Archive for March, 2017

Hate change? Read this.

Friday, March 24th, 2017

bt“You get an ology….you’re a scientist ”


Some adverts enter the language, and sometimes last there long after the product they were plugging has dropped the campaign.


The BT ology ad featured Maureen Lipman as a grandmother, told by her grandson over the phone, (incidentally played by Josh Krichefski’s brother by the way), that he flunked his exams, passing only pottery and sociology. (The ad featured in Lindsey Clay’s survey of the portrayal of women in advertising over the last 50 years in the UK here).


The BT ad was to encourage people to use the phone more, not to drive market share as this wasn’t an issue in the 1980s. Driving more use of the phone these days – hardly a requirement of any telecoms provider today – haven’t times changed?


Most of us use our phones unimaginably more frequently than the admen at JWT could have thought in 1987.


This is a change that most of us have taken to happily. There’s other changes around that can take more getting used to, such as the rise of the robots in customer service or AI’s impact on retail.


Maureen Lipman also has had a long career as a comedian. In one of her stand up routines she described how after borrowing her dad’s car for a week she got back into her own car and discovers it just wouldn’t go properly. She called the car rescue services, waited 2 hours for them to turn up. When the chap from the AA arrived, he started the car and drove it round the block. It was perfectly ok. It was simply that her dad’s car was an automatic and after only a week of driving it, she’d forgotten how to drive a geared car. She just couldn’t work it out. Even though she’d been driving one for a decade.


There’s a lesson in this for everyone who’s is change averse – and many people hate the idea of any change that they aren’t in control of, and haven’t chosen.


Firstly that you can get used to a change ridiculously quickly. There’s a world of difference between an innovation that we take to like a duck to water (such as checking phones dozens or hundreds of times a day), and those that feel alien. When a change in work practices is mandated, or becomes inevitable in your business, then it’s good to remember that some change may feel so instinctive that a week in, you won’t remember what work was like before.


Secondly that you can’t really buy into any change until you fully understand what it means specifically for you. So if you’re in a company meeting where the new vision is being presented and you’re just not feeling inspired, don’t worry.


Don’t expect to love the change till you can feel and see what it means for you in detail personally. And give it a go, it might just be the new way forward you’ve been missing, just as much as you’d miss your mobile phone.


Abracadabra; there’s no fooling the robots

Friday, March 17th, 2017

magician-026There are many talented chiefs in our industry.  One of them is literally a magician.


A highlight of any meeting with Trinity Mirror boss Simon Fox is that he might just make something disappear and reappear.  He’s a member of the magic circle, and the last time the Trinity Mirror roadshow hit our agency he did the most awesome piece of magic involving Claudine Collin’s phone and the regional press.


(Who can say how much his magical skills influence the business performance – but latest results showed growth in profits of 24% – some good news in a challenging sector.  Results aside, the magic show at MediaCom was a treat.)‎


The reason we love magic is may be because we live in a world where our core senses are constantly performing magic tricks every day.  When we see something, we don’t see what we think we see. Every day and all the time.


Humans experience a time lag.


It takes a fifth of a second for an image to go from your eye, to your brain to be processed, and then for you to act on it.  Because you don’t feel that time lag, your brain is also constantly making up for the time lag by constantly predicting the future a tenth of a second ahead at a time.


Most of the time that doesn’t matter, (unless for example you’re a bike rider commuting in London then you’ll know how important a fraction of a second can be in terms of surviving.)


This is what a magician exploits when he does a card trick. It is misdirection.  Very clever misdirection, but it is, of course, science and not magical.


Magicians use misdirection to manipulate our attention.  It works because we don’t ever see everything that is in front of us.  Our brains couldn’t possible analyse every stimulus or every detail.  There are loopholes in cognition because that is how we cope with the world.  We cannot process everything and so we choose, unconsciously, what is most likely to fit an accepted pattern.


Goldsmith University Dr Gustav Kuhn studies the impact this has on our daily lives.  Kuhn is a cognitive psychologist who researches human perception and cognition.  Or put in a way that sounds like much more fun:  he studies magic and how magicians allow you to experience the impossible.


Kuhn says:  “magic happens to us all the time — our whole experience is a massive illusion, we’re just not aware of it.”


It is one of the key differences between you and a robot. Robots can’t believe in magic, and they don’t have gaps in cognition. They can process more information faster and more accurately than is possible for you in a split second. As the pace of real time business decisions continues to increase, understanding how our brains compare at making split second judgements is crucial.


As we come to assign roles differently in the cyber future, there will be significant shifts in how money is spent when it’s the algorithm that decides, based on processing every bit of data that is available, not just the information that we can grasp.


We will need to decide which decisions require strategic reflection and which will be made by the machines.


The loneliness of the empirical media planner.

Monday, March 13th, 2017

runThings are moving fast.  New technologies are creating new opportunities for media planners but things are far from simple.   The pace of change seems breath taking.  The pace of change is going to continue to get faster still.

The industry is full of questions.  Ad fraud and viewability.  Fake news is tarnishing reputations.  The calculation of audience views is not standardised across platforms or across the globe.

The task of the media planner has got more complicated. 

Take TV.  A dozen years ago a media planner thinking of placing video assets at scale was largely faced with the challenge of deciding between planning into space on the TV in the corner of the living room or going with some cinema.  They might worry that some households had a second or third TV in the bedroom and kitchen, and that this might fragment family viewing.  They might consider investing in cinema.  (That decision was at the time largely made on the basis of whether the video asset was cinematic enough, because there was no comparative way of measuring audience across TV and cinema).

Now of course there’s much more to consider. TV versus VOD.  Lovely big TV sets, with friends or family gathered round, versus solitary viewing on a smart phone screens or tablets in bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and on the bus.  “As TV” which is what Group M’s Rob Norman, CDO, calls web destination TV like YouTube Preferred.  In app video, feed based video, and of course, if your asset is cinematic enough for the big screen, cinema (because there is still no standardised comparative audience measurement here, let alone between all the other choices).


What does this all add up to?  More complications.  More opportunities.


The task of the media planner has also become simpler.                   


There’s much more evidence of outcomes now than ever in the data streams media agencies are analysing.  The media planner has more data to consider and more informed judgements to make.  Judgements about media planning from scratch, with zero based budgeting assumptions.  Judgements based on evidence based arguments for planning assumptions.  Judgements about sorting the real facts from the multiple factoids that circulate.


This is how the empirical or evidence based media planner might get lonely.  Sure their new best friend is the data scientist, (but they don’t tend to get out much).  The media planner may find that they need to hint to the creative agency that their lovely 40 second ad might need significant amending before it is fit for purpose for social feeds.  They might find that they need to challenge media owner research.  They will have to balance the different joint industry body definitions of audience to deliver one cohesive view across a multi-media plan.


Don’t mistake this for unfriendliness or lack of desire to collaborate by the way.  Without a shadow of a doubt, as my CEO Josh Krichefski recently stated, most of the award winning work in this industry comes from collaboration with media owner and agency partners.  Great fruitful collaborations that help brands to thrive.


And yet it can be lonely to be an evidence based planner.  It is their job to ask difficult questions, to speak truth to power and to jostle the apple cart.  It isn’t their job to spend the most money in the most fashionable medium.  It isn’t their job to preserve the status quo.  It’s their job, and it is needed now more than ever, to love numbers, to embrace disruption and to love real consumer insight, to look for the substantiated facts, try the new, to be ambitious for their clients and to remain media neutral.






Why transformation is important

Monday, March 6th, 2017

20120808-blists-hill-town-criers-competition-s600x600There’s an easy answer to this – pop down to your local town centre and ask the blacksmith.  If you can’t find the blacksmith, look for the town crier and ask him.


If you don’t look out for the inevitable consequences of external changes to your business, then you’ll end up in the same place as those two once flourishing career paths.


The pace of change now is such that every business must have an agile approach to transformation.


If you do, particularly if you are the fastest or the first, then it can be a competitive advantage.  In the 20th century you needed a USP or unique selling proposition to have a competitive edge.   Now the agility of a business to adapt to real time changes can be, in itself, its USP.


In the past a USP was a product attribute (“the sweet that melts in your mouth, but not in your hand”) or a positioning statement (“we’re number two so we try harder”);  Now it may be the brand’s ability to change its messaging in real time, or its variants to suit fashion, cultural memes or season fast enough.


This requires a reallocation of resource in the business.  A change of focus and a new set of key performance indicators including one about speed of delivery.


Customer experience in buying and using the brand too must be a key consideration, of course, as important as the brand personality and idea.  Sometimes this is out of marcomms scope or sub-contracted.  Customers, often with better tech in their pockets than businesses offer their employees, will not be patient or understanding about inadequate mobile experiences or poor delivery or complaints procedures. If a business puts the web experience in a different silo to the marketing then it needs to transform.


Recently tech giant Gartner declared that the biggest threat to innovation is internal politics and an organisational culture that doesn’t accept failure, or ideas from outside, or change.  As Gideon Spanier stated in this Raconteur special report: “companies must be willing to think, move and respond faster”.


This is not to suggest that any business should throw the baby out with the bath water.  Anyone with a memory that dates back to the turn of this century will remember watching organisations chuck money at ill-advised internet initiatives that failed to deliver any lasting change, let alone transform those businesses.   You also don’t have far to look for businesses that did transform their offer, but failed to do the same for their business plan.


The solution is to transform with agility.  Don’t replace current processes designed to deal with anachronistic silos with a lengthy elaborate redesign of new processes or more elaborate matrix management.


Work in sprints with minimum viable products and individuals who can respond to change. Create a culture where people enjoy working in project teams rather than are stuck with tribal and defensive department structures.   While this is easy to design it is harder for traditional businesses to deliver.  Working on a very human and empathetic level to deliver change is essential.


Or carry on as normal, and look out for whatever happened to the blacksmiths.