As Seen On The Inside Front Cover Of The Economist


What a bizarre ad to use to reach Economist readers.

(Click on the ad and zoom for more detail)


Hello Media Owners, Please Do Your Research

frustration Everyday I wade through at least 250 emails, 20 phone calls and  many, many meetings, some scheduled, some impromptu.  About half of the calls I get are sales calls soliciting business. I’m  happy to take your calls, but there are a couple of basic things  that any good media owner should be doing. 

    1. Do some basic research. 

 Know what accounts we look after and at least have a basic idea  of what we’ve been doing on these accounts recently. A quick  run on Extreme, Addynamix or a similar competitive research  tool should bring up some good information and a look in one  of the many agency directories should bring up account & client  information. 

   2. Don’t expect a meeting to go through something you can  email me or tell me on the phone. 

 I have a mate whose boss schedules her time in ten minute windows. Yep, she’s that busy. I’m not nearly that busy or important, but I do guard my working time quite jealously. 

  3. When we do meet, don’t just present your well-tread sales presentation. 

If you’ve done your research, then you’ll know what accounts my team and I look after and if you’re worth your salt, you won’t come to a meeting just to talk about standard inventory and the great rates you can sell at – that’s stuff you can talk through on the phone.  Media owners have a lot of excellent research and many exciting opportunities to share – take us through this. Tell us the new things you’re up to and the potential they have for our clients. 

  4. Understand the strategy and try to get a sense of the bigger picture. 

This is a major pet peeve of mine. Just as we know that there’s more to marketing than media planning & buying, please understand that there’s more to the Internet than your website. Have a chat with us, ask us about the client’s strategy and build a response from there. If your site doesn’t fit into the strategy, we won’t use you, no matter how much you argue that your site’s demographic is perfect for our client’s business. There’s more to planning than demographic targeting. 

  5. It takes time to build a relationship. 

Just because we’ve met once and had a good chat, doesn’t mean that you can add me on Facebook and call me mate and babe when we chat on the phone. 

   6. Please don’t harass me and my team. 

If we’ve said we’ll get back to you, we will – we’re good like that. We don’t need weekly calls and emails asking if we have any new briefs. If we did, we’d have already sent something over to you. 

Get these basics right and I’m sure we’ll have a fabulous, long-lasting relationship.

If I Can’t Hear You, I’ll Lip Read

Wearing hearing aids is a very odd thing. As much as they’ve taught me a lot about myself, they’ve taught me a lot about other people, mainly that there is an intense fascination with ‘otherness’ . 

Here’s the back story: I have a degenerative hearing disorder which has left me with about 60% of my hearing in both ears and judging by the state of my mother’s side of the family, my hearing is going to get a lot worse. After spending too many years living under the delusion that I just needed to get my ears syringed every so often, I finally went to get my ears properly checked out. My fabulous doctor relieved me of my delusions and told me that I needed to get fitted with outer-ear hearing aids – I wear Sumo DMs, if you’re interested

This was almost two and a half years ago and I’ve only just come to terms with the fact that these will be a necessary part of my life until I kick the bucket. 

It’s been tough (who really wants molded plastic hooked around their ears for the entirety of their waking life) on a number of levels.

                1. I don’t have the cool hearing aids that sit inside the ear and make you like a spy. Unfortunately, I have the behind-the-ear version that hooks outside my ear, like the old school headphones that everyone used to wear to the gym. At least the back section matches my hair colour, although heaven forbid I dye my hair!


              2. When some people see that I’m wearing hearing aids, they slow their speech down and speak A LOT LOUDER. I’m not mentally handicapped or stupid, people.  If I’m wearing my hearing aids, I can most definitely hear you. Let’s have a normal conversation. 

              3. There’s a mini-computer in my ear that reads 16 different frequencies. This doesn’t quite make me the Bionic Woman, just yet, but what it does do is extend the range of what I can hear dramatically. Admittedly, if I position myself in the right places, I can hear things I’m not supposed to hear, but mostly I hear a lot more background noise. My brain has had to learn what and what not to filter out and this has taken some time to get used. Imagine the feeling of being on a very loud boat during a storm – lots of nausea, headaches and noise. I can only imagine what Michael Chorost went through on his quest to hear Bolero

             4.  A lot of people don’t know where to look once they realise I’m wearing hearing aids. Some people carry on an entire conversation with me whilst staring at my ears. Some people stare at my mouth in a subconscious mimicry of what I generally do when I’m conversing with someone – don’t worry I’m not fascinated with your mouth. I’m doing some lip-reading to make sure I don’t miss anything. 

wirear-2-tm Fortunately, there’s innovation happening in hearing aid design & technology. Check out Wirear

  Wirear utilises a micro fuel cell, a miniature version of fuel cell that      uses hydrogen from any hydrocarbon fuel.  A 2 ㎠ of micro fuel cell has an estimated  life of six years in this type of application proving a more sustainable  energy source than the current zinc-air batteries that last  approximately three weeks in this application. 

The new form enhances usability and addresses a number of technical problems. The microphone is located in front of the ear, maximizing the opportunity of sound capture. The speaker is placed within the ear canal to reduce acoustic error resulting in improved sound quality and effectively decreasing the ‘echo’ sensation experienced when the close proximity of the speaker to the eardrum gives the sound a natural boost in volume. Another benefit of the distance between these elements is the reduction in auditory feedback.

There’s also Phonak’s ‘Audeo Personal Communication Assistant’. 


Although the Audeo’s got a chipset that’s as powerful as a Pentium processor, judging from these press adverts, they seem to be targeting the hearing impaired ex-Gladiator market.

Do Creative Agencies Need Media Folk?


“What if we took over the entire FHM homepage, changed the colour and font, moved the content around and made the page shake for the whole day?”

“Can we just take the copy from our entire press insert and put into the MPU?”

“Let’s just take the 60″ TVC and run it as an online and mobile pre-roll.”

These are all true quotes, people.  And it make me wonder – Is there a role for a media person in a digital creative agency? 

This isn’t going to be a post bad mouthing creative agencies. In fact, to the contrary. But was something lost when media and creative de-coupled? 

The creative agency / media agency relationship doesn’t need to be a combative one, but as I’ve previously said, for this relationship to work to its best effect, both sides need to take steps to understanding what the other side does. These two disciplines shouldn’t work in isolation and there’s value in creatives having media grounding and vice versa. 

I wonder if creating a media consultancy role would help a lot of digital creative agencies flex their ideas harder. 

How would this role work? There are two ways:

    1. Advising on formats / metrics / sites / costs – “It would cost at least £200,000 to change the colour of the Yahoo homepage”, “MPUs are on the schedule because they tend to be the best performing standard format as they sit within content”, etc, etc

    2. Advising on best practice in working with media agencies – “It’s important to upload creative at least 10 days in advance because it needs to be tested and QA’d by the adserver and then again by each site”, “It’s important to implement tracking tags in the website in order to track post-click and post-impression conversions”, etc, etc

Before you ask, this isn’t a planning role I’m suggesting. This person would sit above the fray, act as a sounding board and provide a media perspective on creative output. Would this inhibit creativity and the ideas process? No, I think it would enhance it and produce better results, because it would take a very smart, very flexible person to sit in a role like this. 

Media owners like Microsoft’s BEET team are jumping into the fray, producing fantastic work and effectively acting like creative agencies. They’re already one step ahead because they understand media and are using creative productive as a means of future-proofing themselves. 

Creatives, what do you think?

How To Do Digital Media Planning & Buying

Like many of my recent posts, this one’s been brewing in my head for quite a long time, but between settling back into work after being in Toronto and moving into a new flat, blogging was put on the back burner for a while.

Now I’m back and granted I’ve only been at this blogging lark for a few months, but one thing I have noticed is the sheer dearth of media folk who are regularly blogging about media in the UK (or maybe I just haven’t found them yet!). Sure, there’s the individual blogs on Brand Republic, which are great, but apart from Feeding The Puppy, Dazzleships, Simon Andrews and Chris Stephenson, I haven’t discovered any other media planning blogs to regularly read. That means the adblogs I am reading are very comms, PR and creative focused and the digital discourse tends to run along the same lines.

Which leads me to an oft-linked post on the wonderful crackunit blog, ‘How To Do Digital Planning‘. When this was first published about a year ago, it was circulated as a great perspective and guide on digital, which indeed it is. And although many of the principles remain true across the entire digital discipline, I thought the ‘How To’ topic needed to be revisited for digital media planning.

1.  Above anything, you’ve got to LOVE it.

For the most part, digital media (and creative) is inordinately process-heavy and it can feel like a long time passes between getting a client brief and the campaign actually going live. Look past the sometimes tedious nature of the process and focus on the chance to demonstrate your passion. The opportunity for true media innovation and creativity is there with every brief and but it takes true passion to be able to work through the brief and sniff out the great idea. No matter how junior you are, you can make a valuable contribution. Passion is contagious.

2.  Media owners have long memories and move around a lot – it pays to return phone calls and to be courteous.

When I was working MindShare a few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with Tony Evans, one of the nicest and smartest people in media. Alot of agency people tend to treat media owners with disdain and something Tony said remains with me to this day. He said, “It doesn’t cost you anything to treat people well and that includes media owners. Get them a drink when they meet with you (you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this) and send them a thank you note when they take you to lunch.” Simple etiquette but it goes a very long way.

3.  Thou shalt not see the sites on ComScore as the be all and end all of online planning.

In the UK, there are over seven million websites with .uk in their domain name and countless international sites that have UK traffic. ComScore is great for getting an overall picture of what sites your target audience is using and a view on the range of available sites to plan and buy on, but remember that not all sites subscribe to Comscore so will not show up on their reports – which doesn’t mean that they’re not valid options for your campaign. Use Hitwise, NNR and media owner information when possible, don’t forget to trust your instincts and take advantage of your knowledge.

What we do isn’t an exact science and a part of being a great planner is being able to use your gut with the numbers as a back up.

4. Spend the time getting familiar with your creative agency’s processes and insist that they do the same for you.

This is an entire blog post in itself, but since the ‘Great Schism’, media and creative agencies haven’t been very good at talking to each other. It’s almost as though there’s a lack of respect for what the other does and this is even more endemic in the digital discipline. As I previously said, digital is so process-heavy, from both a media and creative point of view that if you truly want to get the best results for your clients, deliver campaigns on time and generally have an easier life, it makes sense to understand what the other side does.

5. Spend the time working with your comms planners and familiarising them with the ins and outs of digital media planning and buying.

Many comms planners can easily put together an offline media schedule, but they’d struggle to put together an online plan. Until you educate them as to what’s involved in online planning, they’ll continue to ask you to pull together last minute schedules and recommendations without having a clear idea of the amount of time it truly takes to do this. Set up a time to take them through the planning process and you’ll never look back.

6. Curiosity never killed the cat – be a sponge.

Digital changes so quickly that you need to make sure you’re on top of industry developments and changes. Read relevant blogs, websites and magazines. Subscribe to relevant newsletters. Set up an RSS readers – Netvibes and iGoogle are very good as one stop shop. Get involved with likeminded people and go to conferences, seminars and evening drinks.

7. Make sure you’re up on the financials.

It’s not enough to understand the difference between gross and net cost and client commission. Take a wider view and understand how agencies make money and your role in this. Understand how your timesheets (oh, the dreaded timesheets!) are linked into client profitability. Make sure you at least have some idea about SOX and its role in media.

8.  Be bossy – make sure you get digital involved as early as possible in the planning process.

The worst feeling is having a fully formed brief land on your desk and not having the opportunity to input objectives, metrics or ideas. It’s up to you to make sure that your comms planners and clients understand why it’s valuable to get you involved early in the game – there’s rarely a brief these days where digital doesn’t play a role.

9.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Delivering value to clients is an essential part of what we do. The old adage of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ still holds true in negotiations with media owners. Go into your negotiation with a clear understanding of what your position is, what you want to get out of the situation and don’t be afraid to push (within reason) until you reach your desired outcome.

Buying and negotiating is not a lost art and a skilled digital buyer who understands the schedule they’re planning to buy and the different angles they’re going to use to reach the number they want to hit is still a relatively rare breed. Don’t be that person who accepts deals at face value.

10. Let go of CTR as your primary metric.

As I’ve talked about in a previous post, there’s too much emphasis on CTR as a key metric for digital media activity. Speak to clients in language they’re familiar with but don’t be afraid to try to educate them. Reach, frequency, coverage, dwell time, interaction rate, conversion rate are important and sometimes more important than CTR, but it takes courage to move away from a metric that’s been hammered into clients’ head as the most important KPI to consider.

11.   Understand that BIG ideas are possible in digital media planning.

Just look at the Talk to Frank Bot, In the Motherhood show and the Toshiba Innovators series. All big media ideas that evolved into something very exciting.

Brainstorm with your team and push your schedule beyond standard formats. Get the media owners involved. Your output will be a lot better and you’ll wow your clients even more.

12.  Be able to tone down / up jargon heavy digital language when necessary.

Clients tend to get overwhelmed with digital and we don’t help the situation by banging on how great everything is in the most jargon heavy language possible. Tone it down until you’ve fully assessed their digital knowledge level.

What do you think?

What’s The Digital Equivalent Of A Jingle?

Please don’t say ‘dingle’. This is a question I’ve been pondering for a while and reading this post kickstarted some thoughts.  

Seriously though, what is the digital equivalent of a jingle? The jingles from my childhood still stick in my head and when I heard them used again in TV & radio ads when I was back in Toronto, they had the same resonance. So while Scamp suggests that “while you & I may remember tons of jingles and slogans from our childhood, the adults of tomorrow won’t. What sticks in their heads is more likely to be the visual extravaganzas of Cog, Balls and Gorilla,” I don’t think this is true. A short piece of music with catchy lyrics has the power to connect on an emotional and rational level. Take this example for Canadian pizza chain, Pizza Pizza 967-1111, this one for Fabricland and the still ubiquitous Sleep Country Canada jingle. 

The ultimate power of all of these jingles were that they hardwired the brand into consumers’ minds through sheer repetition. It’s simple, but it works. 

Art and creative directors seem to believe there’s a certain absurdity to the jingle and that it’s no longer relevant to today’s audience. I think they’re missing a serious trick. It often takes something very simple to connect consumers and I think we as an industry often get wrapped up in the idea of bigger and better when Occam’s razor would often do.  But I digress.

Does anything online have the same emotional resonance on a mass level as a jingle? Certainly digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have captured imaginations on a grand scale but is there an advertising related equivalent? 

Are there three digital equivalents to jingles?

  1. Brand related meme (ie. Elf Yourself)
  2. Avatars (ie. the dog or paperclip avatars in Microsoft Word)
  3. Branded utility (ie. NikeID, Talk To Frank Messenger Bot)

But I still don’t feel satisfied with this and I suppose that this isn’t a question that automatically generates a simple yes / no, black / white answer. 

Would love to hear thoughts on this.