Archive for the ‘MediaComment’ Category

Standing by is no longer an option

Friday, November 10th, 2017

michelle-obama-59c12e8dd07ef846Its darker now.

Its darker now as autumn takes a hold. Brexit looms.  Most businesses are calculating the impact of change; an unpredictable regulatory framework; the potential brain drain to our industry.

The latest Bellwether report says that two thirds of marketing companies have frozen their spend.  Campaign’s Gideon Spanier says that the signs are flashing amber.

The traditional Christmas excess may surely be dampened this year by economic fears.

The industry is also beginning a “post Weinstein” purge.  Cindy Gallop has called for women to name names.  There are one or two men out there, at least, surely nervously reconsidering whether they’ve ever abused the powerful position they have had with respect to the women they lead.

From my perspective as co-author of The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, I’ve been out with Kathryn Jacob talking about inequalities in the workplace for over a year.  Pre-publication we spent a year interviewing people for the book.  There was more than one account of sexual harrassment.  We only wrote about one in detail in the book as we were asked not to share the other stories.  In the example given in full we had to change not just names, not just sectors but even the continent where the story was set before the person who confided in us was prepared to let us publish.

People do not find it easy to talk in public about this.  However, the more the experiences are shared, the more likely things are to change.

Sexual harrassment is an abuse of power.  It isn’t flirting, funny or acceptable.  Few women escalate their experiences.  No-one in our interviews wanted to name names.

It is time for this abuse of power to end.

It was very important to us when writing the book (about which Kathryn is speaking this week at the WeWork Thinking stage as part of the workspace’s autumn events series featuring leading authors), that we didn’t add to or create an “us and them” division between men and women at work.  It’s a division between on one side the bullies, and on the other side the victims.  Not men versus women.  If you’re not a bully, and you’re not a victim, you must pick a side.  Standing by isn’t neutral, it’s picking the side of the bullies.

Lack of gender equality in senior management and the incidence of a poor and abusive culture is very often because of a toxic alpha culture that’s bad for all kind of talented people.  Many of them are women.  There are also many men who don’t thrive in this environment.

We need to fix this problem together. Without hesitation.   Any more delay is inexcusable.

Speaking up for those that get spoken over in meetings – each one of us could do this today – creates a great loop of positivity as each of us passes this on.  Including always calling out verbal or physical sexual harrassment instead of being embarrassed and silent witnesses is everyone’s responsibility.

In 2015 Michelle Obama gave a graduation address to Oberlin College in Ohio.  She encouraged the grads to make a difference, pointed out their privileged position and repeatedly told them that standing by wasn’t an option, and they had to get their hands dirty by getting involved, however messy it might seem.  “Graduates, with a degree from this amazing school and all the status that the degree confers, you don’t get to have no hands. No, you don’t get to be precious or cautious or cynical…..You don’t get to have no hands”.

We’re in a privileged position in our industry.  We’re employed in a business with huge power for positive transformation.  No-one should stand by while abuse of senior position goes on.  You don’t get to have no hands.  Speak up, share, support, smash the Glass Wall.


Nailing it – how everyone else being wrong can’t be right

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

luther500 years ago, on 31st October 1517, Martin Luther nailed a poster on to the door of a church that changed history.  Establishing, once and for all, the power of out of home media.

Actually, not the point of this blog.  Sorry poster fans.

500 years ago Luther nailed a paper with 95 theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg in Germany expressing his objections to the Catholic Church and sparking the Protestant Reformation across Europe.

As many of you know, in England, this was spearheaded by Henry VIII who split from the Pope’s authority and announced himself Head of the Church.

When this is taught at school reasons for the reformation are normally confined to i) Henry didn’t like control from Rome; ii) Henry wanted a divorce from older, and now slightly dull Katherine of Aragon who hadn’t given him a son; iii) He had a crush on Anne Boleyn; iv) He wanted to acquire the considerable wealth concentrated in the monasteries.  Less frequently cited is the reason Tudor historian Suzannah Lipscomb gives: his absolute need to be right.

She writes: “To justify his actions he would ignore the ruling of the Pope.. the highest authority figure of the time who he had previously defended; his own conscience; the trauma to his wife who begged him on her knees not to leave her.”

She references a book “Mistakes were made but not by me” which examines “psychological dissonance” which happens when someone holds two beliefs that contradict each other.  When someone who needs to be liked or respected (as most of us do) does something that deep down they know is unlikeable or shameful.  The book argues that this is so uncomfortable that it’s only natural to try to resolve it.


Some people will go to any lengths to do so.  Like Henry VIII.

Like someone who expresses an opinion that he’s believed deep down for years, finds that he is challenged on it by other opinion formers and then has to find a way to prove that he’s still in the right.  Perhaps he’ll acknowledge a misunderstanding ie that what he said was misinterpreted by everyone else.  Or give a non-apology apology where he says he’s sorry for upsetting people (but not for his beliefs or his lifelong actions based on those beliefs).

Lipscomb comments: “there may be exceptions but few people in history could not justify to themselves whey they did what they did and why it was – contrary to all odds – actually the right thing to do”.

You will be able to think of your own examples from history.  You will be able to think of your own examples from the present day; on the world stage; in your personal life; in business.

The best leaders acknowledge when they are in the wrong.  It’s a characteristic to look out for in a manager or a leader.  Does your boss admit when they were wrong and perhaps even when you were right?

The only thing worse than making a mistake at work is not admitting it and asking for forgiveness and help.

Our brains are wired for self-justification, our first recourse is to find a reason why everyone else is wrong.  Its hard work however.  The wronger you are the more effort it is.  Freeing yourself from this effort is not only healthier, and happier, it will also make you more productive and a better leader.





Thursday, October 26th, 2017

nabstalk_glasswall_7dec2016_photographerbronacmcneill_hr-21358-300x200A good day at work

How much are you the victim of SAD?  The time shift in late October obviously means more darkness, sooner.  Shortly the time will arrive when you may leave for work in the darkness, return home in the darkness, and if you’re in meetings all day, or there’s gloomy weather, you won’t see the sun for weeks, across the UK and most of northern Europe at least.  Should you find your mood to be irrationally gloomy too, you might have a dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Then you may find it helpful to acquire an artificial way of topping up the sun via a lamp, or a swift holiday somewhere where they still see the sun.

There are other ways to ensure you are smiling at work.  Earlier this month Style Magazine published a new point of view of happiness at work.

Being an activist increases job satisfaction.  Solitaire Townsend, author of “The Happy Hero”, tells Style that those who do start campaigns for good at work find their lives: “improve in unimaginable ways. You will discover a self-confidence you never thought possible. Heroic actions will improve your health, resilience and relationships, and will even help you to live longer….it will even boost your sex life”.

Increasingly more and more people would consider that happiness at work is a key factor in success at work.   Given that we spend more time at work than we do doing anything else except sleeping then the answer to a question about what everyday success is surely must include a good day at work.  However fulfilling your day job is, having a mission to make not just the job better but the world better can enhance your working life.  Since the publication of The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, I have felt a small part of a campaign for better diversity that extends across our industry, across every institution within the UK and indeed across the planet.

My co-author Kathryn Jacob and I have been speaking at over 70 gigs since publication.  We’ve been trying to help to smash that Glass Wall: the invisible barrier between women and the promotion to senior management that they often deserve but don’t get.  We haven’t yet succeeded.  Sometimes it feels as though our industry has been going backwards instead of improving.  On the other hand we know we’re helping some people.  One woman recently wrote that we’d significantly helped her settle into a new job.  We’ve contributed to a campaign that has only strengthened over the last 12 months.  This does feel good; this does feel like success.

You’ll need to find your own area of activism of course, and you’ll need to work for an employer that puts people first and encourages you to follow that cause.

There’s many ways to challenge for change at work.  It may be that your interests lie in making your team the most cohesive that it can be.  You might want to make sure every bit of paper and every coffee cup is recycled.  It might be that you can introduce your management to the idea that the business should not only be good for its shareholders but also be for good in the world.  Whatever success looks like for you, you should go for it, without delay.  It will make you happy.  Have a good day today.





Partnerships: Worth more than the trouble

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

camilla“Partnerships” are routine considerations for our industry.  They are not routine to deliver however.

First off, they require some definition.  People mean different things by them.  Is a simple badging of a sponsorship a partnership?  If we work collaboratively with content creators aren’t we in partnership?  Or is a true media partnership one where unique content is created by the content creator (media owner, publisher, influencer etc) specifically for a brand?

This last option is especially a tough one to deliver.  The objective, to create content that will uniquely promote the brand in the tone of voice of the publisher, must deliver not just added value to the marketing effort, but also to the consumers (readers, viewers, listeners etc) of the publisher.

These are the partnerships that we love, the winners of awards and the real deliverers of added value.

They can be hard work, compared for example with planning adspace in the right places which will be filled by advertising, with one clear message, created carefully to run in all the media booked.

The human effort involved can be heavy.  One situation springs to mind, from many years ago, when a hair styling brand took the outside back cover of some selected women’s magazines and re-styled the front cover model’s hair.  This ad looked and felt like the front cover, but with a different hairstyle.  The good news was that it drove distribution and instore presence.  It only ran for one campaign however.  The reason was that the effort to create multiple different images felt unjustifiable.  Not in terms of cost (that was factored into the media buy) but in terms of sheer effort for the client.  Signing off each image for each issue of each magazine was high stakes (compared with the single image that they traditionally ran), and managing internal stakeholders required much more time than normal.

When reviewing the project all the hard kpis (key performance indicators) were successful.  The stakes just felt emotionally too high for it to be repeated.  The client involved said to the planner on the account: “I loved the project, it was the right thing to do.  But I am never, ever going to do it again.  I had sold in the idea that running magazine specific copy was better than running one single ad campaign.  For two weeks, as I was attending shoots with each mag, my boss kept asking me: “Are you sure?”  My answer was always yes, but it was just too stressful”.

This project was many years ago, and of course there are much better ways of working and proper project management in play today.  But a good partnership will usually still require more effort than running one brand campaign.  Is it worth it?

This has been a difficult question to answer.  Until now.  MediaCom’s new econometric study into the value of partnerships has revealed exactly how much the extra effort in delivering them is worth.  For large and small projects.

The news is good for those who have so far just had blind faith that they are a good thing.

Media Partnerships can drive up to twice as much effectiveness for a brand campaign over and above advertising.  This is not marginal gain, which might be undermined by increased human effort in terms of overall return.  This is a significant leap in brand delivery.

The full research looks in detail at budget parameters, campaign duration and the specific metrics that partnerships are best at shifting, and whether it is best to run them stand alone or alongside an ad campaign.

Brand partnerships work.  They are more than worth the trouble.


Who’s using data in the best way?

Friday, October 13th, 2017

goldthisgirlcanWho is using big data in the best way?

The shortlist has been published for the best use of big data for buying.  The Gold winner of the Media Week award 2017 in this category has just been announced.  The excellent shortlist demonstrates the range of applications for media buying:  reacting to the news; identifying snacking occasions; geo-targeting and colour matching, identification of lapsed exercisers.  MediaCom won by working with Spotify to target women with unused exercise playlists for Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.

For every brand there are endless possibilities.  In every case there’s also a judgement to be made about the real return on marketing investment from precise targeting versus mass marketing.  Byron Sharp’s Ehrenberg Bass Laws of Growth should be consulted.  Due diligence must be done on costs and consequences for the brand.

Outside of media buying, who is getting the most out of their use of data?

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s declared objective is to transform the business from mobile first to AI first, making optimal use of algorithmic decision making.  They’ve just announced that their voice recognition software has been optimised to understand how children speak, thus perhaps bypassing generations who aren’t “voice friendly” ie don’t want to issue commands to their devices out loud.

Other businesses are (unsurprisingly) less further along the journey of making the most of data at scale.  In fact some aren’t even seeing any return on their investment in data.

In Newvantage Partners’ Big Data Executive Survey most businesses who are investing in big data are seeing some return, but are a long way from either transforming the business or establishing a true data driven culture.

The survey, published in October’s HBR, covers c-suite executives at Fortune 1000 companies.  On a positive note, this is the first time since the survey began in 2012 that nearly half the respondents are positive about any measurable results.  The big wins for those companies are in cutting costs.  In terms of the other ambitions from big data, the majority say that they either haven’t reaped any benefit from their efforts or haven’t even started yet.  Adding revenue?  67% answered negatively.  Establishing a data driven culture?  42% have started and not realised any value.  31% haven’t begun.  69% don’t think they’ve speeded up any current practices through data.

The reason for detailing the results is not to provide comfort for those people who are big data haters.  Yes, you are right to think that big data does not provide the immediate answer to every question. However the gulf between companies like Google who are built on data and those who aren’t gives clear advantages to the former.

On a positive note, despite the time it is taking for the full value of big data projects to be realised, 81% of respondents thought that the projects they worked on were a success.

And, cutting costs aside, the second most positive outcome is finding new innovation avenues.

Big data will transform our businesses.  We can and should set targets, goals and a clear vision for what success will look like and where innovation will deliver most value.  All transformation requires flexibility to be built into the process.  What looks like one obvious direction might require a pivot to deliver true value in the end.  Also of course, expecting a fully-fledged benefit before the full nature of the outcomes are clear is a fool’s errand.  Even where progress seems slow and complex, it is crucial not to lose focus on transformation and jettison advantage.