debating, publishing, thinking

What is your business models? … Because having one may quite simply no longer be enough


so I took some time last night to walk a few yards up Kent St to hear not one but two Tim’s in conversation at one of The Domain’s regular ‘on the couch’ sessions. Tim Addington didn’t hold back in an interviewing with Tim Burrowes that covered the origins of Mumbrella to its existence without Burrowes, taking in trolling, #skyfail and Adnews swiping on the way.

I wanted to ask Tim (B) about one of Mediation’s more recurring themes of late – journalism, news and print media; and more specifically the dangers of continuing to think of them as one and the same thing, especially as shifts in ad media revenues put pressure on the existing business model.

I made the point to Tim that journalism was important (to society), and asked how he thought we could and should protect journalism as news organisation revenues continue to come under threat?

his answer, typically to the point, was that some journalism will go. fact. and that over time – decades not years – the industry will realign and settle as new models emerge. he identified three for starters … (1) the vertical interest model (2) the conversation model and (3) the philanthropy model.

his points, that (one) journalism will survive because new models will emerge and (2) that new models will emerge, got me thinking this morning whilst talking to a senior media executive, as we discussed innovation in businesses esp. with regard to digital. the observation was that business models have to evolve, but it occurred to me that this didn’t have to be at an industry level – what would a business look like with completely different, distinct and differentiated business models working under the same roof, or P&L, or holding company?

perhaps the key question in surviving the ride of change wrought by digitisation isn’t ‘what is your business model? … but what is your business models?

I’ve tried to think of examples close to home and further afield of businesses and companies that deliberately cultivate different businesses models under the same roof. there are examples of companies that take a business model into new categories (Virgin obviously), and examples of parallel business models in different categories (Jetstar and Aldi). you also get examples of very different revenue streams under one roof – media agencies are a great example. but there aren’t a whole load of decent examples (that I can think of) where fundamentally different and potentially opposing models co-exist under the same roof.

it may be that once the most successful business model emerges, a company is crazy not to divert all resources in that direction – but perhaps that’s the trap? perhaps success is in not being single minded? perhaps tolerating lower margins and revenues on one floor this year means being ready to maximizing the potential of new revenues when the world turns in your direction next year?

many media organisations are already doing this by necessity … but how difficult would it be to make it a choice. if you’re lucky enough to have margins that allow you to experiment, why on earth wouldn’t you go as far as you possibly could when doing so?

Tim is right – different models will emerge. winning tomorrow shouldn’t be like a gamble at the races, where you hope your business has done enough of the right research (and a tad of luck) to back the winning horse (model). instead don’t play the game of trying to pick the winning horse, have a stake in every one.

you couldn’t lose right?

featured image lol created here, where you can also vote for it. obvs.

branding, cinema, connecting, futuregazing, internet, IPA|ED:one, opinionating, thinking

An opportunity not to be missed: what Tiffany Shlain’s ‘Connected’ means for brands as the internet transforms us and our world

so last night, thanks to Disco Davo (thanks Disco), I was lucky enough to be amongst a cinema of people gathered to watch an Aussie-first and unique screening of a movie called Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology.

organised through social media club sydney in conjunction with AMP's AmplifyFestival, Tiffany Shlain's (@tiffanyshlain) film is a narrative on how the internet is fundamentally changing us, interspersed with a personal account of a year in her life.  the result is a fascinating polemic on the nature of our interconnectedness as a species.

much was well-trodden territory for this blog … but there were two aspects I hadn't heard before that I found particularly interesting.  I hope that Shlain won't object to me sharing here…

one, Shlain described how in her father's book 'The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image' he made the connection between how the invention of the written / printed word had coincided with the rise of men in social, political and commercial circles.  he argued that this was because the written word is processed by the left side of the brain, which is more male.

last century's 'iconic revolution' (Shlain's term) – which saw imagery and images became a more predominant form of communication – coincided with increased predominance of females in society.  images are processed by the right side of the brain which is … more female.

the interesting conclusion is that the internet, with it's heady mix of words and images, is processed more of less equally by both sides of the brain, and is therefore a mass-communication channel that isn't biased towards one gender or the other…

the other aspect I found fascinating is how the brain and our body chemistry is predisposed to both connectedness and the pleasure hit we get from the stream of information on the internet.  when we connect, we release oxytocin – which evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security.  Wikipedia notes that 'many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear' … so the more we connect, the less anxious we are, and the internet allows us to feel more connected than ever before…

dopamine is released when we experience something pleasurable, and encourages us to keep performing the action ad-infinitum (as there's no diminishing return from dopamine).  Shlain's interesting observation is that – as dopamine is released when we get a 'hit' of new information … we are becoming addicted to the internet (or more specifically the infinite content that it gives us access to)

if you get a chance to catch the movie I urge you to do so … it's a fascinating and beautiful experience.  and it left me thinking about the role of brands and advertising in Shlain's interconnected and interdependent world.  from one perspective advertising and media fuelled the worst of the excessive consumption society that is now placing sustained pressure on our environment…

…but on the other I can't help but think that Shlain's hypothesis presents us with a clear opportunity, an opportunity defined by a simple question that I can't shake.  in an inter-dependent world where billions of people increasingly connect, communicate and coordinate as communities, why do we continue to so readily seek to engage with individuals?

in an inter-dependent world, the only thing that matters is shared agendas and communities of interest.  and more specifically, what matters most is an opportunity for brands to fuel – rather than interrupt – their interconnectedness and interdependence.

its utility, but its more than that … its potentially brands becoming a key and fundamental part of a dopamine and oxytocin-fuelled revolution in how we live on earth…  it's tantalising enough to warrant asking what you would want of the brands with which you work?  …  for them to be part of humanity's next giant leap, or reconciled to history as part of the iconic revolution that for a while so influenced our culture and behaviour?

advertising, differentiating, opinionating, thinking

Running away to the Circus: Dispatches from The Festival of Commercial Creativity – Charles Wigley and BBH’s Anti-Wind Tunnel Movement


"getting medieval on our ass" was what Charles Wigley, chairman of BBH, promised the circus audience last week, as he got "back to the core of what we do with big brands and set processes".  he asked a simple question … how can we spend our time better?


Wigley argued that just like how at some point all cars started to look the same – we've done exactly the same thing to our industry …he refers to it as the anti wind-tunnel marketing movement, and there's a rather nifty presentation embedded below (via a post on BBH labs).

he observes that we talk differentiation, but that 90% of the stuff we "burden the earth with" is the same; "we are churning out similarities" – he suggests two reasons:

(1) we all follow largely the same (consumer insight-oriented) process: "professionalism has led to homogenization and systematisation of the creative process … a model of creative development that traps us all" … the result being that most brands approach the same questions with the same people in same way

(2) we consistently fail to ask the question: is it different?  we focus so exclusively on relevance that we fail to think about whether our work is true or different. a point summed up rather neatly with this still from the above slideshow.



of ads that are indistinguishable from each other…

Banking – NAB, Westpac and St George
SUVs – Jeep, BMW and VW
Cereal – Coco Pops, Milo and Sultana bran

(NB I'm trying to track these down on YouTube but can't find many / any of them – I'll keep trying and post when I do)

Wigley's simple and elegant point is that because the briefs are all the same, the results are the same. this extends into digital solutions too … there's a very real danger that advertising will eat itself.

the cliches are now so ingrained that adverts can be created that that play with the established conventions of the category and market…


why this is happening…?

part of the problem is that lack of tangible USPs.  Wigley argues that we now rely on ESP (emotional selling propositions) to market brands, and so the holy grail becomes the key consumer insight.  but we all have the same products in the same category marketing to the same people with the same process to the consumer insights – and the ideas they generate – are all the same.  we are, as Wigley puts it, "dancing on a pinhead when dealing with these briefs".

But does it matter?

well yes it does.  when we create parity communications with similar insights "we're removing the cost efficiency of real brand differentiation".  we accept a situation where the biggest media budget will always win, a flight to a centre-ground where the biggest spenders remain the biggest spenders and innovation and ideas and differentiation and engagement and adding utility and entertainment to the world through are communications become a quaint dalliance that the communications industry had with itself and consumers at the turn of the 21st Century.  media becomes a commodity not an opportunity, a barrage of impacts not a platform for engagement.  could the last people to leave the industry please turn out the lights.


Wigley rightly observes that we all use the same brands in presentations…  Nike, Google, Uniqlo.  what do they have in common?  they are brand leaders not consumer followers.  So … how do we put differentiation back into the ideas we generate and the work we produce?  Wigley offers ten solutions…

  1. use insights from multiple points of view and disciplines ie go beyond the consumer insight.  lead don't follow consumers.  focus on brand – Wiley quoted Siddarth Banerjee, Unilever's Regional Marketing Director of Asia: "what is the single most important part of the marketing mix that is essential to ensure a better chance of success in the marketplace? … ownership of a point of view" … Wigley describes this as the main distinction between a convention brands and a conviction brands, and observes that the fastest growing brands are in posession of energized differentiation – in that they have vision, innovation and dynamism
  2. Is it different? is the first and last question we should ask
  3. remember that not all consumers are created equal.  there are leaders, followers and the rest.  followers are cheaper and easier to find
  4. test in the real world not in the test tube (echoing what Marvin Chow discussed when he shared Chrome's marketing strategies earlier in the session).  get work up and online and evaluate it based on actual not expected performance
  5. bring back regional test market (was good to see a Yorkshire Television logo up on the screen)
  6. look to the future not the past.  "what's the foresight not the insight?" … Innocent saw colourful fun health coming and built their brand for the future that was to embrace it
  7. hurry up.  what are we so often waiting for?  speed up the process.  Wigley refers to Colin Powell's 40%-70% rule: if you have information to the extent that you're less than 40% likely to make the right decision then get more information.  but if you collect information beyond 70% chance of success you're likely to get it wrong – you'll have too much information and the situation will have changed.  in short act whilst you have more than 40% but less than 70% chance of success
  8. value inexperience as much as experience … we've become too expert in sometimes very niche categories
  9. put judgement back into the job spec – he quoted one marketing director who after being presented to by the agency said "I absolutely love this work, let's go straight to research"
  10. restructure the organisation.  Wigley suggested that the difference between single brand companies vs multi-brand companies was that in the latter people don't work specifically on brands, but rather are sharing the same info with all the brands in the company.  sometime you need new structures and groups to create differentiation – for example First Direct or Unilever siloing Axe into an entirely separate unit

Wigley left us with this delightful observation – courtesy of Mitchell and Webb – into how advertisers approach communicating to women and men.  not sure how it related to the topic in hand, but made the Circus crowd chuckle…

for more information on BBH's Anti-Wind Tunnel thinking you can visit BBH LABS – I recommend that you regularly do so … as labs go, these ones rock

conferencing, content creating, debating, innovating, internet, planning, thinking, understanding

Running away to the Circus: Dispatches from The Festival of Commercial Creativity – Josh Spear on the Fringe


Circus_josh-spear 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, 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:


the misuse of worlds isn't an accident, it's very deliberate.  and globally consistent and understood.  it's a language called LOL-Kitteh.  the Bible has been translated into LOL-Kitteh.

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.

Moot_time_magTime 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:

Spears_novelty_scalethe 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

advertising, conferencing, debating, planning, predicting, thinking

Running away to the Circus: Dispatches from The Festival of Commercial Creativity – Day One, Session One


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…

Circus_jeffrey_cole 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.

Circus_agnello_dias 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.

Circus_jess_greenwood 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:

  1. AV experience on screen (whatever and wherever that screen may be)
  2. Interctivity of internet (facilitation two-way engagement, converstion, debate and cooperation and cocreation)
  3. Location-based functionality and customisation of mobile phone
  4. 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…

broadcasting, debating, thinking

It’s called Mediation for a reason: the debate and debacle of negotiating the future of media and communications

many readers (well, both) may very well have seen the above intriguing video from FITC, to promote their upcoming design and technology festival in New York.  its a trailer and its deliberately and wonderfully provocative, and it certainly seems to have started a degree of debate.  watch it now if you haven't already.  now.  go on.  watch it.

now consider what you're thinking.  are you angry or excited?  depressed or thrilled?  it would certainly seem that people are one or the other.  the awesome JV Willshire, who blogs at Feeding the Puppy put a post together that celebrated the thinking behind the piece:

"A point well made, I think.  And yet there will still be large parts of the industry that rail against things like this.  They don't understand why people in the industry would wilfully go around denouncing the existing models, as it will just hasten their demise.  Why would you destroy the world in which you work?"

a good question.  one that John rightly and eloquently goes on to answer:

"Every time someone questions 'the old way of doing things' (like the 'power of TV ads', or the notion of brand awareness, the established rules of campaigns or the objectives set in a brief), they're not doing it for kicks.  It's not rebellion, cynicism, or mindless annihilation.  It's only by burning away the old, redundant thinking that we can find something new, refreshed and powerful."

there's a counter post to this, a point that's equally well, if somewhat forcefully, made.  this is the ad contrarian, who blogs here:

"There is growing movement among self-hating ad people to declare failure and join the army of digital dimwits.  They have started to believe the "advertising is dead" nonsense.  They have accepted the fiction that there is a new breed of humans who don't believe anything that isn't on the web. They no longer believe that advertising is about persuasion, and think their job is to create "conversations.

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth.

… As far as I'm concerned these people are gutless weasels. They're too tired and weak to defend the practice of advertising. They're too effete to be heard above the volume of cackling web-monkeys."

the contrarian goes on to describe the video at the top of this post as a "piece of ignorant bullshit produced by some "design and technology" hustlers in Canada and lovingly embraced by advertising's suicidal Twitterati".  like I said, the argument is forcefully made.

what do I think?

well I'm as ready as the next "suicidal Twitterati" to denounce the broadcast interruption (or persuasion) model.  it's fragmenting, less efficient (reach does not equal effectiveness) and ignores the multitude of new opportunities the ad contrarian so quickly dismisses.

but I'm also as ready as the next optimist to celebrate the awesomeness of the broadcast interruption model.  it's capable of generating mass audiovisual reach in a way that's unparalleled by any other channel or medium and will be for a while yet to come.

which side am I on?  I'm on both of course; my blog is called Mediation for a reason.

there are no easy answers to the questions our community is asking itself.  our world is no longer black and white and arguments couldn't and shouldn't be made as such.  to do so diminishes us in a way that technology, behavioural change or new challenges never could.

the observations of Indra Nooyi of Pepsico, as reported on WARC, from earlier this week are pertinent:

"You've got to reach the consumer through multiple methods. Through digital. Through viral networks. You've got to reach them through newspapers. Through TV … You've got to deploy every possible media that you can lay your hands on … The new brand-building model has to encompass an extremely rich mix of items we have to deploy to talk to the consumer"

her point is clear.  no one is in the business of abandoning TV. but neither are we in the business of defending it against all comers and beyond all reason.  the broadcast model, the bastion of the 20th Century's marketing communications, will be with us – and used magnificently by us – for a good while to come; but it is no longer the only tool we have.  in failing to see, understand and utilise the compromise of this… in failing to Mediate, we are only failing ourselves.

advertising, broadcasting, converging, debating, internet, thinking, viewing

More Questions than Answers: notes from the media frontier as encountered at Sydney’s iMedia Agency Summit

“the broadcast model isn’t broken…  yet.  how prepared are agencies for when it breaks?” was the question I wanted to put to the Q&A panel at last week’s iMedia Agency Summit in Sydney.  whilst I didn’t get the chance to ask the panel, I did get the opportunity to ask it to Rohan Lund of Yahoo!7, but more of that later.

yes, this week saw the AdTech Summit series hit Sydney, part of which was the iMedia festival which I attended along with around one hundred of my Sydney media counterparts.  all in all it was a day of more questions than answers, but that was to be expected I, well, expect.  that said, some genuine morsels emerged, which (after a bit of an absence from the blogosphere) I thought I’d share…  here then, is what happened at iMedia, at AdTech, at Sydney…

Unilever_campaigns Unilever brands that have utilised the social media space

first up, delivering the keynote welcome, was Unilever’s Babs Rangaiah (@babs26) who described how he and others are pioneering in the Social Media space at the company.  its necessary stuff in his opinion, pointing out that only 18% of TV campaigns generate positive ROI, and that 24 of the top 25 biggest newspapers are undergoing circulation decline.


his three observations were that Unilever is (1) living the [social media] space, (2) re-framing their thinking re Social media and Applications [ie NOT pre-rolls – thats the broadcast solution applied to the online paradigm], he cited BBH’s Axe Wake Up Service app from Japan (above), and (3) rewriting its media manifesto along these lines, as would be written by customers:

  1. be part of the world – Rangaiah pointed out the gap between time spent online and advertising spend online
  2. penetrate our culture – the move from interruption to engagement; is what we create useful, entertaining or interesting?  he cited the example of the Dove for Men campaign, which after scooping up a SuperBowl spot proceeded to land its American Football-playing star a seat on Oprah’s couch
  3. give us a voice and a role – Best Job In The World anyone?
  4. be authentic – anyone unclear on this one just Google Dell Hell…
  5. listen to us
  6. create more value – “you want us to pay? … [then] we want you to pay attention”
  7. don’t be so corporate
  8. keep it simple – good one this, if you can’t explain an idea to a non-marketing friend or partner in ten seconds then its probably to complex to ever get traction
  9. telling friends – WoM is the most powerful form on advertising [Alleluia Babs, Alleluia]
  10. do good

he ended on a topic that would be the subject of some debate for the rest of the day…  how the rapid evolution on metrics in the online space has created its own rewards but also problems.  from clicks and impressions to unique users to engagement or stickiness and now ROI … measuring success has never been so possible nor so complex.

Megan_Brownlow_PHOTO next up was the lovely Megan Brownlow, Entertainment and Media Editor for PWC’s Outlook, which complies stats on ‘where the money is’ in the entertainment and media spaces…  this is facts given meaning not opinions back up with stats, so worth paying attention to, especially a key observation re consumer spending vs advertiser spending…

PWC’s five year view looks a lot like this

PWC_media_&_entertainment_forecasts_imedia_summit_2010 PWC revenue predictions as presented at iMedia Summit last week in Sydney

put simply, people are predicted to spend proportionately more on entertainment and media (content) than advertisers will spend on media.  good news if your media business model is predicated on creating and distributing stuff that people will want and pay for. bad news if your media business model is taking commission on advertising spend.  a problem further compounded by the well documented explosion in inventory, which any economist will tell you will lead to lower yields for media publishers and agencies.

Brownlow described the ‘structural change’ of this versus other recessions.  the recovery will be shallower than any previous one, “a crawl rather than a jump out”, but not for everyone.  between 2003 and 2009 search revenues have increased from 31% of ad revenues to 50.4% – 90% of which, no one needs reminding, goes to one company.

the big growth is in consumer pay models, where growth is predicted to be 5.5% CAGR (’09-’13).  hence media owners and publishers seeking hybrid business models (another hot topic of the day) to monetise content.  Brownlow noted research suggesting that, for example, in newspapers people will pay, but only for verticals – a proportion (Finance 97%, Sport 77%) of the hard copy price as long as that same content is not available for free elsewhere.  in this context Murdoch’s rallying cry to the newspaper industry to declare war on Google makes immaculate sense.  her final observation was that even if hybrid pay models work, lost revenues won’t be replaced.  the annihilation of the old model of newspaper publishing is still an inevitability.

Brownlow’s final observation however was a cold shower for any Australians readying themselves for seats of honour in the digital revolution after-show party.  compared to the rest of the world, the country is significantly lagging in online adoption, with revenues in the online space in the region of 25%, compared with 31% globally and up to 50% in countries such as south east Asia.  “traditional media ‘owns’ the market in Australia for a long time yet to come”.  the reasons, infrastructure (and therefore effectively ISP cost) and attitude…  the former understandable given the countries geography, the latter frustrating to say the least in a country with such an entrepreneurial culture (my observation not Brownlow’s).

three ‘game-changers’ to end with: (1) the NBM or National Broadcast Network, a government initiative to hardwire the nation by 2017, but which Goldman Sachs predicts will be only 50% complete by then, (2) mobile, yes 2010 IS mobile’s year and (3) interactive games, with a 7.5% growth forecast, 2.2bn market and two structural changes to boost the sector in the form of mobile and online gaming.  play on.

Ed_smith_pic next up the enigmatic Ed Smith of NDM who started with a topic that was to become one of the themes of the day…  that of volume versus value in the online space.  he made two observations – one, that (average) click rates were down from 32% to 16%; and two, that 8% of people accounted for 80% of clicks.  so just how valuable is a click?  how many brands and businesses are so overly obsessed with generating clicks that they’re “going out of business as cost effectively as possible”?  …he questioned what the point of [100%] paid-for search was when you’re not investing in product or marketing initiatives that ‘build the brand’?

this was a phrase that kept on cropping up, bit of a fat phrase (and not in a good street way)…  ultimately by ‘build the brand’ I suspect the speakers were referring to brand associations.  and raising the (valid) question of how long the broadcast interruption model can create and sustain brand associations (ie what ‘brands’ effectively are) if we’re all collectively ignoring / avoiding more, clicking less, and paying for content direct.

Smith went on to give the publishers’ perspective wrt post-broadcast print…  describing some of the emerging platforms he played with at a recent tech conference.  I was going to ask him “how he was intending to meet the challenge of defending margins when the cost of producing content is no longer matched by advertising revenues?” … but we know the answer to this, it’s the much talked about hybrid model…  of combining (lower) ad revenues with direct payment from people for the content.  the ‘iPad $ a day’ model.  Smith’s retort to those who question the sustainability of the hybrid model: “People who say ‘people won’t pay for content’ don’t know what’s possible”.  to that point, he showed us this:

he observed that the NYT’s iPad application launched with three advertisers each paying US$200k for the privilege and challenged the audience with the question “are your digital media choices making your brand bigger or smaller?”

Jack_matthews_fairfax the end of the morning saw Fairfax Digital’s CEO Jack Matthews take up some of the themes opened by Smith…  “consumer demand for media, in all it’s forms, has never been greater”, “a new era of online advertising”, “direct response get’s too big a share of the media mix”, “the future of media companies and agencies is to add value” … there’s a clear direction of travel from publishers here; away from trading debates based on the value of a click, towards trading debates predicated on the value of the audience the publisher is providing…

Matthews outlined three change catalysts in the space: (1) three screens (2) building brands on desktops and (3) agency / campaign integration

he made a delightful observation on the three screen model: “if the desktop user is a browser, then a mobile user is a hunter”.  I have a lot of time for that, it really focuses how you think about adding value to people in the mobile space.  he reiterated the belief that “people are willing to pay for content on mobile devices”, and pointed out the projected rise of video advertising on the desktop – 48% CAGR in ad revenues to 2014.  he also made it quite clear to the audience that Fairfax Digital is in the business of and focusing on “building engaged audiences more than reach”.

he ended with a call for integration, observing that “we have no aligned metric for measuring ‘brand building’ [that phrase again] online”, and that there’s not enough integration within agencies on aligning on and offline media.  he acknowledged that his organisation had to be more prepared to work with other organisations too…  an acknowledgment that he described as a “fundamental shift” in Fairfax’s position.

after post-lunch sessions by Michael Hendricks, Head of Decision Management, CitibankAsia Pacific (“we’re about acquiring the right customers, not the most”, “our most valuable customers use all of our channels most of the time”) and Corporate Anthropologist (who knew?) Michael Henderson, it was back to the media agenda with Rohan Lund of Yahoo!7…

Rohan-Lund-Yahoo7 58% of Yahoo!7’s audience media ‘mesh’ at least several times a week: 95% on email, 63% on social networks, 54% to get more info on a show and 40% to follow-up on an ad they’ve seen…  time spent online watching video is now 13%, and very much social.

Lund challenged the session – in a context of content, content content – to question what our business models were?  access isn’t enough.  “we [Yahoo!7] make it easier for users to access content that matters to them most”, adding that “our businesses are data businesses … our core business is targeting”.

he outlined Yahoo!7’s recently launched catch up service, thru which every primetime show is available.  he described how the ambition is to get the browser closer to a TV environment, and talked thru the challenges of making TV shows available for different IPTV-ready TV models.  interestingly, for non-partner TVs they’ve introduced open-source development.  and he was quite clear that he saw no reason why online video CPMs will never be lower than for TV; in effect a premium for targeting.

back to the question I asked at the start of the post, I put to Lund that “the broadcast model isn’t broken…  yet.  how prepared are agencies
for when it breaks?” … he believed that agencies are becoming more integrated, and understanding better the balance between on and offline.  but acknowledged the elephant in the room; that “no one ever got fired for buying TV”, and that people are still “hiding behind TV as a safe solution”…

good to have it out and said, and credit to Lund for doing so…  but I think its less about TV being seen as the safe solution, and more the reach and delivery of the broadcast model that’s seen as the safe solution.  the absurdness of this just gets truer every day.  if the iMedia summit made one thing clear its that the figures are now starting to track the theory.  viewing fragmenting, click rates decreasing, ad avoidance up…  and the solution?  a continued clinging to the sinking ship that is broadcast interruption.  it’s like the Titanic’s going down and the industry is scrabbling to get on board…

Sean_Finnegan_Starcom this was followed by (for me) one the highlights of the day as Sean Finnegan, President and Chief Digital Officer at Starcom MediaVest Group took us thru his vision for his media agency’s digital offering.

his logic is crystal: clients are struggling to deliver accountability in rapidly changing markets where its harder to connect with consumers.  agencies therefore need restructure and resource to provide a range of new offerings: RealTime consumer insight, actionable insights, and content – all created by what Finnegan describes as ‘liquid talent’.  how…

  • business intelligence and hub formations
  • data exchanges (in the US buying of non-identify-able consumer data is now mainstream)
  • standardised findings with consumers and the industry (common and consistent measurement)
  • instant content delivery, real time text and video (eg EA’s Tiger Woods video)
  • strategic alliances, frenemies have never been more important…

he observed that “efficient pricing is no longer a value add”, and that “marketers and agencies that focus only on price are leaving value on the table”.  we’ve gone “from a linear to a networked comms infrastructure [which] creates a transfer of power to the consumer”.  he noted that we “need to start understanding the passions and behaviours of individuals [across media platforms]”, and observed that this would have inherent problems for publishers.

he also outlined his thoughts on the media agency offering…  “because of our proximity to consumers we have to be more adept at design and messaging”, but also gave a stark warning to media isolationists: “you need to be confident enough to partner with competitors that are better than you to deliver the best solutions for your clients … the more we give away, the more we grow”.

his view on the future of the Starcom’s digital offering is clear: a move away from media people as aggregators towards media people as analysis of data, interpreting, modeling and projecting for clients and brands.  his people will be more account managerial and who are less in the business of “killing bad news” and more in the business of “selling the best ideas”.

so what to make of it all?

great day and some interesting comment and debate, but you can’t help but leave with the impression that there’s far more questions than answers.  but perhaps that’s well and good, it’s an easy cliche to say that there’s never been a more interesting time to work in media…  but its true never the less.  for more than three years this blog has set itself the task of negotiating the future of media and communications; a task is no less interesting, gripping and exciting than it was when in November 2006 I wrote my first post on TV (versus) online:

“the internet is television.  but it’s television on viewers’ rather than broadcaster’s terms.  the issue isn’t the demise of TV, but the decline of the broadcast model and of the broadcaster as commissioning editor and content aggregator.”

its vaguely how terrifying how little has changed.  the debate, the argument and the negotiation continues, and we’re all the better for forums like iMedia in which to talk, and for that matter drink, it out…


sharing, thinking

A Tale of Two Matts: Plagiarism, Transparency and Outsourcing in the ideas economy

The Big Steal image from The Big Steal – totally unrelated but cool pic sourced here

there was a bit of a flurry of emails last week when infomaginationer and planner Matt Sadler noticed a think piece on the IPA website by Matt Harris, Data and CRM partner at Rapier which bore a remarkable resemblance to his President's Prize-winning essay, also about data.

without going thru the full story, here are the essential basics…  last Tuesday Matt S notices the similarity between Matt H's article in the IPA newsletter.  Matt S emails Matt H outlining the similarity and asking for an explanation.  on Wednesday Matt H replies to Matt S claiming to know nothing about his essay.

but by end of play on Wednesday all was resolved.  Matt H realised that he'd been the victim of some lazy freelancers and apologised to Matt S, the article was removed from the IPA site, and Matt S had forgiven everyone and suggested that Matt H and he may even collaborate on an article sometime.  as Matt S put it, "forgiveness rocks!"

forgiveness may well rock but there's an incredibly worrying thread to this whole tale.  one, an established, articulate and informed agency partner's response to being asked to write a think piece was to outsource it.  two, some freelance writers who had been asked to write said think piece responded by copying, thought for thought, the work of someone else.

what I am not in any way seeking to do is antagonise a situation that has been resolved by the parties involved (full credit to them).  what I am going to do is ask some serious questions that this unfortunate incident raises…  because the fact is that we all of us use ideas and inspiration from other people within and beyond the industry all the time…  if we didn't, ideas wouldn't spread and new, better ways of approaching what we do wouldn't get momentum and consensus.

indeed there's more than a little been written of late about the benefit of setting ideas free, of letting the crowd build on them and improve them, and on how all of us are better by remixing each others thoughts for mutual benefit.

but we do two things…  (1) we source them and (2) we add to them from our own experience before presenting them to a client or to each other.  neither of which was done in this case.  I worry that there's a sense that we feel if we didn't originate an idea then we can't use it.  which is madness.  at an IPA event only a few weeks ago Rory Sutherland instigated a project on Behavioural Economics and suggested that we all of us as an industry co-operated to understand it, use it and monetise it collectively as best as possible.

in the idea-led economy in which we all live and work we need each others' ideas.  we just need to be brave about using them, honest about the source of them, and demonstrate our expertise by using and adding to them in relevant and appropriate ways.  if there's anything to be learned from our Tale of two Matts it is this.  and if there's anything to be gained its everyone realising that being transparent about building on other people's ideas makes us more not less credible thinkers.

advertising, planning, praising, thinking

Why we do what we do and what comms can do about it: how the IPA is learning the lessons of Behavioural Economics to shape a better future for us all

Barry_Progression_of_Human_Knowledge_and_Culture James barry's The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture, which – appropriately – surrounded us at the RSA yesterday

“Behavioural Economics provides a floodgate of inspiration to our industry. Our challenge is to ‘chunk’ it down, and apply it in ways which make a meaningful difference to client agency dialogue and communications planning and execution. It’s just the sort of breath of fresh air we need to stimulate our intellectual juices and rise above conversations about time sheets and schedule. It gets us back to the core of what we do and why we do it.”

Rory Sutherland, IPA President

and so yesterday I gathered at the RSA with other industry folk as the IPA, led by Rory, began its journey into the world of Behavioural Economics.  and a brilliant session it was.  it was such a stimulating morning that I'm at a bit of a loss on how to capture it all – so I'll have a go at listing the gems that I took out of each of the talks before adding some thoughts of my own at the end.

First up was Doctor Matt Grist who is director of the RSA's Social Brain project

Nudge Grist introduced us to the notion that Behavioural Economics are a "patchwork of theories that predict irrational behaviour", (versus rational behaviour as predicted by neo-classical theory) – essentially its Economics + Psychology

Behavioural Economics in action has been popularised by books like Nudge.  'nudges' work by guiding behaviour thru changes in choice architecture…  ie its not awareness and consideration that primarily dictate our choices but the context in which those choices are made, here's a good example…

historical consensus has been that there are two systems in the brain; automatic and reflective.  automatic is when we take our regular tube journey or are reading a book.  reflective is when we have to concentrate on taking a new / different route to work or have to write an essay.  but Grist proposed a third element and a new model:

Brain_systems_of_behaviour Grist's model of the brain's three behavioural systems

this opened up the interesting question of how much of our behaviour we actually have control over?  Grist observed that we ought to think of these brain systems as "libertarian paternalistic" ie they are supposed not to erode autonomy and responsibility – this is achieved thru training; top-down, sideways and bottom up.  I then got awfully lost and at one point I fear I scratched my head and squinted.

anyhoo the next stage, for Grist, is understanding to what extent thinking in terms of the threefold system above empowers people to be more autonomous and responsible?

next up was Nick Chater, Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences at University College London

his three themes were how we perceive magnitudes, decisions and valuations all without the context of internal scales.  it turns out that we have very limited capability to put a value on anything…  everything is relative.  when perceiving magnitudes we only have about five 'buckets' in which to separate out degrees on any particular perspective on the world.  the system is limited at a very basic cognitive level.

when it comes to decision making, we're similarly it turns out "all over the place" – all we have is binary judgments.  take for example £300.  if I was to say I'm going to put £300 in your wallet, right now, your response would probably be "whoo hoo" or something similar.  if however I was to say I'm going to right now take £300 off of your mortgage, your response would probably be "so what?!" or something similar.

…the point is that exactly the same amount of money engendered totally different responses because of the context in which it was placed.  everything is relative, but relative in a very limited (binary) sense.  the same contextualisation applies when we get used to a variable having a certain amount – so for example in banks money generally goes in in much bigger chunks than it comes out…  the consequence: losing £300 is a lot more worse than gaining £300 is better.

the same applies for time discounting…  analysis of Google data demonstrates our pre-occupation with the immediate future and our ambivalence to the distant future.

finally, when it comes to perceiving valuations, we can't.  we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  experiments with pain (like Dr Peter Venkman at the start of GhostBusters) show how the value of pain (ie how much we're prepared to pay to avoid it) changes depending on how much we have to spend.  demand is extra-ordinarily malleable.  how much is the value of a cup of coffee?  don't know, how much does it cost?  £2.  I guess its value is £2 then…


then it was up to IPA President Rory Sutherland to tell us why we should care about any of this

he's written a full piece on this in this weeks Campaign, which is a great read, but here are a few of his gems from yesterday…

most successful businesses of recent times have started by figuring out how to make value, and only then worked out how to make money off of the back of that value.  as an industry though where we make money and where we add value are different things – we've "hitched our fortunes to media spend", and here's the danger; if – as supply increases – media becomes cheaper, it will have less value to clients (see above) and those clients will skimp on the expense of getting the most out of that media (or other exposure).

people have a preference to solve problems with infrastructure solutions rather than persuasion solutions.  but persuasion solutions can be a lot more effective.  and we, the communications industry, should be experts in the applied-psychology business.  "ad-folk are better at ideation off of a theory"  …understanding and applying behavioural economics is fundamental to the success of most businesses and social problems.  he gave a wonderful example, I don't know if its true…

Rolls Royce were having problems selling cars in their regular showrooms.  so instead they sold them at Yacht fairs, where the items on sale go for a few million rather than a few hundred thousand.  "I think I won't buy that £8m yacht" says mister man.  then he sees a lovely Rolls Royce and thinks, "I've just saved £8m, what's £350k for a lovely car?!" …behavioural economics works.


the last speaker was Nick Southgate, who explored how we could apply all of this

first up brand preference.  people don't express a preference when they don't need to.  structure is more important than preference, indeed structure creates preference…  competitive positioning is very important to brands; it what creates the structure – and therefore determines preferences – within a category.

second, brand positioning.  in example after example, introduction of a third choice massively changes the preferences of the first two.  one implication – the launch of 'me too' products actually make the existing market leader look better.

thirdly from a creative perspective, testimonials don't work.  behavioural economics might help explain why…  the plan to make us buy something because someone expresses their preference for it is flawed by the – incorrect – assumption that behaviour follows attitude.  but we forget our attitude whilst automatically going on with a behaviour…   you get to the top of the stairs (automatically) and on the way forget why you were going upstairs.  chimpanzees do the same thing – they will remember that they're looking for a stick to get termites only whilst the termite hill is in view.  behavioural economics is something that would seem to apply to all great apes…

and then on to the panel discussion which I won't summarise but instead pick a few themes that emerged…


it had occurred to me throughout the session, and was suggested by an audience member, that understanding BE presented opportunities for better targeting.  does understanding what BE tells us make attitudinal targeting redundant?  if we don't make decisions based on attitude, then why are we segmenting people based on what they think?  and if so, what should we be identifying and segmenting people based on?  anyone?

NB Mark Lund (formerly of DKLW and now Chief Executive of the COI) who was on the panel noted that the COI would be publishing research at the end of November that "will affect segmentation" and that will demonstrate the requirement for another degree of (agency) segmentation.

agency and industry structures

Lund suggested that he believed that agencies will have to get flatter and wider; with expertise spread across a wider number of areas.  he referred to the adage that to a man with a hammer, every solution looks like a nail…  if agencies are to provide more holistic solutions, they're going to require more than hammers.

Kate Waters, Planning Partner at Partners Andrew Aldridge, observed that "we don't have the right relationships to make our ideas happen" – beyond the buying of conventional media spaces, experiential, DR we have little implementational skill.  if BE says we need to be creating structures that influence behaviour, then we're severely limited in the structures we can change.  our industry engine is one built around awareness generation and perception change.  we may need to seriously reconsider our long-term agency and industry structures.


a wonderful debate on this one, does the ability to sub-consciously affect what people do give us too much power?  and is there are conflict between planning the Change for Life campaign in the morning and a campaign for Snickers in the afternoon?

"there is no conflict" said Lund – paraphrasing Darth Vader, "clients would much prefer people eat less but for six decades … its about quality as well as quantity of consumption".  but this misses the wider point highlighted repeatedly by Waters; much of this isn't new.  we've been in the business of affecting what people think and do for a century – all BE does is bring us an appropriate, and consistent, language for what it is that we do.

I'll leave the last word on ethics to Rory – "I'd rather be perceived as evil than be perceived as ineffective"

and so that was that.  awesome morning and lots of questions raised which now need to be answered.  workshops are going to be held in November, details of which are here.  I urge you to get involved.  I'll leave you with more of the lovely Rory, talking recently at TED.  enjoy.

creating, praising, thinking

Thought of the day: What Eddie Izzard can teach brands about having a positive marketing attitude


"I don't feel I'm a capitalist, I feel I'm a creativist.  Capitalists make things to make money, I like to make money to make things – I love making things."

Eddie Izzard – Live from London (available on iTunes)

I was listening to Eddie Izzard's Live from London podcast – recorded at the apple store in Regent St – recently and was rather taken by the above quote.  Izzard was meditating on the theme of the banking crisis and observed that he was, in his judgment, a creativist.

its a great thought but what's even more powerful is the logic flow that sits behind it.  think about it.  brands and marketers that consider themselves to be in the business of making things to make money will, I suspect, end up behaving very different from those with a mindset of 'let's make money so that we can make more things'.

let's use marketing investment not to make money as an end in itself but so that we can make more (interesting, exciting, imaginative, engaging, challenging, fun) stuff as a result.  of course lots of businesses work like this – ROI from one year is reinvested into the next – but its indirect and not by any means guaranteed.

besides that what I think is more important is the attitude, the mindset that this thinking gets you into.  yeah, hell lets do some successful communications and make shedloads of money.  but let's be explicit about why we want to make money…  we want to make money so that we can increase a brand's presence in the world; not by being in more places more often and seen by more people, but by the creation of more things.  things created with people, by people and for people, that add value not just to brands but to our world.

from today I'm not a capitalist either.  I'm going to be a creativist.  and I'm going to be in the business of making money so that I can be the best and most interesting creativist I can be.  thanks Eddie.