Tag: media

Now talk show hosts are on my side!

Over the past couple of years I’ve been banging on about my manifesto for sustainable communications. Simply put – if we don’t respect our consumers and their relationships with the media they choose to consume, we will lose our right/ability to use those media to speak with them.

Then at the weekend I saw this rant from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show.

 

I thought that he was spot on at every level. The dissolving of the separation between “church and state” hasn’t meant that we have developed more effective marketing and communication efforts, but it has narrowed the gap between editorial and marketing communications by reducing the perceived value of the editorial content.

By damaging this relationship of trust between consumers and their preferred media brands, we are in turn undermining any value that those media brands have for marketeers to persuade consumers to buy their products.

What is both funny and upsetting is that the vendors of native advertising don’t seem unduly bothered by Mr Oliver’s opinions.

In this piece in Bloomberg Business Week, the general response was something along the lines of “All publicity is good publicity, and frankly he’s not going to stop this juggernaut” or in their exact words ” It’s pretty cool that things are going mainstream, and [I liked the] unspoken acceptance of the inevitability of native advertising as a viable long-term form of monetization.”

Scary stuff.

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Revisiting an old theme – media sustainability

A couple of years ago I wrote a bit of a manifesto on why we as advertising professionals should be looking to enhance the media we use to communicate our brands offerings rather than just exploiting the eyeballs we find there – I think it is still relevant and so wanted to share it again in slightly cut down form


This image formed the spark for the philosophy and manifesto that I’m about to deliver so here goes:

Here’s what I believe:

1) Human attention is a valuable natural resource, allowing us to learn about the world around us, adapt our behaviour for optimal utility of that world and to evolve our attitudes for maximum enjoyment of the world

2) Human attention is NOT an infinite resource, there is only so much new information we can take in at any time and only so many things that we can be persuaded to care about

3) All marketing and communications require that we capture that human attention

4) Human attention naturally concentrates and clusters around certain content and media because of the value it contributes to their lives, NOT because of the amount of advertising they find there

5) Just like any natural resource, over-exploitation of the human attention to media will inevitably lead to the dilution and eventual destruction of that attention and make it impossible for us to harness it any way, positive or negative.

(Yeah I love that pic!)

6) It should therefore be the responsibility of advertisers to not just exploit a medium for the audience that it attracts, but to invest in that medium with sustainable communications to ensure that it continues to deliver value to consumers and in turn provide a continuing resource for brands to communicate to those audiences.

Some advertisers might claim that they already do this – by paying to advertise in a medium they say they are investing in the quality of content that medium can provide. And maybe that used to be true. Maybe some consumers do watch advertising in the knowledge that they are entering into a contract with the media channel to “pay” for the content they choose to watch by also watching content that they would rather not. However I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is true of most advertising messages.

As advertisers we “buy” an audience that media owners “sell” to us. Because of that we think we have a right to put pretty much anything we can get away with in front of that audience and we approach every consumer contact with the question “what can my brand get out of this?”.

A perfect example of this is the recent news story that Ford had “secured” a corporate page on Google+. What I found remarkable about this was that a) Ford had ignored Google’s request for advertisers to back off until they had worked out how to showcase corporate accounts and b) No-one seems to have a clue what Ford are doing there and what they hope to get out of it. All that they seem interested in is the fact that there are 10 million+ people already signed up and that it is currently unexploited so they get to be first. No-one knows how people are using Google+, what it is all about and what they can get out of it, but Ford are happy to steam in and plant their corporate size 9 footprints over everything.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As soon as an emerging technology develops into something that looks a bit like a “medium” then every client I have wants to know “How should I be using it?” There is an assumption that if there is an audience then we should be exploiting it. The same happened with Twitter and I can’t even think about doing a campaign without being asked “what will my facebook page look like”.

I also look at the dead and dying media brands that have failed to keep up with the ever increasing demands of advertisers and investors and so have been abandoned by the wayside. Internet brands such as Myspace that has effectively been ditched – at a loss of half a billion dollars – because no-one could work out how to make it work for advertisers.

I start to feel an element of responsibility for this. If every new medium is disected and assessed solely based on it’s ability to generate advertising income then potentially viable media products and businesses that could have had another business model are simply allowed to fade away.

Now maybe this isn’t a problem whilst there is a steady flow of sacrificial lambs for us to exploit, plunder and destroy, and maybe it is fine when consumers don’t have a choice whether or not we target them, but I believe the days of being able to exploit media with impunity are numbered. Consumers have more and more tools that enable them to choose whether to engage with advertisers or not and the longer we abuse their good will and force interruption to their media consumption with unwelcome messages, the quicker they will learn how to switch us off. Indeed there is legislation coming which will force consumers to make that choice (see anti-cookie European legislation)

So here’s where I start my campaign for sustainable communication (I got here eventually!).

I believe that the most successful advertisers in the next 20 years will be those that understand that we have a duty to respect the contract between advertisers and consumers and deliver true value in our communications.

We need to ensure that we are investing in successful media, not just by buying media space, but by delivering content and messages that in and of themselves increase the value that consumers take out of that media space. Rather than saying “what’s the next big thing” all the time, we should be saying “how do we make the current big thing work better for consumers” so that we don’t have to start all over again when we have bullied them out of the media that they used to love.

For my part, whenever I am asked to consider a new media opportunity, I am going to endeavour to start with the question “How can I make that media better for the consumers who are consuming it” rather than “How can I make a quick buck here”. And let me be clear – another generic TV ad with animated animals or a beautiful woman selling perfume does not make my experience of that medium better. Most ads that your average advertiser likes are frankly wallpaper for your average consumer.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be adding examples of campaigns that are either examples of great sustainable communications or worrying examples of media exploitation.

Please feel free to send me any good examples of either.

As a starter for 10, please check out the mediaweek award shortlisted Panasonic Advertiser funded programme “How to take stunning pictures”. This was a piece of TV content on channel 5 that out-performed it’s alloted programming slot and was hugely popular with consumers and client alike. In addition Panasonic were able to clearly convey their commitment to helping the average photography enthusiasts get the most out of amateur photography. And it sold Panasonic Lumix cameras – lots of them.

Sustainable Communications vs Media Exploitation – a Manifesto

I’ve been working in media and communications strategy for over 11 years now and I’ve been writing this blog for about 3 or 4 years on and off and I’ve never thought to write a manifesto; Something that puts in writing the basic principles of what I believe to be best practice in our industry and the fundamentals against which I hope to measure my own actions.

There are a few reasons why I haven’t done this:

1) It never occured to me before

2) Even if it had I wouldn’t have expected anyone to have any desire to read it

3) I didn’t really ever consolidate these “basic principles” in any way that didn’t involve a beer fuelled chat with media buddies in the pub.

Well that’s changed recently and here I am trying to set out my manifesto because:

1) It’s occured to me to do so

2) It doesn’t matter how many people read it, but many thanks if you are

3) I think that our industry really needs to start looking at the consequences of our behaviour and start to invest in the future.

The source of this manifesto (well it’s more of a mission statement really) came from a conversation with the Chief Architect of Bing in the UK, Dave Coplin. We were discussing recent developments with Bing’s equivalent of Streetview and he was outlining his strategy for ensuring that the privacy of individuals was protected as far as possible, whilst maintaining maximum utility for users (which could potentially invade their privacy.) What became clear is that he considered ” a right to privacy” (in the digital media world) to be an implied contract between individual and service provider. People actually give up their right to privacy all the time as long as they are getting clear value in return and they are in control of what happens to the information they divulge. What became clear in our conversation was the care and attention that Microsoft were investing in ensuring that the “contract” with consumers was always preserved -that they always knew what they were giving up and what value they were receiving in return.

The words “value exchange” are bandied around an awful lot, but in Dave’s eyes it was fundamental to Microsoft’s entire relationship as a media owner with consumers.

This formed the spark for the philosophy and manifesto that I’m about to deliver so here goes:

Here’s what I believe:

1) Human attention is a valuable natural resource, allowing us to learn about the world around us, adapt our behaviour for optimal utility of that world and to evolve our attitudes for maximum enjoyment of the world

2) Human attention is NOT an infinite resource, there is only so much new information we can take in at any time and only so many things that we can be persuaded to care about

3) All marketing and communications require that we capture that human attention

4) Human attention naturally concentrates and clusters around certain content and media because of the value it contributes to their lives, NOT because of the amount of advertising they find there

5) Just like any natural resource, over-exploitation of the human attention to media will inevitably lead to the dilution and eventual destruction of that attention and make it impossible for us to harness it any way, positive or negative.

(Yeah I love that pic!)

6) It should therefore be the responsibility of advertisers to not just exploit a medium for the audience that it attracts, but to invest in that medium with sustainable communications to ensure that it continues to deliver value to consumers and in turn provide a continuing resource for brands to communicate to those audiences.

Some advertisers might claim that they already do this – by paying to advertise in a medium they say they are investing in the quality of content that medium can provide.  And maybe that used to be true. Maybe some consumers do watch advertising in the knowledge that they are entering into a contract with the media channel to “pay” for the content they choose to watch by also watching content that they would rather not. However I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this is true of most advertising messages.

As advertisers we “buy” an audience that media owners “sell” to us. Because of that we think we have a right to put pretty much anything we can get away with in front of that audience and we approach every consumer contact with the question  “what can my brand get out of this?”.

A perfect example of this is the recent news story that Ford had “secured” a corporate page on Google+. What I found remarkable about this was that a) Ford had ignored Google’s request for advertisers to back off until they had worked out how to showcase corporate accounts and b) No-one seems to have a clue what Ford are doing there and what they hope to get out of it. All that they seem interested in is the fact that there are 10 million+ people already signed up and that it is currently unexploited so they get to be first. No-one knows how people are using Google+, what it is all about and what they can get out of it, but Ford are happy to steam in and plant their corporate size 9 footprints over everything.

This shouldn’t be surprising. As soon as an emerging technology develops into something that looks a bit like a “medium” then every client I have wants to know “How should I be using it?” There is an assumption that if there is an audience then we should be exploiting it. The same happened with Twitter and I can’t even think about doing a campaign without being asked “what will my facebook page look like”.

I also look  at the dead and dying media brands that have failed to keep up with the ever increasing demands of advertisers and investors and so have been abandoned by the wayside. Internet brands such as Myspace that has effectively been ditched – at a loss of half a billion dollars –  because no-one could work out how to make it work for advertisers.

I start to feel an element of responsibility for this. If every  new medium is disected and assessed solely based on it’s ability to generate advertising income then potentially viable media products and businesses that could have had another business model are simply allowed to fade away.

Now maybe this isn’t a problem whilst there is a steady flow of sacrificial lambs for us to exploit, plunder and destroy, and maybe it is fine when consumers don’t have a choice whether or not we target them, but I believe the days of being able to exploit media with impunity are numbered. Consumers have more and more tools that enable them to choose whether to engage with advertisers or not and the longer we abuse their good will and force interruption to their media consumption with unwelcome messages, the quicker they will learn how to switch us off. Indeed there is legislation coming which will force consumers to make that choice (see anti-cookie European legislation)

So here’s where I start my campaign for sustainable communication (I got here eventually!).

I believe that the most successful advertisers in the next 20 years will be those that understand that we have a duty to respect the contract between advertisers and consumers and deliver true value in our communications.

We need to ensure that we are investing in successful media, not just by buying media space, but by delivering content and messages that in and of themselves increase the value that consumers take out of that media space. Rather than saying “what’s the next big thing” all the time, we should be saying “how do we make the current big thing work better for consumers” so that we don’t have to start all over again when we have bullied them out of the media that they used to love.

For my part, whenever I am asked to consider a new media opportunity, I am going to endeavour to start with the question “How can I make that media better for the consumers who are consuming it” rather than “How can I make a quick buck here”. And let me be clear – another generic TV ad with animated animals or a beautiful woman selling perfume does not make my experience of that medium better. Most ads that your average advertiser likes are frankly wallpaper for your average consumer.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be adding examples of campaigns that are either examples of great sustainable communications or worrying examples of media exploitation.

Please feel free to send me any good examples of either.

As a starter for 10, please check out the mediaweek award shortlisted Panasonic Advertiser funded programme “How to take stunning pictures”. This was a piece of TV content on channel 5 that out-performed it’s alloted programming slot and was hugely popular with consumers and client alike. In addition Panasonic were able to clearly convey their commitment to helping the average photography enthusiasts get the most out of amateur photography. And it sold Panasonic Lumix cameras – lots of them.

Straying into an alternative territory

OK, I don’t normally blog about political issues because frankly there are many people who know an awful lot more than me in that area and I’d be opening myself up to a barrage of criticism. Then again, I figured that to get a barrage of criticism would mean that lots of people would have to read this and there is no danger of that, so here goes

Tomorrow is the big referendum on the new AV (Alternative vote) system and the media have today finally decided to try to explain to people what they are voting for.

Today,the Independent printed a list of the arguments for and against the Alternative Vote. This article in itself was quite interesting. By presenting both sides of the argument, the newspaper was trying to live up to its name however, when you got into the meat of the article (seen here) then it is difficult to not conclude that the Independent are firmly in favour of reform as they proceed to debunk all of the “No” arguments and support all but the least convincing of the “Yes” arguments.

I’m happy to state that I will be voting “Yes” tomorrow because I agree with the simple argument that “It is a step in the right direction” and that the “If it aint broke don’t fix it” attitude is fundamentally flawed as the current system is “broke” and I’m also pretty sure that the same argument was used against the suffragettes 100 years ago.

However, there is one argument that I think is missing from the “Yes” vote and this is the main reason that I will be voting:

A great deal of commentary has suggested that AV would have produced very similar results in the last few elections as to the result that we actually got. It would have exaggerated the Labour swing in 1997 even further and we would still have a Coalition government today. However, that analysis assumes that people would have kept their same first preference vote if they were able to record a 2nd, 3rd and 4th preference vote. But I simply don’t believe that would be the case. A lot of younger voters vote for Labour or Conservative, not because they believe they are the best party to represent their interests, but because they believe that they only really have a choice of two. If you have to place up to 4 preferences then people will have to start to consider the relative merits of more than just two parties and so might start to consider the realistic possibility that it doesn’t have to be a two party system any more.

If I have an alternative vote, I will be liberated to place my first vote where my true convictions lie rather than just place a vote in order to keep my most hated party out.

All too often in FPTP elections I have voted for Labour, not because I approved of their policies, but because I couldn’t stomach the Tory ones and a vote for anyone else was completely wasted. Under AV I could vote for the independent candidate or the Green candidate or the Liberal candidate and use my vote as a statement of my true beliefs and at the same time I can place 2nd, 3rd or 4th preference vote which might also affect the final result. The big question is, how many other people would have done the same, how many people have in the past voted for their 2nd or even 3rd preference because it was the only party with a chance of winning?

AV might not show a huge change in voting patterns in the next election, because a lot of people will justify their previous voting behaviour and continue to vote according to habits, not beliefs, but I believe that in 3 or 4 elections time as new generations of voter arrive without the baggage of their parents we could start to see a shift towards a wider spectrum of voting habits that more accurately reflects the nations attitudes.

I know that AV won’t solve the problem of getting a truly representative government, but in my idealised world I would hope that as people start to value their vote more highly they will start to see the benefits of a truly proportionate and representative system and there will be enough minority representatives in our government, that maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen.

Well, fingers crossed for a miracle, all the bookies are suggesting that my hope is forlorn, but stranger things have happened.

D.

A Copy however colourful is still a copy

Saw this today on Adverblog.

This video visualises the effect of Dulux’s Let’s Colour project.

I started off wanting to like this, in fact I started writing a post about how much I loved it. Dulux are tangibly making a difference to people’s lives by erasing the drab and grey from the lives of poor, run-down communities and replacing it with vibrant colour. That’s got to be a good thing right?

But as the 2 minute video progresses, I find myself feeling more and more cynical about it. Here are my 3 key reasons

1) This feels like Dulux’s attempt to do a “Cogs” , “Balls” etc and make up for the fact that Sony made an ad for TVs that was all about Paint!

2) Even if it hadn’t been done before in the advertising world, it is just copying ventures that already exist in the real world:

a) I was reminded of a civic venture by the Mayor of Tirana (Capital of Albania) where they sent an army of painters out to brighten up the morose communist era concrete grey.

b) When looking that up, I also found the Favela Painting project which was initiated by Dutch artists Haas & Hahn in collaboration with the Brazilian Government (and AkzoNobel – a commerical paint company) to engage the inhabitants in transforming the squalour of their slum. When you see the sophistication and ambition of this project, the Dulux activity in Rio starts to look a little shabby.

Frankly, I’m sick of seeing creative agencies seeing a great idea on the internet and then passing it off as an original thought. I’ll add this to the box that has the Aero bubbles skateboarder and the Berocca treadmills in it.

3) Finally, this “transformation” has been undertaken with little care for the potenial underlying beauty that could be lost under a coat of emulsion. The final segment of the video shows the effect of the project on Jodhpur, India. Jodhpur is hardly a city that could be called drab. It might be poor, but there is such variety and colour already naturally there that it seems an awful shame to paint over it in vast swathes of purple and so to lose the wonderful details and turn it into a bit of a Disneyfied India.

It’s a shame, because I guess hearts were in the right place for a lot of people on this, but it feels a little too self serving and not original enough to convince me that Dulux actually care.

Saying all that, it will probably work because not everyone is as cynical as me. Most consumers don’t know about Albania or the Favelas and they will just see the transformative power of Colour. They probably will say “Isn’t that a bit like the Sony Rabbits/Balls/Paint ad” though

Brainwriting – when a brainstorm is just too slow

Having worked on 20th Century Fox for the past 2 years I’ve run a huge amount of brainstorms. Last week I was set the challenge of running a 5 hour brainstorm in which I had to generate ideas for 5 different films (with 12 sub challenges). I just wanted to share some of the learnings from the session.

With 12 challenges in 5 hours, I had less than 25 mins for each question which was always going to be tough, so rather than run a standard “Stand at the front and write stuff down” session, I decided to use a brainwriting technique that I had adapted from one I read about online (see herefor details of the basic technique).

My Adaptation of the technique is focused on getting people to improve a build upon ideas in order to deliver workable detailed solutions rather than wooly fantasies. It is described in detail at the bottom for those who are interested – it is really quite simple – a bit like those games you played as a kid where a group of people had to write a story but you had to take it in turns to write a line.

I found that this approach was incredibly effective for the first half of the session. When it was working properly, we had 15 different people all creating or improving upon ideas all at the same time. Compared to a standard brainstorm when only one person can talk at any one time and only one person is writing, this was an incredibly efficient use of people’s time.

This technique also avoided any negative influences such as the dominant personalities that love the sound of their own voices or the recessive personalities who might have great ideas but don’t like to voice them. It also means that people don’t judge the ideas on issues of practicality, instead they are encourage to make the idea workable.

A Note of warning however, this technique worked really well when the group had compelling stimulus and some clear hooks on which to generate their ideas. For the later part of the session, we were all a bit stumped for ideas to solve the problem and so getting 15 people to work in isolation really didn’t help as people needed much more hand-holding. So make sure that you are comfortable that it is a rich source of ideas.

A Second watch out – Don’t try to answer 12 questions in 5 hours! We probably answered 6 effectively, 3 half heartedly and 3 not at all. A Shorter brainstorm with fewer challenges would have been a much more efficient use of people’s time.

The Technique

1) THE TASK Set out the key problem as defined with the client
2) EXPLODE THE TASK: Take one attribute of the problem and as a group “explode” it. So if the problem is “How do we make this feel like a premium experience” then to “explode” it you should ask a question like “How do other categories create premiumization within their portfolios” or ” what is it about the current experience that feels less than premium”. Basically you need to get the group to start to think laterally about the idea.

3) A FIRST APPROACH: Keeping the results of stage (2) on the wall/flipchart then you can start the Brainwriting stage. Hand out a piece of paper to each person. Then give them 1-2 minutes MAX to write down just ONE good idea to address the TASK.

4) The ANGLE: Once stage 3) is finished get them to pass the idea to the person to the right of them and allow them to read the idea they have received. Then go back to the results of stage (2) and pull out an example of a brand or a category that excels in solving the problem that you have. Spend a few minutes discussing how that brand/category works and then ask the question “How would X improve the idea that you have in front of you”. Then give the group another 2 minutes MAX to improve and build upon the idea that they now have in front of them. It is important that they do not try to create new ideas at this stage, but focus on making the idea in front of them better, whilst focusing on the angle that you have selected.

Repeat stage (4) upto 2 or 3 times each time passing the idea along and introducing a new angle.

5) Go round the table getting people to summarise the idea and developments. You will find that you have a surprisingly high number of well worked through and imaginative ideas. This is also the opportunity for the group to build on the ideas that they hear.

Finally – ensure you have some kind of filtering process in place to whittle down the ideas to the best ones. I’ll talk about this again in the future, but it is vital

Resonance is the new relevance

Just a really quick one. Two buzz words have dominated media planning in the past few years. About 5-6 years ago it was all about relevance – making sure that a message is relevant to the mindset and interests of an audience whilst they are consuming a particular medium. Then over the past two or three years people have been talking about engagement a lot, so not only do we want people to find something relevant, but we want them to actively consume our message rather than just passively absorb it.

Today I read an article in new media age about Twitter’s Promoted Tweets model and the news that if a brands messages are not forwarded on enough by consumers then the brands will be dropped, but without charge. It’s a really interesting payment model and launches a whole new trading option on the media world – PPR = Pay Per Resonance (You heard it here first) – the idea that brands pay for the viral effect of a campaign.

I can’t imagine that traditional creative agencies would want to be remunerated on such a basis any time soon, but it could be a revolutionary formula for some of the challenger digital agencies who really want to stand out.