The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Reality advertising
Posted by: Faris Yakob, Co-founder, Genius Steals
Faris Yakob

When we first began to replicate reality at reasonable resolution, it was such a novelty we confused it with the real thing.

Famously, early moving pictures of trains speeding towards the camera would frighten audiences so much they would leap from their seats. Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast sent the populace into paroxysms of hysteria.

When everything you experience is real, you assume reality. Jean Baudrillard predicted the counter position – when more of existence was mediated than not, as a 'hyperreality', where we can't tell the difference between illusion and everyday experiences.

We now consume media more than doing anything else, including sleep. The illusory power of verisimilitude is still strong – the suspension of disbelief when watching film, the sense that the camera can't lie – but the modern media literate knows to trust nothing he or she sees. Photoshopped, framed, edited and excluded, all media is susceptible to manipulation, in manifold ways. The assumption of truth becomes the suspicion of falsehood.


Subjects: Advertising, Consumers

03 September 2015 14:22

The unintended (or intended?) consequences of undertaking surveys
Posted by: Peter Mouncey, Editor-In-Chief, IJMR
Peter Mouncey

One major accusation levelled at the pollsters in their failure to correctly predict the likely outcome of the UK general election back in May was that their incorrect forecasts influenced both the intentions of voters, and the strategies of the political parties.

Recently, I've seen two further examples of how we have to think carefully about the consequences, intended or unintended, when conducting research.

The first echoes the issues surrounding political opinion polls. As you probably know, the heat is already being turned up under the 2016 presidential election in the USA, especially with the first round of TV debates by prospective Republican contenders' launching their primary campaigns producing a lot of contentious statements and debate. It's a blog post by John Dick (CEO CivicScience, Pittsburgh) warning pollsters of the dangers posed by the 'audience reach' of findings based on inadequate samples which can become disproportionately high due to media coverage. In support of his case, Dick cites two recent USA national surveys designed to study political attitudes of Republicans based on samples of 252 (Wall Street Journal) and 423 (Monmouth University).


Subjects: Consumers, Marketing, Data

02 September 2015 16:32

The path to digital transformation
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Matt Green, senior manager – global marketing procurement at the WFA.

Every now and then a new development comes along that changes everything. That was the case with wind, steam, the internal combustion engine and electricity. Now digital is radically reshaping the way we communicate, behave and do business.

We can already see that the emerging digital economy looks quite different to what existed before.

We now live in a world where Uber, the world's largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world's most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world's largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.


Subjects: Digital, Marketing

24 August 2015 16:06

Marketing's eternal obsession with youth
Posted by: Richard Shotton, Head of Insight, ZenithOptimedia
Richard Shotton

One of the longest-standing criticisms of advertising is its unhealthy fascination with youth. The majority of campaigns target the under 55s and a disproportionate number of brands focus on the under 35s.

Why are marketers so obsessed with targeting the young when older groups tend to be wealthier? According to the Daily Telegraph the over 50s account for 40% of the population but hold 80% of the wealth. Not only are older groups wealthier but they are also growing in number: data from nVision shows that there are 11m over 65s, an increase of 17% versus 2003.  

Bob Hoffman, one of the most insightful advertising commentators, is scathing: "There is only one type of person confused enough [to ignore the over 50 market] – a marketing person".


Subjects: Marketing, Consumers

20 August 2015 15:43

Retail marketing: When it comes to building loyalty, it's the brand product manufacturers that have the edge
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by José Carlos González-Hurtado, President of IRI International.

Even the most price-focused brands have come to understand the importance of customer loyalty in recent years. Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair – once famous for its stark approach to customer service – recently credited its 25% profit increase to the "enhanced customer experience" it now offers. Discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl have also realised that low prices are no longer enough to keep customers returning.

Many FMCG retailers still have a long way to go when it comes to making customer loyalty a priority, however. As margins are eroded, price wars break out and online retailers and discounters rise, growing sales by building and sustaining a base of loyal customers is critical. Yet retailers are failing to make use of the rich consumer data they have ready access to, applying it primarily to inform short-term price and promotions activities.

FMCG product manufacturers, on the other hand, have spent years building strategic, analytical and consumer-focused organisations, with the aim of long-term retention of their hard-won customers.


Subjects: Consumers, Marketing

18 August 2015 10:37

What marketers can learn from the world's most incompetent bank robber
Posted by: Richard Shotton, Head of Insight, ZenithOptimedia
Richard Shotton

McArthur Wheeler’s infamous career as a bank robber was short-lived. He robbed two Pittsburgh banks on single day in 1995 – but didn’t keep the money for long. Rather than using a mask, as tradition dictates, he had the misguided idea of rubbing lemon juice on his face. He mistakenly believed that since it was used in invisible ink it would prevent security cameras from recording him. The police caught Wheeler on the day of the robbery and he was soon sentenced to 24 years in prison.

The story of the failed robbery is of interest to marketers as it inspired two Cornell psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, to come up with an important insight into human behaviour.

Illusory self-belief

The psychologists wondered how such an inept criminal could think that he had the necessary skill to successfully evade capture? More importantly they decided to test whether this lack of self-knowledge was widespread. They recruited students to take a series of maths and grammar tests and then asked them to predict how well they would do compared to their peers.


Subjects: Advertising, Marketing, Consumers

14 August 2015 16:03

Are 'skinny' services the next media trend?
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Sam Farrand, account/planning director at the7stars.

BT is attempting to buy EE for a reported £12.5bn. The deal, should it go through, represents the latest move within the utilities industry to shore up a company's position across multiple products, bundle them up and sell customers a suite of services.

Big money acquisitions only represent the crest of the wave: Sky offers its customers TV, a phone line, broadband and mobile; Vodafone provides Spotify Premium as part of its higher price contract bundles; and even energy companies such as Southern Electric are now offering products as diverse as broadband on top of power supply. In short, bundling is big business.

However, in the media world there are hints of a very different future, one where content is being actively 'unbundled', with veteran market-disruptor Apple leading the charge. CBS CEO Les Moonves views Apple as 'trying to change the universe' – the universe in question being the traditional satellite or cable subscription TV model.


Subjects: Advertising, Consumers, Digital

13 August 2015 15:04

ATTICUS AWARDS! Learn about brand migration, the global luxury market and effective mobile advertising
Posted by: Lena Roland, Knowledge Officer, Warc
Lena Roland

The Atticus Awards went live on today. They are a selection of winning papers which are open exclusively to professionals working in WPP companies. They honour original marketing thinking.

I've surfaced a selection that I think deserve a special mention. Themes explored include best practices on successful brand migration across Western and Eastern markets, the cultural dynamics driving change in the global luxury market and a guide to effective mobile advertising.


Subjects: Awards, Marketing, Advertising

13 August 2015 11:21

The alternate futures for mobile payment
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Tim Spenny, Vice President of GfK's Financial Services team in North America, specializing in Mobile Payments and FinTech.

The ability of Mobile Payments to keep consumers happy hinges on whether the big players will play nicely together. If they do, Mobile Payments will be a boost for both retailers and consumers. If they don't, Mobile Payments could become a messy land-grab, with retailers favoring brand-exclusive Mobile Payment systems and making life much more complicated for consumers.

Picture this: you're in the department store. Your basket is nearly full. There's just one last pair of pants to look at. And what's that? A discount for it pops up on your phone. Bargain! The trousers are coming with you. And it's time to go. You wave your phone at the checkout – that was easy! – and everything's paid for. Loyalty points rack up for everything you've bought. And you head home, mission accomplished.


Subjects: Consumers, Digital

11 August 2015 15:58

How marketers can use gamification to engage consumers
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Juha Koski, founder and MD of

With the UK eCommerce sales reaching £38bn last year, there's stiff competition to find new ways to attract customers to a website or app, keep them engaged while there and ultimately to encourage their return.

To achieve this goal, increasing numbers of companies are turning to gamification as a way of creating a more entertaining and fun shopping experience than that offered by traditional eCommerce sites such as Amazon and eBay. The end goal is to better engage with and reward customers – and drive sales.

By contrast standard loyalty programs tend to focus on the very last stage of the consumer decision journey (i.e. the purchase) but crucially leave out and ignore everything that occurs beforehand.


Subjects: Digital, Marketing, Consumers

10 August 2015 14:38


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