Monthly Archives: November 2010


I loved the movie, Social Network.
When I came out of the cinema I was buzzing.
But my son was down.
He said he found it depressing, the way Mark Zuckerberg had screwed his friend, and fellow Facebook founder, Eduardo Saverin.
I hadn’t seen it that way.
What I saw was a movie about what it takes to be successful.
It takes a willingness to go through, or crawl over, any barriers.
Like a tank.
Zuckerberg was willing to do that, Saverin wasn’t.
Zuckerberg wanted to go fast, Saverin didn’t.
So Zuckerberg went ahead without Saverin.
Saverin got left behind.
He feels he got screwed.
But the alternative was for Zuckerberg to slow down to the speed Saverin wanted to go at.
Which would, at best, have been a much, much smaller success.
So Zuckerberg sidelined Saverin.
He cut him adrift.
I thought the film had a happy-ish ending.
After the lawsuit, Saverin walked away with a billion dollars.
That’s a thousand – million dollars.
All for a twenty grand investment.
Who wouldn’t be happy with that kind of return?
“You give me twenty grand now, and later on I’ll force you out of the company, but you’ll get a billion dollars. What do you say, are you in?”
Any one of us would have bitten Zuckerberg’s arm off.
What I liked about the film was that it wasn’t about right or wrong.
It wasn’t the normal melodramatic Hollywood good guys and bad guys.
It was all about getting a result.
And it was about what you are prepared to do to get that result.
It was about what works and what doesn’t work.
Which isn’t synonymous with right and wrong.
Isaac Newton is remembered as one of the most brilliant people in history.
His great rival was Robert Hooke.
Hooke was one of the most important scientists and mathematicians of The Enlightenment.
But today Hooke is almost forgotten.
We don’t even know what he looked like.
Why is that?
Why aren’t there any pictures of Hooke?
Apparently he once accused Newton of stealing some of his ideas.
Newton never forgot or forgave.
Newton succeeded Robert Hooke as Chairman of The Royal Society.
He had all the examples of Hooke’s work destroyed.
He had all the portraits of Hooke destroyed.
As far as he could, he erased Robert Hooke from history.
Gottfried Leibniz was one of the great philosophers and mathematicians of The Enlightenment.
He invented calculus.
He published it before Newton, and his system was superior.
When Newton later published his system, Leibniz accused him of plagiarism.
Newton never forgot or forgave.
He used his influence to have Leibniz ostracised and ridiculed.
Leibniz died a pauper.
No one knows where Hooke or Leibniz are buried.
But everyone knows where Newton is buried: Westminster Abbey.
It isn’t that there isn’t any such thing as right and wrong.
It’s that they have nothing to do with getting a result.
It’s like expecting the morally superior team to win in a football match.
It’s irrelevant.
Who wins the match is the team that scores more goals.
However they score more goals.
And moaning about the result afterwards won’t change anything.
After World War Two, Hermann Goering was being tried at Nuremberg.
When he was found guilty, he was asked if he had anything to say.
He said “What is the point? The victor always makes the rules.”
Then he swallowed a cyanide capsule and died.
He understood it’s a waste of time debating right and wrong.
It’s over.
You lost.
End of story.
New Yorkers understand this.
It’s summed up by a cartoon in New Yorker magazine.
A patient is lying on the psychiatrist’s couch.
He’s obviously just finished unburdening himself to the psychiatrist.
Divulging his deepest, darkest secrets
His fears, his regrets, his missed opportunities, his thwarted intentions, his unfulfilled expectations.
The psychiatrist simply looks up and uses an old New York expression.

He says “Yeah, yeah, yeah: “Coulda – Woulda – Shoulda”.”

Read more on GETTING A RESULT…

5 Tips for Improved Facebook Brand Pages

Smirnoff Facebook PageEarlier this year I co-authored the IAB and Microsoft’s Search & Social Media report with the delightful Amy Kean. Included in this I wrote about brands considering social network pages instead of microsites. Benefits include strong SEO performance and potentially improved user experience because people inherently know how to use the likes of Facebook.

Over the weekend I conducted a sweep of over fifty brand Facebook pages. A minority like Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and other retail, FMCG and electronic brands have clearly thought out pages that have obviously received a fair amount of invested time and money. The majority however looked like they need a little helping hand.

Read more on 5 Tips for Improved Facebook Brand Pages…

Do advertisers want to be in Times paywall club?

Hollywood’s take on the relentless rise of Facebook in The Social
Network is set to pass a milestone of its own this week, when UK box office
takings top £10 million.

It’s still got some way to go to push 2009 blockbuster Avatar (£90m), but
double-digit millions is good going for any film in little old Blighty.

Fiction or not, the fact that David Fincher’s simple and rather contrived plot
makes a plausible story says something about the value people place – or at
least imagine others place – on being seen to be in the right club.
The desire to be part of the right crowd is presented as the driving force
behind Facebook’s real-life founder Mark Zuckerberg, and it got me thinking
about News International’s paywall experiment.

It’s been less than three weeks since News
International offered the first hint as to the impact its online subscription
strategy is having on sites for the Times and Sunday Times
, and plenty of
questions remain.

Understandably there’s been frustration at the lack of transparency regarding
the actual number of paying subscribers.

Read more on Do advertisers want to be in Times paywall club?…


My wife is an art director.
Recently she went to The Marketing Forum.
Being a creative, she expected to be bored by lots of case histories, graphs, charts, numbers.
But one client told an amazingly creative story about the birth of a brand.
It started when he was working in Belgium.
Every day he had to try to sell margarine (butter-flavoured spread) to people who didn’t want it.
It was dispiriting work.
To cheer himself up, every day he went to the same pastry shop and ate a delicious chocolate pastry.
Eventually it became clear to him.
“I don’t like margarine.
I do like chocolate.
I’m in the wrong game.”
Doing what you love is always the best idea.
So he quit his job and began working on perfecting a delicious, rich, chocolate pudding.
He worked on it until he had it exactly right.
Now he needed marketing.
He needed a positioning, a name, packaging, a brand in fact.
So he went to see an agency and asked if they could do that for him.
They said leave it with us.
So he waited.
And he waited.
Three weeks later they hadn’t contacted him, so he called them.
They said “We-ell…. You’d better come in, we’ve got something to show you.”
He went to see them.
They said, “We’ve got some bad news we’re afraid. It looks like someone else has already done it.”
His jaw dropped.
They said “Yes, unfortunately, virtually the same product, same positioning, everything. We’ve managed to get hold of some pictures.
If you promise not to let it leave this room, we’ll show you.”
He nodded.
They said “You wanted a stylish, classy chocolate pudding, deliciously gooey, yet premium? Look, theirs is called Gu.
It’s got the German umlaut (two little dots) over the letter U, so it looks like a smiley face. And it rhymes with ‘goo’ so it’s fun but classy.
A bit like Haagen Dazs.”
The client’s face fell, he said, “I can’t believe it. That’s a great name.”
They said “Yes, and look at the packaging: it’s dark, rich, elegant. Indulgent and chocolaty, but also stylish.”
The client said “This is terrible. How advanced are they.”
They said “Their sales force is ready to start selling it in. We’re worried because we think they’ll be very successful.”
The client said “What do you mean: you think they’ll be successful. Of course they’ll be successful. It’s a brilliant product, a brilliant name, a brilliant pack design. It’s exactly what I wanted dammit.”
And he sat back, depressed, thinking about all the success he could have had if only he’d got that idea first.
Then the account man smiled and said “Well if you really mean that I may have some good news for you.”
The client said, “What?”
The account man said “I made that story up. No one has actually done anything. This is our presentation to you: the name, the packaging, everything.
If you want it you can have it.”
The client said he felt as if the sun came out.
Instead of the usual shuffling, and humming and hawing he just took everything as it stood and went with it.
Isn’t that great.
We never want anything so much as when we can’t have it.
So instead of selling the client an idea in a way that lets him think he’s got all the time in the world to fiddle with every tiny unimportant detail, they let him see what’s really important.
How will he feel if he sees a competitor has done it?
If he’s been beaten to market.
He won’t quibble about the serif on the typeface.
He won’t worry that the background colour isn’t exactly 100% perfect.
He’ll just wish to God he’d done it.
What a great lesson.
Show the client the idea in a situation where he would give anything to have done it.
But it’s too late, someone else got there first.
It’s like a nightmare.
Then wake him up and tell him it was just a dream, and he’s still got a chance to do it himself.
Instead of suspicion and hesitation, he’ll feel gratitude and eagerness.
He’ll be concentrating on the 95% that’s right.
Not holding everything up for the tiny 5% that isn’t.
We’ll have a client that wants to move things forward, not hold things back.

By the way, the name of the client who told that story was James Averdieck.
And he’s just sold that brand for £35 million.


GroupM to forecast 4% lift in UK ad spend for 2011

Crystal Ball
It’s coming
to that time of the year again when crystal balls are dusted off and the
world’s media powerhouses pool their internal insights to give us their best
predictions for the coming year.

Read more on GroupM to forecast 4% lift in UK ad spend for 2011…

Beatles For Sale

I love The Beatles. I really, really do. And it’s not simply because of their glorious music. It’s all the other stuff too. To me they exist in a visual way through film, animation and print. But crucially through the groundbreaking album sleeves that parallel the sublime tracks within. The tangible artifact that accompanies the intangible experience.

Read more on Beatles For Sale…

Magic & Sparkle?

It’s always an interesting time of year for TV ads. Advertisers pull out the stops and dedicate a large proportion of budget to claim their share of the nation’s Christmas.

Am I the only one to be underwhelmed by the M&S offering?

Read more on Magic & Sparkle?…

Is social media the most ‘social’ media?

Social media lets us physically view a record of actual social interactions, which is marvellous. However, as leading social media practitioners know, of more interest are the reasons people socialise in the first place.

Read more on Is social media the most ‘social’ media?…


Since Tony Blair, PR seems to be the main requirement for a Prime Minister.
Presumably this is how David Cameron got the job.
Before he was our Prime Minister, Cameron apparently worked in PR.
I find this quite worrying.
Because if PR, and consequently marketing, are the main requirements for the job, he obviously doesn’t know the basics.
Last week he went to China, because the UK needs to sell more goods abroad.
And China is a huge untapped market.
So Cameron went to China to try to open it up to UK industry.
So far, so good.
But what he did was to lecture the Chinese on how they need to open up their markets to goods from the West.
He gave them a lecture about how the global financial system depends on balance.
How they can‘t keep just selling to the West without buying Western goods in return.
Now it’s not smart to lecture the Chinese.
In fact it’s not smart to lecture anyone you want something from.
But particularly not the Chinese.
The concept of ‘face’ is very important to them.
They don’t respond well to lectures from people who behave as if they are their betters.
Particularly not when they come from a country less than a tenth their size.
So in judging his audience, we have to be disappointed in Cameron’s PR skills.
Okay, so how about his basic marketing knowledge?
Supposing he did persuade the Chinese to open up their market to the rest of the world.
What proportion of world trade do we suppose the UK accounts for?
Let’s be generous and call it 5%.
So, if Cameron’s speech works, we will only get 5% benefit.
In other words, for every 20 items Cameron persuades China to import, 19 of them won’t come from the UK.
Nice job, Cameron.
And that’s our PM.
That’s the bloke we paid to go to China, with a massive delegation, to create sales for UK industry.
He’s doing 95% of the job for someone else.
Our competitors in fact.
See, that’s what I meant by saying he doesn’t understand the basics of marketing.
He doesn’t understand something a simple as Market Growth v Market Share.
Consequently, Cameron’s speech was totally about Market Growth.
Market Growth is a great strategy for the USA.
Who will probably get at least 35% share of any growth in Chinese imports.
But it isn’t smart for the smaller players, like us.
We need to be increasing the size of our share.
So Cameron should have been trying to grow the UK’s share of Chinese imports.
But instead, Cameron sold Western goods, Western industry, Western services.
Not UK you notice.
Of which we have, if we’re lucky, 5%.
Of which we don’t have 95%.
So 95% of what we just paid Cameron to sell wasn’t the UK.
Would you employ someone like that?
That’s what I meant when I said he doesn’t understand the basics of marketing.
Meanwhile, France has just done the largest trade deal in its history with China.
Not by lecturing China about world economics.
Not by requiring China to open up to Western goods.
Just simply by selling French goods.
As opposed to anyone else’s.
By telling the Chinese why they should buy French goods instead of other Western goods.

The French at least know the difference between Market Growth and Market Share.



I’m reading Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels at present.
This is a series of twenty books based on the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.
They’ve sold around three million copies so far.
The Times describes them as “The greatest historical novels of all time.”
They are compared variously to Proust, Tolkien, and Dickens.
But for me, they’re more like the Discovery or History Channel.
Full of facts and information, but written in very elegant language.
Sort of Jane Austen for blokes.
So I really like these books.
I read them on the tube every day, and sometimes I miss my stop.
When I really like a book I tend to miss what’s around me.
I once took ‘Damned United’ to Berlin with me, and missed Berlin.
Earlier this year I took Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All The Pretty Horses’ to Hawaii, and missed Hawaii.
So, obviously, I think Patrick O’Brian’s books are terrific.
But there’s something else I like about them that’s cleverer than any other book I’ve read.
And it’s nothing to do with the writing.
Here’s the really clever thing.
They’ve got Chapter One of the next book printed at the end of each book.
So, just as you’ve finished the story, you think you’d like to know what happens next.
You think you’ll just read that extra chapter, as a sort of epilogue.
But before you know it, you’re into the story of the next book.
You’re hooked again.
You have to buy the next book.
If you’ve ever worked on newspapers, this is what they call ‘pull-through’.
When we worked on the Independent it was critical.
Some newspapers have a largely ‘captive’ readership.
The Telegraph, The Mail, The Guardian.
In the case of the Telegraph and Mail, lots of the sales are home delivery.People have it on order from the newsagents, so they automatically get the paper 5 days a week.
In the case of the Guardian it’s a matter of political persuasion.
If you work for the state, and apparently one in four of us do, you’ll get the paper that supports that agenda.
But The Independent suffered because its readers were just that.
The Indy had the highest incidence of occasional readers.
They were younger, upmarket, city dwellers.
They tended not to live according to routine.
They didn’t get their papers delivered at home by the newsagent.
They wouldn’t usually decide what to read until just before they got on the tube every morning.
This meant they’d often get distracted and forget to buy it.
Or they’d take a book or a magazine instead, or listen to their iPod.
So the Indy readers might only buy one copy a week.
In that case the issue isn’t about attracting new readers.
The issue is about getting the readers you’ve got to buy it more often.
If they could get half of their readers to buy it two or three times a week, sales would go up 50%.
So the brief becomes about pull-through.
Everyone automatically assumes advertising is always about trial.
But that isn’t necessarily true.
In newspapers, it’s no good getting someone to buy the paper once.
You’ve only sold one copy.
Newspapers are all about repeat purchase.
Newspapers have to be about building up a purchasing habit.
A trialist buys one copy, finish.
A loyalist buys 5 copies a week.
That’s what’s really clever about Patrick O’Brian’s books.
They don’t do the conventional thing.
They don’t let me finish the story, and risk me moving on to whatever else is convenient.
A newspaper, a magazine, or worse – another book.
They give away the first chapter of the next book free, with this one.
But, of course, they’re not really giving anything away.
They’re getting me to swallow the hook.

Because they don’t see it as a freebie.
They see me as a captive retail opportunity.

Read more on PULL-THROUGH versus TRIAL…