Marketing and Automation

Working class jobs are no longer the only occupations at risk of being automated by advancing technology. As our computers learn to complete more complex tasks, and not just those of manual labor, they become more capable of performing jobs that are currently undertaken by humans. Across the broad selection of marketing and digital marketing roles the risk of automation is varied.

A website aptly named ‘Will Robots Take My Job?’ allows visitors to see the ‘automation risk level’ of various professions and roles. A quick search on this website using the keywords ‘marketing’ reveals a limited but valuable selection of jobs. The first hit is ‘marketing managers,’ who bear a risk level of 1.4% and are thus deemed ‘totally safe.’

The second hit from this search, and the only other marketing role listed, is ‘marketing research analysts and marketing specialists.’ As subordinates of the marketing manager the analysts and specialists have a much greater risk of automation at 61%. The ‘robots are watching’ this particular occupation.

The website is based on the findings of a report published in 2013 by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborn. The paper sought to predict the impact that computerisation would have on 702 occupations, ranging from low-skill low-education jobs to high-skill  high-education professions. The paper reveals that jobs requiring human qualities, such as social and creative skills, are at a lower risk of automation than logical and pattern based occupations. For instance, engineering and science occupations are at a low risk of automation as they require a ‘high degree of creative intelligence.’ So how does this apply to marketing?

For digital marketing, automation poses a varied risk. Functions of digital marketing such as online advertising are reliant upon logical processes, including data analysis and financial assessment. These aspects of digital marketing are likely to be supplemented more and more by computer programs as time goes on. Other key aspects of digital marketing, however, are at a lower risk. For example, SEO and social media marketing require creativity through content creation, thereby lowering their risk of automation.

This suggest that marketing roles, which are often varied in the types of intelligence they require, will experience a restructuring more often than a replacement or redundancy.

The key lesson to take from these findings is that we must adapt to the economy and commercial environment as time goes on. Indeed, adaptation is what we have always done; the difference in this ‘automation’ dilemma is that the pace of change is quicker than we’d like it to be.

Image source: click here

As a marketer, you will benefit greatly from broadening your scope and recognising the value of both the logical and creative sides of your profession. I believe we will see great re-structuring in our roles, but with a limited level of redundancy. In-house marketers will find their jobs easier as the digital aspects of their occupation experience greater automation; the time they gain from automation can be then focused on creative endeavours. Creative agencies will experience the same change; automation will provide them with more time to focus on tasks that require a human touch.

I think marketers are lucky as most marketing roles inherently require emotional, cognitive and creative intelligence. By fostering abilities in all of these areas you will remain valuable despite the looming threat of automation.

[To read the report by Frey and Osborne click this link then hit the download button]


Advertising and Elections

When we make the decision to purchase a low involvement product, such as a cup of coffee, milk or a packet of tissues, we are likely to rely on basic heuristics and simple processes to arrive at that decision.

When we engage in political debates, with our friends, family, colleagues or ourselves, we use logical arguments and evidence to justify our opinion. Of course, this is a vast oversimplification of the nature of political debates and elections, but the core principles are still true to a significant extent.

May v Corbyn: Source

Clearly, choosing a political leader or party for an election is a high involvement process that demands the full potential of our rational and empirical reasoning. All in all, I imagine that my choice is fully reasoned, based on evidence and clear rational thinking.

Decades of politics, however, reveal that an election’s outcome depends not only on the merits and core value of the candidates presented, but largely on the success of their efforts in advertising. This is obvious given that elections always involve campaigns; an election campaign is an advertising campaign for a product – the candidate or political party being represented.

What I would like to draw attention to is the idea that we may not even need to look at the substance of a campaign to be able to predict the outcome of an election. To predict an election’s outcome we can simply analyse each campaign from a marketing perspective and judge them like we would an IMC strategy; asses their merits as an ‘advertising strategy.’

With the advent of digital marketing and the wealth of data that the internet provides on customers, or electors, it seems clear that political parties will try to reach you with greater precision and effectiveness, just as any commercial brand or company does for their own products and services.

Indeed, I am stating this after having read Mark Riton’s own predictions based on his analysis of the UK election from a digital advertising perspective. Amidst the complexities of political and social issues, embarrassing scandals and vicious advertising, we may be able to predict results based on a qualitative and quantitative analysis of each election campaign.

I do believe, however, that the quality of the campaign impacts only a limited portion of election results, but a nonetheless important portion.

It may be a little frightening to consider your own vote as just another commercial decision, just like the choice for any service or product. Regardless of what noble ideas we may have about our decision, they are always influenced by deeper psychological processes that we may never truly understand.

If you would like to gain an insight into exactly how it is that one could predict the outcome of an election based on advertising/marketing analysis, have a read through Mark Ritson’s recent article on the issue. Right now, Ritson’s predictions are looking quite accurate.



Online Advertising: Quality and Transparency is Needed

Online advertising seems to be rife with problems, many of which pose a great threat to its profitability and future. For instance, Mary Meeker’s 2017 report shows that ad blocker usage is still widespread and continuing to grow.

The supply chain of display advertising is also plagued with inefficiencies. As Ian Traider from Adage reported this week, fraudsters have found ways to induce businesses into purchasing dodgy ad spaces by imitating legitimate websites and companies. Companies are buying ads from seemingly legitimate and reputable companies, only to find afterwards that the transaction was made to look genuine by methods of deceit.

The result, once the transaction is found to be illegitimate, is both a loss of money and possible damage to the reputation of the imitated ad host.

These trend seem alarming considering Meeker’s findings also reveal a heavy shift in ad spend from traditional to online media. Businesses are flocking to the Internet to advertise their products and services, benefiting from the advantages it yields in precision targeting and lower capital requirements.

What I’d like to propose, in order to protect businesses from wasting their money or annoying customers with invasive display advertising, is to move towards greater transparency and better quality ads.

I may merely be repeating what I have written in previous posts, but I feel these lesson are very valuable for businesses looking to use online advertising, whether it be programmatically acquired or managed on one’s own website.

Firstly, as Trider observes, transparency can be achieved through use of ‘ads.txt.’ This is a system proposed by the IAB where transactions are made more visible, so that business can verify exactly where their online inventory is being source from.

Under the use of ads.txt, Trider shows that when purchasing ad space from the Wall Street Journal, for example, you can verify if it is legitimate by checking whether the intermediary seller has been declared as an authorised seller by the WSJ or not.

To make an odd example, this would be similar to purchasing a Luis Vuitton bag only after finding that the retailer you’re dealing with is authorised by Luis Vuitton. Currently, there is no easy way to check the legitimacy of the retailer for ad space.

The lesson I’d like to highlight from this is that greater transparency results in more efficient online advertising. Indeed, this reminds me off the way in which blockchain technology is likely to create better result in programmatic advertising as well. Transparency, as a rule, seems to create better results for businesses in online search and display advertising.

As for customers and their tendency to use ad blockers, my previous discussion still rings true; consumer behaviour in response to annoying ads indicates that businesses need to create better ads. If people are blocking ads, it means that ads are annoying (among other arguably less important reasons).

To stop Internet users blocking ads and to raise their chances of reaching more customers, businesses need to collectively strive towards making better quality ads. By responding to the demands of customers implied by their usage of ad blockers, online advertising can be revitalised. Accordingly, businesses may refer to the Coalition for Better Ads as a place to start, in addition to conducting their own research on the matter.

The end result I hope to see from these suggestions is a digital world where internet users are no longer barraged with annoying advertisements and where businesses reap the full benefits of every dollar they spend online.

Clearly, quality and transparency is the key to unlocking this vision.




Blockchain Disruption

It seems to me that as time goes on technology becomes better and better at imitating the physical world.

Think of any computer screen or device; originally we were restricted to mouse-pointers to “click” a “button” on a screen and navigate a world of “pages.” Nowadays we need only our hands and a mobile phone device to access and surf the Internet.

A non-physical world built by humans will inevitably bear characteristics of physical objects. This physical trait of the digital world makes it easy for anyone to use modern devices, from the youngest of our kind to the oldest.

However, everything in the digital world is copyable and seemingly unlimited, so how in this regard can data and information become more like real objects?

The answer, is blockchain technology.

Blockchain refers to a system of data exchange that operates using a chain of records, or “blocks,” that are unalterable once they are posted. Given that the information is unalterable and posted on a digital ledger, data exchanged using this system become “mutually exclusive” in their ownership.

This mutually exclusive feature is something that makes it easy for societies to enforce property rights. You cannot use my hammer whilst I use it, nor can you listen to my vinyl record while it sits in my house. Through the Internet however, music and other intellectual productions lost their trait of ownership-linked consumption, and became subject to the whim and demands of online pirates.

My old iPod full of 20,000 songs is testament to this fact.

Now with the advent of blockchain technology, digital information gains a physical trait, exemplified most aptly by the advent of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is merely one use for blockchain technology we have created so far, as Richard Bush from Adage observes. 

Blockchain, in my view, will create a gradual but major power shift in a vast number of industries. The concept of the sharing economy alone is a great example of how varied and creative we humans can be with our technology and system of exchange.

I may be approaching this idea quite obliquely, but after reading this article on I was reminded once again just how “disruptive” technology can be. Blockchain, as Bush suggests, may be the next disruption we have to deal with, this time in a cooperative way.

What are your thoughts? What kind of impact could this unique system of exchange have on your industry, or those markets you most engage with?

Also please have a read of Richard Bush’s article in,as it was the inspiration for these thoughts expressed herein.

Grammarly: Good Display Advertising


Ever been hit by an ad that speaks well to you?

Grammarly offers a really useful product that a lot of people, including myself, can benefit from; it’s essentially a grammar and spelling correction add-on for your browser.

From what I can see, Grammarly has been quite the success so far, and from their success there are a number of important lessons to be learned in the art of effective advertising. Here I’ll touch upon two.

Firstly, their value proposition is crucial to their positioning. As Brad from Adbeat points out, Grammarly conducted A/B testing to determine whether an advertisement would perform better using the word “Writing” or “Grammar.”

As it turns out, “grammar” has negative connotations compared to “writing”; which would you rather become known as, an amazing writer, or a grammar expert? Personally, I think this value proposition taps into the romantic idea many of us have in seeing ourselves as great writers.

Source: Blogger Tips and Tricks

We can look past the name, as it’s clearly a unique and catchy, and encapsulates the essence of how the program works. Grammarly has done well in communicating their offer as a way for ‘writing better’ and ‘communicating more effectively.’ Rather than describing how it works all the time, which would involve focus on grammar and correction, they describe what it gives you as a customer; writing enhancement. Kudos to Grammarly in this regard.

Secondly, Grammarly is amazing at targeting. As Brad on adbeat points out again, Grammarly ran tests targeting students during a period leading up to exams, and purchased ad space on websites that related to their product, such as dictionary and grammar websites. This yields great results and optimizes usage of their display budget.

Clearly, A/B testing for PPC and display advertising is the method that companies can use to reach the right people in the most effective way; it’s the method to the magic where an ad pops up and speaks to you, almost as if it has been watching you all along (which it has).

Can you recall any instances when you were delighted, or almost spooked out at how effective and resonant an advertisement was with you and your own needs?



Ad-blocking Reborn

To many internet users, ad-blockers are wondrous tools that are essential to creating a comfortable online experience. By simply downloading and activating an add-on to your browser, all the unwanted, intrusive advertisements, that tarnish the reputation of online-advertising, disappear like magic.

With simple knowledge of how pay-per click advertising and other forms of digital advertising work, it’s easy to see why ad-blockers can be a problem for the revenue streams of ad hosts. Unfortunately, this means that the income of producers whose work you enjoy is also damaged. Your favorite Youtuber, blog or online magazine will lose money all for the sake of removing ads from your online explorations.

A quick fix for this, you may say, is to turn off the ad-blocker for those sites you wish to support. I for one find this fix to be flawed in principal, and too simple a method for resolving such a complex issue.

In essence, ad-blockers decrease the quality and quantity of data available to websites. By blocking all ads and toggling them on for certain websites, such advertisement creators have less data to use as a means for improving their displays. Clearly a more holistic approach is required.

Despite all of this, however, our behavior as ad-blocker users has resulted in insights that may lead to a solution so save the online advertising industry; the answer, ironically, is more ad-blockers.

Introducing, the Coalition for Better Ads.


Essentially, leading companies in online media and advertising formed the Coalition in a pledge to work towards improving the quality of online advertising. By adhering to the Coalition’s guidelines, members are collectively improving the experience of internet users by ensuring their advertisements meet certain standards; such standards include non-usage of auto-play advertisements or large sticky ads, the rest of which can be viewed on the Coalition’s website.

The genius fix that will save the advertising industry is therefore to have companies like Google and other web-browser producers create a built in ad-blocker that enforces the guidelines of the Coalition; the end result is bad ads disappear, good ads (or those exempt by the guidelines) remain.

The Coalition’s guidelines are informed by research into user’s experiences. Therefore, this new ad-blocker will target only those advertisement which users deem to be annoying and intrusive, creating a better experience by cleaning up the internet and leaving only the good bits behind.

Indeed, this is an interesting approach to resolving the dilemma of ad-blockers and their impact on advertisement revenue, yet there still remains question as to just how effective the proposed idea will be. What are your thoughts?

For more detail, I recommend reading an article where I discovered this topic on Wired dot com.




Alien: Covenant – More than just trailers

The most common method of advertising a new movie is of course the film trailer.

For 20th Century Studios, Ridley Scott and his legendary franchise of Alien films, a simple movie trailer is not enough.

Film trailers are sometimes misleading, over revealing, or sensationalist, leading to disappointment when movie-goers’ expectations are not met at the big screen. Ultimately, to enrich the experience of the film, advertisers must establish curiosity and wonder through the small screens first, something done time and time again by the Alien franchise.

The latest addition to the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, is being advertised to customers using a high quality Integrated Marketing Communications campaign; the current campaign is a great example of viral, video and content marketing.

Currently, Alien: Covenant’s official film and teaser trailers have attracted just short of 30 million views on Youtube. Supporting these two trailers, 20th Century Fox has also released an official prologue, a short clip which details events leading up to the new film, including two main characters of the prequel, Prometheus (2012). 

This is where the marketing campaign gets interesting. Going beyond just a simple movie trailer, Alien: Covenant is being supported by multiple forms of content marketing produced by the studio, which adds to the the film in the lead up to its release.

Following in the footsteps of its prequel, Alien: Covenant has matched Prometheus’ viral marketing video titled Meet David with its own content marketing project titled Meet Walter.

Source: Youtube (click here to view)

Meet David was basically a poignant, quirky and engaging video which added to the background of the world within the story of Prometheus, before the film had been released.

Using the same concept, a new video (above) has been released featuring the same actor, introducing the audience to another character, this time, however, supported by an interactive website linked in the video.

This interactive website further complements the trailers and Meet Walter video by allowing visitors to uncover small but valuable details about the film’s story, encouraging them to share their self generated content once having completed a series of questions. (I think it would be important to note here that the website is optimized well for both desktop and mobile phone usage).

Furthering the success of this campaign, all of these supporting videos and interactive websites have resulted in a large number of videos produced by fans, speculating as to the hidden messages each piece of media contains. Such fan produced videos polish this campaign off to include both brand owned and earned media content. (source: Forrester Research on Earned, Owned and Paid Media)

This campaign is full of ingenious marketing tactics which all complement and feedback to each other, ramping up audience’s excitement in anticipation for the film’s release.

Clearly, Alien: Covenant is a telling example of how digital marketing communications can be utilised to break free from traditional methods of advertising; as digital marketers, it is up to us to find new and inventive ways of advertising products and services, rather than following the standard set by tradition.