Score a Touchdown With Football Fans: What You Need to Know This NFL Season

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THE RUNDOWN

As the NFL season starts, brands from insurance companies to fast food chains are kicking off campaigns to reach football fans. It’s a huge marketing opportunity, and it’s bigger than ever. Worldwide, the NFL’s popularity is at an all-time high. New audiences are tuning in, especially women and Hispanics, and fans are getting their fix across screens and platforms. Here, we tackle the trends that marketers should know to score with fans all season—and all year—long.

Searches for HDTVstailgating and buffalo wings are up. That can only mean one thing: America is ready for some football. This year, the NFL is more popular than ever. It’s now the most popular sports league worldwide—bigger than the NBA, MLB and any other international leagues.

  • U.S. interest in the NFL is 65% higher than in the NBA and 152% higher than in the MLB, and it’s on the rise (Chart 1).
  • Even preseason events drew massive interest. The NFL Draft had 3x as many searches as the Emmy Awards at their respective peaks.
  • In 2012, the NFL overtook the NBA in global popularity, becoming the top American league in the world.
  • It’s also the top sports league globally, surpassing F1, Premier League and the India Premier League in searches on Google.

Chart 1: U.S. Searches for Top 3 American Sports Leagues

Source: Google Data, July 2011–September 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Football is winning over new audiences

The most watched TV event among women this year was the Super Bowl, according to AdWeek. It’s a sign of the NFL’s increasingly diverse fanbase, now made up of more women and Hispanics than ever.

  • During the 2013 season, searches for women’s NFL apparel were 35% higher than the year before (Chart 2).
  • Women make up nearly half of all NFL fans, and 63% of women 12 and older classify themselves as fans, per AdWeek.
  • In August, searches for “futbol americano” were 39% higher than they were the year before, outpacing the growth of overall football searches by 5x.
  • Nearly half of Hispanics said they were interested or very interested in football (Google Consumer Survey, August 2014).

Chart 2: Google Searches for Women’s NFL Apparel

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Despite this, most marketing campaigns still cater to the (stereo)typical football fan. But there’s massive opportunity to reach these new audiences. For its part, the NFL has answered and fueled demand among both of these demographics. Its Hispanic Heritage campaign celebrates Hispanic players in the league. Among efforts to reach female fans are a line of women’s appareland a campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. The needle is moving:

  • In August, searches for women’s NFL apparel grew 20% over the same period last year (Chart 2).
  • At their respective highs, “NFL breast cancer” was searched more than “NFL concussions,” a massively popular and controversial topic.
  • People searched for the NFL and breast cancer twice as much as for any other major American sports league (Google Data).

Fans are glued to the second screen

On any given Sunday, fans all over the country are glued to their screen—the screen in their hand, that is. Smartphone use surges during the games as fans share the rush, talk trash and gather facts in the moment. Throughout the season, more people than ever are using mobile devices to find scores and schedules, even to stream games.

  • Mobile queries related to football were up 33% in this year’s preseason as compared with last year (Google Data).
  • Top mobile searches include players, teams, schedules and scores, and they are all growing annually (Google Data).
  • During games, there’s a big surge in mobile searches. During last Thursday’s Seahawks versus Packers game, for example, 74% of game-related searches came from smartphones (Chart 3).
  • Searches are spiking for “NFL Now,” the league’s new mobile app that features highlights, clips and original programming.
  • One in three searches about streaming the games comes from a mobile device (Google Data).

Chart 3: Game-Related Searches During NFL Kickoff Game (Seahawks vs. Packers, 9/4/14)

Source: Google Data, September 4, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

The implications are obvious: To reach fans, brands need to make mobile a key part of their playbook. Those that don’t are putting themselves on the sidelines.

Searching for highlights, smack talking with GIFs

To catch up on “did you see that?!” moments, fans hop on YouTube immediately after the games end. For example, right after the Seahawks won this year’s kickoff game, searches for “highlights” spiked (Chart 4). In addition to video clips, people look for memes to share in the form of annotated GIFs. Just look at the sharp rise in searches for “NFL GIF” in the past few years.

Chart 4: YouTube Searches Related to “Highlights” After the NFL Kickoff Game (Seahawks vs. Packers, 9/4/14)

Source: Google Data, September 4, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Video game content is also hugely popular on YouTube, and when it comes to sports games, EA Sports’ Madden NFL 15 is the reigning champ. The official ad for Madden NFL 15 topped the August YouTube Ads Leaderboard—it currently has over 10M views—beating out a new spot for FIFA 15.

To promote the game this season, EA Sports is reaching second-screening, meme-loving fans with the Madden GIFERATOR. For every NFL game, the Madden GIFERATOR’s live stream of animated GIF’s, which uses Madden NFL 15 imagery, updates in real-time based on actual NFL game action. With each big play, the GIFERATOR will generate a tailor-made set of GIFs to be customized and shared with friends. The GIFs will also appear in ads on sites and apps across the Google Display Network. Fans can even make and share their own.

More reasons for fans (and marketers) to cheer

The football season is longer than ever. While it peaks during the regular season, interest in football doesn’t stop after the Super Bowl. There’s now fan engagement (and marketer opportunity) in the off-season with the rise of “tentpole” events. The NFL Draft, Pro Bowl, NFL Preseason and NFL Combine all had their biggest year yet in searches on Google (Chart 5). Marketers can ride this rising tide of interest through year-round campaigns aimed at fans.

Chart 5: Google Searches for NFL Events During the Off Season

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Meanwhile, CBS is doing a big push around Thursday Night Football, looking to make the game a primetime event. “I don’t think the CBS Corporation has ever mounted a larger promotional campaign,” says Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, in the New York Times. “We’re determined to work with the NFL to make sure this is a success.” It certainly seems to be driving interest online; Google searches for “Thursday Night Football” were up 116% year-over-year in August.

Then there’s fantasy football, which creates a whole new layer of engagement during the season itself. The once-niche pastime has become mainstream—searches for “fantasy football” are at an all-time high, and one in three people say they play, according to an August Google Consumer Survey. The typical fantasy player is a marketer’s dream: a middle-aged, college-educated professional with an average household income over $90,000, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Fantasy players don’t just care about local teams; they’re obsessively tracking players across the league. This has essentially expanded players’ popularity beyond their home turf. For example, while the most-searched-for team around Kansas City is the Chiefs, searches for their star player, Jamaal Charles, are happening across the country.

In business terms, fantasy football attracts new audiences for many NFL “products” (players). No wonder it’s changed the NFL’s marketing. The league runs fantasy ads that appeal to non-experts with a proposition that “it’s fast and easy, and you can do it on a mobile phone”—a winning play in today’s constantly connected world.

A Report Card on Back to School: The Season’s Trends and What They Mean for Holiday

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THE RUNDOWN

As summer draws to a close, we took a look at back-to-school shopping trends across Google and YouTube to see how this year compared to past years. Not only have searches grown over the last year, but the season is lasting longer than ever, becoming the unofficial start to holiday shopping. It’s also the start of potentially lifelong brand affinities for millennials. As the college-bound leave the nest for the first time, they’re making all-important purchases that will set the tone for years to come. They have more choices than ever and are turning to the web—especially video and mobile—to discover and shop. This year, they sought out products that save them time, space and money. And if they can’t find exactly what they want, they’ll make it (hello, washi tape). Study up on the trends—they’ll help you this holiday season.

Back-to-school season is longer than ever

Taking a look at searches on Google, we found that the start of summer is actually the start of the back to school shopping season. Back-to-school is the second-largest retail event of the year, and it’s growing.

  • Almost as soon as school’s out, back-to-school shopping begins. Searches started as early as May and peaked in August (chart 1).
  • That peak lasted 1-2 weeks longer than it did last year, and interest is still high, indicating that shoppers are still in the market (chart 1).
  • Back-to-school searches on Google are higher than ever. Overall, searches grew 45% YoY (through August 15) (chart 1).

Chart 1: Searches for “Back to School”

Source: Google Data, January 2013–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Retailers are likely spurring this early interest with mid-summer deals like those offered by Walmart and Staples. Indeed, searches for “back to school sales” also spiked sooner and are trending higher than they did in previous years.

Another big factor: the web. According to Deloitte Vice Chairman Alison Paul, “24/7 online convenience allows parents—and students—to shop any time, not just during the traditional mid- to late-summer back-to-school period. Consumers are more precise about what they buy and may no longer feel the need to stock up as they did in the days before the internet.”

Not only is the web open 24/7, but people are using it to shop throughout the day (and even more at night) on smartphones. According to Google data, so far this month, 40% of back-to-school searches were done on mobile. That’s a 25% increase from last year.

As back to school stretches into fall, it’s being met by early holiday demand. Fifteen percent of consumers have already started shopping for the holiday season and 5% more will start before Labor Day, according to a July Google consumer survey. Looking at last year’s Google Search trends, we see that apparel searches started rising in July and continued an upward climb through December (chart 2). Marketers now have an earlier look at what consumers might be interested in this holiday season, and that means more chances to capture interest with ads, promotions, discounts and more.

Chart 2: Apparel Category Searches

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

YouTube creators are the new influencers for college-bound millennials

More marketers are focusing specific back-to-school efforts on the college set, and for good reason. These students and their parents drive the biggest back-to-school spending, and the NRF found that it’s up 10% from last year. Young adults headed off to college are about to make a lot of purchasing decisions that they’ve never made before—these are big opportunities for brands to win new and loyal customers.

To decide what to bring, college students are turning to haul videos on YouTube. These videos, featuring shoppers with their latest finds, started trending a few years back and are gaining in popularity. According to Google/YouTube data:

  • Searches for “back to school haul” on YouTube are up 70% this year.
  • Searches for “dorm hauls” on YouTube increase more than 2x in the first 10 days of August YoY.
  • YouTube creators are getting ahead of the game. Compared to 2013, twice as many back-to-school haul videos were posted in the first seven months of the year (chart 3).

Chart 3: “Dorm Haul” Video Uploads to YouTube by Month

Source: YouTube Data, January 2013–August 2014, Indexed Video Uploads, United States

Another source of inspiration for students is dorm tour videos. In these, students show how they turned a small, impersonal space into a place they’re proud to call home.

  • “Dorm tour” searches on YouTube are rapidly trending with searches up 1.7x this August as compared to last year (chart 4).
  • “Dorm tour” has some interesting correlations that hint at consumer interests, including brand affinities (“covergirl and olay”), beauty tips (“eyeliner on top lid”) and evasion techniques (“ways to look sick”).

Chart 4: “Dorm Tour” Searches on YouTube

Source: YouTube Data, August 2013 and August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Brands are getting in on this action, too. Target launched a YouTube video series called Best Year Ever that gives tips for designing dorm or off-campus spaces. Hosted by four YouTube stars, Todrick HallMikey BoltsTiffany Garciaand Ann Le, it’s running on both Target’s YouTube channel and the stars’ own pages. So far, there have been over 3.2M views combined. Aeropostale recently worked with another YouTube creator, Bethany Mota, on a room design line.

Smart move. Mota is an influencer for millennials—her YouTube fans often ask about her style—and her back-to-school videos are among her most popular. Three of her 15 most-watched videos of all time cover back to school (totaling 15.7M views), and her latest got 2.5x more likes per view than the average for her regular August videos.

Young DIYers are looking for cheap, clever ways to decorate their dorms

No longer do students need to have the same futon and mini fridge as everyone else. The web offers infinite ideas and options for one-of-a-kind dorm decor, and people are using Search to find them.

  • “Dorm decor” searches on Google are up 37% YoY.
  • We’ve seen a 30% YoY growth in dorm-related Google searches for Dormify, Apartment Therapy, Buzzfeed, HGTV, Seventeen and Pinterest.

Products that help provide customization are on the rise. For example, dorm dwellers are looking for cheap, easy-to-use items, such as washi tape and wall decals, to “hack” mass market items.

  • Washi tape is a growing trend in general, and it’s becoming more popular around back-to-school time (chart 5).
  • Consumers searching for dorm room-related topics are about 100x more likely to be searching for washi tape than the average Google user and about 150x more likely to be searching for wall decals. (Google Data)
  • Publishers like HGTVDazzleDIY and AwesomenessTV are sharing washi tape decorating ideas to capture this interest.

Chart 5: Searches for “Washi Tape”

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

On campus, smartphones are more essential than TVs

The period when students are heading to college is a critical time for brands to earn loyalty, and no one knows this more than consumer electronics manufacturers. “When shopping for electronics, students decide what they want before searching for the lowest price,” comments Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, in eMarketer. Even if millennials are not spending their own money (though many are), they have a lot of influence over the purchase. “A parent is not going to buy their kid a Samsung if they’re saying, ‘I want an Apple,’” Gutfreund says.

The must-have tech for students? Smartphones. They’re as essential to college kids as the snooze button.

  • Smartphones rank as the most popular electronic device owned by college students (Deloitte).
  • People searching for “dorm” are also searching for “mobile” more than either “computer” or “tablet.” This is a big shift from four years ago (Google Data).
  • Back-to-school searches in the mobile and wireless category are up 32% (Google Data).

Mobile devices are even becoming the new TVs on college campuses. According to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in August, college students are 30x more likely to list a phone as their favorite device than a TV. Looking to save space and money, students are using their mobile phones for networked gaming, streaming videos and more. We can see this trend in views of those dorm haul videos on YouTube.

  • So far in August, 43% of views of haul videos on YouTube happened on mobile devices. That’s 1.5x the mobile share of views in January (Google Data).
  • Mobile trails only TV as the platform that has the longest view time per view of haul videos, exceeding computer totals by 15% (Google Data).

Students are looking for products that save space, time and money

Going to college is a very different experience for today’s constantly connected millennials than it was for previous generations. But one thing hasn’t changed much: the size (or lack thereof) of dorm rooms. When it comes to tech products they’re looking for those that save space as well as time and money. For example:

  • Wireless chargers for smartphones and laptops prevent tangled messes and—worst of all—mi ssed texts. They’ve been trending over the past months—up 72% since June, and 14% YoY (Google Data).
  • Individual coffee makers provide quick caffeine hits. Keurig released acollege-branded product line late last year, and “Keurig college” searches were up 48% YoY in August (Google Data).

Now that we’ve gone back to school, here’s a cheat sheet for the holiday season

As the season gets longer, back to school can be seen as the unofficial start to the holidays and a great bellwether of trends.

  • To capture interest throughout this time, keep your campaigns going strong.
  • Adapt your holiday plans based on what you’ve learned from back-to-school campaigns.
  • Make sure you’re thinking about mobile constantly (take a page from our playbook).
  • See what’s big on YouTube and look to popular creators as potential spokespeople.
  • Position your products for the DIYer. Share tips and tricks on using your products in creative ways.
  • Gear promotions and sales to capture interest in products that save space, time and money.

AOL’s Digital Prophet, David Shing

The American Advertising Federation was honored to have several keyonote speakers at ADMERICA! 2014 who are innovative, insightful thought leaders in advertising. We were pleased to have David Shing join us in Boca Raton, Florida and are pleased to share a recap of his keynote with you. Watch Now >>

David Shing

David Shing is AOL’s digital prophet. Shing spends most of his time watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape. The rest he spends talking to people about where things are headed and how we can get the most out of it. Shing has spent most of his adult life in the digital world working for both large and small creative companies. He served as AOL’s European head of media and marketing before taking on his current mantle. Engaging, witty, and refreshingly candid, Shing provides both historical perspective and current context as he lays out his vision of the brave, new world of marketing to come – one he believes will belong to those willing to embrace change and take risks now, and one that he dearly hopes will suck a great deal less. The opportunities are incredible. The rewards are real. And Shing’s here to show you the way. That, after all, is what prophets do.

From BBQ to Burns: 5 Hot Summer Trends to Plan For

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THE RUNDOWN

As the weather changes, so does digital behavior. People are out of their houses and on their smartphones, looking for places to go and things to grill. What they’re searching for (and how) provides a window into consumer interests this season and beyond. We looked at Google data to see what’s on the rise for summer (besides the temperature, that is). From the best BBQ to the most sunburned states, here’s what’s trending and what it might mean for your business.

1. Mobile: So hot right now

People are more likely to use a mobile device to go online in the summer months than in other seasons. Whether they’re traveling on vacation, lounging on the beach or grilling in their backyards, U.S. consumers are constantly connected.

As they fire up their outdoor grills, more people are searching for “recipes” on a mobile device—the new cookbook. Mobile’s share of searches is up 44% year-over-year.

Mobile Share of “Recipes” Searches

Source: Google Data, 2013–2014, Mobile Share Query Volume, United States.

Mobile Share of “Hotel” Searches

Source: Google Data, 2012–2014, Mobile Share of Search Query Volume, United States.

During summer travel season, searches for hotels go up. While we’re seeing a general shift to mobile, this shift grew 86% faster in the summer months than any other time last year. People are looking for everything from deals to directions.

Are you capturing demand across screens? Are you showing consumers the type of content they’re looking for? Is your marketing contextually relevant?

2. Burnt out on summer, people are looking for relief

What are people looking for when it’s warm out? A nice tan, of course. At the start of summer, we see a bump in searches for “suntan.” But as the weather heats up, so do searches for “sunscreen,” followed closely by a big spike in “sunburn” searches. Now consumers are in the market for “aloe vera” to soothe those burns.

The ways the consumer journey so clearly plays out on search are fascinating. So are the regional differences. Google searches for “suntan” are most popular in Kentucky, while Hawaii is tops for “sunburn” and “sunscreen.” Californians appear to look after their skin the most, searching for “sunscreen” and “aloe vera” more than people in most other states.

Searches for Suntan, Sunburn, Sunscreen and Aloe Vera

Source: Google Data, January 2011–June 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

How is weather affecting demand for your products? What can you learn about the consumer journey based on search patterns? How are you using this information to shape your messaging and distribution strategies?

3. Kansas City wins the BBQ battle

Summer is BBQ season, and it’s a hotly contested cuisine. Which town is most popular this summer? If we look at searches, Kansas City is the clear winner, with Memphis and Austin vying for second place. Interestingly, Buffalo, New York (home ofOinktoberfest) makes the top five.

Top Cities for “BBQ” Searches

Source: Google Data, May–July 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Can you nuance your messaging or tailor your product offering based on location?

4. A taste of summer throughout the year

Grilling is certainly seasonal, but it’s becoming less so. More people are looking to get a taste of summer in the colder months. Meat lovers seek out the top BBQ destinations year-round, especially during events such as the World Series of BBQ and SXSW.

“BBQ” Searches by City

Source: Google Data, January 2013–July 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

They’re also grilling more during non-summer holidays, including on Thanksgiving, President’s Day and even Christmas.

Searches for “Grilling”

Source: Google Data, 2012–2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

This opens the door for marketers to promote these traditional “summer” activities during new moments of consumer interest.

Similar patterns occur across products, and finding them can help you extend the life of a seasonal product. Look at ski towns. During summer travel season, searches for hotels go up. While we’re seeing a general shift to mobile, this shift grew 86% faster in the summer months than any other time last year. People are looking for everything from deals to directions.

Searches for Major Ski Towns in the U.S.

Source: Google Data, January 2010–July 2014, Indexed Search Volume, United States

If your product is seasonal, can you make it relevant during other times of the year? Are there new moments of consumer interest that you can explore?

5. Gaming becomes a daily habit

Views of video game content on YouTube, such as trailers and walk-throughs, go up a bit in the summer—no surprise there. What’s more interesting is when. During the school year, views of gaming content spike on weekends. But when kids are home from school, gaming content is watched much more consistently throughout the week.

Average Views of Video Game Content on YouTube

Source: YouTube Data, January 2013–June 2014, Indexed Video Views, United States

Has your media strategy shifted with consumer behavior? Are you accounting for seasonal changes in media consumption?

Each season brings interesting, nuanced market dynamics that businesses need to consider. The key is to plan accordingly. Dig into the data to uncover seasonal trends in your category while keeping your eye on broader shifts in behavior. Develop a strategy based on what you’re seeing, but allow some flexibility to adapt as new opportunities arise.

Interview with Emmanuel Seuge of The Coca-Cola Company

emmanuel

2013 Advertising Hall of Achievement Interview: Emmanuel Seuge, Vice President, Global Alliances and Ventures, The Coca-Cola Company

In 1997, Emmanuel Seuge, then 21 years old, took a break between his fourth and fifth years at the École Supérieure de Commerce business school in Paris to complete a yearlong marketing internship with Coca-Cola. Emmanuel, a Paris native, helped with the beverage giant’s marketing push for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

Early in your career you managed to combine two of your greatest passions, football and marketing, and spawn what must have been a vastly rewarding opportunity. When did you begin to develop a passion for marketing?

Very early. Even though I was born in Paris, I grew up in the US in the early 80′s. This was the time where Nike started to use [Michael] Jordan in their advertising; I remember very well understanding the role that this had in me asking my mom to buy my first pair of Nike shoes–and from them, I stayed very interested in brands. So very naturally when I had to chose a major in business school in Paris I chose marketing strategy. I think it’s easier to act as a marketer for a brand that you love and admire to a certain extent. I have been a fan of Coca-Cola since I was a young child so for me joining Coke after school was a unique opportunity, and everyday I remind myself of the honor it represents to work on a brand that generations of marketers have worked on successfully in the past 127 years.

What was it that attracted you to a career in marketing? Was it the opportunity to reach large audiences, the psychology of consumer engagement or something more?

Innovation is what attracts me to the field of marketing. Progress and the art of inventing new things and finding new needs that consumers might not be aware of is the most exciting part to me. I believe powerful marketing can change people’s lives. Nothing less!

What are your thoughts on the disruption vs. distraction paradigm? How can we toe the line between ads which enhance the overall experience, and those which take away from it?

Today’s world is so cluttered, content for communication needs to be meaningful, genuine and extremely well targeted to the consumer in order to have an impact. Disruption only makes sense if you’re trying to capture the consumer in a different way or ensure that you put their mind in a different kind of setting to be receptive to the message. Advertising for the sake of advertising in today’s world doesn’t mean anything—it’s just apiece of the bigger puzzle. At Coca-Cola we often speak about Earned, Paid, Owned and Shared media. Finding the right balance of these media to engage our consumers is key. Marketing today is about the right message in the right occasion with the right media.  Disruption, even if powerful, done at the wrong moment or with the wrong media will come unnoticed. 

Where did you draw the inspiration for launching Marketing Ventures for Coca-Cola, and how does someone in your position, or any position in this industry, put aside thoughts of failure and avoid making business decisions based on fear?

Partnerships have always been at the core of how we operate and grow as a company. The marketing venture work came out of a belief that we needed to evolve the way we think about partnerships. When our chairman announced our company’sambition to double the size of our business by 2020, we knew we would need to capture growth in a new way. The world of start-ups became quickly an inspiration for their ability to act fast, nimble, creatively, fail and get back up fast and we thought it would make sense for us to partner with these young entrepreneurs to address some of our key business needs. With our venture partnerships, we are able to bring our marketingreach and scale to the table, and the risks we take are rewarded by the equity we take in these companies. I believe that when you operate in a risk taking culture, it decreases your fear of failure.

We have now 5 start ups with which we have a venture partnership with including Spotify, Backplane and MisfitWearables.

Can you tell us a little about Coca-Cola’s relationship with Spotify? How did that develop and what sort of marketing tactics have you deployed to create a mutually beneficial partnership?

We began our partnership with Spotify to address a core business need to better engage our younger audience. We wanted to connect with our consumers on a daily basis and there is no better way to do that than to leverage music. Wherever you go around the world, teens listen to music every single day. Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, often speaks about making music available for free to over 500 Million people, making it completely accessible. We want to help them in that journey and that is why in any market that Spotify enters, we are at their side and put our marketing in motion to promote this service and offering. We recently launched together in Mexico and it is today the most successful streaming platform in the country.

We also want to enhance the Spotify experience by creating specific programs. This year we launched Placelists, an app that allows people to align songs and places and make connections with their friends, and we are launching something similar around the World Cup.

Sports, music and film are three universally adored mediums that can be adapted across language barriers and appeal to large audiences. Marketing platforms on the other hand, are not always so universal. Gaps in technology advancement, differing social platforms, government interference, and other factors must make it difficult for a globally minded person like yourself to develop such broad and ubiquitous branding campaigns. What sort of challenges have YOU faced, and how have you managed to overcome them?

That is the beauty of working with a global organization. At the core, we are a global company that is operated locally. We build our global programs with insights from our markets to make sure our campaigns are locally relevant. We create global programs that are 60-70% finished, and then markets put a localized layer on top of it. More and more our global programs are really co-created with the local teams and the worldwide consumer passion for sports, music, gaming, the Olympics, the World Cup and others allows us to have a global reach and connect with people on a global level. We had over 100 markets activate the Olympics for London and we will have over 180 markets amplifying our “World’s Cup” Campaign for the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

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Interview with Tara Walpert Levy of Google & YouTube

TaraWalpertLevy2013 Advertising Hall of Achievement Interview: Tara Walpert Levy, Managing Director, Ads Marketing, Google & YouTube

Tara Walpert Levy brings 17 years of experience to Google, where she leads Ads Marketing for Google and YouTube. In this role, she is responsible for the company’s communications and market development for Google and YouTube’s advertising offerings, globally. On Tuesday, November 5th, Tara will be inducted, along with six others, into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement.

You came to Google with a passion to bridge the digital divide. In the past two years, have traditional advertisers and technology companies been able to close the gap at all? What sort of improvements have you seen?

When I came to Google a few years ago, Mary Meeker was still showing the significant gap between the time people spent on digital and the attention marketers gave to the medium.  Time spent on digital was more than twice the budget brands were allocating. Since that time, the two are much closer to parity, so the gap is closing!

The traditional and digital worlds have evolved from fighting over which way is best to learning to take the best from each other. Digital marketing today retains a lot more of the beauty and insight of traditional creative than it did two years ago. Traditional marketers are using substantially more data and insights to influence their online and offline efforts than they did before.

So, the challenge today is less about bridging the divide and more about helping every marketer get the most out of the web. How to take advantage of the elements of digital that make it unique – the ability to reach a passionate audience, to tell your brand story in the most amazing ways, and to drive deeper engagement through participation. The big winners at Cannes the last few years have all taken this to heart – brands like Nike and Dove. But doing this at scale requires changes to organizational approach, to campaign strategy, and to measuring impact.

There’s no playbook; that’s the challenge. But the brands who are investing today in figuring out how to build their brands and businesses in a different way are the ones who in 3-5 years will have a competitive advantage others can’t catch. They will be to brand building what Amazon and Ebay were to SEM.  And hopefully we will have been a part of  to make the web work for them.

You’ve been spending a lot of time with YouTube lately. As head of B2B marketing for YouTube, what sort of information are you presenting to advertisers to convince them that digital is more than a secondary medium?

Honestly, I’m not sure we have to convince most marketers that digital is more than a secondary medium anymore. Most top brands have a deep understanding of their consumers’ evolving behavior and their shift to constant connectivity. We check our phones an average of 110 times a day. We move across devices 90% of the time before accomplishing a task. Marketers get that, and understand the importance of being where their customers are.

Honestly, I’m not sure we have to convince most marketers that digital is more than a secondary medium anymore.

One of the challenges that pops up though is when marketers themselves are not using the platforms their customers are using. Marketing at the end of the day is often personal. I love ESPN, so I understand advertising on ESPN. I use Facebook so I understand how to advertise on Facebook. But when there’s a disconnect between user behavior and marketer’s personal behavior, you often see a bigger lag. YouTube is a great example of this. It reaches more 18-34 year olds than any cable network, but many marketers can’t name more than one YouTube channel, if that.

So, our challenge is helping marketers understand an experience that can be foreign to them, and understand content that doesn’t look like the content they grew up watching, even though millions of people spend billions of hours watching it every month. Tools like our quarterly report, YouTube Insights, or our weekly content digest, YouTube Re:View, aim to make it easier for marketers to “get it” if they’re not naturally drawn to the platform.

You’re a proponent of engagement over exposure, and you have said that the brands who buy into this philosophy will be the ones that come out on top. As leaders and prime examples of success in this industry, what have both Google and YouTube done, or what are they doing now, to put this into practice?

That one’s easy – Google was built on this principle. Here’s a quick test, to see if you agree. How did you hear about Google? Was it a TV ad? A billboard? No, it was almost certainly originally by word of mouth from passionate super-fans. In fact, Google didn’t run its first ad on TV until just a few years ago. Google was built by super-serving a core group of people, and then using the resulting insights and advocacy to grow out from there.

It’s not just Google who has used this approach successfully, btw. Think about many of the hot brands of the past 15 years: Amazon, AirBnB, Chipotle, Warby Parker. These are brands who grew up in a time when participatory, engagement-driven media were available, and that’s where they naturally gravitated because they had no legacy to overcome. Brands with longer history are now doing the same – think Nike, Samsung, P&G – but it’s harder because it’s a bigger change.

To be clear, this isn’t about digital vs. TV, or even engagement vs. exposure. It’s about a prioritization and sequencing. It’s about answering the question “what would my media plan look like if engagement were my top objective?” Exposure is still important, and most brands will still benefit from a mixture of both traditional and digital media, but what we find is that by asking that simple question, a light bulb goes off and marketers start thinking about things differently. It’s about engaged reach, vs simply reach alone.

I could bore you for pages about all the thinking on this, but it’s probably easier to check out our collection of articles from industry leaders at the Engagement Project.

What are your thoughts on the whole “disruption vs. distraction” paradigm? How can we toe the line between ads which enhance user experience, and those which take away from it?

There’s an easy way to determine which ads create value for users and which ones don’t; let people choose whether to watch or engage with your ad. At Google, we believe deeply in the power of choice. Search began by allowing for user choice and favoring the results that users choose the most often. It creates better value for users because the results that get clicked on the most rise to the top, and it creates value for marketers because they only pay to get interested parties. We’ve now extended that philosophy to video and display. Already more than 75% of the advertising on YouTube is choice based.

We believe most advertising will be choice-based in the near future.

We believe most advertising will be choice-based in the near future. In many ways, it already is. People are already making a choice by DVRing, picking up phones, or just ignoring. The difference is, by building choice deliberately into the ad mechanism, brands can benefit by not paying for un-interested users – and by gaining insights on what interests people and what doesn’t. And as for users, they benefit because the tension between disruption and distraction will slowly fade away.

Google has always been a leader in data insights, but Creative Sandbox (part of Google’s Think Insights platform) shows off a completely different side to the company. What challenges (if any) did this foray into creative present to a company so built on numbers and algorithms?

Ha, that’s funny.  It’s true, it’s taken us some time to understand and embrace the art of marketing with the same passion we did the science. But there’s nothing like a convert! We’ve definitely come to embrace the value of combining traditional and new approaches to make it easier for brands to do what they’re trying to do in the simplest, smartest, most compelling ways.

Creative Sandbox was one of the first examples of how we celebrated creativity and data coming together for marketers. Check out Art, Copy and Code, a series of experiments to re-imagine advertising for some of our latest thinking that really pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

What these efforts have taught us is that marketers value Google not only as a place to be relevant and precise and insights-driven, but also as a place to tell beautiful, seamless stories.  The ability to take a creative idea and bring it to life in formats that are native to the experience, direct to the consumer, unfettered by typical creative constraints, across each of the moments that matter to people as they go about their day is pretty unique.  And as brands’ stories matter to people more than ever, there are incredible opportunities to offer content people value as core to how they live their lives.

And for those who still aren’t “feeling it” from a visceral, emotional standpoint? Well, we just show them the data on the difference seamless storytelling can make!

Can you tell us which industry trends or concepts you are most intrigued with currently? Where is digital headed in 2014-15?

Well, there’s always the hot buttons of social, mobile, and local. The evolution of the web to be much more visual and the unprecedented access to video. Those are important trends and platforms to understand. But what excites me most are the opportunities these trends create. Trends like these mean that people are constantly connected and as a result, we as marketers can be part of people’s lives at more of the moments that matter.

As both a marketer and a consumer, I’m excited to see a move toward greater value – to creating significant utility for people through marketing. Let’s face it, we are very good at ignoring things that aren’t interesting to us, and technology has only made it easier to tune out. This forces us as marketers to think about not only how we will get in front of people, but why they should listen, care, and respond. It’s helping us to raise our game.

As devices become more personal – first it was the phone, soon it will be glasses, watches, and other wearable technology – marketing can become more personal. 100 years ago, brands and marketing were intensely personal. It was the relationship between a merchant and his customers. Then the broadcast age came along, and the relationship with our customers became more distant, as communications went from 2 way to 1 way. We now have the opportunity to bring back that personal touch, at scale.

Finally, digital has brought us into the participation age. It’s a return to two way engagement. To knowing the customer, listening and responding to their needs and interests. To helping them be part of the conversation. A dialogue is much more exciting than a monologue.

These are the things that make me hurry to work every morning.

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