Unless you’re living under a rock (or are a normal person that doesn’t work in/with AdLand), you’ve heard about the largest merger in advertising history, joining mega-companies Omnicom Group and Publicis into the Omnicom Publicis Groupe (did you see the ‘e’ there??). Many excellent voices have given their opinion about what this means for the future - this interview with Intuit’s Cezanne Huq has been my favorite so far - but I wanted to add a new spin to this topic. Having served two “tours of duty” through Omnicom companies (RAPP and M/A/R/C Research), I got to know the Omnicom side of this partnership very well, and often squared off against Publicis agencies on the other side of pitches.
I think this is a perfect time for the new Omicom Publicis Groupe to plant some flags and draw some lines in the sand to correct formerly failed strategies (such as trying to convert “traditional” agencies into “digital” ones). So lemme play “King of OPG” for a minute - if politics could be moved and budgets rearranged, here are four things I would do immediately:
1. Create the largest marketing startup VC fund on Earth.
If you think I’m being hyperbolic there, I’m not in the slightest. This isn’t just about the “somewhere out there is the next Facebook” factor, although that is true. Spreading enough cash around to hit the lottery on startup lightning in a bottle is just a fringe benefit. No, this is 99% about people and culture. The geniuses today that are chasing the bleeding edge of marketing technology want to realize personal profit and control - likely through creating a startup, helping it gain traction, and selling it off. So not only would OPG get the chance to show their clients the cream of the crop of upcoming marketing technology products, they would have a CONSTANT flow of dreamers and doers - people who have the smarts to have an idea, and the hustle to bring it to life. Even if only 1 out of 10 startups in the fund succeed, you can offer some amazing positions within agencies to the ones that don’t, effectively creating a built-in acqui-hire model alongside traditional exits. Other agencies and holding companies have done this on their own, but OPG could bring such scale to bear as to dwarf these others. Besides, what marketing startup wouldn’t want immediate, top-tier access to the world’s largest advertisers?
2. Create SWAT teams that will dominate these channels: Wearable Technology, 3D Printing, Living Room Experience.
Some might call me prosaic by calling for channel-specific teams. ”After all,” they’ll say, “aren’t we supposed to be omnichannel Marketers?” Yes, but being the best of the best for a given channel can be a tremendous asset for corporations and clients alike. Call it the Salesforce strategy: once they built a dominant position in CRM, they acquired channel players to bolt on to that experience like ExactTarget (email), Buddy Media (outbound social), Radian6 (social listening/data), Jigsaw (corporate buyer data), and GroupSwim (collaboration - now part of Chatter). The channels I’ve listed here are the new frontiers in marketing - places where dominant concepts haven’t emerged for reaching customers in a dramatic way, so there aren’t really solid buy targets here yet. I think here is where OPG needs to create the NEXT ExactTarget in effect, by building the next channel dominant players. Moreover, this isn’t about building the technologies themselves. We all know Apple will somehow build an iWatch, MakerBot has made 3D Printing a consumer possibility, and the XBox has transformed the living room - they, and many others, have already created the platforms Marketers need. Rather, it’s about using these technologies to create experiences that sell brand narratives. This is what R/GA built their life off of: taking existing technologies to bring platforms like Nike+ to life. (Sidebar: if you haven’t watched this video with Bob Greenberg and Barry Wacksman of R/GA YET in its THREE YEARS of life on YouTube, you need to stop and do so now. This piece cracked open the concept of platforms over campaigns, and literally changed the way I think about Marketing.)
3. Buy or create a game studio. Full-on, console-level, gaming.
If I’m in the M&A department of the new OPG looking for the next best buy, I’m nowhere near the standard marketing technology companies. Why? Because I can grow those from within my VC fund (see #1) and do so at fractions of the cost of acquiring mature companies with mature overhead. No, if this is me, I’m already on a plane touring the nation’s best gaming studios - both indie and owned. Why? Lemme give you 3 solid reasons:
- Global game revenues are expected to reach $70.4 Billion for 2013, showing a 6% YoY increase.
- We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing video games.
- MMO gaming grew 14% in Q1 2013 alone.
This is a channel unlike any other media play out there. Name me a form of advertising where time spent interacting is going UP. Name me a form where people spend time equally with it in the living room, on a mobile device, on the road, and even at work. (Yep, admit it.) And don’t tell me about ad inventory in existing platforms like XBox Live or brand placement in GTA V - these are obvious, and therefore the customer is oblivious to them. The win here is for OPG to take the lead in creating brand platforms that customers can experience in a much more visceral way, weaving the brand narrative in with their own to create brand new stories. And if you’re not into all that touchy-feely stuff, think of it like this: how would you like it if I could create a game that customers would PAY for, that also made them want to buy YOUR brand? The mind boggles.
4. Develop a plan to create a true, complete, and absolute “work anywhere” platform for ALL OPG employees by Jan 1, 2015.
If you’ve ever worked in a traditional agency, you’ve overworked. It’s simply a fact of life. Clients approach agencies to help them accomplish the miracles they can’t, and no matter how talented your people are, there’s a limit to what they can accomplish in 8 hours a day. So you push it to 10. 12. 14. 16. Technically speaking, these employees are paid for as long as you can cover their hourly hard costs for 40 hours a week, so any extra hours they work are “free” to the agency. As all agencies know, it’s not enough to have revenue - you have to have PROFIT. And, “free” labor is EXTREMELY profitable.
With these pressures, it’s an absolute joke that some agencies still have a “be in the office by 8:30” mentality. Even if you’re just approaching this problem from a pure cold-and-heartless point of view, wouldn’t you WANT your people to be able to work from anywhere, so they can work more hours? Hopefully, however, you have an actual pulse and a shred of human decency, and you care about the lives these people lead. Since I believe that to be the case, let me give you some other good reasons to invest in this:
- Creative ideas do NOT always come from the open-office uber-collaborative model. Sometimes your people - ALL people - just have to get away and FOCUS. As mentioned in a study by design firm Gensler, “When focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.”
- Being in offices creates more of what Jason Fried of 37 Signals calls “M&Ms”: Managers and Meetings. Both of these are toxic to productivity. That’s not saying the act of management or meeting can’t be productive, just that being in an office incentivizes these to increase in a detrimental way. After all, if you’re a Manager and your direct-reports are right down the hall, you’ll be in their office more often, and distracting them from work. If you’re in a meeting, there’s really not much reason to leave, because you’re just going back to your desk. These forces shred your day into pieces and force focus time to the edges.
- Employees are most productive when they’re fully able to embrace both their personal and professional lives. These often require very different physical spaces, so why not consolidate those spaces wherever possible? Not only do you save on time lost to commutes or pollution to the environment, you give employees the permission to live their lives, thus getting many of the average worker’s stresses OFF their plate.
- Your target customer is on 24x7, and you’re trying to market to them 24x7. So what does a “business day” mean anymore? Seriously, you’re taking work home anyway, and have been since grade school.
- Other top technology companies are already offering this, and leveraging it as a perk to land the best talent. How in the world do you think you’ll be able to land the best developers or product managers by offering an 8-10 hour (or more) cage every day, when another company hands them a mobile phone, tablet and laptop and tells them to go forth and be awesome?
I actually wish nothing but the best for the new Omnicom Publicis Groupe. Despite what The Onion says, I actually know a ton of people working for these companies that are fabulously talented, and I want to see them create awesome work. OPG, now is your time to make that possible.
What do you think? What else should Omnicom Publicis Groupe do to make the most of their merger?
I’m browsing through Facebook and I see one of my friends who’s also a parent mention that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is now on Netflix. Now, in my house, Daniel Tiger might as well be Mick Jagger - he’s got some serious draw around here. And when I add it to my queue, I find tons of other new programming from PBS now available that I like. Shows such as Mind of a Chef - with episodes I can’t even get from PBS’s official streaming site. This is great for Netflix, right? I’m adding new content, and much more likely to engage with the platform - all good stuff, isn’t it?
Wrong. This is bad, because Netflix should already know.
Relying on a random Facebook post to tell me about content that would entrench me further with Netflix is a terrible way to retain me as a customer, much less give me the surprise and delight I need to advocate Netflix to my friends and networks.
Take a look at all the data points Netflix has on me, and all the things the platform should know:
- It should know we’re a cord-cutting family, by the times and length of viewing sessions, which are well outside the average
- It should know that there are multiple family members watching, because we have distinct separate times of “kids” and “adult” watching habits
- It should know I’m already a huge fan of PBS content, based on my viewing history and what’s in my queue right now
- It should know I love travel and foodie content, based on the depth of my viewing behavior - i.e., how many episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations I’ve watched
All of these data points - heck, even just a few of them - are more than enough to recommend these shows to me, or even put them in my queue for me.
And that’s the vast gulf right now that exists between Big Data and the average user. Many people/companies/organizations right now are using Big Data for tangible outcomes: altering product messaging to increase conversion rates; factoring social signals into trading algorithms to find an incremental alpha; optimizing process or supply chain to re-deploy resources based on predictive models. All these are good, but they’re just scratching the surface. The next generation of Big Data is going to be emotional, personal and memorable. In short, we will use Algorithms and Databases to engineer Surprise and Delight.
One of the first algorithms designed to consume the Big Data of social interactions was created by DJ Patil’s team at LinkedIn, and it’s one you likely use all the time. It’s the “People You May Know” (or PYMK) suggestions that pull signals from your current network, your authorized email/social accounts, and your recent behavior to suggest new connections. Not only does this engage me more as a user, it makes my network inherently more valuable by adding more nodes to it. Imagine if one of these “People You May Know” became my next sponsor at Digital Dallas, my next client for my consulting practice, or even my next employer? How valuable does that algorithm become to me, on a personal and delightful level? How does that change how I feel about LinkedIn?
For software and platforms - heck, even for smart agencies - the time is now to create Emotional Algorithms, before everyone else does it, and does it wrong. If you’re sitting on a scant shred of user data, here’s some ideas for how to get the process started:
Make guesses about unimportant things.
Any good Data Scientist or Quant will tell you that it’s dangerous to start guessing based on correlation without a high degree of relationship or some causal certainty. After all, we’ve all heard of the story about how Target figured out a girl was pregnant before her father did, and the fallout thereafter. Making uncertain guesses about big things (like pregnancy) chases users off, but what about making those same guesses about much less weighty matters? For example, say a user keeps returning to the same deep-linked state in your app and consistently spends >30 seconds there. Couldn’t a simple algorithm suggest that as a bookmark, or elevate the placement of that function in a “favorites” part of the menu?
Be transparent about your guesses, and make them undo-able.
Look, Clippy was a bad idea. We all know this. But if there’s one shred of a thing that demonic paper clip did well, it’s that it made the assistive process more transparent, more obvious. It said up front that the “algorithm” (and I shudder to call it even that) was making some guesses to try to be more helpful. This is a great idea, because it tells the user that you care, and that you’re “listening” to what their behavior is telling you. What’s NOT a great idea is interrupting their workflow to make these suggestions - that’s not helpful, that’s annoying. Surprise and Delight can’t happen if you keep popping up in my face all the time. And once you’ve made your subtle hints of improvement, give me an easy way to undo them or opt-out of parts of that experience. Remember, you’re the caddy, not the golfer.
Get feedback constantly.
Once you’ve published these guesses, also make it tremendously obvious how I can give feedback on the whole process. Make it easy, smart, and even FUN to accept/reject/rate these guesses, because every single data point makes those guesses smarter. And watch my “non-verbal” behavior on the site, too - the actions that don’t overtly rate or review your guesses. Look for ways my behavior changes based on your new stimuli, because while I may never rate your guess “5 stars,” I may use it constantly now that you put it in front of me. That’s almost more valuable than an overt endorsement.
In short? Make more algorithms, and let them make smart guesses. Use intelligent User Experience to weave those guesses into what the user sees/feels/does, don’t bang them over the head with them. And above all, use your data to engineer Surprise and Delight, because doing so turns a User into an Advocate.
I’ve often told my teams and clients that Analysts aren’t paid for the reports they create. You’re paid for creating stories your clients will tell in their NEXT meeting; for the anecdotes the CEO will remember when he’s talking to the next investor or reporter. So here’s some stats to remember from some recent stories I’ve found.
- Neuroscientists have recently announced that the first-ever human head transplant is now possible. Estimated to cost about $13 million each, that means Apple has enough cash on hand to replace over 11,000 heads.
- This is Tony Adams, the world’s fastest tap dancer. In 2008 he set the record with 602 taps in one minute. If he’d done all 602 in one second, he would still be more 14x slower than the number of tweets from one second of the MTV Video Music Awards.
- The Vatican estimates 70 thousand young people were confirmed by Pope Francis during one of his first major public appearances, or roughly the size of one world record Harlem Shake.
- And a final word of warning: according to a recent study, homeowners that are bad at math are 5x more likely to default on their loans, or about the same likelihood that women dating online will show interest in younger men.
If you want more good ideas for how to make your stats stick, check out Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die [affiliate]. Awesome book - highly recommend it!
I’m meeting with an important client this morning. We’re talking about bubbles. :-) (at Swayne Manor)
Reggie Watts, ladies and gentlemen!! #sxsw #sxscout (at GSD&M)
I’m in the same freaking room as Sir Tim Berners-Lee. And it feels amazing. #sxsw (at The Driskill)
Got my tag up, yo. And I do love this Dino. (at Facebook Austin)
Snowy day visiting @golinharris HQ! (at GolinHarris)