activities at younger generations.

“As we’ve delved deeper into consumer behavior, we see the amount of time that Gen Z and young Millennials are spending on gaming,” said Jim Mollica, Under Armour’s vice president of digital marketing. “Gaming provides an opportunity beyond advertising within a specific game, which doesn’t really add that much value. Our idea was if we can appear in these gaming spaces and places and increase the value to our consumer in a cool way, and add to their experience, then ultimately that will come back to us.”

Gaming has become a staple for the brand: Under Armour has worked with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to launch an endless runner game for Snapchat, and for the launch of NBA star Stephen Curry’s “Curry 4” shoe, the company brought NBA 2K18 gamers to its Baltimore headquarters to compete on a 30-foot-high video screen.

“The amount of exposure from that streaming event completely outpaced what I thought it would do,” Mollica said. “The day it started I was getting all of these pings from people outside the company commenting about the tournament . . . I realized that these are unbelievably deep, immersive channels that also have scale.”

Under Armour can use all the help it can muster in connecting with new consumers. Like Nike, the apparel and shoe brand has struggled to keep pace with European giant Adidas. At the same time, all sports brands are facing increased competition from Amazon, while retail partners like Foot Locker, Finish Line and Dick’s Sporting Goods are struggling.

Stephen Curry’s love of video games—a common trait among many top athletes—has helped the brand further integrate digital and real worlds over the past four years. When the Curry shoes first launched, the NBA All-Star’s in-game avatar wasn’t as good as the real-life version on the hardwoods. The company worked around that with a campaign creating user-generated content.

“We did a partnership with 2K when we launched the [Curry] shoes that if you bought the real shoes and put them on, you would be at 100 power for 30 hours, which correlates his jersey number 30,” Mollica said. “We had people that were scoring 100 points in the first quarter and posting those videos across all of these amazing channels.”

The brand is integrating with opportunities in the gaming space—in May, the NBA and 2K launch the NBA 2K League, letting amateur gamers play for one of 17 NBA gaming clubs in a league format.

“This is a really interesting opportunity for a lot of brands to engage in a really deep manner to an audience that is harder to reach now than they were before,” Mollica said. “One of the things we keep seeing is the amount of time that these kids spend with our brand in these gaming environments is unbelievably high and we couldn’t get that kind of retention rate in traditional marketing tactics.”

As gaming continues to draw young consumers, Under Armour remains dedicated to remaining in the space as part of its marketing strategy. “We’ve completely gamified those communities where there are always competition challenges, recognition, encouragement, rewards and badges,” Mollica said.

Ad-Blockchain: Salon Gets Around Ad Blockers With Cryptocurrency

With ad blocking becoming so prevalent that browsers like Google and Yandex are implementing top-down efforts to stem the tide, the pressure is on for publishers to find stable sources of revenue. For Salon, the answer lies in blockchain technology, specifically cryptocurrency.

Soon, Salon readers who use ad blockers will begin to see a different sort of pop-up window than they might on many other sites: rather than just ask visitors to whitelist the site, Salon will request permission to use their excess computing power to mine Monero, a blockchain-powered cryptocurrency.

“This is not a farce,” Salon Media Group CEO Jordan Hoffner said to Digiday. “We were intent on being the first media company to make this part of our monetization strategy.”

Salon is not the first ever to monetize web browsers’ extra processing power—Starbucks was briefly embroiled in a scandal last year when it came to light that the Wifi provider in one of its locations was hijacking customers’ computers to mine Monero without their consent or knowledge. It should be noted, however, that Salon asks for the user’s consent twice before mining for Monero, and stops when the browser is closed.

“We realize that specific technological developments now mean that it is not merely the reader’s eyeballs that have value to our site—it’s also your computer’s ability to make calculations, too,” the program’s FAQ section reads. “Indeed, your computer itself can help support our ability to pay our editors and journalists.”

Reporting only $3.9 million in earnings in the last nine months of 2017, Salon has plenty of reason to experiment with alternative revenue streams, and blockchain seems to hold the most potential. Just today, The Washington Post‘s vice president of innovation and commerical, Jarrod Dicker, jumped ship to helm a blockchain for journalism startup called Po.et.

“Right now, this is a ‘better than nothing’ strategy,” Hoffner said. “But down the line, we will get there. We just need more information to build the product.”

Shell Repackages ‘Make The Future’ Campaign For Tumblr Demographic

Furthering its “Make the Future” clean-energy cause marketing campaign from last year, Shell has partnered with Oath’s RYOT Studio to repackage and expand the campaign’s reach to younger audiences through Tumblr.

The activation, a Tumblr-hosted microsite, features an interactive spinning globe and highlights Shell’s clean energy initiatives and already-existing messaging. The site’s underlying content is nothing new—it primarily features a music video and a series of explainer videos the company released late last year—but nonetheless allows Shell to extend the lifespan of its existing messaging.

“Our team worked with Shell and MediaCom to bring a new, interactive angle to their music video that engages audiences around this message,” said John DeVine, chief revenue officer for Oath.

The activation isn’t Shell calling a mulligan on an unsuccessful effort, either; hitting 11.5 million views in two months, its “On Top of the World” music video was no slouch in the reach category. However, the interactive microsite allows Shell to better educate consumers about its efforts and redirect traffic to its less bombastic explainer videos, which did not fare as well as the music video in views.

Shell’s treatment of its clean energy efforts mark an interesting take on environmental cause marketing as well—with subjects as general as climate change, it can be difficult to make company efforts tangible to the general audience. By highlighting the effects of its energy initiatives on individual people, Shell grounds the larger issue, allowing its audience to better grasp the concept.

“We can spark a global conversation around access to cleaner energy in an engaging way,” said Malena Cutuli, global head of integrated brand communications for Shell. “Addressing future energy challenges demands collaboration between and among business, communities, entrepreneurs, influencers and citizens.”

Major Brands Still Honor Cash As Mobile Payments Rise

Worldwide mobile payment revenue is expected to reach $930 billion this year and surpass 1 trillion US dollars in 2019. But even in the face of this growth, some major brands don’t want to overlook those who don’t have a bank account, offering workarounds through pre-paid cards and brick-and-mortar stores.

Last year, Amazon introduced Amazon Cash—a way to preload a user’s account with money to spend online. The ecommerce giant, which was recently named the world’s most valuable brand, allows its users to pay cash at 19 partnering retailers—like 7-11 and GameStop—and transfer it to their Amazon accounts as if it were a gift card. The credit never expires and can be used for anything on Amazon’s website or mobile app.

Walmart’s website offers a cash option at checkout as well. Customers simply choose to pay with cash, then do so at a brick and mortar location within 48 hours.

Starbucks is another brand that exchanges cash for credit—a smart move considering Mobile Order and Pay accounted for 10 percent of transactions in US company-operated stores during the company’s last fiscal quarter.

The Seattle-based coffee giant has mastered the art of funneling its customers into digital transactions—offering rewards through the mobile app and whenever someone uses their Starbucks card. In fact, “star rewards” are denied if even a portion of a transaction is paid with cash.

Cash-loving coffee drinkers may miss out if Starbucks’ cashless location pilot turns out to be a success. While it’s unlikely all Starbucks locations would convert to a no-cash policy overnight, unbanked and underbanked customers may someday find themselves out of luck, left to seek their cravings elsewhere.

The Young And The Bank-Less

According to a 2016 Pew Research study, some 15 percent of US consumers—approximately 37 million adults—do not have a bank account. The biggest reason for this is lack of income, with 40 percent of unbanked respondents earning less than $15,000 per year.

Nielsen reported that 97 percent of Gen Z consumers have smartphones, but with the oldest members being only around 19 years old, that’s not much time to build a credit history or significant income.

Pew Research also estimates that there were 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the US as of 2016. This is another demographic that may not have access to bank accounts or lines of credit, making mobile payment adoption difficult.

While across the world, brands—and entire countries—are making the move to a digital economy, the change is not without problems. Privacy, identity theft and lack of access for the poor remain hot-button topics as mobile payments become a new norm.

IAB Recommends Blockchain To Cure Video Fraud Woes In Whitepaper

Blockchain is more than just Bitcoin: it’s got significant potential for industries outside of finance.

In a whitepaper released today, the Interactive Advertising Bureau uncovers strong use cases for blockchain technology for higher-value, lower-volume media placement, like digital video and over-the-top (OTT) advertising.

Current blockchain networks can cut down on the rampant fraud in the digital advertising space, allowing advertisers and publishers to deal directly with one another transparently, eliminating untrustworthy middlemen and increasing accountability for all parties. Additionally, the decentralized structure of blockchain networks reduces the chance of hackers stealing information or rerouting any transactions.

“Blockchain seems to be the new ‘siren’s call’ in the business world—but there is no doubt that this technology holds tremendous promise for digital video advertising,” said Anna Bager, executive vice president of industry initiatives for the IAB.

The current stumbling block for blockchain in its current state is its speed, or, more aptly, its lack thereof. Though engineers for networks like Etherium are working to speed up the process, blockchain networks are still several hundred thousand times too slow to handle programmatic advertising’s millions of tiny purchases per second.

While this more or less eliminates blockchain networks from contention for high-volume, cheap digital formats such as banners or pop-ups, the more exclusive media of video and OTT align well with blockchain’s strengths. According to the IAB’s report, the relatively tiny amount of transactions per second, young market and limited amount of well-known publishers all point toward a successful implementation of blockchain technology.

Despite these advantages, the IAB doubts that many OTT players will jump on board with the technology, however. Ad fraud isn’t as much of a problem for companies like Hulu, and they may not see much need in rocking the boat.

“My hunch is that you are going to see blockchain flow out from PC and mobile first before you will see it kick off in OTT,” said Adam Moser, head of ad operations for Hulu.

Additionally, success for the platform would require broad adoption among OTT companies, but the ad buying process differs for every publisher.

“We’ve always found the way you do things for Roku is very different from how you do it for the Samsung TVs or Xbox or PlayStation,” Moser added. “Seemingly, there is no one device on which it is the easiest to integrate and no devices we cannot integrate with. It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg dilemma.”

The IAB considers these obstacles surmountable, writing: “On balance, the advantages of focusing on the digital video/OTT asset class outweigh the disadvantages.”

This whitepaper is only the first of what the IAB expects to be a long discussion about the potential of such a technology over the coming years.

“Tapping into our members’ pioneering work and insights from across the ecosystem, we plan to offer thought leadership, guidance, and inspiration that will steer the new course for digital video, OTT, and blockchain,” concludes Bager.

CoverGirl’s AR Makeup Experience Skips The App Install

CoverGirl has launched the first augmented reality experience that does not require the download of an app. Consumers can now visit the “Try It” AR experience on their web browser via mobile or desktop to virtually apply products from CoverGirl’s Spring 2018 collection.

Using a live camera, consumers can try on five makeup products: Perfectly Matte Lip, Smoky Eye, No Makeup Makeup, Doe-Eyed and Bold Brow looks.

An exclusive partnership with Walmart will allow customers to try on the makeup, then purchase it through Walmart’s website. The experience is available on iPhone devices running iOS11 or higher and most modern Android smartphones.

“Try It” is part of a new CoverGirl campaign called “I am what I make up,” encouraging the use of beauty products as self-expression. The AR experience is designed to close the gap between inspiration and purchase.

CoverGirl is utilizing a variety of both male and female social media influencers to promote the “Try It” experience on their respective YouTube Channels, including Raye Boyce, Angel Merino, Melisa Michelle and Tiarra Monet.

Parent company Coty plans to expand the experience to other brands while refining its features. Coty also owns makeup brands Rimmel and Max Factor as well as luxury brands Calvin Klein and Gucci.

This isn’t the first time CoverGirl has used AR to give users a virtual makeover. The brand launched its BeautyU app in 2016 that uses facial scanning to superimpose the latest products onto a user’s face.

Beauty brands are adopting AR in mass, using visualization to inspire confident purchases and social sharing. L’Oreal launched Makeup Genius in 2014 and last summer, integrated its worldwide makeup brands and collections into YouCam Makeup, an AR beauty app. Beauty app ModiFace has become a one-stop shop for the idea, powering the AR experiences of 84 beauty brands on its platform.

“Today’s consumers expect their shopping experience to be fun, effortless and tailor-made to meet their momentary aspirations, moods and desires—wherever they are,” Esohe Omoruyi, senior vice president of global open innovation and digital services for L’Oréal, told AListDaily in a previous interview.

For National Lipstick Day on July 29, Maybelline New York sponsored a Snapchat lens featuring its new Loaded Bolds lipstick collection—allowing users to virtually test out each of the bold colors for themselves. Olay and Sephora have also used AR technology to help consumers visualize beauty results.

AR holds an advantage over VR in it doesn’t require the purchase of additional hardware. Digi-Capital forecasts that AR (mobile AR, smartglasses) could approach three and a half billion installed base and $85 billion to $90 billion revenue within 5 years, while VR (mobile, standalone, console, PC) might deliver 50 to 60 million installed base and $10 billion to $15 billion in the same timeframe.

New ESPN+ Streaming Service Hopes To Meet Rising OTT Trends

ESPN will get its own low-cost streaming service this spring alongside a redesigned mobile app—a move bolstered by continuous drops in the TV network’s ad revenue.

During the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, parent company Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger revealed new details about an OTT service dubbed ESPN+, priced at a modest $4.99 per month. The service was first announced in December amid revenue losses for the popular sports network—a trend that continued into the first fiscal quarter.

ESPN witnessed an 11 percent decrease in advertising revenue during the first quarter, resulting from the shift of two College Football Playoff (CFP) games into its second-quarter period. ESPN ad revenue was still down seven percent, excluding those games.

ESPN+ will be integrated into the newly-designed ESPN mobile app, which places an emphasis on personalization and improved interface. Iger called the changes “dramatic,” explaining that the app will include scores, highlights, podcasts, live game broadcasts and other sports content in addition to ESPN+.

“If anything it points to what the future of ESPN looks like,” Iger said on the earnings call. “It will be this app and the experience that it provides.”

The $4.99/mo. price tag aligns with consumer demand as more and more OTT services become available. According to a recent survey by IBB Consulting, OTT users who are looking to get a premium, niche or sports-centric are willing to pay $5 to $15 for an add-on to an existing subscription.

The rising popularity of OTT and SVOD are forcing companies like ESPN to rethink their strategies. At first, the cord-cutting phenomenon was largely attributed to the high cost of cable but as more options become available, audiences value content such as originals only found on a certain provider. The same IBB Consulting study found that around 63 percent of SVOD subscribers still have cable.

A November study by Magid found that two-thirds of US households pay for at least one streaming service and an average of two. As more OTT services enter the marketplace, increased competition places even more pressure on companies like ESPN to keep audiences interested.

Yandex Adds Native Ad Blocker Weeks Ahead Of Google

Russian-language search engine Yandex has long been referred to as the “Russian Google.” But in the area of ad-blocking, Yandex is leaving the world’s third-most-valuable brand behind, implementing a native ad blocker for messaging that doesn’t abide by IAB Russia’s standards.

The company’s troubles with third-party ad blockers reflect those of Google quite closely, with overzealous ad blocking hurting Yandex’s bottom line.

“The desire to see less advertising is understandable, but the blockers solve the problem too uncompromisingly,” the company wrote in its first announcement of its native ad blocking intentions, in December of last year. “Advertising is important and for Yandex is one of the main sources of revenue for the company.”

Google is implementing a similar native ad blocker to its Chrome browser, which will remove all ads from sites that don’t follow its Better Ads Standards, on February 15. This gives marketers the chance to test the consequences of a native ad blocker in a much smaller market (Yandex’s ad revenue in 2016 was 1.5 percent that of Google’s), and tweak their own plans before larger players implement the same.

But most importantly, Yandex’s implementation of a native ad blocker puts to bed claims that Google’s attempts to clean up its ad space are uncalled for or overreaching. With third-party ad blocker saturation reaching 30 percent in both Russia and the US, ad marketplaces have stepped in to prevent users dropping out, where advertisers and publishers have declined to.

Industry groups like the IAB and the ANA have long established best practices for digital ads that don’t interfere with user browsing, but their voluntary nature did not stem the tide of rapid ad blocking growth. If technology gatekeepers like Google and Yandex didn’t enforce compliance, who would?

Dmitry Timko, head of Yandex.Browser, summed up the need in a statement to TechCrunch: “Native ad blocking eliminates the need for additional ad blockers and promotes better quality advertising.”