How are companies adapting to the elimination of third-party trackers?

There is a boom in creativity as companies adapt to the changing online landscape and invest in branded content.

It's been a year of intense reevaluation for businesses. With changes to everything from the third-party cookie to a rise in new competition for audiences' time, companies prioritize their strengths and remove anything that isn't a core part of their revenue.

For many, that has entailed refocusing on their storytelling ability and direct relationship with audiences. 

And there has never been a better time.

Today's average Internet user spends about 7 hours across all devices, equating to more than 48 hours per week - a full two days of a seven-day week.

As consumption continues to increase across all platforms, including social media, online news, and subscription-based streaming services like Netflix, more and more people are turning away from ad-supported linear offerings.

Expectations have dramatically risen for engaging and entertaining content, and mediocre blogs posts aren't making the cut.

As a result, the whole concept of traditional content marketing has stumbled a bit, leading companies to pouring money into online advertising, particularly PPC, a highly effective strategy for targeting audiences effectively. 

However, consumers dislike advertisements and will pay to avoid them, both online and while watching their favorite shows. According to data, an estimated 27% of internet users now use ad blockers, and CTR (click-through rate) for 2020 ads on Google Search has decreased by 38% since the fourth quarter of 2019.

People are becoming desensitized to traditional advertising, banner ads, and spammy newsletters, spending their time and money on ad-free services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+. In fact, according to Neilsen, nearly half of all time was spent streaming in Q2 2020 on these three services.

⏱ Times Are a-Changin' ⏱

On a technological level, things are moving rapidly toward data protection and privacy. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement is growing, third-party cookies will be a thing of the past for Google Chrome by the end of 2023, and Apple has made its mobile identifier an opt-in feature.

With Chrome enjoying close to a 70% share of the browser market and handling more than half of global web traffic, it effectively sounds the death knell for third-party cookies. 

This means that if your business is currently relying on third-party data…

🚀 Houston… You have a Problem 🚀

Moving forward, you will have to rely on first-party data, which allows you to gather the necessary consent to still use audience data for marketing purposes.

This means if you are relying on this data for retargeting, it's time to start making changes now.

The good news is that with first-party data, you can still utilize an audience retargeting strategy by delivering ads to people who visited your website but didn't convert.

Why? Because you know the source of data and the way that it was collected.

All in all, this is excellent news for consumers because these changes ensure better privacy for consumers and increasing demand for a higher standard of media online.

Capitalism at its finest.

What is High-Quality Content?

Whether big or small, every company aims to increase brand affinity and establish thought leadership with great content. Oftentimes, blog content is produced and shared with the goal of generating organic traffic and reducing PPC spend. In addition, businesses exchange content or service for an email address. 

This strategy can be effective if enough content is produced and it is relevant to the company's industry. But blogging isn't cutting it anymore. While over 7 million blog posts are published every day, only 5% of all content created by businesses generates most of the engagement for brands. In other words, 19 out of 20 blog posts get little to no engagement.

Peddling corporate news and writing painstakingly planned SEO "content" that reads like a friend after one too many beers does not build brand authority and trust, nor does it position your company as a thought leader. In fact, it diminishes your brand in the eyes of viewers because your content reflects your company.

Great content engages people, and in this new landscape, content needs to do more than traditional content marketing or advertising. It needs to entertain and inform. And with third-party tracking on the way out, businesses will have to find new ways to create original content people find engaging.

📏 Measuring Engagement 📐

The general consensus is that content engagement on the web is best measured by three key factors:

1. Active Page Dwell Time -
The amount of time a user spends with content in the foreground tab of a browser.

2. Scroll Rate - The percentage of views where users scrolled, thereby indicating that they're interested in the content on a page.

3. Scroll Depth - This metric analyzes the percentage of the total page length that users scrolled. The more of the page users scroll through the page, the more engaged they are.

How are companies changing

Primary Strategies

1. Figuring out how to get first-party data ASAP.

2. Shifting from CMS blogs to multimedia-rich publications and focusing on Evergreen content.

2. Allocating more resources for in-house creative to produce and distribute branded media.

Getting Creative

From a catchy tagline after a TV advertisement to in-depth white papers downloaded by CIOs and CTOs, content has always been at the core of marketing. However, as demand increases for content generation, it is difficult and costly for companies to keep up and remain relevant.

However, when creativity is imbued into media, it creates a positive attitude toward the brand and results in reduced spend on advertising, so businesses don't have to bear the cost of advertising to 250,000 people and can use their marketing budget much more effectively.

For example, by advertising to 2000 people or businesses that share the same values, CTR is much more likely to increase. It's a more effective long-term strategy rather than creating "recycled" keyword-rich content and boring whitepapers in an attempt to get someone's email, which is just a long spam campaign.

In general, every business wants its content marketing efforts to achieve three primary goals. 

Content Goals

1. Increase brand affinity and build thought leadership.

2. Generate qualified organic traffic and reduce paid traffic spend.

3. Build brand equity and SEO juice with evergreen content.

¿What's the Solution?

🎁 Evergreen 🎁

It's the gift that keeps on giving. It's informative, engaging, and timeless.

Evergreen is everlasting and revolves around a topic that is always of interest to readers, regardless of the current news cycle or season. It's much better to continuously update 10 or 15 evergreen content that will be useful today, a year from now, and two years from now than to have a hundred pieces of low-quality content

When you provide your audience with useful knowledge through evergreen content, you build brand affinity, goodwill, and most importantly, brand equity, adding value to the lives of your audience through telling unique, multimedia stories and spreading knowledge.

🎭 Branded Content 🎭

In-house content studios are now all the rage, with businesses like Red Bull and GoPro leading the way.

And others like Home Depot and Mailchimp are following suit.

It's is proving to be the answer to long-term sustainability problems for most companies, and the biggest names in the industry have restructured their teams to make it a critical part of their digital advertising revenue.

Whether it's a startup looking to disrupt an industry or a Fortune 500 company like IBM or JP Morgan Chase, looking to engage a new generation of customers, companies big and small are changing the way they connect with their audiences - and the best way to do that is through stories, not ads.

Take Bayer, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical corporations. "When a company like Bayer does this, it's no longer a fad; it marks a fundamental shift in the marketplace," said Joshua Palau, VP, responsible for media strategy and platforms at Bayer, at the ANA In-House Agency Conference.

Many other firms, including Clorox, Anheuser-Busch, and Verizon, have established their own marketing departments. They say if you want something done well, you have to do it yourself... So what better way to ensure your brand's content is what you need it to be than to create it in your own studio.

Ultimately, branded content is about delivering value, not marketing pieces, which is crucial for brands. It should come as no surprise, but according to Ascend Integrated Media, 70% of consumers want to learn more about things through content and respond positively to brands that offer meaningful insights.

It's the most effective approach to capturing the attention of new audiences and building trust - because, as all marketers know, time (aka attention) is money.

Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising.

Milton Hershey

Why In-House?

An analysis by the World Federation of Advertisers and The Observatory International found that more than half, 57 percent, of multinational marketers have established an in-house creative agency, and according to a 2021 study by Gartner, 32 percent of CMOs are moving their creative production from agencies this year.

In addition to this greater control, brands that have made this transition have discovered other benefits of not having to run everything through a separate production agency: faster production times and lower costs.

Lowering production costs can enable a company to continue investing in the necessary tools and infrastructure to build a strong internal agency, increase advertising budgets to reach more potential customers, and leverage cutting-edge technology to host and distribute content appropriately.

1. Increased Transparency

In this new era of in-house marketing, the brand is firmly in charge of how money is spent.

2. Effective Marketing Funnels with First-Party Data

Owning and understanding first-party data is critical. You can pinpoint on-site behavior, refine segmentation, optimize paid marketing, and unify media and analytics teams' data.

3. Centralized Branding and Messaging

You can develop a story and brand that people identify with - across all your digital channels.

4. Becoming Agile and Contemporary

Agility, improved workflows, and the ability to update your content in real-time are essential.

5. Reliance on Internal Technology

Content Distribution Platforms (CDPs) puts your company in the driver's seat. They are an example of how digital marketing finds solutions to complex tasks. A CDP gives you the ability to host, create, and distribute your content all on one cloud-based platform.

6. Relationships Evolve

Moving in-house will also change the way companies work with agencies. It will not fix them or destroy them; it will make agencies better. If you manage your data and branding in-house, agencies can complement your team with expertise and skills.

And Most Importantly........

7. Lower Costs

Since its establishment in 2015, JP Morgan Chase's in-house firm Inner Circle has reportedly saved the company $20 million in marketing costs.

Procter & Gamble now has its own agency that writes and produces advertising "for one-tenth the cost and in one month instead of five months."

Unilever reports that by switching to in-house studios, the company saved 17% on agency fees in the first year!

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Innovative Companies Leading the Way

Media companies like Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Washington Post were among the first to set up digital content studios as their print advertising began to dwindle and clients sought more creative ways to reach consumers and create brand affinity. 

With the growing popularity of ad-free platforms and the end of interruptive advertising, more companies are now following suit. 

Mailchimp Logo

Mailchimp is leading the way with both a multimedia-rich publication Courier and its new business entertainment platform Mailchimp Presents. 

Salesforce Logo

Salesforce+, a new service for business professionals, is the latest tech offering for video streaming, according to the company's CMO Sarah Franklin. The service is part of a larger effort by Salesforce to shift its marketing strategy from paid to owned and operated media.

Shopify Studios Logo

Launched in 2019, Shopify Studios is a full-service film and TV production company with a mission to inspire and redefine entrepreneurship via original, entertaining, and thought-provoking storytelling.

Red Bull Studios Logo

When it comes to the business of creating and distributing eye-catching content, few do it better than Red Bull Media House.

Neutrogena Logo

In April of this year, Neutrogena announced the launch of its brand-funded content studio according to Tyler Rochwerg, Johnson & Johnson's digital marketing and innovation manager. "If I could sum it up, I would say [ads and PSAs] are advertising leaned back, but this is entertainment leaned back," Rochwerg said. "We have created a piece of entertainment that our customers are encouraged to watch and that they do not see as advertising.

Goldman Sachs Logo

Brands need to be more proactive in taking control of their digital reputation and what appears about their company online, Goldman Sachs VP digital & social media strategy Kaydee Bridges told the PRovoke Global Summit.

“I think the key to digital reputation management is not the algorithm, it’s attention. If you create interesting, engaging, valuable content, that’s where you’re going to win and hack the algorithm, because people know your content is worth their time. We have a skeptical audience. If people share our content and say ‘This is from Goldman Sachs…but it’s still pretty cool.’ that’s a win for us.”

REI Logo

REI launched its own content division called Co-op Studios to develop and produce stories in the form of films, podcasts, and editorial programs aimed at changing perceptions of the outdoor experience. By creating films, podcasts, digital broadcasts, and other editorial programming, REI intends to deliver branded content across a variety of channels that have seen accelerated growth during the pandemic.

Corona Logo

Corona is among the latest to join the trend, launching Corona Studios late last year to produce content on travel, surfing, sustainability, and other passions of the beer brand's customers. The studio, which has 11 full-time employees, launched Free Range Humans, an eight-part series about people who quit their jobs to live an outdoor life. 

The six- to 10-minute episodes, available on Corona's YouTube channel, feature the various cast members following their dreams, whether in the Colombian rainforest, at South Africa, or some other far-flung location. Corona Studios promotes Free Range Humans via trailer ads on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, with an average view-through rate of more than 60 percent - about 50 percent higher than traditional ads, says Felipe Ambra, Global VP at Corona.

A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is -- it is what consumers tell each other it is.

Scott Cook

Content Distribution

When brands start their own studios, it's imperative to keep scale in mind - and not just scale of production, but the scale of relationships. The more you get into a content development or sales cycle, the more you learn; the better your content gets, the better you can manage costs, IP, and monetize content.

But without a proper dissemination plan, even the best content can go unnoticed. Therefore, it's important to know the distribution options available and choose the right one for your content, which depends on the type of content you are producing, your target audience, and your budget. Currently, marketers are increasingly taking on the role of executive producers, with all the pressure of finding stories that appeal to audiences.

Last but not least, it's important to decide on which platforms you share and distribute your content. In an ideal world, you host and your content on a GDPR-compliant platform with built-in analytics so you can collect first-party data on your content and create evergreen content that builds brand equity.

Takeaways

1. People have become desensitized to the subliminal NLP that marketers are throwing their way.

2. With GDPR enforcement and third-party trackers being phased out, every business must adapt and start investing in producing great content.

3. First-party data is gold. Good Luck. 🍀

References

Adams, P. . (2021). Why brands like Neutrogena and Old Spice are rushing to build internal content studios. Marketing Dive.
Brenner, M.. (2020). Banner Ads Have 99 Problems And A Click Ain’t One. Marketing Insider Group.
Bochicchio, M.. (2021). 5 Companies That Are Investing Deeply In Branded Studios. Wistia.
Chaffey, D.. (2021). Average CTRs display and search advertising – 2021 compilation. Smart Insights.
Coppola, J.. (2020). 5 Reasons Why 2020 Is the Year to Invest in Binge-Worthy Content. Wistia.
Iannopollo, E.. (2020). Predictions 2021: Privacy Becomes An Imperative In A Year Of Transition. Forrester.
Schwartz, M. . (2021). Branded Content Is Getting to Be a Real Scene. ANA Magazine.
Temkin, D. . (2021). Charting a course towards a more privacy-first web. Google.
Ad blocking user penetration rate in the United States from 2014 to 2021. (2021). . Statista Research Department.
Four Fundamental Shifts in Media & Advertising During 2020. (2020). . DoubleVerify.
Perspectives from the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2021–2025. (2021). . PwC.
The Transformation of Marketing: Emerging Digital, Social, and Political Trends. (2021). . CMO Survey.

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