Archive for the ‘MediaComment’ Category

Who is your biggest critic? They might be closer to you than you think.

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

It__s_Like_Looking_in_a_Mirror_by_SamsSisterOften when mentoring, in a one to one, it will be clear that the mentees worst critic is the one they see very regularly, daily in fact.  Often when they are tired and stressed.  Often when they are at a low point.  It’s the one they see in the mirror.

Its very common.  In my latest book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, we quote a returner from maternity leave who says: “Day to day I’m just as ambitious, but I’m so grateful now when I get given a break or a step up.  I have so much guilt.  Why do I feel like that?  I shouldn’t.  It’s my due.”

In the questions sessions that follow our talks about the book, all too often questions will be raised where it becomes clear that the questioner is doubting their own worth.  “I’m so lucky,” they might say, before going on to talk about a situation that they clearly deserve.  “I don’t want to speak up about this, in case I am not the expert” is another common trait amongst capable, intelligent and awesome performers.

Where does this come from.  In my experience it is certainly not always from their managers, who are often nurturing their talent.

It might be from their peers.  There are some work cultures that operate on zero sum game basis as far as success and recognition is concerned.  In cultures without a growth outlook rewards are limited and therefore success for one person means that no one else is recognised.  The team is therefore motivated to do each other down whatever the declared culture of the organisation might be.  It’s no surprise then that people don’t feel encouraged to take risks or to speak up about something that they haven’t 100% nailed down.

In this situation your worst critic might be the chap on the other side of the desk.

Most of the time though the worst critic lives inside people’s head.  It might be the relic of criticism that you heard at school or college.  It might be the voice of unfriendly so-called friends.  It might be a parent or guardian, sibling, perfect cousin.  You can’t always shut those voices up.  No matter how much you want to.  You can however recognise that they are internal voices and cultivate a strategy to counteract it.

If you can have an internal critic you can also have an internal cheerleader.  One technique is to give yourself advice that you would give your best friend in that situation.  If you’re worrying about not being good enough at something what would you say to your best friend in that same state?  You’d probably tell them that it would be alright, they’ll sail through it, that you believe in them.  If you can do it for your best friend, you can do it for yourself.

You can also build a network of actual cheerleaders.  As I said in Nicola Kemp’s feature on my colleague Claudine Collins, we’ve built a network of internal cheerleaders at MediaCom.  We’ve got each others’ back.‎ When, as is so often the case, ‎negative internal voices dominate, or we have a tough moment, we’ve got into the habit of turning to each other to check in and to get support, to be each other’s cheerleaders and sponsors. We won’t let each other down and knowing that we have this network makes us better and stronger. And better able to deliver outstanding work for our clients.


Creativity = data + imagination + empathy.

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

homerThere’s a reason that organisations that have real diversity thrive. It is not just a tick box exercise. It’s the synthesis of people with differences of opinion, personality and thinking.  It’s the ultimate “Avengers Assemble” team (as WPP UK Country Manager Karen Blackett puts it). These teams are not groups of people who love hanging out together (they may do, they may not). They are teams whose natural inclination is to go in different directions, to go at different paces and with different motivations. Whose behaviours don’t fit one nicely orchestrated corporate values box. But who come together with a single goal. In our case to grow our clients’ business.

It’s a rare person who combines the best of what used to be described as left brain and right brain thinking. The geography of the brain might be out of date, but you all know what I mean. Imagination and speculation combined with forensic concentration on data. Yet the best answers for brand growth will come from such a combination.  And such a combination might require that diverse team working in synthesis.

Data understanding alone gets you only to the half way mark of great thinking. Imagination and empathy take you the rest of the way to brilliance.

When people bemoan the split of creative and media they’re probably talking about this really. And whatever building or logo people sit in there’s a need to combine good concrete data analysis, including a robust understanding of the difference between correlation and causation, with the ability to dream, to confabulate, to storytell.  In the end imagination is what the planner must use to fill in the gaps between the data points.

Let me give you one example of a food brand where the data team found that discount offers performed significantly better (and against expectations) if served to potential customers the night before rather than immediately before use.  They of course immediately doubled down on serving messages at this time. There was a great hike in the short term response.

This is interesting, but not as interesting as why? Why this is case and what impact that could have? The discount in question wasn’t a large one, and the food brand was in the mass market category. Let’s use that one data point to imagine the customer.  As so often there was no budget for more research.

The coupon was being predominantly taken up by people who were properly budgeting for their lunches, who were planning ahead. So far, so interesting. There’s so much more though. For any great team the nugget of data could be used to drive the creative execution not just of the offer, but to feed into broader creative development, strategic positioning of the brand, menus and service values of the organisation. Maybe a new type of offer would suit this customer segment’s lifestyle for example, 5 lunches for the price of 3 to ensure that careful budgeters commit to one food outlet, thus breaking category norms to drive loyalty and repeat business. What else can we imagine from this one data point? How can we empathise with this audience? (And for the true meaning of empathy see Trott’s blog: ”Sympathy is emotional, empathy is rational”). If they’re planning meals carefully during the week, are they budgeting for a blow out at the weekend perhaps. Would a partnership with a glossy magazine be a great move, so that the frugality has an upside, with some affordable luxury? Or the chance to win tickets to an ITV Saturday night live show?

One tiny bit of data, that could so easily be siloed in a DM team. One tiny bit of data that could lead to a brand growth transformation. In tough competitive times, no nugget of data should go unexamined as true creativity means data analytics combined with imagination and empathy.



Sick of fake news

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Rs-5-Crore-Penalty-For-Writing-Fake-News-SocialpostFake news is everywhere, swaying politics, election results, public opinion.

Fake news permeates our business too.

You only need to attend a conference or browse your Twitter feed to come across media business fake news, such as, for example:

“Brands are dead.”

At a recent panel (Chatham House Rules) there was a fellow panellist who said that brands were dead.  Dead?  Really?  No Marmite in your cupboard then?  No Heinz tomato ketchup on your chips?  No Landrover in your drive?  As the recent Thinkbox research “From Brand to Bland: what happens when you take away people’s favourite brands?” shows brands are as crucial to real people as ever.  The crafty people at Thinkbox took away the branding from people’s favourite products and then gave them back to them.  The respondents were all extremely disappointed with their unbranded products.  They all said the flavour had gone, or the efficacy wasn’t as good.  And were unanimous in their disbelief when the researchers owned up.    Brands dead.  I don’t think so.

The over-riding example of fake news however today is this one:

“Data will bring more accountability.”

The promise of more data in media was clear.  There would be more accountability, more certainty, less assumption.  As Eaon Pritchard points out in the new APG book “Eat your Greens, fact based thinking to improve your brand’s health” the promises in digital media have fallen long short of expectations.  Pritchard writes: “social media marketing, content marketing, qr codes (remember them), VR/AR, chatbots, programmatic deliver and adtech have all arrived, been heralded as “the next big thing” then gradually landed in a ditch of disappointment.  He concludes “a decent rule of thumb would be to demand that the more extraordinary the claim of any tech platform of gizmo the stronger the evidence must be to support that claim”.

As MediaCom’s CDDO, Ben Rickard likes to reference: “people say that data is the new oil.  I would agree, it is exactly like oil.  If it is unrefined then it is just a slippery mess.”

We were promised that viewing figures for video online would be more accurate than just BARB could deliver with its panel of only thousands, who counted as viewers just if they were in the room with the TV on.  How could information from millions of data points be less accurate?  Easily.  If you compare the definition of a view by BARB (at least 50% of the ad) with that of a view on social media which might be for just 3 seconds.  How did we get ourselves into this?

Here’s another one:

“Media context means nothing”.

After all, if an advertiser can reach an individual via accurate behavioural targeting, just after they’ve searched for a particular product, what would it matter where the ad ran?  Quite a lot as it turns out.  A credible, safe environment means so much more than perhaps many people really ever understood as these technologies were developed.

Media people, it’s time for a reset.  Time for truth to overcome fake news.  Time to call time on claims that have little basis in fact. Change is inevitable, nonsense claims are not.



“What’s in it for you?”

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

wiifm1If you read this blog, you’ll have a better chance of being promoted, paid more, liked more, going home early.

Got your attention?

“What’s in it for you?” as a strategy is in fact short term and unsustainable for marketing, for management and finally for life.

“What’s in it for you?” can be a successful short term marketing tactic (buy one get one free; text for the chance to win; free lip gloss with every sku) that can lead to a race to the bottom.

When you’re the first to market with this tactic you can gain temporary advantage.  When you begin to rely on it because all the competitive brands in your sector do it to drive share or sales then you’re in a race to the bottom.

A strong brand doesn’t have to discount its way into the shopping basket.  Brand strength is one of the true paybacks of successful long term marketing.  The case studies that are rewarded in this year’s IPA effectiveness awards which I had the honour of judging are full of strong stories about building distinctiveness and driving effectiveness beyond the short term drug of discounting.  The databank is full of still more.

“What’s in it for me” can be a way of managing staff.  Open bar, summer picnic, free biscuits.  Tick off all your tasks and expect a reward.   Of course, staff need fun, rest and relaxation but a culture where you treat them like pets being trained to perform with treats or toddlers with a star chart doesn’t develop them or grow your business.

And what if you do want them to do something without reward, over and above the job description?  If the culture is one of performing seals purely acting in the hope of a fish then your chances of this are slim.

A strong team is made of individuals who look out for each other, not a collection of people who only act if there is something in it for them.  People don’t just act selfishly.  We’re not just in it for ourselves.  The collective matters, the team matters, and good managers find ways to encourage and reward good team citizenship over and above striving for personal reward.

Not all managers do this.  There are managers who will set their deputies the task of competing with each other for praise and promotion.  The best response to this is to point out that there’s plenty of competition outside the organisation, wasting energy on internal competition in a hideous and pale parody of Game of Thrones is a misuse of time and energy.

Of course there must a reward exchange.  There needs to be something in it for you.  But if it’s the first and only criteria then the outcomes won’t be pretty.  If you’re hooked on that “What’s in it for me?” hamster wheel professionally or personally, then it’s time to get off and start considering the bigger picture.  There are many ways you can behave at work which will help others.  Don’t be a bystander when you witness unfairness, speak up for the overlooked, the bullied or the silenced.  Or sign up here to be a gamechanger for disability in Scope’s new initiative.

What’s in it for you?  A real reason to get up and go to work happy.



Transforming attitudes to age

Monday, September 10th, 2018


Most businesses have a strategy for transformation, and if they don’t probably need one.

When so much is changing and so fast it’s easy to assume that the old guard need clearing out.

However it’s a mistake to assume that everything must change. If you lose perspective and all the experience from the team you are more likely to throw the baby out with the bath water.

At recent judging of effectiveness awards several people commented that there was a great richness of material proving the value of old school branding practices.

Transformation these days may well include restoring well worn paths to excellence that have made way to trendy tactics that still require rigorous proof of concept.

In our industry we may be at risk of losing that perspective.

Take your own team for example, does your team come close to matching the population profile by age?

Most of us think the ad industry is ageist.

1 in 4 respondents to an industry survey last year said that they’d been told that they were too old for a new job.

Age is another face of diversity. Some businesses don’t allow people to contribute if they don’t fit and don’t look the part, and age, like gender, class, sexuality, mental health, disability, and ethnicity is another aspect of exclusion.

This is the real point. The problem is that some businesses are too homogeneous. A good culture allows for diversity.

If everyone in the office is required to be laddish (and some of the team are not) then some people feel excluded and the result can be overall bad team dynamics.

If everyone is required to be suited booted and formal, then that quells the fun and experimental spirit essential to a growth mentality.

Management shouldn’t dictate. You can only create the environment that allows everyone to be themselves.

Of course there’s a contract here between team members. You need everyone to deliver as required, to respect differences, to acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to partner for the strongest outcome.

Earlier this summer The Marketing Society held a debate about ageism.

The Marketing Society chief exec Gemma Greaves finished by saying: “I am not a fan of any isms”. Gemma is right. Ageism is yet another ugly face of forced conformity which stifles difference and limits potential.

In today’s business world no one can afford to waste time on reinventing the wheel or energy on pretending to be anything other than themselves. True value is created when team members complement each other. In my blogs about gender I have pointed out the overwhelming disparity between the proportion of women making decisions, directing adverts or taking commercial photos and the proportion of women in the population and shopping decisions made by women. Disposable income sits disproportionately in the wallets of the over 50s, and this is growing. There is plenty of evidence that older people feel misrepresented in advertising comms. Is an equivalent disparity to blame?

The debate about ageism in advertising is alive and well, although maybe a bit tired. It would perhaps like to have a cup of tea on the sofa and a nice afternoon nap. Whoops, there I go being ageist.

Never mind the baby, let’s not throw experience out with the bath water.