“And now, the end is here, and so I face the final curtain..”
18 December 2014
10 December 2014
‘Campaign’ carried an interesting opinion piece from its Editor, Claire Beale this week. She recounted a conversation with a creative director in which he complained at media agencies involving themselves in creative strategies and execution. Claire made the point that most of the time most media agencies’ creative efforts are “Eye-wateringly embarrassing. So far. But they are grasping the opportunity and clients are willing them on”.
04 December 2014
28 November 2014
It’s been a sad week in UK media land. Two of the true originals in our business, Ray Morgan and Tony Vickers passed away.
25 November 2014
There is no doubt that the coming of online advertising has changed everything. OK so it hasn’t turned out to be the panacea that some zealots thought (some still think) it might be; and no we haven’t yet properly worked out how commercial communications can work best within social media channels; but those bumps in the road don’t change the underlying fact that things are very different now.
18 November 2014
This week, MediaCom’s UK CEO, Karen Blackett was named ‘the most influential black person in Britain’. Many congratulations to her for what is a most well deserved accolade. It’s rare for media agency leaders to be recognised outside of our industry. Maybe it’s because so many rank their achievements in terms of the countries they’ve visited in the last couple of weeks, and the household names (well, in someone’s household anyway) they’ve met.
11 November 2014
It may seem obvious but new players who are well known and respected in one field often pop up in another. Sometimes these are pretty straightforward extensions. Marks and Spencer starts a food business; Mont Blanc stretches its pen brand into luxury watches. Sometimes they’re not so obvious, such as when a Finnish rubber boot manufacturer decided to diversify into mobile telephony (Nokia).
03 November 2014
Well, here’s a turn-up for the book! Kraft has announced publicly in the US that it ‘rejects’ up to 85% of impressions bought online via real time ad marketplaces. The company’s reasoning is that “75% to 85% is either deemed to be fraudulent, unsafe or non-viewable or unknown”. Who would have thought it?
29 October 2014
The other week I moderated a panel for ‘Media Post’ at one of their OMMA events. Our excellent panel discussed the implications of the fact that digital advertisers are interested less in buying sites, and more in buying audiences. As indeed has been the case for decades in all those backward, old-fashioned legacy media forms.
23 October 2014
Sometimes you just have to accept that despite all the planning tools, the volume and scale arguments, the digital bullshit and the rest, business is won or lost on a word from someone far further up the food chain.
21 October 2014
Anyone who works for or has ever worked for Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP will know the email story. Basically, if you send Sir Martin an email you will get a personal response within around 30 minutes. I can vouch for this being the case. I even tried the theory out after I had left WPP; and can report that it still holds.
17 October 2014
07 October 2014
A weird and atypical sense of calm and well-being has descended on the Cog Blog. As an avid reader of the trade press in all its forms I often come across pieces I wish I had written (or indeed even thought of). Last week’s ‘Campaign’ contained a column from Nick Emery, Global Chief Executive at Mindshare on the importance of politeness and courtesy. Not only did I wish I had written this, for once I actually had already done so exactly a year ago (even if not as elegantly as Nick).
01 October 2014
This post was commissioned by the IPA, the UK ad agency trade body, and first appeared (in a marginally different form), on the IPA blog and newsletter. For more information on the IPA Ad Effectiveness programme, see: http://www.ipa.co.uk/effectiveness
Earlier this year I was asked to be one of the judges of the IPA Ad Effectiveness Awards. The papers were long (they averaged around 4,000 words) but the 35 I read were almost all strong on narrative, and beautifully written. They genuinely were a pleasure to read.
23 September 2014
Digiday carried a piece this week on how many unhappy people there are in agencies. They quote Havas Media’s Global CEO, Andrew Benett pointing out how poor they (he means agencies in general I imagine as opposed to this being a condition exclusive to Havas) are at looking after their people: “For organizations whose biggest capital is people, agencies don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to make people happy”.
17 September 2014
Despite the headline this post has nothing to do with independence for Scotland (in just 13 words I’ve managed to lose half my loyal readership; and confuse the heck out of those reading outside what we can still for a couple of days at least call the UK, let alone those reading this after the referendum results are known on September 19th). Rather it’s about the benefits of collaboration in audience measurement (that’ll get them flooding back…!).
11 September 2014
It is unusual for individual advertisers to contribute to media industry debate. When they do, their comments are generally made anonymously and via their trade bodies: organisations like the ISBA in the UK, the ANA in the US, and the WFA globally. Furthermore, those engaging via the trade bodies tend to be few in number and drawn from a small pool of engaged and well-informed practitioners. So the recent announcement from the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) on digital trading, quoting several prominent advertisers is certainly worthy of note.
04 September 2014
There’s a much-reposted piece out there on how to start a creative agency. Clearly the world needs a companion piece on media; and equally clearly it’s up to The Cog Blog to deliver such a thing. So, in the unlikely event that there are still people whose life-long ambition is to start a media agency, The Cog Blog offers this cut out and keep (we suggest you print it first) guide to attaining your dream.
22 August 2014
We’re taking a brief break this week; back the first week of September. Hope to see you here then.
20 August 2014
We all learn. In my case one key learning from over a year of blog posts is: ‘Put Xaxis in the title and watch the audience numbers soar.’ It is tempting to do what I was going to do this week (a piece about the JICs) and simply put Xaxis in the title (‘Xaxis vastly improves joint industry studies’?); but there’s no need for such trickery. Last week’s post in which I was a wee bit positive has generated some response, so this week I feel I need to expand on ‘wee bit’.
14 August 2014
Last week AdAge in the US ran a story headlined: “WPP Media Agency Group to Offer Flexible Alternative to Xaxis”. Loyal Cog Blog readers will no doubt mutter something inaudible into their pints of Old Peculiar and take a long, self-satisfied draught on their Meerschaum pipes. I have been critical of the Xaxis model; and therefore it’s only right to say ‘fair play’ to them when they admit it’s time to evolve that model. Even if my moaning might conceivably have had slightly less to do with the change of approach than the words and actions of the likes of Unilever, P&G, Nestle, and Kellogg’s.
11 August 2014
Last week, the always-worth-a-read Dominic Mills, writing on Mediatel’s Newsline commented on Starcom’s tool to automate content. As part of a larger initiative that has been running for several years, the agency has licenced access to archive content from various magazine titles in the Americas, has systematised this content, and is now making ‘repurposed’ versions of the original available to clients for use on their (the clients’) sites.
05 August 2014
Back in the BP era (that’s BP: before programmatic) there was another urgent topic of conversation amongst the media agency elite. This was how to deliver and measure integrated campaigns – a topic based around delivering to client needs, a rather quaint concept given the current focus on improving margins via a lack of transparency in trading.
30 July 2014
One of those statements that agencies make so often they’ve come to believe it themselves is that clients won’t pay for media planning. This may be so, although it’s not my experience – after all can you blame clients for not wanting to pay for a skill the agencies themselves treat with such disdain.
23 July 2014
It’s been a good week for fans of nostalgia (note to the digerati: that’s stuff that happened more than a week ago). First we had five old blokes on a stage at London’s O2 Arena talking about dead parrots and lumberjacks (note to the youth: that would be the Monty Python team’s last ever live show). Then we had Phil Georgiadis, Chairman of Walker Media, and Claire Beale, the fragrant and recently reinstated Editor of ‘Campaign’ coming over all misty eyed about media in the old full-service era.
17 July 2014
In the beginning there were media buying agencies. In fact, somewhat disappointingly here we are 40 odd years later and this is still the descriptor used by most clients to describe the organisations responsible for handling their media budgets. All that investment in people, research, tools and techniques and they’re still ‘my media buyers’.
10 July 2014
Writing a blog is a self-indulgent activity. After all, what is the author doing except sharing his opinions on the assumption that anyone will be in the least bit interested in hearing them? Well, this post takes self-indulgence to a whole new level by being arrogant enough to reference the best bits of the Cog Blog. ‘Best’ in whose opinion? Mine of course. Why? Because last week the Cog Blog celebrated its first birthday.
27 June 2014
There will be no Cog Blog this coming week; normal business will be resumed the week of July 7th (when we’ll be 1 year old!).
25 June 2014
A few years back (2006, gosh how time flies) a white paper was produced by a combination of the ad agencies (through the IPA), advertisers (through their trade body ISBA) and procurement professionals (via CIPS). The paper called ‘Magic and Logic’ was authored by the brilliant Marilyn Baxter and if you haven’t read it it’s an excellent summary of many of the issues that still cause tensions around agencies and their clients.
16 June 2014
Last Thursday the UK trade press reported on a spat between Channel 5, one of our smaller commercial channels, and furthermore one that sells its own airtime both creatively and independently, and Opera, the central trading operation serving the Omnicom media agencies. You can read the piece, by Media Week’s Arif Durrani here.
09 June 2014
Imagine this. A newspaper publisher decides that the easiest and cheapest way to increase his circulation, and thus his readership and ultimately his advertising revenue is to dump large numbers of his publication in convenient, local rubbish bins. He reckons that no-one will care – as at the end of the day the buyers only buy gross numbers and can’t be bothered to look into how they’re made up. Furthermore, by the time anyone works out that advertising in his title isn’t working, he’ll be over the hills and far away.
02 June 2014
We recently had a Bank Holiday. Traditionally this is when the nation’s men pile off en masse to the DIY store, buy a load of gadgets they’ll use once at most, rush home, put the gadgets in a drawer where they’ll stay for some time, and settle down to watch sport on the TV. But this year was different – at least for me. For this was the year that Bank Holiday Monday was Market Research Day.
29 May 2014
Media numbers are tricky, slippery things. This may not matter much except that they’re important as they provide the currency used to buy and sell advertising space and time. They’re tricky as collecting any type of audience data is both complicated and sensitive. They’re slippery as just when you thought you had a new, improved way of doing it, someone somewhere decides their interests are better served by sticking with the status quo. After all, who cares about getting closer to the truth when the untruth might make you more money?
22 May 2014
A couple of days ago I had one of those moments when you just think: ‘why couldn’t I have said that?’ The moment came when reading The AdContrarian blog (by far and away the best blog on advertising anywhere), where I came across the following: “Self-interest has come into conflict with responsibility. Guess what’s winning?”
15 May 2014
As regular readers of the Cog Blog will know, I have been in this business rather a long time. But even I struggle to remember a time when the needs and desires of advertisers on the one hand, and the evolution and development of the media agency business on the other have been so at odds with one another.
06 May 2014
Here’s an ad.
It’s quite a famous ad, for the UK’s Health Education Council. It dates from 1970, was the product of a young advertising agency called Saatchi and Saatchi and was written by the agency’s creative director, Charles Saatchi (before he went off to reinvent art). It ran in print.
29 April 2014
Generally speaking when one organisation merges with another someone responsible for corporate guff produces some words that claim certain benefits to a) staff; b) shareholders; c) suppliers; d) clients; e) society or consumers as a whole; or f) all of the above.
24 April 2014
In a time long, long ago (October last year, to be precise) I posed the question: “What business are the media agencies (and more specifically their sibling trading desk partners) in?” You can read the original post, called Traders 0; Ideas 1 here.
I have been prompted to go back to this issue by an excellent article in the US publication Media Post by Joe Parchese, (here). In his piece, Joe makes a comparison between the online media business, and the sub-prime housing crisis of 2008. His point is that the root cause of what turned into financial meltdown was the practice of loaning money via mortgages to people who were most unlikely ever to be able to repay. Explained on a one-on-one basis no-one could ever think anything other than that this practice would have disastrous consequences. Why lend to someone unable to repay with the loan secured on a property worth less than the loan?
15 April 2014
We live in a strange bubble; a universe inhabited by media experts, all of whom by definition are interested in new technology and the latest bright shiny object. This can be very misleading, which is why it’s always a good idea to spend some of your time when you’re out and about observing people’s media behaviour. Normal people; real people.
08 April 2014
With thanks to Arif Durrani whose ‘Media Week’ article provided many of the direct quotes in this post.
Sometimes you just get lucky. I was scouring the web for ideas when I stumbled across a live feed of last week’s Advertising Week discussion between Sir Martin Sorrell, and News Corp’s CEO Robert Thomson. Thomson was in mad-swivel-chair mode, swinging around so fast that he often appeared to face in several directions at once; Sir Martin was perfectly still and yet somehow and most unusually appeared rather unsettled.
31 March 2014
When it comes to advertisers and their relationships with their advertising and media agency partners, change may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Or, to put it another way, some change is good but too much can be decidedly anti-productive.
25 March 2014
This week’s post is less topical than most and more personal – but I hope interesting. Four years ago last Sunday one of my professional heroes, and the person who taught me more than any other about the advertising business died. His name was Norman Berry.
18 March 2014
The problem with Xaxis – the WPP-owned media technology business – is that no-one seems to have worked out that it needs a Whyaxis to make it complete.
11 March 2014
Ping! The Cog Blog’s proprietary programmatic search algorithms (fine-tuned to search for native opportunities) uncover yet another interesting article swilling around in what George Orwell would no doubt call the swill bucket of advertising and media-related content. This one is on the challenges facing the newspaper (sorry, newsbrand) business by MediaCom’s Chief Strategy Officer Sue Unerman.
05 March 2014
Writing a blog has its ups and downs. On the upside, there are several handsome, well-informed, intelligent people who mail me, or comment on my site to say how much they enjoy what I write and how much they agree with me. Clearly these are people of taste and distinction.
25 February 2014
Brace yourselves! It’s time to tiptoe back into the murky waters of media buying, following my earlier post focussing on the let’s just say ‘misguided’ move made by Xaxis into becoming both a buyer and a seller of digital space, a topic I’ll be returning to.
18 February 2014
Why are so many online ads so awful? Well, they are aren’t they? I don’t include in this blanket condemnation those YouTube ads that are long-form versions of regular TV ads, or those TV or regular print executions that finish up online via social media sites, or indeed are placed there deliberately.
11 February 2014
It’s a curious thing that whereas many media people of my generation find it essential to learn as much as we can about the digital world, many digital natives currently populating the media world do not seem to consider it in any way relevant to learn anything from or about the past.
05 February 2014
Today’s Cog Blog is rather longer than usual. Furthermore it contains some references to a time longer ago than last month (30 years or so in the 1980’s and early 1990’s to be precise) so those readers with a short attention span, along with those who believe that all history is bunk might be well advised to read no further. As might those of a nervous disposition – as todays blog is about media buying and selling.
30 January 2014
This piece appeared on the UK site Mediatel earlier this week
It has been reported in the UK press that Barclays are ‘likely’ to cancel their sponsorship of football’s Premier League – an association that goes back 13 years, at a cost of something like £40million a season. A final decision has yet to be taken, we read, but ‘Board members’ believe that the sponsorship has delivered ‘zero value’. ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ reported: ‘One (senior figure) said that Barclays did not need promotion in the UK as the bank has high street branches around the country and its name is well known. “We just need to shut up for five years and get on with our job,” the source said’.
27 January 2014
I didn’t go to the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. In fact I’ve never been. It’s not that I don’t like looking at new shiny things as much as the next man, it’s just that I have never found these huge events particularly useful. But it’s fun to read about the shiny things – almost as much fun as reading the assembled advertising throng’s tweets, posts and blogs justifying the trip by stressing just how crucial this stuff is for them professionally. When we all know that really they just want to stare and point at the new shiny things like the rest of us.
21 January 2014
Last week’s Cog Blog was about what people think about organisations, and why that matters. Today’s continues and expands upon that theme.
A positive reputation creates a carapace around an organisation that sees it through the tough times. It gives a business ‘bouncebackability’. A good example is Apple, whose reputation was for many years the personal responsibility of the guy at the top, Steve Jobs. Jobs recognised that if he could create a sense of something close to unconditional love amongst his loyal customers those same loyal customers would forgive him almost anything. When problems hit the loyalists would shrug and assume that Apple/Jobs would sort it out. As indeed they/he invariably did.
Compare and contrast Apple with Blackberry. Read more
14 January 2014
A company’s reputation is one of its most important strategic assets. What people think of you has a great deal to do with how they feel about you, which in turn has a great deal to do with whether or not they’ll do business with you. Reputation is a critical drivers of sales and business success (there’s a widely accepted correlation between reputation and share price) and as such it should be of strategic concern to any business’s top management starting with the Chairman and his Board.
07 January 2014
It’s the time of year for predictions. Every self-respecting blog, magazine and newspaper does them. Most are wrong and can easily be proved to be so – assuming that is you can be bothered to keep hold of them for 12 months. Many are self-serving (‘online ads will increasingly be measured by their viewability’ predicts a company selling a viewability metric). Maybe there should be a league table with promotions (to ‘AdAge’) and relegations (to ‘Metro’), a time of reckoning every year which ranks forecasters by the accuracy of their predictions.