• Impact of tech on jobs: The future still needs humans, but of a different kind

    POSTED ON: Jul 22, 2017

  • Impact of tech on jobs: The future still needs humans, but of a different kind

    Read the story on The Economic Times


    Imagine a world where your car drives itself, your fridge does the grocery shopping, your coffee machine senses you nearby and automatically pours you your favorite brew and robots work alongside you. The times that we are living in are probably one of the most exciting and equally challenging to be alive in.

    We are in the midst of a scientific and technological revolution. Space travel and robots working alongside humans are no longer termed as science fiction. Technology is driving most of the changes and is making the world smaller as we speak. Disruption has become a new normal. In the fast changing technology landscape, it is interesting to analyse what the future will holds when it comes to us, our jobs, the workplaces, industries at large, and finally, our planet.

    The biggest development in recent times have been in the area of artificial intelligence. Everything is going to be able to move around the world autonomously as AI will help people make decisions and enhance lives. AI is a specialized technology that can help in making statistical guesses based on enormous data sets, but they have no real understanding or comprehension of the tasks they are performing. There are reams of paper being written about the impact of this technology on jobs across industries. So does that mean we still have a chance?

    Yes, we do but will have to orient ourselves differently. The future will belong to a new breed of talent, the ones that are multi-dimensional and are able to navigate a constantly changing world with ease. Here are some attributes that will help you stay ahead of the game.

    - Love for learning
    Learning is dynamic and on-going. Today, the most important skill organizations look for in their talent is learnability. According to the World Economic Forum, up to 65% of the jobs Generation Z will perform don't even exist yet and up to 45% of the activities people are paid to perform today could be automated using current technology. The need of the hour is people with completely different skillsets. With technology becoming obsolete at such a rapid pace, people are expected to learn, unlearn and relearn on a constant basis.

    Read the full story here

    • I went to San Diego Comic-Con and ended up in Westworld

      POSTED ON: Jul 21, 2017

  • I went to San Diego Comic-Con and ended up in Westworld

    HBO’s visit to Delos Inc. is a highlight of the convention

    Read the story on The Verge


    HBO’s series Westworld has sparked some useful cultural shorthand for describing any kind of live entertainment where participants directly engage with actors and environments to create their own story. A Disney resort where people can have their own Star Wars adventures? That’s a Westworld. An 11-month-long immersive experience where participants try to save a young woman from a supernatural cult? That’s a Westworld, too. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a total shock that when it came time to promote its own show, HBO decided to just bring the real thing to San Diego Comic-Con International.

    The goal of Westworld: The Experience is exactly that: give visitors an idea of what it would feel like to step inside the television show itself. Designed by New York-based marketing agency Campfire, it doesn’t bother with virtual reality or other technological gimmickry. It’s a tactile, human experience, relying on sets, props, and a cast of wonderfully dedicated actors to work its magic.

    The journey actually begins at a hotel next to the convention center. There, a player piano plinks out the various rock covers and themes from the show, while a massive sign for the Westworld park — A Delos Destination™, it specifies — hangs nearby. The mood is instantly set by two Delos representatives, clad head-to-toe in white, who help guests sign up for their visits later in the day.

    When I arrived for my appointment at the actual venue (it’s nestled in San Diego’s nearby Gaslamp Quarter), my group was greeted by another host, who guided us upstairs into the Delos offices. And when I say “the Delos offices,” I mean it felt exactly like stepping into one of the company’s offices, as seen on the show. Behind a frosted glass door, a large video screen played the Westworld promotional reel, and another group of hosts showed us the clothing, weaponry, and costumes used in the park.

    Bringing out props and costumes is a go-to for the promotional installations that pop up at places like Comic-Con and SXSW. But there was already an important distinction setting this experience apart. We weren’t being showed costumes from the show Westworld. These hosts were showing us items that were being used at Westworld, the resort. It was a subtle distinction — a signal that we were having an “in-show” experience rather than a promotional one — but it set the tone for what was to come.

    A table filled with guns and knives dominated the room, and as I peered closer, one of the hosts asked me which weapon I preferred. His performance was so committed, so perfectly in sync with the hosts in the series, that I found myself playing along earnestly. I told him I would have normally picked a gun, but that the large bowie knife had caught my eye. Then, running with the moment, I presented him with a real concern: “If I kill a host in the park, will it feel like killing a person?” I asked.

    He leaned in. “If you can’t tell the difference, does it matter?”

    Now, I know he was riffing on a line from the show. What I don’t know is whether that was a stock rejoinder the actor had ready for this kind of exchange, or a moment of pure improvisation. Either way, it didn’t matter. It was a pitch-perfect Westworld response, with even the actor’s delivery filled with moral ambiguity and a dark call to action. And I was completely hooked.

    y group of six were slowly split up and taken to processing rooms, where we would each have one-on-one evaluations to determine whether we were mentally fit for what was ahead. In the hallways, the attention to detail was remarkable for this kind of event. Every single door had a specific label and purpose; when I asked about the pained moans coming from behind a door marked “R&D,” our host had a ready response. “That’s our research and development lab,” he said. “But this trip, we’re focusing on Westworld.” A reference to the slaughter at the end of the first season? A tease for what’s to come? It could have been either, but every moment and piece of signage had been considered, perpetuating the illusion of being wrapped inside the show.

    As for the evaluation process itself, I can only say it was an example of how effective interacting with a good actor can be. I was asked a series of questions: what percentage of my dreams I would characterize as nightmares? If I had to lose a finger, which would I pick? They all had a vaguely Voight-Kampff feel, but it was the performer, reacting to my responses in real time while nailing the slightly detached, perfectly pleasant vocal characteristics of a Delos host, that brought it to life.

    For my final question, I was presented with a dilemma: I’m in a saloon with five other people when bandits burst in and kill everyone. The outlaws offer me a gun, and the opportunity to join them, leave, or fight back. What would I do?

    I don’t want to reveal my exact answer, but when it came time for the host to choose either a white or a black hat for me, she opted for the latter option.My group reconvened and we were shown a brief promo video — this was actually the weakest part of the experience, because it broke the illusion everyone else had been so busy creating — and then we walked down a long hallway toward a single door. It was the entrance to the park itself: the Mariposa Saloon.

    At this point, the experience essentially turned into a low-key, themed cocktail party. An actor at the bar played a riff on Thandie Newton’s character, Maeve Millay, while another player piano provided the musical accompaniment. Behind the bar, the bartender (a Chicago-based mixologist named Paul McGee) prepared three different speciality cocktails for my group. It wasn’t exactly authentic to the saloon in the show — the real Westworld usually comes across as a “straight whiskey or nothing” kind of place — but the drinks added an air of high-end trendiness that did seem like it would be in line with Delos’ clientele.

    As my group started talking among ourselves, we compared notes about the various answers we’d given our different hosts. That’s when I realized the final question suggested a scenario where I would be in a saloon with five other people when violence broke out. And there I was, standing in a saloon with five other people.

    That violence never materialized. The experience ultimately petered out with a Delos host entering the saloon, ushering us back into the real world and out of the company’s offices. But for 30 minutes or so, Westworld: The Experience actually did an incredibly good job of opening the door into a fictional world and ushering my group inside. Comic-Con has only just begun, but I’m already comfortable saying that the Westworld experience will be one of this year’s highlights for me — if not the highlight.

    Brand activations and promotional experiences are never-ending at place like Comic-Con, and they often get fans in the doors by relying on whatever new technology trend is emerging at a given moment. It’s how you end up with conventions full of mediocre Samsung Gear VR movie tie-ins. But HBO and Campfire leaned away from from that trend, focusing instead on real, human interactions. The results aren’t just fun, they’re aligned with the themes of the shows being promoted.

    With the rise of theme parks, escape rooms, and immersive theater, it’s clear that audiences have an increasing appetite for entertainment experiences that go beyond passive screen-watching or traditional gaming. The popularity of the Westworld show itself might be further proof, and with massive corporations like Disney embracing the trend to lure audiences away from their living rooms, these kinds of projects will only become more ubiquitous. What’s wonderful about something like Westworld: The Experience is that it’s a perfect gateway drug: a way for people who have never seen a piece of immersive entertainment to kick the tires and see what it’s like to be present in a fictional world, or play a scene opposite an actor.

    The only downside is that the installation will only be running through this Sunday at Comic-Con. Westworld: The Experience could easily be remounted in different locations in the future, and HBO does have a history of touring things like the escape room installation it brought to SXSW this year. But if you’re at Comic-Con and enjoy Westworld at all, don’t think twice: go.

    • An open letter to bank shareholders

      POSTED ON: Jul 20, 2017

  • An open letter to bank shareholders

    Banks are entering the era of open banking. What are the five major signs that your bank is in danger of becoming a high-cost utility? Louise Beaumont has some advice for bank shareholders.

    Read the letter on


    Dear Bank Shareholder …

    In less than six months, the competitive environment in which your bank operates will undergo a massive transformation, and your dividend is at serious risk. It’s already obvious that customers’ expectations are shifting, and competition to offer better, faster and more personalised experiences is emerging everywhere – led by innovative fintech companies and tech titans in financial services. But what you as a shareholder must realise is that the nature of competition in banking is also changing, and with it the way that banks will create value in future. This is because they are entering the era of open banking.

    Open banking is mandated by regulators in the UK and Europe who now require banks to create digital gateways (Application Program Interfaces – APIs) that enable data to flow freely in real-time between separate organisations. For a business used to hoarding confidential customer information, this is a rude awakening, and it’s unavoidable.

    The key point about APIs is that they are inherently tools to enable collaboration between different data owners – once my data can combine with your data, we have a richer set of information to analyse for new insights that can lead to new services and experiences. This is the world in which companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook have always operated; one in which they draw together ever larger pools of data as the raw material for new and better services. This is also the world in which banks will now have to operate.

    The risk for a bank that doesn’t engage fully in this new way of working is that it will end up as a provider of back-end infrastructure – a dumb pipe on which others will build the high-value services that become essential, daily fixtures in customers’ lives. What are the five major signs that your bank is in danger of becoming a high-cost utility?


    Treating it as an inconvenience

    If the bank you’ve invested in seems to regard open banking as an inconvenience or a threat to grudgingly comply with rather than the essential nature of its market from now on, you should be worried.


    Losing visibility, not customers

    Check your own bank statement. If it shows entry after entry that says Apple Pay or PayPal, or it consists of some direct debits and a monthly payment to Visa or MasterCard, you should be worried. One of the first signs that your bank is turning into a back-end utility is that it’s losing visibility of what its customers are doing. Once someone else has created a layer of service that sits on top of the banking utility and doesn’t feed valuable customer data back into the bank, the bank’s own data becomes generic and its value starts to degrade. How can it then create value from that data? Who owns the truly valuable data and therefore has the right to monetise it? And not only that: how can the bank feed its fraud detection and credit algorithms properly without detailed, high-quality information?

    This isn’t a threat that will show up in the customer numbers – just because the customer hasn’t closed their account doesn’t mean your bank hasn’t lost them. All it means is that the customer may be carrying out all their high-value activity with someone else and using your bank as the plumbing provider. No one who has opened a Monzo account has left their bank – it just can’t see what they’re doing any more.

    If your bank talks more about the number of customers it has than what it knows about each of them individually, as a shareholder you should be worried.


    Me-too products, missing the point

    Look at the digital products your bank is developing. If its response to innovative products and services from other providers is to build a near-identical in-house replica, you should be worried. One of the biggest risks is that incumbents misunderstand the nature of the threat they face from data-driven entrants. Uber isn’t a taxi-hailing app, it’s a data company redefining the way people connect with services. To try to compete with Uber by building a me-too taxi-hailing app is to misunderstand the seismic change in the nature of the competitive environment.

    For banks, this means that “jumping straight to product” in response to a competitor’s innovation is a cause for concern. In the era of open data, banks must find partners with whom they can combine their pools of data to gain fresh insights into their customers’ needs, and ultimately create new services. The value of those services will be shared between data owners and service innovators – in a world where data flows freely, no bank is an island.


    Not prioritising tech talent

    It is no coincidence that the most successful and highly valued technology companies have open data at their core. This is the environment in which the most talented technologists want to work, therefore this is how companies attract the best minds. If your bank is struggling to hire high-calibre data scientists at volume (or isn’t even attempting to do so), as a shareholder you should be worried.


    No data partnerships

    In the open data era that’s beginning, your bank will gain competitive advantage by collaborating more effectively with other organisations, large and small, to understand and release the value of the information it holds on its customers. This represents a new way for banks to create value. Whether or not the bank you have invested in decides to follow this approach, others certainly will.

    And you can bet that whoever does, their goal will be to get as close to the customer’s day-to-day experience as possible – not to manage the utility bank plumbing on which their service is built.

    Yours and so on, Louise Beaumont.

    • Welcome To The Age Of Exponential Technology

      POSTED ON: Jul 19, 2017

  • Welcome To The Age Of Exponential Technology

    Read the story on


    We are undergoing a massive change in the way the world works. In the information age, computers got faster, smaller, networked, and then mobile—but it took decades to happen. We are now in the connected intelligence age, which started with the big data revolution and continues with the widespread adoption of machine learning. And after just a few years in this era, we are already at the upward inflection point of its growth curve.

    This is what we call exponential technology. We’re no longer on a linear path of technological innovation that our linear brains can comprehend and manage on their own. The connected intelligence age has taken hold. Technology is multiplying at an explosive rate. And if digital leaders get engaged now, the very technologies that are growing so rapidly will equip them to get ahead of exponential changes to come. If not, by the time you realize exponential technologies are going to completely disrupt your company, it’s too late.


    Not Just Buzzwords

    Cognitive computing, augmented and virtual reality, and the internet of things are some of the exponential technologies that marketers and IT organizations have heard about for years. But they can no longer be ignored. Now is the time for deeper exploration of the concepts, models, and technologies that will help future-proof business.

    For our thesis topics in SapientRazorfish’s Chief Marketing Technology University—a yearlong, executive MBA–style development program focused on marketing fundamentals, communication and influence, marketing technology, and attitude and behavior—we delved into three key facets of exponential technology affecting brands today.

    • Artificial intelligence: No technology is more exponential than artificial intelligence. Within AI, the most relevant types of systems for marketing are machine-learning systems. Using supervised learning techniques, machine learning can identify gaps in the customer journey and generate real-time insights to improve the next customer touch point instantly—even across a journey that includes thousands of touch points. The inherent speed and automation enable organizations to capture data, turn it into insights, and maximize customer engagement at a level no human team could ever match.

    Google and Microsoft, for example, have massive amounts of data about consumers. They’re innovating their tools and models to ensure brands jump on their cloud platforms to get access to that data, especially in AI tools, to help understand what consumers are doing and what they want.

    Chatbots: The shortest distance between a brand and a customer is a conversation—which explains why chatbots are such an important subset of AI. Although chatbots have come and gone throughout the digital age, two recent Gartner findings clearly illustrate why conditions are ripe for their widespread growth:

    20% of interactions on smartphones will be through virtual assistants by 2019.
    There will be 2 billion zero-touch interfaces by 2020.
    The chatbot problem that persists in marketing is that human language is nearly limitless, as well as ambiguous and highly contextual. Despite our best planning, no conversation ever goes exactly as expected. But as virtual and zero-touch interfaces grow, customers expect more open, natural conversations, which require exponential commitment. Brands today need to not only account for all the myriad possibilities but also ensure conversations are uniquely and valuably branded, then managed, tracked, and analyzed by the right tools and team. As with machine learning, every failure is an opportunity to learn more about the customer, as long as a recovery plan is in place.

    • Content: Everyone knows that content is king. And many brands are creating excellent content today. But content and data are growing exponentially. In fact, 90% of the data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years alone.

    So how do you plan, create, and manage content for all the devices, browsers, aggregators, and data available today and tomorrow? In the midst of exponential change, the solution to overcoming these challenges, creating positive customer experiences, and growing content capabilities that achieve results is structured content. When teams think outside the interface and instead break their content into discrete, well-tagged chunks with accessible, semantic HTML markup, machines and humans alike can easily understand, discover, and display it.


    The Time Is Now

    No one knows what’s next, but we do know that investing in exponential technologies is a bet digital leaders need to be making—or risk being disrupted beyond repair. Some competitors may have already begun, and even had some success, but no one is so far ahead that they’re unstoppable. Yet.

    Begin by determining key metrics. What is the organization trying to accomplish: conversion, engagement, or something else? Then focus on the customer journey as a whole. Make personalization a priority. As tempting as it can be to look at one siloed channel at a time, no customer interacts with brands that way. Don’t hand the whole initiative to a vendor, either; no one knows a company’s goals or customers better than its own teams, so find a true partner and stay involved. Keep testing. Prepare for failure, and foster a culture that sees it as a learning opportunity.

    Exponential thinkers get to elevate themselves above repetitive tasks and focus on strategic thinking. With the right technologies and structures in place, digital leaders will ready for whatever comes next in the connected intelligence age.

    • Godiva reimagines business in the digital age

      POSTED ON: Jul 11, 2017

  • Godiva reimagines business in the digital age

    Read the story on


    Successful retailers — and those that want to be — are seeking ways to digitally transform their customer experience in all channels. Whether mobile, in-store or online, these retailers are striving to build a multi-faceted relationship with customers that will keep brands fresh and hold customer interest.

    Chocolatier Godiva began creating its sweets in Belgium almost a century ago, and today has more than 600 owned boutiques and a retail presence in over 100 countries. The New York-based company is in the process of unifying its selling aspects — online, mobile and in-store — concentrating on its website and mobile views to begin the transformation.

    Godiva’s overall objective was to design an online experience to meet customer needs and anticipate their preferences. From introducing visitors to new products to helping them with mobile checkout, the chocolatier sought to put the customer at the center of the experience, says Brita Turner Fielding, head of Godiva’s North America e-commerce.

    To accomplish its goals and objectives, Godiva partnered with digital/creative firm SapientRazorfish to design and launch an enhanced e-commerce site. Fielding says the goal was to showcase product while addressing customers’ most pressing challenges with its previous online and mobile experiences.

    Transforming per customer

    SapientRazorfish began as a digital technology company and transitioned to an experiential company over the last 10 to 15 years.

    “I believe it has expanded our range that our roots are in technology,” says John Conroy, associate creative director for SapientRazorfish. “It has helped us know what we can do in technology for clients and how to do it to handle creative projects.” The company has over 100 clients ranging from global conglomerates to niche fashion brands and usually has projects going for 20 companies at any one time.

    “When SapientRazorfish kicks off an e-commerce project, we start by learning as much as we can about the brand — their business goals, existing strategies and technologies, pain points,” Conroy says.

    “At the same time we’re gaining a deep understanding of the customer’s goals. We need to evaluate from both points of view to build something successful for the business and the customer.”

    The company has worked with Godiva for five years, says Lauren DeGeorge, senior account director for SapientRazorfish, and has concentrated on Godiva’s website design and performance over the last two to three years.

    “We knew we had to upgrade Godiva’s e-commerce platform and brand presentation,” DeGeorge says. “Each webpage must be customer-centric, and Godiva’s has targeted content for its diverse loyal fan base.”

    Enhanced filters and sorting capabilities were created to help visitors find specific products within different categories, such as chocolate type and price, to further condense their selection. To simplify navigation on the Godiva website, the number of top-down categories was reduced and a left-hand menu incorporated to help people quickly find what they want.

    “Godiva has made a significant investment in beautiful photography and content, and that’s key to elevating the experience. The photos are helping the customer ‘taste’ the chocolate with their eyes,” Conroy says.

    “In user testing we saw again and again the customer attempting to zoom into chocolate boxes, and reacting super-positively to all the images, so we knew this was a high-value area.”

    The website was further enabled to be fully responsive across all devices, especially mobile. “With a new e-commerce platform, customers can now browse the site anywhere and have the content automatically fit their screen,” Fielding says.

    “It is important to build the entire digital experience around customers. You can make something truly amazing (and expensive), but if your user is not clicking, you have just wasted a lot of money,” Conroy says. “Sometimes it is the little things, like copy in the navigation that can make a huge difference in where traffic is being driven on a site. Consistent testing helps validate we’re making the right decisions.”

    With the changes to its online presence, mobile traffic to has surged in recent years; Fielding says there has been an over 25 percent increase in mobile traffic from 2014 to 2015. Site views from mobile devices increased by 45 percent.

    Make it easy

    Since Godiva is known as a gifting destination, “It’s important to give customers the tools to understand the breadth of product, and help them choose the right gift. Or if they know what they want, get them in and out as quickly and easily as possible,” Conroy says.

    “Ultimately we try to strike a balance between brand storytelling and transacting. Sales and gifting are important for a brand like Godiva, but it’s also a prestige purchase, so we endeavor to keep the digital experience elevated, as if you were purchasing from a physical location.”

    SapientRazorfish made enhancements to Godiva’s checkout process, featuring a new streamlined order summary page so that customers can review and edit their order — including delivery options — without leaving the checkout flow. With checkout and shipping enhancements, Fielding says, customers can make mobile purchases with the same ease as in a store or on a desktop.

    Godiva’s research showed that one of customers’ biggest checkout issues was in shipping orders to multiple addresses, a process that can be both time-consuming and cumbersome. To make the process more intuitive, saved addresses and scheduling calendars are now included within purchase pages, allowing customers to easily send their orders where and when they want.

    “Checkout is often overlooked in a redesign process, but we often find it a point of heavy frustration, particularly when you’re buying multiple items,” Conroy says. “Prioritizing an improved checkout flow is a win for users and the business.”

    The enhancements translated into real results for Godiva, including a Cyber Monday sales increase of 8 percent and a conversion rate increase of almost 5 percent, according to Fielding.

    At the same time, cart abandonment fell by nearly 15 percent.

    Godiva continues to promote its physical locations with store-only items to entice customers, DeGeorge says. Spur of the moment self-treats are an important in-store indulgence. Since much of Godiva’s business is naturally centered on cooler weather holidays, summer is a time for attractions such as Godiva soft serve treats to keep the brand top of mind and customers loyal.

    Digital transformation, for Godiva and other businesses, is a must for retail now. “At the end of the day, a website is a living, breathing thing,” Conroy says. “You can’t set it and forget it. Your site is never done.”

    • Cognitive Computing - Future of Retail?

      POSTED ON: Jul 10, 2017

  • Cognitive Computing - Future of Retail?

    So, what is really Cognitive Computing? In the simplest form, it is the simulation of human intelligence and thought processes using connected computer systems i.e, systems that can think, reason and learn with the goal to take an action. It uses various capabilities to achieve this – natural language processing, speech and tone analysis, image recognition, weather and location, to name a few.

    Read the story on Economic Times


    Unlike yesteryears, today, it is highly likely that you will hear the word ‘cognitive’ in your professional conversations at least once a day (if not more) though the context in which people use ‘cognitive’ vary significantly. While researchers started discussing intelligent computer systems and cognitive computing in the 1950s, people started paying attention to the real world applicability of systems with cognitive capabilities in 2011, when IBM Watson, the super computer competed and won on the popular TV show Jeopardy.

    So, what is really Cognitive Computing? In the simplest form, it is the simulation of human intelligence and thought processes using connected computer systems i.e, systems that can think, reason and learn with the goal to take an action. It uses various capabilities to achieve this – natural language processing, speech and tone analysis, image recognition, weather and location, to name a few.

    Cognitive computing in retail – The Promise

    Based on a recent survey by IBM, 83% of the retail executives believe cognitive will have critical impact to the future of their organization. While the promise of Cognitive Computing is to change the world, business leaders are a bit slow to adopt this into their day to day businesses. Even in a fast paced industry like retail, there are more proof of concepts than end to end business solutions offering cognitive capabilities. Let’s examine how a retailer could significantly up the game with Cognitive capabilities.

    A recent Forester study of online users reveals some of their key pain points of shopping online:

    • 45% ofUS internet shoppers will abandon their purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their questions.
    • 50% of potential sales are lost because visitors can’t find what they are looking for or it is not personalized for them.
    • 29% of Online users prefer to use online customer service, during the purchase journey

    This is one of the reasons why people still enjoy visiting a physical store nearby, interacting with the store associate to get personalized recommendations, pricing and promotions for completing the purchase journey.

    How about combining the convenience of online shopping with the personalized attention and recommendations from the store sales staff? Sounds impossible or way too futuristic? Think again. This is exactly what cognitive capabilities in retail promises to offer - Understand the customer better in real time and inspire them with relevant product recommendations and content to enable enhanced business outcomes – be it better customer engagement, or better conversion. Many of the building blocks for this disruptive capability exists today. Key question is – are the retailers ready for adopting them?

    Is cognitive a big deal?

    Well, Yes and No. If your view of cognitive is limited to implementing Natural Language Processing (NLP), or a basic Chat Bot, it might give the consumer a differentiated experience but it might not really help retailers fulfill the promise of Cognitive. The journey needs to be made more rewarding by leveraging the capabilities of learning, intuition etc.

    It is estimated that 80% of world’s data is unstructured. Typically, retail consumers add billions of tweets every day and similar number of Facebook posts on the products they reviewed, experience at a store and various other sentiments – largely in the form of text, images, and videos. In the Cognitive era, this chatter is one of the most important data set that can be used for proactively engaging them at an emotional level. Historically, most retailers focused on behavioral and demographic data of the customers to provide a differentiated customer experience. Unfortunately, this hasn’t achieved the level of personalization that the consumers were expecting. So, how can retailers leverage other data elements that are relevant to the consumers and derive insights to make the experience even more engaging? This is the opportunity that is knocking the doors of retail businesses. If we were to believe the forecast by leading players in the cognitive space, this market is estimated to be around $ 2 trillion globally in the next decade, which is indeed a big deal.

    So, how can retailers benefit from cognitive solutions?

    Retailers have just started to scratch the surface by adding some basic Cognitive capabilities to their channels. Some common application areas that are becoming popular are – solution for information exchange using an automated human like agent (a.k.a ChatBot), providing ability to develop a conversation using natural languages, or a providing virtual way finder inside the physical store.

    This is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. The real value of end to end cognitive solution will be realized once the retailers start looking at ‘Consumer touch points’ holistically and start using that data to make the experience hyper personalized. Nowadays, customers research well before buying products and services and they listen to their physical and virtual friends before narrowing in on options. Retailers need to listen in, be part of this journey and make intuitive recommendations. This would require some of the Cognitive platforms, data streams from relevant systems, learning algorithms, and more importantly, the business team’s ability to monitor the system’s learning and evolve it continually towards more accurate and effective outcomes.

    So, where do we start? No doubt – it starts with understanding the concept of probabilistic decision making and the difference between probabilistic Vs deterministic systems. So far, business decisions were made based on deterministic systems that takes a certain input and based on the fixed logic or rule, an expected output is provided. This notion is changing with a probabilistic approach of cognitive systems where learning is at the center and system learning without being explicitly programmed for, is a new paradigm that IT teams and businesses need to get familiar with.

    Who are the enablers and key players

    Given the hype and opportunities, every major technology platform vendor and startup companies are jumping into the Artificial Intelligence / Cognitive bandwagon. IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, just to name a few. IBM, with its much hyped Watson platform, has an obvious lead in this space, but it is only a matter of time before others catch up.

    Even with all these platforms and point solutions, why are the retailers still far from the dream of hyper personalized experiences for their customers? And that is probably the biggest puzzle to be solved. Given that every retailer is unique in terms of the business models, positioning, target customers, IT systems etc and the problems that they are trying to solve are very specific, no ONE platform can solve it for them. And the answer lies in the retailer’s ability to stitch together an end to end solution that brings all of these together to solve it for consumers.

    • NRDC, Ad Council Raise Awareness to Fight Food Waste

      POSTED ON: Jul 01, 2017

  • NRDC, Ad Council Raise Awareness to Fight Food Waste

    With a little help from the Ad Council and SapientRazorfish, the Natural Resources Defense Council hopes to make reducing food waste the next great conservation effort

    Read the story on


    Turn off the lights.

    Don’t leave the water running.

    Separate the recycling from the garbage.

    What about the dinner leftovers?

    Social awareness campaigns have tackled everything from saving the rainforest to stopping animal abuse to vaccinating children. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is now aiming to add food waste reduction to this list, potentially making “Cook it, store it, share it” the next “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”

    The ball is rolling on the undertaking, with the “Save the Food” campaign one year old as of April. The posters have gone up, the media partners have come aboard and, quite importantly, the audience has taken note and asked questions. Once everyone has learned the issue and acknowledged the role that they play in an issue, the definition of social awareness has been accomplished. Truly successful campaigns, though, actually change consumer behavior. It’s difficult to say how many consumers have reduced their food waste, but the table has been set.


    Planting the Seeds

    The “Save the Food” campaign was sparked by research from Dana Gunders, an NRDC senior scientist in the food and agriculture program. Gunders kept seeing statistics on food waste during her research, and the findings were so impactful to her that she shifted the scope of her work. The result was a 2012 report titled “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.” The paper explores all parts of the supply chain in which food is wasted and found the largest amount of waste occurs at the consumer level.

    “Because of all that waste, there’s a huge amount of environmental impact that takes place,” says Nora Mango, senior integrated marketing manager at the NRDC. “Everything from the amount of methane released based on the amount of food that would be decomposing in landfills—food is the single largest contributor to landfills in the U.S.—to the amount of wasted water, fertilizer and crop land that is being dedicated to a product that never goes anywhere.”

    This $162 billion in wasted resources seemed to the NRDC an issue easily fixable and apolitical. The potentially wide appeal of the matter seemed the perfect fit for partnering with the Ad Council, whose bread and butter is looking at which issues need a spike in awareness.

    “We felt there was a really good opportunity to use communications to reach people with tangible tips and tools, so they could start mobilizing in their homes to not waste food,” says Michelle Hillman, head of campaign development at the Ad Council. “Right away it’s one of those issues where it wasn’t on people’s radar. And the minute that you raise awareness about it, people start thinking about things they can do to change their behavior.”

    The Ad Council, in turn, pulled in ad agency SapientRazorfish to design the campaign pro bono. The imagery is simple and highlights statistics from the NRDC. Many of the campaign assets include a photo of a food item—a milk carton, bread, eggs, chicken breasts—stamped with “Best if used.” The abbreviated version of the common food label phrase is intended to underscore the idea that consumers should spend less time trying to decipher labels and more time actually using the product. Each asset also includes the “Save the Food” slogan, “Cook it, store it, share it.”

    The “Save the Food” website takes these simple instructions much further, providing tips for food storage, cooking and more. Gunders even published a how-to on the topic, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food.” David Serrano, client services director at SapientRazorfish, says his agency has worked closely with Gunders on the campaign.

    “This is a combination of Dana’s knowledge at the NRDC, coupled with research that we did internally to understand what the common thread is in food that consumers are wasting and the tips they were looking for,” Serrano says. In year two of the campaign, Serrano says the team is considering how to evolve the content.


    Fertilizing the Crops

    The team chose to target mothers and millennials, the former being household gatekeepers often pressed for time, and the latter in the early stages of food decision-making, which was seen as a key intervention point to make a food waste behavior change.

    “What we didn’t know going into this, and that we’re learning from our continuous tracking, is that PSA awareness and the recognition on the creative is shifting more significantly among millennials,” Mango says. “Not only are they developing habits that could help to make a real long-term impact in this [by] teaching their growing families and their friends, but they’re more aware of what’s happening.”

    Millennials’ obsession with food has been well-documented. Author Eve Turow told The Atlantic in 2015 that the millennial focus on food is largely the result of technology. Constant screen time has caused some sensory deprivation, she said in the interview, noting this generation senses an increased feeling of isolation. Food creates a near-perfect answer to these two issues: Grab a meal with all its sensory fulfillment, and make it a communal experience.

    The “Save the Food” campaign is reaching out to these demographics on the platforms they already use when seeking recipes or other food advice. The Pin Factory from Pinterest, which acts as a creative studio for brands, implemented “Save the Food” messaging on its site, adding to the campaign’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. NRDC has partnered with Upworthy, Social Native and BuzzFeed. The campaign also worked with the Food Network for a special episode of “Chopped Junior,” in which contestants cooked with food scraps.

    “From a media community perspective, every time we pitch food waste among our other campaigns, it just rises to the top,” Hillman says. “People are coming out of the woodwork to partner on this. It’s an issue that is attractive to the media community because it’s an easy consumer action that can have a great environmental payoff.”

    Serrano says the campaign aims to inspire consumers by engaging with them through the relevant channels and touch points they use throughout the day. But the messaging matters as much, if not more, than the platforms used, and the team aimed to motivate without shaming their audience.

    “There was research done prior to the campaign that broke down these four reasons why people waste food,” Mango says. “A lot of it has to do with people wanting to take care of other people; making sure you’re prepared to provide food if someone came over. It had to do with aspirations when shopping; you hope that you’re going to eat better that week. There’s confusion around storage; a lot of people don’t understand how to store something properly so it doesn’t go to waste or they don’t understand the date labels.”

    Whatever the reason for over-shopping or tossing food, the NRDC and its partners wanted to educate the audience because people reported that food waste is an issue, but didn’t believe they, themselves, waste food.

    “I think that part of this issue is the lack of awareness that people have,” Hillman says. “The crux of the campaign is to say, ‘Despite your best intentions, you’re wasting food and it has this impact.’ The good intentions piece is really important and deliberate. How do we help people take good intentions and translate that into saving the environment [and] putting more money into their pocket?”

    The campaign determined four buckets to focus on that can cause food waste—self-improvement, comfort, security and thoughtfulness—and created tips based on these. Mango says the campaign references back to these tips every time new creative debuts. These tips tend to be widely appealing, Mango says, because of consumers’ great food memories, food storage tips or recipes for leftovers that are passed down through generations.

    “It came down to offering tips on how to keep your food the freshest the longest or how to store it properly in your refrigerator or how to use it when you think it might be going bad,” Serrano says.

    What motivates people, however, is not one-size-fits-all. For some, the monetary aspect of wasting food will be the most impactful, so the campaign offers estimated figures for how much money a household could save by reducing food waste (a family of four could put $1,500 back in its wallet). Some find the environmental figures the most compelling, so the campaign offers those details (the water wasted when throwing out a single banana amounts to 42 minutes in the shower). For others still, the campaign tapped into an emotional component—by way of a strawberry.

    SapientRazorfish created the spot, “The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry,” that follows a single strawberry through its lifecycle. The fruit is picked on a farm, packaged and sent to the grocery store where a little girl begs her mother to purchase the package. Despite the mother’s brief reluctance, the strawberry is purchased, refrigerated and eventually forgotten before it is thrown out. The strawberry even fell in love with a nearby lime along its journey.

    The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry


    “For some people, creating that emotional journey and being able to show the life of the strawberry and the different touch points along the continuum that were wasteful, that really spoke to them,” Hillman says. “And then there are some people who are driven more from that rational facts and figures place. There are some people who were interested in the dichotomy between hunger as an issue in America and the idea of food waste, and we haven’t even tapped into that piece yet on the campaign.”

    Whatever the tactic or motivator, Hillman says they’ve consciously ensured “Save the Food” isn’t an anti-consumerism campaign. The NRDC and the Ad Council aren’t asking people to not shop or purchase the things they need. Rather, they’re urging consumers to only purchase what they know they’ll use.

    “It’s anti-abundance,” Hillman says.


    Time to Harvest

    The campaign is only a little over a year old, but the audience appears to have taken note:

    • Since its launch in April 2016, the “Save the Food” website has garnered more than 1.2 million sessions.
    • About 55% of general market adults strongly agree that food waste is a major problem in the U.S., compared with 51% before the campaign.

    • Recognition of the campaign among mothers grew from 20% in April 2016 to 26% in December 2016. Among millennials, this number grew from 31% to 41%.

    • 57% of those aware of the “Save the Food” PSAs sought information.

    Mango says many people will send the campaign photos of the “Save the Food” posters and billboards they see in their town. They’ve also reached out to the campaign with questions for how to take action on a local level.

    “We want to be sending people posters, more tips, linking them with other partners on the ground,” Mango says. “We start to address some of the next steps into donations and things like that through our community management and social channels.”

    She acknowledges that it’s tricky to direct people appropriately because awareness campaigns are supposed to be broad efforts. As a result of requests, Mango says the team has been brainstorming ways people can leverage the national campaign locally by creating templated pieces for use in schools or designing draft letters. The campaign worked with the Nashville mayor’s office on the “Restaurant Food Saver Challenge,” for example, creating window clings and signs that offer half orders or reminders to take leftovers home.

    “We want to engage cities and we’re saying, ‘We want you to tackle waste on every level. Here’s our staff that can help you do that,’ ” Mango says. “But the easy way to start is implementing our campaign’s assets in the city.” By way of cities, “Save the Food” has made its way onto the sides of waste trucks and into farmers markets. Engagement and education have led the campaign efforts.

    Mike Walker, president and founder of Alter Action, a behavior-change marketing and consulting group, says with so many people who are unaware or haven’t given much thought to food waste, marketing is an appropriate first step. He argues, however, that marketing and advertising can only go so far when it comes to social behavior change.

    “If the only tool you have as an advertising agency is coming up with clever, catchy ads, then that’s what you’re going to throw at a behavior change challenge,” Walker says.

    Studies on the efficacy of public service advertising campaigns show they’re relatively ineffective at changing behavior. Walker says these campaigns are particularly good at the early stages of raising awareness about a problem and providing examples of explicit directions for what the audience should be doing.

    “Those two things are insufficient,” he says. “What you really need is a third piece of the triangle to drive behavior change, and that’s sometimes called choice architecture. The concept is that no decisions happen in a vacuum, so if you really want to have an impact, you need to understand and investigate the point at which people make decisions or act. Sometimes they make them subconsciously, sometimes they don’t think about them at all. You need to understand all the forces that are bearing down on that decision and that’s where you find opportunities.”

    Walker uses an example from his organization’s past work, which aimed to increase organ donors in the U.S. on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. They found that the more anyone talked about organ donation, the more squeamish people became. They also learned of a decision point barrier: when the body came into the hospital. The emergency medicine doctors and transplant surgeons they spoke with said they would estimate that 70% to 75% of people who show up to the emergency room have no identification, making the “organ donor” label on a person’s ID basically null. The point of decision actually came down to what the next of kin had to say. As a result, the campaign focus shifted to educating these decision-makers on organ donation.

    Walker says the food waste issue has multiple decision points, including those at the store when purchasing food and at home when choosing how to store and cook it. The goal is to approach people at these critical points. The home is a much less complicated environment than the grocery store, he says, because the consumer has far more control and fewer influencers.

    “One thing that I like to see in campaigns like this are very explicit instructions for what people should do, and that’s one thing that advertising is great at,” Walker says. “I really like one example on the [“Save the Food”] homepage to keep herbs like cut flowers with their stems in a glass of water. That’s awesome advice. And it’s specific enough that I could do it. What goes wrong a lot of times with behavior change campaigns is we assume people know [what to do next] or we assume that they can translate from a broader goal to a specific behavior. You have to make that translation for them.”

    Walker praises numerous parts of the “Save the Food” campaign, but says one statistic—that each person wastes almost 300 pounds of food every year—may have an unintentional effect: It may normalize the practice.

    “That’s probably an ineffective message,” Walker says. “It’s social norming the wrong behavior. This isn’t guilt necessarily, but what we think the research suggests is that if you look at this you conclude, ‘If we’re all throwing 300 pounds of food away, I’m not doing anything different than anybody else. So what?’ But a more effective approach is to show examples of how people are doing the right thing.”

    Another crucial piece of behavior change is to strip away all possible barriers on the path to making the correct decision. Walker says he would be thinking very hard about what happens once consumer meets food, and he says the prompts provided on the “Save the Food” website are an excellent start. He offers a few of his own examples that could reduce barriers to saving food: asking food grower associations to include tips on the produce stickers to make food last, or creating products that assist in keeping food fresh longer, such as freshness-preserving containers.

    Walker says he has told clients to dismiss what consumers should be doing and consider what would actually make a difference in their current behaviors. If a consumer is handed a simple cup intended for herb storage, the barrier of rummaging through the pantry is eliminated. It doesn’t have to be a major barrier, he notes, but campaigns need to consider a “whatever it takes” approach.

    One such solution could be through technology. “Save the Food” just partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to launch a skill whereby users can ask the device how to store food longer, determine if food is still edible and learn how to revive foods that are past their prime. Hillman says in the future, the ultimate integration could be looping in Amazon Fresh. Consumers could order their groceries through Amazon, and Alexa would know what was bought and could offer information on those items.

    “In the consumer journey, what are the different pieces we can look at or the tools we can give people?” Hillman says. “When they’re in their kitchen and they’re preparing food, what if they had a cutting board that has the right portions so they know how much to use and what is waste? How do we plug in and tie in? There are a lot of tech tools that will probably be part of the next iteration of this while we’re continuing to build awareness.”

    Whether reducing food waste will be the result of enough tips, tricks or web-connected kitchen tools is, as yet, unknown. Enough attention has been drawn, though, that Mango believes reducing food waste could be the next wave of environmental awareness.

    “Food is universal, it’s lifelong, it’s life-sustaining,” Mango says. “That is something that people care more about, whether it’s organics or sustainable or wasted. All of those issues, people are really passionate about. It’s connected to their daily life, it comes into their home and invokes memories. It’s an emotional connection they have. If that’s the way you need to find an emotional connection to greenhouse gases and climate change, great.”

    Making Friends With Ugly Food

    SapientRazorfish’s interns were impacted by the “Save the Food” campaign’s messaging. The summer interns are assigned the task of conceiving and seeing a project the entire way through. The summer 2016 group chose to promote ugly food.

    Former intern Jake Wexler, who helped manage the project, says the group landed on the topic of ugly food because it was something they were largely unaware of, but grew to love. They wanted to make it their mission, he says, to boost awareness of the topic among young millennials. Plus, they were inspired by all the talk they heard about “Save the Food.”

    “From talking to the employees around the office about the impact the [‘Save the Food’] campaign had on them, it inspired us to make that same impact on our target audience,” Wexler says. “We felt like our project was a little brother project to ‘Save the Food.’”

    The “Go Get Shelved” website takes visitors through a choose-your-own-adventure-style game consisting of a land of forgotten produce. On the journey, users learn the benefits of so-called ugly foods and that they are just as nutritious and edible as the rest. Plus, these somewhat unsightly foods are often marked down by the grocer.

    The end of the game provides three calls to action, including sharing the game on Facebook, tweeting at a local grocery store with the #GetShelved hashtag or actually purchasing ugly food. According to Wexler, the project received more than 1 million digital impressions and received high praise from users.

    “Presented in the wrong way it can be a dry topic, but presented in the right way it can be an aha moment,” Daniel DeSimone, an account coordinator intern for SapientRazorfish, told AdWeek.

    • Three myths about commercial banking and transformation

      POSTED ON: Jun 30, 2017

  • Three myths about commercial banking and transformation

    Read the story on GT News


    Today’s banking landscape appears vastly different from just a few years ago: interest rates are up; regulation is expected to decrease; and both people and businesses alike are looking to borrow. All of which adds up to a new reality in the banking industry.

    For retail banks that have spent the better part of the past five years attempting to transform their business to compete in a digital landscape, responding to a changing market is perhaps nothing new. If anything, this evolution may further fuel their transformation journeys as budgets shift away from regulatory upkeep to more sizable technology investments.

    However, it may not be the case for commercial banks, which remained largely on the sidelines during the revolution that swept the retail industry. The needs and preferences of commercial banking clients, such as medical professionals, consultancy firms and manufacturing companies, were vastly different from those of retail consumers and did not necessitate large-scale change. Moreover, the perceived threat of fintechs taking over large share of assets under management (AUMs), deposits and assets on the commercial banking side had been virtually non-existent.

    The result? Commercial banks have not embarked on a transformation in the same way, or on the same scale, as their retail counterparts have. Furthermore, they may not recognise the value in doing so.
    The following offers an examination of several of the most common misconceptions commercial banks may have about digital transformation and explains how embracing digital can lead to greater efficiency and profitability, as well as improved customer relations.

    Myth: Digital transformation is a costly and unnecessary investment for commercial banks.
    Reality: Strategic transformation can lead to increased profitability and efficiency.

    Any significant transformation effort will require an upfront investment. Yet with a thoughtful and strategic approach, organisations can develop and deploy solutions that are designed to improve efficiency and, in turn, increase profitability.

    For example, one of the most important and common services that commercial banks manage is commercial lending and loan origination inclusive of lines of credit, as well as short- and long-term loans. This access to capital is an absolute necessity for customers who want to continue to grow their business – or simply maintain and manage their business operations such as accounts payable (AP), inventory or payroll.

    As commercial banking clients know, the traditional lending process is extremely onerous and time-intensive, often taking up to two or three months for a financial institution to reach an underwriting decision. However, commercial banks have a real opportunity to reduce operating costs, drive revenue and deliver strong client relations through digital transformation. For example, they can use advanced technology, such as machine learning and analytics, to improve staff efficiency, reduce regulatory prep time and even automate some aspects of decision-making.

    Myth: Digital transformation introduces a new level of risk.
    Reality: Digital transformation contributes to improved safety and soundness.

    By definition, to transform is to upset the status quo. Any change can, and often will, introduce new concerns and challenges. Yet again, with a thoughtful approach, the rewards should far outweigh the risks.

    For example, another key benefit of transformation for commercial banks is in the area of loan monitoring and compliance upkeep. Building and implementing a digital capability to detect early loan losses and mitigate risk through real-time monitoring will not only drive operating efficiency, but provide greater transparency at all levels in the organisation, including compliance, finance and audit.

    Further, by developing intuitive, straightforward dashboards with a reporting capability, commercial banks can empower all first and second line of defence leaders to appropriately manage and monitor risk. In addition, commercial bankers will have an improved opportunity to communicate with their clients and understand what issues are affecting them from a business operations and solvency standpoint.

    Myth: Commercial banking clients don’t want a digital experience.
    Reality: A strong digital experience may help strengthen customer relationships and increase banker

    For retail banks, a fully integrated digital experience is a key to survival. On the commercial side, however, the digital experience has been slower to evolve for many reasons, not the least of which being that clients simply don’t expect one.

    Yet as businesses continue to digitise other aspects of their operations – and the people who run them become more accustomed to the convenience provided by the personal banking model – it’s only a matter of time before commercial banking clients will want more digital interactions with their banker and institution.

    While improving the digital experience will undoubtedly require an investment on the part of banks, it could serve as a way to strengthen and expand customer relationships along with driving cross-sell. Ultimately, every business owner has a finite amount of time that he or she wants to spend working on the business – not administrative tasks.

    For those banks that provide an online and mobile experience that is intuitive, provides the opportunity for self-service, or even just cuts down on mail and paper statements, the value is clear. In addition, creating banker-led experiences inclusive of pipeline reports and customer relationship management (CRM) activities will be equally critical.

    New reality: Commercial banks embrace digital transformation… now

    For commercial banks, digital and technology solutions may provide valuable opportunities to improve operating efficiency, drive transparency, simplify the client experience and reduce risk. While it may be tempting to delay major enhancements and transformations that the client does not yet expect, such an approach is unlikely to yield long-term success.

    As banking margins continue to contract, even commercial banks will need to re-think their business model – initially to improve their cost to serve, but over time to win with existing and new clients. To remain relevant, commercial banks must reject the biggest myth of all: that transformation is optional.

    • 5 Ways to Fuel Inclusion in the Workplace

      POSTED ON: Jun 27, 2017

  • 5 Ways to Fuel Inclusion in the Workplace

    Read the full story on


    Fostering diversity within a large organization is easier said than done. Even if you’re lucky enough to achieve a diverse team, you still have your work cut out for you because transforming diversity of thought into inclusive programs and policies is even harder. Fortunately there are a few things you can do now to ignite passion for inclusion among your teams.


    Empower Your People

    Change agents aren’t born, they’re made. Awareness of the issues facing people outside yourself and your inner circle is an acquired skill. Company leaders have the responsibility to provide their employees with the guidance and resources to transform diversity of thought into action.

    As an example, at SapientRazorfish, recruiters and hiring managers undergo Unconscious Bias training in which participants are asked to confront their inherent biases and commit to tangible actions they can take to overcome them. Efforts like this have made a real impact for us. Last year, we achieved gender equality in hiring across North America – 51 percent of all new hires across the organization were women. If your company’s goal is to create change, the first step is to inspire and help your people to be real agents of cultural transformation.


    Make Some Room

    Great work is born from diversity of experience, and it’s up to you to make sure there’s room at the table for people from all walks of life. A couple years back, we launched our Career Returns Program, through which we hired six people who had been out of the workforce for an extended period. Their life experiences and fresh perspectives helped our work flourish in a way hiring six people with traditional career trajectories might not.

    It’s not always about hiring either. It’s just as important to find those within your organization who are already outspoken advocates in their communities or have firsthand experience making their voices heard. Invite them to the conversation and be open to their input so you can create meaningful programming together.



    If someone calls you out for a statement or action that shows insensitivity or lack of inclusion, don’t get defensive. That person is speaking from personal experience, and most likely an experience you haven’t had because, well, you’re not them. Take a moment to process before responding.

    Change can only occur when we’re willing to acknowledge our biases and prevent them from continuing to infiltrate our work, our teams and our minds. Have the strength to avoid the urge to interject and truly listen – chances are you might learn something.


    Avoid Diversity for Diversity’s Sake

    Research has shown time and again that diversity is good for business, but there must be thought and meaning behind inclusive initiatives. Now more than ever consumers are hungry for real social consciousness and values from the brands they consume – and they can spot a phony a mile away.

    Case in point: to show a rich, white supermodel quelling the clash of police and protesters by presenting them with a can of soda not only downplays the experiences of real protesters, but seeks to capitalize on the reasons minorities have for wanting to make their voices heard.


    Be Authentic

    Consider the motives behind wanting to foster diversity in your organization and let them inspire the actions you’ll take toward inclusivity. Of course, don’t forget to confer with the people who are part of the groups you’re targeting (and always defer back to step 3).

    Creating meaningful change can’t happen overnight. It might take time before you see tangible progress in your organization and these are only four steps in a long road toward creating an inclusive workplace for all. That said, with the right people, the right message and the right intention behind it, you can start making the small changes that create a movement.

    • Millennials can do loyalty, and loyalty works best if it runs both ways

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2017

  • Millennials can do loyalty, and loyalty works best if it runs both ways

    Banks should remember that loyalty works best if it runs both ways, says Louise Beaumont, and should adapt to how millennials live.

    Read the story on


    “Millennials are not loyal.” I was astounded when those words were spoken by a chap from an innovative global tech firm at the recent Future of Digital Banking event. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. I kept coming back to one simple thought: How could someone so fundamentally miss the point? Millennials are loyal. Just not in the way this chap and many, many more across financial services, think.

    And this is a problem (but for them rather than millennial customers). They won’t settle for a me-too product or a me-too service. They’re risk takers, open and willing to engage in new services and new ways of thinking.

    Want proof that the future of banking might not be at an actual bank? Just look at the bank statement of any 20-something – you’ll increasingly see the rich spending data from a millennial’s daily life is giving way to fewer, bulkier transactions: Monzo top-ups, transactions via Apple Pay, PayPal transfers, a direct debit to Nutmeg, and a credit card bill paid off monthly in exchange for customised rewards.

    A customer can leave a bank in every way that matters without closing their account. The traditional bank is still there, but viewed as the infrastructure to base the better, more personalised experiences being offered by other firms. In other words, in a world where data is currency and a customer-centric experience is king, banks are lagging far behind.

    Banks continue to obsess about their existing industry competitors because all of this fintech innovation is antithetical to the product-push focus that banks have had for decades. If you think about the new types of competitors, fintechs are dismissed as single issue, when what they actually are is consumer-obsessed and focused on specific pain points. Meanwhile, the threat that tech titans such as Google and Facebook pose through their massive investment in owning consumer data, and the rails on which it runs, is largely ignored. If you needed any further evidence, simply look at what Apple is starting with the next phase of Apple Pay, and what Amazon is doing with the Amazon Lending service for SMEs.

    Millennials tolerate banks

    Maintaining this insular mindset in the face of the digital and data revolution has led to the underwhelming, yet ubiquitous me-too innovation of many banks. They nod to millennials with their mobile apps, sure, but poor functionality means those apps take twice as long to log in to and don’t provide the instantaneous notifications that smartphone users expect.

    Spending data can appear days after a transaction occurs, while monthly statements offer no insights or tools to manage records, analyse spending, or plan future budgets. All of which is to say, millennials may tolerate banks, but that’s not the same thing as the banks offering them what they actually want.

    Similarly, banks also refuse to adapt to the realities not just of how many millennials bank, but how they live. Thanks to the gig economy and distributed workforces, millennials are more likely than previous generations to be peripatetic and earn and spend money in more than one country.

    Meanwhile, banks still charge exorbitant fees to transfer money internationally and to spend abroad. That’s why the likes of Monzo and TransferWise are used to spend or move money – millennials don’t see why they should have to pay for incumbent bank inefficiencies for what are fairly basic services.

    The loyal millennial customer base may only result in a relatively small margin loss for the banks, which is perhaps why they’re not too worried. But the rather sudden collapse of the retail sector 20 years after ecommerce started should ring some alarm bells. While the advent of open banking legislation may just force the hands of banks that have refused to innovate around their customer thus far, the question now is less about whether they’re ready, but rather are they willing?

    Dismissing a whole generation as lacking loyalty suggests that even some of the smartest and best people haven’t quite grasped the enormity of what’s occurring around them. Banks, and our friend on stage at this high-profile FS event, should remember that loyalty works best if it runs both ways.

    P.S. I know that the wrath of the internet is going to come down on my head for writing about millennials. Some people believe they exist. Some people swear blind they don’t. Some people reckon heuristics have value. Some people believe that in a world of such rich data, we should stop lumping people into demographic groups. At its heart though, this article is about loyalty.

    • Q&A: Anna-Karin Birnik, Director of Business Consulting at SapientRazorfish

      POSTED ON: Jun 22, 2017

  • Q&A: Anna-Karin Birnik, Director of Business Consulting at SapientRazorfish

    Read the story on


    ith a wide-ranging resume that saw her working as the Director of Brand Strategy at Interbrand to the Head of CVP Experience at Standard and Chartered to her current position with SapientRazorfish, Anna-Karin Birnik’s career has given her the opportunity to walk on both the client-side and consulting side of the aisle.

    Birnik recently spoke with Branding in Asia from the SapientRazorfish offices in Singapore.

    When attending the London School of Economics you majored in European Studies and Political Science. How did you end up where you are now?

    I’ve always been interested in politics and understanding what happens around the world and the impact it has on people. During my degree I got a summer job with McCann Erickson in London working in a team that used neural networks modelling (now more well known as AI) to plan optimal media buying.

    It was here I realised I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, but politics still remains a personal interest.

    Before working at Standard Chartered you were with Interbrand. What was that transition like for you? And what were some of the contrasts and similarities in the two organizations?

    I’ve switched between client-side and consulting roles throughout my career so the transition between Interbrand and Standard Chartered wasn’t too difficult. In fact, the roles are complementary.

    In larger organizations you spend a lot more time navigating internal stakeholders to drive decision-making forward. My consulting experience helps me to manage all the different stakeholders across different teams, seniority levels and cultures.

    Conversely, client-side experience makes me a better consultant because I know the challenges marketing leaders face in the region.

    Client-side marketing and consulting focus on the same key questions; Who is the customer? What kind of brand and experience do we want to create for them? How do we get in touch with them and keep them engaged? How do we create an internal culture to deliver the experience we promise customers?

    You’ve recently made the move to SapientRazorfish. What was behind the change and what has the adjustment been like?

    Technology is dramatically changing how consumers find, buy, use and engage with products and brands in almost every industry across the world.

    As a senior marketing professional, I want to help companies navigate through this new reality and change for the better.

    SapientRazorfish stands out, it’s an organization with a strong customer focused approach and capabilities that combine creative and technology. This means that we always go beyond the initial ask and try and deliver against the greater business objectives and changing context.

    I’m working on a large mobile payment project for a client in Indonesia targeting millennials and the unbanked.

    While mobile and banking are not new to me, leading digital transformation with a cross-functional team in an agile way is new. It’s a much more iterative process, where we invite customers and the client to be part of the development. It’s less rigid, more fluid and faster-paced.

    You have had the chance to observe the market in Asia in different industries over your career. What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

    I moved to Singapore in early 2006 and one of the biggest changes I’ve seen both is the emergence and dominance of smartphones. A lot of mobile-first innovation happens here, WeChat and Line’s payment services are way ahead of their Western equivalents.

    What are some of the projects you’ve worked on over the years that you are most proud of?

    Before moving to Asia, I was leading the marketing launch for a new telco in Oman in the Middle East. I’m very proud of being part of the cross-cultural team working incredibly hard together to launch the first truly customer focused mobile operator in the country.  Within six months we reached a 15 per cent market share.

    At Interbrand, I’m most proud of the variety of clients I worked with. It gave me insight and understanding of different types of businesses and people across the region. From family businesses that are making their marketing departments more professional to OEM manufacturers who want to create their own brands, and government statutory boards who want to communicate the benefits of the services they provide to the people and many more.

    During my time at Standard Chartered I was leading many big initiatives to drive change within the organization. The project I’m most proud of was a global digital campaign to engage 90,000 employees with the brand promise ‘Here for good’.

    It was a five-month long campaign executed across 70 markets and we achieved a 40 per cent participation rate which is huge for a bank. The project team I led was spread across three continents, several time zones and internal teams from corporate communications to technology and operations. It was a massive undertaking with an amazing outcome!

    At SapientRazorfish, I feel I’ve come full circle, my career started with Neural Networks (now AI) and that’s now being blended with marketing and brand building to work on a mobile banking solution for the 65 per cent unbanked in Indonesia. It will give them access to financial services that haven’t had access to before.

    • How big data can lead to cost optimization for Indian retailers

      POSTED ON: May 25, 2017

  • How big data can lead to cost optimization for Indian retailers

    Today’s evolving consumer expects highly contextual personalized experiences. Retailers should start building sophisticated and mature data analytics capabilities to meet these expectations.

    Read the story on


    For Indian retail companies battling it out for a larger share of the consumer pie, it’s akin to playing a game of chess. Marketers need to predict the consumer’s next moves and mood.
    Gone are the days of knee-jerk reactions. In this age of data explosion, it’s imperative to decipher the patterns data throws up and leverage them to enhance profitability.

    A Netsertive-CMO Council survey reveals some startling facts: 42% of marketers acknowledge a lack in data insights that could be utilized to drive consumers into brick-and-mortar retail stores. 23% are using third-party tools like Google Store Visits or FourSquare Attribution, which indicates that the full potential of data input is yet to be leveraged.

    The onus is on brands to capture relevant data that best addresses the consumer’s needs and deliver a personalized consumer experience. However, stitching together a seamless customer journey across disparate channels is not going to be easy.

    That’s precisely where the power of Data Analytics comes into play. Big Data Analytics enables retailers fine-tune their operations to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and generate more profits.


    What does the future look like?

    A recent Gartner survey revealed these key facts:

    • 48% of surveyed companies invested in big data in 2016 (increase of 3% vs 2015)
    • 15% of businesses reported deploying their data-related project to production
    • 11% of the respondents felt that their big data investments were as important, or more important, than their other IT initiatives
    • Big Data market to grow from $18.3B in 2014 to $92.2B in 2026
    • Predicted software growth rate for Big Data through 2017: 45%

    Here’s how big data can lead to cost optimization for Indian retailers:

    Data personalization: The new marketing mantra

    Retail companies, in their bid to utilize marketing dollars effectively, are shying away from mass marketing campaigns and opting for targeted outreach through personalization. This entails capturing customer data from every possible touch point and understanding their behavior and intent. Many Indian companies like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Saavn are doing personalized recommendations based on the consumer’s purchase history.

    This calls for building a complete customer journey from both online and offline channels. Some retailers are investing in new platforms like Customer Data Platforms (CDP) to consolidate customer data, derive insights and activate marketing initiatives.

    Think of CDP as a central repository of customer data that could include profiles, website visits, mobile app sessions, email responses, social media comments and purchase orders. Indian retail companies can leverage a CDP to ingest data across multiple first party data (CRM, commerce/transaction data, loyalty, etc.), second party data (from partners) and third party data (DMPs) to create a Data Lake which offers a holistic and unified view of the customer.

    Customer Segmentation: Point of no return

    Every product returned by the consumer costs the retailer 1.5 times the actual shipping fee – posing a mammoth logistical challenge to companies. This makes it critical for the retailer to understand the reason for return: Size mismatch? Faulty product? Unmet expectations? Analytics can help in decoding such patterns and predict the probability of a return.

    To address this challenge, many CMOs are resorting to Customer Segmentation. It entails leveraging customer data to create specific clusters of customers with shared attributes and allows the CMO to boost customer loyalty by creating more personalized, relevant marketing messages. Ecommerce players like Flipkart and Delhivery have already gone the Customer Segmentation way to effectively gauge the customer’s propensity to return a product, resulting in cost optimization.

    Reputation Index: The yardstick to measure customer loyalty

    Retailers can assert a customer’s probability of returning a product by building or maintaining a reputation index. This enables E-commerce brands to keep a tab on a customer’s reputation score and work out solutions in case a customer turns out to be a fraud. In India, brands are practicing this more at the supplier level than at the logistics level.

    They track returns, carefully study the variations in complaints against products and analyze responses across channels. For instance, Amazon maintains a feedback score to study responses on services levied for customers.

    Delivery Optimization: Navigating the road to profitability

    Keeping an eye on the weather pattern or the city traffic could help retailers optimize costs. Fathom this: Retailers incur 53% of the product delivery costs on last-mile delivery. The ideal way to deal with this is by adopting Delivery Optimization practices that include location-specific route planning and navigating delivery strategy. It enables retailers to identify the right solutions that can help them cut costs.

    For example, deploying a truck in the narrow bylanes of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi may not be a viable option, but it works out to be a cost-effective delivery model. Delivery Optimization allows the retailer to optimize minimal cost vis-à-vis distance and chart out the most appropriate route to be taken to fulfill all the given orders, in real time. Naturally, an easy access to data related to traffic, weather and GPS systems translates into more cost optimization opportunities for the retailer.

    Visualizing data to tell a compelling story

    Collating data from different corners of the world is no longer a daunting task for brands, thanks to solutions such as Amazon Mechanical Turk. The real challenge lies in evaluating the data. Modern-day data technologies like Hadoop and Spark are enabling marketers to filter raw data, and glean meaningful consumer insights from it. Innovative, yet user-friendly solutions such as Alteryx, Trifacta, Paxata and Lavastorm and Informatica facilitate end-user data preparation. And no, one doesn’t need to be a data scientist to use these tools and produce valuable insights.

    At the heart of a powerful consumer story, lies the ability of the retail marketer to visualize these insights. Modern data visualization tools have made pie charts and bar charts a thing of the past. It’s the age of technologies like JavaScript that enables intuitive visualization and interesting representations of insights.

    Data Mining: How retail players in India are boosting revenues

    What have toys and nappies got to do with the sales of premium lingerie? Apparently, a lot, as Amazon India discovered. Extensive data mining by them showed that moms, shopping for toys or diapers for their little ones, tend to purchase high-end lingerie from the online marketplace. In fact, British high-street biggie Marks & Spencer's has recently joined hands with Amazon India to promote its top-of-the-line women’s innerwear range to young, affluent working mothers who log on the site to shop for their infants.

    Again, it was data mining that helped brick-and-mortar retail giant Walmart discover that beer sales headed northwards on Friday afternoons. Delving deep into data revealed that young males, dropping in at the store to pick up diapers for their newborns, drove the upsurge in sales. Fathers, who stayed back home to babysit, couldn't go out to socialize and hence bought beer to drink at home. This prompted Walmart to shift beers next to the store’s diapers section, further shooting up sales.

    The final word

    Data has emerged as the Holy Grail for the retail sector. Today’s evolving consumer expects highly contextual personalized experiences. Retailers should start building sophisticated and mature data analytics capabilities to meet these expectations.

    The answer lies in leveraging a Customer Data Platform to create a Data Lake which can form the basis of a 360 degree view of the customer, helping CMOs drive one-to-one marketing or personalization and deliver an enhanced customer experience. The result? Reduced campaign or promotion costs while boosting the impact. And that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

    • How invisible interfaces are changing the future of customer experience

      POSTED ON: May 22, 2017

  • How invisible interfaces are changing the future of customer experience

    Read the story on Business Insider


    Technology has a weird pattern - In the beginning it solves a problem and later on itself becomes a problem. Why do we need to take out our mobile phones and press a button to switch ON the lights- smart lights? Why do we need to take out smart phone to switch ON the AC - smart AC? Why do we need to take out our mobile phone to check the weather to carry an umbrella - smart umbrella?

    As technologists and end users, we all recognise that excessive screen dependence is detrimental in a lot of ways, yet for every problem we think of mobile "first". A study conducted by Nelson showed that average number of apps owned by Americans is less than 30, where Android had 2.2 million apps and Apple around 2 million apps. Most of these apps in spite of all the good intentions and good investment are ignored and fail.

    The reason for a screen

    The first big assumption we make is that user has enough attention bandwidth and infinite memory to respond to all apps needed in the form of input and data. This has been shown to be far from the truth. Research has shown that our brain can keep track of a maximum of seven things at any given point in time.

    The second erroneous assumption is that the user would already know how to work with and interact with a screen. However, only 40% people worldwide have internet connectivity today, and less than 10% of the population in developing countries is digitally literate.

    The third assumption we go wrong with is that everyone knows how to negotiate with UI features and techniques on screens.

    The time has arrived to question the presence of visible interfaces at every point. The role of a designer is not to create engaging UI but to solve the problem and get the user task done.

    Invisible interface is a mindset, a way of thinking. It is a 'screen-less' mindset for a world filled with screens of various sizes. Also referred to as Zero UI, invisible interfaces is a shift in paradigm, where users' movements, voice, thoughts, gestures, etc. trigger interactions between users and systems. It includes voice interaction (i.e. the ability to speak to your devices) and adoption of touch responsive wearables (including fitbit), sensors, distributed computers and connected everything devices (like Siri, Google Home).

    Solving for the need itself

    A screen-less mindset enables one to understand the real user need; ensuring problem solving for that need seamlessly and not by just sticking a screen to the problem. Invisible interfaces is the humanistic approach to computing which, by the way, is the core philosophy of design thinking. There are three important guiding principles suggested by golden Krishna (Designer at Google) and Andy Goodman (Design strategist at Fjord) to make interfaces invisible.

    Embrace the process — Embracing the process reveals the underlying parameters required to serve the user needs. For instance, a smart light in your house works on the principle of figuring out the arrival time of the owner, the time of the day and natural light condition and with the help of mobile it decides on its own whether it should switch ON or be dim or switch OFF.

    Make the technology invisible — When you make computers invisible you actually flip the HCI . It is no longer the human that is adjusting to the computer's need, but the other way round. For example, a smart AC works on the principle of figuring out the daily usage pattern and learning the preferred comfortable temperature of the room. In order to remain invisible, the app is taking the decisions on behalf of users, making their experience seamless.

    Make it personal and contextual — In order to make the screens invisible, the system must understand the context in which they are operating. Let us take the case of a smart umbrella. It connects to the weather service and evaluates the probability of rain. If there is a probability of rain, it gives a visual feedback. It doesn't stop there. If used during sunshine, then it gives similar feedback during summer as well.

    We see that all the three guidelines are interconnected with each other and one has to follow all to be able to design a seamless, immersive user interface. While some organisations have already started moving in that direction and are seeing results, many are yet to follow the suit.

    The downside

    On the flip side, it can be argued that invisible interfaces are expensive and time consuming. However, as the world is increasingly becoming more digital, we are expecting similar seamless experiences in all our interactions (across brands in each sector) that are more engaging, conversational and make our lives simpler. Making technology invisible requires un-learning the traditional forms of customer interactions. The time has come to change from mobile "first" to mobile "last" approach.


    - By Alok Kumar,‎ Director, Technology, SapientRazorfish

    • How to use chatbots to engage and recruit college grads this summer

      POSTED ON: May 19, 2017

  • How to use chatbots to engage and recruit college grads this summer

    Read the story on VentureBeat


    Commencement season is in full bloom. And as graduates ramp up their job-seeking activities, employers are looking for new ways to stay relevant and attract top talent. In today’s digital landscape, it can be difficult for companies to break through the noise and capture the attention of potential candidates while standing out from the competition.

    Enter chatbots. Chatbots offer an alternative way for potential candidates to engage with organizations on their own terms, through forums such as social media. According to a new survey by LivePerson, chatbots are gaining popularity globally; 38 percent of 5,000 people surveyed from six countries had a positive perception of the technology. Yet many companies still aren’t effectively leveraging this option, likely because they don’t know the best approach — or even where to start.

    Here are some tips on how organizations can use a recruitment chatbot effectively this summer and beyond:

    Make the conversation about more than just the basics.
    People want to be engaged.
    Make the interaction memorable and entertaining. Millennials especially expect clever engagements.
    Make it a useful and beneficial experience for both sides. Set up the bot to capture information that can actually inform your organization about the applicant’s personality, allowing you to genuinely get to know them.
    Avoid engaging on too many different subjects. Narrowing the conversation to one topic will allow for better flow.
    Give the potential candidate a taste of the organization’s culture. Showcase and communicate less tangible corporate elements through the chatbot experience.
    Back in September, VentureBeat guest author Alex Campbell Vibes wrote about a new report from BI Intelligence that found millennials spend more time messaging via apps than communicating through any other form. In fact, messaging apps as well as apps like Snapchat are now seeing more usage among millennials than traditional social networks like Twitter.

    To that end, let’s look a little closer at how to actually implement this advice.


    Be useful

    When developing a chatbot, it is important the experience is just as beneficial to the user as it is to the organization implementing it. Companies need to use chatbots to engage and entertain so they can serve a much wider purpose, such as collecting valuable data from a brand or organization’s target audience.

    For examples beyond the recruitment arena, the Estée Lauder Messenger chatbot that matches customers’ skin tones with foundation shades, Dior’s Dior Insider chatbot that answers product questions on Messenger, and Sephora’s Kik chatbot that aims to educate are all examples of brands cleverly engaging with their customer bases while also learning more about them through the data they provide along the way.


    Be engaging

    Most junior talent is part of the so-called social media generation, and one of the best ways to attract them is reaching out through the platforms they interact with every day. This provides a brand or organization with the right forum in which to create a personalized experience by talking to its candidates in a language they understand and about topics they relate to — such as questions about Snapchat filters.

    With this in mind, chatbots have come to the forefront, including Billi, the chatbot we designed to engage with potential junior candidates through a personality-type quiz focused on Snapchat use. The interview occurs when the candidate says “hi” via our Facebook Messenger page. After the candidates respond to various questions about their Snapchat filter preference, Billi the chatbot can then determine the best fit and role for the potential candidate within the company — a working example of a strategy many companies looking to hire the top talent of this latest generation of candidates can consider using.

    Companies looking to reach the junior talent they need this summer should focus on leveraging the tools of today’s digital landscape, such as chatbot technology, in order to transform the sometimes mundane process of hiring a candidate. Without this approach, an organization is likely to struggle with standing out from the crowd when it comes to recruiting the right talent.

    • Cadillac Fairview hacks at AR and VR

      POSTED ON: May 18, 2017

  • Cadillac Fairview hacks at AR and VR

    Agency partner SapientRazorfish hosted a hackathon to explore ways the tech could enhance the shopping experience.


    Read the story on StrategyOnline

    Ahead of last year’s holiday season, Cadillac Fairview launched a campaign across all of its shopping centres featuring the “Tufties.” The fuzzy characters featured heavily in both above-the-line creative and in signage across the company’s malls. But if you’re a parent, you likely also know about “The Tufties Magic Gift App.”

    While ostensibly a simple, kid-focused mobile game, it also had augmented reality functionality, with certain features only unlocked by finding and scanning markers located throughout CF shopping centres.

    “We enjoyed doing that,” says Adam Benson, senior director of digital marketing at Cadillac Fairview. “The number of hours people spent using the game was one of our key metrics and we were happy with what we saw. We want to do more in the AR and VR space, but we wanted to get outside our own walls and give a team of people virtually no boundaries to come up with some huge ideas, some of which we might be able to execute in our centres.”

    One of the agency partners on CF’s holiday campaign was SapientNitro (now SapientRazorfish after last year’s merger), and this week the agency hosted a two-day hackathon with roughly 40 of its staff to help its client explore the next opportunities in augmented and virtual reality.

    The agency’s teams were given briefs from CF relating to different roles AR and VR could have at its malls and, like most hackathons, were tasked with ideating and prototyping their solution. The briefs included things like how the tech could help people find things in the mall, learn about a mall’s history and future developments, or if there were gamification elements that could entertain kids and young people.

    “We’ve got participation from the clients, which really helps you put the stuff you create to good use,” says Chad Borlase, CD at SapientRazorfish. “One thing I’ve noticed as we’ve been doing this is that it also gets people to realize where some of the traps are when it comes to doing these things with someone like CF. So whenever they’re talking about it, they know how to think around it and avoid it, and there’s less time wasted the next time we tackle it.”

    Using tech and innovation to enhance the customer experience has been a recent priority for CF, but beyond the Tufties game, the company has not done much work with AR. But it has done digital navigation, using WiFi and Bluetooth to help customers navigate a mall or give them access to 3D maps. Benson says those kind of wayfinding applications are a huge opportunity for CF with augmented reality.

    Benson also says AR opportunities are a bit more achievable than VR at present, but down the road he sees opportunities: preview tours of new stores or product trials in partnership with retailers that could let consumer virtually try on clothing, for example.

    Borlase adds that both AR and VR could also be used to “beta test” new stores before they are actually built, not just to help identify problems in their layout, but finding out which customers respond most to a retail concept so they know who to target once it actually opens.

    Benson points out that exploring AR and VR are more about adapting to consumer behaviour, rather than changing it. He says many customers are already actively utilizing augmented reality in its malls, be it using Snapchat filters or playing Pokemon Go.

    “All of those things together tell us our audience is already excited about this place. So we want to play there and find a way to add to experiences, instead of changing people’s behaviour,” he says.

    • How Indonesian operator Telkomsel ran its 14 month digital transformation journey

      POSTED ON: May 17, 2017

  • How Indonesian operator Telkomsel ran its 14 month digital transformation journey

    Many businesses are at some stage, or deciding how to start, a process of internal digital transformation, and it’s not just the luddites.

    Read the story on TheDrum


    Even a digital business needs digital transformation, take General Electric for example. So too found Telkomsel, one of Indonesia’s biggest mobile telecoms firms.

    In Alistair Johnston, director of marketing at Telkomsel’s words: “The key driver was to transform Telkomsel into the leading digital company for digital and data services by delivering a market leading customer experience for our customers. We observed our customer base moving from an analogue world to a digital world.”


    Analogue to digital

    Three factors played into the need for major change, according to Johnston: Indonesia being an advanced and savvy digital market, huge smartphone growth for Telkomsel’s customer base (50% of the Telkomsel device base in Q1 2017) and increased investment from Telkomsel into the 4G network.

    “Indonesia has the third largest Facebook user base globally, therefore our users were ready for a deeper digital engagement with Telkomsel,” he said.

    Officially, the project started with the launch of the ‘MyTelkomsel’ self service app in March 2016, but Johnston says the process can be traced back to 2014.


    It all started with an app

    “The digital transformation journey began 14 months ago, with the revamp of the MyTelkomsel app. However, the real journey of the Telkomsel Digital World project began in the late of 2014, where we had to define clearly the scope of work for the project by understanding the gaps of customer pain points and the business objectives,” he explained.

    The success of the app, and being set up to now react faster to digital needs, means the benefits have been rolling in thick and fast for the telco. According to Johnston, contribution to revenue from the digital business increased 35.4% in 2016.

    “Since launch we have gotten 18 million downloads in a 14 month period and we estimate we will have 28 million downloads by year end 2017. Recently we have been focusing on personalisation features that allow customers to get relevant offers, mobile payment with T-Cash in the app and new digital revenue creation from over the top (OTT) services. We have seen revenues from video, games and music increase over 50% year-on-year. We quickly moved onto a total overhaul of the site to improve ease of website navigation to find products and services. We see as the tool to introduce a fast call to action to complete user journey, from discovery to transaction,” he said.


    Choosing partners is the toughest part

    As with many brands now, due to so much choice and differing offering from different sides of the industry, knowing whose hands to put the digital transformation job into is one of the toughest parts.

    “Identifying the right team to drive the digital transformation through Telkomsel was a big challenge for us. It took months for us to choose the right partners. We used a mixture of internal and external consultancy to design, build and market our digital transformation to the Telkomsel user base,” he said.

    “A key learning is the importance of keeping the same team in place as you move through different elements of the transformation. We deliberately worked with the same team from SapientRazorfish, across MyTelkomsel, the website, Langit Musik, T-Cash and the upcoming Video Market Place. Having consistency in UX design thinking across platforms has delivered multiple benefits. In addition to that, working in an agile environment across multiple stakeholders has helped us in streamlining the process of the digital transformation journey.”


    Relationships matter

    The relationship between Telkomsel and SapientRazorfish continues, according to Johnston, as the challenge now is to look at how they can use the self service platforms to upsell, as well as service the customer base on their terms.

    “We will also be focusing efforts around our ‘digital lifestyle products’. There will be more integration with T-Cash, as our mobile payment will ease our customers to transact within our app. Langit Musik has a continuous roadmap of development in order to be the market leader in Indonesian music consumption. We will also continue with our OTT partnerships that have seen our video payload consumption increase 700% year-on-year,” he concluded.

    Perhaps no two digital transformation stories are alike but Telkomsel’s journey with SapientRazorfish, a relationship that started with an app, is going to start seeming a lot more familiar, as brands seek long term partners for customer-centric thinking, over campaigns and projects.

    • 3 key takeaways from MarTech San Francisco 2017

      POSTED ON: May 16, 2017

  • 3 key takeaways from MarTech San Francisco 2017

    Contributor Sheldon Monteiro insightfully wraps up the key themes of last week's meeting of the martech minds.

    Read the story on MarTech Today


    The 2017 MarTech conference in San Francisco is over, and it’s safe to divulge the event’s WiFi password: martech5000. Despite the awesome sci-fi ring to it, it actually represents the 5,381 solutions on Scott Brinker’s ever-expanding Marketing Technology Landscape chart.

    During this week’s conference, many discussions — both onstage and offstage — focused on how to parse the many martech options available today.

    Of course, determining the right solution depends largely on your strategy and goals. But, as we heard this week, there are many other considerations, including your current technology assets, your willingness to change from the inside out, and, most importantly, the needs of your customers.


    M-architecture is more important than ever

    The conference kicked off with the Stackies Awards, an incredible behind-the-scenes view of marketing technology being used in the real world by companies today. With 5,000+ solutions to choose from, it is invaluable to study how large organizations like Beiersdorf, Microsoft and Cisco, or smaller, innovative companies like Red Wing Shoes, use a “stack” of technologies.

    Each of the 57 Stackies entrants submitted a one-page, typically informal depiction of their marketing technology system’s structure and interactions. These marketing technology architectures, or “marchitectures,” provide a view into how real companies have assembled components to deliver marketing experiences. The better entrants even provided a glimpse into the underlying design philosophies and connectedness.

    Marketing always has been and always will be about differentiation. Even with 57 Stackies submissions this year, no two marketing stacks were the same — reinforcing the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The explosion of martech solutions is fantastic news for marketers seeking to differentiate. But the vast choice can be confusing.

    Today, more than ever, organizations must think about their marketing technology through the lens of architecture — as organized layers that each have a purpose, like plumbing, electricity and the other components beneath the drywall in a construction project. For example, Microsoft’s martech stack demonstrates three layers of underlying technologies — systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation.

    Martech vendors appear to have grasped the importance of architecture: one in five of the vendors on Scott Brinker’s landscape diagram described themselves as “platforms.” Prospective buyers are advised to examine those claims closely; a true platform is not just capable of providing a foundation for other software to run on, but has a demonstrated track record of attracting third-party software vendors to utilize their platform to build upon. It’s improbable that the more than 1,000 vendors making the platform claim actually meet these criteria.

    Creating connected customer experiences requires connecting the individual martech solutions, not only to streamline operations, but also to deliver the most coherent and connected journey for the customer. Spotify VP of Growth & Marketing Mayur Gupta amplified the idea that designing and maintaining these stacks is a blend of art and science, and that the key to their success throughout the company’s growth trajectory and the customer journey is having someone “to orchestrate the symphony.”


    Get obsessed with your customer

    In the Mel Brooks classic, “Blazing Saddles” the people of Rock Ridge work all night to build a replica of their town so the real thing won’t be destroyed by an army of thugs. Just when they’re patting themselves on the back for a job well done, they realize they’ve forgotten the most important part of a town: people.

    All too often, we see a lot of focus on ad tech and martech, and little consideration for the overall customer experience with the brand. We’re forgetting customers far too often. For example, eConsultancy found that 81 percent of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers. But many consumers don’t feel understood by brands: only 37 percent say their favorite retailer understands them.

    Marketing and its supporting technology are about creating connected customer experiences — across attraction, engagement, transaction and retention — aligned with a brand promise. Connected experiences don’t end with a lead handed off to sales, or even a sale. Those events are merely the beginning. The best martech focuses on customer journeys and takea an outside-in view from the customer’s perspective — including insights into where she will be and what she wants to achieve or feel.

    As Marketoonist’s Tom Fishburne put it in his keynote address, most companies are still in the “awkward adolescence” of martech: the equipment is in place, but they’re not yet mature enough to know exactly what to do with it. Those who get the most from their marketing stacks make every technology decision based on the customer.

    Red Roof Inn, for example, maximized impact despite a tight budget by focusing on customer “micromoments” (such as being stranded at an airport due to a canceled flight) and orchestrating their ad buying and landing pages to provide for the customer’s need in that moment.


    Flip the funnel

    What Red Roof Inn got right was not as much its tools or even the way they designed their stack. Instead, it was their mindset. While we’ve all been discussing delivering the right message to the right person at the right time for many years, this company chose to be honest about what they have to offer, who they should offer it to, and when, and they designed their marketing and tech to follow suit.

    The world is full of individual people with individual needs. Martech now enables us to treat them as such, and consumers demand it. Yet many marketing departments still rely on the traditional funnel and linear, static customer journeys — even while standing up and discussing the need to market to individual accounts or people rather than segments.

    But what if we engaged a different perspective on the mandate for customer-centricity? The solution suddenly seems obvious: Why don’t we quite literally turn the purchase funnel on its head? Why don’t we treat each customer as a segment of one?

    This shift in mindset not only walks the talk of customer-centricity; it also drastically simplifies an organization’s approach to their marketing stack, where every tool is chosen and orchestrated to deliver unique customer journeys to each customer. As my colleague Alex Toledo put it, “the shortest distance between a brand and a customer is a conversation.” What is the point of having a conversation with a brand if everyone is having the same exact conversation? When every tool — from AI to analytics, content to commerce, message to medium — is implemented and arranged to deliver unique experiences, those customer conversations and experiences are more effective, more valuable and more scalable in real time.

    I, for one, quite like the idea of conducting a talented orchestra for an audience of one. I guarantee they’ll tell their friends all about it.

    • 5 tips for a successful return after taking a pause in your career

      POSTED ON: May 10, 2017

  • 5 tips for a successful return after taking a pause in your career

    Networking and building relationships are always good for your career, especially when you are looking to return after taking a pause.

    Read the story on


    One year ago, I made the choice to return to work after staying home for four years to be an advocate for my son who has cerebral palsy and to dabble as an entrepreneur. When I left the workforce, I was a confident, driven, and successful career woman, so I was surprised when I made the decision to return that I felt nervous and was second-guessing my abilities. But I knew I had to get past this and focus on what I had to offer instead of what I felt was lacking to be able to get past what most HR departments saw as a gap in my career.

    Luckily, I found an opportunity with a company that values diverse skills and recognizes they can be acquired in many contexts, not simply in traditional jobs. My current employer, SapientRazorfish, is one of the organizations leading change with career return programs. Career returns are paid internships for talented professionals looking to refresh their careers and re-enter the workforce, and they are slowly popping up in companies in various industries.

    Although the opportunity seemed perfect for me, the process to get the job, and then adjust to being back in the workforce was far from perfect. Like any job, I had to compete for the position and show my worth. The interviewers were gracious, but tough. They wanted to make sure I was relevant and could jump right back in without a ton of handholding and time. They questioned my skills and my plan to be job ready if I were hired. They treated it like any other interview, but perhaps were even a bit tougher as they needed to make sure I was ready, willing, and capable since they couldn’t assume that from my resume that dated back four years.

    And even when I got the job I was nervous and worried I couldn’t keep up with my new colleagues who were living and breathing marketing and PR everyday. Now that I have succeeded in the transition, I have a few tips to share with others considering going back to work after a pause on how to have a successful return.

    Be sure you are ready to return. You made the choice to take a pause, and you should equally make a choice to return. Even if the circumstances for your return are not ideal (financial necessity), you can choose to be excited about a new chapter or choose to resent it. Having a positive attitude will make going to the office every day a lot easier.

    Be clear about what you want to return to. Transitioning back to work isn’t easy at first. Even if you came back by choice, rushing every morning, dealing with a commute, catching up on skills and technology, and trying to manage work and family life is a big change. Before you start your search, be clear about what you want to do and what works for your current situation. For me it was doing something I knew I was good at versus trying to enter in a new field—and having flexibility to work from home a couple days a week. Knowing what I wanted and being honest about it when interviewing (after I showed what value I could add in the role) made it much easier to find the right job.

    Be confident in your skills. Taking a career pause to care for your kids or an aging parent, or to pursue a passion or dream gives you a different perspective than someone who has never taken a length of time off. This diverse perspective should be an asset, not a hit against you on your resume. You need to be able to show how what you did while you were off translates to the role you are applying for. For me, staying home to care for my son was one of the hardest jobs of my life. I had to lobby for a little boy with special needs every day (and I still do.) The difficult conversations, negotiating, strategic planning, project and time-management skills, and creativity required to ensure my son was getting everything he needed and deserved to succeed were just as challenging as any job I had in the past.

    Stay engaged. Find ways to stay current in your industry and stay connected with your peers. For most jobs, you don’t have to be entrenched in it every day to stay on top of the knowledge and skills required to be effective at your job. But reading industry publications or having coffee with an old colleague helps you keep a finger on the pulse of your industry. If you work in a field where the pace of change is intense, take a few courses first to get back up to speed. It shows initiative, and someone with initiative is more likely to move up a steep learning curve relatively fast.

    Go in expecting a yes. This is something I did my entire career, including when it was time for reviews and promotions and when returning to work for four days a week. I always expected to get a yes. This didn’t mean I was arrogant and demanding, but I was confident in my skills and believed I could make a great impact on the company, and I could do that on my own terms. Belief has a sound and a voice, and I believed it was possible, which helped me come across confidently and show what I was worth when I spoke about my responsibilities.

    Companies that offer career return programs are still uncommon, but you can apply the tips above to any company that values diverse perspectives. So do your research, talk to friends and family, and let them know you are looking, willing, and able. Networking and building relationships are always good for your career, especially when you are looking to return after taking a pause. And remember to always expect a yes, even if you get a few no’s along the way.


    Ellen Kalis is public relations lead, Canada and the Midwest, at marketing consultancy SapientRazorfish.

    • Interview with Sheldon Monteiro, CTO at SapientRazorfish

      POSTED ON: May 08, 2017

  • Interview with Sheldon Monteiro, CTO at SapientRazorfish

    Read the story on MarTechAdvisor


    This Q&A is part of an interview series for the upcoming MarTech Conference, May 9-11 in San Francisco, covering the agenda topics to be discussed at the event. Read on for an exclusive sneak peek from the presenters

    1. How have you seen marketers evolve in their understanding of martech in these last five years? What are the gaps (maybe in exploiting technology, attitudes, approaches, strategies etc) that events like these address for newbies as well as veteran marketers?

    Five years ago, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan said that by 2017, CMOs would spend more on technology than CIOs – an idea that her fellow Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman recently confirmed as fact. He notes that 27% of the marketing expense budget is now allocated to technology. What's driving this? In this same period, the role of the Marketer has evolved considerably: (1) Marketing is increasingly taking the lead in customer experience and engagement, not just brand communications, (2) Marketing is evolving from a cost center to taking accountability for revenue and (3) Data is now an equal to creative within all facets of marketing.

    Managing this investment has forced marketers to transform their function, their jobs, and their skill sets rapidly, often to act as a bridge between marketing, customer experience and IT, including what those functions do and how they work together, in service of creating competitive advantage.

    Make no mistake - the skills gap in marketing is real and the learning curve is steep. Last year, SapientRazorfish, in partnership with Scott Brinker and the MarTech Conference, surveyed the population of people with responsibility for marketing technology. We discovered that only 1 in 5 professionals playing a marketing technology role within their organizations have a technology related degree, and more than half come from a traditional marketing background. In other words, marketers are learning technology on the job. Our survey showed that more than half of respondents rated the following technology skills as “important”: customer relationship management (CRM) systems and platforms; data science, analytics, modeling and statistics; and website design. However, far fewer MarTech professionals ranked them as strong personal skills. Just 46 percent expressed competence in CRM and less than one-third said the same of data analysis and website design.

    Conferences are a phenomenal venue for Marketers to level up their skills. The MarTech conference in particular is unique - sitting at the intersection of marketing, technology and management. Beginners, and those just getting into the field, get a broad perspective on the trending areas to focus their initial learning on, while those more experienced get to listen to deeper, real world experiences from their peers pushing the boundaries of marketing technology. My objective in attending and speaking at conferences like MarTech is to come away with at least one area to study further and one idea to immediately pilot when I return to work the next week. From personal experience, the MarTech conference has never failed to deliver on that expectation.

    2. At what stage would you say is the ‘ad tech meets martech’ state of affairs at present? Would you say businesses today need to have a consolidated advertising strategy that includes all formats be it Search, Social, Display, Native and of course, Video being a key entrant or does the character of the business decide the approach?

    Last July, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 Billion - which at 5 times revenues was considered by many to be a stratospheric valuation. Unilever is no stranger to advertising and ad-tech, spending billions of dollars on paid media for decades across its dozens of brands. So why did they pay so richly for Dollar Shave Club? I'd argue that one primary reason for the valuation is that Dollar Shave Club had demonstrated mastery in building deep and intimate relationships with its customers through a foundation of CRM and marketing technology.

    Traditionally, advertising technology has focused on prospecting customers and brand awareness, while marketing technology has focused on customer intimacy. While ad tech has tended to focus on customer segments with anonymous customers, martech usually deals with unique customers, one at a time. But, the distinction is blurring, because we’re trending towards address-ability and interaction across every channel, including television, out-of-home, and even physical computing in immersive spaces. While we can still draw distinctions in focus between ad tech and martech, the reality is that firms like Dollar Shave Club consider that distinction to be an academic one - they understand targeting and contextual relevance in every interaction and with every communication, no matter where the consumer is, and whether he is a suspect, prospect or existing customer.

    My advice to marketers is to focus on accountability for every dollar spent, whether that money is spent on communications or engagement, and to evolve thinking from media mix models to optimizing the marketing investment across all marketing activities from communications through to retention. That in turn will drive a marketing investment portfolio that looks holistically across paid, owned and earned channels, and across media (ad-tech) and marketing (martech) platforms. The fact that consumer packaged goods companies like Unilever have come to the realization that intimate customer relationships are important, should give every marketer, regardless of industry, a wake-up call that the distinctions between advertising and broader relationship marketing activities cannot be the job of isolated departments.

    3. 2016 was the year of data-driven marketing. This year, AI was added to the data mix. Where do you see the changes in technology taking data next – be it for data capture, analytics and insights? Considering the above data cycle, where do organizations lack in proficiency the most?

    In the past 5 years, data has emerged as an equal, and some would argue even more important than creative in marketing. Yet, the biggest challenge marketers face is creating connected experiences for customers and managing fragmentation in their channels, organizations, processes and systems.

    Five years ago, Big Data was still considered by many as hype. Today, most marketers would acknowledge that it’s become commonplace not just in adtech companies, but also in the enterprise. More recently, AI has peaked in the hype cycle. Much of what we call AI in marketing is actually a narrow class of supervised learning. For example, by showing the computer thousands of images and also telling it which of those images include cats, the computer is then able to understand the patterns to identify a cat in an image which is not labeled. Marketers can use this same technique for many marketing activities, from identifying customers who might be more likely to accept a specific offer, to predicting customer churn, to classify products and automate assortment planning for an eCommerce site, for example. Across the martech landscape, vendors are infusing this narrow class of AI and core data science into their products, often within narrow use cases.

    While it is fantastic for marketers to get access to this amazing technology through their vendors, it is resulting in fragmentation. Marketers, enamored by the example shown by a vendor of what a product accomplishes with data and AI, bring that solution into their ecosystem.

    To combat fragmentation, marketers need enterprise wide strategies to leverage data platforms, data science and AI to increase customer lifetime value, generate internal efficiencies, democratize data driven decision making and even monetize their own data assets. Only after developing these strategies should vendors be on-boarded and their products integrated in a way that avoids silos and disconnected experience. Ultimately, connected martech systems, built in thoughtfully organized layers, will out-perform stand-alone products as enablers of competitive advantage.

    4. What are areas you commonly see where businesses are getting stuck from transforming themselves to optimal customer-centricity – excess of to-dos to achieve this, lack of aligning all stakeholders on a common platform, lack of initiative to know a customer as a person rather than a statistic? How much can data help this transformation?

    According to Gartner, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by the end of 2016. In stark contrast, in our SapientRazorfish survey of marketers and marketing technologists last year, only 1 in 10 respondents said their organization is structured to deliver a seamless customer experience across all touch-points. This dichotomy should be deeply concerning to executives, and it is driven by two factors - the exponential pace of technology advancement, and the inability of organizations to adapt quickly in response. Most companies are great at their core business, but not great at inventing the future of their business.

    What are the root causes? First, many leaders view digital transformation as the problem of the IT department. Therefore, efforts are focused on technology doodads and the IT department delivering it. Or even worse, shadow IT being brought in by the marketing department. The difference is that traditionally, technology has been a tool to make the enterprise more efficient, whereas today, it not only does that, but is also the primary medium of dialog with customers.

    Then, we must have the execution capability to integrate and adopt that technology not next year, but next month. Along the way, we have to realize that the journey will not be without bumps and failures, and the culture has to evolve to fail forward, to learn, and to do so in an affordable way. These are all competencies that digital native companies have mastered and consider normal. In this process, data is central and informs organizational learning. Every decision to evolve an experience and try a new product feature must be supported by an experimentation culture, where metrics are determined in advance and then early measurements and results from the field are used to inform future investments. We have to think like a startup within the enterprise, and fund projects in the same way venture capitalists do.

    5. How can marketers get a buy-in from their organizations to invest in digital transformation of their businesses? What are the timeframes that a small business should expect for complete digital transformation and how important is it to record each of the marketing and sales process’ digitization?

    Digital business transformation (DBT) is literally that - "transformation".

    DBT is not a piecemeal approach of applying technology within different functions or deploying standalone applications to solve functional business needs. Rather, it is the thread that unites the organization’s digital efforts and compels business leaders to radically rethink the ways in which the business will meet customer needs in an always-on world.

    This is as critical for a small or medium business as it is for a large enterprise. If you ran a larger taxi cab operation in a city like San Francisco, you are probably wistfully thinking about what might have been if you had reimagined your business 5 years ago to do what Uber and Lyft do today.

    The question for executives is: do we do old things with the new technologies we have available, or fundamentally disrupt ourselves — creating new value, in new ways, with the new tools we have at our disposal? The answer to me seems obvious. The latter can yield step change, while the former yields incremental change. We need to do both.

    The other important point is that digital business transformation is not a destination, it is a never-ending journey

    If Amazon is the dominant player in eCommerce and is running thousands of experiments every day with their rate of experimentation only increasing, it would be naive to think of the journey as having a destination. The destination business leaders should focus on is when they can honestly look at their business and see the traits of a lean startup - speed, experimentation and a razor focus on customer value. The good news for a small or medium business is they can get there a lot faster than massive enterprises with a lot of inertia.

    6. How can digital transformation become a strategic thought process for a business rather than just being a mere means to an end to enhance customer experience? Please suggest some processes that organizations can put in place so that internal stakeholders move in sync with this makeover?

    eConsultancy found that 81% of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers. But most consumers don't feel understood by brands - only 37% say their favorite retailer understands them. The default response to a statistic like this one is to focus on better CRM or database marketing; yet those that do so seldom make material progress in changing customer sentiment. In contrast, a digital native organization - like Netflix or Warby Parker - has many differentiating characteristics - a clear purpose and vision, leadership, a culture conducive to agility and collaboration, amazing talent at the intersection of business, technology and creativity, and data and learning infused into every facet of the organization.

    A specific technology competency, like CRM may be what an outsider might observe, but it is those underlying characteristics that allow them to adapt at the speed which customers demand. These characteristics are easy to articulate, yet require tremendous leadership commitment to truly embrace.

    At SapientRazorfish for example, I personally invest about 30% of my own time as our global CTO in our own Chief Marketing Technology Officer University, which is styled like a rigorous executive MBA. Every year, we take 20 of our best and brightest technologists through this program to groom them in their leadership and influence skills, as well as their marketing, business transformation and technology skills. And, because these are people in the field working with our clients on real transformation challenges, they are able to connect the dots across different situational problems and innovate faster as a network and cohort than otherwise. It is a win win for our clients, our people and our company.

    7. Could you share for our readers a sneak peek on the topic of your presentation?

    SapientRazorfish is honored to speak at two sessions at MarTech this year. In Thursday morning's keynote, I will be sharing the journey of our own CMTO University, which will include three speed talks from graduates of the program on different topics in marketing technology. Later that same afternoon, my session entitled "Ubernomics: Fault Lines in the Economy of Now" will address the challenges leaders face as transformation agents, how to facilitate a purpose to galvanize the organization for aligned change, and the capabilities needed to absorb and embrace change.

    • Banks' technology woes are short-lived

      POSTED ON: Apr 18, 2017

  • Banks' technology woes are short-lived

    By Rina Pandalai

    Read the article on


    As an ex-consumer banker, I am bullish about traditional U.S. consumer banking making a technology comeback over the next two to three years.

    In the years following the financial crisis, banks were strapped with costs associated with their large asset books (think Basel) and the regulatory upkeep tied to the Dodd-Frank Act. As a result, incumbents’ budgets for growth, innovation and transformation were virtually nonexistent. During this same period, fintech companies not only made technological improvements to deliver customer value, but also won the hearts and minds of a small sliver of early adopters by delivering transparency, personalization and humanization. This combination created contextually relevant and personalized experiences in a digital environment.

    It got to a point where industry gurus forecast that these upstarts would disintermediate chunks of traditional lines of business — e.g. lending, payments, retail wealth. This prognosis that had some CEOs scurrying to hire tech executives and build innovation labs in the hopes they would transform their traditional companies into a “reimagined big bank with fintechlike features.”

    But despite the added competition from startups, traditional consumer banks still own the majority of deposits, assets and customers. As post-crisis costs and regulations ease, and interest rates head upward, incumbents will only solidify their positions.

    They will match fintechs’ offerings and lock in future market share because of these four drivers:

    Deregulation frees up budgets for innovation

    The new political climate in the U.S. will likely usher in a series of policies that could remove some long-standing directives, including the fiduciary rule and diminishing the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Over time, banks could shed as many as 15% of their employees who are dedicated to managing and monitoring these rules, including compliance officers, risk control managers and auditors. Technology companies will also be positioned to capitalize on more relaxed and potentially straightforward rules, but overall deregulation will allow banks to focus on their growth and transformation strategies.

    Higher interest rate

    On March 15, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark federal funds rate to a range of between 0.75% and 1%. This is an economic development that more noticeably favors traditional banks over fintech firms. Most traditional consumer banks engage in transactions that allow them to yield a fairly large spread as rates rise. If banks can use these additional funds to support growth initiatives that have recently been tabled or postponed, it can easily support innovation initiatives without increasing overall spend. In this case, the banks with the biggest deposit books will win.

    Fintech funding changes

    Investment in fintech has proceeded at a rapid pace of late, but the jury is still out over whether funding will continue at such a strong clip or slow down. I believe that fintech funding will keep rising but at a slower pace as the market becomes somewhat saturated with little or no differentiation. Ultimately, banks have what fintechs need to be sustainable: a large customer base. Banks’ client-facing advantages present a significant opportunity for them to automate and digitize functional business activities either on their own or working alongside fintech startups. Regardless of whether fintech funding increases or not, I foresee a world where closer collaboration, partnerships and co-creation take hold.

    Coming small-business lending boom

    Small businesses are a sizable contributor to the GDP. But since the crisis, small businesses have had limited borrowing opportunities from traditional banks, largely because of heightened capital requirements imposed by banking regulators. This burden will likely not disappear, but banks’ appetite to lend to small businesses is due to return as more favorable economic factors lead companies in multiple sectors to want to borrow more money. Moreover, small businesses will benefit from lower corporate tax rates along with protectionist directives given the political climate.

    Together these four factors will benefit U.S. banks in a very positive way — initially they will mitigate compliance-related budgets to pave the way for a bolder, broader growth agenda around customer-centricity. Once budgets are available and recast, the real race will begin to determine how traditional banks, not fintechs, will win with their customers. Banks will quickly deploy technology throughout the enterprise by adopting and embedding fintech principles dealing with agile delivery, journeys and data. The real transformation and technology race begins now.

    • Trust issues: Why consumers hesitate before hitting the ‘buy’ button

      POSTED ON: Apr 12, 2017

  • Trust issues: Why consumers hesitate before hitting the ‘buy’ button

    A look at the subtle — and not-so-subtle — things retailers can do to make shoppers feel more confident about buying online

    Read the story on Medium


    Lack of consumer trust is one of the biggest hurdles for e-commerce conversion and growth. As technology evolves, trust becomes the currency for interactions beyond simply purchasing a product; innovative shopping experiences require a deeper relationship with customers.

    Walmart’s “order online and pay with cash” program was designed to appeal to unbanked consumers, but showed that a huge number of customers would go out of their way to pay at a store with a credit card instead of using the same card online. What can retailers do to make shoppers feel more confident? SapientRazorfish’s Jason Goldberg shared several proven tactics:


    Processing fluency

    Our subconscious brains trust sites that look better, which is why retailers should follow best practices in user experience, display overt trust symbols like BBB logos or security icons and make sure contact details like phone numbers are easy to find.


    Social proof

    People want to follow the lead of others who are similar to them. In simpler times, that meant avoiding empty restaurants. Now consumers rely on Yelp and other review sites, making social proof more valuable than brand when it comes to influencing purchase decisions. Customer reviews on product pages are a baseline expectation, and smart retailers are finding ways to make reviews even more valuable. For example, Adorama Camera invites people who have purchased cameras and accessories to answer questions submitted by shoppers who are considering the same purchase, and Target’s Awesome Shop spotlights products that are popular on Pinterest.


    Absolute value

    Brand was a shortcut for quality in the past, but now we use real data. Easy access to data makes brand less important than ever. When it’s easier to evaluate the quality and value of what retailers are offering, brand loyalty becomes less important. Retailers can rise to the top by being a source for product ratings, ingredient lists and other types of product information, and providing tools that help customers make smart decisions.



    Customers now know just as much or more about products and pricing as retailers and manufacturers, so the old world’s obfuscation models don’t work anymore. There are many examples of retailers providing previously hidden information to increase transparency and earn customer trust: displays traffic and conversion stats on its homepage, Amazon notifies customers when prices change on items in their cart and Everlane includes pricing and cost information on product pages.


    Real people, real interactions

    Earning trust requires more than improving site designs and making more information available. What would it take to get you to publicly share your measurements, along with a photo of yourself in a bathing suit? ModCloth’s Mike Janover and Kara Skrip said their customers upload this information willingly, partly because of the brand’s deep understanding of its audience. The company’s models are “real” people who represent the community and aren’t Photoshopped — an unconventional policy that creates a pact and a bond with customers who might otherwise be skeptical about sharing details about themselves in product reviews.


    As technology evolves, trust matters more than ever

    Huge’s Emily Wengert described a not-too-distant future where e-commerce search joins forces with machine learning and natural language processing to power anticipatory retail and other innovations in customer experience. The catch? Personalization requires permission, and this type of deep relationship with customers becomes even more critical as technology evolves. Retailers need to build trust now so their brands have the ability to be part of customers’ lives in the future.

    • Digital transformation: What's culture got to do with it?

      POSTED ON: Apr 05, 2017

  • Digital transformation: What's culture got to do with it?

    CEOs need to examine their culture thoughtfully, understand the changes they need to make, and hold themselves and their teams accountable to making them

    Read the article on Forbes India


    This was a meeting with a diversified Asian company. At the table were the CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO and two of the largest P&L owners. They wanted to discuss how they could digitally transform themselves.

    We started by introducing ourselves. And waited for them to do the same. Every one of the leaders just looked at the CEO as he introduced himself and then introduced each of his team members. Through the entire meeting, as we asked question after question – “What are your key growth priorities?”, “What are you seeing with your customers?”, “What kind of investments have you made in technology?” – the answer would come from the CEO. The others would perhaps add a couple of lines, but never anything new.

    As we parted, it became clear to us that much before they think about what to do with digital, they needed to think about what to do with how they worked.

    This is a somewhat extreme example of an organisation culture that is at obvious odds with their aspiration. In our work with organizations across the region, we consistently see culture as the single biggest impediment to successful digital transformation.

    Peter Drucker famously said, “strategy is a commodity, execution is an art.” To use an analogy provided by author David Maister - imagine you are a person who’s hugely overweight and smokes heavily. The strategy for getting healthy is simple, “Lose weight. Quit smoking.” Every person in your position will have the same strategy. It is the daily discipline of giving up your favourite foods, of starting to exercise, of eliminating triggers one at a time, of failing, learning and finding the energy to start again that will determine your success.

    As you think about the transformation of your business, you may spend a lot of time creating new value for your customers, redesigning end-to-end journeys, embedding analytics into your processes, and building open technology platforms. Yet, for these elements to truly change the core of your company and your future, they have to be enabled by a significant cultural change.

    Take three changes that are acknowledged to be essential to a digital transformation.

    Consumer centricity: Most companies have experienced the irrevocable shift in balance of power towards consumers. Most companies respond by creating “enterprise start-ups” - self-sufficient autonomous teams tasked with delivering customer and business outcomes, like reducing the time to service a customer, or improving the experience of finding the product they need.

    This is a great start, and even a lot of fun for a while. However, these practices fail, if not supported by a shift in organizational values. For example, organizations need to move away - from valuing business outcomes to valuing customer outcomes. This requires a whole new set of metrics and mindset.
    - from top down governance to fast delegated decision making. This requires giving the teams the confidence to make decisions with imperfect information, and respecting those decisions, even if those are not what the senior leadership would make.
    - from being rewarded for not making mistakes to being rewarded for speed. The former drives an obsession with reducing errors and lowering risk - that inevitably slows down decision making.

    Agility: This much-desired attribute is rightly on the transformation agenda for most organizations. Being able to innovate quickly and cheaply, test digital products and services in the market, refine them, and release them on a regular basis has become a competitive advantage.

    Most organizations rightly undertake a redesign and automation of their software engineering methods. However, what they fundamentally need is a new operating model which allows information and insights to travel rapidly through the organization and drive changes to products, services and propositions.

    For this to happen, you need to break down functional boundaries, create a shared language and incentive that allow front end sales people and product designers and IT and Legal and Marketing to talk to one another. Many organizations do not dismantle existing mental models that consider one function “superior” to another. This in turn preserves the unspoken but well understood hierarchies that hinder true sharing and discovery.

    Being data driven: Big data and analytics have climbed to the top of the corporate agenda, promising hitherto unseen performance gains. Most companies start on this journey by building models that predict and optimize business outcomes, establishing IT systems and infrastructure that allow new types of data sourcing, storage and analysis.

    But if organizations do not change how decisions get made, all the insight out of the data won’t solve anything. For too long experience and intuition based decision making has been woven into the organizational fabric, and many senior leaders don’t feel the need to justify decisions with data.

    Being data driven is also a commitment to changing one’s opinions if presented with the right data. If an organization values knowledge and experience over learning, it is near impossible for it to create a data driven culture.

    So while companies reorganise themselves to make the changes discussed, the most important change they must bring is that in their culture! Too often, culture is viewed as an outcome of business transformation. On the contrary, CEOs need to examine their culture thoughtfully, understand the changes they need to make, and hold themselves and their teams accountable to making them. In the long run, it is this commitment to changing the very core of their being that will separate the digital winners from the rest.

    - By Rajdeep Endow, Managing Director, SapientRazorfish, Asia Pacific. Views expressed are personal.

    • If 50 is the new 40, then what does that mean for 40?

      POSTED ON: Apr 03, 2017

  • If 50 is the new 40, then what does that mean for 40?

    There is an ongoing perception that being young equates to digital prowess, but experienced candidates also know how to get a project across the finish line, writes the global chief experience officer at SapientRazorfish.

    Read the article on CampaignLive


    The great Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once said, "Just remember, when you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed."

    Having worked in the digital marketing and technology industry for more than twenty years, I see an ongoing perception that being young not only equates to having digital prowess, but also equates to being fast and agile. And while young people may deeply understand and know how to use many of the current digital platforms or how to best leverage geo-filters on Snapchat, they may not always have the experience of fully understanding business demands, the evolving consumer journey, the client landscape, or the range of the transformation work that is required to become an "innately digital" organization. Thus, it's critical to leverage a diverse set of talent, a collective group that brings diverse perspectives, experiences, and capabilities and integrates them into the way we solve problems in a rapidly shifting transformation environment. And hiring for this well-rounded group needs to insure that we are making room for experienced candidates.

    Creativity, adaptability, innovative-thinking, agility, and superior technical expertise are the proverbial descriptors when hiring candidates in the digital space. As companies and the agencies they hire are increasingly putting higher demand on digital initiatives, the pressure is on for everyone to be at the forefront of digital business transformation. And that means they are putting a higher demand on the employees who undertake these projects. The stakes are high and if we simply hired "young" for these jobs, would they, solely, be able to handle the challenges and other requirements of a job that might include managing-up, managing a team, balancing digital disruption with the need for consensus building, communicating, and problem-solving?

    In fact, a recent study by the Educational Testing Service found that US millennials lag behind their global counterparts in a way that creates real on-the-job problems for them, their colleagues and teammates, and managers: they show a genuine lack of hard and soft skills including problem-solving and communications skills, skills that invariably come from workplace experience. Furthermore, the disruption that is caused by today's digitally connected consumer often causes internal conflicts in many organizations, and less-experienced team members can lack the critical skills and experience to successfully navigate the conflicts across an organization to get a project across the finish line. This is where experience and longevity can greatly maximize the success of any digitally driven initiative.

    Now, I'm not saying, "don't hire millennials." To the contrary, I'm saying mix them in with a truly diverse group, including older professionals who have greater hard and soft skills.

    Last year, when writing about diversity for Campaign, I stated that having a vast array of cultural experiences, ages, genders, religions, sexual orientations and lifestyles gives us the insights and the skills to evolve alongside the massive behavioral, technological and social shifts that we'll see in the coming decades. Since our client audiences are young, old, and everything in between, we should be hiring to reflect the wide age-range demographic of those people we are designing for. Young people, for example, aren't the only ones buying food, clothing and mobile devices. CNBC reported last year that millennials are pretty frugal, buying more but spending less on average than baby boomers or Gen Xers, according to a report from TD Bank. People ages 18 to 34 spend about a quarter less than both older generations. This means hiring professionals from the higher-spend demographic, who are 40 and over and who are still able to bring speed, efficiency, agility and creative and tech savvy—and then some—into the workplace.

    Recently, I read an article on Business Journals about why companies don't want to hire people over 40. The story countered, "one of the characteristics of a great leader is wisdom, and the best way to get wisdom is through experience. Normally that experience includes a few failures—that's where battle scars and limps come from." In my experience, nothing has taught me more than the failures I've experienced—because they gave me wisdom to understand what to do differently next time.

    Along with wisdom comes experience, which is why we have put a lot of effort behind our Career Return Program, and not being so quick in dismissing candidates over 40, who have endured a few of life's battle scars. The Career Return program aims to help onramp those who have pressed pause on their careers (to address life's needs), but whom are ready to get back to work. People take career breaks from the workforce for a variety of reasons, whether it's to start a family, care for a sick or elderly family member, travel, or sometimes, tackle an illness of their own. Sometimes these absences are brief, but often they can be extended, and when they are, re-entering the workforce can be a challenge, particularly for someone over 40. Hiring managers may see time away as an indication that someone is stale or that they may not have an up-to-date or relevant skillset. But why is what we learn in cubicles seen as more valuable than what we learn in life?

    We don't believe it is. We want to make an impact for those professionals who have left the workforce for an extended period of time and are facing barriers to re-entry in a system that largely evaluates a person's value as an employee strictly on continuous work-experience alone.

    That's how we met Rainy Orteca, who is a senior user experience designer in our New York office. Rainy's role as a UX designer allows her to be an advocate for frictionless user experiences often after evaluating every touchpoint within a brand's ecosystem. Her excitement for how brand identity can be strengthened and extended by technology has been infectious to her teams, where she serves as client-facing role for multiple leading retail, manufacturing and financial services companies. Rainy took to the digital ad scene with aplomb valiantly leading concept validation research and experience design artifacts such as personas, customer journey maps and service design blueprints. But Rainy also brings a depth of experience from her year's past as an Apple-certified technician, and years worth of life experience. Her balance of new and old experience, mixed with life experience, makes for a very unique team member. We made a smart choice in bringing Rainy on.

    As another example, last year we set out to find someone to revamp our company's Public Relations program. Clearly, we wanted to hire a person who understood our business, digital industry trends, and the innately digital audiences we were trying to reach. After meeting PR professionals that ran the spectrum we landed on a nearly 30-year veteran in PR. John Casey had a wide-ranging background that included interaction with stakeholders in nearly all of the vertical markets where our digital work was occurring. He passed onto us his wisdom and experience in retail, travel and hospitality, entertainment and fintech, among others.  But what John brought to our PR program that other less-experienced PR professionals could not, is his many years of understanding the needs of journalists, and his solid relationships with them. John's deep industry background balanced with his knowledge of our digital world provides a great equilibrium of experience, current understanding, and context.

    For better or for worse, America's two choices last year for President were the oldest candidates in US election history. Shirley MacLaine is getting rave reviews for her starring role in the current film "The Last Word" at the age of 82. Jaromir Jagr has played in all 75 games so far this year for the NHL's Florida Panthers at the age of 44. Perhaps the digital industry can take a few cues from politics, Hollywood and the sports world and continue to leverage "over the hill" candidates who will undoubtedly help their agencies and businesses pick up speed. Because teams that mix older team members with digitally-native millennials (among other perspectives) can help leverage and manage the disruption caused by digital for maximum impact.

    —Donald Chesnut is the global chief experience officer at SapientRazorfish.

    • Want to make it as a creative director? Use SapientRazorfish CCO Daniel Bonner's 5 secrets to success

      POSTED ON: Mar 30, 2017

  • Want to make it as a creative director? Use SapientRazorfish CCO Daniel Bonner's 5 secrets to success

    In a market where creativity is a commodity, career opportunities lie in your ability to sell the dream and support your team.

    Read the article on Campaign


    In the five years since he joined Razorfish (now SapientRazorfish), Global Chief Creative Officer Daniel Bonner has traveled tirelessly to provide creative leadership for the agency.

    He moved into the newly created global role in July 2012, a scant eight months after accepting a CCO position at Razorfish London. Bonner was already a seasoned creative leader after 15 years as CCO of AKQA UK.

    Bonner called upon that perspective to offer some advice to aspiring creative directors and share his five pillars of success.

    While Bonner has seen creative directors emerge from a variety of professional backgrounds, his own specialty was design. He says he realized early that emerging technology would soon beget a new breed of agency built on interactive media: "I worked in a design business creating annual reports and other printed documents," he says. "When I made their first screensaver, they didn't know what this witchcraft was!

    "So while I came from more of a design and art-direction slant, I quickly had to learn how things worked and how to make things move." He was able to parlay his interest in new media into a role as creative director at AKQA UK by the age of 27. "That was pretty unheard of," he recalled, "but we grew quickly as the industry was growing quickly."

    Whether they start as designers, copywriters, graphic artists, multimedia experts or other specialists, what is the Rubicon creatives must cross to become creative directors? According to Bonner, there are five roles a creative director must embrace:

    Craftsperson. "I think out of all those things, craft is the most important," Bonner says. "You still have to be a doer; you can't really coast on things you did years ago. I get pulled in a lot of directions, but as often as possible I want to be in on a pitch."

    Politician/negotiator. Next, the aspiring creative director needs to be able to work with other parts of the business to find out what they're seeking from a project and to build consensus behind it. "There has to be an element of allowing people to understand why the creative vision is right," Bonner says. "That means you have to understand other partners and parties—which means talking internally with other disciplines to create momentum for an idea. It's not enough just to want it; you need to know how to have it."

    Salesperson. "Definitely, part of being a creative director is being able to operate not just with creatives and the craft itself," Bonner says. "You need to be able to discuss and negotiate with clients as well as other departments. You have to strike a balance between being a craftsperson and a salesperson. You need to be able to extract emotion from your audience—after all, the work won't sell itself!

    "I think you can double, treble down on your own craft. But ultimately, you have to be a salesperson. If you want to move something forward, you're going to need to bring people with you."

    Leader. According to Bonner, the secret to growth as a creative director and beyond lies in a real passion for the success of the creatives on your team—and not just in the work they turn out. "You have to be truly interested in other people: their work, their money, their benefits.

    "You can't just be an inspirational leader focused on the craft. As professionals progress in their roles as creative directors, they talk as much about their team's careers as much as their own work."

    Catalyst for change. "To move a project from the ordinary to the extraordinary, you need to be able to quickly change direction," Bonner says. "You have to be a catalyst to change: Get people excited about a new path instead of dwelling on what could have been. The creative leader has to be as excited about the new path as he was about whatever came before."  
    So how do you develop this range of attributes? They'll need to dig deep, but Bonner believes most craftspeople have the potential to succeed in this varied role. "I think most creative people have some of that DNA," he says. "They will not avoid having to lead or be a catalyst."

    Nor does selling your team's creative work require bombast. "I have a lot of respect for those who are not great salespeople in the traditional sense—but as humble, as introvert as they may be, if they believe in what they do, they will find their own way to sell.

    "You can't simply say, 'It's done, so it's awesome.' I have a belief that ideas are pretty easy for creative people, doing great visual design. In fact, it's a bit of a commodity, and the audience often has as many ideas as we have! The trick isn't having these great ideas—world is full of hard drives, sticky notes full of great ideas.

    "The trick is being the catalyst who can help get that thing bought, not just dreamed. That's a real hard thing to get done.

    So where do you go from here?
    Like many CCOs, Bonner describes a traditional path for creative directors that entails leadership of increasingly large and complex teams. "The most regular path is going to be CD (localized in one city); to ECD (multiple offices or a region); to CCO across international borders," Bonner says. "The opportunity scales."

    However, that's no longer the only ladder to climb, according to Bonner. "Now we're seeing divergence of opportunity depending on the creative's vocation." New job titles are springing up to reflect new specializations: "They may find themselves as a studio director, a head of innovation or an experience director—opportunities that simply didn't exist a few years ago. It's quite a complex landscape!"

    Meanwhile, professionals are increasingly coming up through agencies and finding creative leadership positions with clients. "For instance, you've got creative within places like Google or other tech companies," Bonner says, "as client organizations are internalizing marketing services.

    "Five years ago the idea of a creative director leaving and joining a client would have been unheard of. But now, it's fine to step out of that career path."

    And what are the prospects for a creative who wants to become CEO of an agency? You'll probably have to blaze your own trail, Bonner suggests. "Off the top of my head, my experience tells me that creative leaders who become spearheads are usually founders, like [David] Droga or [John] Hegarty. I've seen it attempted in other situations and have to be retracted.

    "Taking on the roles of CCO and CEO? Even to me, that sounds like a pretty big task! For most creatives, there are significant blind spots in leading business from a commercial and financial point of view.

    "That said, it makes sense for the CCO to be part of the agency's cultural leadership—to be on the board and stand shoulder to shoulder with CEO and CFO.

    "I think that for any business that trades in its creative leadership, the CCO role has to be part of the fabric, not just a department."

    • Amazon’s Time-Saving Trick for Groceries: You Drive to Us

      POSTED ON: Mar 28, 2017

  • Amazon’s Time-Saving Trick for Groceries: You Drive to Us

    Read the article on WIRED


    AMAZON IS DIVING deeper into the instant-gratification business, but with a twist: Now you come to them. The company this morning unveiled AmazonFresh Pickup: order groceries online, then drive to an Amazon-run store, where a worker brings them all bagged up to your car.

    The first two grocery pickup spots are in Seattle and available only to Amazon employees. When the company finally opens the service to the public, grocery pickup will become yet another Amazon Prime perk. But groceries are more than just another add-on for Amazon. Analysts predict online shopping could amount to 20 percent of all grocery spending within the next decade. This isn’t Amazon’s first attempt at groceries, or a physical store. But in combining the two, the company has hit on a competitive strategy that just might work.

    As far back as August 2007, Amazon was testing its first iteration of Fresh, delivering groceries from its vast network of fulfillment centers. But the rollout of that service proved complicated. Amazon started out charging Prime customers $299 per year for the service before settling on $14.99 per month. The biggest challenge for Amazon: Groceries aren’t like any other consumer good.

    “It’s notoriously difficult to stay profitable by delivering groceries,” says Jason Goldberg, vice president of commerce at the digital marketing company SapientRazorfish. “Perishables must arrive when a consumer is home to receive them and put them in a refrigerator.”

    And Amazon can’t really work like Amazon when you have to be home. What’s more, groceries require a greater human touch on Amazon’s end, from the complicated packaging of delicate perishables to delivery drivers needing to take the shortest route possible so they don’t spoil. Goldberg says these headaches make Amazon’s new come-to-us approach the better way to handle groceries online.

    Not that Amazon is the first to figure this out. Both Walmart and Kroger offer similar services that are doing rather well. And while Amazon has invested intensely in building distribution centers closer to major metro areas, Walmart still has many more stores closer to many more Americans. At the same time, Amazon’s promise of orders ready in 15 minutes appears to far outstrip its’ rivals 2-to-4-hour order prep times—the difference between truly being able to order your groceries on the fly, and doing it during breakfast time then planning an afternoon pick-up trip.

    Basically, Amazon doesn’t have to win the entire grocery game to do well. “Everyone likes to talk about all these things as if it’s a ‘winner take all’ market,” says Goldberg. “But the history of retail doesn’t bear that out.” For one thing, Amazon already knows where it has a high concentration of Prime members. It can focus its efforts on winning these markets without needing to over-commit resources to any kind of broader national rollout.

    As with so much else it does, Amazon will also likely focus on user experience over profit to win over new customers. “That captures Amazon’s culture really well,” says ChannelAdvisor executive chairman Scot Wingo, an analyst who tracks Amazon closely. Amazon will likely try to be competitive on price, but it probably won’t go all in on a race to the bottom. Instead, it will no doubt play to its strengths—in this case, logistics, tweaking prices using algorithms, and ease of use—to win customers over through sheer convenience.

    In other words, Amazon may not save you money compared to the other big chains. But if pickup works like it should, it will save you time. And hooking you on that ease still helps Amazon’s bottom line, since getting you to spend the time and money driving to those pickup points costs Amazon way less than bringing them to you. If pickup proves successful, Amazon will have pulled off a neat trick: the company that changed retail forever by bringing everything to your door will have convinced you to do the driving.

    • Massage Envy’s New Campaign Highlights Positive Benefits of Total Body Care

      POSTED ON: Mar 22, 2017

  • Massage Envy’s New Campaign Highlights Positive Benefits of Total Body Care

    Read the story on Diverge


    Massage Envy and its digital transformation partner SapientRazorfish, have launched a new advertising campaign focused on a simple idea – that whether you’re 17 or 70, caring for your body is an important part of reaching your personal best, which allows you to do more of what you love to

    The “Making the Best of Every Body” campaign celebrates the positive benefits of total body care with a two-pronged communication approach.

    “Our services truly can make a difference for people of all ages and from all walks of life,” said Massage Envy CMO, Debbie Gonzalez, in a statement. “This campaign celebrates individuality and is a call to action for everyone to take care of their bodies so they can be the best version of themselves and enjoy more of what they love to do.”

    The first set of ads in the new campaign highlight the value of Massage Envy membership, by reinforcing the message that body care is important for “every body.” The ads feature people who get physical and emotional benefits from massage, including extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron Fotheringham.

    The second set of ads in the campaign debut a new approach for the brand, featuring some of the more than 25,000 massage therapists and estheticians employed by franchised locations, who help members feel and be their best every day.

    The campaign will run on TV, digital and social media.


    Nick Moore, Executive Creative Director at SapientRazorfish tells DIVERGE more about the campaign:

    Where did the idea for this campaign come from?

    Massage and skincare are unusual products to advertise, in that everybody can benefit from them.  Whether you are old or young, an athlete or an office worker, you have a physical best.  Massage Envy exists to help you reach your best through total body care.  That’s why our idea is ‘Making the best or every body’.

    Why was it important to focus on individuality in this campaign?

    Everybody has a best, but everybody is different.  Our campaign is a celebration of diversity. It is also completely inclusive, just like the services being advertised.  We recognize individuals who achieve their best in many ways and on many stages.

    How does it celebrate the positive benefits of total body care?

    The advertising shows a range of different people doing the things they love to do.  They range from achievable pastimes such as hiking and playing with your dog, to amazing people doing extraordinary things, such as a disabled athlete landing a handplant in his wheelchair.  These are examples of things you can enjoy when you incorporate total body care into your wellness routine.

    When and where will this campaign launch?

    Network TV, Cable TV, social media, digital advertising

    Why did you make it a point to highlight employees in the campaign?

    The therapists and estheticians of Massage Envy are the brand’s biggest asset.  They are the women and men who deliver the brand promise day in and day out.  The brand is immensely proud of its therapists and estheticians and wants to showcase their expertise and professionalism as part of the campaign.

    Additional thoughts?

    This campaign is a major step, moving the brand away from traditional spa services, and positioning it as an integral part of the burgeoning wellness movement.

    • Publicis and Microsoft Link Up Products for Data Push

      POSTED ON: Mar 22, 2017

  • Publicis and Microsoft Link Up Products for Data Push

    Publicis’s SapientRazorfish is linking up its Cosmos data product to Microsoft’s cloud, Azure

    Read the story on The Wall Street Journal


    Publicis PUBGY -0.70% Groupe and Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.03% have decided to expand a pilot initiative that combined the ad giant’s Cosmos data product with Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. The partnership highlights Publicis’s push to generate more revenue from intellectual property and compete with consulting companies, as well as Microsoft’s ambitions to expand its cloud-based offerings.

    Cosmos gleans people’s behavioral data for marketers and constantly updates individual customer identities that are stored in the Microsoft cloud. The marketer uses that customer information to create and send targeted emails and digital ads to individuals.

    “How customers behave in real time changes how we market to them,” said Shannon Denton, chief strategy officer of Publicis digital agency group SapientRazorfish. “When we’re competing with other agencies but also with consultancies, this data is a huge advantage. That’s the big play and why we’re going to continue to invest in this area.”

    The partnership comes as marketers rethink how they target their customers and attempt to piece together previously disparate marketing functions, such as customer relationship marketing and ad-buying, and make more effective use of customer data.

    It’s also a potentially lucrative play for the agency and other Publicis shops that now will have access to Cosmos and Azure.

    SapientRazorfish is charging clients a licensing fee for use of Cosmos. It’s also collecting a small percentage of the usage fee a client pays Microsoft when it uses Cosmos and Azure to host and update its customer data. Additionally, Publicis agencies may also generate service fees for supporting the client’s marketing.

    The goal for the agency group is for 5% to 10% of its revenue to come from intellectual property, through products like Cosmos, said Mr. Denton. Typically, agencies generate under 1% of their revenue from IP, he said.

    Licensing intellectual property is a departure from the common agency services model in which an agency sells strategy, design work and even digital product development for individual marketers. “Were taking a fresh look at [our IP] and making sure we’re going after it more aggressively across the whole organization,” he said. “It’s a competitive market. We need to differentiate and find new revenue sources.”

    The partnership also offers insight into Microsoft’s strategy to build out its cloud-based offerings and compete with companies like IBM , which has been aggressively promoting its artificial intelligence product Watson.

    The partnership with Publicis is “one of the biggest bets we’re making” in the enterprise transformation space, said Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the data group at Microsoft. “Marketing is an area where our customers want to get as much insight as possible and use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence and all the rich data from sensors and all the customer behavior,” he said. “Cosmos is very much a reflection of the core capability we’re bringing into the cloud.”

    SapientRazorfish’s Mr. Denton describes a scenario in which a cosmetics company might use Cosmos and Azure to glean data from customers who use its app. From the app, which shows customers how makeup shades might look like on their face, Cosmos is able to create customer profiles that include data about chosen products and skin tones, as well as other customer information the agency can plug in, such as data from client loyalty programs or behavioral or purchase data from the agency’s third-party email vendors. That data is stored in the cloud.

    The agency and marketer can then use that information to recommend products before or after a client purchase. The agency works with companies like Adobe that can help it use the data in the cloud to serve digital ads and promotional materials recommending specific products to the targeted customers and other customers with similar traits. Microsoft Azure also has a partnership with Adobe.

    The Publicis and Microsoft relationship dates back nearly a decade. Publicis acquired Razorfish from Microsoft in 2009, for about $530 million. The deal included a multi-year commitment from Publicis to spend a certain amount with Microsoft in exchange for specific ad rates.

    “There’s been a history there,” said Mr. Denton.

    • This Is What The Radio Might Have Sounded Like If The Nazis Won

      POSTED ON: Mar 20, 2017

  • This Is What The Radio Might Have Sounded Like If The Nazis Won

    Read the story on Newsweek


    Elvis Presley might not have become the megastar he did had the United States and the Allies not prevailed in World War II, when the future King of Rock ’n’ Roll was just 10 years old. If the Nazis and the Japanese had taken over the East and West coasts of the U.S., respectively—as they do in Philip K. Dick’s famous alternate-history novel The Man in the High Castle and the more recent Amazon series of the same name—every detail of American culture would have been distorted.

    “The Beatles or Dylan or any of these iconic musicians of the late ’50s and early ’60s just wouldn’t have happened under Nazi totalitarianism, because all forms of art and freedom of expression were controlled and censored,” Daniel Percival, an executive producer and sometimes-director for the series, tells Newsweek.

    That doesn’t mean creative forces would have disappeared entirely, but they most likely would have been pushed into the Neutral Zone—an area also known as the “Rocky Mountain States” that served as a buffer between the “Greater Nazi Reich” to the east and the “Japanese Pacific States” to the west. Even there, they’d have been driven underground, where “people would still risk their lives to try to retain some knowledge and history,” he says. “All the artists, thinkers, gays, blacks, Jews would have gone there to escape,” he adds, “to a cultural melting pot in the middle of America,” where they had “no money, no means, but all this brilliance.”

    That’s the premise of “Resistance Radio,” a project that imagines what illegal broadcasts, both music and commentary, from the Neutral Zone in the world of The Man in the High Castle would have sounded like.

    “That’s unlike any music I’ve ever heard,” one of the show’s protagonists, Juliana, says when a resistance fighter fiddles with a radio dial in a scene in the second season. To that he replies, “It’s pirate radio, from the Neutral Zone. A little reminder of what we’re fighting for.”

    “Resistance Radio” takes this, one of the many details of the complex production, and explores it in depth. There are already some striking musical moments in the show, not least the haunting rendition of “Edelweiss” that accompanies images of the atomic bomb falling on Washington, D.C., and the U.S. falling to the Axis powers in the title sequence. In one episode, viewers hear a Japanese rendition of Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World,” playing at a San Francisco club where white hostesses entertain important Japanese men. A third version of that song, covered by Sharon Van Etten, is one of 18 tracks listeners can hear when they tune in to the dreamt-up radio station, and which will be released on an album on April 7.

    “It’s so melancholic and painful. It was written at a time when, echoing the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was a point where people did all think they might die. Well, why couldn’t that song still have been written but inspired by different things?” Percival says. Surely, the vast majority of characters in the show, and all the unnamed people around them, live in fear. The phrase Percival comes back to multiple times is that with the show, and with this radio project, they are trying to “do violence to the American dream.”

    An ongoing investigation as to what music would have played in an alternate 1962, along with questions about every detail and prop—like where the borders would be drawn on a world map displayed in the background of a shot—came up throughout the making of the first two seasons. But the idea for the project that became “Resistance Radio” emerged at a marketing meeting. The project was executed by a team at the marketing agency Campfire at SapientRazorfish, which worked with Amazon Studios. The songs were reimagined, rearranged and recorded by Sam Cohen and Brian Burton, also known as Danger Mouse, working with artists including Beck, Norah Jones, the Shins and Angel Olson. It can be viewed simply as a publicity stunt, but the material is nevertheless compelling.

    “Because of the context of the show, we chose songs that were a little more somber and darker in general, and made them even darker,” producer Brian Burton tells Newsweek. They used actual songs written around the war that they thought might still have existed, albeit in different iterations, in the fictional world of the series. “When it came time to picking songs and tempos,” Burton says he and Cohen “[stayed] away from some of the early, early rock ’n’ roll. Maybe it wouldn’t have existed, or it might not have had that feel.” Cohen adds that their version of “Get Happy,” a Judy Garland show tune that he covers, for example, conveys a “much more ironic sentiment” than the original.

    They worked quickly and recorded in Cohen’s small Brooklyn studio using instruments and equipment that would transport the sound realistically back half a century, including vintage guitars and amps, a 1960s drumset, an upright bass, ribbon microphones, a clavioline and an echoplex. The small studio didn’t have many isolation rooms, so most parts were recorded live in the room with an engineer. They laid down all the backing tracks and reached out mostly to artists they’d each worked with in the past, who they felt could have been big vocalists in that era. The whole thing was done in three and half weeks.

    “In a way working for speed lent a lot of authenticity to what would have been the recording process of that era,” Cohen says, alluding to the rushed, improvised manner of operation an illegal radio outfit would have been forced to adopt.

    One of the fictional DJ characters created for the project, Jake Rumiel, the host of a show called “Firing Squad,” confirms that notion when he thanks an anonymous donor for the secret attic he’s broadcasting from. At one point, listeners hear the sound of glass smashing, followed by silence and then Rumiel catching his breath. “Thought that was...” he says, his thought trailing off. “From here on out, as long as nobody breaks through the door to kill me, it's laughs all the way,” he finally says, then plays “All Alone Am I,” covered by Maybird.

    The “Resistance Radio” project, like several of the previous marketing campaigns for The Man in the High Castle, caused some controversy. After it launched, some supporters of Donald Trump mistakenly assumed the station was a real-life present-day anti-administration effort.

    “I thought that was really funny,” Cohen says. “I think that people are going off on headlines. Like I don’t know if people really listened to it and heard the DJs talk about Nazis and were like, ‘Hey, you can’t talk about Trump like that!’” he adds. “That would be pretty damning. I think it’s more likely, though, that they saw the word resist and thought, Oh, this is some hippy-dippy bullshit; I know I’m right, and they’re wrong. There’s a lot of that going around too. It’s a hard time to find middle ground right now.”

    But that reaction doesn’t mean Trump’s election didn’t influence the music of “Resistance Radio.” Though the project was already being discussed and developed before November 8, the songs were all recorded immediately after Trump was named the 45th president of the United States. Real-life American politics were very much on Burton and Cohen’s minds.

    “We all had sort of a bummed out, dark outlook and brought that into the studio with us for sure,” Cohen says. “I think that worked perfectly for what needed to happen in terms of the theme of the record. Those things sort of conspired to paint that picture.”

    People will read into the show and the project what they want to see, Percival says. The DJs and artists that would have come together and risked their lives to broadcast in an America ruled by Nazis and the Japanese were fighting for “greater tolerance, freedom to love who you want, freedom to worship how you want, freedom to express yourself how you want,” Percival says. They would have been fighting for gay rights, women’s rights and migrants’ rights, and against racism and xenophobia, he adds. “All of these things were as pertinent in 1962 in America as they are today as they would be under a Nazi totalitarian state.”


    • Publicis.Sapient reveals SapientRazorfish positioning, APAC head

      POSTED ON: Mar 17, 2017

  • Publicis.Sapient reveals SapientRazorfish positioning, APAC head

    Rajdeep Endow is APAC head of an agency focused on "customer-­centric digital transformation".

    Read the article on Campaign Asia


    Publicis.Sapient's SapientRazorfish network has a revealed a new logo, a new APAC leader and a list of six core offerings that adds a wee bit more detail to the role the network is intended to play for brands.

    Rajdeep Endow, MD of Sapient India up until October last year, has been APAC managing director at SapientRazorfish since late last year, although this was not announced publicly until now.

    As it indicated when it announced the combination of SapientNitro and Razorfish in November, Publicis said SapientRazorfish's "new set of integrated offerings" is designed to meet a "digital-­first transformation imperative" brought on by changing consumer expectations and disruptive competitors.

    Specifically, SapientRazorfish will focus on six "best-­of-­breed offerings":

    • Digital business strategy and innovation
    • Customer experience
    • Data and artificial intelligence
    • Marketing modernization
    • IT modernization
    • Commerce

    Companies need a partner that combines the strengths of consultancies and agencies, with expertise in everything from management consulting and innovation incubators to dynamic creativity, technology and implementation services, the company said. With Sapient Consulting and DigitasLBi, SapientRazorfish is "uniquely poised" to deliver digital transformation across the entire enterprise.

    “SapientRazorfish's unique set of digital transformation services combine our deep understanding of the consumer with industry leading expertise in digital technologies," Endow said in a statement provided. "The ability to reimagine the future and help realize it is unmatched by any consultancy or agency in the region."

    APAC consumers are ahead of businesses in their expectations, which places pressure on business leaders to embrace a customer-centric digital transformation to maintain relevance and drive future growth, he added.

    SapientRazorfish's other leaders across the region are:

    • Kim Douglas, MD, Southeast Asia
    • Torben Pheiffer, MD, China
    • Marcos Kurowski, MD, Australia
    • Charulata Ravikumar, MD, India
    • Joanna Kalenska, MD, Hong Kong
    • Symon Hammacott, COO, Hong Kong

    “The market clearly needs a partner that drives real and sustainable business transformation for the connected age through an obsessive focus on the customer,” Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, said in a release. “Today’s business leaders are realizing that a bifurcated approach of leaning on agencies to transform experiences and on consulting partners to transform business processes no longer works—it’s too slow, too fractured, organizationally unsustainable and most importantly, the focus on the customer gets lost in the complexity.”

    SapientRazorfish CEO Alan Wexler said innovation is increasingly important as clients look to "evolve business models and leverage the bundling opportunity of platform effect.” SapientRazorfish stands out in its ability to help clients realize digital business transformation, he said, due to expertise across verticals, alliances and partnerships, and leadership positions in commerce, creativity, customer experience and digital experience delivery.

    The IDC MarketScape recently named SapientRazorfish a Leader for Worldwide Digital Strategy and Agency Services: Digital Customer Experience Consulting, Digital Operations and Digital Product Innovation.

    • SapientRazorfish Hosts Q&A with Danielle Gray, Former Senior Advisor to President Obama

      POSTED ON: Mar 10, 2017

  • SapientRazorfish Hosts Q&A with Danielle Gray, Former Senior Advisor to President Obama

    Read the story on DIVERGE


    As part of recognizing International Women’s Day, SapientRazorfish hosted a Q&A with Danielle Gray, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers, one of the world’s largest law firms.

    Gray served in the administration of President Barack Obama for five years in senior legal and policy positions, most recently as Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary, acting as President Obama’s liaison to the administration’s cabinet members.

    In addition, Gray played a leading role in judicial selection and confirmation proceedings, including steering the successful confirmation processes for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. She also served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and justice nominee Merrick Garland.

    The agency also has another reason to celebrate. Just in time for IWD,  SapientRazorfish was named a Great Place to Work for Women in Canada.

    Diverge talked to Lauren DeGeorge, Senior Account Director at SapientRazorfish to find out more about the agency’s plan to celebrate IWD:

    Why is International Women’s Day important and why should it be celebrated?

    International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

    At SapientRazorfish, the Women’s Leadership Network seeks to empower our women through inspiration, advocacy and guidance to help them achieve their greatest potential year-round. We also embrace the theory of intersectionality, and stand in unity with our colleagues of all identities.

    What will you be discussing at the SapientRazorfish on Thursday and why did you ask Danielle to speak?

    We will be discussing Danielle’s career path— her mentors and champions, what it was like to work in the Obama administration, her current life as a New York lawyer and what might be in store for the future.

    Danielle Gray is one of the most prominent attorneys in the U.S. Previously, she served as a senior advisor to President Obama and was responsible for leading the confirmation process for two female U.S. Supreme Court justices, the passage of the Affordable Care Act and other critical actions protecting the nation’s most vulnerable populations. A graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School, Gray has been described as someone “smart as a whip, totally no-nonsense, and has zero ego.” Known as someone with vision and conviction, who can unify even the most contentious of factions, she is an inspiration to the women and men of SapientRazorfish, and symbolizes what we look for in a leader— creativity, openness, humility and power.

    Danielle Gray shared advice and favorite memory of working with President Obama with DIVERGE:

    What is your advice for those who want to get involved in politics but are afraid?

    Politics is hard. But it’s easier when you have a cause or candidate that you truly believe in. There are also many different ways to get involved — from volunteering and fundraising to working on advocacy or grassroots organizing.

    What is your favorite memory working with President Obama?

    The night the Affordable Care Act passed. You get involved in public service to make a difference in people’s lives, and few things compare to the feeling of accomplishment we all had on that night.

    How can we help elevate the work of the Obama administration on gender equity?

    There are a number of ways to promote gender equity.   We can do it in our workplaces, in the leaders we elect to represent us, and even in our own personal mentoring relationships. I think the kind of activism all across the country that we saw with the Women’s March and the focus placed on issues of workplace fairness, women’s health, and anti-discrimination policies was extremely inspiring and empowering.   We have to keep it up.

    • Amazon and Campfire Transport You to 1962 Through “Resistance Radio”

      POSTED ON: Mar 10, 2017

  • Amazon and Campfire Transport You to 1962 Through “Resistance Radio”

    Read the story on DIVERGE


    Amazon and digital marketing consultancy Campfire at SapientRazorfish have launched “Resistance Radio” – an audio storytelling experience across online, mobile and experiential platforms intended to immerse listeners in the show’s alternate, post-WWII reality.

    The purpose is to not only keep viewers engaged between seasons of its original series, Man in the High Castle, but also to tap in to the available on-demand streaming world where people can access more of the stories they love.

    DIVERGE talked to Mike Monello, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Campfire to find out more:

    How will “resistance radio” help keep viewers engaged?
    Resistance Radio is designed to appeal to fans of The Man in the High Castle, as well as people new to the show. If you are a fan, our pirate radio DJs Miss Evangeline, Bob Montez, and Jake Rumiel will reveal aspects of the world you haven’t yet discovered. And if you’re new, it’s the perfect primer for this incredibly realized world.

    Our three distinct radio programs include eighteen beautifully reimagined standards, recorded specifically for Resistance Radio. These tracks are conceived and produced by Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen, and include performers such as Beck, Norah Jones, The Shins, Grandaddy, Angel Olsen, Kelis, Sharon Van Etten, and others. It’s an intoxicating collection of music and, combined with the DJs personal stories, makes for an extraordinary narrative experience.

    Where did the idea for this come from?
    Resistance Radio was developed by Campfire in response to a brief from Amazon. It was embraced by the show’s creative team, who wrote the pirate radio network into season 2 (which premiered in December on Amazon Prime Video), making Resistance Radio part of the official The Man in the High Castle canon. The idea of audio storytelling was a response to several unique challenges around The Man In The High Castle.

    First, it takes place in 1962, so an immersive experience that is authentic to the story but can scale online required a creative solution — it had to function with modern technology and the internet while remaining totally true to the time period. Audio storytelling also let us sidestep the issues around some of the visual iconography of the world, which reads to most people as a WWII setting rather than a series that takes place 17 years after the war is over. And finally, the music became an important part of the storytelling. This is a world where rock n’ roll and youth culture did not happen, and the “illegal” music our DJs play is both familiar yet changed just enough to feel like it comes from an alternate history.

    How/when will it be introduced at SXSW?
    Amazon is creating The Man in the High Castle Resistance Radio Headquarters, running March 11-14 at Austin’s Market & Tap Room. There are awesome surprises planned, including secret entrances, musical performances, specialty cocktails and more. On March 14th at the Belmont there will be an official SXSW Music showcase, “The Man in the High Castle & 30th Century Records Present: Resistance Radio.” Attendees will hear live performances from many of the artists on the soundtrack.

    How long did this take to make/design?
    It’s an extraordinary amount of scripted entertainment, and it’s a very complex world to write, as everything has to align with the alternate history timeline. We pitched the concept at the end of last summer and went into major production in December, which seems reasonable, but given the amount of content it was quite a marathon to get it completed in time.

    How was it included in the second season of the show?

    The show creators wrote pirate radio DJs into episode five of the second season. There is a great scene where the main character, Juliana Crain, is introduced to the pirate broadcasters by a member of the resistance. The pirate radio network makes another crucial appearance later in the season, but I won’t spoil the fun.

    Additional thoughts?
    Resistance Radio is an example of how networks and entertainment franchises are adapting from a linear broadcast model to an always available on-demand streaming world where people want more of the stories they love. Marketing and advertising in the linear model focuses on driving viewership to a season premiere, but the streaming model requires franchises to refresh throughout the year to remain top of mind. Extending stories into other forms of media creates opportunities to bring in new viewers while engaging fans in-between seasons.

    Additionally, this can open up new revenue streams. Did I mention that Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album will be released April 7 on vinyl, CD, and digital? In the meantime, you can hear Resistance Radio at or on IHeartRadio or an Alexa-powered devices like Amazon Echo.

    • Artificial Intelligence Is Finally the Real Thing

      POSTED ON: Mar 06, 2017

  • Artificial Intelligence Is Finally the Real Thing

    Published on


    Imagine it's a sunny weekend in May. Unless you're in the raincoat industry, this kind of weather is poised to make your bottom line giddy, because if the sun is shining, your customers are likely out enjoying it — lacing up some sneakers, drinking a soda, uploading photos via an app, or even just reading a book in the park. Whatever the case, the concept of using a local forecast to buy relevant advertising isn't necessarily the sales secret it once was. "An advertiser who's selling gardening tools and has been doing it for 20 years already understands this," says Ritesh Soni, VP of data science at SapientRazorfish. "That's what you may consider tribal knowledge."

    Now, instead, imagine it's not the weekend. Maybe it's June. Perhaps it's snowing. Or maybe it's something really strange, like cloudy with a chance of meatballs. When you're trying to plan around changing key variables to the ad targeting and conversion equation, you're much less likely to have the same success you did previously — after all, you're only human. "It's very difficult for a human analyst to sift through the thousands of factors to come up with the perfect decision engine," Soni says. Yes, but not difficult for a computer.

    Over the past 50 years, computer scientists have promised that this thing called "artificial intelligence" would soon come along and save people from making complex and confounding decisions. Seemingly always five years away, suddenly AI has arrived, most notably in the form of personal assistants on mobile and in-home devices. Now the question on every C-suiter's lips is "What do I do with it?"

    "We're now in this period of really quite significant change where society and, in fact, a whole bunch of engineers and entrepreneurs are all racing in a slightly confused-but-excited fashion, because things are changing so fast," says Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon.

    A former VP of Google Commerce, Moore led initiatives in advertising and shopping for the search giant, and is one of the preeminent AI experts in the world, having been named a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence for his work with data mining, machine learning, and algorithms. "There's nothing magic in AI," he says. "AI is simply a very large scale computation."


    What Exactly Is Artificial Intelligence?
    According to Moore, artificial intelligence really consists of just two key parts: data and an automated process that can make decisions based on that data. Every marketer who has waded into the pool of online and interactive advertising knows the wealth of data that has long existed in this space, but they probably hadn't thought about it in terms of AI until only recently.

    The obvious change bringing AI to the forefront has been the recent emergence of products from major technology companies: Amazon's algorithms and Alexa assistant, Apple's Siri, Facebook's various tools and algorithms, Google's Assistant and its keyword-based ad system, IBM's Watson, and Microsoft's Cortana assistant. While these various programs all perform varying tasks, they also each have the potential to make advertisers and marketers more efficient and innovative moving forward.

    Take, for example, Google's AdWords program. From roughly 2000 to 2010, large-scale statistics were being applied to keywords and text, with Google's computers looking for and optimizing the relationship between the terms that users had typed in. "That I would call very large-scale machine learning or very large-scale statistical analysis," Moore says. Pair that insight with analytics derived from cookies and other markers, and you're able to compound the intelligence gleaned from simple keyword searches exponentially.

    Industry insiders might think of this approach simply as online advertising or programmatic ad buying, but what's actually going on behind the scenes is algorithms trying to understand the meaning of the queries received so they can give a meaningful response, says Moore. Or, in other words, this myriad of practices that the ad and tech industries have been refining for close to two decades is actually, finally, artificial intelligence.

    Where Did AI Come From?
    In varying forms, research in AI has been around since the mid-1960s, though it was initially used in areas outside of commerce for things like software verification. It wasn't until the mid-1990s, when new theories in statistical learning — combined with a drop in data storage prices and new methods of handling very large data sets by Yahoo! and Google — made gathering actionable information from data possible. Since then, the combination of those three elements have led to the commercial applications we're seeing today in products like Amazon Alexa.

    "If you think about the earlier adopters of AI — large ad networks like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing — it's always been in the background for them to balance things like consumer value for advertisers," Soni says. "That was the beginning of the AI renaissance back in the mid-1990s."

    And Moore, with his post at Google, was right in the thick of things. "Some of the big Internet companies, the machine learning systems they had for click-through prediction and conversion prediction, were at the time the biggest, most advanced machine learning applications on the entire planet," he says, adding that technology developed in computational advertising faster than almost any other field.

    Advertising's AI advantage all had to do with the vast cache of reliable data it had collected through the years. From around 2000 to 2005, the world of search engine–based and click-based advertising, along with the natural growth of the web, generated huge amounts of data at rates other industries were not able to match. "Even in parts of science and tech — which you think are integral to the economy and the well-being of the human race — there was less data available," Moore says. Or if it was around, it was stored in silos, unable to be utilized by machine learning.

    "Advertising was the first of the major planetary implementations of machine learning where you have systems learning from what's going on around the planet in real time," Moore says. "You think of things like science or physics or biology or cancer research as being the places where people are going to be doing the most sophisticated machine learning, but in fact it really happened big time in advertising first."


    What Can Advertisers Do with AI?
    Opportunities for advertisers to wield the massive power of AI are about to explode. "We've just gone up a steep improvement curve," says Moore, who now predicts a technological plateau. Even so, he says, while the advancements level out, new innovations will emerge. "We're going to see lots of applications which people haven't thought of yet based on the existing plateau."

    The most noteworthy example of this plateau is the feverish development currently underway in the voice-enabled assistant space. This began with Apple's introduction of Siri, followed by Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana, and now Amazon Alexa. "The big push is don't just look for keywords," Moore says. "Figure out what the user wants and try to provide them with a solution — that's the new stuff."

    Currently, Amazon Alexa is the hottest space for developers. With fourth quarter 2016 unit sales growing nine times over the previous year (the company has never provided specific numbers), the Amazon Echo smart-speaker was the breakout gadget of the most recent holiday shopping season. And now home to some 4,000 "skills" (the Alexa platform's name for apps), it has also become a must-use for brands, too.

    Companies like Fidelity Investments leaped on to the platform early when, in late 2015, the financial firm built a simple stock-quote lookup tool that got the brand's name into the fray. But that was only the start. Listening to how Alexa owners were using the tool, Fidelity was able to gradually make adjustments and add more features. "We had our core capabilities up in no time," says Brady Frost, Fidelity's director of mobile personal and workplace investing, in a post on Amazon's developer blog. "Subsequent releases were just a matter of tweaking based on what we learned to ensure the best possible customer experience." Moving forward, the company can use its Alexa experience to build more complex AI applications, like customer authentication tools.

    Taking AI farther afield from voice assistant technologies we've already become familiar with, IBM Watson has recently introduced another emerging AI opportunity for advertisers. Watson Ads, a program that lets advertisers connect with consumers directly via one-to-one voice and text interaction, leverages IBM's heralded AI to give brands access to the platform's vast caches of data.

    Watson Ads' initial campaign rolled out between Campbell's Soups and IBM-owned The Weather Compay (TWC). In it, Campbell's placed ads on TWC's website and apps that featured an AI assistant that could help deliver personalized recipes for the consumer. By simply tapping on the IBM Watson logo, consumers could summon Watson, say aloud a few ingredients that they already had in their cupboard, and the AI would return a dinner suggestion — complete with directions and a recommended Campbell's product to accompany it, all suited to the day's weather, of course.

    "While in this increasingly cluttered world it is getting harder and harder to break through and engage people, technology is helping to find ways to connect with more relevant content," Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever in the U.K., said of the Campbell's ads in a statement. "This will help us to create better, more engaging content that matches our consumers' interests and unique preferences." The campaign rolled out in June 2016, and Watson Ads has since hooked on with more than a half dozen other brands.

    AI's advertising genie is clearly out of the bottle, and it's not just vested industry insiders making this claim. According to an International Data Corporation prediction, more than half of all apps developed in 2018 will incorporate AI in some way, a trend that bodes well for its adoption across industries, Soni says. "Increasingly it's becoming much easier to incorporate AI into the development process," he adds.

    And whether it's in an app, an ad, or a skill, AI should be leveraged by marketers now, if they haven't done so already, Moore advises. "As we see the rise of Alexa and the other systems, when a person asks for help they're no longer going to be looking for a web page full of results and they choose a result to click on," he says. "I absolutely do not think you can sit on your hands and [wait to] see how it turns out and expect keyword or even display ads to be carrying on as they were before."

    • 6 rules for designing the retail experience of the future

      POSTED ON: Feb 22, 2017

  • 6 rules for designing the retail experience of the future

    According to Technopak Analysis, online retail has the potential to grow from 1.2% of overall retail in 2015 to 6% in 2020, as a result of explosion in digital penetration and increased youth population. Retailers are combating the online revolution not only to get people into their stores, but to drive them to purchase, as well.

    Published on


    The Indian retail industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast-paced industries and is expected to nearly double to US$ 1.3 trillion by 2020 from US$ 600 billion in 2015 (Source: Technopak Analysis). But in the past few years, the retail industry has undergone a massive transformation driven by digital technology innovations that are fundamentally changing the way consumers interact with retailers and brands. Decreasing footfalls, new online-only competitors, and profound changes in customer preferences are increasingly buffeting the industry and posing it on a knife’s edge.

    According to Technopak Analysis, online retail has the potential to grow from 1.2% of overall retail in 2015 to 6% in 2020, as a result of explosion in digital penetration and increased youth population. Retailers are combating the online revolution not only to get people into their stores, but to drive them to purchase, as well. The shift is pushing retailers to review and transform their traditional business approaches going forward. They are increasingly adapting to the new consumer demand-driven shopping paradigm and different segments (luxury, apparel, mass merchandizers etc.) are developing. But as they strive to catch up with the trend, retailers must realize that retailing in the digital age doesn’t mean introducing “digital” to the physical space. Instead, it means redefining one’s entire business around operating in a digital world.

    Brands must follow the customer’s journey across touchpoints — only some of which will include digital tools at all. A touchpoint might be defined by a smile or the feel of a linen shirt. A mirror image of you dressed in the new style of the iconic Burberry trench coat. The smell of a store as you enter. Operating in a digital world requires integrating the physical and digital, hand in hand.

    So, how do retailers go about defining the best combination of physical and digital for their brand? Here are the six overarching rules for retailers to keep in mind when designing the future of their retail experience:

    1) Retailers must become more flexible, immersive, and fit for purpose

    Digital extensions — a great interactive kiosk, mobile app, or sales associate tool — are no longer enough. Retail brands must reimagine their business in the age of the customer. Retailing in the digital age should be more flexible than in the past. This means omni-channel and visibility; click and collect; mobile ordering; ship-to-home; and all the permutations.

    2) Think experience-led and mobile first: Mobile as the gateway to the brand

    For most retailers, smartphones are now gateways to the brand. Mobile is how they start and sustain customer relationships and is now a primary touchpoint for retailers. It is becoming an essential channel pre-visit, in the store (with growing expectations for image search, wayfinding, mobile payments, and voice-based search functions), and post-visit. Increasingly, both retailers and mobile providers are entering the mobile payment space, with 60% of omni-channel retailers predicted to launch customer mobile payment initiatives by 2018.

    3)Focus on the full customer journey

    By broadening the aperture of experience beyond its traditional focus in retail — the store — leading brands can create a new competitive battleground and begin winning sales before someone even arrives at a physical property. Capturing pre-visit sales with pre-orders, click and collect can help drive revenue growth for retailers. Another pre-visit technique is that of try-on and try-out innovation, which encourages customers to buy products in-store by letting them try products on at home. But even more important, in our opinion, is post-visit activity. Designing for the post-visit stage of the journey — using follow-up emails, texts, savings catchers, or other communications — is a significant opportunity missed, or poorly executed.

    4) Move from data and reports to intelligence about performance and your customers

    Retailing in the digital age requires the optimization of store environments, and analysing flow with real-time analytics is now possible and gaining a foothold. Recent research notes that 71 percent of retailers use or plan to use people-counting technology in their stores, while 68 percent are looking to introduce in-store Wi-Fi and loyalty systems. The evaluation of data from these installations can lead to major revisions in retailers’ understanding of customer behavior. Executives might find that store dwell time is significantly different than they thought, or that smartphone usage is primarily for entertainment or communication, rather than “showrooming.” These and other insights can lead brands to increase (or decrease) their investments into mobile apps, as well as their in-store use of digital endcaps.

    5) Keep in mind that stores are far from irrelevant

    The value of the store experience — tactile engagement, a full 360-degree experience, and of course a sales force — makes it a difficult channel to ignore, replace, or shut off. The store remains a predominant part of the total retail experience, but its role is changing and requires that it be more in tune with the needs of the Millennial shopper. For this, retailers need to reimagine and evolve their in-store channels and engagement innovations.

    6) Need for Customer Service and Loyalty

    To thoroughly deliver a successful experience for customers, retailers must turn to enhanced focus on customer service and loyalty to help them meet and, hopefully, exceed their customer expectations. Technology will need to be fully integrated into how stores and employees engage customers. And the lines between physical and digital must continue to blur. Increasingly, retailers need to focus on solutions around customer engagement, information management and location intelligence allowing them to develop a single view of their customer, understand their relationship, and optimize their interactions for better customer service across all channels.

    Retailers are on the verge and too few successfully blend the three main channels — mobile, e-commerce, and stores — together in a way that is optimized for customer experience. To succeed over the next decade, retailers must fundamentally transform themselves, touching every area from organizational structure to the products and services that they offer.

    This wholesale reimagining of their business requires that retailers be focused on six main points: The need for a vision of a future retailer; the importance of mobile; the opportunities in the pre- and post-visit phases of the purchase cycle; the importance of analytics and optimization; the continued, central role of the physical store; and finally an enhanced focus on customer service and loyalty.

    The brands that succeed in this environment will be the ones that transition and evolve quickly enough to get ahead of the changes in their core business.

    • Mobile payments in the age of the customer

      POSTED ON: Feb 17, 2017

  • Mobile payments in the age of the customer

    Published on


    The mobile payment market is getting more congested every day. For banks, it’s the most frequent touchpoint – one that can help (re) establish everyday relevance and drive engagement. How can banks develop their strategy and prioritise the capabilities that will help them remain valuable to their customers?

    SapientRazorfish (formerly SapientNitro) and guest speaker Jacob Morgan, senior analyst at Forrester Research, shared their views on the “Building Your Bank’s Mobile Payment Strategy” webinar, hosted by Banking Technology.

    “Banking and specifically payments are undergoing rapid change,” explains David Poole of SapientRazorfish’s financial centre of excellence. “Customers expect easier, more real-time, connected and value-added capabilities oriented around their needs.”

    Unlike the 1960s, where large banking organisations with many branches and advisors earned competitive advantage, or the 1990s, where affordable computing power allowed upstarts to personalise risk models and offers, we are now in the age of the customer.

    The launch of the iPhone is now ten years behind us, mobile has become the hub of customers’ lives, and we are experiencing a “mobile mindshift” – the expectation that I can get whatever I want in my immediate context and moment of need. This expectation is evolving from feature-rich apps to “micro-moments” – instances throughout the day where you get an alert, glance at some information, or just touch your watch to approve a payment.

    Companies who obsess about their customers and these moments, who are customer-led and insights-driven, and who continually innovate, are the ones who will come out ahead. And they aren’t necessarily banks.

    Owning the experience

    With Forrester predicting US mobile payments to grow 152% from 2016 to 2021, everyone wants a piece of the market. Many retailers, handset manufacturers, telcos and mobile operators offer their own mobile payment solutions or digital wallets. Services such as Starbucks mobile pre-order, where collecting payment is just one aspect of a carefully designed omnichannel experience, or Uber, where the exchange of money is almost an afterthought, are setting new standards for customer expectations.

    This trend leaves banks owning the expensive infrastructure that payments run on, while customer relationships are increasingly owned by retailers and other platform providers. So you – and your relationships and even transaction revenue – start to disappear behind other brands’ façades.

    However, enterprising insight-driven banks are increasingly realising that they, too, can visibly participate in mobile payment solutions and, in turn, nurture their own customer relationships. For example, they use existing platforms to promote personalised offers and alerts, such as American Express GPS-based offer notifications. With technologies such as beacons and NFC, offers can be even more tailored to product and location.

    Banks can also partner with retailers on loyalty programmes, digital receipts and social media to engage the customer and provide more value before, during and after the point of purchase.

    Paribus, for example, tracks a customer’s purchases and automatically refunds the difference whenever the product’s price drops; the company was recently acquired by Capital One.

    Beyond a payment strategy

    Customers don’t want a better payment experience; they want a better shopping experience. And that’s where banks should look to add value when they consider a mobile payment strategy.

    Of course, these strategies won’t be “one size fits all’. They depend on your bank’s goals, your brand, and of course your regional economy, culture and regulations.

    Approach your mobile payment strategy with a clear vision that represents a win for customers, merchants and the business alike. Once the vision is established, be realistic about what elements of customer’s end-to- end shopping experience they can control, and focus on improving those.

    As SapientRazorfish’s Greg Boullin points out, you must first “gain a deep understanding of your customers’ end-to- end spending journey and their behaviours, rather than thinking through the lens of your business or your technology products”. It’s critical to use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analysis.

    Armed with a vision and insights, look to enablers such as mobile and emerging technologies, as well as training and operations, to create seamless customer experiences. Don’t go it alone – establish partnerships to deliver real-time or short- term customer gains, and return even more value based on data captured.

    Once your strategy is established, SapientRazorfish believes that the key to successful delivery is to approach it like an enterprise start-up: engage a cross-functional team to experiment early and often using open, flexible architecture and agile DevOps best practices. Create a plan to improve on what your customers use now by being more rewarding, useful, ownable or social.

    Helping your bank transform its customer experience and unlock new value begins with understanding your customers’ desired outcomes throughout their end-to-end journey, and the technologies that can enable those outcomes. As technologies and customer expectations evolve, so too will your approach to mobile payments.

    • The once-dreaded team-building exercise comes of age

      POSTED ON: Feb 14, 2017

  • The once-dreaded team-building exercise comes of age

    When Gunnar Kiene and his team entered Unarthodox, an experiential alternative-art studio in Chelsea, last summer, they checked their work personas at the door.

    Kiene, a creative director at SapientNitro, plus around a dozen other employees from the digital marketing firm, had ventured across the city to make virtual-reality films — something none of them had done before.

    “We were all beginners who had to find a way to make movies together,” says Kiene of this groundbreaking team-building exercise. “The group had to do everything from picking the ideas for the films — a zombie car ride and a submarine-shark encounter — to crafting the scenery and props, writing the scripts, running the lines and, finally, directing and acting.” All of that in one afternoon, which meant that giving less than your all wasn’t an option. Shy or outspoken, talented or not, everyone had to contribute.

    Employee engagement in traditional team-building is logged at a pathetic 30 percent, according to Gallup. With workplace collaboration considered more important than ever, it’s becoming abundantly clear that yesterday’s team-building activities, such as trust falls, Pictionary and karaoke-filled happy hours aren’t cutting it. The good news is that the city is flush with opportunities and experiences that help forge or deepen workplace connections.

    Take the market-basket challenge, an “Iron Chef”-like competition hosted at culinary event-planning firm Cooking by the Book in Tribeca. Suzen O’Rourke, the company’s founder, provides teams with identical baskets (with Asian, Italian or Mexican themes) of the city’s freshest ingredients. They are then given 90 minutes to create a winning meal.

    There’s also a charity cooking event hosted by O’Rourke, in which corporate teams craft culinary masterpieces. The teams have enough left over to donate to charities like the Door, which provides free meals, among other services, to New York City youth.

    Simple as it sounds, this experience sometimes comes with a twist. After a team works on a dish for 30 minutes, they have to switch stations with a team that is cooking something else. The goal? Developing effective working relationships and coordination, without which you’ll risk ruining the quality of the meal.

    While going gourmet is one way to engage with colleagues, partnering with them to escape from a locked room is another. Teams from companies as diverse as Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers have spent good money at Escape the Room, which has locations in Flatiron and the Lower East Side.

    Getting out of these locked rooms in an hour or less is no easy feat. Participants have to follow clues, find hidden objects and solve puzzles that by design require more than two individuals. One version starts with workers trapped in a sunken submarine, another involves a 1980s rec room, and still another, a theater.

    “The escape rate is only about 20 percent,” says Escape the Room founder Victor Blake, noting that thinking differently is key.

    At Pizza a Casa Pizza School on the Lower East Side, teams from companies including American Express, Spotify and Lululemon have indulged in four-hour pizza-making classes during which they learn the history of pizza, how to roll and toss their own dough, and how to make their own pies. Cocktails, contests and dessert pizzas made with Nutella, sprinkles and bananas are also part of the fun.

    Kesley Krosky, a Lululemon store manager who hosted an event at Pizza a Casa a few weeks ago, says that people really came out of their shells and relationship-building opportunities were plentiful.

    “That wouldn’t have happened sitting around at a bar,” she says.

    If eating isn’t your deal, there’s CityHunt, in which teams run around Manhattan, looking for clues and accomplishing sometimes wacky tasks such as taking pictures of themselves in front of city landmarks, making videos where they participate in street performers’ acts and even hunting down virtual-reality versions of their CEOs, “Pokémon Go”-style.

    CityHunt creator Ben Hoffman says that there’s positive psychology embedded in the game and that teams go back to work more engaged and more willing to think outside the box.

    Kiene agrees that Unarthodox provided his team with an invaluable experience.

    “We saw what creativity looked like when our only guardrails were our imaginations,” he says.


    Published on New York Post

    • Here's Why Kate Spade and Calvin Klein Are Using Facebook Live During Fashion Week

      POSTED ON: Feb 10, 2017

  • Here's Why Kate Spade and Calvin Klein Are Using Facebook Live During Fashion Week

    Fashion Week and Facebook Live are a sensible pairing.

    Everyday women with an eye for fashion might have an unlikely hero in Facebook Live (FB) , the social media platform high-end brands are using to broadcast New York Fashion Week in real-time.

    Kate Spade (KATE) will unveil its spring collection from New York Fashion Week on Facebook Live at 11:30 a.m. EST, while Calvin Klein (PVH)  began live streaming its fall 2017 collection at 10 a.m. EST.

    "I think it's a great fit," said David Hewitt, VP of consumer experiences at marketing and technology consultancy SapientRazorfish. "Facebook Live brings a sense of authenticity to posts."

    The platform works especially well for fashion shows, since the events can create a sense of intimacy with behind-the-scenes footage and celebrity appearances.

    Actress and singer Victoria Justice will host Kate Spade's live stream today.

    Celebrity hosts attract more viewers than traditional videos do, expanding companies' reach, while behind-the-scenes campaigns give consumers brand affinity, Hewitt said.

    The live format also allows users to comment in real time, granting retailers an immediate sense of which outfits are hits and misses.

    Facebook has essentially transferred the spirit of a live audience onto a mobile platform with the comments function, Hewitt said.

    "When you have most folks sitting behind mobile screens and TV, rarely do you get to take that energy and archive it with that video" Hewitt said. "I think that's pretty cool."

    Even after the live stream ends, companies can leverage the data they've collected about viewers to create targeted advertisements, said Kevin Shively, director of marketing communications at social analytics company Simply Measured.

    Some public relations agencies that work with retailers might be hesitant to cede control of their brand's messaging, as required by live broadcasts.

    But fashion shows' relatively controlled format mediates some of these risks.

    "I think [Facebook Live] is a viable tool in the toolbox, but it needs to be used in the right way," Hewitt said. "I think a fashion show is the perfect venue."

    New York Fashion Week runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16.

    Kate Spade and Calvin Klein parent company PVH Corp. didn't immediately return requests for comment.


    Published on TheStreet

    • SapientRazorfish’s Campaign For Dunkin’ Donuts Shares The Moments You Need Coffee

      POSTED ON: Feb 09, 2017

  • SapientRazorfish’s Campaign For Dunkin’ Donuts Shares The Moments You Need Coffee

    Published on


    From waking up at 5am on a Saturday in December to take the kids to practice to cheering on your team at 1am as they go into overtime, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is brewed exactly for these moments to help you keep going. That’s the message of Dunkin’ Donut’s new campaign, “Brewed For This.”

    The campaign, which was created by SapientRazorfish, supports the launch of a partnership between Dunkin’ Donuts and the NHL, which was the brand’s first-ever national sports partnership. SapientRazorfish created a full 360 campaign with the goal of establishing the brand nationally and at a local level as the coffee of choice among core and casual fans.

    Pete Tschudy, Creative Director at SapientRazorfish tells DIVERGE more:

    Where did the idea for this campaign come from?

    The campaign idea, Brewed for This, needed to work on two levels. First, as the Official Coffee of the NHL, this is first and foremost, a coffee driven messaging platform. But, secondarily, as a new sponsor of the NHL, Dunkin’ wanted to ensure there was broad awareness of the partnership, while speaking to NHL core and casual fans. From getting up early on a Sunday for practice to cheering your team on into overtime, these are the moments Dunkin’ coffee is brewed for. These are the universal, authentic hockey moments that are relatable to fans and players across every level, and where Dunkin’ can play a role in an authentic way.

    Why is it unique?
    While Dunkin’ is the Official U.S. Coffee, Donut and Breakfast Sandwich of the NHL, Brewed for this is about moments that speak to fans and players across every level of the game. Therefore, the campaign includes not just professional players, like Ryan McDonagh and David Backes, but others just as connected to the sport, across the hockey spectrum. There’s Meghan Duggan of the US Women’s Olympic team. There’s a Peewee player who is the only female on her all-boys team. There are hockey parents. And there are fans who represent a cross-section of the teams they live for.

    What kind of feedback have you gotten from it?
    We’ve seen tremendous feedback. Viewers are responding very well to the unique and diverse casting, and relatable storytelling, that makes up our tv spots.

    How is the partnership between NHL and DD significant?
    This partnership represents Dunkin’ Donuts’ first U.S. sports league-wide sponsorship, and is being rolled out on a national level. As longtime sponsors of local teams (Red Sox, Eagles, Jets, Bruins, and others), Dunkin’ has a history of playing a role in the world of professional sports, so this partnership was a natural evolution.

    Where can we see this campaign?
    This campaign is running on TV on a national level, and primarily on NBC. There is a :30 second anthem, along with a 3 other :15 spots. There is also digital support, in-store, print, in-arena, and regional activations in the mix.

    Additional thoughts:
    This partnership goes far beyond standard in-arena corporate logo placement. This is a fully integrated program, across touch points, that seeks to engage and create awareness, by demonstrating Dunkin’s authentic connection to the sport.


    Executive Creative Director: Barry Fiske
    Creative Director: Larry Mintz
    Creative Director: Pete Tschudy
    Sr. Art Director: Katie Willman
    Designer: Meredith Mendosa
    Copywriter: Olivia Kostigen
    Jr. Designer: Mustafa Thomas
    Project Manager: Andrew Steinhouse
    Client Services Director: Amy Snelling
    Sr. Account Director: Jen Pinto
    Sr. Account Executive: Max Ebb
    Sr. Producer: Mike Diaz
    Associate Producer: Allie Cleary
    Director: Michael Kuhn
    Director: Niles Roth
    Editor/Director: Dustin Devlin
    Production Co: Greenpoint Pictures
    Production Co: Old Harbor Productions

    • Opinion: Re-invent the creative act

      POSTED ON: Feb 07, 2017

  • Opinion: Re-invent the creative act

    Creativity should not be controlled but channelised, says the author

    Published on Campaign India


    In my earlier years, I was very fascinated about the title ‘creative director’. I was clear in my head that nothing is permanent and I have to be well equipped for the evolving nature of interactive advertising.                                                                                             

    Creativity shouldn’t be controlled. Rather, it should be channelised. That’s an art. Creative act is a responsibility, where the end user has to experience the ideas. I like to use the principle of interactivity because it is tangible; it makes you accountable and above all, it can be measured.  

    Today, most of our surroundings continue with the past when it comes to creativity. It still remains as a creative department. It constitutes of people who get to think of an idea, map them to the brand identity and demonstrate a couple of different variations depending upon the touch points and then dust it off their hands.  

    It’s time to change this behaviour to survive in the new world. We just have to merge ourselves with the ever-changing domains. Interactive experiences are ruling over passive mediums. Traditional forms come with their own challenges - who is watching it, what are their interests and how can you engage them with a seamless platform that changes behavior.  

    Along with understanding the brief, driving campaigns, visual designs and static/video content, the role of the CD has gone deeper with insights, personalisation, user experience (UX), analytics & data science. It all starts with the customer experience at the core one has to team up with marketing and business goals by stretching and investing time for exploring new skill sets. So, here are 5 linear techniques that creativity is pillared on, and today creative processes cannot ignore them.  

    Real-time insights: We have our patterns to source out our insights.  

    Real time listening gives insights, which have validation from the horse’s mouth. Its spontaneity and conversational nature open doors to the realms of customer behavior. The trick is to use the insights, create a unique engagement idea and add technology to enrich the experience.  

    For example, our listening data on personal hygiene reveals that people carry their phones for music while bathing. Imagine a geyser brand - to be disruptive, here we have a chance to sell the experience of bathing. Why not make a geyser with an inbuilt speaker connected to your mobile, music that can add on to a user's experience of bathing.  

    Data makes conversation meaningful: Data stimulates new meaning to our ideas. It gives strong leads, which can have specific impact catered to the brand objectives. We often gamble around the TG (target group). We spend time and energy and we realise later that the TG is not yet present. For instance, deep analysis can surprise us with the data that men are accessing and consuming content more than women on a portal for newborn babies for knowledge. The strategy and communication approach will change; it will be contextually related, and the engagement rate will go high as a result of relevancy.   

    Using technology for useful personalisation: Not to forget, humans love their space. Every domain has to be customised, empowering them with technology that’s entertaining, emotional or useful. Imagine a suitcase brand trying to sell how durable they are. Everyone says that. How do we differentiate? Often at the airport, we keep looking and waiting for our baggage. For example, if a brand puts a chip that you can track it on your mobile, it becomes more convenient for people to track their luggage bags with a case.  

    Customer experience at the core: Today, my approach towards designing has shifted from driving aesthetics to a rich experience to an interactive design that prompts action. We all know the basics of mapping consumer patterns, site map, UI and UX for any platform. What really matters, is how detailed the process is without being very technical and keeping the consumer experience in mind. In the event of a car breakdown, consumers can simply tap on a ‘car-breakdown’ button on the website/app, which will immediately, notify the roadside assistance team of the brand. The backend would be technical, but the front user experience will create the magic, enhancing the usefulness of the platform over its beauty.  

    In measuring creativity, our efforts and ideas have to measure up. We need to know what has worked and what did not. With communications via branded content films or social or media, we will be in a better position to plan which will be a combination of budget, ideas and execution. The beauty of measuring is to take the learnings. Exploring analytics needs patience; it gives sharp objectives, which in turn leads to customer acquisition and loyalty.  

    To sum it up, we follow one simple objective. We transform customer experience for our client’s brands. It’s very important for a creative professional to be flexible and adapt to the trends. The industry is in an experimental mode; everyone has a version of understanding the digital space, what works for the brand and what works for the consumer in doing so, a cultured diversity of ideas, adaptability to change and high agility of thoughts.  

    To be in the industry, we must ask ourselves a question and answer it honestly - ‘Am I digitally equipped to serve a brand by providing solutions which can create an impact and be monitored as well?’ If your answer is ‘yes’ then you must serve, if it’s a ‘no’, then you must learn.  


    (Dinesh Swamy is senior creative director, SapientRazorfish, India)

    • Digital shift an objective or enabler?

      POSTED ON: Feb 02, 2017

  • Digital shift an objective or enabler?

    Tech transformation will make companies market-ready, feels India Inc, but data-sensitivity should be a priority


    India Inc has reached a consensus on the necessity of digital transformation, but businesses are still at variance on whether technology savvy should be seen as an objective or an enabler.

    Senior professionals and entrepreneurs debated this question at the fifth nationwide roundtable hosted in Delhi by Forbes India in association with Microsoft. The panel of this edition of Forbes India LeaderSpeak—The Digital Transformation Series included Ashraf ElArman, managing director of Xerox India; Sanjay Sethi, CEO,; Manu Dangi, country head (India), Evalueserve; Charulata Ravi Kumar, CEO India, SapientNitro and Razorfish; Sanjeev Nikore, president, strategic initiatives, Tech Mahindra; Vishnu R Dusad, managing director and CEO, Nucleus Software; and Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India.

    In his opening comments, ElArman said: “Before anything, we need to first answer the question of whether digital transformation is an objective or an enabler. Some people are confused and they take it as an objective. At Xerox, we utilise digital transformation to improve competitiveness in the marketplace.”

    ElArman explained that once Xerox’s customers get their machines, every function is monitored remotely from a delivery centre and optimised. “This makes customers happy as it results in lower prices, proactive service and better security due to reduced human intervention.”

    Offering a macro perspective on how a robust digital strategy can bring about a level of enablement, Maheshwari stated that such a transformation can help companies engage with customers better, empower employees and optimise processes and operations.


    Read the full article on Forbes India

    • What’s Next in Customer Experience? Reimagining Business.

      POSTED ON: Jan 31, 2017

  • What’s Next in Customer Experience? Reimagining Business.

    Read the story on NetImperative


    With the digital and offline worlds more entwined than ever, products are expected to weave seamlessly into the fabric of people’s lives and experiences, regardless of their unique journeys. Donald Chesnut, SapientRazorfish Chief Creative Officer, gives his unique perspective on customer experience in the digital age.

    Traditionally a front stage element, customer (and similarly, user) experience stands to become an influential piece of business transformation. 2017 is the year of convergence for user and customer experience, the year in which the two become one – a single brand experience that encompasses all touchpoints across all devices, all the time. With this, great customer and user experience thinking will shift from solely benefitting user interactions to transforming business’ underlying rules, policies, and architecture. It’s as if we took customer thinking and started applying it to a much bigger stage. The knowledge that we as brands and marketers have gathered via experience design will be internalized and applied in two forms: via service design and core product innovation.

    Reimagining business with service design

    When we speak of elevating experience design (this combination of customer and user experience) into the realms of business transformation, we have to begin with the user, the actual person we are designing for. It’s not enough to focus on the user, business leaders must actively involve the user – his/her history, needs, lifestyle, and (most important) expectations – in the service design process. This requires an extensive understanding of how your target audience thinks in certain situations, feels in certain spaces, and interacts with certain devices. All, as you can see, key pillars of intuitive experience design.

    And if you’re looking to achieve this kind of alchemy, then you need to take multidisciplinary teams to the next level. Technologists, experience designers, strategists, business consultants, and creative makers must be brought together to elevate the world of experience design into business consulting, thereby raising the altitude of problems tackled and depth of solutions delivered. We’re talking about strategic shifts and policies, data integration, and deep technology implementation – topics that have previously been rare and far between in the world of experience design.

    Last, and certainly not least, make this process an iterative one. Give the aforementioned group an agile environment in which they can prototype and model – a core necessity when it comes to harnessing the full power of experience design.

    Innovating around your core products

    The reason why the effects of experience design have begun to trickle into business transformation is because consumers no longer interact with brands in isolation. They analyze both services and products in the context of their personal environments or, in marketing terms, ecosystems. As a result, expectations around connectivity are now driving a new level of innovation in everyday products – including the ability of products to plug into the ecosystems of other brands. Either way, products are expected to weave seamlessly into the fabric of people’s lives and experiences (think the Internet of Things within the context of smart homes), regardless of their unique journeys.

    Data makes this possible, while experience design turns that data into effective product innovation. A great example lies within the automotive industry where customer data management across a network of industries allows for informed experience design to be translated into valuable product innovation.

    Upholding experience design’s future

    There are several similarities between service design and product innovation that uphold the future of experience design:

    ●    Journeys: These represent a standard model in experience design today, but truly meaningful and useful journeys are still hard to find. Effective service and product design will require that the journey-centricity of experience design combines with cutting edge technology (such is the case with data-driven journeys) to overcome different altitudes of business problems.

    ●    Prototyping: The next wave of experience design is enabled by rapid prototyping. Define it, build it, and test it. Shift your thinking from designing the future to iterating tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, and so forth. Focus on getting real, and getting real fast.

    ●    Team: Applying experience design to business transformation successfully relies upon multiple perspectives coming together to understand the viability of both services and products. Diversity in all its forms enables groundbreaking creativity, so how do you get the right mix of disciplines, gender, backgrounds, and capabilities to unveil great ideas?

    ●    Data: There is an undeniable need – and opportunity – for data and analytics to push experience design to the forefront, and enable advantageous service and product design.

    Service and product design may signify the next wave of business transformation, but it’s the customer and user experience knowledge that you have that will allow you to ride it.

    • 5 Ways Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Get Noticed in the Crowd

      POSTED ON: Jan 27, 2017

  • 5 Ways Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Get Noticed in the Crowd

    You can surpass the marketing efforts of your larger counterparts--without spending beyond your means.

    Read the story on Inc.


    Although being a small or medium-sized business can feel daunting when compared against bigger, longer-established corporations, there are definitely ways SMBs can still stand on equal footing--maybe even surpassing their larger counterparts--without spending beyond their means.

    Donald Chestnut, Global Chief Creative Officer at storytelling agency SapientRazorfish, offers the following 5 specific tips that can help any small or medium-sized business better reach and engage with customers.

    1. Analyze and understand the value of innovation

    As more and more businesses begin to understand why they need to innovate and how to do it, the next step involves answering the question "What is the value of innovation? And how do I measure it?"

    2. Redefine your entire business around operating in a digital world

    Rather than simply introducing digital components into physical spaces, organizations must think of the balance that they want to strike between these two realities. Each company will be different and what works for one may not work for another. Think retail, location marketing, etc.

    3. Align with the fast-paced evolution of mobility and mobile usage

    Consumer mobile behavior continues to go beyond the pure "mobile" aspects of a device. Smartphones and their brethren can (and are expected to) now be used in novel ways to enhance consumers' surrounding environments and experiences.

    4. Evolve the test and learn mentality using new technologies

    To keep up with the pace of technological advancement and consumers' generational distinctions, organizations are evolving the agile structures and thinking that allow them to test and learn faster. In this case, digital and automation act as enablers/facilitators by sitting at the core of these structures and strategies, thereby allowing businesses to remain competitive.

    5. Evolve your consumer insights and research to better understand unique journeys

    Emotion insights, chatbots (as a testing ground), and artificial intelligence are just some of the evolved methods being used to better understand consumers and design personalized experiences.

    • ‘Great ideas don’t go anywhere unless you can sell them’: Campfire’s Mike Monello on what it takes to be a great creative

      POSTED ON: Jan 26, 2017

  • ‘Great ideas don’t go anywhere unless you can sell them’: Campfire’s Mike Monello on what it takes to be a great creative

    The Drum recently caught up with Campfire’s founder and chief creative officer Mike Monello to find out what the thinks it takes to be a great creative.

    Read the article on TheDrum


    Monello, who was one of the producers of the wildly popular 1999 movie “The Blair Witch Project,” thinks that great creatives possess three key attributes: boundless curiosity, the ability to sell, and an investment in how their work is perceived once it is released into the world.

    For Monello, being a great creative means having a strong sense of curiosity and constantly asking “why?”

    “When you start asking why someone is doing something or why people are behaving in a certain way, you go down these rabbit holes and you learn things,” he said. “And you come back and you imbue that learning into the work you’re doing. That’s what’s tends to push work into really interesting and new directions.”

    He also believes great creatives don’t just come up with ideas – they know how to sell them, too.

    “Great ideas don’t go anywhere unless you can sell them,” he said. “I think you have to be able to take your idea and then sell it to your collaborators, your partners, and to your clients.”

    Lastly, Monello thinks that anyone who wants to be a great creative should always focus on the end result of their work and the response that it ultimately provokes instead of getting caught up in the process of creating the work itself.

    “A lot of people are interested in the making of something. That’s the craft, and that’s important, but I think at the end of the day, what drives that desire to be great at the craft is finally realizing that the work isn’t complete until it’s in front of people.”

    Monello founded Campfire in 2006 and has since worked with brands including HBO, the Discovery Channel, Verizon, and Infiniti. The SapientNitro-owned shop focuses on helping brands create buzz and engagement. Recently, it won a Silver Clio for a social media campaign it created for National Geographic to help the channel spread the word about the television premiere of “He Named Me Malala.”

    His full interview with The Drum can be viewed above. Find out what Keri Elmsly, chief creative officer of Portland-based Second Story, said when we asked her what it takes to be a great creative.

    • The Community is No.8 on Ad Age's 2017 Agency A-List

      POSTED ON: Jan 23, 2017

  • The Community is No.8 on Ad Age's 2017 Agency A-List

    How does a 15-year-old agency grow 2016 revenue by 58% after years of double-digit growth? In The Community's case, it was a diverse mix of factors: a big, late-2015 Verizon win kicking in; new business from General Mills; and across-the-board growth from existing clients, including a strong first year with BMW. The Miami-based shop hired 67 people last year, including three new female creative directors, and still has 14 open slots.

    That kind of business success helps buy an independent-minded agency some freedom. The Community was founded in Miami and Buenos Aires in 2001 by Argentine brothers José and Joaquín Mollá and sold in 2014 to SapientNitro, which was bought in turn by Publicis Groupe. All along, it has been laying the groundwork for further growth into a more global brand.

    "In this industry [and as part of a holding company], if you don't move first, someone else decides for you," said Joaquín Mollá.

    The Community is opening a new international office in the first quarter of 2017 in a location it won't yet disclose, and a New York office in March. Next month Ana Bermúdez, now VP-group account director in Miami, relocates to the Big Apple office as VP-managing director to run major accounts Verizon and Kroger. And José Mollá will be a frequent presence: "I'm planning on being here about every week," he said. In New York, the agency will pursue new business aggressively and stay close to big clients based in the area like Verizon.

    Interestingly, it's seeking a more general-market lead creative for the New York venture.


    Read The Article on Ad Age

    • Marketing in Asia-Pacific: Hotels and Airlines Personalize and 'Premium-ize' Loyalty Rewards

      POSTED ON: Jan 20, 2017

  • Marketing in Asia-Pacific: Hotels and Airlines Personalize and 'Premium-ize' Loyalty Rewards

    Read the article on eMarketer

    After the November 2016 merger of SapientNitro and Razorfish to form SapientRazorfish, eMarketer’s David Green spoke with Seton Vermaak, the digital agency’s head of strategy in Hong Kong, about driving loyalty in Asia-Pacific’s travel market in 2017. Seton discussed how travel and hospitality brands are re-creating the idea of loyalty.

    eMarketer: You’ve just completed a round of research that included interviews with 100 CMOs on the outlook and challenges facing travel and hospitality brands in the Asia-Pacific region. What were some of the salient points?

    Seton Vermaak: The online travel agencies [OTAs] have taken traffic away from the traditional airlines and hotels, and now everyone has to work harder to find and keep a traveler. The (quintessentially Asian) quest for self-improvement, coupled with the disruption of the sharing economy, is driving a new era in loyalty.

    Travel and hospitality brands can win in Asia’s changing loyalty landscape by using data to create more personalized, “premium-ized” experiences for travelers. Often in the service industry, frontline staff deliver these next-generation loyalty experiences. It’s the experience on the ground that truly makes or breaks a traveler’s intention to recommend a brand and be loyal for future trips.

    eMarketer: What’s an example of a suitable premium loyalty proposition?

    Seton: It’s no longer good enough to just give rooms for rooms, or flights for flights, like the old transactional rewards programs. So airlines and hotels are trying to broaden their earn-and-burn opportunities into food and beverage, leisure or entertainment.

    So for rooms, it’s a bottle of wine or a fast track, or a secret menu for planes with extra leg room. They’re all looking at frontline staff and digital innovations that can help on-the-ground properties deliver an exceptional experience.

    The Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG] loyalty program is an excellent example. It gives a millennial traveler, for instance, access to a concert, a VIP happening in Thailand or Bangkok or Shanghai.

    eMarketer: And does that mean brands should entirely yield acquisition to the OTAs?

    Seton: It’s a two-sided approach. Content is a powerful differentiator for travel brands. Industry leaders understand that content is a very specialized craft, but many companies simply don’t have the resources to build an in-house team.

    Expect to see more strategic partnerships with content experts and collaborations with media platforms for extended reach. Travel and hospitality decision-makers will partner with media platforms to motivate travelers and distinguish themselves from competitors.

    eMarketer: In your research you mention wellness as among the most sought-after travel experiences in the region. Is that where the greatest opportunities lie?

    Seton: Wellness is a massive opportunity, and I don’t think anyone has taken advantage of it—not just in food safety but more in cultural empathy, like wellness, body, mind and soul, especially for the Chinese traveler. There might be some small players who give you an opportunity to go on an eco-tour, but no one has, on a large scale, made that appeal yet.

    eMarketer: There is also a suggestion in the research that people in China are more loyal to brands than their counterparts elsewhere, particularly in Hong Kong.

    Seton: Luxury brands have lost their traditional loyalty because millennial, younger-minded consumers have moved on. But the fact is that the Chinese are still the most open to loyalty programs, whereas in the other markets, people are completely jaded and mistrusting.

    eMarketer: There’s some interesting data from iResearch Consulting Group on the gender split of Chinese millennial travelers—two-thirds are males and one-third are females. Do you think there might be a missed opportunity there?

    Seton: I totally agree that within China itself, never mind Asia, the primary target has to be women, because it’s women who are the decision-makers on behalf of the family who is going to decide where the loyalty and the revenue lie for the next year or two.

    • Too much of everything: how can personalisation finally be conquered?

      POSTED ON: Jan 19, 2017

  • Too much of everything: how can personalisation finally be conquered?

    In a world where consumers now have an abundance of choice in terms of where and how they shop, brands should be on top of delivering relevant and targeted personalised experiences. And at a Publicis Groupe and Adobe session on personalisation at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, panelists agreed that brands need to do more to leverage data and technology if they want to keep the customer’s attention.

    Published on


    “Customers expect choice and expect that choice to be relevant and contextualised to them. A lot of companies like Spotify are leveraging data to solve problems in a very personal way. It's about recognising something about you and then evolving a product to support you better,” said Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis.Sapient in APAC and EMEA.

    But the path is not so straightforward. As Campbell Foster, director of product marketing for Adobe Primetime pointed out during the panel moderated by Doug Zanger, North American editor-at-large for The Drum.

    “TV is getting better and more fun to talk about,” he said but “privacy and data governance issues across different countries” are making things hard for individual agencies and consumers to understand.

    For Shelby Saville, president of innovation and investment platforms at Mediavest Spark, words like ‘automated’ and ‘dynamic’ tend to be downplayed giving the impression that it’s easy for marketers to get products to scale. She also referred to the time being wasted trying to figure out all the different ways marketers can reach consumers and how they can be making things relevant to them, only to “turn around and offer the same exact experience to someone else”.

    Foster agreed that tech jargon like data and programmatic “mean different things to everybody”. But more generally, he says there needs to be better communication all-around to make personalisation easy to implement.

    According to Vaz, businesses can be outpaced by consumers if they don’t respond to consumer demands quickly enough.

    “Customers are moving way faster than the technology today and it's up to businesses to respond to their movements,” said Vaz. “If you think about organising those businesses along the context of how the customer journey drives it, then things start to move away from 'adtech' and 'martech' because these are functional silos but a lot of the time, the customer journey is driving fundamental changes in the way these silos connect and operate.”

    So amidst all this confusing tech jargon and overwhelming access to data what can brands do to make personalisation for the consumer effortless and simple?

    For Saville, it is important to “keep it simple and build upon that” while Campbell said consumers should not be bombarded “with too much choice”.

    “Put the consumer first. If we all use the same data then there is no differentiation. You always have to have a real strategy and there is no machine that will do that for you. When you look at Walmart and Amazon – personalisation at these two companies is different and it has to be,” concludes Stephan Beringer, global lead of data, tech and innovation at Publicis Media.

    For more actionable insights in technology’s role in transforming consumer experiences, watch the video above and find out which personalised products at CES stood out most for the panelists.

    • CES Signals Even More Disruption From Connectivity

      POSTED ON: Jan 16, 2017

  • CES Signals Even More Disruption From Connectivity

    By Shannon Denton. Published on January 16, 2017.

    Advances in data science, inexpensive electronic components and ubiquitous wireless service have made it possible for intelligence to be built into just about any product, from industrial equipment, cars and homes to watches, clothing and medical devices. And with up to 50 billion devices set to connect to the internet by 2020, securing a strong competitive slot in the connected economy will challenge even the sharpest organizations. There's little question that the future belongs to those willing to work hard, even disrupt themselves, as they harness value from data, connectivity, smart machines and artificial intelligence (AI), which are all taking front-and-center stage at this year's CES. But how can companies prepare to compete in this new digital age?

    In response to one of the most daunting -- and exciting -- CES shows we've seen in years, CMOs and their chief marketing technology officers (CMTOs) can build four takeaways into their plans to harness the power of change emerging from a smarter economy, as opposed to merely reacting to it.

    Conquer complexity with integration versus point solutions. For example, Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator includes an integrated touchscreen controller designed to serve as the center of the family home, now with voice controls. LG's rival offer taps into Amazon's Alexa to play music upon command while its owner roams around the kitchen, as well as order groceries or set timers. Both products offer lifestyle solutions versus single-function refrigerators; they're great examples of how brands are using technology to improve customers' lives.

    Get serious about frictionless interfaces. A new era marked by conversational commerce integrates AI, natural language processing and bots into messaging apps to offer seamless customer interactions. Amazon's Alexa provides a perfect example, shielding consumers from mountains of data and technology with simple voice commands. It's why Alexa's masterful triumph over 700 products solutions has made her this year's obvious star.

    Become a clairvoyant marketer. "Solve my problem fast" is giving way to "Solve my problem before it exists." This is accomplished by understanding the larger ecosystem in which the business is competing. Take Mercedes' new in-dash prototype, which knows that when a driver enters her car at, say, 5 p.m. on a Monday, she is likely heading home from work, triggering the system to offer best routes based on traffic reports. On a Saturday morning, the vehicle knows she is likely headed to the gym for a weekly yoga class, and routes the trip accordingly.



    Read the whole article on Ad Age

    • Samsung, SapientRazorfish Show IoT Retail Approach At NRF

      POSTED ON: Jan 15, 2017

  • Samsung, SapientRazorfish Show IoT Retail Approach At NRF

    Published on MediaPost

    Samsung is taking the Internet of Things to retail.

    At the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York today, Samsung and SapientRazorfish are introducing IoT tools intended to link online and in-store shopping activities.

    Incorporating IoT, data analytics and mobile technologies, the companies are showcasing a customer journey inside an apparel store with synchronization to back office systems.

    The customer journey technologies include all activities from a consumer entering a store to paying by mobile just before they leave.

    Lots of Samsung technology is in the demonstration. For example, a shopper can order an item from home using the store’s app on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and when the customer arrives, the store’s app triggers a beacon on a large digital sign, showing personalized content based on past purchases. It also suggests other items that can be browsed via touch screen. At the same time, a store associate is notified of the customer’s arrival via Gear S2 wearable and then approaches the customer.

    If the shopper can’t find what they’re looking for in the store, they can get assistance through the store app by pressing a ‘help’ button in the app. This sends an alert to the nearest store associate, who uses Samsung triangulation to locate the customer in the store.

    In the display, as the shopper moves through the store, they are shown a merchandising display that has proximity sensing light bulbs and a beacon, which detects the customer and lights up the shoe model of interest to them, based on the customer’s past shopping data from the store’s mobile app. The shoe has an RFID tag that allows the customer to take it to a nearby station, which detects the shoe and displays more information on the product.

    At checkout, a store associate can scan the merchandise using a Samsung smartphone, completing the purchase without using a checkout terminal. The customer taps their phone and pays with Samsung Pay.

    The ‘Razorshop’ display utilizes lots of Samsung technology, ranging from phones and tablets to wearables and large video screens.

    Whether retailers will adopt the entire Samsung-SapientRazorfish end-to-end package remains to be seen.

    It does, however, show how emerging IoT capabilities can be incorporated into retail, which is a far cry from what is happening in many stores today.

    • Publicis.Sapient’s Nigel Vaz on evolving customer expectations

      POSTED ON: Jan 03, 2017

  • Publicis.Sapient’s Nigel Vaz on evolving customer expectations

    ‘The best consumer experiences now define the experiences in all other sectors’  

    Customers expect easy and frictionless personalised experiences in their moments of need, but how are brands fulfilling their requirements and what trends can we expect to see in this unknown territory of digital transformation? Speaking ahead of the Publicis Groupe panel discussion on Digital transformation at CES in this month, Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis.Sapient in APAC and EMEA speaks to The Drum about how technology is impacting consumer expectations and upcoming trends.

    The term ‘Digital Transformation’ is used quite often in the industry but how many brands take it seriously? Marketing and communications global leader, Publicis Groupe has been busy rebranding and restructuring over the last few years to adapt to the changing market and enhance its leadership position in technology. First, the Paris-based group acquired US consultancy Sapient for $3.7bn, creating a new platform, Publicis.Sapient to focus exclusively on digital transformation and the always-on world. And now, Publicis.Sapient has merged its digital agencies Razorfish and SapientNitro to form SapientRazorfish.

    Vaz has been in the midst of all these big changes, having been at Sapient for almost 20 years now. A self-professed “strategist by training”, Vaz has been examining big trends for consumer technology for most of his career. At Publicis.Sapient, he oversees three businesses across EMEA and APAC. One of the biggest shifts he sees happening is something he calls the “eco-system evolution” where the best experiences consumers have “define the experiences” they have across other sectors.

    “Any experience that you have in one place affects the context of everywhere else. If you think about the fact that I am about to transfer money with my bank, but it happens to be able to access and understand where my physical location is, then they don't have to ask me the five or six questions about whether I'm in the same country that I am transferring money to or not,” Vaz explains.

    For Vaz, it’s all about linking consumer experiences so that technology actually solves problems in his life, as opposed to “simply delivering experiences”. One might think of Apple’s closed eco-system approach, where all of Apple’s devices seamlessly link up with each other. But this is not what he means.

    “That’s assuming that everything can be in one walled garden owned by one company. What I am talking about is actually a bank creating an open platform that allows you to make a micro payment on your device because your telecommunications experience is connected. Consumers by and large seem to be asking the question, ‘Why can't my bank talk to my telecom’?”

    The big tech players Amazon, and Uber are often mentioned when it comes to knowing consumers really well and always being a step ahead of the curve. So do brands need to behave more like the Amazons and Ubers of the world?

    Following its convenient ride-hailing model, Uber launched a food delivery service, UberEats which lets users order from a range of selected restaurants with the promise to deliver the food quickly. But for Vaz, what’s special about Uber’s personalisation efforts is in the way it has really involved the consumer in the entire process from the time the food is ordered to when it is delivered.

    “If you look at their services up until then, they did a really good job explaining the basics to you, but they didn't really involve you in the process. [With this, you can follow the process from the time you made the order to when they have finished cooking your food]. That whole experience is a really good example of simplifying and creating visibility into a process that was otherwise 'ok' to a user. Which now makes you feel like you have choice and control.”

    In the near-future Vaz also sees something he calls a “data passport” appearing that will connect personal data on a whole new level.

    “If I want to dock my data with [a person] then they can have access to this stuff about me. Or I can do it with an institution like a bank. When I disconnect myself from that, then that data is still contained with me.

    “[I also think] technology and platforms will become critically important [as they will be] built not just for themselves but with open APIs that will allow them to connect to other organisations. Because you are now starting to live more in a platform world than in an inherent siloed world.”


    Published on The Drum

    • Digital Business Transformation: 4 Recommendations For Success

      POSTED ON: Dec 19, 2016

  • Digital Business Transformation: 4 Recommendations For Success

    By Sheldon Monteiro, global Chief Technology Officer, SapientNitro

    When the original Fortune 500 list was created in 1955, the brands on it appeared to have cracked the code for success. And yet, just 71 of those companies remain on the list today. That’s fewer than one in seven, or just 14 percent.

    A lot has changed since 1955, but one lesson remains: to build a company capable of withstanding the test of time, the organization must be capable of continuous reinvention. In 2016, we have a name for this imperative: Digital Business Transformation (DBT).

    DBT is the overarching strategy that guides the reimagining of the business in a customer-first, networked world. It is the thread that unites the organization’s digital efforts and compels business leaders to radically rethink the ways in which the business will meet customer needs in an always-on world.

    Given the critical nature of DBT, SapientNitro — along with our partners Scott Brinker and the MarTech Conference — conducted a survey of 250 marketing technology professionals to better understand how organizations are driving change, what barriers to transformation exist, and how leadership can improve their game. Here we present some of our key findings, as well as key recommendations for businesses as they seek to hone their DBT strategy.

    1. Determine A Clear Leader For DBT
      Every major business initiative requires strong leadership and DBT is no exception. Yet our survey — and several others that have been published recently — offered no consensus among organizations as to which executive should own DBT. According to our data, the most common was the CMO (26 percent), followed by the CEO (22 percent) and CIO/CTO (13 percent).
      Given the critical nature of DBT, this finding does not sit well. It is the CEO who should develop the DBT strategy and align every critical process, team, and decision with that vision. Without this direction, it is impossible for organizations to offer a consistent, Omni channel customer experience. That said, execution of the CEO’s vision can fall to various members of the executive team, such as the CMO or CIO.

      Some organizations have identified an alternative candidate — someone who has deep cross-functional knowledge and experience with both marketing and IT. The Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO), a relatively new addition to the C-Suite, is well-suited for the job given her ability to work across silos, anticipate business needs, and drive change across marketing, communications, customer-facing operations, and IT. Our survey showed the CMTO oversees the execution of DBT in 6 percent of organizations — a number that we expect to increase in coming years as this executive’s profile and influence grows.

    2. Develop A Comprehensive DBT Plan
      DBT is on the agenda in board rooms around the country. In fact, our survey showed nearly all organizations (97 percent) claim to be addressing DBT “in some way” and more than three-quarters of Marketing Technology (MarTech) professionals (77 percent) are involved in the business’ DBT initiative.
      This data seems to paint a rosy picture… until we dig a little deeper. Despite the vast majority of organizations claiming to address digital, our survey found nearly half (44 percent) of MarTech professionals said DBT was not a priority for their organization or they don’t know if it was. Meanwhile, about one in five MarTech professionals do not feel fully equipped to drive change. This implies that, even as most companies seem to recognize the importance of DBT and most MarTech professionals are playing a role in executing the plan, a staggering number are simply not up to the task.

      In order for DBT efforts to be successful, the CEO must articulate her vision to the organization and outline in explicit detail how each member will contribute to its execution. Like any business initiative, the DBT plan must include a clear charter, objectives, timeline, resource allocations, budget, and supporting capability enablers such as technology. Further, the goals of the program must be measurable and should be constantly reevaluated based on evolving business needs and progress.

    3. Create A Culture Of Change And Innovation
      DBT is not bolt-on solution to digitize creative campaigns or one-off applications of technological tools, so it can’t be a side-project within the organization or an add-on to employee day jobs. The spirit of transformation must be infused into the very culture of the organization and embraced by every employee.
      Our survey indicates most organizations have some work to do on this front. When asked what the top barriers to transformation were, respondents most often cited: conflicting priorities (38 percent); lack of dedicated resources, including staff allocation (35 percent); and lack of organization alignment (30 percent)

      When it comes to DBT, the business must be organized to enable success — and employees must be empowered to deliver the vision. This means creating a culture that embraces continuous learning and development, as well as rethinking the structure of the business to improve collaboration and agility.

    4. Design For The Customer
      Today, every business is operating in the age of the customer. And yet, more than one-third of marketing technologists (35 percent) claim their organization’s DBT initiative is not driven by customer insights. This comes as something of a surprise given the endless thought leadership and research expounding on the importance of the customer experience and the well understood chasm between the experience organizations think they deliver and what customers say they encounter.
      The importance of customer experience cannot be underestimated. New entrants and disruptors can compete with long-established leaders on product, price, place, and promotion. But no one can duplicate how a brand experience makes the customer . Those organizations that consistently organize around their customers — as opposed to simply selling products or services — have the ability to build long-term loyalty and brand affinity.

    As businesses are forced to compete in an increasingly uncertain landscape — one where disruption and globalization all but forces every organization to rethink their position in the market and who their competitors are — no business’s position in the market is safe. One need look no further than the original Fortune 500 to understand the need for transformation.


    Published on BusinessSolutions

    • The 8 biggest product debuts you’ll see at CES 2025

      POSTED ON: Dec 16, 2016

  • The 8 biggest product debuts you’ll see at CES 2025

    The Consumer Electronics Show is just around the corner and is expecting over 165,000 attendees and more than 3,800 product demos. But as exciting as CES always is, the changes we’ll see there will be incremental.

    What would really blow our collective 2016 minds is a look a bit further into the future at CES 2025. So my team at SapientRazorfish immersed ourselves in macro trends in technology and consumer behavior to imagine several announcements we could all very well hear at CES in just eight short years.

    Here are our predictions. Welcome to the future!

    1. Bausch & Lomb and Magic Leap announce MR Lens
      Augmented reality has finally achieved its promise as a low-profile full spectrum solution in the form of lenses worn directly on the eye. And Magic Leap and world contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb have partnered up to deliver Mixed Reality Lens. The lens will change the way we experience the world around us, allowing for synchronized virtual and physical interactions with no visible hardware on the user. Every moment will be connected and data-powered.
    2. Facebook, Oculus, and Parrot announce MeDrone
      The continued interest in publishing moments and sharing updates has evolved beyond the selfie-stick. Micro-drones are now capable of hovering autonomously to record the world around you from many vantage points, including your own. Facebook and Parrot are proud to announce MeDrone, the most advanced micro-drone built to record and stream every moment of your life directly to Facebook’s Virtuworld, in 2D and in VR. Every moment captured for eternity.
    3. Microsoft and Ray-Ban partner to incorporate HoloLens tech into classic Ray Ban fashions
      The new fashionable line of glasses will enable mobile AR computing and communications services through a built-in microphone, directional audio, and gesture/voice recognition, with the glass itself offered in a wide range of digital tints. The new “classic” designs will enable a much broader user base, including with those who have previously rejected AR tech on the basis of bad fashion. The new HoloBans will be sold in Microsoft stores, at Ray-Ban retail, and at your favorite telecom store.
    4. LG announces gourmet food fabricator: LG Food-e
      LG has partnered to combine its 3D printing and cooking technologies with recipes from some of the world’s greatest chefs to introduce a groundbreaking piece of consumer kitchen technology. Food-e will enable anyone to eat Michelin star quality meals in the comfort and convenience of their own home, with little more than a subscription to LG’s patented Ingredient Packs. And when you rate Food-e’s meals, LG’s optimization engine learns the subtle flavor profile you most respond to, making world class meals even better over time.
    5. Kohler’s Bioscan toilet provides accurate feedback for health and nutrition
      Kohler has incorporated the next generation of non-invasive bioscan technology into its smart toilets to give consumers a clear and immediate analysis of their health. “We look at your output and give you valuable input!” stated the Chief Medical Officer at Kohler Labs. Among other things, the technology will provide immediate feedback about antioxidant levels, nutrition analysis, health, and recommend daily food intake.
    6. General Motors Autonomous (GMA) and Walgreens announce Health on the Go
      General Motors Autonomous and Walgreens join forces to provide passengers of their Lyft-powered autonomous vehicle fleet with routine medical procedures while in transit. As the partnership was announced, Walgreens’ Chief Health Officer noted that the service would allow anyone to keep up to date with flu shots, vaccines, health exams, or other simple procedures without wasting a single second of your day.
    7. Sony introduces haptic-VR leisure suits for PlayStation
      While lagging behind competitors like Oculus, and Apple when it comes to VR headsets, Sony took a big step to regain a lead today in announcing its haptic-VR suits for PlayStation. Sony has delivered a breakthrough suite of haptic technologies previously only available in chair form. Now, users of the Sony VR rigs can be fully mobile in full comfort and full haptics.
    8. SC Johnson to reveal new smart packaging for consumer products
      By combining electrophoretic displays and integrated Konectit technology, a wide family of personal products will now change their appearance right on a consumer’s shelf depending on local and real-time conditions. “Imagine opening your medicine cabinet in the morning to find your bottle of sunscreen reminding you that it’s going to be a hot, sunny day. Now our products will change their packaging based upon projected demand, to help consumers with everyday choices,” said the Director of Intelligent Packaging.

    While these futurist announcements push beyond what is currently possible at consumer scale, the elements of their existence already exist in the world. The reason CES is ultimately so exciting is because you get a glimpse of where the future is going without it being fully realized. That enables all of us to leverage the raw ingredients of these trends and our own company’s capabilities and resources to create more compelling and competitive experiences. See you in Vegas this year, and more breathtakingly, in 2025!

    [SapientRazorfish’s Chris Cobb, Hunter Spence, Matt Arnold, and TJ McLeish contributed to this story.]

    Zachary Jean Paradis is VP Customer Experience Strategy at SapientRazorfish.



    Published on VentureBeat

    • Sweet Deal: 5 Ways Godiva Is Rethinking Digital

      POSTED ON: Dec 08, 2016

  • Sweet Deal: 5 Ways Godiva Is Rethinking Digital

    Godiva Chocolatier Director of Ecommerce, Brita Turner, shares exclusive insights into the retailer’s recent digital transformation, which delivered 16% sales increases and a 12% boost in conversion rate.


    The holiday season is always a critical time of year for retailers and for many premium brands, like Godiva, it’s more important than ever to create experiences that align with how customers shop today. New industry reports show that more than half of consumers plan to make a majority of their purchases online during the holiday season, which is not surprising given that data from comScore shows that total digital spend for the 2015 holidays exceeded $69 billion.

    While shopping behind the screen may not involve face-to-face interaction, retailers must still ensure that their digital channels offer the same level of personal service and the same opportunities for product discovery as their physical locations. Further, the customer experience should remain consistent across all channels, whether the shopper is walking the aisles or browsing the dot-com. While these points are relevant to every retailer, they’re especially important for heritage companies like ours that specialize in craft products meant to be seen and held — or, in our case, tasted, shared and enjoyed.

    With that in mind, we partnered with SapientNitro to design and launch an enhanced e-Commerce site that not only showcases our world-renowned chocolates and communicates our 90-year-old brand story, but also makes it easier and faster for customers to find what they’re looking for and make a purchase.

    The results were impressive and significant: In the month following our e-Commerce redesign, overall sales increased by 16% and our conversion rate improved by 12%. Our data shows that customers are spending more time on the site, making repeat purchases and increasing the number of items ordered.

    Read on to learn more about some of our most pressing challenges in redesigning our online platform and the solutions we discovered:

    1. Simplify site navigation…without sacrificing customization. One of the most basic issues facing online retailers is ensuring customers can easily find what they are looking for. It sounds simple enough, but our research shows that one in four online customers failed to accomplish their task on our site prior to the site refresh. To address this problem, we simplified site navigation by reducing the number of top-down categories and incorporating a left-hand menu to help people find what they’re looking for more quickly. We also created enhanced filters, such as chocolate type and price, to help customers further distill their selection and also discover new products. In so doing, we were able to provide visitors with the opportunity to more easily browse hundreds of options, while still presenting a clean and uncluttered experience.
    2. Design mobile for sales, not views. Like most retailers, mobile traffic to is surging. In fact, there has been over a 25% increase in mobile traffic from 2014 to 2015 alone, with site views from mobile devices increasing by 45%. However, like many brands, our company has struggled to convert customer interest into sales. Our first step in optimizing our mobile experience was to enable our site to be fully responsive across mobile devices. With our new e-Commerce platform, customers can now browse our site anywhere and have the content automatically fit their screen. We also fully optimized the mobile checkout and shipping process — even across multiship orders. With these enhancements, customers can make mobile purchases with the same ease as in-store or on a desktop.
    3. Build brand loyalty. Today’s customer loyalty is built on the overall experience — not just products or services. At Godiva, we don’t just want to sell our customers chocolates — we want to help them delight in gift-giving, treat themselves to premium chocolates and ultimately, make memories. Our brand purpose — transform the ordinary to the extraordinary—is now woven through every piece of copy on the site, from promotions to product descriptions. In addition, we included branded content that offers gift suggestions for special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, as well as product type and flavor, to make shopping even simpler. We also offer a more robust filtering and sorting capability that can help visitors find specific products within different categories. And finally, we created a consistent format for our product listings so that information like weight, dimensions and allergens are easy to find.
    4. Make checkout a breeze. For many retailers, the checkout process can be a challenge. When customers are required to fill out multiple fields or enter payment information manually, some postpone their purchase or abandon the transaction altogether. In our research, we noticed that one of our biggest checkout issues was that customers often wanted to ship orders to multiple addresses — a process that can be both time-consuming and cumbersome. To make the process more intuitive, we included saved addresses and scheduling calendars within the purchase pages — allowing customers to easily send their orders where and when they want. We also made some key enhancements to the checkout process, including a new streamlined order summary page, so that customers can review and edit their order and delivery options without leaving the checkout flow. Finally, we incorporated special promotions and discounts that alert customers when they qualify for free shipping, bonus items or other special offers.
    5. Listen to your customers. The common thread running through each of our improvements is that we designed an online experience to meet our customers’ needs and anticipate their preferences. Whether we were trying to introduce visitors to new products or simply help them with mobile checkout, we put the customer at the center of the interaction because they are at the heart of our brand.

    Collectively, our strategy is making for a sweet new digital experience on — and it comes just in time for the holiday gifting season.

    Brita Turner is Director of Ecommerce at Godiva, coming previously from Bed Bath & Beyond,, VF and IBM Consulting. She has more than 10 years of experience in the technology space, with an MBA from University of North Carolina and concentration in Luxury Goods from ESSEC in France. Currently at Godiva, she manages the online landscape including Godiva’s direct to consumer online business, search marketing, and their online wholesale accounts, including Amazon.



    Published on RetailTouchPoints

    • Luxury Retail Must Go Digital or Be Forgotten

      POSTED ON: Nov 30, 2016

  • Luxury Retail Must Go Digital or Be Forgotten

    AJ Dalal says luxury retail ignores the connected shopper at its peril

    The Conference Board of Canada tells us the rate of Canadian luxury sales is expected to grow twice as fast as general retail in the next five years. That paints a bright future for the likes of Saks, Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew. But to capitalize on the opportunity, luxury players will need to evolve the way they think about the retail experience.

    The luxury market has long stayed away from digital integration and, as we’ve seen, the retail market is increasingly a digital one. Luxury has instead relied on traditional offline experiences. The go-to retail strategy of fostering popularity through social networks and apps does not typically align with exclusivity, which is needed in the luxury world.

    However, delaying digital integration is no longer an option for luxury brands. Projections from the Business of Fashion suggest that by 2020, 40% of sales growth for luxury brands will be online.

    Luxury retailers may fear that the pace of technological change is a mismatch with their cultures, customers and in-store experiences. But the truth is quite the opposite. To remain relevant, luxury brands must evolve from their traditional approach and extend their footprint into the digital space.

    Executed correctly, every dollar a brand spends on digitization has the potential to provide six times the ROI by connecting the offline experience online.

    This won’t require an investment of millions of dollars either, just a shift in thinking around brand loyalty — a deeper understanding of what creates your brand affinity. Brand loyalty is tied to products, while brand affinity is tied to companies. Brand affinity means forging an emotional connection with your consumer. Building an extension of that affinity online is the key to winning the luxury retail race.

    How do you do that?

    It Starts At The Top and Trickles Down

    Unless the C-suite shifts its focus to removing silos and collaborating on execution, luxury brands will struggle to evolve.

    Brands like Walmart and Target have spent millions on digital innovation, dedicating funds to internal teams that create differentiating online experiences. Led by C-level executives, employees are encouraged to innovative, share and collaborate without ROI being the main business objective.

    However, while ROI shouldn’t be the only objective, every activity needs to be measured. Key performance indicators are typically used to track the success of performance with the customer, but they need to be expanded and applied to the organization internally as well. Rates of technology utilization, tool adoption and marketing campaign execution are a few examples of internal KPIs that should be used to measure the success of digital initiatives.

    Find The Right Friends

    All social channels serve a direct purpose, and leveraging ambassadors in key channels creates an authentic connection with your consumer while maintaining the brand’s allure and exclusiveness. These ambassadors need to be kept to an exclusive group of influencers. A select group of the brand’s VIP customers are a natural choice.

    Christian Dior has created a true marriage of luxury and technology through its VR experience, “Dior Eyes.” A headset allows customers to experience the Dior collection in 3D runway style. While this is only in select stores, taking this program a step further by sending headsets to some top customers provided an exclusive experience that initiated sharing with other Dior fans.

    Be A Disruptor

    Consumers expect a seamless experience with a brand whether online or offline. Luxury brands have an opportunity to lead this transformation by ensuring their marketing spend truly drives personalized, convenient and seamless customer experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    Online luxury retailer Net-A-Porter has created a digital experience that feels like a traditional print magazine that is filled with relevant and engaging editorial content. It also produces a weekly digital magazine that is seamlessly integrated into the online shopping experience. By clicking on the items, shoppers are then taken directly to a purchase page.

    The opportunities to be creative are endless. For example, based on shopping patterns and preferences, a personal shopper could contact their customers by phone or email to let them know they were just sent a list with new products, all of which are viewable in 3D on their phone. The customer selects the products they like and either books an appointment to swing by the store to take a look or chooses to have them shipped to their home to try them on.

    The evolution of luxury retail should be a fluid experience where consumers feel the exclusivity of brand and deep personalization at every step of their shopping journey. This includes everything from direct mailers to targeted ads informed by deep analytics, in-app chat bots driven by artificial intelligence, and in-store personal shopper experiences.

    An omnichannel strategy that supports brand affinity over brand loyalty will result in a customer who has an incredible, seamless experience with a high chance of continued conversion.

    AJ Dalal is the Performance Marketing Practice Lead at SapientNitro Toronto



    Published on Marketingmag.CA

    • Harnessing Digital Disruption in a Shrinking World

      POSTED ON: Nov 17, 2016

  • Harnessing Digital Disruption in a Shrinking World

    The definition of digital in marketing has been cast too narrowly, writes the EMEA and Asia-Pacific chief executive for Publicis.Sapient

    Today I will be chairing the Marketing Society Annual Conference, where the world of marketing will come together to discuss how brands influence consumer decisions, stay relevant and harness digital disruption for the good.

    Digital is continuously dismantling what we thought we knew about the world; constructing a new set of truths and rules. This year, a Facebook algorithm burst open the century-old theory that there are six degrees of separation between any two people. You are now connected to everyone on the planet by an average of just 3.57 degrees.

    This Facebook finding is proof that digital is interwoven into every aspect of our daily lives. It not only connects us to a huge pool of diverse people and places, but also transforms the way we think and behave, and changes what we believe is possible.

    Digital companies are providing advanced services that raise the expectations of today’s customers, who now have greater expectations of their brand interactions. This has fundamentally challenged legacy organisations across the globe. Such organisations need to become customer-obsessed, identifying unmet needs and ensuring that the pursuit of a superior customer experience is a company-wide imperative.

    This imperative is about more than staying in front of the competition. It is the reimagining of business and how it impacts the world, society and the connected population.

    Whether new and digitally native, or established and highly adaptive, many organisations are keeping up pace with this profound digital shift. They are reinventing their business models and re-orienting their people around the technologies that define how, where and when they interact with customers. 

    Up until now, the definition of digital in marketing has been cast too narrowly – perceived as the resizing of banners, the design of web pages and at best an additional channel. We are now moving far beyond this, ‘digital’ is known as the force driving the rise of experience and the broader digital transformation of business in a customer-centric age. 

    During the conference, we will explore four key issues that all marketers and businesses as a whole must turn their attention to the necessity of digital transformation.

    Globalisation and competition

    The rapid growth of digital and customer expectations mean that legacy brands are now contending against a global set of competitors who are disrupting the playing field. With ‘experiential competitors’ such as Uber or Airbnb resetting consumer expectations globally, traditional organisations need to redefine what their business is and what they offer to consumers.

    Collaboration and transformation  

    To drive this change within legacy organisations, collaboration between different business units who have traditionally not worked together is necessary. As chief marketing officers are the voice of the customer, chief technology officers drive technology strategy and chief financial officers own purchasing decisions – they should work together to transform the business so that it can compete with naturally agile and integrated competitors. 

    Changing established ways of working and breaking down silos isn’t a simple process. It requires buy in from all levels, and an understanding of how to change the culture of business without damaging staff morale.

    Equality and access

    Whilst disruption has improved the life of young urbanites, those leading the charge of disruption need to ensure that other key customers aren’t isolated by the digital world. This isn’t a purely altruistic view – there are sound business and economic reasons for ensuring that digital transformation leaves no one behind. It should be used to create a new generation of enfranchised customers, employees and innovators. 

    Ethics and transparency

    The digitally connected world brings with it new opportunities and a need to be transparent in how businesses operate, and an honest account of their impact on people and society. This becomes particularly important as consumers seek credible, authentic and personal communication with brands that foster values similar to their own. 

    There are undeniably a multitude of ways that digital is impacting the marketing and broader world. And as it starts to shrink, becoming more digitally interconnected, those organisations that make necessary changes today will be the ones that thrive.

    Nigel Vaz is EMEA and Asia-Pacific chief executive of Publicis.Sapient


    Read more on Campaignlive

    • Carnival Is Using Facial Recognition on Cruises to Help Passengers Buy Photos of Themselves

      POSTED ON: Nov 16, 2016

  • Carnival Is Using Facial Recognition on Cruises to Help Passengers Buy Photos of Themselves

    Souped-up ship plays with digital photography


    The next time you take a Carnival cruise, don't be surprised if the brand digitally tags you in photos taken aboard the ship.

    The Carnival Vista just finished making its first transatlantic trip and is docked in New York this week to show off what Carnival Cruise Line claims is its largest and most souped-up ship to date. Among the ship's high-tech amenities is a digital photo experience built by SapientNitro-owned Second Story that uses digital accounts to store photos professional photographers take on the ship.

    Here's how it works: Carnival Vista passengers are given accounts that are tied to their room information and photos of themselves. There are a handful of photographers on each trip paid to take photos of travelers.

    In the past, the photographers took photos, printed them out and hung them on a wall on the ship. Consumers could then pick out and pay for the photos they liked.

    "You're looking at a bunch of pictures that have been printed out, and you're trying to find yours among thousands—not only does this generate a lot of waste, it costs a lot of money to print out these pictures and then throw them away," said Frank Gomez, associate creative director at SapientNitro. "What we created was a way for all of these images to be sorted digitally, and searchable."

    Now, Carnival is testing facial-recognition technology that matches photographs with the correct passengers. Instead of printing out the photos, they're automatically dropped into passengers' digital accounts. Tablets on the ship let consumers select and buy photos. The photo feature is also built into an interactive TV app in guests' rooms and Carnival's own mobile app.

    "We took them from an analog way of doing business into the digital world where people cannot only search for their images—now they can interact with them," Gomez said.

    In addition to the digital photo experience, the Carnival Vista is equipped with an Imax theater and LED light displays.



    Published on AdWeek

    • Debunked! 3 Myths About Customer Experience In The Digital Era

      POSTED ON: Nov 10, 2016

  • Debunked! 3 Myths About Customer Experience In The Digital Era

    Fact: Customers’ attention and loyalty are increasingly won by brand experience.

    It sounds simple enough–and yet many organizations struggle to deliver. Why? Authentic and consistent experience transcends channels and involves reimagining the entire business to put the customer at the center.

    In working with our clients across industries, we’ve encountered several common misconceptions about what makes for an improved customer experience, how to measure it, and who should lead it. Here we walk through three of the most common myths and how to address them.

    Myth #1: Customer experience is a task best left to the CMO or CIO.
    Not so fast. Functional C-suite executives often find themselves accountable for the entirety of customer experience, without having the authority or perspective needed to transform the entire organization. This leads to a disconnect. While some organizations have made experience design and execution part of the CMO agenda, or customer-facing technology the responsibility of the CIO, companies need to realize that customer experience in the digital age transcends every part of the organization, including all of its processes and systems. If the CEO does not set the customer experience agenda and commit to aligning every critical process, team, and decision with that vision, there can be no consistent experience.

    Execution of the CEO’s vision is best accomplished by leaders with deep, cross-functional knowledge who can bridge silos and drive change through influence. To that end, some organizations have introduced the role of the chief marketing technology officer (CMTO). This individual is responsible for bringing marketing and technology together, seeing around corners, detailing the vision into concrete blueprints and plans, and driving radical digital transformation within marketing, communications, and IT. In short, a CMTO is an activist responsible for driving change through scrappy innovation, yet embracing enterprise scale and complexity.

    Myth #2: Customer experience technology is complicated, and, mostly, it doesn’t work.
    Many say that technology is complex and demands too much attention. They even worry that technology distracts from higher-order functions of creativity and strategy.

    But the truth is, many organizations have made fragmented technology investments, resulting in unnecessary complexity and broken customer experiences. If you wonder why your favorite boutique retailer sends you completely irrelevant marketing messages, it’s more than likely because it has an incomplete profile of who you are, what you want, and your communication preferences. They probably have plenty of technology that somewhat works.

    Marketing in a digital world is complex. Technology has moved from a back-office function to becoming the primary medium of customer dialogue. Marketing technology was developed in response to marketing’s complexity, and marketers must work diligently to understand and tame it. Wistful nostalgia for the Mad Men era of marketing isn’t going to turn back the clock. Technology is a tool to address the complexity of the digital world we live in. CMOs simply cannot accept somewhat working as a good enough answer.

    The reason why Amazon kills it on customer experience is because Jeff Bezos cares about how the technology that supports the company’s customer experience is designed and built. Back in 2002, Bezos insisted that all Amazon technology components be built in a way that they could easily communicate with each other over web protocols, and he promised to fire anybody who didn’t do that. His focus continues to pay off. It’s no accident then that Amazon leads in customer experience, powered by technology unmatched in the industry. 

    Myth #3: The customer experience can’t be measured–and doesn’t translate to financial ROI.
    Companies find tying customer experience investments to business outcomes very difficult–so difficult, in fact, that many simply do not try. We recently surveyed 223 marketing technology professionals, and nearly one-third (31%) said their organization does not have any metrics to measure customer experience. Yet organizations that focus on customer experience deliver superior shareholder returns. For example, Forrester Research found that CX leaders grow revenue at a much higher rate (17%) than laggards (3%).

    As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Yes, measuring and tracking the customer experience is complex, but it is vital to driving improvement. While measures will vary by industry and business needs, some baseline customer experience metrics include overall customer experience rating, Net Promoter score, problem resolution time, social sentiment, and customer lifetime value. It is through careful evaluation and development of a customized scorecard that the organization can unify efforts to move the needle on customer experience and deliver results to the bottom line.

    The pesky thing about myths is they often become damaging, self-fulfilling prophesies. That’s why it’s important to recognize them for that they are--and act decisively to counter them.


    Published on

    • Marketing Technologist Study Reveals Digital Business Transformation

      POSTED ON: Nov 09, 2016

  • Marketing Technologist Study Reveals Digital Business Transformation

    Back at the MarTech conference in San Francisco this past March, we conducted a study of marketing technologists with SapientNitro. After analyzing the data, Sheldon Monteiro, the global CTO of SapientNitro, and his team finally released their report from that research this week. It’s a terrific report — well worth the wait!

    You can download a copy here.

    It reveals a number of insights into the evolution of our marketing technologist profession. More marketing technologists (44%) now report to the CMO. The number of professionals in the space who have “marketing technology” in their official job title is growing (16%). And — perhaps surprising — more than half of marketing technologists (55%) have a background in marketing rather than technology.

    One of the challenges of the study, in my opinion, is that the term “marketing technologist” has significant variance in how it’s intrepreted. For some, it is a software engineering or enterprise architecture role — closer to classic IT, but in the more specialized domain of marketing. For others, it is more of a specialized marketing operations position — for instance, the lead operator of a technically advanced, off-the-shelf application, such as a marketing automation platform.

    This variance makes it hard to distill common patterns across the profession.

    Sheldon’s editorial in the report raises some valid concerns with that dispersion of skills and responsibilities. However, I’m personally more comfortable with wider use of the “marketing technologist” label. The recognition that marketing technology management and operations can be a front-line marketing role — with staff who come more from a marketing background than an engineering background — is, in general, I think a good thing.

    To me, it means that marketing technology is now being woven more deeply into the fabric of marketing teams at large.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t different levels of marketing technologists. In particular, those who serve as chief marketing technologists — the title still varies — in an executive capacity that bridges the CMO and the CIO have a fundamentally different kind of role than the front-line marketing automation platform wizards. Such leadership roles are arguably more about change management in the context of technological disruption. (See Martec’s Law.)

    Which brings me to some of the most interesting findings in the study — perspectives on digital business transformation through the eyes of marketing technologists.

    The good news is that effectively all organizations (97%), at least of those who participated in this study, are addressing digital transformation in some way — and in the vast majority of them (77%), marketing technologists are involved in these initiatives.

    The theme of digital business transformation > marketing has been growing steadily this year, and the data in this report backs that up. Of course, this begs the question: what do you mean by digital business transformation?

    The primary driver is “transforming customer experience holistically across all channels” (56.5%) — a front-office mission — followed closely by “transforming operational processes” (54.3%) in the back-office.

    Now, our survey found that the CMO is the executive most likely to be responsible for the oversight of digital business transformation (26%), followed by the CEO (22%), and then the CIO/CTO (13%). In a few cases, the chief marketing technologist takes the lead (6%). But there’s clearly a plurality of leadership roles here. Even if marketing is the catalyst for digital transformation, it’s only the official leader of those initiatives 1/4 of the time.

    What’s interesting is that when the CEO or the CIO/CTO lead these transformation efforts, they tend to do so with a “task force,” which can be a bit of an ambiguous structure. When CMOs are in charge, however, they are much more inclined to tackle the mission with a dedicated person or team:

    I’m hesitant to assign a value judgment to that yet — which is the “right” way to tackle digital transformation. My impression is that the best approach is highly contextual to each particular organization and, very often, the individual leaders in these roles at this point. But I believe that this is not a one-time project, and that ultimately, companies need to approach transformation as an ongoing way of life in an ever-changing digital world.

    This raises important questions when we consider such an organizatioanl recalibration in light of the major obstacles to digital transformation that were reported:

    64.8% of the participants agreed that digital transformation was being driven by customer insights — although only 23.1% strongly agreed — which is a good reason for marketing, as the internal champion of the voice of the customer, to play a crucial role in these efforts.

    However, when you look at the leading obstacles above — conflicting priorities (38%), lack of resources (35.2%), lack of organizagtion alignment (29.6%), etc. — it becomes clear that marketing cannot do this alone. It is digital business transformation, not merely digital marketing transformation.

    Only 1 in 10 of the participants in our survey said that their organization is currently structured to deliver a seamless customer experience across all customer touchpoints.

    Again, marketing alone cannot solve that. Therefore, I agree with Sheldon’s conclusion in the report that this bigger mission should be a clarion call for marketing technologists:

    “Hybrid roles, in particular, such as the marketing technologist, are crucial in these times of disruption, to serve a bridging function within the organization and galvanize efforts to change and transform.”

    For more data from the study, download a copy here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.



    Published on

    • Improved Speed, Better Sales, Higher Revenue

      POSTED ON: Oct 31, 2016

  • Improved Speed, Better Sales, Higher Revenue

    Competition in e-commerce is increasing on a daily basis. Retailers are trying to make the experience “all about the customer,” tailoring it to what the shoppers want, rather than what the retailers have to offer.

    One factor that we need to remember is that adding functionality often makes the experience slower. As humans we want everything now. At least I do, and I am a customer. Even if the experience is awesome, but the site takes too long to load, I will get frustrated and move on.


    Decreasing attention span

    The question is, how long is “long”? There are numerous surveys that suggest different time frames for how long it takes for someone to lose concentration, with the most recent stat from Google suggesting that two seconds is the lowest threshold of acceptability, but half a second - ideal.

    One thing that is consistent across all these surveys is that our attention span is decreasing which means that slow site speed will start to impact the bottom line. If you provide a great, fast experience, customers will be happy, and happy customers spend money. Not to mention, they are loyal.

    The second question is - how much is a second worth? A simple e-commerce journey contains many experiences and pages, and depending on where in the experience a page lies, it will have a different conversion rate. This conversion rate will vary for customers getting a fast experience, as compared to customer getting a “not-so-fast” one, which could be due to myriad reasons such as mobile browsing or slow wifi speeds.

    In addition, conversion can also vary across seasons. For example, it will be higher during the run up to Christmas compared to other seasons. Therefore it is important to look at conversion on a per-page basis across all seasons in order to understand the conversion cycle for your customers. We should then look at the views of a page at different levels of speed, in sessions that actually converted.


    ‘Sweet spot’

    With this information in place, we will need to find the “sweet spot” for performance. This is the place where conversion was the best, or close to best. Anomalies, such as bounces, will need to be removed to get the correct data.

    Using sample data from a site with an average order value of £65 and keeping all other factors constant, the effect of speeding up the site speed by one second would lead to additional revenue of approximately £337,000 per week, which is almost a whopping £1 million over a month.

    So how can e-commerce sites improve site speed without compromising customer experience?

    It is key for e-commerce site owners to understand what elements are slowing down the site and then start to reduce or remove them. For instance, through data visualisation for one of our retail client e-commerce sites, we can see the different tags from data providers that are associated with the site which help to personalise the experience for the consumer. By looking at the size of each bubble below we can see which tags are taking the most data and make decisions about what data to keep and what to remove for the sake of site speed.

    Once the site is optimised as much as possible there are other ways to increase its speed as perceived by the customer. There are a number of tools and solutions that manage the data being sent from your website in the “last mile” –  the bit from your servers to the customer’s device.

    Getting to grips with the performance impact of site elements on page load is important, but it deals with only one side of the equation.


    ‘Last mile’

    It is possible to have a very fast, lean website that falls over because the device being used to view it is on a slow connection or has limited capability. The challenge here is the “last mile,” which has an incredibly varied and complex number of permutations.

    Fortunately, there are a number of solutions that can help mitigate the impact of “last mile” complexity.

    A solution such as 51Degrees, for example, allows you to identify the capabilities of the end-user device and create content profiles for each type of device. Instart Logic is another option that optimises the content as it is being sent to the end-user, based on the device capabilities.

    Furthermore, any discussion around performance needs to take into account the imminent explosion of browser-based, app-like functionality. One aspect of the maturing of this approach is the local “smart” caching of content, which allows for better experiences. It is early days – especially for more complex app-like capability – but Flipkart Lite is a good example of this technology in action.



    Published on

    • Embrace Your Right (Or Your Left)

      POSTED ON: Oct 24, 2016

  • Embrace Your Right (Or Your Left)


    The team at SapientNitro Chicago had concerns that the 2016 election had started an unfortunate trend: choosing not to vote.

    To address their concerns and fill an 11th floor whiteboard space, they decided to motivate their employees by using a prominent whiteboard space in the office, to create the “Embrace Your Right (or Your Left)” voting wall.

    “We felt a need to respond to this sentiment by inspiring our people to do their democratic duty,” explained Creative Director Amy Haiar.

    The team worked with a local calligrapher and artist, Jenna Blazevich, to bring the message to life and partnered with our IoT lab to create digital information screens that integrated data capture to measure participation.

    The art installment aims to serve as a reminder to get out and vote, provides interactive screens to learn more about candidates, has the ability to search for polling locations, and even allows employees to register to vote.

    “In the short time this wall has been up, it’s become an expression of patriotism in the office,” Haiar stated. “It was very important for us to remain neutral and non-partisan, and we did so in a striking way that demanded attention.”

    Since the whiteboard measures interaction, results show that the reaction to the wall has been enthusiastic.

    “Data shows that 1 in 3 people walking the floor has engaged with the wall in some capacity, while several have actually been motivated to register to vote through the digital screens,” Haiar said.

    Because the office had a high number of new hires and a diverse team, the space was created to keep employees informed while encouraging them to vote.

    “We believe that the most interesting things happen when story and technology come together,” Haiar added

    As to if they will repeat this for the next elections, possibly on a broader level, Haiar stated “We would love to extend our reach beyond SapientNitro, to encourage even more people to vote in coming elections.”


    Published on

    • They took a break from work. But things have changed so much, they need help

      POSTED ON: Oct 24, 2016

  • They took a break from work. But things have changed so much, they need help

    Gloria Samayoa at SapientNitro’s Miami office has been sifting through résumés as the New York-based digital marketing agency expands its new career return program to her office. The 12-week paid program for advertising professionals, which piloted in New York and Toronto, has spread to Chicago, Atlanta and London. It has led to full-time positions in some of those cities for people — particularly stay-at-home mothers — who had taken time off work and wanted to return.

    In Miami, Samayoa has been surprised by the résumés she has received: An equal number of men and women are applying for the office’s return-to-work program. “There are all kinds of reasons why the men took a pause from their careers,” she said. “It’s just as difficult for them to come back in where they left off.” Samayoa expects to launch with one or two returners by early next year: “We want find that right person so the experience is successful. Our long-term plan is for them is to get hired.”

    Even as the economy rebounded, people have continued to take breaks from the workforce for a variety of reasons, whether to start a family, care for a sick or elderly family member, travel or tackle an illness of their own. Unless they keep their skills up, re-entering the workforce with a résumé gap can be a challenge, particularly as technology has changed the modern workplace.

    Now, in South Florida and across the country, return-to-work programs are popping up in various industries providing mid-career internships for caregivers who have been out of the workforce for a few years or more. With most programs, mentoring support is provided to the returner. The concept of a “returnship” was pioneered by Goldman Sachs in 2008, who trademarked the term. It has been replicated by financial firms such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and JPMorgan and tech companies such as IBM and Paypal.

    There are about 108 active re-entry programs globally across industries, and more U.S. companies have committed to rolling out programs by year-end, according to a list compiled by iRelaunch, a New York/Boston company that works with employers and returning professionals.

    These individuals, typically in theirs 40s, have something unique to offer the employer who understands their value, said Carol Fishman Cohen, the chief executive and co-founder of iRelaunch. They bring more workplace experience and usually have moved past the stage of needing future career breaks, unlike their younger counterparts. Cohen said iRelaunch is the largest supplier of candidates to Wall Street re-entry programs and has drawn more than 25,000 people to its return-to-work conferences and workshops all over the country — about 7 percent of them men.

    In Miami, Akerman law firm is recruiting candidates for the office’s re-entry program that will launch in 2017 as part of a nationwide OnRamp Fellowship program. Ackerman already has brought on a lawyer in its New York office through the OnRamp program which matches experienced women returning from career breaks with law firms, legal departments and financial services firms. As of this month, 28 law firms and legal departments in the U.S. and Canada are participating in the OnRamp program, which says its goal is to fix the leaky pipeline in law with women who have the desire to return to the legal profession.

    In Toronto, Ellen Kalis chose to leave her job in public relations to be home with her son who has cerebral palsy. At the time, she saw herself as confident and driven. But four years later when she decided to return to work, she began second-guessing her abilities. “I wondered how my résumé would even get into HR’s hands and assumed it would be tossed to the side as soon as they saw the gap in my career,” Kalis says.

    Fortunately, a family member led Kalis toward an emerging path back to employment: SapientNitro’s program. Similar to an internship, it paired Kalis with a buddy/mentor in the New York office who helped her transition into a permanent job as the public relations lead for SapientNitro in Canada and the Midwest.

    “With all the changes in digital, it was like everyone was speaking a whole new language, but the advantage of the program was that there was an onboarding process,” she said.

    Yet, as the concept of return to work programs took off, some career coaches have cautioned against taking that route back. In fact, Stacey Hawley, a Birmingham compensation and talent management expert, has made her argument on Working Mother Magazine’s website,

    “Why put your self at a disadvantage and actually SUGGEST to your employer that you should be constantly scrutinized or that you might not be able to handle the job?” she wrote in 2012. “And if you aren’t hired full-time after the trial period is over, you need to start all over again. … Go after the right job, the first time.”

    Donald Chesnut, executive creative director at SapientNitro in New York, says even with compelling credentials, a résumé gap is difficult to overlook in a job candidate: “While we value their experience, if they had applied for these mid-level jobs they would not have made it in.”

    Chesnut says the return-to-work program at his firm offers one-on-one mentorship to help returners who have a gap in skills and experience to transition more smoothly. Sapient’s interest grew from conversation about the lack of female creative directors in the industry: “This is a way for us to bring diversity to our firm at the higher levels, and understand the value these people bring, even while they are learning on the job.”

    Some larger companies are starting return-to-work groups as large as 25 people at a time, and may bring in several cohorts throughout the year in multiple departments. The success rates for permanent hiring are as high as 90 percent, said Cohen of iRelaunch.

    In another example, what started as an internal initiative to increase the representation of women in technical roles at Return Path, a New York-based data provider, became so successful that the company spun off a separate nonprofit called Path Forward. The nonprofit helps corporations’ human resources departments set up mid-career internships.

    So far, online education platform Coursera, grocery delivery startup Instacart, as well as customer service software company Zendesk, marketing technology company Demandbase, and CloudFlare, a content-distribution network, all announced that starting this month, they will offer 18-week “returnships” to men and women through Path Forward.

    With an estimated 2 million stay-at-home fathers, Simon Isaacs, co-founder of, a New York-headquartered parenting resource site for fathers, expects to see more men who want to participate in these programs. For them, the transition back can be particularly daunting.

    Isaacs said they have fewer role models to turn to for help, and most of their former male counterparts who stayed in the workplace have risen to high-level positions.

    Along with return-to-work programs, Isaacs suggests working parents consider flexible jobs open to people with résumé gaps at companies participating in the sharing economy such as TaskRabbit and Lyft.



    1. Carol Fishman Cohen of Boston returned to work at Bain Capital after 11 years out of the full-time workforce. She eventually founded, a firm that connects employers with returning professionals. Her advice: “Get clarity around what you want to do now at this point in your life. Once you know where you want to work, get to know the company you are applying to really well.” She also advises taking courses or refreshing skills before applying for full-time jobs or return-to-work positions. “Get into the mindset that you are open to training and the feeling you can do it.”

    2. Amy Brenner Schaecter of Weston returned to work after more than a decade at home. First she went to a PR firm, then in-house at a multinational company. Her advice: “When you get back to work, make friends with a smart millennial. The synergy is awesome.”

    3. Ellen Kalis participated in SapientNitro’s Returns Program after a four-year hiatus. Her advice: “You have to have confidence in your skills. If you go in and show your value right away, companies will see that. Even though I needed more ramp-up time than a millennial or someone who came from that position, hopefully I am adding value somewhere else.” Kalis is now a full-time public relations lead for SapientNitro, Canada and the Midwest.

    4. When Carol Hansen returned to return to work in New York after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, the industry she had left —marketing/advertising — was transformed. Hansen’s transition through SapientNitro’s return-to-work program had its challenges: It was her first time working with millennials, balancing work and family, and digital storytelling. Her advice: “Jump in and raise your hand to help with any project. In doing so, talk to people in all areas of the company,” she said. “Even if I didn’t make it past the returnship period, I knew I needed to learn more and make myself relevant. I saw areas where I was strong and got a reading on areas where I wasn’t.” Hansen is now a full-time senior user experience designer at SapientNitro in New York.


    Published by the Miami Herald

    • We Need A Sustainable Cadence With Fintech

      POSTED ON: Oct 18, 2016

  • We Need A Sustainable Cadence With Fintech

    In this Finextra video, Leda Glyptis, Director, Sapient, discusses the evolution of fintech and the impact of emergent technologies on the financial services industry. The conversation examines the issues surrounding fintech as a label, and why the focus on technology misses the most important factors, namely: its effect on business model innovation, taking into account the shifting expectations of clients, the shifting value assessments of clients and the configuration of the value chain.

    Watch the video on Finextra

    • What are businesses’ ambitions for transforming?

      POSTED ON: Oct 18, 2016

  • What are businesses’ ambitions for transforming?


    Nigel Vaz, our global Chief Strategy Officer and SVP EMEA, was recently invited on to the BBC World News show ‘Behind The Headlines’ to talk about how, in a digital world, businesses can ensure they are the ones doing the disrupting, and are not on the receiving end of it. He discussed how established companies often reinvent small pieces of their businesses, compared with pure-plays such as Uber and Airbnb where the starting point is to imagine a different consumer future.
    In this new landscape, senior business leaders face a quandary. Do they defend, build upon and lock in their positions as incumbents?  Or do they take risks, disrupt, and potentially expose themselves? The question, and Sapient’s point of view that leaders now need to consider how they go about transforming their entire organisation for a digital world, is explored fully in Nigel’s new paper on reimagining business.
    The paper draws on two pieces of research we’ve undertaken to understand companies’ ambitions for digital business transformation (DBT) over the past two years. In the first, Sapient partnered with research firm Ovum to interview 50 global CEOs involved in DBT. The second, 'Digital Business Transformation and the CMTO: Leadership in the Digital Age', explores the DBT perspectives of 223 US and Canadian executives in charge of both marketing and technology – a hybrid role called the chief marketing technology officer (CMTO).
    Read the full paper - Helping Clients Reimagine Business in The Age of The Consumer


    Video courtesy of BBC World News

    • ADT Reassures Boy Who's Terrified of Ghosts That His Home Is Safe in This Cute Ad

      POSTED ON: Oct 11, 2016

  • ADT Reassures Boy Who's Terrified of Ghosts That His Home Is Safe in This Cute Ad

    With real audio of his mom's call to the security firm

    ADT alarm systems don't just protect you against burglars. They protect you against ghosts.

    At least, that's what one salesman told a scared child during a phone call that agency SapientNitro has now turned into an animated ad.

    As the security company tells it, 9-year-old Benjamin Carubba, who lives in the New Orleans area, developed an intense fear of ghosts. So his mother, an ADT customer named Katie, dialed the security company and surreptitiously asked the rep who answered, Xavier Rollins, to tell Benjamin a white lie—that the Carubbas' system includes ghost monitors.



    Audio of the conversation shows Xavier obliging wholeheartedly, explaining to Benjamin that the system will automatically call the police if any wandering spirits found their way into the Carubba home.

    It's a delightful story, just in time for the run-up to Halloween (the ideal season for peddling both candy and handwringing about general mayhem). ADT released the ad online just before Oct. 1 in honor of National Ghost Hunting Day, which is apparently a thing.

    The only problem now is if a ghost actually does show up at Benjamin's house.


    Originally published on ADWEEK

    • CMTO Agenda: The C-Suite's Newest Member Takes On Customer Experience

      POSTED ON: Sep 27, 2016

  • CMTO Agenda: The C-Suite's Newest Member Takes On Customer Experience

    Just a few years ago, if the CIO was spending time with the CMO, it may have been a source of office gossip. But today, the boundaries between these functions have blurred, if not merged entirely – which means marketing and IT are closely linked.

    Some organizations have made the CMO and CIO union official by creating a new position: the Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO). This individual combines the technical depth, business acumen, creative flair and traditional leadership skills needed to re-imagine the business in a digital world. And perhaps no task on their agenda is more pressing than serving as a catalyst for defining and executing the customer experience.

    According to a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, 86 percent of CMOs and senior marketing professionals believe they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 marketers said their departments will exercise significant influence over business strategy during the same time.

    Agenda Item: Minding The Customer-Experience Gap

    The customer is no longer a captive and passive audience. She can buy anything, instantly – have it delivered anywhere. She can choose when to engage and for how long. But it’s not just that she has a choice, but many. In a world where a startup can scale to a million users without buying a single server and a disruptor has access to global sourcing, competitors can copy any established brand with frighteningly little effort.

    Take Uber and Airbnb. These relative newcomers have not only disrupted entire categories, but are edging out traditional providers by putting the customer at the center. This same idea applies to Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, nimble startups that reinvented the industry’s standard view on global sourcing, price, and precision targeting. Large organizations are now doing the same, as Walmart moonlights as both an alternabank and a health insurer.

    In today’s digital world, experience makes all the difference. Any organization can compete on product, price, place and promotion, but none can duplicate how a brand makes the customer feel. Organizations that focus on creating a compelling and consistent customer experience – as opposed to selling products or services – have the ability to build long-term loyalty and brand affinity.


    Originally published on Forbes

    • Diversity in action: How to create an inclusive culture

      POSTED ON: Sep 26, 2016

  • Diversity in action: How to create an inclusive culture

    SapientNitro's global chief creative officer gives real-world solutions for fostering diversity

    Leading up to Advertising Week New York, I asked my team what panels and events they were most looking forward to. While many said they planned to attend "Storytelling in the age of Snapchat," or were excited by the star power of Drew Barrymore, The Roots and Arianna Huffington, far more mentioned a topic that hits a little closer to home: diversity.

    In recent months, this issue has been in the spotlight for our industry. Brands like HP and General Mills have challenged their agencies to ensure their workforce is diverse and Advertising Week has an impressive seven diversity-themed panels or events on the docket this year. We all agree that this topic is not only worth talking about, but also taking clear and deliberate action to address.

    However, before we try to solve advertising’s diversity challenge, it’s important to clarify just what that terms means. At SapientNitro, and at many other agencies and brands, diversity is not quotas, targets or numbers. It’s not about having more representation of one group or replacing one voice with another. Diversity is about inclusivity. It’s a challenge to each and every member of our industry to make a conscious effort to not only accept our differences, but celebrate them. Because it is through our differences in experience that we have a real opportunity to make our work better and our livers richer.

    With that in mind, I offer a few real-world solutions for fostering diversity that I will be discussing tomorrow at Advertising Week:

    Approach diversity like a business initiative.
    Diversity of thought has a powerful impact on our business. Having a vast array of cultural experiences, ages, genders, religions, sexual orientations and lifestyles gives us the insights and the skills to evolve alongside the massive demographic, technological and social shifts that we'll see in the coming decades. And diversity of thought can help guard against groupthink, increase the scale of new insights, can help organize the right group of people to tackle new and complex problems and leads to better work overall. Given the critical nature of diversity for our business, it’s important for leaders to approach this challenge with the same rigor as we would for client engagements. Efforts should be aligned to a clear and consistent mission and vision, and results should be measurable. This work is important to our future success – and therefore worthy of our investment today.

    Do something. Talk is good—but action is better. At SapientNitro we take a multifaceted approach to diversity that allows for grassroots, employee driven initiatives, and a culture and engagement team that focuses on fostering and cultivating our values. We also have a variety of formal programs like Career Returns, to help on-ramp people who have taken an extended break from the workforce, experiential unconscious bias workshops, and high-potential development programs focused on women. While we don’t propose every organization mirror our efforts, we believe it’s important for all members of our industry to help solve this issue. Our impact is stronger—and our progress quicker—when we tackle this challenge together.

    Empower others. Diversity does not begin and end with the executive committee. It is a challenge that should be embraced and owned by every member of the organization. But it is the duty of leadership to empower their people to effect change. As the executive sponsor and founder of Potential Realized in Diverse Experiences (PRIDE) at SapientNitro, for example, my approach to work is to encourage people to bring their full, authentic selves to a project—and in turn bring more innovation and technological expertise to our clients. While I’m very proud of my role in this group, I would like to emphasize that I’m merely one representative … there are many more. By empowering others to join me in championing diversity, this issue becomes top of mind for many.

    As an industry, we have work to do in this area, and we’re looking at ways to move the needle collectively. But the truth is, real and lasting change is often not just the result of programs, but of a person. We’re challenging ourselves and everyone we touch in our industry, because taken together, these individual commitments can create a huge collective impact.


    Originally posted on

    • SapientNitro Takes On The Internet Of Things By Rapid Innovation On-The-Fly

      POSTED ON: Sep 23, 2016

  • SapientNitro Takes On The Internet Of Things By Rapid Innovation On-The-Fly

    Innovation around the Internet of Things is coming from many places.

    Now a major agency is working to institutionalize the process by identifying topics to tackle and then assigning agency employees to rapidly create a concept and take it to prototype stage almost overnight.

    During a visit to the Boston offices of SapientNitro last year, I saw this rather interesting development method using an automated, random topic generator used to select various topics within two areas, audience and technology.

    At the annual FutureM conference in Boston this week, I caught up with Mo Morales, innovation design manager at SappientNitro, and the person behind the idea.

    Morales hosted Sapient’s major display of the process at the marketing conference and attendees waited in line to see how the concept of rapid prototyping teams at an agency could work.

    The overall idea is to push the boundaries of storytelling through emerging technology.

    Morales said the SapientNitro Accelerated Prototyping (SNAP) goes from multidisciplinary group ideation to fully-functional prototype in two weeks.

    “It takes one creative and one tech person a total of two weeks,” Morales said. “It’s about two hours, two days and two weeks.”

    At the start of the process, two agency employees are identified and freed to work on the project for two weeks.

    The automated idea machine is used to randomly select an audience and then a technology.

    Included in the list of 10 audiences are pet lovers, travelers, artists, new home buyers, new parents and coffee lovers. The 10 technologies include beacons, robotics, gesture, speech recognition and virtual reality.

    Each of the two are randomly selected and then merged, so that one pairing might be pet lovers and beacons, for example.

    The two-person team has a two-hour idea discussion session followed by two days to refine the concepts and then pitch them to a leadership committee. After approval, the team has two weeks to develop a fully-functional prototype, several of which Morales displayed at the event.

    The prototype has to be made within two weeks and cost under $500.

    The interesting twist here is that the projects are not client driven and there is no major expenditure for a large-scale innovation lab.

    However, the learning may later be used to deal with client needs or requests in the future, since “90 of it is IoT related,” Morales said.

    Morales said he is now expanding the system beyond Boston, starting with Sapient offices in New York and Washington.

    At the very least, more agency employees are getting involved in IoT creativity at the street level.

    And with so many prototypes focused on identifying potential problems and opportunities in the market and matching them with appropriate technologies for solution, there likely will be an eventual client fit. Even if they don’t yet know it.


    Originally published on MediaPost

    • Gen Z workers ditching the corner office for face-to-face collaboration

      POSTED ON: Sep 12, 2016

  • Gen Z workers ditching the corner office for face-to-face collaboration

    Most managers think their young employees want their own offices or bosses who give them direction from afar. They are wrong. If there is a buzzword in today’s workplaces, it is collaboration: the intense desire by young workers to spend their workday interacting face to face with their co-workers and managers.

    Given the choice to work from home, Catherine Darlson, a 27-year-old attorney with Kelley/Uustal in Fort Lauderdale, prefers going into her law office: Designed for collaboration, it has six “war rooms” and four conference rooms. Lawyers at the firm use a team approach for most client matters. “The office environment creates that opportunity to pull someone in with a different level of experience when they have something to contribute,” Darlson says. “For the younger lawyers, it’s really an advantage to us as we try to grow.”

    While millennial workers initiated the emphasis on workplace collaboration, Generation Z, those 22-year-old brand-new grads who are the first of their generation to enter the workforce, are ensuring it sticks. “This is the new workforce reality,” says Dan Schawbel, research director for New York-based Future Workplace. The research firm is focused on the future of working and hasreleased a new global survey in partnership with Randstad, a Netherlands-based global provider of human resource services.

    Despite being digital natives, young workers want human interaction and engagement with co-workers — and are willing to trade what was previously considered a perk. When Jeff Crilley promoted Erica Cupaioli to social media director at his Dallas marketing firm, the title came with a spacious office. But Crilley soon noticed that Cupaioli rarely worked in her office and instead spent most of her day in a communal area surrounded by staff. “I feel lonely and isolated in my office,” Cupaioli says. “Now I’m where much more interaction happens.”

    Many companies that consider younger workers their lifeblood are redesigning work spaces to create more places for collaboration and mentoring. The designs go beyond the open work spaces previously popular to include huddle rooms, lounge areas and communal work stations. Marlene Liriano in the Miami offices of Interior Architects, the firm that has designed cutting-edge spaces for high-profile companies, says most of her new office designs incorporate a variety of areas for employees to work together on projects or client matters, allowing opportunity to interact with different people throughout the day. “Young workers want to be in the office, but they don’t want to be tied down to a desk,” Liriano says. As millennials start businesses and become managers, they are changing office design, too. “Most CEOs, if they are younger, don’t want to be in a corner office — they want to be out there with their team,” Liriano says.

    Other areas where collaboration is shaping workplace practices are manager feedback and leadership style. As younger workers engage regularly with their managers, they want in-the-moment feedback rather than annual performance reviews and leaders who are strong communicators. “Young people grew up with technology and the ability to get information at any time,” says Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America. “They want their managers to tell them ‘this worked well, this didn’t work, and this is a skill you need to develop.’ In a collaborative workplace, they figure anything worthy of feedback should be done in real time in a meaningful way.” The study found Gen Z workers also believe communication is the most important quality in a leader.

    One of the most surprising ways the collaboration revolution is taking hold is the shift in the definition of flexibility. Previous generations equated “flexibility” with “working from home.” But it’s defined differently by Generation Z workers, who say they want to work in corporate offices where they can be part of a team, get real-time feedback, share ideas and solve problems together in person, according to the study of more than 4,000 full-time Gen Z (22 years old or younger) and millennial (23- to 34-year-olds) employees in 10 countries including the U.S., U.K., and Canada. To them, flexibility is about less rigidity in work schedules and less checking in with their managers on their whereabouts. “It’s about coming in and leaving whenever I want as long as I get my work done,” Darlson says.

    As part of collaboration, young workers also want to spend their day interacting with their peers on social networks. “They want companies to embrace, and not block, social media because they see their day as fluid and personal and professional as the same thing,” Link says. Twenty-six-year-old Cupaioli agrees: “As long as work gets done, being on social networks shouldn’t be an issue. It’s part of the flexibility.”

    Leaders in the Miami office of SapientNitro, a global digital advertising and marketing agency, have found the collaboration revolution is good for the customer. “You should want 10 different people solving your problem. It invites diversity of perspective and breeds better outcomes,” says Joey Wilson, vice president, business lead at the company. At SapientNitro, the 400 employees in Miami work in groups on the terrace or in work zones, collaboration areas and breakout hubs. The modern office and the team-like culture helps with recruiting young employees.

    Eduardo Legorburu, global production services lead with SapientNitro, says that because employees work in different office areas throughout the day with various team members, no one is micromanaged: “We don’t have rigid hours. Someone might work 12 hours one day and four the next, and that’s OK. We are more focused on getting stuff done. Our young workers want freedom coming and going, but that doesn’t mean they work less hard. If a client wants something at midnight, they respond.”

    Link at Randstad says he often gets the same question from clients about young employees: “How are we going to change how they think?” His response: “You’re asking the wrong question. You should be asking, “How are we going to adapt to them? By 2020, these young employees will be 44 percent of the workforce.”

    Originally published on

    • The CMO's role in digital business transformation

      POSTED ON: Sep 01, 2016

  • The CMO's role in digital business transformation

    Don't 'wait and see' and don't think digital business transformation doesn't apply to your company. Lead the change, says Kim Douglas of SapientNitro and Razorfish.

    Business leaders from all types of organisations are re-imagining, reshaping and retooling for an imminent digital future. It’s a future many leaders would argue has been upon us for some time. But that’s an unhelpful correction for business leaders who are in the midst of catching up.

    This significant, boardroom-level organisational change is referred to as 'digital business transformation'. It’s transforming our industry and affecting CMO and CIO budgets across the region.

    For MNCs, digital business transformation is likely on the C-suite’s internal agenda. For agencies, the transformation is changing our clients, our budgets and the industry. Here are three questions I commonly answer from clients seeking guidance in this area.

    Q. What is driving the need for digital business transformation?

    A. Consumers. The rapid uptake and use of technology by consumers means many companies are finding a lag between the expectations of customers and what their organisation is capable of delivering.

    While many businesses have starved the wolves of change by digitising parts of the business, there is an imminent commercial imperative to make more thorough changes. This commercial imperative compels business leaders to radically rethink the ways in which their entire organisation will meet the expectations of digitally reliant consumers.

    Q. We have digitised some of our processes in the marketing division, isn’t that enough for now?

    A. While marketing can be leaders in this area, digitising existing processes is a quick fix. It isn’t enough to meet current consumer expectations, let alone those forecast for the immediate future.

    For example, those in automotive know the modern car buyer is focused more on the digital services that a car and its network environment may offer than what is under the hood. The expectations on the products and services offered in automotive are now entirely different.

    Digital business transformation is about challenging and changing ingrained perceptions about what a company is, does and says in order to increase relevance to customers.

    Q. What role can the CMO take in this change?

    A. CMOs can take a leadership role in the change by initiating the discussion. CMOs are likely spending heavily on tech. If the marketing department has created ‘pockets’ of digital transformation, they will ultimately need to be connected with the rest of the business if they are to have genuine, sustainable impact on business performance.

    Research driven by the Publicis.Sapient group out of Europe shows that only about 25 percent of CEOs will entrust their CMO with the significant task of digital business transformation. CMOs who begin the discussion are forward-thinkers and true business leaders.

    Q. What’s the risk of taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach?

    A. Inarguably, the single biggest lever of change for business is technology. Technology is the future—it’s your silver bullet. Those businesses that aren’t diving in are being left behind.

    Large organisations urgently need to begin a board-level discussion to create a digital business transformation strategy and intent. The effectiveness of such strategies will become a key underlying survival and success factor for large organisations to 2020 and beyond.

    Such transformations are essential if businesses are to deliver customer-centricity. The impact of new digitally empowered players is creating new expectations of service and experience across every category.

    Q. How is this relevant to APAC? Mine is a distinct market. What’s happening in the West isn’t always relevant to my customers.

    A. I can’t agree more. Remember, consumers are driving the need for these changes. The rapid uptake and use of technology by consumers means many companies are finding a lag between the expectations of customers and what their organisation is capable of delivering.  

    More than ever, this lag between consumers and brands is biggest in APAC markets. Research by Razorfish shows us Asian consumers are tenacious about technology, more so than in the West. We only need to look at the rise of social commerce, the swift uptake in mobile payments and the evolved retail environment of China to see how consumer behaviour, and in turn expectation, in our region is outpacing the changes made by brands.

    Consider this: In my experience, the average MNC in APAC takes from 12 to 18 months to initiate and award an RFP for a content platform. By comparison, a startup is on its second or third phase of maturity by that time. Put that into perspective from the consumers’ point of view, and it’s clear to see why some heritage businesses are failing. Established companies that are succeeding have readjusted their governance models to meet the expectations of today’s customers.

    Q. What do I need to do?

    Decide what your business should look like and start building from the inside.

    By that I mean:

    1. Create the future: Focus on identifying what your business needs to look like/needs to do to meet consumer expectations. Do not get stuck on the restrictions of your current model. Find the services you can provide that aren’t yet there. Here’s an example of potential evolution in the traditional insurance sector:

        A customer decides to go skiing in Japan. Before he leaves for his three-day weekend, he logs on to transfer some of his home insurance investment to travel insurance. Once his trip is over, he moves it back on Monday before starting work. 

    This new model meets the untapped need of an audience. It is service- and design-led thinking. I challenge our clients to focus on the audience or customers they don’t have, in moments they don’t yet know, through channels they don’t have; with products and services they haven’t yet designed.

    2. Build an in-house team: Work with partners to bring experts in-house. Establish a team of change-agents, a transformational unit that can drive change internally. These experts will provide a focus on experience design and technology. You simply can’t expect an external agency to do this and be judged by those sitting in the old model. Find a trusted partner who becomes an extension of your team. 

    Kim Douglas is vice president and APAC managing director of SapientNitro and Razorfish


    Source: Campaign Asia-Pacific

    • Supporting Purpose with Diversity, Both Internally and for Clients

      POSTED ON: Aug 29, 2016

  • Supporting Purpose with Diversity, Both Internally and for Clients

    Many leaders have clearly missed the point when it comes to diversity. In fact, it’s probably the most misunderstood cultural point for an organization — which, subsequently, makes it the most difficult change agent to harness. The power is there, but the comprehension? Not so much.

    Some, however, are getting incredibly close and setting the tone…

    Alyssa Altman (vice president and managing director for SapientNitro North America) managed to achieve something that all leaders wish they could: Create a team that is diverse, yet cohesive — and we wanted to know how. As a representative of “diversity” herself (I say “‘diversity'” because, let’s be serious, female integration and leadership should appear normal to all of us), Alyssa managed to introduce multiple points of view into one group that she calls “The Growth Ensemble” — which may seem pretty generic at first glance, but once you hear the full interview, you’ll walk away with a logical understanding as to why it fits.

    Here, we offer you some themes from the interview before presenting the full video at the end. See what you can glean from Alyssa’s success blending internal diversity with a strategic purpose — both for SapientNitro’s sake and for that of its clients.

    Alyssa describes a situation in which diversity nurtures a culture that in turn nurtures fearlessness. This means that no one is afraid to step outside of comfortable teams and teammates to go and get new guys/gals that might be able to do the job better — or simply bring something different to the table. Rather than having a culture that is more of a systematic propagation of diversity, this fearlessness allows your internal folks to continuously generate that integration themselves, which I think we can all agree will end up in more sincere and natural relationships among peers.

    You may be able to repeat “purpose is key”, but can you explain why? Alyssa does a wonderful job of this, explaining to us that when you align your teams around something that they can ultimately see, prove, and deliver, then they tend to be more involved. For example, if you choose to focus on your client’s customers and creating something for them — specifically for that persona that you know and can envision — then the work (and results) become more personal. It creates a direct bridge between your team and the end customer, the end experience. It becomes less about the employee-to-client relationship and more about the employee-to-user relationship.

    All of this, in turn, has a laudable effect. It generates quality. It’s simple: If you cause each team member to become more emotionally and personally implicated in the project, then the transition from looking at only their specific role to seeing their role as part of a larger “solution” is imminent. This doesn’t just allow them to improve their contribution within the parameters of their roles, but it also moves each participant to understand and assist other team members.

    All in all, it seems that diversity with a purpose-driven mindset equals a lucrative community.

    Natural growth
    Once you have set up your own “ensemble”, it’s the “growth” portion that remains. But this will happen naturally. As Alyssa mentions, by aligning every team member — each with his/her own background, ideals, values, and style — to the same purpose, leaders generate a sense of ownership (and entitlement to) the overall success of a project. Participants associate their feelings of individuality and belonging with the group as a whole, thereby not only pushing themselves further, but also offering their help to other teammates. It is this sense of community that brings about natural growth.

    This kind of inherent evolution is the kind that is truly sustainable, and you can be sure that clients will notice your transformation. In fact, it is the kind of cultural change — the kind of mentality shift — that can be passed along to clients, as well. By offering a team of masterful individuals propelling a unified concept, you’ll be able to deliver the same strength and core focus to your clients and their business cases.

    Hear more from a leader who pulled this off herself in the full video interview below.



    Originally published on


    • 'Being Uber’: SapientNitro on Brand Survival in the Age of Disruption

      POSTED ON: Aug 19, 2016

  • 'Being Uber’: SapientNitro on Brand Survival in the Age of Disruption

    SapientNitro CCO Donald Chestnut and CTO Sheldon Monteiro on why digital agencies need to go deeper than brand campaigns

    “If you look at most of our clients, they’re wrestling with ‘being uber’. It’s easy to use air quotes, but it’s a really big thing,” says Sapient Nitro’s Global CCO Donald Chestnut.

    Things may be challenging in the advertising and marketing industries right now, but the broader business ecosystem is undergoing a disruption comparable to the Industrial Revolution. No one knows which sector is going to be hit next by a Dollar Shave Club or Uber and that means that clients need so much more than a big brand campaign or a fun little app from their digital agency partners.

    Thankfully, the team at SapientNitro are used to pivoting – which makes them all the more able to help clients through the new normal of uncertainty and change. From its roots in the early ‘90s as a pure IT business to its move into creative and interactive marketing and its acquisition of Nitro in 2009, the agency has continued to reinvent itself, going deeper into businesses’ digital infrastructure, overhauling their data systems and leveraging technology to help them respond better to consumer needs. Being nimble and responsive and able to quickly incorporate new tech might be relatively easy for a cheeky start-up. Not so much for legacy businesses with thousands of employees and a digital infrastructure that’s more of an archaeological dig site of various systems layered up over the years.

    “The integration of all these things is difficult. You’ve got to get the business strategy, the creative ideas, the large scale technology,” says Sheldon Monteiro, SapientNitro’s Global CTO. “What’s really interesting right now is the speed with which brands need to embed requires them to move at a pace that they’ve just not been used to. Think about most traditional brands; they work in silos, fulfilment is very, very strong and they tend to buy from point providers and act as the integrators across those. What tends to happen is the competitors and start-ups like Dollar Shave Club will eat their lunch because they are working in agile sprints. Putting work into the real world every day.”

    Given the challenges that brands face, it’s easy to see why Publicis Groupe shelled out $3.7 billion for SapientNitro and its sister divisions Sapient Global Markets and Sapient Government Services in early 2015.

    Another, equally salient point is that as clients become savvier it’s becoming more common to take certain elements of digital and social marketing in-house. To prove their value and remain relevant, digital agencies have to offer more, go deeper and help solve not only branding or communications problems but business problems.

    “I’d also say our clients are becoming smarter than they ever were,” says Donald. “This is something I’d say externally and internally, five years ago it was easy for us to be the digital jack of all trades – now many of them are doing it with their internal teams. So what is the continued value add to help them see what’s next.”

    This can take many forms. Machine learning technology can help brands update products on the e-commerce platforms more quickly. A smarter approach to data can help businesses react and respond to challenges and opportunities more nimbly – currently, many older businesses do own a huge amount of data but it’s stored and organised in a way that renders it next to useless.

    But in pockets of the advertising and marketing world, big tech and big data is still viewed with suspicion – but Donald argues that it’s hugely creative, if not as easily consumable as campaign-based projects. While the major award shows reward projects based on their newness – who’s going to award an ‘old’ idea – so longer term projects are likely to fly below the radar even if they do deliver more substantial business impact.

    “A lot of what we’re helping clients do are multi-year, multi-pronged projects. There’s a lot of creativity and a lot of great ideas but they’re embedded in a longer terms approach to a platform. And then I go somewhere like Cannes as a creative – and as a creative I love and respect what Cannes is about, which idea and craft – and I look at what wins and it’s parallel but separate from how I see the world,” says Donald.

    Sheldon has an interesting – if not a little controversial – solution. “The provocation I’d like to offer up is that the category that Cannes needs most, that our clients need most and frankly world needs most right now is digital platforms,” he says.

    “If you look at the number one challenge clients face at the moment, it’s that their businesses are being disrupted by a nexus of forces. One is an empowered consumer. Another is that there is competition coming in from sectors they’re not familiar with. There is the reinvention of business models. So, it’s not sufficient to just talk about your brand, you have to change every aspect of our business in order to deliver on customer expectations. Including reinventing your business platforms, the systems behind it, the processes to deliver on that brand promise. And that’s what customers are struggling with. IT requires an intersection of creativity, strategy and large scale technology.”

    Despite the talk of digital platforms and IT infrastructure, the heart of what Donald and Sheldon and the team around the world are trying to do is to make life better for consumers. That’s the reason the disruptors are managing to disrupt after all – they offer a service that’s simple to interact with, is built around human behaviours and makes life easier.

    “It goes back to people. With gratuitous campaign ideas or banner advertising… how much do you really engage in that? Our competencies go far beyond that. Now the best ideas coming up are the things that are truly service-orientated. When a brand is informing, when a brand is educating, when it is providing some digital extension that helps consumers as well as building the brand at the same time, it isn’t just there as some sort of interesting activation,” says Donald. “That, over the long run, is where clients are trying to go.”


    Originally published on Little Black Book

    • The role of the CMTO is to bring technology to marketing: SapientNitro’s Sheldon Monteiro

      POSTED ON: Aug 03, 2016

  • The role of the CMTO is to bring technology to marketing: SapientNitro’s Sheldon Monteiro

    How SapientNitro is educating CMOs to become technology evangelists and vice versa

    In an interaction with ETtech, Sheldon Monteiro, SVP & CTO, SapientNitro talks about the importance of CMTO University in creating a new set of chief marketing technologists who will have a bigger role to play in the organization.

    Don't you think a more apt title should be CDMO - Chief Digital & marketing officer?

    Today, the brand is the experience that the company provides and in order to create and deliver these experiences, you cannot just build a website or a mobile application. You have to fundamentally re invent your business to be prepared for a digital world.

    That means changing your internal business processes, legacy systems looking how you leverage these emerging technologies and then driving cross functional collaboration in order to make that happen.

    So CMTOs, CDOs work focus is to re invent the business and get all of these different departments and pieces of the organization working together for all practical purposes.

    From a skill set standpoint, a combination of different things is really necessary. You got to have knowledge of customer intimacy and a tremendous grasp of business and technology. You got to have the ability to be the coach and catalyst within the organization to get the place to move in the same direction.

    Similarly, in our programs, we focus on three areas - Business and marketing being one, how do you take technologists who are typically focused on core technology and give them all of the background on business and marketing.

    They might have been focused on technology but typically their areas of focus would have been certain specialized areas within technology so we expand their breadth on marketing technology landscape.

    Perhaps the most important thing is we really focus on their influence skills. We help them with their ability to influence the CEO or CMO as much as they would be in their comfort zone talking to CTOs and CIOs. So we give them the ability to work across the entire C Suite. That's the kind of the fundamental skill set that these individuals need to have.

    If organizations start having a CMTO, what happens to the role of the CIO?

    Most CMTOs report either to the CMO or to the CEO directly. Around 10% of them report to the IT heads. That's just how the state of the market is currently. In the future, all IT will become customer focussed IT. CIO's for the most part are suffering from whiplash.

    On the one hand, they are being held to the 2003 standards of "you are a cost centre and you will be good enough and cheap" and on the other hand they are being held to the new standard which is "I am not going to compare you against the peers in your own industry but i am going to compare you against Amazon and Google and Facebook".

    How does the CMTO University function?

    The CMTO University is for all SapientNitro employees. We open a call for applications from eligible technologists from SapientNitro offices across the world. This is applicable for senior managers and above, who have been with the company for at least one year.

    As part of the application process, we really understand what their backgrounds are, why they want to join the program, what their record is.

    The program of study that we have put together assumes that you start of at a certain place and we will build up certain set of skills around your core.

    You can start with people from a customer experience background and build up their technology skills. So for four times a year, we bring this group at one of our offices around the globe.

    This year, we started our first intensive work in Chicago, wherein the students had through 4 days of intense work. Then we had our second training session at our Atlanta offices.

    We then moved to London and now to India. In between these sessions, we get together on nearly every weekend for WebEx sessions.

    Typically, it's about ten hours of work in addition to the day jobs that they have every week. It runs for a year. This is now our third year. We started the first year with 14 people, last year we had 16 and this year we have 21.

    Don't you think more investment is required on the technology infrastructure side for the role of the CMTO?

    The role of the CMTO is to bring technology to marketing. With the move of more deployment oriented technologies towards more cloud and SaaS models, it is lot easier today for a business person or a marketer to contract with a SaaS provider or with a cloud service provider and procure their own technology.

    The problem is this, if you have got a number of cloud based solutions, they are all kind of standalone and they do not necessarily equate to integration and integrated experience.

    You need a proxy CIO to work for the marketer or to partner directly with the CIO at the speed at which the customer experience demands and this is the reason for the need for collaboration and for essentially a role that is bridging these functions.

    How will the University help in reducing the skill set gap?

    There is a real challenge in the industry in terms of skill sets. In our research on the skills sets of CMTOs, information security rated dead last. This is the problem. A lot more work needs to be done particularly by people who are now entrusted with building secure systems because in our view, experiences that brands provide need to be trust worthy.

    In order to be trust worthy, they need to be reliable and need to be secure and available. CMTO need to invest in their skill sets in our CMTO university program. All these specific areas, security availability, performance and resiliency are stuff that we explicitly focus on and teach.


    Originally published on ET Tech

    • For Back to School, the Customer Is More Important than the Product

      POSTED ON: Jul 20, 2016

  • For Back to School, the Customer Is More Important than the Product

    etailers have traditionally focused on pushing specific products for the back-to-school shopping season. Now, they are shifting their approach to cater to customers’ specific needs. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser spoke with Jem Ripley, managing director of retail vertical at digital agency SapientNitro, about what retailers can expect this back-to-school season and how to put the customer first.

    eMarketer: How important is the back-to-school season for retailers?

    Jem Ripley: Back to school is becoming more important for retailers and with that, the season has spread out, much like how the holiday season now starts earlier than Thanksgiving.

    eMarketer: When does the back-to-school shopping season start?

    Ripley: From a planning-for-back-to-school perspective, the season starts as early as June. Retailers are creating opportunities for customers to put together their back-to-school shopping lists ahead of time—whether that involves reserving items, putting together packages, offering back-to-school registries or other marketing opportunities—to start the process as early as they can.

    eMarketer: Based on the last couple of years, how will marketers change their approach to back to school this year?

    Ripley: In prior years, there was a siloed focus on marketing product to constituents and potential customers. Now there is a focus on where different customers are in their journey and meeting their needs. Marketers are creating experiences that are focused on a particular grade level. They’re taking all of the products that would go along with that experience and marketing that as opposed to specific products.

    eMarketer: Will there be an uptick in specific marketing or fulfillment tactics for back to school?

    Ripley: Everything will go back to the ability to guide people through their journey. It could be a checklist or some type of guided selling that puts someone through the “have you thought of” or “people that buy this usually buy that” messaging in a packaged way depending on what grade they’re in.

    Back-to-school registries are another opportunity for retailers that we haven’t seen in years past. They allow the different people who want somebody to be successful in heading back to school to make purchases.

    Future date shipping and related options, like setting items aside and pack and hold in-store, will help retailers be as flexible as they possibly can for their customers. The buying cycle for back to school doesn’t necessarily happen in the three to four days before somebody is heading off—it can be weeks and months of planning.

    eMarketer: How big of a role will Amazon play this back-to-school season?

    Ripley: Amazon will be a huge part of back to school. However, back to school is a time when brick-and-mortar retailers can differentiate themselves. The experience of shopping together with your son or daughter and the tactile nature of shopping for products and clothes for back to school resonates with consumers, and Amazon is at a disadvantage there.

    eMarketer: What new opportunities will retailers have this back-to-school season?

    Ripley: Virtual reality [VR] in retail is in its nascent form. Marketers haven’t figured out how to leverage it to its best. But for back to college, students and parents are thinking about how to set up a dorm room, and VR can be used to see the room and think about products in context in the room. There is an interesting opportunity with VR for the college audience.


    Read the article on eMarketer

    • Controlling the machine: The future of creative leadership

      POSTED ON: Jul 19, 2016

  • Controlling the machine: The future of creative leadership

    As creative automation becomes a reality, the CCO of SapientNitro China contemplates the role of artificial intelligence in the agency of the future

    In my country, web banners are being resized by a machine, and they look pretty damn good. It can even give you 10 options to choose from in a matter of seconds, having learned the rule of thirds and the most attractive font sizes for the banners.

    But let's take a step further. We get an IBM Watson or Google Deepmind to memorize all the most awarded marketing work from award shows like Cannes Lions, One Show and D&AD.

    And it starts learning what resonates with human emotions and remixes the ideas in surprising ways, developing them into pretty good marketing ideas that consumers will actually like. And it comes back with solutions in an hour max, not the two weeks that a creative team needs to spitball.

    In the beginning, it will be seen as a novelty, like the very first poker-playing, chess-playing computers or that Honda robot that learned how to walk. And then it gets serious; a machine manages to beat human-powered agencies and wins the Cannes Titanium.

    How far are we from this?
    Computers are replacing humans in the most menial jobs. We’ve already got computers beating humans at both Chess and Go. And we’ve got AI making a passable piece of film for Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors Showcase at Cannes.

    So not too far at all.

    This is where things start getting really interesting.

    Have you spent extended time wearing a Vive headset using a Google Tilt-Brush or playing with Atlas Reactor and The Brookhaven Experiment? As the content and technology get better, VR can potentially become your main reality. Really, it can be that good.

    That’s exciting and scary at the same time.

    Exciting because it is a time for truly limitless creativity and experiences, as you are no longer limited by physical laws and your body when it comes to creating or experiencing something new.

    Scary because there will be a day when a machine gains consciousness and knows how to fully manipulate a human. And we are all going to get hooked up in The Matrix.

    So what does this future mean for us, the folks working in the creative industry?

    2.0, 3.0, 4.0 Yourself
    Make better versions of yourself and become future proof.

    What’s a 2.0 version of yourself? Become conversant in VR terminology? Know simple coding so you can converse with the machine?

    Have a think about how you can evolve your creative game.

    There was a time when the Flash Developer was a cool job. Today, this guy wouldn’t make it onto Noah’s Enterprise.

    Be immune to the very thing you are trying to create
    We are kind of going into the God-mode phase of Creativity right now.

    You are only limited by your thinking. But that also means whatever you are going to create may be so great that you get lost in it. Like forever. This is slightly cautionary, but think "Lawnmower Man."

    Now more than ever you need to define and know yourself, before you dive into this world of immersive creativity. Of course, you can also choose to embrace it and be drip-fed and adult-diapered as you spend days creating with a Tile Brush. (Not my personal preference).

    Creating at this level means you have to learn to take a step back once in a while. If you play Minecraft, you know what I mean.

    Partner the machine
    The best creative minds know how to get the best out of their collaborators. It so happens this partner is a machine. Think about how you can get the best out of it.

    In the near future, you will have the machine churning out a few viable options for stories, campaign ideas, experiential ideas and more. It will still be up to you to pick and choose and build on these machine ideas, to make it the best cocktail of storytelling and experience.

    Of course what kind of machine you partner is, is just as important: is it a collaborative machine like a J.A.R.V.I.S. or an abusive partner like Skynet? Choose with care.

    Maybe as this gets shared on Campaign ... brilliant engineers get inspired and start the process of creating machines like iDroga and RGAi...

    And a group of jobless disgruntled creatives in the future are working with technologists to develop a time machine to come back and stop this article from ever being published.

    Raymond Chin is CCO of Publicis.Sapient China.

    Read the article at Campaign US

    • How Pokémon Go's game mechanics are set up to be a hit

      POSTED ON: Jul 18, 2016

  • How Pokémon Go's game mechanics are set up to be a hit

    SapientNitro's Mark Caswell-Daniels and Chapman Lee pull apart Pokémon Go to find out why it's such a hit with gamers

    A massive change has hit Generation X over the past 12 days, according to SapientNitro’s Mark Caswell-Daniels and Chapman Lee.

    Rather than skulking about glued to their smartphones browsing Snapchat all day they are instead skulking around glued to their smartphones playing Pokémon Go. It’s a phenomenon that is spreading.

    Since it hit the headlines and every single channel of social media out there, it’s been a tumultuous start.

    People have made new friends playing the game, helped the authorities solve crimes and some almost even lost their lives through it (both socially and physically) and it’s been discussed that it could be used to inspire social change (Poké stops at polling stations!) or be part of what’s ruining our economy.

    So is it really better than sex — as its current search ranking that trumps even the ever-popular YouPorn might suggest? Nintendo’s recipe for wooing its players certainly seems right.

    The game is personalized

    Pokémon is a popular brand that already grabs the attention of people of all ages, but there is more than that to its success.

    There’s a slightly comic book theme to the game’s intro with a speech bubble interface mimicking classics JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) such as Zelda, and then the option to personalize your avatar.

    This is a feature that the Nintendo Wii used to its success — creating a virtual persona of yourself, it is a surefire way to increase players’ emotional investment in a gaming platform.

    Another aspect is the connection with where players are as well as who they are.

    Niantic’s mapping data layer is used to make popular public places into Pokéstops — spawning points for items to use in-game and also Gyms (typically found in areas/businesses with high footfall) where players can battle for possession and representations of their own teams or factions.

    The game is not demanding

    The gameplay’s UX is nicely staggered as well. As you start up, the registration is easy and graded. You don’t have 20 questions to answer before you play — all information capture is granular, so it’s only after you’ve caught your first Pokémon that you need to choose a username for instance.

    In addition, the tuition is unobtrusive and never interferes or delays the gameplay.

    Similarly the monetisation aspects of the game are very subtle. The players I spoke to had felt no impetus to buy in-game credit — while other quick-play games like Pocket Fleet make it cost effective to buy a £2 ship upgrade that would take weeks of playing to accrue, Pokécoins purchases are quite steep.

    If you have a Pokémon in a Gym, you might make 10 Pokécoins per Gym (with the ability to allow the players to own more than one) a day but to buy 100 Pokécoins is 79p. While it discourages purchases, this does mean there’s potentially a market for people selling their PG accounts as has happened with Clash of Clans.

    Likewise the only way a business can attract players through its doors is the same way anyone else can: buying a lure and dropping it on a Pokéstop to increase the number of Pokémon spawning there.

    Talks about various partnerships abound as brands look at using this to catch the catchers of Pokémon, but for now the places people are encouraged to travel to are locations that show a high traffic of mobile data.

    It's Social

    The gameplay itself seems to invoke feelings of classic strategy games and there’s a growing feeling of team play that other GPS games like "Resources" and "Parallel Kingdom" lacked, which stands to give it a bit more longevity.

    This is being expanded in the future to include player to player barter, challenges and the forming of smaller sub-teams that will lead to the communal gameplay it needs to survive.

    Currently you and your friends of the same group can visit gyms together and overpower them so there is already real-world social grouping in the game.

    Tactically you can choose to earn Pokécoins through stationing your strong Pokémon in gyms to defend them or you can choose to keep them at hand for battles and risk the gyms you have captured being lost to other players.

    All of which alter your progress, but it’s very hard to actually fail or die, which can be a draw to more casual gamers.

    There are many other AR games out there, and Pokémon Go is by no means the best at this.

    While it is magical to see a 3D character overlaid on your camera feed, there are other games like the less child-friendly Table Zombies that perform this much better. So it’s used as an optional gimmick, which will have short-term appeal to people but does well to garner screenshots for some of the 500,000 daily social mentions: it pulls people in.

    It’s not essential to the gameplay nor should it be, it’s an amuse bouche not the main course. It’s a game that will die down eventually, and its meteoric rise will abate.

    Hardcore gamers will continue playing and accrue higher levels and points. People will consider selling on their account logins to other people as they do with "Clash of Clans" and "World of Warcraft."

    Brands may well muddy the water a bit, but I don’t think Nintendo will cross any lines that might annoy the parents of its younger demographic

    It seems Pokémon Go is here to stay.

    Mark Caswell-Daniels is the lead creative technologist and Chapman Lee is a creative technologist, interactive developer (and gamer) at SapientNitro

    This article first appeared on

    • Advocating for My Son and for Me

      POSTED ON: Jul 12, 2016

  • Advocating for My Son and for Me

    Ellen Kalis, Public Relations Lead, Canada and the Midwest at SapientNitro, on the importance of initiatives that aid parents’ paths back into their careers

    Four years ago I made the choice to leave my job as a public relations professional to be an advocate for my son who has Cerebral Palsy. When I left I was a confident, driven and successful career woman, so I was surprised when I made the decision to return to work that I felt nervous and was second-guessing my abilities. Those feelings were almost enough for me to give up the idea of going back to my career completely. I wondered how my résumé would even get into HR’s hands and assumed it would be tossed to the side as soon as they saw the gap in my career.

    These feelings were not unfounded. The Center for Work-Life Policy estimates that 43 per cent of highly qualified working mothers leave the workforce at some point in their career and stay out an average of two years. And these women pay a big career penalty. The Center for Work-Life policy pegs the wage dip at 18 per cent across a range of professional occupations.

    After reading this, I began to feel nervous – and then resentful. Why should I have to devalue my skills and myself because I made the choice to take on one of the hardest jobs of my life, lobbying for my son who has special needs? The difficult conversations, negotiating, strategic planning, project and time-management skills and creativity required to ensure my son was getting everything he needed and deserved to succeed was just as challenging as any job I had in the past. And I was sure other women, and men, were in similar situations and were being passed-up for jobs, or taking big steps back in their careers to get their foot in the door again. It’s like we’d fallen into the parent trap.

    The parent trap remains very real in many companies. But there are organisations who are leading change in this area. Career return programs, paid internships for talented professionals looking to refresh their careers and re-enter the workforce, are slowly popping up in companies in various industries.

    I was lucky enough to find a career return opportunity through a family member who worked for SapientNitro – a marketing agency who recently launched their program. As I went through the interview process it was so refreshing to know that they were excited to hear about my experience outside of work. They were looking for people with diverse skills acquired in many contexts, not simply in traditional jobs.

    Being part of the stay-at-home mom circle for so many years, I saw a lot of friends take on jobs that were far below their skill and pay scale. They just wanted something that brought in some money without bringing the stress and hours of their previous careers. Other moms went the mompreneur route because they felt that was the only way to stay in control of their time and life.

    In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean in, she writes that “74 per cent of professional women will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and 40 per cent will return to full time jobs." That’s a staggeringly high group of smart, qualified and capable people that companies are missing out on if they continue to see stepping away from the workforce as a detriment rather than an opportunity for diverse perspectives.

    A career return program is a huge step in the right direction, but it can only be successful if a company allows for some flexibility. In many cases, the reason people left in the first place did not suddenly go away. I still had a son with special needs. Working late every night and putting in a 60+-hour work week was not an option.

    This is a big worry for many people returning to the work force after an extended leave, especially when joining a fast-paced industry like marketing, as I did. From my experience, anyone who is given the flexibility and autonomy to work their job around their life – rather than have to work their life around their job – is going to give you 100 per cent more effort.

    Going back to work does not come without challenges, but my perspective has changed. Before having my son, not knowing an answer or outcome would cause huge frustration and stress. But now I know what it’s like to live with uncertainty, change and hope. When doctors tell you only time will tell about your son’s abilities and future – will he talk? Will he integrate with his peers? Will he be able to live independently as an adult? Will he be happy or will his challenges eventually wear his spirit down? – you learn to really be in the moment and focus on solutions and what you can control at that time. Bringing this perspective to a job really helps you get to the matter of things and see through the clutter.

    Call it a fresh perspective, or just the perspective of a mom who has been through a lot, the fact that it is valued and welcomed at SapientNitro gives me hope as well. Hope that other people have the chance to return to the workforce and contribute all the life experience they gained when they hit pause on their careers.


    Ellen Kalis is Public Relations Lead, Canada and the Midwest at SapientNitro

    Comparable to an internship, SapientNitro’s Career Returns Program is a 10-week, paid program for talented creative, technology and advertising industry professionals looking to refresh their careers and re-enter the workforce. SapientNitro aims to support these seasoned candidates on their path back to making an impact at work, whether that be full or part-time.

    People take breaks from the workforce for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to start a family, care for a sick or elderly family member, travel, or sometimes, tackle an illness of their own. Sometimes these absences are brief, but often they can be extended, and when they are, re-entering the workforce can be a challenge. Hiring managers may see time away as an indication that someone is stale or that they may not have an up-to-date or relevant skillset.

    Because we value diversity, we are asking ourselves to intentionally value the diverse skills acquired in many contexts, not simply office ones, when it comes time to making hiring decisions, promotion choices and retention efforts. We aspire to be a place that enables human potential, and we are holding ourselves accountable to see the whole person.


    Originally published on LBB Online

    • 3 key trends in mobile from Cannes

      POSTED ON: Jun 28, 2016

  • 3 key trends in mobile from Cannes

    By Claire Waring

    Mobile is an incredibly diverse category covering everything from social to apps, and data to websites. Despite this category being a mini Cannes Lions Festival in its own right, there were three key trends that came through in the work for 2016.

    #1. Tech for humankind
    Perhaps the biggest trend this year was safety first. We saw a huge number of entries that solved real world problems in new and creative ways. Helpmet, a helmet alerting emergency crews when a motorbike rider is unconscious, Dot – the first braille smart watch, safe & sound music player, slow down GPS, Parkinsounds for Parkinson’s and Sea Hero Quest – gaming to aid Alzheimer research – were just a few among the innovations designed to help. Mobile features of geolocation, accelerometer and connectivity were all leveraged to enable services that were previously inconceivable.

    While many were charity initiatives, we also saw brands sponsoring utility to play a meaningful role in consumers lives. In a world where broadcast communications are simply not as effective, big brands are embracing utility and creating emotional connection with mobile for good. Toyota Landcruiser emergency network, Estadao songs of violence, and Samsung Blind Cap all seek to have an impact on both the world and their brand perception. I can’t think of a better way to spend marketing dollars.

    #2. Physical Connection
    A world addicted to mobile phones has its advantages for brand communication. This we saw the ‘Tinder’ization’ of everything; from bacon lovers to runners, apps that brought people together featured heavily. But social connection didn’t stop there. For a device that is infamously anti-social, the jury saw a stack of work that was designed to be a face-to-face experience. Connected screens brought

    entertainment to life and people together. Disney parades, firecrackers and music videos – the more friends with screens, the more entertainment. Cornetto’s wearables were a stand out – commitment rings utilising NFC tech to overcome the very real problem of your partner watching the next episode on Netflix without you. Genius.

    #3. Hacking the platform
    My favourite trend, hacking the platform was all about bending, breaking and shaping existing social networks. This trend is the digital equivalent of ‘ambient’ cleverly turning existing structures into fresh experiences or useful pieces.

    Instagram was a prime target with Old Spice, Canon and many more using tags and multiple accounts to create a rabbit hole of content for consumers to explore. This twist on the visual platform allows for storytelling way beyond the intended single image.

    The Gold Lion winning #comeonin used geotags with Sydney opera house exterior pics posted on Instagram to target tourists. The real-time campaign responded to posts with video, inviting those with a large number of followers to experience and post inside the venue. A triumph in location based co-creation.

    Hashtags were hacked for good in Peru, bypassing cumbersome sign-up forms to create a database of blood donors. Participants put their hands up to donate simply by posting their #bloodtypeperu. Snapchat stories were hacked with a tap and messaging platforms transformed into school rooms, WhatsGerman leveraging WhatsApp as an education platform with daily language lessons for refugees.

    Mobile has changed the game for communication but it doesn’t take high tech to be high impact. Human insight, empathy, creativity and above all simplicity make for big winners at Cannes.

    Claire Waring was one of the jurors at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2016 in the Mobile Lions category


    Read the story on Digital Market Asia


    • Cannes 2016: The Chinese are better at hunting Tigers, not Lions

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2016

  • Cannes 2016: The Chinese are better at hunting Tigers, not Lions

    Raymond Chin of SapientNitro China explains why Chinese work from Cannes Lions this year is more of a whimper than a roar.

    As of writing this article, according to the judges, there isn’t a lot of great Chinese creativity coming out of Cannes Lions this year.

    This is bad because I’ve been tasked to write an entire article based on winning work coming out of China at this year’s Cannes awards.

    So now I have to write about something else.

    The Chinese are better at hunting tigers.

    Some of the most beloved Chinese folklore stories have got tigers in them. Even the Kung Fu Panda has a tiger girlfriend.

    Tigers are simply awesome, but they generally look different from lions. Juries look at the tiger and go… “That’s a really awesome beast, it’s got sharp teeth, four legs… but where’s the mane? Why are there stripes?”

    The West’s reference of a tiger is Tony the Tiger and Eye of the Tiger, things that are either too cute or classic.

    So what can us creative folk working in the China market do?

    Translating the roar

    Some of the work from Anomaly and local hot shop W, have in the past done extremely well in award shows such as One Show China. They have quite an exceptional level of craft.

    But somehow, they did not even get into the digital craft shortlist here. Sometimes a creative idea does not make sense to judges because there is a lack of understanding of the Chinese context of a “Double Eleven sale” or the Chinese digital ecosystem of WeChat. Not every jury has the luxury of a Chinese judge being there to help translate the roar. So it might be good to think about how to put it in a simple enough way for judges to understand. Maybe even get another office outside of China to help craft your entry and look at it with fresh eyes.

    Breed some ligers and tigons

    Ligers and tigonsare magnificent beasts. Breed some ideas that can work in all markets. Some ideas have got such strong insights and executions that they can cut across many countries and cultural nuances. And sometimes it is about breeding an unlikely combination of eastern and western thinking. This year, some of the best work done about China was created by a Swedish agency for SK-II. They took a Chinese pain point and told a story that could get empathy from everyone. Yes, it does have some shortcomings in terms of providing an authentic solution to Chinese women. But it is still very good work.

    Go Voltron on everyone

    Yes Voltrons are technically lions.

    But they are such bad-ass mechanical beasts so awesome that no one cares if they are lions and tigers anymore… they are just… Voltron!

    In many ways, China’s technology has overtaken the rest of the world but no one knows this story. Apple Pay? Pfffft, we had WeChat Payment three years ago.

    How do you wow the judges with cool Chinese tech? How do you tell this story and use them smartly in your executions? How do you smartly use a cocktail of storytelling, culture and technology to break boundaries?

    Whatever technology you highlight, it needs a human problem to be solved, that’s a given. You build a Voltron, but it’s got to have a bigger purpose like fighting….. (insert favourite villain here).

    Break out of the zoo

    If our tigers are in a zoo, they are more often than not, parked safely in the Print, Craft and Outdoor cages. Let’s break out of these cages more often, and tear the place up. Eat people, maim young lions (bad analogy!) and in general run wild in the city of Cannes. Everyone from the Lion judges to the Film Festival and Adult Festival stars should come to Cannes uneasy and nervous, asking, “Did you hear about that tiger…?”

    Never dress a tiger up as a lion

    Lastly we shouldn’t dress up as Lions either, that’s not who we are and chances are, we come across as hokey. We sometimes address causes that don’t really exist or come up with solutions that are too melodramatic and hard to believe. We should just be ourselves, tell it like it is, and have a level of maturity and sincerity in our work. I know there are other countries who are guilty of this too, fighting for humanitarian causes, but you sometimes wonder… if it is such an amazing solution, shouldn’t it be the last time you see a solution for said problem? It never is.

    We can be better than that. We can honestly know whether we are making real impact in our community. Roars that come straight from the heart by any big cat will send shivers down the spine.

    Let’s come back with a blood-curdling roar next year.

    And you know what? Sometimes an idea that works in a complex market like China, and wins the heart and soul of the Chinese people, is actually more than good enough.


    Raymond Chin is chief creative officer at SapientNitro China

    Source: Campaign Asia-Pacific

    • Cannes 2016: Crafting a new view of innovation

      POSTED ON: Jun 22, 2016

  • Cannes 2016: Crafting a new view of innovation

    SapientNitro's global CCO Donald Chesnut and Toronto head Alyssa Altman talk about why craft is often the missing ingredient for truly innovative ideas.

    The idea of innovation permeated Cannes Lions even before it launched the first Lions Innovation “festival-within-a-festival” last year and added new categories like Creative Data, Innovation and Digital Craft. Technology experts and companies have increasingly dominated the panels and exhibition spaces. Lions winners, even in the more traditional categories, are impressing judges by incorporating some kind of innovation, something seen so far in the Grand Prix winners in Outdoor, Product Design and Design.

    But “innovation” is an amorphous term, and can have different meanings for different people. Donald Chesnut, global CCO at SapientNitro, sat on the Mobile jury last year and was part of a panel discussion on data-driven creativity at this year’s festival. He describes the kind of things being shown in the festival’s two innovation categories as “odd” because of their insistence on linking innovation with technology.

    “They have a lot of pure ‘ingredient technology,’ things like programming languages, algorithms and new wearables,” he says. “Those things are interesting, but I don’t know that I would award that for innovation because that’s just functionality and capability. It feels like the ingredients for innovation.”

    As an example, Chesnut points to an exhibition he saw that demonstrated an algorithm that used data from existing wearables to track a user’s posture, which is now being opened up to third parties to use as they see fit.

    “You can see how that will open up wearables to be applicable in new areas of fitness and health, but they aren’t doing that yet,” Chesnut says. “It’s when they’ve taken those ingredients and actually used them to change how people are shopping and consuming that you cross the line into actual innovation.”

    “Good work brings out something people have to do,” adds Alyssa Altman, managing director of SapientNitro’s Toronto outpost. “It’s not just a picture or a video or a tweet. When people are actually motivated to do something with what’s in the picture or video or tweet, and go from idea to action, is when the line is crossed.”

    An emphasis Chesnut does agree on is the increased attention given to creative craftsmanship. There were so many entries to the craft sub-categories for the Cyber and Mobile Lions that the festival had to separate them out into its own Digital Craft category, and several jury presidents have cited how combining a new idea with a well-crafted execution has led to the most effective work they’ve seen.

    “If you look at something like the ‘Van Gogh BnB,’ not only do you have innovation around physical going digital and going back to physical, but the craftsmanship that’s holding all that up is fantastic,” he says. “Something like REI’s ‘#OptOut’ is certainly a big, brave idea, but there’s not a lot of creativity around it. Craftsmanship is one of the ingredients that makes consumers wake up and notice an impressive idea.”

    SapientNitro has identified strong craftsmanship as a major way for it to deliver value to its clients and has been organizing its offices to ensure it can deliver on that. The agency previously had a range of capabilities in each of its offices, from the tech it is known for to media planning to more traditional integrated creative. Today, Chesnut says the agency has “doubled down” on each office’s strengths and uses them across the network as needed. Though the agency has been discussing ways to do this over the past several years, they’ve been better able to put it into effect after being acquired last year by Publicis, a holding company with its own ongoing mission to “de-silo” and encourage more collaboration between its different companies and agency brands.

    “I hate to use the term, but it’s a ‘centre of excellence’ model,” Chesnut says. “Clients want the best work, so we’re taking the work to the best team rather than the team most local to the client. You don’t need to do everything, especially when a lot of our clients have internal teams that are getting really good at digital work. The way we add value is doubling down on a few things you’re good at and finding a way to leverage that from there.”

    Altman says in Toronto, where SapientNitro has recently moved to a new office space to house its roughly 300 staff members, the agency is set up in an open-domain style, with heavy interaction between different departments. That ensures a culture focusing on quality and craftsmanship touches everyone, and not just creative and tech teams.

    Read the story on Strategy Online

    • SapientNitro announces return to work scheme to address the industry’s ‘critical’ diversity problem

      POSTED ON: Jun 20, 2016

  • SapientNitro announces return to work scheme to address the industry’s ‘critical’ diversity problem

    SapientNitro has today (20 June) publicised a new internal programme called the Returnship, designed to allow staff taking a career break an easy transition back into the work place.

    The scheme is a three month paid programme for experienced industry professionals looking to return to work. Initially offered to three candidates in the London office, the Returnship aims to help returnees reintegrate into agency life with updated skills training and experiences.

    The programme evidentially hopes to improve the dominance of men higher up the workforce ladder by giving new mothers an extra incentive to come back to work following maternity leave. The Publicis company cited government research that stated the proportion of women working in the creative and digital industries is currently at 26 per cent, down from 33 per cent in 2002.

    However Nigel Vaz, EMEA chief executive at SapientNitro, was eager to point out that the Returnship is open to all people, and not just mothers. He told The Drum: “This is not just about women. That’s where the original idea started out, but there’s lots of people [that can benefit from it].

    “One person that we’re in conversation with lost his job at 9/11. It could be due to an economic challenge…it could be for any number of phenomenon that people fall out of the workplace.”

    The news was announced one day after the agency’s group chief creative officer, Donald Chesnut, spoke on a panel discussing diversity at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In a conversation with The Drum afterwards, Chesnut said he believed the industry’s lack of diversity is “bad, and getting worse”.

    He explained: “I think the situation that we have today is going to be all the more worse in the next five to 10 years. It’s critical.

    “As time has gone on, [humanity is] becoming more progressive, but the industry isn’t becoming progressive. So we have new approaches towards meeting the needs and engaging different audiences, but I don’t see the internal creative teams changing as quickly as they should."


    Read the story on The Drum

    • How South Dakota's Custer State Park Is Convincing Tech-Savvy Folks to Get Outdoors

      POSTED ON: May 31, 2016

  • How South Dakota's Custer State Park Is Convincing Tech-Savvy Folks to Get Outdoors

    Second Story Wants You to Explore Nature Sans Smartphone

    Second Story, SapientNitro's interactive studio arm, was presented with two interesting challenges to solve for Custer State Park—71,000 acres of beautiful land located in South Dakota. The park, while breathtaking itself, is often overshadowed by other major attractions including Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Badlands National Park. Custer State Park needed to convince travelers to get out of their cars to explore the park, sans technology, but it needed to use technology to do it.

    The second challenge revolved around Custer State Park's bison—an animal recently named the first national mammal by President Obama—which can be found roaming throughout the grounds. There are herds of them constantly on the move, and while many may think of bison as subdued, gentle creatures, they actually have the potential to be very dangerous.

    "While [the bison] are an amazing asset for the park, it also presents this really important safety challenge because these are wild animals that can run up to speeds of 40 miles per hour and they're between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds, for adult bison," David Waingarten, story director at Second Story Interactive Studios in Portland, Ore., said.

    After spending roughly 30 hours swimming, hiking and exploring the park, Waingarten and his team came up with a number of ways to make the newly-opened Custer State Park Visitor Center interactive and educational. The space needed to be inviting enough to draw curious adventurers in, but simplistic enough that it would get people out the door, ready to explore in under 30 minutes.

    Inside the Visitor's Center, Second Story created a bison safety interactive installation (featuring depth-sensing technology) to teach people how to interact with the animals should they come across them on their travels.

    "We created an interactive depth-sensing technology that could track where you were in proximity to the screen that was delivering that content," Waingarten said. "We knew when you were 30 feet away and we knew when you were three feet away."

    The screen changes depending on your distance from it. There are three different zones a person can stand in. In zone one viewers see footage of how bison act when people are a safe distance away, when the animal does not feel threatened. As you step into zone two (70-150 feet away) and three (less than 70 feet away) the footage changes. The bison begin to demonstrate certain warning signs that you may be getting too close—from stomping their feet and arching their tales to inhaling or exhaling loudly.

    The second piece of technology was designed to not only act as the welcome desk for the visitors center, but to also help visitors plan out their time in the park based on the experience they're looking to have. Three interactive touchscreens surround the full-scale map, which shows either iconic journeys you can take —like a path on the way to Mount Rushmore, taking you through the Cathedral Spires trail—or activities you can spend time doing, like swimming, fishing or even Bison-spotting.

    As you explore the different routes on the touch screen, the path you're exploring lights up on the table in front of you. "We offer the opportunity to preview what's on that road and when you do the journey, it is lit up by LEDs that are embedded underneath the map table," Waingarten noted.

    Paper copies are available to take on the go, to again encourage people to connect with the outdoors and keep the smartphones away. Plus the center is staffed with park rangers to answer any questions you might have.

    Originally published on

    • Experience Demonic Possession in This Creepy Campaign for Cinemax's 'Outcast'

      POSTED ON: May 31, 2016

  • Experience Demonic Possession in This Creepy Campaign for Cinemax's 'Outcast'

    Viewers Can Control Interactive Film With Their Eyes

    Cinemax is promoting its new series "Outcast," which tells the story of a young man plagued by demonic possession, with a creepy influencer campaign from and immersive trailer from that aims to let viewers "experience" what it's like to be possessed.

    "Outcast," which is based on a Skybound/Image comic title by "The Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta, begins on June 3 on HBO-owned Cinemax. It follows Kyle Barnes, a young man who has suffered demonic possession all his life. With the help of the Reverend Anderson, a preacher with personal demons of his own, he embarks on a journey to find answers.


    Read the story on Creativity-Online

    • Cinemax attempts to build buzz for Outcast with interactive trailer

      POSTED ON: May 29, 2016

  • Cinemax attempts to build buzz for Outcast with interactive trailer

    Ahead of Friday’s premiere of ‘Outcast,’ Cinemax has released an innovative, interactive trailer for the show that leveraged both 3D audio technology along with eye-tracking software.

    In Outcast, a young man attempts to find out why he’s been experiencing demonic possessions. In the trailer, created by Campfire (part of SapientNitro), users enter ‘their possession’ and try to escape using eye motions.  

    The trailer is designed to build social buzz – which is becoming increasingly important to a show’s eventual success - ahead of the premiere.

    For those who cannot wait until Friday, Cinemax is experimenting with windowing, another tactic that is gaining in popularity.  The first episode is now available to view for free on YouTube:


    Originally published on The Drum

    • Cinemax’s Interactive Outcast Trailer Is Appropriately Creepy

      POSTED ON: May 27, 2016

  • Cinemax’s Interactive Outcast Trailer Is Appropriately Creepy

    Cinemax has released a new interactive trailer for the upcoming Outcast and it is fairly creepy.

    Created by Campfire, the trailer uses 3D audio technology and eye-tracking software to create an experience defined by the blinking of the viewers eye. Of course, if you don’t have a webcam to track your eyes — or don’t want to activate it — keyboard controls are also available. The experience suggests what the first moments of possession might be like when your eyes are closed. Scenes of others being possessed appear when your eyes are open. The sound imaging also generates a surprisingly effective sense of dread.

    The trailer can be experienced at

    Based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, the series stars Patrick Fugit as a young man searching for answers as to why he’s been suffering from demonic possessions all his life. The first episode is available online now, but debuts on Cinemax June 3rd.


    Originally published on

    • Chanel conveys the couture composition of N°5 for Inside Chanel

      POSTED ON: May 13, 2016

  • Chanel conveys the couture composition of N°5 for Inside Chanel

    In its latest Inside Chanel chapter, French atelier Chanel paints a self-portrait of its iconic N°5 perfume, introducing its backstory and role in the brand’s DNA.

    Inside Chanel now consists of 15 chapters that explore the brand’s codes such as its use of particular colors, the lion motif and the legacy of founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. As its most well-known fragrance, N°5 has been the subject of two other Inside Chanel chapters to date, showing the significance of the house’s first scent.

    "Each chapter is well produced, visually stimulating and on-brand," said Jem Ripley, SapientNitro head of retail – Northeast. "Both the video and audio storytelling are compelling. The videos communicate sophistication, progressive independence, femininity, mystery and historical authority, much like anything else created by the fabled fashion house.

    "The video uses a lot of provocative, 'millennial feeling' language. The fragrance is described as an 'abstract painting' with 'complex fragrance notes' that will 'construct an aura' to evoke the 'audacity of mademoiselle,' he said. "In a way, this positions Chanel as a challenger brand from the start— the O.G. of chic provocation— which certainly could appeal more to younger consumers who seek authenticity and heritage from their preferred brands.

    "That being said, Chanel is still one of the best known brands in the world; so, it will be an uphill battle any time it seeks to slightly reposition its products or pillars. The house should continue to own its history and its rightful position as a fashion authority; all consumers appreciate confidence and transparency in communication."

    Mr. Ripley is not affiliated with Chanel, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

    Chanel did not respond by press deadline.

    Couture compositions
    Chanel promoted the 15th chapter of Inside Chanel, titled "The Self-Portrait of a Perfume," on its Facebook account by leading off with a quote from the video, in which the narrator speaks as if she is the fragrance, saying, “I am a consciousness, a way of walking, of thinking, of dreaming, of being true to oneself: a final flourish of elegance. A freedom.”

    Similar to its teaser’s approach, Inside Chanel’s latest chapter begins with a quotation from Ms. Chanel, spoken by the narrator. In the statement, Ms. Chanel said, “I wanted an artificial perfume. That’s right, artificial, like a dress; meaning manufactured. I am a designer of couture. I want a perfume that is a composition.”

    Afterwards, the narrator begins to speak as if she were Chanel N°5, explaining that the fragrance is an “abstract painting, an olfactory geometry whose lines are emotions and whose tracings are memories.”

    With its quickening pace, the animations show N°5 juice sloshing around outlines of the fragrances’ bottle, a nod to the concept of an invisible decanter, which extend into the frame’s vantage point as if it were a fun house mirror.

    Chanel then introduces the “dynasty of artisans” who have worked on the scent, beginning with perfumer Ernest Beaux, who developed the scent in 1921. Also mentioned are Henri Robert, Jacques Polge and Olivier Polge, the current fragrance creator for the house of Chanel.

    The overarching theme of the N°5 chapter of Inside Chanel is how the fragrance brings forth utterances of memories, whether it be Ms. Chanel’s favorite forest or the orphanage where she was raised.

    As a “secret inspiration,” the video touches on additional brand codes and muses such the color black, the city of Venice and the rebellious spirit of Ms. Chanel.

    Continuing the video creates a floral bouquet naming the numerous ingredients used in N°5’s composition. Iris, rose, bergamot, tobacco, orange blossom and jasmine, among many others are part of the “chorus of a floral symphony” and a “composition of the finest ingredients.”

    From here, the video touches on its simple bottle design that puts the juice as the focal point rather than its glass surroundings. As it nears its conclusion, Inside Chanel chapter 15 speaks of the consciousness of the fragrance, using the quote shared as a teaser.

    The Self-Portrait of a Perfume - Inside Chanel

    The role of N°5
    The importance of N°5 for Chanel has been explored in both the first and second chapters of the Inside Chanel series.

    For the second chapter, Chanel invited consumers to learn the intimate history of its N°5 fragrance through a video featuring Marilyn Monroe.

    The widely-known quote by Ms. Monroe about her only wearing Chanel N°5 to bed is the theme of the “Marilyn and N°5 – Inside Chanel” video (see story).

    While the heritage of the fragrance is important to Chanel’s overall narrative, the brand has scripted present-day messaging around its olfactory offerings.

    For example, Chanel personalized its fragrance marketing with a video featuring model and brand ambassador Gisele Bündchen.

    Ms. Bündchen is the current face of Chanel’s iconic N°5 fragrance, and the effort departed from the French label’s typical campaign created for this segment of its brand. Instead of focusing heavily on product and glamour, Chanel concentrated on what fragrances may mean for the wearer and those around them (see story).

    The Inside Chanel video formula presents consumers with a point of entry to embraces Chanel's heritage.

    "The video communicates the essence of the fragrance, and the history that inspired its complex scent— Coco’s time at the orphanage; her obsession with the number 5; her desire to combine nature with artifice; her forward-thinking decision to mix floral notes with masculine smells; her understanding that every woman is complex and contains multitudes," Mr. Ripley said.

    "N°5 is as much of a standalone brand as it is a part of Chanel’s DNA," he said. "It has inspired many other brands, artists, consumers, men and women, and has existed in many iterations since 1921.

    "One video cannot tell almost 100 years of history; this single piece of content is one of many official and unofficial parts of the fragrance’s story."


    Originally published on Luxury Daily

    • Holiday Preview: Five Keys For Successful Omnichannel Retail

      POSTED ON: May 03, 2016

  • Holiday Preview: Five Keys For Successful Omnichannel Retail

    Last holiday season, my friend found herself in a bit of a gift-giving fiasco. A present her brother had purchased for her — a subscription to a “Tea of the Month” club — had failed to arrive by December 25, making her the proud recipient of a printed sales confirmation on Christmas morning.

    Because her brother had ordered the gift from a third-party website, he needed to call two different customer service lines, speak to three different agents and give his order number at least as many times just to find out that her gift would be delivered sometime after Valentine’s Day. The kicker? My friend doesn’t even like tea.

    All joking aside, with this year’s holiday season rapidly approaching, most retailers understand the importance of having a comprehensive and cohesive omnichannel strategy. Whether you’re selling gourmet teas or the latest high-tech gadget, customers expect to skip from screen to store and back again seamlessly and effortlessly. But this, of course, is easier said than done.

    In working with some of the world’s most prominent retailers — from big-box chains to luxury brands — my team and I have identified a few best practices that may help organizations create a successful omnichannel strategy. Here we’ve compiled five key considerations that retailers should be aware of as they head into holiday shopping season.

    1. Peak Readiness. Most of us know at least one procrastinator who puts off his or her holiday shopping until the last possible moment. They often arrive at a family gathering asking for a roll of Scotch tape and a handful of gift tags. They are the reason that we have the saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”

    The same courtesy does not apply to retailers that are making enhancements to their customer experience. When it comes to a web site update or new in-store kiosks, your customer won’t care about the thought behind them. They just want them to work.

    To that end, if you’re planning any new features or updates to existing channels, it is often best to complete the work by the end of August. This will allow a period of at least six weeks to test the technology and solve for issues before the start of the holiday shopping season.

    When implementing a change, it’s also important to be aware of how it could affect other aspects of the business. Can you ensure that a new platform won’t create fragmentation? How are you working with content distribution managers? How will your shipping channels and in-store pickup be affected? Is your staff trained and engaged to support the changes?

    When it comes to commerce systems, we still see retailers struggle every year with readiness. We have a comprehensive program for managing this successfully with our clients well before the start of the peak holiday season.

    2. Incentivize staff. Most parents will admit to falling back on the line, “Santa is watching,” a time or two each holiday season. Thus, there is something to be said for offering fair and clear incentives for associates. After all, the importance of an effective sales team cannot be underestimated. And with the number of channels sales associates need to work across increasing the complexity of their roles, it’s more important than ever that they understand the overall goals of the organization, like credit for online sales in-store.

    But perhaps what’s even more critical during the peak holiday season is defining and implementing an organizational model across all channels that incentivizes positive behavior. While many organizations have made progress in this area, it remains a problem for others. Part of a good omnichannel strategy involves ensuring that staff understand what the organization’s goals and priorities are, and how they can help to achieve them.

    3. Pick up the phone. Or tablet. If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably shopped on a mobile phone. Or at least tried to.

    Despite mobile being the leading growth channel for retail, the mobile experience is still not without its pitfalls. Many customers complain about poor navigation or cumbersome payment options. If you’re lucky, users who have trouble on their phone will move to another channel, where they usually have to start the process from the beginning.

    While many companies are dialing up their mobile experience, it’s important to remember that “mobile first” doesn’t mean “mobile only.” Customers should be able to use mobile along with other channels seamlessly and effortlessly. This truly omnichannel experience will allow customers to move from mobile, to tablet, to in-store without ever having to answer the same question twice.

    Unfortunately, when many retailers made their foray into mobile strategy they took what we consider “a Band-Aid approach.” The channel was not integrated with the rest of the digital experience, leaving the customer with a disjointed experience. Now is the time to unite the digital experience across all channels.

    4. Wow them. It’s hardly a shock that very few people enjoy shopping. More and more, it comes down to experience, regardless of the channel. Those retailers that offer customers the best experience — the most seamless, effortless and engaging options — will win the holiday season.

    Retailers can “wow” customers by providing new gifting options, including marketplaces to expand assortment to adjacencies and keep customers on their site instead of going to others.

    Another route is e-gifting (send a gift notification but allow the customer to change to any equivalent item BEFORE shipping). Thus, the above mentioned tea recipient could have changed to something they perhaps preferred instead of tea.

    Finally, one way to improve the customer experience is by adding to it. Whether they’re opening your front door or a browser window, customers are expecting more than just the opportunity to buy. They want entertainment. They want information. They want community. Give them what they want. Retailers need to develop a case-by-case basis for how to create a “wow” moment on each channel.  

    5. Know what they want. Gift giving can be an agonizing process for even the most thoughtful person. So what if I told you that there was a way for retailers to guarantee that a gift would please the recipient? Well, there’s not — but thanks to big data, we can at least get close.

    Companies have an extraordinary amount of information at their disposal — through past purchasing behavior, social media activity, and even trends and patterns of similar customers. Retailers that use this data in an intelligent and thoughtful way have a huge opportunity to add value to the customer. Unfortunately, while many companies have this data, not all are primed to use it.

    The world of big data — and smart data — presents an enormous opportunity to retailers. Those that figure out how to effectively use it first are sure to reap the rewards. Most important with big data is the fact that retailers need to have a solid level of granularity on their customers at this point, and so it may be more about what options the retailers can provide.

    Finally, the holiday season is about crowds — and lots of customers. As such, this might present a perfect opportunity for retailers to leverage the increased store traffic to collect better data, drive more traffic to their digital channels with extending aisles and by incorporating more interactive elements. Analyzing all of the data gives the retailer a way to study a more comprehensive set of figures, and provides an occasion for retailers to “personalize” their interactions, so that they might be aware of at least one person who does not want a year’s worth of tea! 


    Read the article on Retail Touch Points

    • The 7 Critical Factors of Growth and 1 That Rules Them All

      POSTED ON: Apr 28, 2016

  • The 7 Critical Factors of Growth and 1 That Rules Them All

    Regardless of what business you're in, digital must be at the core of your business if you want to succeed. It will drive the 7 critical factors of your growth.



    I'm having a field day at the Collision Conference in New Orleans. I will be sharing a ton of insights and interviews I've had, but this one couldn't wait. Sheldon Monteiro, SVP and CTO at SapientNitro so eloquently summed up the 7 most critical factors of growth, that I want to share with you what he presented.

    The One That Rules Them All
    As his talk was on the "CMO 2.0: Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist", it's not surprising that digital was at the core at all 7 factors of growth. Today, digital impacts everything you do as a business--regardless of what business you're in. As we explore the 7 most critical factors of growth, we'll illustrate and reinforce how digital has been the persistent factor that impacts all of them today and for the foreseeable future.

    Factor #1: Experience
    Do you remember reading that book The Experience Economy back in 1999? Well, it's taken 16 years to come to fruition, but we're finally here. Businesses have shifted from being "Customer Focused" to "Experience-led" and largely due to the impact of digital. Now with big data, we can measure the impact of the experiences we create both online and offline. No longer is it good enough to focus on the customer, we need to lead with powerful experiences that move our customers to action. Smart phones are connecting our customers to unique experiences and we're getting real-time feedback. The Experience Economy took longer than we were all expecting, but make no mistake. We're here and the companies that deliver amazing experiences are growing substantially faster than those who merely focus on their customers.

    Factor #2: Commerce
    We used to focus on a "Point Solution" such as ringing the cash register or driving a shopping cart basket through to a specific check out page. These were the point solutions, which have given way to "Omni-Channel" commerce. You can buy just about anything from just about anywhere thanks to open APIs, cloud computing and agile methods. From ordering a pizza via Facebook, to hitting the "buy" button on Pinterest, to using your Apple Watch to make a payment without pulling out your credit card, the nature of commerce has evolved to an omni-channel strategy that requires an entirely new way of envisioning the way people buy things today.

    Factor #3: Organization
    If you're company is still operating in silos, you will be disrupted within the next few years. Collaboration reigns supreme with the deployment of cloud computing and agile methods of working together. Smart phones let your employees work anywhere, anytime on anything. Instead of organizing your team in siloed functional areas, take a queue from Slack, which brings your core team of innovators together--despite having formal structure. Breaking up teams by functional areas is an archaic way of organization your company. Instead, building agile teams who collaborate and solve problems.

    Factor #4: Marketing
    Perhaps I'm jaded because I've been talking about this one for the past 22 years, but marketing has (long ago) migrated from "Mass" to "Precision". This one should be obvious, but many companies still treat marketing as a one-to-many function. No question that's easier to do, but your results are screaming that it's the wrong thing to do at any price. Precision is about thin slicing your target so that you're authentically speaking to the very heart of the person you're looking to engage. The more narrow, the more focused, the better your results.

    Factor #5: Data
    We've moved from "Backward Looking" to "Real-Time Impact". Gone are the days when we review data from a historical perspective. By that time the opportunity has already slipped through your fingers. Real-time impact is about seeing your data in the moment and making decisions that impact your growth right now. Retailers are able to pinpoint the inventory that's not moving and do something about it (i.e. merchandise differently). Traffic apps reroute fleets of drivers in real-time to keep them moving and allowing deliveries to arrive on time. Google Analytics, Adobe Test & Target and other reporting platforms allow you to change up what's not working online and immediately address the blockage in your customer journey. Gone are the weekly, monthly and quarterly reports. By then you've missed the opportunity.

    Factor 6: Products & Services
    It's no longer about "Individual Products", but rather a "Service Ecosystem". Just like your organization if your products are operating in their own silos, you will continue to lose market share. Today your product must operate in an well defined ecosystem. This is why Apple's and's App Store have done so incredibly well. They know that their product isn't the whole enchilada. Sure the first iPhone and original version of was powerful, but neither was anything compared to what they have now that there's a full end-to-end service ecosystem built on their platforms. More over, you don't have to be the platform to be hugely successful. Just look at Marketo who has become the default marketing automation system tightly integrated to By building your product into a larger service ecosystem, you're building off the momentum created by other well-established businesses.

    Factor 7: Enterprise IT
    We used to live in an "Industrial" world. Now we're living in "Multi-Speed". What does that mean? No longer does the IT department control the speed of technology adoption. Agile methods have allowed non-technical groups like marketing departments to deploy technology at speeds previously unthinkable. If a need exists, technology will be deployed at the speed commiserate to the level of the need--despite a company's desire to "maintain control".

    Digital at the Core
    With the help of smart phones, big data, wearables, open APIs, IoT (the internet of things), cloud computing and agile methods, it should be clear why digital is at the core of each of these seven forces. While none of this, in and of itself, is entirely new, my hat is off to Sheldon Monteiro, SVP and CTO at SapientNitro, for so eloquently summarizing what we all need to ensure we've figured out. Our growth (and ultimately our survival) are at stake if we get any of these 7 forces wrong.


    Read the article on Inc.

    • SapientNitro Will Bring the World of Avatar's Pandora to Life

      POSTED ON: Apr 27, 2016

  • SapientNitro Will Bring the World of Avatar's Pandora to Life

    Agency will create an evolving digital ecosystem

    Publicis Groupe agency SapientNitro has entered into a multiyear deal with James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox to bring a digital Avatar experience to life. The project will kick off before the second film debuts in 2018 and extend through the release of the next four sequels.

    "A studio has to worry about 20 movies in one year. We want to worry about one movie for 20 years. We have tried to envision how we manage the brand of Avatar and how we make it accessible for fans around the world," Jon Landau, Avatar producer and chief operating officer of Lightstorm Entertainment, told Adweek.

    The deal, which has been in the works for just over a year, is designed to augment the world of Avatar and Pandora, a fictional moon within James Cameron's Avatar universe. To sell moviegoers on the film, the agency will invite fans of the franchise to learn more about the world of Avatar and participate in it.
    While Sapient will bring its expertise of weaving technology and creative together, the agency also collaboarted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

    Many details of the project are still unconfirmed, as much of the work is still being developed. The SapientNitro team has shared some general concepts that it's thinking of pursing to create this virtual experience.

    Late last year, Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando revealed plans to open a World of Avatar park in 2017. While much of the construction will rely on replicating the actual world, from the flora and fauna to the characters from the film, the deal between Cameron's Lightstorm and SapientNitro could allow for unique tech-based experiences.

    "Nobody has ever really thought about how they all tie together in a fan experience point of view, that's what we get to think about. That's just profound on so many levels that it's exciting, it's bold, it's kind of fast," David Thorpe, vp of strategy and analysis at SapientNitro, told Adweek.

    Franchise projects, which offer opportunities for the digital ecosystem include an Avatar-themed Cirque du Soleil show, TORUK, which has its own website where fans can go and explore the world of Pandora, unearth different artifacts and learn about the purpose of those different items or creatures. Global Experience Specialists has also been working on creating interactive museum exhibits. The global traveling exhibit not only teaches people about the Na'vi culture and life forms on the planet.

    The Sapient team is already thinking about new and exciting ways to bring the Avatar universe to life for fans, putting the fan experience at the center of its creative process. Thorpe said the team kicked off the project by paying attention to user needs and insists the agency will continue to do so as the next four films roll out.

    "We want to be able to open up the wonders and the science of Pandora to users in a way that meets their needs of curiosity and exploration," Thorpe said. "What [James] Cameron has already created, the breadth and depth of his imagination, and the rigor that he brings to all of that, has created such an enormous world of potential and opportunity."


    Read the full article on AdWeek

    • We All Waste Food. Here’s How You Can Stop.

      POSTED ON: Apr 20, 2016

  • We All Waste Food. Here’s How You Can Stop.

    by Jonathan Bloom


    Save the Food.

    That’s the message now being issued in a big way by the people who brought us Smokey the Bear and “Keep America Beautiful.” Why? Because American consumers waste more food than any other segment of the supply chain (43 percent of what’s wasted, according to the recent ReFED Roadmap).

    Through TV spots, billboard ads, and a sleek interactive website, Save the Food aims to illuminate America’s food waste problem. Co-created by the Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the campaign is both long overdue and sorely needed. Most Americans don’t realize their role in wasting food, despite U.S. households’ collective 27 million-ton annual output.

    “Consumer awareness and education is the most important solution to reduce wasted food,” says Jesse Fink, seed funder of the Ad Council and ReFED initiatives. “The Ad Council campaign will be the major contributor to attitude and behavioral change.”

    What does the campaign look like? Save the Food’s bold 30-second PSAdepicts the plight of a forgotten package of strawberries. With no dialogue, we simply see the berries slowly rot in a family’s fridge and ultimately get tossed. The spot ends with a black screen and a stark sentence: “40% of Food in America Is Wasted.”

    There are also one- and two-minute versions, all created pro bono by marketing agency SapientNitro. These longer, more narrative PSAs better detail the long-distance food chain and what each strawberry must surpass to arrive in our fridges (apparently, one issue is an abiding lust for limes).

    The extended spots communicate the embedded resources squandered when we waste food, hammered home by the ending text: “Wasting Food Wastes Everything: Water | Labor | Fuel | Money | Love.” That last one is a little squishy, but likely rings true to anyone who’s ever worked in the food industry.

    Print ads—which you might soon see in magazines, at bus shelters, and on billboards—feature the brilliant slogan “Best If Used” printed on food packaging. Without an expiration date, the familiar phrase takes on a new meaning. Perhaps politicians’ proposed date label legislation should just adopt that oh-so-powerful message.

    All campaign materials direct people to The standalone website summarizes the environmental and economic impact of wasted food, but it doesn’t mention the indirect relationship between food waste and hunger. The site does provide strategies for avoiding waste, including a detailed guide on how best to store foods.

    That Save the Food exists is a real win for food waste awareness. But it’s even better news that the Ad Council—which also created McGruff the Crime Dog, those talking crash test dummies, and other classic campaigns—produced it. Having the people who reminded us that “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” now implore us to “Save the Food” suggests that food waste has truly arrived as an issue.

    Given its history with Smokey, McGruff, and friends, the Ad Council could easily have created an anti-food-waste character, of sorts. But this stark campaign will likely resonate with the public more than any anthropomorphized food item or winking worm would. Finally, having its namesake slogan—Save the Food—knowingly allude to the old “Save the Whales” slogan encapsulates how much care went into this project. It took more than a year of work to take food waste awareness from in the air to on the air, but that time and effort certainly wasn’t wasted.



    Read the article on National Geographic


    • Follow a Strawberry From Birth to Grave in This Oddly Emotional Ad About Food Waste

      POSTED ON: Apr 20, 2016

  • Follow a Strawberry From Birth to Grave in This Oddly Emotional Ad About Food Waste

    The Ad Council's remarkable new campaign

    By David Gianatasio

    Strawberries make a powerful statement in "Save the Food," a public service campaign breaking today from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Developed pro-bono by SapientNitro through The Ad Council, the initiative focuses on a sad reality: Some 40 percent of all food purchased in the U.S. each year goes uneaten, wasting money, water and energy to the tune of $162 billion. 

    And consumers are mostly to blame. We throw food away too soon and too often. In fact, each of us trashes nearly 300 pounds of food every year. Wow, we suck. 

    To illustrate the problem, a remarkable two-minute online film (with TV commercial edits) from Partizan director Martin Stirling follows a single strawberry from its salad days on the vine through its packaging odyssey and purchase by a typical American family.

    Forgotten at the back of the fridge, our hero (and his increasingly funky bunch) fall into a sorry state, and we get the feeling things won't end well. 

    It's a juicy performance, though the strawberry has the advantage of playing itself.

    Moms are a primary target here, because "no one makes more of the decisions around food—planning, shopping, cooking and disposing," Gary Koepke, North American chief creative officer at SapientNitro, tells AdFreak. "We know that moms are compelled by facts that tie food waste to household finances, so the campaign emphasizes this information." 

    Millennials are also a key audience, says Koepke, because they are "engaged and idealistic about helping the environment" and show an interest in "life hacks that help them experience more and waste less." 

    If the strawberry's jaunty theme music sounds familiar, that's because it served as the soundtrack to the 2009 animated film Up, winning an Oscar for composer Michael Giacchino. (Disney donated the tune to the campaign.) 

    Print, web and out-of-home ads are also in the mix, urging consumers to "Cook it. Store it. Share it" rather than prematurely trash milk, eggs, bread and chicken:

    That "Best If Used" line really says more with less, and the crisp, uncluttered art direction is a highlight. A clean visual aesthetic also graces, which provides detailed information and tips for cutting down on waste. 

    Relying exclusively on donated media, the push includes outreach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, plus support from Getty Images, Buzzfeed, Social Native, Upworthy and influencers like celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. 

    Unlike hunger, pollution, poverty and other global concerns that seem insurmountable, food waste is imminently addressable, and the actions we can take are largely painless. "With small steps, we can save large amounts of food, and along with it, money and precious natural resources," says NRDC president Rhea Suh. 

    What's more, ending food waste can save consumers money, an outcome wisely played up by the campaign, which maintains that throwing away less food can save an average family of four about $1,500 a year. 

    Appealing to consumers' pocketbooks is always a smart tactic. After all, saving money has no sell-by date. More creative appears below.


    The Advertising Council – NRDC – Save The Food
    Alyssa Altman - Vice President Business Consulting
    Ronald Shamah – Senior Vice President
    Shade Vaughn – Vice President Marketing
    Chris Hall – Vice President General Management
    Peter Shanley – Vice President General Management
    Donald Chestnut – Global CCO
    Gary Koepke – Chief Creative Officer
    Matthew Atkatz – Executive Creative Director, Creative Lead
    Jenessa Carder – Strategy Lead
    David Serrano – Client Services Director
    Mary Zumba – Account Supervisor
    Jacqueline Murphy – Manager Program Management
    Monica Alameda – Senior Associate Producer
    Bill Pauls – Executive Creative Director
    David Iglesias – Senior Designer
    Faye Ibars – Copywriter
    Andrew Goldstein – Creative Director
    Jason Levine – Creative Director
    James Allen – Creative Director
    Stephen Frederick Levy – Designer
    Eduardo Santiesteban – Retouching Manager
    Jose Acosta – Head of Production
    Amy Houston – Print Producer
    John McHale – Executive Creative Director, Experience Lead
    Katie Plua – UX Design
    Alicia Marshall – Designer
    Jessica Gray – Designer
    Andrew Hodge – Designer
    Sara Commet – Copywriter
    Bryan Scott – Art Director
    Chris Burke – Senior Manager Interactive Development
    Graydon Pleasants – Interactive Developer
    Ravi Evani – Director of Technology
    Sarah Jones – Senior Content Strategist
    Sophia Calderone – Junior Interactive Developer
    Kevin Rossum – Associate Marketing Strategy + Analysis
    San San Ng – Designer
    Louis Palacios – Editor
    Alejandro Roses – Motion Graphics
    Luis Giron – Sound Mixing
    Ariel Bellumio – Post Supervisor
    Stephie Wassmann – Producer
    Alejandro Villanueva – Developer
    Emilio Acebo – Developer
    Yvette Gomez – Business Affairs Manager

    Martin Stirling – Director
    Lisa Tauscher – Executive Producer
    Georges Bermann – Executive Producer
    Molly Griffin – Head of Production
    Megan Moore – Producer
    Carlos Veron – Director of Photography
    Nico Cotta – CD
    Chris Allen & Beatrice Bowdon – Producers
    James Cornwell – Lead Flame
    Christopher Maslen – Flame Assist
    Sezen Akpolat – 3D Producer
    Tony Landais – Lead CG

    Emre Samioglu, Utku Ertin, Doruk Saglam, Zafer Ercevik, Caglar Ozen, Altug Yılmazer, Enis Uzbek, Bogi Gulacsi - CG team

    Steve Akyrod - Editor


    Read the article on Ad Week  



    • Sapient India looks for 'Troublemakers'

      POSTED ON: Apr 09, 2016

  • Sapient India looks for 'Troublemakers'

    The agency has launched an innovative campaign as an HR recruitment exercise

    It's often the troublemakers who are pulled up for doing what they know best - brewing trouble (be it in classrooms, boardrooms, or even homes). But, wait. Are you a troublemaker? If you answered that in the affirmative, there's some good news for you! And the good news is that Sapient India, a part of Publicis.Sapient, in a move to attract talent, has rolled out its latest campaign called Troublemakers.

    Hinged upon the insight that disruption breeds innovation, the agency is on the lookout for what it calls 'a rare breed of extraordinary minds that are not afraid to break boundaries in digital innovation and transformation'. As part of the same, the agency has created the microsite, which defines what a 'troublemaker' is and invites people to take a quiz to find out if they are the 'misfits' who would fit in with the agency's requirements. The agency, in a press release, says that it hopes to increase its headcount by 20 per cent by the end of 2016.

    "Businesses today seek partners that can guide them through the journey of digital transformation. The Troublemakers campaign is our way of attracting the kind of people who can fuse creativity and technology, along with an understanding of brands and consumers to solve business problems. Such people are important for the success of our clients, as well as our business," says Rajdeep Endow, managing director, Sapient India.

    "The Troublemakers campaign is a mission to challenge the conventional. With its disruptive attitude, this unique breed makes trouble that we believe is good, which is the need of the hour for organisations today. We believe the connected millennials today are gifted with the passion and curiosity that aligns well with our vision," adds K V Sridhar (Pops), chief creative officer, SapientNitro India.

    Interesting print creatives are also a part of the two-month long campaign which point towards the fact that the agency is hunting for non-conformists, dynamic and impact-driven individuals who can actually think out-of-the-box and who choose to stay relevant in a constantly changing world by dealing with challenging situations at work.

    The campaign also includes two one-minute digital films titled 'Compliment Generator' and 'English To English Translator' which shows the difference between a 'people-pleaser employee' who can do anything to earn his share of appreciation in stark contrast with the one who cross-questions everything that happens at the workplace by speaking his mind rather than accepting things blindly as they are.

    The campaign will be visible across all physical and digital media, social channels, and outdoors in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru, and experiential installations in all Sapient offices.


    Read the story on Afaqs!

    • The Retail Transformation Imperative

      POSTED ON: Apr 06, 2016

  • The Retail Transformation Imperative

    SapientNitro's Mark Anthony on the mindsets retailers must adopt to stay competitive.

    Across the world, the retail industry is being disrupted. Consumers expect personalized experiences aimed directly at their needs and desires. They expect to be able to engage with a brand anywhere and at any time, and technologies like mobile, social, responsive environments and cloud are creating new models for customer interaction. As a retailer, now is the time to shift your perspective to leverage these changes to your competitive advantage.

    It’s not about adding digital channels to your current model, or digitizing parts of it. It’s about leveraging technology and always-on customer behaviours to provide greater relevance in every customer interaction. Future winners in retail will power and connect the full customer journey by providing platforms that realize customer desire and solve needs throughout the path to purchase.

    Here are the four mindsets to adopt to win in retail now and in the future.

    Understand that “digital in-store” is neither your mobile app, nor your website formatted for a touchscreen
    The harsh reality is that few retailers have app download numbers worth boasting about. The opportunity to extend consumers’ experience through in-store digital touch points cannot be ignored. Solutions should be created to solve the problems customers face. The Appliance Finder from Home Depot (a SapientNitro client in the U.S.) is a great example of this. This in-store digital touch point has significantly increased the company’s highest-margin category sales by delivering an experience focused exclusively on the challenge of selling appliances, a complex product whose sheer size makes it hard for shoppers to assess online, and for Home Depot to maintain a full assortment in-store. The Appliance Finder interface allows customers to get a realistic sense of how an appliance will look and feel in their home and allows Home Depot to merchandise a broader assortment of appliances without having to expand physically or invest in products for every location.

    Embrace the customer ecosystem, not just your own
    The assumed driver of competitive advantage in mass retail of the past was scale of footprint, but connection into the larger ecosystem is the bigger opportunity moving forward. With the advent of APIs (tools that allow developers to build on other companies’ software for the purpose of creating added features and new integrated experiences for consumers) retailers can easily expose their product catalogues, carts and other e-commerce services. These services can be consumed and integrated by a wide variety of partners like Google, Pinterest and Facebook, providing a path for growth minus the need to scale physical infrastructure.

    Best Buy, for example, uses its API to integrate with CitiBank’s reward program, allowing CitiBank customers to redeem points for Best Buy products directly from the CitiBank reward site.

    And it’s not just a one-way proposition. Retailers can integrate third-party services, such as shipping and directions to store, through the same mechanism to create a more valuable offering for customers.

    Realize that stores serve roles beyond conversion
    The store is no longer only the end point of the journey. As foot traffic in retail decreases globally, the role of the store should be rethought. Smart retailers use stores as a foothold for all of their activities, not just the final frame. Bricks and mortar can act as content ecosystems, an opportunity for decision support, or as a way for customers to get extended care. Nordstrom, for example, drives customers in-store by acting as a physical store-front for many e-commerce retailers like Baubblebar, Shoes of Prey, and Bonobos in select locations.

    Don’t think of loyalty as your father’s loyalty program
    Traditional loyalty programs that focus on cards, tiers and points aren’t going to create devoted brand enthusiasts. There are simply too many retailers vying for attention. Loyalty should be about connecting customers to the store beyond the physical location through pre- and post-purchase connections – for example, by increasing the time customers spend with the brand and introducing complementary products and services. Starbucks’ wildly successful app acts as its loyalty program. It not only reduces friction for purchasing, stores customers’ favourites and reduces wait times, but increases conversion and helps up-sell. This is the future of loyalty.

    The bottom line for retailers is that the imperative to change is in the air. More than ever, consumers are in control and demanding integrated omnichannel experiences. This requires us to move digital from being an extension of our business to being the core. The time to transform is now.

    Originally published on Strategy Online

    • Marketing technologists: Here are eight steps to boost your info security

      POSTED ON: Apr 05, 2016

  • Marketing technologists: Here are eight steps to boost your info security

    SapientNitro CTO Sheldon Monteiro summarizes his MarTech 2016 presentation on this evergreen topic.


    Like centaurs, marketing technologists are merged creatures — part marketing, part IT.

    As such, says Chief Technology Officer Sheldon Monteiro of digital marketing agency SapientNitro, they are central figures in helping marketing merge its needs with the requirements of information security.

    Monteiro, along with Publicis Groupe Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Thom Langford, presented at our recent MarTech 2016 conference eight steps toward information security for enterprise-based marketing technologists. We caught up with Monteiro to get a little more background on the recommendations.

    To begin with, marketing technologists’ skillset clearly needs some upgrading. In a study of about 300 marketing technologists’ skills and attitudes that SapientNitro did in 2014 with Scott Brinker, program chair of the MarTech conference, the weakest of ten self-assessed job skills was “information security/firewalls/encryption/data recovery.”

    And it’s an upgrading that has no small amount of urgency attached, given the cost and growth of security lapses.

    According to a 2015 study by the Ponemon Institute, for instance, the average cost of a data breach is $3.79 million. Cryptography Research notes that “the number of new digital security threats has increased 10,000-fold in the last 12 years.”

    Botnets, pharming, phishing, worms, spam, spoofing, spyware, viruses. The list of threats is only growing longer, so Monteiro/Langford recommend that marketing technologists settle in for a cultural change. Here are their eight recommendations:

    • Embrace a security culture
      Staff should be provided with ongoing policies, discussions, and workflows that maintain and highlight security, helping security-consciousness become second-nature. People should immediately know, for instance, not to re-use their username and password for multiple logins, a bad practice since that means one lost UN/PW opens many doors.
    • Get to know your CISO (Chief Information Security Officer)
      Do you know the person who’s in charge of enterprise-wide security issues? If not, it’s a good idea to become a regular acquaintance.
    • Get your team assessed
      A 2015 National Security Agency study reported that more than 40 percent of security threats to enterprises came from non-malicious insiders, with the balance from malicious insiders, hackers, nation/states, or cybercriminals. Non-malicious users, for instance, lose data by losing thumbdrives. Monteiro points out that the assessment should cover a range of issues, starting with whether individuals’ access to data is accompanied by the right controls. You assess for security just as you assess for functional needs, he noted. As a starting point, teams and practices should be assessed according to the best practices of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
    • Educate on the basics
      The assessment should uncover specific areas where staff needs education, such as knowing not to click on anything they’re uncertain about in emails or on the web.
    • Architect, build and test for security
      The development team needs to embed practices and standards into their processes. Regularly test your systems for their vulnerabilities, such as employing the security-testing (and sometimes security-exploiting) software tool, Metasploit.
    • Leverage security from the start
      Monteiro discounted the common idea that “you can have security or functionality or usability, but not all three.” In fact, he said, “if you bring in security from the start, you won’t have to make tradeoffs.” Tradeoffs happen when you wait, he said.
    • Partner with Legal, HR, Procurement, and 3rd parties
      Companies need to understand the level of security for each software product you use, which admittedly can be a daunting task — martech alone has nearly 4000 vendors in Scott Brinker’s newest Landscape, for instance. When necessary, bring in third parties to help you “kick the tires.”
    • Incident management
      It’s not if there will be security incidents, but when. To prepare, have things in place for the incident. Monteiro noted that it takes the average large enterprise 223 days simply to find out they’ve been compromised. When the incident happens, he said, enterprises should immediately address their security gaps, maintain their brand integrity by honestly presenting the facts and owning up to issues, and be prepared to manage their shareholders.



    Originally published on Marketing Land

    • Why SXSWi is chicken soup for the marketer’s soul

      POSTED ON: Mar 28, 2016

  • Why SXSWi is chicken soup for the marketer’s soul

    Marketing isn't all about spreadsheets or copywriting or data analysis. Contributor Sheldon Monteiro describes 3 key takeaways from SXSW Interactive and argues that world-changing big-picture ideas should be a regular part of every marketer's diet.

    By Sheldon Monteiro

    Why chicken soup, you ask? Well, during the buffet of SXSW Interactive, we witnessed an array of tasty items on the menu, hundreds of individual events covering everything from voter technology to data-driven farming to weight loss to digital parenting.

    Attendees feasted on a smorgasbord of non-stop inspiration: sessions from an amazingly diverse selection of thought leaders and networking opportunities with tens of thousands of digital innovators and creatives from all over the world, not to mention happy hours, expos and parties hosted by dozens of brands and all that Austin nightlife has to offer. Now it’s time to let all of these goodies digest and look toward what interactive marketing trends will be on the menu in 2016 and beyond.

    Although you might think the aftermath of such an extravaganza would be a hangover and upset stomach, I call it chicken soup because SXSWi actually nourishes attendees. It’s different from any other festival — SXSWi isn’t focused on creativity, technology, or even innovation. It’s about all those things, but mostly, it’s a movement of passionate people — marketers included — with a thirst to change the world.

    The triumph of beneficence over maleficence
    In Disney’s movie, “Maleficent,” Angelina Jolie plays an iconic villain who is betrayed, turns vengeful, casts an evil spell, yet ultimately capitulates and becomes a powerful force for good. The movie takes us on a journey through “maleficence” to “beneficence” — from evilness to goodness and actions that benefit others.

    Max Levchin, the former CTO of PayPal, referred to beneficence as one of his “Unstoppable Trends That Are Changing the World.” His assertion: Companies that are building businesses on a foundation of “active kindness” will disrupt their industries and thrive by looking after their customers and the world first.

    For example, maleficent banks, which make 40 percent of their revenues from late fees and overdrafts, are being disrupted by new beneficent entrants like Levchin’s Affirm, a brand seeking to reinvent the financial industry with fair fees and radical transparency.

    While Levchin was the only SXSWi speaker to co-opt the term “beneficence,” it is a word that captures the gestalt of what SXSWi — the festival as a whole — is all about. It encourages us as marketers and human beings to strive for greatness as we imagine the futures of our businesses and the world we live in.

    The truth is, as business leaders and marketers, we need to find new, sustainable sources of growth. We’ve streamlined, realigned and squeezed every dollar of profit from existing business. We’ve been operating in a long-term, low-growth environment where investments in innovation have been starved, Cap Ex & Op Ex is under pressure, and capital returns have been maximized by returning money to shareholders via stock repurchase or dividends.

    As a nation, nearly two-thirds of Americans, a full 61 percent, say they are sometimes or frequently anxious about what’s going on in their lives — despite a multi-year economic expansion, six consecutive years of job growth and the lowest unemployment levels since 2008. We need a new formula for business and social success; we need to transform our businesses and our world, and SXSWi provided plenty of brain food to inspire us. I’ll share three of my favorite session takeaways.

    President Barack Obama at SXSWi
    For the first time in its 23-year history, a sitting president and first lady participated at SXSWi, with President Obama kicking off the festival with a keynote dialogue.

    “The reason I’m here really is to recruit all of you,” Obama said. “We can start coming up with new platforms, new ideas across disciplines and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems we’re facing today. If the brainpower and talent that’s on display here today and throughout this conference takes up that baton, then I’m gonna be really confident about the future of this country.”

    Is President Obama’s confidence in the SXSW community based on well-founded optimism? Regardless of how you answer, there is no mistaking the degree to which technology, marketing and social good have converged. Too often, we wonder why somebody didn’t do something about “that.” Our president reminded me once again that I am somebody.

    Moments of value in the I0T
    “Moments are the units we should be thinking about with brands in the Internet of Things,” Brian Wong, CEO of KIIP, suggests.

    With the Internet of Things set to inject itself into every part of our lives, Wong shared a real concern about it becoming an “advertising cesspool.” His response: We need to break down people’s lives into units beyond the transaction and provide real service and value in these moments, rather than simply inject messages.

    The traditional advertising models are dying. Service, human experience and real value exchange is what’s going to win. As I reflected on Wong’s session in the context of all the buzz around Virtual Reality (VR) that pervaded Austin during the festival, I realized that his advice is spot on.

    Immersive, virtual experiences will bring unique challenges to marketers, not the least of which will be the ethics of what constitutes responsible marketing in a fully immersive medium — VR and IoT included. It’s worth noting that Wong is a 24-year-old CEO who has already raised $30 million in capital. I was inspired.

    AI and the future
    Kevin Kelly, author and founding executive editor of “Wired,” was at SXSWi to lift the lid on “12 inevitable tech forces that will shape our future.”

    He proposed a new verb, “cognify,” meaning to take something and add Artificial Intelligence (or vice versa). What AI won’t do is become self-aware and decide to terminate humankind. But AI will provide “artificial smartness,” which is narrow in focus and free of consciousness. Think of it as “IQ as a service,” which will flow from a grid like electricity to wherever you want it.

    It’s exciting to consider the near future of AI as “many kinds of minds and many kinds of thinking.” With Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Siri and Google Now, AI is already pretty pervasive around us, but we have only gotten started.

    For me, SXSWi was full of so much more to reflect deeply on — smarter, humanlike robots, health and medtech, advances, conversational UIs, sensors and data, ethical algorithms, startups, diversity and exceptional career advice.

    Among other sources of inspiration, I’ll take Levchin’s advice and help my clients realize a better future for their business, by creating transformative experiences and business models that improve their customers’ lives. And yes, I’ll be back in Austin next year for another helping of chicken soup for my soul.



    Originally published on Marketing Land

    • Is Virtual Reality Sexist?

      POSTED ON: Feb 25, 2016

  • Is Virtual Reality Sexist?

    Diversity in VR is a design problem, writes SapientNitro's Daniel Harvey. Here's how to fix it.

    Twenty-sixteen is going to be a pivotal year for virtual reality. Already, the New York Times used VR to cover the emotional aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Apple has implied an interest in VR in its most recent earnings call and made key hires like that of Doug Bowman. And most critically, consumer launches of products like the Oculus Rift will finally happen.

    The rich potential of VR is best described by one of its leading auteurs, Chris Milk. He has documented a Syrian refugee camp for the United Nations. He has covered the Millions March against police brutality for Vice. And much more. In his 2015 Ted Talk, Milk said of VR:

    "It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I've never seen before in any other form of media. And it can change people's perception of each other. And that's how I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world."

    Enabling this "empathy machine" as Milk refers to it is a powerful aspiration. And one I think many creators could believe in. Unfortunately, as with many emergent technologies, VR has a bias baked in: It's sexist.

    An age-old example of gender bias in technology is the humble air conditioner. When standards were put forth in the 1960s comfort levels were set based on tests conducted on 40-year-old men. That's problematic given men and women have different metabolic rates. This is why women are more likely to be cold in offices. Men are freezing women out of the workplace.

    Another more recent example proves the problem has followed us from atoms to bytes. Research by Carnegie Mellon in 2015 outed Google algorithms as "accidentally sexist" too. The CMU study revealed that Google was displaying more prestigious job ads to men. Algorithms created largely by men are exacerbating the gender pay gap issue. Even as some governments are forcing companies to finally publish data on the topic.

    Based on that pattern it should come as no surprise that VR suffers from much the same. Motion sickness in VR has plagued the format since its inception. Women have shown a greater tendency toward VR-induced nausea than men. But why? It's all about unconscious bias and technology’s notorious self-selection bias.

    In brief, there are two main methods of suggesting distance in most modern VR systems. Motion parallax and shape-from-shading. At its simplest, motion parallax is a play on perspective. Shape-from-shading is about how light sources interact with objects and your point of view. They’re conflicting depth cues.

    Most systems favor motion parallax as it's easier to program and render. As a result, it's the default model used by most. And guess what? A study by danah boyd of Microsoft Research shows that men prefer motion parallax while women prefer shape-from-shading. Men are literally sending the wrong signals to women’s brains!

    Another possible explanation was presented at the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee on Human Factors in a paper by R.S. Kennedy and L.H. Frank in 1983. The pair’s research suggested a different biological factor at play. They believed the higher incidence of simulator sickness in women was due to a wider field of view. Other researchers pursued the topic in 2006 and noted the severity was even higher in older women.

    Despite all that direct and related research, boyd became a flashpoint for gamergate-style blowback. On Oculus's own developer forums even. You can read it here at your own peril. Peter Andrew Nolan, a noted Men's Rights activist was the ringleader of that hot mess. A sample:

    • boyd's opinion was tantamount to classic "MSFT sabotage tactics"
    • "her research was sloppy"
    • "women are not trustworthy"
    • "It's not VR's fault! It's biology!"
    • "feminists and their mangina lackeys are going to attack anything that liberates men from the clutches of women."

    Defaulting to masculine factors isn't just a software problem. The bias exists in the hardware as well. Adi Robertson, who covers the VR beat at The Verge, recently covered a host of "atoms" problems as well:

    • headsets that barely tighten enough to fit
    • lenses too far apart to focus properly
    • oversized motion capture rings
    • ill-fitting haptic suits

    As Robertson points out, when you're in the early stages of development, decisions like these are perhaps understandable. But with products close to market it becomes disheartening that varied sizes aren't available. It's astonishing especially at an event like CES. Those early decisions build a weak foundation. As a result, concerns like this end up addressed in third or fourth product generations, if at all.

    The key lesson to take away from all of this is simple. The only way to beat the sort of self-selection bias at the root of this problem is to get more women in VR. To join luminaries like Carolina Cruz-Niera, Brenda Laurel, and Margaret Minsky. Thankfully there are groups like Virtual Reality Girls driving this mission forward. And events like VRUK Fest that create friendly environments to probe the issues further.

    Silicon Valley brims with hiring initiatives to tackle gender bias organizationally but progress is slow. In the meantime, the onus rests on existing developers to practice inclusive design. Diversity is a design problem.

    How can we create Milk's "empathy machine" if we ourselves aren't more empathic? How much of VR's potential has been held back by focusing on the male default? What might we create that we wouldn't have before?


    Originially published on

    • Howard Goldkrand Bids Brands To Connect With VR

      POSTED ON: Feb 16, 2016

  • Howard Goldkrand Bids Brands To Connect With VR

    SapientNitro's virtual reality evangelist goes looking for new technology's Spielberg

    SapientNitro’s director of innovation and unofficial virtual reality evangelist Howard Goldkrand thinks brands have a very good reason to get on the VR bandwagon: experiencing VR for the first time can be life changing, and whichever brand provides that experience will be remembered for a lifetime.

    “We have the opportunity to be part of the origin story, at the beginning of this century — with our users, our clients, our families, our communities,” he told his audience at the ICA’s FFWD Ad Week 2016 in Toronto. “These people are all going to say, ‘The first time I tried VR was when The New York Times sent me a Google Cardboard.’”

    Marketers should get into VR any way they can, he said. Leaps of imagination that might seem like a bad fit in established media like TV are perfectly acceptable in VR. He is a big fan of California creative workshop WeVR (pronounced “weaver”), whose tagline is “Make brave VR.”

    One such “brave” brand experiment Goldkrand cited came from tequila-maker Patrón: the company created a 360-degree simulation that allowed people to experience flying over its agave fields as a bee (like the bee on its bottle).

    In his work with clients, Goldkrand said he’s constantly pushing for the magic, not the KPIs — to rise above trying to sell a sweatshirt and create an experience that transports the user.

    “If you go back and look at some of the early explorations and ideas in the internet, they didn’t have the bandwidth, they didn’t have the opportunity, but they also didn’t have any of the rules,” he said. “To have that now, with VR, is awesome. There’s no Spielberg in VR… It’s gonna be some other person from China, Ethiopia or the Philippines, that starts breaking new ways for us to think about interaction with it.”

    During his talk, Goldkrand strove to put VR in a historical context. The first modern VR technology goes back farther than a lot of us realize — 3D headsets and gloves were being designed as far back as the 80s. What’s different today, Goldkrand said, is the ubiquitous computing power available at our fingertips, which can generate realistic, physical environments.

    There are more than 1,000 products related to VR on Amazon, he said, rattling off names like Facebook’s Oculus, Valve and HTC’s Vive, Sony’s Morpheus. But Goldkrand believes brands shouldn’t get bogged down in the guessing game of which platform will dominate.

    “It’s okay to shoot [3D video] with anything. It’s the wizard, not the wand,” he said. “It’s what you do with things, not what [platform] you do it with.”

    The VR revolution calls for a whole new generation of creators, he said. People who have excelled at filmmaking may not necessarily do well with VR because of how inherently different the two experiences are. A filmmaker is used to controlling the narrative — they take the viewer on a journey, rather than creating a space where the viewer can take their own journey. Film decides where the viewer will and will not look, but in VR, there’s no “wrong place” to look, he said.

    What a lot of brands don’t get about VR is that it’s about emotion, Goldkrand said, adding that VR doesn’t carry people away because of what they see, but because of how it makes them feel. He points to the work of Nonny de la Peña, a journalist who uses VR and 3D video to recreate news events, and give people the sense of being there and how they would have reacted.

    To end his talk, Goldkrand quoted Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”


    Originally publised on

    • Dior expresses plurality for men’s collection film

      POSTED ON: Feb 09, 2016

  • Dior expresses plurality for men’s collection film

    French fashion house Christian Dior has cast men from different career verticals to showcase that the Dior Homme consumer is not a singular vision.

    Dior Homme’s summer 2016 campaign brings together a singer-songwriter, actor, artist and model together for a video effort capturing “Dior men in the plural,” showing that its menswear is appropriate for a wide range of consumers. The definition of a luxury shopper is constantly evolving, and impossible to pinpoint as consumption behavior changes, but by showing various interpretations of a brand’s ideal consumer those exposed to the campaign may see themselves in the effort.

    "There’s no doubt men’s cultural attitudes about appearance have shifted; it’s no longer taboo to discuss designers, trends, grooming habits, celebrity style icons, street fashion or the rise of Kanye on the catwalk," said Jem Ripley, SapientNitro head of retail – Northeast.

    "Men are also significantly less afraid to experiment with clothing. With many offices adopting less formal dress codes and many retailers expanding their breadth of size, style and accessory offerings, there’s more incentive — and freedom — than ever for him to express himself," he said. "What we see is not clothes making the man, but today’s man using his buying power to mix and match, and to make the clothes work for him.

    "If we needed any further indication of this trend, for Dior designer Kris Van Assche to have put aside his rigid commitment to minimalism and to experiment with new proportions, textures and colors, it becomes crystal clear that today’s powerful male consumer is anything but homogenous in his dressing habits, and expects versatility from leading designers.

    "There is not one Dior Homme consumer, but many; and each of them is looking for something to which he can aspire, as well as something to inspire him directly to purchase," he said.

    Mr. Ripley is not affiliated with Dior, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

    Dior was unable to comment directly.

    Rule breakers  
    For summer 2016, Dior selected singer-songwriter Oliver Sim, actor Alain-Fabien Delon, artist Rinus Van de Velde and model Victor Nylander as the physical representations of the Dior Homme man.

    The campaign, a collaboration between season artistic director Kris Van Assche and photographer Willy Vanderperre, shows each man’s own personality, and the differences between them to reflect the realities of Dior’s consumer base.

    In a statement shared on Dior’s magalog DiorMag, Mr. Van Assche said, “Charismatic, each with their distinct individuality, they break the rules of the male wardrobe while respecting its traditions. They move in a contemporary and creative world. These are the men that we know embody something of the spirit of Dior Homme.”

    The video, titled “Stranger in a Room,” begins with Mr. Delon waking from a nap and sitting on the edge of his bed pensively before having a bite to eat at a table. He exits the frame and Mr. Sim is shown sitting on a staircase as he ties his shoes.

    Mr. Sim is then shown writing on a pad of paper, and as the video progresses, he stands and walks out of the frame. As Mr. Sim walks out, the camera pans to Mr. Nylander in an arm chair.

    The camera spends time on Mr. Nylander as he reads a book, then in a following frame the model is seen walking past Mr. Van de Velde as he sits at on a stool next to his art supplies.

    Victor Nylander for Dior Homme, summer 2016

    Next, Mr. Van de Velde stands and walks over to a sink basin and begins washing the black inky substance from his hands. When finished, Mr. Van de Velde grabs his coat from a hook and follows Mr. Sim out the doorway and onto the street where Mr. Nylander and Mr. Delon stand waiting.

    The four men walk together down the street and as the video concludes Mr. Sim turns and looks back at the camera as the film’s credits begin.

    Within the credits, viewers learn that the song used as the campaign’s soundtrack is also titled Stranger in a Room and is performed by Jamie xx featuring Mr. Sim, who plays bass, keyboard as well as vocals for the band The xx.

    Stranger in a RoomFor the Dior Homme Summer 2016 campaign, Oliver Sim, Alain-Fabien Delon, Rinus Van de Velde and Victor Nylander express the diversity of the Dior men, as captured by photographer Willy Vanderperre.
    Posted by Dior on Monday, February 8, 2016

    Although Dior did share the campaign on its social platforms and through a posting with the still imagery on DiorMag, the brand does not present consumers with a path to purchase. Since Dior does not yet operate its own ecommerce for ready-to-wear, providing the necessary route to learning more about the clothing seen may be beneficial to the brand in the future.

    "While the video content from this season’s Homme collection seems to be omnipresent on multiple pages of, hiding the complete story under DiorMag makes the products feel secondary to the rest of Dior’s offerings," Mr. Ripley said.

    "We would also love to see Dior livestream its shows, experiment (in a brand appropriate way) with shoppable runway showings, and consider VR experiences for its VIP customers who cannot be present at the catwalk," he said. "Though it’s an extremely iconic fashion house, Dior must offer one-to-one experiences and premier personalization in order to stay competitive in the saturated luxury market."

    You do you
    Individuality and a celebration of personality has become a common thread for campaigns as luxury houses are becoming increasingly inclusive of the wide variety of consumers that shop high-end wares.

    In an effort similar to Dior’s approach for summer 2016, Italian fashion label Tod’s brought together a diverse group of talents for a personality-driven launch of its new driving shoe.

    “Tod’s Band Leo Mania” centers on a cast of 12 men who come from the worlds of ballet, music, film and more. Through a series of portraits and short videos, the “virtual club” share their views on life and fashion, creating a backdrop for the brand’s new Leo Clamp shoe (see story).

    In women’s wear, U.S. fashion label Diane von Furstenberg is prompting women to be themselves in an uplifting spring/summer 2016 campaign.

    Introduced Feb. 1 on social media using the hashtag #YouBeYou, DVF’s campaign centers on a video of model Karlie Kloss having a frank conversation with the label’s eponymous designer about female empowerment and being a woman today. DVF is using this campaign as a platform to not only build desire for its clothes, but to begin a larger conversation about being true to yourself (see story).

    As with consumer portraits injected into campaigns, a brand must also reflect its own personality through product ranges.

    "Dior showed admirable variation this season. As GQ noted, the collection was 'warm, wearable and masculine,'” Mr. Ripley said.

    "In addition to showing interesting proportions for shirt and slacks separates, we saw shades of red in the primarily black collection, variations on the bow tie and the belt, futuristic sunglasses and even painted nails," he said.

    "Menswear enthusiasts from all geographies and professions are sure to find something to add to their closets from this Dior Homme collection."


    Published on Luxury Daily

    • Hugo Boss names SapientNitro lead digital agency

      POSTED ON: Feb 02, 2016

  • Hugo Boss names SapientNitro lead digital agency

    Publicis.Sapient agency, which has worked on the brand in the past, will run digital platforms including


    German fashion brand Hugo Boss has announced it has appointed SapientNitro as its lead digital agency. The Publicis.Sapient agency has worked on the brand in the past.
    The new partnership is aimed at enhancing the omni-channel experience for consumers and redefining how content and commerce can be merged across channels, informed an agency statement. SapientNitro will run the brand’s digital platforms, including the website, it added.
    Gerd von Podewils, SVP, global communication, Hugo Boss, said, “With SapientNitro, we have appointed a partner that represents our global approach to creating compelling brand experiences, driven by state-of-the-art technology. The ongoing digital revolution confirms our decision to transform from a vertically integrated retailer, to a data-and-experience-driven fashion brand.”
    Nigel Vaz, global chief strategy officer and SVP Europe, SapientNitro, said, "The appointment of SapientNitro as Hugo Boss’ digital agency is an important moment for both partners. What was separated before – e-commerce and an exciting brand experience – will join forces in a unique and highly personalised hub page concept in the future. We will bring the brand's strong, global, physical presence far closer to the increasing number of customers who experience fashion digitally."



    Published on Campaign India


    • The Community Is Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year

      POSTED ON: Jan 25, 2016

  • The Community Is Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year

    Shop Saw Revenue Grow 22%, With Three Major New-Business Wins

    To take back summer from other beach-loving beers, Corona Extra called in winter. In The Community's poetic "Dear Summer" campaign in both Spanish and English versions, winter writes a letter to summer, enviously extolling all that people love about the latter, ending with a request to hang out: "You bring the beer, I'll bring the ice."

    The Community looks at life—and marketing—a little differently. And with its focus on multicultural consumers, the Miami-based shop wants to help its clients avoid building brands for a world that doesn't exist anymore. "They really understand the concept of cultural fluidity, the ability to move in and out of various cultures that defines us," said Diego Scotti, exec VP-chief marketing officer at Verizon, one of The Community's big 2015 account wins.

    "They don't think in TV commercials, they think in terms of conversations with consumers, and I like that a lot. As the importance of culture and authenticity increases in the total market, they become more and more valuable to general market marketing efforts."

    Read the full article on Ad Age

    • Q&A: Adrian Slobin, Global Innovation Lead At SapientNitro

      POSTED ON: Dec 31, 2015

  • Q&A: Adrian Slobin, Global Innovation Lead At SapientNitro

    As virtual reality innovators like Slobin shape the tech’s future, product-consumer interactions could change how we interact with the world.

    By Sam Schaust


    For businesses, the integration of high technology, like virtual reality (VR) and artificial reality (AR), may appear distant. However, Adrian Slobin, global innovation lead at digital marketing agency SapientNitro, sees the immediate potential for AR/VR right now. For the fourth-straight quarter, AR/VR investment has topped $100 million in funding. Meanwhile, brands like Target, Volvo and Red Bull are breaking into the new digital space, priming themselves for the expansion of VR adoption in 2016 with the release of Oculus Rift (Facebook’s $2 billion bet on VR) and Sony’s Morpheus Project (also known as PlayStation VR). Slobin, who heads SapientNitro’s global office in Minneapolis, breaks down both the near and distant future of VR and how it could affect the way consumers interact with products.
    TCB: What is it like working in the field of forward-looking technology, like VR and AR?
    Slobin: For starters, I grew up watching movies in the 80s like Blade Runner and Total Recall… Now is the first time you can start to see a glimpse of that crazy sci-fi fiction coming into reality. I have two young kids and, well, if we think the smartphone is revolutionary, what in the world is their experience of the world going to be like in 15 or 20 years? It’s mind-blowing.
    How is SapientNitro utilizing this new techology?
    That’s a tough question because we do a lot of work in a lot of different areas. But I think it is all centered around how brands sell their stories and how consumers use technology to get access to those stories. Whether it is the nuts and bolts of a commerce or content platform that delivers omnichannel transactions or content—we do a lot of work in that space. In terms of high tech—more exploratory, emerging technologies—we’re very invested in the intersection of digital and physical. So we have a team called Second Story that does a lot of work on the blending of physical environments and digital experiences because we believe those two will collapse into very interesting configurations. Artificial reality, we are starting to dabble around with, but that’s further out and needs to mature a bit before it hits primetime. It’s hard to predict, but [it may be] three to five years out before [artificial reality] becomes as compelling as virtual reality is in the next 18 months.



    There’s plenty of application for VR in industries where Minnesota thrives, like healthcare. What sort of potential do you see there?
    Right now we are having conversations with our clients in healthcare and the obvious plays are training and the ability to experience and learn about a complex product—for example, a medical device. In a way, it can be both more effective and less risky in understanding procedures and installation that would be involved. The healthcare profession has been exploring VR for some time in the same way military training has been a primary driver for VR. Trailing away from devices and more toward application from a consumer-facing standpoint, VR therapy for things like PTSD is very interesting. With soldiers coming back who are suffering, allowing for VR to recreate certain moments and help them through those moments is a proven and effective way in helping them get through the more traumatic dementias of PTSD.
    When you say “certain moments,” would something like that be more personalized to each patient?
    Yep, so I’ll make something up here… If you were in a particular scenario, like Iraq or Afghanistan, you can create something close to those environments and re-live it under the guidance of a trained therapist, you can work through those moments more effectively than just talking through them or taking drugs. Another one is for pain therapy. For burn victims who were really suffering and traditional pain medications weren’t as effective, a trial found that by creating cold environments in VR, it brought their pain down. So in the healthcare space, the power of VR is really about creating an emotional connection to an experience. So for trying to engage in some kind of therapy or training, that immersive dimension of VR—if used for the good—could be tremendously powerful.
    Adoption of this technology obviously won’t happen overnight, so what sort of timeline do you see as far as brand/VR integration goes?
    Except for the big, splashy brands—the Red Bulls, Nikes—healthcare is such a conservative industry, so those brands are going to be much less likely to get out over their skis in terms of publicly announcing what they are doing until [VR technology] is well-baked and proven. If you think about the consumer-facing devices like Oculus Rift that is coming in 2016 and Sony’s Morpheus—this stuff will become the furniture in people’s lives over the next 18 months to 2 years. It won’t necessarily be a foreign thing to strap in and have an interaction. I was actually talking to my mom about this. Not to stereotype her, but she had a hard time learning how to use the CD player, she’s a sort of a luddite, and I was starting to explain what the coming world of VR will be to her. And I realized it’s almost like trying to describe a movie to someone at the turn of the 19th century. The best way to do it is to get them in a theater, and there isn’t a single person I know who has experienced VR who takes off the headset and isn’t immediately like “you could use it for this or that or this.” It seems weird now, but it seemed weird in 2006 to be doing so much stuff on a phone. With the primary drive of gaming and entertainment, people will start to have these devices in their homes and then it’s a fairly easy step to start getting people in the healthcare space to think about using them to talk to your doctor in a way that is more meaningful than a phone call.


    So with nearly every American industry having some potential use for VR, you believe gaming and entertainment the initial draw?
    Yes, that will definitely be powering adoption. On the consumer-facing and business professional side, it’ll be the military and healthcare spaces—maybe education. There are a lot of start-ups exploring the potential for VR in the education space. My wife is a professor and so I’m maybe old school on what a good educational environment would be, but I guess I’m more skeptical about it being prime ground for the exploration of VR today. Who knows down the road? For super experience driven brands, like in the automotive industry, butts in seats is the mantra for any car dealer. But you don’t need to actually get someone’s butt in a physical seat in VR. You can actually recreate something close to the experience of being in a BMW or Audi and get that person primed to go to the dealer.
    I’m glad you brought up the automotive industry. I know that Harley Davidson is a client of yours. Does that mean you’ve generated a bike trial for them?
    I’m sorry, I won’t be able to comment on them in particular, but I will say in general, it’s an obvious play. It’s obvious that these brands are going to want to give consumers the experience of being on their car or bike and the question becomes execution. It goes back to risk aversion. If you’re a [chief marketing officer], is it really worth the risk of creating a bomb and having to do damage control versus using the traditional channels to market? That is the tipping point: when that CMO has to realize it is not optional to play in the VR space. At that point they will take on risk, but for now it is still optional.
    What sort of clients is SapientNitro engaging with right now?
    Of the projects we are talking about… healthcare, automotive and retail are the industries that are most open to the VR conversation. We are right now architecting the actual transactional capabilities in VR to enable it to plug into existing commerce platforms. So if you’re a retailer and you’ve invested x-gazillions of dollars in setting up a digital commerce capability, you are not about to set up a second capability in VR. There is no business case in the world that would provide for that. What you want to do is plug the VR channel into your existing e-commerce. But how does that hook into your catalog, checkout and inventory management? From the pure technology side, we’re in the process of the architecting that.
    Taking the retail angle, can you describe a scenario for the use of VR at home or a brick and mortar location?
    For tools or toys, getting to virtually experience what that is like… Whether it is test flying a drone or at a Home Depot or a Lowe’s—before buying a saw or drill—having the consumer experience of what it would be like. Or it could be a Black and Decker installation inside a Home Depot. So if you think of Home Depot as the venue, the brand could put a kiosk and get consumers to engage in that personally. And this isn’t five years out, I think it’ll be much sooner than that. It’s not expensive to do and what are most retailers interested in? Foot traffic. Those that have brick and mortar locations want people to come through the doors one or two times more a year than they usually do. And so what do you do to inspire that? You create destinations to draw people in. Don’t quote me on the numbers, but it’s a sub-$5,000 for the raw equipment and then the creation of the experience, which is not that expensive depending on the level of sophistication… You compare that to getting a one percent increase in foot traffic, and there will be no reason not to do it provided it is done well.
    What is your step-by-step process of taking a client’s proposal and creating a VR experience for them?
    I’d actually flip that around and say at this point of the conversation that we are pitching the clients. I think consumer-facing brands have been burned by digital technologies as many were late to the e-commerce game, and played catch-up. And then they were blindsided by mobility and the smartphone, and played catch-up. I don’t think VR is going to have the same level of revolution that the smartphone had in terms of ubiquity. But what it will lack in ubiquity it will make up for in depth of experience. So if I’m a marketer, do I want to be really late to that party for the third time? Can by brand survive it? Can you think about all of the brands that are no longer on the New York Stock Exchange because they were late to one of these digital disruptions over the last 15 to 20 years? Or let’s put it this way: for a big-box retailer that is suffering from lack of exciting product… You have this new medium that can bring your products to life in a way that is much richer than a glossy circular in the Sunday Star Tribune or really nice JPEG on a flat website. Now you can actually get the consumer to engage in that product in a new way, so wouldn’t you want to just see if setting up a kiosk or a few in your space might generate more demand than the product on the shelf alone does? Isn’t it worth the bet?



    We’ve glossed over this, but I’d like to get your full take on consumer adoption looking into 2016 and beyond. As you said, what the timeline until VR becomes “the furniture in people’s homes?”
    I’ll answer your question by coming at it from the side. There are three or four different vectors that are going to drive adoption. There is the consumer device side—with the new Samsung Gear VR device, with the Oculus Rift headset, with Sony’s Morpheus, with the HTC Vive—you’ll see a flood of these devices that will be in people’s homes. Verizon and AT&T may start giving them away or at a reduced cost when you get a new contract because Samsung has put a lot of money into VR, and they want to make sure people are incented to get these devices. En masse, in the next 18 months to 2 years (and I think depending on who you believe), somewhere between 50 to 100 million head-mounted displays will ship. So there’s that vector. Then there’s the vector of devices to create VR experiences, and that’s coming down both in price point and going up in terms of sophistication. The third is content creation itself because who cares about a device if there isn’t anything interesting to go experience. The YouTubes and Facebooks of the world have created platforms for sharing content and users are generating VR experiences like crazy. I don’t know what the metrics are, but if you go to #360 on YouTube, there’s a ridiculous amount of user-generated content there. And then the fourth one is the content from professional-grade studios and game shops. There used to lots of great ideas for content on VR but not enough processing power to realize it. So you won’t have devices in search of content or content that wishes it had the right device to play it. You are—for the first time in history—having these things intersect at the exact same time.
    To cap it off, Adrian, I’d interested to hear what personally excites you most about VR?

    Good question, but professionally or as a person? Professionally, I’m most excited about helping our clients in the coming years reach their consumers in a more meaningful way. And I know that sounds cliché, but that’s what marketing companies are about. This medium will expand in every dimension for brands to tell stories in an emotionally connected way. I mean, it’s a new canvas. On the personal side, frankly I’m more apprehensive than excited for the reasons I mentioned earlier. I have two young kids and I see them already so pummeled by digital and are connected in ways that I wasn’t even five years ago. I worry about what this new medium will do to their sense of the world because I see there being a lot of power in it but also a lot of challenges. It’s an interesting sort of schizophrenia when I think about the opportunities on the business side, but that comes with a little bit of trepidation. I don’t mean to end the conversation on a sour note, but the potential for misuse is there and it needs to be carefully guarded so VR can be a force for good.



    Originally published on

    • Marketing Leaders Predict: Will 2016 Be The Year Of Creativity?

      POSTED ON: Dec 07, 2015

  • Marketing Leaders Predict: Will 2016 Be The Year Of Creativity?

    Creativity and fearlessness in marketing are making a comeback. Combined, they could be a true differentiator in the coming year.

    Execution, however, varies according to interpretation. What does creativity and fearlessness in marketing really mean? Therein lies the subject of's annual predictions compilation.

    As we have done in years past, we turned to the many experts who helped shape our content--CMOs and other high-level marketers featured in our exclusive interviews, contributors of thought-provoking "From the Field" blog posts, and insightful sources for our topical feature articles.

    We posed to them the following question: How will you bring more creativity and daring to your marketing in 2016?

    But we added a wrinkle, in the interest of space and to get the creative/fearless juices flowing: Answers had to be kept to approximately 144 characters. If it's good enough for Twitter ...

    Read on for the inspiring range of responses we received. They come from around the globe: the United States, across Europe, and through the Asia-Pacific region. Answers are arranged alphabetically, by company name.


    Shift the emphasis of marketing from messaging to interaction. Listen to customers, help them, excite them–don’t just promote your agenda.
    --Olof Schybergson, CEO of Fjord, Design and Innovation, Accenture Interactive

    Tap mobile to make ads more memorable and more personal than ever. Bold art + science delivers real outcomes. Also, more budget.
    --Nikao Yang, SVP Business Development & Marketing, AdColony

    ADMA charging ahead with total transformation to a data-led content driven marketing strategy. Walking the talk so we can better support our members.
    --Jodie Sangster, CEO, ADMA

    I’m excited for amazing marketing experiences using VR/AR, large-scale digital walls/tables, and digital/physical environments that blur lines between home and store.
    --Mark Asher, Head Of Market Intelligence & Strategy, Adobe

    Allrecipes will be expanding our social and shopper native advertising solutions, delivering hyperlocal contextual targeting and ROI tracking.
    --Esmee Williams, Vice President, Consumer and Brand Strategy, Allrecipes

    Be bold, be creative, but be human. Think beyond getting attention; design for engagement. And design beyond impressions, think expressions.
    --Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group, and author of “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design”

    Mobile is our platform. Open is our model. Global is our market. Data is our fueld. Video is our medium. Talent is our differentiator.
    --Allie Kline, CMO, AOL

    By taking a break from social media and what everyone else says. Put my own thinking cap on and answer this question: What can I do to bring more profit to the bottom line?
    --Nick Corcodilos, Ask the Headhunter, Blogger, and Professional Recruiter


    Audiences are turning to online channels for video content at an explosive rate and at the expense of TV viewership. Advertisers will continue to follow these users and invest more in video advertising.
    -- Nick Utton, Chief Marketing Officer, BMC


    Next year, we’re daring to go from being valued to being loved. We’ll be showcasing the power and value of creating an emotional connection.
    --Susan Ganeshan, CMO, Clarabridge

    C4’s very remit is to be creative and daring, and we’re looking forward to taking some more big risks at the Rio Paralympics.
    --Dan Brooke, CMO, Channel 4

    Unlocking creativity and driving success demands agile marketing: gain insights, make hard choices, take fast action, learn quickly, perform better, deliver revenue.
    --Barre Hardy, Associate Partner, CMG Partners

    Our creative mind-set allows us to align with technology innovators in a global smart home leadership position.
    --Sean Blankenship, Coldwell Banker Real Estate CMO

    Stay focused and connected to the consumer. Sharply define the consumer and articulate his needs. Choose media carefully and offer consumers an experience.
    --Hetal Kotak, Vice President and Brand Head, ColorPlus & Park Avenue

    More digital engagement. More intent-based approach. More social. More mobile. More predictive. Embrace failure as the best path to awesome.
    --Chris Powell, CMO, Commvault

    Elevating content to more than collateral. Marketing doesn’t change content’s purpose; a great content strategy changes marketing’s purpose.
    --Robert Rose, Content Marketing Strategist, Content Marketing Institute

    To qualify as an insights provider in 2016, companies must take more edgy, counterintuitive stands—and back them up with research-based rigor.
    --Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Corporate Visions, and Blogger/Marketing Messenger


    Train our salesforce on social media tools and turn them loose, push the marketing org to turn up innovation 20% more.
    --Bryan Jones, Vice President Of Marketing For North America and the Global 500, Dell

    Bold storytelling to show how we help our clients stay ahead of disruption, act confidently, and achieve impact that matters.
    --Jonathan Copulsky, CMO, Deloitte Consulting

    A major television network will announce a programmatic offering by the end of the year. It will be limited, they’ll call it something else, and there will be several strings attached, but it will signal the move.​
    --Doug Ryan, President, Chicago & San Francisco, DigitasLBi North America

    Creativity needs big ideas. Having lodged Direct Line as a “fixer” brand, the journey continues.
    --Mark Evans, Marketing Director, Direct Line


    Marketers, please come out from behind your tech and data and start acting like humans. You’ll be amazed at what can happen.
    --Jeff Pundyk, Vice President, Content Marketing and Strategy, The Economist Group, and Blogger/Digital Disruption

    By bringing digital technology and machine learning as the key enablers of innovative (fearless) marketing.
    --Sameer Poonja, Head of Digital & Mobile Experience Technologies, Emirates

    I will be fearless about who I invite to #CMOCLIC16. CMOs need more courage; this is a safe innovation laboratory to help them find it.
    --Lisa Nirell, Chief Energy Officer, EnergizeGrowth LLC

    Routine can be your enemy. When in doubt or feeling a creativity drought, the left brain can help. There are always insights that could give you a new perspective to being creative.
    --Rickie Hobbie, Managing Director, Epsilon (Asia Pacific)

    Engage your community for daring, unexpected, and authentic creative. Per our VoC research, community-generated creative has the greatest impact.
    --Ernan Roman, President, ERDM


    We’ll engage movie fans on many platforms with promotions and event marketing, captivating content and unique offers to enhance their experience.
    --Adam Rockmore, CMO, Fandango

    Farmers will continue to help consumers get smarter about insurance. We will blend information with creative humor and a digital presence.
    --Mike Linton, CMO, Farmers Insurance

    What if brand storytelling was compelling, real, and fun? To quote Stephen Colbert, our 2016 mission is the pursuit of “truthiness.”
    --Mark Jones, Chief Storyteller & CEO, Filtered Media

    The marketing discipline will accelerate faster from art and science to science and art. Strategic creativity will be more important than ever to engage people in our mobile 1-2-1 world.
    --Steven Cook, Founder/Managing Partner, FortuneCMO, and Contributing Editor


    Social media marketing will leap into the hands of company employees for business in 2016. This means enabling team members to share the company content in social.
    --Christopher Maloney, CEO, Gremln, and Former CMO, Wells Fargo Advisors, Experian, Scottrade


    I have devolved access of social handles with fearless and innovative 20-year-old marketers who leverage this edgy trend to spread the brand message.
    --Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Marketing, Product, Analytics, Digital & E-Commerce, HDFC Life

    We’re taking an outsider’s look at our brand. Asking clients how they explain what we do helps us to identify where to put our focus in 2016.
    --Jen Todd Gray, SVP, Brand, Marketing & Creative Services, HelloWorld


    Creating concerted efforts toward face-to-face marketing. Those who use digital to bring together physical interactions will lead within their industry.
    --Sinan Kanatsiz, Founder and Chairman, Internet Marketing Association

    At IQ 2016 is about creative intelligence, not creative fearlessness. That means creative shaped by data and insights, not by gut and guts.
    --Tony Quin, CEO, IQ Agency, and Board Chair, SoDA, the Digital Society


    Ad blocking invites us to be bold. Kiip will reach out to unexpected brands and encourage real mobile moments that matter to consumers.
    --Brian Wong, Co-Founder/CEO, Kiip


    Marketers are told to write at the level of a 7th-grader. We’re going to take a risk that our audience is smarter than that.
    --Doug Bewsher, CEO, Leadspace

    Effective creativity now requires pairing shrewd psychology with showmanship. In 2016 I resolve to channel, daily, Daniel Kahneman and P.T. Barnum.
    --Marsha Lindsay, CEO, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs

    It’s now about mobile commerce, not just eyeballs. E-wallets, loyalty, beacon recognition, and mobile coupons will become increasingly integrated into shopping activities.
    --Peter Krasilovsky, Principal, Local Onliner

    Creativity comes in many forms; hopefully 2016 will see marketers and technologists collaborating smartly to create extraordinary user experiences.
    --Wayne Arnold, Global CEO, Lowe Profero


    Fail small, fail many times, and be ready to scale-up small successes. Only pilot what is scalable in marketing and business.
    --Deepali Naair, CMO, Mahindra Holidays & Resort India Ltd.

    2016 is about personalisation and authenticity. Brands must provide a humanistic element so each touch point brings value or at least a smile.
    --Ambera Cruz, Head of Marketing, Meltwater Asia-Pacific

    For a bold 2016 we must commit to digital, listening, hard analytics, and improvising real-time campaigns where only qualified leads matter.
    --Paul Gottsegen, CMO, Mindtree


    Meet the needs of connected customers using whole brain thinking that links creative with the rigour of analytics and the art of storytelling.
    --Nicole Sheffield, CEO, News Life Media


    Few things speak more to fearlessness than the conscious decision to “not do.” In taking our creative impact to the next level, we will be focused on conveying fewer things in our marketing--taking a narrow and deep approach.
    --Doug Zarkin, VP, Head of Marketing, Pearle Vision

    tarting with removing a mainstay that has been one part of our brand’s DNA for over 60 years, we now see a whole realm of possibilities opening for us.
    --Robin Zucker, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Digital Media, Playboy

    It is fearless to consistently and boldly challenge your audiences to rethink who they are and what they need. We will use new approaches to broaden our reach.
    --Bluford Birdsong, Vice President, Participant Engagement Marketing, Prudential Retirement


    In an age where brands know more than ever about our customers, embracing creativity and fearlessness should no longer be seen as risk taking but instead as smart, innovational thinking.
    --James Earp, Experience Director, Razorfish

    Creativity is about how we challenge or exploit obstacles. More than design, it’s a mind-set. Teamed with fearlessness, it’s the courage to deploy.
    --Nick Baker, CEO, RedBalloon


    Blow up any process that isn't dynamic and collaborative. Creativity in a world of technology takes constant collaboration, not process.

    --Darren (Daz) McColl, Global Chief Brand Strategy Officer, SapientNitro

    We believe in women inspiring women and have to dare ourselves to put our passions in the forefront of our business.
    --Samantha Skey, CMO/CRO, SheKnowsMedia
    As simplicity gains traction in culture, brands will need to create clear and surprising experiences to delight customers.
    --Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale

    The rise of brand (generic top-level domain) and creativity unleashed from the left side of the dot.
    --Joe Loy, Head of Digital, StarHub

    Do something unexpected, launch a breakthrough, challenge a leader, “wow” consumers, make memorable moments, engage in new conversations.
    --Ed Vlacich, Chief Marketing Officer and President, National Brands, Sun Products


    Being a tech start-up means disrupting norms. Irrespective of 2016 budgets, we’ll approach our marketing with a unique flair that continues to win hearts and minds.
    --Andrew Davis, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Tapit

    Data-driven marketing is the future. If you fail to embrace it and instead focus solely on creativity, you will quickly become obsolete.
    --Ken Chaplin, CMO/B2C, TransUnion

    At TransUnion, we find creativity in data. In 2016, I’ll harness and apply data and analytics to sharpen our targeting, messaging, and customer engagement strategies.
    --Julie Springer, CMO/B2B, TransUnion

    In 2016 we’ll give Ozbrands and agencies more opportunity to highlight creative video and other rich content through Promoted @TwitterMoments.
    --Karen Stocks, Managing Director, Twitter (Australia)


    Consumers want meaningful conversations. We’ll provoke marketers to rethink their traditional ways and join the movement to create authentic, social brand-consumer relationships.
    --Don Anderson, Regional Managing Director (Singapore), We Are Social

    Editorial and advertising will continue to blur lines. The merge of how content/decisions get made by customers will reign; PR and marketing separatist mentalities lose.
    --Diane Scott, Chief Marketing Officer, Western Union


    In 2016, we will be fearless by connecting more with our customers in person, learning more about who they are and what they need now.
    --Allison Checchi, CMO, YP



    Originally published on

    • How One Chicago Agency Is Preparing Brands for Virtual Reality

      POSTED ON: Nov 20, 2015

  • How One Chicago Agency Is Preparing Brands for Virtual Reality

    By Will Flanagan - General Manager at Chicago Inno

    According to eMarketer, advertisers will spend over $100 billion on mobile this year, representing "roughly 50 percent of all digital ad expenditure." That figure is expected to double over the next three years, reaching $195.55 billion in 2019 and accounting for 70.1% of all digital ad spend. And as a friendly reminder, the mobile advertising industry is just twenty years old.

    Given the staggering growth in the market, nearly every agency in the world needs to be a mobile expert in order to survive. However, on top of that pursuit, one Chicago agency is also proactively working to build its expertise in the medium that it expects to one day supplant mobile - virtual reality.

    This week, SapientNitro's Chicago office demoed the work that it's doing across a variety of VR headsets, including Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and Oculus. Though the agency is exploring a handful of VR projects with its clients, they're currently focused on simply familiarizing themselves with and mastering the technology.

    "If you're not building, you're not an expert," says Zachary Jean Paradis, SapientNitro Chicago's Director of Innovation Strategy. "So we're building VR environments."

    For example, SapientNitro has built The Apartment, a virtual reality environment simulated after a SoHo boutique retail store. When "inside" the detailed virtual realm, individuals can discover and learn about new items and furniture in a hip, inviting setting, as well as add products directly to a shopping cart. The Apartment is designed to be an immersive shopping experience and showcase the opportunities within VR for SapientNitro's clients.

    "It's important for us to identify emerging categories and invest heavily in them," adds Jean Paradis.

    SapientNitro believes that virtual reality is the next "new mass industry" for a couple reasons. First, the industry now has accessible, affordable production systems, like the Nokia OZO and GoPro's VR rig, enabling people to more easily create virtual reality content. Second, the market is about to be flooded with a variety of consumer headsets within the next year, including the Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR. And third, publishers, brands, and studios are committing to the space.

    "From Disney with the Star Wars trailer to Apple Music, you're seeing some of the biggest companies in the world lining up to make it in virtual reality."

    And that's exactly why SapientNitro is hustling to get ahead of the curve. Earlier this year, the agency announced a partnership with Sixsense, a leading VR tech platform. Together, they've worked on a number of environments, including a virtual showroom for women's shoes. At SapientNitro's demo, they showed off another virtual space that allowed users to play with and test consumer drones.

    For SapientNitro, the aim is to turn themselves into experts, rather than waiting for the expertise to come to them. (In a similar vein, the agency has transformed their Chicago office into a lab for instrumented intelligence in order to learn how brands can use data that's gathered from sensors). In other words, SapientNitro expects virtual reality "to be huge" and they want to be experts before their clients come to that realization, too.

    "A lot of big brands got caught flat-footed with the web and mobile," says Jean Paradis. "Nobody wants that to happen again and that's why they'll be paying attention to virtual reality."




    Originally published on

    • Brands Look Far and Wide for a Niche in Virtual Reality

      POSTED ON: Nov 15, 2015

  • Brands Look Far and Wide for a Niche in Virtual Reality

    Even in virtual reality, it seems, there will be no escape from advertising.

    The Oculus Rift, which is owned by Facebook, won’t be available until early next year, but many of the two billion consumers worldwide who own smartphones can already try out virtual reality on the cheap with Cardboard, a device from Google that folds into a viewer with a slot for a smartphone. As more devices come to market with the aim of making virtual reality more commonplace, advertisers and agencies hope virtual reality will be the next great medium for persuading consumers to buy stuff.

    For now, marketers are producing mostly eye candy in their own apps and on YouTube’s #360Video channel. But with virtual reality movies, shows and stories coming soon, the question is what kind of ads, if any, will work on the platform.

    Companies including Coca-Cola, Volvo and HBO are struggling to figure that out. So are publishers like Facebook, which introduced 360-degree ads on Thursday, including video ads from AT&T, Nestlé and other brands. The first obstacle is that it is not yet clear what kind of programming besides games will catch on in virtual reality to provide a place for that advertising.

    “There’s lots of spectacle, but I can’t name one great story in VR,” said Ben Miller, director of content development at WEVR, a virtual reality entertainment and technology firm in Venice, Calif. And without a clear consensus on what sort of content will succeed in virtual reality, it’s difficult to predict what form the advertising will ultimately take. Success in the new medium will depend on finding the equivalent of the 30-second TV spot or the digital search ad.

    Like juiced-up View-Master toy stereoscopes, virtual reality headsets such as the Rift allow viewers to navigate three-dimensional videos and animations. The 360-degree images and sound shift with the user’s head movements, tricking the brain into reacting as if it were all real.

    Very real. In one scene of a virtual reality video shot for the outdoors retailer the North Face by the production house Jaunt, mountain climbers leap off a sheer rock cliff in Moab, Utah, before opening parachutes.

    “VR is a way to create intense moments and rich, enveloping experiences that can help bolster a brand’s story,” said Adrian Slobin, global innovation lead at the digital agency SapientNitro. It also accommodates old-fashioned branding, like the big North Face logo that hid Jaunt’s 360-degree camera rig in the video.

    In April, the luxury denim designer 7 For All Mankind, Elle magazine and Jaunt produced a minute-long impressionistic vignette of a model walking around a French chateau. It was intended more to let the brand bask in the reflected glow of the shiny new technology than actually show off its spring line. “We were, like, ‘Wow, how cool and exciting and new — we’re in,’ ” said Barry Miguel, 7 For All Mankind’s president.

    The main event, though, will be advertising that occurs inside other virtual reality content. Samsung, maker of the Gear VR headset, which is due this month, has announced a virtual reality video service for which David Alpert, an executive producer of “The Walking Dead,” plans to create a fictional series.

    Newspapers and magazines are also dabbling in the medium; late last year, The Des Moines Register created a virtual view of an Iowa farm. (The New York Times distributed free Cardboard viewers to more than a million subscribers this month to support a mobile virtual reality app and a virtual reality film about children displaced by war.)

    One option for advertisers is to go native. TV commercials can certainly be annoying, but as miniature shows they fit naturally into the medium. A 360-degree video that Gatorade released this year, for instance, would be welcome on a virtual reality sports channel. The video puts viewers inside the computer-graphics-enhanced body of the Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper. They hear his thoughts whispered as he takes pitches at the plate before hitting a home run over a fence bearing Gatorade’s logo and tag line.

    The most effective ads will probably be interactive, because there is no multitasking while wearing a headset. MediaSpike, which creates in-game product-placement ads, has demonstrated an ad for virtual reality games that lets viewers drive a car through a city and stop to watch a movie.

    Another option is to provide utility. Several carmakers have created virtual test-drive apps that would make compelling ads. During a commercial break for, say, “Days of Our Lives,” Tide could provide hands-on laundry tips if the virtual reality setup included touch sensors.

    Many advertisers will slap old tropes and formats onto the new medium. No one will be surprised to see 30-second TV spots shot in 3-D or food chopper infomercials on Sunday-morning VR-TV. They might even work. But for how long? Today, the banner ads that have sustained thousands of online publishers have become so annoying that millions of people are installing software to block them entirely.

    Thomas A. Furness III, international director of the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington and a pioneer in the world of virtual reality, said using this technology was “like writing on the brain with indelible ink.”

    Some in the advertising industry suggest there is an opportunity for a fundamentally new approach in what will be the most intimate medium yet. In virtual reality, brands will need to make their own leap into the unknown.


    Orriginally Published on The New York Times

    • Virtual reality marketing goal is to build stronger ties to consumer

      POSTED ON: Oct 31, 2015

  • Virtual reality marketing goal is to build stronger ties to consumer

    SapientNitro dedicated two rooms at Minneapolis office to develop experiences for clients


    Instead of looking at a picture of a dress online, the new age of marketing would have a woman step into a virtual world to see how it looks on her, how it flows — and even meet the designer who made it.

    Virtual reality marketing is blossoming, and marketing firm SapientNitro considers a new tool for retailers to add in reaching consumers.

    “We think that virtual reality is the next wave of experience that marketers and retailers and anyone who has a brand and wants to connect with consumers have to explore,” said Adrian Slobin, vice president and global innovation lead at SapientNitro.

    SapientNitro’s Minneapolis office has two rooms dedicated to trying out the technology.

    One room offers a virtual reality experience that takes people to a nice New York City apartment with items people can experience and then buy. “The Apartment by the Line” earned the company a “Best in VR-AR as Advertising and Live Event and Installation” award earlier this month from Digital Hollywood.

    “The intensity of the experience is really what is interesting to us,” Slobin said. “People start to think of the experience as the brand … not the slogan as the brand.”

    Sixense, a company that partners with SapientNitro, has set up virtual reality situations where people can use an Oculus Rift, grab a drone off a shelf and fly it around. They are creating different scenarios that give people the “try before you buy” experience.

    Dave Hopkins, director of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management’s Enterprise Program, said his students have worked on research projects related to the application potential in the entertainment industry.

    “What it does at the end of the day is it can enhance the experience and create associations with a particular product or brand that could enhance selling,” Hopkins said.

    Slobin still considers this the Wild West days when it comes to using virtual reality as a marketing tool. He said it is not as expensive as people might think, and massive advancements in technology continue to make it more affordable.

    Slobin believes some of the forays into the VR space will fail and others will be successful.

    “It is not going to destroy the brick-and-mortar store,” Slobin said. “It is not going to eliminate mobile shopping. It is not going to eliminate the Web. It’s going to be one experience that retailers are going to have to stitch into a true omni channel offering for their consumers.”


    Originally published on

    • Did You Leave Advertising for a Few Years? Here's the Painful Truth About Getting Back In

      POSTED ON: Oct 28, 2015

  • Did You Leave Advertising for a Few Years? Here's the Painful Truth About Getting Back In

    SapientNitro begins pilot program for 'Returnships'


    By Tim Nudd

    Have you left the advertising business for an extended period of time, perhaps to have a family or take care of a loved one? You might not find too many sympathetic hiring managers when you want to come back. They may well consider your prior experience, and your current skill set, to be out of date.

    In fact, your job interviews might look something like this:




    But now, SapientNitro is launching a "Returnship" pilot program in Toronto and New York, aimed at helping professionals who have left the workforce for a while and are facing barriers to re-entry in a system that places value strictly on work experience.

    The Returnship is a 10-week, paid program for creative, technology and advertising professionals looking to refresh their careers and re-enter the workforce. "With this pilot, we aim to learn more about how to support these seasoned candidates on their path back to making an impact at work, whether that be full or part time," the agency says.

    SapientNitro debuted news of the program at the 3% Conference in conjunction with 3% and New York agency General Assembly, which gave a UX scholarship to the inaugural pilot candidate.

    "A gap in your résumé shouldn't make you career invisible," the agency says. Read more about the program at


    Originaly Published on AdWeek

    • Publicis.Sapient Acquires Minority Stake in Artificial Intelligence Company Lucid

      POSTED ON: Oct 15, 2015

  • Publicis.Sapient Acquires Minority Stake in Artificial Intelligence Company Lucid

    Publicis Groupe division will launch new AI practice as part of the deal


    Publicis Groupe is making a bet on artificial intelligence as a tool to help marketers better navigate a changing digital landscape.

    Publicis.Sapient, a division of ad holding company Publicis Groupe focused on digital technologies, has taken a minority stake in AI company Lucid. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    With the Lucid investment, Publicis.Sapient will also launch a new AI practice that will leverage tools that help aggregate data, look for trends within the data and identify causal information behind those trends to help ultimately improve clients’ marketing strategies.

    “Through our partnership with Lucid, we can deploy transformational solutions to uniquely enable our clients to analyze and glean insights from data to gain a competitive advantage,” said Alan Herrick, chief executive of Publicis.Sapient in a statement.

    The rise of new digital platforms has provided brands with a plethora of data about their campaigns and customers. However, it remains a daunting task for many marketers to draw connections across different data sources and use that information to improve the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. To better serve their clients, big ad holding companies have been ramping up their investments in the areas of data and technology.

    “We believe that artificial intelligence is going to be a transformative technology both on the marketing industry as well as the other industries that Publicis.Sapient is focused on,” said Josh Sutton, the global head of Publicis.Sapient’s AI practice.

    Lucid’s Cyc platform has been designed over the past 30 years to analyze vast data sets and reason like a human, meaning it can provide answers to why decisions are made and not just identify correlations within the data.

    Among the AI practice’s focus areas will be applying causal reasoning AI technologies to marketers’ media buying decisions, Mr. Sutton said. Publicis.Sapient can, for example, determine from various data sets the granular details about what types of people have started to purchase products from a given brand in the past three years. It will then tap Lucid’s Cyc platform for insight into the reasons why those customers starting choosing that brand. As a result, the marketer can then use those insights to tweak the creative in its ads to better address those purchase decision triggers and optimize the placement of those messages, Mr. Sutton said. The partnership with Publicis.Sapient marks the first time Lucid will be developing marketing-specific products.

    Publicis.Sapient’s new AI practice also aims to deepen the use of AI technologies to tackle business challenges within the financial services, health care and energy sectors, industries that Lucid has previously worked with. Lucid CEO Michael Stewart said the company initially began working with Publicis.Sapient because of the group’s client relationships in those sectors as well as its marketing services expertise.

    Lucid’s past work includes creating a compliance investigation application that helped a global bank avoid potential regulatory penalties and building an application for a global oil company that increased yields on its deep-water platforms.


    Originally published on

    • ‘You’re a fan 365 days a year’: Inside the Miami Heat’s app strategy

      POSTED ON: Oct 08, 2015

  • ‘You’re a fan 365 days a year’: Inside the Miami Heat’s app strategy

    The Miami Heat wants you to be thinking, talking and breathing basketball — whether you’re watching them play or not.

    This week, the Miami Heat launched a new app that the company is hoping will change the way highly engaged fans interact with the team — both when they’re on and off the court.

    “When we sat down with SapientNitro and started to chart the source of this product and project, I kept saying, ‘I need this to be an everyday experience,” said Michael McCullough, chief marketing officer at Heat. The idea was to create an app that fans would open every day. “If you’re a fan of the Heat, you’re a fan 365 days a year,” he said.

    Two years in the making, the brand took cues from how fans interact with them on social media to create the app. For example, the team noticed that fans were interacting with them during the off-season and when games weren’t playing. Then, they noticed spikes before game day as well. “So what we needed was an always-on app that enhanced the Heat experience,” said McCullough.

    The homepage of the app will offer different content depending on the user’s location, time of day and if the Heat is playing or not. Also, it has three modes that offer up information depending on what kind of user you are: someone who loves stats, someone into social media and photos, or someone who likes a bit of both.

    The app is turning engagement into actual sales by letting fans buy tickets and merchandise on the app itself, and a mobile wallet that lets people buy food or drinks at concessions stands inside the arena using their phones. “When it comes to fan behavior, you can’t narrow preferences down to one thing; there’s not one type of fan or one thing they want to do,” said Joey Wilson, vp-business lead at SapientNitro. “You have to open a world of possibilities.”

    For sports fans, games have turned into experiences — and the teams increasingly need to keep them engaged whether they’re watching them live or following along from home. Unmetric, the social analytics firm, crunched some data for Digiday comparing the Heat with its direct division — Charlotte, Orlando, Atlanta and Washington. It showed that the Heat had the largest fan base and the largest engagement across social media and has the largest “share of likes” among its competitors.

    On Twitter, the brand has more than 3 million followers. Content runs the gamut: Vines showing key plays and behind-the-scenes photos from team practice. On Facebook, where it has 16 million followers, the content is similar, with a higher concentration of videos.

    Clearly, it already has the rabid fan base, so the trick now is to translate that into ticket sales and get those fans to watch the games. Inside the app, also, fans can find curated social media streams and can interact with the team on Twitter or Facebook.

    The big challenge for any sports brand trying to digitize fan experiences is to know when to stop. McCullough said that walking the line between entertainment and distraction is very important. That’s why the app is selective about when it serves up content like video — most games are available to be watched if you have a cable subscription on the app, but it won’t necessarily re-play every single dribble or pass if you’re actually in the arena, so as to keep fans’ eyes on the court.

    “You need two hands to clap,” said McCullough. “And you can’t do that if one of those hands has a phone in it all the time.”


    Originally published on Digiday

    • Why Your Company Needs to Hire a CMTO

      POSTED ON: Sep 27, 2015

  • Why Your Company Needs to Hire a CMTO

    How to define and recruit the right tech-marketing leader

    By Sheldon Monteiro

    When they were in college, your CMO and CIO did not have the same major. Their first jobs out of school were probably not the same, and no decent hiring manager would consider them for the same position today.

    Yet here we are, increasingly asking them to do one another's jobs.

    As marketers depend more and more on technology to connect with consumers in an always-on world, and as IT is increasingly responsible for creative executions, the boundaries between CMO and CIO are rapidly blurring. Consider the now-famous prediction from Gartner analysts Laura McLellan and Michael Smith that "by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO." As we approach that date, their forecast seems less and less far-fetched.

    This is not a bad thing. Consumers today want seamless brand experiences. They want to move fluidly among a company's advertising, its shopping platform, its social media and its customer service. This means that marketing and IT must learn to work more closely together. Leading organizations are centralizing accountability for investments in marketing technology by establishing a newly created executive position: the chief marketing technology officer.

    They are introducing this person either as a fully decorated member of the executive team or, more commonly, as accountable directly to the CMO, with close to the full mandate of a CIO or CTO. Ten years ago, the CMTO position didn't exist, but lately it's become something of a hot topic.

    As important as departmental alignment is, the CMTO charter is not to bring technology to marketing. There are plenty of application vendors who are happy to do that on their own, selling to the CMO.
    What, then, should the CMTO charter be? This person's most important work focus is to change marketing, customer experience and IT—including what those functions do and how they work together—in service of creating competitive advantage.

    Three meta-trends fuel this charter. First, empowered consumers demand seamless brand experiences. Second, connected martech systems, built in thoughtfully organized layers, are replacing stand-alone products as enablers of competitive advantage. Third, organizations must consider how they go about transforming their entire businesses for a digital world, rather than digitizing a piece of them or adding limited digital revenues as an adjunct.

    Despite excitement around the CMTO role, the ambiguity as to who these individuals are, the skills they possess and where they sit organizationally has led to considerable confusion. To help us understand the state of martech talent, SapientNitro conducted a first-of-its-kind study of marketing technologists' skills, career paths, attitudes and behaviors.

    The results are striking. For example, we discovered six distinct professional archetypes, differing in background and competencies and which, consequently, are not equivalent or interchangeable.

    Organizations in search of the best person to steward marketing technology through a period of profound disruption need to define the role more specifically than simply as "marketing technologist."

    But regardless of how each organization defines the CMTO, there is, without question, an enormous industry skill gap to fill these roles. In 2013, SapientNitro decided to do something about it and created CMTO University. Each year, up to 20 of our best technologists—talented people who are already in the business of creating beautiful experience platforms and e-commerce systems—spend an entire year learning to become full-fledged marketing technologists.

    We've leveraged the best thinkers from across our agency and from every discipline, including business strategy and branding, research and analytics, creative and interaction design, experience and enterprise technology, and data management and data science.

    This program takes a three-pronged approach to creating these hybrid individuals. First, CMTOs should be immersed in the business and culture of marketing and advertising, understanding concepts like segmentation and positioning, ROI and NPV, branding, media and mix modeling. Second, they should be exposed to the vast and ever-expanding marketing technology landscape, its categories and evolving vendor landscape, and advanced practices in software and product life-cycle management.

    Lastly, they must possess the influence and management skills to foster cross-department collaboration. If they're going to break down silos, they must be able to speak to and influence people coming from different backgrounds.

    To move beyond ads, we need people who can see around corners, paint the big picture and allow customers to experience brand stories through integrated story systems. We need to move beyond thinking in terms of channels and platforms.

    The truth is, employees rarely come equipped with that breadth of perspective, or the charisma to evangelize it.

    It's up to us to grow our talent.


    Sheldon Monteiro (@sheldon_tm) is CTO of SapientNitro and founder of SapientNitro CMTO University.
    This story first appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of Adweek magazine.

    • Can Virtual Reality Become a Mass Marketing Play?

      POSTED ON: Sep 21, 2015

  • Can Virtual Reality Become a Mass Marketing Play?

    By  Nathalie Tadena

    For a marketer, virtual reality technology can bring consumers to faraway places, add an immersive element to a product demonstration or bring a new experience to life.

    While such virtual reality campaigns can offer visually stunning experiences – Gatorade and Ocean Spray are among the brands that have recently incorporated the technology — for the most part they have limited audience reach.

    “It’s so far from scale is the real reality,” said Deutsch North American Chief Digital Officer Winston Binch. “For the optimal experience you need an extra piece of hardware… and that’s a pretty big barrier.”

    Virtual reality has gone through multiple hype cycles over the years, but the technology has elevated its profile in the last two years as big technology companies like Samsung, HTC and most notably Facebook make massive investments in the space.

    Facebook, which acquired virtual reality company Oculus Rift for $2 billion last year , is working on a stand-alone video app that would support 360-degree videos, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Though development of the app is still in early stages, the Journal reported, the app could help extend Facebook’s presence in virtual reality beyond the headset and bring the technology to a wider audience.

    Facebook’s move could also propel increased adoption of virtual reality for marketers.

    “Some [clients] are waiting for a bit more of a broad audience to reach through 360 video or other virtual reality experiences,” said Adrian Slobin, managing director and digital strategist at SapientNitro, a digital agency.

    Most of SapientNitro’s clients that have a significant consumer-facing presence are in experimental stages with virtual reality, but none have gone all in on VR quite yet, Mr. Slobin said.  Right now, “the play is really to create a wow factor,” when it comes to doing something with virtual reality as opposed to racking up impressions, he added.

    Agencies also face production hurdles when it comes to creating virtual reality campaigns. SapientNitro, for example, is investing in the equipment, software and talent to shoot, produce and edit 360-degree video.

    “The real barrier is creating an immersive, worthwhile experience that doesn’t get people sick and is produced well,” Mr. Slobin said. “Stitching together video is no easy task.”

    A mobile video app for 360-degree, or “spherical” videos, however, would give consumers a taste of the virtual reality experience that a headset would provide. Such videos compile footage from multiple cameras and allow viewers to watch the video from multiple angles. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the social network would support video in its news feed. Google’s YouTube has also enabled advertisers to use 360-degree ads, a format the video giant says will help better engage mobile users.

    “What that spherical capability really allows for is a more immersive, emotive experience around a piece of content,” Mr. Binch said.  “That’s going to be something that scales faster than deep virtual reality.”

    To date, virtual reality has been used as more of a one-off kind of marketing play and few brands have yet to invest heavily in the technology for a big campaign.  Few people have access to their own virtual reality technology and Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset, along with other similar technology, won’t be available for consumers until next year.

    “There isn’t a lot of [client] demand for virtual reality right now because consumers don’t have the headset yet,” said RPA’s senior vice president of growth and innovation Tim Leake. “Virtual reality is built to be a storytelling and experience medium, that’s what’s really exciting about it.”


    Originally Published on The Wall Street Journal


    • How technology can add sparkle to the cosmetics industry

      POSTED ON: Sep 11, 2015

  • How technology can add sparkle to the cosmetics industry

    Cosmetics brands could unlock growth by using digital in new ways, enabling experimentation and self-expression


    The beauty industry is worth an estimated $20bn and continues to grow at a rate of around 3% per year, mostly through geographical expansion and the knock-on effect of rising gross domestic products (GDP) across the world. However, while some industries are thriving in the digital age, it could be said that beauty merely survives.

    Despite the analogue nature of the lotions and potions that enhance our external appearance, technology is becoming the key to unlocking exponential growth for this industry. There are three key ways in which it can be harnessed.

    Breaking the tangibility barrier

    Currently, digital only really helps to supplement rather than grow sales in the beauty market, since digital purchases are often discount or replenishment purchases, rather than first, or experimental purchases. Despite this trend, it’s possible that there’s a future where technologies like augmented reality (AR) and face-mapping could transform the way consumers discover products.

    A good example of this is Maybelline, which trialled an AR nail app that allows users to discover new nail shade combinations at home. Within the next year, we will start to see more sophisticated AR technology that could allow consumers to digitally discover and trial products in new ways that feel tangible enough to drive new purchases.

    This technology will impact on self-serve in retail outlets that comprise of walls and walls of products. Shoppers are currently offered little guidance or assistance to select what they need. AR creates the possibility of a seamless and tailored sales process that takes customers on a journey of discovery, which will have huge implications for the beauty sector and its rate of growth.

    Smart personalisation
    Technology will also lend a helping hand when targeting first-time buyers. According to make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, 50% of women in the UK don’t use makeup. With so many primers, pots and potions available on the market, category apathy is alarmingly high for this segment. Tapping into those potential customers who aren’t actively using or buying products would lead to significant growth for the beauty industry.

    In this vein, YouTube and the 14.9bn beauty-related videos that exist on the web have certainly helped to aid education, but new technologies can further help brands provide a customised service, to help connect with a broader group.

    In the future, artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to analyse skin tone, type and texture, as well as eye shape, hair type and our colour and lifestyle preferences, pulled in from Instagram, Facebook and other social channels. Using all of these data points, brands would be able to automate the kind of tailored experience that consumers could previously only get from visiting a top make-up artist or stylist.

    Taking this idea further, software that recognises facial features, coupled with technology such as 3D printing, could offer consumers the ultimate made-to-match beauty service. Technology such as the prototyped Mink, a personal 3D cosmetics printer, can take identified skin tones and print the exact pantone onto foundations, blushers and lipsticks.

    Reimagining self-perception
    There is a level of personalisation that the industry needs to be able to replicate at scale, in order to cater to a mass market of potential consumers. However, what if we could do this at a genetic level, where we could select new products based on what fits with our physiology at a DNA level?

    From elaborate hairstyles designed to display wealth to make-up that highlights our best features, throughout the centuries, people have worked to shape their outward appearance to fit with their personality and identity. In today’s world, digital is forcing a new shaping of our identities since we spend as much time curating our online presence and appearance as we do our physical selves.

    Since the psychology of beauty is rooted in our identities, in the future it’s conceivable that brands will take the opportunity to own an entirely new space by taking the concept of the “curated self” and enabling people to bring this new reality into the physical world.

    It’s a long way off, but through bio-hacking – the process of bringing together technology and biological processes to optimise how our bodies work – we could effectively alter our physical selves using digital tools.

    The technology to do this is still years away as we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of what bio-hacking can achieve, and the ethics are still to be debated. However, the concept certainly opens up new opportunities for beauty brands to look beyond catering for women who want to look good and enabling everyone to own their identity on a much deeper level.

    Cosmetics brands could unlock major growth by using digital in new ways that enable more personal self-expression. At the intersection of beauty and tech lies the opportunity to give the category a complete makeover.

    Adriana Coppola is a strategist at SapientNitro


    Originally published on The Guardian

    • Be the Gryphon: How you can be a digital predator like Amazon

      POSTED ON: Aug 28, 2015

  • Be the Gryphon: How you can be a digital predator like Amazon

    The Gryphon is a mythological creature that has the body of a lion and the wings and head of an eagle. It has been depicted through the ages in art and classic literature. The Gryphon’s hybrid strengths and capabilities give it a powerful advantage over creatures existing in our ecosystem today. You can find out more at any good independent bookstore or, more likely, through Amazon.

    As a business metaphor, Amazon is a Gryphon. So, too, are Uber, Netflix and Airbnb – these more easily brought to mind as digitally oriented start-ups that have entered and disrupted their chosen categories at will. Perhaps because it is older, larger or more diversified, Amazon is often underestimated as an omnipresent, apex predator.

    We like to deal in specifics. The spotlight of media scrutiny is put back on Amazon when it accelerates the roll out of Amazon Fresh, because we can see the implications for the grocery retail sector. It snaps up the former Top Gear presenters for a new show for Amazon Instant Video, which we interpret as a signal for its intent in entertainment. Drones, drive-thru store trials? We see impending chaos in retail distribution.

    If you’re at ground level, peaceably grazing on the verdant abundance of one of these industry plains, the shadow of a Gryphon passing overhead will trigger the fight or flight reflex – although in truth you’re a little late to do either. If you’re looking up for the first time and seeing Amazon, your existential game is up.

    There are contradictions and controversies that come with such laser-focus on purpose, as was seen in the recent New York Times article on Amazon’s employer practices. They surfaced only a few weeks after Amazon shares exploded 15 per cent in after-hours trading following its last earnings release to as high as $567 per share after the company beat expectations on the top and bottom lines. Based on the after-hours spike, Amazon's market cap is now worth about $264bn. Wal-Mart is worth $233.5bn, making it the world’s largest retailer by market cap.

    Amazon is a business with a disruptive culture that challenges convention and brings with it both trials and extraordinary triumphs. It displays almost all of the characteristics that define a Gryphon organisation: from ongoing commitment to change and a digital core to visionary leadership, speed and agility, and customer centricity. One of the fascinations of Amazon-watching is not what it will do next, but why. Its actions are rarely as unpredictable as observers make out; its behaviours and characteristics can, in fact, be modeled and are replicable.

    To be a Gryphon is not about age or size, but about state of mind. Digital startups have it, but so too does Apple and Amazon. The next time you see Amazon make a play, the question shouldn’t be ‘how about that?’ but ‘how do we do that’?

    Nigel Vaz is global chief strategy officer and European CEO at SapientNitro. ‘Be the Gryphon: Transform Rather Than Be Disrupted’ is part of the SXSW PanelPicker vote.


    Originally published on The Drum

    • Virtual Reality Is the Next Frontier for Retail

      POSTED ON: Aug 24, 2015

  • Virtual Reality Is the Next Frontier for Retail

    Three Steps to Develop a Cohesive VR Experience

    By Adrian Slobin


    For some customers, the story behind a product can be almost as important as the product itself. Such was the case for one recent shopper at The Apartment by The Line, a luxury boutique specializing in home décor, clothing and jewelry, who decided to buy a neoclassical black opaline glass lamp after learning it was a one-of-a-kind French antique.

    The transaction would have been largely unremarkable except for one detail: This customer wasn't standing in SoHo browsing The Line's curated collection with a sales associate by her side. She was halfway around the world, interacting with a cutting-edge virtual display that used 360-degree video technology and a Samsung Gear VR headset to tour the showroom and learn more about the items she liked.

    Welcome to the future of retail, where brands are in the early stages of using virtual reality to create fully immersive, contextual experiences that reach beyond existing physical and digital channels to create a very new, and very real, type of shopping experience: v-commerce.


    Read the full article on AdAge

    • Piercing the algorithmic bubble: brands need serendipity to grow

      POSTED ON: Aug 12, 2015

  • Piercing the algorithmic bubble: brands need serendipity to grow

    With the world becoming increasingly predetermined by computers, pre-set ideas of what is popular and algorithmic learning, it is the responsibility of a brand to ensure serendipity prevails, says Neil Dawson, CSO at SapientNitro Europe.

    By Neil Dawson


    Serendipity is variously defined as ‘the occurrence or development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way’ and ‘the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident’. It is the art, or maybe the science, of delivering pleasant surprises. It is a powerful way of making people happy, making life richer, inspiring stories and advocacy, and creating new behaviours and preferences. For brands, this makes it a powerful engine for driving new users and loyalty.

    We all implicitly recognise this, and it has always informed the way brands behave, especially in retail where autopilot shopper behaviour is an ongoing challenge for supermarkets – as evidenced by the gorilla suit experiment in Sainsbury’s ‘Try Something New Today’ IPA Effectiveness paper. The challenge is that brand marketing is becoming increasingly (but unconsciously) biased against serendipity.

    Lazy brains
    This is the unintended consequence of the beneficial impact of the digital world where filtering for relevance has become ever more necessary to avoid our ‘lazy brains’ becoming overburdened by an abundance of choice. The evolution of the digital space in response to this has led to our experiences being increasingly pre-processed and personalised, whether via search or programmatic or customer experience management. Technology reduces the perceived wastage of traditional mass marketing. So we mostly get what we want (‘status quo relevance’) with minimum effort, but don’t know or get what we’re missing outside our own invisible personal bubble of algorithmic filters (‘new / potential relevance’). Serendipity is diminished.

    This is driven by a strong short-term commercial logic and may be a very efficient way of ‘fishing the pool empty’. But ultimately growth depends on extending reach and expanding the pool. And brands also risk foregoing the benefits of serendipity to enrich people’s lives and reap the rewards.

    The majority of a brand’s marketing should be ‘status quo relevance’ focused, but we need to understand and start developing ways of addressing the anti-serendipity bias that comes with it.

    Anti-serendipity bias
    This is an emergent problem and it’s mainly pure-play online service brands that are exploring the power of serendipity. One example is Spotify, which introduced a new approach to music discovery by acquiring Echo Nest, a music intelligence platform. Echo Nest combines multiple filters to analyse music on both an audio level and a cultural level. The former deepens our music discovery by giving us more of the same, while the latter broadens our music discovery.

    Hitlist uses Chrome extensions to offer serendipity in travel. Whenever you open the browser its Wandertab shows you a stunning picture from an amazing place as well as how much it costs to go there. There’s even a new company, Surprise Industries, ‘a community of Surprisologists’ passionate about offering surprises as a service to people. Their mantra is "we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but most alive when they’re not".

    Serendipity in its purest form may not be reproducible in the digital space. As soon as people start to ‘choose’ serendipity (e.g. shuffle music playlists), their experiences can no longer be seen, strictly speaking, as truly serendipitous. Nevertheless, it’s worth brands thinking beyond the ‘immediate relevance’ bubble to experiment with states of ‘controlled serendipity’.

    There are several ways of doing this. One solution is to filter only a certain percentage of our digital experience based on relevance (e.g. 80%), while the balance (e.g.20%) remains unfiltered and diverse.

    Another example is algorithmic. Instead of only filtering according to relevance, different criteria – such as whether something is ‘challenging’, ‘important’, or represents ‘other points of view’ – could be applied. These criteria can vary according to platform types and their purposes.

    Regardless of strategy, controlled serendipity can be valuable in ensuring that users are exposed to as many distinct experiences as possible, and commercially relevant in an overcrowded marketplace, where brands can only grow by attracting new users via unique, memorable and unexpected user experiences.

    It’s time for every brand to consider the anti-serendipity bias within their core activities, to ask ‘what’s our Serendipity Plan?’ And to then allocate an element of budget – say 10 or 20% – to support activities that make the algorithmic bubble permeable and promote the discovery and surprise that drives growth.


    Originally published on Marketing Magazine

    • As Mobile Video Ads Soar At Facebook, Big Brands Pile In

      POSTED ON: Jul 29, 2015

  • As Mobile Video Ads Soar At Facebook, Big Brands Pile In

    By Robert Hof


    Facebook’s second-quarter results today didn’t thrill investors, who knocked shares down more than 3% in after-hours trading. They don’t like to hear about an 82% jump in expenses to get revenue growth of half that much–even less so when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of the social network, says that spending won’t slow down much anytime soon.

    But advertisers were a different story–in particular, big brand advertisers like Procter & Gamble PG -3.99% and Under Armour UA +0.51% that are looking to reach people via the mobile devices they carry with them all the time. Mobile ad revenues shot up 74% from a year ago, considerably faster than ads overall, which rose 55% after taking out currency impacts, and it’s now 76% of ad revenue.

    In particular, Facebook is starting to become a must-buy for big brands that still spend the most on television, because it has the reach and the impact they want. Now, according to ad agency executives, they think Facebook is finally poised to capture more TV ad dollars that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has spent years pursuing.

    “We see Facebook at a core pivot point,” says David Hewitt, VP and mobile lead at the digital agency SapientNitro. “It’s now a safe bet to put a lot of money into.”

    In the last six to eight months, he says, brands have started to understand the reach Facebook has among smartphone users–some 844 million people each day. “It’s hard to get reach on mobile,” he says, but now “Facebook checks that box” in a way that few others online besides Google can.

    Another reason is that Facebook can run those ads in a lot of places besides just Facebook. Now that the company is operating a number of other distinct apps, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and its own Messenger app, advertisers have a wider choice of places to reach a broader range of audiences in unique ways. It also can run Facebook ads on other sites that are part of its Audience Network.

    Not least, advertisers like what Facebook is doing with video. In video ads that play automatically in people’s central news feeds, they have a format they know people watch (and that commands much higher prices for Facebook). “There’s an amazing amount of upside to video,” says Hewitt, enough to overcome what he calls “muscle-memory media buying” by big brands. Already, a few brands are crafting campaigns. At the Cannes Lions festival last month, Sandberg noted, some of the winners included Under Armour’s “I will what I want” created with the agency Droga5 and Procter and Gamble’s “Like a Girl” created with Leo Burnett.

    What’s more, Facebook is pitching advertisers on the ability to buy ads using the same measures they use for TV ads, according to a recent report. Indeed, the ability to measure the impact of its ads on product sales is another big reason Facebook has attracted advertising’s biggest spenders. One example Sandberg cited: Acura used Facebook video to launch the TLX, then showed “retargeting” ads when people who saw the video went elsewhere online. Using a Facebook service called Conversion Lift, she said, Acura could prove the ads drove car sales.

    For now, image advertising like on television is still likely a small part of spending on Facebook. Let’s not forget that a large chunk of Facebook’s mobile ad revenues still come from app install ads, which prompt people to download an app–more of a classic direct-response ad than the image ads brands favor on television and other media. But even app install ads are attracting big brands such as HBO too, according to Sandberg.

    Facebook isn’t alone in its pursuit of brand advertisers. “Google, for example, is rapidly building out audience targeting options, and has a ‘little’ video network of its own—YouTube—that is massively successful for advertisers and very effective on mobile,” says Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at the mobile marketing technology firm Fiksu.

    So far, though, Facebook appears to be more than holding its own.


    Originally published on Forbes

    • Facemapping the future: three ways technology is transforming the beauty sector

      POSTED ON: Jul 20, 2015

  • Facemapping the future: three ways technology is transforming the beauty sector

    There are three key ways that technology is already solving the tangibility problem in the beauty industry, says Adriana Coppola, planner at SapientNitro London specialising in beauty and skincare brands.

    by Adriana Coppola


    Newly appointed CMO Hugh Pile recently announced that L’Oreal’s core focus is "data and ecommerce" with an aim to increase ecommerce from 10% to 20% of total revenue, whilst testing out a new instant buy platform. Ecommerce has always been problematic for beauty brands. Unlike other consumer packaged goods, consumers prefer to physically go in store to purchase beauty products because they’re so personal: each shade or texture must be trialed because of how they differ person to person. So consumers have only ever really used ecommerce as a discount channel for repurchases, rather than a more lucrative discovery channel.

    This however, may be changing very soon, but before it can, brands need to break the tangibility barrier. There are three ways technology can do this, trial, discovery and mass customization.


    #1 TRIAL
    Facemapping is a technology system that can chart the many different contours of the face and use that data in conjunction with designs or animations to accurately map them onto the face for a hyper-real illusion. Beauty brands like Max Factor have wanted to use this for years, but the technology is only just starting to reach maturity.

    Last year, L’Oreal launched the revolutionary beauty tool, Makeup Genius that transforms smartphones into an interactive mirror. It’s an augmented reality product catalogue that lets people try on different products in real time, eradicating the need for physical interaction with beauty products.

    Facemapping and projection mapping technology are finally reaching maturity, becoming more accessible to brands, and the better it gets; the more consumers will look to use this technology as an everyday alternative. It could completely alter the current experience for consumers. Imagine seeing yourself in the same make-up worn by Jenifer Lopez in the L’Oreal ad. It would make advertisements and promotion a much more personal experience.


    Currently digital supplements, rather than grows the market. The purchases we make via digital are very considered, allowing for very little incremental growth. However, within the next year or so, we’ll see digital become a medium where we can discover products we’d not previously considered.

    Augmented reality nails projects designs and colors onto your nails, as a means of tempting customers to buy more. Maybelline has already begun trialing this in the form of an app, and within the next year we’ll start to see more sophisticated AR from major nail retail chains.

    For the beauty industry this technology could signify the end of self-service in retail – where shoppers walk into a store and are faced with walls and walls of products but little guidance or assistance. Sophisticated AR has opened up the possibility to create service and discovery around products both on and offline, which will have huge implications for the industry.

    Predictive technology will take the idea of service and discovery even further. It will be able to analyze our skin tone, type and texture, eye shape, hair type, and our preferences pulled in from Instagram and Facebook. Using these data points we’ll be able to automate an experience which consumers would have only previously received from a top makeup artist or stylist, democratizing beauty and empowering consumers.


    There is a growing demand for cosmetics more bespoke to consumers’ needs. This is currently met with products such as the new Cover FX Custom Cover Drops, which provide consumers with pure pigment to mix with other products to create their own bespoke base. Eyeko has also produced a ‘bespoke mascara’ which offers 23 different wand types. This is certainly something that technology will address in the future.

    Last year Grace Choi took TechCrunch Disrupt by storm with the Mink printer, founded on the insight that consumers need to turn to high-end brands to get the best color selection. The printer lets users choose any color on the web or reality and, using simple pre-existing software, print that color into a blush, eye shadow, lip gloss or any other type of makeup. Choi is currently working on her prototype which could take up to five years to perfect.

    Tech specialists are finalizing plans to let you design, produce and wear your own bespoke makeup formulations using 3D printing. We will be the creative directors of our own make-up brands. Although this technology is only a glimpse into what the future of the beauty industry holds, brands may choose to offer consumers special cosmetic inks and base products for them to mix themselves as opposed to presenting the consumer with a selection of finished products.

    Tangibility is the biggest barrier to the beauty industry’s success at the moment, and is currently the bottleneck to digital transformation. Technology presents beauty brands with the opportunity to lead the category: not only allowing them to grow their e-commerce sales, but to completely revolutionize the brand experience and the future of the beauty industry with digital.


    Originally published on

    • Brain trust: Is disruptive advertising dead?

      POSTED ON: Jul 20, 2015

  • Brain trust: Is disruptive advertising dead?

    Three industry experts respond to the question, “Is disruptive advertising dead?” in the latest edition of our regular Brain Trust, this time on the theme of ‘disrupt’.


    Ash Farr, CEO, McCann Australia

    Disruptive advertising is not dead, but your brand will die without it. That’s because disruptive ideas are the new norm in advertising. In today’s environment of media fragmentation and multi-screening – where you can’t just buy eyeballs anymore – you have to disrupt or you’ll be ignored.

    As consumers, we are now wired to look for disruptions – it’s what excites us and it’s what engages us. Constant brand launches, product iterations and technological advances have conditioned us to take incremental innovation as a given. No one ever said, “I love that it is now 10% better.” In the same vein, Triple Choc Tim Tams are not a disruption. True disruption creates excitement. The disruptive innovation that has transformed our lives is the ultimate proof point. Think Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, Netflix, Uber, Dyson, Sonos, Tinder, YouTube. It’s interesting to note that most of these successful companies were not the first to market – they became the dominant players through disruption. Did I forget to mention Google?

    As far as disruptive advertising goes, Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign is a great example. It was disruptive because it was highly engaging and participatory, and we’d never seen anything like it when it launched. However, attempts to repeat this and make ‘Share a Coke’ a platform were less successful because repetition is not disruptive.

    Our own ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ was disruptive, the original ‘Compare the Meerkat’ campaign in the UK was disruptive, as was the work for the Shreddies breakfast cereal brand in Canada, which took the same squares of wholegrain wheat and repackaged them as diamond-shaped. Pure genius.

    Jaguar’s recent high-wire stunt in London, in which a stuntman drove the latest Jaguar XF on two 34-millimetre diameter wires suspended high above the River Thames, is also disruptive advertising at its best.

    Disruptive doesn’t need to have tangible value, but it does need to shift attitudes or behaviour and ultimately make the brand more relevant.

    The message? Be disruptive or face a slow death.


    Ben Sharp, managing director Australia and New Zealand, AdRoll

    The current blend of Mad Men and Math Men in advertising is allowing disruption to flourish, more now than ever.

    Consumers expect brands to be highly engaging and provide them with personalised content directly. The marketers’ challenge is to keep content disruptive, but not interruptive. Encouraging your audience to participate with your message, and not actively avoid it, is not an exact science, but with a combination of knowing your customer (or potential customer), understanding timings and excellent creative, it is achievable.

    In this era of unprecedented technology development, marketers need to understand what technology to use in order to keep a competitive edge. Consumers are no longer spending all their time on a dedicated device. Reaching these customers across devices with greater levels of efficiency and scale will only become more important, especially as native advertising continues to evolve.

    We’re constantly seeing new business models emerge to disrupt the ad space, through blending tech with highly targeted messages and creative to the right person, at the right time in the right context. Offline media channels such as TV, radio and outdoor will start to have more of an influence and heavily disrupt their markets. We’re already seeing some grumblings here, with some agency trading desks starting to investigate these options.

    The traditional offline media owners will most likely resist this for as long as possible – we initially saw a huge reduction in CPMs (cost-per-milles) online with the development of new technology and greater levels of transparency. An open auction format such as RTB (real-time bidding) would significantly impact offline business models. This is absolute disruption – potentially not all that positive initially.


    Marcos Kurowski, vice president and managing director, SapientNitro Australia

    Disruption has never been more important and it’s being fuelled by technology. Consumers – people like you and me – are becoming desensitised to the relentless barrage of ‘advertising’ we are constantly exposed to. Attention spans are shorter, and consumers when given the choice will often skip ads altogether. Some brands have tried to combat this through one-off disruptive ads, viral videos or even crazier stunts.

    But those brands that have really nailed marketing themselves in the digital age have done so because they’ve recognised three things: traditional advertising is dying, disruption is a long-term strategy and it’s being fuelled by technology. Technology is key here; brands that have embraced technology are leading their categories in the most innovative ways. For example, Nike disrupted the entire sporting category through the creation of the Nike Fuel Band – moving from a brand selling sportswear and shoes to a brand that is now symbiotically tied to tracking people’s fitness and lifestyle. It’s resulted in more sales for Nike and created a brand at the forefront of health and fitness.

    Apple has similarly always recognised the importance of technology in disrupting the marketplace, moving from selling well-designed computers to the creation of iTunes, which has evolved into an entire ecosystem, allowing millions globally to buy, sort, share and listen to entertainment across multiple devices.

    It’s not just ‘sexy’ brands that are embracing technology either. The latest disruption is happening to the car insurance industry. Companies are now installing devices in customers’ vehicles that monitor driving behaviour. Drive well and your premiums are lower; drive badly and you pay more. Again, more policies are sold, because technology is allowing for a much more personalised insurance rate.

    My advice for brands: embrace disruption through technology because that’s when you’ll find things get interesting.


    Originally published on

    • How VR can change the shopping experience

      POSTED ON: Jul 08, 2015

  • How VR can change the shopping experience

    By Evelina Lye, Head of Marketing at SapientNitro Asia Pacific.

    Wherever you are in the world, imagine for a moment.

    You’re being transported to the streets of New York City, it’s summer. It’s hot. It’s busy. You gaze at a high-end boutique apartment and moments later you’re inside browsing the gorgeous interiors on offer. In the living room a chaise lounge draped with a sheepskin throw sits by the window adorned in sunlight; walk around further in the cool and airy studio space and you spot a series of crystal chandeliers hanging above a solid wood dining table all neatly set for dinner; in the bedroom a lady models a pair of stylish designer trousers perfect for the summer heat. On closer inspection a female voice and typeface screen informs you where the trousers are made, whom by, material and washing instructions. You love it all. You tap. You purchase. They’re yours. Nice work.

    No longer confined to the imagination, SapientNitro has made this virtual reality shopping experience very real. Partnering with The Line luxury boutique and utilising a Samsung Gear VR headset shoppers are able to enter, browse and shop at the brand’s The Apartment, Manhattan boutique from anywhere in the world. I just happened to be at the Cannes Lions Festival in a penthouse in the South of France.

    Too often we buy an item online only to be disappointed by its shape, colour, size. VR can change all that. By wearing a headset you can see items in real life-size proportions, in the context of yourself, space and room around you. The promise is ultra seductive; it turns the flat ecommerce experience into a panoramic masterpiece and changes a customer’s entire online shopping experience by putting them at the heart of it. “Yes please,” retailers are crying. Who are understandably excited about showcasing their goods through the technology and experimenting with a very unique brand engagement.

    So, will we be shopping solely through VR in the future? No, not for a while at least. The point of VR is not to replace the walk-in store (we’re a while away from that), think of it instead as a spectacular side dish to accompany a great main. VR shopping adds an extra dimension to retailers’ existing channels; physical brick and mortar stores and the web.

    The vision for VR is ambitious, research and aggressive prototyping is already underway to improve the experience, evolve and scale. Google Cardboard has, attempted this by encouraging interest and development in VR and VR applications through simulating the experience in a low-cost cardboard cut out and mobile phone app. How virtual shopping might evolve to include simulation touch, improve user experience, and how valuable it could be to the retail industry still remains to be seen.

    One thing is for certain however, the experience of wondering around in my own private New York boutique, with an impressively intuitive stylist and a pair of chic designer trousers in my VR shopping basket has got me reaching for my credit card.


    Originally published on Digital Market Asia

    • In Cannes, Advertisers Try On Digital

      POSTED ON: Jun 26, 2015

  • In Cannes, Advertisers Try On Digital

    Ad-industry gathering becomes a showcase for wave of new technologies and platforms



    CANNES, France—In an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean, Jerri DeVardstrapped on a high-tech Samsung Electronics Co. headset Wednesday morning. The chief marketing officer of burglar-alarm company ADT Corp., wasn’t playing a game but rather taking a virtual tour of a trendy store in New York’s SoHo.

    The exercise on the sidelines of the Cannes Lions advertising festival left Ms. DeVard thinking of ways to incorporate virtual-reality technology to make her own brand’s advertising more “emotional” and “immersive.” Perhaps, for example, prospective customers could walk through a virtual house where ADT could demonstrate home-security issues.

    “This kind of technology allows you to bring the consumer into the experience,” said Ms. DeVard. “When I can see it and feel it, it helps you sell.”

    Ms. DeVard was among the throng of marketers who descended on the shores of the French Riviera for the industry confab, now in its 62nd year. Their mission: To sip rosé, party on yachts and—hopefully—learn something to help cope with the technological changes upending the $531 billion global advertising business.

    The ever-growing list of digital advertising platforms promises to give brands more options and control over their messages, and a way to reach elusive young audiences. But the multiplying possibilities also can be overwhelming.

    At Cannes, marketers learned of new smartphone-specific ad formats for Facebook; were counseled on the power of “vertical video” ads on phones; watched demos of a digital-image projection system from Microsoft (think Princess Leia hologram from “Star Wars”); and digital agency SapientNitro demonstrated Samsung’s virtual-reality technologies.

    Agencies whose main skill has long been crafting 30- or 60-second TV commercials are now expected to churn out six-second Vine videos for Twitter, to formulate silent ads for Facebook’s auto-play videos, and to create branded virtual-reality experiences.

    “Digital has changed our industry completely,” said Maurice Lévy, chief executive of advertising giant Publicis Groupe. “If you don’t change you are out of the picture.”

    Meanwhile, new-media companies like Vice Media and BuzzFeed are encroaching, showing how they can serve at least some of the functions of agencies, such as creating branded content.

    “I like the fact that competitors are pushing us,” said Mr. Lévy.

    Teaming up with digital gurus is one option. Ad giant WPP PLC, for example, is one of the partners in Truffle Pig, a joint venture Snapchat Inc. announced on Tuesday. The venture, which also includes the Daily Mail, will create for clients content such as vertical video, which is meant to be shared on social media.

    The new venture potentially could compete with WPP ad agencies, which are also trying to position themselves as creators of sponsored content for brands, but WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said the change should be embraced. “At some point in time, you do cannibalize what you have,” he said. “I believe in eating your own children.”

    Vice announced a tie-up with digital scrapbooking site Pinterest Inc. aimed at creating branded video content for Bank of America Corp. Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp said his company has started a division called Pinsight Labs, through which a team of strategists analyze data from its platform to find insights for brands and other partners to help inform their marketing efforts.

    “What’s happening now is partnerships you’ve never seen before” said Vice Chief Executive Shane Smith during a panel session on Thursday. “You have new alliances forming.”

    Marketers are putting a premium on the ability to unearth data about consumers to improve ad-targeting. Hundreds of attendees stood in a long line for the seminar “The New Engine of Creativity: Data Science,” where executives from Coca-Cola Co. and Louis Vuitton described how they are using location data to help them create ads that are more relevant. For example, Coke could send an ad to a mobile device that promotes a nearby restaurant selling Coke.

    Marketers say ad agencies aren’t the only ones who have to adapt—the media companies and publishers that sell ads do, too. And all sides need to have a firm grasp on the technologies now at their disposal. “Usually it is when you take your agency and bring them together with the best publishers and the most sophisticated ad tech that you get what you really need for your brand,” said Shiv Singh, global head of digital and marketing transformation at Visa.

    The technological takeover of Cannes—between ad technology firms, data nerds and the would-be moguls of the new media world—isn’t sitting well with everyone. Some industry veterans are nostalgic for the days when creativity of ads towered over the plumbing systems of digital media.

    Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and partner of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, bemoans the fact that the ad business is no longer about doing things that are “big and famous” but instead dominated by “content delivery systems,” and “astonishingly targeted things that chase us all down like wild dogs.” According to Mr. Goodby, Cannes is now more like a “industrial roofing convention” than a festival of advertising creativity.

    Some executives said creativity hasn’t lost its edge, despite the appearances. “We can talk about digital, we can talk about new media, we can talk about fragmented media,” saidMichael Roth, who heads ad holding company Interpublic Group of Cos. “But in the end, creativity makes it all come together and really is the secret sauce to what we do.”


    —Mike Shields contributed to this article.

    Read on

    • VIDEO: Tinder CEO Reveals The Mystery Behind Swipe Right at Cannes

      POSTED ON: Jun 26, 2015

  • VIDEO: Tinder CEO Reveals The Mystery Behind Swipe Right at Cannes

    In the video interview, Sean Rad, founder and president of Tinder, explained the marketing strategy, as well as the math and science behind the swipe.


    Tinder is gaining popularity among Millennials, as well as brands that want to target the group of 18-to-34-year-olds. Its success can be ascribed to one thing: the swipe.

    A social network built for dating, Tinder has been used by Millennials "obsessively" to find potential matches, according to Sean Rad, the company's founder and president. In order to monetize its growing user base, the app introduced its first ad last year, which was a promotional video for Bud Light.
    Meanwhile, Tinder tapped into native advertising in the form of promoted profile. On average, this type of campaign can achieve a more than 20 percent swipe-right rate, Rad said at Cannes.

    The effectiveness of Tinder's advertising products lies in the swipe that gives users full control over their experience. Since users can make a decision by simply swiping left or right, brands are less likely to be perceived as annoying or interruptive when they serve ads on the platform.

    "The beauty of Tinder is that users can control their experience," Rad said. "For users who haven't opted in to hear a brand, the experience is fine, because they can simply swipe [an ad] off. There's no hostility towards that brand."

    The swipe is far more complicated than it looks. "People think the swipe is just a simple directional motion. But there's actually so much math and science going behind the physics of the swipe. And we are constantly improving it and tweaking it," Rad said.

    How can brands leverage Tinder to target Millennials? What are the thoughts and decisions behind the swipe? Watch the video interview with Rad to hear what he had to say.



    Video Credit: SapientNitro
    Additional Reporting: Yuyu Chen

    Originally published on ClickZ

    • Cycling Campaign for City of Buenos Aires Takes Press Grand Prix at Cannes

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2015

  • Cycling Campaign for City of Buenos Aires Takes Press Grand Prix at Cannes

    The Community Creates Fun Illustrated Ads to Promote 24/7 Service

    The Community's campaign for the City of Buenos Aires Public Bike System has won the Grand Prix for Press at Cannes.

    Many big cities now boast public bicycle systems, including Buenos Aires. Unlike most major metropolises, however, the Argentine capital's bike program ran from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm -- until recently. This year, the service became 24/7, so to promote the news to city dwellers, The Community (formerly known as La Comunidad) debuted this fun, illustrated print and OOH campaign, "Never Stop Riding." To demonstrate the non-stop nature of the program, it personifies the wheels of a bike as familiar "partners" in a chase: a baby and a breast, a dog and its tail and a squirrel and a chestnut. The campaign was created out of La Comunidad's U.S. office.




    Originally published on Creativity-Online


    • Apple, TBWA Take Outdoor Grand Prix for Billboards Featuring Users' iPhone 6 Photos

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2015

  • Apple, TBWA Take Outdoor Grand Prix for Billboards Featuring Users' iPhone 6 Photos

    Grey New York and The Community win gold

    By Tim Nudd


    CANNES, France—Apple and TBWA\Media Art Lab won their second Cannes Grand Prix in three years here tonight, topping the Outdoor Lions category with their iPhone 6 billboards featuring photos taken by actual iPhone users.

    Apple found photos it liked from 162 users from around the world and created outdoor boards of their work. In all, the campaign featured more than 10,000 installations in 73 cities in 25 countries. Apple called it "the largest mobile photography gallery in history."

    Check out the case study below for more.

    Grey New York and The Community won gold and silver for the U.S. for campaigns that have already been honored in other categories. Grey won for its States United to Prevent Gun Violence client, while The Community won for its Buenos Aires bike ads—which took home the Press Grand Prix on Monday.

    Agency and client also won a Grand Prix in Press in 2013 for their ads on the backs of magazines showing their covers at iPad size.

    —Other U.S. Outdoor Winners

    • Grey New York for States United to Prevent Gun Violence (gold, silver)
    • The Community Miami for the Buenos Aires Public Bike System (gold, silver)
    • Red Fuse Communications New York and Y&R New York for Colgate (silver, two bronzes)
    • R/GA New York for the Ad Council's "Love Has No Labels" (silver)
    • Alma DDB Miami for Green Works (bronze)
    • BBDO New York for Snickers (bronze)
    • David Miami for Burger King (bronze)
    • Conill Saatchi & Saatchi Miami for Toyota (bronze)
    • AKQA San Francisco for Jordan Brand (bronze)

    Published on AdWeek

    • Tinder Founder Says More Than 20% of Users Swipe Right on Brands

      POSTED ON: Jun 22, 2015

  • Tinder Founder Says More Than 20% of Users Swipe Right on Brands

    Sean Rad looks to hook up with advertisers at Cannes

    By Garett Sloane

    CANNES, France—Sean Rad, co-founder of Tinder, is the face of modern dating. His app is responsible for billions of potential love matches, all based on a rather simple concept: swiping right.

    The term has gone mainstream—to "swipe right" means you have explicitly endorsed someone or something. So you can see how brands would want to get in on the swiping action in the context of millennial dating.

    Rad is at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to help the company make its first big push into the ad world, an environment Tinder is only just becoming acquainted with.

    But what a courtship it's been so far.

    "We have what we call Promoted Profiles, so brands can create profiles in Tinder, and we promote them," Rad said, during an interview after his first public talk in Cannes on Sunday. "Users can match with these brands when they swipe right, and what we've seen sort of consistently when we've done this is an over 20 percent swipe right rate, which is amazing engagement."

    So when early advertisers like Bud Light or the movie Spy post profiles, more than 1 in 5 Tinder users swipe right to match with them and open the way for the ability to share more content with  consumers.

    Rad said Tinder ads work best when they're sharing exclusive content and offers. There are also video ads, which Bud Light and Orbitz have bought, and the completion rate on them is "leaps above" rival mobile video ad offerings, Rad said.

    Tinder said it was not ready to reveal more meaningful numbers behind the success of video ads. The company, owned by digital publishing giant IAC, also hasn't ever stated how many active users there are on the app, only that there are billions of matches, and of course some users can be responsible for hundreds of those.

    Rad did say there is wide global audience, and that the average user spends 11 minutes a day swiping and texting through Tinder.

    The company has ambitions that are perhaps more broad than dating. At its core, it's a people discovery app that could theoretically introduce more than potential lovers.

    Rad said Tinder is in the process of patenting the swipe right, too. "We're filing to get a patent on basically swiping in any direction to perform an action, which covers swiping right or left, up or down, any direction."

    Asked whether Tinder would introduce "swipe up," and what for, Rad avoided answering, but it's clear he has ideas in mind for more swiping and more advertising. While there's no swipe-up feature today, Rad said, "there might be a reason" for one in the future.

    The Tinder co-founder, also former CEO, was at Cannes holding talks with digital marketing companies like SapientNitro.

    "What we can learn from Sean and Tinder is how to connect with an audience," said Sapient CMO Bill Kanarick. The company is hosting events at a penthouse overlooking the Croisette in Cannes, a place to invite influential tech leaders like Rad.

    "We are learning about the rate at which people are able to consume content versus in the past," Kanarick said, identifying one key characteristic of today's consumer. "That's an interesting consideration for an advertiser."

    There's an immediacy and speed about Tinder, where users have split seconds to engage with a potential date before they get swiped to the left. The same action is forcing brands to consider how to attract consumers there.

    "The beauty of Tinder is that it's an environment where the user is in control," Rad said. "If you don't want to see something, you can easily swipe left."


    Originally published on AdWeek

    • U.S. Wins Press, Mobile and Direct Grand Prix on a Dreamy First Day in Cannes

      POSTED ON: Jun 22, 2015

  • U.S. Wins Press, Mobile and Direct Grand Prix on a Dreamy First Day in Cannes

    The Community, Google and Grey New York each top their categories

    By Tim Nudd


    CANNES, France—U.S. advertising is off to a flying start at this year's Cannes Lions, with The Community, Google and Grey New York each winning a Grand Prix in separate contests here tonight, as prizes were awarded in the festival's first four categories.

    • Press Grand Prix
    The Community (formerly La Comunidad), the Miami agency owned by SapientNitro, rode off with the Press Grand Prix for its fantastically illustrated ads promoting biking in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition to the Grand Prix, the campaign also won two gold Lions.

    The surreal, playful ads brought to life the idea of a never-ending chase. The four executions honored tonight showed moths pursuing a light, a dog chasing its tail, a baby going for a breast and a squirrel seeking an acorn. The ads, with a hand-drawn typeface, appeared in magazines and on posters, subway walls and street billboards.

    The client was the Buenos Aires Public Bike System, which started in 2010 with just three bicycle stations and an average of 100 trips per day but has grown to more than 200 stations and 11 million trips per year.


    • Mobile Grand Prix
    Google topped the Mobile category for Google Cardboard, the simple virtual reality platform it developed featuring a fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone.

    The pleasantly low-tech do-it-yourself VR starter kit can be bought online starting at just $15, a staggeringly low entry point compared to professional headsets like Oculus, truly. democratizing the space.


    • Direct Grand Prix
    Grey New York earned the top prize in the Direct Lions for its Volvo campaign around the Super Bowl titled "The Greatest Interception Ever."

    Instead of running a Super Bowl ad, Grey did a social campaign for the automaker—urging viewers to tweet #VolvoContest when any car commercial did air during the game and nominate someone to win a new Volvo XC60.

    • Other U.S. Press Winners
    Young & Rubicam New York for Land Rover (two silvers, bronze)
    Conill Saatchi & Saatchi for Crest (bronze)
    FCB Chicago for Copic (bronze)
    BBDO New York for Sneaker Freaker magazine (bronze)
    The Community for Buenos Aires blood donation (bronze)

    • Other U.S. Mobile Winners
    R/GA New York for Equinox (gold, silver, bronze)
    R/GA New York for Hammerhead (gold, silver, bronze)
    FCB Chicago for "The Unforgotten"/Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (gold, silver)
    Grow in Norfolk, Va., for EA Sports Madden Giferator (gold, silver)
    R/GA New York for LISNR (gold)
    The ALS Association for "The Ice Bucket Challenge" (gold)
    R/GA New York for Owlet Baby Care (silver, bronze)
    Eric Mower + Associates in Charlotte, N.C., for Domtar's "Project Learning Curve" (silver)
    Wieden + Kennedy New York for Gap's #SpringIsWeird (silver)
    R/GA New York for Logitech Harmony App (two bronzes)
    BBDO New York for Lowe's #TapThruHowTo Vines (bronze)
    BBDO New York for Foot Locker's "Horse With Harden" (bronze)
    Elastic in Santa Monica, Calif., for HBO Game of Thrones "The Sight" (bronze)
    BBDO New York for the American Red Cross and's "" (bronze)

    • Other U.S. Direct Winners
    FCB Chicago for Kmart and Joe Boxer's "Joe Boxer Inactivity Tracker" (gold)
    The ALS Association for "The Ice Bucket Challenge" (gold)
    Grey New York for Volvo's "Interception" (gold)
    R/GA New York for The Ad Council's "Love Has No Labels" (gold, two silvers)
    David in Miami for the Proud Whopper (two silvers, bronze)
    Grey New York for States to Prevent Gun Violence's "The Gun Shop" (silver)
    The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., for Geico's "Unskippable" (two bronzes)
    BBDO New York for Foot Locker's "Horse With Harden" (bronze)
    Leo Burnett Chicago for Allstate's "Social Savvy Burglar" (bronze)


    Originally published on AdWeek

    • Dunkin' Donuts 'Summer Chill' by SapientNitro

      POSTED ON: Jun 09, 2015

  • Dunkin' Donuts 'Summer Chill' by SapientNitro



    David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox and Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski may play different sports, but they have teamed up for Dunkin' Donuts. 

    The two athletes lend their vocal talents to a collection of songs themed around summer and Dunkin' Donuts' iced coffee.
    Videos for the songs will roll out through the summer, with social media promotion via quirky images featuring Big Papi and Gronk. The materials cary the whismical asethetic seen in the video with tongue-in-cheek jokes like "best album ever."

    The quirky campaign comes just after the donut company unveiled a vision of the future: donut delivery.

    Advertiser                   Creative type

    Dunkin' Donuts                Digital

    Agency                        Sector

    SapientNitro                    Fast food



    United States


    Originally published on Campaign Live

    • Marketers, Creative Ad Execs Adjust to Video Ads With No Sound

      POSTED ON: Jun 08, 2015

  • Marketers, Creative Ad Execs Adjust to Video Ads With No Sound

    By Mike Shields


    It’s never been easy for advertisers to get people to pay attention to them. It’s even harder when millions of people literally can’t hear their commercials.

    But in a world where Americans are consuming more and more Web video on mobile phones, or in Web environments where video ads play without sound–particularly on Facebook –brands and top creative executives are having to adjust quickly.

    Over the last few months, they have been radically rethinking the way they produce video ads. Besides adjusting to the soundless environment, they’re also figuring out ways to grab people’s attention much faster in social and mobile feed based environments — an imperative in the digital world where consumers can easily scroll past content with a flick of a finger.

    “We talk about this all the time,” said Mike Haynes, global digital marketing manager at Ben & Jerry’s. “Over the last six months it’s picked up.”

    Mr. Hayes said his company has begun producing video ads that aim to communicate just as well without sound, such as a recent set of ads featuring close ups of ice cream brands accompanied by on screen text, as well as a video featuring a pint of ice cream trapped in a slowly melting block of ice.

    Ron Amram, senior media director, marketing, Heineken USA, said executives at top digital media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all consulting brands on this new reality, and why ” you need to focus on that first three seconds” of a video ad, he said.

    That means adopting very different creative strategies compared to those employed in classic 30-second TV commercials, which are shot assuming most viewers are watching a full screen experience with the sound turned up.

    But in feed environments on mobile phones, “you’ve got someone scrolling over the thing, and you’ve got to grab him by the throat quickly,” said Adam Wohl, executive creative director at the agency mcgarrybowen. “On TV, you can let things play out.”

    To that point SapientNitro Worldwide Chief Creative officer Gaston Legorburu said he’s been holding classes for his agency’s creative executives that focus on this new sound-off reality. That’s a reality that is not always easy for classically trained creative executives to embrace.

    “Things like the delayed product reveal, the slow ad payoff, that stuff just doesn’t’ work anymore,” he said. “Now you have to think, how do you make this unskippable, which is really hard to do.”

    Sound at the start of TV ads is often a crucial signal for a spot’s tone, said Lincoln Bjorkman, global chief creative officer at Wunderman. “I used to be able to play that “Jaws” music for you at the start of an ad and tell you to be scared,” he said.

    Now brands need new tactics. One new rule of thumb Heineken has learned: if you have a celebrity, show them right away. That’s something the beer brand has used to great effect with stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Stewart–faces that should stick out in news feeds–but faces you may save for a few seconds in a TV ad to keep the element of surprise.

    “It almost feels like they reversed the order of how you shoot ads for video,” said Mr. Amram.

    Mark D’Arcy, chief creative officer of Facebook’s Creative Shop, generally agrees. “If you have LeBron in your ad, don’t wait until 34 seconds to show him.” Facebook has been actively counseling brands how best to advertise using Web video without sound.

    “We are definitely moving away from disruption to discovery in video ads,” he said. “The burden of interest is on the creator.”

    But with that burden comes great freedom and possibility, Mr. D’Arcy says. Video ads on Facebook can run much longer than 30-seconds. And autoplay video carries unique creative possibilities, he added, citing “cinemegraph ads” that resemble those newspapers from the “Harry Potter” movies to a recent campaigns from Burberry and other marketers that features still images that incorporated subtle motion.

    “That’s a really beautiful thing that autoplay enables,” he said.

    And it’s not just Facebook. Autoplay ads are said to be coming to Twitter. Many people regularly consume Snapchat videos without sound. And of course, lots more Web publishers are automatically streaming videos without sound.

    Mr. Amram thinks that media companies are actually ahead of brands on this revolution. In fact, BuzzFeed mentioned how the lack of sound is influencing how it produces both video content and ads at its recent NewFront sales event in New York.

    According to Ze Frank, president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, the company has built out a group focused on developing “post literate” video content, centered on motion and visuals, particularly well suited for international audiences.

    “In linear, interruptive world, you borrow from aesthetics around you, which is why TV ads are like mini movies, min sitcoms,” he said. “In social streams, that adjacency doesn’t exist, so the old tactics could be quite jarring. You need different types of strategies.”

    That doesn’t mean that such strategies shouldn’t disregard sound altogether. Some brands, like Capital One, are trying to prompt consumers to turn their sound on, including a recent video featuring actress Jennifer Garner knocking on a person’s screen, causing a volume graphic to appear.

    “If i do my job right. they’ll turn it up and listen,” said Mr. Bjorkman.


    Originally published on The Wall Street Journal

    • CMTO University teaches marketers about tech (and vice versa)

      POSTED ON: Jun 08, 2015

  • CMTO University teaches marketers about tech (and vice versa)

    The title ‘chief marketing technology officer’ itself defines the challenge of the position. CMTOs come from either the technology side or marketing side and often don’t have a firm grasp of the other discipline. That's where CMTO University comes in.

    By Tom Kaneshige


    There's a new breed of tech buyer working inside marketing departments and influencing purchasing decisions in the hottest enterprise tech market today. This buyer balances the needs of intuition-driven marketers with data-driven technology, speed with due diligence, vendors' lofty promises with technology realities.

    And this buyer, often called the chief marketing technology officer (CMTO), is struggling.

    he reason is that the CMTO comes from either the technology or marketing ranks and doesn't have a firm grasp of the other discipline. The position is so new that formal channels of higher education, such as colleges and professional training institutes, haven't gotten around to creating CMTO programs.

    Enter SapientNitro, a marketing consultancy and technical services provider and division of Sapient Corp. Last year, CTO Sheldon Monteiro created at CMTO University within SapientNitro. The program is designed to tap internal expertise, industry experts and educational providers. The inaugural class of 13 SapientNitro technologists spent a year of intensive study, which included weekend work and global travel. This year's class has 20 students with backgrounds in technology. All had to go through a rigorous admissions process. talked with Monteiro about his ground-breaking CMTO University. How did the CMTO University start?

    Monteiro: We saw a tremendous amount of dialogue about the need to have professionals sitting at the marketing-technology intersection. While there was a lot of tongue wagging about the need for this role -- and, frankly, a lot of recruitment -- there was slim pickings. It's a very new discipline. There aren't academic programs from universities really addressing this space. People who jumped into this space were essentially motivated because they found themselves having to wrap up their own skills.

    In January this year, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan observed that 81 percent of organizations now have the equivalent of a chief marketing technologist. Companies are actually standing up this function. I asked Laura, 'How many of these are actually successful?' She said, 'Maybe a quarter of them are successful, while the rest are struggling in some way.'

    I think they're struggling due to a lack of preparedness of the talent itself, because as I said the role didn't exist. The convergence of story and technology is something that all organizations have realized they need to do, and so they're putting people in these roles -- prepared or not. This is a shame. We could be grooming this talent, because we have all the domains in-house to teach the core content. And so we stood up a program. A SapientNitro study found that CMTOs come from all sorts of backgrounds. How do you go about crafting a program?

    Monteiro: People can come at it from different career backgrounds. Depending on your background, you need to level up on different topics. This isn't a case of majoring in one area and minoring in another. To be fully able to bridge the gap between technology and story, you need to feel like a native in both. You cannot be uncomfortable in a conversation that goes across the two sides.

    You need preparation that really matches your background, your gaps. CMTO University focuses on taking technologists who've already had a number of successes with customer-facing technology of significant scale. There's a very rigorous admissions process where we're looking for stellar on-the-job performance, client references, and internal sponsorship. Can you describe the CMTO University program?

    Monteiro: From a curriculum standpoint, it focuses on three broad categories. One is the breadth of marketing and advertising from a business standpoint. This starts all the way from real marketing fundamentals and marketing history to branding schools of thought to advertising and advertising history to different kinds of media marketing, mixed modeling. A whole slew of topics. Second area of focus is marketing technology. There are roughly 31 topics ranging from enterprise architecture to putting together marketing technology blueprints to Internet of Things to physical computing.

    Perhaps the most transformational one for people is the influence-communication (category), and where we work on their attitude and disposition, really driving them towards fearlessness. We focus on storytelling skills and speaking to different audiences, so they're able to walk into the CMO's office or the CIO's office and present to them.

    Let me be really specific on this: If you come from an IT background, you have been beaten into submission that you are to reduce risk and do things in a manner that leverages experiences from the past. CIOs always ask the question, 'Where have you done this before? How can I be sure it will be delivered when you say?'

    These are very important questions, but the reality is that it means you're going to do what everybody else has already done. In a marketing context, you're trying to create differentiation. You're trying to innovate. You're trying to break boundaries for the benefit of your brand and your customers. You still need to value reuse, but you also need to value intuition. You need to connect those two worlds. Graduates are able to push new kinds of thinking and working in the course of their work with clients, influencing a broader set of stakeholders, connecting the dots of creating new ideas and convincing others to take risks. Is this an online studies course?

    Monteiro: No. We use a combination of different techniques. We have four in-person intensives, which are four to five days long depending on the intensive. We hold these in different cities around the globe, bringing the full batch of students. There are group projects, weekly assignments and discussions through an online collaboration tool, semi-weekly virtual classroom sessions held over the weekend, and presentations.

    During the first interim, the period between the first and second intensives, we have a core technology presentation. This is where each of the students must pick a technology, which fits within the curriculum and is not familiar to them, and use their storytelling skills that we imparted during the first intensive to really tell the story of this technology. Then we provide active feedback.

    We culminate the program with a conference, which will happen at the end of July in Delhi, India. Each of our students will present on their marketing technology topic (similar to a thesis) to a 300-plus audience consisting of peers, recruits, media. It's essentially exercising the skills acquired during the course of the program. Chief marketing technologists are in hot demand, good ones anyway. Are you worried they're going to leave upon graduation?

    Monteiro: It's a good question. We invest over seven figures in this program annually. We put 15 to 20 of our people through it. At the end of the day, you have to have an employee value proposition where people want to work for you. Not training them to really be the best they can possibly be is kind of short-sighted. Of course, this always remains a risk just as it remains a risk with any one of our crazy, talented folks that we have within the agency.

    There's this (business parable) floating around the Interwebs: A CFO asks the CEO, 'What happens if we train these people, and they leave?" The CEO retorts, "What happens if we don't train them, and they stay?'


    Originally published on

    • The 6 faces of chief marketing technologists

      POSTED ON: Jun 03, 2015

  • The 6 faces of chief marketing technologists

    Marketing now must be well-versed in customer data, analytics, mobile, social and marketing automation tools. Who's going to lead this dramatic and critical transformation? Enter the chief marketing technologist – or chief marketing 'technologists'.

    By Tom Kaneshige

    The chief marketing technologist
    Technology has body slammed the marketing profession, turning a black art into hard science. Marketing now must be well-versed in customer data, analytics, mobile, social and marketing automation tools. Who's going to lead this dramatic and critical transformation? Enter the chief marketing technologist, a hybrid role bridging the diametrically opposed worlds of marketing and tech.

    Here's a look at six types of chief marketing technologists from a SapientNitro survey, which also found that four out of five companies have someone in this role (such as a CIO reporting to the CMO). Interestingly, SapientNitro found that chief marketing technologists are evenly split coming from marketing and technology disciplines.  

    Marketing mavens
    One out of four chief marketing technologists are really marketing mavens. That is, they are marketing experts trying to add tech know-how. These folks fancy themselves as marketing strategists, business consultants and customer experience pros, not so much marketers involved in the daily operations. The downside, of course, is that their technical acumen is probably weak.

    Content curators
    Digital marketing content has become the currency of the modern marketer. Some of these content creators and curators will rise to become chief marketing technologists. At the end of the day, marketing tech is about delivering the right content at the right time to the right person. Content marketers have considerable expertise in digital asset management platforms.

    Media and marketing analyzers
    A few chief marketing technologists have a marketing background as market analyzers. According to the SapientNitro study, this group has skills in research, consumer insights, strategic segmentation and connections planning. It makes sense that the most analytical marketers will become chief marketing technologists.

    Data divas
    Technologists with the most marketing chops logically make good chief marketing technologists. These are data specialists with projects in marketing operations, CRM, data science, analytics and data modeling. They are the managers of big data from which marketing gleans actionable customer insights. As marketing becomes more data driven, data divas already have a leg up to become chief marketing technologists.

    Infrastructure architects
    Marketers lacking tech skills often buy marketing tech without considering the big picture, unknowingly creating the dreaded Frankenstack. This handicaps marketing's ability to serve the customer down the road, let alone break things today. It may take years to fix the marketing tech stack. That's why infrastructure architects are often anointed chief marketing technologists to ensure a well-designed stack.

    Experience engineers
    Technologists working on tech that touches the customer, such as e-commerce and mobile tech, can become chief marketing technologists. After all, they know more about the customer and how technology affects the customer experience than anyone else in IT. They can help marketers better leverage technology at these critical touchpoints.

    Color of money
    Whether the chief marketing technologist has a marketing or tech background, there's one thing everyone can agree on: the color of money. The role of the chief marketing technologist is absolutely critical to the success of the company. Marketing tech is all about the almighty customer experience, and a chief marketing technologist is paid accordingly. According to Mondo Resourcing and Staffing Agency, a chief marketing technologist's salary ranges from $140,000 to $241,000.


    Originally published on CIO

    • Ad of the Day: Winter Narrates Mournful Letters to Summer in Corona's Evocative New Ads 'Let's get together'

      POSTED ON: Jun 01, 2015

  • Ad of the Day: Winter Narrates Mournful Letters to Summer in Corona's Evocative New Ads 'Let's get together'

    By Tim Nudd


    Corona Extra's new campaign from SapientNitro agency The Community will resonate potently in certain parts of the country—the ones that were blanketed by snow for months on end this past winter.

    The spots are narrated by Winter, who writes letters of complaint to Summer, which end up being more like love letters. The approach is sort of hokey, and there's nothing particularly breakthrough about the imagery, either—it's a step above stock. And yet the elements combine into a surprisingly evocative snapshot of the season, and a dreamy reminder of how it's all the more magical because it's long awaited and short lived.



    The copy is playful, and the gruff voiceover has just the right amount of charm. The product is nicely incorporated, too, and is cast as the beer of Summer. Indeed, the tagline, "Always Summer," suggests it's beyond Winter's reach entirely. That's a fun twist on the brand's "Find Your Beach" idea. And it's nice to see actual beaches in the brand's advertising at a time of year when you don't just have to imagine them.

    The best Winter can do is bring the ice.

    Client: Corona
    Agency: The Community
    Chief Creative Officer: Jose Mollá & Joaquin Mollá
    Creative Director: Rodrigo Butori
    Art Director: Aaron Willard
    Copywriter: Aaron Zimroth, Matias Blazevic, Ibon Iraola
    VP of Integrated Production: Laurie Malaga
    Senior Producer: Julio Rangel
    Account Director: Maryanne Dammrich
    Account Associate: Daniel Gergely
    Account Executive(s): Sophia Gonzalez
    Account Coordinator: Erika Rivera
    Production Company: Partizan
    Director: John Dolan
    Director of Photography: Alex Lamarque
    Executive Producer: Sheila Stepanek
    Head of Production: Jennifer Gee
    Producer: John Benet
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    Originally published on AdWeek

    • Ad Tech And The Customer File: State Of The Courtship

      POSTED ON: May 28, 2015

  • Ad Tech And The Customer File: State Of The Courtship

    By Ryan Joe


    If MediaMath co-President Mike Lamb has his druthers, the convergence of ad tech and marketing tech – the industry’s current inescapable narrative – will manifest in two ways.

    The first is beginning to happen: a set of integrations that advertisers or their agencies can use to clip together their paid media platform to their marketing tech platform.

    The second manifestation is way cooler: a button built into a marketing tech system that, toward the end of the campaign workflow, enables the seamless purchase of media based on budget and marketing goals.

    But while that type of deep integration is technically possible, it’s not happening quite yet for a number of reasons – many cultural, some technological and some around data governance. After all, connecting the anonymous data sets in ad tech with information about known customers can be a delicate dance.

    The culture clash between ad tech and marketing tech, which a few years ago seemed to be the main inhibitor, is starting to dissipate for reasons that have already been discussed. To recap: Marketer needs drive this merging because they want to understand the entire customer journey, and ad tech vendors are aware that they need to change the way they communicate their value to marketing tech providers. At the same time, technologies like DMPs enable data sharing across different tech systems and communication channels.

    Dan Salmon, managing director at BMO Capital Markets, pinpointed Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai in 2014 as the real catalyst. To be clear, BlueKai’s acquisition wasn’t an industrywide ah-ha moment for ad tech. Many vendors, like Turn, were predicting the confluence well before Oracle made its move. (Turn has partnerships with Adobe, Marketo, IBM ExperienceOne, SAP Hybris,, Kenshoo, Maxymiser, Monetate and Optimizely.)

    However, the acquisition indicated the acceptance of ad tech from a sister industry that had previously been resistant.

    “That was a major enterprise software company making inroads with advertising tools,” Salmon said.

    MediaMath’s Lamb also looked at this moment as a watershed: “Oracle, whether they knew it or not, was getting into ad tech businesses with BlueKai and Datalogix. They both just happened to look like data businesses.”

    Oracle, for its part, acknowledges that the BlueKai acquisition was a major push into the ad tech ecosystem, though its head of product marketing, Chris Lynch, said the company is still “early in the process” and just beginning to see converged ad tech/marketing tech use cases develop. The Datalogix buy, he added, pushed Oracle further down that path by providing the capabilities to connect online media buying and marketing activity to offline buying.

    And there’s been a lot of partnership activity since BlueKai went off the market. Marketo has hooked up with LinkedIn, Rocket Fuel, Turn and MediaMath. MediaMath just announced a slew of API connections with marketing platforms like Oracle’s Eloqua and IBM’s Digital Analytics, Interact, SilverPop and Tealeaf applications.

    Meanwhile, Oracle rival Adobe, which nurtures its own ad tech partnerships, in March debuted its search-centric Media Optimizer application as a bona fide demand-side platform.

    It’s possible that all this partner activity stems from independent ad tech vendors setting themselves up for acquisitions, especially as the industry has lost investors’ favor. Elgin Thompson, managing director at Digital Capital Investors, noted that Oracle partnered with Datalogix right before purchasing.

    “Ad tech pipes have to integrate with other pipes, or the system breaks,” he said. “It makes more sense than not that your acquisition partner will generate from an existing business relationship.”

    Or these partnerships might simply signal tech vendors trying to add value to their products. Building a stronger business certainly makes one a more attractive acquisition target – but it’s also necessary to thrive independently in a hypercompetitive industry.

    Whatever the reason behind this dating activity, there are still a few issues that could send the stakeholders into couples therapy. Gartner research director Martin Kihn noted in a column that ad tech and marketing tech players traditionally haven't understood the value of each others' solutions. That’s clearly changing. But Lamb pointed to another disconnect: Marketing tech favors licensed-based business models while ad tech tends toward spend-based models.

    Despite Gartner’s prediction that by 2017 CMOs will have bigger tech budgets than CIOs, marketers still think in terms of media budgets.

    “[CMOs and agencies] have an established history of paying for the technology that enables that media spend out of the media budget,” Lamb said. He anticipates marketing tech vendors will also accommodate the business models that the ad tech vendors favor.

    If marketing tech vendors want to go beyond the CIO or CTO, they’ll need to serve the bulk of the CMO’s budget, which is often paid media. And if the ad tech levers in a marketing cloud are pulled by the media agency, the percent-of-spend model is definitely going to apply.

    Even with these consolidated systems, Oracle’s Lynch noted that marketing tech is still generally controlled by digital marketers, while the ad tech still tends to fall under the purview of the head of advertising or media agency.

    Of course, even this configuration is changing. “We’re starting to see heads of digital technology,” he said. “Groups that are a liaison between the marketing and IT organization. It’s a complex project because there are three core stakeholders, and you’re bringing in data from all over the enterprise.”

    Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia said these combined systems are mostly a brand play. “It’s the brands who see this immediate value and promise,” he said. “It doesn’t live with the agencies, which are just execution arms. All of the customer data sits with the brands.” Of note: Marketo sells directly to brands.

    So does all of this movement indicate a major shift in the way marketing is executed?

    Sheldon Monteiro, CTO at Publicis Groupe digital agency SapientNitro, is skeptical. For one, he’s not certain whether the narrative around the ad tech/marketing tech conflation is born of reality or hype.

    He’s also not certain when these integrations will pay dividends.

    “Do I believe we’ll see a lot richer contextual experiences 12 or 18 months from now? We’ll see incremental improvements,” he said.

    It’s admittedly hard to find proof points.

    As Lynch pointed out, there aren’t yet a lot of converged ad tech/marketing tech use cases, and certainly not many public ones. Vendors will quietly mention a few cool deployments or allude to impressive business results, but getting clients to talk is notoriously difficult. Turn has a posted case study about collaborating with Marketo for 3 Day Blinds and has spoken about its hooks into Kraft’s proprietary marketing stack.

    But in general, it’s still a mystery how well these integrations actually work. Vendors might say they’ve developed APIs that latch onto different platforms, but these connections have varying qualities. Does data flow both ways? How quickly does it flow? What sort of data is made available to each system?

    “There’s varying degrees of sophistication in terms of what you want to do,” said Matt Westover, Turn’s product marketing lead. “Sending in pre-built segmentation at a user level and automating it, via a real-time event stream, is relatively simple.”

    A more complicated connection might be something that affects bidding strategy. Say a car insurance company, which already runs lookalike targeting through the platform, wants to add an extra factor. The company knows that customers in Illinois are statistically more profitable than customers from Florida. “It’s not that they want to target just Illinois, but they’ll have a slightly higher bid based on that narrow geoset,” Westover said.

    Few clients, however, are doing anything that complex. “These are really early days in this,” Westover explained. “The bulk of people, I’d say 95%, are still getting a lot of mileage from the simple segmentation.”

    But SapientNitro’s Monteiro indicates the ad tech-marketing tech connections are still on training wheels.

    “There will be a break when we really see that contextual targeting and relevance happening in real time,” Monteiro said. “And the quality of the data in these ad networks has to get a lot more current.”

    While it’s natural that ad network data doesn’t have the same impact as the first-party assets powering marketing tech, it certainly has its value. “The ad tech partners have data on where else a person has been during their travels on the web,” said Dholakia. “Marketo won’t be aware of websites you visited that aren’t in the Marketo system.”

    But though ad network data can clear up some of the foggy patches along the path to purchase, that’s not always good enough for advertisers. Agencies like SapientNitro want to understand each dataset’s cleanliness and precision (whether segment-level data includes pools of thousands, hundreds or even tens of individuals).

    Another complication: The marketing platforms that ad tech vendors try to integrate with are often products of acquisition and, despite the messaging around them, are not native to whatever stack they are housed under.

    The APIs and direct connections developed by various ad tech companies are on an application-by-application basis.  Turn develops pre-built connections based on customer requests. To date, this is largely relegated to email marketing platforms (though strangely it hasn't seen as much demand for connections to Oracle’s Responsys or Salesforce’s ExactTarget) and, increasingly, ecommerce platforms.

    Westover said there isn’t yet a standard like OpenRTB to connect ad platforms to marketing platforms, though he expects one in the coming years. Unfortunately, if a marketing platform is built on a foundation of creaky old code and a direct connection isn’t possible, data will have to route through a database, an intermediary connecting the two systems. This introduces latency, and kills off the ability to perform real-time functions like buying an impression at auction.

    And while Westover said most marketing platforms are up to date and can be connected to other systems, often within weeks, SapientNitro from its digital agency perch sees "a wide array of legacy and bespoke CRM systems."

    Finally, data-quality and transference issues aside, privacy compliance remains a big hurdle. While vendors give lip service to the topic, it’s the brands and agencies that pay the piper if an issue comes up, Monteiro said, since privacy breaches erode brand value.

    Erin Winters, VP of marketing strategy at Acxiom, agreed that responsibility lies first with the marketers. “It starts with the brands,” she said. “Then the brands need to look to the marketing tech companies who can manage that.”

    Acxiom, which owns data onboarder LiveRamp and maintains partnerships with marketing tech companies and media agencies, released a study last week claiming that brands don’t often understand the extent to which consumers are comfortable getting messages from them.

    “You’re taking different data sets, combining them, and that can make something that’s non-sensitive and anonymous into known data tied to an individual,” Winters said.

    Monteiro also worries less about the lack of precedent.

    “How precise can you get when you haven’t permissioned a brand to target you in a very specific way?” he wondered. These issues haven’t played out on either the legal courts or those of public opinion. Until they do, it’ll be difficult to get full brand buy-in on a converged marketing and ad tech solution.


    Originally published on

    • Five ways Apple Music could beat Spotify (and everyone else too)

      POSTED ON: May 22, 2015

  • Five ways Apple Music could beat Spotify (and everyone else too)

    Bruce Sterling once said "those that live by disruption, die by disruption". No one is immune. Apple has laid waste to many industries, especially the music business. In turn it has seen its downloads empire eroded by challenger Spotify.

    As a brand that continually reinvents itself, we know Apple's retaliation strike is coming soon, maybe even at WWDC. Here's how it could make Apple Music a winner in the war.

    1. Make it integrated

    Apple’s success is due to functional integration. It makes systems, not just services. Being native in iOS and OSX means a potential audience of epic proportions.

    Seamlessly working with iTunes, Radio, and PodCasts would increase convenience for many. Evolving Garageband to give musicians a way to produce and distribute in one platform could be another. Factor in CarPlay, Apple TV and HomeKit and you’ve got a classic walled-garden play.

    2. Make it matter

    We know Apple is going to charge a subscription fee. That’s going to erode the audience size. But what if it used a part of its war-chest to subsidise the service for, say, three months? Just long enough for us to habituate on it, unlike Beats' laughable two-week trial. Or what if it offered better family plans than Spotify?

    Apple’s notorious 30 per cent cut has earned it few musical allies. Musicians hate Spotify’s pari-mutuel model too. What if Apple paid-per-play instead? And reported it to musicians in a way that was transparent, easy-to-understand and fair?

    3. Make it better

    Sound quality is a debated concept but what if Apple had a better standard? 320k + surround sound could move more hardware product and differentiate it from Spotify. We've been listening to stereo for too long. Can Cupertino create what's next?

    Think of the potential to use Siri as a Shazam-style search. Sing lyrics or hum a melody to find the song you want. All within the core Apple Music app. Siri could automatically create playlists on the fly based on your context, mood, etc. That could be a powerful way to challenge Spotify's just announced "Now" functionality.

    New Apple hire Zane Lowe is going to be every bit as critical to this effort as Jimmy Iovine, Dre or Reznor. Beats' best features — Just For You, Expert Essentials and curated playlists — are all going to get a lot better. Lowe’s cache means the indie crowd found on Bandcamp and SoundCloud could follow.

    4. Make it social

    Social integration on Spotify (and all the other services) is terrible. They all suffer from YASN (yet another social network) syndrome. You have to rebuild too much from scratch.

    Apple has access to your contacts, Facebook and Twitter thanks to native sharing on iOS. Imagine a 'Twitch'-like ability to just drop in and listen along with your friend. The one that has the hippest taste in music? Think of it as 'This is My Jam' in real-time, all the time. A streaming mixtape made for you from the people that know you best.

    You could do the same with musicians and experts – with the added bonus of seeing exclusive, early release or behind-the-scenes content. Artists could eschew the 'secret album' trend and just release tracks when they're ready. We might finally see 'the Serial effect' for music.   

    5. Make it live

    Regardless of all the above, it’s still not enough to make money. The real money in music is in live.

    Apple could alert fans to concerts based on their playlists, favourites or owned music. They could let you know friends wanted to go too. Top that off with an ability to buy via Apple Pay and we’re off to the races with a 30 per cent cut of ticket sales. Toss in merchandise and you’ve got untapped revenue streams Spotify would love.

    In conclusion

    Apple doesn’t have the potential to disrupt just Spotify but every related service. Shazam, Ponyo, Soundtracking, This is My Jam, Songkick, Tidal, SoundCloud, Bandcamp et al could all suffer if it manages to close the gap between customers’ expectations and the services and experience they receive. Every last one of those apps is at risk of deletion from your home screen.

    Daniel Harvey is experience design director at SapientNitro


    Originally published on The Drum

    • When Research Goes Wrong

      POSTED ON: May 14, 2015

  • When Research Goes Wrong

    As the election proves, research does not always represent the reality. Creatives are well aware of this, Simon James writes.



    Normally, it’s politicians who are hammered at the hands of the polls. Last week, it was the pollsters that were pilloried at the hands of the politicians. The Labour strategist David Axelrod Tweeted: "In all my years as journalist & strategist, I’ve never seen as stark a failure of polling as in UK. Huge project ahead to unravel that." I think the ICM Unlimited director Martin Boon put it most succinctly on the release of the exit polls when he Tweeted: "Oh shit."

    In a pyrrhic victory for creative directors everywhere, as they have always told us: the research was wrong. All the final pre-election polls had Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck. The result was a 6.3 per cent margin of victory for the Tories.

    So who is to blame? Well, first, UK pre-election polling has form in getting the result wrong. YouGov’s Anthony Wells wrote: "Every couple of decades, a time comes along when all the companies get something wrong." When general elections only occur every five years, decades represent a short span of time.

    In fact, we only have to go back to 1992, the last Tory majority, to witness pollsters’ nadir. In that year, the polls had Labour narrowly ahead on the eve of the election, only for the Tories to win the popular vote by 7.5 per cent with a record total number of votes. Yet, in the aftermath of the 1992 debacle, polling was – in theory – put right.

    One of the problems polling companies have to face is human nature. When you see them quoting 1, 2 or 3 per cent margins of error on their forecasts, it is very easy for us to confuse precision with accuracy. Those error margins merely refer to a 95 per cent confidence level – that 19 times out of 20 we would get the same result within the stated margin of error – based on the same question. However, the margin of error has nothing to say on the gap between what people say and what they do.

    We should not take for granted that stated voting intention is a perfect indicator for voting behaviour.

    One of the reasons exit polls are far more accurate is that the question is asked after the fact. Sadly, in my career as a data analyst, I have always had far more success predicting the past than the future.

    There are two known effects in play. The first is non-responder bias. It would appear that those polled systematically underrepresented the Conservative vote. The Sunday Times  journalist Rod Liddle pointed out that Tories are mostly at work when the researchers come knocking. Polling companies seek to adjust for this bias – especially since 1992 – but evidently it’s still there. Are Tories deceptively harder to reach by polling methods?

    A potential reason for this is another bias – that of social desirability. When asked in research, we overestimate our level of charitable giving and underestimate our pay if we are paid a great deal or overestimate it if we are paid little. Labour talks about fairness and paints the Tories as evil. According to some, a Tory majority would mean the end of the NHS and/or the end of the world. Who wants to admit to being selfish or voting out of self-interest? Probably more people than would care to admit.



    In defence of the forecasters, this election has seen a radical shift in the share of votes. The Liberal Democrats’ votes dropped from 6.8 million in 2010 to 2.4 million in 2015 – a fall of 65 per cent.

    Meanwhile, the Greens’ vote increased by 336 per cent, Ukip’s by 322 per cent and the Scottish National Party’s by 196 per cent.

    Again, when you are using historical data to predict the future, it only works well when the past bears a strong resemblance to the future. The surge of seats for the SNP and votes for Ukip were both accurately forecast – but the scale of the collapse of the Lib Dems vote was not.

    Polling companies were not the only ones to call it wrong. You could have placed a bet on a Tory majority at 16-1 with Betfair (in-between important meetings) as late as Thursday afternoon.

    Professional gamblers are usually very good forecasters because they back their opinions with their own money. Not this time (see chart, below).

    Anyone who has worked in this industry long enough will have been part of a campaign that flew in research and yet bombed with the  general public. Just like the pollsters, we are all wise after the fact, assigning blame randomly among unexpected market events, pesky competitors or, worst of all, an apathetic public.

    In an era when statisticians like Nate Silver feature in their own episode of Pano­rama, this is a victory for creative teams everywhere. Research is fallible. My first boss once said to me: "Simon, one should use market research as a drunk would use a lamp post – for support, not illumination."

    I use that phrase far too often. But, at this point in time, I think it fits.

    Simon James is the global lead for marketing performance analytics at SapientNitro

    This article was first published on

    • Forget the manifesto: big data will win future elections

      POSTED ON: May 06, 2015

  • Forget the manifesto: big data will win future elections

    Digital targeting using machine-based learning could have huge implications for UK politics and elections of the future

    By Adriana Coppola


    The first past the post electoral system means that, for any party, the most important voter is the floating voter; a recent ComRes poll has shown that up to 40% of Britons are still undecided. With around 10m votes still up for grabs just days before the election, any major political party could theoretically secure a landslide win. Emerging digital targeting methods are making it easier for parties to do just that.

    Political campaigning still uses an outdated model
    This election, the British political parties have started to move away from traditional electoral broadcast methods following the successes Obama enjoyed in 2008 and 2012 through heavy investment in digital. The two main parties have subsequently hired communications experts integral to the Obama campaigns – Jim Messina for the Conservatives and David Axelrod for Labour – upped spend in social, and can now target people on Twitter via postcode.

    For all the new media and tools that electoral campaigns are beginning to embrace, parties still concentrate their efforts on voters in the middle. The fact that those efforts are not making a noticeable difference to either party in the polls suggest they could do a far better job.


    In order to win, political parties must move from a broadcast approach, where the same message is sent to the entire country, to a much more targeted approach where data can be used to have direct conversations with individuals on the things that matter most to them. While the Conservatives are spending around £100,000 per month on Facebook, users are getting the same banal updates that do little aside from document the electoral campaign. They could be a lot smarter with their messaging to talk about different manifesto points to different people.


    Outside the realm of political parties, technology such as data management platforms and demand side platforms help companies to find the exact consumer they want and better understand how to target them – meaning that they can create a personalised experience based on the data held. What might this mean for politics?

    Smarter targeting: find the floating voter
    The floating voter is no longer invisible. A few years ago, we could only really identify the vociferous minority who were willing to publicly voice their political opinions through social media. Now, with the influx of data, we can start to target the significantly larger group of ‘don’t knows’. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have started to use software like NationBuilder, which can match electoral rolls to online activity, but with the increased sophistication of online targeting methods that use machine-based learning, it is possible to be a lot smarter with targeting.

    In order to accurately identify floating voters to convert, parties would need to build a propensity model – a data tool that would help them understand what identifies a person as ‘unsure’ or ‘swayable’ and classify how likely they are to be at a particular end of the political spectrum. Rather than using a few data points, such as postcode, parties could build models that plug in tens of different data sets from across the internet, such as what online newspaper you read, where in the country you are, your age, what school you went to and even look for keywords such as ‘NHS’ in your Twitter feed.

    Influencing voter behaviour
    Once parties establish their data points they must create systems that constantly feed off data, to identify floating voters most likely to align with their policies and build algorithms to identify at what point a person is on the political spectrum and what type of communication might be most effective and contextually relevant.

    This opportunity to understand the type of personalised message to relay and on what platform is the biggest missed opportunity for British political parties. To go even further, they could target people with their own social spheres of influence: understanding who in someone’s social circle is voting the way of the party and using that person as an advocate to help to influence behaviour. The Obama campaign used this tactic to great effect in 2012 with the Great Schlep campaign which urged young Jewish people to encourage grandparents living in Florida to vote Democrat.



    Making politics personal

    The prospect that data presents is wider than just targeting: the real opportunity here is for parties to get to know the electorate better. And that could mean parties could focus their manifestos and even their leadership around popular opinion. It is widely held that politicians are out of touch with everyday lives. These new methods of understanding what really matters to people may go beyond the election and change the face of politics as a whole.

    Adriana Coppola is a planner at SapientNitro


    Originally published on The Guardian

    • How digital activity logging is changing customer research

      POSTED ON: May 05, 2015

  • How digital activity logging is changing customer research

    By Hilding Anderson

    Perhaps for the first time, researchers now have the ability to see digital device activity – smartphone, tablet and PC – at a millisecond-by-millisecond level, and then aggregate that data into patterns of days, weeks and months.

    Our researchers are recruiting volunteers who will let us track and understand where and when their devices are being used to see the devices’ activity inscribed on maps, charts and photographs.

    These new tools are unlocking a world of knowledge about how people use technology at levels of resolution we have never had outside a few specialty research labs.

    This has enabled researchers to explore major facets of consumers’ lives – from financial management to communication habits to healthcare choices – by tracking what as well as when and where they actually do and not just what they say they do.

    What are digital activity loggers (DALs) and why you should care?

    Quite simply, digital activity loggers are software tools that run in the background and record activity on a specific device.

    DALs got their start as programs for individuals to measure and improve their own productivity on personal computers. Think FitBit for your computer. They have evolved to work on PCs, tablets or smartphones, and upload their data to servers in the cloud on an ongoing basis.

    This approach has significant benefits for researchers.

    While most traditional methods rely on the customer to tell us, DAL analysis tools allow us to focus directly on the traces of observable activities, avoiding participant recall errors and psychological bias.

    Further, integrated DAL platforms continuously aggregate and reviews data, giving us the chance to look at months of behavioral data as context for the activity happening right now. This is data of significant scale – our initial community of users has more than 500 individuals logging data 24/7 for more than a year.

    Applying DAL to develop an understanding of customer behavior

    We recently ran a study for a major hospitality chain, and we were able to show all the digital activities people perform prior to visiting their Web site including their mobile site, and how they relate to one another in time.

    We then looked at the same analysis for post-client-site activity. This type of analysis allows us to identify triggers and opportunities for additional marketing investments. It allows us to document the customer journey through the purchase path.

    A separate study examined smartphone-based banking.

    We explored banking habits of millennial women. By monitoring smartphone activity, we determined that the average time per visit for millennial women on smartphones was much shorter than anticipated – just 26 seconds – helping shape the design of a next-generation application.

    These types of analysis and findings allow us to pull the curtain back on actual activity in the digital realm.

    Implications for future research

    Digital activity logging data is being used to explore interactions with finances (e.g. activity related to taxes), health (e.g. New Year’s resolutions and technology usage to achieve fitness goals), travel and transportation (booking engine usage times, travel research) and many other elements of life.

    We are able to look across brands to identify patterns of interaction, behavior and activity.

    IT IS AN exciting time to be in the research and insights business. We now have new tools that complement traditional surveys and focus groups.

    Digital activity loggers allow much greater precision related to specific activities than some other methods.

    Look for more brands and agencies to use these tools to better understand their customers – and to guide the next wave of breakthrough products.


    Originially published on

    • Women in Business: Stacy Simpson, Chief Communications Officer, SapientNitro

      POSTED ON: May 02, 2015

  • Women in Business: Stacy Simpson, Chief Communications Officer, SapientNitro

    Stacy Simpson is the Chief Communications Officer for SapientNitro, part of Publicis.Sapient. In this capacity, she oversees global communications, strategic and brand marketing strategies for SapientNitro, as well as the global corporate communications strategy for Sapient.

    With more than 13,000 employees in 35 offices across the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific, her role at SapientNitro is to lead international, domestic and regional communications and brand marketing teams in creating and executing strategies that increase awareness of the brand and the innovative and breakthrough work her colleagues deliver daily to clients around the world.

    Prior to joining Sapient, she was the senior vice president of global communications and brand marketing for IAC, a leading multimedia company, where she led the brand marketing and communications functions for IAC and its more than 50 consumer internet and media brands. She has also held senior positions at IBM and in public relations, media relations and strategic communications in Washington, DC.

    As a Boston native, Stacy recently returned from New York City to her hometown. Stacy graduated from Syracuse University with Bachelor's degrees in broadcast journalism and public policy. She still looks great in orange.

    How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
    When I was growing up, my siblings were often sick. As "the healthy child" in the family, I took on whatever role was needed in each situation--sometimes I was the storyteller who kept my sisters entertained, other times I proudly fended for myself so that my parents could focus on giving my siblings the care they needed. Regardless of which hat I wore on any given day, there was one constant for me: the desire for information. I was always asking questions, connecting dots, seeking answers and searching for reason and order amidst the chaos. The power of information was my way of giving my sisters, my family and myself hope and encouragement.

    I channeled the curiosity that fueled me as a child into my studies as a broadcast journalism major at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. As a journalist, I had to identify who my audience was for each situation and create and guide a story accordingly. I drew upon the same skills of asking the right questions, analyzing the connections between ideas and people, and arriving at a strategy for telling stories that would resonate with audiences.

    Following college, the transition into a career in communications was a natural one for me, applying my storytelling skills to help shape the way internal and external audiences understand a company and the issues facing our world and the industry today.

    I'm a firm believer in the age-old view that information is power. Today, I take every opportunity in my role as an executive, a woman, a mother and a contributor to my community to share my passion for knowledge and to instill in others the thrill of asking the right questions and finding the answers.

    How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the Chief Communications Officer of SapientNitro?
    Every experience is a foundation for those that follow, so I can honestly say that each role I've had has helped shape my view of the world and the contributions that I make today.

    I started my career in the non-profit sector, surrounded by people who had made it their life's work to arm others with information and to lend a voice and a perspective to issues that are often overlooked. As I moved into the radio industry, and then later into the technology space at IBM and then into multimedia at IAC/InterActive Corp (IAC), the need to communicate--to craft a story worth hearing, to create a connection with an audience (internally or externally), to build a relationship across mediums--grew steadily in its importance and its urgency.

    If you put all of my experience into a blender--the altruistic, change-the-world ethos of the non-profit sector, the storytelling and immediacy of broadcasting, the technology and business acumen of IBM, the entrepreneurial and industry-disrupting spirit of IAC-- you will get a set of experiences that are the foundation for driving an integrated communications and brand marketing function at SapientNitro, as the agency is all of those things in one.

    In an environment as complex and chaotic as the one we as communicators and business leaders find ourselves in today, we have to enable an environment of risk-taking as we create various strategies for the company, be it marketing, press or internal communications. Of course, these opportunities come with trial and error scenarios, which is just part of the growing process in any career. You can't be afraid to fail, but you should absolutely be afraid to not try. At SapientNitro, we create a space where our people can "fail forward" to break boundaries to better serve their always-on audiences.

    How do you maintain a work/life balance?
    Personally, I don't have balance, but I do have a "mix." I have chaos and excitement and deadlines and family obligations, like most working women. All of these things compete and at any given moment on any given day one thing wins out over another. And I'm OK with that.

    I surround myself with people who understand my professional commitments, what's expected of me, and what I expect from myself and offer unconditional encouragement and support. This provides an (almost) guilt-free atmosphere that allows me to focus 100 percent of my attention on whatever I'm doing--whether it's at home or at the office. When I am engaged with my family, my focus is on them. When I am working, I am singularly focused on my work. I don't talk to my family when I'm at work. I know that if someone needs me, they'll call. Blending work and family life simultaneously can often be productive, but for me, too much multi-tasking can cause me to miss those key moments, both personal and professional.

    What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure in the communications industry?
    I have had more of each than I could possibly list. I will say that my proudest moments have come on the heels of taking risks, of doing the thing that terrifies me, that seemed almost too big to imagine tackling. It's at those moments when you know that you've challenged yourself, your team, and your company to move out of their comfort zone and to reach for what's possible.
    Throughout my tenure I've seen great strides in the role of women in the technology and new media communications worlds. Because of the breadth of roles and expertise a communications program provides, I have learned the importance of bringing together a team of people who are able to not only carry out the mission of our organization but also who teach others to do so. It makes me proud to look around our current marketing team and see smart and gutsy women coming to the table with ideas that will catapult our company into the future. But, I know there is still room for improvement. In our company alone, we are constantly looking for the caliber of women to fuel our creative and leadership teams, while striving to enable an environment that attracts them.

    How is SapientNitro making a difference in worldwide brand awareness?
    One of the most exciting things about working at SapientNitro is that we view the world in a different way than any other company I've experienced and that view informs both the work we do and the way we work together. The agency was founded on the premise of enabling human potential, and we fulfill that vision by helping brands transform to better serve their consumers in a rapidly-changing, always-on world - and we help to change the world in the process.

    Its remarkable to be part of an agency that has received nearly 100 creative awards in the first part of 2015 alone for the breakthrough work we've delivered for our clients, as well as consistent ratings as a leader in industry analyst reports, ranging from Gartner's annual assessment of digital agencies to Forrester's analysis of the most innovative agencies.

    It is now well accepted that to engage the digital consumer, brands need a new set of connected capabilities that span marketing, technology, commerce and consulting. SapientNitro saw this opportunity 10 years ago and has been building those capabilities inside one organization. We started as a "challenger brand," but have come to be seen as a key player in a changing agency landscape, as evidenced by the acquisition of Sapient by Publicis Groupe earlier this year, to create Publicis.Sapient, the world's most advanced and largest digitally-centered platform focused exclusively on digital transformation and the dynamics of an always-on world. The platform leverages unmatched capabilities in marketing, omni-channel commerce and consulting, underpinned by tremendous depth of technology expertise, to help clients advance their ways of working, given the daunting new reality of a highly-connected operating environment.
    I'm proud to be part of a company that stands for breaking boundaries where technology, storytelling, and humanity meet.

    What advice can you offer those seeking to have a career in communications?

    Everyone has their passions and goals, and it's critical to stay true to those. Even more so, it is important to know what you bring to any table or conversation, and how to leverage this. We each have unique talents, and we have to not only utilize them, but also be empowered by them. My journalism and broadcast background gave me "ownable" and marketable skills early in my career--the ability to draw connections, understand what makes something newsworthy to an audience, and create concise, compelling stories. It was important to me to find opportunities where I could use, and build upon, these skills to be a voice on the team with a unique perspective.

    Someone looking at a career in communications needs to recognize, and adapt to, the landscape of diverse opportunities that come with this field. Your unique skills are likely someone else's weakness. Understanding that, and being able to collaborate, can result in some powerful unions that can take a company from relatively "unknown" to global awareness. It's not only about delivering information, but rather developing a strategy with identified goals that answers, "Why is this important?" I ask this question daily to evolve and design strategies around campaigns that maximize results for the company.

    What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
    Institutionally, there are still not enough women in senior leadership positions. It is each of our responsibilities as leaders to teach and mentor colleagues in earlier career stages and it is a critical component for influencing and shaping the next generation of the workforce. Individually, women at any stage of their career need to trust themselves--trust that your character, education and experience, which has taken you to this point in your career, will take you to the next stage. One thing I like to remind people of is that it isn't necessary to have mastered every aspect of the job or project you're about to take on, you only need to have the skills and the instincts to know you have the right foundation for any challenge. We get better when we take risks, learn from our mistakes, and incorporate those learnings into the next experience.

    What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?

    I enjoyed the book and appreciate that she used her position to create a space for this conversation. Each of our experiences is different, but the more we share our voice and personal truths, the more these issues and conversations become commonplace and easier for our next generation of leaders--female and male--to participate in. If we can't talk about it, we definitely can't fix it.

    How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

    I was encouraged by my collegiate mentor to do what I love and never apologize for it. She taught me to pursue my passion and reminded me that you cannot fake enthusiasm. Her advice resonated with me. The hours and demands of any communications role are extensive, and if you are not dedicated to it and sincerely excited by it, then it is time to look for another opportunity.
    My first professional mentor came into my career very early on and she shared the wise advice that no one is going to build a career for you, save for your retirement, or plan your health coverage for you. It is up to each of us to save, plan and create for ourselves. It was sage guidance at a critical time in my career and in my life. Throughout my career, I relied on her advice--and in absence of her guidance, often asked myself what choice she would make in my situation--for significant decisions, including moving across states and exploring new verticals that challenged my comfort.

    I believe mentorship should begin young--in high school even--to set a strong foundation for personal and professional discovery. This mentorship, or partnership, aids in developing passions and talents that will be carried throughout a lifetime. As a mentor myself, I know what a responsibility and honor it is to offer guidance. I learn more about myself while mentoring than I do in many other aspects of my career, and it is a wonderful reminder of how much opportunity there is to learn from each other.

    Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
    There are many women in every generation who have done so much to push the boundaries of what's possible--Barbara Walters, Ginny Rometty, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, and my mom, to name a few. I believe we encounter teachable moments and people to learn from every day, and we just have to be tuned in enough to know it when we see it and to seize the opportunity. All of these women, and so many others, have seized the opportunity and helped to show each of us the way forward.


    Originally posted on Huff Post Business

    • British Airways appoints Sapient Nitro as digital agency of record

      POSTED ON: Apr 22, 2015

  • British Airways appoints Sapient Nitro as digital agency of record

    British Airways has appointed Sapient Nitro as its digital agency of record.

    The appointment is understood to have followed a final two-way pitch which saw it win out against incumbent OgilvyOne.

    As a result, Sapient will take over running the airline's digital platforms including the main website and its digital communications including social media.

    Nigel Vaz, senior vice president and European managing director of SapientNitro, said: “The appointment of SapientNitro as British Airways’ agency is a game-changer all round. Through a forward-looking approach to the use of multiple digital platforms and creative technology, British Airways has built renewed strength around its brand.

    "We are proud to join them on the next leg of that journey and, through our passion to break boundaries at the intersection of technology and story, to give the British Airways brand an ever-greater relevance in the lives of connected consumers.”

    Sara Dunham, head of marketing, retail and direct for British Airways, said: "SapientNitro offer us great ideas, good insights, the ability to apply strategy practically, a strong reputation in the industry and a good fit with the British Airways brand. We're really looking forward to working with them.”

    Last year Sapient Nitro reached the final two in pitching for the British Airways advertising account, ultimately losing to incumbent BBH. 


    Read the article on TheDrum

    • Sixense Teams up with SapientNitro to Show VR’s Marketing Potential

      POSTED ON: Apr 22, 2015

  • Sixense Teams up with SapientNitro to Show VR’s Marketing Potential

    Last weekend Sixense, creator of the STEM controller, came for a visit to digital agency SapientNitro’s NYC office. Armed with VR headsets and STEM controllers, the order of business was to demonstrate the marketing potential of virtual reality technology to clients from SapientNitro’s impressive roster.

    With major brand work under their belt from the likes of Activision, Audio, Fiat, Unilever, and others, SapientNitro has the ears of powerful companies, all of which are looking for the next big thing to drive brand engagement. That next big thing, SapientNitro believes, is virtual reality.

    That’s why they connected with Sixense, creators of the STEM VR motion controller, who have been experimenting with immersive shopping experiences.

    Sixense showed off their early Unity-based ‘vRetail’ prototype back during CES, but they brought the newer and shinier UE4 version with them to NYC to show some of SapientNitro’s clients what VR could mean for marketing.


    The vRetail experience puts the player in a virtual shopping space. For now, the company is showing what it might be like to shop for shoes, but it’s easy to see how the system could scale to any number of products or experiences, including the ability to have multiplayer environments where users could shop together. Sixense calls this ‘vCommerce’.

    Once the headset is on, players pick up the STEM controllers to allow natural interaction within the space. Sixense has designed a very intuitive experience which allows users to tap easily on virtual touchscreens to select which category of product they’d like to see. In the case of shoe shopping, a huge shelf of shoes appears before the user—but this shelf is not like one you’ve seen before—if you reach out to grab it, you can ‘scroll’ the shelf, infinitely, in any direction. This means you can browse through hundreds of shoes without walking up and down aisles; removing physical design limitations is what VR is all about.

    The whole thing is impressively intuitive, thanks in no small part to the STEM controller. Reach out to grab a shoe that catches your eye, let it go in mid air to have it float in front of you with a menu to change color and get more info on the product, turn around and put it on a mannequin to see what it would look like on the foot—and it’s all as easy as reaching out your hand out to grab and tap.

    SapientNitro Believes that Virtual Reality is the Way Forward for Brand Engagement


    While SapientNitro is still exploring this technology, Valerie Carlson, Executive Creative Director at the company’s LA branch, believes that the agency will deploy a virtual reality marketing experience within the year.

    “…what we expect very clearly to do is to work with one retail client this year and put a [VR] prototype of some kind into market,” she told me.

    When I asked Carlson where the customer might have these virtual reality brand experiences—whether it be in the home or in-store—she said we’d likely see a combination, starting with in-store experiences first.

    “I think eventually we’ll see people owning their own headsets but I think the test-and-learn opportunities in many cases will be in-store. So just in the way that you might interact with a kiosk today in a Home Depot—why not test-and-learn with VR,” she said. “At holiday for instance, you have a lot of families coming and shopping for different items in different places, giving them the opportunity to try VR and experience brands in totally unusual ways I think is a great opportunity for retailers.”

    And just as the internet has not eliminated physical shopping stores, Carlson believes that virtual reality will support existing retail channels—a bridge between the web and brick and mortar—not a replacement.

    “…we don’t expect virtual reality commerce to supplant all of the other channels that exist today; we expect it to be a complementary channel. So as brands test-and-learn in retail with VR, we expect them to have new learnings that will help them merchandize and will help them develop other experiences in other channels.

    SapientNitro didn’t reveal which of their clients had come to see the vCommerce demonstration, but I did see plenty of excited faces popping out of headsets at the end of the experience.


    Originally published on

    • Red Sox fans gear up for Opening Day at Fenway Park

      POSTED ON: Apr 13, 2015

  • Red Sox fans gear up for Opening Day at Fenway Park


    BOSTON (WHDH) - For Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston, the sun is finally shining, the grass is green, the snow is gone, and the boys of summer are back.

    "Great atmosphere, you got all the Sox fans, everybody's all pumped up, we're ready for the game," said one fan who was first in line for tickets.

    The Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park were ready for another season of baseball.

    "Beautiful park, great game, two good teams," said one fan.

    "After last night, the sky's the limit, mostly for the balls they were hitting out of the park," said Sox fan Mike Columbari.

    This year, the organization is catering to kids. Fans 14 and younger can enter the park through gate K, which will lead them to Wally's Clubhouse, a new play area.

    The team is also making use of social media.

    "You can see that at gates A and C is something called the 'digital baseball card.' It's another way to engage young fans in the game, and you can go to either gate, you can take your picture, you can upload it to the hashtag 'MyFenway,'" said Sapient Marketing Officer Bill Kanarick.

    A loyal bunch of excited fans lined up outside the box office for tickets.

    "Last year the line was longer, this year it's a little bit shorter, so I'm excited. And it's warmer too," said Jimmy Pietrosanto, who is in his 15th year waiting for tickets.

    Maybe it's because the Sox went from worst to first and back to worst, but if the cycle repeats and the team stays hot, fans are already thinking about October baseball.

    "This is the season. I say it every year and two years ago I was right, it was the year I got married, and this is a good year and it's going to be our season," said fan Erin Columbari.


    Originally published on

    • A Marketer's Guide to the Ten Best Events at SXSW

      POSTED ON: Mar 09, 2015

  • A Marketer's Guide to the Ten Best Events at SXSW

    From the Robot Petting Zoo to a Startup Spotlight Party, These Events Are Not to be Missed

    By Zachary Jean Paradis.


    When I first attended SXSW two decades ago, the festival was focused on music, attendance was about 4,000, Johnny Cash gave the keynote, and little-known musician Beck was the "must see" act. What once was a cool -- but limited -- music industry event is now a blockbuster showcase across music, film and interactive media.

    Today, SXSW Interactive is a convergence point across technology, user experience, marketing, startups and science celebrities, representing a glimpse of the future. As the importance of interactive platforms increases in our daily lives, so it does in Austin, with the interactive portion of the conference now hosting more than 30,000 attendees. But with the sheer volume of events and emerging companies in play, it's hard to know how to get the most out of it.

    With that in mind, here's a pocket guide for marketers with our #SXSBest top-10 list:

    1. Big data
    What better way to kick off SXSW than with a meaty topic -- big data and artificial intelligence -- explored by a rock star panel led by Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer at GE. As mobility is increased through wearables, robotics become the norm and the internet of things moves from a concept to reality, what's required to make them work together and with humanity is the intelligence driven by big data.

    2. Wearables
    Speaking of wearables, most devices on the market today are still in search of a clear value proposition. While Apple Watch may ultimately show the way, a workshop breaking down current and potential value propositions of wearables is as good a session as any to really dig in to all of the considerations in play. Just make sure you sign up in advance because it is limited access.

    3. The next-generation retail experience
    If the wearables workshop is full, or if you're more interested in the retail space, this incredible panel will serve you well. Sephora was identified in SapientNitro's Insights publication as 2014's leading omnichannel retailer, so naturally we are interested to hear a conversation led by its CMO Julie Bornstein about how to innovate in the overlapping space between physical and digital worlds.

    4. Startup party
    As the conference description for the Startup Spotlight says, "Twenty emerging startups. Open bar. Check it out." There's not much more to say. Grab a cocktail and some startup goodness.

    5. Internet of things
    The internet of things holds a ton of promise, but also a ton of complexity. We'd better take a fundamentally human-centered approach to all of the messages and functionality we put in every "thing," which is why this panel by leaders in the space is so worthwhile. Executives from Disney, Misfit and Sensoria will discuss leading with user experience in the IoT.


    Read the full story on AdAge

    • La comunidad named by AdAge as one of the ten best agencies in the US. Again

      POSTED ON: Jan 26, 2015

  • La comunidad named by AdAge as one of the ten best agencies in the US. Again

    Revenue and Staff Headcount Increased by Double Digits

    By Laurel Wentz.


    If there's one way to summarize why La Comunidad is on this list, it's this: The agency is scrapping its name.

    Founded 14 years ago as a multicultural specialist by Argentine brothers José and Joaquín Mollá, the shop is swapping La Comunidad for The Community early this year. It's a shocking but prescient move that speaks volumes about the agency's ability to understand and adapt to the evolving industry landscape.

    "It's a reflection of what's happening culturally in this country," said José Mollá, co-founder and chief creative officer. "We felt that being called La Comunidad reinforces a division that no longer exists. Language and ethnicity implied a separation that is less culturally relevant every day. In the same way that we're in a post-digital era, where the division between a digital agency and a traditional agency makes less sense, because that's not how people live their lives. We believe that culturally, we're still going through a similar process. And it's having a really interesting effect on American culture."

    La Comunidad has always been an agency with few boundaries, bouncing back and forth between work for the multicultural market, Latin America and, increasingly, the U.S. general market. (Mr. Mollá himself is so much a part of the U.S. and international creative community that he was named chairman of the One Club in June -- and, in fact, plays a talking pencil in the current call-for-entries campaign for the One Club's annual festival, the One Show.)

    In 2014, revenue grew 19%, and headcount was also up 19% to 130 staffers, who sometimes brainstorm by the pool at the agency's Miami headquarters. La Comunidad worked with Google on its first major Hispanic initiative, developing a new domain for the U.S. Hispanic market, using .soy (Spanish for "I am") in place of .com. (Check out

    In fact, almost half of La Comunidad's new revenue last year came from digital, and the shop did social and digital work for 84% of its clients, up from just 16% a year earlier. That's partly thanks to support from SapientNitro, which acquired La Comunidad in January 2014.

    Among its successes during the year was Modelo Especial, which overtook Heineken as the No. 2 imported beer in the U.S. by revenue and volume. (The No. 1 import, Corona, is also at La Comunidad.)

    "Each year the campaign gets better and more relevant and tests better and better," said Jim Sabia, CMO of Constellation Brands, which owns Corona and Modelo. He also values the founders' hands-on approach. "José and Joaquín Mollá are the creatives who work on our business."

    La Comunidad grew new work for the general market by one-third in 2014, taking the agency's business split to 65% multicultural and 35% general market. All the agency's work for Beam Suntory, for example, is for the general market or total market, including the digital business won in 2014 for its tequila brands.

    "Being acquired by Sapient is bringing great digital and social thinking into the fold," said Jared Fix, VP-general manager, mixables, Beam Suntory. He singled out La Comunidad's work reviving slightly "dusty" tequila brand Hornitos as well as a dazzling all-digital launch for Justin Timberlake's premium tequila Sauza 901.

    For Converse, the agency wins praise from the company's global headquarters in Boston for creative initiatives pairing the brand with art and local culture in Latin America. In Sao Paulo, where a ban on outdoor advertising has made that giant city even more colorless, La Comunidad and Converse rallied Paulistas, as residents are called, to "Fight the Gray" by donating (outlines of) their shadows, which street artists turned into colorful pieces of graffiti-like art that were plastered across Sao Paulo and spread on Twitter and Instagram.

    La Comunidad enjoys a well-deserved reputation for fun. Picture the 2014 holiday party, which began at a mermaid bar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and ended on a disco pirate ship in Miami's bay.

    And the agency responded to persistent questions about why and for how much the brothers sold the agency with a hilarious two-minute video in February in which José and Joaquín give sensible reasons, such as "our commitment to digital and emerging technologies," against the backdrop of their new lifestyle including a lavish yacht called Jose's, a helicopter, private airplane, vintage car, mansion and even new gold teeth.

    After the Sapient linkup, La Comunidad deliberately focused on growing its existing business by integrating social and digital capabilities -- even hiring Sapient's global director of social, Nathaniel Perez -- rather than seeking new clients from the agency, said Managing Director Luis Montero. "We said, 'Let's keep the faucet closed so we're not overwhelmed.'"

    Toward the end of 2014, the time came to open the faucet, with more meetings and capability presentations with Sapient leadership to prepare for future clients. This year, as The Community, it plans to deliver "culturally driven ideas for visionary brands," Mr. Mollá said.

    Existing clients, however, know the shop is about much more than multicultural, no matter what it is called. "La Comunidad has the best understanding of the [multicultural] demographic we're targeting, excellent creative for the total market and an ability to manage digital and social channels," said Beam Suntory's Mr. Fix. "It's all best of breed."


    Read the full article.

    • Where Are the Men in the Women's Leadership Gap Discussion?

      POSTED ON: Nov 19, 2014

  • Where Are the Men in the Women's Leadership Gap Discussion?

    Lack of Women in Leadership Roles Is a Business Challenge, Not a Women's Problem

    By Scott Karambis, VP of marketing and brand strategy at SapientNitro.


    I recently returned from the 3% Conference in San Francisco, a gathering dedicated to advocating for women in creative leadership positions. I was one of only two dozen or so men in attendance, and I couldn't help wondering why the lack of women leaders is still seen as a women's problem -- not a business challenge -- when the benefits of women's leadership are so obvious and so uncontestable.

    Women control roughly 85% of consumer purchases, yet 91% of women say advertisers don't understand them. As advertisers, we attend many meetings where the clients are women, but we often scramble to put together a gender-balanced team ourselves.

    Where women aren't in charge yet, men in leadership positionsshould take responsibility and lead the way.

    Ad agencies have long realized they need at least a few women around, and many have sponsored studies or women's support networks. But as Joan Williams points out in the Harvard Business Review, too many of these efforts get stuck "admiring the problem," rather than executing programs that change the game.


    Read the full story on AdAge

    • Check Out Whole Foods' New Interactive Touch-Screen Store Design

      POSTED ON: Nov 06, 2014

  • Check Out Whole Foods' New Interactive Touch-Screen Store Design

    Interact Digitally With the Farmer Who Grew Your Food at the Chain's Newest Atlanta Store


    Watch the video on AdAge Creativity Online

    Whole Foods makes an impressive effort to bring food retail into the digital age with a series of innovative interactive experiences that have launched in its newest Atlanta store. Created by SapientNitro's Second Story, they include an interactive wall of window panes in the store's cafe (seen above) offering shoppers a glimpse into the lives of the local providers who cultivate and grow the food. There's also a "magic mirror" that assigns your body movements one of three different auras -- refresh, energize, relieve -- and suggests appropriate products from the Whole Body range, and "Pefect Pairings" touchscreens that recommend pairings of wine or beer for particular foods.



    • Four Digital Innovations That Will Change the Future of Baseball

      POSTED ON: Oct 28, 2014

  • Four Digital Innovations That Will Change the Future of Baseball

    Baseball Needs to Raise Its Digital Game to Remain Relevant

    By Bill Kanarick


    The World Series now reaching its climax closes out a 2014 season that is expected to deliver record revenue to Major League Baseball, in part driven by record broadcast rights deals from national and regional sports networks.

    Yet all is not healthy with America's pastime. In particular, baseball fans tend to be older than other sports fans and are getting older with each passing year. Roughly half the viewers during the 2013 World Series were over 55 and only 6% were under18.

    Baseball's challenges are not limited to viewership. Baseball youth participation is also declining by around 7% per year, which is faster than the 4% per year decline in all youth sports participation.

    In short, it's clear that baseball has work to do to ensure it remains relevant to the next generation. While this must include changes to the game itself, such as speeding up the pace of play, digital innovation will be critical to strengthening the connection between baseball and younger fans. Sports compete with all forms of entertainment, and consumers increasingly expect these experiences to be digitally enabled. Younger fans are much more likely to watch sports in digital channels than other sports fans.


    Read the story on AdAge

    • Inside Whole Foods' Store of the Future: Tackles sustainability in-store with digital

      POSTED ON: Oct 27, 2014

  • Inside Whole Foods' Store of the Future: Tackles sustainability in-store with digital

    By Lauren Johnson

    Read the story on AdWeek


    Just one week after launching its first national branding campaign, Whole Foods is promoting its sustainability cred in its stores.

    The upscale grocer—with the help of SapientNitro's Second Story—has loaded up its new flagship store in Alpharetta, Ga., with digital experiences that show shoppers where their food comes from. This isn't exactly the store of tomorrow, though. "We wanted to bring in some cool digital elements, but we didn't want that to detract from the shopping experience," said Matt Courtoy, Whole Foods' social and digital media specialist. 

    The most eye-catching activation is in the store's café. A digital screen on a wall runs an Instagram feed showing produce still growing in the fields of six local farmers that supply the store. Elsewhere in the store, a digital mirror encourages shoppers to strike three different poses, which trigger images of recommended health products like vitamins and protein shakes.

    Finally, touchscreens are built into display crates in the specialty section of the store where beer, cheese and wine are sold.

    Whole Foods' tech-savvy spin on shopping is the latest effort by a grocer to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive market. Earlier this month, AmazonFresh launched in New York, and Walmart is starting to offer more organic products.

    "Educating you on the people that are bringing you the food is a huge differentiator--[that's] not easily replicated by the big-box grocers or Amazon," said Donald Chesnut, SapientNitro's chief experience officer.



    • The Guardian: Marketing Agencies Have a Duty to Create New Communication Channels for Clients

      POSTED ON: Oct 09, 2014

  • The Guardian: Marketing Agencies Have a Duty to Create New Communication Channels for Clients

    By Nigel Vaz

    It isn’t enough to simply respond to a brief, says SapientNitro’s Nigel Vaz. In this perpetually connected digital world, you have to make a brand more relevant to consumers through innovation
    As marketing agencies, we spend a lot of time with our clients addressing challenges in the here-and-now. As critical as that is for our clients’ businesses, it’s rarely a route to the kind of innovation that puts clear water between them and the competition.
    We know that perpetual connectivity has transformed consumers’ daily lives, and that what was once a linear brand relationship with them has evolved into a complicated landscape that melds channels, technologies and experiences.
    In our clients’ organisations, this has brought about a dismantling of distinct functions such that brand communications, product and service design are interlinked and require a new approach – or even a new model – from partner agencies.
    In 2012, RBS unveiled a new brand promise, Here For You, with the aim of making the brand more relevant to customers. As well as the TV campaign to communicate the promise, RBS set in motion a programme to deliver customer benefits that were tangible, helpful and differentiating.
    Get Cash, a mobile app that allows customers to withdraw emergency cash from ATMs using a time-sensitive, six-digit passcode, was a market-first for RBS and, crucially, demonstrated to customers that the bank was doing as well as saying. The app was one of a host of ideas developed by Royal Bank of Scotland Group in partnership with SapientNitro – all of which tied to the brand promises Here For You (RBS) and Helpful Banking (NatWest).
    For instance, Intention to Lend is a digital mortgage tool that gives real-time proof of NatWest’s intent to lend against a specific property and gives customers a head start in the house-buying process. Another tool, Auto ID, shortcuts the process of opening a NatWest bank account by allowing customers to photograph and submit proof of identification, rather than have to provide physical documents during banking hours.
    Different agencies, differently resourced, will have their own way of coming at the innovation challenge, be it through R&D labs, investments, external networks, account-centric innovation or, as SapientNitro does, through a combination of these.
    It’s for no one agency to prescribe how it is done, but it is beholden on us as an industry to face the innovation challenge, explore best practice and recognise that we need to be able to see around corners, understand what’s next and create the products, experiences and stories that brands and consumers expect and deserve.
    Nigel Vaz is Senior Vice President and European Managing Director of SapientNitro


    Read the story on

    • 8 discoveries from our marketing technologist survey

      POSTED ON: Sep 30, 2014

  • 8 discoveries from our marketing technologist survey

    What is the profile of a marketing technologist?



    The prominence of marketing technologists and the chief marketing technologist (or CMTO) role has greatly expanded over the past six years. Just in the past year, the topic has been featured in an article in the July-August 2014 edition of the Harvard Business Review, and the first MarTech conference completely sold out. There is no denying marketing technology is hot right now.

    But few studies have been done to understand this group’s education, skills, gaps, and areas of expertise. How similar are marketing technologists to each other? How different?

    To help us shed more light on the emerging profession of marketing technologists, Sheldon Monteiro — the marketing technologist CTO of SapientNitro — took the initiative to design a survey with Decision Analyst, a market research firm. SapientNitro sponsored this effort — and provided 3 iPad Minis for the drawing.

    We asked the community to participate — readers like you and attendees at the recent MarTech conference — and ultimately had 280 respondents. (For more details, see “About the Survey” at the end of the article.)

    We’re excited to share the initial results. Here are the eight most interesting findings we’ve identified so far.

    1. We identified six different archetypes of marketing technologists.


    We identified clusters of skills (“rank your strongest/weakest skill…”), and attitudes (“I think of myself as…”) to define six archetypes of marketing technologists.

    These archetypes are quite different. The largest, the Marketing Maven, focuses on strategic marketing management, while the second, the Infrastructure Architect, focuses on technology infrastructure and IT.

    The development of unique areas of expertise within the marketing technologist role is clearly seen in these data. For example, there is a group highly focused on cutting-edge, emerging technology (the Experience Engineers). But there is also a group with big data chops (the Data Divas).

    Is this a sign that the marketing technology field is maturing and growing more specialized? Is that a good or bad development, given that a large part of the marketing technologist role should be about bridging silos?

    2. Less than 26% of today’s marketing technologists have a STEM undergrad degree.

    …and just 19% had a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) graduate degree.

    Instead, business majors dominated at the graduate level, while undergraduate majors varied greatly: 31% of respondents majored in social science, liberal arts, or actual art — including drama and theater — in their undergrad studies.

    3. Marketing technologists come from both marketing and technology disciplines.

    Marketing managers are the #1 job leading to a marketing technologist. But as a category, a technical or programming background is the most common.

    In other words, they’re doing things with technology they never expected.

    And they’re learning on the job. While they might not have had a technology education, most of them have recently held a job accountable for technology — they’ve learned on their own the technical skills they need.

    4. Just 8.6% of marketing technologists reported to the CIO.

    And speaking of their job, most of them don’t report into the CIO. Instead, most report into the CMO (31.4%) or CEO (23.9%). In sum, 64% reported into the CMO, CEO, CIO or similar SVP roles.


    5. Just 7% of those surveyed have marketing technologist in their title.

    While 78.9% of companies have an individual or a team to manage marketing technologists in our study, most of them don’t have “marketing technologist” in their title. Instead, marketing, business, or technology titles dominate.


    6. Five skills — across both technology and marketing — emerged as table stakes.

    Our respondents ranked 44 job skills by importance for the future of marketing; the top five are listed below.

    This is a group with an integrated view of digital and marketing. They seem like they’d agree with the CMO of Kimberly Clark when he says, “We don’t believe in digital marketing. We believe in marketing in a digital world.”

    In fact, later in the survey, 94% of respondents said they believed that marketing skills and IT skills could be combined into a single person.


    7. Surprisingly, there are large skills gaps in both technology skills and, to a lesser degree, marketing fundamentals.

    The marketing technologist of today may not be trained in traditional technology, but they’re increasingly being asked to provide expertise on these areas.

    Marketing technologists identified significant gaps in the hard technology skills they ranked as most important — big data and customer relationship management.

    But they also noted gaps in marketing fundamentals: target market identification, for example, was the #2 most important skill, yet most respondents felt it wasn’t a particularly strong skill of theirs (22nd out of 44). Market segmentation and psychographics also emerged as key gaps.

    The role of the marketing technologist is a hybrid, but there seems to be significant gaps on both the marketing and the technology side.


    8. Marketing technologists are much more excited than stressed.

    To close out the study, we asked how excited and stressed marketing technologists are.

    The good news — they are much more excited than stressed. 62.3% reported being extremely or very excited, but just 32.3% reported being extremely or very stressed.

    And stress didn’t increase significantly as income increased — but excitement did.


    About the Survey

    The survey was an online questionnaire and survey link distributed through two primary channels — and the 2014 Boston MarTech conference (August 18-20). No maximum sample quotes or screening criteria were set. Survey responses were collected from August 15 to September 8.

    A total of 280 surveys were completed. The distribution of the sample appears to be representative of the marketing technology community, as defined by this blog and attendees from the 2014 Boston MarTech conference. SapientNitro sponsored the study, working with Decision Analyst, a market research firm, to design and execute the study.

    These are the preliminary findings — look for the full results coming out in end of October.


    Note: This was a guest article written by Hilding Anderson, Director of Research & Insights at SapientNitro. Special thanks to Sheldon Monteiro and Scott Tang.

    • Mondelez Named SapientNitro As Their Lead Digital Strategic Agency

      POSTED ON: Sep 23, 2014

  • Mondelez Named SapientNitro As Their Lead Digital Strategic Agency

    SapientNitro named Mondelez lead digital agency

    Read it on AdNews. Full editorial as follows:

    Mondelez, parent company of brands including Cadbury and Vegemite, has named SapientNitro as its lead digital strategic agency across its entire portfolio.

    As part of a long running review of how it markets its suite of brands, Mondelez has also named two tactical agencies to its roster.

    Online Circle and ChannelT have been added to its roster with each charged as being a tactical/support agency.

    The move comes as the FMCG giant continues to focus on digital communications as well as tapping into new innovations to drive its brands and consumer engagement.

    Mondelez head of marketing services, Anthony Ho, said the move was part of a bid to create deeper

    relationships with its agencies.

    "The key thing for us was to get a dedicated account team and ways of working that could be translated across the brands for us and so we have been through over the past four momnths quite an extensive roster pitch process," Ho told AdNews.

    "We have landed on Sapient as the lead agency and ultimately the rationale behind selecting Sapient really is they did an amazing job for us in in terms of just showing the connection between strategic thinking right through to creative and then also having a really good strategy around content and social."

    A spokesman at SapientNitro said the win was an opportunity to combine story-telling with digital.

    “It’s an amazing opportunity to work with a great company with leading brands to create immersive, connected experiences that allow consumers to make stronger brand connections in their always-on world,” The agency said.

    “With digital as a central part of how people experience the world today, we are thrilled to leverage our unique ability to bring together the combined power of storytelling and systems thinking to help Mondelez connect with consumers in powerful and meaningful ways. We are very much looking forward to our partnership.”



    AdNews is Australia's leading trade brand serving the advertising, marketing and media industries. Founded in 1928, it is published fortnightly in print with a daily email newsletter and a comprehensive, resource-based website. Its online archives contain more than 60,000 articles dating back to 1998. AdNews also runs a number of award programs including the AdNews Agency of the Year Awards,Australian Magazine Awards, Glossy Awards, Locus Awards and Rising Star Awards. AdNews events include the Media Sales Summit and the AdNews Challenge. AdNews is published by Yaffa Publishing Group Pty Ltd, one of Australia's largest specialist publishers.

    • SapientNitro's CMO Guest Hosts on Bloomberg TV

      POSTED ON: Sep 20, 2014

  • SapientNitro's CMO Guest Hosts on Bloomberg TV


    Chief Marketing Officer, Bill Kanarick, made his second appearance this year on Bloomberg television’s morning news program, “Surveillance,” which aired on September 18, 2014. As guest host, Bill provided insight on world events that made headlines that day including, how technology is shaping the cadence and patterns in which content is consumed and Alibaba’s forthcoming IPO implications.


    Bill also brought with him a special guest, COO of the Boston Red Sox, Sam Kennedy, who touted the multi-year partnership between Sapient and the Red Sox. Sam discussed the impact digital will have on baseball moving forward and the importance of engaging fans starting at a young age.

    • ChiefMartec Blog - Must-read interview on marketing technology leadership with the CTO of SapientNitro

      POSTED ON: Aug 13, 2014

  • ChiefMartec Blog - Must-read interview on marketing technology leadership with the CTO of SapientNitro

    By Scott Brinker: August 14, 2014 - Sheldon Monteiro, CTO of SapientNitro, is one of the sharpest people I have met in the marketing technology space. We were introduced by Mayur Gupta, the global head of marketing technology at Kimberly-Clark — and also a SapientNitro alum.

    Taking Mayur and Sheldon as two points on a line, you have to extrapolate that SapientNitro is kind of “stellar nursery” for producing amazing marketing technologists.

    Pretty much every conversation I’ve had with Sheldon has set my mind on fire. And the following Q&A with him is no exception. It started as a chance to discuss his upcoming keynote talk at MarTech this month, Growing Unicorns: SapientNitro’s Chief Marketing Technology Officer University — indeed, SapientNitro is quite deliberately birthing hybrid marketing technology stars.

    But we expanded into a broad swath of strategic issues that every marketing leader can appreciate with technology management: opportunities in volatility, build vs. buy decisions, in-house vs. outsourcing decisions, the remaking of agencies, what’s missing from the marketing technology landscape, the collision of creativity and technology, and more.

    Tell us a little about your background and your career path that led you to become the CTO of SapientNitro.

    I had a nomadic childhood. Ours was a close-knit family, but my parents moved around a lot — I attended 6 different schools and 4 colleges. Sadly, I don’t have a single grade school friend I’m in touch with today. But for what I lost in roots, I gained in perspective: different cultures, types of people, value systems, and educational experiences. It had a huge impact on how I think, and on my attitude towards change. It doesn’t mean I like disruptive change more or less than anybody else, but I have the benefit of many years of learning to accept radical change as part of everyday life.

    My first paid job was in marketing, at 14, conducting door-to-door market research surveys for consumer products. After 3 months, I figured that it would be much easier to make money in technology as an entrepreneur. I was obsessed with electronics as a teenager, and tapped that passion for commercial gain by assembling and repairing home computers. I suppose I was a maker long before making became the cultural phenomenon it is today. That hobby turned into a successful business that helped pay for college and a motorcycle, among other toys. What more could a teenager want?

    Immediately after college, where I majored in physics and computer science, I found myself in Thailand, where a vacation turned into a two-year stint building systems for the financial industry — more specifically, graphical trading systems for brokers at the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Working with brokers was another phenomenal experience. These folks live on volatility. They don’t just accept it — more volatility literally means more opportunities to make money, and they need the information and technology to exploit that volatility. Little did I know, thriving in volatility would serve me well years later in marketing technology.

    Working with brokers was another phenomenal experience. These folks live on volatility. They don’t just accept it — more volatility literally means more opportunities to make money.

    Immediately after grad school, I was fortunate to have a number of job opportunities. One of those was with a fast growing technology services company in Boston, promising a focus on culture, teamwork, and cool technology to solve customer problems. On my first visit to their offices, I was blown away by the people, open spaces, and design centers where they conducted customer workshops. Two weeks later, I signed up with Sapient as an entry-level engineer as employee 196.

    Sapient has changed a lot over the past 19 years. Today, we are over 12,000 people and well north of a billion in revenues. Here, I’ve had incredible opportunities to be an entrepreneur, to do amazing work, and to break new boundaries with innovative technology. Like my childhood, Sapient is close-knit, but we prosper on — and even instigate — change as a way of life.

    I was elevated to the newly created role as SapientNitro’s Global CTO two years ago. We realized that though we were doing so much groundbreaking work with technology, we were often taking it for granted. I was running our Quality, Methodology and Tools efforts prior, in addition to client service, and this new role expanded my influence canvas significantly. Because it was a new role, I’ve been able to define it without a prior benchmark.

    How would you describe SapientNitro? Are you a digital agency? Or something different?

    The world has no shortage of advertising and communications as well as technology service firms. But much of the massive effort and expense in advertising and customer technology doesn’t translate to positive consumer experiences.

    In today’s world, although consumers are in control, they have a fleeting attention span. Compound this with sensory and media overload. Brands have realized that consumers make no distinction between brand communications and experience. Brands are changing because consumers are. But are their agencies? I don’t know that the categories of digital agency or traditional agency are even relevant anymore.

    What’s needed is a new breed of agency, architected for today’s consumer, that’s not in the business of creating ads or websites or apps, but rather envisioning and creating worlds that come alive through consumer touchpoints that attract, engage, transact, and retain. That make technology seamless, where the brand becomes part of the consumer’s life, not just a media impression or a channel of interaction.

    We’ve built SapientNitro as that new breed of agency. We’ve assembled our talent, our culture, and how we work to value creativity and technology as equals — where technology instigates the creative process as much as it brings ideas to life.

    We’ve assembled our talent, our culture, and how we work tovalue creativity and technology as equals — where technology instigates the creative process as much as it brings ideas to life.

    I’m very proud that in 2013, we were acknowledged as OMMA’s Creative Agency of the Year and named a “Leader” in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies published late last year. Receiving one recognition or the other is a major accomplishment — but only a new breed of agency is recognized for both. And, we also have maintained our strong heritage and recognition from Forrester as a leader in Experience Design and Technology services.

    You’ve created a very unique executive development program at SapientNitro to “grow” hybrid marketing technology leaders, your Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) University. What led you to create this program? How does it work? Any successes so far?

    As the world has shifted from analog to digital, from communications to experience, from story yelling to storyscaping, companies are left with a gaping hole: they need a new breed of technologist. They need someone who sees around corners and “gets” marketers and advertising. This new breed of technologist thinks at the intersection of marketing, technology, and story — and they aren’t afraid of charting new territory.

    But technologists who understand the business of marketing — and can advise across the breadth of marketing technologies — are rare. It may seem strange to say this to you, given the stellar work and thought leadership you provide on the marketing technology space, but very few companies have taken the challenge to develop the talent capable of achieving success in this role. Many of our competitors have begun to talk about the intersection of marketing and technology, but few have made real strides to drive that convergence.

    We created the CMTO University last year — an internal, yearlong leadership development program to grow some of our best technologists from across the globe.

    To address this, we created the CMTO University last year — an internal, yearlong leadership development program to grow some of our best technologists from across the globe, focused on expanding their technology skills, equipping them with a mix of marketing fundamentals, and helping them increase influence through the power of persuasion and storytelling.

    We combine theory with practice to ensure the class is applying what they learn, while they learn. We bring in diverse perspectives, from different disciplines — business strategy, brand strategy, creative design, analytics — leveraging famous talent from around our agency, our learning partners, and industry icons. Assignments include teaching others to master the material and “pay it forward.”

    This program also imparts the tools to ensure the graduates continue to stay on top of what’s next — a critical skill in the digital world, as many marketing technologies become obsolete before many competitors even begin to master them. Our clients reap the benefits through the work we produce, and our participants see the impact of their collective transformation throughout the program, both in the curriculum and on project work.

    In terms of success, our inaugural Class of 2014 just met in India for the final program intensive last weekend. It was an amazing, inspiring day, with an engaged audience, riveted to their seats from start to the finish. They presented the culmination of their work in the program to over 300 attendees in Bangalore, including their peers and our community of technologists, at WHAT’S NEXT IS NOW, a full-day conference event. Using the storytelling skills learned in the curriculum, the students discussed how brands can build and maintain strong connections with customers by breaking boundaries at the intersection of technology and story.

    Our CMTO University program resulted in changes big and small — from helping imagine new possibilities during our ideation and pitch process, to changing the narrative during our project acceptance phases.

    Our students are already making a very different kind of impact in their work with our clients. It’s resulted in changes big and small — from helping imagine new possibilities during our ideation and pitch process, to changing the narrative during our project acceptance phases. Perhaps the biggest change for our participants is the change they report in perspective. They report they are more fearless and unconstrained in how they think about the future, and most importantly, their role and responsibility in creating and shaping it.

    From your perspective, what’s happening in the broader agency world? To me, it often seems that agencies are somewhere between a state of massive disruption (“advertising is dead!”) and total denial (“long live the 30-second spot, where the media dollars still flow like water”). What’s your take? What’s the future look like?

    For over two centuries, agencies made their bread and butter through media commissions. Media formats have evolved, but the reality is that the business model of most agencies is still heavily dependent on those commissions. If you are in one of those agencies, you are going to try very hard to maintain that equilibrium and to force fit the new networked economy into the old broadcast paradigm.

    The business model of most agencies is still heavily dependent on media commissions. They try very hard to force fit the new networked economy into the old broadcast paradigm.

    We’re trending towards addressability and interaction across every channel, including television, out-of-home, and even physical computing in immersive spaces. With that comes the opportunity for brands to target and provide contextual relevance in every interaction and with every communication, no matter where the consumer is. This presents a massive opportunity for agencies that can get comfortable with accountability for every dollar spent — whether that money is spent on communications or experience.

    We believe that connected “omnichannel” experiences are more than just responsive versions of websites, but are actual immersive media spaces and canvases that transcend devices and advertising. We are able to engage the consumer via emotional connections, physical connections, as well as virtual connections, in a continuous story that increases brand engagement.

    How do you look at the landscape of a thousand marketing technology vendors? Are they your raw materials? Your partners? Your competitors? It seems increasingly complicated as technology vendors — for instance, IBM — are also selling services and agency-like offerings to CMOs.

    There is no shortage of choice when it comes to marketing technology. But as exciting as marketing and marketing technology is, I want to underscore the potential to use all of this fantastic technology to innovate the business. Peter Drucker famously said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two — and only two — basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

    If you are, say, the CEO of a taxi company, you could apply a great amount of marketing technology to better connect with your customers, and you would still be disrupted by Uber. Uber fundamentally re-imagined the taxi and limousine business by creating a service for the networked world we live in — and there is no arguing that their business is powered by software, the cloud, and mobility.

    If you are the CEO of a taxi company, you could apply a great amount of marketing technology to better connect with your customers, and you would still be disrupted by Uber.

    Against this backdrop, the question for us as marketers is: do we do old things with the new tools, or fundamentally disrupt ourselves — creating new value, in new ways, with the new tools we have at our disposal? The answer to me seems obvious. The latter can yield step change, while the former yields incremental change. We need to do both. This is where the galactic choices we have with marketing technology can be a benefit or a distraction.

    Technology can fuel innovation and re-imagine business — Uber would not have been practical a decade ago because the technology and deployed mobile infrastructure simply did not exist. Yet all that choice can be a huge distraction — I’ve seen large organizations make multiple competing investments in the same functional categories. That’s not just waste. It fragments the customer experience.

    We help our clients create experiences and tell their stories by marrying imagination with systems thinking. Brands can move beyond making ads and into creating worlds where their story becomes part of the consumer’s story. This new reality requires that legacy agency, business, and marketing paradigms be eliminated. The silos that divide creativity and technology — and any lines between the physical and virtual — no longer exist in the real world, and they don’t exist in ours.

    We help our clients create experiences and tell their stories bymarrying imagination with systems thinking.

    How do you manage the complexity of a 1,000+ vendors? Old notions of enterprise architecture and standards governance often break down at the velocity with which marketing technology is advancing. It’s often seen as an impediment to progress. At the same time, without conscious choice, you have duplication, or the specter of a thousand flowers blooming.

    With systems thinking, we take a disciplined approach to applying the right mix of speculative and proven technology to support the brand-consumer story. We combine hacking and engineering skillsets with the methodology and culture to support that marriage. We continue to invest in new capability building and keep a pulse on emerging technologies, platforms, and development techniques around industry verticals. We incubate new talent to ensure we don’t stagnate, as many agencies and integrators often do when they scale.

    The space we are in is hotly contested by agencies, systems integrators, and even product vendors. Product companies, in an attempt to protect their software and hardware revenues, are offering agency services. Agencies, in an attempt to protect their media business, are offering systems integration. And systems integrators are moving into the interactive space.

    In reality, it’s incredibly difficult to create a company that values creativity as much as it values technology. How do you systematically foster and celebrate “weird” in a product or systems integration business? How do you value process and scale in a creative culture? These are basic questions, but they are fundamental to delivering value with the problems our clients bring us.

    It’s incredibly difficult to create a company that values creativity as much as it values technology. How do you systematically foster and celebrate “weird” in a product or systems integration business? How do you value process and scale in a creative culture?

    Finally, you observed — and I agree — that there is no shortage of choice in marketing technology. Yet there remain vast swaths of marketing and experience problems that have immature solutions. For instance, the digitization of physical spaces and commerce logistics and fulfillment are still at very early stages. There are very bright minds working on these problems, and we are constantly on “hunts” to explore these areas in response to customer needs or known whitespace.

    Drafting on that, how do you make the decision for what to build with your team or buy from a vendor? Are there certain kinds of capabilities — perhaps particular layers of marketing technology — that you think are better built custom for brands?

    There is no silver bullet answer to this question. Innovation and marketing inherently thrive on disruption, so that would appear to be a good argument for choosing niche vendors or building custom, differentiated solutions. At the same time, you would be hard-pressed to build from scratch when there are proven solutions that solve for known problem sets, like web content management or digital commerce. Open source options are now available in most every space from core infrastructure to experience management.

    How do you make choices?

    The moment you decide to build custom software — and that software is directly impacting your customer’s experience —you are now a software company.

    The first thing to note is that the moment you decide to build custom software — and that software is directly impacting your customer’s experience — you are now a software company. With internal applications, you can defer enhancements and upgrades by process or training interventions. Unless you are a monopoly, or your customers are willing to accept a poorer experience because you offer lower pricing, for example, you can’t do that with software that your customers experience directly.

    Packaged software somewhat mitigates this problem by shifting the onus of enhancements to the vendor. Yet, if your customer experience demands change at a rate faster than your vendor can deliver, you face the specter of having to build enhancements yourself — or switch vendors.

    All this said, a brand would be hard-pressed to justify building core infrastructure technologies, middleware, or databases. There are just too many great options to not choose from one of the commercial or open source options. The answer as you move up the stack is nuanced — and sits at the intersection or function, form, differentiation and cost.

    If you are a small or midsize business, chances are you don’t want to be a software company, and you should seek to use off-the-shelf software to the extent you can, building differentiation with how you use the tools, rather than re-inventing the tools themselves. On the other hand, if your competition is outsmarting you with software, you would be ill-advised to sit still while waiting for your vendor ecosystem to catch up and provide you with the weapons to compete.

    If your competition is outsmarting you with software, you would be ill-advised to sit still while waiting for your vendor ecosystem to catch up.

    At the other end of the spectrum lies experience technology — the mobile, web, responsive and in-venue applications that your customers actually experience as your brand presence. I’d be reluctant to have this layer look at all similar to my competitors, and this would be one area where custom builds can be more the norm than the exception.

    What marketing technology capabilities — both technical infrastructure and human resources — should a brand have in-house? What should they turn to agencies like yours to provide? Obviously, you’re biased here, and it probably varies a lot from company to company, but how would you frame those choices?

    As you observed, the answer varies. IT departments have been moving up the outsourcing continuum for decades. They have been doing so for a variety of reasons — specialized expertise, temporary or project specific needs, and economies of scale, to name a few. On the other hand, companies hired agencies because the agency is independent and provided an outside point-of-view to the effort of selling the company’s products or services.

    The truth is, for the foreseeable future, the sheer amount of innovation in the marketing technology space will create more opportunity — and hence more work — than can be delivered by the available talent, in-house or at agencies.

    With marketing and marketing technology outsourcing, you need to do some introspection and honestly answer some basic questions, such as:

    • Do I have, or can I create the culture to bring together creativity and technology within my organization?
    • Do I have the talent and capabilities to be a software or product company? Do I believe I can retain this talent and sustain these capabilities in the future?
    • Do I need the expertise and efficiency that a medium or large agency brings? If yes, how can I access that?
    • Are my internal users happy with my in-house technology capabilities? If yes, will these scale to meet the increased demands of external customers? If not, why do I believe that my external, non-captive users will be well served with these capabilities?
    • Given the rate of change in marketing technology, am I prepared to make the commitment to up-skill and transform my workforce with each new wave of technology? Even if this requires changing staff?
    • Can I disrupt myself, or will a third party help me imagine my obituary and avoid that fate?

    One additional point — the decision to outsource must go hand-in-hand with the incentives and tooling to integrate the provider’s teams deeply with your in-house business, development, and operations teams. The traditional model of outsourcing discrete projects and throwing deliverables over the wall is a recipe for suboptimal results and barely meeting consumer desires.

    The decision to outsource must go hand-in-hand with theincentives and tooling to integrate the provider’s teamsdeeply with your in-house teams.

    Old-style procurement models for both systems integration and agency services are under pressure, as they often put the client’s and service provider’s interests at odds — and often don’t value enough the potential for innovating and driving massive disruption in the competitive space or consumer engagement with the brand. There is much work to be done in this area. I’ve seen tremendous success with shared incentives that are focused on the greatness of work.

    Wow, Sheldon — this was terrific. Thank you!


    • Mashable - The History of Advertising at Cannes Lions (Infographic)

      POSTED ON: Jun 26, 2013

  • Mashable - The History of Advertising at Cannes Lions (Infographic)

    By Denise Lu

    This year's annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which wrapped up on Saturday, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the most prestigious awards in creative communications. Ninety-two countries submitted a record 35,765 entries.

    SapientNitro created a series of infographics spanning the festival's six decades, featuring statistics, notable participants, industry breakdowns and trends.

    View the infographic on

    • How Magazine - An Inside Look at the Cannes Lions

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2013

  • How Magazine - An Inside Look at the Cannes Lions

    Ever wonder what it would be like to hang out at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity? Alex Martineau, art director at SapientNitro and part of Cannes Young Lions Team USA Print, talks about his experience in this year’s print challenge. Here’s what he had to say:

    The basement floor of the Palais des Festival is where all of the shortlisted work is exhibited. It’s built like a maze, with row after row of incredible print ads, digital concepts and consumer outreach efforts. Each entry has the agency name next to it but no individual name. Maybe I’ve met the guy who made that ad; maybe I haven’t. Maybe he bought me a beer last night. Maybe I spilled it all over the sand when a dancing Dutchman in a Mario costume bumped into me. Is that Dutch Mario a Grand Prix-winning art director? Maybe. That’s the beauty of Cannes.

    I was selected to represent Team USA in the Young Lions print competition. It’s an amazing sight, as every talented member of the competing teams is under 30 years old. And while getting there was no easy feat, the actual competition during the festival was even harder. There were 40 teams from all over the world hungry for the same recognition and prestige. Ultimately, we were all hoping to get our hands on a highly coveted Young Lions award.

    We had 24 hours to craft our work. The brief was for Macmillan Cancer Support, a U.K.-based charity focused on providing specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer. Our challenge was to drive cancer patients to Macmillans’ online community, where they could receive support from a vast, global community. Once receiving the brief, we spent all day and night frantically trying to make the best work we could. And we did. We were proud of it. Typographic and a strong idea based on initial reactions of a diagnosis, the concept connected seamlessly with the help of the community to guide patients through treatment.  It was up to the judges, who unfortunately, did not pick our work. But with all of the teams being exceptionally talented, it was easy enough to swallow our pride.

    Through this experience, I learned that living in different parts of the world gives you a truly different perspective on thinking creatively. At the end of the day, simplicity is still king. Words of wisdom to future Young Lions: Win or lose, this is an experience to be treasured and remembered with pride. And after all, you’re still in Cannes with plenty of ballyhoo to be had.

    The Macmillan Online Community project was one example of design as activism. Get your feet wet in this socially conscious creative specialty by picking up “The Design Activist’s Handbook” ebook at My Design Shop.

    • - Digital Co-Branding: The Anti-Programmatic Buying Strategy

      POSTED ON: Jun 23, 2013

  • - Digital Co-Branding: The Anti-Programmatic Buying Strategy

    “Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

    Today’s column is written by Serge Del Grosso, Media Director of SapientNitro.

    Digital-media planners are facing increasing pressure, and not just from their usual heavy workloads. There’s also all the pressure from the new challenges and opportunities available in the dynamically evolving marketplace.

    One challenge creating new tension in the system is reconciling top-of-funnel reach building with the high-volume and efficiencies generated through algorithmic buying. For example, eMarketer predicts that U.S. real-time programmatic buys will increase by more than 72% in 2013. Yet, in contrast, according to the Online Publisher’s Association’s Branding on Display survey of 250 marketers, 47% of decision makers believe premium content publishers are the best media for brand-focused advertising campaigns, compared to 16% preferring social media, 13% favoring video ad networks and 11% preferring portals.

    Of course, the relative prioritization of brand-building vs. programmatic-buying tactics will reflect the objective of the digital campaign. Building reach, filling the funnel, and driving customer engagement will point toward premium-display publishers; maximizing efficiencies, optimizing conversion rates, and closing the sale through display retargeting will favor programmatic buying.

    “Digital co-branding” offers a way to reconcile these two approaches.

    Most marketers are already familiar with the concept of co-branding, a time-tested strategy in which two brands unite their selling proposition behind a common goal that leverages the heritage and the distinct characteristics of both of their brands. Examples are plentiful: Think Ford Explorer/Eddie Bauer, Nike/iPod Sport Kit, TGI Fridays’ Jack Daniel’s menu and many more. Digital co-branding borrows this fundamental approach. It aligns the advertiser’s brand and messaging content with a digital publisher that is targeting the same audience with similarly aligned editorial content.

    The foundation of the digital co-branding is a shared brief about the objectives of the campaign. Unlike a simple sponsorship, co-branding requires the publishing partner to give up some editorial control and the advertiser to divert resources to activate content. In return, both parties get more responsive and engaged users.

    The New York Times recently published a good article noting the acceleration of the digital co-branding trend. One of the examples it used was an article posted in BuzzFeed’s Life section, “10 Lifechanging Ways To Make Your Day More Efficient,” which clearly identified GE as the contributor and BuzzFeed’s partner. In return, BuzzFeed showcased links to GE’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

    This approach can work equally well to drive traffic to display ad placements associated with content sponsorship. In my experience, publishers in the travel category are particularly receptive to building co-branding programs sourcing content from destination marketers. These publishers typically use such content to engage their audience throughout the travel-planning and -buying cycle, from pre-planning to active consideration through booking.

    Take the example of a display ad that features dynamic updates on snow conditions. Placed on a site that covers ski resorts, that ad will almost always drive higher response rates than a static banner placement. Yes, rich media typically outperforms static creative; but linking the dynamic placement with contextually relevant content enables the advertiser to start a conversation with more connected consumers. This has the effect of “filling the funnel” with a more engaged pool of prospective visitors, thus increasing opportunities for sales -- either direct conversions or latent conversions activated by display retargeting.

    Digital co-branding is by no means a panacea. The planner will still need to evaluate the mix between premium placements and algorithmic buying across digital platforms. However, instead of looking at brand building and programmatic buying as disparate activities, I believe the proper equation is co-branding plusprogrammatic buying, which together equals greater returns on investments. Co-branding can increase reach and engagement and activate brand consideration, while programmatic buying brings the user through the purchase cycle. Viewing these as complementary digital strategies -- used in conjunction with test-and-learn media analysis and ongoing optimization -- enhances media planners’ ability to maximize both the effectiveness and efficiency of their overall digital media campaigns.

    In today’s ever-evolving, RTB-driven digital-media landscape, sometimes “healthy tension” can be a good thing.

    Follow Serge Del Grosso (@delbyrnes) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

    • Fast Company - The Best in Mobile Community: Old School Tech Wins Big at Cannes

      POSTED ON: Jun 17, 2013

  • Fast Company - The Best in Mobile Community: Old School Tech Wins Big at Cannes

    “TKTBKS” from Smart Communications wins the Grand Prix in the Mobile category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

    By Rae Annfera

    When it comes to technology, there is a distinct fascination with faster, better, newer. The best mobile marketing effort of the last year, however--as declared at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity--is decidedly low tech. “TKTBKS” from Smart Communications and agency DM9 Jayme Syfu in Manilla, the festival Grand Prix in the Mobile category was awarded to a campaign that turned those ubiquitous but unsmart feature phones into mobile textbooks for students in need in the Philippines.

    Recognizing that many in the developing world don’t have regular access to educational materials, Smart Communications condensed the information of traditional textbooks into SIM cards that could then be loaded onto feature phones, many of which were discarded by owners who’d moved on to newer models. The work demonstrated that mobile technology, when applied well to a real-world problem, is a means to an end rather than and end in itself, and was lauded by the jury members for being clear, smart, and useful. “You don’t have to use flashy tech to execute a great idea,” says Rei Inamoto, the Mobile jury president and chief creative officer of AKQA.

    Determining which mobile ideas were world-leading was a point of great debate, but Inamoto suggested the criteria in determining winning ideas were about portability, connectivity, and pervasiveness. Juror Justin Baird suggested that the winning piece needed to be a combination of “creativity, idea, execution, and mobile relevance” in a way that could only be achieved through the mobile platform.

    Gold winners included Google’s World Wide Maze, which incorporated Google’s Web GL, Web Sockets, and Tap Sync technology to turn a website into a 3-D game space and a mobile phone into a gaming controller.

    As well, Reborn’s “Second Life Apps,” from Duval Guillaume Modem in Belgium, received Gold for turning disused, single-use event apps into a vehicle to promote people to sign up for organ donation. Other Golds included “Scrabble Wi-Fi,” which turned the point of Wi-Fi registration into a game, and “Missing Children” for in which facial recognition technology was used to identify lost or stolen children.

    For the Lions, the world’s largest celebration of innovative ad ideas, the Mobile category is still being defined. As juror Gaston Legorburu, worldwide chief creative officer of SapientNitro, says, work stood out when “you saw something that was a creative use of mobile tech to solve a problem or create a business opportunity.” The best mobile work, he says, was “a creative use of technology to solve a problem.”

    • Mobile Marketer - Is mobile native advertising over-hyped?

      POSTED ON: Jun 03, 2013

  • Mobile Marketer - Is mobile native advertising over-hyped?

    By Chantal Tode

    While mobile native advertising is growing quickly, there are some potential pitfalls for marketers if they do not take the proper steps to ensure users understand when the content they are engaging with is sponsored.

    In response to the quick expansion of native ads, Google executive Matt Cutts recently expressed concern in a YouTube video that some marketers are not adequately disclosing that content has been sponsored by a brand. The issue for Google is that if the sponsored content is not properly optimized, it can contribute to a Web pages search ranking.

    “Traditional desktop advertising often tried to best, compete or draw attention away from the core content, but with the clear positioning that it was from an advertiser,” said David Hewitt, Atlanta-based vice president and global mobile practice lead for SapientNitro.

    “Now we have advertisers that are interested in being a more integrated component of the primary content which can increase engagement, but also blur the lines between who is the content provider and who is the advertiser,” he said.

    “In the native advertising model, once the ad is clicked/touched on, the publisher loses control of what content the consumer is presented with, but in essence needs to consider more accountability in referring the consumer to that destination.”

    Better user experiences
    Marketers are looking for ways to create stronger user experiences in mobile that go beyond the standard banner ad – which can be easily overlooked on a small mobile screen – as well as interstitials and other formats that take users away from the content they are interested in.

    This is one of the reasons why native ads are on the upswing in mobile, because the ads are placed seamlessly within the flow of content.

    Given the perceived potential for native advertising to provide a better user experience, it has been growing very quickly over the past few months.

    Publishers are embracing native advertising because it appeals to brands and can be an important tool for monetizing their mobile strategy.

    Facebook’s Sponsored Stories are a good example of native advertising, but others are also quickly jumping on board.

    Hearst recently introduced a native advertising program that will run across digital platforms, including mobile. It entails several new ad units, including one that displays contextual content from an advertiser within a specific developing story.

    The New York Time is also embracing native mobile advertising.

    The publisher recently launched a new mobile guide app The Scoop, which includes sponsored content from Citi Bike, New York City’s new bike share program. The Citi Bike content includes a map showing Citi Bike stations and Scoop picks throughout the city (see story).

    "The mobile landscape today has some native ad products that are driving dramatic market growth, like Facebook and Twitter’s ad units integrated into their core user experiences," said Clark Fredricksen, vice president of communications at eMarketer, New York. "These ads make a great deal of sense for marketers, as they’re relatively uniform and effective across platforms and devices.

    "The small mobile screen size makes it imperative for marketers and publishers to develop ads that fit within the core user ex