Wearables as a category has not met the (perhaps unfair) expectations of the technology sector. Smart home products have had issues and consumers have rightly been concerned about the implications of ‘cloud with everything’. Here is what some of Silicon Valley think
A panel from the VC firms based on Sandhill Road debates what they think is the biggest technology trends at the moment
It all kicks off at the 5:40 mark.
Communities have marked time in different ways. It used to be marked by the bells of a church or the clock on a local factory. At that time, it didn’t matter that the clock told the precise time, but that it was consistent. This meant that different ‘time zones’ existed in areas separated by little distance.
The amount of reference time pieces expanded as mechanical clocks were installed in churches, farm estates and early factories. In the case of factories the change of shift was often punctuated by the blast of a fog horn.
I can remember this being the case even during my early childhood at the nearby Unilever factory. The change of shift signal marked my walk to infant school.
Over the centuries canals sprang up throughout the country as the first mass transport link, facilitating the movement of heavy goods such as coal and iron ore in a more efficient manner. Canals were transformative, but the boats still only moved at the speed of the horse. Railways broke the ‘horse speed’ barrier. This was transformative because it suddenly shone a light on inconsistent time keeping across the country. Railway timetables couldn’t incorporate all the variations in time zones between stations, so it became the arbiter of accurate time.
Over time radio and television played their part, audiences could set their watch by the start of key news programmes, for instance the time pips in the run into BBC Radio 4’s today programme or the Angelus chimes on RTE Radio 1.
The telephone came into play when looking for an exact time (to reset a watch or alarm clock) outside the broadcast schedule.
The popularity of mobile phone networks didn’t have as much of an impact as one would have thought. NITZ (Network Identity and Time Zone) was an optional standard for GSM networks. It has an accuracy in the order of minutes. A competing standard on CDMA 2000 networks used GPS enabled time codes that were far more accurate.
Modern timekeeping for the smartphone toting average person goes back to NTP; one of the earliest protocols in for the early internet that was created some time before 1985.
Back in 2001 when I installed the earliest version of macOS (then known as OSX 10.0 ‘Cheetah’) the date and time settings made reference to Apple owned NTP servers that were used to calibrate time on the computer. This infrastructure has since provided time to Apple’s other computing devices such as the iPhone and the and the iPad.
We are are now living on the same time. Time synchronisation happens seamlessly. We tend to only realise it when there is a problem.
Beck is the co-founder of Riot Games (best known for League of Legends) on the rise of eSports and what its future looks like.
Interesting that Riot are trying to give players a better base to build their careers, but how long is their professional life, when do they burn out?
I had the chance to read around a lot of the stuff that happened at Cannes and listened to Ogilvy’s webinar on VidCon. Here were the key things that struck me.
There is blind faith amongst brand about the benefits of influencers and social. I find this particularly interesting because it represents a number of challenges to the status quo:
- This first struck me when I saw Heather Mitchell on a panel at the In2 Innovation Summit in May. Mitchell works in Unilever’s haircare division where she is director, head of global PR, digital engagement and entertainment marketing. I asked the panel about the impact of zero-based budgeting (ZBB) and the answer was ducked. ZBB requires a particular ROI on activity, something that (even paid for) influence marketing still struggles to do well
- The default ethos for most brand marketers is Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know. Most consumer brands are in mature categories, engagement is unimportant; being top of mind (reach and repetition) is what matters
- Brands were looking to directly engage with influencers at VidCon with trade stands and giveaways at the expo. This was brands like Dove. Again, I’d wonder about the targeting and ROI
Substitute ‘buzz marketing’ for ‘influencer marketing’ and this could be 15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong I had great fun doing things like hijacking Harry Potter book launches when I worked at Yahoo!, but no idea how it really impacted brand or delivered in terms of RoI. Influencer marketing seems to be in a similar place.
Publicis and Marcel. Well it certainly got them noticed. There has been obligatory trolling (some of which was very funny). I tried to make a sombre look at it here: Thinking About Marcel (its about a nine minute read) – TL;DR version – its a huge challenge that Publicis has set itself. One interesting aspect to point out is the differing view point between WPP and Publicis. WPP has spent a lot of time, effort and money into building a complete advertising technology stack including advanced programmatic platforms and analytics.
WPP hoped that this would provide them with an unassailable competitive advantage. The challenge is that the bulk of growth in online spend is going to Facebook and Google – who also happen to have substantive advertising technology stacks.
I can’t help but wonder if this shaping is Publicis’ top line thinking? Scott Galloway posted a very sombre chart about this. If Google and Facebook hit their combined revenue targets this year, it will have a dramatic effect on the number of people employed in the major advertising groups.
To put Galloway’s numbers into context, the projected number of jobs lost in the advertising industry this year would be roughly the equivalent of every man and woman around the world currently employed at vehicle maker Nissan. And that’s just 2017.
If you paid attention to the Marcel concept film you would have noticed that the client service director is partly displaced when a client uses Marcel to directly reach out to Publicis experts.
If Marcel, just makes information easier to access internally; it could save the equivalent time equating to almost 1,600 employees (out of Publicis’s current 80,000 around the world).
People equate to billings as these marketing conglomerates are basically body shops in the way they operate. So it will adversely affect the value of the major marketing groups.
If that isn’t grim enough, Galloway doesn’t even bother to take into account the Chinese ecosystems which is digitising at a faster rate than the West. China also has a longer history of platforms and clients being directly connected – cutting out the media agency.
These changes in the advertising eco-system has huge implications about the erosion in brand equity over time. Amazon’s move to surpass other retailers also is about the erosion of brand power. Combine this with the increasing ubiquity of Prime and all brands start to look the same as private labels.
Thankfully the disciples of Byron Sharp still realise that there is power (and lower CPMs) in using television as a mass-advertising medium which is why FMCG product still spend 90% of their budget offline.
The best thing IPG, WPP, Omnicom and Publicis could do right now is spend a lot of money ensuring that every marketing and MBA student have copies of Mr Sharp’s books. If they haven’t been translated into Chinese, that might be an idea as well.
SnapChat is in its difficult ‘second album’ phase. Back when music came on physical media and record labels invested in developing artists as a longer term proposition than a reality TV series there was the ‘second album’ phase. Artists often struggled to bottle the lightning that gave them a successful first album. They usually had the money and resources to throw at it, but it was hard to be a consistent performer.
For example Bruce Springsteen only really became successful in the U.S. with his third album Born To Run – that level of record label support wouldn’t happen now.
On one level SnapChat has matured. It had a big presence at Cannes and its Snap glasses displaced VR technology as the worn product. It has been under assault. Major content providers like the BBC are choosing Instagram’s stories over SnapChat’s offerings. Even Twitter is getting back in the picture. Ogilvy’s team at VidCon talked about how Twitter had been successfully engaging with influencers and offering them support and attractive content monetisation offers.
Last week has seen people looking back at the launch of the iPhone. At the time, I was working an agency that looked after the Microsoft business. I used a Mac, a Nokia smartphone and a Samsung dual SIM feature phone. At the time I had an Apple hosted email address for six years by then, so I was secure within the Apple eco-system. I accessed my email via IMAP on both my first generation MacBook Pro and the Nokia smartphone.
Nokia had supported IMAP email for a few years by then. There were instant messaging clients available to download. Nokia did have cryptographic signatures on app downloads, but you found them on the web rather than within an app store.
At the time BlackBerry was mostly a business device, though BlackBerry messaging seemed to take off in tandem with the rise of the iPhone. The Palm Treo didn’t support IMAP in its native email application, instead it was reliant on a New Zealand based software developer and their paid for app SnapperMail.
Microsoft had managed to make inroads with some business users, both Motorola and Samsung made reasonable looking devices based on Windows.
The iPhone launch went off with the characteristic flair you would expect from Steve Jobs. It was a nice looking handset. It reminded me of Palm Vx that I used to have, but with built in wireless. Whilst the Vx had a stylus, I had used my fingers to press icons and write Graffiti to input text. It looked good, but it wasn’t the bolt from the blue in the way that others had experienced it.
But in order to do work on the Palm, I had a foldable keyboard that sat in my pocket.
By the time that the iPhone launched, I was using a developer version of the Nokia E90 which had an 800 pixel wide screen and a full keyboard in a compact package.
I had Wi-Fi, 3 and 3.5G cellular wireless. I could exchange files quickly with others over Bluetooth – at the time cellular data was expensive so being able to exchange things over Bluetooth was valuable. QuickOffice software allowed me to review work documents, a calendar that worked with my Mac and a contacts app. There was GPS and Nokia Maps. I had a couple of days usage on a battery.
By comparison when the iPhone launched it had:
- GSM and GPRS only – which meant that wireless connectivity was slower
- Bluetooth (but only for headphone support)
- No battery hatch – which was unheard of in phones (but was common place in PDAs
- No room for a SD, miniSD or microSD card – a step away from the norm. I knew people who migrated photos, message history and contacts from one phone to another via an SD card of some type
I wasn’t Apple’s core target market at the time, Steve Jobs used to have a RAZR handset.
As the software was demoed some things became apparent:
- One of the key features at the time was visual voicemail. This allowed you to access your voicemails in a non-linear order. This required deep integration with the carrier. In the end this feature hasn’t been adopted by all carriers that support the iPhone. I still don’t enjoy that feature. I was atypical at the time as I had a SIM only contact with T-Mobile (now EE), but it was seemed obvious that Apple would pick carrier partners carefully
- There was no software developer kit, instead Apple encouraged developers to build web services for the iPhone’s diminutive screen. Even on today’s networks that approach is hit-and-miss
- The iPhone didn’t support Flash or Flash Lite. It is hard to explain how much web functionality and content was made in Adobe Flash format at the time. By comparison Nokia did support Flash, so you could enjoy a fuller web experience
- The virtual keyboard was a poor substitute for Palm’s Graffiti or a hardware keyboard – which was the primary reason that BlackBerry users held out for such a long time
- The device was expensive. I was used to paying for my device but wasn’t used to paying for one AND being tied into an expensive two year contract
- Once iPhones hit the street, I was shocked at the battery life of the device. It wouldn’t last a work day, which was far inferior to Nokia
I eventually moved to the Apple iPhone with the 3GS. Nokia’s achilles’ heel had been its address book which would brick when you synched over a 1,000 contacts into it.
By comparison Apple’s contacts application just as well as Palm’s had before it. Despite the app store, many apps that I relied upon like CityTime, MetrO and the Opera browser took their time to get on the iPhone platform. Palm already was obviously in trouble, BlackBerry had never impressed me and Windows phone still wasn’t a serious option. Android would have required me to move my contacts, email and calendar over to Google – which wasn’t going to happen.
Publicis Groupe announced two things in the past week that caught the attention of the industry:
- Withdrawing for 12 months from all promotional activity spend including the Cannes Lions awards
- A Groupe-wide 12-month digital transformation fronted by a personal assistant app
You can’t look at either in isolation, they are both linked together.
Why the withdrawal from promotional activities?
There are various speculative takes on this:
- Other groups doing better at Cannes Lions this year had caused them to ‘take their toys to go home and sulk’. I hadn’t looked at the Lion awards scores, but I wouldn’t think that this is the reason. Clients would react negatively to it. Clients have egos too
- Cannes Lions have gotten too expensive. Running events on the Côte d’Azur has never been cheap. The hotels can charge premium rates, due to demand being greater than supply. The GSMA World Congress moved to Barcelona in 2006 for this reason. Cannes can still run a good event and the infrastructure is ideal for advertisers. Other groups like WPP have pared back their spend but not cut it completely
- It’s designed to focus spend on the things that matter for the next 12 months. This was one reason articulated by Publicis. The spend involved isn’t going to make a significant difference. At least, not on a project of the scale outlined by Publicis
- It’s designed to focus staff on the things that matter over the next 12 months. I think that this is a key factor. Marcel is a software layer for a wider culture change the ‘Power of One’. Forcing the agencies to work together to provide a full deep offering for the client. This creates an internal market for services, skills and knowledge. There is no use having a development team if you can tap into Sapient. This also leads to a de-duplication of capability, increase in efficiency (% billable time). It also reduces duplication of knowledge creation – tap into it wherever it is. You would need to balance this against client confidentiality
- It’s a PR stunt. If handled well Publicis could gain a lot of positive coverage from this. It’s a classic example of what Sun Tzu called ‘The Void’. It’s also a bloody expensive PR stunt – so one would have to presume this is a collateral benefit. What happens if Sapient doesn’t match what’s in the concept video 12 months from now? If it does succeed then Publicis ends up with a solution would help market their business – business eating its own dog food, as advertisement
Let’s move on to Marcel itself
It’s hard to deconstruct a corporate video to get a firm idea what the underlying form might be. The truth is that the underlying form may not even exist yet as a product brief. It takes time to coalesce an offering from high concepts to prototyping these concepts with a sampling of users. From then on you go to mapping out the functional requirements of the product and build it in a series of short sprints. Once you have a minimum viable product and tested it, you may want to tweak your project direction further.
However, when you dig into it, Marcel isn’t only about an app, but re-engineering most of the IT infrastructure as well in order to support the machine learning capability. Marcel will find it harder to learn if the data is fragmented in drives with different permissions, online services or even offline.
Carla Serrano describes Marcel as:
A professional assistant that uses AI machine learning technology across our 80,000 people in 130 countries to connect, co-create and share in new and different ways.
This won’t be like Alexa Home managing your calendar and your Spotify playlist.
AI is put in there for audience members who wouldn’t know what machine learning is. A nice succinct definition below via TechTarget:
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. … The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining.
Let’s tease out the functions
- Connect – could be anything from an intranet directory to a social network a la Facebook Work. The key element for success would be to get people to complete their profile and for the content to be validated. From personal experience, it is best if you get people to do this right at the point that you are on-boarding them. Getting a mass-push on employees doing this would be a campaign of attrition since there is always a client call to do, pitch to write or creative concept to develop. The information could be pulled across from HR systems, business planning, time-tracking / accounting systems and scraping LinkedIn profiles but all the data will be sub-optimal. How do you ensure consistent quality data on staff expertise? The key benefit of machine learning would be pulling information capacity and personnel career ambitions alongside mining the profiles. What I’ve talked about in this paragraph is a major undertaking of data integration in itself
I’ve ignored messaging as a function as most agencies use multiple channels for messaging including Slack, email, Skype/Lync or SMS. A messaging service might be built in, some of the interfaces could be ‘call-and-response’ chat bot style interactions.
- Co-create – Co-creation could just be building a virtual team through the connection functionality, if its a platform in its own right what would that mean? Google co-creation platforms and you get 14,900,000 results. There are lots of options, opinions and descriptions of how to implement a platform to do it. Publicis could use some of these commercial off-the-self platforms. Decisions would have to be made if the co-creation would facilitate synchronous or asynchronous co-creation. Where do you want to have it involved in the process? Discovery, strategy, creative briefing, ideation, concept development? Is bolting Box.net accounts, Basecamp or Jira co-creation and where would the co-creation process benefit from machine learning?
- Sharing – Back in the mid to lated 1990s knowledge management was a thing for technology marketers selling into enterprises. The idea was that a mix of data mining software (Autonomy or SAS Institute) would allow you to tap into the written knowledge across your company. Of course, it didn’t work out that well. Google tried a similar thing with its own Search Appliance hardware sold to enterprises. For a business like Publicis whose product is data, insights and ideas, the potential implications are huge
Based on Google’s Return on Information: Improving your ROI with Google Enterprise Search white paper here are some rough numbers that I came up with.
The notional productivity gain is worth well over $400,000,000 in additional billable time, or like having almost 1,600 additional staff at little additional cost. The key word in all this is ‘notional’.
So what’s the downside to the factors outlined in the top-level view of Marcel?
- Client confidentiality – imagine if you’re a client and you realise that your documentation within an agency can be searched for beyond the account team and could be used in ways that you don’t know about? This isn’t an unsurmountable problem, but it is something that I am sure Publicis would be thinking about
- Changing working habits and culture – the most valuable files will be spread across Dropbox-like services, in email exchanges, on file servers, personal computers (Mac and Windows), USB sticks and optical media. Software can look at unstructured data to try and make sense of it. But it needs access to the files first. As a manager how would you feel that you lose control over work assigned to your staff. How would you assess their work for their appraisals?
- A marathon of sprints – this a huge IT undertaking across hardware infrastructure, networks and access. That’s before you’ve considered software development. On its own it would weighty task – in reality it will be a large amount of iterative tasks, any number of whom could delay or damage Marcel
Understanding the context for Marcel
The second half of the video is concept film of how Marcel would work in practice. It was likely put together to give voice to functionality rather than also thinking about tone. I would not be surprised if this was reused from an internal presentation to showcase the vision of Marcel to key stakeholders. The film has tonality in it is a bit concerning, I suspect it’s unintentional. If Marcel works as promised we would be in new territory for corporate culture however.
Having watched it reinforced to me:
- The technical scale and ambition Marcel represents. It is a huge undertaking from a technical point-of-view
- Marcel is just the start of the hard work for Publicis.
How do you ensure a culture that continues to attract and retain the top talent as the organisation gets Marcel operational?
- What does it say to women (or men) who might want certain amount of work life balance due to family commitments or a desire to upskill?
- How would it handle organisational politics?
- Lesley might be requesting talent for his energy client but how would his demands be balanced against those of their line managers or other people in the business?
- How might it redefine the role that line managers play for colleagues?
The partial removal of client services as a gate keeper between Jamie the client and Publicis talent was interesting. It would make client services job to get their arms around all the business opportunities in the client much harder. It would also be more attractive to certain clients who would feel more in control of their account.
Themes in the film:
- Marcel is being used at night or in the twilight – usage massively extending the working day. Agencies aren’t really a 9 – 5 lifestyle at the best of times, but this video implies even less work-life balance as standard working practice. The introductory dialogue is shot at twilight and Alex the Asian American strategist, sits in an empty office at night time. Lesley is in the artificial time of an subway station and even the Arc de Triomphe dropped in is shot in twilight
- Marcel is mobile – and being used out-of-the office in most of the film. This implies that the work day has no boundaries. Does it imply that mobile devices are no longer for reacting to urgent emails, has the balance of work expectations changed to zero-downtime always on proactive working? How would an agency team be able to keep their thinking fresh over the medium and longer term?
- Marcel is desktop – Alex uses Marcel on a desktop computer and the web service provides a Statista like set of visualisations for data. The implication being a large amount of research source integration (social insights, market data, Kantar media data???). This would also affect third party licenses as information is pooled
- The dialogue implies a ‘Siri’-like experience on the mobile app, except that it understands what you’re saying. Marcel is far more articulate conversationalist than Siri, Google, Alexa or my banks interactive voice system. He’d probably score highly on Tinder due having a personality. I suspect most of this is a plot device for storytelling. Alex gives voice to his key strokes and Marcel is manifested as a search box rather like Bing using a desktop computer. Lesley the South African client service person is not talking to his phone as he moves up the escalator – he is literally giving voice to his thoughts. He sounds stressed.
- Jamie the client from a bank is an interesting vignette. She has direct access to Marcel as a client facing tool and it is suggesting Publicis contacts to her, normally you would expect a client services person to be that interface.
- Ines, the copy writer in Brazil has the most positive experience portrayed. Marcel understands her complex career aspirations and offers her opportunities to work on an Indian project. It looks as if she is doing this work at home, again reinforcing ambiguous message on work / life balance?
- All of the people are alone, Marcel is not shown being used in a normal office environment. Marcel becomes your team?
Marcel is the business equivalent of playing high stakes poker. If it is pulled off successfully it would put Publicis in an excellent position versus it’s competitors. However there is a lot that can go wrong from a technological and organisation perspective.
I don’t know how much of this can be realistically achieved in the 12 months that Publicis seems to have given itself? It strikes me that this is likely to be a transformation that would require much more time in order to fully match the vision outlined. From a cultural perspective the challenge of ‘break, build, bond’ hides the level of complexity and change going on.
The biggest risk is what happens if Publicis doesn’t meet the wider industry expectations of success with Marcel? How will that affect client perceptions of them, or their ability to hire talent? How would it affect Sapient’s standing as a technology company?
- The difficulty in finding and installing other apps inside Messages. Many users aren’t aware of the functionality. This is different to the ‘interface as oldster barrier’ that SnapChat had. DoorDash – a Deliveroo analogue dropped a support after a few months due to a lack of users. Apple took a second run at this with iOS 11 trying to improve discoverability
- Apple 3D touch isn’t used to drive contextual features by app developers
- The Apple Watch’s mix of crown, button and small touch screen made ‘lean in’ interactive apps hard. The Apple Watch interface isn’t learned by ‘playing’ in the same way that you can with a Mac or an iPhone. Apple’s forthcoming watchOS update looks to have Siri ‘guess’ what you want. It wants to provide contextual information to users (and reduce interactions)
- WeChat – the take up of mini-apps in WeChat have been disappointing performers. Is this indicating a possible ceiling for functionality?
- Consumers didn’t know they had a need, its hard to get consumers to build new habits. Forming habits can be hard
- They were a bitch to sign up with. Yahoo!’s sign-up process killed products. It’s a fact. We’d get consumers hyped up, we’d deliver them to the relevant page and they wouldn’t convert. I didn’t blame them, if I wasn’t an employee or digital marketer I’d have done the same
- Both Flickr and Slack had common key team members
- Both products fell out of failure. Flickr came out of tools for Game Neverending. Slack began as a tool in the development of Glitch
Bill Moggridge, designer of the GRiD Compass computer – the world’s first laptop thought a lot about ergonomics. The laptop had a 11 degree slope from pop-out leg to the keypad. This is something that your MacBook Pro or Surface doesn’t have. There is a lack of depth in technology design compared to what Moggridge had. He brought in psychologists and studied human computer interaction. He eventually co-founded IDEO.
Whilst the elements that Moggridge looked at were well known the thinking doesn’t seep into product categories. We are very good at asking can a product be made. We are poor at asking what does the product really mean. Apple’s viewpoint on the tablet segment is a case in point.
The vast majority of tablets are used for lean back media consumption from watching films and reading books to reviewing emails. It can work as a productivity device in specific circumstances with custom built apps – say field sales or replacing a pilot’s flight paperwork. The keyboard and power of modern Macs (and PCs) provide a better tool for content creators; whether its analysing a spreadsheet or writing this blog post.
Yet, since its launch by Steve Jobs, Apple has viewed the iPad as a new PC. The iPad Pro has been designed to try and catch up in features with the Mac. It is ironic that Microsoft has moved a slim ‘MacBook clamshell design’ analogue into its latest Surface range. It is very different to the pragmatic design ethos of China’s ‘shanzhai’ gadget markers who came up with both laughable and smart solutions. Everything from the dual SIM phone to the phone / electric razor hybrid. Successes bloomed and oddities slipped into the night.
There was a mix of hardware and software updates. Apple put a lot of focus on virtual reality, augmented reality and prepping their operating systems for handling larger amounts of data. There was work done to further optimise video and photo usage on device.
The event offered bad news for online advertisers and a number of consumer electronics manufacturers. Online advertising using retargeting or autoplay video is going to be blocked in Safari. The new HomePod speaker took aim at ‘casual hi-fi’ like Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins and Bose.
Apple is working very hard to try and understand user intent, which is one of the first pieces it needs to put in place to develop the experience of a truly programmable world. What do I mean by a programmable world? A ‘web of no web’ where device intelligence behaves as if it understands user intent like a good valet. It is moving in a stepwise manner towards this.
What was more surprising is how Apple has gone big on VR and AR creation and consumption. Whilst video post-production houses probably have the most to complain about when it comes to Apple’s Pro equipment, they are not name checked. Apple has started to move to address their concerns. The external graphics support in macOS implies that a furture Mac Pro will have the software to match hardware.
More details by platform:
The name High Sierra implied an OS update that might seem incremental to consumers, but has major technology changes under the hood.
- Data – Apple File System as default (many features similar to Sun Microsystems’ ZFS). Faster for file swaps and giving a faster computer experience
- Video – better quality video algorithms with smaller file sizes and integration with
- Graphics – upgraded Metal API – Apple had been using it on machine learning applications within the OS. Metal 2 has been used to accelerate system level graphics and provides access to app developers. There is OS support for external graphics accelerators. The external graphics developer kit is based on AMD Radeon card.
- MacOS supports VR through Metal for VR. Steam, Unity and Unreal supporting VR on the Mac. Apple seems to believe that VR and AR content is the desktop publishing of the 21st century, they have gone hard on making the best creators platform that they can
- Autoplay blocking – which will impact advertising network video views
- Intelligent tracking prevention – positioned to target advertising retargeting and cross-site tracking
- Uses machine learning to improve searching and photo recognition and integration with photo-editing
- 50 media partners integrated into TV app
- Amazon is coming to Apple TV. Interesting move of detente between Apple and Amazon
- Machine learning APIs – to help adoption of CoreML on device for third party apps
- ARKit – to aid AR in apps. Clever work done on scaling and ambient light. This about providing a market for the content which which would be created on the Mac
- Chinese specific features: including support for QRcodes, SMS spam filtering. Chinese users have a particular set of contexts and these innovations could become popular in the west
- Interface tweaks in control centre and the lock screen.
- Improving discoverability of app stickers and apps – much needed
- Automatic synchronisation of Messages across devices, delete once, delete across all devices
- Person-to-person payments as an iMessage app. Obvious competitor would be WeChat in China and PayPal in the west
- Improved expressive nature of the voice.
- Follow-up questions, presumably to improve context
- Provides translation services
- Siri integration into a wide range of apps including WeChat and OmniFocus They’ve tried to use on-device learning to try and improve context and being helpful. Siri knowledge is synched across devices. Uses web history to improve Apple News and custom dictionary spellings
- Indoor navigation for airports
- Better image compression to save space on device. New depth API that can be accessed by 3rd party apps
- Video autorotates a la Snapchat / Snap glasses
- Apps now reviewed in less than 24 hours
- First app redesign in nine years. Tweaks to improve discoverability and merchandising of apps including in-app sales
- The biggest feature in watchOS 4 is the Siri-powered face. The Siri-powered watch face provides contextual information on the ‘home screen’. It takes into account past habits, time, location etc. Apple’s language around this was interesting, they described it as an ‘Intelligent proactive assistant’.
More details by hardware
- iMac – improved displays, brighter and support for 1 billion colours. Moving to Kaby Lake Intel processors. Up to 64GB of RAM on the iMac and 2TB SSD. Discrete Radeon graphics cards on larger iMacs. – big focus on VR development.
- MacBook – Kaby Lake processors. Pro machines get updated graphics as well. The MacBook Air gets a processor boost.
- iMac Pro – single piece machine with workstation specification including 10Gbit Ethernet. Presumably as an interim measure until the Mac Pro arrives next year. How upgradeable would the iMac Pro be, which is a key consideration for workstations
- iPad Pro – 20% bigger screen, 120Hz screen refresh rate. Doubling default memory sizes up to 512GB
An all-compassing phrase that I’ve heard being used by Chinese friends Hēi kējì in Pinyin or black technology. It’s been around for a couple of years but recently gained more currency among people that I know.
It is used as a catchall for disruptive / cool innovative products. What constitutes ‘black technology’ is subjective in nature but generally Chinese would agree on some examples such as:
- Magic Leap
- Microsoft Holo Lens
- Bleeding edge silicon chips with an extraordinary amount of memory or machine learning functionality built in
- Tesla self-driving cars
The key aspect is that the product as ‘magical quality’ in the eyes of the user. Technology companies have tried to use it in marketing to describe the latest smartphone and app features like NFC, gesture sensitive cameras and video filters. Your average Chinese consumer would see this as cynical marketing hype. Xiaomi had been guilty of this over the past couple of years.
As technology develops, the bar for what represents black technology will be raised higher.
According to Baidu Baike (a Quora-like Q&A service / Wikipedia analogue) it is derived from the Japanese manga Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル·パニック! |Furumetaru Panikku!).
In the manga black technology is technology far more advanced than the real world. An example of this would be ‘Electronic Conceal System’ – active optical camouflage used on military helicopters and planes in the manga. It is created by the ‘Whispered’ – people who are extremely gifted polymaths who each specialise in a particular black technology.
In the manga they are frequently abducted and have their abilities tested by ‘bad organisations’ who support terrorism. Whispered also have a telepathic ability to communicate with each other. If they stay connected for too long there can be a risk of their personalities coalescing together.
The display advertising market has moved on from where it was 20 years ago in terms of poor ad placement. Conference speakers and trainers still trot out the same story about knives and suitcase sets advertised next to to the story of a murder. The murderer had apparently stabbed their victim with a knife and put the body in a suitcase for disposal.
However you still get less extreme examples of unfortunate ad placement like this one from Under Armour.
I had this book on my list of to read materials as it was a proto-cyberpunk novel, and finally got past my inertia when John Markoff recommended it.
Brunner was a British science fiction writer who did his best work in the 1960s and early 1970s in this book he reflects on a connected world not too far away from the one that we live in. Despite Brunner’s roots he manages to speak with a confident American voice in his writing; something that I don’t think is a bad thing, but caused friction with his contemporaries.
The main protagonist is a hacker who has used his skills to conjure new identities and ends up starting a revolution through the creation of computer viruses and worms. Brunner is credited with introducing the concept of the modern computer worm.
His work reflects a different society to our own where our identities can be broken (if you have the skill or the money) and a new one forged – a vision 180 degrees away from what governments, advertisers and social networks want. He is on to something with The Ear – a service that audiences can contact and will be listened to in privacy and without judgement. The secular confessional it represents feels like something the world needs as a counterweight to the cognitive dissonance and connectivity-as-social-value of social networks like Facebook and SnapChat.
I recommend that readers check out Richard’s PR is at a Crossroads post. Edelman cites changes at PR agencies owned by marketing conglomerates as indicators. He thinks this due to a lack of confidence in the PR industry. There may be some truth in it; 2016 had the lowest annual growth in seven years for Edelman. As for the industry sitting at a crossroads, on the cusp of transformation. It is already being transformed.
Public relations has already crossed the Rubicon. The Rubicon crossing happened years ago. Richard noticed the signs back in April 2011:
…as PR continues to expand, encompassing digital, research, media planning and content creation, should we consider rebranding ourselves as communications firms?
At the time the question was prompted from London colleagues. Richard disagreed with the premise.
By 2012 Edelman was in the AdAge Agency A-list in the US. In March 2015, Edelman’s boiler plate changed from:
Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm…
Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm
Edelman hasn’t been a PR agency for the past 2-5 years. The transformation in the industry has been going on for at least a decade.
Why this has happened is down to six factors:
- Mature research and academic thinking on effective marketing
- Technology-driven marketing strategy
- CMO perspectives shaped by marketing thinking
- Advertising changes
- Media landscape changes
Mature research and academic thinking on effective marketing
Lets break things down a bit, some bits of PR are about the corporate parts of a company.
Corporate PR covers a large area including:
- Public affairs
- Educating investors
- Shoring up shareholder confidence
- Internal communications
- Community affairs
Some corporate and social responsibility actitivities could fall under PR. When we’re talking about who is responsible for organisation moral purpose /meaning. This should come from the CEO down.
Thinking about marketing communications the situation changes a lot. It depends on the sector and the audience that you are communicating to. For consumer marketing; the role that PR plays as part is a subordinated part with the marketing mix. Byron Sharp’s works How Brands Grow (parts 1&2) outline PR’s small, but intricate role with clarity.
For mature consumer brands, engagement (and by extension PR) is less important. Instead the focus would be on efficient reach and frequency of repetition. Being top of mind is more important. The only way for marketing communications-orientated PR teams to grow their billings is service expansion.
Technology-driven marketing strategy
Many business-to-business marketers are using content marketing as a key channel. The content shaped by analysis from marketing automation software.
In marketing automation, strategy is outsourced. Rules embedded in the software platform dictate approach. PR becomes a source of content to feed the machine. The idea is to determine an effective approach. Then optimise to reduce the price of engagement over time. I could write a blog post or two about the problems with this approach, but it is tangental to PR. Content creation is an opportunity for PRs, all be it one with perpetually squeezed margins.
Mature research and academic thinking on effective marketing
In B2C marketing there are large research projects on what works. These include Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and the IPA. In marketing mature consumer brands, we know that reach, frequency and recency matters. Engagement is less important. Public relations then becomes an afterthought at best. Taking an integrated media planning led approach makes sense.
There isn’t a comparable set of research for the PR industry like IPA or Ehrenberg-Bass. Outside the US public relations generally doesn’t have budgets for tools and data. Clients tend to be more action-orientated. Media agencies tend to have the best insights – which aids planning and creative.
The benefits of an integrated advertising-led approach goes back decades. Edelman cites Y&R’s ‘whole egg’ concept. Dentsu’s ‘Cross Switch Marketing’ is similar with roots going back to the 1960s. The PR industry mistook integrated thinking for a primitive view of PR practice. The reality lies somewhere between communications myopia and macro marketing thinking.
From a CMO perspective
- PR spend is a small part of their budget. It may not even sit in their budget if there is a CCO (chief communications officer) role in the company
- PR isn’t supported by good quality secondary insights like the IPA or Ehrenberg-Bass
- Advertising works
- Advertising agencies foster high trust through visualisation of ideas backed by insights
- Media relations is low cost, low efficiency but can be high engagement
- Integrated simplifies the client/ agency dynamic (one ass to kick)
- Successful integrated agency engagements. Examples include Red Fuse (Colgate), GTB (Ford, Purina) and TBWA Media Arts Lab (Apple)
- The memory of Enfatico has disappeared
Edelman has done a better job than most agencies in getting digital and paid media talent. I’ve worked as an in-house marketer. I have worked as a PR person. I’ve also worked in PR agencies doing digital and paid media. I now work as a strategy director in a creative ad agency and the difference is huge.
For most specialists working in a PR agency can be thankless task:
- PR agency leaders don’t get other disciplines. This is particularly true outside North America
- I’ve worked with too many agency leaders who think digital is an infographic or a video
- The briefing process in PR agencies is awful. ‘We’ve got a video, make it viral’ was the worst brief I had
- Outside North America budgets are very tight
- You can get better working conditions elsewhere. Tools, people you can learn from, research and ambience. Real conversation at a PR agency: “can you wear a shirt and suit?” “Why?” “We’d just like it” “Can I quadruple my day rate?” “No, why?” “That’s my inconvenience of wearing a suit fee”
- PR agencies don’t win the awards that matter to us. PR publications wring their hands about the lack of PR wins at the Cannes Lions. This matters for your career
If you have capability built up in the ad agency, creative shop or media agency; use it. Publicis, WPP and Interpublic have deep expertise they can draw on. Publicis talks about this as ‘The Power of One’. It is much easier than recruiting more technical, creative and planning talent into a PR shop.
As PR has changes so has advertising. There is a far greater understanding of what efficient and effective looks like. While I lament the the decline of advertising’s golden age; multichannel storytelling has improved. Advertising agencies have learned how to combine earned and paid media. Earned media is an incremental revenue increase.
By comparison creative represents a big budget bump for your PR agency. That causes the client to pause and think.
Media landscape changes
As advertising has changed so has the media landscape. The online environment is shaping out with two winners around the world. The pattern of online advertsing spend is clear. Everywhere outside China online advertising is static; only Facebook and Google see increases. In China, is is Tencent due to WeChat that wins. Sina benefits from Weibo. Baidu would have been an obvious winner due to it being a Google analogue. Instead Baidu’s earnings have been static.
This decline in media fortunes adversely affects editorial space. This impacts the efficiency of media relations. By some accounts in the UK there are now 3 PR people for every journalist. PR agencies need to expand beyond media relations. This means trying to get more involved in owned and paid media. The challenge is that advertising agencies are also in that space – extending their storytelling.
PR not communications | 6am blog – yeah I called bullshit on this one. I could afford to be right; Richard had a global family business to defend
Whole Egg Theory Finally Fits The Bill For Y&R Clients: Global Agency Network Of The Year: Team Space System A Winner For Citibank, Others Set To Follow | AdvertisingAge
The Dentsu Way – a great book, right up there with Ogilvy on Advertising in my estimation