Monthly Archives: September 2009

It’s the Sun wot jumped on the bandwagon

And so it comes to pass, News International’s most popular
daily newspaper The Sun has declared its allegiance to David Cameron’s Tories.

The Sun tells its readers in no uncertain terms today to vote
Conservative
at the next election, effectively ending 12 years and 7 months of
“support”, for the Labour Party.

Read more on It’s the Sun wot jumped on the bandwagon…

Online is now number one in the UK

Online commands respect : Another IAB Ad Spend report, another milestone for online – this time the big one

We released the IAB Ad Spend results today, with the record breaking news that not only has Ad Spend grown again – as it has every half year since we launched the survey in 1998 – but we have finally done what media pundits have been guessing and betting on for years. That is we are now the largest medium in the UK, with 23.5% share of all media spend now being spent on online display, classifieds and search. We are larger than TV not by a fraction, but by £113.6 million. We are also now larger than press display by £369 million.

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Living in the overlap

Everyone knows the Smoky Robinson song “Tears Of A
Clown”.

But did you know who wrote it?

Turns out it was Stevie Wonder.

Apparently he was only about 13 at the time.

Read more on Living in the overlap…

Editor’s blog: The dangers of getting tough

Two examples in the last week of nice, cuddly companies turning a bit harder as they struggle to cut costs and increase revenue. M&S has placed a 35-day deadline on its legendary no-quibbles return policy, and British Airways is going to start charging for the privilege of choosing a seat number.

Of the two, I think that British Airways is on far dodgier ground. Being able to pick your seat and avoid a nasty Ryanair-style scrum-down as you race across the tarmac and sprint up the gangplank is one of the civilised things about using what used to be the world’s favourite airline, as opposed to the vulgar low-costies. It was part of the service. And, although there’s a war on, customers still like being looked after rather than treated like cattle. People will still pay for something that makes their life easier or more pleasant. Price isn’t everything.

BA knows it will earn them some desperately needed extra revenue, because no family with kids travelling from Heathrow to Sidney wants the parents in 22B and 68C with the youth in 41D and 65E. So that’s another 160 on the bill. But it leaves a bitter taste.

As for M&S – well, they can never do anything without causing an uproar. That’s both the upside and the downside of being Middle England’s beloved retailer. Earlier this year – and I’ve no doubt to Sir Stuart Rose’s mild amusement – they got involved in ‘bra wars’ when they tried to add 2 to the price of extra large garments. They played that one very nicely by admitting they’d ‘boobed’ (groan) and backed down. All very nice publicity that emphasized how caring, fair and thoughtful they are. (Seems to me that if your bra requires nine yards more fabric than the next woman’s then of course it should cost more. But what do I know?)

Anyway, the 35-day return deadline has caused much consternation. The Bucks Free Press quotes a distraught Shirley Read, aged 53, who tried to return a floral dress but was told no dice because she was too late. ‘I was so upset,’ she lamented. ‘I don’t want someone else to go through what I had to go through.’ Well, try a few days in Darfur or Helmand, Shirley. I mean, come on. M&S’s problem is that some people think it’s so nice that it’s a charity or a branch of the social services – which it clearly isn’t. But that sense is why a lot of folk still go there rather than Primark or Tesco.

The lesson is that you have much more to lose if you’re a nice company that turns slightly tough, as opposed to a tough company that suddenly does something nice. If you are nice, you need to tread very carefully when altering what you deliver to your customers – people miss something much more that they once enjoyed than something that was never there in the first place. In technical terms, BA needs to be very careful before trying to convert all its Pareto losses into hard cash. When a Ryanair stewardess actually smiled at my rampaging two year old barrelling down the aisle this summer I was little short of amazed. I’d expected an on-the-spot fine for misbehaviour.

Read more on Editor’s blog: The dangers of getting tough…

There’s a whole other world out there

A woman I know, called Helen, is a hippy and loves going to
India. She likes to get up early in the morning and watch the dawn
on the banks of The Ganges.

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ITV takes its eye off the Ball

In a move that will shock the city and the media industry alike, ITV
has announced Tony Ball is no longer in the running to be its next
chief executive
, after a failing to reach agreement over terms and
conditions.

Read more on ITV takes its eye off the Ball…

September’s here, it’s time to quit

‘The summer’s over, I’ve had time to think about it, I

want to quit,’ appears to be the mantra being followed by many high-profile media execs this month.

Recession or not, September has lived up to its billing as the month which gets headhunters hearts racing.

Today’s news that Andy Brent, group brand marketing director at BSkyB, has parted company with the pay-TV broadcaster just one year into the job, has taken many by surprise.

His departure, confirmed in an email by Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB’s chief executive, leaves a gapping hole in the management of the media and broadcasting group’s £100m plus marketing operations.

You can bet on Brent resurfacing somewhere soon.

But as unexpected as his exit is, it’s far from unusual this month. Also on the move is News International’s chief marketing officer Jeremy Schwartz, who walked out less than nine months into the top marketing role.

Let’s remember it took News Int almost six months to find Schwartz for its first overarching CMO role for The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, and News of The World, so it seems safe to assume News Int’s newly promoted chief executive Rebekah Brooks nee Wade was less than convinced.

The newspaper publisher is now expected to move back to its tried and tested model of having individual marketing directors responsible for each title.

Elsewhere, advertising veteran’s Daryl Fielding’s brief foray into newspapers ended abruptly on Monday, and Simon Davies is already primed to take over the role of commercial director of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.

Despite best intentions, sometimes, things just don’t work out – ask outgoing PPA chief executive Jonathan Shephard, who has attracted widespread criticism for his 18 month spell at the association for consumer and B2B magazines.

His decision to cull the association’s events and marketing activities during what is arguably the most challenging time the magazine industry has ever faced, didn’t go down too well with many publishing members.

And Shephard’s own unique style of management and communication didn’t appear to help his cause, with many vocally against him from the outset.

Read more on September’s here, it’s time to quit…

Editor’s blog: Vittorio Colao’s big idea

You need some nerve as a boss to admit that the 600 million you spend each year on marketing isn’t really working that well. With an admirable directness not frequently noted among Italians, Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao thinks his whole brand and marketing requires a revamp. It is not the big power, said Colao of his new brand identity. It is not the power of top down. It is bottom-up power. It really means that Vodafone puts the customer at the centre of what we do. Never a bad starting point.

Vodafone started off with the tagline How Are you? which was a bit of a yawn, frankly. (Well, I’m fine, thanks and just happy with my contract with One2One.) Then it moved onto Make the Most of Now which had me dozing-off in its blandness. Now it’s ditching that as it plumps for the sizzling Power To you. Well, sorry, but the first thing that made me think of is Cliff’s Power to All Our Friends which even in his execrable litany of pap was enough to make you chuck.

But you have to feel sorry for Vodafone because they are faced with the familiar problem of making advertising travel and then earn its lunch across so many borders. Thus it winds up with slightly dismal lowest common denominator solutions. So it plasters its logo across sporting events from Bergen to Beijing and hopes for the best. And a fat lot of thanks it gets for its support. Vodafone once very kindly organised an interview for me with Surralex Ferguson at Manchester United which in organisational grief was like a cross between taking on the Taliban in the Swat valley and getting a class of seven year olds to cross the road. It showed in a nutshell how tortured the relationship can be between sponsor and the sponsoree. And if you think football is a difficult business to get into bed with then Formula One is an utter nightmare.

But the crux of the problem is that they actually spend too much. The problem with Vodafone marketing is that it’s everywhere – utterly ubiquitous. And like the air that you breath you just stop noticing it after a while and are grabbed by something more interesting. That’s the terror of modern marketing – out there in world of trillions of messages nobody can hear you scream.

Colao knows this and what he yearns for is for Vodafone to become sexy and desirable like Apple. (It would help if he were actually allowed to sell a few iPhones himself- the exclusivity contract with O2 is up shortly.) It could be done – Vodafone is a muscular brand with a lot of clout and amazing reach. But what he really needs is the Holy Grail of a great idea which cuts through the wall-to-wall noise of 21st century global marketing. That’s what he needs to put that big McKinsey-trained brain of his to work on finding.

Read more on Editor’s blog: Vittorio Colao’s big idea…

Freedom equals responsibility

Recently, GMTV asked me to go along and talk about alcohol
advertising on morning TV. When I got there I found it was a bit of a stitch-up. The interview was actually about banning alcohol advertising. And I was supposed to be the bad guy.

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Editor’s blog: Poor old Kodak’s fall from grace

You have to feel some sorrow for poor old Kodak. For the last two decades, the only stories coming out of the venerable photographic company from Rochester New York, founded by George Eastman in 1888, have been tales of increasing woe. This summer they gave up producing their wonderful Kodachrome film, and now comes the news that they are in hock to KKR – not known as the most compassionate of pawnbrokers.

KKR is buying up to $400m of senior secured notes in Kodak, as the hapless photography company tries to shore up its dismal balance sheet (it’s also raising an additional $300m in convertible debt through a private placement, which will partly go towards paying off earlier debt). KKR – which gets two seats on the Kodak board – is also buying warrants that give it the right to buy up to 53m of Kodak’s 268m outstanding shares.

It’s hard to overstate the extent of Kodak’s fall from a position of global domination in its market. Kodak brought photography to ordinary people in the same way as Ford did cars. In encouraging ‘You push the button, we do the rest’, it was so successful that the verb ‘to Kodak’ was used to describe taking a picture as one uses ‘to Google’ today to describe an online search. It generated seas of cash, and as late as 1981, it enjoyed a $10bn turnover as folk all over the world used the vertically-integrated company to take its pictures. But like so many US leviathans, it just did not adapt to change fast enough. It thought the world owed it a living.

Now it’s been almost blown away by the digital firestorm, as kids just take pictures with their phones and don’t even know what photographic film is. Even digital cameras are on the sales slide. No wonder Kodak’s CEO Antonio Perez once described his job as being like standing on ‘a hot burning platform’.

Such is the extent of its woes, one wonders if Kodak can in fact survive (Polaroid didn’t). Sometimes the extent of the problems faced by organisations are just too vast for any strategic move to be effective, and the harsh reality of the evolutionary process kicks in. It’s doubtful if even the most brilliant and revolutionary management could have done anything but change the speed at which they headed for the Big Exit. Like the wooly mammoth or the dodo, maybe Kodak should just shuffle off its mortal coil and move on to a better place. Not before KKR has had its money back, though. Otherwise there will be hell to pay.

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