Category Archives: Content

Content marketing success is…

Should we be judging content-led marketing in terms of financial ROI, or are views, likes and followers enough?

Over the past few years, content-led marketing has taken on a life of its own. The DMA has found that over two-thirds of marketers are producing more content than they were a year ago, and over half are planning to increase their content marketing spend in the next 12 months.

In an age where content is everywhere, saturating the web, the main question is why would your customer want to view what you’ve created? It has to sparkle, stand out and possibly even sing … if it doesn’t, you probably shouldn’t bother.

Look at the leading lights of content production. Red Bull’s Stratos Dive is still a pinnacle of content creation, two years on. Another front-runner, Pepsi, has a plethora of videos with multi-millions of views. Take their free-running football or the human loop-the-loop as examples. But of course content doesn’t have to be in video format. There’s Buzzfeed, for example. It knows a thing or two about content – 100% of its revenue comes from it.
But what do they all have in common? Indeed, what does all shared and hyped content have in common?

They all evoke emotion.

They amaze the viewer, or they have that wow factor, or they make you laugh. They make you think: “I’ll share that”.

However, the more organisations spend, the more they’re going to want a way to gauge their ROI. Content can of course be ‘measured’ in terms of views, likes and followers, but actually calculating a return in terms of ROI proves to be rather elusive.

This makes it difficult to propose a content strategy to a board or senior colleagues. They might point to Dove as an example: its content strategy is extremely successful in that mentions, likes, views and columns inches are through the roof – but its profits are in decline.

So perhaps content marketing should be viewed through a long-term lens and not judged in terms of instant ROI. The aim of the game is to engage audiences in your brand and build relationships by engaging them in an ongoing conversation. What you want to see is your audience base grow, resulting in more follows, views, likes – and engagement.

Just make sure it’s worthy of their time.

By DMA guest blogger Ben Peachell, Marketing Executive, Indicia

This is an edited version of a blog that first appeared on the Indicia website

4 ways to boost your campaign results

Data can tell you what makes your customers respond to your marketing campaigns, whether it’s delivered by email, direct mail, or even telemarketing.
Why do so many people think marketing data analysis only works for online?

New media campaigns may sound cost-effective – sending a million emails or serving a million impressions may cost just a few pounds. But longer-established media like direct mail and telephone campaigns can deliver far higher response rates making the cost equation balance.

AdWords deals in single-digit click-throughs, while there are banner programmes where 0.1% counts as positive. Yet some direct mail campaigns can achieve an 18% response from a list of just 3,000. How are they doing it?

The answer’s not just about the numbers – but about the words, too.

Here are four ways to boost the performance of your marketing campaigns:

1. Be subjective: look at the first line everyone sees
Many campaigns focus on the mailer’s content. But marketing data analysis starts with the prime commercial property above it: the headline. Whether it’s the first line of your letter, the title on the envelope, or the subject line of your email.

There’s no secret as to why. It’s the first – sometimes the only – part of your marketing communication everyone sees. And it’s often critical to their decision whether to read on.

Marketing data analysis isn’t just “by the numbers”. It’s by the words.
So headlines deserve a lot of attention. What criteria can today’s marketing manager use to get a grip on what works?

2. Dig deep into your past campaigns
The first task is to look back at previous campaign reports. Not at what you thought was good, but what actually worked.

Make a list of all the headlines you used. Then rank them by the simplest metric: whether a recipient responded. (Whether that means opening the mailer, or recalling it when you follow up by phone.)

Then apply two more metrics: whether that recipient visited your website (you can put a unique URL in your letter to find out) and whether they went further down the sales funnel, such as providing their profile data at your squeeze page or landing page. Three valuable sets of data. And all came from an offline campaign.

3. Apply numerical metrics to words
Even without mapping the data into a visual chart (a data consultant can help you do this) you’ll see discrepancies between the best and worst headlines.

Some campaigns had low responses… but high recall when you followed up. Counterintuitive? No. It means the headline wasn’t intriguing, but the content was. (Another reason to pay a lot of attention to headlines.)

And then there are high-interest mailings – where everybody opened the envelope, but nobody typed in the URL or dialled your number. Perhaps the promise of the envelope copy wasn’t paid off by the content inside. Or the content gave away too much, rather than interesting your reader in taking action.

And then there are the campaigns with high numbers, but for only for a subset of your audience. If so, think again about segmentation in your marketing data analysis. It’s probably worth targeting that content to different people, even if it’s only a change of title.

4. Cast a critical eye over every sentence
When you’ve got a list of successful opening lines, it’s time to take it to the next level. With your audience in mind, what common traits do those sentences share? Here are some ideas:

  • Nouns. Are they concrete and snappy, creating instant pictures in your reader’s mind?
  • Verbs. Are they active and alive, giving the impression something interesting is happening?
  • Adjectives. Do you have too many? (Answer: yes.)
  • Length. Both sentence length (word count) and character count. Imagine you’re reading email on your phone’s tiny screen – what do you like to see?

Of course, this doesn’t just teach you about your campaign success; it teaches you about your customers. And because so many people concentrate on email these days, thinking again about offline campaigns can give you a huge competitive edge.

So if you want to raise your numbers… try looking at your words.

By DMA guest blogger Julie Knight, Marketing Director, Marketscan

Brands – think before you jump on the World Cup RTM bandwagon

We’ve seen a plethora of brands jump on the real-time marketing (RTM) bandwagon this summer already – fuelled by string of cultural and sporting events. The World Cup has a lot to answer for!

Wafflegate, aka USA vs Belgium, saw brand after brand say pretty much the same dumb thing. The Suarez Bite sparked an RTM frenzy with anyone and everyone attempting a witty response. Common sense, good taste (no pun intended) and brand principles all seemed to take the day off. Some brands clearly stretched themselves to get in on the act…but why?

Everyone ended up making the same lame joke. Instead of rising above the noise… they just created more of it. Some of them should have taken a leaf out of Oreo’s book and “gone dark”.

But perhaps, one of the worst RTM judgement calls of the World Cup so far has been KLM’s Adios Amigos tweet minutes after Netherlands knocked Mexico out. KLM have since apologised for causing offence – but it will take more than a tweet to undo the damage.

So what’s the learning? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. When brands attempt to be culturally significant – at speed and in the moment – they must not do it at the expense of being strategic. Brands must know how far they are willing to go… and be prepared to stick to their guns when a tempting, but irrelevant, opportunity comes along.

For marketers, this requires an intrinsic understanding of your brand, confidence and empowerment to make tough decisions quickly and stamina. RTM isn’t really about supporting cultural or sporting events. It’s about being culturally relevant every day. That’s 24/7 365 days a year. That’s where you will find the right opportunities that work for your brand rather than competing against every other brand.

It means a dedicated, cross-functional and tightly knit team. It means a new operational approach and environment. It means opening up new partnerships and media opportunities (to help cut through some of that noise. It means having 24/7 access to the right insight, tools and data. It means taking chances (on the good bets) and a relentless commitment to moving the needle (on engagement) every day.

Some say RTM has already peaked, but it’s going to be around for a while (perhaps becoming the future status quo?) and we collectively need to get better at it!

By DMA guest blogger Pipa Unsworth, Chief Product Officer, Digitas LBi and DMA Agencies Council chair

We’ll explore these aspects of Real time marketing at our event in September. Come and find out from brands and agencies who are pioneering and leading the way. They’ll share their success, watch-outs and insights. It’s one event you shouldn’t miss.

Winning brands focus on the goal at FIFA 2014

There is much talk around major Championships about which brands ‘win’, and inevitably league tables are produced with non-sponsor brands usurping official partners.  It’s an easy story but with little depth. 

From a sponsorship perspective, what matters is whether those brands that have invested in the FIFA World Cup, or the Olympics for that matter, have achieved their own specified objectives.  Their opportunity is so much greater.

Has the alignment with football helped the brand, humanising an otherwise corporate giant in the eyes of its consumers, customers, employees and key stakeholders?  Has the opportunity for engagement driven brand growth and advocacy? Has the business grown and comparative sales increased against the same period the previous year?  Has the partnership helped the business launch new products or enter new markets?  Has the investment been profitable?

These are the things that matter.  I’m sure Castrol couldn’t care less where they rank against McDonald’s or Adidas, or Nike or KFC in a social media buzz chart.  It’s guaranteed that brand comparisons are made across categories and between sponsors and non-sponsors with the challenge against the value for money of a FIFA sponsorship.

The major Championships provide a wonderful focus for us all and, as such, brands take up the challenge to be creative, meaningful and entertaining.  There are some wonderful examples of brands’ creativity and storytelling around the FIFA World Cup, and some less good (you know the ones, usually with top footballers in them trying to act).  Here are just a few to choose from, my personal favourite is the emotive film for Beats by Dre, what’s yours?

Beats by Dre:            

Nike ‘Risk Everything’:                                

Adidas ‘All In or Nothing’:              



McDonald’s ‘Gol’:     



Paddy Power:                       

Carlsberg ‘Fan Squad’:        

Budweiser ‘Believe as one’:

Banco de Chile:         


There are countless more films and ads from brands trying to align themselves with the football, as there will be in 2016, 2018 and beyond.

The more complex and bigger challenge is to maintain the creativity and connection away from the major Championships.  Can brands hold the attention and continue to be meaningful irrespective of whether they are sponsors or not? Let’s see what happens after July 2014.

By DMA guest blogger Rob Mitchell, Sponsorship and Marketing Consultant, RJM Consulting and DMA Brand Activation Council member


Does Snapchat have a role in your engagement strategy?

It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s frivolous. But is it sensible to sprinkle a pinch of Snapchat magic into your marketing mix? It’s definitely worth investigating.

Snapchat posts hold the user’s attention with (at maximum) 10 second ‘self-destructing’ posts. So why should brands use Snapchat? In short, it’s light, it’s self-organising for users and, most importantly, it provides brands with a cash-light way to engage with the audience.

The fleeting nature of the posts is one of its main strengths. Think of the recipient. The Snapchat arrives. It needs to be actively opened. Its lifespan is tantalisingly short. This means there is a higher level of concentration and engagement. Ultimately, it forces the person consuming the content to actually give it the valuable seconds of attention it deserves − far more so compared with posting on a scrolling, passive newsfeed as experienced on Facebook or its photo-sharing cousin, Instagram. Snapchat gives you the opportunity to gain someone’s attention in a very noisy world.

This higher level of concentration required means it’s an ideal space for showcasing new products and deals. This is an opportunity that agile, early adopting brands have realised − giving rise to frequent ‘Snapchatting’ of discount codes, new products and offer deals.

Others have capitalised on Snapchat’s ephemeral nature that permits the ability to give posts a sense of exclusivity. MTV’s Geordie Shore showcased ‘exclusive’ highlights, both in picture and video form, of the upcoming 6th series – all the while reminding them to tune in to the upcoming series.

The main negative of the app, for marketing purposes, is the difficulty in tracking engagement from your posts. Currently, the app is yet to have an official way to manage and track users’ activity. Of course, you can still track engagement through the uptake of unique promotional codes.

The recent addition of Snapchat Stories has added more possibilities. It offers, in sporting parlance, extra time − 24 hours of viewing time to be precise. Now, through a series of posts, you can deepen your audience’s experience. There’s a tale to be told. A connection to be made. Suddenly Snapchat doesn’t seem so throwaway.

Stop press: Slingshot vs Snapchat
With news of Slingshot, Facebook’s own ephemeral app, launching this week. What does this mean for Snapchat and more widely, brands using instant photo-sharing platforms for marketing? Possibly quite a lot as at first glance.

Whereas Snapchat is more focused on 1-2-1 engagement, Slingshot isn’t. It encourages participation by only allowing you to view a message by sending one back, leading to a higher level of engagement that you have with Snapchats.

Also from a brand point of view it addresses a massive issue users have when sending to mass audience on Snapchat – it has a ‘select all’ button.

Watch this space.

By DMA guest blogger Ben Peachell, Marketing Executive, Indicia

This an edited version of a blog that first appeared on the Indicia website

The Nouvelle Vague: social media link-baits won’t work forever

What I learnt about these headlines shocked me to my core. Here’s what you need to know.
Link-bait. We’ve all fallen victim to it at some point. Those links that are deliberately vague, yet subtly claim that they will somehow change our lives if we act on them. They leave us hanging and make us feel compelled to learn more – because as humans we just can’t help but be curious.

What makes it link-bait?
Link-bait is a term for links to content that are in some way deliberately provocative. I define link-bait as link copy that has been purposely written to target and exploit our natural curiosity. It’s a tease – often deliberately vague, whilst simultaneously claiming to offer great value to the reader. It is the opposite of the pursuit of clarity, often cited as a usability best practice, where the user knows what to expect when clicking a link.



As well as being deliberately vague, link-bait often employs devices such as:

  • Outlandish claims about the emotional power of the content (…if you don’t cry when you read this, then you’re not human).
  • Implying that something wholly unexpected happened (…and what happened next blew my mind).
  • Lists with attention focused on a particular item (25 examples of awesome cats. Number 7 is my favourite – WOW!).
  • A two-part narrative (this seemingly unimportant event happened. But actually, it was completely life-changing).
  • Implying that your current view of the world will be challenged by what you read (hint: it’s not what you think).
  • That the content is somehow unmissable, thus triggering our ‘fear of missing out’ (here’s what you need to know…).
  • Use of timeliness to instill a sense of urgency in the reader (…and we don’t have long to stop them).

Curiosity killed the @
By exploiting our natural weakness for curiosity and our desire to get answers, click-bait gets our attention, which means it’s fast becoming the de facto language for publishers on social media. On spaces like Facebook, where attention spans are short and the desire for content to get noticed (and shared) is high, feeds have become flooded with link-bait.

Whereas tabloid newspapers learnt that headlines such as ‘FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER’ sells copies of The Sun, it seems that publishers on Facebook (Upworthy, Huffington Post, Sumofus, Buzzfeed, Viral Nova et al) have found that ‘I can’t believe what this celebrity did. You won’t either. (Hint: it’s not what you think)’ works for them.
But why do we find these vague links so hard to resist?

Feeding our dopamine
As a species, it’s our inherent curiosity that’s taken us from cave dwellers to landing on the moon and exploring the depths of the oceans. Dopamine in our brains causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search – it’s a chemical that compels us be curious. Dopamine has been the key to our evolutionary success, keeping us motivated to explore our world, learn and survive. It’s this same chemical that means that we can’t resist the dangling carrot of click-bait.

Dopamine has made us a species addicted to seeking information, so grazing Facebook and finding intriguing links, which we can quickly consume, share, and forget about, is the perfect dopamine-enhanced experience. Dopamine is so motivating, and clicking links is so easy, that often we’d rather click and know what a link is about, even if we are already pretty certain that it doesn’t interest us.

Our dopamine system is further stimulated by unpredictability, so giving a vague description of what the link is about sends our brains into dopamine overdrive. Brain scan research shows that our brains are more stimulated by anticipating a reward than actually receiving a reward. When we see link-bait we get a big dopamine hit trying to guess what it is, and quickly move on and forget about it having clicked and learnt what the link was actually for.

Add to this an emotional hook (‘This shocked me to my core’, ‘If you don’t cry when you read this, then you’re not human’, etc.), and we can’t help clicking.

It’s no wonder that for a lot of publishers, being vague is now seen as a key part of their formula for creating the perfect viral content.

Crying wolf
Link-bait gets clicks. Because of this, it’s becoming more and more prevalent, particularly on social media feeds such as Facebook. To get noticed, publishers are making more and more outlandish claims about the power of their content. It feels like a race to the bottom, but no matter how driven by dopamine we might be, as consumers, we aren’t stupid. If clicking that link doesn’t give us value, we will stop clicking.

Often mocked content publishers Upworthy point out that although they optimise their headlines to the nth degree, it’s the quality of the content that is the real key to their success – people just really like it. After all, the real success of content marketing is getting shares, not just clicks. Yes, we might click to see what the story is actually about, but we will only share if it’s great content.

For me it seems a shame; great content shouldn’t have to rely on cheap tricks to get noticed. ‘Vaguebooking’, an intentionally vague Facebook update that is used to get attention, is regarded as a social media faux pas, purely because it is annoying. In the same way, this vague style of copywriting has an air of cheap desperation about it.

It’s worth noting that, to my knowledge, this strategy hasn’t been employed by any ‘quality’ publishers such as the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and so on. Maybe it does suit Buzzfeed’s latest list of funny cats, or a trashy opinion piece on the Huffington Post – but does it suit your brand? How you communicate plays a big role in how users perceive your brand.

In the long run, I don’t see the current trend for link-bait as being sustainable, because once the technique reaches critical mass and every publisher is doing it, publishers will no doubt move on from link-bait in order to get noticed again. Perhaps publishers will simply have made too many claims on how amazing their content is, and consumers will stop believing it and clicking. Ultimately, link-bait is just one way to ensnare our interest for a brief moment, in a world where attention spans are forever getting shorter.

Whatever happens, great content will always be shared and enjoyed. In the meantime, look out for those vague links in your Facebook feed, and see which ones get your dopamine levels buzzing.

By DMA guest blogger James Reece, Senior UX Specialist, The Real Adventure 

Brazil to bring the Carnival to New York

When I first looked at the shortlist for this year’s prestigious New York Festivals International Advertising Awards, the first thing that struck me was the huge number of campaigns from Brazil. This is certainly not a one off either – Brazil is now one of the hottest places for the best creative campaigns in the world. There are two entries that really stood out for me – both are stunningly insightful and creative and even better – both have a common goal – to help society – which is always a bonus too…

Agency: Leo Burnett Tailor Brazil
Campaign: ABTO “Bentley Burial”

Count Scarpa is an eccentric and controversial Brazilian billionaire with a habit of doing crazy things. He captivated all of Brazil through a single Facebook post announcing that in homage to the Egyptian pharaohs, he would bury his beloved $500,000 Bentley luxury car in his garden. The planned burial instantaneously became fodder for tabloids and talk shows, and the Brazilian public was outraged over the absurdity of such a seemingly wasteful act. Over the course of a week, the Count’s Facebook page documented the burial plans in progress, as the Count dug a large hole in his garden and discussed the details of his Bentley’s Friday morning burial. But on the day of the burial there was a big surprise for the media heavy guests that attended…the video says it best.

Youtube here


Agency: Almap BBDO – Brazil
Campaign: Antarctica Beer Turnstile

Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is always an outrageous and generally happy spectacle. One negative though is after a hard day and night partying attendees drink drive home – which is exactly what the main-sponsor of the event, Antarctica beer, hoped party-goers would not do.

Working with Brazil’s Alma BBDO, they came up with a highly creative campaign called the ‘Beer Turnstile’. The clever concept accompanied the potent message of ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’, by encouraging carnival attendees to arrive home safely via public transportation with the use of the ‘Beer Turnstile’ at the metro station. The metro turnstiles were re-engineered for the event as they accepted empty Antarctica beer cans as metro tickets. All a person had to do was scan the can and they were allowed to proceed to the train platforms – no cash was necessary.

The turnstiles proved to be a huge success, as the number of drunk drivers caught after the Carnival dropped by a staggering (excuse pun) 43%.








I think both these campaigns are brilliant and prove Brazil certainly is ‘the nuts’ when it comes to creativity.

By DMA guest blogger Richard Dutton, Business Development Director, Arc Worldwide and DMA Brand Activation Council Chair

8 campaigns we loved at D&AD Awards 2014

Each month, the Creative Hub of the Brand Activation Council seeks out inspiring work, to share with you, here, on the DMA Blog.

For our May showcase, creative team members at Arc WW and N2O visited the D&AD Awards 2014 judging and each picked one piece of work that impressed them the most with its design and or innovation.

We won’t have long to wait until the official awards’ results – the Pencil winners will be announced on 22 May but for now, here are our Picks for a Pencil.

Campaign: Don’t text and drive
Client: Fiat
Agency: Leo Burnett, São Paulo, Brazil

Picked by: Ian Mitchell, Arc WW

Don’t text and drive is a print and poster advertising campaign featuring the letters R (Girl), F (Bus), N (Dog), L (Truck) and Z (Cow).
“You either see the letter or the bus. Don’t text and drive”.

This is a road safety campaign produced by Leo Burnett in São Paulo, Brazil and is one of those campaigns where after seeing it I thought why did I not think of that? It’s simple in its idea and its execution.

Put simply: Lovely














Campaign: The Biggest Air Filter. Lung Trees project by KNOxOUT paint
Client: Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines
Agency: TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno, Makati City, Philippines

Picked by: Jenny Murphy, N2O

This project featured “a painted row of colourful lung shaped trees” along an extremely polluted highway, they were painted using a paint called KNOxOUT, this paint when activated by light, absorbs and breaks down air pollutants.

I thought it was a great example of how useful and beautiful things happen when science and design meet.










Campaign: People for Smarter Cities
Client: IBM
Agency: Ogilvy France

Picked by: Bianca Padurean, N2O

There was a lot of great work here, some funny (Volkswagen and Land Rover), some innovative (Share a Coke, Coca-Cola) but the one that I think deserves to win a Pencil is the most human oriented campaign in which the creators tried to give true meaning to outdoor advertising. My nomination is (although it already won the Grand Prix at Cannes 2013) IBM: People for Smarter Cities campaign.

Campaign: Phubbing – a word is born
Client: Macquarie Dictionary
Agency: McCann Melbourne

Picked by: Kevin Travis, Arc WW

The good old dictionary hasn’t been enjoying the best of times in the digital age. So how do you make it more relevant? Well those clever people at McCann Melbourne came up with the idea to invent a new word: phubbing (v). The act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention

The campaign started a movement around smartphone behaviour, attracting huge media attention, not just in Australia, but also around the world. And more importantly, it reminded people that language is ever changing and they should update their dictionary.
My verdict: awesome (adj) causing feelings of great admiration, respect or fear.

Campaign: Banana Comic Week
Client: FYFFES
Agency: Serviceplan, Munich, Germany

Picked by: Hiral Shah, N2O

This campaign tackled the growing problem in industrialised nations – children’s diet consisting of fast food and sweets leading to early diabetes and adiposity. Banana skins were laser imprinted with a comic strip where ‘Fyfe’ becomes a superhero after eating a banana. The playful approach of this campaign communicated to the target (kids) in a voice and manner they understood, without being preachy or authoritative.

Disclaimer: Time allowed to judge hundreds of entries was not enough. I was only able to see a very limited number.









Campaign: Feel Safe
Client: BMW
Agency: Bcube, Milan, Italy, Germany

Picked by: Michael Elliott, N2O

My nomination is BMW’s Feel Safe press advertisement. This clever concept emphasises the level of security and peace of mind you can have when purchasing used cars from BMW. By honing in on the potential dangers of purchasing used cars, the iconic bars highlight the safety only BMW offers.

Simple and clever.



Campaign: Every Signature Makes It Harder
Client: Amnesty International Chile
Agency: JWT Beirut (MENA), Lebanon

Picked by: Terence Bolsh, N2O

The visit to D&AD Judging 2014 was marred by the distinct lack of time each visitor was allocated to evaluate the plethora of entries on display.

Highlight: Amnesty International ‘Signature’ posters.



Campaign: Respect the Water
Client: RNLI
Agency: Leo Burnett Change/Arc WW

Picked by: Rachel Lamb, N2O

It is a fantastic idea illustrating a serious public safety issue in a humorous and engaging manner. It works because they have considered their audience and provided an outcome which educates without nagging, boring or patronising anyone, and the pint glass stories are a lovely touch!

Heather Devany comment:
A sharp selection of potential Pencil winners, I hope you’ll agree.
Are there any standout examples you believe we’ve missed?
And, if you visited the entries’ judging exhibition, what’s your pick for a Pencil?

As for me; having judged the RNLI Respect the Water pilot campaign for the 2013 DMA Awards, where it won Gold for Use of Experiential, I hope it will again prove buoyant. But, IBM: People for Smarter Cities always makes me smile, wish I’d come up with it, then think, “What else could we include?”.

“Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” Steve Jobs.

By DMA guest blogger Heather Devany, Creative Director, N2O Limited and DMA Brand Activation Council member