Monthly Archives: July 2010

Are traditional marketers ignoring online?

In answer to my own question, no. It’s fairly patronising to think traditional marketers don’t get or don’t want to have anything to do with online marketing when of course they do. They just aren’t as manically obsessed with / immersed as online specific marketers. However, in the IAB’s National Search Marketing Barometer 2010, I have noticed two stats that indicate a need for traditional marketers to act.

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Apple drops the call

Apple isn’t the first to have prioritised style over substance.

I’ve held off requesting an iPhone4 from MT’s IT requisitioning department for the time being. I find it helps if your mobile phone actually enables you to talk to people as well as editing your video of the kids, joining online Raoul Moat appreciation societies, finding good dogging spots in Solihull and shining your shoes overnight.

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COPYWRITING TIPS

I’ve been asked to write an entry for D&AD’s Copy Book.
I just found this list of tips in my desk drawer.

1) Avoid alliteration. Always.

2) Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

3) The adverb always follows the verb.

4) Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5) Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

6) Remember to never split an infinitive.

7) Contractions aren’t necessary.

8) Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

9) One should never generalise.

10) Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

11) Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

12) Be more or less specific.

13) One word sentences? Eliminate.

14) The passive voice is to be avoided.

15) Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

16) Who needs rhetorical questions?

17) Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

18) Don’t never use a double negative.

19) Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

20) And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

21) Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!!

22) Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

23) Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

24) Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; they’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.

Like most lists of rules for creativity, this one is long and thorough.
It’s detailed and proscriptive.
It’s confident and dogmatic.
And it’s about as useful.

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Posters dominate election campaign adspend

Data from the Nielsen Company published last week in Campaign, the advertising insider’s weekly magazine, shows Posters took a monster slice of the advertising cake in the run-up to this year’s general election.

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Search marketers hooked on traffic but demand attribution metrics

Search marketers are currently using traffic volumes to judge the success of their campaigns, but need more conversion attribution data to fully understand the effectiveness of their activities.

The IAB’s 2010 National Search Marketing Barometer, completed by 144 search marketing professionals, highlights the data needs and frustrations of the search marketing community. The results of the research show that traffic levels are the most popular way of assessing activities – followed by sales and conversions, cost per engagement, visit duration and bounce rates.

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DON’T TRUST EXPERTS

My dad was a policeman.
One night he got a call that someone had found a dead body.
A body has to be officially certified dead, by a doctor.
So Dad went round and made sure nobody touched it until he got there.
Eventually the doctor turned up.
It was late, and he was bored, and annoyed at being called out.
He went through the motions.
He checked for a pulse.
He pulled back the eyelids and checked the pupils.
He took the temperature.
The he said, “Okay Sergeant, you can move him now.”
And he started to leave.
Dad said, “What are you going to put as the cause of death, sir?”
The doctor stopped at the door, turned round and sighed wearily.
He said, “It should be perfectly bloody obvious sergeant, even to you. It’s a heart attack.”
And he left.
After he’d gone, Dad turned the body over.
There were six stab wounds in the back.
So it wasn’t quite so ‘perfectly bloody obvious’ after all.
Which was why my dad taught me, don’t trust ‘experts’.
They get smug.
And that stops them thinking.
Their complacency makes them dependent on the systems they’ve learned.
And their systems never leave space for the unexpected.
So they’re on auto-pilot.
They can’t think for themselves anymore.
If it isn’t in the book, it doesn’t exist.
Last week we were putting a music track to a commercial.
The composer turned up late.
He said, “I’m sorry I’m late but the studio was burgled last night.
They took my wallet, my phone, car keys, credit cards.”
I asked if he was insured.
He said he was, but he wasn’t sure they’d pay out.
I asked why not.
He said, “Well, I did a stupid thing. I left a window partly open when I locked up. So they got in by yanking it all the way open, and they even broke the handle off the window.”
I asked what difference that made.
He said, “Well, the insurance company could say it’s down to my carelessness couldn’t they? Then they might refuse to pay out.”
But then he brightened up a bit.
He said, “Mind you, we’ve just had the police forensic crime detection unit round. They went over absolutely everything.
They dusted for prints and checked for strands of hair.
It was like that CSI programme on the telly.
They eventually came to the conclusion that the thief got in using a straightened out coat-hanger on the front door.
They never noticed the bloody great broken handle hanging off the open window.
And I didn’t say anything because, if the insurance company accept the police view, I’m covered.”
So that was a result for the composer.
But imagine if the police hadn’t sent the forensic crime-detection unit.
The people who already know that the answer must be either fingerprints, hair-strands, or DNA samples.
Imagine if they’d sent an old fashioned copper.
He have might have looked round the crime scene.
He might have seen a window broken open with a big handle hanging off.
He might even have put 2 and 2 together to work out how someone got in.
But the police, like advertising, don’t put 2 and 2 together.
Like us, they’re not encouraged, or possibly even allowed to.
We have to gather all the data and feed it into a system.
Which then takes over and delivers the answer.
Without imagination.
Because imagination isn’t factual like a system.
Systems are predictable, so there won’t be any surprises.
And surprises are a bad thing, aren’t they?
But are they?
The point about a system is that everyone can recognise and agree on it.
In fact, because everyone agrees on it, everyone is using the same system.
But is that really a good thing?
We’re in a competitive environment aren’t we?
As Bill Bernbach said, “The same data, the same technology, are available to all of us. If we all use them in the same way, we’re all going to end up doing the same thing.”
Which is okay if you’re the market leader, and all you want to do is maintain the status quo in the market.
But what if you want to shake things up, to take market share?
Using the same system won’t do that for you.
As Bill Bernbach also said, “It may be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we can legally take over our competitors.”

Or, as my dad used to say, “Use your loaf.”

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Martin Sorrell scores own goal with bad football metaphors

The World
Cup is over; Spain
and their total football were the worthy winners, hurrah! Now can we all drop
the bad football analogies and get back in the game?

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Editor’s blog: Uselessness is everywhere

The Ofsted head’s assertion that bad teachers are inevitable may be shocking, but you can’t avoid incompetence.

The outgoing head of Ofsted, Zenna Atkins, has given an interview which has really succeeded in pushing the outrage button nationwide. The implication of what she said appears to be that we should simply accept that useless teachers exist in schools and they can even be of benefit to children who learn the vital social skill of how to deal with ineptitude by being taught by the incompetent.

What she actually said was this : ”I think it is inevitable that every school will at some point will have a useless teacher. If you look at any population of a workforce, there are people who are under-performing and that’s often a significant percentage – up to 10% of people under-performing. It is inevitable, and it is not always a disaster, because children go to school to learn how to be in society. I don’t think they should have a useless teacher, but I think at some point it is inevitable that they will have.”

Surely she’s right here. We all know someone – maybe more than one individual – who’s pretty useless whether we work in the private or public sector. But they carry on, being tolerated and carried by the rest of us. Too much trouble to do anything about… Too much risk of an ugly and costly tribunal hearing if we try to kick them out.

The argument is that in schools this isn’t good enough. Children’s lives could be blighted for good by bad teaching. There should be ‘zero tolerance’ of uselessness in our schools. It’s certainly an amazing statistic that a mere 18 teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the past 40 years, according to an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama. (One suspects many more have been forced to leave their posts without ‘incompetence’ being the official reason on the P45) Nevertheless, it’s estimated that around 17,000 teachers may not be up to the job.

Uselessness is everywhere. Do you really believe there aren’t any useless paediatric cardiac surgeons around the place? (There certainly were in Bristol.) Do you believe there isn’t a totally useless banker inside Goldman Sachs. (There may be dozens who aren’t socially useful but that’s another story.)

I recall one particularly useless teacher at my school. Let’s call him Mr G. He was a pretty complex individual of about five feet two with a funny voice, Austin Powers teeth and a drink problem. His pedagogical ability was limited and he was a laughing stock, both among the boys and the staff. I can still see his tiny shoes now – no bigger than those of an eight year old. I recall one especially cruel incident when I was about twelve. In the classrooms we had those old-fashioned blackboards with ‘rubbers’ made of felt and wood to wipe off the chalk marks. Before one of Mr G’s lessons some boys attached the rubber to the wall at a point they knew would be just out of his reach, so he’d be unable to clean the board and thus unable to give the lesson. Hilarious.

Mr G left after a while, although I have no idea whether he was ‘pushed’ or not. God knows where he could have gone to for help in the British independent school system of the 1970s. His head, the NUT or Alcoholics Anonymous.

I just Googled his name and found the following from the Evening Argus in Brighton from 2001. “ Police are appealing for anyone who knew a man found dead at his home to contact them. The body of R*** G****, 56, of Merewood Court, Carew Road, Eastbourne, was found on October 12. Police believe he may have been dead for some time. Coroner’s officers are trying to build up a picture of his life and want anyone who knew him to contact them. Dentists have been urged to check if he was registered with them.” So he died alone – still probably useless – in a flat in Eastbourne. I for one, feel rather sorry about that and don’t feel he blighted my life. You could argue the 26 little savages he taught in class 2C of 1974 in fact contributed to blighting his.

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Are we in for more fat cat protests?

Life is still good if you’re one of the wealthy elite.

‘Well here we go again…’ you could be forgiven for thinking. Happy Days have returned. Wine experts have agreed that the 2009 vintage is one of the finest in recent years, thanks to last year’s perfect conditions of a wet spring and hot summer. The result of this classic marketing nonsense is that the newly released stuff from Bordeaux is going en primeur for seriously silly prices. Château Latour is £11,400 a case, Château Lafite-Rothschild is £13,500 a dozen, while Le Pin, a small vineyard in Pomerol, is on sale for £18,000. There are, apparently, no shortage of buyers for this nectar that cannot be consumed for at least ten years, although the vulgar City boys will be slinging it down their necks way before then.

Happy days, indeed. The truth is for those individuals able to afford a grand for a bottle of wine things never really stopped. Ok, it was said after the darkest days of late 2008 that the mega-rich were laying low and merely doing the Pètrus in the comfort of their own Notting Hill and Monaco mansions. They were rolling in it before 2008 and still are. Little has changed for them.

Meanwhile us mere mortals are all entering the grim Age of Austerity. George Osborne is handing out hair shirts by the container-load which makes conditions ripe for yet another round of fat cattery protest. According to Incomes data Services bonuses for UK board directors at the largest companies rose by an average of 22.5% in the last six months. The average went up from £456,000 to £559,000. ‘After a period of relative austerity [note the word relative] the good times have returned to the UK boardroom,’ said Steve Tatton of IDS.

The truth is it’s always been miserable being poor and life won’t change there. But the new squeeze is on the middle class, as The Telegraph’s excellent and so-to-be-missed economics commentator Edmund Conway shows in this piece.

As Conway writes: ‘much of the extra cash generated during the boom years (and even after them) has been actively funnelled towards the most wealthy. The median wage in the US, adjusted for inflation, has been stagnant for pretty much three decades. But the figures at the high end of the scale have soared; whereas in 1970 the average US chief executive made $25 for every dollar of their typical employee’s salary, today the figure is more like $90.’

The blessed Vince Cable, Business secretary – who must be well and truly pissed off that he’s been forced to trim £1bn from his departmental budget – is on the warpath. In an interview with the Times today he describes the excesses of executive pay as ‘socially unacceptable.’ But it’s hard to see what he can do about it. The rich are being squeezed a bit. The Treasury is already going to grab 50% of everything someone on £150K or over earns. CGT has been hiked. From next April if someone buys a house over £1m – and such purchases are made by many who are not super-rich – they will pay 5% in Stamp Duty. So that’s fifty grand and upwards.

But the very wealthy do control our destinies. You can moan all you like about the big rewards handed out to the Tesco board but for all the laudable and painstaking efforts to get SMEs up and running in blighted spots such as Doncaster or Hull, just a single wave of Terry Leahy’s magic wand to conjure up a new store creates many more jobs than dozens of small businesses.

But it’s all about fairness, the likes of Polly Toynbee shout. Well, New Labour had a long hard go at fairness between 1997 and last May but it didn’t get very far. A very large amount of money was wasted trying to make things fairer. Unfortunately life often isn’t fair, although governments one should never give up trying to make it more so. But it’s a lot fairer in the UK than it is in Brazil or China or India. Maybe things are less fair than in Sweden or even Germany. But demonizing the creation of wealth isn’t going to help anyone.

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Play your own game

I was talking with a young man from Paris the other day.
We were discussing creativity in general.
He felt the French were historically better than the English at most creative things.
Painting, sculpture, film, photography, theatre, architecture, fashion.
He didn’t think he was being arrogant.
He was just stating a generally accepted fact.
Then he said, “Except humour. There cannot be anyone who would deny the English are the world leaders in humour. Definitely no one can touch them for this.”
And it occurred to me that all the things he thought the French were better at were visual things.
The one thing he thought the English were better at was a verbal thing.
Maybe written, maybe spoken.
But definitely language.
Words.
It reminded me of when I first went to art school in New York.
One of my first lectures was a History Of Art class.
The one thing that stuck in my mind was something the lecturer said.
“The English are the only civilisation never to have made a significant contribution to the visual arts.”
I remember being angry.
I wanted to say, “Excuse me, what’s that language you’re speaking? English right?
So how about Shakespeare, Chaucer, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Dickens, Kipling?
In fact how about non-English writers like Shaw and Joyce?
In fact how about every American writer: Kerouac, Salinger, Mailer, Miller, Roth? What language did they all write in?”
But I stopped myself.
Because of course he was referring to the purely visual arts.
And I thought, like the Frenchman much later, maybe he had a point.
What great visual artists have we got?
Stubbs, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable.
Like our footballers, competent enough in their own league, but hardly the world’s best.
Hardly Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Ingres.
The very best we’ve ever produced would be Turner, Bacon, and Moore.
Again, not bad.
But hardly Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Duchamp or Warhol.
So, pretty much, it seems the Brits aren’t great at the purely visual.
Why is any of this relevant?
Last week, John Tylee asked me why the UK isn’t doing so well at Cannes.
Why haven’t they won much?
What’s happened to UK creativity?
Well, let’s see what’s changed recently.
Because of the rise of multi-national agencies, much of the advertising that agencies turn out has to be international.
It’s a smart idea.
If they can make an ad that can run across a dozen countries, they get a much bigger production budget for that ad.
A million pounds, maybe two.
But that means the ad can’t just be in any one language.
Which means it must be visual
That means we’ve left the area where we’re strongest.
And now we’re competing in the area where other countries are stronger.
The purely visual.
We’ve moved away from our language, so we’ve moved away from our humour.
So we’ve moved away from our strengths.
Even in our own country, the award schemes have become international.
Tony Hardcastle told me he was on the D&AD poster jury.
An Economist poster came up.
The headline said:
SOMEBODY MENTIONS JORDAN.
YOU THINK OF A MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY WITH A 3.3% GROWTH RATE.
Now that’s a very funny poster.
We all get the joke straight away.
The Economist reader doesn’t react like a tabloid reader.
They take a much more intelligent view of things.
We get the joke because we all know who Jordan is..
But an American guy behind Tony said, “I don’t get it. Is this referring to Michael Jordan the basketball player?”
And a Chinese girl next to him said, “Oh no. I think it must be referring to Jordans, the cereal bar.”
Because it was verbal, not visual, two of the people judging it didn’t even understand it.
So what would have happened if the Economist campaign had been done for an international audience instead of just a UK one?
All those intelligent ‘word’ jokes wouldn’t work.
So it would have to have been a purely visual campaign instead.

And some of the best poster advertising of recent times wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

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