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DECEMBER 7, 2018 //     

AI drives tech in China: Dispatches from the “Saudi Arabia of Data”

Credit: CNBC.comBy: Paul Mottram

As trade tensions between the United States and China dominate economic news, the world’s second-largest economy has accelerated in terms of tech. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine, and data is the fuel. And China has become, quite simply, the Saudi Arabia of data.

Those were the sentiments of Chinese and international tech leaders and investors who gathered at CNBC’s East Tech West conference at the Nansha new economic zone of Guangzhou in late November to investigate and discuss the outlook for China’s tech sector.


A series of speakers illuminated the reasons why. The Chinese consumer is the hero. Consumer spending now represents almost 66 percent of GDP -- a huge shift from the country’s traditionally investment-dominated economy. Consumers are also young, accepting of technology and increasingly demanding. Central, provincial and local governments actively support innovation. And there’s a critical mass of tech talent, both entering the workforce and returning from overseas.

AI as enabler

Alibaba Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist Wanli Min described AI and cloud technologies as the “twin turbo drive engine” of the new Chinese economy.

Take urban transportation, for example. China’s dominant ride-hailing service Didi handles more than 30 million trips every day, which in turn generates more than 100 terabytes of data. Didi not only has the data to plan trips in real time, but also claims to accurately forecast traffic patterns 15-30 minutes in advance. Meanwhile, a system pioneered by Alibaba controls traffic signals in the city of Hangzhou and reduces average ambulance arrival times by 48 percent.

Another example includes cutting-edge software development accompanied by hardware. New 5G mobile infrastructure enables the low latency necessary for effective autonomous driving applications, while AI-enabled chipsets allow vision systems to increase simultaneous recognition from around 20 discrete objects to more than 100.

This kind of technology and experience favorably positions Chinese companies to extend their reach overseas. As one AI company CEO pointed out, driving is rules-based. And if systems can be developed for relatively relaxed – in other words, unpredictable – societies, they will have fewer problems in more orderly places like Europe and North America.

“If you can do autonomous driving in India, you can do it anywhere,” he said.

Retail, banking and healthcare

In addition to transportation, tech-enabled transformation is also increasingly happening across other sectors in China.

Events, such as the annual Singles Day, have already brought Chinese e-commerce to the world’s attention. But speakers at East Tech West talked mostly about completing the retail system to encompass developments in payment and logistics and transforming shopping as we know it. While technologies, such as facial recognition, may appear to give retailers new, tailored sales opportunities, the ultimate power in the retail relationship will shift to consumers on the one hand and manufacturers on the other. Salespeople will act as mediators, but stores themselves will be simply showrooms and warehouses.

Similar fundamental shifts have begun in consumer banking. As Yang Qiang of Tencent’s WeBank pointed out, “on the Internet, everyone is a VIP customer.” He predicted banking is not so much being disintermediated as much as being more integrated into people’s lives.

“Banking will be like oxygen,” he said. “In your pocket, in your home and in your car.”

China’s healthcare system is one sector speakers agreed is most ripe for innovation. With more than 8 billion annual healthcare visits in China, that’s a lot of pain points – literally and figuratively. Machine learning and AI play a significant role. One smartphone picture of your eye can be used to diagnose more than 1,000 vision conditions and disorders. And as more data is gathered, the more effective the system will be.

Desensitizing data

In healthcare as with financial services, a key recurring concept was the “desensitizing” of data, whereby useful personal information collected by big-data systems is effectively separated from the identity of the user. While the topic of government access to data was studiously avoided by speakers and interviewers alike, there was clear recognition of the need for privacy and trust in the commercial world.

Overall, two days of presentations painted a picture of optimism and opportunity backed up with concrete examples of innovation impacting people’s lives now. Macroeconomic headlines and geopolitical realities weren’t ignored, but it will clearly take more than a trade war to stop the Chinese tech juggernaut.

Paul Mottram is managing director of All Told, Asia Pacific.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018 //     

Is #GivingTuesday just a forced fundraising moment?

Credit: Good360By: Scott Pansky

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and major shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This movement kicks off the charitable season, when many people focus on their end-of-year giving.

However, as the day draws near, my email box is again filling up with requests for donations, and I can’t help but question some of the organizations that only use this strategy to participate once a year. Am I just another name in a data base? Wouldn’t it be a better to reach out more often and build a deeper relationship with your donors rather than competing with numerous causes for year-end donations?


Don’t get me wrong, #GivingTuesday has helped charities raise more than $300 million dollars since its inception, but this effort now feels like a charity requirement – a box to be checked – rather than an opportunity to build deeper, authentic relationships with donors. I even received an email from asking me to select my favorite nonprofit and invite my friends and family to give to my favorite cause #GivingTuesday.

Having worked with charities for more than 26 years, I want to take this holiday season to remind them, and those making donations, the importance of building long-term and engaging relationships and promoting an organization’s impact year-round. Here are some tips for nonprofits to consider when participating in post #GivingTuesday this year and next:

  • Share the impact of your funding efforts, not just money raised, but how the funds were usede. how many meals were served, how many scholarships were awarded, research grants distributed, gallons of water secured, services provided.
  • Don’t always ask for donations. Utilize your database (with opt-in or out options) to share your best stories. This can include testimonials from patients or families impacted by an issue, research findings, or stories of success.
  • Thank your donors often. Each donation, no matter the size is a gift. Donors want to feel appreciated and know that their gift is making a difference. Show them your appreciation and let them know they are an important part of your organization i.e. donor spotlights.
  • Ask them to share your organization’s results with friends and associates. Each of your donors are micro-influencers that can help you raise additional funds if they love your organization.
  • Give donors the chance to share their stories. Ask them to post to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram sites. Their followers may start following your cause too.

One example of an organization that is optimizing #GivingTuesday is one of our clients, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA). The charity realized over the past few years it had received numerous donations, yet strong recognition systems were not supported on crowdfunding platforms to recognize the new donors on an ongoing basis. This year, PWNA adjusted its campaign to focus on public education and lead generation by asking donors to register for a chance to win a grand prize drawing, in addition to a "soft ask" for donations. Online visitors now have different ways to sign up for targeted or regular updates and can donate through a gift or purchase of a T-shirt branded for Native American Heritage Month, which is also in November. The charity segues their Heritage Month Campaign into #GivingTuesday via an update to registrants on #GivingTuesday that includes an additional soft ask. Samples of their campaign components may be viewed here.

These types of efforts will not only help deepen relationships, but may also increase your reach and donations, making the final impact more about the good work you do more than a once-a-year donation request. Start this #GivingTuesday and let’s see what responses you get next year.

Happy holidays!

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners, who also leads the agency’s Social Impact group.

NOVEMBER 19, 2018 //     

With midterms over, does healthcare get to retake the test?

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By: Brian Feldman

Healthcare was the No. 1 political issue voters cited in last week’s midterm elections. The results are in, and it’s clear voters remain unhappy.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed, voters decided to target the Republican party to express their frustrations. Even after recounts in California, Georgia and Florida, the message remained clear: voters believe healthcare costs too much, we need to protect people with pre-existing conditions and, although we do not love what we have, the good news is we are still moving forward. Aside from that general sentiment, what did the election really mean for healthcare in the United States?


The government share of the market will grow, but there are incredible opportunities to provide services and products to government markets.

Voters in red states, such as Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, passed ballot measures to expand Medicaid and Kansas elected a new Democratic governor who is likely to do the same. Many of the new enrollees will be people who have never had insurance before; therefore, many of these states will ask the private sector to compete for these patients. In addition, all the government payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, will seek new ways to save money and provide better care. The private sector will have unlimited opportunities to market new ideas, products and services to these agencies. With the aging of our population and growing number of people having coverage, the healthcare market is an unlimited opportunity.

A wholesale takeover of healthcare via “Medicare for All” or a single-payer system isn’t happening any time soon but….

This issue won’t disappear. Numerous polls show voters of all types, especially young people, are open to the idea of the government being the payer for healthcare. Polls also show people under 65 favor being allowed to join the Medicare program. While costs estimates are widely disputed and the tax consequences are still unknown, insights prove this issue is going to be the subject of much debate. In fact, most of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates support “Medicare for All.”

The 2020 presidential campaign began last Wednesday, and the constant media attention about the 2020 election will include lots of discussion around this topic. The Medicare program has a very high approval rating, so labeling something “Medicare for All” sure seems like a popular way to approach this issue. In addition, some candidates will propose variations of this idea, such as a buy-in for those over 55 years of age, adding fuel to the fire.

In conclusion, the question remains: Can anything get done?

Drug pricing is one area where both President Donald Trump and the Democrats seem to want to focus their efforts. But given the president’s unpredictable behavior, it’s difficult to say whether he would follow through on any of his proposals. However, if he sees it as a political winner, especially with seniors, action is possible. 2018 marked the first election in decades where Democrats got the same share of the senior vote as Republicans, so it’s likely both sides will try to figure out ways to court this high-turnout segment of the population. For companies trying to get a message out about what they do or sell in the healthcare marketplace, the best advice is to stick to script, deliver value and take advantage of the opportunities our never-ending healthcare debate may provide.

Brian Feldman is a partner, general counsel and co-leads the agency’s healthcare practice.

OCTOBER 31, 2018 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 2: Inside the Twitch Matrix

Credit: TwitchBy: Owen Clark

We’re back! After an extended hiatus due to client commitments and crazy travel schedules, the Stream Podcast returns with Episode 2 -- a look inside the world of the streaming service Twitch.

There are a lot of reasons to be fascinated by the world of Twitch. There’s the explosive user growth, the massive dollars streamers rake in, the democratization of content creation and even the way the platform reflects how we connect as humans in today’s “anxiety ridden” digital age (more on that from Micah in the episode).


My favorite thing about Twitch is the bright line that exists between users and non-users. Go ahead and ask somebody if they have heard of Twitch and you will find they are either way in, to the point that it has become a main course in their media consumption diet. Or they have never used it, don’t understand it and are openly incredulous about the very idea of people watching other people play video games. It’s sort of like Fight Club, to borrow another movie analogy, but if Fight Club was operated by one of the largest and most well-known companies in the world and everyone who participated wore branded purple hoodies.

For the podcast, we wanted to offer something for both types of Twitch audiences: a beginner’s guide for those who aren’t among the initiated and a deeper dive into the future of the platform for streamers who already have their Bob Ross Emotes on lock.

Lending their insight on the episode is Newsweek Writer Steven Asarch, whose excellent primer on the platform is a must-read for anyone interested in the Twitch world. Also along for the ride is our colleague and Twitch super fan Mark DeRutte, who among other things offers an entrée into some of the other interesting things happening on the platform that don’t involve video games. Hint: There are shaving-cream-covered, ear-shaped microphones involved.

Thanks for listening and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms. We promise future episodes will be delivered to your feed at more regular intervals.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

OCTOBER 26, 2018 //     

The Ultimate Messaging Question

Credit: Notion Capital

By: Harry Ronaldson

Watching a re-run of the popular television series “Dragon’s Den” the other day, I was struck by just how many of the contestants seemed incapable of articulating their idea in a way that enticed the assorted investors.

Aside from the odd bout of nerves, entrepreneurs that failed to convince the Dragons left empty-handed, not because they could not explain what their company did, but rather why it does it.


In the fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to get caught up on features and benefits. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into bringing a product to market, not to mention sleepless nights. It’s only natural that you want to tell the world how clever it is. No doubt those in the know will be suitably impressed. But focusing entirely on product features fails to address the most important question that every customer or prospect will ask: “Why should I give a sh*t?”

A lot of messaging used by B2B companies isn’t aligned with what the customers they are trying to reach really value. Instead of addressing these points, they pack sentences with adjectives designed to prove how much better they are than the competition.

Many technology companies proudly claim to be a “disruptor.” But in order to be truly disruptive, companies need to change perception of what is possible. That means articulating why potential customers should believe in your product and how it will make their lives better.

So how do you get to that point? Below are a few tips to get you started.

Do your research

Invest time to understand what your customers really care about, and the type of language they’re using when they talk about those issues. Look at the newspapers and magazines your customers are likely to read. What are the issues they’re focusing on? Imagine you were being interviewed on one of those issues – what would you say?

Look at blogs and social media. Who are the influencers driving conversation and how are they framing different issues? Analyse how your competitors are positioning themselves. What are they saying, and more importantly, what are they not saying? Finally, don’t forget to involve your customers in the process. More often than not it will be their words that make it into the final cut of a great messaging document.

Get creative

Getting the messaging right is hard, but there are ways to make the process a little bit more fun and a little less intense. One exercise we run involves giving everyone in the room a stack of magazines. They then have 30 minutes to pull together an RFI for a client by cutting out clippings from the magazines and placing them on a board. This type of exercise won’t be for everyone (a stack of post-it notes will often suffice), but the important thing is to find a way that stops you staring blankly at a whiteboard for half a day.

Be ruthless

When you fill a room with senior people, you inevitably get a range of strong opinions all wanting to be heard. It can be tempting to try to please everyone by cramming everything into one all-encompassing “super-message.” This kind of messaging by committee might prevent a few bruised egos, but it will leave your customers baffled.

Great messages are short – ideally no more than a few carefully chosen words. They use simple, straightforward language that anyone can understand. And they actively avoid the use of buzzwords. You might genuinely believe you are creating a “paradigm shift” for your industry. But the reality is that this type of language just forms a barrier between you and the individuals you are trying to reach. I know journalists who have finely tuned their spam filters to junk any email with the words “best-of-breed” and “solution-provider” in the headline. You’ve been warned

 Seek an impartial perspective

Bringing an outsider in to help facilitate your messaging session can be an effective way to keep you focused and on track. Having an unbiased perspective in the room can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above.

Once you’re happy with the way your messaging looks, seek an outside perspective again. Continue testing, refining and shortening until you’re convinced that absolutely every word needs to be there. Make sure every statement you make is tied to a specific proof point.

Then, test with customers and prospects, and remember to keep coming back to your messaging over time. Your business might evolve quickly, so it’s crucial that your messaging keeps pace with that journey.

If you’re keen to hear more, get in touch with Harry Ronaldson at Allison+Partners at:

Harry Ronaldson is a VP in Allison+Partners London office. 

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

OCTOBER 18, 2018 //     

The CMO is evolving: Here’s how we can keep up

Credit: Adweek

By: Lauren Bayse

The modern marketer’s role is complex, dynamic and crucial to drive business growth. Long gone are the days when being a marketer meant serving as a brand “hype woman.” Thanks to the last decade of swift technological advancement, marketers are at the heart of business growth—they are the keepers of data and the connector between brand and audience.


At this year’s Advertising Week NY conference, I heard from a number of marketers across industries who have embraced this new role, but also grapple with their dichotomous friend/foe relationship with technology. On the one hand, technology has given them access to seemingly endless data-driven insights that allow them to more effectively connect with their target audiences in new ways. On the other hand, technology has given birth to an exhaustive list of new challenges, such as achieving brand safety, protecting consumer privacy and upskilling talent, to name just a few.

As communications professionals, we too know intimately the double-edged sword that is technology. For example, we curse the speed with which social media can ignite a crisis, but revel in our newly-found ability to measure top-of-funnel results.

As we navigate the impact of technology evolution, it’s important to remember this should change the way we support and communicate with our clients. Their jobs are changing. And as a result, ours must as well. Here’s how we can start:

Lean into data  

Measuring the impact of public relations campaigns has historically been quite difficult. Many times, we work to build “awareness,” rather than directly convert customers. So, we operate in a gray area that’s difficult to explain with numbers.

That is quickly changing. When I interviewed at Allison+Partners nearly four years ago, I was impressed by the capabilities of our dedicated Measurement team and the agency’s understanding that measurement should be part of every single scope of work. As marketers become increasingly reliant on data to drive decision-making, we need to step up to the plate. It is more imperative than ever that we regularly share success metrics and then use them to guide our own strategic planning efforts.

Speak business  

As communications and marketing professionals, we can spend all day talking about lead generation, reach and conversion rates (seriously, I lost count of how many times “customer journey” was said during Advertising Week). But when a CMO walks into the boardroom to discuss the bottom line, the rest of the C-Suite isn’t going to understand the jargon.

To help our clients more effectively communicate how their “wins” ladder up to business objectives, we need to ask questions that help us better understand how they expect our partnership to positively impact their business. Do they hope to see an increase in job applicants? Increase customer loyalty? Win over more first-time customers?  

Once we have the answers to these questions, every strategy should be delivered with these goals in mind. And we should consistently relay updates that demonstrate how our work is helping the business achieve these goals (sans jargon!).

Assemble diverse teams

Today’s consumers and business decision-makers are more diverse than ever. Despite this reality, our industry hasn’t kept pace. Only 11 percent of creative directors are women, and people of color continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions across the board. There’s a lot of work to be done, but after spending nearly a full day at The Female Quotient’s Girls Lounge during Advertising Week, I feel confident our industry is fostering leaders—both men and women—who prioritize and champion diversity.

It’s an exciting time to work in our industry—we’re seeing it through a period of major transformation. But, the technology revolution is not without its challenges, and to ensure client success, we need to embrace data, understand business objectives and strive for diversity.

Lauren Bayse is a director in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

OCTOBER 16, 2018 //     

Storytelling in the age of fake news and implications for communicators

By: Pranav Kumar

Fake news’ emergence has been top of mind for communicators all over the world, and India is no exception. As of late, India’s brands have also been subject to errant fake news stories exacerbated by the rise of social media and democratisation of data.


At this year’s edition of PRAXIS in Hyderabad, India, the largest assemblage of communications professionals in the country, we discussed the rise of fake news and what it means for practitioners in our industry. Here are a few key takeaways from an insightful and lively panel discussion with a mix of industry leaders from brands and agencies, moderated by International Institute of Public Relations Director of Research Sarab Kochhar:

In its annual “State of the Industry” report released at the September event, The Public Relations Council of India (PRCAI) concluded 50 percent of industry professionals see the need for quality counsel and fake news combating capabilities as opportunities for expanded services.

While trust in institutions continues to decline, mainstream media have a pivotal role to play as ultimate vanguards of the truth. Having said that, fake news still finds its way to mainstream media at times, underscoring a need for increasing editorial caution and emphasis on objectivity.

International fact-checker Snopes compiles lists of trending fake news stories. In its recent analysis, it concluded that from 50 such examples, at least 12 stories involved brands in a fake or manipulated story. Big brands in particular are more vulnerable because of the large audiences they engage with. As for India, while there may be fewer instances of fake news involving brands, this will only continue to steadily increase presenting challenges. But it will also create opportunities.

In an age of misinformation and disinformation, fake news assumes varying proportions. Those perpetuating it have an agenda, and brands need to be cautious in choosing when and how to respond. From Internet trolls trying to get unscrupulous attention to deliberate and vicious attacks, different situations call for specific response mechanisms (or no response at all), making investments in monitoring and analytics tools critical.

Earned media is an effective bulwark in an age of the real-time news cycle and algorithm-fuelled content. Brands need to include paid media in their arsenals to dissipate any fake news triggered vitriol and take control of the narrative.

The timeless principle of brands exemplifying strong values on a consistent basis is invaluable. Having those virtues to fend-off impending fake news attacks can help them emerge even stronger.

Readiness for brands to handle any form of fake news and related maelstroms is pivotal. That means having crisis play-books with expanded scenarios to deftly and definitively manage potential situations. Additionally, pledging to information accuracy, authentic storytelling, choosing credible channels and engaging with quality influencers is a prerequisite for brands.

In the end, the basic tenets of public relations -- quality relationships, engagement and authenticity -- are vital tools in the fake news armour and effective deterrents in today’s post-factual, post-truth world.

Pranav Kumar is managing director of Allison+Partners in India.

OCTOBER 15, 2018 //     

Upwards and Onwards: Building a best-in-class mid-sized agency in Singapore

By: Serina Tan

Two weeks ago, our Singapore team hosted a party to officially open our new office – an amazing space on level 38 in a prime building that overlooks the gorgeous cityscape. We had an incredible turnout, and were delighted to celebrate this milestone together with our past and present clients and business partners. We were also honored to have Co-Founder and Vice Chairman Andy Hardie-Brown and Co-Founder and Global President Jonathan Heit, join us in the celebration.


But this party meant so much more than just breaking in a new office space. Our move 25 floors up within the same building may seem uneventful to some. But it represents the remarkable progress we have made since our establishment here in 2014 – an achievement that far surpassed our imagination. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

I began my journey with Allison+Partners in February 2014 from my apartment in Malaysia, initially working on a couple of project clients. As A+P’s first employee in Southeast Asia, I certainly never dreamed that one day, I would work together with such a wonderful team in such a stunning office.

In June 2014, we won our first retainer account and I had to move back to Singapore with my family to formally kickstart our office. I was allowed to hire my first "sidekick." Somehow, even though A+P had no office, no presence, no brand and only a couple of clients in Singapore, I managed to convince a young, laid-back, phone-addicted millennial to join us as an entry-level consultant. The rest is history.

From a solo journey, we embarked as a team of two. We didn't have an office, worked from home and met once a week at Gloria Jeans. It was a dream job for many.

We won a few more clients. Three months later, we moved into a two-seater office in Regus. I was ecstatic, as we didn’t have to roam around anymore. At our tightest, we had four people squeezed into that tiny room. Subsequently we moved to a five-seater, then a 10-seater office. Every time we moved, the team relished that growing achievement. However, we still didn’t have any sense of belonging because we were in a serviced office. 

Eventually in September 2015, we moved to our first permanent space. Finally, we found a home and were no longer nomads. Our close-knit A+P family was involved in putting every part of the office together, from selecting the cabinet colours, wall decorations and $600 ergonomic chairs. I used to go to the shops after work to pick up loose furniture, many pieces of which we’ve managed to bring to our new office so we can retain some physical memories of our journey. 

Like our previous space, our new office is a collection of our team’s ideas and contributions. As a progressive agency, we want to build a meaningful space that inspires our team to do great work.

Each time we move, our culture board -- the first item I received from the company -- travels with us. No matter where we move and how large we grow, our strong culture and core values of collaboration, entrepreneurship, empowerment, passion and excellence will always remain the guiding principles of how we operate. 

During our short four-and-a-half year journey, we’ve grown the team from one to 15. We’ve won world-class accounts and prestigious awards, including the recent 2018 Holmes Report “Best Regional Campaign for APAC.”

None of these achievements would have been possible without everyone’s hard work and support -- from my boss Andy’s constant support, to the trust of my first hire Lewis,  who is still with us today; to the invaluable mentorship from Shen our trusty consultant; to the collaboration of our global team and the loyalty of our clients. The Singapore team is grateful for the part everyone has played in getting us to where we are today, both in the success of our agency and in our swanky new office space. 

Serina Tan is general manager of Allison+Partners Singapore office.

OCTOBER 11, 2018 //     

Data, storytelling and consumers in the boardroom: Key takeaways from Advertising Week 2018

By: Sara Stephens

New York City’s Upper West Side boomed with advertising, marketing and creative leaders from around the world attending 2018’s Advertising Week New York. This year, #AWNEWYORK held thoughtful conversations on the past, present and future of today’s global industries. Over the course of the week, I attended sessions that ranged in topics from digital fluency across generations to machine learning and creativity, to blockchain’s role in preventing advertising fraud to the changing role of the CMO. I walked away with the following key learnings:


Measurement will drive the ‘future of’ everything

With ad campaign life cycles as short as a few days, data now drives impact and makes compelling campaigns scalable. All of the panels I watched discussed measurement in some way, shape or form. Whether it was measuring sales as a result of an integrated campaign, A/B testing an ad or conducting surveys on consumer attitudes, measurement tools and capabilities are must-haves for all marketers’ toolboxes.

While data-driven decision making is not a new concept, one of the more interesting perspectives on measurement was the idea that if we over index on data, we may lose creativity in the process. For example, will we no longer listen to our marketing “guts” that have made successful campaigns in the past? Will robots take our jobs? Thankfully, the answer to each question is no.

On one particularly interesting panel, “How Machine Learning Can be Used for Creativity,” executives from Amazon Web Services, VidMob and IHG discussed how leveraging AI will give creatives “more time to think.” Ultimately, advertising is still about delivering the right message to a target audience. And right now, humans still need to craft the messages. But we can use machine learning in various forms to analyze, optimize and unlock new ways to use data. 

 Empathy is critical to storytelling today

Analyzing data and storytelling are important capabilities, but marketers also need to apply empathy to derive purpose through data and stories. Nearly half the sessions referenced the wild success of Nike’s recent Colin Kaepernick ad. The data most likely would have told Nike to shy away from this. But one reason for the campaign’s success is that it told an authentic story relevant to the brand’s purpose.

The Female Quotient hosted The Girls’ Lounge and Men of Action Summit, where Gillette and Venus North America Director Pankaj Bhalla described bringing empathy to Gillette’s famous tagline: “The Best a Man Can Get.” He also discussed how his marketing team evolved it to fit the varying definition of a man in 2018.

Northwestern Mutual Chief Marketing Officer Aditi Javeri Gokhale noted a gap in the lack of financial advertisements targeted at women and saw an opportunity to target this critical market in a way that resonates with them.

It’s about asking – what do you stand for in addition to what you sell? How do you bring this purpose to life so you resonate with your consumers in an authentic way? While we use data to drive decisions, there is still a lot of room in marketing for thought leadership and standing for a purpose. And importantly, buyers look for this from brands when making their purchasing decisions.

CMOs are the bridge between buyers and the boardroom

CMOs are influencing their C-Suite counterparts through the consumer perspective by being the customers’ voice in the boardroom. Thanks to the wealth of available data, marketing is no longer just about brand awareness. CMOs and their teams understand the end-to-end customer experience better than anyone.

As a result, the CMO role has evolved into that of a general manager – a person who can work collaboratively with chief technology officers to leverage new technology, chief financial officers to prove marketing dollars are driving revenue and CEOs to establish and help align with brand purpose and be a thought leader. By bringing in the end buyers and their needs, desires and wants into the boardroom, the CMO can help drive meaningful change – and revenue – for their organizations.

As marketers, how can we adapt to these changing times? First and foremost, we need to be curious. Take a class, engage with a mentor who has taken a different path and get ahead of the curve by understanding new tools and capabilities available to use. There is no right way forward, but we certainly do not have the luxury of guessing what customers want and creating tone-deaf ads. We now have the data to help us fuel decisions. It’s an exciting time to work and learn in this space, and I look forward to applying data and storytelling to communicate a brand’s purpose.

Sara Stephens is an account director in Allison+Partners corporate practice.

OCTOBER 2, 2018 //     

2018 Marketing Trends: The 10-Insight Health Check

Credit: CIPR INFLUENCEBy: Jill Coomber

If there’s one constant in client’s briefs, it’s a desire to stay ahead. There’s a real sense of willingness to try new things whilst also delivering a solid ROI at the business level. This all starts from identifying great insights and key trends. So, when pulling together our latest report, we focused in on what’s changed since this time last year and how the big trends are faring so far. What is really worth investing in?

The ten trends we delve into span from the impact of affiliate partnerships on earned PR to how to maximise voice search; from getting Gen Z right to revitalising retail. Influencer marketing has been the hot trend for what feels like forever, but what do rapidly increasing influencer costs, fake followers and stricter advertising guidelines mean for brands? And what has the Cambridge Analytica scandal done for consumer trust in social media vs. traditional news outlets?


In exploring which trends have taken off this year, we can see that marketers need to be more in tune with the new ways customers actually behave, rather than how we think they behave or how they did last year.

But consumers are making it easier for us. They are becoming increasingly straightforward with their expectations of brand experiences. For example, as we look ahead to no-nonsense Gen Z, simplicity and transparency are key to cutting through the noise. For them, it’s all about great brand values and stories consumers can comfortably believe in and fight for, combined with seamless shopping experiences we’ll all be happy to return to again and again.

Brands of all shapes and sizes have one thing in common – the need to do great work that also increases attributable revenues. Seemingly each month delivers us new options, so we need to take a step back to ensure the insights and trends our work is built on are still solid. Like other leaders, we’re focusing on real people: to engage, inspire and create behaviour change rather than simply sell product. With the right knowledge, you can do both.

To read more on the latest consumer trends, download the full report here.

On the 10 September, OneChocolate joined forces with Allison+Partners, an award-winning global communications agency with 29 offices and more than 400 employees worldwide.

Jill Coomber is managing director of consumer marketing in Europe for Allison+Partners. 

This blog was originally posted by  CIPR Influence.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 //     

Snapchat: 2012 - ?

Credit: SnapchatBy: Maggie Familetti

Snapchat recently released its Q2 earnings report, noting loss of about 3 million daily active users (Source: 
Inc.). This marked the first drop in users in the company’s six-year history, and it’s news that, quite frankly, seemed to be a long time coming. A+P Digital Team member Maggie Familetti takes a look at Snap Inc.’s journey and discusses where future opportunity may exist for the popular but polarizing app.

When I first saw someone use Snapchat in 2012, I thought: “That’s it?” At the time, I still had a so-called “dumb” phone and I expected much more from smartphones. But all I saw was 2 seconds of a grainy picture that then disappeared before my eyes. Despite this, Snapchat was all the rage for those first few years. And when I got an iPhone in 2014, it was the first app I downloaded. Snapchat was almost a necessity for staying in touch with friends. With the addition of face filters, chat and video chat in the ensuing years, it seemed there was nothing not to love.


Enter Instagram. In 2016, Instagram launched its “Stories” feature, which copied many elements of Snapchat’s own Stories feature. The stats that followed spoke for themselves: Snapchat growth slowed 82 percent after Instagram Stories launched. By June 2018, Instagram Stories had twice the amount of daily active users as Snapchat. It made sense – Instagram Stories presented a more easily usable medium for brands and influencers who were already on the platform, allowing them to use Snapchat-like tools without having to create another account on the app.

Then in late 2017, Snapchat released a full app redesign, which changed the location of Stories, Discover and other app features. The move was initially intended to clearly differentiate between content from friends and content from celebrities and influencers. In the words of Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, the goal was to separate “the ‘social’ from the ‘media’.

Consumers didn’t see this as a plus – in fact, 83 percent of the App Store reviews for the update were negative. Power user Kylie Jenner tweeted she had stopped opening the app, and a petition calling for Snapchat to reverse the redesign garnered more than 1.2 million signatures.

Snapchat’s missteps and misfortune seemed to culminate in August 2018, when the company reported it lost more than 3 million daily active users in the second quarter of 2018. Snapchat blamed the loss on the redesign, and Spiegel claimed the company’s monthly active users were actually growing.

But all these hits over the last year beg a question: is this the beginning of the end for Snapchat? Was the loss in daily active users the death knell some had been expecting for so long? The simple answer is no, probably not. Why? Because Snapchat has one thing that no other platform has: its specific, highly sought after audience.

Snapchat has long been popular with U.S. teens ages 12 to 17, first surpassing Facebook as the most popular social network among this age group in 2016. Now, according to an August 2018 study from eMarketer, there are 16.4 million 12-17 year olds on Snapchat compared with 12.8 million on Instagram. And the app is expected to remain dominant among teen users through 2022. Additionally, 78 percent of 18-24 year olds use the platform. This indicates that despite the snags of the last few years, Snapchat still has the ability to reach Generation Z in a way that few other social platforms can.

As a result, all signs point to advertising and brand partnerships as the way forward for Snapchat, and 2018 has already seen some unique and successful examples. In August, a partnership with Adidas saw the brand announce a new shoe on the Snapchat show “Fashion Five Ways,” with the goal of targeting a younger, more female audience who would “talk socially about the sneaker.” And it paid off – the shoe sold out in 6 hours, a clear indication the activation was successful in reaching the desired audience.

Examples like this prove that there is still success to be found in Snapchat. A large amount of that success can be achieved through advertising, potentially with an e-commerce play attached. Snapchat itself sees where its future lies – on Aug. 29, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced the lineup for its West Coast iteration of the annual Digital Content NewFronts. For the first time ever, Snapchat will be a participant. These events are typically a chance for digital companies to “impress advertisers and persuade them to support video endeavors” such as shows and other original content, and Snapchat’s participation may signal an internal realization these solutions are its best path forward.

So where does this leave brands? Overall, it seems not much has changed in terms of how brands should view the platform. There may be a shift if and when Snapchat rolls out new advertising solutions in the coming months, but for now it would appear to be business as usual. Brands may choose to advertise on the platform, but should have clear, audience-specific goals in mind when planning campaigns and creating highly-tailored content.

If possible, brands should choose Snapchat only if their audience already exists on the platform, in order to maximize their advertising. Content should be relatable, inviting, and not too polished – Jessica Taylor, a former digital ad manager for Google, says that ads should look like “messages from friends.”

Overall, the future could still be bright for both Snapchat and the brands that buy its ads. With new formats on the horizon and successful campaigns in the rearview, Snapchat needs to lean into its identity as a more niche platform with a specific audience. And brands need to fully embrace the opportunities that come with this.

Happy Snapping!

Maggie Familetti is an account executive on Allison+Partners digital team. 

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