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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Search just got interesting again

All the talk yesterday was about the long awaited Yahoo/Microsoft search deal, but that was only half of the story when it came to how competition in the search market has ramped up.

The launch of Bing in May finally paved the way for the 10 year Yahoo search deal and the search engine will now be integrated into Yahoo as it's search platform. There is no doubt that the deal furthers Steve Ballmer's insatiable need to take on Google and with just under a third of the search market Microsoft finally look like they could gain some traction.

However, what Google and Microsoft have yet to crack is the newly emergent real-time search model. Two developments occurred on Wednesday that took this into new territory. Twitter relaunched their homepage and switched the emphasis away from followers and into search and arguably turned itself into a destination portal. Some argue that this won't actually benefitted users, however as websites become less important to users and the importance of web presence becomes more and more essential the body shift from Twitter makes sense. At the same time the newly launched improved it's already impressive offering by adding an additional layer of search capability with video and images.

Microsoft has got bingtweets in beta and Google launched search options back in May but the improvements in realtime search is going to keep the big boys on their toes. Ultimately the smaller players look like acquisition fodder, but the longer they stay ahead of the curve and hold out against a takeover the more expensive the battle's going to be to win. Certainly Wednesday will go down as a pivotal moment in the field of search and certainly from the marketing community's perspective Wednesday's announcement was music to the ears.

Crispin Heath

Head of Digital

Friday, 10 July 2009

Is consumer trust online misplaced?

It's true that trust in the Financial Sector is at an all time low, but the sector is not unique and many brands are suffering from the loss of corporate trust amongst consumers.

From a digital perspective you'll hear many commentators stating that the trust model now lies squarely with peer to peer relationships. You'll trust your friends, those your linked in with, your followers etc. before anyone else, but why? When it comes down to it, alot of what we're relying on is someone's (and yes it's often one person) opinion or experience. On the whole they're unlikely to be an expert in the subject (unless you have a profiled set of friends that can provide you with expert insight across your entire consumer need portfolio) and maybe that's fine if you're buying a T-Shirt but actually if you're looking for a SIPP product or a new mortgage you'll still need some advice even if you've had a decent lead.

In terms of the maturity of online ratings and advice models across a whole spectrum of products we're not there yet in the UK and while peer to peer recommendation is becoming more and more important aggregating that opinion in a meaningful way is not there for every sector yet.

In Financial Services we've still got some work to do before we can reach the same sort of user experience as in the US. There are some emerging in the UK. Martin Bamford recently announced the imminent arrival of which if it fulfils it's promise will provide a powerful knowledge resource for personal finance, but we're going to have to be a wee bit more patient before we throw all our eggs into the peer to peer basket. We're seeing glimpses of what the future could hold but we're currently at the bottom of what could prove a huge mountain.

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Friday, 3 July 2009

70 is the new 68

Lord Turner just 4 years ago shocked the nation when he published his report into the state of the UK’s pensions system.

Well I’m actually a bit of a fan of Lord Turners, but it just goes to show that a little Hero worship is a dangerous thing!

For no sooner than he releases it, than this week he announced that he got his sums wrong and that my expected retirement age of 68 is just too much of an aspiration. No for me I must head back to the marketing salt mines for another two years until I’m the ripe old age of 70.

What for me, is the crux of this story is that, on the plus side we are seeing a continual improvement to life expectancy this positive spin is however challenging the retirement income market to almost breaking point.

On an almost on a daily basis we’re told that the funding of retirement will continue to be a major concern for future governments and generations alike. Recently to give some scale to this issue a phrase has been bandied around that means that you should stop worrying about the ‘Credit Crunch’ and start to worry about the ‘Demographic Crunch’.

There was a great article by Dominic Lawson in this weekends Sunday Times that outlined the issues and scale of the problem well.

Anyway I’m off back to the salt mines and will be scrubbing Lord Turner from my Christmas Card list upon the way.

David Mccann
Group Planning Director