broadcasting, television, X_Factor-tipping

The Joy of X Down Under: X-Factor has hit Australia, but why are only the Brits excited?

last night the X-Factor hit Australia.  but despite a huge marketing push by Seven, the launch episode achieved only a disappointing 1.186m, making it the fifth most watched programme of the night behind four news and current affairs efforts.  the winner, Nine's A Current Affair, won the ratings battle with – ironically enough – an interview with the family of Matthew Newton, the X-Factor host recently dumped by Seven.

as a big fan of the show in the UK – where it's fair to say it's a bit of a national institution – I've spend much of today (amongst other things) pondering why it is that Australia just doesn't seem to 'get' X …

on paper it should all add up.  Australia likes Reality formats (as evidenced by the huge success of Masterchef); there's a gap in the schedule (the aforementioned Chef has just finished); there's a natural audience underserved by reality music shows (Australian Idol is a distant memory); and awareness of the show's imminent arrival was more than apparent.

but even during the day yesterday there were worrying signs.  I asked a few people if they were looking forward to X that evening to which the most upbeat response I got was "oh, maybe".  in fact the only person with any enthusiasm for rushing home for a night in with the format was another Brit, who assured me that his fellow Brits were similarly excited.  but it seems, as judged by the shows performance, it was a decidedly British sentiment.  a hangover from the glory of the show in the Motherland.

having watched the show there's clearly some issue with the content.  the production quality lacks the shine of the UK version, but this may very much be a result of the hastily re-edited version that Freemantle had to get out of the door following Newton's departure.  but the issues don't stop there – the judges lack conviction; Ronan's quiet as a mouse, Guy is far too puppyish and whilst he had valid comments they just weren't packaged; the Imbruglia seemed to be focusing on how attractive the talent was and poor Kyle just seemed to hold an expression of mild boredom before rolling off a pre-prepared put down.  the judges, ironically, lacked a confidence that's fundamental to their role.

but the content on the other side of the table didn't fair much better.  there was some good but certainly not spectacular singers; if X is hoping for an international recording artist to emerge it better have had more up it's sleeve for the second round of auditions.

but none of this explains the poor performance of last night's show – as none of this would have been apparent until the show went to air, by which time not enough people were watching (and by my straw poll of six they were mainly Brits).

we can only hope and expect that the show gathers pace.  the talent needs to come through and the judges need to find their feet, and the production quality of the live finals will surely increase.  but in the meantime serious questions must be being asked at Seven…  about just why Australia doesn't seem to want the X-Factor; because whilst it's going to be a yes from me, how Australia votes is another matter entirely.

innovating, planning, reaching

The inverse relationship between innovation and scale: and the tragedy of smart stuff that simply passes us by

this is good.  really good.  OK so no one is going to disagree with the fact that it's a cracking bit of insight-translated-into-execution.  but here's the thing…  does it reach enough people, and is that important?  and am I a bad planner for even asking that question?

I've written recently about the tyranny of reach and the grip that it holds on Australian marketers.  I observed that reach is, as Admiral Ackbar would say, a trap…  as long as it remains our default method of measurement, our modus enumeri if you like, we will eternally be lamenting our collective inability to stretch fewer resources over more places in more ways.

so I don't for a second give credence to 'reach-based' advertising, but I do suspect that in the main there's probably two kinds of media campaign in the world.  mainstream media campaigns that have scale, and innovative media campaigns that remain niche.  there are of course exceptions to this – those examples of innovative media thinking that break through and deliver scale, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule; by in large – from a media perspective – my bet is that there's an inverse relationship between scale and innovation…  a bit like this…

Scale_innovation_one avoiding the innovation vs. scale envelope into which most media campaigns fall

the challenge for any media effort is to get into the top right quarter, you want to innovate so that you cut-thru / are engaged with / generate earned media / bring down the overall cost-per-impact of your effort.  given these conditions, there are generally therefore only two ways to get top right…  either you attach scale to your innovative efforts or you inject innovation into existing scale.

a comment was made to me earlier in the week that one of the great benefits of using Facebook is the scale it can bring to an idea.  in this context you can rationalise how one of the main reasons Facebook's ad revenues are set to undergo such significant growth is because advertisers increasingly see it as a 'safe' way to bring scale to a schedule.  Facebook is a very good 'scaler'.

the alternative is to take an idea that already has scale and inject
innovation into it – I guess you could argue that efforts to, for
example, bring interactivity to TV sponsorship fit this model.

Scale_innovation_two methods to get you right and top – scalers and innovators

in a perfect world of course you shouldn't have to either attach scale or inject innovation into a plan; both should be inherent – we should be in the business of creating innovative communications ideas that travel.  but these are rare beasts…  and I suspect that whilst no doubt too many conventional solutions fail to innovate, the greater tragedy are the countless innovative media efforts that go to market without sufficient thought into how scale can be generated.  their failure to reach us is ultimately our loss.

debating, listing, reporting

Homogeneous, Old School and Plutomanic: what Adnews’ Power 50 says about the state of Australian media

last week Adnews arrived on my desk.  it featured a pull-out of it's 'Power 50' – a list of the top 50 "power brokers in Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing".  it makes for interesting reading.  it pretty much lists fifty white, male chief executives and directors, many of which have familial or other connections within the industry.

Adnews compiled the list "by taking into account a set of criteria
including budgets and staff under control; breadth of responsibilities;
levels of independence and authourity; connections; company performance;
community standing; and industry respect".  and claim themselves to be
"confident the 50 who have made the cut represent the most powerful and
influential people in the industry".

but if this list represents the power and influence within our industry, exactly what does it say out our industry?

one.  that they're a homogeneous bunch.  predominantly white and male; only four and a half entries in the fifty (9%) are women (the half is, at #4, Harvey Norman Holdings' Managing Director Katie Page, who is married to the Executive Chairman of the same company Gerry Harvey).

two.  that our industry is so old school it makes MadMen look like reality TV.  John Hartigan at #2 "has led the defence of the Australian newspaper industry, forcefully arguing why mastheads here are more robust than in North America and Britain" … David Thoday (#5), Chief Exec of Telstra was wrong-footed by the decline in the use of telephone landlines, commenting that "the decline has been more severe than we realised" … Kate McKensie (at #8) is therefore the person at Telstra responsible for holding back the tide, I mean "halt the decline of Telstra's fixed-line business" … and at #31 we have Joe Talcott, who only this year was quoted as claiming that "no one sits down to 'watch the internet'".

Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM at #14 commented at at recent event the that "rise of aggressive technological companies" may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies" … at the time I left readers to consider in their own time the choice of the words 'potentially' and 'quite'.

and what of those aggressive technological companies … even those on the list who it could be argued represent a more contemporary and evolving view of 21st Century media – Google GM Karim Temsamani at #12, or Facebook's regional manager of sales Paul Borrudat #21 – are there less because of their insight into a changing media ecology and rather because they're in charge.

three.  a browse of the entries makes it more than apparent what, according to Adnews, power is based on…  in fact it's hard to find an entry that doesn't refer to either spending, buying or selling power.  money, and channeling and making as much of it as possible is, it would seem, pretty much the only name of the game that is the Australian Advertising, Media and Marketing industry right now.  Adnews would have us all cast as plutomaniacs.

now not for a second I am suggesting that we're not an industry of commercial organisations, the continued existence of which is dependent on profit generation and growth.  my point is that this fact is so patently obvious that it shouldn't need saying.  yet Adnews says it.  fifty times.

the upshot of all this is that whilst I don't have issues with any of the individuals on the list, I do have a lot of issues with the list.  the advertising, media and marketing industry has never seen the pace of change we are currently witnessing.  the opportunity of creating a list of this type is not the reinforce the past but point the direction to the future.

the opportunity was to invest in a supplement that gave all of us who work in this industry an indication on where the thinking, innovation and evolution of the communications industry in Australia is happening.  in doing so, the opportunity was for a trade title to help set and shape the agenda for our industry.  it is an opportunity very much missed.

advertising, cinema, content creating, engaging, marketing, praising, social media-ising

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Expendables vs. Eat Pray Love vs. The World: lessons from Hollywood on content, sociability and adding value

it has been many moons since Mediation bemoaned Michael Bay's tirade against Paramount's marketing for the dire Transformers 2.  you can relive the magic of those crazy days here, but the point of the post was that advertising can't turn a bad product into a good one…

we all have instant access to what the world knows.  we can research, reveal and review products and services in a second.  no one takes a punt on anything anymore – why would you when everything has been reviewed and rated by the crowd…  we don't rely on the promise of a glitzed up poster any more.

I made the point that some of the best marketing stories emerge when communications are a natural extension of product.  and that no one knows this better than movies…  Transmedia storytelling via the The Matrix, Cloverfield's Mystery Box marketing, The Dark Knight's Vote Harvey Dent ARG to name a few.

the last few weeks have continued the theme of the best of marketing initiatives emerging from Hollywood.  the above is for Universal's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, an adaptation of the comic book series.  the whole marketing effort is pretty much text book.  there's an incredibly immersive iTrailer (you can put an i in front of anything these days) above, leading to an awesome website which – via its socialrama – is social to the extreme and which actively encourages remixing of the marketing material to propagate content and word of mouth.

Scott_pilgrim_1 the Scott Pilgrim movie website, or is it a comic book?  or a mash-up of both?

Scott_pilgrim_2 the socialness of Scott… a plethora of ways to share and engage across you nearest available social network

other recent marketing efforts have continued the innovative theme…  this glorious 'Call To Arms' trailer for The Expendables directly takes on the competition that is Julia Roberts' Eat, Pray, Love …

the trailer observes that the likes of Twilight, Sex and the City and now Eat, Pray, Love, are taking over the cinema, and that this is men's last collective chance to take cinema back.  it makes the delightfully honest observation that the place to see The Expendables isn't "off your torrents but in a f***ing theatre (where violence belongs) …if this loses to Eat, Pray, Love you don't deserve to be a man" – in the spirit of the movie, no punches pulled then.

The Expendables also brings us a genius innovative use of YouTube, following in the giant footsteps of Wario's Shake It and Cadbury's Round YouTube videos.

Hollywood seem to be learning fast.  illegal file sharing and the rise of better-than-cinema home entertainment (where you can enjoy movies sans other people talking and on a sofa) continue to threaten box-office revenues.  Hollywood need to innovate to keep people in cinemas.

but there's a further interesting angle on all of the above examples of Hollywood entertainment… in that they all start to slash the required marketing budget.  they all take advantage of the studios' owned and – predominantly via activation in social networks – earned media.

it's not unusual for a $150m movie to have a marketing budget of $100m+ … anything that the studios take off their marketing budget goes straight back to the bottom line.  movies also have the double advantage of being content rich and very topical, there's a new and shininess which adds to their social appeal.

movie marketing is increasingly getting that marketing isn't about ensuring that as many of the target audience as possible are aware of a movie, rather its about creating value for enough of the right people and encouraging them to propagate your message.  the implicit promise… that the product you buy will live up to the marketing, is made explicit by marketing that adds value to a movie's audience before they've ever entered the cinema.

slash your marketing budget via content and sociability that adds value to potential customers.  sounds so easy that anyone could do it right?  so why aren't you?

converging, debating, printing, selling

More bullish than a bull doing an impersonation of a Bull bullying a Bull: Mediation listens on as The Australian gets, well, bullish

The_australian_breakfast gathering at The Four Seasons for The Australian's inaugural breakfast series

dispatches for the Sydney media world … this week saw The Australian on, yes, bullish form at it's inaugural Media breakfast series.  many of Sydney's media agency kids gathered at The Four Seasons to hear Geoff Elliott chair a panel of Nick Leeder (Deputy CEO, The Australian), Malcolm Turnbull (Federal Member for Wentworth and former Leader of the Opposition), Andrew Murrell (GM Channel Market, Commonwealth bank of Australia) and Richard Eary (Head of Media and Telecommunications Research, UBS Equities) discuss convergence, iPads and a lot in between.

but it was Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM who kicked things off.  describing the context of the "rise of aggressive technological companies" that may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies".  I'll let you digest the 'potentially', 'quite' and 'professional' bits of that quote on your own time…

Freudenstein kicked off the bullish tone in fine form…  declaring that the organisation is "aiming for an increase in print circulation" and that it is "our intention to be the pre-eminent source of news at all times across all platforms" … "NewsCorp fully intends to be across all [emerging] platforms … it's cheap, current and constantly up to date"

but it was the Admiral himself who continued NewsCorp's bullish tone.  Rupert Murdoch addressed the room via a recorded video, and in comments reported this week in The Guardian, heaped praise on Steve Jobs and his iPad, of which Murdoch is so fond…  but the Admiral's battle charge began with comments aimed at recent adversary Google.  he noted that he had "ruffled some feathers" but that "the debate needed to be had" … and, in a delightfully provocative comment that "The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free" … lovely stuff

Murdoch described how "we are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet" … "people are willing to pay for high quality content, as long as we deliver it how and where they want it" (Murdoch missed out the last bit of that sentence: …and as long as that content is not available for free elsewhere)

and then to the panel debate, where NewsCorp's bullish tone continued unopposed by the rest of the panel.  it started OK, when Elliott asked Eary if newspapers were dead?  Eary replied that "its a good question" … cue nervous laughter from the NewsCorp crowd.  but it didn't last long – Eary went on to say that "there is some degree of optimism" and that "even if paywalls are put up there's a big audience to monetise" … "if you look at digital CPMs vs Press CPMs there's a big divide" – his point… that better targeting (behind paywalls) generate higher CPMs.  all very on message.

and how the message continued…  "You don't want to bet against yourself – we're not seeing circulation decline" … "we need to grow in both directions" … "be careful you don't import [from the US and UK] the narrative" … "the beauty of an app is that the technology goes away [the iPad is introducing] serendipity back into the browsing experience"

you were hard-pressed to find anything off what was clearly a very well constructed message to Sydney's media community.  that NewsCorp and The Australian are growing and on top of emerging platforms and technologies.  the only descension came from what I had considered to be the most unlikely of places…  Malcolm Turnbull seemed to be the only challenge on the platform, the only voice of question.

Turnbull pointed out the "devastating loss of value" that the internet had brought about in media organisations, and raised valid and critical questions about the rise of video and the effect of new technologies on news organsations.  his questions and concerns were simply brushed away, with Nick Leeder, deputy CEO of The Australian commenting that "people have to sift through the nonsense they see on Twitter" and that "YouTube is great for dogs with skate boards.

which all-in-all was a shame.  being bullish is good for business, it's good for shareholders and its good for negotiations and for bravado.  but it's not good for the important debate that needs to be had about the future of media and communications.  it's restrictive, limiting and adds nothing to the knowledge bank of media planners and clients picking their way through an evolving communications landscape.

NewsCorp can talk all they like about Twitter's "nonsense" and YouTube's "dogs with skateboards", the revolution is coming, whether they like it or not.  being Bullish will only get you so far.