broadcasting, radio, regulating

Crisis. What Crisis?: How media’s negotiation with it’s own future is compromising political debate, and its own seat at the table

featured image via SBS

on Thursday Howard Sattler, a radio presented on 6PR radio in Perth, asked the Prime Minister of Australia if her partner was gay. on Friday afternoon he was sacked by Fairfax. the question is not whether Sattler should have been sacked, rather it’s why Fairfax took almost 24 hours to do it.

the interview really does beggar belief. that the presenter of a radio station can think it appropriate to put to a serving prime minister that their partner ‘must be’ gay as he is a hairdresser, would be beyond conceivable had it not already happened.

the incident landed in the same week that reports and comments in both the UK and Australia Guardian that raise I think broader questions about the evolving role of the media in politics. in the UK an article by Steve Richards on the pessimism he is observing in politicians across the political spectrum prompted CiF contributor ratherbered to comment:

“… I blame the modern media and the way that this influences what people believe. The media more and more have a short term focus and simplistic dumbed down approach to presenting the issues we face. Small wonder that the politicians appear to be clueless when the questions they are asked change every hour and smart interviewers are constantly trying to trip them up and exploit a gaffe.”

ratherbered (source)

I rather think that ratherbered has a point. a commented on an Aussie article in the wake of the Sattler interview attributed the whole incident to the ‘death throes’ of the traditional media.

modern society has from very early on relied on the broadcast media to report the activities of our politicians, provide a forum for debate, and hold their actions to account. from the earliest print titles to today’s cable channels, media has danced a dance with politicians – frenemies that played with each other for mutual benefit, but always wary of their respective influence on each other.

it is in that context that the ‘traditional’ (I use that word with care) media is now conducting a whole new negotiation – a negotiation in which this blog aims to mediate. it is the negotiation for what their future looks like. that negotiation is tricky. it involves lower margins, more diverse revenue streams, less resource, the requirement for more content creation and an increasingly fraught battle for human attention.

the potential problem is that the last of these is measured and largely remunerated based on volume of people reached – viewers, readership, subscribers, pageviews … at that means that, with less human and financial resource, the traditional media are in an arms race for impacts.

I think you can see where I’m going.

at what point does the financial and business pressure for viewers / listeners / readers begin to compromise the forum in which our politics is debated? where is the line in sand that defines and describes the places we need for our politicians’ policies and actions to be discussed and assessed? what if there isn’t one.

the Sattler interview could represent one bad call. or it could represent a crisis in the level of available resource and therefore capability of a modern and transforming commercial media to credibly and reliably be the forum for our political representatives that we need.

I hope that its the former. I’m not sure there is, as yet, a plan B.

direct-marketing, legislating, regulating

Who you not gonna call?: Privacy, cold-calling, and the cost of being in business in the conversation age

Telemarketing_don't_call or else… pic source
battle lines are currently being drawn on Australian soil over proposed changes to the Do Not Call Register, a list to which people sign to prevent telemarketers calling them with cold calls.  the changes would add small businesses to the list, effectively barring any business – whether they're using third party telemarketers or not – from cold calling people to drum up business.

as you can imagine, some interested parties are challenging the move.  B&T reports that the Australian Association of National Advertisers last month urged the Government to reconsider its plans.  and this week sees the publication of research commissioned by News Ltd's online business directory, showing that the proposed broadening of privacy legislation will negatively impact some half a million businesses across Australia.  TrueLocal chief exec John Allan is concerned…

“We oppose it as we believe it is anti-competitive for Australia’s new and emerging businesses, as they will be unable to contact an estimated 30% of prospective customers to establish a new relationship … It will therefore favour big businesses and larger incumbents who have existing relationships and disadvantage smaller companies working hard to attract new business … Additionally, the majority of small businesses have said they simply do not have the resources to easily check their contact information against the Government’s Do Not Call list and the legislation would increase the operating cost for nearly 50% of small businesses.”

there's a few things going on here.  but putting short term protectionism aside, the fight highlights – if nothing else – the implications for businesses and brands as we evolve into a new comms paradigm.  the simple fact is that if Maureen who runs a flower shop in Surry Hills (who may or may not exist but I like to think that she might) picks up the phone book and starts calling some of the people in the vicinity she could be fined.  fined for calling someone up.  because Maureen hadn't kept a list of contacts nor had that list cleaned again the Do Not Call register.  I have some sympathy with Maureen, but not half as much sympathy as I do for Bob, and Charlotte, and Mike and Su and Dave and Pete and Geoff and hundreds of thousands of people like them who get calls they neither want or need from brands and businesses who feel they have the right to call them and sell them something.

if one thing is true it is this: that the box in the living room thru which we used to view the world is now the box of a search engine.  brands used to broadcast to everyone and hoped and expected that enough people responded.  now the deer have guns, and those same people at whom brands used to broadcast, can now access what they want – and only what they want – on their terms.  and in many ways that's what the brewing storm between Australian advertisers and the proposed government privacy legislation is all about.  telemarketing was born out of a broadcast age, and as that age wains so too will the lazy, inefficient and unwarranted presence of brands that start one-way conversations that the vast majority of people will never want to have.

contrary to what Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe, privacy is not dead, in many ways its more alive and more important than ever.  its just that privacy is no longer assumed, it has to be ensured – by both people and by brands.  just as people have to be aware of the levels of personal data and information they put out there, so too must brands and businesses now be aware of who wants to be cold called and who doesn't (it would seem by the way that 30% of Australians don't).  and like it or not that's just a cost of being in business now.

small businesses have more than a little hope to cling to however…  in fact its probably John Allan's very same "new and emerging businesses" that, far from being at a disadvantage to the big players and their telemarketing machines, will hold the advantage.  these little fish, these challengers, these service and people orientated businesses and brands will thrive in a post-broadcast age because they'll be forced to have something interesting to talk about so that people cold call them.  they will have to create noise.  and that too will be the cost but also the significant reward of being in business in an age where people, not businesses, start more valuable and fruitful conversations than were ever had at the end of a telemarketer's cold call.

product placing, regulating, television

2.2%: why it will take more than product placement to relieve the UK’s commercial broadcasters current woes

Channel4_news_product_placement Krishnan Guru-Murthy interviews Darryl Collins of SeeSaw media on last night's product-placement imagined Channel4 news

so six months after Andy Burnham ruled out the possibility the UK would seem to be on track for product placement after all.  the move – which would see independent broadcasters to take payments for displaying commercial products during shows (excluding news, kids TV and BBC) – will be announced by Ben Bradshaw next week.  shortly after the announcement all hell broke loose.

Metro reported Mediawatch-UK as suggesting that programmers had to be 'very careful' about which products were advertised, and Richard Lindley, of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (just both of them?) as saying: "we believe that product placement destroys the trust of viewers in the programmes they are watching".  if that were the case trust would have already been destroyed – programmes are already packed full of brands (they're a reflection of the real world), its just that now broadcasters and programme makers will be able to monetise the exposure they give to brands in doing so.

there was an interesting exchange between Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Darryl Collins of SeeSaw media on Channel4 news last night:

CGM: do you think that brands can be trusted with this kind of power?

DC: erm

CGM: you work with them.  you know how cynical they are…

DC: of course.  what they're looking for is the greatest ROI … so they're going to have a say in what's going on air, then if that helps generate extra revenue or sales … then yes they will want to get involved

perhaps I'm just the luckiest of planners, but not many if any of the brands that I work or have worked with are that cynical.  most are interested in having a genuine, effective and engaging encounter with the people they are wanting to reach, and if placing products in TV shows allows then to do that then all power to them.  it will be a foolish and ill-advised brand that goes in all guns blazing – pissing off programme makers, broadcasters and ultimately viewers in the process.  no one will win, least of all the brands themselves.

finally a little context.  if, as estimated, ITV see about £30m a year of the £100m or so that's expected to be generated thru the move, its not going to have a huge impact.  about £1.3bn in spot revenues across the network, a good £60m more in sponsorship revenues and say £20 in online totals about £1.38bn.  £30m therefore represents about 2.2% of what ITV are currently generating.  even if ITV was to open the doors as per the below (which they won't), the promise of a few product placements is hardly salvation for the UK's commercial broadcasting sector.

ps thanks Bevvo for the stats and the vid…

advertising, blogging, branding, broadcasting, content creating, converging, engaging, listening, planning, regulating, researching, social networking, user-generating

Fighting the Future: reaching a rose-tinted concensus at the IPA 44 Club’s Future of Advertising in a Networked Society

A short history of marketing from jabi on Vimeo.

the rather lovely above video – by jabi – neatly sums up the collective dilemma of how brands, marketers and, specifically, agencies address the challenge of social media.  the issue was the topic of discussion last night at the IPA 44 Club's inaugural event of 2009:
The future of advertising in a networked society.  quite the session it was… here's the gist:

part one – report findings

  • social media = the online tools and platforms people use to share information, thoughts, opinions, content etc
  • problems is that brands are "crashing the party rather than hosting it" (Russell Davies)
  • many brands are experimenting but not getting traction in the area
  • we need a model of comms that reflects 'ME' as opposed to 'brand'
  • a model that's about conversation and participation rather than interruption and engagement
  • a model that incorporates David Armano's thinking about 'influence ripples'
  • Johnny X by Dare is a cracking example
  • which succeeded in concentrating the feeds into and out of it's online space (64% of upstream and 84% of downstream feeds came from 10 sites each)
  • planning social media should focus on targeting the few, that demonstrate: (1) expansiveness (propensity to chatter), (2) popularity (propensity to filter and target) and (3) reciprocity (likelihood to act)
  • network size is predictable, as is network flow, as is circulation

part two – agency survey

  • brands in a socially-networked world are more responsible for creating and disseminating the right information – brands should be more discretionary in what they produce [Mediation found this less than substantiated and at odds with Clay Shirky's comments at the MGEITF this year on filtering in a content-abundant world being after the fact, ie produce then allow the network to filter]
  • the way to reward brand advocates is not through financial incentive
  • the industry disagrees on two areas: (1) that advertising principles are the same in a networked society and (2) that social media behaves in a fundamentally new way
  • it is believed that most revenue is up for grabs in content creation, then data & insight, then market research & insight gathering (amongst others)
  • these new revenue streams represent £11bn of additional revenue opportunity, with another £5bn potentially
  • …which would be (exactly!) enough to meet the £16bn shortfall in industry revenues by 2016 predicted by the IPA's Future of Advertising and Agencies report of two years ago (£16bn = the difference between the IPA's 'Central' and 'Consumer' Scenarios)

part three – the discussion

I won't bullet this because it's getting late and you had to be there, but this was the better part of the evening with discussion ranging between philosophy of brands in a social media space to the (inevitable) measurement and accountability of such activity.

for me a kind of rose-tinted consensus was reached; consensus that went along the lines of:

  • marketing has always been about great social networking, the challenge is the same – getting the right content in the right place, its just that…
  • (1) people power is more potent (we have 500 networked connections not 50 disparate ones) and (2) we need to react to the context our message are in rather than control the context our messages are in
  • it's brilliant because we can react to real people in real time in the context of a real conversations
  • social media isn't a bolt on, it has to be woven into every brand touchpoint
  • brands need to behave differently, and understand that their relationship with consumers is – to consumers – much less important than consumers' relationships with other consumers

so in a nutshell social media is great because it's as old as the hills, better than the disruption model, measurable …and there's a freak-off big commercial opportunity for the brands and agencies that get it right.

I just don't think that it' that easy.  our industry is woefully
unprepared for the future.  there's some brilliant thinking and debate
going on, but the commercial models, joined-up industry measurement
systems, and marketing best practice principles – from a 'what works'
as opposed to a 'self-regulatory' point of view – just aren't moving
fast enough.

most importantly, not enough consideration was given
to the integration of broadcast and social media.  they're not going to
exist in isolation and broadcast media is going nowhere. iTunes didn't
kill CDs and Amazon didn't kill Waterstones.  social media certainly
won't kill mainstream broadcast media; the same mainstream broadcast
media that in the vast majority of instances provides social media
users with the content they comment on, pass on, or reappropriate for
their own ends.

the other interesting question is how the
behaviour of digital natives will evolve…  we're familiar with the
media 'hubs' that are the current crop of adolescent's bedrooms;
they're multi-tasking away across ten devices and infinite bits of
content.  but what happens when they grow-up?  how much of their social
media behaviour will they take with them into adulthood and how much
will they replace with the aggregated broadcast consumption of their

we live in interesting times; and I guess we wouldn't have it any other way.

one last word, I urge you to read JVW's post
about the event and specifically his debate on how the IPA can use social media
to get their social media report into more people's hands whilst not
impacting on revenues.  a pleasure and a joy.

regulating, social networking

Win-Win for Burger King as facebook witness over 200,000 network connections destroyed by Whopper Sacrifice

Whopper_sacrificeit's a win win for Burger King as, after "constructive conversations" with facebook, the chain pulls its innovative and – it would seem all too – popular 'Whopper Sacrifice' facebook application.

the application rewarded users with a free Whopper for every 10 friends they deleted from facebook.  the deleted friends, rather than realising three months down the line that they hadn't received a poke in a while, got a very explicit notice that they had been deleted in favour of a piece of meat.

all good fun, very innovative, and on-brand (demonstrating how much people love a Whopper) but with over 200,000 friends deleted, the social networking site felt obliged to step in, with a facebook spokesman commenting that:

"We encourage creativity from developers and companies using facebook Platform, but we also must ensure that applications meet
users' expectations.  After constructive conversations with Burger King and
the developer of the application, they have decided to conclude their
campaign rather than continue with the restrictions we placed on their
(source: AFP)

you have to sympathise with facebook.  they're a social networking site after all, and BK's application was – literally – destroying their network and therefore fundamentally, their revenue base.  but don't feel too bad for Burger King – the application did exactly what it was designed to do…  get people talking about Whoppers; something that the application's demise will only do more of.

broadcasting, engaging, regulating, viewing

Here we go again: why brands should care whether or not viewers trust that their votes will count

the last few weeks have seen the spectre of viewer trust raise its head again, but unlike last year's Blue Peter name-the-cat debacle and Ant and Dec's Jiggygate affairs, recent events are far more opaque.

last time round, the cheating was obvious.  judgments were delivered and calls were made that clearly ignored the voice of viewers.  sanctions were duty handed out and much hand-wringing ensued.  everyone learned their lesson, got it off their collective chests at Edinburgh, and everything was OK again, right?

well no actually.  because the last few weeks have seen the voting viewer confidence undermined once more, again in the arena that is Saturday night event reality TV, and by both ITV and the BBC.

first up we had Dianagate courtesy of the X-factor.  to cut a long story short she let rip at a bonfire party, was ill, the producers gave her a get out of jail free card and Laura went out.  cue a call for the decision to be referred to Ofcom, a massive online petition to get Laura back in, and a mention in Parliament.

up next we had of course Sergeantgate on the BBC.  one of the biggest stories of last week saw the big guy pull out saying "The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far."  Sergeant hinted at the existence of pressure to go (from the BBC / judges / other contestants), The Daily Mail suggested that the reason was a P&O cruise that was beckoning, whilst Richard & Judy writing in the Express blamed his wife.

why does this matter?  why is this getting a post?  why can't we all just accept that it's just a TV show, get over it and all agree to get along?  and most importantly why should brands have any beef with all this?

because it's either reality TV or its not – if Sergeant winning isn't an option (in his or anyone else's mind) he shouldn't
be taking part in the first place; if we're going to ask the time and
money of viewers to participate then they have to believe that their
contribution will count.

because the principles of viewer interaction and contribution are too important to allow rules to be broken.  because the principle of 'have your say and the majority will determine the outcome' has got to be seen to be upheld.  and most of all because the difference between voting-viewer and contributer / co-creator is in name only…

in both the above cases we're asking people to engage with branded content.  similarly in both cases the decision of producers – to allow Diana to stay and to allow John to go – took the ability to control the outcome out of the hands of viewers and into the hands of producers.

brands should tread carefully where Saturday night producers seemingly don't fear to tread.  in a digital age that demands engagement and co-creation with brands thru media, brands (1) have to remain transparent and (2) have to be content for power – once devolved – to lie and remain with their consumers.

this is the reward for engagement; the quid pro quo for the time and energy of getting involved; consumer ROI if you like.  time will tell what the fall-out is for X-Factor and Strictly – but brands that fail to learn the lessons will find it less easy to waltz off in to the sunset with their credibility intact.

ad funded programming, advertising, branding, content creating, experiencing, planning, regulating, viewing

Transparency; how Mother’s Pot Noodle has it and MG OMD’s Beat: Life on the Street doesn’t

on a visit to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival this weekend Mediation was lucky enough to catch a performance of Pot Noodle: The Musical.  created by Mother Vision, the show is a surreal and entertaining hour long advert for Pot Noodle – and it doesn't really pretend to be anything else.  in fact its quite clear on the matter…  its an ad.  it knows it is.  its written in the script.

I couldn't help but contrast this to the recent discussion and debate there's been around MG OMD's AFP for the Home Office.  Beat: Life on the Street was a Sunday night show first broadcast last year on ITV.  the show is now reportedly being investigated by Ofcom amid concerns it broke the broadcasting code requiring that programmes "must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or
programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial
independence of the broadcaster".

so what we have here are two very different bits of content, each designed to form part of the brand narrative for two very different organisations.  but whereas one has (at the time of writing) a two and a bit star rating on the Fringe website, the other is being investigated by the regulator.  what sent them in such different directions?

well… what divides them is transparency.  Pot Noodle's musical has it, and Beat: Life on the Street just doesn't.

you can't make a programme that's funded by the Government and which is specifically designed to change people's perceptions of a state organisation and not tell people thats what it is and what its trying to do.  that's not smart media planning, its propaganda.

what's such a shame is the strategy from MG OMD is great.  in a video on the site, Head of Strategy Jon Gittings comments that the aim of the the programme was to amplify the real experience the public has with PCSOs, to:

"use communication to recreate [the] direct content that would then go on to increase value [of PCSOs] … we would create virtual experiences that bring PCSOs and the community together"

thats great thinking.  de-branding it is not.  brands have to be explicit about their intent.  whether you make noodle snacks or uphold the law, you have to protect your integrity.  say what you like about Pot Noodle making a musical, they were up front about what they were doing…

as one comment on the Fringe site notes: "I doubt that i'll ever be convinced that branded shows at Edinburgh are
a good thing but i struggle to criticise when i'm entertained as such"

well I doubt that I'll ever need convincing that smart relevant content creation – including AFP – can play a part on many a schedule; but I'll sure as hell won't struggle to criticise it when brands and (worse) their agencies think they can do so without being honest about the communications' intent.


thanks to Phil who pointed me in the direction of a BBC report on Pot Noodle which includes an interview with the creatives from Mother who devised the thing…

broadcasting, content creating, regulating, social networking, viewing

Kate Modern’s no-so-modern Commercial Model

Kate_modernBebo’s Kate Modern will end next month

on June 28th Bebo’s Kate Modern, the online drama broadcast by the social networking site, will ‘air’ for the last time.  the strategy of creating bespoke content for the SN is a solid one; it not only attracts and locks in new users, but adds value through interactivity with content to existing users.

however EQAL, who make the show (and formerly Lonely Girl 15) have suggested that in future they’d like to see more than the 1.5m views the average episode received.  doesn’t sound too bad to me…  whilst a quick scan of the Viral Video Chart  shows that the top 20 virals currently deliver anything between 30,000 and 3m views, a better comparison is with the ‘push’ model of broadcast television, in which an average digital channel would be happy to get 1.5m people to watch an episode.

but the more interesting observation is how Bebo applied such old-school thinking to the commercial model.  A spokeswoman for Bebo (quoted here) said the show was profitable
because of the sponsorship deals it put together with the likes of Orange, Toyota and Cadbury Creme Egg.  but this seems like a missed opportunity…

like any online site / brand, Bebo has to be clear about what it is.  Yahoo’s current woes stem from the fact that they don’t know what they are.  Google by comparison are quite clear.  they’re an advertising company.  Bebo would say that they are a social network, but it could be argued that by being seen to ‘create’ Kate Modern, they confuse this proposition.  they should be the third force of Anderson’s Long Tail – connecting source and demand, rather than part of the first – democratisation of production.

but perhaps the biggest opportunity is being missed by brands, who are contenting themselves with being attached to someone else’s content rather than producing their own.  its Orange, Toyota and Cadbury that should be making Kate Modern (or its strategic equivalent), and using Bebo as a distribution mechanism.

Bebo (or any social network) should be happy to filter content from elsewhere…  and benefit commercially from the audiences it attracts as a result…

regulating, user-generating

Williams on Mead: Taking Control of the Underground

Williamsso I saw the above LEP this morning at Leicester Square…

to CBS its vandalism
to some punters its a laugh
to others its just irrelevant
to a strategist its remix
and to the advertiser its an urgent re-post please

but what is it to the person who did it?

an opportunity to make a statement and express their bewilderment and frustration with corporate entertainment that lazily rechurns old ideas because people have stopped expecting to be surprised with new ones?

or a bit of a laugh.  a chance to raise a smile on the faces of the passers-by who get Williams instead of Mead.  to surprise and amuse a tired and commuting-weary audience?

whichever it is, its I suppose about control.  a conventional advertiser losing it and a renegade gaining it.  this of course is nothing new – Innocent launched a decade ago with underground LAP stickering (and it didn’t do them any harm!)…

debate aside.  it made me laugh.

advertising, branding, regulating

Sky-High Stakes in Hong Kong’s Out of Home Arms Race

Dsc04043Mediation is on tour in Australasia for a few weeks.  whilst on it’s first stop in Hong Kong it noticed this little poster for Calvin Klein’s Steel range.  towering above the island’s Central district, the building wrap dwarfs many of the surrounding buildings and can be seen not only from much of the island but also from Kowloon across the harbour.

it’s typical of the predominance of outdoor in the territory…  from the biggest billboards to the depths of the underground, posters in a multitude of shapes and forms are everywhere.  in Mediation’s native UK, shopfronts tell the story of what’s available inside – but in the visual arms race of Hong Kong you need to shout a lot louder, and higher.

this prevalence of outdoor tells us much about media consumption in the area…  for a massively dense and highly mobile population it’s no doubt a very effective medium.

but it also tells us much about the cultural differences between Hong Kong and the UK.  big building wraps like the above have occasionally been available in London – County Hall and Trafalgar Square’s Nelson’s column come to mind – but it’s difficult to imagine a 50ft crotch being put on display; the applications in London were as much about the suitability of a brand to the city’s culture and community as much as about how much a brand was prepared to pay for the space.  commercially is simply not as big a factor as sensitivity to conservative public tastes.

the above building wrap would cause a public outcry in London.  not so in Hong Kong…  where the bustling life of the city continues seemingly oblivious to the Calvin Klein model towering above them.  in the city’s outdoor arms race, the stakes have been raised.  I’m not entirely sure how much further they could go…