Love and Laugh

December 9th, 2014

The other day I was chatting to the head of a media company about how one of his new recruits had settled in.  He’s said that his new employee, a senior executive, had settled in well, and was already making a great contribution.  He’d reported that he’d already had more laughs in the first few months of the new team than in his years at a previous job.


This is startling isn’t it? Shouldn’t every business have the time and space for a few laughs, a bit of gentle banter and some affectionate piss taking?


It should.  It doesn’t hurt anyone’s professionalism to chill out at the end (or during) a hard day at work.  My old coach would agree with me.  He’d talk about leadership not as command and control but in the context of helping the people you work with to get the best out of your team.  During coaching sessions he’d show movie clips to illustrate true love and passion in working relationships. There were clips from The Matrix (for instance the kiss where Persephone wants Neo to kiss her like he kisses his true love) and from Ali (to illustrate team work and faith :”I wanna be in your corner”).


We didn’t discuss my favourite movie about a working relationship (I was the coached not the coach), so allow me to reveal it here.  Clearly the protagonists’ occupation is far from exemplary, indeed it is appalling, but the team dynamic is superb.   Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the story of one of the most beautiful and until the very end effective working relationships captured on the big screen.


From the very beginning where Butch apparently “rescues” Sundance from an accusation of cheating the sense of absolute trust and love between the protagonists is wonderfully narrated.


There’s the knife fight where Butch has to win back leadership of the Hole in the Wall Gang.  Butch says to Sundance “Maybe there’s a way to profit from this, bet on Logan”.  Sundance responds ” I would but who’d bet on you? ” When Logan, the challenger, says “When it’s over and Butch is dead, you’re welcome in the gang” Butch whispers to Sundance “I don’t mean to be a sore loser, but when it’s over, if I’m dead, kill him” and Sundance replies “Love to”.


Great trust, great love, perfect understanding of and respect for each others strengths and weaknesses, countered by almost constant mild insults, lots of laughs.  If you can have that with your colleagues then your work culture is a good as it gets (and the HBR agrees).



The XX Factor

December 1st, 2014

“Notice anything unusual about this panel? Yes, it’s all-female. And yet male panels, or those with one woman, are so common, they go unremarked. Our industry is filled with incredible women, but the future isn’t female – just equal.” Lindsey Clay, chief executive, Thinkbox in Campaign Magazine.

It really is about time we made progress on this issue.

I’ve rarely been on an industry panel with a majority of women.  Yet I sit in meetings every week at MediaCom where it is of course common place.

What’s different about 124 Theobalds Road ? We have never had gender quotas.  Our business returns a great set of results consistently.  We are a meritocracy.  We don’t only promote women because we work in a business that ultimately markets products bought by women.

Arguments about women knowing better how to sell to women are irrelevant.  Was it a problem when Karen Blackett was the director on an account that predominantly sells fast cars to men? Of course not.  What was a problem was when I arrived at a previous agency to find that I had been given the Royal Doulton China Figurines account because I was a woman.  My ability to empathise as an urban twenty something with whatever drives ladies to spend north of a pony on one was not aided by my gender.

Confidence is one of the key issues hampering women’s career progression according to Atlantic Magazine.  They think that women are less confident than men professionally.  When they are equally confident then they’re labelled ball breakers.

Not everyone will agree with authors Kay and Shipman.  This isn’t the only reason for a lack of equality in the numbers of women leaders. But the good news about a confidence gap is that it can be overcome.  This is why Kathryn Jacob and I are writing a book packed with the kind of career advice you never get taught, including how to acquire confidence.  As one Atlantic correspondent writes : “Ten years ago I began teaching shy medical students “tricks of the trade” for appearing confident.. Early on I noticed that just by practising techniques for appearing confident, my students began to feel more confident… With enormous positive implications for improving lives.”

If anyone has any stories, tips or tactics for our book, please get in touch.  As for what’s different about MediaCom, I hope and believe that we have a culture that encourages everyone’s confidence, regardless of their gender.




Tighter Targeting Doesn’t Mean Better Persuasion

November 24th, 2014

“The weakness of modern strategy is that it is too reliant on technology.  The triumph of accuracy of outputs with no impact on outcomes”.  Hidden Histories GPS BBC.

I am sometimes asked about how programmatic will transform advertising.  Clearly a benefit of programmatic is pinpoint accuracy and the reduction of wastage.  But when we consider how it will transform advertising strategy overall we can look to the impact of GPS on military strategy as a related world.

I love my GPS.  My relationship with GPS did get off to a rocky start as I tended to take the bossy voice of the navigator too literally and was directed across a river in full flood down in Cornwall once.  Common sense prevailed but it was a disappointment.  Now I wouldn’t be without it and thanks to Google Maps on my phone can rely on not getting lost anywhere I go.

Soldiers used to have to find their way around using a compass and a map.  The first satellite navigation system Transit was used by the United States Navy in 1960.

The development of GPS came about on a Labor Day weekend in 1973 when a meeting of twelve military officers at the Pentagon discussed the creation of a Defense Navigation Satellite System (DNSS). It was at this meeting that “the real synthesis that became GPS was created.”  But it is President Reagan who we must thank for its everyday use in stopping us losing our way.

For years it was a military system only but after a tragic incident when a Korean Air Lines Flight carrying 269 people was shot down in 1983, when it strayed into the USSR’s prohibited airspace, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making GPS freely available for civilian use, once it was sufficiently developed, as a common good.

It is still of course used in military circumstances and as we know from the current series of Homeland is used to pinpoint accuracy for the deployment of drones.

So technology has massively improved the accuracy of targeting.  But as the comment opening this blog points out, it has done nothing to improve the persuasion of opponents to a different point of view.

What is the objective of military strategy? Usually it is a good peace. More accurate missiles are clearly a great thing in the short term.  Winning only comes about if we convince the opponent to a different point of view.

Convincing the potential consumer of a brand of our point of view is of course a major part of advertising strategy.  More accurate targeting via programmatic is a good thing. It is only important if we can persuade the consumer of a brand’s point of view at the same time.



Mix it Raw

November 12th, 2014

YouTube has been everywhere recently.  Buses, posters, magazine features and the BBC.

An episode of the Apprentice featured the candidates making a YouTube video and collaborating with YouTube stars to promote it, thus proving once again that any idiot CANNOT be funny or clever enough to go viral.

YouTube stars have also been into MediaCom’s offices.  The very charming Simon Wear, Barry Taylor and Caspar Lee answered questions about how to win on YouTube.

All the stars present were naturally keen to collaborate with brands.  Caspar Lee, boyband-esq star of his own channel which has over 3 million subscribers and over 160 million views, told us brands need to be “open-minded” and to trust his insights.  “I have to explain to older people why its ok for me to swear, I know my generation”, he explained to us.  He’s very keen on what he called “collab-ing” with brands who come with an open brief to do what he thinks best.

This echoes the views of Will Hayward VP of BuzzFeed.  He draws a sharp contrast between the world of marketing brands in order simply to get noticed to those that do so to get shared.

Does this require a new kind of creative agency ? Is the world changing faster than the rules of media?  Or has there always been a set of media owners who have requested that brands invest their money as the media owner thinks best.  That have always said:  “Lay your money down and we will look after your best interests”

Most advertising is still about getting noticed.  And a standard reach plan may still satisfy.  But you can’t have your cake and eat it.  Brands that are using content to drive brand warmth/itp must shift to considering what makes that content share-able and to listening to the new experts, people like Caspar.

This requires a new breed of communications thinking.  And it has it’s place in most plans.  This isn’t about using media to get across a message that has been carefully cooked up in a creative agency.  This isn’t about using media to put the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.  This is delivering your recipe and some raw ingredients to the content creators and collab-ing with them so that they mix up the flour, sugar and eggs in the right way to make your cake (brand) the most shared and talked about.

This requires a swift shift to shared risk and reward as a trading model for sure.  And the highest attention to detail, to the full system around the content and to real time course correction at the media agency.

This is Raw Communications Planning.




Here come the next billion smartphones

November 3rd, 2014

Big news from the Ig Nobel Prize this year as one winner explains why  banana skins are slippery.  Earlier winners have included the  researcher of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Duck. The originator of this dubious study is Kees Moeliker and he was a guest on a recent episode of Radio 4 show The Museum of Curiosity together with legendary internet entrepreneur and founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales.


They were asked to donate an item for the museum by programme host and devisor John Lloyd (Blackadder and Qi).  Jimmy Wales gave a $10 phone which he’s GOING to buy in Kenya in 2019.  This illustrates where the smart money is being directed over the next 5 years, the developing markets, the next billion people to get smart phones.


My first book “Tell the Truth – honesty is your most powerful marketing tool” described the impact smart phones, social media and internet information is having on marketing and communications in the developed world.    This impact is still playing through and is the cause of the shattering of the traditional purchase funnel.


The next billion smart phones change markets worldwide.  Jimmy Wales remarked that the democratisation of easily accessible smart phones in the developing world may mean that the next time a crisis hits a country they might call asking for aid before we are able to send it to them.


Google’s Matt Brittin says that today’s pace of change is the slowest that it is ever going to be.  Google has launched its first Android One smartphone in India – a budget device aimed at enticing the “next billion” smartphone users in the country and other emerging markets.  At $100 it’s ten times the price of Wales’ phone of the future and some think the price will have to drop to succeed, though Google say they don’t want to be the cheapest phone in the market but the best quality value for money.


For global marketers the opportunity is clear.  Dan Chapman, MediaCom’s digital head calls the changes that the cheap smart phone bring “Demobracy”.  The phones don’t just bring marketers opportunities to sell stuff they bring the users information about product, authenticity, pricing and sourcing.


More markets are opening up.  At the same time the demands and expectations of customers are increasing too.  For media planning this means recognising a much more fluid and complicated path to purchase than the “purchase funnel” of the past.  It means building real time course correction into every plan.  And as markets open up it means understanding what brands represent in different markets worldwide and if they can be truly global successes.