August 30, 2016

The Month In Media – August 2016

While Team GB were smashing it at the Olympics, plenty was happening in the world of media…

The effect of marketing on male body confidence – Tom PhelanNew research by think tank Credos has found that 53% of secondary school boys feel that advertising pressures them to look good, alongside friends, celebrities and social media. Around 20% say that they have changed how they exercise after seeing ads, while 67% declared it unacceptable for marketing campaigns to include digitally airbrushed models.The research findings show that the advertising industry, while often having a positive effect on how young people see themselves, can also have a damaging effect. “Are you beach body ready” springs to mind…The survey is part of a series of initiatives by the think tank to inform and encourage debate around gender representation in UK advertising. Media Smart – an industry-backed media literacy programme – has produced new resources that help parents teach their children about advertising, with the aid of real-life advertising campaigns by Persil, L’Oreal and Aldi.I think that it was only a matter of time before news like this surfaced, in our increasingly media-dominated lives. We have heard for a long time the debate around the representation of women in the media, but until now the issue of male images has not really been discussed. The effect of Instagram on young male (and female) minds may be underestimated. It’s a totally image-based social network where edited and filtered images show users’ lives in an unrepresentative fashion. CALM – a charity for prevention of male suicide – seized on this with its ‘Instaman’ (and other ‘mandictionary’) ads. The body insecurities will always be there, social media just amplifies them, in my opinion.Just as how Dove has championed all body shapes and sizes in its marketing campaigns aimed at women, it might now be time for men’s skincare (and other) brands to start using more typically representative images of men.

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Facebook takes on the Ad Blockers – Al KidnerSo it happened. Finally one of the biggest new media giants of our age went careering head on with one of the biggest threats to our digital ecosystem. The results so far however, have been, shall we say ‘unexpected’. It seems that the 18th biggest brand of 2016 can’t just wipe its hands of Ad Blocking and be done with it. And all it needed was a little legal reasoning for it to throw this David vs. Goliath battle into context.It all comes down to visibility. Legally, Facebook have to disclose to a customer when they are seeing an ad, or paid for content. This has always been the case. Their way of getting around the growing Ad Blocking problem is to make the ads technologically ‘indistinguishable’ from an organic post on the network. However, that’s to say that the ads are only different in the background, not the foreground. So Ad Blocking Plus have simply found a way through its suite of developers to almost ‘scrape’ the front end code to identify when an ad is actually in place. Given the earlier legal precedent, there isn’t really a winnable way around this for Facebook.The above commentary from Mashable alleges that Facebook’s back and forth with Ad Blocker Plus is nothing more than a ‘pr stunt’ that they could never actually win, but wanted to create enough furore to make a scene about Ad Blocking as the new evil. I don’t believe that this is necessarily the case. I think that to them Facebook is an unstoppable machine in terms of hoovering ad revenue, but that they are really placing the spotlight early on the ad blocking scenario so to get the feelers out for their sub-brands, such as Whatsapp and Instagram.Both of these platforms are heavily reliant on mobile over desktop, so whilst ad blocking is still more of a desktop problem (something that’s always confused me, given the poorer UX I’ve had with unwanted ads on mobile) I believe they want to get the conversation out in the open now rather than later.Adwords has expanded – David WalbyOver the last month advertisers have been scrambling to adjust to one of the biggest Adwords updates in recent times. Previously text ads in Google paid search were allowed one 25 character headline, somewhat limiting the eloquence with which you could advertise your product or service. Google, by its grace & glory, has now given us a second headline to play with. With this update, not only do we now have more characters to put across USPs, differentiators & reasons to buy, but there’s also a larger, clickable part to text ads. This is estimated to boost CTR by 10-20%, but we have also seen some positive effects on conversion rates too. Giving a bit more leeway allows advertisers to humanise the copy in text ads, where before copy was maybe a tad bit stunted to fit within the limited headline and description allowance. We also now have two path fields for the display URL, meaning the displayed destination URL can be tailored to the users query at a more granular level.This further impacts natural search of course, after Google removed side ads earlier this year and allowed up to four paid search ads to appear above organic listings. Improved CTR on paid search ads, with more human, enticing copy, means CTR will suffer in poor old organic search. Great news for paid search advertisers as the knock-on effect on performance is already being felt, and even better news for Google as they reinforce their revenues from paid search. Win, win?The second ad below features a second headline, telling guys looking to pop the question that Vashi diamonds cannot be compared. Also the display URL is tailored (green URL below headline), encouraging the user’s click by showing the user that the landing page has exactly what they’re looking for

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Instagram Stories – Copycat or natural evolution? – Jessica HughesLast month Instagram launched its new “Stories” feature that allows users to share a series of moments, customised with text, drawings and emoji icons. Sounds familiar you say? This has been widely compared to Snapchat’s offering, sharing some of the exact same functionality.So should Snapchat be worried? Here in the UK, nearly 10 million people use the app every day (1 in 3 smartphone owners in the country). Its user base is expected to outgrow that of Twitter and Pinterest by the end of 2016, so it’s fair to say it’s in a strong position. However, a huge advantage that Instagram has is its sense of community. It’s already got a network full of people actively using the app to make friends, follow new people and discover different parts of the world. Whilst Instagram typically features beautifully staged pictures of flatlays or flawless avocados, Stories offers users the chance to share off-the cuff, everyday content. A peak into the daily lives of your favourite Instagrammers.Could Instagram Stories succeed to steal market share from Snapchat, or will users stay loyal to the initial offering? Only time will tell.

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