Lead Gen Spam: Bad for the Consumer, Bad for Business, and Bad for the Local Ecosystem

Blumenthal to Mihm, on lead gen spam: The real issue for me is that Google Maps is really like a public utility, and Google is not doing enough to protect the consumers of that product. There is significant harm in the deception of the consumer, the blocking out of legitimate businesses, and the possibility that the consumer public will lose trust in the whole, creaky house of cards.

Things Not Strings: Google’s New Hotel Profiles Exemplify Its Approach to Entities

Google’s Knowledge Graph ambitions are expanding to include obviating heavy reliance on secondary sources like Wikipedia and being able instead to classify and cross-reference information as a native, self-sustaining activity on web pages themselves. That’s what makes a recent patent filing different from the evidence of the Knowledge Graph we’ve already seen in the wild.

While this more ambitious way of surfacing information about entities is not yet standard, in researching Google’s new interface for hotels, I think I’m seeing evidence of a real-world example.

3 Revenue Growth Opportunities for SMB Marketing and Ad Agencies

While SMB digital marketing spend has seen a steady rise, SMBs are being more conservative about the agencies and vendors with which they partner. In the transparency era, consolidating spend with a select group of trusted agency partners that offer multiple core services is now the norm.

For agencies that cater to SMB brands, these trends have created opportunities and challenges. There is money to be had, but only organizations that differentiate themselves from the competition and can deliver clear ROI will benefit. So how can SMB agencies show their value to brands and ensure revenue growth? There are three opportunity areas, in particular, that can help.

April Focus: Automating Local

We’ve kicked off 2019 with themed content for January (Beyond the Screen), February (Word of Mouth), and March (Targeting Location). We now roll into April with Automating Local: a look at how AI is impacting local commerce and marketing. How is it empowering local marketers, and who’s doing what? How are sub-sectors like “retail-as-a-service” bringing AI into retail to transform shopping experiences and empower retailers with new functionality and customer data?

From Zero-Click SERPs to Rabbit-Hole SERPs

Mihm to Blumenthal: Answer Optimization and Zero-Click SERPs seem to be gaining traction as concepts in the SEO industry, but as you pointed out in our previous conversation on this topic, Google’s moving well beyond simple answers and into journeys. Cindy Krum highlighted several examples of these new search journeys, which as I saw her presenting struck me as “rabbit-holes.”

Within 24 Hours, Further Signs That HUD’s Facebook Probe Could Upend Digital Ad Industry

What’s at stake in the Facebook housing discrimination probe and related investigations into Google and Twitter is whether the dissemination of online content—the news, product recommendations, advertising campaigns of all kinds, and entertainment—can and should be permitted on the basis of data collected on users’ personal characteristics and past behaviors. Should organizations, in industries as varied as entertainment, apparel, tech, and education, be permitted to use evolving technology to predict whom ads should target and thus who should see the content promoting Berkeley’s MBA program, the new housing development in Long Island City, or the hip sunglasses Warby Parker will never get me to buy? How does past human behavior and long-term inequality in various groups’ access to privileged resources shape ad targeting and the technology that automates it, and can the tech industry reach beyond those limitations to open up new futures instead of capitalizing on and reinforcing historical distinctions?

The news this week of the Trump administration’s first charges filed against a major tech company is the first step on our path to finding out.

6 Pure-Play Online-to-Offline Attribution Platforms

In a pure-play model, vendors focus exclusively on a certain number of core competencies. Not only does this help those companies to differentiate themselves from firms with broader offerings, but it also gives brands confidence that the vendor is an expert in the market. As online-to-offline attribution takes off, pure-play vendors are taking the lead in innovation, finding new ways to connect digital campaigns to foot traffic and in-store sales. Here are six vendors making a difference in the space right now.

The Fundamental Ethical Stakes of Data Collection and Ad Targeting

With politicians and everyday political partisans on both the Left and Right peeved at Big Tech (the Left for tech’s role in economic inequality and election hacking, the Right for perceived anti-conservative bias, and thinkers across the spectrum for privacy concerns), it is time for Zuckerberg and his peers to get smarter about the arguments for and against data-driven ad targeting and the business models that rely on it. Facile paeans to relevance are not going to cut it—not with the scrutiny Facebook and the rest of the tech industry are now receiving. Tech executives should be as clear-eyed as their fiercest critics about the ethical underpinnings of their businesses. Only then can innovative, far-reaching conversations about the future of advertising, data collection, privacy, and Big Tech begin.

5 Self-Serve Online-to-Offline Attribution Platforms

Marketers with limited budgets are turning to a bevy of self-serve online-to-offline attribution solutions to correlate visitation rates and purchase data with digital campaigns. Utilizing a variety of testing methods for mapping campaign performance and purchases, these platforms are giving marketers the answers they need to justify online ad spend. Here are five examples of online-to-offline attribution platforms that marketers are using right now.

Google Finds Itself Beneath EU Regulatory Hammer Once More

Google has been fined $1.7 billion for violating Europe’s antitrust policies. Specifically, the company stands accused of compelling companies that deploy its search capabilities on their own platforms to display a disproportionately high humber of text ads that will line Google’s pockets.

online privacy

During Privacy Battle, Brands Adjust Location Targeting Strategy

Can privacy and personalization ever be compatible? It’s not a question consumers regularly ask, even though concerns over targeting and apps that continuously log location data grow greater by the day. For marketers, however, the answer to whether privacy and personalization can coexist, and what happens to location data in the wake of tightening restrictions, has important ramifications. Industry experts weigh in.

How Will 5G Unlock Location Targeting?

5G goes far beyond just a speed boost. The quantitative advantages are joined by qualitative factors that will enable all kinds of new consumer use cases and content delivery strategies. This notably includes more precise location tracking/targeting and even some indoor use cases (think: retail). 5G-enabled phones will phase in over the next three years. Then, it’s off to the races.

Apple Strikes a Foreboding Tone with Big Ad on Privacy

Apple’s privacy-first policies should prove beneficial for the company and for the hundreds of millions of people who use its products. Still, the iPhone maker’s ad, light in tone as its soundtrack may be, strikes a decisively dark note representative of broader national anxiety about Silicon Valley and the danger of its increasingly unavoidable products. Beneath the ad’s veneer of levity, thinly constructed in the form of a small guard dog and man wary of using a urinal too close to his neighbor, the video sends a clear warning to smartphone users entrusting their private information to rival phone makers: The intimate details of your lives may already be compromised. Lean into your worries about your data’s theft and monetization, and fork over 10 Benjamins at the nearest Apple store for the sake of your own security.

Increasingly, Your Brand Is Its Reviews

Mihm to Blumenthal: The famous Jeff Bezos quote comes to mind: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Increasingly, the room is not a physical place but a virtual one—and it’s not a place you own. Reviews really bring the need to run a decent business at your core into stark relief.

As Visual Search Takes Off, Brands Adapt to Shifting Demands

Visual search and image recognition are capturing the attention of investors, retail insiders, and everyday consumers. To find out more about where visual search is heading, and what marketers can do to adapt their strategies with the latest trends in mind, we checked in with Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, a social commerce company that turns images and videos into storefronts.

The Future of Location in Retail: Beyond Ad Targeting

Location data is serving as the conduit to connect consumer-facing marketing initiatives with behind-the-scenes merchandising and logistics. According to a survey by Blis, WBR Insights, and Future Stores, the majority of retail marketers (71%) have some type of location strategy in place, with the primary goal being to drive foot traffic and trigger location-based mobile advertising. That’s not a particular surprise, given how popular the latest location-based marketing tactics have become. More surprising, however, is how common it has become for retailers to use location data for local product and inventory search (60%) and localized online customer service (51%).

Human Judgment, Automation, and the Future of Ad Tech

For now, I propose two major concerns—two challenges, even, for further thought—surrounding AI for the ad tech industry. The first is that the datafication of human experience that has allowed for precise ad targeting needs to be radically reconsidered, not just in terms of what can be done to obtain the consent of consumers for data collection, as the rising privacy movement has called tech companies to consider, but also in terms of what is lost and what is truly gained when the attributes of real people are transformed into consumer data. The second is that the human-machine hybrid decision-making model, while surely the best available in a hypothetical set that also includes human-only and machine-only models, will have to grapple with the bias and poor decisions of the humans who program the machines that will take on the task of regulating large platforms at scale. 

Foursquare Launches Hypertrending, A Next-Gen View of the Hot Spots in Town

Foursquare announced on Friday, coinciding with the ten-year anniversary of its launch at SXSW, a new feature called Hypertrending that shows users the most popular places where people are meeting up around them.

mobile data

Why Conversion Mapping and SEO Go Hand in Hand

Terry Cane: Search engine optimization isn’t just about on-page technical elements. Not anymore. These days, it’s as much about user experience as it is how well you can appeal to search engine robots. And a big part of that is conversion mapping—understanding the route your leads take from their first click to their purchase.

These 6 Location Data Providers Are Changing the Way Brands Target Consumers

Location data providers power the vast majority of mobile targeting strategies we’re seeing brand marketers implement today. An incredible 80% of marketers say they plan to boost their use of location data over the next two years, and in the U.S. alone, it’s expected that location-based advertising spend will reach $38.7BN by 2022. In order to achieve those goals, marketers will have to work closely with top location data providers. Here are six companies they’ll be working with.