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Ask Me Anything: Sean Topham talks working with Christopher Luxon and Boris Johnson and facing ‘dark arts’ backlash

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Ask Me Anything: Sean Topham talks working with Christopher Luxon and Boris Johnson and facing ‘dark arts’ backlash

Sean Topham is the co-founder of ad agency Topham Guerin.

Can you imagine incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon hanging out on Twitch? His globally successful social media gurus certainly did.

Getting Luxon online and interacting with gamers was one of the ideas pitched by Topham Guerin, the advertising agency started in New Zealand by Sean Topham and Ben Guerin.

Since launching in 2016, the agency has worked with the likes of Australia’s Scott Morrison and Britain’s Boris Johnson on their successful election campaigns, and returned home to work on National’s general election campaign.

Topham, in New Zealand after the election, told Paula Bennett on her NZ Herald podcast, Ask Me Anything, that video game live streaming service Twitch was one of the platforms they considered getting Luxon involved with, though the idea didn’t pan out.

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“I mean, there’s still time. Maybe as Prime Minister, you’ll be the first PM on Twitch, but you know, it’s a really important constituency community space to talk to people where they are and in the same way that they’re operating.”

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Adapting to the digital age has been one reason why Topham Guerin has succeeded around the world. Topham said that they have focused on social media and growth areas like TikTok and Twitch, as there are dedicated communities there with niche interests that make it easy to talk about specific issues.

“Politicians are the oldest influencers in the world. TikTok is the place where influencers are thriving at the moment,” Topham said. “You need to start taking pages out of TikTok influencers’ books to try and be an effective influencer in this day and age.”

Each campaign and client brings its own challenges and opportunities with them, though Topham noted that former British Prime Minister Johnson was “one of the most unique individuals” he’d ever worked with.

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“You could be sitting in a meeting room with him in Downing Street, and this was before the election as we were sort of getting bits and pieces, and the way he’d sort of furrow his brow and look at you and ask good questions, and then suddenly quote ancient Roman texts and stuff, just the sort of intellectual rigour and fascination … it’s something unlike any other.”

While the agency has been successful, it has also garnered some backlash, largely due to working for conservative or right-leaning clients.

Topham said he feels the media tends to dramatise the agency’s work as more “controversial, edgy, dark arts” than it actually is.

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“Online advertising, every brand and organisation does it, and we happen to have done it for a couple of high-profile individuals and on political campaigns, and so therefore, somehow, there is a very evil core that could possibly do this.”

He said their agency started as a “couple of guys with MacBooks making ads and running ads” and they were surprised by the backlash initially, but now they brush it off.

And he has some simple advice for their critics.

“They just need to take a chill pill. It’s kind of funny to read some of the reckons. It’s actually quite good for my self-esteem and my ego. They make me sound a lot better than I think I am from time to time, in cahoots with Rupert Murdoch and everyone else, stringing the world together and, uh, pulling the strings. But that’s just not the case.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear more from Sean on adapting your business and brand to the digital world.

Ask Me Anything is an NZ Herald podcast, hosted by Paula Bennett. New episodes are out every Sunday.

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You can follow the podcast at iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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