Hopes Not Predictions

Another year, another blog; welcome to 2022; the Cog Blog’s ninth year of (almost) weekly witterings.

The fashionable thing to do would be to fill this post with forecasts of the year to come. I don’t do this for two reasons. First, things are so topsy-turvy who knows, secondly it’s easy to check back 12 months later to my embarrassment and everyone else’s general merriment.

Read more
|
|
|
|

The Elephant That Was

Once upon a time there was a place called Togetherland. It was a happy place where people lived in harmony, helping each other and working together. The farmer would only grow what the land could support; the builder used materials best suited to the climate; the shops sold what people needed.

Everyone lived well, doing what they were best at doing.

The King of Togetherland, Louis the Collaborator, known to one and all as LoCal (and that had nothing to do with his obvious need to lose weight) lived well. He was also a great deal smarter than he was given credit for.

The only cloud on LoCal’s horizon was a most disagreeable neighbour.

This neighbour, The Prince of all the Specialties was a self-confessed moderniser, a force to be reckoned with. He knew he had to find a way to extend the territory under his control, to create new work for his countrymen, and more profit for himself and his growing band of friends and acquaintances.

He had always coveted Togetherland – it was on his doorstep, and would he was sure offer no resistance to a friendly sharing of points-of-view, or, as he put it (but only to his friends and supporters) ‘a take-over’.

One day, the circus came to town. The Prince loved a good circus, and here was the perfect excuse to visit (‘invade’, as he put it). So he got in touch with LoCal and invited himself and a ‘few friends’ over to the circus.

LoCal had been expecting this. Indeed he had hatched a plan.

When the Prince and his ‘friends’ arrived LoCal couldn’t help but notice a couple of things. First, the ‘friends’ appeared to be wearing armour and were armed. Second, there were rather a lot of them.

He noticed these things, but he was in no way surprised.

He greeted his neighbour and invited him to join him behind the scenes at the circus. This was a rather small area, and so many of the ‘friends’ had to wait outside. Only four were allowed in to accompany the Prince.

‘Now’, said LoCal, let’s not beat about the bush. ‘You want to expand your territory; but the truth is we don’t want you here, and we certainly don’t want any unpleasantness. We would rather you looked elsewhere and left us in peace.’

‘We are prepared to do what we have to in order to drive you and your friends out of Togetherland but that may turn unpleasant for both of us. You may indeed beat us in battle, or you may not but whatever happens the outcome would be the same: you would not be welcome here’.

‘And no-one likes not being welcome’.

‘So’, he went on ‘I have arranged a test of skill. Pass it, and we’ll stand aside. Fail it, and you’ll take your ‘friends’ and go elsewhere.’

The Prince was not just a moderniser, a man who knew everything about everything, he was also a big-head. He would never lose a test of skill to such an old has-been as LoCal.

‘Alright’, he said. ‘Bring it on. ‘We don’t want any unpleasantness; my ‘friends’ are more skilful than you can imagine. What do they have to do?’

LoCal went up to the four ‘friends’. ‘First, you must be blindfolded. Then you must come with me’.

He led the four men behind the circus tent, where stood an elephant.

The first man was brought forward, and led to the elephant’s tail. ‘What’s this?’ said LoCal.

The man felt the tail. ‘That’s a rope’ he said confidently.

The next man came forward. ‘What’s this’ he was asked when he was next to the elephant’s leg. ‘That’s a tree’.

The third man was led to the elephant’s flank. ‘That’s a wall, and a fine wall at that’ he said.

Finally the fourth man was brought to the elephant’s tusks. ‘Those are spears’ he said.

Then the four men were led back to their Prince.

LoCal spoke: ‘You’ve all reported on what you’ve just witnessed – a rope, a tree, a wall and two spears’. ‘If you’re right, I’ll step aside and this kingdom is yours. If you’re wrong you’ll leave. Agreed?’

‘Agreed’ said the Prince.

The Prince and the four men were taken behind the tent, where stood the elephant.

The Prince may have been dumbfounded, but he was also a man of his word. ‘Well played, LoCal’ he said. ‘You’ve outwitted us, and we will indeed leave you in peace. Just as soon as we’ve seen the circus.’

And the moral of the story – look around you, being blind to all but what’s in front of you means you’ll miss the big picture. And without the big picture you won’t achieve your ambitions.

May you and yours all have a happy and healthy Christmas!

The Cog Blog will return mid-January.

|
|
|
|

Involve and Engage

At a time when the whole subject of attention to ads, and indeed editorial content is front and centre, it’s worth considering the related topics of involvement and engagement, and in particular how to take account of our own behaviours and experiences.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Telling You What I Want

A snide throwaway line has turned into a truism that these days demands attention. ‘Agencies always know what they want from media measurement … until someone asks them’ is the line and certainly there’s some truth in the idea that we are all very good at moaning on about this shortcoming or that failure but are rather less good at proposing pragmatic solutions.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Different Universes

I despair sometimes, I really do. Two unrelated topics this week seem to indicate that the ad industry exists in a separate parallel universe to the rest of humanity, and that our influence over what happens in real life is slim to nil.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Advertisers and a Levy

There was no Cog Blog last week as I was attending some of the annual asi audience measurement spectacular and trying (to coin a phrase) to make sense of it all. For me, the most significant moment came not from research agencies, nor consultants, nor adtech suppliers but from advertisers.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Planning – The Moral Dimension

Mediatel Newsline has been carrying some excellent editorial pieces recently around the topic of media strategy. The latest, from Nick Manning is here; all credit to Mediatel for giving over the space to this debate. It is quite a contrast to the old ‘Agency X in trading dispute with Broadcaster Y’ that passed as the hot debating topic of the day within the media world and which featured so regularly in ‘Campaign’.

Read more
|
|
|
|

A Better House

A million years ago (last Tuesday) I got a job at the ad agency Davidson Pearce as a media research executive. I had had jobs before (as an ad agency messenger, a research assistant at Southern TV and as a market research junior at a client) but the media research role for me turned out to be a bit of a breakthrough.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Outputs and Outcomes

Last week’s rant was all about not learning lessons, and referenced the mighty Bob Hoffman, the AdContrarian who made this very point in an interview as part of the Crater Lake and Mediatel ‘Making Sense Of It All’ series.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Learning Lessons

Why is it that we are so bad at learning from the mistakes and successes of the past? It’s something that bugs me and, I suspect, anyone who’s been around for any length of time.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Money, Power and Influence in Measurement

Today’s post finds inspiration in ‘The Sound of Music’, and Morecambe and Wise.

‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’, as Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers had it.

In the very beginning, media space was in such short supply you took what you could get. But as restrictions eased, new media forms emerged and the media business grew, those responsible for spending advertising money needed some indication of who was doing the watching and the reading.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Success in Media Agencies

Re-reading old Cog Blogs I’m struck by how often I criticise agencies. To be fair, the behaviour of many of the largest over the years has not made that particularly hard to do, but it’s no bad thing to balance shouting with an offer of pragmatic advice.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Respect

A week or so ago a rarity appeared in my LinkedIn feed. A (beautifully written) piece from an ex-media agency strategist called Anthony Swede outlining his worries and concerns about the media agency business. In case it’s passed you by you can read it here.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Measuring Everything That Communicates

Last week’s Cog Blog post made the point that everything a brand or company puts out there is in effect an ad. Everything communicates; everything a brand says, for good or ill contributes to what we think of that brand. Which leads to the inevitable question: which communication channels work best, which do the business good (or harm), which need to be invested in and which avoided at all costs?

Read more
|
|
|
|

Everything Communicates

It’s a truism that everything a brand or company puts out there is in effect an ad. To quote William Randolph Hearst (as opposed to his alter ego, Citizen Kane): “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”

Read more
|
|
|
|

In Context

In recent weeks I have had some small insight into what it must be like to be a world-renowned epidemiologist, seeing your field diminished to ignorant tweets and online comments from those with a fraction of a fraction of my decades’ worth of knowledge and expertise. The reason? Suddenly it seems that everyone is an expert in media placement.

Read more
|
|
|
|

An Industry Not At Ease

The more I look around, the more I read our trades, the more research I see the more I come to the conclusion that the ad business is not an industry at ease with itself. Doing strange things. Making decisions based solely on media metrics. Ignoring the biggest issues.

Read more
|
|
|
|

No Cannes Do

We are a tone-deaf business sometimes. Consider the following unrelated facts. One, advertising is not trusted or liked by most consumers. Two, we are facing an unprecedented upheaval in the media available to advertisers, who owns these media, and how they’re used. Three, the debate on how to assess the value of the different media choices, singly and in combination is a live one. Four, the main industry protagonists have just spent a large chunk of change entering for and ‘attending’ the annual Cannes festival.

Read more
|
|
|
|

Campaigning

Back in the olden days when people actually went to meetings, a common client refrain when the planners unveiled their thinking and the creatives the executions was: ‘Yes, but is it campaign-able?’

Read more
|
|
|
|

GBNewbies

This week has seen the launch of the UK’s latest TV channel, GBNews, the brainchild of ex-News International executive Andrew Neil, funded for the most part by overseas entities.

GBNews has been dubbed our very own version of Fox News in terms of that channel’s political leanings. Whether it is or not isn’t the point of this post; the Cog Blog tries to steer clear of political comment.

Read more
|
|
|
|