buying, debating, phdcast

PHDcast – The Letter D and Number 92 Episode: Departures, Diets and Discounts in Medialand

the PHDcast this week is brought to you by the letter D and the number 92. D stands for Dieting, as Pink Media announces a partnership between Fitness First and Mardi Gras; Departures, as Kyle and Jackie announce their departure from SCA’s airwaves and Discounts, as Adnews reports talk of an unprecedented 92% discount being offered by a media agency.

the discount, alleged to be on TV rates, marks an escalation in a bidding war that is arguably as old as media departments and then agencies themselves. but a perfect storm in recent years has seen a potent mix of procurement driving down client costs, an over-serviced marketplace, and the consolidation of holding groups (which increases buying power placing pressure on media owners).

that potent mix has resulted in run-away discounting and the radical commoditisation of media impacts … and they’re just the direct implications. the indirect implications spin into agency client resourcing, the extent to which media thinking and ideas are valued, media owner revenues (so ultimately impacting quality of broadcast content), and transparency and media neutrality … as agencies are forced to explore other higher margin areas to off-set the margin losses in the core business. I could go on.

so how do we stop the runaway train on which we find ourselves? one of the key problems is that everyone is implicated … everyone has something to gain from the current storm and much to lose by any attempted unravelling.

the money starts with clients. they’ve never had it so good from a CPM perspective … with agencies falling over RFPs to buy media cheaper (and cheaper media). questions of media quality become secondary to cost-saving and value extraction. their walk-away is to pay more for a supplier’s product – which would be brave by anyone’s standards.

from an agency’s perspective, guaranteeing radical discounts rates keeps and gets clients’ billings in the door which maintains the platform for value extraction with media owners on one hand and clients on the other. their walk-away is to explain that a price is as low as they can go and decline the businesses – another brave call given the demands for any major agency and group to demonstrate growth.

the money (in theory) ends up with a media owner … they are the ones at the sharp end of the deal but its a deal in which they’ve had no choice to be complicit. for them to put on the brakes could cost them 20-30% of revenues if a major buying group turns off the taps (a move for which there are precedents in other markets).

it’s stalemate.

of course my question on how we stop the train has an implicit assumption … that everyone wants to. I’m not naive enough to think for a second that everyone is sat bemoaning media buying’s current conundrum. ultimately the only reason the stalemate exists is that enough businesses are making enough money for it to be sustained.

new models already no doubt exist and will emerge. necessity is the mother of invention … in which case I can’t think that the need for inventors has ever been greater.

to be continued …

PHDcast011113

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advertising, branding, commenting, content creating, marketing, planning

From ZERO to Hero: its Joseph Jaffe versus the world as he shares his theory on surviving the Mediocalypse

“In a perfect world, the optimal paid media would be zero”

and there you have it. in sixteen short syllables Joseph Jaffe yesterday laid the gauntlet to, well, everyone.

in a Mumbrella Hangout with Tim and Nick, Jaffe took aim and didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger as he took on the concept of paid media, it’s media agency proponents, media owner benefactors and client conspirators – all of whom are collectively woefully unprepared for the coming mediocalypse (that last word is totes all mine fyi).

Jaffe’s alternative vision is ZERO – a word that serves the dual purpose of being, in Jaffe’s opinion, the target investment a brand should make in paid media … and also an acronym for the elements that make up Jaffe’s counter theory … Zealots, Entrepreneurship, Retention and Owned assets (not media).

to say all this is brand new territory would be a stretch, but to say that it’s rarely been delivered with such zeal is not. Jaffe gleefully takes on Sorrell (“self-serving”), media owners (“complacency and mediocrity are not causes to be able to keep your job. being also to achieve … objectives and demonstrate proven value-add and utility and return on investment is a cause to keep your job”) and clients (“morons”). by the time Clive Burcham of The Conscience Organisation joins the conversation the platform is well and truly burning and we may as well all just run for the hills.

it’s easy to line up against Jaffe’s argument and theory: Ehrenberg Bass’ analysis would tackle the importance of Zealots, Entrepreneurship doesn’t offer the guarantee of exposure, success and ultimately growth that shareholders demand of businesses; on ‘Retention is the new Acquisition’ you can pick your counter-play, and there’s no client worth their salt that hasn’t developed and deployed an Owned asset strategy and plan. but here’s the thing … Jaffe is right.

the 30 second-shaped solution is to predominant. the ad venture is coming to an end. agencies and clients aren’t co-conspiring to create sufficient entrepreneurship and innovation. media is commoditised, and media thinking is undervalued. clients customers have become more important than their consumers, and despite billions of dollars of effort the scarcest commodity in the world remains human attention.

run for the hills indeed.

but despite Jaffe’s verging into hubris, he offers some wonderfully salient and sensible advice. his assertion that “the vision of ZERO is to move from being a tenant to a landlord” is a nicely articulated vision for how brands should increasingly approach their media planning; the idea of a “customer-employee ecosystem empowered by technology” makes total sense; that we should be advising our clients on how to redress the balance of their direct to indirect (media) investment is absolutely right; and to ask “why are we paying for attention, when we should be paying attention” is good enough to put on the t-shirt (should that be your inclination).

whatever side of the debate you’re on, you can’t deny that our negotiation of media’s future is the better for having Jaffe’s voice in the chorus. there will be heroes and outlaws aplenty in the coming mediocalypse, which one Jaffe turns out to be will be decided first by your perspective, and then by history.

PS if you want to skip to a couple of highlights in the above video jump to 13:17 to hear Tim deploy Nick to search for someone who has tattooed toilet paper onto themselves with the immortal words “Nick, to the Google …” or 13:44 to see’s Tim‘s earnest nodding and eyebrow raise at the news of Charmin’s acquisition of website ‘sit or squat’

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debating, phdcast

PHDCast Special – The State We’re In: Negotiating the Future of Media Agencies at the Agency Symposium

well hello there. I’ve been away taking some time off but I’m back and getting stuck straight into the future of agencies, as discussed at the Agency Symposium in the Hunter Valley last week. this week’s PHDCast discussed the main topics and fall-out from those sessions, attended by the great and good of agency land.

from disruption to efficiency versus effectiveness taking in pitching, innovation and what clients want versus what they will pay for on the way; this week we take on the big topics facing media and agencies right now. all of which comes off of the back of an awesome few days with my industry colleagues in the Hunter Valley. lots to follow up on, and will do so over the course of the next few posts, for now have a listen to the Symposers and let us know what you think … it’s good to be back 😉

Agency Symposers

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advertising, broadcasting, marketing, mediating, opinionating, television

The Myopia of the 2020 Vision: Why we need a whole load more rational when we debate the merits of Television

Think TV, a marketing initiative of Free TV Australia (the body representing all of Australia’s free-to-air metropolitan and regional commercial television broadcasters), have released the latest in their 2020 Vision series. the episode – the first of series three – see’s industry heavy-weights including Jeff Goodby (Goodby, Silverstein and Partners) and Sir John Hegarty (BBH) discuss (in Think TV’s words) “the importance of broadcasting powerful, mass reaching, messages that connect with audiences”.

its a curious beast. but then communications about communications are always the most interesting of creatures … on the surface this is a straight-forward and very well produced piece of content which talks-up the role and power of TV. but take a closer look and a rather all-too defensive agenda emerges:

some highlights:

TV is till 60% of what we buy because it absolutely is the best place to be able to tell stories and connect people with your brand” … “we try to use video and television as a way to understand our customer … television is the only place you can do that” Kevin Mayer (Volkswagen of America Inc)

“the use of television is fundamental in telling a brand story and engaging with the audience in an intriguing and interesting way” Sir John Hegarty

“the great thing about TV … is that it allows you to go around the rational objections to a product … you have to find another emotional road to take people along so that they don’t think about the rational stuff anymore” Jeff Goodby

“if you’ve got the funding to do an ad, [TV is] still the one place you can get the biggest change in perception and appeal for your brand” Kevin Mayer

“there are two things brands have to do; they have to persuade and then they have to promote. digital technology has been brilliant at promotion, but if you’re not out there persuading, you’re not growing your brand … now, you can only do that with broadcast, because you don’t ultimately know where your audience is going to come from” Sir John Hegarty

“advertising expenditure globally is about $500bn a year. about $200bn of that goes on television. now, end of argument, alright?” Sir John Hegarty

“most of the money my clients spend is still on TV. I know that its very popular to think otherwise and go, you know, ‘what’s going on out there, there must be new things that we should be spending money on’ … and we end up spending on TV, just because it turns out to be the way to start something, the way to keep something going, the way to chance people’s minds” Jeff Goodby

“actually the internet kind of operates as an afterthought of the best TV commercials … people run to the internet to talk about them” Jeff Goodby

“as television evolves and becomes more targeted, I think you’re going to see an influx of dollars back into television because now you’re going to have efficiency and you’re going to have scale, and that’s where I think television is going to really see its second coming” Kevin Mayer

“we’re emotional creatures, and television is an emotional medium … it’s the most powerful selling tool advertisers have ever had at their disposal, and that ain’t changing – not for the foreseeable future” Sir John Hegarty

to say that some of those statements are subjective in the extreme is perhaps a bit of an understatement, and you could argue that’s fine if the piece was presenting itself as the subjective opinions of very respected industry professionals … but its not; Think TV’s description of the piece is “forward-thinking industry professionals reveal how television is rising to meet new marketing challenges with great success” (source) … which I actually think gets us into rather dangerous territory … because the success is pretty much ‘people saw my ad’, or ‘we emotionally engaged people’ or ‘lot’s of people spend lots of money on TV so it must work, alright’ …

now it’s easy to say that it’s “just a piece of video” or conversely that “these are the opinions of respected, and very successful, advertising men”, but don’t forget for a second this is just one grenade in an ongoing battle for communications revenues. this is about where brands invest marketing dollars – budgets that are increasingly under scrutiny by the companies that invest that money. and we’re not talking about spare change … the video’s own stats point out that $200bn is spent on TV – I think we’re going to have to do a little better to justify that than because television is “an emotional medium”.

it perhaps is no co-incidence that we receive this gem in the same week that online ad revenues overtook those for free-to-air TV. according to a report by the PwC for the AIB, (available to subscribers here), for the first six months of 2013 our industry in Australia invested $1,883m in online versus $1,805m investment in FTA TV.

the size of your spend isn’t of course everything. but it does count for a lot.

I like television. as a planner I value the role television can play in a plan. it delivers reach, often cost-effectively, and it delivers that scale quickly. and whilst, unlike Kevin Mayer, I probably wouldn’t describe the future of television as a “second coming”, I am excited by the opportunities that critical mass in connected TVs will bring.

but there’s a dangerous myopia in this 2020 Vision. statements like “digital technology has been brilliant at promotion, but if you’re not out there persuading, you’re not growing your brand” (Hegarty) or “the internet kind of operates as an afterthought” Goodby, do far less for TV’s case than embracing and exploring – say – the possibilities presented by digital storytelling and how they will be possible, with scale, in 2020 would have achieved.

a very wise man once told be to never let my strategy show. so when a video selling the benefits of TV says that “the great thing about TV … is that it allows you to go around the rational objections to a product … so that they don’t think about the rational stuff anymore” … I wonder whether we don’t need a whole load more rational as we mediate this ongoing debate.

featured image is a still from the above video of Volkswagen’s Darth Vader spot in Super Bowl XLV

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broadcasting, content creating, distributing, experiencing, phdcast, popping up, television

PHDcast 02.08.13 – its not the ooh laa la edition of the PHDcast as we talk TV, The Power Inside and Magnum Pop-Up

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morning PHDcast listeners. Nic was in the hot seat this week for the not-the-ooh laa la edition of the PHDcast. bien sur 😉 … awesome job Disco

much of the debate this week was in and around TV watching – how it’s changing and what the implications are, especially for brands. I wrote about some of the aspects of this in my post on Friday, but it’s worth dwelling on a point Stew makes at the twenty minute mark around people watching programmes not channels. I think that’s true but I also think its not quite as clean cut as that, and as the CBS / Time Warner stand-off enters it’s second day – leaving 3 million American’s without shows like Hawaii Five-0 (I know) – it’s clear that there is much more to come as the distribution wars heat up.

also on the cast we got round to talking about the Magnum Pop-Up Experience hitting Sydney. following the success of the store in other cities, the ground floor of Westfield in Sydney’s CBD has for the last three weeks been the latest place to get the pleasure pop-up. you get to design your own magnum … white, milk or dark chocolate plus plenty of toppings, all for a mere $7.

as I say on the cast, it’s a phenomenal example of a brand pulling the trick of landing marketing that gets people to pay for its own existence. and the fact that people are queuing up for it is proof positive of the indulgence for which the brand is known.

Magnum_pop-up Magnum_pop-up_2 Magnum_pop-up_3

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phdcast

PHDcast 13.07.13: It’s PHD Generations as the Interns take-over the PHDcast

player not working? click here to listen on Audioboo

it’s PHD Generations this week as our interns join myself, PHD Chief Exec Mark Coad and podcast regular Stew Gurney. between us we discuss the intern program, our young guns’ perceptions of PHD, agency culture, the current and future state of the media agency, media versus creative and how you solve a problem like Gen Y …

also props to the PHD interns who kicked ass in their presentation back to PHD and OMD over at Pyrmont towers. nice work team, nice work.

PHDcast_interns

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broadcasting, planning, social media-ising, television, viewing

Welcome to Our World: What TV Execs and schedulers have to learn from Media Planners

the-shire-2

so a very good friend of mine would spend his time as a child working out which TV shows should go before and after which other shows. he essentially played scheduling. he was therefore somewhat destined to grow up to be a media planner (he is now the head of planning at a creative agency, but my point stands).

media planners get to play the most awesome game of scheduling in the world … we get to play with who see’s what, where, when, and in which context they see it – and that’s just for starters.

at first it was planned interruption, but now – depending on your situation and or point of view – we plan content / engagement / context / connections … the point is that we have to decide with no small amount of consideration how we plan media and content … and weirdly that is something that TV schedulers are only getting their heads around.

this thought was prompted by a piece by Mark Lawson writing in The Guardian about two recent revelations by Shane Allen, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, to the UK’s Broadcasting Press Guild. one, that Ben Elton’s heavily-panned series The Wright Stuff will not be recommissioned and, much more interestingly, that Peter Kay’s new series will premiere on the BBC’s iPlayer – a platform originally conceived as a catch-up service.

why the online platform play? in the article Lawson observes that “Kay admits he was nervous, fearful of heavy backlash had the BBC unveiled his new show with extended hype” … this is Peter Kay we’re taking about, the creator of the sublime Phoenix Nights, running scared. of social media.

the problem is that social media, especially Twitter, gives such immediate and public feedback that opinions can move and upscale with such speed that public-opinion has moved against a show before the first episode has even aired. but shows sometimes need breathing space to develop (I give you Blackadder as exhibit A) but now there’s just no time.

PHD talked about this in Fluid, one of the books what we wrote. a local example is what happened with the Shire (I knew you were wondering about the pic) … in the crucible of Twitter it was judged and hung out to dry before it had even begun.

now I’m not defending The Shire, but as Lawson observes:

“The question of how best to launch – or, as executives like to say, “get away” – a TV show has become a huge debate now that there are so many ways of watching. It’s the reason drama executives lurch nervously between stripping (running a series on consecutive nights, such as next week’s Run on Channel 4) and playing episodes once a week, such as ITV’s Broadchurch.” (source)

the point is that, all of a sudden, TV schedulers face the same problems, challenges and opportunities that media planners have enjoyed for decades: choosing platform, designing context, sowing seeds or landing large, on-demand or broadcast big, all together or spaced out, OTS calculations, reach builds … the art of programme scheduling is about to be transformed.

welcome to our world TV execs, you’re in for a treat.

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innovating, planning, reaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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