Archive for August, 2011

We all would have been glued to Local TV last week.

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I was a bit dismissive of Local TV services when I first heard the idea at the Royal Television Society Conference last year. It was difficult to see what the business model was, and there seems to be plenty of television for people to watch already (average viewing in the UK is at a record level for the first half of 2011 )

However the Culture Secretary has persisted in his championing of local TV and more than 60 towns and cities throughout the UK are in the running to host the UK’s first service.

In my blog last November and fresh from a panel chaired by Steve Hewlett to discuss the issue, I struggled to make sense of the analogy drawn by Jeremy Hunt between Birmingham UK and Birmingham USA.

Hunt’s claim that there is a “huge appetite for local news and information in communities the length and breadth of the country” seems at odds with the downturn in strength of existing local media.  And whilst one can imagine interest in a local version perhaps of Britain’s Got Talent, how many people are going to tune in to watch their local mps and councillors electioneering.

However last week was a great reminder of the real meaning of community.  As riots engulfed our cities we were glued to any kind of news and local media.  We were reminded about how much we care about where we live, and indeed of the latent pride that many of us have in our local community.

There is a great opportunity for advertisers who want to promote their community values in Local TV too.  Community often is expressed as an association with a community of interest like sport or film, but as my colleague Andy Walsh points out, it can also mean the few miles around where we live too. 

I welcome local TV and look forward to its contribution to our media community.

Management is about to get much harder

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

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There are many schools of management theory. My very first experience of being managed was when I first started in a buying department and was told by my boss that I needed to be in before she was, and couldn’t leave until she did (even if that was 10pm).

I’ve been managed by managers that see themselves as a father or mother to their team (which has always left me bemused as I have a perfectly good mum and dad in a bungalow near St Albans and one of each is quite enough for me).

When I launched our strategy team at MediaCom back in the day, I was careful to explain to them my own personal management style. I told them that we were not a hierarchical structure, but more of an Anarcho-syndicalist commune where ideas ruled rather than authority. He (or she) who has the best idea leads.

New technology is set to make the management task even harder according to Andrew Hill writing in the Financial Times last week. (
Increasing automation leads to a reduction in unskilled workers. It doesn’t mean there are no people to manage however, just that the workforce that you do need is more sophisticated and is dealing with more complicated stuff than before. So instead of manning a production line, your people are dealing with customer relationships or myriad suppliers.

In media there is a switch to automated trading, exchange systems and competitive analysis . Interpretation of the oceans of data, and understanding the complexities of the customer journey and prioritising the best solutions therefore become more complicated, and of course more interesting tasks. This requires recruiting of the best and most curious people. Who are of course people who are less likely to do as they are told and more likely to carve out new ways of doing things. This is exactly what our business needs.

But as Andrew Hill comments about Foxconn (a leading manufacturer of telecoms devices) “The big question is how easily they will find and develop managers able to oversee the highly skilled workforce that will march with their robot armies”.

“When someone does a side project it takes away from our strength…”.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

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Metallica is one of the big four bands of Thrash Metal.  They are a worldwide phenomenon.  In the US alone they’ve sold over 50 million albums.  Their eponymously titled 1991 album sold over 20 million worldwide.

Their new album, a collaboration with Lou Reed, is out this autumn.  I know one person who has heard it (it is under tight embargo) who says it is very good.

At the height of their success in 2001 their bassist Jamie Newsted left the band for “personal reasons”. 

He had decided to work on a side project which he wanted to have running in conjunction with Metallica.  But band founder James Hetfield was adamantly against his doing so despite the fact that the side project (Echobrain) in no way threatened to compete with Metallica in commercial terms.  Hetfield however understood that while Echobrain could not beat Metallica commercially, it could beat them in another way.  It could win the war for Newsted’s heart.  Newsted could have more creative input into Echobrain,  So Echobrain could come to mean more to him that Metallica did.  Hetfield said “when someone does a side project it takes away from the strength of Metallica”, and “its like cheating on your wife in a way”.

Unacquainted as I am with the subtleties of Thrash Metal I have lots of sympathy with Hetfield’s point of view.  A band, like any brand, like any company, needs a single focus.  The heart of the band needs to be sustained by everyone in it, just as every company needs a focus point, a reason to be there. 

It is this focus that leads to success.  The reason that creative agencies should not do media is that their focus needs to be on the creative department and their creative direction to be successful. 

The focus of a media agency is on creating value for brands by investing their budgets well.  Not on winning awards for creative excellence.

If you take on a side project – bear in mind it may be where your heart is rather than on your main job.  In which case you’re now failing to do that main job properly or perhaps even at all.

We need global brands to lead the way with good citizenship.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Facebook has signed up to the AA ‘childhood’ review panel. Last year’s report from Ofcom indicated that nearly one in five 8 – 12 year olds has a Facebook profile despite the minimum user age set on the website. A worldwide report from America’s Consumer Reports claims that there are over 7 million under 13s on Facebook. Yet the sign up page for the site clearly states that you should be at least 13 to join. In light of these contradictions it is good and important that Facebook are joining this panel.

Earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg speaking at a summit on innovation in schools in California said that he thought that the 13 year old age restriction was wrong however. His view is that it is better for kids to use Facebook at an earlier age than is currently allowed.

At the moment the fact is that if you sign up and you’re under 13 then you’re starting your relationship with Facebook with a lie (your date of birth). This is not the best way to be initiated into the world of social media.

Parents come under huge amounts of pressure to endorse the use of Facebook at an earlier age than 13. Clearly many just give in under pressure from the universal argument “but everyone else in my class is on Facebook” and because there are bigger battles to be fought. I actually asked Blake Chandlee to send me an email for my kids explaining that they had to wait until they were older (he very kindly did so and it worked much more effectively than my “because I say so” refusal).

The situation is full of conflict. Facebook rules say you can’t join if you’re under 13, but Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t really agree. If you do join under age there is very little chance of any kind of comeback. And it means that you start with a deceit.

It is right and proper that Facebook should take responsibility for this situation.

We suffer when the prevailing zeitgeist is for self-centred commercial interests to act like irresponsible pre-teens. We need more and better citizenship from powerful media outlets. Especially from the global ones.