Fine words and pledges are one thing. Actual change is another.   Good measurement is crucial for real change.

July 7th, 2020

Project Diamond is a single online reporting system supported by all the major TV broadcasters to measure the diversity of everyone on TV and everyone who makes TV.

It works very simply.  If you are involved in any TV show, in front of or, behind the camera, in any way at all, then you are emailed with a link to a voluntary self-completion questionnaire.

The data generated is then developed into a report every year, but you can also access the information on an ongoing basis by channel or type of programme and by seniority of role.

It isn’t just a snapshot of diversity at one point in time.  It isn’t just opinion.  It is ongoing live data.  In the latest report there is data from over 600,000 contributions.  This third cut of data shows that women represent 52% of appearances on screen and 53% of the off screen contributions, and yet are missing from key senior roles (only 26% directors).  B.A.M.E. are 22% of on screen appearances yet only 8% of directors.  Trans people are represented on screen in line with the population.  Disabled people are under-represented on screen and behind the scenes.

The data shows that there is room for improvement and the broadcasters behind the survey don’t hide from the facts.  They acknowledge that they are on a journey, but that by measuring data they have taken the first step to real change.  Gary Davey, CEO, Sky Studios is quoted on the Project Diamond website: “We will only be able to achieve real change armed with comprehensive and reliable data and that is exactly what Diamond is now delivering. The third report makes the information even more powerful with the addition of analysis across production roles and across genres. I am a big fan of Diamond. For the first time we can force the pace of change, based on evidence.”

There is no such equivalent data for advertising.

I am a firm believer that only if you measure things can you improve them.

There are very good surveys of on screen representation in advertising for TV – Channel 4’s “Mirror on the Industry” study is one of them.  Lloyds Banking Group’s report into diversity in advertising “Reflecting modern Britain?” is another.

There is nothing that looks systematically at who is working behind the scenes, and this too is crucial as we consider the real diversity in our industry.  As the Lloyds study remarks: “65% of respondents said they would feel more favourable about a brand that tries to represent different parts of society.”  I think that this is best achieved by having the right mix of people creating, developing and making the ads, a team that represents all the different parts of society.

Some of us are working on a project to change this.  A group of MediaCom advertisers are consulting with the industry bodies, IPA, AA and ISBA and CDN (who are the organisers of Project Diamond) to create a version of this for our industry which would be world leading.  It isn’t simple, but it is very important.  As many commentators have said, fine words and pledges are one thing.  Actual change is another.  Bobi Carley, head of media at ISBA, says: “We are at an inflection point in society and in our industry, we need actions and a meaningful measurement mechanism to hold people to account.  To steal a great phrase I heard this week ‘we need to measure what we treasure.’”

If you would like to get involved please email me or get in touch with the industry body that you work with.

 

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Forget average.

June 24th, 2020

No more planning for the average

How average are you?  Most people consider themselves above average.  It is a behavioural heuristic known as illusory superiority.  Yet planning for the “average” or typical person is normally how we make things work.

Offices for example are planned for the average person.  Average size, average outgoing personality, and average behaviour.  But those averages have become meaningless since Covid19 changed our lives.  MediaCom’s 5 offices across UK accommodate about 1500 people normally.  Since lockdown of course we have moved from 5 offices to 1500.  Each individual workplace is tailored by each colleague to a greater or lesser extent depending on who they live with, where they live, and what kind of flexibility that affords.  It has been remarkable how swiftly we have all adapted, with not one ball dropped, with an overnight transition.  The rhythm of the office has been disrupted and many believe it will never entirely return to pre-Covid conditions.

This gives us a once in decades chance to reconsider everything, and re-imagine what office life is for and how it should work.  Pre-lockdown offices were largely based on what had gone before.  Some people had fruit and sweets and hanging out areas on top of a series of desks and laptops but one office more or less matched another.  Now we can really get radical.

Jeremy Lee points out that planning for exceptional behaviour rather than the average will be good, even great, for advertising, writing: “offices as collaborative spaces, to be used from time to time and only when necessary: this sounds like a progressive move that the entire industry – and its employees – can benefit from.”  There is a paradox.  Some are thrilled at the prospect of returning to work. Others are dreading the commute and a resurgence of the culture of some businesses’ toxic presenteeism.

There is no consensus at the moment about lockdown easing.  There is also no consensus in terms of public sentiment.

Britain is awash with paradox.  FOGO – fear of going out and BOSH – bored of staying home.  People are anxious about conspicuous spending and yet also yearning for treats as USA MediaCom CSO Anush Prabhu points out in a recent podcast.

Many advertising strategies segment audiences into cohorts with similar attributes.  Creative and media strategies are developed to reach the average person in each of those 5-8 tribes.  Yet within the tribes there are polarized attitudes which are made more extreme by lockdown conditions.  For example, a Gen Z living with their grandparents will not have the same attitudes or behaviour as another who is not.  A mum of two who is a key worker won’t feel the same as a mum of two who is furloughed.  The differences in outlook mirror the diversity mosaic of the UK.  Just as MediaCom now has over 1000 offices instead of 5, there are many more than 1000 consumer types instead of 5 for every sector.  We don’t need to aggregate for an average any more, we can examine the detail and plan against it.

Media planning was originally designed for averages.  But it has been reinvented for individuals.

Media intelligence can observe the differences and the commonalities and create effective solutions.  Are you a TikToker or a Pinterester?  OTT or linear TV?  Instagrammer or Facebook?  Amazon or eBay?  Every one of those consumer types will create a data trail of intelligence that allows the design of communications strategies to best drive outcomes for the brand.

Group M’s global ceo Christian Juhl has pointed out that adaptability and fast understanding of data are crucial as communities exit lockdown.  “In China, where lockdowns have eased, we’ve done things like track road-traffic activity to identify when and where weekend travel has or has not returned to normal.”

There is no more “average”.  We are divided by our experiences now more than ever.  The challenge of 2020 is to diagnose and plan for the differences and at the same time seek the common human cultural truths that bring us together.

 

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There’s nothing a video call can do to replace this.

June 9th, 2020

Can’t smell you, can’t touch you, can’t make eye contact with you, can you still motivate me?

The movie director John Boorman has written that when he wanted to get the most out of a movie star during a shoot, he would make a small adjustment to their hair just before filming.  He said that this was about proving his attention to detail, to ensure that the actor knew that he could absolutely trust that he wanted the best for them.

There are no movie shoots at the moment of course, but the point remains, that a touch to add confidence (not in a creepy #metoo way) is impossible at work now.

You can’t smell your colleagues either.  Smell is a very profound sense.  People who have suffered from Covid and recovered, talk about how disorientating the loss of smell has been.  Smell is one of the oldest of all the senses.   A familiar scent can revive all kinds of memories.  (They can also sell your house.  Top tip for showing property is to have some vanilla toasting under the grill).  It is even likely that when we feel attracted to someone it is as much to do with how they smell as how they look.  Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume spins a fantasy tale of the impact of how an individual can change his impact through his scent.   So, whether you recognize this consciously or not, you now can’t smell the people you are in a meeting with via video, or at a social distance from.

There is no eye contact.  Not in the way that you have when you are in a one to one meeting in real life.

And micro-expressions are much harder to read.  And easy to mis-read.  Especially when poor wifi delays their impact.  Less than 10% of communication is verbal and so much body language is lost on a Zoom call.  Micro-expressions which are only a few seconds in total are a massive part of how we react to someone, and this is now either lost or misconstrued.

When we give our Glass Wall Talks, Kathryn Jacob and I are often asked about speaking up in meetings and how to overcome nervousness.  We have to stress that it is important to understand that when you are in a meeting people aren’t judging exactly what you say because they are mostly worried about how they are coming across themselves.  Now they are literally watching how they come across.  Is there any point to seeing yourself other than vanity?  Imagine how a real life meeting would be if everyone had their own mirror to be distracted by.

It is still possible to connect emotionally, but you need to think about it differently.  In a way it is like moving from being an actor in a small theatre to becoming a movie star.  Michael Caine’s masterclass on this has some lessons for us all now – see 6 minutes in for how to handle a close up.

3 tips for video calls:

  • When you need to make a connection look into the camera, not at someone’s face. If there are 6 people in the meeting and you are looking at someone on the bottom left of your screen it will look like you are not looking at them.
  • Ask the people in your meeting lots of questions. Don’t deliver a long monologue.  Most people don’t have the attention span for this in real life, let alone on a video call – you will lose some of them to admiration of their own image.
  • Tell stories, short stories, to keep people’s attention. Lee Child writes mass market thrillers that are ultimate page turners.  How can you adopt the page turner technique (without the violence) to ensure you sell your points?  Here you need to think like a script writer for an unmissable USA TV show where every frame delivers drama, laughter, or emotional resonance.
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What is your video background saying about you?

May 26th, 2020

1976_The_Fall_and_Rise_of_Reggie_Perrin_hi055592808Your video background is your brand

What does your working space, and what you choose to reveal about it say about you?

We are in the business of brand building, we know how crucial it is to consider what is on show as well as what is said or done.  You will be judged on your appearance whether or not this is even fair.  And now, you will be judged on your background (this might not be conscious but is an instinctive System 1 thinking judgement,) whether or not this is fair too.

Most people I speak to on video call reveal their actual background.  In my own case this is a disorganized but very wide-ranging collection of books that actually don’t belong to me but to other family members, and a mantelpiece cluttered with mementoes.  My colleague Claudine has been in front of a steely wall all week this week, and my CEO Kate’s collection of cookery books, which she frequently appears in front of in our weekly Town Hall meetings, has sparked curiosity about her favourite chefs.

The decision to use a fake background speaks volumes too of course.  I was on one call where the background of an office façade was so realistic that I assumed that the participant was a key worker – but he just hadn’t wanted to reveal his room.  If you do want a fake background then there’s a rich assortment here from the BBC.  Then there are people whose living space just make you envious.  I have been told of one CEO whose palatial home is so aspirational (there are statues, obviously expensive real art and pillars) that his team recommended that he relocate to a smaller room in the house to stay empathetic with his more junior staffers.    There is a new dimension to bringing your whole self to work, as we now get to nose around each other’s homes on a daily basis.

Anecdotally there seems to be some gender difference as well as the obvious difference between those people in a one bed flat or sharing space with others and people fortunate enough to be able to settle in a regular make-shift office area or a fit for purpose study.

More women than men (however senior they are) seem to be working from bedrooms.  More mums than dads seem to be interrupted by young children.  Many mums have disclosed their worry and guilt about letting home schooling standards slip.  This additional mental load is documented in the Economist’s briefing on the 90% economy that they are calling the “new ‘nearly normal’” where they write: “Women are more likely to take care of home-schooling and entertainment of bored children, meaning their careers suffer more than men’s.  Research finds that the productivity of female economists has fallen relative to male ones, as measured by the production of research papers, since the pandemic began… the growing gender divide in productivity points to the final big problem with the 90% economy: that it is unfair.”

Although it is difficult to complain that the current way of working is harder than before (given that the comparisons with ICU workers leave us with nothing to complain about) it is true that day long video calls are tiring.  It may be true that it is easier on introverts than extroverts as introverts don’t need so much stimulus from others.  However Direct Line Group MD of marketing and digital Mark Evans pointed out to me recently: “There’s extra ‘cognitive load’. Your brain is having to work much harder to interpret the reactions of other people in the many mini screens in the meeting since you don’t have the usual cues from face-to-face mannerisms and micro-gestures. Simultaneously your brain is constantly interpreting your own image staring back at you. It’s no surprise that it’s exhausting”

There are some upsides to video conferencing.  There’s no geographical barrier, I have relished calls with colleagues in China and San Francisco being the norm.    For those whose emotions are an open book, you can hide your immediate reactions by turning off your camera which sometimes, as we point out in The Glass Wall book, can be helpful when you need a balanced perspective to the emotional CoronaCoaster of the working week.

This tactical fall back might be necessary, but what is needed above all is openness, looking each other in the eye, reaching out to each other, and authentic leadership through these most difficult times.

 

 

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Jerks hurt.

May 12th, 2020

We are going through a very large jerk.

There are roughly two theories about how evolution works.  Charles Darwin, who wrote the book on evolution, was a believer in gradualism, slow change over millennia.  For many years this was regarded as scientific fact.  But if this was the case you would expect to see a record in fossils of small incremental change within a species.  But fossil records don’t always back this theory.  Darwin explained this by saying that there were gaps in the records.

One hundred and so years later, in 1972, evolutionary scientists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge suggested that Darwin had got this wrong.  They considered that the gaps in the records werent’ gaps but were real.  That not everything evolves gradually but that long periods of little change are disrupted by sudden huge change.  They termed this mode of evolution “punctuated equilibrium.” This means that species are generally stable, changing little for millions of years.  This leisurely pace is “punctuated” by a rapid burst of change that results in a new species.

After a huge scientific row, this was resolved by most experts into an understanding that both gradualism and punctuated equilibrium were true.  This became known as the theory of creeps and jerks.

We are going through a big jerk now in business.  Many business practices that might have changed over a period of months or even years have changed and changed suddenly.  Change that might have taken 5 years to bed in is happening fast, over a period of weeks.

One obvious example of this is the way we are all now conducting meetings.   Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts have all been available for meetings for years.  Conducting a global meeting used to mean jumping on a plane.  Now any of us could be in a meeting with colleagues anywhere in the world in the next half an hour.  Now we are all working globally.  One senior exec has said that he is having more meetings now than he ever has because the team are usually at airports, out to dinner or on a plane.  Now, with everyone working from home, its easier to arrange meetings and in some ways its easier to get closer to colleagues and team members than ever.

It is now well recorded that in some respects media behaviours and attitudes are changing at a widespread and unanticipated scale and speed.   Some commentators are saying this is human evolution turbo-charged.

Darwin also said that it’s not the strongest or the most intelligent that survive, but those most responsive to change.  The ability to pivot, to react and to take advantage of the opportunities of this crisis is currently crucial.  This is easy to say. No-one currently knows when or how we are going to come out of this.  It isn’t going to be easy or quick for economies to recover, for new business models to stabilise.

This isn’t like previous crises.  We are living through history being made.  What happens next isn’t about returning to normal any time soon.  A new normal will emerge, but for now we are operating in the new abnormal.

Now is the time to begin to re-imagine what the new abnormal means for your business.

As industry expert and WPP global president of business intelligence Brian Wieser says: “Now is a time to re-invent, to rethink, to optimise the forest not just the trees, a moment of reset the growth agenda to come out stronger than ever.”

The goal, tough as it might seem right now, must be to frame the new developments, and tech and digital adoption as an opportunity for the business and to get closer to customers.   This is what leaders need to focus on – what can we do to reframe and re-imagine and not just what must we cut.

Jerks are painful, more painful than creeps, but teams that are resilient enough to navigate them will get through these difficult times best.

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