Speak Softly

Last week’s Cog Blog highlighted the tragic case of Molly Russell, who took her own life at least in part as a result of being exposed to certain vile images on social media. If you missed the post, you can read it here.

The problem is that whilst we can all agree that something must be done, actually doing something is not so straight-forward.

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of trivialising such a tragedy – and yet it’s only by taking lots of what may appear to be small steps that we get anywhere.

As I pointed out last week, I am these days just a commentator, a blogger. For change to truly occur we need far more influential people than me to come forward. This is one situation when President Roosevelt’s foreign policy mantra ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’ wins over ‘shout loudly and wave your arms around’.

The first thing we could all do is ensure everyone knows what words mean. What should be simple concepts, like ‘viewer’, ‘reach’, ‘impressions’ are not always quite what they seem.

If you work in media in any capacity, agency, sales, client specialist, auditor, research company you know this is true. So why not admit it? Why not talk about it? Why not do something about it?

When your client or boss makes the point that ‘media’ is simply about buying the most impressions for the least money why not point out that an impression isn’t an impression isn’t an impression?

Make the point relevant to his or her world.

Say you work on a car account. In the 1980’s Citroen ran a superb series of ads for their iconic 2CV.

Here’s one:

A car isn’t a car isn’t a car.

Let’s make sure that our clients understand that a view on Facebook isn’t the same as a view on broadcast TV.

That’s not to suggest one is worthless and one invaluable; both have their place. It’s just not the same place.

Next, we have to accept that media is a numbers game. Some of us like to think that there’s room for creativity, for emotion, for standing out from the crowd.

There is room for all these things – if there wasn’t everything would be done by computer and algorithms and we would have to invent a new word, like ‘programmatic’…

Oh, hang on a second.

Programmatic or not, tools are only there to be used by someone to achieve an end. They’re not an end in themselves.

There is room for creativity thank goodness, but how much more powerful the argument to sell creativity if there are numbers to back you up.

One comment to last week’s post came from Jon Waite at Havas.

Havas it seems are launching a new tool (Meaningful Social Matrix, or MSM) across 9 markets to encourage their planners to consider factors other than sheer numbers in their construction of plans.

They’re using the Conscious Ad Network’s framework to score social media vendors across a range of criteria, including ad fraud, brand safety, viewability, DE&I, sustainable development, informed consent, hate speech, children’s wellbeing, disinformation / misinformation, news / journalism protection.

Havas has also been active, as have others like OMG in understanding and embracing the importance of attention.

I’m sure other networks are doing similar things, but the issue is not the cleverness of the tools but whether or not the tools are used.

For them to be used the principles behind them need to be accepted by clients.

For them to be accepted they need to be understood.

For them to be understood we need to educate.

It may seem a long way from arguing about the meaning of words to bringing pressure to bear on the platforms to stop carrying images that cause such distress but small steps, people, small steps.

1 Comment
  1. Jonathan Waite of Havas continues to lead in the application of sound media principles, common sense, creativity plus his MSM criteria – notably concerning “programmatic” results, which at their best are merely an auction optimizer solely based on the data available (accredited and/or certified?) and the inventory loaded and available. We need to remember that CPM stands for “Completely Positively Mad!
    As Erwin Ephron always pleaded in the days of optimizers based on real media audience impression currencies, (when we we all agreed on media terms and definitions!) use optimizer results as a guide to applying your experience and judgement regarding the brand, its competitors and market conditions.
    In the USA, the fix to the on-going brutal damage caused by social media is simply to require them to abide by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Just like all major media? I believe that Molly Russell would be in favour.

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