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 Kate Jervis 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.

NMPi’s Big Debate: Failure is, in Fact, an Option

Sarah Ward, Senior Director, Client Management, Pitney Bowes

Adaptation is key for companies to remain relevant and meet customer demand, and Sarah’s presentation has you covered. Big leaps in technology, like the ones we see in our industry, are not without risk. Planning for these outcomes means that your chances of success are that much greater.

In a career that’s spanned more than 20 years, Sarah has watched the transformation from physical stores to the digital age and sees that we are facing a crossroads full of uncertainty. How can businesses weigh up calculated risks versus complacency?

There are known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns. We can plan for the known unknowns, but unknown unknowns are notoriously harder to predict. When we remember that businesses are risk-averse – understandable given the current uncertainty of the world – the picture becomes daunting.

Having contingency plans in place for things like Brexit means that you’re also prepared for those events that are harder to foresee. Taking principles from your planned contingencies and applying them to future events puts companies in a far stronger position to be proactive when the situation becomes unclear.

There is time to prepare, and you have the data to unlock your brand’s potential in markets that you are under-penetrating right now. Diversifying your customer base will prove to be a real game changer. Technology exists today to allow businesses to be more nimble and acquire net new customers through localisations of new markets. This is especially true of websites. Machine learning is getting more and more sophisticated to help improve your conversion rates.

Taking calculated risks, testing in a controlled environment, accepting that sometimes, setbacks will often move you forwards, will put you and your business in a position of strength and gives you control over your destiny, rather than external forces always calling those shots.

Want to know what Sarah thinks is the future of social media in marketing? Watch our panel discussion now.

NMPi’s Big Debate: How to Swim when you’re Drowning in Data

Kate Jervis, Analytics Lead at NMPi

If you were to look back at some of the popular trends predicted in blog posts since 2016, much as Kate Jervis did to prepare for her talk, you start to see similar trends appearing. Brands will always be on the cusp of delivering personalised communications. Marketers will always be planning to adopt advanced marketing attribution for optimisation. Developing the cross-channel view of customers and their behaviour is just around the corner. Why do they stay as predictions, never coming to fruition?

We are drowning. Not just in terms of data, though that is certainly a factor. We’re also drowning in the amount of choice we have in terms of solutions. Citing the Paradox of Choice, a phenomenon put forward by psychotherapist Barry Schwartz, Jervis highlights that the sheer amount of choice we have as an industry is slowing down our progress.

She then introduces “The Three P’s” as an explanation as to why we are drowning:

Perfectionism: We think we need the perfect attribution model. We think we need the perfect measurement solution. We think we need everything to be 100% perfect, and the more we obsess over it, the more it comes out in what we do.

Procrastination: We become so compelled to pick the perfect option, even though we know it doesn’t exist, that we become afraid of making the wrong choice. We feel like we don’t have all of the information, and we’re scared of moving in the wrong direction.

Paralysis: Since we think we need to know more, to have all the information, that’s how we end up in analysis paralysis. We’re stuck in this place where we constantly need more information to make any decisions, but we’ll never move forward because we’ll never have the information that we need. However, while it might be bad to go in the wrong direction, is it not worse if we don’t move at all.

How do we move forward?

  • Define what your perfect is.
  • Taking action is important, but knowing how to use it is even more valuable.
  • Build into your one source of truth.
  • Stop saying “it doesn’t have to be perfect”, because with attribution we are more right than we ever have been.


Find out about a potential 4th P in our panel discussion.