Latest Thoughts

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Feb2010 01
How does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?

Eyeblaster enables the campaign management and agency workflow processes in order for them to deliver, measure and optimise dynamic real-time brand messaging into any media channel that has embraced digital connectivity. With a future of more and more media channels from TV to Out of Home taking digital connections as we break the browser mentality, the ability for agencies to more efficiently buy, distribute and target messages to consumers across the full media spectrum is an incredibly exciting prospect.

How did you get into the digital sector?

I suppose I could really trace it back to when I developed a quotation application for consumers to select new car models and price possible accessories on BBC model B back in 1986 after watching my father painfully tot-up the cost of a new car on paper after visiting several car showrooms. Yet it really came after my first graphic design job and having enough of walking half a mile on the rain to get the reams of galleys from the typesetters and sticking bits of paper together with cow gum. I fully welcomed the DTP revolution and saw the possibility of collating creative assets in real-time and outputting a dynamic message at a Mac Show in the early nineties – and the rest as they say is history… oh, and a bit of technological evolution.

What’s most impressed you recently and why?

The industry rallying around the concept of a time-based eGRP metric for measuring audience engagement with media. It shows an intelligent technological insight as to what we could measure and offer advertisers in the future for all media channels that is based on actual consumer behaviour, as opposed to limiting ourselves in the past. How much time spent ‘engaging’ alongside how many exposures, broken down by media channel, will highlight optimum frequencies and mixes to drive consumers through a funnel. It leap frogs any speculative voodoo of the GRP of the past.

What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?

The continual push of Cost Per Click (CPC) as this is utopia of advertising measurement, followed by people who continually ask me for benchmarks on clicks or advice and insights on how to generate more clicks… The fact I cannot click a billboard, print or TV says nothing as to the historic effectiveness of advertising on those channels – and is a modern myth propagated by software engineers limited by possibilities back in the nineties as opposed to anyone who understands marketing and advertising psychology… and then we wonder why clients are slow to have confidence in ‘online’?

What’s over hyped and under hyped right now?- and why?

Each technological micro jump from Twitter to Augmented Reality is heralded as the ‘next big thing’ but is really as far out as the end of our nose. The decline of clicks forcing reduction in inventory costs whole double verification of creative exposures feels like ‘Chicken Licken, the sky’s falling down.’ Discussions against cookie deletion, even reaching the EU government wanting to outlook storage of information on consumers machines again is clear evidence of a world gone crazy and suggests we truly have reached panic mode. Stop already! The under hype is in the next wave of computing will be in micro-machines called RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) that will bring in a smart world or Internet of Things where every product is tagged and has its own webpage of history of movements. The potential of using these kind of insights as a replacement for cookies, with obvious consumer opt-in, gives an unprecedented accountability for all media, devices and product shifts.

What was the ‘ah!’ moment for you – the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business?

John Wanamaker said 135 years ago that “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” The concept of digital advertising reaching all media channels, complete with a transparency of accountability was the moment that I realised the potential savings to all businesses globally. Having been involved in developing and propagating the measurement of Dwell Time, seeing the actual consumer willingness to explore brands in their advertising and the resulting active time outpacing TV exposure and seeing the knock on brand retention I think is one of the most exciting developments of modern media – and certainly displaces the myth that display advertising is dead.

Many senior directors still just don’t get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?

I ask them if they have tried to buy camera film recently? What about a CD? Have you seen those music stores closing around the world, or heard of newspapers closing one per day right now? Have they been contacted by friends from school 20 years ago on a social network site? Then say you know your kids will ‘never’ lose contact with their friends… Would you go back if you left your mobile at home? Seen those blinking billboards in underground stations, the backs of taxis, the side of buses? Do you know that by the end of 2010 it will be impossible to buy a new BluRay player that is not connected to the Internet? That usually helps them begin to realise ‘some’ of the scale of what is happening right now…

What’s different in the formula for creating successful teams / companies / products in the digital space?

The plethora of skill sets required from data analysts to video experts to application developers – the fact that no one party can claim totality any more. The fact that media strategists try to do the work of creative’s, and both do so in isolation from technological partners. Social media borrowing more from old-school PR then traditional copywriting. The fact that over-simplified metrics like clicks can be automated and optimised and forces a concern for agencies to rethink the value ad of what they are offering clients now investigating actual as opposed to assumed consumer behaviour to maintain their management percentages. Technology companies trying to replace agencies as opposed to simplifying certain aspects to release greater human insights. There are some radical changes that are happening right now, and people need to learn to play nicely in the school yard – the days of isolated gangs are archaic mindsets in a modern agency world.

What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?

Bastardising terms to mean something they don’t. To refer to online as anything accessed by a browser on a PC – we have been using LotusNotes, Outlook and Instant Messengers on a desktop for years – and mobile apps are just a start of a shift away from browser dependence. The use of ‘engagement’ interchanged with the term ‘interaction’ and limiting to physical touch and ignoring the fact that humans absorb 75% of information through their eyes, and 10% through their ears… i.e. print and TV. Touch alone is a much smaller component of learning. Yet combined with other senses, ok, now we are talking enhanced ability for awareness and retention… hence those interactive BluRay players are about to demonstrate something browser-based activity has long dreamt of.

If you could go back in time to a key ‘digital moment’, where and when would it be – and why?

I could say when I stopped sitting in my backroom on a desktop PC, and sat in the lounge with my wireless laptop. Or when I bought my first iPod. Yet I think it’s really when I stopped paying for data per hour and went to paying for it as a monthly subscription. How many of you reading this remember CompuServe? This was the practically the largest brand out there to do with Internet – now most digital natives or young media moguls couldn’t even tell me who they were. Brands rise and fall very fast in a digital age, and these big brands today may cease to exist tomorrow. Expect to see some serious fall out in the mobile operator circles unless they take a lesson from the past. Friend Reunited was deemed exciting, before MySpace. Things move on. As old people flock to Facebook, you still expect their kids to stick around? I think digital is a series of key moments, most of which go un-noticed till someone points them out. It’s a bit like saying to someone, do you remember ‘spangles?’

Where do you spend your time most online, and why?

Right now? Facebook and Twitter. I have more people contacting me through those channels these days then I do email. In fact I now consider email they equivalent of faxing me. Leave a message on my answer phone send me a letter in the post – why are you surprised if haven’t responded to you within days, if not weeks. Email is becoming like that. It’s all just noise, corporate spam form well-meaning colleagues, clients and peers. We cannot cope with this media overload and ‘always on’ mentality of the BlackBerry generation. In times gone by, unions would have fought for the right for time off, now a BlackBerry is an extension of your working day. So I feel like I personally revolt – and yet ironically find myself in bed last thing at night, or first thing in morning checking Facebook and Twitter on my mobile phone – the laptop is probably still in my bag…

What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?

Ubiqutous Computing (UbiComp) is bring a ‘smart’ world of connected devices and products. Its known as the ‘The Internet of Things’ and uses NFC (Near Field Communication) via RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Those contactless cards – whether Oyster Cards or your new BarclayCard use RFID to wave-and-pay and are tied to specific product purchases. Home appliances will be intelligent –your microwave or washing machine will know what is in it and adjust itself accordingly – your fridge will know what is in it and so your bin will know what is in it. Once that item is discarded, suddenly the screen you are in front of – whether your TV screen or Billboard, will link your mobile device to location proximity and reveal the correctly sequenced ad. Aspects of this are already in trial in certain parts of the world, and there will be huge privacy implications to work through – but this future media targeting is inevitable and nearer then most people think.

Social media that creates value: If applicable, what’s the role for consumers in creating content and value in your sector?

I think the value of Social Media is still in very formative stages. The connection of social content to mobile devices, the fact that people control contact information and auto-update my contact list, the fact I can chat with my circle of friends via Facebook chat instead of SMS, call them over wi-fi Skype, post videos via YouTube subscriptions… Twitter giving way to a new video diary as opposed to 140 characters of text as we see WiMax (4G) rolled out – we are merely witnessing the cusp of this new contractibility. Already we are seeing interactive display ads that if I see a video trailer of new film I can forward the ad to my friends Instant messenger window or post on their Facebook wall – where we can discuss show times. Where brand advocacy of I bought this / fan of this become key ways of influencing purchasing cycles as much as Amazon started those product reviews off ten years ago which we now trust over the sales person in the shop. The fact I point my mobile device over a barcode of a product in the shop and get auto-price comparisons or reviews in real-time. The iteration of a connected world where I twitter my displeasure of service from a brand to recommend others means every sales person on the planet needs to embrace – and that right fast!

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation (brand/marketing director, agency, technology team, CEO, operations director) and why?

Who builds the house – the architect or the plumber? The evangelist heralds the impending change, yet it is the architect who devises the overall infrastructure along with the strategist who understands the objectives. Yet all these wild ideas need a reality of actualisation – the engineers are the ones who bring a vision to fruition, and refine the concepts. Who these people are in any organisation are no longer defined by job titles, but by passion and insights and each realise it truly is a team effort – and despite frustrations – each appreciates the role of the other in redefining the media landscape.

What’s will be mainstreaming by this time next year?

ePrint devices will take off this year and sound the death knell for print in the same way the iPod sounded it for CD’s, but this is merely the start. We will see networked BluRay players complemented with 3D TV technology making a debut in the home breaking the concept of a home computer. More of our landscape will see billboards being replaced by digital screens, and our homes will see digital photo frames becoming ‘connected’. But these are all mere starting points. The mainstream will see mobile challenge the laptop as the key device to connect to the web, and as manufacturers adopt NFC technology the concept of ‘smart’ interactions will begin to emerge through new applications. Social Media will continue to challenge marketers who seek to know what to do with it, but will become far more reliant on mobile technology then mere fixed access. From media buying viewpoint we will see exchange services and creative production become incredibly sophisticated that will finally deliver realistic real-time insertion of targeted messages through intelligent optimisation across media purchases. This will mark a turning point for digital that will herald in cross-media buying.

And any final words of advice to people developing their own digital careers?

Refuse to be confined with the now. Refuse to be pigeon-holed by constraints the rest of us were forced upon fifteen years ago when all we could do was click on a static image. Understand that social media is nothing new, people have talked about stuff in pubs or around the water cooler in offices for years, we are just automating something that has always been there. Understand how advertising actually works at creating desire and we now have new tools where we can do that where people are, not expecting them to go somewhere else. Watch what you do next time you buy something, and see if you use your mobile in any way. Learn from the past of how brands were built and survived the decades, yet investigate the future of a connected world. Get on a plane and visit Tokyo and Seoul and Shanghai and be blown away with true digital vision. Understand the real concerns of privacy and what it means and don’t try and steamroll technology, but plough the fields and let it grow organically. Consider the fact that we all love to turn the phone off and disappear into the mountains or a beach – well away from technology…

What’s your ‘Meaning of life?

Technology is enhanced by war, communication is enhanced by religion… “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Career so far:

Started over 20 years ago as a traditional Graphic Designer who loved type and editorial layouts who eventually became a Creative Director when it was called New Media. Who was creating CD-ROMs that could download new content when we were forced to have 14k modems. Worked with local government to open one of first cyber centres in the south of UK in a world where Internet was still for the chosen few. Aided brands understand dynamic information and content management for business automation which resulted in strategic advertising. Helped push a more interactive world through creative technology at both national agency and global enabler and they haven’t got me to shut up just yet.

Thanks – that was fun!

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One Response to “Latest Thoughts”

  • admin January 28, 2010

    Good questions

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As a global digital evangelist, I tend to spend my life living out of a suitcase and occasionally getting to indulge my passion of going under water. Yet most of the time I'm just quizzed on my latest thoughts on where I think the digital industry is at.

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