Monthly Archives: January 2009

Editor’s blog: The problem with British cars

I bought my first ever car in 1984, aged 23. It cost me 250 from a nurse I met at a Social Biology A-level evening class.

Had I been Italian, it would have been a racy little Fiat 500 or maybe even a nippy Alfasud. Had I been French, it’d have been a Citroen 2CV complete with an ‘Energie atomique – non merci’ sticker on the rear window, or a DS if I was a fashion victim. If I was a German, it might have been a sparky little BMW 2002 or a Beetle.

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Sorry, sex doesn’t sell

Buried in my usual Obama-heavy copy of Time magazine was a review of ‘buy.ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy’ by Martin Lindstrom. Talk about digital direct marketing! The legendary marketing uber guru actually wired his guinea pigs to brain computers to see if there was a connection between religion and brand loyalty. Surprise, surprise – there was pretty much no difference in people’s reaction to either. From Pontiff to Pontin’s, they were tickled by the stimuli in the precisely the same way. Specific findings also included the fact that product placement doesn’t work – apparently viewers just tune it out unless it’s pivotal to the show; cigarette warnings actually encourage people to smoke – the craving spot in people’s brain is stimulated by the warning; Oh, and sex doesn’t sell, but controversies about sex do. Hello boys, indeed. Pseudo-scientific clap-trap? Maybe, but it’s further evidence that we’re going to have to keep throwing away the rule books – even the ones written last week. Don’t forget that this is the week that Ofcom publishes its report into the future of public service broadcasting and Lord Carter’s Digital report sets out the government’s thinking on how new technologies affect the industry. It’s a brave new world and we’re the ones shaping it.

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Are we all talking gaga?

“Lady Gaga? Never heard of her” my mum said on the phone. Ten minutes later and I had an email from her entitled “Lady Gaga”, with the message “I searched for her website. I like her sound.”

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"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age"

These are the words of Barack Obama who, next Tuesday, will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America in what is one of the greatest spectacles in the political calendar (although it only happens once every four years). We all know that President Obama has some pretty pressing issues in his in-tray. However, in running for the highest office, we have seen him probably say more about the internet than any other Presidential (or perhaps even President) candidate in modern times. We all know that Obama used the internet and digital media as a campaigning and fund-raising tool like no other politician in history (he wants to keep his Blackberry despite being told it poses security risks). It gives us a pretty good clue that internet policy issues will be quite high up the political agenda. So – as the President-elect recruits a dog, chef and interior designer in preparation to move his family into the White House – let’s have a closer look at what an Obama Presidency will mean for the internet, and what the potential implications will be for us policy wonks in the UK.

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Citizen journalism? Leave it to the footballers

Recession? What recession? Many have speculated over the last few days that the world of football has lost all touch with reality. With the impending transfer of Brazilian star Kaka and the crazy salary figures being quoted it certainly seems that the beautiful game and real life are not likely to be re-acquainted any time soon.

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With broadband now a norm, the humble loading bar – typically a %bar is now often consigned to a mere blip before your page fully loads. So then the loading bar is dead or is it?

I for one have been a huge fan of the loading bar. This may have something to do with the fact that I used to work with Flo Heiss of Dare. He has such an unhealthy obsession that he even made a movie about it as a student.

This of course transpired into our daily work. The loading bar for Axe Feather was, “I’m 67% yours”, “I’m 68% yours”, “I’m 69% yours” – you get the idea. Sony Ericsson was a pencil drawn egg timer and Vodafone was a fluttering Mayfly.

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Will cocoon lead to digital boom?

Squeeze a family’s disposable income and they’ll indulge in “cocooning”. In other words, battening down the hatches, turning on the TV and tuning out. So far, so obvious. But, according to Sean Maloney (Intel Senior Vice President) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this could be a huge opportunity. After all, there’s a captive audience no longer being distracted by expensive outdoor pastimes.The only problem is getting them to hook their HD TVs up to the net. Indeed, Maloney talks about an ocean of flat panels that are ‘orphans’. Link them to the net and the possibilities are endless – from watching a Blue-ray movie whilst listening to a live director’s commentary to chatting about it in real time with other viewers and uploading user-generated content. Then there are the widgets that’ll soon be sitting in the corner of our everyday screens – probably streaming live Strictly Come Dancing updates.Isn’t it all rather intrusive though? Doesn’t TV = passive and PC = active? TV advertising works because we let our guard down and it seeps into our subconscious. Red Button is one thing but if you’re asking me to click at every opportunity I’m just going to get ‘interaction fatigue’. In these heady days of consumer power I’ll choose when I want to interact, not you Mr Advertiser. That said, the potential for bringing back a shared TV viewing experience is wonderful. Think of it as one global virtual sofa with thousands of Jim Royles!

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2008: lovely jubbly, 2009: pump up the jam

Looking back, I have to say that 2008 was a pretty good year. We may have begun to slump into recession by the end of it, but overall we saw a large amount of growth throughout the year. More interestingly for me, we also saw a number of quite radical jumps in technology and software that open up the internet even further to make it easier to access and pass on information. So behold! Below is my personal list of the best things to have happened in digital in 2008 and following those, the things I hope will happen this year.

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What’s in store for online advertising regulation in 2009?

Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, Andy Burnham, kicked off 2009 (or rather ended 2008) with an interview where he proposed cinema-style age ratings for websites, and for which hegot a real kicking on the blogs. Neither the Telegraph nor the Guardian took to the idea either. To be fair, Burnham is only trying to do hisjob:he is genuinely concerned about childinternet safety and we need to work with him and his team (as industry will do – see UK Council for Child Internet Safety below) to ensure he gets ideas like this into a practical and realistic shape. We shouldn’t carelessly pop every idea he mootsinto the ‘government will never get it’ box.
Whatever your views on the regulation of the internet, there is no doubt that 2009 will be a significant year: the regulatory landscape will look quite different at the end of it. So, war on the internet or not, below is my top five list for what’s in store for online advertising regulation 2009:
1. The Digital Britain Plan
This is the Technology Minister, Stephen Carter’s (pictured below)initiative, and will be a comprehensive analysis of the digital economy – so much broader than just advertising. However, with its growth (one in everyfive advertiser pounds now going online) and its importance to Britain’s online creative culture and UK plc, online advertising will feature strongly. Political support for self-regulation would therefore be nice. An interim report will be published soon – at the end of January – with a full report expected in June.
2. UK Council for Child Internet Safety
The work of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (or UKCCIS) will gather momentum in 2009, marking a new regulatory approach for child internet safety involving a collaborationbetween industry, government, regulators and children’s groups. Expect a strategy in the spring focused on industry standards, such as ‘notice and takedown’, and greater awareness/education in schools andfor families. UKCCIS will also consider the industry’s new rules for online advertising self-regulation and policy recommendations for the impact of commercial activities upon childhood (see below).
3. Revised advertising self-regulatory framework, with new rules for online
There will be an extension of the self-regulatory framework for non-broadcast advertising content to ensure it is ‘fit for a digital age’. This is likely to include areas of non-paid for media space, and these will be brought within the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit.
4. Government recommendationson the impact of commercial activities on childhood
Following a year-long academic review after the announcement of the Children’s Plan in December 2007, the Government will unveil policy recommendations on the impact of commercial activities (including advertising)upon childhood in late Spring. Expect an emphasis on education/awareness which will tie in with UKCCIS work.
5. New rules for online video-on-demand services
Last – but certainly not least in terms of potential commercial impact – the Government will implement new European broadcast rules and these will, for the first time, be extended to online video-on-demand services. There may still be room for manouevre on some key issues, although the Government seems hell bent in potentially jeopardising existing (and effective) self-regulatory rules for display advertising.
But perhaps most important of all: 2009 will be a ‘barometer year’ for self-regulation. Does the Government really have faith in it or will we see the ‘existing tools in the box’ approach appear? From an IAB perspective, look out for self-regulatory Good Practice Principles on online behavioural advertising in the early part of the year. This will hopefully provide the Government with some reassurance that industry can still govern itself. Happy New Year!

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Let’s hear it for the meerkats!

Aside from the fact that the meerkat is by far my favourite animal, few campaigns have impressed me more in recent months thanthe latest for Often in digital we’re quick to champion innovation, those campaigns that really push the creative boundaries and blow our minds with state-of-the art technology and applications that even the geekiest of internet users take a while to get to grips with. This is great, of course, but whilst such creativity and execution is essential to the development of our medium, such campaigns are still few and far between and often marketers just won’t have the budgets to make this happen, time and time again.

In my mind what we also need to celebrate to a greater extent is the solid, well thought-out, highly engaging and fully integrated cross-media activity that should now be typical of this new(ish) media landscape.The ‘compare the meerkat’ campaign, which is actually TV-led but has online elements, has it all. And what makes it even betteristhat it’s for an insurance brand where inspiring ideas can be few and far between, with many often opting for the trusty old ‘click here for great deals’ because that’s what internet marketing used to be all about.
The IAB/Thinkbox research of last year proved that using TV and online together can greatly improve the success of your marketing activity, and execution-wise, this campaign is a great example of that in practice. If you haven’t seen the TV ad (created byVCCP), a very brief synopsis is that a meerkat called Aleksandr, founder of, has been inundated with requests for car insurance quotes. He then points you in the direction of where you can access this very information! “Simples!” he says… But not only dothey have an adorable and pretty entertaining TV ad, they’re also on the ball with their search activity – Google‘meerkat’ to see the proof, and it’s interesting to see that are already trying to get a piece of the action… They’ve also produced a fully functioning microsite to complement the TV creative, as well as launching Aleksandr on YouTube,Twitter(slightly bandwagon-esque but still cute!) and Facebook, where he already has over 1000 friends – one of which, I’m ashamed to say, is me.
Whilst this campaign may not win any awards, and it may not be the success of the century, I think sometimes it’s nice to celebrate the work that’s actually just really quite good!So even though the creative and levels of production may not be up there with Sony Bravia, the campaign does what the majority of clients crave, which isachieving fantastic cut-through. It’s not just the outstanding, award-winning stuff we should be shouting about, but the consistent work that both traditional and digital creatives are putting out there that gives advertising a good name, not just with judges, but with the public, too.

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