Through Q1 2017, the major talking point in marketing, especially in the U.S. and U.K., was brand safety. This is a challenge which has existed for years, but two events caused a brighter light to be shone on the issue.

First, Marc Pritchard of P&G called for more transparency in media buying, honestly admitting that he did not know where and how some of his advertising was being used. Second, a front page on the Times, a U.K. newspaper, revealed that some of Britain’s top brands were being seen alongside unsafe often highly explicit and violent content, setting off a chain reaction of brands boycotting platforms like YouTube.

Since then, as we would expect from marketers, there has been a lot of chatter. But is online brand safety the only issue here?

The short answer is no. The main issues in digital marketing are still viewability, robots and bad measurement, all of which have their roots in short-termism. Here’s why:

Beyond reproach

Let’s consider, for a moment, the type of people who would be consuming unsafe content for brands. There’s an argument that frequent viewers of this kind of stuff are beyond reproach to start with; if they already have such a low opinion of themselves, then who really cares what they think about a Jaguar XJ or Head and Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo?

However, what is true is that this advertising is wasted, because if you think they’re contemptible enough to not care for their opinion, then you shouldn’t be advertising to them in the first place.

So this media buying goes into the waste basket, alongside non- or barely-viewed videos or display ads.

List keeping

As an aside, let’s take a second example. Let’s say a German discounter takes out a full-page ad in a leading right-wing tabloid newspaper, which goes directly opposite a Brexit polemic. Suddenly, a 2 million-strong group of people will associate, consciously or unconsciously, this company which is not from Britain with the very closed-ranks Britishness of the Brexit tribe.

Which is more damaging to a brand? Two million people or a single loser?

But what does this have to do with short-termism? Short term KPIs, such as conversions, or clicks, or impressions or reach, can easily, and badly, be achieved with a spray and pray approach. This kind of approach often results in low levels of viewability and an unsafe environment — making it tricky to deal with.

A lot of companies use white or black lists —  the difference being that white lists aggregate sites on which you can advertise; blacklists, conversely, identify which sites should be avoided. The challenge for blacklists is that bad sites continue to proliferate and, for whitelists, there will be some sites previously labeled safe which suddenly become unsafe due to some regretful content. Keeping both lists up to date can be a Sisyphean task.

And even if the buying is against a specific audience, be it demographic or behavioral, showing no care for which sites the content ends up on, or where on that site it exists (i.e. if it’s viewable or not), is going to get you into trouble.

The bigger picture

This is why brands should focus beyond short-term, easily measurable metrics, and into the complex but ultimately more rewarding world of long-term payback. Remember, not everything that can be counted counts.

The best brands are those which are salient, different, and meaningful; the best brands outperform the market. No brands achieved salience, difference or meaning by having un-viewed or bot-viewed advertising, or by being in unsafe environments.

The real concern for advertisers should be about how to change hearts and minds of consumers by telling a great story to the right audience. Brand safety is only one part of the puzzle, and when advertisers are trying to measure payback, they need to look at the whole picture.

Read the original article here.


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In February 2017, the Warc Media Awards took place to recognise comms planning which has made a positive impact on business results. The fast-paced change across the media landscape is having seismic shifts on communications planning. As a result, some of the most pioneering thinking occurs at this stage of the process.

Through these awards, Warc captured communications planning best practice, showing how brands, their media agency partners and media owners are using new tech and platforms to help meet business objectives. The awards recognise brands that are getting the most out of their collaborations, as well as showing how data and analytics are revolutionising communications planning in real time.

WARC Media Awards - 09/02/2017 -

In recognition of Gain Theory’s authority in data and marketing effectiveness, Jon Webb Managing Partner acted as a judge on the ‘Best Use of Data’ category alongside a mixed jury including Sital Banerjee, Global Head of Media at Philips.

This category sought to recognise the role of data in an effective communications strategy and saw numerous entrants from leading brands globally.

Here are Jon’s insights from his judging experience  –

The top entrants within the “Best Use of Data” awards were very strong, with the papers submitted making a strong and clear link between how insights from data can play a fundamental role in driving additional value from media and marketing campaigns.  It was good to see that the successful entrants placed as much emphasis on using the data to tell a compelling story around the path to purchase as much as on more complex issues surrounding programmatic.  And for those entrants who weren’t successful this year, there were some clear guidelines…

  • Make the data a fundamental part of the story, not tagged on as either an after-thought or to justify pre-determined action
  • Insights from data can be very simple as well as very powerful – the grand prix winning entry was a great example of this
  • Some marketing initiatives take great courage to launch – using real time insights on customer feedback from social media is a great way of course correcting to stay on track

Overall the caliber of entrants were high and I have every confidence that next year the bar will be raised even higher.


Grand Prix –
Narellan Pools, Australia

Gold –
Hindustan Unilever, India
Destination Canada, Canada
Royal Philips, China

Silver –
Google, UK
KeyBank, USA
Sky, UK

Bronze –
Aviva, UK



Marking the 2017 International Women’s Day, Gain Theory – part of the WPP group – has just launched Lumena, a global female network, aimed at supporting its women and empowering them to become future leaders at all levels.

As part of the ‘Common Ground’ initiative, each of the large holding companies pledged to dedicate effort to one of the six United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, with WPP choosing to focus on gender equality.

Lumena’s mission is to ignite the future female leader by amplifying her potential through training, networking, mentoring and coaching opportunities.

“Gender equality is not just a good cause, it’s good business,” said Manjiry Tamhane, Global CEO, Gain Theory.  “It’s key to helping our people and clients achieve great things and crucial to recruiting and retaining top industry talent – giving us the broad skill set to serve our clients across all disciplines and locations. The more our company makeup reflects the diverse range of partners we work with and consumers they sell to, the more effective and successful we are in servicing them.”

Whilst Lumena is a female development programme, Gain Theory is committed to remaining an equal opportunities employer and many of the events run by Lumena will be open to men as well as women. It will include gender equality initiatives and raise awareness of unconscious bias in all its forms.

Lumena will also improve senior and management representation by providing more female role models, networking opportunities, improved policies for women and increased adoption of gender diversity best practices.

The initiative was conceived by Manjiry Tamhane, Global CEO and developed by female executives in each of Gain Theory’s regions: Marina Stuefer (EMEA), Kavya Madhava (APAC) and Courtney McDonough (NA).

If you are interested in speaking at a Lumena event please contact:



Gain Theory is part of WPP and as such we bring you the best that the group offers. Here we bring you the latest consumer research from Wunderman – a global digital agency part of the group…

In a world where you have so much choice, it’s hard to deny the desire for more.

This is especially true for consumers who according to a new study by Wunderman, want brands to actively demonstrate “they understand and care about me” before they consider purchasing.

Marketers are primarily focused on developing consumer loyalty to their brands, but the data shows that brands now need to demonstrate their commitment to serving the consumer and exceeding their expectations every day.

Wantedness as defined by Wunderman is  “the degree to which a brand proves their commitment to earning a customer’s business across every touch point and throughout the entire path to purchase.”

The study conducted in partnership with  Penn Schoen Berland surveyed 2,000 people in the US and UK. With the findings consistent across ages, genders and geography, 79% of consumers surveyed said that brands must actively demonstrate ‘they understand and care about me’ before even considering a purchase. So what can marketers do to demonstrate their commitment, and stay one step ahead?

  1. Setting New Standards
    Historically, marketers focused on developing customer loyalty to their brand, but consumers now have new expectations. In a generation where everything is only a click away from a phone, brands need to adapt quickly, understand consumers’ needs and respond to those needs every day, to show that they are committed every step of the way.
  1. From Building to Serving Customer Loyalty
    Consumers want to feel valued, but it is no longer about just sending over a promotional coupon. Marketers now need to commit to serving customers, every day and at every point in the relationship. The key here is delivering needs, as loyal brands.
  1. Data-Driven Approach to Understanding Expectations
    By looking at data, marketers can not only understand the consumer’s perspective and expectations, they are able to serve the right messages and experiences consumers need, at the right time. Here, insight turns into action.

Whereas exceeding expectations is the new norm, brands now thrive by not only seeking loyal customers, but understanding that customers are real people, who yearn to be cared for.

Check out the Wantedness website here.






Digital marketing channels today are divergent – search, video, social, display, email, mobile – the list goes on. Marketers have a myriad of options to choose from to reach consumers to hit KPIs. But the biggest challenge is understanding which digital media work best…and how to optimize those.

The holy grail of many brands today is establishing which digital investment gets the credit for delivering a conversion event. Where should we spend our money? What can we cut from the budget? How? When?

As more media is bought digitally, more data is produced and with that comes an ability to measure effectiveness at a granular level.

The future is increasingly connected and for some big digital advertisers, requires the right measurement solution.

Digital Attribution can provide the right measurement and optimization solution. But you need the right tools and conditions to do so and what’s more – it’s not for everyone.

We have compiled an 8 Step Guide to Digital Attribution to help navigate marketers through the subject and understand whether it’s a journey they want to embark on.

The 8 steps are:

  1. Significant Digital Media Spend
  2. A Clear Online KPI
  3. A Skilled Team of Data Scientists
  4. The Right Purpose
  5. The Ability to Optimize Quickly
  6. The Right Data Set-Up
  7. Unified Digital Tracking
  8. The Right Methodology

You can read the in depth article published in AdMap, by downloading the article on the top right hand corner of this page.


Visit our website to view the video.


Matthew Chappell, Partner at Gain Theory, attended the IAB Video Conference: Thinking Differently in London on Wednesday 16th November 2016. Here are his thoughts from the event:

Halfway through AOL’s session, Mark Milling asked the audience to put up their hands if they’d seen the new John Lewis advert. And then hold them up if they’d seen it online first. And then keep them held up if they’d seen it on TV at any point in the last week.

The only people who didn’t have their hands up to start with were probably asleep following lunch. Almost all of those who had seen it had seen it online first. Only seven people in an audience of 600 had seen it on TV at all. Seven.

Online video is no longer the future – it’s here. But how do we make the most of it? And, as the question posed by the conference title asked, how do we think differently?

First, a look back. In the early noughties, when digital was emerging, brands talked about how much money to invest in digital. Then, they talked about how much to invest in specific channels. Now, with the biggest digital channels we need to be asking how we allocate spend within them and how we create content that fits – what is the right message at the right time to the right people?

This is especially pertinent in video. In the past, brands put their TV ad online and that was that. Now the opportunities are limitless. Indeed, according to Millward Brown the average consumer spends 65mins a day watching video on mobile or tablet (vs 61mins on TV). There is vast potential attention but brands need to capture it quickly.

Two of the best sessions, from Facebook and Google DoubleClick, focused right in on this.

The Google DoubleClick session, run by Atossa Vaziri, discussed three different types of video content: meal, snack, bite. Sometimes you want a three course meal, or a three minute brand video; sometimes you want a snack. Sometimes you don’t even have time for a snack, just a bite of your friend’s cake. At different times you have different needs, and video advertising can and must reflect this. For example, on Facebook mobile, 98% of videos are watched in portrait (according to Jonathon Milne, CrO Celtra), most with the sound off. Advertising in this circumstance should probably be bite or snack sized, not a four course French dinner.

Ian Crocombe, from Facebook, also discussed three different ways of telling stories and capturing attention. He started with the old fashioned TV ad: a 30s build to a climax, with the brand displayed at the end. In the online video world this is flipped on its head, you show the brand and the punchline first, before exploring further in the next however many seconds. There is a third way, by which a brand pulses impact, humour, and emotion throughout the video, such as in the McDonalds example from Brazil, below. This is a fascinating way to grab attention and hold it for a long period, in this case 1min 45s.

Both told the same story in slightly different ways, but the takeout is the same. As demonstrated by Lucy McHenry from Twitter, Nielsen have shown that there is little correlation between video length and engagement. However, 81% of videos which drove high engagement had a hook in the first three seconds. And most good videos were optimised for sound off.

The main goal for advertising is still to capture attention and engage with consumers. There are many ways to do this, and for some brands this might not be video. The great thing about any digital media is its agility – the ability to test and learn quickly, fail fast and move on.

What we learnt today is that more brands than ever are willing to do this; to think differently on how to use video to improve their marketing effectiveness.


Last night, as the results trickled in and the remaining votes were distributed it became a certainty that Donald Trump would be the next President of the US.

..And yet, this was pretty much the exact opposite of what the opinion polls had been saying.  The Huffington Post published a handy summary of these polls running back to June 2015.

It shows pretty clearly that, based on what people said, Clinton should have won.

And that’s the point.  It’s based on what people have said.  Surely we learned from the UK and Brexit that if you call anybody looking to quit the EU either stupid, racist or both, people might not be entirely honest in reporting their voting intentions.  On a slightly less extreme level, we even saw it at the last UK General Election where a Conservative majority was apparently a surprise to many self-declared experts.

So where now for opinion polls?  More technical adjustments to make the predictions more accurate?  These have been promised before and they don’t seem to be working out too well for the pollsters.  That’s because whatever changes are made, the technique still relies on what people say they will do, not what they actually do.

Some people will no doubt say that opinion polls are still the best thing we have and that there is no real alternative.

But that’s wrong.

With the increasing popularity and availability of machine learning and advanced statistical modelling techniques there has to be a better way of using the lead indicators that are out there.  At Gain Theory we use Lead Indicators commercially to ensure that our clients hit their business targets in retail, entertainment and tech.  They work well: checking content on owned and earned media like Twitter, Pinterest and quality of website visit can reveal preferences far more accurately than just asking people, partly because it shows strength of engagement.  And with this knowledge our clients have the ability to course correct in the way that resonates most with their customers.  So it’s not just a number like an opinion poll, but a framework to improve delivery – something that the Clinton camp would have benefitted from!

And as automated text / sentiment analysis improves, techniques like our Lead Indicators will only improve.

So perhaps it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, look out of the window into the second decade of the 21st century and stop using a technique that has remained fundamentally unchanged for more than 100 years.





September in New York is on the cusp of seasons, just getting over the summer heat as it heads into a crisp fall. Luckily, by the time we hit the Marketing Society’s US exploratory lunch during Advertising Week, the climate had cooled down. Which was handy because if you are acquainted with Advertising Week, you will know that:

a) whilst ‘conveniently located in the Times Square area’ it’s not exactly a short distance between sessions
b) you’d have to be a time/space traveller to attend all sessions back to back in various locations
c) the array of deeply interesting sessions and people to meet is as never ending and dazzling as a Vegas buffet awaiting to be consumed.

New tech, new challenges
One of the interesting sessions at Advertising Week 2016 was hosted by Kristi Argyilan, SVP Senior Vice President of Media and Guest Engagement at US retail giant Target. The session explored how marketers are now facing a new challenge where the marriage between marketing and technology is creating new expectations. We heard how marketers and brands that win are the ones that embrace change, adapt quickly and effectively blend marketing and technology. Kirsty highlighted that in this environment of constantly innovating, listening to customers and using data and technology to change the game, the next big challenge is measurement.

It was in this salubrious setting that the Marketing Society hosted a lunch in partnership with Gain Theory, aimed at exploring the challenges that we have as marketers and facilitate the conversation to help inspire bolder leadership. We were also treated to some insight from Thomas Barta – author of The 12 Powers of Marketing –into the frustrations felt by marketers and what it takes to be a true marketing leader.

First off the challenges. We kicked off with a round table introduction with each senior marketing leader citing their current major challenge. What was thrown up wasn’t by any stretch new – how to leverage multiple agencies, synchronize messaging globally, inspire the marriage of data and the end consumer and a myriad of challenges around content, digital and social. However, the biggest thread was measurement. Be it the quantification of value that marketing brings to the table from an internal perspective and inspiring global marketing teams to champion that value, or the basic requirement for ROI, measurement and optimization of marketing efforts in the first place. It’s no surprise that measurement is still a pain point for marketers. After all, with a consumer that travels through a ‘disrupted’ path to purchase, harnessing the data that is spat out from various channels to then extract meaningful insights is not a task that many are adept with. Couple that with a firehose of data, measurement jargon, multiple answers to a single business question, seemingly ‘slow’ insights and above all the barriers within our own organization and you can see where marketers feel they are set up to fail where measurement is concerned. Simply put by one of the lunch delegates ‘quantifying the value of marketing either internally or externally is a challenge’.

Entering the value creation zone
So, how do those challenges sync up with the frustrations we feel as marketers when it comes into our perceived value within the organization and our career aspirations? According to Thomas Barta, 71% of senior marketers believe that their business impact is high but just 44% are satisfied with their career paths. This led to some head nodding around the table. Barta pointed out that in order to create marketing success, marketers need to hit the ‘value creation zone’ – a place where we create value for customers (products, services and experiences that meet their needs) value for the company (revenue and profit) and value for ourselves (greater influence and better careers).

As Manjiry Tamhane, Global CEO at Gain Theory eloquently said ‘There is no other industry (as marketing) that has had to face as many changes at such a pace. It’s a new world. We need to tackle some of the old world structures and processes to meet the new world challenges and expectations. We need to be prepared to change the game to meet new demands’

In relation to validating our value as marketers, it’s about being brave to have an evidence-based conversation with the CFO or CEO to understand what it is that marketing needs to deliver. At the end of the day we’re only going to get revenue from our customers so framing the conversation around the value creation zone is key.

You could say that the temperature we read from the US marketers around the table felt like it was hotting up. But we did sense that whilst we are certainly feeling the heat, there’s no better time to be in marketing like now where the opportunities to turn challenges into wins are aplenty.



Article originally posted on the Marketing Society’s website here


dmexco-imageDMEXCO, Europe’s largest Digital Media conference, took place on Sep 14 & 15. The annual event sees advertisers, publishers and agencies from around the world descend on Köln, West Germany, to network, learn about the latest digital innovations, and drink plenty of Kölsch – the local Pilsener.

If you didn’t attend or did and want to share some knowledge with your team, here’s the lowdown on the key themes from this year’s event.

Consolidation, not innovation

Overall, there didn’t appear to be much in the way of innovation. Obviously big players like Facebook and Google aren’t going to release details of their next big move, but overall there was a discernible lack of new, exciting stuff.

The digital world is one in which there are many challenges and even more solutions. The exhibition was huge and it felt as though there were a lot of new players trying to play their hand in ‘digital’, ride the wave, and make a quick buck along the way. All of them seemed to offer one point solutions. This just adds to the challenges marketers face in digital and there was a feeling that the industry should be aiming for more consolidation, with fewer players offering a better rounded product.

Consolidation in the form of a better rounded solution, should make marketers’ lives easier after all our clients at Gain Theory tell us all the time that one of their pain points is having one business question but a multitude of answers and ways of getting to that answer. Connect with the customer? Try programmatic, one touch, beacon technology, attribution etc. The level of complexity doesn’t just come from the advertising world’s inherent need for shiny buzzwords. In most cases, it stems from the challenges posed by a disrupted consumer pathway, the data collected along the way and marketer’s needs to be at one with the elusive customer.

Despite the plethora of multiple solutions being offered to marketers,  it does feel as though agencies and publishers are trying hard to make it easier for advertisers, to cut complexity and to come up with digital standardisation.

Digital is everything

Across the conference, many were calling for the industry to stop treating digital as a separate entity. Paul Bulcke, CEO Nestle, asked, “What’s the point of a chief digital officer? Digital is everything- it’s like having a chief everything officer, or CEO.”

The discussions on digital ubiquity extended into many media and marketing channels. There was an instructive talk on the future of programmatic TV, featuring Jamie West from Sky and Rhys Noelke from Germany’s RTL, where it was argued that we’re only at chapter 1 of the great programmatic TV book, and the big developments were still to come. There was also a great session on the Outernet – or “when mobile devices meet outdoor advertising” – which looked at just how personalised outdoor advertising might become.


Stephen Allan, Chairman and CEO Mediacom, was asked what his most important trend was and replied, “Consumer trust. A trend we’re starting to see is more transparency with customers and giving them more choices.”

This comment reflected a lot of the chatter at the event and can be applied to industry as well as consumers. The next few months and even years could be interesting for marketers and their media and digital agencies in this regard.

New selling and marketing platforms

One of the biggest innovations was around new selling and marketing platforms. Mercedes and Amazon strode on stage to announce the successful launch of the Amazon Mercedes platform. The platform is available in key markets such as UK, USA, Japan and Germany and gives the consumer the power to play around with different designs, explore car types, and book a test drive. This is an automotive first, and fits with the Amazon aim of selling everything and anything.

Tasty, the Buzzfeed food channel, has had a phenomenal first year and demonstrated this in a presentation with Facebook. They are the world’s top food network, with more Facebook fans than the population of the UK (70m!). Their brand partnerships are especially strong, with many of their top videos being sponsored. Baileys Salted Caramel Milkshake, sponsored by Diageo, had 26.6m views and 372k shares. A recipe which used the Oyster 7 minute grill to cook a Jalepeno Popper Burger caused Amazon and Target to sell out of said product within a day. Compared to many branded content stories, these are a staggering success.

Germans love to party

At 18.29 on Wednesday, the conference was still awash with people. Various stalls had started to pour beers, wines, and Jägerbombs, and there was an increasing hum. Then came a loud countdown, followed by pumping house music (clearly this is an international conference, no Wagner, Kraftwerk or Techno). The Google party had started and others soon followed. Thursday was a noticeably quieter day.

Buzzword bingo

No self-respecting blog covering a digital media event would be complete without a few buzzwords. And DM EXCO didn’t disappoint. Here’s our run down:

  • Programmatic. Still the big one. Everything and everyone is programmatic.
  • Creativity. If robots are buying the media, do we still need human creativity? Short answer: yes.
  • Digital transformation. Why are businesses so much slower than consumers to adopt new media?
  • Point solutions. One problem, one solution, massive complexity.
  • Data. So ubiquitous as to become meaningless. Everyone at dmexco was dealing with data in some way.

To sum up, DMEXCO highlighted that whilst there are solutions aplenty in digital media, each heralding a new route to reach the consumer at the right time/place and vying for the marketers attention, it does pay to keep a close ear to the ground on some of the ground breaking examples of brands getting it right.

Hopefully the themes of consolidation and transparency will play out, giving us an easier, improved, and more cost-effective way of conducting their digital activity.

But there are still risks. We saw plenty of smaller companies who were clearly out to make a quick buck and with those it pays to have a good nose for bullshit bingo.

One thing we do know is that the best marketers are still those who are brave and agile enough to try new things and savvy enough to mitigate the risks.

Article originally published on

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