NMPi Shortlisted in Marketing Week Masters Awards

Following the news of our award win at Effective Digital Marketing Awards last week, we’re very excited to be shortlisted in the Marketing Week Masters Awards! NMPi are up for Best Travel/Leisure/Transport for our East Midlands Trains campaign: “Winning Back The East Midlands From Trainline.com”.

Our work with East Midlands Trains has already picked up 3 awards so far this year. At the Drum Search Awards, we won Best Travel/Leisure/ Sports campaign, and we took home the gold for both Best Paid Search Campaign and Best Travel and Leisure Campaign at the Performance Marketing Awards.

Marketing Week Masters Awards are incredibly competitive and showcase the best of the best across different industry sectors and channels. It is an honour to have been shortlisted, and we look forward to the results on the 6th October.

4 Ways to Utilise and Personalise Data

Marketers have spent the best part of two decades collecting as much data from consumers as they physically can; more data than they can use. In theory, all this information can be translated into data-driven decisions. This is the real benefit of these swathes of data, but many haven’t taken advantage of this.

Perhaps this over-hype comes from the sheer magnitude of observational data the “big three” hold. Google receives more than 4 million search queries per minute from the 2.4 billion Internet users around the world and processes 20 petabytes of information per day. Facebook’s 1.3 billion users share 2.5 million pieces of content each minute. Amazon has created a marketplace with 278 million active customers from which it records data on online browsing and purchasing behaviour.

Regardless of why we collated all this data, it is our responsibility as marketers to make the most of all of this data to drive both more success in marketing campaigns, and more value for consumers.

4 Ways to Utilise Data

Online Reviews

In online retail today, the inclusion of consumer reviews has become a common practice, allowing brands to be more competitive in the market.

Interestingly, a recent study by Chong et al (2015) investigated the impact of online reviews and promotional marketing, such as free delivery, on product demand. With web crawling datasets from Amazon.com, they used technologies like neural network modelling – which can capture and represent complex input/output relationships – to predict the demands of electronic products.

Their study showed that positive reviews were strong predictors of product demand and when coupled with promotional marketing, could lead to an increase in sales. Importantly the volume of reviews and number of answered questions were essential predictors of product demand in their neural network model.

Whilst this study has limitations – it only examined electronic products, the sample size was around 30,000 records and Amazon.com was the only marketplace analysed – it nonetheless shows the value of analysing data like online reviews, to predict product demand and tailor the marketing strategy accordingly.

Clickstream Data

Clickstream data records which parts of the screen a user clicks when visiting a website or using a software application. Analysing this data is very useful for pattern matching between customer and non-customer behaviour, which helps firms identify segments for behavioural targeting.

A seminal study by Moe et al (2003) used clickstream data to segment visits as a buying, browsing, searching, or knowledge-building visit based on observed on-site navigational patterns, including the general content of the pages viewed.

  • Buying: these users exhibited a very focused shopping behaviour that was targeted to a limited number of products that are often viewed repeatedly in a session.
  • Searching: activity was limited to a variety of different products within a single category
  • Browsing: these sessions displayed very broad search patterns across a high variety of both categories and products.
  • Knowledge-building: more in-depth sessions focused on information-related pages on the site.

Of course, this is just one study, but ultimately understanding these categories of website navigational behaviour can allow marketers to identify likely buyers and design more effective and tailored promotional messaging.

Personalisation

Data provides the opportunity to deploy highly personalised marketing that is customised to an individual’s tastes or behaviour. The availability of data makes it possible for three levels of granularity in personalisation:

  • mass personalisation, whereby all consumers receive the same offering according to their average taste.
  • segment-level personalisation, in which groups of consumers with similar preferences are identified for marketing.
  • individual level personalisation, in which each consumer receives marketing according to their individual tastes and behaviours.

Facebook is a prime example of an advertising platform that offers different levels of granularity. For instance, its interest and behaviour targeting allows advertisers to deploy segment-level personalisation, while the dynamic product ads allow for individual-level targeting based on the products they have viewed on the website.

Highly personalised ads have proved to be incredibly profitable, both in research and in our own experience. In our work with Nobody’s Child, we created a granular Paid Search and Paid Social strategy with highly personalised ad copy. As a young women’s fashion brand, we targeted 18-24-year-old women and adjusted advertising spend towards dates when student loans dropped. We also customised the messaging based on location for the universities which had the highest density of this age group. Year on year, we saw an increase in traffic of 21% and an increase in revenue of 143%.

Cross-Channel Analytics

Cross-channel interactions generate large sets of data, and marketers can make smart use of this data to gain valuable insights into which online and offline touch points influence the customers purchasing behaviour.

For instance, Joo et al (2013) found that television ads affected the number of branded-related search queries online. Dinner et al (2014) investigated the cross-channel effects of display, search and traditional advertising and found that they had a significant impact on different channels, particularly from online advertising to offline sales. These studies highlight the convergence of different media (television, display and search) and the resulting spillovers on campaign results.

Marketers should observe any carry-over effects from offline channels to predict their impact on online channels at a granular level. The importance of cross-channel strategy has been discussed for a while, but some marketing managers rely on experience and gut intuition to decide how to divide advertising budgets across media. But be wary, ignoring the quantifiable impact of these cross-media effects may put you at risk of underspending on offline channels and overspending on online channels.

Challenges

These examples show how data provides great opportunities for marketers to deliver profitable campaigns, however, these opportunities do come with their challenges.

Tracking the Customer Journey

One challenge of Data in marketing is the ability to generate and leverage deep customer insights. Most digital marketing reports are good for creating single channel reports, but it can be difficult to track the whole cross-channel customer journey. For instance, customers may first see a brand on a billboard, read about it on desktop and make a purchase through mobile. Having the tools and skill set to bring together multiple sources of data and turn each individual touch point into actionable insights can be challenging. For Big Data to truly shed light on the customer’s journey from awareness to conversion, marketers will need access to an understanding of tools that can bridge the gap between offline and online audience experiences.

Privacy

As more customer data are collected and ad targeting advances, privacy and security have become critical issues for big data in digital marketing. According to a survey in 2015, more than three-quarters of consumers think that online advertisers have more information about them than they are comfortable with, and approximately half of them believe that websites ignore privacy laws. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is testament of how the personally identifiable information of millions of users can be misused.

Additionally, the Yahoo data breach in 2016 that affected 3 billion user accounts is also an example of how privacy laws and security technology have not kept pace with data collection, storage and processing technologies. As a result, governments will increasingly enact strict privacy laws to protect their citizens, giving them more control over their data and the recent implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law in the EU is evidence of this. Strict privacy laws will limit how Data can be used for marketing purposes, as personally identifiable information will need to be anonymised and advertisers will need to acquire consent from consumers.

Regardless, respecting customers privacy is good business practice and helps businesses build relationships with customers. A study by Tucker (2014) supports this notion as they found that the click-through rate on personalised ads doubled when a website gave consumers more control over their personal information. Therefore, it may be plausible for marketers to focus on new software solutions that enhance security and give consumers more control over their data while still maximising on personalised marketing opportunities.

 

 

2 Weeks Till NMPignite – Great Experience: Where Art and Science Meet

There are now just two weeks to go until our NMPignite seminar, which we are hosting alongside Google. The seminar will bring together industry experts in Media, Creative, Experience and Technology to discuss improving the customer journey and overall experience.

The afternoon event will take place at Google’s head office in Kings Cross on Thursday 26th July, and will look to break down silos and explore how to integrate media, data measurement, technology and creative to deliver a high-quality end-to-end user experience and improve customer loyalty.

The digital ecosystem is maturing. Data is playing an even more integral role in how we understand the consumer and their online journey, which is providing incredible insights to guide marketing efforts. Where we once were worried about which channels to run our activity on, we now want to create a seamless, easy experience for the customer.

We’ve seen that silos have become an almost permanent figure in our industry; creating barriers between media, creative and experience. It’s virtually impossible to develop a seamless user experience when your development is split up itself.

This seminar will be the first time the NMPi, DQ&A and the newly acquired Joystick will appear on stage together. You’ll hear from top experts at Harvey Nichols, House of Kaizen and Charlotte Tilbury as they discuss how they developed flawless customer experiences.  

We’ll also be having an illuminating keynote from the Founder and Creative Director at Satore Studio: Tupac Martir. A lighting designer by trade, Martir specialises in creating awe-inspiring visual designs for companies such as Dior, Adidas and Gucci.

You can join us at Google’s Kings Cross offices on the 26th of July, or register for our livestream, below.

NMPi Launches Comparison Shopping

We are excited to launch our new Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) across Europe.

We can now offer our award-winning Google Shopping strategy through our proprietary CSS, By Bye Buy, alongside our clients’ regular Google Shopping campaigns. This means that their products can occupy more of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP); boosting their Shopping performance by bumping competitors off of the front page and driving down costs.

This will also allow us to take the insights from Shopping to fuel smarter decision-making across other channels. The best performing Shopping products could be promoted in a dynamic, creative format through Display or Social.

We realise the competition between brands on Google Shopping is growing every day and it is important that we provide the tools needed to ensure our clients can increase their shopping performance in the most cost-effective way. Having a CSS means we can help our customers drive maximum value from their Shopping activity, whilst taking advantage of the 20% discount rate that is given to Google Comparison Shopping Partners. 

As one of the first UK agencies to run Google Shopping, we’re excited to be one of the first to have Comparison Shopping capabilities. If you want to find out more, check out our service page and get in touch today.

NMPi Win at Effective Digital Marketing Awards

The awards keep coming this year after another successful evening, this time at the Effective Digital Marketing Awards. We are delighted to say that we won the award for Most Effective Retail and FMCG Campaign for our work with Harvey Nichols.

 

 

This campaign also took home the award for Best Use of Automation or AI at the Performance Marketing Awards earlier this year. Our sophisticated set of algorithms, developed by our incredibly talented team of analysts, unleashed Google Shopping where other agencies could not, driving huge success for Harvey Nichols.

This award win comes as we announce the launch of our Comparison Shopping Service. Having developed By Buy Bye, a Google Comparison Shopping Partner, we are able to run our award-winning Google Shopping strategy, allowing brands to boost their shopping performance by increasing their share of voice and removing competitors from the first page of the SERP. 

Learn More About How Comparison Shopping can Save you 20%

 

Shouting Joe Bloggs doesn’t work. Get personalised and relevant with dynamic creatives

We all know that life has a tendency to throw situations at us which are simply out of our control, and for every person those situations cause an unfathomable variety of possible outcomes.

For Freeview (the nation’s most popular television platform), when your target audience includes almost everyone in the UK, you become no stranger to working with a variety of possible outcomes.

With so many combinations of consumer interest and behaviour, we were tasked with helping Freeview reach their audience in an engaging and relevant way, in order to help improve their brand awareness. Luckily, we had a fortunate starting point: their wide selection of channels offered us a range of high-quality shows. This gave us only the best watercolours and sharpened pencils to produce our digitally-tailored masterpiece.

Creativity Meets Data

Working in DoubleClick Studio, our strategy was to use dynamic creatives to meet the idiosyncrasies of whoever was viewing our personalised, moving adverts – something my contemporaries in the digital marketing industry like to refer to as a data-driven, granular approach.  

Dynamic creatives in and of themselves are at the heart of programmatic. Using real-time technology, it allows us to change elements to better suit those who are viewing the advert. This can be done in reaction to:

  • Location
  • Time of day
  • Device
  • Weather
  • Demographics
  • Behavioural Targeting
  • Retargeting information
  • And more

To consider the full capabilities of dynamic creatives at scale, let us consider a hypothetical: the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci’s masterpiece – arguably the most sung about and best known of paintings – is not exempt from criticism, with a handful of pundits not sold on her mystifying smile. Through dynamic creatives, we could optimise this feature: using consumer data points, we could learn who appreciates the enigmatic smirk and the critics who prefer a stern face. As the campaign matures, the 77x53cm creative would become increasingly relevant to consumers.

Hypothetical situations aside, studies have shown that performance improves by adapting and speaking to each user. A report from McKinsey found that personalisation can deliver “five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales 10 per cent or more.” Furthermore, a study by Adobe affirmed that 78% of consumers like personalised ads however only 28% think they’re tailored correctly, further highlighting the growing need to merge creativity and data.

When Speaking to All

As part of our brand awareness strategy, we focused on reaching fans of different shows using contextual keyword targeting. Since dynamic creatives are naturally flexible, we could then adjust each impression according to the contextual targeting. For instance, someone on a football page may receive an ad which features the programme Britain’s Got Talent. This allowed us to align our creatives with the user’s preference.

Once we had segmented each audience, we could change different variables of the creative to run A/B tests. As the ads continue to run, we are constantly learning which combinations work best and tailoring messaging accordingly.

As the dust begins to settle and the results come in, the stats prove that a personalised approach is more effective. Compared to a more generic ad copy, targeting users with tailored messaging improved CTR by 42%.

Moving forward, the flexibility of dynamic creatives means that they are lasting and adaptable. Working from the comfort of DoubleClick Studio, the same template can be used and adapted to different promotional offers and seasons. This allows us to save on time and costs.

Whether you’re looking to bring classic art to the masses or to target each user with their favourite show, dynamic creatives offer a method to do so. Come rain or shine, each impression comes with an unknown amount of possibilities. The options available from your targeting, ad copy, call to action, colour and more can make the process seem out of your control. Yet, through segmentation, these possibilities offer opportunities to engage and hold audiences. When life gives you lemons, introduce personalised ad copy.  

NMPi and DQ&A Complete Acquisition of Creative Specialist, Joystick

Joystick officially joins the NMPi and DQ&A family today, as we sign the contracts and complete the acquisition. After announcing our agreement to acquire Joystick at Cannes a few weeks ago, we are very excited to begin working with them to reinvent what it means to be a customer-centric digital marketing specialist – whether that’s as a creative, media, or technology specialist.

Together, this means that we can provide a more complete digital marketing service focused on a brilliant customer experience. Not only can we offer digital media strategy and management across Paid Search, Display and Paid Social advertising, but we can also offer targeted and personalised creative solutions at scale, such as Dynamic Ads, Programmatic Creative, and Rich Media Display Ads, and even tailored digital experiences with Responsive Website Development, Experiential Apps and Campaign Landing Pages.

“It’s been months of hard work from many people on our teams, and we’re very excited to start building on this relationship and working closely with the Joystick team,” says NMPi CEO Luke Judge. “Together, we will be able to improve the way that people engage with advertising, and break down the silos that have found their way into the industry.”

Sara Francis, CEO of Joystick added, “It was incredibly important for us to find a partner who shares our ideals and our belief that the perfect blend of technology, data and artistry makes every execution smarter, more dynamic and more effective. NMPi and DQ&A are a perfect fit, and we are looking forward to the future.”

Joystick bring over 90 digital creative experts across 5 international offices to the group, increasing our global presence to over 340 employees across 16 offices from Los Angeles to Malaysia. They bring with them an extensive clientele that includes Google, HBO, Disney and Kroger, adding to NMPi and DQ&A’s clients such as, L’Oréal, Papa John’s,  Hanes, Freeview, Melia Hotels, and Samsung.

Joystick will be making their first official outing as part of the family at our July seminar, “Great Experience: Where Art and Science Meet.”

We’ll be bringing together speakers from NMPi, DQ&A and Joystick as well as Harvey Nichols and Charlotte Tilbury to show how you can break down the silos between media, creative and technology to drive flawless customer experience. It’ll be one you won’t want to miss, so make sure you register to join us in London, or on our live stream: Register Now

This acquisition was completed by NMPi and DQ&A UK’s parent company, Net Media Planet Ltd.

Introducing: Sara Francis, CEO of Joystick

A few weeks ago NMPi announced that we would be acquiring US creative specialists, Joystick. We are very excited to have Joystick’s entire leadership team, including Sara Francis, remain on post-acquisition.

Sara has over 18 years experience in digital marketing, having begun her career primarily focused on entertainment working for such companies as Miramax, Deep Focus, and Moxie Interactive. In 2010 she began her career at Joystick, leading the Los Angeles office and account management team company-wide before being elevated to CEO. 

We sat down with Sara to find out more about her, the agency, and what she’s looking forward to about this acquisition.

How do you think the industry will benefit from a joint media and creative agency?

Every digital touchpoint is an opportunity to create a connection and a conversation with the audience. At Joystick, our quality creative plays an integral part in campaign performance and ROI, something that is lacking in many campaigns. But oftentimes creative work is created without a complete picture of the consumer journey, making it hard to truly have an impact.

By joining forces with NMPi, we are able to close the gap between creative, media and technology. Media and creative have been extremely fragmented, now that we’re together, we can break down the barriers that exist. We’ll have more control over the customer touch points and the consumer’s experience throughout the brand journey.  

This may sound lofty, but we want to build a web where people love ads. Love them because they’re a great experience and are useful. This is what inspires us every day and we believe we’re working with the right partners and clients to make this happen.

What innovative technologies and strategies do you think NMPi will gain from adding a creative perspective to their digital offering? Conversely, what insight will Joystick gain from partnering with a global digital agency such as NMPi?

Joystick is one of the first creatively-led agencies with deep expertise in ad technology. This will add a number of complimentary service offerings to NMPi. Our work in innovative technologies will add a robust offering to brands who are looking to add immersive experiences to their mix or augment their voice and visual search strategies.

Conversely, we look forward to combining our dynamic creative expertise with NMPi’s skilled programmatic strategists to offer a full-service solution unmatched by others. We’ll have audience and creative alignment that will enable us to create truly personalized creative and ad relevancy that delivers results.

What plans for growth do you have in the upcoming year?

Well for starters, we’ll need to service a global client base and expand existing services into new markets. We also see immediate opportunity to expand how we’re working with our current technology vendors.

So all of this will mean that we’ll need to grow our team and invest in our talent to learn about how to bring our collective services together. We see our new global footprint and expanded capabilities as a huge opportunity for growth.

What are the challenges facing digital marketers in the coming twelve months?

We’ve been having meaningful discussions with brands around how they think about activating brand and business growth. We all desire to create meaningful brands fueled by consumer-first thinking and data. Many want to know how to action their data and sequence ads and content to work together to keep things fresh and relevant to consumers at any moment.

We’ve also heard a lot about the challenge of maintaining creative quality with programmatic buying. That’s a challenge we’re going to take head-on. We’re bringing high touch creative to programmatic. We plan to roll out a suite of high impact creative formats for programmatic delivery which is something the industry desperately needs.

What do you look forward to most with this partnership?

We look forward to re-imagining what it means to be digital marketing specialists. We are in essence bringing art and science together. Data-driven creative is our art. And with our creative chops combined with the expert minds of NMPi’s analysts, we can push that even further.

We are also looking forward to expanding our global footprint to have service areas in 16 countries and a team of over 340 of the most highly trained experts across search, display, video, social, data and analytics.

Personally, I’m excited about the opportunity to collaborate with our collective of agencies. We’re all specialists in our respective disciplines and we now can work closely and non-competitively on what the future agency model looks like.

What is the most exciting recent development in digital marketing?

Well, to be honest, there are always exciting new developments in digital marketing. We’re always developing emerging formats using new advancements in technology and putting them to work in new ways.

We’re also happy to see that platforms are doing more to create a space to give a creative a voice. Great creative is finally getting a spotlight again which is a huge priority for us.

And lastly, what is your favourite project that you have worked on?

There are so many I consider my favorite, it’s hard to pick just one. A recent favorite would have to be the voice-enabled unit that we worked on with our client and partner True[X] for Amazon Echo. Our team had seen how more and more people were using voice search and we wanted to see if we could put this to work in an ad by using speech to text conversion technology. When True[X] came to us with a voice-activated experience they were working on with Amazon Echo, we had a couple of approaches to recommend. The result was a highly engaging and entertaining voice-enabled ad unit that featured the Echo’s capabilities in a compelling way. This is a great example of the true collaboration we love having with all our partnerships.

 

NMPi to Acquire Creative Specialist, Joystick

Today, we are delighted to announce that NMPi and our sister company, DQ&A, have agreed to acquire a fantastic international digital creative specialist, called Joystick.

Established in 2006, and now with a team of over 90 digital creative experts in New York, Los Angeles, London, Santo Domingo, and the Philippines, Joystick is a market leading creative specialist with extensive expertise in data-driven dynamic ad technologies, and is one of only two DoubleClick Certified Creative Partners in both the UK and the US.

Joystick works with some really incredible and exciting brands including, Disney, Nissan, HBO, and Kroger. In a recent project for Google, Joystick created a dynamic ad which had over 60,000 different creative variations and was localised for an impressive 22 markets and 7 languages.

We are looking forward to joining forces with a company who shares our belief that the perfect blend of technology, data and artistry makes every execution smarter, more dynamic and more effective.

NMPi CEO, Luke Judge, shared his thoughts on why this acquisition is so important: “As data gives us a better understanding of the consumer and their online journey, we are seeing a rapid shift in the digital ecosystem. It’s no longer about choosing channels to run your marketing activity; now the spotlight is on creating a flawless experience for the consumer. This is exactly why we are focused on reinventing what it means to be a digital marketing specialist, and joining forces with Joystick is a major step in that journey, allowing us to offer a more end-to-end service focused on brilliant customer experience.”

With this acquisition, NMPi is now able to directly offer our clients targeted campaign solutions including, Dynamic Ads, Programmatic Creative, and Rich Media Display Ads, as well as tailored digital experiences with Responsive Website Development, Experiential Apps and Campaign Landing Pages.

We sat down with Sara Francis, CEO of Joystick, to get her thoughts on the agreement: “This is an exciting time for our businesses to come together as one strong force. The alignment could not be more perfect with what we do and where we want to go. We look forward to leading the way in digital innovation and collectively creating a compelling offering for clients.”

With over 18 years experience in digital marketing, Sara is a seasoned executive with extensive knowledge in management, client strategy and business development. For the first part of her career, Sara focused primarily on the entertainment vertical working for such companies as Miramax, Deep Focus and Moxie Interactive. In 2010 Sara joined Joystick to lead the Los Angeles office and account management team company-wide before being elevated to CEO.

Our sister company, DQ&A, is Google DoubleClick’s largest EMEA partner in the technology and professional services field. When combined with Joystick’s DoubleClick Creative Partner status, the acquisition forms a strengthened DoubleClick relationship, further solidifying its strategic offering and authenticity within the digital industry.

CEO of DQ&A, Mike Ossendrijver, added: “We saw a significant gap in the market for a solution that will enable our clients to enhance all aspects of the customer’s online media journey, and we couldn’t be more excited to finally close the marketing loop by combining technology, data, media, and now industry-leading creative services. Digital innovation is at the heart of NMPi and DQ&A, and this acquisition will bring further opportunities for us to drive development with the use of Joystick’s Innovation lab and its deep creative industry knowledge and partnerships.”

This news follows our 2017 global expansion into 6 new markets, including 2 offices in the US, as well as our recent acquisition of U.S boutique Paid Social specialists, MediaPact. With DQ&A also launching in South-East Asia, Australia, Africa and Italy, this only serves to strengthen the marketing group’s international presence and localised expertise. As a group, we are now able to boast a global presence of 340 people across 16 offices. 

The acquisition is subject to standard completion procedures and is expected to complete within the month.

If you would like to receive any further information, do not hesitate to get in touch.

NMPi Predicts The World Cup Using Machine Learning: Man vs. Octopus vs. Machine

It was a trip to the grocery store one Sunday evening in May that I first saw it, The World Cup 2018 Panini Sticker Book. Unmatched in its dual role of footballing holy grail and financial black hole. With a quick glance over the shoulder to make sure no one was looking, I placed it delicately into my basket. After all, such a guilty pleasure required some degree of secrecy to ensure the maintenance of dignity.

Since then it’s all got a little out of hand really. My flatmates and I are fifty stickers away from completing the book – 650 in total. The team at the local Co-op know us by name – I’m now greeted with, ‘the usual, Alex?’, as I walk in.

To the utter bewilderment of those around me, the World Cup and its advertising machine has gone fishing and managed to catch a whale. I am that whale. But rather than let that get to me, I’ve decided to apply my enthusiasm in a slightly more useful way.

About a year ago we wrote a blog article predicting the results of the UK election, correctly arriving at the verdict of a hung parliament. So, we have decided to revive our predictive capabilities for the World Cup.

Fred Maude, the genius behind our previous efforts, has been busy hoarding reams of player data to apply to his new footballing-based algorithm.

We’ve incorporated machine learning into our business in a variety of different ways (award-winning in some cases), and Fred has been at the forefront of that movement. It works for our Google Shopping campaigns. It worked in 2017’s UK election. Will it work for Russia 2018? A few words from him later, along with his results.

But first, we thought we’d up the stakes a little. Alongside Fred’s machine, we’ve asked two very different figures to put their theories forward. After all, who wants machines to win every time? We all know how that ends…

Man – Max Flajsner, Head of Performance

Ignoring the fact Max is a Spurs fan, and so has little hope of being able to identify the characteristics of a successful team, we thought we’d let him have a go anyway. With a solid footballing background and a leading role in my sticker book efforts, he is perfectly placed to represent all of humanity.

In explaining his approach, Max revealed “my strategy mainly rested on Mousa Dembele. I just love him. So, to hear he won’t be starting had a huge impact on my decision-making. Belgium out in the quarters, Germany to ruthlessly defend their title.” Bless him.

Image Source: Sky Sports

2nd Round – Colombia v England, Uruguay v Portugal, France v Croatia, Brazil v Mexico, Belgium v Poland, Spain v Egypt, Argentina v Peru, Germany v Costa Rica

Q’ Finals – England v Germany, Portugal v France, Brazil v Belgium, Spain v Argentina

S’ Finals – Germany v Spain, Brazil v France

Final – Germany v Brazil

Winners – Germany

Octopus – Unnamed, Long Suffering Girlfriend

8 years ago, Paul the Octopus shot to fame by successfully predicting the results of the 2010 World Cup. Unfortunately, one thing I’ve learnt in this endeavour is that there are very few publicly accessible predictive octopi left.

So I turned to my cat (Pablo), perhaps the most single-minded creature I have ever come across, which I respect immensely. Whatever we tried, he did not want to participate in our ‘pick a flag with some tuna on it’ game. As he sat there staring at me, his eyes questioning how on earth it had come to this, I knew I had to find another way.

My final option was to go for a creature who matched Paul & Pablo in sporting awareness, though perhaps not in the number of legs. She has two legs, cares very little for football, is awesome, and just so happens to be my girlfriend. Upon being asked about her predictive strategy for this year’s tournament, she replied, “if I’m completely honest Alex, I just want this all to be over.” Perfect.

After some negotiations around where I would buy dinner, I managed to eek out an infographic. My goodness, I hope she’s right.

Image Source: Sky Sports

 2nd Round – Colombia v England, Uruguay v Portugal, France v Argentina, Brazil v South Korea, Belgium v Japan, Spain v Russia, Nigeria v Denmark, Germany v Costa Rica

Q’Finals – Germany v England, Portugal v Argentina, Brazil v Belgium, Spain v Nigeria

S’Finals – England v Spain, Portugal v Brazil

Final – Spain v Portugal

Winners – Spain

Machine – Fred Maude, Performance Manager

Finally, the one we’ve all been waiting for. Get your betting apps at the ready, because this one’s the winner. Here’s Fred…

‘The algorithm was designed to account for individual player performance over the last 12 months, along with national team form and results. This included a penalty bot should a knock-out game end in a draw.’

With Croatia and Morocco in the semi-final, and Argentina not making it out of their group, Fred’s machine has put its neck on the line. However, if he is right, we’re in for one hell of a tournament.

Image Source: Sky Sports

2nd Round – Senegal v England, Russia v Morocco, France v Nigeria, Brazil v Sweden, Belgium v Poland, Spain v Uruguay, Croatia v Australia, Germany v Costa Rica

Q’Finals – Germany v Senegal, Morocco v Nigeria, Brazil v Belgium, Spain v Croatia

S’Finals – Germany v Croatia, Brazil v Morocco

Final – Germany vs Brazil

Winner – Brazil

“I’m confident my predictions won’t be far off and my methodology is sound.’

“Initially, the aim was to develop a technique that was devoid of statistical and human bias. We could have gone away and taken stats upon stats to thread into our Machine Learning algorithm, however, we would essentially be feeding the machine with stats that hold no relevance for the game in hand. As everyone knows, it is not beyond Man City to be beaten by Stoke, although player statistics would not point you there. Thus, to remove any bias, and allow the machine itself to learn and make assumptions and stats for itself, we chose a different method.’

“This method involved taking the team line ups and results from over 5000 games in the last 12 months and then feeding this data into our classifier. My first experiments involved using the standard decision tree classifier, however, it was clear that the results were marred with inconsistencies. The decision to drop this and adopt the random forest technique was recently validated by an MIT Machine Learning algorithm aimed at the same outcome as ours.’

“To test the success rate, we looked at previous games with known results and supplied the algorithm with only the team’s line up data. Using this data, the machine then made a decision based on what it thought the result would be. We were then able to match these against the real results. My tests logged a success rate of 64%. Considering the volatility of football, as I am sure anyone who watches the game understands, we considered this as a sign of success.’

“Now that everything had been tested to our satisfaction we could finally predict the winners of The World Cup 2018. The only input data for prediction being the expected line ups of each World Cup team. Unfortunately for those die-hard England fans, a game against Senegal in the round of 16 may prove all too much.”

 

And there you have it. Tune in in 6 weeks’ time to see who triumphed in what Netflix is already touting as its next feature film – Man vs. Octopus vs. Machine.