This chart shows how much more expensive ‘brand-safe’ video ads are versus YouTube videos

A number of global brands pulled their advertising campaigns from YouTube after finding their ads had appeared next to extremist content.

Google, which owns YouTube, has vowed to tackle the issue by working on toughening up its policies, making its advertiser controls easier to use, and hiring more staff to police content deemed unsafe by advertisers.

However, as this illustrative chart from Enders Analysis shows, at least some of the blame for such ad misplacement falls on the ad buyers themselves:

Image 1

The chart demonstrates that the cheapest ads – bought using automated systems on ad exchanges that serve ads to a swathe of sites across the web – carry the most risk, whereas ads that have been directly sold by a media owner – and particularly broadcasters – are deemed the most safe.

“YouTube Preferred” – a service where advertisers pay a premium to only appear against the most popular videos – also appears quite high up the chart. But most advertisers simply buy YouTube ads at scale, via ad exchanges like Google’s AdX.

As Google executives themselves explained, 400 hours of user-generated content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, making it extremely difficult to monitor which content is safe for brands to advertise against and which isn’t.

In a research note, Enders says: “The basic idea of ‘you get what you pay for’ in programmatic video advertising, either in media costs or agency planning and service fees (or both, depending on the type of media), is something we believe that many advertisers have yet to fully incorporate into their strategy for media buying.”

Business Insider took a deeper look at the real motivations behind the YouTube advertiser boycott. We spoke to more than a dozen ad executives who suggested the boycott smacks of “opportunism” and a chance to gleefully bash the biggest player in the online ad industry. Others said the disquiet shows just how little some marketers understand about the mechanics of the online advertising market.

Source:; 25 Mar 2017

Trends for 2018: Marketers will find the best strategy for voice

As voice technology grows in popularity brands will need to ensure any communication they have with consumers hits the right note.

If there is one piece of technology that has captured marketers’ imagination this year it is voice recognition. Amid the rising popularity of voice-controlled devices, including Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, brands have jumped on the voice bandwagon – coming up with their own ‘skills’ (what Amazon calls voice-driven apps on the Alexa platform) and even, in the case of Burger King, using an ad to trigger voice searches on a viewer’s computer.

These are all valid ways of thinking about voice. Voice offers a new and innovative way to reach consumers that technologically advanced brands can take advantage of.

Domino’s Pizza, for example, sees voice as a way to sell more pizza and so has enabled customers to order directly through Alexa using voice. The brand’s digital boss Nick Dutch admits it isn’t seeing huge sales from the channel now but it expects to in future and is “preparing for the fact this technology will be something people use”.

However, perhaps the bigger transformation for brands is in search. Google claims 20% of mobile search queries submitted via its app are already done using voice. Meanwhile, comScore estimates 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020.

That will have a big impact on search results and therefore SEO strategy. Instead of consumers seeing a long list of results and being able to pick the most suitable one, most voice results will probably serve up just one answer.

The types of search queries are different too. When typing, people generally input queries such as ‘weather’ but in voice they might ask ‘do I need an umbrella today?’. That offers more context and therefore more chance for brands to show up relevant content, but that requires a change of approach.

Source:; 11 Dec 2017

WeChat opens its closed ecosystem for brands

A new feature called “brand zone” allows brands to sell directly to users even if they aren’t followers. Luxury brands are approaching the new function in different ways. Photo courtesy: CuriosityChina

A new feature called “brand zone” allows brands to sell directly to users even if they aren’t followers. Luxury brands are approaching the new function in different ways.

The new feature signals Tencent’s ambition to make WeChat an all-encompassing digital platform, connecting social media marketing, e-commerce, and payments.

WeChat has made a fundamental change to the way it works.

China’s most popular social media app has always limited its posts’ visibility to the sharer’s friends, or an official account’s followers. While this closed ecosystem limits the potential for content to go viral, it has been an asset for the app’s parent company, Tencent, and for users, who have been able to share more sensitive content among smaller groups without incurring the wrath of the government.

During the rollout of version 6.6.1 last December, however, WeChat quietly launched a new feature named brand zone, which allows brands to display their official WeChat accounts, boutique stores, and other customized content to users who don’t subscribe to their content. Instead, users can search directly for the brands they want to visit.

The new feature signals Tencent’s ambition to make WeChat an all-encompassing digital platform, connecting social media marketing, e-commerce, and payments.

According to the China-based digital marketing agency CuriosityChina, the new brand zone gathers all of a brand’s activity on WeChat in one place.

So far, a dozen major international brands have already utilized this new feature, with more than half of them being luxury and premium brands. Early adopters include Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp, Michael Kors, Swarovski, Montblanc, and Lancôme.

On December 21, the official WeChat account of the American affordable luxury label Michael Kors, for example, released a post introducing the brand zone feature to followers. At the time this article was written, the post was viewed more than 14,000 times.

“This new function will allow brands to conduct flexible traffic control within the brand zone as it could be redirected from one section to another. [It is] also a good first step to a traffic monetization,” said Alexis Bonhomme, the co-founder and general manager of CuriosityChina.

A deep analysis of how each brand is utilizing this new feature shows different approaches to leverage and monetizes the boutique store function.

The Italian luxury powerhouse Gucci, for example, redirects consumers who land on the boutique store to its official Chinese e-commerce website, which was launched last July. So does Louis Vuitton, who also opened the first Chinese direct-to-sales website last year.

The prestige jewellery brand Cartier, on the other hand, has decided to redirect the traffic to its HTML5 (built-in web browser) WeChat stores to generate direct sales. And French fashion label Longchamp has linked the boutique store back to its mini program, which allows consumers to customize and purchase their signature handbags.

Similarly, the use of the customized section under the brand zone differs from brand to brand. Cartier once again directs traffic to its WeChat web browser stores, while Gucci sends consumers to its website to view new products, and Michael Kors gives visitors the option of customizing a handbag.

The launch of the brand zone on WeChat is a breakthrough move that greatly strengthens the ability of the app to assist brands’ sales. The arrival of high-end luxury players including Gucci and Louis Vuitton, who have long refrained from working directly with the domestic e-commerce sites like Alibaba and, further showcases the competitiveness of the retail ecosystem that Tencent has been building.

That media and individuals don’t have the same ability to broadcast to non-followers gives some indication of the direction China is heading in 2018.

Source:; 15 Jan 2018

Amazon Eyes Video Advertising Expansion

Amazon is hoping to more aggressively take on Google and Facebook in the digital advertising space, and video advertising may play a key part of that expansion.

According to CNBC, Amazon hopes to increase its share of the search marketplace, as well as in video advertising, two areas where Google and Facebook are dominant.

An advertising technology executive who had spoken to the shopping giant about its video ad plans confirmed to Digital News Daily that Amazon was serious about making a play for video ad dollars, as well as expanding its video capabilities more generally.

Right now, Amazon sells video advertising for its simulcasts of NFL “Thursday Night Football Games,” though almost all of its Amazon Prime Video offerings remain ad-free.

Earlier this year, reports said Amazon had considered offering its Prime Video shows for free, supported by advertising, but the company denied that at the time.

Still, as Amazon expands its video offerings, including potential live sports and other programming, it could significantly increase its video ad inventory.

A more interesting opportunity for video advertising lies in the platforms the company controls. Amazon’s Echo Show and Fire TV products both serve over-the-top video to customers, and both could serve as a gateway for delivering video advertising.

The Fire TV stick was the number-two-selling product on Amazon this holiday season, the company said in a press release this week. Though Amazon declined to give any specific sales figures, eMarketer estimated that the company had approximately 36 million TV-connected devices in use as of July 2017, which suggests that it could have sold millions more devices this holiday season.

Just as Roku is leveraging its installation base to serve video ads, Amazon can do the same for Fire TV and Echo Show devices.

According to CNBC, Amazon is also pitching marketers on custom branded-content videos that it could run on its own platforms, or offer through ad marketplaces.

Despite its size, Amazon remains something of an underdog in the video advertising space. Google’s YouTube remains the 800-pound gorilla of free streaming video, while Facebook has invested heavily in its Watch platform to grow its video business.

Source:; 28 Dec 2017

F1’s commercial boss on building a brand beyond racing

F1 wants to offer sponsors more flexibility and widen its appeal through a focus on eSports and a review of the role of so-called ‘grid girls’.

When Liberty Media completed the $8bn deal to acquire Formula One at the start of 2017, one of the first things it did was recruit Murray Barnett as the sport’s first head of global sponsorship and commercial partnerships.

Under the previous ownership, F1 lacked any kind of marketing department and derived most of its revenue from TV rights and race hosting fees, with owner Bernie Ecclestone cutting sponsorship deals personally. This was an outdated model that wasn’t at all joined up with the sport’s teams or drivers, and prevented F1 from ever hitting the commercial heights of other sports like football despite its global appeal.

Each F1 race can have up to 300,000 fans attending, with 80 million people watching live at home. The sport estimates it has 150 million global fans.

Liberty knew that under Ecclestone’s 40-year reign as F1’s commercial supremo, the sport didn’t make the most of its sponsorship opportunities. And Barnett, an experienced marketer poached in March from his role as chief commercial officer at World Rugby, has been tasked with leading the evolution.

When asked by Marketing Week what the biggest changes have been so far, Barnett confidently replies: “As a brand we have become more fan centric and we’re now doing everything through the prism of a fan, or a potential fan.

“Recently there was a young fan seen on TV crying in the stands because his hero Kimi Raikkonen had crashed and been eliminated. We brought him down to hang out with Kimi and go into the pits. This kind of emotive viral marketing activity would never have happened before and it made headlines globally.”

He adds: “I don’t want to talk too much about Ecclestone’s time, but our view now is to try to approach sponsors with a ‘yes, why not?’ attitude as opposed to a ‘no, I don’t understand the question’ kind of attitude. If they want to host a fashion show during a Grand Prix, we’ll make it happen, rather than shut the idea down.

“Nowadays, you have to work a lot harder to prove sponsor value. In the old days, it was just about throwing a few hospitality tickets around or putting some signage on a car. Now brands want authentic integration into the sport and that takes more time and effort to build and deliver.”

A more joined-up approach

The sport recently launched its first eSports league

For the first time, F1 now has account executives looking after each of its individual sponsors. They also have access to a portal with up-to-date information on F1 fans so they can target the audience more effectively.

Barnett cites Heineken as an example of a sponsor that has benefited from these changes, with the beer brand standing out for its experiential activity including hosting popular pool parties during the Monza Grand Prix.

“The way I look at it is someone should be able to attend a Grand Prix and for nine hours not see one bit of racing and still leave entertained,” adds Murray. “This is what I am telling brands.”

The sport faces a unique challenge in that it has to build the profile of the umbrella brand as well the profile of the 20 tracks used in its races and the 10 teams. However, Barnett says things are becoming far more joined-up: “We see ourselves as one of 31 shareholders in F1. There’s 10 teams, 20 tracks and us over at HQ.

“When we go to see commercial partners, we say to them if we are not right for you centrally, let us give you an intro to the teams or the drivers to build a relationship with them. If one of us grows, the whole sport benefits.”

Appealing to women
But who are the fans that sponsors are keen to reach via F1? According to GlobalWebIndex, which analysed the brand engagement levels of 51,280 global F1 fans, the sport can claim to have a cross-generational appeal, with consistently high scores across different age groups.

Of the total F1 audience, 83% shop online each month, with 50% saying they tend to buy with the brands they see advertised during races. F1 fans spend an average of two hours a day on social media, with the study claiming 38% of internet users are F1 fans and one in eight of its millennial fans choosing to watch races online.

But while the opportunities to market to this group are obvious, there are still areas where F1 is lacking. One of the biggest is the sport’s gender divide, with the same study showing men are 50% more likely to watch F1 than women.

This is not helped by the sport’s outdated use of promotional models who act as ‘grid girls’. The practice effectively reduces women to eye candy and is at odds with the progress seen in other sports such as football.

F1’s sponsorship boss says it needs to become more ‘progressive’ towards women

Barnett insists F1 is reviewing the use of grid girls, but he won’t commit to axing them altogether despite mounting pressure to do just that.
“We’re 100% committed to looking into grid girls and making them a more relevant part of the competition rather than just holding a board and standing next to a car,” he says.

“We want to make them fully integrated into the programme and change the perception of what their involvement in the sport is. We haven’t quite cracked what this will look like, but we’ve recognised we need to become more progressive there.”

He cites F1’s Dare to be Different programme, which encourages women to get involved in a career in car engineering as a positive milestone. He says there’s also a fierce debate internally about whether to host a women’s only F1 competition.

He explains: “There is a fierce debate about whether we should have a separate female F1 competition or to keep it fully integrated and let women drivers take part in a mixed gender competition like some have done in the past.

“We have a lot of women in senior management positions at F1, so we’re not as bad as you think, but there’s definitely a lot of room to grow.”

Rebranding and placing faith in eSports
In August, F1 launched its first eSports programme in partnership with developer Codemasters, which creates the official F1 video games. And Barnett has high hopes for this eSports league.

“I’d say, in five or 10 years’ time, the professional gamers will be able to compete against the real-life drivers in real time – one with a controller and one in a car,” he says. “My eldest son is 10-years-old and for all the will in the world he won’t sit for three hours watching a Grand Prix live. However, he loves gaming so eSports means we can connect to this young generation in a more engaging way.”

Barnett is working closely with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy and experiential agency CSM Sport & Entertainment to rebrand F1 ahead of the new season. In November, it unveiled a new logo that it said was inspired by both Coca-Cola and Starbucks’ bids to create signage that stands out more in the digital era. It was a bold move considering the previous brand logo had been the same for 23 years.

This rebranding will be followed by a new graphic package for F1’s television production, a new web platform, a live and a non-live over-the-top TV platform and ‘new social capabilities.’ And one area Barnett says F1’s storytelling will change is in how it treats social purpose and the sport’s impact on the environment.

He explains: “We’re looking at things like carbon off-setting for F1 as an organisation, but it’s also one of the best kept secrets that F1 is actually an incredibly lean engine. We have 50% engine recovery, 1.6 litre hybrid engines, 1,000 break horsepower – people tell me this is astonishing.

“I don’t want to talk negatively about Formula E, but the power of their batteries has to come from somewhere. F1 as a sport can be sustainable and good for the environment so we need to tell that story more often.”

Ultimately, Barnett wants F1 to get to the stage where the logo “triggers an emotion that means different things to different people like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.”

He concludes: “There’s so many opportunities if you want to sponsor football but if you want to go into motorsport, there’s only one place to be and that’s F1. We want to put the spectacle into spectacular and make this less of a corporate brand that’s more about having fun.

“It is going to take a long time for brands to change their perception of what F1 is [because of the old commercial model] and actually give us consideration, I know that. But we need to have patience and recognise that if we keep offering compelling experiences for brands then others will start to take notice soon rather than later.”

Source:; 9 Jan 2018

What Makes Consumers More Willing to Hear Ads on Their Voice Assistants?

They want control

The surge of voice assistant usage in the US raises a natural—and as yet unanswered—question.

How exactly will ads be served to consumers using such services?

New data from Invoca might provide some insight into the answer.

The call tracking and analytics firm surveyed US voice-enabled speaker owners, asking them what factors would make them willing to listen to ads delivered through their devices.

Three in 10 said they would entertain ads via voice assistants if they were simply asked if they wanted to hear one before it played. In addition, 28% were open to ads if they got to choose the brands doing the advertising.

Personalization was also a strong selling point: One-quarter of respondents were willing to listen to voice assistant ads customized for them.

The traditional search/display landscape certainly stands to be disrupted by voice. eMarketer predicts that the number of voice-enabled digital assistant users in the US will grow from 60.5 million this year to 75.5 million by 2019.

And users of such services are expected to skew young. This year, for example, nearly half of voice-enabled digital assistant users will be millennials, eMarketer estimates.

Invoca’s survey also underscored how much voice assistants have become a part of users’ daily routines. It found that nearly nine in 10 people who had a voice assistant talked to it every day, while one-third said they used it more than five times per day.

One reason for the sudden rise of voice assistants might lie in the fact that they are now often available on smartphones. In fact, a poll of US internet users conducted by Pew Research Centre earlier this year found that 42% of respondents used a virtual assistant on their smartphone—more than any other device, including smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Source:; 26 Dec 2017

Data Shows Tablets Driving Highest Click-Through Rates

Tablet impressions drove 1.13% click-through rates that were the highest of any device in many categories such as Automotive, Consumer product Goods, Education, Financial, Food & Drink, Government, Home & Garden — and, yes, even Retail, Technology, Travel and Utilities.

The Drawbridge Q3 2017 Cross-Device Advertising Benchmark Report analyses billions of impressions served from July 1, 2017, through September 30, 2017, across every vertical, device, and format to identify trends. The data notes the likelihood of the types of devices consumers will use to click through advertisements to the company’s landing page to complete a task or make a purchase.

Marketers that disregard targeting on tablets may want to rethink their strategy. The third-quarter numbers from 2017 released by Drawbridge on Wednesday show considerable gains on tablets, especially when comparing CTRs from advertisements served on desktops and smartphones.

“Tablets are not replacing desktops, which was once predicted,” said Brian Ferrario, vice president of marketing at Drawbridge. “If anything tablets are merging with phones. Every device is becoming mobile, and the trick is to be present when the consumer is.”

Creatives should not be limited to just a few formats that are presumed to be the highest-performing, he said. The more dimensions and formats the better, as it’s critical to get consumers’ attention at the right time with those incremental touches across devices, so you need to run the gamut with everything and optimize from there based on what’s working.

Desktop ads saw an overall CTR of 0.03% and smartphone placements drove 0.49% CTR, Interstitial ads on smartphone and tablet helped drive higher CTRs on those devices.

Smartphones did well in some categories like Entertainment and Health & Fitness, but for the most part consumers seem to prefer a larger screen. For example, the CTR for the Retail category hovered somewhere around 0.25% in third-quarter 2017 on a smartphone, but came in at about 0.75% on tablets.

Utilities drove the highest CTR on tablets at 2.42%. The highest percentage came in third-quarter 2017 at 0.96%. Ecommerce came in with a quarterly high CTR of 0.67% in second-quarter 2017.

Video completion rates were also high on tablets, more so than any other device during the third quarter of 2017. Rates hit a high of 73.98% in the first quarter of 2017, dropped to 59.30% in the second quarter and then rose to nearly 70% in third-quarter 2017. The completion rates were based on video starts of a combination of skippable and non-skippable ads in 20-, 30-, and 60-second formats.

While tablets held the highest video completion rates in the third quarter of 2017, smartphones saw the highest rates in the first quarter of 2017, with 75.79%.

Source:; 20 Dec 2017

2018: Chatbots will unlock new era for marketers with unseen data potential

A new untapped marketing channel, effective content distribution, always online and personalisation at scale. These are the four primary benefits people often speak of when promoting chatbots. While I agree wholeheartedly, I do think one of the most significant benefits often remains overlooked.

Unparalleled business intelligence and data.

With a chatbot, brands have more information than ever at their fingertips. In fact, they have so much data it will quickly become overwhelming if they do not know what to look for and what to do with it.

There are five core areas of data a chatbot can provide:

Sentiment analysis

Chatbots are talking to people all day every day. Some people will be grumpy, and some will be happy. Wouldn’t it be great to know what topics of conversation, products, places, circumstances or “things” make a particular brand’s audience grumpy? Wouldn’t it also be great to see what promotions, prices, products, situations and events make them happy? This enables brands to start working towards doing less of the things that frustrate their customers and more of the things they like.

Analysing and measuring the sentiment of inbound messages a chatbot receives gives you an instant, always available, pulse of consumer sentiment.

No more “how would you rate us out of 10?” or “what did you think of XYZ product?” A chatbot’s conversations give insight into what people are thinking.

Sentiment analysis can help across lots of areas of a business too. Product managers understand successful features, Marketing can assess the impact of marcomms and promotions, and Customer Services are able to isolate and identify problems and produce relevant support material.

Understanding busy times

When is a bot working the hardest? What countries and territories have most conversations? What times of the day are people talking about certain things? Knowing when people are talking to a chatbot, where they are and what they are talking about provides insight into their behaviour.

This is valuable for preparing content, service and sales. If brands know when people need help, they understand the best time to deliver support and/or marketing collateral pre-emptively.

It is invaluable for marketing (right person at the right time with the right message), useful for service and even for development teams to know when to push updates to the platform or services.

Knowing who are the biggest brand fans

A lot of money and time is spent identifying and segmenting power users. Brands want to be able to understand the audiences that interact with them the most, spend the most money or bring in the most referrals.

The chatbot gives insight into the type of people who talk the longest, interact the most and give the highest feedback scores. Brands can analyse and collect the data these power users provide to find and attract more people who behave in a similar way to them.

The insight also helps to improve the chatbot experience because seeing what the typical power user experience looks like means it can be recreated for others. It is a bit like that famous case study by Facebook identifying that power users add seven friends within ten days.

Assessing usefulness

The data a chatbot also provides gives insight into whether it is pulling its weight and doing its job. They’re designed and launched to be a useful tool for your consumers and the business so put that to the test.

Standard metrics like retention and engagement are very useful; for example how long people talk with the bot for, how often they come back and if they switch channels. However, combine these with more bot-centric metrics like fall-backs to human, conversation blocks and “I do not understand” errors gives a unique ability to assess how useful a bot is.

These metrics help to ensure the chatbot is meeting its one true goal better than any other channel could.

Time to end-result

While we’re talking about goals, the time taken to reach the chatbot’s goal is also a good insight. If a chatbot is designed to sell, how quickly did it sell something? Does changing the flow/persona/style of conversation make it better? Do some upstream channels or marketing efforts lead to a faster time to sell, do some upstream channels not convert?

It gives insight into what channels create sales-ready-leads and which create cold leads.

If a chatbot is designed to help people, perhaps in a customer service capacity, then how quickly did it help? Did the user have to go through a 15-minute conversation before they got an answer? Or did they get it in 2 seconds? Is the chatbot getting faster at helping over time? Or is it getting worse?

The importance of chatbot data

These insights, data and analytics not only provide the power to A/B test, improve and iterate a chatbot, but they give never-before-seen insight into a brand’s audience.

This insight is not a quantitative “8 out of 10 people would refer you to a friend”, but a qualitative “I liked X, I disliked Y and I’d really like you more if you did Z” type data.

Of course, getting this data is nothing new, we have all launched surveys, focus groups and consumer research campaigns. The difference is, a chatbot offers this data at scale. All day, every day and all the time. For free.

After launching a chatbot, brands have so much data they will not know how to analyse it all. Often brands will be drowning in conversations, sentiments and “what went wrong there” type information. The goal is to turn that into actionable intelligence

Much like all channels, it is crucial not to pivot, iterate and react based on hunches or personal feelings. Use the analytics and data to record, measure, understand and test.

Source:; 19 Dec 2017

Are Chinese millennials bored of celebrity brand ambassadors?

Some brand ambassadorships—such as Dior’s recruitment of Angelababy and Zhao Liying—have been met with raised eyebrows from Chinese consumers.

Dior has Angelababy, Gucci has Li Yuchun, and Burberry has Zhou Dongyu.

Luxury brands in China have taken a big step forward with their ambassador strategies in 2017, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the celebrities’ phenomenal followings, a large portion of whom are Chinese millennials. But is it the right strategy?

The direction that luxury brands have taken is in line with the conventional wisdom, which holds that associating with celebrities enhances public awareness and the credibility of the brands, and ultimately influences people’s fashion purchasing decisions.

In reality, however, some brand ambassadorships—such as Dior’s recruitment of Angelababy and Zhao Liying—have been met with raised eyebrows from Chinese consumers. Critics point out a lack of coherency between the celebrities’ personalities and the brand’s emphasis on tradition.

Other brand ambassadors, like actor Huang Xiaoming (Angelababy’s husband) for the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) have garnered less criticism, but fail to excite anyone but the celeb’s biggest fans.

Brand ambassadors are not a dead strategy in China (at least not yet), but it is time to re-examine their role.

Two questions luxury brands must ask themselves: who is the right celebrity ambassador for us, and should we engage one at all?

Beyond movie stars and singers

One emerging trend is for brands to work with artists, instead of singers and movie stars. Fine jewellery brand Qeelin, for example, recently announced a partnership with visual artist and photographer Chen Man. Compared to traditional celebrities, artists tend to be viewed as more authentic and consistent with a brand’s values.

Another alternative is to work with Chinese supermodels, several of whom have recently broken out as personalities in their own right after appearances on reality TV shows. Working in the fashion industry, models have their own sense of style that’s seen as more sophisticated and credible than that of traditional luxury brand ambassadors.

Other examples of the trend away from traditional celebrities include wang hong, or internet influencers. Major partnerships in recent months include vlogger-comedian Papi Jiang’s ad for Swiss luxury watch brand Jaeger LeCoultre, and fashion blogger Mr. Bags’ collaborations with high-end labels such as Givenchy, Fendi, Burberry, and Longchamp.

Consumers as KOLs

Many commentators, however, now believe that even pivoting from movie stars to wang hong is not enough.

“For luxury brands, maybe it’s time to ask whether celebrity ambassadorship is still an effective tactic if the very objective here is to attract millennial buyers,” said Ray Ju, Senior Branding Consultant at Labbrand New York.

“After all, we are entering an era when millennials aspire themselves to be ambassadors of a brand, a lifestyle, or simply a kind of vibe on social media. They are not crazy about being represented by a celebrity who just happens to have a huge following on social media.”

According to an August survey by China University Media Union (CUMU), a whopping 42 percent of college students now want to become wang hong themselves after graduating.

“I believe [future brand ambassadors] will be specialized key opinion leaders and live-streamers talking to a very targeted audience, rather than the Fan Bingbings of their time,” said Louis Houdart, founder of the marketing and branding agency Creative Capital.

“Thanks to social networks, any user is her own little KOL of her group of friends, which explain all the work millennials are putting into crafting the best pictures [on their accounts],” he said.

It is no longer about being famous for 15 minutes, but for 15 friends.

Many brands in the beauty sector have already started to make consumers their first ambassadors. Houdart revealed that some brands he works with have come to realize that directly making consumers the core of their engagement and outreach strategy has become much more effective than finding a high-cost celebrity to represent their products.

“They work so hard on the graphics [and] visual aspects, and thinking of how it will look online in a WeChat or Weibo post.”

RTG’s Chief Strategy Officer Marc-Olivier Arnold expects to see more brands moving away from investing a significant portion of their marketing budgets on a single brand ambassador and instead making efforts to be a platform for a wider range of influencers to curate content on the brand’s behalf.

“It’s a win-win partnership between the brand and the influencers, instead of a simple transaction between a brand and a celebrity. It’s also a more effective way to engage in a constant, more authentic and meaningful dialogue with their specific followers, which is what China’s millennials expect,” he said.

Not so fast…

Brian Buchwald, co-founder of New York-based marketing agency Bomoda, holds a more optimistic view of brand ambassadorships in China. He believes the strategy will remain significant, but will need to be more intelligently executed.

“The strategy is hugely important in China and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. In fact, some of the largest splashes brands have made in the past 12 months are those associated with the naming of such ambassadors,” said Buchwald.

“However, as the Chinese consumer is becoming more discerning and such partnerships are increasing in price, it is incumbent upon smart brands to assiduously vet ambassador candidates. This vetting can include top of the funnel metrics related to brand awareness and general engagement. But it is critical to also now consider how such influencers impact lower funnel metrics like consumer sentiment, purchase intent, and ultimately sales.”

Ultimately, luxury brands’ should be careful not to let dubious data and follower numbers distract them from the stories they have to tell. Sometimes, by counting on celebrities, brands miss the opportunity to nurture a more authentic, organic relationship with their consumers.

The takeaway
• Chinese consumers are becoming more critical of ill-suited brand ambassadors
• Artists, supermodels and wang hong may have more credibility than traditional stars
• 42 percent of Chinese college students want to be KOLs, not follow them
• Having many consumers as brand ambassadors may be more effective than one star

Source: Jing Daily/; 18 Dec 2017

1 in 4 phones will have Instagram in 2018

Facebook-owned Instagram will be used by nearly one in four smartphone users worldwide this year, according to eMarketer’s global forecast of the photo- and video-sharing social platform.

In Malaysia, Instagram is ranked number 17 globally by the share of social network users, representing 41.9% of social network users. eMarketer predicts that by the end of 2017, Instagram’s global audience will total 593.7 million users.

Image 5

In the coming years, eMarketer expects Instagram’s growth to cool down from the explosive rates seen between 2015 and 2017.

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The primarily mobile-based platform does have some boundaries, especially when compared with Facebook—which attracts considerably more desktop-oriented users and older individuals.

By 2021, Instagram will reach 927.9 million users worldwide, representing 30% of social network users, eMarketer projects. Instagram’s audience in 2017 will be a little more than 38% the size of Facebook’s and more than double that of Twitter, which it overtook in early 2015.

“Instagram’s exponential growth in popularity over the past two years is a direct result of new product updates and features, including Instagram Stories, live video, geostickers and face filters, which have kept its user base active and engaged,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu. “We see no signs it will slow down in the near future, and Instagram’s push toward international markets will continue to fuel growth.”

Source:; 15 Dec 2017