Secrets for Success in the Economy of Wishes

April 11th, 2014

This was the subject of my final panel last week at glorious Adweek Europe.


Adweek Europe.  Not much else was talked of in my (admittedly fairly narrow) professional circle last week.  The consensus was that the organisers excelled themselves in creating a true festival of advertising and media.


The idea of an economy of wishes was introduced by PWC as way of describing a shift in the old asymmetry of economic power.


In the old days brands and manufacturers held the cards and gave out information at their own pace.  Now, as I described in my book Tell The Truth, consumers can see all the cards and find out whatever they wish to via their tablets and smart phones about a brand.  Relative prices, satisfaction reviews, sourcing, crm policies and indeed even the pay ratios of the CEO to the average, all in a few moments.


Our debate was around how best to manage a retail brand in this environment and the consensus was around disclosure, authenticity and treating the customer as if they matter.  Nish Kukadia CEO, explained that customer satisfaction scores rocketed when they clearly explained the shipping process for product and defined expectations accurately around speed of delivery.


I cited the latest Edelman Trust Barometer which once again shows the growing trend that consumers trust the opinions of employees, people like them, more than CEOs or paid experts, which means that businesses that empower their staff reap rewards as every encounter with customers is a positive brand building opportunity.


It has to be authentic of course.  Meeting Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, later last week, we agreed that consumers can sniff out the slightest hint of inauthentic communications.  In one to one encounters in a shop, in customer service calls and via Twitter.  There’s a divide coming between brands we can believe in because they’re true to themselves and have trusted representatives who believe in the brand, and those where the employees are either disillusioned or, worse, sound like they’ve drunk too much of the Kool-Aid and are just spouting the company line.  Come to think of it I could name media owner brands and sales teams that represent either side of that divide too.  Can you?


In the economy of wishes if we imagine something we can make it happen.  How do we choose where to spend our time and money, personally or professionally?  We will choose where we trust in the brands and the people that represent them.



What price innovation without strategy ?

April 8th, 2014

Innovation is much prized.  For good reason as the last two centuries have seen change at an unprecedented pace, a pace that seems only to be speeding up.  In the race for change some have gained, some have lost.  Some brands have thrived, some have died.  Surely the single most important trait to have therefore in your business, in your career is innovation?


Yet the I word is a little like the C word (I mean Creativity).  Both are much talked about, much desired and can often be misdirected.  Innovation when not appropriate is tiresome, and possibly destructive.  It leads to a misdirection of energy and will not lead to positive change.


The British Science Association have compiled a list of the top ten innovations that should have step changed their sector, or even the world we live in, but failed to change anything.


The list includes Concorde, a masterpiece of tech but a commercial failure, microwave ovens (were going to make us all chuck out our traditional ovens), high rise buildings, the moon landings, magnetic trains, and my personal favourite, as I can remember this being announced repeatedly as a game changer, video conferencing.  I know grandmothers who “video conference” their grandchildren more frequently than most of us use the facility.  My last video conference was last summer.  I’m in conference calls constantly.  But my face just doesn’t seem to be required.


There is just something about the idea of innovation that appeals.  It is a great “brand attribute” to have.  The two most significant attributes that sell more product in most categories are innovation and value for money.  Preferably both.


Yet innovation needs strategy to guide it.  Or it can really be a waste of time and money (I’m sure we can all think of pointless innovations that we’ve wasted time over in the last few years.)


We both like and fear innovation for deep rooted reasons.  The zone of proximal development is crucial to learning when we are children.   This zone contains new stuff that is just about within our reach.  Learning is play, and in this zone innovation is fun and rewarding.  Our animal brain however fears innovation.  When something changes in the environment our brains alert us to danger (think of a deer startled in the forest by the unexpected snap of a twig).  In this way therefore innovation can terrify.  Too much changing too soon and without proper attention to detail simply step changes our stress levels not our ability to progress.


Furthermore one innovation is not enough.  It must be embedded in the culture of your business.  One of the world’s greatest and most famous innovators Henry Ford was a great innovator initially and then a real conservative in many respects.  He brilliantly intuited what would happen if an ordinary person was treated as a consumer and if their growing aspirations were met at scale.  Having made his breakthrough in car manufacturing and led the development of industrialism, he failed to see that consumer’s aspirations would not stop at his product, and for many years fought against the innovations that his competitors created to overtake him, both in product novelty and in industrial relations.


A framework for innovation is essential – you have to change simply to stand still let alone develop.  You cannot sit on one great innovation and expect it to sustain your business.  Nor can you afford innovation for the fun of it.  It must be applied at scale and purposeful or it is not worth the candle.






Up close and personal, in more ways than one.

March 31st, 2014

In a dark hallway, I mean with no lights at all, waiting to go on stage at the IAB conference on RTA, I found myself being fitted for a mike in close proximity to Financial Times Commercial Director, Digital Advertising , Jon Slade.  He charmingly turned his back while my mike cord was threaded through my clothes, after all we had only just met, and the FT is a publication for gentlemen.


We were assembling for the Viewability Debate at this year’s Real Time Advertising get together.  The sub title “Make the most of it” said it all.  A change, a revolution in media thinking is upon us.  Not everyone yet is exploiting the real possibilities of getting really up close and personal with your prospective customer that it offers.


Caroline Kinsman from does seem to be doing so.  Her case study sounded a great example of applying traditional DR test and learn principles across the whole life cycle of attracting and keeping customers.  She described a programme that included reach based offline media to prospect for customers, synchronised on line messages to exploit second screen and retargeting with relevant copy for those who shopped once, and those who didn’t sign up.


This use of media specifically to get close and personal with the customer was something that was once only a theory delivered in abstract.  John Grant predicted the trend in his fine book “The new marketing manifesto” as long ago as 2000.  The examples he gave were ideas.  They were concepts.  The reality now is that RTA gives us breathtaking opportunities to deliver those ideas.


What of Viewability, the debate that I was part of the panel of ?


I think many in the audience were shocked by the facts that emerged on this issue.  I’ll sum up with a comment from MediaCom’s head of digital investment Tim Lawrence : “Viewability is a really hot topic at present in digital – the ability to track whether an online ad is being viewed by the user on screen is now available-  and if you hear that only ‘30% of online ads are seen’ and that you shouldn’t pay for anything that isn’t viewed then you can understand the push for a greater emphasis.”


One of the issues involved is simply someone not seeing an online ad because it’s below the “fold” or minimised.  In this the medium is suffering from no greater a problem than traditional media.  I suggested to the FT that Viewability standards proposed by the IAB could make the ads online have better viewability standards than the paper edition has where audience measurement is according to the NRS standard, surely a great advantage for the medium as far as accountability is concerned.


The standard proposed by the IAB is that a view is 50% of the ad seen for at least 1 second.  Whilst progress this does seem rather light and more importantly doesn’t match the standard set for a viewer by BARB (3 seconds).  It is a pity that once again the industry is missing an opportunity to set comparable audience standards between media.


It will however help the situation and can be used as a brief for creative work (get the logo and strap line in early (the creative agency will truly love that!)).


The more worrying aspect of Viewability is fraud.  Around 13% of views are not human according to this report from AdSafe.


And the bots that view the ads also click through to make a mockery of pay per click.


This is not and should not be seen as the Wild West and sellers of views online must shun the practices of snake oil salesmen even if there is short term uplift from soft standards of course.  RTA offers unprecedented opportunities for reaching prospects up close and personal.  The more stringent and more rigorous the audience metrics are, the better for the fortunes of the industry.




More change, don’t relax

March 20th, 2014

“You could make a case that the interesting stuff the internet’s going to do to the media industry has mostly already happened.”

So says thought guru, columnist, and creative director at GDS Russell Davies.  That’s not to say, as he goes on to say that you can just sit and think: “phew, we survived. Because the internet will now just move on to transform every other bit of your business and could easily render you useless as a side effect.”

I won’t argue with Russell.  The last time I attempted to he conclusively proved that we were both right! I tend to shy away from predictions anyway as I’m not much of a gambler.  Whether the neophiliacs are going to have to take a chill pill for a while or not I don’t know.  I do know that we have barely begun to feel the impact of the change brought by the internet.  We have barely scratched the surface.

I am grateful to the BBC’s director of future media Ralph Rivera for his way of explaining this.  He described what he named the Brooklyn Grid (his place of origin).  The vertical axis of the grid is “New Stuff” versus “Same Stuff”.  The horizontal axis: “New ways” and “Same Ways”.

Describing developments so far at the BBC he explained that mostly their innovation to date had been “Same Stuff” done in “New Ways” eg  the iplayer (in the sense that it is the same sort of content that the BBC has always produced delivered in a new way) or the Olympics (coverage of events, but all of them, simultaneously).  His ambition was to start to populate the New Stuff in New Ways part of the grid at the BBC.

Similarly in advertising, lots of what advertising agencies do is the Same Stuff in the Same Ways still in terms of bulk of spend.  There’s an increasing amount of the Same Stuff/New Ways – for instance video on demand.  I want to put Search into that space too as it is a new way of delivering the Yellow Pages in a fashion with cost per click reviving the shared risk model of buying that was how we often worked in the early days even on TV.  There is going to be much more of a return to this shared risk across campaigns generally.  Let’s not worry about New Stuff in Same Ways – every new ad campaign that has a traditional media plan goes in that box.  But we have barely scratched the surface of New Stuff in New Ways yet.  Integrating the second screen into truly delivering point of sale while ads are rolling on TV, using mobile as a first screen when the target audience requires it, beginning with owned content rather than bought and fully plumbing the whole connected system of media are all still in their early days in terms of scale.

That’s really going to shake things up once we get to grips with it.  I hope no-one relaxed when they read Russell’s piece.  There’s a lot more change ahead.




Prince William’s been stood up

March 13th, 2014

I don’t know how much interest you have paid to the recent royal outrage.  Prince William has been refused a visit, essentially stood up, by New Zealand’s Maori King.  King Tuheitia’s office rejected the offer of a visit from the Royal couple on tour down under on the basis that the time allocated was too short.  90 minutes allotted for the visit to the Maori leader’s base in the North Island was not long enough for proper protocols to be observed.

A senior Maori official explained that the Maori Royal was not prepared to compromise the tikanga (customs) to fit into a pre-determined schedule. It would have put the king in an impossible situation.

You may think that how you react to this depends on how Royalist you are by inclination.  I know several Republicans out there who are thinking “90 minutes – that’s ages, 30 minutes would be plenty thank you and much more than an hour and I’m in danger of NLTB.” (Not Listening Too Bored)

Others, with a bit more respect for this kind of thing, will indeed be appalled.  They will be muttering about status and respect and surely our Royal Family is bigger than theirs.

A recent lecture about ancient funeral rites has led me to believe that the divide in opinion over whether this is a shocking shame or completely understandable depends on something else entirely.  If you put the situation in the context of an understanding of the relative funeral rites and, general keeping your ancestors in the right frame of mind to intercede on your behalf, of the Aborigines and the Solomon Islanders then the whole thing makes more sense.

The Solomon Islanders (just East of Papua New Guinea) traditionally used valuable shell rings to ensure that ancestors were properly honoured.  Until Christian missionaries arrived in the 19th century their customs involved  binding the skulls of the deceased in beautiful shells fashioned into rings which were also used to festoon the small huts in which the skulls were kept.  So the customs revolved around valuable material possessions.

In contrast traditions in Aboriginal societies were about painting memorial logs with the correct images by tribe.  The knowledge was passed down in great secrecy from generation to generation.  So their customs revolved around accuracy of rare information applied through traditional ritual.

I don’t know if the Maori rituals follow this pattern, but it seems to me that if you think that the importance of William means that the Maoris have missed out then you’re judging like a Solomon Islander and if you appreciate the sensitivity of the importance of doing the rituals properly or not at all then you’re thinking more like an Aborigine.

Status from possessions or knowledge.  Which tribe do you lean to?  Although on the surface this distinction may seem a time ago and a long way away from London’s adland, I do wonder if similar tendencies determine whether someone choses to become a planner (Aboriginal traits) or a buyer (more Solomon Island) ?