Category Archives: Debates and Discussion points

I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

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“Our business is infested with idiots who to try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

So said David Ogilvy.

This post is born of a conversation with a colleague asking what I thought the buzzwords for 2016 might be. I didn’t have an answer on the spot as I hadn’t heard any on my first day back (traveling around Morocco for the festive period is a good way to escape jargon btw). 

Then I heard this word three times this week so I guess it’s on the list… (drumroll)… MARCHITECTURE. 

Wyyyaaaatt? I hear you say. The first time I heard this I rolled my eyes, slid down my seat and promptly left the room. The second time yielded a similar result, the third… well I guess I had to make sure I could try and nip it in the bud sooner rather than later. 

So, ‘Marchitecture’. It’s apparently what happens when a marketing department and a technical department get together. In the decade or so I’ve been making techy, digi stuff for marketing this has just been ‘integration’ but hey, apparently we need a martech strat and a martech stack now.

Don’t get me wrong, marketing and technology should absolutely weave together and it’s not easy to compile an ecosystem that combines content and functionality with a robust framework in place. But why must we coin it so? It really doesn’t help the rep that we marketeers have to keep coming up with these terms.

My mild rant is affirmed by the hissy fit that autocorrect threw at me throughout the writing of this post. 

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What’s after WhatsApp

Now that Facebook has zucked up WhatsApp into their empire, many users of the service are looking to an alternative, it’s a question that came up again today in a meeting with a client so here’s a quick overview of some other cool services that can give you just as much, if not more;

1. Viber: Currently in use in 193 countries (so pretty much worldwide), this is similar to WhatsApp to adopt as it uses your mobile numbers to identify who from your contact list is a user. Once connected via the App you instantly message and away you go, plus you can also call your users so long as you’re connected to the Internet. In addition there are fun sticker packs and you can send doodles and short voice snippets, great meeting distractions!

2. LINE: Similar again but it registers your number to it’s database, so worth considering if you don’t like that. Otherwise much like Viber too in that if you’re connected you can also make calls to other LINE users and it gives you fun stickers and emoticons. There are over 300m users and it’s fast expanding into Europe with Spain being a top adopting country.

3. Skype: More popular for video calls, this service has been around for a while but let’s not forget that you can still use it simply for messaging too. The only added layer of intricacy is that you need to approve uses before you can start chatting, for me though, that’s a bonus!

4. Kik Messenger: Big at the moment in the US and Canada, and specifically with teens. You need to register with your email address, choose a unique name (much like Skype) but once up and running the app is a super simple messaging service, there are no calling capabilities but it’s growing fast with over 100m users already and funding secured to expand, so it’s one to watch.

5. KAKAO: This app is another up and coming that allows you to either message directly, or within groups, similar to WhatsApp, it’s totally free and despite the common misconception its’ only available in Asia, it is free to the whole world, yippee.

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How will Google Instant affect Paid Search?

So the web is buzzing about Google’s new ‘Instant Search’ offering which, in a nutshell means you can get to search results much faster than you could before because you don’t even have to finish typing your full search term, or even press ‘search’ – laziness refined.

However, my immediate next thought was; will this mean that because you will see results as you type it will help you define your search term, therefore self-optimising your results or, will it just be bloody confusing?

Then, with my business head on and my client’s best interests at heart (of course), how will this affect how we bid on paid search results? When you bid on search terms, impressions impact directly on your Google quality score, which is equally important to how much you pay per click.

So, I’m typing in my search box and as I hit each key on my keyboard its changing results (obviously) but that of course means the ads change too.  Sooo; whereas before one word could result in one impression, that same word could now mean several impressions…

This dramatically changes the way our consumers will look at the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and I would imagine how they click on the results and ads.  So off to Google’s BlogSpot I went and this is what I found out:

When someone searches using Google Instant, ad impressions are counted in these situations:

The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).The user chooses a particular query by clicking the search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries. The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

Google recommend monitoring your ads’ performance the same way you usually do. Google Instant might increase or decrease your overall impression levels. However, Google Instant can improve the quality of your clicks since it helps people search using terms that more directly connect them with the answers they need. Therefore, your overall campaign performance could improve.

This goes some way to help but I think we’re going to need to keep a close eye on our quality scores and also pay particular attention to negative and long tail keywords…

If you want more information or help on Google Instant Search here are some useful links:

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=187309

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/search-now-faster-than-speed-of-type.html

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/09/google-instant-impact-on-search-queries.html

http://adwords.blogspot.com/2010/09/google-instant-more-innovative-approach.html

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Is the web dead? I didn’t know it was poorly!

I was reading Wired the other day and about two-thirds of the way through (page 125 to be exact) Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief, announced that the web is dead! Once I’d got over feeling bad about not realising the web was feeling under the weather in the first place, I had a dig around to see what everyone else thought, turns out it’s sparked quite a debate.

Anderson states thatWithin five years… the number of users accessing the Net from mobile devices will surpass the number who access it from PCs.’ Perhaps not impossible but a bold statement I feel.

Whilst I agree that one of the most noticeable shifts in the world of pixels has been the move from the ‘open web’ to platforms that only use the internet for transport, but not the browser for display, it’s worth remembering that these trends tend to happen in phases.

Remember how ‘the browser’ took over everything, then developers demanded more options therefore moved to apps… but the browser will again overcome the apps distinguishing features and the technicalities they present and so the browser will keep coming back to provide the support. What most internet surfers don’t grasp is that it is in fact made up of several separate components of which the World Wide Web is just one application.

So is it really all moving to a post-HTML environment?

(I won’t mention the irony of how Wired actually published this on the website before I received my subscription… oops!)

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What makes a good launch strategy?

Products flop all the time, fact.

Ok, maybe a negative start to a blog post but mulling over the recent failure that was Google Wave and deciding the over demonstrated, under communicated approach to launch it didn’t help, I decided to consider what makes a product launch successful.

One of the most common mal-practices is not targeting the right consumers. By not focusing on who you’re trying to engage specifically and aiming at a generic platform you weaken your strategy. So rule number one is (hopefully not surprisingly) understand your core market.

I’m assuming at this stage your product is tailored specifically to your core market and that you have based it upon insights and research from the start (if you haven’t, maybe consider this more before going any further).

So next up, what is the USP for your product? How will buying this product improve your consumers’ life? How can you emotionally connect with your consumer to inspire them to buy this product?

The answers to these questions will form your message; it’s likely you’ve thought of this as you develop the product but, tip number three is really about keeping the message consistent.

Every ad you serve, page you create, email you send, needs to deliver this message. Keep it clear, concise and constant.

So you’ve got that bit nailed, next you need to think about when, where and how you’re going to wow your audience with this amazing unique message. Where are your audience and how can you get the message to them (note I haven’t said how you can get them to the message). Map out your landscape and look at the best touch points to deliver your message.

And remember, once you have launched the product into market, there is no turning back so make sure you get it right or you’ll join the Coors bottled water, Cocaine energy drink and Bic underwear failures pile.

Who? What? I hear you say… my point exactly.

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Privacy v’s Security

In a world where we’re connected to each other, quite often by several ways at once, the most talked about topic at the moment seems to be how to balance our privacy with security.

The company behind Blackberry smartphones recently released a statement ensuring their customers that data was indeed private and protected but, internet security experts say that protecting our privacy is a growing battle against the demands for access to the communications occurring across networks.

You can maybe understand how governments might justify the need to tap into certain watched individuals but they do that anyway don’t they? Why do they need to know what I thought of  ‘the film last night’ or ‘which route I took to work’? Feeling exposed? Well it’s certainly getting Joe Public up in arms.

Communications companies and service providers appear to be on the side of the consumer with a growing volume of content being encrypted (Google mail recently undertook a lot of work after big trouble in China) but as this information starts being distributed for intelligence how long before our every move, exchange and decision is open source?

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who are we really?

In a world where animosity is so readily available it’s easy to recreate our personas for so many different purposes.

You have Facebook for your personal life; the fun me, the wild me, the chilled out me. You have Linkedin for your professional persona; the intelligent, robust, dedicated and ambitious me, twitter for whatever persona you choose, or a mix if you dare, YouTube for your more frivolous side that doesn’t mind being exploited in glorious motion and then Flickr, Bebo, Foursquare and so on.

But when online who are we really talking to? Everyone remembers the story of the married, lazy, overweight couple in the US that recreated themselves on second life as something akin to Barbie and Ken right? They ended up divorcing in real life because he cheated on her with Cindy in their virtual life. That’s not really the point though; the point is we have two sloths sat on a sofa with no life which suddenly become the envy of everyone as the picture of perfection in their virtual life.

So are we talking to the real couple or the false couple?

Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) has always stood by his premise that transparency will take over but there are plenty of sceptics out there who would argue otherwise. I’m guilty of it myself; I tend to be select with photos before publishing them for the world to see and even when I’m writing on here I’m conscious of who might be reading this.

Then there’s the question of who controls our identity online? Do we as the creator or do our friends, colleagues or even the teams running the social sites in the first place? Is the world going to become more open or are we going to live two lives in tandem?

Who are we online? Who are we really? Who are we going to become? Will we get lost in the transparent world or will we all embed our replicate personas online?

If Facebook achieve their goal of a universal identity system then will technology gain master over humans or will the internet remain a powerful tool for society?

Cyber food for thought that’s for sure…

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Is privacy dead?

We’re all used to ticking opt out boxes to keep our details hidden but in a world where everyone is connected over the media of the internet, is the ability to control who has access really that secure?

I’ve had this debate with so many clients, friends and family members and it comes hand in hand with just about every mention of Facebook (I’ll point out now that 95% of these conversations are with older generations).

How many times have I heard ‘But I don’t want people to know what I’m up to every minute of the day’ and then two seconds later a shrieking squeal followed by ‘Ooh look at that picture, my how he’s grown! Quick flick through the other pictures so I can see…’

There are many critics of the internet, Steve Rambam a private investigator specialising in internet cases once said ‘Privacy is dead – get over it’. He may be right, if someone digs hard enough they could probably find some dirt on me but I publicly display what I want people to see and control how that is presented. It seems more that it’s the lack of understanding that people are afraid of.

So in simple words these are the things you need to check for if you’re nervous:

  • Who your information will be passed to
  • Why the information is being collected (if you allow it to be)
  • How the information will be used and when
  • How you can access information the organisation holds about you

All this can be found in any disclaimer for any site you visit or use.

With particular reference to Facebook, read this blog by my friend and colleague Jim. Here he talks specifically about Facebook Privacy. I think you’ll find it very useful.

I don’t really have an answer for you all, being immersed in the digital world I suppose I have more trust in it, I’m just as wary of the next door neighbour who constantly tries to steal my raspberries, the man in the shop who tries to short change me and the estate agents not doing a very good job of selling my house. None of whom I deal with online.

I guess really it’s just having the understanding to make an informed decision about what you share… what do you think?

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Blue lego bricks

Ironic that I’m typing this on my iPhone but numbered are the days that I shall do so. I’m getting pretty fed up with the battle between Apple and Adobe. Anyone else out there have a view on this?

Adobe took a big step towards reconciliation recently and announced their ‘Packager for iPhone’ tool. The Packager is a key aspect of Adobe’s CS5 update to its flagship creative suite, due for release to the market just days after Apple’s damning words iterated by the ‘legendary’ Steve Jobs.

At a recent Apple meeting he announced an amendment to their app development terms and conditions effectively banning the use of Flash.

So I’m looking into the HTC Evo 4G, it looks pretty good. Perhaps we can turn all the abandoned iPhones into a work of art, each one can resemble a blue Lego brick, we can call it ‘In the absence of flash’…

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