Monthly Archives: October 2009

iPhone – so should you

In Saturday’s Guardian, Alan Rusbridger listed the 10 ways in which his life has changed since the last century. It was no great surprise that Google took the top spot. Neither was it a massive surprise that Wikipedia came second – although there is evidence to suggest that this online super power is on the wane. Twitter coming in third place raised a few more eyebrows while Rusbridger was forced to admit that putting Comment Is Free in fourth position was “a plug for the home team”. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the list though was the iPhone coming in a paltry 6th position.

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By removing anonymity social media has found its voice

Online communities and sites with user generated content (UGC) have been an obsession of mine since the late 90’s ever since I discovered chat rooms, instant messenger and forums. My single greatest passion is being involved in and running online communities for people to chat and share ideas and information. UGC has since been morphed by marketers into ‘social media’, which, when you look beyond the jargon, is just a more advanced platform for UGC with one significant difference: the removal of anonymity behind usernames. In my youth mine was the wildly inappropriate “FatXena”.

FatXena was a trigger happy opinionated so and so, whereas Jack Wallington was far tamer in reality. This created a split in personality between my online and offline life. I wasn’t alone either, it was always well documented how vocal people felt they could be behind a username online even when the person tapping away was a timid little mouse.

Thanks to social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and even UGC like BBC’s Have Your Say, this e-bipolar disorder is gradually being wiped out, although it still exists on forums which make up the vast majority of social media. I have many theories about the effects this is having, but for advertisers my point here is that removing anonymity means users are a more accurate portrayal of their genuine personality. One thing I’ve observed in my own group of friends is that the most social offline are also the most social online – in the past, during FatXena’s time, it was generally the absolute opposite.

There’s always been much talk among online community managers about finding the ‘opinion formers’ when in the past, the ones they found online were probably not the kind of people to drive opinion offline. Therefore, the real reason for marketers to be excited about ‘social media’ is not only because it is mainstream, but because there is a very real crossover in personalities. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what this means for your business, but to me, it’s one of the most exciting developments of our era.

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Recently, I was having lunch with David Abbott and he was telling me about Bill Bernbach. David had worked for Bernbach, and he’d met him many times. I’d hadn’t done either. So I loved to hear the stories.

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No one listens to technology

I was having dinner with some friends who are creative directors. We’d finished eating and we were just chatting.

While we were talking one of them got up to put some music on. He looked through the CDs, selected one, and put it on. Vivaldi I think it was.

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No one’s an expert

Other advertising platforms like outdoor, print and radio have been around for decades and significant changes to each medium have been few and far between, allowing people ample time to learn their intricacies and perfect their skills. The problem with the internet is that it’s only been around for two decades, mainstream for far less and everything keeps changing. How can people possibly keep up?

I’ve met hundreds of marketers from across the industry in my daily work here at the IAB and while many are expert specialists and we have lots of excellent digital leaders, no one is an expert in everything because it is impossible to be. This is a huge challenge because quite often people will need to work with technology or a technique from an area they’ve never used before. It befuddles them, delays them, and before they know it everything’s moved on.

Bill Gates once said that the leaders of the future will be those that can adapt to change the fastest, which I can’t disagree with at the moment given the current speed of technological change. But do we really want a world built on change experts? Sometimes the best results come from time and experience learning something’s intricacies.

As I’ve mentioned, internet advertising does have strong expertise in silos like display, search and affiliate. Here the technology evolves and improves and the specialists can keep up with this if it’s their primary focus. Bringing it all together and delivering a fully integrated, expert marketing solution is the difficulty.

“Lack of communication” is the phrase I hear the most in digital, so communicating more, sharing knowledge and ideas is obviously key – but does anyone really do it? And if they do, is it enough? Well, I obviously see knowledge sharing on a daily basis in meetings and events. However, I think we as a marketing industry can and must share a lot more information. While they exist, asking for simple things like great creative and successful case studies can be like drawing blood from a stone. Too much of internet advertising is perceived to be built on ‘knowledge’ and people are too protective of it.

Sharing is a vital step for internet advertising to continue to mature, but fundamentally I believe the biggest fault lies with technology providers and software engineers: they make things far too complicated. Even the most user friendly technology isn’t user friendly enough if you look at the big picture. No, you will never need a single person to login to your display ad network interface, search interface, enewsletter admin, booking systems, planning systems, reports etc etc. It makes sense to have specific teams, but we do need people that understand to a significant degree what they all do to allow them to become the ‘internet advertising overlords’ we need.

This has turned into a two sided rant, so I’ll bring it to a close with this:

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Editor’s blog: ITV, the search from hell

It’s hard to know where to start when considering the shambles that is ITV at the moment. The place is starting to appear like a de-masted and rudderless Ship of Fools adrift on the high seas, heaving around looking for both a captain and first officer to put a joint hand on the tiller.

Sir Michael Bishop looked like a good prospect for Chairman. He’s smart, he’s got media experience (having been Chairman of Channel 4 in the mid 90s), and he has a 223m cheque from the sale of his BMi stake to Lufthansa burning a hole in his pocket. So, time for some good works with some media luvvies, then. But after a sniff around, he came to the conclusion that the ITV board was so dysfunctional and the broadcaster’s situation so bleak that he’d rather spend a quiet Christmas having a few pina coladas in the Caribbean. (As BSKyB holds a massive ITV stake, the last thing the seeker-after-a-quiet-life will want is Rupert or James Murdoch on the phone every five minutes.) So Bishop, like Tony Ball the hard-man prospective CEO, dropped out of the running.

This means the latest round of opprobrium has been directed full and square at head-hunters Russell Reynolds, who have the task of finding both a new Chairman and CEO – and appear to have made a ghastly mess of it. And the agony isn’t over: they are back to square one, with everyone now waiting for them to make fools of themselves all over again.

The ITV job is a poisoned chalice. It may well net Russell Reynolds hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees, but it’s the search from hell. Not only is the organisation in a mess, in dire requirement of a new strategy, but the whole place (like so many media holes) leaks like a sieve. Thus the search has been an embarrassingly public affair, which headhunters don’t like unless they are controlling the leaking.

It doesn’t make sense to slag off the whole profession, though. Luke Johnson suggests that media head-hunting is a piece of cake because all the usual suspects know each other. But ITV needs someone a bit special coming from a new angle. Headhunters may be a funny old lot, but when they do their job well they are a useful resource. They bring knowledge of the sector, discretion, impartiality and – one would hope – some degree of wisdom to help a company hire the sort of individual it requires. They also provide a buffer between the company and the job market, and have to take the blame for failure.

To conduct a search without a specialised consultant would not be easy. What is a Chairman supposed to do – get out his Filofax and start ringing around a few mates? Invite the hottest prospects for a round at Wentworth? Of course, intrinsically any organisation ought to be able to do this for itself, but it just doesn’t work like that. It would be seen as unprofessional.

So after five months of flailing around the ITV search has to go on. Maybe they’ll have the ship crewed up before the end of the year at least. It has to be a great opportunity for someone to make his or her name as one of the best turnaround stars in media history.

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Is that all we do, sell stuff?

I was on the tube, on my way to the D&AD TV judging at
Olympia. Olympia is the last stop on that branch of the District

Normally, when you get near the station, the train driver’s
voice comes over the loud speaker. “The next stop is
Olympia where this train terminates.”

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A while ago I questioned where all of the celebrities were in online advertising, the question still stands – where are they? Using celebrities is a number one tool in your marketing tool box for brand endorsement and attracting attention. If print, outdoor, radio and TV gets Cheryl Cole, why can’t we in display ads? Over to you L’Oreal.

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A race online for 2012

The government’s Digital Inclusion Champion, Martha Lane Fox, made a strong case about the importance of inclusion at yesterday’s Digital Engagement conference.

Explaining that she was drawn to her job (which carries with it what she called “an insane title”) because it offered an “irresistible challenge”, Lane Fox argued that there are two main reasons why we should care about the large portion of society who are socially and economically excluded from the digital world.

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Fear is good

Mel Brookes was a very funny stand-up comedian.

He was about to direct his first feature film and he was worried that the film crew wouldn’t take him seriously.

Film crews are notorious for taking the piss.

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