So, Farewell Then 2020

Well, that was, shall we say an interesting year. Quite aside from such cataclysmic episodes as a pandemic, Brexit negotiations, elections, and what has sadly become the usual quota of intolerance and violence we had a few little moments of our own in the quiet backwater that is advertising and media.

What will we take away?

First, social media continues to blur the line between opinions and facts.

For instance, it is my opinion that advertising on social media platforms does rather a lot of harm and very little good. It is a fact that social media ad revenues continue to rise.

Or, to put it another way, who knew there were so many qualified epidemiologists in advertising?

We also continued in 2020 to imagine that what we do is so important and skilful that it equips us perfectly for anything remotely related.

Imagine the Venn diagram illustrating the overlap between buying an ad campaign and negotiating a trade deal.

And yet a well-known media professional seriously suggested in a published article that the nation’s best TV buyers (as decided by ‘Campaign’ presumably) should lead our Brexit negotiations. Mind you…

I’ve always rather liked the expression ‘stick to your knitting’. It might be old-fashioned but I continue to hold the view that you diminish your standing in one field if you’re forever making a dick of yourself in another.

Next, there can never be too many pieces illustrating that advertising works. This ‘Contagious’ interview with Dr Grace Kite pulled together many strands to remind us that actually, used properly advertising does deliver. It may not be new news but it’s worth remembering that what we do can have an effect.

Of course, not all advertising is equal. Not all advertising is designed to do the same thing; some is designed for brand building over years; some to elicit an immediate response.

This is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to write it down, and yet the supremacy of the placers over the creators makes it necessary to spell out that no, not all impressions are equal; and no, a view is not a view.

We really need to remember this and re-establish the primacy of creativity in 2021.

Work by The Ad Association and Kantar Media in 2020 confirmed that (regardless of whether it works or not) consumers don’t trust advertising, and that they particularly don’t trust online advertising.

Excessive frequency online, and retargeting in the name of the myth of waste-free, precision placements both remain live issues that irritate. And yet advertisers presumably some of whom are advised by agencies staffed by online media professionals) keep doing both.

Talking of advertisers, the big guys moved to the centre of the media stage – with more taking media responsibilities in house, and with trade bodies including the WFA, the ANA and ISBA driving cross-media measurement forward.

As an agency guy I find it sad that my old colleagues aren’t doing more to lead; but at least the paymasters are driving things along.

We’ll see how far they get in 2021 – sorting out who pays and how is going to be critical.

Two final words of praise.

First to the UK media vendor trade bodies. Thinkbox, Magnetic, Newsworks, The Radio Centre, JICMAIL have all advanced knowledge over the last twelve months. All credit to them, and to those who fund them. They’ve come an awfully long way in a short time.

And finally, well done the wise old heads.

I’ve enjoyed reading Dave Trott, Ray Snoddy, Bob Hoffman, Bob Wootton, Nick Manning and (if he’ll forgive me) young Dominic Mills in 2020.

All of them write more sense than most – largely because they’ve been there and done it. When faced with the newest shiny thing, the latest manifestation of the same old theories (or the latest made-up numbers) I like to imagine them sighing, sipping on their pint of mild, and lighting their pipes before calming us all down with what it all really means.

Next week The Cog Blog will be back for the final time this year with a cautionary fairy tale for Christmas. Ho ho ho.

  1. And well done to you too Brian. A year of entertaining, informative and common sense Cog Blogs.
    have a great Christmas.

  2. That’s very kind of you Ken! I do hope you and yours are keeping well. Happy Christmas! Brian

  3. Thank you so much for this blog; please keep it going into what we all hope is a better year.

    One personal comment:

    This is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to write it down, and yet the supremacy of the placers over the creators

    Why was I a placer when the creators were supreme and now a creator when the placers rule the roost? What an arse!

    Merry Christmas


  4. Hear, hear! Thanks for your words of wisdom and merriment, Brian, and wishing you and yours all the very best!

  5. Thank you, Brian. We “wise old heads” enjoy reading you, too.

  6. Thanks Julian, Maarten and Bob! Wishing you all as good a Christmas as is possible, wherever you may be. B

  7. Thanks Bob!

  8. Thanks Maarten!

  9. Thanks Julian – we’ll keep on going..!

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