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Everyone is hot for it – so what could possibly go wrong?

A few things: My prediction- by the end of the year the trade press will be talking about a backlash against programmatic? Here’s why:-

People intuit that they are just “target audiences” (and let’s not pretend otherwise)

PA something that is done to people that masquerades as being in the interest of the ” the user”. It is a tool for targeting in a way that is most cost effective for brand owners. Yet, In the selling of PA,  many warm, comforting words are used (that Orwell would have taken pleasure in exposing as doublespeak) to give the impression that PA for some sort of greater good- so it is billed as an opportunity to “connect” in a way that is “personalised”.

A fine example of this is a document that has just plonked on my desk (with a  black  and gold, people-free cover) from Epiphany. It offers a fine explanation of the techniques and technology behind  PA – but it is unable to disguise it lack of humanity. People do crop up-but only as types that are ripe to be targeted.

Take this paragraph:

“With the right third party tracking tools, it is possible to connect a user to different devices. This allows for improved sequential retargeting ( as they move done the funnel, for example) and stops the same user from being served the same ad  multiple times across device”

So in a nutshell I am going to be stalked by an advertiser who will try out different sales messages on me whether I like it or not. And lots of advertisers are going to be at this game because all the smart guys have been switched on to programmatic. So I am going to be stalked by lots of advertisers.

There are two elephants in the room

In this seductive story of  brand efficiency  and media value something is missing.

People.

Who can fight back.

Especially the Digital Natives who know a thing of two about protecting their privacy ( think Snapchat) and keeping out unwanted intruders ( think adblocking – and the rise of it among the young). Strangely this  response to PA does not make it into Ephiphany’s “all wil be best in the best of all possible worlds ” version of Programmatic

The other elephant is this: once all the smart guys are using programmatic the early mover advantages and the dramatic stories of improved value will be less evident.

Some historical perspective is needed to see where this might go

PA is being oversold (as database marketing was before)

PA is the latest development in data driven targeting that started with Amex in the 70s. It was oversold then. It is being oversold now. Many of the warm words used to sell PA are the same as those used to promote “CRM ” in conferences I attended in the 80s.

Out in the real world the bubble of hype bursts when you received a ” personalised” letter with your surname misspelt or you reach a milestone birthday only for an algorythm to decide that some life insurance is timely for you ( or even a funeral plan) and to track you across the internet in the manner of a slightly dumb but insistent salesman who just wont leave you alone.

PA does not inspire great creative

Programmatic buying doesn’t “connect” with creative department in agencies. Why? For fundamental reasons: PA sees people as data points to be traded in real time based on cost. If people are seen mainly as data points that send off signals as to their practical needs ( insurance, a new car, a holiday) – then the creative developed will mainly be “response type”.

Great creative (and especially great database marketing ) depends on empathy with people as living breathing human beings. The DoubleClick team (which sold programmatic during my time at Google) engaged account planners ( like me) to bridge this gap. I am not sure they got anywhere. There was a woeful lack of case histories proving that programmatic leads to the kind of creative work that lights up emotions and make people  feel positive about that brand that brought it to them. An occasional example of creative would be held up  – but it was the rare exception that proved the rule.

Programmatic Advertising is being sold today as a silver bullet (or at the very least as way for marketers to deliver a more results oriented story in the boardroom.)

In truth it is the latest development in a long story about the pursuit of marketing efficiency using data and technology

And I predict that its failure to embrace the feelings of people (buyers/users/consumers/human beings) and the ambitions of those who want to do great creative work will bring a cooling of the current ardour.

 

 

Another excellent conference and excellent value

Here are  a few  things i took away

Steve Hilton may sound modern (took his shoes off in public/wore T-Shirt etc)  but his ideas are really a reworking of ideas launched by the levellers in the 16th Century, and developed by Romantics in the 19th century- he wants things on a human scale and thinks that big things (Govt /Big Business) are (mostly but not always) in opposition to this ie are dehumanising. Romantics said similar things about the factory system. Steve’s plea that we should turn offer our mobiles and get back to nature could have come out of the mouth of Wordsworth ( if mobiles had been around then). A man with interesting things to say but you would not want him running anything – much that makes modern life enjoyable and safe is the product of big business and big government. Steve may be right about back to nature- it’s just a really old idea. I notice that hipsters/visionary policy wonks rarely acknowledge the intellectual traditions that they draw on.

Baroness Susan Greenfield talked about the plasticity of our brains ( how each of us is encoded with memories from our individual experience ). Interesting bit for branding people is how different senses (sight,sound,touch,smell/taste) are processed in different parts of our brain. Sight ( ie reading and following narratives) in the front of our brains. Sound and smell in the deeper more primitive parts of our brain. A strong brand/category should try to encode memory through all the senses. That’s probably why we love coffee shops: they satisfy all of the senses from the story of the heritage, to the smell of the coffee, to the sound of the artfully chosen playlist coming out of the speakers. In Starbucks you can even feel the coffee beans

Richard Watson: the idea that AI can replace humans is largely fantasy as you can’t code a machine to learn  a combination of  unpredictability, individuality and imagination.The problem with self driving cars is not the tech but the unpredictability of the humans the cars might bump into.  A more likely future is the increasing use of AI tools to support human efforts. In fact we already do this when we search on Google or use face recognition on Facebook. Doctors will use AI to make better diagnoses. But a machine wont be able to read the will of a patient to get better. The film ‘Her” is worth seeing as a credible dystopia of a world in which we will be served by AI “personal assistants”. Some shopping/organising of our lives will be done for us by these in the future

Russell Davies: The problem with technology is not humans- we as individuals adopt and adapt all the time- it is organisations. Big ones are very bad at it ( hence all those failed Govt IT projects) and the ones that are good at it have tech in their culture.(Tesla, Google, Amazon etc)  Basically you can’t plug in new technology into an organisation led by people who just “don’t get it”. These are the types of people who (earnestly) go to a seminar about the impact of social media but have a Facebook account which they rarely bother to look at. They know they should know about it – but they don’t live it. This describes much senior management today

I have just designed a new course for APG ( see blurb below) – Book here 

What makes brands grow? How to base your strategic proposals in evidence based thinking – 20th April 9am to noon.

This 3 hour workshop is a hands-on look at the critical evidence based thinking that you need to know from marketing science and behavioural psychology, and how to apply it.

Fast, furious and intellectually stimulating, during this workshop you will learn the concepts and ideas that underpin the best and most authoritative contemporary thinking, from Daniel Kahnemann, Byron Sharp and others, and how and when to apply them to create effective strategies that clients will buy.

This interactive workshop  will look at the truths and untruths that underpin industry thinking and help you to harness the evidence that matters to underpin your work.  

You will learn how to use data to challenge wishful thinking about brands and communication and how to take strategic decisions with confidence

The RA’s new blockbuster show Painting the modern garden  is a sure fire hit. You can be guaranteed at least two hours of calm and visual joy contemplating all the paintings of flowers and gardens, and Monet’s  Waterlilies in particular.

You would not think that they were created at a time of dramatic growth in inhumane factories and grimy cities or that the ghastly products of the armaments industry was shattering mens bodies on an industrial scale in the trenches of The Great War. That is (part of) the point: the British fell in love with their gardens as a places of sanctuary and retreat from the modern world. These paintings are as calming and satisfying as a session of meditation.

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What has this to do with Kittens?

Each day we watch endlessly depressing news broadcasts and each hour we dance attendance on email, twitter and linked in. So we too need a place of sanctuary. Google researchers (when i worked there) found that a big reason why we can’t resist kitten videos is they make us feel relaxed. That is the insight behind this short film called Kitten Therapy.  I am sure that you won’t be able to resist it. 8 million others have found it irresistible too

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If you like RA show you are sure like Delacroix and the rise of modern art  at the National Gallery, a 15 minute walk away .He is the missing link from classical art to the likes of Cezanne , Monet and Renoir. He invented colour theory- the way that certain colours in combination create a particular effect. Take a geeky pleasure in seeing how his love for vivid turquoise and green crop up all the time among his successors, as at the show, you can see his works displayed alongside his disciples.

 

 

£3.00 gets you into all three shows at the photographers gallery. Saul Leiter is worth the price of the ticket alone. (He is the antidote to Liebovitz’s relentless pursuit of people in the news and boosting of the celebrity machine.)  Although he did commercial work , mainly he walked the streets of New York-often looking through a window made blurry through condensation to capture a passing moment. Oh and he clearly loved snow and umbrellas in the rain.

Documentary on YouTube here . Good to watch before you go. He was going to be a Rabbi before he took another direction. At a time  when most shots appeared in black and white in the prints he spent his own time experimenting with colour. Images are muted and nostalgic- an effect he achieved by using expired/used film. He trained as a painter and so saw the potential in photography for abstraction and painterly images. Here Some shots i grabbed from the show

Aurora magazine recently asked me where and how i look for insights online, so i thought i would share. Here are five I find really useful (heavily influenced i guess from working at Google )

ThinkwithGoogle (www.thinkwithgoogle.com) a treasure trove of think pieces and case histories about good digital marketing .

 Google trends www.google.com/trends: what is trending in search right now? What are people searching for in your market right now? What does that tell you about how culture is changing or how your market is changing? You should check it every day. It might change what you think is really relevant to your brands customers.

 Slideshare www.slideshare.net. Presentations shared on more topics than you can imagine. Want to know more about Behavioural Economics and its practical applications? You will fine several presentations about it here.

 Twitter www.twitter.com If you search Twitter you can find high quality articles. But you need to narrow down it down a bit to get the right stuff. “Milllenials” as a search might be too broad “Millenial employees” or Millennial insights “ or “Millennials brands” gets you a more relevant result (assuming that is what you are looking for)

 YouTube Re:View www.getsubsciptions.withgoogle.com A selection of the best of YouTube every week.. An insight what’s hot in American culture. Sit back and soak it up