Master New Audience Platforms with Storytelling & Authenticity! Notes from #adtechNY

Our team is excited to be in New York for ad:tech, and we’re ready to roam the expo floor and share live coverage right here on AIMCLEAR blog. Have you been following along on Twitter? Get ready for some in-depth overviews of the sessions straight from ad:tech!

As we approached the Jacob K. Javits convention center yesterday morning in the Big Apple, we were overcome by throngs of people lined up outside the convention center anticipating the arrival of the Dalai Lama. If that’s not a cool way to kick off a conference, we don’t know what is (and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled, too)!

Kicking off Day 1 of ad:tech, we were excited to attend The Rise of the New Audience Platforms with Rob Graham, CEO of Trainingcraft; Jeremy Levine, SVP Digital Sales at LiveNation; Aron Levitz, Head of Business Development at Wattpad; and Sean O’Neal, President of Social Advertising at Adaptly.

There is a new online environment for consumers that is teaming with emerging platforms.  Gone are the days where marketers could develop advertising in a few channels and sleep soundly knowing they were doing everything they could to reach their target audiences

The conundrum we so often face is determining which platforms our audiences are on and how best to reach them. Companies that are doing it right are engaging with audiences to bring them together and provide value, not spewing an endless drone of marketing speak.

Aron stressed the importance of storytelling for brands. His platform, Wattpad, is referred to as the social network for stories. Consumers go to Wattpad to share fiction or nonfiction stories, and other community members can read, comment and like the stories. Think of it as real-time storytelling that allows audiences to be integrated and provide feedback to the story as it happens (80% of readership is mobile).

So, what does this platform mean for brands? Many marketers know how important it is to tell a brand’s story, and to tell it to the right audience. Wattpad works with brands to develop their story. The platform doesn’t allow brands to bring their own creative because they want to remain true to their storytelling roots and avoid ruining user experience with content that feels like advertising. Their team stresses that brands must ask the audience what rules to play by, not come to the storytelling game with their own rules.

Ultimately, brands should want to tell stories that leave a lasting impression.

A few examples of how Wattpad has been used to generate hype:

The promotion team for the motion picture The Fault in Our Stars wanted to explore the theme of extraordinary love, so Wattpad curated love story reading lists that generated 10 million reads in 6 weeks.

The team behind the movie Purge: Anarchy wanted to increase social interaction prior to the film’s release. More users engaged on Wattpad than on the Twitter profile (which had been around for a year already), with 42,000 followers on Wattpad and only 37,000 on Twitter.

With 37 million users, Wattpad allows brands to create a featured story, interstitial promotion or a newsfeed post. The audience craves authenticity.

Wattpad frequently relies on its own community to generate brand promotion. For example, when Unilever wanted to write a story about facing the day for a skin care brand, Wattpad hired a storyteller within the community who already had 600,000 followers to write the story. This way, the story is exposed to that member’s following in an authentic way.

Recently, an auto company approached Wattpad about promoting the power steering in a new vehicle. The brand wanted to make the story about power steering, but Wattpad insisted the story recount a road trip. Ultimately, Wattpad did not allow the company to advertise because the content would not have felt authentic to the community.

Surviving a fragmented world

Next, Sean O’Neal described how the birth of so many social platforms (like Wattpad) has created a fragmented marketing environment for marketers. With consumers on so many different platforms, how are marketers to determine where they should serve their messaging? Even more, how do they tweak their messaging across all these young platforms to fit each platform’s vibe?


Trade organizations were created to control the way advertisers deliver their content, but “fragmented media” like Facebook and Kik often don’t have to abide by these rules, and they are achieving millions of engagements globally. These publishers are not interested in adopting standards. Their ecosystems are unique, and they want to maintain the consumer experience as best they can.

As a marketer, it’s tricky to figure out how to deliver advertising across these unique platforms in a way that resonates with the consumers on the channel. When each platform has a different consumer experience, each one has a different advertising experience.

The new wave of audience platforms is a place for both consumers and brands to consume, create and produce content – consumer and brand behavior is identical. Most of these platforms have some form of identity for the consumer, which they understand through the login. This sets these platforms apart from existing traditional sites that do not hold the identity of the consumer. It gives the marketer the ability to understand who the audience is and to deliver marketing campaigns with precision through advanced targeting.

Fragmentation poses a challenge, but it also poses lots of opportunities. As marketers, our goal is ultimately about reaching our audience wherever they are across the platforms that matter for our brand. How do we do that when the environment is so fragmented?

The theme of marketing fragmentation has been a popular one throughout Day 1 at ad:tech. It’s up to us as the marketing professionals to study these emerging platforms and to tell our brand’s story in a way that rings true to consumers. We’ve all experienced bad advertising, and we know how much it turns us off, so a safe bet across all emerging platforms is to tell the brand’s story, something Wattpad is proudly implementing.


Boosting brand engagement

The session wouldn’t have been complete without Jeremy Levine, who shared his thoughts on engaging new audiences from a content creation standpoint. At LiveNation, the word “audience” means something different depending on the circumstances: it could mean an online audience or a live audience at concerts around the globe.

Currently the largest live entertainment company in the world, LiveNation boasts 12 million mobile app downloads and a 129-million-customer database. They focus on the social sphere, which is the glue between the offline and the online.

Music often indexes much higher than other categories because fans want to get closer to the artists they love and are looking to be as much a part of the experience as they can be. To engage these users, LiveNation took a proprietary geofencing technology to aggregate all the social media going on at a specific event and pulled it into the “geofence,” serving it up in environments on their properties. A geofence is different from a hashtag. Geofencing is a technology that allows you to segment a specific location using longitude and latitude. Through partnerships with Twitter, Facebook and Vine, geofencing analyzes meta data to essentially fence in the social activity in a specific location. Once the social engagement is isolated to a specific areas, there is a big curation layer that must be involved.

People want to be recognized for their social sharing, and when they see the home page of a country music festival displaying their social engagement, it provides an experience that leaves them excited, feeling like their interaction with the band was important. LiveNation has found that in instances where they shared social media engagements on a home page that gets updated, users stay on the page much longer compared to other pages on their site.

Part of making your brand successful on social media is figuring out what makes your audience tick. For LiveNation, that’s engagement with the artists. It’s up to the marketers to determine what they can do to make consumers feel more engaged with the brand.

Key takeaways

  • Integrating fan generated content enables consumers to participate in the experience
  • Social leads paired with live streams provide immediacy of engagement and more active viewership
  • User generated content can be active (upload, live chat) and passive (Twitter feed, geofencing) to reach critical mass of content

Tying it all together

Myspace paid the ultimate price when their advertising efforts turned off consumers. Their mistake was conforming to the standards of the rest of the online media world – they created a bunch of banners and advertising elements that detracted from the user experience. Social platforms should learn a lesson from Myspace’s mistake, and we as marketers should too: Content that screams of promotion is unlikely to resonate with your audience (unless you’re giving them something).

How do you deliver advertising that is integrated and also adds value? If your marketing creative is useful (offers a coupon, access, additional content, etc.), there will be buy-in from consumers.

As we watch new platforms continue to emerge and speculate as to which ones will be around for the long haul, it’s important to remember that the most successful platforms are transparent with the community when big changes are coming, especially advertising.

That’s all we’ve got for now. Day 1 at ad:tech was definitely packed with lots of ideas and unique concepts from all types of marketing folks, and we’re looking forward to what Day 2 will bring. Follow along @aimclear for more live coverage and check back here for in-depth session coverage tomorrow.

Image: Copyright: dibrova

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