Author Archive

Challenging times for brand building

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

A Forrester report in Campaign from late 2021 claims shockingly that only a third of USA ceos think their marketing chiefs grow business. This just doesn’t ring true to me. Every CMO I’ve met is driven by growing business, effectiveness and creativity. Is there an issue with the language of branding in those board rooms?

The increase in ad bombardment has consequences for trust and interest in advertising.  60% of adults say that they see too many ads and as media consultant Nick Manning has written: “The user experience is suffering and the traditional compact between the public and the ad industry that held the acceptance of advertising in balance has eroded as some of the old controls fell away.” 

Forbes writer Emilia Kirk explains: “Attention is a finite resource. On average, people are exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 advertisements a day. The average human brain is simply incapable of processing such a bombardment of content, which means the vast majority of ads seen are only ignored or forgotten about within seconds.  As the number of advertisements encountered increases, so has the hostility towards them.”

There has been evidence of a worrying drop in effectiveness in the UK according to WARC’s ranking.  Some of this may be mitigated by the biannual cycle of IPA Effectiveness awards (last year was an off year), but we need to pay attention to these findings.  Campaign reporter Daniel Farey-Jones states: “Between 2014, when the WARC Effectiveness report debuted, and 2019, the UK consistently occupied the second spot in the country ranking for the most awarded campaigns around the world.  However, it placed third in 2020, fourth in 2021 and now seventh in the 2022 ranking.”  As I wrote in the last IPA Advertising Works 25 book introduction: “It’s our collective responsibility to champion effectiveness and its measurement for the ultimate health of our sector.  Any business that doesn’t do this, that doesn’t put effectiveness at the heart and centre, and through every muscle and sinew of activity is short-changing its own future.”

A downward spiral must be avoided where declining proved effectiveness, diminished public trust in advertising and the noted board brand rift in major organisations all contribute to diminished outcomes for our sector.

We can turn this around.

We can improve the relevancy of advertising by aligning media and creative and this will drive trust and enjoyment of advertising.  Do you remember when you were a kid how every ad break in kids commercial TV was like a brilliant catalogue of toys that you loved?  What if every ad you saw was relevant to you?  And frequency was capped to ensure no wastage.  This would break that cycle of bombardment and  mistrust.  W hen data, media and creative are optimised in concert, effectiveness increases significantly.  This is the start of the fifth age of advertising

We must all take responsibility for effectiveness measurement.  There was a strong showing in 2020 in the IPA Effectiveness awards, when I was convenor, producing a truly inspirational body of work, and I expect to see the same this year under the Convenor Harjot Singh, Global CSO, McCann and his team of judges.   However, every leader in our sector must make sure that effectiveness is built into their, and their teams’ objectives and key results. 

In addition, it may be that we should consider adapting the language of branding to fit the board room.  My long term esteemed colleague and performance legend David Kyffin used to tease me by referring to me and my team as the “brand bunnies” as if this was a less serious part of the advertising mix.  He believed however that great brands drive great performance and that brilliant performance and of course customer experience do support great brands.  Yet the lack of knowledge revealed by The IPA and FT research “ The board brand rift”, which tells us that over half of business leaders rated their knowledge of brand-building as average to very poor, indicates that understanding brand building is not a priority for those leaders.  Is language part of the problem?  Let’s talk instead about building value and generating demand.

Branding just might need a rebrand.

If so much is fake, who or what can we rely on?

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

There really isn’t much to rely on any more.  For thousands of years people have had faith in kings, gods, priests or shamans.

In the last decade we’ve heard time and again that people have lost faith in religious institutions, government, authority, and the monarchy.

We understand instead that consumers would rather trust the opinion of “someone like me” than any kind of spokesperson, senior management or professional expert.  Of course, often, that “someone like me” is found online, and can be a stranger, not just a friend, acquaintance or family.  

But headlines now abound that are revealing the huge volume of dissimulation online which can only increase public cynicism even further.

Twitter is full of parody.  Facebook has acknowledged 83 million fake accounts.  Book reviews are for sale.  Even magazines renowned for their fact checking,  like the New Yorker, get duped by their own writers

And if you thought that people out there know that they can trust what the adverts say then think again.  They don’t (they don’t accept the “legal, decent, honest and truthful” rule that I am sure I have understood for ever about TV advertising).   As readers of my earlier blog on this subject will be aware we have found that there is a massive marketing truth deficit in the UK.  

As trust disappears in the wild west of online dialogue and the traditional upholders of truth no longer have authority then people will seek certainty elsewhere.

Step forward brands.  There really is an opportunity right now to step change a brand’s image and prospects.  By focussing not on becoming famous by being entertaining, or for being cheap or being used by celebrities, or having lots of “likes” but for telling it like it is.   There is the opportunity to gain massive competitive advantage.   

My book Tell the Truth gives 8 clear techniques for delivering competitive advantage.   

High noon is approaching.  The time to stand up for something that you believe it.  To create the brand that is the truth telling sheriff in the wild west of 21st century fakery.

UK TV viewers will see 1 trillion TV ads in 2012

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The tap that replaces the water cooler

This is the cute soundbite from Deloitte’s TV predictions at Edinburgh this August.  Let’s remember how to put 1 trillion into context.  If 1 million seconds is11.5 days, and 1 billion seconds is 32 years, then 1 trillion seconds is 32,000 years.  So that’s a lot of TV ads then.

Deloitte spend some time in their report attempting to explain why the UK watches so much TV. 

The answers won’t shock you at all unless you were expecting things to have changed, but apart from the internet evangelists employed by some companies, most of us have acknowledged that TV is still big in real people’s lives.  So TV is used for relaxing at the end of the day, and as fuel for water cooler moments.   Though given the propensity for the so called “water cooler moments” actually to comprise electronic banter about the programme via email, messaging, Facebook, Zeebox, Twitter  and the like perhaps we should rename this phenomenon “Tweet Fuel”.  (We don’t really have “water coolers in our offices anymore – just a tap).  That’s my new definition of great TV.  It gives good Tweet Fuel.

The findings on how viewers choose what to watch are interesting, and again reflect inertia despite the new options available.  Most people start by checking what’s on broadcast TV, then they check their PVR.  Only a minority look at on demand TV.  This must evolve to an extent as more and more people own Connected TVs though Deloitte’s Paul Lee thinks that most people don’t know that they’ve got a TV that can connect to the internet when they in fact already do.  So change comes not as penetration of Connected TV’s increases then, but if and when the mass market has a compelling reason to connect.

Should we anticipate a sudden change in viewing behaviour because of this or as young adults who have grown up watching TV on secondary devices mature into having their own homes ? 

If there are two kinds of evolution : evolution by creeps and evolution by jerks, then when it comes to TV viewing we are a nation of creeps. The necessity of communicating with stand out and cut through to our nation of creeps is clear.  One trillion ads is a lot of competition.  You need to be special.

Are tablets the future of advertising?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

source: Marc Chagall

At a drinks party recently one magazine editor confided in me that he thought the future business model for his magazine lay in diversification of services.  Conferences and events have long been used by Media Week to generate added revenues.  (Have you booked your table yet ?) This kind of of thing is newer for the glossy magazine that we were discussing at the party and the editor was enthusiastic about the possibilities.  He mentioned that he had suggested curated holidays as a further revenue stream.  “Look at me, I started as a story teller, “he said, “but now I’m a travel agent”.

Diversification is good, but is this the only means available to print media to drive profits ?  Not according to Arif who describes the Mail online’s business journey here .

Of course at recent conferences and media get togethers the iPad and tablet advertising in general have been called the saviours of glossy magazines.  The latest round of UK tablet research from the IAB is bullish as you might expect about advertising on tablet computers.  47% consumers see it as the future of advertising overall.  They expect to see their favourite brands’ ads on tablets.  UK consumers want ad funded content and enjoy interacting with tablet advertising.  However the research also marks a level of criticism from respondents about tablet advertising.  30% claim to be disappointed with current ads. 

I don’t know how this compares with their level of disappointment with ads on other media (they may be a very critical bunch), but consumer expectations aside I do think that there is a necessary step for our industry to take in order to set conditions for ad funded content on tablets to flourish.

I can understand that the IAB’s respondents want a good bit of interactivity and entertainment from Tablet ads.  My way of judging good advertising is less to do with how entertaining it is (I am easily entertained as everyone who knows me will acknowledge).  It has more to do with whether it has fulfilled one or other of the two criteria of good effective advertising (that sells stuff).  Has it created demand? Has it harvested demand?

Google shook up the demand harvesting side of our business by offering shared risk to advertisers.  It is time for the same step change to radicalise the demand creation aspect of advertising.  We need to see media owners, media agencies and clients enter into shared risk discussions that set out clear and consistent kpis for medium and longterm advertising objectives.  This will itself drive best practice attribution modelling and accurate cross media research.

We have been pioneering this at MediaCom. It is a trickle of revenue for most mainstream media owners.  It is time to open the flood gates.

Lessons from The Pitch

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The Pitch got mixed reviews from critics.  The hour long unscripted shows on Sky Atlantic showed a behind the scenes view of two creative agencies pitching for a US client’s business. 

Jonathan Bernstein writing in the Guardian said “The Pitch is so boring it would drive Don Draper to drink”.  (See what he did there?… no, neither do I).  If you read his review you would be forgiven for giving the shows a miss. 

As someone who works on pitches of some kind nearly every week of the year, I found the show gripping and full of reminders of the kinds of lessons you learn from the real experience of pitching ideas and for business to clients.

In one episode the head honcho of one of the agencies pitching tells his team, as they go for the joint briefing with a competitive agency : “Try not to embarrass yourself or the agency”.  Good advice, but not exactly team spirit building.  Remember morale is everything and morale is a fragile state of mind.

In another episode, where two agencies are pitching for Frangelico liqueur we see an agency veteran pitching against a new planner doing her first ever pitch.  He puts his faith in his “guardian angel”, and pretty much delivers a confident and traditional pitch.  The stakes are high.  If he loses he says it will be his last pitch ever.  She’s only just started work after a long illness.  She’s very nervous.  Her agency boss says to the client : “We’d prefer you to consider this not as a pitch but as our first working session. “  This is a great move designed to make the client audience less judgemental at a stroke. Guess who wins ?

In this series we see time and again that few clients buy strategy, they are swayed by executions.  If a campaign flatters the brand and the brand owner  the client will prefer it.  Always.

If it earns a repeat I’d give it a try, for a practioner it was fascinating.  Last word of this blog to Mark DiMassimo CEO of DIGO : “The biggest mistake is to forget that you’re pitching every moment”.