Monthly Archives: October 2010

WAN’s Balding exits as newspapers embrace digital future

So goodbye
then Timothy Balding, the venerable leader of the international press body WAN,
who leaves his industry advocate role after 25 years.

Based in Paris, the leader of the World
Association of Newspapers was a well-respected figure and admired ambassador
for newspapers, but in recent years his stance on the impact of digital upon
newspapers had placed him at odds with many commentators, myself included.

Read more on WAN’s Balding exits as newspapers embrace digital future…

Conversation not Broadcast

In the first digital generation, marketing employed a system which favoured interruption and direct sale. Brands would force their stories onto unsuspecting spectators, purchasing online real estate in mass and appearing, without warning,….and it worked!


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When I was at art school in New York, all cars were American.
And all American cars were made in Detroit.
There were no foreign cars on the streets.
Maybe once a year you might see an English sports car: Jaguar, Sprite, MG.
But these were so rare people would stop and point.
The very term ‘car’ meant an American car.
Not some tinny piece of foreign crap.
A real car.
And the only place making real cars was Detroit.
And because they were the only place making cars, they never changed the basic concept.
Just changed the styling a little bit every year.
Fast forward to the UK, earlier this year.
I was watching a TV programme about Detroit.
It now looks like the devastated city of Hue that Kubrick recreated for Full Metal Jacket.
Nothing but the deserted remains of massive, empty, burnt-out buildings.
The gutted concrete carcasses of giant assembly plants.
The insides dead and echoing, water dripping through decaying, broken roofs.
Everything valuable stripped out.
The floors cluttered with rubble and debris.
This is the set for a horror movie about the collapse of a civilisation.
The only signs of life are small bonfires here and there, with the jobless and homeless sitting round them.
What happened?
How do you go from the only-game-in-town to extinct, in a few decades?
Well in retrospect, like anything, it’s obvious.
I was there when it started.
But none of us knew it at the time.
You can only see these things afterwards.
That was the tiny crack in the wall.
The only foreign car anyone bought was the VW Bug.
But that wasn’t a threat, because it wasn’t really a car at all.
It was just a joke, ‘a pregnant roller skate’.
A cheap piece of junk for students.
Students didn’t need a status symbol.
They just needed transport: A–Z.
So students drove them around, and that became the VW brand.
The car of the counter-culture movement.
My ex father-in-law was an art director on Madison Avenue.
He was like all the Mad Men: shiny suits, thin ties, aspired to owning a Cadillac.
But the culture was changing.
Suddenly all that stuff was for the fat cats.
And he didn’t want to be seen as a fat cat.
So he grew his hair long, switched to jeans, and bought a VW Bug.
That’s when Detroit began dying.
Right then, when the middle class began switching.
But of course Detroit didn’t even notice.
They carried on doing what they’d always done.
Same-old floor pan, same big engine in front, same-old rear-wheel drive.
Keep the same basic solution, just change the bodywork every year.
Bigger fins, more chrome, bigger headlights, new-shaped tail-lights.
Just restyle it a little bit every year.
So the styling, the execution, got better and better.
But they never thought about the basic concept.
And that’s how Detroit died.
Maybe there’s a lesson there for us.
Maybe we’re behaving like Detroit.
We’re concentrating on the execution of what we do, the styling.
And right now, the execution is better than it’s ever been.
We make commercials costing literally millions of pounds.
With computer graphics, we can do anything we want.
We can make ads with impossible sets and a cast of millions.
And, because execution is everything, if we can’t be bigger we must be newer.
So the constant search is for new styles of execution.
Techniques that no one has used yet.
It doesn’t even matter what it’s for, as long as we’re the first or the biggest.
Because execution has taken over from idea.
In fact the execution is the idea.
Styling has taken over from thinking.
Just like Detroit, everything has to be ‘newer and bigger’.
And, just like Detroit, everyone’s a little dissatisfied with the result.
Maybe, like Detroit, we’re at the beginning of a change.
Maybe, like Detroit, the change will happen gradually at first.

And maybe, like Detroit, by the time we notice it will be too late.

Read more on OZYMANDIUS…

Why News Corp really pulled the plug on Project Alesia

News Corporation has been
forced to abandon plans for its eagerly anticipated digital news platform, part
of the company’s so called ‘Project Alesia’ initiative, citing runaway costs.

As we revealed this morning, bean-counters at Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate
have decided to pull the plug on the year-long activity when it was
expected to be finalised.

The decision is said to be
absolute: this is not a delay, or grand standing or being placed on hold; this
an entire, dedicated News Corp UK
operation being dismantled just days before a product was due to go to market.

So what’s going on at
the media conglomerate?

Read more on Why News Corp really pulled the plug on Project Alesia…

Are you Facebook’s ‘Billy No Mates?’

Who are your
friends on Facebook? Probably a weird old mish-mash of Aunt Renee, Bob from accounts
and that woman you met on a drunken bus ride back from Fife.
In fact, you’re probably so popular that you’ve got upwards of a
hundred mates.

Read more on Are you Facebook’s ‘Billy No Mates?’…


I went to a NABS talk the other evening.
Helen Calcraft and Martin Jones were speaking about new business.
Pitching to be specific.
What was interesting was the difference between the male and female presentation.
Martin talked first.
He’d been the head of the AAR, the people that handle around 50% of all new business pitches.
So Martin knows what he’s talking about.
He put up lots of useful facts and pointers, lots of tips.
He’d seen just about every agency pitching over the years.
He analysed what worked, and why, what to do, and what not.
Each chart had an interesting line of useful of information.
All the men in the audience were nodding along, taking it in.
Then Helen Calcraft spoke.
And as she talked you felt the room shift.
All the women came to life.
Helen is the founder of MCBD.
She’s also the most successful new business person in London.
Helen’s presentation was much less about the facts and much more about the emotions.
Helen went through the experience of pitching in a way that brought it to life.
First she described the whole process like this.
“Each client is like a superstar.
Immediately they announce their business is up for pitch, every agency in town will be all over them like paparazzi.
But clients don’t know, or care, anything about advertising agencies.
So what we have to do is the equivalent of getting Johnny Depp to pick us out of a crowd of adoring fans, ask us for a date, and then in four week’s time ask us to marry him.”
Immediately she moved it away from the simple mechanical world of solutions that all the men understood, into the world of seduction and relationships that women understood.
Of course everyone was riveted.
To show what clients thought of ad agencies she put up a slide of Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies.
She said “Clients see us just like this. We may think we’re fabulous, but to them we all look identical.”
Then she said one of the most important parts was deciding how committed we were before the process started.
Did you really, really want the account?
And she put up a picture of Tom Cruise.
She said, “You may initially find someone attractive, but do you really want to get into a long term relationship with someone who jumps up and down on Oprah’s sofa?”
Then she talked about the various stages of the process.
She said the chemistry meeting was like the first date.
She put up a picture of a pouting Jordan and said, “Don’t be needy. Don’t keep talking about yourself: how famous you are and what you’ve done. How boring is that on a first date? Talk about them, find out what they want.”
Then she talked about the tissue meeting.
She said the tissue meeting is like the first weekend away.
And she put up a photo of a woman shaving her legs and a man sitting on the toilet.
She said, “On the first weekend away together, don’t leave the toilet door open, don’t shave your legs. You don’t need to let them know all the less attractive parts about you. That’s too much information.”
And Helen went through the whole pitch process like that.
Not just for the rational side of the brain, but to let her audience know how it feels.
But I’m a bloke, and I’m a creative.
So the two tips that resonated with me were the ones where the headline played off the visual, like a really good ad.
She had a picture of Camilla Parker Bowles and the headline “Never Underestimate The Competition.”
Like a really good ad, it takes you a minute to get it.
So that, when you do, it sinks in.
She gave the example of MCBD being beaten by a big, dull, old agency that they hadn’t taken seriously as a rival.
Then she showed a picture of Anne Widdecombe with the headline “Being Right Isn’t The Same As Being Irresistible”.
This really resonated with me.
All creatives think if we get the ‘right’ answer, as far as the consumer’s concerned, the client must buy our solution.
But in a pitch the consumer isn’t the target market.
In a pitch the client is the target market.
So the right answer may not be the ‘right’ answer.
What Martin did was take us through the pitch process in a way we could understand.
What Helen did was take everyone though the process in a way everyone could empathise with.
And that’s why she’s the most successful new business person in London.
Because she knows feelings are more important than facts.
As she and Martin both said:
If a client like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.
If a client doesn’t like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.

Or, as the philosopher David Hume said, “Reason is the slave of the passions.”

Read more on LIFE’S A PITCH…

ZenithOptimedia to split in half in dramatic restructure

ZenithOptimedia, for many the original home of the modern media agency, is believed to be heading for a dramatic split following a restructure at group level that also leaves Zed’s future in doubt.

Groupe created ZenithOptimedia in 2003 through a controversial merger of the
media planning departments of Zenith Media and Optimedia networks.

According to sources, Stephen Farquhar is set to become managing director of
Zenith and Mark Howley will become managing director of Optimedia.

Both are expected to continue to report to ZenithOptimedia’s current chief executive, Gerry Boyle.

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Publishing failures unite at AOP 2010

the 9th annual AOP Digital Publishing Summit in Westminster
today proved to be something of a milestone for the UK’s media industry.

Unlike many
in the room, I remember the association’s first outing back in 2002. The dotcom
bubble had just bust and its messy entrails were still being discovered. The
room of mostly traditional newspaper and magazine publishers were still
understandably nervous about the implications of the web on their businesses.

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My Uncle Fred was a heavy smoker all his life.
All my family were.
Just like everyone else in those days.
As soon as you were old enough to smoke you lit up.
Over the years Uncle Fred’s lungs got worse and worse.
Eventually he had to have an oxygen cylinder at home.
When Uncle Fred started coughing, he coughed so long and hard he couldn’t get his breath.
Eventually, as he sat there gasping for air, he’d pull the oxygen mask over his mouth.
He’d gasp and wheeze it in until eventually he got his breath back.
Then he’d turn off the oxygen cylinder.
And he’d light up a cigarette.
I once said to my dad “Don’t you think Uncle Fred should stop smoking?”
Dad said, “No, it’s the only thing that helps him. He has a fag and it makes him cough all that phlegm off his chest.”
Nowadays we wouldn’t consider that good advice.
Because we see smoking as the cause of the problem.
But they saw it as the cure for the problem.
Tense and nervous, have a cigarette.
Bored and depressed, have a cigarette.
Sore throat, have a cigarette.
Coughs and sneezes, have a cigarette.
They thought the act of smoking was soothing and therapeutic.
Nowadays we know, far from curing it, nicotine can cause or exacerbate tension and depression.
Nowadays we know, far from curing it, tobacco can cause respiratory problems like emphysema and cancer.
What they didn’t see was that the cure was actually the problem.
Luckily we’re more intelligent than that nowadays.
We’d never do anything like that would we?
We’d never confuse the cure with the problem.
Or would we?
Take advertising.
We all know people don’t enjoy advertising as much as they used to.
So the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?
We need more people analysing the advertising.
We know advertising isn’t as funny or entertaining as it used to be.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more focus groups checking and rechecking it.
We know advertising doesn’t get picked up and repeated by the public anymore.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more people refining the messaging and debating every dot and comma.
We know advertising strap lines don’t get sung by school kids, repeated on TV shows, used in newspaper headlines anymore.
So the answer’s obvious, we need more people making sure nobody in advertising is taking any risks.
We know people are getting irritated by constant intrusive messaging.
So the answer’s obvious, find more places to run the messages: online, interactive, new media.
We know people don’t enjoy interacting with advertising as much as they used to.
So the answer’s obvious, get the advertising to them in more interactive channels: social media, Facebook, twitter.

Do you suppose it’s just possible that we may be confusing the cause of the problem with the cure?


Revelation that online video brand recall is higher at work

Online video brand recall at work and homeNew IAB and Sky Video Ad Effectiveness research reveals that brand recall is higher at work (44%) than at home (39%), which suggests an incredible new opportunity for reaching consumers with brand messaging at their most receptive: in the work-place.

Consumer mindset and the importance of content quality and type

The research, conducted by agency Decipher, states the reason for this uplift in recall is due to differing mindsets. At work, people are highly focussed on the task at hand because they have limited time to visit an online video and watch what they have selected. While at home, people are more relaxed, have more time to browse around and there are more distractions.

Consumer receptivity to online video advertising depending on frame-of-mind is incredibly important, directly affecting campaign success. Viewers are 10% more likely to recall an ad if they enjoyed the content, highlighting the importance of advertising around quality, relevant content.

Type of content also matters, recall was higher around news, entertainment, sport, music, TV preview or movie trailers and then user generated clips respectively. Actively searching for an ad also aids recall, with referrals from friends delivering best (53%), actively looking for the clip second (48%) and just browsing last (39%).

At least 84% of the UK internet audience watches online video each month according to comScore and this study fits nicely into the picture as further evidence of the channel’s strengths. Evidently some advertisers already see this with investment in advertising around video content growing by 82% in the first half of this year, the fifth successive half-yearly increase (IAB / PwC AdSpend H1 2010).

What should advertisers do?

Advertisers should be capitalising on the reach online video offers now, paying particular attention to the work-place. Online video is uniquely positioned to deliver TV-like brand messaging in an environment where people are most receptive. Existing TV ad creative works in this environment as long as it is relevant to the viewer, and placement around highly sought-after or shared quality clips can deliver higher than average results.

Work-place, relevant placement and quality is a killer combination for online video brand campaigns and advertisers should begin planning this premium ad inventory into their schedules. Of course, with online targeting, you can do all of this with minimal waste too, as you target the exact demographic audience you need. This is another example of how you can use the portfolio of internet advertising tools to build brand.

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