Monthly Archives: March 2010

Research is the dashboard

Jack Brabham was Australian.
In the 1960s he was one of the best Formula One drivers.
In one particular race, his fuel gauge showed he was running out of fuel.
He knew he should pull into the pits.
But he didn’t want to lose the time it would take.
He calculated that it was better to keep going.
He noticed the information from the fuel gauge.
Then he made his own decision.
He kept going.
In the final straight, just before the chequered flag, he ran out of fuel.
He got out of the car and pushed it.
With all the other cars whizzing around him.
He pushed it across the finish line.
That was the season he won the Formula One World Championship.
He didn’t let the fuel gauge dictate to him.
He took the information on board, and he made the decision.
Years later, Michael Schumacher was at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Everyone knows the lighter a racing car is, the faster it goes.
So at Monaco, all the teams started with the lightest fuel load, allowing for three refuelling stops.
Schumacher started with a heavier fuel load.
It made him slightly slower at the start.
But it meant he only needed two fuel stops.
Schumacher calculated that being slower at the start would cost him 4 or 5 seconds.
But a refuelling stop would cost him 15 to 20 seconds.
So while all the cars that had been ahead of him were in the pits, he roared past.
Schumacher won.
It’s the same in our job.
We should use information to help us take better decisions.
Not to take the decisions for us.
For us, research is like a fuel gauge.
A fuel gauge just tells you what’s in the tank.
It doesn’t tell you what to do about it.
You have to decide that.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a planner called Francis Richardson.
She left BMP to work freelance, and she’d been working at CDP.
CDP at that time was the best agency in the UK.
They didn’t have a planning department.
But BMP had a planning dept that was twice the size of the creative dept.
I said to Francis, “You must hate it working at CDP.”
She asked why.
I said, “Well you’ve come from BMP where planning is King, and gone to CDP where creative is unquestionably King.”
Francis said, “On the contrary, I’m really enjoying CDP.”
I asked her, how come?
She said, “At BMP, I dreaded it when I had to come back and debrief on an idea that had researched badly.
I walked in, and the creatives would look at me to see whether it was thumbs up or down.
They looked to see whether I was smiling or frowning, because planning had the power of life and death over their work.”
I asked what the difference was.
She said, “At CDP, they regard me as giving them consumer feedback, that’s all.
Based on what was said in the groups they’ll take a view about where they go from there. They are very polite to me.
They say, ‘Thank you very much for all your work. Now we’ve got to decide what we do about it.’
It’s so much less stressful for a planner.”
So there you have it.
When CDP was the best agency in the UK they used research like a dashboard.
For information, not a decision.

(I’m on holiday for the next two weeks, so no new posts. But I’ll be checking in to see if there are any comments that need answering.)

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How to do online campaigning

You’ve probably – being worldly-wise marketing types – already come across our new wheeze ripping its way across the net.If not it won’t be long until you do.

There’s a new party on the loose and it’s after your vote.Well I say new… but the Labservatives have been around now for 65 years. And as the new poster says, “We’ve had 65 years to get it right, so what’s another five?”

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Tories claim poster success in defeating policy that never was

The Tories have been in touch about their Death Tax ad created by their, ahem, agency Euro RSCG. Apparently it was a key driver in defeating something that didn’t exist. Great job on that.

The shamelessly scaremongering ad (gravestone/old people, anyone?) they say was a key driver in defeating a £20,000 levy that the Tories said Labour planned to take from voters to help pay for elderly care.

Except that this ad was based on an erroneous story in the Guardian that claimed health secretary Andy Burnham was seriously considering the move.

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Social media shapes first digital election, NOT

Following on from last week’s blog, the Conservative party versus Joanna Lumley; it is interesting to see the Tories have again turned to M&C Saatchi to get their advertising back on track. A well-informed friend of mine tells me Steve Hilton, Cameron’s director of strategy who is based in California “has been re-writing Euro RSCG ads”, hardly likely he’s got an ear to the ground on what gets voters going.

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#Askthechancellors points to a much more social future

Last night’s debate #Askthechancellors had few surprises but it did prove to be a big hit both in terms of the 2m who tuned in at the peak and thousands who took part in what was the first mass social media political event in this country.

It is true that many many more watched ‘Eastenders’ (2m versus 9m), but not I think a let down as this was really the warm up for the three 90 minute leader debates.

I enjoyed last night’s event and it offered up some surprises even if for me, like most (I’m guessing), it confirmed my existing prejudices.

Looking at Twitter and the blogs this morning that seems to be the overall reaction with the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable showing stately wisdom (not to mention the evening’s sound bite with “pin-striped Scargills”) than his rivals Alasdair Darling and George Osborne (I know it wasn’t just me who thought he looked like the head boy).

Tory Osborne struggled, but to be fair he also scored with his death tax remark that Darling looking uncomfortable at times bought upon himself. But even that score wasn’t enough to dispel the overall impression that Osborne was the loser.

This was all confirmed by viewers who took part in an online vote during the programme that awarded victory to Cable with 36% of votes, compared with 32% for Darling and 32% for Osborne. Coincidentally this chimes with a YouGov/C4 poll before the show that gave Cable victory (do a lot of Lib Dems watch Channel 4?), but put Darling second rather than tying.

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Proper tea is not theft

A few years back, Gordon Smith went to an open day at the main SAS training camp at Hereford.
He was telling me about the different assault courses they had.
Rope slides, water crossings, scaling high obstacles, storming buildings, barbed wire, all using live ammunition.
Real tough guy stuff.
He said every obstacle course had one thing in common.
A tea urn at the end.
If you made it through in one piece you wanted a cup of tea.
Not camomile, or elderflower, or jasmine.
Not a herbal infusion.
A proper cup of tea.
The sort of tea you see on a building site next to a copy of The Sun.
In a heavy, chipped mug, not bone china.
Recently, I was reading about The Challenger Mk II.
The British Army’s main battle tank.
It’s got a 120mm gun, more accurate than any other tank.
It can hit, and destroy, pretty much anything from 5 miles away.
In the invasion of Iraq, not a single Challenger II was lost.
Although one was damaged a bit.
After being hit by 17 rocket-propelled grenades, and a MILAN anti-tank missile.
So, as they say in the army, this is a serious piece of kit.
And it’s got one thing that absolutely no other tank in the world has got.
It’s got tea-brewing equipment built in.
That’s its USP.
My Uncle Harry was in the 8th Army in World War 2.
In the desert they each got just 2 pints of water a day.
So, they saved the water for the important stuff: making tea.
And they used petrol for washing themselves.
Tea is a pretty important part of our creative department.
We’ve got an article pinned up in the kitchen by the kettle.
It’s called ‘A Nice Cup Of Tea’ and it’s written by George Orwell:

“When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:
* First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
* Secondly, tea should be made in a teapot. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware.
* Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand.
* Fourthly, the tea should be strong. Six heaped teaspoons would be about right. I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones.
* Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea.
* Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact.
* Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it.
* Eighthly, one should drink out of the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. With the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
* Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
* Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
* Lastly, tea should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here, but tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter.”

We drink a lot of tea at work.
Usually we make a pot of tea for the creative department.
This is a big job, so we’ll try to find a fair way of deciding who makes it.
Sometimes we’ll play rock-scissors-paper, sometimes we’ll play ‘spoof’.
Recently we’ve found an online application that doesn’t depend on skill, just pure chance.
Personally, the only thing I insist everyone does is put a tea cosy on the pot.
That way the teapot doesn’t get cold if sits there for a bit.
I’ve written CREATIVE in big fat letters on the tea cosy, so the account men can’t nick it for client meetings.
Although I don’t think they would.
Tea tends to be blue collar, whereas coffee tends to be white collar,
So people who have a lot of meetings for a living usually prefer coffee.
Whereas people who make things prefer tea.

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The nasty party’s back and this time it’s personal

So the gloves are off and the Conservatives have ditched the sunshine rhetoric to reconnect with their inner ‘nasty party’.

Yesterday they unveiled a set of sarcastic attack posters highlighting Labour’s supposed failings next to a grinning Gordon Brown saying: ‘Vote for me’.

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Reaching undecided voters online

There can be little doubt that the role of the internet in the 2010 election will be significantly different to what we saw in 2005. The 3 parties haven’t all just changed their leaders – their overall approach to a medium that played (at best) a bit-part at the last General Election has also changed completely.

Through blogs and Twitter, we’ve seen a revolution in the way political parties communicate internally – with sites like ConservativeHome becoming must-reads for party members messaging each other about the political events of the day.

But the big question at this election is how best to use the internet to reach out beyond the people who will already vote for you to the huge number of undecided voters. We know they’re unlikely to be reading the political blogs or following even their local MP on Twitter – so how do you reach them?

Well, we know they’re definitely searching on Google, connecting with friends on Facebook and quite often starting any web browsing session on a portal like MSN or Yahoo to find out what’s going in the world today.

That’s why search plays such a big part in our online strategy. For example, when we relaunched in 2008, we ensured that the site was properly optimised for search so users could find key policy information easily using Google. And that work paid off, as proven by recent research by the natural search conversion agency Tamar.

And Google Adwords, which allow us to strategically place messages according to users’ search terms, are important too. For example, on Wednesday anyone searching on Budget-related terms from “Alistair Darling” through to “car scrappage scheme” would be presented with an advert for George Osborne’s video response on YouTube.

Research by Diffusion found that our strategy on Facebook has also paid off, with innovations like our “donate your status” campaign during last year’s European elections helping to send our key messages from our supporters on to thousands of undecided voters. PR Week concluded that the Conservative Party “dominates” Facebook, with more supporters on the platform than the other two parties combined.

We’ve also recognised that it’s important to engage with people on the sites they already visit rather than expecting them to come to us. MSN (which reaches an astonishing 50% of the UK online audience) recently played host to an interactive webcast with David Cameron, and we have worked with Mumsnet, LinkedIn, the Army Rumour Service, Money Saving Expert and SAGA in the past few months alone.

Mark Hanson (writing on this very blog) is right to say that it’s important to keep your own supporters informed, and to give them the tools they need to fight a successful election campaign, both offline and online. That’s why we launched, which allows our supporters to fundraise and campaign for the candidates they support and the issues they care about.

It’s also why we’ve invested so much in e-mail, which remains by far the best way to get in touch with large groups of supporters. ReturnPath research found we scored a “landslide” victory over the other parties when it comes to e-mail, with Labour going a full 58 days without sending a message to their subscribers.

So, with the election campaign proper just around the corner, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks and I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date on this blog.

Craig Elder (@craigelder)

Online Communities Editor, The Conservative Party

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Our ad agency isn’t working, but will negative campaigning?

The tooing and froing in the advertising world this week as the Tories drafted in M&C Saatchi to nudge nudge “work alongside” Euro RSCG has been fun to watch.

In the official version of events broken by Campaign “Euro RSCG retains its lead agency status”, but the unofficial version is that the Tories are said to have hired M&C Saatchi weeks ago.

They did it after the amusing David Cameron airbrush debacle broke. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer agency (did you read David Jones’s comment referring to the “Brown regime” – who talks like that?).

As the spoofing gathered pace online spread virally with the help of blogs, Twitter and communities like Mumsnet Euro RSCG’s goose was cooked highlighted nicely by this spoof poster produced by Beau Bo D’Or.

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Tories go on the attack

The shock news this week is that Euro RSCG has been ‘joined’ by M&C Saatchi on the Conservative Party’s ad roster.

I say ‘shock’ but given that Euro’s most memorable work was the infamous airbrushed Cameron ad which spawned a 1000 spoofs, maybe the shock is that this didn’t happen sooner.

Will M&C be able to summon up the ghosts of creativity past and produce another ‘Labour’s not working’? Yesterday the Evening Standard said M&C Saatchi’s brief was to ‘tear lumps out of Gordon Brown’. Can’t wait to see the work.

Online has been an unhappy place for the opposition party of late – this week they were forced to pull a website just days after its launch. For those of you who didn’t follow this saga, the Tories launched the site at the start of the week laying into the union Unite and its political director and former Brown aide Charlie Whelan, displaying tweets using the hashtag #cashgordon.

The trouble started when some technical scamps figured out it was unmoderated and using wizardry I don’t quite understand managed to post up tweets in 48 point saying some extremely rude things about Cameron as well as spoof images. Also the page was accepting code that allowed it to be redirected. A new and improved version has gone back up but not before a whole heap of mocking by Labour bloggers.

And this in the month that Wired magazine hit the shelves praising the Conservatives’ digital marketing team. Oh dear.

P.S – Marmite is getting in on the election fever and next week will roll out an advertising and Facebook campaign aimed at mobilising lovers and haters of the brown salty spread. Brandrepublic will reveal the full story on Monday.

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