Microsoft Inspire 2020: keynote takeaways

Microsoft Inspire 2020 kicked off on Tuesday – this time in an online-only format. Like the rest of the partner network, we were disappointed to miss out on attending in person (last year, Queen and Adam Lambert played – yes, it was epic). But it hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the highlights from the comfort of our homes. Vegas will still be there next year.

As well as the Nevada sunshine and musical headliners, another regular highlight at the Microsoft conference are the annual keynote addresses. In case you missed it, we’ve put together the main Inspire 2020 keynote takeaways from the speakers on the first day, which was led by Gavriella Schuster (Microsoft Corporate VP of Commercial Partners) Judson Althoff, (Executive VP of Worldwide Commercial Business) and Nick Parker (Corporate VP of Consumer and Device Sales).

The COVID-19 pandemic

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was a central talking point for this year’s event. The speakers celebrated frontline workers throughout – highlighting how they continue to make daily life possible. Schuster, Althoff and Parker also commended the many Microsoft partners that have built solutions to help the world adapt to these trying times.

Althoff referred to the ‘digital first responders’ behind frontline workers – those that have built rapid solutions to make continued education, remote working and accessing necessary services possible. He praised these people for connecting the world digitally and helping communities to move forwards.

Accelerating the cloud shift

Althoff explained that the growth of the cloud is still crucial in helping customers achieve their economic goals:

‘Our solution areas, our cloud capabilities – from modern workplace through security, business applications, apps and infrastructure, data and AI – across Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure – these are the ingredients that will help customers persevere in these difficult times.’

He continued by explaining that the world needs this innovation now more than ever. He called on partners to help in addressing customers’ needs – whether they have the consulting practices that bring these virtual solutions to life, or the assets and intellectual property as an independent software vendor (ISV) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider.

Opportunities for remote working

On the topic of remote working solutions, Schuster explained that the pandemic has changed the way we work forever. She referenced how demand for Microsoft Teams has surged, and highlighted how the real transformation could be seen when customers learnt the ‘full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution.’

To expand on this point, Schuster turned to Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) as a notable opportunity for partners moving forwards:

‘With WVD, organisations can get up and running in minutes from the Azure portal. You have the flexibility to choose the virtual machines, the regional locations, and you can set up multi sessions for the users...You can manage that environment and turn it into a managed service opportunity – without much heavy lifting.’

Moving towards Managed Services

Schuster told her audience that now is the right time to meet customers where they are. She said that, with customers uneasy about big up-front costs, it’s possible to develop a managed service practice and show up as a hero to the customer.

‘What happens if you don’t take this step? Now may be the time. Maybe this year, your investors are expecting a little less from you, and the customers are asking for monthly terms. You can make the investment into managed services that will help your customers and build your business long-term. And if you don’t have the resources for all this support, this is a great opportunity to partner together.’

Partners were ready for this moment

Perhaps the most inspiring part of this keynote was Schuster’s comments on the Microsoft partner ecosystem. She explained that, while there is uncertainty all around, the MPN manage it by creating certainty – wherever they can:

‘You were built for this moment in time. You are the certainty...we were ready because the solutions we’ve been building together over the last 18 months are the same ones our customers need right now – solutions and services around remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migrations.’

Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

5 top PPC trends 2020

Whatever you can say about 2020 so far, nobody can claim it’s been uneventful. Businesses, markets, economies – they’ve all been on a rollercoaster ride in the months since the clock struck midnight, the fireworks went off, and this year began. And the world of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing hasn’t been sitting still either. As a digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five, I’ve been closely monitoring recent changes in the paid media world and evaluating how they impact the marketing landscape and how new developments allow us to better serve our clients. In this blog, you’ll learn my discoveries and what they mean for your business. Let’s explore the top 5 PPC trends 2020 has seen so far.

1. The rise of automation

Although some marketers have regarded automation with suspicion – and others have outright rejected it – it’s becoming a reality we can’t avoid. And one that’s starting to show significant benefits.

More and more marketers are adopting Google’s responsive ads and Facebook’s automated ads. Facebook’s offering hasn’t yet delivered the results we’re looking for in our tests, but the format is still young, so time will tell if they will improve PPC performance in future.

Google’s responsive ads achieved a click-through rate (CTR) of 5.69% in a recent PPC campaign – compared to a 4.32% CTR via the expanded text ad format. It’s a promising start, which might owe something to the fact the Google’s responsive ads were launched earlier (May ‘18) than Facebook’s (Dec ‘18).

In any case, it’s clear that automation is definitely the way the wind’s blowing. Here are three of the biggest benefits of getting on board with the trend:

  • Higher CTRs: Google’s responsive ads performed 5.75% better than expanded and converted 8.5% better.
  • Easier to understand: the Google Ads interface allows users to see whether their ad’s quality is good enough or need improvement.
  • Saves time: Optimise your ads and achieve better results with less manual tweaking and experimentation.

Now I’ll run through some top tips for making the most of PPC automation:

Be smart when building ads

Now you have a smart tool that tells you whether your ads are good or bad and whether you’ve inserted the keyword enough in the text. Be smart and select the best-performing keywords to implement in the copy so your ads will perform even better.

You’ve got time now. Use it well!

I’ve often faced the challenge of not being able to optimise negative keywords because I don’t have time. In the past, monitoring ads often required going through worse performing ads, analysing what isn’t working and talking to the writing team to improve them. That’s over now, so we can focus on other more important matters like keywords and improving audience targeting. For example, Google Ads provides the option to target a specific audience sector and it offers stats that help you see whether those audiences are performing. Marketers are also able to tweak the bid for each audience, which is an excellent way to use the time that automation is helping you save.

2. SEO and PPC are now a team

This year has also seen search engine optimisation (SEO) and PPC working increasingly closely together. These two disciplines are indispensable to a digital marketer’s toolbox, and their new convergence means that together they offer even more value. This PPC trend 2020 introduced is a victory for joined-up digital marketing: when all the elements fit together and work perfectly.

Here’s how SEO can help to improve PPC performance:

Increased visibility

By running a PPC campaign along with SEO, you’re ensuring your website’s traffic increases considerably and also you’ll give the impression that you are a permanent presence in your market.

More keyword data to analyse

Running SEO and PPC campaigns together means you can see and analyse a wealth of additional data that will enable you to make more informed decisions in your global marketing strategy.

Best-performing PPC ad copy informs organic content strategy

It’s useful to see which of your ads work well and lead to maximum conversions. You can then create title tags, meta description and content using these as your basis, learning from what has worked for PPC.

3. Audience targeting is getting better

More and more businesses are realising the importance of accurate targeting of their digital marketing, and of offering potential customers valuable content. At Fifty Five and Five, we’re already long-time devotees of the art of content marketing, so it’s good to see others are reaching the same conclusions we have.

Here are the most effective ways to reach your target audience via PPC:

Define your audience via personas

Defining your audience involves more than selecting the right keywords or targeting the correct audience in Facebook ads. By creating our own consumer personas, you’ll be able to be more specific and accurate with your targeting and ensure you’re building the right audience across all the different channels.

Offer useful and relevant content

Content isn’t just about getting the client’s offering out there and waiting for leads to come. Don’t just try to trigger clicks: provide content that responds to their needs at that moment. Using the right tone and expressing the intention to help will reach your audience and encourage them not just to click on the ad but go further, completing a lead form or visiting the website the ad links to.

Build a relevant audience in each platform

Each platform is different and they’re continually changing. It’s recommended to stay up to date with the latest news, so you can be a useful, credible authority for your audience. They have questions, and you want to be the one with the answers. For instance, if they’re following you for digital marketing news and insights, they may ask: “should we use hashtags in Twitter ad copy?” Or “should we build an audience on LinkedIn based on skills or job titles?” Keeping up with new announcements means you can provide the information they’re looking for.

4. ¡Viva el video!

Video is one of the most engaging types of content available to marketers, and we love to work with the format because of the amazing results it can deliver. The better optimised the video is, the better results you can get. For example, our latest video campaign on LinkedIn reached a view rate of 34.25% – which is higher than the benchmark provided by LinkedIn.

So how can we make the most of video content to create very successful campaigns? Here are our tips for the fundamentals:

  • Briefer is often better. Usually a short length of around 30 seconds is best.
  • Focusing on the content is the key. Be dynamic and get straight to the point.
  • Music matters. Don’t annoy your audience with a distracting background track.

5. It’s time for portfolio bidding

This is really clever and useful stuff, and a topic I’m fascinated with – it could be one of the most exciting PPC trends 2020 has brought. I could write an entire blog on the subject, and perhaps one day I will. But for now, let’s take a look at what portfolio bidding is and what it offers.

The PPC bidding portfolio is a library where you can store different bidding strategies used across campaigns and ad groups, as well as keywords, to help you reach your goals.

Here’s why I think the bidding portfolio is very cool:

  • It helps you to ensure all your campaigns are fully optimized at all times, giving you the best chance that they will succeed.
  • It saves lots of time in managing each campaign’s budget and it also gives you more control over what you spend.
  • Its new seasonality feature lets you tweak bids for specific periods of time. This means you can align them better with other activity.

I think you’ll be hearing the words ‘bidding portfolio’ more and more in digital marketing conversations as time goes by, so my advice is to get acquainted with it sooner rather than later. My prediction: it’ll get to the point where you wonder how you managed without it – like all the best developments.

What will be the next PPC trends 2020 brings?

I hope this article has been useful and that you’re finding these changes in the PPC landscape as interesting as I am. The year’s not over yet, and there’s still time for new trends to emerge before we usher in 2021. It’s a fast-moving world – let’s see what’s up next.

Illustration meeting giant cookie on whiteboard

No more third-party cookies. What’s next?

The digital world has been rocked by the news that Google plans to completely phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome, its web browser.

Why has Google made this decision? When do they want to have finished phasing out third-party cookies? What does that mean for internet users, businesses, and digital marketing?

In this blog, we’ll explore how the changes will affect everyone, as well as the steps businesses can start taking in order to make the transition.

But first things first. Some of you may be wondering, “What is a third-party cookie, anyway?” Let’s cover that quickly.

What are third party cookies?

Cookies record your individual preferences for the websites you visit. They’re used to identify individual users and give them a personalised browsing experience – the website ‘remembers’ who you are, so what you see is tailored to you.

  • First-party cookies are created and stored by the website you’re visiting at the time – a first party. They’re used by them when you visit to collect analytics data, remember preferences such as your language settings, and generally ensure that your user experience is smooth and personalised.
  • Third-party cookies are created by sites other than the ones you’re visiting – third parties. They’re commonly used to track users across multiple sites, and for retargeting and serving ads to them. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been “followed around the internet” by an ad or product which appears time and time again wherever you go, it’s likely you’re seeing third-party cookies in action.

Internet privacy issues

Being tracked around the web using third-party cookies and served targeted ads is an experience many find pretty spooky, and one that some find downright creepy. These sentiments are part of a wider backlash that’s taken place recently, critical of businesses seen to be compromising internet users’ privacy for commercial purposes. Tech ethics in general is a huge talking point right now, from data protection discussions around legislation like the GDPR to responsible deployment of AI.

Google is one of many companies making efforts to be on ‘the right side’ of Internet privacy. Back in August 2019, they announced their plan to develop a set of open standards to enhance privacy on the web: the Privacy Sandbox. The ultimate goal is for someday all a person’s browsing data to be stored in this ‘sandbox’, on the user’s device, instead of in cookies. And this data will also be anonymised for privacy compliance.

Phasing out third-party cookies is the next step toward that goal. The likes of Firefox and Safari have already phased them out, but Google is taking a more drawn-out approach, over a period of two years, to ensure that online advertisers can make the transition successfully. As of March 2020, the Google Chrome browser accounted for around 63% of the global market share for internet browsers. That’s why, although others have already blocked third-party cookies, this is the definitive event that truly sounds their death knell.

But what does all this mean for you, in the here and now?

Major consequences for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

These developments are sure to impact the world of paid media advertising very significantly. That’s because PPC ads rely heavily on using third-party cookies, and data gathered using them, to find, identify and target marketing prospects all over the web.

However, all is not lost. Even without third-party cookies, there are still ways to achieve highly targeted and effective marketing.

What are the alternatives?

  • Targeted ads in social media. You can launch targeted ad or promoted posts in social media. You can target audiences in terms of their industries, demographics, and similarities with your own followers.
  • Contact list retargeting. Retarget prospects on your contact lists on platforms including LinkedIn. Your contact list is cross-referenced with their member list, so you can serve ads to leads you’ve already identified.
  • Make the most of first-party cookies. You can still use first-party cookies on your site to obtain valuable user data. This can be used to refine your personas, create campaigns and improve your marketing.
  • Ramp up email and content marketing. Use existing and new data gathered via first party cookies, social media insights and more to make content marketing and email marketing really hit the mark.

A web without third-party cookies

Although the death of third-party cookies may pose some initial problems as businesses and markers phase them out and adopt other forms of marketing, in the long run it’s a necessary step toward fostering greater trust.

It’s also an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. The more other businesses and consumers trust that your data protection practices are above board, the more comfortable they’ll feel sharing their own data and giving you their custom. As with most tech ethics issues, the winners in the world after third-party cookies will be those who turn data protection into a point of pride, not a thorn in their side.

Want to discuss how you can make the most of your marketing without third-party cookies? Get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

Onboarding: Lockdown style

Hi, I’m Roxy - Fifty Five and Five’s newest employee. Except, there’s a bit of a twist – I haven’t met any of my co-workers yet. Let me share my experience of onboarding during lockdown.

At the time of writing, I’m in my fifth week as a full-time employee at Fifty Five and Five. That means my first day occurred after the rest of the company had already packed up their monitors and laptops and set up at home.

If, like me, you were looking for a job around February, you probably experienced a fairly familiar recruitment journey, perhaps including a telephone interview, followed by a face to face meeting and so on. But as the recruitment procedure progressed, it became quickly clear that this wouldn’t be any normal recruitment process. From then on, the whole experience happened virtually.

Luckily, the experience was a success, and I managed to find myself a new role during the lockdown period. So, I thought I’d share my experience.

Virtual job interviews: A learning curve

Virtual interviews have been around for a number of years and shouldn’t really be that different from a face to face interview. In fact, I discovered that the more I treated it like a face to face interview, the better I’d be able to manage the situation. That meant preparing and doing my research in exactly the same way as normal, and thinking about the environment around me:

Where should I do the interview?

Am I comfortable in that environment?

What should I wear?

These are fairly simple questions that any one of would ask in this situation. But my main goal was really to make the experience as close to the real thing as possible – nerves included. So, I went about this process as I normally would, choosing the appropriate clothes and planning my questions and answers in advance. On top of that, I thought it wise to make sure I had a stable internet connection and a plan B in case anything went wrong on the spot.

It’s all about saying yes

On a normal day, the onboarding process starts as soon as you say yes to a job offer. Of course, I was delighted to get mine – but lockdown had certainly made the situation a touch more difficult than I expected when I first applied. I was a bit worried about starting a new job remotely, about having to get to know people remotely, making a good first impression and learning the ropes entirely from behind a screen in my own home.

So, how do you make such an important decision, involving people you haven’t met and will continue to not meet for some time? It was a tricky question, but in the end I realised that my new employers had probably had the same thought when they considered whether to take a chance and offer me a job. In the end, all it takes in these situations is for somebody to say “yes, we can make this work” and approach it with a positive attitude. So, after a little thought, I decided that I’d do just that – and, so far at least, have had no regrets.

Onboarding in lockdown 101

Once I’d accepted the job offer, it was time to prepare for my first day in the virtual office. I went through this process as if it were a regular first day. This included makeup, shirt and smart trousers – and even the right shoes. A lot of it wasn’t so much about impressing people via Microsoft Teams as it was about feeling like I was in the right headspace for starting a new job. I urge any of you starting a new job to do something symbolic to mark the start of a new role, whether that’s sipping coffee in your new mug, putting on a tie or even just re-arranging your desk. Sometimes the feeling of ‘new’ can really help.

From then I started my first Teams call and was officially an employee. Here’s a few things I learned in my first week as a Fifty Five and Five employee.

1. Introduce your e-self

As with all first days, we started with my colleagues introducing themselves and talking about their roles. I found it tempting to try and get every detail down – but it’s also important to take the opportunity to introduce yourself. In my case, I’d had three introductory calls before everyone knew who I was and where I come from. I then took a couple of minutes to also speak about my previous experience and what I wanted to bring to the team.

2. I hope you like Microsoft Teams

Meeting everyone in lockdown felt different, but I remained optimistic and positive. I wanted to learn as much as possible about my colleagues, so when we’re back in the office we can shake off the awkwardness of seeing each other for the first time in the flesh. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up post on how that goes down…

To my surprise, Microsoft Teams became a trustworthy friend in this experience. From the great quality of the calls, and being able to leave reactions to messages, Teams is really the glue that’s keeping the team connected right now.

But as well as that, from the comfort of my own home, I got a glimpse into who my colleagues were as people; sneak peaks into their hobbies, personalities and families. That made getting to know everyone a strangely unique experience - not being allowed to meet them in person, but also seeing more of their personal lives than you normally would during months of sharing an office. It bought us closer, which was an experience I wouldn’t have had outside lockdown.

3. Onboarding: Step by step

As a person who’s had a few onboarding processes, I must admit that my recent experience has so far been the best yet.

Allow me to explain.

Before the lockdown began, you’d start a new job with someone from HR walking you through the office, introducing you to colleagues, only to forget their names as soon as you reach your designated desk. Then you’d be added to countless meetings and by the end of the day, you’d be riding the tube with a double shot espresso at 7 pm hoping you’d get enough energy to make it to your bed. It’s a draining process.

My experience in lockdown was far better. My team lead organised an agenda stretched out over my first week and I got facetime with absolutely everyone in the company. I even got my own buddy (Hi Paulina!) - a colleague outside of my team that could talk to me about the company, culture and answer any silly question I had, of which there were plenty.

One thing I was really grateful for was that all the information I needed to start my job was stored in the cloud and was easily accessible from my kitchen. Apps like Notion, Dropbox and Asana were invaluable in helping me find processes, documents and keeping me organised.

Onboarding: Physical vs. virtual

Nothing beats meeting your colleagues in person and working your way into the team. But I’ve certainly learned that virtual onboarding has its benefits.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, you get to turn your webcam off if you’re having a bad hair day. But as well as that, the lack of a commute is helpful, allowing me two more hours each day than I’m used to (I live in London after all). That meant I had a little bit more time to let information sink in and work out the ropes at my own pace. This gave me the breathing room I needed to develop a better sense of the internal processes and understand the bigger picture of how my work impacted everyone else’s. That meant that a process which would normally take a few months took a just a few weeks.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering whether it’s the right time to hire a new employee, or start a new job – take a little bit of advice from me. Almost anything is possible as long as you say yes. If you think the role and the company are the right fit, then go for it. It’s a new feeling for everybody involved but with a little positivity (and a lot of patience) absolutely anybody can do it.

Meet the team: Laura, digital marketing executive

We recently caught up with Laura Lopez, a key member of our Demand Gen team. She told us a bit about her working life at Fifty Five and Five and what she loves most about her job as a digital marketing executive.

Hi Laura. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Laura Lopez, digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five. In my role,  I cover most fields in digital marketing. This includes PPC, social media, SEO, and the strategy behind these fields as well.

Where are you from?

Zaragoza, Spain.

What did you study at university?

Journalism. I loved it at first and still love writing but I realised later on that journalism wasn’t right for me.

Where did you work before Fifty Five and Five?

Directly before Fifty Five and Five, I worked for a technology company in the Microsoft partner network. At first, when I started, I was so taken aback by all the Microsoft acronyms, I didn’t understand a thing. I spent the whole time trying to work out what all the Microsoft tools were doing. But now, I’m an expert. That experience really set me up well for this job. Sometimes I feel like a nerd. A Microsoft nerd.

If you had to pick a favourite area of digital marketing, what would it be?

Pay per click campaigns.

That was a quick answer.

I like working on Pay Per Click campaigns the most. PPC is more straightforward in terms of getting tangible results, fast. When you drive a lead gen campaign, you actually see people responding to your ads. Seeing people react to all your hard work is very satisfying.

Describe a typical working day… in the office.

In the office? The one that we don’t have access to at the moment?

If you can remember life before lockdown?

Ha. Ok. So, the day starts with me catching up on my tasks and projects. If there are paid media campaigns running, the first thing I would do is check on that. To make sure everything is in place in terms of budget, in terms of links, making sure everything works correctly.

Then I start catching up with SEO, to make sure we are on top of any updates or any algorithm changes that have happened. And the same for social media – for instance, if there are any notifications or mentions we need to be aware of for our clients.

Then we have our ‘stand-up’ meeting and I start in on my list of tasks for the day ahead.

It sounds like a busy schedule.

Yep, but it is enjoyable, rewarding work and we have a great team here at Fifty Five and Five that supports us.

What’s the stand-up meeting?

This is our daily meeting in the morning, where we meet with the entire company and quickly go through our priorities for the day. It's a nice way to catch up with everyone, but also to make sure we are on track and on the same page with all of the various projects going on.

What’s your favourite part of the day?

I think what I like most is analysing data and finding out the reason behind the performance of ads and campaigns. For example, when there’s a campaign going on, I enjoy checking in to see how it has progressed. Analysing how many leads we’ve got over the day and understanding why that has happened. This might sound a little bit weird, but I even enjoy having a quick check over the weekend. Even when I don’t have to. Just to see how it’s going.

So, this is 24 hours, seven days a week PPC?

Well, actually, when I am tired of Netflix, I go to LinkedIn and check it. Just to see if there’s anything exciting going on… ok, I am joking. Whoever is reading this is going to think, woah, chill out.

But, seriously, what I enjoy the most is research. Normally we come up against many challenges, because a lot of the work we do is quite technical and best practice is always evolving. I find SEO quite challenging in this respect. And so, what I enjoy most is when I research something and suddenly the light comes on and I find the answer to a problem. That is the happiest moment of the day, of the week.

I said that I love PPC because it delivers results fast. But I also love SEO because you never stop learning. And when you figure out an answer which helps you overcome a challenge, it feels great!

What skills do you think are needed to be good in your role?

Perseverance. Because some projects can be quite time – and energy – consuming.

It is important to have a positive attitude. It’s hard work. But it’s rewarding work. You know, I was only half-joking about looking at LinkedIn on the weekends. You might laugh but PPC is quite exciting sometimes.

Another important skill is wanting to learn. Being very open to the latest news, announcements and developments in every field. You should be… I don’t how to say it, but it’s important to be an expert in what you do, but at the same time you need to be open to what is going on in other areas of marketing, or technology, so that you can respond to challenges with a broad view and with a contextualised understanding. Because digital marketing is always a mix of different fields. Being open-minded and willing to learn is crucial.

What do you like about Fifty Five and Five?

The people… obviously. I love all the people at Fifty Five and Five. It’s a great team. If you need something, someone is always willing to help you.

There’s also always room for you to investigate your way through things. There’s no “it can’t be done” attitude. I like the freedom to be able to work on my own projects in my own way, but also, at the same time, knowing that I have the full support of the team.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in your role?

I would say: always ask questions. There are many new things coming up every day. And it’s difficult to keep up, so we have to help each other.

Also, because things keep changing, it’s always good when someone comes in with a pair of fresh eyes. So, it’s really useful, when you are new, to speak up - because it can be helpful for the whole team. And everyone brings different experiences and skills to the job.

If you had to start again… in life… what would you do instead of marketing?

I don’t know. I started out in journalism. But I realised I didn’t like it. Maybe photography? I have always enjoyed that.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

Before the lockdown my favourite thing was going out and exploring South London. I’m looking forward to doing that again soon.

Thanks Laura!

Illustration woman with magic broom

What we can learn about AI's ethical issues from Disney’s Fantasia

As technologies like machine learning proliferate across every aspect of our lives, they’ll also appear more and more across the business technology landscape. So, now is as good a time as any to explore an important question for AI research that all kinds of organisations will need to be aware of. Why is it important that AI is ethical? And, specifically, what are the ethical dilemmas associated with AI? To answer that, I’ll draw on a source you may not expect, which happens to be one of the most iconic animated films of all time. But first things first. Before we get down to the details of these ethical issues, let’s start by exploring what the ‘ethics of AI’ really means.

The Terminator lied to you

It’s vital that future applications of AI do good for humanity. In popular culture, we’ve often looked at AI as something that’s either intrinsically good or evil in terms of its intent. Often, it’s a sinister digital being that seeks mankind’s downfall: Skynetthe MatrixMegatronHAL 9000, etc.

This idea of AI having good or bad intentions is a red herring – at least right now, with the level the technology is at. We’re still a long way off machines with sentience or sentiments. AI is still very much a tool, with no intent of its own except what we programme for it. Terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are better applied to AI in terms of the end results of its actions. AI may be programmed with the intent to serve us well, but the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

There’s a story I often bring up when talking about the dangers of AI: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It originally appeared in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 18th century poem, but you might have seen it in Disney’s extravaganza of animation and classical music: Fantasia.

The sorcerer’s apprentice, played by Mickey Mouse in the film, is tired of cleaning the sorcerer’s home, so he enchants a broom to do the work for him. This is AI fulfilling the basic mission statement of all technology. Right back to stone tools and the wheel: we create a machine to do the work to save us time and energy.

So far, so good. However, the enchanted broom is so good at its job that the place is soon flooded with water. Poor Mickey didn’t programme it to stop cleaning or set the right parameters for what ‘clean’ means. All the broom knows is that it was told to clean. The situation quickly spirals out of control.

This is the danger that AI really poses for us, right now. Not an evil robot wanting to take over the world, but a tool that’s good at doing a task we’ve given it, and the instructions we’ve given it are flawed. Or, in the case of AI that learns how to make decisions and do a job by itself, that it has learned the wrong lessons. AI is a great student: we just have to ensure we’re a good teacher.

It's a matter of trust

Trust is very, very important when it comes to AI. Popular culture has already led to some distrust – the portrayals of the evil robots in the movies. But, in reality, we don’t connect these images with the many everyday instances of AI making our lives easier all the time. Alexa. Google. Snapchat filters. Amazon and Netflix recommendations. We already trust AI to do so much for us.

As time goes by, we’ll be trusting AI with even more important matters. Whether your self-driving car decides to speed up or slow down, or whether it decides it’s seen a plastic bag in the road or a pedestrian. Or an AI checking medical records for signs of disease. You want to be able to trust that it’s making the right decisions, which could potentially be matters of life and death.

Explain yourself, AI!

This need to trust AI is where a concept called ‘explainability’ comes into play. If your mortgage decision has been turned down by an AI, you’re going to want to know why – or at least know that somebody, a human somebody, can understand why. That the AI’s thinking can be explained in terms we understand and we can say “OK, fair enough”.

The problem is, the smarter AI gets, the more it’s able to look at data and draw its own conclusions. That’s kind of the whole point: we don’t want to have to be constantly supervising and teaching AI, but to be able to let it learn to do its job from the data it gets. But the smarter AI becomes, seeing patterns we’d never see in huge, complex datasets, the harder it is for us to understand its thinking. It’s making connections we never would, because it’s got access to more information than we can handle, and it can see patterns that we can’t see in both the big picture and the tiny details.

What’s in the (black) box?

This lack of explainability is referred to as the “black box of AI”: AI decision-making as a closed box that we cannot see into, and therefore we cannot trust. A machine intelligence that is different to our own, which we cannot count on to look after our best interests and act for good. This is how the villain of popular culture manifests itself in modern AI, but not as an evil robot. It’s a machine trying to a good job for us, a dog keen to fetch the sticks we throw, but such an advanced learner that its decision-making is beyond our understanding and may mean it’s not making the right choices for us.

Explainability poses huge ethical issues in AI research, and it’s a safeguard that AI developers are working to build into their software. As AI becomes more and more widespread throughout our lives, there is going to be a call from the public for these safeguards to be used in the digital tools they come into contact with.

The next hot-button ethical issue?

When an AI developer puts ethical AI at the core of its research, they’re committed to an aspect of AI that may become increasingly demanded. It’s an issue that already affects us all right now, but its importance is set to skyrocket in the coming weeks, months and years. With the advent of data protection regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we’ve already seen data protection and cybersecurity become hot-button tech issues of our times, and it’s likely that AI ethics will become another.

Responsible tech companies, and those trusted by the public, will be the ones who learn the lesson of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Instead of blindly getting carried away with AI’s potential to work for us more and more efficiently, we must also make sure it's working for us in ways we can trust.

If your business needs to communicate corporate social responsibility messages about AI ethics, data protection or sustainability in tech, Fifty Five and Five can help. We understand the issues and the technology and have the experience and expertise to tell your stories and make your selling-points shine.

Meet the team: Alex, writer

Today, we’ll have a chat with Alex Carnegie, a writer in our content team. Alex will tell us a bit about his working life and the insights he brings to our client base here at Fifty Five and Five.  

Hi Alex! Tell us a little about yourself. 

I’m Alex Carnegie, a writer at Fifty Five and FiveI come up with ideas and write copy for our clients’ content and campaigns. That can include website copy, articles, eBooks and whitepapers, as well as ad copy, social media and really anything else that pops up 

Who do you report to? 

I report to our Head of Content Stephen Reilly, who oversees anything we do with words in itOf all my colleagues, I’d say I work most closely with other writers, but my job takes me all around the agency. Most days I’m collaborating with designers, SEO specialists and the accounts team.  

Describe a typical working day 

It all starts with a coffee and checking my to do list. The longer the list, the stronger the coffee, generally. The main chunk of most of my day is sat at a computer, creating content and working on campaign concepts. This ranges across many different clients, which is great because it provides a lot of variety. Alongside that, I’ll also edit and proof-read other writers’ work, using the full Microsoft Word comment functionality. Some would perhaps say too much use… 

Sometimes, an entire day of time can be reserved to one client, for instance working on a big website project. For work like this, simply getting a hold on all the moving parts is a task in itself, there’s a lot of collaboration with our web design and development team. We spend a lot of time keeping complex projects like this moving, avoiding bottlenecks in communication or one person waiting for something from someone else before they can get their work done. I’ve no idea how project managers are able to keep all these plates spinning at once.  

What skills do you think are needed to be good in your role as a writer? 

The obvious one here is attention to detail in writing and a good grasp of the nuts and bolts of language. Spelling, grammar and generally knowing how to construct an effective sentence. But really, that’s the bare minimum. To write copy that’s engaging, persuasive and achieves what it sets out to, you have to really enjoy writing – even if the subject matter is challenging. This comes across in the final piece and helps you to find creative ways to say things, creative concepts, and make the work stand out. It’s more of a mindset than a skillset.  

In terms of writing skills, you need to be able to express your message, without leaving anything out, and still make an impact – often within a fairly tight structure. Writing banner ads and social copy is good training for this; it teaches you to write good copy and clear meaning within rigid character limits. Website copy is similar – another format that has to be very immediate punchy and attention grabbing.  

What do you love about your job?

Writing, as obvious as that sounds. There’s a sheer joy in finding the best way to say something, which gets the message across and does so smoothly, vividly, sometimes funnily, sometimes seriously and hopefully enjoyably. There are few things more satisfying than hitting the ‘Enter’ key after you’ve just written something really good. That’s why I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living.  

What’s the hardest part? 

Writing. When the right word or phrase has eluded you for an hour and is still nowhere to be found… it can be tough. A lot of writing is just staring at a blank page, and the gears are turning but no words are appearing. And then suddenly everything will come together at once and you’re left thinking ‘wow, it really took me half an hour to write that paragraph?’ But, as they say, the only way out is through – so you just have to keep trying ‘till you get there. 

What advice would you give to anyone starting out as a writer?

Make your peace with criticism; you’re going to get a lot of it as a writer. Some will be constructive, some less so, some will be more pointed than it needs to be, some will be genuinely frustrating and some of it will be just plain wrong. Many new writers get into a trap of seeing criticism as something they have to defend against, getting stuck in an endless cycle of taking criticism to heart and arguing with it. It’s much easier for everyone if you get used to the fact that you’ll get a lot of criticism – and try and take it in a constructive spirit.  

A comment or question might seem quite cutting in the black and white comment box – but at the end of the day we’re all trying to do good work. Don’t lose sight of that.  

Illustration women holding placards

Licences to kill: Changes to Office 365 licence types, from Office 365 to Microsoft 365

Something Earth-shattering has happened in the Microsoft world. From the 1st of May 2020, the tech giant’s flagship productivity suite Office 365 became Microsoft 365. We’ll explain what these changes to Office 365 licence types mean for businesses – and also consumers – and explore how this fits into a wider trend for Microsoft. Read on to learn more.

What’s in a name?  

Microsoft 365 has already existed for businesses since way back in 2017. That was when Microsoft first bundled Office 365, Windows 10 and more into one package: a step that many would describe as bringing us all closer to Microsoft-as-a-Service. More on that later.   

With so much overlap between the two offerings, abandoning Office 365 and going all-in with Microsoft 365 addresses customer confusion. As well as Office, the original Microsoft 365 package also included Windows 10, as well as Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security – a big draw for customers as well. This move is intended to simplify things, focus Microsoft’s offerings, and make it clearer for customers what’s available and what they should choose.     

The reinvented Microsoft 365 now offers all Microsoft’s indispensable business tools packaged in a series of tiers, from ‘basic’ to premium’. These new tiers correspond with the existing Office 365 packages. For instance, Office 365 Business Essentials is now Microsoft 365 Business Basic. Check out the table below to see how they’ve been grouped.  

Don’t panic! 

OK, we’re sorry for alarming you earlier. Maybe ‘Earth-shattering’ was a little over the top. Existing Office 365 subscribers don’t need to worry. As you can see, there are no changes to which Microsoft apps, services and features you receive. And the prices haven’t changed, either. Customers don’t need to do anything to move to Microsoft 365 – your subscription updates automatically.  

These changes to how Microsoft’s products and services are positioned may take some getting used to. It’s possible there could be more in the future as Microsoft refines their portfolio further. But for now, if you’re a Microsoft reseller or you work elsewhere in the Microsoft 365 or Office 365 ecosystem, there shouldn’t be too much disruption to your business.  

And there’s good news for new customers looking to get on board with the new Microsoft 365. Microsoft has announced that it’s offering small businesses six months’ free Microsoft 365 Business Basic. Right now, many organisations are grappling with the need to move to remote working as quickly as possible, catalysed by social distancing and the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. Right now, businesses need all the help they can get to maximise productivity and stay on track, so this will come as welcome news to many.  

Microsoft 365 for personal and family users 

The changes in Microsoft’s enterprise offerings are also accompanied by changes in the consumer sphere. Although businesses have been on board with Microsoft 365 for some years now, personal and family subscriptions are finally following suit with the arrival of Microsoft 365 Personal and Family.  

Microsoft has called the new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family ‘the subscription service for your life’. They’re packaging up everything for consumers, including the latest desktop and browser-based Office apps, 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage per person, 60 minutes of Skype calling, as well as advanced security features and tech support.  

Personal and family users will also have access to a range of new AI and cloud-powered features. They’ll receive more than 8,000 images and 175 looping videos from Getty Images, as well as 300 new fonts and 2,800 new icons for use in Word and Excel. They also get more than 200 new templates for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

MS Office features  

Microsoft’s Editor writing assistant is also coming to Word and, as well as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge Extensions. Forthcoming Excel features include Money, which helps consumers to track, manage and analyse their spending. And PowerPoint now includes the AI-driven Presenter Coach, which looks at tone of voice and grammar, helping people to give better presentations.  

There is also new functionality planned for outlook, bringing together personal and work calendars so users can better manage commitments in their working and personal lives. And a new Microsoft Family Safety app for Android and iOS allows families to manage screen time across Windows and Android devices, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles. Parents can easily monitor their children’s internet usage and gaming, set limits, and keep them away from age-inappropriate content. It also provides location sharing to help keep tabs on everyone and keep them safe.  

Changes to Office 365 licence types: The latest step toward Microsoft-as-a-Service 

Thchanges to Office 365 licence types is Microsoft’s latest move toward simplifying and consolidating their branding and services. It’s part of a trajectory that began when they first introduced Office 365 in 2011. When Microsoft’s Jerry Nixon announced at Inspire 2015 that Windows 10 would be the ‘last version of Windows’, it was another sign of where the future is headed: Microsoft-as-a-Service.  

Enterprise customers have had a while to get to grips with the as-a-service model and its numerous benefits. For instance: swapping sporadic, larger capital expenditures (CapEx) for smaller, regular and more easily planned and managed operating expenses (OpEx). Spotify, Netflix and other services have already gotten consumers used to consuming their digital content on a subscription basis, from consolidated sources. It seems Microsoft has decided that they’re now ready to extend this to their operating system as well as their word processor, spreadsheet, and other tools.  

Powered by the cloud revolution, this paradigm shift in the way we pay for and use our technology is changing everything, and it’s the way the wind’s been blowing for some time. We’re interested to see where the road will ultimately take us.  

10 common Google Ads mistakes to avoid (Part two)

Do the results from your Google Ads campaigns match the ambitions you set? Here are ten Google Ads mistakes to avoid so that you can achieve the results you are hoping for. 

Recently, I sat down with our two longest-serving paid media specialists, Laura and Maria, to discuss some of the Google Ads mistakes to avoid when running paid media campaigns. However, they were keen not just to highlight mistakes but also to earmark a few areas of the platform that are hidden away or less known.  

We had to split the blog into two parts, because Laura and Maria overwhelmed me with tips and adviceYou can read the first five mistakes to avoid here. Now, let’s take a look at the final five. 

Google ads mistake 6Forgetting about Search or Display is an easy mistake to make 

A nice easy one to kick off the second part of our list. But, as Laura and Maria both suggest, it’s one that is all too easy to forget about. When setting up a campaign, you need to remember to tell Google what kind of campaign you are running and which kind of network it is targeted at. 

Laura’s advice: When you are setting up a campaign, you have different steps you need to go through. These are: 

  • The type of campaign 
  • The name of the campaign 
  • The networks you are targeting 

You need to go through these and set up the right ones for your campaign. The mistake here concerns the last of these, networks. 

Google works with many partners across the internet. These are divided into Search and Display. Search ads are those you see at the top or bottom of the Search Engine Results Page. Display ads are graphic ads that appear on web pages, usually at the top or on the side of web pages – think of the banners at the top of a news article or a pop-up video that might appear midway through reading. If you leave both boxes ticked, your ad will be targeted at all of these partners. 

 If you are setting up a Search campaign, you don’t want it to be targeted at the Display partners. It doesn’t make sense to do this, but it is all too easy to forget to untick the Display box. This is a mistake that is easy to make when you are new to the platform. 

Google ads mistake 7: If you don’t use a benchmark, you won’t know what to expect 

When starting any Google Ads campaign, it is important to have a good idea of what to expect. This way you can plan accordingly. By looking at previous campaigns with similar budgets you can get an accurate forecast of what is achievable. 

Maria’s advice: Not analysing the data is a huge mistake. Everyone needs to analyse the data. 

You need to compare a new campaign with previous campaigns that had similar objectives and budgets. We always look to see how many clicks those previous campaigns achieved for the budget that was spent. This gives us a benchmark, which we can use to plan the strategy for the next campaignThis way we can show our clients that if they invest a certain amount of money, they will get certain level of results. 

This is incredibly useful. Imagine a client wants to spend £500 on three-month campaign. We can look at the benchmark, and it shows just what the impact will be. For instance, £500 might be used up in a week; it’s not enough for the results the client is hoping for – and we’ll suggest another strategy. 

Google Ads mistake 8: Not making use of ad extensions is a missed opportunity 

Ad extensions are the small additions you see directly underneath an ad, usually consisting of side links or extra information. Google lets you add all sorts of useful information here and making best use of these is an important part of running a successful Google Ads campaign. 

Laura’s advice: “Using ad extensions is one of the many things that Google puts forwards as an example of best practice. They highly recommend it, because it drives traffic to your ads and results in a good click-through-rate (CTR) for your campaign. What’s more, it’s tactical. You can take up as much room as possible from the search rank, to push you up and competitors down.” 

“You can add as many ad extensions as you want. You can include an address or contact details or links to other pages on the web site. You can connect to Google Maps, which will provide directions on how to get to your business. You can even add a phone number as a link (a “call side link”), so that when it is clicked it automatically begins a phone call.” 

These are all tools which simplify how the user can get in touch with you. It’s important to use these, especially if you are a local business offering services for local people. If a campaign is local to city, or even on a national level, this can be really useful. 46% of all Google searches are linked to something local. So, it is a big mistake not to take advantage of this.” 

Google Ad mistake nine: You should optimise your ads every day or you’ll miss out 

It’s really important to keep monitoring the performance of your ads. By looking at the data you can find ways to optimise themLaura and Maria recommend doing this every day. Here, Laura gives an example of one area you can exploit. 

Maria’s advice: In general a lot of the work on a Google Ads campaign is done up front. You need to plan ahead for keywords and ad copy. But there are many opportunities to improve your ads once the campaign has begun. So, you need to keep an eye on how the campaign is developing, so that you can optimise it daily.  

Laura’s advice: “The campaign overview offers a glimpse of how the campaign is performing, providing the main highlights. One thing it tells you is the difference between devices – i.e. how your ad is performing on desktop computers or on mobile phones.” 

“If it performs well on mobile, there are things you can do to tweak your ad to reach mobile users even better. You could start by including ad extensions that work well with mobile users, for instance adding contact details or call side linksAs people are looking at the ads on the go, why not make sure the address is there, so they can get in contact if they are in the area. It’s important to take advantage of things like that. 

Google Ads mistake ten – If you don’t use rules, you risk unnecessary errors 

If used correctly, Google’s Rules can give you greater control over your campaigns. As Maria says, it’s a lifesaver and can prevent all sorts of difficult situations developing. 

Maria’s advice: “This was a big discovery for us. It’s really useful because it gives you more control over your ads – effectively, it prevents you from making mistakes.” 

“Usually we will use it for spending, but it can be used for anything. Sometimes, as we mentioned in mistake five in part one of this blog series, even if you set up spending for the day, it can go over, or even double. With rules you can tell Google when you want the campaign to stop, for instance at a certain time or under certain conditions. For instance, once you reach the budget, stop.” 

“Google doesn’t let you pick a total budget, just the number of days the campaign will run and the daily budget. If you don’t check that daily, Google can easily spend that budget in two days. So, if you set up rules, you can tell Google to stop the campaign if a certain amount of money is spent. It’s a lifesaver.” 

This is an important tool, yet many marketers don’t know it exists. Its a hidden one. Unless you went through a certain certification where you are shown the whole platform and how it works, you won’t know to use it. 

Realise your ambitions with Google Ads 

At Fifty Five and Five, our purpose is to help our clients realise their ambitionsWe plan, execute and manage a wide variety of paid media campaigns of all sizes and budgets. Over the years our PPC team has grown in experience and expertise – and some of the biggest organisations around the world trust us to run Google Ads campaigns for them. 

Lead generation secrets you need to know

It all starts with lead generation. And, according to marketing automation provider Nurture, 60% of marketers say that lead gen is one of their top three priorities, of which 26% claim it’s the highest. However, this cornerstone of B2B marketing can be the trickiest to master. At times, lead generation is more of an art than a science, making it hard for businesses to define concrete and actionable lead generation strategies. It’s a craft that needs to be honed if you want to practice it successfully. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some lesser-known, but highly effective, tips to boost your lead generation skills. Read on for Fifty Five and Five’s lead generation secrets you need to know.  

1. Understand lead magnets 

It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded, competitive B2B marketplace. It’s loud, crammed to the rafters, and you can easily get elbowed out of the way by other brands vying for attention. In these circumstances, first impressions really countthe first impression may be the only chance you get to create a long and fruitful relationship. 

Here’s where lead magnets come in. They’re the incentive you dangle in front of prospects in order to attract them to your business. Sounds a little cynical? Not at all. What you’re offering is something valuable: the solution to a business problem they face. It might come in the form of a piece of content, free consultation, or something else that helps them. And, if it’s good enough, it will earn you their business.  

2. Master the micro survey 

We’re living in a fast-paced, time-poor, low-attention world. More so than ever before. You can’t expect your audience to willingly answer 15-question feedback form. They’ll balk at being asked to take ‘just 10 minutes to answer our quick survey’. If that happens, you’ve just lost their attention – and their valuable input. The next of our lead generation secrets addresses this.  

Mastering the micro survey allows you to gain this vital feedback without subjecting your prospects or existing customers to lengthy, time-consuming questionnaires. If you can ask the right questions, with enough brevity, to deliver the data you need, then you’ll be able to create more effective campaigns, enhance your lead generation strategies and convert more of those leads into customers. The bottom line is that micro surveys will allow you to get insights faster and more often.  

3. Learn to mix it up a little 

As with all things in life, lead generation campaigns don’t last forever - no matter which combination of classic lead generation strategies you use. You may earn and convert dozens of leads over a short period, but eventually this will peter out. Every campaign has a shelf life. 

 Variety is the spice of life, and mixing it up, testing new approaches and staying flexible leaves you room to constantly transform. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to abandon the things that work, however. If one of your tactics is converting leads at a higher rate, maybe there are some tweaks you could make to keep it fresh or tap into a different audience. Try to always be evolving to meet the current needs and challenges of the market.  

4. Consider influencer marketing 

The consumer world has already enthusiastically adopted this trend, and 2020 looks to see the growth of B2B influencer marketing. Buyers trust other buyers more than they trust businesses or brands – that’s why the retail sector has seen an explosion of reviews on sites like Amazon. If you can harness this kind of credibility, it can do wonders for your business.   

Influencer and word of mouth marketing might even be more important for B2B than B2C. After all, B2C decisions are often thought to be more carefully considered and with greater consequences than consumer purchases. When you spend company money, you need to be able to properly justify any purchases you make. The realisation of this is causing more and more businesses to implement this strategy to boost their lead generation success.  

5. Don’t underestimate the landing page 

Imagine you bought a car online that promised a spectacular drive, guaranteed to blow your socks off. You get to the showroom and it looks like it’s gone ten rounds at the demolition derby. Even if it’s just cosmetic damage, you still wouldn’t want to get inside  no matter how well it drove. 

The same goes for a badly written, badly designed or dated landing page. A prospect will arrive full of good expectations, attracted by all the good work you’ve done with your lead generation strategies. This will all be immediately undone if they arrive on your unprofessional landing page expecting a Rolls Royce product but get a 1978 Fiat with no doors. Unless you make your landing page as effective as possible, can kiss that lead goodbye. 

Discovering and developing your own lead generation secrets 

We hope this blog has helped you develop your strategies for lead generation success by providing some useful areas to focus on. As time goes by, you – or your marketing agency – will discover and refine the tactics that work best for your business, brand or products.  

With time and experience, you may even develop your own set of tried-and-tested lead generation secrets. If you’ve got any top lead gen tips that you think are missing from our list, or you’d like a hand getting to grips with any of the existing, we’d love to hear from you.