Archive for April, 2012

“I’ll say one thing for him, he has the courage of his ignorance”

Monday, April 30th, 2012

This is one of my favourite lines from the classic movie “A Face in the Crowd”, which I watched for the first time this weekend, and which I hugely recommend.  Directed in 1957 by Elia Kazan it tells the story of a drifter who finds fame and fortune when randomly picked out from a crowd by a radio station. 

Bizarrely it was Bob Dylan’s recommendation that first drew me to the film.   Interviewed about what celebrity does to a person (and after all he should know), he referenced a couple of great films, including this one. 

Bear with me…I am getting to the point.

The film is notable for its relevance still today.   In fact it seems more relevant to today’s swift rise and fall of minor celebrities than it could possibly have been at the time of its release.  It is also worth watching for its contemporary depiction of Madison Avenue.  This is fascinating set against the series Mad Men (set in the 1960s) which so many of us are glued to but which paints a far more glamorous image than the one depicted here. 

The protagonist of A Face in the Crowd is Larry Rhodes, a drunken drifter who rises to become the star of national TV.  He’s facilitated in his rise by a Madison Avenue ad agency.  His early dealings with the suits from the agency don’t go well.  He dismisses them as men who “say gezundheit before you even sneeze”.

But surely this is the very definition of great client service.  To pre-empt problems before they arise.  To anticipate what will go wrong (and provide a tissue).

Meanwhile (spoiler alert), Rhodes is doomed to fall as he increasingly begins to have contempt for his fans, the very people that have made his fortune.  He fails to be true to his roots and to himself.  His downfall – a microphone that’s on when it should have been turned off and reveals what he really thinks.  How modern is that ? (Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy etc) and see my new book Tell the Truth (available here).

Who do you trust?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

source :

I may be harping on for my own reasons about truth at the moment (book available NOW) but with trust in government and business in the UK in decline and well below the global average we need marketing to deliver truthful communications if we expect any kind of lasting competitive advantage.

Growing scepticism is clearly visible in the 2012 Edelman Trustbarometer.    On the upside trust in media information sources has increased, not just in the UK but worldwide.  TV and radio news and traditional broadsheet newspapers score particularly well.

On the downside in the UK survey : Trust in government leaders has declined.  Trust in company CEOs has declined.  Trust in technical experts in companies has fallen off a cliff.

In stark contrast trust in “a person like myself” has shot up (really significantly from 35% to 60% in a year).  This makes the role of positive word of mouth profound, and word of mouth is best generated by truthful communications. 

The other factor to shift is how much people trust what “regular employees” of a company tell them about that company.

This makes the role of the employer brand equally profound.  At a recent Economist Summit Chris Craft spoke eloquently about the need to ensure that the advertised brand is represented in the employer brand for every single member of staff.    The employee should be considered as part of any campaign’s target market.

In 2007 we proclaimed that we were now in the Age of Dialogue and claimed that what your target market say about you is as significant as what you tell them through your advertising.

Edelman’s Trustbarometer proves this continues to be true.

Dancing with the Devil

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Last week I was invited to CSTTG (home of creative legend Dave Trott) to debate the future of branded content with Sanjay Nazerali, Director, Marketing, Communications & Audiences, BBC Journalism at the BBC. The debate covered whether the news agenda was liable to being sullied by commercial association. My co-panelist who obviously knows a great deal more about the news than I do was concerned that beyond the rigour of the reach of Ofcom there was a danger of the integrity of the news being threatened. He calls for advertisers to regard funding of news content as a part of their CSR.

Pragmatically I’m unsure that this is any kind of longterm solution. Apart from anything else each one of us already pays a tax on “independent” journalism in the UK in the shape of the BBC licence fee.

And the BBC shapes a great deal of our journalistic landscape as every commercial provider knows who has to deal with that reality.
The latest Deloitte “State of the Media Democracy Survey”  points out that the UK consumer has fewer content subscriptions than his or her international equivalent, and half that of the US consumer.

I doubt if advertiser altruism is a serious solution for the dangers surrounding the commercialisation of news.
The greatest possible safeguard for news is the consumer’s appetite for information and their willingness to search beyond the headlines for what is really going on. This means an opportunity for brands that can satisfy this on the platforms that the consumer will subscribe to.

The solution will come from developing and divergent technologies and services. The trend in the UK for early adoption of technology continues and not only do UK consumers have more devices than their European counterparts (on average the UK consumer has access to 9.7 devices each according to Deloitte/YouGov) they also “demonstrate a growing appetite for new media services to use on them”.