Archive for April, 2018

This is crucial

Monday, April 30th, 2018

becherIt’s more important than a good strategy

In 2016 I was introduced to the ceo of a manufacturing company as a strategy head.  “Ahh,” he said, “you know Sue don’t you that culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

“Indeed” I answered, “but the strategy is to have a good culture”.

Without a good culture you can have all the strategy, talent and leading edge product in the world, but you won’t have a chance at long term, or even medium term success.

Here’s three reasons why this is:

First, there will be no real diversity or inclusion.  If you have to fit in to a prevailing sameness in a business then too much effort is tied up in this, instead of doing good work.  This is inevitable if all the senior management line up look and sound the same.  Deep down most people will assume that in order to get promoted you need to mirror the majority look and feel of the current board.  So a lack of diversity tends to sustain itself, and we know that diversity drives better decisions, and ultimately better profits.  A good culture ensures that everyone feels that they can be themselves.

Secondly without a great culture bad behaviour and incivility can become deep rooted.  Here’s where genuine warmth is crucial.  It is possible to have a culture where everyone is ruthlessly polite, and even mild swearing is unacceptable.  This doesn’t mean that back stabbing and undermining are necessarily eliminated too.  Rudeness is never acceptable yet surface politeness is not enough.  The intention of the culture must be to get the best out of everyone there, not to create a series Grand National fences where if you don’t make it over Becher’s Brook at the first try no-one helps you back into the saddle to try again.   Having high standards is important, in my view good enough work is never good enough.  But the objective must be to help everyone work in the best way that they can, not to create an obstacle course to eliminate people as fast as possible.

Thirdly, and most crucially, without the right kind of culture you can’t have creative tension and disagreements.  Without this, you don’t get great work.  If disagreeing leads to put downs or even being taken off a project team then the need for consensus is probably being valued as more important than getting to a great answer.   There is obviously a balance to be struck here.  With deadlines looming disagreements and diversity of opinions need to happen at the right time and in the right place (ie not necessarily publically).  However if they don’t happen at all then you sacrifice great to mediocre.  A great culture doesn’t mean no-one ever argues.  A great culture allows for constructive debate.

As a final point, life is too short and you spend too much of it at work, to put up with a culture that isn’t awesome.


3 rules to simplify media

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

3moonsMedia is complicated.

More and more complicated.

The more complicated things are the greater the need for simplification.

Here’s 3 simple rules to help to deal with the complications.

There are more and more lines on a block plan.  The media channels used don’t have easily comparable metrics.

Even the media that have been around since the middle of the last century don’t, for instance audiences for newspaper readership and radio listenership.  Those that might seem similar don’t of course either.   A view of an advert on the TV in your sitting room is not measured comparably with a view of perhaps the same ad on your mobile.   Add in experiential or the headline sponsorship of a sporting event and you are completely in the territory of chalk versus cheese.

Every plan should be judged by how it delivers growth for the client’s ambitions.  Yet judging by outcomes can be complicated too.  First, if you only judge by short term results you are in danger of ruling out media that contribute in a medium to longterm way.  Without this you are liable to end up with a brand without a medium to longterm future.  Secondly there is once again the chalk and cheese problem.  Experiential won’t deliver the scale of broadcast advertising.  But a great experience is hard to forget (as is a poor one of course).  The impact that a good personal experience can deliver is difficult to isolate and to calibrate against other marketing.

So things are complicated.

How can we simplify?

There are only two good forms of comms.  Comms which help to convert to a sale (or recruit to a new behaviour or cause).  Comms which help to drive desire for the brand (or behaviour or cause).

Every line of the plan needs to clearly deliver against one or both of these criteria with a clear key performance metric.

If it’s about conversion its essential to have a brilliant discipline of test, learn and reapply.  The best possible machine learning for execution and tactic.  Avoid the trap of too many metrics that Jim Kelly, VP R+D at Quantcast, talked about at MediaCom’s transformation session at Adweek Europe.  It’s important to prioritise the metrics to deliver the best outcomes for the business, and not to prioritise the metrics against which your current processes perform most powerfully.  This is essential because optimising against a metric that you can influence most successfully today is not necessarily as important as experimenting with what will leverage your business outcomes across the next twelve months.

If the comms are about building brand saliency and warmth then its crucial to remember the 2 second rule.  Much is made of the supposed “fact” that our attention spans are shrinking.  The truth is that there is so much more content trying to attract consumer attention that any commercial message needs to be brilliant at capturing and retaining that attention over and above the chaos.

The point is not that average attention spans have shrunk from 12 to 8 seconds.  The point is that you’ve really only got a couple of seconds to interest anyone.  Thanks to mobiles to which we are joined at the fist there is nearly always something else to look at or listen to instead.

Make yourself useful, interesting, funny, entertaining, emotive or personal in a couple of seconds or don’t expect to keep any consumer’s focus.

Simple then (but not easy): Be accountable, Innovate, Cut through.




Here’s the top reasons why there should be more women behind the camera.

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

gettyImage: Black Victorian by Stephanie Nnamani Getty Images

Some called 2017 the “year of women”.  Time Magazine’s person of the year was “The silence breakers”, the thousands of people who blew the whistle on sexual harassment.   They didn’t put thousands on the cover however.  Five women were represented in the cover photo, together with an arm, an anonymous arm.  (The sixth image of an elbow, belongs to an anonymous young hospital worker from Texas — a sexual harassment victim who fears that disclosing her identity would negatively impact her family. And the five on the cover are Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Isabel Pascual, who is a strawberry picker and an immigrant from Mexico whose name was changed to protect her identity.)

In this so called “year of women” who took the cover photograph?  A team of two called Billy and Hells who are one man, one woman.  A good balance then.  Unlike many professional pictures.

A piece of research by Anna Fox, Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, was published in 2016 said that under 5% of published and collected photographs are taken by women, and many commercial agencies’ employees comprising around 2% women.  As we know 51% of the population is women and they make in the region of 80% of shopping decisions.  They’re not missing from advertising imagery to that extent of course.  But those images will be taken largely by men.  It’s a mismatch that surely no-one would expect these days.

Does it matter who takes the photo?  A panel that I participated in at Getty Images discussed this issue.  They recently ran a gorgeous exhibition at their London gallery called “The Female Gaze”, of seventy images taken by women, mainly of women.

The inspiring Stephanie Nnamani, visual artist, points out that diversity of the people taking photographs is crucial to empowerment.  Even the selfie culture is “empowering, worth celebrating.”  As she first came to photography she realised just how prominent the “objectification of women” was in a very celebrated photographer’s work, and this inspired her in her career choice.

Why would the proportion of women behind the camera be so out of kilter, not just with the target audiences for most brands, but also with the numbers of women in photography classes in colleges?

It makes no sense at all. It is of course something that we can all try to influence if we are involved in the commissioning of work.  Does your process allow for a gender split of 50:50 when the photographer or director is being selected?  If the audience for the brand’s marketing or advertising is at least 50% women, can this be ignored as a factor?

The panel believe (although perhaps you would expect them to) that it should not be ignored, and that the images taken by women of women are different, perhaps more authentic.

Given the ASA’s conclusions about the depiction of women in advertising and the need for new guidelines, having more women behind the camera should help redress the balance to a new and more normal normal.