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Should Your Content Team Play to Its Strengths or Fix Its Weaknesses?



Should Your Content Team Play to Its Strengths or Fix Its Weaknesses?

Do you know your own strength? What about your weaknesses?

One business management and leadership theory suggests that people and teams will achieve more success by building on their strengths than by trying to fix their weaknesses.

The theory doesn’t mean you should ignore weaknesses. Instead, it suggests you should invest deeply in talents and strengths and minimize the effects of any weaknesses. (You can read more about it in the book Strengths Based Leadership, based on the Gallup organization’s 30-year research project.

I’m all in on this idea. I’ve seen this idea work for content teams that achieve success over the long term. But the choice isn’t always clear.

Should #ContentMarketing teams double down on their strengths? Or try to fix their weaknesses? It’s not an easy choice, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Strengths vs. weaknesses

A new content marketing strategy brings people together under new charters, with new processes, responsibilities, and technologies. People call this process of getting everyone ready for the new situation “change management.”

But, if we’re honest, it’s really “new management.” None of this stuff has been done before.

One of the first things I recommend to clients in this situation is to do a skills audit. A skills audit finds areas of strength as well as gaps where additional training, outsourcing, or new hires might be needed.

I’ve seen many companies make the same mistake after the skills audit: They double down on shoring up perceived (or actual) weaknesses.

But that approach immediately builds a steep mountain to climb. Content teams grappling with all the “new” may feel demoralized if they have to hire and train new in-house or outsourced staff at the same time.

Yet many experts argue that focusing solely on strengths has its pitfalls. Several years ago, a Harvard Business Review podcast suggested that “so many weaknesses are overdeveloped strengths.”

For example, amplifying a politically astute team leader’s strengths can create a manipulative boss. Focusing on the speed or creativity of the in-house design team can lead to a team that’s overworked and considered idiosyncratic in their approach or out of touch with business realities.

Deciding whether to focus on the strengths or weaknesses uncovered in a skills audit reminds me of the aphorism usually attributed to statistician George Box: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

There are no easy answers.

Which strengths and which weaknesses matter more

In a way, it’s a false choice. Understanding which strengths and weaknesses matter the most tends to produce the best results. You can’t assess which strengths or weaknesses to focus on until you understand which strengths and weaknesses affect your operation’s chance of success the most.

For example, companies building content teams often ask me, “Should we hire subject matter experts with deep knowledge about our services and industry or great writers who can learn our business over time?”

The answer to that question is yes.

Should #Content teams hire SMEs who know the industry or great writers who can learn? Yes, says @Robert Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Both approaches are equally important – until you figure out which will impact the team’s objectives more. Once you decide which is more important, you can focus on enhancing the strengths of the approach you’ve chosen.

I’ve seen this first-hand in two situations.

The first involved a new content team at a large Fortune 100 company. After conducting a skills audit, they identified their strengths: creativity and journalistic storytelling. They also uncovered some perceived weaknesses: sales-enablement content and marketing measurement.

As a new team, they also understood that the business placed a high value on the ability to feed great content to sales and provide analytics to show the content’s effectiveness. A key piece of the team’s business case was centralizing content and making it an internal strength. So, their impulse was to shore up their sales content and analytics weaknesses.

To do so, the content team took over these areas from their outsourced agency. They were sure they could “figure it out.”

But they didn’t. And the team’s reputation as a strong editorial team also took a hit as they tried to balance their strengths with the lack of marketing and analytical ability. When the business pivoted, they let the editorial team go. They weren’t considered capable of taking on the necessary marketing analytics.

Would they have survived if they’d let the agency handle their weak areas and continued to excel at editorial or built a phased partnership with the agency to address the skills needed for sales enablement and measurement?

I suspect so.

In the second situation, a technology company I work with had been growing and molding its content team for a few years. They maintain an acute awareness of their team’s strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, the team leader has created transparency and understanding of their ongoing balance throughout the business.

At first, they focused on highlighting their strengths as a content marketing team (creativity, industry thought leadership, and structuring content for translation and reuse). They didn’t initially take on sales-oriented content – they left it to the demand generation team.

Eventually, they partnered with the demand-gen team, which continued to create great marketing content. The content team helped them develop standards and playbooks to facilitate translation and repackaging for multiple channels.

Years in, this model works very well for them.

It’s a subtle but critical difference. The first team thought its job was to excel at content, and it focused on fixing the team’s weaknesses to make that a reality. The second team realized its job was to make the business good at content, and it focused on its strengths to make that a reality.

The usefulness of any content skills audit lies in the ability to align the team’s core strengths to the priorities and skills of the business.

Over time, if you can keep this awareness, your team’s weaknesses can become its greatest strength.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them



The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them

Ad fraud is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the latest data indicates that it will cost businesses a colossal €120 billion by 2023. But even more worrying is that fraudsters’ tactics are becoming so sophisticated that even big-name companies such as Uber, Procter & Gamble, and Verizon have been victims of ad fraud in recent years. 

So what does this mean for the rest of the industry? The answer is simple: every ad company, no matter their size or budget is just as at risk as the big guns – if not more. 

In this article, I summarize some of the biggest and most shocking cases of ad fraud we’ve witnessed over recent years and notably, what vital lessons marketers and advertisers can learn from them to avoid wasting their own budgets. 

The biggest ad fraud cases in recent years 

From fake clicks and click flooding to bad bots and fake ad impressions, fraudsters have and will go to any lengths to siphon critical dollars from your ad budgets.

Let’s take a look at some of the most high-profile and harmful ad fraud cases of recent years that have impacted some of the most well-known brands around the world. 

Methbot: $5 million a day lost through fake video views 

In 2016, Aleksandr Zhukov, the self-proclaimed “King of Fraud”, and his group of fraudsters were discovered to have been making between $3 and $5 million a day by executing fake clicks on video advertisements. 

Oft-cited as the biggest digital ad fraud operation ever uncovered, “Methbot” was a sophisticated botnet scheme that involved defrauding brands by enabling countless bots to watch 300 million video ads per day on over 6000 spoofed websites. 

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Due to the relatively high cost-per-mille (CPM) for video ads, Aleksandr and his group were able to steal millions of dollars a day by targeting high-value marketplaces. Some of the victims of the Methbot fraud ring include The New York Times, The New York Post, Comcast, and Nestle.

In late 2021, Aleksandr Zhukov was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay over $3.8 million in restitution. 

Uber: $100 million wasted in ad spend 

In another high-profile case, transportation giant Uber filed a lawsuit against five ad networks in 2019 – Fetch, BidMotion, Taptica, YouAppi, and AdAction Interactive – and won. 

Uber claimed that its ads were not converting, and ultimately discovered that roughly two-thirds of its ad budget ($100 million) wasn’t needed. This was on account of ad retargeting companies that were abusing the system by creating fraudulent traffic. 

The extent of the ad fraud was discovered when the company cut $100 million in ad spend and saw no change in the number of rider app installs. 

In 2020, Uber also won another lawsuit against Phunware Inc. when they discovered that the majority of Uber app installations that the company claimed to have delivered were produced by the act of click flooding. 

Criteo: Claims sues competitor for allegedly running a damaging counterfeit click fraud scheme 

In 2016, Criteo, a retargeting and display advertising network, claimed that competitor Steelhouse (now known as MNTM) ran a click fraud scheme against Criteo in a bid to damage the company’s reputation and to fraudulently take credit for user visits to retailers’ web pages. 

Criteo filed a lawsuit claiming that due to Steelhouse’s alleged actions — the use of bots and other automated methods to generate fake clicks on shoe retailer TOMS’ ads — Criteo ultimately lost TOMS as a client. Criteo has accused Steelhouse of carrying out this type of ad fraud in a bid to prove that Steelhouse provided a more effective service than its own. 

Twitter: Elon Musk claims that the platform hosts a high number of inauthentic accounts 

In one of the biggest and most tangled tech deals in recent history, the Elon Musk and Twitter saga doesn’t end with Twitter taking Musk to court for backing out of an agreement to buy the social media giant for $44 billion.

In yet another twist, Musk has also claimed that Twitter hid the real number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. He has also accused the company of fraud by alleging that these accounts make up around 10% of Twitter’s daily active users who see ads, essentially meaning that 65 million of Twitter’s 229 million daily active users are not seeing them at all. 

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6 Lessons marketers can learn from these high-profile ad fraud cases 

All of these cases demonstrate that ad fraud is a pervasive and ubiquitous practice that has incredibly damaging and long-lasting effects on even the most well-known brands around the world. 

The bottom line is this: Marketers and advertisers can no longer afford to ignore ad fraud if they’re serious about reaching their goals and objectives. Here are some of the most important lessons and takeaways from these high-profile cases. 

  1. No one is safe from ad fraud 

Everyone — from small businesses to large corporations like Uber — is affected by ad fraud. Plus, fraudsters have no qualms over location: no matter where in the world you operate, you are susceptible to the consequences of ad fraud. 

  1. Ad fraud is incredibly hard to detect using manual methods

Fraudsters use a huge variety of sneaky techniques and channels to scam and defraud advertisers, which means ad fraud is incredibly difficult to detect manually. This is especially true if organizations don’t have the right suggestions and individuals dedicated to tracking and monitoring the presence of ad fraud. 

Even worse, when organizations do have teams in place monitoring ad fraud, they are rarely experts, and cannot properly pore through the sheer amount of data that each campaign produces to accurately pinpoint it.

  1. Ad fraud wastes your budget, distorts your data, and prevents you from reaching your goals

Ad fraud drains your budget significantly, which is a huge burden for any company. However, there are also other ways it impacts your ability to deliver results. 

For example, fake clicks and click bots lead to skewed analytics, which means that when you assess advertising channels and campaigns based on the traffic and engagement they receive, you’re actually relying on flawed data to make future strategic decisions. 

Finally – and as a result of stolen budgets and a reliance on flawed data – your ability to reach your goals is highly compromised. 

  1. You’re likely being affected by ad fraud already, even if you don’t know it yet

As seen in many of these cases, massive amounts of damage were caused because the brands weren’t aware that they were being targeted by fraudsters. Plus, due to the lack of awareness surrounding ad fraud in general, it’s highly likely that you’re being affected by ad fraud already. 

  1. You have options to fight the effects of ad fraud  

Luckily, as demonstrated by these cases, there are some options available to counteract the impact and losses caused by ad fraud, such as requesting a refund or even making a case to sue. In such cases, ad fraud detection solutions are extremely useful to uncover ad fraud and gather evidence. 

  1. But the best option is to prevent ad fraud from the get-go

The best ad fraud protection is ad fraud prevention. The only surefire way to stop fraudsters from employing sophisticated fraud schemes and attacking your campaigns is by implementing equally sophisticated solutions. Anti-ad fraud software solutions that use machine learning and artificial intelligence help you keep fraud at bay, enabling you to focus on what matters: optimizing your campaigns and hitting your goals. 

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