Blink and you've missed it. With February being a shorter month, you may have missed some of the latest updates across the digital landscape. 
Today we look back at some of the key changes and innovations across all aspects of digital in February. We give you a snapshot of what the update is, why it is important and what action should you take. Google takes centre stage in this months updates ... 

TikTok Launches New Features 

What is it?: On Monday 8th February, TikTok announced new ecommerce features, following its integration with Shopify and Walmart in the US in 2020. The new announcements include users being able to share links to products and earning commission on sales, the ability for brands to showcase catalogues of their products on the platform (similar to Facebook and Instagram) and Livestream shopping. 
Why is it important?: Social commerce is a key growth trend; Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have all launched shoppable features within their platform, which in turn has made shopping via social a popular channel, especially for Gen Z’s. The natural growth of TikTok has been phenomenal over the past 12 months, with users both wanting to monetise their follower base. Brands and retailers are also looking to use TikTok as a new awareness and sales channel. These announcements should pave the way for both to benefit. 
What action should you take?: These new launches are planned to be rolled out to the US first, similar to how new products are often launched by Google. If successful, we would expect these to be available in UK in time for peak. Further updates will be provided when available. 

YouTube meets MRC’s benchmark for brand safety 

What is it?: On Wednesday 9th February, it was announced that YouTube advertising platform had become the first provider to meet the Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for content level brand safety. This accreditation recognises that the content both being served on the platform and the content which ads are served alongside is at a high standard. 
Why is it important?: The timing of this couldn’t have been better for YouTube, with Facebook announcing their intentions related to bring in brand safety measures less than two weeks earlier. MRC acknowledge the benchmark that they have set is high and for YouTube to achieve this is a real positive for a media platform that was under fire in 2017 and 2018, due to the policing of content on the platform. 
What action should you take?: If you are not already doing so, we would recommend that YouTube advertising is a channel that you test in 2021. No matter what sector you are in, there are formats suitable, allowing you to target and retarget customers across the customer journey. 

The end of an era for Google showcase ads 

What is it?: On Tuesday 23rd February, Google announced the plan to sunset showcase shopping ads. This change will take effect from the 1st April. Although it’s not 100% clear why this change has been made, our view is that Google have made this decision, due to the low adoption rate across retailers, especially due to the additional time and resource required to set up and manage these.. 
Why is it important?: Due to this change, we expect that there will be an increase in traffic and spend from your Google Shopping activity, with more ads being triggered for upper funnel generic search terms. These terms are likely to drive a high cost and a lower return on investment. More traffic may be generated via your paid search activity. 
What action should you take?: We recommend monitoring the performance of your shopping and search activity more closely from the 1st April, paying more attention to the search term reports in AdWords. 

Google further updates to 3rd party cookie alternatives 

What is it?: In our last update, we featured Google’s announcement regarding the testing of Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoc), as an alternative to third party cookies. The basis behind FLoc is to group similar users together based on their internet usage behaviour, to protect the privacy of the individual and allows advertisers to still serve relevant ads. Further announcements have been made over the last week, starting that unlike other tech providers, they will not be tracking users based on alternate ids, therefore will be unable to track users outside of their ecosystem. 
Why is it important?: Whilst Google tests show that advertisers can expect to see “at least 95% of their conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising”, as this does not take into account a users cross channel journey, measuring this end to end journey will become flawed. It will also impact on the audience targeting across digital marketing, with a higher reliance on first party, second party and third party data, in addition to a resurgence of usage of contextual advertising. 
What action should you take?: As this feature is still in testing, it will not be available for all advertisers. Watch out for this over the coming months within the interface, as you appraise existing and launch new campaigns. 

Our final thoughts ... 

If you have been concerned about what content your ads would be served against in the past, YouTube’s latest announcement should give you the confidence to retest, as part of your 2021 digital marketing plan. It definitely gives us the confidence to recommend this! 
If you would like further information on any of the above updates or you would like to access a free no obligation consultation, please get in touch to understand how we can help you. 
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