There are some things I like about Apple products. When they “just work” they are great – but over the last few years, the limits of a closed ecosystem have been exposed. These days we are looking further afield for our design-conscious devices, content and computing. Even the once transformative iTunes is closing down.
But when Apple recently launched its new Mac Pro, comparisons were drawn not with high-end design of fashionable devices, but with low tech, everyday living implements.
Marketers, always keen to step into a pop-culture moment saw this as an opportunity. This ad for IKEA Bulgaria is certainly understated, but no doubt, it will grate on the nerves of the Apple designers.
There has been a long period of analysis and graft around media and communication, with particular focus on the role of news, the emergence of “fake news”, orchestrated misinformation and global political upheaval. I am hoping that we will see more of the sense of play on display here. It encourages us to see beyond the shallowness of words and the divisive nature of “positions” towards the humanity and humour that connects us all.
I have to admit that most advertising bores me. It’s like watching a brochure being made. You know the point that is being made, understand the style and brand consistency, and wait for the call to action.
Now I also know how difficult it is to take a brief, design creative work to deliver against that brief and get the client to approve it (or more likely, the client’s boss). Then there’s the rework. Repositioning. Changes. Another cycle of approvals. On all sides, it can feel never-ending.
But what if all that creativity and energy could be channelled into into audacious storytelling? What if a creative team and a brand got behind a powerful concept and just went for it? Then maybe it would look like this. Disclaimer: I can only imagine the review and compliance checks that went on behind the scenes here. But bravo.
So much advertising is bland, characterless, unimaginative. It makes me wonder how agencies are briefed and sometimes why. But it’s easy to live in a bubble and only see what you are directed to see. Some days you need to burst that bubble.
I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.
It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.
I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.
Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness
Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:
In-house teams need training
Finding the right agency to fill the gap
Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.
One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.
After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.
When DoubleClick launched their self-service advertising network it was a revelation. It provided marketers with a powerful sense of control over their advertising, its placement and spend. At the same time, it caused a level of disintermediation – with marketers taking on the media planning that was once the domain of agencies. Technology was, in effect, causing an in-sourcing within marketing departments – by providing the tools, techniques and education to succeed, DoubleClick was putting the power and knowledge in the hands of marketers who began to understand the intricate power and relationships between data, planning and budgets. DoubleClick represented a wave of digital disruption that we are still feeling today.
It was a no-brainer for Google to acquire DoubleClick in 2007 and roll its advertising network into its product line. And as they leveraged their massive advantage in search to bring additional context, targeting and data insights to bear, this advertising network became available (and useful) to smaller advertisers – to small business owners and startups – monetising the “long tail” of the internet and generating another wave of disruptive innovation in the marketing world.
And while Google has done wonders with its AdSense product, the DoubleClick heritage and its clunky user interface left it open to disruption. Into this gap stepped Facebook with its billion strong, socially connected audience, offering a slick, audience oriented interface.
With Facebook advertising, there was none of the legacy media planning/buying jargon or process dominating the interface. It was about creating very limited (or should I say “constrained”) styles of ad units and then targeting them by a range of data points – from the standard demographics (age, sex, location), to the more sophisticated targeting of interests, connections and combinations thereof. Facebook took its cues from the disruptive trend that began with DoubleClick and pushed it further, generating a massive business in the process. Recent results showed that Facebook’s revenue rose 61% to $2.91 billion in the second quarter of 2014. This more than doubles Facebook’s profit year-on-year, up from $333 million to $791 million.
Recently, Facebook streamlined their ad creation process by following good user-experience design – focusing on the desired outcome rather than the process of advertising. By asking “what kind of results to you want for your adverts?”, Facebook were able to help novice advertisers improve their advertising. It didn’t require education or training. And it certainly did not require some certification. They used their knowledge, insight gleaned from the data generated by millions of ads and design expertise to help their advertisers make better ads.
Sure there is the more advanced ad building tools, but for many, this is good enough – and a vast improvement on the previous toolset.
And now, Twitter are also upping their game. I suspect they are hoping to disrupt the markets that DoubleClick created, Google grew and Facebook co-opted. Taking a similar approach to Facebook, Twitter now offer objective based campaigns – again, turning their big data to the advantage of their advertisers, customising workflows and creating niche outcomes like “app installs” or “leads”.
It’s an advertising product that is still being rolled out across Twitter’s global client base. It will be interesting to see how it performs when it starts being trialled by local Australian clients. But one thing is for certain – it won’t be the last wave of disruption in the digital marketing sphere. Learn more about the new Twitter offerings in the video below.
When I look at infographics, I am looking not just at the facts and figures (boring) – I am looking a the underlying story. I want to understand what is taking place behind the numbers. I seek insight and connection between the sources of information, the behaviours of the industry and opportunities for the future.
So this infographic from Invesp, fired up my neurones.
Summarising the state of play for the digital advertising industry globally, it shows just how dominant Google remains in the face of challenges from social networks. A staggering 42.6% of ad spending finds its way into the search giant’s coffers, while Facebook, Yahoo! and Microsoft duke it out for less than half of that combined.
From an industry point of view, growth in digital advertising indicates a certain level of health. It shows that digital has firmly moved out of the experimental mode and is now a core part of a marketer’s arsenal. But it also raises significant questions – after all, if spending is increasing, are we also seeing a rise in investment? And by investment I mean:
Evaluating and implementing marketing platforms and technologies: Pumping more budget into digital is going to also shift the focus towards digital engagement. After all, a digital call to action can result in a click, a download, a sale and so on … and if that is the case, what investments are marketers making in terms of marketing platforms and systems of engagement? Which platforms are you evaluating for marketing automation or social media management? How are you tracking conversion, monitoring the velocity of online conversation and improving rates of conversion? CMOs should evaluate their marketing processes and look for automation opportunities.
Building the capacity and experience of your teams: The digital marketing skills gap continues to widen. For decades, marketers have been forced to do more with less – and now as the demand for digital skills accelerates, many CMOs find themselves responsible for teams who have transitioned from into “digital” from more “traditional” marketing fields. This has resulted in teams with limited or poor digital experience, basic skills and little time to build capacity. CMOs should carry out a Digital Skills Audit as a matter of priority.
Investing in customer engagement strategy: Much of our marketing strategy is built around maximising the value of channels. It’s time to stop this nonsense. We need to map customer journeys and then invest in engagement that adds value to the customer experience at key “moments of truth”. This means stepping away from the channel. Even if that channel is “digital first”.
Have your say
What have I missed? What have I mis-read? What else needs to be improved?
John Willshire and Mark Earls make you think. They chisel and shape ideas until they are sharp enough to be carved into your mind.
As part of the Wharton Future of Advertising program, they put together this presentation that provokes a conversation around advertising and what it might look like in the year ahead. Take a look through, it’s quick and it will challenge you. Then read on below …
One of the things that caught my attention was a simple statement. “Make things people want [is greater than] Make people want things”.
This seems to be self-evident, but in practice it requires an alternative way of thinking. Almost all of our marketing theory and practice centres on the stimulation of desire. We deliberately create items, objects and experiences that are limited in their availability and then we amplify not only the fact of existence, but the fact of their scarcity.
And yet, we live in an age of abundance. We all know it. Yet we still play out this game of scarcity. I find it interesting. I find it fascinating that we are complicit in this form of cultural production that we call advertising. But I also predict a seachange ahead.
We are going to have to work a whole lot harder to generate the kind of engagement and interest that advertising once commanded. Our connected consumers have outflanked, outranked and even out-performed us. Mark and John are right. We will need marketing and advertising that is bolder than we have been in decades. And decidedly more primal. We’ll need to relinquish the calculator and the paperclip and step out from behind the mirrored glass and meet our customers face to face.
Big data may hold the answers – but we’re far from understanding the most basic of questions. Mark and John have lit a signal fire but it’s not off in the distance. Look down, it’s right under our arses.