5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

5 Steps to Engaging Creatives this Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, one thing on most retailers’ minds is how to get their products in front of gift-givers. How do they set themselves apart in such a competitive space?

What is that extra special something that will call gift seekers to engage with your content?

As more and more brands rely on content distribution to earn trust and loyalty, I wanted to provide some of the top creative Native best practices that are not only trending but are also driving results for brands.

Retail is Booming 

In case you missed it, the 2019 holiday season is supposed to be record-breaking. eMarketer predicts it to be the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday season! And the key to serving up a successful holiday strategy, according to experts and trends documented by eMarketer, is sponsored, branded, or native advertising, which offer the highest-value for advertisers and is easiest to monetize for retailers.

From Q1 to Q3, we saw a 443% jump in Bidtellect’s retail space in just one year. 443%. Consumers rely on brands more and more often to get informed, for inspiration, and for valuable content. This shift to Native proves that shoppers are more likely to click on a “Top 5 Gifts Your Dad Will Love” versus “Sock Sale.” Content sells.

This is why creatives are so important. They are the gateway to a retail product; they are the invitation to and a representation of the brand. From a heartwarming image to a compelling headline, our top creative practices for the holidays will ensure that customers will want to engage with you first!

Content distribution starts with the right creative. Simple as that.


The first (and arguably best) way to catch a shopper’s eye? The headline.

Remember to provide value, solve a problem from holiday shopping stress, educate the consumer, and use listacles to imply a quick and informative read. If you have a special offer or a promo code, now is the time to inform your prospective shoppers.

Ask questions! Be punny! Invite readers without shouting at them. Anything too pushy or blatant will deter readers. Keep it short and sweet (no more than 60 characters) and in title case.

Bottom line: engage, educate and entertain.


Actually, the image is probably the first and best visual cue – so don’t slack here! Images that feature people or animals are more relatable and draw more of an emotional response. And if you have been thinking about utilizing cinemagraphs, now is the time to test it out.

Think lifestyle, authentic, people in the moment and in the holiday spirit. Do not include text to images – otherwise you’re entering display territory!

Bottom line: be emotional, authentic.


This is the copy under the headline – it gives a little extra information about what your product or content offers! Remember to include value-driven, relevant copy that is consistent with the message in your headline.

And (this should go without saying) the description should be longer than your headline. It’s a slight explanation if you will. Establish the connection, create a conflict, and your call-to-action (KPI) is the solution.

Bottom line: call-to-action, consistent with the headline


Consumers are engaging with Native video – and not just autoplay. Bidtellect saw a 143% increase in completion rate of in-feed, click-to-play videos in one year, proving that consumers do engage. The most successful videos are those that convey a clear message immediately.

Long videos that require time (and sound) from the viewer will not work. Keep the videos short and sweet, with a clear message that’s conveyed with or without sound and use subtitles or text.

Bottom line: clear message without sound


Don’t forget to utilize optimization strategies! Test out different creatives combinations and personalization tactics based on your KPIs for maximum engagement. It is essential to use a platform that will optimize to your KPIs to find your sweet spot.

Bottom line: optimization is key

Missy Steiner is the Vice President of Marketing at Bidtellect.

She’s hoping for Phish tickets as a gift this year!!

Four Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Four Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Today, content marketing is an essential way to build a connection. Instead of pitching products, brands are aligning their strategies to provide truly relevant and helpful content to their consumers from solving’ business problems, entertainment, or creating a lasting connection.

The modern content marketer is spending an exorbitant amount of budget, resources, and time on content creation. So why is it still not right? What’s the hold-up? These are the four common mistakes to avoid to guarantee engagement, results, and brand loyalty.

“When consumers engage with your content, they engage with your brand.”

– Lon Otremba, CEO of Bidtellect

1. Your Content is Stuck in Content Land

“Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

– CMI, “What is Content Marketing?”

Recently, our CEO Lon Otremba spoke at Brand Movers Edge Conference to talk about all things Content Marketing. His focus breaking down the content silos. Yes, these still exist. In fact, our VP of Sales, Terrah Bocchi wrote a great piece about it.

Let me as you a question, after you come up with a “killer content marketing idea” what is your next move? Is your first instinct to make your vision a reality, never really stopping to think about the purpose of the content or distribution? What does your marketing stack look like today? Does it look something like this?  Months after you get your “killer content marketing idea” most people are still deciding on content management platforms, content creation, and content curation companies. By then, your “killer content marketing idea” has been through so many hands and approvals it’s metamorphized into a project that’s not even your vision anymore. Oh, and it keeps you up at night.

Truth is, you probably already have valuable content to distribute. Here’s a great example: one of our clients came to us and said they were working on a great content marketing piece. They showed us the initial designs and within a day we put together Native creatives and foolproof targeting plan. A few weeks later, we reached out to the client and asked them if they were ready to distribute their content. Unfortunately, the content was stuck somewhere in creation-land and approvals. We went back to the client and said, “Well, here’s all these great articles and blog posts about your brand and they are relevant, entertaining, and witty.” The client agreed to test this idea with us. You know what? I don’t think that content marketing piece ever made the finish line, but the client has been distributing existing content with us for a few years now. They recognized the value. 

By all means, I’m not suggesting you stop creating content – we love content. But don’t get stuck in the silos. Make sure you align your distribution strategy with your creation – this is the key to your success.

– Lon Otremba, CEO of Bidtellect 

2. The Landing Page Isn’t Responsive (Or Mobile-Optimized)

“For the first time ever, US consumers will spend more time using their mobile devices than watching
TV, with smartphone use dominating that time spent. The average US adult will spend 3 hours, 43 minutes on mobile devices in 2019, just above the 3:35 spent on TV. Of time spent on mobile, US consumers will spend 2:55 on smartphones, a 9-minute increase from last year. In 2018, mobile time spent was 3:35, with TV time spent at 3:44.”

– eMarketer, “Average US Time Spent with Mobile in 2019 Has Increased

We are witnessing a radical shift in content consumption and behavior. Have you ever been on the subway, or waiting in a doctor’s office, business meeting, or even at dinner at a restaurant where everyone is not looking down at their phones? They’re swiping, liking, and consuming content. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure your content is responsive.

Often, especially in the case of interactive content, it’s important to ensure that your content appears correctly on the mobile page. This may require some backend work, but it’s well worth it in the end. If your content marketing objective is to get a PDF download, it makes sense to have your mobile-ready landing page email the PDF rather than download it on a mobile device (and bonus: you got another email address to remarket to). Lastly, if your end goal is a sale or transaction, remember that most people aren’t going to whip out their credit card on the subway or in a public place. Having some sort of payment transaction such as PayPal will increase your conversion rates.

We consistently see incredibly high click-through rates on mobile devices via In-Ad and In-Feed Native Advertising; however, if your landing page is not mobile-ready, engagement will decrease and bounce rates will increase. 

3. You Don’t Optimize Your Creative – Or Utilize Best Practices

Step one: Throw away all misconceptions, best practices, yadda yadda you know about traditional banner ads.

We’ve talked a lot about banner blindness. Now, step two: I want you to get display completely out of your head.

We good?

Native ad units are composed of a few core components: an image, a headline, a description and “Sponsored By”. Whereas display ads are whole, Native Ads are compiled in real-time designed to fit the form and function of the publisher’s website.

Over the last six years, our [b]+studio team has tested a plethora of strategic tactics with our Native creative – and we’ve measured performance. We know what works; we know what doesn’t work; we know what we thought wouldn’t work – does in fact work. We typically provide 3 – 5 creative variations utilizing different best practices for each landing page. (We let our optimization engine take care of the rest).

So that you don’t get started off on the wrong foot, here are a few of our Native Creative best practices.


  1. Use bright and eye-catching colors
  2. Feature people, from shoulders up in natural settings or use of the products (rather than the product in isolation.
  3. Close up photographs work better than cluttered images
  4. Trigger memories and emotions rather than neutral expressions


  1. Headlines should look like a news article
  2. Emotional, Educational, Relevant and Engaging headlines work best
  3. Facilitate concern, doubt or worry. 
  4. Offer to education or solve problems
  5. Ask Questions
  6. Listicles work! And be punny!


  1. Give the emotional “fish hook” that will real the reader in.
  2. Set up a problem and have a clear call to action as the solution
  3. Be careful not to get into click-bait territory

Avoid creative burnout! Always a creative refresh about a month in.

Shameless Plug:  Bidtellect’s in-house Native Creative Agency, [b]+studio, offers free access to help you create your custom content assets. 

4. You Forgot About Video

Research reveals that almost two-thirds of users skip pre-roll ads when possible, and three-quarters of these do so out of habit without waiting to see if the ad content is relevant or interesting (MagnaGlobal). By harnessing two thriving categories of advertising — video and native — brands can make use of a single digital super-format that connects emotionally with consumers without disrupting their experience.

Here are a few Native Video Best Practices:
  • The key to treat native video content the same way as a static native advertisement: find and use an engaging frame as a thumbnail, and be thoughtful of the creative with a text description.
  • Shorter videos (fifteen seconds or less) can significantly drive up video completions – especially on mobile.
  • Make sure the most compelling visuals and products are at the beginning of the video.
  • Make sure the video is understandable without sound.

It’s important to view your content marketing strategy holistically. The old-age saying “If yo
u build it, they will come,” doesn’t apply to content marketing. You can build a great piece of content, but without engagement – what is the purpose? By aligning your creation with distribution, results will increase dramatically. 

On MediaPost: It’s Legal, Now How Do We Advertise Medical Marijuana?

On MediaPost: It’s Legal, Now How Do We Advertise Medical Marijuana?

Read on MediaPost here:

Advertising Signposts For The Cannabis Industry

A few weeks ago, Florida announced that smoking (medicinal) marijuana is legal (CBS). Missouri drafted rules for medical marijuana usage (KY3). There was news about a new New York Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (NORML). It was revealed that there has been a 76% increase in Cannabis Industry Jobs in the US (AZ Marijuana). This is all in the last month.
The Global Legal Cannabis Market is projected to hit $166 billion by 2025 (Euromonitor). It is the fastest growing market in the world, according to MarketWatch. “Within 10 years, cannabis will be a regular part of daily routines,” said Zora Milenkovic, head of drinks and tobacco at Euromonitor International. “From a functional ingredient to an intoxicating buzz, cannabis will reshape fast-moving consumer goods, with food, beverages, beauty, health and tobacco having the most potential for disruption.” (Euromonitor).

We are witnessing history: the growth of a new industry in conjunction with rebuilding a reputation from the bottom up.

As the cloud of marijuana stigma lifts in the United States, states are scrambling to create laws that keep up with the growing industry while grappling with varying moral and regulatory opinions. In some states, all that’s needed is a driver’s license to enjoy marijuana recreationally. In other states, consumers need to be vetted by a doctor, pay upwards of $250 for a medical card, then choose from highly-regulated products for ailments, similar to a prescription. Laws can differ even by county.

The laws are confusing. Interested consumers are often left wondering where they can go and what they can buy. The answer to clarification: advertising. The current advertising initiatives? Equally as confusing as the laws limiting them. And half-hearted at best.

Here’s the only advertising I’ve seen: side-of-the-road CBD sign-flipping in Florida (the guy was pretty good, I’ll give them that) and billboard advertising for weed delivery service Eaze in California. Not that we can entirely blame the companies. Social media advertising is limited and often restricted – the lack of law consistency is a headache not worth the trouble (ETF). For those venturing outside the walled gardens on programmatic ad platforms, targeting, measurement, and analytics are limited, especially for simple display ads, which often face roadblocks similar to social.

Turn to Content

If you’re a marijuana or CBD company, turn to your content. Chances are, you’ve got a ton of it: research articles, educational resources, tips, lists, recipes, and more. I read new articles every day about the latest healing benefits of CBD from inflammation to stress release to skin ailments. That’s the kind of content to distribute. Your stories can be the next wave of your advertising strategy.

Content is the chance to re-educate the masses on the positives of marijuana, but how its targeted to consumers matter. Consider: a mom is unlikely to start liking a social sponsored posts about weed on Instagram. She’s far more likely to read a sponsored article on the web about how Medicinal Marijuana helped another mom with epilepsy. Do you see where I’m going with this? A Native Ad that leads a user to high-quality content aligns with the goal of re-education and reputation-building. Fluffy flowers and glass bongs may be a no-go in Native ads, but content is your secret weapon.

MJ Lovers: establish your company as a thought leader at the forefront of cutting edge health and wellness development. Create high quality content that lifts your reputation above marijuana’s seedy past. Turn to a content-distribution platform to distribute your content in a targeted, trackable, and measurable way. Context is also key: get it in front of users that are already interested. The right content and right distribution with be the key to re-energizing the state of medicinal marijuana advertising.

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Top 10 Reasons I’m Proud to be a Bidtellectual

Top 10 Reasons I’m Proud to be a Bidtellectual

Last week, Bidtellect held its annual company all-hands meeting in Delray Beach, Florida. We managed to bring together all of our employees from around the country for a jam-packed, informative three days – with a little fun, of course.  One thing is for certain – and it hasn’t changed since my first day at Bidtellect – I love this company and I love the people I work with.
Here are the top ten reasons I’m proud to be a Bidtellectual.

1. Our CEO is Awesome.

Our conference kicked off with a lovely party hosted by our CEO… at his home. How many CEOs do you know that would open up his or her home to the entire company? Talk about generous.  Talk about awesome.

2. Transparency.

At any given time, every employee knows exactly how the company is doing – from new sales opportunities to tech planning to our marketing endeavors, we are well-informed on the status of each department and the trajectory of the business.

3. Knowledge.

We work with some of the most brilliant people in the business – and we’re paving the way to the digital advertising future. There’s no greater excitement that comes from walking into a workplace every day where you know you’re going to learn something new.

4. Family.

Not only does Bidtellect support a healthy work/life balance (hello, Responsible Adult Vacation Policy!), but from the minute you start at Bidtellect, you are part of one big work family, too. Many make it a priority to pick up kids from school, make it to family events, and leave at a reasonable hour to spend time at home – and my Bidtellect family respects that. 

5. We Work as a Team.

It’s rare for just one person to get a shout out during our weekly meetings. When Bidtellectuals have a project to tackle, we collaborate in groups or pods to get things done as a team.

6. Creativity.

I work in a department where my creativity is explored, supported, and challenged every day. In this business, we are constantly exploring new and creative ideas on how to package our products and solutions, as well as provide creative custom solutions for our customers.

7. Innovation.

Our tech team is constantly innovating. Each week they make updates to our platform, improve the way it works, constantly check the systems in accordance with quality standards, and create the most advanced bidding and placements technologies out there.


We take a customer-centric approach to everything we do in every department. We even had a “Shark Tank” team building exercise last week to figure out how we can improve and do EVEN MORE for our clients. Watching each team work together was inspiring and the ideas that came out of this were incredibly unique.

9. We Empower Women. 

Bidtellect understands the importance of a balanced, representative workforce – and just under half of all employees are women with roles in leadership, director, and C-level positions.

10. We Have FUN.

Did we mention we have fun doing it? From post-work dinner cruises and themed potlucks, we know how to have a great time.

Missy Steiner is the Vice President Marketing at Bidtellect.
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Creative Best Practices Across the Fashion, Travel and Tech Verticals

Creative Best Practices Across the Fashion, Travel and Tech Verticals

Each quarter we provide a high-level overview of the Native Advertising ecosystem so that marketers can have a deeper understanding of their content distribution strategies. This quarter, in addition to trends in Standard Native, we are taking a look creative best practices across devices, ad formats, multiple verticals and KPIs.

One of the biggest benefits of Native Advertising is the opportunity for brands to engage their audiences with high-quality creative and content. Native ads are not offer-driven or intrusive like banner ads, but value-driven content provided for consumers in organic, immersive environments. But for this to be effective, brands need to understand how to best create and deliver smart, engaging content to consumers.

Bidtellect’s in-house creative services team, [b]+studio, has a deep knowledge and expertise in developing high-performing creatives across devices, ad formats, campaign objectives and verticals. Based on experience and performance, we created multiple best practices to follow, for example: Educate, entertain and bring value, Use Compelling Headlines that are Value driven vs. Offer Driven, Facilitate concern, doubt or worry, Offer to educate or solve problems, Ask questions, Choose authentic, emotional images, Use bright colorful images etc.

For the Q3 2017 Native Intelligence report, we took a deep dive into the best practices for creating and executing premium creative that drives results for brands. [b]+studio analyzed over 100 campaign creatives in Q3 2017 across the fashion, travel and tech industries to reveal important creative best practices and insights.

For Successful Fashion Creative, Ask Questions and Be Educational:


  1. Creatives that ask questions drove high Engagement Score results on all devices
  2. Headlines that ask questions had very high performance.  For example:
  3. Using questions creates intrigue. They immediately draw the reader in, driving engagement.
  4. Headlines that are compelling, educational and value-driven also performed very well across all units.
  5. Campaigns performed best when the product is showcased.
  6. Use bright colorful images to attract consumers.
  7. In-feed and In-ad on mobile drove high Engagement Scores for both clothing and shoe campaigns

Across the Bidtellect platform, we found that within the fashion category CTR is typically higher on mobile than desktop, but Engagement Score is higher on desktop than mobile. In terms of specific Native ad types, Engagement score for fashion brands’ content is highest on In-Feed formats but CTR is highest on Recommendation Widgets.

Travel Content Performs With Call to Actions and Bright Images:

  1. Call to action performs best for the Travel vertical both in headline or description. For example:

  2. The most popular ad format was In-Feed.
  3. Using the call to action creative best practice drove the highest CTR.
  4. The Listicle, Call to action and “How to” best practices delivered the best performance for Engagement Score
  5. Using bright colorful images and having people in relevant settings performed best

Taking a closer look at the travel category we found similar trends by device. CTR is typically higher on mobile than desktop, but Engagement Score is higher on desktop than mobile. In terms of specific Native ad types, travel brands’ content Engagement score is highest on In-Feed formats but CTR is highest on Recommendation Widgets.

With Tech Content, Consumers Will React by Facilitating Worry or Doubt:

  1. Headline and Descriptions that facilitate worry or doubt had an average Engagement Score of 7.5 and a CTR average of .52%.
  2. Asking questions and offering to educate and inform performed best in this vertical. For example:
  3. Desktop In-feed drove the most conversions.
  4. Tablets drove the highest CTR with an average of .51%.
  5. Creatives that display products in the creative had an average Engagement Score of 8.3 and a CTR of .14%

More specifically for the tech category, we found that CTR is significantly on mobile than desktop. Similarly, Engagement Score is significantly higher on desktop than mobile. In terms of Native ad types, travel brands’ content Engagement score is highest on In-Feed formats but CTR is highest on In-Ad.

Key Native Trends from Q3 2017

Mobile CTR was higher than desktop by nearly 30%.

Conversions were the primary campaign objective this quarter. Engagement continues to be an important indicator of success for marketers in their Native campaigns and Video (including cost per completed view and play rate) is on the rise.
Goal Type Utilization Q1 2017: CTR: 36% Engagement: 17% Conversions: 42% Video 5%

In Q3 2017 Shopping related content was the most engaging. The third quarter includes back to school, shopping for new fall styles, fall season sales and the holidays on the horizon. The second most engaging type of content was travel.

See below for previous quarterly reports:
Q2 2017
Q1 2017
Q4 2016
Q3 2016