Archive for September, 2010

The Royal Television Society’s Conference on September 28th was exciting for all kinds of reasons including combat style interviews, John Wayne (sort of) and a can of fruit salad.

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The opening speaker Jeremy Hunt – the minister for culture and sport – was closely followed by a panel talking about South Korea’s media landscape. The contrast between the UK minister’s manifesto for more micro-local TV channels and South Korea’s speed of development was startling.

Pity anyone interviewed by Steve Hewlett who was inspirational in his irreverence for status in his two sessions – with Mark Thompson and Adam Crozier – both of whom held their own against an interview technique which made Jeremy Paxman look a bit tame. But which made for very entertaining sessions.

David Abraham CEO of Channel 4 is optimistic about the future of television audiences and the ability for new viewing habits over different devices and over a period of time to allow recovery from the effects of fragmentation. On the same panel Steve Morrison’s confrontation of Google has been well documented, but he also held the rapt attention of the audience when he dug into a Sainsbury bag (he’s not connected then to the eponymous store) and brought out a can of fruit salad and a dripping pack of Sainsbury’s finest fresh fruit in a plastic pot. The CEO of All3 Media makers of Peep Show made the point that supermarkets charge more for fresh stuff than for tinned. Just as there is a different pricing policy for new cars, used cars and vintage cars so their should be different pricing for TV shows – 1st run, 2nd run, catch up, archived. Who would set those rules? Would internet aggregators be compelled to go along with them?

The key note speaker of the day was Jeff Bewkes, Chairman and CEO of Time Warner. He basically disagreed entirely with the windows of charging strategy. He gave a rousing accolade for TV, for its brilliant flexibility in the past and the continuing adaption to new technologies. His view is that fragmentation has delivered better choice and better programmes. It helped that his delivery had the reassuring qualities of John Wayne about to save the day. He seemed the epitome of a worldwide chairman and CEO.

And he did indeed have a formula for saving the day. He urged the television industry not to “flag in their forward motion” and to bear in mind that not only has “no industry innovated as consistently” but also that “TV is the father of digital”. (I hope you’re imagining John Wayne delivering these lines and getting a feel for what it was like).  His answer to successful digital content exploitation was to keep the integrity of the channels as brands, but to make all programming available on demand on any device. Don’t charge the viewer more for it – if you give them what they want viewing will go up, they will stay loyal and revenues whether from advertising or subscription will follow. Viewers will be happier, advertisers will be happier and there will be a gigantic explosion in media consumption.

It is once again worth remarking that it is a pity that there is no single metric that allows proper measurement of the aggregated audience that this would deliver in the UK.

Matt Brittin is right to call for us to pay attention to mobile.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Last week the md of Google UK called for UK companies to not be left behind by mobile. He claimed that only 3% of companies are ready to “harvest its potential” (

The statistics obviously speak for themselves, everyone you know probably has a mobile phone and an increasing number of them are using smart phones every day.

My kids now both have blackberries (thanks to generous grandparents at birthdays) and the laptop, which only a year ago was fought over daily, is today gathering dust. BBM and Facebook are accessed constantly (meal times, whilst watching TV, even when hanging out with their friends) and via their hand held phones rather than via a desk bound pc.

My phone comes courtesy of Matt Brittin himself and his team (thank you Matt). Google handed out Android phones at their Zeitgeist conference earlier this year. It took me a while to get used to it admittedly. But now I am the one who gets her phone out when conversations with friends hit one of those queries that none of you can remember the answer to (a recent one was the different make-up of Pimms Cups) and searches online for the answer.

Personally I am not a great app user – apart from Ocado – but I am using the internet via my phone much more now – for news stories, for weather forecasts and for recipes. And when I do go to the news pages of say the Guardian there are obviously display ads. Which are small of course (stating the obvious). Despite the size and despite the different way in which I navigate the page, those ads do sometimes cut through to me. But once again we need to understand the value of those ads relative to other display activity both on and off line.

This is the moment our industry needs to learn from history. We must not make the mistake some made with the internet initially by failing to integrate it into marketing and communications on a comparable basis with other channels.

Consumer habits are changing as far as mobile is concerned around us every day. You only need to sit in a café and observe people. The industry needs to stop playing catch up and start anticipating the mobile revolution. With an understanding of mobile advertising, apps, mobile search, direct, social. We must ensure mobile is as mainstream for marketing as it is for the consumer.

The other day I had a disturbing incident in Leicester Square

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I was being presented to by Global Radio who were making the point that audio affects mood.  The rather startling way in which they made their point was by showing me an image of a baby in the womb (always heartstoppingly lovely) and simultaneously playing a loud alarm.  I’m still upset thinking about it. 

Their point of course – which is well made – is that sound makes a huge difference to the mood you’re in and that this starts from your time in the womb.  (Top tip for pregnant mums out there – play your baby whilst in the womb a piece of music repeatedly that you’re quite fond of – we used “Daydream Believer” – and it’s a perfect soother to your baby when it emerges from the womb and won’t settle.  This does really work).

Music is a mood changer.  I had a flat mate once whose alarm played The Smiths every morning at 5am.  Specifically “Heaven knows I’m miserable now”.  He soon quit his job, and even quit the UK.  I’m only guessing but I think if his alarm had been more along the lines of “I’m on top of the world….” his life might have panned out differently.  We may choose ringtones to cut through the clutter of noise that we are surrounded by.  We may choose them on the basis of favourite bands or our desire to be cool.  But we must think what repeated interruption by the sound is doing to our mood.  Be careful what your ring tone is saying to your brain.

This is all about neuro-science theories and the effect noise has on your bilateral ventral striatum and other brain parts.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Global soon about their new study into the power of sound (be ready for the baby alarm). 

Get sound right and you can help sell product.  Pop into Hollister in Westfield and there’s West Coast music, a video wall of a surfing beach in LA and a distinct perfume permeating the store and clothes (or see them online at  It’s a very complete retail concept and affects four of the five senses (their hoodies are gorgeously soft to the touch) and the queues outside seem to prove its power.

The power of sound is perhaps one we neglect to dwell on.  Global’s new work is welcome in this respect and I look forward to the commercial opportunities that it suggests for making traditional radio advertising even more effective in terms of matching moods with adverts.  So an airline selling exciting travel packages might go for the first ad to follow Dizzee Rascal and a product seeking to reassure consumers would try to follow Michael Buble.  If this improved effectiveness it would bring a new dimension to radio planning.

Consumer confidence has gone up by 4%.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

picture source :

This seems to me worth remarking on and even worth celebrating a bit. I know this is still a very low score (-18%). Although bear in mind that consumer confidence has not been positive for a very long time, in fact since 2005. And it is true that one of the key criteria that makes up the overall figure – confidence in making major purchases – is actually down. But the current Gfk NOP survey shows the first positive turn for consumer confidence trends overall since February this year.

Look – we’re all back now from our summer breaks. We have the autumn to look forward to. Some hard and perhaps even grim business planning for 2011. Increasing levels of darkness, how long have we got until we arrive in the office before sunrise and leave after sunset? Rain, wind, maybe storms. Joy of joys – tube strikes.

What we need is some optimism. Some planning for growth – actual growth that is – not just figures that aren’t quite as bad as they might be.

And so we should take a moment to be pleased that the great British public is feeling a bit more positive this August – goodness knows it wasn’t the weather because the late summer was a wash out.

At the beginning of the year a journalist asked me whether I thought we were in for a recovery in the first quarter. I replied that I thought that it was unlikely. I added that I thought that a recovery anyway was the wrong thing to hope for. What we need in the media sector is a reconstruction. Media Agencies and Media Owners cannot look to continue to make money in the same way as in the past. More change is coming whether we like it or not as a result of big changes in media driven by the consumer and by technologies. This is where the reconstruction must come.

A bit more consumer optimism makes this autumn the perfect time to do it.

Is a lazy streak essential for visionary leadership?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

We are all familiar with segmentation quadrants. Some are based on consumer habits from say TGI which tend to fall into demographic quadrants like older; younger; better off; less well off. Others are based on the life of a brand as in gaining share; losing share; niche; mass. We use one for different types of communication styles at MediaCom based on whether you prioritise tasks or people, whether you tell or ask.

Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, a German general who was famous for being an ardent opponent of Hitler and the Nazi regime (see, had a quadrant system for managing his leadership team. As this was pre-2nd World War the need for politeness and political correctness was obviously nil. Hammerstein’s system was to divide his officers by whether they were clever or stupid, diligent or lazy. He said “Those who are stupid and lazy make up around 90% of every army in the world, and they can be used for routine work. The officers who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!“

There is one quadrant remaining, and this Hammerstein reserved for the top leadership duties: “The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. “

This is not an approach that had occurred to me before, and it has made me think. Are you better suited for leadership if you have a lazy streak. Does this make you more likely to delegate effectively and unlikely to micromanage? It is certainly the case that managers who can’t let go of key projects tend to have teams reporting to them who lack independence of thought and action. It is also the case that laziness in senior managers is quickly picked up by the team who work for them and this can become the predominant work ethic. Maybe you need to be clever enough to hide your laziness – and if you’re clever enough to do that, you’re ideal for leading from the top.

My very first top boss – Ray Morgan – used to walk round the media department laughing at how hard everyone else was working. His theory was that there was really no reason that you shouldn’t be finished by lunchtime and out on the golf course by the afternoon. My very first immediate boss – Christine Walker however set my working hours as roughly 8am till 8pm. This work ethic amongst his department was presumably how Ray got to the golf course by 1pm. Nice work if you can get it as the old saying used to go.