Google’s Charlotte Morton: Performance art

Point of View | 16 Jul, 2014
Perhaps I should give a bit of a caveat around my ridiculous title to my presentation, which is unfortunately, maybe fortunately for you, I’m not about to start miming or doing some hideous kind of street art or something like that.

This is what happens when you let your team brainstorm the title for your presentation. You can probably kind of imagine what we were trying to achieve when we came up with Performance Art as a title for this chat, trying to bring together two very different worlds. The world of kind of performance advetising, and my world at Google, which is the world of creative agencies actually and creativity and art, and things like that.

That’s what I’m going to talk about a bit today is really about the intersection of those two worlds. why I think they should be brought closer together, why both are relevant to each other, and sometimes why I think we’re mistaken to kind of pull them apart a little bit. That’s what performance art means. It does not mean miming of any description. Job titles, Dave’s was excellent at being a Chief Envisioner of something. My first confession is I’m very old-time Google. I’ve been at Google for ten years this month, which basically means I was born in a test tube there. My first job title at Google was... I was a Creative Maximiser, and I have no idea what that actually meant.

It does mean the one thing about being at Google for such a long, long time is it gives you an amazing sense of perspective actually. I’m especially thinking about this, especially thinking about kind of performance, data, and that kind of world and mindset, and maybe what is often seen as the fluffier, softer, more artistic world of creativity. I was actually brought into Google as a Creative Maximiser which is totally mis-sold to me. It was Creative Maximiser (copywriter). I was quite interested in writing. I thought, “Boom. Here we go, Google, great company, writing, this is going to turn out brilliantly.” Yes, I was churning out thousands of keywords every day. I was not happy for the first couple of years.

What that has actually given me was an amazing perspective on those two disciplines really, working very hard in one company, because I would argue that if your mission statement as an organisation is to organise the world’s information, and make it universally accessible and useful, you have to be extremely creative. You have to be a real creative thinker to get your head around a problem like that. Obviously Google is known very much for direct response with an amazing kind of search advertising platform, but I think that these two disciplines sit quite interestingly together at Google.

This talk, as I said, is really about perception of those two disciplines and how they kind of sit together. I’m taking performance quite broadly to mean kind of advertising that drives measurable results. Now my clients are all creative agencies, so I work with all of the big creative integrated advertising agencies in London, in the UK. You’re talking about your AMVs, and BBHs, and JWTs, and Saatchi's, and Mothers, and things like that. I’d argue that they would absolutely say that their work should drive measurable results. I think they’d be horrified to think that you kind of separated those two things out and said actually creativity is a thing that does not drive measurable results and that advertising does not work like that.

This presentation is going to centre on a platform that we own that I think brings together those two things quite a lot which is the performance mindset on a very, very creative canvas. I’m going to touch a little bit on the joyful and hopefully it will keep you alive with some stupid videos which is the wonderful world of YouTube. I’m not going to use this to flick because that’s actually the wrong remote, so there we go.

If we think about how we do separate those two worlds sometimes, and actually, embarrassingly when I think about Oli and Matt’s team, they sit within the performance team at Google within the agency team. I also sit within the agency team at Google, but we have a wall that divides us.

It kind of slightly represents, I think, the perception and attitude towards the two disciplines is that they are very, very siloed, and very, very different. Actually I rarely dare go over to the other side of the wall because I’m scared I’m going to be terrified by data and cookies and users list and things like that when I’m talking about storytelling, etc. It’s kind of, I think, a real divide that is felt quite powerfully organisationally but when you look at creativity and hardworking performance stuff together, we know that that’s a ridiculous thing to do.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there are a couple of reports, the IPA obviously have their Effectiveness Awards. There’s also the gun report, which compiles the most creatively awarded campaigns. Now what the IPA did interestingly a couple of years ago was they overlaid these two reports and they were looking for correlation. They were trying to see what is the correlation between creativity and creatively awarded campaigns and effectiveness and what they found is that there is a very, very obvious correlation indeed. They asked the question, “Does the creativity needed to win major creative awards actually improve a brand’s chance of business success?” The answer was a resounding yes.

We know that creativity is really practically linked to stuff performing and working well, and that’s why big ad agencies and creative agencies get paid to create that. I was very lucky at the end of last year to get to spend a couple of days with BBH, who are probably one of the most creatively awarded advertising agencies in the UK maybe if not even Europe and the world. They were actually trying to focus on a theme called High Performance Creativity, and this was in Campaign, and Ben Fennell, who is their CEO, talked about this. He said, “We’re increasingly using the phrase high performance creativity. It’s the marriage of relevance and difference, two forces that should never be separated.”

I think it’s very interesting that amongst the people in my world, the word performance is definitely starting to permeate their vocabulary and permeate the way they think about things and the way they treat their clients. Ben was talking about within all of our client teams, we should have big screens up with sales data kind of pumping through so that everyone is kind of sensitive to and aware to the actual bottom-line performance of our clients’ businesses. That stuff should absolutely be feeding into our ideas and our creative processes. Gwyn Jones, who is Group CO at BBH, was even quoted in the press fairly recently saying, “Creative agencies are sometimes at risk of being isolated from the performance agenda.”

I think that’s a real consciousness in my world of creative agencies that actually the performance mindset looking at ROI, looking at data, looking at data that breeds great insight, it’s really, really something that needs to be brought into their world very, very strongly indeed. Now we know that creativity creates value and it creates difference for businesses. What is so exciting about the internet and this is what the internet has done over the past 20 years. It’s been the greatest catalyst for creativity that we’ve ever, ever seen. I’m just going to play this video straight away. I know you all probably have seen it, but it’s hot, “Let’s Live the Joy of Dollar Shave Club”. Let’s hope the volume is up nice and high.

Mike: Hi, I’m Mike, founder of DollarShaveClub.com. What is DollarShaveClub.com? Well, for a dollar a month we send high quality razors right to your door. Yeah, a dollar. Are the blades any good? No. Our blades are f**king great. Each razor has stainless steel blades, and Aloe Vera lubricating strip, and a pivot head. It’s so gentle a toddler could use it. Do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? Nineteen go to Roger Federer. I’m good at tennis. Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher, and ten blades? Your handsome ass grandfather had one blade and polio. Looking good, Pop-Pop! Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need and stop forgetting to buy your blades every month. Alejandra and I are going to ship them right to you. We’re not just selling razors, we’re also making new jobs. Alejandra, what were you doing last month?”

Alejandra: Not working.

Mike: What are you doing now?

Alejandra: Working.

Mike: I’m no Vanderbilt, but this train makes hay. Stop forgetting to buy your blades every month and start deciding where you’re going to stack all those dollar bills I’m saving you. We are DollarShaveClub.com and the party is on.

Charlotte Morton: So there you have it. That’s Michael Dubin who is the CEO of Dollar Shave Club, and I know it’s an old example, but I think it’s a really great example, a great representation of how the internet has allowed creativity to be spawned and businesses to be built. If you look at that one simple video that has got millions and millions of hits on YouTube, he’s presented a new business, a good idea and a funny video, all at the same time, kind of in one hit. He’s not only entering not just some random market where he’s got loads of opportunity. He’s up against Gillette. He’s in one of the most competitive markets – male grooming – that’s out there. He’s managed to cut through in one instance because of the democratising nature of the internet and the fact that he can do that.

I think that’s very, very exciting, and we see it all over the place, on YouTube especially, especially with small budgets. I think it was about $17,000 it cost to make Dollar Shave Club. Now he’s got a business that I think he got within the first 24 hours, 12,000 orders. These businesses are going from zero to hero literally in the space of a day or two. You see something like Chipotle which was a beautifully crafted piece of animation that was debuted on YouTube and then went on to be in the break at the Grammys. You see people building businesses off the back of this stuff. Does anyone recognise Michelle Phan here?

Michelle Phan was one of the original beauty and fashion vloggers on YouTube, building up an absolutely enormous, Olympic-sized audience. She basically one day posted a little video to her audience and said, “Hey, guys. I know you really seem to like my videos. What if I put some of my favourite products just into a little gift box, and you send me $12 a months and I send it out to you at your home? Would any of you be interested in that?” And she got about 36,000 orders within a couple of weeks. This is really extraordinary stuff the way the internet is allowing creativity to build businesses off the back of it. It’s flipping the model with brands, totally flipping the model with brands.

You think about the way that L’Oreal works, the way that they hand pick their ambassadors and their spokespeople. I’m going to have Cheryl, I’m going to have Eva Longoria, but we’re the brand, we’re the powerful ones. We give you the right to go out and talk about our products. Not in this world. Not in this world at all.

Michelle Phan is now one of Lancôme’s biggest retailers for them. She’s one of their biggest retail distributors. It’s completely kind of flipped over that power battle, and it’s very, very interesting. We can see through a creative canvas that’s so open like YouTube, you’re getting results coming straight in, and they’re immediate results as well.

I think what’s really interesting, kind of eavesdropping on all of the chat around remarketing, and cookieing, and users, and things like that is in that world where user journeys are now even more complicated, but we can be even smarter with biddable and real laser targeting. I think creativity becomes even more important. We still need good ideas that people are going to talk about at the water cooler, those water cooler moments. I would challenge you that not many people stand at the water cooler and go, “God, I just almost brought myself to tears. I was served the most relevant ad that I’ve ever seen in my life,” as opposed to, “Did you see that Evain babies piece of work, or did you see that Dollar Shave Club thing? I laughed my ass off. It was brilliant.

I think creativity is still super relevant, maybe even more relevant than it ever has been. I’m going to go practical now and I think whiz through some kind of ideas, thought starters, tips about how that performance mindset can be applied within a modern, creative world.

Well the first thing is really, really obvious. It’s that performance mindsets are very attuned to data, and data can be a breeding ground for great insight. If you look at something like this, data really helps scope creative territory. It helps you work out where do I play, where do I have the right to play, where is the opportunities? This is from a third party YouTube report, looking at beauty videos on YouTube. Sorry, it always comes back to beauty for me.

This bubble here is all YouTube videos just mentioning anything to do with beauty, and you’ve got 14.9 billion views there. It’s pretty massive. This smaller bubble here is all videos mentioning a beauty brand. They’re not owned by a beauty brand, just mentioning a beauty brand. Sorry, that might be Michelle Phan going, “Hey, I’ve got this great new Lancôme mascara, try it.”

This tiny, tiny bubble down here is brand channels. These are cumulative views on channels that are actually owned by beauty brands, and that’s 511 million views. If you look at the opportunity that’s out there, and you start thinking, “All right, advertising is kind of a share-a-voice game. If that is a huge amount of people putting their hand up and looking for stuff, consuming stuff, and I’m right down here,” there you go. You don’t really need to explain anymore.

YouTube vloggers and haul girls, which sounds kind of dodgy, but they’re people who go home and go, “I’ve just been to Boots. I bought this. They’re not in haulage or lorries or anything like that.” They actually control 97% of conversations around beauty on YouTube. They are totally in control there, but if you’re a brand, that’s an opportunity to think, “Where do I play a role there? Where can I be useful? Where can I be inspiring? Where can I be relevant?” One brand who has really understood this is TRESemmé, a part of Unilever. They worked very closely with us at Google and our creative services team to actually think about, “How do we mine those insights?” How do we actually understand what people are looking for and what they want and how do we create something that provides genuine utility to them? I’m just going to play you this little case study.

Female: Our idea? Bringing together the biggest search engine, the biggest hair brand, and the world’s best YouTubers, to banish bad hair days for good. All Things Hair constantly monitors hair searches to see what women are looking for. This is passed to vloggers who everyday use these searches to create inspiring, brilliant answers using Unilever hair brands.

Zoella: Hello, everyone. Today I am going to show you how to recreate this amazing fishtail braid.

Female: There they can browse by hair type, find all of the latest hair trends, treatments, and how-to’s, along with the Unilever products to make it happen.

Female: And then for a little bit more extra conditioning, I used this Dove Hair Therapy with self-warming hair mask.

Female: Making it the glossy go-to guide for great hair and just what women were waiting for. Helping women worldwide banish bad hair days for good.

Charlotte Morton: That’s the brand who have really deeply invested in getting into that kind of performance data driven mindset. They’re constantly on a daily, weekly basis looking at the upcoming trends – is it a messy bun, is it hombre? I know to all the guys in the room, you’re fascinated by this. I can see it in your eyes. What are those things and actually how can we move really, really quickly to make something that is going to satisfy that need? The real magic source of what TRESemmé have done as you might have seen is that they've used YouTubers. They’ve used people who already have credibility, so they’re not starting from a low base. They’re starting from guys with guys who consumers already trust, who they already go to for advice.

As a result, they build up this destination which is genuinely useful and actually is a great way of getting their product in front of people as well. Data obviously is an instant feedback loop. I’m going to put this on. It’s quite quiet anyway and everyone needs a bit of Enya at this point in the afternoon. I think you’ll agree. I presume everybody has seen Volvo trucks. Yes, I think you have. So the wonderful Jean-Claude Van Damme doing an epic split to show the wonderful reversing ability of Volvo trucks. This whole campaign is incredible when you actually think about it. Not only is it automotive, which might immediately alienate a large part of consumers. It’s B2B. It’s Volvo trucks.

What they've managed to do for that kind of very niche, I mean this is for fleet managers. This is for people, I feel inspired with Enya behind me, this is for people who are trying to appeal to fleet managers to buy a bloody massive truck, but what they’ve done, even with that very niche segment is for at one point last year, they’ve been more popular than people searching for sex on Google. If this is not a creative achievement, I really don’t’ know what is. Volvo trucks is one of the most extraordinary case studies, which unfortunately I don’t have time to go into now.

Interestingly though at D&AD, a few weeks ago obviously the most prestigious kind of creative awards ceremony out there, there were no black pencils, which is the most prestigious award. No black pencils awarded in film or in TV, but there was a black pencil awarded in branded content for Volvo trucks.

We’re very excited actually on our team and amongst our agency. I think that’s a real tipping point for this stuff. But back to what I was actually talking about which was data is that it gives you that great feedback. You can understand, “Are we actually making a splash?” Let’s face it. This is what a lot of ad agencies are interested in. Do we make a splash in popular culture? Are people talking about us? Are they sharing our work? Are they spreading our work? This is a fantastic example of where absolutely they were. To Matt’s point, thank you very much for setting me up for this one. Data helps to make creative work, work harder. This is a story which we try to take to our agencies a lot. It’s where the two worlds come very close together.

If people aren’t taking advantage of this stuff, I think they’re missing a trick. Absolutely remarketing has become a dirty word because of the North Face jacket that follows you around the internet, because of the made.com sofa that follows you around the internet. It’s the kind of the most uncreative use of a very clever technology. What Iron Brew did was using remarketing through YouTube to do what we would call sequential storytelling. They initially put out their first creative execution to a huge audience actually with no kind of filters on it at all, with no targeting, because it’s self-selecting, because it’s a skippable. You choose. If you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to watch it.

For people who chose to view through their ad, they then cookied those guys, put them in the next list, and then they showed them the next episode of that story. Those guys who watched all the way through, they put them into the next episode of that story. By the end, while you had a smaller group of people watching your work and hearing your message, they were achieving around 40% view-through rates on those trivial ads, which is extraordinary when you think about it. When you think about your own consumer behaviour, I just want to watch the cat video. Come on. Move it along. You know these guys who have been primed from a storytelling perspective by using remarketing getting to the end of that funnel and being super engaged. I would challenge you all to think about remarketing potentially in a different way to tell stories, so sweating your assets.

I think on YouTube, the biggest point to remember is that data and that performance mindset is what feeds YouTubers. It’s what makes them successful. All of the best YouTubers, all of the biggest YouTube channels are obsessed with metrics. They are obsessed with when they do something what happens. When they upload a video, how many comments, how many shares, what’s the engagement level? That’s really, really important to them. You know they are looking at their views per month and obviously their biggest metrics, they’re looking at their subscriber base. If I post that video how many subscribers do I pickup as a result? That is the main thing that a YouTuber cares about, and actually that’s what we encourage brands to care about as well to try and build that long-term sustainable relationship.

Jamie Oliver, this is what he has become obsessed with. Food Tube, which I’m sure many of you have seen, is a really serious part of his business now, and he takes it extremely seriously. Looking at stuff like all of the important metrics to do with views and subscribers. He knows that when he does a collaboration, which you will see there, the Guinness World Record collaboration, his subscribers and his views would suddenly shoot up. Actually successful YouTubers, the ones who takes it seriously already have that kind of built-in performance mindset. That’s because the success of their content is much more than the video itself. It’s all of this other stuff.

Actually it’s all of the words and the language that we associate with the performance world which is data, and tagging, and metrics, and metadata, titles, descriptions. There is definite art and science that need to come together on this platform. It’s not enough to just put up a beautiful, creative execution, cross your fingers and hope it’s going to fly. The ones that really understand YouTube really understand a lot of this performance driven stuff as well.

Going to finish with this stupid video, because I might as well. I’ll play it first. I’m sure many of you have seen this. If you have children, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it as well.

Male: Hey.

Female: Hey.

Male: How’s it going?

Female: Good. You?

Male: Good. What do you want to do for dinner?

Male: No. You can’t talk to her right now.

Male: What?

Male: You can’t talk to her right now, because I’m talking to her right now.

Male: Okay, well, that’s my wife. And I can talk to my wife whenever I want to talk to my wife, and she can talk to me whenever she wants to talk to me.

Male: No. She’s not your wife. She’s the princess.

Female: I’m the princess right now.

Male: See.

Male: Well...

Male: Okay, so she’s playing with me. You just go over there right now. Look at how much fun we’re having.

Charlotte Morton: Great. What’s so great about this is that this is just a guy who had an idea about - I have these funny chats with my kids. He has made this into an ongoing series. I think since May of last year, he’s garnered about 700,000 subscribers. He’s on season five of Conversations with My now Three-Year-Old, and what I love about this is he can drive real action off of the back of it. You can subscribe. He’s got merchandise going on. You can watch Series one and two, but again, it’s a great example of just showing that anybody, Joe Bloggs off the street, this very, very creative platform, if you can think about working it really hard, it can work for you very hard as well.

That’s all from me, so thank you very much.

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