Archive for October, 2017


Thursday, October 26th, 2017

nabstalk_glasswall_7dec2016_photographerbronacmcneill_hr-21358-300x200A good day at work

How much are you the victim of SAD?  The time shift in late October obviously means more darkness, sooner.  Shortly the time will arrive when you may leave for work in the darkness, return home in the darkness, and if you’re in meetings all day, or there’s gloomy weather, you won’t see the sun for weeks, across the UK and most of northern Europe at least.  Should you find your mood to be irrationally gloomy too, you might have a dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Then you may find it helpful to acquire an artificial way of topping up the sun via a lamp, or a swift holiday somewhere where they still see the sun.

There are other ways to ensure you are smiling at work.  Earlier this month Style Magazine published a new point of view of happiness at work.

Being an activist increases job satisfaction.  Solitaire Townsend, author of “The Happy Hero”, tells Style that those who do start campaigns for good at work find their lives: “improve in unimaginable ways. You will discover a self-confidence you never thought possible. Heroic actions will improve your health, resilience and relationships, and will even help you to live longer….it will even boost your sex life”.

Increasingly more and more people would consider that happiness at work is a key factor in success at work.   Given that we spend more time at work than we do doing anything else except sleeping then the answer to a question about what everyday success is surely must include a good day at work.  However fulfilling your day job is, having a mission to make not just the job better but the world better can enhance your working life.  Since the publication of The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business, I have felt a small part of a campaign for better diversity that extends across our industry, across every institution within the UK and indeed across the planet.

My co-author Kathryn Jacob and I have been speaking at over 70 gigs since publication.  We’ve been trying to help to smash that Glass Wall: the invisible barrier between women and the promotion to senior management that they often deserve but don’t get.  We haven’t yet succeeded.  Sometimes it feels as though our industry has been going backwards instead of improving.  On the other hand we know we’re helping some people.  One woman recently wrote that we’d significantly helped her settle into a new job.  We’ve contributed to a campaign that has only strengthened over the last 12 months.  This does feel good; this does feel like success.

You’ll need to find your own area of activism of course, and you’ll need to work for an employer that puts people first and encourages you to follow that cause.

There’s many ways to challenge for change at work.  It may be that your interests lie in making your team the most cohesive that it can be.  You might want to make sure every bit of paper and every coffee cup is recycled.  It might be that you can introduce your management to the idea that the business should not only be good for its shareholders but also be for good in the world.  Whatever success looks like for you, you should go for it, without delay.  It will make you happy.  Have a good day today.




Partnerships: Worth more than the trouble

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

camilla“Partnerships” are routine considerations for our industry.  They are not routine to deliver however.

First off, they require some definition.  People mean different things by them.  Is a simple badging of a sponsorship a partnership?  If we work collaboratively with content creators aren’t we in partnership?  Or is a true media partnership one where unique content is created by the content creator (media owner, publisher, influencer etc) specifically for a brand?

This last option is especially a tough one to deliver.  The objective, to create content that will uniquely promote the brand in the tone of voice of the publisher, must deliver not just added value to the marketing effort, but also to the consumers (readers, viewers, listeners etc) of the publisher.

These are the partnerships that we love, the winners of awards and the real deliverers of added value.

They can be hard work, compared for example with planning adspace in the right places which will be filled by advertising, with one clear message, created carefully to run in all the media booked.

The human effort involved can be heavy.  One situation springs to mind, from many years ago, when a hair styling brand took the outside back cover of some selected women’s magazines and re-styled the front cover model’s hair.  This ad looked and felt like the front cover, but with a different hairstyle.  The good news was that it drove distribution and instore presence.  It only ran for one campaign however.  The reason was that the effort to create multiple different images felt unjustifiable.  Not in terms of cost (that was factored into the media buy) but in terms of sheer effort for the client.  Signing off each image for each issue of each magazine was high stakes (compared with the single image that they traditionally ran), and managing internal stakeholders required much more time than normal.

When reviewing the project all the hard kpis (key performance indicators) were successful.  The stakes just felt emotionally too high for it to be repeated.  The client involved said to the planner on the account: “I loved the project, it was the right thing to do.  But I am never, ever going to do it again.  I had sold in the idea that running magazine specific copy was better than running one single ad campaign.  For two weeks, as I was attending shoots with each mag, my boss kept asking me: “Are you sure?”  My answer was always yes, but it was just too stressful”.

This project was many years ago, and of course there are much better ways of working and proper project management in play today.  But a good partnership will usually still require more effort than running one brand campaign.  Is it worth it?

This has been a difficult question to answer.  Until now.  MediaCom’s new econometric study into the value of partnerships has revealed exactly how much the extra effort in delivering them is worth.  For large and small projects.

The news is good for those who have so far just had blind faith that they are a good thing.

Media Partnerships can drive up to twice as much effectiveness for a brand campaign over and above advertising.  This is not marginal gain, which might be undermined by increased human effort in terms of overall return.  This is a significant leap in brand delivery.

The full research looks in detail at budget parameters, campaign duration and the specific metrics that partnerships are best at shifting, and whether it is best to run them stand alone or alongside an ad campaign.

Brand partnerships work.  They are more than worth the trouble.

Who’s using data in the best way?

Friday, October 13th, 2017

goldthisgirlcanWho is using big data in the best way?

The shortlist has been published for the best use of big data for buying.  The Gold winner of the Media Week award 2017 in this category has just been announced.  The excellent shortlist demonstrates the range of applications for media buying:  reacting to the news; identifying snacking occasions; geo-targeting and colour matching, identification of lapsed exercisers.  MediaCom won by working with Spotify to target women with unused exercise playlists for Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.

For every brand there are endless possibilities.  In every case there’s also a judgement to be made about the real return on marketing investment from precise targeting versus mass marketing.  Byron Sharp’s Ehrenberg Bass Laws of Growth should be consulted.  Due diligence must be done on costs and consequences for the brand.

Outside of media buying, who is getting the most out of their use of data?

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s declared objective is to transform the business from mobile first to AI first, making optimal use of algorithmic decision making.  They’ve just announced that their voice recognition software has been optimised to understand how children speak, thus perhaps bypassing generations who aren’t “voice friendly” ie don’t want to issue commands to their devices out loud.

Other businesses are (unsurprisingly) less further along the journey of making the most of data at scale.  In fact some aren’t even seeing any return on their investment in data.

In Newvantage Partners’ Big Data Executive Survey most businesses who are investing in big data are seeing some return, but are a long way from either transforming the business or establishing a true data driven culture.

The survey, published in October’s HBR, covers c-suite executives at Fortune 1000 companies.  On a positive note, this is the first time since the survey began in 2012 that nearly half the respondents are positive about any measurable results.  The big wins for those companies are in cutting costs.  In terms of the other ambitions from big data, the majority say that they either haven’t reaped any benefit from their efforts or haven’t even started yet.  Adding revenue?  67% answered negatively.  Establishing a data driven culture?  42% have started and not realised any value.  31% haven’t begun.  69% don’t think they’ve speeded up any current practices through data.

The reason for detailing the results is not to provide comfort for those people who are big data haters.  Yes, you are right to think that big data does not provide the immediate answer to every question. However the gulf between companies like Google who are built on data and those who aren’t gives clear advantages to the former.

On a positive note, despite the time it is taking for the full value of big data projects to be realised, 81% of respondents thought that the projects they worked on were a success.

And, cutting costs aside, the second most positive outcome is finding new innovation avenues.

Big data will transform our businesses.  We can and should set targets, goals and a clear vision for what success will look like and where innovation will deliver most value.  All transformation requires flexibility to be built into the process.  What looks like one obvious direction might require a pivot to deliver true value in the end.  Also of course, expecting a fully-fledged benefit before the full nature of the outcomes are clear is a fool’s errand.  Even where progress seems slow and complex, it is crucial not to lose focus on transformation and jettison advantage.

Want to boost your bottom line?

Friday, October 6th, 2017

John Amaechi OBE, Psychologist-2282

Want a real competitive advantage?

New McKinsey research, published in the FT, reinforces earlier assumptions about the importance of diversity and calculates that the gains can be even greater than previous stats.

Simply put, companies run by diverse teams perform better.  McKinsey have analysed gender diversity at exec level across 754 companies across the globe.

Companies in the top quartile are 22% more likely to outperform the national industry average than bottom quartile companies in terms of profitability (ebit) or return on equity.

22% is substantial.  But that’s the conservative figure.  Using “economic profit” (ie the company’s ability to create value in excess of weighted cost of capital) the difference between top and bottom quartiles is 67%.

How do you deliver diversity according to McKinsey?

–      A ceo who is committed publically and internally to improving diversity with a tailored strategy for the business

–      More women in executive positions

–      Diversity goals as part of the business strategy and value chain

It is a year since we published “The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business”.  Kathryn Jacob and I have done over 60 talks about the book.  It’s clear that despite the economic benefits of diversity at senior levels many sectors still haven’t managed to deliver the conditions or the outcomes that are needed.  Many businesses are working towards this, and making great strides, but there is more to be done.

Rhetoric about diversity, an awayday, a spoken commitment are not enough.

At the FT Women on Top conference last month psychologist John Amaechi introduced the concept of “plausible deniability” as a crucial factor in holding back real change.

He thinks that this a core reason that things stay the same.  Without diagnosing this in an organisation, calling it out and dealing with it, there is a real danger that any amount of training will be in vain.  Plausible deniability is specifically a legal term.  At its most serious it is a term used for the ability of people to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.

However on the broader spectrum of plausible deniability we may all have witnessed some version of it.  Certainly it came through in some of our investigations for the book.  People who witnessed behaviour that they could be expected to change but found it easier or politically expedient to ignore.

Some of the Glass Walls preventing talent from rising to the top of business that we spotted in our research have a whiff of this.  Team leaders who don’t spot that there is someone in the team who is unhappy with the tone of the banter that supposedly is crucial for bonding.  Keeping up the tradition that the Christmas outing is still to go to Spearmint Rhinos because everyone always has gone along with it.  Assuming that everyone will acquire the same ability to clamour for promotion when there is clear evidence that there is a gender divide.

Amaechi didn’t mince his words that this kind of behaviour needs to be eliminated.  Unconscious bias training might make the business feel like it is doing something but it is no more effective than taking antibiotics for a virus.  You’re taking some action certainly but it’s going to have absolutely no effect on the problem

Targets for diversity in senior management must be set, monitored, and delivered.  Why wouldn’t you if it is going to deliver this kind of competitive advantage?