Does the FTC Get a Free Pass From Section 230?–FTC v. LeadClick

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I’ve often joked that the FTC and state AGs choose to live in a fantasy world where Section 230 doesn’t exist. A new ruling from the Second Circuit has turned my joke on its ear, suggesting that my underlying fears–of a Section 230-free zone for consumer protection agencies–may have become our dystopian reality.

The Opinion

The case involves weight loss products, including colon cleanses, vended by LeanSpa. To generate more sales, LeanSpa hired LeadClick to act as an affiliate marketing manager. LeadClick coordinated promotion of LeanSpa’s products with LeadClick’s network of affiliates. Some affiliates promoted the products using fake news sites, with articles styled to look like legitimate news articles and consumer comments/testimonials that were fake. Apparently, all of this added up to big business. LeanSpa paid LeadClick $35-$45 each time a consumer signed up for LeanSpa’s “free” trial (which was a negative billing option). LeadClick shared 80-90% of these sign-up fees with affiliates and kept the remainder for itself. In total, LeadClick billed LeanSpa $22M, of which LeanSpa paid only $12M. Still, LeanSpa turned into LeadClick’s top customer, constituting 85% of its eAdvertising division’s sales.

The court summarizes the key facts about LeadClick’s role in the fake new sites scheme:

While LeadClick did not itself create fake news sites to advertise products…it (1) knew that fake news sites were common in the affiliate marketing industry and that some of its affiliates were using fake news sites, (2) approved of the use of these sites, and, (3) on occasion, provided affiliates with content to use on their fake news pages.

The court also notes that LeadClick occasionally bought ads on legitimate news sites to promote fake news sites in its affiliate network.

The FTC’s Prima Facie Case

The FTC alleged that LeadClick engaged in deceptive practices. LeadClick responded that it didn’t do any deceptive practices itself; if anyone did, it was its affiliates. Extensively citing the Ninth Circuit’s FTC v. Neovi ruling from 2010 (an unfairness case, not a deception case, but this panel ignores the difference) and a subsequent 11th Circuit case (FTC v. IAB Marketing Associates), the Second Circuit concludes that “a defendant may be held liable for engaging in deceptive practices or acts if, with knowledge of the deception, it either directly participates in a deceptive scheme or has the authority to control the deceptive content at issue.”

In the Neovi case, the defendant Qchex had an online check-creation tool that fraudsters used to create and send bogus checks. The court held that Qchex engaged in unfair practices when it printed and then delivered the bogus checks to recipients. But here, LeadClick never “delivered” anything. Indeed, LeadClick argued that the legal standard conflates direct liability with aiding/abetting liability. The Second Circuit disagreed, saying a defendant who “allows the deception to proceed” thus “engages, through its own actions, in a deceptive act or practice that causes harm to consumers.”

I’m not a philosopher, but to me, “allowing” a third party to commit misconduct is a bizarre and overly expansive way of defining *direct* liability. Once this court makes this doctrinal cheat, LeadClick didn’t have a chance. Applying the legal standard to LeadClick:

* knowledge. “LeadClick knew that (1) the use of false news pages was prevalent in affiliate marketing, and (2) its own affiliate marketers were using fake news sites to market LeanSpaʹs products.”
* “direct participation in the deceptive conduct.” LeadClick satisfied this standard by “recruiting and paying affiliates who used fake news sites for generating traffic, managing those affiliates, suggesting substantive edits to fake news pages, and purchasing banner space for fake news sites on legitimate news sources.”
* “ability to control.” LeadClick ran an affiliate network that included fake news sites. “As the manager of the affiliate network, LeadClick had a responsibility to ensure that the advertisements produced by its affiliate network were not deceptive or misleading.” I thought the legal standard required “ability,” but the court tautologically uses the term “responsibility” to satisfy this element. Also note that the court’s legal standard (“has the authority to control the deceptive content at issue”) sounds a lot like principal-agency liability, but the court doesn’t say or imply that LeadClick had a principal-agency relationship with affiliates. Apparently the court is applying some kind of agency-lite liability.

Finally, the court says that LeadClick’s intent to deceive consumers is irrelevant; “it is enough that it orchestrated a scheme that was likely to mislead reasonable consumers.”

Section 230

Because of the court’s intellectual corner-cutting that LeadClick committed a “direct” violation of the FTCA, the Section 230 immunity was already doomed. This is consistent with the Neovi case, where Section 230 didn’t even come up even though all of the fraudulent content was provided by third parties. Even though Section 230 doesn’t apply to a defendant’s own legal violations, the court unfortunately decides to muck up Section 230 jurisprudence anyway, apparently for kicks.

I believe this is only the second time that the Second Circuit has discussed Section 230. The prior case was GoDaddy’s undramatic 2015 win in Ricci v. Teamsters, issued per curiam. Oddly, this panel doesn’t cite the Ricci case at all–not even once. The opinion simply says “We have had limited opportunity to interpret Section 230” without referencing the Ricci case by name. I’m baffled why this opinion so deliberately avoided engaging the recent and obviously relevant Ricci precedent…? Could it be that Ricci would have forced the panel to reach a different result or clearly created an intra-circuit split? Is there some kind of behind-the-scenes politics among Second Circuit judges? I welcome your theories.

The court runs through the standard 3 prong test for Section 230’s immunity:

1) provider/user of an interactive computer service (ICS). The court correctly says “Courts typically have held that internet service providers, website exchange systems, online message boards, and search engines fall within this definition.” (What is a “website exchange system”?). Then the court goes sideways, saying it is “doubtful” that LeadClick qualifies as an ICS because it acts as an affiliate manager that doesn’t provide access to servers.

LeadClick argued that it provided affiliate tracking URLs and recorded activity on its server, but the panel responds that LeadClick didn’t cite any cases applying Section 230 in similar contexts. The court continues that LeadClick’s tracking service “is not the type of service that Congress intended to protect in granting immunity” because “routing customers through the HitPath server before reaching LeanSpaʹs website[] was invisible to consumers and did not benefit them in any way. Its purpose was not to encourage discourse but to keep track of the business referred from its affiliate network.”

Say what? Affiliate programs are just another form of advertising, so like other advertising programs, they help compensate publishers for creating and disseminating their content. We may not want this particular content (fake news sites touting dubious weight loss products). Even so, affiliate programs do support discourse, and the court’s denigration of affiliate programs’ speech benefits is unfortunate and unsupportable. More generally, the court seems to be marginalizing the speech benefits that third party vendors to publishers, which is obviously misguided when vendors help publishers conduct their business more efficiently. I hope other courts don’t apply a “discourse promotion” threshold for applying Section 230.

We rarely see cases turn on the ICS prong, so it’s really shocking to see the court go there–especially when it eventually expressly punts on the issue, making this discussion dicta.

2) content provided by another information content provider (ICP). The court cites Accusearch for the proposition that ICP “cover[s] even those who are responsible for the development of content only in part,ʺ but then adds a “defendant, however, will not be held responsible unless it assisted in the development of what made the content unlawful.”

The court says LeadClick “participated in the development of the deceptive content posted on fake news pages” because it recruited affiliates knowing some had fake news sites, paid them, occasionally advised them to edit content, and bought ads on legitimate news sites. In other words, the court cites the exact same evidence of LeadClick’s prima facie liability as evidence of its lack of qualification for Section 230. This is just another way of saying that once the Second Circuit treated LeadClick as a direct violator of the FTCA, LeadClick had no chance of qualifying for Section 230.

Notice that none of the cited facts actually involve content “creation” by LeadClick, so the court apparently assumes content “development” covers other activities–but doesn’t say what that term means.

The court continues: “LeadClickʹs role in managing the affiliate network far exceeded that of neutral assistance. Instead, it participated in the development of its affiliatesʹ deceptive websites, ‘materially contributing to [the contentʹs] alleged unlawfulness.’” What does “neutral assistance” mean, and how does that relate to Section 230 immunity? I assume all future plaintiffs in the Second Circuit will claim that the defendant provided “assistance” to the content originator that wasn’t “neutral.” That should be fun.

3) treated as publisher/speaker. The court pulls the same trick with this prong, i.e., LeadClick was facing direct liability due to its own misconduct and citing evidence from the prima facie case as disqualifying evidence for this prong.

Further Implications

As we all know, no business wants to litigate against the FTC in court. Not only do the FTC’s litigation resources dwarf those available even to large defendants, but judges give the FTC extra credit as the voice of consumers. This case highlighted how the Second Circuit bent plenty of legal doctrine to get the FTC its win. Future defendants who want to fight the FTC in federal court, take note. This kind of doctrinal distortion happens far too frequently in FTC cases, so it would be a mistake to treat it as an unlikely-to-repeat accident.

There is so much unnecessary bad stuff here for Section 230 jurisprudence in the Second Circuit. Plaintiffs can find plenty of mischief in the court’s discussion about what qualifies as “interactive computer services,” “neutral assistance” and “development.” Yuck.

In a footnote, the court says the analysis would be the same under Connecticut’s UTPA. This suggests that state AGs could similarly establish a prima facie “direct” violation against defendants like LeadClick per their state unfair competition laws without running afoul of Section 230 either. I expect we’ll see this case cited extensively by state AGs in future enforcement actions.

Section 230’s year-of-woe keeps going. I’m ready for 2016 to be over. Perhaps the Section 230 pendulum will swing back towards defendants in 2017.

Case citation: Federal Trade Commission v. LeadClick Media, LLC, 2016 WL 5338081 (2d Cir. Sept. 23, 2016)

September 28th 2016 Marketing

How the Power of Employee Engagement Will Boost Your Business

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What if you could attract, retain and engage the world's best talent with purpose-driven employee engagement? And what if you could increase employee productivity while inspiring your workforce to become brand evangelists reaching millions of people with just one­ click?

CJ Follini

Purpose­-driven employee engagement that utilizes advanced VR, AR & 360-degree video and presents a holistic strategy for an employee's emotional, spiritual, physical and professional growth needs could be the disruption that makes a difference.

BusinessDictionary.com has defined employee engagement as "the emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities." To create such an emotional connection, a company has to treat its employees as its first customer. Employee engagement can make the difference between success and failure, as disengaged employees are estimated to cost the U.S. economy billions in lost productivity, accidents, theft and turnover.

In contrast, organizations with highly engaged employees had an average 3-year revenue growth 2.3 times greater than those whose employees showed average engagement. And 79 percent of today's graduates consider a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments when deciding where to work, according to a recent Cone Communications study. Purpose­-driven content and sponsored volunteer activities have proven to be the most effective means of increasing emotional investment for employees, making the workplace more meaningful, productive and just plain irresistible.

Unfortunately, today's employee engagement landscape consists mostly of uber­ specialized technology platforms that while highly functional, usually don't address all of their employees' needs especially when it comes to content­ creation, social sharing and wellness. Thus quickest path to a successful program would be an easy­ to­ use, singular platform presenting a 360­-degree offering for emotional, spiritual, physical and professional growth with meaningful content distribution and sharing, particularly immersive video. This places technology in the service of companies and society in an organic way that engages and champions the individual as they build a socially ­conscious, positive self­ esteem.

With this in mind, here are eight elements critical to really tapping into the power of employee engagement.

Content Centric 

A company that provides entertaining and inspiring, yet deliberately transparent content can increase employee engagement and inclination to share positive stories about its company and its fellow employees.
 Activating employees as co-creators of the corporate message in this way fortifies internal reputation and enables another way to externally represent the brand. As such, an employee engagement portal should provide one-stop content distribution from across all company channels, as well as allow for employee content creation and management within the platform. 


Video in particular is the most easily consumable and shareable form of media—it represents an increasing share of digital/mobile ad spending, with growth driven by a substantial increase in mobile video allocations. The latest VR, AR, and Google 360° advanced video techniques should be implemented for any truly holistic employee engagement campaign due to its potential to dramatically improve participation rates as well as enhance goal communication and content sharing both internally and externally.

Cause Driven

If CSR causes are the core of optimizing employee engagement, then cause-driven content is more effective toward engaging employees than any other. With a singular purpose-driven portal, brands and corporations could integrate all their CSR & cause initiatives into a database that provides employees with a searchable source of causes and ideas.

Nonprofits benefit from exposure on the platform so that brands and their employees can become familiar with causes and support them if they match the brand's mission. Employees wouldn't have to worry about where to have their donations matched, or what causes their company supports, and could track their individual, group and company social impact all in one place.

Authentic storytelling through social sharing 

The reach of online sharing by employees is growing as social media algorithms evolve. For example, Facebook's News Feed algorithm challenges companies to be smarter marketers and better storytellers to provide fans with content that matters to them. An individual employee sharing personally-created content deepens engagement for employees and, importantly, their social networks.

This "Inside-Out" approach starts from within—a company's talent, resources, customer relationships and distribution networks—and leverages these to reach company cause marketing goals through organic, authentic employee stories. With one-click social sharing on the platform, employees don't have to jump through hoops to get their stories out there, resulting in benefits for the business, associated nonprofits or causes and stakeholders (employees and customers).

Secure bi-directional communication capabilities 

To best take advantage of employee ideas in cause-driven content, an atmosphere of open, clear communication must be encouraged. Through a safe, built-in communication system on a singular portal, companies can open up discussion to springboard ideas and coordinate efforts. When we say "bi-directional," we mean horizontally and vertically—horizontally to encourage peer-to-peer messaging and recognition, and vertically to support communications from management to reporting employees.

Access to wellness resources & experts 

When employees feel physically and mentally well, and also feel valued by their companies, they are more likely to be engaged in all aspects of work. While some employee engagement programs include wellness tracking, this method is mostly do-it-yourself. To encourage holistic wellness and keep employees at their best, companies need to provide resources for workers to find quality information, as well as experts and leaders in physical and mental health.


Game mechanics

If employees can attribute earned value to causes, they'll be more likely to participate in them. Game Mechanics systems "add[s] value to product, to increase employee engagement and to drive crowdsourced innovation." Upon signing up, employees can track their efforts and share their involvement socially so that the cause they love gets more support, as well as earn them points toward leaderboard status and rewards.

Single entry point 

Ease of use is crucial to participation on any platform. Whereas multiple portals each with their own logins can be confusing and lead to employee opt-out, single sign-up and login can seamlessly integrate multiple corporate departments, improving coordination.

Administrative dashboard and reporting

In contrast to fragmented solutions that track either one campaign or another, the portal could track multiple campaigns in real-time, allowing companies to systematically measure engagement and social impact. This makes it possible to glean actionable data and thereby optimize performance on all fronts, from hours volunteered, to miles run, to posts shared. It could also create comprehensive, segmentable reports to determine which employees deserve rewards fulfillment, which areas need improvement, which causes deserve more attention, and so on.

By merging CSR, content storytelling, and wellness with the latest technology, a singular employee engagement platform has the potential to help companies turn holistic employee wellness into action and action into impact.

Real change—and real engagement—happen inside-out, showing that when employees are happy and feel valued, they share that happiness with the world. And that can never be bad for business.

CJ Follini (@cjfollini) is founder and chief evangelist at Imminent Digital, an employee engagement firm.
 

September 28th 2016 Marketing, Mobile, Technology

Court Dumps Crappy Trademark & Keyword Ad Case–ONEPul v. BagSpot

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It’s a highlight of my day to read an opinion that starts out: the litigants “are competitors in the dog waste disposal industry.” Blogging can be a crappy gig, but someone’s gotta do it.

dog-1293049The litigants have competing offerings that allow users to grab a dog-poop-pickup bag with a single pull. The plaintiff claims trademarks in the terms “ONEPUL” and “SINGLEPUL.” The defendant uses the “BagSpot®” mark and often refers to its bags as “one-pull” or “one pull.” It appears the defendant didn’t use the exact terms ONEPUL or SINGLEPUL or the unhyphenated words “onepull” or “singlepull.” The defendant also ran competitive keyword ads based on the plaintiff’s Zerowaste mark.

The court dumps the case for lack of likelihood of confusion. The defendant’s marketing featured its house mark BagSpot extensively, which helps inform consumers that they aren’t dealing with the plaintiff. The court says “ONEPUL” and “one-pull” are semantically quite different, and many other competitors use the “one pull”/”one-pull” terms descriptively because they are common ways to describe the product feature (the court never mentions descriptive fair use because it says ONEPUL is suggestive). The court also cites the defendant’s competitive intent, saying even if the defendant sought to compete with the plaintiff, that doesn’t show it duped consumers.

Similarly, keyword advertising:

may be strong evidence of a desire to compete with plaintiff in the marketplace. But it is no evidence of unfair competition or intent to infringe. Plaintiff has offered no evidence that defendant has done anything more than advertise its own products to potential consumers who are shopping for dog waste disposal bags online.

In a footnote, the court rejects any initial interest confusion claim:

Even if that type of infringement claim were cognizable in this circuit, it would not aid plaintiff here. A claim of initial interest confusion requires sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment, like any other infringement claim. Plaintiff has introduced no evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine “confusion” caused by defendant’s specific use of “one pull” (as opposed to its entry into the market and its legitimate business practices) likely “create[d] an initial customer interest” in defendant’s dog waste disposal bags.

With that, the court tosses this litigation into the summary judgment trash can.

Case citation: ZW USA, Inc. v. PWD Systems, LLC, 2016 WL 5236934 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 22, 2016)

Blog Posts on Competitive Keyword Advertising

* AdWords Buys Using Geographic Terms Support Personal Jurisdiction–Rilley v. MoneyMutual

* FTC Sues 1-800 Contacts For Restricting Competitive Keyword Advertising

* Competitive Keyword Advertising Lawsuit Will Go To A Jury–Edible Arrangements v. Provide Commerce

* Texas Ethics Opinion Approves Competitive Keyword Ads By Lawyers

* Court Beats Down Another Competitive Keyword Advertising Lawsuit–Beast Sports v. BPI

* Another Murky Opinion on Lawyers Buying Keyword Ads on Other Lawyers’ Names–In re Naert

* Keyword Ad Lawsuit Isn’t Covered By California’s Anti-SLAPP Law

* Confusion From Competitive Keyword Advertising? Fuhgeddaboudit

* Competitive Keyword Advertising Permitted As Nominative Use–ElitePay Global v. CardPaymentOptions

* Google And Yahoo Defeat Last Remaining Lawsuit Over Competitive Keyword Advertising

* Mixed Ruling in Competitive Keyword Advertising Case–Goldline v. Regal

* Another Competitive Keyword Advertising Lawsuit Fails–Infogroup v. DatabaseLLC

* Damages from Competitive Keyword Advertising Are “Vanishingly Small”

* More Defendants Win Keyword Advertising Lawsuits

* Another Keyword Advertising Lawsuit Fails Badly

* Duplicitous Competitive Keyword Advertising Lawsuits–Fareportal v. LBF (& Vice-Versa)

* Trademark Owners Just Can’t Win Keyword Advertising Cases–EarthCam v. OxBlue

* Want To Know Amazon’s Confidential Settlement Terms For A Keyword Advertising Lawsuit? Merry Christmas!

* Florida Allows Competitive Keyword Advertising By Lawyers

* Another Keyword Advertising Lawsuit Unceremoniously Dismissed–Infostream v. Avid

* Another Keyword Advertising Lawsuit Fails–Allied Interstate v. Kimmel & Silverman

* More Evidence That Competitive Keyword Advertising Benefits Trademark Owners

* Suing Over Keyword Advertising Is A Bad Business Decision For Trademark Owners

* Florida Proposes to Ban Competitive Keyword Advertising by Lawyers

* More Confirmation That Google Has Won the AdWords Trademark Battles Worldwide

* Google’s Search Suggestions Don’t Violate Wisconsin Publicity Rights Law

* Amazon’s Merchandising of Its Search Results Doesn’t Violate Trademark Law

* Buying Keyword Ads on People’s Names Doesn’t Violate Their Publicity Rights

* With Its Australian Court Victory, Google Moves Closer to Legitimizing Keyword Advertising Globally

* Yet Another Ruling That Competitive Keyword Ad Lawsuits Are Stupid–Louisiana Pacific v. James Hardie

* Another Google AdWords Advertiser Defeats Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

* With Rosetta Stone Settlement, Google Gets Closer to Legitimizing Billions of AdWords Revenue

* Google Defeats Trademark Challenge to Its AdWords Service

* Newly Released Consumer Survey Indicates that Legal Concerns About Competitive Keyword Advertising Are Overblown

September 26th 2016 Marketing

The biggest problem with Snapchat’s geofilter product

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snapchat-down Snapchat’s current geofilter product is a nightmare for event managers, brands, and any commercial business because anyone can coat-tail or hijack the space. Let’s say you’re holding a political rally at City Hall, and you want to buy a geofilter for the augmented Snapchat space at the event. When you go to purchase it from Snapchat, your plan gets rejected. Why? Someone… Read More

September 24th 2016 Marketing, Mobile

500,000 Businesses Now Advertising on Instagram

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Instagram says that it now has 500,000 advertisers on its platform. “Today, we’re excited to announce there are more than 500,000 advertisers growing their businesses on Instagram,” they said in their blog announcement. “In just six months, the number of advertisers has more than doubled. And that includes a variety of businesses from around the world. In fact, the top five countries seeing advertiser adoption are the US, Brazil, UK, Australia and Canada. Businesses have been an important part of the Instagram community since the beginning. Here’s why Instagram continues to be an essential place for businesses to grow.”

The Instagram community is more than 500 million strong, so it’s not surprise that consumer targeted marketing is taking off on the platform. What businesses like is their ability to become part of the consumer engagement experience, not just an advertiser butting into the conversation.

Instagram Working for Business?

Instagram noted that 50% of “Instagrammers” follow a business and their surveys indicate that 60% of Instagram users say they learned about a product or service on Instagram. They view their platform as passion marketing which businesses can tap into. They say that 75% of their users take action after being inspired by a post. Actions include clicking to a website, searching, shopping or telling a friend.

There have been 1 billion actions taken on their ads just in the last 12 months since Instagram ads were launched. Internal surveys show that 70% of ad campaigns received “significant lifts” of online conversion or mobile app installs. Since Instagram made change to their link ad format in June, they saw ad performance increase by 45%. Additionally, an Oracle Data Cloud report concluded that Instagram ads drove a median 1.8% lift in in-store sales and a 2.1% lift in household penetration, across 12 US CPG campaigns that were measured for potential sales impact.

Consumer Brands Love Instagram

The handbag brand Dagne Dover, working with its ad agency Mason Interactive, effectively used the Shop Now call to action button in a recent campaign. They targeted students, mothers, professionals and women interested in fashion and travel according to Instagram.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-53-23-pm

The campaign doubled its traffic and increased its return on ad spend 13X over a two-month period, according to Melissa Mash, CEO at Dagne Dover.

Virtually every major brand is now using Instagram to reach consumers in their niche markets. Brands such as Macy’s, Petsmart, Staples and Fossil are among the half million pushing their products on Instagram.

Instagram Ads Work For Small Business Too

Instagram is one of the few platforms that works just as well for small business advertisers as it does for the big brands. Since it is a Facebook company, it runs on the same ad backend as Facebook, with similar targeting and bidding options.

Whether a business is promoting a sale, marketing an event or seeking Instagram followers, you can advertise for as little as $5 a day.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-19-42-pm

One online writer experimented by promoting an article she wrote for Entrepreneur and was able to obtain 2,000 likes for only 1 cent each! With that ultra low conversion cost it’s worth experimenting.

The post 500,000 Businesses Now Advertising on Instagram appeared first on WebProNews.

September 23rd 2016 Facebook, Marketing

Facebook Announces Inventory-Smart Dynamic Ads for Nearby Retail

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Facebook is getting better at competing for brick & mortar ad dollars, announcing an ability to tie a retailers inventory into their product ads, so that they aren’t advertising out of stock items. Very smart and necessary to compete with Google for online retail ad dollars.

Just this past June, Facebook added features to track in-store purchases prompted by a retailers Facebook ads. We wrote at the time:

This is the holy grail for convincing brick and mortar advertisers that Facebook is an effective platform to drive in-store business, assuming the data shows their advertising working. It could also be Facebook’s achilles hill if advertisers discover that their ads aren’t driving business.

Tying ads to inventory is a way for Facebook to increase click to conversion percentages. This lowers a marketers ad cost per sale, and is an especially important metric which retailers use when considering their ads effectiveness.

The inventory feature is targeted toward large retailers like JC Penny, Nike and Coach, of which many have been insisting on connecting their local inventory availability before they make large Facebook marketing commitments. Facebook is still in the very early stages of their attempt to make their platform a local retail sales channel.

Facebook, with this new feature, gives retailers the ability to create customize creative for every store location based on local product availability, pricing or promotions. This is a major step toward attracting the big brands and is a continuation of where they see most of their ad revenue coming from in the future.

Consumers are now using their mobile phones to price check, look for coupons and compare products while in the store and they are also continuing to engage in social media. Facebook aims to take advantage of this and over time change the mind-set of their users about Facebook, making it about both social exchange and ecommerce and in-effect combining the two.

“If a fashion retailer wishes to advertise a nationwide sales event happening at every store, dynamic ads for retail will only showcase products that are in-stock at a nearby store and display the price found at that location,” said Facebook in a blog announcement of this feature. “As the ads are linked to the local product catalog, if a product sells out in one store the campaign automatically adjusts so that people in that region will no longer see it advertised. Product selection for each ad can be optimized based on people’s online and mobile shopping behavior.”

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Facebook describes their dynamic retail ads this way:
  • Local availability: An availability indicator on the ad shows people that a product is available at a store near them, and the store locator makes it easy for people to get directions.
  • Product summaries: Advertisers can use Facebook-hosted product summaries to give potential shoppers the information they need without leaving the Facebook app.
  • Different actions: Product summaries include ways for people to take actions like contacting the nearest store, buying online, or saving the product for future reference.
  • Similar products: Similar products available at the nearest store are featured so people can browse the aisles right from their phone.

Facebook says that they are currently testing dynamic ads for retail with advertisers including Abercrombie & Fitch, Argos, Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Target. They will be expanding to more retailers in the coming weeks.

“Extending the power of Facebook’s dynamic ads to in-store inventory opens up exciting new possibilities for Macy’s as an omni-channel retailer,” says Serena Potter, Group Vice President Digital Media Strategy at Macy’s. “We were excited to be the first up and running with Facebook’s dynamic ads for retail as it truly allows us to personalize product ads based on online behavior and inventory at the nearest Macy’s store. This bridges our online and offline channels to deliver a more engaging, relevant, and useful experience to shoppers.”

Facebook Also Introduces Store Visits Objective Options

“We’re also introducing our first marketing objective built specifically for advertisers to drive more people to their stores or business locations,” noted Facebook. “The store visits objective builds on the geo-targeting and ad format features of the local awareness ad solution and introduces store visits as the primary reporting metric and a new optimization model.”

They have added features to let retail brick & mortar advertisers add an objective defined by the marketer in order make their marketing more efficient. They said that Albertsons grocery store used this in beta tests that decreases their cost-per-store-visit by 40 percent.

Also added were improvements to geo-targeting, where advertisers can now define a geo radius based on population density and desired reach.

All of these features are only available in mobile Facebook advertising.

The post Facebook Announces Inventory-Smart Dynamic Ads for Nearby Retail appeared first on WebProNews.

September 21st 2016 Facebook, Marketing, Social Media

Why Vox Media Is Embracing New Platforms Like VR and 360 Video

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COLOGNE, Germany—Following his keynote panel with Publicis Media CEO Steve King Thursday morning at the Dmexco ad tech and marketing conference in Cologne, Germany, Jim Bankoff, chairman and CEO, Vox Media, sat down with Adweek to discuss some of the key themes driving Vox Media's vision for the future and its growth.

Data-driven storytelling on a multitude of platforms—and all at scale—for brands has evolved into a major focus for Vox Media.

"We are a company that builds brands through story," said Bankoff, who added that this strategy has helped Vox Media become one of the fastest growing media companies in the U.S. and, powered by data, "we can use those same capabilities to help marketers with their brands."

Bankoff is also bullish on the newest platforms such as VR, AI and 360 video and how they can be applied across the Vox Media ecosystem. While the speed of shifting content forms, data science and platforms can be intimidating and exhausting, he encouraged the industry to embrace bleeding edge forms of media and marketing to tell stories in new and engaging ways.

"We've optimized our culture for change," he said.

September 16th 2016 Marketing, Technology, video

Facebook Launches Blueprint Certification, New Credentials for Digital Advertising Professionals.

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As part of its Blueprint learning platform, Facebook is launching Blueprint Certification, a new credential for digital advertising professionals. Facebook says that “whether you are an agency or a digital marketer Facebook’s new Blueprint Certification can help you stand out in the industry.”

“As an agency you can set the bar for your existing staff, quickly identify and hire new talent with proven capabilities and confidentially pitch a broad range of work,” noted Facebook in their introductory video for Blueprint Certification. “As a digital marketer your qualifications and credentials are now objectively measured and verified so you stand apart from the competition.”

Blueprint Certification shows your mastery of specific job related skills including:

  • Facebook Advertising
  • Instagram Advertising
  • Messenger Advertising
  • Buying and Planning on Facebook properties
  • Facebook Analytics and Reporting

Once a marketer passes their secure proctored online exam, they are awarded a badge that can be placed on Facebook pages, online resume, professional websites and on email signatures.

“No matter what your role is in the advertising industry, Blueprint Certification can give you the edge you need,” stated Facebook in their announcement. “Blueprint Certification helps digital advertising professionals differentiate themselves in a competitive job market, provides the advertising industry with a better understanding of Facebook advertising to help maximize ROI and gives businesses a way to select and retain people with expertise in the Facebook family of products and services. Blueprint Certification is not only the most rigorous and reliable measure of Facebook advertising competency, it’s the only one officially recognized by Facebook.”

Launching now is the Facebook Certified Planning Professional which is targeted to digital media planners for those proficient in planning successful Facebook advertising campaigns. This will be followed in the coming weeks by Facebook Certified Buying Professional targeted to media buyers who are “proficient in creating and buying Facebook advertising” with the maximum ROI.

Facebook says that marketing professionals will first select their certification paths and then take two proctored exams: the Facebook Advertising Core Competencies exam, and then the exam in their chosen specialty. Marketers can take the exam online with the use of a web-based Proctor the program will connect you with. with recertification required annually to demonstrate ongoing proficiency as Facebook products evolve. The exams are currently only available in English, with other languages rolling out over time.

Blueprint already offers Blueprint eLearning modules as well as hands on training via Blueprint Live.

“Blueprint Live is an interactive training program that we built for even seasoned clients that takes a case-based approach to learning,” says Ashley Gestrich in a Blueprint Live intro video. Gestrich was the Global Lead of Facebook Blueprint Live, but now works in marketing at Pinterest. “We’ve found that even seasoned clients learn better when they take concepts and apply them immediately so they stick. We actually give them a hypothetic brief or business plan and they take Facebook marketing principals and tell us how they bring them to life during a series of campaign based activities.”

The post Facebook Launches Blueprint Certification, New Credentials for Digital Advertising Professionals. appeared first on WebProNews.

September 14th 2016 Facebook, Marketing, Social Media

New Facebook Ad Tools Help Businesses With Global Marketing

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Facebook has added a feature within their Lookalike Audiences tool that helps businesses reach target customers in new countries who are similar to their existing ones. With the tool, a business can upload a list of leads or their current customers and Facebook will find potential similar leads. Prior to today, this was not available cross-country.

With the Lookalike Audiences tool, marketers can find potential customers to target their Facebook ads, now to many countries, based on:

  • People who like your Page
  • Custom Audiences derived from email or phone numbers
  • Custom Audiences created from website or app data
  • Similar location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests

Facebook sees this as primarily a mobile advertising opportunity, where the majority of its ad revenue now comes from. According to an August 2016 eMarketer report, by 2018 there will be an estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide accessing the Internet via mobile devices. Facebook is one of the few platforms on earth that can market to almost all of these people, excluding Communist China. Although, Mark Zuckerberg is not giving up on China, having started his personal quest to learn Mandarin Chinese in 2010.

“On mobile, and on Facebook, people engage with the things that matter to them, even in other countries,” posts Facebook. “More than 1 billion people on Facebook are connected to at least one business in a foreign country, and 1.57 billion people visit Facebook monthly on mobile. In the US, 60% of people on Facebook are connected to a business in a foreign country.”

Facebook has also added extended location targeting capabilities, where advertisers can expand their website conversion or mobile app install targeting objectives to a worldwide region or trade zone. Facebook says it will “optimize delivery to the countries with the greatest return.”

They have added training tools as well to help businesses get started with global marketing including webinars and a handbook.

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September 10th 2016 Facebook, Marketing, Mobile, Social Media

New Features for Google Adwords: Campaign Groups and Performance Targets

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Google announced today new features in their Adwords product, campaign groups and performance targets, both intended to make it easier for you to track and forecast the performance of your marketing campaigns.

Campaign Groups

The new campaign groups feature allows you to group all of your Google ad campaigns including search, shopping, display and YouTube all into one campaign, making them easier to track and improve. Google is envisioning marketers using this grouping to track marketing themes across their network of ad opportunities.

They gave an example of a theoretical campaign called “Holiday Launch” where you can easily link your YouTube advertising stats with your ecommerce and search data.

Performance Targets

The performance targets feature improves on your ability within Adwords to set goals and track clicks and conversions by campaign group. Combining performance targets with the new campaign groups feature lets you set target clicks and conversions across Google’s network of marketing platforms.

“Tell us how many clicks or conversions you want to receive, how much you want to spend, and what average CPC or CPA you wish to maintain,” noted Jon Diorio, Product Manager of Google AdWords. “We’ll then automatically show you a single view of how your campaign group is performing against those goals, and what we think you’ll likely achieve by the end of the campaign period.”

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Diorio said that these feature will not alter how Google serves your ads or optimize your campaigns, but simply offers advertisers better evaluation tools.

Google let some advertisers try the new features prior to their public release today. “Previously I needed to export all my campaigns into a spreadsheet, group them together, and create a pivot table simply to see how they are performing,” said Oleg Monakhov, Senior Lead Generation Manager at Wrike. “With campaign groups & performance targets, we can much more easily see how our groups are performing relative to our goals, all from within the AdWords interface.”

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September 7th 2016 AdWords, Analytics, Google, Marketing