More Evidence Online Video Viewers Will Accept A TV-Style Ad Load

We've been saying for a while now -- based on the evidence we've seen in certain European markets -- that online video viewers are happy to watch a significant number of in-stream ads in exchange for access to high-quality content.  Today, we found yet more evidence of the same from a study conducted by Turner Broadcasting. Today, many of Turner's TV shows only run two or three in-stream ads each (generally less than 2 minutes of advertising per episode); but the broadcaster found that if it increased the ad load to the same volumes the shows feature on TV (as much as 20 minutes per episode) the number of users who dropped off was shockingly low. The CW network found the same in its own tests.

The bottom line: Get ready for more online video ads. Inventory will grow, prices will fall (at least somewhat), and overall online video ad spending will grow dramatically.

(As a side note, The New York Times' article in which this research is published takes aim at Hulu for hoping to "lighten up" the amount of advertising users see and repeats Hulu's accurate claim that it has less than half as much advertising as the same shows on TV -- which is ironic, given that in my anecdotal experience Hulu has been more aggressive than any other US online video site in pushing more ads into its content; most of the ad breaks I see on Hulu these days contain two ads.)

Winners Of The 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards (Consumer International)

Social media adoption has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and not just in North America. Did you know that Italian and South Korean online users are more likely to engage with social media than American online users? Likewise, most of the European countries we study have a higher percentage of Conversationalists than we find in the US.

Despite this, most industry conversation around social media tends to focus on the US — and over the past few years nearly all of the entries we’ve received for the Forrester Groundswell Awards have talked about US-focused social media programs. To help recognize the companies that are pioneering the use of social media outside the US, this year we introduced an international category to the awards.

This week at Forrester's Marketing and Strategy Forum EMEA 2010, I was proud to present the winners of the inaugural Forrester International Groundswell Awards, which you’ll see listed below. I was thrilled with the entries we received. We saw dozens of quality entries from around the world, and in the end recognized finalists and winners from four continents, as well as a number of global efforts. I hope that other companies learn from — and rise to the standard of — the entries we saw this year; and I hope that our 2011 international category sees even more — and even better — entries.

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Should You Bid On Competitors' Trademarks?

Recently, Google changed its policies to allow European marketers to bid on other companies' trademarks — but surprisingly, the floodgates haven't opened yet. In fact, we're not seeing very much competitive keyword bidding at all in Europe — nor in the UK, where Google has allowed this type of bidding for several years. This got us thinking: What types of marketers should bid on their competitors' trademarked keywords — and which (if any) shouldn't? Is competitive bidding best used as a branding exercise or to generate leads and sales? When you bid competitively, how should you change your creative strategy and your landing page choices? And, critically, how should you respond if you find your competitors bidding on your keywords?

I'm working with my new colleague Lucilla De Sarlo on a report on these topics right now, and we would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments below or to e-mail Lucilla at: ldesarlo@forrester.com.

Identifying — And Defeating — Social Clutter

Something amazing has happened to social media in the past couple of years: Overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. We're now at the point where more than 80% of US online users engage with social media - and although there's been some hand-wringing over the fact social media adoption has plateaued at that level, let's keep things in perspective: 80% engage with social media! That's as many people as own a DVD player or use SMS.

This kind of scale gives marketers the potential to generate reach through social media. Sure, it's a new and unfamiliar kind of reach for many marketers - rather than just shouting uniform messages at millions of people, they must engage directly with their audiences and then hope those audiences turn around and talk to and influence millions more users. But as we've proven, this new model of reach can also provide the same kind of massive scale that the old reach models did: Just a tiny handful of Mass Connectors will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.

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Changes In How Europeans Contribute Social Content Will Force Marketers To Update Their Social Media Strategies

 If you’ve ever talked to Forrester about social media, chances are you’ve heard of the Social Technographics® Ladder -- our tool for measuring how people use social technologies and for helping marketers (and product strategists and market researchers and others) understand how to engage with those people in the social Web.

Today we’ve released our new 2010 Social Technographics data worldwide (you can see the US data here), and you’ll notice that this year, for the first time since we introduced the ladder, we’ve added a new category of social engagement. The new category -- “Conversationalists” -- is designed to capture the short, rapid conversations that are now taking place on Twitter and through Facebook status updates. How many people are engaged in these behaviors? Almost one-third of European online adults participate in these rapid public conversations every week. In just over two years, this activity has come from nowhere to become one of the most popular social behaviors we track.

And this Conversationalist activity has come along at just the right time, too -- because more “traditional” forms of online contribution have levelled off. The percentage of online Europeans who post their own blogs, videos, photos, or other media -- what we call “Creators” -- hasn’t grown in either of the past two years. And the percentage who participate in message boards and forums or who post comments on blogs or other social sites -- what we call “Critics” -- has grown just one percentage point in Europe each of the past two years.

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How Does Your Company Manage Social Media Across Multiple Countries?

Working in Europe, I'm constantly hearing about social media programs designed for one country accidentally reaching users in other countries -- especially when they're done in English. Toyota's excellent social media-focused iQ car launch in the UK attracted attention from the US, where the car isn't available. Yesterday a client told me that their Australian marketing team launched a Facebook page that they thought was just for their market -- but when they looked at the analytics, they found that only about 5% of the page's fans were Australian, with the rest coming from other big English-speaking markets.

 

As I see it, there are two big challenges when global companies use social media:

  1. How do you best leverage social media resources from one country (be they staff, technologies, partnerships, or content) across other countries to improve your efficiency and effectiveness?
  2. How do you keep social media messages that are appropriate for just one market (because product availability, or specifications, or pricing, or marketing message can vary from place to place) from "bleeding out" to reach users in other markets?
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How Can Marketers Overcome Social Clutter?

As more marketers take to Facebook and Twitter -- and as users' friend lists on these networks continues to grow -- it strikes me that it may be getting ever harder for marketers to actually get a message through to their target customers. After all, if the average Twitter user follows several hundred people, and all those people post on average a few tweets per day, and then the average Twitter user checks in only a couple times per day and reads maybe 40 or 50 tweets per check-in . . . they're missing a lot of messages, right? If you assume that logic is right (though obviously the data points are all just ballpark guesses right now), it got me wondering: If a marketer has 100,000 followers on Twitter, or 100,000 fans on Facebook, and they post something, what percentage of those followers or fans ever actually see that marketing message?

 

I've collected the data around this and am in the process of building a model to find the answer to my question -- and I'll be writing a report about that topic this month. In the meantime, though, I'd love to get your thoughts on the topic.

- Do you feel as if it's getting harder or easier for marketers to get a message to users through social media?

- Which social networks do you feel are the most cluttered, and which are the least cluttered?

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Google Opens Up Branded Keyword Bidding In Europe

On the heels of some positive court decisions earlier this year, Google today announced that they're changing their keyword bidding policies in Europe to match those already in place in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. Most notably, this means European marketers will now be able to display paid listings to users searching for other companies' trademarks. There's lots of coverage around, including:

Obviously, this isn't great news for brands. That's why Louis Vuitton and others were fighting against these policies in court; they've worked hard to build brand recognition and credibility and to drive the consumer desire that leads to a Web search -- and they feel as if Google is making money by selling those consumers to other marketers at the last moment.

But brands don't always lose. Sometimes those other marketers will be competitors, of course -- but sometimes they'll be the channel partners of the brands being searched for. Sony, for instance, shouldn't have any problem with Amazon.com and other retailers advertising Sony's digital cameras when consumers search for those cameras by name. For the retailers, then, this decision is a win: They have more freedom than before to target in-market buyers, no matter the brand for which they're searching.

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How Mature Are Your Mobile Marketing Efforts?

We're gearing up to write a lot of research about mobile marketing (and mobile content and mobile commerce) in the next few months -- and we'd love your help in benchmarking the state of the industry. No matter how much or how little mobile your organization has used, we'd very much like you to spend a few minutes answering our mobile maturity survey. It'll only take you 10 or 15 minutes at the most, the results will be kept 100% anonymous, and in return for your time, we'll send you a free summary of the survey results. Please spend a few minutes helping us collect the best possible data on this topic!

UPDATE: My apologies, but since the survey doesn't seem to be working properly at the moment, I've taken down the link. Hopefully we'll get it back up and working again soon.

Does Google's 'Sitelinks' Feature Improve Or Hurt Conversion Rates?

I don't know about you, but I like the 'extended' search results I sometimes see on Google. I mean the ones where Google, instead of just offering a single link for the top search result, provides you with several deep links into a site. It makes navigation faster, and that's a good thing.

Those extra links almost always show up in organic results, so you may not have known that marketers can actually buy this feature in their paid listings as well. Google calls them 'AdWords Ad Sitelinks.' But -- I'm starting to wonder how well these actually work for marketers. I noticed today that in Google's case study about how Nationwide Insurance used Sitelinks [pdf], Google says the clickthrough rate went up 73% but conversions only rose 60%. The case study isn't clear on whether that's conversions per click or overall conversions -- but it certainly sounds like overall conversions. In which case, the clicks Nationwide got from Sitelinks actually converted at a lower rate than the clicks they got from traditional paid listings.

Now, this is just one example -- and as I said, it's based on my reading of the case study. But if Sitelinks really did drive conversion rates down rather than up, surely that'd be a concern.

I'm curious -- have you used Sitelinks? If so, what did you think of the program's performance -- especially the conversion rates? Let us know in the comments below.