Advertising Trends from the 2018 “Millennial Superbowl”

In case you missed, forgot, or haven’t seen MTV since Jersey Shore first aired over 10 years ago (am I aging myself?), the VMAs were August 20th. And while you might be wondering, “What does Jennifer Lopez have to do with anything?” Sadly, not much, because what caught our attention doesn’t have to do with any of the performances, but rather the ads that aired between them.

If you watched the VMAs, it was easy to see who the big spenders were. Taco Bell, Cover Girl, Verizon, and Pepsi, among others, all fought for a chance to appeal to the VMA’s target audience, 12-34 year-olds. Nielsen reported that just over 9.8 million viewers tuned in for the VMAs this year and brands tried to make the most of their time with this group. To prepare for the “Millennial Super Bowl” (as MTV referred to it) brands came out in full swing, trying many things to appeal to viewers. Here are a few advertising trends we noticed throughout the night:

Long-form Advertising
Through the years, we’ve seen more and more brands produce longer content as a way to engage viewers. Long-form advertising can be a highly engaging and powerful tool for brands, and while this isn’t a relatively new idea, it’s great to see brands utilizing this method. During the VMAs, Olay aired a 2-minute musical inspired ad to promote their Daily Facial cloths. Love it or hate it, viewers went to twitter to voice their opinions of it. Time will tell how or if it will impact sales for Olay, but it certainly got people talking which is often considered a win in this day and age.


Targeted Messaging
One of the most prominent trends during the VMAs was highly targeted advertising. Contextually, these ads were different from things you would encounter on other networks and on other nights of the year. Ads tried to be interactive and in the moment. Taco Bell tailored ads to incorporate the night’s big winners and Amazon Alexa allowed viewers to vote during the show simply by saying “Alexa, vote for the VMAs.” The VMAs were comprised of ads and experiences geared toward 12-34 year-olds, and while broad mass market advertising has a time and a place, it definitely wasn’t in attendance at the VMAs.

Messaging wasn’t only for TV that night. Brands prepared content and experiences for viewers that ranged from brand sponsored pre-show livestreams, Twitter campaigns, and full force Snapchat plans of attack. Twitter reported that this year’s VMAs were the most-tweeted non-sports program with 2.2 million people sending 21.4 million tweets in the U.S. alone.

If there’s anything to take away from this year’s VMAs, it’s to develop creative that stays true to your brand, but have fun along the way.

Abby Asani is a Senior Research Analyst at Ameritest and may or may not be a former Jersey Shore Fanatic. 

Posted in Advertising Research, Attention, Brand Awareness, Brand Positioning, Methodology, Motivation, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Couldn’t Attend the IIeX Conference? We Did. Here’s What You Should Know.

Last month was a busy month of conferences. Our team attended Greenbook’s IIeX (Insights and Innovation Exchange) in Atlanta. The event beat its personal record for attendance with almost 1,200 research representatives filling the halls.

With more than 225 speakers and 150 sessions, four of us weren’t able to dominate the five tracks of learning. But, we did put our love of caffeine and our quant skills to good use so that we could efficiently bring back the learning to our team and our clients who didn’t have the time to dedicate to the actual event.

We started by doing a quick quantitative assessment of the subject matter. We felt there were six themes that dominated: A.I Machine Learning, Behavior Science/Emotion, Case Studies/Sales, etc., Sampling, Agility and Blockchain. While these conversations aren’t wildly new, we felt they were sophisticated. The industry feels like it’s collectively smarter and we have moved from information gathering to application.

Here is the essence of what we heard:

Picture1A.I. & machine learning aren’t just for your smartphone. The conversation has moved from “what is it, and will it make me obsolete” to “here is what my team has done to implement some A.I., what about you?” One of the keynote speakers, Marie Wolfe, from Unilever did a wonderful job making it clear how her insights team has adopted the practice by thinking about it as Augmented Efficiency and found tremendous efficiencies because of it. They have created a platform called Answer Rocket where they can ask questions as if they’re talking to Siri, but specifically about Unilever and their own proprietary research. The platform makes it possible for insights team members to get answers in seconds that used to take days or sometimes even weeks.

Picture1Agile should be your middle name. Insight professionals aren’t ever going to stop being asked to do things fast, fast and faster. Almost every presentation included an element of “how can you stop asking for 100% of what you used to put in your filing cabinet and get the 80% that you actually need in order to immediately act?” The DIY research industry is continuing to evolve and become a more trusted tool when the need for speed is the key need for a team’s research.

Picture1Behavior sciences are becoming more important. When we started adopting Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 language, we started a really important trend of understanding the difference between what human beings say they do and what they actually do. We also started to understand there are things you just shouldn’t ask someone to tell you, because, well, they actually can’t. This year, many organizations talked about how they have meaningfully changed up their methodology based on a more predictably irrational human being. The ability to get at better insights because of this growing body of knowledge is really piquing.

Picture1Storytellers needed in insights-driven organization. Although not one of the dominant headlines of the event, there was a common thread throughout about the industry’s need for clear, concise, articulate storytellers. The need to move our internal audiences is equally as important at the internal level as it is to move the people who pay for our products. In fact, if we don’t do our jobs first, the second doesn’t ever happen. The consensus is that teams haven’t begun to tap out on developing the skill of turning data into stories.

Picture1Um, who’s taking my survey? Sample providers led many conversations about the need to focus on policing the quality of online sampling. It will be news to many that fraudulent online survey responses are now a HUGE business, bringing in about $7B of revenue. How and why, you ask? How: Bots. Why: Personal income – especially for tech-savvy citizens of lower-income countries. Look for the ESOMAR and sample-driven organizations to begin preparing better and more transparent practices in this area of research.

Picture1They’re heeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrre. Blockchain isn’t just for other people. It’s made its way into the MR industry enough so that there were presenters focused on getting noticed for being early to the game in order to shape the conversation about how we should start to become comfortable with it as a thing. What is it and why should researchers care about it? Rather than try to summarize it, we’re stealing the words from one of the industry’s leaders in blockchain, Nina Nichols who wrote a great piece on the subject in Quirk’s publication last November:
“In the future, for example, marketing researchers could see screeners becoming obsolete. We will no longer have to take a respondent’s word that he or she qualifies for a survey because their blockchain-authenticated data will speak for them. And each time that consumer provides data, that data will be stored on the blockchain, further enriching their profile for research. Think of a respondent who three years ago indicated via a survey that they used a particular brand of insulin. Now imagine being able to rapidly re-target that same person for a follow-up survey without having to re-screen.”

If you would like to peruse the library of presentations, the IIeX team has made them available here:

Becarren Schultz is Director of Client Development and a caffeine and conference aficionado 

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest, Conference, Digital, Emotion, Methodology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Got Milk?” Got Updated

imagesThe California Milk Processor Board recently rolled out a new ad in which three children commiserate about the challenges of adolescence over cold glasses of milk. The spot marks a strategic shift away from the instantly-recognizable and universally lauded “Got Milk?” ads, though the iconic phrase still shows up as the tagline.

A relevant and accessible narrative? Check. Generating meaning and emotion? You bet. Creating a single-minded branding moment? Most definitely. By building a believable and relatable story (what kid doesn’t think their parent’s job is boring?), touching a nostalgic nerve for the simpler problems of middle-school and leveraging the valuable brand asset of “Got Milk?,” the ad hits the trifecta for successful advertising.

Building on the strength of the creative, the ad also subtly shifts the brand’s messaging to adopt a more positive and inclusive tone. The original “Got Milk?” spots were inherently centered on a lack or a fear of missing out. Nobody wanted their answer to the titular question to be “no.” The new campaign instead places the focus on the communal and social elements of the product. It marks a natural, logical step in the overarching brand narrative. Rather than simply inducing people to purchase milk, by means FOMO or other, this ad highlights the comfort of knocking back a cold glass of milk. There is no need to directly answer that classic question anymore. Of course you have milk. Now, let’s talk.

Taylor Smith is a Research Analyst at Ameritest and has been drinking milk since 1993.

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest, Attention, Brand Awareness, Brand Positioning, Emotion, Memory, Motivation, Packaged Goods, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ameritest Announces Appointment of Abigail Hollister to President

AUntitledmeritest, a global leader in advertising and brand communication research, is delighted to announce that Abigail Hollister has been appointed president.

Abigail is a fourteen-year veteran of Ameritest, consulting with brands to understand and solve their communication challenges. In her role as President, she will lead strategic planning discussions and continue to drive research innovation in the advertising and communications space to fuel powerful brand strategies.

Prior to joining Ameritest, she worked in Client Service at Millward Brown in Naperville, IL and in custom research for Catalina Marketing Research Solutions in Schaumburg, IL.

“Abby brings creative insights and an energetic service perspective to her new leadership role,” says Ameritest Founder, Chuck Young. “With her deep understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of our business, Abby has a clear-eyed vision of how our advertising and brand research consultancy will continue to grow and adapt to the rapidly evolving world of communications and the changing needs of our clients.”

In response to her appointment, Hollister says, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead Ameritest into the next chapter of our story. With the tremendous strength of the team I have at my side, we are ready and able to develop the opportunities ahead and continue to build on the great partnerships we are fortunate enough to have with our clients.”

To contact Abigail, please follow the link or Visit for more information

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

We Attend So You Don’t Have To: ARF AudienceXScience Conference Recap

This past June the ARF hosted their 13th Audience Measurement Conference, AudienceXScience, where media, research, and advertising professionals gathered to explore the challenges of audience measurement in our ever-evolving media environment. The two days were packed with innovations and conversations around the complexities of measuring the reach and impact of advertising.

Scott McDonald, Ph.D, President & CEO, ARF kicked off the conference with a mix of commendation and tough-love. He actively combatted the misconception that measurement is broken and cautioned against falling into the trap of despair and focusing only on the gaps.  He gave the group marching orders to actively participate in the next two days as optimistic and pragmatic problem solvers. Here are some key themes that emerged as we rolled-up our sleeves and got to work.

TV’s premium content gives advertisers more value, and more ways to make emotional connections with consumers.

Rather than relying on reach to assert its dominance in the media landscape, TV focused on the premium content it provides across a variety of platforms. TV’s storytelling excellence and ability to connect emotionally cannot be matched by non-premium digital video. As a result, the ad views tied to premium content have more value than those supposed “efficient” CPMs available on digital.

What does it mean to advertisers? Given that the strength of content will become a key component in effectively delivering advertising, the impact programming context has on advertising will become a more critical measure in evaluating the most effective advertising platforms.

As research companies work through cross-platform measurement challenges, self-report surveys continue to play a critical role in measuring ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend).

Included in the challenges cross-platform measurement faces is consistency or single currency: research providers have different ways to count views, to de-dupe viewers, and some focus on households rather than views. Self-report surveys emerged as an important component in understanding ROAS, given that they can be designed to provide consistent measures across platforms.

Researchers are sharing information in pursuit of the overarching goal to transparently provide advertisers with accurate information so that they can ultimately improve the impact of their marketing. This transparent cooperation is in stark contrast to the “walled garden” of digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, who measure their own service and as a result have been plagued with validity, fraud, and privacy issues.  

What does it mean to advertisers? Innovative internal cross-platform measures may need to be developed as stop-gap solutions while the industry evolves. As self-report continues to be used in evaluating ROAS, it is critical that researchers are vigilant in their continuing combat against fraud and invalidity.

Research about new and evolving advertising formats and platforms helps advertisers optimize their use.

6 Second Ads appear on TV at approximately the same rate as 60 second ads. While six seconds is enough time to get attention and communicate a brand, it is not long enough to tell a story. As a result, context plays a key role in the impactfulness of short-format spots, as does a recognizable brand presence.

Instagram Stories create more relevant brand connections than posts in the Instagram Feed, giving consumers what they perceive as an insider’s view of the brand. Bookending stories with brand presence, incorporating the brand within the story, and designing the story with communication objectives in mind all contribute to strong performance.

Online Influencers can generate the same level of attention and intensity as TV commercials, albeit on a longer timeframe. Trustworthy, authentic influencers can pass along value to a brand, provided the influencer, content, and platform align with brand strategy.

What does it mean to advertisers? A clear brand communications strategy that can be implemented across touchpoints is critical in effectively leveraging new platforms and formats, as well as legacy platforms.

Eldaa Daily, Research Director

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest, Attention, Brand Positioning, Conference, Memory, Methodology, Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IHOP to IHob to IHOP

How can a company built on a foundation of pancakes, up and decide to change that foundation to hamburgers? The casual dining sector is filled with restaurants that consumers have come to rely on. However, when one of these restaurants decides to challenge that reliability, it can be met with praise or disdain. But is being met at all a sign of victory?

IHOP (International House of Pancakes) has survived for sixty years on the idea that they specialize in breakfast. That, coupled with their 24-hour service, has made them a major consideration on that 3 AM Uber ride home (as I’m sure many of us have experienced). However, allowing perceptions to become stagnant can be dangerous and IHOP understood something needed to be done.

On June 4th, IHOP started generating buzz after tweeting out that they would be changing their name to IHOb. By not initially revealing what the “b” stood for, suspense and dialogue began to build. Though some may beg to differ, the old adage, there’s no such thing as bad press, began to work its magic for IHOP. Three weeks after their initial tweet, IHOP’s parent organization, Dine Brands Global Inc., saw a 30% increase in their stock. However, after just over a month, IHOP disclosed that the name would not be permanently changed. Whatever name they choose to go by, they have kept themselves on people’s minds, which is what a marketing stunt is made to do. The main question remaining is if it will yield long lasting results. They’ve got people in the door. It’s up to IHOP to keep them coming back for more.

Sage Bayslinger, Ameritest Intern & 3am IHOP Visit Aficionado 

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest, Attention, Brand Positioning, Motivation, QSR Advertising, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What 2018 Trends Mean for Advertisers

Last week, we talked about some of the emerging trends we’re seeing in advertising this year. While it’s great to know what’s changing, you probably want to know what this means for you. How does all this translate into how your company approaches advertising?john-jackson-636232-unsplash

What does all this mean for the use of online video? A few things:

  1. Video is not a tactic, it’s a strategy. Having a great video advertising campaign does not mean you don’t need a strong brand strategy – you do.
  2. No, you cannot just repurpose your TV advertisements. TV commercials are consumed passively, whereas consumers actively choose to watch online videos. That means you have to give them a reason to choose yours.
  3. Take advantage of different length options. Give people the chance to see more if they want, but don’t force it on them. Don’t be the person who insists on being best friends as soon as you’ve met. Let them get to know you a little, and once you’ve piqued their interest, make it easy for them to access more.
  4. Viewers are getting used to being catered to. This means, if content isn’t relevant to their interests, they can easily click away – and they will. This gets back to the point about how online content is more active than TV commercials. While they may not always have the option of clicking away from your TV commercial without missing part of their show, they usually do have that option online.
  5. Take advantage of new technology, but use it to add value, not just to show off.

What does this mean for the research world?

  1. Know your facts. The increased accessibility of data has led to a corresponding wealth of misinformation. Users are increasingly suspicious of what they see online, especially if it’s in an advertisement. Plus, they can usually fact check you fairly easily, so make sure you get your facts straight.
  2. Understand the ethics of data usage. The ability to better target our digital audience is tempting, and should be used, but not at the expense of the consumer. It’s a fine line, and in some cases, a blurry line, so tread carefully until the line gets more defined. And listen to your customers when they say you’re creeping them out.
  3. Researchers need to collaborate with the creative team in order to make smart innovation. What you’ll need to do is take unique client problems and find reliable, trustworthy ways of addressing those problems.

What does this mean for the creative team?

  1. While storytelling used to be something that was nice to have, it’s now a must have.
  2. Memory is more important to branding than ever. People are flooded with content these days, and the key to standing out from the crowd is to make an impression that lasts.
  3. The age of disruptive advertising is over. People can pay more to opt out of commercials in their streaming services, they can mute, skip over, and click out of the advertisements they do see, and they often have the option of saying whether the commercial is relevant to them. Pay attention to these trends, accept that your content will only be seen by those who want to see it, and give them a reason to watch (or better yet, interact with) your content.
  4. Creative is king. No matter what you’re selling, no matter what platform you’re on, finding creative ways to position your brand and communicate with your audience is more important than ever.

While we’ve done our best to identify trends that are on the way up (which means they are likely to remain important, and even gain importance as time goes on), remember that our world is changing faster than ever and staying ahead of the game is a constant process. Keep researching your audience, keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and above all, stay creative.

Posted in Advertising Research, Ameritest, Attention, Brand Awareness, Brand Positioning, Digital, Emotion, Memory, Motivation, Storytelling, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment