Monthly Archives: December 2008

Thank you Virgin…next please!

Merry Christmas! And what better Christmas present could there be than super-fast broadband to watch all your favourite festive TV programmes and movies (don’t forget Mary Poppins!) as well as browse all that wonderful online content while others in the family enjoya mince pie and watch the Queen address the nation at 3 o’clockon the dot (set your Sky+ or watch it on Her Majesty’s You Tube channel). So its a big welcome this week for Virgin’s announcement of the launch of its 50 Megabits per second domestic fibre-optic broadband service (otherwise known as ‘XXL broadband’). Next generation broadband here we come!
Even better news is the announcement that the service will be rolled out across the UK in the next few months. Virgin’s press release is a little unclear as to what this actually means though. Does country-wide mean that those of us that live in the more rural parts of Britain, who have been experiencing life in the broadband ‘slow lane’ for some time now, will suddenly be able to watch streamed video and television with nointeruptions by next summer? Copper has served us well: no one really dreamed up us doing anything more than talking to each other all those years ago. High-definition television was unthinkable then. Today the BBC’s iPlayer and YouTube each take up to 10 per cent of broadband bandwidth (it doesn’t surprise me that Internet Service Providers – squeezed at every level by competition and regulation – are crying out for content providers to put some money in the ‘fibre optic pot’) and we’re goingto need faster internet speeds if we areto continue to enjoy these data-rich services, such as television (perhaps one day in 3D?), video, gaming and music. More importantly, it will be more than necessary if one or more people in a household are accessing these services at the same time, as is fairly likely.
Thankfully, this issue is at the top of the Government’s agenda and this is reflected in the development of a Digital Britain Plan, to be published in June 2009. The regulatory issues around ‘access’ to wholesale products (such as those provided by BT and Virgin) are complex but critical to competition and affordability, but its good to see Virgin taking the lead and making the investment (as – to be fair – BT has also done). The public is crying out for these services and we depend on faster broadband to deliver them to ensure that we…wait for it…have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious online experience!

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Advertising on

In November I realised a lifelong dream and went to New Zealand for a holiday. While I was there I have to admit I didn’t think about work AT ALL (sorry Councils), but I did notice a few interesting things to do with technology. These were:

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Can social networking defeat Simon Cowell?

It’s always a surprise when the mainstream stumbles blindly upon something truly great, tries to pinch it, claim it as their own and then scampers off into the distance as if nothing untoward has really happened.

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Analogue Politicians in a Digital Age

I’m pinching David Cameron’scatch-phrase onGordon Brown for the title of this blog, but it seems very relevant to describe Orange’s Future of Politics report which was published earlier this week. This is a great reportwhich argues for UK politicians, our political structures, Parliament and political parties of the need to “embrace the digital age to re-energise and transform democracy” and begin a “digital golden age of Parliament”.
I acknowledge that our politicians are representatives of all the British people, including the fewwho don’t have access to broadband, don’t use social media or even own a mobile handset. However, I don’t think anyone doubts the need for UK politicians and their institutions to adapt to the digital age – although many people (particularly some of those working in Parliament) like its Victorian ways and traditions. But a modern and effective democratic institution needs to shed its ‘club’ image that the vast majority of citizens can’t and don’t associate themselves with. As the report acknowledges, new technology and media still feel a bit tacked on to existing structures and approaches. The Number 10 Downing Street e-Petition siteand YouTube channel are welcome developments in the right direction though.
Some of the ideas within the report are perhaps a big ask (for example a 3D virtual Parliament). However, I think of real significance is the use of social media to galvanise and organise political opinions (particularly around single-issues) and as a platform to raise funding. We already know how the Government feels about social media in politics: it is distinctly uncomfortable with it. But this is undoubtedly how some politicians are beginning to engage with their supporters, constituents and (dare I say it) colleagues. The report also makes much of Barak Obama’s much-heralded ‘text-book’ online campaigning during the 2008 US Presidential election and the large amount of small donations he received via social media. Obama built relationships with people before asking them for money.
UK politicians should definitely sit up and take note of this report. Otherwise they’ll remain firmly entrenched in a world that no one else but themselves actually recognise. Change or wither.

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Give consumers tools, win awards.

Today saw the latest IAB and Microsoft Advertising Creative Showcase Awards event, and as a regular vistor to these things,I can say with confidence that it was one of the best yet. Each winning campaign from the past four months – presented by the creative directors resposible – provided an outstanding example of what online can do. Without having seen the feedback yet I’m pretty sure the audience were impressed, informed, and possibly a little surprised at the incredibly innovative technologies that made most of this work possible.
We’ve been running Creative Showcase since 2003, and over the years we’ve seen some amazing work. HoweverI have heard from time to time several comments about digital creativity being produced primarily with the industry in mind, rather than the consumer. Everyone knows what impresses their peers, and therefore there’s been an argument that sometimes online campaigns are executed to win awards and respect, rather than engage audiences. I’m going to sit on the fence with this one, but it’s an interesting point!
WhatI can confirm is that none of the winning campaigns presented today were created just for the digital creative community. The great news is that each and every one was designed with the consumer right at the heart, all relying on their interaction to make the work a success.
We had the AIS campaign for o2, where people were directed to to sign up their friends, and friends of friends to win a party at the Indigo2 venue with the aim of ‘turning customers into fans’. Then there was the Nike Boot Camp stuff from AKQA, who used a mobile and online app to engage 17-24 year olds serious about football and really put them through their paces. Third was the AKQA Ecodrive work for Fiat, which was ‘not borne from a campaign mindset,’ rather based on the idea that you can create a strong relationship with your consumer, and talk to them in a non-patronising way. Last there was the wonderful CHI and Partners with their ‘Forever Story’ – a user-generated tale devised to promote the partnership between Talk Talk and the Treehouse, a charity for children with autism.
Every winner had the audience front-of-mind in its conception and delivery, and this embrace of social media is currently typical ofmanycreative showcase entries we’ve had in 2008. This, i think, is great news. Online has long been promoted as the most accountable medium, but this move towards campaigns of a more social nature is a brave step from clients, and one which we at the IAB applaud. Kieron mentioned in his blog post yesterday that perhaps digital work still isn’t quite as consistently exceptional as it should be, however what we can definitely be proud of is the change of mindset of many UK agencies, and advertisers.
Each of the campaigns presented today provided consumers with ‘tools’ – whether it be the tools to promote your own party in the case of AIS, or the tools to increase your fitness and make you a better footballer with the Nike Boot Camp campaign. I’d argue that providing audiences with these tools and making online advertising useful and relevant is not a trend, rather a mainstay of modern marketing that we’ll be seeing to an even greater extent in the months, and years to come.

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Editor’s blog: Big trouble for Big Motor

Big Motor is sick. Maybe even dying. In Detroit yesterday, a pastor led a prayer for the US car industry’s soul – but of course divine intervention is rather less likely than a fat handout from the American tax payer. It looks as if the Bush administration has agreed to open its wallet to the tune of $15 billion, in the form of an ‘emergency loan’; it’s thought that might tide them over for the next month or two before they come begging again. In Europe things aren’t much better: Vauxhall has been nagging Peter Mandelson for a handout, no doubt claiming it is as vital to the national interest as the banks.

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Has it been a vintage year for creativity?

Every year I look forward to a few industry regulars: NMA’s top 100 (sorry BR), Campaign School Report, Campaign Agency of the Year, Campaign A List (largely because online is so poorly represented – why isn’t Guy Phillipson in there?) and of course Marketing Agency of the Year (the advertiser’s magazine of choice). The reason I love the “Tops” is because the preceeding 12 months are spent answering who I think should win it this year. First of all, congratulations to Agency Republic for winning back their crown after a two-year diversion. Being a fan of Gordon’s (the drink and of course their creative director) the site is a beautiful representation of the brand. A nod also to GT, LBi, Dare and Grand Union who all got a mention though I’m amazed Poke aren’t in there somewhere – maybe they didn’t jump through enough hoops.

These accolades are incredibly important and will continue to be so, but this year’s close running says more to me about the distinct lack of great creative this year. And before i end up on the receiving end of a turck-load of abuse, you I’m fully aware of the brilliant work that continues to come out from UK agencies. Just look at our to see stuff that really rocks, and will inevitably go on to win at Cannes and D&AD. BUT – can we honestly say there has been a tonne of consistent campaigns from each of the top-flight agencies? I mean each advertiser, each piece of work. If online is to maintain its credibility, more consistent productivity is needed. We need the quality to match the quantity. What’s at the heart of this I’m not sure – agency lethargy, poor client briefs, inadequate budgets, insufficient lead-times, all the great ideas have been done, too much emphasis on social media? I’d love your thoughts .

Incidentally I don’t think this is unique to online. I think it’s been a great year, but not a vintage one.

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Self-regulation works in digital marketing but its credibility also depends on awareness

Over the last few weeks I’ve constantly beat the drum about the importance of self-regulation in online advertising. And a report this week by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) shows why. The ASA found that industry is sticking to digital marketing marketing rules. In a survey of 551 digital ads, 97 per cent complied with the non-broadcasting advertising code.
The compliance report was welcomed by ASA Director General, Chris Graham, who said: “The survey findings should go some way to dispelling the perception that digital is the ‘wild west’ of the media…self-regulation clearly works.” This is good news: self-regulation is effective. This was also confirmed at a Department of Health workshop during the week on food advertising. Whilst focused on food, the discussion at the event confirmed that the regulations in place – particularly on the internet – were sufficient and that there should be a greater focus on promoting healthy living (via campaigns such as Change4Life) as well as greater awareness and education for children, parents and teachers on the importance of healthier choices. This is welcome too.
However, there still remains a relatively low level of awareness and understanding of exactly what types of digital media fall within the ASA’s remit. In a room full of 50 or so people from across industry (including advertisers), consumer groups and government, only three (including the IAB and the ASA!) could confidently say that marketing communications such as email marketing, paid-for search marketing and display advertising fell within the regulator’s remit. The ASA’s compliance report – the first of its kind specifically on internet advertising – is welcome but, with expected changes next year to the non-broadcast advertising code and the ASA’s remit, it will be important for industry (as well as the ASA) to go out to the public, industry and consumer groups and raise the level of understanding and awareness of what self-regulation actually regulates. Its credibility depends on it.

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Editor’s blog: Heading for zero

So down we go by one per cent. Zero is now just a matter of months away. Free money – hurrah.

I promise I’ll never write about mortgages again, but… Thanks to an amazing deal for which my IFA – who believe it or not goes by the name of Colin Powell – signed me up, I’m on base rate plus 0.23%. And it’s neither capped not collared, i.e. it can go right down to the bottom and my monthly repayments will keep falling.

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It’s goodbye to lads – should it be goodbye to mags?

Disappear HereThere are so many reasons to question ex-Loaded editor James Brown’s decision to hook up with Peaches Geldof to launch yet another free fashion/culture/lifestyle/art/photography/design magazine – Disappear Here – on an unsuspecting world.

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