Will Voice Search Change The Way We Shop?

Voice search technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home and Apple’s Siri threatens to replace brands with automated purchase decisions in which tech companies, not brands or retailers own the customer relationship.

Within 5 years up to 50% of searches in the US will be done using voice.

While this seems something from the future, many of us already use Siri to make calls, tell us the traffic and search queries. It won’t be long until the technology is turning on the oven, and telling us what’s in the fridge/ pantry.

That’s where it gets interesting, voice search will start building shopping lists, recommending recipes and ordering products via their e-commerce offerings (eg. Amazon). The technology will potentially be brand agnostic, with low involvement products treated as commodities and shopping lists built out based on the best price or availability. Eg. In the kitchen, I scream out ‘I’ve run out of butter’, the software will decide which product to add to the shopping list /cart.

UK retailer (Tesco) is nervous about the impact of the technology on grocery buying habits with less foot traffic. It’s definitely a space I’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming months and years, click here to read more.


Digital News – Facebook Messenger Ads, Dark Net & Audi pulls ad

IMG_2618 (1)There’s been no shortage of digital news in July, including Facebook rolling out ads in their Messenger App, the Australian Government trying to get Facebook and Google to help fight terrorism, the dark web has been infiltrated and Audi has run afoul in China.

Over the last couple of months, Facebook has been testing ads within the Messenger Chat App. Australia and Thailand were the test markets and now the service is slowly being rolled out to Facebook’s 1.2 billion Messenger users. In a blog post, Facebook said ‘After promising tests in Australia and Thailand, we’re expanding the beta further. We’ll now offer businesses around the world a way to use Facebook targeting to extend their reach to people in Messenger’.

With ad revenue expected to drop this year from ads placed in Facebook’s news feed, the company has been slowly diversifying its ad options. The good thing for users is that the ads only appear on the Messenger home screen and not within chat threads, see image. There’s always the option in the future for Facebook to read chat threads and present ads based on the conversation. But I would say that is a long way off. The good thing is you can encrypt Messenger chats by clicking on the secret button, click here for more info.

For brands, advertising within Messenger is a great option to reach an engaged and targeted audience. I expect the time spent on newsfeed is dropping with more people having private chats via Messenger, WhatsApp and other chat apps. When you think about it, Gmail and Hotmail have been running ads in their emails for years, so Facebook running ads in Messenger is a natural progression.

Last week the Australian Government called on Facebook and Google to decrypt messages to help support law enforcement in the fight against organised crime, paedophile investigations and terrorism. The challenge with decrypting messages is that it potentially opens it up to criminals to infiltrate. Google and Facebook claim they already provide the police and government with the requested info where possible, but they’re going to continue to protect the privacy of encrypted messages. Government’s around the world have been pressuring Facebook and Google with similar rhetoric to no avail.

Sticking with the darker side of the net, US authorities claimed to have smashed the illegal trade of firearms and drugs with the recent closures of the dark web marketplaces AlphaBay and Hansa. These sites replaced the overpublicized Silk Road website that was shut-down in 2013. Visitors were able to browse these dark websites anonymously and used digital currencies (Bitcoin) to make purchases. These aren’t small sites with 250,000 listings on AlphaBay, and 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors. It’s amazing these sites weren’t closed down earlier.

Finally, from China, Audi has pulled its TVC after complaints that the ad compared women to used cars. I have to agree, the ad is in poor taste.

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 12.13.06 pm

The Week’s Digital Highlights – 30 June

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 9.59.22 pmWith the South East of Australia in the midst of winter, our attention turns to Europe where things are heating up for Google. The search engine was hit with a record Euro fine for anti-competitive behaviour totally 2.42-billion-euro ($3.57 billion AUD) for abusing its market dominance. Google has been accused of prioritising their Google Shopping ads at the top of Google search results over their competitors.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager described the action as “illegal under EU antitrust rules“. EU regulators took action after receiving scores of complaints from rivals including Yelp, TripAdvisor, UK price comparison site Foundem and News Corp. Competitors complained Google was manipulating results to benefit their shopping ads. In response, Google stated that online shoppers want to find products quickly and easily, and their Google shopping ads provided this service.

Google Shopping offers users a quick selection of the best prices for a particular product, advertisers pay to be featured in the results. Competitors, including comparison sites which offer a similar service, were claiming their website listings are being pushed all the way down to page four of the search results. As we know the majority of Google search users don’t click past the first page of results. Google’s ego has taken a battering over the allegations and is fighting the charges.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 10.00.04 pmThe other digital news to grab my attention this week was Facebook’s continued push into live TV streaming. Facebook has signed an agreement with Fox Sports in America to broadcast live Champions League Football (soccer) games next season.

Soccer is the most watched sport on Facebook. Last year 3.7 million users tuned in to watch a Wayne Rooney-sponsored charity match. The recent Champions League final attracted 34 million people who had 98 million Facebook interactions. These numbers are pretty impressive, but it would be good to understand how long users viewed the videos. What is surprising is that I thought NBA or NFL would have larger audiences on Facebook than football. Amazon’s Prime is live streaming Thursday night NFL games next season. They paid $50 million for 10 games, which was five times more than what Twitter paid last season.

Last week I wrote about how Snap and Facebook are becoming more aggressive with their live TV streaming services. The above news by Facebook is more proof that social media websites are becoming media channels. It will be interesting to see if users will embrace watching live TV on Facebook, Snap and YouTube in the same way people use Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Growth of Digital TV

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.50.54 amSnap’s (Snapchat) continued push into the traditional media space has caught my eye. With more and more young people watching TV on their phones, Snap is well positioned to capture this audience due to many of its team having network and broadcast TV backgrounds.

US cable network A+E has just finished airing the first season of ‘Second Chance’ on Snap TV. Second Chance is a dating show with 14 short videos created for Snap. Digiday reported that “Second Chance’ averaged 8 million views and another series ‘Phone Swap’ is getting about 10 million views per episode. Based on these healthy numbers, Snap is looking to work with its other production publishers (NBCUniversal) to create more video series for Snap.

Other media publishers playing in the digital TV space is Buzzfeed, they used Facebook Live to stream a couple of UK election result shows late on Thursday night. The shows had a total of 2 million views, compare this with BBC who had 4.5 million people tune into their TV election coverage, and ITV and Channel 4 had about 1 million viewers each. How they determine views is slightly different between the 2 formats, Facebook Live counts a view by how many people play the video for 3 seconds, while TV counts it after 60 seconds.

Based on the above positive results, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more publishers exploring digital TV. The impact on advertisers will be interesting as online ads tend to be shorter than traditional TV commercials. Snap squeezes in ads between content (approx. 2- 3 seconds long), I haven’t seen any ads on Facebook’s Live Stream ads, but you can skip ads on YouTube videos after 3 seconds so we should expect to see a version of these ads on Facebook and YouTube’s live stream.

The advantage of digital TV versus a standard web page with a video pop-up ad is that the volume is on, so ads are more likely to be heard and seen. In saying that, users watch less TV on their mobile devices compared to traditional TVs due to the viewer experience so advertisers have less time to reach their target market.

The Week’s Digital Highlights – 27 May

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 10.25.08 am

Everything was put in perspective this week with the bombing in Manchester, and there was also one in Jakarta. The senseless loss of innocent lives will scare families, friends and communities for a lifetime.

There were 2 things from the digital world that stood out for me this week. The first being trolls who circulated fake images of people missing from the Manchester bombing and that 43 children were been held at a Holiday Inn. I can’t understand what possesses people to do these wicked acts of cruelty. While social media gives users an opportunity to voice their opinions and have positive conversations, it’s also used by some to spread negativity and pain, I suppose that’s a reflection of our society.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 10.27.02 am

The other thing to standout this week was the publishing of Facebook’s content moderation guidelines. The Guardian got their hands on 100 internal documents detailing how Facebook moderates content from child abuse to revenge porn, suicide and terrorist related content.

Looking at the documents, it does raise eyebrows on how things are moderated, and the time moderators have to review things (10 seconds to make a decision). With 2 billion users, the amount of content Facebook has to oversee is insane, so it’s not surprising some things slip through the cracks.

Facebook claims not to be a publisher just a conduit platform for users to share content. It would be a minefield if Facebook had to manage all the content from all the different languages and interpret local government laws.

Facebook plays a tightrope of protecting freedom of speech while protecting the innocent and vulnerable, particularly children. Facebook’s global policy management boss, Monika Bickert, says that Facebook is committed to providing a safe environment and encourages users to report inappropriate content. It will be interesting to see if any of the moderation guidelines or processes are change based on the publishing of the leaked documents.


The Week’s Digital Highlights – 19 May

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 2.54.30 pm.png

Two things caught my eye this week in the digital and advertising world.

The first being how Coca-Cola used image recognition software to target users based on images users shared on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Digiday reported that Coca-Cola’s ice tea brand Gold Peak targeted users who shared images of drinking glasses and jugs of ice tea, including images of competitor brands. Ads were served across 40 mobile and app sites. Having used social listening tools for about 8 years, I’ve noticed the steady decline in

Having used social listening tools for about 8 years, I’ve noticed the steady decline in the number of conversations people are having on social, with the trend moving to image and video sharing. It looks like the Toronto based software company Cluep, behind Gold Peak’s campaign is on the right path with its facial recognition software. I would seriously consider testing the software for an awareness campaign.

The other thing that caught my eye was from the UK with McDonald’s pulling its bereavement TVC (Dad ad) featuring a child discussing his deceased father with his mum over a Filet-o-Fish burger. Looking at the backlash on social, McDonald’s probably wishes they didn’t take the purpose-driven ad route, which is all about brands expressing their values and beliefs. Heineken took a similar approach with their 4 minute ‘Open Your World’ ad, which challenged people’s way of thinking. As Mark Riston expressed, there’s nothing wrong with the ad, similar to the McDonald’s ad, but does it ultimately sell more products? I probably say no. Advertising helps in building mental availability, but you want ads to showcase your products in a memorable way. Leave the beliefs of the company to the mission statement.

My mother passed away from a long battle with cancer when I was 11, my brother was 7. I remember the following day after my mum’s death dad took us to McDonald’s, my brother was happy to be going to the golden arches. At the time it pissed me off, but looking back I now realise it was a place my brother associated with happiness, which in a time of death was comforting for him.

I can see why some people are angry with McDonald’s for their ad, labelling it exploiting childhood bereavement, but I can see what they were trying to do. For many people, McDonald’s is more than a fast food burger joint, it’s a place where families come together. In saying that, seeing as the topic of ‘death’ is so sensitive I would’ve stuck to selling burgers.


Energy Crisis – Time to get serious about Renewable Energy

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 12.28.29 pm

Last September South Australia was hit by a state-wide blackout as the result of a massive storm. The state’s main power supply from Victoria was cut which left Adelaide in darkness overnight and some towns without power for up to 3 days. The crisis that succumbed the state sent dire warnings around the nation that our energy grid was vulnerable and in crisis.

On last week’s ABC’s Four Corners, they reported that household energy bills are set to increase in the coming months by up to 30%. They asked the question how did the lucky country, rich in natural resources get to this dire situation. As expected the finger was pointed at politicians who have made short-sighted energy policy decisions over the years.

Traditionally Australia has relied heavily on fossil fuels for its energy with coal and natural gas being a cheap and reliable resource. But with the focus on reducing emissions, ageing coal power stations around Australia have been closed down with renewable energy solutions replacing them. Government and opponents have always challenged the credentials of renewable energy power as a true replacement for coal. This is mainly due to renewable energy’s capacity challenges and its reliance on Mother Nature.

Australians are one of the highest proponents of solar, with 16.5% of households having Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. The majority of units are between 1.5kW – 5kW. For comparison, the average AC unit consumes 2kW in operation. One of the challenges facing renewable energy has been the storage of power. As Mother Nature can be unpredictable the ability to store power is key. The much-reported Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, which has storage capabilities of up to 14kW is not cheap, costing approximately $10k including installation (not incl the Solar PV panels).

A study published by CME compared the cost of using solar and battery storage vs taking power from the grid, the solar option was ahead. With energy security, such a hot topic and the impending energy cost rises, the above solution is looking even more attractive. However, the cost is beyond most Australian households. We can’t expect the same uptake of batteries, especially after households have forked out several thousands of dollars on solar panels.

Businesses are struggling to deal with the rising energy costs with some facing a doubling of their energy bills in the coming year, on top of the already rising bills. The other challenge is the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG). We’re one of the biggest exporters of LNG, but the issue is we’re exporting too much and not leaving enough for our local manufacturers.

While Australian households have embraced Solar PV panels, very few businesses have invested and or have the capital to invest in the technology (the size of the project is one challenge). However, community renewable energy projects are now starting to pop up in Australia with investors getting a very healthy 7% return. In just 6 hours $388,000 was raised for a 230kW community solar panel project in Sydney on top of a wholesale bakery. Of course, government red tape is holding up more community invested solar projects.

Having worked in the Solar PV industry back in 2008 in New York City for SES, I’ve watched the renewable energy debate from afar, but have become increasingly interested and concerned with the direction in this country.

Talk of the government doubling the Snowy Hydro scheme to 400MW is impressive, but at a cost of $2 billion and with a 10-year wait, the upgrade is not as attractive as it sounds. Other sustainable energy solutions need to be implemented in shorter time periods. It’s encouraging to see South Australia talking about building a 100MW battery storage facility (they have an urgent need). The CISRO has announced they have found a way to export renewable hydrogen taken from solar and sea energy. This has the opportunity to be as big as the LNG export market with many Asian and European countries moving to hydrogen power.

While there’s no doubting the fact we need a balance of fossil fuels and renewable energy, we just can’t flick the switch to sustainable energy sources. Now is the time to stop the bickering between government, big business and industry, and start investing in renewable energy.




Mother’s Day Flowers

IMG_9783 - FB cover imageThe year is flying past with Mother’s Day already upon us this Sunday. This year takes on extra importance as it’s my wife’s first Mother’s Day. Hard to believe our baby girl is turning 5 months old this week.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, our side business Flowers By Night is running a special flower offer for mums. We have partnered with Paper Style and Co to create a ‘Love you Mum! flower bouquet wrapped in their beautiful Magnolia gift paper for $45. The flowers will be delivered Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, most likely I’ll be the courier (say hello)! Paper Style and Co create prints and invitations, checkout their website for more info.

This collaboration has given us some great insights into the challenging world of e-commerce. Hats off to the online flower companies out there. To promote our offer, we’re running some Facebook and Google ads, and using Instagram. Flowers By Night normally focuses on styling weddings and special events, and FB Carousel B&Wfrom time-to-time we create special bouquets for our clients. Doing this Mother’s Day promotion has been a good opportunity for us to get some insights into the online floristry world.

Here’s my plug, avoid stressing out this week and let us deliver a beautiful bouquet of flowers to your mum, click here to order. Mother’s Day is the one day we can say thanks to mum for everything she does for us.


The First Six Weeks at Home

ImageToday, six weeks ago was my last day at work! Where has the time gone! Time use to fly by at work, but it’s the same at home with a little one.  

The last six weeks has been a real eye opener! Hats off to mums and stay at home dads, there’s no rest at home. The constant repetition can be tiring, especially on not much sleep. Luckily for us, we have a baby that likes to sleep at night, which is a godsend for new parents!

When I tell people, I’m taking some time off to spend it at home I get some mixed reactions. This is maybe because my wife is at home too, but I get the feeling there is still this ingrained mentality in society that the dad works, while the mum stays at home.

One of the main reasons for spending some time at home is so I can build a bond with Zoe, our daughter. Zoe is now four months old and is getting very active. She’s now rolling over from side-to-side and before we know it, she’ll be crawling! We’re entering the teething stage, which means lots of dribbling and constant wiping of her chin.

When I finished up work, I created a long list of things I wanted to do at home. I can safely say that I’ve done about half the things on that ever-growing list. I was kidding myself thinking I was going on holidays at home! I’m three-quarters through a Photoshop course which I bought on Fiverr, I’ve been very happy with the instructional videos. Also, I’ve updated our side business’ website, Flowers By  Night which was in desperate need of a refresh. It took about a week to do using one of Wix’s templates.

Next week I’m starting a Marketing Week’s mini-MBA online course by Mark Ritson. Mark has been teaching MBA’s for years and has consolidated the marketing core subjects into the mini-MBA. I’m really excited about getting a refresh of the core marketing theories.

One thing I’ve been struck by is how much stuff you can buy for your baby! It’s a marketer’s dream. We all want the best for our kids, which means brands have a field day marketing their products. Now I need to think of what to sell 😉


Week 1 – A New Chapter


After seven and half years I finished up working at Online Circle Digital last week. It was a tough decision to make, especially since I’ve been there since the beginning. Back in 2009, there was just 4 of us in a serviced office in Mount Waverley, and have been part of the growth into a 25+ strong digital agency servicing some of Australia’s biggest brands. Our first piece of work was with Cadbury and have worked with them ever since. It’s testament to the owners, Lucio and Jeff, for my longevity. They’ve created an agency that’s not shy of innovation. Being entrepreneurs, they’re constantly pushing the boundaries, which has been awesome to be part of.

In saying that, nothing lasts forever and with the birth of our baby girl (Zoe), I knew it was time to take a break to spend some time at home and also explore other work opportunities. Having put so much energy into Online Circle Digital over the years, it’s taken a while to switch off. Getting down to Lorne last week to enjoy some of Melbourne’s late summer weather has helped with that process. Switching off has also been helped by my 3-month-old daughter who is now getting very interactive. It’s an amazing time, she’s gone from feeding and sleeping to making faces and lots of baby talk!

In the coming months, I’m looking forward to updating and learning some new skills and spending some time working on the marketing of our small business, Flowers By Night. We started the wedding flowers styling business last year and have done a great job in growing it by WOM. Of course, spending time with the family is going to be a big part of my time at home, but I’m looking forward to using the digital landscape to try different things.

Expect to see a few more blog posts over the coming months as I document my time at home.