Archive for September, 2014

How many strategists does it take to create a campaign?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Just the one.  No joke.

People love a strategy.  Before a campaign reaches the public it may well have been through the rigour of a creative strategy, a media strategy, a content strategy, a direct response strategy, a digital strategy and a mobile strategy.

There is just one strategy and I’d like us all to acknowledge that and to call it a comms strategy.  It is based on the consumer journey, on and offline, tablet and mobile.  Everything else is a set of tactics and delivery executions to make it happen brilliantly.

Today, more than ever, the strategy should start with media first given the proliferation and diversification of channels.  It’s crucial that the creative is devised to work in those channels .

We need creative in media channels that people will choose to watch, choose to interact with and choose to share and increasingly choose to buy from.  Too many campaigns still start life as audio visual content that is probably designed for a cinema screen even though it is intended for a 40″ TV.  They’re then recycled and repurposed for media channels with enormously different requirements from the traditional (perhaps adapted for an outdoor execution that really should work harder than it does) to the newer (to run on You Tube where it will mainly be skipped in 5 seconds).

The Campaign and MediaCo Outdoor CityLive challenge was to use the medium to its best advantage.  This is how creative for digital outdoor should be devised.  If digital outdoor is part of the comms strategy then the creative challenge should be to deliver copy that works in that channel, not to adapt an existing idea.

At MediaCom we believe that there are at least ten criteria we recommend should be considered before any audio visual creative is signed off for use.  These range from optimal time length (by design not just a cut down : this Audi execution is a superb use of YouTube for example as the whole ad is intended to work in 5 seconds : the time it takes the car to accelerate), to if and how it is intended to be shared.  They also include understanding the context of meshing versus stacking and how active or passive the audience to the channel is.

One strategy, delivered with creative designed for the media context.



Forget mutual respect, a warm mutual disrespect is even better.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

“We often hate each other, but it’s the kind of hatred like flint and steel – the sparks that come out of it make it worth the while”, Penn on his magic partner Teller.


One of the hardest fought categories in the Media Week Awards judging was Large Collaboration.  This was a strong shortlist, and whilst the entries were discussed in detail the judges also spent time on the nature of collaboration: how many participants did there need to be to take it out of merely business as usual ?


Whilst the secrets of the judging room must remain sacrosanct under current rules (though I am an advocate of transparency and a judge cam), I can reveal that my feeling is that whatever the number of participants great collaborations are tough to achieve.


There were just two people involved in the case of Lennon and McCartney but their stormy relationship is notorious and was necessary.  There can be too much respect floating around.  So much niceness that the tough battles don’t get fought that will deliver greatness.


People talk about the need for mutual respect in a collaboration.  Mutual disrespect is even better.  In great teams the best ideas come when everyone expresses an opinion on everyone else’s territory.  The crucial thing is to have a clear focus : the best outcomes for the brand.  If the creative shop fires out media ideas and the media agency has an opinion of the creative strategy and the media owners know better than that what to do with the brand to sell it to their audiences then from this creative melange and debate will come the most successful conclusion.


Too much politeness will kill the process.  Interviewed in the Sunday Times recently Brent Hobermann, who collaborated with Martha Lane Fox to found, and is now backing talks about his reputation for being demanding :”the danger when you’re an adult is that you think everyone has to like you.  If someone is wrong I’ll say it.”


Joshua Wolf Shenk, writing in Atlantic, characterises the Lennon/McCartney relationship as “co-opetition, whereby two entities at once oppose and support each other”.


Where there is too much politeness in a team it’s usually due to insecurity.  You can reduce insecurity by having rules that ensure everyone feels safe.  But you can’t deliver creative brilliance.  In a commercial collaboration which do you want as your outcome?



Slogans are not enough

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Ian Katz, editor of gladiatorial Newsnight, wrote recently about an impasse in journalism suggesting a deal to allow politicians to get their point across in traditional media and to be less defensive.
As the general election approaches I think that politicians should focus on their direct channel to the public – social media.


Presenter Rick Edwards and former spin doctor Alastair Campbell explained, at Bruce Daisley’s new HQ,  how Twitter can enthuse people about politics.


They agreed that no British party leader is doing Twitter particularly well, and everyone is amateur compared to the Obama effort.  Campbell reminded us of the effective use the 2008 election campaign made of social media in the US (explained in To Be President).  Will the 2015 election be the UK politics year of social media ?


Edwards said that the PM’s tweets are just “tell” at the moment and need added interaction with followers.  Twitter is for conversations, and expressions of humanity, it is not a loud hailer (the same, obviously, is true for a brand’s use of social as it is for a PM.)


Campbell said that the key is authenticity (as for all modern marketing – see Tell the Truth), and explained that in his day in Downing Street it was still possible to have a command and control attitude to the news agenda.  Not anymore.  Politicians need to catch up with the fact that social can be a better gauge of the public’s views than a newspaper columnist.


In 1960 Kennedy and Nixon squared off in the first ever TV debate between candidates for president.  It is widely believed that this changed the course of politics.  Kennedy’s greater visual appeal won voters over and it was much harder after 1960 to win if you were not at least remotely photogenic.


Could the 2015 election change politics again?  This time instead of how good you look on TV it is how well you come across in social media ?


I asked Edwards and Campbell, and they weren’t entirely convinced that this is the breakthrough year but social media is changing things fast.  In the town of Jun in Spain the mayor made all public services accountable via Twitter.  Social media was crucial in India’s 2014 election.  Politician Rajeev Chandrasekhar commented: “On social networks, politicians cannot hide from scrutiny and interactivity.”


Exactly.  140 characters.  Tells you a good deal about someone’s character.




Fine words and good looks are not enough

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

In 1946 Bedouin shepherds stumbled on a huge archaeological discovery.  In caves near the Dead Sea they found a series of scrolls housed in jars.  By 1951 a full excavation was under way and in the end nearly a thousand documents were discovered.


The documents were dated to the time of Jesus – around 33 CE.  It took years for their full publication, and they’re still surrounded in controversy and some mystery.


Most of the content is versions of the Old Testament; they appear to be the library of a Jewish sect, the Sons of Light, who fled to the caves to escape the Romans.  In addition to fragments of every book of Old Testament (except for the book of Esther) there are prophecies by Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel not found in the Bible.


There are also non Biblical Scrolls that include writings on Law, Community rules, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymns and benedictions.


The Scroll of War would not have been much use in fighting the notoriously efficient Roman army.  It mainly consists of detailed instructions about exactly what must be written on trumpets, banners and weapons: on the darts must be written “Bloody Spikes to Bring Down the Slain by the Wrath of God”.


Precise instructions are also given about the appearance of the weapons: the spike of a spear should have “ears of corn in pure gold pointing towards the tip”.


“If the battle could have been decided by literary excess and sumptuous scmeckerel it would be a cakewalk for the Sons of Light” says historian Simon Schama.


Lovely as it sounds it is of course all style and no strategy.


Sounds like a gorgeous looking PowerPoint presentation that’s got no strategy behind it.  We’ve all wasted time looking for the perfect image for our charts and left the construction of the argument till last (when of course it must come first).


Looks are important of course.  I was once called by an irate boss who was judging some industry awards shouting that our entries weren’t as pretty as our competitors.  (I’d been concentrating on the content instead).  As we get into the heart of awards judging season I will be looking out for beautiful entries that don’t have much of a strategy or weak tactics and results that are no more than a manipulation of statistics.  Just as with fighting the Romans, aesthetics is not enough.




Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Can we stop with the nostalgia for what media used to be about please?


Some say: the art of the media agency used to be to find the perfect spot for a TV ad.  I say : this is targeting the right audience at the right time and in the right place and media agencies are doing more not less of it thanks to better data.


Some call for a restating of a media agency’s purpose. I say: it is to communicate with the client’s target audience to sell more stuff, or to change their behaviour.  Just as it always was, but with more ways of communicating, and better, faster judgements of what’s working, and what isn’t so we can course correct during a campaign instead of waiting weeks, or even months, for a post campaign analysis when it’s too late.


At MediaCom we’ve just refreshed our planning process to ensure that we build the best possible connected plans for our clients.  Instead of planning in media silos, the crucial thing now is to plan the whole connected system of paid, owned and earned media, exploiting the second screen and the immediacy that mobile allows.


If in days of old the role of a media person was to find exactly the right spot for a one way communication from the advertiser, a bit like a message from the heavens, now their role is to deliver a connected communication system, fuelled by content (including, but not exclusively advertising) and measured by outcomes (final and intermediary measures of the clients kpis) not just inputs (coverage and frequency targets).


As an example, for last year’s Home Office anti-violence to women and girls campaign we didn’t just buy spots for advertising to reach as many teenagers as we could.  Instead we produced a connected plan that included associating with a storyline in HollyOaks, using talent from the show to run in specially commissioned ads than ran in the breaks that surrounded the show, with social media and extra editorial coverage that allowed commentary and dialogue with the teen audience.  We know we changed people’s lives with this campaign – they told us and thanked us immediately and online.


This is a big change for agencies, and some won’t find it easy.  But there’s no reason at all for nostalgia in my opinion.  What we’re doing now is better, and will get even better. We ain’t seen nothing yet.