Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Five things I learned at Ad Tech Sydney

This year I thought AdTech Sydney was good. Not brilliant. Just good. Good because the things I heard there confirmed my thinking – something which is important when you are working in a small and isolated market like New Zealand. And good because organisations seem to have gotten over themselves and are happy to share what they are up to in the social space – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
So here goes - the five key learnings I took from Ad Tech were:
1.       Brand stories need to be cohesive even when fragmented:  according to Jeff Julian from your consumers won’t see your campaign in its entirety, or – for that matter – as a story at all. They’ll dip in and out piecing the story together based on their own media touchpoints and social connections and most likely in a different order from that intended by the creative or media agency.
Making sure you have the right creative assets for each channel is critical. It never was acceptable to treat your TVC as a piece of video content, or cut up your magazine ads to create an online banner, but in today’s social environment it’s unforgiveable.  
Ensuring each channel stays true to the creative vision will enable your message to be received when consumed in a fragmented way. And if you do need channel selection take priority over creative vision ensure you understand why this decision is being made.
2.       When it comes to Social Media, timing is everything: Andreas Panayi of FTI Consulting ( presented a study of how 144 businesses operate in the social space. While 83% of businesses had social policy in place only 56% had a plan in place to manage issues breaking or escalating in the social space.
Scary – especially given 38% of social media crisis arise due to poor brand experiences, influencer relations, community censorship or just a plain and simple failure to respond – things that are completely within the brands control.
If you are managing a social presence, then ensure you have license to respond quickly. With 38% of crisis breaking on either Twitter or Facebook – even the slightest delay can be the difference between resolution and escalation. Which brings me to the next thing I learned…   
3.       The jury is still out on who manages social media: the answer to this is “it depends”. Speaker Ben Kimber (@benkimber) felt strongly that all social media activity should be managed in house – particularly if there was customer service involved. Yeah – like that’s never been outsourced before.
To me the more decisive factor is resource. If you need to be in the social space but can’t resource this internally, then outsource you must.
And what about brands that are more about experience than customer service? Coke, Lynx, Skittles to name just a few. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that their agencies are pretty heavily involved in their social presence.
4.       Socially enable everything: put as much focus on creating discoverable content as you do on finding ways to deliver content. How the content is found and consumed is what gives it power. Information sent – and so endorsed – by a friend, or discovered yourself through search, will always have more credibility than something you see in an ad – even if it is the same content.
Rob Norman (@robnorman) of also made the point that the conversion rates from reach to engagement are so low that it’s absolutely critical for brands to work harder at turning engagement into advocacy.
5.       Life’s a game, play it: Create a game with a sense of purpose and before you know it you’ll have your customers doing exactly what you want them to do – and enjoying the experience to boot. They don’t have to be ‘gamers’ to take part - a good game can appeal to even the most conservative audience. An example of this is – gamifying your finances – or “Epic Win” ( which turns your everyday to do list into a game.
According to @chriserb from, get it right and the rewards for your business are significant – increased engagement and loyalty and a lower propensity to shop around.
Looking through my notes, this list could have been so much longer – so stay tuned for more from AdTech over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

O For Awesome

Time for some personal hand wringing about NZ on line news, specifically I feel compelled to add at this point the following is only because I care. As a former employee who had a very positive experience working there, a firm believer of the importance of a quality fourth estate in a healthy democracy blah blah, that this brand is the best chance we have of a quality news site in the NZ market and, a little more selfishly, to provide a quality and engaging space for me to clutter with advertising.

While it’s by no means every day, I see blunders on the home page that make me wish the journo’s and / or sub editors would just slow down. Take a breath. Pause and maybe even spellcheck to avoid headlines with the word (um, word?) ‘Inconscious’ in them (had to chuckle after emailing the screen shot of the home page to a contact at the nzherald to ask ‘what is wrong with this picture?’ to have them point to another error I hadn’t noticed in another story).

Or in some cases taking their time to add their own headline to fit the brand and audience, instead of just using whatever pre packaged headline news agencies supply them with. I suspect this was the case with the headline ‘Jailed! Spot-Fixing Pakistan Cricketers Sent To Slammer’. An exclamation mark and the word ‘slammer’ instead of prison? Good lord. Makes me think I’ve stumbled onto Stuff or The Daily Mail. Eww. I’ll leave my views on the (over?) use of their Breaking News bar for results of horse races or test cricketers reaching centuries and other quality control concerns for another post.

All this leaves me with unanswered questions. Is the immediacy of on line degrading nzherald as a product in their haste to publish? Are these errors and tabloid tactics symptomatic of the difficult transition between the old cash cow of newsprint to moving news on line? Has David Tua taken up a role in the nzherald news room?

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Bus Stop Zumba

For the past three years Microsofts Kinect gaming devices have been gaining a strong foothold in New Zealand lounges, bringing a new level of interaction to gaming, further empowering teenage boys to blow the heads off poor saps from war torn middle eastern countries and helping the gym shy perfect their Zumba routines. But now these devices are on the move out of the lounge and coming to a bus stop or a mall near you.

While there are plenty of excellent examples of ambient and out of home executions, the integration of Kinect technology is providing a digital element to add a further layer to the all important engagement with messaging, like this example for awareness of Autism in children for Autism Speaks.

‘Cool, whatever – a natural evolution’ I hear you say. Sure, fair enough.

But there are some executions appearing that allow social media to feed into these installations, including this example from Stockholm that attempts to soften the aesthetic impact of a construction site. The result is an extension of the initial out of home experience into your social media world or vice versa, continuing the trend of the lines between digital and traditonal media being blurred.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stories are In, Tabs are Out

By now everyone will be aware that by the end of this month Facebook will be rolling out some major changes across all brand pages.

So just what are these changes and what do they mean for people managing brand pages?

Layout – All brand pages will soon adopt the new timeline layout that has already been rolled out across our personal profile pages. These changes seem to be about offering more options to convey the brand’s identity with the ability to load a larger cover image across the top of the page, and the ability to load retrospective company milestones to the timeline ie. company ‘birth’ date or key product launches.

There are also a number of cool new features that have been introduced to the wall, my favourite being the ability to ‘pin’ an important wallpost to the top of your wall so that key wallposts maintain premium positioning on the wall. You can also highlight certain important wallposts along your timeline to span the full width of your wall which could be used to highlight a certain milestone or successful campaign. Primarily it will be potential new fans who are considering liking the page, who will benefit from these new features, rather than existing fans who tend to do most of their interaction with brands from within their own news feeds.

Page Tabs – One of the biggest changes for me is the death of the default homepage tab. I can no longer set a tab or application as my default homepage, which was useful during a campaign when using a promo tab or launching an application. This is where the new wallpost features ie. ‘pinned posts’ will become very handy. Obviously you will still be able to direct ads straight to a tab or app’s unique URL, but it can no longer be the first port of call for new visitors finding their way to your page by other means. This was done possibly to discourage the practice of fan-gating entry to a page.

In addition, tabs and apps will no longer be given prominence down the left-hand menu of a page. These will instead display along the top right-hand side of a brand page, where four customisable icons will represent the four key tabs for a brand page, with the rest to feature within a dropdown menu.

Why the reduced emphasis on apps and tabs? There seems to be an attempt to move away from anything that draws people away from the wall, where most social interaction happens between fans and brands, bringing the focus back to brand ‘stories’.

Messaging - Another feature that will help brands to manage the conversations on their wall is the ability for fans to message pages directly. This allows the opportunity for pages to take certain conversations - of maybe a more customer service nature - offline, and will also help to minimise timeline ‘clutter’.

Overall the changes seem promising, pushing pages to focus more on creating and sharing great content that people are going to want to share and interact with. Now that the page designs have been standardised, it will be great content that will help your brand page to stand out, without any fan gates or apps to hide behind.