Ahead of the curve: m/SIX’s Jess Burley on what your apps say about you

Will Railton
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Despite programmatic advances, the creative process will remain psychology based, says Jess Burley
It is thought to have taken 38 years before the radio reached an audience of 50m. Television took just 13 years, the internet four years, and Facebook two. New platforms like Periscope are emerging all the time and audiences are scaling increasingly rapidly. Advertisers must be able to adapt their strategy to engage with the right platforms before potential consumers move on to the next big thing.
Formerly the managing director of The National Magazine Company, Jess Burley joined media company m/SIX as chief executive in 2010. She compares her role as a media planner with that of an architect, and tells City A.M. how clients’ media spend must be shaped as platforms emerge and evolve.

How did you find the move from publishing to advertising?

Mine was an unusual move. People usually go from an ad agency into publishing. For me, however, it felt quite natural because the worlds of marketing, media, content and digital have converged so much.
At The National Magazine Company, my role was to ensure that we produced interesting content for publications like Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar that was attractive to our audiences. In advertising, it’s much the same brief. We’re creating a piece of content which engages our target consumer in such a way that they become more interested in our clients’ brands and services.
Programmatic technologies allow us to make faster decisions on a more qualified basis, but human truth, which is key to publishing, is still crucial to understanding how to share information and interesting content that people want to engage with. The data we can access and use stimulates what is, and will remain, a psychology and emotion based creative process.

Which particular technological advancements are helping you?

Platforms where there is a log-in facility can tell advertisers a lot. You can imagine how much lifestyle data Facebook collates about any one of its users, so m/SIX combines this with an individual’s purchase preferences to put together a profile for a particular audience.
Naturally, the apps you have downloaded or have purchased items through also say a lot about your preferences. Twitter has just launched a new capability which lets us monitor any other apps on a user’s device that have been linked up to Twitter. This means we can know more about customers who book rooms through hotels.com’s app, for example. They are indicating which countries they want to visit, the price-point they are prepared to pay, and thus which demographic they are likely to come from.
Personalised video is another frontier I’m excited about. We recently did a campaign for Virgin Money Giving around the London Marathon, where participants could send a video message personalised by Stephen Fry to their family and friends. He would say “Hi Johnny”, or whatever the recipient’s name was. As you can imagine, it took a fair while – he had to record thousands of names. But it gives us a glimpse of what personalised video could become in the future, offering potential customers edited footage containing products likely to interest them personally.

Why is brand advocacy so important?

Advocacy is the new advertising. Young people are very sensitive to the messages being forced upon them. It isn’t rocket science – they want to come across messages, information and content in an organic way, through recommendations from friends or online sharing because they trust the tastes of people they know. Because of digital networks and social media, this advocacy can take place to a huge online audience, and this is an age when media planners can respond to that.

Which other preferences are younger consumers exhibiting?

Hamish Pringle [former director general of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising] wrote a piece for The Drum describing Generation Z as “coming of age in the sharing economy”. This means they’re more comfortable with ideas older consumers might find a bit intrusive, like using Airbnb to lease out their room while they’re on holiday.
More important still, these young consumers are telling us that they will gravitate towards brands which behave better. They are perhaps even more conscious in this respect than their older Generation Y siblings. They’re demanding efficacy and provenance in the behaviour of a brand.
So we as marketers have to ask: “what is generous marketing?” Our clients are developing big initiatives. TalkTalk delivers broadband to people who don’t have the means to access it, and Virgin Money Giving has been set up as a non-profit fundraising page which ensures all donations go to charity. Ultimately, companies need to be doing something useful which goes beyond corporate social responsibility, something which aims to make a real difference to the world.

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