Sunday, 30 November 2008

Geeks and Apple Fans


I was reading Douglas Copeland on the 25th anniversary of the Mac in Intelligent Life today (I do still sometimes read things on paper, even though i can't link to them), and as well as being as obsessive and superior as all Apple fan writing, it also suggested that Apple was a geek brand. I've always been fairly neutral about Apple products... actually no, I've always tried to be, but then get wound up by the fanboys who look down their noses at better products made by other companies. What I mean is that I don't personally use their machines as I don't like the software, but can see how you could get seduced by the hardware into overlooking the stuff i don't like.

It was the Geek label that confused me though, as to me Apple should be everything that a geek hates. It's the last big walled garden, that has never opened up hardware or software for computing or phone products. Personalisation, hacking and enhancing are core to geekery, whereas Macs are meant to be used exactly as they are - it is industrial era design; "we are the manufacturers, we know best". It also represents the opposite of open source, at a time when even major labels are moving away from DRM.

So I had a look back at what exactly we think of as a geek. Wikipedia has the following definition

"a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, gaming, etc.

So you can be a subject specific geek like a maths geek or even an Apple geek. And I suppose it is a tech geek that would find the most problems with Apple - after all, being a geek is all about not conforming to mainstream opinions. But that is getting into splitting hairs - geek is also a generic term. So i completed the Geek Test on innergeek, which pretty much confirmed that all the things that I considered geeky are accurate. It also confirmed that I was a major geek, and I have the badge to prove it.
major geek
(The fact that I am writing this post would probably put me up to the next level in itself. As would the fact I care). So I thought about who I would class as geeks.... and the obvious place to start is England's Head Geek, the man who can make a social network famous and break a Blackberry with a few tweets, Stephen Fry. OK, probably the world's biggest Apple fan. 2nd person in the UK to own a Mac. Can communicate with the Twitterverse using iPhone video in parts of Madagascar where there isn't even a phone signal.

So i asked around the office, and sure enough, most people whose geek opinions i respect actually bring their Macbooks in to work rather than have to suffer using PCs.

So am I missing something? What part of the walled garden of Apple DRM is convincing everyone else that it is the one true tech path? Anyone?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Lighting lots of fires

The phrase comes from Mark Earls & Alex Bentley's piece on spreading through copying - the more things you start, the more strategies you pursue, the more chance one has of getting picked up and spread successfully

Anyway, the barrier to brands really getting stuck into this way of working (especially in these belt-tightening times) is that it goes against all traditional marketing business practices of controlling everything and putting huge investment into one big idea. As agencies our job SHOULD be to help make the case for starting future business practices now, so that brands get an advantage over all their competitors still stuck in the 20th century. Obviously it isn't as easy as that, and it is in this context that SnapAds fits. Snapads offers automatic optimisation of online display creative, testing various permutations of imagery and copy in the same way that Google auto-optimises paid search creative.

SnapAds - Display Ad Optimization from SnapAds on Vimeo.
While it isn't radically different in what the end results look like, using this system would be a step-change in the way that brand managers think about advertising messages. It's also a good time to start thinking this way before this type of adserving technology comes to a TELEVISION near you.

It's also interesting because it proves Earls & Bentley's point at the start. Even at this micro level, we don't know what t he most effective mix of imagery and copy will be. Teh internets know, as this chart shows
(hat tip to TechCrunch for story and image)


NB. Statbollox warning. 1922% increes sound gud. 0.395% increes sound relistik

Spitting out the V word

A really important distinction passed on from Henry Jenkins:(via Joe Marchese in Mediapost's Online Spin)

People spread viruses by accident. It is not intentional to give someone a cold

When we ask people to spread things on behalf of brands, we aren't trying to trick them. But we need to make sure that they are getting something from it (other then the flu). If you think about telling a joke to your friends, the joke itself isn't important, it is the fact that you are making them laugh. People like to laugh, they look well on people who initiate it. And they re-tell the joke to generate the same social capital

So do we really want campaigns to get 'viral'? Or do we want to not leave it to chance, and create stuff that people want to share?

Monday, 24 November 2008

Monty Python's flying DVD sales


I've been watching this story since it bro
ke a couple of weeks ago (or at least when I wasn't watching the Monty Python archive on YouTube itself). Obviously this has generated a huge spike in python-related chat online:
(Posts that contain Monty Python per day for the last 30 days.)
Technorati Chart
But it is also important because this is a high profile example of a Freemium business model that is not just put out there to see if it works. Freemium? The business model of the Long Tail. Free content for everyone who wants it builds reputation and is easy to share. Assets that are easy to share are also more likely to be remixed, rebuilt, incorporated into other good stuff with even wider appeal. So although there may not be many people that need to buy the really exclusive content that has a premium price attached, the content will reach them, and will create more of them. This isn't an ad campaign that a few milllion people [might] see: this is freely available to everyone with a computer. If 0.00001% of them buy a DVD, that's some profit margin.

And how do we know that this wasn't a test, it was guaranteed to work? Because it launched in the run up to Xmas shopping, when DVD box sets are at their most appealing. And becuase the brilliant video above directs people to pythonline to buy rather than Amazon (presumably Cleese & co.'s profits are higher on their own site).

And why did I wait till now to talk about it? Because I wanted to see some sales figures, to show that the 0.00001% is a fairly pessimistic rate. Thanks to Jemima Kiss in the Guardian for actually finding them out - Monty Python sales on Amazon since 12th November? over 1000% up.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Future of Social Media

We've got a sort of deal at work, that anyone who goes to an interesting conference, especially one paid for by the company, presents all the best bits back to the everyone else over a few sandwiches on a Tuesday lunchtime. So I started trying to write up the Future of Social Media day I went on a couple of weeks back, and it sort of grew into 'what i think about marketing' mashed up with lots of other peoples' theories and analogies (referenced as we go). Not worked out Slideshare notes yet, so the words, links and thoughts that go with it are below.
The Future Of Social Media
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: brands technology)
1. The Future of Social Media

2. What this isn’t about.

There are lots and lots of sites out there that are based on the principle of the network. I’m more interested in the network than the sites….

3. or this….

I’ve seen loads of case studies,, from media owners, viral distribution companies, researchers and authors. So I’m not going to cover the same ground. I’ve been to a couple of conferences in the last few weeks which were mainly meant for marketing folk, and the speakers were some of the top strategists working in social media, some techie, some agency and some brand marketers. And they were trying to explain a little bit further ahead than the case studies do, to really go into why stuff works on the internet. Most of the ideas come from Andy Hobsbawn, Rohit Bhargava, Justin Billingsley, and Matt Mason. With a lot more added in that I’ve learnt from Neil Perkin, Faris Yakob, David Cushman, Chris Anderson, and Kevin Kelly. So I’ve tried to distill all this down.….

4. What I am going to talk about

What’s going on, What we can do to help our clients. And what we can do ourselves

5. What is a brand?

I’m going to talk a bit about how changing technology affects brands, so it is worth having a look at what a brand was. If you go back to when products like Coca Cola were launched, the brand was a symbol that you could trust and rely on to deliver quality and value for money. This worked because in the days before fast communications, the only people you could rely on for information were family and friends, and probably only those in your immediate vicinity. The brand became a mark of reputation – almost like a substitute for someone you know having told you that coke tasted good.

6. We are social animals

We haven’t changed – our species has grown up around narrative. Linguistic development gave us the competitive advantage to out-evolve our closest competitors. Companionship and a sense of belonging are basic human requirements. We need to belong to tribes, whether through shared interests, family bonds, religious beliefs, or supporting the same team, as this feeds our sense of who we are – it makes us human. Stories are what grow up around the tribes. Technology just opens up wider groups of people who share our interests – the tribes become bigger, and better informed, and the stories more complex.

7. Industrial Marketing

The idea of brands as a proxy for information grew up in the industrial age. The broadcast transmission of information belongs to this era too: it is a linear process where raw materials, labour and distribution are expensive, so needs to work on a huge scale in order to be effective. Linear production meant standards of living soared during the 20th century, and products became more reliable – to the extent towards the end of the century that the role of a brand moved away from its original definition as a substitute for recommendation, and became a set of imagery and design: a metaphor rather than a promise.

8. The production line

But the production line model was used as the basis for marketing products too. Like in the factories, raw materials (ad agencies) were expensive, so huge scale was needed at the start of the process. Getting the imagery in front of the eyeballs is even more expensive: that is what media agencies did. It is the goal of industrial marketing, because it relies on the audience being attentive. To be honest, with two or three TV channels, they usually were.

9. And how did that work?

Well how did that work? This bloke is called William Hesketh Lever, a soap manufacturer in at start of the 20th century. He made the very famous, and extremely over-used quote half his advertising budget was wasted, but he didn’t know which half. (the effective half was very effective though, and his company has since changed its name from Lever Brothers to Unilever).

That has become a truism in our industry that we have spent vast sums of our clients’ research budgets trying to correct.

10. And did we?

And this is a picture of what we’ve come up with. If anyone has ever tried feeding an 8 month old baby then they will know that it is messy, there’s a lot of wastage, and it quickly becomes very frustrating that any sort of dialogue or reasoning won’t happen until some unspecified point in the future. But after a lot of work, the baby gets enough to keep going. And I’m sure you can guess the point that I’m labouring… this is pretty much the same as mass media advertising

(thanks to Rohit Bhargava at Influential Marketing for the analogy)

11. Not this….

We know it would be better if communication was a two-way idea, but for now we keep shovelling in the food. All that research to find out which 50% was wasted has confirmed that recommendation is the best way to convince people of something. And going back to our coca cola example, a brand is still a substitute for actual recommendation.

12. What has changed?

But marketing is still a way of creating economic advantage. So has economics changed? (ignoring the last couple of months’ worth of banking disasters). Well here is a definition of ‘economics’, and this starts to explain where the change comes in. The key word is ‘scarce’. Because networked distribution changes everything

13. What will happen next?

This is Gordon Moore. He set up a company called Intel. He is very very rich. In 1965 he observed that although the number of transistors that could be placed on a circuit board had doubled every two years since the invention of the integrated circuits in 1958, and predicted that this exponential growth would continue unchecked. So far he has been proved right, and this law of exponential increase in computing speed and memory capacity is what has fundamentally changed our methods of communication.

14. Scarcity and abundance

In the industrial age, media were expensive. Movies relied on people and technology to create them, and time, space and money to distribute and store them . Newspapers were hugely labour intensive to write, expensive to physically print, and had to be distributed quickly to maintain demand. The increases in processing power and storage predicted by Moore’s Law mean that production and storage is now virtually free. The internet means that distribution is virtually free. So information and entertainment is now infinite, while Economics relies on scarcity to define value. And a virtually infinite amount of information and entertainment is a drain on the finite amount of attention available to consume it. What is scarce, and therefore valuable, is attention. As people form networks, their attention becomes focused more on conversation – on non-commercial media. Familiarity breeds trust, as it did for the industrial era brands. So now we trust people we don’t know just as much as we those we do.

15. What a brand will be

In this environment where immediate open global communication with people that we don’t know but that we trust is the norm, there is no need for a substitute for recommendation. A brand is whatever people say it is. This is important, as it isn’t what brand marketers or the media say it is. Rather than being a one-way substitute for recommendation, as it has been all the way through the era of industrial marketing, a brand is now the sum total of all the recommendations that already exist for it. And this is a dialogue. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives, then the main thing a brand has to do is be talked about. And if the conversation is negative, then it is easy to find out using a whole range of free tools like Brand Tags, and to address the negatives. In an open conversational way.

16. Recommendation and Reputation

Remember that by conversation, I do mean real life as well as online. It‘s just that more conversation happens online and it happens globally and immediately. And recommendation online also helps your product’s sales directly. ‘Recommendation’ online is hyperlinked. When Google launched, the huge advantage it had over all the other search engines that were around at the time was that rather than just counting the number of time a word appeared on a page to give a relevancy score, it also included the number of links to that page – ie it counted how many times the page had been recommended. The total number of recommendations made up the page’s Reputation, or quality score. So it follows that to grow your market, a brand must be part of the conversation

17. Markets are Conversations

In fact, markets are conversations. I like the first quote, not just because it is true, but because it sort of proves the second.

We forget how revolutionary the Cluetrain Manifesto was in 1999, and sure enough it took longer than two years for technology to change the world. But it is worth remembering when listening to geeks like me get overexcited about the future that this I’m probably underestimating the change in the next ten years

18. Intelligence Development

Why? Well since the internet was invented, it has slowly grown to a point where it has roughly the same number of computers connected as there are cells in the human brain, and about the same number of links as there are connections. The number of synapses, or connections, in our brains is taken as a proxy for intelligence – it is basically processing power. So in 16 years between 1990, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the worldwide web, and 2007 when Kevin Kelly wrote this theory, the internet has developed the intelligence of one person.

And as we’ve seen, Moore’s Law means that all the processors, and all the storage, and all the other capacity will each be doubling in capacity every two years. By 2040, the internet will have the brainpower of 4 billion people.

The next big development will be the move from the Internet of data to the internet of things – everything can communicate with everything else.

We are going to move over the next few years from millions of computers CONNECTED by the internet, to one huge computer that IS the internet. Every device will be a window into it. Your phone will be able to socially network with other phones in the surrounding area, and only alert you if you need to know about the people carrying them. This will obviously mean that a huge amount of data is flying around, and that where there is more information, there is less attention. So brands will have to work even harder to earn that attention. Most of the time they will not be able to communicate with us unless they are invited into our digital life by our devices. As an example, if you switch on your phone, only ads that are better than the programmes you want to see will have been showing up as recommended for you. You will not need to look any further than your phone’s recommendations, as it knows far more than you could ever have time to about what you want to watch. Gaining attention by interrupting people starts to look a bit outdated.

19. Information Systems

So the result in a completely connected, always on world, is that the internet is like air – always there, but in the background. People are starting to worry about Google dependancy where they are no longer able to remember things because they have come to rely so much on just being able to search. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from a Wifi connection for very long. But is this reliance on an information system really such a bad thing?

Remember, the internet is not a medium, it is a way of organising and structuring information. To have more chance of unlocking its potential, we need to think of it in terms of other systems for structuring information. For example, the alphabet. We haven’t worried about relying on the alphabet to store our information for the last 1500 years. And we don’t use the alphabet as an advertising medium. Well, we do, obviously – copy is written in words, ideas are created and sold in words. But it is something so fundamental that it goes on in the background. If we think of technology in terms of media channels like TV and radio, our frame of reference is too narrow

20. Opportunities not to see

Now I don’t think that very much of that is futuristic…

Not least because I can’t wait until I can google my car keys when i can’t find them

As sci-fi author William Gibson said, and every advertising blogger has repeated, the future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed yet. I can already screen out all TV advertising, and all online advertising, search and display. But I don’t, cos I work in advertising. Most people don’t know how. Yet. Historically there was an understanding that advertising was a necessary evil, because it paid for content, and content was expensive. Now content is free and on YouTube (this is why YouTube are struggling to make money out of the old media economic model). Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information…. And content is just information.

21. What is technology?

Change has never happened faster than it is doing, and change will also never happen this slowly again. So it is important to understand what has changed and what hasn’t

Are the ones on the right technology? Are the ones on the left museum pieces? Technology is a relative concept - just a word for anything that wasn’t invented when you were born.

22. What will media look like?

And what will media look like? Media is just the means for distributing information, and this is one of Chris Anderson’s examples of what has changed. Hollywood was based on the fact that there were a limited number of really successful movies, after which demand fell quickly away to zero. Actually turns out it wasn’t that people only liked a few movies, rather that the distribution system was really inefficient at matching supply to demand. Although over 10,000 movies were being professionally made each year the capacity of US cinemas was only 120 movies – so they created the concept of the Blockbuster – the syndicated, extended, marketed extravaganza.. Now technology is able to cater for demand, the Blockbuster model starts to look very inefficient.

23. Broadcast Model

This is an image of the Blockbuster model from social media consultant David Cushman. Messages are one-way, and value is all about the number of eyeballs. This is industrial information.

24. Networked model

But what about when the audience BECOME the media channel – when they can create and distribute through networked conversation without relying on a broadcaster? And it is harder to interrupt a conversation than it is to interrupt content. Brands will have to become part of the conversation.

25. But what does all this mean?

26. Rampant Disintermediation

Whatever that means….It means the audience is up to something……

27. Summary so far

The role of a brand in the age of industrial marketing no longer exists

Attention is scarce and expensive. Media is not

We already have tools to avoid advertising. They will increase exponentially

28. What to do about it?

And what to do about it? Understand that all media is social. The revolution will be hyperlinked. We are now the producers and distributors of media. And there’s more people than there are media outlets. Change is only going to get faster, so the main thing for a brand to do is jump into it. I’m going to try and explain without referring to the same old case studies again

29. People haven’t changed

Confucius wrote this 2,500 years ago and it is still just as true today. What has changed is that the involving bit was always difficult, so as advertisers had to show & tell. Technology makes involving easier, and as we’ve seen, also make it much easier to avoid the show and tell stuff. If something is entertaining and involving, we will understand it and talk about it. This is the first thing brands can do to be part of the conversation

30. We are all individuals

You know the quote right? Actually in the world of real conversation, we are all individuals. When all media was mass, demographics made sense. Now a lot of media is becoming about one to one conversations, there’s no need to deal in averages any more. Remember, the average UK resident has one breast and one testicle. We could of course track and monitor everything that people do online, so that we can interrupt people in new and more relevant ways. And as long as the industry is open and thought-leading about the development of privacy laws, this will make direct response advertising far more effective. But that is jumping further straight into the middle of the conversation. We need to know what people are talking about first. If a brand is a sum of all the recommendations that exist for it, then all the brilliant targeting in the world won’t make up for crap products or poor customer service.

31. Light lots of fires

And how do you appeal to lots of different niches?

Simple. Do lots of things. Get busy.

But won't that be a bit half arsed? Well, Bill Buxton, who wrote Sketching User Experience, talks about an art college ceramics professor, who comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece. At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.

I like this analogy as it is what the more forward thinking brands have been doing. Testing everything. Orange’s Internet Balloon Race might have been a huge success, but equally, their island in Second Life looked great and had no visitors. So they are investing more in ideas like Internet Balloon races at the moment. Actually that’s an interesting example for media agencies to take note of – the balloon race is an example of advertising that media owners want to carry for free – 3000 sites, including the Sun and Vodafone, asked to be included. As you can imagine, no media budget was spent.

32. We don’t ignore marketing

Because we don’t ignore marketing…. we just ignore crap marketing – it’s become really easy. This is an example of what OTHER blender ads look like. Worth seeing, as you won’t have seen any blender ads. Well, any other blender ads. Obviously you’ve seen Blendtec, cos it’s great, and everyone’s seen it so you’d be missing out an important cultural meme if you hadn’t. But this is what the rest of the category does.

33. Fail little and often

So the real step change for clients is about not trying to build that perfect pot – it’s about not worrying about the bad ones. Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” We know that species of animal can remain unchanged for millennia, and then suddenly evolve in a few generations as their environment changes. As the internet ushers out the era of industrial marketing, we need to help our clients avoid erring on the side of caution.

34. We are the eighth mass medium

The first seven are print, audio, cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile. As I paraphrased from Kevin Kelly, soon these will all just be screens into the internet, and the mobile will presumably be the most important screen because it is always with us and always on.

WE are the distribution,

WE are the content,

WE are the 'user journey',

WE are how messages are transmitted.

WE are the medium and the media carried by it

(concepts from David Cushman and Tomi Ahonen)

35. What about content. Didn’t that used to be king?

And where does that leave the things we have watched and listened to? This is what TV was all about – the watercooler moment. This is why music drives popular culture. Now back in the early days of commercial TV, when people were first working out what to put on it, how it differed from press and radio, how you might use it to advertise, FMCG brands realised that there wasn’t enough of the right kind of shows to target their housewife target audiences. So they got together with the broadcasters and created regular chunks of real life drama that they could advertise household products around. Because of the way these shows came into being, and the content of the ads around them, they were dismissively referred to as ‘soap operas’.

Today CBS are setting up social viewing rooms to allow people to connect with other fans of shows in real time, and schedule their non-scheduled viewing around when their friends are watching (whether or not they are friends they have met). In the 50s, value was in content that appealed to mass audience. Today it is in the network that talks about that content.

36. Something to talk about

Because today, we are not limited to 2 TV channels or the radio as a choice of our evening’s entertainment. The advertising industry grew up on the basis that if it interrupted your viewing, there was very little that you could do about it. When the internet came along, it repackaged those expensive TV ads into small screen formats, and created something called a microsite, an online version of the millennium dome that cost lots but contained nothing. Content may “just” be something to talk about, but the value in a network economy is not in the content, it is in the talk.

37. This isn’t a new idea

Using advertising to generate PR isn’t a new idea, it’s just much easier now. Mainly because as we’ve seen ‘PR’ didn’t used to be true. It wasn’t Public relations, it was media relations. Now the media and the public is becoming the same thing, PR is becoming real and therefore has to be transparent and true. Anyway…these are the ads that made the careers of the Saatchi brothers and Trevor Beattie. None of them ran for long, and not much was spent buying media, but they were all about getting people talking. Back then, this meant do something so different or risque that the national news media talked about it, which meant everyone else found out about it. Now, it means the same except there is no longer a requirement for the national media. It isn’t a top-down broadcast economy any more.

38. How to be talked about

But being talked about is still about creating things that are remarkable. The analogy is Seth Godin’s: a brown cow isn’t interesting. If you have a purple cow, people will talk about it. Whether that is great advertising, exemplary customer service, a perfect product, even brilliant packaging.

39. Commitment not campaigning

This isn’t just an example of brilliant packaging – Innocent is a collection of values, experiences and nice touches, like cheeky bottles that carry on the conversation after you’ve drunk them, and this is important because you can’t run a traditional campaign socially. You can release ideas and assets into the wild, and if they are any good, they will mutate and spread. But there isn’t a beginning middle and end

40. Piracy is just another competitor

And mutating and spreading is what it is all about. The concept of owning copyright on something that costs nothing to produce or distribute is a fairly odd one. In the networked world, intellectual property is called reputation, and reputation is a result of sharing. Most businesses that relied on copyright during the industrial marketing era have realised that the world has changed: the quote on the slide is from the CEO of Disney. But it is more important to realise how things will change from now. For example, the Guardian became the first traditional newspaper publisher to publish full RSS feeds last month. This frees up all their content to be shared, embedded, linked and remixed by anyone that wants to. The New York Times has gone one step further, and released a number of APIs – if you don’t know what one of those is, think of Facebook apps or Google Maps. They allow any developer to build their data into new applications. To share and re-distribute is now the goal of business. Brands need to open up and copy publishers, because the user is the destination, not the website.

41. Why so serious?

And part of opening up is treating brands less seriously. It is difficult to see value in people who are co-creating stuff around your brand if you have a restrictive set if brand guidelines. Now if people are interested in your brand, then they will create and share around it regardless of what guidelines you have. The value in a networked economy is in what is shared. So if you want to take full advantage of this value as a brand, you need to lighten up and accept it. In fact, you really need to help and encourage it. People form networks for fun as much as for support, and brands that want to join in have to be able to do fun in a human voice.

42. Communication = dialogue

And whatever voice you use, the most important thing for brands to remember is that listening is more important. Brands generally aren't good at listening, because they've never had the opportunity to practice. Industrial marketing was too expensive to work as a dialogue, so brands had to rely on focus groups as a proxy. This tended to be conversation in a marketing voice, not a human one. It was also only a quick chat, not a conversation

43. Marketing is customer service

Dialogue is an ongoing process – brands will be found out if they screw up at any stage of their relationship with people.

Comcast had a similar reputation in the US to NTL/Virgin here in the UK: the ISP equivalent of Ryanair. Or at least it was until one bloke in their minimal customer service department realised that he could cut through the bureaucracy and speak to people directly and in a human voice on Twitter. Google ‘comcast customer service’ and this is in the first three results. .Markets are conversations, and marketing is customer service

44. We are what we share

Okay so we’ve seen that brands are just the sum total of all the conversations that they are involved with. We’ve seen that content is just information, and all information is free to Google and to the Single Big Computer that all our screens are going to peer into. And we’ve seen why media is no longer scarce, and therefore why it is now attention that is valuable.

This is why free is now a viable business model. IBM for example used to be in the computer business. As we’ve seen, there isn’t much value producing hardware any more, so they moved to the consultancy business. And a lot of what they do is given away by an research organisation called the IBM Institute for Business Value. This is all research from top level academics, that would cost thousands of pounds a few years ago. By giving this away, their content reaches the attention of more potential customers than other consultancies. They develop reputation and authority. In the past, we were what we owned. Now we are what we share.

Closer to home, anyone in a media agency who has tried to present social media to a client soon realises the value of sharing. The only robust global survey on social media usage was conducted by Universal McCann. Rather than locking this expensive research away for their own clients’ use, it has been widely shared to strategy bloggers, and distributed to agencies round the world. If I try and present any facts about social media to a client, I will refer to our competitor’s market leading research, and position Universal McCann as the authority on social media.

45. Experiences will always be scarce

So if image isn’t enough to create business advantage any more, and both the production and distribution of media are close enough to free to be done by anyone, how do you stand out enough to build reputation? How about looking at what isn’t abundant? Creating experiences. Standing for something. Being generous. Orange Rockcorps connects worthy causes with willing volunteers (whether they are digging a hole or playing at the Royal Albert Hall), it connects music fans with live music, it CONNECTS. It puts the brand at the centre of a network – enabling the network, creating experience and doing good.

46. What should brands do?

Listen to what people want. Enable it. Commit don’t campaign, and remember communication is a two-way process.

47. Conversation not conversion

So what can we learn from the most expensive marketing campaign in the history of the world? From the moment he became the Republican nominee, McCain focused on one thing – making sure he had people’s vote on 4th November. Obama on the other hand had been asking for people who supported him to give $10 since the start of 2007. The 4m people who did remained in contact through email, through the campaign network mybarackobama, and via Twitter, Facebook, etc. When the time came to ask people to come out and vote, there were 4m people ready to make 5 phone calls each to undecided voters when they were asked to. The campaign didn’t need to rely on overworked campaigners, just millions of volunteers doing a little bit each. And those donations that started them off meant that the Democrat campaign could outspend the Republicans by 3 to 1 in battleground states. (and do something different for half an hour of mainstream primetime television, as the future isn’t evenly distributed yet)

48. Join in

It is the same for us as it is for the brands we represent. You wouldn’t think of planning press without reading newspapers, and you wouldn’t have much of a future as a TV planner if you didn’t know plenty about the programmes. Being part of the social media is a two way thing though, and while we all have Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo and Myspace profiles (and if you don’t, get one of each, and use it for a while) so do most of our clients. If we’re going to be able to advise them on how to use dialogue as an advertising medium, we need to know it ourselves.

49. Learn from others

There’s also a lot of people out there who want to share their ideas - I’ve listed some of the ones whose ideas contributed to this…

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Business and generosity

There is a whole lot of genius ideas, quotes and images in this deck by Neil Perkin on networked brand strategy and how generosity is the future of business. I've seen a few references to this sort of theory (particularly Umair Haque's, which Neil references), but never really got it before about why this is more than a utopian/hippy view of Chris Anderson's Free is the Future of Business. The idea that Brands = Making People Happy makes sense of so many different ideas around at the moment, as well as being a beautifully simple yet counter-intuitive concept.
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: digital google)

Monday, 17 November 2008

Opportunities not to see….




The rest of the family has been away for the weekend, and it’s made me realise how easy it is to write when the TV isn’t on (ok, it’s made me realise how much easier it is to write when there isn’t a baby trying to eat the laptop as well, but anyway…). If I lived in a BARB household, pretty much everything I write would be whilst I was
being counted as an active TV viewer. I believe the technical Touchpoints term is concurrent consumption (ie two media channels at once). So I was in a research meeting today, talking about the relative value of TV impacts , which has historically been higher than other types of media. For example, Millward Brown studies over the years weight magazine impacts at about 60% of the value of TV impacts, because although ads in mags are more likely to be contextually more relevant than TV ads, there is also less likelihood of you actually seeing one if you have just opened up one issue. And because BARB is a more detailed and accurate survey than NRS, etc. This is before you factor in how audio-visual content has proven over the years to build emotional bonds with brands.

So that got me thinking about how we (that’s we the people, not we the media planners) are viewing TV. This is a moot point at the moment, because on the one hand TV has never had better content, never been cheaper in real terms, and in all probability will be watched even more next year when we can’t afford to go out of the house. But on the other I don’t know anyone who watches many TV ads any more. I think this is the underlying factor behind Tess Alps’s increasingly
frantic repeating of all the pluses for TV advertising
that I mentioned earlier, to remind the Guardian Tech readership that, yes, some people do watch telly still. Because there is no avoiding the facts: audio-visual ads still build brands more effectively than other traditional advertising formats, broadcast TV is still the quickest route to play those ads, and it is cheaper to do so on broadcast TV than ever before.

….But….

what if more and more people are watching all of the hugely diverse quality content on TV, but not seeing the ads? Obviously we know there are plenty of Sky+ and V+ boxes out there – 17% of the country at the last count (although as the last count was made by TGI, it WAS 6 months ago). Now received wisdom is that having one of these devices means you watch more telly. I know I do. And that while you obviously record some programmes and probably skip the ads in them, the increase in amount watched is more than the total amount timeshifted. This all comes from BARB data (admittedly with a Thinkbox spin) from 2006.

Trouble is, if you test this theory on unsuspecting members of the public, they tend to laugh at you. There’s a fundamental disconnect between UK qual and all US research , which says that we don’t watch TV ads, and UK quant (and this is all BARB stuff, so proper sample sizes), which says it isn’t a problem that we need to worry about at the moment except for a few must watch dramas that are disproportionately heavily timeshifted (but where we can buy cheap ads in the on-demand version anyway). So how come there is such a perception gap?

Well the main reason is VOSDAL. Viewed On Same Day As Live. A piece of BARB terminology that dates back to the VHS era, which was designed to add as many timeshifted viewings (you remember the kind – put chunky tape in recorder, fight for half an hour to programme the thing, keep the tape for months after you’d watched it because you didn’t want to delete something that had been such bloody hard work to get onto the tape in the first place) into the overnight figures that TV buyers managed their campaigns around. All timeshifted viewing is still reported back now as either same day or later

Thing is, it isn’t that difficult to record a programme now. Personally, I like live viewing, because you can use the EPG to skip around. But if the phone rings, the baby cries, I fancy a cup of tea, whatever, I’ll hit pause. Because I can. Actually, it works even better if it’s on a commercial channel, because then there will be 9 minutes of ads every hour that will let me catch up with live again, to get my EPG back. And I'm not the only one. Everyone who has Sky+ does this. That's what it is designed for, and it is what the Sky+ ads are all about



In fact ideally, we need VOSSAL – Viewed In Same Second As Live – to have confidence in our ad campaigns. So I had a look at BARB’s FAQs and methodologies to find out what counts as VOSDAL today. Please follow the links if you can be bothered, and if you find any evidence that it has changed from the VHS days let me know, because I couldn’t. In fact, when I rang BARB, their helpdesk couldn’t tell me either. All they could do was assure me that the overnights were accurate. Now BARB is statistically extremely accurate, so I don’t doubt them. But I don’t think that they actually measure if DVR owners are watching ads. And I suspect that this might be why I get so suspicious that Thinkbox have got something to hide when they tell us that TV has never been better. It hasn't of course: we have the best telly in the UK now that any country has ever had, and it will get even better when Kangaroo launches. But the audience is up to something, and I'm not sure if BARB are able to monitor it.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The best media pack ever

I've seen loads and loads of media packs over the years. Some I've even downloaded myself because I wanted to read them rather than having them turn up unannounced as an inbox clogging 7mb attachment. So it was great to meet with GoViral last week and get a beautifully presented coffee table hardback book called The Social Media Metropolis, which didn't really try to sell me any of their services. To be honest, this in itself puts it in the top 1% of ways that media owners communicate with media agencies. When you read the content though, you see that it perfectly embodies what the brand is about, as it is basically an explanation of how the communications landscape has changed from Cluetrain onwards. It uses a few case studies from GoViral's clients, but it doesn't do hard sell. It just explains why. And it takes 120 pages of expensively designed hardback to do so.

And the result....I've read it from cloth covered cover to cloth covered cover. Over the weekend. And taken photos of it.

GoViral's business is all about creating purple cows - remarkable stuff, branded content so good that you want to spend time with it and to tell other people about it. And as they so clearly know what they are doing, they will be my first port of call next content campaign. Only takes one or two campaigns to pay for a hardback media pack.

Old publishing/New publishing 2

Jeremiah Owyang - 15,331 Twitter followers (twittercounter.com)
NMA - Circulation 5,816 (ABC)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

If the BBC took advertising....

Found this link as a display ad on iMedia.


This is what a BBC media pack looks like, which almost seems like a glimpse into a parallel world.....

Also love the concept that of the BBC marketing itself as influencing the influencers. I suppose it shows the power of the BBC brand in the UK that I find this all so utterly incongruous.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Fan post....Airborne Toxic Event

Ok, this isn't what i write about, but i'm claiming it as I keep getting drawn into writing about music as it is so important to brands, especially the mobile brands who tend towards interesting marketing
Anyway, if you like Arcade Fire as much as I do, these guys rock!


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The information democracy hits old media

The New York Times has released three APIs in the last month. No, I didn't hear about it either. Doesn't even register when you search on Guardian Media, but it is a far bigger step to freeing information from the traditional publishers' archives than the Guardian's move to publish full text RSS last month.

Campaign Finance API app


Why is this? Because of what an API (Application Programming Interface) allows thrird party developers to do. As an example, the most famous APIs are those of Facebook and Google Maps. They are the code that allows content to be remixed, mashed up, passed on, and generally made useful for people.

And why so important for developers? To use an example from Adam Broitman's article for MIN Online:

Say you are a movie buff who decided to create an amateur movie review site. Along with every one of your reviews you want to include one of The New York Time’s 22,000 movie reviews (dating back to 1924). In theory (as there are rules that govern the use of the API) you can build an application that automatically pulls the movie review, and all information that The New York Times has on the movie you are reviewing, into a format that you designed for presentation on your site.

And why so important for traditional publishers? Well, we don't really know yet, as there's no subscription cost, and obvious source of ad revenue. What is really important is that this information used to be hidden away in a destination site, and is now free to move around wherever developers' imaginations take it. Say the example above takes off, then the NYT's reputation will grow as the reference point for online movie reviews. We don't know how the future revenue model of the internet will work, but you can be fairly sure that money will follow reputation.

Do we think the UK tech/media press missed this as they didn't think it was significant?

Monday, 10 November 2008

White Space and Super WiFi

Somewhere hidden away beneath the election fallout last week came the news from the US that white space, the unused frequency between TV stations' analogue transmissions, is going to be freed up for use by the communications industry. The FCC ruling came after heavy lobbying from Google, who stand to benefit most from the new bandwidth as TV switches over to digital.

The main benefit for people away from their home internet connection appears to be turbocharged Wifi, broadcasting over far wider ranges and at much higher speeds than is currently possible. Obviously more time spent online means more revenue for Google, so a good short term gain for them.... The real potential for immediate step change though is what happens if these bandwidths could be used for voice calling. As Jeff Jarvis comments in the NY Post

When we can get fast bandwidth on portable devices, we can use those gadgets to do anything from making phone calls to browsing the Web.

In other words, kiss those old phones and two-year contracts goodbye and turn to new, open devices that run software from - you guessed it - Google.

Suddenly the open platform Android looks like a the consumer champion when compared to those walled garden mobile networks, not to mention the iPhone. All radical stuff, and in the run up to the analogue switch-off over here, something that is equally applicable in the UK...

Or is it? After all, public service broadcasting is a far bigger beast in the UK than the US. Surely free national turbo wifi in place of the BBC's analogue bandwidth would remove large amounts of criticism over the licence fee (especially if it was subsidised by a partnership with Google). Alternatively, with C4 negotiating for licence fee funding to maintain its public sector remit, and basing the case on the fact that they are losing valuable analogue bandwidth when they switch to digital, is there a rationale for OFCOM allowing them to keep their current bandwidth after switchover, and auction it off on the open market?