Thursday, 30 April 2009

My new favourite toy

Picked this up from notanothermindshareblog. I thought it might be a bit of a gimmick but downloaded it anyway and it's sorted my mess of a desktop out in no time at all. One of those great tools that you don't have to read the instructions for, it just works.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Brilliant. And slightly depressing.

Who doesn't love Honda's advertising? Ever since Cogs, they've been producing consistently fantastic creative ideas.

Following up on the prediction in my last post that Vimeo is set to put a big dent in Youtube, Honda has used its higher quality and much nicer interface as part of their latest campaign.

Honda Insight - Let It Shine from Honda on Vimeo.

Click the video above, or even better, have a look on the site. The page dimming when you press play has been created especially for this ad.

That's the brilliant bit.

And now the slightly depressing.

I'm sure these campaigns work. They sell product. They make Honda more profitable. But if Honda did econometric analysis of their sales and trusted completely to the results, then there's no way any of these ads ever get made.

Econometrics favours advertising that we can measure, which means advertising that has an immediate and obvious impact on sales. In terms of return on investment, an econometric model will say every time that product advertising - preferably in conjunction with a comptetitive price point - has a higher ROI.

In the short-term, econometrics is right. Product advertising does measurably sell more product. If you've got a warehouse full of unsold Honda Civics and they're depreciating, then the best thing you can do is discount them and advertise cheap Honda Civics. Econometrics would be very good at telling you what price point and how much advertising. In the long-term though, wouldn't you rather not get yourself into the situation where you've got lots of unsold product?

Econometrics has a valuable place in marketing decisions. Speaking as an analyst, If I was a marketing director I'd use it, but give it less prominence in making decisions than you might imagine.

As analysts, we've got a major challenge to incorporate the wider benefits of good advertising into our models. To prove that Honda's advertising works.

At the moment, pure econometrics is like procurement in a large company. Yes you could equip your office with cheaper PCs and cheaper desks and give your staff cheap business cards and make the company more profitable this year. That's very useful information, but only part of the decision about how much to spend.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Nice graphic from the beeb

Be afraid! Don't go outside! You're all going to die of swine flu. Or possibly develop some flu-like symptoms and then get better.

Yes, this swine flu is potentially serious, but this graphic from the beeb is ridiculous.

Red for confirmed cases, orange for suspected. Nice. Yesterday's supected case in the UK came back negative, but apparently a Canadian woman in Manchester might have flu (or swine flu, we can't be sure) so colour the UK orange. Start looking for a hypochondriac in Russia who 'suspects' they have swine flu and you can colour in a really big bit of the map.

Really expect better.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Next step for the BBC iPlayer - Updated

I'm not the BBC's biggest fan, but have to admit to liking the iPlayer. I don't use it much though and that's only partly due to not being the BBC's biggest fan. It's mostly because I don't like watching TV on my PC. I haven't lived in student accommodation for years and so I like watching TV in my lounge.

The Beeb has just upgraded the iPlayer to higher definition, which is great.

It doesn't solve the problem of getting it off PCs and onto TVs though. Sony's Playstation 3 is a step in the right direction. It's got a web browser in it, that you can use to get to the iPlayer and then blow the video up to full screen on your big flat screen telly. Brilliant.

There are a couple of problems with the PS3 approach though. It's a bit fiddly (only a little bit) to start up a games console and then find the web browser to see what's available. It's also limited to people who have bought the console and are motivated to see if it's possible.

This has always been a problem for next generation media technologies. They're not seamless and so adoption is limited. Apple get it. Microsoft seem to sit there wondering why people get annoyed with a Vista Media Centre that technically does everything, but is a complete pain in the arse to use.

So what should the BBC do?

This article from December last year points the right way. Sounds to me like grand language for giving the iPlayer an API. In case you're more media than analyst, an API is a way for programmers to access something without going through the user menus. Twitter's got one, it's why there are so many great uses of its data drifting around already.

Here's hoping that the BBC don't try to control the iPlayer. Open it wide and make the content available. Come over all Web 2.0. Don't worry about making set top boxes - the box manufacturers will do that for you when they see they can sell loads with 'iPlayer Included' plastered on them. They'll do the interface programming for you too, so forget about making widgets or downloadable applications.

If we're lucky, and the BBC get this right, we're a year or so from having a Freeview box with iPlayer seamlessly integrated into the electronic programme guide. And a slightly more popular Beeb.

Edit 24/4/09:
This BBC press release on Project Canvas that was released in February has a lot more detail, but may suffer the same fate as Project Kangaroo.

There's an easy solution to this but it means the BBC giving up control of the medium. Build an open source API for the iPlayer. Let set top box manufacturers pull content from any provider of IPTV who chooses to use the API.

They'll all put the iPlayer at the top of the list anyway and the regulators can't possibly have any complaints because the BBC would be creating a mechanism that helps everybody (but especially themselves) deliver streaming video to TVs.

Just think - you buy a set top box, which is already set up to deliver iPlayer, the ITV Player and a few others and if you want to add Vimeo to the list then you can with a few clicks.
(Vimeo is going to do to Youtube what Facebook has done to Myspace by the way if Google don't get to work on Youtube sharpish.)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Absolutely bloody brilliant

Read it.

"Some things can only be achieved indirectly. You can’t be happy by trying to be happy. If you want to be happy you have to go fishing, or eat a pizza, or clean out your closet. And when someone tells me she’s “working on” her marriage, I’m pretty certain within a few weeks her house will be crawling with attorneys and real estate agents. You want to have a good marriage? Stop trying so hard. Go to Hawaii. Play Scrabble. Or even better, leave each other alone...

... A strong brand is a by-product."

Now about that brand campaign...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Death by PowerPoint

I was going to write a considered piece on Death by Powerpoint. Honest I was.

So I Googled the term for a bit of inspiration and came up with this.

A 61 slide presentation on how not to use PowerPoint. 61 Slides. On how not to use Powerpoint. Now that's irony.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A brief history of Phorm

Have you heard of Phorm? If you read The Register online newspaper then you almost certainly have. If not then you might have missed it.

Phorm is an advertising targeting technology that is planned to serve ads on participating websites based on your web browsing habits. It does this by recording which sites you've visited so that it can tell what kind of products you might like.

That sounded quite innocuous, so let's say it again. Phorm would record which sites you've visited. All of them. And then serve you ads. Well probably you - unless somebody else is using your PC at the time. You and I are obviously fine, upstanding citizens with no reason to visit the darker sides of the web, but even so, would you be happy with this data being collected? Especially when recent experience has shown that it could get sold to the highest bidder. £10k for David Cameron's web history? If you're the News of the World, that's a bargain.
Oh and Phorm used to be called 121Media and they made spyware - still trust them with that data?

Phorm ran two trials on BT broadband in 2006 and 2007, profiling a sample of users' web activity without asking permission, and these trials have caused a bit of a fuss because they may have been illegal. The trials may have constituted an illegal wiretap under RIPA and could also contravene EU law.

I'm not going to going go into the details of the case, or why it may be illegal. Partly because it wouldn't be fair to rip off loads of Register reporting when they've been like a dog with a bone over this and partly because I can't afford lawyers if I misplace a sentence. Read the Register articles - they're very good.

All I can say is I'll be watching the EU action as it progresses and if what BT and Phorm have done does turn out to be illegal, then I hope they have the book thrown at them. Along with the Police and the Information Commissioners Office who - following complaints from the public - have flatly refused to get involved.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all

A client this week said that analysing the past can't help with the present because their market had totally changed in the past nine months.

Really? Is any market fundamentally different to the way it was nine months ago? To pluck one at random, lets look at the car market. It's not a secret that conditions in the car market aren't rosy at the moment and sales have gone through the floor. It hasn't changed though. I should explain.

Advertising in the car market today, will work pretty much like advertising in the car market worked a year ago, it will just sell a lot less product because the market has shrunk.

The basic product - cars - is unchanged and the consumers who are buying those cars are doing so with the same motivation that they did a year ago. I'm not saying that many customers won't be buying a smaller engine, or a cheaper car, but those few city bankers who are in the market for a new Aston this year have the same motivations as the city bankers who bought one last year. So why would advertising in up-market magazines have suddenly stopped working? You're going to sell less product, but the media you use to sell it hasn't changed.

This aversion to the past is a running theme in marketing. Maybe we get bored quickly? As an analyst I have to believe that the past can tell us something about the future, because you can't get reliable data on the future. It's very frustrating.

The same thought springs to mind every time I see a quote like 'Media is now social'.

Media has always been social. There has always been word of mouth. If your product's crap, people have always told their friends not to buy it. The scale and speed of transmission has changed, not the world. So why can't we learn about building great viral campaigns by looking at campaigns that we remember being discussed in the past? The game hasn't changed.

Channels evolve of course, but I firmly believe that the fundamental task for advertising and the way that advertising works has never changed. And that's why I'll never be the headline speaker at an advertising conference, because we media types prefer to imagine a revolution.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

From the people who brought you a tank on Mayday

Any publicity is good publicity, right? Especially if you're a protest group on Mayday in London and you've managed to lay your hands on a tank.

The group behind this (entirely road legal apparently) serious looking bit of hardware were Spacehijackers and I wondered what else they might have been up to.

It turns out they've been partaking in some subversive activity around advertising too. I make a living in the industry but have to admit that the creativity and sense of fun around these stunts put a smile on my face. The message carries a very valid point too, especially for those of us working in advertising. Do people really want to see ads everywhere they go?

District Line tube trains...

And pedestrian crossings around Westminster...

The smaller text reads:

"It is currently illegal to protest in this area without a permit. Refraining from pressing this button may be used as evidence against you."

Adpunch thinks the pedestrian crossing campaign is real and 'superb and quite fresh'. That's just scary.

Friday, 3 April 2009

A future for Outdoor

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that things probably aren't looking too rosy for outdoor when CBS are buying their own poster sites. So what about the future?

The OAA held a well attended conference* in Battersea Park yesterday, that unforturnately I could only be there for a part of (pressing client debriefs, you know how this works...) and I was impressed with a short presentation from the National Lottery.

They claim a strong return on investment to out of home and I'm not surprised, because they're using it in a very innovative way. The Lottery is all about rollover weeks, which by their nature are unpredictable. When a rollover happens though, you want to tell as many people as you can as fast as possible. So they use tactical outdoor. A particularly high return is claimed for televised 5pm Saturday football, before a draw later that evening, gained by buying digital pitch-side advertising hoardings.

This idea should work well for other brands. TV channels for one. If a football match suddenly becomes very relevant or - Like ITV with the excellent Clough documentary last week - a programme has particular resonance (The Damned United has just realeased,) digital outdoor has the potential to reach a lot of people, very quickly and at exactly the right time.

It's ok buying digital bus sides in London to publicise their latest offers, but everybody knows Lastminute have always got cheap holidays so this is still just standard outdoor, but on a digital screen. Digital outdoor has got the potential to deliver time-specific advertising to a wide audience rather than just being the moving wallpaper that we're seeing right now. And that's got to have a better return on investment.

* Oh, and about that conference... is somebody a bit miffed they've missed out on a Mediterranean freebie?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Want a job?

Sorry, there aren't any.

Not at the moment anyway, but we hope to be hiring again soon. Everybody wants to know how to make their media planning more efficient in a downturn, but unfortunately we're caught up in the same hiring restrictions as the rest of UK media.

With that in mind, here's my top five tips for making a good impression. Not necessarily the most important things, but hopefully five that you won't find on every university careers advisor's 'how to apply for a job' crib sheet.

1. Don't turn up early

Actually, that's a lie. Do turn up early, just make it 5-10 minutes early, not 30-40. I can't believe the number of interviewees where I get the call from reception well over half an hour before the start of the interview. Seriously, there's a Pret over the road, have a coffee. You're just going to be left in reception twiddling your thumbs and it's not even that nice a place to sit.

2. Short CV with bullets

Two sides of A4. The only reason it's two is because white space is important, hence the bullet points. Make it easy to read. Paragraphs of text are bad.

You probably spent hours carefully crafting that CV. Its job is to get you an interview and that's it. It will succeed or fail at that job in about 30 seconds - whoever's hiring has got a stack of 10 CVs and twenty minutes to read them and then phone the recruitment agency to arrange interviews.

3. Don't let a recruitment consultant reformat your CV

Didn't know they do that? Well they do.
You've carefully laid out a beautiful CV (with white space and bullet points) and they copy and paste it directly onto their company headed Word template. The margins are all wrong, your tables get screwed up and it looks a mess.

If you possibly can, give the recruiter a PDF. They won't be capable enough to transfer it to another format and if they are, then chances are they'll get the formatting right.

4. Don't use a recruiter

Especially in these times of cut backs. If you know which agencies you might want to approach, then do it directly. Given a choice between two identical candidates, we'll pick the one where we don't have to pay a fee. It also makes a much better impression.

90% of recruitment consultants are annoying 90% of the time, so if you do use one, pick a good one. If you don't think much of them when you meet, then whoever they're sending your CV to probably doesn't either, so give yourself the best chance. Having said that, there are a few truly excellent recruiters out there.

5. You've looked on the company website. Well done.

Everybody does that now. Still better than not doing it, but if you want to stand out when asked the question 'do you know what we do here' (if you're a graduate applicant, you will get asked that question in some form) then it's going to take a little bit more.

Buy the last couple of copies of Campaign, look on Brand Republic and find something recent to talk about that the company has done. Have they won any awards? Won a new client? Lost one? Actually, best not mention if they've lost one. If they seem to have lost a few recently, do you really want to work there?

Finally, if you want a job as a marketing analyst, good luck and I hope we'll be back in a position to talk soon!