Opinion | Features
- Making the switch from the solitary profession of journalism to the team sport of PR was tougher than imagined, writes Ben Oliver. Whether deleting emails with zeal or bitching to colleagues in the newsroom, pouring scorn on the erratic, misguided or plain bizarre PR pitches was always a fun sport. But having now worked in agency for two years after nearly a decade in journalism, I can say without hesitation that not only do I now fully appreciate the pressures of agency – it’s a hell of lot harder than what I used to do. Please don’t misunderstand; journalism has it’s own extreme pressures, exacerbated in recent years by fewer journalists producing more copy – since 2012, News Ltd, Fairfax and Channel Ten have cut around 3000 staff, mostly in editorial roles – and additional expectations around social media. Burnout in journalism is, unfortunately, all too common. While equally stressful, journalism and agency do differ, however, in one important aspect -the diversity of skills sets required to do your job well. When I first made the switch, I was told that few journos succeed in the world of agency PR. whether ex-journalists make good PR professionals has been debated at great length, and in my view, the switch is harder than most journalists – myself included – appreciate. In my view, good journalism is supported by three core competencies: researching, interviewing and writing. To use a sporting metaphor, Journalism is like tennis; a lonely profession requiring a few, finely honed skills. To continue the sporting metaphor, I see agency as a little more like the decathlon, where multiple, unrelated skills must work well in tandem. While the foundations of good agency PR – story ideas, pitching and writing – came to me relatively easily, it was in management and business development where I faced a steep learning curve. Firstly to management, where the twin demands of clients and staff require very different touches. It’s a cliché, but managing client expectations is bloody hard work, requiring a touch somewhere between needlessly cynical and unjustly optimistic. Nailing that sweet spot is the nirvana of good client management. Meanwhile, managing staff is a whole other ball game. Confession time; to every manager about who I’ve ever complained, hand on heart, I’m sorry for being such a dick. Managing. Is. Hard. While news editors have a role coaching and mentoring junior staff, journalism is generally a solitary profession. The newsroom is not a unified country but a chain of islands; how many journalists would share their story ideas or contacts with their colleagues? While not ideal, journalists can do their job sans inter-company communication. In agency, communication blackout is a death sentence. I’ve lost count of the number of times a media contact or a story idea offered by a colleague has saved my ass when a client was pushing for top tier coverage. Brainstorming ideas, and sharing skills and experience is the only way an agency can thrive. In journalism, new business development was something left to senior management not involved in editorial, but it’s a skill set you better develop quickly at agency. NBD quickly separates the strategic thinkers from the herd; prospective clients simply won’t accept a slide deck of media outlets you’ll call on their behalf. In the age of earned, owned and paid media, creating a fully integrated strategic plan involving such elements as media pitching, blogging and paid social media augmentation is crucial. To any journalists reading this, please don’t consider the above a slander on your profession. My respect for journalism has only increased as friends in the industry cop more work for less pay. But if you’re considering a move to agency, be prepared; the work is fun, challenging – and unlike anything you’ve done before. Ben Oliver is senior account manager at Buchan
- Amid debate around elements of the client agency relationship, Ebiquity’s Eric Faulkner asks if both clients and agencies have both unwittingly conspired to destroy each other.
Earlier this week Mumbrella's Nic Christensen, writing as a 'hypothetical' CMO, wrote what many in the industry had long been thinking on the topic of agency pitches.
"For anyone wondering about the race to the bottom, in this market, I reckon you hit it about three years ago. Not that anyone seemed to notice," his 'hypothetical CMO' wrote.
It's rather like the climate argument -- if you're going to wait until we're all under water, well, its a bit too late then, isn't it.
Well, we have already passed that point. Our hypothetical CMO may have added that although their creative quality may be at an all time low, at least the media is cheap.
In fact this year's media buy is 20 per cent cheaper than last year's and that was 20 per cent cheaper than the year before.
So next year's will be free. And the agency has dropped their fee to nothing already, so they'll be paying us to handle the business next year.
Not that there's much to handle, as the advertising has been so bad and all the ads have appeared at midnight, that no one knows our brands and certainly doesn't buy our products any more. Which is just as well because the retailers take 110 per cent of what we earn anyway. I wonder what the surf's like today?
Ok, so I am guilty as charged. It is my fault. 26 years ago I started an independent media consultancy that helped marketers lift their level of media competence and confidence. This was so that they could work more constructively and effectively with their advertising and media agencies. And then, five years later, one of our clients asked us to develop a way of independently evaluating their buying agencies. We did.
It wasn’t that sophisticated back then, but we did ensure that quality was always reviewed at the same time as cost. Soon, many jumped onto the bandwagon.
And I am not just referring to the consultancies that make up the numbers on the back of cigarette packets. I am thinking too about the client procurement people who may not have been thinking enough about the business ramifications of their media cost-reduction demands.
Media procurement has moved from a local function, to become regional and global. That’s real power. But is that power balanced with an equally lofty level of brand and business responsibility?
A managing director told me over coffee a while ago: I am responsible to my global boss for the success of this business, but I no longer have full control of our advertising spend – a key driver of our brand strength. That is increasingly controlled by procurement, based outside this country.
So, the CFO is delighted to see the million dollar “savings” that have been achieved (by procurement) and promptly docks the money from the marketing budget and plops it straight to the bottom line.
The marketing director is at first bemused, then confused and finally frustrated as they realise that their marketing effort has moved from Grand Prix race car efficiency and effectiveness to that of a family saloon. The good ones fight. But this is a tough fight to win.
But as Christensen has said in his thought-provoking articles about What your Media agency and What your client are not telling you that it is not just the clients and me who are guilty. The agencies have conspired to create The End too.
I was chatting to a senior media friend recently. He’s worked in agencies in three countries. Really smart guy. We were talking about transparency of agency media deals.
He said: “Look, what’s the problem here? As long as the client is getting you guys to do the benchmarking, then they know they’re providing competitive value and that the agency is focused on their business.
“Who cares if the agency is making a bit of extra money on the side from media owner kick-backs? After all, when I walk into Coles or Woolies, and I pick up a box of Kleenex or Sorbent, I don’t ask the store manager how much they paid Kimberly-Clark or SCA to buy it in the first place. I don’t ask them what their trading terms were. I just buy the one I want."
Now that is a fairly convincing argument. And if media agencies want to position themselves in that way, fair enough. But that’s not the way marketers see it … yet at least.
Marketers look at media agencies and creative agencies as their trusted suppliers.
They share highly sensitive and confidential information; they seek advice, guidance, support, help and ideas from their agency. They are looking for a relationship based on trust, collaboration, insight and creativity. Maybe they are mistaken.
As fast as advertiser procurement teams screw lower fees and cheaper buying costs from agencies, the agencies find smarter ways to work around those restrictions and replace the lost income from other sources -- usually ending up in a financially stronger position than where they were in the first place. That’s no longer news. Everyone knows that.
But what happened to the old fashioned concept of integrity? If your agency is acting like a broker, then say you are a broker. And if you are a procurement manager, don’t be naïve (or worse, pretend to be naïve) about how your supposed savings will be charged back to you … in poorer quality, creative accounting or less experienced resource.
I can almost hear the words “We don’t do value bank deals. We don’t have AVRs and AVBs. We don’t invoice clients for bonus spots. Maybe some of those things are done at group level -- but not by us in this agency”. You can see the three little monkeys … with their hands covering their mouths, eyes and ears, saying hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
Come on guys, let’s not follow that Jack Johnson song Cookie Jar where a never-ending trail of people refuse to accept responsibility for their actions … and no-one is willing to stand up and be counted. Let’s start being straight with each other.
Let’s stand up for our opinions … not just in darkened pubs, noisy restaurants and in anonymous blog comments … but in front of each others’ faces.
Eric Faulkner is CEO of Ebiquity’s Australian, NZ & SE Asian business.
- Next Wednesday October 22, Mumbrella’s sister title The Source is running a breakfast event in Sydney focused on how to work with procurement departments. More details are available via this link.
Community television is facing the axe — again.The stations have been earmarked for eradication from our screens after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested removing the stations’ broadcast spectrum licenses, to be put to use elsewhere. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Free-to-air television has always been a challenge of practical limitations. The rarity of broadcast spectrum — the radio waves over which TV is transmitted — as well as the cost of doing business, means broadcasters have always faced a choice of what they air, how they air it and when. It’s not the first time community television has faced extinction; similar threats were made with the digital TV switchover in 2009. But there’s no reason community television has to leave our big screens forever — in fact, technology can ensure it remains there. The launch this month of Freeview Plus, the HbbTV platform, has for the first time merged broadcast TV’s reach with the internet’s theoretically endless limits. Broadcasters are already planning to use the new technology to extend their reach at sporting competitions and other live events with multiple streams, ensuring viewers will never miss a live European Handball match that’s scheduled at the same time as a swimming final at the 2016 Olympics. They can just flick between multiple channels to get to the event they want.
Unencumbered by the limitations of spectrum, broadcasters can focus on providing all the content their viewers want, including community television.With Freeview Plus, community TV stations could partner with a major broadcaster — say, the ABC or SBS — to have their content featured on a Freeview Plus TV or set top box. There would be little cost impost on broadcasters; simply a piece of configuration telling HbbTV-compatible devices where to find those new channels. Turnbull has made the point that community television is little-watched, but that’s exactly the biggest opportunity for Freeview Plus — catering to niche audiences without taking away from the mainstream. Those broadcasters that truly grasp the opportunities of HbbTV are already doing exactly that, treating Freeview Plus as a core part of their portfolio, and using it to provide content viewers otherwise might have missed in the byegone age of broadcast. Freeview Plus gives broadcasters the edge they need to ensure that niche audiences don’t flee to web browsers for niche content, and forget about the TV screen. But broadcasters can and should also use Freeview Plus to provide opportunities for those truly niche audiences that risk being ignored as we move away from linear television. Community television can be saved; we just need to think outside the box. Mark Blair is Vice President of Australia and New Zealand at Brightcove.
- Procurement is always a hot button issue in agency land. Navigare’s Jeff Estok argues that clients and agencies need to understand the different types of procurement and to nail down the detail of their expectations.
We all know there are three sides to every story. Your side; their side; and the truth, which often sits somewhere in between.
Yesterday Mumbrella’s Nic Christensen gave a confronting summary of “slash and burn” type of procurement but there are arguably other types of procurement as well.
So let’s talk about some of the truths about procurement.
Truth #1: Not all Procurement deserves the criticism that we have been reading.
If you believe half of what we read, Procurement is singlehandedly responsible for the downfall of advertising. Which presumes that all Procurement operate the same. Wrong!
Some time ago, we pronounced the arrival of Procurement 2.0. Where Procurement 1.0 was about slashing costs, Procurement 2.0 is about establishing fair value.
The 2.0 professional understands what they are procuring; focuses (and rewards) on business outcomes instead of FTE’s; works collaboratively with both Marketing and Agencies; and stays involved long after the contracts are finalised to ensure Agency compliance and prevent, or fund, scope creep.
And unlike many Asian markets, Australia is blessed with its share of Procurement 2.0 professionals. So maybe it’s time to stop bashing Procurement, and focus on some key underlying behaviours instead.
Truth #2: For the most part, Agencies deserve the deal that they get.
Let’s face it. With the exception of multinational aligned business, every agency has the opportunity to say ‘no’. And therein lies the problem.
Few agencies do say no to procurement 1.0 demands. And even when dealing with a 2.0 situation, many agencies are ill-equipped. Some of the larger, and more evolved agency groups have added procurement to their management structure, as it is an area that benefits from this expertise.
Smaller Agencies might be wise to retain similar services as well, instead of going it alone.
Truth #3: Many agreements are not fully understood by marketing, nor policed by procurement.
We see far too many examples of scope disputes between agencies and marketing, particularly after a new business win.
In the post-win euphoria, and the desire to hit the ground running, contractual governance often takes a back seat. While details such as scope tracking and review protocols shouldn’t command priority over the transition work, neither should they be subjugated to the unimportant pile.
They should be addressed concurrently, with full visibility and approval by Marketing, so that Marketing understands what the scope of engagement actually is.
Truth#4: There are two distinct views about what an full time employee constitutes, and both parties believe their view is right.
This is probably one of the most contentious issues we deal with.
A Client ‘buys’ 100 per cent of, say, a strategy planner. The agency ‘sells’ that full time employee based on an agreed set of annual head hours (commonly calculated at 1650 hours).
The client view is typically that they are paying for that person, so all of his or her hours should be theirs, regardless of how many hours that person works. Which has merit.
The agency, however, feels they have the right, should they exercise it, to sell any additional hours that that person works (above the contracted 1,650 hours) to another client.
And with many agency staff working in excess of 1,800 per annum, that is a big opportunity lost if they do not.
The agency logic is that if a client caps the agency’s profit potential by applying a below market multiplier (say 1.8), then the only way to achieve profitability is to charge out that person in excess of 1,650 hours. Which also has merit.
This is one to definitely nail down in every contract.
Jeff Estok is managing partner of consultancy Navigare
- Next Wednesday October 22, Mumbrella’s sister title The Source is running a breakfast event in Sydney focused on how to work with procurement departments. More details are available via this link.
- Take the hypothetical chief marketing officer of an even more hypothetical major brand. What does he or she really think of the agencies and people they work with? What are their challenges and frustrations? And what don’t those agencies know? Based on in-depth, off-the-record conversations with a string of senior marketers, Nic Christensen puts himself in the client's shoes.
I'm going to begin with a confession: there's a lot that I don't tell my agencies. Indeed, there's a lot we can't tell them, but if I was to sum up the problem in most agency/client relationships it's that we don't actually trust each other.
And if there’s one thing that irritates me, more than any other as a marketing boss, it's when our agencies come in and tell us how they want to be “partners” in our business.
I’m the newly installed CMO of a major FMCG company and let’s get one thing clear from the outset. Our agencies will never be partners in my business. Never. No matter how good they are. No matter how outstanding their work, their people or agency.
A “partnership” means we share the pain. But an agency, by nature of being just that - an agent - (be it media, creative, digital, PR or random (content marketing/ experiential/social/data/fad of the month agency) doesn’t share the pain.
It doesn’t suffer when the CEO is angry at me and my department because an ad in't working, it doesn’t have to worry about how we are going to cut into the marketing budget when the production costs on a TV ad are a third over budget, nor do they have to worry about sales and the rest of company looking at them when the market slows and suddenly everyone in the C-Suite suddenly becomes an expert on what sort of marketing will magically solve the problem.
No, in most cases, they get paid regardless of my business results. So if you really want to know the one thing most marketers aren’t telling you it’s that we don’t, and frankly can’t, trust you.
How does that play out? Well, I will hide secrets from you at times. I won’t tell you when we’re acquiring another company. There are plenty of internal things that I can’t tell you (like when I'm at war with the chief financial officer) and while I may ask your advice, I won’t always give you the whole picture.
“Partners” share the loss risk but for agencies that risk isn’t there and under the current, arguably flawed, remuneration model it leads to a less than ideal situation. With the result that there are a number of agencies minimising their risk by diverting resources, and in effect deliberately under servicing clients.
For most agencies their only risk is to lose some billings - and maybe a couple of staff.
In the current business environment, where the agencies are in a race to the bottom on billings, most have made themselves mere suppliers. Many agencies have now moved into a space where they just provide a commodity, and are therefore totally replaceable.
Most agencies don’t know how to move beyond this.
Welcome to the world of the chief marketer where the games are many and varied and where all is not quite as it seems.
The challenges of the modern marketer
It’s not easy being a top level marketer in the current business environment. There’s quite a bit to deal with.
Right now, I’m in my mid 30s, and six months into the role of CMO of FMCG brand ZXY.
I don’t have much time and am always racing against the clock. The average CMO is lucky to last three to five years and if they haven’t achieved what they need to in three years, they can forget about being there in five.
How did I get here? I spent five years working in account management for a couple of different agencies before trading in the ridiculously long hours a decade ago (and taking the payrise) to work client side as a senior brand manager. For the last decade I've been working my way up.
The benefit of having worked agency side is that I know things, like how a “value bank” works, and the myriad other tricks media agencies use to squeeze dollars out of their clients (for more on that you can ask my friend at Agency ZYX). In the end, I’ve played the game from both sides.
So let me start by explaining something that my agencies, and even my staff of mostly 20-something brand managers, sometimes don’t get: much of my role increasingly doesn’t revolve around marketing.
Sure you get into this world thinking marketing is about well… marketing, and that's certainly one of the most interesting parts of business. But today’s CMO spends much of his or her time reporting up the line to sales, to the chief financial officer, to the CEO, or to the parent company half a world away trying to question me on how I run my department.
That’s a lot of reporting and that’s before we get to the internal politics that comes with work at the top level of a major company, the need for me to spend time with the sales side of things to understand why X or Y isn’t selling and tangling with the chief information officer about who ordered and controls the new internal data analytics system.
And that’s before the expected stuff like did we just screw up packaging on X new product, or do we have a retail/distribution problem with one of our main retailers?
My day often gets consumed with retail issues, distribution challenges, sales meetings, human resources and of course the usual CEO/CFO/CIO meetings, and that’s before we even get to the challenge of keeping my own marketing staff in their seats long enough to ensure that my department turnover doesn’t suddenly get too high and then I’m back with HR having to explain if there’s a problem in the marketing team.
I have a problem: as CMO I’m tied up in meetings all day and I rarely actually spend any time focused on marketing.
But you’ll note that nowhere in there did I mention the agencies - be they media, creative, PR, digital or what have you. Sometimes I wonder whether the media agency, or more likely the creative agency, thinks I spend my day waiting expectantly on the amazing idea, strategy or creative they are putting together. I don’t - I expect good work but it’s also what I pay you for.
I’d be surprised if I spent more than five per cent of my time worrying about what the agencies are doing. Why only five per cent? Because the agencies are part of a broader mix and I have a staff of brand managers who are paid to deal with them (note to agencies: you circumvent the team at your own peril).
Sure my time ratio changes if there is an agency review and a pitch, but mostly the only time I hear about them is if something has gone wrong and a deadline has been missed or we are suddenly over budget.
And you can be sure I’ll make sure I hear about that. Not only that, but I’ll be the one screaming about it.
Internal politics and the war with procurement
Why am I freaking out about a cost overrun on my beautiful new ad campaign? Because I have a CFO who is out to get me, or at the very least my department and my budget.
For most businesses, marketing is a top-three expense. In my case it’s the number one and that puts my budget and how I use it firmly in the sights of the finance department. The CFO, who fancies herself as the next CEO, is looking to get control of how I spend my money via a key tool: procurement.
Agencies are always whining about how procurement is driving down margins and how they’re a nightmare to deal with and how they’re ruining their lives.
Welcome to the club.
The thing is there are ways to handle procurement. In the end they are a reality of modern business and they play a role but equally I’m also not going to let somebody who buys telephones or tea bags one day to suddenly tell me what I need to spend on television or radio the next.
In recent times there has been a lot of talk about how increasingly the marketing world is in a race to the bottom as procurement takes over and tightens the marketing budget. However, to my mind this ignores the complicity of the agencies who always seem to be able to squeeze out a bigger discount or rate cut, or our role as marketers who just accept the cheaper price, while failing to recognise that if we pay less then that often means we get less.
Like many chief marketers during their first year in the job, I reviewed and pitched some of my agencies and we changed one or two and got a small reduction in fees in the process, but that was my peace offering to finance. What I didn’t do is let them run the process and made it clear from outset that if it impacts any of the sales numbers, even a little, then it's on them. That will hopefully keep them out of my hair.
In years gone by I’ve seen it the other way, where a CMO lets procurement in and they want to just rip the guts out, cut costs and go with the cheapest agency. This perspective ignores a reality that marketing isn’t just a cost; it's about the creation of value and that’s hard to put a price on.
Often when a marketer allows procurement in, it is forced on them by the CFO and a recognition that if they don’t keep them and finance happy then their job is at risk.
But the problem is once you let them in they monitor the contract to ensure the agencies are keeping their promises, in a lot of cases it stops us from building a relationship with the agency because procurement won’t even let you talk to them without them being in the room.
This combined with the fact that I know that procurement is itself a profit centre and has to justify its own cost through savings - not just wishy washy savings, but hard savings - is why I will always engage with them, but I never let them run my process and feel for the marketers who do.
How did “bean counters” come to have such power? Well the irony is that’s the fault of marketers who have always struggled to explain the value they and their departments create.
In the modern era, the company works from financial statements and as CMO I have to be able to read those and speak the language of numbers.
My job as CMO is to create value, while the CFO's job is to record and account for that value but if I’m to survive in this role I have to help her do that.
Often this means I must give the CEO and CFO what they want in terms of numbers or metrics, but invariably those numbers make less sense to my marketing team who will also want to talk about softer metrics such as brand health and consumer attitudes.
The agencies and the marketing department
If there is one thing that agencies don’t understand it’s that I’m not here to solve your problems. Rather you’re on the roster to solve mine, and my department’s.
Some of the agencies on our roster get this, but most simply don’t. Agency ZYX, for example, doesn’t play well with the other agencies, misses deadlines and is always concerned about his own business. Agency YZX, on the other hand, is concerned about my business and realises that if she worries about my business then her business will take care of itself. Who would you give the briefs to?
But that’s far from the only mistake the agencies make. In case you haven’t noticed most CMOs don’t have a long life span in the role. In the end, I will be replaced and my staff, while they turn over too, will notice if you run roughshod over them.
This is what happened when I took this job. The last CMO just let the agency have a direct line to him, which meant that they ignored the brand managers. I arrive and of course ask my team what they think of the agency and surprise, surprise, they hate them! Six months later there are no prizes for guessing which agency is no longer on the roster...
What else do the CMO and his department hate you ask? Well let’s start with the ‘Big A-ha!’.
I often worry too many creative, and media agency, people have watched one too many episodes of the TV show Mad Men and suddenly think they are the 2014 equivalent of Don Draper.
Australian agencies don’t need more Drapers - they need more Pete Campbells, the character who worked in account management and spent most of his time managing the expectations of clients.
Too often agencies forget to take the client with them on the journey and instead become obsessed with the destination. Don’t get me wrong, results matter and so the destination is important, and I recognise that as a client we often fail in clearly explaining what it is we want (it's because often we don’t know), but that only makes the ‘Big A-ha!’ even riskier.
So what is the ‘Big A-ha’? Well it’s that moment that I swear some executive creative directors, in their cool T-shirts, live for… Where they sit the client down, present them with the storyboards and show the grand idea, which hopefully will win them a raft of awards next year.
The problem is, nine times out of ten it will engender a ‘what the fuck’ moment, even if idea is good. In most cases we would rather a collaborative approach, where you draw on our knowledge and expertise with tissue sessions (and yes I know agencies hate tissue sessions) and regular catch ups rather than a big reveal. Tissue sessions, for those who don't know, are named after the pre-computer process involving tracing paper.
Tissue sessions say a week and half into a schedules allows the agency to present three broad directions and to check if the brand manager (note: I’m not in the room for this, as I have already explained I have other places to be) is uncomfortable with any of these ideas.
Agencies never look at it from the perspective of the 25-year-old senior brand manager. My team know what I like and when they are in those sessions they aren't thinking “do I like this?”. No they are thinking “will my boss the CMO like this?" and “will their boss the CEO like this?” Feedback during the process is important because it gives the agency the chance to refine the direction and make sure you don’t wonder wildly off brief.
When you do the ‘Big A-ha!’ my staff are left thinking: “I’m too scared to tell my boss I like this campaign because if I tell him I like it and he doesn’t like it he is going to think I’m an idiot.” Meanwhile I’m left wondering why no one from the agency (again, this is where having some account managers who actually know how to manage expectations might help) told me about the “new direction”, let alone any of my staff who were either in dark or now clearly pretending to be... in an act of outright self preservation.
It’s usually at this point that it’s left to me to tell everyone in the room that they’ve wasted three weeks out of five on something we’re not going to buy and now we only have two weeks to get something on air. Essentially you’ve burned three weeks for nothing.
Now I know, creative agencies don't want to give clients too many opportunities to kill an idea but too often when agencies fail to take the client on the journey, they find out too late that the destination is completely wrong.
The result is often that the client feels disrespected.
Eventually some relationships break down and that brings us to the subject of pitching.
You would like to think that pitching is something that we only do as a last resort, right? The relationship breaks down and things get so bad that as CMO I’m forced to pitch the account.
Not true. Many clients pitch for a variety of reasons, they might need to please HQ over in the US or Europe, or there may be internal politics driving the pitch.
But as a general rule, as the incumbent on a pitch, you've got a 20-25 per cent chance of winning. Max.
Sure we'll bring you along on the pitch process, often right till the end but for most of us that's driven more by the fear that you might drop the ball on the current work. Frankly it's easier to slit your throat at the end when we have a new agency ready to go than it is to have the conversation upfront.
Why is pitching happening more and more? I'd argue that it is because calling a pitch is what the agencies have trained us as their clients to do.
Don’t believe me? Take a look many of the big CMO appointments and you’ll find a large number of them pitched their account, usually within six to 12 months after taking over the gig.
As a newly installed marketing boss, one of the first things you do upon taking on the role of chief marketer is to review the agencies and then call a pitch.
That’s certainly what I did. Sure the agencies were doing okay work and things might have be going smoothly but performance was not the issue here.
But why not pitch? In my first six months, I needed to show my bosses a win.
It was an easy way to get a reduction in agency rates, as the agencies all dropped their pants, and it also reminded everyone I’m now in charge.
(Meanwhile for anyone wondering about the race to the bottom, in this market, I reckon you hit it about three years ago. Not that anyone seemed to notice.)
As a client I often struggle to figure out how you make ends meet. If you look at media agencies, their margins are often as low as two or three per cent of spend yet somehow you pay for your shiny offices, your staff salaries and then presumably still ship money to your parent company, usually overseas.
It's this uncertainty about how you make your money that helps fuel much of this distrust between clients and agencies. We are now long since past the era of 17.5 per cent retainers for media agency and full service agencies are largely a thing of the past.
Today agencies are increasingly moving towards beings specialists but oddly they are doing this across a gamut of additional services. So much so, I can't help but wonder are they simply a way to make up the profit on the unsustainable margin they are being paid on the main account?
It's this upselling add-ons, which sees my agency constantly trying to load me up with mobile, video, data, content marketing, social, experiential, you-name-it-we've got products that frankly I never understand - nor can I explain their value to the sales department, CFO, CEO, or heaven forbid, the board.
The remuneration model, trust and moving up the value chain
Because I don't understand all these areas I'm often left saying no, even when I know that in the modern marketing landscape I need to innovate.
But the big issue here is the degradation of trust. Look back even ten years and there was implicit trust between the agency and their client - especially the media agency entrusted with millions of dollars.
However, today much of that trust is gone. Instead of having the experienced people who were promised to me in the pitch, it's often the juniors who are in the room with my (often equally junior staff) the result is that we often have 25 year old media agency people advising a 25 year old brand manager, and there's maybe $5 million or even $10 million of my money at stake.
Is it any wonder that screw-ups happen? Airtime doesn't get booked at a crucial time of year for our brands or budgets go over, or any of the other cock ups, mess ups and fuck ups that arrive on my desk on a monthly, if not weekly, basis and require me to pick up the phone to the agency in a desperate attempt to find an adult.
Why does this happen? Part of the problem is we don't pay our agencies enough.
The problem is also driven by the sometimes insane remuneration scheme we as clients impose on our agencies. Often these deals offer the 80 per cent payment with the additional 20 per cent paid when they reach their Key Performance Indicators.
Now let me ask you would work for 80 per cent of your salary with your boss dangling the other 20 per cent over you? No, you'd do what most agencies do, which resource the account at 80 per cent of staff - it's an act of self preservation.
Again it's not rocket science, if you want an incentive based scheme then it should be a reward for good work not a balancing of the books for what is owed. The other one that amuses me is when clients offer a five per cent additional bonus but might demand the agency put 20 per cent at risk. Ask yourself where's the incentive? It's not in hitting the KPI, it's ensuring that we don't lose the 20 per cent, and that typically means understaffing.
As a CMO I pay my agency the rate we agree and I expect to be serviced to the level we agreed. There are then bonuses on top if they exceed the KPIs.
All of this comes back to trust and the recognition that while agencies can never be "partners" but they can be trusted advisors.
This is the role they used to hold but it begins with the agency understanding the business and the needs of the client. It also requires the client be fair to the agency, to pay them for the work, to ensure that procurement is not controlling the relationship and that they are being clear in how they communicate their needs.
That's where a real difference can be made.
Note: The practices discussed in this article are hypothetical. This piece represents our attempt to continue a discussion around transparency and some of the more dubious potential practices in the client and agency landscape. It follows last year's article on What your media agency might not be telling you.
- Next Wednesday October 22, Mumbrella's sister title The Source is running a breakfast event in Sydney focused on how to work with procurement departments. More details are available via this link.
- And The Source will be running masterclasses on how to run great agencies, and work with CMOs, at SAGE - Secrets of Agency Excellence - in Sydney on November 25 and Melbourne on December 2.
- The nature of communications planning has changed dramatically in recent years, Naked Communications cofounder, Will Collin argues that agencies need to focus on reciprocity rather than engagement if they are to win the fight to capture consumer attention.
Communications planning, or connections planning, or whatever you call it, is a discipline in crisis. I say that as someone closely involved in its development, with no small amount of my professional life spent promoting its cause to clients and industry alike.
So it gives me no pleasure to condemn it.
On the other hand, the good news is that the very forces that wrought such change on the industry and so caused the crisis in communications planning have at the same time created the opportunity for the discipline to assume a more important role than ever, and move to the very heart of campaign strategy.
More of that later. First I would like to explain why comms planning is in a state of crisis.
Let’s begin by revisiting why this discipline emerged in the first place. Until the 1990s, the accepted paradigm for deciding how to deploy communications budgets was the discipline we now think of as traditional media planning. The task was one of maximising the number of impacts delivered for a given budget: the classic ‘more bang for your buck’ challenge.
In this paradigm the process of communications was one of brand transmitting and consumer receiving; the currency was reach and frequency.
But by 2000 the rising tide of media fragmentation could no longer be ignored. The range of options within existing media had expanded (e.g. multi-channel TV), while entire new channels had appeared (most notably of course the internet).
Not to mention the many non-media touchpoints that exist between brands and consumers which were routinely ignored in the traditional media planning process.
The problem for traditional media planning was twofold. Firstly, media fragmentation meant that consumers’ attention could no longer be taken for granted, which undermined the reach and frequency model. Secondly, the traditional planning process struggled to consider (and plan) non-paid touchpoints like live brand experiences or customer service, meaning that media plans represented only part of the brand’s ‘voice’.
Cometh the hour, cometh comms planning. A new discipline founded on the central premise that ‘everything communicates’. Instead of building campaign plans by calculating the most cost effective combination of media to maximise the number of impacts on the consumer’s eyeballs, this new approach took as its starting point the consumer’s journey towards purchase and beyond.
It planned layered combinations of communications channels to help move people from one step of the journey to the next, allowing each channel to play to its strengths rather than treating them all as mere sources of reach and impacts. And it recognised the potential value of all touchpoints, not just paid media.
Ultimately, the promise of communications planning was that it would deliver ‘engagement’ with the brand’s communications, not just exposure; meaningful encounters rather than just passive opportunities to see.
Starting life as little more than a fringe heresy, comms planning rapidly gained acceptance until within the space of a decade it was the accepted orthodoxy across the industry. Which is more or less where it is today.
But during that same decade while communications planning was establishing itself as best practice, the wider world was hit with the full force of the digital revolution. In particular, the mass adoption of services that create networks by connecting people.
We’ve moved from a world where we had to accept what we were told, and make the best of the limited knowledge and information we had, to one in which we can now find out for ourselves, share our knowledge and opinions, and collaborate to bring about change. Let’s call this the connected era.
One immediate consequence of the mass proliferation of instantaneous connections between previously disparate individuals is an acceleration in the rate of propagation of information, ideas and popular culture. Memes, virals, internet crazes, yes – but also eyewitness news reporting, self-organising political protests and grassroots charity fundraising. The world is a frothier place, for good and ill.
With increased speed comes increased unpredictability. In the words of Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab:
“Before the internet, life was simple. Things were Euclidian, Newtonian: somewhat predictable. People actually tried to predict the future – even the economists. Then the internet happened and the world became extremely complex, extremely low cost, extremely fast; and those Newtonian laws that we so dearly cherished turned out to be just local ordinances.”This unpredictability stems from volatility in the process of how ideas can emerge, build an audience and go on to reach mainstream acceptance. Previously this process was slow, steady and largely under the control of well-resourced institutions or brands with the power to access large audiences. But in the connected era, established scale is no longer a prerequisite for taking an idea into the mainstream. A massively connected network trumps a massiveadspend any day of the week. What is influential and commands public attention might emerge from leftfield without warning, potentially dwarfing a brand’s efforts despite its months of careful planning and preparation. This unpredictability is the first of the two reasons why I believe the communications planning discipline is in crisis. Unpredictability is toxic for comms planning. It disturbs the carefully stage-managed unveiling of a brand’s story through successive layers of complementary encounters with the campaign. It messes up the simplicity of a sequential customer journey. And fundamentally it displaces the brand from its central, controlling position of orchestrating how its story is told. In such an unpredictable world, what in all honesty is the value of all those beautiful campaign architectures, when the clarity and controllability they promise is an illusion? The second reason why comms planning is in crisis is that its pursuit of ‘engagement’ has pushed the industry towards creating communications that demand too much of the audience while offering too little value in return. The value exchange in today’s campaigns is getting out of balance. Marketing communications has always involved an exchange of value between the brand and the audience. Simplistically it often went like this: ‘Here are 30 seconds of entertainment; please give a moment of your attention to our brand message’. The result was an equitable trade that satisfied both parties. But in the connected era, when technology allows people to be so much more than passive viewers of communication, brands routinely ask for rather more than just attention. In their quest for engagement they want people to participate and get involved. So they ask for Likes, followers, votes, shares; even co-creation and user generation. A couple of the more notorious instances of this excessive demand for participation are the 2013 Andrex ‘scrunch or fold?’ campaign which asked people to vote on their preferred toilet routine, and the 2009 Kingsmill campaign which invited consumers to share their confessions about sliced bread. Comms planning’s drive for greater engagement has translated into placing increasing demands on the audience – just as people’s benign acquiescence towards marketing is being undermined by the total transparency and default cynicism of the connected era. In summary, communications planning is in a double bind: operating within an intrinsically unpredictable environment, and driven by its pursuit of engagement to unbalance the value exchange inherent within the communication process. What is the way out of this crisis? What is the future for communications planning? I believe the answer will emerge from a deeper understanding of the nature of this value exchange. Early 20th various Melanesian communities, e.g. in Papua New Guinea. One such ritual, known as the ‘kula ring’, involves community members travelling up to hundreds of miles by canoe to exchange valuable objects such as necklaces – not as a commercial trade based on monetary value, but solely for the symbolic value of bestowing precious gifts. Social bonds and hierarchies within and between communities were created and maintained by this sequence of exchanges. Such tales of derring-do in canoes seem very remote from 21st communications. But the point is that the obscure ritual of the kula ring is a rare tangible manifestation of a universal ingredient of human relationship-building: reciprocity. Reciprocity can be defined as ‘one good turn deserves another’. It is an ever-present norm governing human social behaviour. In their study of how this principle can be applied to contemporary online social relationships, social scientists Pelaprat and Brown describe the underlying mechanism: “To have [a positive action] directed at you produces and enacts an obligation of a specific kind: the obligation to respond to a person who is offering a gesture of respect and admiration in order to have it given in return.” Viewed through the lens of reciprocity, traditional advertising sought to elicit admiration for the brand by offering people the gift of a nugget of entertaining content. But if brands now want more from people, they first need to give more. That is why I believe that reciprocity – not engagement – should be the goal of communications planning in future. It all boils down to this. Marketing campaigns place demands on people. So when planning communications, we must ask ourselves how the brand can offer value to the audience in each and every encounter with the campaign. Value that is equal to whatever we hope to receive in return. In fact since this is brand marketing rather than real life (and so subject to greater scepticism) we should aim to over-deliver: “Give more than you take”, as planner Martin Weigel puts it. It’s interesting that in recent years a number of new communication approaches have emerged, such as experiential marketing, branded content, branded utility and gamification. Each came along, claimed to overturn the marketing world as we knew it, then – once the initial hype had subsided – turned out not to be the promised panacea but just one more lever in our toolkit. I suggest that we can view these new approaches as evidence of how the industry has been making repeated attempts to achieve reciprocity, but without recognising this was the problem that needed solving. These new techniques aren’t misconceived, they’re just incomplete solutions to a bigger problem. The industry has not been ignorant to the changes taking place in the communications landscape, but it has to an extent been reaching around in the dark for ‘the new model’ to fit the new world. In fact the old model remains as valid as ever: successful campaigns deliver value equal to or greater than the demands they place on their audience. It’s just the demands have increased and therefore so must the value delivered. So the future of communications planning will not be to find which combination of media delivers the most impacts from a given budget, nor to architect layers of channels to engage the audience and so ease them through each stage of a decision journey. It will be to identify those communications activities that create enough value for the consumer to inspire the behaviours we seek. The sources of that value could be many and various: the persuasive entertainment of good old-fashioned advertising, of course; or one of many other techniques such as creating social currency, providing utility, offering opportunities to rally around a cause, or to connect with people who matter. By planning for reciprocity, not engagement, we will safeguard our strategies as far as is possible against the unpredictability of today’s frothy media environment. Given that your campaign will inevitably be caught in a blizzard of distractions, providing real value is a more defensible position than relying on people having nothing better to look at. In conclusion, I’m advocating a clean break from the time when comms planning was often seen as synonymous with channel planning. This new communications planning will sit at the heart of campaign strategy since the challenge of delivering value to the audience cuts right across both the conception of the creative idea and the design of the communications plan. If we can re-orient ourselves towards creating value for people, rather than preying on their time, then ours is an industry with a positive future. Will Collin is a cofounder of the global operation of Naked Communications
- Former Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland spoke to Miranda Ward about how his new memoir Brekky Central is mostly about his own failings, and why he can never return to commercial TV. Adam Boland admitted he was caught "on the hop" when his memoir, which details both his time at Seven and Ten, was rushed into bookstores today following court action from Seven, but claimed "if anyone gets heavily criticised in the book, it's me". Last Friday Network Seven started court action to get hold of the book prior to publication, with a view to an injunction if the former TV exec credited with turning around Sunrise had broken his confidentiality agreement with them. Speaking to Mumbrella, Boland said: "It caught me on the hop as well, I didn't know it was coming out today until about an hour before the press release went out." Titled Brekky Central, the memoir will detail Boland’s time in breakfast television, especially as the executive producer of the Sunrise show, and it is understood Seven is concerned Boland, who was a key player in the turnaround of the breakfast program, could be in breach of a confidentiality agreement with the network over elements of the book. "I understand where the publisher was coming from, clearly we had some nervousness on behalf of Channel Seven, they felt it was necessary to launch some court proceedings against me personally," said Boland. "I think from Seven's perspective they wanted to see what was in the book before it was published and from the publisher's perspective, they've never released a book before it was released to anyone else so why would they do it now? "There was a sense of integrity from Melbour University Press that it would set a dangerous precedent and as a result they were loathe to hand it over. That was really a publisher decision, I don't control the manuscript once it's written, it was up to them. "I can kind of understand where they were both coming from, but in the end I think the publisher decided to just rush it out to undermine any future court action." Despite the early release, the book wasn't originally due out until November 1 and will now be available in bookstores by Friday. Boland said he was "glad" it was out. "Once people at Channel Seven read it, it will ease some of their concerns," he said. "It's an honest account of things that went on but I never wrote the book with the intention of settling scores. I have immense respect for people who still work there and in fact my closest friends work at Seven. There was no reason for me to open fire at Seven, if anything I needed to build some bridges. "The book is really a very personal look at not just my time at Seven but also my time at Ten and growing up and how all of those things were. How my personal life crossed over into my professional life, the impact of producing a breakfast show can have on your own life and the impact it had on my own mental life. "I talk about everything, from my personal relationships, my sexuality, my relationship with staff and my bosses. I can't think of too many no-go areas. I have a tendency to over-share, so I thought why should I stop now? "Perhaps if anything we will learn a little bit too much about me. But that's ok, it was important to tell the whole story to put things in context." Boland admitted he was "disappointed" with Seven's court action but said it was "understandable". "They have a very valuable product and they want to protect that. I think they will be a lot more relaxed when they read the book and understand in many ways this book is about celebrating television and not in any way undermining what they do very well." [caption id="attachment_184284" align="alignright" width="234"] Studio 10[/caption] Boland announced his departure from Seven, where he had been since 2000, starting as a line producer, in February 2013 and was shortly after announced to be joining Ten as the director of morning television, creating the short lived Wake Up breakfast show and morning show Studio 10. He quit Channel Ten in January this year, citing ill health. On whether Ten had similar nerves or fears to Seven, Boland said: "Certainly not to the extent of Channel Seven, I know there are nerves at Channel Ten but they haven't gone to the lengths of Seven." The former morning television guru said the chapters of his book are divided into significant moments, many of which viewers of the programs he was behind would be familiar with. "Be they how we covered Beaconsfield, the Justin Bieber show, or how we launched Wake Up and so on. There's nothing in the book that people at Seven will say 'oh God, why has he said that', it'll be more a case of 'oh yeah that's his perspective of why that happened, ok'," he said. "If anyone gets heavily criticised in the book, it's me. One of the beauty's of being able to write a book is you can sit down reflect, take time out and look back at things you have done right and things you have done not so right. "I worked out that I'd done more things not so right than I'd done right and that in itself was quite a cathartic experience for me. Once they see that and see the honesty within the book and accept that there's no agenda in the book particularly towards them, I think they'll be a lot more relaxed." Boland doesn't expect everyone to agree with his take on events, and is upfront that it's his memory and not a definitive account of what happened during his time at either Seven or Ten. "Everyone has a perspective on things that happened, this is clearly my own version of history," he said. "There will be many people who won't agree with certain things that I talk about in the book and that's ok. This is not a definitive account of things that went on, this is simply how I saw these things. Clearly I'm able to be more honest now then when I had either a Channel Seven or Ten business card, I'm speaking personally now not professionally." "I also talk about how I burnt relationships, particularly at Channel Seven, and perhaps this goes to explain why they're particularly nervous about the book," he added. "There were a lot of people there who were long term friends who were hurt when I went to Channel Ten to set up shows that rival ones I helped build at Seven. Not just that, interviews I gave at that time to outlets such as Mumbrella and there were things in those interviews that hurt many people at Channel Seven and I regret many of the things I said across that time. I look back at some of those things and try to examine why I said them. "The book certainly draws a line on my media career, I certainly will never return to commercial television. "I don't use this book to try to justify certain things I did or to try to get back into people's good books. It's more about being honest about things that have happened and people will reach their own conclusions, some people will agree, some will disagree. More than that, it was important to me to do because I was able to step back and say that's how it unfolded because when you live it you don't really know it and it's only when you take time out, it was only when I left television I had time." But the memoir isn't about shifting the blame onto others, Boland says. "Again, I'm responsible for my own decisions and I was always in positions where I could make decisions and I had a lot of trust was placed in me by management both at Seven and Ten. Really, the only person who can take the blame for things that went right or wrong across that period is me," he said. "It's a chance for me to give myself a report card to some extent and you'll see as you read the book I'm fairly honest and frank about some of those things and I don't set out to defend myself against waves of criticism, if anything I try to understand why those criticisms were made." Boland isn't afraid of critiquing his own performance at either Seven or Ten, largely blaming himself for mistakes made at Ten's Wake Up which was axed in May, but believes there is space for a third breakfast program. "It just needs to work out what it is," he said. "One of the problems we had when we launched Wake Up is, and I take the blame for this, I don't think we knew exactly what we were doing in terms of what we were. We weren't entirely sure if we were a traditional breakfast show in the sense of a Sunrise and the Today Show or were we an FM radio show. And that sense of lack of definition came across on air. "It's a very competitive time slot you've still got Sunrise and Today going hammer and tong. It is possible but for it to happen the network must give the show time and clearly a breakfast show will only work if the rest of the network is kicking goals. I do think another breakfast show would work, it simply needs to have a point of difference from the other two and it needs to be given a chance to breath. "Particularly with the demographics of television ageing, it's where do you go? What is that ground? I think ten years ago it would have been simpler to launch a breakfast show aimed at a younger audience, in the vein of Big Breakfast out of the UK.It's more difficult now, and getting that position right is never a simple process. Competition is always good and I think it would be nice to see someone enter that space, and I'm sure it will be Ten, but not anytime soon." Boland expects the book to highlight the process of television more than aspects of either channel. "People will see the process of television and how intense it is and how the rivalry is intense and how sometimes we actually forget what's important," he said. "That's one of my biggest lessons in that, there was a great personal toll. I surrendered many of my friendships and I know I off-sided many members of my family because of a single-minded devotion to my shows and when you step out of television, which I have, I look back and think why, was it worth it? And the answer is no, clearly not. "It's a somewhat small world, the media industry, and you get very much caught up in it and it's very exciting at the time but when you step out of it you realise there's so much more to life and I think it's sad I took so long to discover that. I hope people who read this book, particularly those who work in the media, can perhaps see if there are any parallels with their own lives." Mental health is a topic close to Boland's heart as he suffers from bipolar disorder, and he is currently a regular speaker on the topic as well as studying Asian politics. "I've been discussing mental health as part of Mental Health week this week and it got me thinking about whether people in the media spend enough time considering their own mental health. We operate at such speed that we sometimes don't take time out to just say 'are we ok?' "I know many people, particularly in television, who have succumbed to mental illness I think because they weren't able to balance personal and professional. It can swallow up your life. I try to detail that and clearly I use myself as the example," he said. "I hope people, particularly in the media, walk away and say there are some valuable lessons in there about things that are more important than what we do each day. That said, I also try to make the case that television should be used for a lot more than making money. "The book will show the pressures placed on producers and sometimes we don't make decisions for the right reasons, be they commercial interests or whatever. They're the everyday balances that we face, we try to keep up with be they social media changes or whatever and we do lose perspective or I did, I lost perspective on many things. "Being able to sit down and write a book has been a very useful experience for me. It wasn't what I was going to do, I had no intention of writing a book, I said no when the publisher first asked. I'm glad I said yes in the end, it's been very cathartic." Miranda Ward
- While most brands aim to make their customer touchpoints as easy as possible Alison Tilling argues making people work for it will make them value it more.
Most brands and agencies aim to create seamless experiences for people. We design them to be easy, coherent and united across channels. Most of the time, that's great. It means a world where things just work, quickly and well.
But for brands it is dangerous, because ultimately it could also lead to a world of bland sameness.
Of course no-one wants unnecessary pain, but there can be gold hidden in a brand's rough edges that will help it stand out - and for all the right reasons.
Be (a little bit) more human How often recently have you seen LinkedIn or Facebook quotes about perfectionism being the enemy, being brave enough to fail, and so on? We seem to be warming up to messing up in our personal endeavours. That means less focus on ironing out all our own rough edges, and more focus on the things that make us uniquely us. It’s time to try doing the same with the brands we work on, to make experiences with them more memorable, and ultimately more ownable.
The beauty of imperfection This brings me to Wabi-sabi. No, I’d never heard of it either until a couple of months ago, and reading more on it made me think about the possibilities for brands. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that expounds the beauty of imperfection, the rough edges, the seams of things (though there’s a lot more to it than that!).
Leonard Koren, a western proponent of Wabi-sabi, describes it as:
Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilise them.”(See Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, 1994). Sterilisation is a danger to brands as technology moves us closer to the fastest and simplest transactions we can get; sometimes, the poetry lies elsewhere. Take Ikea – it’s the friction that makes it. While we might whinge about the complicated instructions for putting the bookcase together, we humans value making things ourselves and the pain that goes along with that (see “The Ikea Effect” Journal of Consumer Psychology, July 2012). IKEA also has a great way of helping shoppers turn frictions into celebrations, like the rewarding hot dog available for $1 at the end of the long arduous process of queuing. Square’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, is a known proponent of Wabi-sabi. Looking at the Square card reader, its poetry is not only in the great experience of using it, but in its starkly white, slightly bulky contrast to the iPad’s thin black and silver lines. Its beautiful, standout seams make it a human, not a sterile way to pay. In our work with Aldi, we've noticed that the unique checkout experience can be a powerful brand symbol. The reason for the fast, self-packing checkout is built into the business model, and knowing how to deal with it is a sign of an Aldi aficionado - a real smarter shopper. It gives an ownable tension, a moment of stickiness for the brand that others can't copy. Ownable tensions aren’t an excuse for laziness. Recognising and designing for friction doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remove real barriers or moments of difficulty. A brand experience that’s much harder than it needs to be, but that doesn’t add value, won’t get anyone anywhere. Brands should be aiming for experiences that are memorable and difficult for other brands to replicate. This is where a pinch of Wabi-sabi, humanity and making the most of the rough edges can help. Alison Tilling is a planner at BMF
- In this cross-posting from The Conversation Craig Batty of RMIT University argues most Australian TV drama is lacking one essential element: drama.
A special thing happened in August this year: Foxtel launched BBC First, a premium channel showcasing the best of contemporary British television drama.
As a global channel that chose Australia as its inaugural audience, here’s how it describes itself:
BBC First celebrates humanity in all its fascinating complexity, connecting audiences around the world who are hungry for stories to challenge, immerse and entertain them.With a hefty advertising campaign that spanned screen, online and print media for much of early 2014, Australian viewers were tempted with excerpts from some pretty powerful British drama to come. [caption id="attachment_255144" align="alignright" width="234"] Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders[/caption] Headline shows included Peaky Blinders, starring Cillian Murphy; The Village, with Maxine Peake and John Simm; The Fear, starring Peter Mullan; and The Honourable Woman, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. Advertised with a cool soundtrack by New Zealand artist Lorde (Everybody Wants to Rule the World), the channel promised something spectacular. And in comparison to the majority of Australian television drama output, something much better. I’m British, so am undoubtedly biased, but being suddenly presented with a raft of high-quality small-screen drama has led me to think about the drama we’re producing here in Australia. Perhaps it speaks more to the Australian sensibility – nice people who generally don’t like conflict, unlike the British, who thrive on misery and struggle! – but all I can say is that Australian TV just feels too tepid. Nothing really happens – at least not thematically. The stakes aren’t high enough. Characters aren’t pushed far enough. And there’s a prevailing sense that “everything is OK, really”, with a soapy lightness that prevents deep emotional engagement. Some people say the performances are superficial, but is that because the writing isn’t good enough? Actors thrive on material they can mine for subtext and meaning. Do Australian television scripts have guts? Do they have verve? Shows such as Packed to the Rafters, House Husbands and the recently-shelved Offspring are popular with domestic audiences – and maybe that’s OK – but why don’t they travel well? As Mark Poole argued on The Conversation in his recent article about the Emmys, television is now clearly competing with cinema in both quality of story and production values, and audience appeal and resonance. Why aren’t Australian shows in the mix? It has a lot to do with expectations, and what international audiences are used to. I’ll be the first to admit my criticisms might be skewed towards particular notions of taste, but most Australian shows feel very plot repetitive and dramatically low-key. One of the most fundamental aspects of drama is the need for rising tension and incremental story beats that lead to physical and emotional crisis and catharsis – all of which feeds into theme. Plot is a metaphorical sponge that needs to be wrung out as much as possible before it can be put away. How much are Australian television characters wrung out? It’s like the sponge is put away, but it’s still damp. To put it another way, a tepid plot leads to an overwhelming lack of thematic fulfilment. The Fear takes the unique premise of giving a dangerous crime boss Alzheimer’s, and cranks up the plot to involve drug trafficking, sex trafficking and family betrayal. The universal theme of fear of the unknown infiltrates what might appear on the face of it a melodramatic plot, to give it substance and gravitas. Even as someone who doesn’t care much for stories set in that world, I was hooked by the writing and the performances. The Honourable Woman paints an even bigger and darker picture of a world in which we fear the unknown. Set against a backdrop of political and moral corruption, yet interwoven with an oftentimes humorous portrayal of the British secret services, it’s a drama like no other, with quality writing, performances and production values that are sure to win awards any day now. None of which is to say Australian television can’t do the same – just that, at the minute, it’s not doing the same, and is struggling to do anything remotely like it. There are some exceptions, of course. As I wrote about earlier this year on The Conversation, Wentworth – a reimagining of the Reg Grundy cult classic TV series Prisoner – has taken our potential for television drama to a different level – and, thankfully, it’s performing really well overseas. Love Child, too – set in the fictional Kings Cross Hospital and Stanton House in Sydney in 1969 – broke out of the “soapy” mold, tackling deeper, edgier stories, and has been commissioned for a second series. More recently, ABC’s The Code is receiving strong popular and critical acclaim – and deservedly so. We also have Ten’s new political drama, Party Tricks, and it’ll be important to see how that rates. There’s news that a new show, Banished, written by acclaimed British writer Jimmy McGovern and filmed partly in Sydney, will go to air in 2015. Interestingly, that will be BBC First’s inaugural self-commissioned show, and it’s great to see Australian involvement. With the success of the recent drama Mrs Biggs – ITV Studios in the UK and December Media here in Australia – maybe television co-productions are the way to go. It goes without saying Australians have great stories to tell, and there are talented people out there with the potential to make their mark in television drama. But they need the right people to work with and the right kinds of infrastructure to upgrade their stories from tepid to terrific. That’s the only way the industry, and our pride in it, can survive. Bold. Brave. Compelling. Deep. Intelligent. Raw. Surprising. None of these qualities come without very hard work. But when we start to feel them as the drama unfolds, we get excited – not just about the work itself but for those who are making it, and what they might make next. Craig Batty is creative practice research leader / senior lecturer in screenwriting at RMIT University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
After a spate of criticism around brand journalism Tracey Fitgerald argues journalists need to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Having just returned from a week working on a client project in Nepal, I cannot explain how frustrating is to read articles by fellow writers and journalists who are quick to criticise the term ‘brand journalism’ and pick holes in what they deem to be a contradictory term.
Once such article I read recently referred to a brand journalist role as “diluting what the term ‘journalist’ means”. The author even went so far as to question the integrity of anyone interested in this ‘ridiculous oxymoron’.
What I see here is far too much attention on the definition and zero focus on the solution – which is that journalists could actually help shape this industry into something that creates a really positive impact.
I care about integrity, I care about the truth, I care about stories and I care about giving people a voice – and I still do all of this as a brand journalist.
For me, the issue is that brand journalism is being influenced by people with no experience in journalism – people who want to create a label and make it work for them in whichever way generates the most money. This is the problem, and this is where we should place our attention.
In Nepal, I helped my client report on the poor working conditions of firefighters and can wholeheartedly say that brand journalism is just as journalistic in nature as traditional journalism – and it certainly doesn't mean waving goodbye to your integrity.
If you deem journalism as being the practice of gathering and reporting information and news across a platform to a particular audience, then the only real difference is the platform.
My client (who admittedly works in the field of firefighting and firefighting products) felt an affinity to the brigade in Kathmandu and wanted to bring me and a videographer to Nepal to implement brand journalism techniques. The client trained the firefighters and we created the stories based on what we saw and learnt while there. These stories then went out to the client’s audience – an audience extremely aligned with firefighting and therefore very affected by what we had to show them. The results being that an otherwise voiceless group of professionals now had a voice within their industry.
So what’s the solution?
Journalists need to take charge of the changes happening within the industry and play an active role when it comes to educating brands on how journalistic practices can be applied to what they do.
We have a massive opportunity to not only make this industry work for journalists, but also for the greater community – and that’s something to celebrate. Brand journalism could subsequently create accountability within the business word by making brands and businesses more concerned about corporate social responsibility and what they actively do within their fields. By enabling businesses to produce journalistic style content we are placing greater emphasis on how they actually conduct themselves as a business.
My point is, that it’s down to journalists to shape brand journalism into something that works more like journalism. The change is happening whether we like it or not – time to educate the brands on what it really means.
- Tracey Fitzgerald is managing director of Brandalism
- With reports Australians are increasingly looking to overseas streaming services for their content Ramon Lobato and Scott Ewing of Swinburne University of Technology look at the numbers in a cross-posting from The Conversation.
In recent months there have been many reports of Australians covertly signing up for the US streaming service Netflix, using fake postcodes and software workarounds to fool its geo-blocking system.
One industry-commissioned study estimates that up to 200,000 Australians have subscribed to the service in this way.
Geoblocking circumvention is by all accounts a common practice in Australian households – and an industry is emerging to meet the demand for borderless streaming.
Hundreds of start-up companies now offer unblocking and identity-masking services, such as Hide My Ass using a virtual private network (VPN), Get Flix using DNS proxies and easy-to-use browser plugins such as Hola. Detailed how-to guides can be found on popular tech websites and in the mainstream media.
For a monthly fee of A$5-A$10, a VPN will mask your identity online by routing your traffic through its servers (whose IP address is in another country), and thwart geoblocking. Consequently, VPNs are popular with a diverse range of users: privacy advocates, political dissidents, filesharers, tourists, and – now – Netflix users.
How common is VPN use in Australia?Through the World Internet Project (WIP), we have been looking into this question. The World Internet Project is a bi-annual telephone survey conducted across 35 countries. The Australian arm of the survey is based at Swinburne University, and every two years we phone 1,000 people to ask about various aspects of their internet use. The last survey included questions about household VPN and web proxy use. The results were rather surprising. Twenty per cent of respondents indicated they use either a VPN or a web proxy, or both, to access the internet and download files at home. As these figures suggest, there is clearly a high degree of familiarity with privacy software among the Australian population. One in five people know how to use these tools. This doesn’t mean that all these people are accessing offshore streaming sites, of course. VPNs have legitimate business uses with many companies and government agencies running VPNs so that their staff can work securely off-site. Many privacy-conscious people also use VPNs to keep their communications secure. But we can assume some kind of connection between this 20% figure and people’s streaming habits. Let’s put this finding side by side with the figure of 200,000 unauthorised Australian Netflix subscribers that was recently mooted. In the context of our study, that figure seems very plausible – in fact, we would suggest it is probably on the low side.
An open-ended technologyTracking the VPN’s evolution from an IT networking tool to a domestic entertainment accessory tells us something about how the character of digital technologies can shift as a result of their everyday uses. Until recently, VPNs were used mostly for business purposes and by tech-savvy geeks. They had little appeal to non-specialists. Today, VPNs are arguably a household technology rather than an obscure networking technology. The past few years have seen VPN providers enthusiastically market their services to domestic consumers. Some VPNs specifically target the filesharing community, as we can see below: Others promote their services on the basis of privacy protection, playing on our fears about cybercrime and government surveillance: Others explicitly promote themselves as geoblocking circumvention tools: It is also worth considering how people are using VPNs in other parts of the world. These practices often have little in common with how Australians use them. In many nations, VPNs are being used to evade government censorship. Teenagers in Turkey use VPNs to access Twitter and YouTube when they are blocked by the government (a common occurrence). Iranians use VPNs to socialise on Facebook. Chinese netizens use them to evade the prying eyes of the state. Diasporic communities in Australia and elsewhere also use VPNs to access streaming media from home. Seen from this perspective, Australians’ streaming habits are connected to a complex array of location-masking practices across the world – used variously by price-sensitive consumers, early adopters, filesharers, privacy advocates, tourists, overseas workers and political dissidents. At the centre of all this is the humble VPN. In coming years, it will be interesting to see how the VPN’s social meaning and uses change further as people find as-yet unimagined applications for privacy software. This research has been partly funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant. Scott Ewing and Ramon Lobato are research fellows at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- In this cross-posting from The Conversation Darryl Woodford and Katie Prowd of the Queensland University of Technology look at how Ten's Twitter teasers for Party Tricks have been received so far. With Ten’s new drama Party Tricks set for an October 6 premiere, coverage has focused on the social media campaign to promote the show. In advance of the screening, Ten has created in-character accounts for the lead characters, Kate Ballard (Asher Keddie) and David McLeod (Rodger Corser). But to date there’s been a relative lack of buy-in to the campaign from the social media public. We collected data on the account for the week beginning September 23: there were 107 relevant tweets that mentioned the account names, a few hundred Twitter followers and 1,500 likes: [caption id="attachment_254724" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Party Tricks tweets[/caption] Is this a marketing failure – or is it just setting the stage for the campaign to follow when the show launches? One example of an in-character account resonating with the public is Dr Cooper, of the Showtime show Nurse Jackie, which currently boasts 18,900 followers. But the follower growth for this account came mostly while the show was running (and may have had many more followers at the time who subsequently unfollowed the account). As seen on the chart below, while the account began tweeting in February 2010, it was not until the Season 2 premiere in late March that it rapidly acquired followers, gaining approximately 2,500 followers in March 2009 and 3,700 in April, before steadily acquiring followers during the season. That growth stopped in June 2011, at the end of Season 3 (and when posts from the account stopped), having again seen boosts to its follower count between March and June 2011 as the season aired: It’s worth pointing out there are significant differences between @DoctorCoop and the Party Tricks accounts. First, the Doctor Cooper account first tweeted in February 2010, a time when the use of Twitter for TV shows was still novel, and “trying to exploit the gap between TV and the internet” was worthy of coverage in the New York Times. Second, the style of the accounts is markedly different: while @DoctorCoop was a humorous account full of one-liners, Party Tricks has so far focused on discussing the AFL Grand Final, and photos of the “Premier” meeting schoolkids: Whether this will ultimately resonate better with the Australian social media audience than the Secrets & Lies experiment has yet to be proven, but Ten must at least be applauded for trying to integrate social media into its programming. So far, reality TV and sporting events have dominated the social media landscape in Australia; both are examples of “event television”, whereby viewers see the need to watch in real-time, rather than through catch-up services. Sitcom and drama formats often struggle to create this same sense of event, and it is worth exploring whether social media integration can create this, and make the shows feel more audience-encompassing. Other than sporting events, Big Brother has traditionally been Australia’s social media winner, with the 2014 premiere receiving over 35,000 tweets and comments on its official Facebook page during the broadcast. But, while some of those were in response to officially posted comments and images, the majority were not, and the official accounts of Big Brother and Channel 9 were engaging with fans on social media, replying and retweeting. In addition, evicted Big Brother contestants often continue the conversation with fans and official network accounts once they are out of the house, cementing an audience-to-character relationship through social media. The fact these are real people inherently makes the relationship more authentic than those with fictional characters. Similarly, the tweeting by actors (as opposed to characters), which is now an annual event around US Television Premieres (as with CBS’s #CBSTweetWeek)), contains a sense of authenticity, and direct communication with real people, that attempts such as Party Tricks do not. This authenticity gap could also be leaving the potential for sceptical posts to derail the conversation that Ten manufacture. Contemporary social media strategy often suggests to listen and engage rather than force the conversation, and that is what the Big Brother accounts do well. There are undoubtedly ways for Channel Ten to make this work. The #auspol and #qanda audiences are huge on Twitter, and if Channel Ten find a way to mobilise these users behind their fictional politicians then this could be a powerful force. If, however, they continue with just the occasional “topical” tweet, Party Tricks success or failure will be achieved and gauged in the traditional way: advertising and viewer numbers. Darryl Woodford is postdoctoral research fellow and Katie Prowd is assistant data analyst at Queensland University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- In a new regular column Nic Hodges busts some of the jargon and mystery around ad tech, starting with the wearables phenomenon.
If you've spent any time on the internet recently, you could be forgiven for thinking Apple just invented the smartwatch.
Despite the fact they're actually more than a year late to the watch party, Apple have managed to put wearable technology front and centre in the mainstream.
So now that wearables have transitioned from science fiction to dinner party conversation, what exactly are they? And what do they mean for brands and agencies?
The term "wearables" has been appearing more and more over the last few years, mostly thanks to the development of hi-tech pedometers like Jawbone's UP, the Fitbit Flex, and the darling device of agency strategists worldwide, Nike's Fuel Band. According to Wired magazine, "wearable tech will be as big as the smartphone", and Deloitte estimates that 10 million wearable devices will ship this year.
Are wearables taking off?
It's tempting for brands and agencies to jump in and "wearify" every campaign, but wearable as a concept is still in its early days.
[caption id="attachment_254232" align="alignright" width="234"] Google Glass[/caption]
The Guardian recently wrote of the first generation of smartwatches flooding eBay; hundreds of devices abandoned in a way that was unheard of when smartphones or the iPod were first launched. It also seems unlikely that Google's Glass will ever make it on to the shelves of Dick Smith - the wearable camera- and-screen device is now more frequently used as the punchline of jokes than a vision of the future.
Wearables for health & fitness
[caption id="attachment_80062" align="alignright" width="234"] Nike + Fuelband[/caption]
On the fitness tracking front, the future looks a bit healthier. Although Nielsen reports that 15 percent of consumers are using some type of wearable technology, research firm Endeavour Partners says a third of people stopped using their wearable device within six months of purchase. Meanwhile, agency trend decks around the globe need to be updated to show that Nike actually ceased production of the Fuel Band in April 2014.
The most interesting applications of wearable tech for advertising so far have emerged from the health and fitness space. There are clear benefits for health providers in both keeping their customers healthy and having access to their data.
Oil and gas company BP (who provide health insurance to their US employees) was one of the first companies to venture in to this space; last year they offered all staff a free Fitbit in exchange for access to the wearer’s data. 14,000 employees took up the offer, an idea which has since been implemented by several other health providers.
It's easy to see how ad campaigns that use wearable data could quickly become creepy and unethical – evidenced by the fact that manufacturers are already thinking about what advertisers won't be allowed to do.
For one, the ability to beam a video or discount offer to a user's Apple Watch as they walk past a retail store simply won't exist. Apple are also taking preventative measures with their HealthKit app, instructing developers that they cannot sell any consumer health data to advertisers.
Even Google, a company that relies on advertising for over 90 per cent of its revenue, has explicitly banned advertising from Glass, and any data collected by Glass cannot be used for advertising elsewhere.
What about brands?
For brands, the initial success stories of wearables will be those that provide specific technology for specific experiences. Sydney-based tech company We:Ex has already prototyped some encouraging examples including the Alert Shirt for Foxtel, which allows wearers to "feel what the players feel" as they watch the footy; and Fundawear for Durex (you'll have to follow the link for an explanation on that one). However, with the pace of innovation in this space, the expensive hi-tech prototypes we're seeing today could likely be next year's free gift-with-purchase.
Retailers and brands with a physical presence should keep an eye on the role of wearables in payment and identity processes. While payment systems requiring a smartphone have struggled to gain traction, it may be that simply tapping your Apple Watch or Ringly at a register is a behaviour that does take off. The ability for wearable devices to also transmit identifying information is also going to be gold for CRM and loyalty programs.
When it comes to how brands should be using wearable technology, we need only look to Google Glass, whose aim is to be "there when you need it, gone when you don't". Advertisers would do well to understand and adopt that mantra.
Wearables are here to stay, and while it is still early days, it's safe to say that interrupting consumers with advertising messages will not win brands any fans.
But providing utility and function when and where people need it? That very likely will.
- Nic Hodges is the founder of creative technology consultancy Blonde3
- With consumers increasingly concerned about their personal data on social media Luke Heemsbergen of the University of Melbourne looks at new ad-free platform Ello, and what it will mean for the privacy debate in a cross-posting from The Conversation.
Ello is new social networking space on the web that is receiving a lot of attention of late – so much that it’s caused a few problems with the website out of action from time to time.
Ello’s new popularity is in part because it offers a different view to representing and monitoring our digital selves than Facebook. But Ello’s own privacy/public tradeoff is still evolving, and can teach us a lot about what privacy means online, and how contextual integrity, not just “personal integrity” matters.
Ello is a social networking platform that does not require people to use their real name when they sign up for an account (by invitation only at the moment). It protects users' patterns of use (their metadata) from Google. It does not sell any member information to third-parties such as advertisers. In fact, the free service promises to remain ad-free forever.
Instead, Ello offers an artistic and vaguely grown-up vibe (nudity is OK) with lots of white space, monospaced font, and is the hottest place to be on the web at the moment (if you still haven’t been invited, then ping me).
Created in January 2014, Ello exploded onto the social media scene in late September after some of Facebook’s LGTBQ community in San Francisco were forced into becoming vocal and eloquent opponents of Facebook’s real name policies.
The reasons for not wanting real name identities in social media are varied, but taken together, they rally against Mark Zuckerberg’s oft quoted claim that:
[…] having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.But people who disagree with Zuckerberg’s vision for personal “radical transparency” in social life (online or off) are starting to look for alternative places to be social. The alternative to Facebook that Ello offers seems closer to the wild west of the internet’s past: it’s experimental, run by the community for the community, and openly fumbling as it goes along. The serious privacy concerns voiced by creatrixtiara a member of ello’s own community (who fled from Facebook) is one such fumble.
[…] there are specific elements of Ello’s privacy settings, deliberately designed, that make Ello actually way more unsafe than Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets and CMSes. And in our rush to embrace a Facebook replacement we need to be aware of what we are at risk for when using Ello.That original post – and creatrixtiara’s final post on Ello – generated plenty of interest with updates available here. In short, creatrixtiara calls out that there is currently no privacy in Ello! Everything posted is public. There are no controls to adjust who sees what and who contacts whom. As Ello’s documentation states (for now):
- Droga5 executive creative director and partner Ted Royer sat down with Miranda Ward at Spikes Asia to discuss his experience as president of the jury for film, print, outdoor and radio, the changing creative landscape in the region and plans for a Droga5 Asia office. After being the Jury president across the traditional categories, what do you make of the state of creativity in the region? I was a little bit nervous before coming out here because in past years I had heard some of my more cynical friends say that Asian advertising hadn't really moved on from a lot of the formulas of the past. I think that's bullshit. Some of the work here is fresh and bold and innovative and great. I will judge any Asian show, I love the thinking, the surprise, the care that's gone into the work, particularly from countries like China, India and Japan. When I was out here those three countries weren't doing the most creative things but now their markets and their audiences are catching up to and surpassing other markets around the world. The top work in the show is truly world class and either has won at Cannes or will win at Cannes. I am glad to say Asia is alive and thriving. How did the traditional jury work together? This was a wonderful jury. It was respectful and patient. I'm a big fan of everybody talking so we got opinions out of everybody. The judging was pretty close sometimes but it was pretty clear whenever something won it deserved to win. I didn't have to nudge them that much. They made intelligent decisions and decisions that they were proud of. Was there any particular country you were impressed by during the judging? Japan is doing phenomenal work, very different type of work. Japan is one of the great creative countries of the world right now. China has really come into its own, there was a whole bunch of Chinese work that was truly exceptional. I miss Thai humour, I saw a lot of Thai beautiful spots, very emotional spots. No one does emotion and humour like the Thais but I was hoping for more Thai humour because that used to be my favourite thing about Asian advertising. Thais do funny commercials better than anybody else in the world. There are some pieces from India that I found delightful and powerful. Two pieces come to mind, one was a Google spot and one was a Nike spot, that I think were done with a level of taste and craft that is fantastic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHGDN9-oFJE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtxLmInvFcw I'm so happy that I'm incredibly jealous of a lot of this work. The highest praise you can get from a creative is jealousy and when I'd see a piece and say 'I'm fucking jealous' then I'd know it was great. In the entered work, were there any particular themes that were popular? We were joking that both Japan and China love to play pranks on their family members and surprise them in ways that make them cry. It seems like a lot of people don't talk very well, there were a lot of campaigns about people telling them they love them for the first time on film and capturing people by surprise to the point it started to seem mean almost. That made for some very moving and emotional work. I'd have to say a lot of the work was pretty diverse and beautiful. How does the region compare to the US? It's hard to compare an entire region with so many diverse regions to the US. Not having judged digital, America is digital crazy. Social media is an incredibly expressive form that's growing in front of our eyes. We created a whole social media lab inside Droga5 now to handle the volume of social that we're doing and they handle it well. I can't speak to how they're handling that in Asia. Only compared to the US in the categories that I judged, I think it's right up there to the US. The US is doing some great work, Asia is doing phenomenal work. I don't think there's a quality difference between the top pieces from both countries. What do you think are the challenges in the region? Hard to say, talking to my colleagues in China they have difficulty getting clients on board with more innovative thinking. I think Japan is ahead of the curve with so much stuff, they do wonderful work. These are huge markets, China and India are huge markets that in some places still feel like they're emerging. I feel great with the creatives on the ground there in those countries, if they keep doing what they're doing the industry is going to be better than its ever been. I worry about little Singapore, I hear things are tough here. It used to be the creative mecca of Asia, I don't know if that's the case anymore. And again, where's the Thai funny? Are they different to the challenges in the US? The US is pretty healthy right now, the economy is really healthy. The one thing I want to see more of in the US is more independent agencies really succeeding. I'd love to see more of a sense of community between the agencies. Over here, they all know each other, they all reach out to each other and work together, there's more of a sense of community and in Australia especially. They all go to the same pub as each other, they all know each other, and while they may slag each other off in the Campaign Brief blog, they still root for each other and they're still good mates. In America, things are pretty disjointed and I don't see agencies cheering for each other at all. If Wieden + Kennedy does well, the industry does well. If a new startup, my friend started an agency Preacher in Texas, if that does well, we all win because if they do great creative work and they build a company, it gets better, it gets bigger. If everything is held by three or four holding companies, how great is that for the industry? We like to say, 49 per cent was bought by William Morris, they're not in advertising, so them buying us and using our influence with them and vice versa that makes the industry bigger because we can tap into more resources then ever. If say WPP had bought us that would have made the industry smaller. If Publicis and Omnicom merged that just makes the industry smaller. I'm cheering for independent agencies and things that make the industry more robust and bigger and give us better voices and help us prove that advertising doesn't have to be just noise. It can really contribute to culture in better ways. Is it hard to attract and retain good talent? Not from other agencies and people who want ad jobs. I have lost two people to an app startup, so I do feel competition from tech companies because it's incredibly exciting to be in a tech startup and it's just as fast-moving and creative as advertising has ever been. So we need to prove we can be as fast-moving and creative as the most fast-moving tech company. Also right now freelance in America is incredibly robust, people can get paid directly from agencies more money than any agency could ever pay them. I understand why freelancers don't want to be tied down. It's a little hard and if its hard for Droga5 I can only imagine what its like for one of the big networks. As an industry we need to prove to young people why we're a good destination over a Google or an Apple because they are incredibly attractive companies. Part of that is what Droga5's trying to do, we're trying to prove we're one of the most creative companies in the world and if you could go anywhere you should still come to us. When looking for new talent, what are the skills you are after? I'll speak for creatives, we don't separate departments. Every creative should be able to work in everything. We don't look for a technical skill, we look for an understanding and a desire to work in every media and to come up with ideas that can work across every media. When I see an all print book I'm not going to hire that person, I want to see thinking that's so big it transcends boundaries. I always tell this story, I hired two guys from Sweden because the first idea in their book was so good, it was a business idea it was so good and the next one was almost as good so I closed the book and said lets talk about money. I didn't need to see a long-copy ad or some banners that they had done, I didn't need to see proof they can be in advertising, I need to see proof of powerful thinking that crosses borders. Who is doing work that inspires you? I always get inspired by Wieden + Kennedy, they are a fantastic agency. What are they, 30, 35 years old? A shining beacon of being great year after year, all due respect to Widen. Any particular campaigns you've been impressed by? They did an Old Spice campaign that was just 15-second ads that were like 70s songs and they were so fucking stupid, awesome and absurd. I said to one of my friends 'I feel like I was put on earth to make that campaign and someone did it before me'. I loved it so much, it was so absurd. What's underrated and unsung is the work that Ogilvy continue to do for IBM year after year. They do amazing work that seems to get ignored at awards shows. They got awarded for that moving the atoms around, which was lovely and beautiful and great. I think they're a strong workhorse who deserve more then they get. Are there any plans or ambitions for an office in Asia? Talk about it all the time, sure. We just want to get it right with the right partners. The typical cities come up, Shanghai, Mumbai. Yes, you'll probably see an Asian office from us in a couple of years. When we open offices, we first and foremost open it with partners that we love. We believe business will come if we get the right people on the ground with the right sense of mission that we have. London is doing really well, they're up to about 35 people and they're less than a year old. Sydney is still winning business and doing ok and New York just passed 300 people. We're growing super fast.
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