Monthly Archives: February 2010

Everything’s changed, and nothing’s changed

My wife is Chinese, she’s from Singapore.

We were about thirty when we met, and I was divorced.

When we decided to get married, we went back to Singapore to
meet her parents.

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GroupM’s COI win ensures no one will profit from £250m media account

GroupM’s COI win last week guarantees that no one in the UK will benefit from the profits of the nation’s most valuable media buying business.

Lest we forget, Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group, parent to GroupM, officially left the country at the end of last year and set up its legal headquarters in the tax haven of Ireland.

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VAST will unlock online video potential

Today the IAB Video Council announced full support of the new standard video ad serving template (VAST 2.0). VAST 2.0 allows third party ad servers to easily connect to publisher video players in a similar way to online display ads. This is a huge step forward for the growth of online video with near unanimous backing from the entire UK video industry, all of whom are members of the IAB Video Council.

In a nutshell it will allow advertisers to use one of these:

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Super Bowl, Slapheads and Cows with Jackets.

Rarely is advertising of sufficient interest to make the pages and airwaves of the World’s media.

However, I doubt there are many of you who don’t know it cost around $3 million to buy a 30 sec slot in this year’s Super Bowl, so well was it covered in the mass media.

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New media is two words, not one

If you go on you’ll see Evan Williams, the guy who created Twitter, speaking about how he still isn’t sure what it’s going to end up being used for.

Sometimes the invention happens before there’s a need for it. Our minds work on a supply and demand basis. But technological innovation isn’t always like that.

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A nudge beats nagging

Rory Sutherland is a brilliant speaker, a cross between Stephen Fry and Boris Johnson. Rory is President of the IPA.

His current passion is to encourage Behavioural Economics into wider use amongst ad agencies.

The problem is, no one outside the planning department is interested in Behavioural Economics. Or any other kind of economics come to that.

That’s just sounds like more complicated planning stuff we don’t need to know about. We’re too busy doing ads that people can understand. Ordinary people. People who read The Sun, not The Guardian.
So just give us something simple we can understand.


Actually there’s another name for Behavioural Economics.

In creative terms it’s called Good Ideas.

Really clever thinking that we can use to do better ads. Ways that we can out think our competition. It’s encapsulated in a book called ‘Nudge’.

It’s about setting up the situation so that people choose to do what we want them to do.

Rather than nagging them into doing it. If you’re a creative, that’s clever thinking. If you’re a planner, that’s Behavioural Economics. Either way it’s what we should be doing.

Rory’s favourite example is Ataturk, the Turkish ruler. He wanted Turkey to become a modern, secular state. So he needed to move the people away from religious domination.

One outward sign of this would be to stop Moslem women wearing the veil. One way to do that would be to pass a law banning it. But that might elevate the veil into a symbol of religious freedom. Which might actually turn people who wore it into martyrs.

How could he get women to choose to stop wearing the veil?

Well he didn’t pass any laws about women and the veil.

Except, he made it compulsory for prostitutes to wear the veil.

Suddenly no respectable woman wanted to be seen wearing a veil. By her own choice. Edward de Bono, the father of lateral-thinking, had a similar idea.

When London was about to introduce parking meters, he said there was a better way.

Don’t have any meters, but change the law.

So that you had to leave your headlights on when you parked.

No one would leave their car very long with the battery draining.

Several hundred years ago, the Duke of Buckingham owned a lot of land to the west of London. It was just farmland, of low value. But his son found a way to drastically increase he value of the land. He sold a house in the middle of that land, very cheaply, to the king. That became Buckingham palace.

Of course London society wanted to live near royalty. In fact they’d pay a premium. So the value of the land skyrocketed.

In the 1950s the Betty Crocker Company invented a cake mix. It was so easy, all you had to do was just add water and bake. But it didn’t sell.

Marketing expert Ernest Dichter found housewives felt they weren’t looking after their family by just adding water. So he changed the instructions to include adding an egg.

The cake-mix didn’t really need it, but housewives felt more fulfilled. And Betty Crocker built an entire cake mix market.

In Africa they have a problem with fresh water. It’s so far underground they need pumps to raise it to the surface.

But how do they get the machinery, the petrol, the electricity, the money? A charity called Water-Aid didn’t use any of that.

They had roundabouts built where the pumps would be. Children came from miles around to play on the roundabouts.

They were the only playground leisure equipment they had.

The roundabouts turned pumps, which raised the water to giant storage containers.

So the children came to play, and carried clean water back home. Nature knows the value of a nudge, too.

There is a plant in Africa that puts out a sap, and a fragrance, elephants find irresistible.

The elephants strip the bark of the plant, chew it and swallow it. At the same time swallowing the seeds.

As the elephant moves around the countryside it defecates everywhere. Distributing the seeds, partially germinated and wrapped inside a ball of manure.

And another example of Rory’s. Speed cameras.

Have you ever been driving and seen ahead of you a sign light up saying PLEASE SLOW DOWN?

These polite little reminders cost less than a quarter of what a speed camera costs. Yet they are four times more successful in reducing speeding.

A nudge is a great way to get people to choose to do what you want them to do. Rather than trying to nag them into doing it. Like the creative department.

A lot more of them will choose to get involved if we explain that it’s a way to beat their competition. By clever thinking.

That’s something they’ll choose to do. Rather than nagging them into Behavioural Economics.

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It’s not very creative if you can’t read it!

You wouldn’t tell a TV buyer you saw a spot go out in a programme that didn’t suit the brand.

You wouldn’t tell a press buyer nobody reads ads on a left hand page.

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Why brands still need a bit more convincing. (And a couple of handy stats.)

The results of an IAB and Opinion Matters survey amongst brands appeared in Marketing Mag todayunder the headline ‘Major Brands Sceptical of Social Media’. The article presents a few stats from the study, which investigated the views of 80 senior-level marketers. These included the fact that almost a quarter (22%) of brands have made social media a core part of their communications strategy, whilst our research found that only 7% of respondents haven’t yet embraced social media in any way.

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Editor’s blog: M&S pays the price to get Bolland in fast

New M&S boss Marc Bolland’s pay deal has got tongues clicking. It also indicates the scale of the task ahead.

Well you didn’t think he was going to do the job in exchange for free Y-fronts and prawn sandwiches for life, did you? Marc Bolland, the incoming CEO of M&S, has really got tongues clicking in disapproval. ‘Excessive’, sniffed the hair-shirt wearers and guardians of corporate morality at PIRC. ‘This is a bad start for the new regime at M&S’.

I have to say, a golden hello of up to £15m is going it a bit, however high-flying the Dutchman. This is blood-sucking squid territory – with the disadvantage that Bolland is right slap-bang in the public eye, while those cephalopods from Goldman lurk in the depths beneath the waves. Marc lives in the real world, on the high street, and has to look in the eye of the real workers on the tills who collect his wages. So it hasn’t been a great week for new CEOs, after the publicity disaster that greeted Adam Crozier signing on the dotted line for ITV for up to £14m over five years. (My god he must be glad to be saying goodbye to that unruly rabble at the Royal Mail, though.)

One thing Bolland’s sizeable package hints at is the scale of the struggle that lies ahead. M&S needed Bolland in fast, and had to deal with his demands rapidly. It simply isn’t the UK’s favourite store any more. Regular billion-pound annual profits of the sort they enjoyed in the late 90s are a fading memory. M&S has been caught in a nasty squeeze between the upmarket merchants and the cost-cutters, both in food and in clothing. It’s not a pleasant place to be with the likes of New Look and Aldi snapping at your heels.

My Auntie Clarice always gives me a M&S voucher for Xmas and I popped along to their store in Kensington the other day to blow it, thinking there could be a nice piece of schmutter of some description that might take my eye. There wasn’t. They’ve blown the Autograph sub-brand and Blue Harbour leaves me as cold as Primark. They’ve also stopped doing the semi-acceptable suede loafers (made in India) – and the last pair of socks I bought there fell apart after about three outings (try Tabio for your socks, gents – Japanese build quality). It was forty quid to replace the Panama that some light-fingered cove whipped from the Ryanair queue at Stansted last summer. No. I bought a couple of bottles of Barolo and made my exit.

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United Geekdom

My fascination for digital devices has always felt like an underground obsession while most people simply didn’t get it.

In other words, the only people who admired all of these things were geeks. Barriers have been breaking down between the world of geeks and ‘the normals’ for quite some time, but in the last 12 months, I’d say that the mainstream world has tipped and suddenly everyone gets it.

Here are some recent indicators of this societal shift:

Read more on United Geekdom…