Merry Quizmas from AB!

Turkey, mulled wine, presents, the Queen’s speech, mid-afternoon naps, and of course, fun and games with the family.

Whether your tradition is charades, santa limbo or pin the tail on Rudolph, there’s no better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than with a festive quiz. So, without further ado… Merry Quizmas!

So how did you get on – are you a shining star or a Brussels sprout? Check out the answers below.

And don’t forget, click on one of the icons on the right to merrily share it with your friends and family – see if they can trump your score.


Ready for the answers…?

Merry Quizmas 01 - AB Creative Agency

Round 1: I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus

Merry Quizmas from AB - Creative Agency Exeter & London

Round 2: Deck the halls

Quizmas 2018 from AB - Digital Agency London & Exeter

Round 3: Away in a manger

AB Christmas Quiz 2018 - Answer 04

Round 4: Jingle bell rock

AB Quizmas 2018 - Answer 05

Round 5: Rudolph the red nose reindeer

See you next year!

Will voice assistants and chatbots join forces?

The combination of voice search, voice assistants and artificial intelligence is a potent one. We know that the popularity of voice search is growing and that brands need to prepare for it. We reckon that as the user experience in voice search continues to improve, it will change our consumer habits. Imagine, what if your voice assistant is intelligent enough to make appointments for you or buy your favourite groceries?

When we as marketers think of the actions we want consumers to undertake with our businesses, booking something or buying something is right up at the top of the list. When we seek to improve the ease with which customers can complete these tasks, we call it conversion optimisation.

What is conversion optimisation?

Just to take a step back, what we’re talking about is how effectively your website or app encourages users to undertake the actions you want them to. For instance, buying products, leaving their contact details or downloading content. Conversion optimisation is something we talk about when we are trying to improve upon the efficiency of a platform for the benefit of both the user and the business owner. User experience, content, design – they all play a role.

Why isn’t voice search mainstream?

Simple. The experience can be unfulfilling, frustrating and harder work than typing a query into a device. We talked more about this in our previous article about the future of voice search.

Voice search is an imperfect user experience at present. There are trust issues around data and purchasing. But voice assistants successfully carry out tasks such as setting alarms, finding directions and playing music on an increasingly frequent basis in our lives.

It’s all about ease and speed

We humans are an impatient and lazy bunch, but we’ve also been conditioned to expect accuracy and speed with every digital interaction. We don’t suffer slow-loading web pages or poor quality search results. We’ve learned to take the path of least resistance to the answer we seek.

Ease and speed - Page loading speeds - Voice Search - AB Creative Agency - London & Exeter

So, imagine when a Google Assistant can not only undertake a search and return relevant results extremely quickly, it can also help you achieve your end goal. Imagine asking the Google Assistant a question about a restaurant booking and then your voice assistant being able to engage with a chatbot to make your booking for you. Wouldn’t that be an amazing customer experience? Well, it’s real.

Will chatbots replace humans in online customer service?

For the most part, probably! As chatbots and the artificial intelligence that drives them becomes more sophisticated, they will be able to manage increasingly sophisticated queries. Chatbots use Natural Language Processing to interpret conversational queries and then respond with an answer. According to Gartner, by 2020 as much as 85% of customer service operations could be handled by a virtual assistant.

So, it’s not a stretch to imagine that if the rate of change in voice search persists, the growth in voice assistants conducting customer service tasks on behalf of customers could be a reality for the majority of us.

This could mean that we’re all solving our problems, answering our questions and getting where we want to go faster, more easily and with fewer steps in the customer journey than ever before. This is the ultimate nirvana for conversion optimisation.

How do I get started with a chatbot?

The simplest way to get started building a chatbot is not to think about the technology, but the conversation flow you want to facilitate. In its simplest form, what answers to common questions could a chatbot provide? A simple chatbot can be designed with set responses for specific questions.

In the past, you would have needed coding experience to bring this bot you’ve envisioned to life but that’s no longer the case. One of the tools we’re really enjoying playing around with at the moment that offers a no-coding way of creating a Facebook Messenger bot is

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to make your own Facebook Messenger ChatBot – subscribe to the blog to get emails as we post more on this topic.

Check out the rest of the articles in the series, Voice Search: Future or Fad?

The Chase is on to make your brand go big!

How do you know you’ve really made it as a brand? Is it when a celebrity gets snapped with your product? Or when song lyrics feature your name? We recently helped a client revamp their brand, and their big moment came this week. Forget Hollywood – we’re talking about ITV’s The Chase.

The TV quiz show, presented by Bradley Walsh, features contestants battling brainboxes for cash. And this week’s contestants were asked: ParentPay is a payment system designed for what institutions?

ParentPay is an online payment service for schools and families. We helped the team to develop their brand and develop a new business strategy. The company has just won two awards, including entrepreneur of the year.

Deal or no deal?

We can’t promise to get your brand on the telly. That would be Pointless. But Play Your Cards Right and we can promise you a team of expert designers and brand Masterminds.

Get in touch if you’d like some help to turn your brilliant business into a Blockbuster.

How to prepare for voice search

Getting ahead of the curve 

The ability to undertake searches by voice will change user expectations about speed and ease of accessing relevant information, so how to prepare for voice search is a question that should be top of mind for every business owner. It’s never been more important to make sure as a business you understand your target audience, their behaviours, motivations and needs.

So, what can you and your business do to get ahead and provide your users with a great voice search experience?

  1. Use ‘conversational language’ keywords

On average, humans speak 150 words in the same time it would take them to type 40, so voice search queries become longer and more conversational in tone. It seems contrary to the premise that longer searches are less common, have less search volume than short searches with few keywords and therefore aren’t as valuable to target in an SEO strategy. But those long-tail searches are where much of the relevant volume can lie, so they are an important market if your digital strategy.

Keyword Length vs Volume - how to prepare voice search? - AB Agency London and Exeter

Top tip: when you’re next conducting keyword research, focus on the types of questions users might ask to find your business. Think about the conversational keywords used. Are they adjectives? Do they relate to a location and its variants?

Question keyword searches are up an estimated 61% year on year, so including short and concise answers in your content is key. Creating or enhancing your FAQ page is an effective way of doing this. Attempt to get into the minds of your customers and consider how they would talk about your business, and then apply that to your content.

But don’t go overboard and create a single page for every question you think will be asked. It’ll dilute your site and be of little benefit.




  1. Increase site load speed

Site speed is crucial. One study found the average load speed of a voice search result page is 4.6 seconds, which is 52% faster than an average webpage. Brilliant content or not, a slow website could hinder the chances of your content being featured in a user’s question. Although a little old (2016), these stats from Google illustrate this point perfectly.

Mobile page load speed - how to prepare for voice search? - AB Agency London and Exeter






  1. Focus on your location and local SEO

Mobile search users are increasingly searching for location-specific information relevant to their immediate situation – a restaurant near me, a shoe-repair shop near me etc. Google reports that “_____ near me now” searches have grown by 500% over the last two years, yet the postcode, city or region qualifier is being dropped. Users now assume that search engines know their location and provide relevant results using the near me appendix.

Growth in near me searches - how to prepare for voice search? - AB Agency London and Exeter

Top tip: Make sure local search is part of your strategy. Above all, get your Google My Business (GMB) listing in tip-top shape with opening hours, up to date contact details, latest images and posts. You can now add offers to your GMB profile, which may prove to be important in local voice search for the future.





  1. Strive for featured snippets

Did you know that 40.7% of voice search answers come from featured snippets? These snippets of content can be pulled from any website on the first page of results. Optimise your content with the tips provided above to increase your chances of being featured.

Featured snippet - how to prepare for voice search - AB Digital Agency London and Exeter

Top tip

  • Switch from your previous keyword list to the question-orientated searches that start with who, what, where, when, why and how
  • Be succinct in how you answer those questions. 45 – 97 words is the range to aim for
  • For the best chance of achieving a snippet, format your content as a paragraph.
  • Make sure you do some good traditional SEO – optimise the page, link to and from it, get external links pointing to it


These are the most popular keywords included in featured snippets according to this post on Moz.

Top 30 keywords in featured snippets - how to prepare for voice search? - AB Agency London and Exeter

The growing popularity of voice search offers brilliant opportunities for both users and businesses. As stated by Albert Creixell, the Partnerships Head at Amazon Alexa, ‘Utterances are the new hashtags’, identifying the growing importance of conversational language.













So what?

So, in the spirit of helping our customers understand how to prepare for voice search and stay ahead of the curve, we’re giving away two Google Home Minis to anyone who subscribes to AB emails. All you need to do to enter is subscribe below. The competition closes on 30th November 2018, full T&Cs here.


Constipation and Elton John; it must be Christmas ad time

The Christmas countdown has begun. Mince pies are hitting the supermarket shelves, twinkling lights are hanging in the streets and the festive ads are filling our TV screens. Whether you’re a Scrooge or a festive fanatic, you have little choice but to be smothered by Christmas.

November has seen the release of much-anticipated Christmas TV ads from some of the biggest high street brands.

Marcus Bennett, AB’s creative director and partner, shares his take on a few of this year’s Christmas ads by some of the best-known department stores.

Let’s begin with some sparks.

M&S: Must-haves

It’s not just any ad. It’s a heart-warming, festive ad starring the face of M&S, Holly Willoughby. While watching the delightful scenes of festive family occasions, it’s hard not to let the ad put a smile on your face.

Marcus states: “It’s refreshing to see that M&S have moved on from their past positioning of simply, ‘buy our products’.

“From the Bridget Jones moment to dancing mums, they really tucked into some nice clichés.”

For a little more action, suspense and humour, Argos introduces you to The Christmas Fool.

Meet The Christmas Fool

The light-hearted tale highlights Argos’ heroic status as the go-to store to save your last-minute Christmas mishaps. And let’s be honest, we all have them.

“A clear take on Harry Potter’s Dobby; it will inevitably be a favourite amongst children,” notes Marcus.

“The choice of opera, instead of a pop hit, is revitalising, making the ad stand out from others.

“And their message of accessibility really shines through here.”

So it seems that Argos did good. They tapped into the younger generation and effectively reflected their brand message.

Debenhams: Do a bit of you-know-you-did-good

Debenhams, on the other hand, went for a hard sell with some questionable facial expressions.

“Cheap, cheerful and cheesy spring to mind,” reflects Marcus.

“The faces pulled by the actors just make them look constipated.”

Well, at least it puts a smile on your face.

And finally, it’s the ad that everyone has been waiting for…

It’s #EltonJohnLewis

It’s here: the moment we have all been waiting for. Reviews are already flooding in and it seems like John Lewis has received a Marmite reaction.

“The wait for the John Lewis Christmas ad was a bit like waiting for the Queen to arrive. Everyone has rocked up to the Christmas party, waiting in anticipation for the arrival of pop royalty. And in this case, it was Sir Elton John.

“John Lewis created a calendar event. It was a British Super Bowl moment,” says Marcus.

And then, it was released.

“It’s like John Lewis pushed creativity to one side and went for celebrity status.

“It’s a lovely concept and sweet storyline; but do John Lewis even sell pianos?” asks Marcus.

Advertising: challenges and triumphs

Mastering a successful ad can be challenging. As Jason, AB’s head of film states, “I can imagine agency creative teams feeling a sense of dread and excitement when it comes to receiving the Christmas campaign brief – the pressure to deliver bigger and better ideas each year must be immense.

“But there’s no doubt that at this time of year we usually see some real gems – creative thinking outside the box and going beyond what your competitors are doing.”

If this year’s festive ads have inspired you to creatively promote your brand through film, get in touch with [email protected] or [email protected].

Top 5 ways brands need to evolve for voice search

See how the adoption of voice-controlled devices and voice search will impact user behaviour.

In the last blog, we looked at the future of voice assistants and voice search. We discovered that users often get a good experience when using voice assistants for simple tasks such as setting timers and getting directions. But when it comes to finding answers or purchasing products, the experience lacks efficiency and accuracy. Plus there’s a trust issue around paying for items through this interface.

It’s because we as humans expect the interface to behave as if we were having a conversation with another human being. The reality is the artificial intelligence just isn’t there yet.

Why brands should be thinking about voice search

Simple. Speaking is a natural human behaviour that we’re all well practised at, just in the same way that asking questions to discover answers is as natural as eating and breathing.

The average human types 40 words per minute but can speak many more. A comfortable speaking pace is around 150 words per minute, so voice search is more appealing because (when it works) we can get the information we want faster. As users, we can engage on our terms. There’s no thinking about the right string of keywords to enter into the search, we simply verbalise what we want.

Imagine being able to simply ask Alexa to buy groceries on your list or to have a conversation with Siri about a topic you’re researching. In my opinion, we’re still some time away from that reality but it will get there, and probably more swiftly than anyone predicts. And it’s likely that a smooth voice search with voice assistants like Cortana, Siri or Alexa will change user behaviours when they engage online.

Here are the top 5 things we think will change about the way users interact with businesses and how brands need to evolve for voice search.

  1. Website design and branding will play less of a role

Shock and horror just crossed your face, didn’t they? Especially coming from a creative agency that specialises in branding. But hear me out.

If that crucial first interaction a potential customer or client has with your business occurs through voice, it’s probably a screen-less interaction. So, the only opportunity you have to convey brand is through the spoken word or sound activation. Which brings me to my next point.

  1. The question of ‘what does my brand sound like?’ will need to be answered

How many times have brand guidelines in the past included anything about what a brand sounds like? Infrequently at best, until recently that is. Questions such as ‘does my brand have an accent?’ and ‘should we use appropriate slang and colloquialisms?’ will need to be addressed.

Examples of brands that have previously employed sound activation to great effect are:

Intel (warning, this video infuriates after a while!)


T-Mobile (shorter – less infuriating!)


Nokia (also quite short!)


  1. Prioritising information for a user will be more important than ever

No longer will some brands and their websites have the luxury of presenting the user with too many messages in one go.

There is a 1 to 1 relationship in the information requested vs information delivered in voice search. This simply means a question will only have one answer. That’s why everyone working in digital strategy and search engine optimisation has been thinking about position zero queries for a while now.

Position zero relates to those results on a search engine results page (SERP) that do not have a ranking position (in the traditional sense that we think of them). For instance, the rich snippet is a position zero result, but sometimes so is the rich answer box, which features ‘people also ask…’ questions and answers.

rich snippet in search results - brands need to evolve for voice search - Digital marketing agency - AB London


  1. Copy should be tailored for reading aloud

Although we as humans are well practised at speaking, there is greater mental effort required when listening. So, lengthy sentences and complex language will not be a welcome responses for a user, nor will they help the user to engage further. We know that attention spans are decreasing, and users expect to get the information they want as fast as possible.

  1. Be fully optimised for the customer experience

Voice search queries such as ‘where’s the nearest place to buy jeans?’ or ‘find my nearest Italian fish restaurant’ are on the increase.

So optimisation for local voice search queries is really important. It’s estimated that around 88% of users seek driving directions after a local voice search query. So being found when someone locally has already decided they need the product or service is crucial to winning that moment.

Page load speed is also critical. According to a recent study by Backlinko, “PageSpeed appears to play a major role in voice search SEO. The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page)”.

Ok Google, what’s next for voice assistants and voice search?

Many of us have a Siri, Cortana or Alexa in our lives, but what’s next for voice assistants and voice search? Are they going to rock our worlds and magically make daily life so much easier? The short answer: no, probably not right away. But voice search is definitely going to play an increasing part in how customers interact with businesses, so it’s time to get on board. That’s why we’re giving away two Google Minis to our loyal subscribers, more details are included below.

Local voice search on the rise

Comscore originally estimated that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice (everyone’s heard that statistic by now). But Gartner estimates that around 30% of browsing sessions will be done without a screen by then. A bit of a discrepancy but as with the adoption of new behaviours and devices, the growth will be exponential once the benefits outweigh the cost or effort in this case. So far we’ve largely found the experience of voice searches to be pretty woeful. How many times have you asked Siri a question and the answer comes back “I found this on the web for you…”? That response instantly cuts off any further conversation and pretty much negates the whole concept of voice search.

Local search queries, however, seem to be faring rather better. According to one study, 58% of US consumers surveyed had used voice search to find a local business in the last 12 months. Another survey showed that 88% of users who are looking for a local business will then get driving directions to their chosen destination. It would seem that’s quite a high success rate, so what’s going wrong in search?

Voice search vs voice assistance 

When we think of a voice assistant we think of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or maybe Microsoft’s Cortana. The majority of UK adults have access to at least one of these, either through a smart speaker or their smartphone. As ownership of these devices grows, more requests are made by voice.

But let’s just be clear. There’s a really big difference between voice search and voice assistance. Voice search can be defined as searches that are conducted on the web initiated by the spoken word. Voice assistants can conduct searches but are also used to perform tasks such as setting timers, alarms, playing music or controlling smart devices in the home such as lighting. In some cases, voice assistance is the bulk of the work undertaken by a device.

It wasn’t so long ago that Amazon’s Alexa had the market conquered. In 2017 they occupied about 80% of the smart speaker market, but as of Q1 2018 sales of Google’s Home Assistant had grown by almost 500% and they are now the world leader in the provision of smart speakers (source: Forbes).

Infographic: How smart speakers are used in the UK | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

The issue of trust and accuracy

We think one of the reasons behind the relatively poor uptake of voice searches is down to our natural human assumption that a device in conversation will behave as if speaking to another human. When we get a response that the device can’t understand the question or doesn’t have an answer, it’s a stop sign and the conversation dies.

It’s all very well asking Alexa to play your favourite radio station or to set a timer while you boil an egg, but what about Amazon’s most likely end game – to make the buying journey easier and therefore more frequent? Recent research shows that while the sales of Amazon Echo devices are skyrocketing, their performance in terms of driving sales is not living up to expectations. Customers have reservations about the security of their data, providing payment information and not being able to see the product.

Infographic: Alexa, I Don't Trust You To Be My Shopping Assistant | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

It would seem that voice assistants and voice search still have a way to go to meet our expectations. You can read more about how well search responses meet the needs of the user, check out this document from Google.

So what?

So, in the spirit of helping our customers stay informed about voice assistants and voice search, we’re giving away two Google Home Minis to anyone who subscribes to AB emails. All you need to do to enter is subscribe below. The competition closes on 30th November 2018, full details plus T&Cs here.


Cartoons: cheerful, not cheap

Is the world falling out of love with animation? Childhood classics Dumbo, The Lion King and Aladdin will all be released as live-action movies in 2019. This comes hot off the sparkly heels of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

On International Animation Day, we’re asking: are we falling out of love with cartoons?

Cheerful not cheap

Some companies we come across think that animation is the ugly step-sister to live action. They see cartoons as a low-budget option. A cheap and cheerful way to communicate a message.

But we know from experience that a good animation simply isn’t cheap to make.

Remember the John Lewis Christmas advert that took living rooms by storm in 2013? The nation fell in love with The Bear and the Hare’s cosy tale of furry friendship. The merchandise sold out in 10 days. Not bad for a couple of quick and colourful sketches, right?

Except the two-minute animation was painstakingly crafted over six months. It cost £1 million to make and £7 million to promote. The amount of work that went into every second of that film was staggering. Just watch this behind-the-scenes footage of how they did it.

“It takes a lot of effort to do a really nice animation,” says Jason Purvis, AB’s head of film.

“But when you have a team who can commit to putting the effort in, the results are always worth it.”

B2B: it’s the eyebrows

It’s not only B2C companies that can benefit from using animation. AB used the technique for a B2B client to promote HR software.

“Character-based animation can bring a product like that to life,” says Jason.

“If the client had wanted to do a live-action film, what would we have shown? Footage of actors typing in an office? That wouldn’t be engaging. It wouldn’t tell a story.

“Animator Simon Tibbs used tiny details to make this entertaining. The script is quite straightforward but watch the way the characters’ eyebrows move – in every scene he’s paid so much attention to detail.”

“If you get all the elements right, animation is brilliant,” says Jason. “But you need the right script, music, colours, details – everything has to come together.

“The end result looks so simple – no one can tell how much effort goes into it.”

Is animation right for you?

If you’d like to chat about promoting your brand with film, we’d love to hear from you. Contact [email protected]

Drum DADI Awards Nomination – So What?

We make lovely things. In fact, as a creative agency, we make bloody wonderful things. Websites, brands, campaigns, films; you name it. So when we produce our work, we’re always keen to be recognised with the best of the best. Enter the DADI Awards. The Drum’s Awards For Digital Industries is the dadi of all award ceremonies (pun intended). The awards aim to “identify the best practices, companies and people in our industry”. 40 industry leaders have been nominated from both agency and client side to discuss the shortlist of nominations for each category.

One of our nominations is in the Financial Services App/Website/Campaign for our work with FCFP on the #YouShapedAdvice campaign.

We entered the You Shaped Advice campaign because it’s not your typical financial services campaign and we wanted to show that. I mean; how many other financial services ads have disco dancers and UFO’s? This campaign is an excellent example of a well-executed creative idea that has produced tangible results for the client. We used LinkedIn Ads and an extensive Google Search and Display strategy to target high net worth individuals, ensuring we were advertising in the right space.

We’re also nominated in ‘Integrated Marketing Campaign’ with The Maynard School for #MadeForGirls.

We’ve evolved this campaign (currently in its third year – watch out Exeter!) in a variety of ways. In terms of the #MadeForGirls concept we’ve managed to revise the creative assets and film, but our strategy has also changed over time. The results are telling; the schools open days are always full and the engagement for the school just continues to grow.

We’re proud of our work and the results they produce, but it’s always humbling to receive industry recognition for what we do alongside other stunning pieces of work. You can see the full list of categories, as well as nominees here.

The awards ceremony is on the 10th of October. Here’s hoping we bring home the gold!

A Week In The Life Of A Digital Marketing Intern

Who am I and why am I doing work experience?

I’m Annabel and I’m going into my second year of university studying Business Management with Marketing at UWE Bristol. My interests are in social media and digital marketing so I wanted to gain some experience in the areas I enjoy. It was important to me to that I made the most out of my extremely long summer holiday and I knew that a digital marketing internship would help me in the future in terms of choosing a career path and getting a job.

What was everyone like at AB?

I was extremely nervous to start my week of work experience as I had never worked in an office before but as soon as I stepped in I received such a warm welcome from everyone.

What did I work on?

I quickly came to learn that AB has many different clients in a variety of industries. The digital marketing team were just getting ready to launch a new campaign for one of their leisure and tourism clients. The aim was to increase off-peak bookings by targeting key audiences such as young families.

What did I learn at AB?

I gained an insight into social media marketing, specifically Facebook ads. This is something that I found very interesting as I had never put much thought into why I see the ads that I do. It was decided to use Facebook ads for the client who wanted to make sure that they were getting bookings during the off-peak season. To do this we narrowed the audience by location, age, gender, and interests. This tailored it to the desired target audience so that the ads would reach the right people. It wasn’t beneficial to target large groups of people for this specific campaign; this is because not everyone is going to be interested in the ad so it would be a waste of time and money. The image is one of the most important parts of the ad as it’s often the first thing that people see, so it needs to stand out and be relevant. The text on the images is also crucial because it can’t cover any more than 25%. If there is more than this, Facebook will either disprove the advertisement or limit the number of people who see it. This is because Facebook wants to make sure that they are showing high-quality adverts to the people using their site.

Why are Facebook ads good to use for clients?

The benefit of Facebook ads for businesses is that business owners and managers have the ability to track the ads and see the results. There are also many different things that you are able to see once an ad is posted, for example, the reach, impressions, cost per result, budget, the amount spent, when the ads end and frequency – the average number of times that each person saw the ad and landing page views. If the audience isn’t responding to things well (for example, not clicking through) then the ads can be altered to improve them.

What else did I do at AB?

The digital marketing team are currently involved in creating new digital strategies for several different clients in different industries, so I contributed towards the research for these. This included competitor research, finding out the client’s place in the market and keyword research. I found this particularly interesting because it made me realise how much work goes into planning a campaign before it can get started.

How was my week at AB?

Even though I study marketing at university, I have gained so much knowledge from doing the role hands-on. I have learnt so much about the world of digital marketing and I owe it to the team at AB for being great mentors over the week. The experience has given me a taste of what a real job in the marketing sector is like. I was so thankful that I wasn’t making tea and coffee for everyone all week and that I was able to get stuck into the role.  I can’t thank everyone enough at AB for being so lovely and helpful.