Archive for February, 2016

More VOD questions than answers from media owners

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Media research is never perfect, never has been.  Depending on the starting perspective of the critic, mud can be thrown because the panel is too small; only a diary snapshot of a limited window in time; too broad in the questions asked (“have you seen just the front page of this paper?” this still qualified you as a reader of the whole issue, or “just seen the ad for a few seconds?”, still a viewer) Then it seems sometimes we can’t tell the difference between people and robots.

This all makes media planning more difficult in terms of precision and accuracy.

Relatively speaking TV has always been a very plannable medium for brand advertising.  Although the size of the BARB panel has been criticised, there’s been ratings available by programme, by minute.  In terms of accountability against return on investment therefore through econometric modelling TV tends to come through well.  The key here is the ability to model effect.  In TV where we can see how each spot is doing we can understand the detail of what is influencing sales more easily than other media.

Which is one factor, perhaps the “planner’s factor”, in why TV has thrived commercially.

Other media have habitually kept specific day by day performance numbers to themselves even when they are all over them privately.  Although publishers of the print medium often knew how their publication sold from day to day or week to week this data was not shared with media agencies.  This made it difficult for instance to understand their role in a campaign.  The print effect on a brand campaign might be different than expected according to average figures simply because a lull or spike in sales meant that the medium wasn’t performing as modelled.  Other media owners may just have never had any idea of accurate ratings from day to day or hour to hour.

TV was the medium with the most detailed ratings data in the public domain, a significant advantage for “plan-ability”.

It seems a shame that when there is so much shared understanding about traditional TV metrics, and indeed when the medium has benefitted so much from them over the longterm, that its hard at the moment to find the same shared answers to basic questions about video on demand.    When planners are considering the detail of VOD campaigns, we don’t yet have the equivalent shared detail, accuracy and experience of BARB data.  So we need to collaborate with media owners in seeking the information that will allow planners to put the same level of detailed thinking into VOD that we do for TV in general.  Of course clients spending millions on their audio visual brand plan expect nothing less.

Yet very basic questions seem to be receiving more and more guarded answers.  The tone of some of those answers reminds me of the kinds of answers newspapers used to give press buyers in the past, in the heyday of print, when they asked for daily sales figures, figures that the press buyers knew that the newspapers had daily access to.

Sometimes there’s the official line that gets served up: “We are unable to release unique users numbers broken out by month”.

Sometimes there’s a more human, and perhaps friendlier, response: “It’s extremely frustrating here in terms of what we can and can’t share but I am doing everything I can to get you the information you want”.

Of course planners have sources to access for data about non-linear shares of viewing, or unique reach impressions by month by supplier.  Those suppliers don’t always agree or accept the industry figures though and yet will not give detailed alternative figures. Because they don’t have them? Or because they don’t want to share them? Either way this is a step change away from the positive heritage of TV planning where data was shared, neutral and agreed.

Is it understandable that media owners are reticent to open the kimono in this way?  Maybe.  Does experience suggest that this is a good sales strategy?  Not at all.


Using data today

Friday, February 12th, 2016

daveEverybody likes a story.  Everybody likes to believe that they make good decisions when they trust to their gut instinct.

There was a heated debate on Any Questions last month about the closure of a local maternity unit.  It was replaced by a specialist unit 30 miles distant.

There were stories, both on AQ and sister show Any Answers, about mums who had either saved the lives of their babies because they’d driven to the local unit fast when it was open, or mums giving birth on the way to the specialist unit or in the car park because they couldn’t get there fast enough.

That’s terrible isn’t it?  Your blood boils at the thought.  The repeated insistence of some speakers that the facts were that lives were actually being saved because of the new unit just didn’t have the impact of those stories.  Presenter Anita Anand commented “the plural of anecdote is NOT data”.  She means of course that data is always more factual.  This might be true, but it doesn’t mean that it is more convincing, or that we always know how to use it.

We’ve got lots of data to choose from now in media agencies.

In the closing days of January, Sky Media hosted for MediaCom clients an engrossing conference on Data and its usefulness in transforming everyday work (allowing the brilliant punning conference title, for which I take no responsibility: “The things we do data day”).

Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of Team Sky and the man responsible for winning 3 Tour de France races and 8 golds at the London Olympics, told us some of his secrets in using data to overcome conventional wisdom and confound beliefs based on anecdotes and gut instincts.

He pointed out that there’s a blizzard of data swirling around all of us these days.  The trick is to work out which variables you can detect which will really make a difference.  Be agile in trying them out, and equally agile in dropping the irrelevant ones.

Take the heart rate monitor for example.  Adopted by many as a heuristic in peak performance it turns out not to have suited every athlete.  Used too slavishly it can mislead.  How people feel is much more important that a heart rate 70% target zone.

Brailsford advocates simplifying the data down to two or three measures and then working towards progression of individual performance not a specific target.  He also revealed that he monitors moods and emotional states in the whole team all the time, not just athletes training for races.

Monitoring performance and aiming for progression is very powerful.  As soon as I started monitoring how much I walked with a pedometer (don’t need to charge as often as a FitBit!) I shifted from a mile and a half a day on average (I was quite sedentary by nature) to over five miles.

What would happen if I monitored my mood in a similar way?  Given that it is a no brainer that productivity and creativity are mood dependent could I triple those too?


I want your job – or do I?

Friday, February 5th, 2016

17-022412-why_you_should_be_following_dj_khaled_on_snapchatAmy Grier says that FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, applies to work too.  She describes the gut wrenching feeling that she used to experience in her teens and twenties about missing out on a really good party.  She says that this now surfaces, in her thirties, when she reads about her friends’ new start-ups, industry awards or promotions.

In a recent survey that Lightspeed GMI Research conducted for my upcoming book (The Glass Wall, Success Strategies for Women at Work written with Kathryn Jacob, published by Profile this autumn) we asked people across the USA, UK and Russia a series of questions about their careers.  One of them was about career choice.  The full results of the survey will be published with the book but let’s just say that I was surprised at the level of discontent that people are currently feeling about their career choices, across country, across gender and across paygrade.

As Grier points out, this can be seen to be fuelled by LinkedIn.  Every time we link in to the site it asks us if we want to congratulate someone on their new job.  As one connection of mine pointed out, this does happen quite a lot even if you don’t change jobs, as a minor tweak to your title, perhaps a re-expression from director of important stuff to important stuff director, prompts the system to seek congratulations all round.

We’re bombarded by opportunities for FOMO all the time now of course as a desultory scroll through social media when waiting for someone to turn up for a coffee, or whilst second screening in front of the telly, will reveal.  A year ago I quoted the key note speaker at a marketing conference who said that they were a bit sick of Facebook because all their friends were always on holiday, smiling, relaxed and happy.  Of course one rarely instagrams oneself looking less than glamorous, interesting or successful.  (Unless you’re DJ Khaled promoting mouthwash as a lifestyle success hack). Just as you’re unlikely to tweet another boring afternoon running through invoice queries to your followers nor are your friends going to do that either.

Are you able to shut out the voices?  Some people seem to manage it.  Perhaps it is all about focus.

Michael Caine, talking recently while plugging his new film Youth, said, with all the wisdom of a long and successful career, that he had never been ambitious for anything. He’d always focussed simply on doing a good job, the best job that he could.  His drive was to be better than he had been the last time, and so the only person he wanted to beat was himself.  “I have no sense of competition, the only competition I have is me.  Get on with it, stop worrying about fame, become the best that you can be”.

Changing jobs, or even changing careers can feel like the only answer when you are in cold January and February and fed up with picking typos out of documents that should have been spell checked.  Remember though that the grass does always seem greener on the other side of the mountain.  Furthermore if you base any career aspirations purely on social media feeds you’re basing your emotional life on how good your contacts are at spinning their lives.  You might as well base your emotional life on how you compare to the models in glossy magazines.  Good luck with it but I don’t think it will be very much fun.

So I don’t think that I do want your job, however great it sounds on social media.  I will focus on being better at mine.