What Are Universal IDs Or Unified IDs And What Happens When Cookies Go Away?

Cookies, line of code used to track users across the internet and target ads to them, are going away.  Apple’s Safari browser already uses Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to limit companies’ abilities to track users by blocking third-party cookies that collect this type of data.  Mozilla’s Firefox browser has “Enhanced Tracking Protection” set on as default, blocking all “known third-party tracking cookies.”  And Google has announced that it will block third party cookies on Chrome by 2022.  Firefox and Safari together have about 21% market share and Chrome has 61%.

Why does this matter?
Cookies allow advertisers to target specific people based on behaviors and show them ads they hope the users will be interested in seeing.

Should I go run and hide under my bed now if I’m a digital advertiser?
No, not yet. Here’s a couple of things you should know.  Google, Facebook and Amazon are unaffected by this issue because they are “walled gardens.” This means they don’t have to use cookies because they already collect vast amount of information about their visitors because you login to use their products. So they have what is referred to as “first party” data.

Secondly, this issue doesn’t affect contextual targeting or what we would call Keyword Targeting.  That is, targeting specific webpages because the content matches up with the type of person you want to reach (i.e., showing an ad on a fishing article for a fishing retailer).

So what is the solution in a cookie-less world?
There are many solutions in the mix but the one gaining the most traction as a replacement for cookies is called Universal IDs. The Trade Desk, the largest demand side platform (DSP) is spearheading this technology and their version of it is called Unified IDs.

Universal IDs use hashed and encrypted email addresses for opted in users as the basis for identity and as a replacement for third-party cookies.  This is similar to what Facebook, Google and Amazon do. For example, when you go to website or app and have to login to access the content, your collected email is anonymized and encrypted as an ID. This ID is shared across the network of publishers (websites and apps) that have adopted the solution.  Advertisers can use this ID to target advertising but crucially, from a privacy perspective, this ID is never transmitted.

Email addresses themselves are considered personally identifiable information (PII), which means they can’t just be freely traded between any ad tech companies without consent. To solve this, the Universal ID technology uses hashed emails which have been passed through an algorithm which converts them from a readable email address to a 32-digit long string of numbers called a hexadecimal string (feel free to trot out that term at your next company meeting!).

Email-based identifiers also have one big advantage over cookies – they work across multiple devices and browsers. Cookies only sit within one web browser on one device, meaning advertisers can’t use cookies to identify the same user on their laptop and on their phone. Hashed emails can link up any devices and browsers where users are signed on via email.

The bigger issue is whether consent to use email addresses can be achieved at large enough scale to meet demand for advertising inventory. Email will have a role in the post-cookie world, probably a significant one. However, it will also coexist with other solutions, such as first-party data, opted-in GPS location tracking, and contextual (keyword) targeting.

What are Social Mirror Ads?

It can be difficult to decide which social media channels to advertise on. Are you good on Facebook and Instagram or do you need to be on TikTok and Snapchat as well? What about LinkedIn and Pinterest or is that spreading the budget and audience too thin? How do you do all the things?

Enter Social Mirror Ads!

Social Mirror ads mimic the look and feel of top social media platforms however, the ads appear not on the social platforms, but on thousands of other websites and apps and run across all devices. Each ad links back to the social platform it is mirroring and, has a second call to action button that links to the advertiser’s website!  Ads contain unique social actions related back to the originating platform (for example, the like icon, the heart icon, the pinning icon, the retweet icon… those actions are available). These ads can integrate with all the major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, SnapChat, and YouTube. Creatively, ads can be display, video or carousel.

Mind blown!

To break this down into even simpler terms, you know we at ST Digital love our one sentence descriptions on digital products, here is a basic definition of Social Mirror ads:

Social Mirror ads look like your social media display or video posts but appear on other websites and apps, linking back to the social media platform and your website, and run across all devices using our targeting strategies.

So how does this work? It is brilliantly simple, as easy as posting!

Step 1: Create a social post and provide us with the URL of that post. Like this example here of a Tweet on Twitter from Yankee Candle:

Now Step 2: Enhance it with additional call to action opportunities.

We take your post and create it as an ad – that looks just like (and links to) the social post – and run it across thousands of websites and apps!

The best part is the ad has three call-to-action opportunities:

  • Clicks on the Social Media logo and your profile image, take the users to your Social Media business page.
  • Clicks on the Call-To-Action button take the users to your website.
  • Clicks on the Social Media icons below the ad take you to that post on your Social Media page.

On the visual above, if you click on the upper right hand corner on the Twitter icon it takes you to the Twitter business pages (this is the same for all the social icons except for the SnapChat icon – that goes to “add me” as a friend since you can’t socially post).  The Call-To-Action button, in the case above the “Learn More” button goes to the advertiser’s website and landing page of choice.  The social action icons below the CTA go to the specific post and allow the user to complete additional actions (like, share etc.).

To show return on investment, we can report the total number of all the various clicks on the ad in your monthly report.

With Social Mirror ads we are NOT running the ad on the social media platform. Notice in the example above, the ad is not on Twitter, it is on the website Business Insider. What we are doing, is “mirroring” the EXACT look of your social post as an ad that runs on thousands of OTHER websites and apps, targeting just to the people you want to reach, across all devices.

The ads can be display, video or even carousel depending on the social platform, so creatively there is a tremendous amount of flexibility.  Static, video, carousel can be run for most (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), although some ad platforms, like Snapchat, users would only expect a video or static ad, not a carousel.  TikTok and YouTube users may expect a video, since it’s a video platform.

Social Mirror ads can be done with any organic or paid posts from your business account on these eight social media platforms:

So how are these ads targeted? As always, we start with the geographic area. You tell us the geographic area you want to reach, and then we layer in targeting strategies like Behavioral Targeting, Keyword Targeting, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Targeting and this also works with Retargeting as well.

  • Behavioral Categories – Showing your Social Mirror ads to specific consumers based on their previous on-line behavior, across all devices.
  • Keywords – Showing your Social Mirror ads on webpages and apps that contain keywords related to your business, across all devices.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Showing your Social Mirror ads to people using machine learning to target consumers based on who is engaging with the ad, across all devices.
  • Retargeting– Following people after they leave your website and showing them your Social Mirror ad, on other websites and apps they go to, across all devices.

Here is an example of what a social mirror ad might look like in the wild, using our keyword strategy:

We can also use Mobile Conquesting Cross Device Targeting to follow people who have been served a Mobile Conquesting ad, a Social Mirror ad when they go onto all their different devices.

Now as for results, the average click thru rate (CTR) for a social mirror ad is .49% which is 7x higher than the national average.

We have also found that there is little variance on the performance across the different platforms. Meaning all the different types of Social Mirror ads linking to the 8 different social platforms, performed well.

As far as reporting, you won’t be able to tell you how many clicks go to the social page vs their website, but you do get an overall click total for the ads.

So there you have it! It is as simple as a post looking in the mirror and seeing something even greater!

How Are You Reaching Consumers Impacted by the Pandemic?

I was at the grocery store the other day and as I was waiting to check out (six feet behind the person in front of me of course) I caught myself staring at the cashier. I was thinking that he looked familiar, but I could not put my finger on who it was or how I knew him. The more I kept looking at him trying to figure it out, the more I realized that he was doing the same thing to me. Now, for me not to be able to place a finger on how I know someone is unheard of. I might not remember someone’s name, but you can bet that I can remember how I know them, so this whole process was driving me nuts. When I finally got up to the register, we were still looking at each other and trying to place it. Finally, it clicked; it was my next door neighbor! I have seen this kid every day for over 4 years, but because he had his mask on, I couldn’t tell who it was.

It has been a year, right? I have heard the words “unprecedented” and “social distance” more times in the last 8 months than I have in 33 years combined. Also, if I had a dollar for every time I have said “Oh shoot, I forgot my mask”, I would be on a white sandy beach with a margarita. I have gotten used to elbow bumps, not shaking hands, and not standing next to people too closely. While we have all had to make changes in our personal and professional lives to accommodate for COVID-19, businesses owners have had their lives flipped upside down with all of the mandates that are provided on capacity, staffing, procedures, etc., but another thing that they have had to shift their mindset on, is advertising.

There are so many ways that business owners can advertise their business with digital advertising. They can utilize strategies on the more traditional side with product like Google Pay-Per-Clicks ads or Display Ads, or they can get a little more targeted with sophisticated products like Amazon Targeting and Mobile Conquesting. One of the more popular products that is out there is Mobile Conquesting, and there is good reason for it being as popular as it is. This is a product that allows for advertisers to reach consumers in multiple ways like Behavioral Targeting and targeting them with Online Behaviors and Offline Behaviors, Address Targeting, Geo-Fencing, and Cross Platform Targeting.

The first step with Mobile Conquesting is to determine the geographic area that you would like to reach. One of the great things about digital advertising is that it can go anywhere and you aren’t limited to the town or city that your business is located in. So if a business has started selling online, due to COVID-19 restrictions for in-store visitors, they might want to reach on a more regional or even national level.  You can target by certain cities, zip codes, states, or even by a radius around a particular location. This is where it gets fun because you don’t want to target EVERYONE in that designated area, so the next step is to determine who we want to target by using Online Behaviors and Offline Behaviors. Targeting by Online Behaviors is where we are targeting people who have shown specific behaviors online, or are in a certain demographic. For example, Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1976), Discount Shoppers (people who shop at discount stores), Veterans and Military (people involved with Military forces at some point), and Young Professionals (working professionals under 35 years old). Offline Behaviors are targeting people by where they have been tracked with their phone recently such as a location, business, or specific brand name stores in the last 30-90 days. Some examples are Agricultural Construction, Animal Shelters, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Holiday Inn. If someone is within that geographic target area and has shown specific behaviors or has been to certain locations, they now have the ability to see your ad.

One thing that I mentioned above for Offline Behaviors is that we are looking at people who have recently been to certain locations in the past 30-90 days. Now, I don’t know about you, but the past 30-90 days I haven’t ventured too far from the living room, kitchen, dining room, basement, or bedroom, so what good is it for advertisers to target people based on where they have recently been the last 30-90 days since people haven’t been able to go many places due to the pandemic?

Just like business owners have had to shift gears to navigate how to continue to run their business in this time, the Mobile Conquesting exchange has done the same thing and they have added new categories into the mix that are based around peoples activity during the pandemic. These categories were created to compare how people moved in January to mid-February 2020 compared to now, and then updated in real-time as things open up. The new categories are:

  • Shelter-In-Place: High Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that they are moving at or near pre-stay-at-home order activity levels. Indicates that users have been active, moving at near pre-shutdown visitation levels.
  • Shelter-In-Place: Moderate Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that their movement patterns are beginning to trend upward, approaching pre-stay-at-home order activity levels. Indicates that users are becoming more active, reemerging toward pre-shutdown visitation levels.
  • Shelter-In-Place: Low Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that they are moving at a substantially suppressed level relative to the pre-stay-at-home order time period.  Indicates that these users are limiting their activity as much as possible.

So how can these new categories help business owners? Using these categories can help highlight portions of your business that are going to be attractive to consumers based on their movement history over the last few months. For example, targeting people who have high movement is a great way to let people know you are back to business and that you are open. These are people that are getting back a sense of normalcy and are looking to physically get back in stores, so you can use this as an opportunity to promote in-store specials.

If you are a business that has adopted curbside service, targeting people that have shown moderate movement is a great way to promote your that particular service. These are the people that are starting to show that their movement is increasing, so maybe they are looking to get back to shopping and eating out, but don’t necessarily want to physically go into stores. Curbside pickup at retail stores is a service and convenience that has surged during the pandemic, and it is likely here to stay, so even as things get back to normal, it is a great service to promote to let consumers know that it is something that you are offering.

For businesses that are offering delivery services, you are going to want to incorporate targeting people with low movement into your advertising. These are people that are not moving too much with their devices, so a service that they might interested in would be delivery. Pre-Covid-19, local businesses largely distinguished themselves through the value of their products and services. They may have offered delivery as an add-on service, but traditional, in-person service was likely a core tenet driving their operations. This is another example of how businesses have had to pivot to figure out an angle to keep business running as smoothly as possible under the circumstance. Just as with curbside service, delivery service is something that is on the rise with businesses and likely isn’t going anywhere. Some of the industries to really thrive during the pandemic with delivery services is not only restaurants, but also meal delivery services, and grocery delivery. People don’t want to go to the grocery store, so they are turning to having meals delivered to their house or their groceries delivered.

Another way to utilize the new categories that have been added to Mobile Conquesting is Cross Platform Targeting. By using this strategy, advertisers can still target people that have shown low movement, moderate movement, or high movement, but that same person can then see your ad while they are browsing online, across ALL their devices – not just their mobile phone, with a regular Display ad, Native ad, Video Pre-Roll ad, or while they are on Facebook and Instagram. The way that it works is you select your geographic area that you want to target, you select the behavioral targeting categories that you want to utilize, and then when someone is served that ad, whether they click on that or not, they then have the potential to see that same ad while they are on other websites or while they are on Facebook and/or Instagram. This is a great option because people might see an ad on their phone, and maybe they want to look at your dinner menu or they want to order groceries, but they are more likely to do that on a bigger device like a desktop or a laptop. With Cross Platform Targeting, that allows for that person to see that ad on their mobile device, but then also see it again on a larger device.

Here is an example of what a Mobile Conquesting Cross Device Platform to Facebook ad might look like. BJ’s Wholesale Club is targeting all the Shelter in Place categories and promoting their curbside pickup, ship to home option, and same day delivery services, and since that person was served an ad on his mobile device and they are using the Cross Platform targeting, he is now seeing that ad on his Facebook News Feed across any device he uses:

Being able to cater to consumers and allow them to do business with you in a way that they are most comfortable with is going to set you apart from your competitors, and using digital as a platform to get your message out to the targeted audience you want is a win/win situation for everyone.

How Does Mobile Targeted Advertising Work?

Let’s face it…people love their smart phones. Really! And…they can’t really live without them. What would consumers give up instead of their smartphones? Here’s what the Boston Consulting Group found in their survey.

We have our phones attached to us at all times, in some form. Whether it’s in your purse, in your pocket, in your bag, or, in most cases, in your hands, we carry our phones with us every where we go. That’s why Mobile Advertising, or Mobile Conquesting as we call it, continues to evolve so quickly. These advertiser-friendly upgrades and additions make it one of the top products used by our clients across the country. These updates include Cross Device Targeting and Cross Platform Targeting.

Not everything has changed with Mobile Conquesting though. The targeting options and how the ads are served are still the same. Once you have a geographic area in mind to target, you then can utilize both online and offline behaviors to reach your potential customers. Online behaviors target people who have shown specific behaviors online or are within a certain demographic. Offline behaviors target people based on where they have been tracked with their phone recently (i.e. business, location, or specific brand name store). The placement of ads continue to be served on apps and mobile websites that people browse/use while they are on their mobile devices.

Geo-Fencing and Geo-Retargeting

One of the most utilized functions of the Mobile Conquesting ad product is the use of Geo-Fencing and Geo-Retargeting.  Geo-Fencing, a term you have probably heard many times, is where you can target people inside a tight radius, in real time while at a specific location. You could target them while they’re at your competitors’ locations, certain businesses, or events. With this function, a virtual fence is placed around your desired list of locations. Then, when someone enters the fenced location with their mobile device, you now have the ability to have an ad served to them if they are browsing apps and websites that accept ads. At some point, we know those people at those Geo-Fenced locations are going to leave. That’s where Geo-Retargeting comes into play. This function allows us to continue to target those mobile devices that were within the Geo-Fences, much like retargeting follows people online after they leave a specific website. This strategy allows us to continue to target those potential customers that visited your set of locations.

Now, we can take this one step further. Ever hear the expression “Keeping up with the Jones”? I’m not sure who the Jones’ are, but everyone wants to keep up with them. Utilizing a function called Geo-Retargeting Lookalike, not only can we follow people after they leave the Geo-Fenced area, but now we have the ability to also target people that live near them. Basically, on the premise that people that live in the same neighborhoods are typically of the same socioeconomic level, we want to be able to broaden our reach. For example, Car Dealership A wants to Geo-Fence Car Dealership B and serve ads to people that go to that dealership. We can Geo-Fence car dealership B. Then, with Geo-Retargeting, we can follow those people after they leave car dealership B. Maybe they haven’t bought a car yet? Then, when one of those visitors to Car Dealership B gets home, we can start serving ads to people in their neighborhood in case someone else may want to buy a car.

Weather Trigger

For businesses that are impacted by weather, like a roofing company, or a car wash, Mobile Conquesting also offers Weather Trigger Targeting. With this function, a business’ ads would be served only when a certain weather condition takes place. Let’s say a car wash wants to promote their services and special pricing to entice car owners to get a wash after it rains. They could set a weather trigger campaign in place to only show their ads when it rains. This would allow the car wash to focus on that special.

Evolving. That’s what Mobile Conquesting does best. Here’s where a lot of these upgrades and enhancements come into play.

Address Targeting & Address Retargeting

Do you have a database of customers? Past customers? Leads? What if you were able to take that list and target 100% of them with your ads on their mobile devices? Address Targeting does just that. We can target people from your list of home addresses and serve ads to them when they are at that address. Then, we continue to follow them after they leave and show them your ads while they’re on the go, that’s the Address Retargeting.

This process works by submitting an excel list of your households you want to target with ads . As long as the list is your data, a minimum of 100 addresses, and if you do purchase a list, you’ll need to make sure it is an “opt-in to be marketed to list,” we can make it work.  The coordinates of each address are mapped, and then the ads are served to the users at that address when on their mobile devices on apps or websites containing ads. And..continues to show them ads when they are outside of their home.

It’s 100% privacy compliant because individual household information is not seen. The system sees it as a group of people to target – an audience. It’s also 100% match rate (well.. with the exception of individual apartment units and office suites, along with PO Boxes).

Cross Platform Targeting

Here’s another enhancement! Cross Platform Targeting. What if you could start by targeting someone on their mobile device, then continue to follow them onto other ad platforms on ANY device they use?! This is a really cool feature!

When the potential customer is served a Mobile Conquesting ad, a “universal pixel” is deployed with it. It organizes digital device IDs associated with an individual across all of their devices. It’s built when a user does something online to connect their IDs to other IDs associated with them, across multiple digital devices, using mobile device IDs, IP Addresses, and cookies. Basically, the “universal pixel” is finding that user on other advertising platforms by identifying the user on other devices being used by that person.

Think about this. You are Geo-Fencing a competitor. You start serving ads to potential customers that have been in their store. With Geo-Retargeting, you’re also serving ads on their mobile device after they leave your competitor. Now, what if you could also start serving ads to them on Facebook while their on their laptop? That’s exactly what Cross Platform Targeting can do.

You can utilize Cross Platform Targeting to reach people with Social Media ads, Native Display Ads, (regular) Display Ads or Video Pre-Roll ads. You’re targeting the same people and behavioral categories that you choose from Mobile Conquesting; but now have the ability to target them on ANY device the person uses (not just mobile).

On-Site Visits

On-Site Visits. Being able to track ROI is important to every business. Being able to track on-site visits of people who have been served the mobile ad, is one of the methods that Mobile Conquesting offers to be able to do just that. We can track people who see your ad and then come to your business within two weeks after seeing it. We can’t track everyone that gets served your ad and visits your location. On average, we can track about 25% of the traffic. Here’s why. In order for us to track someone that has been served your ad and comes into your business, they must meet the following requirements:
– Visit your store within 2 weeks of seeing your ad
– Have their GPS function on their mobile device enabled
– Browsing on their phone while at your location

But, the good news is that every month you’d be able to see those verified visits on your monthly report as well as the estimated visits.

Lastly, medical companies and medical targeting have always had a lot of restrictions. However, this industry has also been allowed to expand its ability to utilize Mobile Conquesting. You can now target using job titles, specific diseases and other medical terms and categories. This is huge for this industry and they also can now target people on their mobile devices.

As a business owner, the goal is to be able to target your potential customers wherever they go. Mobile Conquesting has proven to be a multi-faceted tool to be able to accomplish that. It’s almost like the Swiss Army Knife. It’s got a solution to basically every challenge. As you’re looking to reach your potential customers, our Mobile Conquesting should definitely be one of the tools that you use.

The Ultimate Amazon Ad Buying Guide for Small Businesses

Historically when it comes to ad buying you have two giants fighting for business ad dollars: Google and Facebook.  Globally, Google is the largest digital ad seller in the world in 2019, accounting for 31.1% of ad spending, or $103.73 billion. Facebook has cut the Google lead in half with $67.37 billion in net ad revenues.  In 2019 Amazon netted $14.3 billion in ad revenue, mainly from managed and small pay-per-click accounts within the storefront platform on Amazon.com.  However with the launch of their Self-Serve Amazon DSP (demand-side platform), the third sleeping giant has awoken. 

ST Digital has been beta testing the Amazon DSP since mid-2019.  There are big barriers to entry to get access to the DSP, the biggest being the cost. From Amazon: “the managed-service option is a great solution for companies that want access to Amazon DSP inventory with white-glove service or those with limited programmatic experience. The managed-service option typically requires a minimum spend of $35,000.”  That is just the cost for Amazon to manage a campaign for you. Using their DSP in a self-service capacity increases the minimum spend to six figures.  Because the DSP is so new, they can’t train you on it, or give you collateral, and would require you to have the navy seal team of ad buyers on your team to learn it yourself. And we did.

We are very proud that starting May 13, 2020 we are offering Amazon account buying to all of our clients, for a fraction of that cost! We are amongst the first digital marketing companies in the nation to offer this level of buying across Amazon along with thorough training, collateral, reporting, and optimization.  And it’s such an important time to be on Amazon as their stats are absolutely staggering:

  • 96% of consumers surveyed had visited Amazon within the last year
  • Amazon averages more than 200 million unique visitors per month
  • Amazon makes up 49% of all online retail spend in the US
  • Amazon had over 2.01 billion combined desktop and mobile visits
  • 50% of U.S. internet users start product searches on Amazon compared to 35% on Google

That last stat has a lot of people paying attention. Amazon has massive data accumulated about its users which we can use to target ads both on and off Amazon. We can target with display ads on and off Amazon.com and video/OTT on Amazon owned properties and partner websites and apps.

Whenever you talk about a new DSP, its important to understand their terms and definitions.  Non-endemic is a term Amazon uses to refer to businesses that do not have e-commerce on their site, or do not sell their products on Amazon.  This is verticals like automotive, law offices, colleges and universities, financial institutions, and medical facilities.  All are considered non-endemic but can greatly benefits from the targeting Amazon has to offer.

If you do have e-commerce on your site, Amazon doesn’t let you show your display ads on Amazon.com, however you can utilize your display, video, or OTT ads on Amazon owned properties and thousands of other websites and apps Amazon has partnered with, across all devices.  This is what we call Amazon Premium, which is a combination of:

  • Amazon.com (also called Amazon proper): About 5-10% of your display ads will run on Amazon.com, targeting the types of people you want to reach.  Why that low? Only display ads can be purchased and they are often at the bottom of the page.  But the power is in the targeting data, which we use to find those people in other places such as Amazon owned properties and the Amazon Publishers (see below).

  • Amazon Properties: We can target users on properties that Amazon owns, including Fire TV, IMDb.com and IMDb TV.  IMDb.com (owned by Amazon) is the world’s most popular searchable database for info on movies, TV, and celebrities with 83 million users. Ads are display or video and use Amazon Targeting.  IMDb TV is its FREE “Over The Top” (OTT) streaming service to watch movies and TV series. Viewable on computers, mobile devices, Fire TV, Echo screen and Apple TV.  Fire TV (owned by Amazon) is a device that plugs into your Connected TV and enables access to hundreds of video streaming apps that contain movie or TV content.

  • Amazon Publishers: We can use Amazon data to target on over 5,000 websites and apps Amazon has partnered with to reach their users with display, video, and OTT.  These comScore 100 publishers and high-quality sites that have a direct partner relationship with Amazon including Reddit, BuzzFeed, BBC America, Realtor.com, Web MD, and Tubi to name a few.

How We Target Ads Using Amazon Data

When it comes to the Amazon DSP there are four major products: Amazon Behavioral targeting, Amazon Product Targeting, Amazon Custom Audience Matching & Lookalike, and Amazon Retargeting.  This is not to be confused with advertising for your own storefront on Amazon with sponsored listings or $1 per day minimums on pay-per-click advertising.  Rather this is specific to advertising for businesses that do not sell their products or services on Amazon.  

Here is a breakdown of each:

  • Amazon Behavioral Targeting: Showing your display, video, or OTT ads to specific consumers based on their Amazon purchase history, searches, and browsing, across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  There are thousands of categories you can target with Amazon data including presence of children within a specific age in your home, recent movers, home owners, income levels, in-market for a variety of things like automotive (Polk is the 3rd party provider of Amazon’s automotive data), weddings, home improvement, jewelry, careers, etc.  You can even target by interests on Amazon Prime video.  For example, I could target by anyone who watched a show or movie with Brad Pitt in it in the last 30 days.

  • Amazon Product Targeting: We build an audience of consumers who have searched, browsed or purchased specific products on Amazon, and show them your display, video, or OTT ad across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  Every product on Amazon has an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) which we pull from each listing.  This is a massive amount of first party Amazon data is gathering through product views, product purchases, and product searches.  From there you can tell us three products of interest on Amazon and we custom create the audience who are interested in those products.  For instance, if you wanted to reach new parents, we could go after a specific diaper size, infant cars seats or baby books.  If you were interested in a bride-to-be, we could target by wedding invitations, wedding decorations or bridal party gifts.  If your goal is to reach college students you can target by textbooks, dorm room decorations, or dorm refrigerators.  Product lists are custom built for each campaign to target the exact audience you want to reach.

  • Amazon Custom Audience Matching & Lookalike: We take your list of customer emails or household addresses, match them to Amazon users and show your display, video, or OTT ads across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps. We can also build a Lookalike Audience of the people on your list and show them your ad.  You will need a list of a minimum of 10,000 names.  On Amazon we have experienced a list match rate of about 30%-50%, and if you want to only run Lookalike you need a matched list of about 20,000 records.  By default, Lookalike is set to 90 days, however we can go as far back as 180 days.  What I am most excited about is the fact you can now utilize a CRM or other database list, to market to those people on the list via OTT ads.  This is not something ST Digital could offer before, particularly for our automotive, education, law service and financial partners.
  • Amazon Retargeting: Your ads follow people after they leave your website, showing them your display, video, or OTT ads across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  Retargeting is triggered after you install an Amazon container tag or pixel on your website, and anyone who leaves your site and visits Amazon, Amazon properties or partners or app sees your ad.  Currently Dynamic Retargeting is not available. 

As you can see, the Amazon DSP is an incredibly powerful targeting tool that is now in competition with Facebook and Google for the coveted ad dollar. If you have any questions about a specific product, or want to learn more, please let us know.

Online Audio – What is it and is it HEAR to stay?

So many listeners out there, but how much are we listening? Personally, I would say I spend 2-3 hours a day listening to some type of online audio. In our household alone we account for 7 hours a day, at least!

The average user of online audio spends about 16 hours and 43 minutes a week! So, to answer the above question we are listening A LOT!

How can you use this to your advantage in this space? It is projected that ad dollars spent on streaming audio will rise 17% this year. We can take an audio commercial and target these listeners with Online Audio Ads. Online audio ads will target online listeners who are consuming online audio across devices. Devices include smartphones, smart speakers, laptops, desktops, tablets and even connected TVs streaming through apps. There are many targeting options available. First, we select the geographic are you are trying to reach and then we can target certain demographics or behaviors, like “small business decision-makers”, “gym-goers” or even “Major Appliance shoppers” to name a few. We also pair Artificial Intelligence targeting to help zero in on the core customer. AI optimizes when users are online and engaging. AI also takes into account, audience behaviors/characteristics, how frequently the user has been served impressions from this advertiser and how recently the user has been served impressions from this advertiser.

Where the ads will run is across major apps like Spotify, TuneIn, Triton, SoundCloud, iHeart and Dozens of online audio platforms.  Spotify is quickly becoming a leader in audio listening and is projected to take the lead over Pandora in 2020.

By June 2017, Spotify had 144 million monthly active users (MAU). It almost doubled that by the second quarter of 2019, tapping into 232 million MAUs. Of these, total premium Spotify subscribers amount to 100 million or more. Spotify has a 36% share of the global music streaming industry and this continues to grow. Smart speakers and mobile have been huge drivers of this growth.

According to Edison research and Triton Digital, 23% of the US population owns at least one smart speaker and over half of the people that do have more than one.  By the end of 2020 it is projected that 75% of all US households will have a smart speaker.

When streaming audio from a laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile device a companion banner ad can appear that is clickable. Below is an example of an ad on Mobile using Spotify.

Online Audio as a marketing tool is great for branding and awareness. It is also great at building loyalty with listeners. As consumers, we can be brand loyal and more than half of the people listening to podcasts said that they are somewhat more likely or much more likely to consider the brand they hear advertised. As an avid podcast listener, I would 100% agree with this statement. Whenever I hear a commercial during an episode of Dax Shepard Arm Chair Expert, my brow immediately raises and I pay attention to this brand more and have even sought out the product or service later on my own time to find out what it is all about. The inner voice in my head says, “If Dax endorses this product, then I must check this out!”

Now, what should your online audio ad include?

  1. The ask. Determine what the ask is in your ad and how hard you are going to sell it. How are you going to approach your listeners? Just like radio you need to command your audience in the right way. If it is a soft sell, it is suggestive but does not directly scream the call to action. If it is a medium sell you want to ask for their business but not in a forceful manner. If it is a hard sell, demand that listeners’ attention and create a sense of urgency.
  2. Script & Tone Your script should not exceed 30 seconds. Choose either a 15 second or 30 second or a script for both. The script should be a good representation of your brand in a conversational way. This will resonate with those listeners much better and will leave a great impression of the brand. Keep in mind you don’t have a lot of time to hook your listener. Decide one key takeaway in your script and make sure the message is concise and clear and you lead with this information.  Audio listeners are generally multitasking, so you want a message to cut through the clutter and is easy to follow along. Don’t cram 50 words in 30 seconds. Keep it simple.
  3. Voice
    Make sure the voice you use for your commercial is appealing and will connect with your audience. Have you ever listened to an audiobook with a horrible voice? This is a key component of your commercial so your audience will stay tuned in.
  4. Sounds
    Create a nice transition for your listener. Ads are inserted between songs, interviews or podcast content, so you need a nice clean start and finish to your ad. Music and sounds can be included but consider the volume of these and don’t start on a loud note.

Online Audio is also a great way to reach a more affluent audience. Monthly podcast consumers are typically in upper household incomes.

Streaming the Serial podcast or Armchair Expert by Dax Shepard or listening to the Amos Lee music channel on Spotify are common actions done on my iPhone and smart speakers; many times, up to several hours a day. Am I alone? Heck no. Even my kids have jumped on board; my 6-year-old with “Alexa play the new Frozen 2 songs” or my teenager with “Play the top 5 or make a new playlist.”

But it is not just me and my kids, across all ages online audio is HOT! The younger generation is eating it up, followed by 25-54 years old and even 55 and older are listening to their fair share. 74% of people 25-54 listened to online audio last month. For many advertisers, this is their marketing
sweet spot.

And the % of adults listening to online audio continues to rise. In the last month, 67% of the entire US population listened to online audio.

When it comes to streaming, Nielsen finds the average user with 41% of their weekly music listening time spent with streaming.

Nielsen says audio streaming reached 745.7 billion streams (up 23.8%). This growing demand for streaming music presents a new opportunity for online audio advertisers, as Comscore research indicates that free, ad-supported listening accounts for around three-quarters (77%) of music streaming app accounts. And that’s just the music apps.  There are so many ways to stream audio content as well from Podcasts, sporting events, news and more.

Podcasts have gone gaga! More than HALF of the US are listening to podcasts. And much like binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, we are now binge listening as well. Research has shown that on average podcast listener listens to seven podcasts a week.

So online audio is like Radio transformed. We always need noise in our life, whether we are driving in the car, working out at the gym, flying for hours or just to break up the silence while working in your office. Personally, sometimes I welcome the quiet, after having rambunctious kids in the car or when I finally have some alone time at home, but those are rare occasions.

Borrell forecasts broadcast radio’s digital sales will grow 27% in 2020, hitting $1.25 billion. With radio on the rise, they attribute 12.8% of radio groups revenue coming from digital maybe even higher if you factor in online ad advertisements.

It is safe to say that online audio is booming like crazy and it is HEAR to stay. It is a great tool to target engaged listeners for branding and awareness, generate lift in purchase intent and to create brand loyalty.

What are OTT ads?

Are you down with OTT? You should be! Recent data shows more than half of all American adults are devouring over the top (OTT) content, and it is not a passing fad.

Ask friends for advice on a new show to watch or ask co-workers what movies they recently caught. You are not going to hear them talking about traditional TV, you are going to hear about an original series only found on Prime, or the latest Netflix movie. You might hear about a documentary or stand-up comedy show they are binging on through their Chromecast or Apple TV, and if you do hear about The Bachelorette or This is Us, they are likely watching it through their ABC or NBC app rather than through cable.

What does OTT even mean? It stands for Over The Top, initially named in reference to devices that bypass cable and instead go “over” a cable box to give the user access to streaming TV content. In OTT channels, content is delivered via an internet connection rather than through a traditional cable/broadcast provider.  

People are cutting their cable cords and are watching what they want, when they want. Many don’t even have to cut the cord, they never had it, their official term is “cord-nevers”. In fact, it is estimated that 67 million Americans do not pay for a traditional TV service and 1.3 million Americans cancelled their pay-TV service in the 1st quarter of 2019.

Streaming options continue to rise and there are a lot of players in the game and from Apple TV+ to Disney + the options seem endless. With so many options to choose from, people are likely pondering just how many of these streaming options we need AND how many can be supported? A new survey of 2000 plus verified adult users of OTT services is attempting to answer some if these burning questions by digging a little deeper. The survey, conducted by the Harris Poll and AdTech platform Open X , has revealed many interesting facts:

  • 52% of all US Adults over 18 use at least one OTT service
  • The average OTT user streams more than 2 hours of content every day
  • The average OTT user streams content across three devices and uses three different OTT services.
  • Usage also varies by age with Millennials spending more time on their phones than they do sleeping and 1 in 3 OTT users stating that screen size has no impact on the type of content or how long they watch.

What does this all mean? That OTT is rapidly becoming the norm. People are not just testing the waters anymore, they have cannon-balled into it and are swimming freely.

The next question in my mind then is just how many streaming services does one really need? And, how many is too many for the market? How many monthly fees are we willing to pay when new streaming services are coming at us all fast and furiously?  Survey says, “Up to $100 per month for about 15 channels/outlets.”

Are you overwhelmed? Most of us are. Managing our streaming subscriptions does not spark joy. We want it to be easy. Easy to choose, easy to manage and easy to navigate, however, there is no perfect way to cut the cord and no perfect magical combination of streaming that will give you everything you want.

Take sports for example. We have a Roku in our house, and I live with some massive soccer fans. In the last four weeks we have downloaded at least four different services in order to watch specific games that were not being broadcast on a service we already have. Keep in mind, in the last four weeks we have also decided to cancel two subscriptions. One as soon as the free trial was complete and the other as soon as the super special unicorn game we could only find on that app was over. We decided to keep one as it has a more massive variety and sports package and as for the fourth service, we are still in the trial period and we are still mulling over how necessary it is and if we want to keep it.

I would imagine a lot of households work this way. We are all constantly patching together different combinations of services to get just the right fit, yet like your favorite jeans, that perfect fit can be really hard to come by.  

The average consumer subscribes to at least three services, and we will continue to see several more debuts in the next year or less. Now instead of just turning the TV on, we actually need to compile a strategy and game plan to watch TV.

What makes us decide which services to use? Content is huge. For us, it was about where can we watch this game and who has it? Often there is only one place to watch so the choice is simple. The survey agrees to a point and determined that while specialized content is a good way to attract new viewers, it is not enough the keep them long term. 

As we are all working on patching together our own personal quilts of streaming, advertisers are busy keeping up with it all.

It is estimated that $76.1 billion was spent on advertising to television audiences in 2019, down from $79.3 billion in 2018. For 2020 it is predicted to rise 4% thanks to all the political ads we can expect in an election year.

What about Video ads and what do those budgets look like? According the IAB, marketers report we will see an increase for digital video budgets by 25%.

Some key areas are driving this spend increase:

Original Digital Video content— ODV now averages $9.3M (up 31% y/y); although advertisers consider ODV “essential”, the spend on this content type is still challenged by “quality of content”

• Advanced TV— Nearly 60% of advertisers report that they will increase their budgets for ATV this year, primarily because they find OTT to be beneficial in delivering tough to reach audiences

• Mobile and Desktop have reached parity in spending, with nearly two-thirds of the total digital video spend allocated evenly across the two devices

• Programmatic— Growth in digital video programmatic spending is expected to rise +4% year/year, now reaching 53% overall

With more video ads coming at them, how are OTT audiences responding to ads, especially when they are consuming content on their mobile devices? Going back to our Harris Poll and AdTech platform Open X survey, 40 percent of all OTT users will pause a commercial on their phone, search for info on the product, and display intent to purchase. That is a HUGE opportunity for brands as OTT adverting could generate incredible results. The key is to determine the best approach, the creative needs to be strong and there must be a call to action.   

Another challenge for advertisers is the diversity of the OTT universe. Not all providers allow advertising and not all in the same way. Some platforms are ad supported and others are not which makes it difficult to achieve a tactic that encompasses the whole scene.

The survey found:

• 72% of OTT users understand there is a trade off between watching free content and having advertisers use their data to serve ads, and most do not find ads bothersome if they are relevant
• 46% of OTT customers are willing to pay $10/month for a service with no ads
• 25% prefer a free service with ads
• 29% want a hybrid model with a few ads and a lower monthly cost
• Consumers are willing to pay up to $24/month for a premium package on a single service

These findings hint that OTT providers will most likely arrive at some kind of tiered pricing model with at least one of the tiers being ad supported to include the different customer segments.

As for ad targeting and personalization, there is immense potential to grow as we narrow in on the exact users. Lawrence suggests, “Advertisers will require a much richer inventory of creative to appeal to individual audiences and subsegments.” The concern here is the survey also found a approximately one third of consumers share passwords for OTT services. So he also cautions, “if the account holder is a 55 year-old married couple, but actual primary user is a 21 year-old college student, there might still be a disconnect.”

Although we don’t have all the answers yet, this new survey does help us to quantify some of the changes and gives us a bit of a baseline. I personally have lived through antenna only TV with no remote control, to FINALLY getting cable and the ever so important MTV in high school, to not being able to live without HBO, to all the on demand cartoons my boys watched to the now teens in my family downloading and deleting streaming services at a blinding speed. I’m not certain what exactly is next but I’m down with OTT and excited for the ride!

Top Digital Advertising Trends for 2020

Anywhere you look, you’re going to see trends for the new year, trends for the new decade, and all sorts of news about the “visionary” year of 2020.  Looking ahead, here are a few key things to watch out for as you plan and finalize your marketing budgets.

Instagram Ads –

We all know Instagram as Facebook’s little brother.  But, Facebook’s trusty sidekick has seen some impressive growth since it’s inception in 2010, and even more so since Facebook took control in 2012.

According to this article, there are “More than 500 million people using Instagram Stories every day.”  Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users.  That means there is plenty of opportunity for businesses to utilize this platform to expand their customer base. 

There are so many ways that you can utilize Instagram as part of your digital strategy.  Here are a few reasons that might clear up your thoughts on whether you should use Instagram for your business:

  • 72% of users have bought a product they saw on Instagram.  This stat alone should be a driving force for you.
  • Instagram has access to Facebook’s targeting options.  This is HUGE!  Facebook is an advertising beast, and known for having one of the most advanced social media advertising platforms, and Instagram has that same capability.
  • Instagram is a visual platform.  Because this app is photo-centric, people are expecting to see photos and videos of your products/services.  You can add text if you’d like, but it’s not mandatory.  Having a photo or video centric platform allows your followers to remember your brand better.

There are many industries using Instagram to their benefit.  For example, if you’re an auto dealer, check out this blog on how you could use social media, including Instagram, to promote your dealership.  Also, casinos utilize the popular carousel ad to highlight different entertainment and food options, along with their gaming opportunities.

Voice Search –

It’s here. Are you ready for it?  Voice search is growing every day.  How many times have you talked to Siri or Alexa today looking for the nearest restaurant or the latest show times of the movie you want to watch?

When it comes to Voice Search, it’s imperative that your SEO is being optimized for it.  With 41% of adults using this tool daily, being optimized for voice search is so important.  When people use voice search, they are usually looking for deals and sales, personalized tips, information about upcoming events, and customer service… ALL of which should be aspects of your business info that is optimized for voice search!

Here are a few ways your business can get found in Voice Search:

  • Get to “position zero” (first organic listing on Google)
  • Optimize your Google My Business listing
  • Long tail keywords and questions on your website
  • Lightening fast page speed
  • Accurate online directory listings

Be sure to consult an SEO professional and have the discussion about ensuring your business is being optimized for Voice Search.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Ads–

What is AI? Simply put, it’s showing your display or video ads to people across all devices, using machine learning to target consumers based on who is engaging with the ad.

The advancement in technology is unbelievable and being up to date on the latest and greatest is a huge advantage your company can have over the competition.

Think about it this way, AI excels at analyzing data in large scale.  Then, this AI learns from the data and can improve its analysis, predictions, and recommendations very quickly. Being able to find people, similar to the people that are interacting with your ads, and showing your ad to them is exactly what you want.  AI is basically creating the ideal customer profile you want.

Video Ads –

According to our own Kiri Tamte-Horan, Digital Video Is King

Simply put, the amount of ad dollars spent on video alone will eclipse even social media.   The main reason…Content.  With video, you have the opportunity to include more content into a smaller amount of time.

From 2015-2020, Video ad spend is projected to have increased 21.9%.  That being said, my only question to you, is where will you place your video advertising?

Mobile Conquesting Ads–

By 2020, over ¾ of all online display advertising revenue will come from mobile, nearing $84.5 billion.

Add in the diversified capabilities of Mobile Conquesting, and you’ve got so many different opportunities to target your potential customers, this should be at the top of your list for digital strategy moving into 2020.  Here are a few ways to get started with Mobile:

Let’s be real…almost everyone has a smart phone these days. Also, most of us live busy lives between our careers, families, and anything else that sets our souls on fire.  We are generations of people on the go.  So, what better way to market to this extremely busy world, then to target them on the device that they always have with them…their smart phone?

As you can see, there are many trends that are taking flight as a new decade approaches.  These are just a few that will help you in your quest for a successful digital campaign.

How Accurate is your Geo-Fencing?

One of the most popular products that we offer is Mobile Conquesting, and it’s also one of the more advanced and sophisticated products we offer, because of all the shiny bells and whistles that it offers. With Mobile Conquesting, we can target people by online behaviors (people who have shown specific behaviors online or are in a certain demographic) and also by offline behaviors (targeting people by where they have been tracked with their phone recently, such as a location, business, or specific brand name stores).

That’s the first layer of Mobile Conquesting. With the second layer, we can add in all sorts of “geo” terms, like geo-fencing, geo-retargeting, and geo-retargeting lookalike, where we put a tight radius around an address to capture device IDs and serve ads to those mobile devices. While this is a really neat product, some people might question the validity of how a tight radius is determined. Is the advertiser going to have wasted impressions because the radius is cutting into the neighboring business? Or they are counting people in the parking lot of the strip center that the business is located in? Is the radius actually around that business owner’s location?


I’m going to break down different methods mobile technology vendors use for geo-fencing businesses:

Radial Fence by Address – The most basic method of location-based geo-fencing is by placing a radius around a place’s address. Since addresses were built to provide directions to the location, many times the physical location is across the parking lot or on the street.  Research estimates that there can be up to 84% waste in targeting this way.

Radial Fence by Geo-Code – This method places a radius around the center of a business or location. Since most locations are not circular, there will inherently be waste. How much waste depends on the size of the radius.  Research estimates that there can be up to 75% waste in targeting this way.

Parcel Mapping -Also known as property mapping and tax mapping are maps typically built to identify property boundaries and is a popular data source for industries such as real-estate. Parcels can often contain many businesses in the same plot.  Research estimates that there can be up to 51% waste in targeting this way.

Polygon Mapping (This is the technology that we use with Mobile Conquesting) – Polygons are formed by tracing the store or place boundary based on satellite images and latitude/longitude and capture the precise boundaries of a location.  Percent waste = 0%

Now that we have taken a peek behind the curtain to see how geo-fencing is put into action, let’s talk about on-site visit tracking. Another one of the bells and whistles that business owners love about Mobile Conquesting is that they can see their return on investment because we can show how many people saw their ad, and then physically came to their location, but how do we track the actual business, and not surrounding areas?

In-Store mapping is the most granular polygon layer, serving to precisely map the outlines of the business or point or interest.

On Lot mapping is a polygon layer that separates a business from it’s parking lot.  In instances of a standalone business, this could be the entire parking lot.  For strip malls or adjacent storefronts, this will typically just be the area directly in front of the business.

Here is an example of an auto dealership polygon: 

How visits are verified:

Once the location signal is matched to a place, the final step is determining whether a visit has actually occurred.  The following data is evaluated to determine whether a visit is deemed to be verified:

  • Store hours – How frequently does the user visit and for how long? What are the store hours and when did the visit take place? Only visits that occur during open store hours are counted.
  • Employee status – Understanding employee status allows (when people work and how often) allows the system to exclude employees.
  • Dwell time – How long did the user spend in the store? Dwell time is used to filter for inaccurate visits.
  • Speed – How fast was the user moving when he/she was tracked as a visit? If they’re moving faster than then the system’s average speed threshold, the visit is not counted.
  • Horizontal accuracy – What is the percent accuracy of the lat/long the system received? If the horizontal accuracy that falls within the polygon that is being tracked is not higher than the system’s average percent threshold, the visit is not counted.

This verification process means that the system has a 94% accuracy rate!

Do You Think Digital Advertising is Creepy?

Even when we’re adults and out on our own, we still call our moms for everything, especially when we don’t feel well. Just last night I called my mom to tell her I had a sore throat and a headache. She gave the typical mom answer and said “gargle with warm salt water and go to bed early and get some rest.” The next morning I woke up and was browsing the internet catching up on what was going on in “Bachelor Nation”, and I kept seeing ads for Dayquil. Coincidence?

Now, what I didn’t tell you before, was that that afternoon I went to Walgreens to buy some Dayquil, cough drops, and tissues, and when I purchased them, I did so with my Walgreens card. Before I went to Walgreens, I also looked up symptoms of strep throat and symptoms of the common cold. Just by doing these simple things, I was targeted because of what online behaviors I showed (behavioral targeting and/or keyword targeting) and where I had recently been (mobile conquesting). Digital advertising allows us to get so targeted, that some people might think it is “creepy”.

It is safe to say that in today’s digital world, ads aren’t going anywhere, so wouldn’t you rather be served ads that are relevant to what you like or enjoy, or are interested in? Personalized ads have a higher click through rate (CTR) than their counterparts ,and they reduce wasted ads spend. Advertisers can get super targeted with their messaging to consumers based on what they look for online, what they search for, what they buy, what they click on, where they frequently visit, where they’ve recently been, and so many other factors. A study done by Epsilion found that four-fifths of consumers are more likely to make purchases when a brand gives them a personalized experience.

As customers, we expect to be treated the way customers should be treated; we all want a personalized experience. If you are out to dinner and the waiter or waitress remembers your name at the end of the meal, you feel special because it was a customized experience. If you check into a hotel and the front desk says to “enjoy your stay Ms. Jones”, you feel special because it is now a personalized experience. Why wouldn’t digital advertisers want to send customized ads to potential customers as well? Seventy five percent of consumers said they prefer a world with fewer, but more personalized ads, with 71% preferring ads that are tailored to their interests and shopping habits.

When you hear about the different ways that we can target people with digital advertising, you might start to feel a bit uneasy, but you are feeling that way as a consumer. Flip that around, it is a way to reach highly qualified potential customers! Your competitors are taking advantage of the advanced technology when it comes to serving ads to a targeted audience, don’t have the “fear of missing out”.

See, digital advertising isn’t creepy; it’s hyper targeted based on individual behaviors to create a customized experience, so go ahead and embrace the ads for those gadgets, gizmos, and trinkets.