Archive for November, 2016

Lessons from out of this world.

Monday, November 28th, 2016

issearthDr Ed Lu is an American physicist and former astronaut.  He was one of the opening speakers at this year’s Marketing Society conference.  How cool is that.  Everyone wants to hear from an astronaut.

He flew on two space shuttle flights and made an extended 6 month stay on the International Space Station.


He left NASA and joined Google to run its advanced projects unit, and now runs the B612 Foundation which protects the earth from asteroids and other objects that might collide with us.  He’s highly qualified to deliver lessons learned in space but applicable for business.  What a great key note speaker.  Out of this world.


Lu’s only colleague whilst he lived on the International Space Station was a Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.    Just the two of them, in an extremely small space but with an awesome view out of the window including of dozens of sunsets a day.


One of the first things they established was ways of working together.  Clearly they had different reporting lines.  One to Houston and one to Moscow.  Their two managers were unlikely to be totally aligned on every decision.  Lu said that they both had to be very clear to their managers that they would in every case refuse to act on anything where there was conflict and would not resolve the politics inside the space station.  Houston and Moscow had to reach agreement first.  A great example to follow when there’s issues to be resolve within matrix management at work.  Or if you’re meant to be in a cross agencies team but the client seems to be saying one thing to one set of management and another thing to the other.  Don’t try and resolve this yourself, it will just lead to unsatisfactory compromise and mediocre work, and possibly despondency.  Send the issue back up the line to the client stakeholders and get them to resolve it before you act.  Never take a job if the management you speak to in the interview process seem to be unaligned.  If the overall CEO tells you that the business needs to change completely, but your prospective immediate boss wants you to transform a small silo, don’t take it any further until they are clearly in agreement.  However attractive the job sounds in theory, it will be impossible to deliver and it will make you miserable.


One other big lesson that he brought back to earth was never to micro-manage from afar.  Clearly any astronaut is working with very expensive equipment and needs to make crucial decisions fast and in real time.  The temptation to micro manage from earth must be enormous.  And must be entirely resisted according to Lu.  If you’re working with people you have trained, you must then trust their training and experience.


The best state for any astronaut, he went on, is to be an optimist but to prepare for the worst.


With the uncertainty both in the world at large and in the media industry in particular in 2017 this seems like a good goal for every media person.


Look on the positive side, be open to change and disruption, yet always be ready for the worst outcome.  Don’t get ambushed by tough circumstances, spend quality management time considering contingency planning.  For the brands you work on, for the company you work for, for your own development.  Then, certainly, hope for the best.


The Marketing Soc conference was a good stimulating day, and I am hoping for the best for it in 2017.  I hope that there is less of a #GlassWall feeling about the day.  Women on the stage were by far in the minority this year.  It was remarked on by many of the audience during the breaks.  I am optimistic that this will change next year.




Football, like any other business, needs women in top jobs

Monday, November 21st, 2016

footballFootball: a beautiful game and a business.

If there were more women involved in football at senior levels there would be better performance.

When there are more women involved in senior management of businesses there is better performance.

Is football really that different?

There’s plenty of research into the benefits of gender balance for business.  In one recent study Grant Thornton has measured the discrepancy between the profitability of mixed boards and men only boards for listed companies in the USA, India and Great Britain and declared that the former are significantly better. By $655bn.  It’s well established that diversity delivers better judgement and better decisions at a senior level that benefits business.

Football is business as well as the beautiful game.  Ronaldo has just become the first footballer to earn a hundred million euros.  So big big business.  Some more diversity at the top seems like it’s overdue.

Graeme Souness writes that the future for improved international performance for England is club partnerships.  (6 of the players in the sign that gained victory over Scotland last week were from Liverpool and Spurs).  He says that it creates an understanding on the pitch, and that the existing friendships boost morale.  Sounds like the kind of thinking that women are said to bring to board rooms.

Where are the women in football boards?

There’s just one woman chair of a premiere league side.  And another one in the championship.  Less than ten percent of the boards of the premiere league are women.

Where are the women on the training ground and on the pitch?

There’s nearly nine and a half thousand UEFA football coaches.  Sixty-five are women.  There aren’t any women referees in the English Football League (unlike the Bundesliga and Italian league).

Women in Football is an association that exists to challenge the status quo in the sport, and not just for women footballers, but for all the women working in the sport.  Last week, as co-author of The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work, I was invited on to the panel of an event chaired by Jo Tongue alongside Sue Ferns of Prospect, Simone Pound PFA head of equalities and League Managers Association CEO Richard Bevan to discuss sexism in the workplace.

The discussion was subject to Chatham House Rules so must remain undisclosed.  However the statistics of gender equality are stark and the Women in Football association, which is doing great work, deserves and needs our support.

It wouldn’t be difficult to measure the benefits of a better gender balance in senior management at the top level of top clubs.  It’s a business that gets a result every week in the season.  How could such a results based business be so slow to try new management?  At international level it’s not as if England, or Scotland has been doing so well in tournaments that you’d think “let’s not change anything here, we’re doing so well”.

Do the statistics in senior management and the culture in the game appear similar to those that led to the formation of WACL, the women’s advertising club?  Great strides have been made since its foundation in 1923.  WACL exists so that its exclusive membership can inspire, support and network with each other.  Women in Football would benefit considerably from the lessons that WACL has learned over the last few decades in particular, of standing up to the sacred cows of established practices and negotiating skilfully and successfully for change.  Women of WACL – the beautiful game and WiF need your support.




Culture explains all.

Monday, November 14th, 2016

darkmatterHave you been keeping up with the latest investigations into the Dark Matter of the universe?  100s of millions of pounds have been spent searching for Dark Matter.  Physicists have been searching for 3 decades.  Not only have they not found it they still don’t know what it is that they are looking for.

Jonathan Leake, ST science editor, explains that in the 1980s scientists decided that over a quarter of the universe was made up of Dark Matter.  Dark Matter itself was decided to be made up of subatomic particles that if looked for properly could be found, could be really significant to science and technology and could win someone a Nobel Prize.

Some of the money spent on looking for it is your money.  Britain is part of the search, with contributions to the Lux project in South Dakota and its own dedicated project in a salt mine in Cleveland.  The Large Hadron Collider tried to create Dark Matter.  It has failed so far.

Dan Hooper of Fermilab who are looking for Dark Matter too thinks it is possible that he has found a particle of it.  He says: “One bright point in all of this darkness is the intriguing gamma-ray signal detected from the centre of the Milky Way…. We may look back on this one day as the first detection of dark matter particles.  Or not… it’s too early to tell.”

All this data, all this analysis, all this investment, all these scientists, they might just find something to explain everything.  Or not… it’s too early to tell.

At MediaCom we think we have found something to explain everything.  Global CSO Matt Mee launched the Hofstede project at Cannes this year.  It explains the different cultural dimensions of nations.  Culture according to Mee is the “Dark Matter” of insight.  Cultural dimensions direct our behaviours in ways that we are completely unconscious of day to day.  In the most fascinating way they tend to override other divides of class, status, age and gender.

Geert Hofstede developed his original model as a result of using factor analysis to examine the results of a world-wide survey of employee values by IBM between 1967 and 1973.  It describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behaviour.

If you’ve ever worked across markets the cultural differences will resonate with you.  If you’re looking to understand why a nation behaves in a way that doesn’t seem to make sense, such as an election result or a referendum outcome this will help.  Cultural archetypes are strong, and the original research showed the consequences for business communications.  MediaCom have now updated the original survey with radical effect, and are creating unique insight into how different techniques should be deployed across geographical regions.  Just because Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands are lumped together as Benelux, it doesn’t mean that the same ads will work in the same way in each market, nor can packaging or promotion expect the same returns.  Across EMEA, the Americas or Asia this is even more profound.  The analysis explains why a creative will fly in one country and die in the neighbouring market.

Adjoining markets don’t work homogeneously. Distant markets might surprise by being very similar.  Its time to lift the lid on the dark matter of culture, and celebrate and leverage the real differences between nations.

We might not know the secret of the universe, but we know now the secret of why one particular car ad worked brilliantly in Bruges but flopped in Amsterdam (and it has nothing to do with the windmills.)


The changing role of peak

Monday, November 14th, 2016

tvbedA long time ago, in full service ad agencies, TV buying was a manual, spot by spot process.  One of the first rules of TV buying for new buyers was that you had to buy 70% of a TV schedule in peak airtime, ie between 1730 and 2300.

Most TV schedules to this day will still have a minimum of 70% peak airtime.

Back then this was very important because if you only had spots in daytime or late night you couldn’t expect to reach people who worked, people who had disposable income to spend on the products advertised.  The only way to watch TV back then was on the set in the living room, kitchen or bedroom.  At home.  People couldn’t take the TV with them in the way that they can now on their smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Of course peak airtime cost a premium for that reason.  Always had.  Always will. Or will it?

It depends what the value of that peak airtime is to your schedule.  Which these days will be an AV schedule and include video on demand, non-linear TV viewing, FB, Youtube, cinema etc.

Do you need peak airtime on linear TV, peak airtime that still carries a significant premium, to ensure that your reach of the audience is high enough?

That might depend on the time period you need to build that reach in.  Is the product one that is bought on a weekly basis, or just once a year, or even once every few years?  For a brand that is not an FMCG product (so you don’t necessarily need to reach lots of the audience every week) significant money can be saved by only buying airtime outside peak. Eliminate all the linear peak airtime from your campaign, spend some of the savings in buying more off peak and save the rest.

Here’s just one example.  If all the peak spots from a 400 TVR schedule were replaced with off peak spots for an audience of housewives aged between 25 and 44 enough money can be saved to buy another 100 TVRs in off peak and to put a significant amount back into the bottom line.  Or to add many more weeks on air.  How much reach of the audience do you lose?  Only 5% 1+ reach taking it from 70% to 65%.

Worried about losing fame and talkability? Clearly there are a few programmes that are exciting live events.  But far fewer than there used to be.  They certainly demand a premium.  However talkability and sharing can be supported with a strong social media strategy, also affordable still with those savings.

If the same approach is taken for a campaign targeting 16-24 year old adults, the reach actually stays as high. 1+ reach from a 400 TVR schedule on TV including peak is 59%.  The 1+ reach from a 500 TVR campaign with no peak (so remember it is much cheaper) is 59%.  Money back to the bottom line or for more weeks on air or to mobile social if you want to get the audience to interact.

Lives have changed.  TV viewing behaviour has changed.  There’s more flexi-working than ever.  More and more people are not viewing programmes live the first time they show on air (less than half of 16-34’s viewing is to live TV).  Some of the most premium talked about programmes only get 10% of their total consolidated audience to the first linear showing.  This might seem controversial, but the changing nature of people’s lives and viewing is well documented.  Begs the question.  Is peak on TV still worth its premium for brands buying reach?





Stay home and Hygge

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

dunk“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” – Camus

Autumn is well and truly upon us now.  The nights are drawing in.  The clocks are going back, we’re stocking up for Guy Fawkes and many of us are thankfully donning the black tights of concealment.

The ad industry is gearing up for party season, and many brands too will be exploiting the season of nights out and chronic hangovers.

Try and squeeze into a busy person’s evening calendar for the next couple of months and you’re probably already too late.

There is another seasonal opportunity offered by this time of year which fewer brands exploit.  Nov/Dec are absolutely the times for going out and enjoying yourself.  It is also a fantastic time to stay in quietly and Hygge.

Hygge (pronounced “Hoo-gah” should you be reading this out loud), is a Danish concept of cosiness.  Its aficionados claim it is much more than this however, and if you want to know more, there’s a dozen new books to explain exactly how to do it.

Put simply: sitting by the fire with friends in candle light sipping hot chocolate is Hygge.  Watching boxed sets cuddled under a duvet.  Reading a really good book with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.  Formerly known as “me time” or “we time” it is now the Hygge.

“It’s an idea so rooted in the Danish sense of togetherness, and perhaps even in Denmark’s social democracy, that a Brit might struggle to grasp its historic and social significance,” says Patrick Kingsley, author of the travel book How To Be Danish – but then he would say that wouldn’t he?

Nothing more Hygge if you ask me than dunking a digestive (or even better a ginger nut) but I’m not a Hygge expert.

Normally the ad community might assume that this is a trend confined to later in life, the older and more traditional consumers.  Nice promotion opportunity for hot water bottles perhaps but less relevant for those targeting younger audiences.

Not so, the Hygge trend has in fact collided with the FOGO trend to ensure that there is a wide open opportunity for cosiness for mass audiences this autumn/winter.

According to New York Magazine FOGO – Fear of Going Out – is the new FOMO.

Gabby Bess, a writer for Vice, says: “Going to parties is a type of work. I already work all day and I don’t really want my social life to feel like work also.” And, she adds: “There’s just so much good TV to binge-watch right now.”

So, parties are work, you have to dress up and look cheerful.  Instead for those with FOGO there’s lots of great tv; some of which you just need to watch to keep up with any normal conversation.  If you’re a gamer, there’s plenty to be getting on with.  Maybe you’ve had enough of the social media version of reality where everyone is out, is in a selfie with a celeb, and on holiday somewhere sunny. It’s great to see your friends are enjoying themselves, but the images are so omni-present that it’s hard to summon up any FOMO anymore.

Thanks to the second screen to which we are all joined constantly now Hygge is a great time to send a relevant message that will reach the potential consumer of your product just when they’re in the mood to stay home and consume it.

In fact media are full of great Hygge moments.  The boxed set VOD opportunity; magazines and the biscuit dunking (or wine swilling moment); cinema and a box of popcorn to share with a loved one (or a box of Maltesers all to yourself!); Sunday night prime time drama; Saturday morning lie in with croissants, coffee and a radio soundtrack.

Welcome the Hygge.