Monthly Archives: November 2009

Goodbye Media Week, it was a comic anyway

Media Week front cover

media owners and agency leaders would be forgiven for greeting news of Media
Week’s closure with initial relief on Tuesday.

It’s never
easy being watched, let alone reported on and critiqued as well. And in the current
climate, where every major launch or account win is offset by a deluge of loses and people moves, it
must’ve at times been plain annoying.

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Education, education, education (part three…and final)

I’ve banged the drum in previous weeks about the importance of consumer education about behavioural advertising, and the IAB’s recent research has highlighted the need for this.

Today the IAB has published a guide on behavioural advertising specifically for industry, our first step in helping educate the market about this practice (although you’ll be glad to know that this will be my last blog – for now – talking about education). The guide explains how behavioural advertising works, how it differs to other types of targeted advertising on the internet, its benefits to web publishers and advertisers, consumer attitudes as well as online privacy and industry good practice.

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The spirit of the law v The letter of the law

When I was a student, I used to make extra money counting the votes at elections.

At East Ham Town hall, we were told to only count votes that were clearly marked with an X next to a candidate’s name. Anything else should be counted as a spoiled vote. We should put it aside to be adjudicated by the Town Clerk later.

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Game Changer

Er, did we all just miss something phenomenal? Hold your thoughts on iPhones and Twitter for a second, a number of the biggest leaps in media and technology in 2009 happened this month and it’s tied to one thing: gaming. Let’s recap for a second…

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Semiotics v Reality

When I first went to Singapore, I went out one morning
looking for a local café.

In Singapore, blocks of flats are built on massive concrete
stilts with open areas underneath. Children play in these areas. The locals use them to hang their washing out.

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Editor’s blog: Do nurses need to be graduates?

Apparently nurses need degrees for ‘critical decision-making skills’. But you don’t need to be a graduate for that.

A great debate this morning about whether nurses need to be graduates. In four years’ time, anyone who wants to become one of the nation’s 400,000 nurses will need to have a degree. This is one of the biggest shake-ups of medical education in the history of the NHS.

More than a quarter of nurses, incidentally, already have a degree and the level of qualifications has risen steadily in recent years. But this has caused an almighty row. And not for the first time, the nursing unions seem to be making a lot more sense than the representatives of the NHS. There’s an awful lot of guff being spouted by the department about the need to ‘meet the challenges of tomorrow’ and for ‘critical decision-making skills’. But I fail to see how the ability to learn how to make decisions is a graduate-only business.

Unison and Unite have insisted there is ‘no compelling evidence’ that degrees would improve patient treatment, claiming ‘the emphasis should be on competence, not on unfounded notions about academic ability’.

There is nothing wrong with having a degree in nursing, providing it teaches the correct things. A respondent to the Times this morning complains: ‘Some of the degree holders see their main role as management and very little of it as nursing, creating the impression of a two-tier nursing system. I have seen much of the most important work (maintaining patient dignity, providing compassion) fall to health care assistants’.

There is nothing wrong with management. You’d hardly expect me to say otherwise. But the role of management is to make sure that the important work at the coal-face is done properly – and one sees and hears of far too many examples in nursing of the caring being neglected for the sociology and the paperwork.

Here’s another Times Online correspondent: ‘I have found myself doubting the motivation of those degree-level students that I have worked alongside. In my last position within a busy Intensive Care Unit, I worked with both degree and diploma level students & found their contrasting attitudes remarkable. There was a definite gulf & almost snobbery between the two groups, with the diploma group being almost considered inferior to their degree-level colleagues. Unfortunately when it came to carrying out direct personal patient care (surely the essence of ‘nursing’) the gulf in attitudes was appalling. Whilst for the main part the diploma students were happy to roll their sleeps up & help with washing, toileting & mobilising patients. Indeed, I recall asking a degree level student nurse to assist me in cleaning a patient who had soiled themself, only to be met with the response: ‘I don’t really want to do that, I came here to learn how life support machines work’.

I actually have some first-hand experience of this. Years ago I worked for a summer as a care assistant in an old people’s home. That’s about the lowest of the low in the nursing hierarchy, but I have to say it was one of the richer experiences of my working life. Not only did I carry a 95-year-old on my back during a fire scare down five flights of stairs – he was amused – but I did all the bum-wiping, bed pans and feeding. I shall never forget the morning I clocked on at 7am and pulled back the bed covers of some of the residents, to discover that two-thirds of them had come down with a gastric bug. But mostly it was a lot of sitting around listening. Such things are actually a vital part of the care process and help people get better faster. And if they can’t be made better, it makes their passing more tolerable. It might not be sexy like an action-packed episode of ER with portable chest x-rays, chem. 7s and CBCs, but it’s one of the vital roles nurses perform.

You don’t need a degree to hold a hand, reassure and comfort. You can, of course, have a degree and still be good at these vital things – but a substantial part of any nursing qualification must be to emphasise their importance.

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Media among the casualties of Observer restructure

The Observer's Business & Media section

Coverage of the UK
media business will be among the casualties of the upcoming restructure at The
Observer in 2010.

As details of the cost-cutting drive at one of the country’s oldest national
newspapers start to emerge
, it transpires the Business & Media section will
be folded into the main paper.

It will be a loss to the British media industry and signals a seismic change
for The Observer, which has had a separate Business section for more than 30 years.

It comes a year after The Independent closed its Monday media supplement, which
had run for four years in competition with The Guardian.

Both moves appear to be an ominous reflection of the current UK media
landscape, which has been hit hard by a sluggish jobs market and the ensuing
loss of classified recruitment ads.

In addition, print circulations continue to fall while the emergence of
nimbler, online competitors now take large chunks out of any remaining

Those in the industry will have noticed The Observer’s media coverage has been
on the slide for some time, but the upcoming changes are set to have dramatic

In addition to the Business & Media section disappearing, the personal
finance coverage in The Observer’s Cash section is also folding. The paper will
endeavour to continue some sort of coverage of both sectors in the main paper,
while the travel-based Escape section will be subsumed into an expanded
Observer magazine.

The Observer has also announced plans to close three of its monthly magazines –
Observer Sport Monthly, Observer Music Monthly and Observer Woman.

More than 100 of GN&M’s 1,700 editorial and commercial jobs are set to go
in the latest attempt to reverse “unsustainable” losses, leaving a much-reduced
£2 Sunday offering.

Meanwhile, GNM has once again sent emails to staff encouraging them to consider
working part-time, taking a sabbatical or applying for voluntary redundancy.

Further changes are set to follow, with parent Guardian Media Group’s CEO Carolyn
McCall, admitting “We are midway through a process”.

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Nobody’s Perfect

(I was going to rewrite this
article, pull bits out, précis it.

But it’s actually so good, I
think I should just print the whole thing.

It’s written by Al Ries who,
along with Jack Trout, wrote one of my favourite books ‘Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind”.

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Editor’s blog: Keep Cadbury British

I really hope this historic UK company doesn’t get swallowed up into a soulless conglomerate.

Kraft’s low-ball offer for Cadbury yesterday may have taken a few people by surprise. However, nobody in their right mind thinks Cadbury has seen the last of Kraft – the tanks aren’t off the lawn yet. In the old days, a knockout blow in the form of an enormous bid would have been on the table by now; General Wasserstein would have been there in his tin hat yelling from the turret, as he led the advance of the squadron of Shermans. But these are more cautious times, and Kraft must be convinced they can acquire Cadbury far more cheaply than in the days of plenty.

What should we wish for as an outcome? If one is being hard-nosed and purist about it, providing Kraft’s price is right, we should not object to the British firm being taken over. If Cadbury was French, it would be an altogether different story. Look at the palaver a few years back when Pepsi began to sniff around Danone, the water and yogurt maker. Danone got itself added to France’s nuclear power industry in a list of enterprises vital to national strategic interests, making it invulnerable to takeover. I’m not for one moment suggesting that our Government should begin behaving in the chauvinist and illegal way that some of our Europeans brethren seem to do with such impunity. I don’t think our national interests will be fatally undermined if the makers of the Curly Wurly aren’t Brits.

But Cadbury forms a key and highly distinguished part of British business tradition. Founded by British quakers it has a noble history of enlightened and philanthropic management, combined with a skill in building highly successful and much loved brands. However much Kraft protests that this tradition would not be lost after a takeover, this cannot be the case. Kraft is a grinding, anonymous conglomerate.

More broadly, we’ve got to consider what we want to have left in the way of UK business. If we are going to try to redefine our economy then it’s worth trying to establish what we’re good at and is worth preserving. Cadbury won MT’s award for Britain’s Most Admired Company back in 2004, but it’s interesting to see how the pool of great UK companies has shrunk even since then. How many more of our scarce tray of crown jewels will we allow to disappear or pass into foreign ownership before we get worried? Before the crash it was highly unfashionable to utter such sentiments. We were believers in letting the market decide – and besides, our great strength in financial services would remedy shortfalls in other areas. You don’t hear that sort of talk much as this decade comes to a close.

So, I make no bones about admitting I hope that Kraft fails. Put the pacifist tendencies of your management forebears to one side and stick it to ’em, Todd. But weep as you sign the enormous defence cheques to your advisors Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS. What a dreadful waste of hard-earned cash.

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Adverts around Computer Games

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, I’m a technology addict. I’ve had a Wii and Xbox 360 for a couple of years now, and last week I was given a Playstation 3 for my birthday. I’m not the only person that loves games, millions of people spend hours every week playing them. Hours that are therefore taken away from online, watching TV, reading magazines, cinema etc etc. Traditionally these platforms haven’t been heavily used as an advertising platform but that has changed. While playing the Playstation 3, I came across a couple of interesting uses of computer games for advertising.

First was in the game WipEout HD which has short dynamic video adverts that play during the loading screens (dodgy, blurred photo below). I know this is nothing new and many other games do this, but this was the first time I’d seen them. I was particularly struck at how engaged I was during this 10 sec loading screen ad – it’s not like I can leave to make a cup of tea in that time, I have to sit and watch. Shame the only ad I’ve seen so far has been for the DVD of “Rocky Balboa”. Still…

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