Category Archives: Digital

What is first, second and third-party data and how is it affected by GDPR?

Published / by Simon Foster

First party data is data that your organisation has collected and owns about your customers. It is information that has been gathered in the course of your direct relationship with your customers. They key here is that your organisation is the owner of this data; this is your database of your leads, your enquiries, your customers, your subscribers or your members. This data may combine demographic, transactional and media source information.  It can also be used to report business and marketing performance – transactions per hour, day, week or month. First party data is the source of lifetime value information such as revenue, purchase frequency and evolving customer value.  This type of transactional data can be analysed to predict next likely behaviours based on past purchase behaviour patterns.

Second party data is data you share with a known and named partner. For example, if you are a hotel group you might exchange data with an airline to improve your targeting models;  might add data (sometimes called appending or augmenting) from its airline partner to improve its targeting model. The appended airline data might reveal that a customer always travels business class by air but always books an economy room thus presenting an opportunity for cross-sell. The data added by this cross-party transfer improves the level of insight that can be generated about a given customer and presents commercial opportunities on both sides. This data sharing is enables by the consumer if they tick a data sharing box in a permission request.

Third party data is data that does not belong to you but can be bought or used by you to improve insight or targeting. This is usually sold by third party data suppliers such as Acxiom or Experian. This data has been sourced directly from the consumer and permissioned through an opt-in. Third party data is often used in “matching” projects where a first party database is matched to a third-party database (like the way second party data is used in the scenario above) which can add incremental information to that already held by the first party data owner. So, for example, if you are a retailer of clothing you might want to match your database to a database of clothing purchasing habits to target consumers with products which appear to be relevant to the third consumer base.

Impact of GDPR on first, second and third party data

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will affect all three types of data and all the companies who are storing and managing that data. Companies holding first party data will need to make sure that their data is properly stored, consented, encrypted and secured in order to meet the regulations. And whilst there is a strong onus on first party data holders to comply with GDPR they, as the data owners, are in a strong position to comply because they are in control of their own data, storage environments and protocols.

The real complications arise when we look at second and third-party data. As first party data is shared with second and third parties, the responsibilities of the first party data owner “stretch” as far as the data goes.  So, if a second or third party commits a breach involving your data, you may still be responsible, at least at joint level with the party you have shared to.

This means you will need to ensure that the way your data is used after being passed to a second or third party remains compliant all down the line. It may not suffice to have your partners sign an agreement saying they will manage the data in line with the requirements of GDPR. If they do not, you may still be liable.

2017 UK Marketing Predictions

Published / by Simon Foster

Always fun to gaze into the year ahead.  Here are my predictions for 2017:

  • Mobile web use will be an increasing problem for Google: Mobile is now the dominant web use platform. In 2010 over 95% of web activity was delivered via PC, now it’s half that. As of this October, mobile had the edge with 51.3% of web traffic according to Stacounter. Why? Because domestic web consumption has shifted to mobile and particularly to tablets. PCs still dominate at work, but workplace constraints mean most consumer web traffic is generated in the evenings, not daytime. In the evenings, the dominant web platform is mobile not PCs. As we move further into a mobile platformed, high-utility ‘appworld’ the need for traditional PC-based search will decline.
  • More large-scale ad fraud will be exposed: This is going to become a much bigger issue because advertisers are going to divert more resources into actually finding it.  Just as doctors screening for a specific illness find more cases, so advertisers will begin to understand the true scale of online ad fraud. The recent Methbot scandal has revealed the scale of fraud that is now possible; c. $5m per day via 6,000 fake domains
  • TV will remain strong: TV’s ability to deliver mass impact, reach huge swathes of the population and drive high volume, low cost brand search traffic make it a powerful and important communications channel for marketers. Couple this with the relatively high trust scores attached to TV advertising and the growth of dual screening and you can see why TV will remain an important part of the marketing landscape in 2017.
  • There will be a bid for ITV: This has been a long time coming. My prediction is that this will happen in 2017. It might be from Google. Hold / Buy.
  • Campaign goes online only: Campaign, the UK’s ad industry weekly, will drop its print format and go online.  Many of Campaign’s Haymarket stablemates have dropped their print version. Campaign has only been able to hold out because all ad people over 40 like to see their faces in print.
  • Brexit currency changes: As the value of the Pound has slipped against the Dollar, Euro and Chinese Yuan we will see increases in the cost of imports. With an estimated £21bn food trade gap, increases in imported food costs will present significant challenges to FMCG marketers. However, export areas like tourism and specialist manufacturing will benefit.
  • Continued decline of newspapers: Continued big problems for newspapers. Goodness me, how their fortunes have changed.  As the ad market has grown, newspapers have continued to lose share. It’s no surprise as our appetite for real-time news puts next day reading into the dark ages.
  • EUDPR: Marketers and agencies will start thinking much harder about the new European Data Production Regulations due to come into force in May 2018. Under the new EU regulations the use of non-permissioned data and other breaches will attract fines of up to 4% of global turnover.  Ouch. That’s enough to make every CEO in Silicon Valley sit up and take notice.
  • Digital backlash: Out of all this we can see the seeds of a digital backlash. It’s been a great ride since Google launched in 1997, but twenty years on, there are some very big issues in digital; huge and endemic multi-million – correction, billion – dollar ad fraud, the rise of politically damaging fake news and the fact that only 50% of digital ads are ever seen by living, breathing, humans.  All this is enough to push many a marketing director back to the drawing board. Expect to see some interesting changes in spend patterns in 2017.
  • Direct mail could benefit from a digital backlash.  Direct Mail. Thought it was dead and buried? Think again.  A digital backlash is the perfect breeding ground for the resurgence of reliable, effective, accountable and physical media. Which channel ticks all four boxes? Direct mail. Add to this the fact that most Millennials have never received direct mail and you can sense a real opportunity.

Does social media drive sales?

Published / by Simon Foster

The question of sales generation is a growing problem for social media. Despite all the hype, it’s almost impossible to find any conclusive cross-category evidence that social media drives sales.  Yes, there are some isolated examples of success; Dell’s Twitter pages announces some great deals and I’m sure ASOS can whip up a bit of extra demand by tweeting Axl Rose’s US flag shorts, but the reality for most brands is that they are going to struggle to make social media deliver measurable sales.  This view might not be flavour of the month, but the four experiences of social media listed below certainly give the “no sales” view a high degree of credibility.

  1. In 2010, Pepsi undertook a massive social media initiative called The Refresh Project which was designed to give $20m to good causes. According to Bob Hoffman, the AdContrarian, it delivered over 80 million votes, almost 3.5 million Facebook likes and nearly 60,000 Twitter followers. But there was just one big problem; it didn’t drive sales – despite the funding coming from Pepsi marketing budgets. Pepsi’s sales fell in the year the project ran and the brand lost 5% market share worth about $350m. To make matters worse, if that were possible, Pepsi slipped to third in brand share behind Coke and Diet Coke.
  2. In both 2012 and 2013 IBM used data from around 800 e-commerce sites to track social media’s contribution to sales. In 2012 it arrived at a figure of 0.34%. In 2013 it didn’t publish the number, but hinted that it was even less.
  3. In September 2012, one of the world’s leading digital research companies, Forrester Research reported that “Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in ecommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales…”
  4. In March 2013, Mark Ritson, formerly a professor at London Business School observed in Marketing Week that “….marketers are finally beginning to apply some measures to assess the ROI of their [social media] efforts. Once they do that they can do the one thing the social media mavens have counselled against: compare the value of social media with other options, apples to apples. And, in many cases, they are discovering the hullaballoo drummed up by the marketing media and various industry events is not quite all it was cracked up to be.”

I think most people in social media are well aware of this “no sales” problem. And because social media can’t deliver sales, they’ve invented a snow-storm of flaky measures designed to obscure harsh commercial realities. These measures include: ‘likes’, ‘fans’, ‘followers’, ‘shares’, ‘retweets’, ‘pins’, ‘follows’, ‘friends’, ‘influence’, ‘amplification’, ‘forwards’, ‘mentions’, ‘tags’ and ‘reactions’. In a commercial context these are nothing more than diversionary measures. They might enable some positive looking PowerPoint charts but they don’t deliver positive looking sales. These are ROI potatoes, when everyone else is comparing apples.

Amazingly, when social media campaigns fail to deliver sales, social media experts almost always suggest that it was the company management who got it wrong rather admitting to any shortcoming of social media itself. Whilst this claim blames marketers and management, it also spawns a convenient stay of execution for social media’s “gurus”; failure brings an opportunity to “learn lessons”, to “revise approaches” and to “develop new strategies”. In other words social media failure provides a new opportunity for marketers to waste even more money on social media activity.

Marketers badly need a serious reality check on social media. Social media environments aren’t much more than an online version of a public waiting room. People drop in, take a seat, look around and leave. They may leave a bit of rubbish. They may take a bit of rubbish with them. But that, I’m afraid, is pretty much the long and short of it for most brands. Don’t spend too much time in there, nothing will come of it.

If this sounds old-fashioned, I make no apologies. Advertising exists to drive sales.  To have advertising that doesn’t drive sales is like going to a dentist who doesn’t look at your teeth, or a barber who doesn’t cut your hair, or a mechanic who won’t fix your car. If what you’re doing can’t be directly or indirectly linked to generating sales, you’re wasting precious budget.

What is programmatic advertising?

Published / by Simon Foster

If you are an advertiser you may have heard the expressions “programmatic buying”, “real time bidding” and “ad exchanges”. You may be wondering what all this is and what it means for advertisers, if you are then read on…

“Programmatic” advertising, is effectively automated online media buying – often at large scale and at very high speed (faster than lightening in some cases). Advertisers use computers to participate in real-time automated auctions for digital ad space across a large number of publisher web sites.

Bidding is supported by big data analytics; predictive algorithms are used to target bids using information about web users such as location, platform, device, browser, and where available, other forms of behavioural data relating to specific but anonymous users. There is some big data science behind this, much of which has its origins in high frequency algorithmic trading in financial markets where the principles are very similar to automated online advertising. For example, information about a user is matched to a bidding rule in a minute fraction of a second – enabling a bid to be made and a relevant ad to be served by the time the page being visited by the prospect fully loads. This high speed automated decision making is not dissimilar to rule-based or algorithmic trading in financial markets.

So is programmatic advertising important? Yes; it’s important to the long-term health of digital display as a medium and it’s important to advertisers in terms of increased advertising efficiencies. Let’s look at each of these.

Firstly, automated buying is boosting the fortunes of digital display advertising by creating renewed interest in the medium. Online display has struggled to demonstrate efficiency in the face of PPC which is based on pay per click (PPC) trading. For many years display has been traded on a CPM basis, that’s simply the cost of reaching people in their thousands, with no accounting for click or sales performance. That’s why Google has commanded such as large share of digital budgets over the last decade. But programmatic buying allows advertisers to place data-driven bids to ensure campaigns deliver the most responsive target audience at the right rate. This will significantly boost the ROI delivered by digital display and make it much more competitive with PPC. This in turn should enable it to take larger share of digital advertising budgets.

For advertisers automated buying offers a real opportunity to increase ROI from digital display. This opportunity comes from three sources: ROI-based trading mechanics, better ROI based audience targeting and clear performance transparency. All this offers advertisers a chance to make digital display much more cost effective. Moreover, the increased efficiencies delivered by automated trading will make digital display more competitive against PPC. Long term, automated display buying could have the effect of diffusing spend out of PPC alone and across the two platforms – theoretically this reduction in demand could reduce bid prices in PPC.

Are there any down sides?

It remains to be seen whether automated buying – which by its nature can reduce ad revenue – will deliver consistent long-term growth to digital display. It’s also worth noting that not all media owners will sign up to ad exchanges; those who feel they can realise the value of a web site more holistically than the lowest CPC denominator may well be resistant to signing too much inventory over to automated trading platforms – leaving them to fight over the lowest value inventory.  There are also  issues around the quality of the traffic delivered through high volumes of remnant inventory – remnant inventory is by its nature ad space that can’t be sold by normal means because it’s not demanded by media buyers. Buying remnant inventory through ad exchanges can mean you are buying into some low quality sites which may not be right for your brand’s image.

Dairy Milk gets the gorilla, but Galaxy gets the growth

Published / by Simon Foster


So, Dairy Milk with its Drumming Gorilla TV ad campaign has posted a sluggish 2% market share growth whilst ‘run of the mill’ Galaxy has romped home with a 12% growth. Research has shown that the Gorilla ad is more memorable than Galaxy activity, but clearly this success in recall does not seem to have translated into success in sales. Quite rightly, this result immediately ignites a discussion about the sales value of creativity. You can get into some of that here.

Not entirely unconnected to this is the debate that took place on the 4th August at the IPA – “Who makes better planners? Planners or creatives?” Veteran creative Dave Trott and planning sophistocrat David Golding battled it out with Trott arguing that it’s time planners got back to building sales rather than using advertising “to provide a window on a brand’s soul and to build the brand’s ‘equity’ in people’s minds”. Golding defended the principle of using the brand as a source of insight, and quite valiantly by all reports.

I’ve worked on projects with both of these characters, with David Golding on an existing client account at WCRS and Dave Trott on a creative pitch at WTCS (as was). Dave Trott worked in an interesting way. He did his own planning in his own mind, based on very considerable experience. His approach was intuitive – he visualised the target audience as people he knew (in this case his mother and her friends) and asked himself what type of message would engage her. Then he wrote those messages down and turned them into a visualized campaign for TV and press. Trott’s campaign was a distillation of the communication problem, solved, simplified and then visualised. Dave Golding on the other hand was measured, considerate, analytical and logical. He’d be as likely to base a campaign on what his mother thought as a judge would be to discuss a legal technicality with a courtroom security guard. The work that resulted was memorable and strong. So here’s the question – if the insight for the Dairy Milk Gorilla campaign were to have originated from the grey matter of either Golding or Trott, which would it be?