Monday, 1 July 2013

Cannes Lions 2013: Key Themes


Like a swarm of locusts, each year 11,000 advertising bods descend on La Croisette in a frenzy, feasting on knowledge and lusting after the Lions that bring their agency fame and favour.  A week on, and the dust is beginning to settle.  Sated and plump on information and rosé, all have flown back to their nest, with a fortunate few obtaining some metallic pussy cats to PR - and a couple with a mini pride in tow.  But in the madness that was the 60th anniversary of Cannes Lions, what were the underlying themes?


Whilst not the biggest focus, an underlying theme of the week was the prevalence of digital in the award entries and seminars.  Now, the near mandatory requirement of brands to having some form of social or site based digital presence means that the utilisation of such properties isn’t overly surprising.  However it was the prominence of owned and earned properties as key parts of activational strategies that was interesting.  Particularly noticeable amongst the high achievers, they were not only pushing consumers to digital so as to galvanise them, but were using digital metrics as the main vehicle for proving success to the judges. 

Though the inclusion of YouTube etc where successful is fairly obvious, what particularly came through was the provision for the campaigns to be able to live outside the confines of the brief.  Perfectly exhibited in the pride obtaining Dumb Ways to Die[1], Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches[2] and Intel’s The Beauty Inside[3], if you seek to create work that elicits an emotional reaction – whether laughter, empathy, guilt etc – allowing your work to grow organically gives it the opportunity to not only reach people, but then let them reach people.

Tech Creates Tech Creates....

Historically, creative concepts have been formulated and subsequently delivered through standard media; however we’re now seeing is a trend where data and technology is the idea.  In this new era, technology and data is beginning to lead creativity[4].

Whilst the more left-brained media-bods may be more au fait with understanding and scrutinising data and tech, they lack the inventive artistry of creatives.  But neither is fully comfortable in this space.  As such we can expect an increasing trend from both sides seeking to upskill in techno creativity and possibilities.  With a plethora of established and emerging tech companies seeking to peddle their wares this will be tricky – if nigh on impossible – and as has occurred in the UK with  companies such as Blippar and Aurasma being prime examples, we may see such companies becoming consultants as much as service providers. 

As is evident with the creativity displayed by the Zuckerbergs, Doreseys and D’Aloisios of the world, we have entered the age of the nerd, and they’re too smart to let us leave.

Original-Ab Vertising

Having been buzzing round the industry for a little while, it wasn’t unsurprising that the main theme of the week was that of “native” advertising.  I.e. advertising that provides value through seamless, natural and unobtrusive integration into its placed environment. 
It’s a familiar concept to more traditional spaces – print advertorials, athletes’ kit sponsorships etc, however due to the DR focused pop-up beginnings of digital - still echoed in the banner ads that make up the majority of non-search digital activity - it’s a far newer concept in the connected space.

In a landscape still only flecked with examples of nativity, Twitter’s Promoted Trends and Buzzfeed’s Sponsored Stories are possibly the most prominent examples of consistent digital brand integration.  However during the week Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner discussed their heavy “invest[ment] Linkedin as a publishing platform” with a view to be the next to move into the native environment[5].  
Not being alone in his sentiments, this movement towards brands becoming more facilitative marks a positive step beyond the push focused “integrations” publishers have been promoting over the past few years.

In brands starting to facilitate experiences rather than pushing them, they shall increasingly act as service providers to consumers through the content they create/align themselves with.  Whilst more content led strategies will undoubtedly have many hurdles to overcome, the natural benefits of authenticity, trust etc makes it a highly valuable sphere to move into[6].  That said, generally speaking this more passive form of “halo” advertising is only beneficial when brands are consistently interacting with consumers – for them to appreciate the personal benefits the brand is delivering to their lives.  As such agencies may need to identify core audiences/environments to own, so as to build these relationships.

Cannesclusion – Sorry For That One

As with any emerging trend in advertising, the sell-in and movement to native advertising may be slow, however if your brand is to own a space and build a relationship with consumers, it’s always beneficial to be an early adopter.  You’ll get far more learnings by doing, than waiting for others to do it first. 
Separate to this, with the emergence of data and technology as crucial in the creative process, it appears that if you want to win big you need digital in some form to be at the heart of your communications strategy.  Who knows, if you can do all 3 at once – and are a tad arrogant – you may want to start clearing a space for one of next year’s Lions.

[4] See all Innovations Lions - , The Design Grand Prix “Self Scan Report” - , The Effectiveness Grand Prix “Heineken’s Legendary Journey” - , Direct Gold “Third Eye” - amongst many others.
[6] Brilliantly articulated in the week by Conan O’Brian in his hilarious discussion with Anderson Cooper, examining how he’s worked with brands to naturally integrate them into his shows and online content.  For example Square CNX sponsoring his reviewing of video games

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Digtalisation of TV: From SMART to SuperSMART

The Digitalisation of TV – from SMART to SuperSMART

Though compared to on-line the number of ad innovations that TV viewing has had in recent years is small, as the technology behind the screen and the viewers in front of it become more Connected and "SMART"er, the two will undoubtedly become more interconnected.  Whilst Tivo is currently leading the way in terms of innovations from a format perspective, what most are eagerly anticipating is the long awaited use of consumer view habit data that Sky is seeking to soft-roll in Aug next year. 
The notion of targeted TV (TTV) is one that is set to have enormous ramifications on all ad-fronts, and could lead to a complete overhaul of how we buy and consume TV ads; but what’s in store and where could this potentially lead?

Competition and Pricing

Firstly, this will lead to a new way of purchasing ads, likely to be along the lines of Run of Channel (ROC) and the TTV method of Behaviourally targeted ads[1].  Introducing this second method of spot purchase would effectively split a single spot into numerous ones, and for more mainstream spots result in inflated pricing and increased competition - e.g. more people want to buy the “young urban family” viewers for the first in break X factor spot = increased value of that segment.  Whilst conversely, buying a ROC X Factor spot would prevent any higher priced TTV buys, so could also cost more. 
However on the flip side, as more clients would have the potential to reach their audience in a single spot, there would be less competition for the less desirable spots, and consequently lower pricing at the other end of the spectrum, and more spots auto-filled by operators.

Progress in Verification

Whilst all major broadcasters continue to state the high view rate of ad breaks, as familiarisation of skippable TV and 2nd/3rd screen penetration continues to rise, a key question that clients will continue to ask is:  

“Was my ad seen?”

Companies such as DoubleVerify and AdSafe are helping tackle this question on-line through piggybacking adserver tagging, however as clients become used to measuring (and soon paying for) only ads that are actually seen, pressure will continue to rise for TV tech to progress to a more accountable level.

In response to this Sky have confirmed what many have hoped for, in that upon its soft launch this July[2] they will be able to establish whether a TTV ad was seen.  Whilst this makes sense - it naturally follows that to sell specified ad volumes a broadcaster must have the capability of tracking the delivery of said volumes – the importance of this move shouldn't be underestimated.

Digital media has had a swift ascent over the past few years, with progressions in targeting and accountability causing publishers and agencies to stand up and pay attention – indeed over 50% of SMG London’s total billings are now in digital media.  However whilst many clients have begun to appreciate and value the digital space, due to the ease of scale and the ability of providing that “water cooler” moment they’ve typically continued to favour more traditional media[3].  As TV starts to acquire these digital attributes, we can only expect this position to become further entrenched[4].  Whilst without login data[5] TV’s multi-viewer nature results in it being impossible to establish the exact audience present, the use of behavioural data suggests that the intended target will be present for a TTV ad. 

Becoming fully Digital

This progression potentially marks a huge step forward not just for TV but for the media industry in general

However it could lead to ads being purchasable on a CPM level (and eventually a biddable level - though this would be years away).  

In some regard we have already seen a movement towards the digital eventuality, with in-banner and in-app banner activity being purchasable on Xboxes and Smart TVs.  This aspect of the new-era TV has the potential to even move to a CPC or CPE model, though - whilst it'd be grand to say that SMART, interactive (e.g. where you can visit a website straight from an ad) TVCs have the same potential - due to diminished volumes, there lacks the business model to support such a move.  That said, we may see a different sort of engagement for standard TVCs.  As AV and consumers gets ever more connected and Smarter, it is expected that we will be able to draw in internet data to live ads.  Dynamic optimisation of creatives being currently done online through enterprises such as DOT, this sort of auto pulling of relevant data could take engagement of a standard ad to the next level - think Paddy Power "live" odds updated ads, but pulling in browsing data.  Whatever the future holds, as the technology around TV and its accompanying second screen continues to progress we can expect to be able to create immersive  individual experiences; at scale.


Having been one of the more stagnant mediums from an innovations standpoint it's unlikely that this ship will turn that quickly, however over the next few years there lies real scope for a complete overhaul in not only how media buyers purchase TV, but of how consumers interact with and consume TV. Only trouble is, having been promulgating this rollout for some time to no avail, it seems the Sky is still the limit on any substantial progression.

[1] Though as a potential, Experian data could be used as a mid-point between the two extremes for demographical location based targeting, though this may unnecessarily confuse things.
[2] It is expected to be able to reach a maximum of 5% of their total subscription audience.
[3] Creative agencies also favour TV, however this is partially due to it resulting in the highest amount of revenue for them
[4] Though in order to maximise its potential, greater levels of cross media collaboration will be required than currently occur between digital and TV.
[5] Though individual log-ins are unlikely at present, as advances with SkyGo continue this personal data could be mapped to household viewing.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The TV Battle of the Future: SMART Suppliers vs Connected Kings



Much development and preparation is going into creating the “connected homes” of the future, with TV (debatably) at the center of this.  However in the journey towards the creation of this digital utopia, most are currently overlooking the current Connected-SMART TV stand-off that could prove pivotal in the realisation of this future.  But what’s the issue, and what are the potential outcomes?

The Problem

With over 50% of their 46m Live users’ time now being outside games, Xbox (and others) have successfully developed and grown their gaming community. Conversely, whilst SMART TV ownership is gradually rising, the high price point currently outweighs the functionality of the devices and stands as a barrier to a mass uptake of the product.  This means that  whilst the likes of LG and Samsung are dominant in the TV world, at the moment they’re second best in the Connected one.

However this will change.

As part of the global emigration into the cloud, eventually the Xbox as we know it will not exist.  Instead, it is predicted that it will ultimately be nothing more than an app on your TV, accessing games etc via the web. 
The possibility of such circumstances arising naturally has enormous ramifications on how Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo choose to develop their brands over the coming years.  The implicit requirement for some form of integration with their competitors could both strip away their power over the SMART world, and remove a key source of revenue (the console itself)[1]

So what are the options, and what’s each manufacturer likely to do?

The Solutions

There are 2 ways that they will be able to resolve this issue:

1.       Enter the TV market
2.       Put “Xbox app” exclusive rights up to tender

Whilst on the face of it going into the TV market seems like a mammoth task, for some it’s not as farfetched as you’d think. 

Firstly, despite a reduced their market share resulting from more (and increasingly powerful) competition, Sony still has a decent foothold in the TV market.  Integrating Play Station into their TVs of the future would be a fairly straightforward and logical move, and one that could improve both their gaming and TV offering, with both departments currently struggling to win against their respective competition. 
The ease and benefits of this first option make the second less likely.  However, so as to not be outdone by Microsoft they could seek to partner across all TV manufacturers. 

On the other hand we have Xbox, with owners Microsoft not currently directly connected to television.  However their recent foray into mobile and tablet with the Windows 8 OS and Surface – as well as their historic computing power and commitment to the connected future (see future video) -  shows that they have the resources and drive to enter a new market.  Whilst entering new spaces has ended disastrously in the past - think Zune - having just stated their focus on further building up their entertainment offering to create XBox TV (see article here) they're going about positioning themselves to create a uniquely appealing TV in the right way.
That said, as they’ve done with Nokia for the launch of their mobile OS it may be simpler for them to stick to what they can do well, applying competitive pressure by simply partnering stronger players.  With deeper pockets than Sony they could initially seek to simply outspend in an effort to own the market.

Nintendo on the other hand is a different matter.  The family friendly gaming giant hasn’t outwardly ridden the innovation wave, and doesn’t seem to be in any rush to do so.  Not having fingers in as many pies as their competitors, it’s more likely that they would seek to partner with someone else than enter a new market.  Having no real credibility outside their specialism this would probably be the best move for them, but may have to improve their offering of the Wii to become a more attractive proposition to draw people into buying.

How Far Away is This Movement?

In some form, all these companies have inflicted and been afflicted with highs and lows resulting from innovation, and with large R&D budgets I’m certain thoughts like those above have been considered, acted on or thrown out long ago.  Whatever the current state of affairs however, consumers aren’t yet ready for them.

In terms of causing an uplift in purchase the main factor that the SMART and connected progressions have over what HD and 3D had is primarily providing use to the consumer.  Though HD and 3D undoubtedly enhance the viewing experience, compared to a standard experience the benefit is minimal[2]
With most current SMART TV owners advocating their benefits, when more budget and mid-range options become available, we can expect to see a growth more akin to the tablet market[3] (though due to the extended ownership cycle of TVs it will undoubtedly be substantially elongated). 


SMART TV penetration hasn’t yet reached a critical enough mass to warrant any major moves from the connected kings, however as the market becomes more affordable we can expect the functionality of these products to be influential enough to move an increasingly digital population there quicker than perhaps believed.  The gaming industry will have to respond in order to keep up, but with a variety of options available to all players within the market they’ll need to start arming themselves, as the connected battle could easily become an all out war.

[1] Though they could monetise an app, consumers inherently wanting something for their money aren’t likely to be willing to pay £300 for it, especially as it will at least appear that its then the TV that will be providing the gaming/interaction experience.
[2] The fact that few channels broadcast in 3D or HD, as well as needing to purchase additional sets of glasses for 3D makes them inhibiting as well as excluding the sharing of benefits with others.
[3] With just over 20% of UK adults now owning a tablet device.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Why a Brand should B(e).E.P.

Black Eyed Peas- Do It Like This Lyrics

Back when the Black Eyed Peas released their first socio-political chart topper "Where is the Love," I was in the early years of secondary school, trying really hard to be cool.  Fast forward 8 years, and whilst I'm still pretty much the same, compared to their early days The B.E.P. are almost unrecognisable.  What hasn't changed for them however, is their consistent presence  at the top of the music industry.  But in a sector riddled with illegal downloads, one-hit wonders, and a highly fickle public, how exactly have they retained their success?

Below are a few observations that are broadly transferable to any business or brand, and key to success and longevity.

Brand it!

Firstly and most importantly, The Black Eyed Peas have moved from hip-hop band, to hip hop-brand – sorry for that one. 

Originally the ATBAN clan, the band differentiated themselves from the typical hip-hop scene by performing with a live band, choosing a distinctive and recognisable style, and adding a little sex appeal in the form of vocally voluptuous Stacy Ann Ferguson – a.k.a. Fergie.

In providing consumers with something new and distinctive, the Black Eyed Peas became instantly recognisable, and consequently gained a platform on which their product had a chance to succeed.  Give your brand’s product the same opportunity.  If you can create a distinguishable and definitive personality for your brand, whatever the sector you will incite curiosity from consumers that are naturally receptive to your product/business and the chance to build a relationship with them.

Brands that have done this well:  Innocent, Starbucks, Old Spice

Evolve but Remain

Whilst finding fame amongst Daniel Beddingfield, t.A.T.u and Westlive, their most recent no.1 (“The Time (Dirty Bit)”) struck a chord with the public amidst the synthed-up stylings of Flo Rida and The Far East Movement.  What’s impressive about this is that not only has their musical style consistently evolved to reflect the type of music consumers want to consume, but that they've achieved this whilst retaining their brand identity.

The importance of companies striving to stay ahead of consumers’ wants and needs is now fairly familiar; however the importance of retaining a consistent brand identity during each offering-evolution isn't quite as revered as it perhaps should be.

Ensuring that communications stay true to a brand's core principles during a business' growth and progression allows consumers to understand a brand at a deeper level and build an affinity with it.  With e/f/m-commerce constantly growing and convoluting the shopper journey to purchase, this affinity lets brands stand out to consumers and increase the likelihood of influencing them on this journey.

Brands that have done this well:    Microsoft, Gillette, Kanye West

Communicate Appropriately

As a judge on this years reality show "The Voice", got into some hot water for tweeting during the show.  He reportedly responded:

"If you saw me on my phone I wasn't being rude...if I don't tweet during live TV I'm not connecting to people watching in the new way"

There are 2 points to be said on this.  Firstly, with 2nd screen interaction set to grow alongside the tablet market and smartphone saturation, it recognises the evolution of how consumers are and will be watching TV.  Secondly, has recognised where his fans are (4.68m Twitter followers and many more on other social networks), and how he as a brand needs to interact with them.

Not everyone needs a Facebook page, mobile app or Pinterest account.  Utilise the best communications channels that are appropriate for your brand and target audience to forge and foster a relationship.  This will not only let you streamline efforts and budget to create a more effective campaigns, but let consumers familiarise themselves with your brand begin in specific spaces, and help provide consistency and consumer expectation of your conversations.

Brands that have done this well:  Cadbury, The Guardian, EMI


From humble beginnings as the ATBAN Clan, The Black Eyed Peas have gone on to achieve great things, and continue to have a strong presence in what's become an increasingly complex industry.  Consistently evolving ahead of consumers, they've supported the myriad of individual and group endeavours they've undertaken with appropriate communications, and consequently maximised their consumer reach.  Whilst the constant progression and digitalisation of communications means that they'll need to continue to evolve in order to prosper, if they carry on in the same vein as they currently are, they'll do pretty well.

What's more, if you follow the above principles, you and your brand should prosper too.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Brand Your Cookie: Going Beyond the Directive

The Intro

Considering that 93% of marketers believe consumers have no idea about the recently implemented cookie laws[1], it’s not all that surprising that less than 20% of sites have complied with the EU Directive[2].  Unfortunately however, it’s here to stay.  And sooner or later, the penalties are going to start to be dished out.

Whilst achieving compliance may be viewed as merely a tedious task to be forcibly undertaken, the importance of it in terms of branding should not be underestimated. 

The Opportunity

Although admittedly minor, brands must be aware of the continued annoyance that consistently opting in to cookie data causes – multiplied if users are choosing to opt out.  Proper site optimisation to recognise and mitigate this fact can not only decrease the likelihood of users clicking “no” to cookies, but in educating consumers and providing them with an informed choice on opting in/out, have a positive branding effect.

Tough currently being in the press for other reasons, one company that has taken this process very seriously is the banking behemoth; Barclays.

The Process

In acknowledgment that the ICC’s cookie guidance ( ) is merely a framework to work from, they individually optimised all their cookie-using communication avenues, in an effort to provide consumers with a value-add service and act as a voice of help to consumers amidst the current wide-spread ignorance.

The examination and classification of all 60 of their websites, apps and e-mails, led to experimentation with notification tone, placement, format and size.  This resulted in a bespoke platform, site, and page specific level of cookie notification that naturally fits with the environment it’s placed in, and doesn’t interrupt the user’s experience.

Further to this, users are directed to an education section that informs them about the pros and cons of cookies, alongside external links for further info on the topic.  This not only helps educate users, but places them in the position to make an informed choice.

The Conclusion

Whilst it can be said that the branding effect that undertaking this laborious task will have is not overly significant, neither is it trivial.  Also, as more businesses comply with the law and the volume of cookie notifications increases, its importance shall rise (though as more accept cookies, will naturally tail off). 

What is potentially more impactful than creating a good consumer experience, is doing it poorly.   Merely doing the bare minimum for compliance can easily result in a clunky user journey.  Not only will this decrease the likelihood of cookie acceptance, but may decrease brand trust and affinity - and considering the broad wording of the law may not even be legal.

Overall, the main points businesses can learn from Barclays are:  Be rigorous, think about usability, treat each communication method individually, and try to make it as positive an experience as possible.  (And most importantly, if you break the law you’ll eventually get caught).[3]

By Owen Lee

[1] KPMG May 2012
[2] E-Consultancy May 2012
[3] N.B.  Information on Barclays was taken from attending The IDM’s event - New EU Cookie Directive:  What you absolutely need to know, 26th Jun 2012.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Know Thine Enemy: From Analysis to Insights

Competitors are routinely analysed on media spend and creative messaging in order to showcase to clients how and where others are playing within the advertising sphere.  However, if the practice is to offer up any material benefit beyond the temporary placation of a client’s curiosity, we have to go deeper than a mere reporting level to an interrogational level.


If we can go beyond asking the questions of “what” , “where” and “how” competitors are acting and move on to asking “why” they’re doing it, we will start to be able to get in the minds of our client’s competitors, and consequently better know our own.

Key to this is to examine the creative messaging.  Utilising tools such as AdDynamix, even a rudimentary analysis of messaging, tone and creative content will allow us to drill down beyond the media spend level.  By asking simple questions such as “What the objective of the campaign?”  “Who were they targeting?”  “Why did they think it would succeed?” etc, we can begin to gain insights that lead to bigger, more important questions:  “How are they assessing the marketplace?”  “What opportunities do they believe can be taken advantage of?”  “Have we seen them too, and if not, why not?” “What space are they seeking to own with their brand?” etc.

Answering these questions can help us examine our method of purchasing media in multiple ways.  We can see how aggressive/passive competitors are being; whether they are seeking to recruit from our customers or merely wanting to retain their current consumer base.  We can see the method and tone in which they are trying to achieve this, and examine its effectiveness and impact on our current and potential consumer base.  And we can think about the extremity of their actions, is our brand or others causing them to act differently, and do we need to react?

Now it can be argued that the individuality of any campaign and subjective nature of any inferred conclusions heavily mars their transferability and worth.  However it is suggested that the broader findings sought by examining areas such as brand aggression, target audience movement etc, prevent this from holding much validity.  We are seeking to find out how competitors are thinking at more of a business level, in order to challenge and grow our brand from the campaign level upwards.

Additionally, whilst PR, statistics, and trade press provide us with (potentially biased) facts and information on competitors, thoroughly analysing competitors in a more humanistic, bottom up approach provides us with a greater feeling and understanding of a brand that these other methods of examination lack.


You can never tell what thought or piece of information will enable you to move your client’s business forward, but through a thorough a proper interrogation of the available resources, you can give yourself the best chance on discovering it.  So next time you’ve got to examine competitors, put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and you might be surprised what it can lead to.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Katy Perry: Wide Awake to the Importance of Facebook

Just a quick note today on the social implications of Katy Perry's new music video - Wide Awake (above).

Upon watching the video, you mighty be surprised by the lack of suggestive gesticulation, and potentially disappointed by the departure from her normal music video attire.  However what can be admired in this video is the understanding of the importance of her social media presence, and resultant promotion of it.

Whilst just about every celeb under the sun has a Facebook page, it's generally the more dedicated of fans that like.  Whilst this in some cases amounts to vast numbers, this is not the case for all - poor ol' Jim Davidson and his 1,886 likes.
Now Katy's 43m page likes would suggest she's the more bountiful in likes than most already.  But the video's acknowledgment of how much Facebook resonates with her target audience allows her to not only reach those already connected, but demonstrate to those unconnected viewers the content benefits connecting with her.

This not only results in a Katy Perry brand push to both current and lapsed fans, but the content of the video causes intrigue to this new audience and encourages a page visit.  This ultimately results in both a promotion of her latest catchy tune, but also a subtle yet measurable social media push.