Monthly Archives: October 2009

Education, education, education (part one)

It’s official: us Brits love shopping online. According to research by price comparison service, Uswitch, 93% of the UK population now shop on the internet (I think that’s 93% of the 2,500 adults they surveyed!). And, as consumers continue to ‘connect’ so advertisers increasingly look to the internet as a platform to get their messages across and sell their wares. The two are mutually beneficial. Some of us just can’t get enough of all this (it’s empowering and addictive). For others the tide of change is uncomfortable and some need help getting connected in the first place (and there’s no one better than digital entrepreneur and Government Digital Inclusion Champion, Martha Lane Fox, to make this happen).

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Murdoch forces Sorrell to make U-turn over paid-content


Sorrell, chief executive of WPP and one of adland’s best known soothsayers, has
dramatically revised his stance on the viability of publishers charging for
content online following comments from the quintessential newspaper man, Rupert

Speaking at an industry event
in Greece last week
, The Daily Telegraph reports an irrepressible Sorrell,
as saying: “[Rupert] Murdoch is absolutely correct to try and get people
paying for content – it is critical for traditional media businesses as there
is not enough advertising to support these models anymore.

“Getting consumers to pay for content they value is key. We have to find
those areas.”

Such sentiments will be music to the ears of those operating in the embattled
newspaper sector, which according to Sorrell’s own media investment arm GroupM
is expected to see advertising revenue plummet 26% in the UK
this year.

But such apparent support for online pay-walls flies in the face of Sorrell’s
own vision of the future, announced less than 10 months earlier.

Addressing an international
advertising event in January
, there could be no mistaking what the WPP
leader thought about the position traditional publishers now find themselves
in, or his reservations about charging for web content.

“Some of the structural changes we’re seeing taking place in the
[newspaper] industry, particularly in America, the failure and bankruptcy and
reorganisation of these [publishing] companies is going to continue. And
there’s no way of stopping it, because we’ve given it away for free,” he

“The seeds of this problem were sown when the people who created the new
media industry, probably in the early nineties, decided – rightly from the
consumers point of view I have to say – to give it away for nothing.

“It’s impossible actually now to take it up. You can start up here [high]
and take your pricing down, but you can’t start there [free] and start moving
it up.”

It appears News Corp’s
venerable leader’s commitment to “charge for all our news websites”
buoyed by thriving online subs at the Wall Street Journal, has led Sorrell to
change his mind.

It marks the latest backtrack in what has been a tricky year for WPP’s famous
crystal ball-gazer, who, lest we forget, is responsible for group billings of
more than $80 billion, or around a third of all the world’s measured media

At the same event in January, Sorrell predicted “a flat year” for the
global ad market in 2009, adding reassuringly: “We’re not looking at the
Armageddon or the Apocalypse Now that analysts and media followers are

“We don’t see it as bad as Goldman and others who talk about -5, I see -10
from [some quarters] which seems somewhat strange.”

Nine long months, a series of forecast revisions, and thousands of redundancies
later, and Sorrell now accepts a drop of 5.5% is the most likely outcome.

But then it’s been one of those years; also at the IAA event in January, media
execs were expressing incredulity at the suggestion a former Russian spy was
being bandied around as a potential buyer for London’s
Evening Standard.

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5 Killer Online Video Stats

Massive, HD video is now a reality

Over the last two years I’ve been lucky to head up the IAB Video Council and while there’s always been a buzz around online video it’s never been greater than now. There may be some teething problems to overcome in this new channel – such as increasing research – but every single senior marketer I’ve spoken to about it (and there have been hundreds) see its huge potential and want to use it. I predict – and I checked that it’s therefore ok to say that the IAB is predicting – that 2010 will be the year that online video makes its mark on the advertising world. Here are five stats to help convince you:

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Give it back to the people

In the first half of the 20th century, British music was
just a poor copy of American music. First ragtime, then dixieland jazz, then swing, then
modern jazz, then folk music, then rock and roll.

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Editor’s blog: The limits of online advertising

It had to happen. Just as ITV writhes around in its prolonged death spiral, still searching for a new CEO and chairman, and Channel 4 falls out with its boss, along comes the headline that ‘the internet has now overtaken TV to become the biggest advertising sector in the UK’. A sign of the times (except that it’s not strictly true: print, although in steep decline, remains the largest advertising medium).

Last year’s record online spend of 1.75bn means that the UK is the world’s first major economy where advertisers have put more dosh online than on TV. The web has achieved this in little more than a decade, which is remarkable. But there’s quite a lot that needs unpicking here, not least the fact that ‘online’ contains so many separate facets: email, classified ads, display ads and vast quantities of search marketing (large chunks of which winds up in Google’s pocket).

Within these Internet Advertising Bureau figures sits the fact that online display ads such as banners actually fell by 5.2% year-on-year, to 316.5m. Just today I’ve come across two unbelievably irritating and obtrusive online display ads – one on the FT’s site and one on The Times’s – shrieking to be noticed like an intensely irritating kid in a class. And one of them has the dire cheek to be hiding behind a click where you expect to get editorial. Very naughty behaviour indeed, and their effect is to make me actively hostile towards their perpetrators.

The web’s success is also due to dire state of the economy. Downturns understandably make advertisers very cautious; they want very precisely directed marketing material that brings easily measurable results and ROI. Online promises a lot to the nervous and the thrifty, but doesn’t always deliver it.

The BBC – surprise surprise – has gone big on this story, and its website includes a feature about the ad agency that has just launched the new VW Golf Gti entirely online. Gone are the lovely 30-second telly and cinema VW ads of old – apparently there are no press spreads. Just an online racing game (which isn’t actually a game because it’s not interactive, and isn’t strictly speaking an ad because it’s hosted on the VW website).

All one helluva lot of fun, I’m sure. But I hadn’t previously seen it and, as a consequence, the launch has completely passed me by. I know media is necessarily fragmented these days, and I know I may not be the target audience for a GTi (I hear they’re a lot fatter, heavier and less fun than the old icons of the 80s). But what online advertising does less well – and I’d include banners in this – is build broad brand awareness. The GTi got to become the icon it is because of those skilfully crafted DDB TV ads of years back. Everyone saw them, everyone got and shared the message. But we’ll never get back to that because it’s too expensive and wasteful in the world of 21st century marketing.

Online is brilliant for job ads and outstanding for small ticket items in classified. But it’s not effective for everything. I’m not sure how good online is, for example, at luxury goods – those sorts of wildly expensive treats that have to be made to appear intensely desirable (beautifully presented press ads and posters can do this). Neither is it great at making things loveable. I know I keep banging on about the success of Compare the Market’s meerkat, but that had to be done by television (of course there’s now a website and the whole thing is ‘viral’).

In short the web is here to stay, will advance further and has made marketing an even more arcane and problematic art in the last decade. But neither TV nor print is quite dead yet.

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