According to Maxus, Mesh is a “marketing command centre and dialogue engine that reads environmental signals in real-time”. An earlier version of the social centre was deployed for Nestle. Since then the agency has been working on something more comprehensive, bringing together GroupM and Vocanic resources. Mesh, which can be accessed through a web browser, is currently running in the Philippines with Maxus clients including Disney.
When asked what is special about Mesh in a market saturated with listening tools and the like, Shaw answered: “A lot of them [command centres] tend to be good at just one thing,” he said. “What we’ve tried to build is something that can visualise what’s trending in all of the brand's channels in a simple interface and then take action across different tools, from paid media through to social.”
While the agency’s objective is to use Mesh to “do better work and win new business”, using the platform internally is an equal priority.
“We didn’t want to build a tool that would be tucked away,” said Shaw, emphasising Maxus’s role as the more experimental R&D arm of GroupM. “But instead, we want to immerse our own staff in Mesh and the insights it produces.”
Describing Mesh as a “tech-enablement platform” combining GroupM data (media data), social data and owned media, McKee said the platform looks at the “data known about people” versus “paid media data like banner ads" where not much is known about users.
“All the data insights from paid, earned and transactional data like loyalty programs allows you to look at your overall brand health and engage in a conversation to impact peoples’ purchases proactively rather than reactively,” said McKee.
“I haven’t seen any other similar product—one that presents all the data in a consistent visual manner,” he added.
Essentially, Mesh is trying to do it all. It pulls in campaign, audience, and client data and then visualises it before applying analytics and econometrics to generate insights. From there advertisers have the ability to act on those insights by selecting the media channels they want to target along with the creative they want to use through Mesh's built-in asset managment system.
Radovic notes Mesh’s proprietary ‘m-trigger’, which automatically triggers media spending based on “environmental signals”, set parameters, and campaign objectives, as another standout factor. For example, a brand selling air conditioners might consider temperature, weather and other variables with a correlation to trigger action, which seizes opportunities to engage and sell air conditioners.
However, while Mesh covers a wide range of data streams and platforms, it only goes as far as “data subsets needed for business decisions”. In other words, it doesn’t cover everything.
For example, if an advertiser is using Facebook Power Editor, Mesh won’t include all of the native analytics in its data stream. “We’d blow our API rate limit if we did that,” said McKee. “So we run Mesh with the data we think we need to make decisions, and then we evaluate.”
Even though there are limitations with third-party APIs, put simply, it's not about having a kind of 'God's-eye' that sees and tracks everything omnichannel. Rather, it's about selecting data streams that are most pertinent to marketing science to begin with. And this might just come down good-old "experience" and best friends, "test and learn".
For McKee, social command centres are nothing new. While the technology under the hood has advanced, the data and 'model-thinking' approach remains unchanged. Models, which present a simplified and yet effective point of reference, help users strip complex "data sandboxes" down to the essentials.
"When you compare the old and the new, looking back there have always been 'executive information systems'," said McKee. "Where the purpose has been to aid business decision-making."
The strategic direction for Mesh includes a five-market rollout starting in the Philippines, then Vietnam, Australia and Hong Kong by the end of 2015.
“The Philippines is teaching us a lot,” said Shaw. “We realise Mesh might not look exactly the same in six months time.”