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You’re probably thinking, not another clichéd article about how traditional advertising needs to take on the integration route with digital etc.

What you would term a “traditional advertising agency” does not hold any meaning anymore. There is no such thing as traditional anymore in the real sense of the word.

My aim is not to talk about the importance of integration because integration is also old news.

The world we live in today is more than just many advertising channels from web to mobile, tv, print and so on.

The way people engage with and consume media has fundamentally shifted; economies have been transformed, collapsed and rebirthed around the world.

Careers that didn’t exist twenty years ago and careers that don’t exist today will continue to shift the economic and big brand landscape for years to come.

Digital has become far more than a channel on which to advertise on. Its meshed into everything we touch, engage with and live with. The customer experience value chain has been fundamentally impacted by digital and the power of digital to affect this value chain is critical.

It is this fundamental shift that offers the biggest opportunity for companies and brands and the biggest challenge to advertising agencies.

Plainly, digital is part of everything we do and advertising agencies cannot just integrate. They need to reinvent their businesses. I don’t see advertising agencies, as we know them, in the next twenty years, bold statement, but rather I see brand and marketing consultancies with specialisms that will encompass the new world in which we live.

Services, ranging from what’s already part and parcel of an agency, such as communication strategy, media strategy and the “big idea” which is generally at the heart of any campaign – will need to be a lot nimbler and agile, be able to rapidly shift and morph to consumers needs and wants.

Big ideas are great but the traditional model of conceptualising and rolling out a big idea is antiquated, it needs flexibility. Just as the digital world around us does not move and develop in a linear fashion, so too advertising and the marketing community in general will need to learn new skills and new, fresh perspectives will be needed for brands to survive in the future.

Integration is an operational function, while important to keep clients happy for now, is not the answer for providing long term value and even survival.

Digital is part of our lives and not a channel for some pretty, big budget content productions that are disseminated on YouTube everyday. The creative directors of the future will need a much broader set of skills to deliver sustainable brand building strategies.

Digital needs to at the center of the process of transformation of agencies and marketers at large

Digital is beyond a channel selection, an ecosystem or a strategy and there is still a lot to learn. This transformation is about thinking digital first.

Financial firms and other large organisations are finding that they need to process massive amounts of data. However, this move carries both benefits and risks and it is important to be aware of both.

Big Data, as it is known, is everywhere. It is found in mathematics, government, science and so on. The financial services industry uses it the most, however, and this is potentially also where the largest risks are. The idea around Big Data is being able to analyze and process huge amounts of data very quickly.

Is It Too Fast?

Financial exchanges benefit tremendously from being able to convey information as quickly as possible.

Different markets all over the world want to be able to process information in real time. Dealing with Big Data is now so quick that certain companies are receiving fines just for being a few seconds late.

Because of the speed, the way data is collected and how decisions are made is changing too.

There are various new techniques that make it possible for trades to be executed without any human interaction, for instance.

Data from all over the world can automatically be gathered and analysed to predict future trends, whether that is on the stock exchange market, or in terms of weather patterns.

The Benefits of Big Data

There are a number of reasons why analysing Big Data is so important.

Data has always been used in order to predict trends. The difference here, however, is how much data can be analysed and how quickly. This means that, in theory at least, decision-making can be improved, directed at specific needs and demands.

It has always been known that knowledge is power. As such, information is now one of the most common commodities in the world.

Thanks to Big Data, companies are able to instantly identify the behaviour of their customers or shifts in the industry, and this can lead to more accurate decisions.

Big Data gathers information from everywhere. It simultaneously looks at customer feedback, trading patterns and social media channels, for instance.

This information can be very random, such as the fact that 90% of people who make a financial deposit of over $100,000 on a monthly basis also own dogs.

However, this information, as random as it may seem, also makes it easier to target new information towards those specific people. The same data shows, as well, that these people take risks when it comes to their investments, which is incredibly important to know for a financial institution.

Big Data allows companies to stay ahead of trends. A bank, for instance, is able to analyse their cash flow over certain periods of time and this can help them to make accurate forecasts over coming trends. It also allows banks to see the results of government program funding or regular employment trends, which we know change every five years. Finally, Big Data can help to make decisions using historical data as the denominator. For example, should a company decide to relocate elsewhere, this can impact their financial situation and their employee engagement significantly.

Because this is a known fact, Big Data can help companies to ensure their payment programs are in place to ensure all bills, including salaries, continue to be paid on time.

Big Data, as such, makes it possible to act on real-time events based on information from the past.

The Drawback of Big Data?

It cannot be denied that Big Data is hugely important in terms of segmenting customers and making decisions. However, there are some significant concerns as well, relating mainly to regulatory issues, security breaches and potential cost implications.

It is important to be aware of these issues before deciding whether the benefits of Big Data outweigh the drawbacks. Firstly, when so much information on customers is not just available but also segmented in various different patterns, a new risk could actually be created. If the information was lost or leaked, for instance, the effects could be catastrophic.

This is what happens when someone ends up leaving their laptop or USB memory stick at the back of a cab. Even though the information is often encrypted and secured, it is still accessible to a good computer expert, and people do not want their data to be out there in the public domain.

Regulatory issues are also important. Strict guidelines have been established on a federal level, in the US, about the storage of data and how long it can be kept.

However, there is a strong drive to reduce this period of time, so that risk also becomes lower. However, in the present scenario, if a company were to go bust and the information they held would get subpoenaed, then it is unclear who would be responsible for it. Finally, the cost is important too. It is unclear who decides how storage and management costs are calculated. However, the information has to be housed, it must be linked to the internet and people want to connect to it remotely in order for it to be beneficial. This brings security risks with it as well, but also a tremendous financial cost.

Big data  – the collection of data sets, now so large it makes it difficult to process them using traditional data processing methods – is a term that many marketers have become concerned about lately.

Capturing, storing, sharing, curating and visualizing this data becomes nearly impossible using traditional methods such as spreadsheets or analytics solutions.

The exponential increase in data means, big data has become key in competing and growing a business.  Due to the enhanced insight and decision making potential it provides, leaders in every business industry have to understand the implications and how to use big data, not only to get ahead of the competition, but to drive business efficiencies and increase profitability.

McKinsey Global Institute has studied big data in five different domains including the European public sector, healthcare and retail in the United States and global based personal location and manufacturing data. Big data has shown to be effective in generating value in all of these domains. Retailers using big data have the ability to increase operating margins by as much as 60 percent or more. Using big data in the healthcare industry could help to create more than $300 billion every year in value in the United States, according to Mckinsey’s Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity report.

There are basically five ways that big data can help businesses create value. It can unlock value by making information more transparent and usable and at a higher frequency and allows businesses to store their data in digital form, which is much more efficient. Big data usage will provide for growth of productivity as well as consumer surplus. While the actual use will vary depending on the specific sector, all sectors can gain some benefit from big data. Some sectors however, are naturally set for a greater gain.

Computer and consumer electronics for instance as well as government and finance and insurance markets are likely to see a much higher gain from using big data than other industries. Still, all industries can benefit provided they learn how to use big data effectively.

Unfortunately there is a shortage of skilled staff that is needed for companies to take full advantage of big data.  Mckinsey Global estimates that by 2018, markets may face huge shortages of people that have the skills and experience needed to handle big data.  In the United States alone it is estimated there is already a shortage of nearly 200,000 skilled professionals able to take on the challenges that big data presents. Those working with big data will need the skills necessary to use the analysis to make decisions that will benefit their respective organizations.

A recent article by Itweb points out that South African corporates lag on big data analytics. This was further backed up by a local study conducted by Strategy Worx, which showed that CIO’s within South African companies are not using big data analytics or systems in any substantive way, a clear opportunity to drive value in the local market.

This will not doubt lead to big shortages in data analytics skills in the local market as South Africa will need to play catch-up with its international counterparts to maintain competitiveness.

There are a number of issues that must be addressed before businesses and marketers can fully capture big data’s full potential. Any policies that are relevant to liability, privacy and security and/or intellectual property will need to be fully addressed before big data can offer its benefit. Companies will need to ensure they have skilled people working for them and that they have the technology needed to fully capture the benefits of big data. Being able to access data is of course, an important factor to consider.

Businesses will need to be able to integrate their data from a number of different sources, including third parties, so there will need to be certain steps taken to ensure that this is a feasible process.  Again there are certain industries that will benefit more from the use of big data. The healthcare industry is one of them.

The United States healthcare system has four main data pools that include clinical, patient behavior, medical products and cost. Each of these pools of data, is captured by a different electorate. The healthcare system will find big data to be extremely beneficial with regards to capturing and managing this data and will likely see a major boost in productivity, provided they use a combination of data from a number of different sources.

Properly managing and implementing the practices of big data will create benefit not only for the industry but for its patients as well.  Patients will have better access to information regarding healthcare so they will be much more informed than they are today. They will be able to better compare the prices of drugs and treatment options, compare physicians and choose better paths of treatment for themselves.  Big data then is not just something that is beneficial to markets and marketers but to consumers in many ways as well.

Closer to home, government services are one area where data and analytics need to come together to not only improve service delivery but to lower the costs of government services. Mobile phone usage is ubiquitous in the local market and integrating, analysing and understanding the usage, behavior and needs of this market in more detail will open up many more opportunities beyond government and into the private sector.

It is clear that in the world of marketing communications, data and analytics is becoming an increasing focus of competence, as pointed out in a Harvard Business Review interview in March this year with Sir Martin Sorrell where he stated that “Our competitive set is no longer Omnicom and IPG and Publicis. It is Nielsen and GFK. It’s the data companies.”

2012 was a watershed year for SEO.

Google not only moved the goalposts but shifted the playing field away from link spammers and planted it firmly back into the quality space.

Search engines have always favoured quality over quantity but algorithms of past were gamed by heavy link building techniques focusing on quantity.

The search index suffered as a result with quality of search engine results not quite reflecting the user’s input.

 

Architecture of a Web crawler.

Architecture of a Web crawler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Issue of Quality

The focus now is squarely on quality content, yes links still matter, but content that is generated regularly.

Quality content isn’t simply repackaging an old post but it needs to be unique, written professionally and give users value.

If the users find it valuable then so will Google.

 

Social is Critical

Google and other search engines have been increasing their focus on social and understanding social signals relative to a particular website.

Google+ is evolving into more of an integrated ecosystem with the Google+ single sign on – social is an area where you cannot afford not be playing.

One thing to remember is that quality of SEO needs to be part of everything you do and social is no different, your content needs to be engaging and provide value for users.

 

Mobile

Google has made their intention quite clear with their recent announcement  that they will be migrating all Adwords campaigns to their new Enhanced Campaign format.

This means that not is mobile becoming an integral part of search engine algorithms but the days of having a mobile website and a desktop version no longer hold true.

Responsive web design is slowly transforming this environment. It is allowing the development process to focus on one URL destination that caters for all devices and depending on the device that accesses it, it will display the same content in a mobile friendly manner.

In a continent such as Africa, mobile is the first screen – in the developed world mobile is slowly becoming the primary means for accessing the web.

Mobile is critical moving forward.

 

SEO is always evolving but if you keep to the base principles then your efforts should be well rewarded.

It’s not long ago that reports started to come out saying that CRM – Customer Relationship Management – would soon be dead as a dodo.

It wasn’t generating revenue and its strategies were pitiful. However, it seems that they are making a comeback. Evidently, this is because one of the biggest media trends is the ever growing presence of social media, now no longer just accessible through computers but also through our mobile devices. Hence, businesses are having a rethink about the various CRM initiatives.

In fact, the comeback is believed to be so strong that it will completely change how businesses adapt to the behavior of their customers. According to Techopedia however, this does mean that the providers of CRM systems will come up with some new best practices and innovative ideas.

“Customers now have the tools to express their opinions on anything, at any time and anywhere in the world. This has changed the role of customer feedback, and made it much more important; after all, customer feedback over social media has been known to make or break businesses.”

Understanding the Needs of Customers
The needs of customers are changing continuously. If you have taken steps to understand the needs of your customers in the past, that doesn’t mean that you now “get them”.

You need to keep on top of their needs and continue to innovate your own products. Constant Contact Blogs explains that there are limits to this as well though.

“This doesn’t mean delving into the personal lives of those who shop at your store or sign up for your services—it means making a renewed dedication to letting your customers drive your marketing decision making.”
Marketing, essentially, isn’t just about making your business grow. It is about making sure that your customers have an experience that gives them a positive feeling, that will give them value. Because of that, whenever they need a new service or a new product, they will come to your business again.

Social Engagement Should Be In-Person Communication
It is certainly true that in many ways, all the social networking tools that we have at our disposal have made us less sociable. There is truth in this, because we tend to spend huge amounts of time behind a computer talking to people we don’t see. We lose all the non-verbal communication, unless you count emoticons but even those have their limits.

According to Small Business Success Blog, we must change the way our marketing success and our brand measure up against each other. Sure, it’s great to get likes, comments and shares but that only means you have left an impression. As a business, you want to earn cash.

“As marketers, we all need to reshape these success metrics and bring a renewed dedication to generating personal relationships from that social activity.”
There are other important ways that customer relationships will shape the future of marketing. Essentially, it is all about being “customer centric”.

The customer is at the heart of every operation you undertake. They have to feel valued and be applauded for their continued efforts to come back to you. The view point is that customers don’t care about your products. What they care about is what your products will enable them to do.

Hence, you must make sure that their experience is relevant. You also need to make sure that your customers’ privacy is respected at all times, which is a very current issue. A lot of marketing buzzwords are being thrown into the arena and you need to look through this to see the real message: it’s all about your customers.