Archive for July, 2013

What would best (insert name here) do ?

Friday, July 26th, 2013

The unexpected highlight of last month at Cannes for me was Vivienne Westwood.  I was reviewing the winning work from Monday night on Tuesday morning to prepare for a curation of the best bits when I realised that WW was in the house courtesy of Sapient Nitro.

She brought the house down.  Partly due to her frankness and partly due to her spiky yet charming dismissal of any questions she didn’t want to answer. 

For example when asked what had inspired her to start her own business she didn’t hesitate to reply that she done it because her boyfriend needed money. 

This is less inspirational and more pragmatic.  She did come to inspire the audience though and set out to ask everyone to resist instant gratification and being “stuck in the present” with no historical perspective.

Westwood wants us all to stop and think about our culture, about “the pursuit of our perfection“.  According to Westwood we all have an inner “best self” and this, not authority figures nor celebrities, nor conforming to the norm should be the one to guide us. 

It’s a great thought.  We all indeed know the difference between our best self and our ordinary self.  The former can rise above our prejudices and look at the bigger, best, picture.

Look to your best self for your next decision.  Ask “what would best (insert your name here) do?”

Heroism is not about gender it is about skill and strength and just not giving up.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

What were Disney T-shirts manufacturers thinking when they produced girls Avengers Assemble T-shirts with the logo “I need a hero” and boys T’s with the logo “Be a hero”?

Did they reference the 4000 years of patriarchy ways of working handbook ? 

And what was John Inverdale thinking with his comments about Marion Bartoli ?  I can’t help thinking that the other story around that story (as opposed to the casual sexism of the remark itself) is that no-one would have much cared if Inverdale had commented that Andy Murray wouldn’t have had much of a career as a catwalk model… least of all Murray.  The furore around the story is as much of a sexism story as the sexism itself.

Meanwhile  just look at Bartoli when she warms up.  Amazing stuff.  Fast, dogged, incessant.  Whatever was on Inverdale’s mind (and who knows) the training that Bartoli undertakes is extraordinary to say the least.  Here she is using bungee cords to make the work out harder than it could ever be in reality.

It’s interesting when you consider the training we put people through in media.  It tends to be of technique and skills and perhaps team work.  Is there a role for extreme meeting training where everything that could possibly be thrown at you is to see if you’ve got championship potential ?  Or pitch practice where everything that could go wrong does.  Some would say that we do this at MediaCom with our now legendary Real World Pitching annual contest but Bartoli’s example would take it to a whole new level. 

Meanwhile the Avengers Iron Man may be wearing a Bartoli t-shirt in his Manhattan penthouse this week.

Connecting to people “formerly known as the audience”.

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

This is BBC Digital Director Ralph Rivera’s view of the next stage of broadcast.  He says that internet native companies like Amazon and Facebook deal with people as individuals, not as a broad “audience” and that most TV programme makers don’t. 

This would represent a change.  Think of the different creative process that goes into the development of, say, Conde Nast’s Vanity Fair (editor down) versus IPC’s Good to Know (audience up).  We currently value TV most when it serves to bring the masses together with a common shared experience.  The audiences, and the premiums, for event programming like sport and compelling drama (not long till Downton), are in growth and set to remain so. 

In the game show and talent show genre mass audience participation has long been a part of the show. In the nineteen sixties the audience chose the winners with an audience clap-o-meter in Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks.  With new tech comes new participation techniques .  Channel 4, with The Big Drop, has created a show that is a hybrid of mass shared experience and individual participation.  You could press your own dismissive buzzer whilst watching Britain’s Got Talent with the mobile BGT app.  This might remind some of you of the earliest audience judging in the Coliseum, although those outcomes were somewhat bloodier.  Is there a role for new forms of participation in drama and soaps or do we just want to hear a story being told to us in a time honoured fashion?

I don’t think I want my favourite stories to stop at crucial moments and ask me my view of the storyline.  I want to be wrapped up in narrative.  Am I suffering from heritage bias and an inability to imagine a new way?

Rivera thinks there is change to come, and that one of the barriers to its development is that the creative industry talent behind those genres can be reluctant to embrace uncertainty and try new stuff in a new way.  The same criticism could be levelled at advertising.  Use of second screens in driving first screen creative executions is limited.  3’s Pony showed us a glimpse.  Most TV advertising is still heritage plus rather than a step change.  For brands that seek to make significant changes in perception or behaviour, rather than re-inforce a longstanding image, this is a challenge to be embraced.

It isn’t the only role of advertising however now or in the future, and we must be clear about that too.  Rivera talks about what fun it would be to be able to get involved in SciFi drama – participate perhaps in a laser battle.  Sounds like fun.  Yet he and we must acknowledge that most of the time we would want to lie back, watch and be absorbed, and think of Captain Kirk.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


A few weeks ago I entered the hallowed premises of the Groucho club courtesy of IPC Media’s Lisa Batty.  Lisa runs a book club and she’d invited me, and top creative Dave Dye to talk about our books.  (Mine, Tell the Truth, was published last year. Dye’s on truth in advertising is due later this year.)

Lisa opened with champagne and a warm up for the select gathering.  “Tell us a hidden truth about yourself” she urged.  She opened with one about herself which once heard will never be forgotten and which can’t be repeated in a family blog.

This set the bar rather high for the next person – it was a tough act to follow.  A couple of very funny stories did follow, then it came to Dye’s turn.  He fielded the challenge by observing that it was interesting that when the truth is talked about it suggests, instantly, to many a hidden truth, an embarrassing truth, indeed a naked truth.

This set me thinking.  Is truth too hard ?

Or is truth multifaceted.

There is a growing number of “truth tellers” in marketing, advertising and media.  People like EA’s Stuart Lang who told me “you can’t get away with marketing spin any more, credibility is everything.”. And marketing chief Catherine Woolfe who says that truth in marketing is one of the only ways to achieve attitude change.

The increasing band of truth marketers understand instinctively the role of truth in marketing.  There are 3 categories of truth that spring to mind for many people and two of them aren’t that helpful.  There is the ugly truth, the spun truth and the truth that sells.

These aspects of truth apply to people as much as to products and to brands and it may help if I illustrate them as if applied to myself, meeting you for the first time at a media party.  The ugly truth might be that I’m nervous and shy and frantically hoping I can manage enough small talk to get through the first meeting without being too intense.  The spun truth is that I’m CSO of mega agency MediaCom, dressed up and brimming with confidence.  The truth that sells ?  I’m hoping to connect with you and your media wisdom and experience, (and my nice little DvF dress was picked up in the sale.)

John Grant, in his book “After Image” wrote about research he’d carried out about the ads an ice cream brand had run using sex to sell.  He asked respondents what they thought the brand was trying to say to them and what they thought about it really.  They replied that the brand was telling them ice cream was sexy but that really they thought it made you fat.  This is the spin and the ugly.  The missing truth here was the truth that sells.  The authenticity of the recipe or ingredients or company heritage would take centre stage in an advert powered by the truth that sells.

I think that the truth is undeniable and I believe that the days of spin are numbered.  Brands aren’t left only with the ugly truth.  The truth that sells is the future of great marketing.