Thursday, 23 June 2011

A follow up on last week's Facebook decline story

I've written a post following up the Facebook decline story from last week, but you can't read it here...

Point your favourite browser at the new Brilliant Media blog. @Data_monkey will be putting in an appearance over there from time to time now too.

Don't worry, Wallpapering Fog isn't going anywhere. Drop back soon for more healthy scepticism and high quality back-of-a-fag-packet marketing analytics.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The irresistable urge to fiddle...

...Is the only reason I can think of why you'd abandon a campaign, which has been working - incredibly successfully - since 1972.

Your predecessors as Brand Manager have created one of the iconic British brands. All you have to do is to keep your head down, serve your time and repeat their successful formula. By all means build microsites, do social media and get all web 2.0, but do not, under any circumstances, digitise the Andrex Puppy.

Monday, 20 June 2011

(Nearly) six months in, how's marketing outside London?

"When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Samuel Johnson

I can't comment on the validity of the great doctor's opinion of 17th century London. However, six months after leaving the capital and moving to Leeds, I would like to state that in 2011 it is, categorically, bollocks. I'm having a great time.

There's no doubt that life as a marketer in Leeds is different. I'm not working with quite such glamorous brands (though you'd still have heard of plenty of them; it's not that much of a backwater) but in comparison to household names in London, the challenges of working with our clients are different and very refreshing. To sell a piece of research, we've often got to convince the owner of a business that it's worth spending his own money on. It's money that would otherwise accrue to him, personally, as profit. Persuading a brand manager who has £100k for research already pencilled into his annual budget, to part with some of it for your particular flavour of research, is much easier.

On the other hand, Brilliant's client base is refining and focussing what I do as an analyst. The econometrics we sell is more like the econometrics I'd do for my own business; a lot of the fat has gone and it's geared to getting the right answer to a specific question, as quickly as possible. 'Interesting' research is still interesting, but the majority of our clients aren't willing to pay for it. Persuade them that you can make their advertising 10% more efficient though and the chequebook opens, although they bargain a lot harder than in London too. It's probably a Yorkshire thing.

So, a bit less glamorous but I'm enjoying the work a lot. If it's important to you to be waiting in reception at Canary Wharf rather than at a business park on the edge of Sheffield though, then it's probably not the place for you.

If you hate that tube ride to Canary Wharf. If it's really starting to drag, then keep reading. Move out of London and your work-life balance can change out of all recognition.

You may have to compromise on a bit of reflected glory from your client list, but you'll do the same job for essentially the same money. Life is cheaper outside London. Much cheaper. Swap your pokey Clapham flat for a house. Yes, an actual house with a garden, a garage, a dining table and an upstairs. You can have friends round and not have to eat off your laps on the sofa.

Go for a jog and it's along a canal towpath, not down New Cross High Street.

Everybody at Brilliant works hard. Like our clients, there's not a lot of fat on the business because we're smaller so it would be more noticeable. Working hard means arriving before 9am (not 9.30 - that was shock!) but most people have gone by 6.00 and the office is almost always empty by 6.30. I'm not entirely sure why, as we're still the same kind of marketing people, but my theory is that the environment outside the office is so much nicer that you want to spend time in it. You get finished on time rather than dragging things out. With a tube ride and my Lewisham flat to look forward to, why not stay till 7.30?

I don't want to be down on London and it was great while it lasted. It also set me up to be able to do this job. The move is working though and I can't ever see going back.

The last one - and the reason why I'm looking forward to the proper summer arriving so much - is that if you like outdoor pass-times then you can do them in the evening not just at the weekend. The outdoors (the proper, green, countryside outdoors) also isn't over an hour's drive away. I love paragliding (I might have mentioned it...) and have just taken up windsurfing. If the weather forecast's right, I can be kitted up on a lake, or in the middle of nowhere up a hill in the Pennines by 6.30. Tonight will be Nont Sarah's.

Nonts doesn't look like this right now, but winter could be fun too...

Dr. Johnson was right, in a way; London does offer all that life can afford. Unfortunately a marketer cannot afford all that London can offer and fortunately there are some things that money can't buy.

Unhappy in London? Don't just change job and hope things will improve. My advice would be to try getting out. If it goes wrong, you can always go back.

If you're like me, then I promise you won't.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's a good Facebook story. Run it and to hell with the data.

Pretty much all of the newspapers this morning are running a story on a possible decline in Facebook's UK user-base. It's fairly predictably been re-tweeted all over the place too.

The story actually came out yesterday and is - no-doubt - a cracking piece of PR for the services of Inside Facebook, who provided the stats.

Now, I've been predicting the decline of Facebook for a while and I'd quite like this story to be true. Our newspapers have done what they usually do with an interesting press release and just run the piece without checking any background to the numbers. "Inside Facebook say traffic is falling" runs the story. "We're not lying, we didn't say it was true, Inside Facebook did."

So where have these decline numbers come from?

From a subscription service called Inside Facebook Gold.

If you trawl Inside Facebook's site (and if you do better than me, then I'd love to hear in the comments) there's very, very little on the methodology that Inside Facebook Gold uses to measure active users. We've got a suggestion that it's tied to running ads on the Facebook platform and using Facebook's own tracking metrics and, er, that's it.

That coupled with the fact that so far, this decline in users is a 1-2 month blip and Inside Facebook admit they've seen bigger single month blips before, has my bullshit alert flashing amber. I'm not saying it isn't true, but how are we to know with no idea of where the numbers come from? It certainly doesn't merit blanket national press coverage.

It doesn't merit a multitude of retweets either, but they were at least as predictable as the copy-paste of a press release journalism.

As a quick example of why we need to know... I don't use the web interface to Facebook nearly as much as I used to, since I got an Android phone. The Android app doesn't deliver ads like the web interface does. For all I know, I've dropped off Inside Facebook's tracking even though my use of Facebook has undoubtedly increased since I got the phone.

That really could be one of many causes for a measured decline, depending on how the methodology works. UK Android handset sales have exploded.

Stats with no hint of the methodology, from a company you've never heard of before, that tell a story you were hoping to tell and that make a cracking PR fluff piece for the papers...

Bullshit Alert. Every time.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Showing your workings

One of two things happened with Volvo's latest ad for the V60.


It's a very clever, self-referential commentary on TV spots for cars, composed by a genius.


Bereft of original ideas at the end of an all-day creative session, somebody looked at a list on the whiteboard that was drawn up four hours ago (as a joke that had seemed funny at the time) listing the 'formula' for a car ad and said "sod it, we've got nothing else, let's run with that".

1. Show a sexy car
2. Include a visual metaphor
3. Make it all wet and steamy
4. Finish with an obscure product demonstration

Draw your own conclusion, but ads like this rarely strike me as being all that clever. It feels more like showing your workings.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Effective data visualisation for marketers

This is a little pack I put together for the planners here at Brilliant and I'm hoping a few others out in marketing land might find it useful too...

Effective data visualisation for marketers
View more presentations from Data_monkey.

I wrote the deck a few months ago and have lost the links to a few sources. If you recognise the number 5's screenshot or the chart forms graphic, thanks - it was a great article. Please let me know as I'd like to credit them properly.