The Acquire News-jacking Initiative

2020 has been a year dominated by breaking news, and a world waiting with bated breath for the next news update. COVID-19, talk of a recession, elections, and conversations around data-privacy (Thanks Social Dilemma).

While brand safety has historically been a challenge to navigate around, this year, we decided to take on a different approach - facing the news head-on. Thus was born the Acquire News-jacking Initiative. Newsjacking is the process of piggybacking on trending news topics to get your brand noticed. Popularised by David Meerman Scott in his 2001 book Newsjacking, this technique has been adopted by brands around the world, with the most notable example being Oreo’s ‘Dunk in The Dark’ campaign.

As a promoter of ‘Data-Driven Marketing’, we’ve always believed that all advertisers should be able to reach their users in moments that matter, and decided to use programmatic to “follow the eyeballs.”

Aided by a real-time trend tracking dashboard, the ability of programmatic platforms to place ads against specific content, and some good ol’ kiwi ingenuity, the newsjacking initiative generated an average uplift in engagement of 32% across our first seven campaigns.

Here is how we harnessed lightning in a bottle.

How Newsjacking Works:

Conventionally, newsjacking has involved the use of social media or creative to build a campaign that leverages the virality of a trending news story. While this helps promote an advertiser’s brand, this is often dependent on the ability of an advertiser to rapidly churn out news-related content.

Newsjacking pioneer David Meerman Scott claims that a typical new story follows a lifecycle that looks like the image below (although alternative versions of the news lifecycle exist).

Regardless of the version of the news lifecycle used, the idea behind news-jacking is the same - watch for breaking news, capitalise on trending items, and reap the benefits of increasing traffic as virality of the news story grows.

How Acquire Used Newsjacking:

Acquire’s approach to newsjacking is less creative-focused, and more data-driven in that we use the power of programmatic to place campaign ads against trending news stories. While the creative often isn’t related to the news item, the ability to hyper-target audiences means that the product/service being advertised is highly relevant to the end user.

Step 1: Trend Tracking:

Acquire built a custom trend-tracking tool that monitored Google and Twitter to provide real-time updates on trending content across the internet (if you’re an Acquire client, you will now be able to access this on your portal).

This provided our buyers with a constant stream of trending topics in New Zealand, which was an indicator of where the ‘eyeballs’ were.

Step 2: Targeting

While the WATA survey helped categorise New Zealanders’ online media consumption as a whole, the variance in the target audience across each of the verticals Acquire advertises in meant that we needed to be agile in adapting to user behaviour.

As a general tactic, we used in-content ads across news websites to reach users while they skimmed through the body of the breaking news article. The trend-tracker was used to help choose which articles would receive the most interest. As all activity was overlaid with campaign-specific audiences, the relevance was achieved not by relating the creative to the trending story, but to the user. This also helped us ensure that we were minimising media spend wastage by not advertising to all users that these articles received.

In addition, we used high-impact banners when a significant story broke targeted to the homepages of NZ News websites to capture user attention. Combining this with the newer Social Extension formats meant that we were able to circumvent banner blindness around standard display ads.

All activity was overlaid with campaign-specific audiences to ensure that advertising continued to be hyper-targeted, and that we were minimising media spend wastage (by not advertising to all users on these articles).

Beyond display advertising, we sought to maximise our story-telling capabilities across content that users were highly engaged in. We delivered in-stream video ads across news content and YouTube videos across trending news stories, following these up with sequentially messaged shorter and longer form content to build a cohesive story as users browsed between news stories. With the evolving consumption of news, serving ads across trending news in YouTube allowed us to reach users whose primary source of news is ‘snackable video’ such as talk shows.


Combined with pre-bid viewability overlays to ensure that our ads were seen, maintaining an average viewability of 85%+, we noticed significant increases in performance across the campaigns that used the newsjacking initiative.

A political party that we were advertising for in the New Zealand elections saw an increase in Social Media mentions when the newsjacking initiative began, with us targeting trending news about competing parties with conquest ads.

A domestic tourism campaign saw a steady increase in CTRs on their Display ads as we continued to optimise our display activity to deliver more across trending inventory.

Across 7+ campaigns that were part of the newsjacking experiment, we noticed an average uplift of 32% in engagement.

While our experiment was designed around vanity metrics such as CTRs and Completion Rates, as we continue to gather data and move towards true digital maturity, we believe that newsjacking will play an important role in delivering ROI by breaking through the advertising clutter to reach users in moments when they are truly engaged.

Talk to Acquire about newsjacking and how we can help enhance campaign performance.

Size matters – insights into Video Ads length, content, media channels

There is increasing evidence of the effectiveness of online video ads. Based on research from the last year, here are some key insights into video ads and how to utilise them to best serve your next video ad campaign:

Short-form video ads

Best for Social Platforms

Research by MediaScience and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute found that 6 second ads deliver 60% of the impact of a 30-second ad. The results showed that short ads can deliver effectiveness efficiently, because ad length has diminishing returns – most of the effect of ad length on ad awareness is delivered by the first five seconds of exposure.

Even ultra-short 2-second ads are more effective than the first few seconds of a full 30-second spot. In a study testing 2-second edits of regular video ads versus the 30-second ad: 90% of viewers recognise the product (versus 46% after the first two seconds of the original long commercial), and 70% understand the message (versus 25%).

This effectiveness makes short-form video ads perfect for Social media given that the average mobile post is seen for 1.7 seconds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). A 6-second video (shot so it can be cropped to square, landscape and vertical) which front-weights the message works for social feeds, stories, YouTube and Snapchat, making it truly multi-platform.

And while a 2-second video is never going to convey a complex message, it can grab attention and make a mark in a consumer’s mind – like a good animated GIF, TikTok filter or boomerang.

Creative for Short-form ads

Short-form ads are a challenge because there is so little time in which to develop the creative and deliver a message – but having triggers to link the brand to the ad can help drive recognition quickly.

Based on two AI-powered studies, creative suggestions for short-form video success include:

Tell a compelling story- by having only one key message and fewer scene edits

Keep the brand at the heart of the action- using brand elements from the start does not have a significant impact on attention levels or emotional engagement; and clear branding at the end increases viewers wanting to know more, with pack shots particularly effective

Use celebrities with caution- they are less emotionally engaging; if used, connection to brand must be easy to understand

Open with human faces and close-ups- for higher engagement

Pay attention to audio- for sound on, use voiceover rather than dialogue to avoid confusion; for sound-off, avoid subtitles but use captions baked inside the creative. Also think carefully about music - it can cause confusion or have a polarising effect in a short format

Longer video ads are far from dead – the chance for story telling

15 second ads

A study by research firm Forethought found no significant difference between 15 and 30 second ads. It attributes this to the “peak-end rule” as length had little impact on effectiveness when commercials had the same peak and end creative elements. However, it suggests brands should invest in longer form spots as well as fifteens as they can better elicit emotion and are more appropriate for complex messages such a new product or campaigns launches.

30 second ads

Data from early 2019 shows 30-second ads account for over two-thirds (69%) of all video impressions. This is actually up from 46% in Q1 2018 at the expense of fifteen second ads which have fallen from 48% to just over one-quarter (28%). This is due to a growth in connected TV (CTV) impressions as the channel offers a TV-like viewing experience and the inability of viewers to skip.

1-2 minute ads

YouTube found that brand ads between 1.2 and 1.7 minutes long are most likely to be shared compared to shorter or longer ads. The study also found that the presence of elements of a dramatic narrative structure (e.g likeable/relatable characters and an engaging plot) motivates viewers to share.

In conclusion – Short and Long work hand in hand

While there are many benefits and uses for Short-form video ads it is important to remember they do not allow for emotional storytelling. However they can be effective reminders of 30- or 60-second ads. Brands should therefore use a portfolio of ad lengths for different kinds of ad experiences.

Reference. WARC

The state of CTV in NZ - Webinar

Watch webinar here.

This is the first of our webinar series - hosted by our GM of Innovation & Technology, Zane Furtado.

This 15 min webinar will talk about the growing role that CTV plays for brands and marketers. Join Zane to learn why now is the ideal time to explore Connected TV’s latest targeting opportunity, its growing supply in NZ, and the innovative ad units and formats available.

You will discover buying tactics, CTV metrics and reasons to incorporate CTV in you next campaign.

The Future of TV

Linear TV was once the dominant medium of choice within marketing, with mass reach delivering by far the best return on investment for Brands. However, a lot has changed with the rapid behavioural shift to social video, subscription video, and OnDemand TV luring more and more people away from traditional linear TV.

In 2019 a report from marketing and media consultancy Ebiquity, they concluded that TV was fast approaching a tipping point after which the medium would likely lose its ROI advantage over other channels. The report projected that the shift in viewing behaviour would continue its rapid spread to older demographics.  Here is a view of the changing behaviour of consumers TV viewership in the UK among 16-34 year-olds:

Ebiquity produced a second report early this year comparing the predictions from the 2019 study with the reality of the TV market throughout the last year. It showed that TV audiences had shrunk more quickly than they had predicted and the coverage gap compared to previous years had increased further. This data was so different from their initial prediction it led Ebiquity’s analysts to revise their predictions for 2022.

The data shows that the same ad shown in 2018 will impact 60% fewer teenagers, 50% fewer 18-24 Y.O and 1/3 fewer 35-44 Y.O by 2022. Added to decreasing reach, advertisers face the additional challenge of media price inflation. As audiences shrink, it becomes more expensive to reach the same audience.

TVNZ’s Forecast Series recent data pulled from their daily TVNZ Market Tracker reinforces this trend in New Zealand. All People 16-24 are engaged with online formats for 64% of their video media time and for All People 25-34 it’s 53%. Linear TV increases for 25-34 Households with Children as we expect these households are watching more day time television than non-Parents. See TVNZ graph below.

What both these reports and other media usage data are clearly showing is that linear TV is on its way out with every new SmartTV sold. Utilising other mediums like CTV is the clear way forward. New Zealand is moving in the right direction towards maximising CTV exposure, with TVNZ & TV3 recently making it possible for ads to be placed dynamically into their live streams which opens up a new supply of video inventory and scales up 1:1 video targeting opportunities even further.


Ebiquity 2019 report – TV at the tipping point.

Ebiquity 2020 report – Mind the Gap

TVNZ – Dynamic Ad Insertion

Trending topics in the data-driven advertising world

Data is a crucial factor in the success of an Advertising/Marketing campaign. Here are a few hot data-driven advertising trends to include in your next campaign strategy.

Data Unification and Identity: It’s important you unify all of your data (across all platforms) into a master customer profile and connect known and unknown data. Known data comes from people you can identify— e.g newsletter subscribers. Unknown data is generated by people you can’t easily identify – e.g those who drop into your website without logging in. By connecting the two along with sales and service data, you’ll be able to understand each unique customers behavioural journey and in-turn deliver exceptional personalised experiences

Journey Management: Today journey management is overwhelmingly data-driven and dependent on having that single, unified view of the customer. Which is why marketers are increasingly working hand-in-hand with sales and customer service. The customer journey its-self continues to move away from being siloed and linear into something that moves across channels and mediums. So, marketers are putting greater focus on omnichannel experiences and synchronising online and offline channels.

1:1 Targeting: 1:1 targeting and communications strategy is founded on first-party data and contingent on having that single, unified view of the customer. With such a cohesive understanding of a consumer’s intent, preferences and history, you can drive campaigns and experiences that speak to a specific consumer’s needs and wants. If done well, high-quality personalised experiences will help convince consumers that there is real value in sharing their data.

Privacy and the Post-Cookie World: With Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies, Europe’s GDPR or California’s CCPA, it’s clear the privacy regulation landscape is only set to expand. Which is why it’s critical that you stay ahead by adopting a privacy-centric ethos. In practice, this means working with tools that allow your company to implement a scalable privacy policy that can adjust for different regulatory environments. Marketers will have to be more mindful of balancing personalisation with customer comfort.

Evolved Measurement: The focus on customer experience has changed how marketers view and measure success. The percentage of marketers tracking customer lifetime value and customer satisfaction metrics continues to increase and many are becoming more strategic about when and where they analyse certain metrics. It’s likely that over the next 12-24 months those that haven’t jumped on board with AI will begin to adopt it and see benefits, shifting the baseline for what can be done with more advanced measurement systems.