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  • The Most Complete Guide to Marketing in the Cannabis Industry [Updated 2023]

    Feb 17, 2023 The cannabis industry has emerged as one of the fastest-growing American consumer product verticals in recent years. States are continuing to permit legal medicinal and recreational cannabis use at an increasing rate. Last year, our home state of New Jersey officially allowed recreational cannabis on April 21, 2022. As more dispensaries open to the public, we can predict more opportunities for agencies to secure these businesses as clients. Statistics show that the North American advertising spend for the cannabis industry will grow to 3.39 billion dollars by 2028. However, these products are still heavily regulated and classified as illegal at the federal level. This can create some complications for your agency as your team develops a holistic digital strategy for cannabis retail marketing clients. That’s why we wrote this guide to help your agency master the ins and outs of compliant cannabis marketing and advertising. We’re going to cover: Important considerations for cannabis marketing and advertising campaigns The best channels to compliantly invest your client’s budget A channel-by-channel breakdown of cannabis-related restrictions Important Considerations for Cannabis Marketing and Advertising Campaigns Federal Legal Status Cannabis is currently not legalized at the federal level. Instead, its medicinal and/or recreational use is permitted by individual states. Keeping this in mind, regional and local campaigns are currently the most effective for paid media and organic channels that permit cannabis content when targeting by geography. Platform Rules and Guidelines Similar to the state-by-state legal status, each digital platform has its own advertising and organic content standards for promoting cannabis products. If these guidelines are not closely followed, your client’s campaign could fail to launch at the start or swiftly be removed from the platform. Content Liability Due to the industry’s heavy regulations, misleading or misinforming content could potentially create liability issues for your client. For example, making certain claims about the medical properties of cannabis could create legal complications Before you begin posting content for your client, you may want to consider consulting with an expert on cannabis marketing beforehand. For example, a cannabis-informed attorney or an experienced digital marketing partner can provide you with the necessary guidance to help avoid these pitfalls. What Are the Best Channels for Promoting Cannabis Clients? Cannabis-Specific Channels As the industry’s continues to expand its footprint, many cannabis-specific channels are emerging that agencies can capitalize on. These platforms are designed to specifically target the same audience your client is trying to reach. For example, there are digital map services that show users dispensaries near them, such as WeedMaps. Advertising on a channel like this one will not pose the same restrictive guidelines like Facebook or Instagram. Some industry publications like High Times also maintain a cannabis-focused news website. Here, a client that wants to reach more cannabis consumers can also advertise more freely than on a general-use platform. Paid and Organic Channels Paid digital media channels like Google Search and most social platforms place heavy regulations on paid cannabis content due to it being labeled as an “illicit” subject. To compensate for this, focusing on organic content can help drive engagement and quality traffic to your client’s website. Services like SEO and email marketing maximize the performance potential of the content that you can control on your client’s site to reach their ideal customers. For blogs, product pages, service pages, and informational pages on your client’s website, you can freely write content that objectively educates customers and builds authority. In most cases, it is recommended that you place an age gate on these pages so that the visitor can confirm they are over the age of 21 before proceeding. Because the client’s website is their wholly owned digital property, you have more creative freedom to market their cannabis products. However, this still requires a deliberate SEO strategy to draw the right traffic. Using high-opportunity keywords in your content, minimizing technical errors on the backend, and building a strong backlink portfolio are three vital tactics for generating the results that your client is expecting. Now, this is not to say that there are no paid media options available to agencies that offer cannabis advertising services. For example, some programmatic channels like pre-roll, OTT, and display may allow these campaigns, albeit with restrictions. A Channel-by-Channel Breakdown of Cannabis Restrictions Advertising Cannabis on Social Media Most social platforms do not permit any cannabis advertising. Though this may seem like a frustrating obstacle for your agency, this does not mean that all social media doors are closed. Cannabis companies can still promote their business on social media through organic content. However, they cannot create posts that deliberately entice people to buy their products. Examples of what not to post on your client’s profiles include: Product prices and price-lists Solicitations to buy a product or order one online Information on growing or selling cannabis Medical claims about cannabis Invitations to contact the client’s business about purchasing cannabis Instead, leverage your client’s accounts to build authority and credibility in their industry and link to pages on their website. Keep the content as educational as possible, advocate for the industry at large using reliable sources, and use visual content that showcases a product rather than solicits it to the audience. Keep in mind that most platforms do have some methodology for flagging certain organic content that could be considered non-compliant with their content guidelines. For example, posts that use certain hashtags could be identified as unsuitable for sharing. Posts can also display on users’ feeds in states where cannabis is still fully illegal, thus further emphasizing the need for more general informational content. Although most platforms do not allow advertising for cannabis, below is in order the least to most restrictive platforms with a quick overview of what is permitted and what is restricted or prohibited. For a full list of the advertising policies for each platform, feel free to utilize the links in their respective sections. Snapchat – Restricted but allowed (hemp-derived CBD) Snapchat is the least restrictive platform regarding cannabis, but unfortunately still has restrictions around it. Despite Snap’s Drugs & Tobacco Policy stating they “allow some limited ads for cannabis”, the advertising of cannabis on the platform is still prohibited. CBD is where Snap opens up its policies. Advertising hemp-derived CBD products is permitted as long as the ad contains no products with THC and targets users 18+. Ultimately, it seems Snap draws the line with cannabis and CBD targeting based on whether or not the product contains THC. If you have a Snapchat rep, you can reach out for specifics on a case-by-case basis to see if this is a feasible option for your client. Keep in mind that the platform “[does] not allow the depiction of smoking or vaping, except in the context of public health messaging or smoking cessation”, and whether or not an ad gets rejected or not can vary from reviewer to reviewer. Twitter – Permitted Where Legal In February 2023, Twitter announced it will be relaxing its policies for cannabis advertising, including both THC and other cannabinoids. This marks the first major social platform to permit paid advertising to directly promote these products. However, this does not come without restrictions. Twitter still enforces restrictions on cannabis advertising. These include: Advertisers must be credibly licensed and preapproved by Twitter to run Cannabis campaigns Advertisers can only target geographical locations where cannabis products can be legally bought and sold online Ads cannot promote or offer cannabis for sale (this includes CBD) All applicable laws, rules, regulations, and Twitter advertising guidelines must be followed Ads cannot be targeted at users under 21 years of age In terms of ad content, a few additional guidelines exist. Twitter prohibits any ad creatives that are not age-gated. Additionally, ads featuring public figures endorsing products, pregnant women, or minors cannot be used either. The rest of the content limitations pertain mostly to messaging, such as: Ads cannot promote claims about cannabis’s efficacy or health benefits Messaging cannot include any false or misleading statements Cannabis use cannot depicted in the ads Ads cannot encourage transporting products across state lines So, can your client qualify for Twitter ads? To distill the above, as long as the ads are compliant with Twitter policies and local government regulations, and the advertiser is approved by Twitter to run cannabis ads, you can launch a campaign. One of the major points that should be emphasized, yet could be easily overlooked, is that advertisers cannot promote the direct sale of cannabis through their ads. Avoid placing pricing information in the creative assets as well as using any CTAs like “shop now.” Instead, a safe bet would be to simply promote that your client’s business exists as well as where it’s located. For example, “Dispensary X, Located in Newark, NJ” will likely be deemed acceptable whereas “Cannabis Flower for $24.99 at Dispensary X” would not be. TikTok – Restricted (topical CBD allowed) Although one might initially consider TikTok to be more lenient here given their demographic, cannabis targeting is currently prohibited on the platform. However, topical CBD is permitted. According to TikTok’s Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia Policy, ad creatives and landing pages must refrain from displaying or promoting: Illegal drugs Controlled drugs Prescription drug abuse Recreational drug use Drug paraphernalia and accessories and their use Supplies and their use However, the company’s Hemp & CBD policy does go on to say that “…promoting hemp products and topical CBD products may be allowed subject to additional restrictions.” It is the advertisers’ responsibility to comply with local regulations of the regions they are targeting. Additionally, hemp products may not be advertised via the self-serve format. Meta – Restricted (topical hemp allowed) Meta (advertising on Facebook and Instagram) prohibits cannabis, topical CBD, and ingestible hemp products and CBD products (hemp seeds, ingestible CBD, etc.). According to their Unsafe Substances Policy, Meta prohibits ads that promote or solicit illicit or recreational drugs as well as other substances considered unsafe by the platform. Some examples o unsafe substances on Meta platforms include but aren’t limited to: Anabolic steroids Chitosan Comfrey Dehydroepiandrosterone Ephedra Humon growth hormones Additionally, drug paraphernalia like bongs, rolling papers, and vaporizers may not be advertised on Meta. Meta does, however, permit ads that promote non-ingestible products such as topical hemp oil. We learned this when reaching out to chat support to confirm the details of advertising cannabis-related products on their platforms. Like organic content, informative articles on hemp and CBD products, which must also direct to informative landing pages are also permitted. Pinterest – Restricted (topical hemp) Pinterest is quite restrictive in the CBD and hemp space, only permitting ads for topical hemp as of now. Per their Drugs and paraphernalia policy, Pinterest takes things one step further and does not even permit the informational material about the use or legalization of illegal or recreational drugs. Most specifically, the policy states “Products containing CBD or similar compounds are prohibited. We will allow ads for topical hemp seed oil products that contain negligible amounts of THC and no CBD and make no therapeutic or medicinal claims.” LinkedIn – Prohibited ❌ Last up is Linkedin and the policy is very straightforward. All ads for drugs (OTC or recreational) are currently prohibited on the platform according to the platform’s Drugs policy. Advertising Cannabis on Google Google adopts a strict “just say no” policy when it comes to advertising or marketing topics referencing cannabis, marijuana, weed, etc. There are no explicitly stated restrictions against targeting keywords related to these terms, but any ad copy or landing page that features this subject matter will be heavily scrutinized and regulated. Because Google has more ambiguous standards for advertising cannabis, you may occasionally see ads that are related to the topic. For example, you may see paid ads for a local marijuana dispensary if you enter the term “weed dispensary near me”. However, many of these listings will use vague references and innuendo to avoid a platform penalty. Trying to game the Google Ads system is not advised. In general, this can lead to a poor user experience and can fall under Google’s Circumventing Systems policy.Depending on the nature of the offense, this can potentially lead to your Ads account being suspended or terminated, which we believe is not worth the risk. To view other cannabis policies for paid search ads, also check out the guidelines from Microsoft and Baidu for their search engines. Advertising Cannabis on Programmatic Channels Programmatic advertising for cannabis clients used to encompass direct-to-publisher display ad buys and ad networks that leveraged cannabis-friendly websites which were sold to advertisers trying to reach consumers of the product. While both of these methods are still used, some DSPs are starting to loosen their restrictions on cannabis advertising to keep up with the evolving climate. This results in more robust and creative ways to reach cannabis consumers. Contextual Targeting DSPs that are embracing the new wave all offer a variation of contextual targeting – serving ads on websites that are categorically relevant or contain keywords or phrases related to cannabis. This can range from consumption in general to information as granular as insight into different strains. First-Party Data A desire to leverage first-party data has also increased for a variety of reasons ranging from having the highest likelihood of purchase intent to cookies being sunsetted in the near future. First-party data allows cannabis advertisers to leverage their list of existing customers, such as dispensary item purchasers, and reach them while they’re surfing the web, using their favorite apps, or streaming their binge-worthy shows at home on their CTV devices. In addition, first-party data allows for lookalike audience expansion. Lookalike audiences mirror the online behaviors of a client’s CRM list, for instance, and find users who aren’t already on that list that could be potential consumers. This provides a campaign with more scale and reach while maintaining its niche audience targeting. Third-Party Audience Targeting Additionally, advertisers can utilize the power 3rd-party audience targeting. Via trusted data providers, your client can reach people identified as cannabis users based on their demographic, interests, intent, etc. as a result of their online behavior. Dabble with competitive conquesting or hone in on physical stores/locations that a cannabis audience frequently visits with radius targeting or 3rd-party location data. This strategy is exclusive to a handful of DSPs right now, but it could expand in the future. Radius targeting also lets your client reach dispensaries down to the mile and serve them an ad on their mobile device once the user is within the radius. 3rd-party location data allows your client to capture historical data, via lookback windows, of users who visited specific dispensary locations across the US and Canada and deliver their ads to these highly relevant consumers. Site Retargeting Site Retargeting is another strategy that is offered universally and is key for all cannabis advertisers, but especially for eCommerce campaigns. Being able to drive awareness and bring users to a client’s site is great, but retargeting them after the visit keeps them in the funnel and increases the likelihood of conversions by about 70%. While programmatic advertising sits very high at the top-of-the-funnel and conversions shouldn’t be the primary way to measure campaign effectiveness, there’s no doubt that they’re still points of extreme interest. With that said, conversion tracking for cannabis campaigns is borderline universal for all DSPs that allow this type of advertising. However, the granularity of the conversion journey varies greatly. Most DSPs can report on a conversion just like any other platform, but others have the capability to show the consumer journey from ad click to last-click attribution and everything in between! Cannabis SEO Campaigns Because SEO is an organic channel that primarily leverages your client’s website, there are not the same restrictions compared to paid media. As your client owns their domain, they are largely free to publish whatever content best suits their business’s best interests. However, any organic content published on a client’s website should maintain compliance with state and industry regulations. All necessary consumer warnings, disclaimers, and other advisory information should be displayed where appropriate to help avoid any potential liability for the content on the site. Because SEO is one of the more permissible channels for marijuana topics, you can expect a large amount of competition for high-opportunity keywords. Working a team of SEO experts, you can prevent many of the common obstacles and challenges that can come with a cutthroat digital environment. Start Delivering Elite Performance for Your Cannabis Marketing Agency Navigating the often unclear waters of cannabis advertising is enough to make anyone’s hands shaky before pressing “live” on a campaign. We understand that, and that’s why we’ve invested the time and effort to provide your agency with the necessary tools, expertise, and performance to deliver high-performing campaigns for your clients. At Conduit Digital, we have delivered elite campaign performance across 125 verticals for successful agencies in North America leveraging our holistic digital product suite. Our team of U.S.-based, platform-certified expert analysts can build your own cannabis client’s campaigns to drive the ideal key performance actions that align with their business goals. To help keep your partnership confidential and profitable, we also offer a margin-friendly rate card along, custom-brandable deliverables, and full NDA compliance. Start saying “yes” to better opportunities to serve your clients in the cannabis industry today. Schedule a call with us to learn how we can help you scale profitably.

  • Why Agencies Can’t Ignore OTT/CTV Advertising in 2023

    Feb 16, 2023 When we first forecasted connected TV advertising to explode in 2022, we were right. In 2022, over 48% of the U.S. population alone used ad-supported video streaming services to consume their favorite programming. This number is only expected to increase in 2023; as premium, ad-supported content evolves into a household alternative to traditional cable television. More than 60% of Hulu users alone use an ad-supported version of the platform. If your agency does not currently offer OTT advertising, today is the best time to start preparing for the rise in demand. Here are some reasons why: Top 3 Reasons Agencies Need to Pay Attention to OTT/CTV Advertising: 1. OTT Content is Only Becoming More Premium In its earliest stages, many OTT platforms served primarily as ways to watch older films and television shows. If you recall, Netflix first began as a mail-delivery rental service for DVDs. Thankfully, these platforms have become wholly digital, device-agnostic, and scalable in their pricing models to reach more viewers. As many cut the cable cord, major media brands are taking notice. For example, major cultural events like the 2023 Super Bowl LVII will be streamed live on Hulu, YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Sling TV. As more major media entities invest in their OTT content with original programming and premium broadcasts, more audience members will join the trend. This creates an opportunity for agencies to position their clients’ ads directly in the middle of highly viewed, personalized content where viewers are most engaged. 2. Agencies Have Already Taken Notice With the above in mind, agencies have already started to prepare for the increased demand for OTT/CTV advertising. In a December 2022 survey conducted by Pixability, 75% of agencies reported plans to increase their ad spend on OTT platforms in 2023. As we often say at Conduit, if a client asks for a service your agency does not provide, there exists a high chance that they will instead look for another agency that can and will fulfill their needs. If you do not have the holistic capabilities to offer a full ad operations suite, you could miss opportunities to land new accounts and expand existing ones to drive more scalable revenue. 3. OTT Content is the New Social Media Boom of the 2020s When social media first emerged as a major digital marketing channel in the mid-2000s, many traditional agencies balked at the trend to their own dismay. Now, organic and paid social are essential capabilities for any modern agency. As younger generations migrate away from linear television and increasingly adopt more on-demand digital streaming, they will be experiencing most of their advertisements on OTT platforms. Their audience data will exist here, their purchasing decisions will be influenced here, and the programmatic ads that generate the most return on ad spend for clients will also be found here. Simply put: OTT/CTV advertising is an essential service offering that agencies must have in their product suites to ensure their long-term health as a business entity. As younger generations mature into the professionals that control marketing and advertising budgets, they will want to serve ads on these platforms where they know their peers are most engaged with long-form video content. How Can Agencies Prep for the Rise in OTT Demand? Vet OTT Platforms for Quality As ad agencies plan for an increase in demand for OTT advertising services, vetting OTT platforms for quality is essential. This includes researching viewership levels across different platforms, ad inventory and pricing, potential reach and specific audience targeting capabilities. Agencies should also look into whether platforms have third-party verification systems in place to guarantee accurate campaign measurement. Finally, research any issues around privacy or data security related to each platform. Familiarize Yourself with OTT/CTV Advertising Best Practices In order to prepare for the rise in demand for OTT campaigns, ad agencies should familiarize themselves with best practices for successful campaigns. This includes determining the right duration of ads (between 15 seconds and 1 minute) that will encourage viewers to remain engaged instead of shifting their attention elsewhere. Because OTT is a highly visual channel, some creative best practices to also consider include: Feature the brand’s logo at the beginning and end of the ad Provide multiple ad lengths to serve across a platform’s full inventory Include the website or phone number of the client’s business within the ad Establish clear, easily digestible messaging to promote the product or service Offer real value and create an emotional connection with viewers Determine the Type(s) of Targeting You Want to Leverage OTT combines the appeal of traditional television with the advanced targeting capabilities of digital. One, some, or all of these tactics can be leveraged during a campaign, depending on the budget and scope, to help you reach the right audience. Consider a mix of targeting strategies that could incorporate nay of the following: Site retargeting: Cross-device retargeting to households with a member who visited your client’s website within a specific period of time. Keyword targeting: align your ads with users who search terms or engage with online content on their desktop, tablet, or mobile devices that contain keywords related to the list your campaign is targeting. Addressable geo-fencing: Target your ideal audience at the household level based on data sourced from a variety of touchpoints, including credit bureau, plat line, and GPS data Geo-Fencing/event targeting: Deliver adds to people who have visited a specific geographic location or event in the past 30 days. Demographic and interest targeting: Align your ads with household members that match your client’s ideal demographic or interest-based audience group. Application whitelisting: Determine the exact applications you want to serve your client’s ads on. Dayparting: Choosing the times of day you want to serve ads. Depending on the nature of the client’s business, targeting strategies will vary. For example, if the business only sells products online and doesn’t have a storefront, tracking foot traffic via geo-fencing wouldn’t be a fit. However, an addressable geo-fencing strategy honing on users at the household level who are a demographic and psychographic match for the same client would prove an ideal strategy. Identify KPAs that Indicate a Successful OTT Campaign When preparing for an increase in demand from clients in 2023, agencies should identify key performance actions (KPAs) associated with successful OTT campaigns that can be used to track progress throughout a campaign’s lifecycle. Agencies should analyze metrics such as ad completions, video completion rate (VCR), and view-through conversions. Additionally, QR codes in OTT ads, which famously captured the attention of Whopper lovers during peak pandemic times, enticing them to hit the drive-thru for a free burger, are a new way to generate deeper insights since users can scan the code to visit a landing page with their mobile devices. Users who take the time to scan an OTT QR code already are showing an invested level of interest. After the scan, advertisers can see what actions were taken once the user visited the website via Google Analytics data, which hasn’t been a capability in the past. Being able to monitor relevant KPAs will allow agencies to quickly identify areas where improvements need to be made or where strategies may need adjusting based on market conditions or consumer behavior changes over time. Create Infrastructure for Increased Bandwidth Lastly, as part of preparing for an increase in demand from clients in 2023, ad agencies need to create a strong infrastructure designed specifically for large-scale OTT campaigns so they can handle increased bandwidth requirements without any hiccups during peak times of activity. This involves auditing existing technology solutions across departments like media buying/planning and creative development teams to ensure enough available capacity when needed. Partner with the Right White Label Ad Operations Team Extending your in-house service offering requires time that you may not have when a client is ready to press “go” on a new OTT campaign immediately. That’s where a white label ad operations team comes in. Essentially, a white label ad operations team acts as an extension of your in-house team to provide services beyond your core offering at an expert level. Instead of having to find the right programmatic analyst for your team, training them, and hoping for the best, you can tap your partner’s team of programmatic experts and resell their services under your own brand. In turn, this allows for faster campaign launches with greater control over branding, scalability, and performance. Here’s how the process would typically work if you were to onboard a campaign with a white label partner: 1. Submit an insertion order (IO) to your partner to notify them you want to launch a new OTT campaign 2. Confirm specific details with your partner during a kickoff call, such as overall campaign goals and budget as well as any access credentials they may need 3. Let your partner’s team get to work while you track performance through their re-brandable reports 4. Mark up their services to your client and increase profitability for your agency! 5. Unlike platforms and vendors, a white label partner also enables greater flexibility for your agency. If you need to adjust specific details over time, such as budget or creative assets, you do not have to wait for the current campaign to end. You can continue to leverage them as your resource to continuously drive greater performance for your client. Get White Label OTT/CTV Advertising Support for Your Agency At Conduit Digital, we provide elite white label ad operations solutions to established and successful agencies throughout North America, powered by our own team of platform-certified expert analysts from our headquarters in New Jersey. Along with the rest of our product suite, infrastructure, and reporting capabilities, our team enables you to say “yes” to bigger and better opportunities. If you’re ready to launch an OTT/CTV advertising campaign for your client, schedule a 20-minute call with us today to start your path to partnership.

  • Why Fears Over a TikTok Ban is a Great Reminder for Diversified Marketing Strategies

    Feb 10, 2023 Due to national security concerns, the United States Congress has decided to ban TikTok from federal government devices in late 2022. The video-sharing app generates staggering amounts of data on a daily basis, with an American user base of about one hundred million. This raised a larger question in politics, media, and society at large. Some on Capitol Hill are also proposing a full TikTok ban in the United States altogether. While we’re not in the business of politics, and we’re not going to start here, we would be pulling the digital wool over our eyes if we did not recognize the concerns this could raise for ad agencies. While the likelihood of a complete TikTok ban across the U.S. is unlikely to happen, the discussion does bring a rather important reminder into the spotlight: diversified marketing. As long as platforms like Google, Microsoft, Meta, and TikTok dominate the digital landscape, advertisers are forced to play by their rules and work within their technical frameworks to drive the best possible results for their clients. Whenever a new update drops on any platform, it could require your strategy to shift completely from one day to the next. For example, when Apple released its iOS 14.5.1 update in 2021, iPhone users were granted the ability to opt out of cross-platform tracking. Did digital advertising become extinct as a result? No, but agencies had to adopt a new paradigm for approaching their campaign strategies for their clients. When you put all of your efforts into a single platform for any of your client’s digital campaigns, there’s an implied risk that performance hinges on the one platform remaining reliable and consistent. If something were to shift rapidly and unexpectedly, would you still be able to continue using that platform as you did before, or would it severely impact the results you’ve expected and projected? In an era where marketing platforms are constantly innovating and evolving, having a diversified and holistic strategy should not be offered as a luxury. It’s essential. Today, we’re going to highlight some benefits of a diversified marketing strategy and offer tangible tips to create one for your own clients at your agency. Let’s dive right in. 7 Benefits of a Diversified Marketing Strategy 1. Reach More of Your Target Audience Implementing a diversified approach to digital marketing opens up more channels for reaching your client’s target audiences. By increasing the number and diversity of outlets used to connect with potential customers, there is an increased chance that your efforts will be seen by more people who may be interested in what your client has to offer. For example, if you are only running an advertising campaign on TikTok, you could easily extend it to Instagram Reels, which follow a similar format. This could enable you to also reach similar audiences on the platform without having to go through the process of strategizing new creatives from scratch. 2. Diversify Your Risk Diversifying campaigns also diversifies risk by allocating resources across multiple channels. By spreading out spending over several outlets, agencies can better manage their finances while still investing in quality campaigns that may be more costly but bring greater results than cheaper options with little potential return on investment (ROI). When diversifying your risk, you’re also creating more financial flexibility for your client’s budget. If a major platform change happens on YouTube that affects your ads’ performance, you can scale back your spend and reallocate more of that investment where you are seeing steadier growth on Facebook. 3. Collect More Data A diversified approach allows for greater data collection and analysis of customer behaviors across multiple channels. With access to more information from a variety of sources, your agency can further develop its knowledge base about customer demographics and interests which can then be applied to elevating performance for future campaigns. Gathering data from different platforms also makes it easier for agencies to recognize trends across multiple industries or markets that might not have been detected using only one outlet alone. Depending on the mix of platforms you’re running campaigns on for your client, some may generate metrics that others do not, which you can combine into a single report for a more holistic picture of your ideal customer avatar. 4. More Advanced Tactics Leveraging a diverse range of platforms grants agencies access to more advanced tools, which can provide greater accuracy when targeting desired segments within audiences based on various criteria such as age group, location, gender etc. Agencies are also able to better utilize retargeting methods by gathering information from different sources and combining them into one cohesive message or campaign tailored specifically towards groups that have previously engaged with their content or services before. This ensures that each segment reached is provided with relevant content at just the right time during their journey, which encourages further engagement and ultimately leads to an increase in performance. 5: Improved Frequency of Impressions When you run the same campaign across multiple platforms, you’re also increasing the frequency of impressions that an audience might receive. If they have clicked on your client’s paid search ad and later receive a display retargeting ad later, the brand name and message will continue to persist throughout their entire online session rather than just on a single channel. 6: Greater Upsell Opportunities With a diverse portfolio of digital products and solutions, your agency sales team can also more effectively land and expand accounts and scale more rapidly. When the client experiences success on one or more channels, this presents an excellent opportunity to upsell to a new channel to further increase visibility to more audiences on new platforms. 7. More Credibility for Your Agency When your agency has a full product suite that you can offer to your clients, this establishes your brand as credible and authoritative in your industry. Potential clients will view your team as true experts that they can trust as a growth partner, which can then generate more interest in your brand that can ultimately result in more qualified leads. It’s important to note, however, that we’re not suggesting running a single campaign across 7 different platforms simultaneously if the budget is too limited. Trying to cover too many platforms without the budget to support it could end up negatively impacting a campaign. For example, if you are working with a $2,500 budget in a large geographic area, running paid search, social, OTT, and display could prove too many platforms at a single time. Instead, focus on the top two that are generating the most return. With the other platforms, you could allocate a small portion of the overall budget for testing to see if results start improving over time. However, testing, diversifying, and creating an effective “Plan B” strategy for your client are all key components of any successful ad campaign. How to Implement a Diversified Marketing Strategy for Your Agency So now that we’ve covered the benefits, how do you actually put them into practice? Let’s start with the first step: Playing to your strengths. 1. Recognize Your In-House Strengths and Weaknesses Agencies often specialize in one or a few digital services. While one might excel at email marketing and social media, another might brand itself as programmatic specialists. Take a moment to review where your agency drives the most success for your clients. Are there any services that you currently do not provide and also lack the means to implement at a high level? If you’re looking to expand, start with new products and services that are most adjacent to your in-house offering. For example, if you are already dominating Paid Search, you may want to consider adding another Google product like YouTube or to dive deep into search engine optimization (SEO) to reach users through organic search listings. 2. Re-Examine Your Supportive Infrastructure If you want to expand into new services to round out your offering, do you have the internal resources available to do so? From physical equipment to software and team members, take some time to identify what will be needed to make this a reality. With new clients also comes a strain on internal capacity and bandwidth. Can your team handle another in-house product offering with its current size and workload? If not, you may decide that you need to hire or seek help from a partner. Beyond resources, use this time to also dive deep into your current processes. Are they designed for scalability or have they been slowly developed over time with no rhyme or reason as your business evolved? Having repeatable, transparent, and timebound processes builds your agency for scale. 3. Train Your Sales Team New products and services introduce new information and can raise questions from clients. Will your sales team have the confidence to successfully generate new business through your diversified marketing suite? If not, seek out quality sales materials and training to help them develop new opportunities with confidence. 4. Monitor Performance and Gauge Success Are your new products and services actually contributing to your agency’s success? As you start running new campaigns across a larger suite, monitor your team’s performance against benchmarks that you’ve established for your agency to determine whether you need to make further adjustments to your processes and infrastructure to help ensure profitability and scalability. 5. Want to Skip the Above? Work with a White Label Ad Operations Partner A white label ad operations partner acts as an extension to your in-house team to outfit your agency with a full suite of digital products and services. Instead of having to build the infrastructure yourself, you can instantly onboard new campaigns for your partner’s own team to manage under your agency’s brand. When you’re vetting white label solutions, you’ll typically encounter three types of providers: platforms, vendors, and partners. A platform usually involves heavy usage of software and requires some pre-existing expertise to use most effectively. On the other hand, a vendor will provide high-level services but usually only within a single product category, such as SEO or social. On the third hand (that’s a thing, right?), we have partner. The primary difference between a partner and a platform and vendor is that a white label partner is fully invested in campaign performance and works in lockstep with your agency to provide the infrastructure you need to confidently say “yes” to opportunities that may require services outside of your internal scope. Partners also bring a holistic suite of scalable products to your agency so that you can always prepare to meet your clients’ digital marketing needs. Say “Yes” to Better Diversified Marketing with a White Label Partnership At Conduit Digital, we serve established and successful agencies in North America as an elite white label ad operations partner. Outfitting your agency with a full product suite and an infrastructure built on communication, performance, and reporting, you can pursue bigger and better business development opportunities with the confidence that you will have the support you need to deliver results for your clients. To start your path to partnership, schedule a 20 minute call with us today.

  • Local Ad Agencies Have an Opportunity to Shine with Google Layoffs

    Jan 30, 2023 No one enjoys massive waves of corporate layoffs. It removes skilled team members from adding value to the company and discontinues their ability to serve their customers. This was the case with Google in January 2023 when they announced they will be laying off 12,000 people. Google represents just one corporate titan in the recent layoff trend. Others like Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft, along with Google, have eliminated at least 51,000 jobs in the past few weeks. When the economy entered its first post-pandemic recovery phases, many employers started hiring at staggering volumes. Fast forward a short while later, and now these same entities are deciding that they no longer need the extra help. With Google’s layoffs rolling through their corporation, many of their ad reps that once served their advertising clients are disappearing from the digital ether. Instead, Google has recommended that their advertisers turn to third-party resellers like local ad agencies. While many will be polishing their resumes in the wake of 2023 layoffs and scanning through job listings once again, agencies have an incredible opportunity to continue growing, scaling, and generating new business from local clients that seek an expert ad operations team to support their marketing goals. Clients that once worked directly with Google are now left seeking a new solution. So, what will this look like exactly? We’re going to break down for you what the rest of 2023 will look like for many ad agencies as they navigate a new environment that further increases demand for their expertise. More on Google’s relationship with advertising agencies with Kasim Aslam on Agency Talk (Starts 2:16) What’s Shaping Up for Local Ad Agencies in 2023: Ad Spend is Going to Take (At Least) a 5.9% Jump In a November 2022 report from MarTech, media ad spend in 2023 was projected to leap by 5.9%. Now that Google is discontinuing much of its in-house advertising services, this number will likely increase for local agencies as new eager clients are looking for a new ad operations provider. More Business Development for Local Agencies Now that Google’s internal support for advertisers is decreasing, they will not possess the same in-house bandwidth to support individual advertisers on their platform. For businesses that heavily relied on this service, they are likely to now seek the help of local ad agencies to act as their expert resource. From a business development perspective, this presents a golden opportunity for ad agencies to promote their advertising services, especially campaigns run on Google products. Agency leaders should expect to hear questions from potential clients regarding paid search, YouTube advertising, and programmatic channels as prominent discussion points. Beyond the sales process, agencies should invest heavily in truly understanding their clients’ business models, goals, brand positioning, and target audiences. Google never provided this more specialized level of service, and now this unique selling point for agencies can become their greatest strength. Agencies Will Need More Ad Operations Support As demand rolls in for agency services, a holistic product suite will not be a luxury. Instead, it will prove a necessity. For example, if a client wants to run paid search but you do not offer this service in-house, they will then turn to another competitor that can and will meet these needs. If all you needed was one additional service as part of your offering to land this account, how do you quickly launch these campaigns at a high-performing level? As our friend Marcus Murphy from 5ive has said, agencies often fail in isolation. If you are not actively expanding your network beyond your office doors, are you receiving the support that you need to scale profitably? This is where a white label ad operations partner comes in. Here are some of the most notable benefits your agency receives from a white label partnership: Cost Savings – Avoid the traditional hard costs of building and maintaining an internal digital marketing infrastructure, from software applications to personnel. Increased Expertise – Instantly access another team of experts across a wide range of digital marketing and advertising services. No more crash courses! Scalability – Increase or decrease your volume of work as needed to better stabilize your internal capacity and bandwidth. Flexibility – Tailor your partner’s services to meet the specific needs of your clients. Time-saving – Spend less time recruiting and training people to fill skill gaps at your agency and spend more time on sales, client relationships, and strategy. Reporting – Leverage your white label partner’s comprehensive reports to prove the value of your agency to your clients. Branding - Brand your partner’s services as your own for more control over your own branding and increase your credibility with clients. Get the Support Your Agency Needs for a Busy 2023 Are you anticipating a massive increase in your agency’s services this year, but feeling concerned about how to meet the demand? You don’t have to face it alone. At Conduit, we partner with established and successful local ad agencies across North America to deliver elite, holistic performance for your client’s campaigns in a 100% white label format. With our infrastructure based on communication and performance, we equip you with the means to confidently say “yes” to the biggest and best opportunities to land and expand new accounts. You focus on making your agency the best, and we’ll manage the rest. To learn more about launching your own ad operations partnership, schedule a 20-minute discovery call today.

  • Is 2023 the Year for Retail Advertising Agencies to Shine?

    Dec 15, 2022 According to a report from GroupM, global eCommerce will grow from 19% to 25% of worldwide retail sales by 2027. As consumers have altered their lifestyle habits drastically over the past few years, spending behaviors have also changed. As 2023 projects recessionary numbers for the economy and shoppers conduct transactions with greater scrutiny, this may seem like a horror show for advertisers. Can you continue to promote your client’s products when people may be more selective with their spending? In fact, a downturn in economic activity could pose an opportunity for many agencies to align their retail clients’ products more closely with their target audience. When spending decisions are heavily weighed, the quality of the purchase matters most. If a potential customer receives an ad for your client’s product that matches their exact needs, they may be more willing to spend if they believe it will meet their expectations more than other competing brands. What Can Retail Advertising Agencies Do to Strengthen Client Strategy in 2023? Double Down on Shopping Campaigns Seamless checkout experiences are no longer a luxury; they’re the new norm. Whether you are serving ads through Google or on social, being able to complete a purchase in as few steps as possible can lead to higher conversions and a better user experience. If you are to concentrate your eCommerce advertising efforts on any platforms, Google, Meta (Facebook & Instagram), and TikTok are three excellent platforms to start with. Google’s shopping ads serve across multiple surfaces across billions of pages on the web. These include Google’s Search, Images, and Shopping feeds as well as YouTube and other partner websites. Using Google’s Merchant Center, you can focus on aligning your client’s products by their attributes and features rather than a keyword strategy as well as show in-store inventory for physical locations. Meta’s top-two platforms, Facebook and Instagram, were 2021’s leading channels for influencer marketing campaigns. When customers learn about a new product from a personality that they admire and trust, they are more likely to feel confident in purchasing a product. Instagram alone is projected to generate $15.95 billion in global ad revenue by the end of 2022 through its Stories feature alone. Finally, we arrive at TikTok – the social video platform that has changed short-form content forever. This year, TikTok launched shoppable ads that can appear in their users’ feeds with the benefit of the app’s next-level algorithm. If your client seeks to target young adults with more disposable income, leave TikTok out of the campaign strategy at your own risk. Seek New Retail Clients in “Recession Proof” Industries An industry that qualifies as “recession proof” is one where there is always a consumer demand for products in these categories, regardless of economic conditions. Some categories that hold this title can include: Food Toiletries Cosmetics and Personal Care Clothing Pet Care Clothing Baby Products Automotive Parts Home Products OTC Healthcare Products and Pharmaceuticals Another major category to consider for your agency is cannabis. As more states permit the recreational or restricted use of cannabis products, consumer demand skyrockets and dispensaries become major retail powerhouses in their local markets. Many of these products like food and toiletries are perishable, limited-use, or single-use items that are designed to meet ongoing needs. If you want to specialize in one or more of these categories, build a strong base of industry knowledge among yourself and your team to demonstrate to potential clients that you are an authority in marketing their products to their ideal customers. Some simple ways to brush up on knowledge in any retail industry can involve: Reading trade publications for these verticals Studying the marketing practices of the industry’s largest competitors Reading customer reviews of brands online Conducting keyword research for industry-relevant search terms Signing up for industry-leading brands’ email marketing lists Watching YouTube reviews of popular products in these categories Brush up on best practices for marketing in the cannabis industry These above tactics can provide you with a strong baseline to gauge the pulse of the specific marketplace your ideal clients want to advertise in. This can then inform the strategy that you propose to these clients to increase their confidence in choosing your agency as their growth partner. Encourage Pushing Through Over Cutting Back During an economic downturn, many clients tend to cut spending as a gut-reaction to financial anxieties. Will they have the money to spend on advertising, or will they have to give up another expense to keep their current budget? While these fears are certainly understandable, pushing through where possible always proves the wisest tactic on the other side of a recession. When other competitors are cutting back, maintaining your client’s current budget or increasing it can generate more opportunities to serve ads to target users that may have otherwise purchased a competitor’s product if the competitor had not reduced their own budget during a recession. Adopt a Multi-Channel Strategy Rather than concentrating all of your client’s ad budget on a single lane, adopting a multi-channel strategy allows them to reach all possible target users that are consuming content on high-volume platforms. This can also aid in remarketing efforts to help reach the same user as they navigate through various apps and websites in their regular media consumption activities. For example, you could create a holistic advertising campaign that combines search, social, and programmatic to reach individuals in every possible ad space online. You can also combine these with organic campaigns like SEO or social content to reach consumers that place greater trust in products they discover on their own rather than through advertisements. Deliver Elite Performance Across All Campaigns If a client feels confident in the strategy that you present them with, they are more likely to feel inspired to spend more on their digital marketing campaigns. This does raise an important question, though: Can your in-house team deliver the elite performance your clients expect across all channels? This is where a white label performance partner comes in. A white label performance partner helps to round out your agency team’s skillset by providing access to their own team of expert analysts in specific channels. If crushing paid social campaigns is business-as-usual for your agency, but you lack a PPC or programmatic specialist in-house, you can partner with a white label solution to run your client’s campaigns with help from a team that already possesses the knowledge and expertise to deliver results at a high level. As a solution-based service, a white label partner also provides additional cost-savings for your agency. Instead of the traditional overhead associated with hiring, training, and retaining a full-time employee, you have the ability to run campaigns through another team of experts for a predictable fee that you can then mark up to your clients and generate additional profit for your business. When you are searching for your ideal white label partner, look for one that offers the following benefits: A team of platform and product-certified analysts Live reporting and performance dashboards Sales success resources Responsive, timely communication A holistic suite of products to round out your own service offering Case studies that prove past performance Most importantly, look for a team that understands the responsibility of their partnership with your agency. When you succeed, they succeed, and vice-versa. Your partner should hold an equal stake in the performance and results of your client’s campaigns and treat them with as much care and attention to detail as you would for your in-house services. Start 2023 with a Conduit Partnership At Conduit Digital, we partner with established and successful digital agencies throughout North America to deliver elite performance across a holistic suite of channels, including Paid Search, Paid Social, Programmatic, SEO, and more. If you are looking to round out your suite of services and take your retail advertising clients’ campaigns to the next level in 2023, schedule a 20-minute discovery call today to learn more about the power of partnership.

  • Agency Anxiety: Navigating 2023

    Nov 11, 2022 During this year’s Web Summit in Portugal, advertising icon Martin Sorrell predicted that 2023 will prove a difficult year for advertisers and marketers. With many global events affecting international economic relations and tech giants like Meta experiencing financial downturns in late 2022, the evidence can create some white-knuckle stress for agencies. While we are not in the business of financial or political sector commentary, it can’t be ignored that happenings in these spaces can affect clients’ businesses which, in turn, affects your agency. In a period that could create a recession or have consumers holding onto more of their money instead of spending it, agency leaders need to discover new strategies to communicate their immense value to their local markets. Thankfully, Sorrell didn’t just finish his talk by saying that 2023 appears challenging for advertisers and marketers. He also followed up with some suggestions for navigating what might become a trying twelve months ahead. Advertising Strategies for 2023 Speaking to AdWeek at Web Summit, Sorrell said that the path forward in times of recession is focusing on performance, activation, measurement, media mix, and return on investment. How can we translate these pillars to an agency’s day-to-day operations, though? Let’s break them down one by one. Performance Transparent proof of performance is essential for agencies to build their reputation, continue landing new accounts, expand existing ones, and ultimately scale. When you can provide your client with tangible evidence of results from their investment in your services, that increases their confidence in their decision to partner with you in growing their own business. If a client is feeling the financial strain of a recession, they will likely not be willing to spend on digital campaigns that are not producing results that help them generate more revenue. Keeping this in mind, agencies must provide hard data that explains how their campaigns are benefitting the client’s business as well as contextual insights to explain the why behind it. Measurement Measurement involves tracking the right metrics to gauge a campaign’s performance by assigning the appropriate value to them. Once your team has outlined the goals for the campaign, are you gathering all of the proper data? Beyond your client’s stated advertising goals, think of any that might also add value to their campaign. Present them to the client, communicate any potential budget adjustments they might require, and determine if they are doable or if they should be the focus of a separate campaign in the future. Performance and measurement represent two different sides of one coin. For a campaign to best perform, the right metrics need to be collected and carefully analyzed. With this information in hand, you can make more informed decisions on future optimizations, adjustments, and strategic pivots to work toward your client’s goals. Activation Activation refers to marketing a business’s product, service, or brand to a target audience. In the traditional sense, this could take the form of an in-store event or an appearance at an industry trade show. Since digital does not involve an in-person element other than the audience member physically using the device the ad was served on, how can you incorporate activation into a digital campaign? With a digital campaign, you can track a wide range of offline behaviors that can be measured to gauge campaign performance. For example, with Google Ads and Analytics, offline conversions can be tracked if someone had visited your client’s store within a certain period of time after viewing an ad. The digital promotion they received inspired that individual to visit the store in person. For digital activation to succeed, the audience member must interact with your client’s business as a result of experiencing the ad. Beyond in-store visits, other ways to reach them can also include conversion-optimized landing pages, surveys, contact form fills, and other similar actions that require manual input. Media Mix A media mix strategy combines all of the possible digital and traditional channels that someone could reach your client’s business and engage with them further. Offering a single service or a narrow range of solutions will limit their reach to desirable audiences and also create a gap in offerings between your agency and local competitors. Campaigns that adopt a holistic approach to digital advertising and marketing can capture a greater share of qualified audiences. For example, if your client is an online outdoor sporting goods retailer that wants to promote a special on fishing rods, you could reach a wide range of potential shoppers with a media mix strategy that includes: Paid search – to insert shopping ads directly Google search results for users that have indicated an interest in fishing by their online behavior. SEO – to drive qualified organic traffic to content on the client’s websites consisting of users that want to know more about fishing and fishing gear. Paid social – to inject an in-app shoppable ad into a qualified user’s feed that showcases the fishing gear that your client is offering a promotion for. Programmatic advertising – to insert dynamic image and video ads directly in front of viewers while they’re consuming their favorite content related to fishing or outdoor recreation. Organic social content – to engage with the store’s followers that want to stay up to date on the latest releases and learn more about fishing gear. All of these channels can then direct users to your client’s website where they can quickly browse and purchase products that interest them. If one of these were omitted, an entire customer base could remain unaware of the incredible discount your client is offering. Return On Investment Lastly, but far from least important, ROI matters for clients who are investing hard-earned revenue back into their digital campaigns. Are they earning more than they’ve spent on your services? Reporting provides the transparent performance data needed to gauge whether a campaign is performing exceedingly well, as expected, or underperforming. If the results are underdelivering from an ROI perspective, this can create a productive discussion with the client where you could introduce a new strategy, revisit one that may have been previously rejected, or optimize the current campaign further to move users further along the conversion path. Putting it All Together Now that you know Martin Sorrell’s pillars for marketing in 2023, how can you achieve them at your own agency? Many agencies today are still experiencing many of the same struggles that they did in 2019 when the world hit pause. From hiring and retaining qualified talent to expanding services and developing new business, it can seem difficult to hit all of these five pillars simultaneously without at least one of them on the back burner more than the others. To distill everything above into a few simple takeaways, here are some principles to keep in mind when strategizing for the year ahead: 1. Double down on performance for your clients and prove it with reporting 2. Make sure you are tracking the right metrics that are necessary to support performance 3. Prioritize the ad experience for your campaigns and optimize them to encourage conversions from audiences 4. Offer the most complete suite of services possible to attract new clients and retain and expand existing ones 5. Prioritize ROI and/or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) as the chief goal for your client’s campaigns If you are concerned about how your agency can hit these objectives in 2023, it may be time to consider joining forces with a performance partner. At Conduit Digital, we partner exclusively with successful and established agencies throughout North America to equip them with a full suite of digital marketing services managed 100% in the U.S. by a team of certified expert analysts. We bring the performance, hands-on implementation, industry best practices, and 24/7 live reports that you need to stabilize your internal operations and say “yes” to better opportunities with confidence. To learn more about what a Conduit Partnership looks like, schedule a 20-minute call today.

  • What Does Google’s Helpful Content Update Mean for SEO?

    Oct 27, 2022 On August 25, Google began implementing the Helpful Content Update, which is designed to prioritize content online that prioritizes the user’s benefit rather than promoting products and services or ranking for specific keywords. For many SEO veterans, this presents a drastic paradigm shift in the way that content strategies are developed and implemented. Adding blogs or pages to a website can no longer be treated like a checklist activity. Instead, digging deep for real value is the new name of the game. If you’re wondering how your agency team can best adapt to this new update, then you’ve arrived at the right place. Today, we’re going to provide you with a thorough overview of the Google Helpful Content Update so that you can offer your client the best deliverables possible in this new era of SEO content marketing. First, let’s dive deep and explore what “people-first” content actually means. Need Help with Content Now? What is People-First Content? The new people-first content model considers the content portfolio across an entire website; not just specific blog posts or product/service pages. It uses a machine-learning model that involves a new signal that Google can use to determine its rankings for content on the web. As explained by Google, “people-first” content refers to content that: Satisfies a user’s need for information or provides a high-quality answer to a question they have Demonstrates authority and deep knowledge in a particular product category, industry, or profession Complements your website’s primary purpose for existing Educates the visitor on a specific topic Thankfully, this new people-first approach to content does not throw all SEO copywriting best practices out the window. Factors like the technical health of the website, high-opportunity keywords, and proper logical content flow all still do play an instrumental role in competing for desirable organic rankings. However, these principles are now riding shotgun to the content’s usefulness and authority to a user. For example, if someone is searching how to repair their dishwasher, the website with the best information will be considered more worthy of higher rankings by Google’s algorithms than a website that optimizes for the keyword with very little information about how to actually fix your appliance. Prior to the Helpful Content Update, the traditional approach involved writing what appealed most to search engine algorithms. This often involved completing a checklist that satisfied specific elements like keywords, H1 headings, word counts, and links taking the focus over the substance of the text on the page. Now with the roles reversed, Google does still care about these technical aspects, but the algorithm is now more aware of the tactics many SEO pros have used to capture its interests over time. A central concept behind the Helpful Content Update is that if your content is considered genuinely helpful to users searching for terms relevant to your client’s business, Google will take notice of that. The algorithm has sophisticated enough discernment to separate a genuine “how-to” article from one that has a brief tutorial nestled into a blog post that largely promotes a business’s own products and services. So, Can I Not Promote My Client on Their Own Website? The Helpful Content Update did not erase self-promotion completely. After all, you need to be able to speak to your client’s unique value in their market or industry to drive leads and other key performance actions (KPAs) for their campaigns. This paradigm shift toward helpful information places further emphasis on the need for a greater balance between helpful and promotional content. Of all the content on your client’s website, more than half of it should focus on providing helpful information with little-to-no promotional interest while the lesser percentage can directly highlight products and services they offer. Let’s return to the appliance example for a minute. Your client owns an appliance sales and repair business in your area. They want to increase the number of calls and contact form fills that they receive for their repair services. You decide to write a blog post about repairing upper spray arms in dishwashers. This is something that an appliance repair professional can perform for you, but it is also something that someone could do on their own if they have the right parts. Prior to the helpful content update, you may have often seen articles that have a paragraph like this: “Attach the new spray arm into position and twist it to lock it in place. Or, if you are having difficulty with this, you can call us at XYZ Appliance Repair in Bayville, NJ to do it for you.” Now, Google’s algorithm can determine that this traditional bait-and-switch tactic is a blatant attempt to convert leads in the middle of a piece of content that gives off an initial impression that it will provide a helpful answer to a question for the user. Instead, here is a Helpful Content Update-friendly alternative to the example paragraph above: “Attach the new spray arm into position and twist it counterclockwise to lock it in place. If you are having difficulty with this, start by double-checking your parts number to ensure you have the right replacement spray arm for your appliance. You may also need to try attaching it multiple times before it clicks.” In that paragraph above, you are providing more valuable content to the user without shoehorning a promotion into the copy. If someone in your local market does not want to fix the appliance themselves, they have already decided on calling a business like the one your client owns to repair their dishwasher. Alternatively, if your client’s business offers a solution along with the answer to the question, these can be combined for a more subtler and helpful middle ground. Here’s a third option that combines the two approaches: “Attach the new spray arm into position and twist it counterclockwise to lock it in place. If you are having difficulty with this, start by double-checking your parts number to ensure you have the right replacement spray arm for your appliance. If you need a different replacement spray arm, you can browse the ones we have in stock here.” How is this different from the other two? This third version of the paragraph starts with real, useful information that the user can use independently of the business hosting the content. However, if they determine that they do need a new spray arm for their dishwasher, they can click a convenient link to another page on the same website that lists products that can be purchased from your client. For those that decide they do want guidance for their own DIY dishwasher repair, they are still driving quality traffic to your client’s website because they have searched for terms that align with the website’s keyword strategy. This indicates to Google that their website is about appliances and appliance repair because people who are searching for these types of terms are clicking. Obviously, though, your client would still probably like to add some level of promotion in the content they are hosting on their website. That is understandable, but it should be saved for moments where it will be most impactful. For example, here are some tasteful ways to include self-promotion in a helpful article: Mention your client’s business name, location, and services at the end of the conclusion section of the blog with a link to contact them. Include an easy click-to-call or contact us button in the navigation menu of the website List your client’s business information like address, email, phone number, and hours in the footer Post your helpful content to your client’s Google Business Profile, which already contains most of their relevant business information Share your client’s content on industry relevant forums and social media communities online to answer other users’ questions Include a clickable button in the blog post with a CTA to contact the client’s business Revisit old content and update it to be more people-friendly in its tone and scope Merging Traditional SEO Content Strategy with Helpful Content As we mentioned above, Google’s Helpful Content Update does not mean that you should throw away all other SEO best practices. Keywords, formatting, and backend technical health all still play important roles. Though Google does not actually abide by preferred word counts when determining rankings for content, a general rule of thumb is often that blogs and service pages that are at least approximately 500 words or longer will offer a richer depth of information to the user. When conducting an SEO campaign for your client, merging technical and content-driven strategies can equip their website to remain viable and competitive within their industry or local market. A two-pronged approach will ensure that every aspect of the content’s performance is considered when preparing it to go live on the website. Start Creating Helpful SEO Content for Your Client Today We saved a mention of us for the end. See what we did here? At Conduit Digital, we equip your ad agency with a complete suite of white label digital marketing products and services to help you scale your operations, provide a more comprehensive offering to your clients, manage capacity, and ultimately say “yes” to better opportunities with an elite performance team supporting you. Like the rest of our solutions, all of our white label SEO campaigns are 100% US-based and human-implemented from our office in New Jersey. To learn more about how you can position your agency for better opportunities, contact us today to schedule a 20-minute call.

  • Overcoming 4 Common Obstacles to Growing Your Agency

    Oct 6, 2022 As a digital marketing agency leader, you understand the importance of continuous growth to sustain a successful business. Having a steady pipeline of new prospective clients and a long-term plan for building an ad operations team each play critical roles in an upward trajectory. What does that look like to you? Perhaps you want to establish a boutique agency with a small but dedicated team and a solid foothold in a niche that you’re passionate about. Conversely, you might prefer to become the largest and most sought-after agency in your local market. There is no “right” or “wrong” end goal for your agency. Ultimately, you control its destiny. However, there are still some universal pain points that agency leaders face when scaling upwards to accomplish what they have set out to achieve. At Conduit, we speak with hundreds of agency leaders like yourself each year. Based on these conversations, we’ve distilled 4 common pain points associated with growing agencies, and we’re going to break them down in-depth here. We’ll also offer our tips for overcoming them. Need help with growing your agency right now? Schedule a 20-minute call: 4 Common Pains with Agency Growth 1. Stabilizing Capacity Does it ever feel like you are one account away from under or overutilizing your team? For example, if you lost one client tomorrow, would your team suddenly feel like its one or two people too large? Building a team for a high-capacity client roster requires an effective business development strategy to support it. Without a steady influx of new leads that could turn into potential new accounts for your agency, you may start to feel the capacity squeeze sooner rather than later. 2. Hiring and Growing a Team Similarly, if you need to grow your team, you might find that hiring in your market proves difficult. Traditionally, a large majority of digital marketing talent is located within large metropolitan areas or in communities that are home to large universities. Still, that does not mean that you can open an agency in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, and expect an endless roster of candidates to fill your vacancies. Where more remote areas may have a smaller pool of candidates, the larger metros pose the opposite challenge of a more competitive job market with more opportunities for talented individuals to launch or continue their career. It can feel like either finding a needle in a haystack or a constant bidding war to attract and retain the talent that you need to grow your agency. Beyond struggles with hiring the right team, retaining them also proves another challenge. It may feel like that the team becomes more difficult to manage as it grows or you are experiencing high turnover once someone has received training to go elsewhere. No one wants to feel like their agency is nothing but a stepping stone. You have real, tangible goals that you want to achieve, and building an engaged team that shares your vision likely complements these objectives. 3. A Limited Suite of Services Alongside capacity and hiring challenges, a limited suite of services can often become the Achilles heel for many agencies; especially ones in highly competitive markets. If you do not have a team that has the bandwidth or expertise to land and expand new accounts, this can quickly become a roadblock. As we have said many times before: If your client asks for a service that you do not provide, they often seek out a competitor that can and will fulfill what they’ve asked for. While you might absolutely dominate paid search and programmatic campaigns, if the client wants SEO and TikTok, they will find an agency to provide them with SEO and TikTok. Continuously investigating, testing, and expanding your service offering will allow you to create a more diverse team with a wider range of strengths to serve your clients. This also can help to more effectively streamline your internal capacity and bandwidth and create lanes where your team is made of specialists in specific product categories. When many agency leaders arrive at this point, one of the first reactions is to seek out vendors that can help expand their services for a fee. However, with vendors, they can quickly become expensive, only operate in specific silos, and it will soon feel like you need to hire another person just to manage these relationships and ensure they produce at a level of quality you’re satisfied with. 4. Utilization of Your Team Lastly, whether you have a team that operates over or under capacity, any agency can become bogged down with tactical work. When you want to serve as your client’s strategic partner, many of the day-to-day operational tasks can quickly consume valuable business hours. When agency leaders have more free time and are spending less time in the digital weeds, they can use that bandwidth for growing and strengthening their business. This can include building better client relationships, focusing on the health of your internal team, and finally carving out enough time to take that vacation you’ve wanted to go on for the past 3 years. Growing your agency requires a massive investment of time, effort, and capital to launch in its early stages. At some point, returning to a more stable work-life balance probably sounds like the preferred way to live. When you are able to stay afloat and continue growing with the right infrastructure supporting you, you will find that you do not need to sacrifice nearly as much of your personal time to operate a successful agency. Get help with these pain points now: The Solution to Growing Your Agency: White Label Partnership Before you decide this is an ad and stop reading, hear us out. We know that we’re a white label digital marketing agency, and that this may sound self-promotional at first. However, we believe that finding the right partner for your agency is not speed-dating. Deciding to entrust your client’s campaigns to an external team is a major investment of trust, and you should treat it as such. We aren’t attempting to bait-and-switch you with some puff piece about how amazing we are (though we are fans of our work). Instead, we just want to provide some space here to offer some more information on how a white label partner can benefit your agency in general. If you decide that you want to schedule a call with us after reading this, great! We’ll have a link for you at the end, but until then, we’ll do our best to keep it even-keeled. With what we just said above in mind, we want to highlight how, in general, a white label partnership can help your agency address and overcome many of the pain points we mentioned previously. If you want to learn more about how a partnership differs from a platform or vendor, check out our Ultimate Guide to White Label Digital Marketing. So, now that you’ve learned more about white label, let’s talk about how a partner can assist you in overcoming your pain points on your journey toward sustainable agency growth. 1. Stabilize Your Capacity and Expenses Partnerships typically involve a monthly fee along with a percentage-based service fee for managing digital campaigns. This allows you to scale your spend upwards and downwards as your client roster evolves and strategies pivot. Your team remains stabilized and you always have a team ready to assist you with any overflow that could compromise your internal bandwidth. 2. Immediate Access to an Expert Team White label partners build their reputations on expertise and performance. Look for a partner that’s made of highly certified analysts so that you can ensure that your partner has vetted and trained their own team to meet the standards for quality that you would expect from your own in-house ad operations. 3. Become the Most Complete Agency Overnight A distinguishing feature of a white label partner compared to a platform or vendor is that they offer a holistic suite of digital marketing services that you can integrate into your agency’s offering. Overnight, you can become the most complete agency in your local market or target industry. If a client wants to launch a campaign that you do not offer in-house, you can confidently tell them “yes” to this new opportunity. 4. Get More of Your Time Back Essentially, joining forces with a white label partner is like hiring an entire team instead of a single individual. This removes much of the hiring, training, mentoring, and operational oversight involved with a large in-house team and you will only need to manage a single source for all of your external ad operations instead of multiple vendors. Instead, you can spend more time doing what you love about running your agency (and maybe finally take that vacation). Is Partnership the Right Fit for Growing Your Agency? While there are multiple paths that you could pursue toward growing your agency, we believe that partnership provides the most complete and scalable solution from a single source. You do not have to keep the ship afloat in isolation. In fact, you do not have to “keep the ship afloat” at all. With the infrastructure that your partner provides, you can continue growing and building a stronger client base that supports your short and long-term goals. If you’re interested in exploring opportunities with a white label partner, we would love to speak with you more about how we could help your agency scale. At Conduit, we provide a complete suite of white label services from our headquarters in New Jersey with a team of U.S.-based, certified analysts to enable you to say “yes” to whatever opportunity arises next. Your accounts, data, and clients all stay yours – we just help you serve them better. To learn more, schedule a quick 20-minute call today.

  • 10 Core Concepts of Paid Search Marketing You Should Know

    Aug 19, 2022 Since Google AdWords launched in 2000, paid search (also known as pay-per-click or “PPC”) campaigns have remained a staple of digital marketing, and for good reason! These ads are designed to connect people with valuable products, services, and resources that align with the needs behind their searches. Are you looking to start or improve paid search advertising at your agency? If so, you should familiarize yourself with some of the most essential core concepts behind the product. That’s where we come in. Today, we’re going to break down some of the top 10 most essential core concepts of paid search marketing. If you need to add paid search to your own product offering and want to start it off with a team of experts, you can skip reading and book a 20-minute call with us today: Need Help with Paid Search Now? 1. Ad Formats Major paid search platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising offer multiple ad formats to best suit your client’s goals. For example, Google offers multiple ad formats, such as: Responsive Search Ads: Text ads that can conform to the specific dimensions of a screen or window for a better user experience. They contain a clickable headline and a description and can be enhanced with extensions. Product Shopping Ads: Feature a product’s image, a description, and a link to the product page along with customizable extensions. Local Service Ads: Advertise a business’s services to their local demographic when relevant search terms are entered by the user. Call-Only Ads: A phone number is provided in the ad for convenient calling and you can also click through to the website. For Microsoft campaigns, you can also create Audience Ads within the Microsoft Audience Network to serve impressions beyond the search engine results page (SERP). 2. Budget Pacing Pacing refers to the concentration of a client’s budget spread out over a specific period of time. For example, if you are spending over 50% of a monthly budget during the first week, you are over-pacing the campaign. Conversely, under-pacing may be only spending 30% of the ad budget by week 3. How you spread out the budget depends on the nature of the client’s business and their goals for the campaign. For ongoing, month-over-month advertising campaigns, having a budget that is spread evenly across a full 30 or 31-day period would be considered ideal pacing in most cases. There can be some exceptions to this rule, however. For example, if your client traditionally receives the most business during the beginning of the month, you may decide to over-pace at those times or even under-pace if you prefer to spend more during periods where traffic and conversion are lower. 3. Cost-Per-Click (CPC) The cost-per-click or “CPC” metric refers to how much it actually costs for a user to click on your search ad. For keywords that more businesses are competing for, as well as ones that are highly targeted to a distinct niche, the CPC is typically higher. This does not mean that you cannot allocate some of your client’s paid search budget towards higher CPC keywords. In most cases, having a mix of both high and low-CPC keywords can prove an effective strategy for any business or industry. A CPC model works excellently for clients that want to increase their sales. You are only paying once a user clicks through to your landing page where they can then convert into a lead or customer. 4. The Search Terms Report Once a user clicks on your ad, the Search Terms Report enables the analyst to see what other searches they have performed in Google or Microsoft. This incredibly valuable data provides insights into the exact queries that are leading to conversions and those that are not. In turn, this information can be leveraged to double down on what is working best and what is underperforming. 5. Key Performance Action (KPA) Key performance actions (KPAs) refer to specific actions that users take when interacting with your client’s campaign assets, such as ads themselves or their associated landing pages. Unlike key performance indicators, which are static metrics used to measure the success of a campaign, KPAs account for all actions taken that could tell a more complete story. By implementing a KPA-driven strategy, you can more accurately optimize your campaign to match how your client’s ideal audience interacts with their business. For example, if the audience is clicking to call the phone number on the landing page more than filling out a form, you may want to suggest revising the form on the page or adding Call-Only Ads to their Google arsenal. 6. Keyword Competition Keyword competition means how difficult a keyword is to rank for. This concept can be applied to both organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid campaigns. In the context of paid campaigns, the competition rating indicates how many advertisers are all bidding for the same keyword. While some of these keywords may be worthwhile depending on your client’s business model, you can also apply some basic keyword research to discover alternatives with lower competition ratings which also often feature a lower CPC or CPM. 7. Landing Pages The landing page is the destination on the other side of the ad headline. This can be an organic page on your client’s website or one that was specifically constructed and designed for the campaign itself. A successful landing page, at its most basic level, should contain an attention-grabbing headline above the fold along with a form or clickable button that the user can interact with. Below the fold, focus on highlighting some of the essential customer benefits of your client’s product or service. Landing page copy should focus on the customer benefit, read concisely, and include statements that inspire users to take the next step. These elements will move them from visitors to leads or customers by providing an excellent and convenient experience. 8. Long-Tail Keywords Long-tail keywords refer to highly specific search terms designed to target qualified users. Rather than allocating a local doctor’s office’s budget toward the general keyword “doctors office”, you could include one with a “long tail” like “doctors office in Ocean County NJ”. To find the right long-tail keywords for your client, start using a seed keyword like “doctors office”. From there, you can see what other similar terms are being searched for using a tool like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Google Keyword Planner along with valuable additional insights like CPC data. 9. Negative Keywords In a paid search campaign, negative keywords are keyphrases that you add to your account which prevent your ad from being triggered by those terms. For example, if you’re selling women’s shoes, you might add “men” as a negative keyword so that your ad doesn’t show up when someone searches for “men’s shoes.” Why would you want to do this? Primarily, serving ads for irrelevant queries can waste budget if someone clicks on them and immediately bounces because it is not aligned with what they are searching for. Someone searching for men’s shoes will not find ads for women’s shoes beneficial and will likely not click on the ad. Excluding negative keywords helps to protect the quality of the keywords that you are bidding on and maintain a more desirable click-through-rate (CTR). The lower your CTR, the lower your “expected CTR” is also, which can impact the quality score, which can also increase your required bid amount to remain competitive within an auction. 10. Search Intent A keyword’s search intent refers to what a person is actually looking for when they perform a search. It’s the reason behind why they opened up that new browser window or tab in the first place. We want to show up in searches when we’re relevant and likely to be useful to the searcher. So, let’s say someone searches for “pencils.” Their search intent might be to buy some pencils, learn how to sharpen pencils, find out which type of pencil is best for drawing, or a million of other possibilities. As an advertiser, it’s our job to figure out which one of those possibilities our product or service can help with and target our ads accordingly. Search intent is just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s an important one. If we understand what people are really looking for, we can be there for them with exactly what they need. Here, long-tail keywords can also play an instrumental role. If you are managing a budget for a local office supply store, a term like “buy bulk pencils near me” reflects a commercial intent for someone looking to purchase a large amount of pencils. Meanwhile, “what is a mechanical pencil?” reflects an informational intent for someone looking to understand more information about that topic but may not be ready to purchase one. Elevate Your Client’s Paid Search Marketing Performance with a White Label Partner At Conduit Digital, we partner with successful agencies to provide 100% North America-based white label PPC solutions for your clients. With each campaign directly managed in-house by a certified expert analyst, we equip your team with the ability to say “yes” to better opportunities. Whether you need to expand capacity, integrate a service to your internal offering, or you need to scale profitably, we are ready to partner with you. Schedule a 20-minute call today to see if your agency is ready for the power of partnership.

  • The Complete Guide to Q4 Marketing for Agencies

    Aug 15, 2022 As Q4 approaches, has your agency prepared to close out the current year in preparation for what’s on the horizon? Though Q4 traditionally represents a slower time of the year for agency activity, it is a great time to discover new ways to add value for your clients and maintain the high level of performance they have come to expect from your team. During Q4, many clients are often reassessing their budgets and determining their needs for the upcoming year. Depending on their satisfaction with the results your agency has produced for them, they may decide to: Increase their investment in your agency’s services Maintain their current budget with your agency Decrease their marketing budget Cancel their work agreement with your agency Out of these possible outcomes, the last two are likely the ones any agency leader would want to avoid. The first one, of course, is the most desirable. As you continue demonstrating how the fruits of your labor benefit your client, would you not be positioned to pitch them on investing further? How do you inspire and motivate your clients to continue investing or increase their investment with your agency? You prove the performance you have delivered for your accounts has led to tangible results! That leads to you arriving here. How do you prepare for Q4 and also continue to perform for your clients during a traditionally slow time of year for your business? In this guide, we will cover: How to prove the past year’s performance for your clients How to continue adding value to your clients’ accounts during Q4 5 ways to use Q4 to strengthen your own business Need to Scale Your Agency Now? How to Prove the Past Year’s Performance for Your Clients When you want to demonstrate the value your services provide, nothing compares to a live report. This deliverable becomes a living digital entity that can outline exactly what your team has accomplished for your client and the tangible results these efforts produced. Whether your client requests a record of what you have done for them or not, keeping an internal track record of these successes can benefit your agency in more than one way. For example, if you are not sending these documents to clients so that they can see what you have accomplished for them, you can still use the report to create a case study or whitepaper to promote your own business. However you plan to use your live reports, make sure that they remain housed in an easily accessible folder on your cloud drive. If the client does request that you do provide them with this information, you can retrieve it with little time and effort. Along with the raw data, ensure that these figures also include insights from your team to put them into their proper context. For example, if your client now ranks #1 on Google for 50 new desirable keywords, did they displace any of their competitors as a result? Did their organic traffic increase by a certain percentage once they began climbing the SERPs for these terms? You can use the information within your SEO reports to construct the proper narrative that pairs seamlessly with the data. This not only highlights your achievements but it also illustrates how you delivered these results for your clients and demonstrates the tangible value they produced for your client’s business. How to Continue Adding Value to Your Clients’ Accounts During Q4 As mentioned earlier, Q4 is often viewed by agencies as a slow time of the year. Clients are spending holidays with their loved ones or taking vacations when they are not assessing and determining budgets for the next Q1. If your client is engaging with your team less frequently during the holiday season, how do you continue to add value? Rather than keeping the engine on cruise control, look for ways that you can better prepare them for the new year. As an example, you could invest time into researching and identifying keywords for their SEO and/or Paid Search campaigns for the new year. When they are ready to hit the pavement in Q1, you will have fresh ideas and new opportunities prepared, which can also help cut down on crunch time in the future. 5 Ways to Use Q4 to Strengthen Your Own Business 1. Set Your Own Goals for the Next Year At Conduit, we abide by the mantra of beginning with the end in mind. When you have an end goal envisioned, you can create a roadmap that leads you to your desired outcome. Take a moment during Q4 to outline both abstract and concrete goals for next year. For example, you may have a goal that is less definable but equally important such as “improve the client experience at my agency”. Conversely, you could also have one that is more tangible in nature like “increase the client roster size by 30%”. If you already have 30 clients currently onboard with your agency, you would then need to acquire another 9 during the next year to meet this objective. No matter the goal you set, it should follow the S.M.A.R.T. framework: Specific – What are you trying to achieve in particular? Measurable – How can you track your progress towards achieving the goal? Achievable – Can the goal be realistically accomplished? Relevant – Does the goal directly benefit your agency as a business? Time-bound – Can you set a realistic timeline or deadline for accomplishing it? With the S.M.A.R.T. framework in place, you can define exactly how you will achieve your goals without any ambiguity. You can track progress along the roadmap and make sure that all of your necessary benchmarks are met to reach your desired outcome. 2. Take Inventory of Your Current Capacity and Bandwidth Has your team spent the past year working at or over capacity? Does it feel like “extra bandwidth” is a mythical, unobtainable state of being? If your team is already maxed-out with your current client roster, this could affect your ability to scale. Should a new, large account onboard in the new year, you may not have the capability to continue delivering elite performance across all of your accounts if they are all competing for your team’s work hours. Do you feel like you have reached a brick wall in terms of capacity? It may be time to hire one or more new team members or explore the possibilities of a partnership with a white label provider to stabilize the bandwidth crisis. However, if you find that you have plenty of bandwidth, this may also present a new opportunity. You could use the available time to invest in other aspects of your agency such as any of the following: 3. Strengthen Your In-House Team What are some ways that you can build up your current in-house team? From free Google Skillshop certifications to trainings and industry seminars, you can discover opportunities to expand their own knowledge and expertise to provide a more excellent service for your clients. You can also use any available bandwidth to have a “listening tour” with your team. Ask them where they think the agency’s operations can improve further. For example, they may have ideas for a new tool or service that can help streamline processes or automate recurring tasks so that they can spend more time on higher-level objectives. Want to start somewhere simple? Listen to podcasts by other agency leaders, such as AgencyTalk or Borrell’s Marketing Trends Podcast. You can easily drop links into a Slack thread or email and send them to your team. 4. Invest in More Internal Marketing During the busy Qs 1 through 3, you may unintentionally neglect one of your most important clients: your agency! While prioritizing client work always comes first, you should also ensure that you dedicate any available bandwidth and resources to promote your own business to potential clients that you want to reach. Align your own internal marketing strategies with your business goals for the upcoming year. If you want to land more clients in the medical industry, you can create a paid media strategy designed to target these business leaders within your desired niche and geographic locations. You can also spend more time researching your competitors that are targeting the same niche to see where they are creating success and how you can compete more effectively against them. Lastly, as an agency leader, one of the best forms of internal marketing is testimonials from your existing clients. Ask your client’s point-of-contact, such as their CEO or CMO, if they can provide you with a quote in either written or video form that you can use to promote your services on your own website. 5. Look for New Ways to Land and Expand Accounts Are there any services that clients have been requesting that your agency does not have the resources or expertise to deliver on? If you cannot eventually meet these needs, your client may decide to explore opportunities with a competing agency that can and will rise to the occasion. Keep a close ear to the ground on what your clients have requested over the past year. Are there opportunities that you can pursue to expand your ability to deliver across these desired channels? A white label partnership can enable your agency to integrate these capabilities into your offering at an expert level immediately. You can then confidently say “yes” when asked if you can provide TikTok advertising or OTT advertising services. Not only will your agency appeal to more desirable prospects, but you can also explore more opportunities to expand your accounts with current clients! Say “Yes” to Better Opportunities in Q4 and Beyond with a White Label Partner At Conduit Digital, our team partners with successful agencies across North America to deliver elite, scalable white label digital marketing products and performance for their clients. We equip your agency with a 100% U.S.-based suite of services, resources, and reports that you can use to enable better opportunities for your business. To learn more about how you can say “yes” to these opportunities in the new year, schedule a 20-minute discovery call with us today.

  • The Best OTT Advertising Platforms for Your Client

    Jul 21, 2022 For more than a decade, over the top (OTT) television has transformed the way that audiences consume their favorite content. Ever since Netflix first launched direct streaming, many passionate viewers have abandoned their traditional cable subscriptions in favor of on-demand digital programming. However, Netflix has always required a subscription fee for access to its content until its rather recent announcement to offer ad-supported tiers. Soon after the company started drawing a sizable audience, other competitors like Hulu began offering free-to-stream programming in exchange for the audience viewing advertisements at various intervals throughout the duration of the movie or show they were watching. Today, OTT advertising is one of the most sought-after, yet difficult-to-find digital marketing services. For many agencies that live in or serve suburban and rural areas, finding and hiring someone with advanced programmatic knowledge and expertise can prove a trying experience. At Conduit Digital, we became one of the original adopters of OTT advertising in the white label space in 2017. We identified a clear and massive need for agencies to offer this product to their clients and have invested countless hours in testing every possible platform to create a curated suite of platforms for you to advertise on. If you are considering launching an OTT advertising campaign for your client, you may be wondering what are some of the best platforms for doing so? We will break them all down in exhaustive detail for you here. Do you need help with OTT right now? Skip the read and book a call with us instead: So Why is Everyone Rushing to Advertise on OTT? At the end of last year, we predicted that OTT advertising will explode in 2022. As it turns out, our crystal ball did not lie to us. This past May, AdWeek projected OTT ad spend to surpass $21 billion this year, with many media buyers calling it a “must buy” product. With more consumers examining their monthly expenses under a microscope than ever before, OTT has become a desirable alternative to traditional cable television due to its superior personalization and the wealth of free-to-stream options available. For those looking to cut monthly expenses, watch on-demand at all times, and enjoy more tailored ad experiences, cutting the cord for digital programming is nothing short of a no-brainer. The OTT explosion resulted in an entirely new digital avenue for collecting audience data that advertisers can leverage to generate new conversions and drive return on ad spend (ROAS) for their clients. However, many agencies have approached this new tactic slowly and cautiously due to the sheer volume of platforms to choose from. If you’re looking to start advertising via OTT, you’ve found the right list. Here are 7 of our Programmatic Team’s favorite platforms that we consistently run campaigns on for our clients. 1. Hulu Co-owned by Comcast and Disney, Hulu benefits from the support of the largest global media titans. It offers an extensive library of shows, movies, and original content that you can stream at multiple pricing tiers. With an audience size of 35 million viewers in the United States alone, Hulu ranks among the top 10 streaming services in terms of pure subscribership. Statistically, approximately 1 in every 10 Americans consumes content on the platform. This creates an expansive pool of potential viewers that will view your client’s advertisements on the biggest screen in the house! Thanks to the platform’s immense support from its parent companies, Hulu offers an extensive menu of ad formats and targeting capabilities. For example, you can target viewers by factors such as: Age Interest Gender Location Show genre Depending on your preferences and your client’s desired budget, you can also select from multiple formats. Situational ads can play non-disruptively during programming and integrate your campaign into the overall viewing experience for a more seamless impression. Conversely, traditional more disruptive formats are also available at specific time slots during the show or movie being streamed. 2. Fire TV Advertising on Fire TV provides a highly scalable solution for your client. Sold via a cost-per-completed view format, your client can continue increasing or decreasing their budget as their campaign generates key performance actions (KPAs). Like Hulu, Fire TV benefits from an extensive backbone provided by its parent company, Amazon. Already compiling a massive pool of data from its flagship eCommerce website, Amazon can also equip your client’s campaign with other targeting options based on viewer interest, demographic data, keywords, viewing preferences, and more. Fire TV also allows your client to integrate their other programmatic tactics into one unified campaign. For example, you can also include banner and text ads to complement your video creatives. 3. Pluto TV Pluto TV offers viewers free content to stream in exchange for watching ads throughout the programming. Its advertising capabilities have generated immense momentum this year, and the service’s ad revenue is expected to surpass $1 billion in the U.S. alone in 2022. As a subsidiary of Viacom, Pluto TV also benefits from a considerable content library and technical infrastructure supported by its parent company. This enables advertisers to target viewers on multiple levels with a higher frequency of ads served due to the company operating exclusively on an ad-supported-video-on-demand model (AVOD). At its core, AVOD means that the platform does not offer a commercial-free subscription model. 4. Roku Roku is another popular streaming service that benefits heavily from its ad-supported model. The platform also offers a wide range of targeting options that primarily leverage its first-party data to reach your client’s desired viewers. Roku acts as a hub for many different channels that can be streamed free of charge in exchange for ads. This allows the platform to gather data based on multiple touchpoints. Depending on the goal of the campaign, the ads are billed on a cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) or cost-per-install (CPI) basis. For example, Roku categorizes viewership based on 5 primary signals: 1. General behaviors – Inferences gathered by the audience member’s content consumption habits 2. Linear TV viewership – Inferences based on viewing linear television content 3. Channel usage – How often specific content is engaged with 4. Content affinity – How often an audience member watches certain types of content or genres 5. Geography – Where the viewer is located Roku advertisers can also choose to exclude any of the signals above to further narrow down on their ideal audience. 5. Sling Sling markets itself primarily to young adult-aged, cord-cutting viewers. This audience segment is often comprised of individuals in the 18-34 age range and have a notable amount of disposable income. Advertising campaigns through Sling are facilitated by its parent, Dish Media. Campaigns can be launched through one of three general tiers and further refined through your own targeting. These include: Video The “Video” tier operates similar to traditional television commercials and is intended for advertisers seeking to reach a broad, general audience. After determining your target viewers, you can leverage core subscriber data to serve ads to these viewers. You can also daypart your content and send it to desired networks to ensure that you’re reaching the ideal viewers when they are engaged with the platform. Data-Driven Video The Data-Driven Video tier takes the Video tier one step further. Instead of reaching a large general audience, advertisers can drill down further and leverage deeper insights from generated by specific viewers for more sophisticated targeting. Addressable Dishs’ Addressable ads offer a uniquely powerful way to target at the household level. After defining and segmenting your audience, you can deliver your creatives directly to ideal households when they are actually watching content on the platform. Advertisers can use the Addressable 1:1 targeting to gather more advanced insights into a campaign’s performance. These include, but are not limited to: Sales matchbacks Traffic to your client’s website Visits to physical locations A/B testing insights Conversions at the time of tuning in 6. Tubi Tubi is another AVOD-driven OTT platform but with a unique focus on integrating advertising with the viewer experience for optimum results. Their ad formats are built on the following core principles: 100% full-screen, non-skippable displays Quality over quantity: ads only take up 4-6 minutes for every hour of programming for higher engagement and recognition Engaging formats that range from 0:6 billboards to 90-second full videos Advertisers can decide whether to run a standard video or interactive video ad on Tubi. The interactive videos allow audiences to click through to specific landing pages that you can use to further drive conversions for your client’s campaign. 7. Xumo Another ad-supported free streaming service, Xumo is owned and operated by telecom titan Comast. Like the other platforms listed above, it benefits from a robust infrastructure similar to that of Comast’s other property mentioned in this article, Hulu. Xumo emphasizes offering customized programmatic packages to advertisers. This enables your agency to exercise a great deal of control over budget, strategy, and measuring the performance metrics that matter most to your client’s business goals. Like its half-sibling Hulu, Xumo enjoys access to the wealth of first-party data that Comcast can provide. Coupled with highly customized package options, you can ensure that your message is reaching the right audiences that engage with the platform. OTT is Only Part of the Programmatic Story, Though! As a programmatic channel, OTT advertising integrates seamlessly into a holistic programmatic strategy that could also include other tactics like audio, display, and text-based advertising. Some of the platforms above also allow for you to extend your campaign with these formats to maximize your complete reach potential. When we discuss programmatic opportunities with our partners, we often recommend a strategy that incorporates at least two or more tactics. This enables your client to capitalize on the full potential of their campaign and target audiences at multiple touchpoints throughout their content consumption experience. Quick-Start an Elite OTT Advertising Campaign with a White Label Partner Now that you know some of the best OTT advertising platforms, you might be wondering how to get started? Should you focus on just one platform, a combination, or start serving to the full list we mentioned above? This is where your agency’s white label ad operations partner comes in. At Conduit Digital, we partner with successful and established agencies throughout North America to deliver elite results for your clients. Our 100% U.S.-based, expert-certified Programmatic Team leverages custom domain and application whitelists developed in-house through countless hours of testing and vetting each one’s capabilities to ensure impressions of the utmost quality. To learn more about how we can help you integrate OTT advertising into your agency’s product offering, schedule a 20-minute call with us today.

  • A Guide To Creating HIPAA Compliant Programmatic Campaigns [Updated 2023]

    Jul 5, 2022 Running programmatic campaigns for healthcare can require some creativity due to limitations related to HIPAA regulations. If you’re like many other agencies, you may be struggling with how to navigate HIPAA compliance while also delivering results for your clients. Our Programmatic Team at Conduit has managed hundreds of campaigns spanning more than one hundred HIPAA-sensitive clients in verticals ranging from CBD to limb prosthetics across multiple DSPs. Today, we’re going to share with you some of their insights for maintaining compliance while striving to reach the right audience. Let’s dive in. What is HIPAA? HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. It has evolved over the past decades to also include protections for digital patient information in the medical industry. This law has a few different layers into what it does for U.S. citizens. Originally it was created so workers could carry forward insurance and healthcare rights between jobs. In the present day, the law has expanded to include many more nuances and intricacies. According to the HIPAA Journal, “the Act has since expanded into an act of legislation that also governs health insurance fraud and tax provisions for medical savings accounts and ensures acceptance of workers with pre-existing conditions into occupational healthcare insurance schemes. Primarily, however, HIPAA concerns the privacy and security of patient health information. In a lot of ways the implementation of HIPAA regulated a lot of aspects in the medical industry to make the entire health care system more regulated and easily accessible for not only health care providers but also for people to access their own medical records and who else has access to their protected health data.” But how does HIPAA affect digital marketing and how are they related? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “The Privacy Rule defines “marketing” as making “a communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service.” Generally, if the communication is “marketing,” then the communication can occur only if the covered entity first obtains an individual’s “authorization.” This definition of marketing has certain exceptions, as discussed below. Examples of “marketing” communications requiring prior authorization are: A communication from the hospital informing former patients about a cardiac facility, that is not part of the hospital, that can provide a baseline EKG for $39, when the communication is not for the purpose of providing treatment advice. A communication from a health insurer promoting a home and casualty insurance product offered by the same company.” For marketers, understanding HIPAA and the strict regulations involved in executing these strategies can prove two key factors in running a successful medical campaign. Due to the continuous evolution of what HIPAA encompasses, marketers should remain updated on these topics to keep pace with the changing requirements and restraints that affect the medical industry. Failure to do so could prevent a campaign from launching, resulting in wasted time and effort. As a baseline, marketers should remain current on what is and what is not HIPAA-compliant. This will ensure that you can run your campaign without many complications. There are over 70,000 health-related searches on Google every minute, which equates to over 1 billion every single day, according to Google Health Vice President David Feinberg, MD. via The Telegraph. So when it comes to programmatic advertising, serving the right ad to the right user at the right time could be a lifesaver for consumers. So how can marketers leverage this information in an efficient and ethical way for their clients? HIPAA mandates that marketers cannot use first-party data like cookie-based data, CRM data, and website analytics to link individuals to medical conditions. Different forms of retargeting also violate HIPAA regulations to link users to their conditions. Healthcare marketers have been slow to adopt programmatic, in comparison to other forms of digital ads, into their marketing strategy mainly due to uncertainty surrounding the correct way to implement programmatic without violating HIPAA. However, violating HIPAA can definitely be prevented. How Programmatic Advertising is Bridging The Gap Through programmatic campaigns, online publishers are permitted to collect data related to a consumer’s interests in specific conditions or symptoms by consumption of related content. Using that data, publishers can create segments of users interested in certain conditions and make those anonymous audiences available to pharma companies through programmatic pipelines. This targeting can also be extended across devices. Once a publisher zeroes in on a user’s interest and links the user to an email address, the user’s now private identity can then also be extended to a mobile device. For example, if a drug manufacturer wants to target people who have diabetes, a publisher can create a segment of site visitors who have shown interest in this topic by reading related content like testing blood sugar. The publisher can then make that segment available to advertisers through a programmatic pipeline for purposes of targeting via display or video advertising. When it comes to programmatic digital marketers achieving their clients’ overall goals on a tactical level, there are a few tactics in the programmatic space that you can use while still being HIPAA compliant. Programmatic Tactics Contextual Targeting Contextual Targeting is a go-to tactic among several different verticals across multiple programmatic campaigns, but what does it do specifically? Contextual Targeting monitors a user’s web behavior, like pages visited, blogs engaged with, and searched keywords and phrases. Ads are then served that align with that content. There are a few ways that contextual targeting can be leveraged to maintain HIPAA compliance: Whitelists – targeting contextually relevant domains and serving ads exclusively to that inventory Topic Targeting – pre-set audiences grouped together by topic of interest based on web behavior Custom Browsing Segments – audiences created based on keywords and phrases completely custom-built and highly specific to your advertiser For instance, say your client is interested in targeting users who have arthritis. Contextual targeting could be implemented through whitelisting websites like webmd.com or leveraging a custom browsing segment of keywords that people with arthritis engage with like “joint pain relief,” “arthritis remedies,” etc. GEO-Fencing Geo-fencing technology allows programmatic marketers to draw a digital virtual fence around a specific brick-and-mortar location. The client’s ads can then retarget users after visiting that physical location in person. Depending on the type of medical care your client provides, geo-fencing may not prove a HIPAA compliant solution. Locations that provide specialized treatment for conditions deemed medically sensitive may be subjected to heavier restrictions due to the user’s privacy rights preventing them from being retargeted with unwanted ads after leaving the geo-fenced location. For this reason, there are set restrictions on locations marketers are allowed to geo-fence within their campaigns that must comply with HIPAA. These restrictions vary based on the medical sensitivity of the advertiser, the creatives/ad messaging in use, and the type of location attempting to be geo-fenced. Here are a few scenarios that give insight into the variance: Scenario 1: Your client is a cancer center looking to target users who have pancreatic cancer with ads that speak directly to this audience. They also want to geo-fence other cancer centers in an effort to reach people who would be looking for a second opinion. Because the advertiser is highly medically sensitive, the ads are very specific to the audience, and the location attempting to be geo-fenced is sensitive – geo-fencing would not be allowed. Scenario 2: Your client is a fertility specialist trying to drive awareness about their services couples who may be struggling with infertility. They’re interested in geo-fencing OBGYN offices within the area with creatives that speak directly to their target audience. In this case, geo-fencing is allowed but the fence must have a 1-mile radius implemented around the OBGYN offices. Scenario 3: Your client is an allergy drug company looking to geo-fence local pharmacies and parks in the area in an effort to boost sales. Geo-Fencing would be allowed without any restrictions as neither the advertiser nor the locations being fenced are considered medically sensitive. HIPAA protects the privacy of protected health information in the hands of a healthcare provider, health plan, or clearinghouse. PHI is information that relates to the past, present or future healthcare, services or payment for an individual. Geo-Fencing does not touch any of that information if the restrictions on medically sensitive locations are navigated appropriately. You might be wondering what happens if your advertising campaigns fail to adhere to HIPAA guidelines and your platform fails as a safety net? Here’s an example. According to the HIPAA Guide, NPR covered an instance when Copley Advertising set up geofences in reproductive health centers and methadone clinics. The campaign served ads that contained headlines like “pregnancy help” and “you are not alone”. These were targeted at women who physically visited these locations. The clients that Copley Advertising were serving for this campaign included adoption agencies and Christian pregnancy counseling organizations. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey began pursuing a case against the agency due to the company violating the state’s consumer protection laws. This resulted in Copley being forbidden to use geo-fencing technology within the state or healthcare facilities that could infer the medical status of a person. This ties back to not adhering to the creative messaging guidelines paired with sensitive location geo-fencing. Though this is one example of what could happen, advertisers should keep in mind that potential repercussions for HIPAA non-compliance can extend beyond the platform. Site Retargeting Site Retargeting, or remarketing, is one of the most impactful strategies that can be deployed. It is also, however, one of the trickiest tactics to utilize for medically sensitive programmatic campaigns. Since this tactic serves ads to users who have visited an advertiser’s website, this poses a direct threat to violating a user’s privacy. Let’s use an example. A woman just left a routine checkup where she learned she’s showing possible signs of dementia and is referred to see a specialist. In the interim, she goes home and searches “early onset dementia” on Google and a blog on this topic from a local Neurologist’s website is suggested. She clicks, reads it, leaves the website, and leaves her computer. Then her husband sits down to find a lasagna recipe on foodnetwork.com and he’s served a display ad from the Neurologist’s office with messaging that mentions dementia care. Here, the neurologist has disclosed protected health information about a medical condition to an unauthorized third party. Since there is no control over or method of knowing who is using a given device or shared IP when implementing a retargeting strategy within a medically sensitive vertical, this particular instance is an example of why retargeting is not allowed in the traditional sense. With that said, there are some instances where retargeting medically sensitive audiences may be allowed. This is typically when the advertiser does not exclusively or primarily offer sensitive services. Limitations will vary by platform but it remains imperative to adhere to all compliance standards and restrictions. The common denominator among all platforms, however, is the creative messaging and landing page. The ads being used in the campaign cannot imply any knowledge that a user has a specific medical condition. As long as these ads are generic and users are being sent to a nonspecific page, your campaign will remain HIPAA compliant. For example, a dermatology office may have a section on their website pertaining to skin cancer, but they’re promoting general dermatology services. Site retargeting is permitted in this case, but the ads must remain generic and avoid driving to any page mentioning skin cancer information or treatment, such as the home page or contact page. Site retargeting can be a very powerful tactic to utilize in a campaign, as mentioned. This tactic targets individuals who are already familiar with your brand so it’s an efficient avenue for reaching relevant users. When it comes to deciding which pages you want to retarget people from, use the pages of your site that are both conversion-oriented and compliant. CREATIVE & MESSAGING As addressed earlier, creative and overall messaging is a significant component of whether your campaign maintains HIPAA compliance or not. Consider what you want users to take away from your ads while still maintaining a generalized approach. A useful rule of thumb is if the ad, its messaging, or an accompanying landing page is indicative of a certain condition, it will not be permitted. The more narrow the targeting, the more generalized the messaging will need to be. For highly targeted tactics, such as search keyword targeting, geo-fencing, and retargeting, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep these creatives generic so your campaigns remain HIPAA compliant. Creative messaging can become more specific when casting a wider net through more broad-based tactics like pre-curated audiences and contextual targeting, such as whitelisting. While pre-curated audiences can get very specific, this tactic is still generally considered more broad than geo-fencing and site retargeting. These audience segments are made up of users who are identified as having particular interests, intents, and demographic criteria. This data is gathered from a variety of methods ranging from Census data, Credit Bureau data, to users’ web behavior. These segments are compiled in accordance with HIPAA regulations in mind so they are free to use for medically sensitive campaigns. An example for using pre-curated audiences may be a fertility clinic looking to obtain new patients. They may look to target newlyweds or females aged 25 through 35. Keeping creatives generic doesn’t mean advertisers are not able to get their message across to the right consumers. Top-of-the-funnel branding is what programmatic digital marketing is. These campaigns are not meant to be lead generating, but rather are meant to reach relevant users in the identified geo-target to increase awareness for the products or services advertisers want to market! In the medical industry, it’s important to be transparent with potential clients, by informing them about the capabilities they’re able to successfully execute and how while remaining both compliant and relevant to the end goal! It is then digital marketing experts’ role to provide the client with alternate ways in which they can achieve their goals maximizing the tactics available to them in a HIPAA compliant manner, inclusive of creatives and messaging. Final Thoughts & Key Takeaways Knowing how to navigate around HIPAA and a user’s overall privacy rights can become a frustrating and confusing roadblock when executing programmatic marketing campaigns of this nature. One of the biggest takeaways is understanding that HIPAA and privacy rights are constantly evolving and what is allowed today may not be allowed in the upcoming year, or even the upcoming months. Digital marketers need to stay informed and up to date on new HIPAA regulations and privacy laws. As mentioned, there are ways to successfully execute and run a medically sensitive programmatic campaign without violating a user’s privacy. While some tactics are fair game, others may come with restrictions. Generally, Contextual targeting is allowed without any restrictions. Where there is a bit of a gray area is particularly with Custom Browsing Segments, or Search keywords. Sensitive keywords will not be permitted to run regardless of how general the ads or advertiser is. This includes keywords that are highly indicative of a medical condition, such as “cancer” or “dementia.” Keywords that are not attributed to a medically sensitive treatment or condition, like “sprained ankle” or “urgent care” are eligible to run. For optimal results, consider adjusting the keyword retargeting recency to shorter windows than the standard 30 days. Whitelisting will allow digital marketers to target specific ad-servable sites that users would be likely to visit based on the nature of the campaign. Since there is no retargeting or exact search pattern associated with this tactic, it makes it a foolproof way to target users without violating HIPAA. Geo-Fencing is also a great way to reach potential consumers, however, this tactic has to be carefully utilized in medically sensitive programmatic campaigns to ensure you are not invading a user’s private information. If the targeting is primarily aimed at the patients of medically sensitive locations, generally Geo-Fencing will not be allowed without the use of a 1-mile radius. Geo-fencing medically-sensitive locations are permissible if the advertiser is not medically-sensitive, such as a college looking to increase enrollment in its nursing program. If you have a client that runs a medically sensitive campaign, it may be best to think of alternative locations to geo-fence outside of medical offices. For example, if an advertiser runs a weight loss clinic, it may be more effective to geo-fence gyms or nutritional stores. This helps to keep the targeting highly relevant while avoiding any potential legal liabilities. Site Retargeting is another tactic that will probably be one of the more difficult to successfully execute without violating HIPAA, but it can be done! It is imperative that the ads being used to retarget a user is generic and not specific to a treatment or condition. So long as the campaign is retargeting people with generic ads and sending them to a non-specific page, something that would not infer they have a specific condition or need a specific treatment, the campaign remains HIPAA compliant. Site Retargeting and Geo-Fencing are the two tactics that digital marketers should be hyper-conscious of as these two are the most targeted yet pose the biggest threat to violating a user’s privacy if not done properly. The way advertisers are able to utilize these tactics while remaining HIPAA compliant takes away the more targeted aspect that usually draws advertisers to these tactics. Pre-Curated Audiences will allow marketers to reach relevant users based on interests, intents, or demographics in a way that has already been collected in a HIPAA-compliant manner. This provides flexibility and creativity in deciding how best to reach the ideal demographic. It’s a great way to reach users and speak more freely about the particular product or service being advertised without infringing on their privacy. All in all, the most important aspect of medically sensitive campaigns comes down to the creative elements and messaging. Campaign creatives, and subsequently the landing page, can make or break campaigns in terms of being HIPAA compliant or not. If clients are keen on utilizing highly-targeting tactics such as Geo-Fencing, Site Retargeting, or Search keywords, then they must also be equipped with the caveats and restrictions that come with them, including creative messaging. When done right, these tactics are highly effective and provide great value to any campaign. If the creative is generic and does not implicate a user has a specific condition or needs a certain treatment, the campaign is permitted to run these tactics. If a client is very set on advertising a specific medically-sensitive product or service, say promoting potential users receiving a new type of radiation treatment, this would come with restrictions on the campaign, such as being unable to run certain tactics. This campaign would not be able to geo-fence other cancer facilities unless a 1-mile radius was implemented as the ad is targeting users based on the assumption they have cancer and need radiation. Remember, the more targeted a tactic, the broader the messaging. Save the specific creative for the broader tactics such as Whitelisting, Contextual, and Pre-Curated Audiences. When it comes to the more targeted tactics like Geo-Fencing and Site Retargeting, keep the creative messaging generic! This will ensure that your medically sensitive campaign remains HIPAA compliant. Medically sensitive programmatic campaigns can be a tough aspect of digital marketing to navigate, for not only marketers but also advertisers! But, as long as digital marketers are aware of what is and is not HIPAA compliant they can find digital solutions for any type of medically sensitive campaign that will reach ads to the right consumers. Launch HIPAA Compliant Programmatic Campaigns for Your Clients At Conduit Digital, we partner exclusively with successful and established digital marketing agencies to provide elite performance, reporting, and communication infrastructure for their clients’ campaigns. All of our programmatic products are directly managed in-house by our own team of U.S.-based certified Programmatic Analysts. To learn more about how you can start saying “yes” to better opportunities for your agency in the medical industry with programmatic advertising, or any of our other products, schedule a 20-minute call with us below.

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