My thoughts on life in advertising. Challenging myself to keep learning everyday.

Facebook is dying – Long live Instagram!

Facebook came in today to chat to us and there are some interesting takeout’s see below for notes and what this means.

First of all some stats!

1 in 4 minutes spent on mobile is on Instagram or Facebook

4 billion video views on FB a day (globally) 75% of which are on mobile.

Decisions are made in seconds or less whether to stop and view or swipe past.

So how do we make content people won’t swipe past?


First 3 seconds are crucial

The first 3 seconds have the highest effect on ad recall

This should be clearly branded and provide a hook to grab the attention of the consumer

Branded up front as this causes consumers to believe it will be a higher level quality piece of content so is worth their time.

But remember that the first thing they see is the image thumbnail of the video

Where they look first

So this has to follow the rules above to grab their attention.

Relevant to audience

Personalising the ad based on the audience generates 2x CTR and 2x VTR

Relevant content

This example shows ad copy and image catered to an age based audience breakdown.

But here’s the big twist!

FB say there’s no correlation between clicks / likes / comments and business results.  Judging quality on engagement is based on the old fashioned Facebook.

Some people are “natural born clickers” and this doesn’t reflect purchase behaviour

Their level of engagement with the ad doesn’t correlate to their purchase intent.

engagement doesn't equal purchase

99% of people who saw an ad of Facebook and then bought the product never clicked at all

Don't click still buy

They judge success of creative via Nielsen brand effect and focus on reach/impressions as the key metric for success rather than likes/comments/shares

So forget organic Facebook advertising. Facebook is now pay to play.

Do fewer bigger better and invest more and do studies on its effects.  Then use a test and learn process to improve.

A few conclusions from my point of view

Although Facebook still has a large and active audience that is due to habit and longevity rather than desire it is acting more and more like traditional media.

With a focus on creating reach and impressions and the focus on video content it’s more like TV than digital now.

This means measurement and link to ROI (which used to be a key benefit) is now just as difficult as in trad media requiring additional studies to truly attribute revenue.

So if there’s not enough budget behind a piece of activity to generate momentum it’s not worth doing.

I believe this means both the audience and brands will start moving away from Facebook!


Now for some better news! Instagram!

400m active users worldwide.  Growing at a faster rate than FB was at the same point.

14million users in the UK  but can only reach 6.5. million people with advertising due to lack of data (but this is growing as they gather more via linking users to their Facebook accounts) .  You can target cross platform between Facebook  and Instagram.

The role of Instagram for the consumer is visual inspiration – they follow people they’re not connected to (in real life) but want to be inspired by / aspire to be.

Their feed is curated and unfollows are common if the content doesn’t resonate.

So quality is crucial!

3 key principles for success:

Creative guidance on instagram

  • Clear branding for ad re-call but in a rich and engaging way
  • Concept driven
    • Design content with the objective in mind
      • Chanel official is a good example
      • For example their series of personal ads for their classic rouge lip
      • Well Crafted – it’s a visual environment so it has to look great!
        • Like this example from smashbox
        • It should work well with and without sound
          • Video ads can be up to 15 seconds long and benefit from the same levels of targeting possible on Facebook.
          • They have now added direct response ads with opportunities for Shop now and other click throughs.

A few conclusions on Instagram

It’s the platform where craft is essential.  Everything here is curated and we should be showing the best possible side of our brands.

With a variety of ad formats there is the space to experiment.

Instagram is only just beginning its adolescence as a platform and by the rate of growth it’s going to be big and will improve and become more mature and easy for brands to use.

With the prohibitive minimum spends removed and the API and targeting system now open to all brands it’s about to get a big influx of cash which I’m sure will be spent on making the platform easier to use so brands can spend even more.

So the next year or so will be very exciting on Instagram!

Who have you seen who is doing amazing work there?

Image and info credits to the guys at Facebook, apologies for the dodgy screen snaps!


Thinking it Through challenge

I’m currently trying to be very self-aware as I am trying to improve my work performance taking myself to the next level professionally.

One negative I have become aware of is that when particularly busy I can forget to take the time to think through situations and react too quickly rather than taking the considered approach that could produce the best outcome.

So I’ve created myself a little exercise which is an extremely simple sheet that only takes 2 minutes to fill in but forces myself to take the time to consider the best approach to any situation.

Perhaps it’s an important meeting coming up or a challenging response from a client that wants to make a change to a piece of work, being mentally prepared for the situation is essential.

So the sheet goes like this:

Objective            –              What is the objective of the activity? Does this help achieve it?

Anticipate           –              What are the next steps and what may we need to get ahead of

Resources           –              Is there anything we need to ensure this is a success

Opportunities    –              How can we make this better?

End User              –              Who is the end user? Consider it from their perspective

Connections       –              Is there anyone who could help improve this? Or that this could benefit?

Technicalities     –              Will it work?

I have a pad of blank ones on my desk.  For the next 2 weeks I’m going to use this to ensure I think through all situations to ensure the best possible outcome.  I’ll probably change the sheet as I go along and discover other questions that need to be considered or ones that actually aren’t that helpful.  I’d love your input too, what questions would you add?  Print off the blank version below and see how you get on.

Think it Through

Objective       ………………………………………………………………

Anticipate      ………………………………………………………………

Resources      ………………………………………………………………

Opportunities       ……………………………………………………….

End User        ………………………………………………………………

Connections  ………………………………………………………………

Technicalities        ……………………………………………………….

Instagram moves outside the box

Instagram have released the shackles and allowed for both portrait and landscape photos!

This is particularly interesting for Instagram video as it will now support widescreen content and thus film content can be used without cropping the frame or adding borders.

These new sizes can be used to create extremely impactful imagery outside of the constraints of the square!

So how do we do it?  Essentially our image sizes can now be:

Square                                    Portrait

instagram spec 2instagram spec 3

Or for landscape:

instagram spec 1

PSD templates are here:

Why should we care?! 

Here’s some brilliant examples of people making the most of the portrait images

portrait 1         portrait 2

Landscape format is allowing for more space around the subject here and makes this a far more interesting fashion shot than if it was cropped in.

landscape 1

But a cautionary tale on landscape – all the hashtags, comments etc. can overpower an amazing image like in the example below and you get a bit of the next picture interfering as Instagram is optimized to show one 2048px high image on a phone’s screen.

landscape 2

Based on this I believe square and portrait are the best imagery types to use and landscape is best suited to video content.

If you are keen to use landscape content you can add borders to bring them to the square image spec and thus keep control and focus on the imagery.

Hope that helps!

More complicated marketing means more opportunities?

It has been said by many that we are living in the golden age of advertising.  With more channels and more technology available to us then the Mad Men era (previously claimed to be the high time of the industry) we have more opportunities than ever before.

We can execute a superb exploding voucher campaign through snapchat or promote our product through hyper targeted Spotify advertising.

We can augment our email campaign with google display network ads leading to a personalised URL that allows the customer to follow our brand on Twitter.

We can…


We can make an idea so complicated that we lose sight of the real objective.

question mark multi channel marketing confusion



All of these new channels that are open to us are brilliant and exciting, new technology is one of the reasons I got into this industry, but nothing is a replacement for a good idea that is so simple you can understand it in ten seconds.

Think about the campaigns we deliver now, could they be explained in a minute? In ten? In half an hour?

Often the answer our industry must give is no.  There are PowerPoints full of buzzwords and gimmicks there to convince a client to buys something or to bamboozle them until they just give in.

But the most memorable ideas in history could be understand in seconds.  The simplest things are by far the boldest, bravest and most likely to affect people.

Rosa Parks made her statement without a single word, she just sat on a seat on a bus.

Without a word she gave the civil rights movement its symbol.

In our golden age of advertising consumers are assaulted by thousands of messages a day and they have the choice to completely ignore our work.  We have only a split second to capture their attention and to influence them.

To do this successfully any idea must be distilled, simplified and pulled back until it can be understood in that brief second.

Because the world won’t wait for you to explain it.

Working better not harder


So in the last two years I’ve always been a busy worker, I’d often be the first in the office and the last out at night.  Most days I’d eat lunch at my desk so as not to lose any time.

Recently I decided that 2 or 3 days a week I would force myself to take a lunch-break and head to the gym.  This seems to have had a remarkable effect.

Now am I managing to achieve the same amount of work (and more) in significantly less time.  Plus I have more energy and positivity than ever before.

It’s very difficult in an industry such as ours to justify time away from the desk when there is permanently too much to do and always short deadlines.  However stepping away from the desk has such a positive effect you more than make up for the time.

I’d be interested to know if your industry is the same, if it’s difficult and if you feel it makes a difference.


Your biggest moments of weakness are the secrets to your inner strength

Strength is a strange concept.

It is so multi-faceted. Of course there is the simple definition of the physical ability to lift a heavy weight; but when we place the word inner or mental as a prefix, the word completely transforms.

Mental strength or inner strength is a far deeper than its physical counterpart. In fact it is a requisit to develop physical strength.  An Olympic weight lifter does not become strong enough to win medals without the inner strength to keep getting up early every morning to train and push themselves to the limit each day.

Furthermore, inner strength overrules a lack of physical strength and can allow people to accomplish incredible things; consider the stereotypical example of a mother lifting a car off their trapped child.

Inner strength is a key to success in every avenue, for example the strength to be patient with a crying baby or a loved one who is having a bad day and needs your support even though you’re too tired.

Inner strength feeds down into extremely powerful virtues like courage, hard work, determination and dedication.

I believe that inner strength sadly comes from some of the darkest parts of our lives, from the experiences that affect us the most.

At those points every individual has a choice, give up or decide to change.

I will share with you a story of a moment that I can remember in finite detail where I made the decision to never allow myself to be weak again as I hope it will help illustrate the point.  There are of course far more deserving examples but I hope using a personal experience will help relate it to my point.


I was 17 years old, I was on an ice hockey training camp in the Czech Republic based in a town about an hour away from Prague.  It was a summer long scheme that allowed young players like myself to try and make the jump from hopeful to perhaps professional.  I’d been playing hockey for about 3 years at this point and was all right, nothing special not a standout player but I was keen and loved playing and wanted to do everything I could to improve.  Or so I thought at that point.

It’s safe to say I was out of my league, many of the other players were far more accomplished, talented and crucially far more committed.  As the weeks went on it became clear I was not going to become a professional hockey player any time soon.

As with any group of young men we had the potential to be fairly rowdy.  With limited options for controlling us camp leaders would usually resort to physical exercise and embarrassment as a punishment choice.  In the afternoons between the 3 training sessions of the day we would usually relax at the local outdoor pool swimming, or messing around in the sun.

One particular afternoon we were engaged in a towel whipping war and quickly caught the attention of the owner of the camp.  One of the other boys and myself had the misfortune of being the closest and so were made an example of.

We were commanded to deliver 100 push-ups there in front of everyone, not only our teammates but a large amount of the general public.  Embarrassing doesn’t even cover it.

At 17 I was neither physically or mentally strong and quickly realised I wasn’t physically capable of completing my punishment and that would be very obvious to everyone watching.

I broke down suddenly and uncontrollably, which wasn’t going to help embarrassment levels with a team of ice hockey players.

I ran.

I couldn’t bare for my teammates and the public to see me in that sort of state.

However at this low point I made a decision.

It was at that point I vowed never to be weak again.

The next day I got up early and went to the gym, I began to teach myself about physical strength but more importantly the decision had developed a spark of inner strength that had potential to be something far more powerful than a muscle.  I decided that anything I wanted to do I would commit to 100% whether that meant hours in the gym or pushing myself to learn everything about my industry to make sure I keep up to date on the changing environment of advertising.

I would like to think that this sort of commitment and determination to my goals has become a part of my personality that friends and colleagues see in me.  This change would not have been possible if it had not been for that negative experience and the choice it caused me to make.

I think it’s worth considering that the difficult moments in our lives are challenges that can allow us to make a life changing decision to develop the strength we need to succeed so I don’t regret  moment of that experience as embarrassing as it was.

Death by data

There’s no reward without risk, you have to break some eggs to make an omelette, take the leap of faith, and you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

These sayings all revolve around a key theme, you need to take risks to succeed in this world particularly in our highly competitive world of brands and marketing.  Let’s highlight one of the greatest marketing successes of the past few years.

Dumb ways to die – if you haven’t heard of this I’d be very surprised this was a railway safety campaign created in Australia that was activated through a small and addictive game and a off-beat humorous music video.  This subtly brought across the rail safety message whilst engaging consumers in the gameplay.  Although this was an Australian public service message it became a worldwide sensation rising to the top of the iTunes store as the most downloaded game in 17 countries with over 14 million downloads, the music video has been watched 57 million times and it stole the Cannes Lions last year.

Now when the agency turned up and pitched this idea it will have been based on a theory, a theory that public service messages are boring and people don’t want to engage with them.  However there will have been piles and piles of data that supported a safer route of an earnest public service announcement highlight the dangers of train tracks. So this strategy was a massive risk but it paid off.  The agency had to be given the freedom to approach this brief creatively, the client had enough faith in them to deliver an incredible solution and so was happy to take a risk with them.  I have made the case for evidential based marketing before on this blog and strongly believe that testing and reporting is essential however data should never be used to restrict creativity.  A brilliant creative idea (as shown above) can defy all the trends set out by data and create an incredible result.

Because agencies are constantly forced to show exactly the ROI a campaign will deliver, or back up any creative with data which supports the idea it can squash some brilliant campaigns before they’ve even had the chance to get off the ground.

So we need to make sure that data isn’t throttling the best work!