Archive for the ‘Media Week’ Category


October 16th, 2012

I’ve learned that if you stick around long enough, fashions will always come back. My 13 year old son is taking a keen interest in my late 1990s wardrobe and record collection, which is a worrying sign in itself. Meanwhile, maybe it’s just coincidence, but I’m starting to see echoes of two phrases that infested the dozens of ‘new media’ business plans I had to wade through in my channel development role during that first dotcom boom; “if we build it, they will come” and “killer apps”.

The former was a line taken from Kevin Costner’s overblown 1990s philosophiser ‘Field of Dreams’ and if the quote appeared in any of the aforesaid business plans, they would go straight into the bin. I was much more interested in those adhering to another 1990s movie catchphrase, “show me the money!” I wonder whether some of the more recent digital disappointments, such as the Facebook share price, contain an element of that late 1990s wish fulfilment.

‘Killer apps’ is a much more interesting proposition. Back then it referred to the stand-out benefits that would drive consumer take-up. I always felt it was a bit conceptual, until real apps came along, and in a sense embodied it. The app is a killer app, or if it isn’t the app doesn’t get downloaded

Although apps are coming(quite slowly) to the main TV screen, I’ve long argued that their main influence will be on the companion screens that are now becoming a significant viewing accessory/distractor (pretty much in equal measure according the latest Thinkbox research (link – get TB approval). They provide an efficient way to access ancillary content and TV viewers are responding accordingly (1.5 million downloads of the BBC Olympics app alone).

Which is where I introduce Deloitte’s TV:Why? Report, (link – get Deloitte approval) which was unveiled at the Edinburgh TV Festival last week. It is, as always, full of well-argued, evidence-based insights into TV’s emerging role in the digital landscape. It analyses issues such as TV’s role in household entertainment, the future for connected TVs and the reasons behind  the resilience of TV advertising. The hot topic of the moment, though, and one the Deloitte report covers well, is the evolution of multi-screening. This is the landscape where the ‘killer apps’ affect (and are affected by) what is viewed via the main TV screen.

The fascinating headline from the report is that multi-screening is more about talking than interacting. Deloitte’s research suggests that most viewers will use companion screens to talk about the TV they are watching, rising to 4 out of every 5 teens and 3 out of every 4 under-24s. It is an extension of what TV viewers have always done; talk about the programmes and ads they are watching.

Meanwhile, there is far less enthusiasm for interacting with programmes. Only 4% of people strongly disagree with the statement “I can’t be bothered to interact with programmes” and only one in eight disagrees at all (compared to two out of three who agree). This has massive implications for how connected TVs are marketed and helps to explain why take-up and connectivity has been so slow.

The primacy of talk over interaction reflects the shared, communal nature of TV viewing, whereas interaction is often a personalised activity. It suggests the main impact of TV advertising is likely to be the ripple of discussion rather than the drilling down into deeper interactive experiences.

This ripple vs. drill analogy interests me, because




October 16th, 2012

“I can’t imagine life without television”

Only 9% of sample disagreed strongly – compared to 22% who agreed strongly.

Total agree is around 55% – total disagree around 20%

About 2x % 16-18s strongly agree compared to 55+s


“Watching TV is a good way of bringing the family together”

Total agree around 55% – compared to total disagree c. 12%

More than twice the % of 55+s disagree cf teenagers (16%)

Sharing in the physical space/analogue world


“Watching TV with others is much more enjoyable than watching alone”

C 50% agree vs 18% disagree

Young much more likely to agree


TV Got Worse?

For each of past 21 years UK public been polled (Deloitte?). Each year 30-40% say TV programming ‘got worse’ and only 10% say it has improved

How ties in with the importance of now?

Deloitte – 52 hours first run programming on PSBs alone every day! Estimate we don;t watch 99.95% (1460 hours p.a. vs 3million produced!)

Younger agree “the quality of TV programmes nowadays is better than ever before” but equal agree/disagree at older end of spectrum


Second Screening – Like TV Dinners

2 connected devices per UK citizen – laptops, smartphones, tablets. Early adopters 4 per adult

Mainly about TV – especially 121 communication and wider social networking. About TV > instead of TV. Ripple > Drill (expand analogy)


Frequency of communication with others via internet about the programme being watched – e.g. messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter;

-       Half of 16-24s do frequently or occasionally

-       Only 22% never use web to talk about programmes

About 2/3 agree slightly or strongly with statement “I can’t be bothered to interact with programmes”. Not much variation by age – where are the ‘killer apps’?



October 16th, 2012

Before their careers took off, both Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn were told they were simply not sexy enough to make it in Hollywood. Being sexy is obviously in the eye of the beholder, which is just as well for TV.

I have just returned home from a media conference where I heard yet again from a senior media strategist with a global advertiser how TV is simply ‘not sexy enough’ as a media channel and is being kicked out of the marital bedroom in favour of those hot young things at Google, Facebook and Apple. In fact, to make it even worse, it is totally TV’s fault for not only letting itself go but also, at the same time, failing to put the effort into the relationship.  “You don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t visit me every day with a stunning new creative solution…” . OK, I paraphrased things slightly, but not by much.

This last point grated somewhat; I’ve seen too many recent examples of broadcasters offering increasingly creative solutions to advertisers across Europe and North America to accept that is the case, but it did point to a major disconnect between the ambitions of the advertiser and the attitude and/or resources of the media owner. And it is not an isolated incident – I have seen similar presentations from a range of global advertisers who, between them, account for a huge proportion of media expenditure.

The presentation was subject to a great deal of polite but insistent questioning from the audience, following which I grasped three fundamental  challenges that a frumpy old medium like TV will need to address if it is pass the Marilyn and Audrey test, rather than be perceived to be the Anne Widdecombe/John Sergeant (take your pick) of communications planning.

The first of these is an ability to offer 360 degree solutions, encompassing all aspects of the media owner’s business. Having worked with a couple of the online giants recently, I think there is merit in this. Their sales teams (many of them from a TV background, ironically enough) can offer direct input from a range of disciplines within the group; sales, marketing, creative, editorial, strategic and technological. Compare this, say, to the tortuous processes advertisers need to go through just to get an advertiser-funded programme on air, with the programme production teams often offering a less than joined up approach to the whole process. There has to be a lesson there for the broadcasters. The TV sales people who have ‘gone digital’ certainly appear to relish the opportunities to not only think, but sell outside the box.

The second challenge is even more daunting. When pressed, the advertiser in question agreed that they have directly approached a wide range of media players to discuss potential partnerships, including production companies, Hollywood studios and platform operators. Although there were some TV broadcasters on the list, these were all global brands; highly localised or regionalised players were not being invited to the party. This would naturally exclude brands such as ABC, NBC, ITV, Channel 4, TF1, RTL and ProSiebenSat1 from the invitation list – all major players within their markets and all of whom would be expected to lead the way in offering creative solutions to the advertisers within those markets.

I have no doubt the broadcasters have the resources to rise to this challenge, but it might mean a more open-minded and collaborative approach between the organisations representing TV – whether that be Thinkbox, EGTA or the TV Bureau of Canada. If the individual TV companies cannot get an invite to the party, maybe they should work together to enable the case for TV to be made to the global communications planners and strategists that now sit in head offices across the USA and Europe. If nothing else, it would get them on the guest list and the sheer novelty of seeing the whole TV industry work together in such a way would send out a very powerful signal.

Of course, it would probably never happen!

The third challenge is an even more fundamental one. Throughout the presentation (and the many other similar presentations I have seen given by global comms strategists of major advertisers), I felt the enthusiasm was invested in what the technology could do rather than the creative excellence behind what was being communicated. This meant that some of the examples given involved clever use of technology and a successful performance amongst those reached BUT many of the creative ideas appeared tired and forced, and the reach levels of the campaigns were less than impressive.

We are now two decades into the digital revolution, and yet this ‘TV is not sexy enough’ mindset appears to me to be both retrograde and lazy. It works on an assumption of TV’s role in the digital media landscape which is at least ten years out of date. It assumes the media channel can be separated and placed in a silo. It also demonstrates a discouraging ignorance of what exactly is going on in TV right now, and some of the highly creative solutions it can provide (generally, WITH other media channels rather than as an alternative to them!).

So, my question to the big, global advertisers is this. Has TV really lost its sex appeal, or are you just looking for a younger model? Because we all know how those relationships usually end, don’t we?


October 16th, 2012

I have been presenting a great deal in mainland Europe over the past year or so, and I have to say that I am having some of my preconceptions challenged by what is going on over there.

One of the major benefits of a career in media research in the UK is that, on most indicators, we have the most digitally advanced market in the world and the levels of creativity and innovation used to harness digital technology for marketing purposes has been well recognised. Most European broadcasters would accept that the UK is a year or two ahead in most respects, and they are interested in what we are doing here as a result.

Things are beginning to change, though, and the UK could learn a thing or two about what is happening elsewhere in Europe.

For example, I presented in Poland recently and saw firsthand some of the creative solutions that are being presented to advertisers to enable them to more effectively integrate into TV content. It rivalled many of the case studies I have seen from the UK demonstrating how broadcasters, agencies and brands can work together.

Or take Italy. Since Silvio Berlusconi loosened his grip on Italian politics, many of the regulatory restrictions he placed on digital development to protect his analogue-era media powerhouses are being dismantled, leading to a technology-led transformation of the TV experience (according to a recent New York Times article) and a significant shift in viewing from the cocooned Mediaset channels to quality alternatives such as Discovery Channels, which has recently launched two free-to-air channels. The Italian experience shows just how quickly the market can change once digital regulation is opened up and competition, creativity and innovation are unleashed.

Sweden provides a very different example, which also offers potential lessons for UK media. The Swedish market is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, but the advertising powerhouse is considered to be good old-fashioned newspapers. This is because Swedes pride themselves on their education levels and interest in the world around them, and newspaper readership is considered a symbol of these values. It is also in large part due to the power of the local press to service the significant local advertising industry in Sweden; the leading free-to-air broadcasters have invested in dozens of localised transmissions to take a share of those local revenues from an estimated 36,000 potential advertisers.

The local advertising market in the UK has always been considered hardly worth bothering with, especially as television advertising opportunities for local advertisers significantly reduced with the pulling back of ITV’s regional franchise system. I think this is a lost opportunity and offers one of the few substantive opportunities for addressability. I’m generally sceptical about how important addressability will become, but unlocking the regional and local advertising opportunities that still exist could be a simple yet valuable solution to a revenue challenge.




October 16th, 2012


 I’m a sucker for a good quotation. The best can make a point far more eloquently and concisely than I ever could, which is why I use them in my presentations all the time. Sometimes it may be historical figures – for example Henry Ford’s “a man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time” or Samuel Johnson’s famous quote about advertising overload (written in 1759). Other times, it may be celebrity classics (Arnold Schwarzenegger – “I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman”) or homespun words of wisdom (“A computer might beat you at chess, but you can always beat it at kick boxing”)

There will never be a definitive list of my favourite quotations, but from a media perspective, the following are all contenders.

  1. 1.       “Humans are to independent thinking as cats are to swimming – we can do it when we have to, but we’d much prefer not to.”

This quote is from Daniel Kahneman, the first ever psychologist to win the Nobel Prize for Economics, and the founder of behavioural economics. This idea, that humans spend as much of their time as possible on auto-pilot and only employ their cognitive brain when they have to, has been advanced by numerous experts from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, economics and marketing and yet a disturbingly high proportion of marketing spend is still aimed at the cognitive, attention-based part of our brain, which (according to Rory Sutherland) is “not the Oval Office, making executive decisions, but the press office, issuing explanations for decisions we have already taken”; another favourite quotation.

Kahneman’s work helped to open our eyes to the power of emotion and the long-term, implicit mind within marketing, although there is still reluctance amongst many in the industry to embrace it. The stultifying certainties of the traditional models of communications and influence are much preferred, even though they have been proven wrong time and time again.


  1. 2.       “Choice is cherished, but choosing is a chore”

This single one-liner pretty much sums up the argument behind Barry Schwarz’s ‘The Paradox of Choice’, but the book is no less important for that. It is a fact of life that we have never been offered so much choice, and never been more prepared to simplify and minimise the choosing process.

How we choose – through habit, instinct, heuristics or via trusted intermediaries – has a huge impact on the roles of marketing and media. We are less homo economicus, applying thought, logic and rational self-interest to our consumer decision-making; we are more homo whimsicalus, allowing a wide range of factors to influence our judgement, such as emotion, social pressures and context. We will generally favour brands that make choosing less of a chore and create the emotional associations that make heuristics simple and intuitive to apply.


  1. 3.       “Tell me a fact, and I may remember. Tell me a truth and I may believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever”

This is generally referenced as an ancient Indian proverb, and that is highly appropriate. The power of storytelling to influence learning, memory and human development is as ancient as mankind and applies to social movements, religion (all of the great religions have storytelling at their heart), education and even brands. As the proverb says, stories live in our hearts forever – through our emotions (heart) and memories (forever). Emotions and memory – that is where brands live!

There has been a revival of interest in the role of storytelling within modern-day marketing, mainly through the concept of transmedia storytelling.  Major multinationals now employ storytelling specialists within their marketing function as a matter of course. Although I sometimes worry that the emphasis is often too much on the transmedia and not enough on the storytelling, this is a welcome development. Until brands learn what their ‘story’ is, how to best communicate and spread it, and how it influences the purchase decision, much of their media spend will be wasted.

When even the CEO of Google comments that;

“That’s the gift of advertising – to connect with people in a human way – to make the kind of emotional connections that are at the core of story telling.”

then you know it’s important.


  1. 4.       “ The problem with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say”

This quote is usually attributed to David Ogilvy, although I have been unable to locate the source. If any David Ogilvy fans out there can help out, that would be much appreciated, otherwise I’m going to start claiming it as my own. I would love to – after all, it is pithy, witty and completely true.

Even today, most market research is based on asking people to say what they think. We now know that this is the most unreliable and limited way to get at the truth. We should spend more time and money looking at what they do and how they feel.  As the previous quotations suggest, what we think has a very small influence on our decision-making, and what we say we think is often based on biases created by phenomena such as post-rationalisation, self-representation, confabulation and memory degradation. And yet marketers still spout out awareness levels, tracking scores and brand preference indices as if they were goals in themselves.

Whenever I have had the opportunity to look inside the heads of consumers – through neuroscience, biometrics, implicit measurement techniques or ethnography – the insights are far deeper, richer and more meaningful than anything that ever came out of survey research or focus groups. Even though David Ogilvy was a keen user of market research during his own career (“advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals”) I firmly believe that he would have cottoned on to this fundamental flaw in the traditional research model if he had been with us today.


  1. 5.       “The Medium is the message”

Like David Ogilvy, Marshall McLuhan has been responsible for many memorable quotes.  It was he who gave the phrase “turn on, tune in and drop out” to psychedelic guru Timothy Leary (although he claimed never to have tried LSD himself, explaining to Playboy magazine that he’d rather be an observer than a participant), as well as the insight that “we look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future”

The medium is the message” has become such an aphorism that I think it has lost a great deal of its meaning.  It was written at a time when media plurality was reaching unprecedented proportions and the power of context was beginning to be understood. We now know, especially through the advances made in behavioural economics, just how important the surrounding context is in terms of how a piece of communication is received, processed and acted upon. How, where, when and through what channels the communication is received are all part of that context, and it makes the media practitioner’s role more important than ever before.

So, why don’t we incorporate it into media practice far more often? As I have written in previous blogs, we are still far more interested in the exposure metrics and far less enthusiastic about engagement research as an industry, and yet that is where the real power of media lies and where the real value can be mined.

Maybe it is time to turn on, tune in and drop out – from the counting culture to the counter-culture.  Marshall would be delighted.


October 16th, 2012

I conducted a piece of brand research a couple of years ago, which dared to raise a question few people in marketing ever ask; “are there any brands out there that you would refuse to buy, at any price?”

The answer, at the time, was an unqualified ‘yes’! It was remarkable how many markets and brands were deemed toxic by consumers, many of them in the services sector. These were spontaneous outpourings of rage – we just gave them time to get it out of their system. There were many numerous examples of poor, almost non-existent customer service, especially at those times when customers are most in need; when the technology goes wrong.

There are several brands already banished from the Brennan household, mainly due to the above complaint, but my recent Escher-esque dealings with Microsoft have resulted in an addition to the toxic brand gang. I won’t bore you with the details, but it consists of many failed attempts to re-access a closed Hotmail account (bloody hackers!) leading to a constant loop around the message boards for a solution. At least I knew I was not alone; endless exhortations to the God of Inaccessible Alternate Email Accounts came from around the globe, with not a single answer to pacify them. It has been more trouble than it has been worth, so I’ve just opened a Google account instead.

But it’s refocused my attention on the problem of toxic brands because, sure as eggs is eggs, if I asked that same question today, there would be even more candidates across even more markets . In fact, I would bet good money that the number of brands spontaneously placed in the toxic category would outweigh those in the ‘buy at any price’ equivalent.

Which is odd, really, because the industry spends so much money on the latter. One of the myths of social marketing is that brand advocates will lead the way, spreading the good word in a way that paid-for media could never achieve. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that people with a grievance outshout the satisfied every time. Try it the next time you’re at a dinner party and the conversation has dried up. Ask the question “are there any brands out there that you would refuse to buy, at any price?” and listen to the grievances pour out. There will be no more awkward silences, I can promise you.

So why isn’t more invested into the opposite-of-advocates (see, they haven’t even got a recognised name)?  I believe their existence is a failure of marketing and a challenge for media planning – after all, why try to reach them? But it is largely due to the increasingly digital mindset of technology-led services. I explore this whole issue of digital vs. analogue mindsets in my new book (shameless plug), focussing on the enduring ‘analogue’ strengths of TV, but the digital vs. analogue paradigm extends across the marketing spectrum.

For many digital-mindset brands, it is virtually impossible to speak to or even email a real human being representing the company. As a consumer, your key interaction with the brand – when you most need them – will all too often result in an online infinity loop or, at best, a highly scripted, often surreal interaction with what may or may not be a real human voice. There is little room in either ‘brand experience’ for analogue qualities such as ‘common sense’, empathy or lateral thinking. As such, the services industry often struggles to match branding promises against the reality of faceless, commissioned, unresponsive CRM based on algorithms, efficiency and ‘hands-off’ customer servicing.

There are technology-based brands that get it, and these are often what I would call analogue-mindset businesses. Companies like Apple and Sky are far more customer-focussed, responsive and…well, just a bit more human in how they interact with their customers. All of the latest insights emerging from neuroscience, cognitive psychology and behavioural economics have opened our eyes to what those analogue qualities are worth in business terms, and I’m surprised that so many technology brands have failed to grasp that fact.

It’s interesting that I’ve just mentioned two brands with more than their fair share of brand advocates, but they are also two brands that rarely get mentioned when the ‘toxic brand’ question is asked. But then the question itself rarely gets asked in the rush for Facebook ‘likes’ and brand champions.

In the meantime, I’d suggest a bit more focus on the ‘opposite-of-advocates’ would yield a great deal more in the way of business performance. If you want to find out who they are, or how strongly they feel, just ask that question at your next dinner party. Then lean back and listen to the roar. You might not get invited back, but you’ll be much better informed.

CONNECTED TELEVISION – How TV’s Analogue Strengths Have Created a Digital Supermedium’

In or out- the most important media segmentation

November 18th, 2011


A couple of years ago, I had a friendly spat with David McEvoy from J C Decaux over the fact I hadn’t included outdoor in my analysis of time spent with media, during my presentation at the launch of Touchpoints 3. My point was that all other measures were about time actively spent consuming a particular medium (i.e. claimed usage), whereas for outdoor it was time spent out of home (i.e. opportunity to see), producing an unfair comparison.

The conversation did set me thinking, though. There does appear to be a strong relationship between television and outdoor; when used together, they seem to aid advertising effectiveness, by working in a highly complementary way. Certainly, the IPA Databank suggests they work well together, and well over half of the prize winning case studies feature TV as a lead medium and outdoor as a significant support channel. The fact that one dominates our time in the home and the other is eponymous with the time we spend out of home suggests to me that the most basic media segmentation, and the one that is perhaps most relevant to the media consumer, is in or out; whether we are sitting in the relative calm and comfort of our own living rooms, or we are out and about in the big, wide world, getting on with our lives and managing to cut a path through all of the noise and distractions.

Whether we segment by mindset, context or location – all of which are proven to be influential in how we process and respond to marketing communications – the question of whether we are in or out of our homes is the most fundamental driver. Think about it; when we are in our own homes, we are more likely to be relaxed, switched off, with our closest family or friends in a familiar environment where we don’t need to think too much but we have more time to engage with what interests and attracts us. When we are out of home, whether commuting, studying, working, shopping or socialising, then we are more focussed, task-oriented, and surrounded by stimuli, much of it unfamiliar, all competing for our attention. We are also, ninety per cent of the time at least, closer to purchase (as offline retail still accounts for 91% of retail spend.

But let’s also consider the other 9% of retail expenditure. Until the rise of online, another part of the segmentation would have been that when we were at home we would have been unable to respond easily to what we experienced from the comfort of our living rooms. That is no longer the case, we can respond to anything at any time, although the nature of response does differ, depending on where we are and the mindset we are in at the time; we tend to respond to things we are personally interested in from our sofas in the evenings, whereas it is much more likely to be more functional items (e.g. car insurance) that we respond to online at different times of the day.

That said, the majority of our purchases are still offline, which means they can often only be completed when we are out of home. It is this relationship; the ability of our in-home experiences to engage us and create the desire or positive associations with the brand, and then out of home experiences to nudge us along, grab our attention or lead us to a purchase opportunity where I think the magic of in-and-out marketing communications resides.

When we are at home, television dominates our media time. According to the latest Touchpoints data, it is responsible for half of all our media time BUT between six pm and eleven pm – when most of us are settled at home with our loved ones –  it takes a massive seventy five per cent of our media time. Meanwhile, although technological developments like mobile TV will make it more of an out of home medium, it will never compete with outdoor for the out-of-home audience. It doesn’t matter – each media channel is doing what it does best in those two very different environments.

We know that people are more receptive, responsive and emotionally engaged when they are watching TV at home, and that this leads to stronger and more positive memory associations with the brand. Equally, we know that when people are out and about, a great deal does get processed, but much of it is beyond our conscious awareness. For the best demonstrations of this latter phenomenon, it is worth watching Derren Brown, especially his brilliant demonstrations of how to influence advertising copywriters to come up with a particular piece of creative ( or the equally impressive way he influences a woman to select one particular toy out of the many thousands stocked at toy megastore Hamleys ( Even though the ‘victims’ of these stunts had no idea they were being influenced by the tiny details that they had processed during their guided journeys with the arch manipulator, those details were enough to influence their behaviour so much that Derren could predict what they would eventually do, despite the thousands of alternative behaviours or choices they could have exhibited!

My point is that, for many of those out of home experiences to break through, they need to make sense, pretty much immediately. They need to awaken associations that are already firmly established in our minds and carry a meaning beyond what we can take in during the few seconds in which we may be exposed to the communication. They need to do this whilst we are often concentrating on something else entirely; crossing a busy main road, completing the crossword on a crowded train, scanning the aisles during a frantic shopping expedition or taking that all-important business call as we make our way from one meeting to another. The fact that outdoor will become increasingly audio-visual should cement this relationship between TV and outdoor even further.

So, like most media combinations, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and different media channels perform different functions within the communications process. With television and outdoor working together, the brand gets to be integral to the two major elements of people’s lives; whether they are in or out.