Saturday, 9 January 2016

When one of your heroes dies

Lemmy and his unique mic style
My first 'LP'
We all remember the first album we bought, or if you're as old as me, your first 'LP'. Mine was in 1979 and it was Bomber by Motorhead. At the age of 14, growing up in a pub in the midlands, any money I could earn was put aside for records, and soon to follow, gigs. If I remember correctly it cost £4.99 and was one of the best investments I ever made. Revolver records in Kettering made a killing out of me from then on, singles, EPs, albums, posters, badges, patches etc. It was the age of NWOBHM, and a great time to be a teenager.

At the age of 15, I booked myself onto a coach trip to De Montfort Hall in Leicester, to see my first gig; The ace up your sleeve tour, 17th November 1980...Motorhead, of course. A young lad, with wide eyes and ringing ears, totally absorbed in the entire experience. I couldn't hear a thing at school the following day, but that was fine. The memory, now anchored deep, was more than enough to distract me from double maths and chemistry...or whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.

They had to stop because the
speaker cables were melting. 
My first gig 17:11:80
De Montfort Hall, Leicester
35 years, 33 Motorhead gigs (I only missed two years, but mostly went on my own!), a couple of times sneaking back stage,  2 constantly ringing ears and 22 plus albums later, it's now all over. One of only a very few people I have truly admired, died over Christmas, 2015. Lemmy Kilmister, with his wit, honesty, true to himself attitude has decided to move on; and of course, this also rightly means the end of Motorhead too. This is the fella who, when I joined the army, took pride of place in my 8 man barrack room. We were allowed one picture, and one picture only, on our purpose made board on the wall next to our lockers. Most chose family or girlfriends, I chose a picture of Lemmy and Motorhead (ok....I didn't have a girlfriend!). For me, he had achieved hero status, unique, couldn't care less what anyone else thought, true to his beliefs, living life to the max, a genius musician as well....I guess I admired all these qualities and wished I was brave enough to follow in the same way.

Pride of place in the barrack room.
I was woken up on the morning of 29th December 2015 by several texts buzzing my phone with the sad news, quickly followed by floods of messages on social media, this was subsequently confirmed all over the news. It was an odd hollow feeling. Of course I didn't know him, I only spoke to him the once, but he will be missed in many ways...and my ticket to see Motorhead on 30th January 2016 at Hammersmith Odeon (not the poxy 'Eventim Appollo') will be a printed reminder that 'No sleep 'til Hammersmith' pretty much came true. Thankfully, Lemmy, and Motorhead, will always be larger than life itself, blasting out of speakers in my home and all over the world for many years to come. Forget 10, and even 11, turn it up to 12 and enjoy one of the last true rock 'n' roll icons...there aren't many more left.

It's now time to tune into his memorial on YouTube and maybe partake in a few glasses of Jack Daniels.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Ten signs indicating that the #Advertising Industry is in turmoil

Simple question: Does advertising work?

Especially today, when the advancements in technology and the subsequent changes in consumer adoption and behaviour are out-pacing the legacy structures and legacy thinking of brands and agencies. Perception is, it's not that businesses can't keep up; it's the fact they don't know how to.

This recent interview between Lord Sugar and Sir Martin Sorrell (who naturally has a vested interest in promoting the value of advertising) clearly demonstrates this opinion. An excerpt from the discussion between two heavyweights of industry (and now middleweights of TV) went like this:

"This is how much you don't know."
Lord Sugar: Now there are so many avenues where [advertising] money can be spent. National newspaper [circulations] are falling; they’re not as popular as they once were. Internet advertising – subtle adverts appearing in the corners of websites – are where a lot of advertisers are placing their money. I haven’t got a clue how they’re supposed to work but nevertheless the advertising fraternity doesn’t care. It says ‘never mind, we’ll take your money – we don’t know how it works either

Sir Martin Sorrell: That's a little bit cruel.

Lord Sugar: Well, it's true.

I think it's very difficult to argue with Lord Sugar's point of view. How many of you have actually clicked on an ad? Yet, how many of you have been annoyed by an ad, which has chosen to stalk you across every website you visit online? I'm guessing the balance of being annoyed far outweighs the act of clicking through.

Holding up the mirror
Let's revisit the purpose of advertising. If it's to grab people's attention, with the simple and ultimate aim of persuading them to buy something, then it's impact has declined dramatically.

In these days of multi-channel communications and #IoT hyper-connectivity, the type of thinking, used to create the 30 second TV commercial, no longer cuts the mustard. I'd like to think (more accurately, hope) we have seen the end of the over-hyped and over-invested advertising we have just witnessed during Christmas 2015.

This type of legacy thinking has been transferred to online advertising (spray and pray - wallpaper the web), it's ill-informed, lazy and it doesn't work. Our ability to measure every impression, every click-through, as well as the post-click 'journey' should provide us with the clues. Average display ad click-through rates are 0.1%, which means 99.9% of the audience don't interact. We have seen a slightly higher number of clicks (or taps) on mobile, but this is most probably because we're tapping things by mistake...or worse still, being tricked to tap...let's just call that 'Native Advertising'.

So what are the ten things we're seeing, (but maybe choosing to ignore) that indicate the demise of the advertising industry and the gradual decline of agencies and rigid marketing departments? Do you recognise any of the points listed below? (As a marketer or as a consumer.)
  1. Continual Re-invention: - How many agencies have you seen, or been a part of, that have re-invented their 'value proposition' or even rebranded? In fact, the better question to ask is, how many haven't you seen? The time, effort and cost of undertaking such a task is significant. The motivation to do it? Fear, uncertainty, doubt. Lower revenues, lost accounts and the loss of key personnel.    
  2. Acceleration in Mergers and Acquisition activity: - As above: potential fire sales, joining forces to share accounts; to access new markets; or to up-skill existing company, the motivation behind this activity is similar to the above, but also with the vision of achieving longer term growth through M and A.
  3. Unnecessary Complexity: - How many new terms have hit the market in the last few years? Yet how many of these terms mean something new?  Examples: Content Marketing; the latest hype and buzzword for the web...yet, imagine the web without content. It'd be pretty empty. Content has always been there, but now content is being structured for marketing purposes. Can you see it yet? It's another term for online advertising. Other such bullshit phrases Native Advertising, Big Data, Storytelling, Omni-channel and the obvious cracker 'programmatic marketing' (ads placed by a computer) are being used to disguise the old as something new.
  4. False assumptions: - The biggest assumption being, the more we know about people, the more effective we can make our advertising. Wrong. The continual quest for the single customer view (because we can - because the data we can get implies we can achieve this) is an odd one. Typically, this level of data use manifests itself in people being followed around the web by the same ads, even if they already have bought the product; and ill timed and misinformed communications from other areas including email and DM. Why not use this data to enhance the customer experience, rather than use it to advertise more? The data is there, the application is wrong.
  5. Newly invented job titles: - To fit with re-invention, HR and recruitment agencies are being tasked to recruit people for jobs that haven't previously existed. How do they know what to look for from an experience or skills basis? What is the difference between a digital strategist, social media strategist, customer journey planner? Even in the C-suite, we are seeing roles evolve e.g. the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), becoming Chief Digital Officer (CDO), becoming Chief Customer Officer (CCO). Evolution from task to channel to audience.
  6. Employee retention rates: - Whether it's because of confusion, lack of clarity, limited sense of purpose, frustration or otherwise, we're now seeing that two thirds of employees swap their jobs in the second year of employment in the agency world. [Propel Study]. Most of this is through the employee's own decision, however, redundancies are also a factor. See point 1.
  7. Awards: - For awards sake. Is there another industry, which judges and praises itself in such an overtly extravagant and frequent way? Awards subjectively given to others, by others who work together, who are friends with each other; organised by industry bodies and media companies constantly seeking out ways to stay current...whilst also making money. 
  8. 'Creativity' is lauded: - Creativity viewed through the very blinkered lens of advertising is an odd concept. 
    Let's be honest, it's over hyped advertisers giving awards for over hyped ads.
    Creativity should be celebrated in a much wider context, especially with all the technology at our disposal. How about creativity that enhances people's lives, as opposed to ads? See the Cannes Lions site extract...says one thing, but actually delivers another. The only people raving about the creativity in advertising are the advertisers themselves. Maybe this makes advertisers feel more worthy and fulfilled?
  9. Continuing to do the same thing, year after year: - In a world of constant change, many businesses choose to execute the same old media plan, and there is no let up in this habitual behaviour. The 'all agency' meetings follow the same pattern, with the same please the most senior stakeholder in the client business.  £18.5Bn was spent on advertising in the UK alone in 2014 according to Warc; and 2015 is expected to show a further increase in this already obscene number. Yet the returns and consumers' appetite are diminishing fast. The impact of failing advertising led to desperation in the retail sector over Christmas 2015, with retail companies offering massive discounts four days before Christmas day. Quite clearly those very expensive ads didn't attract the desired level of custom.
  10. Ad blocking increased usage: - People are taking evasive action to escape online advertising. The increase in ad blocking usage is nearly exponential. People are paying money to platforms to escape advertising i.e. Spotify.
People's (otherwise known as consumers) behaviours have changed dramatically over the last few years, and they are continuing to change. They are savvy, less taken in by story-telling or ad placement trickery, have super powerful subconscious advertising filters, and take no nonsense. They have the upper hand. Yankelovich Research claims that an individual's average daily ad exposure has increased from 500 a day in the 1970's to over 5,000 a day, today. Ironically, the human being has been inadvertently trained by the advertising industry to switch off to advertising.

Like it or not, advertising is far less effective and agencies and businesses need to accept this. A time for the more senior agency people and brand marketers to start being honest with themselves and each other, to stop playing the game of pretend, and begin to re-learn what their customers really want. They don't want to be advertised to (they're quite clearly demonstrating this); they want the best product, service and experience businesses can offer, and would much prefer to see businesses invest more into these areas. It's becoming akin to the Emperor's New Clothes story.

The Brand (Emperor), The Agency (Weavers), The Consumer (Little Boy)

It's time to re-cut those marketing budgets and divert that wasted ad money into areas of innovation and product and service enhancement across the entire supply chain; break the same old ad habit, take calculated risks. Get that right and brands won't need to advertise; their actions will speak for themselves.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Is #advertising now a bad habit?

Addicted to a bad habit? Two opposing stats that question the logic and decision making of marketers.

People are increasing their use of online ad blockers, globally. So much so, the increase, year on year, could become exponential in a short space of time. Source.

Yet, global online advertising spend has been increasing and is expected to increase over the next few years. Source. And look at the levels of spend...the table below is in $Billions.

So, in simple terms: People increasingly wish to block advertising; yet businesses continue to invest in advertising. The only winners here are the media and advertising agencies.

Surely, apportioning a percentage of advertising spend to innovation and transformation, to enhance products, offerings and services, would be money better spent? Rather than pumping money into just telling people how great you are; especially as people, through their own actions, are stating they don't wish to be advertised to. Bad habits are hard to break.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

From #ZMOT to MicroMoments. #Google have got it right.

There's probably less than a handful of organisations who really understand the online behaviours of people, globally. Google is obviously one of them. Thankfully, those analysts with their theoretical and assumptive 'customer journey' models are being exposed for what they are by real action based data and information.

The moments that drive our behaviour has been brilliantly portrayed in Google's Micro-Moments video. Behaviour is not always planned, neither does it follow a logical path. It's spontaneous, unpredictable even illogical and driven by real-life...not by mathematical trends or patterns.

Btw: If you're not familiar, this is ZMOT.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

#DigitalTransformation: More cultural than technological?

IBM recently published a very refreshing piece of research busting the myths of 'Millennials' in the workplace. Myths such as being "lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow"which are most probably created by small sections of the older generations to help make them feel better about themselves. [Different Discussion]

The IBM report: Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths discusses a number of behavioural and motivational attributes of three groups; these being:

  • Millennials (21 to 34yrs)
  • Generation X (35 to 49yrs) ... the group I find myself in
  • Baby Boomers (50 to 60yrs)
The hypothesis is, Millennials will revolutionise the workplace, because they are the first generation to grow up immersed in digital.' The report goes on to explore the ambitions, decision making, rewards, digital addiction and work priorities of all three groups. Many comparisons are made between the Millennials and connecting groups and there are also some recommendations offered too. You should read it!!

However, looking at the data there is, for me, a bigger underlying story that emerges. This becomes much more apparent when you compare Generation X with Baby Boomers. Here's a couple of charts to consider:

A significant gap indicating Gen' X's place a higher value on work/life balance & flexibility than Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers appear to believe they make better decisions themselves, in isolation.
Even compared to Millennials, Gen' X's are heavier users of social for business purposes.
That's all very interesting of course, but what are the implications to businesses, both large and small? Well consider this:
  • What if the Boardroom mainly consisted of Baby Boomers?
  • And fast tailing behind them on the career ladder were the Generation X's and Millennials pushing for change on a number of fronts
There is a tension. From making decisions, based upon slightly differing beliefs and motivations; the lack of input from others around them; and the slower adoption of digital and technology. This goes way beyond digital transformation.

It appears that the delta between Millennials and Generation X is not so great on a number of fronts. So, from an organisational perspective, in order to evolve at the pace needed to survive and succeed, transformation at the top of organisations is what maybe required?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Industry #SkillsGap: Where does it actually reside?

It would appear the UK's Marketing Industry (agency and client-side world) is perceived to have a skills gap. There are a number of articles and research pieces specifically identifying the key hot spots where the industry is deemed to be lacking skills; these include the inability to derive key business insights; construct a meaningful brief; through to the understanding and implementation of a cohesive digital strategy. In fact Adobe's Digital Distress study stated:

Which means 3 out of 5 don't. That's quite scary and a little sad.  Especially when the impact of this is discouraging young and emerging talent not to pursue a career in our industry as they feel they do not have the confidence to apply.

However, maybe, just maybe, the skills gap isn’t in the obvious place, (that being people leaving university and in the early stages of their careers). Maybe it’s elsewhere, maybe it's at the more senior end of the spectrum? Or maybe the reality is, it's because of a set of circumstances out of our control, which has amplified the symptoms due to the accelerated pace of change we find ourselves in.

If you’re familiar with The Laws of Disruption, you may understand what I’m leading to.

Technology is moving at pace, social change lags behind, and business and political change lags behind even further. Technology is driving consumer behaviour, and businesses are doing their very best to keep up with both, but not necessarily succeeding.

Senior marketers and members of the boardroom, who can possibly remember a time before the mobile phone existed, are having to adapt and adopt. Where as 'Generation Y' and younger have grown up with 'digital', it's second nature.

Example: "What's digital?" asked my eldest I went on to explain, in what can only be described as marketing speak; to which she replied, "I don't understand." She then went back to Snapchatting her friends on the iPad while listening to Spotify.

The question is: Are we really lacking such skills? Or are we, as an industry, at a point of transition. Not a technical one, but a cultural one.

Emerging talent looking for new careers are presented with job titles, which have been created for the convenience that more senior established business people can understand. Creating titles, putting people in boxes due to the perception of how our industry is evolving. Poor old HR and recruitment agencies! How do they know what a business really needs and then how can they spot the talent that can fulfil that need.

But bigger than this, how do organisations know what agencies to select? Where to put their marketing investment? It's hard.

It's an interesting period we find ourselves in, the first hurdle to overcome is the acknowledgement that this situation exists, and will do so for quite some time.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The subjectivity of the "Big Idea": The need for agencies to change.

There is no practical means to measure the big idea. It's subjective. Applying a size metric to an abstract concept is a little odd anyway. However, it is accepted parlance within the agency and marketing world, so accepting that the big idea exists, how do we know which ideas are "bigger" and hence deemed better, than others? 

In my humble opinion, we don't, unless we are brave enough to test, fail (but fail fast), learn and re-tune in order to succeed. Many agencies have tried and tested approaches and claim they do know which ideas will succeed, prior to going live. This maybe because of their "track record", their "process", their reputation and maybe even a degree of inflated self belief. However, the game has changed and changed significantly in the last few years; and what may have worked in the past, may not necessarily work today. 

In football (or any sport) a player and team are as good as their last game; systems are changed regularly to adopt to the situation; there is continual agility in order to maximise the chances of success. By contrast, in the agency world reputations and approaches tend to stick around for years, and this in a time where communications technology is constantly advancing, and being rapidly adopted by consumers/people. Unfortunately, this lack of agency evolution and agility, has led to mediocrity, poor results, and because of this new-world uncertainty, has caused businesses to become more risk adverse. That 30 second TVC format can no longer be trusted to be anywhere near as effective as it used to be. Big ideas are now selected by the agency because they think that is what their client will buy, as opposed to proposing the big idea that could actually deliver great results. This is a downward spiral (or helix to be accurate) and sustaining this legacy behaviour will see the agency industry continue its demise. 

The good news is, there are a select few agencies who are adopting new ways, they're prepared to be brave and are keen to attract similar like minded clients who share the same values. A recent
example of this is Wexley School for Girls, who are based in Seattle. They have recently issued a reverse RFI, inviting brands to apply to become their next client. Instead of the usual jumping through hoops approach, and costly pitch process that many businesses will have agencies jump through they have decided enough is enough. They believe in their own expertise and brand, and actually clients should be trying to attract them to help them with their marketing strategy. An admirable approach indeed, and I sincerely hope it works for them.

Similarly, some other agencies are destroying that baton passing briefing process. You know the approach, brief taken from client by suit, given to planner who passes to creative etc. where sometimes people with very little previous exposure to the product or category are asked to come up with the insight and idea (real-life examples I can immediately think of are the launch of a new femcare range and the planner responsible was mid 20's male; or the launch of a new prestige vehicle by a group of people who can't drive...take a look at the Ogilvy quote at the top.) that leads to a diluted and uninformed Chinese whisper interpretation of what the client wants, which may in fact be very different to what they really need....and usually disappoints both client and the agency themselves. Immersive approaches, embracing client and agency personnel working together is the way forward. Different experiences and expertise which can be shared and learned from. Brooklyn based, The Big Spaceship have been doing this for a while now, with great results.

They also believe creativity can come from anyone, and hence have no creative department or anyone with "creative" in their title. This is commendable. By taking this approach it eliminates the ownership, and dare I say "preciousness" of creativity of a specific group of people and in turn, eliminates the absolving of responsibility of those who don't have "creative" in their job title, when ideas don't turn out as everyone would like. Which, also emphasises that call to learn quickly, fail fast and go again....but better!

Of course, there is the need for clients to be willing to adopt this style of approach too; and quite clearly some just aren't quite ready to do so. That's absolutely fine of course, but the challenger brands within their own category, who are prepared to do this now, and find that like-minded agency will reap the benefits. That's why I believe some independent agencies in the UK will become more selective about who they choose to work with.

If there was a simple checklist that could be put together that could help agencies willing to adopt and adapt new ways, it'd probably be something like this:
  • Get the right people together, who are passionate about the topic, who have different experiences and skill sets. This includes client personnel
  • Tap into a crowd-source pool of research on consumer motivation and behaviour; the brand and the category. I'd encourage implicit research and action based data.
  • Allow time to do this properly
  • Match this with intuition; strike a blend between data and gut-feel
  • Stop crushing the ideas of young talent...give them the time and confidence to contribute
  • Be prepared to fail, ensure you fail fast and bake in a test and learn approach with contingencies.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Beacons: Top 5 Facts & Myths #IoT

Having a bit of a tech background, I thought I'd dive into "Beacons". There appears to be many misconceptions, and most articles focus on how they will revolutionise the retail environment...crossing the virtual and real world. That maybe so, however, it is also worth thinking about other uses, the limit of which know no bounds and is only restricted by the human mind.

It's worth keeping in mind, that the beacons themselves are fairly dumb; they transmit their unique ID, and that's about it....the clever stuff comes with the listening device (typically a smartphone) and what that is connected to (application, database, analytics etc.) The mind then tends to run away with itself on the possibilities....retail:obvious, but medical records; military dog tags; advertising boards; bus stops; car keys; equipment maintenance and servicing; etc. etc.

Exciting times lie ahead.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The #Google Music Timeline: The job's not quite done!

A quite beautiful way of viewing and searching music genres and artist across a timeline. This is from Google research, but imagine if they applied this to your Apple iTunes or Spotify playlists. It's a really engaging way to view and explore any music catalogue. Take a look for yourself.

Drilling down by clicking into the genre of choice, displays sub genres and artists. This is a principle that could apply to any type of search...maybe that's what Google are thinking?