Thursday, 8 December 2011

Media Positive Planning

Oh hai,

So i been busy not writing anything for ages. So, to remind myself how this whole blog thing works, I've put together some ideas. Mainly the ones that I've been thinking about this year, but to be honest if you scroll down only a few posts to last year then you'd find some of the ideas behind this - like the contrast between Big Simple Single ideas and Niche, Many, Rich ideas. Or the idea that media agencies should stop worrying about the big intermediaries (broadcasters and publishers) between brands and content, and start talking to the producers of content. Or that only after designing a culturally relevant package of narrative, utility and community that meets carefully designed business objectives should you think about advertising it. And even that if you are interested in blending culture and spreadability then an editor is often a better starting point than an agency.

So I haven't written lots of notes for this deck, largely because it's compiled from several other ones and doesn't have lots of notes. It has lots of slogans instead. Whether it is better or worse for that, who knows, but the story goes like this....

Once upon a time, connectivity changed lots of things faster than ever before. Things were changing so fast that it was hard to step back and work out what had changed and what hadn't, far less what to do about it. Turned out that people and marketing objectives hadn't changed much, and it was only the bit where those two things overlapped that it got messy.

So since media are just connections between people, we really need to understand a lot more about people and why they connect with other people. Because the great thing about connectivity is that if we make things that achieve marketing objectives AND that people can mess about and have fun with, then they are far more likely to spread them. And if we can work out culturally and psychologically what value spreading things has to individuals and communities, then we can get much smarter about how to design things for them. Which naturally involves looking in some different places.

That leads (via some borrowed ideas from Mike Arauz and Gareth Kay) to thinking about what an agency should do. Particularly a media agency, as that's where I've been while i was thinking about this. So if you were going to rewrite what one does to take some of this stuff into account, what would you do and who would you do it with......

Anyway. Love to know what you think. I might even write some more inside a year.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Hmm, this blog's been a bit quiet recently

So i haven't been here all that much the last few weeks. Not cos i don't have anything to write, more because there's another priority right now - her name's Sophie Wood, and she was born on 20/10/2010. So posts might be a bit thin on the ground for the next little while!

Friday, 8 October 2010

The brand commissioning editor

I wrote some stuff a few weeks ago about the big structural shifts in how people get paid for creating stuff. Quick summary is that twenty years ago if you wanted to make a living writing then you needed to seek employment with a big publisher who could monetise that content by selling ads to brands who wanted their ads to appear next to it. Or you wrote the ads themselves. Nowadays brands are becoming increasingly less bothered about buying ads, and so big publishers are struggling to invest in lots of content (this is why the Times has just laid off another batch of journalists, and why the Observer contains half as many pages as 3 years ago)

The obvious solution for people who want to make their living writing is to cut out this middle man and work directly for a brand. From a marketing perspective this is tried and tested in direct mail departments, who write direct mail copy for the finance and charity sectors. But not in the sense of making a brand culturally relevant by actually becoming part of culture t
he way that The Sun, Loaded, Heat or Viz did in years gone by, or that ASOS or Drowned In Sound do today. To do that a brand would need to appoint a commissioning editor for their bit of the internet - as ASOS did last week, recruiting Melissa Dick from

(Slight diversion - 'their bit of the internet' is a pretty ungainly phrase, but it is important to differentiate from 'their website/their Facebook page/their YouTube channel' - if you think of these as separate then you're missing most of the point of internet publishing)

The benefits to a brand in doing this are in two places. Search and Social. So the two places that have any importance to brands who want to make a bit of the internet - as these are the two places that brand can gain new attention.
Writing and filming genuinely interesting content of cultural relevance to the brand and its audience is difficult for brands, as they have rarely thought about long form cultural content before (I realise I'm doing a disserve to customer publishers here - I've become very interested in customer publishing recently), and they don't know where to go to get it.

But as outlined above, there are lots of freelance journalists around with fewer big publisher gigs available. What was missing was the marketplace. Which is where Sabotage Times comes in. Sabotage is the brainchild of Loaded founder James Brown - and while at first glance it looks like a rich and interesting website, that is really a facade for a new media model - the website is basically a shop window for writers to sell archive material or take new commissions. Initially this has been from publishers - who are used to shopping for archive material. Increasingly it will be for brands who understand to role of cultural relevance in how they optimise and promote their internet presences.

I'd suggest that most brands ought to be thinking along the ASOS route of appointing someone to run a content strategy - someone who starts to move towards a Chief Culture Officer role - but anyone in this position will still need the resources available through market like Sabotage Times, and the way that the site and the syndication agency is structured make it easy for brands to start taking their first steps towards commissioning content.

(Full disclosure - I used to work for James a long time ago at IFG)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Exactly what it says on the tin

Y'know what i don't write about that often? Brands that 'just' make really good stuff. That's a bit hypocritical considering how many times I use throwaway lines like 'advertising is a tax on crap products', and then spend most of my time thinking about advertising. 15 years ago when Ronseal marketed their products as doing 'exactly what is says on the tin', it was just an advertising slogan - men who painted their own fences thought they saw through advertising was and it didn't have any effect on them, so here was a brand taking an anti-advertising position. Very smart, in the sense that it positioned a category leader against every other category in which advertising played a part, while tapping into what made DIY fans proud.

As a fairly cynical person, I tend to believe that most products are likely to be a bit rubbish, and I've been backed to the hilt in this belief over the years in buying trainers. Trainers fall apart in weeks rather than months, which has always led me to believe that you are paying for brand marketing, and getting an undifferentiated product. I gave up wearing them for a while after another £80 pair of shoes fell apart within a month. So when i discovered that Camper offered 2 year guarantees on their trainers, I took this as a never-ending supply of free shoes. They are still going strong 18 months later, and while the cynic in me is proud to admit he's wrong, I'm also happy to have a great example of how making good stuff is a big part of the battle of selling it. And also pleased to have several more pairs of Camper shoes.

(Full disclosure - I haven't ever worked for Camper or for any agency that works for them....)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ikea can haz interwebs cultyure?

Cats had to get into video designed for the TV screen sooner or later didn't they? The thinking behind Ikea's 'Happy Inside' video is pretty straightforward: the brand premise is aspirational but cheap, and the trade off for cheap is the dehumanising big box trolley dash of the shopping experience. So what would make an Ikea warehouse look like a home? Cats. And cats conveniently enough also have the power to spread videos on the internet. Here's the background.

So far, so awesome. But when you see the finished TV ad, a lot of that potential awesomeness has vanished. Although cat videos are the internet's uber-meme, there is no trace of reference to them other than the animals themselves. The cats are being used outside of the rich seam of references that could be played upon in the films. Which makes it all a little bit 'glossy production no culture'.

It all seems to be taking itself a bit seriously. Now since we're talking about serious TV ads here's how to do several levels of postmodern category awareness. Baby Carrots: Eat 'Em Like Junk Food is the best ad I've seen since Old Spice - it plays every 'taking itself too seriously' trick/cliche in the book with the full knowledge that the audience know that they are tricks/cliches too, and that it is only by going to the ironic extreme that a junk food ad would go to seriously, that you can suggest re-evaluating baby carrots in a junk food wrapper. And more importantly they are fun.

Sort of like Tango - an excuse to embed my favourite 90s Tango ad

Monday, 6 September 2010

What a social network for music might look like

(Clue - not this)

This wasn't meant to be a post about Ping, Apple's pitiful attempt to launch a social platform around the huge wealth of listening data that iTunes holds on 160m people around the world. The less said about Ping the better really - i'll just point out that of the recommended artists to follow in the screengrab above, I have listened to none of them (ever). And that I last shared music recommendations with other people an hour ago, but Ping can import my social graph from none of the four networks I already use to do that (all of which have open APIs)

No, Apple sort of hijacked something much more important. It was me
ant to celebrate the fact that I've been using LastFM for a year (i mean using properly, rather than just having an account). And in the last year that really has been something that has meant a lot to me. Not the service itself..... well, actually partly the service itself, because being a massive geek I do get excited about being able to chart lots of different parameters of my music listening. (I swear I've never made a spreadsheet from LastFM data though, honest). No, what is more important is using that data to power the best curation and discovery engine imaginable for 'music i might like' - other people who like the same stuff.

So as it's been a year I did look at an 'end of year chart' type of thing, mainly to find out how many of the albums I'd listened to most I had discovered on LastFM. Of the top 25 albums I've listened to most over the last year, 12 of them were by artists I h
ad never heard until they cropped up in my Neighbourhood or Recommended radio. I think that's pretty awesomeThe one thing you can't use it for is to play all this stuff to other people. I've made a playlist on Spotify with my most played tune off each album, which you can find here if you are interested. If you don't know whether you are interested then just look here to see how similar your musical tastes are to mine

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cause and Effect

One of the inherent problems with marketing things on the internet is that some bits of the process are very very easy to measure. That's not a problem for people who sell things online, as they can easily understand how many of them were sold and at what cost. The problems start to arise when the things being marketed are either sold elsewhere, and even more so if they are not intended to be bought immediately: if for instance the goal of the marketing is to change people's perception of a brand. Hence banners are still regularly measured on click through rates, even if the product they are advertising isn't for sale on the page being clicked through to. Clickthrough rate is clearly to wrong thing to measure in this instance but it is EASY to measure, so often taken as a proxy for less tangible results.

As brands become more interested in the social web, there is a real danger of making the same mistake again. As for many brands the social web currently means social networks (and for a large proportion of them social networks largely mean Facebook) the easy measurement tends to be numbers of Likes (/fans/followers/etc). Social networks are where people are spending more time, so brands want to be there. To justify being there, they
need to measure something. Numbers of fans are easy to measure as brands and their agencies can plan, track and optimise their activity over time, and because Facebook has a straightforward advertising platform they don't have to think differently to how they always have done.

The problem with using these numbers as an objective is that no-one knows what value to attribute to them. You and I know that attributing a single value to them is meaningless, as every brand will be investing in community for different reasons and starting from different places, but that hasn't stopped a range of 'one number' valuations being put on Facebook fans. I'm going to ignore the Nielsen research published a few months ago, as I'm sure you have too if you have read more than a few lines into the introduction, but it's worth reading
The Ad Contrarian's analysis of it. Syncapse's 'Value of a Fan' study is more interesting because unlike Nielsen it is genuinely empirical research - it starts from the premise of trying to things out find out, rather than trying to prove them. It also accepts that all brand communities are fundamentally different so any 'one number' can only be an average.

So in ambition and objectives it seems sound - and is worth a read (download from here). But then I get very confused by the methodology. This is a summary of the findings:
Or alternatively have a look at the higher res image here. The study looks at money spent on a brand by fans and non-fans, and find that fans spend more money than non-fans.

Let's stop and think about this for a minute. A major research organisation actually thinks that it is worthy of our time and attention to know that if you like a brand, you will spend more money on it than someone who doesn't like it as much. Or put another way, brand marketing for the last 40 years works, but it's only now that we've got a survey of 4,000 Facebook users that it can finally be proved.

OF COURSE people who like a brand spend more money on it. That is A. not news and B. nothing to do with Facebook. Attributing that as value to Facebook fans is a basic misunderstanding of cause and effect. People liking brands has any number of CAUSES, of which what they do on Facebook is a tiny part. One EFFECT of their liking the brand is that they choose to sign up to receive more information from the brand, or to display their affection to their friends (this in turn may cause more people to interact with said brand, but that is not the subject of this study). Quite often people liking a brand is a result of great advertising - the best advertising makes people fans for no other reason than because the ads are so good, and one of the places that this is reflected is in social networks. Old Spice and Compare the Market saw their Facebook fans numbers increase as dramatically as their market share in response to great advertising. Both increases were therefore EFFECTS of great advertising. But to take one effect and infer a causual relationship with the other is plain wrong: so if instead of more bits of culture, Old Spice bought a load of 'become a fan' ads, this would not have the same impact on their market share. The implication of causal relationship made by this study is no different to saying that for instance:

When it snows, there are more road traffic accidents
When it snows, my toes get cold
Therefore by warming my toes up, we can reduce deaths on the road.

This confusion of cause and effect starts to lead marketers into dangerous territory - if one number can be applied to fans without questioning whether it means anything, then there is genuine justification in buying them - either by soft methods like 'Become a Fan' ads, or by harder ones like buying them on Ebay (no seriously - you can buy Twitter followers on Ebay. Fuck knows why. Check this pic courtesy of @sparkey).

Now there are lots of ways that Facebook is a great set of tools for marketers, but by buying into the cause & effect confusion we are in danger of missing the most important ones.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Augmented TV

Never mind that we haven't got a reliable way to get internet content onto the home's biggest screen yet (I've been banging on about an Apple TV announcement for it happening this week?) there's now an AR browser for TV - MetaMirror is effectively an app for smaller screened devices that can view TV content and overlay extra info - like recipe info in the picture, but let's face it, real time odds and click-to-buy ads would be the business model. Or imagine the Tesco API powering a cooking programme - with one click add to basket functions....

It makes sense that augmented TV will go down this route, as using two screens is far easier than using one - ask anyone who has tried to live tweet from their desktop while streaming TV on it - you end up minimising, moving and generally messing around with windows rather that watching. When Google TV launches I'd expect a Goggles-powered Android app that does the same thing running Adsense alongside the augmentations.

(link and photo courtesy of PFSK)