What are digital media giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter doing to combat the rise of fake news? And what steps can your agency take now to protect your brand and your media investment?

Portrait of Rowdie Erwin, Digital Media Strategist at KC

Rowdie Erwin, Digital Media Strategist

With the explosive growth of the internet over the last 20 years, the availability and breadth of available information and shared knowledge has never been greater. Like any repository of information, this information is represented by all manners of subject matter and an endless number of use cases.

That said, for each website that is fact checked, credible and trustworthy—there are ten (and likely orders of magnitude more) that are the opposite. User Generated Content (UGC) has become king in the last ten years; Millennials say that information received through UGC is trusted 50% more than information from other media sources, including TV, newspapers and magazines (Ipsos Millenial Social Influence Study, 2014)

Unfortunately, included in UGC are mountains of misleading, incredulous, and often damaging content that goes unchecked and into the free ether of the web, available for anyone to interpret and spread as fact. The issue has been increasingly recognized since the 2016 election cycle, most popularly under the “Fake News” moniker.

Though “Fake News” (potentially damaging and verifiably false stories or articles written to discredit an opposing viewpoint’s credibility) was birthed as a political issue, UGC has developed and contorted its self into a whole new slew of health risks and societal burdens for the general public, the tech companies that are responsible for hosting the content, and the political infrastructure that is responsible for these company’s governance.

The spread of existing conspiracy theories and the rise of new ones has picked up significant momentum in recent years. This has resulted in irreversible damage on the micro (Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out, Ed Pilkington – The Guardian) and has proven deadly on the macro (Drowned out by the algorithm: Vaccination advocates struggle to be heard online.)

To aid in combatting the rise of these issues, on January 25thGoogle’s sister company YouTube announcedplans to improve their recommendation algorithm by “reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways – such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

Facebook has also been in a very public position of damage control and increased regulatory pressure since their implication in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which raised a mountain of red flags about user privacy and security, as well as who can purchase ads on their platform (and how easily—looking at you, Russia.) They’ve also faced similar struggles to Google in the criticism they’ve received from all directions for the mismanagement or complete lack of moderation on their platform—

“…by conservatives for what they perceive is a liberal bias, by liberals for allowing white nationalism and Holocaust denial on the platform, by governments and news organizations for allowing fake news and disinformation to flourish, and by human rights organizations for its use as a platform to facilitate gender-based harassment and livestream suicide and murder. Facebook has even been blamed for contributing to genocide.” Jason Koebler & Joseph Cox

Their initial (publicized) steps taken towards a solution for these issues was to hire 7,500 moderators and increase the capabilities of the platform’s AI, but given the scale of the issue (~7 bilion posts a week) it’s proven quite difficult.

Twitter is an important part of this conversation, as well. The platform has completely reconfigured the geo-political and civic landscape the last 10 years, changing the way conversations around important issues are discussed and progress on the local, city, state, national and international stage. The hashtag began as a way for brands to engage customers but has since been used to amplify the conversation around social issues, trigger political engagement and protests, and overthrow dictatorial tyrants.

Twitter faces many of the same difficulties that Facebook does, though. There has been a massive amount of criticism over methodology used to moderate their content.  While bullying, blatantly racist or homophobic attacks and similar devices fall neatly into a violation of Twitter’s platform usage policy; the conversation becomes a grey area and increasingly difficult to police when it comes to dealing with the expression of social/political ideologies, most notably white nationalism, which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been slow to condemn or speak to directly.

An entire article could be written on each of the three companies and associated issues mentioned above: How do you moderate content posted by the general public in a way that doesn’t compromise the principle of free speech that our country was founded upon? Should companies with as much influence on the everyday lives of the public be responsible for making decisions on universal “truths”, especially in instances where a high percentage of the population might believe in an opposing viewpoint? If a government can indirectly exert this much control over the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of its constituents, where is the line drawn?

These issues are layered and multi-faceted and will likely take years to truly address in full, but brands need to advertise today. So, what can agencies do to protect their clients from the negative impact of unregulated user generated content in the meantime?

At KC, we address brand safety at every step of the media buying process:

  1. Rigorous 3P vetting process – Before adding any 3rdparty vendors to a media plan, we ensure that the partner in question is willing to provide complete transparency into where all ads will be served via “domain level reporting.” Any hesitation on the matter will be considered an immediate point of disqualification from our media plan.
  2. Partner Solutions for Increased Brand Safety – Each media plan is subject to a unique combination of IAS, DoubleVerify, Peer39, Grapeshot and MOAT brand safety parameters that ensures every impression served will be viewable (by humans) in contextually relevant, brand-safe locations.
  3. The Trade Desk and White Ops MediaGuard integration – Our media buying platform is integrated with White Ops, an industry leading invalid traffic and fraud detection platform credited for its partnership with the US Government in foiling several multi-million dollar international ad-fraud schemes, including the storied Methbotand 3eve. This integration scans impressions in real time across participating supply-side platforms, blocking fraudulent impressions before they’re purchased. KC’s media plans only serve impressions against White Ops verified SSP’s.
  4. Ongoing inventory management – Media buyers at KC are monitoring domain level reporting on a weekly basis for opportunities to blacklist sites that appear suspicious or do not meet our standard of quality.
  5. Transparent Client-Communications – KC will always make site lists available to clients for inspection—at any time. Simple as that.

It is the responsibility of agencies and their media buyers to take ownership for where their client’s ads are served using the tools that are available. At KC, we’ve placed a high level of importance around this by taking the steps detailed above. If your agency isn’t willing to talk about the steps they’re taking to address brand safety, give us a call.

 

Anne Bailey

Anne Bailey, Account Supervisor

Email marketing is an effective tactic to directly communicate and engage with existing and prospective customers. Although it is likely your email lists are highly targeted to the appropriate audience and/or contains individuals who have opted to receive information from your company or brand, it is imperative to continuously hone those lists and the content strategies that will yield the greatest results and conversions.

As marketing/advertising experts, we often believe we know our customers better than anyone and that the content we create is on strategy and will resonate with that audience we know so well. However, in a world of overexposed consumers and ad clutter at every intersection – especially in your inbox – it’s more important than ever to test what really works to better understand how your audience engages and behaves with the messages you are sending. This is where A/B testing comes in to play.

What is email marketing A/B split testing?

A/B testing, otherwise known as split testing, is an important step in any successful email marketing campaign. It allows you to verify or better understand which content will be most effective, ultimately generating better results.

How does A/B testing work?

Typically, your email marketing platform allows you to set up multiple campaigns over time based on optimizations you’ve made from you’re A/B test learnings.

There are several ways to approach A/B testing an email campaign.

  • Test subject lines– do subject lines with an incentive or a teaser yield the best open rate?
  • Test the “from” name– see whether email audience is more responsive to emails coming from a brand or company name
  • Test CTAs– see which CTA resulted in more clicks
  • Test imagery– depending on your audience, a lifestyle image may be more compelling than other design elements such as illustrations or GIFs
  • Test day and/or time of sending your email campaigns– there may be specific days or times of the day your email target audience is most likely to engage with your emails

How to set and measure A/B test results?

Start with defining the email campaign goal or objective and what success looks like. Pull previous results to set benchmarks that justify those success goals.

  • If your objective is to drive awareness only, a higher open rate could be an indicator of success so you may want to test what subject lines are most effective.
  • If your objective is to drive clicks or conversions, you may want to test CTAs or headlines that drive action.

Over time, you will begin to collect enough data to help guide email content decisions for future campaigns.

A/B test best practices

A/B testing isn’t black and white and there are several approaches you can take. However, there are a few best practices to keep in mind as a guide to get you closer to the results you want.

  • Test as large a sample as you can for more accurate result
  • If you’re just starting out, focus A/B test efforts on measurable elements like subject line, CTAs and imagery
  • Test various email campaigns, from general awareness emails to conversion and trigger emails
  • Let the data speak for itself even if it reveals information that negates your initial gut instinct
  • Test early and often. Consumer behaviors can change over time, your strategy should change with them.
  • Test one variable at a time for best results. If you want to test more than one, look into multivariate testing.

Here at KC we are firm believers in building strategies and recommendations around facts – follow the data, not just your gut instinct. Instead of pouring unnecessary time and resources in to a guess and check approach, we take the guess work out of it and base decisions on results.


As experts in effective digital targeting, KC is always considering the changes in the media environment. Today, we look at Google’s new privacy initiatives and the many ways we’re already connecting our clients with relevant audiences while maintaining user privacy.

Jeannette Tschida, Media Director

First, a Little Background

Earlier this month, Google announced new initiatives around privacy, including giving users better control of the cookies that identify our online usage. Cookies are tiny data files that are placed on our computers as we move about the web. While these cookies are useful for delivering customized web page experiences or saving site login information, cookie data is also used by advertisers to deliver ads that are relevant to our online behavior. If you’re shopping online for something and start seeing ads for the same or similar products later, this is because cookies identify you as someone in-market for these products.

Google’s user controls will allow users to see which cookies are installed on their Chrome browser and help users differentiate between those that are useful (for better web experience or logins) versus those just tracking your online usage for other purposes like advertising.
Google isn’t the first to offer these settings. Apple and Mozilla have already developed similar settings for Safari and FireFox but Chrome makes up 62.8% of all browser share globally, while the other two browsers make up 15.8% and 4.8%, respectively (statcounter.com, April 2019).

In order to block cookies, it will be up to the user to manage these settings. Some experts feel that the impact of these changes won’t be significant because users will need to opt-out of cookies and most users don’t like to mess with their browser settings. So, at this point, it’s difficult to say what the real impact of these changes will be and when they’ll take place. Google has not shared a demo of the new settings nor have they provided a specific timeline.

4 Ways We’re Still Able to Connect
In the meantime, since more browsers are making it easier for users to block cookies, it’s important for us to find alternative ways of connecting with relevant audiences. Here are a few techniques we’re already using with many of our clients:
  1. 1st party data.Online users are likely to be more accepting of cookies from websites they intentionally visit versus third-party cookie data that is sold to advertisers. In addition to improving a user’s web experience, we’re able to use 1st party data to retarget users who have recently visited a client’s website and re-message them with other relevant product ads or offers.
  2. Contextual targeting. In some cases we’re able to build a contextual targeting strategy which allows us to place ads adjacent to content that contains a high-density of keywords that are relevant to our client’s products or services.  In this case, we assume the content qualifies the reader as a potential customer and we are less reliant on user/cookie data.
  3. Private marketplace.Some of our best performing campaigns are in partnership with high-quality publishers that have a high composition of readers who are aligned with our clients’ core target audiences.  In this instance, the content might qualify the user or the publisher’s own data might provide additional layers of relevant targeting.
  4. Location.We’re often utilizing geo-fencing tactics to reach users at a specific time and place like an event, tradeshow or retail location.  Different types of mobile targeting is based on IP address or GPS location.  In some cases we’ve even targeted the employees of a specific company at their offices.
The Future is More Cookies
Google intends to roll-out these features later this year but it’s taken them six years to make this announcement. In the near future, Chrome will require that developers identify which cookies are allowed to work across websites and which one are used to track users. It sounds like there is still work to be done but ultimately, it’s up to users to determine how cookies impact their online experiences.

Map showing the global network of independent agencies of AMIN WorldWide

Kruskopf & Company is proud to be the only Minneapolis agency in the Advertising & Marketing Independent Network (AMIN) Worldwide, an alliance of over 50 independently owned marketing agencies across the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

The benefit to our clients are many: From connecting with new customers, growing into global markets, building stronger brands, to giving you access to local insights.

But one of the biggest benefits our client get out of our affiliation with AMIN is access to robust target audience tools and resources. Agencies ten times our size don’t have many of these tools.

logos of media audience targeting tools and other agency capabilities

In this multi-channel world, these media data, analytics, research, planning and buying tools are essential in defining your target audience, getting your messages in the right place at the right time and constantly measuring and optimizing the performance of your campaigns.

Agencies in AMIN remain independently owned, but collaborate seamlessly to successfully meet any challenge our clients may have. More than dots on a map, we get to together twice a year at conferences to share cultural know-how, market wisdom, industry experience, and get to know each other personally.

Learn more about AMIN here.

Franchisees are busy people. So how can a franchisor help them improve their marketing when the world of media is changing rapidly? That’s one of the questions we tackled in a recent webinar. If you missed it, you can watch it here. And be sure to sign up for more insights and truths from KC. 

PART STRATEGY SESSION.
PART THERAPY SESSION.

Smart, bold ideas don’t just happen by accident. At KC, we’ve developed a proven process called Finding the Truth. It helps simplify complex business problems for our clients and their brands, and it forms the backbone of the work we create. A Truth Workshop is often a cornerstone of this process.

We’ve conducted many of these over the years, and while it isn’t absolutely necessary in every situation, our clients frequently tell us that they found a Truth Workshop invaluable in helping create alignment with key stakeholders and providing clarity and focus for their brands moving forward.

WHAT IS A TRUTH WORKSHOP? 

A Truth Workshop is an all-day, or half-day, off-site session where we gather the key stakeholders—marketing, sales, product engineers, company leaders—really anyone with insight to the situation. The goal is to allow everyone to be heard, to gather relevant facts, to reveal issues, and to enlighten opportunities.

During the session, KC leads and moderates a group discussion to help uncover all the Brand Truths (What are its strength and weaknesses? What are its goals?), Category Truths (What’s everyone else doing? What does the marketplace look like?), and Audience Truths (Who are these people and what do they really want?).

At the end of the session, individuals vote on the most important issues within each area. People often come into a Truth Workshop absolutely certain that they know the most important issue, and by the end of the day, with a broader perspective, they don’t even vote for that particular issue. It can be an enlightening and cathartic experience. And it’s even better when it takes place at the Truth Bar.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF A TRUTH WORKSHOP? 

KC then takes these truths away to chew on them and add our own insights. We develop a Truth Map which simplifies and distills the key issues and leads to One Simple Truth that forms that backbone of the work we create.

Our goal is to land on One Simple Truth that feels authentic to the brand, unique in the category and relevant to the audience. From there we develop a Brand Ethos which takes things one step further and begins to explore how the brand might express itself through personality and tone of voice. 

At the end of the process, you will have a Truth Map, One Simple Truth and a Brand Ethos. The essential building blocks of smart, bold ideas.