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‘Mean Streets’ Shows Peddlers and Buyers of Clicks as Frauds

October 3, 2014

First published on the Zeno Asia blog:

Adobe’s ‘Mean Streets’ videos have been tearing up this week’s Advertising Week. Beautifully summed up by this post, it parodies click fraud hilariously.

Like most great videos, it is successful because it speaks to the proverbial ‘unspoken, but human truth’ – that everyone in the industry knows these practices are rife – but also that they’re just dumb! This knowledge should make us all squirm.

Unfortunately, from an Asian context, I’m sad to say our region mainstreamed many of the inauthentic scourges of; buying fake fans/followers, engaging click farms to boost video/banner views and promoted astroturfing (see Chinese Water Army).

Click fraud, inauthentic paid shill and botting have no place in our industry.

Just last week my team sat in a meeting where a mobile marketing agency offered additional ‘value added services’ including; clicks on banner ads, competition entries, page likes, etc. When it was highlighted that these practices were not just unethical, but kind of silly, they replied that it was the only way to demonstrate low CPM and high ROI when benchmarked against KPIs for competitor campaigns. WTF??
Again, this is where the Mean Streets video using the metaphor of drugs gets it spot-on. There are too many in the industry addicted to the output – rather than the power of the outcome that comes from ‘pure engagement.’ People, if the KPIs look ridiculously too-good-to-be true, then they almost definitely are.

Read up on the ethical code of conduct from industry bodies like the IAB and WOMMA – they are there for an important reason. Personally, I have never (and will never) recommend or encourage a client to engage in this kind of behavior. I would fire anyone who works for me that does – even just for the stupidity of recommending something fake.

I applaud agency leaders in our region like Ruth Stubbs, who not only feels the same about click fraud and bottting – but have gone on record to talk about the complexities and how her agency and the industry are seeking to stamp these practices out to deliver certainty to clients.

I close with Ruth’s great advice, which every client and agency should be able to answer:

  1. Clients should be asking their agencies – what processes/technologies do you have to mitigate advertising fraud? How do you work with publishers when suspect activity is detected?
  2. Agencies should be asking publishers – what about make-goods/refunds/traffic quality and sources, and what they are doing to mitigate exposure.
  3. Publishers should be asking themselves – where do these amazingly cheap eyeballs come from? Why do we not offer full transparency? Why don’t we pay attention to ad viewability metrics and just get rid of the dross that delivers all those millions of impressions that will never be seen by a human?



(Digital) Crisis and Issues: It’s Time to Certify the ‘Experts’

September 16, 2014

This article was originally published on the Zeno Group Asia blog:

‘Selfish content marketing’ are three small words turning up a lot these days. That phrase should send shivers down the spine of the entire industry. Events of the past week are going to get a lot of brands to (re)consider their position — not only on social media and content marketing, but potentially marketing as a whole.

Just examine a small sweep of brand carnage over the past seven days:

My point here is not to scaremonger — this online environment has been reality for a while and not everything challenging that happens is a crisis — which is the first question you should ask yourself.

The issue with the above is that brands made their own proverbial beds here with bad content choices. Not raving fringe-loony complaining consumers, or brand haters, or online trolls – as is often explained away.

And potentially how does this ‘selfish content marketing’ happen? Sometimes it truly is unfortunate, for which a quick mea culpa suffices. Otherwise it is — no professional advice, ignoring professional advice or wrong professional advice.

My strong belief is that it is now time to certify or accredit a person who says that they can manage issues or full-blown crises for brands – with many now originating or amplifying online.

When I lived in London in the 90s, I met with BSI (British Standards Institution), who told me that one of the biggest inhibitors for the industry was that there was no legal requirement for organisations to use a professional marketing or public relations firms – except in mergers and acquisitions and in some crisis events. The BSI tried to rollout a certification program for the PR industry, but I don’t think it ever caught on.

The ‘father of modern PR’ Edward Bernays despaired how anyone could set up shop as a PR practitioner and spent the latter years of his life arguing for industry regulation and accreditation. During 1999 dotcom boom, the Singapore government even announced a goal to certify all people and industries that delivered professional advice to companies.

              One of many apologies from DiGiorno Pizza following their #whyIstayed Tweet

However, when it comes to social-digital, it seems like every agency, across most specialisms make claim to have the capability to counsel and support brands around crisis management. Like Bernays, I despair when I see articles or presentations published from people with various backgrounds and industries claiming ‘5 ways to manage a social media crisis,’ or ‘8 tips for crisis management planning.’ Slideshare can only get you so far buddy.

Would anyone claim to have the skills to oversee an organisation’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) program, if they didn’t really? Oh that’s right, running an OSH program requires training and if you set one up without proper certification, then you could go to prison. Then why should claiming to have the capability to protect and promote a brand or company’s reputation be any different?

Don’t get me wrong. I know a few brilliant crisis management counselors who have not been able to translate their traditional expertise into relevance in a social-digital world. While any accreditation scheme should also call out that skills gap, these people are much less likely to put a brand at risk in today’s world, as the foundation behind a smart digital crisis infrastructure originates from this traditional world.

It’s too hard to accredit our entire industry – and I’ve never been one for over-regulation generally. However, when it comes to brand protection – with the stakes so high — organisations should have some way to discern expertise.

Maybe it’s time for the marketing industry bodies to work in partnership with the PR ones to come up with consistent certification approach for crisis experts. Maybe its time for a couple of brands to set minimum acceptable skills and experience for people who advise – esp. in social and digital marketing? Doesn’t mean that brands will necessarily follow the advice, but hopefully they’ll get good advice.

I make the Zeno Digital Crisis Diagnostic (downloadable here) available to all clients to get them thinking about much more than tools and stance – which is what most agencies talk about. If you’re working with a crisis agency partner, then test them out on their added-value across what we call the three pillars of risk intelligence. That should be a fun conversation.

So, take a pause while laughing at John Oliver’s hilarious argument against brands being on Twitter and consider the consequences if brands we were to believe #WeUnderstandThatAsCorporateEntitiesOurPresenceInCertainDiscussionsIsNotAlwaysRequiredSoWeWillStriveToLimitOurActivitiesToJustSellingYouShit.

Certification is not the only answer to avoiding this fate — but it will help.

NOTE – I have no doubt that there will be questions about my creds in this space, so here you go (at the bottom of post).

Twitter’s Analytics Dashboard: A Crash Course for Brands

September 2, 2014

NOTE: the following was written by my colleage Syafiq Rahman and was first published here.

Last week, amongst a slew of announcements from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, Twitter announced it would be opening up its analytics platform to all of its users. Yes, everyone — even the average user next door.

Though many might not take an interest in engagement metrics beyond a simple curiosity about how much attention their tweets are getting, access to Twitter analytics opens up new doors for community managers and digital marketers to gain insights into their communities and pull out top-line actionable data which can inform community strategy and content.

We’ve pulled together a crash course on how to use Twitter Analytics:

How To Access:

For now, you can’t get to the dashboard through your home screen, so go to while logged in to your Twitter account.

Right away, you’ll see three tabs that you can access: Tweets, Followers, and Twitter Cards.

Tweets Tab:

This tab allows you to decode the performance of your tweets, by providing metrics such as how many impressions your content is generating and how many engagements result. There are also some useful graphs provided on the right side of the page covering Engagement Rate, Link Clicks, Retweets, Favorites, and Replies over a 28 day period.

Let’s start with the Impressions chart:

Also covering a 28-day period, the chart gives you an idea of what is working with your audience and what is not by breaking down the performance of your content into easily digestible numbers.

Image courtesy of


Under the Impressions graph, you can access data for your Tweets only, Tweets together with Replies, or Promoted Content. From the image above you can see that this Twitter account has 255.4M impressions over the last 28 days, a top-line indicator that the account has been doing well. Improvements and declines in numbers are color-coded for easy interpretation.

Below the impressions chart, you will also be able to see top-line Impressions, Engagement, and Engagement Rates as well. This provide very good insights as to whether your Tweets are resonating well with your audience, or simply going unnoticed in their feeds.

Image courtesy of


Click on a specific Tweet, and you’ll get data on how that piece of content performed over the first 24 hours:

Image courtesy of


As you navigate through the Tweet tab, here are a few definitions:

  • Impressions – Number of times users saw this tweet on Twitter
  • Engagements – The total number of times a user has interacted with a Tweet. This includes all clicks anywhere on the Tweet (including hashtags, links, avatar, username, and Tweet expansion), retweets, replies, follows, and favorites
  • Engagement rates – Engagements divided by number of impressions
  • Link clicks – Clicks to URL in tweet
  • Retweets – Number of RTs
  • Detail expands – Number of times someone clicked on a tweet for more details
  • Favorites – Number of Favorites
  • Replies – Number of Replies

Moving on to the right side of the Tweets tab, you can see some of the other metrics (Engagement Rate, Link Clicks, Retweets, Favorites, Replies) being represented in graphs. Similar to Impressions, these are covered over a 28 day period with daily frequency, enabling you to zoom in to the period of time when your content did exceptionally well. For example, the image below shows that this Twitter account saw a spike in engagement on August 20.


There is also an export function, so you can save your performance data in Excel format for retrospective perusal and reporting. The screenshot below shows a sample of the output:


The Tweet tab is extremely useful just to get a sense of how content is performing and how to tweak content strategy to align with what your audience finds useful and engaging.

Followers Tab:

Next up is the Followers Tab which provides an overview of demographic information of people who are following you. In addition to providing a breakdown of gender, geographic origin, and interests, the app also provides insight into who else your followers are following.


Here lies the usefulness of the Followers tab, because it opens up the opportunity for community managers to better tailor content to their audience’s palate. If your followers are most interested in Technology and Tech news, the ideal next step would be to start publishing more technology-specific content and even tech news.

Location and gender information will also go a long way in helping you determine and refine content strategy. For instance, the graph above indicates that a significant portion of this account’s followers come from Singapore. This makes location-specific content (e.g. Singaporean holiday posts, buzz-worthy content specific to Singapore) extremely relevant for this Twitter account. The only thing that this does not have is an age breakdown.

Some Definitions for the Follower Tab:

  • Followers by interest – Top 5 unique interest of your followers; Top 10 interests of your followers
  • Followers by country – Top countries, states, cities
  • Followers by gender – Gender breakdown
  • Followers by followers – What your followers are following other than you

Twitter Cards Tab:

Twitter Cards allow you to attach rich media experiences to Tweets. Via this tab, you can evaluate their performance off your Twitter Cards.


In a nutshell, Twitter Card analytics tells you how many people are clicking through to the URL that has been posted along with your tweet and the relationship between Tweets, Impressions, and URL Clicks.

The tab also presents data in Change Over Time graph, to outline trends related to performance of that content.

Lastly, Twitter Cards analytics also gives you a detailed breakdown of the click rate of the different types of cards that you have been using. You can also find out how effective your Twitter cards have been relative to industry benchmarks, so you can refine your Twitter Card strategy over time.


Some Definitions for the Twitter Card Tab:

  • Snapshot – provides a holistic view of how your content is performing on Twitter, showing the number of Tweets containing a link to your website or app
  • Change Over Time – compares the top performing Twitter Cards that drove clicks, allowing you to measure the results from different types of cards that you have implemented
  • Sources – segments the apps, websites, and widgets that your influencers tweet from
  • Links – ranks the pages with Twitter Cards that got the most clicks, making it possible to determine what content is driving the most interaction
  • Influencers – surfaces the top accounts that tweeted links to your content, so that you have the option to converse with influencers
  • Devices – indicates the percentage of users that have viewed your Twitter Cards that also have your app installed

All in all, Twitter analytics is a treasure trove of insights for marketers, on who their audience is and what kind of content is resonating with them. For companies using Social Media Management Platforms, you’ll already have access to a lot of data — on top of which Twitter analytics adds additional layers of insight that can inform and shape your strategy.

From our perspective, the most useful pieces of data can be found on the follower tab. In the short run, understanding your audience will lead to the most immediate changes and adjustments to content and community tactics and strategy. Imagine if your followers follow a popular gaming magazine and you’re a brand looking to better engage them. Courtesy of Twitter analytics, you’ll now know that initiating collaborations with that publication could very well be the answer.

#WorldCup2014 – People Eating Up Suarez Real Time Content

June 27, 2014

Ok, bad joke, but amazingly I was going to write a post about what brands can do to cut through the noise of fans’ newsfeeds and take a deeper look at  #WorldCup2014 branded content, then on Wednesday #cannibal became a global trending topic, as Luis Suarez (allegedly) to a chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder (quick gif replay here in case you missed it)

Even if you have not been watching the #WorldCup2014, you’ve probably heard about the incident and have to admire some of the creative ways brands took to engage in the conversation following the incident. Some of my favorite takes:

Best Suarez ContentBest Suarez Content

Best Suarez Branded Content

The Suarez incident allowed ‘brands to show, once again, that they’re “hungry” for real-time marketing opportunities’. Only real-time content allow brands to tap into the most relevant conversations your audience is having at any point in time, participate as part of that conversation, and add meaningfully to it by providing some emotion pay off or utility to your audience.  While the Suarez opportunity has gained the most traction, there are so many conversations happening on a day-to-day basis that the opportunities to create real-time content are never richer than during marquee events because of the scale and the volume of participation. Case in point, the game between Brazil and Mexico from June 16 resulted in a slew of great memes focusing on the performance of Guillermo Ochoa.



As per my previous post, #WorldCup2014 is already the biggest-ever global event for social media. Updated data from Facebook showed that “141 million users had posted 459 million interactions to their site during the first week of the World Cup. That’s more people than posted during this year’s Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the Sochi Winter Olympics, combined”. Brand content from sponsors and non-sponsors alike is making up a healthy slice of these interactions as everyone tries to get in on the action. Nike and Coca-Cola account for close to 660,000 mentions of the total 1.4 million tracked across Twitter for official sponsors after the first week. But the challenge in creating real-time content like the examples above is not easy.

Both from a structural and operational perspective, you need to align design teams, copywriters, and community managers in a process that allows them to jump on key opportunities and create content on the fly. Brands have to start by properly defining their personas in social spaces, how and what they will comment on with respect to real-time events/conversation, and the themes you want to play off of.  Without nailing down these basics, you risk running afoul of fans.

Following that, the process map below provides a guide on how content can be created within a 2 to 4 hours window:

Real Time Content Cycle

  1. Start with trend spotting. Look for trends that are relevant to your brand and would be appropriate for you to comment on. The key is to ensure that your brand injects value into the conversation and brings new perspectives to your audience.
  2. Once the trend is locked down, a quick brainstorm for ideas around content concepts and creative executions is useful. Use sites like Buzzfeed and Reddit as inspiration and for a check on what content is resonating with audiences at any moment in time.
  3. After the content is developed and posted, track the performance.  If it’s doing well, use a bit of your paid media budget to amplify it to drive reach and engagement.


If you are not quite ready for real-time content, planned content can still have a significant impact – with my next post providing tips for planned content at key events – whether large or small.  In the meantime, enjoy the best memes and branded content the Internet has to offer from #WorldCup2014.

Personally, I am still waiting to see some real-time content around Mexico’s Coach Miguel Herra.


What #WorldCup2014 Teaches Us About Social Media at Events

June 23, 2014

150 million tweets were sent during the 2012 London Olympics (more than 2012 US elections and Super Bowl combined), something no one expected at that time. It was named the first truly social Olympics, and social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – became the breaking news platforms for news organizations and Olympic fans alike.

Fast forward 2 years, and Ellen DeGeneres breaks the record with over 3 million retweets of her star-studded Oscar selfie. While the selfie alone garnered 32.8 million views, up to 3.3 billion Oscar related tweets were recorded during the course of the telecast.

There is no doubt that social media has become the companion medium for those participating in marquee events. In the multi-screen, multi-channel era, consumers no longer consume programming from one source. They are sharing the highs and lows via social media networks, engaging with like minded individuals, and celebrating or commiserating as part of a global community.

#WorldCup2014 conversation levels on Twitter and Facebook are already reaching new highs – with CBS saying it’s already bigger than the Olympics and Superbowl combined! 19 million social mentions were tracked before the first match between Brazil and Croatia, while 12.2 million tweets about the game alone was sent out across 150 countries post-match.

Eden Hazard #worldcup2014

Congratulatory tweet by Eden Hazard for Brazil winning goal most retweeted Friday morning.

Knowing this World Cup would be the most social event in history, both Facebook and Twitter created dedicated pages on their platforms to track #WorldCup content shared (here and here) and to serve as hubs for tournament fans.


Facebook and Twitter both released World Cup 2014 pages

Facebook and Twitter both released World Cup 2014 pages

Social media has and will continue to reshape the landscape for marquee events – with brands as the primary beneficiaries. Brands continue to invest heavily in sponsorship for events such as these as it makes commercial sense for them to do so. Over the past 20 years, Nike and Adidas have earned $1.9 billion and $2.4 billion in soccer revenue. In addition, Visa has also revealed that expenditure during World Cup 2010 hit $176 million in South Africa and that promotions associated with events like World Cup or Olympics Games delivered 20% higher return on investment.

So how is social media changing marketing for these events?

Nike and Adidas campaigns for World Cup 2014.

Nike and Adidas campaigns for World Cup 2014.

Besides the usual World Cup sponsors, we also see non-official sponsors like Beats by Dre release commercials starring football icons Neymar, Mario Götze, Jozy Altidore and Chicharito. The 5 minute video by Beats received 17 million views within its first week, and created so much attention that the headphones are now banned by FIFA and are ‘everywhere in Brazil – except on the pitch’. The amount of news coverage thus far shows just how a successful brand campaign can drive significant attention for its products, by leveraging these events without having to be an official sponsor.

Beats unofficial at #worldcup2014

Beats unofficial at #worldcup2014

So what can us as marketers learn about the use of social media from #WorldCup2014? How can we apply strategies to drive sales and ROI for future marquee events? We see three key evolutions/revolutions that we’ll track over the next little while:

1. content development and creative perspectives
2. community management
3. paid media strategies

In follow up posts I will include observations and learnings from this year’s event on those three themes, as well as strategies that can be applied by brands to leverage for future events – whether large or small. Back soon… just have to run off to see a replay of that heart-breaking Portugal goal again…

Science, Social Good, Standing Out and Storytelling – My Fearless Four for SXSW 2014

March 14, 2014

They say everyone’s SXSW experience is a different one. 2014 was my first – and as the saying goes ‘Everything is Bigger in Texas!’ The advice I got was generally good – focus on connecting one-on-one (#tick), pace yourself (#fail) and don’t do shots after 1am (#failagain).

So, with 30,000+ people, hundreds of events, over five days spread across the entire city, how do you choose a Fearless Four? Actually, when I sat down and reflected on my personal experience – it was quite easy.

  • If I’d had a chance to demo Games of Thrones on Oculus Rift (my biggest SXSW regret), it would definitely had made my Fearless Four! However, without further ado, amongst the four days of craziness here’s what stood out for me:
  1. The Science of Storytelling by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Definition of fearless? The day before you premiere a television program rolling out to half a billion viewers, on over 220 outlets in 181 countries around the world – with a special introductory message by President Barack Obama – you deliver the most engaging and entertaining keynote of SXSWi!

Tyson’s conversation with Scientific American editor Christie Nicholson had a strong impact on everyone I talked to. His ability to tell stories about the wonder we all have for the Cosmos and his ability to speak directly to the science geek that lives in all of us, truly stood him apart – and he deservedly won the Best Speaker Award for SXSWi – it wasn’t even close.

This Mashable article covers many of highlights and if you can track down a video, sit down and watch it – which is what I’ll start doing with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this week. A wonderful reminder that great stories, well told, move everyone.

  1. Geeks Getting Purpose

This article, summarizing Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks (which I was not at) does the job of best relaying the overall feeling that I had – that SXSW wants to be much more Renaissance Man (ok, Polymath…) than its reputation as Geekfest. There were many strong conference tracks on topics as diverse as; science, behavioral psychology, sports (Shaq keynoting… hello?!?), creativity etc. However, there was no stronger feeling I got wandering around then that participants truly want to do well by/through doing good. While inane ‘Best Selfie Ever’ shots were everywhere (thanks, Ellen!), the huge range taken at the Social Good Hub, with people holding up cards to display their beliefs and cares on a range of issues felt more authentic – well, for a selfie anyway…

  1. International entreprenurs Work Hard to Stand Out (OK, be noticed…)

The SXSW Trade Show was HUGE! HT to my boy Marshall Manson who suggested I take the time to visit all the country booths, which I did. In fact, I was so busy I wasn’t able to join Marshall on his annual pilgrimage to Crawford (45 mins away) for the best BBQ in Texas – which was my loss. Anyway, I digress. Being from outside the USA, I spent a lot of time at the international exhibits, often run the by the country trade development board – e.g. the Korea, Japan, Brazil, Chile, Spain, Singapore etc.

What I saw were some very smart international entrepreneurs struggling to get much interest from the primarily US-based crowd and getting drowned out by the bigger and more accessible exhibitors. For example, The Ireland stand was directly beside the Geeks from Gangnam (Korea). Maybe it’s because the Irish are always good for having the craic, but the Irish were always packed, while Korea (otherwise known as the most wired country on the planet) was relatively quiet.



If you’re at SXSW next year and smart, you’ll get past the language barrier and seek out the international entreprenuers. For example, this year you would’ve been wowed by Amootoon (Korea) who is producing web cartoons in a variety of formats within a week, currently for free, or Nana Music (Japan) an app which allows people to co-create music or lyrics, or Gushcloud (Singapore) which is one of the many innovative ad format/networks popping up across Southeast Asia.

Fearless kudos to each of these entreprenuers, who despite challenges around timezones/language differences/focus on US domestic etc were out there building connections, partnerships and sales!

  1. Forget the detail, just get me the ImageThink!

Many were the times I wandered past the ImageThink booth and reviewed their boards from the main auditorium keynotes. Many are the times I thought ‘wow.’ I was at that session and missed those important points. Many standing around me clearly felt the same. Much like deGrasse, if everybody – in every industry – could package their story/thoughts/words as an ImageThink board, the world would be a much simpler place…

20140309_150820And let’s not forget host city Austin. My first time there – just a wonderful vibe and beautiful city to wander around. I’ll be back – hopefully for SXSW 2015, if not before…


Hong Kong: Social, Mobile, Photo, Commerce

May 31, 2012

Fourth in the Edelman Digital APAC series of market overviews on the current status of social media across the region, compliments of Hong Kong lead Sue Chan.

For brands in Hong Kong, 2012 marks a year of social media transformation with mobile at center stage with Facebook still as the leading platform for sharing and, often, public and political discourse. More than 50% of the population has a smartphone, and on average 1 person holds 2 mobile phones. However, despite this saturation, mobile shopping is still evolving. We previously did a survey which showed:

  • Despite the high penetration in the community, 35 percent, the direct impact of smartphones on shopping is still developing. Smartphones in Hong Kong are heavily used by a younger demographic (aged 21-29) for researching and on-the-go information gathering of products and services (e.g., places to eat out, finding phone numbers, and reading movie reviews). Comparing prices and sharing pictures of intended purchases (or of meals about to be devoured) is also common.
  • However, on the whole, these smartphone users do not make purchases on their devices, with only a small percentage saying they had done so. Those that do confined those purchases to what they consider low-risk items (cheap and easy to obtain products, generally priced under US$20). Fear of lack of payment security, and possible fraud, increases reluctance of making purchases by smartphones.
  • When probed further, most respondents stated that they preferred to go to a shop and try a product themselves, even if they were relatively sure about its reliability beforehand. In fact, most stated that they find storefronts to be more convenient and fun places to shop when compared to online buying.

Going forward, it will be increasingly important for brands to have solid identities across social media channels and to leverage the real-time intimacy of digital and mobile in areas of customer service, in-context ads, personalized content and community-sourced feedback. Further, niche sites like Pinterest and Instagram are part of Hong Kong’s exploding landscape of mixed media, and are platforms with high potential for innovative brand campaigns in the future.