Stop reading Truth, Lies and Advertising

OK so I’m goading all account planners out there with the title of this blog post in the vain attempt that you will start reading it – apologies, it is slightly misleading.
Truth, Lies and Advertising by Jon Steel is a very good book and anyone entering the world of advertising, even today should read it. There is however a but coming, and it’s aimed more at
the senior mentors that advocate it, than the book itself. You know the types, Baby Boomers from the Golden Era of planning (Sorry I’m baiting again).
You do know the ones I’m talking about though and you have probably had this happen to you at some stage in your career. It goes like this…
A young and very enthusiastic agency staffer knocks on the office door of the agency’s Head of Planning. Sorry I that wouldn’t of happened, they would never have got past the PA. Let me start again.
At the Xmas party, a young, very enthusiastic and slightly tipsy agency staffer plucks up the courage to tell the Head of Planning that they really want to work in planning, strategy, consumer insights and all that kind of stuff.
The Head of Planning apologises and says we have a full team at the moment, everyone wants to work in planning so why not read Truth, Lies and Advertising by Jon Steel, it has all you need to know. The Head of Planning feeling very pleased that he or she has done their bit to champion best in class planning and keep the discipline progressing, pats the young staffer on the shoulder and sends them off into the wild.
Yes Truth, Lies and Advertising is a good book to understand the fundamentals but it really only touches the surface of what it means to work in planning today and it certainly doesn’t help understanding the future.
So I know it’s a bit retro but I do still like a good book and here is my slightly more expansive reading list if you are really interested in strategic planning.
For the fundamentals
On the future of planning
For deep thought
For divergent thought
That should keep you busy and inspired for a few months
Advertising, Communications, Strategy

Work in strategy and planning? Stretch yourself

When you were young, can you remember your parents ever saying something along the lines of; ‘it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it’

Well guess what? As always they were right and never has a truer word been said when it comes to agency folk. Particularly planners.

I’m continually amazed by how many types of strategists it takes to change the communications light bulb these days.

A GP doesn’t go; ‘Well that seems like a nasty cold, but let me consult my cold and flu specialist before I make a diagnosis.’

Yes there are times when you should engage a specialist (and I mean real specialists), but I see no reason why a modern brand planner shouldn’t get social media and vice versa. Why shouldn’t account planners know the fundamentals of user experience design and media planning? In fact I’d have it in the job description.

A GP essentially has a working knowledge of the human body. More often than not they can fix it and when they can’t, they know who to call. They don’t wheel out a brain surgeon every time someone walks in with a headache.

This is essentially what still happens in adland. Every time the Internet word gets mentioned in a client meeting all the agencies wheel out their digital and social media strategists. Probably to show they get it, partly because the rest of their team don’t, but mostly because they see it as a new revenue opportunity.

I’d love to see account planners step out of their comfort zone and learn the ins and outs of media. More importantly agencies need to move digital talent upstream and input into brand problems rather than just working on Facebook brand pages and shiny iPhone apps. Some of the best thinking on brands today comes from people with digital backgrounds and not advertising.

Just like the healthcare industry with GPs, can’t we just have smart people that get a lot of different stuff? Do we need to a strategist for every ailment a brand has?

To be honest much of this is caused by gaps in people’s knowledge and the companies they work for. You don’t know what you don’t know right? However it’s easily fixed. Keep learning new stuff and go and work in different kinds of agencies or on different projects. Trust me it’s fun.

Advertising, Communications, Plannning, Strategy

Planning stuff and doing stuff

I’m in the rather unfortunate position to have the word ‘strategy’ in my job title. I say that for a couple of reasons. One, I feel like a tosser when introducing myself to people. And two, the word is a bit on the nebulous side. Perhaps that’s why I feel like a tosser?

I hate to say it, but I will. In marketing land ‘strategy’ is too detached from the doing. I’m not saying planners should also be ideas people, but being good at generating insights and storytelling isn’t really cutting it with me. A planner today needs to be much closer to helping solutions see the light of day and making them happen.

Here are two; not so much contrasting views, but they highlight my point. To be honest I agree with them both, but if you asked me who I would prefer to employ it’s the person that ‘sweats the small stuff’ than tells the stories.

Rory Sutherland articulates the problem perfectly: “The big stuff is done magnificently well, what you might call the small stuff is done spectacularly badly. There’s a complete gridlock in solving these solutions. The people that can actually solve them are too powerful and pre-occupied with what they call strategy to actually solve them”.

1. Rory Sutherland. Sweat the small stuff

2. Skills of the Rockstar Planner: Communicating Ideas

Communications, Digital, Digital Strategy

The Future of TV from Razorfish

I don’t really see analog and digital as being this TV verus the Internet thing. But more related to how different people (mainly generations) think abouth stuff. There so much opportunity in TV that’s it’s only a matter of time before it starts to look more and more like the Internet.

This is great Razorfish presentation from SXSW Festival that essentially shows what TV is probably going to look like once the digital people get more and more involved. It was presented at Cannes last year but in this version Razorfish seem to have actually flushed out how the potential interface might look under various scenarios. (Start from about slide 12)

Communications, Digital, Strategy

This year’s thoughts on marketing next year – Marketing to networks

The reason I love working in digital is because it’s about people. That sounds contradictory to some I know, but it’s the truth. Technology has made us more social, smarter and more efficient than ever before. It’s given people the opportunity to do stuff rather than just consume stuff. And most importantly ignore brands that are being irrelevant and uninteresting. That’s been the reality over the last year, poor brands have been found out and the best ones flourished.

Which leads me to network theory (and the point of this post, sorry for the rambling prelude) is probably the most interesting thing I’ve been trying to get my head around in the last 12 months. I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert but it adds some rigor and science to a subject filled with a lot of hot air.

I also hate to break it to some people but social network theory has been around long before Mark Zuckerburg was a glint in his Dad’s eye and it’s also not about things that only happen online. Without getting too scientific I’ll just provide the main links for further reading in 2010, if you haven’t done so already in 09.

Malcolm ‘The Law of the few’ Gladwell vs Duncan ‘The big seed’ Watts

The Strength of Weak ties by Mark Granovetter

Social Object Theory – People share things that are interesting, sometimes that’s an ad

Power Laws and Black Swans

Sociograms – Helps map the flow of information and the strength of influence.

The difference between Sarnoff’s law, Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law.

The maximum flow problem. This is something you can’t fix, but it’s good to know what we are doing wrong.

If you are on an International Flight with Qantas and can’t be bothered to read you all this you could watch this.

After reading, or watching all of this, you will probably find out a few things in time for next year.

- How ideas spread are just as important as where they are seen.
- Facebook and Twitter are the tools that networks of people use, not networks themselves.
- Social networks exist on and offline- All networks are different
- Media is connected and not complimentary to one another.
- Your research and the way you segment are probably flawed
- You are spending too much in paid media

Related posts…Part one and Part two

Communications, Marketing, Strategy

A socially social campaign fuelled by social – Why Movember works?

[Sorry, I had to use all the various meanings of the word just to ensure there was no misunderstanding as to what this post is about]

At the moment my Mo looks more like I’ve drunk 10 cans of Coke and licked my top lip, but it is still early days. However this isn’t about me and my Mo, although you can sponsor me here should you wish, it’s about why Movember is a perfect example of marketing in a social world.

It has social object

OK it’s for a good cause and bog paper might struggle to emulate this, but it demonstrates the need to unite people around something compelling enough. In this instance it happens to be a good cause, but it could just be a good idea.

Secondly raising awareness and funds for Men’s health is arguably under represented compared too many other causes; you could say it’s a challenger. Everyone wants to support the challenger.

It gives people something to do

It’s not just a Facebook group where you sign up and forget about it or where you change your Twitter avatar and feel pleased with yourself. It requires people to actually commit to doing something. We all know actions speak louder than words these days.

It makes things spread

It unites groups of people with some real social fuel. There is something to talk about, it’s highly competitive and narcissistic (in a weird and slightly perverse way). Nobody wants to be told they have a dirty lip now do they.

It visualises things happening within groups. People copy each other and the more people that grow a Mo, the more people will a) find it acceptable to grow one or b) Feel left out if they don’t and follow the crowd. Nobody wants to be the first person at the party, so brands need to try and visualise activity and interactions happening, so people feel like everyone else is doing it.

Movember relies on both strong AND weak ties. In order for it to gain significant traction with the population in a short space of time, the ‘handful of influencers’ need to be exposed to the masses – the Mo being the social lubricant and object that is shared across these groups. Brands should ensure that they don’t spend all their efforts on the clump of interconnected cool kids and remember Joe Public needs to be exposed to what is happening.

Social mechanisms

It obviously has the standard Facebook, Twitter and email options so you can spread the word and generate donations, but there is more to the way they feed the fire.

It gives you the tools and reminders to upload and document your progress – as well as fundraising rankings. This keeps you promoting yourself and pushing your efforts through your networks. Brands need to give people something to follow and talk about in order to keep people interested.

Movember gives Mo growers rewards for raising money, including a tickets to the end of campaign party. It inspires people to really push for more money through the month rather than just an email at the beginning. Brands should reward people on a regular basis for giving up their time for you.

Last but not least – it’s useful

For those of us unfamiliar with growing facial hair there is a full on style guide and grooming tips. This should come in handy when rectifying my dirty lip.

Visit Movember and track down your friends and fellow Mo growers


Communications, Strategy

Context and a world of perfect media harmony

I can’t stress enough how important understanding context is when it comes to communications. In fact, I don’t think there is a more helpful word in the marketing dictionary of wank. Agency silos, land grabbing and out of date marketing department structures have a huge part to play in this, so without going into too much of an obvious rant here, there are two things that don’t allow us to see context.

Sorry, kind of a rant already, but the first one is opposites – the age old human behaviour (and marketing sensationalism) that requires you to fall on one side of the fence or the other. You can’t possibly believe in the power of influencers and mass media. And we all know that one media has to be dying in order for another to flourish.

The second is our inability to be human focused. Let’s be honest we all think we are, but stuff gets in the way of actually observing things through the eyes of actual normal people that buy our products. Things like numbers, brand tracking studies, media plans, focus groups and important meetings all contribute, as well as it feeling just all too simple.

However I came across this great post over at Plannerliness highlighting Ray-Ban as a classic example of this. Everything is happening in isolation without much consideration to other stuff that is going on around it. The result is below.

A lovely looking, well presented brand site


That is probably found via a line of text on Google surrounded by a lot that is probably unhelpful


It really shouldn’t be that hard to get your social media come, digital PR, come PR agency to strategically ensure that all search results on that first page are from positive and trusted sources. It wouldn’t be hard for a creative copy writer to work with the search agency to develop some good Keyword ads that are contextual, even if people don’t click on them.

It wouldn’t be that hard for an above the line agency to come up with a TV campaign that is more participatory and spills out in to Youtube, Flickr, Facebook etc. You get the drift, but it highlights how media, despite being fragmented, is more dependent on each other than ever before. I think Faris phrased it well somewhere as media now being additive not repetitive.


You are what you measure – Tim Brown on the current measures of productivity

Despite the current financial goings on and general tightening of the purse strings, I don’t think there has been a better time to start having a bit of a tinkle with your metrics and if Tim Brown of IDEO says it, it must be true.

Via the Ideas Project

I’m a believer that you are what you measure and if that only happens to be things like sales, reach, frequency and recall it’s unlikely that you will get very far on the innovation front. In fact you are essentially just counting stuff, which is fine when things are going well, but doesn’t help you work out what to do when things aren’t quite so rosy.


Paul Feldwick on the ‘Myth of the Message’

Anything written by Paul Feldwick is well worth reading, he certainly has a way with words. So thanks to Faris for flagging this essay up and please do read all of it. It’s a great piece and not just a flippant blog post (like this one is). It really is useful and well worth forwarding on to clients (unlike this one). Just make sure they don’t misinterpret the digital vs analogue part!

For me ‘associations and relationships’ is probably the most distilled down and helpful description of how to approach communications at the moment. It’s like this deck from Joe Crump on Digital Darwinism and John Grant’s Brand Molecules but it is related more specifically the the construction of an ‘advertising message’. Forward it on to all those people you who live and die by the USP.