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The Top 10 Ads of 2015

2015 has been a great year for advertising. We’ve seen some amazing storytelling through beautifully crafted, hilarious, heart-warming and memorable ads. Whether they carried a powerful message or not, all of them managed to achieve what really matters; we remember them. We’ve had emotional PSAs, beautiful Christmas commercials, big celebrities, even bigger outdoor displays and, of course, a few adorable animals.

Here’s TDLY’s pick on the most awesome ads of 2015.

10. Sky Atlantic – Fortitude

Who said that outdoor advertising is dead? Sky proved us wrong with the release of the TV crime drama Fortitude. Special effects company Millenium FX created an incredibly real-looking giant polar bear and let it loose around London. The bear drew quite a lot of attention and spurred authentic conversations across social media.

9. The Ad Council – Love Has No Labels

2015 was an important year for LGBT rights, with empowering ads promoting marriage equality. In this beautiful stunt by the Ad Council, a giant X-Ray screen was set up in Santa Monica (CA) on Valentine’s day to show that all humans are the same and love has no boundaries. The tech used might be simple, and the reactions a bit acted, but the message was powerful nonetheless.

8. Nike – Short a Guy

Another year, another masterpiece from Nike and agency W+K. Frenetic, beautifully shot and cool, this ad is fresh and energising and will make you want to shut your laptop and get active (we’ll stick to binge watching commercials though).

7. Apple – Shot on iPhone 6

Simplicity is often the key to produce truly effective ads. In one of the best user-generated campaigns of all times, Apple showcased real iPhone 6 users’ pictures on billboards in major cities. All photos were noncommissioned and simply found online/ loved by Apple.

top 10 ads 2015 Apple
top 10 ads 2015 Apple

6. Clash of Clans – Revenge

Ah, good old celebrity endorsement. Once used only for perfumes and fizzy drinks, today mobile games are becoming such a huge phenomenon to afford a $9M Super Bowl commercial featuring Liam Neeson. The world is truly an amazing place.

5. States United to Prevent Gun Violence – Guns with History

To raise awareness on gun violence in the US (apparently there are still people out there who need an ad for this) Grey did the unthinkable; they opened a gun shop in New York City. The buyers were not prepared for the tags on the weapons, showing which model had been used in a particular mass shootings.

4. ComCast Xfinitiy – Emily’s Oz

Such an amazing ad from Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Comcast and GSP asked Emily, a 7-year-old blind girl, what she sees in her mind’s eye when she watches The Wizard of Oz. Using Emily’s suggestions, the agency then built her version of the story to promote Comcast’s “talking guide” for people with visual disabilities.

3. Android – Friends Furever

Cute animals. Advertising wouldn’t be the same without them. Droga5 is one of the most creative and original independent agencies in the world, and prides itself of making some of the most unconventional advertising around. So this ad, featuring nothing but found footage of cute and funny animals, came as quite a surprise. However, advertising is not art, and what really matters is effectiveness. And boy was this ad successful; with more than 6.5 million online shares and almost 22 million views, it’s the most viral ad ever! So there you go, a reminder that cute animals do work.

2. John Lewis – Man on the Moon

Behold, the mighty Christmas ad by John Lewis. Every year the department store delights us with a multi-million campaign that marks the beginning of the shopping season. As usual, the ad is a cry fest but this year it also carries an important message; aiming to use the brand’s profile to raise money for Age UK, one of Europe’s biggest charities supporting the elderly.

1. Geico – Unskippable

Everyone hates unskippable pre-roll ads. I mean, seriously, they are probably the most interruptive form of media that was ever conceived (YouTube preroll i.e. where ads go to die). It took a completely different approach to change this. A simple, clever and innovative idea; how about making fun of preroll ads using a preroll ad? What Geico and the Martin Agency did is reverting the traditional ad by placing the end at the beginning, with a super-short sales pitch that finishes in a few seconds. The viewer is hooked to the ad with something funny before being able to skip it, and when they can “it’s already over”, as the voiceover says. Simply genius.

Anything to add? Comment below!

Undone: Democratising Hyper-Personalisation

Hyper-personalization has become one of the hottest topics in marketing. It’s no mystery that consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly more looking at products as a way to express their inner selves, their passions and who they really are. A few companies have understood that long ago and they have made a fortune out of that; think about Nike with the uber-sueccessful Nike-ID platform, which enables potential consumers to create their personal pair of snickers; or Magnum, with their luxury pop-up store to mix and match ingredients to create something completely unique. People don’t like mass production, and they don’t like being treated in the same way.

Undone is a company that not only did understand that, but placed this concept at the very heart of their business model. This supercool start up, which has launched literally a few days ago, is based on a very simple concept, yet so far almost unexplored by competitors: handcrafted, completely customizable watches at an affordable price. Having 7 customisable variables and a bunch of choices for each component, the company is able to generate 10,000 unique combinations to cater to everyone’s personal tastes. Not bad isn’t it? Undone Watches really live up to their motto #IndividualityMatters.

Watches are very strange beasts: in a completely digitalized world, they have gradually shifted from being purely utilitarian and task-driven products, to accessories to help people express who they really are. Their individuality, in other words. This has injected new life in a market that seemed doomed a few years ago, but which is now thriving.

A thriving market is of course a highly competitive one, but this startup is already defending itself really well, with it mixture of boldness, craftsmanship and “in your face” attitude. Undone mission is clear: disrupt the watch market.

Undone Watches 5 Undone Watches 3 Undone Watches Undone Watches 4

Undone’s marketing strategy is simple, yet very effective: use social media to spur interest and virality. I know what you are thinking, virtually every company is trying to do that. True, but only a few succeed, and Undone’s innovative use of social platforms is definitely a move in the right direction. Check out the company’s Instagram page, transformed into a canvas to tell the story of why #IndividualityMatters.

Undone is certainly a company to be kept under the radar for 2016. It has a bold mission, but it also seems to have what it takes to succeed.

Go on the company’s website and start building your watch: http://www.undone.watch/

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4 Strategic Models that Every Digital Marketer Must Know

Companies are often confused about how to develop a digital strategy that can effectively bolster their value proposition.

Indeed, crafting a successful strategy is becoming increasingly more difficult, as new digital channels spring up every year and consumer becomes more empowered by social media.

Luckily, clever academics have developed dozens of amazing models to help us marketers deliver effective plans to target consumer with the right message at the right time.

Purchase Funnel

Let’s go back to basics. This model should be well familiar to any marketer, being one of the pillars of Consumer Behaviour. However, when we apply it to the digital ecosystem, things get quite interesting. As consumers proceed through the path to purchase, they tend to become more reactive to certain specific channels. Traditional Display and Organic Search usually work better with potential consumers in the early stages of the funnel, as they boost brand awareness supporting the discovery phase; on-site content keeps users engaged, while a clever affiliate marketing strategy supports the Consideration Stage; finally, when it’s time to spur the final purchase, Paid Search and Display Remarketing are crucial, while good old e-mail marketing and social media are essential to strengthen the relationship between the consumer and the brand in the post-purchase phase, thus stimulating brand loyalty.

Especially when the path to purchase is particularly long and complex (as it happens in B2B), we can also identify types of content that work better. Infographics, articles and press releases are great for the Cognitive Stage; Webinars, interactive demos, case studies and whitepapers appear to be more suitable for the Affective Stage, while strong social vetting is increasingly more important for the Behavioural Stage, even in a B2B environment.

Understanding at which stage of the purchase funnel your customer is likely to be can be tricky, and only of data and the achievement of a fully integrated and multichannel “single customer view” can help you with that. Ask yourself “How is my target customer behaving? What are they talking about on social media? Are they searching for general, top-level keywords, or specific, brand-related ones? Have they visited price comparison websites?”

It is also important to remember that the consumer’s digital path to purchase will change dramatically according to the region and industry, as shown by Google’s “Customer Journey to Online Purchase” tool.

Digital Value Proposition

The American Marketing Association defines Marketing as the activity of creating, delivering and communicating offerings that have value for customers. As a result, your digital value proposition should sit exactly where your company’s objectives and your consumers’ objectives meet. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. And yet, many companies often forget that, opting for strategies and tactics that completely lack of market orientation.

Nike is a fantastic example of a company that fully understood how to generate value for their target market: Nike’s customers are runners and what they want is to run faster and longer. On the other hand, the company’s main goal is, to put it bluntly, to sell more products, by constantly reinforcing its brand equity, thus staying at the top of consumers’ minds. The answer? Nike+, a platform whereby users can monitor their physical activities, receive feedback on their workout, measure the distance and pace of a run and share their results across the digital ecosystem.

Long Tail

The term “long tail” is often used in SEM, as the technique of focusing on long and descriptive keyword phrases where the competition is less fierce and the likelihood of conversion is higher. If you bid on the keyword “vintage Swedish design furniture” you won’t probably see an awful lot of impressions, but it is likely that you will have a fairly high CTR%, as you are catering to a small but active niche of customers that are specifically looking for that type of products.

Generally speaking, however, long tail means that as the costs of production and distribution fall, and as increasingly more digital information is available to match supply and demand, our culture is shifting away from a small number of big hits (the head of the tail) towards a big number of small and profitable niches. Amazon is the typical example of a business that makes most of its revenues from selling huge amounts of obscure products that cater to very small amounts of customers.

Marketers can apply this concept to any kind of digital strategies. There are loads of profitable micro-niches out there that are still unserved and just need to be targeted with the right message, at the right time. Thanks to programmatic advertising (the automated buying and placement of digital ads according to the user’s demographics and behaviours) serving the long tail is becoming increasingly easier, more efficient and profitable.

 SOSTAC

The mother of all strategy and planning models, SOSTAC was developed by P.R. Smith in the 1990s for the offline world, but it can also be applied to the core aspects of digital marketing. It is a simple, yet effective model that has become an essential tool when planning a business plan. SOSTAC is composed of 6 basic elements:

Situation Analysis: “Where are we now?” A marketing audit is crucial to understand the current scenario and benchmark your situation against the competition. Combine data from different sources to have a clear view on the state of your brand, such as social media data, audience engagement, search rankings, CRM data, email response rates, etc.

Objectives: “Where do we want to be?” Objectives must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), and supported by actionable insights. It is important to break down digital goals into 3 separate tiers, according to how close they are to the actual business objective of the company (which is usually financial or sales-related). In B2B, for instance, the primary objective will be to generate bookings for an event, or get users to download an interactive demo; the secondary objectives will be closely related to the amount of page views generated and the time spent on the company’s website; finally, the tertiary objectives, less close to the final business objective (but not less important) can be linked to the number of Facebook likes or mentions on Twitter. Bridging the gap between these 3 objectives and the final business goal of the company is crucial and it is yet another proof of the importance of achieving a 360-degree view of the customer.

Strategy: “How do we get there?” Your strategy will be closely related to your value proposition that, as we discussed above, is the point of contact between your company’s objectives and your customers’ objective. Creating an effective digital strategy is all about bridging the gap between these two sets of goals, in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Tactics: “How exactly do we get there?” After determining your strategy, it is time to break it down into actionable tactics. You will need to identify a suitable channel mix, according to your target customers, budget available and product lifetime cycle. Similarly, it is necessary to have a content plan in line with your communications goals and in synch with the brand.

Actions: “The details of tactics” At this stage, you will need to assign responsibilities. Who does what and when? Are you going to leverage your internal skills or use highly specialized external agencies instead? The answers will impact dramatically on the profitability of your plan.

Control: “How do we monitor performance?” Being able to measure successes and failures is key to an effective marketing strategy. However, before buying annual subscriptions to 10 different social listening tools, a company must understand what exactly is trying to measure and why they need such information.

These are of course basic tools that should be well familiar to any digital marketer. However, their simplicity means that these models can be repurposed for any marketing plan, whether online, offline, B2C or B2B, thus helping companies make the most out of their marketing investments.

Did I miss anything important? Comment below!

Top 10 independent creative agencies in London

It’s that time of the year again. Dear marketing students, university programmes are drawing to a close, it’s time to say goodbye to friends, one-night stands, junk food and start looking for a real job. In a world where advertising is dominated by the three mega-corporations WPP, Omnicom and Publicis, is there still space for good old-fashioned independent agencies?

Hell yeah. It’s a Declaration of Independence started on Madison Avenue and then moved to Soho and East London. Indie agencies don’t fear the giants.

Take a look at our list of the top 10 London independent creative agencies.

10. The Corner

In the very heart of Soho there exists a corner where “people meet and things happen”. Great things, judging from this highly emotional advert for Chelsea Football Club:

 

9. BMB

BMB (or Beattie McGuinnes Bungay) may not have a super-long work portfolio, but they certainly know how to make fantastic ads. This one for All Saints is my favourite, as it’s perfectly able to capture the coolness of the brand in just about 60 seconds.

 

8. Gyro London

Tucked in a back street of South Chelsea lies the London office of Gyro, an independent advertising agency with a highly effective approach towards challenges.  Check out this impressive PR campaign for Hobart:

 

7. Krow

This all-British independent creative agency has only two offices, one in East London and one in Birmingham. Despite being quite young, Krow already has an impressive list of clients, including Unilever, Paypal and Fiat. This is a crowd-sourced ad for Pets at Home, a mixture of babies and pets that we are pretty sure will melt your heart.

 

6. Karmarama

With a massive ping-pong arena and a ping-pong tournament hosted every year, Karmarama is an independent advertising agency that certainly boosts an amazing working environment. But it’s not just play and no work: this campaign for Bombardier helped the brand to improve the sales by a whopping 30%.

 

5. Mother

‘To make great work, have fun and make a living. Always in that order.’ We love your motto Mother. And we love your campaigns as well. Take a look at this hilarious and bonkers ad for Piri Piri Noodles.

 

4. Don’t Panic

Don’t Panic is like the punk-rocker of the independent agencies. A mixture of humour, art and controversial messages that soon created an icon of London counter-culture. They also have a super-cool online magazine. The agency is responsible for some of the most viral advertisements ever, including this Cannes Lion Winner video for Save the Children.

 

3. Droga5

Things start getting much bigger here. Droga5 is a massive independent advertising network that, despite being Manhattan-based, deserve a place on this list thanks to their impressive list of clients and awesome campaigns (and yeah, they have their office in Soho as well). My personal pick is this great transmedia storytelling campaign for Bing and Jay-Z, that has become a best practice and an example for all creative agencies.

 

2. Wieden + Kennedy

Nike, Tesco, P&G. These are just some of the clients of this impressive independent advertising network with offices in Europe, Asia and the US. W+K London produced this famous and highly emotional ad for P&G that helped position the brand as a “Proud Sponsor for Mums” in 2012.

 

1. M&C Saatchi

The agency was founded in 1995 by Maurice and Charles Saatchi after they were “removed” from Saatchi&Saatchi. Now the company is a huge advertising network, listed on the London Stock Exchange and with 25 offices all over the world. Despite being highly international, the group manages to maintain a certain ‘UK vibe’, with an amazing office overlooking Golden Square in Soho and a series of key UK clients, including Transport for London, GlaxoSmithKline and NatWest. The motto “Brutal Simplicity of Thought” dominates the walls of their London office, a clear commitment to effectiveness and measurable results. This shocking advert for THINK!, with its overwhelming simplicity, will certainly make you think twice about road safety.

The Future is Programmatic

The reason why I love advertising is the fact that the industry is constantly changing. Nothing is still, while technology shapes the way companies can creatively and effectively reach their audiences. “Programmatic” has become one of the many buzzwords that you often hear in an agency. Many people use it, few understand it. But that’s fair enough, as this is not an easy topic and I myself am still trying to get my head around it.

What the hell is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic is an automated way of buying and placing digital advertising using software and algorithms to target the right consumer, at the right time and with the right message, thus increasing efficiency. This is opposed to the traditional way of buying ad inventory that involves human interaction and negotiations between the advertiser and the publisher to secure a fixed CPM (the cost for 1000 impressions on a webpage).

Programmatic encompasses a wide range of technologies, but surely one of the most interesting ones is RTB, real-time bidding, which refers to the automated buying and selling of online advertising spaces through real-time auctions.

Right. Let’s get technical now. These real-time auctions are organized by Ad Exchanges (think of them as auction houses, digital marketplaces where buyers and vendors meet to exchange ads) and facilitated by advertisers’ Demand Side Platforms –DSP – and publishers’ Supply Side Platforms – SSP (pieces of software that enable the parties to grant access to the ad inventory, automate the bidding process and simplify operations). The whole process starts when a user clicks on a link of a webpage: information about the page and, more importantly, about the user (demographics, location, language, browsing behaviour…) is sent to the platform, generating a request for an ad and starting the auction. As expected, the advertiser that places the highest bid delivers the ad.

The information collected will help the software determine at which stage of the purchase funnel the user is likely to be, thus setting the bid. If the user has previously showed interest for similar products (visiting related websites or, better yet, adding a product to the shopping cart), the impression will be considered as highly valuable, and the DSP will set a higher bid. What amazes me is that the whole process – from collecting the data to delivering the ad – occurs in the time it takes a webpage to load, literally milliseconds.

RTB is turning upside down the advertising planning process, moving away from a publisher-centric model and towards a customer-centric one, where the price is set not by offline negotiations but by the online user behaviour.

Everything is Programmatic

Programmatic spend is soaring, and in some countries such as the US already accounts for nearly 50% of display advertising. It’s not hard to understand why: as technology gets increasingly more sophisticated, companies can benefit a higher ROI, while publishers can sell inventory in the quickest and most efficient way possible. To put it bluntly, programmatic saved display advertising, once doomed by ridiculously low %CTR and ROAS.

Programmatic advertising is here to stay and as the integration between different media increases, so does the need for personalized, one-to-one promotional messages. As a result, I believe that this trend will quickly spread to all forms of digital advertising.

Netflix, HBO and Roku have already started experimenting with programmatic. Google Fiber, the tech giant’s superfast broadband TV service, which is being rolled out across the US, will also include programmatic commercials. Advertisers will be able to deliver automatic ad content according to the viewer’s location, demographics, household’s viewing history and, supposedly, where cross-device tracking is permitted, the user’s online history.

I believe that even Paid Search will soon start experimenting with programmatic. In order for AdWords to remain competitive, Google must allow advertisers to deliver messages effectively by using real-time data. The platform already offers audience targeting, but with programmatic buying we would be able to seamlessly and automatically increase or decrease bids according to the user’s behaviour.

Is Facebook suggesting that your user recently got engaged? If your company sells wedding dresses you could automatically bid high on the search queries of the wife-to-be. If your company sells running shoes, the platform could increase the bids on the users who have visited related websites. You could even adjust your bids according to what the potential customer is listening on Spotify, trying to understand the user’s mood. Combining that with a dynamic creative optimizer, we would even be able to deliver automated ad copies using consumer data, in order to put the right paid search message in front of the right user. The possibilities are endless, and such data would free advertisers from the burden of managing bids on a daily basis, allowing them to focus more on optimization, strategy and the study of their target audience.

That doesn’t mean that machines will replace humans. Even in display advertising, many agencies prefer opting for Private Exchanges (sort of invite-only digital auction houses) or “Programmatic Direct” transactions, where the deal is negotiated directly between the buyer and the publisher and the price is set in advance; the tech bit in this case consists in the complete automation of the ad request and campaign trafficking. This is being done to avoid the low-quality and low level of control that seems to be affecting RTB auctions.

It’s not only a matter of ad quality obviously; well prepared marketers and strategic human thinkers will always be needed to understand the consumer, their behaviour and what engages them. At the end of the day, you need a real person to do great marketing. But, like it or not, it’s undeniable that programmatic has dramatically increased effectiveness and started a new golden era for advertising, faster, more personal and more accountable. Is your company ready?