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.



How smart are the smart systems ?

November 3rd, 2014

Walking down one of Hampstead’s bijoux roads recently I noticed a woman leaning out of an upstairs window explaining to a man at the door that her “smart” lock had locked her in and asking him to try different ways to open the door.


If MediaCom’s strategy director Mark Cochrane is right we can expect much more of this in our homes. A secret tech geek, Mark delivered the “what’s next” presentation at our joint conference with Channel 4 this month “Make our house your home.”  Mark revealed Smart locks, lighting, alarms, coffee makers, blinds and of course cars and fridges all currently on the market though clearly not mass market yet.  You could see the audience taking notes.  Mind you though during the last 24 months I’ve had more power cuts than in the last 24 years; but I’m sure it’ll all be absolutely fine when everything possible is hooked up and the power fails.


In other highlights C4 research head Neil Taylor talked us through the new consumer decision making process.  He warned that the consumer purchase “funnel” is now leaking all over the place and overflowing with unnecessary information and too many choices.  MediaCom planning head Steve Gladdis and strategist Lindsey Jordan explained approaches to counter this for brands, including making stuff simple through bite size chunks of information and use of the credibility of celebrity experts which C4’s Danny Peace illustrated with case studies.  Speaking of experts the glorious Sarah Beeney was interviewed by Damon (move over Chatty Man) Lafford.  Her top prediction? Wall carpets to counter bad acoustics caused by open plan and wooden floors.  Neil had already told us that consumers would like robot vacuum cleaners; surely the launch of wall crawling Roombas can’t be far away?


I too will give some of the smart devices designed for the home and car a go. It strikes me though that very little in the working environment of most offices is smarter.  Have you been in the slightly smarter lifts at Central St Giles, I think that they lack charm.  When I’m working late and concentrating hard at Theobalds Road the lights go off because I’m not moving about enough.  Most new systems seemed designed to outsource effort from central teams that were originally designed to take unproductive tasks away from employees.  You can see the sell (smaller central admin teams), but the individual user might have to jump through more hoops.  Am I being unfair?  Are there “smart systems” out there in the workplace that are increasing individual productivity?



Gaming the system

October 21st, 2014

Back in the summer (can you remember the summer ?) Campaign shared some of my holiday reading.


As it happened the weather in Devon was ok and the waves were suitable (not too gnarly, not too tiny).  Therefore I didn’t get to my book about the end of civilisation in the Bronze Age yet, but I did read Evgeny Morozov’s “To save everything click here“.


Morozov is peeved about a lot of stuff, specifically innovation for the sake of it and broadly the internet at large.  This book is a harsh critique of “solutionism”, the idea that we now have the potential to solve most of society’s ills through clever  digitally designed solutions.


The current craze for wearable tech including the Quantified Self initiatives comes under Morozov’s scrutiny.  He describes the four factors behind the rise of self-tracking : small sensors, their ubiquity in smart phones, social media normalising sharing and cloud computing so that you can offload your data and merge it with other people’s to generate norms and targets.  The urge to improve which is normally given as a reason for self tracking doesn’t wash.  Morozov says :”Self tracking – especially when done in public – is often just a by-product of attempts to show off….”


The author is gloomy about solutionism.  He thinks it will limit mankind.  We will have no moral framework, as the solutionists will limit our choices to the good ones.  He quotes scientist Ursula Franklin “Imagine what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not lived in a garden but in a smart building.  The divine designer would probably have arranged it so that they never saw apples.”  Not a good thing. No apples, no sin, no free will.


He’s overly pessimistic and is underestimating the human inventiveness.  Only the other day I unintentionally “gamed” a website.  Signing up for a gym online I couldn’t find the answer to a question, so I came out of the payment page twice to look for an answer.  By the time I went to pay for the third time the website had dropped the joining fee.  It won’t be long before everyone catches on to this kind of thing and in some way finds a way to exploit it.


Eve would have found a way to the apples in the smart building and Adam would have followed her.  I back the human capacity for breaking the rules over tech based internet solutionism.


So media planners need to stay alert. We might think we’re the planning experts but a decade ago we knew more about the purchase journey than we do now.  Then, there was a purchase funnel for most categories and we knew how to shove people down it.  Now, the consumer has a powerful computer in her pocket and that changes everything.  The funnel has become a loop (think spaghetti junction), and just as we set new rules for a category the consumer breaks those too.



Driving word of mouth is a great ambition, but it can go too far.

October 15th, 2014

I’ve got a packet of “repositional notes” on my desk.  You’d probably recognise them as “post it” notes.

I will probably use them in the same way as I would genuine post it notes, just as I will “hoover” my carpet with a Henry and chuck a “flying disc” in the park instead of a Frisbee.

Generating word of mouth is an ambition for many brands.  Who wouldn’t want to become a household name?  The myth busting Ehrenberg-Bass Institute include in their best practice marketing principles building and refreshing “memory structures” or “associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy”.

In the words of Slim Shady : Be careful what you wish for.

Overuse of the brand name by the public may lead to “Genericide” : becoming so much the generic for your category that people don’t think there’s any point to seeking out the original.

There are of course lawsuits that can be put in play for infringement of copyright and businesses that seek out and stamp out improper use of trademarks online.

But the real killer is the misuse of your brand name by the general public.  Google have a set of “rules of proper usage”, and in the UK it is pretty unusual to search online at the moment using a different engine.  If search takes off in other social media channels the search giant might worry about people “googling” in other channels.

Simon Tulett comments that Twitter raised open concern about brand genericide in its initial IPO in fact mentioning that “there is a risk that the word “Tweet” could become so commonly used that it becomes synonymous with any short comment posted publically on the internet, and if this happens, we could lose protection of this trademark”.

Brands exist to be noticed.  They succeed when they short cut the decision making process to become the default choice for the category.  Exclusivity and distinctiveness is crucial to sustained competitive success.  Once YoYos, Thermoses, and Escalators were brands in their own right.  I’m not sure now what I’d even call a small round object that you can pump up and down on a string if I couldn’t call it a YoYo.

Investment in brand fame is important, but fame alone is not enough.  You need sustained investment in distinctive brand behaviour and continued development of your products to swerve the genericide trap.