“The rise of automation in advertising has rendered a lot of traditional ad tech obsolete.”
With #SuperchargeMarketing just around the corner, we’ve been catching up with our lovely speakers ahead of an evening of insightful talks and networking at Zetland House on the 29th of October.
Included on our lineup is Mack Grenfell, Biddable Lead at health service provider Babylon Health, who’ll be talking about his marketing career and how to get the most out of paid advertising. We sat down with him to talk about automating marketing and fine-tuning the customer experience with just the right amount of personalisation.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve worked in performance advertising since leaving university two years back. I started out agency side, working as an account manager then account director at a London-based agency called Brainlabs. I began life there specialising in paid search, but quickly became attracted to paid social as I found it to be more uncharted territory, and liked how much opportunity there was to try out new strategies.
After two years of agency life I moved in-house with a brand called Babylon, where I now look after the biddable channels. Babylon is a digital health company which uses tech and AI to make healthcare accessible and affordable for more people. We do this in a couple of different ways, but we’re most well-known for offering virtual consultations – doctor appointments that take place over a video call on your phone – and for our AI symptom checker, which can learn about patients’ symptoms and triage them to self-care, or to a medical professional.
Outside of the office I enjoy wearing lycra and getting sharp tan lines, two passions which I combine by competing in triathlons.
How did you get into marketing?
Another passion of mine is getting free stuff, so while at university I’d comb through careers fairs for any stands giving out good merch. I remember going up to one stand for a performance agency (Brainlabs), and giving them my email in exchange for a free bath toy. They followed up with an email a few days later inviting me to apply online. All I had to do was submit a CV, so I thought why not?, and everything followed from there.
This turned out to be a good illustration of some fairly basic marketing principles. Free giveaway? Check. CRM follow-up? Check. Low friction funnel? Check.
What marketing tools could you not live without?
Any form of automated bidding. Not having to spend my time sweating the small stuff frees me up massively.
Personally I believe that the rise of automation in advertising has rendered a lot of traditional ad tech obsolete. For example, the power to bid on search results in real-time, down to a query level, completely changes the game in terms of what search tech actually adds value. I think advertisers have to work much harder nowadays to find tech which is worth using.
Being able to write basic tech is becoming a more important part of an advertiser’s skill set. As advertisers increasingly look for bespoke tools to help with their company’s marketing challenges, the ability to build basic tools on the fly provides a huge competitive advantage.
“Being able to write basic tech is becoming a more important part of an advertiser’s skill set.”
This is especially true for brands that rely on platforms like Facebook, where having technical experience can massively extend what an advertiser is able to do on the platform. It’s hard to find tools which add value here, so I try to build my own where possible.
How do you see AI and machine learning affecting marketing?
We’re in a golden age for automation, where advertisers that have been early adopters have a big edge over those who still optimise their spend manually. If it hasn’t already, I think that automation soon will become the default, and that this will level the playing field amongst advertisers.
Once this starts to happen, the advertisers with the competitive edge will be those who are able to squeeze the most out of automation. These will be the advertisers who are best able to personalise their marketing, understand customer lifetime value and automate across their channels rather than just on a channel-by-channel basis.
Do you have any tips for how marketers can implement personalisation without coming across as intrusive?
I don’t think it’s that hard to personalise content without coming across as creepy. Always ask yourself what benefit you’re actually providing to a user by personalising ads towards them; if you’re not adding any value for them then go back to the drawing board. You shouldn’t be personalising your marketing just for the sake of it.
For an example of what I think a good level of personalisation looks like: at Babylon we’ve been working recently on some social video ads promoting the NHS clinics that we run in London and Birmingham. The ads reference how far users are from the clinic, e.g. …only 15 minutes away, where we made use of the Google Maps API to ensure that travel time estimates are accurate. I think that this is a good level of personalisation to aim for; it’s genuinely personal, it’s subtle and it provides useful information that helps consumers make up their mind.