Tag: technology

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.

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Real ambition for Real Time Planning

This morning I saw a great presentation – #Ownthemoment – from our Twitter sales representatives in which they highlighted the most effective ways to take advantage of Real Time Planning behaviours using the twitter platform. Particularly they highlighted 3 types of event you can look to associate yourself with – Live, Connected, and Everyday.

They then proceeded to highlight a variety of planned “newsjacking” type behaviours that actually mirror the kinds of tactical reactive advertising the press advertising industry has been indulging in for years, but that twitter has provided a low cost and more immediate entry point to. See this Innocent example around the recent furour surrounding the Gareth Bale transfer

gareth bale

Their key point (which I very much agree with) is that Real Time Planning is MORE about the Planning part than it is about Real Time. Most of the “reactive” campaigns that have been celebrated in our industry are in fact meticulously planned responses to highly predictable events. The key is the effective analysis of data to predict likely scenarios and then have a plan for when those scenarios eventually emerge.

That’s all fine. There is definitely a place for placing a series of small reactive bets that IF they pay off can deliver a proportionally huge return on investment. Using the framework of “Live, Connected or Everyday” moments is a sensible way to structure our social communications if we want them to appear relevant and get consumers to engage with them.

My problem with it is simple – it is just too small. Advertising spend on Twitter represents approximately 0.1% of all advertising spend globally. If we generously guess that it has an equal effectiveness to all other advertising then it is essentially worth 0.1% of all advertising effect. If you then manage to align the planets correctly and hit the jackpot with a promoted tweet that is bang on for your brand and a rising trend that day, you might be able to increase its effectiveness by a factor of 10 – or 1000% – giving it a total value to the average campaign of 1%. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of failed attempts to get that jackpot moment. For every Oreos blackout moment

oreos

there is an Epicurious Boston moment and hundreds that just don’t get noticed at all.
epicurious-boston-tweet

That isn’t to say that Real Time Marketing isn’t important – quite the opposite – I think it has the potential to revolutionise the way we run marketing campaigns, it is just that I want to make it worth more than 1% (at best!) I want to find a way to apply those Real Time insights to a medium that can make a real difference.

On average, TV advertising makes up 63% of all advertising spend and is rising. If we can use these real time insights and cultural understanding to make our TV budgets work just 10% harder, then that is worth 6% of all advertising budgets. To put it in money terms – the potential prize for getting it right with twitter is global increase of $5billion (and I think that is incredibly generous), but the same level of effort could conservatively be worth $30billion if applied to my TV budgets.

I know where I’d rather focus my efforts.

If only Apple had been around in the 1880s, We’d have the fastest, prettiest iHorse ever by now.

I haven’t had an Apple rant in about a year, so those fanboys out there can look away now, you know what to expect. Except the next line might surprise you.

Apple’s NEW iPad went on sale last week to rapturous acclaim from all the Apple acolytes around the world, and for the first time ever, I wanted one. I’ve never truly desired any product made by Apple, (I know, I’m weird,) but when I saw this NEW iPad I had an irrational urge to own one. Well for about 5 minutes anyway.

After a period of soul-searching to try to understand this deviation in my character I realised that it was just one simple thing –

It’s “more” pretty.

That’s it.

OK if you are going to push it, it is prettier due to a really impressive high-resolution so called “retina” display.

And that is it. Just like the iPad 2 (and the original iPad) but a bit “More”

As far as I can tell the NEW iPad is nothing except a series of incremental improvements to the iPad 2 with one big incremental improvement to the screen. All the other improvements to camera and processing power are just to make sure that the experience of using the NEW iPad lives up to the experience of using the old one (because 4 times as many pixels requires a lot more processing power to render and photos from a 3 megapixel camera would look pretty crap on that screen)

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing new or inventive or innovative about the NEW iPad. And yet people will buy it in their droves because of that screen. It is a truly breathtaking piece of technology with images displayed in the usual slick Apple way and people will have a visceral gut reaction to it that will overcome any rational objections to the rest of it. Apparently 16,000 iPad2s recently landed on ebay as all the leading majority decided that they just HAD to upgrade.

And that in a nutshell is what Apple do best. They make faster horses, because that’s what everyone wants. They’ve realised that they could spend vast amounts on R&D creating completely new product functionality 90% of which would be a commercial failure, or they can just wait for Samsung or Sony or Acer or Archos or HTC or even Nokia to develop something new that is a commercial success and then they’ll spend a couple of years thinking about it and eventually release it (in an admittedly perfect incarnation) as a great new innovation.

What they would never do for example is release something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

This is a new Android tablet from Samsung that incorporates a true digital stylus with a digitised screen (the technology used by CAD Draftsmen to design pretty much everything). It looks pretty amazing and I can see a huge amount of potential functionality that it provides that no other tablet can do. I also think that there is a good chance that it will be reasonably commercial successful. The original Galaxy Note has seen pretty respectable sales (after an admittedly slow start) considering that it is a fairly niche product that sits half way between a phone and a tablet and I actually think that the market for the 10.1 is significantly bigger. I’m pretty sure that I want one.

The thing is, it’s fine to have a corporation that just make perfected, more expensive versions of products that other companies invented. It’s absolutely fine and frankly we deserve products that just WORK the way that Apple products do. It was absolutely great for Apple to be the way they are when they were the challenger brand, forcing Microsoft to stay honest.

The problem comes when that corporation becomes the biggest company in the world.

It’s a problem when they move from being a niche minority product for rich people to being the market leader that has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It is a problem when their sales volumes are so high that they can actually price traditionally cheaper more innovative competitors out of the market. That is when you start to see a stagnation in innovation.

And I think that we are already seeing it. Take a look at the new HTC range. HTC has been a really interesting challenger to Apple’s domination over the past few years, but their recent showing at the technology expo’s is worrying. The new HTC One X is their new flagship phone and what does it actually do that is new? More pixels on the screen, better camera, faster processer. Sound familiar? It’s just another faster horse.

The problem also is an issue for Apple itself: Apple are the most valuable company in the world and yet they only really make about 4 products. There is zero room for failure in that model. If the next iPad or iPhone or Airbook came out and bombed, that would be 25% of their business in serious jeopardy. So they will always err on the side of caution and keep making faster horses rather than take any real risks. They’ve tried it once or twice with products such as Apple TV, but there was very little conviction in that effort. Apple are stuck in a cycle where they have to keep making the same product with just a bit “more” over and over again. They actually need the other companies to test new innovations on the public or they will have nothing to copy!

Well I for one will be supporting the true innovators, the companies that are willing to take a chance, that accept the fact that with true progress comes the chance of failure. I might end up buying a shit product, true, but I might just end up supporting something that actually moves the pace of technology forwards a tiny bit and I can feel good about that.

Reach for the Sky


So Halo Reach came out today at midnight – the final episode in the Halo Franchise to be made by Bungie (the original game’s creators). Now (a) I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that before – about 3 times since Halo 3 was launched and (b) Microsoft will be still making Halo games, so fans of the series don’t have to stress too much, but nonetheless, this is a pretty huge game launch and by all accounts the game lives up to the hype.

The hype has been pretty standard fare, lots of online trailers and screenshots in the gaming press and websites, the trailer hit TV about 2-3 weeks ago (in the UK at least) and they’ve had the now obligatory midnight launch with people queueing around the block to be one of the first to own it. It’s a marketing strategy that I would have written as fast as you could say “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”

This piece of publicity however was a bit different. This Halo game is supposed to be great but essentially the same as all the other Halo games, so they are making a big deal out of the fact that the Spartan soldiers now have JETPACKS!! Yes you heard me correctly JET….. PACKS…… The only thing cooler than games about futuristic 7 foot tall space warriors to a teenage boy is a game about a futuristic 7 foot tall space warrior that wears a fricking jet pack. Frankly I don’t know what took them so long.

The one thing that every kid wants is a jet pack – well actually we just wanted to be able to fly, but when we realised that we weren’t going to magically develop superpowers a jet pack was the next best thing. Even though (and maybe because) they are a basically pointless and incredibly hazardous form of transport, we want them. And just because I’m now 33 doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t sell my grandmother into slavery to get one (a bargain frankly).

So this stunt in Trafalgar square was the perfect stunt to launch the game

A great idea for a stunt until you realise 2 things

1) Westminster Council aren’t going to be overly happy about you launching a highly dangerous jetpack into the busiest square in London – so if they give permission it will be for you to have a 7 am launch

2) If you do it at 7am about 3 people will actually see it.

Oh well, maybe 3 more people will see it now if they read my blog.

I still want one. And I’m buying Halo: Reach tonight! Not sure I’ll bother with the “Legendary Edition” though

Reasons why videogames are always going to struggle as an advertising medium

I just stumbled upon this brilliant blog piece by Michael Drucker Why Your Loved Ones Hate Videogames and I realised that nearly all of his reasons why my wife/mum/boss doesn’t understand why I play videogames are the exact same reasons that most of my colleagues/clients will struggle to understand how to use it as an advertising medium

Please do read the original article if you are a gamer – it will help you understand the attitude of your partner. In this piece however I want to examine these reasons and what they mean for clients/colleagues and how we can help present gaming as a medium they can understand

Reason 1: The Media

If you are not a gamer then the majority of your opinion on gaming is formed by the media, and the media need newsworthy dramatic stories. If you look in the right places then gaming can provide that in spades. Look at Manhunt – a game about making Snuff movies, or Grand Theft Auto – a game about running over prostitutes isn’t it? And didn’t those kids somewhere in America go on a rampage after playing Call of Duty? These things do exist, and they make for sensationalist news stories and you never hear the other side of the story, so it is natural to believe that gaming is all about that, just like Daily Mail readers believe that all Asylum seekers are bogus job stealers and every Big Issue seller makes £3000 a month.

Understandably, clients don’t want to associate themselves those kind of themes and those kind of news stories and so their natural instinct is to reject the idea of advertising in games.

What can we do about this?

In an ideal world we’d find a way to get our media to run positive news stories about gaming, but truly newsworthy positive news-stories about games are no more common than the equivalent story about TV programmes or the positive power of radio on people’s lives. The simple fact is that most gaming is just good entertainment and there’s not much news in that. One possible approach is to find a celebrity angle – Nintendo have created an entire marketing campaign around the idea that Ant and Dec, Nicole Kidman and all of Girls Allowed all happily play Wii together. The problem here is (a) people don’t think of Nintendo Wii when they think of gaming and (b) those ads are so nauseatingly fake that not even your gran believes it.

What we actually need is more real quotes from normal, well adjusted role models talking about their love of Guitar Hero or Splinter Cell. Those people are definitely out there, we just need to get them to admit it. If you find a quote or a story, capture it, compile it and send it to your clients. Eventually they will get the point.

Reason 2: Games are about killing people.

This point is obviously related to Reason 1, but as an advocate of gaming we have to be honest with ourselves. There are an awful lot of games that involve significant amounts of violence. “First Person Shooters” ” Hack and Slash” “Beat ’em ups” are just a few of the most popular genres of videogame that focus on violence. Non-gamers therefore think that people who enjoy such games must harbour some deep seated desire to enact those murderous activities for themselves – and to be honest, when you hear some of the kids on xbox live I sometimes wonder myself.

Michael Drucker (the inspiration for this piece) makes two strong analogies. When a gamer “shoots” another gamer or computer controlled character it is like playing “tag”. It is about testing your skills and reactions against those of another player. Kids in a playground don’t wish that the other kids died when they tagged them and neither do Call of Duty afficionados. To a gamer this is obvious, but to someone who hasn’t played these games then you can understand their discomfort at seeing people re-enact episodes of extreme violence.

What can we do about it?

We need to demonstrate the wide range of motivations that people have for playing games which include

Competitiveness
Structure for success
Expressing Individuality/Creativity
Buzz – Adrenalin
Relaxation
Escape
Entertainment
Exploration/discovery
Social currency

These motivations are incredibly useful for many of our clients brand campaigns and something we would want to harness. If we can demonstrate that these motivations are central to videogaming and that it is not just about killing people then we will be a long way towards getting mainstream acceptance for the medium.

Reason 3: Games are for kids

a) Yes some games are for kids – see Mario, Sonic, Wii Sports etc
b) Some games really are not for kids and if parents are letting them play them they are bad parents – see Gears of War, GTA IV, Bioshock, Limbo etc.
c) Sometimes grown ups play the games that are meant for kids, just like grown-ups enjoy watching anything by Pixar – because they are just great and have been created by visionaries

The fact is that games are no more “just for kids” than TV is just for grown-ups. The medium is incredibly diverse with an audience to match. Just like we wouldn’t recommend advertising beer in Ben10, so you probably don’t want to advertise Cheesestrings in Medal of Honour 12.

What can we do?

Firstly we need to be vigilant in recommending the right vehicle for the right product. If you mismatch the audience for the product you are trying to sell and the audience for the game then you won’t generate the response you are looking for and your client will consider the campaign a failure.

Secondly we need to keep rolling out the ever increasing number of statistics that show the rapid growth of videogames amongst non-traditional audiences. Farmville is played by your mum, Angry Birds is played by everyone.

Reason 4: Games are complicated to play.

I’m stealing directly from Michael here

This is how gamers see game controllers

This is how your clients see game controllers

A gamer finds interacting with a gaming world to be second nature. They are usually able to play a brand new game within seconds of picking it up – usually without even looking at instructions. In this mental state they have plenty of time to immerse themselves in the gaming world and enjoy everything that they are seeing and anything that is new. If a non-gamer however spends all their time trying to remember which button to press to stop looking at their toes or is struggling to drive in a straight line, then they can’t possibly appreciate what else is going on in the game and so the idea of absorbing an advertising message seems ridiculous to them.

What can we do?

This is the hard one. How do you explain to someone what the mental state of a gamer is to someone who has no hope of ever entering that state themselves? The closest that I can come is to compare it to something like driving. To a non-driver the idea of controlling pedals, gear sticks, steering wheels, indicators at the same time as orienting yourself with 3 different mirrors seems incredible, but to the experienced driver it is so natural that they can move between cars with virtually no trouble whatsoever. We don’t express surprise that drivers can notice road-side advertising whilst they are driving or that they can listen to and enjoy the radio, so we just need to persuade our clients that playing games is just like this.

When will there be no more “dumb” phones

Saw this question raised on a blog post from WhatsApp

“2003: Dell, Inc. no longer includes floppy on their home computers.
2007: Last CRT television set sold by UK DSG (Dixons).
2008: Last standalone JVC VHS-only unit was produced.
20XX: Last non-Smartphone mobile phone is produced.

So, when do you think we will see the end of “dumb” mobile phones? I think 2014 – am I overly optimistic in my estimate?”

I think this is a really interesting question. Looking at the dates above it becomes clear that even when technologies become virtually obsolete, it takes a while for people to stop using them and so whilst there is still demand, manufacturers will still make them.

I think he is very optimistic in his estimate. Smartphones still do not represent the majority of new phones – in the first quarter of this year they represented 54 million out of 314 million world wide mobile phone sales. This was a significant increase, but they still have a long way to go before they become the de-facto choice.

A number of audiences will contribute to the continued sales of conventional mobile phones.

1) Oldies – people who don’t see the need for a £400 phone when all they want to do is make calls
2) People who need a battery to last longer than half a day and need their phone to be robust and don’t care if it looks cool or not
3) Populations of second and third world countries that are only just getting onto the telecomms ladder who will not be able to afford smartphone tech for a long while to come.

There are loads more I’m sure, but that’s just a few billion people who won’t be buying a smartphone any time soon, but have a use for a conventional phone.

I reckon 2020 at the earliest. Anyone have an opinion?