April 18, 2019: Influencers flocking to new app; Pinterest adds two new conversion tools; Independent analysis sheds light on Amazon’s fake review economy; Google considers blocking third-party cookies; Verizon discusses in-house agency benefits

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:

Escaping “Big Social” with Escapex

The Story

More than 350 influencers have flocked to a new platform called Escapex, which gives influencers their own mini, Instagram-like apps. It’s part of the next wave of social media focused on smaller, more direct private groups.

I’m listening…

With Escapex, influencers can advertise their own subscription-based apps for fans to download and pay a monthly fee to get more personal, exclusive content, while also giving fans the chance to interact with them more directly. Each Escapex app is a decentralized social media platform that acts like Instagram but is fully controlled by the influencer, giving influencers full autonomy over their content, monetization, and their audiences. Influencers on the platform include comedian Chris D’Elia, YouTube star Bart Baker, and Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner.

Give me the numbers.

According to Escapex, the combined 350+ apps have more than 20 million users, who open an Escapex app four times per day on average. In the United States, 12 percent of all users who install an Escapex app subscribe, paying an average of $6 per month to access their favorite influencers’ content.


Escapex is capitalizing on many of the current issues experienced with today’s “Big Social” platforms – both from the influencer and user perspective.

Influencers’ abilities for monetization are almost entirely dependent on brand sponsorships. Big Social not only holds all of the data about their followers but also controls who sees their content through opaque algorithms. This new influencer-to-consumer app model turns the traditional power dynamic on its head, giving influencers full control over their apps, the communities formed within them, and how they choose to monetize their influence as a result. For instance, the app offers influencers a subscription model, cutting the need for advertisers out of the equation. There’s no pressure or risk of “selling out” or sacrificing authenticity for brand collabs.

Social media users, too, have similar concerns. Fed up with the constant privacy violations and lack of transparency, users are inevitably shifting away from feed-based sharing and towards more intimate groups and messaging. Escapex offers an antidote to Big Social Media and, given the current social landscape and desire personal connection that users crave.


Lights, Camera, Optimization

The Story

Pinterest has added two new conversion optimization tools to help advertisers reach their marketing goals: optimization for Promoted Pin campaigns and a conversion goals feature for Promoted Videos. Both are available to any brands with business accounts.

Tell me about them.

The conversion optimization for Promoted Pins allows advertisers to optimize Pinterest campaigns for specific actions to drive online checkouts, more signups, and/or better leads. Previously, Promoted Pin campaigns were only optimized for clicks. The tool is available for four existing Pinterest ad formats: promoted pins, promoted videos, carousel ads, and shopping ads. Pinterest has also expanded its promoted video format to provide marketers with a way to reach traffic or conversion goals.

Let’s talk results.

According to Pinterest, the brands using these features have already seen notable results. Gravity Blankets, a weighted blanket company, achieved a 2x increase in sales and a 58 percent lower cost per acquisition. Flaviar, a club for spirits enthusiasts, saw 409 percent more traffic and an 8x increase in leads from October 2018, as compared with the month before when testing conversion optimization.


Pinterest has been gearing up its ad platform and e-commerce offerings for its IPO, which is set to debut on the NYSE today at $19 per share. The newly added conversion features could help to drive even more marketers to the platform, especially among brands who are now turning to social media to drive sales (instead of just awareness).

With 265 million users, Pinterest is growing and it’s growing fast. Brands on Pinterest have a unique opportunity to reach consumers who not only have high purchase intent but who are also uniquely receptive to seeing content from brands.


Amazon’s Fake Review Economy

The Story

A number of independent investigations into Amazon’s review economy have all unveiled similar notions: a growing number of reviews on Amazon are fake. The latest investigation analyzed 203 million Amazon reviews and found 11.3 percent (22.8m) of them to be untrustworthy.

Let’s get to the root of the problem.

Fake reviews on Amazon aren’t new – they’ve existed on Amazon since the e-comm platform was first created. However, according to the investigation, the problem appears to have intensified in 2015, when Amazon began to allow Chinese sellers into its ecosystem. The decision led to a 33 percent increase in new products, sparking intense competition among sellers to generate higher product ratings, which has resulted in the gamification of ratings and reviews.

What’s Amazon saying?

Amazon has stated that “less than 1%” of its reviews are ingenuine and has cautioned against taking independent sites’ data at face value.

Despite the majority of consumers looking at ratings and reviews prior to making a purchase, only 38 percent of consumers currently click in to see the online reputation or profile of the person who generated the rating or review. In a world where even reviews can be gamified, consumers will soon begin looking for additional layers of social proof on top of ratings and reviews to verify credibility. Namely, 43 percent of consumers noted that, if an influencer is the one generating the rating or review, it would add credibility.

To get ahead of this and improve efficiencies, marketers can prompt influencers, who have just shared their product experiences on their own channels, to submit reviews and product content, as well. Product photos, videos, and other forms of content paired with written reviews are becoming the standard review format, enabling customers to exchange all relevant points-of-view about the product, its features, and its use cases.


Google’s Bid to Go Cookie-Less

The Story

Google is said to be having internal discussions about a number of changes to its consumer- and advertiser-facing tools, and is considering blocking third-party cookie targeting on Chrome and its Google Marketing Network.  


Two words: data privacy. According to sources close to the matter, Google teams want to placate consumers’ fears about data privacy, which have been growing exponentially since the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If Google Chrome was to block cookies, it would follow the implementation of third-party tracking restrictions on Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Brave’s offering.


Although much will depend on if and how exactly Google implements its cookie-blocking approach, some entities will inevitably fare better than others. If the ability to target people is compromised, those who can enrich the buying experience behind the cookie will prevail.

As the industry moves to a cookie-less world, it’s important to consider how programmatic buying practices will shift. Instead of buying an audience, we could see a shift towards programmatic buying based on direct channels and influencers to reach that same audience (think: if your target audience is fashionable millennials in Boston, programmatically buying Boston-based fashion influencers to reach that demographic). In this scenario, waste is not only inevitable, but it’s also beneficial, as it gives marketers the opportunity to expand to relevant audiences and reach more consumers.


In-House, Agency, or #TeamBoth?

The Story

In a recent panel, Verizon’s associate general counsel Kelly Whiting highlighted the various benefits of bringing agencies in-house, from proximity to business, insights, and leadership, to cost efficiencies and nimbleness.

You have my attention.

According to an October survey from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), advertisers with in-house agencies jumped to 78 percent in 2018 from 42 percent in 2008. One of the biggest draws for brands bringing marketing tasks in-house is cost savings and creative efficiencies. In a separate study, nearly 40 percent of client-side marketers said that cost efficiencies were the primary benefit, ahead of speed, creative expertise, more control, and better brand knowledge.

What’s Verizon saying?

“I think what [Verizon] is working through with its agencies is in the recognition of who does what and when. It’s recognizing what in-house can do well and also recognizing that there are times our agencies have expertise in areas where we may not. We can rely on them to provide guidance.” – Kelly Whiting, Associate General Counsel, Verizon


In the same way that Verizon is thinking about the role of the in-house agency in supplementing its existing strategy and business goals, brands have the opportunity to think about bringing influencers in-house in a similar capacity. Through enduring influencer partnerships (vs. one-off activations), brands have the opportunity to foster a more collaborative and transparent creative process.   


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