Can true consumer-first thinking happen when you work for an organisation that has a product to sell?

I am absolutely buzzing today, after enjoying such an inspirational, exciting meeting with my client, Will Yoxall.

fuzzy thinking

Will is a very talented hybrid app developer and the Managing Director of Untapped Solutions. I have worked with Will successfully in a previous life, and I’m thrilled to be working with him again. We are currently working on an idea together for an app that could really enrich the lives of those who download it, and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the journey.

I don’t think I have ever loved my work as much as I do right now. Such an amazing feeling. Working on the weekend not because I have to, but because I really, really genuinely want to and because this is so much fun.

It made me think, why is this work so different to the work I have done before? One of the biggest differences is that I don’t have to settle for ‘just OK’.  I don’t have to settle for an idea that goes someway to solving a consumer need, but not all the way, because, well, we have product to sell here people.

When you work inside the four-walls of a corporation, the person picking up the tab for the production of your ideas is normally the company you work for. If you are an agency, it is your client picking up the tab, but either way you obviously have to serve the company you are working for with every idea that you create. Not an unreasonable request at all from a business as I am sure you will agree.

However, this can lead to fuzzy thinking, that I would argue can’t be 100% consumer focused. As a marketer, how can you only focus on the consumer when you are employed to think about a brand? We strive for consumer-first thinking of course, and we talk about it at conferences, but the thinking we too often see is along the lines of ‘how can we make OUR consumers life better while they are interacting with OUR BRAND’.

So we think of the consumers interaction with us in isolation, and with only the benefits to the consumer while they are shopping with us in mind. The consumer does not think that way. I’d like to share an example of how brand-led thinking has possibly manifested itself in the world recently. Esso has released a mobile app to allow ‘their’ customers to pay for fuel at ‘their’ pumps, by scanning a QR code with ‘their’ app that you can download from the App Store.

I noticed this as a consumer while filling up at an Esso garage. While visiting a BP garage today, I noticed that they too have an app that offers a very similar service. Now, I can totally understand and appreciate that the marketing teams within each of these companies are only employed by their respective brands, and so only thinking about their own brand. About their customers. About their app. However, as I have just highlighted, I am a customer of Esso and BP, at different times, depending on where I am when I need petrol.


I love the idea of being able to pay for my petrol with a mobile app, and not having to queue in the store. I applaud that idea wholeheartedly, although, I do question how many incidental sales they will lose as a result of fewer people going inside the store, but that is a different story.

What I don’t love as a consumer is the idea of having to download a separate app for each and every brand I may want to shop with. I don’t love that at all. As a consumer, I am not likely to download one app that allows me to shop in one place. I think Nando’s is the only app I have that fit’s into that category, partly because if the question is where do you want to eat the answer invariably leads to Nando’s. I don’t think the consumer wants to think about separate ways to pay at different companies. I don’t think it is likely that a consumer is going to love BP that way I love Nando’s. At least I hope not, because that would be weird.  I may be wrong.

I think these two marketing teams were genuinely trying to think of making the consumers life easier on one level, and they went someway towards achieving that goal, but they were also likely thinking about driving loyalty to their own brand, which in my opinion, has led to delivering a sub-standard user experience.

Could they have improved on this idea by partnering with a credit card company, which can be used everywhere instead? That way an app download would deliver the opportunity to not only pay while shopping at Esso, but also at BP, and Shell, and Texaco, and Tescos, and Nando’s … mmm, Nando’s!

Since starting my own business just 4 short weeks ago I have discovered a new found freedom that is intoxicating. Liberating. Exciting. Outside of the corporate environment, we can start with a blank sheet of paper, with clear and focussed thinking, and with no company or client in mind to ‘fuzzy our thinking’. Only then, I would argue, can we be 100% focussed on the idea that will most benefit the consumer. Only once we have an app that we are totally convinced will truly benefit the consumer, do we even think about how we integrate a brand that might want to own or associate with the idea.

I would urge brand marketers to keep in touch with a network of talented, independent people like Will, so that when these people have an idea for a truly kick-ass app that will enrich a consumers life, you may be the first to hear about it. If the app idea started with the consumer first and not consumer+brand, and if your brand can benefit from the engagement that app generates, then you are on to a good thing as a marketer.



Porn, kids, trojans and trust – an industry problem

The guys at Unruly held a fantastic event in London this week, titled Trust Talks. The event saw many senior leaders from the sell-side, buy-side, and everyone in-between come together to discuss issues of trust in our industry.

It got me thinking about trust. Specifically about how gaining trust has helped me, and losing trust has hampered me in my career to date. I believe that trust is earned slowly, and lost quickly. Behaviour is a big driver of both.

One of the most frustrating challenges I have faced in my career relating to trust is what’s collectively known as ‘bad ads’. I have seen this problem both working at a publisher, and then working at ad-exchanges and SSP’s, while working for publishers, primarily supporting the monetisation of their mobile-apps.

Bad ads can mean many things to many people. Some consider a low resolution creative a ‘bad ad’ and I would agree, but for different reasons. I am talking about wholly inappropriate content. For example, trojan ads, which present and serve onto a publishers site as a brand-safe creative, which often bypasses blocking tech as a result. It is only after the ad has been served onto the app it unpacks to deliver a more sinister payload. The fact of the matter is that porn ads are being served on premium content, and worse still, being served to kids. Nothing erodes built and earned trust faster than having to tell a publisher you don’t know how such an ad was allowed to be served in the first place, and despite your tech-teams working flat out on this, they are completely unable to find the origin.


The complex ecosystem of buy-side and sell-side technology, many of whom re-sell among themselves, add to the complexity of finding the origin of just one creative. It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Also, an advertiser can set up a DSP account with as little as £50, which means that the barrier to entry is very low.

This can cause significant lost revenue for the publisher and ad-tech vendor alike. If a publisher spots one of these ads, and rightly demands that the ad-tech vendor kills it, the ad-tech vendor is rarely able to do that, and certainly not able to do that quickly. Revenue is lost by both parties in this instance because the delay is unacceptable to the publisher (because the ad could serve again) but necessary to the ad-tech vendor (reconciling billions of ad requests), and that unacceptable delay often results in the whole exchange being suspended by the publisher for hours, days, or longer.

As a father of two digitally active kids, I am concerned on both a business and personal level. Before writing this article, I spent a bit of time on Google, searching for some stats …

I found this Pubguard.com article from July 2018 that states ‘1.1 billion instances of sell-side ad-fraud are being served to the most vulnerable people in our society each year’. 1.1 billion? Wow.

So I want to know how many porn ads are being served to our kids, and how do we stop it? This New York Times article from October 2018 is titled ‘Your Kid’s Apps Are Crammed With Ads’ and one sentence sounds particularly ominous saying ‘In apps marketed for children 5 and under in the Google Play store, there were pop-up ads with disturbing imagery.’ It doesn’t say porn in those words, but I think disturbing imagery can certainly be classified under the moniker of ‘bad ads’.

When you consider how huge the mobile in-app gaming sector is, and how many of those apps are games that attract a younger audience, it doesn’t take a mathematician to conclude there is a high degree of probability our kids will have been served something awful at some point.

An article on Information-age.com described this process as ‘AdultSwine’ and said ‘Explicit pornographic adverts have been found on 60 apps – mainly aimed for children – on Google’s Play store’.

When ad-tech vendors can’t effectively control what runs through their pipes, and publishers are unwittingly subjecting their users to such disturbing content, there is a big problem to solve. Reviewing every creative does not work perfectly either, as often the ad presents as brand-safe, and only unpacks its inappropriate content after it has been served, and allowed onto the app.

In an article on Independent.co.uk, an adult advertiser blamed third-parties for allowing their porn ad to be served into a kids app, and the app developer said they had asked all their partners, but were unable to find the source. That one article sums up the problem perfectly, I think.

Before getting into this industry, I never thought I would have cause to write the words Porn, kids, trojans and trust in that order. This appears to be a big problem though, and one that needs solving?

As always, I would love to spark a debate and hear the thoughts of industry leaders who are in a position to positively shape the future of this challenge. What are your thoughts on the problem and solutions?



Here are the links to the articles I have referenced above:

Pubguard – https://pubguard.com/1-1-billion-trojan-ads/

NYT – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/style/kids-study-apps-advertising.html

IA – https://www.information-age.com/malware-displays-porn-ads-childrens-apps-123470361/

Indy – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/advertising/explicit-porn-advert-banned-after-appearing-in-talking-tom-app-used-by-children-10310701.html



Dear Esso, a nice idea for a mobile app BUT we’re not allowed mobile phones on the forecourt!


I was daydreaming while filling up at Esso yesterday, when I noticed a couple of ads for their new mobile app which allows you to pay for your petrol using your mobile phone.

The idea of being able to zap a QR code instead of queuing in the shop is appealing, and I am a big fan of using mobile technology to simplify our lives. On the face of it, this app from Esso does just that.

However, I have two really BIG questions:

#1 – How many incidental sales will they lose as the footfall into the shop decreases?

I would imagine to start off with it will take time for people to adopt the app so the impact will be slight, but if 20% of people stopped going inside the Esso store in a year’s time, that surely has to have an impact on revenue?

#2 – How do we actually use the app, when we are not allowed to use our mobile phone on the forecourt of a UK petrol garage?

In the top image I took (whoops, should I be using my mobile there?) you can see the QR code, and to the right of the QR code you can see a number of signs which include the ‘no mobile phones’ sign:

no mobile

I’m confused. Can we use our mobile phones on the forecourt, or can’t we?

Updated. Esso replies:





Barclays empower their customers to temporarily freeze their debit card via mobile app

Have often wanted the ability to freeze my card temporarily, but my choice was always ‘cancel and order a new one, which will take 7-10 days’ or ‘don’t’.

Well done to Barclays for releasing a service via their mobile app that adds real value to customers. No idea why this isn’t standard because it makes so much sense.



Separating media and creative was a “totally deranged and unnecessary decision” according to Rory Sutherland

Separating media and creative agencies was a ‘totally deranged and unnecessary decision’ says Rory Sutherland in the latest ‘Connected’ podcast by Mediacom.


Rory Sutherland said that the decision to separate creative and media disciplines was a ‘totally deranged and unnecessary decision’. He went on to say that “You can’t separate out what you say, to whom you say it, and when you say it”.

Sue Unerman says that historically the creative department within advertising agency creative departments  were perhaps over-focussed on making TV ads, so the media recommendations from those agencies tended to be for TV. That is one of the main reasons why creative and media disciplines were split to offer ‘independent advice’ to clients.

I have often been frustrated with creative and media being separate, but even more frustrated that it historically felt like the client would produce something with their creative agency, and only then would the output of that work be given to their media agency with a ‘plan that’ type of approach.

I remember when launching Telegraph TV in 2007, the biggest challenge I faced was not finding the demand. It was finding the demand from a client that had anything shorter than a 30 second ‘TV ad’ to run before our 60-90 second video content. Nothing shorter was made, because the creative agency had ‘made for TV’.

The the size, shape, length and format of available advertising media has never been more diverse, and so to my mind, surely you have to plan where the audience are spending their time, which media you will therefore be selecting, and then ask your creative agency to produce brilliant creative work designed to meet those consumers where they are hanging out. Things have undoubtedly improved, but it feels like we still have a way to go.

What are your thoughts?


Listen on iTunes herehttps://www.mediacom.com/uk/think/podcasts/connected-podcast-53-%E2%80%93-rory-sutherland-vice-chairman-ogilvy–mather-group–the-spectators-wiki-man


Life on screen; Who will launch the first truly cross-screen digital platform for brands?

While writing this article, the news broke that Global have followed up their recent acquisitions of Primesight and Outdoor Plus with the acquisition of Exterion Media. I wonder if Global have ambitions to offer the first truly cross media platform for brands?

The Global DAX network already reaches 160m people a month, across its network of targeted digital audio ads. Being able to target audio ads by location/gender/age and device ID presents some very exciting and interesting opportunities to synchronise with OOH, especially as connected listening increases across all devices, including smart car. See previous article about the rise of the smart car here.


Audio is definitely a really interesting space for sure. However, if I were a marketer, I would also love to be able to buy video views, from one central platform, that enabled me to deliver across mobile, tablet, TV, digital OOH, cinema, Taxi TV etc. Also, the dream would then be to measure that and start to understand, at an individual person level, what the ideal combinations of reach and frequency looks like across all digital screens.

The duplication on my reach and frequency is likely to be high if I buy all of those platforms separately, as unique users are measured in isolation, and people who go to the cinema of course also use a smartphone and pass digital OOH sites, but that person would be measured as three separate people by the different technologies today. When the tracking is fragmented, then so are the insights you can gather.

So what is the solution? Well, forgetting the challenges that GDPR and data privacy will likely pose for one second, what is stopping one tech platform from developing an SDK (software development kit) that works via hyper-accurate location data inside digital OOH poster sites, smart TV’s, smartphones and tablets and uses machine learning to learn a consumers preferences over time? The mobile and tablet piece exists in isolation today of course, but could a smartphone and smart OOH site communicate when a consumer passes it and while my ad is in view? Can the tech platform running this activity then track that centrally and accurately? Maybe using the mobile device ID as the way of measuring unique users because the mobile phone is the most likely of those screens to be present alongside any of the other screens, as consumers tend to take them everywhere they go. So the mobile phone would pass digital OOH, be sat in front of cinema, TV, and taxi screens etc.

Think of the creativity that could be unleashed if a brand was able to reach individual people, across all of those different screens, at different times, and in different locations, and then measure the effective of that campaign throughout the consumer journey. Oh, and at scale.

Lets look at an example. I drink a lot of coffee, and the coffee space is super-competitive, so let’s imagine what a consumer journey might look like to Starbucks …

So picture the scene. I go to see The Meg with the family at the cinema on Sunday afternoon. A new coffee flavour is being launched by Starbucks, and they use the rich, deep sound and huge cinema screen to deliver me a compelling brand message. A central platform uses location data to recognise that I am in Epsom cinema, Screen 2, and so it knows I am sat in front of that ad, and the platform logs that as a connection between me as a consumer, and Starbucks as a brand.

Later that evening, on my sofa and in front of my smart TV, another Starbucks brand ad is served to reinforce the earlier message. Another connection is logged.

Monday morning, bleary-eyed from my nightmares about sharks, I leave my house at 6.30am in Epsom and see a brand ad for that new Starbucks coffee on my smartphone. I then board the train headed for London Waterloo.

As I take my seat, I get out my tablet to review some work documents, and the cross-screen SDK recognises my location, that I have seen the brand ad both at the cinema, and on TV and Smartphone already, and so now the platform serves me a location-specific, brand-response advert for the Starbucks at Waterloo station (where it knows I am headed).

As I enter Starbucks in Waterloo, the SDK ‘shakes-hands’ with the store Wi-Fi, and confirms that I visited the store. That is recorded as success by the ad-tech platform. This is where the quality of the location data is key. The difference between walking past Starbucks versus walking in is not always easy to define, but the value to the brand are obviously chalk and cheese.

I then board the Northern Line headed for Tottenham Court Road. The location signals recognise when I alight at Tottenham Court Road, and the platform serves me a ‘one cup is never enough, is it?’ type of message with details of the Starbucks location near TCR station.

Later that morning, I am served a desktop ad asking if I would like a free Starbucks loyalty card. It will entitle me to try a half-price hot chocolate one evening if I register for free today.

As I leave the office that night, the wind is howling, it’s dark already and I pull out my smartphone to check what has been happening in the world while I was at work. ‘Your half-price Starbucks hot chocolate is just 80 yards away’ purrs the high impact ad I see on my device…

It would be a really exciting new frontier to be able to track consumers across all devices, and understand how a
mixture of connections, at different times, locations and on different screens drives footfall.

The technology to make this a reality exists today but it is run by different companies. What is stopping more collaboration, or acquisitions, to deliver on this vision?

I will tag a number of industry thought-leaders in the hope that they will expand and enrich this conversation.


Will automotive companies like BMW become the next advertising channel by combining voice and accurate location data?

30 years ago, it seems that our voices were used an awful lot more. To talk to each other, face-to-face mostly, and sometimes over our fixed-line telephones. Then the mobile telephone was invented, and people stopped talking. They started texting, messaging, liking and sharing on their telephone, but stopped actually talking.

In recent times, Apple, Google and Amazon have brought voice back, and the automotive industry seem to be in hot pursuit with voice assistants built in to newer models.

Take BMW, who recently revealed their brand new 3-series, powered by the Microsoft Cloud platform. It could be argued that a voice assistant in-car makes even more sense than it does in the home. It is hands-free, and can be used without moving your hands from the wheel or your eyes from the road. So from a safety point-of-view it is winning. In the home there are many ways to look up how you get to the airport avoiding the M25, but in the car while driving, voice search clearly wins.


Currently, the in-car voice assistant helps you with information on how to use features and settings like temperature and ambient lighting, with service alerts and by contacting you via your smartphone if the theft alarm sounds. Interestingly, BMW also announced that it uses machine learning to get to know you over time and that it can ‘suggest stopping off at your favourite restaurant along the route’.

This for me is where it gets really interesting. I remember working with a start up app developer many years ago who were before their time. They had basically produced an early version of Waze, that injected brands into the map. So you were driving along London Road, and the McDonald’s golden arches would appear on your map long before you could see them through your windscreen. In-car voice assistants have a huge opportunity to integrate with other brands, by offering sponsored suggestions and maybe even a discount via the BMW Concierge service

When Dieter May, Senior Vice President Digital Products and Services, Digital Customer Interface, at BMW introduced the voice assistant at the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference, he announced that BMW already has over 4m connected customers.

Imagine a world where companies like McDonalds and Starbucks pay BMW, or more likely pay Microsoft, to inject their locations, opening times, and maybe even BMW concierge-linked discounts into the voice assistant. Here’s how a conversation might go in my car …

“Hey BMW, I’m tired and hungry”.

“Mike, you have been driving for 90 minutes, shall I suggest some local restaurants you could stop at en-route?”

“Yes please”.

“Sure. There is a Mcdonald’s 2 minutes from here, a Nando’s just 3 minutes away and a Pret 4 minutes from here. All of these restaurants have exclusive offers for you via your BMW Concierge service – would you like me to direct you to any of these or find some alternatives?”

As my assistant learns over time, it would know that if the question contains the word hungry, then the answer to that question is always Nando’s. I’m sure the order of the suggestions would change as a result.

For an advertiser, it is the right message, at the right time, in the right place. It’s brand safe. It has accurate location data, which not all lotion-based campaigns can offer, and it is adding value to the consumer. For BMW, they have the opportunity negotiate favourable terms for their BMW customers, which will add the perceived value of the BMW Concierge service, while generating a revenue stream.

I will now share this article with some industry-leading thought leaders in the automotive, voice and location spaces to see what ideas and thoughts they have. I will update this article with any thoughts they may offer.

Please follow Mike Nicholson for news on this, and future articles via Twitter and LinkedIn.

#TechCrunch #BMW #LocationData #VoiceAdvertising #Microsoft #Nandos #Pret


Nationwide bring ‘The interface fundamentally determines the behavior’ to life with mobile app campaign.

Walking past a Nationwide  Building Society earlier this year I saw an advert for their mobile app.

It promised that ‘our app makes impulse saving as easy as impulse spending’ and I immediately thought back to a wonderful TED talk given by Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy.

It was in 2009, when Rory Sutherland gave a typically brilliant TED talk in which he talked about how ‘the interface fundamentally determines the behavior’ and how if you were to have a big red button in your living room, and every time you pressed the button it would save £50 for you, that people would save more.

A wonderful idea that mobile technology and a forward-thinking marketing team at Nationwide appear to have delivered on in 2018.

I’d love to get some insight into how this campaign came to be, how successful it has been, and how this concept could be expanded for the future. With that in mind I will tag Sara Bennison, Chief Marketing Officer at Nationwide; Rory Sutherland,  Vice Chairman of the Ogilvy Group and Jim Thornton, Executive Creative Director at VCCP when re-sharing this article in the hope they can share some of their thoughts with us.


Great work!

Please follow Mike Nicholson for news on this, and future articles via Twitterand LinkedIn.





Where are all the five second video adverts?

Reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message and in the right environment. I don’t believe that the holy grail of marketing excellence has changed despite the stellar rise of digital media, but looking at the state of mobile video advertising I can’t help but be concerned that round pegs are continually being hammered into square holes with terrible results for the user, publisher and brand alike.

mobile video

I first started working with mobile video in 2007 and my biggest challenge back then was to convince advertisers to supply creative that was shorter than 30 seconds. Often the content that we were producing was only 60 seconds in length, yet the 30-second TV ad was still the format of choice. In reality, it was the only format the media agencies had to work with, and eight years later in a conversation with a senior exec at a leading mobile ad network, it pains me to say that little has changed. Brand-advertising campaigns continue to come in the shape of 30-second, TV like, ads.

A series of creative legends such as Sir Maurice Saatchi, Trevor Beattie, and Dave Trott have spoken publicly about the less is more maxim. As reported in AdAge.com this week Brad Jakeman, President of PepsiCo’s beverage group said “My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it – 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable.”

I don’t think the pre-roll is the problem, but the 30 second length of them harks back to a time when the biggest distraction a 30 second TV advert had to compete with was probably the lowly kettle. No remote controls, no smartphones, no games consoles, no internet. To change channels and avoid advertising would involve getting up, going to the TV, and switching channels. In today’s world in which there are infinite opportunities to click to educate, entertain or simply waste our time online attention is more fleeting. We have email, Facebook messenger, IM, Skype, WhatsApp, push notifications … a plethora of apps, pings and beeps that break our concentration constantly.

“To test this theory, imagine that you have your mobile phone in your hand now. Imagine you have been moved to open your favorite news app, and then press play on the following video. Imagine this video has launched, between you and the news content you just clicked to access, and then press stop on the video at the point you personally would have pressed the skip button of it were available on a video interstitial….

Then, ask yourself, what brand message did you get in that time you viewed the advert? The likely answer if you are like the majority of mobile viewers, is that you wouldn’t have the first idea what the advert was all about. That is because you had likely quit before the brand had even been mentioned, as it took 23 seconds to even mention the brand in this 40-second video advert

As a disclaimer, I have no idea if this particular campaign was ever run on digital publishers, and I am in no way suggesting that Heinz are at fault, but I know that 30 and 40 seconds brand adverts are regularly run on mobile devices and it has to be too long to makes sense? In fact this Heinz ‘Magic Beans’ advertisement is a really wonderful example of how the power of sight, sound and motion can create emotion. No doubt, if it were played to packed cinema audiences, in the dark, with a huge screen and deep, rich sound and all while mobile phones were switched off it would have been a resounding success. However, by the time the vast majority of users have clicked the close button Heinz, or their ‘Magic beans’ had not even been mentioned. What a waste of an opportunity.

In a previous blog post I suggested that brands should ‘say one thing, say it quickly and say it often’ to fit into the consumers use of their mobile device. Consumers are constantly dipping in and out of their mobile phone, so to me it is a little and often medium. Surely then, advertising should follow that pattern?

In this example, imagine if Heinz had managed to reach a good audience on TV and in cinema, who had watched the entire 40 seconds and thus consumed the Jack and the Beanstalk inference and emotional connection. Then, once the message was lightly planted, if you’ll excuse the pun, they could use mobile video to remind and reinforce that 40 second story with a simple 5 second summary advert that read “For truly magic beans, it has to be Heinz’.

The IAB standard on what constitutes a view on display advertising is ‘50% of pixels must be in the viewable portion of an internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second’ so what makes us think that we will get 100% for 30 seconds with video?

Say one thing, say it quickly and say it often. Trevor Beattie has spent a career making famous TV advertising and using the 30 second format to tell stories. However, at an Advertising Week conference in London in 2013 he announced the death of the 30 second TV spot, as reported in the Guardian, and went on to say “5 seconds is the right length”. I agree with Beattie, five second video ads need to be the future of video advertising on mobile devices if the holy trinity of the consumer, the publisher and the brand are all to extract any value from the exchange.

I’ll finish with another quote from Brad Jakeman, President of PepsiCo’s beverage group “We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?”


Dave Trott’s new book Predatory Thinking. My thoughts so far…

Following on from my blog post titled Five second marketing; Ideas for a distracted world and Nicholas Carr; What the internet is doing to our brains I have found some wonderful writing that supports that view in both style and content.

I am currently 20% through the book (according to my Kindle) and for once I actually wanted my South West Trains service to London Waterloo to slow down this morning so I could read more! Predatory Thinking is a series of short stories written by Dave Trott which is often written in short sentences, which really helps us digital natives focus.

I love the quote “If you weld a JCB to a Ferrari you don’t get a machine that can dig roads at 200 mph. You get something that can do neither job very well” A quote used when Trott describes how advertising should have only one strong message per campaign.

The title of part three should also make marketers sit up and take notice as well. ‘90% of advertising doesn’t work’ is a great story that demonstrates just how hard advertising has to work just to be seen in the first place.

I really believe this, especially in the digital space when there are so many different stimuli trying to attract a consumers attention. As I said in Five second marketing; Ideas for a distracted world brands should say just one thing, say it quickly and say it often in order to stand a chance of cutting through the clutter and being noticed. Mobile in particular sees consumers interact hundreds of time s day for a very short period each time, so your chance of connecting relies on brevity, standout and clarity of message.



Nicholas Carr on What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

I came across this YouTube video by Nicholas Carr on What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and thought I’d give it a home on my blog.

I am trying to read The Shallows; What the internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr at the moment but as you might expect when you consider the subject matter, I am constantly distracted by something else and so I found this video much more manageable.

The point made by Nicholas Carr has far reaching consequences for marketers, as I wrote in my piece titles Five Second Marketing, Ideas for a Distracted World

OOH! New message, I’m gone …



Five second marketing; ideas for a distracted world

In 2006, Lord Maurice Saatchi gave a speech at Cannes about “the death of modern advertising”, going on to explain that in the new digital world, brands needed to own a single word that epitomised their business to achieve cut through in a cluttered world. He called this concept One Word Equity.

Back then, many in the industry scoffed at the idea, perhaps because finding one word that represented an entire brand seemed far too difficult or maybe because ‘one word equity’ sounded an awful lot like shorter TV adverts, a trend that would almost certainly reduce creative production fees and media spend on television.

The overall takeaway from Lord Saatchi is perhaps best summed up by another of his legendary quotes: “It’s easier to complicate than to simplify. Simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay there longer”.

Fast forward from Cannes 2006, and mobile devices are changing the media landscape more quickly, and more profoundly than any other media has ever done in our lifetime. Smartphone owners don’t understand what we used to call downtime because, when you own a smartphone, every single second that would have been deemed downtime before is now mobile time. At an IAB event earlier this year, James Chandler, head of mobile at media agency Mindshare, said he couldn’t remember what he used to do at a train station before he had a mobile phone. He got a laugh, but I suspect he wasn’t joking.

In March 2013, Trevor Beattie, the man responsible for famous Wonderbra and FCUK TV advertising said “I’m announcing the death of the 30-second TV ad – it is too long, it is bullshit,” speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London. He said that five seconds was the right length. Click here to see his interview.

Smartphone addiction is making it increasingly difficult for us to concentrate on any one task, or to think deeply about anything. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr offers scientific proof that people living in a digital age have only a fleeting attention, and ruthlessly edit out most of what they see.

This is hardly a surprise; our smartphone has the ability to inform, entertain or connect us in an infinite number of ways, and all at the precise moment convenient to us. The downside to this connected world, however, is that people are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything at all. We already have the ‘second-screen’ phenomenon where consumers are sat at home in front of the television, and reach for their phones as soon as the TV either makes them want to share the TV experience, or bores them into looking for fresh stimulus.


Google research shows that smartphone users look at their device on average 150 times a day. Status updates, Twitter, Google searches, checking a map, reading the news headlines … all short tasks, done often.

Mobile has an extremely high frequency of short interactions with its audience, and so it’s a little and often medium. I therefore believe that advertising on mobile should follow that trend. The following formula then seems to make sense to me:

Say one thing – just one brand message per campaign

Say it quickly – Beattie’s 5 seconds or Saatchi’s one word, you decide. Just be quick!

Say it often – Frequency of message will drive your message home.

If you have three things you need to say about your brand, run three campaigns rather than trying to make three points in one creative. One point at a time, and and don’t start another until the previous message has sunk in.

VW won a reputation of being reliable through a high frequency, single message TV campaign in the 80’s with the tagline ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’.

I often ask people what they think of VW to test this theory, and sure enough if they are old enough to have been exposed to the high frequency, single message campaign, reliable is a word that comes up time and time again. Last year What Car conducted a study, which placed Volkswagen 20th in the reliability stakes so their reputation for reliability would seem to have been built through single message, high frequency advertising.

As consumers move more and more to an online world, and in particular to smartphones and tablets you have less time, and less space to make a connection. So marketing needs to adapt to this new world.

Say one thing; Say it quickly & Say it often


Mobile industry has to move beyond the click.

According to Google the average smartphone owner looks at their smartphone one hundred and fifty times a day, and more than half of the UK population now have a one which often stays with them day and night. The same study reveals that 84% of smartphone users notice mobile advertising, and 56% have performed a search after seeing a mobile advert. Not clicked, searched.

The smartphone is creating a mass brand building channel by anybody’s standards, and it is growing by the day. If you need proof just speak to any publisher in the UK and they will tell you that an ever increasing percentage of their digital audience now choses to access content via a mobile device.  I know some huge publishers that already see more page impressions generated on mobile than desktop, and I know many others that will find themselves in that situation before long.

So with more and more eyeballs moving away from the fixed internet and onto mobile, how are brands taking advantage of the mass market branding opportunity that smartphones offer? The answer is, in the main, they’re not. A huge percentage of campaigns on mobile are chasing clicks, not building brands.

To execute a successful brand campaign I have always understood that the fundamental requirements are the right message (the creative) in front of the right people (target market) in the right environment (selected media owner) and then repeated a sufficient number of times for the message to sink in (repetition).

Unfortunately, as inconvenient as it is, it is simply not realistic to expect consumers who have read and understood the message to then click, just to give us a heads-up. Look again at the stat from Google. 56% of people that saw a mobile advert searched for that brand as a result.

A senior marketer at a huge global company told me they were “desperately trying to stop our media agencies optimising on just the click” yet with no other tangible ROI metrics available, the click remains the sole metric of success in most cases.

Another problem with chasing clicks is that clicks can be accidental, especially on gaming apps when the frequency and speed of tapping is much higher generally than on a news site for example. Many performance agencies will buy and optimise campaigns chasing these clicks, and understandably so, because it is often the sole metric on which they are being judged and paid.

Look at the screen grab from the Talking Tom app below, a game played by kids, then look at the advert. My five year old has this app and likes it when he makes the cat pass wind a lot. I have lost count of the times I have had to correct an accidental click, by closing a browser and re-opening the Talking Tom app for him.

talking tom

I am pretty sure that despite it being an outstanding quality newspaper that my son has not once clicked with a view to engaging with the brand. He’s five. Around 43% of mobile usage is gaming, and there are billions of impressions in the market like this every day. This blind faith in CTR as a metric can give rise to crazy situations where a Sunday Times campaign that delivered lots of clicks on sites such as Talking Tom could be deemed a success, yet the same campaign with another network could have been positioned in front of an AB audience, who like to ready quality journalism, but because the CTR was far lower it was measured as less of a success.

A recent article in The Guardian backed up this trend. Parents have been hit with bills for hundreds of pounds from iTunes, because they have downloaded free apps for their kids to play, and the children have then accidentally clicked on the in-app purchases that tend to litter these apps. The default setting on iOS devices means that once you have entered your password once (to download the app) you don’t need to enter it again for 15 minutes, and that window of time is enough for little fingers to tap up big bills.

I think we really need to trust what we know about marketing a lot more, and use mobile to build brands. Then, we of course need to find a way of measuring that as we do with any other mass media. The click however is not the answer.




Examples of ‘pay it forward’ in marketing

I read a lovely article yesterday by Nicola Clark at Marketing Magazine titled ‘Why Brands Should Pay it Forward’ which you can read by clicking on the link. You can follow Nicola on Twitter also @nickykc

The article reminded me of two specific examples of ‘pay it forward’ type thinking that I wanted to share, and while they are not at all digital, this is the best place I have to share them!

The first came when I first started out in media 20 years ago (gulp!) I was working in media sales for the South London Guardian. A big category of advertiser for me at that time was restaurants, and in particular Indian restaurants, which is handy because I have a near obsession for Indian food!

I remember visiting restaurant after restaurant to sell space in our monthly wine & dine feature, which consisted of a double page spread full of restaurant advertising, with an editorial piece at the top for one of the paying advertisers.

Almost every restaurant owner wanted to offer a ‘free bottle wine with a table of four’ or ‘your first beer free if you spend a certain amount’ and they wanted that prominently displayed in their advertising copy. The message was very much if you dine with us, we will chuck something in to sweeten the deal and it worked.

One restaurant refused to lead with offers, however. It was the Asif Balti House in Beddington, and it had a fantastic reputation for excellent food and service. Ali, the owner, believed that offering a free bottle of wine devalued his restaurant, and refused no matter how many times this young, eager salesman tried to convince him that it would increase his response.

What Ali would do instead, is he would accept a lower conversion rate by not offering anything free in his advert. However, when a new customer had finished dining and had paid the bill, he would present them with a free bottle of wine to enjoy at home. I witnessed exchange may times and I can testify that the surprise and good will generated was so higher that way round. Customers would walk out with a spring in their step and a big grin, ready to spread some more word of mouth advertising for Ali. The ‘free bottle of wine’ doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels more like a manipulation – a part of the price. The free bottle of wine as you leave feels like a present, and there are no strings attached as you have eaten and paid. I learnt a valuable lesson from Ali all those years ago, which has stayed with me ever since.


The second example was more recently at Pret. I was working near Bond Street underground station, and my morning patronage was split between Starbucks and Pret, depending on who had the shorter queue. I hate to queue!

One morning I walked past Starbucks into Pret, ordered my coffee, and waited as patiently as I am able for it to be prepared. When it was ready, I offered a note in payment, and the lady said ‘not today sir, this one is on the house’. I was shocked & delighted in equal measure. The monetary value of that coffee may be low, and getting it free had no real effect on my finances, but the goodwill it generated saw me lean more towards Pret than Starbucks from that day onwards and I went straight into work and told the entire office about my great start to the day and have told many people since as well.

I guess the morale of the story is that if you offer consumers something free up front, it feels more like a negotiation, but if you offer nothing free upfront, but offer something freely from time to time the levels surprise and good will generated are significantly higher.


UX v privacy

If I register for a site, and give that site my personal email address, then shouldn’t that site automatically log me in to my account if I click on a link embedded within an email they have sent me?

My smartphone and tablet are still full of wonder to me after all these years, and they have undoubtedly streamlined my life and made me more productive. However, it really irritates me if I receive an email to my personal email account and a link within designed to make me re-visit said site takes me to the login page!

I may be mildly curious as to what content lies beyond the link, but if I get to the login page, I’ll just move on.

M…I…k…e…SHIFT…#+=…UNDERSCORE … N..i…c…h… Just log me in would you!!!

I realise even as I type that this makes me sound super-impatient, which I guess is true, but I can’t be the only one abandoning a user journey at the login page can I?


The Listserve.com – World peace, or toad in the hole?

The Listserve.com says that they are an email lottery, and if you sign up to receive just one email a day from another subscriber, then you are automatically entered into the draw to be the author of that email.

Their tagline is “If you had the chance to speak to one million people, what would you say?” I was kind of inspired. I thought that the idea that people could use this platform to spread messages of hope, tolerance, love and human kindness across the entire world was a great idea, and so I signed up at www.thelistserve.com All you have to do is enter your email address, and you’re done.

Today’s message was from a guy who “wasn’t expecting to be given the chance” to email us all, and who by his own admission “can’t really cook” and yet he decided to send the world a recipe for toad-in-the-hole.

Yesterday I had pearls of wisdom such as “you should brush your teeth before you eat, or wait 30 minutes after (for PH reasons).

How funny that people see an opportunity to message the masses, and think this is the important stuff. The masses, at last count, by the way are 18,331.

I do hope that the subscribers numbers sour, and those who get the chance to write up their game, because it could be like the world’s speakers corner.





Just finished reading Velocity, a conversational-style book written by Ajaz Ahmed, co-founder of the digital agency AKQA and Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport for Nike.

There is a lot of common-sense thinking in this book, but I worry that common-sense is not currently common-practice because the media business is not set up to work to Velocity’s rules.

I don’t want to ruin the book for those who have yet to read it, but quotes from the book such as “The best advertising isn’t advertising” and “make meaningful connections” will give you an idea about what I am talking about.

The media business seems to me to be built to buy scale, and as efficiently and cheaply as possible. That is at loggerheads with Velocity for sure.

Good book though, I would recommend it.



Facebook’s mobile ad proposition

In my spare time I am making a documentary, and I need to reach a very niche audience in order to complete my work. I need to reach people who support Liverpool FC and who were at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, on April 15th 1989. There were only 24,000 Liverpool fans there that day, and so in a country with over 60m people in it, that is a needle in a haystack stuff. I don’t know of many other media solutions who could have helped me reach that audience.
I personally decided to place a Facebook ad campaign, once the power of Twitter had started to yield fewer and fewer results. I got a small display box with about 20 words that appeared on the side of users timeline.
The targeting possible was immense. I paid on a cost-per-click basis for advertising to reach a super-targeted group of people who were aged 35 or older, and have liked Liverpool FC on Facebook and who live within a 25 mile radius of Liverpool.
The reason that targeting was important? If my advertising reaches a person under 35 then they would have been a child when the disaster unfolded, and thus no use to my documentary.
The value of the person liking Liverpool FC and living in a close radius to Liverpool is hopefully obvious, but together they gave me a real chance of reaching people who may have been at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans ultimately lost their lives.
I opted to pay on a cost-per-click basis, with my advert asking users to click and like my Facebook page if they were at Hillsborough. The result? I had over 200 clicks, and the final result is that I have found four survivors who are willing to tell me their heartbreaking, yet incredible story as a direct result of an investment of less than £40. I have no way of measuring the additional value of all those in my target audience who saw my ad, but didn’t click on it, which were effectively free impressions.
My point to all of this is that whatever Facebook do with their much-anticipated mobile advertising launch, it’s going to be pretty compelling. Let’s face it, their sheer scale of audience and the data they have on that audience means that they can target broadly and narrowly with unerring accuracy.
So, you’re an independent Indian restaurant in Epsom? No problem! I can deliver you 10,000 Facebook users aged 25 or over, who have liked a food page, and who live in the towns within a 3 mile radius AND you only pay if they click to like your
Facebook page! If The Facebook hyper-local sales team isn’t being built now, then I openly put myself forward to launch it … Another ‘no brainer’ 🙂
So, if Facebook could plug a mobile ad-serving engine into that plethora of data like they have like they can online, then in my humble opinion, they don’t need to do any more in the short and medium term other than include a mobile banner at the top of every page load.
It’s not exactly innovative I realise, and it might seem ancient to the brilliant minds at Facebook, but it would pull like a runaway train and there would be no shortage of commuters on that journey. The modest mobile banner is usable across virtually all smartphone platforms and it is being traded as the de facto ad unit by most mobile specialists. It commands approximately 10-15% of the mobile screen real-estate, and without competing with other advertising messages. Add to that the rich media capabilities that companies such as Celtra offer with the super-accurate data that Facebook have, and you have a really sexy offering. Digital banners have been traded for years, and so the sell into advertisers would be pain-free.
Let’s put a business plan together on the back of a post-it note.
Facebook have over 200m users (real people’ not IP’s) worldwide. Let’s assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that 200m real people only create 5 page impressions each every month. That’s 1b page impressions and at one dollar for every thousand impressions you start to see a business that would be attractive to anybody, right? A billion dollar business, virtually overnight, and in actual fact the number of page impressions and the CPM would be considerably higher than that I’m sure.
Like everyone else this game, I await their mobile ad offering with interest.

Ashley Highfield on mobile at this year’s IAB Engage conference.

Only just found Ashley Highfield’s excellent presentation on mobile from this year’s IAB Engage conference. Well worth a watch:

Key take outs:

 More smartphone’s are sold currently than PC’s.

28% of all time spent on the internet is via a mobile device, but only 2-3% of advertising budgets are currently invested.

UK has 45m mobile phone users and 26m of those are using mobile media.

86% of people are doing something else while watching television.

William Hill’s fastest growing revenue stream is bet in-play. E.g. where somebody is watching a football match and betting on their mobile on the next goal scorer simultaneously.

10% of all searches on Bing are from mobile devices.


Video: The No.1 choice for brands wanting to tell consumers a story.

My argument would be that video is the most powerful creative format that you can employ, because it combines sight, sound and motion to most closely resemble the way people experience their everyday lives. The different emotions and personalities that can be achieved by using different music over the same pictures is marked, and it is my belief that no other creative format can offer more story-telling power. My idea is that if a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video speaks a million.

If I wrote a thousand words trying to describe what just a brief glance around my office revealed to me the chances of two different people getting an accurate picture, or even a similar picture is remote. That’s because everybody’s imagination and previous experiences are different and that would cloud the way you interpret my words. In fact everybody that read my words would have a different version of the office in their mind’s eye, and if you are a brand then you don’t really want everybody walking around with a different perception of your brand story in their head!

For over half a century television and cinema had the power of video to themselves, but now with faster internet connections, more and more people are watching video over the internet and indeed on mobile devices. As Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi put it in his fantastic book Sisomo “The future is on-screen”. Sisomo stands for Sight, Sound and Motion by the way.

Here is a hypothetical scenario to test my theory. You have a magic wand. You are the Harry Potter of the media & advertising world, and with one thrash of that marvelous stick you can instantly make the 1m people you want your brand to talk to the most do one of the following things:

Read a newspaper title of your choice. Your magic wand can’t make them look at your advert within that newspaper any more or any less than they would ordinarily, but you can be assured that they will pick up a copy of the newspaper that your advert is placed in.

Walk past a 96 sheet poster site. Again, similar rules. Your message will be on that poster site, but your magic can’t influence the consumer to pay any more or any less attention that they ordinarily would.

Read a particular magazine. Always the same rules. You have an ad in the mag, but the consumer will not be influenced any more or less, or pay any more or any less attention than normal.

Listen to a radio show. You get an ad, they notice or they don’t.

Watch a particular film at the cinema. You understand the rules by now. You’ll get your spot run before the film starts, but you’ll not be able to influence how much attention is paid.

 Watch a specific television programme. You get a spot in the centre break, but the consumer acts in a totally normal way in terms of noticing and attention span.

Watch a piece of video content on their PC. You have a 15 second video pre-roll placed before that content, which they must watch in order to view the free video content.

Open an app on their smartphone. As the app launches, you have a 15 second pre-roll that plays before the user can get to the free content.

I could go on and on. But if you imagine that the cost of creative was no barrier, and you had the requisite talent to make the very best advert possible to run in any of the above media channels, which one would you chose?

My formative years in media were spent working with newspapers, but given the magic wand described above, I would choose the creative medium of video every time. I’d seriously think about TV, and would get close to choosing the big screen, dark room experience of cinema, but for the attention span and impact, I would settle on a short video pre-roll to run before a premium app launch on a smartphone. The most persuasive creative format on the most personal media channel.

Before I get pulled up by people working in other mediums, I know of the all-important ‘media mix’ and that all media have their relative strengths and importance’s to a media schedule, but if you were to choose only one in a hypothetical world then it is my opinion that video will give you more bang for your buck, or more pull for your pound.


Apple’s new iPhone 4S feature could hinder mobile content monetisation

There are two main types of mobile page impression in my book. Firstly, there are page impressions of your full site, that just happen to have been visited from a mobile device. (Mobile phone or tablet device). Secondly, there are page impressions of a mobile optimised site, from mobile devices. You could arguably segment further still, and say that the BBC screen grab below has been optimised for viewing on an iPhone, because it has squashed the main site into a smaller screen, but for the purposes of this article it is sufficient to concentrate just on the first two categories of page impression.

If you don’t have a mobile optimised site, it is very likely that the ad-campaigns that you have set up to serve on your main site are also appearing on page impressions viewed on mobile devices. If this is the case on a tablet, this isn’t too much of an issue because full sites can look great on these devices and the size of the tablet means that the advertising still appears at a perfectly viewable size.

On a mobile phone however, the advertising is scaled down so significantly, that it can be bordering on the illegible in some cases, and that is before you consider the damage that Apple’s new Reader app will cause over time.

Reader allows the user to turn a small, hard to read, and cluttered webpage like this:

… into a wonderful, clean, easy to read format such as this:

With just one click, the crowded page with a tiny font is transformed immediately into a clean, well laid out article. The problem is that Reader is essentially Apple offering their users a virtual mobile optimisation tool and the bad news is that it doesn’t take advertising with it!

Reader really does enhance the users enjoyment of the text, which makes it even more important for your to build a mobile optimised site now, so you can still be in control of monetising it. If you don’t offer the user a great mobile experience, then  I can see a future where Apple users read billions of page impressions ad-free!

4m iPhone 4S’s have been sold already, and it has broken all previous sales record that Apple set. That number may be a small percentage of the overall pie right now, but bear in mind that iOS users tend to use more mobile data than users on other operating systems, and that the iPhone 4S will sell a truck load more than 4m as time goes by.

In summary, you either make a beautiful mobile reading experience for your users with advertising, or soon many will make that experience for themselves without advertising.


T-Mobile Parking Ticket

T-Mobile have done it again with another highly entertaining piece of branded video!

I came across this within an expandable super-banner on the front page of YouTube.com. I launched, and wanted to share it with the world, which is where this campaign fell down a bit for me, because although it was in a YouTube player and on YouTube.com (albeit within an ad-unit) I couldn’t find a way to share it directly out of the advert.

I went to the trouble of searching for it afterwards because I work in online & mobile video, but how many sharing opportunities were lost from the casual viewer? I’d say a fair few, and it’s ironic really consider T-Mobile tell us that ‘Life’s for sharing’

Great video though, really enjoyed it!


iPhone 4GS unveiled

Okaaay then, no iPhone 5 launch just yet!

Instead we have the iPhone 4s, which looks like the iPhone 4 on the outside, but the 4S has a number of new features that should be just enough to get the current iPhone 3GS customers to renew their soon to be expired 2 year contract.

Here’s the unveiling by Phillip Shiller, SVP, Apple on October 4th 2011:

Main new features are:

> Full HD 1080p video recording with image stabilisation.

> Improved stills camera, meaning you can print ‘pixel perfect 8×10 glossy photos’

> Apple A5 chip (previously only deployed in iPad 2) – up to 7 times quicker for graphics. Gaming is exploding on mobile, so this is a big tick from me.

> Siri (voice activated assistant) – if this works as well as it says, this is cool!

> Improved battery with 8 hours talk time, 10 hours watching video which is a real growth area in mobile.


The future of mobile communications is video

When the majority of the UK population had either a dial-up internet connection or a fairly crap broadband one, watching video online could be a frustrating experience. Then connection speeds increased, and video exploded all over the internet. The growth of online video advertising is still rising at breakneck speeds, and I fully expect it to carry on doing so for many years to come.

Video is the medium that most closely resembles the way in which human beings experience real life. It fuses sight, sound and motion in a way that no other medium can equal. Just add touch and smell into the equation and you have a truly life-like message. Radio is audio only, newspaper ads, and outdoor ads are visual only in the main, although digital OOH is bring motion to the party.

I believe that well-edited and scripted video is the most effective communications medium that brands have at their disposal, and gone are the days when TV & Cinema had this power all to themselves. We truly do live now in the age of the screen.

In mobile, I think the same explosion of video viewership is just around the corner. Currently, many consumers chose to watch video only over a Wi-Fi connection because the 3G network is not always up to the task of allowing faultless playback of video. But 4G is coming, soon. In London we will have super-fast connection as soon as next year by way of the Wi-Fi network that Boris Johnson has promised in time for the Olympics. A contact at O2 tells me that they have a city-wide wi-fi network that will be free to consumers, and that is coming soon as well.

We already have apps like the ITV Rugby World Cup app, and Sky’s Go app, blazing a trail in the app store. Both are heavily reliant on video, and both were in the top ten downloads recently.

When the connection infrastructure can support the delivery of video, you can bet your bottom dollar that video consumption on smartphones will sky rocket. I already see more and more people watching video on the train into and out of London every day, but imagine filling the moments of downtime that we experience every day with rich video content. Whether it be travelling to work, waiting for a train, waiting for a mate in a coffee shop or whatever, soon we will have the option of watching great quality video on our handsets. We know that ad dollars naturally follow eyeballs, and so the question that you should be asking yourself now is, are we ready for mobile video?

While working at Telegraph Media Group, I ran a Bluetooth campaign with Bliss Mobile & American Express. It offered bored commuters who were waiting for a train to watch the latest news video from the Telegraph for free, by simply turning on their Bluetooth. What we had created here was a perfect moment to talk to consumers as they were receptive to receive content, they had nowhere to be or nothing to do for a few minutes, and we were able to deliver a short video pre-roll advert for American Express into the space before the new video. We were talking to the consumer while they are had the time and the inclination to listen, so to speak. I can’t divulge the exact results of the campaign, but I can tell you that downloads exceeded expectations ten-fold and the client was delighted with the campaign.

Mobile phones are always on, and always with you, and consumers are already using them as entertainment channels to fill downtime. When video comes of age, that experience will be one of the most powerful a brand can buy. Exciting times!


iPhone 5 details to be revealed soon? Exciting!

We’ve all heard the rumours of what the iPhone 5 will offer, over and above its previous models.

I am going to have a guess at the following:

> Supercharged retina display

> Longer battery life

> Thinner, lighter, with a larger screen and edge to edge glass

> 4G ready

> NFC technology

> Some sort of feature to improve the quality of video playback

Whatever it has, I am excited to find out, and it is almost certain that it will boost the sales of smartphones once again. That can only be good for the mobile advertising market, and it’s continued growth.



ESPN Goals to become advertiser-funded

ESPN Goals, the app that allows football fans to see goal scored in the Premier League shortly after they are scored, is to be offered for download free of charge from the start of the 2011-12 season.

That then passes the onus onto the commercial team to sell enough advertising to make the app profitable, although there are obvious marketing benefits to ESPN in generating a larger audience through a free download model.

I think this offers advertisers a really engaging, premium environment in which to advertise.

Full article from Ronan Shields at NMA here:


ITV wins Media Week award for Project 84’s CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably

Delighted to see that ITV picked up the Gran Prix at last nights Media Week Awards for their work with Project 84’s CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably.

The sight of 84 male statues on top of the ITV building was as brilliant as it was harrowing. What a fantastic way to highlight male suicide.


If you haven’t seen this work, you can see it here : http://www.projecteightyfour.com/

Congratulations to Simon Dalglish and the entire ITV team, and also Kudos to adam&eveDDB for their involvement in this memorable and moving work!


#ITV #Project84 #Calm #MediaWeekAwards


Programmatic is not the problem.

I doubt Google will be spending many of their advertising dollars with News International after todays front page headline in The Times that read ‘Big brands fund terror’. The article showed several examples of big brands ads appearing over the top of videos which promote hate speech, terrorist organisations and pornographic content on Google’s YouTube site.

Google have done a decent job over the last 10 years of convincing marketers to spend on UGC (user generated content) which helped Google significantly grow their advertising business at YouTube but this article is likely to set them back. Advertisers used to be very skeptical about advertising on UGC in the early days, and this unwelcome story is bound to cause a re-think for at least some marketers.

Not only are Google accused of allowing videos from terrorists to run free on the social media site, but it suggests that the revenue from those campaigns is funding terror organisations which is likely to be uneasy reading for the marketers of the many brands mentioned. The author also points a finger in the direction of media agencies, suggesting that the main reason media agencies push digital media in the first place is because of the profits they are able to generate by ‘marking-up’ the cost brands pay.

It paints programmatic advertising in a fairly dim light, but programmatic advertising is not the issue here. Programmatic advertising is a set of tools, and like any tools they are only as good as the people using them. Done right, programmatic can offer an advertiser a great deal of control. Its about understanding the DNA of the sites and apps that you are buying, and only signing off on the ones that are ‘brand safe’. A brand like Google may be being slammed as the supply vendor in this article but they are also a mighty advertiser and they would, I am sure, insist that they know exactly which sites and apps every single impression they buy is delivered on.

If I were a marketer I would insist that my media agency only use advertising exchanges that were properly vetted and towards the top of the Pixalate Trusted Seller Index. I would insist on seeing a complete list of site and app store url’s that the exchanges partner with and make sure a human checks each and every one of those sites and apps properly before accepting sites onto my brand whitelist. If you approve sites that allow UGC then you are clearly taking a risk. You need to decide how big that risk is and is it worth it?

The content make-up of sites and apps is is key. Advertisers should build a large whitelist of sites over time that have been checked, verified and passed as ‘brand safe’ by the marketing team. I mean an actual human visiting the site before accepting it onto the whitelist.

Ask questions like What is the main genre of content for the site/app and does that content change in response to external triggers. For example, quality news sites often offer brand safe, professionally produced content and are rightly considered safe environments for brands to communicate with consumers. However, if a plane crashes and the story dominates news sites and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter then they are probably a bad environment to advertise cheap flights for example. So even news sites offer a small element of risk. Is the reward worth the risk? If not, don’t buy the news sections of these sites. There is so much quality content out there that brands can afford to be picky and slowly but surely put together a whitelist of sites and sub-sections of sites that offer a huge potential audience, in brand safe, quality environments.