Monthly Archives: March 2011

Don’t blame the tobacco brands, blame the parents.

The recent Sun story about a
2 year old, Ardi Rizal from an Indonisia fishing village, smoking 40 a day
no doubt fuelled anti smoking groups and attacks on cigarette brands. But this
is not a case where you can blame the brands or us, the advertising industry,
as is so often the case. There is no subversive advertising to babies going on,
not even in the wildest imagination of an extreme anti smoker.

Read more on Don’t blame the tobacco brands, blame the parents….

Metro’s 10 years is a testament to business acumen

Congratulations must go to Associated’s Metro, which celebrates 10 years in circulation today.

The free city-based spoiler to Sweden’s Metro International has defied the critics, and the odds, and managed to carve out a niche for a daily title that encapsulates news-lite, as seen on TV and global wires the night before.

When first launched in London on 16 March 1999, Metro had a print circulation of 85,000, distributed through some 70 underground stations in the heart of the capital.

Ten years on, and the now all too familiar blue masthead boasts a circulation of 1.3 million and more than3.3 million readers.

It is distributed in every major UK city, including London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Cardiff.

In today’s celebratory issue, the paper proudly lists the stories it has carried over the years under the banner ‘You read it here’ (no sign of the word ‘first’). Included in its array of achievements is last month’s revelation “Feb 2 – Snow covers much of Britain”.

But while its content, buoyed by page 3 staples about giant toads, homes built for smurfs, killer crayfish and things to do with old copies of Metro, may not be award-winning stuff, the deals that have helped propel the titlehave been impressive.

Realising its potential if it moves beyond the capital, Associated embarked on an ambitious expansion strategy. But when faced with the realisation that most pockets of the UK are sown up by strong regional newspaper operations, the group managed to broker a series of innovative partnerships.

It is something Metro International has been trying, and failing, to do in Germany for more than a decade.

Today, the free paper is in bed with Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media, Johnson Press and the Guardian Media Group. It also publishes in Dublin through a joint venture with Irish Times and is part of a European sell through a deal with Metro International.

With its network of eyeballs in place, Metro was able to double its ad rates by the middle of the decade,claimingunprecedented access to the elusive, young professionals.

Its commercial drive has also resulted in some genuine market-leading solutions, including Metro’s ‘Brand to Hand’ sampling business (Yorkie, 2002); the Metro Rough Guide partnership (Post Office, 2004); wraps on high grade glossy paper (BA, 2005); and even wraps incorporating lenticular holographic images (Sony Ericsson, 2008).

Managing director Steve Auckland rightly acknowledges that Metro has become an “invaluable part of the journey for commuters in the UK”, and is now the fourth largest national newspaper in the country, “with over 3.3m readers daily”.

But to survive the next 10, the papercan’t affordfor its achievements to end there. The well publicised profitability it reached in 2003, is now under serious threat following double-digit declines in advertising, while a revitalised Evening Standard, under new Russian rule, will also be hoping to make a sizeable dent in its London operations. The next round begins with a public fight to retain its TfL contract.

Happy Birthday Metro, here’s to those teenage years.

Read more on Metro’s 10 years is a testament to business acumen…

Move over Facebook, here comes Geekbook!

Actually, it’s called Quora – and
it’ll give you direct access to the next Steve Jobs and Bill

Got a question about your brave new
e-start-up? Post it on Quora and Silicon
Valley’s great and glorious will fall over themselves to give you
the answer. In fact, that’s what makes it so special – the calibre of people
involved. It’s built by two ex-Facebook engineers and populated by the Valley’s
hottest talent.

Read more on Move over Facebook, here comes Geekbook!…

When outdoor and online ads collide

I’ve been fascinated by the way online and outdoor digital display ads have gradually grown so similar to each other. While it’s important to create specifically for a medium’s unique strengths, if you’re creating a video or animation for digital outdoor ads, it makes sense to think about using it for online ads too – if you aren’t already. You’ll get even more mileage out of your creative asset.

Read more on When outdoor and online ads collide…


I’m away for a fortnight.
I’ll check in on the comments while I’m gone if you want a chat.



A tall, confident, handsome, muscular, good-looking man goes into a tailor.
He says “I’d like a suit.”
The tailor says “Certainly sir, I’ve got the very thing.”
He gets the man to put it on.
The man says “The arms are too long.”
The tailor says “Just bend your elbows and crook your fingers.”
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the sleeves look perfect.”
The man says “But the shoulders are baggy.”
The tailor says “Just hunch your shoulders together and bend your head down.’
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the shoulders look perfect.”
The man says “But the trousers are too long.”
The tailor says “Just bend your knees and squat down.”
The man does it.
The tailor says “There, the trousers look perfect.”
So the man pays for the suit and hobbles out of the shop.
And he limps down the street looking like Richard III.
Bent over, hunch-backed, dragging his feet,
Two men are watching him from across the road.
One says to the other “Look at that poor bloke, don’t you feel sorry for him?”
The other man says “Yeah but what a great tailor. Look how well that suit fits him.”
I think that joke sums up our business at present.
The original idea was to get a suit to make the man look good.
But in the end, the man was contorted to make the suit look good.
We do a lot of that.
We get our criteria wrong.
In America, they have an expression for this.
“If the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
Which is (IMHO) how it currently is with technology.
We all know we must beat the competition.
We must have fresher, more powerful, newer ideas.
The problem is, not everyone hears that as fresher and newer IDEAS.
They just hear the ‘fresher and newer’ part.
So fresher and newer ‘anything’ becomes what everyone is searching for.
Which defaults to fresher and newer technology.
Which just means the latest thing.
We must have it.
And we must have it first.
What we forget is, if it’s just technology, we won’t have it exclusively.
Everyone else will have it too.
And, at best, we have a nano-second before everyone else catches up.
Then we’re not first or new anymore.
And everyone else is doing the same.
They’re not looking for ideas, either.
They’re just chasing the technology to be first, too.
And so just being first with technology becomes the sole idea.
For us and everyone else.
Then we’ve all got the newest technology, at roughly the same time, and we’re all doing the same thing in it.
No wonder we all look the same.
And the consumers can’t tell which product or brand ran which ad.
And we’re not fresher or newer at all.
Because all the ideas are bent and twisted and contorted to fit the technology.

But hey, never mind how bad the ideas look.
Look how great the technology looks.