On Friday, Google announced it was turning off comments on its Webmaster Central Blog, the site that provides news and updates for website owners and search marketers.
“Sometimes they were extremely thoughtful, other times they made us laugh out loud, but most of the time they were off-topic or even outright spammy,” wrote Google’s webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes about comments often received on the blog, “If you think about it, the latter is rather ironic, considering this is the Google Webmaster Blog.”
Why you should care
Google’s decision to remove comments on its Webmaster Central blog puts a spotlight on the broader challenges marketers face when trying to monitor user-generated content (UGC). Google’s inability to effectively filter and block spammy or abusive comments from its own blogs drives home the time and effort needed to deliver an effective and worthwhile user generate content strategy. If Google can’t do it, does anyone else really have a chance?
And blog owners aren’t the only ones vulnerable to bad actors in the comments section. Publishers aiming to monetize website content via Google’s AdSense program are also impacted by spam and abusive comments. According to Google AdSense rules, publishers must ensure content on their websites — including user generated content such as comments — does not violate Google’s hate speech policies. If Google finds any content in violation of its rules, it will remove ads from the page.
Google’s choice to remove all comments shows that whatever benefits could have been gained from an open dialogue with readers were not worth the time needed to police the content. Google’s call to disable comments is worth taking note of for any marketers looking to launch a blog — or content marketing strategy — that relies heavily on user generated content.
More on the news
The “nofollow link attribute” Google introduced in 2005 as a way to prevent comment spam did not sufficiently deter bad (or annoying) actors.
Per Google’s announcement, the webmaster team will now use help forums and its Twitter feed to interact with its community.
In 2015, Marketing Land and our sister site Search Engine Land disabled comments after our research showed they were not driving beneficial conversations.
We’ve heard a lot lately that brands need to show empathy, that they need to make a “human connection” with consumers. While that has always been true, it’s recently become more important with consumer trust at a historic low. This development makes trust a vital trait for brands to build—more than one in three consumers rank “trust in brand” as among their top three reasons they shop at a particular retailer.
The holidays represent an unusually promising time for brands to show their human side. When it comes to branding, major American companies tend to focus a lot on the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, across the pond in the U.K., yuletide campaigns have long been valued as the best branding juncture on the calendar. During this moment in time when empathy and authenticity are seen as keys to branding success, U.S. marketers have an opportunity to reimagine their holiday season strategies as more inspirational and less transactional.
There’s an opportunity for more U.S. marketers to adopt the holiday playbook. With that in mind, here are three campaigns from Europe that should inspire marketers everywhere to tell more empathetic stories during this season and in seasons to come.
Called “Love Is A Gift,” this video has made millions of folks misty-eyed. It chronicles a young man’s journey through the first 25 days of December, marking each successive day off of his kitchen calendar as if he’s a grade schooler anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus. What he’s looking forward to is a visit from his deceased mother’s voice via an audio cassette tape that was made 13 years prior. This video suggests that the mother was terminally ill and made 13 recordings for her son—named Chris, or “Puppet” to his mum—to listen to every Christmas morning after she had left the world. It’s a slow build but packs an emotional wallop at the end.
Which brand is the advertiser? It’s an ad for the filmmaker, and his name is Phil Beastall. And it was made in…2014. But it went viral this holiday season. And it cost only $65. What a remarkable, creative story, and it should be viewed as one the best B2B ads of recent memory. It seems highly likely that Beastall’s phone’s been ringing off the hook with calls from marketers in recent weeks—after all, his 2-minute, 27-second video has been viewed nearly 12 million times on social media.
Elkjøp, which is a Norwegian electronics retailer, tells the story of a young girl with her family at Christmastime. She meets an older relative she’s fearful of at first. They eventually become kindred spirits after it’s clear they share a common interest in flight. It’s a “show, don’t tell” kind of tale, leaving many dots unconnected. It could be even described as cryptic since there is no spoken dialogue, only slight narration. Called “To give more,” the four-minute video is epic by advertising standards, with a message that gifts sometimes mean more than words. Brands that capture deeper themes around the holidays like Elkjøp did strike a meaningful chord that enhances their humanity. The campaign was picked up by dozens of consumer-facing and advertising publications, receiving hundreds of thousands of views for ad vloggers alone.
Back in the U.K., John Lewis & Partners’ TV spot goes through pop music icon Elton John’s life in reverse, ending with the poignant moment when he got an upright piano for Christmas from his mother as a young boy. The two-and-a-half-minute video concludes with the tagline: “Sometimes a gift is more than a gift.”
It’s been like another Top of the Pops hit for the Elton John and John Lewis, a company with a history of successful holiday ads. Similar to the other examples, it’s a brand using a novel storytelling approach to celebrate the deep connections that bring family together around the holidays. Nothing could be more human than that. The John Lewis brand, which operates a chain of high-end department stores throughout the United Kingdom, has garnered at least 25 million views on social media channels.
The season for empathy
Such view metrics make clear that consumers respond when brands show their humanity this time of year. Humanity builds a connection with customers and creates more trust. And even if measuring ROI is your end-all, be-all, note that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) get their holiday shopping information from TV ads. The fact that these spots can be shared by millions on social networks makes them even more impactful.
And as Beastall’s short film showed, it doesn’t matter if you are selling B2B creativity or high-end clothing. The holidays are an incredible opportunity for marketers to show their humanity.
Wunderman Global CEO Mel Edwards (left) will take on the same role at the new agency, while J. Walter Thompson CEO Tamara Ingram (right), will become Chairman. Photo provided by WPP.
Advertising holding company WPP Group said Monday it would merge the venerable creative shop J. Walter Thompson with the data- and direct-marketing-oriented Wunderman to form a new agency, which it says will offer “end-to-end solutions… at a global scale.”
“Wunderman Thompson is a formidable combination,” WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement, “bringing together the capabilities our clients are demanding – award-winning creativity alongside deep expertise in technology, data and commerce – in a single organization. “
Data before creative. Leading with the Wunderman brand, whose roots in direct marketing are decidedly less glamorous than the Mad Men-esque creative brand J. Walter Thompson, speaks volumes about how WPP seeks to position itself for its clients — it wants to be creative, but driven by data rather than by more nebulous “big ideas.”
“To achieve transformative outcomes, clients today need inspiration that is rooted in data-driven insight,” said Mel Edwards, the current global CEO of Wunderman who will take the same title at the new agency. “Wunderman Thompson offers precisely what clients want: brilliant creativity, expertise in data and sophisticated technology skills.”
What it means for marketers. The reorganization affirms the need to focus on marketing technology in today’s marketplace. Noting the profound influence of technology on marketing, the WPP announcement touts “close and long-standing partnerships with Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP.” In recent months, Wunderman has beefed up its technology portfolio with two acquisitions: Dutch martech performance company Emark and Amazon consulting firm 2Sales, which helps brands maximize their partnerships with the online retail giant.
Edwards was just appointed global CEO of Wunderman in September, but previously served as CEO in the UK and EMEA regions. Tamara Ingram, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, will take the Chairman role at the new agency.
Wunderman Thompson, which is expected to be “fully operational” early next year, will employ 20,000 people and operate in 90 markets. They already share a number of clients, WPP says, and the agencies’ sites showcase work for brands like Coca-Cola, Shell, Nestlé, Samsung and ING.