Five things you need to know about Facebook Instant Articles

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Last week, Facebook launched the Instant Article feature on its iOS app with nine media partners: The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Atlanic, National Geographic, NBC News, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel Online, and Bild. Instant Articles appear directly in Facebook mobile feeds without users having to click to the publisher’s websiteThe feature will have large implications for publishers and consumers. It will be fun to watch the whole thing play out. Here are the five things to get you up to speed on Instant Articles.  



1. It’s an upgrade for content consumption 

Linking off of Facebook to articles can be brutal for a few reasons. Mainly:

  • articles can take forever to load (5 seconds and most of us are gone)
  • most mobile websites are awful
  • when we link off and then feel like victims of click-bait, we get salty

So, from a user experience perspective, Facebook Instant Articles look and feel like a compelling and interesting upgrade. We’ll get beautiful news content that loads immediately. The content will be clean and fast. Facebook fundamtentally gets how to deliver content on mobile devices and most of large media companies don’t. The early Instant Article entries stand out in our feed because of their autoload preview videos. When we click through we get highly immersive content features:

  • high res, high impact images that can be scaled and navigated by tilting the device from left to right
  • elegant audio overlays that add additional commentary from the authors and photographers

2. BuzzFeed’s first post is a great showcase of the potential

BuzzFeed took their viral expertise to the new feature with their kick-off post titled 13 Steps to Instantly Improve Your Day. They seemingly used all the new Facebook publishing tools available to them and created an experience that represents a great showcase for the future of mobile content:

  • scrolling up and down and right and left
  • large embedded video content
  • audio integration
  • slideshows
  • great use of right to left tilt to view larger images

I had a similar thought when Snapchat Discovery launched – at first brands are almost trying too hard to show off all their mobile friendliness, but when they settle down a bit, the content actually makes mobile content consumption truly enjoyable.




3. Facebook is starting out with publisher friendly terms

Facebook has given it’s launch partners favorable terms. The publishers can sell their own ads against the content and keep 100% of the money. If Facebook ends up selling the ads, they give the publishers 70%. They are also allowing sponored content beyond just banner advertising. The feature includes customization tools so that publishers have some creative control over how the content is ultimately displayed. The most important piece is the fact that publishers will get data and insights from the content that they surface directly on Facebook. They are also permitted to include 3rd party analytics services such as Quantcast.

On the surface these are great terms. But considering Facebook’s ad revenue and the fact that they already know everything about their users, they aren’t giving up much. And the relationship between the platform and its publishers could/will certainly get wierd down the road.

4. The relationship status is complicated

The relationship between large publishers and Facebook will continue to evolve, but some news publishers are weary. The current sentiment among many journalists seems to be “this is gonna end badly for us.” Facebook is already the preferred web browser for many. The news we see is the news that shows up on our newsfeed. So, if Facebook is our go to destination, the news we get is the news Zuckerberg and Chris Cox, Facebook’s head of Product, think we should care about. Soon though we won’t even have to click through to the actual news sites. Facebook being the middle man for consumers in their news is point of concern.

Journalists also fear corporate censorship – i.e., “What will happen when I want to publish a 10,000 word thinkpiece on how evil Facebook is and to maxmize the article’s reach I want to publish it via Facebook’s Instant Articles? Is Zuck gonna let that through?” But traditional print publications have yet to fully figure out their digital audiences and Facebook has the audience — so now we’re here.

The more successful Instant Articles are, the more publishers will invest in it and the more reliable they will be on Facebook. And that reliance becomes scary. Remember when we thought that The Washington Post Social Reader was the future of content? The app scaled to millions of users quickly and then Facebook dropped it…and we ain’t heard from Social Reader since. Remember all of those FarmVille requests you used to get? When Facebook decided that platform games weren’t part of their strategy moving forward, Zynga’s business shrunk almost over night.

5. Brands can participate, but they’ll need to step their content games up

What does this mean for brands? Instant Articles give the content a centerstage on our newsfeeds. This kind of content will be even more scrutinized. If we arrive on an Instant Article only to feel like we’re getting a lame advertisement as opposed to a great story it’s going to leave a bad taste in our mouths.

With Facebook allowing sponsored content, smart brands will work directly with publishers to use the high impact imagery and audio integration to create sponsored content that entertains. The possibilities seem endless for brands, especially those in the automotive, fashion, tech industries.

The early Instant Articles content shows the potential for truly immersive and engaging mobile content. The challenge for brands will be to think about how they can use this new set of tools to tell amazing mobile stories.

Mike Johnson is The Marketing Arm’s senior director, Digital Strategy. You can follow “MJ” on Twitter at @mjamrst.

TMA takes home first One Show Pencils!

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ONE Show Pencils

The Marketing Arm earned its first One Show Pencils for its Pepsi MAX presents Test Drive 2 with Jeff Gordon work!

TMA’s Entertainment team earned two pencils, a Silver in Film (Long Form) and a Bronze in Branded Entertainment (Long Form). Marc Gilbar, group creative director, said the wins are a tribute to his team’s hard work and effort.

“I am thrilled to bring home these awards on behalf of TMA, but especially proud of my team in LA,” Gilbar (pictured above with Tom Meyer) said. “They worked so hard on bringing an admittedly crazy idea to life. This is dedicated to them.”

Test Drive 2One of the most viral videos in 2014, Test Drive 2 with Jeff Gordon has over 18 million views on YouTube and counting. Congratulations to the team for all the hard work!

For more information on TMA’s Entertainment capabilities, contact Steve Albany at


The latest Platform news with Tom Edwards

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Tom Edwards, EVP of Strategy & Innovation, talked about the latest in platform news from last week.

Q: What do you think was the biggest platform news for the week of April 27 in terms of having the biggest immediate impact for mobile marketers?
TE: The biggest immediate impact is the Google and Twitter DoubleClick partnership. This move will further align the two and allow marketers to expand measurement and attribution across campaigns. The fact that Twitter inventory will also be available through DoubleClick Bid Manager is also appealing.

Q: Which news can they take a wait and see approach to?
TE: Facebook integrating video calling into messenger is another step towards a truly enhanced messaging experience. By launching messenger as a platform as well as a beta program tied to customer service, Facebook is looking to create a new avenue for 1:1 commerce. It will be a wait and see approach for now but the more traction and engagement they can drive through messenger the higher the probability it will create new opportunities for marketers.

Q: What steps should marketers be taking in the near term to address these developments?
TE: It is important to continually monitor platform announcements and new strategic partnerships. As the platforms shift, we must look to create new use cases or adjust existing frameworks and attribution models to continue to create value and extend our marketing partners mobile investments.

Brands Targeting Audiences Like Never Before

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Tom Edwards, EVP of Strategy & Innovation, talked about brands targeting audiences and how they’re utilizing traditional and non-traditional digital marketing to expand their reach.

Q: To what extent is more specific targeting/buying of audiences growing? If it is growing, why is this happening now?

TE: With the proliferation of device types of all makes and models and the non-linear path to purchase, the industry has shifted towards models and solutions that can create relevant and authentic connections with consumers through our media targeting.

There has been a shift towards personalized creative that appeals to specific segments. This means that data that allows for a higher probability of impacting intent is needed in addition to personalized creative.

This extends well beyond traditional digital. Mobile is key to delivering contextual messaging be it tied to location or sensors. Aligning location, transaction, online behavior and aggregating through an identity management platform that is tied to cross screen networks all while mapping attribution is the ideal that a number of ad providers are moving towards in addition to programmatic platforms.

Q: What are some specific examples of how brands are tapping new tools and services to reach specific groups of individuals/audiences? 

TE: A number of our clients are testing various tools. Everything from custom audience segments, leveraging identity management and media execution platforms and a heavy focus on optimization through data analytics. We are also exploring programmatic creative where we create assets per audience segment and dynamically generate personalized native advertisement to in store partnerships with providers like EyeQ, who provide facial recognition technology that can serve personalized content.

Other examples are similar to EA’s Madden 15 campaign. They partnered closely with Facebook and created 32 separate instances of creative based on NFL fan affinity and delivered personalized creative to further connect with fans.

Q: What are the challenges for brands in doing this on mobile? What things should brands keep in mind in pursuing hyper-targeting of individuals?

TE: There are many challenges as ad providers align their offerings to create the most value for agencies and brands. Identity management, mapping transaction and behaviors, incorporating location all while trying to deliver the most relevant creative is a challenge. The other point to consider is how real 1:1 at scale is. The key is to identify and segment the target audience, create viable look-a-like clusters and test, test, test to see what truly resonates and continually optimize.

It is also important to understand the distribution channels. There is a difference between highly targeted platforms such as Facebook and opt-in platforms such as Buzzfeed and SnapChat and how you structure your programs.

It is also important to know which media channels can drive results for the business as each can play a different role across awareness, intent and conversion. Understanding the channel mapped to the goal in addition to aligning behaviors and creative that is relevant and contextual is key.

Tom Edwards Talks Apple Watch First Impressions

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CDY_SvXWMAABEsWTom Edwards was the first in TMA to receive the Apple Watch. Here are a few of his thoughts after spending a weekend with Apple’s latest tech.

Q: What do you like about the watch after spending 72 hours with it? 

A: From Apple’s first announcement last September to receiving the Apple watch on launch day I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest tech. But even all of the research did not prepare me for the full experience.

The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face was just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that is not an iPhone on your wrist, but it is really an extension of the iPhone experience. It will streamline quick tasks such as text, notifications and quickly reviewing e-mail.

I also like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands. I did order a second band and it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch.

Q: What needs work?

A: Outside of the passcode keypad there is not a consistent input mechanism outside of voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji or voice response. This is fine 90% of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone.

The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

One surprise was that Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notification from the apps but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice based and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off back to the iPhone.

I have also experienced accelerated battery drain on both the Apple Watch & paired phone and handoffs between the watch & app can be awkward in some 3rd party apps. Upon initial setup a number of applications have to be pre-configured via the phone prior to just “working” with the paired Apple Watch.

Q: How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch? 

A: For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

For me I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. From the “glance” which tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extending their loyalty program, to leveraging passbook to pay quickly for my morning Americano, I have been impressed by the ease of use and value the app is bringing to me through a simple experience.

The key areas of focus for marketers is understanding how to leverage both short & long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize via a glance to sustain ongoing wrist engagement. By focusing on extending applications through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction marketers can capitalize on staying top of mind through a users wrist.

TMA takes home five REGGIE Awards

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downloadCongratulations to our Doritos and Mountain Dew team for their outstanding work on “Every 2 Minutes.” The program won five REGGIE Awards including two Golds last night! Below is a listing of the categories and winning work.

Gold Winner, Creativity & Innovation Campaigns
Gold Winner, Sponsorship and Licensed Property Campaigns
Sliver Winner, Gamification Campaigns
Silver Winner, New Product Launch Campaigns
Bronze Winner, Content Marketing Campaigns

Check out the campaign recap on the ANA website! Congratulations team!

Tom Edwards talks MLB At Bat app hitting 5MM downloads

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2013-02-22-13.24.47-580x350The At Bat mobile app reached the five-million download mark on Saturday, its earliest point in its eight-year history. TMA EVP, Strategy & Innovation, Tom Edwards, talked about the mobile implications and how Major League Baseball may be targeting a younger audience.

Q: To what degree is the app a way for MLB to connect with younger audiences via mobile given baseball fans tend to be older on average than for some other sports?
TE: The key for MLB’s At Bat strategy is the portability and access to content. By providing a personalized approach to content consumption as well as live look-in’s the MLB app provides flexibility regardless of market. This is especially appealing to younger fans who may want instant access to content.

Q: What do these downloads say about the power of mobile to enhance consumption not just of one game but of the whole universe of the Major League Baseball season for highly engaged fans?
TE: The MLB approach to accessibility and cross-device support is key to early success and success will be sustained throughout the season as MLB has struck the ideal balance between portability and personalization.

Does the new mean mobile first?

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TMA’s Tom Edwards talked about the new layout and what it says about the giant’s approach to reaching consumers.

Q: To what extent does this move reflect ESPN’s efforts to reach consumers on mobile?
TE: ESPN is focused on creating a mobile first experience that is tailored to it’s readers. By creating a responsive experience that also incorporates highly relevant content they are focused on delivering a contextually relevant and consistent content experience regardless of the device type. 

Q: What does the move to integrate ads into the site reflect about the needs/behavior of the mobile consumer?
TE: Initial signals of the ad offerings point to a more contextual ad experience that will be optimized based on the device type. This means that ads will be more of an extension of the experience which coincides more with how consumers are already interacting with the content. 

You can follow Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360.

Technology Advice Podcast

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Tom Edwards, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

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