Archives/ Yearly Archives/ 2015
If you were ever asked to be Master of Ceremonies at a business conference, the following might count as a dream line-up: Amazon, Forbes, CBS, Wall Street Journal, Andressen Horowitz, Washington Post, The Onion and the BBC. So it was great to be invited to MC the final marketing session at this year’s Websummit in Dublin, and brush shoulders with the good and great of our trade, among them John Sculley, ex-CEO of Apple.
It was my first time at the Websummit and I was duly impressed with the organisation. 40 speakers to navigate at the marketing summit and not a minute’s overrun. Especially noticeable was what you might call light-touch management: the event management team at the marketing summit knew their stuff and were let get on with it, with no sign of any meddling senior bosses getting in their way. That’s probably the modus operandi of the Websummit team generally – and another feather in the cap of founder Paddy Cosgrave.
We’re forever hearing that the future of TV advertising is as entertainment. Personal video recorders means no one is watching ads, and the only hope of countering this ‘ad avoidance’ is by making your ad as good as the programmes that it punctuates.
That’s all very well, but what about the ads around yours? Just who is going to sit through mind-numbingly dull dross to happen upon your 30 second gem?
(You won’t hear it in adland, but it is suggested that a far simpler response to ad avoidance is to stick a big fat logo in the heart of your ad so even the most ad averse types can’t avoid it as they zoom through at 30x)
Anyway, the thought struck me as I watched the UK Lotto’s ad with Piers Morgan. This really is tongue in cheek entertainment on a par with anything you’d sit down and watch deliberately. So sit down and enjoy!
We’re tired of hearing about information overload in today’s society, and about the unsurmountable struggle with the Inbox. A recent article from Advertising Age* is a variation on the theme, with consumers the sufferers in this case.
Less email is more, we’re told. Consumers are ever more prone to ignore emails, given the daily drudge of sorting personal from promotional, real invitations from commercial ones, and so on. The rise of social media, too, is furthering the decline of email as a marketing tool. “RIP, traditional email.”
The problem, of course, lies in how companies use emails. They use too many of them. Ad Age recommends getting more selective and more personal with what we send out, beyond simply including a perfunctory “Dear Conor”, which fools no one. Data–driven marketing enables us to have more meaningful targeted ‘conversations’ with customers, but, let’s face it, when have we ever really had one? Amazon comes closest, in my opinion.
I was at an insightful marketing talk with a supermarket chief last year. Someone from the audience asked why – given the amount of information the multiples collect on everything she buys and how she buys it – she doesn’t receive a weekly email the day before she goes shopping advising her of relevant bargains she can avail of. Sounds simple, and its absence typifies the way we seem to be almost lazy in what we’re doing via email. As the article states, “The advantage is there to be seized. All companies have to do is send the right message to the right person.”
On a separate but related note, I often think email is the scourge of the PR profession, but in a different way. With media lists reaching into the hundreds for just about whatever sector you’re targeting, it’s easy for the new PR recruit to think a press release pinged to a hundred hacks is bound to stick. After all, if 10% run with it, that’s 30 articles. Happy days.
That’s not a good start to a career in PR, believe me. The journalist is suffering more from email overload than any consumer, and it will show in the uptake of releases sent by email. Plus, where’s the relationship-building that’s at heart of the business? If the service is just about managing a media list, don’t expect clients pay for it for too long.
I recall asking a journalist what was the key to securing press coverage. “A phone call” was his three-word answer. Much as we might hate having to make them, much as we might fear the rejection that comes with them – and much as journalists are annoyed by them – a single phone call is still worth many hundred emails. We’re a people business, and being personable means picking up the phone. In a world where text dominates, where remote social contact among young people is rarely down a phone line, this is one thing we need to instil into our PR recruits.
In PR especially, it really is good to talk.
We fear that which we don’t understand, and that gives us good reason to fear Google. None of us grasps how this algorithmic behemoth works and this is the very basis for its dominance. Talk this week has been of Google’s previous aversion to press release material being reversed, or at least halted.
The tale goes something like this. The comms world is all about search. In the past, landing your story in a mass circulation title – typically the holy grail of the PR – would help the story on search. Google stopped all that, its Panda 4.0 algorithm identifying pick-up of press releases and devaluing this content. Now a new algorithm means press release and search can feed off each other again, but only if it uses its own channels, and only if the content is – get this – high-quality, in-depth and newsworthy.
So if you’ve been netting coverage in high circulation media with material that is low-quality, shallow and unnewsworthy, – which I can’t imagine – you’re in trouble. If, like most of us, you haven’t, this new world shouldn’t fill you with terror. Rest easy: what’s happening here is that Google is clamping down on brands spamming us with endless mindless dross masquerading as news. That apart, as ever with Google, we’re really none the wiser.
PS Whatever others will have you believe, communications is NOT all about search. By definition, search is what the market actively asks for: media relations is mostly about disseminating messages that are relevant and interesting, but haven’t been requested. That’s why they’re called news.
Can we really get too much of a good thing? Well, I do recall the economics I learned all those years ago being founded on scarcity: increase demand and curb supply to raise value. I remember thinking this is something the Masters Committee does really well. Limiting TV coverage to just three hours a day left us all wanting much, much more of Seve and our other heroes in the fairytale setting that is Augusta. The British Open was great, but with the cameras rolling from 9am each day, a kid’s interest did flag at a certain point. Everything about the Masters was understated, and this was its brand appeal.
It still is, but it’s changing. Sky is great for sport, they say, and mostly it is. But football is surely passing saturation point, rugby is getting there, and the Masters itself is not safe. Three hours of the par 3 competition, daily breakfast shows, wall-to-wall re-runs of past tournaments … it all adds up to more than a hint of viewer fatigue by the end of the week.
The Masters enjoys an enviable aura, and like the Hollywood stars of old, that’s due in part to its inaccessibility. Let’s retain some of that.
Meanwhile, enjoy the undisputed Ad of the Month from Nike. Predictable, yes, but irresistible all the same!