As my alarm clock went off, I suddenly remembered it was no ordinary working day—ILN had invited a select group of clients to an Aston Martin driving day at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire… and the sun was shining!
There was a real sense of expectation as, over a cup of coffee, we listened to an informative talk from John Muirhead, Brand Communications Manager at Aston Martin Lagonda Limited, about the heritage of Aston Martin. It was the name of Aston Hill, near Tring, that Lionel Martin decided to join with his own name when he first thought about building an individual car.
John spoke about 2013 being a landmark year as the company celebrated its centenary, which was covered in Aston Martin Magazine and a special centenary book, both produced by ILN. I attended one of the centenary events in Kensington Gardens last July, featuring the country’s largest gathering of the marque’s iconic British sports cars. It was a blistering hot day and a real treat to witness such an historic event.
After John’s introductory talk, the fun on the track began. Clients were taken in a selection of Aston Martins to experience various driving experiences that Millbrook has to offer on its 700-acre site, including its 4.5-mile high-speed Bowl, hill routes and passenger laps.
I was lucky enough to be taken out by Richard Hope, an extremely knowledgeable and experienced driving instructor, and was thrilled to drive the Aston Martin DB9 Carbon Edition Coupe around the Bowl. I was suitably impressed by the way the six-speed automatic gearbox and adaptive suspension helped to balance out the imperfections on the road.
I then experienced one of the most exhilarating moments of my life: neutral steer. I was told to accelerate to 75 mph in the third lane and then, with my hands on my knees, I continued to accelerate until I was going over 100mph in the fourth lane. Breathtaking!
Our clients had an equally thrilling time courtesy of ILN and Aston Martin. “Such a pleasure and a privilege to be able to drive Aston Martins for the day,” emailed Mike Bonner, Silversea Cruises’ General Manager for the UK, Ireland and Middle East. “The highlight of the day had to be reaching 165mph on a mile-long track driving the Vantage S V12—simply awe- inspiring. A legendary brand creating such a memorable day.”
For Jo Smith, Head of PR and Advertising at Daks, it was a “fabulously unusual and exciting day out” with her instructor literally getting her up to speed. “It was exhilarating, the Vanquish Coupe was fabulous and surprisingly very easy and uncomplicated to drive. I did a top speed of 170 mph—something I have never done before and may never do again.”
As I arrived home, I was greeted by my excited 10-year-old son, who thought I was allowed to drive the DB9 home. Imagine his disappointment when he looked out the window to see our VW Golf sitting there!
Online video has been a growth area for some years and is threatening to take the place of images as the most popular way for people to engage with brands on the web, but why? In my efforts to give a simple explanation to this phenomenon I would first like to refer to a well-known phrase said to be coined by Frederick R Barnard in the early part of the 20th century to describe the effectiveness of graphics in advertising: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words and video displays thousands of pictures, in mathematical terms a one-minute video would equate to around 1.8million words, according to Forrester Research.
According to networking group Cisco, video will account for 69 per cent of all consumer internet traffic by 2017, with video-on-demand traffic alone having almost trebled by this point. Having researched the subject over the past couple of days, I am yet to find any indicator that does not support this view.
Video is the future of content marketing. Brands that fail to include this as part of their marketing strategies will do so at their peril.
YouTube, for example, receives more than one billion unique visitors every month – that is more than any other channel apart from Facebook. With one in three Britons watching at least one online video a week, video can give you access to a weekly audience of more than 20 million in the UK alone. What other form of content can do the same?
If a video goes viral, it can give a brand a massive boost. For example, a recent campaign from Volkswagen saw a trio of its videos viewed a combined 155 million times.
A personal favourite of mine, meanwhile, is the latest offering from the infamous Old Spice series featuring Mr Wolfdog, which lit up its brand through a YouTube campaign that delivered videos in response to community feedback. The community responded by extensive sharing and video embeds. And the result? Increased sales and visitor traffic to site. By how much? 107 per cent sales increase and 300% increase in traffic to http://oldspice.com no less…
The importance of integrating social media and the various video sharing options the platforms can offer cannot be stressed enough. The “share option” is an immensely powerful tool that can effectively multiply the reach by allowing consumers to engage and interact with their peers as well as with the brand – the success of the campaigns above depended on this.
Mobile and tablets should not be ignored either, with video tech company Ooyala reporting a tenth of all video plays appearing on these formats, with mobile phones holding 41 per cent more share of video consumption at the end of June 2013 than at the start of that year.
Furthermore, brands are now starting to understand the value that video brings to search engine optimisation strategies. With the introduction of Google Penguin and Panda updates, creating high-quality content such as video that will attract links will be crucial. Studies have shown that sixty-two per cent of Google universal search results feature video these days and video is 50 times more likely to earn a higher page rank than plain-text pages.
Some businesses may be turned off to the idea of video due the production cost – and not possessing the 12-digit revenue streams of the brands mentioned above. However, production costs have fallen significantly over recent years and you no longer need to be a technical wizard to work out how to use video platforms. With the introduction of the Instagram video feature – which allows users to share short video clips – and rival app Twitters Vine, the opportunity for business on a limited budget have dramatically increased.
Just as long as you remember to create engaging content that will hold the attention of the audience, it doesn’t matter whether the video is a photo montage, animation, testimonial, behind-the-scenes documentary or an original start, it will work wonders for any marketing campaign.
Until recently, most websites were developed at a fixed width to fit the “average” monitor size. Sometimes, a separate version of the same website was also created specifically for smaller mobile screens. However, the limitations of this approach became apparent as the range of screen sizes increased due to the soaring popularity of smartphones, tablets, notebooks, laptops, internet-enabled TV, PCs and countless other devices.
Luckily, “Responsive Web Design” exploded onto the scene in May 2010 when Ethan Marcotte introduced the technique in his blog article on A List Apart. Websites were no longer fixed width, but could seamlessly adapt to present content optimally on any screen size.
ILN recently redeveloped the Boodles e-commerce website (shown below) and adopted a responsive approach. Responsive website design is now firmly established as a core component of our offering, and provides many business advantages over a traditional fixed-width approach.
Responsive website ILN recently launched for Boodles
Save money on mobile development
Creating a single responsive website generally takes less time and resources than the traditional approach of developing a master fixed-width site with additional stand-alone versions targeted at different screen sizes or devices.
Lower ongoing costs
Testing, supporting, maintaining and updating a single responsive website instead of multiple fixed width sites can significantly reduce ongoing costs and complexity. Content only needs to be added once, and will automatically be displayed optimally for all visitors.
Enhanced user experience
The overriding emphasis of responsive web design is a laser focus on user experience. This means that site content will be presented to all visitors in a clear, user-friendly manner, no matter what device they use. This can increase visitor satisfaction, build trust and encourage repeat visits.
As smartphones, tablets, notebooks, laptops, internet-enabled TV, PCs and other web devices become ever more widespread, it has never been more important to ensure that a website is accessible for all users. A well-developed responsive website increases a website’s potential reach by ensuring that every visitor is well served.
Increased mobile sales
The mobile shopping revolution is already underway, with IMRG, the online retail association, reporting that 27% of all online sales, worth £3bn, were placed on a mobile device during 2013 in the UK, with further growth expected this year.
Consumers seem to be comfortable shopping on their smartphones and tablets, so companies wanting to sell online should invest in a properly optimised responsive website to ensure that potential customers are well catered for.
Search engine optimisation
Unlike a traditional multi-site approach, responsive websites have a single URL and set of files. This allows for more efficient and targeted search engine optimisation campaigns with a joined-up approach across all devices.
Google remains the king of search engines, so it pays to listen to their advice and recommendations. This article by Google explains why they recommend responsive web design when developing smartphone optimised sites.
Google finds it easy to index content in a responsive website, resulting in improved search engine results. As no redirection is required to display the site on a smartphone, page-loading time is reduced, giving a further boost to a site’s ranking by Google. Responsive sites are also more likely to be returned for Google searches that have been conducted on a mobile device.
Responsive websites are designed to work seamlessly on any device and screen size, so are inherently future-proof, and ready for all internet-enabled devices. Technology has matured enough that a well-considered responsive website created today will continue to perform for many years in a fast-changing digital landscape.
There are many advantages of responsive websites over a traditional fixed-width approach. Although the initial planning, design and development work required for a quality responsive website can be considerable, the performance gains and long-term benefits should not be ignored.
At a recent press conference, Boris Johnson declared London to be “the tech capital of the world”. From Silicon Roundabout start-ups to global brands such a Facebook choosing to relocate, London has a profusion of tech talent and innovation, which is flooding into the well-established media industry of the city. The arrival and continued influence of adaptable websites, tailored apps and digitally targeted advertising make digital media a force to be reckoned with.
Hugely powerful smartphones are the ubiquitous accessory for modern life with, according to Forbes magazine, more than seven in 10 of us owning one while new ways to use them keep popping up every day. And from geocaching to google maps, technology is altering the way we interact with our physical surroundings while digital products themselves collect accurate data on how we interact with them and respond accordingly. No wonder print products and advertising are having to become more targeted and specific, particularly in the fast-paced realm of the luxury market.
Print and digital are not at war—to create the best products for advertisers and readerships, a more holistic approach is needed, combining the targeting capabilities and ubiquity of smartphones with the quality, longevity and emotional potency of print. Converging the physical and the digital is an idea that has been seized upon by games companies such as Xbox and Disney and publishing is beginning to cotton on.
Interactive print, or augmented reality, is a hybrid technology that harnesses the benefits of both screen-based and print technologies. It bridges the gap between digital and print media, giving us an immersive, engaging product that delivers statistics and data feedback and, in turn, can be used to update products to keep them fresh.
Interactive print has been embraced by magazine publishers such as BBC Magazines and Condé Nast, and by brands from Nissan to Heinz. No longer limited to scanning QR codes, using a standard printing process and an app downloaded to your smartphone you can interact with printed matter to display exclusive content, videos, games, 3D and dynamic experiences, social media options, mapping and ways to buy. The interactive pages use image recognition, so there is no need for any watermarking or QR codes that might interfere with the look of a page. As well as the added editorial intrigue, interactive print has more perceived value and increased reader engagement, so are beneficial to advertisers, too.
Key to interactive print is making additional digital offerings accessible enough for a reader to activate them, and compelling enough to keep the reader interacting with the product. Currently there are only specific apps for accessing specific content, but this hasn’t stopped many brands utilising the technology to great effect. Shoppers at IKEA can use their catalogue and app to digitally impose furniture into their homes to see if it suits. Radio Times readers can see covers spring to life and create 3D environments through their phones. Waving your smartphone over a Heinz ketchup bottle transforms it into a cookbook for you to digitally peruse. Adding this interactive element instantly makes the product more engaging and more sharable, giving an edge in a competitive market.
The challenge for interactive editorial content is to ensure that it is interesting and relevant enough, while not incurring too much additional cost. The up-take of this technology is still in its infancy but, according to hi-tech analysts Juniper Research, the number of augmented reality app users could approach 200 million by 2018. I believe it would be a great move for print to embrace it.
With the centenary of WW1 just around the corner, I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in the ILN archives. In doing so, I’ve discovered that the Illustrated London News and her sister publications are, perhaps, the source of the most complete journalistic, photographic and illustrative WW1 news archives in the world.
The reason for this is simple: when the war started in 1914, the ILN published a collection of eight titles that appealed to such a broad demographic that just about all groups were represented.
I was surprised as I flicked through these wartime issues by the amount of advertising, which seemed somehow out of place with so much war news. But as I looked closer, I realised that many of the ads were directed at the families of soldiers serving in the trenches. Thinking about it, I suppose it was not so odd because, by 1918, 74% of our national resource was diverted to the war effort and almost everyone had a family member serving in the armed forces. Then, as now, if you wanted commercial success, you had to target your audience carefully and appeal to your readership’s needs and desires.
In 1917, Fortnum and Mason were offering “Christmas Cheer” hampers for delivery to troops in the trenches of Passchendaele, in northern France. Meanwhile, the intended recipients were enduring terrifying artillery bombardments that turned the fields into apocalyptic cratered landscapes eight miles wide. The craters filled with mud so deep that it was not uncommon for soldiers (and their horses) to lose their footing and sink beneath the mud, never to be seen again.
I can imagine that a soldier receiving such a treat would share the goodies with his mates and between them, for a short time at least, escape the horrors that surrounded them. However, I find it incongruous to think of these splendid hampers being delivered to such a wasteland on Christmas Day—but only if ordered by 14 December. It’s curious to think that that last date for dispatch would be much the same today if you wanted to send a Christmas hamper to northern France.
But advertising to the families of combatants was not just about providing a distraction, it also enabled them to overcome their sense of impotence and to provide some assistance to their young men in the line of fire.
As a child I imagined that if I went to war I’d wear a bullet-proof jacket to protect me, so it was to my great surprise that I discovered an advert from The Wilkinson Sword Co selling their bullet-proof jacket which they claimed would “resist a 455 Government revolver bullet. No longer an experiment, but of proved effectiveness and utility. They constitute a precaution that should be taken by every officer.”
As a junior officer in the Great War you were required not simply to order your men “over the top” from behind, but to lead them from the front. With their son’s life expectancy at around six weeks, families would do anything they could to extend that. These jackets were fitted with pockets into which were set small square steel plates. In reality, subalterns seldom came up against 455 rounds from a revolver at 20 yards, but stepped up into a maelstrom of shrapnel and machine-gun fire at 400 rounds per minute.
Some adverts for war-related products might seem a little strange when viewed from a 21st-century perspective: after the armistice, a Sanatogen advert—with the tagline “Nerves won the War”— appeared, apparently directed at sufferers of what would now be referred to as “post-traumatic stress disorder”.
Others were rather cuter: the ad for the Decca Portable Gramophone, which was probably aimed at fiancées and sweethearts, asks the question, “Can you think of a more delightful gift to send to your soldier friend?” and features images of men in the trenches enjoying a tune or two, no doubt while the maelstrom continued unabated overhead. It seems that commercialism thrives in wartime as in peace, and that there is a degree of truth in the saying “Wars are good for business”.
For licensing of London Illustrated News archive images please visit: http://www.maryevans.com/iln