It is one of the biggest challenges facing the global economy today and in the future: according to a study by global management consultancy Korn Ferry, there will be a shortage of around 85 million workers worldwide by 2030. As a result, employer branding is moving to the top of the corporate agenda. Zaid Sagha, Senior Consultant Client Growth & Innovation at Mediaplus International, has developed an employer branding campaign for an international company and shares his experiences in this interview.

Zaid, you have just developed an international employer branding strategy for a client. If I want to become an international employer brand or recruit internationally, what should I bear in mind?

A brand that wants to expand beyond its current market and recruit local talent in the target markets where it operates should start thinking about its employer brand image. The employer branding image serves as an extension of the corporate brand image. When developing an international employer branding strategy, consider cultural nuances, diversity and local market trends. Tailor your messaging to resonate in each region while maintaining a consistent global brand image. Understand the local talent landscape, recruitment practices and legal considerations. Finally, the brand should use platforms and channels that are popular and relevant in each region.

For example, what makes candidates tick in China, India or the US? What makes them different from those in Germany? Do they need to be addressed differently in terms of content?

The work culture is different in each market. For example, in terms of leadership, China has hierarchical structures, the US has egalitarian approaches, and Germany is somewhere in the middle. When it comes to decision-making, the Chinese and Indian markets are top-down, while Germany favours a consultative approach. In terms of trust in the workplace, Germany and the US prioritise task-based trust, while India and China emphasise relationship-based trust.

However, we cannot generalise from these findings. Research is needed to understand the market landscape, talent behaviour and our brand perception. Decoding the information from the research allows us to draw some insights, which may sometimes be relevant to the current market situation or just a recent snapshot. Building our communications around these insights is essential and typically what makes a great campaign.

Does job search information behaviour differ from country to country?

Yes, information behavior and job search habits can vary from country to country. Each market has popular job board platforms, taking into account language preferences. Some markets may rely more on professional networks, while others may prefer traditional job boards. Local trends dictate how we can effectively reach our target audience.

What advice would you give to a company that is considering international employer branding or international recruitment for the first time?

When approaching the task, you have to know that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s something that needs to be worked on and built over time. It’s like starting a relationship with each market differently. Being honest and trustworthy is the most important part of building the relationship. Competition is only going to get tougher in the future. It is essential to research and understand the cultural aspects of each target market, establish a robust online presence on both local and global platforms, humanise the brand by using employee testimonials and success stories, and tailor content localisation to resonate with specific audiences in each market.

In your current case, the client is specifically looking for IT/tech specialists. what are the particular challenges here?

IT is currently the most in-demand sector across all industries. Of course, with advances in technological resolution and new technologies such as AI and others, the competition is only going to get fiercer. A critical aspect of the task is to understand the reasons why talent is choosing the competition over us. Identifying the underlying factors and the truth behind their choices, coupled with understanding the differences in their preferences and the needs of potential IT talent, will enable us to formulate a strategy to successfully attract IT talent in the future.

However, whether IT-focused or engineering-focused, the key is to understand the local talent landscape, recruitment practices and the talent journey. Each journey is born out of a specific barrier, and understanding this means examining the baseline, which includes factors such as the mental and cognitive load of choosing a new employer based on company reputation, growth opportunities, recognition, challenges, cultural fit and work-life balance.

To sum up, what are the top three tips you would give to companies regarding employer branding campaigns?

I actually have four tips:

  1. Building your employer branding image is not something you build quickly and it is not something you stop doing. It is an ongoing effort that requires your attention.
  2. While recruitment is a separate activity, building your reputation as an employer is another essential aspect. This contributes to long-term brand building and streamlines the recruitment process for future endeavours.
  3. Much like the dynamics in marketing, a sales campaign is different from a brand campaign. Brand campaigns have the potential to drive long-term success and generate future demand.
  4. When building your employer branding image, approach it in the same way as your corporate brand image. Be bold. Use creative and unconventional media channels. Go beyond the traditional messaging pillars that promote career development, culture, inclusion and diversity.

Did you wait in a long line outside for the Black Friday deal? I bet you didn’t. You probably shopped from the comfort of your couch, along with most other Americans this year.

In today’s retail landscape, Black Friday has become an extended shopping experience. The trend now encompasses an entire week, stretching from Thanksgiving onward, where shoppers browse and make purchases from the convenience of their homes. This year, 75% of U.S. adults shopped over the 5 days beginning on Thanksgiving, ending on Cyber Monday, according to ICSC.

On Black Friday, sales from online shopping reached a record high of $9.8 billion, up 7.5% from last year, according to an Adobe Analytics report. Notably, more than half of sales came from mobile. Cyber Monday followed suit, e-commerce spending totaled $12.4 billion, up 9.6% year over year.

In-store sales were more stagnant, growing just 1.1% YoY, even though physical retail stores saw a positive 2.1% lift in foot traffic. The shift from in-store shopping to online is well cemented, with no signs of trend reversal two years on from the pandemic.

The online environment makes price comparison fast and simple, and the rise in social ad spend and influencer marketing have made mobile shopping more common than desktop. For marketers after sales, a seamless social and mobile shopping experience is non-negotiable to capture consumer demand driven by activity in other channels.

By Sohyun Jeon, Integrated Media Planner

On July 5th, Meta introduced “Threads” on the market which seems to have a very similar purpose to Meta’s big rival Twitter. But what’s it all about? Is it another trendy alternative that will fade soon or later, or a serious threat to Twitter?

Designed to share text updates and public conversations, the newly launched app Threads sounds awfully lot like another Twitter clone. And that’s exactly what it is. But unlike the still invite-only Bluesky, created by Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey and Mastodon, mostly known for confusing potential users due to its complicated, decentralised instances and lacklustre UX, Threads and its close ties to Instagram managed to attract over 100 million users within its first 3 weeks.

While Threads has been launched in over 100 countries, one region is notably absent – and that is the European Union. The main reason for that is the Digital Markets Act, that is supposed to prevent dominating businesses in specific fields from abusing their power. In Threads’ particular case, transferring user data from Instagram to Threads and its tie ins into the bigger Meta ecosystem appear to be the major issue. It is still uncertain when and in what form Threads will launch in the EU.

However, Threads still has pretty barebone features – posts can be up to 500 characters long, they can include links, photos, and video content up to 5 minutes in length. So far, so unexciting. The true USP of Threads, however, is the close tie into the existing Instagram ecosystem. When signing up, users can directly follow their existing Instagram contacts, creating a very low-friction process of accessing your familiar contacts and interests right from the start.

Meta also announced, that in the future Threads will be compatible with the open ActivityPub protocol, which will enable Threads to be interoperable with services like Mastodon and blogging platform WordPress and potentially every other platform that has plans to implement the standard, e.g. Tumblr. For Meta, which historically was quite protective of its walled garden of services, this is a big step towards openness, especially during times when platforms tend to shut off their services from the rest of the internet more and more, as recently demonstrated by Twitter and Reddit.

One thing is certain: Threads poses a serious temptation for the growing number of Twitter users who are currently searching for alternatives since Elon Musk took over Twitter. Musk’s latest move to rebrand Twitter to “X” and his plans of turning the platform into the West’s first AI powered “super app” covering everything from social content to banking (just like WeChat in China or Kakao in South Korea), the uncertainty about the future of the platform keeps growing. If Twitter fails to reassure its users and regain their trust, Meta’s app Threads will get the upperhand.

Admittely, the launch of Threads feels a bit rushed. But from a strategic perspective, it makes a lot of sense to position Threads as a readily available, safer, easy-to-use alternative to Twitter, Mastodon and Bluesky. Obviously, the launch of Threads was no coincidence – it puts Meta in a really good position to take over the Microblogging market and position its app as the new global town square. While Threads right now has no monetization yet, it could be an attractive alternative for advertisers in the future with Meta’s established set of advertising products, in-depth targeting data and brand-safety standards.

After months of speculation, varying launch dates, and names, Meta’s alternative to Twitter launched last week to an enormous response, surpassing 100 million users in just five days. The launch of Threads has been “way beyond our expectations,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday.  For a point of comparison, it took Twitter five years to hit 100 million users, TikTok nine months, and ChatGPT two months. Threads is available in 100 countries, but not yet in Europe, where there is more regulatory complexity to navigate.

Those that have signed up are using it – in the first day there were more than 95 million posts and 190 million likes. The challenge going forward will be keeping users engaged on the platform long-term. One opportunity for stickiness will be for Threads to offer an escape from the toxic discourse on other platforms, as some users are already hopeful for. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has stated that Threads will not promote politics or hard news discussions to avoid unwanted negativity.

Is this too idealistic?  Zuckerberg wants to make “kindness” central to the app’s appeal, in reference to concerns that rival platform Twitter (with more than 250 million users) has become too hostile for some. “The goal is to keep it friendly as it expands. I think it’s possible and will ultimately be the key to its success,” wrote Zuckerberg on Threads. “That’s one reason why Twitter never succeeded as much as I think it should have, and we want to do it differently.”  In a following Thread, he added “We are definitely focusing on kindness and making this a friendly place.” 

The booming user growth on Threads is largely driven by its direct connection to Instagram. Users can sign up with their existing profiles, and are able to carry their Instagram following onto Threads as others sign up for the app. This ease of use and transfer of audience has allowed many brands to sign on as early adopters, like Dunkin’​ and American Eagle, who are already experimenting with unique engagement and content strategies. 

Backlash from Twitter CEO Elon Musk has been immediate, with Musk threatening lawsuits alleging the app is a “copycat” and that Meta hired former Twitter employees and stole trade secrets to launch the project. Meta has denied the allegations. The decline on Twitter is already being seen – according to Similarweb, web traffic to Twitter was down 5% in the first two days of the Threads launch compared with the previous week. The company said Twitter’s web traffic is down 11% compared with to the same period in 2022.

Threads bears a strong resemblance to Twitter, as do numerous other sites that have cropped up in recent months (Mastodon, Bluesky) as users have chaffed Musk’s management of the service. Threads has main feed, search, activity, and profile tabs, and allows posts that are up to 500 characters long, supporting links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes.

Although not the case presently, the aim is to make Threads compatible with ActivityPub, a decentralized social networking protocol that allows interconnection with other apps that use the protocol. Decentralization would mean Threads users can interact with accounts on different social media platforms. For example, someone on Mastodon could request to follow your Threads account, and you could approve or deny that request directly from within Threads. You could then follow their Mastodon posts in your Threads feed, without ever creating a Mastodon account. While not yet available, this is one of the most exciting developments on the horizon.

There are some key functions the app lacks – there is currently no direct messaging feature or desktop version, which business organizations rely on. There are no hashtag and keyword search functions, which limits both its appeal to advertisers and its utility as a place for following real-time events like users frequently do on Twitter. Still, analysts say the turmoil at Twitter, including recently imposed limits on the number on tweets users can see, could help Threads to attract users and advertisers. There are no ads currently on the Threads app, and Zuckerberg has said the company will only think about monetization once there is a clear path to 1 billion users.

The Net-Net: Threads could be the Twitter killer that platforms like BlueSky and Mastodon have failed to become. Meta’s ecosystem gives it a hefty cushion to fall back on and a unique advertising angle that its predecessor never had, and the soon-to-come decentralized protocol will be hugely disruptive in the space.  All eyes are on continued growth as advertising opportunities are soon to follow.

For all the fear of AI taking our jobs, there’s lot of optimism about the additional efficacy and effectiveness that AI can bring to ad campaigns. And I, too, hope for the renaissance of creativity that could be unleashed as we redirect our teams’ efforts towards creating ads, products, and experience that are more resonant, more memorable, and more persuasive. 

But one thing I don’t hear enough talk about is the need to be equally creative in the construction of the data that informs the AI. 

An unintentional consequence of digital ad measurement, like the ability to track clicks and cookies, is that many advertisers have spent the past decade developing tunnel vision on maximizing clicks on ads, at the expense of maximizing making something click in someone’s brain or in their heart. 

For AI to be truly successful in delivering the advertising apex we expect it to, we need to figure out how to give it a holistic view of human reaction – as well as action – to our ads. Put more data into the model. Get creative with the web of indicators we can weave. Design controlled tests to feed into the system in the absence of real time data. Be open to leveraging both expected and unexpected data sources as indicators of impact. 

This approach is necessary as we plan for the retirement of cookies and try to crack measuring the impact of traditional media, but it’s critical to solve before AI becomes the autonomous driver of our campaigns. 

So where do we start? 

First, the myth of a single source of truth needs to disappear. You were never allowed to turn in a college paper with only one source cited…and for good reason! The truth comes from finding patterns. Reliability comes from meta-analysis. We need to embrace the idea of triangulating on the truth across multiple sources. 

Second, we must invest in rethinking our measurement taxonomy and get creative about filling in the gaps. A potential approach includes:  

  • Time-bound measurement: the known quantity is the moment in time when the ad was served 
  • Location-bound measurement: the known quantity is where this ad served 
  • Device/user-bound measurement: the known quantity is to which device or user the ad was served 
  • Yes, we are going to have to deal with what’s in an olive garden and what’s outside an olive garden… or rather walled garden. I used voice-to-text and Siri interpreted “walled garden” as “olive garden.” Clearly, the tech has a way to go before people can stop being directors, supervisors, and editors! 
  • And we need to invest in identifying the reliable ancillary metrics when none of the above are possible 

Third, we need to use this opportunity to invest in expanding the data graph on our ads to include creative variables. Does the ad feature people? celebrities? Is it lifestyle, product-focused, or demonstrating the product in use? Is it focused on product features, brand values, or price promotion? Does it aim to motivate through humor, fear, connection? 

As mature markets see population growth plateau, consumer spending power stagnate, and time spent with media stabilize, we may be reaching the point of diminishing returns on media efficiency, even with the seeming magic of AI to enhance our optimizations. For AI to be truly transformative at accelerating advertising effectiveness, we need to become unbound from today’s measurement models and get creative about revealing the full matrix of consumer reaction and action to the AI. 

By Deirdre Kozicki, Senior Media Planner 

It’s no secret that influencers are slowly taking over the marketing world. In 2022, the influencer market was valued at $16.4B, with 72% of all Gen Z and Millennials reporting they follow influencers on social media. A third of Gen Zer’s have admitted to buying something based on an influencer recommendation – a number that keeps climbing with the rising popularity of TikTok (HubSpot). Though influencer marketing is ubiquitous, not every partnership is a success story.  

For example, the cosmetics brand Tarte recently sent 50 lifestyle and beauty influencers (and their plus ones) to Dubai to film travel vlogs featuring their array of makeup products. What was meant to be an enviable luxury trip turned into a social media calamity, with viewers speculating just how much Tarte had spent on the activation. Many called the trip “tone-deaf” in the face of a looming economic recession, causing Tarte hashtags to trend worldwide.

While brand sponsored trips are not a new concept (they have been around since the dawn of YouTube), they are facing criticism from more politically and socially aware audiences, specifically on TikTok. Maureen Kelly, Founder and CEO of Tarte, said her brand has long “prioritized their marketing budget into building relationships with influencers.” While that may be true, brands should still find a way to achieve relevancy without sacrificing good PR.  

Coachella was also recently the center of social media controversy. As the 3-day music festival played out, festival-goers went viral on TikTok for calling out the fact that many influencers were faking their attendance by just going to after parties, dubbing it a “money pit for mostly influencers.” Coachella was originally created for music lovers, but the festival has recently been nicknamed the “Influencer Olympics” given the lack focus on musical performances. TikTok star Alix Earle uploaded 25 Coachella-related videos garnering over 100M views, only one which featured a musical stage.  

However not all brands are missing the mark when it comes to influencer marketing. The fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, CAVA, partners with creators who have previously expressed their love for the chain by having them design custom menu items. This has allowed CAVA to connect with their audiences in an authentic, exciting way. They have worked with the likes of Emma Chamberlain, NYC based private chef Meredith Hayden, and TikTok recipe creator Nasim Lahbichi. The campaign saw strong organic amplification, with pickup from news publications and thousands of fan reaction videos uploaded to TikTok and YouTube.

For brands to reap the rewards of influencer partnerships and avoid negative backlash, authenticity is key. By taking the time to find the right fit, brands can connect with their audience in an organic-feeling way that cuts through the clutter of online advertising. Brands must also adapt traditional partnership frameworks to account for the ever-changing conversations online. What worked last year may not work next. When the collaboration makes sense, consumers will react positively and when you see your brand trending, it will only be upwards.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the subject of much fascination and speculation, sparking debates about its potential impact on society. Is AI destined to be a force for good or evil? For me, the answer lies not in the technology itself, but in the hands of its creators: humans. Just like humans, AI systems will inherently embody both positive and negative aspects. It is essential to recognise this duality and navigate the grey area as we embrace the transformative power of AI.

This is because AI is, in its essence, a product of human ingenuity. It is crafted through the lens of human perspectives, principles, and experiences. The rules, programmes, and algorithms that drive AI are designed by humans, reflecting their understanding of the world. As a result, AI inherits the qualities, biases, and limitations of its creators. And just as humanity is a tapestry of virtues and flaws, AI too will exhibit a mix of positive and negative traits. The potential for AI to bring about tremendous benefits is undeniable. It can revolutionise industries, improve efficiency, enhance decision-making, and tackle complex problems. AI’s ability to process vast amounts of data with incredible speed offers opportunities for scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, and environmental sustainability.

However, the shadow side of AI must also be acknowledged. The same technology that empowers AI can also be misused or weaponised. Ethical concerns arise when AI is employed for malicious purposes, invading privacy, perpetuating discrimination, or manipulating public opinion. Bias, both implicit and explicit, can find its way into AI algorithms, leading to unfair outcomes and exacerbating social inequalities.

The dual nature of AI mirrors the natural balance present in the universe. The interplay between positive and negative forces fosters equilibrium. Similarly, acknowledging the potential for both good and bad AI allows us to approach its development and deployment with caution and responsibility.

As to how we can ensure an overall positive AI trajectory, the obvious answer is establishing a sound ethical framework and regulatory measures. Collaboration between technologists, ethicists, policymakers, and the wider society is vital in shaping AI systems that align with our shared values. Transparency, accountability, and fairness should be at the core of AI development, ensuring that AI benefits all of humanity rather than serving only a select few.

However, we must consider that perhaps the ultimate path that AI takes is intricately linked to how we, as human beings, proceed forward. If we choose to embrace more goodness, love, fairness, and if we strive to become more ethical, empathetic, and environmentally conscious as a species, then maybe AI will adopt a similar complementary role alongside us. The trajectory of AI is deeply intertwined with our collective values and actions.

By fostering a culture of compassion, empathy, and respect, we can guide the development and deployment of AI towards serving the greater good. Nurturing an environment that prioritises fairness, inclusivity, and social justice will shape the future of AI in a positive direction. As we evolve as a society, we have the opportunity to instill these values within AI systems, ensuring they align with our aspirations for a better world.

Therefore, the responsibility lies not only with AI developers and policymakers but with all of humanity. We must actively engage in conversations, debates, and collaborations that steer AI towards enhancing our shared well-being. As we make ethical choices in our everyday lives, advocate for social progress, and promote sustainable practices, we lay the foundation for AI to complement and amplify our positive efforts.

In this symbiotic relationship between humans and AI, our collective actions become the guiding force. By embracing the principles of fairness, love, and compassion, we can influence the trajectory of AI, shaping it as a force that uplifts humanity rather than diminish it.

I’ve said before that, in order to compete with AI, we must become more human. I now think that maybe we should not look at AI as something to compete with, but rather something to live alongside with and instill human values in it. Maybe we can remove the artificial altogether and make it more human.   

The world seems to be getting more complex by the day. We are being forced to respond faster and faster to avoid missing the boat and to secure our market position. How does a public broadcasting company cope with this ever-changing environment? And how is speed becoming a success factor here? Barbara Evans in conversation with Dr Florian Kumb, Head of Programme Planning at ZDF.

BARBARA EVANS: Are you a fan of speed, Dr Kumb?

FLORIAN KUMB: Absolutely! Whenever something is done under extreme time pressure, the motivation is even greater. Even though speed is not an end in itself, it is essential for success in the dynamic media world. For example, speed is now a central success factor when using new technology and in the development times of programme innovations. A good example of this is the fictional TV show ‘Himmel und Erde’ (Heaven and Earth), which examines the war in Ukraine in five stories, focusing on the political situation in the months that preceded it.

Looking at the other extreme: in which areas do you see speed as being of least importance?

FK: In many areas of journalism in particular, both speed and precision are important. If we change our programming because of breaking news, the information needs to be absolutely accurate. Helping people make sense of events is a real challenge if a situation is not clear. And with investigative journalism, thoroughness is much more important than speed. Leaving aside programming, precision is also the top priority when dealing with compliance issues, budget controlling, etc.

Do you see the speed question as being a short-lived phenomenon or one that is here to stay?

FK: User expectations are changing faster than they used to. And we need to respond to this more quickly with our programming content. Constant change is the new normal. I very much doubt that everything is going to return to easily manageable and stable time frames.

In which areas do you feel the greatest need for speed at ZDF?

FK: There was always a great need for speed when reporting the latest news, so that’s nothing new for us – and our colleagues are experts in dealing with breaking news situations. But there is growing pressure on development times in other programming genres as well. The world is changing so quickly that ideas need to be implemented in less time. However, the need for speed has increased mainly in strategic work and non-linear distribution. To achieve our aim of providing ‘a ZDF for everyone’, we need to be very adaptable and highly dynamic in our actions and reactions.

What exactly is ZDF doing to equip itself for this future?

FK: This might sound strange, but the first thing we need to do is increase the complexity because there are no simple answers to complex challenges. For example, we have brought together three areas – communication, digital media and programme planning – that were all under different management at various points within the hierarchy logic. We defined joint processes and task fields such as 360° planning, brand/design or AI in distribution, for which we are now jointly responsible. This increases the need for coordination and lays bare any conflicts regarding roles and resources. However, we all acknowledge that no one area can solve the problems on its own – for me, this paves the way for a successful working relationship in the future.

Will there be any changes in the way you share data internally?

FK: I’m in favour of a complete democratisation of data and, at the same time, a clear framework that provides guidance in this data jungle. We are currently in the process of making all data available for everyone internally. After all, it’s possible for all of our colleagues to learn from findings about formats outside their scope of responsibility. It’s a real mindset change. Another recent addition is the ZDF KOMPASS – an integral ‘compass’ that allows us to manage all relevant performance indicators relating to usage, quality, impact and acceptance of our public broadcasting programming. This tool sets priorities and helps provide clarity in the complex media world.

Do you use AI? And if so, is it easy to reconcile this with your company’s public broadcasting remit?

FK: AI is of central importance for us, for example in our planning work. We use AI both for the recommendation system in our ZDFmediathek and for linear planning, e.g. ZDFinfo. Here, the machine suggests shows for users to watch next or which shows should be scheduled back-to-back. It’s important for the underlying algorithm to have a public broadcasting character. Our aim is not to make money by tying viewers to us with the same kind of content again and again – we have other aims, such as presenting people with new or unexpected content. The data helps us to find out how we can do that.

What has been your experience so far?

FK: Our first experiences have been very good. The diversity of recommendations in the ZDFmediathek increased substantially – more different programmes are now being recommended than was the case when we curated them manually. Obviously, planners can’t be equally aware of all titles. Using AI in linear programming has been so effective that we are now working on expanding it to other broadcasters and broadcasting streams. Also thanks to AI, ZDFinfo has established itself as the most successful linear information broadcaster by far – including among younger target groups.

What impact does this have on the broadcaster’s programming and brand communication?

FK:It doesn’t have any impact at all on the strategic work regarding content profile, brand communication and the development potential of the broadcasting method. Real people are still responsible for journalistic and creative output. AI ensures that they have enough time, because it relieves a lot of the burden in their operational planning work and distribution.

Do you see any particular opportunities or challenges here for ZDF as a public broadcaster?

FK: There are many areas where we need to find new public broadcasting approaches for digital. Take, for example, the expectations regarding user experience. For this, we need to know people’s exact needs. But this is a challenge if we also want to comply with the highest data protection standards. However, our greatest privilege is to be able to implement ideas and projects irrespective of their short-term commercial viability. At the same time, commercial pressure is especially high at the moment: investment decisions are particularly difficult when costs are rising but our income is staying the same. Especially when the investments only pay off in the long term.

When you are developing new ideas, do you look first and foremost within the German-speaking markets, or do you seek inspiration in concepts and ideas from other countries.

FK: Both, but I can’t understand why there is so much of a focus on the USA in our sector. Smaller markets are much more dynamic, particularly when they have a progressive approach to technology. Personally, I find the Scandinavian, Swiss and Israeli markets really interesting. We are in the process of working together with a Danish start-up that is well on the way to solving one of our data problems relating to diversity.

Do you think that German-speaking countries are getting faster in their decision-making and actions?

FK:Germans are often said to be passionate naysayers. At the same time, we like the image of an inventor type who plays around with lots of different ideas and then comes up with compelling solutions. I think the generational shift in companies is a great opportunity to speed things up. The older generation needs to pass on their traditional ‘engineering virtues’ to the younger generation while allowing them to dictate the pace. ‘Fail fast’ is not a new strategy – that was around during the years of rapid industrial expansion in Germany in the mid-19th century. We need to give this more space again.

Findings published by market research company GfK have shown that companies that act faster are more successful. We conducted our own research project about how companies use real-time data, network between various company areas, individualise communication and content, etc. Here, we found that not enough is happening in around two thirds of companies. What advice would you give to decision-makers about ‘speeding things up’?

FK: It’s necessary and it’s hard going, particularly at the beginning. But it’s less about making radical underlying decisions than having a clear vision and lots of elaborate fine-tuning in processes. There’s no way around it. But once top management has set the ball in motion, employees and managers alike will realise that and things will speed up. My recommendation would be to look first at a small number of the company’s core and supporting processes and subject them to an end-to-end examination – even if this is a complex undertaking. For this, companies need to set up and authorise a small internal project team with good people. But I wouldn’t advise using external consultants for this.

Thank you for talking to us!

This artice first appeared in TWELVE, Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. In the ninth issue, you will find further inspiring articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts centred around the magazine’s theme „Speed! The Winning Factor in the Digital Age“. The e-paper is available here:

“Before cookies, the web was essentially private. After cookies, the web becomes a space capable of extraordinary monitoring,” said Lawrence Lessig 20 years ago.

Approximately 83% of brands rely on third-party cookies. For the past couple of decades, cookies have been the leading source of tracking and monitoring internet users, allowing for sophisticated targeting, retargeting and personalization. With the impending demise of third-party cookies and recent restrictions on using mobile-device identifiers for ad targeting, marketers will need to overhaul their advertising strategies to prepare for a dramatically different landscape.

What’s coming:

  • Starting in mid-2023, Google’s Chrome browser is expected to block 3rd Party cookies, which are already blocked in Safari and Firefox. Because Chrome is the leading browser —this cookie policy will effectively put an end to cookie-based advertising.
  • Apple requires app providers to get permission from consumers before tracking them – and initial data suggests only 46 percent of consumers will agree, meaning app providers will be unable to track most users across the Apple ecosystem.
  • Notably, both Google and Apple have said they will neither create nor support workarounds, such as probabilistic fingerprinting, to build user-level profiles in their ecosystems.

Make sure you have a plan.

In the short-term, the phasing out of cookies and device identifiers will have a negative effect on efficiency and ultimately ROI – but the good news is that there are new ways of targeting that advertisers can and should be testing before cookies disappear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but by creating a plan and assessing the various options, advertisers can set themselves up for the future.

  • Assess your current use of cookies: Determine which cookies you are currently using on your website and which ones are critical for your advertising efforts. 
  • Evaluate alternative tracking methods: Explore other methods of tracking user behavior such as first-party data, contextual advertising, and server-side tracking. 
  • Build a first-party data strategy: Collecting first-party data directly from your audience can help you better understand their preferences and behavior and personalize their experiences. 
  • Develop a consent management plan: Be transparent with your audience about how you collect and use their data and provide them with options to manage their privacy settings.
  • Test and optimize: Experiment with new approaches to tracking and targeting users, and optimize your strategies based on performance and user feedback. 

Alternative tracking methods to evaluate and test.

Browser Based Tracking solutions use JavaScript code to track user behavior on a website and send that data to a server for analysis.

Device Based Tracking uses data from a user’s device, such as the IP address, to track their behavior across different websites.

Contextual Targeting is based on the content the user is viewing. While some may consider this a step back, new tools that use natural language processing and image recognition allow algorithms to grasp the sentiment of specific content with unprecedented speed and reliability, enabling marketers to display ads in an environment that is both highly relevant for their potential customers and safe for their brand.

Interest-based Targeting relies on data about a user’s website visits, but only to identify what broad content topics they’re interested in. Google’s Topics is one solution that learns about users’ interests as they surf the web and shares top interests with participating websites for advertising purposes, staying within a limited set of 350 broad topics and excluding sensitive topics like race or sexual orientation.

First-Party Data should continue to be priority (collecting data directly from owned channels, i.e., websites, apps) and should be supplemented with zero-party to understand preferences, intention, and lifestyle.

Second-Party Data Partnerships can help maximize the value of first-party data. Advertisers should seek partnerships to exchange data through a neutral third-party cloud solution. Targeting can then be done anonymously, allowing advertisers and media owners to expand relationships without violating regulations.

Universal IDs use hashed and encrypted email addresses from opted-in users as the basis for identity across devices – a significant advantage over cookies. These IDs are shared between publishers and advertisers to be used anonymously – and because the data is hashed and converted to a hexadecimal string, it does not violate regulations. Current partners offering Universal IDs are The Trade Desk, LiveRamp, Tapad, Neustar, Epsilon, Zeotap, Flashtalking, ID5 and LiveIntent.

It’s yet to be determined whether consent to use email addresses can be achieved at a large enough scale to meet the demand for advertising inventory. Collecting email will have a role in the post-cookie world, a significant one. However, it will coexist with other solutions, such as first-party data, opted-in GPS location tracking, and contextual (keyword) targeting.

The Net Net

While the phase-out of cookies may seem daunting, there are several alternative solutions available, and advertisers must be proactive about setting themselves us for the future. There isn’t one solution to replace cookies, it must be a combination of tactics to ensure you are using all available resources.  It is also key to get ahead of the game rather than waiting until cookies are obsolete.

Last recap daily for SXSW 2023 with a couple of great sessions on marketing and pretty pictures from space! Usually, Tuesdays at SXSW see the attendance for the interactive tracks going down, with the music tracks and showcases ramping up – not so this year, every session we attended was completely packed.

I think SXSW will be very, very happy with the attendance this year, after the dramatic decrease of visitors in 2022. At times it felt like the crazy days of 2018 and 2019, it casts a positive outlook on the coming years. More attendees mean more attention from high profile speakers, visitors and brands what keeps the conference as relevant as it is. I think that’s worth the queue times. 

The future of marketing is all about convergence

The day started with a session full of high-profile marketeers on the biggest stage. Conny Braams from Unilever, Jeremi Gorman from Netflix and Tim Mapes from Delta Airlines discussed current trends and developments in marketing strategies for the FCMG, entertainment and service industry. 

I already mentioned in previous recaps this year that convergence was a big meta trend in many fields, with the most interesting things happening at the intersections of different areas. It’s the same in marketing. Conny Braams stated that the way forward for not only FMCG brands was the increased integration between branding, performance and sales. Tackling the challenge of combining brand building while also driving conversion at the same time was the #1 task for marketers and agencies. Unilever’s internal structure already reflects this with a combination of previously separated teams now all working together for the common goal, going as far as adjusting product design for this new reality. 

Tim Mapes from Delta even went one step further – for him, every Delta employee is a brand ambassador and potential brand touchpoint. For Delta, generating first party data through their frequent flyer program with its corresponding app is one central pillar of this strategy – the other one: making the data available to customer facing roles, so consumer facing staff can use it to deliver more authentic and informed interactions with each individual traveller. 

Another big topic of discussion was the rise of retail media: for Unilever retail media is a perfect tool to control the elusive last mile at the store where crucial purchase decisions actually happen – that was previously controlled exclusively by retailers. Digital retail and retail media let’s the brands take much more control here – assuming the interactions with consumers are not purely transactional, but creative and entertaining and brands get access to the data generated. Again, convergence is key for future marketing. 

The five laws of brand science 

My second session of the day was a highly interactive and entertaining talk by Ethan Decker from Applied Brand Science. In his presentation, Decker went over five laws of brand science, that marketers should be aware of – backed by years of research and data. 

He offered an interesting way on how marketers laud customer loyalty as the pinnacle of marketing – despite the fact, that most consumers, for most categories, will buy a repertoire of brands and the more someone buys from a category, the bigger that repertoire gets. For many verticals, it also makes little sense to chase deep consumer connection, because people simply don’t care what their e.g. toilet paper brand of choice does on social media or what their brand purpose might be. 

Decker stated that shoppers are “mental misers”: the average consumer simply is too lazy to deal with hard and complicated questions when making a purchase decision and suggested that marketers should focus on the easy questions shoppers are asking themselves when buying from a category. 

Additionally, when it comes to light / medium / heavy buyers, the curve for almost all brands looks like a banana. High amount of single time / low frequency buyers, very few medium and heavy buyers – negative binomial distribution, or simply: the good old long tail. For growth, market penetration is 5 to 15 times more important than buying frequency according to a study conducted by Bain & Company, so marketing should focus on that lever first. 

Advanced Space Photography 

One thing to love SXSW for: they don’t shy away from giving keynote spots on the biggest stage to topics most of us know very little about. In this case: NASA and an all-female panel of astrophysicists sharing insights on the first few months of operating the James Webb Space Telescope. In addition to showing some of the mind-blowing pictures taken by the JWST in recent months, the panel discussed the massive effort of international collaboration between 14 countries to make this happen, the scientific breakthroughs this already led to and their deep-rooted love for discovery and human curiosity. 

Advertising’s guilty secret

SXSW is a great spot for inspiration and creating new food for thought from various disciplines. But at the end of the day we are still advertisers, so it’s always refreshing to see sessions that speak the truth about our day-to-day work. Today, Welsh advertising expert and CEO of Creature London, Dan Cullen-Shute together with Ivonne Kinder from Avocados from Mexico, gave us exactly that: A critical look at what the advertising business has morphed into, at least at award shows. Looking at the recent Cannes Lion Grand Prix winners, 90% of them were purpose-driven, which of course is a honorable messaging and there’s nothing wrong with that, but often these great award ideas either never reach a broader audience outside or aren’t linked to an equally good media strategy.

Dan spoke many truths today: Advertising is brilliant. We can make things that have genuine cultural touchpoints, boost the economy in needed areas, spark happiness and connect communities. The cherry on top: There are not many other jobs where the level of seriousness and ridiculousness can be the same. It should always be our mission to leave the industry better than we found it, in one way or another, so let’s get back to that: Make people laugh again, create epic things, even be totally ridiculous if appropriate. Get back to the heart of what we do and love – creating awesome stuff that makes brands grow and touches the hearts of our audiences. 

Random observations from Day 5:

  • Props to the SXSW organizers for enabling encore sessions for popular talks – and double props to the speakers of being just as engaging in round 2. 
  • It’s surprisingly hard to find good filming locations at SXSW – unless you want to give your video interview on the latest trends in tech & marketing strong 80s Dallas vibes – as the main color scheme of every conference hotel is beige, even the one built in 2017. 
  • I don’t know if it’s the overall inflation, the fact that Austin has been attracting thousands of highly paid tech workers in recent years or simply SXSW price gauging – but getting food is making your credit card bleed.