Archive for the ‘MediaComment’ Category

Instead of segmentation, try inclusion – it will get you more sales.

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

For years the marketing industry has been busy segmenting.  For a couple of decades it has been common best practice to segment customers into types of people to target everyone else who falls into the same segmentation.

These are often expensive exercises and can take months to complete.  They may be of huge use to the brand, although all too frequently they are conducted in isolation of media and therefore channel intelligence has to be merged on separately after the first party analysis, and digital behaviour cues now often are better signals of intent to purchase.

The naming of the segments seems to be crucial too and often involves alliteration.  There might be a “Savvy Sally”, an “Apathetic Annie” or a “Careless Katie”.

Segmentation like this has been challenged.  Firstly the Ehrenberg Bass institute advice is not to segment your audience.  So from “Hungry Henry”s and “Thirsty Theo”s some brands have instead moved to target for example “Anyone with a mouth”.

The Ehrenberg Bass Institute’s Professor Rachel Kennedy and Dr. Rachel Beal state that targeting should prioritise the buyers a brand hasn’t reached before.

Contrary to the view that marketers should target likely buyers by segment the EB Institute has found that brand share bears very little relationship to the segments that brands may try to appeal to. Instead, Beal said, “we really see it as a size game”.

“As brands grow they bring new people into their brand who have not bought from them in the past. This has really important implications for your priorities as to who you need to target,” Prof. Kennedy states.

“If you’re using targeting to get to people you haven’t got to in the past, fantastic. If you’re targeting at scale, the evidence supports that.” She continued: “If you’re using targeting in any way that’s limiting who you’re talking to … you are limiting your potential for growth.”

A second challenge is that these segmentations don’t take into account how the audience self-defines in terms of profile.  This information is available in the UK in terms of diversity profiles.  It is not uncommon for brands to be unaware of how they profile with different communities and therefore to not know if they are resonating or not even if they are being reached by advertising.

There is plenty of data about diverse audiences in Britain, and whether or not they buy a brand.  MediaCom analysis, spearheaded by Claire McAlpine and John Beardsworth, has discovered significant growth opportunities where a brand is not resonating with a minority ethnic community for example.  Or where they are underserving disabled people or LGBTQ+.

These opportunities can be worth millions in some cases, in terms of potential sales.

Sometimes the opportunity here may be because the advertising doesn’t include representative images of modern Britain.  This in turn may be because the creative team behind the advertising doesn’t do that either (a recent composite of UK creative directors images looks uncannily like Danny Dyer).   There is a long way to go in terms of change in this respect.  That’s why Project ADA – the Advertising Diversity Analysis tool that is piloting in Q1 of 2021 is so crucial.  That is also why we have detailed how to create a more diverse and inclusive working environment in our new book Belonging, the key to transforming and maintain diversity, inclusion and equality at work.  Creative chief Vicki Maguire is quoted on her previous experience of working in agencies saying: “Every day the battle came out of the blue, usually a battle against white masculine privilege”.

Resonance with diverse groups goes beyond who is depicted in advertising to how the campaign is built, what advice is taken at early stages of the work, and who the senior decision making team includes.  It may be that a partnership with a team of experts, for example at Scope the pan-disability charity, is crucial to ensure that the campaign really resonates with everyone who can be attracted to the brand.

First be inclusive.  For brand growth it is far more crucial than traditional segmentation.  Make 2021 the year where the strategy is to include everyone.




Get active, be EPIC.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

One in three people at work have personally experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work.

Do you think that this always happened when they were on their own with someone?  I think that we know that this isn’t the case.

Our unique research, by Dynata, for our new book Belonging, states that 39% of the workforce overall acknowledged that they have witnessed such behaviour, but this rises to 57% of people who work in marketing or pr.

We have surely all, at some point, been bystanders.  We have all perhaps been in the position where we have not felt able to speak up when someone more senior than us, perhaps the boss that recommends when we get promoted or get a pay rise, says or does something that makes a fellow employee feel like an outsider, as if they don’t belong.

It isn’t easy to speak up sometimes, for all kinds of reasons.  The question is how can we change this to a better, kinder, culture where everyone feels they belong?

There is a new kind of training being piloted in the police force in America.  EPIC stands for Ethical Policing Is Courageous.  The New Orleans Police Department is running this peer intervention programme, in collaboration with community partners, to promote a culture of high quality and ethical policing, policing that “educates, empowers and supports the officers on the streets to play a meaningful role in “policing” one another. EPIC is a peer intervention programme that teaches officers how to intervene to stop a wrongful action before it occurs.”

The programme was inspired by holocaust survivor and professor Dr Erwin Staub.  Now in his eighties, after an academic career focusing on understanding violence, he became concerned about excessive use of force by police in the USA.  Based on his own experience of active bystanders – allies – who helped to save his life, he originated a training scheme that redefines what being a good team player is: sometimes it’s not standing by your colleague at any cost; sometimes it involves staging an intervention to prevent harmful actions.

The point is that all current police training teaches officers how to react decisively if they feel at threat.  There has been no training at all to teach officers how to intervene if they feel that their colleague is not behaving appropriately, or to teach officers how to accept that intervention when adrenaline is spiking and they feel under threat.

This is ground breaking, and we can learn a lot from it.

At MediaCom we have all had Allyship training this year.  It was useful and enlightening.

Every executive in every business would gain greater understanding from a similar programme.

Across our industry, marketing, advertising and pr, we need to introduce the role playing of staging interventions when we find ourselves a witness to bias, harassment or any kind of inappropriate behaviour.  And we need to role play taking criticism and feedback to our own behaviour whatever level of seniority we are at, or whoever the feedback is from.

We can make our industry better.  Only when everyone feels they belong at work will we really harness the talent around us for the benefits of our clients and customers.



Belonging, The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work, by Kathryn Jacob, Sue Unerman and Mark Edwards

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Given the focus on diversity and inclusion and the £6 billion spent on it why is it that there is no concrete evidence of change? What is holding back something that is so evidently fair, has proven results on both profitability and revenue and which has been talked about for years?

Over the last 18 months we have been investigating diversity and inclusion in all businesses, not just advertising.  From over 100 interviews, unique quantitative research conducted for us by Dynata and more than 150 talks we have uncovered why the return on the investment of significant time and money is lagging behind expectations.  So why is progress so slow?

It appears that all too often companies think that by fixing the “pipeline” of incoming talent there will be a transformational effect, even though the time lag between recruitment and achieving diversity at senior levels may be years.

Companies may hold events, or temporarily focus on specific areas. In researching the book, we encountered a sense that these were often seen as  transient gestures, where at one time of the year (say, Black History Month) there will be a series of talks, discussions and heightened interest but, at the end of the month, it’s business as usual – as if being in the spotlight annually would somehow address all the issues people had encountered for the other 11 months. People are tired of these fleeting attempts to make things “right”. They feel that their voices and concerns are heard only intermittently and have the sense that the issues raised at these times aren’t being acted on.

These initiatives also lead to the D&I equivalent of “The Hunger Games” where in some organisations under-represented groups are made to pitch for a slice of HR budget to fund a long-term programme. How do you imagine this makes the participants feel? Who checks the bias of the people who make the decision?

We have spoken to  men who feel helpless, ill-equipped to address the situation and, occasionally, under attack. Their sense of being marginalized (ironically) is echoed in remarks by figures such as Jeremy Clarkson who said that “If you have a scrotum, forget it, you won’t get hired by the BBC at the moment”. The result of this sense of alienation among white men is a layer of management “tundra” – where (despite the best efforts of others in the organisation) no diversity will thrive.


Fear is holding some people back from getting involved.  We encountered people who were just so confused as to what they could do without causing unintentional offence, that they did nothing. It just felt safer. There is a straightforward solution to this dilemma: asking some questions and admitting that you are not sufficiently aware of the sensitivities involved could be a great starting point.   Everyone needs to realise that we are on a journey together and that yes, it might not be easy all the time.

Others are holding back  because they feel that they don’t have a voice and they can’t speak out – in cultures where only certain views hold sway and any alternatives aren’t valued. Too often in companies there is a one-size-fits-all mentality that obliterates our individuality and stifles the change we need.

Many initiatives focus on creating a pipeline of diversity at entry level.  Yet as McKinsey’s latest research on women in the workforce points out despite some progress between  2015 and 2020,  in women’s representation  a “broken rung” at the first step up to manager continues to hold women back—and now the Covid-19 crisis is threatening to erase the gains of the past six years.”

So where are we  now? Sadly, 1 in 3 employees in the UK overall feels as though they do not have a sense of Belonging at work.  So if you do have a sense of Belonging, and you are in a meeting with 2 other people, one of them doesn’t feel that they Belong in your workplace.  For Black respondents this figure worsens from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2.

You will be disappointed to hear the numbers of people who told us that they had personally experienced bias, harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work:  28% of employees overall, but a third of under 25s, 48% LGBTQ+, 60% mixed race, 40% Black, 34% Asian, 59% of disabled people, 54% of the neurodiverse.  The figures make tough reading, and we can also reveal here, for the first time, that the proportion of those who work in marketing and pr who have had these experiences is higher than average at 31%.  37% of the working population have witnessed this kind of behaviour, but nearly 1 in 2 (48%) of those who work in marketing or pr.

Every organization has to go beyond recruiting for diversity, beyond inclusion initiatives, and instead act to positively create a culture of Belonging in the workplace for everyone.   As former head of diversity at the Telegraph, now running global D+I at Adidas, Asif Sadiq has said “Diversity is great but we need to realise difference. Where we really need to get to is creating a sense of Belonging for all people.”

Or as our foreword writer Karen Blackett OBE, UK country manager for WPP, puts it, we need a recognition that “diversity is not a problem to fix.  Diversity is the solution.”

Policy change and training days are not enough.  Change won’t come about because key performance indicators are set (people will find an excuse for not delivering them) or because there is a great Chief Talent Officer.  Every single person in the organisation needs to play a role and this includes people who currently frequently feel excluded from many inclusion policies – notably, straight white men.  Everyone needs to work at being a champion of Belonging, at being an ally, at creating moments of micro-affirmation to countenance the abundant micro-aggressions that our interviewees described.

There are many case studies in our book which show you exactly how you can help to transform the workplace, to make it a better kinder place for everyone.

Here is just one example: James is a director of a worldwide team in a manufacturing business. He spoke to us about going on a team bonding awayday a few years ago. There was a task that involved a great deal of running around – a bit like an Apprentice scavenger hunt. He was given a team to run that included lots of bouncy outgoing people and one older woman, introverted and not very able physically. James says that he could immediately tell that she felt threatened by the whole afternoon, even though its purpose was to bond people together, he said: “I couldn’t bear this, that the team bonding exercise was actually making her feel excluded. She was upset that she might not be helping us win, but she really wasn’t physically up to most of it, not compared to the other people around (it was a very young team generally). The exercises included literally climbing through hoops and jumping on trampolines among other things. I took her aside, before she could properly get upset, and asked her to do whatever she felt comfortable doing. And nothing else. I suggested that she be the go-to person for the rest of the team when they needed advice or to check in with someone. And I could feel her relax immediately – there was an antidote to her anxiety.” The team didn’t win the task by any means, but they didn’t score badly either. As far as James was concerned, the team were winners because they succeeded in ensuring everyone belonged. Remember, the actual objective was bonding, not winning a plastic trophy.

As Matthew Syed points out in Rebel Ideas, it is only when you have different points of view that you get the benefit of diverse thinking.  And diversity comes in many forms.  James, in this case study, demonstrated real empathy for difference and by doing so unlocked the sense of Belonging for the whole team.

It isn’t easy to champion Belonging.  It takes thought and mindfulness.  Throughout the book we have included a series of exercises to help you in this very important role.

One of the key messages of Belonging is that it is everybody’s responsibility to create an inclusive workspace. In the past, too much responsibility has been placed on the underrepresented groups to do this hard work on their own.

Now there is a growing understanding that the rest of the workforce needs to be involved too. This is a job for everyone. With this understanding has come a welcome focus on allyship. And one of the ways in which one can be an ally is to call out inappropriate behaviour and comments.

This is one of the most obvious ways. It is also, to be perfectly frank, one of the scariest.

So, in Belonging, when we talk about ideas like this we try not to leave you just with the theory “Off you go then – be a good ally”, but try to walk you through specific tips and techniques that will make it easier to actually do it.

Let us suppose you are in a meeting, and someone has said something you believe is inappropriate. You think that you should say something. But how are you feeling at this moment? Let’s take the worst-case scenario: the person who has made the inappropriate comment is much further up the hierarchy than you. You know that you are supposed to use your privilege to help others – but right now, in the heat of the moment, your privilege seems massively outweighed by the privilege of the person who made the comment

At this moment, you may be angry or upset at the comment or behaviour. You may also be anxious and worried about the consequences of actually speaking up.

All of these feelings are valid, appropriate and entirely understandable. The problem at this moment is that if you speak from these feelings – if, when you speak, your anger or fear are evident – you are quite likely to achieve the opposite of what you want to achieve.

What you hope is that the person you challenge stops, listens, reflects, acknowledges what they’ve done and ideally apologies and commits to behaving differently in the future. If you speak from a place of anger or fear – however valid these emotions – you’re maximising the chances that the person will instead immediately become defensive or aggressive to justify their position, and will not truly listen. They will feel attacked, so they will defend.

So what do you do? You breathe.

The US military are taught a technique called The Combat Breath. It is designed to be used when you come under enemy fire to bring you back from a place of shock and fear to a calm state of mind where you can make clear and appropriate decisions. If it works when people are trying to kill you, it can certainly work in even the most stressful business meeting.

It’s this simple. Breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four. Hold your breath again for a count of four. Repeat that three to five times and you will notice that you calm yourself down. If you speak now, you will be speaking more calmly, more authoritatively, more assertively, more powerfully – but not aggressively and not with overt anger; you’re more likely to be heard and the person you speak to will be more able to acknowledge your point, and take it on board. They will feel less attacked and less inclined to go on the defensive and justify their words.

To wait a few moments before commenting also helps to defuse the aggression from the situation. In fact, you may decide after this moment’s reflection that the comment would be best received outside of the meeting. Remember, our aim is not to put somebody down (even if we’d like to); it is to change their behaviour.

Conversely, if someone in the meeting is directly targeted, upset or offended  by the comment, you may feel that the issue absolutely must be addressed there and then. It’s a judgement call. And your judgement will be better after the Combat Breath.

Everyone acknowledges that the move towards greater diversity in the workplace will involve some awkward and uncomfortable conversations. One of the aims of Belonging is to equip the reader with the Emotional Intelligence tools and techniques to be able to handle those moments so that they are also productive conversations that move us in the right direction.

Our industry needs more diversity.  It is important that every single one of us plays our role in creating this new, better world of work.  There is a huge opportunity now, during the immense disruption that we are all facing, to build a better way.  Belonging is the key to transforming, and maintaining diversity, inclusion and equality at work.

Belonging is out now.







The source of great marketing is businesses that commit

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

The best marketing comes from businesses that commit.

I learnt a lot as 2020 Convenor of the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

The intense (most intense in advertising worldwide?) judging process begins with reading thousands of words.  Over 60 papers of 4000 words plus appendices.  Then as convenor I attended three rounds (6 afternoons) of judging on zoom: Technical judges; Industry judges; Client judges.

The wisdom and commitment of all the judges was unquestionable.  The process was long, hard and argumentative.  More argumentative than 2018 when there was more consensus of opinion.  This year there was plenty of debate and discussion, opinions were changed, minds were made to rethink.  I learnt a lot from my fellow judges including the problems with “Monte Carlo simulations” (which sound more exciting than they are.)  And I observed a passion for effectiveness amongst the judges which paints a very optimistic picture of our industry.

There are several key themes from the well-deserved winners which are detailed in the AdWorks book available from the IPA.  The themes include the power of insight, the importance of belief in brand advertising, a redefinition of being challenger, lessons in brand turnaround, the impact of real life stories, how a great pr stunt can revive a brand and the role of tech in driving effectiveness.

There is one overriding lesson, which the Grand Prix winner (Tesco), the winner of best dedication to effectiveness (Audi) and the winner of best new learning (Diageo), all evidenced.  The one overriding lesson of the 2020 IPA effectiveness awards is the crucial importance of the entire business, not just the marcomms team,  being focused on marketing effectiveness.

This is when great longterm thinking can thrive.  Where marketing is never regarded as a cost, but as an investment.  Where strategic decisions can be based on creating sustainable demand, not just selling loss leaders.  It applies to client companies, but also to advertising agencies and media agencies.  It actually applies throughout the advertising eco-system at its most complex.

If the advertising agency is creating ads for the industry rather than for customers then it shows.  Every year new creative work can lead to the extinction of effective brand icons and fluent devices (as System One describe the memorable ad assets of a brand.)  Agencies dedicated to effectiveness rather than peer approval break this cycle and create longterm effective work.

Media budgets must be deployed strategically not just to deliver immediate key performance indicators and this too must be deep in the culture of the agency.

We need this cultural alignment in media owners too.  Brands can only successfully partner with media owners who have effectiveness built into their thinking, not just a quick sale to boost one month’s targets.

This year’s awards demonstrated the strategic power of PR stunts to drive growth.  Only PR activations that enhance brand power deliver this, and this too requires a cultural addiction to effectiveness not to generating views and creating empty clickbait.

Most of all it is the client company culture that allows great effective marketing to thrive.

The winners of the IPA effectiveness awards will be the envy of their peers.  A thorough reading of the papers delivers a blueprint for driving growth, which cannot be aped without a reset of the values of the boardroom so that they respect and value effective marketing for the long term.


Come out of the casino, this isn’t a gamble

Monday, October 12th, 2020

To craft a strong effective media plan you have to challenge everything, including yourself.

We are all subject to confirmation bias.  This means that when we hear something that we have heard before, or that we would like to believe, we are more likely to have faith in it.  We are not as rational or logical as we think we are, and understanding this is crucial to how and when you make data work for the best possible returns.

In “The Loudest Duck” Laura A. Liswood tells the reader that they should “tell grandma to go home”.  What she means here is that tales that your parents or grandparents might tell you, or the beliefs that you pick up as you grow up, are just a version of reality.  When you leave home, you need to leave those biases behind you to form healthy new relationships.

This is just as true of media decision making.  If you start out in performance media you need to learn and understand branding in order to fulfil your potential.  If all you know is branding then you need to learn to love performance.

Every media decision is driven by data. That sounds simple enough. But it isn’t. The question is what data you use; what data you reject; what data you use that you don’t even realise you are using (gut instinct, received wisdom, “common sense”); how you interpret all the data you have; and how you use it.

Data is in truth an all encompassing term, ranging from immediate performance metrics to longterm information about a brand.  It includes sat nav details about driver journeys and qualitative gut instinct learnings about deep rooted human behavior.

The crucial thing is to interrogate the data skeptically.  To understand where it is giving real new insights and where it is simply confirming existing bias.  For example in “Hello world, how to be human in the age of the machine” Hannah Fry writes “It is incredibly important .. to hold algorithms to account.”  She describes an experiment from 2015 when scientists set out to examine how search engines can alter people’s view of the world.  Using an upcoming election in India researchers created an experiment to understand the impact that different ordering of candidates on search engine results pages would have on voting intentions, and it exceeded all expectations.  Psychologist Robert Epstein concluded: “when people are unaware they are being manipulated, they tend to believe they have adopted their new thinking.”

It is equally true that when you hear an empathetic story about one user experience of a brand you must resist the tendency to regard this as a single truth.

Be aware of confirmation bias and question the findings.

Don’t put everything on red (or black).  Don’t stick to what you know and don’t reject the new.  An effective media strategy is not gambling. You don’t have to bet on performance versus branding.  You shouldn’t place all your chips on digital personalization nor on mass market broadcast.  It is crucial to create a balanced plan with an intelligent synthesis of all of the available data.

In this respect diversity of experience and thinking is absolutely vital to create the most effective balance across the whole of the plan.  It is for this reason that it is very important to get the right advice, and to use the right advisors.  Case study after case study shows (as Gideon Spanier writes) that digital brands thrive when they use broadcast media.  Traditional brands experience a step change when they incorporate best practice digital performance.

Understanding the effect each part of the plan has on the others – ie the systems effect unlocks this growth.

It is for this reason that the brands who are making the most from their media investments have a balance in their decision making.  Seeing how everything works together is crucial and learning how to challenge your own biases is essential.