Archive for March, 2011

We need new measurement systems for TV content and we need them fast.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I was locked into a TV studio overlooking the Thames last week with Gerhard Zeiler, CEO of RTL Group and Charlie Crowe, CEO of C Squared. Charlie was grilling us on the future of TV for a MediaCom webcast.

We had a lot to talk about as we obviously live in interesting times as far as TV goes. On the one hand the power of television content is unquestionable – Saturday night still generates huge audiences on ITV.  TV programmes are still water cooler discussion points. Social media (against many pundits predictions) has proved a way of strengthening live TV viewing not detracting from it. The use of smart phones and laptops whilst watching TV turns TV ads into a new point of sale.

On the other hand new generations are growing into the mass market with different ways of watching TV. The supremacy of traditional channels may come to be challenged by younger audiences who don’t revere the top 5 channels in the way the adult mass market has been brought up to do. And while it is true that whilst some programmes (such as X Factor) drive live viewing, other types of programme (for instance Skins) are more likely to be watched on laptops, mobiles and through catch up.

Gerhard Zeiler acknowledged that changes in how people choose to consume content are inevitable. He said last week “”We have to deliver our brands to wherever people want to watch them…. we need a measurement system that will cover every way of consuming content in every country.”

The development of a measurement system fit for this purpose will only enhance our ability to put commercials in front of the consumer at the right time for the right price. How long will we have to wait for it?

What did you do at the weekend?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Photo: Chryssa Lai, MediaCom Sydney

At a recent discussion about the future of media being cross boundary, one of the speakers raised the idea that for a business to succeed the boundary that they needed to cross was the boundary that is drawn by most people between work and life outside work.

She talked about the immense enthusiasm and energy that she, and people she knew, put into their personal projects outside work – creative projects, DIY, coaching kids teams, gardening etc.  Her theory is that company’s need to gain that level of enthusiasm for the work that people do for which they earn their salaries.

This is undoubtedly true on two levels.  First business is tough and if your workforce doesn’t genuinely buy into your culture and put real enthusiasm into their day to day tasks then you will probably be beaten by a competitor’s workforce who do manage it.  Secondly you spend too much time at work to be doing a job that you cannot be passionate about.  So if you can’t engage your passion during your day job, you’re probably in the wrong day job.

What I was less sure about was the level of energy that the speaker and her friends seemed to be expending on an ordinary weekend.  My weekend plans were more about chilling and hanging out than creating or coaching.  Momentarily feeling inadequate I then quickly decided that she was probably painting an exaggerated picture to make a point.  According to a survey by Travelodge (reported in the Sunday Times) this is not at all unusual as many of us are rather creative in our reports about our weekend activities.  Their poll of 5,000 adults suggested that 27% lie about what they’ve been up to.  20% felt others were having more fun than them and 41% yearned for more excitement.  “Weekendvy” leads us to pretend we are painting the town red when in fact we’re catching up on sleep.

Perhaps because we’ve been so energetic in the office?

Awards – who judges the judges?

Monday, March 14th, 2011


Interesting discussions are going on about whether the Media Week Awards format should be revised.  I haven’t been party to the main conversations which I believe took place earlier this month but have spoken to a couple of people who were.

The overall impression I get is that most people seem to think that the format of the awards (ie big, medium and small categories plus international etc) is good but that there are issues re the process.  I personally think that more categories would be better (I have said this over and over again like a broken record so I am more than happy to move on ).  But such broad categories does mean that it is impossible to judge like for like in my experience.  Also I have a sympathetic view of all the effort that goes into constructing a good award entry and believe there should be more prizes frankly.

Our new CEO Karen Blackett fondly remembers the days when you had to go in and present once you were shortlisted.  Rather than hide behind the gloss of a manufactured video you would find yourself grilled by a daunting (dare I say Dragon’s Den-like) panel of judges who would get the truth out of you one way or another! 

In contrast to this view last week I was discussing another set of awards – the internal awards Global run for their regional offices.  The Golden Globals is a hotly contested annual award and Steve Miron – Group CEO – let me have a look at some of the entries which are all on video.  The quality, creativity and enthusiasm of these entries shone through at a glance.  Freshness and innovation came across really clearly.  I don’t think I have ever seen a Media Week award video entry with quite as much emotion condensed into a few minutes. 

There are arguments on both sides then for either video or live panels for the shortlist stage. 

There is a short cut to judging transparency and feedback about the entries which I suggest on an annual basis at about this time.  Have a webcam in the judging room and stream the discussion live online.

Let the judges be judged by the entrants.

Brands can resonate on two levels – globally and very locally and this should work through into their media channels.

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last month on a shopping trip to New York with two teenagers, I found myself sitting quietly in Hollister on 5th Avenue watching the huge screen which depicts a surfing beach live from a webcam in California.

The last time I did this it was in Hollister in Brent Cross. The similarities between the two moments were very strong. The difference was that on 5th Avenue I fell into conversation with two out of town Americans who confided in me that they’d just come in (without kids with them) to have a sit down without having to buy coffee. Nobody would speak to you in Hollister in Brent Cross – London isn’t nearly as friendly.

This aside the atmosphere was identical, the chaos around me was identical as people rushed to buy Hollister t-shirts and hoodies as if they were hot cakes, the armchair was identical and the surfing magazines available were the same.

Hollister’s brand consistency demands use of media channels which remain consistent globally too – MTV, US movies and TV shows.

Last week on the way to Brent Cross there was a poster for Tesco’s advertising that it was a cheaper option for Passover. A very local message at a very specific time, delivered on an outdoor site on the main route from Golders Green. It was more open to being overheard as a communication on a poster than via more discretely targeted specialist media. But use of a big billboard was eye-catching and, since the overall message was good prices, perfectly in tune with Tesco’s overall brand promise.

A national brand – even a global brand increasingly – but yet one that must remain relevant in the local community. Using specifically targeted outdoor at a local level is great use of media to make that very point.
This is media selection not just for tactical and targeted reasons but a part of the overall brand communication strategy.

Everything, but everything represents the brand – incomprehensible pricing structures by some companies in a sector therefore deliver a massive opportunity for a brand to cut through.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Image Source: Farm1

One of my colleagues had a journey up North to arrange – a one way ticket to Manchester. (Not for ever – he had a lift home to London). He spent ages researching online. This indicated that he would be expected to pay in the region of £140 for the journey with no guarantee of a seat. Seems a good deal of money for a three hour journey by train was his thought – can’t you fly to and from Paris for significantly less? (No offense intended Manchester, and none I hope taken.)

Then suddenly up popped a first class ticket for £59 which he snapped up. There was as much wine as he could drink for free (and I believe he drunk the carriage dry) and a nice Boeuf Bourguignon and cheese platter included. He could have had the profiteroles but he’s not really into puddings.
The overall message he took from this? Aside from a slight hangover from all the wine, and second rate French cooking ? That he was lucky, that the trains are generally very expensive, and that the train ticket pricing policy makes as much sense as something that makes no sense at all.

What an opportunity for a brand to cut through the nonsense with an everyday low prices strategy. Of course, transport isn’t the only sector full of pricing chaos, with opportunities for clear value propositions to differentiate and generate grateful advocacy from confused consumers.