ESPN presented its annual upfront yesterday, with a heavy emphasis on authentication, apps and delivering advertiser value. While the networks struggle to create social TV experience, CNN will likely be the first to make it a norm.
At the same time, ESPN Films announced that it will resurrect its 2010 hit series of sports-oriented films 30 for 30.
As Ad Age reports, Eric Johnson, ESPN's exec VP-multimedia sales, promised advertisers more targeted reach through its digital properties including the espnW platform for female sports fans; a new ESPN radio app for both the iPhone and iPad; ESPNFC, a global soccer destination; and a partnership with Twitter that will start with the NBA Finals.
Johnson claimed as well that with the Watch ESPN authenticated TV Everywhere app (introduced last year), ESPN now reaches 40 million homes, a number it expects to double before 2013.
Of course, few networks have the budget of ESPN, and "Modern Family" fans are hardly as rabid as NBA fans. But ESPN sets the bar for cross-media convergence.
30 for 30 Vol. II
ESPN Films has announced the return of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. As with the first series, which included collaborations with acclaimed filmmakers such as Peter Berg (“Kings Ransom”), Barry Levinson (“The Band That Wouldn’t Die”), Ice Cube (“Straight Outta L.A.”) and Academy Award-winner Barbara Koppel (“The House of Steinbrenner”), ESPN Films will once again partner with a wide array of filmmakers to tell inspirational sports stories. 30 for 30 Vol. II is scheduled to premiere in October.
“30 for 30 was conceived as a finite collection and when the original series ended in December of 2010 with ‘Pony Excess,’ we had underestimated the strength of the connection fans had made between sports documentaries and the 30 for 30 brand,” said Connor Schell, vice president of ESPN Films. “We’re proud to have created a brand that has become synonymous with quality sports storytelling and we see value in bringing back a second collection of 30 films.”
In addition to a second slate of 30 feature-length documentaries, ESPN Films will broaden its scope to support a whole new crop of stories with the creation of 30 for 30 Shorts – a 30-part digital short film series. 30 for 30 Shorts will be similar to the feature-length films in that each piece will represent a specific point of view of the filmmaker and will be a reflection of how they blend the narrative with their own visual style. Beginning in September, a new short film will debut monthly on Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. A 30 for 30 Short entitled “Here Now” about Pete Rose is currently online as preview of the series.
Volume II of 30 for 30 will have a much more defined multimedia component through closer integration with Grantland.com by featuring filmmaker podcasts with Bill Simmons, topical oral histories, in-depth features and more. Each feature-length film and digital short will be complemented with a long-form written piece on Grantland.com that deepens the experience with additional context.
Films scheduled to air as part of 30 for 30 Vol. II include:
- “Benji” about 17-year-old NBA prospect Ben Wilson whose life was tragically cut short;
- “Broke,” a documentary about pro athletes sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems;
- “Bo Knows,” another documentary about the marketing of pro athletes like legendary sports figure Bo Jackson;
- “The Season of Their Lives,” about the 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball team.
Social TV Via Twitter
ESPN announced a strategic collaboration with Twitter that it believes offers fans and advertisers unique, interactive programs around major sporting events, beginning with the upcoming NBA Finals. The effort will be promoted across Twitter, ESPN networks, ABC and ESPN’s broad array of digital assets, including ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile.
Each program will be co-created by ESPN and Twitter, beginning with GameFace – the first effort, which will be focused on the NBA Finals. GameFace will be seamlessly integrated throughout the live ABC broadcasts and ESPN’s NBA Tonight programming with a dedicated Twitter hashtag #GameFace.
Fans will be encouraged to tweet photographs of their “game face” throughout the finals. At the conclusion of each game, NBA Tonight analysts will highlight the competition and reveal the best photographs on-air. The best photos will also be featured in a photo gallery on ESPN.com/NBA.
“Working together, ESPN and Twitter are giving marketers a clear and powerful way to link on-air and online social conversations around sports,” said Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s Vice President of Global Brand Strategy. “It’s the first time advertisers can engage the audience around ESPN’s premier content across screens and where the conversation is happening on Twitter.”
Added Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN Global Customer Marketing and Sales, “Advertisers and marketers have been asking for meaningful opportunities that tap into the power of social media. We know fans use ESPN and Twitter as their main source for content and connectivity. By taking that scale and combining it with the passion of sports fans, this program answers the value equation of social media while providing a new way for fans to engage with ESPN.”
On Twitter, #GameFace will be supported through Twitter’s Promoted Products suite (including a Promoted Trend during the Finals), and the experience will be plugged on the @NBAonESPN Twitter handle.
The latest version of the ESPN Radio app for iPhone, iPad and iTouch provides both live and on demand content, and includes a new feature that allows fans to build their own sports stations. Versions for Android and Windows 7 smartphones are slated to launch later this summer.
“This latest version of the ESPN Radio App builds on our promise to deliver the best sports audio content across any device,” said Marc Horine, Vice President, ESPN Digital and Print Media. “With this update, fans now have complete control over their listening experience as the app provides the functionality to customize specifically by sports, teams and athletes they care most about.”
Beginning today (May 16), fans can download the premium version of the app at no cost for a limited time. After that, for a one-time fee of $4.99, fans can access the full experience of the app, complete with the new personalization features and enhancements. The premium app will continue to give millions of ESPN Radio listeners access to live radio streams from more than 35 ESPN Radio stations, fan favorite shows like “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, “Waddle & Silvy” (Chicago) and “The Michael Kay Show” (New York), plus select play-by-play broadcasts, live scores and text messaging.
ESPN Radio launched its first app in September 2009 and has since been one of the top paid sports apps in the marketplace. Additionally, it was named Best Radio App by Radio Ink Magazine at the Digital Convergence Awards in May 2011. The ESPN Radio App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.
Upfront Digital: Politics, Weather Mashup | Bing Cans Strategists | A “Pinterest for Fashion Brands”
- Political ads alongside weather forecasts? Where better to find local reach for political ads? Cox Digital Solutions has reached an exclusive ad sales agreement with The Weather Channel, reports Media Post. Cox Digital is now the exclusive seller of political advertising across The Weather Channel’s weather.com. Media Post calls the contract part of a larger digital strategy for Cox Digital, similar to one it struck with Yahoo. Beth Lawrence, EVP of ad sales and media solutions for The Weather Channel, explained the attraction by saying that “Local reach is The Weather Channel’s sweet spot [while] political advertising is Cox Digital Solutions’ area of expertise.”
- Microsoft's's Bing may have “Tempered Its Ad Strategy” with two “High-Profile Firings,” reports AdAge Digital. Microsoft last week dismissed two consumer-marketing executives, General Manager Eric Hadley and Director Sean Carver, both of marketing communications. Microsoft cited violations of company policies related to mismanagement of company assets and vendor procurement. These violations included using non-Microsoft-approved vendors, mismanagement surrounding Microsoft’s “Bing Bar” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and unauthorized first-class flights. Ad Age called Hadley and Carver the “bold-face names associated with some of Microsoft's most high-profile marketing,” such as contracts with Jay-Z and LeBron James. Hadley was honored as an Ad Age Media Maven and inducted into the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Hall of Achievement.
- CBS, in an attempt to “boost its share of the nearly billion-dollar fantasy-sports business,” has opened up its CBS Sports website to outside developers for creating fantasy sports apps, reports the Wall Street Journal. Fantasy sports enables participants to assemble teams of pro athletes, then compete based on the players' real-life performance. Most fantasy leagues are hosted by a small group of websites, which includes Yahoo Sports, ESPN.com and CBSSports.com; but has faced growing third-party competition by “mom-and-pop fantasy operators.” CBS Sports executives hope to create a hub for those operators, by enabling them to build products on the CBSSports.com platform; the site will offer both free and paid apps, with CBSSports.com keeping a 30% share of sales.
- Belvedere Vodka on Friday kicked up a Facebook firestorm, reports Adweek, and has since apologized. The company usually runs elegant-looking ads promoting a smooth-vodka lifestyle. Friday’s ad may have depicted a woman falling into some guy’s lap, or may have depicted some guy restraining a woman who was trying to get away (which is how the websphere took it). Adweek reports that Belvedere’s Facebook and Twitter pages were “immediately inundated with howling protests” and the ad disappeared. Saturday at 1:35 ET, Belvedere President Charles Gibb issued a statement on the Facebook page that he personally apologized for the “offensive post,” that he was “investigating the matter to determine how this happened,” and that the company would make a donation to the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN. RAINN’s immediate response (at 1:56 PM Saturday), also on Facebook, was “Nice to see a company that not only undoes its mistake but looks for a way to do good afterwards.”
- Pinterest does not yet take advertisers, but Trendabl may be the answer for brands. Trendable is a new iPhone app, similar to Instagram and Twitter, but tailored to fashion, reports Women’s Wear Daily. Trendabl is a photo-sharing platform on which users either take pictures or upload images from their libraries, and tag by label, price, retail availability. Already on board: Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, Barneys New York, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Current/Elliott, Harley Viera-Newton and Brad Goreski.
- Business-to-business publishers use Apple platforms more commonly than Android platforms for digital magazines, reports B2B Online. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) conducted a survey finding that 68% of respondents currently publish for the iPad and 58% for the iPhone: but just 35% of respondents are currently publishing on Android-based tablets and 38% for Android-based phones. The online survey was conducted in February, with 85 publishing executives participating.
It is no secret that the combination of paid media (in advertising) and earned media (news stories, social media) boost brand awareness and favorability. But as eMarketer reports, the combination also raises order sizes and revenue per click.
Analytics and attribution solution provider ClearSaleing conducted a study of consumer exposure to a combination of paid, owned and earned media. The study revealed that when consumers are exposed to social media on top of other online ad formats and marketing channels (e.g., search engine ads, email direct and display ads), the average revenue per order for U.S. advertisers was $280.71—considerably more than the average $135.37 average for all digital channels.
ClearSaleing observed that consumers use social media and comparison shopping engines for larger purchases (e.g., major appliances) , which could contribute to the higher average revenue per order. Also true, ClearSaleing tracked display interactions by view-through activity versus by impressions alone, which lends credibility to display ads as having significant influence upon consumers.
Yesterday at Social Media Week in New York, Microsoft’s General Manager of Brand Advertising Jennifer Creegan introduced what she calls “a new social advertising solution I am pretty excited about.” As Creegan describes on her MS blog, “With People Powered Stories (PPS), advertisers can incorporate real peoples’ ratings and reviews about their products within a rich brand ad.” Microsoft partnered with Bazaarvoice, a social marketing monetization provider.
PPS integrates consumer ratings and reviews into the rich PPS ad format (see graphic). Creegan told AdExchanger that the company conducted research across both the consumer and marketer landscapes, and “it became clear that there was a crossover need around word-of-mouth marketing, and specifically, ratings and reviews.”
But those reviews have to be real reviews, with real metrics. In a poke at Facebook, Creegan promises that PPS gives marketers the ability to create ads that “tell powerful stories and create brand relevancy beyond just a ‘Like,’” by including real stories and reviews (see graphic).
Microsoft used itself to pilot PPS, by integrating the ad format into a Windows 7 “back to school” ad campaign, targeting college students in the market for a new computer. The campaign ran across Microsoft properties with targeting capabilities, to ensure a student audience. Microsoft claims that in market tests, the campaign delivered—
- A boost in ad believability of 20 points above market norms for technology ads
- A 6.3% lift in purchase intent
- A 13.5% lift in unaided brand awareness
PPS will be generally available in the coming weeks.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released the final version of its “Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification,” in cooperation with the Media Rating Council (MRC). The advantage to advertisers and marketers is truth in numbers: IAB is promising that with a common set of standards, “companies engaged in the verification of interactive advertising campaigns can themselves be audited against a common, transparent standard.”
The participants in creating the guildelines include both buy- and sell-side heavyweights such as the New York Times, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting, Yahoo!, Google, and verification services like AdXpose and Telemetry.
In an executive summary of the guidelines, IAB claimed as one of its goals to “reduce the chaos that has surrounded ad verification practice since its inception,” and to improve the trust between both buy- and sell-side industry organizations. “While ad verification in principle is valuable to the digital advertising industry, the lack of accountability created tension between the publishers and marketers.” said Steve Sullivan, Vice President, Advertising Technology for IAB. The Bureau “developed these guidelines to introduce a level of consistency into campaign assessments commensurate the industry's standards for impression measurement.”
The guidelines provide a detailed set of common methods and practices for verification of online advertising, useful to verification vendors and users of verification services (both buyers and sellers). They include mobile, e-mail or lead generation campaigns of all types and address a wide range of topics, including:
- Ad-serving prevention (“ad blocking”) carries larger implications to the buyer and/or seller because the intended ad serving transaction is interrupted. The guidelines recommend that ad blocking may be used in instances where the relevant domain or page-level URL is already on a blocking list, for competitive separation and fraud prevention. Ad blocking should only be built into ad serving systems, so decisions are made pre-serve.
- Nested iFrames are often recognized as legitimate technology, but because of browser operational/security considerations, there is limited visibility into the legitimacy of iFrames filled with content from outside the parent domain. For that reason, the guidelines recommend ad verification vendors have procedures to classify and report whether advertising served into iFrames from other domains has been appropriately executed. In addition, the general nature of the verification tools used to view iFrame content should be disclosed. Moreover, it is recommended that the industry minimize the use of nested iFrames.
- Geo-targeting IP-based processes can vary in quality based on the geo-targeting vendor used. The guidelines recommend geo-targeting vendors subject their processes to independent auditing and that natural differences in geo targeting accuracy between vendors be taken into account.
“Consistent and transparent conduct of ad verification is vital for deepening confidence in the industry and driving the advancement of digital advertising,” said George Ivie, Executive Director and CEO of the MRC. “We believe the issuance of these guidelines represent a major step toward achieving these goals.”
IAB has made the guidelines available on its website.
Source Interlink Media (SIM) has announced the launch of the MotorTrend YouTube Channel, with original automotive content available to online audiences. The Motor Trend Channel is part of YouTube’s rollout of around 100 new original content channels throughout the year.
“We are really treating this like a TV channel,” said Source Interlink Media Chief Content Officer and Motor Trend Channel Executive Producer Angus MacKenzie. “What separates it from linear or traditional TV – is how interactive Internet television is. These new channels are very social-media driven. We can immediately communicate with our viewers for instantaneous feedback on what they do and don’t like, and what they’d like to see more of.”
The Motor Trend Channel’s programs garner content from SIM’s portfolio of automotive media brands, including Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Motorcyclist and FourWheeler, among others. The programs cover first rides and drives and tests of the latest two- and four-wheeled machinery, as well as automotive lifestyle and documentary shows.
SIM identifies its in-market auto group audience as:
- 52% male
- Mean age 43
- Mean household income $71,000
- 72% college educated
- 73% employed full or part time
A full schedule of programming with eight separate shows is expected to be available by February 17. New videos from each show will be posted on a varying schedule, but there will be new content available every business day.
Motor Trend’s new programming will be produced by Michael Suggett and Julia Sanchez with MacKenzie serving as Executive Producer. Jim Gleason will assume the role of Creative Manager.
“This was the next logical step for SIM as it continues its transformation from a legacy magazine publishing business to a media-neutral content creation company,” said McKenzie. “The channels and content provided by Motor Trend and others under YouTube’s initiative represent a paradigm shift for how enthusiasts watch and consume video online.”
Among the eight original programs:
- “Ignition,” a weekly five-minute block feature first drives and first tests
- “Head 2 Head,” a comparison test series focusing on performance vehicles and motorcycles
- “Roadkill,” a feature-length program following HotRod’s David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan as they enjoy hot rods, street machines and “other highly strung performance vehicles”
- “Epic Drives,” a travelogue of road trips from around the world.
"This research demonstrates that social video significantly increases brand attention," claims London-based Unruly Media. Unruly offers a global platform for social video advertising, has three US offices, and delivered such video campaigns as Old Spice’s “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign and Coke’s “Happiness” series. Unruly commissioned research firm Decipher to study results across such consumer brands as Heineken, Coca-Cola and Energizer Batteries. The survey among 18-34 year olds investigated the impact of recommendation on brand metrics to determine social ad effectiveness.
Among the findings:
- Viewers are more likely to enjoy a video when it has been recommended than when encountered through browsing (14% higher enjoyment)
- Viewers are more likely to recall a brand name when the social video has been recommended than when encountered through browsing (7% higher recall)
- Viewers are more likely to engage with an ad’s messages when the social has been recommended than when encountered through browsing (10% higher brand association)
Who does the recommending? Certainly, peers in social media environments, but also authoritative bloggers and and news sources who covering advertiser content editorially: consider that all of that Super Bowl ad coverage by the news media (e.g., by CNN, which reported on Honda’s leaking its Ferris Beueller-themed ad).
Of course, what viewers do next after a recommendation is of key importance to advertisers. Decipher found that within three days of viewing social video—
- 49% purchased the advertised product
- 38% spoke to someone in person about the video
- 9% searched for the brand
- 4% searched for products of that type
If this sounds easy, recall that these results are based on videos that the viewers enjoyed, and which were recommended to the viewer. The source of brand awareness and purchasing influence is not on YouTube, rather, it rests where it always has: in an ad agency's creative department.
The New York Times read between the lines of Facebook’s IPO prospectus. As chief mergers and acquisitions reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin figures like 845 million monthly active users “should have an asterisk next to them.” Facebook counts among those 845 million monthly active users, and daily active users of 483 million, anyone who visits it’s Web or mobile site; but also, anyone who uses a Facebook “Like” or “Recommend” button in third-party sites, to share activity with Facebook friends.
How significant is that? Practically all significant online properties, including CNN.com, MSNBC.com, TheSmokingGun.com (pictured below) and ESPN.GO.com, include a “Like” or “Recommend” button alongside stories. So an “active user” may never leave the ESPN or CNN sites; theoretically, an active user may never visit Facebook, or see its featured ads.
Also counted among those active users: those click on the Facebook logo within a “Follow Us” bar, which typically includes an RSS feed logo, Twitter, Digg and email logos, among others.
The numbers climb. If the third-party site uses a Facebook ID for log-in (HuffingtonPost.com is one such site, and the feature is called “Facebook Connect”), and the user leaves a comment on a story in that site, he or she is counted as actively using Facebook. So, opined the CEO for equity research of Fusion IQ, those visitors “cannot be marketed to, they do not see advertising,” they simply used the extensive Facebook infrastructure.
However optimistic the unique-visitor figures, they are considerable anyway; and Facebook ads offer considerable cost-per-click savings of up to 45%, by some estimates. And a publicly-traded Facebook, with plans to become a news outlet as well, will necessarily become meticulously transparent in its traffic figures.
- Twitter will launch its enhanced brand ads on February 1, according to Business Insider. The Facebook-like functionality has been available to a few select brands, including Coca-Cola, but now will be generally available—at a pricetag of $25,000.
- ESPN and Jeep caught heat from Digiday, which named the network and automaker in its Bad Ad of the Week.”ESPN covered the memorial service of former Penn State head football Joe Paterno. A rich-media ad for Jeep had a Jeep Wrangler “crash through” the computer screen, as well as Paterno’s casket, which sat dead center.
- The Sundance Film Festival and YouTube have cut a deal to rent out Sundance titles, reports Streaming Media. Most Sundance titles will rent for $2.99 to $3.99 for a 48-hour rental--$1 or more cheaper than from Comcast. The Sundance Film Festival wrapped over the weekend.
- Consumer-goods maker Procter & Gamble will “throw caution to the digital wind,” reports AdExchanger. Chairman and CEO Bob McDonald in an earnings conference call said the company would eliminate 1,600 non-manufacturing jobs, and invest heavily in its digital marketing. "In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that return on investment of the advertising when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient."
- Angry consumers used Facebook to storm the gates of clothing retailer H&M last week. They accused the company of lifting a designer’s ad idea, reports Adweek. The company has begun marketing goods with the simple tagline “You look nice today,” with a red heart shape. Atlanta artist Tori LaConsay created the tagline—complete with red heart—for a sign in her neighborhood, in 2008. She was unpaid for the sign. Supporters have since deluged H&M’s Facebook site with hate messages. H&M at first attempted to dismiss the similarities as a “coincidence,” but is now seeking a resolution with LaConsay.
Nielsen has released its tally of unique U.S. video viewers for December 2012. All told, 164.3 million viewers streamed more than 22 billion videos, and spend more than 5 hours each watching online video.
YouTube as ahead at more than 131 million unique viewers; but, Nielsen offered no insights as to how many viewers watched ad-sponsored content. Second-place VEVO, with 39.7 million unique viewers, is entirely ad supported.
A fairly untapped ad outlet is the CollegeHumor Network clocked 19,261 unique users. CollegeHumor is one of four CH Media properties, and touts itself as “The best way to reach the male 18-49 demographic.” Its strongest advertiser in January is Comedy Central, with tower ads for its Tosh 2.0 series.