Key highlights from Google Accelerate 2015 #gpaccelerate

My latest Google adventure brought me to Dublin for the second annual Google Partners Accelerate conference last month.  This brought together 235 selected agencies from as far afield as Dubai and South Africa and, like last year, the focus was on the changing digital landscape and the opportunities for the year ahead. It was thought provoking stuff.  If the key message last year was mobile, mobile, mobile, the summary of this year would be video, mobile, mobile video.  

Here are my main thoughts stirred by the event.

1.Video is seeing explosive growth

The numbers

  • 40% – The growth year-on-year from 2014 for people watching YouTube daily
  • 16 million – The number of people in the UK who watch online videos every day
  • €331m – The value of the German online video market in 2015

Video growth is piggy-backing on mobile growth.  If you think about your own habits, this will probably make sense to you.  Now that we all have video players in our pockets, we have access to an almost unlimited supply in seconds. Video must now be a part of everybody’s content output, though it’s fair to say many are still finding it challenging. That of course means opportunity for those that have already or soon will overcome the challenge.

2. TV advertising is now affordable for all

Despite what us doomsayers think, TV advertising still works. However, TV advertising in the traditional sense only works for mass market products. A mass market advertiser will generally pay the same amount as a niche player for any chunk of media exposure, yet the niche player will only appeal to a far smaller percentage of the people consuming that media, in which case the small company doesn’t really stand a chance. Now, the ability to target specific audiences has changed all that, but only as long as we accept that TV is video and video is TV. 

Today, if you and I both watch the same YouTube video (and ultimately any TV program we watch through the internet) then we will likely see a different advert, theoretically tailored to our specific interests. That means the niche player targeting only 0.01% of the population or less can reach their audience with a “TV advert” and achieve just as good a return (if not better).

3. It’s all gone programmatic


“Programmatic” may be the latest new buzz word in advertising and you are probably thinking how do we get on board with this panacea everyone is talking about.  But don’t fret, you’re probably already doing it.  If you’re advertising on the Google display network then you’re likely already doing “programmatic”.  Machine learning in advertising is affordable for all.

Having said that though, there was a strong case made for using one single tool to manage media buys across all networks (for example ensuring your ads are not being shown too many times to the same person).  I spoke to a few people about this over the few days and came away with the view that a display spend of around £10k a month is the point where the benefits make paying for such a system worthwhile.

4. Brand and performance are merging

This was a key message last year but nevertheless a good reminder.  “Brand building” and “direct marketing” are increasingly coming together and underlying it all is creativity and the ability to use data and technology to reach the right audience.  We search marketers are naturally good at dealing with data and reaching 100s and 1000s of audience segments simultaneously whilst optimising based on data, right?  Traditionally that’s just been for search and direct advertising (i.e. “direct marketing” or “performance”) but increasingly we are getting good metrics that allow us to apply the same approach to brand building.


5. Attribution is a challenge (but the tools are improving)

It’s fair to say that Google haven’t yet solved the cross-device measurement challenge yet.  We are a long way from Google Analytics really being able to show us unique users moving between devices (The current “uniques” metric in Analytics is not a single person, it’s a single person/device combo so you with your iPhone, work PC and iPad may be seen as three uniques not the person you are).  

So the promise of digital being measurable has still a way to go but at least almost all digital can be measured in some shape or form, even if it’s not yet delivering the exact “how many pounds in versus how many pounds out” answer that everyone wants.


6. Organisation structures within agencies are changing

Digital is certainly challenging traditional agency (and marketing department) services and structures. I came away from the event with more questions than answers on this one so don’t have a gem of a take away for you yet but arranging things around audiences rather than skill sets seems to be the key.  (If this topic interests you see also my “Agencies are behind the pace” post from a  few months back.)

7. Search is not dead! It’s evolving…

Have you seen the “micro moments” video from Google yet? No? Where have you been?  They’ve put it out everywhere!

“Micro moments” is Google’s current narrative around mobile and illustrates the idea of the increasingly complex customer journey. This journey includes everything from searching on the move to the impulsive and immediate turning to our phone for help 150+ times a day.

With this seemingly overnight change comes challenges and opportunities to ensure it’s our businesses rather than our competitors that provide the right solution for the “moment”.  

Understanding the different intent behind a keyword search is a great challenge with rich rewards for those that get it right.  Here’s a couple of different intent scenarios behind the same hotel keyword search:

  • someone searching for a hotel from a desktop having recently searched for theatre tickets (“I’m looking for the right price/standard of hotel but not too far from the theatre”) VS
  • someone searching from a mobile whilst standing in an airport after a flight has been cancelled (“I just need to book something right now before others do”)

Red Roof Inn absolutely nailed the second option back in 2013, during what was called one of the worst winters in history in the United States. Check out the following video to see how a bit of planning, and investment in a strategy, seriously paid off!

Red Roof Inn Turns Flight Cancellations into Customers from MMA on Vimeo.

It is incredibly useful to create personas, or profiles, of our customers to truly understand what the intent behind their searches may be in order to be the first solution that is provided. A thought provoking phrase that was brought up at the convention was: “intent trumps identity, immediacy trumps loyalty”. What does this mean? It means that while brand awareness and loyalty are still incredibly important in the long run in regards to conversions, people have so much information now at their fingertips. They are prepared to quickly make an impulse buy, if what they need is readily presented to them. We need to be able to predict these situations, or “moments” before they happen so we can be there waiting with open arms. 


Last but not least! Violins are not dead! They are just evolving…

Some things just have to be seen to be believed! This chap (above) was the entertainment for the formal part of the evening.  I think it’s best described as “memorable”.  My memory of the after party on the other hand is slightly hazier.  As ever, Google knows how to put on a great evening and special thanks to our Google account managers for ensuring I made the most of it.  I think it may be called revenge (following their trip to visit us during the Festival).

A big thanks to Google for another great event. Roll on Accelerate 2016 (he says digging for an invite)!

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