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Blog post
June 24, 2019

Machine learning – just how predictable are we?

More importantly, what ethical considerations should be applied when using data and algorithms to target consumers?

Algorithms are already being used to help determine who’s approved for a loan, who is the best candidate for a job and which criminal is least likely to reoffend. But, how reliable are they… and what ethical considerations should be applied when using data and algorithms to target consumers?

Machine vs human – who is the winner?

In 2015, a study at MIT suggested that an algorithm could predict someone’s behaviour faster and more reliably than humans can. The Data Science Machine, created by a master’s student in computer science, was able to derive predictive models from raw data automatically – without human involvement. 

It’s fairly common for machines to analyse data, but humans are typically required to choose which data points are relevant for analysis. In three competitions with human teams, the machine made more accurate predictions than 615 of 906 human teams. And while humans worked on their predictive algorithms for months, the machine took two to 12 hours to produce each of its competition entries.

Fear not, this so-called fourth industrial revolution – where advances in computers, and artificial intelligence bioengineering are converging to change the way our world works – doesn’t spell the end for humans. It does, however, present an enormous opportunity for brands, marketers and communications professionals to more accurately understand consumers. Machines can be incredibly helpful, not to mention accurate, in analysing large amounts of data to inform decision-making with data.

Goodbye market research, hello Facebook

Historically, marketers and communicators have spent hours eavesdropping on research groups and pouring over market analysis in order to predict how humans will think and respond to a brand, product or service. With thanks to the emergence – and now domination – of social media networks, a whole new world of focus groups has materialised.

The way people talk on social media can be very different to how they talk in person. This means that the learnings from traditional focus groups often contrast greatly with what’s found from social media monitoring. Imagine, the power of combining these intelligent machines with a market research group of two billion-plus Facebook users.  Not only does this present the opportunity for to analyse consumer insights on scale, it also allows for insights to be measured in real-time. In an increasingly digital age where attention spans are short and audiences are fickle, the ability to be nimble with marketing and communications has never been more important.  

Listening to what works

Take for example, the work of make-up brand, Maybelline. When it launched its Hyper Sharp Liner in Hong Kong in July 2011, the product quickly became the brand’s No.1 liner. By 2013, the cosmetics market in Hong Kong had become increasingly competitive, with the emergence of new players with comparable products as well as competition from many other international cosmetics brands.

With the emergence of new players with comparable products as well as competition from many other international cosmetics brands, Maybelline decided to relaunch the Hyper Sharp Liner with a one-month integrated campaign that aimed to leverage off the increasing use of social media by the product’s target audience (15- to 25-year-old females).

By gauging the changes in the amount of buzz in social media about the Hyper Sharp Liner before and after the relaunch, Maybelline sought to understand how effective their strategy was. All the while, they mapped this against competitors’ buzz shares, measuring brand awareness and product perception for Maybelline and its competitors across major forums, blogs, social network Services, microblogs, and video and review sites.

This research was used to refine Maybelline’s strategy, and through the one-month communication campaign, Maybelline achieved a projected sell out of units. The a of the Hyper Sharp Liner, and also a significant increase against the average number of unit sold in 2012.
With the use of social media evolving at an increasing pace, this strategy verified social media channels significantly contributed to the transiting consumers from online to offline.

The ethical tightrope

The recent Facebook fallout highlights the scale of the moral dilemma today’s marketers must navigate – how much should we know about our consumers, and what role should ‘chief’ information, marketing and data officers play in ethical practices? While the field of big data is relatively new, the historic definition of ethical marketing should still apply: as a whole, brands should not engage in practices that result in negative or unsatisfying customer experiences.

This is something that is widely accepted and reinforced by peak bodies such as the Australian Marketing Institute. Whether a customer is left with a feeling of discomfort following a unsolicited telemarketing call, a door-to-door salesman or Facebook sharing data with a third party, the responsibility should fall with the company executives giving the directive – generally speaking, within the marketing and communications departments. The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal is an important reminder of our obligation to consumers, and that with the power that data affords, comes greater responsibility.

Data or bust

It is now hard to imagine a marketing and communications industry that doesn’t rely on data to inform strategy, new product development and campaigns. Much of what took place in marketing and communications, even as recently as a decade or so back, was based on assumption. We *think* that this product would be of interest to this audience, so we *figured* the best way to tell them about it would be mostly via a TV ad campaign.

But data is now essential for any smart and savvy marketer or communicator, and presents the opportunity to communicate with consumers with a level of insight that has never been more accurate or accessible.

While human behaviour is still not completely predictable, one thing that is for sure: the continued collection and analysis of data will certainly make us more predictable.

While affording brands enormous opportunity, this unprecedented access to consumer data must come with a movement of responsibility that will ensure the predictability of consumers is melded with ethical marketing practices.

Andrea Walsh is CIO at Isentia. She is an experienced technology and digital solutions leader, and has led led large (100-plus) IT and digital teams in delivering high profile, multi-million dollar business outcome solutions across the Asia Pacific region. She is a supporter of FITT (Females in IT and Telecommunications), a not-for-profit network which aims to inspire women to achieve their career aspirations and potential at all levels and disciplines within ICT.

Originally featured in CIO NZ.

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The social trends and audience behind healthy drinking behaviour

While the pandemic and lockdowns made some people more likely to grab an alcoholic drink, audience interest in low alcohol or no alcohol drinks keeps growing online, both globally and in Australia. 

But what events are driving Australians towards the #sobercurious lifestyle? And which brands are piquing their interest?

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According to data from our sister company Pulsar, social conversation and search interest in low-no-alcohol peaked in April '21-Oct '21 as the press announced a $1 million government grant (as part of the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy) was awarded to Modus Operandi Brewery to manufacture a non-alcoholic ale, NORT. The mentions of low/no-alcohol experienced a peak in June, leading to Dry July and Sober October.

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Mention metrics show that health and socialising are major motivational drivers for Australians when choosing a drink of the low/no-alcohol variety. The two are closely related, as prominent tags associated with low/no-alcohol mentions are #mindfuldrinking, #soberissexy, and #soberdating.

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Meanwhile, popular millennial and gen z media outlets like Fashion Journal and Refinery29 are reporting on how-tos and the benefits of sober dating. Young Australians are reading that by avoiding the booze, their anxiety is reduced, and they are setting themselves up for relationship success.

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Mental health improvements associated with the trend aren’t the only benefits being publicised; the physical gains are too. Australian media personality Erin Holland told Women’s Health Magazine that her preparation for the popular reality series SAS Australia involved a strict no-alcohol rule. Rugby union Wallaby player Radiko Samo credited a no-alcohol stance to his improved performance on the field.

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The data also suggests Australians genuinely enjoy the taste of low/no-alcohol beverages followed by ethical reasons. For centuries, abstinence from alcoholic drinking has been tied to ethical beliefs, but open discussion and acknowledgment of Australia’s amoral history keep this motivator current. Aboriginal-owned and led non-alcoholic craft brewers SOBAH advocate for this and aim to break toxic Indigenous stereotypes by providing “healing opportunities outside the reliance on government funding and control."

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Globally, drinks like beer, vodka, and whiskey tend to be more popular, but Australian consumers are hitting the spirits and mixers. Non-alcoholic cocktail bars were springing up across Australian metropolitan areas like Brunswick Aces in Melbourne, giving non-drinkers a chance to socialise without feeling left out. From hotels to online delivery services, hospitality businesses connect with Aussies’ healthier lifestyle choices. In particular, small-batch distilleries and breweries utilising bush tucker flavours are getting covered in widely read hospitality and entertainment sites like Broadsheet. 

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Australian-made distilleries are also proud to represent the small-batch, independent ethos which aligns with the Aussie tendency to support one-of-kind artisanal producers over big-name brands.

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British and Australian brands Seedlip and Lyre’s appear as the most mentioned across media platforms between July-November 21. In the news, Aussie founded Lyres had taken out best non-alcoholic spirit for their Italian spritz at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Seedlip took out two non-alcoholic spirit awards in the Australian Drinks Awards held in November 2021.

While we might expect fitness enthusiasts to be discussing the benefits of lowering alcohol consumption online, a deep dive into the different audiences talking about low alcohol brands reveals this is a popular conversation amongst more niche subcultures.

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Across twitter, discussions of non-alcohol spirits are popular amongst Australian bookworms. Popular non-alcoholic brands like Lyres and Seadrift use old-fashioned or themed storytelling as part of their branding language—an aesthetic that lets  literary lovers know they ”can enjoy the mirth and merriment of a soiree or shindig” without alcohol. This group is also keen to share with their community the book they are currently reading and a matching mocktail.

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This trend continues to grow as Aussies aspire for optimal performance at work, in their social and romantic lives, and for their overall wellness. The data shows Aussies celebrating and sharing their alcohol-free experiences with their digital communities, and with the backing from the government and smaller brands taking out big awards, this trend continues to offer Australians an opportunity to get on the wagon.

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This blog was produced using data from our sister company 
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Australia gets on the wagon: what’s driving low and no alcohol trends
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The Philippine presidential candidates have had various strategies for their campaigns since their announcements via mainstream and social media. The public has had varied reactions to their movements.

Isentia, the leading media intelligence and insights solutions provider in the Philippines and Asia-Pacific, has created a report documenting the first 30 days of the Philippine Presidential Election campaigns.

The study seeks to comprehend the themes and sentiment of the media and digital public discussions on the identified candidates since the official campaign period from 8 February 2022 to 9 March 2022.

Fill up the form below to download the whitepaper and read more.

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Whitepaper
ISENTIA PHILIPPINES – The First 30 Days: The Philippine Presidential Race Campaign Period at a Glance

The Philippine presidential candidates have had various strategies for their campaigns since their announcements via mainstream and social media. The public has had varied reactions to their movements. The study seeks to comprehend the themes and sentiment of the media and digital public discussions on the identified candidates since the official campaign period from 8 February 2022 to 9 March 2022. Fill up the form to download the whitepaper and read more.

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IIt was just a week ago when I was asked to travel to Canberra to assist the Isentia Canberra team with the 2022-23 Budget. The team was preparing to provide our clients with a range of Parliamentary Services to support them throughout the Budget announcement and plethora of reactions, resulting in the most significant media day of the year. 

Isentia has an office right in the middle of the Parliamentary press gallery, above the House of Representatives, alongside the ABC, The Conversation, 9 News, 7 News and SBS had my head reeling. We are in the thick of the Budget conversation at Parliament House and have access to the Budget papers during lock-up. I am not going to lie, I would have loved to have gotten my hands and eyes on what lay inside the mass that is the Budget, but I was just as excited to be a part of Isentia’s first live stream of the conga line to deliver immediate stakeholder perspectives.

Lock-up team Whitney and Crystal ready to unpack the 2022 Budget for clients, pictured with Account Executives Melvic (right) and Nikhar (left)

This is my first time in Canberra and walking into Parliament House. It may sound ridiculous to some, but I felt the magnitude of decisions and words within this space as soon as I arrived. This could be due to the physical size of the building, the maze of corridors (I did get lost), or that Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, passes by you, or Laura Tingle, ABC political journo heavyweight, is standing inside the courtyard cafe – no longer just a revered top news journalist on my TV screen. I am tempted to approach her and ask her thoughts on any Budget revelations, but professionalism nips that one in the bud.

The live stream is my main priority and ensuring we capture stakeholder responses as soon as lock-up ends. With the cool, calm, and collected Melvic (Canberra Account Executive) by my side, I felt we were prepared to capture all the opinions and critical commentary on Frydenberg’s latest Budget. But as Melvic had said to me plenty of times over the past couple of days while in Canberra, “you can’t exactly prepare for Budget night.” Speeches can go on for longer, lock-up can be delayed, and elevators can stop working. It was 7.30pm, and we (Melvic and myself) could not get to the second floor, where the press gallery and the conga line were to be. After semi-frantically looking for a way to get there – the elevator wouldn’t go to floor two, and the staircase was blocked off – our prayers were answered in the presence of a former staffer who took pity and showed us to an elevator that could get us there. The doors opened, and we were awkwardly confronted by a crowd of diners enjoying a catered event, but after casually walking by, we were able to get to the gallery and stream the conga line.

I staked my claim on a small footprint of space to set up Isentia’s nimble streaming equipment among tall, solid guys supporting big TV broadcast cameras. As speakers were changing over, we had to pause for one of them to change their camera battery. The speakers were unfazed by the background buzzing of phones, regular triggering of Parliament House clocks and adrenaline-pumped chatter of people in the corridors. I was particularly moved by the words of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director at the United Workers Union and a team of aged care workers who felt a lack of respect for what the Budget provided them. I wondered how journalists could keep it together when they were listening to the stories and concerns of people who really feel impacted by the decisions made here. These are comments and opinions that matter to our clients, and providing this service allows them to better inform their operations and objectives. After the last speaker, Melissa Donnelly, National President of the Community & Public Sector Union, had finished, the live stream was done. But the active alerts team weren’t.

Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)
Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)

The team, rapid-firing live alerts to clients after lock-up release, are able to provide clients near-immediate knowledge of key topics concerning their organisation. This being my crash course introduction to the chaos of a Budget night, I was not expecting the personal understanding and touch that went into the live active alerting process for clients. I pictured images of machines whirring and topics automatically ticking through Budget content, machines that made a detached decision about what was relevant to clients and made blanket sends without consideration. How our Account Executives, Crystal and Whitney, understood the ins and outs of the needs held by our clients does make a real difference to accuracy and content relevancy.

With the speed and focus they applied to this product offering (active alerts), you would have thought they were machines anyway. But a machine is not going to have their ongoing long-term client relationship and understanding of client development.

 It’s a wrap! Budget 2022 Isentia team, (from left) Crystal (Account Executive) Loren (Marketing Executive ANZ), Whitney (Account Executive), Melvic (Account Executive), Nikhar (Account Executive), Russ (Chief Commercial Officer). 

After the last active alert was sent, you could still feel the adrenaline. The pace and unpredictable circumstances that this team worked under were staggering, but we made it in the end. After a justified amount of snacking, we packed up the Isentia Parliament office and found our way to the car park, where everyone there that night was in a state of buzzed debriefing as they crouched into their Ubers home. I doubt anyone there got more than 5 hours of sleep that night, but it was amazing to be a part of how Isentia offers a unique service to clients. We look forward to giving the same level of tailored content to clients during the election coverage.

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Isentia bringing the 2022-23 Budget to Clients

Our Marketing Executive gets a crash course in Budget night at Isentia. We provide tailored media intelligence offerings. Discover the Isentia difference!

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