Tag Archives: Karen Boswell\’s blog

Monetising Virtual Reality

I’m on the train back from a conference where I was privileged enough to be part of a panel alongside top guys from the BBC, Unity and Dubit, we discussed and interrogated the money making roadmap for Virtual Reality (VR).

It was interesting and much fun, not least because it’s something I believe is here to stay (no surprise to those of you that follow me), but eyebrow raising too in that the focus across the industry is steering quickly to ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) rather than considering the fact that we haven’t really nailed the craft, purpose or immersion factor yet.

I was asked afterwards by several people; ‘What are your top tips for getting into VR and where is the money?’ (mainly in the same breath) and so thought I’d distill the panel into a post… here goes.

First things first; as with any good content (or business), a VR experience is only as good as the idea(s) at the core. Crack a brilliant concept first and the money will follow (one way or another). During my career I’ve worked for some of the top agencies in the world, of these two spring to mind; one was focused on money first and idea second, another ideas first and money second. The latter is acing it, the first is arguably losing it’s identity, staff and direction. Enough said.

Secondly, again you’ll see the parallel here; you have to build trust. Trust in the medium is growing but headsets aren’t about to fly off the shelf just yet, it’s a slow burn but it will reap it’s reward.  The ‘jazz hands’ have been and gone, the next phase on the roadmap is about creating brilliant and relevant experiences, VR is about immersion not reach. Get this bit right and scale (therefore money) will follow.

Third up; consider the right investment and return model. You can; create an app based service and tie subscription to it, you can launch with experiential then move to freemium and start an economy of scale from there, you can take an AR in-road with an upgrade model, sponsorships, partnerships, branded content… as with any new medium there are many money making ways. However, as with any medium, one will apply to your objectives more than the other. Explore and choose carefully.

It’s a bit ABC but thats because really truly, the basics aren’t actually all that complicated. The playground is big, experimentation is happening, trailblazers are lighting up the way. Those that keep their head but jump in and concentrate on; brilliance, trust and effectiveness (in that order), will be the ones to make their millions in this medium.

See you there.

Minecraft Money

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Too Punchy apparently…

I originally wrote this for a university blog who asked for some tips for their students on breaking in and succeeding in the advertising industry. Apparently this candid account of my journey so far is too punchy, they asked me to ‘tame it down’, I said NO! I have just the audience who might appreciate this as it is. So I’m publishing it here.

It’s longer than my normal posts, so grab a brew, take five and I hope you find some of this useful…

My Seven Tips for Survival

My job didn’t exist when I was at uni, it barely existed five years ago. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘One day I shall be a Transformation Strategist, or a Creative Technologist’. The reason I studied Art & Design at college is because I liked my teacher who taught design at school and I wanted to create beautiful things.

When I went on to university, the degree was titled ‘Graphic Design and New Media’; my first lesson was on search engines, an introduction to Google, my degree introduced me to Flash, Quark, InDesign and Freehand and on the day I graduated all of those skills were already out of date.

The reason I’m telling you this is that my first tip for stepping into our industry is to understand that it moves and evolves at breakneck speed, there’s a new start up every two minutes and a new technology every one. You have to be on your game every second to stay ahead.

What I did learn during my studies was that design and creativity is a fluid process; the principles of craft, attention to perfection (not just detail) and experimenting with how far you could push the boundaries would always deliver a result. Following graduation I found that print quickly bored me, so I taught myself to code and started to design interfaces, basic brand websites back then, and got excited. Code seemed to not only bend the rules but break them entirely, what you could achieve with dots per pixel rather than dots per inch seemed to know no boundaries, the only limitations were those of my mind. This brings me to my second tip, always push the boundaries and seek terrain unexplored.

Having realised this I quickly sought out the best agency in my area to learn how to do just that, I lived in Leeds at the time. I waited for a vaguely relevant job to come up, then when it did, I hounded them to employ me. I got the job, my first proper footing on the ladder (this was about two years after I graduated), that first foot is the hardest but most important one you’ll ever take.

The job was as an Account Executive, I didn’t exactly love booking rooms and making the tea, but I was surrounded by clever, fun people and quickly identified who I wanted my mentor to be, the smartest most rock ’n’ roll guy in the building who also happened to be leading the digital transformation for the whole agency. I stuck to him like glue for the following four years and he helped me become a savvy client facing strategist, adept in the rapidly changing world of digital. Tip three, surround yourself with the people you aspire to be and don’t be afraid to ask them to mentor you.

When it was time to move on life took me to London. I got a job at one of the leading UK agencies where I learnt how to manage big platform projects and start up enterprise solutions. I worked 12-18 hour days, every day to cram 3 years of progress into 18 months. It paid off, one of the top agencies in the world head hunted me into their team.

From then it was about jumping in with everything I had and pivoting my way through the most breakneck world I had ever experienced. I said yes to everything, then worried about how afterwards. I pushed myself to be the best at everything I took on, failure was not a situation I would accept. Tip four, do whatever it takes, if you don’t someone else will.

The hard work paid off when six months into the job I got a real chance to prove my abilities, arguably the turning point that made my career. Following leading a successful series of workshops I was asked to move to Japan and run the resulting global project for a major client. I had one week to pack up my life, lock up my flat and get on a plane, I didn’t even have an address to go to, it all happened so quickly my living arrangements were being organised whilst I was on the 13 hour flight to Narita.

48 hours later I found myself in an alien environment; I was half the age of the people around me, western, female and not able to speak the language. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was amongst an incredibly intelligent bunch of people who knew this organisation inside out. Japan is a culture that lends to following a career path within the same company for the span of an entire career, these guys had started on the factory floor and worked their way to the top, then here I was to lead them through a massive change program. I swallowed the nerves, rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in. Tip five; if you’re not shi*tting yourself slightly, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.

Over the next six months I had to adapt daily to navigate many challenges. I started to build a strong team around me and the agency team back in London were nothing short of amazing. We spoke every day, we tackled problems together, when I got stuck they were there, when they couldn’t tell what was happening where I was, I brought them in, it was fluid, with many highs and lows but collectively we succeeded by working tightly together. Tip six; you are only as good as the team around you.

Since starting my career I’ve been a designer, a coder, a planner, a strategist, a client lead and half of a creative team. I’ve built teams, projects and many, many beautiful, useful things. I’ve changed minds and lives, kickstarted businesses, led huge programs, mentored, managed and broken every rule in the book. Most of all I’ve taken risks. Tip seven; don’t be afraid to take risks, it’s how we improve ourselves.

The words of my mentor when I left that first job in Leeds still ring true today, ‘Why will Karen succeed? Quite simply, because she has no fear’.

So my advice to you as you start on your journey in a particularly exciting but turbulent industry, is ‘Just say yes, be brave and jump in’.

What’s the worst that can happen…

jumping-off-a-cliff.jpgimage found on https://developingourwings.wordpress.com/ – thank you

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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. 

J-Jargon-cartoon2

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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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Minding Change. Changing minds

One day (pick any day in your career), a client will have said to you ‘We’re not set up to do that, this way is tried and tested’, then in the next breath, they’ll ask for scalability with stability.

Big businesses based on structures that scaled in the 80’s when the price of bread was stable and people had one job for life, find it really hard to keep up with the rate that technology and mindsets develop.

Back then the channels were limited and the organisations structured linearly, now we have to deal with forever shifting landscapes and instantaneous communication flows.

I work for a company that has recently gone through a lot of change, as we equally work to help our clients to change, so for the last 18 months I’ve been deeply immersed in what the theory verses the reality can look like, and indeed feel like.

I believe that long-term structural change needs three things to be considered:

  1. Scale; setting a foundation and building upon that in the right way
  2. Speed; ramping up and achieving significant growth quickly
  3. Stability; an output that can sustain the duration and return, over and above the investment

Yet at the very heart of all of this, the thing that keeps me awake at night, and no doubt my business partners too is that we only really succeed when change works at an individual level, because that’s where the passion comes from.

I was lucky enough to talk to Evan Spiegel yesterday, the founder and CEO of Snapchat, he’s young, smart and not bound by the constrictions of big old businesses, he said this:

‘Success is based on leaders that love their people’

It rings very true to me, and as I make my way up the corporate rungs it’s becoming starkly obvious just how hard it is to achieve the balance transforming requires.

change

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Less science fiction, it’s really just science

I was just reading about Google’s newest project and it got me thinking about how the gap between science fiction and simply just, ‘science’ has pretty much closed since I was a kid and watching films like Innerspace and Terminator… bear with me…

Google’s new patent sees a range of smart contact lenses equipped with tiny cameras embedded within, to allow for ‘in lens’ photography or assistance for the visually impaired. Google also have lenses that are able to provide measurements of blood glucose levels for diabetics through a sensor that measures the glucose in tears and signals the levels through teeny, tiny LED’s.

Soooo… given we know that human bodies don’t accept foreign objects particularly well and this new lens means we can access the small surface of our eye (which is covered by live cells that can represent our whole body) in a non-intrusive way, how long before a contact lens can analyse what is happening inside our body without actually ever entering it… (that’s the Innerspace reference).

… and how long before we have night vision, or augmented data layered in. How long before we don’t need all the other screens around us, our phones, in-car dashboards… and how long before a simple lens scans everyone around us (Terminator ticked) and along with Arnie and Quaid, Cruise needs to re-draft his Minority Report to be something more actual fiction biased science fiction…

He'll be back...

He’ll be back…

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vroooomshhhh

This weekend sees the 65th season of the F1 championship roar into action at Australia’s Albert Park, Melbourne.

Eleven teams and twenty-two drivers will see in the all-new V6 engine that now incorporates the Energy Recovery System (ERS) into it’s build.

Coming to the circuit to defend his championship will be Vettel in the rather sleek looking RB10 which holds the Renault engine, and as leaders in the EV field, it will be interesting to see how Adrian Newey’s latest design, built around the new ERS, turbo charger and two MGU’s (Motor Generating Units) will hold up…

So, with testing finished and all eyes and ears awaiting the 16th, I’m waiting to see how we will all feel about the new quieter F1.

If nothing else, the pit crews will have to keep their eyes open.

 

The RB10

The RB10

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The future’s cloudy

I’ve been asked a few times recently what this is, in simple terms, so here goes:

Cloud storage basically lets you create documents and save to a central location which, you can access from all of your devices; laptops, tablets, mobiles etc.

This means you can view or edit your files on the hop, wherever you want without having to sync or transfer explicitly from one device to the other. Your work is effectively floating, like a cloud, waiting to be rinsed for information.

So, if you’re running to a meeting and you’ve picked up your personal mobile, not your work mobile (not that I ever do that of course) it means you can save your graces and find the file regardless.

Phew!

Want to know more? I thought this post was insightful too.

 

 

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Beware the fold

Belief: The page fold is an impenetrable force that blocks the user from moving down the page.

Truth: Less than 3% of users have been unable to reach the content they want easily because of the fold.*

 

The ‘fold’, for those of you wondering what on earth I’m mildly ranting about, is a term that we digital marketers refer to as the bit of the webpage that sits on your screen before you have to scroll.

I have spent years selling solutions to clients that emphasise how critical it is to make sure your key CTA is above the fold, don’t go below the fold NO! Danger zone, make sure you clearly explain to the user that they have to click if they want to move or scroll down… don’t leave it to them to work it out!

Well, you’ll be glad to hear, technology has moved on considerably in the last few years. Phew. Now though, it would seem that we aforementioned digital marketers have done such a good job of explaining the fold to our clients, that we now have the huge task to explain that the fold no longer really matters.

 

Why?

Because; we have stacks of user testing that tells us that they don’t mind scrolling. JGI, you’ll see.

Because; long pages often give us the info we want without clicking through to seven different areas of the site.

Because; eye tracking software tells us that the eye runs in an ‘F’ formation quickly first and then guess what? Yep, down the page.

Because; users are used to keeping a mouse over the scroll bar and, wait for it, they know the size of the scroll bar is indicative to how long the page will be.

Because; actually users want to be encouraged by the fact that content is clustered in ways relevant to them and, finally…

Because; we have so many beautiful and rich ways of displaying content now, that it’s less about getting them straight to the CTA that the business cares about, and more about giving them the information they want in an easily digestible way to enable them to make the right decision.

It’s not about the linear journey anymore; click homepage, see CTA for more info, click through to product overview page, click for more info, click through to product detail page… (you get the idea).

And if you still don’t believe me, look at these guys bold enough to laugh in the face of the fold:

VW: http://beetle.com/ (love this site)

Nike: http://www.nikebetterworld.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/

NY Times Magazine: http://www.nytimes.com

Now go and be scroll free and happy…

This image is from a book by Scott McCloud, I recommend his stuff, check it out here.

*Source: Independent eye tracker survey across a sample of 800 people of varied skill sets. 

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Analyse this

I would imagine you’re all familiar with Google Analytics and Omniture, and seen reports for PPC, SEO and Display, no doubt clearly outlining the return for every penny spent including; entry sources, bounce rates, CTR, page views and so on.

I’ll also wager you’ve asked your planners and buyers what the return for Social Marketing is? Yes? You’ll have asked: What’s the value of a Facebook ‘like’ or a ‘retweet’? We’ve all stared at pretty diagrams that show us the reach and potential eyeballs hit but, so far, it’s been an algorithm we haven’t quite mastered with the confidence to go back to the board and solidly say that the money spent has returned an incremental profit of ‘X’ through social.

Well this level of measurement has just taken two more big steps forward.

Firstly, Google recently announced that they are adding social media reports to their analytics suite which will show the social value through measuring; visits and visits via social referral, the conversions this led to, plus assisted social conversions and last interaction social conversions.

Secondly, Adobe has just unveiled its social analytics tool: ‘Adobe Social’. Apparently a more comprehensive version of Adobe Social Analytics, according to their Product Director Matt Langie. The new software still provides the basic listening tools already familiar to users but in addition now allows management of creating and publishing content and ads. It also follows similar tracking to GA so you can report from seed to purchase or drop off.

I wonder what this means to the likes of Radian and Sysomos, will these two giants take over?

 

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