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Ogilvy bets big on bots as messaging apps surge in popularity


By Natalie Mortimer, N/A

November 17, 2016 | 5 min read

Ogilvy is staking an early claim in the rising chatbot space with the creation of a dedicated artificial intelligence offer it believes will provide brands the opportunity to deliver more personalised services and experiences, as well as a lucrative stream for the agency itself.


Ogilvy bets big on bots as messaging apps surge in popularity

While still in their infancy, chatbots have caught the attention of advertisers and marketers looking to reach the billions of people using messenger services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The social media giant now has over 900 million active Messenger users per month, so it makes sense that brands are trying to figure out how they can play in the space.

And despite some consumer apprehension about this new wave of artificial intelligence infiltrating their lives, Ogilvy believes chatbots are at a “tipping point” and is looking to use its creative clout to define the space via its new ‘Bots by Ogilvy’ venture.

Designed in-house, the venture will look to place conversational interaction at the forefront of a brand’s marketing roadmap, and, hopefully, place Ogilvy as the go-to agency for brands keen to reach consumers in new ways.

The decision to launch at the dawn of chatbots was spurred by marketers asking the questions “why is everybody spending their time on mobile in messenger and why don’t we have stuff that suits them in this space?” said Will Godfrey, Ogilvy's experience director who is leading the project with planning partner for innovation, James Whatley.

“We have an opportunity to define the platform with them when we are coming up with feature ideas for the clients, it’s something that has never been done before. You are not only defining really great client work but creating thought pieces on this whole new sub section of what interfaces will be like.”

So far, the agency has signed up 12 brands to create bespoke bot services for, with a “long, long list” of other brands keen to explore how they can effectively enter the space. Ogilvy is hoping the strength of its partnerships with IBM, Chatfuel and Facebook, will win over marketers who are hesitant to push budgets towards chatbots, however, the agency is also being upfront about the need to solve a particular business problem for brands rather than just hopping on the chatbot trend.

“We have rules about what makes good chatbot experiences so when we have those first conversations with clients we can say, ‘do you want to tell a longer narrative with an audience or do you want to have penetration to a platform?’. We then need to find the business problem that suits the benefits of chatbots. I’m slightly worried that the rest of the world will bastardise them by making loads and loads, and making them horrible experiences.”

In terms of disruption to marketing, Godfrey predicts CRM will see the most change given that more personable conversations can be had over text or WhatsApp, rather than via email marketing. “A lot of people talk about personalisation driving all of these emails campaigns but in reality I could personalise something in a bot in 10 minutes better than an email ever could because I can get everything from your Facebook profile and make it an amazing experience,” he added.

Bots by Ogilvy saw its first product rolled out earlier this month for client PHE to coincide with its Stoptober Campaign. The Facebook Messenger bot was created to provide around the clock instant practical support and daily messages to smokers throughout the 28-day campaign. Most recently, Ogilvy was tasked by hotel Mondrian London to create a chatbot for guests that would act as both a tour-guide and showcase its range of hospitality and entertainment services.

Group chats are also an area of interest for Bots by Ogilvy. “I’m most excited about how group chats will be the bot maker,” said Godfrey. “If you have six people trying to organise to do something and you are all chatting on a group chat, then all leaving the platform to open Safari to book something, and come back in and your flights aren’t the same… bots will be able to help with this [problem] and do amazing things. You won’t have to leave the platform, and it is up to Ogilvy to find those cases and show the value to clients.”

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