Facebook Top 10

Facebook Year In Review 2014

I’m happy to share Universal Studios Hollywood made Facebook’s Year In ReviewMost Checked-Into Places in the US” list for the 3rd straight year. This year the park was #2, up 5 spot’s from #7 in 2013 and #8 in 2012.

Congratulations to the social media marketing team I’m proud to have hired and led, and everyone at Universal Studios Hollywood who helps make the park so much fun (i.e., a place where guests want to tell their friends they are visiting).

Facebook’s Year In review includes other Top 10 category lists, including the Most Talked About Global Topics.

Here’s their overview video if you haven’t seen it yet.

Video ads poised for takeoff

One of the noteworthy digital marketing stories of last year – the growth of video advertising – is picking up momentum.

Expect many more headlines about this trend in 2014.

I posted about the topic last summer. Half a year later I’m even more confident the market will quickly expand.

I anticipate significant growth and innovation in the video ad space this year, both on the advertiser side (from the number of buyers to an increased willingness to test creative specifically tailored to the medium) and on the publisher side (e.g., the types of formats made available).

Factors driving video ad growth include:

Expanding audience

There is increased consumption of the digital media that supports video ads, especially via mobile phones.

Increasing number of ad vehicles

For example, Facebook introduced video ads last month. Expect Facebook, Twitter and other ad sellers to tweak their existing video ad formats and to add new ones.

A front page story in today’s Wall Street Journal discussed the WatchESPN app, which ESPN owner Disney sees “as a way to cash in on growing demand for online video.”

Media agency recommendations

Agency planners are more frequently recommending video ads as a component of comprehensive advertising campaigns.

Increasing comfort level of ad buyers

As ad buyers themselves watch more online videos it’s natural they’ll become knowledgeable about, and interested in, video ad formats.

Meanwhile, Google took a step to comfort some more traditional-minded marketers when it recently announced it’d allow advertisers to test the use of Nielsen measurement tags on YouTube ads. (Nielsen reportedly expects this to become permanent in 2014.)

These tags will provide third-party metrics similar to Nielsen’s television audience ratings and should lead some hesitant marketers to initiate YouTube video ad campaigns.

More inventory made available on ad exchanges

Publishers are increasing the amount of video ad inventory available on a growing number of so-called programmatic platforms/exchanges, which makes it easier to plan, execute and optimize large-scale ad buys.

Predictions

1.  Many of the marketers who step into the arena for the first time in 2014 will quickly increase their expenditures on video ads.

They will be impressed by the flexibility and measurability of video advertising. For example, the ability:

  • Target specific DMAs (defined geographic areas) at low cost; e.g., to expand into additional markets, including international ones, that are beyond the reach of their TV ad campaign budgets
  • Test creative executions head-to-head while monitoring metrics such as completed plays, clicks to website and online conversions

2.   More marketers will run tests to see how their target markets respond to broadcast plus online video ads

My former Universal Studios colleague and now co-founder of a digital marketing & analytics agency, Frank Vertolli, recently published an article that references such a test his agency ran on behalf of a travel industry client.

3.  Customized creative executions

We will see more examples of video ads that take advantage of the medium’s unique opportunities to engage target audiences.

One of best video ads I’ve ever seen in the wild (i.e., while going about my business) targeted me based on a previous YouTube.com video view.

I was on a weather site when I saw a video thumbnail image featuring the stars of the Comedy Central show, Key and Peele. The comedians’ faces caught my attention because I’d recently watched a few of their show clips on Comedy Central’s YouTube channel.

I clicked the “Play” button. The video opened with voiceover saying, “We know you like watching Key and Peele on YouTube, but you’ll love watching the whole show even more on Comedy Central.” After a snippet of comedy the spot ended with the comedians pitching benefits of watching on TV.

The ad was a fantastic example of a creative execution specifically made for a given situation.

Here’s one of the ads from the series:

For many advertisers the easiest way to get video ads online is to reuse television spots. However, in time we’ll see more advertisers embracing the fuller potential of video ads by creating content geared to the medium.

All the trends and opportunities mentioned above reinforce one another, which strengthens my belief that 2014 will be a year of impressive growth in the video ad market.

On the (Check-Ins) list

Top Check-Ins Around The World

Last week Facebook posted its Top 10 U.S. Check-Ins list as part of its 2013 Year in Review. I’m happy to share that Universal Studios Hollywood made the list again. We climbed one spot from last year, from 8th to 7th.

A big Thank You to my teammates and co-workers who helped make this happen over the past two years. (Disclosure: I’m an employee of Universal Studios Hollywood and am responsible for digital marketing).

I find the milestone to be extra sweet because I’ve been working on the company’s Facebook presence literally since its first day.

On an even more personal note, I have to admit that I felt some joy in seeing Universal Studios Hollywood’s name next to Fenway Park, which is 8th on this year’s Top U.S. Check-Ins list.

7. Universal Studios Hollywood (Universal City, CA)
8. Fenway Park (Boston, MA)

Growing up in Massachusetts I shared the New England kid dream that my professional career would someday lead me to Fenway. OK, so side-by-side on a Facebook list isn’t quite the stuff of childhood fantasies…. but I appreciate the irony.

Reader Beware

The Facebook Stories Top Check-Ins list generated a decent amount of media attention last week. It was interesting to see how the information was often reported in a slightly inaccurate way.

Looking at how Facebook released the information, it’s understandable where the confusion began.

The first and most prominent of its two Top Check-In lists was presented as:  “Top Check-Ins Around The World:  Explore the most popular destinations people checked into this year”. (I.e., the image at the top of this blog post)

That headline links to the following eye-catching map highlighting 25 locations around the world:

Facebook Stories 2013 check-ins map

Not surprisingly, many news outlets rans stories implying that these locations were the most checked-into spots in the world. For example, a CNN Travel article was titled, “The 25 most popular destinations for Facebook check-ins in 2013”. And an article in The Telegraph (UK) referred to the locations as “the 25 most popular locations of 2013.”

However, there’s a nuance that makes this billing inaccurate. The Facebook top 25 list highlights the #1 check-in spot within each of 25 countries (i.e., one spot per select country); it is not a list of the 25 top check-in spots overall.

Facebook should have been more careful in how it presented the information. Vague wording leads to vague understanding.

Facebook has received some bad press for cluttered layouts and confusing privacy instructions. The wording of the Year In Review article (and the check-in lists therein) doesn’t help counter perceptions about poorly disseminated information. This is especially poignant in the digital world, where there’s a premium on having a relentless focus on an easy user experience.

At the same time, journalists should have caught the nuance. It should be pretty obvious that the U.S. is not home to just one of the world’s top 25 check-in locations, given its population, the amount of tourism and the Facebook usage rate. It is equally unlikely that Blue Lagoon in Reykjavík, Iceland, could have a check-in count large enough to rank amongst the world’s highest (the entire population of Iceland is 320,000).

Getting back to Universal Studios Hollywood, its relative place on the U.S. list is easy to discern. For “Top U.S. Check-Ins” Facebook provided a straight-forward #1 through #10 ranking.

No fancy graphics but no confusion.

(Please note that all comments made in this post and in this blog overall reflect personal opinions and not the opinions of Comcast, NBCUniversal or Universal Studios Hollywood).

Buenos Aires

TripAdvisor logo decal in window of Buenos Aires panaderia (bakery)

I recently returned from Buenos Aires. We try to go every year to spend time with my wife’s family; however, we didn’t make the trip in 2012 so it’d been two years since our last visit.

Like all vibrant cities, a lot can change in a couple years. Some of the changes I noticed included less people smoking in public places and the existence of more bicycle lanes along the edge of city streets.

I’d have called both of these “healthy changes” if I weren’t so skeptical about the safety of biking in such close proximity to Buenos Aires drivers.

Another noticeable change is the expansion of Starbucks in the city. That one can see Argentines in these shops is a testament to the power of Starbucks’ brand and “place making,” as Buenos Aires is definitely not a city in need of help on the coffee front. Fantastic, more-reasonably-priced coffee is available all over the place.

I also observed two changes related to digital marketing.

First, and not surprising given worldwide trends, is how widespread mobile Internet usage has become. (Including by my 60-something in-laws who now regularly use their phones to access information on the go).

Close-up of TripAdvisor and other decalsSecond, unlike two years ago, I saw TripAdvisor decals in the front windows of many hotels and restaurants.

The decals are a tangible reflection of TripAdvisor’s rapidly growing popularity around the world.

I saw most of the TripAdvisor decals while walking around Palermo, a neighborhood that’s very popular with international tourists. So the decals may foremost be valued as a way to generate business from North American and British tourists.

But even if that’s indeed the main motivation for Argentine venue managers to post TripAdvisor logo decals today, the decals themselves also serve as great brand-awareness and brand-prestige builders for the local audience. Palermo is full of high-end stores and restaurants and is popular with many locals as a fun place to eat, drink and hangout. TripAdvisor has the good fortune of having its brand name and distinctive logo visible on numerous storefronts in a fashionable neighborhood

TripAdvisor has been on a tear — gaining market share in countries around the world and seeing its stock price increase over 45% year to date. In Buenos Aires its growth is openly noticeable, like the spread of Starbucks. But unlike Starbucks, the TripAdvisor brand name is being posted by others, rent-free.

2012 year end

2012

Two year-end social media notes, one professional and one personal. (At least to the diminishing extent that those realms are distinct from one another).

On the professional front, I’m happy to share that Universal Studios Hollywood made one of Facebook’s 2012 Trends top 10 lists, in the Check-Ins category.

Facebook 2012 Trends - Check-ins

On a personal note, I’d like to extend a very sincere thank-you to everyone who has taken time to read posts on this blog. I’ve been touched by how many people from different parts of the world have visited The Contrast Principle since I started it in September. I’ve received a lot of words of encouragement and great feedback, including many thoughtful comments that have added to post topics.

After years of telling my wife I was considering starting a new blog and once a week saying “that’d make a good post,” I finally committed myself to the effort. I’ve really enjoyed the process and am looking forward to continuing in 2013.

Thank you in advance for your continued interest and support.

And, more importantly, best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful New Year!

— Josh Cole, 12/31/12