From quantity to quality: How pixels improve digital marketing

Pixels improve digital marketing
Pixels improve digital marketing

From quantity to quality: How pixels improve digital marketing

The benefits of using pixels to optimize results

At Rhea + Kaiser, we have seen that some client verticals, especially in the B2B space, are ready to tackle the next set of digital marketing best practices. Pixels for paid media campaigns are a great example of where we’ve helped elevate clients to industry standards and significantly improve their results in the process.

The first question in the pixeling discussion is often “what is a pixel anyway?” In the paid media space, a pixel is a snippet of code typically placed on a client website. It helps clients go from targeting the 80-90% of people who click on ads but don’t really want to be on the site, to targeting the 10-20% of people who click and really do want to visit. That’s a completely different pool of people!

The Benefits of Pixels

A pixel gathers very specific but anonymous and privacy-law-compliant data about all users who come to the site. In laymen’s terms, a pixel is a pathway to first party data. If you haven’t heard the hype, first party data is evolving from the most valuable data to basically the only data available for targeting digitally based media, outside of publisher direct data.

The exact nature of the impending changes in the data landscape is a topic for another day, but building first party now, before it becomes critical, is ideal.

Pixels on client websites build pools of anonymized data about website visitors. With this data we can tie paid media activity to on site activity, allowing us to target, optimize and report on paid efforts.

Brand Site Retargeting

From a targeting standpoint, there are two major use cases for pixels. The first is brand site retargeting, reaching people who have already been to the client’s website. A visit indicates an interest in the brand. A follow-up message could move them further down the funnel.

This is not to be mistaken with publisher site retargeting, an ad product that many publishers sell. Brand site retargeting reaches someone who is interested in a client again, publisher site retargeting reaches someone who is interested in a publisher or a specific type of content again.

Look-Alike Modeling

The second use case for targeting is look-alike modeling, which helps brands reach people whose online behaviors are similar to those who have visited the brand website. Look-alike modeling helps broaden digital media targeting to reach new potential customers.

Optimizing Media

Often, marketers will set up paid media campaigns to focus on people most likely to click on an ad. This optimization model assumes most people clicking on an ad will make it to the client site and stay there or interact with it. In reality, the vast majority of clicks on banner ads do not result in actual site visits or engaged site visits. (When comparing clicks on ads to sessions tracked in website analytics, the bounce rate is often in the 70-80% range.)

Pixels optimize media, narrowing the audience pool and focusing ad impressions on people more likely to take a desired action. They enable paid efforts to optimize toward those valuable onsite actions, such as site visits, form submissions or downloads.

In essence, pixels move the focus of paid impressions from quantity of click to quality of click. As clients shift from optimizing on clicks toward optimizing on site visits, historical metrics like click through rates (CTRs) go down and cost per clicks (CPCs) go up. Reporting conversations focus instead on visit rates, cost per visit and volume of visits.

More Valuable Metrics

This brings us to the final benefit of pixels. They strengthen the connection between a paid digital media ad impression and the onsite actions most closely related to client business objectives, better proving the value of these marketing efforts.

Even if a website visitor doesn’t arrive via an ad click, pixels can tie previous paid ad impressions to that visitor and their website actions. This data becomes much more important as clients learn that 80-90% of website visits tied to banner impressions are not direct or click based but view based visits, meaning that the user was exposed to the ad and visited the site at a later time.

Pixels are a critical component of any digital media plan. They enable building first party data, additional targeting, superior optimization, and enhanced reporting that better relates paid media to actual client ROI.

R+K’s Liz Bentz, Associate Director of Paid Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can take steps toward connecting your digital dollars with your desired business outcomes, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Earning a Seat at the Table: Why public relations is critical to integrated planning

Tips for paid, owned and earned
Tips for paid, owned and earned

Earning a Seat at the Table: Why public relations is critical to integrated planning

Tips for incorporating paid, owned and earned perspectives in strategy development

When it comes to developing a marketing communications strategy and kicking off plan development, the first step is, naturally, deciding who will be at the decision-making table.

Years ago, it was the account team and creative – that’s how communications had always been done; a creative print ad or TV spot took center stage and all other tactics revolved around those. Public relations teams were asked to make news out of a creative campaign. Therefore, outside of the creative concept, most tactics including PR were force-fitted, and the plan was integrated merely because all tactics were in the same slide deck, and not because tactics actually worked together. 

The Shift to Permission-Based Marketing

Today’s strategic planning teams look different. This is due largely to the general industry shift from interruption marketing, or more conventional advertising, to content- and permission-based marketing.

When interruption marketing ruled, companies controlled what they wanted to say and how customers and potential customers received information. The marketing communications evolution to permission-based marketing started with email opt-ins and has evolved to consumer privacy controls, a shift to the broader practice of content marketing.

Marketing today puts the consumer or customer in charge of when, how and where they are open to receiving messages. It’s one reason earned media and/or public relations should have a seat at every planning table. This is because the modern way of approaching communications – prioritizing what information customers want to receive and how they want to receive it – is how public relations and earned media practitioners have always operated.

An Earned Approach to Content Development

Anyone who works in earned media has had to consider value to the reader and operate with the understanding that the consumer can choose not to consume their content. Earned media best practices are very similar to current principles for successful content marketing, as outlined by Content Marketing Institute:

  1. Content fills a need
  2. It communicates consistently
  3. It requires you to find your unique, human voice
  4. It expresses a point of view
  5. It is devoid of sales speak
  6. It’s recognized as the best of its breed

Because public relations professionals have always had to relinquish control of their audience, they focus on building relationships and thinking beyond brand statements to develop storylines that garner audiences’ interest while supporting the brand.

Putting Permission-Based into Practice

How can you and your team integrate earned media and public relations from the beginning stages of strategic development? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Re-evaluate your brief process, whether it is campaign, creative, project, paid, owned or earned media. There will be different needs for each area, but there should be common threads that run throughout all of them. If possible, work with teams to create a single brief for all departments.
  • Think of your PR team as account strategists. Your PR team has been researching issues, finding trends and interviewing third parties on relevant topics. They can help you unearth insights. For this reason, it’s not a coincidence that as “account strategist” gains popularity, a lot of them came up as PR pros.
  • Involve the PR team even if the tactic isn’t overtly related to PR. They might have different ideas and different approaches to a project. You might think it costs you money in time, but it could save you time and effort in the long run.

The next time you sit down to start planning a communications strategy, be sure to consider the value of having an earned media or PR representative at the table. 

R+K’s Amy McEvoy, head of Earned Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help your team incorporate paid, owned and earned perspectives into strategic planning, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Data Takes Center Stage at Annual Equipment Conference

2021 AEM Conference

Data Takes Center Stage at Annual Equipment Conference

R+K take-aways from Association of Equipment Manufacturers Conference

Last month we attended the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) annual conference in Phoenix. It was one of our first trade shows since the COVID shutdown last year, and we were eager to hear directly from manufacturers about how they were faring amid an equipment boom and rising forecasts, as well as industry supply chain challenges.

If not equipment manufacturers themselves, many of our clients touch the industry in some way, so we’ve summarized the top trends and take-aways for those who weren’t able to attend.

Putting Data to Work

Data is hardly a new trend in the equipment space, but as data capture becomes the norm, equipment manufacturers are prioritizing how to help their customers benefit from the wealth of information it provides. Customers want to know what data they should act on and which is more critical to creating efficiencies.

Marketers Navigate Supply Hurdles

COVID-19 shutdowns and container and worker shortages have led to widespread supply chain backlogs that do not discriminate by industry. Equipment marketers, specifically, are experimenting with creative solutions such as extending promotional harvest pricing through 2022 when products will be available, and new promotions to help offset the delays. Other equipment brands are investigating alternative shipping options to deal with the supply chain bottleneck.

Technology

Equipment manufacturers expect two major technological transformations to continue shaping the ag sector: connectivity challenges and 5G improvements. Broadband connectivity is essential for customers who want to take full advantage of the many new tech advances, so many companies are prioritizing identifying solutions to bring it to more communities.

It is always inspiring to hear from and engage directly with leaders in the industries we serve. As Pathfinders, we’re always looking for new ways to help our clients overcome challenges. We look forward to continuing to work with AEM and using these insights to help brands reach their marketing destinations.

AEM recently announced the 2022 AEM Annual Conference, which will be held in Napa, California. And don’t miss the results of their latest Construction and Ag Economic Outlook survey, available here: https://www.aem.org/news/construction-and-ag-economic-outlook-optimism-abounds-for-2022.

If you’re an equipment manufacturer or marketer and want to connect about the latest industry trends and opportunities, please contact our Business Development Director Gino Tomaro at gtomaro@rkconnect.com. You can also visit rkconnect.com/equipment for more on our deep experience in the category.

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They’re Back! QR Codes Surge Amid COVID-19 Technology Changes

QR Codes Surge
QR Codes Surge

They’re Back! QR Codes Surge Amid COVID-19 Technology Changes

How we used QR codes to drive rural audiences to digital channels through direct mail

QR Codes: You probably used one to scan your badge at a trade show in 2011. Or, you might have seen one in a retail display and wondered how it worked. But the QR code trend seemed to fizzle as quickly as it emerged.

Enter: COVID-19. The immediate demand for touchless technology coupled with tech advancements and familiarity sent QR code use surging in 2020. Today, six in 10 (59%) of all respondents say QR codes will be a permanent part of using their phone in the future, according to a June study from The Drum/YouGov.

When QR codes first appeared on the scene, many consumers didn’t understand their purpose and the technology was still clunky. In a post-COVID world, touchless is often the norm, if not the requirement, and smartphone technology has advanced to make the process more seamless.

Tamara Alesi, YouGov’s sector head of media, summarized it perfectly. “For the first time, QR codes have a real purpose,” she said. “In a world where ‘touchless’ became a mandate to protect consumer health, the value proposition of the QR code finally became clear to the world at large. Now consumers are using QR codes in everyday life, to view menus, pay restaurant bills, get more information on home and car sales, and more.”

A Rhea + Kaiser case study  

At Rhea + Kaiser, we capitalized on this trend for our client Central Garden & Pet (CGP), a market leader in the Garden and Pet industries with leading brands including Farnam, Horse Health and Vita Flex. We support their equine trade business and are always looking for ways to connect retailers with their brands directly, as opposed to primarily through distributors.

In 2020 we launched the Equine Retailer Marketing Center (ERMC), a content hub where retailers could download the latest program and promotion information. But CGP did not have a robust email database to drive traffic to the site. This rural audience was skeptical of geo-targeted ads designed to collect their contact information, so we launched a sweepstakes through a channel we knew they trusted: direct mail.

Each of CGP’s 6,000+ retailers received two direct mail pieces featuring a QR code that took them directly to the ERMC to enter their contact information for a chance to win a prize. The result was overwhelming success.

The QR Code generated 1,333 views to the sweepstakes form and 943 submissions. That’s a 70.74% conversion rate on retailers, 57% of whom were new contacts. An impressive 82% of all submissions (1,173 total) agreed to receive regular promotional emails, enabling ongoing communication directly from CGP.

Technology is always changing, sometimes making what’s old new again. We used the QR code resurgence to create a bridge from direct mail to digital and successfully reached a rural audience that is often difficult to target in digital spaces.​

If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help you navigate the changing technology landscape and find ways to reach niche audiences, contact our Business Development Director Gino Tomaro at gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Marketers Eye Trends at Annual Equipment Conference Amid Industry Boom

AEM Conference
AEM Conference

Marketers Eye Trends at Annual Equipment Conference Amid Industry Boom

R+K looks ahead to Association of Equipment Manufacturers Conference in Phoenix

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) annual conference kicks off November 10 in Phoenix, bringing together members, suppliers, customers and subject matter experts for networking, roundtable discussions and thought leadership presentations on culture, sustainability, corporate responsibility, leadership and the post-covid workforce.

“Everyone in the equipment space is doing well with forecasts and sales right now,” says Curt Blades, AEM Senior Vice President of Agriculture Services & Forestry. “This boom has been bolstered by demand for small tractors and ag equipment.”

We’re particularly interested in how agriculture equipment brands will show up. In April, we covered the rosy Q1 forecasts in our ag marketing blog Marketing to Farmers. Earlier the same quarter John Deere revised their 2021 forecast up 25% from the prior November. Survey results from a Q2 AEM survey were just as strong, with 76% of respondents reporting growth compared to the previous quarter and 87% compared to the previous year.

The positive outlook carried over to 2H; in July another equipment powerhouse, CNH Industrial, raised their forecast from 14-18% growth to 24-28% over the previous year, according to Reuters. In September, Farm Policy News anticipated net farm income increasing by 19.5 percent YOY to $113 billion in 2021.

With the highest projected farm incomes since 2013, farmers planned significant capital investments in Q3 and Q4, which means equipment brand marketers are flush with opportunity. The latest Farmer Speaks research study by Millennium Research and commissioned by J.L. Farmakis, Inc. confirmed that farmers in all categories (overall, 500-999 acres, 1000-1999 acres, and 2000+ acres) would not delay equipment acquisition, and 53 percent planned to acquire new equipment. Of those who planned to purchase capital equipment, half said they would purchase a combine, followed by “other,” tractor, grain truck, planter and sprayer.

Ag and equipment marketers are busy supporting the industry’s top brands amid this boom, but the current supply chain slowdown – caused in part by COVID-19 shutdowns and container and worker shortages – means they need to find creative solutions to balancing this positive outlook with logistical realities. These include recognizing the issues at hand, encouraging pre-orders for next year with current discounts, and focusing on tracking capabilities to heighten accuracy around timing and avoid miscommunication.

Are you planning to attend the annual AEM Conference November 10-12 in Phoenix? We would love to connect!  Contact our Business Development Director Gino Tomaro at gtomaro@rkconnect.com. You can also visit rkconnect.com/equipment for more on our deep experience in the category.

A special thank you to our friend Curt Blades, AEM Senior Vice President of Agriculture Services & Forestry, who contributed to this post.

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Top video trends to elevate CX for your brand.

Video trends
Video trends

Top video trends to elevate CX for your brand.

Video now takes majority of display advertising budgets

You were browsing through your social media feed today and a new product caught your eye. Was it a video ad? Chances are it was. The sound or movement may have caught your attention.

Where do you search for knowledge when you want to troubleshoot an issue? Or when you want to learn how to build, fix or use something? What about when you want to try a new product, but want to validate quality claims? Or how about streaming your favorite shows?

All of this content is found on video and often only accessible following a video ad. These days, video is not just a tool to bring your brand to life in front of the consumer; it is an integral part of the customer experience (CX). Consumers seek video content to help inform, validate, educate, and decision-make. And video ads play a critical role in engaging prospective customers.

A recent “The State of Video Marketing 2021” survey from Wyzowl found that:

  • 94% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.
  • 79% of people say they’ve been convinced to buy or download a piece of software or app by watching a video.
  • 84% of people say that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.
  • People watch an average of 18 hours of online video per week.
  • When asked how they’d most like to learn about a product or service, 69% of survey respondents said they’d prefer to watch a short video.

It’s no wonder then that video advertising is flourishing, with marketers allotting a larger share of their marketing dollars to it. The latest US Digital Ad Spending by Industry 2021 report by eMarketer indicates that marketers will spend 56.8% of their budgets on display. And within that spend, 51.0% will go to video. As a result, 2021 will mark the first time that video will account for most of the display category.

Brands should avoid using video as just another marketing tactic and instead develop a strong video marketing strategy to maximize return on investment. An effective video marketing strategy takes a holistic approach to market a brand with plenty of entertaining, educational, problem-solving video content through the right digital channels at the right stage in the customer journey.

When you’re ready to concept your content, don’t forget these top video trends to develop the most effective video marketing strategy.

  • More brands are leveraging user-generated content (UGC): UGC is content created by people buying or consuming your product. Surveys have credited its effectiveness with consumer-perceived authenticity, which subsequently drove purchase decisions.
  • Vertical video ad use is rising: Google found that 70%¹ of total watch time on YouTube occurs on mobile devices. Since people innately hold their phones vertically, vertical video ads are developed in portrait format, so viewers don’t have to switch to landscape orientation. They also provide more screen space than square video format.
  • Interactive video ads capabilities continue to evolve to offer richer insights: Interactive overlays allow a viewer to select different information about a brand, service or product, giving consumers the power to engage with content relevant to them, on their own terms. Digital Display and ConnectedTV providers are constantly investing in developing new forms of interactive video features that offer brands more engagement opportunities such as store locators, carousels, content downloads, polls, and even ad selection capabilities that provide viewers the ability to choose between ads. Inherently, interactive video elements will provide brands a method to offer consumers the personalized experience they desire.
  • Popularity of instructional videos will continue: More than 85%² of U.S. viewers say they often use YouTube to learn new things. Brands should seize the opportunity to position their products or services as solutions in instructional, problem-solving videos.
  • 360-degree video is quickly evolving: This spherical video medium offers viewers the opportunity to explore video content in 360-degrees. It attempts to give the user the feeling of being there in person. This medium is quickly being adopted by event, concert, and venue marketers to provide their audience an immersive experience.
  • In-stream and interactive pre-roll ad spend on the rise: In-stream ads are the 15- to 30-seconds that play before, during, or after a program. They come in non-skippable and skippable formats. With pre-roll ads, viewers can interact with the ad and click through to a landing page. 

Rhea + Kaiser works with video production and paid media partners to stay on top of everchanging digital trends. When you’re ready to engage prospective customers with a strong video marketing strategy, Rhea + Kaiser is here to help. Visit rkconnect.com/video to see examples of our latest work, or contact our Business Development Director, Gino Tomaro at gtomaro@rkconnect.com to learn more.

  1. YouTube Internal Data, Global, April 2017 – March 2018, Mobile includes mobile devices and tablets
  2. 2and2/Google, “The Values of YouTube Study,” n=1,006 consumers between the ages of 18–54, with 918 monthly YouTube users, Oct. 2017.

Angie Escobar, Director, Planning + Integration contributed to this post.

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The show must go on: A creative perspective on COVID challenges

Creative during COVID
Creative during COVID

The show must go on: A creative perspective on COVID challenges

Reimagined production is the key to creative success in ag marketing

In a year of unrest and confusion, 2020 tested the creativity, experience, and resilience of every marketing professional. The creative department at Rhea + Kaiser was no exception. Like everyone, we faced some unique challenges at the start of the pandemic, but in the end, we were able to triumph and even learn a few new tricks along the way.

­­­­Setting the Stage

Toward the end of 2019 we embarked on two new client projects. After our campaigns were approved, we began to shift into production mode, planning the original photography each would require – one shoot taking place on a farm, and the other on a ranch. Just when the puzzle pieces were falling into place, we received an invitation to a staff meeting to discuss a mysterious new illness cropping up on the west coast.

At the time, there wasn’t even an official name for COVID, but agency leadership announced we would work from home for several weeks, out of an abundance of caution. A few weeks soon turned into “until further notice,” and we quickly realized things wouldn’t be back to “normal” anytime soon.

A Brief Intermission

As our shoot dates approached, things that seemed like temporary setbacks became critical junctures –obstacles we had to work around if we wanted our campaigns to move forward. At first, we perfected positive spin. No airlines? No problem, we’ll make it a road trip. No crew, no catering, and new mask mandates? We came up with solutions and work-arounds.

However, weighing all the new COVID risks, our producer eventually called a meeting to ask if there was a way to produce the ads without photography. Our immediate response was concern that the ads would be canceled.

Cancelled ads are more common than you might think. Hurricanes, difficult talent, staffing changes, and emotions all have the power to derail campaigns, so surely the force majeure of a global pandemic could stop a couple of print ads dead in their tracks.

We got lucky; the client reaffirmed their desire to run a new campaign as scheduled. With time running out, our only option was to stretch our creative muscles and figure out how to execute our original concepts without any of the traditional resources of advertising production. There is a school of thought that states that in times of crisis, creativity flourishes. This was one of those times.

The Third Act

We were not alone in overcoming these hurdles. No agency was shooting anything on location, and even indoor tabletop photo shoots were hampered by distancing and masking requirements. In our case, these restrictions inspired us to create our campaigns virtually using a mix of computer-generated imagery and stock photography. We just had to convince our client, who prides themselves on authenticity and honesty. A computer-generated image could be risky.

To overcome this bias, we engaged several well-known CGI houses to prepare samples of state-of-the-art modeling and rendering technology. Their showcase of what could be accomplished with bleeding-edge raytracing convinced our client to take a chance on a digital creation.

From there, we scrutinized every detail. Every aspect of our computer-generated image was examined and explained in exhaustive detail – facial expressions, fabric textures and drapery, anatomy, hair, etc. Once our client saw the level of customization available, their attitude changed from skepticism to all-out enthusiasm. Not to mention, no talent residual fees!

Take a Bow

COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for all of us to remain open to new ways of working and push ourselves to explore unorthodox solutions.  At the time of this writing, the campaigns we kicked off in 2019 are complete, but the world is still grappling with the pandemic.

We don’t know what challenges will shape the future of our industry, or what the “new normal” will eventually be. And while we were able to successfully work around a global shutdown, new challenges are inevitable. So, we’ll keep finding new ways to achieve our objectives, even if they might feel uncomfortable at first or require more effort in the short term.

R+K’s Associate Creative Directors Paul MacNerland and Ryann Flynn contributed insights to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can bring a fresh perspective to your creative advertising needs, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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How to Break Down Barriers to Professional Training

Digital training

How to Break Down Barriers to Professional Training

R+K Summer School enabled each team member to earn a digital certification

Professional training is universally valued; it helps us brush up on industry trends, provides an opportunity to hone our skill set, and inspires us to take our work to the next level. So why do so many professionals fail to prioritize it? We recently polled our network to identify the biggest hurdles to completing skills-based professional training. More than half (59%) of respondents said time.

With mounting day-to-day client responsibilities, it can be difficult to press pause to focus on ourselves. Rhea + Kaiser wants to change the way we perceive professional training – from a growth opportunity we give to ourselves to something we owe clients and ourselves as an agency: to always be learning.

Introducing: R+K Summer School

Training has a way of reenergizing the professional mind, ensuring that curiosity has greater purpose, our questions stay rooted in strategy, and those reinforced questions lead to better solutions. For Pathfinders, training is part of the adventure! That’s why this summer we launched R+K Summer School.

Our annual training goal for agency employees is 40 hours: one-third agency driven, one-third supervisor driven, and one-third employee driven. While we offer opportunities that appeal to many different learning styles, we know everyone learns differently. That’s why we left R+K Summer School up to each team member, with only one requirement: each employee must earn a digital certification.

Taking a Time Out for Training

As an agency, we host bi-weekly Thought Leadership Thursdays, an all-agency meeting time for employees to share learnings from a variety of experiences including client challenges, new channel executions, training opportunities, and others. Trusting the curiosity and drive within our team, we elected to pause our agency’s bi-weekly Thought Leadership Thursday during the summer months and have every employee use that time to secure a valued digital certification on their own schedule by Labor Day. 

We challenged our full staff to research digital skills training opportunities and select one that would be most valuable to them. Nearly our entire staff is currently enrolled and earning certification through one of the following providers: Google (Analytics, Campaign Manager, Ads), Hubspot, Content Marketing Institute, Hootsuite, Facebook, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Dirty Planning.

Turning Training into Transformation

As we all know, a new skill is only as valuable as its execution, so we got to work applying what we’ve learned immediately. Smaller teams are sharing their learnings to date, some team members have applied their new tools to bolster existing and prospective client work, and virtual watercooler conversations are lighting up with new resources employees feel inspired to share.

After Labor Day, our traditional Thought Leadership Thursdays will resume, but our culture of learning continues. Our expectation is that R+K Pathfinders are always learning and evolving. So while we’ll share out critical learnings and implications from each R+K Summer School certification in the near term, we also continue our long-term traditions incorporating learning expectations in annual performance reviews and providing bi-weekly summaries of training opportunities available to employees. 

If the year and a half navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our world is always changing. Never press pause on your personal journey to learn about your profession, and look for opportunities to turn changes into catalysts for creativity and exploration.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post after Labor Day, where we’ll share some of what we learned in R+K Summer School.

R+K’s Stephanie Heusuk, Chief Executive Officer, contributed to this post.

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How not to fumble a fact check opportunity

Fact Check Faux Pas
Fact check faux pas

How not to fumble a fact check opportunity

Understanding the value of courtesy reviews, and how to master this earned media skill

If a media contact offers you an opportunity to fact check their work, consider it one of the holy grails of media relations. After all, media are not required to afford you this courtesy in advance of broadcasting or publishing their pieces. But every once in a while, especially if you have developed good rapport and mutual trust with the contact, they will give you the opportunity to check for accuracy. The following guide will help you take advantage of the opportunity and avoid common missteps, so it isn’t your last.

Understand the purpose of a media fact-check

When you have the opportunity to review a piece before it is published, keep in mind it is not time to line edit the writing or ask media to include more of your product key messages. After all, the media want and need to maintain their credibility. That credibility is exactly why you want them to report on your product or company. A piece that sounds like an ad isn’t how they accomplish that. 

Clients often struggle to withhold suggested builds and subjective recommendations for editors because they want to make the most of their publicity. It is important to provide the feedback they are looking for – clarification or confirmation of the facts – rather than try to help them write their piece.

What not to ask during a courtesy review

Certain types of feedback should always be off-limits, as they could insult your media contact and deter them from working with you in the future.

  • Overall story angle. Editors may not share the full piece in context, and they often share only the portion that mentions your client. Either way, clients should not attempt to change the overall angle or voice of the piece. This is predetermined as part of an editorial calendar. What is more – it is their art – where they add value for their reader.
  • Expanded product messaging. This cannot be emphasized enough. When media requests a fact check, they are offering an opportunity to confirm that the product messages are factually correct, not for feedback on the context in which those messages are framed.
  • Competitive comparisons. In the world of marketing, clients like to avoid direct competitive comparisons unless there is unquestionable and irrefutable evidence. Even then, lawyers tend to revise competitive mentions when the piece is under legal review. These types of comparisons are what media do, though, and it is why they are trusted by their audiences. Customers expect companies will always rank their own products above competitors. They look to media and other influencers because they have an outside vantage point.

These are not exactly the most comfortable discussions to have with a client, but they are important. They help clients see the situation from a different vantage point and respect the delicate nature of media relationships. Media relations should complement your overall marketing communications program. It gives you credibility and helps to build brand awareness. But with that opportunity comes some loss of control that can be difficult for brand marketers.

R+K’s Amy McEvoy, head of Earned Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help strengthen media relationships for your brand, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: What Does it Mean for Your Marketing Program?

Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: - Impact on Marketing Program
Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: - Impact on Marketing Program

Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: What Does it Mean for Your Marketing Program?

Google announced it will phase out 3rd-party cookies by 2023. We’ll review what this means for brands and how they might adjust their marketing programs.

UPDATE: This post was originally published on November 9, 2020. On June 24, 2021, Google announced that they are delaying the phase out of cookies to late 2023 (rather than early 2022 as previously announced). This should allow the industry more time for both Google and the industry at large to fully roll out and test alternate solutions before cookies are removed. Rhea + Kaiser will provide additional insights and recommendations related to this news as it develops.

In a January 2020 blog post Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering at Google, announced Privacy Sandbox, a project designed to phase out 3rd-party cookies on its Chrome browser. It will take two years, with 3rd party cookies fully phased out by 2022. In the meantime, Google is working on alternative solutions that will make consumer data more secure but still allow for targeted advertising.

With this announcement, many of our peers and clients have asked what this means for their brands, their marketing strategy, and their own personal information. We’ve outlined our take on this news here.

What does this mean for marketers?

Programmatic advertising – which helps us target the right audience regardless of where they are – relies on 3rd party cookies for targeting and measurement. We explain the difference between programmatic and endemic advertising in this Marketing to Farmers post. These cookies are designed to follow users across the internet, tracking their behaviors to generate virtual user profiles. This is a powerful and effective tool for personalized advertising and conversion tracking but created concerns for consumer privacy.

So why mess with a good thing? By eliminating third-party cookies, Google better protects user data. It’s a move that forces the industry to adapt and come up with new ways to track conversions and target users. Consumers get greater protection, and programmatic publishers get alternate means of monetization.

Google Chrome represents 69% of online activity on desktop and 40% on mobile. Given that the leading mobile browser, Apple’s Safari, already prevented the use of tracking cookies in 2018, the ability to use 3rd-party cookies will be virtually gone when Google completes this transition in 2022.

What are some potential outcomes?

  • Google’s intended outcome is that 3rd party cookies become obsolete and replaced with a new universal solution that protects consumer data. One solution being tested: storing individual user-level information in the browser.  This allows access to certain information via an application programming interface (API), which allows apps to borrow data and interact in a specified way. This means the conversion would be tracked, but the user data would not be passed back. Several APIs have been proposed to solve for ad selection, conversion measurement, and fraud protection. One proposed API is a “trust token” designed to anonymously authenticate a user and distinguish them from bot traffic.
  • Publishers will likely try to scale/monetize their 1st-party data, through first-party cookies and by asking users to log in with an email and provide additional demographic data, allowing for more granular onsite targeting. 1st party cookies are not affected by these changes from Google, as this data is obtained through some form of consent or direct relationship with the user.
  • There could be a shift towards contextual targeting. Even if behavioral targeting is lost, it will still be possible to target a user based on keywords, time, and location. It will become increasingly important to make sure that ads are tailored to that context, since they can’t be personalized directly to the user. Premium publisher content may also experience a resurgence.
  • Brands may choose to leverage their email and CRM data more actively for targeted advertising.

What does this mean for our brands and yours?

The burden of finding an alternate targeting methodology largely falls on Google and a brand’s digital partners. Over the next two years, they will work together to develop solutions that allow some of the same capabilities as 3rd-party tags (behavioral targeting, conversion tracking, frequency capping, etc.).

At R+K, we’ll address this with each of our partners to understand and evaluate the new solution that they provide. Some programmatic partners have already anticipated this cookie-less shift and have robust data sets for targeting that are not reliant on 3rd-party cookies. Depending on the viability of these new solutions, there could be a shift in our recommendations for digital investment toward partners with robust 1st-party data or alternate forms of targeting (in particular, Social and CTV/OTT).

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