Monday, 30 November 2009
Friday will be my last day at Mindshare. After ten years in various marketing analyst jobs (ish - there's been some fun side projects along the way too) I'm leaving to work for EMI. There'll be things to do that are marketing and things that aren't and to tell the truth, I'm not sure exactly what it will be yet, which is why I'm excited. And it's been too long since work has got me properly excited.
So no more Wallpapering Fog for now. If it turns out to still be useful, I'll start posting again. I can't start a music related blog as I don't know enough about it (yet)!
This has been a brilliant place to put thoughts in order and have a rant and I'd highly recommend blogging to anyone who works in marketing. Just don't put Google Analytics on your site if you've got the kind of obsessive personality that will eagerly track visitor numbers. It's evil. And slightly depressing. Blog for yourself and if other people read it, then that's a bonus.
Cheerio & thanks for reading,
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
So it is with click path, the Holy Grail of web analytics.
On the web, give or take a blocked cookie or two, we can track an individual's viewing of ads across multiple websites and over time. Then we can see what they did on our own website - did they go on to buy?
Did they see a branded ad, then visit us and a few of our competitors' sites, then see a price offer for our product and then purchase? And if they did, wouldn't it be amazing to know exactly how that worked?
Projects like this have been tried off-line once or twice and resulted in a horrendously expensive waste of time.
But online it's easier, online all the data is at our fingertips...
Which makes it an easier decision to pour money into the pit.
The first 'surprise' of click path analysis is quite how much data it generates. I was talking to a planner the other day who'd requested the full history for a few thousand product purchases as an experiment to see what he could do with it. The nine million rows that came back were somewhat beyond Excel's capabilities to analyse. If you haven't got some serious SQL programmers on your team, forget it.
So now you've got yourself a major IT project - data collection, processing and analytics. Front ends and SQL databases. This is going to be expensive.
But the results will be worth it, no? The results will put us on the cutting edge.
Well actually, no. Not yet.
If you get to the big database without running out of budget or management patience (which is going to take a miracle) then you've got... not a lot. Now you need to analyse it.
There will be a few big wins. Some sites and ads will stick out as converting well and some general paths to sale will emerge. You could have found that out a lot more cheaply with well-designed surveys though and the rest of the database will just be noise. Lots and lots and lots of noise.
The only way to make use of the little bits of gain that exist in the noise is buying systems that can optimise tiny pieces of the schedule automatically - serving bespoke brand ads and price offers based on browser profiles and the ads they've already seen. Have you got one of those? No, me neither.
If you don't believe me, look at the long tail of a search campaign. You've generated clicks from thousands of words, sure, but 90% of your clicks came from the top twenty terms. The only reason it's worth having the long tail is because it's generated automatically.
Automatic click path analysis will get here, eventually, but the wins won't actually be that big. It's not the holy grail. If you're a media agency don't even try to build it, Google will get there, or a startup will get there, and it will be worth it for them because they can sell the solution to everyone. For most of us, it's a money pit and a reason to defer, prevaricate and delay doing the best that you can without it. In the words of Monty Python...
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Time for a back of a fag packet analytics session. How much free content can advertising support?
So far, I've seen this question approached in terms of dwell time and attention. A site attracts ten thousand visitors a month, they spend an average of three minutes looking at it and so through some kind of TV spot equivalence, broadcast ad space has a value. Either that or it's click through rates, in which case each site has a different value to different advertisers, depending on how well targeted the site is, and it all gets complicated very quickly.
Here's an easy way.
Average UK household income is £30,000 after tax.
Assume that on average, they will spend all of it (some will save and some will borrow, which is too much maths to fit on the back of a box of Marlboro Lights.)
Companies spend, on average, around 3% of their total turnover on advertising. (American data, from 2007. Stop moaning, it's a fag packet analysis.)
This would mean that in the UK, each household is generating about £900 per year of advertising. That's £17.31 per week.
With a few exceptions (traditional Outdoor advertising being one) all advertising piggy backs on content. ITV programmes, subsidised newspaper prices, websites, whatever. You permit companies to advertise to you in return for free stuff.
So we've got £17.31 per household per week to spend on content - all of it, from TV programmes to Twitter. Straight away you can see why a lot of web business models have got a problem. A Napster subscription is £10 a month, so free music would take about £2.50 off your weekly budget to start with. A Sky HD subscription is £55.75 a month all in*, which would take nearly £14 of your weekly budget.
As a rule of thumb, with a little bit left over, I think it makes sense to say that advertising could support content up to the value of a free Sky HD subscription, plus free on-tap music for everybody in the country. And no more. That's quite a lot of free stuff, but how many websites, TV channels, newspapers, magazines, sports matches and others have we got bidding for a piece of the pie?
* Yes I know Sky has a large element of ad funding too. It's a back of a... you know the rest.
Friday, 13 November 2009
These are some web design principles I've been using recently, but once committees get involved, they're a lot easier to come up with in the first place than to stick to...
- If it needs instructions or training, then it’s too complicated
- If something’s not being used, change it or get rid of it
- White space is better than a feature that isn’t clicked
- One page serves one purpose and a page fits on a screen
- Lots of text is a Bad Thing
- Cultural, not corporate
Thursday, 12 November 2009
This week's release of Modern Warfare 2 is set to become the fastest selling video game ever.
The hype around a big release builds over a long period, so if it was me, where would I put the marketing money? Start really, really early and try to build critical mass? Release it and then spend the cash? Or something in between.
Sounds like a job for Google Insights.
Lets have a look at what people do on Google before, during and after a game launch. This list gives us the top ten fastest sellers ever, so we know what we're working with.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Rockstar)
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, Rockstar)
- Gran Turismo 4 (PS2, Sony)
- Halo 2 (Xbox, Microsoft)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (PS2, Konami)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (PS2, Konami)
- FIFA '07 (PS2, EA)
- FIFA '06 (PS2, EA)
- The Getaway (PS2, Sony)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (PS2, Konami)
Line up the search data so that all the titles launch on the same week (and drop the older versions of games that are in there twice) and let's have a look.
Well, that was fun. First thing that strikes me is how similar they all are. Modern Warfare is definitely big, but that's not completely fair because quite a few of the others have got common abbreviations of their names that would give them more searches (Pro Evo 6 or GTA for Grand Theft Auto.) The shapes are very similar though, building together to a spike at launch. Halo and Grand theft auto both had a little rally post launch in about week 8, but overall, pretty close.
Enough coloured lines, lets normalise the whole lot to give them equal weight and then average all the releases.
Now that the clutter's out of the way, it's striking how fast the searches drop off. You're not flavour of the month, it's more like flavour of a few weeks at most. The little bump around week 8 is Halo and GTA again.
OK, so where does the ad money go? People actually searched continuously for Modern Warfare 2 from December 2008 all the way to launch this week so there's definitely a groundswell. They've got to be seriously motivated to be looking for you back then though and will snap up even the littlest news... Not worth a lot of effort for me, but teasing on some gamers forums once in a while would keep them keen for free.
Interest starts to ramp up ten weeks pre-launch. Now I'm going to put the budget in, building the campaign at about the same speed as the chart builds interest, so whatever is going in nine or ten weeks pre-launch, we're at more than double that level two weeks before. And then you hit it hard for the three weeks around the launch. Don't ask me what's the right overall budget, I'm doing this for fun. For money I'll get some more data from somewhere and have a go...
That's not quite the end. Overall searches can be all sorts of things without being purchases. Is it worth carrying on much post launch? The charts so far suggest not really and it all happens in a short, big hit. I'd like to see some data for terms like 'Buy Grand Theft Auto' but unfortunately if you try it, Insights defaults to monthly because it thinks there's not enough data. Please stop it Google, it's annoying. If the data's unstable, I'll behave with it, promise.
I'll leave you with one more interesting snippet. Only one of the games on the top-ten fastest selling list is in the twenty biggest console games ever: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (they'e all console games.)
Biggest selling is dominated by Nintendo, making games where the graphics matter less and the gameplay matters more, so they can sell them for less and over a much longer period.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
and Google auto completed
This dispute is going to come down to a popularity contest between the CWU, and Royal Mail. Both sides know it, hence the ads. The CWU is on a PR binge, with statements like this, from Dave Ward:
At this point of time, we have not had confirmation as to whether our proposal is acceptable and therefore the strikes previously announced for the next few days will take place. "
And I thought new media advocates talked in riddles. It turns out they're amateurs, union representatives have been at it for far longer with a different set of buzzwords.
Trouble is, it's far too late now for the CWU to try to get a lot of people on-side. Little Village Post Offices are charming and essential, but they're not most people's experience. Town Centre Post Offices are what most people know and they're hellish. And it's the CWU's fault.
When the UK Fire Service went out on strike in 2002, they largely had public support and they got their pay deal. The Fire Service had a lot of public goodwill to call on when the strike started but Post Office workers have almost none left.
Experience of a city centre post office is of a business that is deliberately obstructive. People who only want to post a letter have to queue with people whose passport application has been rejected and little old ladies who want to discuss their savings account. Why? In any other business, you'd have a quick drop desk for ready to go parcels and letters. Come to that you'd have a few weighing scale machines with a credit card swipe attached that printed out the correct postage. Why don't we have those? The CWU. They'd strike if the Royal Mail tried to introduce them.
In Charing Cross Post Office, there's a Philatelic Items window, with a staff member behind it permanently doing nothing. Officially he sells commemorative stamps. He won't take a parcel even when he's doing absolutely nothing and there's a half hour queue. Seriously, try it (then buy £1.50 worth of commemorative stamps for your parcel - it's fun and it winds him up.) Anybody think Adam Crozier wants him there, instead of mailing parcels? Or would that be the CWU again?
Royal Mail have already lost the Amazon account, among others. They're going slowly bankrupt and this strike is accelerating the inevitable. In a popularity contest, I don't need the Royal Mail's new ads - the management already win every time.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
If you call me at work because you've got somebody I might like to hire...
1. Did I call you first? If not, then I'm not interested. You're on a par with those estate agents who constantly put leaflets through my door asking if I want to sell my flat. No I bloody don't. I live in it.
2. On the phone call theme, I've talked to five good recruitment consultants in ten years. If I've never made a call to you, sorry, you're not one of them.
3. Please don't act hurt when I say I haven't read the CV that you emailed and are phoning to follow up on. If I haven't briefed you to find people, then I don't read any of them. Ever. If you've done it more than once you're probably spam filtered by now.
4. And don't act hurt when I can't remember who you are. There are loads of you. I can't remember which estate agents put leaflets through my door either. See point 1.
5. A good recruitment consultant should be able to have a decent stab at bluffing their way through the first round interview of whichever job they're trying to fill. If you can't explain the specific skills we need, then don't even bother. SAS experience isn't a specific skill.
6. Why would I want a phone call just to catch up? Or worse still an introductory meeting with somebody I didn't ask to talk to in the first place? OK, so you want to understand our business and our requirements. I'll hire somebody who already does, thanks.
7. Please stop massacring perfectly good CVs. Candidates spend a lot of time formatting them and don't appreciate it when I show them the butchered copy and paste mess you've made putting their CV onto your Word template. See my advice for graduates.
And if you've got a job for me...
8. Please, keep it relevant and keep it brief. Email it. I'll call you if I'm interested.
9. If I haven't called you, or am saying no, then give up immediately. This is something I'll expect to spend at least the next few years doing and if it sounds sh*t, you're not going to persuade me to go for it. Nobody who has tried the hard sell is on that list of five - whether I'm hiring or looking.
10. Have a good website. Put up to date jobs on it. I'll find you.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
It's a reference to football management. When a new manager arrives at a failing team, if he's going to be successful in turning things round, then invariably the small things get done early. The changing rooms get a lick of paint, the showers are re-tiled and the training ground is spruced up. My own team, Exeter City (stop laughing at the back,) might be small but have recently won back to back promotions, coming after a period of serious failure. I put a lot of that down to behind the scenes work. Yes the manager is a good tactician, but the players will play for him because at the same time and for the first time in a while, the club is living up to their side of the bargain. Not a lot of money has been spent, because there isn't any, but the facilities look better than they have in a long time.
It's a signal to the players from the management that things have changed, and it gives the new manager a contract with his players. He'll give them the best training environment he can and in return, they'll train hard, turn up on time, stay off the beers and eat properly.
Just turning up and saying 'things are different' doesn't work. It might buy you a few weeks, but very quickly, people start to realise that they're not different at all and go back to failing.
Marketing agencies are going through an upheaval. The margins from traditional planning and buying have been eroded and it's become a commodity, so agencies are trying to change. New media, new income from research and new fees for consulting.
How are we going to signal the change? Agency staff are taking on new roles and agencies are trying to recruit in new places. We're asking our people to overhaul what they do, so what's the other side of the contract?
I think it's time for an overhaul of the little things. A statement of intent. Media planning is tired and it looks tired. If you're sat in an agency, take a look around. If you're in a creative agency, maybe skip this bit, but if you're in planning, what's your office like?
Bit scruffy? Lots of paper strewn about? Struggling for space? Thought so.
Been to Google?
It's not right for everybody, but the contrast with a traditional media agency is stark. And Google, in many ways, are the competition.
On the London Open House day, I went to visit Lloyds of London. Their office is stunning.
I'm not suggesting a marketing agency should ever have an office just like this and I wouldn't want to work in one that did, but if I worked at Google or Lloyds, I'd feel like the company believed in what they were doing. That they had a vision and they were seeing it through.
This is what the competition look like in the new world. Finance looks like Lloyds. New media looks like Google. Old media looks scruffy. The companies that are already good at the things we want to do, don't look like media agencies.
I we want to avoid being commoditised, to be taken seriously as consultants and to take on competitors beyond other media agencies, then just saying so isn't enough. It starts with the little things. We don't need an office like Google's yet, but de-cluttering the one we've got would be a good start. We don't need Bloomberg Terminals, but we need decent IT kit*. We don't need the Lloyds building, but we just can't stick junior planners in the corner for six months until we find something better.
Want to change the media world? It starts with painting the changing rooms.
*Seriously, I've had a 14" monitor for four years. If you buy a PC in the shops, you have to ask specially to get anything under 17".
Monday, 26 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
I don't watch a lot of commercial TV. Football on ITV, the odd Channel 4 drama (Generation Kill is great, but on too late for a school night) and that's about it. That and The X Factor. It's my guilty secret and one of the few times that I'll sit in front of ITV and actually watch the ads.
You watch the ads on X Factor, more than other programmes, because the show provokes a discussion. Instead of channel hopping or going to get a beer like you do at half time in the Champions' League, the break is a time to chat about the show.
Maybe this isn't a revelation, but I was staggered by what a low proportion of the advertising minutes actually featured any brands at all. You know the sort of thing - twenty five seconds to set the scene and then maybe a pack shot at the end. Maybe.
There was one for a home freshening scent that might have been a plug-in one or might not, I can't remember. It mostly featured lingering shots of paddy fields and deserts and was in conjunction with National Geographic (I remember that. Their name was on it more often.) Do deserts smell good? Not really the point. The point is I couldn't use that ad to make my point in this post, because I can't remember who it was for. And that's trying to make an effort!
That's why I couldn't write this post last week. There were so many ads where the brand itself was such a tiny feature, that I decided during the show it might make a blog post. Should have written down the bad examples though, because there was no way in hell I could remember what any of them were by Monday.
So this weekend I tried again. Here's one. Thirty five seconds of Paul Whitehouse being a camp hairdresser and if we're being generous, five seconds of Aviva. The word Aviva is said twice and their logo is on screen once, for one second. Everybody in the country 'watching' TV is discussing those creepy twins who can't sing and not paying attention. Blink and you've missed it.
Where's the effort? Surely the difficult bit of creating an ad is making it interesting with the product in it. Paul Whitehouse is already interesting, that bit's easy. Thirty five seconds of Paul Whitehouse practicing his accents and then a quick logo doesn't communicate much of anything.
Here's the one I did remember. The good example as a contrast. Will it win awards? Probably not, but I like it. And you know what? I could remember who it was for on Monday because it's got the bloody product in it!
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
In marketing Windows 7, it strikes me that Microsoft have got the same problem that a lot of advertisers face - there's nothing new to say. Windows XP works fine. So does Vista, whatever the moaners say. What do we need to upgrade for? We'll end up on this new one when the whole PC's upgraded in a couple of years and that's fine. Microsoft are going to be forced to invent a compelling reason to upgrade, or maybe just suggest that it's amazing and new and the bestest thing ever! without actually explaining why.
Hopefully they'll do better than this though.
It's the problem that gives us marketing campaigns for Gillette razors with ridiculous numbers of blades and my personal favourite, the Finish
"You need new news," cry the agencies. "It's what makes advertising work."
So we invent news. More blades, battery powered, with sparkly bits and powerballs.
Fine, it's what we do.
Then I thought about media agencies. We market ourselves to clients all the time. Where's our new news? Twitter? Ad skipping? Spotify?
Remember the Red Button? That was going to be huge. Honda were using it to make interactive TV ads. If you Google for Red Button now, the only media references you get* are from the BBC and from Channel 4 switching it off. Next big thing in advertising? Yeah right.
We're in competition with each other in selling to clients and I suppose at least we're consistent; we're doing what we tell our clients to do and inventing news. Lets face it though, most innovation in marketing is another blade on a razor - upping the price but getting the same result. Not long ago, Gillette started putting a single blade on the back of their razors, because there are now so many on the front that you can only shave big areas with it. It's a metaphor for the kind of thinking that's leading us back to basics. We've actually convinced ourselves that the 'news' is important enough to take our eye off the job we were doing pretty well before. It isn't. It's a sales technique.
Our clients know it too. It's how they're driving down the margins - turning media planning into a commodity. Without genuine news and innovation, everything eventually becomes a commodity. What starts off as clever and innovative becomes mainstream and before long, everybody's doing it. In FMCG terms, media agency clients are buying Own Label.
* On the first five pages, then I got bored. But you get the point.
Monday, 19 October 2009
This article about the death of Stephen Gately has had a lot of coverage over the weekend and generated more than twenty one thousand complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.
The thing is, it's not actually that bad, which is why it's still available to view on the Mail website. They know they're on safe ground. It's insensitive certainly, but that's the Daily Mail - it's usually insensitive. And bigoted. And arrogant. The article is those things too, but this time the Mail has generated twenty one thousand complaints.
The Daily Mail doesn't deserve to be censured over Jan Moir's article. A part of me dreams that it will fined an absolute fortune and go bankrupt, never to be seen again, but it wouldn't be fair.
The PCC needs to tread carefully and does undertand the problem, because it is currently 'considering' the complaints, rather than announcing an investigation.
Unfortunately, a society that has a tradition of freedom of speech and is progressive enough to allow civil partnerships, also has to tolerate the Daily Mail. Bugger.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
This is a really lovely, easy, useful browser for US ski resort review data. Lots of data, well presented. Time to get planning...
Courtesy of Ski Magazine via Chart Porn.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Or put another way, what's the best way to make use of your insights department?
Conversation over a beer last night (yes on a Monday, things are going that well...) turned to what analysts should do when faced with the question 'I need your help to prove x?' It's not even really a question and I'm firmly of the opinion that if you find yourself asking or trying to answer it, things have already gone wrong. It happens far too often.
Let's go with the Hitchhikers Guide reference for a little longer. If you haven't read the book don't worry, but honestly what are you doing here? This is the realm of Data Monkeys and we've all read it. Many more than once. For any poor, lost, normal, well adjusted people who've found themselves on Wallpapering Fog it turns out the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.
Helpful, right? And that's the joke. 42 is only useful if you understand the question.
If you regard your analysts as a rubber stamp to provide evidence for whatever strategy is flavour of the month at the moment - if you don't get their help in shaping the question, then you're in trouble. Partly because you'll have a team of pissed off, depressed analysts and more importantly because you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
Get the analysts in early. Get them in on the strategy discussions. Yes they might roll their eyes when you say 'brand value' but you roll yours when we say 'not statistically significant' so we're even.
There's no reason why having insights people on board early should make an idea less creative, but they'll be able to point out which bits of your success criteria are going to be measurable (or suggest new ones,) they'll be able to provide some useful evidence through the discussion and they just might stop you making a fool of yourself later, in front of the client, when it comes to measuring results.
That isn't the most powerful way to use analysts though. We're still taking about insight as a service - just a way to back up what the agency is already doing. Here's a radical thought... a lot of analysts (not all, admittedly) are excellent strategists, with good ideas, who just happen to be good at maths. They're people who are useful to have on board. Sometimes they come up with ideas that aren't measurable and still think they're worth trying. Make the most of it and get the analysis team in early! You'll end with stronger ideas, where you know which bits you can prove and where the client is going to have to trust you, and you won't have an insights team who - when you tell them at the end what you need to prove - look blank, worried or angry and say 'I can't'.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
The UK had to retune its Freeview boxes last week, to free up bandwidth for HD broadcasts and to make Channel 5 universally available. Predictably, this week there are complaints about how the retune has gone wrong, but the glitches will be ironed out and then we'll all have TV signals that can do HD.
World Cup 2010 in HD? Yes please...
For that to happen, you're going to need a new set-top box. Again, predictably, the current ones can't decode the HD signal. Anybody remember when you could buy something electronic and it wasn't obsolete 18 months later? Ah, the good old days.
I've got a Humax PVR at home and barring the odd crash it's great, so it was interesting to see what new boxes they're going to be launching over the next few months. Of course HD - that's why you need the new box, but the techies are also getting excited by DLNA.
DLNA is what the Playstation 3 has got (when it works) and lets you access video, pictures and music on your PC and then stream them wirelessly somewhere else. Like onto the big telly in the living room. If you've got a PC and wireless in your house already, then you only have to be a tiny bit geeky to get it to work.
Give it a year and people who weren't techie enough to try getting their ripped off episodes of Lost from the PC to their living room, have suddenly got a very easy way to do it. It's also an 'always on' box, unlike the Playstation, so will be easy to do with the same remote you use for changing channels, making for a geniune choice between a repeat of Lost on Channel 4 or a new episode just downloaded from the US.
Hot on the heels of HD is going to be Project Canvas. Streamed content straight from the internet - the iPlayer on your set top box. If it works, alongside the iPlayer, you could well have Youtube, Vimeo, 4OD and more, browsable and watchable from your TV just like broadcast programmes. Though would it be too much to ask that we won't have to get another new box? Please? It's only coming in late 2010, so that's a reasonable request.
The debate around whether pre-rolls work and how to finance internet video is suddenly going to go mainstream. The choice of content available through your main television set will multiply exponentially and we'll have to wait and see what the combination of time-shifted HD viewing, much more attractive viewing of pirated content and much greater choice does to the audiences of our major broadcasters.
We regularly get promised the home of the future and it doesn't happen, mostly because the technology is cutting edge and doesn't work properly, but all the building blocks for a TV revolution are in place now. Wireless, broadband, big flat screen TVs, a PC in most homes... we just need the box in the living room to link it all together. And it's coming next year.
Monday, 5 October 2009
With that in mind, here's my top ten signs that your client is actually fine and that while your enthusiasm should be applauded, you (or your agency) might really be the problem...
1. You, personally, have got more than two clients who you think are 'not adventurous enough'.
2. You're sure your client should increase their advertising budget, but you have no idea what their profit margin is.
3. The client won't do your idea because you've never tried it before and it's unproven.
Let's face it, they're not risk averse, you just haven't persuaded them that it's a good enough idea. Or worse, they think it is a good idea but they don't trust you not to screw it up.
4. The number of people who actually visit the microsite and follow the brand on Twitter might be small, but it doesn't matter because a mystical thing called 'word of mouth' means the campaign's reach will be huge. If you believe that, step this way - today only I've got a special offer on some amazing magic beans...
5. You've never heard a point of view on your client's marketing from any of their staff who work outside the marketing department.
6. You regularly announce that the world has changed.
7. 'It's all about online' but you can't explain with confidence how a Google Adwords auction works.
8. If you leave London, it's to go abroad. What would you want to go up North for? Everyone there commutes on the Tube and is 25-40 years old too, right?
9. Your client needs to build their brand. Of course they do! So why can't you concisely define what brand means?
10. You can't find at least ten points to back up your argument. Er, damn.
Friday, 2 October 2009
What drives successful marketing is informed creativity..."
Can't steal all of it though, you can read the rest on the site.
Monday, 28 September 2009
For me, cigarettes? Sure, no problem. If people don't know the dangers by now then more fool them. Alcohol? Gladly - and pass the free samples. Baby milk to third world countries? Maybe not...
ID cards? Absolutely no way.
The Home Office is about to spend £500,000 on a campaign in support of ID cards. Five hundred grand on a project that the Tories have committed to canning after they wipe the floor with Labour next year. What a waste. I'm not a Conservative, but I'm going to stay up late and enjoy election night this time around. Cheerio Jacqui.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Please say it is. And if Microsoft have b*ggered it up then please let somebody else nick the idea and make it work properly.
We were promised a paperless office a very long time ago and I've been waiting for somebody to do this for ages...
Let's start off with a plug for my colleagues. Interesting stuff and lots of contributors, so it's pretty active. Not the place if you're looking for things that others haven't found yet but it's an eclectic mix and worth a read.
Some of the posts put a bit too much faith in New / Social Media for me, but the best article of the month competition is tremendous for finding interesting new writing.
Great ideas for telling stories.
Beautiful, simple, elegant.
A must read for anybody who's even a little involved with data presentation.
Fairly new and this one's less of a regular read, but when I do drop in it tends to be to read a few articles. Putting some clarity on the public reporting of statistics.
Lots of rubbish. Plus Rory Sutherland, so it gets on the list.
Because I'm a geek and it's got a great title. It's useful too.
Advertising seen through the eyes of Grumpy Old Men.
Please don't stop writing!!
Thursday, 17 September 2009
This, from XKCD, is brilliant.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Early on in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell descibes a phenomenon that seems to point to the optimal size for a company being about 150. He goes on to say that the American company Gore-Tex, contrary to usual manufacturing practice, don't try to build enormous factories to get economies of scale, they build units designed for 150 people with 150 spaces in the car park. When they run out of spaces and people are parking on the grass, they open a new factory. Up to 2009, Gore Associates has held a position in Fortune Magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" for 12 consecutive years.
Gladwell is talking about Dunbar's Number. A well known theory from anthropology, that - based on brain size - sets the maximum number of stable social relationships that a person can maintain at something just under 150.
Marketing is about ideas and ideas shared. It's a social undertaking and we don't work on a production line. I'll do my job better if I understand how a media buyer does theirs and a planner will be a better planner if they understand a bit of what analysts do.
You can gain this knowledge formally, through training (and then forget it) or you can talk to people regularly in the course of your work. Then Dunbar's number becomes a serious obstacle to effectively running a big agency. Based on personal experience, when you go beyond 150 people, we don't fold back to knowing 150 and just miss a few strange faces in the agency. When you hit, say 300, people fold back onto their own departments and only really know 30 colleagues. Particularly an issue for new joiners, whose colleagues are all drawn from the same department.
It's because you cross paths with a lot of people, but with each person quite infrequently outside of your immediate circle and so communication falls apart. So does social interaction.
Add in staff turnover and the problem suddenly gets a lot worse. Lets play nicely and say annual agency staff turnover is about 25%. If you meet somebody new, that means there's only a 56% chance that you'll both still be here next year.
I'd love to see somebody take the Gore-Tex example and apply it in the agency world. Keep the buying power of a big group but never put more than 100 - 150 people in the same building working together. That doesn't mean divorce planning and buying, with a building for each. It means each building runs a certain number of clients and if you get more clients, you open a new office. WPP's GroupM did the pooled buying power bit, but the agencies under its umbrella are still huge.
The are obviously disadvantages - the loss of larger specialist units being one - but I'd be willing to bet that the benefits in shared ideas, shared knowledge and happier, more motivated people would outweigh the costs.
Monday, 14 September 2009
I was reading Risk on the plane to Slovenia. It's good. There's a section on how Advertising influences people and - as so often - the outsider's view of our industry is one of machiavellian psychological techniques influencing an unsuspecting population.
Anyone who's worked in an agency for a month knows it's not like that. We're not that clever and we haven't got the time to be machiavellian. You need serious thinking time to become an effective Bond villain (bet they have really long holidays.) Most of the time, we're just happy to hit deadlines.
And so to the thinking. Why aren't we using the latest sophisticated psychological techniques in our efforts to sell ever more things? Marketing postgrads learn about them and then leave them at the door when they start work in an agency (there are two sat next to me right now testifying that this is true.) Psychological manipulation works when it's used, so why isn't marketing the domain of the psychologist? With those who don't understand and apply the lastest research left by the wayside?
To understand, we can go back to basic economics. Not supply and demand, or price - more basic than that. What are peoples' incentives? This is what Freakonomics does (repeatedly) to solve what look like complex problems. Why would schoolteachers cheat? How come most drug dealers are poor?
Why aren't most marketing campaigns cleverer?
It's because we don't really know how effective they are. Not often anyway. There's no objective measure of whether your most recent campaign was any good at selling product. Research can tell you if people liked it and econometrics can average the effectiveness of lots of campaigns. Nobody can tell you definitively whether this latest campaign is more effective than the last one unless it's absolutely brilliant.
So for marketing agencies, what's the incentive? The goal is to win business and they can't do it by proving they've made an effective ad. They win pitches by making ads that marketing directors like. And by convincing marketing directors that they've made an ad that will work.
Marketing directors aren't psychologists either, usually, and the ads they like may or may not be effective.
So we end up with agencies full of salesmen, trying to persuade marketing directors that the ads they've made will work. And these select few marketing directors aren't incentivised to buy an ad that will actually be effective either - because it can't be measured. They need an ad that will impress the CEO and he's definitely not up to the minute on the latest psychological research.
Back in the working world after a couple of weeks out and I'm thinking that we're probably less evil than the non-marketing world suspects. And we're much worse at doing what we actually set out to do...
Friday, 28 August 2009
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Not lots of traffic obviously... it's a blog about data and marketing.
The verdict is in and you're most likely to find this site on Google because you hate SAS. This post unanimously wins the SEO award for most traffic.
My top 10 Google organic terms for the last couple of weeks were:
1. wallpapering fog data
2. open source sas replacement
3. sas replacement
4. wallpapering fog
5. sas in trouble
6. +"sas replacement"
7. +sas +replacement
8. +sas +software +horrible
9. chrigel maurer bbc
10. data monkey blog neil charles
Can we all just go and
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Reading the article, you find that the Kamaron Institute surveyed three hundred Twitter users, so it should read eight in ten Twitter users.
That's probably about right, when you consider that Twitter is rapidly turning into a tool for the marketing industry to talk to itself and for spammers to talk to the marketing industry.
The IAB has written some guidelines, for brands wanting to use Twitter too.
But I prefer these: http://www.howtousetwitterformarketingandpr.com/
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Superficially, it's similar to a chart that I had a massive pop at a couple of weeks ago. I really like this one though, because it's not pretending to be something that it isn't.
That and the names are brilliant. 'Peak of inflated expectations' and 'Trough of disillusionment' conjure up images of a crazy treasure map a la Monkey Island.
You could draw one with the same names and shape for client relationships, from pitch through inflated expectations, almost losing the business and then a few years later actually starting to get good at it. If they haven't fired you by then...
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Monday, 3 August 2009
Anecdote is an Australian agency, centred around storytelling, where I found this excellent article for lawyers on how to make a good closing argument.
There's a lot here for everybody on how to make a persuasive argument. See if the AT&T example reminds you of any research presentations.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
I really like the Swine Flu one too. Be afraid!! Or perhaps not.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Would anybody have even let an analyst through the door? They didn't have any hairy data monkey templates, so I've gone for my alterego instead. Make your own Mad man.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
I'm an occasionally keen photographer, but as much as I like my new compact, it's got features that you can only understand if you read the instructions. They're not intuitive and so I don't use them. Full auto works, so full auto it is.
Media software is being left behind in this new world. Our agency's timesheet system is so complicated that you need to be shown how to use it, which is a farce (thanks again DDS.) If you've ever tried to get TV ratings from Nielsen Addynamix or MMS, then you'll know that working it out for yourself is hard. Why? It's not like you're trying to do anything difficult. Pick an ad or a programme; pick an audience; show me the ratings. Not difficult.
We don't need instructions any more because we've learned the rules. I know I can right click things to get options, so I try it. I know what save buttons do. When we build software and dashboards, it's essential to build on that existing knowledge that users have - to put menus where the user expects to find them. This means an intuitive understanding of how people work and then a lot of user testing.
Where I don't know the rules, I need instructions. A mechanic can service my car with just a toolbox but I need a toolbox and a Haynes manual and a lot more time. And then a mechanic to fix the mess I've made, because I've got no experience. Making up new rules so that you need a manual is a serious undertaking - is what you're building important enough to junk all that built up experience and make users learn a new way of working? Really?
I'm applying a new principle to the dashboards, spreadsheets and tools that we build for clients: The ten minute demo. If you can't work out for yourself how to use everything after a ten minute demo, then it's too complicated. You might learn a lot of new things after that demo, but it should be straightforward enough that you can work them out for yourself with a minumum of effort.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Forget youth marketing, that's a great thought, full stop. I love Red Bull's marketing (can't stand the drink, but that's not the point.) With £272m per year to play with globally, you could buy a hell of a lot of TV spots, or you could set yourself apart and buy a Formula 1 team, invent the Flugtag and the Air Race and create something really special.
This is how you 'do' word of mouth. Start by creating something that people will want to talk about, then make it easy to get content about it. Contrast what Red Bull do with the 'people are talking on Twitter, what can we do to get them to talk about us on Twitter?' approach. Forget Twitter, if people want to talk about you then they'll talk in all sorts of places and one of them will be Twitter.
Now make it easy to get the content. People will find you. You're going to need a Twitter page, but as a response to people talking, not as a seed.
I'm very, very excited this week because the Red Bull X-Alps started on Sunday. It's an 818km race across the Alps, on foot and by paraglider that means, right now, thirty incredibly fit and skilled people are trying to be the first to get to Monaco. You've got to carry your kit or fly it and there are no stages. Sleep at night if you like, but somebody else will be running.
The X-Alps is much smaller than Formula 1 or the Air Race, but a community of enthusiasts is absolutely buzzing. On Facebook, on Twitter and [shock horror] in real life. Don't talk to me until the end of next week unless you want to hear about the race... (sorry everybody*)
The Twitter bit is easy and cheap. If you're not going to put this level of effort into your viral campaigns, then lets be honest, what's the point? Spend whatever budget you've got on TV spots, lets stop pretending you've got something people are interested in talking about and I'm off to see how far Chrigel Maurer went today.
* After the race, I'll go back to just boring everybody about normal paragliding, promise.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Proving that students will walk through fire (or at least queue all afternoon) for a small slice of a very big cake. We would have too, but what with having jobs and bosses and all, thought we'd better head back to the office.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
There's nothing especially wrong with that. If you haven't got any idea what your marketing ROI might be, an analyst can usually put you in the right ballpark with a small amount of effort and some 'creative' use of sales data.
There are two ways of going about guessing your marketing returns. One is right and the other one feels right, but leads to totally unfeasible levels of sales almost every time.
Lets start with the wrong way. You know those people who get their business plan laughed off Dragon's Den? The ones who say "I've made a product for the pet care market and the UK pet care market is worth £1.5bn per year. If we just get 0.5% of that..." Then Peter Jones cuts them off and asks how many kitty litter boxes they sold last month. And the answer is less than ten.
When you say "My competitors combined, have an 80% share of market. If I can just get x% of that" you're making exactly the same mistake. Or The other one you hear a lot is "there are loads of people who only buy my product very occasionally. If I could just turn 10% of them into regular users..."
The right way to do it is start from where your sales are now, plus the sort of marketing spikes you can see in the past, with some sensible adjustments bolted on. This gives a much smaller number than the first way, but is a lot closer to the truth and won't get you laughed at on the BBC...
All those people who don't buy your product now are not buying it for a reason. One ad isn't suddenly going to make a lot of them change their minds.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Have a read for such classics as "Most teenagers watch television, but usually there are points in the year where they watch more than average."
Friday, 10 July 2009
One of the guys playing with the software got frustrated that it wouldn't let him do something complicated with HTML and, as you do, he tweeted that Confluence was winding him up. Just throwing the frustration out into the ether along with eveybody else's random thoughts.
Sombody at Confluence picked up that there was a tweet about them, and mailed back directly saying yes it could be done and here's how. You don't forget service like that - we hadn't even asked for help and a small negative PR message on Twitter turns into two vocal advocates for Confluence.
Is this a small company thing? I have to say I think it is and there's a good chance that Twitter will work best as a tool for smaller companies - either extremely local or extremely niche, or both. The long-tail without a body.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
It's not that Dial-a-phone are brilliant, in fact they were a bit weird and insisted I 'prove' where I work to get the phone delivered to the office. What's that all about? After they rejected the first letter-headed word doc I emailed (not my idea - it's what they asked for) I seriously considered mailing over a photo of me standing in front of the office with the front desk security guard and the date visible on that morning's copy of The Times...
Anyway, what they did to get me on board for next time is give me a phone with no branding, no Vodafone Live! no red apostrophe backgrounds and no attempts to get me to buy Beyonce ringtones every time I start the web browser.
What a lovely surprise!
Sorry Vodafone, you're a utility company. You own mobile phone masts and let me make calls. I don't want Thames Water branding on every drinking glass in my house and I don't want your corporate identity staring at me every time I text somebody. So until mobile phone companies give up on being lifestyle brands, I'm buying an unadulterated factory fresh phone without any crap on it from now on.
Oh and the phone? An LG Viewty Smart. Lovely bit of kit - I'd highly recommend it.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
My initial opinion, was 'well that's pretty poor, let's move on' but as well as our pitches, it's been on Flowing Data, the BBC, Freakonomics... the list goes on.
At least Flowing Data put it up to explain what's wrong with it. Others seem to be debating whether it's an acceptable visualisation or not.
This is very simple. No. It's not.
The problems with the graphic - it's absolutely not a chart - are well documented and range from having no units on the y axis and an inconsistent x axis (look at the sizes of the gaps between years) to no documented source for the data at all. Which, lets face it, is because there isn't any data - it's a picture that might as well have been sketched with crayons.
If it looked like what it is though, it wouldn't be on the BBC, or Freakonomics because then it would just be a sketch of one person's opinion on how media is evolving. And not even a particularly good one.
It's been picked up all over the place because it looks scientific. It looks like there's real data and research behind it. Look at those lines; they kink; if it was all just made up they'd be smooth, surely? Only real data looks like that.
If you're one of those people who thinks that media and marketing don't need proper statistics and real research, fine. Just don't talk to me. But have enough confidence in your beliefs not to resort to making up or using pseudo scientific rubbish like this.
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Remember the original Walkman? OK, that one's a bit of a design icon, but 80s mobile phones?
Here's my top five of 'things you think are cool, which the next generation are already laughing it.'
1. The iPod nano
See also any other ridiculously small gadget / MP3 player. We'll laugh that we thought they were small and we'll laugh that you actually had a separate gadget especially for music.
2. Keyless cars
You don't have to put a key in the dash, but you've got to have it in your pocket, so you've still got to remember to carry the thing. Seriously, if your car doesn't just recognise you, unlock the door, move the seat to your setting and cue up a custom playlist on the stereo, what's the point?
3. Facebook (no list of this type would be complete without it)
Crap at photos, crap at video, good at playing scrabble. Why did we spend so much time with this again? I keep banging on that Facebook's going to have a serious problem soon. When somebody connects people as effectively but gives them a better platform to do things (or connects different platforms) it's all over.
4. Digital Radio
UK radio will be digital only by 2015. Except it won't.
By 2015, we'll either be at or very close to a scenario where radio can be streamed easily via next (next) gen 3G mobile or wireless. When that happens, what's the point in digital radio?
Spotify is already there, the technology works.
Remember when movies came on disks and you had a whole shelf full? Hilarious!
Compared to a download to whatever is plugged into your TV in a few years' time, Blu-ray is fragile, cumbersome and expensive.
Netbooks belong on this list too, but it's a top 5. Got any more?