Cannabis marketing regulations are multi-tiered and constantly in flux. While an array of cities and states have legalized and decriminalized various forms of cannabis, the substance is still illegal at the federal level. At the same time, social media platforms like Facebook, audio platforms like Spotify, and search platforms like Google each have different policies for how marketers can promote cannabis products. And on top of all that, cannabis marketers must comply with a growing matrix of consumer privacy regulations. The result? An ever-shifting regulatory landscape that requires a considerable amount of up-front research compared to other consumer packaged goods.
While navigating these various regulations might feel like reefer madness, marketers can minimize overwhelm by approaching them in four tiers: Federal, state, platform-specific, and from a general advertising compliance standpoint. Read on for an overview of each layer:
At the federal level, cannabis marketing is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Advertising Division (NAD). There are two big rules that brands must follow here. First, to comply with the FTC’s Truth in Advertising laws, product descriptions must be backed by legitimate research and must not mislead consumers.
Second, brands may not make any claims that a cannabis product can cure, prevent, diagnose, or treat a serious disease. Brands may, however, make what the FDA calls a structure/function claim. A structure/ function claim:
For example, a brand could not legally state that a CBD product cures insomnia, but it could legally state that a CBD product promotes sleep.
On the state level, State Departments of Health set regulations for cannabis advertising. These regulations vary widely—for example, cannabis marketing is generally prohibited in Delaware, while cannabis marketers in Colorado can advertise across a variety of channels, granted those advertisements adhere to certain restrictions. While there are some general State-level cannabis marketing rules that hold true across the board, it’s critical to research marketing regulations in each state where you plan to advertise. While you’re at it, make sure to look into cannabis advertising restrictions based on city and county jurisdictions as well!
Marketers must also research cannabis marketing guidelines for each platform where they plan to place ads, as they all vary. For example:
With accessible and affordable advertising options like Facebook, Instagram, and Google largely off the table, marketers will need to tap into tools designed to clear this regulation barrier. Basis, for example, is integrated with Cannavu, which operates the largest ad marketplace for curated, compliant cannabis advertising opportunities. Cannavu accesses ad impressions on canna-compliant publishers, automating the publisher selection process for marketers.
Beyond ensuring that campaigns meet the requirements of federal, state, local, and platform-specific regulations, cannabis marketers must also be aware of the broader shift towards privacy-friendly advertising. This includes preparing for the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, updating marketing strategies to meet the growing consumer demand for data privacy, and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA.
The movement towards privacy-first marketing means that marketing teams must be particularly diligent about compliance when acquiring and activating cannabis customer data, and that they must vet all their partners and vendors to ensure that they display the same level of attention to privacy. At the same time, as more and more privacy-focused regulations pop up across the country, cannabis brands must continually monitor these regulatory developments to in order to avoid costly fines.
There you have it: By approaching cannabis marketing regulations at the federal, state, local, and platform levels, and by meeting the requirements of the overall advertising industry’s regulations, marketers are sure to cover all their regulatory bases.
Interested in learning more about the cannabis marketing landscape? Check out Cannabis Marketing in the Roaring 2020’s to learn about who is buying cannabis, how to market to them, and what sets a cannabis campaign up for success.
You’ve just landed your dream job as an SEM professional, and your boss is asking you to deliver your “PPC campaign strategy”—you know, that brilliant, air-tight plan you put together to help your brand or client not only meet, but exceed their business objectives?
There's just one small problem: You don't have a strategy. In fact, while you may know a lot about PPC, you’ve never actually sat down and documented how you make PPC magic happen. Where do you start? There’s so much to cover and so little time, especially given the fact that developing a competitive PPC campaign strategy isn’t as easy as it used to be. Advertisers now have a number of ways to target their audiences, which makes distributing ad spend a challenge.
Don’t worry—we’ve not only organized the process of developing a PPC strategy into an easy framework, but we’ve also created a quick PPC strategy checklist to ensure the strategy you do eventually develop is an effective one.
In short, our five-step framework for an effective PPC strategy involves selecting the right platforms, targeting features, and ad types to deliver your message, and balancing your investment in each. If you’re ready to develop a more advanced PPC campaign strategy for your business, these 5 steps can help you get a head start. Let’s dig in!
Defining what you want to achieve with PPC is the most important part of building an effective campaign strategy. Getting clear on your goals will help you choose the platforms and ad types that are best suited for your marketing needs.
Consider these common PPC goals:
If your main goal is brand awareness, then social media and display ads are ideal for your strategy. If your priority is to generate leads, then you can explore Facebook’s lead capture ads. If your main goal is to drive sales, then most of your PPC investment should be in search or product listing ads (PLA).
Sophisticated PPC strategies use a combination of ad types and platforms to target their audience. First, determine your main goals and prioritize them. Then, use this information to decide which platforms and ad types you should invest in.
Next, let’s review how to target your audience with Google Ads PPC. The kind of audience you target and their point in the sales funnel will also tell you which advertising options you should invest in.
The key to success with Google Ads audience targeting is not targeting the most relevant keywords related to your business, but targeting based on intent. The keywords you bid for, the ads you display, and the landing pages you send people to all need to match the position individuals are at in your sales funnel.
There are three main categories of search intent keywords:
Now, most businesses can’t and shouldn’t target all these categories of keywords for PPC. The ones you focus on should depend on your business type and other marketing strategies. For example:
Of course, search isn’t the only PPC channel you can optimize for. There are several other types of audiences you can target on the Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail, such as:
When targeting large amounts of keywords, creating unique optimized landing pages for your ads can be a challenge. However, directing visitors to generic product pages or landing pages equates to wasted ad spend. Not only are site visitors less likely to convert, but their on-site behavior can also lead to lower Quality Scores, making reaching them through PPC even more challenging.
The most effective PPC managers draw a strong link between audience targeting and landing page optimization. The more relevant a landing page is to the initial search intent or audience demographic interest, the more likely it is that site visitors will click through, sign up, make a purchase, or otherwise take action.
Here’s an example of thoughtfully optimizing landing pages based on initial search intent: You searched for “freelance accounting software” and found an ad for Xero:
You click through and their landing page copy focuses on their value proposition for on-the-move freelancers, not business owners as a whole:
That level of message match—from the intent of the search query, to the carefully crafted ad copy, to the optimized landing page verbiage—provides a valuable user experience with high relevance that’s more likely to result in the user taking your desired action.
Once your audience targeting is set up and you’ve created your relevant landing pages, you’re ready to create and optimize your ads.
Your ads serve as the link between search intent/audience interest and the landing pages you’ve already optimized. The goal is to briefly illustrate your unique selling proposition and offer value. You’ll want to experiment using different copy, visual media, extensions, and other elements to optimize your ads.
For search campaigns, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) make it easy to include a variety of headlines and description lines that Google will mix and match to create an ad that’s targeted toward what it knows about the user. The key is to include variety, so your headlines and description lines should have varied calls to action and value propositions. You can’t just rewrite the same headline and make it slightly different. Try to include as many keywords in your ad as possible and match it to your landing page content. You want the user to have a seamless experience from keyword to ad to landing page. Google will automatically show the top-performing ad creative the most often.
Beyond ad copy, elements like sitelinks, callouts, phone numbers, reviews, and location extensions are great ways to include more information in your ad and take up more room on the top of the page. At the same time, this will push your competitors further down in the results.
When you have enough data to make decisions, swap out the lower-performing ad assets (the headlines, description lines, and extensions) for new variants. Over time, you’ll improve your ad quality and your account performance.
As we discussed above, ad content optimization integrates better into the ad creation process when you use the right tools. The real focus of your analysis is identifying what keywords and targeting features help drive your campaign goals.
Here are some important metrics to consider for search, display, and/or social ads (depending on your campaign goals):
If your goal is lead nurturing, you may also want to take on-site engagement metrics, such as number of page views or new or returning visitors, into consideration.
Keeping track of key metrics can help you evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of your advertising elements (ad copy, targeting, landing pages, etc.). It can also help you understand which keywords and audience targeting strategies are most valuable for your unique business.
There are a lot of ways to optimize your PPC ads for conversions using data science. Once you have a good understanding of the best keywords and audience targeting, you can use those insights to implement advanced targeting strategies to improve your ROAS even more. Using query segmentation to prioritize revenue-driving keywords is one example of an advanced bid optimization strategy you can implement manually.
PPC strategy optimization is an ongoing process. Here’s a quick checklist to recap the steps you need to take to optimize your strategy.
These five steps are foundational to developing a competitive PPC strategy. The key is to identify at what points in the sales funnel you want to target your audience, choose the right platforms and ads to accomplish that, and then optimize your PPC advertising material. Over time, you’ll identify what elements of your strategy deserve the most investment to improve your ROAS.
Want to level up your PPC strategy even further? Our team of experts can help. Connect with us to learn more!
Have you heard the news? The future is cookieless, and it’s coming up fast—in the second half of 2024, to be precise!
To prepare for a world without third-party cookies, it’s important that members of the advertising industry understand what’s changing and embrace new ideas and collaboration. The success of any identity solution is heavily dependent on scale, and so partnering with an independent owner of a solution with the most scale—or, better yet, partnering with multiple—is likely to be the best option when the dust settles. Working as a group, evaluating options, and sharing principles is the best course we can take to minimize the impact on customers.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the current and future state of third-party cookie deprecation and how groups are working toward innovative identity solutions.
Yes, third-party cookies are on their way out. That said, it's not an all-at-once farewell: Firefox and Safari have already eliminated cookies, while Google, over the past few years, has announced, then delayed, then again delayed Chrome’s third-party cookie deprecation. Despite these postponements, the day will eventually come when third-party cookies are no longer supported in Chrome. However, the transition will be an incremental one, starting in Q1 2024 with about 1% of Chrome users, and progressing gradually from there.
The demise of third-party cookies stems from concerns over consumer privacy and data protection. 86% of people in the US say data privacy is a growing concern for them, and with consumers demanding more control over their online footprint, legislators have stepped in, enacting privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA. At the same time, tech giants and browsers are taking proactive steps to rebuild trust by putting an end to the cross-site tracking that third-party cookies enabled.
Cookieless tracking monitors user activity on websites without relying on browser cookies. These tracking tools allow marketers to measure cookieless click-through conversions, granting them the ability to track performance, report on campaigns, and maximize ROAS without compromising consumer privacy.
Unfortunately, there’s no “silver bullet” replacement for third-party cookies (yet). Savvy marketers are leaning into a mix of privacy-friendly solutions to minimize the impact of third-party cookie loss on their campaigns, including (but not limited to) cookieless tracking, first-party data, contextual targeting, anonymized data sources, premium inventory, and audience profiling.
New identity solutions have also emerged, offering ways to glean insights from and target messaging to audiences while adhering to privacy-first principles. What do these burgeoning identity solutions look like? Let’s dig in:
In February 2020, the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) introduced Project Rearc, a global initiative designed to get stakeholders across the digital advertising and media supply chain together to re-architect digital marketing in a consolidated effort to harmonize personalization and consumer privacy. And in June 2022, as part of this initiative, IAB Tech Lab released its Global Privacy Platform, a mechanism for transmitting consumer choice signals from websites and mobile apps to advertising technology companies.
Along with other industry leaders, Basis has been an active participant in Project Rearc—reviewing the proposals, evaluating specs, and providing feedback. It proposes rigorous technical standards and guidelines that inform how companies collect and use such an identifier so that:
LiveRamp introduced IdentityLink in 2016. The technology, now known as RampID, allows resolving hundreds of different identifiers for consumers used on devices and marketing platforms in a privacy-compliant manner. It doesn’t matter if data is offline or online, first-party CRM or third-party behavioral, online exposure data or mobile app download data—all of it can be tied back to a unique, privacy-safe identifier at the consumer level.
The digital media ecosystem is a dynamic one, with new methodologies, tools, and opportunities emerging every day. The third-party cookie has been a protagonist for the last 20 years, but it’s not the only character in this story. And with the third-party cookie going the way of MySpace, we are at the dawn of a new era for adtech—one filled with opportunity and room for innovation in the way we connect with our audiences.
Advertisers who focus on making the most of their first-party data and cookieless media alternatives, optimizing campaigns based on real-time learnings, and embracing identity solutions that are high-performing and privacy compliant, are sure to be well-positioned for the cookieless future.
As we go through these changes together, it’s important that industry players stay committed to working together, listening to the market, collaborating with regulatory bodies, adapting and developing new products, and keeping customers/users abreast of changes as they develop. If we can do that, we’ll all emerge from a place of strength and primed for success in our new, cookieless world.
Want to learn more about how to embrace the cookieless future? Check out Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crisis.
Political advertising is a unique beast. It’s a months-long marathon full of building awareness, appealing for donations, fighting primary battles, and educating audiences on who you are and what you believe in. Then, after a long year (or more, given the United States’ ever-lengthening campaign seasons) the race wraps up with an all-out sprint toward Election Day as candidates and causes of all kinds pitch themselves to busy, skeptical, and undecided voters while rallying supporters to head to the polls. Just thinking about it makes us out of breath.
Every election battle is fierce, but 2024 is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested cycles in recent memory—and the most expensive in history. The combination of high-profile races, major cultural and economic questions, motivated cause-based outside groups, and emotionally invested voters is likely to fuel high turnout and even higher ad budgets. Led by a presidential race at the top of the ticket, the election is forecast to generate a record $12 billion in political ad spend, including $9 billion on down-ballot races. And with so many political (and non-political) advertisers looking to grab their share of voice and motivate their audiences to action, having the latest and greatest tips, tactics, insights, and strategies will be essential to ensuring a successful campaign.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place: This is the ultimate guide to political advertising in the 2024 US elections. We’ll be updating this page regularly in the months leading up to Election Day on November 5, 2024, so be sure to bookmark it for future reference.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
With each succeeding election, the campaign season seems to be starting earlier and earlier, and in fall 2023, an array of presidential and senatorial candidates are already well into their fundraising and vote appeal cycles (while congressional candidates are seemingly always fundraising without pause). With most campaigns either already underway or soon to begin, political marketers are eagerly diving into awareness, fundraising, and list building.
In the early days of a campaign, when small dollar fundraising and email list building is key, there’s no channel quite like social. Between its effectiveness and its efficiency, nothing else can even compete.
Most political social spend is taking place on Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, which advertisers of all stripes have long loved for their significant reach and precise targeting capabilities. Snapchat is another platform that accepts political advertising, which can be particularly useful for candidates and cause-based marketers looking to reach millennial and Gen Z voters. Technically, X (aka “The Social Network Formerly Known As Twitter”) has also started accepting political ads again, but given spending and user trends, it’s unlikely to capture a large slice of the political pie. And to answer your next question: No, TikTok still does not allow political advertising, whether in the form of brand ads or paid branded content.
Beyond social, other key tactics for raising awareness (and raising dollars via small donors) include trusted standbys like video, display, and search/SEM. All four of those play key roles throughout any campaign, with video in particular being largely considered a political advertiser’s best friend. Speaking of which...
If 2022 was CTV’s political advertising breakout performance, then 2024 is set to be its star turn. The fast-growing channel accounted for 12% of all political ad dollars spent during the midterms, and that spend is expected to rise to $1.3 billion in the coming election cycle.
Why, exactly, do political advertisers love CTV and streaming video? It boils down to a lot of the same factors that have fueled the decades-long love affair between political advertisers and linear TV. Campaigns are often trying to both educate voters and, simultaneously, develop an emotional connection that will get them to the polls—and video is uniquely suited to accomplishing both. With CTV, advertisers can access that familiar TV-like experience (and TV-like benefits), but with the added bonus of digital targeting capabilities and access to audiences that have either supplemented or replaced their linear viewing hours with digital media.
From an overall ad spend perspective, broadcast is still king in the land of political advertising. But if you’re sticking to advertising on linear TV alone, your spots are likely not reaching an increasingly large swath of voters who’ve either cut the cord or never had cable to begin with. Add on the atypical year of linear TV programming that’s underway due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, plus the heaps of new inventory, and CTV is about as critical a channel as you’ll find in 2024.
There are many different ways to buy CTV inventory—from programmatic on the open exchange, to programmatic guaranteed, to private marketplace (PMP) deals, and more. But while there’s a decent amount of overlap amongst the inventory available across those different buying methods (save for highly-valuable exclusive CTV inventory that’s only accessible through select partners), advertisers looking to take full advantage of the channel should use a healthy mix of each—especially when demand spikes and availability tightens up in the 30 days leading up to your state’s primaries and, of course, starting in early October during the run up to Election Day. Otherwise, you run the risk of blowing through your budget (or, worse yet, getting shut out entirely) as programmatic CPMs soar down the homestretch.
(Want to make the most of the political CTV advertising opportunity? Be sure to check out our guide.)
Video and display dominate political ad spending—commanding 68% and 24%, respectively, of all digital political spend during the midterms—and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. But where are there underutilized opportunities for campaigns that want to get the most bang for their budgetary buck and maximize their reach with target voter audiences?
One under-adopted format: native, which advertisers can use to insert their creative into the feeds of news and other websites. Native advertising made up just 3% of political ad spend in 2022—perhaps because, to many marketers, native feels a bit more complicated (or even intimidating) than familiar, tried-and-true ad types such as video or display banner ads. But leveraging native can be as simple as taking your Facebook creative, loading it into your DSP (or your agency partner’s DSP), and then testing and experimenting with different headlines to see what performs best across different sites. It’s a great way to get your message in front of voters right alongside other content they’re consuming on sites that they know and trust.
Audio is another underutilized channel amongst political advertisers. While spend on the medium did rise from 2020 to 2022, it still accounted for just 1% of digital spend in the midterms (compared to 6.4% of overall digital ad spend in 2023), indicating there’s plenty of ripe opportunity that’s currently going untapped.
Audio delivers plenty of addressable audiences that political advertisers are keen on reaching—with over 225 million US listeners who tune in for an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes per day— while offering many of the same emotional and educational benefits that come with video. Best of all, the inventory is now widely available programmatically (even for broadcast radio ads), making it easier than ever to buy while providing the same types of targeting tactics available elsewhere in the programmatic ecosystem. Add it all together, and audio is poised to be a breakout channel for political in 2024.
Lastly, in many districts, digital out-of-home can be a savvy and effective way to raise awareness and get your candidate or cause in front of voters as they navigate through the world. Like audio, more and more DOOH inventory is now available programmatically, so for many political advertisers, it’s increasingly becoming a channel to know.
While much of the digital advertising world is focused on signal loss and the impending impact of Google’s promised deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome in 2024, the approach among many in the political advertising world has resembled something closer to, “Let’s just not think about it, and hopefully we won’t have to deal until 2026.” Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ongoing challenges around audience targeting for political marketers—or that a Q3 Google announcement about Chrome going cookieless couldn’t deliver an October surprise to campaigns nationwide.
Granted, the political world is used to frequent (and sometimes last-minute) changes to their digital targeting and reach capabilities. Since 2018, a range of US states including California, Virginia, and many others have introduced new levels of nuance in their regulation of digital political advertising. That same year, Facebook (now Meta) began its now-standard political ad buyer verification process, before adding new disclaimer requirements in 2019, and then eliminating targeting by race, ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation from its platforms starting in 2022. Spotify barred political and advocacy advertising in late 2019, only to re-introduce them in 2022. In 2020, Google removed the ability to audience target for election ads, limiting advertisers to reaching voters with age, gender, geographic and contextual targeting. The tech giant will also require political advertisers to disclose any use of AI in their ads. Add it all together, and it’s clear that political advertisers are already seasoned pros when it comes to working around increased targeting restrictions.
Looking ahead to 2024, political advertisers should ensure they are working with partners who have contingencies such as privacy-friendly identifiers and data-based solutions in place to ensure proper targeting and reach in the run up to Election Day. And many channels—including broadcast TV, CTV, and Facebook/Instagram—will go mostly (if not entirely) unaffected by such a change, outside of a potential spike in CPMs should more advertisers start running to those safe havens in the wake of any major signal loss.
Lastly, political marketers are likely to increasingly leverage geopolitical targeting tactics across their programmatic ad buys. According to Basis’ 2022 US election digital ad spend data, almost 20% of political programmatic ads used geopolitical targeting to reach voters in specific districts. Of those, 51% leveraged congressional district targeting, while 32% used state senate district targeting. These types of geo-based targeting tactics are expected to grow even more prominent if Google does indeed deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome over the course of the election cycle.
Sadly, connecting with voters in 2024 will mean more than just running ads in their markets. Misinformation and disinformation appear likely to play an outsized role in the coming elections, and political marketers will need to prepare accordingly.
Not helping matters: trust and safety teams have been dramatically downsized at many tech companies, including Google and YouTube parent company Alphabet, Facebook and Instagram’s Meta, Amazon, and X. When you combine that with the emergence of generative AI, an electorate that is increasingly partisan, and bad actors both domestic and foreign that aim to sew misinformation and disinformation into the political discourse, political marketers will face unique challenges when attempting to build a foundation of trust and connection with voters.
To their credit, Google, Meta, TikTok and others have expressed confidence in their ability to leverage both AI and human monitoring to combat any inevitable waves of misinformation on their channels. But in the meantime, the best thing political marketers can do to break through the noise is to get as strategic as possible about leveraging tactics that put their messaging in front of voters—particularly undecided voters and/or “persuadables” in the political center—while leaning on compelling creative that fosters an emotional connection with a public that’s often increasingly skeptical of fact-based appeals.
There’s no perfect way to stop misinformation from impacting an election, but with decisiveness and deliberateness around targeting and messaging—and by leveraging brand safety tools from partners like NOBL, Comscore, Grapeshot, and Peer39—campaigns can make sure their official voice is a loud and clear part of the conversation.
While there are plenty of reasons for political marketers to run a steady stream of ads throughout the entirety of the campaign process, spend tends to spike at two key times: the weeks leading up to a state’s primary day, and the four-plus weeks leading up to Election Day in November.
A Basis study found that 50% of digital ad budgets for the 2022 midterms were spent in the last 30 days before Election Day, with half of that spend allocated during the 10 days running up to the election as campaigns work to get out the vote. While presidential elections tend to have higher turnouts (and higher energy) than the midterms, down-ballot candidates could face unique challenges in 2024.
According to numerous polls, the two presumptive presidential nominees whose names will appear at the top of the ticket are widely unpopular, meaning it could fall to those down-ballot candidates to rally supporters to the polls—and, potentially, to win over voters who may not feel particularly excited about checking the box for either party’s presidential contenders. That means tapping fundraising and awareness channels early and often, and earmarking significant budget for the homestretch in October and November.
Of course, if all political advertisers are saving their budgets for the end of the campaign, there’s not going to be a whole lot of opportunity to capitalize on lower pricing anywhere near Election Day. If you’re looking for an edge, your best bet is to try to lock in favorable pricing by negotiating in advance via PMP deals, programmatic guaranteed, or even direct buys with preferred vendors.
Political advertisers face an especially complex and competitive 2024 election season. But by putting these insights and recommendations to work, marketing teams will be better positioned to find a competitive edge that helps lift their candidates and causes to victory. We hope these tips help you as you march on toward Election Day, and best of luck with the rest of the campaign!
The past few years have been a wild ride for advertisers and consumers alike. Coming out of the pandemic, a flight of buzzy trends emerged—each promising to usher in an exciting new future for digital advertising filled with transformation and potential. Unfortunately, most of these so-called trends quickly fizzled out, leaving disappointed marketers wondering how we can separate the true “trends” from what’s merely “trendy.”
This webinar promises to take a realistic approach to the trends set to shape 2024. Basis Technologies’ VP of Media Innovations & Technology Noor Naseer will share insights on what lies ahead so marketers can tune out the noise and instead focus their attention on the most important, proven trends that will shape the year to come.
Digital video is everywhere: from the TikToks and Reels we scroll through when we first wake up, to the news we digest during our lunch break, to the videos that pop up as we browse dinner recipes, to the YouTube videos we watch on the treadmill, to the TV we stream as we’re winding down for the evening. Thanks to this omnipresence, digital video provides advertisers a distinct opportunity to connect with people when and where they’re consuming media—and in a highly engaging and captivating way.
In this guide, we explore how savvy marketing teams can leverage digital video channels effectively and cohesively to create a customer journey that engages audiences and inspires action. We dig into the latest trends, insights, and research to help advertisers integrate digital video successfully into their paid media campaigns.
Ready to level up your digital video advertising expertise? Download your copy of the guide today!
What’s new in the realms of paid search and social media? This month, Nick Tuttle, Director of Search Media Investment, and Lauren Brown, Director of Social Media Investment, compiled all the latest news, trends, and resources for easy access.
TikTok and Google are exploring a new partnership that would integrate Google’s search prompts and web-based search results into TikTok’s own search stream. Clicking or tapping a result would open a web browser within TikTok rather than opening Chrome or another app. This initiative arose from studies that, according to Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan, show “almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
All of X’s interaction counts and action buttons—except the views counter, added back in December—may soon only be visible within the post details (viewable once users click into or expand the post). When Instagram tested something similar in 2019, post engagement declined, so this will likely cause a drop in X’s reposts and quotes. However, analysts suggest this could also slow the spread of misinformation and may lessen competition for vanity metrics.
X appears to be close to launching new pricing tiers for X Premium, including an ad-free subscription option. Recently surfaced back-end code suggests there may be three tiers: X Premium Basic, X Premium Standard, and X Premium Plus. X owner Elon Musk claims that encouraging users to pay for the app is a way to combat the rise of bots and AI-generated spam.
The Wall Street Journal detailed pricing for Meta’s proposed ad-free Facebook and Instagram subscriptions, based on Meta’s submission to European Union officials. The impetus for these ad-free options is the EU’s evolving data privacy regulations, which put more strain on Meta’s capacity to personalize ads and content based on user activity. According to WSJ, Meta’s plans would cost around $14 per month for an ad-free Facebook or $17 per month for both Facebook and Instagram.
Microsoft kicked off the fall with a series of new product updates for Audience Ads. The tech giant said these updates will help advertisers achieve better results with less effort and create more engaging ads that are served to a higher-value audience. Expect to see ads in new markets, within more games, on additional video platforms, and in the free consumer version of Microsoft 365. Predictive targeting and new AI bid strategies are also part of the rollout.
Despite investing $100 billion in Bing, the search engine says it simply can't compete with Google due to its monopoly position, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The ongoing US vs. Google anti-trust trial has already uncovered behavior from Google like raising ad prices to meet revenue targets. The trial’s outcome could potentially reshape the company and the search landscape.
As the world's largest video sharing platform, YouTube is ripe for data analysis on its users, content, and performance metrics. A look at the current state of AI-generated content, user and creator demographics, and expectations for multiple languages for accessibility has uncovered trends that could soon impact YouTube creative development and audience targeting.
Meta is rolling out its first generative AI-powered features in Ads Manager for ad creative—Text Variations, Image Expansion, and Background Generation—to enable the creation of ad variations quickly and automatically, with the system optimizing to the best-performing ads.
Amazon is set to roll out upgraded generative AI capabilities that offer a more conversational, detailed, and personalized user experience. Shoppers will be able to compare products in real time and seek additional details, reviews, and recommendations tailored to their search context. Advertisers may need to reassess campaign strategies to maintain visibility among AI-powered results.
Want a monthly digest of all the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the Basis Scout newsletter!
For much of its history, the digital advertising world has been something of an iceberg: its surface shiny and bright, lighting up internet users’ screens while supporting organizational growth and powering the digital economy. Adtech largely ran out of the public’s site—back before the average Joe understood the connection between a morning Google search for lampshades and an afternoon ad for a home goods store.
But further down, below the surface, cookies and third-party data and a web of interconnected platforms and ad networks and publishers and advertisers intertwined to serve targeted ads to customers who had little idea as to why they were seeing them—and even less of an idea of how much of their personal data was being used in the process.
For better or worse, it sure seems like those days are behind us for good.
While the mechanics of digital advertisers long stayed out of the spotlight, most modern consumers now have at least a baseline understanding of how cookies work, how apps try to track them on their mobile devices, and how their social media and search activities are the fuel that powers the data economy. And, with that knowledge in hand, the majority of those consumers are increasingly invested in the privacy and ethical use of their data: Between March 2022 and March 2023, 85% of consumers reported deleting a mobile app, 82% opted not to share their personal data, 78% avoided a certain website, and 67% didn’t make an online purchase as a result of privacy concerns. Regulators, in tandem, have passed and enacted (and enforced) a variety of privacy-minded digital advertising laws in states across the US— from California, to Virginia, to Connecticut.
Of course, data privacy isn’t the only aspect of digital advertising that’s being pulled into the spotlight. A slew of Justice Department lawsuits and FTC activity now show that the world is paying very, very close attention to the inner workings of digital advertising and many of its major players. And while the coming deprecation of third-party cookies might seem like all the massive change that advertisers can handle right now, marketers will need to read the writing on the wall if they want to position themselves for success in this new era of heightened scrutiny.
For those keeping track at home: Trust + Advertising = Essential. Anti-trust + Advertising = Huge, Existential Problem.
A handful of high profile antitrust lawsuits are currently poised to impact two of digital advertising’s biggest players—tech titans Google and Amazon—and, depending on the results of those suits, reshape the entire industry.
Let’s take a closer look at each:
The US Justice Department, together with 11 state Attorneys General, is taking Google to court over its alleged violation of US antitrust laws, claiming the company—which owns a 90% market share in search—made anticompetitive deals to secure and maintain its status as the preeminent search engine on phones and web browsers. These included multibillion-dollar agreements with Apple and Firefox-maker Mozilla ensuring their products would use Google as the default search engine on consumers’ phones and browsers. The Justice Department’s argument is that Google's made these deals to maintain its dominance and eliminate opportunities for competition from other search rivals. Meanwhile, Google maintains that the company’s longtime search market supremacy is due simply to the fact that its search engine is just better than everyone else’s, and that consumers are going with the best option out there.
A key part of the government's case is focused on how Google has long leaned on its search dominance to fuel its $162.5 billion paid search empire and to harvest reams and reams of consumer data, which it then uses to power its larger ad business and, of course, to keep people using its platform and its products. But it’s that overall ad business that’s the focus of yet another lawsuit facing the tech giant.
The Justice Department’s second suit against Google (which, like the other case, is also supported by several state Attorneys General) pertains to the company’s digital advertising presence more broadly. In this case, the Justice Department is arguing that Google is so deeply involved with every aspect of the digital advertising ecosystem that they have an anticompetitive and monopolistic hold on the space. The following visual from the Justice Department illustrates Google’s dominating presence on both the sell-side and the buy-side of the digital advertising business (and, for good measure, its ad exchange):
If the Justice Department is successful in either of these antitrust cases against Google, the outcome will likely result in massive fines or, potentially, the forced breakup of Google’s advertising business. Whether that means a negotiated deal with prosecutors where Google spins off some or all of their ad business into its own separate entity, or whether it means that selling certain parts that ad business to other folks in the industry, remains to be seen. But no matter the outcome, if the Justice Department is successful, it will mean monumental implications for everyone in the digital advertising industry.
Before we dive into all of those implications, though, let’s look at one final antitrust lawsuit for good measure, this one targeting Amazon:
Lastly, we have the lawsuit against Amazon by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here, the FTC has filed a suit against Amazon alleging an anticompetitive hold of the online “e-tail” space, where Amazon has an enormous advantage over most of its “competitors” (if you can even call any other American online retailers “competitors” to Amazon). While this case only just filed, Amazon will likely point to brands like Walmart or Kroger as suitable adversaries and question why those retail and grocery giants aren’t being sued, too. It remains to be seen how this case will play out, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on, especially given Amazon's
Prime dominant position in the retail media space.
The convergence of these three cases, along with the increased scrutiny over data privacy in digital advertising and Meta’s ongoing struggles with regulators in both the US and the EU, reveals some inconvenient but essential truths about the current state of digital advertising and the larger digital ecosystem in which advertisers participate.
First, it shows that regulation of digital advertising is starting to pick up here in the US, much more so than we have seen in previous years or under previous administrations. Combined with the continued rollout of state-level privacy laws (not to mention the industry’s own self-regulation in cutting down on third-party cookies), we are starting to see more regulation in the US around these platforms and large tech companies in a way that could lead to an industry-wide sea change.
Second, it shows that the digital advertising industry has a big, bright spotlight on it for the first time since…well, pretty much ever. Historically, much of digital advertising industry has felt like a black box, and that has led to some fairly understandable criticism—from complaints about insufficient transparency within programmatic advertising, to the too-often-covert ways in which many companies have gathered user data, to the subsequent difficulties users have had in trying to manage that data. But with government entities and consumers alike showing new levels of interest in the digital advertising ecosystem, how it works, who the main players are, and what exactly they’re doing with people's data, that black box is being pried wide open for the world to see.
Add it all together, and it’s very possible that we’re entering a new era of digital advertising—one defined by a level of scrutiny this industry has never before had to feel. Consumers are pushing for increased transparency, and regulators are cracking down on giants like Google and Amazon in ways that could significantly reshape the landscape. Advertisers will need to prepare accordingly.
So, how can digital advertisers best situate themselves for adapting to all this change? A few recommendations:
At a minimum, digital advertisers should make sure they’re keeping an eye on regulatory developments. It’s not yet clear how these three cases will play out—they could lead to anything from the indefinite continuation of the status quo up to (and including)a radically and permanently altered digital advertising landscape. Regardless, it's critical for digital advertisers to keep tabs on what’s going on so that they can make informed decisions based on the latest developments.
Next, advertisers must prioritize consumer data privacy—not only because of the challenges posed by signal loss, but because consumers (and government regulators) are demanding it. Marketers would do well to examine the questions behind the identity crisis, integrate privacy-friendly solutions like contextual and first-party data-based targeting, and make sure their teams invest in learning everything they can about privacy-friendly advertising. Investments in first-party data hygiene (and things like CDPs) are likely to prove particularly critical—especially if advertisers end up needing to work with new partners due to the result of these antitrust suits—and finding reliable partners with access to lots of high-quality inventory and data will be essential in the years ahead.
If these lawsuits do, in fact, lead to a world in which there is even more media fragmentation and complexity, marketers will need to ensure they have the requisite tools and systems to navigate that complexity efficiently and effectively. And don’t forget the importance of the company you keep: Finding and establishing good relationships with your vendors, and aligning with future-forward partners (aka people who value data compliance and consumer trust as much as you do), will be key.
Finally, this spotlight on digital advertising creates a great opportunity for advertisers to step back and take stock of their strategies, partnerships, and systems to ensure that they’re not just using whatever the default partner or technology is simply because it’s the default. If advertising via Google or Amazon makes sense for you and your organization, that’s great! But it's still worth taking that step back to identify whether and where there might be other opportunities. And in a world where we may end up seeing major changes at major players in the digital advertising space, now is the perfect time to start that evaluation process with the comfort of knowing that it will likely be at least a year or two before the result of these cases start having real world implications.
With a variety of forces at work to put a spotlight on the industry, the scale of all these potential changes to the digital advertising ecosystem can feel a bit overwhelming. But with change comes opportunity, and this new focus on our industry offers marketers a rare moment to take that aforementioned step back and ensure that all their advertising practices are aligned with what consumers are asking for and, ultimately, are what make the most sense for you and/or your clients.
At the same time, this is an enormous opportunity for the industry as a whole. If the Justice Department and the FTC win their cases against Google and Amazon, the digital advertising world could well wake up to a more competitive playing field, ushering in new space for challengers to generate more of the thing that’s driven our industry from the very start: innovation.
Want to ensure that you’re regularly keeping tabs on all the most important industry developments, with just one click? Sign up for the Basis Scout newsletter to get a monthly digest of all the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports delivered straight to your inbox each month.
Oh, agencies. What hasn’t the world thrown at you lately? COVID-19? Check. The Great Resignation? Check. New regulations, the rise of generative AI, and the planned deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome: Check, check, check. Did we mention media fragmentation yet? Or prolonged economic turbulence and uncertainty?
We could go on, but you get the idea: There have been so many non-stop changes in the digital advertising world that trying to manage it all can feel like a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole. How can agency leaders approach this evolution thoughtfully and strategically, despite the many unknowns?
To find out, we spoke with five industry veterans to gather their insights into what agency leaders need to know about this moment and identify how they can situate their organizations to not only adapt as the industry transforms, but to lead the way towards positive change.
Katie McAdams, Chief Marketing Officer, Basis Technologies: Fragmentation and the proliferation of platforms needed to execute media have increased at a pace that agencies cannot keep up with without adding headcount and costs. At the same time, agencies need to drive profit, growth, and media spend.
April Weeks, EVP of Media Services and Operations, Basis Technologies: The rapid emergence of AI and increasing role of technology within business operations, the need to deliver a cohesive performance story across all channels/data sets, and preparation for third-party cookie deprecation and the various related impacts to campaign performance, including signal loss. Many agencies also continue to deal with talent retention challenges and labor costs. At the same time, agency leaders are faced with balancing business growth, navigating a rapidly changing marketing landscape, and economic headwinds.
The urgency for agencies to evolve can be linked to all these pressures, coupled with a need to provide increased value for clients. Many processes and ways of working within agencies are rooted in legacy systems that do not garner efficiency or allow talent to focus on the highest-value client work. With the rate of change happening across the industry, agencies that do not develop a framework and plan for modernizing their operational model that’s inclusive of AI and technology will likely encounter increased challenges with both client and talent retention—all during a time when there will likely be downward pressure from clients to deliver more for less cost.
Ryan Manchee, SVP of Brand Marketing, Basis Technologies: In-housing and talent recruitment/retention are two of the biggest pressures pushing agencies to evolve—but it’s not that simple. While the momentum around the in-housing trend has tapered, the threat remains that a brand will bring certain functions in-house, leaving agencies without that business. Meanwhile, brands in-house because they believe they can do the work better (i.e., cheaper, more transparently, or faster), whether that relates to media buying, creative production, or something else. The other big issue is around both the recruitment and retention of talent. There has always been volatility for agencies around talent, but we've seen a growing trend to add more mid- and junior-level employees to complete intense work that isn’t the most inspiring. Then the pandemic hit, and now agencies are pushing for a return to the office. These factors combined are enough to push a significant number of future agency leaders to switch industries.
Mike Olson, SVP of Agency Development, Basis Technologies: Evolving talent, slow-paying clients, high interest rates, and challenges to winning new business are forcing agencies to evolve. Agencies are caught in the middle between clients who are cutting budgets and paying slower, and platforms that have tight payment terms. On top of that, if an agency needs to get an increased LOC (Letter of Credit) from their bank, the interest rate is prohibitive from a cost of capital perspective. So, agencies will continue to build a puzzle of platforms with longer payment terms so they can address any necessary cash situations to keep their businesses fiscally healthy.
AW: I recommend implementing a test and learn approach, where you have the ability to take smart risks and fail fast. Don’t wait to understand how changes in the industry will impact your business. Begin taking steps now to experiment with AI, explore how technology can drive operational value for your business, and understand where your internal talent spends their time and how to maximize their value for the business. While many agencies are already doing so, don’t underestimate the value of preparing clients for third-party cookie deprecation and how that will impact data strategies and campaign analytics.
RM: Agencies are hired by brands because of a specialty, because of their unique point of view, and because they stay on top of what’s new and what’s coming. Agencies also help drive culture and align a brand’s products or services with cultural moments, so they are memorable. The agencies that keep these aspects of their service in focus have been and will stay competitive and successful. As an industry, we’re often too focused on innovation of technology over the importance of intersecting with culture.
MO: Agencies need to take a stance of support—and also of accountability—to their talent. By providing a culture that allows for the best employees to continue to iterate on how to achieve success differently, your team will feel empowered to continue driving the business forward. By keeping your best talent engaged, motivated, autonomous, and focusing on executing day to day, agency leaders will help ensure revenue, so the fiscal health of the business is sustainable. At the same time, it’s important for agency leadership to acknowledge that despite the best culture and talent, macroeconomic headwinds can still get in the way of business goals. And making sure employees are contributing to the culture and company that is providing for them is critical to keep the business growing.
Zach Moore, SVP of Digital Media Operations, Basis Technologies: Agencies need to always be thinking about the uncertainty that brands face around the world every single day. An agency always needs to continue to evolve their service offerings to stay competitive, and of course, that means investing in your people. Agencies should be doubling down on talent, keeping their best and brightest, and really pushing for technology to take on more of the tasks that, while absolutely business critical, don’t inspire and retain clients.
AW: In my conversations with agency leaders, the topics of business growth, coupled with short-term economic uncertainty, are typically top-of-mind. Everyone seems to be focused on what they can do to create cost savings and efficiency within the business while continuing to meet client needs. This creates an opportunity for agency leaders to evaluate the role of technology within their business.
MO: A few topics are at the forefront of my conversations with agency leaders. First: how ready they are for cookie deprecation. If an agency is a heavy digital spender and is not testing cookieless conversions and contextual targeting capabilities, they are already behind. How to win larger clients is another big topic, as well as how to break up with smaller clients that require too much work from internal teams. Shoring up platform agreements to help with the flow of cash in and out of the agency is definitely top of mind. On top of all of that, agencies are thinking about how to provide a culture and environment where talent can thrive and produce good work. Whether, why, and how to return to the office is on a lot of leaders’ minds right now.
In terms of how agency leaders are thinking about evolving, it all comes down to getting clear on what their business excels at, and then doubling down with good talent while reducing efforts to try and “boil the ocean,” which tends to end with you doing everything just OK.
AW: AI- and automation-driven tools will reshape how deliverables are created as well as their associated timelines for creation, and job descriptions will adapt as a result. Work that currently takes multiple teams will be reduced to fewer people, timelines for development and delivery will accelerate, and roles within agencies will become less siloed with some aspects of the campaign development and execution process becoming fully automated. Through automation, there will be an opportunity to evaluate where talent is best utilized, and shift their time from low-value to high-value tasks. Through these changes, it is likely we will see opportunities to explore new ways of monetizing the agency/client relationship.
RM: Mitigating the mundane and monotonous to free up time for the fun and fantastic. If AI and automation can deliver on that promise, then agencies will be well positioned for growth, and for their team’s growth.
KM: Generative AI is having a moment right now, and while it’s not going away, I think the hype is going to die down once we start to see a lot of AI-generated content and creative that looks and sounds the same. Marketers need to be smart about how and when to use GenAI. It can be a great starting point to spur creativity and save time, but I think smart marketers and agencies are thinking about how their teams can grow more effective by using these tools, not how they will be replaced by them altogether.
MO: Humans should not be completely removed from the equation. The magic place we want to get to is a beneficial blend of AI and humans to ensure efficiencies throughout the agency. Shifting employee responsibilities from low-value work to high-value strategic work will not only empower them to grow, but also allow businesses to reduce costs needed to pay people for low-value activities that machines can do quickly and accurately.
ZM: I think the noise around AI and creative production has been a bit of a letdown. Swapping backgrounds and images on a bunch of display ads has been around in various forms for years. I would encourage less focus on that and more of a commonsense approach that looks to incorporate AI basics into the typical employees’ routine and process, to help them become better, more knowledgeable, and more effective at their job.
KM: With deprecation of the cookie finally nearing (we think?!?), we may see agencies shifting back towards relying on their creative and storytelling to drive performance. I think we’ve gone so far in the direction of focusing on audience targeting tactics that the creative often ends up taking a back seat in the conversation. It’ll be exciting to see how we can move the creative back into the driver’s seat, and I think the industry is ready for that to happen.
MO: Agencies that can run their business and generate profit by focusing on their core competencies will continue to thrive, so long as the culture to attract top talent remains in place. Growth at all costs is no longer a winning strategy. Intentionality on profitability is critical. We know the media side of our business evolves daily, so staying current and ahead of technological and device trends is crucial to guide clients and gain trust. Also, we cannot ignore creative. The cornerstone of any successful ad campaign is compelling creative. AI can help to build units quickly, but to conceptually develop captivating creative is a unique skill set that's innately human.
While the best approach to evolution will vary based on each agency’s characteristics, strengths, and goals, there are a few north stars leaders can follow to ensure they aren’t left behind. These include prioritizing creative, leading the way in adopting privacy-friendly advertising methods, and investing strategically in AI- and automation-driven tools designed to make your teams more efficient while allowing them to focus on more strategic and fulfilling tasks.
Regardless, there is a lot for agency leaders to keep track of as our industry evolves. Want an easy way to stay up to date on all the latest developments and thought leadership? Sign up for Basis Scout and we’ll send all the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports straight to your inbox each month.