The Guardian have just released analysis into the performance of 300 brand campaigns that they have carried. Their conclusion, drawn from surveys amongst their 3,000 strong reader panel, is that making ads contextually relevant significantly boosts effectiveness.
The Guardian’s data shows that when ads run alongside relevant web editorial readers are nearly 20% more likely to feel positively about the advertiser and 23% more likely to think that the message was relevant to them. The impact of context was just as strong in print where ads are 20% more likely to be seen as relevant to the reader when alongside related content.
There are plenty of ways brands can be relevant beyond tailoring ads to editorial though; ads can be adapted according to mood, weather or timing for example. However, perhaps the most interesting form of contextualisation is regionalisation. Its value lies in its simplicity. Whilst obtaining accurate mood data is difficult, tailoring a message to a city is cheap and reliable.
If you step back from the buzz of the day to day, there is a palpable sense of things 'tightening up' across China. The raging trade in property – the national obsession that has created more wealth in China than any other endeavour – is now bound by regulation. The much-publicised 'war on corruption' is an attempt to close up the back channels that have defined how China used to work.
And, more recently, we've seen that the welcome mat, once rolled out to multinational corporations in China, has been all but rolled up. The uneven application of anti-trust law is another hoop through which brands must jump. But until recently, amid the tightening of laws and adding of hoops, on the TV screens we were able to watch a TV ad that earnestly told women that with the ready application of a cream, their breasts would grow bigger.
This has, in the spectacular fashion of China, now changed. In one fell swoop, a whole raft of unchecked advertising practices will, by 1 September, be outlawed. The country with 300 million smokers has banned cigarette advertising. Advertising in and around schools is out and functional claims now need to reach a higher standard of proof. That probably spells the end of the breast enlargement cream business.
When we started in advertising in the late 1980s, the 'Grey Consumer' was a hot topic. The proportion of older people in the population had begun to rise, and many were surprisingly affluent. These trends were forecast to accelerate as the Baby Boomers turned into 'Empty Nesters'. Soon we would all be chasing the 'Grey Pound'.
But fast-forward 35 years, and we seem more obsessed with youth and Millennials than ever. Those demographic forecasters weren't wrong. The proportion of young people has indeed fallen and the proportion of older people has increased in most developed markets: in the UK, the over-45s outnumber 16-24-year-olds by 4 to 1.
These over-45s are more affluent too – accounting for some 50% of consumer spending and an even larger share of wealth, with these proportions climbing steadily, even throughout the recession. Young people, however, are having a tougher time. Debt, soaring housing costs and high unemployment mean young people in developed economies have less money to spend nowadays – and the recession hit them particularly hard.
In the picture, there's a woman on a yellow background. She's young. She's blonde. She's in a bikini. And she asks, in large bold type, "Are you beach body ready?" At the bottom of the poster someone has scrawled "**** off. I'm describing one of the now-infamous defaced Protein World ads. A couple of months ago, in London, the ads were graffittied, parodied, and finally removed after people protested about them online. Detractors called the ads sexist, inappropriate, and body shaming.
It became a big news story. Not one that Protein World necessarily set out to create. And, in my view, the image and messages were no different from what you'll see on every high street and newsstand this summer. But nevertheless, once outrage ensued, the brand knew what to do. The CEO gave interviews saying he'd take the 'terrorists' seriously (yes, he used that headline-friendly word) if their online petition reached one million signatures. It was all obviously a great success. The company has just recycled the same ad creative into a giant billboard in Times Square.
As a former PR, I cringe at chasing negative column inches. But maybe it's time for me to accept that we live in the era of outrage advertising. Here's the formula: brand creates controversial campaign; outrage ensues; brand withdraws or stands behind campaign. Either way, campaign goes big and lives online forever.
As many of you will know, the British Polling Council (BPC) and MRS have launched an inquiry into the performance of the opinion polls in the UK preceding the May general election. A distinguished panel of experts has been appointed, chaired by Patrick Sturgis (U. Southampton and Director of the National Centre for Research Methods). Key differences between the this inquiry and the one set up by MRS in 1992 are firstly, the 2015 panel is totally independent from the polling sector, comprising mainly academics (see the BPC website for details), whereas in 1992 leading pollsters predominated. Secondly, the final report was not published until July 1994 (with an initial view by June 1992), but the latest panel hope to publish their report in early March 2016.
Initial open meeting
The BPC/MRS hosted an initial open meeting, run by the National Centre for Research Methods, on the afternoon of June 19th, held appropriately at the Royal Statistical Society in London, and on the day that the possibility of a Bill in Parliament to limit polling in the run-up to future elections was mooted. The agenda for the meeting mainly comprised representatives of each of the main polling companies presenting their interpretation of the situation (ICM, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos-Mori, YouGov, Populus), and outlining their plans for internal enquiries. All started with a mea culpa statement, and agreed that being within 'sampling error' (whatever that is, or measured, in the way that samples are drawn today) was not a good enough excuse in predicting the outcome. It was a very sackcloth and ashes affair – John Curtice (U. Strathclyde), the BPC President, in his opening address, stressing the impact the polls had on how the campaign was fought, but with the caveat that any detailed analysis of this impact has as yet not emerged, and is also outside the remit of the inquiry which is focussing on methodological issues.
Is Britain 'a nation of liars?'
So are we 'a nation of liars?', as posed by Ivor Crewe in his 1993 JMRS paper analysing the 1992 situation and my April IJMR Landmark Paper selection (JMRS Vol 35 No 4; IJMR Landmark Paper). There was little current evidence to support a late swing of any significance, based on the results of post-election polls, but do the recall polls suffer from the same methodological problems as the pre-election polls?
This post is by Rhys John, Digital Marketing Executive at Thomas Design.
The future is here and robots are running everything.
Before you panic and start worrying about Skynet taking over, let me just explain that I don't mean judgement day is upon us, I simply mean that we've come to a stage where almost everything is automated.
You call up your gas and electric supplier and before you speak to a human you go through to an automated system to narrow down what you're looking for. When you order something online a robot tells another robot that you would like to buy said item, which then tells another robot to take the money from your bank while a separate robot tells a person (maybe) to ship the item to you.
Prediction is difficult, as physicist Niels Bohr once said, especially about the future.
In fact, we don't know if he said it. He may have, but it has no textual reference. It just seems to have been associated with his name. It's not even hearsay. It's what I like to call a 'fauxtation' - a line that's falsely attributed to someone famously smart or creative.
All of which goes to show it's very difficult to know if someone actually said something, or what they meant, or if they are lying - which is relevant to the most recent failure of market research to predict the outcome of the UK General Election.
The election results came as something of a surprise since the Conservative Party won by a substantial margin, yet every single published poll had predicted that Labour was running neck and neck. The incorrect predictions were so noteworthy that they now even have their own Wikipedia listing.
This post is by Gail Marie, brand journalist at McKinney.
Call them stories, narratives or yarns, science has proven that they can "change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors." So says Paul J. Zak in the Harvard Business Review and many chief creative officers every day. Specifically, by measuring oxytocin levels, Zak found that our brains are most attracted to visual stories of characters who try to overcome adversity, and that our attention is most concentrated when the outcome is uncertain.
The world's most successful podcast, Serial, proved the same effect is possible with stories we can only hear, so much so that the phrase "the Serial Effect" was coined and the entire podcast platform benefited. A McKinney survey of Serial's newsletter subscribers showed 23% had never listened to a podcast before Serial, and nearly half of them are now listening to other podcasts at least once a week.
McKinney's Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Cude met with the creators of Serial on stage at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity last month to talk about how these storytelling heroes did it and what marketers can learn from them. This is what I took from their conversation.
Which cookie would you rather eat?
If you're anything like the 626 people we asked you'll have plumped for the one on the left. An overwhelming 66% preferred it.
This cookie experiment was originally developed by Adam Ferrier of
cummins&partners, who conducted it at Nudgestock with the same
But why? The differences are minor. The cookie on the right is perfectly round whilst the other has a rough edge. Could it be that the small imperfections made the snack more appealing?
A series of academic studies suggests this is a widespread phenomenon. Eliot Aronson, from the University of California, was the first academic to investigate this bias, now known as the "pratfall effect".
This post is by Gavin Ray, SVP of marketing & products at ip.access.
"The high street is dead", the critics proclaim. Mary Portas walks down the empty street like Will Smith in I am legend; a post-apocalyptic nightmare with boarded up shops and tumbleweed drifting slowly along in the wind. There’s no one about.
Depicting the current high street as some sort of ghost town is perhaps slightly disingenuous. If you consider that 94 per cent of global retail is conducted offline (in the real-world of high streets and shopping centres), it puts into perspective the fact that bricks-and-mortar retail is still alive and kicking strongly.
But there is a problem. Retailers are fighting to unify the shopping experience for consumers moving between these worlds. While 76 per cent of purchasing decisions are made in store, 66 per cent of shoppers have said that in-store delivered messages influence their purchasing decision (Popai), and there-in lies the problem. Two thirds of shoppers clearly see that there is high benefit in making informed purchasing decisions, but not enough is being done yet to provide them with useful and relevant information that will better equip them to purchase particular products in-store like they do online.