MSP Launch Competition for Free Tech Incubator Space


The article below was written by Anne Dornan, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at Manchester Science Partnerships


The MSP team is thrilled to be joining so many leading businesses and brands at Prolific North Live – an event which grows from strength to strength every year and showcases the huge talent and vibrancy of the digital, tech, and creative media sectors across the North.

After a busy 2017, where we launched our flagship Bright Building at Manchester Science Park in September, and also welcomed the first businesses to Mi-IDEA, our new co-innovation centre in partnership with Cisco, 2018 is going to be another landmark year for MSP as we prepare to launch our new Tech Incubator in Manchester in partnership with the city’s universities, Manchester Digital and Complete Resourcing.

Opening in early May at Bruntwood’s redeveloped Manchester Technology Centre, we’re  confident that the Tech Incubator will be the ideal environment for data science and technology innovation businesses to begin their journey.

As a home for the next wave of disruptive innovations and entrepreneurs from across the UK, MSP’s Tech Incubator is aimed specifically at those working in the areas of: Artificial Intelligence, cognitive computing, or machine learning; data analytics; VR & AR; fintech; blockchain; e-commerce; cyber security; cloud technologies; quantum computing; the Internet of Things; smart cities and digital health.  

The competition is a really exciting opportunity to identify the rising stars of the North’s flourishing digital sector, and we look forward to helping to nurture them through their first steps in business, and supporting them as they scale.

We know that taking the plunge and starting a business can be a daunting prospect, which is why the Tech Incubator will offer much more than just an amazing place to work.

It will be a supportive and collaborative community of peers, specialist professional advisers and trusted partners.

At MSP we have always been passionate about creating communities of like-minded businesses in locations where innovation and entrepreneurship come together to drive real growth and impacts. The Tech Incubator is in an unrivalled location: it’s right in the heart of Manchester’s Innovation District on the Oxford Road Corridor, and part of Manchester’s largest city centre development, Circle Square, soon to be the home of world leading engineering, advanced materials and tech businesses.

The collective expertise and resources of our partners will prove invaluable to new customers at the Tech Incubator – where businesses will join a supportive environment tailored to their needs and become part of MSPs 300-strong community of high-growth science and technology businesses.

Our delivery partners include Manchester Digital – the independent trade body for the sector – which is relocating to the Tech Incubator this year, providing a long-term home for their membership services and events programme – and Complete Resourcing, a specialist consultancy for innovative technology start-ups looking to build world-class teams.

The Tech Incubator’s business growth programme also includes access to funding and finance through the Investor Ladder network, mentorship services, access to R&D resources and specialist professional services from leading advisers including Grant Thornton and KPMG.

At Prolific North Live we will be hosting an exciting programme at our stand (135 – next to the keynote theatre). Come along, meet the team and hear from both MSP and Bruntwood customers, who will be sharing their innovative products inspiring growth stories. Among those attending will be Manchester Digital, Cubic Motion, Lightstart Apps and Kwizzbit.


Manchester Science Partnership will be launching a special competition at Prolific North Live, giving start-ups the chance to win free desk space for 12 months and access to a specialist business growth programme – in total worth up to £9,500.  To apply click here.  

How To Create Effective AR Marketing Campaigns: Experience


The below blog was written by Sam Whitehead, Head of Insights for Blippar.


In my last blog post, I looked at optimising distribution factors (touchpoints and call to actions).

If you haven’t read it, I would recommend starting with this before reading on. The key areas for a successful AR campaign can be split into two buckets:

  • Distribution — making sure people can access your AR experience in the first place
  • Experience — creating effective, high impact AR content.

This post will focus on optimising Experience factors: Immediacy, Repeat Usage and Delight.

Immediacy

This is all about delivering immediate benefit to the user, both in terms of loading times and UX.

Human attention spans are down 50% in the last 15 years (Microsoft, 2015) and we’re more impatient than ever. 53% of users bounce from a mobile site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load (Google, 2016). This has led to projects such as Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which aim to load almost instantly.

When it comes to loading times for AR, users grant you slightly more grace than they would for a mobile site, but not much more. Although it’s tempting to use lots of high-res 3D, be cognizant of the trade-off between the size of your AR experience and how long it will take to load.

Aim for a loading time under 5 seconds, certainly no more than 10 seconds, and make sure you carry out thorough QA testing over a range of internet connection speeds.

Minimising loading times is only half the challenge. You must also use simple, linear UX to clearly lead the user through the AR experience. Stay away from main menus and ‘web thinking’, instead give the user fewer choices that only require simple gestures (swipes, taps) to navigate through the experience.

Each additional tap you require from the user is an opportunity for them to drop out of the experience early. Set yourself a ‘one-tap benchmark’, so that users don’t have to tap the screen more than once to reach the core benefit of the experience. Or go one step further – what benefit can you give the user in zero taps?

Repeat Usage

AR inherently drives impressive repeat usage as people are so curious about the technology. Blippar campaigns average 3 blipps per user, but many generate 10+.

Be intentional about designing experiences that encourage repeat engagement, that continue to deliver user benefit over time, whether entertainment or utility. Brands should aim for users to interact with their product in AR each time they pick it up.

Driving repeat engagement is a well-understood discipline in digital. There are numerous models and theories that can be replicated in AR to drive regular interaction and build habitual behaviour.

 

 

Humans like to collect and complete things. Using gamification, daily rewards, updated features or episodic content will skyrocket your campaign’s performance. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, just ensure you continue to deliver user benefit over time (e.g. a lipstick that updates you with the latest looks and tutorials in AR each week, a beer that gives you new opportunities to play and win football tickets each time you drink).

Delight

This is the most nebulous of the five best practices but you know it when you see it. It’s a really cool AR experience that you instantly want to share with others.

It could be visually stunning creative work – true AR that is tracked to an object or a location, such as Blippar’s campaign with Coca-Cola, which turned each can into an interactive AR jukebox.

Or it could be a clever use case, where AR provides a ‘digital shortcut’ that moves users down the purchase funnel, such as virtual try-ons or Blippar’s ability to put you in the driving seat of any car simply by scanning it.

 

The opportunities to create surprising and enchanting experiences in AR are endless but you will often find yourself held back by practical factors, such as timelines or the specifics of a brief. Ask yourself tough questions to make sure you’re able to deliver a quality experience despite any limitations you face. Don’t fall into the trap of doing AR just for the sake of doing AR – it should delight your users.

So there you have it, our five best practices (touchpoints, call to action, immediacy, repeat usage, delight). Use them as a checklist for your campaign to ensure effective performance.

Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting the real-world distribution factors. If you’re building a magical AR experience, you still need to invest in making sure it reaches people. And similarly, once you have a user in your AR experience, use mobile-first design and user-centric thinking to delight them and keep them coming back. This will ensure your AR campaign is both valuable to end-users and effective for your brand.


Blippar is a leading Augmented Reality and Computer Vision company. The Blippar app – its showcase app – is the world’s first augmented reality browser using AR, AI & CV. Click here to book a 15 min meeting with Blippar at Booth 17 (Immersive Technologies zone)

Do We Need a Fresh Approach to Tackling Counterfeit Goods?


Join VST Enterprises CEO, Louis-James Davies, and Dewhirst CEO, Anthony Wood, at Prolific North Live where they’ll be discussing how new technology can help protect consumers from poor-quality fake products

The below piece was written by Louis-James Davis.


The need for traceability across consumer supply chains is becoming increasingly recognised by both governments and the general public.

This is not just driven by concerns about safety and ethical fears but by worries about quality as well – when purchasing a product, consumers want to know they are buying the real deal, not a cheap “knock-off”.

The International Trademark Association (INTA) anticipate that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach £1.6 trillion by 2022. In 2015, the value stood at £1.2 trillion.

Detrimental doppelgängers

As well as impacting on consumers’ rights to quality products, this trade poses a serious threat to the prosperity of the genuine brands that are being faked. Every time a knock-off product is purchased, money is being syphoned away from the company whose brand is being counterfeited. It’s the reputation of the real deal that suffers when a doppelgänger product fails to meet consumer expectations.

With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that a growing number of governments are looking to tighten traceability legislation across a wide range of sectors. Non-governmental and industry bodies are being set up to initiate supply chain monitoring schemes in order to tackle product counterfeiting as well as other quality issues.

Nevertheless, disclosure of supply chain information remains patchy and traceability is also hampered by technological limitations – there are various industry initiatives to improve information flow, from material sourcing, to sale and beyond, but there’s currently little connectivity between these systems.

The genuine article

At VST Enterprises, we’ve developed a new application for our VCode® and VPlatform™ technology to help boost tracking in the supply chain and overthrow counterfeiting at the source.

We’re working alongside leading fashion business, Dewhirst, to integrate our proprietary technology, VApparel™, to clothing, footwear and accessories in order to curb counterfeiting in the retail industry. VApparel will allow consumers to establish the authenticity of the product before they make a purchase by scanning theVCode® printed on the label or product itself. Consumers can also establish other product information via a VCode® scan such as the factory the product was made in and the raw materials used, through to customised marketing material.

VSTE’s VCode® and VPlatform™ technology has been awarded an EU Seal of Excellence for its anti-counterfeiting and end-to-end supply chain and traceability capabilities, and has been commended by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Join us at Prolific North Live

It’s solutions like VApparel, resulting from partnerships between manufacturers, security specialists and technology experts, that will help genuine brands gain the upper hand in the global fight against counterfeiters. And that’s exactly what I’ll be talking about at the upcoming Prolific North Live with our Joint Venture partner for VApparel and CEO of Dewhirst, Anthony Wood.


VST Enterprises will be on on the ‘Anti-counterfeiting’ panel at 2pm, Wednesday 28 February in Prolific North Live’s Reveal Theatre. 

When it Comes to GDPR, it’s Time to Separate Myth From Fact


The below blog on GDPR was written by Davinia Hamilton-Maddox, Co-founder and Director of Phoenix Digital.


There’s a lot of stuff on the internet about GDPR at the moment, and with some conflicting versions of the rules, you’d be forgiven for feeling lost in data hell.

This ‘yet-another-blog-post-about-GDPR’ blog post attempts to rule out the myth from the fact and highlight the key points to consider for getting on the road to compliance.

So, first, let’s recap on the What and the Why, the When and Where. Then we’ll try and tackle the How.

What: GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) replaces The Data Protection Act of 1998. Its purpose is for the protection and privacy of personal data, and the individual rights of EU citizens.

Why: We live in a data-rich world, and the 1998 Act is out of date with today’s new ways of processing and using data. It will force businesses to be more careful with, and accountable for, people’s personal information.

When: The regulation comes into force on 25th May 2018. But now is the time to start putting things in place to become compliant.

Where (and Who): GDPR will affect every business who owns, processes and/or uses personal data of any individual within the EU. This includes businesses outside of the EU if they own, process and/or use personal data of people within the EU.

And now for the big question – How?

Ok, let’s try and get this into 6 bitesize chunks. (I tried 5, just for the aesthetics of the thing, but it definitely needs 6. At least it’s an even number which satisfies my Libran mind.)

Explicit Consent

The key word here is ‘explicit’. It is not enough to have a simple ‘opt-in’ check box on contact forms any more, you need to tell people what you’ll be contacting them about, how often and in what format.

An example: Company A offers four key services. The CRM system identifies if a customer is associated with service 1, 2, 3 or 4, yet offers and promotions are happily sent out to the full mailing list for all services. Under GDPR, individual opt-in consent – and individual opt-out – would need to be obtained.

You should also not assume that because a contact on your mailing list has not yet opted out, they therefore give their consent to be contacted by you. But under the eyes of GDPR, not opting out is not Explicit Consent.

If you don’t think you have explicit consent from the contacts on your database, all is not lost. You can still send an invitation out before 25th May to request consent – don’t forget to be explicit (have I mentioned that word enough?)

Double opt-in is not mandatory by the way. I’ve seen this crop up in a few documents and blogs, but it’s a myth!

The right to be forgotten

Individuals have the right to request complete erasure of their personal information. There are two considerations here; first, businesses have to make it easy for individuals to request sight of what data you hold about them, how you use it and if you share it with anybody else (internally or externally).

Second, if they request their details are removed, you have to remove it completely. Out of any and every database – CRM, email distribution software, the fulfilment house you use for managing your mailshots, the Chairman’s laptop because he likes to keep a copy of everything…

You may well be investigated if you accidentally send communication to an unsubscribed recipient. So think about how you will manage this process; keeping data in one single place, without any copies in existence is one way to maintain control.

Relevance and Accuracy

This is actually a good excuse for a good old data cleanse. Rather like clearing out the loft, it’s not exactly a job to look forward to, but just think how satisfied you’ll feel afterwards!

Relevance – only collect and store data you actually need. If you don’t need to know a person’s date of birth, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, don’t ask for it. Yes it might help you build a picture of your typical customer demographic, but if you can’t prove this information is a legitimate business need, you may well be in breach of GDPR. And with a maximum fine of €20m (or 4% of global turnover), it might not be worth the risk.

Accuracy – email addresses, telephone numbers, job titles change all the time. Spend the time between now and 25th May to get your existing data up to date and then have a policy in place which states how often you will check its accuracy.

Data sharing

Keep sharing to a minimum. Best practice would be to have one central location, password protected and only accessible by people who actually need access.

An example: you receive an enquiry from your website contact form. Your website requests the individual’s name, email address, phone number and a message. It arrives into the business through a generic email address monitored by two members of staff; one of whom assesses the message and forwards it to the relevant department for processing/responding to. The manager of that department passes it to a member of his/her team to handle.

The person who submitted the contact form, in all innocence, now has their personal contact information on at least four machines, and quite possibly several mobile devices which are synched to email accounts.

This process would not conform to the ‘Privacy by Design’ stipulation under GDPR. A better approach would be to store the data in the website database itself which can be accessed via the password-protected CMS.

Data Storage

This point relates to the length of time we can keep data rather than how and where we actually store it.

The answer is there is no maximum time period. GDPR only states that an organisation must decide, based on its own legitimate business needs, as to how long is too long.

So as part of your new Data Policy, you must state how long you will retain an individual’s data for, and you must have a process in place that deals with this once that time period is reached. It doesn’t necessarily need to be for a number of years; for example, your policy might be that you remove a data subject after 12 months of no-engagement.

Data protection Officer

Appointment of a DPO is mandatory if you are a public authority or an organisation dealing with data on a ‘large scale’. (I have yet to find the definition of ‘large scale’ so we’ll have to use our imagination for the time-being).

It’s best practice to appoint a DPO if you do not fall into one of these categories though. Especially if you distribute regular marketing campaigns and/or monitor online behaviour through Google Analytics (or similar; other analytic platforms are available).

The DPO can be an existing member of staff, a new recruit or an external resource. A word of advice is not to underestimate this role and tag it on to a junior member of staff’s job description. It should be considered as a senior position, because this person is responsible for an organisation’s compliance with GDPR.

I hope you are now thoroughly clued up on GDPR and will rush forth and comply.

Or perhaps you are just thoroughly exhausted.

Unfortunately GDPR is not black and white. There’s a considerable amount of grey in the middle. But I hope, at least, you have something to start with. And if you’re still confused, give me a call, and we can weep together.


Phoenix Digital specialises in solving online challenges through a tailored and strategic approach to web design and build. The team will be at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.

2018 Won’t Be the Year of Voice Search – and Here’s Why


John Warner is an in-house marketer at Click Consult where he spends his time accruing industry certifications, tinkering with code, plotting strategy and writing articles on all aspects of search marketing.


Digital assistants have been permeating western culture now for some time, with episodes of various sitcoms featuring storylines driven by Siri or the Google Assistant or Alexa, there are sites devoted to their mishaps and endless articles on the pros and cons of interaction with them.

Within the search marketing industry, there are a number of ‘future of search’ articles which are driven by voice search, but they tend to be fairly woolly, predictive and lacking in real detail. The reason is that, despite the fact that voice search has been on the horizon and a predicted game changer for some time; it has nevertheless caught a lot of people by surprise – with almost 42% of respondents to a survey (sent to a 300,000 strong segment of Click Consult’s email database) reporting that digital assistants represented the biggest potential game changer for search in 2018.

The reason for this is that the technology, usefulness and uptake has progressed far faster than the majority of marketers and techies alike would have expected.

It took mobile (depending on where you draw the line of true mobile search) around 20 years to achieve parity with desktop for searches made, while voice has achieved 20% of all searches since early versions of Siri (the earliest you can reasonably place the inception of voice search) in seven years.

 

With rates of voice search among Millennials (roughly those born between 1982 and 2004) and Generation-Z (born 2004 onward) already being estimated in the high 40%s, it is easy to understand why ComScore is predicting that 50% of all searches will be by voice – therefore performing a similar feat to mobile in half the time. While I still cringe, say please and thank you during voice searches (occasionally unthinkingly apologising if the software can’t understand me), my children have been asking Google questions since they could talk.

This potential halving of the time it will take to reach parity also halves the time that brands, from small businesses right up to Google itself, will have to respond to the change.

 

As voice is predominately built upon the advances of mobile technology, it is also capable of accelerating far quicker.

WAP, for example, debuted in 1999 – and it took me what felt like a full 90 minutes to check the football scores – and it took until 2007 and the introduction of some larger, touch screen devices to begin making real progress. Even so, it took another eight years for Google to introduce its first major mobile friendly update to the core algorithm (called Mobilegeddon at the time).

We are now entering a period where Google is beginning to roll out ‘Mobile First Indexing’ – almost two years after mobile searches exceeded those on desktops. It is difficult to imagine that the search marketing industry has until 2030 to fully optimise for voice search (according to Google Trends, to illustrate interest, users in the UK in 2017 – an election year in the middle of Brexit – searched for Alexa far more often than Theresa May).

This is where, I believe, from where the slight schism in opinion comes regarding voice search. It is as easy to find articles dismissing voice search as a potential force as it is to find overestimations of its imminence.

I’m going to – in a cowardly fashion – fall somewhere between the two: I believe that voice will begin to impact search this year (especially with the introduction of screened voice devices like the Amazon Echo Show), whether through small drops in site traffic, but equally I think the true impact of voice search is a couple of years off and bound with the improvement of conversational or interrogative search (by which I mean voice searches with the option to further refine a search through interaction with the digital assistant rather than each search being held as separate), wearable tech and augmented reality (AR).

The reason for this is simply that voice search has found the web unprepared. While people are showing a surprising (to me) willingness to use voice search, its facility is little more than that of searching via text input and will often (though less often than it has in the past) necessitate a visit to a webpage anyway.

The increase in rich results, however, show that Google is keen to deliver answers directly from search engine results pages (SERPs) and this trend is likely to increase as voice search progresses – for example, of a group of 339 keywords tracked by Click Consult through Ahrefs’ rank tracking tool since the end of September, there has been an 85% increase in rich results showing in associated SERPs, including a major bump from the introduction of ‘people also asked’ rich results (a variety that could potentially deliver a lot of data that Google could feed in to future interrogative search capability).

 

However, while voice search may trigger more answers directly from search in the future, it is highly unlikely that Google will enter in to a mass project of content production. Instead, these answers will tend to come from curation of first page sites – as the rich results do now.

This, combined with a push to force Google to pay compensation to publishers, could lead to profit sharing opportunities for publishers capable of featuring regularly in rich results and voice results.

This is where the issue lies with voice search at the moment: no one has really worked out how to successfully monetise it. While Amazon is making money on the physical assistant devices, and potentially from orders through it, there is nothing definitive to say that they are earning more from Echo or Alexa (beyond the cost of the device) than they otherwise would from text interaction. Both Google and Amazon have been furiously denying questions regarding possible advertisements on their devices (though one has tried, unsuccessfully, with a promotion for Beauty and the Beast – which it denied was an advert at all, while the other has recently begun opening up to more ‘paid promotion’).

Where I believe the benefit for publishers will come, however, will be that voice search will eventually make our personal choice of digital assistant a staple part of our lives in the same way that mobile phones have become.

 

People will come to trust them – especially as they increase in their ability to personalise responses and improve in their usefulness in day to day life.

When this personalisation is combined with localised search (another area that has seen a lot of tinkering from Google in the last year), we could then see our friendly digital assistant begin to make suggestions pulled from recent searches, from diarised anniversaries and birthdays as well as from paying publishers. “Where’s the nearest pizza place?” could lead to paid promotion, as well as top results, and personal favourites from past purchases with an Android or Apple Wallet.

It is reasonable to infer from the activities, business purchases, tweaks to search and various other things from the big five in tech where they see the future – and it is mobile, personalised, local and spoken. So what can we do to prepare if not even the companies driving toward the future appear to have settled on how to get there?

There are three ways to prepare:

  1. Natural language and long tail – the ability of search engines to parse meaning is increasing all the time, which frees content writers from a lot of previous constraints surrounding keywords and also allows content to aim for long tail – as voice queries tend to be longer (though not by much).
  2. Markup – There are quite a few tools that can help which are available online – with JSON-LD as well as microdata generators available. In addition, Google provides its own assistance. It is absolutely vital that, wherever you look for help, that sites begin to properly implement structural data.
  3. Make sure you consider the robot. A lot of the advice for writing for robots would remain true for humans: use clear language, avoid jargon and overly long sentences. Where it becomes completely necessary is in HTML cues, including title tags and the correct use of the < b > and < strong > tags.

While 2018 will most likely not be the year of voice search – however long it takes, voice is coming – and it is better to prepare in advance than face being caught out by a sudden shift.


Click Consult is a multi award-winning search marketing agency and will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.

How Social Media is Changing the Travel Game


The below article was originally written by Joana Goncalves, Content executive at Digital Gurus.


How do you market an experience? Marketing a country or a city is an interesting task and millions are spent in showing the world what a specific place has to offer.

Not that long ago, if you wanted to go abroad, a travel agency would do the work for you. An expert would take you through a bunch of brochures with fantastically edited photos and, for a small fee, you’d be on your way to paradise asap.

If you wanted a second opinion, you had the holiday photos of a friend and a few anecdotes heard at your last dinner party.

This seems like a million years ago. The travel industry has changed so much and in so many ways that it’s hard to keep track, and social media introduced a whole new platform to the mix. So, here’s where to focus your efforts:

User generated content

Travel is, in and of itself, an inspiring topic. As human beings, we want to stretch our imagination, to be excited and to have our horizons expanded. As a company, you should spark an interest in the imaginative aspect of human nature. But how can you make an impact on these audiences?

“You didn’t hear it from us – you heard it from people like you.”

Let your customers define the product. Word-of-mouth recommendations are an imperative factor in the decision making process. Create campaigns that give value back to the user, using competitions or giveaways, which can contribute and help collect images and testimonials from consumers that represent their experience of your product.

Momondo employed this technique when they partnered with GoPro. To enter the competition, the users would upload a colourful photo of their surroundings, post it on social media and tag Momondo. The prize? A GoPro camera. This created thousands of pieces of content and increased traffic to Momondo’s website exponentially.

Tourism Queensland went a step further with their ‘the best job in the world’ campaign back in 2008. The story was covered by TV anchors all around the world, hundreds of hours worth of film were sent into the marketing team, showing individuals from everywhere performing at their best in the competition to win. The campaign became viral and most importantly, it cemented Queensland’s image as a paradisiacal and unique destination.

Travel influencers

Social influencers have the talent to create fantastic visual content to promote your brand. Always remember that they will be honest about their experience with your product, however also be confident that it can stand up to the test. Start building relationships with popular travelers in the social space, and make sure their and your brand values are aligned for maximum benefit.

Collaborative thinking is valuable, so another smart thing to do is to tap the collective creativity of a large community. There are so many talented illustrators, designers, musicians and other creative-minded people among your fans. How about asking them to submit artistic interpretations of your brand, or pieces inspired by your brand? Your company benefits from the beautiful work that promotes you, while the artist benefits from recognition, exposure and new work for their portfolios. It’s a win-win situation.

Personalise the experience

Implementing direct bookings through social media without having to call or use online booking forms can improve the user experience by keeping everything in the same platform. This gives customers a simple, personalised booking option that makes you stand out from the crowd and also, through the social nature of the bookings, you’ll be more likely to create new social ambassadors.

Customer service

Your customers are eager to get quick answers on their favorite social media sites, sometimes on the go. While networking sites like Facebook and Instagram are excellent platforms for marketing, perhaps the most demanding platform in the domain of customer service is Twitter.

The transparent nature of Twitter conversations can affect your company in a positive or negative way.

However, with well-timed, professional, and cheerful responses, companies may bring in great benefits and gain strong customer loyalty. Likes and retweets are excellent and positive ways to promote a positive image of a brand.


Digital Gurus is an award-winning digital recruitment agency in London, Manchester, Sydney & Dubai. The team will be at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.

What Big Clients Want (From Agencies)


The Bulletproof Agency Network is a body focussed on uniting industry experts and thought leaders on how to scale a thriving, profitable & robust digital agency. Mashbo are a design led digital agency,specialising in creating online experiences design to drive engagement.

The below article was originally written by Nikki Girvan.


Next week, on Thursday 1st March, Managing Director and Mashbo Co-founder, Gavin Sherratt will be heading to Prolific North Live at EventCity to join recording for The Bulletproof Agency Network’s second series of podcasts.

Gavin will be on stage in the Finance & Growth Theatre at 2pm alongside Jason Byrne, Head of Digital at award winning property developers, Urban Splash, to discuss what big clients want from their agencies.

The series is devoted to bringing industry experts and thought leaders together to discuss hot topics for digital agencies.

Over the years Mashbo has had the opportunity to work with some global brands and big, multinational companies such as Liverpool Football Club and Manx Telecom.

Through this work the team has gained real insight into what big clients want from their digital agencies, as well as what they actually need. Sometimes the two can be very different things.

We pride ourselves on being proof that a digital agency based in the North, with a small but talented and tenacious team, is equally as capable of working with huge global clients as our large international competitors. It’s our approach and attitude that wins and retains work with big clients.

It was tenacity and persistence that opened the door to Manx Telecoms for Mashbo. While visiting the Isle of Man to attend an event, Gavin made it his mission to use his free time on the island to find someone who could make the introduction to the multinational telecoms company – a story that he will share next week on Bulletproof’s panel.

We’re also big believers in chemistry. Picking clients that are right for the agency is just as important for us as it is for big clients to appoint the right agency. If the chemistry isn’t right sometimes turning down a client – no matter how big a name or how significant the fee – is the right thing to do.

We’re looking forward to seeing Gavin share our collective experiences at Prolific North Live next week and hearing Jason Byrne’s perspective from client side.

We’re sure the discussion will provide food for thought and hopefully it will give other digital business the confidence to approach and work with big clients.

Mike Henderson, Co-founder at Bulletproof, said “The client – agency relationship can sometimes be a delicate one when expectations aren’t managed or fully understood. We hope that our panel discussion will lift the lid on what big clients really want, as well as what the relationship is like from an agency perspective.

“We’re looking forward to Gavin and Jason sharing their stories with our audience and sparking some lively debate.”

Bulletproof was launched at Prolific North Live 2017 by Founders Paul Barnes (My Accountancy Place), Mike Henderson (Risk Box UK) and Steve Kuncewicz (BLM Law), with the mission to unite industry experts and thought leaders on how to scale a thriving, profitable and robust digital agency.


Prolific North Live will this year be held at Eventcity, Manchester, from 28th February to 1st March 2018. To find out more and register hit here.

Chinese New Year in MediaCityUK, Branded Merchandise and GDPR

Each week we summarise the latest news stories and updates from our exhibitors.

Prolific North Live is a two-day expo that returns to Event City on February 28th and March 1st. With over 90 confirmed exhibitors from a range of industries, the event is becoming an invaluable resource for professionals across the UK.

This week we bring you news from MediaCityUK, The CTBF, Click Consult, Digitl & Fluid Branding.

MediaCityUK | Salford

Today MediaCityUK is celebrating the Chinese New Year with a special tribute to the Year of the Dog.

The CTBF | Non-profit, London

Alongside the BFI and BAFTA, The Cinema & Television Benevolent Fund has launched a new set of principles and zero-tolerance guidance to reduce harassment in the screen industries.

Click Consult | Marketing & Advertising, Cheshire

Click Consult has announced the huge success of their campaign with Oxfam. Titled ‘Dressed by the Kids’, the campaign overdelivered by 2440% in terms of social media impressions.

Digitl | Marketing & Advertising, Manchester

‘GDPR – Fact, Fiction and what you need to plan for by May 2018’ – this week Darren Ratcliffe, the Founder of Digitl, delivered a webinar with Steve Kuncewicz from BLM Law to discuss the impact GDPR will have on the industry.

Fluid Branding | Branded Merchandise, Manchester

Where is Branded Merchandise going in 2018? Industry experts – Fluid Branding – give their insight into what businesses should be looking into this year when it comes to merchandise.


Prolific North Live in less than two weeks away and tickets are still available, get yours here.

#ThinkSearch: What’s New in Search So Far in 2018?


The below article was originally written by Chrissie Waites for iThinkMedia


It’s only the second month of 2018 but we have already seen lots of new changes and updates across the digital marketing industry.

To keep you up to speed, search marketing agency and Prolific North Live Exhibitor iThinkMedia has put together some of the latest Search developments across SEO, PPC and Digital Content to keep you up to date.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a web tool made by Google for webmasters, and it’s completely free. It enables webmasters to check for indexing issues and a range of other useful insights.

Recently, Google has been beta testing a new Google Search Console and the good news is that it’s now been rolled out to everyone. In the previous version, you could only see data for the past 90 days making analysis challenging. The update brings in a 16-month range meaning you can now see year on year data. The core features that have been added are:

  • New search performance reporting – more user-friendly reporting over a longer time period. See the amount of clicks, impressions, average CTR and average position for queries, pages, countries and devices.
  • New index coverage reports – this shows which pages are getting indexed and which are not due to errors, with tips on how to fix the errors. You can easily export this data.
  • AMP status reporting – If you are using AMP (accelerated mobile pages) it will validate your pages and highlight any issues that need resolving.
  • Job posting reports – when posting a job on your site you can use Job Posting Schema to mark up the page enabling you to appear in Google for Jobs UI. This is currently only in the US, but will inevitably launch in the UK and it’s best to be prepared!

Snippets Growing But Traffic Falling

With a steady rise in home smart speakers and voice recognition being used more and more frequently (Okay Google…), the way people are searching online is changing to some extent. Because of this, we are seeing the popularity of the ‘featured snippet’ rise.

Features snippets are often what devices draw from when processing a voice query. So, it’s no surprise to see that there has been a steady rise in snippets in recent years.  In fact, a recent study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting revealed that there were snippets for roughly 30 percent of 1.4 million tested queries.

Theoretically speaking, as the trend continues, more and more pages will need featured snippets to get noticed. If this is true, this could change the standard approach to SEO and content creation.   

However, as always, it’s not quite as simple as that. Whilst the top spot is still highly desirable from an SEO perspective, they are having less of an impact in terms of generating traffic from Google.  Featured snippets, instant answers and interactive knowledge panels have led to roughly 23 percent less traffic from Google to other sites, according to research conducted by SEO expert Rand Fishkin.

This could be due to the fact that voice queries tend to be direct questions. In fact, a large amount of the snippets and knowledge boxes found on Google are simply responses to queries.  Once a question is answered, rarely does the user feel obliged to take things further.  

Have you noticed a rise in featured snippets?

Snapchat Updates Deep Links and Adds More In-depth Analytics

Advertisers on Snapchat have been able to add deep links to their posts for around a year now, allowing people to swipe up and view a specific page. Snapchat will now automatically create these deep links so advertisers don’t have to. They will automatically open the brand’s app is installed on the user’s phone. If the brand’s app isn’t installed, the user will be redirected to the Apple or Google app stores.

More great news for brands and advertisers. Snapchat will also allow companies to see how many app installs their ads generate over time, broken down into one, seven and 28 day statistics. Snapchat’s Snap Ads tool will even offer in-app event tracking so advertisers and brands can see how people who installed their app really use it. They can also measure things like signups and purchases.

One in Three People Used a Social Network in 2017

According to the latest estimated figures from eMarketer, an incredible 2.48 billion people worldwide used a social network of some kind last year, which works out at about one in three.  What’s more, mobile phones are the most-used devices for accessing social media. 82.5% of social network users accessing via a mobile phone at least once a month in 2017.

The most-used social network in the world is Facebook, with more than 1.54 billion people using the site at least once a month last year. Instagram was another popular choice, with almost 594 million regular users in 2017. Making up around 24% of all total social network users globally, the majority of users are from North America and Western Europe.

Google Fights Fake News

Talk of fake news is still very much ongoing. Google has been responding to immense pressure to help combat the spread of fake or otherwise unreliable news articles. They have already gone so far as to ban publishers who promote fake news ads.

How Does This Affect SEO?

Facebook is tweaking its algorithm to help reduce the spread of “non-authoritative-information” as well as adding handy fact-check tags. This would mean that lots of inbound links or keywords would not be enough to see news articles rise through the ranks on Google. They would also have to appear relevant and backed up by a certain degree of authority.

On a similar note, Bing has been working hard to inject a sense of balance to their news search feature. Using new AI and machine learning, when users search for news Bing will not only be able to understand and categorise the words to find related content, but also interpret political stance.

They plan to use this to provide a range of different news articles from different perspectives to burst the “filter bubble” that currently exists with most search engines.

Facebook’s Algorithm Change Means You Should Pay More Attention to Your PPC strategy

In January, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post that Facebook will be changing its focus:
“From focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” In other words, you can say hello to more posts from your friends and family, which should make for more enjoyable scrolling.

Hopefully, this will also help to combat the plague that is fake news. The flipside is that it is becoming easier to get lost in the crowd. Facebook will give less organic weighting to posts from pages, and businesses should expect to see their reach decrease. All the more reason to have a solid strategy for paid content promotion if you’re serious about hitting your reach goals.

Instagram’s Advertising Platform is On the Rise

Instagram has quickly risen to become the top choice of paid content platforms, according to a new report from Cowen analysts. From a survey conducted on 50 American ad buyers, a whopping 96% of respondents had a preference for Instagram Stories for advertisements. Snapchat took a hit and made up the small minority.

With the New Year in full swing, we can already see that it is becoming more difficult to achieve high engagement without actively optimising your Instagram marketing strategy. With such a huge following (an estimated 600 million people worldwide used Instagram at least once a month last year) and the increasing importance of visual marketing, the app is living up to its huge marketing potential.

Instagram ad budgets are predicted to increase in 2018 and 2019, according to the Cowen survey.

Businesses can choose to advertise on Instagram with photos, videos or the increasingly popular and engaging Instagram Stories. You might be best not to ignore carousel ads either, where users can swipe to view more photos or videos in a carousel-style format.

Amazon Go Opens its First Physical Store

In January the very first Amazon Go store opened in Seattle, USA. With no checkouts or cashiers, the Amazon Go store works through a mixture of sensors, an app on your smartphone and your Amazon account.

Simply scan a QR code on arrival, pick up a few items and exit. When you leave the store, your card will be charged and you’ll receive a receipt in the app, it’s that simple!

Although there are some critics who think the seamlessness of the store is too good to be true, the Amazon Go store is being heralded as a crucial moment that will impact the future of retail.


iThinkMedia crafts unique, cohesive, data-led strategies to engage users at every touch point of their search journey. They will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th and March 1st.

7 Things Would-be TV Advertisers Should Know


The below article was written by Matt Hill, Research & Planning Director at Thinkbox.


In December last year, the FTSE 100 welcomed a new name to its ranks when Just Eat increased its valuation to £5.3 billion.

This put Just Eat in the same bracket as other major UK businesses such as Sainsbury’s and Direct Line group and represents a meteoric rise having only floated publicly in 2014. What’s the secret behind their success?  Well a rather smart business niche for a start (who wants to pick up the phone and actually speak to another human when ordering takeaway food?), a growing takeaway economy, a seamless online interface and, yes, you’ve guessed it, a barnstorming TV strategy.

They’re not the only new business that has been turbocharged by TV advertising, Purple Bricks (now valued at over £1 billion) and Gtech (still privately owned and turning over £90 million a year) have built their businesses on the back of TV advertising.

All grew with a test and learn strategy; they dipped their toes into regional TV advertising at first, found it worked, went in up to their knees, found it was still delivering amazing results, so took the plunge and became national TV advertisers.

In 2017, there were 700+ new or returning brands on TV (returning after a gap of 5+years away). They were enticed not only by the fact that TV makes brands into household names, but by the fact that there are now so many ways to use it.

By sheer coincidence, we are holding an event at Channel 4 next week called “Scale Ability”, which is all about how brands can get on TV (and become much bigger brands). That being said here are 7 things any would-be TV advertiser should know.

60% of TV advertisers spend less than £250k

TV can be perceived as the exclusive domain of big brands with big budgets. This is a myth, fuelled by the fact that just being on TV makes brands appear big. But when you look at the make-up of TV advertisers across 2017 in terms of spend, the majority fall within the <£250k bracket.

The average TV ‘view’ costs half a penny.

Just as it is perceived as being for big brands, TV can also be perceived as pricey. With hard evidence that TV delivers the most profit with the best efficiency and for the least risk, it is better to think of TV as incredible value.

£100k will reach 12 million people

Looking at an average campaign bought across all stations and all dayparts, a £100k TV investment will reach 12m people on average 1.7 times each. There is a multitude of ways in which budgets can be planned to optimise either reach or frequency, but, as a guide, this gives you a rough idea of what’s possible.

Don’t feel limited by budget

One of TV advertising’s strengths is that advertisers can continue to spend more and get back more for longer – the point of diminishing returns for TV is far higher than for other media. However, brands starting out on TV are unlikely to have large budgets and need to be smart about how they use the medium, for example:

  • Think about concentrating your efforts in one region, at a specific time of day or by targeting a tight audience
  • Make your money go further by reducing the time length, utilising cheaper day-parts or advertising when you get more for your money, e.g. January
  • Look at non-spot options. Sometimes, TV sponsorship can be a lot cheaper than the equivalent exposure in spot advertising. Also, to the viewers of the sponsored programme, the activity will feel big

Talk to the broadcasters

The broadcasters have specialised teams who work with new to TV advertisers and can help you get the best out of your budget. They might also be able to help make the ad for you. They have the expertise to do this as they make promotional trailers and channel idents all the time. In addition, it’s worth exploring other business models such as shared risk options.

Get addressable

TV advertising is increasingly addressable, and this means that the more specific and granular targeting previously only associated with online advertising is now available for TV too.

For example, Sky Ad Smart enables advertisers to target households specifically based on factors such as age, location and life stage from a combination of Sky’s own customer data as well as info from consumer profile experts like Experian. This means that smaller advertisers can cut their cloth however they want and only reach (and pay for) highly specific households.

TV is the lowest risk form of advertising

If all the above doesn’t convince you to try TV, there is one other thing to know: TV is the safest form of advertising investment. That was the conclusion of Ebiquity and Gain Theory in their ‘Profit Ability’ study, which risk-assessed all forms of advertising. 70% of TV campaigns delivered profitable return in the short-term (3-6 months), more than any other medium, and there is an even stronger case for TV once the longer-term is built in. Looking at total profit success during the 3 years after ad campaigns finished, 86% of TV advertising campaigns delivered a profitable return, compared with Print (78%), Radio (75%), Online Video (67%), Out of Home (48%), and Online Display (40%).

So, if you are an advertiser who hasn’t yet tried TV, it has never been easier or more flexible. And you can have confidence your investment will deliver. FTSE 100 anyone?

Matt Hill, Research & Planning Director at Thinkbox.

Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK and will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.