so I’ve just returned from The Guardian Australia’s launch drinks, but before I call it a night I thought tonight’s happy event made it timely to throw some thoughts down about yesterdays shock report in Adnews that “The Caxtons’ famed jamboree to an exotic location will not happen this year. But the awards will. And next year the junket could be back.” … furthermore “Tasmania has been mooted.”
well phew. heaven forbid that in the midst of the biggest systemic shift in print advertising in several generations we miss the chance to junket it up somewhere exotic.
I should declare an interest; I was honoured and privileged to be asked to speak at last year’s Caxtons – on Hamilton Island, above – so last year I very much enjoyed the benefit of giving a presentation in Adnews’ mourned-for sunny climes.
I have to be honest though; I didn’t wholly enjoy my presentation. and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why.
the truth is that I wasn’t at my best … it wasn’t the most focused of talks, and that’s my bad. but I think it was also a lot to do with the room; a mix of mainly newspaper staffers, ad agency people, journalists and some flotsam and jetsam like me. you see sometimes when you present the room is with you, and if you’re like me that makes you better. but sometimes the room isn’t with you, and that makes some people stronger, but if you’re like me it makes nagging doubt creep in … perhaps I’m wrong? perhaps I’m a crazy person for even suggesting this!? and when your presentation to a bunch of creatives pivots around your (my) belief that “the worst thing that ever happened to advertising is adverts” you can see how that would affect your (my) performance.
I’ve gotten pretty good at reading rooms, and I think the reality is that whilst I wasn’t, by my full admission, at my best … a lot of people in the room just didn’t want to absorb the message: that the time had come to change.
my audience, perhaps quite rightly, wanted to get on with what the Caxtons are there to do: celebrate creativity in newspaper advertising. who the freak was I to turn up and rain on such a brilliantly orchestrated parade? people’s hearts and souls and time and effort had gone in to organising that celebration. people much better than me had created ingenious and awesome presentations to delight and entertain and stimulate.
the words of Maya Angelou echoed in my head that night and many nights since: “People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel” (source) … and I think that is why I failed that day on Hamilton Island – when the words and actions were long gone, I had made that room feel no better about the situation I believe press advertising is in. I hadn’t followed-though my dark night to deliver a dawn. I’d attempted, but it hadn’t landed.
so why the confession? well, yesterday’s Adnews report that – essentially – the party was over, filled me with nothing but sheer optimism. because the party is over, and that’s what I so desperately tried but failed to say last year. but the party being over makes it all the more important that the celebration continues. because what I experienced on that island, that energy and passion and creativity shouldn’t be lost because of some crazy perception that the Caxtons is a junket … what I witnessed was much more than that. the Caxtons isn’t living the vida loca in some exotic location, its an idea … an idea shared by some staggeringly creative and passionate people.
the Caxtons, like print advertising, must reinvent itself … and that is a conference (in the truest sense of the word) that has never been more urgent nor necessary. this is the Caxtons’ opportunity to fight for its own future, I believe that it’s more than up to the task.
so a couple of weeks ago was the 65th World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok (I know, me neither), the debate at which would have entirely passed me by had it not been for mediaweek.com.au’s handy reporting of the event which landed on my desk yesterday.
on page 9 I was very happy to see a write-up of the awesome Jeff Jarvis (above) who gave a talk at the congress entitled ‘New relationships, forms, & business models for news’. now mediation is quite the fan of the Jarvis and this is a subject Jeff knows more than a bit about – as well as working at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, he has an awesome blog at BuzzMachine which you should check out immediately … after reading this post.
what Jarvis tackled, with typical energy, was the idea that newspapers were not in the content business but rather the service industry. this must have come as a bit of an annoyance to publishers who had just gotten their head around the idea that they weren’t in the newspaper printing business but rather the content business. change, as the IPA 7th Social principal states, will truly never be this slow again.
Jarvis’ argument is simple:
“[being in the content business] leads us to say that our content has value and that people should pay for it. it leads to our structures of our news organisations and how they are made … content will be one of the things we will always do. but it is only one of the things … our primary job is to begin to look at news as a service … it changes the relationship we have with the public.”
he goes on to argue that this fundamentally moves the industry from a broadcast to one-to-one medium:
“this enables us to serve people as individuals instead of mass … online it is possible to serve people as individuals … I argue we should actually be in the relationship business. we should be about crating and managing and finding value in relationships with people.”
and furthermore, the relationships formed with the people newspapers reach aren’t passive:
“… many people will become our collaborators. our readers, most importantly, become our collaborators. other news organisations become our collaborators … this leads to a rule that I like to have for newspapers – do what you do best and link to the rest.”
its classic and wonderful Jarvis – clear, compelling and challenging. but its also advice that shouldn’t just apply to newspapers. reread the above but replace newspapers with brands … the themes of (1) thinking service and value not (just) content, (2) serving individuals not masses (3) collaborating with customers and, perhaps most importantly, (4) sticking to what you do best and linking to the rest … is valuable and timely advice for anyone working with and growing brands right now.
brands, like newspapers, are just getting their collective heads around the idea of content creation and distribution as a ongoing and necessary staple of their marketing efforts. whilst of course some (RedBull, GoPro etc) are miles ahead, too often we (and when I say we, I mean I) see brands tackle content from a broadcast mentality. this (1) makes it very expensive, (2) pushes timelines into years rather then months territory and (3) puts a lot of marketing collateral eggs into one basket.
… its a bit like brands approaching content the way a newspaper would approach investigative journalism. lots of effort with a high risk of little return should the story not be there or pan-out the way you thought. Jarvis argues for a much for future-facing and focused approach … one that involves thinking about what you don’t do as much as what you do. and one that demands that we think of people as interactive individuals not passively massive groups.
thanks Jeff … keep doing what you do … you rock.
also a big shout out to PHD’s (well OMG’s) Andreas Vogiatzakis who presented our very own 2016 at the same event. awesome stuff.
so this week PHDcast regulars myself and Stew were joined by PHD’s Director of Analytics Marcus Lewis and General Manager Martin Hadley to discuss all the reports, debates and dilemmas from Mumbrellaland – the annual Mumbrella360 conference.
I’ve written up my commentaries of days one and two already, which cover my takes on lots of the content. the PHDcast was about getting a bit deeper and debating some of the specific topics and issues from the event.
Marcus gets straight into (big, of course) data, sharing the opinion that whilst its great to see Mumbrella covering the issue, we perhaps need to work harder to get beyond the thinking and theory into practicalities and tangibles. the opinion was shared by Stew, who suggested that for the data session (and many others besides) there’s a sense of ‘I know this already’ … we need more follow through and ‘so now what?’
Stew also noted that for all the debate around content, data and relationships, there’s a gap between theory and practice: “I really hope that we don’t believe our rhetoric too much … there’s no follow through, no real understanding of taking those issues and making them tangible.” Martin agreed, suggesting that Mumbrella360 2014 would benefit from a greater proportion of workshop and masterclass sessions.
on the state of the media session about which I wrote about previously, Martin noted that “the big issue is a disconnectedness between clients, agencies and the media … the marketeer is the one who’s driving the relationship”. it comes down though to briefing and also (I noted) remuneration – citing Rob Dingwall “ideas may not be paid for but they are valued”. Stew added that collaboration is important, but this is something that also comes down to remuneration, with clients needing to be prepared to “pay for the time,the resource and the ability or us to do that.”
the debate also covers Channel Ten and the retreat to the relative safety of live event TV, multi-channel / screen storytelling, branded content (and Stew’s frustrations with the term), and integration, whatever that means any more.
there’s also a quick hello to Nic who is holidaying in Fiji and a shout outs to Vicki and Rob for their birthdays. you can listen to the PHDcast below … would love your comments and feedback either here or at PHD Australia’s Facebook page or via twitter. the PHDcast will be back next week with a TV special.
so big day two of Mumbrella360 kicked off with an awesome presentation from Twitter’s Head of Agency and Brand Advocacy Melissa Barnes.
essentially a ‘best of’ how brands are using the Twitter platform, Barnes more than delivered on her job title, as I suspect there were a great many more advocates for Twitter in the room at the end of her session than there were at the start.
I’ll save the content and examples up for a separate post, but its worth capturing here one of the key points that Barnes was making – that you have to approach and use Twitter differently, and with an understanding of what the platform offers and what its users expect.
she noted that she see’s lots of brands approach Twitter with a ‘display’ mentality, which just doesn’t work. the best examples on offer were cases where a brand had something to say, something entertaining and / or interesting to share, or, interesting, a crisis to manage. one fascinating chart in particular showed how a calm, human, humourous individual in chart of a mobile phone company’s Twitter account in the aftermath of a network outage was able to mitigate the anticipated ‘hate’ emotion you would typically see in sentiment analysis of an outage event.
… as an aside, huge thanks to Melissa who was generous enough to pop into PHD last Friday and share and discuss some of the examples with the agency … we loved the session, and I think someone may have actually swooned 😉
up next was the less swooney Hamish McLennan on turning around Network Ten
in a frank and fascinating discussion with the Burrowes, the boss of the struggling network discussed a strategy designed to focus on an older demo and live TV (as the latter is more easily and readily monetised) … saying that what the channel most wants to be known for is ‘the home of great event TV’.
he was frank that Ten was hurt by the advent of digital channels, and should have launched ist digital channel (11) earlier than in did, and arguably before launching One. the strategy is designed to get a fair(er) share of FTA’s $2.8bn by getting a fair(er) share of an aging demographic.
this would seem to represent nothing short of a full-scale retreat from a younger audience who, in McLennan’s own words “aren’t engaging with TV as much”. the network is looking to beat Seven and Nine by joining them in a fight for an older and more easily monetised audience. the strategy is to back off from digital channels, let alone digital platforms – which are (I suppose not wrongly) seen as the place for programme marketing more than anything else.
PHD Chief Exec Mark Coad asked about the network’s digital strategy, given the NBN (national broadband network) roll-out, but not much was forthcoming. it took a second delegate to ask a similar question to elicit the response that McLennan saw post-NBN as a “big opportunity”, the citing of the example of creating subscription channels evidence that there’s more than a little NewsCorp left in this boy yet.
I jumped into a session on The Encore Score and after lunch joined the debate on the State of the Media.
Moderated by Darren Woolley, MD at TrinityP3 and Denise Shrivell, MD of MediaScope (on the right above), the panel consisted of (left to right) Lynda Pallone, marketing services and integration manager, Blackmores; Rob Dingwall, media & marketing operations manager, Kellogg’s Australia; Chris Mort, CEO, TMS Australia; Toby Hack, MD Australia, PHD Media (woop); Tony Kendall, director of sales, Bauer; and Zac Zavos, co-founder and managing director, Conversant Media.
this was the first of two plus ça change sessions, with the debate eventually getting to some of the elephants hovering in the back of the room.
On industry relations, TH said that “industry collaboration has improved” with ZZ adding that [media owners] “don’t get enough feedback from clients and campaigns”. CM was clear that “it’s a high pressured business … If you can’t do the job with the tools you have you need to step up” [or get out]. TH on people development noted that have “a choice … to invest in people or not.”
a debate on programmatic buying led to some predictable places, most notably concern from ZZ that automation leads to commoditisation of media (which it does, because much of the time media is a commodity). TH described the two emerging centres of gravity in agencies around creativity / innovation and automation / analytics – which RD slightly misinterpreted as an agency split, which admittedly at this stage would seem a rather drastic solution.
this session also saw the revelation that industry-wide plans for a move to electronic trading have been shelved. this was first debated at last year’s 360 conference, with a panel consisting of senior agency and media owner representatives debating the subject of automation.
whilst the panel wasn’t the most warmly received (media man unmasked commented that “When you put 9 of the most senior executives in our industry in front of a room full of people who look to them for inspiration and leadership and all you get is a school yard argument it doesn’t bode well”), the point was that something was being done.
this now doesn’t seem to be the case.
one suspects that the shelving was brought to you by the letters M F and A and the numbers 7, 9 and 10 … but I won’t pre-judge. I’ll do some digging and write up anything I land on.
anyhow, back to the state of the media session … where there were a many more questions than answers. so much so that I was moved to ask a question of my own – specifically after this debate is over what happens next? who’s responsibility is it to drive the necessary change?
Darren Woolley reiterated his Golden Rule … that “the man with the gold makes the rules” … and what is the rule made by those with the gold? in a refreshingly honest comment Kellogg’s Rob Dingwall illuminated us with the admission that “ideas may not be paid for but they are valued – if you are valuable you will see money coming.”
and this is essentially the muddle we are now in … media is commoditising but clients won’t (generally) pay for the skill of planning and innovating with media. it’s seen as added value. but there’s less and less value because client procurement teams are driving down margins, so agencies seek additional revenue streams which leads to accusations of lack of transparency. and on we go.
in perhaps the most disheartening comment of the session, Blackmore’s Lynda Pallone actually said “see you all next year for the same conversation” …
… I really rather hope not.
to lift one’s spirits and to finish I’ll share some of the awesomness that is some of the great work coming out of Asia at the moment. in a session entitled ‘Unleashing the Tiger’, Peter Wilson, the retail planning director at Cheil Australia, discussed how “there is a massive step-change taking place in our industry … a new trend, where agency groups based in non-traditional markets lead the new paradigm, led by technology rather than traditional advertising.”
Wilson described the idea of Tu Hon, I’ll let the video do the talking …
Wilson suggested that central to Asia’s current creative success is down to tapping into emotion, and shared three examples. the first genuinely moved me, the second one actually elicited a tear, and the third one made me very jealous that I didn’t come up with it when I was working on a similar project a few years back:
SAMSUNG CAMERA video coming soon 😉
all brilliant examples of how, in Wilson’s words, “a happy marriage between creativity and technology are becoming the norm” … lovely stuff.
another year and another gathering at Mumbrellaland (I still think they should call it that) for the annual 360 conference. I’ll sum up later but for now just capturing the notes and the content from the sessions I jumped into during day one.
up first was Simon McDowell of Coles, them of the down down, Status Quo, Dawn Frenchness and now biggest-boyband-in-the-world-ness.
Simon McDowell at Mumbrella 360, picture source: Mumbrella
McDowell discussed the approach to marketing at Coles, describing it as “a bit of a creative hot spot, a melting pot … we’ve got a thousand ideas a day and we’re going at this hard.” by this he means making life better for Aussie Families, a picked this up because he mentioned the phrase ‘Aussie Families’ about forty three times, that’s almost one a minute. this seems to mean (1) bringing prices down and (2) making ads for them, and not adland.
he repeated asked us not to “be fooled by the sizzle on the sausage … we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in bringing prices down … It’s a fundamental part of what we’re about … But how do people know you’ve done it when sales [messages] are everywhere? … Is all just blah … Were really trying to be unique.”
Tom Donald asked about the negative response in the industry to some of the Coles ads. “Do I care what adland thinks? Not a bit. The Coles business is in a turnaround, we have more customers spending more money [with us] than ever before. Were trying to build the most famous and compelling brand in Australia.” (and, wait for it) “… we’re trying to create something that resonates with Aussie families”. cue One Direction …
on the more serious matter of supplier pressure, McDowell was firm but clearly less comfortable. asked if Coles was doing the right thing by farmers, he replied that “[all the] discounts are funded by Coles, the more milk we sell the better off farmers are. Prices are too high in Australia, we have to take care of Aussie families … at the end I’d the day we have to look after Aussie families where the cost of living is going up … we want to sell more. it’s a serious business looking after Aussie families and that’s what we’re about.”
just in case you’re not clear, its about Aussie families.
next up was Group M’s John Steedman in discussion with Nine’s CEO David Gyngell
its been a big year for the network, and the discussion covered a range of subjects …
on positioning Nine and investment in drama: “You have to stand for something. your audience has to know what you stand for … we’ll keep investing in Australian drama, [it] delivers against an audience that will watch linear TV for a long time to come”
that investment is based on an optimism about the future, saying that we are “heading into a purple patch for Australian drama – expect production to double.”
on the evolution of media, and the sale of the magazine business to Bauer, Gyngell was clear, saying that newspapers and magazines “won’t be as profitable as they were. quality magazines won’t go anywhere. the magazine business will be smaller and more nimble. newspapers will go online – less profitable but just as relevant. the fin review may lose $10m a year but you couldn’t buy it for $100m because its relevant.”
as far as digitisation of Nine goes, when asked when will Nine become a digital first company, he answered when you can make more on digital than we can at the moment. “we’re still nimble enough to be able to move when we want to. we’re not a digital company, we’re a marketing and content creation and distribution company.”
on advice for Seven and Ten: “Tim knows what he’s doing, and has Stokes around him. Seven won’t break because Tim won’t let it. Hamish is an accomplished marketer. if he gets a good programme he’ll know what to do with it. they need to get lucky … keep your head down and pray for some luck.”
its fair to say that Steady gave him a pretty easy ride as interviews go … it was left to a delegate to bring up Tom Waterhouse and the recent over-stepping the mark on programme integration and live odds. to which he commented that Nine, and broadcasters per se, have “a moral compass to provide to the country, but we’re not in the businesses of telling people what they can and can’t do. Tom Waterhouse was a lightning rod. we have a government that reacts quickly to any negative press. his competitors had a go – when the mafia start saying how bad the triads are you know what’s going on. we pushed it too far – we know that. did we overstep the mark? perhaps at the start when Tom was with the commentators. we’ve pulled back from that now and its the right balance.”
after that went to a cracking session with Rob Pyne of X or Y Decisions, about why businesses, and marketing teams in particular, make bad decisions. great insights and advice based on understanding and mitigating biases we inherently have when we’re making decision.
then Coady and I presented to a judging panel for Network Agency of the Year (which we won – yey!) … after which I jumped into Tom Donald‘s brilliantly fun session on fads – of which I hope there will be a future download / follow-up. and that (PHD’s session on gamification and evening drinks aside) was day one. here’s a pic of the guys collecting that Network of the Year award. whoo hoo.
so I had the pleasure of spending a torrentially rainy morning last Saturday in the pleasure of Mark Pollard and a bunch of people interested in strategy. no, really. we learned through Priscilla (thanks Priscilla) that Pollard, of this Parish but soon to move to New York, was planning 'an analogue workout for the mind' called Straterday for anyone who was interested. and so it was that Priscilla, Lauren, Mimi and I joined a host of other plannery media marketing creative types for a morning of stimulation and exercise, all curated by Pollard and friends.
before I type another word I wanted to extend my gratitude to Mark who organised, planned, curated and delivered the session. you can find Mark via his blog or profile or linked in or twitter or facebook – he is as generous with his energy, ideas, time and content as he is with his online footprint.
I couldn't wouldn't and shouldn't write here a digest of the session. instead I wanted to capture some of the clarity and inspiration it gave me. this post is titled 'basics are brilliant' not because Straterday was basic … far from it. rather it's because as our industry fragments and diversifies and converges and competes and commoditises the ever-diminishing precious asset that is attention, it's all too easy to forget the basics.
the brilliant basics. the skills and considerations upon which our thinking and work is based. the foundation of our craft. that fact that so many of us don't see it as a craft is a debate for another day. the truth is basics are brilliant. but there's a danger that we forget to exercise them. there's a danger that we get lazy. that we forget just how energising curiosity, observation and innovation are. Straterday existed to remind us of this. and it succeeded.
for example …
who mind-maps once a week?
…was one question Mark put to us. I don't. but perhaps I should. we were challenged to see, identify and understand – through mind mapping – the nuances in the stuff we're presented with every day. I hope Mark doesn't mind me sharing this exercise here, as much as a hope that I find time to do this exercise (perhaps even on these pages) every week.
write down 20 things in a picture similar to the one above. them mind map them… then take any ten of the words you've mapped and list them. then next to each those words write words that you associate with them. make leaps. don't be obvious … this is not Wack-a-Day.
this, as Mark pointed out, is alpha zoning, and you can train this. by doing the above you keep your associative muscles fighting fit. you keep you eyes trained to spot the detail that will prove pivotal. you're ready for the insights that you may otherwise miss. and you can get going on the 99% of perspiration that you'll need for every 1% of inspiration you allow yourself to generate.
so this is a little bit exciting. the above is me chatting to Tim Burrowes of Mumbrella about a project for the Mumbrella360 conference in June. it came about as a result of conversations over the course of last year with lovely and amazing Rob and Uma about how everyone knows that what we do is getting tougher and more compromised but we just seem to be able to act collectively on what to do about it.
so hopefully we can change that… you can read the full write up of what the ambitions are via the article on Mumbrella, but I wanted to capture why it’s so important to me here … because I genuinely love this industry. I genuinely love what great connections planning thinking can do for brands and businesses. I love the creativity, and the embracing of technology, and the social observation, and the meeting of art of science. and I love the people, who give a damn beyond reason about what they do and how they do it.
but in ten years of doing this I worry that I’ve watched a world change faster then we have. I fear that I’ve seen the commoditisation not only of what we plan, but of how we plan it. I’ve watched as brands cling to a belief in the ‘tried and tested’ way of doing things as it crumbles around them. and I’ve listened to a thousand people ask questions about the future without offering a solution for the present.
that’s why I’m asking us to create this manifesto. a manifesto for change. one that we all agree on. one that we can signal to everyone who works in our industry. one that we can signal to clients. one that frames the conversations between agencies and media owners. a manifesto that galvanises our industry, defends our margins and energises our people.
I hope that I’m not alone. I hope that there are enough people who give enough of a damn about what we do to work with me over the next eleven weeks to galvanise us into action… because the commoditisation, marginalisation, and lack of automation and cooperation won’t change unless we want them to. our present, let alone our future, is in our own hands…
Josh Spear is "from the internet". no really, he is. he put everything owned in the Internet and now has much of his possessions stored in the cloud.
his website, JoshSpear.com emerged in 2004 from the back of a Journalism 1001 class in which he was disappointed with the way academics ignored blogs as an emerging media. Josh describes his home as "a daily source of inspiration for marketers, brand managers, advertising executives, and a wide range of everyday people from around the world who love to stay ahead of the curve"…
which I guess more than qualifies Josh to be talking to us at Circus. his theme was 'the Fringes of the Internet', and the way the internet is affecting people and businesses.
he described how shortly after starting his blog he was approached by businesses who wanted to put ads on his site, this turned out to be a fine way to made money, and led to a conversation with advertisers about how effective the ads on his site were. very effective it turns out … they were seeing click-through rates of 2%…
two percent? asked Josh. yes, they replied. that's a 98% failure rate, said Josh. yes they replied, impressive isn't it!
Josh guessed then that the internet would have a major impact on businesses, and co-founded Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm that applies "a digital worldview to the challenges and ambitions of complex organizations"
"It's about the human behaviour we're going to talk about not the specific websites"
4chan is bad place on Internet but it's also important. it's anonymous. people respond to photos with photos. [it's a bit like the Abyssal plain of the internet; a deep, unexplored region rich in biodiversity that influences the rest of the ocean in ways that we're only just understanding] … it's where 'I can haz cheezburger?' began … the LOL-CAT meme. a meme which now results in tens of thousands of cats created every day. like this one:
Rick Rolling began on 4chan. in fact "anything funny that's unexplainable starts on 4chan". to the extent that a Time Magazine poll ranked Moot (4chan's creator) as the web's most influential person. only later was it noticed that the first letters of the ranked online poll spelt out a phrase. an incredibly sophisticated and advanced work of electoral engineering / hacking.
Time Magazine's 2009 online poll results. the first letters of the top 21 names spell out "marblecake also the game". marblecake is the name of the IRC channel where Anonymous started their campaign against Scientology, and "the game" is a reference to "The Game" meme source: Wikipedia
the rabbit-hole, it would seem, goes very deep indeed. "4chan is 'the bottom billion' pageviews on the Internet". Spear points out that two things consistently happen to Moot (who is called Charles) (1) he is forced to dump 4chan's data every 12 hours due to hard drive space and (2) every week he is served a subpoena for the information he holds (before it's dumped).
[this is all pretty mind-boggling I'd have thought for the average brand marketing manager, and you can see how they would be queuing up for the elvish Spear to safely have them gaze down the rabbit hole without falling down.] things used to be simple. then there was digital. which disrupted. everything. this is such a familiar phrase that it's beyond cliche, but Spear asks a very interesting question:
"is there a unit of disruption?' … and how do you stay on top of the disruption? which happens all around you all of the time and increasingly finds ways to impact on your sensory sphere. much as this blog discussed in a January 2010 post, Spear describes Tweetdeck as one way to control the disruption. he has "become an air traffic controller of my disruption"
we are our social graph. we're made up of our disruptions [connections], a point made wonderfully and elegantly with this map of the world, a map formed by nothing but the connections on Facebook.
What happens to a generation of people growing up in the world as drawn by this map and 4chan? a world populated by cat memes and Rick Rolling? a world in which gifts are given virtually. Spear pointed out that thousands of dollars are spent on things that don't exist. virtual economies are springing up everywhere. Farmville makes $50m a month. when Bear Stearns collapsed, a friend of his at Facebook didn't contemplate the collapse of the further banks but rather was promted to think that Facebook should start a bank.
Virtual economies are being used by brands – for example the number of tweets Uniqlo products received affected their price – a fascinating dance between buzz and value.
Radiohead invited people to pay what they thought their album was worth, an invitation that made more money than all other record sales combined. People's idea of money is changing.
the same goes for people's idea of location… take Foursquare, which introduced game mechanics in the form of mayors and badges. Foursquare also allowed tips to by left inside the check-ins, inside the game. tips linked to location so that they're readily available to those who enter the space. Foursquare allows reviewing in realtime on a geographical basis… Spears asked why people share all this information, and showed a slide outlining three reasons why we share adapted from MIT research and Henry Jenkins:
Strengthen my bond – you are what you share in your social graph
Define collective identity – you are based on the five people you spend most time with
Give me status
Viral = a bad thing, something you catch
Spears notes that 'pass-along' is made not of viral, it's made of people sharing something with more than one of their friends, and so on. reaching people is about tapping into cultural resonance. to test this, Spear's office put an image of a funny(ish) joke about Tiger Woods on the web. the pic got 30,000 views in first 48 hours, created a 'microblip' of cultural resonance … a map of interest, which could then be observed. so how, in Spear's opinion do you create cultural resonance?
group of people + unique culture = amplify to affect society
it's about tapping into a shared interest online because you can't rely on time and space, as shared interests are a way of creating cultural resonance. connect your brand to this. or don't. these interests are being shared whether brands get involved or not.
but be careful brands – angels fear to tread where P Diddy TV trod with Burger King. the video has long been removed, but fortunately for us Lisa Nova's spoof lives to remind us how it want down (nb Nova is now working in TV comedy – she got noticed because she understood the rules of the internet)
in Spear's opinion the fringe of the internet has a novelty scale:
the fringe's novelty scale, as presented by Spears
Spears says that agencies who want to use things like crowd sourcing or 'the fringe' to do their work need to either be the lowest cost option, or the best. if you're neither, you're stuck in the middle, and the middle is not a great place to be.
Spears asks what is the Internet good for? advertisers and agencies may answer that it's good for awareness [incremental] and persuasion. but Spear observes that this is not what the Internet is meant for. the internet is meant for sharing, cooperating and collective action. the latter of which is, in Spear's words, "the holy Grail of humans using technology"… at the fringe are the beginnings of these kinds of great examples…
the Copenhagen wheel collects data from your bike. one person doesn't generate enough data to paint a picture of a city, but eveyone's data does … and allows the aggregation and interrogation of usable data to generate insight and utility.
Ushahidi encouraged free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and in the aftermath of Haiti and Christchurch interactive maps directed resources in realtime to where help was most needed. the US state dept now relies on this kind of information to coordinate relief efforts. crowd sourcing is used to collect and sort data. organisations no longer ask for money but for a little bit of time and effort. Alive in Egypt transcribes voice messages into tweets, allowing people to deploy messages and information even when access to the internet is being blocked.
So what has 4chan guy got to do with the fringe?! well what if all the people sending cats around every day gathered intelligence instead? they already have, it's called WikiLeaks, and "we can't yet imagine how this will affect the world"
Some challenges for brands:
how do you change from interrupting people into adding utility for people?
How can brand engage with born digital consumers in their language?
If you take a brand into the universe of the internet, ask yourself if you are following the rules of that universe?
Are you surrounding yourself with enough people that speak digital?
the contents of this post [unless in square parenthesis] is the content of a talk given by @JoshSpear at Sydney's Circus in February of 2011, thanks to Josh for his input in writing this post
the second session of the first day of this week's Festival of Commercial Creativity, Circus, saw Marvin Chow, the Marketing Director for Google across Asia Pacific and Erik Vervroegen of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco take us through two very different kinds of creative process…
first up, Marvin Chow, who talked about the marketing of Chrome, and about what happens when creativity meets technology…
declaration of interest – Google are a client of PHD Australia, where I spend a lot of my time
Chow started by making a few points about Google:
one, Google is an engineering company. engineering is part of the culture. Google people like to solve big problems, he cited that driver-less car came from an engineer asking how Google can stop people dying on the roads
Ideas can come from anywhere, for example the search-able maps that helped coordinate the Queensland floods response was conceived and developed by a Sydney engineer who wanted to help
the role of marketing at Google is to bring technology to people. often this is about filling the existing Google pipeline with content, for example the Life In A Day project, an idea that came from Tim Partridge in London. The Life in a day video … which was created from a bank of 80,000 clips has now been seen by 13m people on YouTube and will have a cinema release later in the year
finally it's about bringing a culture of engineering to marketing. engineers are interested in the responses of real people to the real world. there's no substitute to what real people do in real situations. Google test 6,000 marketing ideas a year. they fail regularly, they fail fast, they fail well – test and iterate people, test an iterate…
given that context, what follows is "the story of how one product can change the world" … the story of Chrome.
we know, I suspect, one side of the Chrome story, but the other side is just how challenging it's been for Google to gain market share and gain penetration in a market with a significant, dominant and entrenched player.
the first question was why bother? why invent another browser? when Google asked people about browsers, they found that people found browsers indistinguishable from search…
the suggestion is that people see browsing = searching… Chow made the point that "browsers are a lot like Tyres – we know they are important but we don't care or think about them every day"
the last time a browser launched [excluding Firefox presumably] was in 1995. Google's ambition was to bring speed, stability and security to browsing. but how to evolve the browser proposition? … it's been a long time since 1995 and people do lots more than browsing with their browsers, it's no longer a passive experience; browsers are TVs now (35 hours a video a minute currently being uploaded), they are phones and communication devices (100bn emails and texts are sent daily). this was the new context for the browser and for Google – and how Chrome should drive the web experience forward.
the marketing of Chrome actually began with a comic book, which was distributed in december 2008 to innovators influencers in the web space.
Chrome's comic book, distributed in 2008, was drawn by Scott McCloud and can be viewed, courtesy of Creative Commons, in full here
post the comic book Google looked to deliver more scale, and so developed ideas around platform of 'why switch?' … exploring Chrome's value proposition and product benefits. they experimented and tested different benefits, for example this effort around 'simple'…
made by a small team in japan, this was broadcast in the US and became Google's first broadcast ad. but here's the trick, Google didn't just test 'simple' – they tested a whole range of value propositions and product benefits. and tested them not in focus groups but in the real world. how did they measure success? which ones led to the most Chrome downloads … real people in the real world remember…
'fast' (rather than 'simple') worked best, and so fast became worldwide creative brief, which eventually led to this…
"The idea of showing Chrome and speed in a different way excited us" noted Chow … the next iteration of comms was Chrome Fast Ball, which invited browsers to browse the web as fast as you think in a race across the Internet…
the coolest thing – and very Googley – is that these ideas are being crowdsourced from everywhere … ideas like this one which has since adopted another classic Google behaviour – users being able to generate their own versions of the ad.
two and a half years on from launch and 100m people around the world use chrome. Google seem to be happy, although as the below chart from Wikipedia shows, there's quite a long way to go for Chrome yet.
one of the most innovative areas of crowd-sourced comms for Chrome is Chromexperiments.com … I'm not going to lie, I don't actually know what these are – the website says that "Chrome Experiments is a showcase for creative web experiments, the vast majority of which are built with the latest open technologies, including HTML5, Canvas, SVG, and WebGL. All of them were made and submitted by talented artists and programmers from around the world" … I'm not sure that I'm any the wiser :o(
one example of which is Arcade Fire's The Wilderness Downtown – saw this a good while back but didn't connect at the time that this was a Google idea.
Chow's two key messages … that ideas can come from anywhere, and that it's crucial to experiment and iterate. he stressed the importance of understanding the problem that you're trying to solve, and whilst I'm not entirely that sure his solution – hire an engineer to fix it – is feasible for everyone, the last of his comments is true for all of us … that "you have to resist the voice inside you that says only you knows the answer" let go of the problem and let the answer come to you…
up next in session two was Erik Vervroegen, who as the recipient of seventy Cannes Lions, is a very creative person indeed. his thesis was that life in agencies is hard :o( … but don't feel too sorry for the ad agency kids just yet, because it turns out that the result of constrained conditions often produces the best work … the more problems you have the more creative you have to be…
problem one: no money (but free media to use and a super-tight production budget)…
…which was a problem faced by Amnesty International. the answer for whom was to make this…
of this spot for the Nissan QashQai, where Vervrogen's agency came up with creating an entire fake sport…
McDonald's had no money and no time to combat a recycling message so recycled ads to create new posters…
it's so beautifully obvious in retrospect, but it takes someone to imagine such an elegant solution in the first place. take these examples for Amora Hot Ketchup, the shoestring budget necessitated a shoestring production, which the creative embraces and uses to its advantage…
some of Vervroegen's most creative work is for AIDS prevention charity AIDES who's brief was "nobody knows us and we can't advertise but we want to be the biggest provider of Aids prevention in Europe' … the solution: target the advertising industry with the magic word 'awards'
if you want proof as to whether or not the strategy has worked I urge you to Google image search AIDES, but here are some of the highlights…
stunning, brilliant work for a client with no money but a lot of balls.
problem two: the impossible brief
Vervroegen quoted the following actual brief from an actual real life client (I'm paraphrasing) "we would like exactly the same ad as last time only this time we want it to work" … you couldn't make it up. another example was the bread client who said that they wanted to show an entire breakfast table and demonstrate that their bread was the softest. the solution:
Nissan QashQai asked Vervroegen to come up with an ad that showed the car in the urban environment and which showcased every angle of the car. every angle. every. angle. they actually said "think of it as a 45 sec 360 degree pack shot" … cue this beautifully elegant solution in which a 45 sec 360 pack shot has never looked so good…
Amnesty International want to show the power of a petition. specifically in the background they wanted to show the harshness of torture and execution … without violence. this poses a bit of a problem, as it's hard to show torture and execution without violence…
problem three: Burnt out creatives
…who feel sorry for themselves and are producing tired work. the solution, observes Vervroegen, is to continue to push the idea. and push and push as far as it will go… for example a brief to show how Mir washing powder 'keeps black strong' let to the obvious place of clothes with budging muscles, which was able to be pushed to these fellas…
another example of pushing a bad idea until it becomes a good one was for a brief for Playstation to show rebirth, the idea for which was this tired (his words not mine) approach…
which was pushed to it's limit and resulted in this…
…an effort which secured one of Vervroegen's seventy Cannes Lion in the print category. the last example, again for Playstation was around a brief to show the excitement of the Playstation gaming experience and equate it to sexual arousal. here's the obvious sketch…
and here's the pushed execution…
that was it for session two. I'll aim to get session three written up tomorrow…
yesterday saw the first day of Sydney's first Circus – a festival of commercial creativity for the advertising, media and communications industries. and a rather cracking event it was too. a series of speakers took us through what creativity was to them, how it was under threat, how it is thriving and how a changing world places ever incresing demands on those to work to use creativity to commercial ends.
despite starting rather dubiously – we were invited not to tweet, and to only ask questions if we thought that they'd be relevant for everyone (not the most encouraging of starts for a festival aiming to – in part – explore an evolving communications landscape) – it turned out to be a rather inspirational day…
this was how the first session of day one went down…
first up was Jeffrey Cole who eleven years ago founded the Centre for Digital Future at USC. his talk was on surveying the digital future – and in particular the impact of the Internet on our behaviours.
he introduced himself as a TV guy, and observed that we 'blew' TV – in that we knew it was going to be a mass medium, but didn't track audiences to see how it was changing their lives. important questions like where did the time to watch TV come from? what did it displace? …went unanswered.
emerging media are way more powerful than TV. in 1988 for the first time kids were watching less TV in the US, the result of the rise of computers and the web. where Cole believes that we lost the opportunity on TV, we can make up for it with online, and eleven years ago set up a research programme to track a panel over time as the internet changes their life…
key findings from the research are around teenage behaviour and in internet, but crucially, Cole seeks to make a key distinction between those behaviours and attitudes that teens do and have because they are young and have time, and those behaviours and attitudes which are permanent. what will drop off as life gets in the way? versus what do they do that is 'transformational' with regard to the society that they will grow up to form.
he observed that college students setting up home for first the time are particularly instructive. no landline and no newspapers for them. but also no cable (90% penetration in US so this is a significant trend). Cole believes that whilst we're not looking at the end of cable, we are looking at the end of the cable pricing structure as it stands.
things that teenagers abandon…
teenagers say they're not affcted by advertising. which isn't true. like all of us they are they just don't like to admit it
they believe that unknown peers are 'just like me' and can be trusted – similarly this comes to change over time as they learn the world isn't always what it seems
teenagers don't use email and claim to only need IM, texts and facebook (they go further and say that voice calling is 'an intrusion' – similarly this is an attitude that fades into adulthood
they want to know all the details of their peers' lifes in what they describe as 'ambient awareness' (a phrase strikingly similar to the continuous partial presence that Faris described in May 2007); Cole observed that Twitter works because of this … ambient awareness is a general understanding of someone's situation, and a reflection that teens want not fifteen minutes but fifteen megabytes of fame
we're not initially good at distinguishing truth from fiction. Cole argues that this is because we didn't have to question the mass media we grew up with (the Chinese for example are better at critical media assesment) …we are better at understanding amateur vs proffesional, which Cole suggested was due to beter understanding the limitations and boundaries of ugc
he talked about Murdoch and MySpace, and reflected that at the time of the NewsCorp purchase he commented that "it's a great investment but he'll never hang onto the teenage users" … an angry NewsCorp rebutted by saying "look how much money we're making" but Cole by that time already had the hindsight to see Friendster and Geocities go. to teenagers, he said, "social networks are like nightclubs", despite this, Facebook is going nowhere (yet), a fact underlined by his observation that at their last Zeitgeist, Google seemed nervous (they have no place nor role in Facebook's world)
finally, teenagers have no sense of the nature of and need for privacy. for good reason the law says you can't sign contract till 18. whilst this attitude means that kids upload potentially very compromising things to the internet, this is not a lifelong attitude, and with maturity comes a sense of what is public and what is private
which brings us to the things teenagers keep, and with them significant implications for society, brands and advertising…
teenagers have, and keep into adulthood a total control over their media. Cole cited the 17yo who first unlocked his iPhone; he didn't want to unlock it for anything in particular, he unlocked it so that he knew that he could
a huge implication for the media industry is that permanent changes in attitude mean we're seeing the beginning of the end of platforms … Newspapers, in Cole's opinion, are history. environmental reasons is one reason for teens, but furtermore the concept of owning media is in it's last days as we move to the cloud. on newspapers, teenagers not using print is a permanent shift. they are very much into news, but the internet delivers this. Cole's prediction is a stark one – because every time a print reader dies they are not being replaced, print has about 5 years in the states, and around 8-9 years in Australia (perhaps)
teenagers don't grow out of not wearing watches (the mobile is their watch and alarm clock and much else besides) – this is not a problem for Rolex, but will have consequences for more mainstream inexpensive watches
TV is not on a set top box and is not scheduled. YouTube is TV, and TV is any content you watch on your schedule
Game playing is serious business that ecourages task-oriented behaviour and is similarly a behaviour and attitude that is here to stay
"Mobile isn't everything – it's becoming every thing" – it's rapidly becoming the primary and predominant place where teenagers get media
on the iPad, Cole observes that it is NOT the fourth screen, rather it replaces the second screen (the pc), and that we're witnessing the beginning of the end of the PC as standard home device for many people
finally and most significantly, there is an emerging and permanent shift in the perception of real versus perceived empowerment. we are passive readers no more, we contribute and correct. we self-diagnose our illnesses. we negotiate on deals based on pre-research and start our negotiations based on wholesale prices … the "internet is best at shining light into dark places", giving everyone power over governments, over repression … this most important trend will emerge and very much in Cole's opinion stay with us.
will Facebook eventually be displaced? yes, but it will continue to grow for around four more years. it will be supplanted by another more fragmented social media landscape. Facebook won't be abandoned completely, but will become more passive – an ongoing reminder of the biggest social networking site there ever was or ever will be.
2% of people drop off the internet each year… they leave because they change jobs or their PCs break. with few exceptions their back within 14 months.
advertising will remain the model for content. Cole wants to see content survive, and so wants to see digital advertising survive.
I asked about permanent vs transitory media. there was suggestion that whilst the legacy media (BBC, NBC, NYT) were permanent, emerging media (notably social networks) aren't – they are transitory platforms that people adopt for a while before moving on. will Hulu – for example – be permanent or transitory? Cole's opinion is that all platforms will need to learn and adapt. Google will adapt. as will Hulu. legacy media brands – and indeed all media brands – will be defined by their ability to evolve.
next up Agnello Dias – creative director at Taproot, who talked to the festival about the remarkable story of advertising and comms work for The Times Of India, a story that began with a brief…
a brief to celebrate India's 60th year of independence. an argument broke out in the agency about whether India was on the verge or greatness or the cusp of the abyss. the client talked about the country being at a crossroads. was India to go forward or back? Dias scribbled a paragraph describing 'India vs India' as a creative brief, but as time ran out the client ran the brief as an ad. the brief. a dat later Dias was informed that the brief wouldn't be an ad after all … it was to be the front page editorial.
the front page became audiovisual content which became a YouTube viral.
which became a debate. a debate so emphatic that The Times Of India decided to call the debaters bluff…
the response to the video was a national platform that created a parralel decision making group, bypassing party politics and supported by politicians. facilitating democracy in a nation a billion people strong.
what has any of this to do with brand and selling newspapers? nothing. to the client it's not about that. it's about building credibility – something that has huge benefit for a paper… after all who is the prime minister going to call?
the latest phase was editorial that ran on the anniversary of Mumbai terrorist attacks. The Times Of India ran a headline saying love Pakistan – a controversial position that stimulated a great deal of opposition, even people in Dias' office didn't want to work on the campaign. but the objective was to start a debate that would lead to peace, rather than perpetuate an argument for war…
the jury, according to Dias, is out on whether or not they should have done it. they will see what results. whatever happens, it's a phenomenal story … a story of a media brand acting not as reporters or observers but as instigators of change. as provocateurs of debate. as writers of the future.
next up the enigmatic Jess Greenwood of Contagious fame who talked about projects not campaigns – and a shift away from the creation of advertising to the creation of projects with no specific timespan. less say and more do, behaviour rather than talk.
Greenwood also talked about how everything is advertsing and – in a phrase of which I was particularly fond – that we need to be "less 360 in our thinking and more 365" … nice. as an example she cited how after tweeting to complain about the music in the Air New Zealand lounge in LAX, her tweet was picked up by the airline in New Zealand who called the lounge front desk in LA who invited Greenwood to choose her own music. this all took less than 60 seconds. remarkable stuff.
so how do we change, well one we put insights before advertising. no more the Mad Men model of ideas leading executions, of working out how to execute ideas generated on gut feel. two, its about engagement over reach (allelulia) – citing one advertiser who said they would rather have 100 engaged people than 1,000,000 passive ones.
the Contagious mantra is that branded communications in the early 21st Century should be Useful and or Relevant and or Entertaining. a mantra she expounded across three main themes…
ONE – Inside Out Marketing
we need to stop mindlessly pushing marketing and product into the world and instead be the change we want to see. as example is Operation Nice, which seeks to encourage people to embrace an emering sense of independence by saying that 'if you want something doing…'
her next example was Dulux who want to own colour. rather than telling people that they want to own colour they behaved like they owned colour via an urban regeneration project. they asked people which areas deseved colour, then launched Let's Colour. they went to areas around the world and added colour, areas like Tower Hamlets. the brand managers and local communities did the painting, and produced some rather remarkable content…
their sucker punch is that Dulux 'own' colour, but communicate such in a very real and credible – or inside-out – way. Greenwood talked about a smart approach by Dulux to how this thinking is deployed on a global via local level; the global mandate was to find out what colour means to your country, and make it happen through actions and behaviours at a local level.
Greenwood talked about mass media as an "iterative process", citing the example of how VW and a tiny Darth Vader 'jacked' the superbowl. the ad was deliberately released prior to the broadcast to build buzz prior to seeing it on the Superbowl screen. it is TV (advertising) but TV not just designed for TV – it's wholeheartedly designed for theiInternet.
another example from Levi's and their Go Forth organising idea (note not campign). Levi's are using this idea to generate behaviour and action as opposed to making and broadcasting hyperbole. Levi's – amongst other things – built a community centre and funded the library in Braddock. they are building infrastructure. they've opened workshops to give substance to their claim that 'Levi's makes things by hand and makes things the right way'. this makes levi's meaningful.
Greenwood talked about four pillars of convergence in media and communications:
AV experience on screen (whatever and wherever that screen may be)
Interctivity of internet (facilitation two-way engagement, converstion, debate and cooperation and cocreation)
Location-based functionality and customisation of mobile phone
Real world experience
when developing insights and ideas we need to ask ourselves if said insight or idea can work in and across these four areas. if it can, then it could work… for example T-Mobile create advertising as programming. if you're doing mass media it has to be this engaging…
"it's designed not just for broadcasting but for sharing. they are creating mass media for the Internet, for niche media".
TWO – be Prolific not Precious
'Social media makes stories' – this, in Greenwood's opinion, is the evolution of user generated content … smart brands monitor and track the stories as they emerge around them – cue Gatorade Mission controlness.
another example is reformed drug addict Ted Williams, the story of whom was picked up by a journalist who learned he had a great voice for radio. he made a film about ted's life. which went from zero to 13m views in two days. this in turn ws picked up by Kraft who used the Ted in their ad. all of which is phenomenal enough, until you consider the timescale…
Monday – upload the video Tuesday – watch the views pile up Wednesday – Ted appears on TV with ad agency Friday – Ted's voiced ad is on air
using social media to tell stories garnered 450m media impressions for Kraft. and there are a plethora of examples where that came from… Qantas flew the girl with the twitter handle @theashes to Australia for the Ashes. all because said girl / handle got messages from people wanting the cricket score … a bit of support via #gettheashestotheashes and Qantas and Virgin were fighting it out to make it happen.
Hippo snacks example of using tweets as distribution management system and saw a 76% increase in sales.
and finally on proliferation, the South African low cost airline project (not campaign) around the World Cup in aid of being the 'unofficial national carrier' of the World Cup… the best thing about this campaign was something they hadn't planned for. the airline offered free flights to anyone called Sepp Blatter, so when a dog came forward to say that that was his name the airline flew the dog around the world.
THREE - Play and Gaming
the rise of play dynamics in marketing. Gamification. adding game dynamics into marketing but also product design. Greenwood used the example of Ford who have a virtual plant on the dashboard that grows if you drive in an environmentally friendly manner.
NBC do market research not via a focus group or survey but via fanit, an initiative that I discussed in a post in May of last year.
Skittles pitched David Phoenix versus Skittles fans.
Mini gaming in Stockholm example. Steal the car.
one interesting point from Greenwood, if you're going to develop or have a game or app, make sure that you have an end to it, a climax or endpoint to which people can aim.
and finally in gameification a wonderful project called iButterfly, which uses an app that captures virtual butterflies to get vouchers to people. smart, contemporary, embedded with utility and above all fun. as Contagious as it gets.
three final suggestions from Greenwood…
ensure that your communications are Useful and/or Relevant and/or Entertaining
make sure your idea is created, developed and deployed for real people not marketing people
Be brave and make mistakes
and that was session one, post is way big enough so I'll write up the other sessions in following posts…