The first Cog Blog appeared on 2nd July 2013; which means our 6-month birthday is January 2nd 2014. As I won’t be posting then I thought I would share some of those things that have caught my eye this year as a novice blogger. You’re welcome; consider this a (rather cheap) early Christmas present.
17 December 2013
11 December 2013
This post is reproduced from an article commissioned by the UK magazine ‘Media Week’
It’s a good time of the year to be an agency veteran (my official title these days) – especially if you like wallowing in nostalgia at advertising agency reunions.
For younger readers, ad agencies used to have media departments before a few visionaries decided that they were tired of being patronised by account people, and felt they were worth more than the ten-minutes-before-lunch slot in client meetings. These forward thinkers took a risk and established the first media independents, later known as media agencies. Today’s media professionals owe them a huge debt.
04 December 2013
A couple of weeks ago I took part in an event organised by the US-based ad technology business Pubmatic. My role was to moderate a session on what the hosts called ‘The Progressive Advertiser’. The notion was simple – to debate what we could learn from forward-thinking advertisers when it came to data management and analytics, and to online buying of space. Were they for example starting to bypass the agency groups?
28 November 2013
Disclaimer – the Company mentioned in this post, Qustodian is one in which I am a founder shareholder.
It is generally acknowledged that ‘engagement’ is a good thing. It is better, at every level if your message (whatever form that takes) is not only ‘seen’ (whatever that means) by a large number of people, but that a good number of those people choose to do something that approximates to actually reading it, hearing it or viewing it and furthermore that they indicate that they have done so in some way or other.
The problem with the notion of engagement is that there are almost as many definitions as there are conferences on the subject.
20 November 2013
I am indebted to my ex-colleague Maarten Albarda (once of Coca-Cola and AB-Inbev) for posting the summary of a recent WFA survey of its members. The WFA, or World Federation of Advertisers is the global equivalent of ISBA in the UK, or the ANA in the USA. In other words it represents very large global advertisers whose views and opinions are (one would have hoped) of some relevance to the media agency community, given that where sophisticated advertisers go today the rest of the market will go tomorrow.
The WFA study makes grim reading. 87% of their members are unhappy with the levels of transparency offered by agency trading desks; 54% said they had been asked to sign separate agreements with their agencies limiting (amongst other things) the right to audit performance; 57% were aware that the practice of arbitrage exists, with 82% of that group believing the practice negatively affects the agency’s ability to act impartially.
13 November 2013
There are far too many pitches in this business. I appreciate that they’re the fuel that drives much of our trade press; I understand that they are the reason we have so many fine new business directors (not to mention pitch consultants); I get it that they’re a great example of agencies at their best – with disparate specialists coming together in a common cause, namely to beat the other guy.
05 November 2013
The late great English comedian Kenneth Williams (1926 – 1988) once gave an interview in which he said: “Everyone’s becoming better and better at less and less. Eventually someone’s going to be superb, at nothing”. Sadly perhaps, LinkedIn wasn’t around then, because if ever there was proof that Ken was wrong it is to be found in LinkedIn’s endorsement facility.
31 October 2013
This blog comes to you from the WAN-IFRA Digital Media Latinoamerica conference in Bogota. For those that don’t know it, WAN-IFRA is the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. It’s genuinely been fascinating to hear from senior managers, journalists and editors how they see the future of their medium. It makes a refreshing change to hear a perspective different from ad buyers and sellers, to get back to hearing from those who create the medium.
28 October 2013
In case you’re wondering where we’ve got to….the next two Cog Blogs are planned to come from two important conferences: this week’s Latin American WAN-IFRA event on Digital Newspapers, in Bogota, Colombia. And next week’s 2013 European Television Symposium, organised by asi and taking place in Venice, Italy.
I say ‘planned’ as we are rather at the mercy of the two hotels’ online connectivity. If the technology lets us down then we’ll post once back here.
So – hopefully see you here, from there.
25 October 2013
One of the hoary old clichés about advertising agencies is how poor they are at defining and communicating their own values to prospective clients and to the business community at large. This certainly used to be true – anyone aside from those working there like to articulate the difference between McCann and JWT? – although I am not convinced that it ever really mattered all that much as a route to new business.
22 October 2013
Interest alert: I am a Founding Director of Enreach, an online audience measurement business selling services to many premium publishers. www.enreach.me.
The newspaper publishing industry is, it is well known going through a process of reinvention. The issues are simple to state, rather harder to solve. As consumers discover they can get their written news for free they stop buying papers. Fewer sales equals smaller cover-price revenues; and ultimately less ad revenue too. Newspapers’ digital versions, online, on mobile, on tablet build readership but revenue always lags – subscriptions (where they exist) build slowly and digital ad space is simply not worth as much relatively, the industry has decreed, as printed ad space.
18 October 2013
The market research business seems to be in the middle of one of its periodic periods of self-flagellation. They’re right to be self-critical; their relevance, indeed their future existence, at least in their current guise does look more than a bit dodgy.
14 October 2013
The time has come to ask what is becoming something of an ‘elephant-in-the-room’ question. What business are the media agencies (and more specifically their sibling trading desk partners) in? Are they in the advertising business; or are they in the online trading business? The two are looking increasingly incompatible.
10 October 2013
Today we’re going to consider what would appear, at least within our industry to be something of an outmoded topic. Today’s Cog Blog is all about courtesy.
07 October 2013
Over the last week or so a row has broken out between Associated Newspapers and its two titles The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, and Ed Miliband the leader of the Labour Party. For those of you outside the UK the start of the argument was The Daily Mail writing a piece in which they claimed that Miliband’s father Ralph ‘hated Britain.’ Ralph Miliband (who died in 1994) was a well-known and respected sociologist and academic who held Marxist views. He fled to Britain in 1940 from his native Belgium when the Nazis invaded, and subsequently fought for the country in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
03 October 2013
Recent Cog Blogs have explored the future for media agencies. A UK trade title, ‘Media Week’ asked me to precis these several blogs into one. So what follows has appeared before albeit in not quite this form and on a UK-specific site.
Media agencies are split organisations. On the one hand they initiate original research into how consumers use and are influenced by the many communication channels out there. They develop tools and techniques to allow them to create plans that meet their clients’ business needs. They help measure effect. They use lessons learned to inform future planning. This is the public stuff; the stuff of conference papers and awards.
17 September 2013
The Cog Blog is on holiday until early October. See you back here then!
A rather strange post appeared on LinkedIn the other day (I bet that’s not the first time that sentence has been written). What it said may not be all that unusual but the medium on which it was posted certainly was. It’s probably best if I don’t reveal the name and company of the person doing the posting (although the person concerned had no such qualms), but here is what it said, in its entirety.
“How many of you work for a company that uses a large, consolidated agency network like WPP? And within that large network, how do you figure out which of the 150 agencies is right for you?”
12 September 2013
I was interviewed in a store the other day. I had just bought a piece of electronic kit, and on my way out I was approached by a good old traditional market researcher, complete with clip-board. He went through his questionnaire. I answered as best I could.
09 September 2013
When the final blog in the series on the future of media agencies appeared last week, one agency CEO took the trouble to call me to discuss its content. As what he had to say was very sensible I thought I would extend this series to one more blog. For reasons that will soon become clear the CEO wishes to remain anonymous.
06 September 2013
Over the last three Cog Blogs we have been banging on about the future for media agencies. Is there one? And what might it be? Today we summarise the issues and propose a solution.
Media agencies have for some time now had the potential to evolve into a position as a trusted strategic advisor to their clients. It’s clear that this is a smart idea. But they face a number of problems and barriers along the way, not least of which is overcoming their natural conservatism in order to embrace organisational change.
02 September 2013
The last two blogs in this series on the future for the media agency have looked at the stresses between the public, planning led element of the organisation, informed by research and data, and the more private buying element driven (far too often often) by a need to make money for the agency as opposed to doing the best for the client. This final edition looks into how agencies might organise themselves differently for a brighter future.
27 August 2013
In the first blog in this series on what the future might look like for the media agency we focussed on the difference between the public face of the agency (based on a deep and often profound understanding of consumers and their relationship with communication channels) and the more private reality, based around supplementing their meagre earnings through unofficial kick-backs and payments in kind from media owners.
22 August 2013
It is generally acknowledged that the whole field of communications has changed unrecognisably over the last 10 years or so. And that the speed of change has been accelerating. Given this, is it still appropriate that those charged with advising their clients on how best to use communication channels to change behaviour, build brands, sell product are structured pretty well as they always have been?
The next few Cog Blogs will explore the future of media agencies. Have they lived up to their early promise? Are they set to prosper in the future?
19 August 2013
It was recently announced that Jeff Bezos, the Founder of Amazon has bought that great newspaper ‘The Washington Post’. It’s important to make the distinction that it is not Amazon that has acquired the newspaper; Bezos personally has bought it.
Aside from being an invitation for every wag on the web to crack the obvious joke (“Jeff based on recent purchases you might also be interested in ‘The LA Times’, ‘Newsweek’..”), it’s interesting to speculate on just why Bezos has done this.
15 August 2013
Two of the largest global agencies recently announced major research initiatives into how consumer behaviour is influenced by communication channels. Interestingly, neither is a research agency. MEC launched their Momentum programme at the Cannes ad festival, whilst OMD took to the pages of ‘Campaign’ to discuss their large-scale study predicting the future shape of British consumer society called (rather portentously) ‘Future of Britain’.
12 August 2013
Does anybody active in or around the advertising business (aside of course from some of those working for them) genuinely think that holding companies within the marketing services sector currently deliver better work than independent agencies? As the intended Publicis Omnicom merger has received what might at best be described as a lukewarm reception this seems a good time to explore what exactly these organisations are for.
08 August 2013
One of the more frequently claimed benefits to clients of the Publicis Omnicom merger is that the new merged business will be able to compete better both with traditional media giants and with the likes of Google and Facebook. This simply doesn’t hold water.
06 August 2013
Back in the old days of full service agencies the often-told joke was that the media element of any client presentation had to be fitted in to the 10 minutes before the important matter of lunch. No matter that the allocation of millions of pounds was at stake, no matter that the client had just spent a jolly two hours debating where to shoot the next TV ad, 10 minutes it was. If you were lucky.
01 August 2013
I have been worrying about social media forms. This is I admit a little sad, but the main players do seem rather beleaguered, what with Facebook’s share-price struggling to get back to IPO levels, Google coming under attack for not paying their taxes (quite aside for demonstrating a remarkable lack of regard for the facts by claiming that they’ve already killed TV as a medium), and Twitter for apparently failing to appreciate their responsibilities to those users attacked by trolls.
If you are one of the very few people who notice my Facebook comments you’ll be aware of my regular reporting on the (in)appropriateness of the ads served to me. I’ve never ridden a motorbike and am unlikely to start now – which no doubt makes me an ideal target for Harley Davidson. I have been very happily married for 30 years, so singles dating sites don’t really do it for me. And although I suppose I am mortal I don’t really engage with funeral planning services. And as for the portable catheter on offer at an attractively discounted price…
Mind you, LinkedIn isn’t much better – recommending as ‘news for you’ today a piece on America’s most miserable sports cities.
29 July 2013
The ad news this weekend was full of the planned Publicis/Omnicom merger. WPP’s Martin Sorrell went on the BBC this morning sounding strangely flustered, having lost his crown as the leader of the world’s largest marketing services group. Commentators didn’t really know what to make of the news besides talking about scale; admittedly they were hardly helped by the fact that neither Omnicom nor Publicis has to date said anything of substance about the benefits of a merger to clients.
So what to make of it all?
26 July 2013
Media agencies seem to be suffering from something of an identity crisis these days. What are they really for? On the one hand they promote themselves as guardians of the brand, of innovators in research and data analytics, as creators of stand-out communication plans.
And on the other they compromise the thinking bit by throwing their media muscle around with gay abandon. They terrorise media owners by threatening to pull their budgets (I always thought they were clients’ budgets, but no matter), they compromise their objectivity by sitting on suppliers’ Boards, they broker digital ad space to the obvious dismay of their larger, more sophisticated clients.
23 July 2013
As an addendum to yesterday’s Cog Blog post, here’s a link to some of the topical ads appearing in today’s UK newspapers.
22 July 2013
As the world waits for the arrival of a royal baby, it must be a pound to a penny that advertisers are finalising their highly topical ad plans. Does context matter? I believe it does, as two examples from commercial TV’s coverage of cricket and golf illustrate. Read more
16 July 2013
If there’s one topic guaranteed to raise the average media agency manager’s hackles that topic is media auditors.
‘Old fashioned’, ‘reliant on out-of-date media metrics’, ‘ill-informed’, ‘measuring the wrong thing’ are some of the phrases chucked around by agency CEO’s who are themselves about as close to the planning, buying and reporting of campaigns as the average bank CEO is to his customer service centre.
‘Not as smart as us’ seems to me to sum up the average agency’s attitude towards the average auditor.
11 July 2013
Nick Emery of Mindshare was commenting recently in the press about how unfair life is given that he has to deal with advertisers’ procurement officers. His point was that his agency spends months with his marketing clients discussing strategy, and using research to come up with great communications solutions, and then it all comes down to a procurement led pitch.
Whilst Nick isn’t by any means in a minority in his concerns about procurement’s influence in the media business, I would question why this is still an issue. How come, 35+ years on from the first media agencies we have all failed to convince advertisers to move this debate along?
08 July 2013
Sky, via their spokesman Jonathan Ross was for a while all over our screens, and all manner of outdoor sites promoting the wonders of the Sky catch-up service. Actually I haven’t seen him for months but as this is a new blog I’m playing catch-up too.
04 July 2013
‘Gottlieb slams arcane media metrics’ shouted the headline in ‘Campaign’ the other week (yes, this is a new blog and we’re playing catch up). For those of you who missed it, Colin Gottlieb of Omnicom Media Group was speaking at some media conference or other. True to form he was soon joined on this particular bandwagon by sundry other agency principals.
02 July 2013
Hello and welcome to this first edition of the BJ&A blog written by me, Brian Jacobs. As this is the first ever a few words of introduction seem appropriate. My aim is to produce one edition a week – an aim that might appear modest to you but I can assure you seems from here to be suitably challenging.