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I was listening to the radio last week.
Apparently The Pope has come to the UK with a message.
The general theme seems to be that religion will give us a better society than secularity will.
Straight away that made me think.
That’s a market-growth message.
Is that a smart thing to be telling the people of the UK?
See market-growth is what you do in a market you dominate.
You grow the market so you get the biggest share of any growth.
But Catholicism doesn’t dominate the UK market.
Forget atheists (core non-users) and the pious (core users).
No point in talking to either of those groups.
They are locked-off and pretty much incapable of persuasion.
That leaves the rest of us.
Mainly we are all don’t care, never thought about it, only when I need it, agnostics.
People who were maybe Christened/Baptised/ whatever, then forgot about it.
Lapsed users.
In the UK, my guess would be the Catholic share is around 20%.
I’d guess C of E about 50%.
All other religions, 30%.
So, if The Pope sees his job as getting lapsed users to re-ignite their faith, he’ll only be getting 1 out of 5.
For every five people he encourages to rediscover their faith, four will rediscover something other than Catholicism.
Is this what he wanted?
I doubt it.
I thought the problem with his strategy is he’s looking on a global level, not a local one.
On a global level Catholicism may well be market leader.
For a start they must be the biggest religion in South America.
Brazil, Argentine, Uruguay, Paraguay, that’s got to be a billion people.
Plus Central America: Mexico, etc.
Plus The Philippines, Ireland, France, and obviously Italy.
So probably a quarter of the earth’s people were born and brought up Catholic.
Now for those people it obviously makes sense to have a market growth message.
Encouraging retrial amongst lapsed users.
A general message about religion being better than secularity makes sense here.
If you can get people back into religion, Catholicism will automatically be the one most will choose.
But how about the rest of the world?
In the USA, UK, and Northern Europe, Protestantism is market leader.
So a brand-share strategy would make more sense.
A strategy explaining how wonderful Catholicism is.
The frescoes of Uccello and Piero Della Francesca.
The paintings of Raphael and Da Vinci,
The sculptures of Michelangelo and Bernini.
The music, the architecture of The Renaissance.
Catholicism could have a very powerful emotional appeal.
But then how many people are actually likely to switch?
We can enjoy everything about the Catholic Church without being Catholic.
The Duomos of Tuscany, the Chiesas of Umbria, the Scuolas of Venice.
So they would have little chance of brand-switching in Protestant dominated markets.
And there would be next to no chance with a message like that in the rest of the world.
India, over a billion people but mainly Hindu.
The Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia.
Another billion people, but mainly Moslem.
Thailand, which is Buddhist.
China and Russia, getting on for two billion people.
But both recovering from communist-enforced atheism.
So, looking at the possible market from the Pope’s angle, I’d guess it breaks down like this.
Building market share by converting people from other religions is a non-starter.
The return wouldn’t justify the massive resources necessary.
Many years ago, however, in an undeveloped market, this kind of thinking worked.
The ‘Conquistadore’ strategy of the 15th and 16th centuries and the brand-share strategy of the Spanish Inquisition.
But in terms of religion this is now a saturated market.
So The Pope’s new strategy makes much more sense.
It always makes sense to go for the low-hanging fruit, the easy win.
Because of Catholicism’s market dominance in so many regions, that means encouraging retrial amongst lapsed consumers.
If it works, and done properly it should, this will eventually lead to increased market share amongst those who actually practice a religion.
I think The Pope’s got it right.

In advertising terms at least, I’m a convert.

Is UK restructure a backwards step for Carat?

Horler and de Groose, happily united?

So Rob
Horler is no longer managing director of Carat, but then neither, yet again, is
deputy MD Steve Hobbs, what to make of it all?

A restructure
in the UK, announced at the
start of the month
, catapults long-time consultant Tracy de Groose into Carat’s
hot seat, while Hobbs
becomes director of media operations for Aegis Media.

decision to change group dynamics yet again, little more than a year after its
last major shake-up, when Horler was drafted in from digital agency Diffiniti,
asks more questions than it answers.

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2009 – it was raining… Gordon Brown was
still in power, Chelsea had won the FA Cup, and
Horler was hailed as an industry pioneer, after becoming the first digital
specialist to climb to the top of a UK agency.

“A sign of the times,” came the cry, and Carat wallowed in plenty of praise and
the widely held belief that finally here was an agency that had put its money
where its mouth was, rather than just talking the talk about ‘putting digital
at the heart of its business’.

I remember sitting in Horler’s new office for more than an hour hearing about
his plans for the place upon arrival; they amounted to no less than a
fundamental agency overhaul and shift in the way it operates, encompassing everything
from how accounts were serviced, clients billed, and teams organised, to,
ultimately, the very business of media itself.

He was passionate, articulate and considered, and with the business becoming
increasingly commoditised, promised a welcome step change at the UK’s largest
independent media agency.

So why, 15
months later, is 41-year-old Horler moving to pastures new, and leaving the
direction of Carat in the hands of de Groose, better known by her maiden name
Tracy Darwen, who is by all accounts a very shrewd operator?

official line is that Aegis’s amiable chief executive Nigel Sharrocks needs
help and support in handling UK
group operations. To be fair with Carat, Glue Isobar, iProspect, Posterscope
and Vizeum now all in the mix, stitching it all together at group level can be
no easy task, but why Horler and why now?

As he himself acknowledged upon arrival, establishing the right sort of team
ethic was going to play an essential part of his role. Running a business such
as Diffiniti with less than 100 staff is very different to running a business handling
around £700m worth of billings and some 400 people.

Evaulating his performance today,
Horler is not helped by his own work motto: “You are only as good as the last
thing you did.” On paper, the facts of Horler’s short tenure make for uncomfortable reading. Carat
has failed to win any major pieces of business since the departure of former MD
Neil Jones.

In his first six months in the role, Horler’s time was largely consumed by the
looming behemoth that was the COI review. Undoubtedly the media account consolidation
of the year, it was one that would have been an ideal showcase for Horler’s new
regime, with its emphasis very much on digital innovation and integration.

Failure to win it, and in the process losing the multi-million pound billings
from the COI’s TV and cinema accounts
which the agency had handled for the
last five years, would have hit hard. Once you throw in the cruel £55m loss
of Vodafone less than a year after Jonesy’s team had won it, you realise the agency’s back has been firmly pinned against the wall.

During the period, Carat’s greatest
achievements amount to extending relationships with British Gas and retaining
Alberto Culver. The agency has picked up smaller pieces of business, including Travelodge
and PayPal, but hardly substantial enough pickings for an agency of its size. Billings must be more
than £100m down year on year.

Unfortunately, I think the
prevailing economic climate has not lent itself to awarding innovation and
free-thinkers in the business. The bottom-line has been top of mind in most
media reviews throughout the past 18 months, and Carat has paid the price.

De Groose, of Naked and Starcom
fame, comes with strong media credentials, and a good understanding of how
Carat operates. As a woman MD, her appointment does mark another first for
Carat, which for years has been a hive of testosterone.

It will be interesting
to see if Horler’s plans for a more consultancy-led approach to the business are adopted, adapted
or abandoned in the coming months.

The hinge goes both ways

One of my favourite books is by Eric Durschmied, it’s called ‘The Hinge Factor’.
It’s about small events, that changed the course of history.
One of the chapters is called ‘Der Haltebefehl’.
In English that’s ‘The Order To Stop’.
It happened in France in 1940.
The Germans had beaten the French, and the British retreated to Dunkirk.
They sat on the beaches, defenceless, vulnerable, ready to be destroyed.
Guderian’s panzer army was about to kill or capture half a million men.
But, in desperation, a small force of British tanks attacked the German’s flank.
(The flank is the vulnerable part on the sides of an attack.)
Hitler remembered the First World War.
The terror of leaving the flanks exposed to counter-attack.
He ordered his entire army to stop and regroup.
To allow the flanks to be strengthened before they moved on.
So the German army waited.
While they waited the British army was evacuated from Dunkirk.
The army was re-equipped and sent to the Middle East.
Where it beat the Italian army.
So Hitler had to divert an entire German army to the Middle East, to support the Italians.
He also diverted one of his best generals, Rommel.
Equipment and men that would otherwise have been fighting the Russians.
Resources that might have changed the outcome of the war.
But instead, they were sent to fight the army that he let escape at Dunkirk.
So “Der Haltebefehl” is remembered by history as a bad judgement.
A small event that much bigger events hinged upon.
Made by a man who wasn’t looking at the overall picture.
Just allowing one tiny piece to influence his decision, and assume a value out of all proportion to its actual importance.
Because, if we just look at a tiny part of what’s happening through a jeweller’s eyepiece, we miss the big picture.
And if we misunderstand what’s really going on, how it all fits in, we make bad decisions.
That’s how I feel about advertising.
We need to constantly keep the big picture in mind.
Nothing does the entire job on its own.
But if you listen to the new-media gurus, that’s what you’d believe.
That you never need any other form of advertising except online, digital, social-media, anything that comes over your laptop or iPhone.
But is that true?
See, for a successful sale you normally need three things
Awareness. Footfall. Conversion. (Whether actual or metaphorical.)
First off, advertising itself is usually about awareness.
It lets people know your product or brand exists, it piques their interest.
And people can’t buy it unless they know it exists.
Next comes footfall.
Retail is footfall.
If we don’t have a sales outlet, people can’t find it.
So we need to put the customer in the vicinity of the product.
And, once they’ve found it and tried it, the third thing needs to happen.
Point of sale, packaging design, product design, is conversion.
That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Everything up to that point is foreplay.
But new-media advocates don’t see it that way.
They think everyone does the entire process online.
You never need to move from in front of your laptop.
A popup ad makes you aware of something.
So you research it.
You go to Twitter, you go to blogs.
When you’re intrigued you go to the website.
If you’re convinced you click on the ‘purchase’ button.
Then just sit and wait for the your purchase to arrive.
Well, maybe that’s true for Amazon.
I certainly buy books there.
But I buy a lot more books walking around Waterstones.
So not all traditional retail outlets are dead.
Undoubtedly, online is like a virtual shop.
But you still need advertising to make you aware of what’s in the shop.
To drive you there in the first place.
That’s two things advertising does very well in conjunction with online.
Awareness and footfall.
Used intelligently they work very well together.
And understanding how everything fits together allows us to make the best decisions.
The digital revolution will change everyone’s life the way Caxton’s printing press did.
But Caxton’s printing press didn’t stop the need for thinking.
Creativity suddenly had more possibilities than ever.
Advertising was born once the printing press happened.
And advertising grew when newspapers and posters happened.
And grew even more when film, radio, and television happened.
Digital, online, social-media won’t be the death of advertising.
It just means there will be more than ever.
We don’t quite know how we’re going to use it all yet.
But we’ll discover that.
The one great advantage new-media has over traditional media is, it’s free.
The only cost is brains.
If you’ve got brains you can generate massive media coverage from very little.
But that’s always been true.
So we need to stand back and take a look at the big picture.
See where it all fits in, how it works together.

That way we’ll get the right result from the hinge factor.
Not the wrong one.


Recently I went to lunch with a client.
This is an energetic, intelligent, unconventional person.
We had a really good time exchanging views and ideas.
The only road bump was when we came to discuss The Sun.
And especially page 3.
I’ve always seen The Sun as a bit of harmless fun.
Sort of a grownup comic.
You read it for the jokes but don’t actually take it seriously.
It’s wittier than The Mirror, The Star, The Sport, The News of the World.
And it’s not so whiny or negative as The Mail.
Once or twice a week I’ll find a really good headline in it.
I usually find NEWS IN BRIEFS funny.
This is the little caption over the page 3 nude photo.
It will say something like “Tracy, 23, from Essex think the chancellor’s fiscal policies must take into consideration the viability of necessary levels of debt reduction.”
Obviously the girl herself doesn’t write them.
It’s just standard schoolboy humour: cognitive dissonance.
But the person I was talking to got quite upset.
He said he’d been at a dinner where the Sun’s editor, Rebekah Wade, had been giving a speech.
Talking about how much better things were for women now they had equal opportunity.
He said she couldn’t see how laughably at odds that was with what she was doing in her newspaper.
Showing naked women on page 3, whose sole function was ‘wank material’ for blokes.
He said the ‘News In Briefs’ comments poked fun at women.
Readers were encouraged to laugh at their stupidity.
It made me stop and think.
I never saw it like that.
But it made me check my view of The Sun against my own moral position.
I’ve always believed anything is okay as long as it takes place between the following:
1) Consenting.
2) Adults.
3) In private.
If you tick those three boxes, nothing you do is anyone else’s business.
If you only tick two, that’s not enough.
If you’re both consenting, and adults, but it’s not in private, then that won’t do.
Other people may not want to see whatever you’re doing.
Get a room.
If you’re both consenting, and it’s in private, but you’re not adults, then that won’t do.
You have to be old enough to take responsibility for your actions.
Children can’t do that.
If you’re both adults, and it’s in private, but one of you doesn’t consent, then that won’t do.
That’s called rape.
How does The Sun’s page 3, and ‘News In Briefs’ stack up?
Well, I guess everyone’s consenting.
The girls are being paid, and they’re obviously proud of their bodies.
They want to do it.
And the person looking at it wants to, or they wouldn’t have bought the paper.
Which brings us to the second point.
Is it in private?
Well, to see it, you have to buy a copy of The Sun.
You have to actively choose to participate.
If you don’t want to see it, you buy a different paper.
But you can’t do that with a poster site in the street.
Posters are broadcast media.
So posters have to have a stricter control.
That’s why there are controls on TV programmes, liked the nine o’clock watershed.
So you have a choice.
If you don’t want your children exposed to rude language or bad taste, don’t let them watch TV after nine o’clock.
Which brings us to the third point.
Can we be sure everyone who reads The Sun is an adult?
Well no, not really.
So should The Sun be sold on the top shelf, where only adults can reach?
Well, that’s a point for discussion I guess.
Personally I don’t know anyone who buys The Sun for page 3.
Before they started to write ‘News In Briefs’ I don’t know anyone who even looked at it.
If you want naked women there are publications with many more of them in.
Printed in full colour on glossy, easy to wipe clean, stock.
So where does that leave us?
Personally I think The Sun offends Guardian readers.
I don’t quite know why.
The Mail seems to me to be more the Yin to the The Guardian’s Yang.
Both of them see themselves as the protector of moral rectitude.
The Sun is just a bit of fun.
And consequently, sells more than both of them put together.
So is The Sun really responsible for perpetuating a stereotype of women that is actually harmful?
On the one hand, you have a powerful female editor.
And a paper that actively supported Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.
On the other hand, you’ve got nudes on page 3.
I think the truth is that people who read The Sun don’t really think that deeply.
That’s why they read The Sun.
So maybe the real question is: should people who don’t think deeply be allowed to buy what they want?
I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this.
Jeremy Bentham’s definition of Utilitarianism was “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”.
John Stuart Mill’s problem with this was that, left to their own devices, ordinary people may be happy living like pigs.
And his view was, “It’s better to be Shakespeare and miserable, than a pig and happy.”
Which doesn’t really answer either of the questions.
Point one: is The Sun’s page 3 (and ‘News In Briefs’) really harmful?
Point two: if it is, should something be done about it?

What makes a pronouncement difficult is something else Mill said, “Your freedom to do as you please ends one inch in front of my nose.”

Good for the consumer, good for business: why it is right to extend digital media self-regulation

Earlier this week the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced its intention to extend its self-regulatory digital media remit from 1 March 2011. This will cover business’ own marketing communications on their own websites as well as in other non paid-for space under an advertiser’s control, such as social networking sites. All paid-for digital advertising, such as PPC search, display and (commercial) classified, is already covered by robust rules to protect consumers and promote trust within the sector.

What does this mean?

It means that the self-regulatory system for UK advertising is keeping pace with evolving digital marketing. The IAB has published a set of FAQs which provide further details on the extended remit. So what is really changing? The extended rules will toughen up on those that use these platforms to market age-restricted products, such as alcohol, as well as apply the existing food marketing rules. These are ‘thorny’ issues and so we should welcome this. The politicians certainly will. Chris Reed from PR and social media agency Brew Digitalsummed it all up very nicely: he concludes that “for most of us working in this space it should mean no change whatsoever.” He’s right. These new rules should not replace true self-regulation. Businesses should treat all marketing communications / ‘conversations’ with consumers as within remit to uphold the integrity of digital marketing.

Paid for online advertising grew by a staggering 2,200% in the ‘noughties’ reflecting changing consumer behaviour and the growth of the internet as a marketing platform. So, as marketing platforms converge and evolve, the ASA’s extended remit will reassure and continue to build consumer trust and confidence. This is good for business. In taking this step the growth of digital media – particularly social media – will continue to go from strength to strength.

However, it has not been an easy journey reaching this point and there will always be grey areas that will pose challenges to industry and the ASA. As Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport, Jeremy Hunt, told the IAB at a Q&A session yesterday, the ASA will need do this in “a light touch way… to ensure new advertising models are not restricted”. The IAB welcomes this and the ongoing debate: the joy of the medium we work in is that views will quickly come to the surface and help to improve the system. It might even be worth the ASA entering the social media arena itself to address issues raised.

In times when both marketing and self-regulation in general (witness the banking industry or our parliamentary system) are constantly under the spotlight, it’s better for us to line up with a credible and well-respected regulator such as the ASA. The alternative is unthinkable.

Follow the IAB or me on Twitter.

Advertising is the Discovery Channel

My wife likes to relax watching the Cookery Channel.
When I get the remote, I switch to Discovery.
Or the History Channel, or the Military Channel, or How Things Work.
One of us ends up watching TV in the front room.
The other one has to watch the TV in the kitchen.
Unless they make a programme called, ‘Great Meals Cooked In Panzer Tanks’ we can’t watch TV together.
She can’t understand why I watch so many documentaries.
The thing is, like most blokes, I love to learn stuff.
Blokes love information.
It’s the male version of gossip.
Listen to blokes in pubs.
Whatever the subject they’re talking about, at least half the conversation will start, “Did you know….”.
It’s like the scene in Gregory’s Girl.
Two young guys are waiting at a bus stop discussing how to chat up girls.
Eventually a girl comes along to wait for the bus.
One of the guys turns to her and says, “Did you know that, when you sneeze, the air comes out of your nose faster than the speed of sound? That’s why you make a noise, it breaks the sound barrier.”
The girl is bored and turns away.
Whereas I’m thinking, “I didn’t know that, that’s really interesting.”
What I love about advertising is it’s like The Discovery Channel.
You get paid to find out new stuff.
I’ve worked on loads of beers and talked to lots of head brewers.
Did you know that every beer in the world must chemically recreate one of 4 water sources before they can brew it?
If it’s stout, it’s Liffey.
If it’s dark lager, it’s Munchen.
If it’s pale lager, it’s Pilsen.
If it’s ale, it’s Burton.
Isn’t that fascinating?
I’ve worked on lots of cars and talked to lots of different technical guys.
Did you know a boxer engine is the only engine that can give you a 4WD in-line drive train?
Because it’s low enough to go in front of the front axle.
An upright or V-engine would make the bonnet too high.
I’ve worked on loads of confectionary and talked to the guys who taste and buy the raw materials.
Do you know English people prefer their chocolate to have slightly ‘cheesy’ taste?
So that’s what buyers look for when they buy cocoa beans.
Which is why our chocolate tastes sweeter than other countries’?
And that’s just the client end.
How about planning?
If you haven’t got a massive P&G size budget how do you reach the massive target market?
Did you know the difference between demographics and psychographics means you can use opinion formers to create a trickle-down effect.
It’s not as hard as it sounds.
Like anything on Discovery Channel, it’s just about lifting up the bonnet and seeing which bit goes where.
Even the most complicated engine works on the same basic principles.
How about the film production process?
Did you know a movie camera uses the same 35mm stock that you use in a standard SLR?
But, instead of going through the camera sideways, it goes top down.
So every frame is half what it would be on a stills camera.
Which means every lens is half what it would be on a stills camera.
When you know that it’s simple.
If you want the effect you’d get with a 28mm lens on your camera, you use a 14mm lens on a film camera.
All this is stuff you wouldn’t learn in any other job.
Because no other job gives you access to so many different disciplines.
And the right to question everybody about their job.
Because the more you learn about their job, the better you can do your job.
With any other job, you just do the same job ever day.
Here, you’re writing a script, doing a voice-over recording, choosing music, going on a photo shoot, overseeing a film set, learning about editing, learning animation.
And all of that is before you come anywhere near learning all the other disciplines in our business.
Strategic thinking, planning and research, traditional media, social media.
All of which is before you come anywhere near learning anything about clients’ business for new business pitches.
Technology, fashion, retail, charitable, financial, medical, automotive.
And learning about how people work.
Sexual differences, racial differences, social and class differences, regional differences, attitudinal differences.
All you need is an enquiring mind.
And the desire to take complicated things and make them simple.

If you’ve got those two things, this isn’t work.
It’s paid fun.


When I started work as a junior copywriter at BMP, I got given the work no one else wanted to do.
That’s the way it is in any job.
You work your way up, you serve your apprenticeship.
If it was a factory, I’d have been sweeping floors.
If it was a football team, I’d have been cleaning boots.
If it was the army, I’d have been swabbing-out toilets.
There’s a good reason for that.
You learn the job absolutely from the ground up.
Later on, when you’re in charge, nobody can tell you a job can’t be done.
You know if it can or can’t be done, because you’ve done it.
If worse comes to worst, you can do it yourself.
So there’s a really good reason to start at the bottom.
For us the bottom was trade ads.
Ads that don’t run in consumer media.
Ads that your mum and friends won’t see.
Ads that tell the retailers why they should stock your client’s product.
And here’s why.
Because the most important part of the link between factory and consumer is the stockist.
If no one stocks it, no one can buy it.
It’s that simple.
But if retailers stock and display your product, it will sell.
Even without any advertising, it will sell.
Maybe not much, but it will sell.
Just by being displayed.
So the first, most important job, as far as the client’s concerned, is to get the trade to stock it.
That’s why we were given so many trade ads to do.
One of the first jobs I always got was the four-page leaflet.
This would either run in trade magazines: The Grocer, Hardware Trade Journal, Electrical Retail Trader, etc.
Or it would be carried around by the sales force.
To show to the retailer, when they tried to get them to stock the product.
The leaflet was usually divided into three parts.
The front cover was what made the product different and/or better than the competition (a reason to stock).
The inside spread was about how fast sales were growing (why the stockist would make money).
And the back cover was about how much advertising it was going to be supported by.
Usually some stills from the commercial(s) and a line about ‘Backed by our new multi-million pound TV campaign’.
Because, if it had advertising support, retailers were more likely to stock it.
They could see it would have big money behind it.
But, more importantly, they thought their customers would see it.
So the biggest part about consumer advertising was to persuade the trade to stock the product.
Usually we did these ads even before the commercials were shot.
The lead times for the magazines were a lot longer than for TV.
So we couldn’t even use stills from the ads.
We’d have to mock-up a packshot.
But it didn’t matter.
The trade didn’t care what the advertising was.
Just how much was being spent.
That was the great lesson for me.
It didn’t matter how creative the advertising was.
What mattered was that they were going to have advertising.
They were going to be supported by a multi-million pound campaign.
That’s pretty sobering isn’t it.
The main job of advertising is to get the product stocked.
Think of that while the art director is throwing a hissy fit about the client choosing the wrong typeface
While the copywriter is sulking that the client chose the wrong music.
While the director is horrified that the client chose the wrong cut.
While all that’s going on.
And while everyone knows that their personal area of skill is crucial to the success or failure of the campaign.
The most important factor in selling the product isn’t the quality of the ads.
It’s the fact that there is any advertising at all.
Because that’s what makes the stockist stock it.
If they don’t stock it, it won’t sell.
If they stock it, it will.

Kind of puts our job into a bit more perspective, doesn’t it?

Channel 5 star demonstrates Wright thinking about Desmond

The impact
that Channel 5 / Five’s new owner Richard Desmond will have on the terrestrial
broadcaster is no mystery to one of its longest-standing talents, Matthew

In an
interview with Associated’s Metro today, the star of 10-year-old show The
Wright Stuff had no qualms about what Desmond’s arrival might mean for him.

“I’m more
than willing to do the show without my shirt on if he thinks that’s going to
attract more viewers, although I doubt it will,” he says.

The former
showbiz hack adds: “I’d expect him to do something like OK! TV. He’s got the
best celebrity connection in publishing, which will help pull in viewers and
increase advertising revenue.”

Channel 5’s office space, located bang in the heart of Covent
Garden, went on the market this week. We’ve been told Desmond is
initially looking to rent not sell the space, but (of course) is open to all offers.

But as
Wright, along with the broadcaster’s remaining staff, prepares to leave the West End for Northern & Shell’s EC3 headquarters, he
also offers some interesting insights into the future of journalism too.

“The way we
consume journalism is changing and no one knows where it’s going to end up.
Newspaper brands act as filters, people trust in the brand to supply
high-quality journalism.

plenty of high-quality journalism online but without those brands there’s no
trust. We’ve got to find a way of paying for journalism but the idea you can do
that by newspapers charging people to access their material online doesn’t seem

“We have to
find a way of providing journalists with a career structure, which I think is
being eroded.”


I was listening to a journalist on the radio.
She was talking about when she just started out, in 1990.
She’d been sent to interview Richard Branson in LA.
She took lots of notes, and he was polite and helpful as they chatted by the pool.
After she finished the interview, she said, “Look I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t ask you this. But if you were young and just starting out, like me, and looking for a business opportunity, and you didn’t have much money, what would you invest in?”
Richard Branson just looked slowly around the pool.
Eventually he said, “Look at those umbrella shaped heaters there, I bet you haven’t seen many of those around?”
She said, “You’re right, I haven’t.”
He said, “Well, here’s a thought then. The weather’s a lot colder in Europe than it is in LA. I bet café owners would love to buy those. They could serve customers outdoors for another month or so every year.
They’d make more money.”
She said, “What a great thought. What should I do?”
He said, “Well, they probably only sell them in LA at present.
Why don’t you find out who makes them and ask if you can buy the import rights for Europe. They shouldn’t cost much.”
The reporter said she called up the company and, sure enough, they’d only recently started making them.
She asked how much they wanted for the import rights for Europe.
They thought for a bit and said, “How about ten thousand dollars, would that be okay?”
And she went away to think about it.
She said, “At that time ten thousand dollars was about seven thousand pounds. Which was pretty much all I had in the bank.
So I thought I’d better not risk it, and I forgot about it.
But now, whenever I travel anywhere I see those heated-umbrellas absolutely everywhere.
I asked our business correspondent what he thought the European import rights would be worth.
He said millions and millions.”
So there you go.
That’s the difference between someone like Richard Branson and the rest of us.
He can spot an opportunity, we can’t
Richard Branson made an intuitive leap.
He didn’t commission: “A Survey To Study The Possibilities And Potential Opportunities For External-Heater Sales In Various European Countries, Demarcated By Types Of Business, Location, Regional Differences, Demographic Variations, And Attitudinal Preferences.”
He didn’t do that.
He made an intuitive leap.
He used his judgement.
He figured a few thousand dollars was a fair price to pay for the potential opportunity.
If he won, he’d win big.
If he lost, he’d lose small.
So his response was the same as the title of his autobiography, “Screw It, Let’s Do It.”
People like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Rupert Murdoch don’t depend on experts to tell them what to do.
As William Randolph Hearst said, “I don’t hire expert to tell me what to do. I hire experts to tell me how to do what I want to do.”
What we call creativity is actually that intuitive leap.
And we won’t find that by running to focus groups.
Sure we can use research to check that we’re not doing anything stupid.
Research (Quant or Qual) is like the dashboard on a car.
Very useful in telling us the state of play.
Very useful in giving us information.
But it can’t do the driving for us.
It can’t take the decisions.
It’s no good looking to research for creative thinking.

As Akio Morita said, “The biggest assistance I had, in growing Sony to a worldwide brand, was the total failure of nerve on the part of western businessmen to move without research.”

The Observer becomes market leader in one f’ing ranking

The Observer might be battling sluggish circulations since its revamp in February, down 21% year on year in last ABCs, but the Sunday paper is the undisputed leader when it comes to four-letter abuse and general swearing.

Much to the disgust of The Observer’s readers’ editor, Stephen Pritchard, up to the early August 2010, the Sunday paper has published 272 articles with the word “f*ck” and 13 using the word “c*nt”. [Belated apologies for those of you with a sensitive disposition, but you’re in the wrong business.]

In contrast, the Independent on Sunday ran 122 pieces containing “f*ck” and 10 “c*nt”, while the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph were both profanity-free, in accordance with their editorial guidelines.

Following the chart-topping performance, Pritchard takes some solace in the fact these figures nevertheless represent a vast improvement on the previous before, when The Observer turned the air blue by printing “f*ck” 293 times and “c*nt” 25.

The relative clean-up of the newspaper’s copy is one of the few positive side-effects of this year’s staff cull, which resulted in the closure of the three monthly magazines, Observer Woman, Sport Monthly and Music Monthly.

It would appear the paper still has some way to go to appease some of its less liberal contingent though. Pritchard himself admits: “…I have a visceral dislike of seeing these words in the pages of a newspaper that is read by all ages.

“I don’t go along with the argument that the Observer is a grown-up newspaper for grown-up people. Everything we write appears on the internet and is accessible, free, to anyone, whether they are nine or 90…

“I would far rather we adopted the policy of some of our rivals and expunged swearing entirely.”

Well quite Stephen. But before you get too green-eyed, do bear in mind that if you were working at rival News International, your content would be neither accessible or free, but rather hidden behind a paywall.