Friday, 3 September 2010

Video Killed The Video Star

Whatever you are doing right now, you need to stop and go check out this amazing web experience.
An interactive short film by Chris Milk. Featuring "We Used To Wait" from Arcade Fire. Created with the help of Google, this is a very interesting experiment using HTML5 to showcase the Chrome browser, Google Maps and Google Street View. It works perfectly well on any browser that supports HTML5...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Did You Say Gold Mine?

The recent article in the Wall Street Journal  appeared to me to be so  fundamentally flawed that I would have to write something about it. Fortunately, my former colleague and current friend, Len Ellis beat me to it and wrote a far better response than I would have done....

There’s an old PR saying—“Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”   So, I won’t post this comment on the Wall Street Journal’s web site but will share it here.

Its research on user-tracking software, “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets,” reported in three full pages of its July 31-August 1, 2010 weekend edition, is solid on facts but conceptually flawed.  After introducing the types of user behavior collected by cookies, Flash cookies and beacons, it asserts (fifth paragraph) that this data is packaged into profiles about individuals.

That’s simply not true.  Individual-level data are stored in what’s called a record inside a database and there the data just sit as raw material.  When someone queries the database, the software scans the data inside each record and sorts the records into groups that conform in greater and lesser degrees to the query.  The resulting group portraits are profiles. 

Typically, the software is designed so that profiles express a probability.  Measuring the variability of individuals on one or more attributes (the raw material), it differentiates these persons as more likely than those persons (the profiles) to behave in the way desired by a business marketer or a government administrator (the query).  This statistical differentiation then becomes the basis for real-world discrimination: treating these persons differently from those persons, in the service of business profits or government efficiency.  Social statistics at birth and all its descendants since including user-tracking software can parse populations into probabilistic groups.  The method cannot say—and does not want to say—anything at all about individuals as such.

That’s why consumers, despite telling pollsters that they are “concerned” or “very concerned” about online privacy, don’t use the privacy protecting tools that have long been available.  They know that this surveillance does not threaten them as individuals.  Scare-mongering about privacy by the media and activists only perpetuates the belief that individuals are important to business and government.  Fortunately, we aren’t.

Len maintains a blog here and is the author of a remarkably thoughtful yet accessible book around the same subject: Silicon Similacra: Post-Humans Of  The Machine Worlds which is available from here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

What Price Differentiation?

Google has just released a suite of competitive analytic tools to allow AdWords advertisers to compare their performance against an anonymous set of their competitors. Analyze Competition will allow you to

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Consumer is Boss

P&G has launched a direct to consumer ecommerce site called The eStore.  There are a few interesting elements to this, firstly the focus here is on insights. The site was developed with input from more that 5,000 P&G consumers who defined their ideal experience for researching and purchasing products online. Secondly, the direct nature of the business will once again give P&G access to the customer insights that they surrendered to retailers years ago.

"Our “Consumer is Boss” focus means we must be available to consumers when and where they seek to research or purchase P&G products."

P&G themselves define the central purpose of the eStore to be a living, learning lab. Shopper behaviours and other insights will be integrated into the evolution of the experience and will inform testing and delivery of offers, tools, features and expertise along with existing P&G capabilities in the CRM, mobile and personalized product consultation areas.

P&G has provided (or supported) many of the innovations in on-line marketing dating back to the 90s when the company gave it's agencies a clear reminder that online marketing needed to be a focus for them. Around the turn of the century, they described themselves as moving from being the "loudest shouter" in marketing to the "best listener". Many of their moves since then (including this one) confirm the intent.

Happy shopping...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Google Me Better

A survey conducted in April 2010 by Capstrat and Public Policy Polling, found 22 % of respondents consider Google searches influential in seeking health information. How significant is this? Well, doctors were credited with 44% reported influence, and the search engine was cited more than twice as often as nurses, pharmacists, advocacy groups and friends or family members.

The survey also asked about the confidence the respondents felt in the information they harvested from different sources. Health advocacy groups emerged as a particularly trusted source of online health information: 71% judged Web content of such groups "somewhat reliable" or "extremely reliable". While more than half (59%) felt that way about organic Google searches.

Online communities continue to trail significantly. Only 12% of respondents used online forums in their last search for health information, and only 37% considered forums reliable.

The survey revealed significant differences in the way various segments of society use online communities. African Americans and Gen-Xers are significantly more likely to consider them reliable sources of information. Younger respondents were also much less likely to see pharmacists as reliable sources of information, perhaps reflecting the more impersonal relationship they have with chain pharmacists compared to their parents¹ long-standing reliance on the mom-and-pop operations that used to dominate the landscape.

"We found it interesting that popularity and trust don¹t always go hand-in-hand. People are quick to search the Web for health information, just as they use it for most other questions today. But when it comes time to make a decision, their trust resides where it always has ­ in people. This insight can be instructive to organizations working to combine health expertise with new strategies for communication." - Karen Albritton, Capstrat.

Data points:

  • 32% of African Americans cited Google as the most influence source for health decisions, compared to only 15% of Hispanics who found Google influential
  • 63% of women considered Google reliable on health, compared to 53% of men
  • 53% of respondents ages 30 to 45 found online forums to be reliable, compared to only 37 percent of respondents ages 46 to 65
  • 65% found a phone conversation with a nurse to be somewhat or extremely reliable.

Another example of the power of search in the healthcare arena, there are many more where these came from...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Times They Are A....

Every year the MIT Technology Review produces a list of the top 10 emerging technologies that will change things up for us in the coming months. This years list has just been released and includes two of particular interest (to me that is). The first is Real-Time Search and the impact that social networking will have on search. As web content changes (the proliferation of micro-posts), the trick will be to give the same credence and authority to those fleeting slices of different users current attentions (Twits etc.) that can be associated with the more permanent content and context that fuels the Google algorithm. Google and Microsoft are working hard on bringing this to life.

The second is Social TV. Which brings together the passive experience of watching TV with the active one of sharing comments, observations and ratings about shows, events and, yes, even commercials with the viewer's networks... For the TV companies, this is a way of fighting back against Hulu etc and developers and some cable companies are working on ways to enable a seamless connection between the TV and the social graph. An interesting extension from here will be personalised TV, as content that viewers may find interesting gets highlighted by their networks...

The full list of what's on the horizon is here.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Good Cause - Good Execution

BBH London created an interactive billboard to raise money for Barnardo's Children's Charity. Nice, and very effective use of interactivity...

Sunday, 4 April 2010


The owner of popular London coffee house Prufrock Coffee (and the current World Barista Champion), Gwilym Davies, has come up with what I consider one of the best retail marketing programs I have seen for a while.

He calls it his disloyalty card. the objective is to have his customers taste the coffee in 8 different, high quality establishments in the area, getting the card stamped at each. Once the card is full, he will give you a free cup of coffee.

Lot's of things here, obviously this states pretty clearly the confidence in the product. Perhaps more importantly though is the element of breaking the mould that most loyalty programs have conditioned consumers to tune out (do you have a Nectar card?..)

Excellent idea...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Giving Your Segmentation An Attitude...

CRM - Customer Relationship Management (or more correctly Customers Really Manage), has always been founded on a complete understanding of your customer. The tailor that knows instinctively what kind of suits you would wear and therefore which to propose, because he knows "who" you are as well as what you have bought previously. This level of understanding cannot be generated from transactional data alone. So many programs are based on this one-dimensional, behavioural approach to understanding the customer.

To really derive value from such programs, it is essential to understand the attitudes of your customers and prospective customers:
  • How customers relate to your category,
  • How customers think about you and your competitors,
  • Why customers purchase from you, and crucially,
  • Why they don't
Adding the "why" to the "what" that your data already provides will generate exponentially better campaigns that lead to significantly better business outcomes.

More here...

Photo: Adweek