Two nations DOOH

May 15th, 2015

“I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together…to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost – the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom.”.  So said David Cameron on the day of the elections results.


Well in one way we are definitely already two nations.


If you flick through Media Week’s triumphant 30th anniversary issue in print then in the back section there are a series of features from media agencies and media owners.  In the latter, digital out of home dominates with highly optimistic outlooks described by Clear Channel’s Chris Pelekanou, Exterion Media’s Shaun Gregory, Outdoor Plus’ Jonathan Lewis and Talon Outdoor’s Eric Newnham.


According to these champions of Digital Out of Home the landscape will be awash with ‘Minority Report’ style personalisation of messages.  For broader campaigns the right time, right message and right segment accuracy of communications should improve out of home effectiveness and accountability in spades.

Shaun Gregory writes “The rise of digital out of home has been one of the most explosive industry game changers todate.”


If you live in a city that is.


For the two nations that definitely exist out there are those living with exposure to digital out of home and those who are not.  It’s yet another way in which it is very different outside the urban sprawl, and once again your experience as a media practitioner in London is irrelevant to the experience of significant parts of the UK.


A huge amount of investment is due before the full potential of DOOH to effectively drive a national campaign for a household brand is truly realised.  In addition audience data will need to be more immediate and more accurate.  The best campaigns will be served dynamically based on streams of data available with specific information from mobile networks.  The effectiveness of the outcomes of these campaigns will need equally accurate and transparent data.


At the close of last year I was one of the judges of the Campaign City Street Live Challenge where two creative teams were pitched against each other to create an ad campaign that made the most of the exciting new tech embedded in multipoint touchscreens.  It was really interesting, but for me, incredibly hard to judge.  Not just because the two ideas were so different.  Because as a media planner I really wanted to understand the metrics in order to have an informed opinion about which campaign should win.  For one reason or another (outcomes unclear, detail not comparable, sample sizes small) this proved very difficult.


To truly fulfil the potential which we can all imagine, there is a huge amount of work that the outdoor industry needs to undertake.  Can Britain’s Digital Out of Home bring our nation back together?  How long will the investment into national digital outdoor take?  Will the data about audience outcomes become available in real time to planners and data analysts so that we can truly have a currency comparable with other media?  And if so when?





The Loch Ness Monster Media Test

May 11th, 2015

It’s an increasing problem for media practitioners: how do we tell the difference between new technologies/brands/products/platforms that  are short-term fads, and those that will establish themselves as long-term staples of our lifestyles and cultures.

To help us all do this, I propose the Loch Ness monster test.

On May 2 1933, 82 years ago last week, Alex Campbell, a part time journalist for the Inverness Courier, coined the phrase Loch Ness Monster.

A flurry of stories followed, a first photograph was published in December of that year and the coverage of sightings of the creature has been ebbing and flowing ever since, most recently when Google used Google Street View to allow us all to have a good look for proof of its existence (sort of anyway) this April.


You can of course follow the Loch Ness Monster on Twitter : @realnessie if you wish (s/he must have a waterproof Sony Xperia, an iphone would never last in the largest and second deepest Loch in Scotland).

So how does Nessy help us to sort the technological breakthroughs that will last from the short-term wonders?

I firmly believe that the successful application of technology is dependent on it tapping in to a fundamental human need that does not and has not changed.  Media Week celebrated 30 years last week with the first print edition for years.  It made me reflect that during my career there’s been loads of change, lots of innovation which the consumer has adopted.  Yet their needs, desires, wants and emotions are unchanging.  The very clever tech and media developments feed on them and thrive because of it.

Clearly, the Loch Ness Monster story has survived so long because it too feeds into our needs, desires, wants and emotions. So we can use it as a benchmark to test how well new tech and media will do. My hypothesis is that if we can imagine that any new medium or tech would have been a key player in the spread of Nessy stories if it had been around 82 years ago, then it’s probably going to thrive and survive.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s take one example of a medium that has established itself at the heart of many of our lives. According to my theory, therefore, it should pass the Nessy test. And it doesn’t take more than a moment to realize that it does – with flying colours.

Twitter of course taps into our enormous human drive to show each other what we have found that we found interesting and to share our humour, our disappointments and our delight with our connections.


Nessie news has been delighting us since the 1930s.  I can clearly remember as a child the excitement in the mid-1970s when a lifesizemodel of a seductive female Nessie (with giant feminine eyelashes obviously made to flutter) was launched into the Loch with the intention of luring the monster to the surface.


82 years ago or now news of a genuine Nessie sighting would spread like wildfire across Twitter.


Does the fact that no very recent pictures of Nessie or the Abominable Snowman or Big Foot have reached my Twitter feed mean that I should stop believing ?  Does the instant nature of communication about “What’s happening” take the longevity and the magic out of the Cryptids ?

Not in the slightest.  Keep checking – any day now – don’t miss it.





April 30th, 2015

The Millennials have been called the unluckiest generation by some.  They have been written off as a feckless generation by others.  (Interestingly including by millennials themselves but they’d like to point out that it is not their fault).

The Economist Group on the other hand disagrees and believes that the future is very positive for this segment. Their new research contradicts the stereotypes (lazy, narcissistic, apathetic and only interested in social media) and instead paints a picture of them as “arguably the most sophisticated media generation ever.”  Which given that they’re going to dominate the workforce of the UK in just a couple of years is important to address in media and communications thinking.


MediaCom’s own research reinforces the idea that they are different from the generation (Gen X) which preceded them.  In fact they seem in some ways to have more in common with the more outrageous of the Baby Boomers in terms of attitudes and openness to change.  In many households these two generations now live together (parents who might have confidently expected to empty nest by this point are instead still living with adult children who can’t afford to get on the property ladder).  In these “Boomennials” households experiences are shared and the two generations rub off on each other.  So for instance usage of second screens by Baby Boomers is above the average because they’re aping the behaviour of the Millennials that they live with.


Of course Millennials are the big users of smart phones and tablets.  They are the ones checking their phones before they get up and after they’ve gone to bed.  The Economist is correct in suggesting that social media is not their only media channel though it is how they navigate other media.  They consume physical, traditional format, media as well as digital media even though they are the first generation which has grown up with both.  Introducing the research at Adweek Economist Group’s Global MD of Client Strategy Nick Blunden explained that there’s more influencers in this group than in any other generation and named them “Gen-narrators”.  This group have a real potential as effective brand advocates, perhaps the most effective that we have ever seen, both to their peers and the wider consumer public (remember they’re living with Boomers for a start).


We really need to get to them therefore if we expect to influence with a comms strategy.  They’re a sophisticated bunch.  They are the first generation that fully, instinctively and expertly understand social media.  They know how to get their voice heard.  Media is properly democratised in their hands.  It is the first time ever that a generation’s voice has not been edited or mitigated by a few individuals – the editors of papers and magazines, radio and TV.


The power of this is awesome.  We must thank the inventor of the hashtag for their ability to navigate the avalanche of opinion that this power creates.  Will we see loyalty to a particular media brand migrate instead to loyalty to a hashtag about which people are passionate?




You say correlation; I say causation

April 24th, 2015


“Too long, didn’t read”. Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin swept into our offices this month to remind us that behind every bit of tech there’s a human being.


He described the symptoms of the Digital Deluge on the average human, one of which is that you can’t manage to concentrate on anything lengthy.  It is yet to happen to my emails but apparently TLDR is now the dismissive response you can expect to any email longer than a sentence or two (including your sign off with best wishes).


We’re the first generation that has really had to cope with DD (Digital Deluge) and we aren’t all coping with it very well according to Dave.  We don’t concentrate, we skim everything, we can’t put our smartphone away even when with our loved ones, and we’re incapable of effective multi-tasking EVEN if we’re women. (Personally I love to multi-task however this might be because I am not so great at only doing one thing at a time.  I believe one bit of activity enriches and enhances another.  Dave has research though that proves me wrong so there we go.)


Dave provides a solution to the DD.  The systematic use of data.  He talks about a paradigm shift from the world of causation to the world of correlation. There will be lots of data, lots of patterns and rather proving causation in it we can rely on patterns of correlation.  I agree with a good deal of the spirit of what Dave says.  I cannot agree with this.


I’m sure I don’t need to remind you : “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”.  The Latin saying which translates as “after this therefore because of this” is a well known fallacy which assumes that since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.


Well quite often it isn’t.  There are a number of famous examples of this.  One from ancient less digital times is that despite the fact that the cock crows each morning before sunrise, the cock crowing does not cause the sun to rise.  From the first decade of this century this graph shows correlation between per capita consumption of mozzarella and the rise in number of civil engineering graduates.


You need rigour as far as interpreting data is concerned, and perspective.  And a good algorithm.


There is much to be valued in the Dave Coplin view of the world.  He also talked about a “Copernican Shift” which is on its way.  At the moment we gravitate around technology.  As I sit here blogging I have three phones and two screens. And an impulse to check all of them.  Dave speaks of a new era soon to arrive where technology revolves around us instead and will act as our perfect executive assistant, personal coach and valet.


No more TLDR.  Technology will read it for us and decide what to do.  What could possibly go wrong with that?








The dominance of the “Visual Web” may herald a new era in human communication.

April 17th, 2015

Nicola Mendelsohn of Facebook, speaking at last month’s Guardian Changing Media Summit, where she was described as the “most powerful media figure” in Europe, laid out the company’s vision for an “immersive, visual based web that makes communications easier in an increasingly frantic world”.


Marketing Magazine said that Nicola claimed that the growth of “seemingly trivial communications such as cartoon stickers had serious implications for brands”.  Referring to the Despicable Me 2 sticker partnership where minions stickers were shared over 2 billion times she said “that’s 2 billion instances of people using brands to express emotions with friends” and called them a modern version of hieroglyphics that crosses language and borders.


Laporoscopic chief surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain would thoroughly approve that the “most powerful media woman in Europe” was welcoming in a new era.  An era that he has predicted since the publication of his book “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” in 1998 – the year of Google’s birth and just 6 years before Zuckerberg gave us Facebook.


Shlain’s idea is that largely words are masculine and images are feminine.  His enthralling argument is that the advent of literacy reinforced the brain’s analytical part – catalysed its development.  This part of the brain is linear, abstract and predominantly masculine.  This was at the expense of the other older parts of the brain which are holistic, concrete, visual and feminine.  This made the balance between men and women shift, initiating – thousands of years ago – the disappearance of goddess worship, the abhorrence of images, the decline of women’s social and political status and “a long reign of patriarchy and misogyny”.


It is certainly true that for millennia information and power were in the hands of the literate (or their masters) – who for most of the last three thousand years have been men.  Only in the second half of the last century did television mean that you could know a broad range of stuff without reading about them.  He says “Since WW2, the technologies of information transfer have transformed the foundations of world culture, and in the process, helped it balance feminine and masculine.  Iconic information proliferating through the use of television, computers… the internet have enhanced, and will continue to enhance, the positions in society of images, women’s rights.


The new season of Mad Men opens with a vignette of just how seriously ad men took ad women in the 1970s when Peggy and Joan get humiliated in a meeting by suits from the parent agency.  At all of the conferences last month, a key question raised was the minority of women on stage.  Fingers have been pointed this month at the 2015 Circulo Creativo USH ideas jury without a single woman judge.


A panel without women might be a very definition of a 1st world problem.   It obviously pales into insignificance with continuing violence to women across the globe.  However anyway you consider the situation in the first world there is still a long way to go.  I hope Shlain and Mendelsohn are both right and that the Visual Web accelerates innate positivity to gender equality.