Author Archive | Phil Dearson

Good Advice

The thing about really good advice is that you never really know how good it was until a while after. If you knew it was good advice at the time you probably knew the answer but were fudging the decision. It’s when you are in the moment, on a track hurtling in some direction when you just think you need someone to reinforce your position.

My old boss gave me a couple of great ones when I left the comfort of the payroll 6 years ago.

1. To be really great you have to make tough decisions when things are going really well

2. Make sure you pay yourself properly

Both fairly intergalactic in their own right. The first we could talk about for along time and something I really believe in, but its the second that I often come back to. For any new business its key that you get to a position where you start to pay everyone their market value. If you don’t its fairly easy to run a business getting a £100k plus people to work for £15k, it just doesn’t last very long. I fell into the trap with a business a while back – thinking I was “reinvesting”, but the reality was that I was becoming more and more detached from the value of the business and the products we offered. The “reinvestment” plan made it all a little make believe vs feeling every penny you spend which is what a small business should be feeling.

Where I see this happening more and more is not so much in small businesses, but big organisations who are looking to change, or innovate with their products.

The advertising industry historically grew by around 3%. Essentially it didn’t. This made most agencies  try and differentiate from the competition – you had to, it was about stealing. Then along came digital. the growth charts were phenomenal, it was the saviour. New products and services were launched things grew like mad, but the independents (media or creative) grew faster and innovated quicker. Why? They paid themselves properly. They charged clients properly, they paid their people properly, they paid their dedicated management properly and they had a crystal cler idea of their product and how to manage it and importantly grow it.

The “traditional” agencies, were trying to protect legacy revenue – TV media or production, the army of planners who sat in mild panic hoping they wouldn’t get asked a digital question by the client. Money was taken from digital to invariably prop up the old model. Why? because clients didn’t feel they needed to pay for this but agencies felt as though they should – so they took the money, thinking the strategic high ground would be safer than the commoditised trading or production. Clients want the job done, not save money on the money they give you. Its lack of belief in we do that makes it start to be about the money.

It all comes back to being paid properly. Having the tough conversation, being clear on what you are worth which makes you focus where you allocate you resource and why.


Is NFC the final link in the chain

NFC of Near Field Communication seems to be the word of the moment. In essence its the technology that allows 2 devices to swap information – payment, data over a small physical distance. From ticketing with an Oyster card through to quick payment with your phone its pretty cool and simple technology. The phone play is where it starts to heat up. At present the new Google Nexus 2 phone has got the technology, but Apple are still holding back. A mistake I thought, but was corrected by someone recently with “Apple don’t make mistakes, Google do”.

Since the web really launched, it has been direct response clients that have really ruled the roost, they made Google famous, responsible for underwriting most of the technology that runs the web and drove the whole ability to pay and transact online. The FMCG market and small ticket retailers have been very much left behind and a little confused. Its tough to sell beer online.

Online DR has been the darling of the web for a long time. It wasn’t just a marketing tool for many, it was a full end to end business from initial touch to sale and service at the other end. Many of these businesses chuckled quite happily at retailers with shops, seeing the ball and chain of legacy.

But NFC seems to be the final link in the chain. We have seen the claiming back of technology by the people through the rise of social and now as smart phones continue to blur the edges of small computers and big phones, the good old fashioned outlet seems to be coming back into fashion. Not only location based services like Gowalla or Foursquare, but the ability now to really start to link into purchase and “on the move” behaviour.

For a long time brands haven’t really leveraged their non cash assets or realised them as a marketing tool. On pack, instore, at event all suddenly seem very exciting and very relevant, all we needed was to wire them up, which is where NFC will come into its own. Bricks and mortar coming back into fashion and if anything being the competitive edge (perhaps this is why the second word of the moment is the “Pop Up Shop”).

I suspect Google will make it work and Apple will inspire us with it. Exciting times ahead.


What are you post rationalising?

My Dad always loves to tell me how when you stop to ask for directions in Ireland you still get the “Well I wouldn’t start from here”, at which point you will be given clear directions to said preferred start point and then additional directions to where you wanted to get to.

How many times do businesses think about “is this the best place to start?”, vs post rationalising or included something already in place. The common one is driving traffic to a website that no-one can really remember what it was there to do and is so detached from any strategic (or tactical) objevctive that you can just see the marketing pounds flying out the window.

The number of smart people who will still say “We have spent a lot of money on it ….” … pause ?!. In fact they will even put someone in charge of it who will love and protect it like the doting keeper of Jabba The Hutt’s underground monster.

Is this the best place to start? Is including the website or taking people via that route really the best thing to d? Maybe – but maybe not and it shouldn’t be assumed.

Chris Anderson’s The web is dead. Long live the internet shows how websites are becoming less and less involved and his chart pretty much nails that point.

This is starting to resonate with the product and commercial market but perhaps still needs to be embraced by the marketing & comms teams.


The Times paywall

The Times paywall flags up a lot of the challenges facing the publishing industry and its ability to get back on some kind of even keel. There have been lots of stones thrown at The Times for what is seen as some blind, desperate attempt to put the old pay model on the new world, but I believe it represents a major shift.

1. They are doing something

Many businesses and publishers are in fear and denial about what is going on with their business. One thing you can be sure of, the team down at The Times will be onboard with the fact that something advertising alone won’t work and thats why they are having to do something. They are starting to address the problem.

I was at an IAB event recently and there were a number of publishes talking about initiatives that were driving large traffic levels, but you knew that traffic volume is not their problem. Its how do you sell the traffic. Innovation with platform, technology, ad format, content strategy, structure is all good but when was the last time you saw someone innovate with their commercial model? (and please don’t talk about behavioral – not to be harsh, that wasn’t their idea)

2. They are talking about users

Customer, customer, customer. No more talking about the intergalactic figures that no one understands

Publisher:”We have 3.2 million unique users and 129 million impressions, with even more ad impressions and we are far bigger than everyone else, who we know are confused and challenged like us”

Adevrtisers: – “That’s great – can I buy those 3 million people? with an ad”

Publisher:  “Don’t be daft, you can buy impressions though”

Advertiser: “?!”

The Times are thinking about people (albeit a small number). They have set up a model that gets the business thinking about users and the revenue they generate. Publishers are going to have to start to take some reader money directly (through subs) or indirectly (through commercial deals) at some point and the sooner everyone (ad sales and editorial) start to talk about their revenue per user the quicker things will start to improve.

I would bet that more people at The Time are getting their calculators out and working out what the ad revenue per user is vs. subscription – that in itself is quantum leap.

There are some great pieces of analysis that are worth a read – Beehivecity has had a good dig round the numbers and really look at what the possibilities are.

99% of publishing businesses have editorial one side and commercial on the other. They don’t meet until they report into the CEO. “churches, needing each other, but very different. I believe the journey that The Times has started on is cultural and for once a business has potentially unified the business under a common cause and goal.


Publicis falling short on its ad deal with Microsoft

So news is out that Publicis may be having problems meeting its spend commitmment with Microsoft. When the original deal went through last year for an estimated $530 million, it was viewed that together with cash and shares there was also a media spend commitment put in place. Publicis (or its media agencies) would agree to move money across to Microsoft’s media busines (predominatly display and search) to sweeten the deal.

I imagine the media negotiators were suddenly cock of the pack. The only downside is that trading on big commitents works well with TV, press, radio and some elements to online. The issue comes when direct response comes into play. Probably 75% of display and more or less all of search budget is feeding off direct response cash.

The simplicity of direct response is that it self strategises. What works works and gets more money and what doesn’t doesn’t and gets cut (this being the reason why Google’s could scale beyond any previous model seen – it worked!!).

This being the case Microsoft had to perform if it was to remain on any media schedule – if it didn’t the media agencies would be having some fairly awkward conversations with their clients why Microsoft stays on the plan when it isn’t washing its face and as such making a commitment with direct response money a fairly high risk business.

 A tough one and its really beggars belief looking back that any media commitment was openly admitted. 

Now I don’t know the whole picture and it may well be that Publicis would have brought a couple of clients into the deal “We use our money and your money and we both share in the upside”, now that would be innovative and honest and transparent.


Can a brand ever create a digital strategy?

It’s a big question really and something much of the “client side” marketing community look upon with horror.

You can hear the board meetings “We need a digital strategy, what’s the role of digital?”, eyes on marketing .. a tentative nod and then the fun begins. The reality is that for any marketing team to create a “digital strategy” is nonsense. Its like saying we need to review how we are using plastic or “Bob? Where is the role of paper report within the marketing function I asked for?”. Doesn’t have quite the ring to it does it.

We all see digital as a transmission method (internet, web, email, radio, TV … watches), yet we keep on trying to give it a strategic objective. Most companies will have a very clear idea of what they need to achieve, how they create and execute a plan and fingers crossed measure it. Whether its above-the-line, promotions, PR, on pack or focus groups for customer input, the roles are clear and robust. We should then be asking “How can digital help the bit I am doing / or not”. In essence digital needs to be slave to the function and should never sit as a strategic objective.

Many companies have used digital to develop or launch new products or services,  driven some great awareness, gor customer feedback or sold more product but all of these were locked onto an existing area (NPD, advertising, insight and sales) and any digital thinking should ultimately be coming out of those teams, not some dude on the top the floor with “Digital Strategy”  stuck on their door.

If you try and tell most people that if all goes well there will be no digital strategy, just digital helping to deliver the existing strategy, they look at you like you are crazy. Time to decentralize it and get everyone thinking.