Do you skip YouTube ads? Why clash with Google/WPP doesn’t matter and more...

Do you skip YouTube ads? Why clash with Google/WPP doesn’t matter

screenshot_1024 says you do.

The ad industry says you don’t.

Skip YouTube ads, that is, when you’re prompted to do so after seeing the first five seconds of a YouTube ad (Google’s TrueView in-stream ad product).

Well do you?

At the wrap up this year’s annual fashion show for advertising in Cannes, Martin Sorrell, CEO of ad group WPP and Lorraine Twohill, head of marketing at Google have crossed swords with

The roundtable clash went like this (see video below)

will.i.amYou know people don’t like it on YouTube. They skip it.

Martin Sorrell (WPP): No, not true.

Lorraine Twohill (Google): Not true. They don’t skip it. No, no young people skip it.

Lorraine Twohill (Google): They don’t. Actually they don’t skip it. 87% do not skip

will.i.amWell they’re not paying attention to it, and they’re skipping in their head

Lorraine Twohill (Google): Laughs

will.i.amRegardless of what your metric says, we’re not paying attention to it. If you don’t add value to people’s lives, I don’t really give two s**ts about your advertising.

If anyone can find the evidence that shows 87% do not skip YouTube ads when prompted to do so, please forward it.  Stats circulating on the web side with, with the most frequently cited stat being a skip rate of these ‘pre-roll’ ads of 94% (another being 85%).

Whilst’s point that we need to reinvent advertising to add value may be true and laudable, the debate over whether we skip YouTubes ads is fairly sterile from a psychological perspective.  Everybody gets exposed to the first 5 seconds of the ad, and this is where the ad may have the most psychological impact.  Regardless of whether you are paying attention to it. From a dual processing perspective (Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow) our ‘System 1′ fast automatic mind is influenced by mere exposure to ads, and does not require the deliberate attention of our ‘System 2′ conscious mind. Mere exposure is enough to raise salience of the brand in our minds and build mental associations automatically. And that can happen fast. Combine this enhanced mental availability with product availability and you have Byron Sharp’s influential recipe for driving growth.  From a  ‘How Brands Grow’ perspective, it’s reach-optimised exposure to ads that counts, not the amount of deliberate attention and conscious thought we accord ads.

The future of advertising is not about attention – it’s about influence without attention.

The practical upshot for advertisers is that the ‘skip vs. don’t skip’ debate is something of a red herring. As is trying to hook the viewer to not click ‘skip’. Instead, advertisers should focus on optimising the impact of universal exposure to the first 5 seconds of a YouTube ad (for which ironically they don’t pay – advertisers only pay if the viewer sits through the whole ad/more than 30 seconds) using Sharp’s the ‘Golden Rules’ of advertising

  1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category (communication and distribution) – avoid being silent
  2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (create universal appeal, not targeted for ‘type’ of person)
  3. Get noticed (grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the mind)
  4. Refresh and build memory structures (respect existing associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy)
  5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind)
  6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, whilst keeping the brands fresh and interesting)
  7. Stay competitive (keep the brand easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy (i.e. by targeting a particular group)





Avinash Kaushik, intent marketing and the 4 timezones of right-time marketing

Timezone clocks

Last week I had the pleasure to present alongside the wonderful Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), a fellow fan of utility marketing (less shouting, more helping) at Syzygy‘s Digital Innovation Day in Frankfurt on real-time marketing.

Avinash used his elegant and audience-centric STDC (see-think-do-care) alternative to the traditional AIDA model of advertising effects (create awareness, stimulate interest, build desire, inspire action) to make some interesting points and stimulate some interesting thoughts on real-time marketing:

  • Forget real-time marketing, what we need is right-time marketing – which means setting our marketing clocks to four different audience ‘timezones’ (my interpretation not Avinash’s words) in each of which the audience displays different degrees of commercial intent
    • SEE ‘timezone’ – pre-consideration time when your largest qualified audience may see your brand, but where there is no commercial intent
    • THINK ‘timezone’ – consideration time, when members of your largest qualified audience are thinking about buying and there is some commercial intent
    • DO ‘timezone’ – time to act, when members of your largest qualified audience are looking to buy and there is massive commercial intent
    • CARE ‘timezone’ – this is post-purchase time, when members of your largest qualified audience of customers who have already bought what you sell at least twice (a single purchase may have turned out to be a mistake) are looking to enjoy their purchase
  • Right-time marketing is about targeting audiences based on their timezone-specific intentions with messages, media and metrics adapted to those intentions
    • For example, if you are in the ‘see’ timezone, you have no intent to purchase, so any ‘buy-now’ sales message will be ignored (= wasted marketing spend)
    • In fact, only one of the four timezones is dominated by commercial intent (the ‘do’ timezone); in other timezones, marketing focus should target issues other than sales (e.g. brand building – AKA building awareness, preference, reputation) and use appropriate metrics
      • SEE ‘timezone’ metrics – # or % interactions (platforms/ads), conversation, amplification, applause, indexed increase in brand awareness, % new visits
        THINK ‘timezone’ metrics – click-thru rate, page depth, per visit goal value, % assisted
        DO ‘timezone’ metrics – visitor loyalty, checkout abandonment rate, conversion rate, profit (=Rev-Ad Cost-COGS)
        CARE ‘timezone’ metrics – repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, customer lifetime value
    • Overall – right-time marketing is ‘intent marketing’ with targeting, media, messages and metrics that follow from intentions in each of the four audience timezones [from a psychological perspective this is super-smart, because intent and behaviour are far better predictors of future behaviour than demographics or psychographics]

Here’s a chart that summarises a ‘timezone’ interpretation of the STDC model.

right-time marketing


Whether you buy the STDC model or not (or prefer the six timezones of McKinsey’s new consumer journey (below)), Avinash’s challenge to real-time marketing is pertinent; real-time is only the right-time when it is addressing peoples needs at their particular moment of need.  For me, this means re-thinking marketing as an ‘on-demand’ service – the only right time is when people want it.

Of course, none of this means that mass advertising doesn’t work – in digital or any other media; many of us are card-carrying converts (myself included) to the ‘How Brands Grow‘ Sharp school of advertising (mass advertising works – and it’s about salience – in the mind, on the screen and in the store). From such an advertising perspective, the ‘time-zoning’ lesson for digital marketers is that we need to escape from our direct-response digital bunker and align our methods and metrics more broadly with those in the mainstream advertising industry. This means realising that digital media is mass media and that rating points (gross and target), share of voice, TOMA (recall), brand preference etc all have a place in what we do and how we measure it (as opposed to, say, because-we-can vacuous measures of ‘engagement’ (thankfully, the industry has realised that the half-baked notion of ‘engagement’ is ‘a pox on strategic rigour’ – and has largely purged it from the marketing lexicon)).

Finally, as a psychologist, whilst I am a fan of intent (it’s the second best predictor of future behaviour – next to past behaviour), Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow reminds us how much consumer behaviour may not be based on conscious intent at all, but on subconscious emotional appeal.  The big challenge for digital advertising is to update our frameworks to fit with the advertising industry and the minds of those to whom we advertise.

mckinsey marketing timezones



The Digital Marshmallow Test – Marketing Insights for Generation Now


Your smartphone is a digital marshmallow.

And you can use your digital marshmallow to run an adult variant of the famous “marshmallow test” – the psychological test of self-control for children that can be more predictive of success in later adulthood than IQ, education or socio-economic background (see video below).

So the digital marshmallow test works like this, place your smartphone facedown on the table, and either treat yourself to one marshmallow now, or treat yourself to two marshmallows if you can resist the temptation turnover and look at your smartphone for the next hour.  It’s devilishly hard to do.

We ran this simple experiment with 150 marketers at the Digital Innovation Day in Frankfurt yesterday, and the vast majority failed.

For marketers, the insight that smartphones are digital candy, to which we and our target audiences are chronically addicted, is useful.  First, it reinforces the new marketing wisdom that personal digital screens need to be at the heart of everything we do, not just for screenagers – screen addicted teens – but for all demographics.  Let’s face it, we’re addicted to our personal screens; they evoke obsessive, compulsive behaviour, and without them we suffer for separation anxiety that has been dubbed nomophobia (no mobile phone fear).  Many of us would prefer to be without our loved ones for extended periods than without digital marshmallows.

Second, the digital marshmallow test underlines the need to fit marketing within how we consume media today, craving a quick digital sugar high about 150 times a day – the number of times, on average, we look at our personal screens.  For marketers this means dealing with audiences with shrinking attention spans.

  • Since 2000, attention spans have dropped by a third, down to just 8 seconds
  • Amazon has found conversion drops 1% every 100 millisecond wait
  • 40% leave sites if they don’t load within 3 seconds – causing a facial frown known as the #BufferFace
  • 43% of us abandon emails if they take more than 30 seconds to read
  • 32% of us tune out if you don’t make your point in less than 15 seconds
  • 74% lose interest in presentations if the key point is not made in the first minute

In a world where instant gratification takes too long, we’re all live-streaming, fast-shipping, peri-scoping, multi-tasking, speed-dating, selfie-snapping, buzz-feeding, meer-katting, hash-tagging, geo-tagging, time-shifting, heart-beat tracking, paycheck-checking, net-flixing, home-automating, instant-messaging, insta-gramming, we-chatting, yik-yakking, you-tubing, whats-apping, snap-chatting…

It’s exhausting, but we’re ‘Generation Now': We want it all and we want it now as we ‘Carpe’ the tech out of ‘Diem’.

Right now, learning to market to ourselves, today’s ‘Generation Now’ who crave instant gratification and immediate satisfaction, is marketing’s major challenge.




How to Influence Consumers While They Sleep [Study]


A new study published by NorthWestern University has demonstrated how brands could potentially influence sleeping consumers subliminally by exposing them to sounds – and perhaps vibrations from a wearable – paired with a brand (full paper, experimental material).

The study ‘Unlearning implicit social biases during sleep‘ looked at how exposure to counter-stereotypes (e.g. female + science) can modify unconscious negative bias in gender (and race) as measured by the Implicit Association Test.  Translated to brands, this might be similar to exposing consumers to ads that debunk negative stereotypes (e.g. as Hyundai has been successfully doing by presenting itself as a premium brand).

Now, there is nothing new about counter-bias training, nor is there anything new about the fact that stereotypical mental associations unconsciously influence our perceptions and attitudes.  You can check how ageist, racist or sexist you really are by doing the IAT yourself here (Harvard’s Project Implicit).

What is new is that in this study the researchers paired counter-stereotypes with particular sounds – here and here – by playing the sounds during exposure. A proportion of participants were then exposed to these paired sounds again subliminally as they slept. Continuing the Hyundai analogy above, this would be akin to an ad soundtrack – say to the Hyundai ad – being played as the consumer slept, perhaps through a branded sleep app for drivers.

What the study found was that exposure to the paired sound whilst sleeping increased the effectiveness of prior exposure to counter-stereotypes. People exposed to paired sounds whilst they slept became less sexist or racist as measured by the IAT for over a week.

Now, there are all sorts of caveats here, notably that this finding needs to be replicated before marketers – especially those who have had an ethical bypass surgery – get too excited.  Also, this pilot study only measured implicit mental bias, not explicit behavioural bias – actual racist or sexist behaviour was not measured.  And the study certainly didn’t give any credence to any ‘learn French/astrophysics/knitting while you sleep’ quackery out there.

Nevertheless, the study does open up the possibility for enhancing marketers attempts at ‘evaluative conditioning’ (pairing a brand with positive stimuli) with the additional pairing of a sound that is then played – with the consumers permission of course – via a device as the consumer sleeps.  One interesting option, with the rise of wearables, and haptic feedback, is to ‘brand’ certain haptic vibrations and sensations – and play them back as consumers sleep.

Have we found a reason for the Apple Watch to exist in our Brave New World of Marketing?

Subliminal Sound Pairing




New 2015 List of Top 100 most Valuable Brands [WPP Report Summary]

top 100

How much is a label worth?  Not the product, just the label.

If the label we’re talking about happens to be Apple, then that label – the most valuable label on planet Earth – is worth $247bn according to the new WPP 2015 global list and valuation of the 100 most valuable brands. If the label is Louis Vuitton, then it’s worth $27bn. Together the top 100 labels are worth $3.3 trillion.

The full list is below, and here’s the link to the full 187 page report 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.

$3.3 trillion is a lot of work for 100 logos.

Of course there’s more to a brand than a logo – psychologically, a brand is a set of mental associations that can influence propensity to choose and frequency of choice.  What comes to mind when I say Apple? Creativity, design, quality, simple to use, user-friendly, innovative…  These positive associations influence our willingness to pay a price premium, and choose Apple more frequently – especially when they are unique and meet a need. So WPP calculate brand value by combining financial value (current branded earnings and a multiple for future sales) with brand contribution (the price premium and extra volume that the brand name (and associations) generates (from consumer surveys)). It’s not the only way to calculate brand value, but it has the merit of integrating a psychological component to brand valuation.

The 2015 WPP 100 Most Valuable Global Brands list makes for interesting reading.

  • Shift to the East? Check. (Alibaba brand is now worth more than Amazon, Tencent is worth more than Facebook).
  • Continued Rise of Tech? Check. (Tech and Telecom brands account for 44% of total value in the list).
  • Banks and Luxury in Trouble? Check. (Only sectors losing value, 2% and 6% respectively)
  • Branding trumps Advertising? Check. (Strong identity and value proposition correlate better with value than strong advertising)
  • Salience, Difference, and Meaningfulness drive brand value? Check.
    • Salient: Comes to mind spontaneously as key brand choice
    • Different: Unique and trendsetting
    • Meaningful: Fulfils a consumer need in relevant ways
  • Apple the most valuable brand on planet Earth? Check, (the Apple brand is worth $247bn)

2015 WPP 100 Most Valuable Global Brands

  1. Apple (Technology) $246,992,000,000
  2. Google (Technology) $173,652,000,000
  3. Microsoft (Technology) $115,500,000,000
  4. IBM (Technology) $93,987,000,000
  5. Visa (Payments) $91,962,000,000
  6. AT&T (Telecom Providers) $89,492,000,000
  7. Verizon (Telecom Providers) $86,009,000,000
  8. Coca-Cola (Soft Drinks) $83,841,000,000
  9. McDonald’s (Fast Food) $81,162,000,000
  10. Marlboro (Tobacco) $80,352,000,000
  11. Tencent (Technology) $76,572,000,000
  12. Facebook (Technology) $71,121,000,000
  13. Alibaba (Retail) $66,375,000,000
  14. Amazon (Retail) $62,292,000,000
  15. China Mobile (Telecom Providers) $59,895,000,000
  16. Wells Fargo (Regional Banks) $59,310,000,000
  17. GE (Conglomerate) $59,272,000,000
  18. UPS (Logistics) $51,798,000,000
  19. Disney (Entertainment) $42,962,000,000
  20. Mastercard (Payments) $40,188,000,000
  21. Baidu (Technology) $40,041,000,000
  22. ICBC (Regional Banks) 38,808,000,000
  23. Vodafone (Telecom Providers) $38,461,000,000
  24. SAP (Technology) $38,225,000,000
  25. American Express (Payments) $38,093,000,000
  26. Walmart (Retail) $35,245,000,000
  27. T-Mobile (Telecom Providers) $33,834,000,000
  28. Nike (Apparel) $29,717,000,000
  29. Starbucks (Fast Food) $29,313,000,000
  30. Toyota (Cars) $28,913,000,000
  31. The Home Depot (Retail) $27,705,000,000
  32. Louis Vuitton (Luxury) $27,445,000,000
  33. Budweiser (Beer) $26,657,000,000
  34. BMW (Cars) $26,349,000,000
  35. HSBC (Global Banks) $24,029,000,000
  36. RBC (Regional Banks) $23,989,000,000
  37. Pampers (Baby Care) $23,757,000,000
  38. L’Oréal (Personal Care) $23,376,000,000
  39. HP (Technology) $23,039,000,000
  40. Subway (Fast Food) $22,561,000,000
  41. China Construction Bank (Regional Banks) $22,065,000,000
  42. Zara (Apparel) $22,036,000,000
  43. Mercedes-Benz (Cars) $21,786,000,000
  44. Oracle (Technology) $21,680,000,000
  45. Samsung (Technology) $21,602,000,000
  46. Movistar (Telecom Providers) $21,215,000,000
  47. TD (Regional Banks) $20,638,000,000
  48. Commonwealth Bank (Regional Banks) $20,599,000,000
  49. ExxonMobil (Oil & Gas) $20,412,000,000
  50. Agricultural Bank of China (Regional Banks) $20,189,000,000
  51. Accenture (Technology) $20,183,000,000
  52. Gillette (Personal Care) $19,737,000,000
  53. FedEx (Logistics) $19,566,000,000
  54. Shell (Oil & Gas) $18,943,000,000
  55. Hermès (Luxury) $18,938,000,000
  56. Intel (Technology) $18,385,000,000
  57. Colgate (Personal Care) $17,977,000,000
  58. BT (Telecom Providers) $17,953,000,000
  59. ANZ (Regional Banks) $17,702,000,000
  60. Citi (Global Banks) $17,486,000,000
  61. Orange (Telecom Providers) $17,384,000,000
  62. China Life (Insurance) $17,365,000,000
  63. Sinodec (Oil & Gas) $17,267,000,000
  64. Ikea (Retail) $17,025,000,000
  65. Bank of China (Regional Banks) $16,438,000,000
  66. DHL (Logistics) $16,301,000,000
  67. Cisco (Technology) $16,060,000,000
  68. Pingan (Insurance) $15,959,000,000
  69. Siemens (Technology) $15,496,000,000
  70. Huawei (Technology) $15,335,000,000
  71. PetroChina (Oil & Gas) $15,022,000,000
  72. US Bank (Regional Banks) $14,786,000,000
  73. eBay (Retail) $14,171,000,000
  74. HDFC Bank (Regional Banks) $14,027,000,000
  75. H&M (Apparel) $13,827,000,000
  76. Gucci (Luxury) $13,800,000,000
  77. J.P. Morgan (Global Banks) $13,522,000,000
  78. Honda (Cars) $13,332,000,000
  79. Pepsi (Soft Drinks) $13,134,000,000
  80. Ford (Cars) $13,106,000,000
  81. BP (Oil & Gas) $12,938,000,000
  82. Telstra (Telecom Providers) $12,701,000,000
  83. KFC (Fast Food) $12,649,000,000
  84. Westpac (Regional Banks) $12,420,000,000
  85. LinkedIn (Technology) $12,200,000,000
  86. Santander (Global Banks) $12,181,000,000
  87. Woolworths (Retail) $11,818,000,000
  88. Paypal (Payments) $11,806,000,000
  89. Chase (Regional Banks) $11,661,000,000
  90. Aldi (Retail) $11,660,000,000
  91. ING (Global Banks) $11,560,000,000
  92. Twitter (Technology) $11,447,000,000
  93. Nissan (Cars) $11,411,000,000
  94. Red Bull (Soft Drinks) $11,375,000,000
  95. Bank of America (Regional Banks) $11,335,000,000
  96. Docomo (Telecom Providers) $11,223,000,000
  97. Costco (Retail) $11,214,000,000
  98. SoftBank (Telecom Providers) $11,131,000,000
  99. China Telecom (Telecom Providers) $11,075,000,000
  100. Scotiabank (Regional Banks) $11,044,000,000



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