Posts Taged advertising

The Difficult Relationship Between Brands & YouTube Creators

youtube advertising

Every day, YouTube users watch nearly 5 billion videos. Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has become a culture-shaping video mecca that has created a new category of “celebrity.” Brands have jumped into the YouTube pool with both feet, taking advantage of those 5 billion daily views with ad buys on the videos of popular YouTube Creators and branded content of their own. From gaming “Let’s Plays” to beauty tutorials to snarky commentary on politics to the latest viral meme, influencers are creating content that brands want to be a part of. And YouTube creators have made lucrative careers from the brands’ ad dollars: in 2016, the highest earning personality was PewDiePie, who brought in $15 million last year.

But in 2017, all has not been well in the YouTube land. Due to several controversies (including one surrounding the aforementioned PewDiePie), the relationship between advertisers and creators (and the relationship between both of those parties and YouTube itself) has become strained. The issues could have far-reaching implications for net neutrality, influencer marketing, and the future of video on social media. Both creators and brands need each other to win the YouTube game, but struggle to define who is truly in charge.


The “Adpocalypse:” Creators need brands

In March of this year, YouTube and parent company Google had a full blown crisis on their hands: major brands were pulling their advertising due to Google’s inability to ensure that their ads didn’t end up playing in front of racist and offensive content. However, the issue wasn’t as cut -and-dry as advertisers wanted it to be; part of the issue is how Google can define and label offensive content.

Some videos are obviously offensive – those that contain extreme violence, gore, harassment, and blatant racist content are videos that advertisers (and probably the general public) don’t want to see monetized. However, in YouTube’s efforts to soothe brands’ fears, some of their most popular creators suddenly found their ad revenue tanking. Creators complained that the new “hate speech” algorithm was blocking their content unfairly, and taking video titles and content out of context. Several also pointed out that while their videos were being demonetized for things like violent content in a video game or “jokes” they said were taken out of context, the YouTube channels of news outlets that often show violent imagery and music videos with overtly sexual content still had ads attached.

YouTube creators are most successful when they create and share content with authenticity and connection to their audience. Sometimes, this includes content that isn’t “PG-13,” and brands may not want their logo and name associated with it. Staying true to their audience can come at a cost for creators, especially those who rely on YouTube for their livelihood.


Cutting the cable cord: Brand need creators

According to a survey in 2016, younger generations watch 2.5 time more internet video than cable TV. In fact, YouTube is the most viewed platform among this demographic – also beating out Netflix, Facebook, and Hulu. Millennials and Generation Z are spending their time with their favorite influencers on YouTube, who are more likely to personally connect with them on social media than an A-list celebrity in the newest show on AMC. They trust these YouTube creators because they can connect with them on a personal level.

As Generation Z comes of age and begins wielding more purchasing power, brands are realizing they need to reach these consumers where they live. Consumers aren’t seeking out brands anymore, and they don’t like traditional advertising. Longer ads on YouTube often come with the option to skip them, but most users will still see a few seconds of an ad before skipping it to get to their video. A well-made ad can still make an impact in those few seconds, and potentially be seen by millions of users when played in front of videos by YouTube’s most popular personalities.

For brands looking to build an even stronger connection, product placements are alive and well on YouTube. Influencer partnerships can take time to build, and creators are often picky about the brands they work with – the products need to be authentic to their persona on YouTube. Not every popular YouTuber is a fit for this type of promotion, either. Those who don’t focus lifestyle content may not have audiences that expect or even accept product promotion.

Companies who pull regular advertising due to concerns about the content on YouTube can run into a new challenge as well if they want to work with these influencers directly. Creators affected by a lack of ad revenue due to brands pulling their campaigns might not be inclined to partner with brands in other capacities – why would they support the brands that don’t support the platform their career is based on? If ad revenues continue to dip or stay stagnant, many popular creators will be seeking greener pastures, and diversifying their careers. There may not be creators for brands to partner with at all in the future.

The balance

Google and YouTube have the difficult task of balancing the authenticity and creativity that made YouTube so popular with the need to assure brands that their reputation isn’t at risk by purchasing ad space. The second half of 2017 will likely define YouTube’s future, as well as the future of influencer relations in marketing. The current situation is sticky – all three parties (creators, brands, and YouTube) need each other, but also need to put their own interests first. Internet video is still a bit Wild West – and YouTube will have to find a way to balance the creators’ desire to keep it that way and brands’ desire to reign it in.


What Thought Leadership is Not

thought leadership

Thought leadership” is often considered a buzzword in the marketing and PR world – little more than a spruced up advertisement for a company. However, if your content marketing pieces fit this description, then you’re not doing thought leadership. Thought leadership can be a strong, useful addition to a content marketing program and goes well beyond stuffing a reused blog full of keywords and hoping a Forbes editor will run it.

To understand what good thought leadership looks like, it can be beneficial to know what bad content looks like. Here’s what thought leadership is not:

Thought Leadership is Not Link Building

The main goal of thought leadership is not boosting your SEO program. That’s not to say these two programs can’t work together – they certainly can. A well-written thought leadership piece placed in a publication important to your business’ audience might also include a link to your website in your author bio. This is a great bonus and can help your company’s SEO results, but this should be considered a plus, not the end goal. Editors are not looking for opportunities to publish links to businesses’ websites, they’re looking to partner with thought leaders who can provide useful, actionable insights for their readers. Draft and pitch your thought leadership ideas with this at the forefront of your mind, and you will have more success in placing your content.

content writing

Thought Leadership is Not About You

Since editors want content that is relevant for their readers, it’s important to remember that this also means your thought leadership content isn’t about you. While it seems counter intuitive to say that a program designed to position yourself as a thought leader is not about you, this concept is the foundation of well-written pieces. Your content can and certainly should involve things you’ve learned and how you’ve built your personal expertise, but you should frame your articles with your readers in mind. What is useful to them? How can you help them on this topic? Your purpose isn’t to highlight your accomplishments and boost your ego. Focusing on your readers first makes an article more relevant, useful, and likely to be published.

Thought Leadership is Not a Chance to Talk About Your Company and Products

It all comes back to your readers – thought leadership isn’t about your company or products, either. While this type of content ultimately boosts your brand image, it isn’t advertising. Many publications outright prohibit contributed pieces that mention the author’s products and business in the text, and will remove links back to your site. Thought leadership requires brainstorming and planning to come up with topics that don’t focus on your products and services. The key is that the topics will be mildly related to, but not centered on what your brand does. It’s also possible for thought leadership pieces to be completely unrelated to the products your company sells. Think of topics your audience is interested in and that you can talk about without using your own products as a case study or solution.

Thought Leadership is Not Copying and Pasting Your Blog Posts

Your blog can be a great starting point for topic ideas for articles. However, you can’t just take a pre-written blog and try to pitch it to an editor as a thought leadership piece. Many publications don’t want material that’s been published elsewhere, blogs included. Your blog posts will also probably need some reworking to become less advertorial and more reader focused. You can write about the same topic or a similar one, but make sure it’s tailored to your audience and the publication you want to see it in.

Good Thought Leadership Is…

Knowing what thought leadership is not provides a jumping off point to a good program. A good thought leadership article is not easy or quick to put together. It will require some research, brainstorming, and drafting. It will require a constant focus on your reader, and putting your own brand in the background. It will also require some patience – you’re probably not going to be published in Forbes right away. But focusing on quality content can lead you to opportunities with publications your readers know and respect, and eventually lead to a stronger brand image overall.

Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm Updates – 3 Things to Know

facebook algorithm

For a company not even two decades old, Facebook has done a fantastic job integrating itself into the daily lives of people around the globe. It quickly became a hot spot for brands looking to connect to a wide variety of audiences, and public relations professionals have been including the platform in their communications plans ever since. However, Facebook hasn’t made their job easy. After successfully positioning themselves as a requirement of nearly any brand’s PR, the social media giant has continuously made it harder for companies to reach their Facebook followers.

Despite keeping up the appearance of a brand friendly platform in recent years, Facebook’s frequent newsfeed algorithm changes have cut back on the reach that companies are able to achieve. Their most recent changes, announced June 29, 2016, will redirect social media users back to what Facebook says was its original intention – connecting with family and friends. Content on users’ newsfeeds will highlight posts from their friends and family, rather than posts from brands and pages. This is a stricter version of a change that has been happening since Facebook did away with its completely chronological newsfeed a few years ago.


Here’s 3 things for communications pros to keep in mind with the new changes:

Shareable content is more important than total follower count

When users were guaranteed to see most of your page’s posts in their newsfeed, a simple “like” was enough to boost your reach. Now, more than ever, engaging content is the key to reaching your desired audience. Though your page’s posts will take more of a backseat on the newsfeed, there’s still ways to reach your targets through their friends and family. The content now given priority isn’t just posts from friends, it includes highlights of what they’ve commented on and shared. Engaging content is content that gets shared and discussed, and shared content reaches beyond your page followers. Focus on creating content that adds value for your followers and isn’t just marketing. No matter how many followers and likes a brand currently has, there’s potential to reach hundreds if not thousands more through commenting and sharing.

Advertising reach is not affected

The reach of paid ads on Facebook will not be affected by the algorithm changes. Keep in mind, though, that social media users don’t have a high opinion of advertising on these platforms. Have specific goals in mind for your ads, and line up the content with what’s being posted on your page. Think like your consumer – what value can you add for them through a social media advertisement? How can you create the ad to be less intrusive and more engaging?

Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket

While Facebook is still an important tool despite these changes, there are numerous other platforms to take advantage of. Twitter is a fantastic option for direct conversations with your audience, and makes sharing content easy for followers. Snapchat can be a great way for brands to show some behind the scenes footage and try new ideas that might not work well on other platforms. If your company is primarily interested in driving sales through social media, Pinterest is a land of golden opportunity. Facebook will likely continue to be a part of most organizations’ communications plans, but the rapidly changing social media landscape offers new alternatives that can boost a brand’s reach.

Debranding the Future

Since the 90’s consumers have been pushing back on advertising. We’re highly critical of traditional advertising — TV, print and radio — and highly skeptical of other forms of advertising. And for good reason. Coca-Cola sponsoring school events feels eerily similar to the way tobacco companies targeted members of the military during World War II. Free cigarettes! And now you’re hooked.

Social media advertising too puts consumers are edge. As social media continues to blunt traditional forms of advertising marketers are struggling to make it work. “Native advertising” and “content” camouflaged to look like pieces of journalism or thoughtware muddy the waters. As our last blog post so succinctly summed up, “People hate social media ads.” The net-net is that that consumers are too savvy for business as usual.

Swimming in this sea of new advertising and content marketing feels icky and ineffective. So some companies are rethinking their marketing and advertising efforts, using them not as tools of subterfuge, but instead as authentic ways to connect better with consumers and to create a better product or service. And of course, to sell more of said product or service while they’re at it.

The Berlin-based grocery store, Original Unverpackt, has put the focus back on its product. Eschewing packaging and advertising the company focuses its efforts on hiring and nurturing traditional shopkeepers, who while measuring bulk food, also act as educated advocates for their products.

Debranded groceries

An Original Unverpackt shopping experience

We’ve even seen some of the biggest brands in the world begin to toy with debranding. Remember a few summers ago when Coca-Cola replaced their name with yours? That’s debranding. And let’s be honest, who wasn’t a little excited to see their name on the side of a Diet Coke?

Personalized debranding

Source: Coca-Cola

Marketers and advertisers will still play a role in this debranded future. Instead of running from the debranding trend, smart marketing and advertising firms will find ways to specialize in it. In a more debranded future their roles may be elevated, more strategic, as their scope creeps into the realms of product development and customer experience.


Engage, don’t broadcast: People hate social media ads

social media ads

Mallory Benham, a 23-year-old recent graduate, summed up the problem with social media ads in an interview for a recent Harris poll with a quote that’s likely to frustrate many marketing professionals.

“I go on social media to see and know what my friends are doing. I don’t want to see ads clutter my news feed. If I’m interested in a product or service, I know where to look.”

Traditional communication campaigns certainly don’t rely on letting your audience come to you; rather, you have to know where they are and go find them. Today, no matter what type of company you represent, your audience is probably on social media somewhere, and millennials are probably a portion of your target consumers. If they’re on social media, why not place your brand’s ads there, in addition to having a presence on the platforms?

Well, because your audience hates it. They hate seeing social media ads on Facebook so much that 56% of them are actually motivated to drop Facebook completely.

The Engagement Dilemma

Most organizations, even if they don’t understand all of the reasons why, know they need to be on social media in some capacity. They know their clients are there, and they need to “engage” with them. However, a fundamental misunderstanding of what engagement is defined as is likely contributing to an overemphasis on social media advertising and frustrated social media users. Advertising to your social media followers isn’t engagement, and placing the focus here robs your brand of the true benefits of these platforms. If you’re convinced social media is solely about lead generation, sales, and conversions, you might be missing out on great returns from your audience.

Say no to social media ads

This isn’t to say social media advertising is completely worthless – just that there’s a different way to think about it. Here’s how to get the most out of social media ads without alienating your audience:

Understand that social media rarely has short-term pay off

Despite its reputation for being a fast-moving communication source, social media doesn’t often provide quick results for brands. A social media campaign is a long term investment of time and resources and requires effort in relationship building. Social media ads for your website might be seen for a few seconds by your target audience, and – if you’re lucky – they might click the link. However, they haven’t necessarily clicked “like” on your brand’s page. If you can build a strong social presence that provides value beyond a sales pitch, your consumers will like you and then be engaged with your page on a long term basis. A sale from an ad can certainly create a brand loyalist when the product is great, but a follower on your Facebook page can create fans out of people who haven’t even purchased from you yet. Then, when they do purchase down the road, they probably already love you.

Define engagement for your brand

To a certain extent, engagement is defined by what’s most important to each individual brand. This could be likes, comments, shares, reach. The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that your social media accounts are about your customers first and your brand second. In Likeable Social Media, author Dave Kerpen, notes the importance of thinking about what your customers would want to see in their news feeds, and then taking the lead in engaging with them. If you were a customer, would you want to see only links to flash sales and pictures of your products?   To take the lead in engaging, make sure you are responding quickly to comments and feedback you receive on your social media accounts. Keep the voice you respond in conversational and authentic, so that it doesn’t seem like a robot is responding. A likeable brand voice will be helpful when your followers do see an ad from you – they’ll be more inclined to click it.

Get laser-focused with your social media ads

If you’re going to do a Facebook ad, your advertising dollars will likely be best spent on an ad that drives likes to your page, rather than visits to your website. As audiences are often irritated by ads and sales pitches, it can be less jarring to see an ad for something that exists within the Facebook “world” – your company page. The more likes you have on your page, the more people who are connected with you and know where to find you when they’re ready to buy.

If you do place ads that are focused on website clicks, make sure to get very detailed with your targeting. It can be tempting to make your audience for your ads as large as possible in order to get them in front of more people. Occasionally this might be the right action, but not often. It’s much better to have a strong sense of who your consumers are and hyper-target your ads to this group. Your reach may be smaller, but you’ll be reaching the people who are more likely to connect with your brand. Choosing “men and women, 20-65, in the US” probably won’t be as effective as “women, 22-35, in Dallas, TX, interested in health, wellness.” It’s possible to target Facebook ads so detailed that only one person will see them, so it’s a great platform to try out different, specific audiences.

The key to social media is to remember to engage – don’t broadcast. Your audience will be more likely to stick with your brand through the multitude of social media changes still to come.

Should Native Advertising Become a PR Tactic?

native advertising newpaper

Though marketing, advertising, and public relations all play in the same “sandbox,” traditionalists in the world of PR will tell you that the industry doesn’t have much to do with paid placements or marketing pieces. And for the most part, they’re still correct – public relations by definition is about earned media and public perception crafted through “free” coverage. However, thanks to social media and the rise of content marketing, the lines are blurring. With the latest controversial push for native advertising, the lines are closer to disappearing completely.

What is native advertising?

Similar to the term content marketing, the definition of native advertising involves some gray area. Essentially, native advertising is a piece the mimics the form and function of the platform it appears in, such as an article in a magazine or a sponsored post within a user’s Facebook timeline. PR has utilized the “contributed article” in thought leadership programs for some time; the concept is similar, but differs in that native advertising is a paid placement.

Why is it controversial?

Forbes advertising

Check out the small black box – that’s native advertising at work.

Though nine out of 10 PR agencies in the UK believe they are best suited to control their clients’ native advertising pieces, the tool isn’t what PR typically looks like. With a contributed article, the idea is pitched, and editors typically only accept pieces that aren’t blatant sales pushes and add value for their readers. Getting articles placed is often easier when relationships with journalists have been built, and the client has a good public perception.

While most outlets offering native advertising aren’t going to just publish any old thing, it takes away a certain layer of trust for readers. Contributed articles must show value and actually come from a thought leader; native advertising articles can be placed for a certain price. In addition, the FTC set strict guidelines for native advertising and how it must be labeled recently, and most publishers aren’t following the rules. Whether it’s the intention or not, readers discovering an article was a paid placement when the publication wasn’t upfront about it can lead to a feeling of being duped.

In addition, many journalists and editors aren’t a fan. Forbes recently placed one of their native advertising pieces on the front cover, leading to questions about their ethics and integrity.

Should PR play a role?

While native advertising isn’t a typical PR tactic, there are arguments that it should become one. Though the content is paid, PR pros can still control the content and direction for clients. It’s easy enough to just write an article about how your client’s product is the greatest thing since sliced bread and pay to place it as a native ad, but does this really sound like something your target audience would like and get value from?

Pieces should still follow standard contributed article guidelines – no sales push, avoid holding up your product as the be-all, end-all, and think about your audience first. When paying for native advertising, get a clear answer on how it will be labeled. Though it might seem better to hope the publication is sliding under the FTC guidelines, transparency is always good. Articles should be labeled as a native ad, “sponsored content,” or “paid placement.” Honesty is appreciated by your audience.

And don’t discount traditional contributed pieces. There’s still room for these, and there are still editors who prefer this content over native advertising.

Putting Unsolicited Advice to Work, er Wipes


This should strike a chord with any parent (especially those of you as sleep-deprived as I am). Sometimes I feel like a short walk to the park with my kids becomes an open invitation for “tips and tricks” from well-meaning advisors. I appreciate their intentions, and I’ve gotten pretty good at hanging on to the advice that matters to me and letting the rest slide off, but ad agency McCann saw the opportunity in helping baby products brand Tommee Tippee have a little fun with this common frustration.

In a silly campaign inspiring new parents to “Parent On!” they’ve taken all that confusing, contradictory unsolicited advice and repurposed it into something parents will actually use quite often.

As Eric Silver, Chief Creative Officer of McCann North America states on their site: “Parenting advice is everywhere. It’s hard to escape nowadays, but the truth is parents have always known what to do – from the very beginning. There just weren’t books about it. Tommee Tippee wants all parents to take a deep breath, exhale, and do what they were born to do: Parent On! And maybe have some fun while at it.”

Finding your own parenting path is hard. Advice that works for one kid won’t necessarily work for another. Sometimes laughter is the best way to deal, and Tommee Tippee’s willingness to embrace a little irreverence made for a smart sell in this case.

I think I’ll take their advice and Parent On!

Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising – How are They Different?

City Advertising

Rolling into my senior year of college, I have been asked the same question a number of times throughout my studies as an undergraduate. It has been asked by my family, friends, acquaintances, professors and anyone I’ve struck up a conversation with. It is the question I was hesitant to answer until two years ago.

“So, what are you studying?”

There are multiple answers to this question that I have come up with each time it has been asked thus far. Mass Communication, Public Relations (PR), Marketing and just simply Communications. All of these answers are different. What is my major? Mass Communication. What am I really studying? Public Relations. What do people usually answer when I say this? “Oh, so like, marketing and advertising, right?”

Well, not exactly.

The Difference

Anyone studying communications will know the difference between the three, but a large majority of people are still confused by what PR, marketing and advertising professionals really do.

It is common for most to lump public relations, marketing and advertising together. Although they are similar, they are not all the same. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines Public Relations as: “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” How does this differ from marketing and advertising?

The easiest way to look at it is that marketing is a large umbrella in which public relations and advertising fall under. Paid advertising and PR efforts such as social media are both marketing strategies. However, public relations centers on the public by planning and implementing an organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy, whereas marketing is more specific and looks to add value to customers, clients, and partners before looking to influence and educate the public.

According to, Advertising aims to “call the public’s attention to your business, usually for the purpose of selling products or services, through the use of various forms of media, such as print or broadcast notices.” You can remember it by thinking advertising is paid media and public relations is earned media. Many companies argue that they do not need public relations efforts because they are happy with their advertising agency’s efforts. Michael Levine, author of the book, Guerilla P.R notes: “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article it is between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.” 

All three fields are unique and often work together but it is important to understand that they are different. For those seeking out a career in PR – don’t be afraid to correct people when they assume all three terms are married. If you’re interested in the profession, check out these blogs and click on the helpful chart included in this post.

PR, Marketing and Advertising Differences

Campaign Ads of 2014

Campaign Ads of 2014

November 4th has arrived and after today you no longer have to listen to the campaign advertisements, at least for awhile. Although these advertisements address some of the issues with each campaign candidate or proposition measure, they can be overbearing, aggressive, and sometimes pushing the truth.

NPR’s Alisa Chang, recently reported on the “2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can’t Stop Replaying.” Here’s her take:


This year, an estimated $4 billion was spent on midterm elections and a good deal of that money helped pay for campaign advertisements. Was it worth it?

On Jimmy Kimmel’s show, he mocked the campaign ads of 2014 with his own satirical ad.

Happy to say this year of ads are over for now! If you haven’t voted, you have until 8pm tonight. Find a ballot dropbox location here. For results check out Oregonlive.

Rabbit Pelt Ad Draws Controversy, Pizzeria Tries to Save Skin


Just in time for Easter, the New Zealand pizza chain Hell Pizza created a controversial billboard advertising its newest pizza topping, smoked rabbit, by covering the billboard with real rabbit pelts and the tagline:

“Rabbit Pizza. Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard.”

rabbit billboard

As you can imagine, it received quite a bit of criticism from animal activists and others offended by the use of rabbit skins.

Although the billboard was obviously designed to be provocative, Hell Pizza had a very clear stance and was quick to defend itself on Facebook by pointing out that rabbits are considered environmentally devastating pests in New Zealand, and the pelts were a regular by-product from a local meat processing company. In addition, only wild rabbit meat, not farmed, is used on their pizza.

controversial billboard advertising

The New Zealand Vegetarian Society, which originally called the billboard “deplorable” later issued a statement saying:

“While people insist on eating animals, using wild South Island rabbits (which Hell has confirmed they are) who are causing significant environmental damage is perhaps a more ethical choice than farming an animal to turn into food. The billboard, though confrontational and offensive to many, did not create any further harm to animals.”

In this case, Hell Pizza chose to be proactive with their controversial billboard advertising, and received international attention for their efforts, but had a clear and immediate response to the controversy, which I am sure they expected.