Archive for November, 2011

Winning the race for status, losing the race for the industry

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Have you seen the YouTube video yet where a man is chasing his dog, chasing deer in Richmond Park?

The nation seems divided over whether it is funny or not, but it gives me the excuse to talk about a deer related subject which has lessons for our business.

Let’s talk about Elks.  Robert H. Frank is an economist at Cornell University who has just published a book about the Darwinian theory of Economics (The Darwin Economy, Liberty, Competition and the Common Good).   Frank argues against the commonly accepted theory that out and out competition is good for the nation as a whole because it delivers a stronger set of businesses.

He illustrates this by describing Elks (though the deer in rutting season in Richmond Park would probably work as well).

The outsized antlers of the bull elk function as weapons in their competition for female elks.  At their largest they extend to more than four feet in width.  Satisfying as this is for the elks with the biggest antlers, as a whole this severely compromises the ability of the herd to move through forests and makes them more vulnerable to predators.  “A trait that evolves because it helps the individual prevail in battle against members of the same species typically constitutes a handicap for the species as a whole”.

The analogy runs that the characteristics that have made people win status and position in the economic battles that have been traditionally fought could have a negative influence on the overall strength and success of business.

If you have achieved status and position by stepping on your peers you may have done very well relatively.  But your organisation might not be best placed for long term survival in the new global and digital economy.  For example if you beat the competition by being cheaper than the rest it might result in a win for you, but will drive down prices and profitability in the industry as a whole.

The advertising industry as a whole is still rife with heritage practices.  Is this because the antlers of the alpha elks have grown too big for flexibility?

Does TV stop violence and what’s your prediction for 2020?

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Penelope Keith  says that young people bash up old people because families don’t  sit round watching sit coms together in the way that they used to.  Really she did say that.. in an interview reported in the Daily Mail :

In Keith’s heyday people had to watch what was on the TV whether they liked it or not, because there was very little choice of viewing and little else to do, particularly on a Sunday evening.    The days of watching something because it’s the only thing on the TV that’s decent have gone forever.  (Although frankly in those days teenagers weren’t watching the telly with their families either.  They were listening to music in their bedroom (on something called a record player) or possibly roaming the streets on the look-out for elderly victims.)

A major piece of research by MTM London on behalf of Red Bee explores actual trends in media consumption patterns.  I was on a panel last week exploring the main findings (  One of the key issues pulled out of the study by Red Bee’s creative director Andy Bryant was that the consumer is more demanding than ever, and set to become even more demanding in future.  TV viewers are frustrated by their inability to find what they want to watch easily, and say that they want more control over a personalised TV schedule.  “Couldn’t TV be more like i-tunes ? “ asked one of the respondents of the research.

Despite the claimed frustration highlighted in the report it is the continued strength and power of scheduled TV and the new importance of live TV event viewing exactly at a time when there is so much else to do that is remarkable.  As fellow panellist Neil Mortensen of Thinkbox said TV’s continued ability to re-invent itself is amazing.  New developments like Channel 4’s deal with Zeebox around Desperate Scousewives offer new commercial opportunities for advertisers (  Sky IQ is set to revolutionise targeting mechanisms and potential return on investment.  (

The audience at the Red Bee event were asked to vote on a series of predictions for 2020.  These included whether on demand would account for 40% of all viewing time; whether more primary sets would have Google or Apple rather than YouView and whether more than half the UK will “like” programmes on a weekly basis.  See the podcast for the full results at the website above but its fair to say that the audience were split.  These are interesting questions. 

The recurring question about the future of TV viewing is when we will be able to get a proper audience measurement for the increasingly diversified viewing behaviour.  By 2020 do you think ?

End the “Over-Cap”

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Picture Source:

I was watching a show last night about the Reunion of Fry and Laurie  : Two national treasures according to the narrator.  We’d Sky-plussed it ages ago and finally got round to watching it. 

We were looking forward to it.  I got about half an hour in and then gave up.  For the first twenty-two minutes the show consisted pretty much exclusively of recaps, forward tasters (forward caps?) of what was coming next and reminders of what the overall theme of the show was about.  It was exhausting. It was exhausting and boring.  It was exhausting, boring and a little bit insulting of my intelligence and attention span.

Presumably this is part of the trend debated in Campaign’s Round Table Discussion headed “Engagement: The Seven Minute Challenge”.

The notion of the Seven Minute Challenge is that whereas once you had to teach in thirty minute instalments because “that was the average time between ad breaks” according to Edward Weatherall from the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing, now you need to “change things every seven minutes” because of the diminution of attention span owing to people’s reliance on gadgets.

(Earlier in the column Sue talked about watching Fry and Laurie on Sky Plus… Stay tuned while she goes on to make a point about storytelling).

I don’t think this can entirely be correct can it?  I have witnessed (haven’t we all) people (even very young people with supposedly more gadget addiction) enraptured by story-telling that goes on and on for much longer than seven minutes.  It may be true that if you have nothing interesting to say you need to change your message, but in that case seven minutes is far too long.  If its great story telling on the other hand… well the last Harry Potter film was over two hours long.

Look though at the likely demographic for a Fry and Laurie reunion.  Possibly you might acknowledge that they are the type of individual that might manage to concentrate for more than ten minutes on something .

Finally there is the nature of viewing these days.   Presumably the original reason for constant recaps every five minutes is to entice people in who have joined the programme late (no need to feel  you’ve missed anything) and the role of the “forward-caps” is to encourage you to stick with the programme if you’re a channel hopper by nature.   However if you’ve Sky-plussed something that you’re looking forward to seeing then both those reasons become irrelevant.

There are two types of shows that are doing well.  Those that can’t be missed because they’re live event viewing (X Factor, Football etc).  Those that have strong story telling narratives (a Downton Abbey for example). 

There is only one way to conduct business if you are showing content.  You must show content that you believe people will enjoy.  In the age of Sky Plus (and other appointment to view, or catch up viewing technologies) the recap, forward cap and general over-cap are redundant.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your continued attention.