A crucial call to action for every planner today

August 2nd, 2019

marilyn-monroe-399194_1920The medium is the message.

This is the most famous quotation from 1960s philosopher Marshall McLuhan.  McLuhan coined the term to explain how content is interpreted differently in different media.  He argued that the context makes a difference.  Many observers are currently rediscovering this.

At its simplest we know that the same advert for a diamond earring would get a different reaction if seen in Vogue Magazine or in refinery29.  In one it would be considered really expensive.  In another a nice bit of bling.

As well as the obvious prestige or accessibility provided by the immediate environment McLuhan cited the sensory differences of different media.  A “hot” medium does the work for you – for example the Avengers movie, you can just sit in front of it and soak it up; a “cold” medium requires that you do the work – for example The Economist, you need to concentrate.  These definitions may be now outdated and too binary, but what is true is that the medium in which the message is received is crucial to a good comms strategy.

In addition “cheap” mass reach, with no consideration to the environment, frequency or channel, can be costly.  The Advertising Association have provided evidence that ad bombardment is eroding audience trust.  As Robert Rakowitz put it in his call to action for media sustainability, “reach at no cost is reach at all cost, what we need is reach with responsibility”.

The medium is the message is even more true now.  The media are not just a vehicle or delivery system for ad messages.  Media are also where people complain about customer service.  It is a widely held belief amongst the informed public that the best and quickest way to get a response to a customer complaint is to tweet about it.

Its where people share their pride in a new purchase, or look for inspiration for what to buy next.

A one size fits all approach to this on the basis of last click attribution is both naïve and potentially harmful to the brand.  As MediaCom’s  Richard Davies explains this is nonsense:  “Man wakes up with a terrible hangover, blames the last drink he had, the glass of water by his bed.”

The medium is where people shop, where they request samples and also where they dream, plan and collaborate.  All of this must surely be of consideration when the copy for the advertising is planned.

There is no time in the history of media planning when it has been more significant to understand and consider the role of the medium in terms of its impact on the intended message from advertisers.

Share

Disruption is not driven by tech. Disruption is driven by dissatisfied customers.

July 23rd, 2019

twNew technologies come and go, and always have done.  The ones that stick around and disrupt our businesses are the ones that consumers choose to adopt.  As Harvard Business School Professor Thales S.Teixeira writes: “The most common and pervasive pattern of disruption is driven by customers.”  When businesses focus on customer needs and wants they respond far more effectively, time and again, than when they only focus on technology.

So, for MediaCom’s second annual Transformation Week, back by popular demand, we had a firm focus on humans not only on tech,  a focus on putting people first for better results in fact.  The people buying our clients’ goods or services, and the people working for, and also leading, their businesses.

The week opened with new research from the IPA jointly with the FT who interviewed their readers worldwide to see how much they truly understand the important work of the marketing community.  Is there a disconnect with the executive boards in terms of appreciating and valuing the task of creating marketing effectiveness?  Should we, and can we, as a community that values marketing, disrupt their lack of insight and transform their understanding in order to ensure that those responsible for the overall health of business understand that marketing is an investment for the longterm? (Yes, we should).

The week’s sessions, created by MediaCom and by our brilliant partners across the industry, offered rich insight into every crucial aspect of transformation with workshops, presentations, some “rock-star” talent on show and fresh research.  Sessions included a discussion of sustainability, a new topic for Transformation Week 2019, but one which has hurtled to the forefront of consumer concerns.  ITV are took us into the heart of Love Island and commercial partnership, and Sky shared with us how they’ve harnessed transformation in measurement for AV.    Reach brought the Brexit Debate to Red Lion Square, with Britain Talks participants recreating the live debate across the nation.  (What happens when strangers meet and discuss politics ?  They certainly don’t agree, but they do find that they have more in common than they thought.)  Verizon brought alive the real business transformation that 5G is heralding.  Stylist showed how they are literally going from strength to strength with a new exercise studio venture.  They called too for a transformation in the depiction of a diverse set of women in advertising to match their editorial position.  Theobalds Road Consulting (MediaCom’s own consultancy start up), together with Code took participants through a fun and educational workshop on Voice, where Alexa herself participated.

There was much much more than this, including a consultation on the future of Out of Home and two takes on the enduring power of radio with Chris Evans and Dave Berry.

MediaCom Edinburgh held a Transformation session on purpose.

Data suggests that we’re all on a journey as far as benefitting from truly diverse teams throughout every level of management and colleagues.  An important question for me is Diversity 2.0, what needs to happen next? A “fishbowl” debate on this closed the sessions on Thursday pm.

New WPP research has defined the 7 levers of growth, and an expert panel discussed these and the typical barriers to business growth, how to build for innovation and how to overcome the typical traps along the way.  Although disruption is customer led, digital preparedness is crucial – how do you assess where you are on this spectrum?  MediaCom’s Theobalds Road Consultancy is at hand to offer help with defining new pathways to growth and delivering “people first” transformation.

 

Share

Everyone seems to be raining on Cannes. Not me – an optimistic take on June 2019

July 9th, 2019

Cannes-2019-750x417pxLet’s be positive.

Conrad Hilton said: “Travel bridges cultures and promotes peace in the world”.  Some people are pointing to Cannes this year as a harbinger of doom.  Actually, it was the very opposite.

Whilst it would be oversimplistic to suggest that the ad festival promoted world peace, the general message of the week was more about solutions and realistic situational analysis than it was about problems and existential crisis for a change this year.

Yes, the IPA pointed out that there is a lack of correlation between effectiveness and creative winners.  Yet a strategy panel of CSOs that convened later in the week pointed out that this reflected the nature of the entrants to the Effectiveness Awards rather than a crisis of creativity.  And called for a stepchange in diversity of types of work for the 2020 awards.

The sessions at the Palais ranged far and wide as always with some of my colleagues reporting highlights including calls to dream big, flex business models to be more agile and where appropriate to personalise.  From AR to XR – extended reality enabled by 5G.  There’s much more action (not just talk) on diversity and inclusion.  Undoing stereotypes is long overdue, and the Unstereotype Alliance is now making good ground.  This gives many people reasons to be cheerful.  Berta de Pablos, Mars Wrigley CCO set a refreshing tone of honesty by presenting the results of the Geena Davies institute’s analysis of how their advertising executions were doing.  Better than most, but not enough.  This honesty under the spotlight is inspirational.  She said: “”The best ads take on the responsibility to accurately reflect society. We hope that by releasing some of our findings from the institute, we can encourage the larger industry to prioritise the equitable inclusion and representation of women.”

Back at MediaCom’s suite a session hosted by Matt Mee (Global CSO) was dedicated to optimism.  Matt asked CMOs Janelle Anderson of American Airlines and Kellyn Smith Kenny CMO of Hilton Hotels, if they felt optimistic about anything.  The answer was a resounding yes.  Kellyn, who cited Conrad Hilton’s purpose, said that his pioneering spirit was contagious.  Yes, the sector has been disrupted, but that disruption has inspired the incumbents to new heights.  Janelle pointed out that budget airlines have opened the habit of flying up to many more people, and made the point that positivity was crucial to a business where if anything out of the airline’s control goes wrong (like a bird strike, or the weather), their passengers love to blame them.  However, “if something goes wrong, and our people help through that, and make the customer feel good, then that’s a win for the brand.”

The panel agreed that the role of CMO is to be an engine for growth and to champion healthy brands.  Kellyn said she believed that there had been more innovation in marketing in the past 7 years than in the previous 200, and marketers had never before had better tools for mining insights from data.  When I asked them for tips for navigating all this change they advised: “Get a coalition by your side”.

In light of this optimism the alarming news from the IPA and FT that there’s a big disconnect between the FT’s c-suite readership and any real understanding of how marketing works must be seen as an opportunity for development and education.

Reasons to be cheerful this year at Cannes, even if the path ahead is still very steep and rocky it looks like some light is beginning to dawn.

 

 

 

Share

Have you got a “Barney” ?

June 24th, 2019

ted“Have you met Ted?”

If you’re a fan of “How I met your mother”, you’ll recognise Barney’s catch phrase. As self-appointed wingman to friend Ted, he essentially chats up for him a series of women for dates.

Have you got a Barney in your life? For Ted, characterised as more shy and more self-effacing, Barney plays a crucial role in getting him connected. He’s Ted’s bro.

A wingman or woman can make a massive difference to your career (as well as your love life, which is out of the remit of this blog). When you hit a career blockage, have a bad meeting or sink beneath pressure, your wing-person can help you to regroup and move on.

They’ll be there for you, and cheer you up. And if you’re really lucky they’ll tell you some home truths about yourself.

In fact, if they don’t do this, they’re not actually doing their job properly. A work buddy is one thing. The person who you moan to about your boss being short with you, or who makes you a cup of tea when you’re flagging. The buddy will comfort you when you’re down, commiserate when you didn’t get a promotion, chat with you when you’re bored, cover for you when you’re late.

This is not a wing person. The wing person – or WP – plays a different role in your career. They will make connections for you and talk about you when you’re not there. They will create opportunities for you. They will be thrilled at your success, even if it sometimes is better than their own. A great WP thinks about you when you’re not around.

They push you out of your comfort zone.

They tell you what you got wrong.

They make suggestions about how you should change that they know you won’t want to hear.

They keep on at you about those changes, even if you tell them not to, because they care as much about your career potential as you do, and honestly, in my personal experience, sometimes they care more.

Listening to them and then acting on it is essential. It’s a big part of having a growth mindset, and that’s the mindset you need to succeed.

They are not just your cheer-leader, in proven fact they are much more important than this.

In an interesting experiment, Professor Serena Chen of the University of California, together with Juliana Breines from the University of Rhodes Island, worked with participants in 3 groups all of whom had been asked to name their biggest weakness. One set were asked to write themselves a letter talking about their weakness from a “compassionate and understanding” perspective. Another set were asked to write in terms of boosting their self-esteem – to focus on validating themselves rather than on that weakness. The third group were the control, and weren’t asked to do anything. Participants in the weaknesses seen with compassion group showed much more of a growth mindset, and were much more likely to agree that with hard work they could change than either of the other two sets. A follow up experiment showed that behaviour change was much more likely from people who experienced compassionate but clear understanding about what they’d got wrong, than from those who had been given unconditional approval.

Here’s how wingperson differs then from a buddy or even a cheerleader. They’ll point out your mistakes with kindness and compassion, and won’t let you get away with being stuck. Self-esteem by HBR’s analysis is over-rated. You need a wingman to make sure that you are really working on your weaknesses not just glossing over them. If you haven’t got one, find one. And as Barney also says, it never hurts to Suit Up.

 

 

Share

Join the campaign against the squishies

June 10th, 2019

ipa“A widespread promiscuous devotion to the untrue”

This is how best-selling writer Kurt Anderson describes post truth Trump’s America.  In his recent best-selling book Fantasyland he argues that regarding facts as optional is deep rooted and centuries old in his homeland.

His argument runs like this: The founding fathers fled an England that was too religiously tolerant for their beliefs and sought a new land where nobody would mock them for their delusions and dreams.  Creating new truths began in the 17th century and has never stopped.  Its no co-incidence, according to Anderson, that America produced Disneyland or that creationism is still popular.  Americans are great at fantasy.  Facts, he claims, are too often perceived as merely another version of the truth.  “America was the dreamworld creation of fantasist, some religious and some out to get rich quick, all with freakish appetite for the amazing.”  He is fearful of the consequences of this for the world.  A world where opinion is as valid as hard evidence.  Here’s one of Anderson’s more recent examples of this: ‘“Do you think that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country without presenting the evidence? the anchor of ABC World News Tonight asked President Trump.  “No,” he replied, “not at all!  Not at all – because many people feel the same way that I do.”’

Are we, in the ad industry, ever in danger of confusing hard evidence and beliefs?

At 2018’s IPA Effectiveness Week conference Libby Child presented research into marketing effectiveness culture across the industry where over half the respondents rated the abilities of their organisations at 6 or less (out of 10).  Furthermore prevailing ‘Marketing Effectiveness Culture’ is short term in its focus. It is not yet the norm for it to be aligned across the whole company or for formal kpis to be shared across the board.  So sometimes budgets are spent against the more easily judged short term rather than in the long term in terms of brand health and for a sustainable business model.

There was a trend a few years ago about “the wisdom of the crowd”.  Surely if most people around you believed something then that would be better than the opinion of an elite group of experts?  This can be seen as part of a “Fantasyland” continuum; where someone hears what they would prefer to believe, and then is served social media feeds which reassuringly echo rather than challenge their views.

Every aspect of a comms plan must have a rationale, backed by evidence.  That evidence must be substantive and independent.  To make any decision because that’s where other brands are spending or on the basis of media owner information that is not third party verified may be entering the Fantasyland delusion.

There is always room for instinct, for gut feel and for making a decision because of belief in the potential of a media idea that is unproven yet.  But this should be done in the conscious knowledge that it is a valid test and experiment with proper accountable measurements.

Fantasyland can be dangerous.  Anderson calls out some opinion formers as “Squishies, people intellectually or temperamentally disinclined to tell people they’re full of shit when they are, who have lost their stomach for the fight against the multiplying and empowered Believers.”

The IPA Effectiveness movement stands out against the Squishies.  Now a global initiative it is dedicated to broadening the bank of knowledge from more brands and more disciplines.  As Convenor of the 2020 awards I’m hoping that more agencies than ever this year can find the time to enter to ensure the triumph of evidence based marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

Share