How Advertisers are Embracing Trust & Transparency in a Post-GDPR Era

The rollout of GDPR has ushered in a new era for the advertising industry – an era of transparency and trust. New privacy laws have influenced advertisers to find effective advertising methods that do not utilize data-heavy programmatic advertising.

“For the foreseeable future, there will be a change in the way that agencies will have to speak to their audiences,” said Duane Thompson, head of display ad programmatic advertising at Total Media.1

On average, advertisers are currently spending 30 percent less on programmatic targeting than they did pre-GDPR, instead funneling that money into other creative channels that allow them to be more engaging with consumers.2

“The biggest scarcity right now is attention, capturing people’s attention,” said Bill Allman, chief digital officer at Smithsonian Enterprises. “Getting them to pay attention for more than a nanosecond is hard for everybody.”3

Advances in technology and social media have armed brands with countless tools to seize the attention of customers, while also providing their consumers with a better user experience.

Here are some creative ways advertisers are engaging with their audiences in 2018.

Advertisers are Embracing Branded Content
Today, advertisers are embracing the old but reliable use of branded content. In short, branded content is advertising that uses any form of content, such as articles, videos, or interactive graphics, to promote a brand.4 The content is often embedded natively, matching the form and style of the site it is presented on.

Branded content, unlike traditional display ads, often does not tell users directly to purchase a product. Instead, it is meant to entertain and inform, thus building brand awareness and providing a positive user experience.5

A study by Boston Consulting Group shows that branded content is palatable to consumers – 96 percent of people trust brands that provide useful information without trying to sell something.6

A Digiday survey shows that companies are excited by branded content’s possibilities, as 32 percent of publishing executives responded that branded content provides the biggest opportunity to grow revenue.7

As a result, advertisers and publishers are investing heavily in branded content. In 2017, global branded content spend was $5 billion, and the market is expected to increase 40 percent year-over-year through 2020.8

Spotify and The New York Times recently partnered to create engaging branded content, posting sponsored editorial that fact-checked lyrics from 2017’s hit songs as if they were quotes from politicians. The average reader spent more than two minutes with the content and the campaign achieved 20 million impressions overall.9

Additionally, some companies are beginning to embrace branded interactive content that engages users at a higher level than articles or videos. The Financial Times and Uber partnered to create The Uber Game – sponsored content that allows users to interactively live the life of an Uber driver. It was extremely successful, as more than 70 percent of users completed the game.10

Advertisers are Engaging Creative Users
Another advertising method seeing success in 2018 is user-generated content – an advertising strategy in which brands invite their customers to create and submit content featuring their products. Brands often then share examples of the content across their own digital channels and social media.

UGC is an attractive marketing method for advertisers for several reasons. For one, UGC builds brand trust and awareness – 93 percent of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making purchases and 86 percent of millennials see UCG as a key indicator when they are considering the quality of a brand.11

In addition, UGC is cost-effective for advertisers. Because users create the content, brands are only responsible for distribution.

Adobe recently launched a highly successful UGC campaign called “Make the Cut” that invited users to cut their own music video for “Believer,” a popular song by the Imagine Dragons. The company posted uncut footage of the band online, and told users to create their own video using Adobe Premier Pro CC.

The results were staggering – 10,000 videos were submitted amounting to 1.5 billion global media impressions.12

In another creative campaign, M&M’s created a UGC campaign in which Instagram users could submit photos on the app using a certain hashtag. The brand then used these photos to create a weekly comic strip by drawing animated M&M’s characters into the photos.13

By sharing free, user-generated content, M&M’s gained more than 120,000 new Instagram followers, a 20-percent increase from the beginning of the campaign.14

Advertisers are Empowering Influencers
Influencer marketing is a strategy in which an advertiser recruits a credible individual with access to a large audience, and compensates them to advertise the brand, typically on social media.

What started as a small group of individuals posting promotional blogs and traditional photos has transformed into an entire industry. Influencers were once compensated per-post, but contracts are now becoming increasingly common.

“Recently, influencer contracts have become more in line with traditional talent contracts,” said Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, an AI platform that matches brands to influencers.15 These contracts now include post length, exclusivity rights and licensing rights for content usage.

As proof of influencers’ staying power, advertisers are showing a commitment to the method – 75 percent of brands use influencer marketing and 43 percent are planning to increase spend in 2018.16 This commitment seems to be well-guided, as a recent survey shows influencer campaigns earn brands $6.85 of earned media for every dollar of paid media.17

Financials aside, advertisers invest in influencers for another simple reason: young people trust them. In fact, a recent Variety survey found that six of the 10 most influential and trustworthy figures for young Americans aged 13 to 18 are YouTube personalities.18

In a post-GDPR era, brands are getting creative with their digital – and are seeing encouraging results.

Content Personalization

1. Davies, Jessica. “’Personalization Diminished’: In the GDPR Era, Contextual Targeting Is Making a Comeback.” Digiday, Digiday, 7 June 2018.
2. Joseph, Seb. “A Month after GDPR Takes Effect, Programmatic Ad Spend Has Started to Recover.” Digiday, Digiday, 25 June 2018.
3. Allman, Bill, Brian Kroski, and John Toth. “Can Quality Sell Quality? Making the Case for Premium Content.” MediaPost Publishing Insider Summit. 2017.
4. “What Is Branded Content?” Market Track, Market Track, 2017
6. Zuckerman, Neal, et al. “Branded Content: Growth for Marketers and Media Companies.” BCG, Boston Consulting Group, 30 July 2015.
7. Weiss, Mark. “Digiday Research: C-Level Publisher Executives Bank on Branded Content for Growth.” Digiday, Digiday, 31 May 2018.
8. Gupta, Kunal. “Branded Content Spend Poised to Reach $7 Billion In 2018.” Polar, Polar, 4 Dec. 2017.
9. Spotify. “How Accurate Are 2017’s Hit Songs?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Dec. 2017.
10. Blood, David, et al. “How (and Why) the Financial Times Made the Uber Game.” Source: An OpenNews Project, Source, 25 Oct. 2017.
11. Agius, Aaron. “User Generated Content: Where Does It Fit in Your Marketing Strategy?” Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing Institute, 3 Oct. 2017.
12. “Adobe & Imagine Dragons: Believer.” Advertising, Media, & PR, The Webby Awards, 2018.
13. “M&Ms & Friends: The First User Generated Comic Strip.” M&Ms & Friends Case Study Site, Mars, 2018.
14. IBID
15. Liffreing, Ilyse. “Influencers Are Getting Long-Term Contracts That Treat Them More like Traditional Talent.” Digiday, Digiday, 29 Mar. 2018.
16. Pathak, Shareen. “How Influencer Marketing Has Changed, in 5 Charts.” Digiday, Digiday, 3 Apr. 2018.
17. Connolly, Bill. “Why Digital Influencers Are Winning the Battle for Consumer Trust.” Olapic, Olapic.
18. Ault, Susanne. “Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens.” Variety, Variety, 5 Aug. 2014.