A recent article in The Wall Street Journal summed it up succinctly: some brands, it said, are increasingly using programmatic systems to buy digital ads themselves, rather than paying third parties to do so for them. A survey from Forrester Research and the Association of National Advertisers suggests a reason: it says 46% of marketers are concerned about the transparency of agencies tasked to buy online ads. Put simply, if the agency doesn’t tell you how much of your money its live buying desk spending on ads, and how much it’s taking as a fee, fears can spread.
(If you’re unsure of what programmatic ads are – might be an idea to pause here and read this…)
A few weeks ago, a disgruntled newspaper journalist said to me “the rationale seems to be ‘why bother doing your USP well, when you can do the ubiquitous badly?’” It’s a question many journalists of my acquaintance have been struggling with. I’m sure they would sympathise with Gareth Davies, Chief Reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, who publicly vented his fury on Twitter after fellow Local World website, the Maidstone & Medway News, ran a story on the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal.
I’m sure most people would agree this isn’t a story of immediate relevance to the Maidstone & Medway area, and many journalists of my acquaintance are queasy to say the least about the proliferation of ‘clickbait’. The website’s editor, Simon Finlay, defended the decision, saying “we’re trying to drive an audience to our site… [these stories] do get us thousands of hits and that’s a good thing.”
One of the knock-on effects of digital technology is that like never before business leaders can draw on enriched information when making critical choices – but do they really let data rule, or are experience, intuition and gut feeling still the keys to successful management?
In recent weeks we’ve looked at several ways data gathered through digital sources is changing business. We’ve examined how supermarkets are using technology to revolutionise retail, how knowledge of data can help you get a job in both the editorial and commercial departments of a newspaper, we’ve even looked at growing data use in education and how the difficulties of understanding Big Data are, in some instances, restricting the development of personalised, one-on-one marketing.
In short, what we’ve seen is that analysis and data skills will be key to an array of future jobs.
Tesco Labs, the supermarket’s digital innovation wing, is running a 48-hour ‘hackathon’ next month to spur the development of health-themed technologies for its customers.
The supermarket has made an open invitation to computer coders, designers, and those working in tech marketing and business development to attend the weekend event in London, starting on September 12.
The aim of the hackathon is to develop retail media ideas that can help Tesco’s customers make healthier food choices in store and online.
In addition, Tesco is keen to explore how it can share data to help customers understand their own behaviour, compare their food choices with others, share tips and advice, and track and find out more about what they’re buying and eating.
Nearly a third of publishers in the UK have not heard of programmatic advertising, according to a recent survey by tech firm AppNexus. For a technology that has been widely touted as the future of the publishing industry, this is faintly astonishing.
So what is programmatic advertising?
In a nutshell, it’s a form of online display advertising that relies on complex algorithms to set a series of criteria that when met trigger the deployment of ads. Campaigns are booked and optimised via a simple web interface.
Unless they’ve been on extended leave or in serious dereliction of their duties, senior executives across the country are likely to have heard little else about the future of marketing than how putting customer relationships at the heart of their businesses will be vital in the coming years.
The digital world has forced a series of new challenges on business, and high on that list of challenges is the shift in customer behaviour bought about by the adoption of new technologies and communication through social media.
Firms keen to embrace this behaviour shift – and understand how consumers want to connect digital channels – need to think about how to gather data and then what to do with it.
Running a small business in the digital age isn’t always easy. The inherent problems associated with battling a large rival offline have the unpleasant habit of transferring neatly to the online world.
Websites of firms with big marketing budgets are chocked with content; they command great authority from search engines; their inbound links are often of a high quality; and when search engines make big algorithmic changes, they respond quickly.
For small businesses that can’t compete on organic search, digital platforms offering flexible self-service ads and promotions can be a godsend.
Through its Adwords platform, Google allows creation of specific, targeted ‘pay per click’ (PPC) campaigns that can be tweaked easily through a self-service interface and provide smaller firms the exposure they need.
In fact, one small business owner told Tripp Associates his self-service Adwords had proved so easily manageable – and such a reliable source of revenue – he’d jettisoned his digital consultant and added £2 income to every £1 spent by closely managing campaigns himself.
And where Google has successfully enabled the small business owner, other digital platforms have followed.
If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been spending the last few months talking to senior management figures across the newspaper industry – national and regional. The aim of these conversations has been to found out how they see their industry changing, how their specific business is changing, and to understand the recruitment challenges they face.
In all three areas, one word comes up time and time again – data.
“The challenge for me”, said the Head of Digital at one big newspaper publisher, “has been to convince senior management that it’s no longer just about the number of uniques [web and mobile site readers] you can get. That’s in many ways a vanity number.”
If web traffic alone isn’t enough, he went on to say – digital commercial people working at newspapers need to understand much more about their readers in order to sell appropriate ads.
Last month, I had a surprising conversation with a regular media client. He’s used Martin Tripp Associates extensively over the years, but only to help headhunt content roles. I was amazed that he was unaware we also recruit in other areas – heads of digital, marketers, general management, commercial roles, strategy directors, and so on…
So, being a statistics geek, I thought I would share the following infographics with you. They help visualise what it is we do here. Based on last year’s activity, the first chart shows a breakdown of our assignments for media clients according to the disciplines we recruited.
While ‘General Management’ was the largest single category we worked on, the big rise was for ‘Product/Insight’ roles and this reflects a trend toward better-informed product development and customer-led innovation.
We have also seen rapid growth in demand for digital-savvy commercial leaders. They are in short supply, and highly prized by their employers; like the Product/Insight people, the best are only found and recruited by a thorough search process.
Until recently, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) were seen as one of – if not, the – key mechanism through which future higher eduction schemes would be delivered.
From their first use in 2008, educators, entrepreneurs, and reformers had been queuing up to talk about the virtues of a learning model that offered the prospect of an education system where thousands of people could learn together.
Throughout 2012, and even up until last year, the idea that MOOCs would represent a fundamental part of the future of higher eduction was still common – but then something changed.
What does Tesco do?
It’s just a supermarket, right?
According to Angela Maurer, it’s Head of Innovation, Tesco is also a technology company set on developing the future of retail – and that includes experimenting with grocery shopping via a Google Glass concept app.
Even the most superficial reader of newspaper websites can’t fail to notice the abundance of new technology that is now regularly incorporated into the storytelling process – and as the demand for new ways of telling stories evolves, the range of editorial skills required is evolving almost as quickly as the technology used to publish.
But it isn’t just in editorial that new digital skills are required. As publishers, both local and national, struggle to work out how to make money from digital, the roles of advertising salespeople are changing even more rapidly.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been immersed in the newspaper sector; talking to senior decision-makers about the kind of posts they find hardest to recruit. By some margin, the most common answer has been ‘good salespeople who really understand digital’.
In the last two years we have worked closely with several key firms producing successful workflow tools for the professional services sector. In that time we’ve had many wonderful conversations with our partners, but again and again these discussions seem to orbit one central concern – in a digital age, how do our partners build products that are indispensable to their professional service clients?
The message that comes from these discussions is that at the heart of every process to product and content development should be an acute understanding of the user, the intricacies of their day-to-day work, and a fundamental grasp of their pain points.
Imagine running a business where behind the scenes there wasn’t just lots of dull clerical work, but a ton of switched-on, enthusiastic people experimenting at the cutting edge of technology to push your organisation forward.
Wouldn’t that be great? Isn’t that probably something you’d like to tell your customers about?
Previously, we have asked what makes good brand publishing and looked at best practice in financial services – a sector notorious for its heavy regulation and conservative approach to storytelling – but when looking for brands that are really good at developing innovative ways to talk about what they do well, technology companies are a great place to start.
Last month I tried to buy software online. I knew what I wanted, but when I visited the provider’s website it was full of baffling options and unnecessary guff. So I bought a rival product. My second choice. It was easier.
Then, last week, I bought a television. I researched online, found a product page with all the necessary info and a simple payment method, so I bought it. Suitable follow-up email has encouraged me to go back and buy a printer.
In both cases the determining factor wasn’t the product, it was the experience.
In recent weeks the concept of “efficacy” has become something we have been thinking about more and more. In conversations with clients and prospects, the ability for them to ensure a desired or intended result with the services and products they supply has been high on their list of concerns.
How do we – the conversations go – ensure we produce stuff our customers really want or need? How do we ensure a great reception for the things we produce or the programmes we run?
Increasingly, the answer is to establish a better understanding of the customer – and the way to do that is to talk to them more directly, more personally, and in an overall smarter way.
A publishing revolution is taking place and industries of all shapes and sizes need to be ready for the change – mobile will soon become the dominant technology over desktop computing and businesses need to align themselves for this new way of doing things.
Speaking last week at the launch of IMC’s Innovations in Magazine Media report, Juan Señor, a partner with Innovation Media Consulting, outlined how he thought the news publishing industries would be affected by the shift to a mobile, adding that this wasn’t a change that would happen in two or four years time, mobile first was happening right now.
“This is the mobile moment,” he said. “The tipping point where mobile traffic overtakes desktop.”
Facebook announced last week that it will acquire the instant messaging provider WhatsApp in a deal worth an eye-watering $19bn (£11.4bn).
The social network already has its own mobile chat platform, but its traction has not nearly been as strong as other standalone chat apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat. The astronomical price paid for WhatsApp reflects how keen Facebook is to get hold of a lithe, mobile technology.
So what exactly does Facebook get for its money?
What does a typical night-in look like in in the ‘teenies’? X Factor on the TV? Youtube during the breaks on an iPad? A constant stream of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates in-between? There’s also email and texts to check, not to mention all those WhatsApp messages flying back and forth.
Ask a digital advertiser about the biggest challenges they see ahead and they’re likely to tell you it’s this type of ‘dual screening’. Or, more accurately, it’s the inability of advertising to follow consumers as they hop from one device to the next. But all that could be about to change…Yes, welcome to the Brave New World of Sequential Messaging!
For the uninitiated, sequential messaging is the ability for marketing communications to leap between screens – for a campaign to play out in a chronological succession that builds from an initial touch point on TV, then across Twitter and so forth, dependent on a consumer’s next point of interaction with digital media.
The news that Yahoo has apparently paid $30m for Summly is surprising. It is a clever app, but has a few problems.
The algorithm that is designed to condense long news stories into three smartphone friendly paragraphs often garbles prose and leaves the story and the reader hanging.
Often, the third par tends to end quite abruptly, as if the algorithm has run out of patience). It also presents a very limited range of news stories in a package that is quite tedious to navigate.
Presumably, Yahoo’s money will help sort these glitches out and do a bit to engage media recruiters by hiring a few people.
But the business model is heavily flawed – in that there isn’t one. In its current form, this is
EE, the owner of Orange and T-Mobile, has announced tariffs for its 4G service, expected to launch later this year.
In what looks like a major land grab ahead of the launch of rival networks, EE has plumped for a relatively low tariff of £36 a month for a basic data bundle of 500 megabytes a month, rising to £56 a month for packages of 8 gigabytes.
Significantly, EE has opted to launch the service under an entirely new consumer brand
There might finally be a chink of light for beleaguered RIM. Marmalade, the maker of software development kits, announced earlier today that it will offer licenses to mobile app developers looking to bring apps to Blackberry devices.
It can’t come too soon for RIM – that’s the view I and my media headhunter colleagues hold – which has seen both its revenues and share price take a hammering as consumers and enterprise customers switch to iPhone and Android devices in their droves. A three-day outage at the tail end of last year didn’t help, and nor has a string of uninspiring
It’s not every week you wake up to the noise of a well-run business shooting itself in the foot. But Waterstone’s decision to start selling Kindles in-store certainly looks like a case of “letting the fox into the chicken coop” as Today interviewer Simon Jack said this morning.
And there is no doubt that Amazon can be cast in the role of fox. If you don’t believe me, ask
Mozilla’s recent announcement that it is working on its own Linux-based mobile OS, with the first devices expected to ship later this year, will drop yet another system on a smartphone market already heaving under the weight of iOS, Android, Blackberry OS, Windows, not to mention smaller players such as WebOS. It’s a brave move
As the number of empty shops on UK High Streets increases, retailers are resorting to more innovative ways to attract time-pushed shoppers, or those looking for more unique shopping experiences. The adoption of new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual changing rooms in-store is on the rise.
At this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, technology company Bodymetrics showcased the latest version of their body mapping technology, which creates a 3D model of a shopper’s body that mirrors their every move, allowing them to virtually ‘try on’ outfits. The camera’s sensors can detect tightly or loosely fitting garments to help find the right size. Spanish company AITech.es have developed a similar technology that also has a system capable of determining the availability of certain items in real time and can promote related clothes according to the historical choices of the user.
At the moment, I think the true value of augmented reality technologies such as Bodymetrics lies in reducing return rates on clothing that doesn’t fit. If you run out of time to join the queue for the changing room to see if that much-coveted LBD that you absolutely need for tonight actually fits, simply try it on virtually and you could skip the queue. However, pair this with the ability to then tweet images of yourself wearing the dress to your friends to get their thoughts (Nadap’s Tweet Mirror for example) and the retailers could really be onto something…
Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.
Clothing company Zappar takes augmented reality clothing to a whole new level. This year, the company created interactive t-shirts that work with a free app – customers download the app and then view the t-shirts through their device screen. The t-shirt then ‘comes alive’ as the customer touches part of the t-shirt on the screen (see video). What’s really clever about the Zappar t-shirt is that it merges shopping and games in a move to generate interest and push sales. The t-shirts went on sale in the autumn in Macy’s and JCPenney stores in the U.S.
U.S. retailer Moosejaw created an X-Ray App last year that uses