Joana Stolz talks about her job as Cultural Strategist at the Serviceplan Group and gives insights into her “every day work”.
In 2017 topics like programmatic advertising, business intelligence, data management, data security, mobile commerce and data-driven marketing per se will gain in importance. That’s not new. In reality, we already have to master all these areas and have to do “our homework” next year to drive and consolidate our knowledge and competences. Within the developments in the communication industry, especially in the digital field, we notice following main trends, which will more and more decide about “top or flop”:
- Responsive Content
2016 was the year of native advertising and content strategies – the focus was definitely on “CONTENT”. Online websites are (in most cases) responsive concerning the layout. BUT in the ideal case also the content adapts itself to the mobile device. There are many opportunities to improve usability and effectiveness of communication, with the background of the changing media usage. New ways and strategies to create and spread content successfully will gain a meaning – in this case in bits and pieces and not in 30‘‘.
- Visuality & Iconic Turn
Our world is becoming more and more “illustrated” – our environment is full of icons, pictures, videos. In the age of information overload we have to process information faster and more contextual. This means for the communication industry: Pictorial language and new ways of visualization will continue to be an important success factor.
- Structuring data – Reducing complexity
Data management, data security, data-driven marketing, business intelligence – 2017 structured data will be more important than ever before. For all innovative systems handling data-driven marketing the ability of structuring data in a meaningful way is essential and inevitable. Making a complex world more simple – for everyone (customers & companies)!
- Transition between Apps & Web
On the smartphone, we spend most of our time in apps, not in the browser. But marketers still focus their communication measures on the Web. 2017 priorities will shift. For example, there will be important questions about how to make the transition between app and web better – deeplinks and other gadgets can quickly become powerful marketing tools, especially in the area of mobile commerce.
- Messenger Marketing
Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are the most important chat programmes and apps for communicating. Facebook is currently starting to monetize the Messenger, Whatsapp could follow soon. In 2017 mobile marketers must be there, where the target group is – and this is in any case also the messenger. It is time to enter into a dialogue on Facebook Bots.
- Mobile Video content
In the meanwhile, the biggest “video problem” is solved for mobile devices. The size of videos is hardly an obstacle in LTE times. Videos are popular in all (personal) environments – with the strong tendency to live videos. Mobile video marketing must already be ensure in the production process that videos can be consumed in all living situations. Subtitling or a suitable call-to-action can be a way out.
Nevertheless we do not want to forget about the real communication trends, which we do not find in the media every day, but with which trend researchers are mainly concerned with. Digital detox, the non-existing disruption and related retro-trend, Postgenderism, (finally) customer-oriented NFC solutions and innovative e-governmental services will also be increasingly focussed in 2017.
TECHUCATION THANKS TO AR & VR
Technology and education is on the rise, with companies like IBM and Apple working hand in hand to release Watson Element in a bid to help teachers gain insights into individual learning behaviors. In Dubai, the vision of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to provide “NEW GENERATIONS with the skills needed for the future” is prompting VR giant, Samsung, to seek content cooperation partners like Serviceplan to create VR experiences in both the classroom and the workplace. Brands can take advantage of AR and VR by creating content, instead of merely looking at devices to push content through. This will be a tall order for VR and AR content creators, as International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that the augmented and virtual reality market for the Middle East and Africa will grow robustly over the next five years, projecting annual growth rates of more than 100 per cent by 2020.
REALTIME INFLUENCER MARKETING
Realtime Influencer Markting will now, more than ever, require brands to slowly give up creative control. With new social tools like Facebook Live and Instagram Stories now available to supplement Snapchat, transparency between brands and influencers, as well as authenticity in influencer content, will become more apparent in 2017. Brands will want to see immediacy in content, regardless of its ephemeral nature, but will, in turn, require statistics behind it. This means shorter lead-times to conceptualize and create content, giving influencers more control of the pieces they publish. Consequently, influencers will start choosing to collaborate only with brands that allow them to stay true to their personalities, and to maintain the core of their online following. With real-time now invading our social spaces, influencer authenticity will replace influencer popularity. Brands will come to realize that fame does not necessarily equate to quality, and that quality, served to a smaller, more targeted audience will hold more value and influence. Other, more established brands will revert to celebrities over mere influencers, if only to defy the already dizzying predominance of so-called “social voices”. Dubai’s clever use of Sharuk Khan in its latest promotional film is one such example.
ATTENTION ECONOMY AND THE 5 SECONDS OF OPPORTUNITY
Today, attention is a rising commodity in itself, as smartphones have left humans with such short attention spans that there is only a 3-5 second window of opportunity to grab the consumer’s attention. This change in consumer behavior places increased value on content marketing with short video at its core. In this new landscape, social platforms are assuming the role traditionally occupied by broadcast media. Brands and marketers should start looking into innovative content that would make their platforms more and more relevant to the already hooked Arab audience. Live video, for one, is now being experimented with by brands (primarily from owned events to amplify reach) and this will be utilized even more in 2017.
To achieve the best results possible for the brands that we serve, and as part of our quest to embrace emerging marketing and communication movements, we need to take a closer look at some social trends.
Looking forward, the thing that strikes us in particular is a general sense of “harmonious contradiction”. There are two intriguing, big and bold contradictions going on which brands should try to understand and appropriate.
Tactile vs virtual & artificial
At the beginning of December, for the first time in history, the amount of money spent on vinyl records in the UK overtook the amount spent on digital downloads.
“We have a new generation buying vinyl, lots of teenagers and lots of people under 25, who now want to buy their favourite artists on vinyl and have something a bit more tangible, a bit more collectible. People have become keen to support their favourite artists by buying into that ownership concept. It’s very difficult to demonstrate your love of an artist if you don’t have something to hold on to,” said Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association recently.
In a digital world, consumer preference can indeed be influenced by sensory marketing tactics: think about the combined potential of sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell.
Even while anxieties are expressed about the impact of robots on the way we work, and the kinds of jobs that exist, millions of people have already adopted home robots. Take the Echo: it has already captured imaginations and hooked its owners on how easy it makes ordering a takeaway, or never running low on washing powder.
Brands needs to ensure that their technology/services can be linked in some way to this new kind of central domestic technology.
Local vs. e-tailing on the doorstep
It’s becoming increasingly clear that living a healthy life and thriving means putting as much care and thought into our relationship with food, as we do into our personal relationships. The best place to start working on a closer relationship with the food we eat is at local farmers’ markets and by buying from local food producers – and of course this is also true in fashion, furniture etc. Brands can tap into the trend towards these lifestyle choices by playing a facilitating role starting to allocate areas for community gardens, urban farms and local entrepreneurship.
Every day, a new “kit on your doorstep” initiative is launched, whether it be a meal in a kit, an outfit in a kit, or the myriad other options available. Thousands of cardboard boxes land on urban and rural doorsteps every month, containing all the elements needed to create a home-cooked dinner. Like frozen food or the microwave oven, meal kits may be a kitchen innovation that fundamentally changes how people cook at home. The cookbook author Mark Bittman told the New York Times: “It’s cooking. It’s not shopping and it’s not planning and in a way it’s not thinking, but it is cooking.”
While many question the ecological footprint of these services, brands can play a vital role in logistics and packaging innovation, offering smart recycling. Brands can help kitchens and their appliances to become smarter, and make cooking more intuitive and complex meals more accessible.
The first members of Generation Z will turn 21 in 2017, marking their transition from society’s teenagers to fully fledged consumers, and as such their influence will mark a tipping point for retailers. The way most retailers do business nowadays will be turned on its head, as this generation is made up of free thinkers, and sceptical when it comes to brands. They interact primarily on social media channels, simultaneously across several of them, and spend little to no time on brand platforms.
As more and more social channels integrate social shopping, brands should design even more specific content to entice this emerging group of consumers, who will be drawn to social selling storytelling. Instagram’s shoppable photo strategy is only a faint indicator of what is to come, and what will be easily adopted by these mobile natives.
Whereas platformless retail may still be considered a trend, conversational commerce will fully blossom in 2017. Chatbots and apps are now a retail tool that can boost business and increase customer service in a way that is satisfying for Generation Z.
The daily use of technology comprising chat, messaging or other natural language interfaces, short circuits the brand-to-consumer loop, facilitating “conversations” between people, brands or services, and making it possible to use a device – notably a smartphone – to ask questions, place orders and get advice.
Brands that are early adopters of this kind of commerce will certainly appeal to Generation Z, and are likely to see these consumers spending their first salaries with them rather than with traditional e-tailers. Tangible benefits of WhatsApp social commerce:
- Instant notification of messages being read.
- No queuing – 30-minute response time.
- No precious time wasted on explaining a fault or your specific need; a simple picture will do.
By linking to a CRM system, not only can brands facilitate direct sales, but track customer lifecycle too. We all remember SuitSupply in the Netherlands – the cool initiative and pilot case that resulted in an additional channel for commerce.
H&M’s bot suggests various outfits to users and provides the opportunity to purchase through the bot’s messaging platform. Sephora is using a bot to provide beauty tips and enable direct shopping.
2016 has been a good year in terms of the Italian economic upturn, thanks to a government that has made important reforms to work, recruitment and retirement, so (hopefully) we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: after years of decline and stagnation, in 2016 investment in advertising is expected to grow by 3%.
Media planning is getting ready to capitalise on the opportunities: investments in digital have been growing rapidly in recent years, and in 2017 they are expected to make up a quarter of all communications investments. It’s also worth noting that mobile web has grown to make up more than twice the extent of PC use, and next year will absorb a third of all digital resources. We are experiencing significant developments in live videos, fresh daily content with Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram, and new scenarios such as native advertising and chatbots.
Nonetheless, TV is expected to still play a major role in the landscape, representing half of total investments though with one key difference compared to past situations: forget about wide audiences. In the meantime, unlike TV, other traditional media are not showing any significant signs of evolution. Their trend seems irreversible: fifteen years ago print represented a third of total investment; now it’s only 13%.
In such a challenging scenario, it’s no surprise that Programmatic is increasingly gaining share of use vs. traditional media planning: in Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018.
Mobile video consumption is forecast to grow by 33% in 2017, and by 27% in 2018, reaching 33.4 minutes a day. In this context, live videos will continue to grow among brands over the next few years. Social media users love to feel “in the moment,” and live videos give them that sense: rather than seeing a recorded event, they want to experience something immediately.
Live events foster engagement. When large groups of people are concurrently watching a live stream, it is a far more social experience than when they watch an on demand video on their own. Social connections and interaction during a live event are very attainable and extremely valuable.
Fresh daily content
Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram offer the chance to tell stories in posts, videos or photos that self-destruct after 24 hours. This means that each company must create fresh daily content for its users.
In addition, this volatility makes any content more interesting and appealing to the eyes of your followers. The knowledge that tomorrow will be too late to take advantage of the experiences, stories or snaps clicked today is dependent on curiosity, and creates urgency around the need to stay up-to-date.
In Italy, Programmatic spending has grown from €42 million in 2013 to €260 million in 2016. Reports predict that next year Programmatic advertising will be worth €360 million, and €515 million in 2018. As has already happened in more mature markets, the Italian panorama of Programmatic is becoming increasingly crowded, so in 2017 the big operators will redouble their efforts to increase the efficiency and customisation of their solutions, while clients will continue becoming increasingly aware of the offer.
Ad blocking is a phenomenon that continues to grow in Italy: currently, ad blocker usage is at 13% among PC users, while on smartphones it is at 7.6%. The prevalence of ad blockers is provoking serious reflection on the nature of online advertising. With an average click rate at 0.06%, it is now clear to everyone that online display advertising has to change. And so, native advertising is forecast to grow by 156% in the next 5 years, overwhelming the 52% market share that display advertising in Europe currently has.
Brands are beginning to use artificial intelligence for their customer service. The main advantage from using chat-based assistance is a speedier response, which could reverse the trend of consumers pouring out negative feelings about the company on social media. The Italian startup Responsa has created a Messenger chatbot to offer self-service customer care with high conversational content. The technology combines contextual analysis and natural language algorithms (NLP), ensuring a spontaneous and immersive experience for customers.
In Italy, licensed products represents business worth €3.18 billion, while the global licensed products business hit €214 billion in 2016. A new trend is for “co-branded” YouTuber-licensing. To take one recent example, the Favij nickname, featured on various products, has proved to be a winning formula: the licensed Panini collection has received more than 1 and a half million sales. If at first no one wanted to produce a book with a YouTuber, today they are queuing up for the chance.
The old year is drawing to a close. It’s time, therefore, to take a look at the coming year. The experts of the Serviceplan Group have summarised their personal communication trends for the year 2017.
Dr Peter Haller, Founder and Managing Director of the Serviceplan Group
Public discussion has adapted itself to a good dozen mega trends. They trigger business trends and these lead to consumer and communication trends. Those who want to develop faster than the economy as a whole have no choice but to follow the growth trends. But which ones?
There are hundreds of trends and counter-trends. All of this against the backdrop of an accelerating change in digitalisation. But which of these trends are relevant to which industries? Which can I embrace for my brand? And which of these in this confusing process is the reliable guidance for my brand management?
This is the theme of our 2017 Brand Roadshow together with GfK, which is once again sponsored by the German Trade Mark Association. “Dynamic brand management through the jungle of consumer and communication trends” will take place on 7 March in Munich, 9 March in Berlin, 22 March in Frankfurt, 28 March in Cologne, 30 March in Hamburg, 9 May in Vienna and 11 May in Zurich.
Jens Barczewski, Deputy Managing Director Mediaplus Strategic Insights
2017 will be the year inflationary KPIs become the measurement of success for campaign and media performance. In 2017 there will be an agreement between AGF (the television research working group in Germany) and Google/Youtube over the designation of a common video currency. The ‘Quality Initiative for Research into the Effect of Advertising’, driven by the Organisation of Brand Advertisers (OWM) in cooperation with Facebook and Google, will deepen its work and define the first indicators. The AGOF will firstly designate reach on a daily basis and therefore facilitate a continuous improvement of the booking units.
With the associations’ initiatives the individual publishers will open up their own measurement and success indicators to customers and agencies in order to obtain greater transparency in the market. The commotion over the erroneous increase in video viewing times on Facebook showed that not every KPI should be accepted without deep understanding from the customers and agencies.
Winfried Bergmann, Head of Human Resources, Serviceplan Group
Political correctness is on the retreat
Overly cautious political correctness has definitively disqualified itself as being the spiritual leader towards populism. The US presidential election was marked by dishonesty – from both sides. You did not know what was worse – the evident lies from the one side or the awkward, fearful avoidance and concealment of highly relevant issues from the other. Someone who conceals topics, about which large portions of the public worry, because of an alleged sense of decency and misunderstood consideration, must not be surprised when the sovereignty of interpretation is lost in societal discourse. This is even more so in Europe.
Therefore, dear reputable conservatives, break free from political correctness and in the coming year engage strongly in your issues. Let us argue about all of that – from the centre of society, which would then have found the courage for free debate once more. For when we do it like this, there will be nothing more for populists to do other than peep out from the right side of the screen. And it will be lonesome again and they will go back to their crossword.
Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile Marketing of the Plan.Net Group
With the first bot shops among messengers the subject flared up in 2016. And, as it often happens when a new trend emerges, a euphoric, partly activist test phase was swiftly launched, sometimes even when the worth and meaning of a certain discovery could not be estimated. However, chatbots are merely the cherry on top of an older idea, whose impact stretches far wider than it looks at first sight. It’s all about the perfect customer dialogue.
Chatbots, together with artificial intelligence, are (or, rather, will be) a valuable instrument, perhaps the most valuable of them all. Because the trend of 2016 will be the mega trend of 2017, meaning that it will pool together different mechanics, half trends and instruments:
01 CRM: Customer service with a chatbot, whose reaction is always quick and precise.
02 BIG DATA: Only learning chatbots, with all customer data at hand, will be able to unfold their power. The evolution of chatbots will enforce Big Data processes.
03 MOBILE FIRST: Chatbots are perfect for mobile use and, therefore, ideally fit for the future – wherever the user might decide to roll: Facebook, (mobile) web, you name it.
04 SERVICELAYER: In a world of information overload, it will be vital to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right place. Nothing more, nothing less. A chatbot will be able to do just that.
Gerd Güldenast & Marcus Person, Managing Directors at hmmh
Google Home and Amazon Echo open up new possibilities, however still clearly show us their limits . 2017 is the year the merits of the products and services will be demonstrated convincingly without a graphical user interface. Creative individuals and developers are asked to smarten these systems and to further develop companions for everyday life or for an intelligent touchpoint in connected commerce.
Big data aids human customer service
The topic of customer service in the online world stands to change in 2017. Today chatbots are being used more commonly. They show however shortcomings where subjective feelings and emotions play a crucial role. With new customer intelligence systems and smart chatbots based on big data analysis, customers will receive a completely new quality of service in 2017.
Oliver Grüttemeier, Managing Director of Serviceplan Cologne
Digitalisation only succeeds with empathy.
For years, we have experienced dramatic changes in the workplace through technological developments. Although companies attempt to increasingly fuse their processes along the supply chain, the digitalisation often only comes along sluggishly. 2017 will change that, because the top management currently recognises that leadership through ‘command and control’ no longer works. In the future, executives managers of successful companies will therefore be measured less by their accomplished goals, but rather much more by their social competence—the foundation for every form of cross-departmental collaboration.
In this area, Google is already 10 years ahead. Since 2007, Google already offers its employees the opportunity for personal growth and the development of business empathy with the program ‘Search Inside Yourself’. The success of Google is not only based on the accumulation of more data, but on the knowledge that the best search engine is our spirit.
Stefanie Krebs, Managing Director of Plan.Net Technology
In 2017 a creative thinker requires analytically and technically broad shoulders. While the mega trend digitalisation advances rapidly, the majority of companies have reacted and digitalised their structures. Now, together with their associates, they are facing the challenge of building an integrated business model from the emerging digital island which can also exist in a future shaped by big data, machine learning, the internet of things and perpetual digital innovation.
Those who want to deliver creative responses and celebrate communicative success must be able to develop organisationally and technically complex systems in a short amount of time. 2017 will therefore be the year of the creative team player, where it pays to deliver elegant solutions to complex questions using the input from your multi-faceted team with specialists for tools, technology, processes and people. It is no longer about the colourful façade, but the whole package.
Andrea Malgara, Managing Director of the Mediaplus Group
According to the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) TV is still the most important advertising medium when it comes to building a broad reach and increasing return on investment. E-commerce companies are investing more and more in TV advertising. In 2015 almost every third TV advertising spot was occupied by an e-commerce product. TV advertising is strongly increasing online shopping traffic. Digital business models require a wide reach, however, to generate significant turnover.
If the appropriate special interest channels are chosen and screen planning is optimal for an advertising campaign, the advertising recall, brand awareness and the conversion rate all significantly increase. Through brand-unique and innovative media strategy, we can achieve a 20 percent increase in turnover with a targeted media mix.
Kevin Proesel, Managing Director of Saint Elmo’s Berlin
In 2017, IOT (Internet of Things) and clever ideas are changing retail marketing.
We have observed that the classic sales funnel of companies is changing: through the technology shift and the increase in use of smartphones, customers themselves are becoming points of sales and points of information, because they are networked everywhere and can obtain information as well as provide information at any time. As a result of this, personalised and networked campaigns that are implemented close to consumers will be the most convincing in the future. In 2017, we will be seeing the first campaigns which will use networked Smart Buttons as marketing incentives in the Internet of Things.
‘Smart Button’? It sounds smart, and it is smart: in advanced retail campaigns, a branded button acts as a pivot point. It is not like the dash buttons on Amazon, which act purely as facilitators of a networked ordering process, but it is a starting point for a networked campaign storytelling, which unfolds once the customer connects their button to their smartphone—and once they press the Smart Button. Predefined processes now tell a story, which, through several chapters, leads the customer to more and more touch points of a company: always through the simple push of a button. In this way, a guided tour takes place from home to the retail department, which constantly further qualifies the customer and allows campaigns to be experienced fully networked. It is virtually engagement marketing par excellence, since it goes beyond only displaying content and includes the user directly: ‘2017? Press the button and see what happens.’
Dominik Schütte, Managing Director of Serviceplan Content Marketing
Content quality instead of quantity
In 2017, people will ultimately comprehend that the purpose of content marketing goes beyond simply selling. Therefore, companies will be more confident in finding narrative niches outside their brand. In the process, they will be astonished to find out that people actually have their own interests and that it is exactly through these interests that they can be reached and turned into customers. A win-win situation, for both companies and the people out there. Storytelling for the masses – yes, thank you. But make it qualitative, relevant and, please, don’t be annoying.
Klaus Schwab, Managing Director of the Plan.Net Group
I believe that 2017 will bring along two highlights:
First of all, it will be the year when voice command becomes widely adopted, meaning that digital services will be triggered through speech. And this will be the collapse of technical interfaces, such as displays and keyboards.
Secondly, we will witness companies developing platform strategies inside different branches. Namely, they will be more open to start-ups and work together, in order to facilitate their clients’ access to specific services within their own ecosystem.
Julian Simons, Managing Director of mediascale and PREX Programmatic Exchange
With the progressing digitalisation of the use of media, and even in most areas of life, the long known types of borders between offline and online advertising channels are beginning to blur. More and more advertising spaces are being digitalised, are therefore accessible via IP, and are going ‘online’. Subsequently, this also means that programmatic advertising will lead to an increased distribution and control of channels such as radio, out-of-home, and in the end, television. This will lead to big changes for the advertising market.
The tremendous opportunities of comprehensive control and of addressing someone individually are not without great challenges. Business models change and become more complex. Strategies and management logics that make it possible for the new complexity to be meaningful to use, have to be found to prevent campaigns from losing impact in an aimless atomisation. This change must always keep the interests of the user and their data protection concerns in mind, otherwise it will not be successful.
Klaus Weise, Managing Director of Serviceplan Public Relations
Digital enraged citizens are changing the world
Great Britain is to exit the EU, Donald Trump is moving into the White House. Who would have believed, last year, that any of it would happen? The two results are neither coincidences, nor singular political accidents. They are the beacon of a world quake that has just begun. The triggering force of that quake is the fear caused by a change in the world, brought along by digitalisation and globalisation. Similar fears have always existed, but today they are a million times amplified and multiplied through social media. Fuelled by shady hate speeches and sparkled by social bots and opinion robots, whose sole purpose is to rile up the crowds. In 2017, dealing with digital enraged citizens will be the main challenge of political parties, unions, companies and brands.
First published in Red Bulletin Innovator.
Interview: Christoph Kristandl
Creativity is elusive. Only too well we know of situations where it abandons us. If we need an idea, if we brood over the solution to a problem – simply nothing comes to mind. It happens. But what if creativity is your occupation? If you have to drive yourself to peak creative performance every day in order to create something new, something as spectacular as possible, and to convey a message as well. And what if it’s a message that nobody wants to see? – Advertising. A conversation with the multiple award-winning Matthias Harbeck.
The Red Bulletin Innovator: You were honoured with more than 600 national and international awards, including 22 Lions in Cannes. Do such honours mean something to you?
Matthias Harbeck: Naturally. If you win a Golden Lion, that’s a feather in your cap. There are people who say that Cannes is something like a parallel society. The true needs of the client would not count for anything there, and it’s a vanity exhibition of creatives who celebrate themselves there. There is even a grain of truth in that. But apart from the fact that quite excellent work from day-to-day business is also honoured in Cannes, you have to view it as similar to prototypes at an auto show or the haute couture of the great fashion shows. What you see there you will never encounter on the street.
Why produce it then?
What’s extremely successful moves the industry forward. Sometimes the idea is so extraordinary, often the technology too. It works with media innovations that can set trends for everyday life.
With what, for example, have you been successful in that regard?
With real-time advertising, for example. With Serviceplan we were able to score a coup with that a few years ago: over 90 minutes of the Champion’s League Match of Arsenal against FC Bayern we switched six 60-second live spots directly into commercial blocks of Free-TV channels. You’re watching normal advertising, for example, on PRO 7, when suddenly an announcement comes, the game is seen live for 40 seconds, and at the end, the Sky-Order Hotline appears, so that in the future you can see such games completely live. The response was huge. Also because, of all things, in one of the slots Lukas Podalski scored the goal which left Arsenal only one down at 1:2! The idea was relatively simple, but the technical implementation was complex. But that’s the sort of thing we’re attempting: something extraordinary, which makes the industry sit up and take notice and which can then take a pioneering role, too.
What advertising trends can we expect in the coming years?
Consider the films in our newsfeeds on Facebook, where you only hear the sound when you intentionally click. That’s not a trend that comes from advertising, but it changes the thinking of the creatives. You have to succeed in being so good in the first two, three seconds that people click on that video. That also means that the sources of inspiration change. You focus on silent film, for example, and why Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin were so good at it. Perhaps we’ll soon also produce moving images in 15 different versions in order to optimally satisfy users’ differing expectation profiles and to be able to address them digitally in individual ways. And then there are hardly any campaigns that are originally made for the mobile phone screen. That is a big issue.
“Advertising must be so good that, ideally, people even actively search it out.”
How do you deal with the fact that nobody wants to see advertising?
It is a step forward that increasingly we can provide people with customised content. In the past that was not possible technologically. But that does not make good ideas superfluous, on the contrary. More than ever, we have to surprise and involve people through a new kind of staging. The trouble is that we’re in a permanent competition with thousands of advertising messages, indeed, messages of every sort. On top of that is the public’s practised avoidance of advertising. Therefore, the good idea, the great story, the fascinating staging is more important than ever. Advertising must be so good that people don’t want to just see it and share it, but rather, ideally, they even actively search it out because people are talking about it.
With all the staging, doesn’t the product sometimes get left behind?
That is the great challenge. On the one hand, communication has to become ever more entertaining. On the other hand, there are clients who pay for it and say, “Now where is my product that I want to sell?” Just to say that a screw costs 2.99 Euros is not communication, that’s information. You have to do a balancing act: to maintain contact with the brand and at the same time deliver a certain factor of desire.
A tribute to an intercultural classic
Whenever I meet new business partners in an India-related context across the globe, I cannot resist asking the question: Please tell me what, from your perspective, seem to be the most frequent challenges while doing business in India? – and a part of me already knows that one of the most enduring topics on the top of the charts list is going to be mentioned: The issue of not knowing when a Yes, in an Indian behavioural cultural context, is a Yes.
What I am going to describe happens to me, as an Indian, as well.
I often find myself, even while I am receiving good news, such as for example “Confirmed”, “Yes, it will be done ASAP/by tomorrow/next week”, “Consider it Done”, or, even more confidently, “Yes!! No problem!!!” initializing a process of trying to work out, among others, the following points:
- Is this a Yes about the relationship (me), or is it a Yes about the subject (it)?
- Is the Yes a Yes that will also work tomorrow? Have I provided all the necessary information? Have I made myself properly understood?
- Is it possible only under special circumstances (for example, a colleague has brought both dinner and a sleeping bag to the workplace), or doable in general? Is what I asking for an exception, or an exemption, without my having realized it?
- Would it now be a good idea to respond with: ”wow, thanks, that is good news, and what can I do to support you?”
- Is the one and only person responsible for the “Yes” communicating with me, or is a feedback loop with colleagues and/or superiors required, so that the “Yes” does not only signify an individual´s expression of goodwill? Am I communicating with the person accountable for the end result?
- Is the Yes an agreement, or is the Yes a commitment?
- Is it a Yes to the problem that needs to be fixed, or is it a Big Picture Yes about the process?
- Did I fail to notice that I was actually being told a “Yes, and….”?
Could the missing “and …” part have provided me with the additional information that the outcome would be a “No”?
When I look at my long distance communication with other Indian counterparts, have I said “Yes” often enough, in a world where a continuous necessity to adapt often seems to be the only constant? Just recently, a conference hotel where I had booked a large group for a team event and made the prerequisite down payment informed me that my booking had been cancelled six weeks prior to the event, because I had neglected to “confirm the reconfirmation”. It would have been really essential to emphasize at periodic intervals, that the Yes is a Yes is a Yes is a… – I guess you got the picture.
I am told that I often behave in a predictably Indian way whenever I am confronted with a deadline and someone writes that “it would be really nice if you could provide this by…”. I automatically wait for a few days after the deadline before I respond with “I am happy to report that I am in the process of completing the article”. That´s a “Yes” as well, only a bit more on the elastic side. But then, I am also reacting to a request that I could too easily interpret as negotiable.
This only really works if I speculate successfully that the other side, knowing that I am an Indian, has calculated an invisible additional buffer. In the short term, I have gained additional time. In the long term, I have just helped cement a cultural stereotype, which is not really helpful.
Have I covered all the aspects? Probably not. A “Yes” is, and, as it seems, continues to be in many cases, a point of departure rather than a point of arrival.
When I ask around for good practice recommendations, one of the responses is “Prepare for a Plan B if turns out that it wasn´t a Yes after all”, which does not contribute to an atmosphere of eye-level cooperation, predictability and trust.
Some experts would encourage you to “Learn to Love Ambiguity”, or “Minimize your expectations at the beginning of working together, so that you gain room for pleasant surprises”. It´s not a great long term setting, if your time is mostly occupied with interim damage control. Others may encourage you to spend a lot of time ensuring micro-feedback loops, so that you can celebrate micro-targets. For example, you get the “Yes” confirmed as “Yes, it´s still a Yes” by sending the Indian colleague a friendly reminder every 41 minutes or so : In this scenario , I would feel sorry for both you and the Indian colleague, as both of you might eventually be too exhausted to even appreciate a positive outcome.
I personally benefit from understanding that “Yes” can be the beginning, and is not necessarily the end of a process when we start working together. I try my best to make my counterparts aware of their co-ownership towards achieving a joint result, ensuring that my motivations and requirements are well understood in advance. I invite their participation not only for the end result, but also for the steps leading there, such as creating a realistic time line where things are possible not only as exceptions, but as a rule. In this way, we ideally move together from a simple agreement to the task, towards the far more co-responsible commitment to the process. I invest in time getting to know my counterparts and understanding the environment they work out of, in turn letting them understand where my thoughts and requirements are coming from.
It seems that we often have the tendency in India to start with a huge bandwidth of options, such as the ones described earlier, and then progressively shrink it, while our understanding of the person and the process grows.
If this happens to you, you could gain a practiced eye enabling you to recognize what goes into a “Yes” process – making it easier to repeat success stories and cut off non-efficient processes, with greater confidence and rapidity. You establish a functioning communication culture together with your Indian partners, with a good understanding not only of what you said, but also of what you actually meant, and vice versa. You build a good working relationship, the outcome of which will be the “Yes.” As an Indian friend once summed up:
“When my trust grows, my sentences grow shorter”.
After having spent some time together exploring the “Yes”, some of you may ask “and what about the ‘No’”?
Now, that´s another interesting story…
About our guest author: Sujata Banerjee has been working in the field of cross-cultural management since 1992. She was born in South Germany, has consistently maintained home bases in Germany and India, and benefited from work experience in both countries. Her main areas are: Intercultural workshops, expatriate and reintegration cycle coachings as well as corporate strategy in internationalization processes.
We are looking forward to dive deeper into this discussion with the “Serviceplan International Roadshow: INDIA INSIGHTS” on Tuesday, November 22nd 2016 at the House of Communication Munich. Are you interested in participating in the event? Please contact the dedicated event team via email. The number of participants is limited.
Outrage across the world. How could Donald Trump, a hatemonger, racist and liar, have been elected as US President? The reasons behind the outcome are complex. However, one thing is certain: communication had a major impact on the result of the election. What can we learn from Hillary Clinton’s PR disaster?
First of all, political communication needs a vision. Trump packed his into the slogan “Make America Great Again”, however banal, primitive or vulgar you might find it. But can you remember Hillary Clinton’s slogan? No? That is precisely the problem. It was “Hillary for America”. So what vision was she trying to convey, what was she promising her voters and where was her call to act? In my opinion, the main thing that Clinton conveyed with her slogan was her desire to become President of the USA. If you were to summarise the essence of all of her statements, you would see that she hoped to bring experience, continuity and stability to the White House in times of political upheaval. She stands for relentless pragmatism, not dissimilar to the approach taken by fictitious President Frank Underwood in “House of Cards”. Even if you’ve seen just one season of this amazing Netflix series, you will understand why so many Americans failed to find their passion for a cold power politician. This is particularly true of liberally minded Americans, the Democrats’ core voters. They stayed away from the ballot box in their droves while political madman Trump and his sometimes insane-sounding tirades mobilised every fibre of his followers. Now let’s come to Angela Merkel and the current rise in right-wing demagogues. Do you know the Chancellor’s vision? Or her central promise? Experience, continuity and stability in times of political upheaval or something like that? When it comes to the next parliamentary elections, I am fearing the worst.
At first glance, it seems almost paradoxical that billionaire Donald Trump received a disproportionate amount of support from low-income voters and blue-collar workers. The answer to the puzzle is simple. In the battle for the White House, Trump was more successful as portraying himself as a good listener. In his speeches at the very least, he seized upon the fears of workers, those who feel alienated and afraid of social decline, and who have lost out due to globalisation and digitalisation. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” was Trump’s central promise. And it didn’t matter that his economic plans, such as closing off the American market and scrapping international trade agreements, have raised fears among economists. For workers in the Midwest, who are afraid of losing their jobs due to the mass “dumping” of steel into the USA from the Far East, Trump’s attacks against China, globalisation and free trade signalled one thing: at least one of the presidential candidates is listening to us. How many people here in Germany feel like they are the forgotten men and women of their country? And which members of Berlin’s political scene can appoint themselves as this group’s protector with any form of credibility? Gabriel? Nahles? Seehofer? I believe that one of the biggest problems in political communication is that too many people feel that politicians are terrible at listening and have lost their relationship with the people. If the CDU-SPD coalition wants to gain at least a governable majority at the next election, they need to make a credible and personal promise to the people who are feeling forgotten.
Trump was also skilled at making the most of media reaction. Each one of his incitements, his intentional displays of brazenness, was duplicated a thousand times over. This is how he kept his name out there, compensating for the fact that Clinton had a lot more money, supporters and TV ads for her campaign. Do you think that this game is restricted to the USA? And what comes to mind when you think of the words Boateng and Gauland or Petry and an “order to shoot”? These examples show that the right wing here in Germany is also capable of unleashing waves of indignation with their planned provocations. Their goal is to create talking points and stir up emotions among their own followers. Sometimes it might be better to just ignore this unpleasantness, instead of putting the disseminators in the spotlight and allowing them to play the role of martyr.
Trump also proved himself to be the master of social media. Trump, who many Democrats see as the political incarnation of a scary clown, used social media to generate discussion, provoke and mobilise. And he relied hugely on some high-tech helpers. A study by the University of Southern California revealed that 400,000 socialbots were involved in political discussions regarding the US presidential election on Twitter. A total of 75 per cent of these opinion robots produced positive messages about Donald Trump. In an era where an increasing number of people live in a bubble of social media filters, this is a major competitive advantage. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already suggested avoiding the use of socialbots in the next German parliamentary election campaign. The SPD, Linke, Grüne and FDP parties also refrain from using these software robots. In contrast, the AFD has announced that it plans to use bots to stir up sentiment on a large scale on social media. Just one more reason to fear them in the run-up to the next election.
While pollsters and politically active Germans were caught off guard by Trump’s election victory, one academic – the linguist Elisabeth Wehling – had already predicted his win a long time ago. She and her research team have been studying politicians’ use of language and discovered that Donald Trump was a lot easier to understand than Hillary Clinton. Because he expresses himself at the same level as a child of primary-school age and uses specific words to cultivate images in his audience’s heads, he is easy for all sections of the population to understand. While this has garnered him the derision of intellectuals, it also ensured the votes of less-educated members of the population. Established parties and the media can also learn when it comes to ease of understanding. Maybe it’s time for a new era of understanding, for more clarity and less political jargon. Otherwise, we will encounter a lot more Hillarys here in Europe: highly skilled, politically experienced, unpopular and spurned by the voters.
The rules of VR are still unwritten. A rare opportunity for brand communication.
Innovations in the communication sector are routinely advertised and seldom redeemed. With virtual reality, it is different. This ‘Next Big Thing’ justifies every hype. VR used to be under rather than overestimated because it really is a completely new medium.
When a new, successful medium develops, it must be compared for a time with what is already known, in order to learn about the concepts. This influences the creative form for a while. Film began as, ‘living photography, perfect in every detail and life-sized’, television as visual radio, the World Wide Web as hypertext. With VR it is exactly as the name implies, which in this case refers to: VR is ‘something like reality’. Naturally, VR explains as little about reality as any other medium. But we leave out research and convention, in order to classify VR as a medium. That is why every article about VR is a personal account, and that is why experience really makes a difference here: you cannot grasp what you have not experienced.
VR will be regarded as an immersive medium, with the promise of ‘as if’ — as if you were there, as if you are the person, being represented. The idea of visual immersion is, however, actually older. In 1787 Robert Barker built his walk-in, 360-Degree-Views and called it ‘Panorama‘. Even older are the ‘peep-boxes’, which were popular in 19th-century salons and funfairs; small, wooden apparatuses for viewing exhibitions on paper, wood or glass. Early VR-Gears as well.
These panoramas and peep-boxes were primarily optical illusions. With digitalisation in the 1980’s, came tactility in production, the viewer becoming an actor. Jaron Lanier developed the ‘Data Glove‘ and characterised the notion of Virtual Reality. The visual representation, which the Data Glove can operate, is still abstract and prone to blocks, but trendsetting. One’s own body awareness influences what we see. We can act within the picture.
In modern VR both come together — physicality and panorama. To that end, VR has a few tricks up its sleeves, which effectively outwit our brain. And currently, it seems to be, as if we still fall for this repeatedly. The transfer to the virtual abyss in the laboratory for the umpteenth repetition got the heart pounding and generated measurable, bodily fear. False experiences in the VR-Dummy, the simulated person, who ‘I’ am, can trigger quasi-traumatic effects. So noticeable , that the consciousness researcher Thomas Metzinger, formulated an Ethics of VR Production with his colleagues.
In British Thorpe Park, the mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown, been sending visitors to his ‘Ghost Train‘ since July. Equipped with a VR gear kit, you are literally a participant in a gruesome scenario, attacked by demons and other such passengers. Brown strengthens the already convincing VR illusion with motion, change of location, and being touched by actors. Pure immersion.
And there is a lot to say about it, that this miracle of ‘presence’ passes, that it is a phenomenon of the pioneer phase. It does not lack the experience of recipients or the rules of form. Both producers and recipients are still experimenting. It is an exploration of the grammar of the medium, the conventions made possible.
This shows in a wide variety of forms, leading to an explosion of ideas. Currently, it seems VR can be anything: theatre, film, documentary, e-learning, horror-trip, and yes, even video conference. One of the founders of the US production firm Wevr, Anthony Batt, describes it perfectly [‘Studio 360’, New Yorker, 25. April 2016]:
‘Does that mean our stuff is always perfect? Fuck no! It means we start with no idea of how we´re gonna make a project work, and we make it work. Or we don´t, and the whole thing turns to jello, and we learn.’
It is a great opportunity for brand communication, to take part in the development of this grammar. Two features help in the process: first, today short formats are best suited for VR and second, are comparatively cost-effective, feasible productions.
Let’s face it: 90% of brand communication is more or less friendly circumvention. Re-targeting is no fun for the audience. With VR, an ad may finally be a spectacle. Well done, it allows your audience to have a (spectacular, enlightening, shocking) experience. To take part in this entirely new medium is an opportunity, that will not so quickly come again.
Join the VR experience live with our Roadshow “Reality by Virtuality” in Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Berlin.