Archive for August 16, 2011

Posted: August 16, 2011
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Its silly season in the retail food sector!

I don’t normally waste my time drawing attention to specific examples of advertising that are plain rubbish, but it seems like silly season for the UK retail food sector at the moment and I simply can’t ignore it.

The new campaign for Sizzling Pubs leaves me speechless its so ridiculous, but nowhere near as mindless as the commercial for Harvester.  What the blazes are these people trying to do?  Together, these two campaigns prove the point I was making a few weeks back that marketing is dumbing down.  These simply have to be examples of inexperienced marketing managers who lack the confidence to tell their agencies, when they present this crap, to stop having a laugh!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKSzN06gflQ]

I can imagine the scene.  The agency guy making out that a rap, which in Harvester’s  case doesn’t rhyme or scan, is the kind of “groovy” solution that will appeal to a hip new target market and the client failing to notice that they had buried any product benefit there might have been beneath the awful treatment and not having the balls to draw him a route-map to reality.  Is the story here the diversity of the menu or is it just a case of having to come up with a commercial to disguise the fact absence of a proposition?  Whichever, it failed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI1cZMYqW18&playnext=1&list=PL2385D1C20CC0F9ED]

The Sizzling Pubs agency guy has clearly allowed self-love to obscure the fact that even if they can work out what the blazes is supposed to be happening the behind-the-scenes antics of the ad. business is about as enthralling to the target audience as a day watching paint dry.  Its neither funny nor interesting, but because I know how hard food retailers like these two are working to come up with a point of difference these days, its particularly galling to see what could be a genuine opportunity flushed down the toilet.  If Sizzling Pubs are successful it will definitely be despite their advertising and that’s a shame because, without breaking sweat I can think of a number of entertaining ways of getting the idea of sizzling food across.


Posted: August 16, 2011
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So, what does the “agency of the future” look like?

The news a couple of weeks back, that DraftFCB has lost their SC Johnson business after fifty-eight years prompted a pretty damning commentary from Campaign that Thursday in which Claire Beale condemned Interpublic’s promise to deliver “the agency of the future” with their amalgamation of Draft and FCB as a damp squib.  But do Interpublic even have the components to create the agency of the future.  Come to think of it, what does the agency of the future look like anyway?

If you’ve been watching this space you’ll have heard me point out many times that the single most important difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one is efficiency.  You’ll also know that the world has moved on from the times when an unsuccessful business could still chug along (I’ve seen plenty of walking dead over the years).  These days you are either ticking like a Swiss watch or you are dead.  That’s the new economy for you. You don’t even get points for being efficient in some areas of your business if you are inefficient in others – you are only as strong as your weakest link.

When it comes to marketing, efficiency is more than just tackling all the issues that influence the success of your business or learning to use a wider range of tools and disciplines.  It’s about eliminating inconsistencies between different messages, campaign elements or between strategic and tactical facets of your Campaign and taking full advantage of the synergy afforded by imaginative combinations of elements of your marketing initiatives.  Synergy and consistency have always been the major benefits of integrated marketing. The only thing that has changed is that these things are no longer merely nice to have, but essential.

On it’s simplest level efficiency is doing the things that deliver the greatest benefit and avoiding those further down the effectiveness table.  Long gone are the days when advertising people could hide behind our inability to measure the effectiveness of much of what they did.  In the digital age we can and must measure the effect of anything.

And therein lies the formula for the agency of the future.  In fact, forget the future, today’s agency has to be able to deliver an integrated solution (and that means integrated marketing, not just the integrated communications that everyone seems to think is the real thing) with data collection and analysis built into every element.

For an agency to pull this off is no small feat.  Firstly it means bringing together a diversity of expertise that very few marketing services firms anywhere in the world can muster.  Then there’s the question of culture clashes.  The people and culture of a data management consultancy is the antithesis of a creative agency as those who have sought to combine the two have discovered.  I worked with Experian a few years ago to help them create a hybrid consulting model that I called Optimarketing, but it never really gained traction because of the issues associated with sitting hundreds of data specialists and analysts who insisted in a silent working environment and who lacked creative instincts in the same space as gregarious, creative advertising people and expecting them to work together.  However, Experian were ahead of the game in recognising that this the way to go, closely followed by Sapient, who adopted the strategy of acquiring creative instinct rather than trying to grow it at home, by buying Chris Clarke’s Nitro group.  While I’ve not seen evidence of a quantifiable model emerging from this marriage, there are others playing with the same idea.  One of the more exciting new partnerships being Harte-Hanks who have taken in the UK agency Mason Zimbler, themselves already accustomed to the digital world that might just provide the cultural bridge to the numbers people.

As a company looking for a marketing services provider you’ll need either extremely broad skills and experience in your marketing team and at least one person with the overview to coordinate numerous specialist suppliers or an agency that can deliver the full package.  As my readers will have detected from my earlier piece on the dumbing down of marketing, I believe the problem is that people with the expertise to fill the modern-day coordinating (or Marketing Director) role are as rare as hen’s teeth, so in the absence of a one-stop shop, I’m hoping folks like me and the Full Effect Company will come into our own.


Posted: August 16, 2011
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Building Brand Britain

Over that last week or so, prompted by the UK riots, we Brits have listened to endless analyses and proclamations by local community members, civil servants and politicians centred on fixing our “broken society”.  As always with these situations, there has been plenty of scepticism heaped on the potential any new initiative has for success.  However, there is only one real obstacle to all the remedial plans announced by David Cameron and others and that’s motivation.

I believe that Dave is a good motivator and getting better, he talks sense, even though his opponent Ed Miliband, seems intent on trying to neutralise that with mindless and responsible political point-scoring.  (If I were him I’d shut up before people started to realise that it’s the left-wing, crap that his party has expounded for decades that has given certain sectors of society the idea that they have rights they haven’t earned and therefore created this disaffection).

The marketers among us will recognise the task facing us as brand-building and as anybody reading this blog over the last few years will know building Brand Britain is one of my pet subjects. The problem is that we have singularly failed to respond to the obvious need to develop Brand Britain and we still don’t have the right people in harness to tackle the job.  Forget the political masseurs, data-analysis’s and bean-counters, where are the marketers in the team?  Without them we won’t get past first base because the people who are currently in the driving seat simply don’t get it.

Over the past few years I have approached politicians, government departments, local councils and private enterprises with initiatives designed to help build Brand Britain.  In many cases, because I have always believed that unemployment and local business initiatives are both inextricably linked and critical to the cause, these initiatives have addressed local unemployment, been designed to strengthen communities and help the mid-sized local businesses who are the key to the future of our nation, shift up a gear and take on the world.

The responses I have received from the public sector jobs-worths in particular, though unsurprising have been nonetheless frustrating.  Unimaginative Job Centre Plus employees civil servants and local councillors have simply disregarded projects and initiatives as representing just another unwelcome task.  There’s no point and very little scope for public sector workers like these to adopt an initiative that’s not dictated letter by letter from Whitehall because their world isn’t a meritocracy.  Why should they take on something they aren’t compelled to?  There’s nothing in it for them.  Besides, these people aren’t employed for their creativity and they are entombed in a culture that actively discourages any kind of creative thinking, so expecting them to appreciate any concept is always an ask too far.

Life skills that should have been taught throughout a person’s school life, if not at the cradle, are belatedly outsourced by Job Centre Plus to HR and recruitment companies.  I’ve spoken to a few of these contractors.  They view these projects with the glee of a paedophile assigned to changing room duty at kids swimming gala and submit proposals that represent minimal input and maximum income for them with the balls-out cheek that comes from knowing the people assigning these projects don’t have the first idea what they are doing and are just relieved to have a tick in the “assigned” box.  When I have gone to these organisations to volunteer help and advice, the response has been eerily uniform and something to the effect that “…we‘ve managed to blag the approval of the JCP people for this half-baked programme, so there’s nothing in it for us if we actually do the job properly”.

These are the kinds of issues that will threaten any British brand development programme and unless someone wakes up pretty quickly and recognises that we ARE building a brand and therefore need to follow the appropriate process, we are destined to failure once again.  That means someone (Dave will do) having a clear picture of what Brand Britain looks like and starting with the mother of all internal marketing campaigns that will bring the public sector and government puppet masters into line behind the concept.  The public are motivated, the players are listening and we’re unlikely to find ourselves with a better promise of success for a brand building venture than now this side of World War Three.


Posted: August 16, 2011
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Matalan – Sometimes, all it takes is the basics.

I’m subscribed to more on-line retailers and loyalty programmes that I can remember these days, but I never cease to be amazed at how badly these companies manage their data.  Its been years (I mean more than twenty) since I started getting my clients to build relationships with their customers by acknowledging dates like birthdays that are important to them, but I can’t remember ever receiving a birthday reward from anybody other than MoonPig and then, of course, it was someone else’s birthday they were reminding me of.

I was reassured therefore by my mother’s delight at having received a £5 shopping voucher for her birthday this week from, of all people, Matalan.  I’ve always wondered why the retailer didn’t appear to do anything much with the data they collect when they register their customers.  Especially as you are strong-armed into subscribing to their loyalty programme at your first visit to one of their stores.  It seems that having hit rock bottom in recent years the retailer has addressed issues well beyond their dowdy stores and stock.  Well done Matalan for showing UK retailers how its done!