Voice and visual search will ultimately become significant drivers of query volume beside text input.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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On this episode of Digital Trends Live, hosts Greg Nibler and Drew Prindle discuss the biggest trending stories in tech, including technology in politics, AMC’s on-demand streaming service, new spacesuits for Virgin and NASA, and more.
We then welcome Sam Slaughter of The Manual to talk about the best in American spirits, and the best craft liquors being made in America.
Mike Sample, lead diving safety expert for Liberty Mutual Insurance, joins us to talk about staying focused on the roa, and how, despite cell phone bans, distracted driving is still a big issue.
Nibler then sits down with Luke Larsen, DT’s computing editor, to go hands-on with the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, the first laptop with Intel’s Ice Lake processor that we’ve tested.
Katz, DT’s associate managing editor, joins Nibler to discuss the topic of technology and China, and how the ongoing protests in Hong Kong have turned the spotlight from Beijing to American tech companies.
Finally, we’re joined by comedian Billy Wayne Davis, who talks social media, writing new material, and the best cannabis in the country.
Clorox isn’t exactly new to the in-house agency trend. The company has operated an internal shop for almost 21 years and is now experimenting with going beyond just doing creative itself — dabbling in taking more programmatic in-house.
Clorox CMO Stacey Grier spoke with Digiday about in-housing, programmatic the company’s direct-to-consumer strategy and more. This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Last year, your predecessor Eric Reynolds told Digiday about the 120-person in-house team and how the need for content was driving that growth. Are there any plans to move media in-house?
We’re doing some experimentation on media in-house. We don’t really feel like we’re ready for it at this moment. AKQA, who is our media agency for digital, has really been helping us. We feel like that will be something we’ll continue to experiment with, and when we feel like we can do that, we’ll probably bring a piece of it in. I don’t see us ever being 100% in-house. Just like, I don’t think creatively we’re going to be 100% in-house, but it’s all about an ecosystem. Right. If you can create the right ecosystem, I think we think there’s value there.
When did you start media in-house tests and what do those look like?
We’re doing some programmatic in-housing. What we have been experimenting with is, can we place programmatically in a more efficient way and do we actually see that driving value? We’ve just taken a chunk off of a couple of our brands and started to do that spend ourselves to see what it looks.
What’s a chunk?
It’s a couple million dollars.
In doing a test of media in-housing, are you building up the in-house team? Has it grown over the last year and, if so, how?
It’s a little bit bigger. They’ve been doing more and more work for us. They’ve done a terrific job of pulling that group together and starting to create really the culture of an agency in-house. Kerri [Martin, chief electrofier of the Electro Creative Workshop] who runs that for us, has spent a lot of her time creating a culture around that because agencies need culture to survive, right? It can’t just be the Clorox culture; it has to be an agency within that.
Has bolstering the in-house team and capabilities changed your agency relationships? Are you working with agencies less?
We’re in an explosion of content, so it’s less about you’re doing less and more about we need to do more. So, it’s much more additive than it is you’re going to lose something and we’re going to take something. Content is exploding. We’re talking about our strategy period, which is between now and 2025. We feel like we’re going to need probably five times the content we need today. The only way we’re going to be able to do that is have great external partners, like we do with FCB and Mcgarrybowen. We’re also going to need our internal engine. We’re going to need publishers and consumers; we’re going to need all kinds of partners.
In recent years at the ANA, marketers have pushed to rein in crappy content and deal with frequency issues. This year, they’re talking about not being too noisy but being relevant when you show up for consumers and needing a lot of content to do that. Seems like a tricky duality.
There’s a difference between crappy content and a lot of content. It comes from actually knowing who you are as a brand. For us, it comes through purpose. If you actually know what you stand for and know what you’re going to do, it’s a very different way to create content as opposed to [a mentality of] we’re just going to make a lot of stuff. It requires a much stronger center for a brand.
Have you ever been served crappy content from Clorox programmatically?
Some of the crappy content Eric showed [at the ANA before] was crappy content that I made. I was on the agency side before I went to Clorox. I came to Clorox in 2016, and I actually helped him with that presentation and embedded what I know is some of the crappy work I had actually worked on. So yes, I have been. I have not only been served crappy work, I’ve put it up on a big screen and said, “Here is crappy work that I have worked on.”
You recently acquired a DTC dietary supplement, Nutranext. What is Clorox’s direct-to-consumer strategy?
We’re doing DTC. Some of our brands just naturally lend themselves more to DTC. We purchased a company called Neutranext; they have vitamins, minerals and supplements. Obviously, those are much more geared to DTC, and people are much more interested in using DTC. It’s the only single direct-to-consumer business we have. A lot of our other businesses have a DTC component as well, like Burt’s Bees. If you just think about e-commerce in general, we do about 8% of our sales direct-to-consumer through an e-commerce site. We’re really seeming to learn a lot about how to have a different kind of relationship with consumers. As you can imagine, it’s much harder when you don’t close that loop. And because much of ours is sold through retail, that ability to have relationships [through DTC is attractive]. We just know people so much better, and we can learn so much more about what do people actually want to try. So, before you take it to retail, the ability to put it DTC and then giving people kind of nice little delight things, like you can personalize a lip balm on Burt’s Bees to have your own name on it.
Do you think you’ll create a startup studio like P&G?
We haven’t done that yet. We haven’t started creating our own brands doing that yet. I would not be surprised if some day we made that choice.
Retail media seems to be a greater focus area this year, especially for Walmart and Target. That seems helpful for CPG brands to get more data on their consumers. Are you focusing more there?
We’re doing some really interesting work on our Kingsford brand right now with Walmart’s media group and trying to actually understand when is the best time to reach them and how do we reach them in more interesting ways. For example, they know when somebody just bought a grill in a Walmart. The ability to actually serve content to people when they’re learning how to grill is amazing. That’s the kind of thing that you can only do with a Walmart media group. If you look at something like Amazon, like a lot of people use Amazon for product search, whether or not they buy on Amazon, so the value of Amazon search is really high. Figuring out how to use those in ways that benefit both of us is really an interesting piece.
What about in terms of media spend, more toward retail media this year?
We don’t do a corporate allocation, for the most part, in the beginning. We actually roll it up from the brand. There’s really different opportunities for different brands. Now, overall, has our spending increased with those guys? Yeah, it definitely has. But it’s come organically from ideas that people have had in working with the platforms rather than this is how we’re going to spend our money, which we just find to be way more effective.
The post Clorox CMO Stacey Grier: ‘Some of our brands just naturally lend themselves more to DTC’ appeared first on Digiday.
Brian McCullough, who runs Internet History Podcast, also wrote a book named How The Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone which did a fantastic job of capturing the ethos of the early web and telling the backstory of so many people & projects behind it’s evolution.
I think the quote which best the magic of the early web is
Jim Clark came from the world of machines and hardware, where development schedules were measured in years—even decades—and where “doing a startup” meant factories, manufacturing, inventory, shipping schedules and the like. But the Mosaic team had stumbled upon something simpler. They had discovered that you could dream up a product, code it, release it to the ether and change the world overnight. Thanks to the Internet, users could download your product, give you feedback on it, and you could release an update, all in the same day. In the web world, development schedules could be measured in weeks.
The part I bolded in the above quote from the book really captures the magic of the Internet & what pulled so many people toward the early web.
The current web – dominated by never-ending feeds & a variety of closed silos – is a big shift from the early days of web comics & other underground cool stuff people created & shared because they thought it was neat.
Many established players missed the actual direction of the web by trying to create something more akin to the web of today before the infrastructure could support it. Many of the “big things” driving web adoption relied heavily on chance luck – combined with a lot of hard work & a willingness to be responsive to feedback & data.
Amazon employees:2018 647,5002017 566,0002016 341,4002015 230,8002014 154,1002013 117,3002012 88,4002011 56,2002010 33,7002009 24,3002008 20,7002007 17,0002006 13,9002005 12,0002004 90002003 78002002 75002001 78002000 90001999 76001998 21001997 6141996 158— Jon Erlichman (@JonErlichman) April 8, 2019
The book offers a lot of color to many important web related companies.
And many companies which were only briefly mentioned also ran into the same sort of lucky breaks the above companies did. Paypal was heavily reliant on eBay for initial distribution, but even that was something they initially tried to block until it became so obvious they stopped fighting it:
“At some point I sort of quit trying to stop the EBay users and mostly focused on figuring out how to not lose money,” Levchin recalls. … In the late 2000s, almost a decade after it first went public, PayPal was drifting toward obsolescence and consistently alienating the small businesses that paid it to handle their online checkout. Much of the company’s code was being written offshore to cut costs, and the best programmers and designers had fled the company. … PayPal’s conversion rate is lights-out: Eighty-nine percent of the time a customer gets to its checkout page, he makes the purchase. For other online credit and debit card transactions, that number sits at about 50 percent.
How The Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone is a great book well worth a read for anyone interested in the web.
Beyond search Google controls the leading distributed ad network, the leading mobile OS, the leading web browser, the leading email client, the leading web analytics platform, the leading free video hosting site.
They win a lot.
And they take winnings from one market & leverage them into manipulating adjacent markets.
Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.
Imagine taking a universal open standard that has zero problems with it and then stripping it down to it’s most basic components and then prepending each element with your own acronym. Then spend years building and recreating what has existed for decades. That is @amphtml— Jon Henshaw (@henshaw) April 4, 2019
Over time they have corrected some of these catastrophic deficiencies, but if it provided real value, they wouldn’t have needed to force adoption with preferential placement in their search results. They force the bundling because AMP sucks.
Absurdity knows no bounds. Googlers suggest: “AMP isn’t another “channel” or “format” that’s somehow not the web. It’s not a SEO thing. It’s not a replacement for HTML. It’s a web component framework that can power your whole site. … We, the AMP team, want AMP to become a natural choice for modern web development of content websites, and for you to choose AMP as framework because it genuinely makes you more productive.”
Meanwhile some newspapers have about a dozen employees who work on re-formatting content for AMP:
The AMP development team now keeps track of whether AMP traffic drops suddenly, which might indicate pages are invalid, and it can react quickly.
All this adds expense, though. There are setup, development and maintenance costs associated with AMP, mostly in the form of time. After implementing AMP, the Guardian realized the project needed dedicated staff, so it created an 11-person team that works on AMP and other aspects of the site, drawing mostly from existing staff.
Feeeeeel the productivity!
Some content types (particularly user generated content) can be unpredictable & circuitous. For many years forums websites would use keywords embedded in the search referral to highlight relevant parts of the page. Keyword (not provided) largely destroyed that & then it became a competitive feature for AMP: “If the Featured Snippet links to an AMP article, Google will sometimes automatically scroll users to that section and highlight the answer in orange.”
That would perhaps be a single area where AMP was more efficient than the alternative. But it is only so because Google destroyed the alternative by stripping keyword referrers from search queries.
The power dynamics of AMP are ugly:
“I see them as part of the effort to normalise the use of the AMP Carousel, which is an anti-competitive land-grab for the web by an organisation that seems to have an insatiable appetite for consuming the web, probably ultimately to it’s own detriment. … This enables Google to continue to exist after the destination site (eg the New York Times) has been navigated to. Essentially it flips the parent-child relationship to be the other way around. … As soon as a publisher blesses a piece of content by packaging it (they have to opt in to this, but see coercion below), they totally lose control of its distribution. … I’m not that smart, so it’s surely possible to figure out other ways of making a preload possible without cutting off the content creator from the people consuming their content. … The web is open and decentralised. We spend a lot of time valuing the first of these concepts, but almost none trying to defend the second. Google knows, perhaps better than anyone, how being in control of the user is the most monetisable position, and having the deepest pockets and the most powerful platform to do so, they have very successfully inserted themselves into my relationship with millions of other websites. … In AMP, the support for paywalls is based on a recommendation that the premium content be included in the source of the page regardless of the user’s authorisation state. … These policies demonstrate contempt for others’ right to freely operate their businesses.
After enough publishers adopted AMP Google was able to turn their mobile app’s homepage into an interactive news feed below the search box. And inside that news feed Google gets to distribute MOAR ads while 0% of the revenue from those ads find its way to the publishers whose content is used to make up the feed.
Appropriate appropriation. 😀
Thank you for your content!!!
Well this issue (bug?) is going to cause a sh*t storm… Google @AMPhtml not allowing people to click through to full site? You can’t see but am clicking the link in top right iOS Chrome 74.0.3729.155 pic.twitter.com/dMt5QSW9fu— Scotch.io (@scotch_io) June 11, 2019
The mainstream media is waking up to AMP being a trap, but their neck is already in it:
European and American tech, media and publishing companies, including some that originally embraced AMP, are complaining that the Google-backed technology, which loads article pages in the blink of an eye on smartphones, is cementing the search giant’s dominance on the mobile web.
Each additional layer of technical cruft is another cost center. Things that sound appealing at first blush may not be:
The way you verify your identity to Let’s Encrypt is the same as with other certificate authorities: you don’t really. You place a file somewhere on your website, and they access that file over plain HTTP to verify that you own the website. The one attack that signed certificates are meant to prevent is a man-in-the-middle attack. But if someone is able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack against your website, then he can intercept the certificate verification, too. In other words, Let’s Encrypt certificates don’t stop the one thing they’re supposed to stop. And, as always with the certificate authorities, a thousand murderous theocracies, advertising companies, and international spy organizations are allowed to impersonate you by design.
Anything that is easy to implement & widely marketed often has costs added to it in the future as the entity moves to monetize the service.
This is a private equity firm buying up multiple hosting control panels & then adjusting prices.
This is Google Maps drastically changing their API terms.
This is Facebook charging you for likes to build an audience, giving your competitors access to those likes as an addressable audience to advertise against, and then charging you once more to boost the reach of your posts.
This is Grubhub creating shadow websites on your behalf and charging you for every transaction created by the gravity of your brand.
Shivane believes GrubHub purchased her restaurant’s web domain to prevent her from building her own online presence. She also believes the company may have had a special interest in owning her name because she processes a high volume of orders. … it appears GrubHub has set up several generic, templated pages that look like real restaurant websites but in fact link only to GrubHub. These pages also display phone numbers that GrubHub controls. The calls are forwarded to the restaurant, but the platform records each one and charges the restaurant a commission fee for every order
Settling for the easiest option drives a lack of differentiation, embeds additional risk & once the dominant player has enough marketshare they’ll change the terms on you.
Small gains in short term margins for massive increases in fragility.
“Closed platforms increase the chunk size of competition & increase the cost of market entry, so people who have good ideas, it is a lot more expensive for their productivity to be monetized. They also don’t like standardization … it looks like rent seeking behaviors on top of friction” – Gabe Newell
The other big issue is platforms that run out of growth space in their core market may break integrations with adjacent service providers as each want to grow by eating the other’s market.
Those who look at SaaS business models through the eyes of a seasoned investor will better understand how markets are likely to change:
“I’d argue that many of today’s anointed tech “disruptors” are doing little in the way of true disruption. … When investors used to get excited about a SAAS company, they typically would be describing a hosted multi-tenant subscription-billed piece of software that was replacing a ‘legacy’ on-premise perpetual license solution in the same target market (i.e. ERP, HCM, CRM, etc.). Today, the terms SAAS and Cloud essentially describe the business models of every single public software company.
Most platform companies are initially required to operate at low margins in order to buy growth of their category & own their category. Then when they are valued on that, they quickly need to jump across to adjacent markets to grow into the valuation:
Twilio has no choice but to climb up the application stack. This is a company whose ‘disruption’ is essentially great API documentation and gangbuster SEO spend built on top of a highly commoditized telephony aggregation API. They have won by marketing to DevOps engineers. With all the hype around them, you’d think Twilio invented the telephony API, when in reality what they did was turn it into a product company. Nobody had thought of doing this let alone that this could turn into a $17 billion company because simply put the economics don’t work. And to be clear they still don’t. But Twilio’s genius CEO clearly gets this. If the market is going to value robocalls, emergency sms notifications, on-call pages, and carrier fee passed through related revenue growth in the same way it does ‘subscription’ revenue from Atlassian or ServiceNow, then take advantage of it while it lasts.
Large platforms offering temporary subsidies to ensure they dominate their categories & companies like SoftBank spraying capital across the markets is causing massive shifts in valuations:
I also think if you look closely at what is celebrated today as innovation you often find models built on hidden subsidies. … I’d argue the very distributed nature of microservices architecture and API-first product companies means addressable market sizes and unit economics assumptions should be even more carefully scrutinized. … How hard would it be to create an Alibaba today if someone like SoftBank was raining money into such a greenfield space? Excess capital would lead to destruction and likely subpar returns. If capital was the solution, the 1.5 trillion that went into telcos in late ’90s wouldn’t have led to a massive bust. Would a Netflix be what it is today if a SoftBank was pouring billions into streaming content startups right as the experiment was starting? Obviously not. Scarcity of capital is another often underappreciated part of the disruption equation. Knowing resources are finite leads to more robust models. … This convergence is starting to manifest itself in performance. Disney is up 30% over the last 12 months while Netflix is basically flat. This may not feel like a bubble sign to most investors, but from my standpoint, it’s a clear evidence of the fact that we are approaching a something has got to give moment for the way certain businesses are valued.”
Circling back to Google’s AMP, it has a cousin called Recaptcha.
According to tech statistics website Built With, more than 650,000 websites are already using reCaptcha v3; overall, there are at least 4.5 million websites use reCaptcha, including 25% of the top 10,000 sites. Google is also now testing an enterprise version of reCaptcha v3, where Google creates a customized reCaptcha for enterprises that are looking for more granular data about users’ risk levels to protect their site algorithms from malicious users and bots. … According to two security researchers who’ve studied reCaptcha, one of the ways that Google determines whether you’re a malicious user or not is whether you already have a Google cookie installed on your browser. … To make this risk-score system work accurately, website administrators are supposed to embed reCaptcha v3 code on all of the pages of their website, not just on forms or log-in pages.
About a month ago when logging into Bing Ads I saw recaptcha on the login page & couldn’t believe they’d give Google control at that access point. I think they got rid of that, but lots of companies are perhaps shooting themselves in the foot through a combination of over-reliance on Google infrastructure AND sloppy implementation
Today when making a purchase on Fiverr, after converting, I got some of this action
That is called snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Pro tip: Ecommerce websites that see substandard conversion rates from using Recaptcha can boost their overall ecommerce revenue by buying more Google AdWords ads.
As more of the infrastructure stack is driven by AI software there is going to be a very real opportunity for many people to become deplatformed across the web on an utterly arbitrary basis. That tech companies like Facebook also want to create digital currencies on top of the leverage they already have only makes the proposition that much scarier.
If the tech platforms host copies of our sites, process the transactions & even create their own currencies, how will we know what level of value they are adding versus what they are extracting?
Who measures the measurer?
And when the economics turn negative, what will we do if we are hooked into an ecosystem we can’t spend additional capital to get out of when things head south?
Amazon’s Prime Video service has come a long way since it first started offering free movies and TV shows to Prime members years ago. What was once a pretty scant catalog has grown into an offering formidable enough to take on the likes of Hulu and Netflix — especially if you’re in possession of a Fire TV Cube.
With lots of popular licensed shows alongside a growing list of original content, Amazon now has something to offer nearly every TV fan. If you’re looking for a new show to binge but aren’t quite sure which one is right for you, just browse through our list of the best Amazon Prime TV shows. After all, there’s much more to Amazon Prime than free shipping.
A co-production of BBC Studios and Amazon Studios, this six-part series adapts the fantasy novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The series follows an angel and a demon played by Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and David Tennant (Doctor Who), respectively, whose comfortable lives on Earth are threatened by the impending Apocalypse. The pair must team up to prevent the ascension of the Antichrist and a war between heaven and hell.
The series’ impressive cast is filled out by Jon Hamm, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Adria Arjona, Nick Offerman, Jack Whitehall, and other familiar faces. Like the book that inspired it, the series is packed with quirky, irreverent humor that filters both human history and biblical mythology through its clever lens.
In the 1980s, with the Cold War getting warmer, American pop culture produced a bounty of movies expressing the anxieties and patriotism of the era: Films like Red Dawn, or 1985’s lesser-known Invasion U.S.A. (starring Chuck Norris). Comrade Detective lifts the aesthetics of ‘80s action cinema and filters them through a (sardonic) communist lens, following a pair of Romanian detectives investigating a plot by Western imperialists to subvert the communism order.
The show — which is framed as an actual show from Romania, dubbed over in English with voices from actors like Channing Tatum and Joseph-Gordon Levitt — begins with detective Gregor Anghel (a hard-nosed cop who plays by his own rules but gets results) and his partner busting drug dealers, only for a sniper to shoot Anghel’s partner. Out for vengeance, Anghel and his new partner, Iosif Baciu, hunt the killer, and stumble on a conspiracy of international proportions. Comrade Detective is a strange show even by the inventive standards of modern television, a parody wrapped in a layer of faux-authenticity, but its odd charms are worth watching.
If you want to watch a star being born, stop what you’re doing and immerse yourself in Rachel Brosnahan’s work as Miriam “Midge” Maisel on the 1950s-set comedy Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Midge is a housewife who pursues a career in standup comedy after her husband, Joe Maisel (Michael Zegen), unexpectedly leaves her.
After a drunken, impromptu, and mile-a-minute standup set that ends with Midge being arrested, hard-nosed venue employee Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) takes Midge under her wing in hopes of molding a diamond in the rough. The show took home the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical series for its debut season, and Brosnahan took home the statue for best actress in a comedy or musical. If you haven’t heard much about this inventive series yet, you probably will soon.
Here’s a testament to how consistently funny HBO’s Veep has been over its six-season run: Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series every single year since the show’s 2012 debut. Louis-Dreyfus plays the self-centered yet lovable loser Selina Meyers as she hilariously works her way through the bureaucracy of the federal government, initially as vice president. A primary source of the show’s raucous humor are the vitriolic comments thrown around with such inventiveness you’ll often fall back cackling as you applaud the creativity. It’s time for you to binge one of the finest comedy series of this decade.
This sitcom classic is set in Boston and primarily takes place in a bar called Cheers, where a host of zany characters gathers to work or take up a seat at the bar. The legendary cast alone is more than enough reason to binge watch this seminal comedy series: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, and many others became household names on this show, which won an astounding 28 Emmy Awards.
The show had such a powerhouse lineup of comedians that they all couldn’t be contained in a bar — it eventually produced the spinoff series Frasier, with Grammer reprising his role as psychiatrist Frasier Crane. For 11 seasons, Cheers was one of the gold standards for TV sitcoms, and everyone still knows its name.
Chasing dreams of music stardom can be commendable, and even inspirational. It can also be a hilarious series of unfortunate events, which Flight of the Conchords demonstrated for two seasons on HBO. In the show, Bret (Bret McKenzie) and Jermaine (Jermaine Clement) are two musicians from New Zealand looking to strike it big in America, before realizing how difficult it is to make it in New York.
The comedic timing and rapport of the stars are what brings you into Flight of the Conchords, but it’s the inventive manner in which the duo weaves songs into episode plots that will have you bingeing episodes with fervor. With Flight of the Conchords, you get a great comedy series and a few albums worth of music at the same time. How can you beat that?
People who watched Fox in the early 2000s may have vague memories of a short-lived superhero sitcom called The Tick (based on the comic of the same name), in which a blue-costumed superhero played by the unmistakable Patrick Warburton dealt with supervillains and awkward situations. Amazon’s The Tick is a fresh adaptation of the franchise, with no Warburton in sight (sadly), but it maintains the comic’s absurd, cheerful sense of humor.
The show follows a superhero called The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) and his companion, Arthur (Griffin Newman), who fight crime and investigate a conspiracy involving an infamous supervillain called The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). The Tick is an upbeat palate-cleanser after years of more dour superhero tales.
At times introspective and moody, at others absurd and raunchy, Fleabag defies easy categorization. In its funnier moments — such as the intro, which is an elegant, extended soliloquy ending in a sudden smack of a sex joke — it is one of the sharpest comedies around, but underneath it all runs a current of sadness. The show follows a lady known only as “Fleabag” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a neurotic woman juggling a failing business and disastrous personal life.
The term fleabag immediately conjures images of filth, and the protagonist’s problems run deeper than her name. Selfish, wanton, and a compulsive liar, she fits in with the various antiheroes that have become popular in television. Uniquely, Fleabag does not keep its damaged lead at a distance; she frequently speaks directly to the viewer in frantic monologues, offering insight into her unquiet mind.
The death of a loved one does not seem like the most auspicious start to a comedy series, but One Mississippi is anything but conventional. Starring comedian Tig Notaro as a fictionalized version of herself, the show draws on several tragedies in her real life. Still reeling from breast cancer, fictional Tig returns to her hometown in Mississippi to witness her mother being taken off life support, and decides to stay and reconnect with her stepfather and brother. Despite the depressing first chapter, One Mississippi is not an unrelenting drama. The show balances grief and joy in equal measure, examining the long, up-and-down process of trauma and recovery.
Chris O’Dowd plays Tom Chadwick, a lovable loser who inherits a chest of “family heirlooms” from a great aunt he’s never met. The items lead him on a quest to discover his roots, which he undertakes with hilarious sincerity and focus. An elderly friend and his sister — the latter of which relies on a hand puppet for (relative) sanity — help him, along with an antique story owner and his best friend. Tom follows many a wrong path on his journey to find his family, however, and the character is constantly at the mercy of creator Christopher Guest’s mockumentary style and dry use of humor. The show was cut down in its prime and therefore only consists of one season.
Bored to Death straddles the line between a stoner comedy and noir spoof, following unlicensed gumshoe Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and his friends as they work to solve cases when Ames isn’t struggling with his writing. The show’s aesthetics are appropriately high-contrast and gritty for a comedic neo-noir, and Woody Allen fans will appreciate the self-deprecating humor. Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis are the show’s real scene-stealers. The series was created by graphic book novelist Jonathan Ames, which makes it pretty meta.
A trailblazing, original series straight from Amazon, Transparent follows Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a transgender woman who comes out to her family. Not content to merely present a novel premise, the show explores the relationships and neuroses of Maura and her children. A show that never wavers in its attempt to mine the depths of the human condition, it’s a bold offering from Amazon. Transparent is also the first show from a streaming service to win a Golden Globe for Best Series, which likely bodes well for the future of Amazon’s original content.
Harassment allegations levied against Tambor have put a damper on the show’s future (and, for some, its very essence), but if you can look past that, it’s a truly special series.
Rumors circulated for years that the most vital force behind Seinfeld was not the eponymous comedian, but the sitcom’s enigmatic showrunner, Larry David. These suspicions seem a lot more grounded after David tackled his own series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm centers on a protagonist — in this case, Larry David as himself — who finds himself in mundane, often hilariously awkward situations. David is a consummate performer, and the largely improvised dialogue gives him and the rest of the cast a chance to show off their comedic chops.
After a six-year hiatus, the series returned for a well-received ninth season in 2017, with a 10th season scheduled to premiere in 2020.
Rescue Me, originally aired on FX, takes a semi-serious look at the lives of firefighters in New York City. Denis Leary — also the show’s creator — headlines as Tommy Gavin, who suffers from PTSD and survivor’s guilt following the deaths of many peers in the 9/11 attacks. Tommy’s work as a fireman is commendable but off the job, he’s an imbalanced wreck, self-sabotaging and repeatedly relapsing into alcoholism. Leary received a slew of accolades for both his on-screen performance and his writing on the series, which was commended for its honest, humorous willingness to tackle subjects like depression, addiction, infidelity, and more.
Red Oaks doesn’t offer much in the way of length. However, while you could easily binge the entire three seasons over a single weekend, the casual pacing makes it more suitable for quick installments. Set during the 1980s, the show is centered on a young tennis player (Craig Roberts) who opts for a job at the exclusive Red Oaks Country Club during the summer between his sophomore and junior year of college. What ensues is a warm and heartfelt nod to the sex comedies that were a staple of that decade. Boasting dry humor and a solid ensemble that includes Ennis Esmer as the hilarious tennis pro, Nash, Red Oaks rises above the raucousness to create characters you really care about.
Although Mr. Show never found a huge audience, it has cast a long shadow over the world of comedy. Hosts Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have gone on to impressive careers, and the show’s writing staff, including Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins, have become godfathers of contemporary comedy. Watching Mr. Show now, it’s easy to see how its DNA has seeped into modern television.
Each episode is a collection of surreal sketches, loosely tied together in the vein of Monty Python. The sketches often erupt into absurdity, such as a gang war between ventriloquists from different coasts, and the two leads morph easily into the many bizarre characters the plots require. Time has not dulled Mr. Show’s edge one bit; the writing remains as sharp as anything on TV.
An exemplary British period drama, Downton Abbey is an examination of the politics and personal lives of an aristocratic British family in the early 20th century. As they navigate the touchy social circles of high society, the Crawley family also reacts to the impact of seismic historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the outbreak of World War I. Of course, conflicts closer to home, such as the family’s financial problems and difficulty securing their inheritance, provide a solid emotional backbone. With a movie based on the series coming in 2019, there’s never been a better time to catch up with the Crawleys.
Amazon’s original series Sneaky Pete crafts a nail-biting drama out of an intricate case of identity theft. Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi) is a con man recently released from prison who assumes the identity of his former cellmate, Pete Murphy, in order to hide from crime boss Vince Lonigan (Bryan Cranston). The show shines thanks to its ensemble of critically acclaimed actors including The Americans’ Margo Martindale, but the core of its brilliance lies in the clever writing.
In this surreal psychological thriller based on characters from the best-selling Thomas Harris novels, FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) struggles to catch serial killers while teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to him, his therapist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson), is himself a serial killer with dark designs for Will. As their friendship deepens, Will finds himself at the center of a symphony of violence.
Showrunner Bryan Fuller breathes new life into the franchise with arthouse cinematography and a chillingly charismatic performance by Mikkelson. It was one of the goriest shows on network TV when it first aired on NBC, but the direction and set design transform the violence into some of the most exquisite images you’ll see on the small screen.
One of the best-reviewed cop shows in its day, The Wire casts an unflinching gaze at the war n drugs and its effect on society. Set in Baltimore — the “murder capital,” as many a character notes — the show begins as a police procedural following a group of detectives hoping to bust one of the biggest drug kingpins in the city. The show expands its outlook with every season, though, gradually revealing a city in which everything is interconnected and every action has far-reaching consequences.
The Wire is unique among cop dramas in the extreme attention it pays to the lives and minds of its criminal element. Even the most minor street-level drug dealers seem complex. The show never loses sight of the fact that all of its characters — cop or criminal, politician, or lawyer — are members of a society and are thus shaped by the world around them far more than they shape it.
It’s 1981, President Ronald Reagan has just been elected, and like most Americans, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are enjoying the country’s rising prosperity as the Cold War heats up. Unlike most Americans, however, the Jennings are actually KGB spies.
From that singular premise emerges one of the most exciting thrillers on the air today. The political intrigue is exciting, but what makes The Americans stand out is its focus on the Jennings’ marriage. In examining the tensions of married life, the show demonstrates that personal issues like spousal conflict can be every bit as exciting as geopolitical maneuvers.
Hailed by some critics as “the most influential television drama ever,” The Sopranos certainly seems like the blueprint for the modern TV drama. The show features an aging antihero at its center, a large cast of interconnected characters, and all the scheming and violence that have recently become emblematic of dramatic television.
Beneath the Shakespearean scope of the story, however, there beats a human heart. The Sopranos is, at its core, a family drama, and an examination of the man at the head of that family. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a tragic figure, as the position of power he creates for himself in the Mafia brings with it pressures that threaten to break him. The show is so popular, in fact, that a prequel movie featuring a young Tony Soprano is coming to TV more than a decade after The Sopranos concluded its run.
Death is one of the few universal experiences. No matter where one is born, whether a beggar or a king, the pale rider eventually comes knocking. Despite this commonality, most TV series tend to keep death at a distance, only to acknowledge it when it shows up. Unless, of course, death is your job. Six Feet Under is a grim comedy-drama following the Fishers, a family of morticians who must confront death with every episode in the form of a new corpse to be buried.
In addition to standard family drama, their proximity to the deceased leads to a lot of meditations on mortality and the human experience. It’s not all heavy subject matter, however. The show is loaded with gallows humor and some genuinely heartwarming moments. In an age of saccharine sitcoms, Six Feet Under stands out for its mature approach to comedy.
This post-Katrina New Orleans drama reunites two of our favorite actors — Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce of The Wire — as well as that show’s creators, David Simon and Eric Overmeyer. The series was praised for its realistic depiction of NOLA culture and its ensemble cast, which includes gems like John Goodman, Rob Brown, and Edwina Findley.
The series focuses on the working-class neighborhood of Tremé, from which it gets its name. Beginning just three months after Hurricane Katrina, it follows Mardi Gras Indians, musicians, police, bar owners, a civil rights lawyer, and others as they pick up the pieces, and shows the challenges and resiliency of a community refusing to break despite the levees doing so.
Oh, Steve Buscemi. We love you, especially as the tyrannical treasurer and criminal kingpin of Prohibition-era Atlantic City. With a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese and a producer of The Sopranos at his side, the series came out of the gates swinging.
Scorsese’s initial direction solidified a visual aesthetic that the show’s later directors emulated, one that has since been lauded again and again. The show’s attention to historical accuracy is equally as impressive and gives the period piece a subtlety and realistic feel. The characters are complex, too, and their relationships with one another often encompass both sides of the love-hate coin.
This six-part miniseries was showered with nominations at high-profile award shows during both 2016 and 2017, and for good reason. Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) is absolutely marvelous as hotel manager Jonathan Pine, whose military past comes back to haunt him when he’s recruited by an intelligence officer (Olivia Coleman) to infiltrate the operation of a chemical weapons dealer (Hugh Laurie).
You might remember Laurie as the sarcastic Dr. House — don’t we all? — but here he taps into a completely different character, one that is ruthless and unafraid of getting his hands dirty. The BBC One series is the third attempt at adapting John le Carré’s novel of the same name, and, apparently, three is the magic number. The Night Manager is suspenseful, charming, and well worth your time.
As information technology creeps into every aspect of life, one can’t help but look at the people controlling that technology (corporations, government agencies) with a wary eye. The modern world, at times, seems like the prelude to a cyberpunk dystopia, at least the way Mr. Robot portrays it. The show follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a paranoid security engineer who, in addition to his day job working for a massive corporation, engages in acts of vigilante hacking.
When Elliot is courted by a mysterious activist-hacker known as “Mr. Robot,” he has a chance to use his skills for more than acts of petty justice. Mr. Robot has a grand plan to topple society, and Alderson could play a key role. Mr. Robot is a cyber-thriller with a keen grasp of the technology it represents, but don’t mistake technical accuracy for realism — the show dives headfirst down a rabbit hole of paranoia and espionage, with a plot that constantly challenges the viewer’s perceptions.
After three years fighting in the American Revolution, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns to his home in Cornwall, England, only to find his estate in shambles and his lover, Elizabeth (Heida Reed), married to his cousin. As Ross attempts to rebuild his family’s tin mines, he rescues a young woman named Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) and gives her a job as a maid. Making things more complicated for Ross is his rival, George Warleggan, an ambitious industrialist.
Based on a series of 20th-century novels, this adaptation of Poldark moves at a brisk pace befitting a modern show, deftly juggling romance, action, and political maneuvering.
You could call this Amazon Prime’s Black Mirror, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The Show is an anthology sci-fi series based on stories from the late science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose work inspired Blade Runner and Amazon series The Man in the High Castle. Electric Dreams‘ first season explores injectable consciousness, mind readers, humans beings replaced by robots, and a genocidal presidential candidate, to name a few.
The production value is impressive, with Hidden Figures and Moonlight actress Janelle Monae playing an artificially intelligent robot in a metallic suit that looks convincingly realistic. Like Black Mirror, Amazon’s sci-fi series employs some major stars, including Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, and Anna Paquin. Those looking for a gripping dose of dark sci-fi will definitely find it here.
Doctor Who revolves around a Time Lord, referred to as “The Doctor,” who travels through time and space in his TARDIS, a ship disguised as a British police box. Alongside his human companions, he battles villains using his boundless imagination and intelligence while attempting to prevent history from being changed. The Doctor Who episodes available on Amazon Prime Video are part of the series revival that began in 2005, which are based on the original series that ran from 1963-1989.
Since the lead character can transform his appearance, the audience gets to watch a musical chairs of lead actors in the role. The Doctor is currently played by Jodie Whittaker, the first female lead in the series’ history, following an acclaimed run by Peter Capaldi (pictured above). You never know who or what you may come across when The Doctor hops out of that time machine, but the results are always enticing.
Imagine a future in which humans have colonized every part of the solar system. The Expanse turns that hypothetical future into a powerhouse sci-fi drama. The series is set 200 years from now, and centers on a conspiracy that threatens to wipe out the human race. Don’t let the CGI effects and space setting fool you, The Expanse is a riveting drama that tackles the nuances of human conflict in a way that rivals shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld.
The first three seasons of the series are currently available to stream, and Amazon picked up the series for its fourth season in early 2019.
World War II seems to be the most common source for the “What if?” scenario in fiction. The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, starts with the premise that not only did the Axis powers win the war, but they also occupied the United States afterward, with Imperial Japan governing the West Coast and the Nazis controlling the territory east of the Rockies.
The show follows a few different characters living in different regions as they try to endure the occupation and simultaneously investigate a mysterious film reel that depicts an alternate universe where the Allies actually won the war. Dick was a true visionary author, and The Man in the High Castle captures the otherworldly, authoritarian nature of the world he imagined. Rich with intrigue and superb direction, The Man in the High Castle is an exciting thriller.
In this critically acclaimed British series, a young woman named Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) has a chance encounter with a woman who looks just like her. This sets Sarah down a path to discovering that she is one of several clones who have been created as part of an ongoing experiment. Soon, she is at odds with the corporation that created her, and a mysterious organization that wants to get rid of her. It’s a fast-paced thriller that takes the time to explore themes of self-identity and bioethics.
For those who enjoy the political maneuvering and messy military battles of Game of Thrones but want something a bit more grounded, Vikings is sure to please. A down-to-earth historical fantasy saga, Vikings chronicles the rise of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) from farmer to legendary warrior. Ragnar sails around Northern Europe searching for plunder, accompanied by his warrior wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), and other allies.
It’s a grim series, drawing on the legends surrounding Viking raids in the Middle Ages. Although not the most historically accurate show, Vikings does maintain a grittier aesthetic than some of its fantasy contemporaries; there’s a lot of blood and a lot of mud.
One of the most important anthology series in television history, The Twilight Zone was a showcase for some of the best writing talent on TV in the ’60s, with literary greats like Ray Bradbury contributing scripts. Under the direction of showrunner Rod Serling, each episode offers a unique science fiction/horror tale examining a variety of subjects.
Although it’s an old show, and thus light on special effects, the concepts it explores are as brilliant (and disturbing) as anything on television today. The stand-alone nature of the episodes means you can pick it up at any point you want, too, without worrying about continuity or recurring characters.
David Lynch was an accomplished arthouse director even before 1990, with films like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead under his belt. His move into television must have seemed an odd choice at the time given TV was often seen as a fairly lowbrow medium in the early ’90s, but ever the visionary, Lynch brought the format to new heights, crafting a compelling serialized narrative with all the surreal imagery Lynch’s films are known for.
Set in the titular town deep in the Pacific Northwest, Twin Peaks begins with a mystery — the death of local homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee.) FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) arrives to investigate, quickly encountering the many strange characters living in Twin Peaks and uncovering the salacious secrets lurking beneath the surface of their pastoral lives. A mere two seasons in its original run, Twin Peaks is relatively brief, and it fizzles out somewhat once the mystery of Laura Palmer is solved. However, it stands out as one of the weirdest, most imaginative shows ever on television.
The horror anthology that is Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, though novel, continues to surpass expectations with every passing season. Each essentially functions as a self-contained miniseries, focusing on a repertory cast of characters and a storyline that features its own beginning, middle, and end.
Each season — whether it revolves around a coven of witches, an insane asylum, or a haunted house in the middle of Los Angeles — features lavish set pieces and campy aesthetics, both of which add to sterling performances from the likes of Lady Gaga and the award-winning Jessica Lange. Many of the seasons even take a jab at current social issues, and they often leave a weird and wonderful impression. Well, that, and an awful taste in your mouth.
A groundbreaking science fiction series from writer Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek follows the crew of the Enterprise as they travel the universe on a mission of peace and exploration. Starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the roles that launched them into stardom, the series is a cornerstone of television history. Each episode explores timeless philosophical and social ideas.
Star Trek was also famous for incorporating an ethnically diverse cast in the politically tumultuous ’60s, making it a show that was far ahead of its time. Roddenberry envisioned a future where humanity would bring its very best traits and ideals out into the universe, and the show shares his boundless idealism. The primitive special effects can make Star Trek seem a bit cheesy to the modern eye, but even its most inept action scenes have a certain bizarre charm to them.
Fred Rogers created 31 seasons of what is possibly the best children’s show of all time. The show consists of Roger’s half-hour “visit” with his audiences, in which he speaks directly to his viewers. Once he enters his home and changes into his famous zip-up cardigan and blue sneakers, he creates a safe and special place through his genuineness and naturalness. Children learn about various topics, including those that deal with death, jealousy, divorce, and anger.
The show also incorporates visits from Mr. Rogers’ friends, such as delivery man Mr. McFeely, and always features a “Picture Picture” segment designed to teach children how various items are made. At the end of the show, the trolley from the opening credits takes viewers to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where beloved puppets often have interactions that reflect the theme of the show.
From Aardman Studios — the creators of Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Creature Comforts — comes the children’s series Shaun the Sheep. Shaun is a sheep who doesn’t follow the herd. In fact, he often brazenly leads them into all sorts of madcap shenanigans around Mossy Bottom Farm. The show also features the iconic studio’s stop-motion animation and remains free of dialogue, which is actually a welcome reprieve for parents who simply can’t get on board with the high-pitched voices and exuberant makeup of many modern children’s shows.
Tumble Leaf, Amazon’s heralded foray into the realm of children’s programming, is a stunning example of what a children’s show should be. The recent stop-motion title is based on the short film Miro and aimed at preschool-aged children, though it remains charming enough to entertain adults who want to further engage with their children.
Each episode follows Fig the Fox (Christopher Downs) and his science-centric escapades around the whimsical world of Tumble Leaf, a woodland locale laced with a melange of quirky creatures with whom Fig is friends. Together, the humanoid creatures discover how reflections, shadows, and other facets of our natural world work, examining the value of friendship and kindness as they do so. The scenery is as vibrant and colorful as are the characters, rendering it both eye candy and a conversation starter.
The inspiration behind several movies, a toy that created a buying frenzy, and its own magazine, Sesame Street is a veritable institution. The show, which has spanned 45 seasons and won more awards than its young viewers could count, takes place on an urban street where humans and Jim Henson’s Muppets interact. The show also includes short animation and live-action films, pictures, and songs. It was the first children’s show to use educational goals and a curriculum to shape its content, and as such, it has taught millions of viewers around the globe about the importance of relationships, ethics, and emotions. Plus, you know, the ABCs.
For years, the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond drove cool cars and clowned around with each other on the BBC’s Top Gear. Despite their departure from that series, however, the good times keep rolling on The Grand Tour, which reunites the three snarky hosts for a show that is very similar in format to Top Gear. Episodes often feature studio segments and test drives on the show’s test track, the “Eboladrome.”
As with Top Gear, the best episodes are the ones where the hosts venture to foreign lands, testing unique vehicles on unfamiliar terrain. For car enthusiasts or Top Gear fans not satisfied by that show’s new hosts, The Grand Tour is a welcome return to form.
Follow along with noted conservationist Jeff Corwin as he dives into a new subject of ocean research in each episode. This series is famed for its depth of research and concern for the well-being of ocean life. It also made a splash with critics, having won multiple Emmys since it first aired in 2011.
This Emmy and James Beard Award-nominated show follows celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse around the world, where he meets up with friends and fellow chefs to discuss and taste some of the culinary world’s hottest flavors. Season 1 sees Lagasse tour Sweden, China, Spain, South Korea, Italy, and Cuba.
“How can I increase engagement on Instagram?” is a question we receive frequently from our clients.
There was a time (long, long ago) when all you had to do on Instagram was post a half-decent photo with a short, preferably funny caption and that was it. Nowadays, if you want to generate engagement and be classed as an “influencer,” you’ve got to sharpen your game and make sure every post provides value to someone, somehow.
Recently, David “Rev” Ciancio joined the Social Pros podcast to chat about increasing engagement on Instagram with a fine-tuned social media strategy. Here’s a recap of what he shared, and the 5 things you can do this week to increase engagement on Instagram:
Thanks to testing and social media analytics, you can determine the best time of day and posting frequency to post on your Instagram account. For the Instagram accounts Rev manages, he was able to determine the time of day and post frequency that resulted in the highest engagement. For one account, it’s posting at 6:30am once a day. For another account, it’s posting at 6:30am, 2pm, and 11pm everday of the week.
As a marketer, you can use a tool like SproutSocial to measure and test the best time of day and posting frequency for audience engagement on Instagram. Before you start testing, think about audience: what they want to see, when they want to see it, and why they would want to interact with your content. Come up with a few hypotheses, test them, and start to figure out what works (and what doesn’t).
Our heatlhcare social media marketing research found that the social media accounts with the highest engagement varied their content mix (video, links, and photos), and Rev’s experience proves the same.
Rev recommends posting content that communicates what is unique about your business through photos and/or video. Is it photos of food, parties, or your team? If you want to drive engagement, make sure your posts are unique and varied, and don’t rely on one type of update.
For the Instagram accounts Rev manages, carousel posts get the highest engagement. But a study by AgoraPulse found that carousels actually get LESS engagement than regular photo posts. And then our very own Convince & Convert study of Instagram Tourism accounts found that carousels get more engagement than regular photo posts.
The lesson here? If you want to increase engagement, you must test and see what content type (video, carousel, or photo) performs best with your audience. What works for one brand may not work for another and vice versa.
Reposting your customers’ Instagram content is key to increasing engagement. Numerous studies have found that social media posts with user-generated content (UGC) get the highest engagement. In fact, one study mentioned by AgoraPulse found that Instgram posts with UGC get 6.9X more engagement than other posts.
Also, make sure to include attribution to the account and give them a shout out— this recognition encourages users to share photos about your business again by essentially thanking them for the original post. It’s also required by Instagram and in their own terms and conditions. Brands must have explicit permission from the original content publisher to republish into their own social media channels. Properly crediting the original content creator should be done in the photo caption with a tag to the original source.
Instgram posts with UGC get 6.9X more engagement than posts without UGC.
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If you’re going to go through the effort of posting photos on Instagram, make sure the quality of the photos is in sync with your brand and looks great. While there are a plethora of photo-editing tools available, Rev really likes Snapseed for ease of use and quality. I tried it — and I’m a fan too.
This seems obvious, but if your business is on Instagram, you need to make sure your bio has your contact info, address, website, and a few other useful tidbits. Rev says he sees a lot of SMBs and even a few enterprises that leave their Instagram bio blank.
Instagram bios are one of those nuances that keep Instagram unique and force accounts to be creative in how they present themselves. Bios must be 150 characters or less. Emojis can be used, and Instagram recently allowed for hashtags and @mentions to be linked from a bio as well. One thing Instagram hasn’t relaxed is space for one clickable link in the bio.
The bio space, though only 150 characters, is an opportunity to draw attention to a current campaign, important dates and events, or even partner accounts.
Attribution has long been a headache for digital marketers.
When a customer clicks on an ad and ends up buying a product, then that ad is responsible for convincing the customer to buy the product. But what about all those other ads that led to the final click?
What is multi-touch attribution?
Last-click attribution gives credit for the sale to the last ad that the customer last clicked. But, as brands spend more on traditional platforms like audio, TV, and out-of-home, it creates two problems for the brand: one, because these aren’t digital platforms, a brand can’t simply trace the number of clicks to determine if a customer ends up buying something. Second, the more marketing channels a brand has, the harder it is to tell where a customer first heard about the brand.
Multi-touch attribution attempts to chart how a customer moves down the purchasing cycle, from the first ad they viewed to the last, and determine which of those marketing channels was most important in ultimately getting the customer to buy.
“Multi-touch attribution is really about trying to make sense of what in your marketing mix gets credit for what,” said Chris Toy, the CEO and co-founder of MarketerHire, a platform for freelance marketers.
Who cares about it?
Every marketer, unless they’re just dumping all their money into Google and Facebook ads. Figuring out what ads work and how much they contribute to growing sales is critical. What’s more, platforms and publishers that aren’t specialists in driving clicks want credit for the help they give to a customer taking a desired action.
What are the different ways to measure it?
There are a variety of multi-touch attribution models, with each assigning a different level of credit to different marketing channels. There’s linear, which gives all of the different places where the customer hears about the product an equal level of credit for the purchase. So if a customer first views a Pinterest ad and then clicks on a Facebook ad before buying a set of cookware, both the Pinterest ad and the Facebook ad would be equally considered responsible for the purchase.
There’s also time decay, which gives more credit to the ad the closer it is to the bottom of the funnel. U-shaped, meanwhile, gives more weight to the channels responsible for the first and last touchpoint.
Marketing platforms see an opening in helping brands figure out how to measure multi-touch attribution, since it requires having the resources to measure many different channels. Google Analytics, for example, has a multi-touch-attribution modeling system built-in. Vendors like Neustar and Nielsen Visual IQ also sell solutions that help retailers measure multi-touch attribution.
Is any one model better than the other?
No. Marketers say that there’s no one-size-fits all multi-touch-attribution model, because it depends on what type of product a company is selling and how long it typically takes to convince a customer to buy. For example, if you have a low-cost impulse purchase, like sunglasses, a customer may only view a couple of ads before buying.
“You have to start thinking really consciously of what each of these channels did,”said Will Flaherty, vp of growth at DTC health-care brand Ro. “You could have a model that puts more weight on the channel that drives an email sign-up, because by getting someone into an email flow, there’s a higher likelihood that that person will eventually convert. You really just have to think through the journey of the customer.”
Are there any models that DTC brands typically use?
Many DTC brands, particularly those who have an affinity for developing marketing in-house, are instead trying to build their own custom attribution models. To do so, they have to have multiple methods of collecting data to determine what ads a customer may have viewed — that could include collecting click data, or developing a post-purchase survey that asks the customer to tell the company where they first heard of the brand.
DTC brands also need to be sophisticated enough in their data-collection abilities that they can track a customer through the entire purchasing and consideration cycle.
Custom-suit manufacturer Indochino is one such brand that’s developed its own custom attribution model. In 2017, Indochino started investing in building its own model that attempts to take into account “traditionally unquantifiable channels,” including public relations and storefront presence, according to the company’s marketing director Lisa Craveiro.
“For us, lifetime value is really important,” Indochino CEO Drew Green told Modern Retail in June. “And, importantly we know the lifetime value within a 12-, 24-, 36-, 48-month window of each channel.” So, Indochino’s model focuses heavily on that.
However, there are drawbacks to developing a custom model.
“Multi-touch attribution takes a lot of work to do accurately on your own and is very expensive to do with a partner,” wrote Evan Woods, head of growth for DTC pet food brand Ollie, in an email. “To effectively do this in-house, it requires support from data science, tech and marketing teams, and plenty of time to tweak and get your attribution right.”
How important is multi-touch attribution going to be?
Toy believes that younger DTC brands can spend too much time obsessing over creating and refining their own multi-touch attribution system.
“It’s distracting from what is most likely the actual problem — which is your ads suck, or your brand’s not quite right, or your pricing’s wrong,” Toy said.
He said that it makes more sense for companies to start thinking about how to develop a more sophisticated attribution model when they’re “bumping up against $10, $15, $20 million in sales,” though they may be able to earlier if they’re a venture-backed company with plenty of cash to go around.
“When you are a large company, you can afford it, and it’s worth your while to invest heavily in finding a 2% improvement [in marking spend], ” Toy said. “That’s a lot of money when you’re making $200 million a year in sales.”
A version of this post first appeared in Modern Retail, Digiday’s sister site.