Napapijri Takes Responsibility

Read Time: 3 Minutes

The fashion industry of late has gone through a shocking realisation. The realisation that it is, unfortunately, a dirty business. Statistically, it is one of the top polluters in the world: a survey from Sainsbury’s last year showed that 235m items ended up in a landfill as people switched to their summer wardrobe. The average piece of clothing in the UK lasts for less than 3 years before being discarded, with over 1m tonnes of new clothing being bought last year. We are constantly consuming stuff, and constantly throwing it away.

At NMPi’s latest seminar, Rob Herdman, Senior Global Manager – PR & Media for Napapijri, took to the stage to explain how they realised that they had a responsibility to change. The Italian fashion brand has an internal philosophy to address sustainability issues, which in turn frames a lot of their decision making. Called “Make it Better”, they focus on doing what they were doing slightly better year on year so they will eventually get to a point they can be happy with. Often, we try to act too quickly, and we can’t enact the change quick enough, or we end up doing things wrong. This way, Napapijri sets a goal for 3 years down the line and moves there step by step.

So far, they’ve removed fur, down, a lot of the chemicals that were once present in their jackets; and the next stage is to tackle the issue of massive waste. The fashion industry fuels this, wanting consumers to continue to go out and purchase new clothing, to change their wardrobe every 6 months.

The Next Phase

The goal is now to go from Mass Production to Mass Customisation; shifting to an “on-demand” model where, rather than mass producing items to sell, products are only made when someone wants to buy it. This avoids all of the waste that comes when you don’t sell all of your stock.

Ze-Knit was the first step in that direction:

Napapijri changed the way they produced their clothing, moving to a technique called digital knitting which is very similar to 3D printing. Rather than stitching fabric together, you’re having a machine make a 3D model of the garment in one piece. This means they can cut out stages of the manufacturing process and thus reduce waste by up to 30%.

But this is just the start. Moving forward, the brand wants to make the customer more responsible as well. They’re already looking at ways of encouraging customisation, to produce exactly what the customer wants, only when they want it. If they succeed, the fashion industry will be turned on its head.

Download Rob’s slides: How to Succeed in Times of Change: Take Responsibility

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.

How NMPi’s Tech Team are Tackling GDPR

With the GDPR now in full force, there is a sense of trepidation as every business tries to ensure that both they and their suppliers are doing as much as possible to protect the personal data of their consumers, employees and prospects. Whilst businesses across Europe were in a flurry from the beginning of the year in an attempt to be ready for the 25th of May, the GDPR is an ongoing process as we continue to store new personal data on a daily basis, from cookie data to new customer purchases, it all needs to be compliant.

There is still a lot the industry is uncertain about, especially concerning the bounds of legitimate interest, but one thing we do know for sure is digital advertising based on personal data should be consented to. Even, for example, targeting groups of people about a sale item that relates to a product they had previously purchased.

We sat down with Paul Rauff, our Head of Technology, to discuss how NMPi has been developing tools to help our clients remain GDPR complaint.

Q: What problem does our tech help solve?

Previously, in order to run these personalised campaigns, the consumer’s data was transferred to an agency to then be uploaded into Google, Facebook or similar advertising platform, but with the GDPR this becomes more complicated. Outside of acting as the vehicle for transferring this data to an advertising platform, an agency has no need to ever be in actual contact with that data.

Moreover, neither Google nor Facebook are interested in handling that data in a readable format. They specifically ask us to mask any personal user details through a process known as “hashing”. Hashing is a means for taking a readable piece of data, like an email address, and scrambling it in a way that cannot be unscrambled.

This scrambling process is always consistent. For example, the email address [email protected] will always produce the hash value of B3C2E90EB5B4F12FF5DDB4BB9DC38734A36D365543CC17D038ACA58A44BF0937, no matter when or where it is hashed.

This means that a platform like Google can match any uploaded hash values to those which have been generated by the emails it already stores.

So in our example, NMPi would then only upload B3C2E90EB5B4F12FF5DDB4BB9DC38734A36D365543CC17D038ACA58A44BF0937 to Google. If, and only if, Google finds a match to one of the emails already in its system it will then serve customised ads to that matching user. This system is also used by other providers, such as Facebook.

The problem that we as an advertising agency faced was: How do we hash and upload our clients’ data without actually handling that data?

Q: How does our technology help solve this problem?

Using our tool, our clients can upload a csv file of customer data into their browser. While still in the browser environment (and before any data leaves that browser), the tool hashes all private customer data in the csv. The tool then pushes that hashed data to either Facebook or Google, where the advertising platforms are then able to compare and process that hashed data.

Q: What are the benefits?

Using this tool means that sensitive, legally protected data no longer needs to leave our clients’ possession. Since our tool is browser-based, all actions happen on the client’s premises, so they no longer have to share this data with anyone outside of their business, and especially not over non-secure channels like email!

Furthermore, the tool has been built by NMPi’s tech team with a ground-up approach to security, using the latest front-end development frameworks. All data is transmitted over an encrypted HTTPS connection, and the tool itself has been OWASP checked for vulnerabilities. Our servers are all security checked, monitored, and maintained by a dedicated RackSpace support team.

Q: Why is this necessary?

In a post-GDPR world, this type of protection is critical. The penalties for mishandling personally identifiable information (PII) can be crippling to an organisation!

Ultimately, no agency or client should be sharing PII data unless absolutely necessary, and our tool goes a long way to lowering our client’s data-sharing exposure, and risks of data breaches.

 

If you want to learn more about what the post-GDPR world could look like, check out After GDPR: a blog we wrote 3 months ago with how we expected it to play out.

 

The Marketing AI State of Play

Fred Maude, one of NMPi’s Performance Managers, led an exciting webinar looking into how to kick-start your marketing with AI, an introduction to the marketing AI state of play.

We start from a simple and obvious premise: everyone is talking about AI. From autonomous vehicles to Deep Learning, Cognitive Computing to machine learning, innovations in this field come thick and fast. However, according to the Gartner Hype curve, which demonstrates the promise of an emerging technology, many of our emerging AI technologies are either in the “technology trigger” or “ peak of inflated expectations” phases of their lifecycle – meaning many of these technologies are going to fail, or at least won’t be as successful as we think they’re going to be.

Despite this, it’s still going to be one of the most disruptive technologies over the next 10 years. So yes, you should be acting in this space, but you need to do so wisely.

Abilities and Applications

There are 4 main categories of applications of AI: communication, management, content, and targeting.

Much of the talk around communication capabilities is focused on chatbots and voice search at the moment. As we move forward, however, it’s likely that these will become integrated to the point where they are one and the same. Chatbots are a great way to improve customer service and open up communication without wasting resources. If you want to get started with chatbots today check out these companies: ManyChat, Chatfuel and Dialogflow.

In terms of content, AI can help save many hours when it comes to creation and curation. Beyond the obvious example of Facebook’s feed, you can plug tools like ByteDance into your website to help you to curate and push content to your blog.

You may question whether AI is creative and smart enough to create content. Well, several news agencies are already using it to publish breaking news pieces. Take a look into Cortex for a solution you can implement now. It allows you to produce photo, video and text content, as well as control scheduling and optimisation.     

Targeting is perhaps one of the more obvious places where AI can provide real support. Many are already aware of Facebook and AdWords, as well as the huge amount of SSPs which are available to use. There are likely hundreds of thousands of audiences available to choose from, but it is likely that there is overlap, and in many cases, everyone has access to them. This leaves us with a few problems:

  • Campaigns will lack granularity
  • Standing out becomes more difficult when everyone is using the same audiences
  • You’re at the mercy of external companies when it comes to defining audience quality
  • You’re never sure what might be coming along further down the line.

To improve the audiences we target and the way we target them, there are a number of options to choose from. One that has proved effective is 1PlusX, which combines your audiences and their behaviour to create new audiences with the help of their Deep Learning tool. They provide custom audiences, can build new audiences and use look-a-likes to expand your audiences, all at a quality defined by you. Most importantly for the current climate: the proposition will stay strong in a post-GDPR world.

Finally, management – particularly of data and analytics – can benefit from using the right AI tools. Finding the right tools can have a huge impact on growth, and most importantly, this is what the agency of the future will focus on. When investing in AI management tools, look for the following capabilities: Real Time Decision Management, cross-selling and upselling, understanding the voice of the customer, transforming web analytics into digital intelligence and marketing optimisations at speed.  

Action

Now that you know how AI ill progress over the next 10 years and key areas to look out for, here are the next steps you should take to prepare.

As a business leader:

  • Be aware of how potentially valuable or viable the technology you are considering could be.
  • Also be cautious of the maturity of the product that you’re considering.
  • Consider the ability of your stakeholders to tolerate and manage the risk.
  • Establish how you’ll integrate AI into your business: how people are going to work with AI, rather than be replaced by it.

As an individual:

  • Keep up to date with what the big AI players are doing, making sure you understand what’s going on and are adapting accordingly.
  • Get prepared for a greater rollout of AI, by taking some courses to add to your overall understanding.

A final thought: it’s not the tools that are the most exciting to Fred when he looks at the future of AI. We’re going to be able to understand patterns that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to understand. Machine learning allows us to push the limits of what we as humans can see, so what secrets will soon be revealed?

 

Is Blockchain the Future of Digital Marketing?

Blockchain has been posed as the next big technological disruption. It has already generated shockwaves in the financial industry with its decentralised network of transactions, an alternative to the current centralised model controlled by financial institutions.

From the Google search trends below you can see the rapid growth it has had in the past year:

But what are the opportunities for blockchain in the digital marketing industry? Before we dive into its possibilities, let’s wrap our heads around what it is and how it works.

What Is Blockchain?

Currently, the term “blockchain”, is synonymous with the cryptocurrency “Bitcoin”. Although both are related, they aren’t interchangeable, as blockchain is the fundamental technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It is this technology that marketers need understand to avoid losing ground to competitors in the years to come.

Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution (2016) state, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

source: blockgeeks.com

A useful analogy I use to describe blockchain is to compare it to Google Sheets. Where conventional processing involves an excel file stored on a single computer, with Google Sheets, you don’t need to wait for someone to finish editing a document, it can be maintained simultaneously across multiple people with no central data storage or no version control issues.

Unlike Google Sheets, where the data is ultimately stored at Google’s data centres, the blockchain is a decentralised and distributed database that isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. This also allows data on the blockchain to be virtually impossible to corrupt since the entire network is needed to commit changes.

Advantages of Blockchain Technology

  1. Transparency and Immutability: Any changes made on the blockchain ledger are viewable by the public, creating transparency. Altering these changes will require a huge amount of computing power to override the whole network making it immutable.
  2. No Third-party Needed: Two parties are able to make an exchange without the intermediation of a third party, strongly reducing or even eliminating counterparty risk.
  3. Data Quality: Blockchain data is complete, consistent, timely, accurate, and widely available.
  4. Built-in Robustness: Similar to the robustness of the internet, the blockchain is not controlled by a single entity and has no single point of failure, making it more durable to malicious attacks.
  5. Fast Transactions and Low Fees: In comparison to interbank transactions which can take days, transactions on the blockchain could occur within minutes. Also, in the absence of third parties, transaction costs are much lower due to the removal of overhead costs involved in facilitating transactions.

Disadvantages of Blockchain Technology

  1. Cultural Adoption: Blockchain represents a complete shift from the established financial and commerce model. It will require both user and operator to invest into the system.
  2. Teething Problems: Resolving challenges like consistent transaction speed,  the verification process, and data limits will be crucial in making blockchain widely applicable.
  3. Regulations: Regulatory entities usually lag behind technological innovation. Currently, there are no regulations on how the transactions should be written. This could create a hurdle in the widespread adoption of bitcoin and blockchain in highly regulated industries and governments where the regulation status remains unsettled.
  4. Large Energy Consumption: The blockchain’s miners are attempting 450 thousand trillion solutions per second in efforts to validate transactions, using substantial amounts of computer power, which is not sustainable in the long run.

Blockchain Use Cases in Digital Marketing

Ad Fraud

In 2016, ad fraud (or invalid traffic) lead to $12.5 billion in wasted advertising spend. This year, it is set to increase by $4 billion. The growing discrepancy between what advertisers are paying for and what they get has adversely affected trust in digital marketing. Fortunately, ad-delivery can be audited by firms like Deloitte, though this is an expensive option.

Alternatively, a blockchain network can verify whether ads are being delivered and if they’re going to the right place. Decentralising auditing is cheaper and can work. In fact, Adtech company MetaX recently launched “adChain”, a blockchain solution that tracks ads using a distributed ledger, providing advertisers and publishers with a comprehensive trail of everything related to the campaign such as, how much was spent, who saw the ad, and conversion rates. This will ultimately allow everyone in the blockchain to acknowledge the impression event and approve it.

This level of data transparency alone strengthens adChain’s value proposition because it will enable advertisers to measure and optimise ad placements with unprecedented accuracy.

Brand safety concerns will also be a thing of the past, as brands and advertisers will know exactly where ads are being shown, and all publishers on the adChain network are hand vetted before any ads will appear on them.

Viewability

Viewability may arguably be a greater issue than ad fraud. According to Google,  56.1% of impressions served across Google’s display advertising platforms aren’t viewed by a consumer. This has caused great frustration for advertisers who pay for ads that people can’t see.

To tackle this problem, a blockchain startup, The Basic Attention Project, founded by the inventor of Javascript and co-founder of Mozilla Firefox, has created a browser that monitors the activity of the user anonymously. The technology analyses the pixels being viewed, and time spent on-site, meaning advertisers only pay publishers when ads are viewed. All users on the network maintain full anonymity, creating a suitable equilibrium between privacy for the user and targeting for the advertiser.

The project is very ambitious and would require another article to be explained in its entirety. Here is a brief video that explains the company’s mission:

Basic Attention Token from Brave on Vimeo.

Privacy

Today, users don’t “own” their data. The information a consumer puts into the likes of Facebook or Google is stored and used by these advertising giants, allowing them to make profits in the billions through managing and selling user data. What if there was no need for the middle men; and advertisers could have direct connections with the consumer?

Source: Investitin.com

BitClave, a Silicon Valley-based blockchain start-up, is working on just that. The company’s goal is to enable a “decentralised” form of online search. Instead of using Google’s search engine and letting Google be the intermediary between the consumer and the advertiser, the consumer could search via BitClave’s engine and be paid for their own data. In exchange they will see targeted ads, leaving Google out of the picture. This new model not only reinvents the world of search but could also address the adblocking issue advertisers face as users would be less likely to block ads if they can profit from viewing them.


The implications of blockchain being utilised in the digital marketing industry make it seem as the panacea for some of the woes and pervasive issues in the online advertising ecology, however, the blockchain solutions discussed do have their limitations.

For instance, adChain requires humans to validate and agree on which sites should be whitelisted in order to prevent ad fraud. This may not be sustainable in the long run and will require some form of automation for the technology to be truly scalable. Additionally, The Basic Attention Project will require users to adopt a new browser, which could slow adoption rates as the majority of the internet is viewed through the likes of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. If they could somehow offer the same functionality as a plugin, that would greatly improve the project’s chances for success. Lastly, BitClave is currently a small fish in a very big pond and without serious financial backing and support, it will struggle to take down Google’s established presence, especially if Google responds with aggressive innovation.

Nonetheless, blockchain and cryptocurrency pose significant advantages for marketers in terms of transparency, improving business performance and building customer trust. These reasons could suggest that early adoption of blockchain technology could make a significant difference for digital marketing.

Can You Teach Creativity?

Creativity is one of these words that gets thrown around a lot in the advertising sphere. As an agency, we advise our clients to be innovative and creative with their ad formats, messaging, and imagry to better attract consumers.

But what does “be creative” actually mean? Is creativity something that can be taught?

Well, let’s start from the beginning…

What is creativity?

Ultimately, creativity is subjective – it can mean different things to different people. Some define it as a characteristic that allows a person to ‘think outside the box’. Others define it as an activity where something new and valuable is formed. According to Stanford University professor, Tina Seeling, there are six characteristics that are shared by people who are viewed as traditionally creative.

  1. Imagination – thinking beyond boundaries
  2. Knowledge – your creativity toolbox
  3. Attitude – the confidence to solve a problem
  4. Environment – your stage
  5. Resources – outside of money: people, community etc.
  6. Culture – they ways in which your culture celebrates or punishes experimentation

Is it Possible to Learn creativity?

Brands often pay lip service to the idea that they are surrounded with creative people, yet, when you look around, there is a strong level of pushback towards brands for getting the message wrong, like Pepsi’s recent gaffe for producing a completely tone-deaf, offensive ad featuring socialite celeb, Kylie Jenner.

While personality, environment, and other factors all play into the limits of one’s initial level of creativity, brands can still nurture the trait in their organisations and teach people to think outside the proverbial box.

Benefits of Creativity

  • Problem-solving: Creativity teaches you to think in new and innovative ways, improving your problem-solving skills. It forces you to be resourceful, and investigate new solutions to old problems.
  • Creativity is disruptive: It challenges the way you think, shakes things up, and forces you out of your comfort zone. Creativity is the enemy of complacency, and complacency is the harbinger of brand death. Any brand that wants to stay ahead of the competition needs to stay creative. So stop what you’re doing, and bring on the big ideas.
  • Builds Better Relationships: Creative environments increase internal morale and engagement. To produce all those great things for your clients, you need to have an engaged, excited, and motivated team. Brands that foster creativity see an uptick in internal collaboration, resulting in higher levels of productivity, and retention. The ability to see things in new ways enhances product and consumer understanding and creates a better overall workspace. Creativity also builds better external relationships; thinking creatively allows you to see things you might normally miss, and also get inside the customer’s perspective.
  • Stand Out: If you can nurture creativity, it can propel you past the competition with minimal effort. Employees enjoy the opportunity to express their creativity. In addition, positive experiences from your creative endeavours will speak volumes for your brand. It will keep you at the forefront of client and consumer minds – and also do the heavy lifting for you. A clever campaign that stands out is far better for brand awareness and recognition than several mediocre, safe campaigns that have been repeatedly parroted.

The are many benefits to fostering creativity. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are good examples of how cultivating creativity can help brands, both internally and externally.

How can brands be more creative?

So now that we know you can teach creativity, how do we do it?

Old Foundations, New Twist
You can build on ideas already out there – this isn’t like repeating the same tired trope ad nauseam. Everything that’s new and trendy now once stemmed from an original source with an added twist. Collaborate with your team to find that twist and go from there.

Changing of the Guard
Bring in people from teams and departments you normally wouldn’t consider for a particular campaign. You don’t need to look externally for ‘a new pair of eyes’, they’re already in your office, just sitting on other teams. Shake it up, change it up. Ask the questions people want to ask but are afraid to, challenge your co-workers to get outside their comfort zones, and provide a culture and environment where creativity is welcomed, not shot down.

Mistakes = Creative Take-Aways

Finally, remember, as clichéd as it might sound, embrace failures as learning experiences. See them as sign posts to point your brand in the right direction. If you didn’t fail, you’d never see the path you were intended to take. Failure can set you on the right path by challenging assumptions and forcing you to think creatively to come up with a better solution. It can help your brand grow by taking a negative result or experience and turning it into a positive. Build on mistakes as a better way to do things.


This is not an overnight fix, this is something that needs to become a core part of your company culture in order to inspire the change needed to build and sustain a creative environment.

In times of  uncertainty, with Brexit, brand safety , privacy concerns, and other issues looming over marketers, standing apart from the competition is vital. It may seem safer to stick with what you know, but being risk averse is not an effective strategy. Creativity forces you to evolve, and always stay one step ahead. If your safety net disappears, you will, at the very least, have the tools to rebuild and adapt quickly. Creativity won’t just help you survive, it will help you thrive.

 

 

The Power of Voice…Search

This year, home voice assistants have created a stir amongst technology enthusiasts. Voice search, the main feature behind home voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is poised to be the technology of the year.

Technically, voice search isn’t “new”. Apple’s Siri was introduced on the iPhone in October 2011, though initial responses were lukewarm. Users found the system clunky and difficult to navigate without screaming into their phones like lunatics. Fast forward five years, and voice search has vastly improved. Far more sophisticated than the original versions, you are no longer confined to weather updates, or finding the nearest Starbucks.  

Language naturalisation is now an integral component of voice search, making everyday speech patterns easily understandable. It’s come such a long way from Siri’s heyday. Now there are devices that can recognise snippets of lyrics to find the song you want to hear, order your favourite takeaway, or control the lights in your house, and in the case of the Amazon Echo, it will even play rock, paper, scissors with you.

The latest voice search devices are inserting themselves into daily activities in useful and meaningful ways. But will they ever move from ‘nice-to-haves’ to ‘must-have’ devices? What are the challenges they pose not only for the digital industry, but for brands?

The Unknown

It is predicted that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice based. This is partly due to the continued improvements in quality that will make it easier for users to voice search, taking full advantage of being able to speak four times faster than they can type.

Marketers have a challenge ahead of them, as voice search continues to enhance the way users interact with the everyday world. There are so many unknowns for how this technology will unfold, but one thing is certain, this is far more than a passing fad. Whilst it may not happen in 2017, it is only a matter of time before Google, Amazon, and Apple find a way to monetise their voice search technologies.

So, what will that look like?

Websites are already seeing a shift towards longer tail keywords, as users speak more words than they would type into a search bar. For website owners, this means SEO will need to be adjusted to these changes.

But in today’s push for mobile-first digital advertising strategies, we need to ask ourselves if we will see a time when voice-first strategies dominate boardroom conversations. Will bid modifiers for voice sit beside those of desktop, tablet and mobile in our paid search activity?

In a world of monetised voice search, the industry will have to evolve quickly to keep up. Search query analysis will pose an interesting challenge as we try to make sense of the data from an array of dialects, and languages. How will we be able to measure results? Will we need to hire CRO specialists specifically for voice searches?

There are far more questions than answers at the moment, but if Amazon Echo shows us anything, it is that there is a future for voice search purchasing, and with purchasing capabilities comes the desire to advertise and get ahead of the competition.

The Future

Within the last six months alone, voice search use has increased by 41%.   Whilst at the moment users tend to be older adopters, men between age 36-66 with a median household income of over $100,000 we can expect to see this continue to grow over the next year. Due to the fact that voice search devices are still relatively new to the market, it is hard to say what the long term implications for marketing will be. But, I think it is safe to say that there is a future for voice search advertising.

 

2016 Digital Predictions

2016-digital-predictions-article
 
It’s incredible to think that the year 2015 has come to its conclusion.  The past twelve months have flown past, with developments that are likely to dictate the direction of the advertising industry for the next several years, from the rise of ad blockers to the rebirth of paid social as a platform that offers advertisers a new channel for acquisition.
 
2015 was, of course, also the year when Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in the future bringing with them a raft of predictions about what this year would look like.  From hover boards to self-tying shoes, the prophecies made by the film have been assessed, analysed and in some cases ridiculed, hopefully my predictions for next year are slightly better informed…

4 Digital Predictions

Data becomes an even more important part of advertisers’ strategy – Although the effective recording and application of data has been one of the hot topics in the world of digital marketing for several years we are still very much in our infancy with regards to our understanding of how powerful large sets of data can be with regards to our advertising campaigns.
 
The general lack of understanding around visitor identity and intent are key obstacles that digital publishers must overcome in order to satisfy the demands of the advertising industry.  2015 has seen large publishers tighten their grip on advertising expenditure as their scale has allowed them to provide greater audience targeting and insight, the battle for smaller publishers is how they differentiate their product from the big players without access to such scale.
 
Social channels expand their role in acquisition – The issue that social channels have always faced is that their incredible engagement metrics do not match the acquisition targets set by clients. Social channels, of course, will never be able to match the intent of paid or organic search but their ability to access rich customer data should mean they play a crucial role in any prospecting strategy.
 
2015 has already seen Facebook and Twitter enhance their advertising suites and ad formats to provide better solutions for advertisers looking for direct response, and in 2016 it looks like these developments will continue at an accelerated pace with Facebook and Twitter already trialing “Buy Now” buttons in the US and Pinterest announcing the commercialisation of their own platform.
 
Display advertisers will be forced to react to ad blockers and challenges regarding viewability – Unquestionably, the biggest challenges facing display advertisers at the moment are the rising use of ad blockers and ensuring ads served are viewable. My expectation is that these challenges will force display advertisers to react in three ways:

 
The first is to increase ad formats that get around ad blocking software, the likelihood is that these ad formats will feel more native than the current set of creative options becoming integrated with the user experience rather than standing aside from it.
 
The second is that advertisers will be forced to reassess their set of success measures.  Metrics that demonstrate engagement, such as interaction rates, will be crucial to proving performance.
 
Thirdly, as advertisers start to gain a clearer understanding of viewability there will be a greater emphasis placed on premium inventory.  This emphasis is likely to cause a migration from the open exchange to a combination of open exchange and private marketplaces with the knock on effect being inflated CPMs for inventory deemed to be highly effective.

 
Paid search advertisers turn to 3rd party data to pre-qualify audiences – As the auctions for top performing keywords continue to intensify, it will become increasingly important for advertisers to pre-qualify their target audiences before committing to higher CPC levels.
 
For many years the main levers available to paid search advertisers when segmenting audiences were a user’s geography and the time at which they made their search.  More recently Google has expanded audience options to allow for basic demographic targeting and the overlaying of first-party data through remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs).
 
In 2016 I expect that the audience segmentation options within AdWords will progress once again with Google recently launching “Customer Match” on Gmail and the GDN, allowing advertisers to target look-a-likes of email addresses that they have recorded, and trialing targeting based on likely household income in the US.  These more advanced ways of segmenting audiences could have a significant impact on the way paid search advertisers run their activity.  For example, by pre-qualifying audiences it could allow advertisers the opportunity to explore broader keywords that were not deemed profitable previously.

2016 will be Interesting

So there’s my predictions for next year, whatever happens 2016 is shaping up to be another interesting year in digital advertising.  It would be remiss of me not to mention that Back to the Future did in fact get some of their predictions right, so hopefully my prognosis is more in line with the video calls, tablet computers and wearable tech forecast by the film than the bizarre double ties or endless fax machines.

NMPi & Bathstore Partner with IC Tomorrow to Help Solve Digital Industry Challenge

IC Tomorrow Technology Competition

For retailers, understanding the consumer path to purchase is challenging as people experience multiple online and offline touch points throughout a sales journey. Generic online searches that do not include the brand’s name create a more difficult problem to solve when trying to determine the cause of consumer’s online search and motivations that encourage purchase.

Increasingly, retailers and digital media agencies want to understand the value of Above The Line (ATL) advertising, conventionally television commercials, and the effect that this has on their online paid search advertising; more specifically with the use of generic keyword searches.

NMPi is out to help solve this industry challenge with the support of Innovate UK’s current IC Tomorrow challenge themed around Intelligent Data Insights. Innovate UK is a government programme that removes barriers for up-and-coming entrepreneurs by offering assistance though funding, webinars, conferences, competitions and community support.

The contest will give innovators across various trades the chance to win £210,000 in funding (up to £35,000 each). In addition, the winners will receive mentoring, promotion, and the opportunity to work alongside six industry giants:IBM Watson, Barclays, London City Airport, Carnival Corporation, Office of National Statistics and NMPi with bathstore. IC Tomorrow is looking for innovators with fresh perspectives on artificial intelligence, machine learning and sensor-led technologies to offer solutions to current business challenges.

Entrepreneurs will have access to NMPi and bathstore’s insights and expertise in order to help them develop innovative data analysis tools, processes and machine learning techniques that enhance the impact assessment of ATL advertising, primarily television and video advertising, on online paid search.

NMPi Operational Director, Joe Comotto, remarked on the frustration digital marketers are encountering when trying to connect ATL advertising and paid search,“Nobody’s been able to really solve this to a level that is actually portable and scalable to a customer or advertiser. The challenge for us is being able to understand the value of the TV advertising that was done and relate that back to that generic keyword search term…So we’re really looking for somebody to provide a solution that is able to integrate with the other platforms that are available on the market today.”

NMPi is a strong supporter of innovation and research. The IC Tomorrow programme enables us to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology while giving back to the community by partnering with the next generation in paid search evolution. A resolution to this dilemma would dramatically alter and improve the digital advertising landscape. We look forward to participating in this year’s IC Tomorrow challenge.