27 September 2015

Brand Piracy on Facebook

I'm surprised there's not more debate about content ownership. Not the usual "you wouldn't steal a car" torrenting conversation, but one about brand pirates who steal content.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, you need only browse your Facebook feed to see global corporations, publishers, small businesses, non-profits and your grandma all publishing content they don't own.

Stealing content has become standard practice. But you can't really blame the users - rights ownership and brands 'sourcing' content for social has always been a gray area. Is a press image public domain? Who owns a meme? Can we publish someone's user-generated content if they've used our hashtag? If you credit someone you can use their content, right?

Channels, for the most part, address this reasonably well. Google rewards original content. YouTube automatically detects stolen content and removes it (or more cleverly redirects ad revenue to the appropriate owner). Twitter even deletes tweets with stolen jokes if they aren't attributed to the original author.

The problem is Facebook, who do almost nothing to protect content ownership, and in doing so only encourage a behaviour of stealing. So much so that whole businesses are built around it (how much content do you think the Lad Bible actually creates?).

To be fair, Facebook has kept up an appearance of giving a shit. Their Terms of Service explicitly forbid it, and they somewhat famously deleted the original Cool Hunter page with 780,000 fans for ongoing breaches. They even suggest that images, videos and links that the algorithm has never seen before will be viewed more favourably and therefore given more organic reach.

But Facebook's not really trying to curb brand piracy. Users, brands and publishers are all still allowed and often rewarded for publishing stolen content. Even in their transition to becoming a video channel (which they now claim serves more videos daily than YouTube), most of this content is stolen. (And the original owners of said content don't see any revenue either.)

This, of course, makes total sense. More content, original or stolen, means more impressions means more revenue. It's in Facebook best interest to allow this culture of thieving to continue, because stolen content is easier to produce at volume.

Creating original content requires resources. And why would you invest if there's little reward in doing so?

I wonder out loud (like much of what I publish here) if we're not going to see some debate about our collective attitude to brand piracy on Facebook. Because the brands that create original content should be rewarded not punished.

27 June 2015

22% Of Banner Clicks Do Not Reach Their Destination

My last post about my dislike of display advertising caused a bit of controversy. Perhaps I was too heavy-handed in my language, although sometimes you need to be in order to cut through. In any case, I thought I'd balance it out with something a little more rational this time:

On average, more than 1 in 5 banner clicks do not reach the site.

This is the result from analysis of more than 110,000 clicks across four industries, fifteen campaigns and a variety of adservers, publishers, targeting, devices and formats. Click data (as reported by the adserver) was compared directly to site visit data (as reported by Google Analytics) resulting in an average click-to-visit ratio.

I'll be the first to suggest this is by no means a robust piece of research. It's a small sample of campaigns, and the spread of results ranged from as low as 37% in one case to more than 100% in another (meaning there were more visits than clicks). Without a doubt, it needs further investigation.

But even still I wonder if it's not worth having a conversation about some data that suggests, on average, only 78% of banner clicks arrive at their intended destination.

Especially if you're paying on a cost-per-click model.

Perhaps as an industry we need to move away from clicks and click-through-rates to something like visits and visit-through-rate. Although we'd need to add another decimal place in our reports.

13 June 2015

The Time I Accidentally Sent Porn To Clients

I've been interviewing lately and one of my favourite questions to ask is "What is your biggest fuck up?" One candidate asked me the same question, and this is what I told them.

I used to write a monthly newsletter for my clients, updating them on some of the digital trends and changes in the industry. Each section had a paragraph on the news and a button to find out more. It was always proofread multiple times (nothing worse than sending a typo to a few dozen clients) but one time I forgot to include a link on a button before it was sent.

As a placeholder to update later, I put in "xxx" rather than a URL in the hyperlink. But most browsers have a feature now where if a URL isn't properly formatted it will turn it into a search instead.

Every client who clicked that button ended up Googling "xxx".

So if you're proofreading something, check the links as well. And if you're going to use placeholder text, try "asdf" instead.

02 May 2015

19 Things I Fucking Hate About Banner Advertising

"Hate" is a strong word. Used here with the word "fucking", it captures precisely how I feel about display advertising.

And not for the usual reasons. I don't hate banner ads as a consumer. They're an (usually) unobtrusive means of generating revenue for content creators. That's why I don't use an ad-blocking tool.

It's the broader industry I have a problem with. That no one seems willing to challenge the notion that perhaps banner ads don't work.

This is not another article about how you're more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad (although apparently that is true). We know click-through rates are embarrassing.

Here is what I fucking hate display advertising:
  1. The percentage of users with an ad-blocking tool is now in double digits (and growing).
  2. The percentage of impressions which are fraudulent is also in double digits.
  3. There's little thought put into formats (so the defaults are used).
  4. There's little thought put into networks and suppliers (so the defaults are used).
  5. Almost always, too much is spent on production.
  6. Even more is spent on rich media production.
  7. With each campaign, learnings are thrown out with the assets.
  8. Wallpaper is acceptable.
  9. Matching luggage is acceptable.
  10. There is a belief that banner ads increase awareness.
  11. There is a lot of talk about optimisation but not much of it (or even knowledge on how to do it).
  12. There's also a lot of talk about testing and learning without knowing how to run a fair double blind test. Or what a confidence interval is.
  13. Reports often cover nothing more than impressions and clicks.
  14. Impressions are an entirely useless metric to report on.
  15. There is little talk about visibility or unique reach.
  16. There is little discussion about what happens after the click. Rarely does a report mention, let alone analyse, how users behave on-site (god forbid if they actually complete a goal or convert).
  17. You are more likely to spot a unicorn than a mention of ROI in a report.
  18. 'Post-view conversion' is a bullshit attribution model.
That's not to say all banner advertising is a complete waste. There will be an exception to each point above, and in some cases it can work. Performance media done efficiently and optimised can be very effective. I can appreciate a retargeting campaign as much as the next guy if you can prove results. Sadly, examples of smart people doing smart things are few and far between in this industry.

But above all else, the biggest reason I fucking hate banner advertising (#19) is no one is willing to discuss the issues above. We're too afraid to have these tough conversations, let alone attempt to address them. Given how much this industry invests in display, I'd have thought it was a debate worth having. 

22 April 2015

The Kindness of Strangers Online

I've been looking for something for more than 12 months.

Two weeks ago I finally found it online. But the retailer only shipped within the United States. So I setup a international mail forwarding service and made the purchase.

The next day it was refunded because the retailer "didn't trust forwarding services". I didn't mind taking the risk, but she was insistent. So I asked if she could make an exception and ship to Australia. When she finally agreed, she couldn't work out how to invoice me the shipping cost. I suggested I could just send her the money through PayPal. Of course, she didn't trust PayPal.

Crazy cat lady aside, I persisted. And so I turned to a complete random on the internet. Using /r/favors on Reddit I asked if anyone would be willing to let me use their address, and then I'd send them some money to forward the item to me in Australia. Within minutes someone offered a hand.

Unfortunately the paranoid retailer still wouldn't process the payment because the delivery address was different to the billing address.

So I asked the Redditor if he could do me a solid and not only forward me the package but make the purchase as well. And I sent a complete random person on the internet $220.

And today, the package arrived.

That internet thing ain't so bad.
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
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