*Santa* is a concept, not an idea.

December 14th, 2012 smoncrieff No comments

We love these brand guidelines produced for Santa,  some brilliant and very amusing commentary, especially the ‘Who else is occupying *Santa’s* space’ and mandatory venn diagrams.

Click here to view - Santa brand guidelines

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World Famous Socialnomics insight

November 22nd, 2012 smoncrieff No comments

This is a fantastic and slightly disturbing presentation on the impact of social media! “Social Media Revolution” video #4 is here and has been updated with all the latest 2012 stats. Created by the social guru, Erik Qualman from Socialnomics, the video is an animated infographic telling the story of how social is taking over the world through an array current statistics… select to view

That’s the way the Cookie crumbles – IMPORTANT UK/EU Cookie Law Compliance

May 16th, 2012 mharper No comments

You may have read recently that the regulations around cookies and storing User information online are changing. Don’t panic though – make sure you know how this may impact your company’s website and make the necessary changes.

Last year new legislation was introduced across the European Union and the UK surrounding privacy online and the explicit use of cookies.  Companies will now have to ask Users to opt-in, thus giving prior consent, to allow sites to store cookies based on their activity online rather than the original opt-out model. Moreover, this new cookie law ensures that cookies can only be activated and User information stored if the User has given their express consent first. However, the law and corresponding actions only applies to Users visiting the site from within the EU. While the total effects of this cookie legislation are still not certain it will impact the way in which your website performs.

A cookie is a small text file containing a unique ID that is placed on your computer by a website and then stores files of information, such as the pages you visit or what information you enter. These cookies tend to be mutually beneficial, making for a smoother and more personalised User experience, whilst allowing companies to monitor site performance.

The legislation has been designed to protect customers’ online privacy and it aims to make Internet Users more aware of cookies by giving them choice and control over how they want to interact with websites.

It will affect any UK/EU website that conducts cookie activity that is unlikely to fall within the exception (see the table below for further information). This includes cookies from visitor tracking codes or advertising, as well as technologies that have similar behaviours to cookies like Google Analytics (third party) and Locally Stored Objects i.e. Flash Cookies, HTML5 Local Storage and anything else that stores information about a User. NB: this law applies to businesses that are based in the UK/EU that have websites hosted outside of this region.

As the ‘lead in’ period comes to an end online organisations that have not already reached compliance will need to demonstrate/provide evidence that they have taken measurable action towards cookie compliance. Additionally, information on why it was not possible to achieve full compliance by 25 May 2012 must be provided, as well as a time scale for the expected achievement of compliance and details of what work has been carried out to ensure the correct steps towards compliance are being taken.

Gaining Consent

Going forward, websites that use cookies to store or receive any data on a User’s computer or other devices with online capabilities (for example a smartphone or tablet must gain consent from its Users). The ICO has not stated exactly how websites should gain User consent because the “Information Commissioner wants to provide as much flexibility as possible for organisations to design solutions that meet their business needs and provide Users with the choices they require.”  However, the ICO has clearly stated that “consent must involve some form of communication where the individual knowingly indicates their acceptance.  This may involve clicking an icon, sending a newsletter or subscribing to a service…..the individual must fully understand that by the action in question they will be giving consent.”

Website owners are advised to decide what solution to obtain User consent will be best for both parties and to also consider that the more privacy intrusive an activity is, the more a website owner will need to do to gain meaningful consent. Once valid consent has been obtained from a User on a website, it does not need to be re-obtained each time they visit said site.  There are various methods of obtaining User consent such as a pop-up box or a simple banner in the header or footer of a web page.

The ICO has published a very succinct guide to help you choose how to acquire User consent in order to meet compliant web standards – examples are available from page 14 onwards.

Cookies/Privacy Policy

Website owners should also inform their Users about cookies with an updated privacy policy that explains what the cookies are, which ones are on their website, how they are used and why they are stored on a visitors’ computer, mobile phone or other web-enabled device.  Clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of cookies and should consider the general publics’ understanding of cookies and their functionality should be provided.  Additionally, it should also explain how Users can withdraw consent for cookies, as well as a description of what – if any – consequences are after withdrawing consent, for instance, the impact on website functionality.

Detailed below are the ICO’s guidelines which states which cookies are and are not exempt from compliant standards.  The information below has been referenced from pages 8 – 9 of the Guidance on the New Cookies Regulations document.

Activities likely to fall within the exception

Activities unlikely to fall within the exception

A cookie used to remember products the User wishes to purchase at checkout, or add to their shopping basket.

Cookies used for analytical purposes (Google Analytics) to count the number of visitors to a site.

Cookies used to remember login details, shopping address or billing address.

First and third party advertising cookies.

Cookies that assist in the speedy loading of content pages.

Cookies used to personalise website experiences.

Cookie activity that is likely to fall within the exception does not require User consent before being set on a website.  Although, it is advised that going forward if a User does not consent to cookie activity that is unlikely to fall within the exception, or a User has simply ignored a consent communication, then a notice on each web page visited after this action or non-action – e.g. in the footer – should display information that encourages Users to read the updated cookie/privacy policy to find out about the basic cookies set on the website.

What You Need To Do To Comply

The ICO recommends that you take these steps:

  1. Research what type of cookies your website uses and how they are used.
  2. Assess how intrusive the use of cookies on your website are.
  3. Decide which approach you would like to take to obtain consent from your visitors.
  4. Make the necessary design arrangements.
  5. Update your privacy policy.

If a website is investigated by the ICO after 25 May 2012 or a complaint is filed by a website User and said website is found to not meet the compliant standards, then the website owner will need to display evidence of their actions towards compliance.

What Happens If You Don’t Comply

The ICO has a range of regulations and enforcements available, including the power to serve penalties of any amount up to £500,000 to businesses that are discovered to be breaching the law.  For further details on enforcement and penalties for non-compliance, please read pages 24-25 of the ICO guide.

What The ICO Says

The ICO has announced that companies have until 25 May 2012 to comply with the new law, stating that:

“The government’s view is that there should be a phased approach to the implementation of these changes. In light of this, if the ICO were to receive a complaint about a website, we would expect an organisation’s response to set out how they have considered the points above and that they have a realistic plan to achieve compliance. We would handle this sort of response very differently to one from an organisation which decides to avoid making any change to current practice.”

Recommendations

  • Complete an audit to analyse what cookies and other storage technologies are currently used by your site and why.
  • Make sure your privacy policy is up-to-date to include information on the storage of User information.
  • Inclusion of device(s) on your website for Users to provide consent relating to cookies.
  • Cookies also affect email through third party analytical tracking, get in touch to find out more.
  • Make sure that the design and wording of your solution encourages the User to click ‘yes’ by communicating the benefits of consenting to cookie usage.

The Next Steps…

By 25 May 2012, any UK/EU website that sets cookies will have to legally obtain consent from its Users for the use and setting of any cookie activity. We would recommend that you seek legal advice regarding your privacy policies and terms, and conditions as they will need to be re-written and will need a section added specifically regarding cookies.

If you want your site to be as compliant and efficient as possible please get in touch. We can conduct a cookie audit of your website, help you update your privacy policy and install devices to obtain consent. To contact us and start the process for Cookie Law Compliance, please call 01943 872505 and speak to the team at PCD Agency.

You may have read recently that the regulations around cookies and storing User information online are changing. Don’t panic though – make sure you know how this may impact your company’s website and make the necessary changes.

Last year new legislation was introduced across the European Union and the UK surrounding privacy online and the explicit use of cookies. Companies will now have to ask Users to opt-in, thus giving prior consent, to allow sites to store cookies based on their activity online rather than the original opt-out model. Moreover, this new cookie law ensures that cookies can only be activated and User information stored if the User has given their express consent first. However, the law and corresponding actions only applies to Users visiting the site from within the EU. While the total effects of this cookie legislation are still not certain it will impact the way in which your website performs.

A cookie is a small text file containing a unique ID that is placed on your computer by a website and then stores files of information, such as the pages you visit or what information you enter. These cookies tend to be mutually beneficial, making for a smoother and more personalised User experience, whilst allowing companies to monitor site performance.

The legislation has been designed to protect customers’ online privacy and it aims to make Internet Users more aware of cookies by giving them choice and control over how they want to interact with websites.

It will affect any UK/EU website that conducts cookie activity that is unlikely to fall within the exception (see the table below for further information). This includes cookies from visitor tracking codes or advertising, as well as technologies that have similar behaviours to cookies like Google Analytics (third party) and Locally Stored Objects i.e. Flash Cookies, HTML5 Local Storage and anything else that stores information about a User. NB: this law applies to businesses that are based in the UK/EU that have websites hosted outside of this region.

As the ‘lead in’ period comes to an end online organisations that have not already reached compliance will need to demonstrate/provide evidence that they have taken measurable action towards cookie compliance. Additionally, information on why it was not possible to achieve full compliance by 25 May 2012 must be provided, as well as a time scale for the expected achievement of compliance and details of what work has been carried out to ensure the correct steps towards compliance are being taken.

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New corporate workwear for PCD male staff

March 26th, 2012 tbarber No comments

Tim models the latest PCD corporate workwear

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Guide to VAT liabilities on postal services

March 26th, 2012 tbarber No comments

Imminent changes to postal regulation that will lead to the removal of price controls on most commercial mailing products mean that these services will no longer be exempt from VAT.

Ofcom and price controls Plans to hand Royal Mail direct control to set their prices will take effect on 2 April 2012, as will the removal of VAT exemption. Exactly which products will be affected depends on the outcome of Ofcom’s recent public consultation – the findings of which will be announced later this month – but the price changes will definitely apply to all of Royal Mail’s bulk mail products.

We advise that it would be wise to prepare your business now to deal with these changes.

Which products/services will become VAT liable from April 2012?

  • All bulk mail services: Mailsort, Cleanmail, Walksort, Presstream, Sustainable Mail, Advertising Mail (This applies to metered mail as well. If you’re using posting services such as Cleanmail using a meter, then it will be VAT liable.)
  • Packetpost, Packetsort, Response Services, PO Box Services
  • 1st and 2nd class standard tariff account mail, automated standard tariff large letters
  • Royal Mail’s charges to Downstream Access operators for all services except ‘standard’ letters and large letters (see below).

Royal Mail services that will remain exempt from VAT

  • Services in the Universal Service, for example: 1st and 2nd class stamped and metered mail, standard parcels, special delivery. It also includes services such as Poste Restante, non-contract international airmail and surface mail, and redirections
  • Royal Mail’s charges to downstream access operators for ‘standard’ letters and large letters only (this may be extended to include packets, subject to Ofcom’s decision)

Implications

  • If you currently use Royal Mail products other than 1st and 2nd class stamped or metered mail, then VAT will be added to your invoices from Royal Mail with effect from 2 April 2012
  • If you currently use a downstream access competitor under an agency agreement for ‘standard’ – that is Mailsort 2 letters and large letters – then there’s likely to be no change
  • Organisations that aren’t VAT exempt, like financial services companies, or those that are outside the scope of VAT, like charities, will need to factor in the additional cost of VAT on their postage costs, because in both cases such organisations are unable to reclaim all or part of their input VAT
  • Switching to a downstream access competitor may significantly reduce the VAT liability

Mitigating VAT liabilities through ‘single sourcing’ – a note of caution

‘Single sourcing’ has been proposed as way of mitigating a company’s exposure to VAT liabilities. The logic being that if the mail pack is zero rated, then so too is the postage. 

However, there are risks attached to taking such an approach. 

There is no information in the public domain – from the decisions of tax tribunals and courts, or HMRC’s published material – that lend any authority in treating printed matter and postage as a ‘single supply.

Before delivery charges can be included as part of a single supply, then they must be ‘ancillary’ or ‘incidental’ to the associated product. For example, a postage charge when buying a £25 product by mail order is an ancillary or incidental cost and is a composite part of the single supply of the product. Postage for direct mail packs is normally a substantial proportion of the cost of producing and delivering the pack. Therefore, postage in this instance is not an ancillary or incidental cost.

HMRC’s interpretation Furthermore, HMRC distinguishes between the delivery of products and mailing services. HMRC defines mailing services as: 

“…the service of posting your client’s mail, for example publicity or advertising material…”

When ‘posting your client’s mail’, HMRC offers one solution to businesses that invoice clients for postal charges. This is not a single sourcing solution.

Subject to having the correct contractual and accounting arrangements in place, postal charges can be a ‘disbursement for VAT purposes’. When they are a disbursement, then the postal charges may be re-invoiced to clients at exactly the price (including any VAT charged by the postal provider) which the agency pays the postal provider.  
When the postal costs are not a disbursement, HMRC clearly states:

“…they become part of your charge for the supply of direct mailing services to your customer and therefore liable to VAT. They will normally be standard rated…”

Without any solid basis or legal precedent for treating postage as part of the single supply of a zero-rated mail pack, the risks of doing just that are considerable.  If, or when, postal charges are wrongly zero rated, then the VAT arrears are a liability of the business that made the zero rated supply – not their clients.

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Making sense of data – what can PCD offer?

March 12th, 2012 tbarber No comments

Helping understand customer profiles

You’ve heard us talk about Data, Digital & Direct – but when it comes to Data, what exactly is it that PCD can do?

We believe that Data gives you powerthe power  to be able to deliver more cost effective campaigns with greater profit margins.

Read on to find out more about our data offering…

80% of your sales & profit will come from 20% of your customers

How can we identify your best customers or potential customers? Can we save you money by reducing wastage and meaning you can get the same levels of business from targeting a smaller number of the right people?

Are there different groups of people within your database? Would these groups respond to different, specific messages that are relevant to their particular lifestyle, life stage or circumstances?

The PCD approach

Our approach when engaging with a new clients will usually start with Data. It’s all very well having a database collected from enquirers, purchasers, point of sale and loyalty schemes but it’s what you do with it that matters.

Working with PCD using analysis and modelling techniques, we will turn the data into Customer Insight  – this starts adding value to the data, helping us identify…

…Who they are?

…What they are like?

…What do they buy?

…How they buy?

…Why they buy?

With this information we can then begin to look at using it to create unique, specific Customer Experiences. This is where we look at the diverse segments of data and put plans in place to help you best appeal and communicate with each group. In a nutshell – we help you to interact with different customers to best suit their needs.

This stage of the process involves developing data led marketing strategies to help create the right customer experiences to maximise growth and profitability.

Some examples of the sort of activity we have conducted for Clients includes:

CRM Strategies

Acquisition & Retention Strategies

Cross-sell & Up-sell Strategies

Data Collection Strategies

Testing Strategies

Communication Contact Strategies

Creative & Message Hierarchies

Data Partnerships

Customer journey mapping & analysis

For companies without the internal resource to manipulate and profile data, our Data offering

Includes  help managing and sourcing the following types of project:

Large Data Analysis & Segmentation projects

Data Collection

Data Enhancement & Cleaning

Processing Data

Database Design & Build

List Rental or Purchase

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PCD Shortlisted for three RAR Awards

March 2nd, 2012 smoncrieff No comments

RAR Awards Finalists 2012We are delighted to have been shortlisted for three RAR awards (Recommended Agency Register) this year thanks to feedback from our fantastic clients.

The RAR Awards, which acknowledges service excellence from marketing companies based on the feedback from their clients, has selected PCDAgency as finalists within the Best in Direct Marketing, Best in Digital and the Best in Integrated (up to 30 staff) categories for this national award.

PCD Agency excelled under the RAR scrutiny that identified agencies who where  the brightest in the eyes of their clients over the last 12 months. Almost 5000 ratings were made by brand owners and marketing professionals keen to recognise marketing suppliers and only top scoring companies are identified as finalists.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 4 April 2012.

http://www.recommendedagencies.com/agency-awards/finalists/

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Rule of 3 – To be or not to be?

March 1st, 2012 tbarber No comments

PCD Agency Director Tim Barber recently saw his Panel Show format brought to life after the BBC Commissioned a non broadcast pilot episode. Filmed back in December  at the BBC– the show featured Rebecca Front from The Thick of it and Alan Partridge hosting a show where celebrities debated Top 3’s.

Team captains were comedians Russell Howard and Chris Addison, and guests for the pilot included Richard Herring and The Happy Mondays Shaun Ryder.

Tim Barber & Chris Addison

No final decision has been made on whether to commission a series and production company Avalon have explained sometimes it takes years before shows actually come to fruition. So for the moment it’s a case of waiting with fingers crossed! Good or bad news watch this space for updates.

Tim has previously had production of a Radio 4 Comedy show called Banter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banter_(radio_show)

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Renewals – Admin. or Marketings responsibility?

February 29th, 2012 tbarber No comments

Are some companies missing a trick with renewals?

Are some companies missing a trick…

This week I received 3 pieces of direct mail on my mat from different financial services organisations. What they all had in common were that non were direct sales packs – two were renewal notifications and one was informing me that some life insurance rates I’d been quoted were soon to be ending.

Nothing unusual about this, but working in Financial Services marketing the thing that I immediately noticed was how boring, functional and un-inspirational the packs were and that there was no design anywhere to be seen!

Dull, dull, dull!


Non of the packs looked to have been anywhere near a marketing agency, or even a marketing department…you guessed it – they were all admin packs. Two of the packs even contained what were obviously photocopied sheets – one with a number handwritten in biro!

It struck me, certainly more with the insurance renewals packs, what glossy literature to promote rates and service had lured me in to purchase the previous year. And now after all that hard work – that it was assumed that even though I’d not used the service  – that I’d just automatically renew based on a short shoddily written letter from customer services and a confirmation of this years costs.

-       Had they not considered that renewal time was likely to be the time other providers had collected data about me and would be bombarding me with well designed packs and switching offers?

-       Had they not considered the fact that they were assuming I remembered why they had been the best choice 12 months ago?

-       Had they not considered that as I hadn’t had cause to claim on the insurance that I may be questioning the fact of why I actually needed the product?

I really felt that all 3 companies were missing an opportunity. So what can be done to address these issues?

Lets consider a few scenarios…

With many insurance products – there is a low likelihood to claim, particularly on products which are more bespoke and specialist like Identity Protection.

If the consumer hasn’t needed to use something, then they will often start to question it’s value. When it comes to a choice of what insurance to payout for, using a limited pot then will someone start to waiver over something that they consider that they may not use.

Many companies are complacent when it comes to post sale engagement. Even companies who send out a Welcome pack don’t capitalize on its true potential and many more can’t see the value of any communication between Welcome and Renewal.

A well thought through Engagement Plan of activity can lead to dramatic improvement of renewal rates as well as creating revenue opportunities through cross sell and up sells. A Welcome pack should be seen as the first stage of retention!

It is important that Engagement looks and carries through the same quality of design, feel and messaging that acquisition material did.

Engaging the customer – it’s all part of the renewal process

You might not be able to make the customer your friend – but you can certainly make them warmer towards your brand. There are plenty of companies doing this well – so this will be what you are against should you forget engagement and send out a badly produced, home made renewal pack 12 months down the line.

The way you communicate with people will give them confidence that even if they don’t have need to claim, that you know what you are doing and would provide a smooth service. There is also the opportunity to make people feel they are getting something extra – an enhanced service or a more personal service.

Is there something you can get the customer to interact with you during the course of the year – either product related or not to make the customer feel they are getting added value from the products? Register passports scans for Travel, log on to website for winter motoring tips for Motor, a free report on energy efficiency for Home Insurance.

Customer engagement when done properly forms a bridge between Welcome and Renewal.

We should consider what other mid term communications opportunities there may be. A benefit reminder postcard, a newsletter, a questionnaire, a pre-renewal warm up should all be considered.

More often than not – retention activity takes second fiddle to acquisition. When I was Direct Mail & Retention Manager at Green Flag it was always difficult to justify budget for activity where it was difficult to quantify success or where results may not be seen for up to 12 months.

But this is where testing can come in – to identify the optimum returns on investment for different levels of engagement activity.

Maybe with can ametise the costs of activity by combining with revenue generating cross sell activity for instance in a newsletter or even a recommend a friend.  With digital flexibility now  – newsletters can be personalized with a range of specific articles/content truly relevant to the customer, as opposed to the one size fits all versions in the past.

Renewal

Many companies forget that renewal is effectively a re-sell, all be it one that should be easier as the consumer has purchased from them before. A poor quality admin based pack confirming rates but not detailing any product features is unlikely to compete well against a competitors glossy switching pack.

At renewal there are a few key things that should be included within the communication even if the budget doesn’t run to an all singing and dancing pack.

-       A thank you for the previous years custom – a simple courtesy, but warms the person up and makes them feel important

-       A summary of the product benefits – a quick reminder of the product features and benefits, after all a lot has happened over the last 12 months!

-       A reason to renew with you – providing some extra information which helps differentiate you from the competition. This could be price, offer, incentive or benefit led

Companies should revisit this part of the customer journey, investing time and resource into looking at what messages need to be included in the communications. Looking at how the packs look to make them engaging and able to clearly re-iterate features/benefits to ensure the receiver doesn’t lapse.

Don’t just assume renewal will be automatic

So with this in mind, why do big financial services companies, with huge acquisition budgets behave so complacently at renewal? Just a couple of extra points on renewal rates can often have a significant effect on profitability but this seems to fall under the remit of Admin.

I don’t know why this is the case especially when 2 of the companies I received packs on are still spending millions on TV!. But I feel that if Retention is put back into the hands of Marketeers – that there are big advantages to be gained.

Tim Barber, Client Services Director, PCD Agency

29th February 2012

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Designing small …..

January 25th, 2012 Judith Doherty No comments

Luke Wroblewski’s approach of ‘Mobile First’ and the pros and cons of using Balsamiq and Axure as prototyping tools for mobile site design was the subject of Monday’s Northern User Experience.

You can find out more about why Luke advocates designing for mobile first, rather than as a follow on to a desktop site, here, but presenter Keith Doyle gave the subject an interesting parallel by recalling Brian Eno’s experience of designing ‘the Microsoft sound’:

Brian Eno“The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — solve it.”

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 31/4 seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.”

Applied to the design of websites, the idea is that without the luxury of pixels and pixels of screen real estate, you bring a laser focus to what the user really wants to see on each and every page, rather than throwing every conceivable piece of content onto an overcrowded page.  And of course, you’re designing for the platform of the future (will consumers still be using PCs in ten years time in the face of tablets, mobiles and other platform developments?)

Wonder if Microsoft knew of Eno’s aversions to PCs at the time? He later admitted “I wrote it on a Mac. I’ve never used a PC in my life; I don’t like them.”