Archive | October, 2009

Absolute fantasy


Football starts on Saturday and for me that means fantasy football. I’m a crap fan and gave up years ago trying to pretend to be the “real fan”. I do however love fantasy football which has the additional benefit or providing some key football knowledge and boozer currency. For many publishers, they have a fairly large fantasy football programme. The Telegraph, The Sun, Metro, all generate major traffic figures but are converseley the big commercial white elephant when it comes to ad money. Odd when you think of the passion and community of fantasy football and even the “shared moment” of 100,000s or millions even, checking their scores on a Sunday evening or Monday morning. It’s probably the first example of a real mass online social community.

So I come to Absolute Radio, who I contine to be amazed at by their linking of online into their brand and radio station. For example the swapping of registered information for the chance to pay off the January credit cards was enviously simple and appeared successful. The last couple of weeks the DJs have been talking about their Absolute Fantasy Fotball teams, who they have picked, who they haven’t, laughing at some poor sod’s misguided selection based on a loyalty to Burnely. I love it, its what I do, what my mates do, the DJs appear human and like me. I understand exactly what they are talking about. I don’t want to over egg it but there is a connection there. Digital is a great leveller and when media companies use it well, it can really connect the media “celebs” to the audience. So, brace yourself for Saturday and “Come on Burnley !!”


Publicis & Razorfish


So, Publicis have won the bidding and managed to get their hands on Razorfish. Publicis haven’t been shy on acquiring large digital businesses over the past few years and I’m sure share holders and the Parisian city boys, will be chuffed that billings for Publicis are now up to 25% as promised.
Couple of observations. I’m a big believer in “partnerships” or that good relations come about when you are working on something real with said partners vs the theoretical outline of “how we could work together?”.
It would appear that Microsoft and Publicis have achived this and the relationship goes well beyond the transaction. Publicis. like WPP, have been keen to get closer to technology companies (as the technology guys have been keen to understand the ad men). The recent Razorfish deals involves potential ad money and media trading withinthe Publicis network, I am sure Publicis will be looking to work closer with Microsoft’s development people as technology becomes more important to the whole comms product. Razorfish remains the agency for Microsoft – all looks pretty cool for both parties.
As with any large network acquisition, the press releases talk about the strategic fit and how it will add value to other assets across the conmpany. The reality is invariably that once the money men get their hands on it, its all about getting a return from what was bought and ensuring the network doesn’t fiddle or distract the new addition. I suppose the point is how do you get your 25% digital to be talking to your 75% vs just a portfolio of companies that focus on their own PnL.


Circle of events

twitter 101

I read a few things this morning that seem to be oddly linked and all worth a mention. I started off my day reading a bit more of Nick Davies’ rather good book called Flat Earth News The book is all about the state of journalism  and the media industry in this country and how one factor is how PR is acting as a major catalyst in creating a culture of churnalism and shoddy reporting

The second was that Twitter has launched its Twitter 101 guide for how people and businesses can get involved with Twitter, whihc looked pretty good. I read about this on a Brand Republic piece that introduced it as a guide for the “clueless”. A little harsh I thought.

I then read another piece posted by Brand Republic on a rather thin survey undertaken by price comparison site  on how broadband were suppliers were doing on their “Tweets”. Of which Brand Republic decided to report on it – getting exposure and creating some great contextual ads down the bottom for Top 10 Broadband.

Ha! The circle is complete. God bless the clueless


Money in interaction

Digg announced back in June that it was going to try and prioritise its ads based on whether people liked them or not and it seems that Techcrunch seem to have unearthed one of the fist screen shots of the trial.

It must be said this is something Google nailed back in 2002 or so when it moved from a CPM (cost per thousand) sales model to a CPC (cost per click) model. Many people think Google sells clicks (albeit clicks that do stuff). The reality is that that is just the way the business trades. Google realised years ago it doesn’t have clicks to sell, it has searches. It just so happened that selling clicks was the best way to monetise the searches.

In blunt terms paid for rankings are based on the costs per click you are willing to pay x the average click through you get.

£1 CPC @ 1% click though would mean for every thousand searches you would generate Google £10, if however someone else was playing only £0.70 but got a 2% click though rate – that makes Google £14 for every thousand searches, lets call that a CPM. They get priority and are seen as more valuable advertiser. Genius really.

So – we now now know that:
1. Google sells on a click but values on a search
2. Ad interaction makes Google more money
3. Ad interaction creates efficiencies for an advertiser

This opens up all sorts of questions about what makes some click? A more favourable brand? Someone having a more favourable view of that brand at that moment in time? Could it be?!?!?

So Digg’s new model look good. As usual though, you get the top of the mountain and realise there are Google footprints up there already.


Who is looking over your shoulder?



As the media industry continues to change shape, many businesses find themselves starting to question where they are sitting on the value change. Are you still relevant to the people who buy from you? Are you more relevant to a new and different group of people? Do you still need your existing suppliers?

As the purses tighten and people look for higher ground, one thing you can be sure of is that many organisatioins are going to be looking to move closer to the money and if that means moving across someone else, then tough. Areas where I think you will see this are: (beware, may not be pleasant reading)

1. Ad networks bolstering their client direct proposition
These guys are smart and have nailed their proposition. If it doesn’t work you don’t pay. They have the technology, they have the hook onto the advertisers’ site, they have the skills to trade the right media. Don’t be fooled in thinking this is about finding the right advertiser to fit their unsold. They’ll trade what suits and what works. To be honest a fairly compelling offering and something I think agencies need to argue hard against to prove their value. Ad networks see this. They have seen how Google can move past the media agencies as well as service the small businesses. Agencies will all talk about having to have central tracking, hence the danger or dealing direct, but this can’t go on forever.

2. Agencies start to forward buy
In many ways the counter to the above point. Ad networks only really appeared because media owners didn’t want to admit they weren’t selling all their inventory and didn’t want surplus unsold to affect yield. So they gave it to the ad networks to repackage. Agencies got lulled in the wonders of CPA and CPC buying (when times were busy and buyers were only too happy to have prepackaged, definite delivered deals). Agencies lost ground on the technical side of mass optimisation across multiple sites and tend to use licensed off the shelf technology with no competitive advantage. By not taking a risk the ad networks have taken all the margin (20%-30% on gross vs a 8% for an agency). Agencies still have the respect and ear of their clients and I think it won’t be long before some agencies start to forward buy with certain media owners. Get a small group and start to buy up the excess. Prices will mitigate risk. Risk and reward can be shared with an open minded client and pressure can be applied on the media owner. It needs a different level of trading with some serious underwriting and planning – but there is money to be made.

3. Publishers go for consumer direct money
“They already do!” I can hear you saying. The do indeed, many publishers will have a commercial partnership arm, or product arm or customer direct. What ever they call it, it tends to be inbedded deals, almost affiliate plus and to be honest many see this as backfill, playing second fiddle to selling ads to agencies. The reality is for many large publishers the penny is starting to drop that there are too many people in the boat and by the time everyone has taken a cut, there isn’t too much left for them. They know their readers, viewers, listeners, surfers (all of the above) buy and consume, thats the whole point of advertsiing with them. “So how about we try and start to sell direct to them”. The key is that this needs to be marketed and managed correctly and with focus and not necessarily “Yahoo Beef Burgers”, but the right structure will work. Customer money can no longer be the poor cousin, no longer every advertiser and their dog. For years media owners have been talking about the relationship their audience has with their brand, surely this is true realisation of that relationship. Share of wallet not share of spend.


What time is it?

time of day

Have just read Charlie Gower’s Time as context piece, winner of Neil Perkin’s Think Tank – Hall of Fame  where I discovered the original blog – thanks Neil.

It’s what we need – a bit of applied common sense. We seem to have forgotten about the value of time of day in people’s lives. I recently asked a couple of large publishers what % of their online inventory had a time of day, or even day of week stipulation on it?  They reckoned about 10%. Thats a bit rubbish really.

Imagine when buying TV or radio saying “you aren’t allowed to choose when the ad will run” – blimey! It would be chaos. Ask any old died in the wool (with red wine) press buyer or seller about advertisers on a Thursday and Friday and they’ll tell you about retail money. Ask a planner about promoting films and they’ll tell you about Fridays, recruitment – beginning of the week, credit cards companies – end of the month – common sense actions that reflect consumer movement and purchase behaviour.

Radio even puts a premium rate on its day parts and calls it …. wait for it …. in my best Brian Blessed voice “Drrrive Tiiiiime !!!” or …. “The Breaaaakfassst Shoowwww”

I get a bit disheartened when there is talk about online advertising not working when we don’t seem to apply the same discipline and thus give it an equal chance we would other media. Unfortunately we perceive The Incredible Hulk jumping through the screen as innovation vs a little bit of “where are the audience and what is their mindset”


Time to confess


I think it only fair to be honest. I’m not 100% sure where social media fits within the comms process

There. I’ve said it.

I can see how it add a lot to a business, especially when it is part of the destination or encouraging core customers and conversations (amongst those who are keej to talk). Having worked in a media agency and developing digital media plans that aim to sell products (directly or indirectly), there is an old habit of looking for a degree of weakness in new platforms, channels and I can’t get my head round social media as a core channel.

I’m keen to find out how it can work, where it works, when it works and (back to out allocation of finite resource) how should it be prioritised over other investment decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I like the whole social, share, create, edit, involvement thing that is going on, I just want to understand more how and where it fits in.

My concerns are:

1. Can it scale?
Ultimately adertisers want to be able to find something that sells products and then do it again (ideally cheaper!!!). I worry that social media is pinned on a series of highly creative Eureka!! moments where it is up to a customer / consumer to both shape and pass it on. That feels a bit high risk. We must surely all remember the early 2000 years  when all clients wanted was viral ads and talked about the power of “Word of Mouth”. Problem was that not everyone passed on these ads and sales were down.

“Good news, bad news Ms Client. Bad news, we didn’t hit sales, good news we didn’t spend all the ad money”.

“Thats just bad news Mr Agency”

2. How much are we talking about crowds here?
We get very over excited by crowds online tending to call it media. “Social Media” – sharing, having conversations. Just remind me why that is a media channel? How come no-one gets excited when I ring up my sister and talk to her on the phone? (ref the media business models in the bin relating to phone conversations)

Haven’t we heard this before. We have coo-ed at sales people who quoted inter-galactic numbers relating to txt message volume and waited for the tsunami of mobile business to transpire …….

All I’m keen for is for a common sense debate on it. Not channel bashing (I’ll come on to why interruption is a good thing),over excitement or thinking that social media is the answer to our problems.

A good friend and ex colleague used to work on a big global sports brand (think Tiger !!). At the annual agency conference Agency L.A. stood up and explained.

“We identified a community who were looking to enage in an aspirational brand and wanted to be heard amongst their peer tribe, we developed digital arenas and opened the expressive channels to allow people to communicate and share with the brand – we now have a community of 10,000+ people” – Wow !!!!

Agency Warsaw then stood up.

“In Poland men watch TV, we put the brand on TV, we sold 50,000 shoes”.

… and I suppose that also works – time to dig around.


150 Monkeys



About a month ago I attended a conference down in Brighton, where there was a rather odd mix of people from across the industry, which had the effect of creating a very different and engaging event.

I met this one guy helped companies engage through social media. Within days of returning to London the pereson in question had blogged something about the event, pinged me a note asking me to comment and then asked to link on Linkedin, the network dream.

Weeks later I found myself on a project where I thought it could be a great opportunity for this company in question to come on board and emailed my new networked pal.(I didn’t mention that there was some potential work, merely suggested meeting to find out a bit more about how they worked) … nothing … I tried again … suggesting we perhaps have a quick chat on the phone … am still waiting.

What happened? Volume vs depth of relationship I was thinking. Perhaps this guy had connected with the other 120 delegates, perhaps it was just a case of collecting stickers for the book. Checking on his linked in contacts, I realised he was in the 500+ realm.

I think we have all fallen foul of getting over excited on the network front and over connecting – but how many people can we realistically have a relationship with? Social? Business? At what point does the network we have created and a contact list become the phone book?

A bit of digging turned up this concept of the dunbar number from anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who stated that 150 people was the limit to the size of network of people with whom we can have stable relationships with.

Cameron Marlow, the in-house sociologist at Facebook also showed that the average number of friends was around 120 but that the number of meaningful relatiosnhips was around 7-10 of those. Outside of the 120-150 you’re just white noise – a picture in the loft.

This point was made even clearer by David Wong’s brilliant Inside The Monkeysphere (worth reading if only for the very funny lift example).

I looked at my other contacts in the 500+ club and on a broad and unscientific basis they all seemed to be either people I didn’t know that well or the “God I’m busy” types – and I’m sure this is the face of the natural collector (please let me know how your 500+ linkedin friends look like).

So where does this leave me? Realising I was probably not inside this chap’s monkey sphere? Thinking who would be in my 150? Should I get to 500? (could I get to 500 ?!!) Being reminded very accutely about good business behaviour being the ability to allocate finite resource … and probably a mental note to self, “Beware of men bearing links”