Tag Archive: technology

  1. Jumping into the metaverse: what do advertisers need to consider?

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    The concept of the metaverse isn’t new. Even by the time sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson coined the term in 1992 to describe a 3D virtual space, the idea had been around for a few decades. It emerged in concepts as disparate as Nasa’s virtual reality headsets of the mid-1980s, and the Pokemon Go craze of the mid-2010s. Then, of course, there’s Fortnite. If you’re the parent of teen- or tweenagers, your offspring are probably more familiar with the metaverse than you are. They’re probably rolling their eyes as the advertising industry falls over itself to jump on the metaverse bandwagon.

    Because 2021 was the year that the metaverse came to the attention of the advertising industry, thanks largely to Fortnite gigs that attracted audiences of millions of users and, of course, Facebook’s rebrand to Meta and focus on the metaverse. As 2022 gathers speed, it’s all we can talk about: 49% of marketers believe that the metaverse will shape their strategies in 2022.

    The metaverse is an exciting and daunting prospect for many marketers wondering how to jump in without falling over. What should they consider?

    Don’t be afraid to test and learn

    Entering into the metaverse will be a steep learning curve for most of us. There are new technologies, new formats, new measurements, new tools and new relationships to navigate. But that isn’t a reason to delay having a go. The metaverse will have equal importance to the ‘real’ world in the future, so there is a huge opportunity for early movers. At this early stage, brands should focus on finding what works for them, rather than driving ROI – that will come.

    Sign up to platforms and have a look around, talk to your kids (seriously – they’ll know a lot). Approach your media agency about low-risk ways to dip your toes in the water. This could be hosting a virtual event or adding value to a partner’s existing activation. Even posting a 360° video on YouTube is a good baby step into the metaverse. The key is to have a go and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s a wild west out there and there’s no shame in failing on a new frontier.

    As you experiment in the metaverse, remember to think about your brand name and brand identity. Many brands are already trademarking theirs for the metaverse, as they do in the real world. You should also consider how you will use your brand name and branding. Will it be exactly the same as in the real world? Or will you experiment with two different versions of your brand identity – one for the real world and one for the metaverse?

    The old truism still stands in the metaverse – always focus on the consumer

    Advertising is seen by many – perhaps most – consumers as a necessary evil in order to access the content they want. The metaverse is the perfect opportunity for the advertising industry to reinvent itself as a player that brings value to be enjoyed, instead of disruption to be tolerated. The key is to focus on authentic and rewarding experiences. How can your brand enrich and enhance a user’s experience of the metaverse? People are people in the metaverse as well as in the real world. They care about status, causes, appearance, experiences and convenience. How can you help them to enhance one or more of these aspects?

    Success will lie in participation, collaboration and understanding of the context; this means that advertising is likely to be closer to what we understand as brand activation and experience rather than display and video. Meanwhile, focusing on the consumer will lead to advertising that is timely, relevant and contextualized to their environment and mood. That in turn will drive the next level of contextual marketing, which is going to be so important in the post-cookie era.

    The metaverse will blur the lines between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’

    The metaverse will blur the lines between a person’s ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ lives, particularly as they spend more and more time there. AR and VR will further blur that line, creating experiences that bring the two worlds ever closer together. This will mean that many of the barriers that marketers face today won’t be relevant. The most creative brands will be the ones that succeed – as long as that creativity is always harnessed to enhanced and elevate the consumer experience.

    There are plenty of brands that are already embracing that creativity and jumping in. Nike has filed for patents for virtual goods and the ability to build virtual retail environments to sell them in. It has also acquired RTKT, which creates virtual sneakers and collectables for the metaverse. Meanwhile, Roblox hosted the Gucci Garden, a virtual recreation of a real-world installation in Florence. Visitors to the garden could view, try on and purchase digital Gucci products to dress their avatars, and then walk through themed rooms. As they went through the garden, their avatars would absorb elements from each room. These are just a few examples: a quick Google search will provide many more case studies of successful metaverse activations.

    The opportunities that the metaverse presents aren’t just consumer-facing. The richer experiences that it facilitates will generate richer data and more detailed insights into consumer behavior and desires. We as an industry will need to develop new, more sophisticated tools to fully understand those insights in order to be able to drive higher ROI.

    Marketers also need to be aware that there are opportunities in the metaverse not just for advertisers, but more nefarious players too. As advertising dollars follow eyeballs, so bad actors follow ad dollars. Awareness of brand safety and ad fraud is as important in the metaverse as in any other digital environment.

    Conclusion: new world, same rules

    Research, experiment, focus on the consumer, be creative: the recipe for success in the metaverse isn’t all that different to the one in the real world. The difference is that the metaverse is a whole new world, with endless opportunities, but also risks and responsibilities. The advertising industry has an opportunity to shape, and be shaped by, a new world. Let’s embrace that opportunity with creativity and decency.

    Header image: thinkhubstudio/Shutterstock

  2. CES 2022: The future of technology and the future of events

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    The new normal for major events

    No one expected this year’s CES to feel the same as the ones that have gone before it. After all, in the weeks leading up to the CES 2022, many key tech companies announced that they would not be attending in person, including Google, Microsoft, LG, Meta and Panasonic. Delegates from countries across the world wondered if they should fly to Las Vegas or attend virtually. Many chose the latter: while in 2020, when reports of a new virus were only just emerging from China, 170,000 people attended, this year there were only around 45,000. There were far fewer speaker and panel sessions this year, with some being cancelled last minute (Paris Hilton was a no-show for her talk on NTs), and the exhibition halls had empty spaces.

    However, the lower attendance figures and lighter content agenda didn’t mean that this year’s show was a damp squib. There was certainly a feeling of muted excitement over the three days of CES. People were excited to be away, excited to be amongst other people, excited to feel human connection and get back to something resembling normal. The event felt like an experiment in the future of events: all delegates were fully masked at all times and had to show proof of vaccination to pick up their passes, while this year’s must-have swag was the humble rapid antigen test. Most speaker sessions were hybrid, with in-person as well as at-home audiences, while a number of panel sessions were also entirely virtual, with panellists dialling in from their home offices. It’s difficult to see events losing that hybrid element in the ‘new normal’.

    The key themes from CES 2022

    While CES covers a huge range of technology-related themes, there were a few that stood out this year – including one by its relative absence.

    The metaverse… or not

    This delegate went into CES expecting to have a plethora of sessions about the metaverse to choose from. Strangely, however, there were only a few, including an excellent one on the role of voice tech in the metaverse. We expect that this will be different at the 2023 event; who knows, we might even be able to attend CES in the metaverse soon!

    AI is increasingly pervasive

    Artificial Intelligence was, of course, everywhere – from a panel about AI policy to Samsung’s home assistant, AI has become the norm, with everyone from marketers to engineers incorporating it into their everyday work and indeed their everyday lives.

    The proliferation of technology

    The phrase ‘the acceleration of the technology curve’ was on everyone’s lips at CES 2022, as they reflected on how the pandemic has driven a proliferation of technology in our daily lives. Back in the pre-Covid days, work mostly took place at the office, shopping was normally done in the supermarket, at the mall or on the high street, and subscribing to streaming services was something that was more common amongst young people. Now, just two years later, a much greater percentage of our lives takes place online, including for those who were previously ‘tech-phobes’. This has led to greater opportunities for brands to interact and engage more meaningfully with their consumers, as highlighted in a session on how technology has flipped the consumer experience – more on that later.

    Cars cars cars

    Many attendees and commentators remarked wryly that the Consumer Electronics Show has become the world’s biggest car show, and with good reason. The whole of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall was dedicated to cars, with a focus on electric vehicles and autonomy. GM, for example, talked enthusiastically about its collaboration with Cruise to create an autonomous ride-hailing service, while the talk of the town and the exhibit that caught the attention of the international press, was BMW’s colour-changing car.

    ECI’s highlights from CES 2022

    While the content agenda was undoubtedly more sparsely populated than in 2020, and the exhibition hall had some rather large gaps, there was still a lifetime’s worth of knowledge to be learned at CES in 2022. Here are just some of our highlights from this year’s show.

    Samsung is always one of the big players at CES, and this year was no exception. Vice-Chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, Jong-Hee (JH) Han took to the stage the night before the start of CES to talk about his company’s vision for the future. The ‘Together for Tomorrow’ platform empowers everyone to create positive change and is the driving force behind collaborations that address some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. This includes sustainability – the key topic of Han’s talk – and inclusivity. Han claimed that Samsung has looked at every step of a product’s journey, from manufacture to disposal, and is innovating at each stage to make the company more environmentally friendly and fit for the future.

    One of the keynotes to take place during CES 2022 was on the tech trends that are required knowledge for business in the new normal. Qualcomm’s CMO Don McGuire pointed out that connectivity is now as pervasive as water and electricity, and that 5G is a unifying connectivity fabric which allows for scalability and impact far beyond download speeds. It will drive change in industries, communities and societies, driving the metaverse and the flexibility, openness and collaboration that comes with it. McGuire also talked about the acceleration of the technology curve (there’s that phrase again) and how brands need to harness advanced technology to engage more deeply, more naturally and yet not invasively with consumers.

    The ‘Content to Commerce: How tech has flipped the consumer experience’ session was an example of how virtual speakers can speak successfully to an in-person audience. Marketing and digital leaders from McDonald’s, GM, Target, Instacart and Salesforce explained how that accelerated technology curve has driven real change in their relationships with their consumers. Target CMO Cara Sylvester said that the most exciting development driven by the increased uptake in tech was the deepening of relationships with their consumers through omnichannel retail experiences; offers are personalized and connection is based on an always-on approach, rather than an episodic one. GM’s Chief Digital Officer, Edward Kummer, explained that the tech had driven – and empowered – the company to serve customers how they want to be served, whether that’s solely in person, solely online, or a hybrid, omnichannel approach. All the panellists agreed that the pandemic had taught them that success lies in the ability to ‘perform while you transform’ – to continue to deliver top-quality products and services whilst simultaneously adapting to a rapidly changing landscape.

    Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most powerful sessions for this writer was on the role of voice in the future of technology, specifically the metaverse. Abraham Gomez of Wild and West NFT and Matthew Barnett, Founder and President of the Dream Center in Los Angeles talked about the potential of the metaverse to help people in need. In the metaverse, barriers such as race, gender, wealth and class are dismantled, leaving only voice. By ‘hiding behind’ an avatar, people who struggle in the ‘real world’ with social and mental health problems might be more willing to talk about how they feel and what they need in order to live better lives – and the Dream Center, which has been given territory in the metaverse by the Sandbox, will be able to listen and provide that help. Considering that Gomez believes that we will spend the majority of our time in the metaverse (just think about how much time we spend on our phones right now), it’s encouraging to learn of its altruistic opportunities.

    CES was a version of what it always has been – an exciting, heady mixture of tech, innovation, marketing and networking. That all those elements were slightly muted this year did not take away from the event’s importance: indeed, many – including organisers of other events such as SXSW – have seen this year’s CES as an important pioneer in the future of large events. While many of those who attended perhaps wondered briefly if they should be there, I’m sure that they all left feeling invigorated and inspired. I know I did.

    Header image: Alex Matthews

  3. AI will make personalisation even more powerful: advertisers must exercise restraint

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    In advertising, personalisation is king. As the mantra goes, right message, right time, right place – if you can tick all three of those boxes, your ad will be much more relevant to the consumer and therefore so much more powerful. In the rapidly approaching age of artificial intelligence, it will be easier than ever to personalise your advertising: when machine learning is applied to the vast quantities of data, advertisers can understand the motivations of almost every consumer on the planet. That promise holds a great deal of power and potential wealth, but as they say – with great power comes great responsibility, and advertisers must consider carefully how they will use and handle customer data.

    Personalisation will become ever easier with widespread uptake of AI

    Advertisers are understandably excited about the prospect of artificial intelligence; just twenty years ago, it was almost inconceivable that brands would be able to directly target individual consumers based on their unique behaviours and motivations, with messages that were relevant to them. To an extent it is possible now, but it will become increasingly easy as artificial intelligence becomes more widespread, particularly as it is harnessed by programmatic platforms for real-time optimisation, for example.

    But personalisation can annoy consumers

    Some research indicates that consumers actively want advertising that is relevant to them; indeed, they’re even willing to give away their personal data for more personalised advertising. But there’s a fine line between advertising which is more powerful because of its relevance, and advertising which is annoying or just plain creepy. That’s down to a number of factors: bad targeting, use of sensitive personal data, placement, frequency or a lack of relevancy. You can understand why. If, for example, a consumer has recently purchased a pair of blue shoes online and is stalked around the internet by ads for blue shoes, it’s annoying and the ad simply serves to remind him or her that their activity is being tracked – they no longer need blue shoes. Ads for a blue handbag, for example, or for nice socks, might be more relevant – but that is when the mighty GDPR starts making its presence felt. The EU data regulations, which any advertiser with a European target audience will be all too aware of, make the transfer of consumer data between one company and another very difficult.

    Of course, this example assumes that there are two companies involved, and that the brands themselves are doing the selling. The inability to share data will give more power to the platforms where consumers can buy from a large selection of brands: they will be able to harness their first-party data to build a more complete offering for their consumers, and more targeted marketing. The brands themselves could begin to lose the battle to understand and successfully reach audiences.

    Where is the line between persuasive marketing and behaviour control?

    Brands shouldn’t just be concerned about not annoying consumers. The amount of data at their disposal – and the tools available to process and understand it – means that they can have an astonishingly complete understanding of their consumer – and that means marketing which is too effective and too persuasive. The art of persuasive marketing could be elevated into the science of behaviour control. Layer that with the ability to exploit people’s inherent prejudices and insecurities and we’re into some seriously apocalyptic territory. Need we mention Cambridge Analytica?

    The golden rule: always remember the data belongs to the consumer

    In order to avoid annoying consumers and indeed to avoid straying into unethical territory, the answer is to always remember one golden rule: a consumer’s data belongs to that consumer, and must be handled with the care and respect that would be afforded to their other possessions. When collecting data, be transparent: explain how you will use it and ask for the consumer’s consent. Like any relationship, trust is critical and transparency is the way to earn that trust. Personalisation must be voluntary, overt and transparent.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  4. Out of home: rising above the clutter

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    In a fully mobile world, where the average person spends hours a day on their smartphone and targeted ads are standard, out of home (OOH) can seem a little out of date. Don’t write it off yet though – it appears to be enjoying something of a resurgence. Many brands including, perhaps ironically, the big tech brands such are investing a huge amount in this medium; Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Google are four of the 10 largest spenders on billboards. The figures back this up: outdoor ads were the only ‘traditional’ media category to show growth in the US in 2018, with an estimated $33.5bn in revenue, with digital out of home (DOOH) being the main driver with growth of 16%.

    What’s behind the renaissance of outdoor advertising? There are three key drivers: it’s impactful, innovative and effective.

    Impact

    In a world of palm-sized screens, the sheer size of a billboard and its large, uncluttered layout give it impact that a mobile ad would find it very difficult to deliver. What’s more, while consumers can – and do – ad block on their mobiles and desktops, you can’t block real life. So it seems that the rise of OOH is partly a response to digital fatigue amongst consumers and the advertiser’s quest to reach them in a fresh way that will have the desired effect. However, the rise of this medium is also partly because of the overall shift to digital advertising: many OOH companies are harnessing the power of technology that are increasing impact and relevance.

    Innovation

    Over the last few years, OOH has had to become rapidly more tech savvy to stave off irrelevance. Innovations abound, largely to make the medium more responsive, interactive and, critically, targeted, so that it can compete with digital advertising in terms of relevance. Location and contextual data are crucial to the success of the OOH format as they can be used for increased targeting. Many companies working in this space are creating technological innovations that have brought OOH right into the 21st century. Clear Channel’s Radar programme uses global positioning data from mobile apps to understand who is passing by its signage, whilst startup AdQuick has developed a range of new targeting and measuring tools, including integrating digital voice assistants so passers-by can ask for more information – and therefore provide more data for advertisers to use. Google is, of course, putting its targeting and programmatic expertise to good use in the space, grabbing extensive demographic data from Android owners passing by, and even started to test its DoubleClick ad technology in London, allowing advertisers to purchase ad space on screens across the city programmatically. This opens up the opportunity to respond in real-time to events such as beer ads for the Friday commute home.

    Of course, geo-targeting is a key feature in today’s digital OOH. It allows fixed screens to surface information that people want or need in that place, at that time, therefore adding value to the consumer’s day, while OOH in situations like taxis can respond to changing points of interest as the vehicle passes. All this leads to dynamic, interesting and valuable content.

    Even more futuristically, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping marketers to personalise OOH content and make it more engaging. One such innovation is technology that detects the facial features and expressions of a passer-by and determine whether they are happy, surprised, sad or angry as well as their gender and approximate age, all with remarkable accuracy. This of course allows advertisers to deliver in real time the ad which will resonate best with the consumer.

    It used to be that OOH’s key purpose was to drive traffic to bricks-and-mortar shops, but with so much innovation going on in the space, the medium can now drive a specific action and interact in a personalised and targeted way – and that makes it so much more effective than it used to be.

    Effectiveness

    Technological advances and, conversely, digital fatigue amongst consumers has brought about a renaissance for OOH and have made it a highly effective medium. Being able to understand the geographic and demographic context of a billboard’s surroundings – and change content accordingly in real time make it a valuable weapon in the advertiser’s arsenal. Furthermore, rather than replacing other media, it works well in conjunction with other channels and can even amplify them. Mobile click-through rates increase 15% when supported by OOH ads, according to WARC, and 46% of US consumers have used a search engine after seeing an OOH ad. It even intersects with social media: research by Nielsen revealed that one in four American adults has posted a photo of an outdoor ad on Instagram – that’s much higher than TV, radio, print or digital banners. Xannonce When Spotfiy turned a New York subway into an art installation, it reached 50 million people on social channels, with no paid amplification.

    All this means that the ROI for OOH in the US is remarkably high: each dollar spent on OOH advertising drives an average $5.97 in sales – that’s 40% higher than digital search.

    An innovative ‘push’ medium

    Gone are the days when a billboard was a passive brand-building format. It’s now a dynamic, innovative medium that has the ability to engage with, entertain and add value to consumers, pushing them towards a purchase in a way that can seem less intrusive than a mobile ad. In an age where consumers are being targeted by advertising from all angles, an effective, innovative and impactful out of home campaign might just be the way to rise above the clutter.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  5. The creation of Wunderman Thompson: is it really the answer?

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    The latest in a series of WPP mergers is that between Wunderman and JWT – but is that really what clients need?

    A difficult year for WPP

    2018 has been a difficult year for communications giant WPP. There was, of course, Sir Martin Sorrell’s sudden and tumultuous departure from the helm of the company, leaving waves of bad feeling in his wake, particularly when he started his new organisation, S4 Capital. Then, in October, it was revealed that WPP was no longer the world’s biggest marketing and advertising services group, slipping below American rival Omnicom for the first time in almost a decade. WPP’s share price has experienced a downward trend over the last year and is languishing at levels not seen since 2011: this is largely blamed on the disrupting influence of Sorrell’s departure and WPP’s struggle to transform the huge group in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape and increasing competition from Google and Facebook.

    Simplicity, accountability and scale

    So Mark Read, Sorrell’s successor, has a lot on his plate. He needs to ‘steady the ship’ and execute the transformation that will make WPP future-ready, in the face of the company’s own challenges and the challenges facing the wider industry. A major criticism of the industry is that it is bafflingly complex, with agencies, units, sub-units and specialist arms presenting clients with an alphabet soup of agency suppliers. Forrester said that WPP needs to ‘dissolve’ its hundreds of agency brands into a few dozen to ‘meet the CMO’s need for simplicity, accountability and scale’.

    Mergers to deliver on the simplification agenda

    Read has continued the process of simplification that started under Sorrell, including a series of mergers, including that of Maxus and MEC to become Wavemaker, and Y&R and VML becoming VMLY&R. The latest and most prominent of these mergers is between digital agency Wunderman and renowned creative shop JWT, which, on January 1st, will become Wunderman Thompson under a single P&L. In WPP’s press release on the matter, Mark Read claimed that Wunderman Thompson will be a new ‘creative, data and technology agency’ which will ‘bring together the capabilities our clients are demanding – award-winning creativity alongside deep expertise in technology, data and commerce – in a single organisation.’ Mel Edwards, the Global CEO of the new entity added, ‘To achieve transformative outcomes, clients today need inspiration that is rooted in data-driven insight. WT offers precisely what clients want – better creativity, expertise in data and sophisticated technology skills.’

    A new set of competitors?

    Interestingly, Wunderman Thompson’s positioning as a provider of end-to-end, data-driven marketing and creative solutions places it in direct competition with not only the traditional media and creative agencies, but with consulting groups such as Accenture and Deloitte who have recently entered the space with an offering that focuses on data, technology and creative.

    The modernisation of a legacy brand

    While the merger marks the end of JWT, one of advertising’s key legacy brands and one of the few agency names that the general public recognised, it does make sense: there had been a feeling that the creative agency was resting on its laurels rather than embracing a more consumer-centric planning approach. With Wunderman’s digital expertise, JWT’s clients will have access to data-driven insights to inform their creative. What’s more, some of those clients also already use Wunderman’s services, so the simplification argument is even more powerful.

    But is it what clients really need?

    This merger is being widely viewed as a demonstration of Read’s determination to change the direction of WPP and create a more streamlined, simplified and easily navigable organisation for the benefit of clients – even if the process is at times painful and difficult. However, at ECI Media Management we would question whether it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Does this internal merger and others like it really make the agencies more customer-centric and produce better outcomes for clients? Or is it just better for the buyers? Furthermore, in this era of data and associated concerns around security breaches, transparency and brand safety, will clients continue to allow agencies to handle their consumer data? Can they be sure that it is they and not their competitors who will profit from the insights generated from the data? ECI believes – and indeed recommends – that clients will increasingly bring their data and ad tech in-house in order to truly understand their customers and drive that all-important consumer-centricity; external consultants can be briefed for support when and where it is needed. WPP and others have nodded towards this new consultancy model, but the need is increasingly urgent and the communications giants need to evolve quickly if they are to succeed in this space.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  6. 5G is coming – here’s what it means for marketers

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    AT&T and Verizon have announced 5G-enabled smartphones with Samsung for 2019 – 5G is here. Where will the new super-fast mobile internet connectivity take us?

    This week, both Verizon and AT&T have announced that they will launch 5G-enabled Samsung smartphones in 2019 – in fact, AT&T are launching two. 5G has been on the lips and the minds of the tech, communications and advertising industries for a while, promising as it does almost unimaginable opportunities. Earlier this year, AT&T launched its 5G mobile hotspot in a few cities across the US, but this week’s news makes it mainstream and a reality for consumers – and therefore marketers – across the world. So where will it lead?

    Higher speeds and happier consumers

    What makes 5G so revolutionary is its speed. 4G, which was launched in 2011, brought about video streaming, programmatic auctions and the first glimpses of augmented and virtual reality. 5G is 1000 times faster than 4G with 100 times less latency, effectively eliminating any delays. Often, if a consumer experiences a delay loading a webpage, they will give up, meaning the loss of a touchpoint for the brand. It could also lead to a decrease in the use of ad blockers, which consumers often use to avoid slow loading times; if webpages are loading more quickly, they may be less inclined to use them.

    The sheer speed of 5G means that it will be a viable and affordable alternative to home broadband. In the US, Verizon is looking at disrupting home broadband, particularly in areas where there isn’t much competition for local broadband providers. As Gartner’s Mark Hung remarked, ‘if 5G is able to create more competition in that space, then that could lead to more cord-cutters’ – and that of course has implications for marketers.

    Out of home will also benefit from the speed of 5G. A Digiday article relates how out of home advertising company Outfront plans to use 5G to distribute dynamic video to screens, which will be able to react to the viewers passing them.

    Deeper interactions with consumers – which means more data

    The increased speed of 5G compared to 4G means that technology applications which have hitherto seemed far-fetched are suddenly becoming realistic. These applications often provide much more immersive and meaningful experiences for consumers – and that means richer data sets for advertisers. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), for example, will become more normal ways for brands to interact with their consumers. AdWeek suggests that home decor

    brands could use immersive AR to show customers what an item of furniture would look like in their houses, while sports and music fans will be able to ‘attend’ games and gigs via their VR headsets; indeed, LiveNation and NextVR have already done this, and widespread 5G will only make the user experience better.

    Meanwhile, increased speeds and higher connectivity will mean that the Internet of Things becomes exponentially more powerful and useful. Hyper-connected devices will communicate with one other, giving the consumer increased convenience and control over their lives in the context of autonomous cars, connected homes, connected cities, connected healthcare and so many others. These networks of connected devices will generate a wealth of data on the consumer’s behaviours and preferences: a veritable goldmine for brands, who will be able to create ever more personalised and targeted messaging.

    Companies are already making plans to capitalise on the launch of 5G

    Unsurprisingly, given the opportunities for deeper interactions with consumers, companies in the US and worldwide are already gearing up for the delivery of 5G. For example, AT&T recently acquired Time Warner and AppNexus in order to ensure it was properly positioned to take advantage of the roll-out of its 5G service. Meanwhile, esports company ESL has partnered with AT&T to incorporate 5G technology into live gaming, in order to take mobile esports ‘to the next level’.

    5G may also have another effect. With telco companies coming into possession of such an unprecedented amount of consumer data, they may start being able to challenge the digital ad services duopoly currently held by Google and Facebook.

    We’ve looked at only a few of the opportunities presented by the arrival of 5G; indeed, there are many that the world hasn’t even imagined yet. It will change the world perhaps even more fundamentally than 4G did, and make the seemingly fantastical – for both consumers and advertisers – a reality.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  7. Martin Sorrell’s ambitions for S4 Capital reflect a changing industry

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    Technology is dramatically transforming the communications industry – and S4 Capital is a reflection of that.

    When Martin Sorrell speaks, the advertising industry listens. That’s still the case even when he’s doing it as the head of a relatively small start-up, S4 Capital, rather than as the Chairman of WPP, the world’s largest communications conglomerate. Earlier this week he took to the stage at a Campaign Magazine event with his colleague Victor Knapp, the Chief Executive of MediaMonks, the content production company that S4 Capital acquired earlier this year. They discussed their ambitions for S4 Capital – some of which we will look at in more detail below; what is striking is that they are very much a reflection of how technology has transformed the media and advertising industries, fundamentally shifting priorities for brands and therefore for agencies. This change in direction is exemplified by the contrast between S4 Capital and the ‘traditional’ communications organisations such as Sorrell’s alma mater WPP.

    A digital and programmatic approach to media buying

    The ambitions that Sorrell and Knapp laid out for S4 Capital fall into four areas. The first is how S4 is approaching media buying. It’s telling that their first acquisition in this space is, according to Sorrell, likely to be in the digital and programmatic space, as ‘that’s where the biggest opportunity is’. Knapp added that the acquisition is likely to be a more ‘performance-based agency’, although he believes that ‘there is no difference between brand-building and performance’. There are many discussions at the moment around performance versus brand marketing – indeed, we wrote a blog about it and it was a hot topic at the ANA Masters of Marketing last month. Wherever you land in the debate, the inescapable fact is that data allows us to understand customers like never before and optimise activity to their preferences in real time; this has inevitably led to a focus on the performance of our media activity. Sorrell even went as far as to say that scale is not the most important thing anymore, as you can ‘make entries at a reasonable cost’ in the digital and programmatic arena. This demonstrates the impact that technology has had on the industry, if the size of your budget is no longer the sole most important aspect of your marketing strategy.

    A consumer-centric strategy calls for an always-on approach

    One of the key ramifications of the rapid advance of technology in the marketing space is that it has taken power out of the hands of brands and put it into those of the consumer. It is now the consumer that calls the shots, and advertisers must respond by focusing on the consumer’s experience of their brand and being ‘always on’. This is at the heart of MediaMonks and, by extension, S4 Capital’s approach to communications: it’s no longer about

    focusing on a big idea and creating 30-second spots. Brands and their agencies must consider how they can tell the best creative story across all platforms. This approach demands better, faster and more efficient content and, in Sorrell’s opinion, agencies aren’t responding quickly enough. This is the space that smaller, more agile companies like S4 can step into, as they come without the baggage of siloes, units and a plethora of agency brands.

    Helping brands to take control of their marketing services

    Data is, of course, the major marketing story of the 21st century so far and has fundamentally transformed how marketers operate, opening up a world of possibility and the opportunity to connect more deeply with consumers. It has also, unfortunately, led to issues of trust between advertisers and their agency partners, and a concern about a lack of control. This in turn has led many brands to at least consider bringing some of their marketing services in house and S4 Capital will have an offering that helps them to do that, although Sorrell pointed out that it can be difficult culturally for organisations to keep themselves and their talent abreast of the ever-changing market dynamics.

    As always, agility is the key to success

    It is telling that Sorrell and Knapp emphasised the importance of agility and consumer-centricity for S4 Capital. In the 80s, 90s and even 2000s, marketing was a very different affair and the role of the CMO was to relay stories to consumers on a one-way basis – and the likes of WPP, Omnicom and Publicis with their huge scale and buying power were well placed to support in that mission. However, technology has dramatically and fundamentally changed the landscape and the agencies that can respond rapidly in an agile, flexible manner are the ones who will stay relevant and useful for clients. This is clearly the space that Sorrell and Knapp are looking to occupy with S4 Capital, and we believe that they are well placed for success.

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  8. How smart speakers are changing the way we search and shop

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    Its Black Friday at the end of this week and bargain hunters across the US and Europe are readying themselves and their wallets to snap up bargains both online and in store. One thing that we can comfortably predict is that many will have their eye on a new smart speaker. The rise of the smart speaker over the last few years has been remarkable: in the US, an estimated 43.9m Americans used a smart speaker at least once a month in 2017, rising to 61.1m in 2018 and expected to increase to 76.5m by 2020 (source: eMarketer, 2018). This proliferation of smart speakers has inevitably fuelled a spike in voice search and voice commerce – and those, of course, have implications for marketers.

    Who’s using them?

    In May this year, eMarketer released its report,‘Hey Alexa, who’s using smart speakers?’. In it, the research firm points out that ‘not since the smartphone has any tech device been adopted as quickly as the smart speaker’. In fact, growth has been so strong that they predicted that the number of smart speaker users would surpass that of wearable users this year. The typical user is still the classic early tech-adopter – affluent, older millennial male – but the device is gaining traction in other demographics, particularly younger generation X women with children. What’s driving this surge? As eMarketer’s co-founder and Chief Content Officer Geoff Ramsey pointed out in his ‘Emerging Trends’ session at the ANA Masters of Marketing last month, it’s easier to talk to a device than to type into one and – crucially – smart speakers adapt to our voices and behaviour, not the other way around.

    The new battleground for the tech giants

    As is to be expected with any major technological development, the smart speaker has become the latest battleground for the tech giants, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Facebook and Microsoft are still to make waves in the field: the former delayed the release of its smart speaker due to user privacy concerns (understandable, given the year it has had), while Microsoft has partnered with another hardware maker instead of creating an own-brand speaker. Apple released its HomePod speaker, but the high price point and less-than-glowing reviews means it is yet to be a major player, in this space at least. That leaves Google and Amazon as the undisputed kings of the smart speaker arena. Google’s Google Home has a 29.5% share of the market, but eMarketer projected that Amazon Echo – of Alexa fame – would claim 66.6% of the smart speaker market in 2018.

    Transforming how we shop…

    As we discussed in an earlier post, Amazon is well on its way to adding a third leg to the Facebook-Google digital duopoly by increasing its advertising revenue – and its Echo smart speaker is a key way in which it will achieve this. eMarketer points out that voice is the next frontier for online commerce, and while the number of people who shop using their purchases is small (28.2% of US smart speaker owners), they predict that the number of US smart speaker buyers will double to 17.2 million between 2017 and 2018. And it is of course Amazon that benefits from this, thanks to their success in the smart speaker space and their dominance of the general ecommerce space. Echo owners can and do shop using Amazon Prime: indeed, they spend an average of $1700 a year, according to a CIRP report. That’s $400 higher than what ‘regular’ Prime customers spend annually on Amazon and 66% higher than non-Prime Amazon shoppers. CIRP’s co-founder Josh Lowitz said “We’ve long thought that Amazon is keenly focused on building increasingly loyal and frequent shopping customers, and Echo seems to promote that goal.” Brands can also create third-party apps; however, many are choosing to do this with Google Home rather than Alexa so they don’t have to compete with Amazon’s inventory.

    …and how we search

    That’s not the only way that Google may have an edge over the thus-far dominant Echo. The second most popular way that consumers use their smart speakers, after music, is search. Ramsey noted that 72% of US smart speaker users who have a smart device use them to search – it’s the second most popular activity after listening to music, and that doesn’t even include the news, weather or traffic. One third of users use them every day to search for something that they would previously have typed into a device. The implications of this for brands are particularly important. Why’s that? Because voice search usually only yields one result: consumers don’t want to listen to reams of results, and that actually could be a reason that they are choosing to use their smart speaker rather than traditional methods, so that they don’t have to sift through results. Furthermore, they don’t have to stop what they are doing.

    A voice search optimisation strategy

    The fact that there is only one search result on smart speakers means that brands either get first position or no position: it’s critically important that they start developing a solid voice search optimisation strategy to take them to the top of the search results. Econsultancy suggests that an effective way to do this is to help people when they need support with a specific task, such as cooking or trying to remove a stain – what Google has termed a ‘micro-moment’. That fits in with Ramsey’s view that voice is not just another ad vehicle – it’s a utility, and advertisers need to see it as a personalised experience that will bring consumers closer to their brand. Voice can be used to literally start a conversation with a consumer and ultimately set them along the path to purchase. As far as paid search is concerned, sponsored ad words aren’t yet available but that can surely only be a matter of time.

    Will mobile ads be impacted?

    Something else that brands need to bear in mind is that, as consumers are increasingly drawn consumers away from their mobile devices by smart speakers, they will be exposed to fewer mobile ads. We believe that it is unlikely that Amazon and Google will allow brands to ‘broadcast’ ads via their smart speakers; could this mean that digital advertising will start to see a decline?

    Agility and readiness are critical

    As the tech giants look to implement their voice assistants into other gadgets, household appliances, furniture and even cars, the opportunities for brands to become intrinsically valuable and useful to the consumer grows. With that opportunity comes complexity that will need to be navigated. As Ramsey pointed out, even the pneumonics of brand and product names will need to be considered! There is much to be gained by those who are most agile and can stay ahead.

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  9. The evolution of the role of the marketer – and what that means for the future of the industry

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    The role of the marketer has changed almost unrecognisably over the last four decades. As technology has progressed and our tools have advanced, we have a greater understanding of our audiences and how our messages are landing with them. This can and does drive increased performance for both the media and, ultimately, the brand. However, it also adds many layers of complexity to the marketer’s role: today’s marketer not only needs to be able to tell great stories, they need to be able to understand data, numbers and technology – or surround themselves with people who do.

    The 1980s: WHAT to say?

    The 80s were perhaps the last time that advertising resembled the fabled ‘Mad Men’ era. In the ‘brand positioning’ decade, marketers had the freedom to be creative and tell stories that would catch the audience’s attention, cutting through the noise to drive loyalty and recognition. There were far fewer channels to orchestrate; TV ruled the day, with out of home and radio jostling for position as well. Direct marketing had started to emerge, but was in its infancy. Most importantly, communication largely ran one way – from brand to consumer – meaning that the brand, and the marketer, held the power over messaging and could decide whatstories to tell.

    The 1990s: WHEN and WHERE to place ads?

    The 1980s became the 1990s, which were something of a watershed moment for the advertising industry. Why? Because it was the decade that saw the very first digital advertising: US communications giant AT&T placed the first digital banner on hotwired.com – Wired Magazine’s online platform – in 1994. What’s more, the proliferation of cable TV and the increased length of ad breaks (up from nine minutes per hour to nineteen). The advertising landscape had become rapidly more complex, and the marketer’s role had changed forever.

    This plethora of ad spaces had an important implication: it meant that the marketer could – and indeed needed to – optimise their media planning and buying strategies so that they were reaching their audiences in the optimal time and place. Whenandwhereto place ads were the key questions of the day: this meant adding more skills to the arsenal, such as the ability to understand and act upon ‘web analytics’ – the precursor to digital marketing optimisation.

    The 2000s: HOW much?

    If the 1990s was the birth of the digital advert, the 2000s were the decade that procurement-driven marketing was born. It was then that procurement processes were introduced to marketing, leading to increased control of – and therefore more focus on – pricing and effectiveness. This is undoubtedly intrinsically linked to the rise of the media buying houses – off-shoots from the creative agencies who were channelling their media planning and buying capabilities into separate entities. These entities would buy up huge amounts of inventory and sell it on to their clients, driving down prices. Procurement professionals were brought in to ensure that brands were getting the best deal from their agencies, resulting in pitches that were run on excel sheets rather than judged on relationships and strategy. The pressure on marketers and agencies to keep asking ‘howmuch?’ was intense, and has arguably not eased since.

    The 2010s: WHO are we reaching?

    The 2010s is the decade of the data-driven marketer. The most important marketing trends of the decade – data and technology – have transformed the practice of marketing. Modern tools allow marketers to understand their consumers like never before, optimising for their behaviour and preferences in real time and watching money come in in a way that is beyond the

    80s marketer’s wildest dreams. However, it hasn’t all been positive: transparency has decreased, leading to a crisis of trust between brands and their agencies, and there are grave concerns around data ownership and regulation – as some of the tech giants have discovered to their detriment.

    Who to reach – the individual – is now the priority, often at the expense of the mass-media, storytelling approach of the 1980s that built the strong brands of today. The focus has shifted to performance for each and every ad dollar and the cost per acquisition, rather than telling a brand story that leads to loyalty and trust. As we learned at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference last month, direct to consumer(DTC/D2C) brands are winning at the performance game, and more traditional brands can learn a lot from them. However, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact of the end destination – brand and business growth. Data and transparency are only the vehicles to get us there and are not the destination itself.

    The 2020s: what should we be asking ourselves?

    What does all this mean for the marketer as we approach the 2020s? Will there be a new paradigm? At ECI Media Management, we believe that marketers are now like the conductor of an orchestra: the instruments are in place, and the CMO is the conductor who is responsible for leading them to create the great symphony. An effective media strategy needs to ask ‘WHAT should we say?’, ‘WHERE and WHEN should we say it?’, ‘HOW much should it cost?’ and ‘WHO are we saying it to?’ in order to secure the highest ROI.

    Marketers must define KPIs based on a clear marketing objective linked to business growth, so that all stakeholders, brand owners, media planners and buyers, procurement leads and tech and data experts share the same language and have one version of the truth to work towards. The theme of this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing was ‘driving growth’, and ANA CEO Bob Leodice, opened the conference with a rallying cry: it is within the power of CMOs to recover growth, particularly with so many tools, skills and technology at their fingertips. Harnessing the lessons of the last three decades – telling a brand story, optimising time and placement, achieving the best cost and using data to understand the consumer is surely the way to do this.

    ECI Media Management can help marketers conduct the orchestra and position themselves for success. We forensically audit and benchmark all media activity, including (and uniquely) programmatic investments, to drive higher media value and increase the impact of media on business performance.  As well as helping to manage media agency partners, we can offer advice to marketers looking to increase control by bringing more agency services in-house. Along with our other services– financial compliance audit, pitch management and contract consultancy –  we can ensure that the modern marketer has all the tools at their disposal for success and growth in the 2020s and beyond.

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  10. Day 3 at the ANA Masters of Marketing

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    More inspiring content and ideas to take home from day 3 at the Masters of Marketing.

    Delegates at the 2018 ANA Masters of Marketing were treated to yet another delicious dinner on Thursday night and a breath-taking performance by the ultra-talented Kelly Clarkson. It was an evening to remember and a feast for all the senses, while the sessions on Friday were a return to a more intellectual kind of feast.

    Taking back control

    Friday kicked off with a panel of top marketers from some of the world’s most recognisable brands – Jill Estorino from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, American Express CMO Elizabeth Rutledge and Deloitte Digital’s Alicia Hatch, facilitated by P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard. They discussed leading disruption as a way to drive growth and to ensure that marketing still matters into the future. A Cannes Lions CMO Growth Council has formed a movement that is ‘taking back control’ of marketing, with a focus on five core tenets to drive growth: data and technology; talent and capability; customer centricity, brand experience and innovation; and society and sustainability. Each panellist took the audience through an example of how their company is implementing initiatives in these five tenets. Jill Estorino explained how Disney has put the customer – and the future customer – right at the centre of their product innovation and experiences by harnessing data, while Marc Pritchard put forward the argument for increasing brands’ social and environmental responsibility – half of consumers take a more positive view of a company that takes a stand on an issue.Taking smart risks to drive growth

    Staying relevant by focusing on your greatest asset

    If attendees thought that the session following Jeff’s would be lower energy and they’d be able to relax a bit, they were mistaken. The WNBA’s equally charismatic Lisa Borders talked to us about how the WNBA grew to become a major entertainment – not just sports – brands in a little over 20 years. Their focus has always been to remain relevant by focusing on their greatest asset – their players, using their own authentic voice, embracing who they are and leveraging that in their communications and brand identity.

    Earning loyalty to drive growth

    Next up was Greg Revelle, CMO of iconic American retail brand Kohl’s, which is going from strength to strength despite the challenges faced by the retail sector. He explained how overhauling the cherished Kohls Cash rewards scheme allowed them to accelerate the rate of customer acquisition and retention, whilst deepening customer engagement and simplifying their value proposition. The key to the success of the new programme was asking the customers themselves – and not just researchers – what they wanted from the loyalty programme. Greg’s top tips to marketers were to start from your company’s roots and scale up from there; see industry challenges as opportunities; ask your customers what they want and measure everything you can.

    Humanising personalisation

    After Greg, American Express CMO Elizabeth Rutledge returned to the main stage to relay how she has driven a sea change – and global growth – at her organisation with a new brand platform – ‘American Express has your back as you do business and live life’. The entire strategy is rooted in humanity and the ‘humanisation of personalisation’: Elizabeth kicked off her presentation with Muhammad Ali’s moving short poem, ‘Me? We.’ She went onto explain how her ‘aha’ moment was realising that marketing is only a ‘sliver’ of the way that American Express engages with its customers – the real human connection is via the customer services team, so the new brand platform had to revolve around the entire company – who they are, what they do and what they say. There was a renewed focus on their employees, ensuring that they were satisfied because ‘a happy employee is a happy customer’. The new platform and approach has been a huge success for the brand so far, raising brand value by 8%. Elizabeth’s key takeaways for the audience? Data is critical but, on its own, not sufficient; we – marketers – are the stewards of ‘we’; and we must infuse the personal into personalisation.

    Brand versus performance marketing

    With that rallying cry we moved to the second stage to listen to last year’s top-rated speaker, Clorox’s Eric Reynolds, talk openly and honestly about Clorox’s journey towards achieving the right balance between performance marketing and brand marketing.

    He shared lessons that they’ve learned along the way, using a gut health brand and an anti-ageing DTC acquisition as case studies. The critical lesson? Like so many others at the conference, it was to put the consumer as a person at the heart of what you are doing. Marketers from both the brand side and the performance side must consider the consumer’s personal goals and their unique path to purchase, and find the best way that the brand can be useful to them. For CPG brands like Clorox, that means going back to the industry’s roots – being useful to real people, every day.

    An unconventional path to growth

    From gut health to gut instinct: back at the main stage after lunch, the CMO of privately owned bread brand King’s Hawaiian, Erick Dickens gave an enjoyable, informative session about their unconventional path to growth. Always following his gut – his key piece of advice for the audience – he had to do things differently thanks to a limited marketing budget. That included bankrolling the best agency talent to start their own agency as he couldn’t afford to pay for them in their existing roles; working directly with media properties so he could cut out the middle men; thinking big (they even made a film with their limited budget!); and picking high impact placements – namely the Oscars and the Super Bowl – using existing creative. Not only did they spend a fraction of what the other brands spent on their creative, but their spots when straight into the top ranked ads at the Super Bowl! Erick’s bold and unconventional approach has earned him fantastic results across all key metrics, including uplifts in unaided brand awareness and household penetration.

    Marketing’s time to shine

    We finished the day with an inspiring and heart-felt presentation by Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, who explained why this is marketing’s moment to shine. With so much disruption and transformation in the marketing industry, now is the time to use our brand’s purpose to create a force for good. Through the prism of Deloitte’s work with National Geographic to create the amazing Women of Impact campaign, Alicia described that the secret lies in brands really understanding where their consumers derive meaning and really understanding what matters to their brand. If they can create brand experiences where those two areas intersect, that’s where a brand has the power to elevate the human experience and become a powerful force for good – which in turn drives business growth. The Women of Impact campaign harnessed cutting-edge predictive AI technology which allowed the team to respond to the community they had created at the speed of culture – allowing National Geographic to move from earning a share of voice to earning a share of culture. In the end, it’s all about data

    We ended day two with a session on how to turn your data into an emotional connection courtesy of Bank of America’s Lou Paskalis. He stressed how in the future, marketing will be data-driven, connections-based and customer-obsessed. plan xox black People buy with their hearts and then rationalise their purchases with their brains: if your brand can connect with their hearts, you win. Lou also made the pithy observation that data is the new oil: in its raw form it’s just a material, but if you refine it in the right way, it will inform your marketing vision.

    Customer-centricity, brand purpose and using data well

    As always, the Masters of Marketing was a festival of ideas, inspiration, food for thought and energy. The main themes that came out time and again were customer-centricity, brand purpose and how to use data as a means to create meaningful, authentic connections – not as as the end itself. It’s always inspiring to hear how talented and dedicated marketers are harnessing the rapid changes in the industry to make their discipline a driver of growth and a force for good. For those looking to drive growth for their brand, ECI Media Management has years of experience helping marketers do just that, and we’d be delighted to hear how we can support you. Feel free to contact us on

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