We Live In Exciting Times

We Live In Exciting Times

By John Stuart

I read a statistic in the weekend’s press, which I thought was fascinating and thought-provoking. I know, I know. There are lies, damn lies and statistics, but it intrigued me enough to look into it and it seems to have credibility. It stated that 60% of the kids in school today will go on to fill jobs that haven’t yet been invented. I started to ponder the consequence of this assertion for ICP. When I joined the company as a consultant just over 4 years ago, the business looked like this:

  • Our home was in a Grade 2 listed town house in central London and our team of 22 was spread over 5 floors. Charming, but not efficient. That’s 4.2 a floor divided by 76 stairs and we’re part of the communications business!
  • There were 22 staff including management. 14 were males and 8 females. So more or less 2 for 1. The average age of the ICP team was 43. With the exception of our token Frenchman, they were all British.
  • We were primarily a production company, versioning and delivering press and OOH advertising into our client’s global markets. All of this business was being managed from our office in London. Even though most of our clients were headquartered in the USA.
  • Production represented 87% of our business and the other 13% came from an embryonic service; managing 2 client’s DAM (Digital Asset Management) platforms. 3 if you include one of the management working on this side of the business.

If you fast forward to today, [27.02.2015] ICP looks like this:

  • We now operate from one open floor plan, still in central London. We also have offices in New York and Mumbai. To meet our clients’ expectations we will be opening our doors in Hong Kong, Mexico and two further APAC markets later in 2015.
  • We have more or less grown by 66% and now employ 66 people. 35 are male and 31 female.
  • The average age, if we include everyone who was here when I joined, it would be 34. If you only look at people who have joined since January 2010, it would be less than 30 and the gender split would be 27 male and 28 female.
  • In terms of nationality, we have a radically different profile; joining our family of 25 from the UK, we now have 2 Chinese, 2 Americans, 2 Spanish, 2 from New Zealand and another from Portugal. We also have one each from Norway, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Ireland. I am relieved to say that we still have our token Frenchman and he is joined by our token Welshman, so they can have interminable conversations about rugby.  And we are also joined by our 10 Indian colleagues working in Mumbai. This league of nations and their age profile has given us a wonderful mix of cultures, insights and skills to mix with our traditional roles and importantly, many are fulfilling jobs that we had no idea existed way back in 2009.
  • Production still represents a healthy proportion of our business at 60%. But, DAM has grown from 13% to 40% in just over four years.
  • The production business now represents not only the press and OOH media channels, but the vital television, online, Ecommerce and social media channels as part of our client’s overall marketing mix.

Which brings me back to the statistic I mentioned at the beginning. When I first arrived at ICP, I stuck this image up on my wall. It’s a quote from The Go Between, a novel by L.P. Hartley, written in the 50’s about an elderly man looking back on his life in the early years of the 20th century.  But for me, it’s always had a resonance about how we should view business and its future development. If you don’t retain your ongoing strengths, but at the same time focus on innovation, you are ultimately consigning yourself to the dustbin of history. ICP trades its wares in the marketing communication space. Way back in that foreign country, this space was a mix of creativity, craft skills and instinct. There was a famous quote back then, which was attributed to a New York advertiser, who said: “Half the money I spend on advertising doesn’t work; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” That is certainly no longer true, if it ever was. Because now, while creativity will and must always have a key role in marketing communications, it has technology, which is now supporting and driving change. And much of this technology provides insight to enable more accurate marketing campaigns. It is this inexorable bandwagon that I believe will throw up those jobs that haven’t yet been invented in our space. Our growth and experience at the crossroads of marketing technology and production will hopefully prepare us well for what lies ahead. We live in exciting times. John Stuart, CEO

Part 1: Understand The Problem You Are Trying To Fix

Part 1: Understand The Problem You Are Trying To Fix

By Ben Norton

This first post in our series about our experience working in large, marketing focused software deployments looks at the importance of remembering how important the end-users are.

A wise person of indiscriminate origin (maybe we made this one up), once said that new technologies only gain traction with their intended users if they:

  1. Solve a problem that needed fixing.
  2. Mimics an existing human behavioural trait.

Email is a great example of meeting both criteria:

  1. The problem – it is the speed and cost of analogue written/traceable communications.
  2. The existing behaviour – it is our need to communicate one-to-one or to many in ‘real-time’ (without the vulgarity of actually having to speak to anyone).

So, it’s vital to start with the end in mind

Retaining this clarity of purpose (what problem are we fixing/what existing behaviour are we enabling) on larger, enterprise level software implementations is really hard work. By the time you have engaged the myriad clever people with specializations (Program/Project Management, Business Analysis, Technical Architects, Testing, Developers….) and thrown all of these agendas, personalities and egos into the mix (not to mention cultural and geographical complexities), it’s hardly surprising that the poor old end-user is often forgotten. Also, big technologies are complex and really can do some seriously clever stuff. The challenge is striking a balance between putting an ashtray on the motorbike (because you can) and responding to actual user needs – not least of which is delivering a tool that they can easily use.

If you build it, they won’t come

Understanding what these end users need is addressed in the ‘requirements gathering’ phase of the project. Again, because it’s IT, this has been smothered in acronyms (so you clearly understand exactly how little you understand); BA, BRD, PID to take the top off the tip of this iceberg.

Bottom line: sitting with a carefully selected group of end-users and having them describe their processes and needs is where you start (and where you should remain to some extent).

This process generates ‘Use Cases and User Stories’. At the same time, someone needs to get ‘the business’ on the couch in a darkened room and interrogate what it wants the tool to do. Finally, it kickstarts an important trend of user engagement that will be crucial to long-term success. People tend to play nicer if they think they are being listened to….

A note to the uninitiated – these two sets of objectives often have some – (ahem) – agenda based differences. Seriously though, gathering this info and then establishing a workable compromise between the two is central to success.

In the next post, we will talk about how to keep these objectives stapled to the collective forehead for the duration of the project.

Here comes Valentine’s day… again!

Here comes Valentine’s day… again!

By Inges Gregorio

Single vs V’s Day

As a single lady, it is torture planning things to do on V’s day, or even during the V’s day weekend. Friends are busy, exs are busy, exs-exs are busy and the search for someone to keep you company, with the right “skills”, “metadata” and “keywords” to be a companion can be exhausting! At the moment, I focused on the good things I have in my life and I cannot think of anything else but my job! I recently joined a company called ICP, in central London (my favourite, but also tiring city) as a BDM (Business Development Manager) and my job is to help them to sell their services to support DAM (Digital Asset Management) platforms. Before I started here, I didn’t really understand what DAM was and the importance of it for advertisers.

DAM(N) Job

A DAM platform is a digital repository where advertisers store all their assets, so that they can be accessible to everyone across their global markets. By assets I mean pictures, videos and everything that is used for advertising. The main users of this these platforms are agencies (all kinds: creative, creative digital, social media, production, etc.), internal users (marketing people who want to run campaigns to promote their products) and external users (distributors/retailers). The main objectives are to deliver and share correct and up-to-date assets, in order to maintain brand consistency and usage rights management across global markets. This objective has a big process behind it! To convince people to use the platform (user adoption), there are a lot of topics to think about; file naming conventions, keywords, taxonomies, metadata, usage rights, archive policies, user journeys, etc. Every detail counts to help get the right asset to come up when a user needs it and searches for it. ICP do all of this for small and large companies. We have the attention to detail that is necessary for accurate keywords and metadata, something a creative marketer wouldn’t be able to find the time to do accurately, and why should they? It’s certainly not why they chose to be a marketer!

DAM for V’s Day

When talking to my colleague about V’s day and the search for the right person, we thought of a particular DAM platform in an instant. This platform is called Tinder (it’s an app – I’m sure you know it) and it is really a very simple DAMN solution for my V’s day (maybe not this year!). It has loads of “assets” available; I can filter my search by age, sex and distance and I can also find a brief description (taxonomy) of every asset along with some pictures. After the research, I just swipe left (for the bad assets) or right (for the correct assets). I may have just solved my V’s day problem! Solved or not, at this point I realise that my life is filled with Digital Assets and I have to manage them all the time – at work and in my personal life. It’s the same for everyone isn’t it? Let’s all buy a DAM…..