The real implications of GDPR for marketing

By Neil Patrick

GDPR isn’t over; it has only just begun. GDPR may lighten your mailbox of spam, but it also has huge repercussions for business that no-one is talking about...

Yes I know. Data protection regulation is a dull topic. But I'm writing about it anyway in this post, because GDPR has some profound and far reaching consequences for everyone.

For the last few months, just about every post about GDPR has been about what businesses need to do satisfy this new set of data protection regulations. And the enormous fines that can be levied upon those who fail to comply.

As the deadline approached, we all had our mailboxes filled with emails desperately begging us to give consent to receive communications from firms we bought things from possibly years ago, or maybe never. Some even from firms that we never knew had retained our email address for their own use.

I am not unhappy about GDPR. It kills the abuse of email for a start. It will force businesses to take a hard look at their marketing, which has been a race to the bottom for far too long. Why would I or anyone else who bought a wheel barrow, tennis racket or dining table want to get emails about more wheel barrows or tennis rackets or dining tables every week for the rest of our lives?

This sort of marketing might get a few takers, but it alienates many more. So most people have ignored these last ditch pleas. The result will inevitably be that our mailboxes will revert to a more modest overloading especially if you are in Europe.

Finally on 25 May, the regulations came into force. There are big repercussions for business and this post outlines some of them. It will change digital marketing activities for the better I hope. It will force brands to invest more sensibly in building real customer relationships. It will also deliver even more power into to a handful of huge global digital businesses.

First it will decimate a huge business sector which almost no-one has heard of

Behind the scenes, GDPR has caused the decimation of a huge industry sector which almost no-one knows about.

The sector is called ad-tech. LUMAscape has made it their business to map this vast and sprawling network of firms who have built their businesses to provide personalised data to those who want to sell us stuff online. And it looks like this (or rather it used to):

Ad-tech businesses mushroomed because the internet’s default business model is advertising. Advertising works on the principle that targeting specific ads at the right people is more cost effective than randomly advertising to everyone. And because our internet browsing data in aggregate is so much richer and more detailed than any other form of data, the people in ad-tech anticipated there was huge money to be made by delivering the data and tools to assist this targeting.

And at first they were right; VC investment and revenues poured into these firms until 2011, since when it has declined. It is absolutely no co-incidence that it was 2012 when the EU announced that GDPR was coming:

The whole ad-tech sector was predicated upon one massively flawed assumption. The ad industry thought that consumers would welcome ‘relevant’ and targeted ads. They forgot or at least ignored that hardly anyone actually likes advertising. We just hate targeted advertising a little less than we hate untargeted advertising.

But pre-GDPR, this dislike of advertising was not enough to stop the exponential growth of the sector. Which ironically gave rise to another high growth sector – ad-blocking software.

Some ad-tech companies have pulled out of Europe altogether. All have effectively had their oxygen of data cut off because post-GDPR, they require positive consent from us to hold and process our data. And almost no-one in their right mind will knowingly grant this consent. According to independent research by PageFair, only around 3% of people give this willingly and many of these are not eager customers, they are competitors, regulators and other snoopers. Suddenly around 97% of firms ‘prospects’ are reduced to zero or as close as makes no difference.

Without active consent, the value of an email address is zero

The targeting data created by ad-tech firms brought about a transformation that no-one liked. Coupled to an email address, this became gold dust in online marketing. Combined with the ability to send emails to millions of people and almost free, the floodgates were opened. It didn’t matter if only 1 in 10,000 people actually took up an offer, because the costs of communicating it were almost zero; it created a free for all and our mailboxes groaned under the strain. Email open and click rates have unsurprisingly been in free fall for years.

This was because many businesses adopted more or less the same flawed model in approaching online marketing. Email addresses appended to other data were key to this. It’s what marketers call the ‘top of the funnel’. This metaphorical funnel has personal data tipped into the top. And prime amongst this data is the email address. This was the data that would enable a business to send us emails to buy more of their stuff. And opting out of retailers’ email lists wouldn’t solve the problem if even one retailer was unscrupulous enough to pass on our details to someone else. Everyone knows this but no-one likes it.

GDPR will change this (at least amongst companies that care about acting within the law). They will be forced to completely rethink how they market themselves online.

Why GDPR will fill Google, Amazon and Facebook’s pockets 

These changes will confer even greater power to the tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. These firms have secured their positions because they have an entirely legitimate reason and our consent to hold our personal data. And because targeted ads are not their primary form of ad revenue. Just look at Amazon's share price surge post the advent of GDPR:

The collapse of the ad-tech sector will create growth at least initially in other forms of online advertising, less emails and less targeted advertising. It will also I suspect lead to less scrupulous firms adopting devious tactics to secure consent to receive emails. The model for this is that at every step of engaging with a business online, we will be faced with craftily hidden email consents. This is in breach of GDPR which prohibits ‘implied consent’, but it won’t stop some people trying to work around it.

An unintended consequence of GDPR is that it has ensured the recovery of Facebook’s share price is complete. A combination of the weakness of the governmental interrogations from the US and EU and the impact of GDPR has enabled Zuckerberg to make a full recovery from the Cambridge Analytica crisis:

This is the unforeseen consequence of GDPR. It has comprehensively disarmed some enfant terribles of the advertising world only to confer more power to a handful of giant tech firms and those who for whatever reason will flaunt the rules.

I still think GDPR is actually good news for business

Most businesses are sitting back now breathing a big sigh of relief that they have completed their GDPR compliance project. Thank god that’s done. But it’s not. It’s not even started really, because now the challenge is how to grow businesses online in a post-GDPR world, where suddenly they have consent to email just a tiny fraction of the people they used to.

Businesses need now to take a hard look at their online strategies. The lazy marketers’ fall back of emailing thousands of people with offers is finally dead. Now it’s time to get back to real marketing and figuring out how to make your customers really love you online.

The internet wasn't built in a day, but the barbarians are already at the gate

Hubert Robert: Vue imaginaire de la Grande Galerie du Louvre en ruines

The greatest challenge the internet faces isn't what it can make happen. It's what it can stop happening. And right now, it's not stopping enough from happening.

The online world has become one in which deceit and deception are running riot and out of control. Caught in the middle of the cross-fire, businesses and brands are under pressure from fraud and regulation simultaneously.

Increasingly, the only way to gain advantage online is to cheat. If you are a business that plays fair and by the rules, it is increasingly difficult and costly to win online.

We have a perverse situation emerging in which legitimate businesses are having to spend millions to defend their businesses on the internet, while armies of digital pirates are cheating their way to win online sales. The internet has become a new Wild West for fake goods, fake sellers and now fake reviews. This descent into online anarchy threatens business and society alike.

Against this tide of trickery we have a thing called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. Compliance with this has been estimated to cost every legitimate business an average of $100,000. Few will risk non-compliance as penalties for so doing are 4% of annual global turnover or €20m, whichever is greater. Six years in the making, GDPR perfectly illustrates the ineffectiveness of conventional law-making to tackle the problems that the digital world creates. It's like the cops arriving in town six years after the bank has been robbed.

Instead of creating a level playing field in which free, fair and open competition is supported, the internet is creating its own distorted markets where caveat emptor is a more vital consumer watchword than ever before.

This is a far cry from what the original internet visionaries had in mind. The open, transparent and fair digital marketplaces their dreams envisioned are manifesting instead as nasty neighborhoods full of muggers and criminals. And even the boundaries between the good and the bad guys are getting blurred.

So what’s my evidence? 

I could cite dozens of examples to evidence my assertion, but to save space, here's just one more or less random case.

In December 2017, the boss of German shoe brand Birkenstock accused Amazon of a failure to tackle fraudulent sellers flogging cheap knock-off versions of its sandals. Chief Executive, Oliver Reichert accused Amazon of acting as "an accomplice" to sellers of cheap copies of their sandals. He said, "The truth is that Amazon makes money with these fakes. As far we're concerned, Amazon is an accomplice."

Birkenstock terminated its business relations with Amazon's European website on January 1, 2018 because of "a series of violations of the law on the marketplace platform". Reichert said: "If you sell dodgy merchandise on your market place, you have to answer for that."

Guess what? There’s an app for that…

Several entrepreneurial businesses recognised early on that the growth of online business would inevitably create numerous marketplaces where an independent measure of product quality and customer satisfaction would be beneficial to businesses and consumers alike.

Businesses like Trustpilot recognised the opportunity and soon established themselves. And platforms such as Amazon, Ebay and Trip Advisor promptly integrated their own customer rating systems so that consumers could see independent opinions from other buyers.

Sounds good in principal, but in practice, these systems are just not working. They are being gamed on a massive scale. Some US analysts estimate that half of the reviews for certain products posted on websites such as Amazon are fake.

"Sellers are trying to game the system and there's a lot of money on the table," said Tommy Noonan, who runs ReviewMeta, a website that analyses online reviews. "If you can rank number one for, say, bluetooth headsets and you're selling a cheap product, you can make a lot of money," he said.

Three quarters of UK adults use online reviews and almost half believe they have seen fake reviews, according to a survey of 1,500 UK residents conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. The government's Competition and Markets Authority estimate such reviews influence £23 billion of UK customer spending every year.

Fake Amazon reviews are being openly traded on the internet.

The BBC found online forums where Amazon shoppers are offered full refunds in exchange for product reviews. The platforms are well aware that such fakery is going on, but evidently have not managed to eliminate it.

In 2016, Amazon introduced a range of measures to combat what it called "incentivised reviews". Instead of solving the problem, this effectively drove it underground, leading to the emergence of Facebook groups where people were encouraged to buy a product on Amazon and post a favourable review in exchange for a full refund.

This is the insidious nature of the online economy – controls recognise a problem and clamp down, only for it to adapt, reconfigure and re-emerge elsewhere in the system.

Pandora by John William Waterhouse, 1896
Amazon says:

"We do not permit reviews in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment. Customers and Marketplace sellers must follow our review guidelines and those that don't will be subject to action including potential termination of their account."

Fair enough, but no policy such as this will deter those who can gain from breaching it. They simply increase the sophistication of their deceit. This is a war which the platforms and brands are not winning because the stakes are just too high, the available remedies too feeble and the villains too fast moving.

In the final irony, can Trustpilot be gamed too?

Responding to adverts posted on eBay, the BBC was also able to purchase a false 5-star review on Trustpilot. Trustpilot say they are “committed to being the most trusted online review community on the market. We have specialist software that screens reviews against 100's of data points around the clock to automatically identify and remove fakes”. I can be committed to anything I choose, but that commitment doesn't make it manifest. If even Trustpilot can be gamed, that's like vote rigging worthy of a rogue state.

So I'll say again - the greatest test the internet faces isn't what it can make happen. It's what it can stop happening. 

Consumers are being conned. Brands are being hijacked. Online marketplaces are being corrupted. Internet markets are not delivering their promises. And the war on this banditry is being lost. This is not so much the Wild West where a marshall’s posse would hunt down the miscreants, it’s more like a digital Mafia state.

And GDPR will do absolutely nothing to deter even the smallest gangs of bandits.

Gibson, Eurovision and the disruption of music

No Substitute: Keith Moon's memorial plaque at Golders Green Crematorium
Photo credit: BlueRaspberry

By Neil Patrick

The digital revolution is eroding rather than enhancing creativity. The idea that waves of digital disruption will unleash spectacular creativity is just not living up to its promises.

If we want to truly understand how digital technology changes the world, then we can learn much from an examination of the very first industry it disrupted. And the industry with the longest timeline of digital degradation is music.

Today, the music industry is not only financially shrivelled, it has been denuded of its vital creative life force. We’ve never listened to more music, in more ways, in more places. Yet after reaching a peak in 2000, the music industry now earns half the money it used to. It has lost over $7 billion of revenue since the dawn of the internet.

Anyone who was alive between 1950 and 1980 can recall that music then was in a golden age. Yet these were difficult economic times for the UK. Burdened with a disintegrating empire, faltering manufacturing, the rise of militant trade unionism and the costs of surviving rather than winning two world wars (it was the USA which ‘won’ WW2, at least economically speaking), things in Blighty were pretty bleak.

But in the 1960’s against this unpromising backdrop, Great Britain gave birth to a whole host of world beating music superstars whose like we will never see again. The Beatles, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis. In the 1970s and early 1980s, this creative torch was carried on by a new generation; Queen, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, U2, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

To see the sort of brilliantly creative controlled chaos I am talking about, just watch this clip of the Who playing live in 1978 including Keith Moon, just weeks before his untimely death:

Everything here is analogue. No digital enhancement or aids. No light show. Just raw talent, spontaneity and naked musical energy unleashed.

Every one of these bands sold millions worldwide and still does. Every one is cited by today’s contemporary artists as being influential. None of them began with anything other than their own passion, talent and determination. And they needed it, because whilst plenty of live venues existed and record contracts were generous by today’s standards, getting anywhere at all required dogged persistence for years to become established. I know the histories of every one of these bands and they all began by slogging it out with no money, playing in dingy clubs and pubs, slowly building their fan base from the bottom.

The internet and the concurrent explosion of media options was the catalyst for the comprehensive destruction of this creative powerplant in Britain’s economic engine. The internet’s first salvo was free file sharing. The second was the consequent demise of radio and live music venues. Next was Amazon and iTunes extermination of music retailers. Finally we now have an overwhelming flood of material – the replacement of carefully crafted work with a deluge of mediocre mass market music amongst which, the best new things are hard to find.

When the internet began, most musicians rejoiced. It was seen as the great equalizer. Through free global reach, the best talent could reach bigger audiences and rise to the top regardless of whether or not they had the support of a record company. The punk DIY ethic would empower all musicians in a new musical democracy. But as The Wall Street Journal describes, that dream did not materialise – instead it created an unforeseen consequence:

“It has never been easier to listen to vast quantities of music, discover new artists and create, distribute and promote your own tunes. But there’s a downside: It is harder for artists to break through the cacophony of today’s global pop-music machine.

“The music business is pumping out more music than ever before, industry experts say, the result of cheap digital-production tools, round-the-clock social-media marketing and the prodigious output of hip-hop stars. Both artists and fans are feeling submerged.”

The internet has ensured we are drowning in music. And it’s not just artists who are struggling with this. Just last week, a business which is one of the very few I actually and genuinely love, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – Gibson guitars.

Gibson's factory in Memphis
Photo credit: H. Michael Miley 

Gibson lost the plot and the struggle to redefine itself for the 21st century. Its management decided that it wasn’t simply the greatest guitar maker in the world, but rather a ‘lifestyle brand’. This redefinition would build on its immense heritage and grow by debt-funded acquisitions away from the core of the brand. But this wasn’t transformational innovation. It was a layering of bad decision upon bad decision, piling up to wreck a business that as recently as the early millennium could lay fair claim to being a world leader. Today, Gibson is carrying around $500m of debt and its future looks decidedly uncertain.

Unlike say Polaroid, Gibson has not been blindsided by superior digital products and shifting consumer preferences. Certainly, their premium pricing, slipping quality control standards and poor staff treatment didn't help. But Gibson is nonetheless indirectly a victim of the internet because it sells new guitars when consumers want used ones which the internet delivers in droves:

“The market has softened. It’s not as vibrant as it was in say the early 2000s,” according to Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades. “We think that an enormous factor…has been the improved availability of used product, and the rise of a generation used to buying things on the internet.”, an online clearinghouse for musical instruments, will sell between $400m and $500m worth of guitars in 2018, Majeski estimated – “and almost all of them are used”.
There’s a further great irony here too. Music isn’t something people love less than they did. Musicians still love music and so too do audiences. It’s not as if something came along which suddenly made music obsolete.

On one hand, digital technology has enabled musicians access to equipment and media capabilities that their forbears could only contemplate if they were the most famous and successful performers. On the other hand, the fragmentation and demise of radio, record labels and touring venues have taken away the vital infrastructure which supported and enabled hundreds of performers and their multi-million pound contributions to retail, jobs and ultimately GDP.

The music industry globally may not be dead, but it is a shadow of what it used to be. Not just commercially, but also creatively speaking. And the ways it survives at all are often truly tragic. Only last weekend I watched the Eurovision song contest (or rather the first thirty or forty minutes of it – because I could bear no more). This is a sad manifestation of music indeed. It’s an over-produced, politically correct, mush of mediocre performers. It’s not even a pure talent contest – it’s a sanitised mashup masquerading as a beacon of increased international understanding. It is fundamentally contrived and has little or nothing to do with talent or real music.

In case you've never seen it, here is a sample of what's on offer. And despite the video title, I'd contend that this isn't the worst, it's actually a pretty representative sample:

Instead of spreading peace and love around the world, Eurovision actually embodies some of the worst characteristics we complain about in the rest of society – it is highly creative only in the ways it generates money by leveraging nationalistic pride and prejudice. Even Terry Wogan, the UK’s presenter of Eurovision since 1980 stood down from the BBC One's broadcast in 2008 saying "The voting used to be about the songs. Now it's about national prejudices. We [the United Kingdom] are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don't want to be presiding over another debacle".

This is what the digital revolution does to creative industries; it sanitises, it packages, it expands quantity but erodes quality. Essentially it devalues everything it touches. Eurovision certainly shows no signs of throwing up the next David Bowie or Queen. But I guess it might just manage an Ed Sheeran or Beyoncé clone.

Why people are a better brand investment than machines

Today, TSB's 'local bank for local people' claims are looking like a sham.
Photo credit: Gnesener1900

...especially if you are a bank.

A crisis is the one thing which is guaranteed to expose the reality of a brand versus the contrived and manicured fantasy which is used to promote it.

By Neil Patrick

TSB’s chief executive, Paul Pester admitted this week, ‘we are on our knees’, following a failed server migration of 1.3 billion customer records. This has gone disastrously wrong leaving hundreds of thousands of customers unable to pay their bills. Worse, some customers have been able to log into other customer's accounts, see their data and even make payments with other people's money.

The bank's employees have been working day and night to try and help customers solve the resulting problems like paying for their rent and utilities. But as the week came to a close, and despite a team of IBM 'experts' being parachuted in as an elite shock force to assist, the problems were still not completely solved.

Business customers have faced consequential losses such as non-payment of suppliers and non-delivery of goods. TSB staff have been so stressed and frustrated in their efforts to help customers that some have collapsed in tears, saying it's the worst experience of their working lives.

This situation is more than embarrassing and stressful for everyone involved. It demolishes the carefully constructed brand that TSB has been investing in, positioning the bank as one which places people at heart of everything it believes in:

TSB's regulator, the FCA, is now investigating the issue and the Information Commissioner says she wants to know more about potential data breaches. The Government has asked for assurances and wants answers to its questions to TSB. Even when the IT problems are solved, the pain will not be over for TSB.

This sorry tale will eventually become a footnote I am sure, but today, right now, it is fraying nerves and spreading havoc in TSB's customers’ lives. And it seems inevitable that many customers will leave the bank at their first opportunity after this crisis is resolved. For TSB, this disaster looks likely to cost them much more than the £100m of savings the migration originally promised.

Meanwhile in China, the world’s first robot-only bank branch has just opened. This is heralded as an exciting step towards a modern, tech enabled future; a homo-sapien free environment, cleansed of the inconsistencies and inefficiencies which are allegedly the hallmark of humans.

The irony here is that it is the people at TSB branches that are keeping the bank from sinking when faulty technology has dragged the whole edifice almost into ruin.

Banking and IT have an old and awkward relationship.  Banking IT systems are not like apps where glitches can be smoothed out over time. They demand 100% reliability and complete accuracy from the get go 100% of the time. Anything less is a big problem. Building or significantly changing any banking platform is a high risk and demanding challenge.

As we've seen with TSB, government and regulators are today emboldened, swift and merciless when it comes to punishing banks for errors and misdemeanors. After years of a light-touch attitude, post 2008, the climate has changed and banks are today probably the most closely regulated and scrutinized business sector in the UK.

Thirty years ago, banks were early adopters of what we now call data harvesting. This was decades before Facebook managed to finally wake the world to the importance of data security and privacy. Sure, we had Data Protection legislation and regulators. And banks were generally compliant with their data protection obligations. Regulatory enforcements were few and the public’s greatest annoyances were telephone sales calls and junk mail.

But this customer irritation at some of the earliest (ab)uses of technology by banks ought to have provided early warning that a very human-based relationship demanding and rewarding trust was unlikely to be entirely substitutable by anonymous automation. In fact, I’d argue that trust is the number one most essential requirement for a customer’s relationship with their bank.

Yet, this fundamental truth seems to have been ignored in the relentless drive for ever lower costs. The endless push for greater speed, and cheaper services seems to have trumped every other aspect. Especially trust.

In areas such as marketing and loan application processing, banks were some of the first businesses in the world to decide that IT could make faster, more accurate, more consistent and cheaper decisions than their human employees. This led to the steady removal of middle managers and the downgrading of staff until a bank branch was staffed by people who had little more skill than supermarket checkout operators (and similar pay and conditions too).

Now these last remaining humans in bank branches are facing imminent extinction as they too are replaced by robots which don’t go on holiday or demand pay increases (or any pay at all for that matter).

Meanwhile, banks (always some of the most unpopular and complained about businesses), are shutting branches, removing staff, and turning everything digital. This cost cutting is justified in the name of customer convenience and modernisation. And to cement the argument, every senior bank spokesperson will tell us that this is what most of their customers want.

But most is not all. And the duality where banks are simultaneously some of the least-loved businesses while moving ever closer to completely people-free service, is not a recipe to build any sort of customer love and affection.

There is and has been for decades, a space in the market for a bank which recognises that customer service delivered by people to people is an untapped and growing market. TSB recognised this and decided this was their opportunity to command a unique market position. Unfortunately, they forgot that occupying this position demands not just that you proclaim it, but also that you live by it.

Most people require relatively little from their bank. Strong security. Error free payment processing. Good and caring advice. Easy access. Fast and painless resolution of problems. It is hard to see how a combination of branch closures, increased automation and demoralised, low paid staff help deliver these things.

And 'adding value' (sic) by dubious marketing adds insult to injury. Hardly anyone really cares about an extra 0.1% of interest, or free travel insurance, or fancy TV advertising. They do care about being well looked after.

Banking for most people is service they cannot live without. And whilst I don’t think banks can or should be backwards looking, there is a stronger argument than ever for a bank which truly understands they are in a people business. And that investing in people might just be a safer bet than investing in their replacement by machines.

In these days of no trust

Students are rightly getting mad, but for the wrong reasons
Photo credit: BillyH

Universities are failing our young people more than ever.

I have always believed that there are some key parts of society where Britain can be proud to rank amongst the very best in the world. Our emergency services. Our armed forces. Our artists and musicians. Our scientists. Our legal system. And our educational establishments.

But, the last few months have not been good for higher education’s reputation in the UK. Recently, Channel 4’s investigative journalism programme Despatches went to town with an exposĂ© of the expenses claimed by university vice chancellors.

The Guardian was not slow to voice its righteous indignation about the expenses claimed by vice chancellors that Channel 4 uncovered from a Freedom of Information Act disclosure:

But expenses are just the latest round in this ongoing reputational crisis. In recent months, as vice chancellors’ pay packets have become public knowledge, universities have been hard at work defending these on the basis that pay is set by independent panels and that these jobs involve the administration of large organisations with multi million pound budgets. Ironically enough, this is the same well-worn argument used by banks to defend their executive pay; that to attract and retain top talent, these people have to be paid huge salaries.

The UK’s higher education institutions are facing a crisis of trust. And for every criticism, come  denials, rebuttals and rationalisations.

But vice chancellors' pay is not why higher education is in crisis…

In the UK, universities have become corporatised and politicised. Higher education is now funded mainly by student debt. It is this debt which has enabled the massive (over) expansion of higher education and salaries for those at the top. This debt is gilt-edged because it is underwritten by the government. But as debt has a tendency to do, it is now spiralling out of control:

Yet universities are still significantly funded from the public purse. This means they are morally accountable to the public. And the public doesn’t like what it sees.

Personally I do not consider that a chauffeured car for a busy vice chancellor is unreasonable. Neither is extensive overseas travel. Nor is entertaining key contacts at top restaurants. Not when we consider the potential gains which can be made. So I think Channel 4 and the Guardian are picking the wrong fight here.

But to students and the public alike, these things reek of self-interest, of corruption, of a loss of moral compass. The problem is not one of defensibility, it is one of perception and trust.

Vice Chancellor’s salaries and expenses are the wrong target…

…because this is not the problem, merely a symptom of it. The real problem is that our higher educational institutions have become more detached than ever before from the very reason for their existence. Rather than facilitating young minds to investigate, question and reason about the world, they have adopted a new raison d’etre, namely the brainwashing of their charges to eliminate ideas which for any reason they find unlikeable or politically unacceptable.

Free speech within university campuses is now actively policed so that only those who support approved ideologies are given a voice. Anyone who might potentially challenge those views is kept out. No platform for them. Worse, if they even set foot on campuses they risk verbal and even physical assault by masked and hooded representatives of the student body, as Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg discovered recently. One of the most articulate, rational, reasonable, courteous and unthreatening MPs you will find, he was jostled about while masked students screamed ‘Bigot’ at him.

Even his political opponents such as Shadow Education Secretary Angela Raynor, condemned his treatment by the thugs:

Such shenanigans are not new. Students have always tended to the left in their politics. What is new is that universities have built walls to keep out anyone who might challenge their new and incongruous positions as both guardians of knowledge and huge money making machines. Anyone who might engage them in civilised debate. And anyone who might, heaven forbid, question their self-appointed ownership of moral as well as educational authority.

So instead of exposing young minds to diverse thinking about the world, campuses are erecting barriers to some ideas. All ideas should stand or fall on their own merit, not be whitewashed because they are banned. Or because someone might find them offensive for whatever reason.

But all of this is a sideshow. It is an aspect of education; it is not what education should be fundamentally about. Education should be preparing the next generation to embark on successful careers, and by so doing, enriching themselves and the whole of society. The hard truth is that higher education should be pushing our GDP, trade surpluses, and household incomes higher.

Yet the reverse is happening. The output of universities in the form of worried young graduates, is creating a new class of disenfranchised and impoverished young people whose disproven faith in their educational investment has led them not to the beginning of glittering careers, but instead to the hell of internships, zero-hours contracts and low paid service jobs in a gig economy.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a voice from inside the system. Professor Jordan Peterson of Toronto University, a man who has become a YouTube phenomenon and one of the most influential commentators on society today has this to say:

So we have more young people than ever questioning quite rationally whether they really want to take on £50k of debt, when they have little confidence that they will find a good job after graduation. We have employers moaning about the low quality of recent graduates. We have current students demoralised by the paucity of tuition hours. We have professors not teaching but spending most of their time working on research and academic papers, while the actual teaching work is sub-contracted to poorly paid visiting staff. And we have highly politicised campuses which tolerate only those with the 'correct' political point of view.

Higher education in the UK displays all the elements of a classic bubble about to burst…over inflated and debt-funded revenues, self-indulgence by those at the top, emerging scepticism about sustainability, denial of the problem.

And most telling of all, the collapsing of trust. This is the real betrayal of our young people’s lives and prospects. Bubbles always burst when trust evaporates. And trust ebbs fastest when denial is strongest.

Update: Just nine days after I wrote this, assuming no-one else felt universities were obstructing free speech, a cross party panel of MPs and peers published a report saying the same thing. Fear I am  unconsciously becoming connected to mainstream group think...;-)

Zuckerberg snatches victory from the (false) teeth of his nemeses

The disarming face of the man who sold the world.
Credit: Lukasz Porwol

By Neil Patrick

Zuckerberg's triumph of timidity signals no change soon.

Tuesday this week was billed as the ultimate showdown between the analogue world and the digital. A colossal Congressional panel (average age 62) deployed to call to account a small and nervous looking 33 year old boy called Mark Zuckerberg.

The old media delighted in the spectacle; Zuckerberg is the embodiment of their nemesis more than any other. This boy and his Facebook money making machine have humbled their own media empires and taken billions of dollars worth of advertising revenues that in decades past would flow unchallenged to them.

In my last post about this I opined that politicians and the legal system would be wrong footed and far too slow to act to remedy the distortions of power that Facebook has created in our society. And that a multi-billion dollar business like Facebook could easily resist the challenges from a bunch of old people who have only the faintest grasp of how the digital age is turning their world on its head.

Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday’s hearings, we could watch Facebook’s share price react in real time to the questions and Zuckerberg’s fielding of them. He may have needed a booster seat to get his arms on the table, but during the course of the hearing, Facebook’s market cap increased by $4bn.

Not a bad financial outcome for an event which had the potential (a now totally disproven theory)  to send Facebook's market value into collapse. The markets never lie about confidence. The irony was that Zuckerberg's obvious nervousness and expressions of contrition, inspired and revitalised market confidence. But it wasn't so much that he played a blinder as that his army of opponents couldn't even see the ball, let alone run with it.

The politicians lost massively on points. There were some entertaining moments such as when Mr Z was asked if he would like to disclose the hotel he stayed in last night, or the email addresses of the last people he had sent emails too. These were smart and meaningful questions, but they did nothing to address the critical and fundamental matters of what and how Facebook would change in future.

Zuckerberg deflected many questions by kicking the can down the road with responses such as ‘ I don’t know, but I’ll get my people to come back to you about that’. This is hardly a confidence inspiring answer, but the markets reacted with relief because it was a sure sign that Facebook was more likely to survive with cuts and bruises than fatal injuries.

Zuckerberg had prepared intensively for the hearing with a team of consultants and lawyers grooming him so that instead of his robotic and hollow sounding delivery of norm, he conveyed a humility and likeability that seemed to charm some senators. They reacted like indulgent parents, wooed by the contrition of a wayward child.

But I didn't buy any of it. This is a man whose outward appearance of geeky frailty conceals a mind which is entirely committed to the exploitation for his commercial gain of any and every human weakness, whether we are a leader of government or a dishwasher in Detroit. In that sense, his mission is truly egalitarian.

He was able to duck answering questions he didn’t like. His preparation and the ignorance of his interrogators ensured that none were able to press him to the point where he became visibly uncomfortable.

But despite his appearance and demeanor, Zuckerberg is not a child and neither is he undergoing a transformation from inadvertent miscreant to redeemed character. He, by design and no small amount of luck, leads one of the most valuable business enterprises on earth. He is at the helm of a business which enables digital lawlessness more than any other. 

His preparation and demeanour of vulnerability successfully blunted the assault of an array of America’s most senior and powerful people, because they were completely under equipped to effectively challenge him. Most displayed a complete void in their understanding of how the internet works, let alone how Facebook works.

The format of the hearing didn't enable any genuine insight. Every time it got even half-way relevant, such as when South Dakota senator John Thune asked about the technical and linguistic difficulties involved in programming AI bots to discern hate-speech, the exchange was abruptly terminated as each successive legislator ran up against their four-minute time limit. Their world and Zuckerberg’s are so different as to be unable to communicate effectively. That is no fault of Zuckerberg’s; it is the fault of a generation of leaders who have comprehensively failed to keep in touch with the world they are supposed to be leading. The tragic irony here is that both politicians and social media claim to be all about open communication and building a better world.

These increasingly unrelated world views retain one common aspiration; the building and protection of wealth and power. And now these two worlds are in collision. Those with directly vested financial interests in Facebook sensed this was a stalemate and were thus relieved of their deepest fears. The markets could see this event was now unlikely to damage their financial interests and that their investment was no longer looking as shaky as it did just a week ago.

That Zuckerberg and Facebook should triumph in this encounter proves I think that the power held by the owners of digital real estate is unlikely to be dented anytime soon. Or at least not until government gets to understand what their role is in a digital world.

Prepare yourself accordingly.

Cambridge Analytica: Datakreig is upon us

Photo Credit:  Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-646-5188-17 / Opitz / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The new Agents of Fortune have emerged from the shadows

In the summer of 1940, the Nazi Blitzkreig overran the whole of Western Europe. Blitzkreig was a revolution in warfare. It used the concentration of forces, speed and communications to outwit the bigger and better armed allied powers of Western Europe. I use the word ‘speed’ advisedly; German troops used a lot of amphetamines, but that’s another story. Great Britain and France had prepared for a traditional war. They were outwitted and outmanoeuvred at every turn.

Over seventy five years on and Datakreig is on the rampage. The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal has remarkable similarities to the 1940 Blitzkreig. It represents a revolution in how power is acquired and disseminated (or more likely sold) by a new breed of digital data warriors. With or without the use of amphetamines, they are running rings around a complacent and out of touch old media, government and judiciary.

Yesterday I observed how this scandal was unfolding and how the public were reacting. Most used the situation to voice their political prejudices, citing this case as proof of the correctness of their viewpoints. In my opinion:

The fact that the now ex-CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix went to Eton is not evidence of a global elite intent on enslaving the rest of us.

The (big) dent in Facebook's share price doesn’t mark the beginning of the end for the big digital media firms.

The fact that Facebook holds an immense amount of personal data is not a crime IF it is gathered fairly and transparently and only shared with our full knowledge and explicit consent.

Nonetheless, there is something deeply unsettling emerging here. Lines must be drawn. But where?

Use of our individual and personal data for political purposes is unacceptable in a democracy

The way that the Trump campaign used social media data would be recognised and well understood by any marketing specialist or military strategist. But this doesn't make it acceptable within the political process.

Better intelligence and targeting than your competitors or rivals provides a serious tactical advantage. And Cambridge Analytica’s strategy worked better than probably even they had expected. A previous attempt to use it with Republican nominee Ted Cruz had disappointing results. Nonetheless Cambridge Analytica were surely not exactly grief-stricken having pocketed $5.8m in fees for this work.

The pooling and utilisation of personal data in this way is probably at least tacitly accepted by social media users as a fair exchange if it is just being used for advertising products and services. Irritating perhaps, but a reasonable price to pay for an essentially free platform. After all, most people would accept that old media advertising is fair and reasonable, provided it can be clearly identified for what it is, ie. not cloaked within editorial content.

But politics is not about commerce. It is about power. And personal digital data is not old media. It is or should be private. When our data is being passed to political groups, a line is crossed. Yet Cambridge Analytica may well not have broken any laws however unacceptable their actions may be – because the law is completely out of step with the nature and pace of the digital revolution. If and when legal actions and government interventions occur, we can fully expect that by the time they are enacted, the game and its tactics will have moved on.

This is a very unequal struggle

Data regulators are not adequately empowered to act independently of the judiciary. The UK Data Commissioner has a team of ten people working on this case. That’s ten UK civil servants with their hands tied behind their backs vs. a corporation with total assets in 2017 of $84billion.

The power and capital amassed by Facebook is more than monopoly power; FB had a revenue of $40.6bn in 2017, which is greater than the entire GDP of many countries.

Because the UK Data Commissioner cannot raid premises without a court order, the whole world knew they intended to examine Cambridge Analytics' servers long before they actually gained access. Facebook on the other hand entered Cambridge Analytica's premises on Monday. We can conjecture that both Facebook and CA will have erased without trace any evidence of possible malpractice long before the civil servants arrive.

And it has now emerged that Cambridge Analytica used ProtonMail accounts set to self-destruct without trace within two hours of being delivered. This fact alone suggests that they were intent on establishing a cloak of secrecy over everything they did. There will be no paper trail here…

Remember though that the whistle blowers have a deeply vested interest

The media forces which have ranged themselves against the new agents of fortune are the old agents of fortune. The New York Times, the Observer and Channel 4 Television News. The old guard are used to having the power to influence events. Usually in favour of their own proprietors' political and business allegiances.

So we should also recognise that the whistle blowers are not without their own motives. Old media has been losing billions in revenues to digital platforms for years. They have tried every trick to get in step with the digital revolution and have mostly failed. The Cambridge Analytica situation is possibly the best news old media has received in years. They can fully expect that in the coming weeks and months their digital nemeses will likely have their wings seriously clipped.

Datakreig deploys pace and opaqueness to assure its goals are accomplished

Tech knows it can easily exceed the pace at which government and regulators can respond. Digital media owners know that their opaqueness, resources and pan-national organisations make them able to out run and out gun regulatory controls.

Cambridge Analytics represents a new revolutionary guard. Whether they acted legally or not is a moot point. Data regulations and enforcement are hopelessly out of step with digital media. The big digital media firms can afford the best lawyers and tech heads to ensure the not very digital regulators are outwitted at every turn. Just like blitzkrieg, they use speed and camouflage to leave the forces of justice choking in their dust.

If we wish to live in a democracy, we can and should demand that legal lines are drawn over how our personal data can be used. Government action requires though that we wait for their painfully slow next moves. I'd venture that a much more effective response is to vote with our consciences, our smartphones and our wallets...

For my views on Mark Zuckerberg's Congressional hearing click here

Why doing more social media is a dumb strategy

By Neil Patrick

Because it's not how big your numbers are, it's what you do with them that counts.

I think this year will mark a turning point for social media platforms. It’s a perfect storm which has been brewing these last couple of years. Consider this:

Teens are leaving Facebook in their millions. Why? Because their parents are there and they don’t want to be seen in the same place, or have Mum and Dad see what they are saying or doing. (‘twas always so right?) They are also fed up with online bullying, sexual predators and relentless advertising. The selfie generation are choosing to make their social networks private not public. So they have migrated to Instagram, WhatsApp and other platforms where they can retain privacy.

Brands are failing to get the leverage on social media they aspired to because they bought into the myth (literally investing billons) that social media would enable them to build a huge audience of committed followers for a fraction of what they were spending on old media. It didn’t work because old media advertising methods don’t work on social platforms where trust and affinity is created more by listening and engaging with people than telling them stuff about you.

The platforms themselves are under increasing pressure from the public and regulators alike to stamp out the activities of the undesirables, everyone from ISIS terror cells to child groomers and political extremists. In doing so, many people who express politically 'unacceptable' sentiments are getting their accounts suspended, while the real villains duck, dive and re-emerge under new names as soon as they are shut down. This builds resentment and alienation amongst people who place value on free speech.

Meanwhile the earnings by the platforms are in many cases getting nowhere near the level they need to achieve a sustainable business. Twitter made $91m profit in the fourth quarter of 2017 on revenue of $732m. The first quarter in their 12 year history they have made any profit at all. The market responded positively to this news, but I see little prospect of this being a mark of turnaround, because new users are not growing. Meanwhile operating costs look likely to increase as they have to apply more resources to regulating user activity. 

We are fast reaching social media saturation. For every PewDiePie millionaire teen YouTuber there are thousands of other wannabes. And the queue is growing every month. Just last week I encountered a YouTube star called Huw who has become the number one most followed YouTuber on organic vegetable growing. Huw has 75,000 channel subscribers. Building this following has taken him 6 years. And he’s earned just £12,000 from his success. That’s an average of just £2,000 a year, or £166 a month. Huw is a young man however and I am sure he'll succeed in his career. It's just that it won't be on YouTube.

Social media is starting to come of age and in maturity, the holes and shortcomings are coming into plain sight. The myths are being outed.

The myth for business users that creates the greatest damage I think is that success is rooted in big numbers. This is a case of the platforms believing their own hype. This deception carries right through to the analytics they provide to users. Look at your Facebook, or Twitter or Pinterest analytics and you’ll see what I mean. They focus on short term numbers – the last day or week or month. They also encourage us to strive to constantly get bigger numbers. More followers, more shares, more comments. More is always better right? No it’s not actually.

It is for the platforms because this increases the money they can charge advertisers. For content creators it’s a pyrrhic victory however. Why? Because whilst having 100,000 subscribers is great if you are a YouTuber, that audience creates (a smallish) ad revenue stream for you. But 100,000 Twitter followers counts for very little. 50,000 LinkedIn connections? Meh.

Just like the platforms themselves, the investment of work, time and money to achieve anything resembling a commercial success is just too high. And the hurdles are getting ever higher as the competition for eyeballs grow exponentially as more and more people pile in.

If you are using social media as part of your business strategy, the time has come to get real and face up to reality. Social media is still here and it is still powerful. But only if you go about it in the right way. Here are the things I think we should face up to:

A thousand or ten thousand or a million connections have no value in and of themselves. Sure they might make you feel good, but if they are not in some way making your business more valuable, they are worth almost nothing. If you see success as simply making these numbers bigger, you are chasing the wrong goal.

No one cares what you do. What they care about is WHY you do it. This is why most businesses large and small struggle to get social media working for them. Because what they do is simply to make profit for shareholders. ‘Buy my stuff because it’s great’ has no currency on the social web.

But we have a nice mission statement. So what? Does that mission live and breathe in everything everyone does everyday? And does it make people want to help you? 

The only way to have people care about us is to show we care about them. This means that we listen more than we speak. That we talk about what people care about – and usually that is not ourselves. And that we demonstrate our care for them through our online actions more than our words.

So a million follows or likes or whatever might be the result of years of effort. But it’s worth nothing unless it delivers a return. That return on investment is also set to decline. Unless we rethink what we stand for and why anyone else would give a s**t.

What non-marketers should know about the state of marketing today…

By Neil Patrick

There’s a whole generation of marketing folk faking it...

This post is about the state of marketing in the 21st century. This is something I care deeply about because marketing has been my career for my whole adult life.

To be frank, I am concerned about the condition of my profession. Mark Schaefer, one of my favourite marketing gurus, cited the subtitle of this post in his excellent Grow blog late last year:

"Every CMO I talk to tells me they can’t find the right people to fill marketing jobs. And yet, I have a lot of friends having trouble finding a job. The disconnect is in the skills gap.

Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever, claimed in an interview that there is an entire generation of marketers who are “faking it” and called for an overhaul of the marketing function.

Marketing titans like P&G acknowledge that their biggest brands are struggling to find relevance and, over the last few years, fired thousands of marketing professionals who aren’t keeping up.
The truth is, the marketing jobs are out there but CMOs can’t find the RIGHT skill sets they need to fill them and this is creating a true employment crisis."

I am sad to say that I agree. Marketing has always been a profession which is misunderstood by those outside it. But worse, today, it's now also a conundrum to some people within it.

The reasons are complex, but one of the main drivers is the pace of change brought about by the transition to a digital economy. This change is so rapid and profound for marketing that whole new skill sets are required. And few marketers are keeping up.

I am fortunate to know a great many senior and excellent marketing people. But even these folk, despite their impressive resumes are struggling to keep up with the pace of transformation.

I also know or know of others who at best are fudging it and at worst being downright deceitful about how they can help their employers and clients achieve their goals.

You’ve probably heard the idea, star of a thousand social media memes, that we should 'fake it until we make it’. Sadly this idea seems to have taken hold amongst some marketing people.

According to the very brief Wiki page, ‘fake it until you make it’…

“…is an English aphorism which suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life. It echoes the underlying principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a means to enable a change in one's behavior.

In the 1920s, Alfred Adler, a disciple of Sigmund Freud, developed a therapeutic technique that he called "acting as if". This strategy gave his clients an opportunity to practice alternatives to dysfunctional behaviors. Adler's method is still used today and is often described as "role play". 

So the origins of this idea are highly specific; it’s a cognitive therapy for people with mental illness. Which is a very different thing to ubiquitous career best practice.

No. Just No. (Sorry Steven)

And if you are a marketing professional or aspire to be one, I'd venture that such a mindset is downright dangerous for you, your business and the reputation of your profession.

The trouble is that some people have got much better at faking it than they are at delivering the goods. And in an age where change is so rapid, the people who hire marketing people unless they are marketers themselves are easily misled by the all the jargon and persuasive patter.

If you hire or engage with marketing people, but are not one yourself, here’s my top 10 things I think you should know:

1: Successful digital marketing doesn't hinge on search engine optimisation (SEO). 

Because ranking high on Google does nothing to increase customers’ love for your brand, product or service. It’s just good housekeeping. No more no less.

2: Unless you’re an online retailer, selling things from your website is not the be all and end all.

It is people's obsession with turning their online presence directly into £s which distorts and corrupts their vision about how presence should be designed. And it leads to pop-ups, sign ups, redirects and other irritations which alienate the very people we want to love us.

For many products and services, the only time people will visit your website is to check you out. As often as not, those people will not be potential customers, they will be real competitors. For some businesses, a traditional website is actually a handicap. And the best website in the world is not going to help you unless people find something there to make them love you.

3: Social media enables you to build a tribe of loyal supportive followers. 

It can. But only if you have a strategy which gives your prospective customers something they want to engage with. And which integrates your social media with the rest of your business. Social media is not a digital advertising platform, despite Twitter and Facebook telling us that advertising with them will turbocharge our business. (Hint: they have their own agenda…).

4. An effective social media presence for your product or service must differentiate you.

It is pure folly to look at who has the most YouTube subscribers, or Twitter followers or Facebook likes and copy them. Because the chances are, they are not your role model and don’t know what they are doing either. 'Me too' might be the latest trendy hashtag, but as a marketing strategy, it's a non-starter.

5. Young people who have spent the whole of their (brief) adult lives using social media are not automatically experts on using it for marketing.

They are just familiar with the platforms as a user. This is not without some value, but it is limited. It’s like appointing someone as a car designer just because they know how to drive.

6. Marketing and advertising agencies are hideously expensive.

There’s a reason big agencies have plush offices and slick sales people. And it’s not because they are experts at what they do. It's because they are experts at extracting money from clients who should know better. This industry 'norm' evolved in an age when big TV and press campaigns and media commissions made a fortune for agencies as well as media owners via opaque cartels. They continue to do this because when their marketing clients are under-skilled, they can still be bamboozled.

7. There's a whole new wave of online influencers that are potentially more valuable to you than Kim Kardashian (probably)

If you look at YouTube, only three of the top 500 most subscribed channels are brands (Time Warner, Disney and Sony Music). The other 497 are people with little or no marketing budget, no big teams of advisors and little in the way of help. What they do have is passion, persistence and a love for what they do. They are in marketing speak, ‘authentic’. This authenticity and focus means they are accruing ever more power and influence. And they are the people who will make or break your brand online.

8. Marketing, Advertising, Social Media and and Sales are not the same thing.

Business owners often conflate these. In essence, marketing is how you create preference for your brand versus your competitors. Advertising is how you build awareness and interest in your products. Social media is how you connect with and build relationships with the people that matter to you. Sales is how you monetise that interest. Mixing these up creates truly horrible outcomes.

9. There are no shortcuts to building a world-beating brand. 

It takes consistent effort, month in month out. And if you are unclear about how what you do is different from your competitors, and cannot articulate that difference in an engaging way, you will have a hard time using digital (or any other media) to grow your business.

10. The digital age requires a transformation in marketing thinking way beyond anything that has gone before.

And this is why so many marketing professionals are struggling to keep up. It demands that the very ideas of how businesses grow are completely reinvented. There is very little from the traditional tactical marketing toolkit, which has currency today.

I’d urge every business owner to ask themselves this about their marketing: “Why and how will we make people love us online?” Answer that question successfully, and you will be better placed than most to get to the forefront of the digital marketing revolution.

Oh and keep your fake antennae in a state of permanent alertness…

Finally if your marketing person or people are doing a fabulous job for you, I'll be happy to hear about it in the comments. They do exist and deserve the attention we reserve for endangered species...


By Neil Patrick

A cautionary tale for interviewers - we reap what we sow, especially if we treat people badly.

This post will give you a smile if you have been rejected following a job interview. It shows how an interview can expose the interviewer's shortcomings just as much as the candidate's.

I was recently told this story by a candidate for an internal promotion at the firm she worked for. It was a panel interview with the the head of department, prospective line manager and an HR person.

The line manager was cocky. Her approach was to pile overbearing pressure onto the candidates. Her tone was brusque, interrupting frequently and generally trying to unsettle the applicants. Every candidate said it was the most traumatising interview they had ever had. One left in tears.

Part of this interviewer’s ‘technique’ was to probe every answer ad nauseum.

At one point, the interview went like this:

Line manager: “If you were appointed into this role, what would you do to reduce the gossip and rumouring amongst your team?”

Candidate: “I’d make it a team meeting agenda item and make it plain to my team that this is unacceptable because it creates all sorts of damaging consequences for the firm and potentially their own career progression”.

Line manager: "How do you know that would work? And why have you not done this already?"

Candidate: "Well I did have a discussion with my team about it, and they understood and it has noticeably lessened the problem."

Line manager: "So why have you not spread this to the rest of the company?"

Candidate: "Well that is above my pay grade."

Line manager: "But if this has been successful with your team why would you not want to share this with your peers?"

Candidate: "I think it should be endorsed by you first."

Line manager: "But this is the first time I have heard about this. Why didn’t you tell me about it?"

Candidate: "I did. I sent you an email."

Line Manager: "I never saw it."

Candidate: "When you didn’t reply, I sent it again. Twice."

Line Manager (visibly irritated): "Well send it to me again and I will look at it."

She didn’t get the promotion allegedly because another candidate who was judged to deserve the promotion more than she was offered the role.

But her feedback said she had performed well at interview and that she would be given the next available managers job when it became available.

A good interviewer doesn’t bully or pile on pressure. They probe without menace. They need every candidate to perform to the best of their ability, not the worst.

This isn’t the last time this sort of interview will happen, but maybe, just maybe, this person will wind their neck in a bit from now on...