Digital Dash: Amazon’s new video ads & more

1. Amazon launches video ads in mobile search results, takes ad business up a gear

Amazon already has annual ad sales of $2bn, and advertising is its fastest growing segment (source: Econsultancy) but this is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Amazon’s edge is that it has troves upon troves of actual purchase behaviour data. After all, half of consumers now begin their product searches on Amazon.

The potential for advertisers is genuinely huge, and this week Amazon made a move that will surely lure in some big-budget brands: the beta launch of video ads in search results.

“Video in search” ads are shown below the fold in search results for select keywords relevant to your product.

Customers can then click through to the product’s detail page, or a dedicated landing page – all within Amazon of course.

Photos: Amazon

This sounds great and all, but beware there is a catch: a spend of over $35,000 is required to get started with this new ad unit.


2. Instagram users in uproar as hundreds get locked out of accounts

This is a bit of a strange one.

Over the past week or so, hundreds of people have reported being locked out out of their Instagram accounts after being randomly logged out and unable to log back in.

As reported by Mashable, people are firstly being told their username no longer exists. They then find their handle and profile photo have been changed, along with the email address and phone number associated with the account.

Lots of people impacted by the hack have turned to other platforms like Twitter or Reddit for advice.

On 14 Aug, Instagram released a statement acknowledging the issue and offering some advice to help users secure their accounts.

Tips included:

  • Click “revert the change” if you receive an email from Instagram notifying you of a change in email address that you didn’t initiate
  • Choose a strong password that’s a combination of letters, numbers and punctuation marks
  • Take a look at your settings/permissions and revoke access to any suspicious third-party apps
  • Turn on two-factor authentication
  • If you’ve been affected by the hack, you can use these steps to restore your account. You should then link it to a new, secure email address


3. Google in hot water as little-known location tracking rules come to light

Allowing your location to be shared with apps, websites etc. is often a win-win. Users benefit from personalised content and features, or access to navigation tools; businesses and their advertisers benefit from being able to gather valuable geographical data.

But it’s not for everyone.

You might not want to be tracked everywhere you go, which is fine. You can simply toggle off the “share my location” (or equivalent) option and Bob’s your uncle.

Or is he?

This week, Google has been caught up in a controversy, started when an Associated Press investigation revealed the company is silently collecting your location data – even when you’ve got “Location History” turned off.

So for example, if you agree to let Google Maps record your location over time, it will create a “timeline” of your movements. Now, if you don’t agree to that and actually elect to pause the Location History feature, you would probably assume such tracking would stop, right? Hmm.

Turns out some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data even without asking.

This has raised a lot of eyebrows. But Google is playing it cool.

In a statement responding to the investigation, it said:

“Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time. As the story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions.”

Source: Marketing Land

And actually, this argument does hold some weight. As Marketing Land shows, the practices around location data collection are there to be seen, as you can see in these screenshots:

Photo: Marketing Land

Also, the middle picture shows settings for an option called “Web & App Activity” – and disabling this will prevent location data from being collected.

If you simply turn off Location History but leave Web & App Activity turned on, Google will still track you for some purposes.

I guess the question for me is, whether the information is there or not, how prominent and clear is it? Would the average user be fully aware of tracking small print from the off? If not, then this is a little shady.


4. Facebook adds Mentorship feature to Groups

Facebook Groups have been getting more attention than ever since Facebook’s big News Feed shift towards content that fosters meaningful connections.

Clearly Groups are a domain where people are invested in the content and community, which plays perfectly into the algorithm adjustment (meaning suddenly a lot more people care about Groups). And as long as they are used properly – rather than purely to game the system – that’s probably no bad thing.

With the spotlight on Groups, Facebook hasn’t been holding back in releasing some cool new features, including things like Watch Party, which rolled out recently.

But the newest of all the updates is this week’s announcement that Facebook’s Mentorship tool will be expanding into Groups.

The tool connects experts (mentors) with those needing guidance (mentees) to facilitate one-on-one structured support programmes.

Here’s how it works, as explained by Facebook:

I actually really like this idea and think Groups is the perfect place for it.


5. Snapchat tries to dazzle doubters with new “addressable reach” chat, but is anyone buying it?

Snapchat’s Q2 2018 earnings report got all the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

We dived into the detail of what happened in last week’s Digital Dash, but in a nutshell, the company’s daily active users (DAU) count dropped by 3 million.

As you can imagine, that really got people talking. The general consensus was that this could either be the beginning of the end for Snapchat, or it’s going to bounce back with more innovation and ingenuity than ever (which we all know it’s capable of).

Well, in typical Snapchat style, it’s come out fighting.

But this time it’s not launching a new feature or snazzy tool to regain people’s confidence. It’s using the term “addressable reach” to give itself an edge over competitors.

Snapchat defines addressable reach as “the number of users that can be reached with Snap Ads in a month”.

Photo: Snapchat

Snapchat says these numbers surpass what other platforms can achieve.

To be clear, and as pointed out by Social Media Today, addressable reach isn’t related to the time spent on the app each day (Instagram wins on this) – but more the sheer number of times they come back. It’s reported that Snapchat’s 188 million DAUs open the app over 20 times a day.

And Snapchat’s point is that this equals more opportunities for advertisers to reach people.

Now, I think some people will buy-in to this and some will be sceptical.

While the numbers and claims are eye-catching, it’s all a little vague in terms of what advertisers actually gain as opposed to could potentially gain from addressable reach.

It will be interesting to see if this becomes a “thing”.