Adding a face to the HSBC name could go a long way

HSBC coverage by the Guardian

Reputation is built on trust and, for HSBC Bank, that chain has been well and truly disconnected through the revelations of alleged dirty deeds in its private banking operation in Switzerland that say the bank helped a large number of its private-banking clients evade tax that have been paraded through the mainstream media over the past week.

Whatever the actual facts of the matter, HSBC is being pilloried left, right and centre as a financial institution that helps wealthy people dodge tax – a very popular topic for politicians in the UK at the moment, with a general election on May 7, 2015 (that’s less than 80 days away).

Not only that, the bank faces criminal charges in the US, France, Belgium and Argentina – although not in the UK – resulting from information revealed by whistleblower Herve Falciani, the former HSBC IT contractor who blew the lid on this scandal (and did that some years ago, according to BusinessWeek and Der Spiegel).

The political angle took centre stage mid week with HMRC, the government department responsible for the collection of taxes, robustly and publicly accused of failing its duty to pursue tax dodgers in this case, and tax avoiders – again, a popular topic for politicians.

As the week wore on and negative commentary intensified, there was little substantive word from HSBC about the issue other than reports on the bank saying that it all related to “unacceptable practices” within its Swiss operation that took place some years ago and which don’t reflect the bank’s way of doing business today.

Many newspapers have been publishing reports and other content that analyse the bank and its business practices that go way beyond this current scandal. Take the Guardian, for example, which has extensive coverage as the image at the top illustrates, all of which undoubtedly leave the reader with the strong feeling that HSBC is a secretive bank not to be trusted (at best), and one that is run by, employs, and does business with, people who behave like crooks (at worst).

The Economist has a good report on cases in recent years focused on data stolen to expose alleged tax evasion, and a candid assessment of HSBC’s current predicament:

The questions for the bank are whether it reacted quickly enough to tighten compliance with tax laws after governments started to investigate in 2010, and how much pain the scandal will cause.

And now the latest development this weekend – HSBC published a public apology in the form of ads in the national press on Sunday signed by Stuart Gulliver, CEO of HSBC Holdings plc, the UK-based holding company.

He says:

We would like to provide some reassurance and state some of the facts that lie behind the stories. The media focus has been on historical events that show the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations 8 years ago. We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us. We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.

You can read the complete statement, embedded below:

HSBC Private Bank Announcement Feb 15, 2015

The document refers to another document the bank has published on an HSBC website entitled Progress Update – January 2015, a four-page report on this affair and some detail explaining what the bank has been doing “to prevent its banking services being used to evade taxes or launder money.”

I know nothing of HSBC’s crisis communication plan that surely is well into execution by now, nor the specific public or investor relations objectives of these documents this weekend.

Yet, I cannot see how two rather dry documents like this – PDFs at that: try reading those on your iPhone or BlackBerry – will do anything meaningful to address the assault on the bank’s reputation and the impending collapse of trust.

I’m reminded of the 2015 Trust Barometer published by Edelman last month, one of the findings in which clearly shows one industry sector where trust has declined for another year, even if by only one percentage point over 2014 – banks (page 16 in the report).

I’m also reminded of a point Edelman has made in almost every Trust Barometer since the first report was published fifteen years ago – the negative outcomes distrust in a company can create (and, in contrast, the benefits trust in a company can generate), as this chart illustrates (page 40 in the report).

2015 Trust Barometer page 40

If you want to really get attention to an apology in a crisis like this – especially one that embroils a company in an industry as reviled as financial services still is – you would want to present a face of humility, humbleness, honesty and authenticity, complemented by assurance, authority and the sense that “I will get things done.”

You may think such attributes come across in both documents. No, they don’t. It means a real face, not PDFs drummed up by the corporate writer which he or she affixes a facsimile of the CEO’s signature to one of them, with the other being wholly anonymous.

I’d like to see a bold move with the CEO on camera delivering the apology along with the plan on what he is doing to fix things, and with a promise to report progress in a similar manner. That means a video, posted on YouTube with open exposure to myriad sharing opportunities across the social web.

HSBC has a YouTube channel.

Even though the 2015 Trust Barometer shows yet again that CEOs generally are not trusted voices for a corporation (page 20 in the report), it’s a lot better than a sterile PDF.

Mobile can grow, but publishers are losing out on revenue

A guest post by Simon Birkenhead, CEO of Axonix, an advertising technology company backed by Telefonica and Blackstone.

Location-based mobile adFacebook recently announced its Q3 results and, for many in the industry, the most headline-grabbing statistic was that mobile ads now make up an incredible 66% of the social network’s total advertising revenue.

And yet, I reacted to the announcement with little surprise.

After all, it shouldn’t be news to anyone that mobile advertising is growing at a remarkable rate – especially when you consider there are currently more data connections in the UK than there are people. In August this year, mobile internet usage in the UK overtook desktop, meaning a majority of website visits now come from tablets and smartphones.

In the first half of 2014, mobile advertising in the UK exceeded £700 million – that’s around 20% of all digital ad spend and a whopping 68% growth over 2013. That’s more than radio and cinema advertising combined, and is fast approaching the scale of outdoor advertising.

However, despite this explosive growth of mobile advertising, I believe brands, publishers and consumers are still not being well served by mobile ads, and this is preventing mobile advertising from growing even faster.

Facebook, it seems, has done a great job at figuring out how to best present ads within their users’ mobile newsfeeds. However, most publishers I speak with say they invest a tiny fraction of their time thinking about how to optimise their own users’ mobile ad experiences. This is despite some publishers admitting they now see close to 50% of their traffic from mobile devices.

Facebook mobile ads

App developers also continue to stick rigidly to the tiny banner ad rather than exploring more engaging, and valuable, alternatives such as video and full-screen interstitials. Throw in the fact that mobile ads are often poorly targeted and it is no wonder brands struggle to find success through mobile.

So how to get it right? The winners will ultimately be those publishers who can provide a platform where brands can run engaging mobile ads that reach the right person with a super relevant message at the right time. On mobile this is even more critical, and even more difficult to achieve, because of the very mobility inherent in mobile device.

The heavily-touted silver bullet to this challenge – and one of the buzzwords of 2014 throughout all forms of advertising, not just mobile – is programmatic.

Programmatic advertising through ‘ad exchanges’ brings the ability to buy and sell advertising in an automated fashion in real-time, one ad impression at a time.

And it’s struck a real chord.

Publishers and brands alike are embracing programmatic advertising as the primary way business should be conducted. It enables real-time audience targeting at scale, a benefit that’s even more relevant for mobile because of its uniquely personal characteristics. Better targeting means improved ad relevancy, increasing the value for both consumers and advertisers, and delivering a higher price for publishers’ media space.

There are also significant cost efficiencies generated by outsourcing most of the heavy lifting to computer algorithms and reducing the dependency on expensive media buying/sales teams. Unlike the ‘secret sauce’ of ad networks, ad exchanges like Axonix can provide full transparency to both buyer and seller of the media space.

Such immense mobile growth in such a short space of time was always going to bring both challenges and opportunities for app developers and publishers. So now is the time to get equipped with the facts and best practices to capitalise on the opportunities presented by programmatic mobile advertising.

Whether an app or mobile content is free, freemium or paid-for, monetization of mobile ad space through ad exchanges allows publishers to optimise ad revenues whilst slashing costs.

Just as it is inevitable that consumers’ usage of mobile devices will continue to grow, so it is inevitable that marketing budgets will continue to follow those consumer eyeballs.

So get ahead of this disruption. Just as Facebook has rebuilt its entire ad business around mobile, it will be those publishers and app developers that harness the programmatic opportunity and offer a platform for more intelligent mobile advertising who will find themselves in the best stead to capture these budgets in the future.

Simon BirkenheadSimon Birkenhead is CEO of Axonix, a leading mobile ad exchange that helps mobile publishers to maximize their ad revenues. He has 20 years experience in digital marketing, mobile advertising and business management, the majority of which has been within high tech companies at the cutting edge of their industries.

He has launched three digital advertising start-ups, including Axonix, and was the first hire into Google’s Global Agencies Team in 2008, establishing this as the benchmark sales team for engagement at global exec level with the Big 6 advertising agency groups.

Simon is a mentor and Board advisor to a number of new technology companies and is a regular speaker at industry conferences, including Mobile World Congress, Festival of Media and Ad:Tech.

(Starbucks image: via Forbes; Facebook ads image: Facebook via Wired)

Sprinklr brings social media convergence to global brands

Paid Owned EarnedSince acquiring the Dachis Group earlier this year, social media SaaS vendor Sprinklr has pursued a clear path towards offering its clients a converged social media solution.

The convergence of paid, owned and earned social media would, Sprinklr says, provide significant benefits to global brands in four specific areas:

1. Maximize reach across paid, owned and earned social content
2. Integrate planning of content and campaigns across paid, owned and earned channels
3. Conduct automated optimization and amplification of organic content with paid budgets
4. Rapidly determine and close the loop on the ROI of digital advertising

Sprinklr released an integrated paid social media module in April and raised $40 million investment capital.

With news today of its acquisition of paid social solution TBG Digital, Sprinklr looks set to continue its onward march into the marketing departments of more global brands.

Factory Media talks Programmatic and Native Advertising

HTC One Skatepark

Guest author Chris Talintyre is Head of Audience Development & Activation at Factory Media and talks about the power of understanding huge audiences in real-time and the opportunities it’s bringing to leading brands targeting sports enthusiasts.

As consumers increasingly share content, it’s creating a huge amount of data to analyse giving us insight on not just our readers (think boarders, skaters, surfers, BMXers) but their friends, colleagues and contacts. We can better understand and connect with them through really engaging content, such as the recent work we did with HTC One and the creation of a free world-class skate park at Selfridges.

Given the prestige of the brands we work with, the services we offer must be as cutting-edge as possible. Programmatic platforms are growing rapidly and now account for 28% of the UK display ad market due to their engagement and target abilities. This is what encouraged us to further engage fans and stay ahead of the competition. To do that, we partnered with RadiumOne, experts in programmatic advertising, and created an ‘audience insight’ tool.

Based on RadiumOne technology, it helps us to understand our 22 million strong audience, while giving us extended insight on the global reach of our connected audience – a huge 250 million people – which is pretty informative! We partnered with RadiumOne as we were impressed with the level of sophistication and in-depth insight it could give us on our audience. Our clients come from a diverse range of sectors, and want to be aligned to an active ‘outdoorsy’ audience. Bringing clients into markets they may not naturally integrate into, is a valuable offering for us.

Working with RadiumOne we’ve been able to aggregate at scale, in real-time, sharing activity to build a map of interaction (by using their sharing widget and link shortener). We can track all sharing touch points not just for interactions but more general interactions across the web, for instance, what a user shares more broadly with their friends and contacts. This is in very granular detail and can be right down to the last item bought.

This is where native and programmatic cleverly works in tandem. By packaging up content on behalf of one of our sponsors, into an ad unit (such as a competition or social feed) we can create an engaging experience for the reader. The reach of this content can go much further by also sending it to our readers’ connected audience. We do this based on the preferences made and websites visited by them, so we can serve them with different forms of advertising. It’s engagement in context.

Ultimately, this host of technologies help magnify campaigns to reach more people. Our campaigns are visual, and the audience is vast so we need to tap into every degree of interest through this repertoire of technology. We saw the market opportunity for native and programmatic – now we’re offering an increasingly attractive proposition to leading brands. It was a no brainer for us and we haven’t looked back. We’re excited about winning new business and embracing the other opportunities it will afford us.

HTC One Skatepark Trade Media Video – hires a Skateboarding video by Factory Media

Factory Media is Europe’s largest specialist sports media owner. We focus on bike, board and outdoor sports and work with some of the most recognisable brands in the world such as Nike, British Airways, Jeep and O2.

Chris TalyntireChris Talintyre is a media marketing specialist with over 15 years industry experience. With skills ranging from digital marketing, video, direct marketing, subscriptions, through to social media. Currently working within action sports, developing off and online assets to effectively monetise them and extending brand reach.

The art of the business tweet

Wednesday

A question I used to hear a lot from people in business is “How do I tweet?” Today, that question has evolved into “How do I tweet effectively for my business?”

The response is quite a bit deeper than answering the question purely in terms of writing out a text in 140 characters or less and hitting ‘tweet.’ Participating on Twitter is as much about listening to what people are saying as it it about adding your tweet to the conversation. Twitter itself has some great how-tos and tutorials.

It’s also about what to say and when to say it, two topics that are the focus of a neat video that Twitter has just published. Simple in its concept and execution, this video is one of the best I’ve seen that will give you a good and clear sense of some simple steps you can follow that will give you confidence in using Twitter effectively in your business communication.

The video will help you understand these five key points:

  1. Make a plan: what’s your goal and how will you measure its success?
  2. Be clear on who your primary audience is: in this case, your customers.
  3. Create a calendar: decide what you’ll tweet on which day.
  4. Think about what you’ll tweet: is the content relevant to your audience?
  5. When people in your community respond or ask questions, make sure you reply.

And the best advice of all:

How you tweet and how you respond to your followers matter as much as face-to-face interaction. So be friendly, be helpful and be yourself.

Using Twitter effectively in business may not be a science. But it is an art.

Brand management is the new marketing

Procter & Gamble

AdAge reports on the disappearance of the word ‘marketing’ from job titles at Procter & Gamble as the world’s biggest advertiser – $9.7 billion ad spend in 2013 – and owner of some of the world’s most recognizable and valuable brands restructures its marketing organization:

[…] Brand Management at P&G now encompasses four functions — including, of course, brand management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (a.k.a. market research), communications (known as public relations at some companies and up until a couple of years ago as external relations at P&G), and design (known as design pretty much everywhere, except where it’s called visual brand identity and such).

[…] The marketing director title has existed at P&G since 1993, when the company did away with the more linguistically restrictive “advertising manager” title in a world that clearly was moving beyond advertising as the only way to build brands.

The change gives the new Brand Management function “single-point responsibility for the strategies, plans and results for the brands,” says AdAge.

AdAge: It’s the End of ‘Marketing’ As We Know It at Procter & Gamble.