Thursday, 29 October 2009

This needs to be said

I've just had a recruitment consultant on the phone. Again. This happens a lot. Seeing as half of them seem to find me on Linkedin (not that they'll admit it) and there's a link to this blog on my profile, I'm going to vent my spleen here and maybe one or two will read it and save me some time later.

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

Painting the changing rooms

There's an analogy I've been using for a while when talking about company restructures; painting the changing rooms.

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

Sack your creative director

The interwebs have started making their own ads. Be afraid.

This is brilliant. It generates random headlines and then pulls an image off flickr to go with them. Just add logo.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Adverts with the X Factor

Was going to post this last week, but I couldn't and we'll come back to that.

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!

Real Cheese in the Mini-Cheddars, Really

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The 7 in 1 media agency. With extra blades.

Windows 7 comes out on Thursday. Are you excited?


Me neither.

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 2 in 1, 3 in 1, 7 in 1, Max in 1 Powerball detergent. (Seriously, the old one was fine...)

"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

Twenty one thousand is nothing

Let's get one thing straight before we start. I loathe the Daily Mail. It's a hateful, spiteful publication and the world would be a much nicer place if it didn't exist. Damn, that felt good.

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

Brilliant data presentation (but not for work)

Not for work, for skiing! Or for me, snowboarding. Everybody in media seems to ski anyway so its kind of on topic.

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

Why we're here

Why are we here? No not the answer to life, the universe and everything, which is obviously 42, but we the analysts. We the insights people. Why are we here and what are we good for?

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 future of UK television

TV in the UK is about to undergo a major shake-up and I'm surprised not to be hearing more about it in the marketing world. There are a few things happening that, taken together, point to a revolution at least as big as the one we've seen from Sky+ and Freeview+ (also known as PVRs before the Freeview branding people got hold of them.)

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

Ten signs that you're the problem

There's an ongoing complaint from the marketing agency world along the lines of 'if clients would only leave agencies alone and give them space, they'd get amazing work.' No doubt sometimes true, but I have a strong suspicion that if all clients did it, then many would end up with the sorts of expensive viral campaigns that are only followed by their agency's employees and a load of those bots on Twitter that try to get you to click on links to porn. Sometimes a tight leash is a good thing.

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

No guarantees

Nice article over on The Grumpy Brit today with a perspective on measurement that I plan to steal with pride.

"The relatively new culture of accountability has mutated into the quest for guarantees. I don’t care how many metrics and tracking devices you have in place, there is an element of risk in all marketing. The goal of marketing is to influence human beliefs and behaviour. If there were guarantees to be had, criminal activity would be a thing of the dim and distant past and we would never argue with our spouses or children.

What drives successful marketing is informed creativity..."

Can't steal all of it though, you can read the rest on the site.