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In-house of pain? The conundrum of media buying

Posted By John Dunne, Founder of Ignite Digital, Wednesday 20 March 2019
Updated: Tuesday 19 March 2019

media buying

Technology is tempting some big names to do media buying themselves and cut out agencies, but as John Dunne argues, it’s not a binary decision.

As international ad industry headlines highlight brands bringing media buying in-house, speculation is that agencies are doomed, sure to be victims of self-service advertising solutions. When Google and Facebook can offer direct-to-consumer relationships, it’s tempting for brands to think about getting rid of the middleman. From an Irish perspective, the reports of these deaths may be greatly exaggerated. The rush of advertisers trying to do media themselves is as much an opportunity to agencies and ad platforms as it is a threat.


Fit for purpose

What’s clear is, brands and agencies believe the current setup isn’t fit for purpose: that’s what research by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and management consultancy The Observatory International found. Almost half of agencies feel clients don’t provide them with clear briefs. Is it any wonder agencies miss the target when the goalposts keep moving?

A brand’s decision to take its media in-house poses a variation on the classic business question: should you focus on your core expertise and outsource the rest, or do it yourself?

The most recent development relates to biddable media, where the advent of companies such as Google and Facebook have enabled advertisers to deal directly with media owners with little friction. The growth of online biddable media – paid search, programmatic and paid social (any media that can be purchased via live auctions) – and a general loss of trust in agencies have resulted in increasing noise about advertisers moving towards in-housing.


Greener grass in-house?

There are two kinds of company in the digital economy: those that have first-party data and those that don’t. The companies that own a lot of first-party data and have direct-to-consumer (D2C) relationships are winning (think Amazon, Google, Netflix and Uber).

There’s a perceived wisdom that in-housing can help cut costs by taking a layer out of the system, while ensuring marketers have a better understanding and more control of their buying processes. In-housing seems very practical – until you realise the ‘unseen’ human resource that goes into programmatic buying. An IAB paper on programmatic in-housing estimates that it takes at least a year to set up an in-house programmatic capability.

This need for more control, speed and scale, rather than a lack of trust in agencies, is the primary reason that a growing number of brands have set up their own data-management platforms and are looking to bring more of their advertising and marketing services in-house and on-site in the client’s office. Such an undertaking in the Irish market will remain a huge challenge. For most brands, it’s simply not a sustainable option. In Ireland, too many companies lack first-party data and urgently need to find ways to become more like D2C businesses or risk falling behind.  

Brands want greater transparency and better control over their data, supply chain costs and execution. But we’re still at the experimentation stage with in-housing: for every success story, there’s a cautionary tale. Vodafone in the UK is reportedly backtracking on its plan to take programmatic ad buying in-house. Internal tensions over whether the marketing or digital team would own and therefore fund the programmatic setup stalled its progress. Other reported stumbling blocks were the spiralling costs of ad tech, talent and publisher relationships.

For any brand that’s considering whether to do its own media buying, there’s a huge array of factors to consider. The media roulette wheel below offers an omnichannel perspective on media in-housing. It highlights the choices within each channel, e.g. TV, programmatic, press etc… open to buyers of media.

As the wheel shows, managing a media supply chain is more complex and challenging than ever before. there are so many variables, and internal and external challenges to bringing media in-house. It’s like playing Monopoly and trying to buy up every space on the board. Yes, it’s possible to do it but a better question to ask is, can you do it efficiently?


Not for the faint-hearted

In theory, it makes sense that high-spending brands want to seize more direct control of their ad spending. By bringing media buying in-house, they think they’ll gain a better insight into their effectiveness and cut costs. But the decision to do so isn’t always a binary one.

It can mean more cost, time and internal hassle than many advertisers realise. Just a basic tech stack can cost tens of thousands a month. That’s before you think about challenges like talent, resources, experience, and the necessary relationships across the media spectrum.  You can save money on agency commissions and have media staff focused solely on your company goals. But it can be hard to find the right people and have adequate clout with media vendors in negotiating rates and placements.

It’s logical to suggest procurement teams would be keen to in-house more media, but in my experience, practitioners who understand the complexities associated with media supply chain are more concerned about the impact this could have on the quality of work and level of talent working on it.

Brands still want a high-end strategic offer when they work with agencies, but they want to be able to pull that expertise as and when they need it rather than paying for a retainer with a traditional agency.


Who’s got talent?

Programmatic advertising is driven by technology, so you would think having the right software will automatically make your in-housing a success. What’s more important, though, is having talent with the digital know-how to operate the software.

With all the focus on the technology, very little emphasis has been placed on the talents a well-rounded media planner brings to the table. A media strategy isn’t confined to digital channels alone. A cursory look at the media roulette wheel above demonstrates the channel options available.  A good media planner understands the relationship between:

  • Marketing strategy and technological possibilities
  • Innovative ideas and enabling solutions
  • Effectiveness and economic value.


We must be cautious about our own perceptions

With an abundance of buyers and sellers in the marketplace, making the right choices has never been more challenging. What we think is effective and what is actually effective don’t always tally, as Radiocentre’s recent study, ‘Re-evaluating media’, reminds us. Another study from TAM Ireland, called AdLand v TVland, highlights a similar line of thinking from an Irish context when it comes specifically to TV advertising. Given all this choice, and the seismic changes the industry is currently undergoing, an experienced planner is invaluable when it comes to objectively mapping your media channel selection to a clearly defined media strategy.


What are your priorities?

Advertisers need to take the lead in developing a new kind of partnership if they truly want to achieve real business success from their media investments. That requires new skills but also involves working closely with their agencies, which often have huge knowledge and experience working with publishers, data and adtech providers across multiple brand categories.

In the topsy-turvy world of marketing, customers want frictionless experiences. Eliminating friction in the digital world is a huge opportunity for the media industry. Without first-party data this will never happen. Every choice involves trade-offs. Moving your programmatic advertising in-house is no exception. You’ll have to be comfortable with the fact that what you gain in control and transparency comes at (and with) costs. Like most things in life, this is a big call to make and the optimum solution when placing your bets on the media 


About the author

John Dunne is Founder of Ignite Digital, a company that offers unbiased advice to effective marketers in Ireland. John has more than 20 years’ experience in the media business and a strong pedigree in digital advertising, he has an intimate understanding of the media supply chain and how it supports broader marketing objectives in the context of driving business growth.

John is accredited by IAPI and the AAI as an independent media consultant.

ignite digital


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A Day in the Life of…. Caroline Leonard, Marketing Manager at Spearline

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Tuesday 12 March 2019

Caroline Leonard Spearline

What does a Marketing Manager at Spearline do?

In general, I am responsible for developing customer retention strategies and managing communication plans that are in line with Spearline’s corporate objectives.

Spearline is an award-winning technology company located in West Cork that provides software services to measure the quality of telecommunications audio and other customer experience elements for large contact centres, conferencing service providers, and telecom carriers.

The main focus of my role is to raise awareness of Spearline’s products and services with our customers as well as designing strategic communication plans for new product launches.

My work involves managing an annual programme of customer research with the goal of developing a deep understanding of our customers and their key drivers.


What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

I have always been interested in business, and in particular marketing. I have a Bachelor of Commerce with a marketing specialism and a Master’s in Business Studies in Marketing from NUI Galway. I am also an associate member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.

I am a commercially-driven marketer with over 16 years’ experience gained in the software, education and construction industries in Ireland and the UK.

Before  joining Spearline, I spent over 11 years working in London. The first two years were spent with a software company in the TV & film industry as their Marketing Services Executive.  

I then moved to Pearson, the world’s leading education company. I spent almost 10 years with Pearson in London working in various marketing roles. I was initially hired as a Senior Marketing Executive and worked my way up to Marketing Manager level and eventually to Head of Marketing for Pearson Work-based Learning, a strategic business unit part of Pearson UK.

It was during my time at Pearson that I developed my leadership and recruitment skills as I was responsible for leading high performing, results-orientated marketing teams across multiple sites in the UK.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Database maintenance! Sounds dull, but it’s something that is absolutely essential in my role. I am always trying to proactively maintain the data hygiene and integrity of our CRM data, including establishing rules and operational routines to regularly cleanse and strengthen our customer database.

I, along with the rest of the Spearline marketing team, am constantly brainstorming and thinking of new and innovative ways to connect with and engage with our customers. There is a great culture of sharing best practice in Spearline where we all learn from each other on what initiatives worked well and which ones didn’t.


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Being a strategic thinker with an eye for the finer details is essential.

It is important to be commercially-minded with strong planning, organisational, time management, teamwork and communication skills.

Tracking and measuring marketing effectiveness are also crucial as a marketing manager needs to be aware of which campaigns are generating the desired results, which ones aren’t and where to change course.


Describe a typical working day.

As the majority of Spearline’s customers are located around the world, my day usually begins with a review of all ongoing campaigns to see what responses or requests for information have come in overnight and to action and prioritise as necessary.  After that, there’s really no such thing as a typical day!

I will catch up with the CMO and the CTO to give them an update on how current campaigns are performing and to review and strategise our customer communications and research plans for the month and year ahead.

 My day may also entail briefing a PR and communications agency in relation to organising publicity campaigns to raise awareness of the Spearline brand and to increase our profile in new and existing international markets.


What do you love most about your role?  

I am very fortunate to work with a company that is 100% focused on our customers.

Our customers know better than anyone else what it’s like to interact with Spearline. My role involves capturing this interaction in written case studies and testimonials to showcase the positive experiences our existing customers have with Spearline’s people, products and services.


Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

We have a number of exciting new products and services that we will be releasing this year  and I’m looking forward to informing our customers about these to make their experience and interaction with us even better.

As Spearline continues to expand, I’m looking forward to the challenge of evolving our marketing strategies to reflect the changing needs of our current customer base as well as targeting new prospects.


To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many successful business people both in my personal life and in my working life.

Growing up, my father ran a successful motor franchise dealership in West Cork. From him I learnt about the importance of listening to your customers, providing an excellent customer experience and adhering to the very high standards that come with the responsibility of looking after a global brand.

Marjorie Scardino, the former CEO of Pearson is someone I looked up to during my time there and still do. Marjorie was the first female CEO of a FTSE 100 company. She had a calm and natural leadership style who transformed Pearson in to one of the world’s most successful learning companies.

Spearline’s co-founders Kevin Buckley and Matthew Lawlor have been huge source of inspiration to me since joining the company. They’ve both demonstrated that through a winning combination of hard work, technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that anything is possible.

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The Evolution of Marketing to Women

Posted By Mintel, Monday 11 March 2019

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked three analysts from our global offices to examine how new product launches, positionings and marketing to women have evolved over the past 10 years in the categories they cover.

Drinks: Supporting Women’s Empowerment

Ophélie Buchet – Global Food & Drink Analyst, based in London

Women are important to the alcohol industry, as the brands that have shown the greatest growth in recent years have been ones consumed by women. So the marketing of alcoholic beverages needs to become more gender neutral as any targeted offering runs the risk of being seen as patronising. Moreover, men are increasingly switching to gender-neutral drinks with low-alcoholic/non-alcoholic beers, pink gins and rosé wines selling well across genders.

Despite this, brands in the category have persisted with launches and advertising that reinforce gender stereotypes. Controversial examples are Brewdog Pink IPA, ironically referred to as “beer for girls”, and the smaller “elegant and stylish” whisky glass for women by Luxor Crystal.

Credit: Brewdog

Alcoholic beverage brands should focus on recognising what they have got wrong for so long. Beer brand Skol in Brazil, for instance, invited female artists to revamp the brand’s sexist adsin a bid to demonstrate that it has moved away from such values. Alcoholic beverage brands also need to show they support female empowerment. Diageo’s “free the bid” initiative called on its agencies to put forward at least one female director in the teams behind its marketing campaignsSmirnoff launched an “equaliser” campaign with Spotify to increase the representation of female artists by allowing consumers to discover more music from female artists based on their own listening habits.

Credit: Smirnoff

Finally, alcoholic beverages brands will have to look for inspiration in the wider FMCG industryin order to support female-led business initiatives and challenge remaining gender stereotypes. In the non-alcoholic drinks category, Starbucks launched a limited edition ‘Reserve Colombia Café Mujeres’ – an Arabica-style coffee from the Huila region that is 100% made and processed by Colombian women. While Yoplait launched a defiant campaign to expose the stigma and judgment attached to motherhood and to take a clear stance on the brand’s unconditional support to mums, no matter what their choices are.

Beauty: Breaking Stereotypes In India

Rimpie J. Panjwani – Senior Analyst – BPC India, and Minu Srivastava – Research Analyst – BPC India, based in Mumbai

The tides are changing in India – and the beauty and personal care industry is waking up to a new era of equality and inclusivity. Some brands have changed how they target female consumers; some are riding the wave that followed, while others – the laggards – are being forced to change.

Start-ups are key in shifting the mindset forward. The Indian beauty company Happily Unmarried celebrates the choice of being single in a country where marriage is the norm, especially for women. By adopting unconventional product names and fun branding, the company calls out stereotypes around women.

Credit: Happily Unmarried

Another good example for this positive shift is Ariel, which tries to challenge the status quo and attempts to break stereotypes through its ‘Share The Load’ campaign. Launched in 2015, it urged men to answer: why is laundry only a woman’s job? As per WARC 2018 edition results, ‘Dads #ShareTheLoad’ remains a top-ranked campaign today.

This year, Ariel updated the message to go deeper into the cause of disparity. In the context of the right upbringing, Ariel urged this generation of mothers to be the change-makers for the future and raise yet another pertinent question – are we teaching our sons what we have been teaching our daughters?

In general, we can see that regulation has led change where brands have been lax. After the Advertising Standards Council of India issued guidelines in 2014 stating that “ads should not reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin colour” or “portray people with darker skin [as]… inferior, or unsuccessful in any aspect of life particularly in relation to being attractive to the opposite sex”, the controversial brand Fair & Lovely had to make changes. It was forced to shift towards more positive messaging and talk about ‘nikhar’ (glow), rather than putting the focus on ‘fair’ skin. This shows that India is clearly moving towards a more progressive society, where women are perceived as equals.

Credit: Fair & Lovely

Fashion: Embracing Diversity

Alexis DeSalva – Senior Research Analyst covering US retail and eCommerce, based in Chicago

The integration of social media into many consumers’ lives has sparked a need for transparency. In an era when everyone – people and brands – are seemingly ‘on display’, consumers are craving authenticity and inclusivity. This desire is prompting more brands and retailers to show real people in campaigns, a departure from the photo-shopped perfection of years past. In an industry where models have been simultaneously idealized and scrutinized for unrealistic appearances, many fashion designers have shifted to a more inclusive and realistic use of models, a trend that’s occurring off the runway as well.

Some brands and retailers have aimed for larger representation in their advertisements. At the end of 2018, clothing retailer Madewell, for example, ran campaigns featuring older female models to highlight the versatility of their clothing, which had traditionally been marketed towards younger women.

Credit: Madewell

Aerie recently unveiled its latest #AerieREAL role models campaign, featuring a slew of ‘real’ women of various ages, races and shapes, in lieu of traditional models. Finally, in the summer of 2018, activewear retailer Outdoor Voices introduced its swimwear collection with ads featuring a diverse selection of models, including amputees and women of different races and body types. Consumers can detect inauthenticity and many are seeking genuine representation, which can help them form closer connections with brands and ultimately establish credibility with a brand or retailer and foster loyalty.

The new #AerieREAL role models Credit: Aerie

This article first appeared on

 About Mintel

Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Düsseldorf, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand.

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A Day in the Life of... Robert Flavin, Director of Strategic Planning at V360°

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 6 March 2019
Updated: Monday 4 March 2019

Robert Flavin V360

What does a director of strategic planning at v360° do? 

Figuring out clients’ specific business challenges and creating a solution that fits their needs, is what keeps me occupied most of the time. But to do that it is so important to keep up to date on market dynamics and consumer trends, globally, regionally and of course here in ireland. Part of my role is to lead the consumer, shopper and retailer understanding of the agency. This allows me to have an informed independent voice and constructively shape our response to client briefs. Working in an agency with a varied number of clients, both retailers and brand owners, means that each project brings its own set of challenges and opportunities.

What were your key career moves to get to your current role? 

My career path prior to joining  the Visualise group to help set up v360°, is incredibly relevant to the role that I now have. With roles in market research agencies, client side at Renault, Nissan and Diageo in sales, marketing and planning as well as strategic planner at advertising agency BBDO,  all help on the day-to-day deliverables to clients. 


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role? 

Building a new agency offering presents a unique set of challenges, with ongoing change as a  constant. Flexibility is key in order to balance deliverables for ongoing projects, keeping an ear to the ground on evolving trends in retail, while proactively developing business. 


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role? 

As a strategic planner a healthy curiosity is a must, which thankfully comes naturally to me - yes I was the child that always asked "why?". So understanding what makes people from different cohorts, backgrounds and cultures tick is fascinating. In our agency environment it’s so important to actively listen to others’ perspective, strive to provide a clear direction or plan, while always aspiring to the best outcome for our team and clients. Learning to trust your judgement in the absence of perfect data is key. As a previous boss of mine used to say "don’t let perfect get in the way of better". 


Describe a typical working day. 

The typical day doesn’t exist, which is one of the reasons that I enjoy working here so much. My day can be a combination of business development meetings, preparing for an upcoming workshop, creative briefing session for a new campaign, developing a category innovation strategy, debrief to client, liaising with retailers to activate a new campaign, attending or presenting at industry events. The evening time can see me lecturing (Technical University Dublin - advertising and digital communications) or coaching Cuala GAA U13 hurling squad. 

What do you love most about your role? 

I love the sheer diversity of the range of projects and challenges that I work on, from developing a new campaign idea for a product launch, to in-depth shopper research to understand what drives people’s behaviour, from developing a new strategy that helps overcome a business challenge to seeing a campaign come to life. 

The great thing about working at V360° is the team spirit – we all actively help out with each other’s project – as a small, rapidly growing agency it’s so important that we work with each other rather than handing off tasks. 

Working with a range of retailers and brand owners, helping to find solutions to business challenges through insight, creative thinking, ideas and brilliant execution... it’s a role where I am constantly learning. 

To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role? 

I’ve always been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and his uncanny ability to get behind the headlines, critically evaluate the evidence and to really understand what’s going on. 

Mark Ritson is provocative, informed and has an often entertaining view of the world of marketing. While I don’t always agree with his perspective, he is always thought-provoking.

Tom Fishbourne ‘The Marketoonist’ has an uncanny ability to hold a mirror up to the marketing trends and point out the Emperor’s New Clothes. 

The work that Daniel Kahneman, Byron Sharp, and Binet & Field have done in terms of understanding how we think and behave as well as how marketing actually works is invaluable.


Robert will lead our Meet the Shopper workshop on 13th March.

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A Day in the Life of... Su Duff, Director of consulting business The Answer

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 20 February 2019

Su Duff

What do you do as Director of The Answer?

Back in 2012 I started a micro-business called The Answer which offers an interim panel of highly experienced, project-based marketing and communications professionals. We help over-stretched businesses by extending their team capabilities in marketing strategy, planning, implementation, business development and event management. Our interim experts can effectively “join a team” during long term absence, or for the duration of a project to ensure it is delivered on time and in an efficient manner. We provide solutions in-house or work externally as an entire team. As Director I drive proposal wins across the team, liase with new and existing panelists, develop partnerships for the future, guide the company administrator and often also base myself in-house for client organisations.


What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

Seven years as a Retail Buyer creating new products, learning negotiation and the art of complex project management was an incredible foundation in commercial skills.  It taught financial planning and projection, through to reading the market and observing trends, the benefits of building strategic alliances and strong supplier relationships to respond to market demands. I moved into advertising and media through JCDecaux, became Director of the OMA and brought JNOR (Joint National Outdoor Research) audience measurement to market over 5 years. After 4 years as Head of Client Service & Communication for IDMA, and in a part time role creating members services and new business for Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI), I was eventually able to take on short term contracts and build The Answer.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Time! Running a small business means workload is not confined to one obvious task in hand. For example, outside of team management, generating business and providing services, there are dates throughout Revenue’s calendar when the company accountant requires important data checks. It takes strong boundaries to prevent work often spilling into weekends. Given this backdrop, my biggest challenge pertains to something I lack direct control over - time waste. Meetings about partnerships that never see the light of day and requests for proposals that remain unawarded to any organisation, despite hours of planning input.  This time issue is familiar territory for anyone in the “pitch” game and something we constantly strive to figure out.


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

In general, it’s helpful to be flexible, comfortable with change or uncertainty, to be positive, interested in people, resilient and a strategic thinker.  Specific additional skills are called upon according to contract, for example I’m currently in-house with CMRF Crumlin and was initially brought in to build and integrate their Above The Line fundraising campaign.  My relationships and knowledge across media and advertising allowed us to build momentum around the amazing community doing #WhateverItTakes for Ireland’s sickest children. It brought together short-term response mechanisms and longer-term brand profile.


Describe a typical working day.

In any given week I tend to run projects for diverse organisations and its content will depend upon the number of days I’m based in-house for a client. Occasionally there’s an early morning start submitting work for organisation A, before heading off to be in-house at company B, driving home that evening may include telephone discussions with potential partners or panel members. The following day might begin by gathering to prepare a new business proposal, then meeting someone interested in participating in The Answer’s panel, followed by guiding our administrator how to amend the website, what to outline in a document or how to respond to the accountant for financial queries.


What do you love most about your role?

Variety may seem like an obvious answer for this question! But even more than this, I very much appreciate the opportunity to meet such a wide range of professionals across the organisations I am lucky to work within. The first-hand experience of differing corporate cultures, leadership styles and management communications is second to none. It provides so much food for thought and many personal development opportunities. I’ve had the privilege sit on SMTs, co-create a 5-year plan, dream potential and built new commercial partnerships, win pitches, close business, develop advertising campaigns, establish content for #AAIToolkit, create countless websites of varying ilk manage clients and study return on investment.


Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

Across the past 6 years each one has varied significantly depending on those involved with The Answer’s panel, their skills focus, range of organisations we work with or make proposal to.  During the coming years I plan to further refine the organisation structure and processes so that it that relies less upon my active involvement in driving the sales pipeline, facilitating growth. I hope to find a small number of mentors to work with over this time to help challenge my personal growth and development of The Answer to its full potential.


To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

Rather than naming superstar marvels, I’m choosing to answer this from a more personal slant as there are so many industry colleagues that have inspired me. Some for their lateral thinking, breadth of knowledge, courage to start their own business or simply by remaining positive and ‘human’ as a leader in business. Right now, I’m working with two amazing female leaders who repeatedly impress me with their strategic thinking and commercial acumen.

Back as a Commerce student I spent university holidays gaining work experience. I particularly enjoyed learning from my Dad when he was Country Director for a multinational organisation abroad. I marvelled at his ability to stay measured and personable for his staff, competitors and clients despite countless challenges over the time. Together with commercial negotiation, these characteristics helped him to attract a lot of long-term business partnerships. Later the Director from the first role in my career stood out in a similar vein. More recently I enjoyed working with Alex Gibson year after year on ARVRInnovate. He’s one of those people who stops at nothing – if there is someone on the other side of the world he wishes to talk with then he ploughs ahead and finds a way to do so. Most impressive! 

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