By Janaina Scalise, Senior Planner and Andrew Roberts, Managing Partner In response to a Drum V...

Longing for longform in marketing

By Janaina Scalise, Senior Planner and Andrew Roberts, Managing Partner

In response to a Drum Vox Pop question that the age of bite sized media is seeing a resurgence of its comfortable long form component, despite our attention spans shrinking into oblivion with a quick fix of 140 characters. Facebook Instant Articles, the Guardian’s ‘The Long Read’, Snapchat Discover suggests that people are craving more insight into the things they are interested in rather than just flashes of information. The Drum Network asked its members what they thought about the resurgence of longform, and if they thought it was here to stay.

Janaina response: 

The shift should be from format to relevance. There has been a clear appetite for substantive, well-crafted quality posts that engage readers as anything that is short and snappy might come across as ‘just another advertising line’. Each case is different though. You can also have a short form piece that is striking and makes me want to know more. The main objective is to help readers get to the answers they want faster and that means being where they are and having a clear, relevant message. It is still about meeting quality criteria. The reason why digital marketers and brands are gravitating more towards the long form content has all to do with visibility on search engine and the advantage of being able to provide a deeper view on a topic however, for readers, there will be moments where they will feel more like scanning through a piece of information rather than delving into it. And that’s why I’d aim for what is appropriate and relevant. The format is a consequence – it’s simply what works best.

Andrew's response:

I received a book for Christmas I can’t put down. It's called ‘Letters of Note’ , a collection of 125 of the world's most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters, celebrating the power of written correspondence with letters such as a note from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol that contains a wonderfully laid-back design brief for a Rolling Stones album cover to a handwritten note from Queen Elizabeth II to U.S. President Eisenhower which is accompanied by Majesty’s personal scone recipe. I realised very quickly that the reason the book is so enthralling is the way that people can describe humour, sadness or just tell a great story, in short it is a celebration of the written word. It also struck me that this is a long forgotten art, after all do you remember the last time you wrote a proper letter ?

Technology is an easy target for the decline in long form content but with paper book sales on the rise (at the expense of ebooks) and an apparent resurgence in interest in reading I don’t believe that people ever really forgot about long form content it just looks like that. Of course social media is the villain in this story but this is evolving too with brands realising that to properly engage with their consumers they must create genuinely interesting, relevant content. And to my mind you can’t beat the craft and emotion that long form copy can evoke just read Iggy Pop’s letter of advice to a troubled young fan or the riposte from a freed slave to his old master it will grab you from the start and leave you thinking about long afterwards.

Warren Dell,  Planner  I've never seen the point of the ‘predictions for this year’ pie...

Things I want to see happen in 2016

Warren Dell, 

I've never seen the point of the ‘predictions for this year’ pieces about the industry we work in, when the only constant to pin your hat to is change it’s always hard to accurately pinpoint exactly what should be a concern and focus in the year ahead.

After all We weren’t thinking about whether Snapchat should be on our comms plans at the start of last year or whether Tinder is a viable platform to reach our consumer. Change is constant.

So being receptive and agile to change is certainly important but that would make for a dull piece of writing, so now the dust has settled on all the year ahead predication I thought I’d write about the things I want to see happen this year to lay down a marker to compare in a year’s time.

A Mobile first attitude is adopted
Mobile is basically now the internet. We check it via our smartphones the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep, with up to 150 times in between. We’ve already passed the point more searches are made on mobile than desktop. Mobile commerce is growing, social media usage is naturally a mobile medium and messaging apps are increasingly the main function to communicate with peers from your smartphone. The year of the mobile was years ago. But has our attitude to creating in this environment matched this? Does being at a desktop all day inhibit our creation of work to match how the consumers we aim for actually engage with it?  

Whether we’re creating video, campaign pages, or distributing and amplifying it via social and other channels we need to be thinking mobile first to inform any activity we do.

Food for thought, what does this mean for the future of desktop? Websites focused on desktop were updated to be responsive and account for mobiles increased growth, with the tides now turned mobile can no longer be seen as just a tick boxing exercise.

Prioritising quality over quantity, relevancy over volume
Content is king. Content, content and more content. Content has become a catch all term for any form of communication from brand to consumer and you can forgive yourself for drowning in the number of articles out there that stress how important content is. Just a quick glance at Google Trends will show how prominent it’s become over recent years.

We’ve now reached a saturation point where there is too much content out there, not all of it being of any real quality as more resource is spent churning it out to see what sticks. It’s time to ask hard questions about whether the volume can be justified. Fewer social media posts, fewer blogs and fewer videos will result in more time spent crafting pieces of real quality and relevance to the audience.

Live streaming becomes a more prominent channel
Bar a few examples from brands, live streaming has been better suited to news, the just plain weird and a stream of a puddle. But the signs are there that this year it will become much more prominent now Twitter have made it easier to view Periscope streams within tweets and Facebook are opening up live streaming to all users. A streaming option seems the next logical feature for Snapchat given how their Live Stories are curated.

Ad blocking forces better content
For years publishers and advertisers have tried to grab a consumer’s attention through ads of varying degrees of annoyance. Expanding, pop-ups and the like have added to this and increased the popularity of ad blocking, which poses a real threat to advertisers and publishers. Advertisers will reduce spend if their ads won’t be seen and the reduced revenue for publishers can have serious implications for their editorial output.

Native advertising is the natural happy medium to pay publishers to get your brand in front of the right people but even this format has its drawbacks if the quality isn’t right. It’s why the term ‘advertorials’ is still levied at native.

Ad blocking can be a good or bad thing depending on what side of the fence you are on, both arguments have merit. What’s clear is that it will make advertisers and publishers rethink a tired way to communicate to consumers, push forward more engaging formats and ultimately better content.

Brands focus more on original content, less on newsjacking
“What’s our Oreo moment?” Hands up, we’ve all heard it. The Superbowl tweet that spawned many a newsjack attempt continues to cause brands to jump on any trending story or event, create newsrooms and generally spend more time anticipating than creating. Some genuinely hit the mark, like the iPhone bendgate from Kit Kat but too often feeds are clogged up with attempts that are way off.  If relevant by all means add your touch to the conversation, but if it doesn’t feel quite right you’re better off leaving it. The time spent trying to get it right can be better spent concentrating on original content that will have more purpose for you and relevance to your consumer.

Brands don’t try to be something they’re not
Please no more brands saying ‘bae’, or that they are on fleek or using whatever the new slang is.

Snapchat’s ad proposition becomes more sophisticated
Snapchat has the attention of a lot of brands coveted audience, but need to offer more transparency in the effectiveness of their ads if they want brands to stump up the large costs to advertise.

Evan Spiegel and his team are right not to make the barrier to entry so easy as to dilute the platform, as ads can be seen to do on other social platforms but a happy medium will have to be reached with an IPO expected this year.

Many brands are taking a watching brief at the moment but if Snapchat can offer more targeting options and better measurement, everyone stands to win.

By Stephen Firth  At a recent DRUM network event I was privy to some interesting research abo...

2016 - a rosy outlook or dark storms approaching ?

By Stephen Firth 

At a recent DRUM network event I was privy to some interesting research about how 2015 had gone and what the outlook was for 2016 for agencies. These things always need to be taken with a pinch of salt however there were some interesting findings coming out of it.

Firstly it seems to me that small agencies are interested, interesting and collaborative whereas their larger peers seem to continue to sit in their ivory towers comfortable in the scale that they have created. Out of 80 respondents only 5% were from agencies with 50+ employees which startled me. And the room itself seemed to be brimming with enthusiastic, innovative, smaller agency principles taking time out of busy schedules to listen, learn and network.

This does however make the research findings a bit skewed however that suits me being the principle of 24 super talented people all innovating enthusiastically everyday.

Some staggering headlines..

On average agencies pitched over 20 times during 2015 with an average value of just £104,000 per project. With high expenses associated with pitching (both direct costs and resources) this can’t make for good business especially considering many of the pitches were for specific projects with no guaranteed opportunity to recoup pitch expenditure post project completion. At Gravity we have the principle of less is more – 3 pitches, 2 wins and £2.9m in budgets moving into 2016.

In advertising agencies 96% of staff are male. Astounding in todays business world but true. Fortunately this was not the case for digital agencies with 45% being female. I take heart that out of 24 people in our agency 12 are female with 2 of them sitting on a senior management team. We also have cultural diversity with Portugal, Brazil, Holland, Greece, The Czech Republic, France, South Africa, Australia and Ireland all being represented. It makes for a more interesting and open minded view on what we do.

This is a young persons game with the average age of staff being 28, senior team being 37 and the board being 44. Not necessarily surprising as this is a fast changing, high energy industry that we work in and being immersed and connected to media, technology and culture are a prerequisite. At Gravity we correlate with this and focus on young bright talent with passion and potential – it's our role to provide the platform, support and experience for them to meet that potential.

At last collaboration is becoming mainstream with 60% of agencies having collaborated on new business pitches with a 66% success rate. And 86% of those collaborations were between people who already had a track record with one another. As an agency that prides itself on collaborating with interesting and diverse partners with expertise in many different fields (scientists, performers and technologists) this was good to hear. Have the days of thinking you can really do it all by yourself under one roof gone – let’s hope so.

Are we finally learning to recruit and retain talent better. Average staff turnover in 2015 was 16% which is a positive sign that agencies are taking care of their people. Talent management and development has to be a key focus for agencies going forward with the pool of talent being quite small and the high cost of recruitment. When you get good people in your business you better take the time to nurture and look after them. One approach that we are taking is to look ahead of a persons time at the agency and align to their longer-term life goals. By doing so you are ensuring that the experience they have with you is additive to a greater personal purpose which in turn results in happier, more fulfilled and productive people who want to stay with you longer. We’ll let you know how it goes over the next 12 months.

Most agencies are feeling positive about the future. In 2015, 8 out of 10 of the agencies saw an average increase in turnover of 36% which means that they’re all feeling rather positive about 2016 with 80% confident in the future. Too right. The ever evolving and fast moving world represents great opportunities for agencies who are smart, agile and brave. Those agencies who are willing to evolve and change with this world are well placed.

Good luck with 2016 everyone.

By Tom Goldthorpe The Gravity rabble have been out on another evening excursion, this time to...

Gravity @ Big Bang Data

By Tom Goldthorpe

The Gravity rabble have been out on another evening excursion, this time to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House.

The team clamoured for tickets when they were offered and I’m confident that this is due to a shared love of analytics, data segmentation and the inherent joys of reporting, rather than the fact that the exhibition closed at 6 necessitating an early finish.

Arriving at the exhibition we were first led through a series of installations aimed at raising awareness of ones digital footprint. It’s easy when imagining cloud data to think of an invisible, intangible virtual realm of information, but Timo Arnall’s The Machine displayed the less fluffy side of cloud based computing. Every meme, tweet and online tax return posted onto the net has to be stored on a server somewhere and this short film took viewers through a labyrinth of stacks where such information is hosted.

With a global output of 2.5 trillion bytes of data per day, the resources required to keep these server banks operating add up and almost makes the cat gif you laughed at on the bus to work seem like a rather trivial waste of planetary resources.

So how safe is this data? Whilst the server farms themselves have Fort Knox style security, should anyone attempt to trek into the Arizona desert and attempt to rob one, the data’s journey to the farm itself is rather less secure.

Julian Oliver’s work entitled TheTransparency grenade was created to demonstrate the terrifying amount of data that could be syphoned from unsuspecting mobile users connecting to an insecure wifi network. This automated device extracts unencrypted information whilst participants browsed the web, saving to an external server to be mined for important or sensitive information at a later date. A rather real and terrifying threat considering the plethora of free wifi networks now available in every shop, cafe and street corner.

But it wasn't just the data streaming from our devices that was being tracked and mapped, the notion of security and social surveillance was explored by several installation artists looking to examine the privacy issues a connected world presents. Zach Blas’ Face Cages were comprised of thin wire masks that when worn disrupt facial recognition technology enabling the wearer to wander at will without a database being able to track these movements remotely.

The most disturbing piece on display however was surely Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger visions. These photorealistic 3D printed masks were created using strands of found DNA to recreate the potential face of their original progenitor. A distressing reminder of how much personal and private information we accidentally leave in our wake as we wander through life.

Big Bang Data is on at Somerset House until the 20th March.

More here.

About ten years ago, my creative director was judging the Cannes Cyber Lions. He was frustra...

Advertising needs a (virtual) reality check on Oculus Rift

About ten years ago, my creative director was judging the Cannes Cyber Lions.
He was frustrated with the way the panel was evaluating the work.
It was around this time that Flash banners were the main output of digital agencies.
The projects submitted to awards were all doing new, gimmicky things.
In particular - you could have two banners on either side of a web page and a product could move from one banner to the other.
Think about that now - looking back a decade - how gimmicky that seems.
Whereas the criteria for winning the D&ADs was whether it would stand up decades later. Fads didn't win.
You see, we do like to get excited about new things in the agency world.
And new does get attention, technology can wow people  - but it doesn't sustain.
So let's look at the latest buzz - Virtual Reality.
Ever since it was first on Kick Starter, agencies have been touting the Oculus Rift. The most prominent of many VR goggles coming out this year.
As of yesterday the consumer edition is available to pre-order. The technology is going mainstream.
But where is the compelling content?
Good work is out there. Such as Clouds Over Sidra - from director Chris Milk and his studio VRSE.
The film follows a Syrian refugee in a holding camp. It affected policy change in the UN by connecting politicians to the realities of war.
Story telling is still story telling. And this is why the documentary makers are the ones doing the interesting work right now.
But agencies have got so excited about being the first to produce VR content that they have forgotten about the rules of successful film making.
We need to take off the rose-tinted (VR) glasses.
And remind ourselves about how to make content for brands.
As one of the few who have both experienced the consumer Rift and also shot with a VR camera rig - These are a couple of thoughts for people setting foot into this world:
1. Device agnostic VR
1% of PCs can run a full 3D VR experience - that limits its use to experiential.
And the problem we will also have with this approach is that the experience is not shareable.
We are going to see a lot of photos of people with the goggles on, but the experience the user gets will not be easily translated.
Throughput it also a major problem. Even a two minute film means the number of people who can experience your content is limited.
However, YouTube and Facebook provide 360 video natively in their platforms.
Google Cardboard - the cheap, portable VR viewer that uses your mobile phone - can play these too.
For now VR content should be shot to be experienced at scale - made available across these platforms and viewers.
2. Shoot film
For deep emotional engagement at a palatable budget, film is the way to go for now. 
Bespoke 3D environments are costly and they're limited to high end devices and so lack scale.
Place a cost per engagement metric against that and you'll soon see marketing directors running for the hills.
A VR rig is cheap, and easy to shoot on once you've understood the stitching software.
But as with all content, creating rich, powerful stories is far easier when shot for real, than when faked.
I've spent years on automotive accounts and I hate computer generated cars in films - they never look real and burn up all the budget.
Let me point a lens at them any day.
Same applies for VR content.
So let's go forward into this brave new virtual world with these thoughts in mind.
But remember:
Bad content, in any medium, on any platform is still… bad content

  By Konstantina Valsamou Intern  What guarantees a campaign’s success? What can companies d...

The inexorable rise in video

  By Konstantina Valsamou Intern 

What guarantees a campaign’s success? What can companies do to increase brand awareness, generate “buzz” and ultimately ensure brand loyalty?

The aforementioned questions have been baffling marketers who are always on the lookout for new trends in marketing and groundbreaking ways to reach their target audience and increase sales.
While in the search for the elements that are believed to be responsible for a brand’s success, brands reinvent themselves trying to find new innovative ways to express traditional ideas. Emotions such as humour, shock, sadness etc. are being employed again but this time with the use of online video while also being distributed to the audience via new communication channels.

By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic, according to Cisco (2015). Video content is not just an emerging trend, but also one of the most efficient ways of engaging with your potential customers. It has changed the way businesses are being conducted and the possibilities are endless. One can say that video ads are definitely dominating the advertising world today.

Video content plays a major role in increasing brand awareness as the rise of social networks allows for sharing interesting content across multiple devices. Video is considered a widely more interesting form of content in comparison to text and some claim that video is more persuasive. No technology has been found that better conveys human emotion than video while others believe that it builds trust and credibility more effectively. Surely enough, video content enables viewers to connect with a brand on a human level; being able to share feelings and develop a relationship with the brand are some of the factors that contribute to a brand’s success.

However, the sole use of video cannot guarantee success. All the new advancements in technology need to be taken into account by firms who want to be considered leaders in their industry.

Mobile optimisation is a key element to a successful video marketing strategy. Video is predicted to account for 72% of all mobile traffic by 2019 (Cisco, 2015); and numbers don’t lie. By ensuring that video content is responsive on all devices users get the best experience possible, which is after all the objective.

While it is essential for businesses that want to include video in their marketing strategies to consider optimising their video to be mobile responsive, it is also important to pay attention to the content and maybe even consider deleting poorly performing videos.

Researchers seem to widely agree on the fact that most popular videos share some elements of surprise and these seem to get them more reach and engagement. When viewers are shown something familiar but in a different way, they are more prone to buy a product after watching a video about it.
Essentially, innovation is the key.  

However, are people so easy to “manipulate”?

There have been numerous cases where the use of emotions was responsible for videos going viral (John Lewis Christmas ad). However, it is not so simple and there isn’t one recipe that everyone can simply follow and get more reach and engagement. What most marketers fail to realise is that the use of cute babies and animals is not responsible for attracting attention but it’s how these can be incorporated and aligned with one’s brand, its purpose and essence.

Subsequently, for this Year’s Christmas Campaign for Glenfiddich here at Gravity Thinking, we wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to use video content to better express what Glenfiddich is all about, the essence of the brand but still do it in a different way while keeping it relatable to Glenfiddich as a brand and its history. The first drop of whisky fell out of the William Grant’s stills on Christmas day while they also have a history of doing things differently.

Glenfiddich aims at differentiating itself from other whisky brands and with this piece of creative we hope it will achieve just that. Glenfiddich is moving to a more ‘maverick’ positioning as a brand and this campaign was aimed at people who might in the past have seen single malt and Glenfiddich as an older person’s drink. We wanted to grab the attention of a slightly younger audience than usual, an audience that needs to be spoken to in a different way than the same old traditional whisky advertising way; we wanted to be innovative and “break the rules”.

So we decided to go with a concept that highlighted a particular group of people who like to go for a swim in Loch Lomond rather than produce some creative or a campaign around the standard and expected Christmas traditions.
We weren’t out to encourage everyone to start swimming on Christmas Day, but to entertain and perhaps inspire people to give their traditions a shake up. We also encouraged on the site people to tell us how they do the festive period differently.

Video is changing the face of business. It is no surprise that 2015 was the year of Video Marketing for all the right reasons. Video is increasing brand awareness, generates word of mouth and ensures brand loyalty as it keeps the audience entertained and intrigued. Video will still be relevant for many years ahead and we are looking forward to see any new future developments.

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