A nice app called Meerkat was launched a couple of weeks ago. It very simply allows people to live stream video from their phone on Twitter. I’ve tried it once & like the few before me I just wandered around the office doing a tour. I didn’t really expect much to happen but an ex colleague who lives in the US started watching. I encouraged few of the team to wave hello and he was able to tweet a few hello’s back.  For a minute or so a large chunk of the office were pulling silly faces and waving to a guy they hadn’t seen in a while.

The serendipitous experience delivered a small moment of magic; a big reason why so many of us love technology.

I guess the early days of Meerkat will be geeks and kids not doing much of any note at all but it’s not much of a leap to expect brands sponsoring ‘Meerkats’ (if that’s what the bite sized streams are called) at sports or entertainment events.

Social apps spring up all of the time but this one feels a bit special.




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I’m fascinated by the Thomas Heatherwick London buses. As a child I caught the Number 8 route master from Bow to Bethnal Green every day and it’s great to see a version of them back.

Thomas Heatherwick opened the WIRED conference a few years ago and explained his overall goal; to make the experience of riding a bus dignified again. He wanted to soften the unforgiving fluorescent lighting, banish the nuclear yellow poles, rip out the harsh plastic bucket seats and replace them with comfortable ones similar to those of yesteryear. The bus still gets you from A to B but the experience is more pleasurable; more dignified.

I’m sure the buses were put together by machines in factories in an automated way but they were designed with total care; mindfulness and with a clear goal in mind.

We could all learn from that approach. Too often people aim to get from A to B and lose site of the real goals. The real purpose disappears and box ticking exercises take precedence. Who cares how viewable your ad was if all it did was annoy?

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Get to the Point

These ‘unskippable’ Geico Youtube ads are brilliant. They get to the point  & make you want to watch on. If most digital advertising got to the point within five seconds; ROI for both hard and soft metrics would soar.



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A Familiar Formula


I’ve been on holiday for a couple of weeks. I have been back for a week and haven’t had much chance to go through the backlog of sales email until this afternoon.

In the past half an hour I’ve opened up 3 sales decks  from ‘prospecting’ networks with amazing data and despite the logos and subtle differences of the data they use to target the hottest prospects on the web; they are all exactly the same.

They begin by stating that there is lots of ‘big data’ in the marketplace but no one has data as good as theirs or have technology good enough to identify the right prospect at the right time. Each of these companies will be good enough to guide the agency through this murky world should we choose them as the prefered media partner.

If we try our hardest not to be cynical; at least two of these companies must be wrong if we believe their opening gambits.

They then talk about the uniqueness of their data / tech for 4 or 5 slides before moving on to scale. x billion requests, x million users etc.

There are then a couple of wooly slides explaining how well it all works, each deck has slide saying 6x, 4.5x or 4x greater conversion rate than the average (at no point is the average ever specified). One states that targets are outperformed by 90%, another than we can achieve ROI of up to 19x. There are no case studies.

Next we get onto the slide where everything is brand safe in a number of ways from blocking to iframes to viewability.

Now we could buy separate campaigns from all of these companies; have no control over reach and frequency and no chance of delivering sequential or truly dynamic advertising.

On the other hand; we could use our own trading desk with access to first party and 60-odd third party data sets to build robust audience profiles, manage R&F, sequential, dynamic, optimise in real time and dovetail alongside other digital tactics we are running.

Just a thought.


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Media Audiences and Cross Platform Buying

We all know Print is a dying medium. A big publisher told me the other day that readership of her portfolio was declining 10% YoY. She wasn’t upset though; total readership across print and digital was up and there was nothing but light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Eyeballs are eyeballs’ she said.

Publishers now encourage agencies to buy their audience across all channels & devices and many agencies are now set up to do this. The simple logic is that if the Guardian or Times audiences are now spread across the traditional paper, website, apps and social presence then brands should follow suit.

On the surface that makes complete sense. If you are bought into the audience  of these brands why not reach them on whatever device they happen to be consuming on?

But does it really make sense?

Our classic notion of a media audience is a homogenous group of people loyal to & likely influenced by a particular brand. It was in an advertisers’ interest to target a Guardian or Telegraph reader because on the whole they looked more like the people who bought their products and they could be reached at scale.

These proxy audiences are less important when you add digital to the mix; we can now construct and reach valuable bespoke audiences based on data.

In this mindset the Guardian becomes a source of quality (audience and environment) rather than just offering access to people who are a bit ‘left leaning’.

The evolution of print planning and buying isn’t just buying across websites, apps and social channels belonging to traditional publishers but planning and buying digital audiences based on data throughout quality environments.

Traditional publishers have a big part to play in the future of audience buying but the definition of audience needs to go deeper than just that of the brand.

If clients are desperate to hold onto traditional media audiences and want to buy one brand across all its platforms in the hope that a difference is made then please; at least have an attribution measure in place to prove the value either way.

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Real Time Media & The Suarez Chomp


At World Cup time almost every ad has a football aspect to it. I spent all day in the car on Sunday and lost count of the radio ads sung to the tune of ‘Ere we go’, contained lazy football puns or just had crowd ambience playing beneath the voiceover.

Other than the usual suspects like Nike & Adidas and newcomer Beats by Dre; most ads are a bit obvious and seem to serve little purpose other than make people cringe.

The World Cup has always been a social event but World Cup 2014 was always going to be a Social Media event. Facebook and Twitter have been fighting for the conversation crown; only time will tell who wins but both platforms have been awash with WC banter and real time marketing efforts.

Real time marketing, newsroom mentality & social media war room have been big buzzwords for a while now and many marketers talk up their activity in this space. The real spike came after Oreo posted the famous ‘Dunk in the Dark’ Super Bowl tweet and since then the bandwagon has been well and truly rolling.

From an audience reach perspective the World Cup murders the Super Bowl so media and creative types have been watching their social feeds eagerly for moments of marketing brilliance that they can retweet, share or critique. Up until yesterday I hadn’t really seen anything of note. Then Luis Suarez decided to take a bite out of Giorgio Chiellini of Italy.

Within minutes Peperami had posted a vine which was actually quite funny. Then Snickers got involved, then Budweiser, McDonalds, Nandos, Listerine, Trident, Whataburger, the Whole Food Market, TGI Fridays, JCPenney, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Surf,  Rajnigandha, Shilajit Gold, Paddy Power  & even MLB (Major League Baseball) had a go. These are the ones I’ve found; I bet there were a hundred more. The only advertiser who didnt get involved were Suarez’s sponsor; Adidas who tweeted before the game that he was ‘A Weapon’.

I started thinking back to my time in the car on Sunday. Most real time marketing efforts are opportunistic and lack any real creativity. To understand whether they make any difference at all we’d need to see some ROI studies. I do know that Oreo couldn’t quantify the effect of the dunk in the dark tweet and stayed away from real time efforts in this year’s Super Bowl.

I do believe that quality real time marketing will cut through but only for a few brands who generate ads of a high quality. The real problem is that they only appear on a handful of social platforms and still don’t reach a truly mass global audience. To make a real difference it needs to be more deeply integrated in the overall marketing plan. When real time creative hits the TV we will see the game change.

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On Big Data


Media people love a trend and a buzzword & big data has been weathering the storm for quite a while; problem is everyone I meet says that there isn’t any out there. Some believe it’s all in America, others that it’s all with big companies who can’t make sense of it. If ‘big data’ is a buzzword there are infinite buzzexcuses to explain why we can’t get our hands on a meaningful amount.

Mary Meeker’s simple and brilliant internet trends report was released last week and it highlights just how much big data there is. Globally we generate 4 zetabytes of data a year which is double the amount we created in 2012.  The simple fact that the latest Microsoft Word software doesn’t recognise the word ‘zetabyte’ means I probably need to add some context. In a nutshell that means that last year we generated enough data to make up all the books ever written 65 million times over.

According to Meeker’s report; only a third of this data is of any use, 7% is actually tagged and on only 1% analysed.


How come my phone rings every 3 minutes with someone trying to sell ‘Big Data’ ad campaigns? Often people who were selling full colour DPS in magazines or ads on obscure satellite TV channels a couple of months back.

Agency folk have legions of middlemen (there aren’t many media owners any more) banging down the door peddling Big Data panacea. They hold the data to target people who shop in exact stores at an exact frequency; target mavens who use content sharing widgets or even target women who are pregnant before they know it.

There are various case studies to prove that big data targeting strategies bear fruit but they are few and far between & scale is elusive. Once you’ve been dazzled by amazing data targeting stories you quickly understand the net result is often a banner ad; increasingly a banner ad on a phone that’s so small it just might not be worth putting there in the first place.

A data driven banner strategy needs to be highly targeted in order to work. A retargeting campaign with dynamic creative advertising products to people who are already interested is great. I saw one yesterday that sequentially offered me 2 different discount codes because I didn’t bite first time. These campaigns don’t scale though.

There are some really interesting developments from Dunhumby, Acxiom and Datalogix that can tie ad views to actual sales and in the future I think they will be the winners.

The majority of ‘data driven campaigns’ however, take data from many sources; mix it all up & then throw so much money at the Internet every user is hit 19 times. In a situation like that does it matter if some people were targeted because they once took a pictorial quiz and liked photos of cats more than dogs or if they used a URL shortener in the last week? Individually and with laser precision each of these tactics may give an advertiser an edge but mix it all together and its nothing better than ‘run of internet’.

Sophisticated data driven campaign strategies linked to dynamic creative do and will give smart marketers the edge. Using context to determine a current mindset will be a key driver. I am in no doubt that in the future our industry will collectively look back at the snake oil salesmen of today and realise that many digital marketing tactics were employed simply because they were possible.

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