Digital trends and the future of search: Google, Microsoft, Jellyfish panel

| 10 Jul, 2014
I’d like to welcome to the kind-of stage, Matt Bush, Dave Coplin and Jellyfish CEO Rob Pierre. The idea of this panel discussion is that we’re just going to talk around digital in general. Digital Trends is the title. If anyone has got any questions they want to put to the panel about where they see the future going in terms of anything digital then we'll do it. I mean I can kick off the session just because I know obviously it’s a bit scary putting your hand up sometimes.

The question I’ve got, and this has just come to my head, is about search becoming more intelligent and how with things like voice search, I know that Microsoft and Google are involved in that quite heavily at the moment, How you think that’s going to affect marketing strategies moving forward. I guess most importantly how are brands going to stay on top of that and make sure that their marketing strategies evolve with the way in which consumers use search moving forward? Over to you, anyone of you three?

Rob Pierre: I’m Switzerland. I’ll sit in the middle just sort of mediating and having a bit of fun. I think it’s for us, the agencies in our world, it’s really how we utilise all the innovations and where search is going. We tend to find that we’re in a position where we're optimising and we're refining the efforts that people are putting in and how they utilise these different search innovations. I think I could probably react to your views before I put it forward, over to you.

Matt Bush: I guess the honest answer is we don’t know. We haven’t got a clue yet, and that’s one of the reasons why we or you employ experts to try and make sense of this. We’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen as people start to use search in a very different way, and then you saw I said of 100 billion searches we see every month, 15% of those are brand new. A lot of that is being driven by voice search, so that’s just on a smartphone primarily. If you think about at the moment a lot of new searches are coming out for the phone, I mention Glass, and I mention the watch, wearables generally we expect to drive a lot of this behaviour.

I think all you can do is try and understand what the data is telling you and what the consumers are trying to tell you as a result, and look for those nuggets of usefulness. Ultimately it does go back to this whole notion of understanding the audience much better, which I think in digital and performance marketing in particular, we haven’t done a phenomenal job at. It’s just been about shifting products without really caring about who’s who. The more you can understand about the audience, the less exactly what they’re saying matters and is much more about what they’ve done previously and what you know about them, and then you can actually just market to them more effectively. It's building up a case, building up a body of evidence about your audience and knowing who they are.

Dave Coplin: I guess where I go is a bit further out than that and building on stuff I know. Listen, mate. I like working in the future; it’s the only part of my life my wife can’t prove I’m wrong. I’m here all week. I’m going to pick up on the intelligent search piece of this because I think we’re moving to a place where the consumer is no longer the person putting the queries in. They’re being submitted on our behalf based on the context of what we’re doing. If I look at Matt, what you guys are doing with Google Now, what we’re doing with Cortana, Cortana is our intelligent assistant. We’re trying to stitch together the intent.

When you send me an email that’s got a date in it or a location, Cortana is already ahead of the game. It picks that information up, and we’re going to go to a place where you say, “Hey, Matt. We need to go over to San Francisco next week and meet with that client.” Cortana will know and will go, “Well actually okay. You’re going to San Francisco. The last time they were there, they flew VA. They went on this flight. The date, the meeting is on Tuesday. They normally stay in this hotel. Let me go and not make the booking, but I’ll make the recommendation that this is what’s going to happen.”

All of the searching that you would have done as a human being will be done for you. If you’re a provider of one of those services – accommodation, flights, or whatever – you better start thinking about your role in that world of connected intent. This is much further out to the future, but this is where it ends up, where the searches aren’t being done by humans, but by agents on our behalf. How do we then tap in to all of the greatness that you have to offer? That whole piece of intelligence is where we’re heading, and we’ve got to start to figure out how we deal with that as brands but also as individuals.

Matt Bush: How many of you are using Google Now or Cortana? Actually quite a few. That’s a bigger sample size than we see globally. Honestly I don’t think that Google and Microsoft have done a phenomenal job of promoting those products yet. Generally the usage isn't as high as we think it should be bearing in mind how useful those services are. The you can do to promote Google Now in particular – but feel free to promote Cortana as well if you want – would be phenomenal. I use it all the time now, and I imagine that you guys are, too. I find it most useful when I’m traveling; not before I’m traveling but when I’m actually traveling because it gives you translation. It gives you currency conversions. It tells you exactly where you’re supposed to be going and so on.

I think the original question was about what brands do. I think whenever we present Google Now to an audience or brands, usually the question is, “Is this going to stop us having any kind of conversation with our customers?” If we’re pushing stuff to an audience, it’s coming direct from organic results. It’s not necessarily coming from a brand. We’ve got to be really careful as tech companies to make sure that we’re not overstepping the mark and pushing ads to customers that aren’t necessarily desired or wanted, especially as you know generally we’ve been about waiting for people to come to us and experiencing or asking Google something specific and then giving some content which we think is useful as a result.

I think it’s going to be quite a long-term thing because there are so many things that we need to make sure are right before we go full on this. At the moment, we just want to see how customers or consumers are using the tech as it currently exists.

Rob Pierre: Yes, the way it currently exists, you mentioned it earlier about the how-to’s. What I’m finding is that as search is becoming more contextual and it actually understands what your previous search was and you can move on, you’ve demonstrated many times. You would say, “Who is David Beckham’s wife,” and then you can just search, “How old is she,” and it understands what you mean. That’s bringing us to a full circle.

We used to ask Google or Bing. I was wondering what it was before Bing. Once upon a time, we would actually type in a question. That’s how we used to search, and then we became more sophisticated and we started either copying-and-pasting, or using exact brands or exact model numbers, etc., and we didn’t ask any questions. Now, we’re finding hence the content of Matt’s presentation that now people are going back to asking the search engines questions, and it’s much more conversational. We’re seeing that when we’re mining all of our search terms, we’re finding that more and more, and that’s interesting observation that’s happening in the search world as well.

Matt Bush: Ultimately the key thing that I was trying to get through – you might have missed this completely – was the shift from keywords to consumers. If you understand the consumer, the kind of things they’re asking Google or the kind of things you’re promoting to it, if that’s where we go, becomes less relevant. It’s much more about that person, and at that particular time knowing everything that you do about them already.

Male: Just following up on that, do you think there’s a cultural shift that needs to happen where people have to become comfortable talking into their phone . Because it is quite an unusual thing, I’ve tried it with both Google and Cortana, and it is quite difficult when you’re on sort of a quiet bus or in a room and you have to talk to your phone.

Matt Bush: You don’t have to. You can just use the search

Male: Well you can do but what's the point in having voice search and you have voice recognition but you can’t use it, do you think that's going to change?

Matt Bush: I think there are different times. Everyone is going to be different, and I think in certain countries already are probably perhaps less reserved than us Brits, then there wouldn’t be a problem. Actually I look at the way that my kids use voice search. Who was here last year will remember that I showed a video of my kids using voice search. Now that’s how they use search. They do very little typing; they use voice search. One of them learned to use Google search through voice before she could actually read or write, so that’s a really, really interesting shift for her, and means that she can discover information that would previously be unavailable to someone of four years old.

I think part of it is a generational thing; part of it is just making sure that your service is working accurately as and when. I love the thing where the letters aren’t actually in the right order because ultimately that’s what search engine is trying to do; they’re trying to do predictive text to ensure that you’re actually searching for the right thing, the thing that they think that Google or Bing thinks you want, rather than the thing that you’ve actually typed in.

Dave Coplin: The other side of this is we talk about natural user interfaces all the time, and so that’s voice and gestures and all that. You sort of naturally just think about the gesture or the fact you’re using voice input, but the point is actually in the word “natural”. It’s not natural to sit on the bus talking into your phone in that kind of way, so you probably wouldn’t use it. It’s natural for you to do it if you’re alone or in a different environment. Similarly with the gesture thing, it’s not natural for you to sit on an airplane waving at your bloody computer. Everybody would be pushing all over to get away from you.

It’s just understanding the context. The important thing is that you have that choice, and so you can use... We’re all about multimodal inputs, so you want to have access to all of these different ways so you can choose the best way, given the location that you’re in, the context that you’re in and what you want to do.

Rob Pierre: I think it becomes relevant for innovations like Google Glass, for example, where the whole premise is that you free your hands up and that you can actually do things. Yes, there’s a few things like you can wink to take the picture, etc., but being able to talk is, like I say, the main benefit of having some of the wearable devices. That might be where it's all going.

Dave Coplin: And we adjust as a society. Do you remember when we first got headsets for our phone? We would all laugh because all of a sudden, the world was full of nutters, right? They’d be walking down the street talking to themselves and we all... well I laughed about it, and then now of course you think nothing about it, right?

Matt Bush: I still laugh.

Dave Coplin: You still laugh.

Matt Bush: I don't know if you've seen the Android Wear video, but the best user case that I think comes out in that, is a girl on a bike and she’s got her Android watch on and she says, “Okay, Google. Open garage,” and the garage opens. She just rides her bike directly through the garage. I’ll reel you a bit away from that because obviously you can try to get the watch connected with your garage door, so it's an internet thing. That kind of thing, that’s proper magic. That’s like having power beyond what you possibly could have imagined when you were a kid. I think that’s where something like voice search would be enormously helpful because you’re on a bike and so you don’t want to try and get your phone out, but then there are other times when it’s not useful.

Rob Pierre: Who's the man from Breaking Bad with the Xbox? You’re right in the middle and you’re doing something quite crucial...

Dave Coplin: I told you, Rob, I only bloody watch Star Trek. Today, I got an Xbox in my kitchen – don’t ask – but I do all the cooking and now the Xbox is in the kitchen because I like music and I like ice hockey, and so I go home to make tea tonight and I’ll just say, “Xbox, Bing The Clash,” and the search engine is going to curate a music experience for me. That’s the sort of stuff that it’s getting into. It’s freeing us up from the old interface that we’ve had for a couple hundred years.

Male: What sort of technological advances will be going on in the future some 10-15 years and how, as advertisers, can we keep up with them?

Matt Bush: Do you think you’re up with it as it currently stands?

Male: No.

Matt Bush: Shall we not go there then.

Matt Bush: I think Dave is probably the best person to answer that because he comes from a technology background.

Dave Coplin: I think the thing that you’ve got to understand, assuming we can get the cultural piece right, and that’s my biggest fear the future, is how do we get the human beings in the right place? Fifteen years’ time, we could be living in a world... let’s talk internet things for a second. Internet things is where basically everything is connected to the internet and to the point where these carpet tiles, the light bulbs and all that sort of stuff. The carpet tiles not only know how many times they’ve been trodden on, this specific tile here knows how many times I’ve trodden on it, how many times Rob's trodden on it. In that kind of world with that kind of data, what do you do with that? How do you use that in a good way to make sense of it?

This is going to be the technological opportunity in 10-15 years. How we then choose to use it as members of a society, as advertisers – not that those two are mutually exclusive, but they could be. What do you do with that? I hope we enter a world of truly contextual computing so that you understand which persona I’m using based on the location, the time of day, my mood, who I’m with, all of this wonderful information that frankly if you use today, would freak me out. But actually if I’m in a place where I trust what’s going on, I’m getting value back, I’m getting great experience, that’s a great result. That’s what we got to aim for, and we’ve got to find the right way to do it.

Matt Bush: There’s something we talk about at Google where nothing will be as slow or as early in tech as it is today. Everything is speeding up, Ray Kurzweil talks about exponential growth in tech. That will build and build and build, and Ray Kurzweil also talked about robots taking over the world in 2050. Also, that we’re right at the beginning of this journey. I know we think we’ve achieved a lot in tech, but there’s so much more to go when you consider the boundaries of human desires to want to continue to learn.

It’s very difficult to consider where we’re going to go next. I just think, “You’ve just got to dive in as quickly as you can.” Just think, “What are the bits that I really need to pick out from here?” I’m pleased. Actually I haven’t heard anyone use the term 'big data', so I’m just about to. I’m pleased that we haven’t because big data is one of those things where it’s nonsense. It’s about looking for customer insight. It’s looking for things that are interesting to you, and all that’ll give you is exactly the same tech at the moment and probably into the future. What’s interesting to you and your business? What can you actually harness to make you or your business or your customers’ lives easier? And if you don’t think you can, then don’t play with it. Just because it’s there and shiny and new, it doesn’t mean you should deal with it.

Rob Pierre: I’ll give a real example. Thinking, keeping with the Hari Ghotra theme, one of the big problems if we had the website and you can just click on a button and get all the ingredients for one of the recipes, one of the big problems all the websites have is that how do you know what you’ve already got? And you don’t want to buy a whole pack and double up on all your garlic or double up on your spices. If the internet, the thing, if your fridge knows what’s in there and your cupboard knows what’s in there, then we can click a button, it could minus what you got and then just send you what you need. There’s an example of where I think the technology, we can start to enhance what we’re doing today using that type of technology and data.

Matt Bush: I had sci-fi books when I was a kid, and just going back to some of the stuff Dave was talking about where we’ve allowed technology to get in the way. My books are sci-fi. Basically those books painted a picture of where we had seven days of leisure because tech was doing everything for us. Well I don’t know about you but that’s not my life. It’s probably completely opposite. I would get like no days of leisure.

This is what I really like, the kind of the angle that Dave was going down is how do we actually take control back? What is it that we should be doing and use it that we should just be adopting everything new that comes up or just try to get to grips with what’s currently there. It can’t go on, I don’t think. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m knackered. How do we actually start to use the technology that exists to make things easier? Even something as basic as running, I’ve talked about running there, but people are running more and more partly because you can constantly test yourself against your last run.

There’s an app actually that I’ve been trying to get Nike to build on Glass, which is basically where you run against yourself. You run with Glass on. You basically film where you’re running. The next time you run, you basically see yourself on that route running away from yourself so you’ve got to try and beat yourself, which should be phenomenal but then I’m just making my life more difficult. Why is that? You could say we’re striving for self-development, but at the end of the day, I’d be concerned if I didn’t start to beat myself. I think we put pressure on ourselves which, you know, “How does tech help us get away from that?”

Female: What’s the relevance of Google Glasses in terms of SEO at the moment, do you have any answer to this?

Matt Bush: No. I’m not actually qualified to talk about SEO. All I will say is that increasingly we’re looking at Google as an ecosystem, and certainly we’re looking at plus ads, the kind of the social spine that sits across all of our products. It is Google+ over time if you’ve got the right content, if you’ve got the right engagement, it is going to improve your search results be that paid or SEO. I mean I don’t know. I searched for, what was it I searched for yesterday? I searched Wimbledon yesterday. One of the results that I actually got in there was a post from one of my friends on Google+ who was actually at Wimbledon yesterday. There is an addition of personal search. There is something like that that’s being pulled into search from Google Plus.

I think we need to pivot away from this term of SEO. I mean SEO is basically about content; always should have been. I think it got a bit bastardised over time by link builders and so on. I think we need to get back to what it should be which is just putting getting great content in front of audiences because, we were having this chat at the break. The audience wants great content from brands, and so give it to them. Don’t try and spam them into coming to your website. Give them great content, and once they come once, they’ll come back over and over and over again. That’s where I see SEO go in that content. It could sit on Google+. It could sit on YouTube. It could sit on wherever.

Dave Coplin: It could even sit on Bing.

Matt Bush: Yeah.

Greg Roberts: There's a question over here.

Female: Just wondering what you guys think about email automation, delivering specific products and whether that's over saturated.

Rob Pierre: For email? I’ve got a strong view. I think for me personally email should not really be used as an acquisition tool. I don’t think your first interaction with a brand should ever be email. I think there’s lots of ways in which you can actually present your brand, engage with people and actually ask them for their email. I believe if you’ve got the relationship with that person, you’ve got their email address, then they’re going to engage. It’s not the same span.

Female: Yeah. I’m talking about when you have their email. They search on your website and they click something that has like an automated trigger, so then they get that information. Is that going to be too much in the end or is it like the personas thing where I'm interested in Lego one week but I actually don't want to know about it next week?

Dave Coplin: It depends on how you think about email, right? I love email. As much as we abuse it today and it’s horrible and I get too much, I love email when email is used well. The thing I love about email in particular is email is asynchronous communication mechanism which means it’s not real-time. If you’re a brand I love and you send me an email, as long as you’re cool with the fact, I may read it in three weeks.

I have a folder of brands that I follow or engage with me on email. I don’t delete the stuff I put in there. When I’ve got some time, I’ll sit and flick through and see what’s going on at the ski place I like in Canada or the motorcycle gear place that I buy from. I’ll keep those stuff and I’ll go through it, but if you send me a brand I don’t really know why I’m getting it, gone. If you want it to be real-time you’re sending me because there’s a time sensitive offer, no use to me. We have social for that. Email is a communication mechanism that has some really unique attributes. If you use it for those attributes, fantastic; if not, I’d question why you’re using it.

Rob Pierre: It will have to happen. How clever the remarketing is becoming and how it’s always contextual or relevant, email has to follow suit. I think it is going to happen but obviously under the conditions data.

Greg Roberts: Just so we don’t over run, we’ve got time for one or two more questions.

Female: I have a question about connectors, the cost of a connected user. Are there any brands that are actually doing that at the moment or what are the early steps to get into the connected customer field and use that to market?

Male: I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?

Dave Coplin: Yeah, sure. I think the question was, “Are there any brands that are doing a good job of the connected customer by looking at them holistically or maybe providing a connected service to them?” I’m sure Matt will have similar case studies, but the one I can think of off the top of my head is we did a lot of work with Delta Airlines. Their view of the connected customer was on both ends of the spectrum, so that they were piecing together lots more information about the individuals that were flying with them, not just the flights they book but maybe social interactions and stuff like that, to build that bigger picture so they could understand Dave when he sits there. What else does Dave do? Is there any other element we can engauge?

They were also equipping the flight crew with technology that would enable them in-flight to be able to engage with that customer with important information. A classic example can be bags that haven’t made the plane, they’re being rerouted. Today I’d have to wait until I arrive at my destination. They could actually handle that in-flight. They would know a bit about the customer and say, “Listen, we’re really sorry. Bags haven’t left,” or “They’re not going to be on this flight. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

All of a sudden you’ve got this connected experience. I’m still pissed off but actually you’ve dealt with it and you’ve done it quickly. I think Delta, for me, is a good example. Ted Baker in the UK, they’re doing some very similar work in terms of connecting those disperate pieces together to take a holistic view.

The thing that both of those organisations have has got nothing to do with technology. They’ve got this culture that once more they’ve got this sort of entrepreneurial approach to data culture where everybody in the organisation, they want to get more data to see what else they could build, how well they could make the service. That’s the magic, if you can get that.

Matt Bush: I’m actually going to defer to Charlotte because she’s going to talk about intuitive storytelling in just a couple of seconds. So, yes, wait for the answer there, it's a really good one.

Female: I’m just thinking about lots of today and what we all know about is that getting insights from customers, getting all the information we can. I’m thinking about the right to be forgotten are we going to get to a point where there is a limit on information we get from and how much we’re going to get from each.

Matt Bush: Honestly I think it’s a really big education piece that we’re doing and will continue to do about how individuals need to be aware of the data that they’re putting out there. I think it’s started. I think the first generation of digital consumer wasn’t really aware and so just put everything online and shared everything. I think that’s dragging back dramatically already if you look at the growth of some of the close networks. Snapchat and Instagram are two fairly obvious examples where you’re sharing with a much more limited community. In some instances, the content is destroyed.

I think people are starting to become aware. We’ve got an education program to do to make sure that customers are aware. We’ve also got responsibilities to make sure we’re not overstepping those boundaries, so that we’re actually using that information to add value to a customer as opposed to just using it to give them something that they don’t want or that actually causes them some kind of discomfort.

I think this is going to continue to shift without question, and we’re going to see different things happening in this space. I think one of the challenges we’ve got at the moment is that there are people who perhaps aren’t as into this space making some of the decisions right now, and so we need to make sure that, as I said, we are doing a really, really strong job of coming together as an industry really and agreeing what’s right and what’s wrong.

But then again, going back to what I was talking about – globalisation and monoculture. Every culture is different. Every country has a different bench as to what they think can or can’t be shared and how that data can or can’t be used. We need to be aware of that, too.

Rob Pierre: I think we’ve all got a role to play, Matt. Do you know what I mean? I think it’s just the industry; I think you guys as well. It’s what I worry about. I think we’re at a really fragile point in our relationship between consumers and brands. I think, as some of my colleagues have a phrase which is “We live in a place called Creepy Valley.” Creepy Valley is a place where we get delivered stuff and we’re not sure how they got to the conclusion about the stuff they’re showing us, and we’re not sure about whether it’s valuable or not. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. As a result, we’re just a bit freaked out by it.

If we don’t fix that, what happens is consumers will take their trust away, which means they’ll take their data away, which will result in really crap experiences. What we have to do as an industry and as brands and as advertisers and as marketers to engage with those consumers, we got to win back their trust. We’re going to win that back if we do two things. One, we have to be open and transparent. If you give us your data, this is what happens. This is what we do with it. You understand that. Second, you have to make the value exchange really explicit. If you give us your data, this is what you’ll get in return. Based on that information, if they decide to engage, that’s brilliant, or they may decide not to engage, but you’re doing it in such a way that you’ll start to get their trust. They’ll start to understand how it works.

Matt and I were talking about this during the break. When people understand it a bit more, they become a bit more comfortable. We all change our definition of privacy, not for better or for worse, but based on the value we receive. We evolve our expectations. We all have to play our part to do that. We have to be respectful. We have to be open. We have to win back the trust of the consumer.

Matt Bush: Remarketing is a great example, which is completely ruined by a number of players in the market. You click on a North Face coat and it follows you around the web for six months. That’s not a great user experience because you probably bought it already. That’s brands and other organisations doing a bad job. I’m not blaming North Face by the way, if anyone here is from North Face. I don’t think it was them actually who came up with that.

I think that’s the first step of what are you doing with my data? What else are you doing with data? Clearly this is not of any value to me, and I know that you’re snooping on me is the kind of the fear. As I said, the education thing for the consumer is important for me because I want consumers to really understand exactly what they are and they aren’t doing. We do make it pretty easy to opt out of all Google Tracking. I wouldn’t advise it because you’re going to get a much worse service as a result a completely vanilla service.

Greg Roberts: Okay, great. So we don’t run late into the night, I think we should probably call it a day there, and then we’ll get Charlotte on.

Thanks, guys. Cheers.

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