Category Archives: Digital

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Behaving Badly

As a transformation strategist one of the biggest challenges I come across every week is getting planners and brand managers to shift from thinking like a brand to thinking like their intended audience. Too many briefs I see only have demographic customer profiles, which fall short when you’re planning for a digitally connected world.

To shift from broadcast to joined up storytelling, just knowing characteristics like; gender, age, marital status, geographic location, socio-economic status and so on simply isn’t enough and to make assumptions is lazy and will frankly lower your ROI.

I’m encouraging inclusion of behavioral insights, or customer modeling as it’s also known, into all the briefs and plans we’re creating with clients and here’s why:

1. Nearly every digital marketing touch-point is intended to invoke an action
2. An action is more likely to be taken if encouraged in a relevant way at the right time in a customer journey
3. A customer journey is made up of a customer behaving in a certain way
4. These behaviors are encouraged by a certain mindset at each touch-point
5. These mindsets are triggered by insights both implicit and explicit
6. Understanding what those insights are better enable us to invoke the intended action

Simple really.

Demographic profiling gives you just enough to paint picture of a typical persona in a hypothetical group of people. Behavioral profiling will give you a much higher chance of success because it’s a stronger predictor of what your relationship can be because it’s action orientated.

If you want to know more, I recommend this book; Misbehaving, written by Richard H.Thaler who pretty much invented the field of behavioral economics. It’s insightful and tells a great story. Not surprising when you think about it.

 

the-brain-009

Photograph: Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy/Alamy

 

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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.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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New ads on the block

Though the penetration of ad-blockers has slowed since the initial surge it’s by no means showing signs of stopping and certainly not of declining.

Ad-blocking has firmly established a threatening presence as the reckoning force that threatens the ongoing revenue streams for content creators and advertisers. In 2015 they ensured a global loss of £14.1bn in ad revenue and that figure is predicted to double in 2016.

I blogged about Native ads in March which are becoming stronger and more relevant in the main, but what I’m really liking is the determination across the creative industry to rise to the challenge and simply create better ads. Because why not?

Last year D&AD created ‘Ad Filter’, an extension that works across Chrome and Firefox replacing crappy boring ads with engaging brilliant ones. Olivier Apers, executive creative director of design agency BETC Paris, which collaborated on the filter said ‘We wanted to demonstrate that people don’t hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising,’ – so true. 

Good advertising is about integrating with what our audiences are doing, that isn’t going to change, perhaps the introduction of this will remind bad advertisers to stop blanket broadcasting.

If the industry as a collective can lift the bar on creative then we’ll earn the upwards curve on trust back, meaning advertisers will protect their income and users will stop inadvertently putting their favorite sites out of business.

Time to roll our sleeves up. 

Bicep Appreciation

Image shamelessly lifted from the Marines Bicep Appreciation Pinterest Page

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getting native ads right

There are so many ways websites can generate revenue through ads, personally, like many people I find 99% of them irritating, but as an advertiser I also know the importance they have for businesses selling and buying the spaces. 

With the rise of ad-blockers the focus on making creative work harder and better has never been more prevalent and one of the biggest digital marketing trends continuing this year are custom-made native ads, designed to appear as part of a website’s standard content.

Beyond just the aesthetics, native ads are also created to integrate seamlessly into the functionality of the site, which means they impact the customer journey, particularly if the buyer is taking over a lot of space. This can have a negative effect especially if the branding isn’t clear, which is often the case as they normally contain content relevant to the site rather than an explicit ad message. 

Native ads aren’t necessarily immune to ad blockers, the execution of them varies greatly but fundamentally they are not published as the site’s editorial so the tech is still ad serving. You only have to block ads on Forbes to see this happening, and those native ads are created for Forbes.

So how do you create a good native ad?

First and foremost, think about the behavior you’re targeting on the site through the content you choose rather than the demographic. For example, if it’s an automotive site, create refreshing content relevant to the cars or consideration process of buying a car, not the ‘ABC1’ you might be hoping will see it and be distracted by your set of golf clubs because you’ve assumed as a demographic that’s what he wants to see instead.

Secondly, don’t be deceptive in the customer journey. Native ads are generally accepted more than traditional ads because they are more trusted, this is because of the relevancy not just at first view level but of the journey in totality. Don’t abuse this, keep your click destination as relevant as the core content. 

Finally, keep it considered and polished. Native ads aren’t a home for any old crap, brand metrics show that they are considered to be more premium from discovery through to purchase. Stay true to the above  points and you will see a greater halo effect on your brand without having to be shouty about your brand presence. 

Simple really; know what your audience want to see, make it worth them seeing and follow that thought through to purchase. 

Stick to these principles and avoid the display pondweed caught in the ad blocker net.

Don’t be this guy…Polar-Bear-in-Fishing-Net-MAIN

image found on the daily mail. thank you

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Is it a bird? erm nope.

The next era of connectivity is on the horizon, or rather more accurately hovering above it, as tech giants launch their test projects to provide internet coverage for the harder to reach parts of the world.

Google have test piloted Project Loon a few times since June 2013 near places such as New Zealand’s South Island and Sri Lanka, a series of high- altitude balloons equipped with LTE (more commonly known as 4G LTE) that rides the wind currents in the stratosphere.

Facebook have also developed a fleet of solar-powered drones called Aquila now ready to hover at altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. These can be steered and controlled more directly, constantly circling a two mile radius to stay aloft.

Both the balloons and the drones can be air born for around three months.

Combined with lower priced smartphones coming to market we are seeing the next evolution of connectivity looking set to be pretty rapid.

There’s still a way to go to stabilise the launch and flight of both, plus the clean up exercise once they come back down but the effort to connect the whole world with the internet is accelerating.

Next we’ll be in orbit, talking to the moon, connecting galaxies… well, maybe.

 

clangers

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OMMMMMM G

We’re living in an omnichannel world, but what does that actually mean?

I’m getting a lot of questions around this at the moment, whilst the concept is fairly easy to understand, the minutiae of what it means to a brand is not quite so simple to grasp, so here’s a quick digest…

The word itself is derived from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. And rather than linear use of channels, most of us are used to cross channel planning so really, omnichannel is the evolution of cross channel planning, done really well. 

To take that one step further, I would summarise it as; the true continuity of a brand or content experience that extends beyond a single place and crosses through multiple channels.  

Consumers are exposed to brands at multiple touchpoints, often at once, they could be looking at something on a mobile whilst in a physical store for example. As a brand therefore, planning for both the mobile experience and the physical store experience to be consistent would be part of omnichannel planning, it should be woven together with an invisible thread.

Essentially those brands that connect the components of an experience and the data around them; research of product, purchase, price, customer service and so on, will be the ones that shape a new dimension of customer decision.

It is indeed an intricate web we must weave.

Spider_Web_by_Autar

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It’s Hard to be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World

Meet ‘The Millennial’; a sophisticated and digitally savvy shopper, looking to be excited as much by the product as by the experience of researching it and flaunting it.

For today’s time poor, money flirtatious audience this is no longer just about Tiffany earrings Dahling; it’s also about the ‘to die for’ set of champagne flutes, the ‘totes in’ beach bag and even the simply ‘must have’ centre piece for the dining table.

The make up of luxury is getting a make over, and if it’s not pixel perfect then brands will need to prepare to be considered mainstream. 

Not only do consumers want to be enveloped in a beautiful, seamlessly immersive experience, they expect it, so when working with premium brands, I have these three key points as my guide:

  1. Are we sparkling: To be a cut above the rest, we must have the edge when it comes to going from design diamond in the rough, to top quality grade. If we can’t cut through and achieve stand out, we’ll quickly become mediocre. 
  2. Size matters, but not in the traditional way where whoever shouts loudest wins. Today consumers can access content wherever they are and will do so with whatever they have to hand, so our diamond needs to make the most of every screen size out there. I aim to be creating for 5 screen optimization at least, and an extra little tip; think mobile first, and mobile last. 
  3. Less is more. If we haven’t got something interesting to say, then I encourage not to say anything. With the rise of social continuing to grow it doesn’t mean copy and paste everywhere, we don’t have to be ‘always on’. We should be authentic, inspiring, but most of all we must be relevant, be always there, when our consumers want us to be. 

Getting it right takes research, time, dedication and constant evaluation. We must know and understand our audience in order to take our brand to their space in a meaningful way. 

No pressure, no diamonds.

pixie dust

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Technology enables, trust endures

I’ve been handed an influx of briefs recently from brands wanting to adopt copycat approaches, spending their budgets on stepping into their competitive space with ambitions to shout louder and ‘become the authoritative voice’, it’s sadly reminiscent of the work I was doing ten years ago.

Every brief looks the same; ‘we want to drive traffic to our website’, ‘we want to increase our share of voice’, we want consumers to buy our products and love us for it.

Technology has given us access to anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, which should be exciting. Yet in this increasingly cluttered space, brands have reverted to vanity exercises based on the assumption that their consumers have the time to seek out their content and care enough to do so.

Technology needs to be respected as a powerful enabler, it means so much more to consumers to have a personalised and useful experience in our immersive Internet of Things, so the focus for brands has to go beyond content.

Leading brands to understand that content and functionality must work together to reflect what consumers are trying to achieve is a key part of my everyday, yet convincing key stakeholders to put the needs of their audiences first in order to serve them is hard.

I truly believe that the brands who don’t make consumers the focus of their decisions will continue to drown amongst those who do. Those that succeed will command attention through engaging and value adding experiences.

In today’s omni-channel world great consumer experience is both necessary and advantageous, the bar is set high, it’s no longer about developing loyalty schemes, today an engaged consumer is worth more than a loyal one.

An engaged customer is one that has had an expectation met, which for a brand means, being relevant and adding value.

Less noise and more cut through is called for.

image courtesy of http://zeteo.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/silence-conserve.jpg

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Tell me what I want before I want it…

But stop invading my personal space.

It’s a tricky juxtaposition to deliver seamless personal service whilst not freaking consumers out with a big brother approach. I for one HATE banners, especially the ones that stalk me for days on end, however, I would like my utilities provider to remember who I am and take me to the last place I visited, or a nice welcome back page, rather than straight to paying bills even though I have a Direct Debit set up and they owe me money.

So given we’re seeing the fastest evolution in how we interact with devices ever, and that cloud computing means everything is on hand instantly, how long before intelligent assistants make all of our decisions for us?

The key difference will land when the predictive nature moves from our smartphones into our cars, our homes and eventually our offices en masse. It’s happening already; cars are synced to Spotify lists and traffic lights, in-home devices monitor how many bodies are in a room in order to moderate the heating but, this connectivity is not everywhere, yet.

Wearables are bridging some of the gaps; how long before my GP phones me up because my heart rate is too high when I’m out running or how long before my digital radio wakes me up to Stevie Wonder to sooth the after effect of a bad dream…

I’ve been prototyping with A.I solutions recently and can’t help but wonder when I will be able to curate my party playlists based on who’s attending, when I will be able to book taxis to pick up my guests and drop them off in the most effective order possible, when I will NEVER have to do a tax return again or manage my inbox…

I reckon true anticipatory computing is closer than we think.

Now get out of my cloud.

girl-on-a-cloud

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