Keeping On Keeping On: An Announcement

Last Sunday, 2nd July was a propitious day. First, and of paramount importance it was our grandson Francis’ 2nd Birthday. Cue cake, toys, family, a few of his friends and much happiness.

Less significant is that the day also marked the tenth anniversary of the Cog Blog.

The first post was on 2nd July 2013. You can see it here.

Back then, I was rather airily aiming at a post a week. In fact, in that first week, I posted three, leading Derek Jones then at Mediatel to suggest I spread it out a bit. How right he was.

I haven’t managed to keep to the one a week target – my estimate is that over 10 years I’ve posted about 450 times. Missed target or not, the cogs have been whirring.

Reading some of the old posts (they’re all easily found, archived by year at I’m struck by how optimistic they are, and how short. Over time, like my waistline they’ve expanded.

They’ve also got angrier.

When I started my career in the late 1960’s I was very proud to work in advertising. I was, indeed still am, fascinated by how we mix creativity and numbers – to hark back to last week’s post, by magic and logic.

Today I’m more disappointed and frustrated than proud. The majority of people inhabiting what they refer to as the ad business are nothing to do with advertising. Instead, they’re technocrats and sales people more interested in numbers on a spreadsheet than in the ads themselves.

To make it worse these people don’t understand, nor do they care about audiences and how they behave. All they care about is maximising the numbers in the measured audience – even if the numbers are meaningless. Make them bigger, regardless. That’s ignorance masquerading as a policy.

How we got to this state is a long, long story involving technology understood by the few, vested interests, holding companies driving their media arms to deliver ever increasing profits to make up for under-deliveries elsewhere, advertisers who don’t want to admit they’ve been focussed on the wrong thing, a trade press concerned with not upsetting the platforms and an agency sector that shies away from controversy to focus on far more easily supportable, societal arguments.

There are of course many good guys – the strategic planners and thinkers, the fraud researchers, those in the attention measurement game doing all they can to move the industry forward, the indie agencies placing transparency ahead of easy money, advertisers who place creativity ahead of convenience, those always seeking to learn, to do better, and those from my generation raging against the dying of the light.

But we’re not the industry, however much we may think we should be.

Increasingly the debate is less about advertising and more about technology; less about meeting client needs and business objectives and more about selling snake oil.

I must admit I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write a regular weekly post (even if it’s less than weekly in reality) about things I care little about. And which to be honest I don’t always fully understand.

Frankly, there are quite enough people pontificating about things they don’t understand. The world doesn’t need another one. And so I’m going to stop doing it.

I won’t stop the Cog Blog altogether. I still care a lot about the ad industry, and I like to think I still have something to say. It’s just that I won’t be saying it quite as often.

I shall, in the words of one of my favourite authors, Alan Bennett be “keeping on keeping on.” You will still be able to find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and on my site. If you subscribe (for free) I’ll still let you know when I post anything of earth-shattering importance.

I’ll still consult, appear on platforms, chair events and work with those who’ll have me.

My hope for the industry has never been that we go back to some golden age (that never really existed) but that we come to our senses and realise we are here to do great work that works for our clients, even, maybe especially if they’re heading in the wrong direction.

We’re here to advise, objectively. Whatever the short-term consequences might be for our own bottom-line.

I am hopeful. Things go around, principles survive and reappear. We realise this more as we get older. In the words of the great Alan Bennett: “At eighty things do not occur, they recur.”

Thanks for reading and au revoir.

  1. Thanks for all you have posted. I can’t claim to have read all 450 but I’ve read a fair few. Like you, I think there comes a time when you feel out of step with what is going on around you and retrenching to work on the bits you still love and believe in is the right move. Where good practice prevails and you can sleep at night!! All best wishes. Louise

  2. Thanks for all those posts Brian- always thought provoking

  3. Thanks Simon! Appreciate it!

  4. Exactly right Louise! I’m just a bit fed up writing about idiots and crooks!!

  5. But you’re the only media person I trust!

  6. That’s going straight on my site Bob!
    I’m still available to private clients (and friends!). And I’ll still post occasionally…
    To paraphrase you, I’m just tired of writing about idiots and crooks.

  7. Brian – what else is there to say after what Bob said… I will keep on keeping on ( when you do post. Never too old to learn!

  8. Wisdom is in short supply these days…even shorter if you post less!

  9. Aw, thanks Maarten. I’ll still post but it was becoming too much to try to think of something sensible to say, week in, week out.
    Hope you’re doing well.

  10. Thanks David! It was getting tiring writing about idiots and crooks!
    But I expect to post when I have something to say – it just won’t be as often.

  11. Thanks, Brian. You were blazing a trail before I joined the industry several decades ago and have earned a little time off by now. Your latest comments are spot-on. I, too, have abandoned thoughts of freedom zing the industry and prefer to find a few safe spaces where brands and the public can connect without the fraud and bad actors overwhelming things. I second your shout-out to the Attention Economy as one of those workarounds. All the best 🙂

  12. I think I’ve read most of your 450 posts and have very much appreciated how insightful and well-written they are. As one gets older, it’s inevitable that one feels a little out of step with the zeitgeist but you have had the courage to highlight something far worse … deliberate fraud. As Louise says to protect our sanity we all need to focus on the bits we love and step back from the bad bits we have no control over. I will look forward to any future posts you may care to make and in the meantime enjoy the things that really matter like your family.

  13. The good guys can win Brian. They need writers like you to highlight issues, which can then be followed up to try to find solutions.
    For me it all starts, as it always has, with the media plan. It is up to the client CMO to make sure the process is in place to avoid the rocks in the road that you always have identified.
    All power to your elbow and just keep going
    Mike Yershon

  14. Thank you Brian for all of you musings and insights, and the support you have given me over the years. I’ll be in touch. I can’t help thinking that this timing coincides with all the cricket and tennis
    on the telly… Cheers, J

  15. Certainly I don’t mind Maarten, I am tremendously flattered!
    Very good piece, I enjoyed reading it and thanks for all the kind words.

  16. Thanks Mike. You set the bar high, the rest of us flail away trying to reach it yet alone get over it!

  17. Thanks John! You may very well have a point. That plus two 2-year old grandsons and 2 very busy freelance daughters!
    Hope to see you soon.

  18. Thanks Carole, I really appreciate your note.
    I’ve received so many nice messages, it’s very encouraging!
    As I’ve said to others it’s become rather tiring writing about idiots and crooks! I expect I’ll post when I feel I have something worthwhile to say, which knowing me will probably be quite soon!
    In the meantime thanks for all the support.
    All the best.

  19. Bravo Brian. I got in after you and got out before you. But I agree with your sentiments 100%. Stay well

  20. Thanks Andrew! I expect I’ll pop up from time to time.
    Hope all is well!

  21. I’ve lived your blog and have gratuitously freeloaded (and possibly plagiarised…) from the posts. Thank you and if you can ‘keep on, keep on’ that would be great.

  22. Hey Brian – Will miss the regular dose of good sense and wisdom – keep on ……

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