How Newsjacking brands covered the Oscars #envelopegate fiasco

How Newsjacking brands covered the Oscars #envelopegate fiasco

Every so often an event occurs which seems to capture the ‘zeitgeist’. The heady combination of a pseudo-amusing occurrence, a particularly slow news day, and some sort of celebrity or showbiz involvement always seems to create the sort of social currency which blows up into an ‘OMG have you seen this?’ sharing spree.

Influencer Marketing looks BIG in 2017 - some words of caution

Influencer Marketing looks BIG in 2017 - some words of caution

It was only a few years ago that ‘Influencer Marketing’ was the buzzword du jour at any advertising, media, marketing or technology conference or seminar that you were lucky enough to be attending. Once again, this makes perfect sense: The notion of people you like/respect/trust/admire ‘influencing’ you into making certain purchasing decisions, through brand endorsement. This is nothing new. In the 1950’s cigarette companies would tell us how many Doctors preferred their brand. In the 1960’s Bobby Moore told us to ‘look in at the local’. In the 1970’s Leonard Rossiter extolled the virtues of Cinzano. In the 1980’s... and so on and so forth – you get the picture. 

The Birth of Large-Scale Crowd-Sourcing in New Product Development?

The Birth of Large-Scale Crowd-Sourcing in New Product Development?

Recently, I’ve noticed an interesting trend developing. Whilst everyone is still looking at 2017 Marketing predictions, breaking their new year’s resolutions, and nervously wondering what awaits the world after January 20th, a few CEOs of pretty huge companies have been quietly gathering information from their audiences and implementing them into their product development. What’s been astonishing is that the use of a two-way medium (in this case Twitter) to directly take on points of view and implement them into a company’s offering or business plan has never really been seen at this scale, nor with the turnaround speeds seen recently. 

My roundup of Predictions for 2017

My roundup of Predictions for 2017

Apologies in advance if you were really hoping to read another point of view on what’s going to be paradigm-shifting, game-changing, mind-blowing and Rubicon-crossing, in our industry in 2017, but I’m afraid we think there’s already enough noise on the internet about that. We think that it roughly falls into 3 categories:

  • Abstract, vague notions which make the ‘guru’ espousing them seem like some sort of prescient, futuristic, new clothes-wearing Emperor. 
  • Predicted-massive-growth-in-areas-and-channels-which-the-agency-in-question-happens-to-specialise-in-and-wants-new-clients-in.
  • People who actually know what they’re talking about, and predict that largely things will stay relatively similar to last year, but that’s not interesting enough to make a headline out of, so they get bumped to a footnote.

My New Year's resolutions for 2017

My New Year's resolutions for 2017

Annually, at around this time, it’s difficult to move on LinkedIn for predictions for the forthcoming year. There are various themes – clickbait inspired ‘you wouldn’t believe how this agency is ripping up the rulebook’ headlines;  ‘Something/Nothing/Everything is dead’ prophecies of doom and those intellectually snobbish ‘futurists’ talking in terms so abstract and conceptual that nobody really understands what they’re saying, but are too afraid to ask. An ‘Emperor’s new prognostication’, if you will.

So this year I’m not going to add to the content sludge by adding my particular tuppenceworth, and nor am I going to read any of them until people starting checking whether any of these predictions ever actually come true. What I am going to do is publish my personal list of New Year’s resolutions, related to my role(s) and industry.

Enjoy.

What can Advertising learn from the 'Post-truth' era?

What can Advertising learn from the 'Post-truth' era?

Donald Trump and the Leave.EU campaign pulled off huge shocks. But was it all 'anti-establishment' politics, or did they run great campaigns? 

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about how we’re entering a ‘post-truth’ era, indeed, it has been named as ‘word of the year’ by the Oxford dictionaries. What we’re talking about here is lying. And it seems that in the current era, the bigger, bolder, brassier and downright ballsier the lie, the better. And in the context in which people are using this expression – politics, it’s worked, none more effectively than the EU Referendum in the UK in the run up to June 23rd, or in the US Presidential elections in November and for 18 months before that.

Why aren't Google practising what they preach?

Why aren't Google practising what they preach?

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at Google’s European HQ in Dublin where Googlers eagerly showed off some new features and alpha and beta products to enable us to enhance our paid advertising campaigns for our clients. The whole event had a fascinating underlying dichotomy between the overarching Google ethos of ‘10x’ and the introduction of several features which are effectively extensions or enhancements of existing technology.

Do You Have a Fitbit For Your Marketing?

Do You Have a Fitbit For Your Marketing?

I love playing sport, but I’ve always hated getting fit enough to do it really, really well. Even when I was a (not terrible) footballer, playing up front, my game plan of standing around catching my breath for ten minutes at a time, before sprinting onto a through ball for 10 secs was effective, albeit pretty one dimensional. My teammates weren’t particularly keen on carrying a passenger either.

2016 Paid Search Trends

2016 Paid Search Trends

If you haven’t noticed, it’s 2016 and we’re in ‘predictions’ season. So here are ours...

We think 2016 will be a huge transitional year for Search as user behaviour will change and Google’s influence will wane. We think that Search as we know it will actually start to disappear (although it has a long way to go yet). Typing a word into a box on a screen this year may no longer be your de facto way of finding out information that you required. Google, Facebook & Twitter have become increasingly intuitive as to the information that you may require, and are better at pushing this to you. The provision of relevant information in a timely manner is a recurring element in the 5 main themes that we’ve identified. 

Digital Advertising: How to Fix It

Digital Advertising: How to Fix It

Following on from my previous blog post, I've looked at the 5 ways in which brands can better enhance their campaigns, and ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes as the rest. I’ve previously looked at the strengths of the ad industry, and also the problems with ad techniques today. Here I share my solutions...

The Rise of the Adblocker

The Rise of the Adblocker

The problems with our industry...

I've identified some of the biggest problems with the online ad industry, and have explained my reasons below: 

The Interruption And Efficiency Myth

The Interruption And Efficiency Myth

When has interrupting someone and distracting them ever been a good way of getting them to do something that you want them to do?

Time

We never seem to have enough of it. Which makes it all the more frustrating when annoying things interrupt you and prevent you from achieving whatever it was that you were attempting to do in the small window of time that you’ve allocated to doing it.

Is Planning Dead?

Is Planning Dead?

Is there still a role for traditional planning tools, methodology, panel based research and demographic based personas in campaign planning?

I am 'ready to buy', so why can't I?

I am 'ready to buy', so why can't I?

I’m in the process of trying to buy a new car, and the experience has given me no choice but to assume that the economy is in such a positive state that thousands of people must be walking up to car showrooms with suitcases full of cash and throwing them at voracious sales reps.

I’ve come to that conclusion because despite being a serious buyer, with an above average budget, I’ve found it almost impossible to get car dealerships and sales reps to take me seriously and help me relieve myself of my hard-earned.

To give you some background; I have a wife and two children. The car will be used mainly by my wife for transporting our children, but also for her part-time commuting. So as you’d expect, my main motivations are safety, reliability, user-friendliness and functionality. My secondary motivations are softer, but are around efficiency, cost to run etc, and my third motivations are fuelled by my male ego and mean I’ll probably end up spending more money to get some better performance and gadgets than is necessary or prudent. I also have illogical and irrational marque prejudices in a silly desire to ‘keep up with the Jones’. I am a flawed human being.

The bottom line is: I am, or should be, a sales rep’s dream. I will make a purchase based on emotional needs – my family, my desire to own something German and expensive, my irrational behaviour. I will spend more money than I need to. I also, because of the impending expiry of our 3 year lease agreement on our current car, don’t have that much time to mess around.

I am, in marketing parlance; ‘Ready To Buy’.

So, I’m scratching my head to understand why sales reps aren’t banging down my door to try and push their vehicles onto me.

I’ve done everything that they wanted. I’ve downloaded their glossy brochures, filled out their contact forms, requested call-backs, tried to arrange test drives. I’ve not been completely unsuccessful – I’ve had 2 separate test drives, and several phone calls with dealerships, but that doesn’t hide the fact that none of the brands that I’ve dealt with – Volkswagen, BMW, Land Rover, Mazda, Nissan, Audi has a joined up, integrated, new business/CRM programme.

Why does it have to be this difficult to find what I’m looking for?

Why does it have to be this difficult to find what I’m looking for?

Here is my advice to them:

  • Have a mobile and tablet optimised website. Over 50% of your traffic is doubtless from these platforms. If you haven’t got one, I’m bouncing straight out.
  • Have a mobile app, which is integrated with your specs, dealers, and finance deals, so that I can see clearly what I’m getting, how much it is, and where I should buy it.
  • If I fill out an online form on your main website, which is then fed through to my nearest dealership, make sure that your dealers have resource and technology to respond to them.
  • If I arrange a test drive, don’t call me on the day to cancel because you don’t have the car I requested in stock any more. My weekends are precious, and if I miss out on plans with my friends and family unnecessarily because I thought I was busy test driving a car, then I will develop a very negative perception of your brand *ahem* Land Rover. Grrr*.
  • If I request a test drive of a particular engine type and model, which your dealer doesn’t happen to have in stock at the time, make sure that within a realistic timeframe (a week?) you get them one from somewhere else in the country. I’ve done my research, worked out which one I want, and if it drives well, I have the money to buy it. But I’m not going to without driving it.
  • Respond in kind. If I send you an email, it’s probably because I’m at work and can’t call you. Don’t call me back. I won’t be able to answer.
  • Don’t make it so complicated. Do you really need hundreds of individual specifications of vehicles? I’m relatively well informed about cars (I’d imagine more so than the majority of prospective purchasers), but if I can’t tell the difference between a ‘MATCH 2.0 ltr TDI BMT 2WD 6 speed manual 150’ and an ‘R-LINE 2.0 ltr TDI BMT 4MOTION’, then you’re making it too hard. People don’t like hard. 
  • Have more transparent pricing. I mean real pricing. The vast majority of people don’t like the haggle. They’re genuinely scared of it. If I ask you ‘how much?’ and you answer with ‘the OTR price is £X, but I’m sure we can do some sort of deal...’ then I immediately think that you were trying to rip me off with the OTR price, and even if I negotiate you down, I still won’t really know whether I’ve got a good deal or not. I don’t like buying things from people I don’t trust, and I certainly won’t be coming back.
Do I trust this guy?

Do I trust this guy?

It’s no surprise (based on my experience), that car dealers are down there with Estate Agents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Traffic Wardens and No-Win-No-Fee Solicitors in the ‘who would you cross the road to avoid’ stakes. But putting my experience aside, I have no idea why that’s the case. Most of us need a car, so why is it so difficult to get dealers to provide them to us, and why is it so hard to get what we want? Perhaps I’ve answered my own question – it’s probably a seller’s market, and in an era when, eg. Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT and Skoda are all owned by the same company, perhaps there’s no incentive for individual brands to try and gain competitive advantage.

However, my biggest bugbear from a marketing perspective is the wasted opportunity. Most of the brands in questions have invested significantly in the ‘showroom’. I know and like their brand, their website is very glossy and slick and makes all their cars look amazing, they have a network of dealers in place, and have lots of options to make my life easier (finance, extended warranty, all in one servicing etc), but they’re not joined up and they don’t work! The consumer journey/path to purchase/user experience is too complicated and fractured.

They can improve in a number of ways:

  • By making their Marcomms joined up. Brand & dealers must co-exist in harmony. They should be collaborating better to maintain a consistent message.
  • By making the information about their cars and dealerships bitesize, simple to understand and easy to consume. (Without exception, whenever I’ve had a specific question around boot capacity, insurance band, road tax, 0-60 times, it’s been easier to find out from a third party website – Whatcar, Carbuyer, Parkers. Why can’t I get that information easily directly from source?)
  • By improving their CRM and following up their opportunities better, to ensure that an inbound enquiry from a customer is dealt with satisfactorily (or at all!).
  • By giving the consumer control. Why can’t I enter my requirements and budget into a mobile app and have dealers ‘bid’ for my custom? It may hit their margins, but it would increase their sale conversion rate.
  • Understanding that they are more likely to create brand loyalty through their service, not their product.
This is very pretty, and the site is flashy (but doesn’t work on my mobile), but why isn’t there a shortcut for those of us who know what we want already?

This is very pretty, and the site is flashy (but doesn’t work on my mobile), but why isn’t there a shortcut for those of us who know what we want already?

I will end up buying one of their cars because I have no choice. But I’ll probably end up spending more than I want, and I won’t enjoy the experience, and I (probably) won’t stay loyal to that brand. What a waste of a ‘Ready To Buy’ customer.

If you’re a car brand/dealer reading this and want to a) sell me a car or even b) hire us to help fix your broken CRM, then please do get in touch... 

Tech in 2015 - What's going to implode?

Tech in 2015 - What's going to implode?

Following on from my previous blog post, I’m now going to put my neck on the proverbial technological trainline and predict which of the current darlings of the Silicon Valley VC community are destined to go the way of Boo.com, Myspace and Geocities. From a marketing perspective, it’s sometimes difficult to draw the line between the amazing technological capabilities of a new product or invention, and the likelihood of it being usable, accessible to a mass audience, and something which is going to make a discernible difference to people’s lives. Examples of this are augmented reality apps, and QR codes. The technology behind both of these is exceptional; however neither have truly reached critical mass because users are not prepared to use them in the only way they’re intended.

Nobody is going to walk up Oxford street holding a £500 iPhone in front of them and not get a) hit by a bus or b) mugged for their phone.

Nobody is going to walk up Oxford street holding a £500 iPhone in front of them and not get a) hit by a bus or b) mugged for their phone.

‘Failure’ or ‘flopping’ or ‘crashing’ or ‘imploding’ are not strictly and specifically defined terms. When I talk about ‘2015 flops’, I’m not necessarily talking about a company being wound up, or the founders going bankrupt. Some of the companies I’m going to talk about are still generating $millions in revenue, and are valued (pre-IPO in some cases) in the $billions. However, it could still be argued in the context of their various funding rounds; their target audience volumes; their profitability, that they have not achieved their launch objectives. I’m also going to use measures of success and failure that we, Joe Public, use, rather than Wall St and Silicon Valley investors. If a product has launched, isn’t user friendly, doesn’t achieve critical mass and then declines from the popular consciousness – then it’s failed, irrespective of what return investors may have made. 

So without further ado, here are some of the biggest technology-lead products or services which we think will wither on the vine in 2015.

Bitcoin

Opinion has long been divided on the long term potential success of Bitcoin. Having grown gradually but steadily since launch in 2009, Bitcoin reached a spike in value of almost $1,000 per unit in late 2013 before the bubble burst and it fell to c$200 in early 2015. As I’m no economist, I’m not going to offer any predictions on the volatility or lack thereof of the crypto-currency markets, and when I suggest that ‘Bitcoin will fail’ in 2015, I mean as a viable, usable currency which will reach critical mass. As an investment vehicle – it may well recover and prosper in value as awareness continues to rise and more speculators enter the market. Many analysts have hypothesised that the bubble bursting has merely served as a correction in the market, and that the long term trend is still one of significant growth. And they’d be right:

Bitcoin’s valuation has been volatile, but appears steadier now

Bitcoin’s valuation has been volatile, but appears steadier now

At today’s price of just shy of $300 a unit, compared with the same point 2 years ago (c$50)  there’s no doubt that it could be argued that this is a tremendous success story, however I prefer to look at the audiences using Bitcoin, and the wider potential for the currency.

Mass interest appears to be declining/stagnating – arguably as a result of an ‘after the bubble’ lull, however in order to any product/platform to achieve mass adoption, people actively seeking information on it is usually a good barometer.

Interest in Bitcoin has flatlined

Interest in Bitcoin has flatlined

Ease of use – Many have complained that the process required to create a bitcoin wallet is complicated, lengthy and hard to understand for anyone who isn’t significantly digitally savvy.

Security concerns – as an intangible entity, which has suffered security breaches in the past, many people are reluctant to invest $ into it. It’s the modern day equivalent of keeping cash under your mattress because you don’t trust banks.

Merchant acceptance – in order for a currency to be successful, you need to be able to spend it in places (although it doesn’t appear to have done AMEX any harm).

Square

Square has been around since 2010, and was launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, to much fanfare. Square was going to revolutionise the way in which merchants took payments, and enable millions of sole traders (eg florists, baristas, and plumbers) to process credit card payments using their mobile or tablet device.

The company is now processing $10bn of transactions and has received funding $340m, with a valuation of $5bn, which surely makes it a roaring success? However the future isn’t looking quite as rosy. Wall Street speculation now suggests that the initial valuation was inflated due to the ‘Dorsey effect’, and that despite high turnover, profitability is the biggest issue.

Anyone with an iPhone can process payments, so why aren't they?

Anyone with an iPhone can process payments, so why aren't they?

By taking a flat 2.75% fee on all transactions, Square aimed to encourage uptake by maintaining a simple and transparent model, however once third party processors ensuring fraud and risk protection have taken their slice, Square are taking cents on every transaction. When customers pay using AMEX, Square actually lose money. Austin Carr, writing for Fast Company likened Square’s business model to ‘taking a lot of effort just to convert a $1 bottle of Coke into a nickel return’.

The other main issue was that outside of Silicon Valley, uptake was slow. Have you ever been served by a merchant using Square? Me neither. In 2012, Square looked like they’d fixed this problem by partnering with Starbucks, who implemented their systems into 7,000 branches in the US, however Square have gone on to lose $25m a year from the deal.

Having registered losses of $100m in 2014, Square are now looking to ‘plan B’ – to develop products and services beyond payments. With Paypal, NCR and VeriFone not running competitive products at far greater scale, it looks like Square is the wrong shaped peg in a round hole.  

Rovio

Mobile gaming looks set to continue its phenomenal growth and is predicted to overtake console gaming as the biggest market in 2015. So surely predicting the implosion of the creators of one of the most successful mobile games of all time is just the sort of thing someone writing a blog and aiming to be controversial in order to create clickbait would do? Well partly, but when you peel back the layers there are a number of other reasons why Angry Birds may soon be extinct.  

To fail in this industry would be truly spectacular

To fail in this industry would be truly spectacular

When they created Angry Birds, Rovio hit it big and quickly rolled out a number of spin off titles, both paid and free in order to capitalise on the buzz around their ludicrously easy to play and annoyingly addictive timewaster. Where they failed, was by not broadening their portfolio and creating a variety of games to spread their offering (and risk). Curiously, their strategy in order to maximise the success of their title, was to move outside of their comfort zone, and focus on merchandising and syndication. Sensible as an incremental revenue stream, yes, but as their only expansion strategy? No.

While a number of online or mobile specific start ups have been very successful – King, Gung Ho, Nexon, the biggest players in the industry are still those whom started in the console or PC space, and have expanded onto mobile platforms – EA, Activision Blizzard, Sony etc. In order for Rovio to compete with them, they need more than one game.  

Following the recent announcement that Nintendo will enter the Smartphone mobile gaming space, with gamers looking forward to seeing their favourite Mario titles on a 5 inch screen, it makes the space ever more crowded for Rovio’s Angry Dodo. 

Foursquare

Founded in 2009, Foursquare was quick to capitalise on the explosion in Smartphone technology and introduce gamification into a Social Location based networking (SoLo) concept, which was surely destined to change the way which retailers and restaurants advertised themselves to consumers. They ticked a lot of ‘innovation’ boxes, and subsequently received $162m in funding.

Foursquare's Google Play app download ranking

Foursquare's Google Play app download ranking

Initial uptake was high, as early adopters jumped on the SoLo phenomenon, and took the opportunity to become mayor of their office, but many then wondered “is this it?” Many were expecting to be served push messages based on their location to offer them discounts in the shops that they were in or near, which was (and still is) the ultimate aim. The concept is excellent – marketing to potential consumers who are in your vicinity, rather than those who aren’t is another layer of real-time targeting that speculators said would ‘save the high street’. The reality was that Smartphone technology in 2009 didn’t allow for apps running all day, without killing battery life, and that so few potential advertisers jumped on the bandwagon, that all users were really engaging in was a cat and mouse battle with a complete stranger of who could be Mayor of the 18:23 from Waterloo to Surbiton.  

Foursquare relaunched in October 2014 in a bid to reverse their ongoing decline, and rolled out a spinoff app called ‘Swarm’, but early indications suggest that this is merely a sticking plaster over a haemorrhage.

As Google continues to roll out more advanced mobile search location based functionality, and Facebook’s check in continues to go from strength to strength, the reasons to use what was once a groundbreaking app, are becoming increasingly few.

Conclusion:

Whether these companies are acquired, broken up, go bust, etc, in 2015 remains to be seen. They’ve probably all got plenty of life in them yet (if Yahoo! are still going, there’s hope for everyone), and despite the detail in the previous analyses, the overriding indicator should be the trends in this chart. 

There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about...

There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about...

Tech in 2015 – what’s going to blow up?

Tech in 2015 – what’s going to blow up?

There’s been much debate recently over the future potential and likelihood for success of several new tech products and initiatives in 2015 and beyond.  With the growth of tech companies in the last couple of decades, and the associated spike in recent investment, we analyse some of the products and initiatives which are hot topic in 2015, and evaluate their likely success. Because of the maturity and increased sophistication of tech investment recently, one could infer that any product that has made it into the public consciousness is destined to succeed, however, for every iPhone there were plenty of Amstrad Emailers, and for every Google Driverless Car, there was the Sinclair C5. We’ll cover these potential flops in a second, follow up blog post, but for this first installment, we’re going to focus on those products and services that we think are going to blow up in 2015.

Are we seeing a Tech dotcom bubble starting? 

Are we seeing a Tech dotcom bubble starting? 

Nest/Hive Intelligent Thermostats

The ongoing rise in fuel costs was always going to see a Disruptor enter the market, wasn't it? 

The ongoing rise in fuel costs was always going to see a Disruptor enter the market, wasn't it? 

When Google bought Nest for $3.2bn a year ago, there was widespread public confusion as to why a search engine would buy a central heating thermostat for such a huge amount of cash. But Google isn’t *just* a search engine, and Nest isn’t *just* a thermostat. Nest, and its competitor product, British Gas’s ‘Hive’, are examples of intelligent technology which will see 2015 be their breakthrough year. Technology which ‘learns’ has been on the radar since the BBC brought us Tomorrow’s World, however intelligent thermostats are an example of something that we will actually use, and soon. Through partnerships with large energy companies such as NPower, & British Gas, Nest & Hive will lower your heating bills by learning how you live. When you go out, which rooms you use, when you use the most energy, etc;  and will automatically control your heating accordingly. It promises to be better for the environment and better for your wallet – two things which often seem mutually exclusive. We think that intelligent thermostats will take off this year for 4 main reasons:

  1. In the UK we are building 200,000 new homes per year
  2. Energy bills have tripled in the past 10 years
  3. Smartphone penetration allowing home automation technology has reached critical mass
  4. British Gas and NPower are offering significant discounts on the technology to encourage uptake.

Verdict: Hit.  Warm me up Scotty, there's intelligent life on the wall

Fitbit/Jawbone Fitness Tracking apps

Are you Fitbit fit? 

Are you Fitbit fit? 

2015 is the year that *everyone* will be getting fit and tracking their progress with wristbands and phone apps. Some of the main providers – Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Fuelband, Samsung Gear Fit, have been around for years – but mainly only used by ‘serious fitness freaks’. The most recent catalyst for a spike in uptake (aside from new years’ resolutions and post Christmas present giving) was the update of Apple’s iOS which included a ‘Health’ app. General awareness has been a slow burn, but more and more people are getting on board the fitness tracking train. 2015 could also be the year that the fitness tracking industry crosses over from being a fun way to monitor your fitness progress, to allow you to save money on your health and life insurance through providers such asVitality Life

Verdict: Hit.  Step to it (and make sure you count them)

Drone Technology:

My own drone for under £100? Where do I sign? 

My own drone for under £100? Where do I sign? 

In recent months drones have hit the news – not always for good reasons. We’re not going to focus on the sector for which drones were originally created – military, but we see a huge consumer opportunity for the use of drones in the next 12 months. Amazon announced in December 2013 that they were exploring a new service called ‘Prime Air’ which would use airborne drones to deliver packages under 2kg to customers houses within 30 minutes of ordering.  UPS has also investigated drone technology as it looks to continue moving ahead of the curve in the logistics space The concept is still in development and there are several legal and safety hurdles to jump first, but the message is clear: We have the technology, and we’re trying to harness it for mass consumption. Drones have more virtuous potential uses as well: A Dutch student has developed a prototype drone ‘ambulance’ which can bring a defibrillator to patients suffering heart attacks Current cardiac Arrest survival rates are only 8%, and the time saved by delivering a defibrillator has potential to massively increase this rate. Drone photography is also massively on the rise, driven by falling technology costs, and accessibility. From a photographer’s point of view the results can be amazing

Verdict: Hit. We’ll be Droning on about this for months.

Smart Watches

Apple has recently announced that their much anticipated smartwatch will launch in Spring 2015. With this foray into wearable watch tech, Apple is going head to head with Google and others to capture the largest share of a nascent sector. What’s interesting in this instance is that unusually in recent years, Apple is following, rather than leading, with their new product launch. Google have been running Android on a number of devices since last year, but with Apple’s entrance to the market, we expect 2015 Smartwatch sales to rocket. Unlike the other products that we’ve highlighted, the concept of a smart watch isn’t really groundbreaking from a technological perspective. It’s really just taking the best bits of your Smartphone and putting them onto your wrist, and we’re not suggesting that they’re about to usher in a new era, in the same way that the iPod and iPhonedid, however it’s because of those products that we’re convinced that the Apple watch is going to blow up.

It's not an iWatch. It's an Apple Watch, apparently.

It's not an iWatch. It's an Apple Watch, apparently.

We’re perhaps being a little unfair when we imply that this is ‘same stuff, new packaging’ – it will change the way in which we search, for example. Voice search, coupled with location services and pedometer/fitness tracking will enable Google and Apple to build up a picture of your life, and serve you ‘relevant’ products and services more easily. However the main reasons are twofold. Apple create beautiful products, which sell in their millions. Google take innovative concepts and try and make them free, or cheap to the mass audience. Whether you’re an Android or iOS user, the chances are that if you’re into your tech, you’ll probably be wearing one of these by the end of the year.

Verdict: Hit. Your wrist will soon be for more than just telling the time.

Curved TV

Curved TV? Give me a good old cathode-ray oscilloscope any day of the week. 

Curved TV? Give me a good old cathode-ray oscilloscope any day of the week. 

From mobile phones, to monitors, to TVs, 2015 is the breakthrough year for curved screen technology. Samsung and LG have been leading the way with the development of curved screen tech, and have been showing it off at the Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas this year. Each of the South Korean giants have a 4k UHD Curved OLED TV in market at the moment as their flagship products. Cynics suggest that these screens a gimmicks to differentiate a homogenous product, and to get us upgrading our TVs more regularly, however the alternative view is ‘why wouldn’t you’? With the price of televisions tumbling in real terms, it’s never been cheaper to own a flatter, larger TV than previously available. The expert view will point to the enhanced ‘cinema style’ viewing, which means that the film or programme on display will ‘wrap around’ the viewer, although again, it’s questionable how many of us can find the space for a 78” panoramic TV in our front rooms. The real advances in curved screens will be in mobile. A product that we upgrade more frequently and often for ‘free’ (or rather, no upfront cost), this is where the real opportunity for growth is. We feel that curved screens will blow up, even if they are just a marketing gimmick. The consumer electronics buying public love gimmicks, and with Samsung & LG dominating this space and leaving traditional stalwarts of Sony and Panasonic behind, millions will buy their new products, because they can.

Verdict: Hit. We just love their curves.  

Conclusion:

So 2015 looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting year, when some previously far off concepts become consumer reality. Soon, we’ll take a look at the new tech developments which we’re confident will bomb. Now where did I leave my Google Glass….?

Google & Facebook are creating a duopoly. What does this mean for the UK digital media landscape?

Google & Facebook are creating a duopoly. What does this mean for the UK digital media landscape?

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Recent research carried out by leading global digital market research company, EMarketer, shows that 2015 will see Google and Facebook take a combined 51% share of the UK digital advertising market. This will see their combined profit hit over £4bn next year. Google still take the majority of this share, with their search engine still enjoying total domination, with 92% market share. What’s impressive, however, is Facebook’s meteoric rise to revenue forecasts of £743m next year. This represents a 29% year on year growth, which is even more impressive considering that user growth is flat-lining due to saturation, and has risen less than 10% in the last 2 years. All in all, not bad for a company who launched their ad platform just 7 years ago.

How has this happened?

Google’s share of the paid search market still represents the vast majority of the online ad market at £2.37bn. Despite innovation from Yahoo!/Bing Google’s market share has remained un-challenged, and with greater personalisation, a huge growth in mobile search and proliferation of ‘local’ advertising is set to deliver record revenues next year.

In 2015 Facebook looks set to overtake Google as the leader in display advertising. The two giants will tie up 48% of the total display ad market. This shows how the evolution of display advertising has come full circle. From direct individual site buys in the early days of the late 90’s achieving targeting but minimal scale, to blind network buys in the 00’s achieving scale, but limited targeting, through to a direct site buy, with immense scale, and a myriad of different targeting options.

Facebook’s acquisition of Atlas gave them an offering broad enough to take Google on head to head.

Facebook’s acquisition of Atlas gave them an offering broad enough to take Google on head to head.

Both Facebook and Google offer an ‘all in one’, ‘self service’ offering, should you wish to avail yourself of all of their services. With Facebook’s acquisition of Atlas in 2013, they really started to compete on a level playing field with Google, who of course had made their own big acquisitions of YouTube & Doubleclick in 2006 and 2007 respectively. With adserving, creative management, targeting, buying, all available to clients and agencies alike, they’ve made media planning more democratic.

In a game of ‘playing catchup’, Facebook has fared exceptionally well, albeit with an entirely different concept. The ‘opt in’ nature of their platform means that they can offer a breadth of targeting options which are based on verified user data, rather than the inferred demographic information relied upon by other advertising networks.

What does it mean for advertisers?

Essentially, advertisers have never enjoyed such choice and flexibility and breadth in their online campaigns. This means that advertisers can cherry pick almost every aspect of their campaigns, from demographic targeting, to interest targeting, to creative placement, to target KPIs, to payment metrics.

Facebook and Google have both evolved into the most accountable platforms, with the best reach and targeting in the UK.  By running an integrated campaign across the Google platform, it’s possible to use paid search keywords to power contextual advertising across platforms such as Google Display Network, Gmail and YouTube, whilst combining remarketing and behavioural targeting.

Facebook Google Tools

Facebook is similar. By building a platform with verified user data, which works cross-platform, with over 30m regular UK users, spending significant amounts of time, and with an inherent social element to power sharing and online word of mouth, Facebook offers advertisers huge choice.

What are the risks?

Should we assume that this growth will continue exponentially? The two digital behemoths have such a robust offering, that it’s difficult to see how the duopoly won’t continue to dominate, however there are a few potential threats.

Industry regulation around anti-competition could come into play. Within the TV market, regulation exists to ensure that ITV doesn’t control too large a share of the industry, and recent rulings by the European Parliament to ‘break up’ Google, after an antitrust commission investigation should be worrying for shareholders.

In the UK, George Osborne’s recent creation of ‘the Google tax’, will demand that they pay an increase of corporation tax due to their profits being ‘artificially shifted’ abroad, in this case to Dublin.  This may impact on UK operations – a relatively large market for Google, despite the relatively small population.

Google’s tax avoiding structure has come under scrutiny recently.

Google’s tax avoiding structure has come under scrutiny recently.

Facebook has also recently faced research which suggests that fewer and fewer teens are using the site, eschewing it in favour of Instagram and Twitter. This has lead to suggestions that Facebook could become ‘the new Myspace’. Conversely, this may actually be an opportunity for Facebook. Whilst the overall quantity of its users may decline (although at over 1 billion worldwide it’s not quite going to become a desert just yet) its fastest growing demographic is the over 50’s, and projections suggest that as much as 65% of their user base will be over 65 by 2017. This isn’t such a bad thing for Advertisers as the 55-64 age group have the highest disposable income of any age group, and over 50’s hold 80% of the nation’s wealth.

Another very real risk, is that advertisers will lose faith in the efficacy of the medium. As Google highlighted, up to 56% of ad impressions may not be visible on the average webpage. This may make advertisers questions whether their ad-spend would be better placed on a more high impact medium such as television. With other doubts being flagged by reports of high levels of click fraud and bot traffic,  Facebook and Google must ensure that their ads are served to humans, in a highly visible format to assuage these industry doubts.

Summary

We live in a ‘golden age’ of online advertising. Never have advertisers had such choice, such accountability, such flexibility, such targeting options and such control over their campaigns. Whilst the likes of Google and Facebook make it very easy to ‘self-serve’ and use multiple products, this does limit the scope of opportunity for newer pioneering technologies to feature on media plans, and risks advertisers paying a premium for their products in an uncompetitive marketplace.  There is still arguably a knowledge gap between the suite of products and services on offer from these giants, and the level of client management – whether through resource or knowledge. Agencies fulfil a vital role in planning and buying here, and by working with Google and Facebook to test new products and develop advances which serve their clients better, the industry can ensure that Google and Facebook’s influence can be harnessed for the better.