Banksy, Warhol, Basquiat, Arsham and more in the Moco.

Banksy, Warhol, Basquiat, Arsham and more in the Moco.

Yesterday we visited the Moco boutique museum in Amsterdam with the entire Martin and Lewis gang. It is always inspiring – in this case from an art perspective – to look at creativity in a completely different way. Works by Banksy, Warhol but also Hirst, Lichtenstein, Basquiat and Arsham make us think and give us different insights. They inspire us in other ways of communication that we could also apply in our own work.

That is why these kind of visits are so incredibly valuable. Powerful to see how, if you go all the way back to the essence, you can create the iconic Mickey Mouse from Walt Disney with 12 different dots (Hirst). But you can also make solid (political) statements with only one image and without text (Banksy).

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If I compare this with the conversations we regularly have with brands about the huge pile of information they want to put into a campaign, then these kinds of examples can also help in the discussion to communicate with much less to achieve bigger impact.

Because these artists too have become international brands, with their own style and way of communicating. What is so good about it is that they challenge topics, make statements, look critically at themselves, but above all have the guts to do something that others don’t do and therefore dare to be vulnerable.

I sometimes miss this in the way brands talk, having the guts to do something else. Not for the sake of being different but more because it fits with who you are and what you stand for. And sometimes doing something that has not yet been done includes the acceptance that you do not know what it will deliver. However, doing what you always did is usually not enough (anymore).

That’s why an agency should also challenge our brand.
Be surprised and go for succes together!

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“Always Coca-Cola” leaves a strange taste in my mouth.

“Always Coca-Cola” leaves a strange taste in my mouth.

I have enjoyed working for Coca-Cola for many years. A beautiful brand that over the years managed to surprise time and again when it came to experience and activations: the introduction of Coca-Cola Zero, festival activations and the growth of brands such as Aquarius and Chaudfontaine. But times have also changed for a brand like Coca-Cola and they are having a hard time keeping up. Coca-Cola’s happiness has been overshadowed for some time by the brand’s vast contribution to the plastic soup. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, so it is no surprise that one of the biggest brands in the world is in the proverbial catbird seat. The question is how a brand like Coca-Cola deals with this.

I have been seeing messages from Coca-Cola for a few months now, with the message: “please help us recycle”. A nice way to say that you yourself flood the world with plastic and then ask someone else to clean up your mess. Of course consumers should throw their own trash in the bin, but for the brand responsible for the production of 12,000 tons of plastic bottles per year – according to Greenpeace – it is remarkable to point a finger like this to say the least. And we are only talking about the Netherlands. On an annual basis, we are talking about an estimated 110 billion plastic bottles(!).

coca-cola, please help us recycle campagne is niet genoeg

That is some serious plastic soup. Have a look on the brand’s site “Help us recycle” because a large brand like Coca-Cola has undoubtedly also woken up and is of course eagerly looking for alternative packaging where others ask to clean up your mess is just an temporary solution. There are already countless possibilities for biodegradable bottles based on bamboo, PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) or even paper. Although they will cost a bit more, they will ensure that you, as the largest soft drink producer, show the world how to take your responsibility. And if those alternatives are not yet good enough, then of course you have already established a fund of some kind that invests in a possible solution.

However, the message on the helpusrecycle.nl website is disappointing and actually a bit laughable:
“We aim to have all our packaging in 2025 so that we can recycle it.”

Seriously, is that your plan, your ambition as a big brand? So you are not going to tackle the source, namely your own plastic production, but you say that you strive for all your packaging to be recyclable within the next 6 years? An unbelievable and also unfeasible story with the following weak motivation: “We are a large company and this also involves a great responsibility. We work together with all parties in the chain to collect and process as much packaging as possible to recycle into new packaging. The consumer is an important link in completing this circle, and that is why we involve the consumer in this campaign. ”

On the same site you can also find the following statement: “The collection of waste is the responsibility of various parties, such as the packaging industry via the Waste Fund, supermarkets, national government and municipalities.” I miss one important party here: Coca-Cola!

It is understandable that this biodegradable bottle will take a while. But it seems that this is not being looked at at all yet and that the introduction of deposits on smaller bottles is frustrated by the party that produces the very same bottles.

Even if we continue to read, there is little news to report. Coca-Cola is especially proud that 95% of large packages and 70% of small packages are recycled. So 6,000 tons of plastic on an annual basis is not yet recycled, shame on you, consumer! Or to put it in ‘Greta’s words’: How dare you!

100% recycling is not a viable solution

If Coca-Cola really wants to contribute to a reduction in that plastic soup, why are there no (concrete plans for) biodegradable bottles yet? Can someone explain this to me? Or maybe so, because putting such a bottle on the market naturally costs a lot of money and Coca-Cola must of course also make a profit. I understand and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the company has made more than just a nice profit in the recent years. In 2018, a a whopping 9.7 billion . And for those who think that this was an incident: it was a growth of 10% compared to 2017 and the years before they also did pretty well where it comes to profit.

Come on, Coca-Cola, you can do much better than this. If you want to tell me I need to recycle, isn’t it about time you told the world when I no longer need to recycle because you have cleaned up your own mess? Only then does “always Coca-Cola” get a new meaning that stands for something that fits this day and age.

How we help Coffee Shots to sell honest coffee.

How we help Coffee Shots to sell honest coffee.

An honest cup of coffee can also be just a tasty cup of coffee. We were able to taste this ourselves with the beans from the coffee connoisseurs of Coffee Shots. No burnt-out black tar, but light-burned aromatic beans that make the nose wings vibrate and tickle our coffee bone.

Coffeeshots gives coffee farmers an honest price for their coffee and only sells coffee beans that are purchased directly (direct trade) from the farmer at a fair price (the start of the value chain). Even after purchasing every kilo of coffee beans, the brand pays the farmers 2% of its turnover. This way, the coffee farmer also benefits at the end of the value chain and significantly increase his kilo yield. This improves the working conditions, allows better training and is able to innovate again. Coffeeshots does not want the coffee drinker in a coffee bar to pay a (too) high price for (not always) high quality coffee. Coffeeshots is going to show that high quality coffee is also possible at a fair price.

At Martin and Lewis we only serve Coffeeshots coffee now. Full of flavour and tastier than ever before. We also help Coffeeshots with (online) marketing and communication of their brand.

What does your brand sound like and why does this matter?

What does your brand sound like and why does this matter?

You must have heard or read about voice or smart speakers. But what exactly is voice and why could it be interesting for you? Maybe you just want to read more about it or know all about it and purchase a smart speaker. In this article I will tell you more about voice and what impact I think voice will have on the way we deal with technology in the coming years.

Voice is a technology that makes it possible to give commands to computers with voice commands. Since the vast majority of computers in the world are connected to the internet, it is also possible to give voice commands online and thus control devices remotely, perform searches, book a vacation or place orders in an online shop. Digital speech assistance is being used more and more. Not only at home, but also at work, in the car and just in public places.

From visual interface to audio interface

My prediction is that in the coming years voice will bring about a huge change in the way we deal with online technology. Where everything is still visually oriented and we use a screen, this will shift to voice in many areas where a screen will no longer be needed. This will have major consequences for the way we communicate, but also for example how we shop online and receive information.

Brands will also have to start thinking about how they want to present themselves in a world where voice becomes leading in a number of areas. How are you going to present yourself in a recognizable way if there is no longer always a screen on which a consumer sees your product or logo? And if a consumer wants to buy a product, how do you ensure that your brand is first choice in the mind of the consumer?

There are a number of major players who have been working for years to improve the quality of their speech assistant. Apple has Siri, Google has the Google Assistant, Amazon has Alexa and Microsoft has Cortana.

 

smart speakers voice

 

How does voice actually work?

You can activate a digital assistant via a smart speaker by saying a command like “Hello Alexa” or “Hey Siri”. You can then ask a question or give a command to which the digital assistant will respond. It may be that this is an answer or a requested action right away, but you may also receive a question about a follow-up action. But how does this technically actually work and how is it possible that a digital assistant “understands” your question or command? This has everything to do with a smart combination of hardware and software.

The operation of digital speech interaction can be divided into three core steps:

     

  1. Speech to text
  2.  

  3. Text to intention
  4.  

  5. Action intention

The first step, speech to text, essentially converts voice commands to a text input that your computer or smartphone normally receives because you type it. Good speech to text software such as Apple Dictation, Google Docs voice typing and Dragon naturally tune into environmental noise and variation in voice tone / pitch / accent to provide accurate translations in multiple languages. The software breaks your speech into small, recognizable parts that are called phonemes – there are around 40 in the Dutch language and 44 in the English language. It is the order, combination and context of these phonemes with which the advanced audio analysis software can figure out what exactly you are saying. For words that are pronounced in the same way, the software analyzes the context and syntax of the sentence to find out what the best text combination is for the word you spoke. In the database, the software then matches the analyzed words with the text that best matches the words you spoke.

The second step is text to intention. This step interprets what the user means exactly. For example, if you say “tell me about Amsterdam” in a conversation context, how do digital speech assistants know what exactly you mean by this question? Do you ask for the latest local news about Amsterdam, or do you want flight options to Amsterdam, or do you want to know the weather in Amsterdam ?, And when a word has a double meaning, this interpretation becomes even more difficult.

Web search engines solve this challenge by arranging answers to the ‘query’ in descending order of derived intention. For a digital speech assistant, this ranking should ultimately lead to the best answer and not a list of answers that a search engine can get away with.

A number of possible answers are put in a so-called thread. Each thread uses hundreds of algorithms to study the evidence, looking at factors such as the information, what kind of information it is, the reliability and how likely it is to be relevant, and then making an individual weighting based on what has already learned the software.

The third and final step is the intention to act. This step is aimed at meeting the needs of the user. Most digital speech assistants evolve from answering simple questions such as the weather to doing things when they are integrated into other devices. Think of cars, thermostats, light bulbs, door locks, refrigerators, washing machines, alarm systems and coffee machines.

These 3 core functions of Digital VI not only get better with more data, but are also available as an API (application programming interface) with multiple providers. Companies can use that modularity and choose the best options and combinations to build integrated solutions for their customers.

Although good progress has already been made with digital speech assistants, their development is still in its infancy and we will see this technology come to fruition in the coming years.

 

The future of speech recognition (voice)

The beauty of the future is that nobody knows exactly what is going to happen, but that does not alter the fact that you can make predictions about what you think will happen. This is also nice to see or read years later. We all know the movie from 1998 that asks people if they have a mobile phone.

There are many articles and opinions online about the future and certainly in relation to something as exciting and futuristic as speech recognition. My opinion is also one of many where I foresee that the number of devices that will be connected to the internet will only continue to increase and that the same applies to the number of smart speakers with which more and more of these connected devices can receive commands via voice. You can read articles online that say that by 2020 half of all searches will already be done by voice, but I think this is a bit too ambitious and I would like to add a few more years to that. I am not talking about giving commands to other devices via a smart speaker because that is a step further.

It is, however, impressive to see how quickly speech assistance technology is developing and how it finds its way to our homes. The technology is now seen as the natural way to operate the smart house, thanks to the inexpensive ability to add speech to your installation. And this has been developed to a good level in a relatively short time, which makes it all the more exciting for the future.

 

Siri

Siri was the first to make speech technology mainstream. When this was launched in 2011 with the iPhone 4S, this was a pretty revolutionary addition. Siri was then mainly focused on the device with which it was delivered and therefore, although functional, quite limited. In addition, it was also beta technology that was still developing. At the introduction, Siri also became a direct victim of its own success. Due to the great popularity, the necessary bugs appeared and the back-end servers were not prepared for the questions of millions of iPhone users.

Despite these starting problems, Siri did clear the way for competitors’ speech assistants and also proved that controlling devices with your voice was a function that consumers would like to embrace. Google and Amazon also delved into the development of their own speech assistant. Google Assistant first and foremost resembled Siri by applying natural language processing where it interprets the user’s question and then uses Google’s gigantic databases to look up the answer.

 

Google Duplex

Google has also presented an interesting extension of Assistant under the name Google Duplex. This technology is not only designed to answer questions and make lists, but to become a credible personal assistant who can communicate autonomously and as naturally as possible with others and thus, for example, call a restaurant on your behalf to reserve a table.

Where Apple and Siri have planted the seeds for speech assistant technology, Amazon has been the fastest with Alexa. Amazon has used its power and influence to ensure that Alexa is a piece of technology that is available to everyone, regardless of their budget. And it is a strategy that has worked.

A cautious estimate is that between 60 and 80 million people worldwide now have access to a smart speaker and the vast majority are equipped with Alexa. The Amazon range means that you can have full speakers with built-in Alexa, or that you can make any speaker smart with the Amazon Echo Dot. The voice OS has also found its way to Amazon tablets and, via third parties, everything from fridges to robots.

 

“The future is not that we look down and scroll, but do two things that are much more instinctive and efficient: speaking and listening.”

 
The smart home or office is a complex web of disparate products, but Alexa simplifies your installation by linking them all together and bringing them together. The smartest thing Amazon did with Alexa was to get it out of the Amazon ecosystem and open it up to as many partners as possible. Being a market leader does not always mean that the future of a technology is safe and that you can rest on your laurels. The road to an operating system that functions completely naturally through speech is still far away. There are still a lot of challenges in the field of language, grammar and pronunciation and dialects.

However, the real future of speech assistants could be at the end of our addictive relationship with our smartphones. What are we actually using our phone for? Information, games, communication and maybe even people calling. This is exactly where speech assistance can play a major role. If you use your smartphone as an alarm, why not wake up with one of your favorite songs? And can the lights in your house be switched on, the coffee machine switched on and displayed on your mirror in the bathroom? And all at a certain time or because you say “Good morning Alexa”.

The future is not that we look down and scroll, but do two things that are much more instinctive and efficient: speaking and listening. In the beginning I was quite skeptical about audio as an interface, certainly when it comes to presenting online information. We are so handy and fast with reading and scrolling? Is audio then not less convenient and slower? But now take the rapidly growing popularity of podcasts and audio books and the possibilities to be able to quickly screen or search through audio. Or would the solution lie in screen connectivity? Google and Amazon give their smart speakers a screen like on the Echo Show.

 

Will Google stay King of Search?

Google is now the absolute market leader in search, but it is not self-evident that this will be the case in new areas such as voice or visual searches. The company has a considerable lead when it comes to speech recognition and conversation search possibilities, but the competition is certainly not standing still. Google is no longer the young start-up that has managed to push competitors such as Altavista, Excite and AskJeeves out of the market. Moreover, the earnings model of Google is largely based on the current way of searching and advertising and it will want to maintain this for as long as possible.

Do we all need voicing?

So where does all this leave the future of voice optimization? Many of these possible scenarios have a real chance of success, but it is impossible to predict which direction this will take us. It is therefore quite difficult for brands to develop a strategy for the emerging speech recognition technology.

Start by asking whether voicing is relevant to your brand and how this can help your target group. And that’s just the beginning. Are you going to use this channel directly or do you want to experiment and learn more? And how should the voice be associated with your brand? The technology is of course very interesting, but it must offer added value otherwise it is a gimmick that is just as fun, but does not add any value to your brand.

Masterclass ‘data and creativity’ in the A’dam tower.

Masterclass ‘data and creativity’ in the A’dam tower.

A full tower during our master class ‘data and creativity’. Despite the bad weather the turn up was excellent and at a quarter to six Frank kicked off with a short welcome word and then gave the floor to guest speaker Brian Farley. Brian was the first baseball coach who managed to lead a European country to the World Cup title: in 2011, under his inspiring leadership, the Netherlands became world champion and thereby defeated dominating teams like Cuba and the United States. Of course this would never have been possible without strong teamwork, solid faith in the team’s abilities and room for individual talent. But data also played a major role in achieving this incredible success. The digital transformation is also in full swing in the world of sporst and gives data a more solid basis to build on than gut feeling and personal interpretations.

 

Frank then made a bridge to marketing and why it is not the question for every organization whether they should start thinking and doing digital first, but rather why they have not yet begun to do so. The changes in the last 15 years have been enormous and give a pretty good idea of what we can expect in the coming years. Martin and Lewis is convinced that the combination of (own centralized) data and creativity will help every organization to change and think and do ‘digital first’. A case was then told how Martin and Lewis helps companies, without getting bogged down in large reports and long advisory processes. Creativity also plays an important role here.

 

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The power of creativity

Many brands have more data available than they think and also have an abundance of content. The question is often what to do with it? Here too, if you want to become good at something, you have to do it. This means mapping what you know, experimenting, measuring and learning. Creativity plays a major role in this because, as a brand, you are not the only one trying to attract and retain customers. Creativity ensures that you distinguish yourself from your competitors and you do this best on the basis of your non-copyable distinctive character.

Go for the perfect mix between data and creativity.

Go for the perfect mix between data and creativity.

A well-known and old adage is: “I know that half of my marketing budget is wasted money. I just don’t know which half.” Can big data improve this ratio? Are the beautiful stories published about big data justified? What does this mean if you are looking for an advertising agency for your marketing issue? Do we need creative agencies at all if we have big data? And do these agencies also see opportunities for growth with the help of big data or is it still difficult to mix with creativity?

 

What is big data?

Big data is still a fairly new concept for many companies and the definitions are still somewhat vague. Wikipedia states the following about big data: “one speaks of big data when working with one or more data sets that are too large to be maintained with regular database management systems.” An article from Forbes Magazine mentions a handful of other definitions.

Ultimately, all definitions mean that, by collecting big data, marketers have more information about their customers and potential customers in their hands than they could ever have imagined.

 

Collision course

Experts predict that big data will put advertising agencies and data companies on a collision course. And that companies will no longer place large parts of their advertising budgets with agencies, but with parties such as Google and Facebook, suppliers of data management software such as Acxiom, Targit and Tableau and hordes of startups.

 

“Experts predict that big data will put advertising agencies and data companies on a collision course.”

 

But what are the real consequences for the relationship between data companies and advertising agencies? Will advertising agencies become superfluous in the future? Or do they reinvent themselves and make use of the opportunities that big data offers?

 

Precision, relevance, efficiency

In essence, marketing revolves around one principle: the better you know the customer, the more effective you are. Big data is therefore nothing more or less than knowing your customer better than ever before and a means to improve the precision, relevance and efficiency of every contact by leaps and bounds. But seeing big data as a remedy for all ailments is too much honor.

Effective marketing communication has always worked in two steps.

  • Step 1: Decide what you want to say.
  • Step 2: Determine how best to convey this.

 

Good agencies and the most successful advertising campaigns have always worked this way. The strategy director determines what you want to say as accurately as possible. Often without hard data to support advice. Creative concept makers then consider how you can best say this. In addition, they immediately ensure that the message is not only factual and informative, but also touches the heart of the target group.

If you do not, your campaign may be sending the wrong message, or it is not conspicuous and distinctive enough so that nobody pays attention to it. Anyway: ineffective and a waste of money.

 

Benefits of big data

Big data has enormous advantages for determining the right message. Not only to address large groups of people, but also when you focus on specific people. And because you can target the message with big data so well, it can also result in considerable cost savings for the marketer. Big data can also provide valuable input to tell a message in an inspiring way.

 

Results achieved in the past offer no guarantee for the future

Data, even real-time data, by definition records the past. Big data cannot predict future behavior (yet) accurately. But marketers, and their advertising agencies, are judged by how well a campaign influences future behavior of people.

Consider: how much confidence do you have in the weather forecasts for next week? Or in election polls? Exactly. These expectations and polls are based on the best data, computer systems and software.

 

Customers are just like real people

Small changes in wind and temperature make it difficult to draw up accurate weather forecasts. Just like the wind and temperature, people always change their mind and behavior. This happens for reasons that we often do not understand well or can correctly predict. People just don’t sit still long enough to build a model that can predict a reliable outcome and the success of a campaign. What people will do in the future is therefore not easy to capture in algorithms. No matter how sophisticated your big data is.

 

The magic ingredient

blankA good creative agency expresses what a company wants to say in a form that attracts attention, touches people and sets them in motion. Research by Harvard Business Review shows that a euro spent on a campaign that is judged as creative has almost twice as much impact on sales than a euro spent on a campaign that scores low on creativity. This effect increases if a campaign is used longer and more widely. That is why creativity is still the magic ingredient for good communication.

 

“creativity is still the magic ingredient for good advertising campaigns.”

 

Psychology and statistics

The most important role of advertising agencies is to change consumer behavior. Most agencies, however, mainly employ employees who understand how people behave. There are still few advertising agencies that also know statistics.

Is your own company ready for big data?

Companies must adjust their business operations to integrate big data into their marketing. According to Thomas Davenport, author of the book Big Data at work, this means that companies can answer questions such as:

  • What data influences the success of my business?
  • Where do I get this data, how do I keep it, how do I make it clear and what are we going to do with it?
  • How do I ensure a continuous flow of big data and how do I distribute the information to the people who need to work with it?
  • How do I make my company agile enough to respond to new information and changes quickly?
  • Do we have the right business resources to get started with big data?

 

Big data and the advertising agency

Smart agencies embrace big data.

  • They know that big data can help enormously in developing creative ideas and increasing people’s engagement with brands. This makes campaigns more effective and gives clients more value for their marketing euros.
  • They hire people with specific knowledge of big data so that they can continue to communicate clearly with their clients and understand each other.
  • They ensure that their employees understand that big data helps to deliver better, more effective and therefore more valuable campaigns.

 

Collaborate

Even the largest agencies will not become experts in all the ways in which big data is collected, analyzed and managed. That is why agencies will have to enter into partnerships with companies that are good at it. Some of these companies will already be pushed forward by the customer. In other cases, agencies themselves choose their partners in this area and in yet other cases partnerships will arise through mergers or acquisitions.

These partnerships help agencies to formulate the “what” more clearly. Agencies can then continue to focus on how best to convey the message.

 

Great growth opportunities for client and agency

blankCompanies invest a lot of time and large amounts in big data. This indicates how important and valuable they think big data is. They therefore expect their advertising agency to share that conviction. If not, they will switch to another. Agencies that succeed in bridging the gap between big data and developing effective campaigns add a lot of value to their customers.

It is therefore high time that agencies learned to use big data. Not to become nerds, but to understand how you use information from big data to develop better creative ideas that move people.

 

The first 5 steps towards a role for big data in the creative process

In order to gain real insight into potential growth opportunities, it is important that all parties involved are open to this. For agencies, this means gaining knowledge and / or joining the right partners. For brands, this means the willingness to share more than just your target audience and your marketing budget.

  1. Provide insight into your numbers, and not just numbers about “the entire market” and “the entire industry.” Share these numbers with your desk. Only here surprising insights come out.
  2. Be open about your budget and share your desk. If you are afraid that they will use it, you will probably still see your budget as a waste of money and not as an investment.
  3. Consider your marketing activities as an investment rather than a cost item. Encourage your desk in this.
  4. Be prepared to try other – performance-based – forms of collaboration. This makes the relationship between agency and client stronger. After all, you are in the same boat.
  5. Do not change course completely, but experiment with a few smaller projects and accept that it takes time.

 

Where do you see opportunities when you look at big data in the creative process? Let me know. Do you have good tips? Then I would love to hear that too. And if you would like to talk as a result of this article, then of course you are very welcome at the Bloemgracht!