Lessons from a Career – Part Two

Back in March I wrote: “From time to time … I’m going to do my best to share some lessons learned (over my career). I’ll try to stick to one per post, and to illustrate with examples”. When all’s said and done, I have been at this a long time (over 50 years) and would have to be a complete fool not to have picked up a few tips along the way.

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Media Entrepreneurs

Not so many years ago, around 2005/2010 (yesterday in my terms; just after the ice age to some) the media agency world was pretty straightforward. If we set aside the specialists – those who do a great B2B job, or who run an agency handling local advertisers – pretty well the only game in town for large advertisers was that delivered by the large holding companies.

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In-Housing and Trust

A few weeks ago an old colleague (and loyal Cog Blog reader) Florence Waterman posed an interesting question. Paraphrasing, she wondered why so many advertisers use influencers, without it seems much evidence, or data to justify their decision? After all, most spending is subject to a certain rigour.

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Essence and MediaCom

GroupM has announced that Essence and MediaCom are joining forces to form a new media agency. EssenceMediaCom is a bit of a mouthful, not to mention a challenge to users of random capital letters but no doubt the new agency will soon have a shorter nickname – EM, EssenceofMedia or given the end goal of strengthening MediaCom, E=MC2.

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The Channel or The Star?

I was always taught that people watch content, not channels. There are caveats to that lesson – not least because when I was taught it there were quite literally two TV channels. I believe there are more now.

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Ask a Blogger: Netflix, Context, Measurement, Attention, Pitches and Twitter

This week’s post is in the form of a Q&A in which I opine on a number of matters apparently of great import to our industry (based unscientifically on frequency of appearance in my social media feeds).

And other stuff that bugs me.

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Buy The Plan

These are turbulent times for the usually stable and insulated world of audience measurement. Some of this is about blaming the messenger (I would say a lot of the current US debate around Nielsen comes down to a desire to push bigger numbers into the buying market), but a far more significant debate is taking place around control and funding.

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Keeping It Real

DISCLOSURE: BJ&A IS A FOUNDER OF THE CRATER LAKE COLLECTIVE MENTIONED IN THIS POST

I am, as those who read The Cog Blog regularly know, a fan of keeping things simple. I believe that life is complicated enough without us adding to it by using long words where shorter ones will do, or inventing technologies that nobody except those doing the inventing want or need.

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Lessons From a Career – Part One

I started in this business at the tail end of the 1960’s, which is a very long time ago. I’ve been an ad agency messenger, a desk researcher, market researcher, media person, entrepreneur, consultant. I’ve done UK, regional and global jobs, here and from the US. I’ve been pretty rubbish at some of these things; better at others. I would though have had to be incredibly thick not to have learnt a little along the way.

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On Origin

ISBA (the UK advertisers’ trade organisation) is on the hunt for a CEO for Origin, the third in the project’s comparatively short history. I am a fan of Origin, or rather what Origin could become – unlike some in the audience measurement community. Here’s why.

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Stand Up, Speak Up

Last week’s post was all about keeping it simple, a principle that we often forego in favour of the (in my view) short-term belief that (to steal from Irwin Gotlieb) in confusion lies margin. The tech industry has as usual ignored history and is merrily pursuing its aim to confuse the life out of anyone not a member of the magic circle.

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Keep It Simple

One of the challenges in writing this blog is keeping myself comparatively up to date. When I originally came up with the name Cog Blog, ‘COG’ stood for Cynical Old Git. Today’s post focusses on the ‘O’, the old bit.

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Why We Should Buy Better Boots

Whichever way you look at it, and whatever Oscar Wilde quotes about cost and value you use, the biggest problem faced by our industry at the moment lies in the primacy of short-term effects over long-term brand health.

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Make ‘Em Laugh

A much quoted Advertising Association number from long ago was that 51% of consumers preferred TV ads to the programmes in which they appeared. I don’t have up-to-date data but you can bet your life the equivalent number is now lower. A lot lower.

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The Primacy of the Client

Last week saw the UK Advertising Association’s Renew 2022 event, held jointly with the IPA (agencies) and ISBA (advertisers). In amongst excellent initiatives on growing and maintaining talent, and improving inclusiveness ISBA’s President, Peter Duffy, Moneysupermarket.com’s CEO updated delegates on Project Origin.

This is the cross-media measurement initiative launched by ISBA’s DG, Phil Smith at the asi event in Prague in 2019.

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On The BBC

The Cog Blog does not do politics. I also try to avoid parochialism – specific issues we may be facing here in the UK are often of little relevance to other parts of the world.

That said, today’s post will come close to breaking those two principles, as it’s about the BBC.

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Networks Not Notworks

Last week in my ‘Hopes for 2022’ post I mentioned that it would be fascinating to see how the newer network players, like Stagwell or You and Mr Jones (now recast as BrandTech) handle the challenges posed by a big international client using them across multiple geographies.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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