Opinion | Features
- Last night ANZ launched one of Australia's biggest branded content plays to date. Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes was at the launch.
It took a few minutes too long last night for it to dawn on me why there was a jazz band in the corner of the room at ANZ's Melbourne conference suite. Blue Notes - gerrit?
And what last night's event did make clear is that the opportunities of that developing subset of branded content, brand journalism, are beginning to dawn on local brands.
The movement - embraced early on by Australia's big sporting codes - is now going mainstream. As it begins to look less like a fad, the question is instead shifting to that of: how big will it be?
First though to ANZ's new offering.
Blue Notes is an opportunity for the bank to amplify its voice on financial and economic issues.
Under the leadership of former Australian Financial Review associate editor Andrew Cornell and former Private Media and Fairfax publisher Amanda Gome, the website will pump out news, analysis and video. The resources are decent - a bigger editorial team than your typical specialist or trade magazine, subscriptions to all the news wires including Bloomberg and of course access to ANZ's network of business people.
Its interview with its own chairman David Gonski leans towards the former, albeit written straight, while Cornell's column, on Bitcoin, is analysis that wouldn't have been out of place in his old slot in the AFR.
It's also not entirely clear what success looks like for this project. If the bar is set relatively low as having a great online newsroom, then the site is already there.
If it's about delivering regular engagement with customers (and perhaps more importantly potential customers) then that seems realistic too. That's part of the model of Bruce Guthrie's The New Daily, backed by the super funds, after all. And it also seems to be the thinking behind NRMA Motoring's Live4.com.au, which is about lifestyle and mindset rather than brand.
But the big ask is whether Blue Notes can become a credible voice in its own right, where people interested in the topics it covers automatically turn for information and analysis. That's the big win for brand journalism.
Regardless, the game is changing. When I interviewed Joe Jareck, public relations director of The LA Dodgers on stage at CommsCon last month, he was quite open about how the brand now chooses to release its own news on its own site first, rather than to the LA Times. That way, the Dodgers' own journo would put the Dodgers spin on it, he said.
Blue Notes doesn't yet have it all covered off. Distribution will be a big question. They say they engaged with 60,000 consumers on the first day, via the site and social media. Even if that number is accurate, I'm sure it will initially fall away after the first surge of interest.
Front and centre, the site offers an email signup. Which, unfashionable as it is, in my view remains one of the most powerful news distribution tools there is. (Email distribution is a major plank in Mumbrella's daily reach, for instance.)
But that will be a slow build. How to push Blue Notes to existing customers without annoying them is an interesting question.
[caption id="attachment_221154" align="alignright" width="232"] Outbrain on smh.com.au[/caption]
Outbrain - that widget you see at the bottom of stories on various news sites offering external links to brand content - is becoming an important player in this space. Not only does it offer brands an answer to the distribution question, it offers the existing media owners an indirect new channel of revenue from the growth of branded content. Expect the price of those clicks to go up...
It will also be interesting to see the attitude ANZ takes to sharing of its content. Why not take a leaf from Andrew Jaspan's brainchild The Conversation and publish everything under Creative Commons? With a back link, that would allow any mainstream title to use Cornell's column, for instance.
It would certainly amplify - and differentiate - the bank's voice. The fact that Blue Notes videos are hosted on YouTube already means they are already embeddable anywhere.
Here also is a distinctive chunk of social media that ANZ will get credit for leadership in over its competitors. (It was interesting to note representatives from most of the rival brands were in the room.)
Which of course is at least part of the plan. NAB has been making a lot of the running in setting the agenda in recent years - with The Break Up, for instance, and is dipping its toe into this space too. And CommBank has arguably been doing the most interesting advertising around its Can positioning. This is something ANZ can be known for.
Another factor to be borne in mind is that brand journalism is providing a potential new career direction just at a moment when journos are losing their jobs.
It's tempting to ask who will then grow the next generation of journos for brands to pluck their talent from if the old media owners aren't doing so. But if an organisation like ANZ can build a publishing operation in a few months, it's not unrealistic to think that brands can invest in training too.
And the troubles of the mainstream media is another reason for brands to be looking in this direction. Fewer outlets for their messages is an issue for them too.
But the swing away from paid media to earned media also raises big questions for how brands organise themselves.
The comms people, not the marketing teams, seem the natural guardians of this kind of content. It's about a conversation, not a message.
For a long time, the marketing teams have the giant budgets while the PR and corporate comms teams make do with scraps. But the boundary between earned media, owned media and paid media is blurring. The old fashioned - and still near-universal - divisions between the comms team and the marketing team will have to disappear in time. And more urgently, the budgets could well shift too.
It's a fascinating time.
- Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
Recently there was another report from the scientists of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) telling us that climate change (what used to be called global warming) is upon us and there are real changes happening now (I bet I’ve lost several readers already!)
The scientists are urging us to heed their warning and change our behaviours, yet we ignoring them in droves. Even though information they are giving us is dire.
The issue is that ‘information’ has rarely been a good behavioural change instrument for the masses. We've just lived through the ‘information age’, a time where all of the world’s information was organised for us and made available to all of our fingertips. How many of the world’s problems did all of this easily accessible information solve?
However, there is one brilliant answer staring us in the face. In fact it’s without doubt the best changer of mass behaviour we have, and it’s called ‘Reality TV’.
Reality TV has made many Australians
- Lose weight, particularly in one country town (The Biggest Loser)
- move to the beat more (So You Think You Can Dance)
- Increase their time volunteering to keep the beaches safe (Bondi Rescue)
- Cook better (Master Chef)
- …and be better handy people (The Block)
- The information gets across. Reality TV entertains first and informs second. (get the message)
- It creates social norms. Reality TV shows are a great way of increasing motivation for a particular activity as they make something feel like it’s already popular and thereby change the social norms. People like to conform so if they think others are already doing something, they’ll do it too.
- Models the desired behaviour. Ever wanted to cook a croque en bouche? Watch how assessable ‘models’ do it
- Get’s people involved: Once you watch a 13 part show on (say gardening) you’ll more likely want to get involved in the activity yourself.
- It gamifies the learnings: We are watching people win and lose – it’s fun.
- The Daily Telegraph has delivered a great piece of old fashioned campaigning journalism, argues Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes Back when I worked in newspapers, I was taught that if a newspaper is going to embark on a campaign, it has to pass three tests. First, and most important: Is it in tune with the readers? Second: Does it have a clearly defined goal? Third: Is it winnable? On that basis, The Daily Telegraph's campaign for a second airport for Sydney is a textbook example of a great newspaper campaign. Later today, the Federal cabinet is set to endorse an infrastructure plan which will see the airport built in the newspapers Western Sydney heartland. While it's impossible to know for sure, speaking as a reader of the newspaper, it feels like The Tele's campaigning on the issue has been decisive. By getting readers on side, it cleared political blockages both at state and federal level. Local MPs worried about local opposition to increased noise and congestion were nudged in the direction of supporting the economic boost, thanks in large part to the cover provided by The Tele. [caption id="attachment_220742" align="alignright" width="201"] How The Tele rounded up its campaign in today's edition[/caption] Perhaps the airport would have been built anyway. But given the fact that politicians have dithered for half a century, that seems unlikely. Best of all for the paper, it is a campaign right in the heartland of its most important readership - Western Sydney. It ties in with the newspaper's wider #FairGoWest campaign. And it's a great example where the product lives up to the position - in this case the "We're for Sydney" slogan the paper launched two years ago. Back then, I interviewed editor Paul Whittaker and he set out his campaigning stall around improving transport and infrastructure in the city. http://youtu.be/R9oHa8H4Xko His job, he said, would be "Identifying the problem, looking at possible solutions, and then pushing governments at all levels to try to get outcomes for the benefit of the people of Sydney." That's exactly what happened with story after story prosecuting the case and chivvying the politicians to get on with it. Clearly the airport's not built yet. And Sydney has plenty more infrastructure issues for the newspaper to get its teeth into. Regardless, these sort of campaigns are what tabloid newspapers, at their best, are all about. Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
- Following a series of special reports on piracy on Mumbrella this week Foxtel's Bruce Meagher explains why the company is airing Game of Thrones as it is. Much has been made in the past few days of the fact that fans of Game of Thrones are unable to acquire the series through services other than Foxtel until after the final episode airs. Unfortunately, there has also been much misinformation about how Foxtel is making Game of Thrones available to the public. [caption id="attachment_84493" align="alignright" width="113"] Bruce Meagher[/caption] The criticisms relate both to price and the Foxtel business model. Some even conclude that unauthorised downloading is justified because of these objections. As KGB commented in relation to a recent Mumbrella story, that’s like justifying stealing a Ferrari on the basis that the waiting list is too long or the price is too high (maybe it’s because you don’t want all of the features). You only have to state the proposition to realise how absurd it is. Another argument that is sometimes made is that you’re only making a digital copy, not actually stealing an object. Try telling that to the actors, extras, writers, camera crew, make up artists, editors, special effects teams and the many others who make Game of Thrones. The artistry and skill they bring to the production has real value and deserves to be rewarded. Having said that, at Foxtel we recognise the need to be flexible to meet consumers’ reasonable expectations as to speed of access and pricing. That’s where Foxtel Play comes in. Foxtel Play is the best comparison to iTunes and similar services. Foxtel Play is a streaming service available over the internet via a range of devices: PCs and Macs, Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox360, Samsung and LG smart TVs and Samsung Blu-Ray. You can also use your Foxtel Play subscription to activate Foxtel Go on a range of Apple and Android phones and tablets. It takes a few minutes to sign up and there are no lock in contracts so customers are free to come and go on a month to month basis. Because we air each episode Express from the US you can sign up and be watching within a couple of hours of its US broadcast. What’s more you can register three devices and watch on two simultaneously. So, for example, if a member of the family or household is travelling they can still catch the latest episode as it goes to air or on demand even if someone else is watching at the same time. All episodes of Games of Thrones season 4 (plus 2 and 3) will be available in the catch up library for the duration of the series. You can watch as often as you want and new comers can get up to speed with past episodes. As a special Game of Thrones offer Foxtel Play including the Movies and Premium Drama Pack is available for $35 per month for the duration of the series. Plus, the first 14 days are free to new subscribers. For that price you also get a range of other channels and programs, including past seasons of Game of Thrones and other exceptional dramas such as True Detective, Girls, True Blood, Boadwalk Empire, access to around 1,000 movie titles and much more. Of course some people say they don’t care about all of that, they only want the most recent episodes of Game of Thrones. However, HBO has decided that is not the way they intend to sell this season either here on in the United States. As the content creator and risk taker on the show, they are entitled to make those commercial decisions. As I have said elsewhere, dragons don’t come cheap. If consumers’ only choice was full Foxtel, with lock in contracts and a delay in access due to the need to get installed (a fantastic service by the way for people who love great television) I could understand the objection. But with Foxtel Play available those objections vanish. What we are left with is an argument at the margins about a few dollars. Yet some people still feel that they should be entitled to take this show for free without the consent of its creators rather than pay a reasonable price for an extraordinary product. The Lannisters may not be a pleasant lot, but they, at least, always pay their debts. Bruce Meagher is director of corporate affairs for Foxtel.
- This year's Mumbrella Awards are going to be tougher to enter than ever before. Which makes winning one worth even more. As the call for entries goes live, Tim Burrowes explains the changes for this year.
Please don't hate me.
I hear a common complaint about some industry awards, and I'm afraid it's mostly my fault.
About seven years ago, I oversaw the first couple of years of the B&T Awards. In some categories, I introduced a new idea into the market - finalists were invited to present in person to the jury. I'll explain my reasoning in a moment.
So when I launched the Mumbrella Awards, we introduced a similar process in some categories.
Funnily enough, people who have been through the process with the B&T Awards sometimes moan about it to me, unaware that I was to blame.
So let me explain my thinking - and why we plan to increase people's stress levels even further with the Mumbrella Awards this year.
First, let me acknowledge this: sitting with your team in an anonymous hotel corridor waiting to talk to a jury is a stressful process. And that's before you go in and present, let alone take the tough questions that follow.
It's quite hard to organise too. Rounding up high calibre jurors, and wrangling the top ranks of most of the industry into the same place on the same day is a big ask.
This year though, we're going even further. Every one of our categories will be judged this way. If you're going to win, you're going to need to persuade a jury to shortlist you based on your written claims - and then you're going to need to look them in the eye and convince them all over again that you should win.
So why do we do it this way? Because, in my view, the quality of the result is improved.
Over the years, I've heard a lot of juries debate a lot of entries. A common complaint from the jury is when they struggle to know whether to believe a claim. My advice has always been to shortlist based on the entry's claims, and to only select a winner if you are 100 per cent convinced.
A face-to-face presentation gives the jury that opportunity to be convinced. Or not.
In addition, I've heard juries frustrated at written entries and unable to pick a winner. In one category where that occurred last year I was convinced that if the finalists were in the room, they would have easily been able to overcome the doubts. But instead, no winner was awarded.
Conversely, I've never seen a jury which didn't find a worthy winner when it gets to spend time with finalists face-to-face.
And most importantly, when you put finalists in front of the jury (so long as you recruit the right people) they tend to get the result right. I'm proud to say that while a couple of other industry awards have thrown up very odd winners in recent years, I can proudly stand behind all the verdicts of our jurors.
We're going further yet though. For the last couple of years, we've been the only awards where a senior panel of jurors has toured the offices of the finalists for creative agency of the year. Last year this jury covered Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne. For us it wasn't a cheap process (the entry fees certainly didn't cover the jury's flights and hotels, but it meant that we could be certain we picked the right winner and really understood what made them tick.)
And this year, we're expanding to a second roving jury. We'll also be touring the offices of the media agency of the year finalists.
And we won't just be basing our juries in Sydney. In conjunction with our sister site Mumbrella Asia, we'll be judging the regional creative network of the year, regional media network of the year and the new category of regional PR network of the year in Singapore. That jury will be captained by the redoubtable Darren Woolley.
Meanwhile, there are new categories too - including recognition of the fast growing area of content marketing, and for digital services company of the year.
We've also, with the support of industry charity Un Ltd, created the new category of pro bono campaign of the year.
And for individuals, we will be recognising the newcomer of the year.
Also, we're retiring a couple of categories. Post production house of the year got little support last year, perhaps reflecting the state of the production sector. And thinker of the year is also not returning. Hopefully those who fancy themselves as a thinker will concentrate their efforts on the returning Mumbrella Award for Insight.
Meanwhile, we've maintained the price of entry (although late entries will cost you more now).
However, one element of the Mumbrella Awards will be significantly more straightforward this year. We've built a brand new awards site, which involves direct entry of text. Production values will no longer be a factor.
I agree with those who argue that there are too many industry awards, and people will have to be increasingly strategic about where they invest their resource into entering. I believe the ones that thrive will be the ones where winning actually means something.
I do hope you enter. The judging process will be hard work. But imagine how you'll feel if you pick up a trophy at The Star on the night of June 5. And best of all, everyone will know you deserved it.
- Tim Burrowes is the content director of Mumbrella. To view details of the Mumbrella Awards, download this PDF.
- With the battle for early evening eyeballs increasingly important for commercial TV networks Amanda Meade looks at the numbers to see if the most popular newsreaders are the most watched. Despite dramatic changes to the media landscape in the past ten years, the traditional 6pm commercial news bulletin on free-to-air television remains a key building block in a network’s schedule - get it right and you can carry big audiences over to your primetime shows. Some bulletins have even expanded from 30 minutes to an hour in the main markets of Sydney and Melbourne. [caption id="attachment_219545" align="alignright" width="234"] Mark Ferguson[/caption] But getting the right reader is tricky. When the legendary Brian “Hendo” Henderson retired from Channel Nine in Sydney, the bulletin slowly slumped into second place and it took years and three newsreaders for Nine to regain its ratings crown. After Hendo, Nine went through Jim Waley and Mark Ferguson before ditching them for Peter Overton, the incumbent who leads the pack between 6pm and 7pm in Sydney. Similarly, over on Seven, when veteran Ian “Roscoe” Ross retired at 70, ratings began a long, slow decline and Chris Bath - the first woman to front a number one commercial bulletin in Sydney - wasn’t able to hang on to first place and she was recently replaced by Ferguson who had defected to Seven. Overton, Bath, Ferguson - and Ten’s Sandra Sully - all have high Encore Scores, a measure of their standing with the public which was tabulated from a survey of 3,500 respondents last year. The respondents were shown a series of pictures of Australian on-air personalities and asked how they felt about them from “one of my favourites” to “I hate them”. In the entire Encore Score list of 1,000 personalities, only five got a score over 200. Surprisingly, Overton, who has more viewers than Ferguson (96), also has the lowest score of 52 of the four Sydney personalities. But Nine’s ratings may be due to the strong stories and live crosses than the newsreader alone. Overton also scores highly among women, some three times more than with male viewers. Chris Bath (140) who was recently moved aside for Ferguson and Sully (110) performed much stronger than Overton and the other men in the Sydney market. [caption id="attachment_219546" align="alignright" width="234"] Sandra Sully[/caption] Sully is one of the nation’s most popular and enduring newsreaders. Having both a strong national and Sydney profile, Sully is particularly popular among the older (25 to 54 year old) demographic and is more than twice as popular among men than women. No surprises there. Perhaps because she presented the national late news on Ten for so many years, Sully has a strong Encore Score among all Australians (98) rather than just in Sydney. In Melbourne, the reigning king of news is Nine’s Peter “Hitch” Hitchener and his Encore Score of 164 reflects his enduring popularity. But not far behind is Seven’s Peter Mitchell with 141. However, while Ten’s veteran newsreader Mal Walden has an Encore Score of 59, his replacement Stephen Quartermain, who moved across form the sports desk to replace him, scored just 45 in the study conducted last May, and we would expect his profile to be higher now, although he resonated better than Walden in the 25-54 demographic. [caption id="attachment_219556" align="alignright" width="112"] Sharyn Ghidella[/caption] Brisbane’s Sharyn Ghidella is very popular with a high Encore Score of 144. Ghidella has been reading the Seven News in Brisbane since January 2013 and has also presented the local edition of Today Tonight, which perhaps accounts for her high recognition and popularity. Ghidella is four times more popular with over 25s than she is with the 18 to 39s and twice as popular with men as she is with women, which is interesting for a female newsreader. Andrew Lofthouse, a former ABC personality, reads the Nine News in Brisbane and has a high Encore Score of 96. Lofthouse has twice the recognition among older viewers in Brisbane than he does in the under 25s, which is unsurprising as all news bulletins have an older demographic. In Perth Ten’s Narelda Jacobs, an indigenous role model for young women in Western Australia, has always been a strong performer, with an Encore Score of 101. [caption id="attachment_219559" align="alignright" width="174"] Narelda Jacobs[/caption] But Susanna Carr who reads the news on Seven has an Encore Score of 189 in her home State, no doubt due to her longevity. Carr has been presenting the news in Western Australia since 1985. Jacobs, Carr and Seven's Rick Ardon (99) all perform better with the older demographic than the younger respondents in the Encore Score survey. The Encore Score is a ranking of on-air talent across TV, radio, film and the media. The project launched in 2012 with a second round of data compiled in June 2013. The results chart how widely more than 1,000 Australian celebrities are recognised, as well as how positively and negatively they are perceived. Click here to see the full interactive rankings. Amanda Meade The Encore Score is a joint venture between Focal Attractions, Pure Profile and The Acid Test.
- This week Adam Ferrier asks whether PR is starting to mean everything and nothing, and whether it is any different from traditional advertising. I've been thinking about the PR industry lately and where PR fits in the broader communications landscape. I've thought about it a lot, and worked with most models from integration under one roof to partner agencies, and a few things in-between. PR is a mythical beast and one I don't think most people quite get (including me?). There is the behind the scenes classic walking the corridors of power 'spin doctor' stereotype, and there is the moi- darling press release sending glamour puss stereotype. Yet there is also a third type of PR much more prevalent than the first two who I would describe as a strategically creative, conversation maintaining type of PR. The first two can easily be written off as bad, dated cliche's of PR - and although they no doubt both exist - they are clearly in the very small minority of what PR does. However, the third group, the strategically creative set is what I'm interested in. If they are the bulk of PR these days - how exactly do they differ from a modern brand building agency? It seems like everyone is talking about always on communications. Two way communications. Conversations. And so on. So just like digital is starting to mean everything and nothing. Is PR also starting to mean everything and nothing. Is this the reason most agencies who win PR awards are not PR agencies? My question is does a modern PR agency do things that different to a modern creative agency to warrant a whole separate agency supplier - or should the two ideally be combined? Adam Ferrier is chief strategy officer at Cummins&Partners. Each week he sets Mumbrella readers a new question to answer. His book ‘The Advertising Effect’ is available for pre-purchase here.
- After a rare business class flight, Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes argues that brands may miss opportunities when staff treat customers according to their perceived value.
So over the weekend, I finally got to make the metaphorical left turn getting onto a Qantas flight. And it was everything I could have wanted.
Not, I stress, that our first Mumbrella Question Time in Hong Kong was such a raging commercial success, I could justify a business class flight. But I was able to use accumulated points to get an upgrade. (Who knew that,even for business class, these days you still actually turn right, on the A380 at least?)
So for once, I got a brand experience I'm not used to. And it was a very good one at that.
But as someone whose career choices mean that I'm likely to to be turning metaphorically right on aeroplanes for the rest of my life, the fact that I was a temporary visitor probably made me see the brand experience through the prism of what I would soon be returning to.
And it wasn't the Peter Morrissey branded grey Qantas pyjamas that focused my thinking. Even if it did make me and my fellow business class passengers look like overweight extras from Brother Wherefore Art Though.
Or even the newly opened Qantas Hong Kong business lounge with Neil Perry "inspired" dining which was every bit as pleasant as the picture suggests.
From the perspective of a non travel warrior, the experience was impeccable. There was nothing about the service in that business cabin that could possibly make one think "Next time I'll try a different airline". It was speedy, courteous and friendly.
At busy moments attendants swarmed through the cabin in a way that doesn't happen in economy. And nor necessarily should it. You get what you (or your company, more likely) pay for when it coms to staffing levels.
But it was actually a random encounter with the flight attendants at about 4am, somewhere over Queensland, that focused my mind about how brands treat their non premium customers.
I woke briefly, removing my noise-cancelling headphones and comfortable eyeshades, pull back my duvet and getting up from my flatbed (complete with massage controls that I neglected to experiment with) to head through the darkened cabin to the bathroom.
Three of the flight attendants were quietly chatting in their jump seats.
One of them leapt to his feet, offering water, or anything else I wanted.
And that was the moment.
Over the years, in wee small hours bathroom trips on various airlines, I've stumbled on flight attendants on downtime in their jump seats in many an economy cabin.
And never once have they jumped to their feet to see whether I wanted water.
So why, culturally, does a business class customer put staff on their feet, and an economy one does not?
One would assume that in both cases, the crew are equally tired.
Both customers have paid some money and in both cases, one assumes the airline wants them to have the best possible experience based on the resources available.
Is it simply that the best staff get put into business class? The ones most likely to rush to offer service.
Or is it that culturally, as well as economically, there are different classes of customer? Ones that you need to go all out to look after, and ones where it's okay not to try quite as hard.
I've experienced as much with other brands. Sometimes, it's not about what you've paid, but appearance, I suspect.
On a day off, I once walked into a branch of Commonwealth Bank, which at the time was running its "Concierge" ad
A few minutes before, I'd become exasperated by a long, impersonal wait at my ANZ bank, which did indeed involve taking a ticket.
The customer insight was a good one. The investment into the creative work by M& C Saatchi, and the TV ads worked. I walked into CommBank's flagship branch on Sydney's George Street, intending to ditch ANZ.
I had, metrosexual that I am, come from having a facial. So the front of my hair was damp and standing on end. I was scruffily dressed. I may even have had a small backpack with me.
It was also probably inconveniently close to closing time.
There was indeed a concierge who was talking to a colleague, a conversation he carried on for another minute or so after giving me the once over.
When he did ask me how he could help, I mentioned I was perhaps looking to open an account.
His first words: "You'll need your passport." At this point, I'd been living in Australia for five years, but I must admit, I do still have a strong English accent. So yes, I think he assumed I was a backpacker.
The wait for somebody to come and talk to me was long enough that I'd decided that I'd give it one more minute,then walk out, when somebody did come over and bring me through to a cubicle.
By now it was just about 5pm.
I mentioned that I was thinking of moving bank accounts. I didn't mention that I'd likely be buying a home soon, and had a reasonable deposit already in my existing account. I didn't mention that I already owned property in the UK, and had a share of a business in Australia.
I asked about the process of switching across automated payments to utilities and the like. I said this was the only thing stopping me from having made the move. It was indeed a difficult process, she told me.
I assumed there would be a script, in which the next line would be her telling me, that they were there as a bank to help me complete it. But there wasn't a next line.
So I said I'd think about it, thanked her for her time and left. She didn't try to stop me. Two years later, I'm still with the ANZ.
But I suspect that if I had walked through the door wearing a suit and with my hair a bit neater, the CommBank's staff would have reacted to me in a different way, and I'd now be their customer.
And that's the thing that the CommBank experience has in common with non Qantas business class flights. Sometimes, a brand's staff could treat a customer better without it costing anything extra. Sometimes it comes down to culture and training.
Otherwise staff make unconscious judgements. Why leap to your feet for an economy passenger who probably only wants to go to the bathroom anyway? Why go out of the way for a scruffy backpacker who's probably not got much money anyway?
Yet, imagine if you did travel with an airline where the economy class flight attendants tried as hard as the ones in business. You'd be a little more likely to travel with them next time, wouldn't you?
And sometimes, business class customers do travel economy class. Their brand perceptions are formed there too.
I'm ruined now though. I've tasted business class. Please don't make me go back...
- Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella. Although he paid for his ticket and upgrade, he got into the Hong Kong lounge after asking the Qantas press office for an invitation when they sent out a press release about its opening last week.
- This week in his Answers for Adam column Adam Ferrier asked whether agencies should imitate startups. Here Nic Hodges argues agencies need to focus on their ideas, but modernise processes. In his column this week Adam Ferrier asks "would your agency be doing better work if it put data, behavioural sciences, and technology up on pedestal along with creativity? Or is a single-minded focus on creativity still the answer?". Here's a secret - nobody at a startup is sitting around caring about acting more like an advertising agency. It wasn't just this question that got my interest, it was the fact that the question was posed only after the now common call for agencies to act more like startups - Ferrier even asks "is it cooler to attend the Cannes Lions or tweet about the latest gadget unveiled at SXSW?". Agencies don't need to act more like startups. Agencies need to act more like modern agencies - ones that have evolved in response to new technology, tools, and thinking. Because that's exactly what startups have done.Here's a secret - nobody at a startup is sitting around caring about acting more like an advertising agency. For startups, technology such as social networks have allowed rapid distribution due to network effects. New tools like Amazon Web Services and Django mean two guys in a garage can launch and scale a billion dollar idea like Instagram. New thinking around agile development, lean methodology, and user validation means startups can get to the right answer faster. These technologies, tools, and thinking do not define what a startup is though. They are simply components that have been be added to the underlying engine. That engine, according to Lean Startup author Eric Ries, is the desire to "deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty". When Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce founded Fairchild Semiconductors in 1957 (essentially founding Silicon Valley in the process), their engine was akin to the 4-litre dual-carburetored V6 engine available in a Chevy at the time. With the components that have been created since, today's startups have an engine resembling the modern turbo-charged, electronically assisted, hyper-efficient F1 engines. There's a lot of technology, tools, and thinking there, but underneath it's still an internal combustion engine. The engine of advertising agencies is the creative idea. Without the underlying engine, it doesn't matter what components you throw in - whether it's startups, behavioural economics, or big data - the fundamental purpose of the agency is absent. If agencies stop putting ideas at the centre of what they do, if the idea ceases to be the engine, then agencies are no longer agencies. This is not to say that data, behavioural science, technology, or whatever else is in vogue should be ignored. But these things need to be considered as components for the engine, not a replacement for it. As an industry, we're not terribly good at recognising this and creating new components. I've spent the last decade around both agencies and startups, and the evolution of how startups operate is orders of magnitude more than that of agencies. The call to act more like startups bears a striking resemblance to previous calls for agencies to act differently - a couple years back it was big data, before that it was behavioural economics. We are quite adept at creating a convenient fiction of what other domains look like, and how we need to be more like 'them', how we need to completely change our engine. But we don't, and we shouldn't. We shouldn't ignore other domains altogether - there is plenty agencies can learn from startups. But creative ideas have always been, and should always be, at the heart of what agencies do. We don't need to change that engine, we just need to create better components. Nic Hodges is head of innovation and technology at MediaCom Australia
- After Graham White's response to Joe Hildebrand's CommsCon speech generated some heated debate on the state of the PR industry, Rob Lowe argues 'PR agencies' are already dying out. PR agencies will cease to exist in the next ten years. Is that shocking enough for you? Well it’s true. Too many PR agencies are outdated, the traditional media landscape is shrinking, and with increasing numbers of advertising, social media and even SEO agencies getting in on the action, we need to smarten up. [caption id="attachment_42807" align="alignright" width="230"] Lowe[/caption] I believe we need to redefine what PR is in order to re-educate the industry and clients about the potential for what PR thinking can do. Changing how we refer to the skillset could help. The words aren’t quite right but for lack of anything better right now, I think PR agencies will start to rename themselves 'Earned Media Creative Agencies' or ‘Engagement Agencies’ or anything other than ‘PR Agencies’, which bring to mind less strategic and overpriced press offices with bulging media relations teams. Being an ‘Earned Media Creative Agency’ won’t mean we focus on creating earned media; that's just a by-product and it’s what most PR agencies currently do anyway. ‘Earned Media Creative Agencies’ will be more creative and strategic about how we earn media and consumer interest; they’ll focus on the idea first, knowing that awareness via multiple channels will follow and the result will be a behavioural change or shift in perception. The best earned media creative campaigns I’ve seen recently give the clients’ brands a beneficial role in their consumers lives and engage them with the brand. What can your brand add to people’s lives? Can it entertain, educate, be useful, increase social standing or in some way make the world a better place? This is what interests people, because it’s real and it matters. And if people are interested they’ll share it on social media and traditional media will want to cover it. It’s exciting times. And being forced to be more creative is fun, because the idea is interesting and people want to hear more. It makes the job so much more enjoyable, means the time spent is more efficient and that the ROI and personal fulfilment is greater. Creating ideas for brands that people want to share and talk about is a priority for not just the PR industry, but also advertising, experiential and social media. It’s the common thread that brings all great campaigns greater ROI and fame. In an age where communication between businesses and consumers is two-way, it’s the only way forward. So the ‘Earned Media Creative’ skillset will live in every media channel. Some agencies get it and others don’t. The best advertising and PR agencies will incorporate both creative and traditional PR skillsets into what they offer. Maybe one day, advertising agencies will also cease to exist in the way they’re currently categorised and there’ll be even fewer boundaries. With all this in mind, it'll change the way we measure and evaluate what we do, with less emphasis on outputs and more focus on how our ideas have affected consumer behaviour resulting in outcomes and business results. It'll also mean that earned media skillsets won't be segregated as a channel since we’ll specialise in making any channel, whether it be paid for, owned or experiential, creatively earn more than its natural output. Cannes PR Lions are the ultimate recognition of earned media creative work and as we’ve seen before, PR still has lots to learn from the advertising agencies, which have dominated the space. There are however a few PR agencies who are learning and leading the field. They’re the ones to watch out for because in ten years’ time they may not be calling themselves PR agencies. Rob Lowe is PR director of Eleven PR
- With Cannes Young Lions entries closing on Friday former winner Iggy Rodriguez has the reasons why you should pull an all nighter to finish your entry. Okay, sure it’s the last minute, but plenty of famous campaigns have been written right before a big meeting or on the night before a pitch. You’ve got a few days, so you’re laughing. I’ve been lucky enough to compete in the Young Lions at Cannes a couple of times and I can honestly say there’s no better launching platform for your career in the ad business and no better reward for busting your chops on a brief. The Young Lions is like competing in the Olympics Of Advertising. An odd notion you might think. Upon arriving to the Young Lions Arena in the main stadium of Cannes (AKA The festival auditorium) each country is lined up side by side. As Aussie representatives, you’re wearing your green and gold Adidas tracksuit and carry an Aussie flag patriotically in your hands. You look to your right and see the team from Argentina, to your left the team from Austria. Across the hall are the Poms, the Swedes, the Russians and Zimbabweans, all with their game faces on. These are best young creatives from all over the world and they want to take you down. You’re given your brief and wait for the referees whistle to blow. This is it. You’re doing it for your country. You snap back to reality and realise the javelin you thought you were holding is actually an HB pencil. You’ve got a brief to crack and only 24 hours to do it and you’ll be damned if some Pom pips you at the finish. Time to get moving and push harder than you ever have. Just like a marathon runner crossing the line, at the end of it everyone is broken and exhausted, but you’ve made it through. There’s even a Gold, Silver, Bronze medal ceremony just like the real Olympics. Afterwards, you’ll have a drink or twenty together and realise those people you thought were your fierce enemies are merely other young creatives just like you. Winners or not, they’re all stoked to have been chosen to represent their countries and they’re proud they gave it their all. It’s a room full of amazingly talented, young people who’ll all be rising in the advertising ranks over the next few years in their own respective countries, just like you will be. Outside of the Young Lions comp, you’ll have access to inspirational seminars and talks from some real creative gurus. Not just all advertising folk, but musicians, actors, techy geeks and innovative business people who are all pushing the boundaries of creativity in their own unique way. While you’re strolling the streets speaking your clumsy Aussie-French, swimming at the beach or eating at restaurants, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of creative directors in the Advertising world, who all flock to Cannes for that one week. Most of them have come to judge the year’s best creative ideas, which you’ll be able to see at each night’s award ceremony presentation. Once all the shiny metal has been dished out, there are more than a few parties to sniff out. The key is to do some groundwork early in the week to make connections with reps and producers for tickets. Once inside, it’s just you and your new Young Lion mates hanging out with the world’s best CDs, drinking free rosé on a beautiful French beach in the middle of Summer. You remember it’s Winter back home and you haven’t been at the office in a week, let alone worn a pair of shoes. You think back to working on the entry for this competition back in Australia last month. Sure it took a bit of effort, but in the end your hard work really paid off. Some final tips on putting together your entry: So here you are. It’s the last couple of days before deadline, hopefully you’ve ploughed well into the brief weeks ago and are well on your way. If you haven’t, don’t sweat it. With a couple of days to go, you still have time to crack it. In Cannes, you’ll only be given 24 hours from start to finish, so it can be done. 1. A Ball tearing idea Spend the majority of your time trying to come up with the very best idea you can. The execution is judged secondary and doesn’t need anywhere near as much time. Once you’ve well and truly cracked a great idea, then you can start thinking about putting it together. The judges want to see your ability to conceptualize and think. 2. Answer the brief Make sure your idea nails the proposition, not just hits the rim and smudges off. Remember that the judges will be going through hundreds of entries, one after the other, so when they see an entry with a message that really hits the mark in a simple and clear way, it’s going to stand out. P.s. It never hurts to re-read the brief. If you’re slightly off, someone could beat you by a fingernail. 3. Campaignability There’s nothing wrong with entering one brilliant execution, but if you can show judges the beauty and simplicity of your great idea by proving it can work as campaign, then you’ll be all the better for it. 4. Simplify This is about looking at your finished product and asking yourself is everything really as great as it could be, and I don’t mean necessarily crafting it more in Photoshop. Look at the end line you’ve got - could it be said another way? Or written more succinctly perhaps? You may have a sketched an image - is this the best angle of it for your idea to come through? Could it be simplified to make it easier to understand? 5. Double down Got another cracker idea? Submit another entry. Sure the entry costs $60, but it’s the trip of a lifetime worth a hell of a lot more. Plus with a little sweet-talking, you can convince your Creative Director that it’s a small investment into the future of the agency and I’m sure they’ll happily cover the costs for you. 6. Go hard It’s the last week. Give it everything you’ve got. If you’re not sure about your idea, remember there’s always a better one out there. You’re either going to gain a fresh piece of work for your folio OR win yourself a trip to France in the middle of the Summer. You can enter the competition via this link. Iggy Rodriguez is creative group head for Leo Burnett. Disclaimer: Mumbrella has no commercial links to either the Cannes Lions or Cannes Young Lions competition.
- This week Adam Ferrier asks whether ad agencies should be embracing startup culture more, or continuing to focus single-mindedly on creativity. “The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists”. Banksy (apparently?!) The above quote is around ten years old and I wonder if it’s still relevant. I’m getting the sense that the new breed of creative folk who want to make a buck are not entering advertising – but rather being seduced by the technology fuelled ‘start-up’ culture. For example is it cooler to attend the Cannes Lions or tweet about the latest gadget unveiled at SXSW? The only reason I worry is that many creative types in our industry appear to be slow on the uptake on the three pools of learning that the ‘start-up’ culture embraces along with ‘creativity’, namely i) an understanding of the behavioural sciences, ii) a deeper understanding of data, and iii) an even deeper understanding of technology. The start up culture doesn’t scream ‘creativity is the answer – now what was the question?’. Now not all of us can learn everything – and there is a counter argument to be had that ‘creative types’ should just focus on being creative, and the other skills can be learned by other people within the advertising industry. So my question this week is would your agency be doing better work if it put data, behavioural sciences, and technology up on pedestal along with creativity? Or is a single-minded focus on creativity still the answer? Adam Ferrier is chief strategy officer at Cummins & Partners. Each week he sets Mumbrella readers a new question to answer. His book ‘The Advertising Effect’ is available for pre-purchase here.
- It’s nearly time for the call for entries for the 2014 Mumbrella Awards. But before we publish this year’s categories and criteria, Mumbrella’s content director Tim Burrowes invites you to have a say...
I can still remember in excruciating detail the night we lost.
It will be nine years ago next month, at a publishing awards show.
We were shortlisted for magazine of the year. And we’d given it everything. It had been an amazing year. We’d relaunched with a sales and newsstand turnaround to show for it.
Our awards entry was an intricate production in its own right, with about the same level of effort as an edition of the magazine. There was nothing more to be done.
We even hired a stretch limo to take the team to the awards night.
And we lost. To our biggest rival.
It remains the most disappointing moment of my career. I’m ashamed to say that I walked out of the hotel the minute the ceremony was over.
Deep down I realised even then that we weren’t robbed. The jury just went a different way. But it still hurt.
I’ve lost at various publishing awards plenty of times (and had one or two wins) since. And it does get a bit easier. To be frank, win or lose, awards night drinking helps a lot.
So in the years that followed, when I’ve had awkward end-of-night conversations with disappointed (and often, at-the-time, angry) losers, I’ve genuinely understood how they are feeling.
The ones that have hurt the most are the ones where you want to win because you know the competition is fierce, and the jury is tough.
So that’s been the principle I’ve always applied to the awards we have run. If you’re going to get a trophy, it’s got to mean a lot to win, and hurt to lose.
Not least because, if there is an activity which currently tests the patience of the media and marketing community, it’s the proliferation of industry awards.
There are a lot of them, and some are more meaningful than others when it comes to winning.
I’ve always taken the view that at a time when companies are asking themselves hard questions about which awards to put their stretched resources into entering, the ones they will gravitate towards are the ones that will impress their clients.
The last couple of years, that was certainly helped by having a very tough Chairman of the Juries in Telstra CMO Mark Buckman. We even had a couple of categories where a winner was not awarded. It wasn’t popular on the night, but it said a lot about the standards across all of the categories.
Given that we first launched the Mumbrella Awards in 2009, we’re approaching the five year anniversary.
These are the categories we had last year:
- Mumbrella Award for Bravery
- Mumbrella Award for Culture
- Mumbrella Award for Insight
- Mumbrella Award for Innovation
- Mumbrella Award for Data
- Mumbrella Thinker of the year
- Marketing team of the year
- Sales team of the year
- Media brand of the year
- Ad campaign of the year
- TV ad of the year
- Film of the year
- Production house of the year
- Post-production house of the year
- Creative agency of the year
- PR agency of the year
- Media agency of the year
- Specialist agency of the year
- APAC creative network of the year
- APAC media network of the year
- Awards entries open: Monday April 8
- Awards closing date: Friday May 2
- Late entries closing date: Friday May 9
- Awards night: Thursday June 5
- Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
- While the Ten Network's ratings woes well documented Luke Devenish asks if their best way to turn it around is a brand overhaul. We all find it difficult to get out of bed of a morning, but spare a thought for the powers-that-be at Network Ten, who must surely be belting the snooze button on a daily basis. Their annus horribilis is now nudging half a decade thanks to a waking nightmare that is two pronged in its torment. In recent weeks media junkies have looked on aghast at the John Stephens saga. Earlier in March Ten announced a coup with its appointment of the veteran TV heavyweight and programming maestro to the Pyrmont posse. Stephens was a good get for Ten but corks had barely popped before the words “court injunction” were heard and Ten was tied up in reef knots with Stephens’ long-time employer Seven. Stephens then released a surprise statement implying his Ten contract negotiations had been conducted while he was post-op on painkillers for a dodgy hip. For those of us daring to squint between the lines, the great unsaid seemed to be that Ten had somehow taken advantage of Stephens while he cruised through the Valley of the Dolls, something CEO Hamish McLennan has denied. This debacle remains ongoing and what’s more, is a recurring echo of earlier executive embarrassments. Two and a half years ago Ten’s announcement that James Warburton would be defecting from Seven to become Ten CEO was tarnished by legal shenanigans from Seven that saw Warburton sniffing roses for months on “gardening leave”. When Warburton finally did get to sit in the swivel chair Ten gave him just fourteen months to reverse their ill fortunes, before presenting him with a pink slip. Yet these backstage melodramas are nothing compared to Ten’s on-screen woes. 2014 has delivered a raft of new product along with returning warhorses, just like 2013 did, and 2012 before it. And just like those preceding years there’s been lots of colour and hype in the offing, plenty of audience-friendly dazzle, and yes, some programs of genuine quality, too. Unfortunately, hardly anyone’s watching. Hapless Ten have become the tumbleweed network. The real shame here is that if Ten’s performance was assessed on strength of programming alone it would not be found wanting. Ten is actually doing nothing its commercial rivals aren’t doing too. It has the requisite reality juggernauts, some glittering on-air talent, some fine US imports and a slate of home-grown dramas, two of which, Puberty Blues and Secrets and Lies, both currently on air, are as good as, if not better than any other Aussie drama elsewhere. But no one knows or cares about this, it would seem, apart from the TV critics. 2012 was thought to be the nadir of Ten’s nosedive with its slew of fresh-and-funky shows that almost universally flopped, but 2014 is already proving that pronouncement premature. Heads rolled in 2012 and we might well expect to see the guillotine greased again by Easter. But all the executive purges in the world won’t get to the very heart of the problem, which is, as I see it, to do with the Ten brand itself, not the shows. Brand “Ten” is looking like junk and has been heading that way for some years. It is my belief that this has come as the end result of what could be construed as contempt shown by Ten to their viewers. Always first and foremost among Ten’s stated concerns are its shareholders, which is well and good for the Murdochs et al, but in reality not good for anyone, billionaires included. Ten’s shareholder interests too often seem to outweigh the interests of Ten’s audience, upon whom share profitability ultimately depends. One of the factors that might be said to have led to dwindling viewing figures is that Ten becomes the panic station whenever a debuting show fails to gain the numbers hoped for. Just like it did with ex-CEO James Warburton, Ten too easily drops under-performers in the hope of bringing bigger audiences with something else next week. Unfortunately, “something else” is mostly Modern Family repeats – and in the years before that sitcom existed it was Simpsons repeats. The audience that tuned in for the fresh new show turn up for the next instalment only to find it replaced by something made stale by over-exposure. Ten are by no means the only network guilty of this short-term bandaid-ing, but they are the worst offenders for it. Another loyalty-busting factor is Ten’s on-air promotions. I must disclose here that in an earlier life I was employed by FremantleMedia to write for Ten’s long-running soap Neighbours. Almost nightly we in the Fremantle script office were dismayed by the angle Ten’s promotions department would take with the show’s promos. (This was before Neighbours’ current exile to Eleven.) Back in the mid-2000s the promo default setting was “sexy”, whether the episode was sexy or not, and the breathy female announcer as good as promised on-air intercourse several times a week. Sometimes the promo producers would further imply upcoming sensational moments they’d plucked from their own imaginations rather than the scripts. The core elements of the soap – the dags and the dearies, the kids and the kooks, the big-hearted silly-billies of flat-white suburbia – were simply not promoted at all. Dags aren’t sexy. Ten’s promotional untruths extended to many other shows. Outlandish promises were made to the accompaniment of musical stings snatched from Tom Cruise thrillers. Revved-up viewers tuned in expecting big screen fireworks only to get small screen fizz. There are only so many times a viewer can fall for such tricks – even the least-savvy among us eventually grows cynical. A decade on, Ten’s promotional repertoire remains as one-note as it ever was and viewers are near deaf to the message. It doesn’t matter how good a show like Secret and Lies is, Ten’s promos would seem to be incapable of convincing people of it. Could it be that the audience has learnt not to believe what it’s told? When Ten's current CEO and now chairman Hamish McLennan took over the swivel chair in Warburton’s wake he gave vague hope of an image change. So far he’s changed the logo colours. While I have no doubt that incalculable time, tears and energy are being expended in bunker Pyrmont to redress Ten’s state of affairs, the truth is that Ten should consider nothing less than a total rebrand. For what it’s worth, I say ditch the logo and the name – both are looking shopsoiled past salvaging. Why not re-christen Ten something else – a snappy one-word moniker, perhaps, in preference to a numeral seen as negative? Then, publicly acknowledge the crimes of the past and make a vow to atone for them with behaviour that is exemplary from here on in. When it comes to offering new shows, buy with courage and commission with conviction. And why not throw the whole schedule up in the air and see where it lands? Program laterally rather than reactively and then have the guts to stick with it. We’ll be poorer as a nation if Ten slips into oblivion, or worse, if it proves the conspiracy theorists right by becoming a hollow clone of the US Fox network with nothing ‘Aussie’ about it at all. Once upon time, not so very long ago, Ten was our most profitable commercial network and the go-to spot for easy laughs, harmless trashiness, and the occasional pot of gold. Yes, the TV landscape has dramatically changed since then, but people still watch telly when inspired to and TEN could be that go-to network again. I, for one, very much hope it will be. Luke Devenish is a lecturer in film & television at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne Disclosure: Luke Devenish is not now nor ever has been an employee of Network Ten. He has in the past been employed as a writer by FremantleMedia Australia on dramas purchased and broadcast by Network Ten, including Neighbours and Mrs & Mrs Murder. He is not a shareholder in Network Ten, nor is he a shareholder in any of its commercial rivals.
- Shit! You Work in PR? Not that old chestnut again. Isn’t it time to move on and say something different? Last Thursday in Sydney at the CommsCon Awards, the night to celebrate the best of the PR industry's efforts over the previous 12 months, we were yet again subjected to the narrow view of the discipline. This time through the moderator on the night, journalist Joe Hildebrand. [caption id="attachment_216006" align="alignright" width="234"] White[/caption] Whether it was black humour or not, the message in Joe’s speech was fixated on the art of spin – cover up, manipulation, hiding the truth, trying to make the negative look positive, and so it went on. If you want to see what Joe had to say, he published his edited speech in the Daily Telegraph. I have worked in public relations for almost 20 years and did not find Joe’s attempts of humour remotely funny. But that’s not what bothered me. What did was his opinion that we, public relations professionals, spend most of our time trying to polish turds. That, quite frankly, is a turd. Back in the 90s we were called Hemispheric Communicators. Like the half crest moon, we were told we only focus on the bright side and keep the dark side hidden. It’s now 2014 and spin is so yesterday. The idea of trying to dupe people just doesn’t work. To echo what many said after his speech, I thought I too would offer an opinion from the “dark” side. Now, we’ve heard it all before - PR people and journalists operate in a symbiotic relationship. We need them and they need us. But whether we are there for one another when it matters; well, that depends. Of course, it has to be a story. But it also comes down to honest, working relationships between the two professions. But the point often missing in the “public relations and spin” rhetoric is this: Firstly, communications professionals do not come to work and spend the day bombarding journalists with phone calls (or emails). Secondly, we do not try to spin or distort facts. Thirdly, we do not hide when the turd hits the fan. On the contrary, in a crisis our counsel will be the opposite – communicate. After all, the conversation doesn’t stop. The truth of the matter is public relations professionals do so much more than media relations; and when we do that, we are definitely not spinning. That is best left to cricketers. As Bob Dylan said in 1964, “the times they are a-changin”. With the Internet of Things now a fabric of our digital lives, the way people search for and consume information has and will continue to change. For those in public relations this has cemented our role as story tellers. We have always been in the business of conversations and the web and social media gives brands the opportunity to speak to, and listen to, their audiences. I would argue that the attraction Joe noted in his speech for reporters to leave journalism and become communications professionals is not a retirement move; rather, it’s because they have a passion to tell stories, and they can see the splintering effect technology is having on traditional news and the opportunities it is creating for them to work brand side. Can you blame them given the shifting media landscape and the rounds of redundancies? That aside, a common ground for both communications professionals and journalists is a story – and a story needs great content. It also needs to be a story. That’s why everyone needs to get over the “spin” thing. Those days are long gone. The best PR is anti-spin. And that is what the CommsCon Awards were celebrating last Thursday. The best the industry has to offer. There certainly wasn’t a turd in the house and the only thing being polished was the silverware. Graham White is group managing director for Howorth
- Last night ANZ launched one of Australia's biggest branded content plays to date. Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes was at the launch. It took a few minutes too long last night for it to dawn on me why there was a jazz band in the corner of the room at ANZ's Melbourne conference suite. Blue Notes - gerrit? And what last night's event did make clear is that the opportunities of that developing subset of branded content, brand journalism, are beginning to dawn on local brands. The movement - embraced early on by Australia's big sporting codes - is now going mainstream. As it begins to look less like a fad, the question is instead shifting to that of: how big will it be? First though to ANZ's new offering. Blue Notes is an opportunity for the bank to amplify its voice on financial and economic issues. Under the leadership of former Australian Financial Review associate editor Andrew Cornell and former Private Media and Fairfax publisher Amanda Gome, the website will pump out news, analysis and video. The resources are decent - a bigger editorial team than your typical specialist or trade magazine, subscriptions to all the news wires including Bloomberg and of course access to ANZ's network of business people. Its interview with its own chairman David Gonski leans towards the former, albeit written straight, while Cornell's column, on Bitcoin, is analysis that wouldn't have been out of place in his old slot in the AFR. It's also not entirely clear what success looks like for this project. If the bar is set relatively low as having a great online newsroom, then the site is already there. If it's about delivering regular engagement with customers (and perhaps more importantly potential customers) then that seems realistic too. That's part of the model of Bruce Guthrie's The New Daily, backed by the super funds, after all. And it also seems to be the thinking behind NRMA Motoring's Live4.com.au, which is about lifestyle and mindset rather than brand. But the big ask is whether Blue Notes can become a credible voice in its own right, where people interested in the topics it covers automatically turn for information and analysis. That's the big win for brand journalism. Regardless, the game is changing. When I interviewed Joe Jareck, public relations director of The LA Dodgers on stage at CommsCon last month, he was quite open about how the brand now chooses to release its own news on its own site first, rather than to the LA Times. That way, the Dodgers' own journo would put the Dodgers spin on it, he said. Blue Notes doesn't yet have it all covered off. Distribution will be a big question. They say they engaged with 60,000 consumers on the first day, via the site and social media. Even if that number is accurate, I'm sure it will initially fall away after the first surge of interest. Front and centre, the site offers an email signup. Which, unfashionable as it is, in my view remains one of the most powerful news distribution tools there is. (Email distribution is a major plank in Mumbrella's daily reach, for instance.) But that will be a slow build. How to push Blue Notes to existing customers without annoying them is an interesting question. [caption id="attachment_221154" align="alignright" width="232"] Outbrain on smh.com.au[/caption] Outbrain - that widget you see at the bottom of stories on various news sites offering external links to brand content - is becoming an important player in this space. Not only does it offer brands an answer to the distribution question, it offers the existing media owners an indirect new channel of revenue from the growth of branded content. Expect the price of those clicks to go up... It will also be interesting to see the attitude ANZ takes to sharing of its content. Why not take a leaf from Andrew Jaspan's brainchild The Conversation and publish everything under Creative Commons? With a back link, that would allow any mainstream title to use Cornell's column, for instance. It would certainly amplify - and differentiate - the bank's voice. The fact that Blue Notes videos are hosted on YouTube already means they are already embeddable anywhere. Here also is a distinctive chunk of social media that ANZ will get credit for leadership in over its competitors. (It was interesting to note representatives from most of the rival brands were in the room.) Which of course is at least part of the plan. NAB has been making a lot of the running in setting the agenda in recent years - with The Break Up, for instance, and is dipping its toe into this space too. And CommBank has arguably been doing the most interesting advertising around its Can positioning. This is something ANZ can be known for. Another factor to be borne in mind is that brand journalism is providing a potential new career direction just at a moment when journos are losing their jobs. It's tempting to ask who will then grow the next generation of journos for brands to pluck their talent from if the old media owners aren't doing so. But if an organisation like ANZ can build a publishing operation in a few months, it's not unrealistic to think that brands can invest in training too. And the troubles of the mainstream media is another reason for brands to be looking in this direction. Fewer outlets for their messages is an issue for them too. But the swing away from paid media to earned media also raises big questions for how brands organise themselves. The comms people, not the marketing teams, seem the natural guardians of this kind of content. It's about a conversation, not a message. For a long time, the marketing teams have the giant budgets while the PR and corporate comms teams make do with scraps. But the boundary between earned media, owned media and paid media is blurring. The old fashioned - and still near-universal - divisions between the comms team and the marketing team will have to disappear in time. And more urgently, the budgets could well shift too. It's a fascinating time.
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