Wednesday 9 June 2010

Countdown to iPhone 4 release date

Tuesday 1 June 2010

If you want something done...

OK. Time for a bit of a braindump.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ve written a few, but always left them without being published because they weren’t good enough, or big enough, or important enough, or something. I’m not sure I’m out of that head space just yet, but I do want to share some thoughts and questions.

The Tannoy has always been about new technologies and communications, and I’ve tried to track shifts in the way were talk to each other in the digital realm. Since we last spoke I’ve set up a few new companies to address and service these changes. All have a view of digital marketing at their core, but one of these – Pavilion Digital - looks to another development discussed at length by The Economist some months back.


It’s a word that has lost its meaning because it means so many different things to different people. For me, it is the 1s and 0s of raw code that tell a computer what happened when. Back to the binary coal face! There is more data than ever before, and will be much, much more in future, but what do we do with it?

Pavilion Digital extracts meaning from data. Any and all data. Diverse data sets, market research, server data, tracking data, sales, sales force and CRM of every description. Whatever it is, we can import datasets, analyse them individually or together and extract reports, statistical insights and most of all - value - from what already lies within. We’ve done it in the past few months with some very big clients from the transport and FMCG sectors, and the thing that emerged for me, most of all, was how difficult nay impossible this work is if you don’t know how it’s done, and don’t have the right tools. Few people, in my experience, can get their head around data sets, weighting, imports, exports and then extracting sensible stories from it. Important stories. We have the people to do that, and the best tools, so that’s cool! :-)

In the end of the digital just provides another tool for telling a story. Pavilion Digital gives you the glasses to read it and the directions to understand it.

I’ve also developed and sold some iPhone apps – hardcore utility apps for data gathering and dissemination you understand... not the faddish gadgetry as makes up so much of the 150,000 apps, or whatever it is, that are out there. That’s been real fun. It’s very cool to come up with ideas, get them scoped, scripted and launched, and then someone just has to have them. Very rewarding. When I say iPhone apps, they are actually device and software agnostic, so will work on any smart phone. But more of that in a later blog. I’ll let you all know when the customers launch them and you can check them out.

Again, at the core of these and indeed all digital communication functionality is data.

OK. I sound wishy-washy and half-baked, and sorry for that. I’ll get to the point.
I’m looking at the digital communications industry, and I worry about it, because it seems to me that the whole thrust of internet collaboration is anti agency. Any agency! It’s all about putting people together, directly. Peer to peer not consumer to consumer. And to extend the analogy its about: - P2P, P2B, B2B and B2P.

The internet has taken an amazing toll on the market research space, the advertising industry and the travel space, because it puts individuals in touch with companies directly. And, vice versa, it also puts individual companies in touch with their markets’ individuals too. This puts agencies in a difficult situation... What is left for them to do?

At present, digital ad agencies are broken out by common sense boundaries. Social networks, of course, search and Pay Per Click, naturally. Website builders, traffickers and trackers and em... and, apart from the creative department (part of the website department) and content writers, that’s kind of it. (I'm sure someone will correct me here and feel free.) I know there are bigger agencies which co-ordinate the needs of bigger clients, and there is bound to be a need for these for some time. But then again... the bigger they are...

Market research agencies have a range of other issues including the lack of a requirement for a field force, the slashing of margins, shifting client expectations, the shortening of timeframes and indeed the whole cheapening of the space. Only top quality slimmed down research houses need remain.

The problem for the agency world in general is that any company can do all of these things themselves. Easily. And, if they can’t, they will be able to in a year or so. They probably do some of the things already. In fact, any individual will be able to do them. What’s worse for agencies is that very big companies, who make up the lion’s share of all advertising spend, are taking these functions in house. Why? Because they can, they have control, they don’t get dependent and bamboozled by gurus, and because, well, they just like it. Worse again, hard pressed governments, who used to make up another chunk of spend, are doing it too – wiping out even the larger players in the digital ad space. (The loss of such a contract was a major contributor to the downfall of digital media buying giant – i-Level in the UK.)

The issue for agencies is that buying advertising, tracking it, and optimizing it is child’s play, if you know how. It’s not only all so trackable - it is all so easily trackable. And, you will know how to do this sort of tracing and optimizing - if you want to. It’s not hard, if you can read instructions and can use a computer and the Internet. (If you can’t do either – this blog aint for your!)

The other issue is shifting impressions. Two years ago people used to surf the web now and then. That’s largely gone. That free time has been taken up with surfing on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter... not on websites – unless you are doing something like research for shopping, or gathering information for health reasons for example. Or buying a ticket maybe. In short, there’s very little actual surfing done these days, so the impressions burned per user on the web as a whole will be dropping. Per user mind, not in total as the number of users is growing. The audience is just hanging out in a different place.

The long tail is getting a hell of a site longer. It has to be. People are visiting much fewer bigger sites, and occasionally wandering out of their social network in response to a link. I heard that 50% or so of Facebook users (350 million of them) are visiting the site daily for over half an hour. That is just phenomenal if you think about it. Well, all of those impressions that 350 million had to offer the Internet advertiser outside of Facebook are lost, unless the ads are in Facebook itself.

So - back to data. The game of business today, as I see it, is in using your existing information, your data, and squeezing every morsel of insight out of it before you spend any money on market research. There’s cash in that there data attic - if you just go and look.

Then, when you are advertising – try and get your head around as much of it yourself as you can, (or get staff to). You’ll save an absolute fortune! Between Bluestreak and Google Analytics you can track the world and his mother as they view your ads placed on networks for small beans. Use social networks. Embrace them. Learn how to target your market with age, sex and location. It’s so wizarded – my Dad could understand it. It’s intuitive, obvious, easy-to-manage and click – you’ve got a campaign going. Website? Use blogging software.

You will need help with logos, and creative, but it is a really, really very good time to do this. (There are free ways of getting them too, if quality isn’t a huge concern.) Then, when you’ve got all your add data, and reports, why not integrate them with your server data, CRM data, sales data, spend, product categories and sales outlets, and analyse them all together. That’s where we come in – because, with the right setup, tools and training, or if you want someone to do it for you and send you the reports – you talk to Pavilion Digital. Again, it’ll save you a fortune.

Slash market research budgets, manage and optimize ad-spend without margins to third parties. Optimize all activities and hone the ideas and marketing plans. This is the best way to give your business the best chance of making the most margin on all sales.

And don’t worry about going it alone. The net is empowering all and it is a collaborative space, so, if you don’t know how, ask, and someone will help you – for free. Just give it a go. You can’t break anything, and everything is reversible. It is tough times out there, so what have you got to lose. No, a better question – What have you got to gain?