Here’s how to check if your Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica

Facebook has provided a link where you can check if you (or your friends) shared your Facebook data with Cambridge Analytica.

Apparently, mine has not.

Interestingly, one of the biggest misconceptions over the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that there was some sort of “leak” of data from Facebook. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What occured is that Cambridge Analytica created a Facebook app – thisisyourdigitallife – that asked people questions where they willingly handed over their data (after providing informed consent). Pre-2015, these people also gave consent for this third-party app to see what their Facebook friends were doing also.

Given that the average person has approximately 130 Facebook friends, if 270,000 people used this app, then it stands to reason that Cambridge Analytica has data on more than 35m people. There are some reports that this figure is much higher, around 87m people.

Either way, as I wrote in this piece covering what Facebook and Google knows about you, if the product is free, you’re the product.

What does my Facebook data say about me – and how do I access it?

What is Facebook / Google Data?

Wherever you go online, you leave information behind about yourself. This is referred to as your “digital footprint”.

Consider everything you do when you’re online:
Check into your favourite bar on Facebook.
Post an image of a great dinner at a particular restaurant.
Conduct a Google search for a car.
Fill in an enquiry form.
Visit a website and look at a sneaker product page.

All of these activities leave a “digital trail” of data, that with enough smarts, a good digital marketer can connect the dots on this activity and potentially build an image of you as a person. This “unique” profile may be anonymous; in other words, I may understand that there’s a person who has been undertaking certain activities that lead me to believe that they are buying a car, however I may not know your name, email address or anything specifically about you.

This is known as the difference between anonymous vs attributed data. I may identify one or more groupings of data, and infer that there’s a person wandering around car websites and clicking on car ads, but I may not really know it’s you.

However, the moment you link your Facebook profile or enter your email address, then I can get very specific about you. I will know your name, maybe your age, maybe your address, and I can use a data enrichment program to flesh out more – maybe even take your public posts and other publicly available data to “fill out” your profile.

This is done in order to understand certain things that may allow me a very specific “sell”. For example, if I can see that you have children, I may do better by selling you a 4WD than a two-seater sports car.

How do Facebook and Google know how to target me in this way?

Facebook and Google make money by selling advertising space that is targeted, so I may set up “audiences” within their platforms in order to target you better. Using a pool of advertising content, which I like to call “Content as a service”, I might create hundreds of ads, each of which are slightly different, and each of which might have a slightly different reason to buy the car. For example, three variations on the ad might be:

  1. This car can fit the whole family
  2. This car is fuel efficient
  3. This car is designed and built in Germany

I will deploy those ads on Facebook and Google networks and say to them: Please find me audiences of people who are attracted to that advertising. I may then link certain “marketing automation” elements to optimise further. so if you visited the car website and spent some time on the “fuel efficiency” page, I may communicate that visit so that Facebook and Google know to send you the ad on fuel efficiency.

But Facebook and Google may also know more about you, and are in a far better position to target you than just my assumption based on a website you clicked.

How much do Facebook and Google know about me?

Using these steps, I’ll help you extract all of the data that Facebook and Google know about you – and also the information that apps you’ve installed might know about you.

1. How to access your Google data

Visit: ​​

If you’ve got a Google account (which many billions of people do), then every Google search, YouTube video you’ve watched, every Google Home voice enquiry and every place you’ve visited is logged and tracked here. Every website you’ve visited from a Google search is there. And if that website has Google Analytics installed (which nearly every website in the world does), then Google will know what you’ve visited, how long you visited for, and what activities you undertook on that site. Further, they know about your location, IP address, device you visited on and plenty more.

2. How to access your Google Maps data

Visit: ​

As most people have a smart phone with GPS built in, Google asks for permission to track your location, even if the app isn’t active. In other words, passive tracking of your every move. This link allows you to understand where you’ve been, and allows Google to understand what your movements are, so it might be able to classify you as a “frequent restaurant goer” or “someone who has been visiting car yards” and therefore allow me as an advertiser to target you more effectively.

3. How to access your Google Ad Settings data

Visit: ​

This list shows “topics you like” and “topics you don’t like”. Googles uses searches, web visits and real life visits to understand your interests as a person. It then puts them into a list that only you can see. Advertisers then buy ads on the Google advertising network and may ask for “Everyone who is interested in buying a car within 20 kms of my car showroom”. This list is aggregated and you get served ads on that basis.

4. How to access your Google apps data

Visit: ​

If you use Google to log in to certain apps or websites (called social signon), while you make life easier by not having to remember many different passwords, it does give Google some access to data on the apps and websites you are logged in to. You can see what that access is, and what level of access from this page.

5. How to extract all of your Google data

Visit: ​

Please note – this does not DELETE your data from Google, it only allows you to extract it. However you’ll see there’s a lot there, especially if you use a large number of Google apps and products, from Gmail to YouTube to Google photos.

6. How to track your YouTube search data

After Google itself, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (Facebook’s search sucks). If you’d like to see what your entire YouTube search history is, click here: ​

7. How to track your YouTube view data

Here’s everything you’ve ever watched on YouTube:

8. Here’s all of your Facebook data

There are a couple of levels of Facebook data. There’s what Facebook knows about you, and then there’s the apps that you have allowed to access your Facebook data.

In order to know who you’ve given access to, click this link: ​
Here you’ll see a huge amount of apps and websites that you may have used to log in (again, Social signon in order to not have to remember multiple email addresses and passwords). Look through these, you may be surprised at how much detail you’ve granted some of these logons, especially the older (pre-2015) apps. These apps often have access to all of your photos, information and friends information. And – you’re the one that allowed them to do it. you can change it or simply remove access.

9. How to access your Facebook ad preferences data

Visit: ​

Here you’ll see all of the various interests Facebook believes you have, based largely on things you’ve liked, things you’ve posted, ads you’ve clicked, places you’ve visited and sites you’re connected to.

10. How to access all of your Facebook Data

It’s extremely hard to lie to Facebook. While you can always put in a false name or username into Instagram or any other platform for that matter, Facebook is excellent at getting the truth out of you. While websites and platforms of old had “usernames” and crazy handles, Facebook rewards honesty: Your real name, your real birthday, your real data. It punishes you by not putting in your true data by not connecting you to your friends as well, an in-built reward mechnism. Therefore it’s by far the most powerful means to gather data on people.

In order to understand what Facebook knows about you, download your Facebook data via this link: ​ – then go to “Download a copy of your Facebook data” on the bottom of the text.

The moral to the story

If you don’t want to share your information online, then it’sbest you don’t register for free services. Remember the truism: If the product is free, you’re the product. There is a tradeoff between what you give and what you get; in marketing this is known as a “value exchange”. If you must use Facebook and Google (which in all honesty I must say are superb services), then be aware that information you share with them and through them with other organisations must be something you are happy to share.

These organisations (and most marketers) treat data with respect – after all, it is a privilege to have information on customers. However be aware of what this data is, how this data might be used, and the nature of the value exchange.

I’m in B&Ts “Meet the Futurists” – marketing trends & predictions

B&T has come out with a new feature, “Meet The Futurists”. They asked me and a number of fellow marketing and advertising leaders what our views (predictions) were about marketing trends.

My answers covered: the media industry, digital marketing, the advertising industry, blockchain, marketing science (Ehrenberg), lean startup principles in marketing, artificial intelligence and plenty of other areas.

Here’s the piece on marketing trends / futures (click the image to download the PDF):

Here is the full interview:

What’s your one BIG FUTURE prediction for media in the coming years?

Media will go from a people heavy industry to a technology platform heavy industry. Artificial intelligence will drive applied media outcomes, where a couple of smart media strategists sitting across a number of software platforms will replace the jobs of thousands. This will massively erode margins and make most media companies shrink and die. Further, blockchain media attribution will provide clients with transparency they can only dream of now. These platforms will democratise the industry, drive increased transparency and trust, and better media and client outcomes, making it easy for any creative / comms / PR agency or client to take media buying in-house.

How will our workplaces change to suit?

In the old days, organisations grew, and with scale they gained certain economies: The ability to buy expensive barriers to entry, the ability to purchase sophisticated computers and software platforms, and the ability to hire top talent via expansive human resources departments that would ensure new entrants were facing an extremely steep battle in matters of cost, quality and scale.

However that has all changed. It’s now the opposite, as highly sophisticated software is available at a per seat, per month basis. Talent is now accessible via open online markets such as Linkedin. Huge computer systems that were once physical are now virtual, such as AWS. And even the manufacturing of goods and services has been commoditised via trading platforms such as Alibaba. Any founder or entrepreneur has BETTER access and ability than enterprise. A credit card is more agile than a procurement department.

So, the only advantage large businesses have over small businesses is their access to capital. But because large organisations don’t generally adhere to lean principles, they are afraid of marketing-based validation, and have mountainous layers of bureaucracy, their capital is wasted.

Our workplaces will therefore become smaller, more agile and more focussed. Like creative industries such as music and film, where vast swarms of teams gather to work on projects at various phases of production, marketing workplaces will be a mix of highly specialised people supported by a “sexy stack” of software, virtual assistants and AI bots enhancing and applying our knowledge and skills at scale.

Algorithms are fast replacing human brains. Should the thinkers and the creators be worried?

Linking neural networks and machine learning to marketing science will drastically simplify marketing strategies, tactics and approaches, and it make marketing much easier and more effective. Thinkers and creators will be empowered – most of the work of people in advertising, marketing and media could be easily replaced and most likely will be in the next three or four years. Audience identification, profit / revenue growth strategy, product optimisation, profit pool estimation, budget allocation, channel resource allocation, media planning, media buying, media optimisation, creative optimisation and workflow management can all be done with software now. Creativity, ideas, insights, innovation and corporate strategy cannot yet be done by machines. Creatives and planners should be fine – for the foreseeable future.

What will brands increasingly have to do to stand out above “the noise”?

As Peter Drucker once said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So how do brands then distinguish themselves with marketing and innovation and stand out above the noise? By adopting marketing science and lean startup principles. Marketing science is yet to make serious inroads, and until it is accepted rather than seen as a subjective fad, then marketers and agencies will truly struggle to achieve great results, and therefore be taken seriously by business leaders.

One of key challenges here is ensuring there is something to talk about – the products and services must be superb and distinctive. However the product innovation and product development lifecycles in business are generally too slow to outpace competition, so distinctiveness and excellence are increasingly difficult.

Further: Most efforts in business around ideas, products and innovation is merely internal noise – LMNA (Lots of Meetings, No Action). Worth nothing until it is shipped.

So therefore, market-validated innovation must play a more substantial role. Shipping and testing product variations, ideas and communications to new markets rapidly and iteratively is the only way brands will survive. Test every idea, every innovation, every suggestion at great reach – and learn in a mature, failure-filled way.

Mumbrella advertising review: Qantas (great), CUB (OK), Black Hawk (half-baked) and nab (forgettable)

Mumbrella asked me to review a series of current Aussie ad campaigns.

Here’s what I said:

1. Qantas → was bringing the iconic “I still call Australia Home” anthem the right thing to do? Is Qantas advertising becoming stale? In your view was this an effective way of creating an inflight video? Why/why not?

Qantas ads have been truly awful for a long time, from the baffling work of Droga5 to the more recent blandness peddled by the late Neil Lawrence / Monkeys in the “Feels Like Home” campaign (I’d suggest travel advertisements that inspire people to travel in a big, branded, energetic way work better than ads that are dull, unbranded and draw imagery from observing people arriving safely into a dark and empty airport terminal).

This however, is an excellent piece of work; easily the best safety video I’ve ever seen.

It begins with the intense range of emotions at Departure: Excitement, the thrill, the emotion, the heartache, over rapidly into a big city visit, and then takes us on a journey through a range of external endorsements of Australian culture. There’s nothing Australians love more than people “from overseas” validating our accent, our approach to life, our larrikinism, our resilience, even our songs. When the bloke on top of the Andes grabs the guitar and belts out a few notes of “I Still Call Australia Home” (the best brand asset Qantas has after the flying Kangaroo) to the surprise and rapture of his fellow global travellers, it’s basically peak Aussie pride. I can imagine every person in the plane’s eyes moistening as they watch scenes of Aussie cricket in Tokyo, Aussie flat whites in London and Aussie Vegemite in that beautifully shot scene with the Shanghai family.

It’s an affectionate, happy and positive embodiment of “The Spirit of Australia”. This is what Qantas’s ads should be like from now on.

2. CUB → This ad has sparked controversy with some Australians labeling it as discriminatory. Do you think this ad pushed the boundaries in the wrong way? Is the strategy behind the ad effective? Will it get people on side with the new beer? Why/why not?

I give this a 66% rating.
Product bundling is usually done in the most boring way possible. Shampoo brand X bundles new Conditioner brand X for free in a shrink-wrap to encourage trial. Dull as dishwater. But this effort at bundling a new beer flavour within six packs, and then “rewarding” people $500 to avoid any loss aversion is a really novel idea.

It’s another great idea to encourage people to “seek out” these errant bottles – a strongly branded call to action. Basing it on “you never know where red-heads can pop up in your family” is a cute, fun and brand-associated metaphor that people who live in the real world would most likely link to the product, remember (most importantly) and get a laugh out of.

However, the execution isn’t great. It tries to be funny but it’s a bit lame. The quick cut nature of the shots / stock footage looks a bit disjointed. If I wanted to generate some outrage in this ad, I’d save it for the incredibly long / word heavy script and matching overbearing, overly bloke voiceover. I was experiencing the McGurk Effect as I was watching it:

3. Black Hawk → As an online tool, does the campaign do the job of taking consumers on a path to purchase? Will the campaign sell dog food? Why/why not?

I like the idea that people should be taking care of their dog with appropriate food quality and quantity. I like that there is a way of easily explaining how over- or underweight your dog is, using a human scale. However this execution is a little half-baked. What they are currently not doing is using (the relatively unbranded) to gather data on every dog in Australia (and their owners) and using that information to advertise to the owners over the lifecycle of the dogs. According to my software, the site only has Google Analytics and Facebook plugins, not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting needed for a big, data-driven creative campaign. Build cross channel attribution by using plugins and opt-ins on the site that enrich the data before people are even asked for their email address. Further, they are not using social logins, so they demand of people that they manually enter their details. This would most likely discourage at least 60% of the eventual visitors to this part of the site.

The advantages of building a more “data-driven creative approach” with this is that they might be able to create a range of creative messages targeted to precisely the right dog owner at the right time. If the dogs are young, then promote the “puppy” product. If older, maybe the “softer” product. Creative executions that have an image / size of the exact dog the owner has. These are some of the opportunities that cannot not being exploited by this particular campaign platform right now the way that it’s constructed. If they make these changes, they might be able to drive dog food sales. Without it, it’s hard to see how sales will increase.

4. NAB → Does the ad do an effective job of continuing the ‘More than Money’ brand platform? What does the ad say about NAB’s personality?

It’s really tough for Aussie banks at the moment. Anti-capitalism is infecting our Parliament, media and even our boardrooms. The Royal Commission into banking is putting them under incredible pressure. Banking taxes are crazy – they’re a tax on consumers, as simple as that.

But despite all of that, banks underpin the prosperity of Australia. The Australian economy is basically “homes and holes” and banks have underpinned these sectors with cheap and plentiful money since white settlement. Home ownership rates in Australia – a core part of Aussie culture, is at historic highs (even despite the high cost of homes). Australian quality of life and purchasing power is also at historic highs. Credit is cheap. Bank service (while we’ll always whinge) is not too bad. Try “tap and go” in the USA, or try to find an ATM in Europe, and you find yourself yearning for the “four pillars”: ANZ, nab, Westpac and CBA.

And the funniest part? Aussie know this. Aussies totally trust their banks with money. Aussies own a massive range of banking products. There’s nothing Aussies would rather do than to put their money into one of our big four. As much as we whinge and say the opposite, we endorse the banks wholeheartedly with our actions, not our words. And actions are all that matter.

What Aussie don’t trust is banks that stray from their core purpose, which is to borrow from one person and lend to another in order to provide liquidity and make for a more prosperous society. The moment banks start talking about “more than money”, is when the famous Australian bullshit detector goes up. nab is running scared with “more than money”. “more than money” implies that there is something wrong with “money” and that “money” is only part of nab’s overall offer. It’s not. It’s what nab does, and does well. It’s not something to be ashamed of.

This work is simply an empathetic but totally forgettable attempt at expressing the flawed “more than money” premise.

And the original piece in Mumbrella.

When Growth Stalls: How to Boost Growth in Large Organisations

The push to start new businesses continues. In Q1 2017, the number of seed and angel deals increased by 1.4 per cent compared to Q1 2016.

While small businesses are the heart and soul of jobs growth, it’s just as important that established businesses focus on growing – less startup, more scaleup; less entrepreneur, more intrapreneur. So how can large organisations grow? To sustain growth, there must be a continuous pipeline of growth initiatives that represent new sources of profit for your brand. What distinguishes companies that carry on growing is their ability to create these new initiatives along short, medium and long-term horizons (a framework featured in The Alchemy of Growth). Here are four pillars to consider as you take stock of your growth strategy.

Brand growth

Brand growth comes from distinctiveness and memory. Building memories and an understanding of your brand is essential so that at a potential purchase moment, buyers think of you over a competitor brand. How to get there:

Short term: Treat your brand like everyday is launch day and be in market. Revisit your marketing strategy to ensure all efforts are focused on awareness and acquisition. Not loyalty programs.

Medium term: Develop reach initiatives to drive further awareness of your brand. Sponsorship, display ads, outdoor, TV/video advertising and more, are effective at raising awareness.

Long term: Use your distinctive brand assets – jingles, logos, colours, taglines, and so on, in all communications for as long as possible. Over time they will become strongly associated with your brand and act as a mental cue in a purchase occasion.

Channel growth

Channel growth comes from improving access of your products and services to your customers and employees, changing behaviour and selling effectively. How to get there:

Short term: Audit your current channels and begin building the right infrastructure of physical and digital touchpoints.

Medium term: Improve your distribution channels to increase the effectiveness of your sales team. The more that non-value-added work can be removed, the more your salesforce is empowered to provide a personalised service experience.

Long term: Develop a single customer view to build pricing and product models. To ensure feasibility, continue to refine your product, price, and distribution methods.

Customer experience (CX) growth

Customer Experience growth comes from acknowledging a focus on the “moments of truth” that deliver customer-first experiences.

How to get there:

Short term: Audit the user experience of existing products or channels by looking at analytics data from past visitor sessions or from capturing user sentiment. Uncover experience issues and begin to define ways to improve conversion and ensure customer satisfaction.

Medium term: Create a contact strategy to identify gaps and communication opportunities in order to develop and innovate the customer experience. Having a consistent approach attracts and converts prospects but also maintains a greater number of customers for the long term.

Long term: Build products with a customer-first perspective using a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. This allows the business to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

Connections growth

Connections growth comes from connecting consumer insights (via data and analytics) to deliver new or improved products and services.

How to get there:

Short term: Audit your data and analytics to uncover insights about your customers, then determine the metric that matters for your business.

Medium term: Begin using your data to deliver marketing effectiveness. Test, learn, and refine innovations and ideas in market.

Long term: Develop a single customer view to build pricing and product models. To ensure feasibility, continue to refine your product, price, and distribution methods. The world is changing all around us all the time. To continue to thrive as a business in the next years and beyond, large organisations must look ahead, understand the trends and forces that will shape their business in the future and move swiftly to prepare for what’s to come.

Originally appeared in CMO Magazine

15 Reasons Why Donald Trump Won – A Marketeer’s View

Donald Trump’s election is a stark reminder of some basic marketing principles around consumers, content and channels. Two flawed but distinctive political products came to market, and Trump triumphed. Here’s my take on win:

1. Politics and politicians has/have such little credibility that people crave outsiders.

2. People crave leadership, and when there is none (across the West), strength will fill the void.

3. Looking at four pillars of political success, Trump v Clinton:

  • Policy Vision — Flawed, but clear vs coherent but ever-changing political positions
  • Passion — Unquestionably passionate vs distant & calculating
  • Delivery — Successful businessman, future delivery TBC vs Solid track record — but only in politics
  • Humanity — Identified clearly with the needs of masses of voters (with the exception of those he offended) vs research group robot.

4. Someone of unshakeable beliefs (however flawed) is seen as “incorruptible” — a quality desperately sought by people.

5. Be a hero until the election, be a statesman after the election.

6. Heroism wins over values-neutral opportunism. People want to elect those who can take their troubles away — give them a semblance of control. Trump played the hero archetype that people are craving, see: Heroes dominating popular culture, Superheroes dominating cinema, see: Marvel being the biggest brand in entertainment right now.

7. As a strategy, awareness is far more effective than persuasion. Bold branding and bold messaging. Consideration is barely relevant, see: How Brands Grow / Thinking, Fast and Slow.

8. People don’t say what they think. And they don’t do what they say. In other words — what I think / say / do are often totally unrelated. This applies to everything, most acutely secret voting behaviour.

9. Social media is a tremendous echo-chamber that provides very few accurate insights into the opinions and behaviours of real people, even people you think you know. Search trends are far more accurate, see: Google Trends, who CONSISTENTLY had Trump ahead of Clinton in the USA for at least the last three months.

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 12.45.11 am

10. This global cabal of media, mandarins, think-tanks, quangos and clientelism reeks of insiders, mediocrity and outcome-free politics. It was always going to be blown away by something real or super-real. A doer in the land of grey paper-shufflers and bed-wetters. See: Eurozone

11. Trump’s super-realism was very unique and distinctively branded — whether news, satire, memes, jokes or Halloween costumes — he was incredibly distinctive. The hair, the colour orange, the pout, the wife, the extreme outbursts — all unique and very memorable brand assets for voters who otherwise don’t care.

12. Trump’s brand assets were distributed everywhere, so he reached even the most disinterested voters (the ones that count). His opponents distributed news mocking him even more passionately than they distributed their own. PR, TV and large scale events reached many, many millions. The Clinton focus on converting the converted and making supporters feel good about their choice didn’t help simply because those people have only one vote to commit. Reach beats frequency every time.

13. Competitive businesspeople are more connected to the reality of daily competition and behaviour change than political people.

14. The culture of talking down to people and dismissing their beliefs as inferior simply on the basis of disagreement is a type of tremendously lazy and unintelligent smugness that does not win hearts, minds and votes. As David Ogilvy may have said: “The voter isn’t a deplorable, she is your wife”, see: Deplorables.

15. Keep shutting people down on Facebook, dismissing them as stupid in the media, or restricting their speech through laws and they’ll very carefully and very silently bite you right in the ballot box.

Why marketers should cut social media budgets

All too often, brands invest millions of dollars into social media for the wrong reasons. Paid advertising is a more effective way to acquire new customers than investing time and money into a social media presence.

The key to marketing success is to reach as many category buyers as possible. Your users need to be aware of your brand.

It’s a relatively simple concept. If someone thinks of your brand at the point of purchase, it increases the likelihood of a sale. So why do brands still invest so much into their social media presence?

According to The Journal of Advertising Research, social media attracts people who are familiar with, or heavy buyers of a brand. Think about it – you probably wouldn’t like a brand on Facebook unless you’ve already made a purchase with them or you’re already aware of their presence. If you’re going to acquire new customers, it’s important to reach out to new users and make sure they’re aware of your brand. Invest in higher reaching channels rather than focusing on your existing social media followers.

The proof is already out there. Brands will often back away from traditional high reaching mediums (such as television) to invest in social media, only to see a decline in sales. The Pepsi Refresh Project is a perfect example. Pepsi reduced its television investment to finance its social spend. While the project was live, Pepsi saw a consistent decline in market share, resulting in a loss of over $4o0 million.

Although this doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t exist on social media. Social media can be a great tool for customer service, it can boost SEO and act as a content hub for thought leadership initiatives. Paid social advertising is a great way to reach users outside of your current social media following and drive customer acquisition.

I Sea: Awards are not the purpose of advertising

I worked in the music industry for many years, with many globally renowned artists, songwriters, composers, producers and musicians, from Max Martin to Mutt Lange to David Hirschfelder.

These creative titans always only ever had one measure of success: ‘How many units did we sell?’.

To them awards were largely an irrelevance. Advertising seems to work the opposite way. Many people claim to be creative – not to sell, but to win awards. Awards are not the purpose of advertising. The only role of advertising agencies is to reduce price elasticity of demand for their clients products and services through inspiring, memorable, high-reach communications.

This grows businesses. This increases total, long-term shareholder return. This builds 100-year brands. That’s what advertising does when it’s really, really good.

However, many, many ad agencies don’t understand business, don’t understand this concept, don’t aim for it, don’t measure it and ultimately add zero shareholder value.

So how do they measure success? How do they feel like they’re winning? Through Likes, awards, plaudits of their peers and other empty measures.

And in many, many instances, they are so unfocused, so utterly without purpose or vision that they create fake work in order to win creative awards at Cannes in the hope that they can win clients, do empty work without meaning and make enough money that they can traipse off to Cannes the next year with a bagful of fake work and win creative awards.And so on.

So much so that the KPIs of most ad agencies are populated with awards win metrics, so that awards become the sole focus of the agency. ‘Scam’ is even joked about as ‘Strategic Creative Advertising Marketing’. Not doing worthy work – but making fake work to win awards.

So, the creative awards shows are largely filled with fake work, with organised ‘voting blocks’, where countries and holding groups game the voting systems to ensure their underperforming sectors, geographies or brands can win awards.


They claim these creative awards will ‘allow us to hire better staff’ or ‘give us profile with clients’. However, these just don’t add up.

What adds up is that only approximately 20% of marketeers are trusted by their CEOs to drive growth in their business. That the average tenure of a CMO in a publicly-listed company is less than three years.

That clients all over the world are waking up to the fact that the trillions of Likes they campaigned so hard for haven’t added to their revenues.

What adds up is that to grow, CEOs increasingly turn to accounting firms and other consultancies to provide marketing and advertising services because they understand business.

What adds up is that advertising is losing the battle for talent; where will our talent come from unless our industry adjusts course and more agencies recognise the true, sustainable measures of success?

Ideas are the most powerful driver of business growth, but the most revolutionary and amazing ideas in the world today aren’t being judged at awards shows in the south of France; they are being judged through the consumption of sovereign individuals, consumers who seek to buy these ideas, fragmented into the shape of can’t-live-without apps, of memorable songs, of stunning product design, of brave start-ups, of beautiful stores, of essential credit cards.

This kind of commercial creativity – this creative gale of entrepreneurship and capitalist endeavour – needs the help of advertising agencies to grow and to flourish. Clients make this incredible stuff, it’s our duty to extract the intangible value and to inspire people to buy it.

What advertising creates isn’t worthy of award, but it is highly worthy of reward. Drag a person out of their living room and into your store. Build a website that allows them to buy something in such a beautiful and simple way that they’ll do it again.

Use data and insights to create and launch 1,000 new insurance products – one for every suburb.

Make someone change the way they drive home to shop in your supermarket. Build an app that gives service staff everything they need to make the experience incredible. Inspire and educate clients as to how marketing really works.

Create content so useful that a million people refer to it every year. Give millions a message so insightful, resonant and so well branded that they can’t forget you when they next want to buy your brand of drink. Do this every day. Find ways to measure it. Find every day success. Be rewarded.


The purpose of agencies needs to move away from the disgusting work epitomised by Grey Singapore with its ‘I Sea’ app – disturbingly and predictably awarded at Cannes – and towards recognising the real growth and real success as measured through: client revenue growth; client share price growth; increasing internal rate of return, decreasing cost per acquisition; enduring advertising creative that burns its way into the consciousness of people who don’t care and don’t share; to convincing millions of consumers to buy the products and services of clients instead of a few giddy creative directors sitting in a room in Cannes.

A true democratisation of success. Real reward. Music to my ears.

The Five Faces of Social Media

Very often, I will be in a discussion with a client where they espouse the virtues of social media. They’ll suggest that social media is simply about people “liking” their brand.

I tend to bristle at the idea that social media has a single face – a single purpose. Especially when that purpose is as a relatively unproductive subscription-based profile better know as a Facebook Page, Snapchat ID or an Instagram profile.

The best way to look at social media is via the “best fit” purposes by which we might use various social media channels, of which there are five.

1. Social Media as a Subscription / Customer Service Channel

Liking / following these channels allows existing consumers to be kept up to date with the activities of a brand (although only a small percentage of people ever see the updates of said brand). This is where social channels attract the most attention – having “likes” and “follows”.

The ability for people to “like” a profile has taken on an almost supernatural power amongst novice marketers, as if the act of liking somehow guarantees reach, brand recognition and even uplift in “brand love”.
Sadly, the opposite is true.

The heaviest consumers of a brand – the people who are already buying the brand as much as they possibly can be – are the ones who are most likely the followers of your branded profile. It’s the people who are rusted on who are the ones liking, not the people who are the most important: your next, newest consumer.

Interestingly, only some of these channels – namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – tend to attract the vanity metric seeking marketers. Ask most marketers how many people subscribe to their YouTube Channel, or how many emails they have collected in their database, and the answer is often far less clearcut, an indication of how arbitrary most of these figures are.

Therefore, the way in which these channels should be used as is later in the path to purchase – as a means of upselling, reminding or as a customer service tool.

In summary: Use your Facebook / Twitter feeds as a customer service / upsell tool, not a reach builder. “Likes” are of almost no value if you want to attract new customers.

2. Social media as a content channel

Probably the best, most common use of social media is as a low cost, high quality content distribution channel.

For many years, marketers and their colleagues in the IT department argued in favour of hosting their own websites, their own video streaming services and their own empires of wires.

However, social media channels such as YouTube proved that the best tools are free or nearly free. Using social media channels as a content distribution service is by far the best way to ensure your content is seen in the highest quality, on the right device, in the right format. Internal, bespoke content systems are generally vastly inferior, as they are almost constantly out of date, of poor quality and hideously expensive. Further, most of them are not search optimised as well as social networks, so your content doesn’t have the same opportunity of being discovered by consumers.

In summary: Use social media channels such as YouTube / Vimeo / Tumblr / others as world’s best practice content hosting /distribution services.

3. Social Media as an Advertising Platform

Social media is largely monetised via advertising, and in the era of increasing ad-blockers, social media is an extremely powerful way of advertising to consumers.

Reach is more important than frequency. It’s like a leaky bucket: every brand leaks consumers, brands that grow are characterised simply by their ability to acquire quicker than they leak. Marketing is quite straight forward: keep filling the bucket quicker than it empties.

Social media advertising is one of the best and cheapest ways of working towards this – with a variety of optimised ad formats, highly targeted advertising (on the likes of Facebook and Google platforms), and rich media options such as videos and HTML5.

The only reason why social media channels aren’t totally overwhelmed with advertising dollars is that most media agencies can’t earn equivalent rebates / revenues from booking ads on many social media sites, so they prefer other media. This isn’t good for clients.

In summary: Use social media channels as a strong part of your media buying mix. Mark Zuckerberg and the like will love me promoting this perspective: Social media’s best use is as a reach tool – and advertising platform.

4. Social media as an analytics platform

Social media channels allow you a good level of analytics on a per post or per profile level. While not generally as good as web-concentrated services such as Google Analytics, many social networks as such Facebook and YouTube provide an excellent level of analytics, delving deeply into content analytics, per-post analytics and profile / page analytics. You can see what has worked and what hasn’t.

YouTube in particular has extremely powerful video analytics services, allowing realtime video tracking, drop-offs, and various other ways to understand and optimise content.

In summary: Use social media as a content-based analytics platform to examine how popular / engaging your content is.

5. Social media as a consumer data source

One of the strongest and most enduring assets that Facebook has is the quality of user data. It’s very difficult to “lie” to Facebook about our activities, in the same way it’s very easy to “lie” to most other online services, for example when we sign up to a new service and claim to live in “Afghanistan” because we couldn’t be bothered scrolling past the first country to appear in the pop-up menu.

Given that most people upload their real names, their date of birth and many other true pieces of data (let alone the copious amounts that Facebook collects about us via ambient means), the ability to harvest and analyse this data is a particularly powerful marketing tool.

Whether by uploading email / phone / contact details and generating a “Lookalike” market for further communication, or by advertising to an incredibly tiny and specific market of people, or by simply analysing social sign-on data for trends and insights about our consumers, social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin, are a wonderful and deep source of data about our consumers.