Friday, December 9, 2011

Frictionless sharing

Complaining about Facebook is a popular pastime for many of us these days. In fact I could probably count on one hand the number of people I know who don’t have an opinion on what Facebook has done with this, that or the other.

This column however, is not about Facebook.

It’s about something that Facebook has facilitated. Actually maybe we should make that pioneered.

Frictionless sharing.

It’s a great term don’t you think? I found it in a terrific post on Mike Phillips’ blog, East Sleep Social.

“Frictionless sharing,” says Phillips, “essentially means Facebook automatically sharing updates of what a person is doing. Whether that activity is listening to a music track or reading an article on a website.”

If you have any friends in the UK or USA, I’m sure you’ll have noticed some “I’m listening to such and such a song on Spotify” updates in your Facebook feed or timeline.

That is frictionless sharing. And I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook, I really do, but inane updates about stuff that definitely isn’t worth sharing get on my nerves.

Again I’m not talking about “took the dog for a walk” or “making a coffee” type updates. I’m talking about updates from another social service being simulcast on Facebook.

The best (or should that be worst) example, I think, is people checking into places on Foursquare.

No issues with Foursquare per se, but simulcast check-ins on Foursquare and Facebook. Grrr!

According to Mike Phillips, this happens because Facebook enables it to happen. Which is great, but doesn’t mean we should inflict it on our friends.

Facebook, says Phillips, “Assumes we want people to know everything about us, that we want our lives to be public, our lives to be lived in the public domain.”

Obviously anyone who has ever posted to Facebook is most probably in some sort of tacit agreeance with that.

But what I’d like to see, as does Phillips, is for people to start taking more control of their automated online sharing and simulcasting.

Take a moment to look at your preferences and settings and you’ll quickly see that you don’t have to link and share check-ins and posts on the likes of Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter.

In most cases you don’t even have to opt out. You opt in.

However, once you opt in, you still need to keep a close eye on your preferences.

“It is default behavior that if a user does opt in,” says Phillips, “that all of their friends will see these updates.”

This has given rise to the issue I’ve been writing about today: an assumption by a computer program that all my information is interesting to my friends.

Or as Phillips puts it, “It equates activity with tacit approval or even recommendation.”

It used to be, back in the good old days of a few months ago, that people had to choose what they wanted to share and when they wanted to share it.

Whereas today, all you seemingly need to do is browse an article on the internet, or have a guilty musical pleasure pop up in your playlist, and Facebook can’t wait to tell your friends about it.

Whether they like it or not. And I suspect most of them do not.

I believe that by automatically sharing an endless stream of inane and inconsequential fluff, Facebook is essentially devaluing sharing.


Because when I read an article I think is worth sharing, I share it. That’s what generating great content is all about.

But when that quality content is buried within a never ending stream of simulcast Foursquare check-ins and retweets of tweets, it can very easily go un-noticed.

Which in my eyes, means the sharing culture that Facebook has fostered over the last few years becomes valueless.

And all because they made it frictionless.


Mike Phillips

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Innovation and Angry Birds

Having built something of a presence for myself on social media, I have no shortage of like-minded people around the world sending links to interesting ideas and articles.

In fact this has been where much of the content for this column has come from over the years.

Recently I got sent a link to a blog post that really got me thinking. It was titled; Can the next Instagram or Angry Birds be born within an agency?

The post in question was written by Murat Mutlu, a UK based creative innovation consultant, specialising in mobile communications.

Like me Mutlu has spent most of his working life within agencies, because, as he puts it, “The combination of creative and technical minds, plus big brands, has always had that lure and promise of creating amazing work.”

Mutlu argues that the reason ideas and utilities like Instagram could never be created in an agency is primarily down to two things – agency culture and clients themselves.

I have to admit I disagreed strongly with him on both counts.

I thought back over my career and came up with numerous examples of great work that would never have happened without the support of agency and client.

However, as I delved deeper into Mutlu’s post, I came to the conclusion that even though I disagreed with him, his argument was entirely valid.

So what changed my mind? This;

“Brands need to realise that the available hours and minutes of the people they are trying to reach are being eaten up by Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Angry Birds and browsing the web.”

Of course brands and their ads have always had to fight for our attention. But cutting through the clutter on television in the days of old was a lot more straightforward than gaining, and more importantly holding, someone’s attention in the digital world.

And, as I have argued for years, wouldn’t it better if we stopped spending our clients’ money on ads and similar branded messaging, and started creating things for brands that people could actually use and benefit from?

One example Mutlu gives is the incredibly popular social camera app Instagram.

Unless you’ve been living in the Amazon jungle for the last year, you’re sure to be familiar with Instagram and its amazing uptake. It really is a phenomenon.

So how come Kodak, or some other photography related brand for that matter, didn’t come up with the idea? After all, it seems kind of obvious that a camera maker would offer a camera app.

Yet Instagram was created by a couple of people with very little funding, as far as I’m aware.

This canny little idea, which was launched via the Apple App Store in October last year, has amassed more than 7 million users, who upload around 1.3 million photos every day.

You can bet your bottom dollar that most camera makers, and their agencies, are kicking themselves that they never thought of an idea like Instagram.

Or maybe they did. But a combination of client reticence, perceptions of what an agency actually does, and maybe even a reluctance to invest due to fear of failure, put paid to the idea in its early stages.

I guess we’ll never know.

But what I do know is that creative people, and I consider myself one of them, love dreaming up ideas. And whether those ideas are big or small, there is nothing worse than seeing a great idea die.

Not fail, die. Because an idea can only fail if it is actually produced.

And if agencies and their clients continue to focus more on so called success metrics than giving people something to fall in love with, then the next big thing in the digital world is never going to come out of an agency. Sadly.


Murat Mutlu

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Be nice people

In its infancy this column brought the chatter and commentary of the advertising blogosphere into a monthly periodical read by a group of people who had better things to do than read ad blogs.

At the end of most of my columns I’ve shared links to the websites and blogs where the conversations I had written about were taking place.

Over the journey there have been many emails and blog comments from readers thanking me for introducing them to a wealth of knowledge, ideas and thinking that they were totally unaware of.

All of it available on the internet. All of it free. And pretty much all of it self-published.

In recent times however, there has been much written and discussed about industry blogs. More specifically the bile and vitriol that appears on these blogs in the form of anonymous comments.

David Nobay from Droga5 in Sydney wrote about the problem a year or two ago. His article stirred up a hornet’s nest that sadly has since dissipated.

More recently John Mescall from the agency Smart has also rallied against anonymous comments and the overwhelming negativity that has become a feature of industry blogs.

He’s so fed up with the situation he’s; “Decided to make a deliberate attempt to opt out of being critical of other people’s work in public forums.”

Yet when I visited Mescall’s blog I found the following comment by someone known only as Susan;

“Reading your opinions about other peoples ideas for the names of hairdressing salons made me realise you are putting down others to make yourself look good.”

She went on to say, “…you have insulted them, but in such a way that is tacky and unprofessional to say the least.”


Personally I think it’s time we as individuals all took a long hard look at ourselves. And, as my Mum told me many years ago, treat people the same way we would like to be treated. Not just in blog comments, but in life.

Anyway, back to the blogs.

What so many adland figures who are critical of blog commenters don’t seem to realise, is that this situation is not unique to adland. Far from it.

It is rife amongst teenage Facebook users. And a major problem on YouTube. Yes YouTube.

You may think YouTube is just a place to go watch inane videos of Lol Cats, but scroll down the page an inch or two and nine times out of ten you’ll find some of the most horrendous bitchy, bullying commentary.

There’s no shortage of nasty racist undertones either. Yet we never hear of people getting on their high horse about the comments on YouTube.

Someone who has looked beyond the industry blogs is New York based digital entrepreneur, Anil Dash, who recently published a piece titled, “If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault”.

“How many times,” says Dash, “have you seen a website say we're not responsible for the content of our comments?”

Quite a lot I’d say.

As does Dash, who argues that there is a moral obligation expected of anyone who runs a blog or website where anti-social comments happen.

“It's your fault, say Dash. Take some goddamn responsibility for what you unleash on the world.

When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you're the person who made it possible, it's 100% your fault.

If you aren't willing to be a grown-up about that, then that's okay, but you're not ready to have a web business.”

Interesting perspective, don’t you think?

Of course it’s easy to blame the commenters. And so we should. But how ‘bout we follow Anil Dash’s lead and take aim at the blog owners too?

Failing that, as I mentioned before, let’s all start treating each other in the exact same way we would expect people to treat us.



Anil Dash

John Mescall

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Power of the brand

In the morning, while I’m having a shower and shave, I get a little bit of me time that I’m rarely able to get anywhere else.

And during that time I listen to sports radio.

My wife can’t stand it. Too much talking, blokey humour, and way too much football. Especially for first thing in the morning!

This 15 to 20 minute oasis of me time however has been interrupted of late by tobacco industry advertising.

Which is weird, because I thought the tobacco industry wasn’t allowed to advertise.

Anyway, the ads in question are not advertising tobacco, but arguing against impending plain packaging legislation.

The strategy behind these ads is quite clever I think, and they have a lot in common with the scaremongering we more usually associate with political advertising.

Which in essence is what the campaign is.

But scratch below the surface of the scare tactics and you’ll find that it is the tobacco industry itself that is scared.

And it is scared because the government is looking to legislate against something truly powerful and seriously addictive.

No, not tobacco. Brands.

As a reader of this magazine you know a strong brand is the most valuable asset a company can have.

There are numerous ways to define the meaning of the term brand. My favourite, is a brand is a consumer’s gut reaction to a service or product.

I’m sure there are many other variations of this.

In fact, if you search the question what is a brand on Google, you’ll get somewhere in the region of 220 million results.

The power of brands should never be under estimated. The government knows this and so too does the tobacco industry.

One man who really understands is Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi, the man who coined the term Lovemarks.

He recently wrote on his blog about a BBC TV show he had just watched about superbrands;

“Chances are when you’re wandering around your local store doing your weekly grocery shop there are brands you gravitate to.

Without a second thought your trolley fills with brands that have a familiar spot in your cupboards at home, and you feel happy about that.

Happier than if you’d actually bought the exact same products under a different label, because these are the brands that mean something more to you.”

And with that oh so simple observation Kevin has nailed exactly what the plain packaging argument is all about.

It’s not about black marketeering. It’s not about gangsters and illegal imports. It’s about the inexplicable power and value of brands.

The golden box. The cursive font. The masculine overtones of the red and white colour combination. All of these seemingly small details are incredibly important. And valuable.

To borrow from Kevin Roberts, “They fire positive emotions that inspire loyalty.”

So it stands to reason, that if the government take away those things that fire positive emotions, then all that is left is a product.

Now I’m no expert, but I suspect that without the benefits of branding, cigarettes are pretty much interchangeable. Much like many of the products in our supermarkets.

And as Kevin Roberts says, “If you love the brand, the product actually tastes better. Effectively, your mind has seasoned it with love.”

So if you take away the seemingly intangible things people love about a product, then all you have left is the product itself.

Which on the surface may not seem like much, but is startling new territory in the government versus tobacco industry game.

Because, as Mr Lovemarks himself says, “The brands that bring us the greatest joy are like calling home, meeting a friend or turning through the pages of a photo album.”

And if we take away that joy, then perhaps our fondness for the product in question will dwindle.


Kevin Roberts

Secrets of the superbrands

Monday, August 1, 2011

Recommendation engine

A few months ago a very good friend of mine sent me a link to a British newspaper review of a compilation album of early seventies music recorded in the southern states of the USA.

Now whilst I’m a child of the seventies, and love much of the music from that period, so called southern rock has never been of interest to me. Way too many beards and confederate flags.

However the friend who sent me the link is someone I trust when it comes to music. So if he recommends an album, I’m prepared to investigate further.

So off I went to Amazon, where the album had a series of glowing four and five star reviews.

Now seriously tempted, my next stop was iTunes, where I purchased the album. And it is indeed a great collection of music, by bands I would generally avoid like the plague.

This morning an email arrived in my inbox from Amazon suggesting albums I might like, based on my viewing of the southern rock compilation.

Whilst I love the idea of recommendation engines, my Amazon email proved to me that they can’t always be trusted. Well not by someone with specialised taste in music anyway!

In order to work really well, like good research, they need to make recommendations based on a broad source. An email after looking at just one album really can’t be accurate enough.

I should point out though, that I regularly get emails of this type from Amazon, and they’re generally pretty good in their choice of album and book suggestions.

Anyway, before I go way off track, let’s go back to the beginning of this month’s column – a recommendation from a friend.

Otherwise known as word of mouth this is what Bill Bernbach referred to decades ago as the most powerful form of advertising.

Bear in mind that when Bernbach made this statement the internet had yet to be invented. And it is via the internet that word of mouth goes in to overdrive.

It is why social media has to be a priority for any marketer today.

Because as exciting as it may seem to be involved a big budget TV ad with a hotshot director behind the camera, the recommendation of a friend is far more powerful.

And if you can get people to recommend your brand or product to their friends, then you’re definitely onto a winner.

Which brings me back to Amazon.

You see their recommendations are based on things they think you’re interested in. Which obviously sounds like a great idea, but based on the recent email they sent me is far from perfect.

I however have another problem with the recommendation engine model.

If everything you buy is based on things you have previously purchased or expressed an interest in, then how on earth are you going to discover something completely new?

And by completely new I mean something different, unexpected or outside your usual area of interest.

You can’t stumble upon something by accident if everything you buy is based on your shopping habits.

Which means that your shopping habits can very easily end up stereotyping you. The same applies to many of the smart new digital magazine formats.

I love the idea of the recently launched Zite – an iPad based magazine that learns which articles you do and don’t like, then over time personalises the content to suit you.

Sounds brilliant, but you could easily end up with everything you read being based on what you have read in the past.

Which, just like the recommendation engine, prevents you from stepping outside of your comfort zone and discovering completely new things.

Now that narrow minded digitally programmed way of living may suit some people, but it sure doesn’t suit me.

And hopefully it won’t suit you either.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Addicted to digital

The other day I was on the train on my way to the office. It was peak hour, and I ended up having to stand up most of the way. Sitting in front of me for a large part of the journey was a smartly dressed woman with an iPad.

Nothing out of the ordinary about that these days, but I couldn’t help sneaking a peak at what she was doing on her iPad.

Watching a movie? No.

Catching up on the latest news? No.

Playing Angry Birds? Sadly not!

In fact, for the entire twenty minute journey the woman did nothing more than check her email.

She opened emails. She read some of them. And deleted many of them. She also replied to one or two. But that was pretty much all she did during her journey to work.

A year ago this lady would have probably done the exact same thing on her smart phone. I doubt she’s alone in this behaviour. I often check emails on my iPhone. I’m sure you do too.

The thing is, it’s getting harder and harder to discipline yourself to actually switch off when you’re out of the office.

So just as many people have made a tree or sea change to break free of the urban grind, people are now starting to make the same kind of change digitally.

A digital sea change, if you will.

I first came across this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago when I caught up with my friend Ned Dwyer for a drink after work.

A partner in a small digital agency, he is of course an early adopter of most digital gadgets and devices.

During the course of our conversation, Ned answered a mobile phone call on exactly that – a mobile phone.

Not an iPhone. Not a Blackberry. Not even some sort of Android device. Just a good old mobile phone. The sort of phone I didn’t even realise they made any more.

I knew he had an iPhone, so I asked what happened to it. He laughed and said he’d send me a link in the morning. Which of course he did.

The link clicked through to a blog post that he’d recently published entitled; “Why we ditched our iPhones.” It’s a fascinating read. Here’s the opening couple of paragraphs;

“Over the last three months we’ve all switched off our iPhones, put them in a drawer and embraced the lo-fi life that comes with owning a burner.

A burner is the most basic handset that you can get.

The reference is from HBO’s The Wire where the drug-dealing protagonists are reduced to talking on pre-paid mobile phones that they can throw away to keep police off their backs.

There is no email, no Bluetooth, no camera. Just SMS and phone calls.”

Now I don’t know about you, but the idea of switching to a back-to-basics mobile sounds like hell on earth to me. I simply can’t imagine life without my iPhone.

However it looks like the optimum connectivity offered by smart devices like the iPhone is beginning to overwhelm people.

I guess one person’s idea of convenience is another’s notion of hell. But according to Ned Dwyer, there is a genuine upside to disconnecting;

“The best thing is the extra time that it gives you to sit and think. It forces you to take stock of your surroundings and get comfortable with your own company.”

Again, that sounds great in theory, but I’m still not sure that it’s for me.

However, as Ned himself says, “We’re connected to more information than we could ever consume in a lifetime, stealing moments away from the network is the best way to keep our sanity.”

Ned Dwyer

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mail moments

On average 294 billion emails are sent every day. Not every week, every day. That is, I’m sure you’d agree, one hell of a lot of emails.

When I came across this statistic last week, it had me wondering how many emails would be sent of people had to pay for the privilege.

You see, like many digital offerings impacting on the offline world, email is and always has been free.

Unlike stamps, envelopes and packages.

Just imagine how many people would be far less inclined to communicate via email if it cost a couple of cents to send one.

And as for the spam industry, well the less said the better. In fact, the minimal cost of emailing thousands of people at any given time is what gave birth to spam in the first place.

Take spam out of the equation and the number of daily emails would probably be reduced quite substantially.

The daily number however would still be enormous. I wonder if it still will be many years from now?

Last year there was a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Facebook introducing an email service.

Much of the talk centred around Facebook taking on Google’s G-Mail service and Microsoft’s Hotmail.

I spoke to my 18-year-old daughter about it and she couldn’t understand why anyone would want a Facebook email.

When I asked her to clarify why she had said this, she rolled her eyes (as teenagers tend to do) and proclaimed that email is too slow.

Too slow!

She went on to tell me that she had a couple of email addresses but very rarely used them, preferring instead to use instant messaging services, especially the one in Facebook or good old text messaging on her phone.

Which surely points to a decline in email use in the not too distant future, as my daughter and millions of kids younger than her, begin to enter the workforce.

So what then, does the future hold for good old snail mail?

After all, if my daughter says email is too slow, what on earth would she think of the postal service?

Well believe it or not, she holds it in very high regard.

Perhaps because we receive so little personal mail these days, she sees mail addressed to her as something special. Something worthwhile. And definitely something worth waiting for.

Hard to believe I know, but this “I want it now” generation is more than happy to wait for things that are worth waiting for.

My 14-year-old son is the same.

He ordered a skateboard from a website in the USA and is more than happy to wait six weeks for it to arrive. Weird, I know, but I think it bodes well for the direct marketing industry.

At least I hope it does!

Last year I judged at Australia’s greatest showcase for direct marketing, the ADMA Awards. One thing that really struck me during the judging was how few truly great direct mail packs there were.

Obviously email is impacting on direct mail volumes. A lot.

After all, if a stamp costs 60c, then it must be getting harder and harder for marketers to justify not communicating with their customer base via low cost email.

But just as kids hold the future of email in their hands, so too could they represent the saviours of direct mail.

This generation of kids who say email is too slow and, believe it or not, old fashioned, may not like brands to communicate with them via this channel.

What they may appreciate though, is brands sending them offers and enticements using good old snail mail.


Because, like you and me, they like to feel loved. And nothing makes a customer feel more valued than receiving something special in the mail.

That’s something special by the way. Not some cheap and tacky piece of junk mail.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things seen differently

I read two outstanding think pieces about the advertising business last month. As is so often the case, both of them were on blogs, not in the trade press.

And both of them were written by planners; Amelia Torode, who is based in the UK, and Bud Cadell, who is based in the USA.

That, however, is where the similarity ends.

Torode’s piece, which generated plenty of blog comments and discussion, was titled “The future of advertising is utterly depressing.”

With a title like that, you know you’re up for an interesting read, especially given the current wave of change sweeping through the ad business.

On the surface, Bud Caddell’s piece had very little in common with Amelia Torode’s.

Snappily titled, “Rock stars, ninjas and assholes,” it looked at a something regularly discussed within the walls of agencies – people with a reputation for big ideas and even bigger attitude.

As a nigh on twenty year veteran of agency land, I have had plenty of experience with industry rock stars. Some of it good, some of it not so good, but always focussed in and around innovation and ideas.

And in my experience, people who are often dismissed or derided as rock stars, tend to be the people who drive agencies forward.

To quote from Apple’s legendary “Think Different” ad from many years ago;

“They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They explore. They create. They inspire.”

Bud Caldwell’s piece came not to damn the rock star, but to recast him or her. Which is why he also used the terms ninja and assholes.

In Caldwell’s eyes, “An asshole is an asshole, and assholes are not a new phenomenon. You shouldn’t hire them if you can’t stand them.”

No argument from me there.

As Caldwell says, “An asshole is someone who makes everyone’s life miserable, even when it has nothing to do with work.”

Rock stars however are an entirely different beast. And rock stars, I think, will be the people who help define the future of our industry.

Unlike previous generations though, the rock stars of today and tomorrow could well be found outside of agency creative departments.

The likes of Google and Facebook are proof of this.

Clever kids who were conveniently categorized as geeks and nerds, who went on to revolutionise our business using codes and algorithms.

For Amelia Torode, the future of our business may lay with, she feels, “People who don’t know (or dare I say care) about Snow Plough or Saatchi & Saatchi in the 80’s.”

I disagree.

And agree as well.

The new comers to our industry, people schooled in writing code and developing, are never going to be interested in Volkswagen’s classic Snow Plough ad.

This is because these people are generally not interested in the field of communication loosely known as advertising.

What they are interested in using their creativity to solve problems, innovation and rising to a challenge.

These are traits they share with the people who created the Snow Plough ad back in the pre-digital age.

The Saatchi brothers also shared these traits, as did legendary figures like Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy.

For these people were the industry rock stars of their day.

And as Bud Caldwell clearly identifies in his blog post, rock stars should never be confused with assholes.

Another name for rock stars, I believe, is a term coined by Amelia Torode for another group of people she thinks will define the industry of the future, “madder people.”

I quite like the term madder people to be honest.

Although, I still think the best definition of all can be found in the Apple “Think Different” ad – “The ones who see things differently.”

They may often be a pain in the butt, but these rebels with a cause will create the industry of tomorrow. Not smiling, always looking to please “yes men” in perfectly tailored suits.


Amelia Torode

Bud Caddell

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beyond advertising

Over the last few months there has been much written about the future of advertising, especially in the blogosphere.

The catalyst for all this chatter and discussion was an article published towards the end of last year by Fast Company magazine.

Given the amount of change wrought upon the advertising industry since the internet became something we take for granted, I’m surprised people can still find something new to say about the future of advertising.

That’s not to say that there isn’t anything to say. More that I’m getting a bit tired of self proclaimed experts wheeling old the same old clich├ęd predictions and pontifications.

Joseph Jaffe’s acclaimed book, Life after the 30 second spot, is now six years old. I’m sure you will have read it. Most people in marketing did back in the mid to late noughties.

Suffice to say, in spite of its predicted extinction, the 30 second spot is alive and well.

In fact, now that all the free-to-air digital television channels have finally launched, I’d say there are more opportunities for good old 30 second ads than ever before.

That’s not to say that the quality of TV advertising is very high, because it certainly isn’t, but stories of its demise appear as yet to be unfounded.

One of the more interesting of the “future of” articles and blog posts that I’ve read over the last couple of months came from John Dodds, from the blog Make Marketing History.

If you’re in marketing, and you’re not a regular reader of Doddsy, you should be. He’s a very insightful commentator.

Dodd’s post was entitled The future of the marketing director. Here’s its opening paragraph;

“Everyone’s writing self-serving pieces about the future of advertising, yet few of them seem to realise that the true subject is the future of marketing.

Central to that is the future of the marketing director, an important role that has, all too often, relegated itself to some kind of administrator of outsourcing.”

Ouch! Bet you never saw that coming did you? Well not in this column anyway.

Dodds goes on to say, “The reversal of that trend starts with knowing what marketing really is.”

But I know what marketing is, you’re probably thinking. Of course you do, but do your colleagues and superiors?

To them marketing is basically advertising or promotional activity.

I know there’s so much more to it than that. I’m sure you do too, but what about the rest of your organisation?

The way Dodds sees it, marketers need to take on a more evangelical role. One where spreading the word and educating others is part and parcel of the job.

He doesn’t however mean evangelising products or brands, because you probably do that already.

What Dodds wants marketers to do, is to evangelise marketing itself, and its importance to the company.

Of course I would say this, but I reckon he’s on to something.

Over the last couple of years, thanks to our old friend the GFC, companies looking to cut costs have had marketing budgets under the microscope.

Obviously this is because they see marketing as a cost to the business. But perhaps it is because marketers are not doing enough to promote the importance of marketing within their organisation.

Because if it was promoted like a product or service, then perhaps it would be more highly valued. And management would look elsewhere for cost savings.

As John Dodds says, marketing needs to take on an evangelical role. For it is only by evangelising, that you can turn the sceptics and doubters of the corporate world into marketing believers.

And, as Dodds himself says, “Until this is achieved, marketing will be under-valued.”


Make Marketing History

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 11 - Digital?

As we start to tick off the months of 2011, I’d like to call for a moratorium on the term digital agency. More specifically, the often bandied around term “pure play” digital agency.

Surely, in an age where even television is broadcast digitally, the idea of digital as an area of speciality is rapidly becoming redundant?

Many of the campaigns I have worked on recently, none of which I would consider to be especially digital, would have been possible without digital.

Digital, and more specifically the internet, are neither channels nor media these days. They are, I believe, idea facilitators.

They enable an idea to be broadcast or narrowcast, shared one to one or one to many and also to engage and invite people to contribute to it.

Digital also helps brands collect data. And data, as any good direct marketer will tell you, should never be considered an expense but a bargain.

So if all the above (and so much more) is possible because of digital, why oh why are there still people out there talking about being digital?

It’s surely the 21st century equivalent of calling your agency a television specialist?

In a recent post on the Weiden & Kennedy London blog, Neil Christie coined the term Post Digital. A very interesting piece of terminology I think.

“Digital is not a channel,” wrote Christie, “it’s the context in which everything lives.” He backed up his statement with this;

“Declaring in an article in Wired way back in 1998 that the digital revolution was over Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab, observed that, ‘Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.’
Today we are breathing Negroponte’s post-digital air: pretty much all media are now digital. People can watch TV shows on their laptops, read newspapers on their phones, absorb video content from poster sites, read e-books on their Kindles and get the news from Twitter.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

What makes Neil Christie’s opinion even more pertinent is the fact that Weiden & Kennedy are widely recognised for their digital work.

Their much talked about Chalkbot campaign for Nike took out the Cyber Grand Prix at the most recent Cannes Lions. And their Old Spice Man campaign is already the stuff of digital legend.

“We've reached a tipping point,” says Christie, “where the tech and the audience have reached a level of maturity where digital is everyday and normal.

Now, what agencies and marketers need to understand is how people behave in relation to content, community, technology and media. This isn't easy because it's evolving rapidly and constantly.”

And because, as Neil Christie says, digital is still evolving, those who still cling to the term pure play digital seem to believe that they are the only people who are capable of navigating the hitherto uncharted waters of next generation digital.

In his blog post, Neil Christies argues that in the past, “Digital agencies had the technical knowledge, and the traditional agencies had the big, emotional ideas.”

Of course those from the pure play digital area would probably make that statement somewhat differently. They’d argue that traditional agencies were just that – traditional.

They’re not. Haven’t been for a while. In fact I wrote about this very topic in this column a couple of issues ago.

So if digital is dead and post digital is the future, what kind of agency do marketers need to help them in this constantly evolving new world?

Neli Christie has the answer.

“Not ‘digital’ agencies. Not ‘creative’ agencies. Not networks or boutiques or platform-agnostic transmedia nodes.

Just smart people who get it and who care about doing great work that makes a difference, regardless of medium.”

The only problem that marketers will have, is finding such an agency.


W&K London Blog

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jan 11 - Books & Browsing

I’ve been wanting to write something about the iPad for some time now, but figured I’d wait until the dust settled on its much hyped launch before doing so.

There’s been plenty of blog coverage on Apple’s tablet device, both good and bad, but I won’t bore you with the obvious.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I were enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in South Melbourne. It was her turn to choose the book for her bookclub, so we went into a bookshop.

As is often the case, she couldn’t decide between several of the books that had caught her eye. So she spoke to the lady behind the counter, who was very happy to help her.

The shop assistant’s help was, I believe, an excellent example of customer service. But more than that, this was a person with a genuine love for the product she sold.

Suffice to say, my wife walked out the shop with not one, but three books.

Meanwhile I took some photos of the store, as I felt it had a wonderful ambience, which I shared on Twitter.

You’re probably wondering by now what on earth all this has to do with the iPad. Very little to be honest, but my experience in that bookshop was very reminiscent of the teenage years I spent in record shops.

And record shops, as I’m sure you’re aware, are disappearing rapidly, mostly as a result of the internet, which has made music as easy to get as a couple of mouse clicks.

Much of the talk about the iPad has centred around it doing to magazines and books what the iPod and MP3 did to CDs and records.

I for one hope it doesn’t.

The demise of physical reading material may well eventuate, but I think it will take a lot longer than music. Basically because of pricing.

When you buy an album from iTunes, it costs less than a CD does, because there is no CD or CD packaging involved in the cost.

The price of a book is, give or take a dollar or two, roughly the same as a digital version. Which is fine if all you want is a book to read. But in my experience there’s so much more to books than reading.

Which makes me think that books will follow the lead of the music industry and offer well priced digital versions or more expensive collectors or special editions.

When it comes to magazines however, things get a little trickier.

Many publishers are creating magazine applications for the iPad. These generally feature extra content, video, access to lots more photos and more.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t come cheap.

Writing on his blog, David Hepworth from The Word, a UK based magazine, said,
“Every magazine publisher at the moment is faced by a new problem, do you or do you not invest in a version of your magazine for the iPad?”

His favourite magazine, The New Yorker, has recently launched an iPad application.

“They're inviting subscribers like me,” said Hepworth, “to pay another $5 a week to get a version of the magazine for a tablet. I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that's a bit much.”

If my experience with the iPad app of a well known magazine is anything to go by, I’d say Hepworth is definitely on to something.

The app I downloaded cost $8, which I thought was good value. But if I buy it every month, then it will end up costing me close to $100 a year. Not to mention the impact on my broadband usage, as the app is around 600mb in size.

The print magazine however is available on a one year subscription, delivered to my door for around half the cost of the iPad version.

Once publishers solve that problem, I suspect print copies of magazines will diminish. As for books, guess we’ll have to wait and see.


David Hepworth