15 Nov 2013

Christmas: The UK’s answer to the Superbowl?

Is it just me or has it all gone a little bit crazy with years’ crop of Christmas ads? The Governor of the Bank of England has claimed that the UK economy is finally in recovery - I wonder if that is based on GDP predictions, export levels or the massive scale of spend by retailers on their Christmas marketing campaigns.
The Superbowl is not only the biggest sporting event but also the most watched TV event of the year in America. Clients spend millions of dollars trying to outdo each other with their Superbowl ad. Hints are dropped in trade press and on social media as to the content, teasers are made and put on Youtube. On the night itself the twittershpere is buzzing with people commenting on the ads and trade press the next day analyses the “winners and losers”.
Until now, I’ve looked at this advertising feeding frenzy partly intrigued, partly mystified and partly horrified by the whole thing. Imagine my horror this year when I realised we were turning Christmas into a very British version of the Superbowl advertising environment. Gone are the days when department stores were happy to spend 30 secs saying “we have lots of different gifts” whilst supermarkets took the time to reassure you that they sold turkey, vegetables and brandy butter. This year sees a plethora of feature length ads with movie stars, big name directors and specially recorded soundtracks (that will no doubt be racing up the Christmas chart).
John Lewis started it all a couple of years ago and it’s no surprise to see them at it again with their epic Rabbit and Bear animation but now the world and his brother have joined in. Boots and Morrisons both have 60second commercials whilst Tesco have a 90sec Rod Stewart scored effort, Boots up the ante further by having a whopping 120 sec effort featuring Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Helenah Bonham-Carter whilst Sainsbury’s have waded in with Oscar winning director Kevin MacDonald’s 3 min 30sec effort, an ad that is longer than many of the ad breaks it might have been prudent to place it in.
At no point in many of these ads do we see any of the products they’re trying to sell with John Lewis, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in particular trying to suggest that they are intrinsic parts of the “spirit of Christmas”. Not everyone is going for a spirit of Christmas strategy though as Morrisons ad, although only a minute long is all about product. My personal favourite is Waitrose 30sec ad that says “we sell turkeys” with some footage of the turkeys alive through the year before being served up roasted on a tray. It is at once hilarious and horrifying in equal measure (I was in hysterics while my pescetarian wife was outraged).
What is perhaps most interesting about these campaigns is the clear acceptance and understanding of these brands about the power non-traditional spot campaigns. With ads this long there is no way they are planning to buy the same level of ratings they would have done with their 30 sec “get your turkey here ad” hence the need for “teaser trailers” and iconic ad breaks (John Lewis reportedly spent £400k for one spot in the centre break of X-Factor to premier their ad) to build momentum and interest in the campaign. Careful attention will be paid to Twitter to check that people are talking about the ad in the right way, the view count on YouTube will be monitored as will the comments to get some sense of impacts beyond the TV delivery. It’s an interesting change of tack and this is just the start as I am sure next year you will have more brands doing bigger, better glossier campaigns with longer build up times and heavily invested social media accompaniment.

If you want to see the ads for yourselves then over on Campaign they have a page dedicated to this years christmas offering http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/go/christmasads

Which of these advertising strategies pays off best is yet to be seen and I will be fascinated to see the reports in the new year as to how these campaigns performed. In the meantime let’s take a minute away from all of this seduction, remember what the real spirit of Christmas is and donate something to the Philippines which you can do here http://dec.org.uk/

30 Oct 2013

For those of you that missed it...

The latest MediaCom Engage event took place on October 10th at the impressive Hawthornden Lecture Theatre in the National Gallery. This time round the topic was Super Connected Media Partnerships. It was another good turn out and another collection of excellent presentations and I defy anyone that was there to say they left without learning something new and being given food for thought!

For those of you that were unable to attend then hopefully this post will assuage your disappointment a little as we have copies of all the presentations for you to peruse.

First up was our own Steve Gladdis who went through why we had chosen this topic and what the benefits of media partnerships can be. Here are the presentation slides

Next up Amanda Tushingham and Ivan Lazarov from The Guardian talked about the transition from being a newspaper to a "digital first" organisation, what that has meant from a news reporting side of things, what it means to the content they provide and how brands can partner up with this and what it can do for them with some case studies to illustrate.

Our third speaker and probably the one whose facts and figures surprised us the most, was Dominic Smales from online talent agency Gleam Digital. His presentation took us through the sheer scale of fan base that certain YouTube celebrities have and how smart brands can access and benefit from this. Whilst there was obviously an element of the sales pitch to his spiel, it was nonetheless a fascinating look at an increasingly growing area of effective and affordable "celebrity" endorsement.

Finally we had Dilupa Nannayakkara from Bauer Media who took us through what makes a good partnership and some case studies of partnerships they had worked on, the processes each went through and what they learned along the way.

All of this was followed by a lively Q&A session which leads me nicely on to say if anyone reading this has any questions or would like more information about the day then give Murray or I a shout at the following email addresses gordon.eldrett@mediacom.com or murray.calder@mediacom.com

4 Oct 2013

Preaching to the converted

From a media point of view, there was really only one story to write about this week but since it’s important that we treat all of our media owner partners equally and that I am likely to become profane it’s probably best if I don’t mention it. Suffice to say that when you find yourself on the side of Alistair Campbell then you know something in the world has gone seriously wrong.

So, instead I have decided to turn my gaze upon another institution that I really have an issue with and that is PETA.  In the interests of clarity I should define my stance on animals and animal rights etc. I don’t have any pets and in fact I don’t really understand why anybody does. I do eat meat and I do support the use of animals in medical testing - to a degree (it’s a bit of a grey area for me this one). I don’t however condone the use of animals in testing for cosmetics and I don’t agree with the wearing of fur. I don’t agree in the killing of animals purely for sport such as Bullfighting or Fox Hunting but I don’t take objection to people hunting animals that they go on to eat.

So, now that we have my politics on the issue clear I can outline why PETA annoy me so much. It is for the simple reason that I think their tactics both highly offensive and wrong (I don’t mind things being highly offensive I just don’t like people getting things wrong). While their continued use of highly graphic and sexualised imagery manages to keep PETA front of mind (which I’m sure they see as a core aim), one might argue that they should concentrate more on driving active support for their cause. This is where I think they are missing the point.

Whilst their current tactics may confirm their support amongst the hardened few I don’t believe that the more liberal people who may support their view, let alone the undecided, are convinced.  Putting up a poster in Germany, for example, with holocaust imagery and comparing it to battery farming goes beyond shock tactics and into grossly inappropriate and is only going to drive anger at PETA rather than help people make a positive decision to support the cause.

Much has been written on the effectiveness, or otherwise, of shock advertising but for it to have any chance of working it has to at least shock you into confronting the issue at hand rather than the body behind it. I genuinely feel that PETA is undermining what is a very worthwhile cause for the sake of its own fame, or infamy.  With no shortage of animal charities to support I’d rather get involved with an organisation who is trying to do something other than continue to highlight their own self –importance. 

1 Oct 2013

MediaCom Engage event coming up

Hot on the heels of my last post about how picking the right partner for your marketing is important we have the next in our very successful and hugely popular MediaCom Engage events the theme of which is Super Connected Media Partnerships.

We have confirmed speakers including Amanda Tushingham and Ivan Lazarov from The Guardian, Derek Scobie from YouTube (he was so popular last time we have brought him back), Dilupa Nanayakkara from Bauer Media, Dominic Smales from Gleam Digital and Marcus Butler from Marcus Butler TV

Our speakers will explore how smart marketers are working in partnership with media owners to tell compelling and engaging brand stories. The conference will be led by Steve Gladdis, Managing Partner of MediaCom UK’s strategic planning team and will conclude with a Q&A session giving everyone the opportunity to quiz the panel.

The conference will take place in the impressive Hawthornden Lecture Theatre at the National Galleries of Scotland at The Mound, Edinburgh on the morning of Thursday 10th October 2013, 9.00am - 1.00pm.

Tickets are priced at £25 (£10 for Marketing Society and IPA members). Numbers are strictly limited so please book early to avoid disappointment. The following link will take you through to the booking page

27 Sep 2013

Finding marketing partners for your politics

Laced Boot

As someone who both works in marketing and really loves football I’ve been following the Paddy Power/Stonewall “Rainbow Laces” campaign story with interest.

For those of you might who have missed it, the LGBT charity Stonewall partnered up with Online bookmaker Paddy Power to send rainbow laces to all 94 professional clubs in England and the 42 in Scotland. They asked players to wear the laces last weekend (21st/22nd Sept) in support of the “Right Behind Gay Footballers” campaign.

On the face of it, this is a good thing. Homophobia is a big issue in sport, particularly in football, and definitely one that needs to be addressed.  The campaign has been covered by every national newspaper in the build-up and again following the weekend, despite the limited support it actually got. However, I wonder how Stonewall are really feeling about the result.

Paddy Power is a renowned gambling provider and part of this renown comes from their very clever marketing strategy. They generally spend less than their competitors on controversial (and often very amusing) marketing stunts that draw lots and lots of additional coverage through PR. In this respect the “Right Behind Gay Footballers” campaign has been a roaring success. However, I think it may have been less successful for Stonewall than for Paddy Power. Although they have gained valuable column inches for the issue it hasn’t always been in the most positive light.

Part of the issue was that the whole campaign was conceived and executed without any consultation and many clubs and players felt a little aggrieved at the way they were hijacked. The other crucial aspect is that almost every (if not every) club has its own official betting partner. Supporting a campaign backed by a competitor would require them having some fairly frank and difficult discussions with their own betting partner. Manchester Utd, Spurs, Norwich, Sunderland and Southampton all confirmed they would not be supporting the campaign citing the lack of time for those discussions to take place. Some clubs left it up to individual players to participate and only one club, Everton, openly supported it which might (some of you will be ahead of me on this) be partly  because their gambling partner is Paddy Power.

One of the other charities in this space, Football v Homophobia, were highly critical of the campaign as they didn’t feel that the laddish humour of the campaign slogan was particularly helpful. If anything, they claimed, it helped reinforce stereotypes (something which I have to say I agree with).

I can’t help but feel that Stonewall have been a little na├»ve in all of this especially as it came to light that the campaign was in fact instigated by Paddy Power rather than supported by them. Paddy Power do nothing unless it benefits them and given that there modus operandi is to drive coverage through controversy then Stonewall surely should have considered the issues which would inevitably come up.

At the end of the day the topic has received a lot of coverage and I hope that will prove to be a good thing in the long run. However, I think it has done a lot more for Paddy Power than it has addressed the issue of Homophobia in football. It is a valuable lesson in the importance of choosing your partners wisely and understanding not just what you want to achieve, but what is in it for them and does that fit with your own goals.

Next week I promise not to write about football.

20 Sep 2013

Sports marketing in a time of austerity

Sports Marketing is a funny old game at the moment.

It often feels that most sport exists in a bubble that the austerity of the current economic climate can’t penetrate. Whilst much of the UK exists in a world of benefit cuts, unemployment and wage freezes English Premier League clubs set a record spend of £630m in the last transfer window (a huge £130m more than the previous high of 2008). Whilst in Spain (a country that is currently dealing with an unemployment rate of 26.3%) Real Madrid broke the world transfer fee record by paying £85m for one player.
Given all that you might think that it’s business as usual if you’re a brand that does or is planning to align yourself with sporting icons or events. However, if you don’t take a more global view then you might find yourself facing a spell in the sin bin

Whilst the London Olympics ended up a roaring success and creating a genuine feel-good factor across most of the UK, the build-up was significantly more acrimonious. The average vox-pop from the street captured a mood of disenfranchisement and anger that, at a time when people were struggling to pay their mortgages, the UK government was spending £105m building a velodrome in an area of East London that seemed to require more pressing improvements to its infrastructure than an indoor cycling facility.

Fast forward a year and the countdown to the World Cup in Rio is on and if you thought Londoners were a might tetchy about the cost of the Olympics then in Brazil (which is hosting the same event in 3 years’ time) the atmosphere is downright hostile. During the recent Confederations Cup the Brazilian President was booed so vociferously during the opening ceremony that she stayed away from the final. On the streets outside the Maracana, during the final of the tournament, some 5,000 people took to the streets to protest as riot police deployed tear gas and stun grenades.

This growing social unrest in Brazil is not going to go away anytime soon and should at least be food for thought (if not cause for concern) for those brands banking on their World Cup associations there. As Jerry Clode, founder of Sao Paulo based consultancy House of Jezmo, points out A year out from the 2010 tournament in South Africa, brands such as Castle Lager and BP were effortlessly leveraging local pride and excitement. The situation in Brazil is far less rosy” Brands are going to have to decide how they want to be perceived and it may involve taking risks that they wouldn’t usually consider. Do they align themselves with the desire for change and thereby politicise their brand in a way that most global marketing departments avoid like the plague? Or do they ignore what’s going on and risk being viewed as complicit purely by inaction? 

Whatever happens, it’s going to make for some interesting conversations in the marketing departments of some global powerhouse brands and I for one am looking forward to seeing how they react.

1 Jul 2013

Want to avoid your friends? There’s an app for that!

Guest post by my colleague Diane Bruce, Office Co-ordinator.

I’m sure many of us have bumped into a friend when not looking their best or not in the mood to chat or make small talk.  Well, now there’s an app for that!

New York Student, Scott Garner has launched the “Hell is other People” app: a self-proclaimed “experiment in anti-social media” which uses location-based social networking site, Foursquare, to track any friends who have checked into locations nearby.  These locations are then plotted on an ‘avoidance map’ to show safe routes and locations where these people can be avoided.

Of course, the map only works if your friends are avid social media users, checking in to virtually every place they go and you still run the risk of bumping into them when they’re en route.
Garner noted on his site that his app is: “partially a satire, partially a commentary on my disdain for social media and partially an exploration of my own difficulties with social anxiety.”  But if you really want to participate in an anti-social network, it seems that you’ll have to log off altogether.

Yes, the slick new app does help you avoid everyone you know. But there is a catch… first you have to share exactly where you are!

24 Jun 2013

Facebook now following Twitter by adding clickable hastags

Guest post by my colleague Emma Barbod, Digital Planner/Buyer.

Facebook has launched clickable hashtags which allow users to keep track of popular topics being discussed on the social network. Adding the ‘#’ sign to a word will turn it into a clickable link which brings up a feed of what other people are saying about the same topic (for example Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day etc). To date, there has been no simple way to see the larger view of what’s been happening or what people are talking about on Facebook. Now users will be able to search for a specific hashtag from the search bar and click on hastags that originate on other networks like Instagram.

Hashtags are also popular with advertisers as it’s an excellent way to extend the value and reach of their advertising. As it stands there are no advertising products around Facebook’s new service but they intend to introduce a hashtag tool with an insights service. This will help advertisers better understand how they fit their hashtags into their current Facebook strategy.

10 Jun 2013

MediaCom Edinburgh's Purple Bake Day

MediaCom Edinburgh turned purple yesterday, 6th June, in support of Erskine's Go Purple Week!

Staff at MediaCom Edinburgh donned their pinnies and baked a variety of goodies in aid of one of our charity partners and clients, Erskine. Delicious banana bread, chocolate truffles, and yummy blueberry muffins were consumed and we raised a super £30.00, which MediaCom will match!

The team wanted to support Erskine during their key fundraising period ‘Erskine Week’ which runs, 1st – 8th June. Erskine works to enable members of the ex-Service community to get the best care and support to achieve maximum quality of life.

26 Apr 2013

MediaCom Engage Review - Including Speaker Presentations - #mcomengage

Wow. Just wow.

I had high hopes for the 6th of our MediaCom Engage conferences and boy did the four speakers live up to my expectations. Definitely my favourite event so far.

First up, my lovely London-based colleague Pauline Robson (standing in for the soon to be married Claire McAlpine) showed why she's leading our Real World Insight team with a fantastic introduction to how real people are adopting multiscreen  behaviours.

Using video blog excerpts from our Real World Britain panel, Pauline demonstrated how Mobile has finally come of age (even if it's done that in the home rather than out and about). 50% of tablets never leave the home and we could see how this was facilitating fluid movement between on and offline media. We need to really think about the different ways people use their various screens and design content accordingly to be successful. I also liked the concept of "Scattercushion Computing" even if I've yet to convince my wife to correct the current imbalance we have between soft furnishings and technology in the living room.

Second on stage was the human dynamo that is Derek Scobie. Boy, did his presentation pack a punch and it was delivered at breakneck pace with some great video footage (as you might expect from YouTube's Propositions Manage) and no little humour.

I was struck by how YouTube provides a platform for communities organised around interest and at a scale that was unimaginable only a few years ago. There are some really exciting opportunities for brands to collaborate with the creator community and some interesting challenges in the curation of such a vast quantity of content.

After the break, one of my favourite curators, Neil Perkin, ex-IPC and now Only Dead Fish, gave some deep insight into the ways the big tech companies are building world-beating content ecosystems as well as providing some great stimulus for how we need to think about content marketing.

Hearing about the "stack" approach that Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple take prompted me to think about how we could apply that thinking to our clients businesses. It was clear that we need to start planning for conversations, not only by breaking away from a stop-start campaign mentality but also by how we break down silos between agencies and inside clients. And I love the Stock and Flow concept as an explanation of the need for different types of content in different contexts.

Finally, our very own Joe 90 - Digital Strategy Director Jem Lloyd Williams - rounded the morning off with a considered and clear explanation of what connected planning is, and how we can use this thinking to connect our clients brands with their consumers more effectively.

I loved the idea that all this was just basic human behaviour being played out on a new technological canvas - People First, Better results. The uptake of mobile devices now means that we don't need to, and should never, create media dead ends for consumers. Great clarity of thought.

I felt as if things were just getting going with the Q&A when we ran out of time so happy to continue the discussion in the comments below or on Twitter around #mcomengage. Thanks to everyone who came along and especially to our four guest speakers. See you at the next one.