Opinion | Features
- Instant messaging is the new digital battle ground. Daniel Young looks at what impact this battle might have for the traditional social networks. The social media landscape is changing, again, and the new players are demanding brands shift their mindset - from being human to getting personal. Mobile Instant Messaging (IM) apps like WeChat, Snapchat and LINE are growing fast. They’re platforms that facilitate real-time chat and content sharing and their adoption is outstripping the likes of Facebook and Twitter. And the new wave of social media is being led by a strategically important buyer demographic - teens and young adults - attracted to a natively mobile, private and personal way to freely communicate and share with friends. The IM players are evolving into genuine mobile platforms with rapidly growing user numbers that are a real threat to ‘traditional’ social networks hence Facebook’s proposed $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp, and its attempt to snag Snapchat. The competitive and financial risk for brands that have invested heavily in the social networks is that IM adoption will translate into a full-blown migration as the masses shift their allegiances to fresher and more personal technologies. So, how big is this trend? The numbers are staggering. According to Business Insider Intelligence, the four largest IM apps, combined, will soon pass the total user numbers of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn in terms of millions of monthly active users. Taco Bell, GE, FC Barcelona, Dunkin’ Donuts and MTV have already established a presence (or at least run campaigns) in the world of IM to complement existing social and content marketing plays. Established social networking models are changing. Facebook, for example, is losing its appeal among younger demographics (at least anecdotally) so we can expect many more brands to at least test if not transition, to the new kids on the block. It will be challenging. The race to keep connected with a fast moving demographic in the IM world presents some complex and challenging obstacles to marketers – at risk are billions of dollars in budgets chasing what have become moving targets. 1. It’s complex - There are more than 50 social messaging apps that have had more than a million downloads on Google Play. The leading players are WeChat (600m), WhatsApp (500m), LINE (400m), Viber and Facebook Messenger (both 200m), Kakao Talk (140m), Snapchat (100m) and Kik. More recent entrants include Tango, Fling, Whisper, Slingshot, Bolt, and Sobrr. This presents a challenge – which is the right platform for your brand? 2. It’s under researched The ‘which platform’ problem is compounded by the fact that IM is under researched. The private and distributed nature of the technology means that analytics are in short supply. Third party research is also sparse, which makes planning difficult. The established players are going to have to move very quickly to keep pace with the market shifts. 3. It requires another social mind shift for brands Social media has made brand communication more human but social networks still allow for an impersonal one-to-many approach echoing traditional ad supported media. IM services facilitate one-to-one or one-to-few messaging. Brands will need to be human and personal. This almost certainly will prompt changes to existing social media business models and services. It will be a matter of how quickly they can adapt. 4. There are few commonalities between services Social networks broadly follow a similar pattern – follow, post, comment and share. This is not the case with IM. Each platform brings its own nuance and functionality. There will be new IM apps entering the market, further fragmenting audiences while increasing the pressure on the “traditional” social media to innovate or recalibrate their offerings to find new and older audiences. 5. Not all IM platforms are brand ready WeChat and LINE are the most advanced platforms from a brand marketing perspective. Both companies provide Official Accounts and virtual products that brands pay to offer to their subscribers. WeChat has recently launched a self-service advertising platform. It is an exception. But competitors are likely to follow with their own versions in order to avoid being left in the slipstream of rapidly changing technologies. Here are a few suggestions if you’re a marketer looking to take yet another social leap. 1. Work with agency partners to assess the benefits of different IM platforms 2. Use existing social channels and offline research to learn about your customers’ IM usage 3. Learn from brands and influencers who are already present on your preferred platform 4. Involve multiple viewpoints and think creatively about your IM presence 5. Test and learn from different approaches to special offers, content, news, contests The social marketing movement is founded on the idea that consumers want to have relationships with brands. Perhaps the biggest take out for marketers when looking at the social trend towards IM is the insight that humans have relationships with other humans, not brands. Daniel Young is general manager of independent agency Brightpoint Digital.
- In the wake of the decision by retailer Woolworths to retain Carat as its media agency, Mumbrella's Nic Christensen asks if the much-maligned pitch for the $240m account is a case study in how clients should not treat their agencies. It's funny how history has a habit of repeating itself, but you'd like to think the marketing world would occasionally learn a trick or two. Some of the decisions in the process which led to the decision by Woolworths to keep its mammoth media account at Carat certainly make you wonder what goes through the minds of some clients when they pitch. The article to the right is from an edition of B&T several years ago, with the Advertiser Federation of Australia slamming Coles for running a pitch in the middle of its sale to Wesfarmers. There's a fairly simple lesson in the story. At a time of major corporate upheaval, don't pitch. Fast forward six or seven years and its Woolworths that this time at the centre of pitch "debacle", and while the names involved have changed, the issues around clients managing their processes better and treating agencies with respect are largely identical. Before I get into the pitch, let me start by saying I have no problem with the decision of Woolies to leave the business at Carat. That agency has worked hard and has clearly made a series of promises and a series of major leadership changes in an attempt to retain that business. However, the way the pitch has been handled has left a bad taste in the mouth of many of those involved. What began as a straightforward process in February and was supposed to be "over by Easter" rolled on and on for many months. There were changes to key decision makers, like the appointment in March of supermarkets CMO Tony Philips from Coles, with conspiracy theories suggesting he would award the contract for just a year. The pitch soon dissolved into an internecine internal political war between Phillips and the retailer's head of media Helen Lecopoulos, which left the industry as bystanders while the two sides argued over the result. A result where at the end of it, bar several hundred thousand dollars wasted by the agencies willing to step up and bid for the business, nothing materially changed. How did this happen? Well let's wind the clock back for a minute. Woolworths had been expected to pitch the media account since late last year. The first official confirmation that something was in the air was the appointment of Helen Lecopoulos, who departed McDonald’s for a new role as head of media. Three months later agencies were briefed and the pitch was formally called with the original line up seeing Carat and three others, OMD, MediaCom and Starcom Mediavest hoping to pick up the account. Starcom Mediavest would later pull out as it focused on the many other new business opportunities that were in the market in the first half of the year. The first curve ball arrived its March when it filtered out that Woolworths, one of the most demanding and all-consuming clients in town wanted to look at smaller "strategic agencies" with Match Media, Bohemia and Ikon originally on the list. This fitted with how Woolworths had been briefing agencies on how they wanted more "strategic leadership" on the media account. However, many in the industry questioned how a relationship with one of the big buying agencies and an independent providing additional strategic assistance (presumably on parts of the business) might work. Interestingly today's statement by Woolworths did not mention the appointment of an independent media agency. The second curve ball was the appointment of Phillips, which was the point many feel the pitch should have been called off by the client. The supermarket side of the business represents around half of the $240m media account, and while he was only one part of a voting panel in the process, Mumbrella understands Phillips strongly opposed any shift in media agency, arguing it should stay with Carat. As a side note this is the first time Carat has actually been handed the business, as it was previously won by sister Dentsu Aegis media agency Mitchell & Partners, and quietly transferred across after the retirement of patriarch Harold Mitchell last August. As a new CMO it is understandable that Phillips, who was also inheriting a brand new creative agency as Leo Burnett unexpectedly took over the account from Droga5, would be reluctant to have further changes as he bedded into the role. But it appears this position was at odds with Lecopoulos who is thought to have strongly favoured OMD, an agency she has worked with in the past at McDonald's and Telstra. Sources have described to me how there was "no love lost" between the two, particularly after The Australian, which rarely write about media pitches, ran a news story suggesting that the business would stay with Carat for one year, with Phillips wanting to later move the business to the IPG Mediabrands stable, which he has had a long relationship with as UM is the agency for Coles. Woolworths hastily issued a denial that there had been any change to the pitch, and said that the contract would be for three years, which has been borne out by today's announcements. However a number of sources have noted it includes a 30 day termination notice should Woolworths decide it is unhappy at any time. Since The Australian's article in May the last few months have seen the agencies, who did no less than four stages to pitch, waiting and waiting as Woolworths debated what it wanted to do. For many of the agencies involved the cost of the process is hundreds of thousands of dollars. While there was talk that Woolworths would compensate agencies for part of the cost, any such payment is likely to be largely token. In today's fragmented and complicated media and marketing environment clients need good agencies to do work for them and deliver good results. Implicit in that is respect for the agencies, and recognition that each agency has more than one client. I've criticised before the constant new business chase some media agencies are on, and they have to accept some responsibility. But there is also an onus on clients to recognise that when they pitch this puts a burden on agencies and often diverts major resources from existing clients. This means that the process should be fast, efficient and if there is major turmoil be it a sale, or a change of a key decision maker, then the process should be called off. Otherwise we're clearly learning nothing. Nic Christensen is deputy editor of Mumbrella.
- In this cross-posting from The Conversation science astronomer Michael J. I. Brown shares his experiences in debating with and challenging online trolls.
I often like to discuss science online and I’m also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably brings out the trolls.
“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but I’ve ignored it on occasion – including on The Conversation and Twitter – and I’ve been rewarded. Not that I’ve changed the minds of any trolls, nor have I expected to.
But I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research.
Some techniques are comically simple. Emotionally charged, yet evidence free, accusations of scams, fraud and cover-ups are common. While they mostly lack credibility, such accusations may be effective at polarising debate and reducing understanding.
And I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, trotted out that old chestnut in The Australian last week. Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, was less than impressed by Newman’s use of that tactic.
Unfortunately there are too many tactics to discuss in just one article (sorry Gish Gallop and Strawman), so I will focus on just a few that I’ve encountered online and in the media recently.
Internet trolls know who their experts are. There are thousands of professors scattered across academia, so it isn’t surprising that a few contrarians can be found. In online discussions I’ve been told of the contrarian views of “respected” professors from Harvard, MIT and Princeton.
Back in The Conversation’s early days I even copped abuse for not being at Princeton, by someone who was clearly unfamiliar with both science and my employment history. It was a useful lesson that vitriol is often disconnected from knowledge and expertise.
At times expert opinion is totally misrepresented, often with remarkable confidence.
Responding to one of my Conversation articles, the Australian Financial Review’s Mark Lawson distorted the findings of CSIRO’s John Church on sea levels.
Even after I confirmed with Church that Lawson had got the science wrong, Lawson wouldn’t back down.
Such distortions aren’t limited to online debates. In the Australian, Maurice Newman warned about imminent global cooling and cited Professor Mike Lockwood’s research as evidence.
But Lockwood himself stated last year that Solar variability this century may reduce warming by “between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we’re due to experience as a result of human activity”.
Newman’s claims were debunked, by his expert, before he even wrote his article.
Sometimes experts are quoted correctly, but they happen to disagree with the vast majority of their equally qualified (or more qualified) colleagues. How do the scientifically illiterate select this minority of experts?
I’ve asked trolls this question a few times and, funnily enough, they cannot provide good answers. To be blunt, they are choosing experts based on agreeable conclusions rather than scientific rigour, and this problem extends well beyond online debates.
Earlier this month, Senator Eric Abetz controversially seemed to link abortions with breast cancer on The Project.
While Abetz distanced himself from these claims, his media statement doesn’t dispute them and talks up the expertise of Dr Angela Lanfranchi, who does link abortions with breast cancer.
Abetz does not have expertise in medical research, so why did he give Dr Lanfranchi’s views similar or more weight than those of most doctors, including the Australian Medical Association’s president Brian Owler, who say there is no clear link between abortion and breast cancer?
If Abetz cannot evaluate the medical research data and methods, is his choice largely based on Dr Lanfranchi’s conclusions? Why won’t he accept the views of most medical professionals, who can evaluate the relevant evidence?
Abetz may be doctor shopping, not for a desired diagnosis or drug, but for an desired expert opinion. And just as doctor shopping can result in the wrong diagnosis, doctor shopping for opinions gives you misleading conclusions.
Often attacks on science employ logic so flawed that it would be laughable in everyday life. If I said my car was blue, and thus no cars are red, you would be unimpressed. And yet when non-experts discuss science, such flawed logic is often employed.
Carbon dioxide emissions are leading to rapid climate change now, and gradual natural climate change has also taken place over aeons. There’s no reason for natural and anthropogenic climate change to be mutually exclusive, and yet climate change deniers frequently use natural climate change in an attempt to disprove anthropogenic global warming.
Unfortunately our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, employed similar broken logic after the 2013 bushfires:
Australia has had fires and floods since the beginning of time. We’ve had much bigger floods and fires than the ones we’ve recently experienced. You can hardly say they were the result of anthropic [sic] global warming.Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian environment but that does not exclude climate change altering the frequency and intensity of those fires. Indeed, the Forest Fire Danger Index has been increasing across Australia since the 1970s. Why the Prime Minister would employ such flawed logic, and contradict scientific research, is puzzling. Galileo The Italian scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was infamously persecuted by the politically powerful Catholic Church because of his promotion of the sun-centred solar system. While Galileo suffered house arrest, his views ultimately triumphed because they were supported by observation, while the Church’s stance relied on theology. The Galileo Gambit is a debating technique that perverts this history to defend nonsense. Criticisms by the vast majority of scientists are equated with the opinions of 17th Century clergy, while a minority promoting pseudoscience are equated with Galileo. Ironically the Galileo Gambit is often employed by those who have no scientific expertise and strong ideological reasons for attacking science. And its use isn’t restricted to online debates. Bizarrely, even the politically powerful and well connected are partial to the Galileo Gambit. Maurice Newman (once again) rejects the consensus view of climate scientists and, when questioned on his rejection of the science, his (perhaps predictable) response was:
Well, Galileo was virtually on his own.Newman’s use of a tactic of trolls and cranks is worthy of criticism. The triumph of Galileo’s views were a result of his capacity to develop scientific ideas and test them via observation. Newman, and many of those who attack science, notably lack this ability. Michael J. I. Brown is an ARC Future Fellow and senior lecturer at Monash University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- Using big data to look at past trends is not the best way to work out what your customers want, argues Peter Swan of the UNSW Australia Business School in this cross-posting from The Conversation. A passer-by happens upon a drunk searching for a lost wallet under a streetlight. With nothing in plain sight, the passer-by asks “Where did you drop your wallet?”. “Over there,” gestures the drunk across the street, “but I’m looking here because this is where the light is.” We often look for answers in the easiest place and not necessarily where the answer is to be found. As marketing moves from subjective art toward objective, data-driven science, are we seeing the emergence of a streetlight effect? Are even the very best big-data driven practises guilty of asking the wrong questions of the wrong data? Wrong from the start Most companies turn to analytics when early growth starts to slow. The familiar refrain, “Let’s make better use of our existing data”, heralds the onset of maturity, This when the early days of triple and double-digit growth are well and truly past. Initial questions asked of big data are typically, “Who are our best customers?” and “Which products are most profitable?” It soon becomes clear that performance differs by region, season and a host of other factors. So, it’s not long before we want to know, “How do quarterly sales in region A compare with region B, on products X, Y, and Z?” Next comes propensity to respond (PTR) modelling, used to classify prospects for acquisition, cross sell, churn, or fraud. Where they exist, single customer views enable an entire family of PTR models used to determine next best actions. Competing marketing priorities soon warrant marketing mix modelling, to estimate the value of advertising spends across different channels. This naturally leads to attribution modelling, to estimate how each channel contributes to the final sale. The current holy grail of big-data driven marketing is to offer in real time the most likely product, at the most likely price, to the most likely customer, at the most likely time, via the most likely channel. The past doesn’t always help predict the future But does big data and analysis make sense in the first place? Like the drunk under the streetlight, have we been seduced into looking for the answers where it is easiest? Namely, in the data we gathered from past sales to previous customers. Is this relevant for understanding future sales to future customers? Nothing in the customer data gathered, or in the way it is presently being analysed, addresses the fundamental consumer desire. This to find the best available combination of price and product at the lowest search cost. All that segmenting and clustering and PTR scoring leaves our future consumers cold, stranded, outnumbered – feeling besieged and beset upon. Consumers are bounded rational humans optimised over generations for “fight or flight” and not for solving the multidimensional optimisation problem that is rational consumer choice. Tasked with buying a car, my siblings, with common genetic and environmental influences, will likely arrive at different consumption choices to mine. If those closest to me exhibit different preferences, then why are these “previous customer” strangers with no common nature or nurture to me being used to suggest products for me? Why model the choices of thousands of people I don’t know, and who don’t know me, in an effort to suggest products to me? No consumer identifies with the clusters or segments thrown up by maximum likelihood models. In fact this type of modelling belies the constant state of flux wrought by Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and writ large in every single consumption choice. It is a complex and rapidly changing world we inhabit with little known by these analytical models about a customer’s current preferences and circumstances. The circumstances of markets, like those of individuals, can change in an instant. Products sell out, forcing consumers to choose from what’s available or to wait. Products stagnate. Promotions and discounts alter the relative attractiveness of one product compared with another, stimulating sales of one and depressing sales of another. Individual finances wax and wane as personal circumstances alter. Each and every purchase decision is a moveable feast. Even simple choices become rapidly complicated. It is little wonder consumers throw their hands up and head for the safe harbour of brand, or convenience, or availability. Focus on ‘small data’ instead The data we should be analysing − small data − is product attributes and prices which change over time. This is the data consumers – your customers and your competitors’ customers – are using when choosing. To the extent of their ability, each consumer is assessing, comparing and evaluating the products and services on offer. These are bundles of attributes with their corresponding “shadow prices”. Trading this attribute off against that, trying to identify the best combination of attributes with their shadow prices to suit oneself. Taking into account one’s own dynamically altering preferences over the attributes and one’s own changeable circumstances. What you should be doing is maximising the “willingness to pay”, that is the “consumer surplus”, of your potential customers. They will then tend to choose your product in preference to that of your competitors, depending on the bundle of attributes provided by your product. Analysing customer data to minimise the error of estimation, isn’t helping your customers to solve their problems – it is proliferating them. The manifold combinations and permutations are adding to the burden, not lightening the load. Customers will pay you with their custom, for simply reducing their search costs. Faced as they are with overwhelming choice, customers want up-to-date, reliable, valid and trustworthy recommendations. These embody their own personal preferences and budgets, both of which are instantly available. A version of this article first appeared on BusinessThink. Peter Swan is a founder of Choice Engine and owns patent rights, and is a professor of finance at the UNSW Australia Business School. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- This has been a bad week for the newspaper industry, says Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes
As far as Australian newspapers go, this has been a most disillusioning week. I love 'em - but jeez, they make it hard.
Take last Friday. That was when it emerged that a designer on News Corp's The Daily Telegraph had casually appropriated the image of a victim of a terrorist atrocity in order to poke fun at rival Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton.
[caption id="attachment_244270" align="alignright" width="100"] Disney: attacked[/caption]
Then there was the weekend, when News Corp's The Australian decided it didn't like the way self regulatory body The Australian Press Council (declaration of interest: we're a member) was handling a complaint, so ignored the procedures it had signed up to, breached confidentiality and declared it had no confidence in chairman Julian Disney. (That's the point of having an independent press watchdog, by the way: sometimes their decisions go against you.)
I know it can be easy to knock News Corp, or its individual papers. And like all big organisations, they're capable of good and bad. I've loved The Tele's campaigning stance on major issues like the western Sydney development (and I choose to buy it just about every day), and the half century presence of The Oz has added to serious national debate.
But I know not everybody sees it that way.
Every morning I pick up the papers from my local supermarket to read over coffee at my local hipster bakery before going to work. It's a favourite part of the day.
The attitude of the staff at that supermarket selling me those papers is informative about what the public (or at least those in my latte-sipping corner of the world) think. Twice now, when one of the staff has been training a colleague serving me, he's reminded them to congratulate customers who only buy Fairfax papers and berate those who buy News Corp titles. He's kind of joking - but he's not.
Now I must admit, at the moment it's a bit too easy to know where he's coming from. I spent the rest of the weekend reading the brilliant Nick Davies book Hack Attack about the phone hacking conspiracy at News Corp's News of the World in the UK.
It's so compelling, I found myself staying up til four in the morning to finish it.
Despite the fact that this was a single culture in a single newsroom, it's hard for the reader to like the company at the end of that book. Given the many good people News Corp employs, I'm sure I'll get over that feeling, but wow, that book makes the News of the World staff seem evil.
And Fairfax depresses me for other reasons.
I've just finished Ben Hills' book on Fairfax, Stop The Presses. I had thought that I didn't have it in me to read yet another book about the decline of a once great publisher. But Hills found new ways of telling an old but sad tale.
And indeed the best of Fairfax was on display at The Kennedy Awards last Friday night. This celebration of NSW journalism was rightly dominated by Adele Ferguson of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age with her brilliant investigation into the shitbags in Commonwealth Bank's financial planning team.
When it comes to the ethos of independent journalism, put me on Team Fairfax.
Yet Hills captured the contradiction in his book - often brilliant journalists let down by bad and self-interested management over the years. As they said about the British infantry in World War One, lions led by donkeys.
Which brings me to Monday morning.
Now, I live in the centre of Sydney. I'm as urban as it's possible to be.
Yet at this major supermarket in the centre of Sydney, there were no Fairfax newspapers. They simply hadn't been delivered.
The newsagent in the same shopping centre complex informed me they'd inexplicably received just one copy of Fairfax's Australian Financial Review that day, and it had already been sold. Some days they just don't arrive at all, he said. (To be honest, he didn't seem that bothered - the queue for lotto tickets was pretty healthy at the time.)
So here we have Australia's last best hope of keeping News Corp honest unable to do the one thing it's been in the business of for the last 173 years - reliably delivering its newspapers to places that sell it in the centre of Australia's biggest city.
On a Monday, the day the AFR and The Australian publish their media sections, this was frustrating.
It was also a depressing reminder of what life might be like when there's only one major newspaper publisher left.
Then I came to work, where EMMA - Enhanced Media Metrics Australia - had released its numbers. It marked the one year anniversary since this metric - commissioned and paid for by Australia's print publishers - launched.
And without a hint of a smile, the data was claiming that while print circulation might be down, readership was soaring.
Then on Tuesday came the turn of the measurement company which EMMA appears to have been set up to knock off - Roy Morgan Research. It tried to launch an eye-bleeding new metric claiming to link audience spend with individual magazine titles. It felt about as scientific as creationism.
But the biscuit was thoroughly taken on Thursday.
That was when Fairfax Media revealed its annual financial figures, which on the face of it showed some stabilisation.
The four top executives had been given big rises in their packages - about $2.4m. Bigger, according to the journalists' union, than the total amount offered to the 600 journos in the company's metropolitan newsrooms.
My colleague Nic Christensen asked Fairfax for a comment. Fairfax's spin consultant Sue Cato, who advised "no comment".
General counsel Gail Hambly (enjoying a total rise of $300,000, taking her up to a package of $1.063m) had her own views:
“Of course the aggressive response is that the increases are all incentive based- ie the management was prepared to back itself to achieve set targets- something the journalists are refusing to do. There were NO base pay increases.”We know this because Cato accidentally forwarded the email chain to The Australian. It's worth at this point examining what Hambly - along with CEO Greg Hywood; Allen Williams, MD of the Australian publishing media division and chief financial officer David Housego - are actually backing themselves on. The information is in the annual report. Turns out that all four of them have the same KPIs. And one of those KPIs is reducing cost. Which in large part has been achieved by firing journalists and photographers, and making printers redundant by shutting the presses at Tullamarine and Chullora. (Or "cost reduction targets" as the report more benignly puts it.) [caption id="attachment_244947" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Fairfax executive incentive plan | Source: ASX[/caption] In Hambly's case this directly makes up 10 per cent of her incentive. So, I guess she's $37,500 better off thanks in part to all that crying in the lift Ben Hills wrote about. I'm sure those people working for her will be delighted she backed herself. Luckily only five per cent of her incentive was made up of increasing the company's revenue. I see it actually fell below $2bn for the first time in many years. Lucky for her she didn't back herself more there. And luckily, all four still got some bonuses against revenue despite it going down. Incidentally, those cost savings were worth $144,000 to Hywood, $99,000 to Housego and $46,500 to Williams. That's without counting the additional dollars they got against their profit targets. [caption id="attachment_244951" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Fairfax executive incentive plan targets | Source: ASX[/caption] The observant reader of the report might also notice that the company has also just had its second worst profits result in the last five years. I'm not convinced that the turnaround is as complete as it tries to suggest. Funnily enough all the buzzwords about content marketing and building the events business in the previous report were barely covered this time around. [caption id="attachment_244955" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Source: ASX[/caption] Those staff mulling over how to react to their zero per cent pay rise offer may also like to reflect that the total pay for the top four rose by 58 per cent last year - from $4.1m to $6.5m. [caption id="attachment_244953" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Fairfax management remuneration | Source: ASX[/caption] Not by the way that I would claim myself able to do any better job. Hywood is playing the hand he has been dealt, with the board he has got, as well as anybody could reasonably be expected to. But the us-and-them nature of the "backing ourselves" comment points to a big divide between management and workers. Particularly when incentives are so skewed towards firing people. Which brings me to today. And the quarterly newspaper sales figures, released this morning. And to be honest, these make me feel sad rather than angry. Print sales are still going down across the board, and digital numbers are going up nowhere near fast enough to make up the shortfall. We get a bit more of of a picture from the fact that Fairfax revealed its paywall revenues yesterday - $24m. Given that The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are claiming digital subs of 255,000 across the two titles (and they won't say any more what afr.com.au gets) this suggests each subscription is worth less than $2 per week. That's not even a single edition of the paper. And the growth curves are far too flat to suggest this will improve fast enough to offset the print declines. Which is less than encouraging. In truth, I bought the papers as usual today, and I'll go on buying them tomorrow. There's still a lot to love about them - and the people who produce them. But when you find out what their bosses really think - and that "backing yourself" is hitting your bonus targets - it's really hard to like the people they work for.
- Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
- After the tragic news of Robin Williams' death after a struggle with depression Oli Shawyer shares the story of his battle with the black dog, and how talking about it helped him beat it. The news of Robin Williams rocked me to my core yesterday. I didn’t know the man personally but there is something so profoundly tragic about a comedian, someone whose job it is to make us laugh every day, suffering so intensely. To be fair, it’s a testament to how fucked up depression really is – that it can somewhat delude a man beloved by so many people, into deciding that he is better off dead. By now, you would know that Robin Williams has committed suicide. And whilst I could never do him the service justified, I’m not actually here to talk about him. I’m here to talk about depression and anxiety within our industry. Ultimately an industry in which success is based very much on the opinion of external audiences, incredible time pressures, almost unbearable workloads, and predominately extroverted social beings that have substantial reputations to uphold. An industry where we individually work so hard to constantly please so many others, whilst all at the same time forgetting about ourselves as we take constant hits to our confidence, our ability, our character. It’s incredibly difficult not to take it personally. So where is this going... I’ve been working in the industry for almost seven years and I was first diagnosed with severe depression and extremely severe anxiety approximately four years ago. It’s fair to say I was quite a mess and in desperate need for help. I used to sit on the train in to work crying as I stared out the window – trying to convince myself that everything was going to be ok – that I could get through the day. I used to look at everyone else through my sunglasses and wish I was them. They smiled. They laughed. They didn’t smile. They didn’t laugh. I didn’t care – I just figured they were better off than I was. I’d sit in work meetings and my mind would panic incessantly. To try and cope with the moment, I used to dig my fingers into my legs, my arms, my body – inciting enough pain to distract myself and avoid bursting into tears in front of everyone. This would happen every single day for weeks at a time. I felt as low as I think I could ever go. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t know how to stop my mind from racing. I no longer had any control over my thoughts and I had somehow developed an ability to take a truly trivial topic, and in the same draw of breath, allow it to transform into a monster of self-destruction. From “Am I prepared for this meeting” to “these people in the meeting don’t like me” to “I don’t like me”. I refused to tell anyone what was going on, and in fact hid from everyone to avoid having to do so. I made a solid effort of destroying a number of personal and professional relationships and I’d done a pretty decent job of pretty much throwing away my future in advertising. It was also at this time that I literally ‘ran away’ from my new role at an established advertising agency, to check myself into the nearest GP. From there I was immediately referred to a psychologist and have since worked every day at beating every aspect of this debilitating illness. For so long I thought I was alone. I thought that I could handle this all by myself. It took me far too long to actively seek help because I was stubborn. I was naïve and I was so scared of what people would say. And that is exactly why I write today – to tell you, to remind you, to somewhat assure you. You are never alone. You don’t need to handle this by yourself. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late to get help. And most importantly – no one is ever going to judge you. Whilst everyone is different, having an ear to talk to is one of the most effective ways to work through this. Whilst there are a number of other incredible tools which I used through organisations such as Beyondblue, nothing worked better for me than educating myself, learning about it and talking to people about it. And I hope to continue doing so. If you think you have any of the symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t keep it to yourself. Just as importantly, if one of your co-workers or friends may be struggling, let them know you’re there. Surely we all can’t be that busy that we can’t stop, drop everything and genuinely ask how they are doing. Embrace depression and anxiety and own it. Because the moment you do, is the moment you start learning how to deal with it, and the moment things get just a little bit easier. After all, “you’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” RIP Robin Williams. For help and support call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 46 36 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au Oli Shawyer is management partner at Behaviour Change Partners
- In this cross-posting from The Conversation Nicholas Sheppard of Victoria University explores what measures have so far been tried, and failed, to stop copyright infringement and piracy.
There’s been a bit of talk recently about getting internet service providers (ISPs) involved in the enforcement of copyright law. The federal Attorney-General and Minister for Communications recently released an Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper in the belief that "even where an ISP does not have a direct power to prevent a person from doing a particular infringing act, there still may be reasonable steps that can be taken by the ISP to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement".
Exactly what might be “reasonable steps” and how they might be funded are among the subjects up for discussion. Critics fear that it means turning ISPs into copyright police.
Before evaluating any new steps, it’s worth recalling digital copyright measures that have been implemented before – to see what worked, and what didn’t.
Software makers struggled with illegal copying of software long before the media industry came up against the internet. Beginning in the 1980s, software makers developed a variety of schemes seeking to prevent people from making copies of software without paying the original software maker.
By the 1990s, digital audio technology had progressed such that listeners were able to make high-quality copies of music. Like the software industry before it, the music industry turned to technology that sought to prevent CDs being used with copying devices.
Since CDs were not originally designed to prevent copying, most schemes violated the original CD specification in some way. This meant that copy-protected CDs could be unreliable and even damaging.
In the most infamous case, Sony’s Extended Copy Protection system was found to install a “rootkit” – a hidden piece of software usually associated with viruses – on computers.
A digital watermark is a signal inserted into a media file that cannot be heard or seen by humans, but can be recovered by a computer.
Watermarks were supposed to prevent or deter copyright infringement in various ways, but the nearest they came to commercial implementation was through the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).
SDMI went on hiatus in 2001, citing a lack of agreement on the suitability of the available technologies. Watermarking technology probably just didn’t work well enough: watermarks were either too easy to remove, or too audible to listeners.
Digital rights management
Digital rights management (DRM) schemes allow sellers of media files to associate those files with a licence, which sets out what the buyer can and can’t do with their purchases. In principle, DRM schemes have several advantages over simply dictating to users that they shall not make copies:
- sellers can implement business models that aren’t based on the old sell-one-copy model. It is possible to write licences that support subscription models, freemium models, viral models and others
- licences can permit certain legitimate uses of copying, such as copying a file from a media collection to a portable player
- media players could be built to support licensing from the ground up instead of trying to retrofit an existing technology.
- In this guest post, Darren Woolley wonders which role in an agency – creative, media, digital, planning or account management – is the most valuable to the client. In benchmarking the cost of an ad agency’s staff, you generally find that the rate a client pays is commensurate with the experience or seniority of the resource. But the question of value goes beyond just cost to determining the return on the investment. So in considering the value we need to balance the cost of the resource against how much they contribute to the ROI. It is important to note that all parties make a contribution. Media, creative and digital are all responsible for completing their part of the process to deliver the desired outcome. There is no point running media if you have no content. And likewise a great idea is worthless if no one ever sees or hears about it. So putting these to one side, (collective responsibility and increase in cost associated with seniority) if we look at each of the individual functions, their roles and responsibilities and the cost, we can appreciate if any one area offers greater value than anyone else in the advertising process. To assist with this, we are applying a value index purely to provide a numeric comparison between each and to further the discussion on agency value. Starting with account management, this is seen as the lynchpin of the process, liaising between client and agency and managing the outputs of the relationship. The more strategic the account manager, the more value and insight they can add. But at the most basic role and responsibility the value they add is in quality control and the efficient running of the account. I would give them a value index of 5/10. The strategy planner is responsible for developing the communications strategy, which is important in ensuring you have the right message to achieve the marketing and business objective. But quality strategists are in short supply and high demand commanding significantly higher rates than their account management colleagues and even some of their creative colleagues. Value index: 7/10. There is a lot of focus on creative rates and fees, and it is true that at the top end, a handful of creative talent in creative director and executive creative director roles are charged out at significantly higher rates based on industry reputation. While much of the industry is focused on creativity and especially awards, many successful advertisers are not relaying on Award-Winning work to drive their business success. Value Index. 6/10. Most agencies are increasingly integrating digital, but where they offer specialist digital resources (excluding off-shoring development to lower cost markets) there is still often a premium over their non-digital equivalents. This is often explained on the shortage of experienced digital talent. In the face of no obvious increased effectiveness or results this continued premium impacts the potential value of the resources. Value index: 7/10. Media is still the largest investment area for most advertisers, both digital and traditional media. Yet media agency staff, except at the highest levels, are inclined to be charged at a discount to their creative and digital agency equivalent. Media planners are often overlooked in the whole scheme of the advertising process, but they have the ability to ensure that the advertising message is delivered to the right audience in the best environment against the campaign requirements. Of course they have significant research and insights to inform and justify their strategy. But they also have the most significant financial investment as their responsibility, while paid comparatively less. Value index: 9/10. Media buyers on the other hand get to spend the significant media budget using the media plan provided. In the process a good media buyer can negotiate additional discounts and added value to increase the delivered media value for the plan. In some cases, and with enough time, a media plan can add an additional 40 per cent or more in value. That is a significant return on the media investment and a huge return on the relatively small cost of the media buyer’s salary. But just delivering more value of the wrong media is no value at all. Value index. 9/10. So there you have it. The hidden value in the ad agency is in the media department. They are paid comparatively less than their creative and digital agency colleagues, but they have the ability to deliver significant real and strategic value to the advertiser through their management of the media budget. But as I’ve said, all parties have a role to play and value to add. But some more than others. Darren Woolley is the managing director of client-agency relationship consultancy TrinityP3. He is also the former creative director of JWT in Australia.
- Yesterday satirist John Oliver launched a blistering attack on native advertising describing it as "repurposed bovine waste". In this guest post, content marketing specialist Richard Parker calls bullshit on Oliver's argument.
I’m usually a big fan of John Oliver. What’s not to like? The lefty credentials? The anti-Fox news stance? The fact that he’s from Birmingham? But his latest piece vilifying native advertising leaves me a bit cold.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Native Advertising
Now, I’m no massive fan of native advertising. I’m fairly philosophically apposed to the bringing together of editorial ‘state’ and business ‘church’ (or is it the other way around? Never been quite sure). But I’m also not a big fan of picking on easy targets or the setting up of straw men - and I think this piece does both. It also shows some really dull thinking, which is even more offensive.
Let's deal with easy targets first. Everyone hates big old evil corporations, and everyone hates advertising and marketing. It’s the way they just force us all to buy things we don’t want, right? Because without them we would all be happy eating shit food, driving cheap, shit cars, living in really ugly homes and wearing head-to-toe velour. Balls. Marketing just perpetuates basic evolutionary psychology that exists anyway (costly signalling theory etc) - it’s human nature to buy stuff that simultaneously says something about our individuality whilst ensuring we defiantly fit in with everyone else. Advertising plays a role, but it would happen anyway.We’re social animals. We chatter. But it’s easy to stir up an audience by banging on about evil corporations, so old Johnny does just that. It wouldn’t bother me if he was talking about something REALLY evil and underhand, like using slaves to pick tea or something - but he’s not. He’s talking about native advertising, which, y’know, isn’t really all that evil. Secondly, setting up a straw man. Corporations have been controlling the news agenda for a long time - and much more surreptitiously than through native. Good old PR is nothing more than corporations controlling the news. Pharma companies have used ‘survey results’ to drum up demand for products for years. At least Chevron clearly sponsored the piece about changing energy needs in the New York Times - it seems a lot more honest to me than commissioning a market research company to ask some very leading questions and then releasing the results to journos as a press release. And if you read ANY lifestyle magazine, the content is nothing more than marketing, really. They’re all selling something - if not a specific product, then a - you guessed it - lifestyle, which keeps the old commercial engine revolving just as wonderfully as advertising itself, native or otherwise. And don’t get me started on press owners disseminating their personal ideology through their esteemed organs, rather than reporting facts. So has anything really changed, or is this just a straw man distracting from the real story, which is that the ‘press’ has not been ‘free’ pretty much ever?
Dull thinking? Look, Buzzfeed can be a great tool, and I genuinely don’t mind sponsored content on there - as long as it’s entertaining or actually useful. But seriously, 9 Ways Cleaning Has Become Smarterchevron engergy needs new yo? Try harder, Swiffer. Try a LOT harder.
So, sorry John. You’ve lost me on this one. Can you get back to sticking it to Republicans? Richard Parker is managing partner at content marketing agency Edge
- In recent days 'tapegate' has consumed much of the Victorian political news cycle. In this cross posting from The Conversation academic Mark Pearson looks at legalities around journalists recording sources.
It is a sad day when senior political figures steal a journalist’s recording device and destroy its contents, as we have been told happened at this year’s Victorian Labor Party conference. But it is an even sadder day when we hear a major newspaper – The Age – justifying a senior reporter secretly recording their conversations with sources.
That newspaper’s editorial thundered at state opposition leader Daniel Andrews:
Here is a lesson in the law, Mr Andrews: it is not illegal in this state to record people without their consent if you are a party to the call.The journalist involved – Sunday Age state political editor Farrah Tomazin – went even further in her account:
It is not illegal or against our code of ethics to record private conversations for the accuracy of note-taking – but it was my responsibility to keep that information secure.While I accept the mea culpa on the lack of information security, I am sceptical that the newspaper and the reporter are on solid ground legally or ethically. But before we go into a quick review of the relevant law and ethics let me tell you why I think it is such a sad day. There is not much new that the community has learned about its politicians and their minders from this mess: they cheat and lie for political advantage. The far more newsworthy – and depressing – news in this story is that journalists’ sources can never be sure whether their trusted reporter is secretly recording their telephone or face-to-face conversation. We are coming to expect that of our federal policing and security agencies, particularly as they are given progressively more legal powers to do this, but there are laws, ethical codes and damn good reasons to stop journalists doing it. This kind of practice is selling out the brand of quality journalism as we knew it – that trust between a journalist and a source was a two-way street and that a contact could confide in a reporter with background or off-the-record comments or information knowing it was as safe as houses. They would go to jail to keep it secret. We continually hear that the future of the legacy media is in the trust capital they have earned with audiences over centuries of fair and accurate reporting. This incident seriously erodes that – particularly when we hear a major newspaper excusing it as acceptable practice for its journalists. What do journalist codes of ethics say? Firstly, to ethics. I’m not sure how either the reporter or editor are interpreting The Age’s own Code of Conduct or the MEAA’s Journalists' Code of Ethics, but each has a clause addressing this kind of behaviour. The Age Code of Conduct states at clause 11:
Only fair and honest means should be used to obtain material. Misrepresentation and the use of concealed equipment or surveillance devices should be avoided. The use of deceptive methods or subterfuge may be condoned only where the Editor is convinced that the potential story is of vital public interest and there is no other way of obtaining the story.It doesn’t appear the editor has issued any special permission in advance here. The MEAA Code of Ethics states at clause 8:
Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material.No matter what the law says, I find it hard to accept that secretly recording a conversation – whether over the phone or in person – represents “fair and honest means” for obtaining information. What do federal and state laws say? In the midst of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal in the UK, I blogged about the fact that Australian journalists break surveillance laws every day. There are laws affecting this practice at both Commonwealth and state/territory level, but both appear to offer The Age some wiggle room. Under Commonwealth law, it is an offence to intercept (listen to or record) a communication passing over a “telecommunications system” without the knowledge of the person making the communication. This is detailed in section 7(1) of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, which states:
A person shall not: a) intercept; b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept; a communication passing over a telecommunications system.Thus, for the secret recording of the telephone interview in this instance, The Age may be on shaky ground. This would depend on what device was used for the telephone recording and whether it was configured so that it actually “intercepted” the conversation while it was still passing over the telecommunications system. Of course, I’d hate to see them charged over it and I hope the Federal Police have bigger fish to fry. Each of the states and territories also has legislation prohibiting the recording of a private conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation, by someone who is not a party. In some places it is an offence even to record the conversation without a party to the conversation knowing it is being recorded, but the Victorian law is quite generous to someone who might secretly record a conversation to which he or she is a party. Section 11 of the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 states:
A person must not knowingly communicate or publish a record or report of a private conversation or private activity that has been made as a direct or indirect result of the use of a listening device, an optical surveillance device or a tracking device.It does not apply to a “communication or publication that is no more than is reasonably necessary – in the public interest”. It means that in this instance – on state law – The Age is likely in the clear. It did not publish the fruits of the recording. Even if it had, if a court agreed with an argument that the material was of such public importance that its publication was “reasonably necessary in the public interest” then it would be excused. But this brings us to a tangle in logic. If there is not the intention to communicate or publish the fruits of such a secret recording, then what value is it to anyone? There was a time – and I hope this is still the standard practice elsewhere – when a journalist would put down their notebook or turn off their recorder when a source wanted to go “off the record”. That’s what those three words mean. Any journalist worth their salt would listen carefully to deep background or off-the-record briefings – and remember the jewels they had been told so they might use other means to get them published later. Clearly, those days are long gone at The Age, where an editor is now happy to put all sources on notice that they might be secretly recorded next time they are talking to a reporter. In the public interest, of course. It is indeed a sad day for Australian journalism. Mark Pearson is a journalist, author, educator and researcher. He is Professor of Journalism and Social Media at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. This article appeared originally on the No Fibs website. This article is a crossposting and was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- With controversy over the criteria of entry for some Cannes Lions categories Phil Johnston argues the Creative Effectiveness category is the most rigorous 'effie' in the world. Don’t worry. I’m not entering the debate on whether some Lion winners are scam. There are enough voices on that. And my starting point isn’t even creativity. Because let’s not forget that creativity is just a means to an end. What is that end? Meeting our clients’ objectives, whatever they may be. That’s what I’m here to do. If you work in an agency that’s what you should be doing as well. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong game. You should want to be winning Effectiveness Awards. It’s proof that you’re doing the job your clients need you to be doing. And when it comes to winning effectiveness awards, the Cannes Creative Effectiveness category sets the benchmark. Here’s why: 1. Credibility. [caption id="attachment_105185" align="alignright" width="234"] Doug Pitt[/caption] Cannes Lions employ Price Waterhouse Coopers to audit every Effectiveness entry they receive. And boy are they relentless. After we’d entered they came back to us on three separate occasions, each time asking for verification of data and claims that we made in our case study (Virgin Mobile: Fair Go Bro featuring Doug Pitt). And giving them the source of the data wasn’t enough, they needed to see the original reports/documents from which the data came. That thoroughness and scrutiny means that you know a Cannes Effectiveness winner is credible. 2. You’re battling the best. Only work that either won a Lion or was shortlisted the year previously is eligible for entry. So you know your case study is going up against some of the best creative work in the world. We all know creativity and effectiveness go hand in hand. Various extensive research studies have proven it, most notably the Gunn Report and the IPA/Gunn Study. Creativity sells. No argument on that. Because you’re up against some of the most creative work you’re up against some of the most effective work too. 3. It’s Global You’re fighting in a much bigger pond. The world. It doesn’t get any bigger. Enough said. The reasons above are why you should want to win a Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lion. But looked at very simply it’s about this: It’s indisputable proof that your agency (and you) are doing a damn fine job by your clients. So that’s the ‘why’, what about the ‘how’? Having written a case study this year I have a few observations on what might help you win. I’m not arrogant enough to think I know all the answers but my experience might just help you get over the line next year. Realism: Take a look at previous winners (and Effie winners too). Ask yourself if you’ve got the data you need to meet the level of proof you can see in these winning cases. Be harsh on what you’ve got. If you don’t have the proof you need, save yourself the time and effort. Because, believe me, winning will take a lot of both. Focus: Work out what your storyline is, make it as singular as possible and bloody well stick to it. Think of the amount of cases the judges have to read. The tighter your story the more likely they are to stick with it. No detours, no cul-de-sacs, every word and piece of data supporting the focused story you are weaving. Perseverance: Each time a Price Waterhouse Coopers request came through for more proof of data I was so close to giving it all away. It was only a streak of stubbornness I didn’t realise I had that kept me going. That and the help, patience and lots of data from the great people at Virgin Mobile, One Green Bean and Starcom, our partner agencies on Virgin Mobile. Stick with it, you just never know. So, no debate about Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions. They are a demanding and credible celebration of effectiveness. And that’s why you should really want to win one. Because they prove what we all instinctively know. Great work, works. Phil Johnston, Havas Worldwide head of strategy, wrote the Virgin Mobile Doug Pitt case study which won one of six Creative Effectiveness Gold Lions at Cannes this year. This year McCann Melbourne won the Grand Prix while DDB Sydney also won in the category.
- Mumbrella will no longer attend the Cannes Lions. Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes argues that the scam in Cannes has become too much...
I love everything about the Cannes Lions experience. So I'm sad that I'm probably never going to get to do it again.
I've spent some great, late nights in the Gutter Bar. (A tip for any ECD looking to build their profile: buy a hard-up hack a drink on expenses in the Gutter Bar and you'll never be forgotten.)
I've seen inspiring presentations that have stayed with me. (PHD guru Mark Holden's prediction about media agencies of the future splitting into mad men and math men is one I've recycled many times since.)
I even got to shake hands with a disdainful Rupert Murdoch on one occasion. (That night, James was far more outgoing.)
But it's not the drinking or the thinking that created the Cannes Lions legend. It's the awards themselves. Winning big makes agencies and careers.
I vividly remember being on the phone in the early hours of the morning from my office in Chippendale to Sean Cummins as he prepared to pick up one of his agency's many Grand Prix for Best Job in the World in 2009. It was utterly thrilling.
And I was lucky enough to be in the offices of Whybin\TBWA Auckland in 2007 as news filtered through that they had won the Promo Grand Prix for Adidas Bonded By Blood. There's no finer place to be than in the boardroom of an agency when that sort of news breaks. It means French champagne for breakfast, of course.
So the Lions is an event I associate with good times.
But, after the last few weeks, I'm no longer a believer.
I can no longer justify sending our journalists half way around the world in order to fill in our readers on the awards results.
The last six weeks or so have been eye-opening as it began to hit home just how far removed from reality the Cannes Lions have become.
It began on June 16 when our editor Alex Hayes filed a straightforward piece from Cannes on the disappointingly short shortlist of Aussie agencies in the running for the Press Lions.
He dropped me an email, pointing out: "There are campaigns getting metal here we've never heard of and I can't find a trace of online."
So we started to ask a few questions.
Then the winners came thorough. Leo Burnett Sydney, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney and DDB were the three lucky Aussie agencies.
Leos very quickly let us know where their silver-winning campaign for WWF ran - Time magazine. You cant argue with that.
As you may have read, Saatchis wouldn't talk to us about the Panasonic ads, and DDB wasn't saying anything about its Bic Mac Legends campaign which didn't even have a logo on it.
Luckily though, we had a tip-off. We discovered that the McDonald's campaign ran in local paper The Rouse Hill Times on the very last day of qualifying for this year's Lions. The paper, as you'll be aware if you've been reading Mumbrella lately, is News Local's cheapest title, with rate card for a half page costing less than a grand.
You'll also be aware that a hallmark of scam advertising is when it runs once, in a cheap outlet, just before an awards deadline. If the production cost more than the advertising space, then something is usually amiss.
Technically, it may still qualify - depending on your definition of scam. But I prefer creative Paul Fishlock's definition:
"Scam is advertising that would not exist if there were no award shows".That's a great way of looking at it. I am, by the way, completely in favour of awards. But they need to recognise real problem-solving work, not work created for the purpose of winning awards, then retrofitted to reach minimum qualification levels. In the Mumbrella Awards, for instance, we ask shortlisted teams to present to a jury. It's drilled into our jurors that if they are not 100 per cent convinced, then the entry should not win. I stress it in every one of our jury briefings. [caption id="attachment_230041" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Mumbrella Awards jury briefing[/caption] Our strictness - we're quite honest that they are some of the hardest to enter in the industry - may cost us some money in the short term. But we believe that long term credibility is more important. It would, I imagine, be harder to turn your back on entry fees once they are rolling in. This year, I'm told that the popular rumour on La Croisette was that owner Top Right Group is looking to sell Lions Festivals. If so, it might be a very bad moment to discourage the $30m or so in fees this competition brings in each year. So I understand that the stakes are high. But I also understand that we're in danger of testing our readers' patience on this as an issue. We have been talking about it a lot. And after this week, we'll aim to move on. [caption id="attachment_241194" align="aligncenter" width="468"] At least the logo made it onto this McDonald's message[/caption] There are others who form the view that we shouldn't ask these questions because it's unAustralian to query winning campaigns. On Monday night, we finally got to put a question to McDonald's CMO Mark Lollback about their Rouse Hill Times Big Mac Legends campaign. He and Cannes Lions boss Terry Savage gave a presentation to the ADMA Creative Fuel conference on how to win a Lion. For the last month, Lollback has been declining our requests to talk to him, although he did inform Creative Fuel's audience that he was a brave marketer, willing to put his on on the line and disobey his bosses in Chicago for a campaign (the Australia Day Maccas renaming project) that he believed in. To be honest, we weren't sure if we'd be allowed to ask a question after their presentation. We asked ADMA four times in the days leading up to the event if it would be okay and weren't really given an answer. Anyway, I made sure I sat right at the front, and got my hand in the air for the first question. Sadly, the moderator couldn't spot me there in the front row, right in front of her. It became a bit awkward as I think mine was the only hand in the air. Then she took a different approach to that adopted for the rest of the day. "Let's take a question from the back." Luckily - just in case I happened to be accidentally rendered invisible while sitting in the front row, we had taken a small precaution. The four of us who attended from Mumbrella took the liberty of arriving separately and splitting up. So the first hand to go up at the back of the room belonged to my colleague Nic Christensen. The workshopped answer from Lollback - a marketer who I admire a great deal - was disappointing. First he told the audience: "I thought we had addressed this issue at length". (For future reference: refusing to comment and issuing a single bland statement does not an issue address. If he'd like to address it, there's an open invitation to Mumbrella House for a live video chat.) Lollback then suggested that the question was an example of "the tall poppy syndrome". In other countries he had worked in, they celebrated success, he said. The "attitude" we should be taking was to celebrate when Australian agencies win awards. That is - with respect - bullshit. We've celebrated many McDonald's campaigns - including the Maccas renaming for Australia Day that he was apparently willing to get fired over, the McDonald's Get's Grilled campaign which won the Mumbrella Award for Bravery in 2012, and the food tracker app. But that doesn't give a free pass if the only campaign that won you a Lion this year ran once, on awards deadline day, in one of the cheapest newspapers in the country. And more to the point, we've celebrated hundreds of Australian campaigns. Mumbrella has been around for the last six Cannes Lions. During that time. we've reported on dozens of shortlists and hundreds of winners. Our journalists have sat in a lot of jury press conferences and celebrated a lot of local success. When it comes to the Lions though, if I'm embarrassed about anything, it's that we've only now started asking enough questions. In part, that's because as marketing journalists, we want to believe. Back when I worked in Dubai, I remember the region winning its first Gold Lion in 2006. It was only years later that I realised I hadn't asked the right questions to be sure it wasn't scam. The words "tactical spot" and a vague media schedule of "some parts of the Middle East" didn't raise any alarm bells back then. Now they are though. As you'll have read yesterday, we looked at all 20 of the Australian entries for the Press Lions this year. At least nine of the campaigns look to me like they wouldn't necessarily pass the test of: "Would these campaigns exist if there were no awards shows?" This also says something profoundly depressing about the state of real print advertising in Australia. It's now nearly two months since Cannes. If the Lions wanted to address any of this, they would have done so by now. As soon as chairman Terry Savage justified The Rouse Hill Times campaigns with the line that "Super Bowl ads only run once", it was clear where he stood. We can't change the system on our own - and nor are we entitled to. A lot of people like how it works. It must be nice to be invited onto a jury and stay in a beautiful hotel in a beautiful town. It's nice getting your company to pay for you to attend in the hope of bringing back metal. And for winning marketers, it's nice to be feted. The trade press journos like it - and defend it - too (The Australian's Darren Davidson believes the issue is "boring and deeply unimportant"). There are a lot of people who the system suits very well. And there comes a point where bleating on about it becomes boring for all concerned. If brands are comfortable with their agencies behaving this way; if agencies are happy winning this way, then eventually we have to accept it for what it is. Perhaps we should try and see it like a fantasy football league. It's a chance for agencies to show off their creative skill albeit not necessarily in solving real business problems. But once we start looking at it that way, it becomes impossible to justify putting our journos on a plane to the South of France. While we send our journalists to Cannes, publish every shortlist, and race around jury press conferences in order to churn out local winners' lists, we are a part of the problem. Which is a shame, because great, real work gets rewarded too. One day, things may change. We might see the Lions organisers taking actions which suggest they are serious about not rewarding work that only exists because awards exist. Right now though, my view is that the Lions have got a business to run, and their business model relies on scammers paying entry fees too. So be it. But from now on, count us out. You won't find our journalists in the jury press conferences. We won't uncritically report every shortlist as an automatic triumph. I suspect we won't even be allowed access to the embargoed results ahead of time. From a distance, we'll take a more critical look. We'll aim to celebrate the winners who entered real work that helped solve big marketing problems. But we won't be part of the festival. It's time for us to leave the tent. We can't change the system, but we don't have to be a part of it.
- Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
- In this cross-posting from The Conversation Nicolas Suzor and Alex Button-Sloan from the Queensland University of Technology look at why the leaked plans to change copyright laws could lead to a lot of unintended problems for consumers. The Australian Government has proposed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor and punish Australians who download and infringe copyright. In a discussion paper circulated by Attorney-General George Brandis, and leaked by Crikey last Friday, the government proposes a sweeping change to Australian copyright law. If implemented, it would force ISPs to take steps to prevent Australians from infringing copyright. What these steps might be is very vague. They could include blocking peer-to-peer traffic, slowing down internet connections, passing on warnings from industry groups, and handing over subscriber details to copyright owners. The move comes in response to claims that Australians are among the biggest downloaders of films and television series. Under intense pressure from Hollywood and Foxtel, the government wants to do something to combat copyright infringement. Unlikely to help pricing and availability [caption id="attachment_241239" align="alignright" width="234"] Button-Sloan[/caption] The problem is that this move is not likely to make things better. Similar schemes have been tried around the world, but there is little evidence they actually work to reduce copyright infringement. This draft proposal does nothing to address the basic issue that Australians are not being fairly treated by the copyright industries. Compared to consumers in the United States, Australians pay more for digital downloads, have less choice in how they can access film and television, face large delays before content is released, and much foreign content is still not available at all in Australia. Recent research suggests that Australian consumers feel ripped off by distributors, and this is a key reason why they choose to download films and television instead. If foreign film and television networks want to reduce illicit downloading, many think that their first step should be to provide better, cheaper, and more convenient legal ways for consumers to pay for access. Unintended consequences Meanwhile, the draft proposal is likely to have serious unintended consequences. It is likely to raise the price of internet access in Australia, as ISPs will pass on the increased costs of monitoring and enforcing copyright. The proposals will also cause major uncertainty in copyright law. The government plans to overturn the recent iiNet case, where the High Court ruled that ISPs are not responsible when people use BitTorrent to download films. The Court sent a strong message that iiNet could not be liable because it did not control BitTorrent protocols and did nothing to encourage their use. The iiNet case confirmed a basic principle of copyright law: service providers are only responsible for the conduct of third parties when they have some control over their acts. The leaked proposal will remove this limit and, with it, the ability of the law to clearly distinguish between real wrongdoers and companies who merely provide general purpose services to consumers. This will massively increase the potential risks for companies that provide legitimate services. As well as ISPs, these include hardware manufacturers, cloud service providers, libraries, schools and universities, and many others. Requiring service providers to act as copyright police is also dangerous. It removes the safeguards that our courts provide in ensuring the law is applied fairly. Copyright law is incredibly complicated, and allegations of infringement made by copyright owners against consumers have historically been notoriously inaccurate. ISPs are not well placed to investigate these claims, and there is a serious risk that consumers might be unfairly punished under these proposals. Consumers left out of the debate The proposals create a strong incentive for ISPs to agree to rightsholder demands to protect their interests. They do not, however, provide much protection for consumers, who will have no seat at the negotiating table. The proposals are also ominously vague. They include the threat that more regulations will be introduced if ISPs do not go far enough to protect copyright. Eventually, this could also turn into a so-called “three-strikes” regime, where entire households are disconnected from the internet after several allegations of infringement. Despite having been in the works for at least six months, this leak is the first time the public has been able to see any details. Meanwhile, the Attorney-General has been meeting with copyright lobbyists, but apparently not yet with either consumer groups or with telecommunications companies. It seems the Attorney-General’s Department didn’t even listen to Malcolm Turnbull’s Communications Department, which has stressed the importance of ensuring that Australians have increased access to legitimate sources of content at a fair price. Once the leaked proposals are officially released, Australians will have less than a month to comment. Since this is likely to impact on everyone, we suggest that you add your voice to the debate - but you’ll have to be quick. Nicolas Suzor is senior lecturer, at the Queensland University of Technology school of law. Alex Button-Sloan is a fellow of Queensland University of Technology's IP & innovation law research program. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
- Last week Nine Entertainment Co made a $1m investment to buy eight per cent of streaming company Quickflix, whilst preparing to launch its own operation StreamCo. Here Nic Christensen looks at the underlying reasons for Nine buying into a rival. In the world of video streaming last week's investment by Nine into rival Quickflix did not go unnoticed, but as always with these deals the devil is in the detail. In this case, a series of warrants and covenants that came with this batch of shares. Predictably, in the wake of the announcement, speculation quickly followed that US streaming giant Netflix would also seek to invest in the long troubled Australian video service Quickflix. However that theory was quickly scotched. And with good reason. The history here is important. The 83 million preference shares in question were previously owned by content partner HBO who amid a cashflow crisis in 2012 chose to step in to save Quickflix. When Nine picked up the shares two weeks ago for humble investment of just $1m it also took over a redemption right put in by HBO which ensure they are protected in the case of a "liquidation event" (page 43 of the annual report). More importantly the shares include a warrant which sees the owner entitled to a $10.5m payment in the event of "a disposal of substantially all of the Company’s assets, a merger or takeover, a person other than the shareholder acquiring a voting power of more than 51% in the Company, or any change in the majority of the members of the Board of Directors unless the replacement Directors were nominated by the majority of the Company’s Board." In a nutshell, if Netflix did come in and try to buy a controlling share in Quickflix it would have to pay Nine $10.5m on top of the price of its shares. For the long troubled Quickflix which has struggled to sustain a reliable cashflow, let alone profit, in the last few years and has watched its share price steadily decline as it attempted to evolve its business from a DVD rental business to a streaming business the risk of liquidation or takeover has always loomed large. However, Nine's investment now makes the latter far less likely. Were Netflix or some other player (say Telstra or Seven West Media) wanting to make an easy leap into the Australian market the price tag and opportunity cost of acquiring Quickflix, which has a market capitalisation of some $17.8m, just went up dramatically. Would a player like Netflix be willing to spend $30m to enter the market? Perhaps, but it is going to be much more reluctant to spend $11m plus if it knows that money is going to the war chest of a major rival. Equally were Quickflix to suddenly experience a similar crisis to the one it faced two years ago Nine is now in prime position to take advantage of the opportunity to pick up any rights it might want, as well as a crack at the all-important subscriber data. Nine's shareholding arguably serves as an uneasy alliance with Quickflix founder and CEO Stephen Langsford who himself owns around 2 per cent of the company. This may also explain his reluctance to discuss the investment with Mumbrella in an interview last week. While Langsford may be pleased that Nine's investment helps avoid another board coup similar to the one he faced a month ago he must also recognise that Nine, which is spending millions of dollars investing in technology, content deals and preparing to build a subscription base, would also be eyeing his assets and it is here that the liquidation first rights must be attractive. What the future holds for Quickflix, which continues to struggle to gain traction in the market, remains unclear. But what is certain is that at a minimum Nine has made sure anyone eyeing Quickflix as an easy entry point to the Australian streaming marketing will think twice before jumping in. Nic Christensen is deputy editor of Mumbrella
- Following recent controversy surrounding entries to the Cannes Lions awards Eaon Pritchard argues until we have a better way to evaluate the merits of agencies than awards all agencies will be highly incentivised to do whatever it takes to win . Advertising's outcomes are notoriously hard to measure. Which is why in advertising agencies, we love to measure outputs instead. Agency outputs (ie creativity, ingenuity, technical wizardry and planning cleverness) are far easier to evaluate than the contributions that the work agencies do has to actual business outcomes. Despite this clients will often clamour for performance based remuneration deals from their agencies. Some agencies even claim to offer this. How they can do this is unclear. I'm oft to remark that if t'were possible then Y&R London should still be receiving a performance based royalty from Heinz Beans for the work of their then deputy creative director, a young Maurice Drake who penned the famous tagline 'Beanz Meanz Heinz' over a couple of pints of a lunchtime back in 1967. Maybe they are, who knows. The fact is that the effects of great advertising often take a long time to unfold. And many other factors other than the advertising will affect brand performance. (The effects of shit advertising tend to reveal themselves much sooner, of course). So when, among its peers/competitors, agencies performance can, for the most part, only be evaluated in terms of the creative output, then the agencies themselves are highly incentivised to squeeze the juice out of those outputs regardless of whether those outputs can be said to have contributed to business outcomes. Even the planners’ effectiveness awards, known as Effies, are no more precise and for the most part only describe shorter-term effectiveness, and often forced to rely on qual/quant research of highly dubious methodology (such is the ineptitude of our market research cousins, but that's another topic for another time). If you have made it this far you will know that I am leading up to some commentary on the great ad scam kerfuffle of recent weeks. For those who have been in hibernation, it has come to light that a few Australian press ads entered in the Lions at Cannes this year had a somewhat 'limited' distribution. While the ads met with the criteria for entry, it has been argued that running one time in a suburban newspaper of little consequence is not fair play. There's plenty of opinion around this. Several articles have been written, each receiving large numbers of comments. I'm not going to add further opinion, but perhaps offer some thoughts towards the beginnings of an explanation. From personal experience I've played in two broad camps, both highly incentivised to pursue award-winning activities. In big network agencies, consistently receiving global and local awards was an absolute imperative. At [agency X], for example, every Monday morning we would roll in to work and be curious to find out which awards the agency had won over the weekend. And every significant piece of work seemed to have its creative award entry case study video constructed almost in parallel to development of the campaign itself. To my knowledge there was never anything cooked up specifically to try and manipulate creative awards, however every piece of work was evaluated internally for its creative award potential, and certain pro-bono work was often considered for the same reasons. There's nothing hokey about this approach. It's correct. However, if a major award show came and went where the agency performed poorly in terms of metal then one could feel the pressure to return to winning ways a soon as possible. In this environment, where success is routine, then winning becomes table stakes. In smaller agencies or even decent sized indies there is a different sort of pressure. To level the playing field then in these agencies have to look that little bit harder to find the opportunities to generate outputs that can stand up against the outputs of agencies with more resources and better clients. One could describe the situation as a kind of agency double jeopardy. Smaller agencies get hit twice. They have fewer, less sophisticated and resource rich clients, who also tend to be less loyal. This provides the smaller agency with plenty incentive to 'maximise' to then possibly manipulate outputs in order to portray their creative abilities in the best way. Because no agency is going to attract new sophisticated clients with a portfolio of mediocre work. By hook or by crook you need to get the goods. Now, we are aware that the agencies which have come under scrutiny in the Aussie case are DDB, Saatchi's and to a slightly lesser degree JWT. All are outposts of big global networks, not small by any stretch. However, the Aussie market is somewhat peculiar inasmuch as just about every global network has an office in at least two (often 3 or more) of the major cities.Everyone is scrapping with everyone else. In the absence of any way to meaningfully measure clients' business outcomes, the way the industry evaluates itself in the only way it can. Though outputs - in the form of award shows. The volume and quality of new business an agency attracts is explicitly connected to the volume and quality of the awards they accrue. The more you get, the more you get. Without making any judgement call on what-is-or-is-not-scam perhaps some clarity comes from knowing this about our own foibles as an industry. And perhaps it might not be a bad thing to put this year’s what-is-or-is-not-scam debate to bed and get on with next years award winners. As an industry perhaps we suffer from a collective actor-observer bias. When we judge our own agency's behaviour, we are the actors, and perhaps we are more likely to attribute our actions as a response to peculiarities of the situational factors of the industry; than to any general sense of our integrity or lack of. However, when explaining the behaviour of others (our competitor agencies), we are far more inclined to attribute their scam ads to their overall cheating-bastard disposition rather than to any of the situational factors that influenced us. Eaon Pritchard is strategic planning director at Red Jelly Australia
Phone: 02 8218 2488
Level 1, 22 Cooper Street
Sydney, NSW, 2010 Australia
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