Monthly Archives: May 2010

One man’s fish is another man’s poisson

I once got a phone call from The South African advertising association.
They wanted to know if I’d fly down there to give a lecture.
The man on the phone was very pleasant.
He said, “We’ll fly you and your wife down here and put you up at the best hotel. You’ll have a great time.”
This was in the days of apartheid.
So I said, “My wife is Chinese, will that be a problem?”
He said, “Ah, hang on a minute.”
He put the phone down.
I could hear him rustling through some papers.
He came back and said, “Well, if she was Japanese she’d count as white, and she could stay in the same hotel as you.”
I waited.
He said, “But as she’s Chinese she counts as non-white. So she couldn’t stay in the same hotel.”
Later that night I told my wife.
She was furious.
But not about what I expected.
Not that South Africans counted her as non-white.
She knew that was stupid.
She’d lived in multi-racial Singapore until she was 17.
She’d lived in London ever since.
She says she’s never encountered racism in either place.
So she considers anyone who’s racist too stupid to be worth bothering with.
She wasn’t upset that we were expected to stay in separate hotels.
She knew we’d never go under those circumstances.
So again, that wasn’t even worth bothering with.
No, what really upset her was that the idea that the Japanese could be considered superior to the Chinese.
That made her furious.
See, people react differently to issues of race.
When we were about to open Gold Greenlees Trott, a German agency called Lurzer Conrad wanted to back us.
I went to Frankfurt to have lunch with them.
It was all very pleasant, everyone smiling.
Then one of them said to me, “By the way, how do you feel about working with a Jew?”
I stopped for a minute because I wasn’t quite sure what he meant.
Who was he talking about?
Then it clicked.
He must mean Goldie: Mike Gold.
Was Mike Jewish?
Well apparently Gold is a Jewish name, so maybe he was.
But he’s not very Jewish.
See, I’m from East London and I was educated in New York.
Both very Jewish places.
You don’t notice who is or isn’t Jewish because it’s everywhere.
In fact, when I went to New York, Americans kept asking me how come I knew so many Jewish words.
But I didn’t know they were Jewish words: schmuck, nosh, klutz, bagel, matzos, schlep, schmatter.
Where I grew up it was just cockney slang.
Then, when I got to New York, there was a whole new bunch of slang: zaftig, tukas, bubala, maven, kibitz, plotz, borscht, chutzpah.
So asking me how I felt about working with a Jew was like asking me how I felt about working with a Pisces, or someone with ginger hair.
Pretty irrelevant, why would you even ask?
If they’re good, they’re good.
Why would anything else count?
But the next thought through my mind was, blimey he means it.
This is Germany.
Germans don’t do jokes.
He’s asking a serious question.
So I went back and told the two Mikes.
And Goldie decided we didn’t need German backing to open the agency after all.

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Are we all in the brown stuff if Times paywall fails?

For a media
hack like me, it’s had more twists and turns and dragged out longer than
the final series of Lost; and the budget-busting climax is still yet to come.

This week’s launch of the repurposed
websites for The Times and now standalone Sunday Times are nothing short of a
landmark in the evolution of the British Press industry.

It is the first major step on the
path to News International’s phased introduction of online paywalls. The idea of charging people to
access content online was first aired by Rupert Murdoch last summer, and the
debate over the viability of the model has been raging ever since.

Erecting paywalls around daily
news may yet prove to be “completely antithetical” to the way the web works, as eloquently expressed by The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger.

His position appeared to be bolstered by research published this week which found that most consumers (91%) would be
unwilling to pay £1 a day or £2 a week to access the Times Online. Only 5% said they would pay £2 for a week’s digital
subscription, although a further
4% said they would pay £1 for a day’s access.

And it was not just The Times that the public would be unwilling
to pay for. Give or take
one or two percentage points, the proportion unwilling to pay was the same for
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Independent.

Meanwhile, speaking at last month’s PPA Magazine Conference, Stevie Spring, the chief
executive of Future, noted that Murdoch’s paywalls “break the basic rules of

Her basic premise
is that the world is moving towards two types of content-led product – ‘access-only’ and
what she termed “collectable artefacts” (like printed magazines) – with the web largely falling into the access-only camp, meaning people
will view the content if they can but rarely find it unique enough, or essential enough, to
pay for.

News International’s
management team are acutely aware of the very real dangers of slipping into a
“vault of darkness”
once payment is required, but are ploughing on

“If it doesn’t work
than I’m in the sh*t,” joked News
Int’s commercial chief Paul Hayes
at a Brand Media event last week.
Reminding me of the old adage ‘many a true word spoken in jest’.

But the buck doesn’t stop
with Hayes, or even News International.

It’s hold your breath time for thousands working in the news business, and the many more studying on the many
oversubscribed journalism courses across the country.

Just yesterday outgoing chief executive Carolyn McCann warned of pre-tax losses at Guardian Media Group for the 12 months to March will be larger than the £90m plummet a year earlier.

Quality journalism
money and it is significant that Guardian
News & Media’s MD Tim Brooks refused to rule out following Murdoch

if it proves successful.

I’m mindful that by the time the main protagonists finally realised how Lost was to going to play out, they discovered they were already dead. Let’s hope the press industry doesn’t leave it so long.

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"It is proportionate to focus on improving and supporting self-regulation"

So concluded the Office of Fair Trading’s market study into online targeted advertising and prices, published on 25 May. The 87 page report set out the OFT’s views on targeted advertising, including behavioural advertising, after a six month consultation with business, industry bodies (such as the IAB), consumer groups and other regulators, such as data protection authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and communications regulator Ofcom. The IAB welcomed the market study and there was a fair amount of balanced national media coverage such as in the Independent and the Guardian.

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Facts about Advertising Using Games

Last night we held an interactive showcase for advertising using games platforms like consoles, mobiles, iPads and online social games. Plus exclusive hands on time with Sony’s 3D gaming and Move motion control.

It was to launch the formation of our Games Steering Group (DoubleFusion, IGA Worldwide,, EA, Microsoft, Sony PlayStation) and I created a short factsheet of some available gaming stats to handout. The contents of which are below. Hopefully they will be of use to a few BrandRepublic readers…

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There’s an old Jewish joke.
An old man can’t satisfy his beautiful young wife.
So he goes to the Rabbi and asks him what he should do to help her achieve an orgasm.
The Rabbi says he should get a muscular young man.
Then ask him to stand naked by the bed, waving a towel, while they make love.
The next day the old man comes back.
He tells the Rabbi he did what he suggested, but his wife still didn’t have an orgasm.
The Rabbi says he should try it the other way round and see what happens.
So that night, the husband stands by the bed waving a towel.
While the young man makes love to his beautiful young wife.
And the wife has a room-shaking orgasm.
When they’re finished, the old man leans over and whispers in the young man’s ear.
He says, “Hey shmuck: that’s the way you wave a towel.”

For me that’s the same way a lot of advertising confuses what you do with how you do it.
WHAT you say is content.
HOW you say it is brand.
Most advertising doesn’t work because people confuse the how with the what.
Don’t just tell me you’re a comedian.
Tell me a joke.
Make me laugh.

Waving the towel nicely helps.
But, on its own, it’s not enough.


Simplicity a must for technology driven Outdoor media

I stupidly forgot to set Sky+ to record the final episode of Ashes to Ashes last Friday. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but my wife loves the show, must be something to do with Gene Hunt being such a real man, and she was out for the evening. I was playing a PC game with my youngest and didn’t notice the time until seventeen minutes into the drama. With no repeat on another channel scheduled soon, I would be in the sh*te with me’ Julie.

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Upstream Creativity

Chris Wilkins used to tell me Jeremy Bullmore was the cleverest person he’d ever met.
I asked Chris to give me an example.
He said, in the 1970s Jeremy was giving a speech in front of assembled advertising bigwigs.
It was at a fund raising dinner in support of a charity.
Jeremy asked everyone for a donation.
In fact he asked everyone to put their hand in their pocket and give £10 to the charity.
There were the usual groans.
Everyone moaning they couldn’t afford it.
Jeremy said he wasn’t asking anyone who couldn’t afford it to contribute.
He only wanted £10 each from those who could afford it.
He said the test of whether or not you could afford it was your bank balance.
Did you know your bank balance to the nearest £10?
If you didn’t, that was proof that you could afford it.
How brilliant is that?
Hardly anyone knew the balance of their bank account to the nearest £10.
And the charity got its biggest donation from a single fund raising event.
For me it’s a proof that the answer always lies in one of two places.
The product or the consumer.
The thing being sold, or the person buying it.
Most charities assume the answer lies in the product.
They tell you what is important about themselves, and why you should contribute.
Jeremy decided to reverse accepted wisdom.
He assumed the answer lay in the consumer.
He anticipated their objection.
He observed a simple, unnoticed human truth.
And he came up with an intelligent, unexpected answer.
That’s real creativity.
No visuals, no headlines, no YouTube, no latest technique.
No Frank Budgen or Jonathan Glazer, no social media, or rebranding.
No iPhone apps, or ambient, or viral, or flash mobs.
Just thinking about a way to come at the problem from a different angle.
Before you get anywhere near doing an ad.
That’s upstream creativity.

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Ockham’s razor

William of Ockham was a priest in Yorkshire in the 13th Century.
At the end of the middle ages he constantly taught a principal which became known as Ockham’s Razor.
It roughly translates from the Latin as follows.
“Do not multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”
Or, to put it simply:
“The simplest explanation is usually the right one.”
Don’t over-complicate things.
That doesn’t seem too controversial does it?
But that statement was influential in ending the dark ages and ushering in The Enlightenment.
Suddenly knowledge wasn’t the exclusive preserve of religion.
The most complicated, esoteric explanations didn’t work anymore.
Everything was now open to question.
Everything could be boiled down to reason.
And so rational mind took over from religious belief as the Gold Standard for knowledge.
Everything we take for granted, started from that sentence, 700 years ago.
And it’s so obvious we don’t even think about it.
Let’s see how we live up to it.
“Do not multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”
Is that truly our everyday experience in the business we’re in?
With marketing plans?
With strategy?
With research briefs?
With research debriefs?
With executions?
With media plans?
With thinking?
Three of my heroes agreed with William of Ockham.
Brian Clough, Bill Bernbach, and Ron Greenwood all said the same thing.
“Simplicity is genius”.
They all understood that complicated isn’t clever.
It just looks clever to stupid people.
To really be clever you have to go through complicated to get to simple.
You have to keep stripping everything back until you get to what’s essential.
The real genius isn’t adding more.
That keeps you stupid.
The real genius is to keep cutting away, and cutting away.
Until you can’t cut anymore.

That’s why it’s called Ockham’s Razor.

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Government Enquiry Set to Boost Outdoor

The OFT yesterday launched a market study into outdoor advertising. It will focus on both the structure of and competition within the sector. The initial phase of this project is expected to last three months, during which time the OFT will gather and assess evidence from interested parties.

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Now that’s what I call Outdoor

Last year a good friend of mine who is an academic told me I needed to read a book called Culture and Prosperity by John Kay, a leading economist and FT columnist. Subtitled “Why some nations are rich but most remain poor”, Kay explores why market economies outperform socialist or centrally directed markets, “an important contribution to the post-1990’s reassessment of capitalism” penned one critic.

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