Monthly Archives: December 2010

Murdoch, I-Level and… Claudine dominate media in 2010

Vince Cable pictured in The Independent

In terms of
commercial media, 2010 was always going to be dominated by one man and one
company: Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation.

From the
outset we expected paywalls and bundled content offerings (Alesia) to be the
order of the day, but no one could have foreseen just where we find ourselves

Read more on Murdoch, I-Level and… Claudine dominate media in 2010…


I was having lunch with Alan Thompson who runs the Haystack Group.
They’re a new-business intermediary that places hundreds of millions of pounds of business a year.
But Alan told me something more interesting at lunch.
Alan’s dad is over eighty years old.
When the weather got really cold, his dad turned on the central heating.
The boiler fired up, but the radiators stayed ice cold.
The house was freezing.
He had to put on an overcoat, gloves, and scarf.
He could see his own breath, indoors.
For an elderly person, this is serious.
So his dad went through the Yellow Pages and found a plumber.
The plumber came and did the usual thing.
He sucked air through his teeth and tut-tutted.
He said “Blimey, this is an old boiler.”
Alan’s dad said “Yes, I’ve had it ages.”
Then the plumber walked around and felt all the pipes.
Eventually he took out a hammer.
He hit one of the pipes two or three times and waited.
The pipes began to warm up.
Then the whole house gradually got warm.
The plumber said “There you are, it was an air-lock in your pipes, that’s shifted it.”
Alan’s dad was really grateful.
He said “Thank you very much, what do I owe you?”
The plumber said “Nothing.”
Alan’s dad said “But I must pay you for fixing the heating.”
The plumber said “No, I can’t charge you just for hitting a pipe with a hammer.”
Alan’s dad said “That doesn’t seem fair.”
The plumber said “Look, this is a really old boiler. With luck it’ll get you through this winter, but you’ll probably want to replace it soon. All I ask is that you let me quote on it when you do.”
Afterwards, Alan asked his dad what he was going to do.
His dad said “Well I don’t think I’ll bother getting any competitive quotes. I mean, even if they are cheaper I don’t know if I can trust them.
I know I can trust this plumber, he didn’t rip me off when he had the chance. I’ll just get him to do it.”
What a brilliant piece of marketing thinking.
This plumber’s not just looking to make a quick few quid.
He’s building a brand.
He’s worked out what his point-of-difference is amongst his competitive set.
Which is: he’s an honest plumber, you can trust him.
Given that most people are insecure because they don’t know the first thing about plumbing.
Given all the TV programmes showing people getting ripped off by plumbers.
Given how vulnerable people are to cold in the depths of winter.
Given all that, this is a fantastic positioning.
Of course, trust is the positioning most marketers say they want.
But this guy doesn’t just talk it, he walks it.
He invalidated all the competition for a much bigger job, without even a pitch.
And he’s got a client who’d doing his WOM advertising for him.
How brilliant is that?
You might say, well that’s okay for plumbers but what’s it got to do with us?
Years ago, Nigel Bogle was running TBWA.
Clients occasionally came to see him when they were in trouble.
When the work their current agency presented was unusable.
And they needed to be on air with a new campaign in a matter of weeks.
Nigel would listen to their problem.
Then he’d say “I understand your problem and I wish we could help. But I think you’ve got more fundamental issues than just hitting an airdate in the short term.
I think it needs a lot more strategic thought.
If we did a quick fix for you I don’t think it would benefit either of us.
We wouldn’t be doing our best work, and you’d be disappointed.
But, I can understand that you do have commercial imperatives and you need to hit that deadline.
So, if you’d like, I can help you pick an agency that will do a reasonable job in the short term.
Then, when you do have a bit more time, we’d love to talk to you again and show you what we can really do for you.”
You might think, he’s crazy, he’s just given away business.
But has he?
Isn’t he actually doing the same as the plumber?
What are the chances of the other agency doing a brilliant job in those circumstances?
Not great.
The very best they’re going to do is perhaps adequate.
And which client can resist the thought that they’ll never know how great it could have been if they’d got TBWA, and Nigel, involved earlier.
The client has to keep the lines open.
So that later on, he can ask him to have an in-depth look at his business.
And now, the whole balance of the relationship is different.
Now Nigel, and TBWA, is a trusted adviser not just a supplier.
You trust Nigel like you trust that plumber.
Which is why he eventually opened his own agency.

And why Bartle Bogle Hegarty now has offices on five continents, billing one and a half billion pounds a year.


Does Rupert Heseltine have the look of success?

interviewing Haymarket’s chairman Rupert Heseltine this week, which touched
upon life after the recession, The Times paywall and the future of publishing,
no less, there’s one comment I’m hearing more than any other: ‘doesn’t he look
like his dad?’

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Just what is Facebook’s “best before” date?

At SMX London earlier this year there was a social media panel on the final day taking lots of questions. One question was along the lines of “which social network will we be discussing this time next year – apart from Facebook, obviously”. The 64 thousand dollar question? Or the 500 million user question?

The answers were quite interesting, all were cautious, and there was no “Facebook, obviously”. It seems like Facebook has been around for ever, but it was only launched in 2004 and for many, Facebook is integral to their life – and they are heavy users. In January 2010 Facebook had a UK adult population reach of 51%, and the average person visited twice a day – for almost 30 minutes a time.

But even Facebook’s ubiquity and air of permanence was not enough to convince any of the panel that Facebook’s existence – in the medium to long term – was a guaranteed certainty. Indeed, when you look at the state of MySpace, which was THE social network just a couple of years ago, you see their point. And AOL’s $850 million investment Bebo was just sold for a “fraction” of its cost (estimates put the sale at around $10m-20m).

Don’t get me wrong – you most probably do need a Facebook presence, even more so now that some audiences think that Facebook IS the internet (so heavy is their usage), but you should check the “best before” date before making long term investments in any social media platform.

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We have a copywriter at the office who’s is a bit of a hypochondriac.
The great thing about hypochondriacs is they are marketer’s dream.
They are high-involvement consumers.
They watch out for new products, read about them, try them out, and talk about them.
This means, if you’re smart, you can use their minds to do most of the work for you.
For instance, winter is just starting.
And colds and flu are on peoples’ minds.
Especially on hypochondriacs’ minds.
This copywriter recommended First Defence to me.
He said he’d used it, and found it worked.
First Defence is a very clever marketing idea.
It’s a spray you squirt up your nose at the very first sign of a cold.
That probably means a sneeze.
Now, whether or not it works is a separate issue.
Here’s why I think it’s clever marketing thinking.
It understands how the human mind works and capitalizes on that.
Look at it this way.
For a moment assume that First Defence doesn’t actually do anything.
We know that humans sneeze a lot of the time.
Especially in the city.
Sometimes it might be smoke or pollution.
Sometimes it might be dust.
Anything irritating the nose.
In the summer, unless we have hay fever, we don’t think anything of it.
We sneeze, maybe once or twice, and forget it.
But now take the same sneeze in winter.
Now the weather is cold and we’re cold.
Now maybe those sneezes are the first signs of a cold.
So we take First Defence as soon as we sneeze.
And if those are just dust sneezes, like in summer, we don’t sneeze anymore.
And we think it worked.
So First Defence gets the credit.
Now of course, we know First Defence does have some medical properties.
So sometimes it might actually work.
But the great positioning is that you must use it ‘at the first signs’ of a cold.
So supposing you sneeze and wait until you can go to the shops to buy it.
And supposing it doesn’t work.
Well it’s your fault, you waited too long.
In that case, if it doesn’t work, you can’t blame the product.
You didn’t use it soon enough.
But, in order to use it soon enough you have to buy it before you need it.
Put another way, you have to buy it whether you need it or not.
How great is that as a piece of marketing?
You have to buy it whether you need it or not.
So here’s the great marketing.
If it works on a sneeze that wasn’t a cold, it didn’t really work.
But it gets the credit.
If it didn’t work on a genuine sneeze, you didn’t use it soon enough.
So it doesn’t get the blame.
And, for it to work, you have to buy it in case you think you may need it at some time in the future.
And it all depends on being advertised in winter, when everyone is expecting any sneeze to be the first signs of a cold or flu.
And prepared to do anything to stop it.
That’s clever marketing.
To let the season, the news media, consumers’ conversations, and the environment be your advertising.
To let the context do the work for you.

That’s smart media.
That’s free media.