Voice-First: A Wild New Frontier

A new challenge is on the horizon for marketers, and for once, we aren’t talking about GDPR. For years the mantras ‘mobile-first’ and ‘content-is-king’ have rung loud and clear across the industry, but now the “next big thing” is upon us: Voice-first.

Voice assistant technology makes social media look like child’s play. Instead of waiting until a consumer views a particular social platform, brands and retailers can literally be in the homes of their customers.

With Amazon’s Alexa, brands can build their own ‘skills’ which can cover anything from stain removal advice (Tide), to purchasing straight from their voice-first device (Domino’s Pizza was an early mover in their field). Others have been more simplistic, incorporating lines in their tv adverts which will trigger actions from Alexa (such as Burger King).

Google also recently announced their Shopping Actions, which offers users a universal shopping cart across mobile, desktop and – the important bit – Google Home devices. This is a level of integration unlike any we have seen before and is the next step in our journey towards the internet of things….in theory.

The New Smartwatch?

However, the waters aren’t plain sailing for retailers. According to a report from Episerver, 2 in 5 people own an in-home assistant such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, but 60% of consumers who own a device have never used it to make a purchase. Hardly encouraging figures for a brand looking to make the leap into voice-first marketing.

One can’t help but compare the hype surrounding voice assistant devices to that of the smartwatch. When they were first introduced, the industry believed we would be communicating with consumers in a more nuanced way as advertising went straight to their wrists. However, new smartwatch designs like that of Fossil and Skagen are forgoing the digital displays. This doesn’t really look like the new communication platform we were all banking on.

At the moment, it seems that voice-first is heading the same way. Early in March, many users were switching off their Amazon Echos after Alexa started laughing out of the blue, clearly showing our limitations where AI is concerned. While fears of an AI takeover are largely misguided – it turns out that Alexa was most likely mishearing other commands – it is clear that this technology certainly isn’t as capable as we would like to believe. More than this: brands and retailers just aren’t sure how it works. Since these devices don’t respond without a command, traditional advertising is out the window. We don’t know how to create and optimise content for a voice-first world. Yet.

Preparing for Battle

It’s a wild new frontier, that of voice-first marketing. We don’t expect it to realise its true potential in any less than two years, so use that time to practise and perfect your strategies for this platform, there’s a lot of room for trial and error. Be mindful of your brand and brand identity when deciding what avenue to take. You can take the Alexa skill route similar to Tide of Dominos, or you could optimise your digital campaigns for voice search.

We are already beginning to see the initial effects of voice search on PPC campaigns. The interesting thing about voice search is the way in which we conduct our queries. When searching Google, we might simply type “tube delays”, while our voice searches are much more conversational: “are there any delays on the Northern Line going through Bank?”. There is a much higher level of context given in voice searches, which will no doubt prove invaluable as brands become more confident with voice-first marketing. Taking the time to understand these long-tail searches and how best to target them will be one part of succeeding in this space.

Our Advice

It’s no secret that this technology has made our lives easier. You can top up your shopping order while you’re cooking, search for new products or even turn out your lights: virtual personal assistants have more promise than smartwatches ever did in this particular field. Give the industry until 2020 and voice assistant technology will be able to match our current expectations.

Our advice? Research and experimentation. While it seems obvious, this is crucial to be able to boldly go where no marketer has gone before: into a world of successful advanced voice-first marketing.


Google Hides Organic Search

Google has changed up the way it responds to certain Search Queries; hiding the organic search results for queries with single answers such as the current time or date. To be able to see all the results as a normal search page, you have to click “show all results”.

It seems like a sensible enough move on the face of it. These questions don’t need a plethora of search results to get the answer; the Google response is more than enough.  However, what some users, including one of our analysts Will Hamilton, have begun to notice is that some advertisers have started squeezing ads in on these search terms.

Naturally, some publishers are not impressed with this change. Many feel that Google is now forcing them to pay for ad space, rather than appearing organically. While this is very much a limited experiment, there is a lot of concern that a future, broader rollout on other searches (such as “who is the current Prime Minister” or “local football scores”) will be even more damaging – with some even claiming the move will kill content publishers. The current rollout on these limited searches does make some sense, as users are looking for a quick answer to that specific query, but it is interesting to consider how this might impact publishers in the future.

We sat down with Will to ask him what he thought about the recent changes, and how advertisers are making the most of this opportunity.

Do you think taking advantage of this advertising space is a smart move?

“For things like dating sites, it’s probably a waste of time. Yes, the ads are prominent, but they are so unrelated to the purpose of the search. If someone is just checking the time or date, it seems a bit pointless to feature these ads.”

Is it only for time and date searches?

“Some members of the team have mentioned seeing ones for converting temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit, but I haven’t managed to see that yet from a couple of different search queries. Taking it a step further and showing the temperature for your area might be more interesting – clothing brands would be able to show an ad for jumpers or coats if it’s cold.”

If the weather gets a similar treatment, you might see ads for umbrellas and sun cream running alongside the forecast, which again would hit consumers at the exact perfect time to convert. However, whether Google will continue to roll out this change is another question. As of yet, we don’t know if this is just a testing phase or the start of a wider transformation of the Google search platform. What we can say is that if there is more to come, advertisers will be given a unique opportunity to target consumers when the need to buy is arguably at its’ highest.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of International Women’s Day

We are a week on from International Women’s Day, a phenomenal celebration of women across the world. We all have those female inspirations who drive us, support us and mentor us, and I personally love this chance to recognise women as a whole.

Brands are beginning to jump on board to deliver their message to this half of the population. Some of those moves are genius, and others have proved borderline offensive. So once again, we’ll be looking through the best, the worst, and the questionable in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.


I have two absolute favourites in this section because they do two very different things. The first is Marie Claire’s #NotMyJob campaign, which is all about workplace equality.

For those of you who read my last blog (GBU: Valentine’s Day), you’ll know that social campaigns can absolutely bomb, but this time Marie Claire is on to a winner. The social media aspect of this campaign gets women to share their experiences of being harassed or excluded in the workplace, while also pushing for genuine, intersectional equality and guarantees of rights through legislation. Combined with some solid partnerships, and a short film which goes beyond inspiring, this is a fierce exercise in demonstrating what Marie Claire stands for; and demonstrating real honest integrity as a brand.

The second campaign I want to talk about comes from HP. To give you some context: I am an emotional person. I cry about things very very easily. I sobbed at my desk during HP’s Follow Your Dreams ad. I feel like HP reached into my soul with this ad. It’s more of a short film, and it follows a little girl in India called Paro as she starts to follow her dreams as a storyteller. With the support of her teacher and her family, Paro’s dreams become a reality when….well, I won’t spoil it.

What I love about this style of advertising is its way of allowing a brand to align itself with a cause, without forcing its product down your throat, and in a way that doesn’t feel fake or forced to me. All of the tech that is used in the ad comes from HP sure, but what makes me want to buy the products is the fact that HP now comes across as supporting a cause that’s very close to my heart.

What unites both of these campaigns, and puts the cherry on top of two spectacular cakes, is their desire for equality and support of all women.


When we covered Valentine’s Day ads, the bad just meant that they weren’t very good full stop. The thing about trying to cater to women and missing the mark is that these moves can often come across as tone-deaf and even offensive. And guess what? We didn’t ask for this.

My choice for the bad is probably very cynical. I am not a big fan of changing logos or brands to be women-friendly. Turning McDonalds’ golden arches upside down so they’re a W, Johnnie Walker becoming Jane Walker, the list goes on and on.

For me, I find these moves to be disingenuous. They last a week and then everything goes back to normal. If some of the profits are going to a women’s charity, I can get behind it. If there is some kind of statement being put behind it, do what you like. But these kinds of publicity stunts are exhausting. They aren’t new. They aren’t clever. They don’t do anything. More often than not, they’re just trying to capitalise on another “holiday”.


Last time I did a blog in this series, “the ugly” just meant that it was something that wasn’t genius, but made me want to talk about it. This time, I’m going with a different tact: a really solid attempt but missed the mark, pretty catastrophically.

Brewdog’s Pink IPA gives me a lot of feelings. On the one hand, it’s intended as a satirical move: parodying all of those sexist marketing ploys such as Bic’s ‘Just for Her’ pens (because my tiny dainty hands can’t handle pens made for big strong manly men, right?). They also promised to donate 20% of the profits of the pink beer to a charity focusing on getting women studying STEM subjects, and made Pink IPA 20% cheaper for those who identify as female (another big win). On the surface: big fan. HUGE fan. Did it work out like they planned? Survey says: absolutely not. Instead of being a parody, Brewdog just looked like they were perpetuating the stereotype and it breaks my heart.  

I wanted this stunt to work. I wanted the population to buy into it and be able to support women studying STEM subjects by drinking beer. But Beer for Girls? The message wasn’t made clear enough. As the old adage goes: either you die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to associate your brand with a cause. Purpose marketing campaigns, as seen in brands like Toms, or with the recent Lacoste limited edition shirts based on endangered species, are amazing. As we’ve seen, some of the campaigns for International Women’s Day have been amazing, but do you need to run a campaign? No. It’s much more effective if you, for example, pay your female employees an equal wage, or give all employees an equal chance at progressing to leadership positions. You don’t even need to shout about it.

Keep your own house in order. It speaks louder than any campaign.


LIVE UPDATE: DoubleClick Tracking Failure

UPDATE: 8:52 AM, 14 March

After less than 24 hours, we have had confirmation from DoubleClick that the error has been resolved.

Though we managed to keep most activity running, any campaigns that were paused have been set live. Furthermore, all campaign tracking has been reinstated.

If you have any questions about the state of your campaigns, please do not hesitate to contact us or your account manager.

DoubleClick is currently experiencing a technical failure, which DoubleClick engineers are in the process of repairing.

From what we have seen the issue appears to be with DoubleClick’s ability to redirect ads, meaning some users are not able to get through to a landing page.  At the moment it is believed that it is a widespread issue, and likely Global.

What to Do

No timeline has been given for a resolution, and as a result, we advise all advertisers using DoubleClick Search to take the following measures in the interim period.

  1. Change automatic sync to manual.
  2. Within AdWords, remove the account tracking template.

For those running display activity via DBM consider pausing your activity, as targeting is based on audiences as opposed to search, where you may not get an opportunity to reach that user again.

However, the exception would be if you are running a promotion, in which case we would recommend keeping it active for retargeting activity.

Removing the tracking template will mean that we are not tracking conversions through DoubleClick but will mean that users are getting to your site without problems.

We have taken these actions with our own clients to protect their paid search campaigns, and have paused paid media activity through Google Shopping, Display run via DBM, and Facebook activity which is tracked via DoubleClick.

Note: If you are using an external tracking solution such as, Marin and Kenshoo, this problem should not be affecting your campaigns.

The problem seems to come in and out, so we recommend keeping a close eye on all of your campaigns.

We are in close contact with multiple teams at DoubleClick as they seek a swift resolution to these difficulties, and we will update this post as soon as we have more information.

NMPi Nominated for 3 Drum Search Awards!

In the latest award news, NMPi has been nominated for 3 awards in The Drum Search Awards! The Drum Search Awards brings together those at the forefront of digital search and celebrates industry excellence

Once again, our work with Harvey Nichols has been shortlisted for Most Innovative Search Campaign. As mentioned before, this was an impressive effort from our performance team which saw us succeed where no other agency could in terms of driving international activity.

We’re also nominated in the Best Travel/Leisure/Sports campaign, which acknowledges our work with East Midlands Trains. Our new search solution was able to re-engage users, and effectively capture audience data from competitor bidding.

To top it off, Fred Maude is once again up for Rising Star! We’re so incredibly proud of him, and we’re so pleased with the recognition he’s received so far.

The ceremony is on 25th of April, and all our fingers are crossed for our nominees. Good luck everyone!

The Big Debate

NMPi’s inaugural Big Debate kicked off at Google King’s Cross, with marketers and thought leaders from across the industry coming together to discuss some of the biggest challenges we are facing today.The inspiration behind The Big Debate was to provide different perspectives in our industry and challenge many of our enshrined perceptions about the way we work.

The first half of the afternoon was focused on how data is changing the world, with presentations on topics such as uses of data, the death of digital marketing, and preparing for the unknown.

NMPi’s Head of Analytics talked about how marketers can swim when they’re drowning in data. Sarah Ward of Pitney Bowes spoke about the difference between known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. Nicola Hollow from Practicology gave advice on how the digital marketer can survive the death of digital, while Freeview’s Owen Jenkinson turned his attention to utilising small data. The four then sat for a panel debate, answering burning questions from our audience.

With all of this information, it was time for a break, during which attendees were able to play around with some of the latest tech. Our charity partners for this event, MSF, were able to provide us with VR headsets, giving attendees a “doctor’s eye view” of life in a crisis area. We also had AR posters, which would play some of MSF’s videos when scanned with the Zappar app. There were also chances to donate to our fundraising efforts, and buy tickets for our charity prize draw.

After the break came the event’s namesake: The Big Debate. Featuring two heavyweights of the digital world, Damien Bennett and Lewis Lenssen, the slightly controversial topic of attribution was pulled apart in a fiery debate, before Google’s Rich Morris, UK Head of GA360 Sales, weighed in. The seminar was wrapped up by our phenomenal keynote: Javid Abdelmoneim, UK President of MSF. His speech on the way MSF uses technology and comms was a highlight for many, proving an inspiring lift after a day of discussing data and attribution.

All in all, The Big Debate was an overwhelming success. The high turnout saw a spectacular fundraising effort of nearly £1000, which will of course by matched by NMPi.

NMPi’s Big Debate: How MSF Uses Tech and Comms

Javid Abdelmoneim is the UK President of Doctors Without Borders and featured as our keynote speaker.

He is an A&E doctor, who still works for the NHS when in the UK, but he also volunteers in crisis areas across the globe.

Communication is a huge part of what MSF do, with a founding principle of temoignage: that they will bear witness. In situations where the populations they are helping cannot speak up or do not have the agency to do so, MSF and its doctors will do so on their behalf. This in part comes from more traditional avenues such as press releases, but in recent years they have also moved into less formal awareness campaigns on social media.

Back in the summer of 2016, while on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean, Javid recorded the charity’s first Instagram story as well as a series of Snapchat videos. Last year, he hosted a Facebook Live campaign from Moscow with the World Health Organisation. Tweets are sent out in all languages, and there are different accounts for different areas of work. One thing is for certain: MSF knows how to get the word out there.

In general, though, smartphones have changed the way MSF work. In times before smartphones, it could often be very difficult to warn hospitals that trauma patients were coming in from the field because of a lack of phone signal. Nowadays, that problem is solved by using WhatsApp and the WiFi network. It is a huge development in the way that doctors in the field are able to communicate with the hospitals. Looking to the future, portable WiFi is on the wishlist for Javid.

Smartphones have also revolutionised the way they work medically. MSF has developed a tool which is added to a phone’s camera that allows them to take microscopic photography, aiding in the diagnostic process. Similar tools allow doctors to get a look at the back of the eye to check for cataracts or whether malaria is attacking the brain.

If you’d like to join us in supporting MSF, please go to our Just Giving page.

NMPi’s Big Debate: Is Attribution Really Worth It?

Damien Bennett, Director of Business Strategy at NMPi and Lewis Lenssen, Digital Advisor and Consultant

The question of attribution is one which plagues marketers, and so for our headline act; the debate this event was named for, we put two marketing heavyweights up against each other to decide: is attribution really worth it?


The challenger, Lewis Lenssen, was first up. Arguing that while attribution is the most logical tool in the marketer’s kit, it is also the most flawed. There are so many different ways to cut up the data about which touchpoints have proved valuable, that none will actually have any impact on your business.

Lewis gives the example of his time selling attribution for DC Storm. Most of the time, the motivation of the buyer was not to find hidden gems in their data or to transform their digital marketing. What they really wanted to do was prove what they were doing now was right, or that someone else in the business was wrong. So long as the initial numbers fitted the narrative, the buyer was happy. If they didn’t, then it was time to tune the attribution model so they did. This is where the problem lies: you can cheat in order to make the model work for you.

Lewis also asks what the theory behind attribution is; The classic reasoning is that 50% of advertising spend is wasted, but advertisers don’t know which 50%. That, Lewis argues, has nothing to do with attribution. The theory behind attribution is that every sale is driven in some way by marketing, and attribution tells us which of our channels should be given credit. However in a daring move, Lewis gives us the example of his wife, and how she frequently buys clothes from Net-a-Porter. How likely is it that she is purchasing based on the PPC ad she clicked on, or the social media post she saw? Is that what is actually driving her sales? Or is it more likely that Mrs. Lenssen is just very brand loyal? Is it that Net-A-Porter have a fantastic delivery policy, a flexible returns policy, and perfect curation on the website itself, based on a history of past purchases and searches? It seems bizarre to claim that these real, tangible drivers to purchase mean nothing, and that marketing is the only thing to push a sale.

So what should be the real way to go? Well, you still need to collect the data in one place, with technology that allows you to analyse and make sense of it. The big difference is that you have to apply your customer segmentation to every sale. You have to know whether the sale was to a regular customer, a “Gold” customer who spends thousands every week, a new customer, a sales shopper, or a present buyer. You need to make sense of all your data within this context, and make hypotheses about what is actually making people in those different groups buy.

It’s the most logical tool, claims Lewis, but sadly it is incredibly flawed. And with that, we pass over to Damien.


In a ballsy move from the defender, Damien kicks off with audience participation. Does better measurement lead to better marketing decision-making? Roughly 99% of our audience believes so. But when asked if they used an attribution model, and also if that model was used by their CEO, the number dwindled to zero. It is interesting to see that if the debate was reframed to ask “does better measurement lead to better decision-making/media planning?” the answer would be unanimous. Most advertisers in the UK however (70%), use a last-click- wins model as their main method of reporting. But everybody knows that’s flawed!  

We know that the customer journey involves a number of touchpoints of different types of media, and we know that customers interact with this media in a number of ways which aren’t clicks. We also know that the last interaction that someone has with your advertising often isn’t the most valuable. So why do so few people use attribution? Damien believes that many find attribution too complex and costly to be worth it

However, if better measurement leads to better decision-making, the attribution is exactly the right solution. For starters, it solves many of the problems of last-click-wins measurement. It allows you to look at media that involved multiple touchpoints. It fractionally allocates so you aren’t just looking at the last click, and you can even look at more than just clicks. Most importantly: it’s not that complex any more. If you have the standard version of Google Analytics, it comes with a model comparison tool that allows you to see attributed data. This also makes it less costly.

Damien’s message today is that we should stop this debate in our industry, and just accept that there are better and more cost effective ways of measuring performance, and that the best way we have available is attribution.  

To hear the questions posed to our debaters and Google’s Head of GA360 Sales, check out this Q&A session now.

NMPi’s Big Debate: The Death of Digital Marketing

Nicola Hollow, Director of Ecommerce Services at Practicology

20 years of digital. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but when Nicola started her career as a New Media Assistant, digital advertising merely meant buying the banner at the top of the Yahoo homepage and hanging on to it for a week.

Looking at the world now? Everything has changed. Digital is clearly more mainstream, with focus even at board level, but the silos of digital past are still very present. But why? Customers don’t care if they’re buying from a store or a web department: they want to buy from the brand. Businesses need to be structured in a better way so as to better service the customer.

Standalone ecommerce still exists. And that’s good because you need to be able to build the capabilities and the expertise to drive your digital offering. While many businesses have moved to a more multichannel or omnichannel approach, there is still a lot of maturing to be done.

Somewhere in the future of ecommerce and digital marketing, everyone in the business will have the digital skills that, currently, only reside in ecommerce and digital marketing departments. The scary part? Digital marketers might not have a job in a few years time. Regardless of your role within the business, everyone will be responsible for selling across multiple channels.

So what does this mean?

The first and most crucial advice that Nicola gives is to be ready to stretch. Many digital marketers have become more and more siloed. To progress in this industry, this very much has to change. Digital marketers need to seek out how other channels work, and how marketing integrates to the overall objectives of the business.

Marketers need to be talking to the tech team, and to the data analysts. The SEO team need to be talking to PR. The whole team needs to be talking to each other and collaborating. It allows you to be much more agile to customer demands.

We often forget, in our day jobs, that there is a customer out there. So walk through your website or your stores; put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Only then will you realise whether what your doing is helping them achieve what they need or not.

Digital Marketing needs to die, so it can evolve into something so much better.

If you’d like to hear what Nicola thinks are the most missing skill sets in our industry, check out our panel discussion.

NMPi’s Big Debate: Small Data

Owen Jenkinson, Markting Director at Freeview

Small data, Owen is quick to clarify, does not mean no data or little pots of data. Freeview, where Owen is the Marketing Director, is an unusual company in that it is used in 20 million households in the UK, but they don’t know who their customers are. Once the device is purchased, there is no customer relationship at all.

Unlike many of their competitors, Freeview doesn’t have any customer data, which is not a great situation for their marketing team. When you consider the newer players in the game – streaming services like Netflix, who even use their customer data to decide which shows to develop – it seems like Freeview should be at a huge disadvantage.

What Freeview does do, is use lots of little pots of data. There’s the1st-party ‘customer’ data and Marketing Performance data. There’s the 3rd-party behavioural data which demonstrates how the marketing is performing, and finally 3rd-party macro data to predict future trends. So, whilst they have lots of data they don’t have individual customer data.

What do they do with it?

Freeview takes all of this data and mashes it up to derive insights such as Drivers and Barriers analysis, and Hall and Partners brand tracking data. This combination gives insights which can be used to guide future advertising campaigns. Once an ad is made, it’s then looped through Attribution 360 which can analyse what messages are effective, what times, and what channels. This, in turn, is used to guide the planning of that ad: when it should be shown and on what channels.

Another mashup is that of television sales data with viewing data, which can be used to see what the conversion is between people who have bought a Freeview Play device and are subsequently using it instead of plugging a Sky Box or the like into it – the main goal for main of the shareholders. In essence, they use proxy data from shareholders to work out what customers are doing with their products – which is all looped back into planning for future products.

We should remember, however, that this big data isn’t infallible. It doesn’t always pick up on things like emotional antecedents, attitudes, how people are actually making decisions, and it tends to look backwards.

To hear more about Freeview’s data goals for the future, watch our panel discussion now.