Unlocking long-term benefits in an instant

Real-time advertising’s strength is its immediacy but how effective is it for long-term brand building and how accepting are users of personalised messaging?

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The panel (l-r above)

  • Ruth Mortimer, chair, editor, Marketing Week
  • Eithne Anderson, head of marketing communications, Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland
  • Carol Baubock, group brand & corporate marketing director, BUPA
  • Lis Blair, head of CRM & insight, EasyJet
  • Neil Costello, head of marketing, Aviva
  • Bonnie Jackson, digital display planner, B&Q
  • Alison Lancaster, interim group marketing director, McArthurGlen Group
  • Colin Lewis, director of marketing, BMI Regional
  • Dan Michelson, head of digital capability for marketing, O2
  • Nick Rudge, managing director, Cottages4You
  • Nic Travis, european digital marketing manager, Claire’s Accessories
  • Nigel Vaz, senior vice-president managing director Europe, SapientNitro
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In association with SapientNitro

Marketing Week (MW): What does advertising in real-time mean to you?

Carol Baubock (CB): Advertising in real time is about striking a balance between what we do tactically and what we do as a brand. We’re at a junction when we’re looking at creating a global brand essence for Bupa but we are aware of the trap of going ‘all brand’ and ‘touchy feely’ and forgetting the tactical part of real-time.

Neil Costello (NC): The primary focus for Aviva is listening and responding to complaints in social media. We’re treading tentatively into how we get customers’ permission to go beyond just the basic level of customer service.

Dan Michelson (DM): O2 is very fortunate in that we have a lot of information about consumers. We need to make sure that we’re spending our money efficiently, and real-time does that better than anything else at the moment.

Lis Blair (LB): At easyJet we have been talking about the principles of real-time marketing for over 10 years, but now we have the technology and data to bring it to life.

Eithne Anderson (EA): We know a lot about our customers and have a huge amount of data, but there is nervousness about sharing that information outside the bank, even though we’re not sharing anything specific about customers.

Alison Lancaster (AL): The customer is potentially your best brand ambassador. So how does the customer curate your story and tell it for you? I see real-time as a way to enable our customers to become our best brand ambassadors. Then the question is what do we do to get the customer to put our brand ahead of our competitors? For me the answer is digital enablement but it all stems from the brand story and how you are going to get customers to engage with your brand and ‘work’ for you.

Nick Rudge (NR): Traditional marketing tends to inspire people and I think what we might classify as real-time is really about providing information to people already in the market. I’m certainly interested in how we can use real-time in a more inspirational way at Cottages4You.

Nigel Vaz (NV): One of the biggest areas our clients are looking at is how to not only generate offers and respond to customers in the context of real-time marketing, but how to engage and build the brand.

Bonnie Jackson (BJ): Our remit in the digital team concerns relevancy and personalisation and real-time advertising fits with that. Tactically, it means that we can alert customers about local weather conditions, stock availability, that kind of thing.

Colin Lewis (CL): Real-time means that BMI Regional can send out localised messages to Bristol, Aberdeen and Manchester airports – and that’s a major advantage for us.

We face the challenge of being able to look around the data of everybody who books through us but not being able to use it

Nic Travis (NT): Real-time for Claire’s means trying to get down to the granular level and use all the data we have collected over the years and push that through all our marketing channels.

MW: Do you use real-time advertising as a tactical tool or for brand building – or both?

NR: As Cottages4You has become an online ecommerce business, it’s time to put money back into brand awareness and get back to inspiring people rather than just providing information.

DM: At O2 we are using real-time for storytelling. It’s important to tell a story about your brand to the consumer and digital is great for doing that.

NV: For a long time brands used to ‘story yell’ rather than ‘story tell’, which is what a lot of offer-based real-time advertising feels like as a consumer. Typical offer-based advertising is all about fulfilling demand but has no inspiration. The conversation that needs to be had is how do we create and fulfil demand in real-time?

CB: Sometimes things can go really wrong in health clinics. For that reason we need a way to talk about the brand in real time and build brand equity, an ‘emotional bank account’ or whatever you’d like to call it, so when things do go wrong, customers are prepared to give us the benefit of the doubt. So yes, you can respond in real time and give people your side of the story and tell them what we’re going to do about it. That’s brand building in real time.

MW: How do you budget for real-time advertising?

NT: At Claire’s, our real-time budget is predominantly social media and budgeting for that is tricky. You need to have a slush fund – a lot of it comes down to gut instinct.

LB: Slush fund yes, but it’s also test-and-build that you can then work from, learn from, and then move forward. But the investment for me is in technology.

CB: The beauty of real-time is that you know whether something’s working, whether it’s achieving your goal and then you can decide whether to invest more or try something else.

NR: Depending on what it is, it can be very easy to measure. If you’re doing paid search, you can do it on last click attribution, so you can measure the return on investment. Most people are still using last click but the danger is that it uses too much of your marketing budget, which means you don’t have enough left for inspiration stuff.

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MW: How do you budget for real-time in the financial sector?

NC: The budget question is a huge one for marketers but particularly for financial services. Getting sign-off from your chief executive for spending in an area that is relatively unknown is difficult. We slice it by the traditional paid/owned/earned media ratio of 70 per cent,
20 per cent and 10 per cent, so we know what 70 per cent of our budget will do in terms of awareness.

We allocate about 20 per cent to websites and so forth. We need to convince the organisation to be brave and try real-time a bit more explicitly. The biggest challenge is that, in these austere times, marketing is always the first place for cost savings. It’s up to us as marketers to demonstrate the value of marketing, particularly in the earned space.

NV: The bought/owned/earned divisions are breaking down. Why would you pay Rupert Murdoch hundreds of millions of dollars for a prime Super Bowl spot, when you can also broadcast the same spot to 200 million people in a targeted online environment? People try to separate paid-for, owned and earned but it’s all the same pot. A bigger problem is that for the larger companies, silos remain between departments.

DM: Yes, that’s the massive challenge within big organisations, everything is siloed. Social sits as its own team, while campaign teams sit separately – and that’s a real challenge with real-time because if it doesn’t marry up with what’s happening on your website or retail experience, then you’re in trouble. Certain channels are starting to move a lot quicker. Until everything starts to align and the top parts of the business understand what real-time is about, and engage with it so it starts soaking through the business, it will remain a challenge.

CL: At your end you’ve got the silos, but in smaller businesses you’ve got the resource issue. I don’t have silos because it’s just me and two people.

AL: If you’re a small company, you need to think like a digital start-up – if you were starting again with your business or brand, how would you create it in the digital world? If you do that, you can do a lot with a little because you remove all the old ways of doing things that are quite expensive. Yes, there will be problems, but that didn’t stop [online clothing retailers] Asos or Net-a-Porter saying yes, the economy is in a spin but there’s something in this ecommerce.

We talk about the brand in real time, building an ‘emotional bank account’ so if things go wrong, people are likely to give us the benefit of the doubt

MW: Is your ability to do effective advertising in real time hampered by silos?

EA: For us, the challenge is around data. The biggest obstacle to financial services using real-time advertising is the nervousness about using third-party suppliers.

CL: We have the same thing in the airline industry. I can look around the data of everybody who books through us but I can’t actually use it. I’ve tried to look at it legally because I don’t have a risk team. I have found a few grey areas. For example, it’s legitimate for us to write back to people with a customer service message and
we’ve had no pushback from that. It’s worked a treat and our unsubscribe rates have been less than 1 per cent.

AL: I would turn it around and ask your customers what they want from you. Your risk team can’t then argue that customers haven’t asked for x or y. So I think that [from a consumer’s view], it’s all about ‘what’s in it for me? What can my bank do better?’. It’s about trust and honesty. I think there’s a really good brand piece here that through trust and honesty you can rebuild reputations.

[We want customers to be able to say of us:] ‘They know I’m hard-pressed and I need every saving, so by sharing this information with a financial services company, they’re going to give me a load of offers that are tailor-made for me and my family.’

If they’ve opted in, it’s about permission-based marketing. Then it becomes about ‘actually if I do some hard work for you as a brand, how do you become my hero; how do you tell my story?’.

NV: I also don’t think risk teams seem to know the new frontiers. Risk has evolved so much over the years. You think about ecommerce in the old days and you had risk teams saying ‘you can’t put banking data online’ or ‘you can’t create customised experiences using data’.

MW: How do the rest of you share data so you can give people offers and do other tactical things as well as building the brand?

BJ: People in the industry always think there’s reluctance to share but when you look at a lot of campaigns that ask you to share information, as long as the customer considers that there is a decent trade-off,  they’re quite happy to do it.

People are willing to share information but there has to be a trade-off, whether that involves them winning something or more personalised communication.

I feel like putting the word ‘stalker’ in my job title sometimes because I deal with targeted activity and there’s a nervousness about it becoming uncomfortable for customers. But if I’m going to be served personalised advertising, I would rather it was relevant.

Having said that, you don’t want to push it too far. For now, I think people are open to sharing information. That attitude may change in the future as people realise they’re being targeted [in more relevant ways]. As that realisation sinks in, we might get more resistance to targeted real-time advertising.

EA: Because the rules are so strict – and they should be – sharing with a third party is a no for banks. Even when I try to explain that I am just giving a broad outline for a customer, the answer is rightly no. The risk department’s attitude is, you’re sharing customer data and you cannot do it.

MW: Will brands across sectors start working together in real time?

NV: More and more that will have to be the case. In the past, we have talked about share of voice but what we’re talking about now is share of mind space. If I’m going on a trip and my holiday cottage and my airline and my insurance company are all connected up, making a smarter proposition for me, then I’m going to engage with that a lot more.

DM: We’ve tried many times to develop stuff by ourselves. A digital wallet, we’ve tried to do that; and we tried to do things around music. The problem is that when you try to go down that route, it’s so expensive for the business and there are better suppliers that can do it.

If Facebook and Google can work together, then anybody can. It’s about chief executives realising that they aren’t the be-all-and-end-all and they have to partner with companies. 

The bigger issue is who then owns the data. Once those barriers are broken down, you will start seeing a lot more companies working together – I think that in the future we will see O2 working with Bupa because there’s
a massive opportunity there. It’s making sure you’re with the right brand that shares the same ethos as yours.

LB: There’s nervousness around marketing commissions and how that would detract from keeping data within your organisation but I think that working with a select group of third parties could add value to the customer journey. Potentially that’s a huge opportunity in terms of building that data profile.

EA: Most brands now partner with other brands. It’s about finding the right ones that can align with your values. I think we’re already there; it’s just how far do you go?

NR: Trust, relevance and having the right to be in the space are the issues. Somebody might book a villa in the south of France, for example, and we could say, ‘here’s a great flight from easyJet and here’s insurance from Aviva’, but consumers are smart. They’ve got to trust and believe that your offer is the best deal, otherwise they’re quite capable of surfing the internet and telling you to go away.

BJ: Strategic alliances can be powerful. But you need to consider the customer, so if you’ve given up your data, you want some kind of control over who’s using your data and why. When you tick that box, you want something back.

If that information is shared and you’re suddenly going to find yourself being remarketed [to] as part of a partnership, you’re going to get customers who don’t want to be part of that. You might start getting pushback from customers who haven’t agreed to talk to somebody else. It’s great to have a partnership but that doesn’t mean you have a right to it.

NT: Working together is about being with the right brands. Vodafone has spent a lot of money over the years trying to create its own 3G music download service, and then its own video download service. Now with 4G, it has partnerships with Spotify and Sky. Those brands are added value for Vodafone and its customers. 

Partnerships are absolutely right but you’ve also got to make sure the balance is there, that it ties into your business and that both parties get equal benefit.

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