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Knowing me, knowing you

8 Nov

It seems you can’t read anything the days without the obligatory story about the dangers of your digital fingerprint. Young kids posting pictures of their private parts on Facebook (god I’m glad I grew up when you still had negatives you could destroy), or posting some other picture or comment online that will be sure to prevent them getting a job in the future.

Clearly both of these are relevant and true risks of posting without thinking. Like most employers, the first thing I do when reviewing resumes is to do a google search, and scroll past linkedin to find out a little bit about the real person. I’ve also taken a great deal of pleasure when someone (generalisation here but it’s usually someone who should know the risks such as a “community manager” or similar) from an agency who one day wants some of your investment decides to tee off on your latest campaign. Unfortunately for them, whilst I often struggle to remember to pack snacks for the kids when heading out to the park, I never fail to forget someone who could be so stupid.

So it’s true, that for gen y or whatever the latest batch of ‘indestructibles’ is called, and anyone else who likes to think of themselves as a keyboard warrior, a bad digital fingerprint can genuinely be a Liz Lemon-esque deal breaker.

However, I don’t think enough is made about how beneficial digital fingerprints can be.

I recall sitting down for a piccolo with a man I am really inspired by, the omnipresent Steve Samartino who said to me something along the lines of “my blog has come to generate more opportunities than any of the other work I’ve done”. Now those familiar with Steve (not Sam Artino as his twitter handle may lead you to assume) will be aware of the amazing breadth of successful work he does, from client side, to agency planner, and more broadly, entrepreneur and start up king. As we continued to talk I expressed my fear that I didn’t really have anything that inspiring to write about, or couldn’t share the confidential stuff I was working on. However, Steve encouraged me to back myself and share the thoughts that I had, as if he found them interesting over a coffee, surely someone, somewhere, bored on the interwebs may find my ramblings similarly interesting.

So I started. And I loved it. Granted, as life with two kids, an intense job, a desire to stay fit and generally living day to day, I haven’t done it as much as I would like recently. However, if I’m honest, all the excuses are a cop out. There’s always five minutes to get some thoughts down on the iPad. And as Steve recently reminded me, writing is just like exercise: the more you do, the easier and better it gets. So, much like my need to improve my triathlon swim, this is something I just need to commit to.

So back to the title of this entry, and the opening paragraph. Perhaps not enough is made about the potentially positive impact of sharing your thoughts online. If you have a positive digital fingerprint, as Steve suggested, there is a lot that can be gained.

This really struck home for me last week when I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristian Manietta. Kristian is a phenomenal triathlete and, amongst other things, run elite training squad for those looking to improve their Tri performance. Perhaps more importantly, he is currently working on a charity ride this summer, riding from Bondi to Noosa for an amazingly great cause of sustainable water for Cambodian families.

Now Kristian and I had never met in person, but a quick text and we agreed to meet up for a ride to talk about the charity ride and how I could potentially help. Now, usually the thought of spending an hour on the bike together with someone you had never met could be a bit daunting, with a lot of uncomfortable silences. However, as soon as I rode out and met Kristian, I already felt I knew him. Why? Simple…research: Twitter, Instagram, websites etc. What’s more, as a switched on guy Kristian had done the same, and it really blew me away as we were talking on the bike, and much longer over another piccolo or two, how much he actually did know about me. I was really impressed when he started referencing articles I had written on this blog, not for the ego stroke, but because it showed he had an interest and a similarity of views. How handy is that? When going in to a meeting with someone you can really simply find out what makes them tick, get their views on things and, sometimes most importantly what they absolutely detest, and make sure you tailor your message to this, or if you really think they’re a real douche just cancel the meeting!!

So there it is. In summary, digital fingerprints can actually be really positive. As my dealings with two inspirational men has shown. By writing more, and in turn reading more about others there is a lot that can be gained both professionally and personally. So expect to see more from me from now on.



Facebook. It’s over.

23 Nov


In terms of current world events this certainly can be filed under #firstworldproblems, but for my world of marketing and more broadly connecting with people it’s kind of important.

As the title suggests, I’ve officially broken up with Facebook. Yep that’s right, cold turkey. Totally switched off. App deleted, annoying emails ignored. Gone°.

Yeah it’s not a huge thing when you think about it, but as a fairly tech connected dude in my 30s who likes to feel like they’ve got their finger on the pulse, you start to realise that the old FB can play a fairly central role for your daily dose of downtime or ‘connecting’ with your so called friends.

So What led to the decision? In a word SPAM. That’s right post IPO I’m sure you may have noticed that the FB user experience has drastically changed, based on the added pressure of now driving shareholder value – so how do they do this? Advertising.

It might sound incongruous coming from me as an advertiser, criticising the role of ads, however for me this is about how they are doing the advertising.

Just as for any form of traditional or new advertising, there is a right way to do it, and the wrong way to do it. Simply screaming your message at people, or hitting people with a message when they don’t want to hear it, or in this case screaming a random, irrelevant message in a personal, social environment is just wrong. If you know when people are open to a message, and more so when your message adds some form of value for them, vs just screaming our message, there is going to be far more chance that folks will be open to the message. Get that message across in an engaging, enjoyable way and now you’re in the zone. So for instance, if as I’m standing in the communal shower at the local pool, worried about getting tinea, I see an ad for Dactarin above the sink, naturally I’m open to the message, and more so that brand is then locked in my mind as the top of mind choice should I find myself in the unfortunate position of having athletes foot.

Contrast that to the way Facebook are advertising. Lets look at the day that pushed me over the edge. As I logged in to my iPhone the first story in my news feed was one of my posts from months ago (more on Edgerank in a minute), then there was an (unauthorised) post from Taubmans paint, something along the lines of “Hey it’s spring. What’s your favourite sort of flower….” Ok. Where to start? Trying to connect the dots here I think the link had something to do with paint colours that match flowers, anyway apart from the craziness of the post, what really annoyed me was the fact that there, amongst my personal connections of friends and colleagues is a brand yelling an unwanted and irrelevant message.

Scrolling down further I then got to the section of “sponsored pages” and there, as has been the case for the last 3 months, are the Sportsbet, Tom Waterhouse and some other forgettable brand insisting that given a FB friend likes this page, then I should blindly click like also. And whilst I have never shown any interest in one of this posts or pages over the past months, there they stay. Like the desperate street walker shaking her booty in the hope that some deviant stops to check out what is on offer. Simply an annoying eyesore.

Finally there are the brand pages, obviously being managed by a brand manager or agency who are obsessed with generating ‘likes’, and no doubt is reporting back to their bosses how amazing it is that they’ve generated so many likes. To continue the sex worker analogy here, this to me feels like bragging about a prostitute who you’ve paid for services showing interest in you. Specifically, paying for impressions to generate likes, or posting inane posts such as “hey it’s sunny outside today. Click like if you like being alive”, to worse still giving away prizes for people to click like is such a waste of effort. Sure there is a time and need to build a community, but my view is you deliver a far better result by actually engaging with fans. That’s right, find out what your fans like and then develop content that is relevant, engaging and ultimately adds value for them versus just shouting a message.

What is the biggest travesty here is that with Facebook, every bit of consumer data is available, therefore this should be the best in class example of perfectly target communications. Back to my case, given I’ve never visited a gambling page, and even after a quick scan of my basic profile you can learn what I’m in to, personalised messages or at least brands and categories that are relevant to my interest would be the most powerful form of marketing. Instead brand are wasting money hitting me with a message that not only doesn’t have relevance to me, but more so really starts to piss me off given the persistent hanging around like a bad smell.

Add to the the crazy, erratic nature of their proprietary Edgerank algorithm that establishes what they want me to see, causes posts to disappear and prioritise these annoying ‘promoted posts’ and what you get is a really annoying product. And for me, you actually get me switching off. Good night.

So you may ask “what has replaced it for you” or where and how do we feed our fix now? Well this all depends on what we are looking for. Sure there are other applications that play a similar role – twitter, Instagram and blogs, but more so no doubt in some kids mind, or a uni share house somewhere, the next big thing is just around the corner. But perhaps the bigger opportunity here is to say stuff it all and actually focus on true engagement and connection.

Now I don’t want to sound all superior or like someone who has just learnt about the benefits of Enjo cleaning cloths, but I’m feeling really good about my decision. And it appears it’s not just me; when I’m telling others about this, I seem to be getting a lot of similar feedback. Perhaps other enlightened folks seem to be coming around to this way of thinking. In the same way that FB stormed to life, that same groundswell can turn just as quickly. So if you’re looking for me, the one place you won’t find me is on Facebook.

°disclaimer I haven’t deleted the profile, purely to allow me to use the login details for websites vs signing up fresh. In my view this is about the value and only use for Facebook.

If video killed the radio star, did brands kill the athletes?

4 Aug

So it’s official. The London 2012 games have been a massive case of over promise and under deliver, and no doubt the various sporting bodies and institutes and more so the media will conduct a rigorous review of just went wrong. Sure the athletes that started to believe their own hype, or spent too long reading every tweet and that messed with their mojo whilst they were on the blocks. Maybe they just weren’t good enough when it counted.

But that’s not the point of this post. More so the interesting thing I’ve noticed out of this campaign is the role of sponsorship and endorsement in the lead up to the games, and the negative impact for brand and athlete when things haven’t gone to plan.

Top of the dais has to be James Magnussen and the terrible “Can’t” campaign. Unless you’ve been boycotting the coverage you would have seen the spot – Magnussen running along what eerily looks like the infamous Gap in Sydney known to be a popular place for those choosing to end it all with a dive off the cliffs. As he’s running he is seen to be talking up his chances, before the pesky T comes along and puts doubt in to his head. Unlike real life, the T ends up making that fateful dive off the cliff and James seems all set to dominate in the pool. As we all know now, it appears that T ended up following Magnussen to London and turning “can” in to “can’t”.

Ego aside, I really struggle to understand why an athlete would agree to be involved in such a spot, and more so why a brand would accept such a risky script from the agency. What could you possibly gain from being in a campaign that totally puts a success noose around your neck. Sure if he won we’d be cheering, but for him, not Com Bank, and as history has shown, the ultimate take out of the whole campaign is can’t , certainly not can and neither brand nor athlete win out of this.

Then there is Swisse, a very switched on business, doing some great work and more so propping up many athletes with endorsements. Now for them, I think this is more a case of bad luck, having a spot featuring Cadel Evans with the music track singing “how many times in my life did I feel like giving up?” Usually, given the strength of Cadel the track was a good fit – especially the reprise “But I’m staying strong, ain’t no stopping me”. But alas, after a big TDF Evans was ruled out for being “too tired to compete” so viewers sitting at home watching spot after spot after hearing this news start to call BS on the brand.

Then even before the games there was the interesting case of reigning Olympic champion triathlete Emma Snowsill. Despite some patchy form, you’d expect the reigning champion to be a walk up starter to the games, and Qantas were obviously very confident she’d be there, so decided to use her as a part of their Olympic campaign. So there proudly adorning airports around the country were massive signs wishing Emma luck on her way to London. Unfortunately for both Qantas and Snowsill, due to some ‘subjective’ selective entry requirements, whilst Emma has gone to London, it’s to be a commentator for channel 10, not to win gold.

All of these brands had to rapidly pull these campaigns given the public comment on them and the fact they looked so stupid in retrospect. So not only did it ultimately damage the brand perception but more so it would have cost them money in terms of canceling media or pulling together alternative creative to make the use of the media inventory.

So it seems that singing up athletes prior to the games is a risky business. Sure get it right and it’s a master stroke and you’ll both be heroes, but get it wrong and I’m afraid all you have to look forward to is the please explain from management.

The counter to this strategy, is to sign up the athlete post games, once you know they have been successful. In a previous life we did this with a swimmer now residing in the ‘where are they now files’ named Jodie Henry. Like many athletes, Henry hit her straps at the right time, being the Athens Olympics, and in addition to a world record, she game home with about 4 gold medals (contrast that to the current teams performance!). So awaiting her as the door of the Qantas flight opened was us with a cheque book, and a multi year deal. We were approaching the Commonwealth Games in two years in Melbourne and as a sponsor we wanted a ready made star who could proudly front our chocolate and soft drink brands.

Now besides no obvious brand connection, this was the a gold medal performance in wasted money. Maybe it was a bad sign when the character in the Freddo suit vomited at the launch, but it really hit its high note when we rolled Henry out to a national sales conference to talk about motivation and what it takes to have gold winning performance (selling sugary products??). Her response is still etched in my mind, as is the look of the sponsorship manager and market director when she responded with “For me winning isn’t really important. I just enjoy swimming, but I don’t like competition and training” cue the crickets here, and despite the emcee trying his darnedest to link it back to selling more, it was a lost cause. What’s more her performance at the Com Games in 2006 failed to live up to the hype, and what’s worse the lasting memory most employees had (besides the awkward motivation speech), was that a one tonne chocolate carving of an athlete will always look pretty crap (yes this was actually done – google it!)

So clearly signing up athletes post winning glory is also fraught with danger, so what’s the answer? Clearly there is a powerful role athletes can play for brands. And more so it is a good thing when brands can help give back to support the lesser known athletes with endorsement money to help achieve their dreams.

For me, I think it’s all about the messaging and tone of the campaign. Definitely sign up potential stars prior to them achieving their ultimate success. Not only will it mean you can get in with a better price, but you also have the credibility of showing consumers that you’ve been involved with the athlete in their lead up, and hopefully your product or brand has in some way helped them achieve their success, showing all important relevance of the brand fit. But the kicker for me, is to go softly, softly. Be honest and humble; messaging such as ‘proudly helping on their road to glory” or the like will show consumers you’re not only supporting the athlete, and therefore relevant for the Games coverage, but you also ensure you don’t look overly cocky and only interested in cashing in on their (hopeful) success. The alternative of course is you just make brilliant brand campaigns that don’t rely on athletes seemingly looking interested in your product.

Lifting the mysterious ‘client’ veil

29 Jun

Thanks to some recent work I’ve done in the tech sphere I was asked to speak at an AIMIA forum, talking about ‘digital agencies of the future’.

Seeing the room was full of incredibly smart tech heads, whilst I initially felt like an imposter, I soon realized that not being so caught up in the tech world was actually a strength.

The topic of my talk was all based on a brand guys perspective to the process of developing a new app, and thankfully the crowd seemed to enjoy my simplistic approach, but more so I noticed how interested they were to actually see and speak directly to a client.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Actually asking the person you’re developing something for face to face what it is they want. Not second guessing what you think they want, nor having mixed messages from varied conversations from client, to suit, to producer until it finally gets to the person that actually has to do the work.

What struck me in this forum was how rare this is in the tech space. I was surprised to see that the stereotype of tech heads being locked away in a dark room being fed Red Bull and pizza seems pretty much on the money, and the industry as a whole is suffering. And the view that the developers had of us as clients was again pretty stereotypical (latte sipping wankers who want it all and won’t listen to any of the objections from the tech experts) but again, a fairly good assessment.

One of the points I covered in my talk was that the tech world need to stop looking at itself as a unique, new field, and rather look at themselves as just developers of another ‘thing’.

For me as a client, I look at digital development in the same way as any other form of advertising development, be that tv, radio, outdoor or press. Yes there are many differences with digital, but at the end of the day the rules a the same. I will see an opportunity, provide a brief to address this consumer need, and then develop the campaign in line with my required budget & time plan. So to this end the role a digital producer is the same as a traditional ‘old world’ tv producer. Find agencies that can deliver to the brief on time and on budget. The same logic applies to the account service team be that digital or traditional ATL.

As a client what I have found is that this isn’t happening as well as it can at the moment; in fact it’s actually the polar opposite. Digital is being seen as this incredibly scary, complicated, expensive and speculative process and as a result clients are being scared off, and seeking refuge in the safety blanket of traditional ATL areas.

So what do I see the challenges for the digital agency of the future? Below would be my top 3 things to address:

1. Make the clients life easy – realizing that most clients will have a myriad of tasks to get through every day, the best in class digital development would see the clients day not being spent wading through a complex world of wire frames, APIs, sockets and all other things that we don’t actually understand what they are, or what they do. This leads me on to number two…

2. Keep it simple and speak plain English – again as marketeers we love acronyms more than most, however what we don’t love is not having a clue what is actually being said when discussing tech development. I’m not sure if it’s a case of developers being so entrenched in their tech world that they just become blasé with their own language, or worse they are feeling the need to look smart in front of the client, but either way it’s the wrong way to go about things. As a client I’d much per being able to understand exactly what is being talked about, and more so, by both speaking plain English we might actually reduce some of the mixed messages that often occur.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no, and stick to your guns – I’ve found that especially in the ‘agile model’ of development (note I heard that constantly being referred to yesterday but had no idea what it meant so forgive me if I’m off the mark!), where there is a new field or a range of unknowns, developers are too quick to fold to pressure and agree to unrealistic goals, and this is the biggest factor in things going wrong.
As an example, clients will regularly have a totally unrealistic deadline in the developers mind, based on not understanding (or being confused) by the digital development process. Alarmingly, rather than giving the client definitive reasons why it can’t happen (and sticking to it), developers often agree to ‘try’ – whilst knowing full well it will fail down the track. As this repeatedly happens, the client will start to get a feeling that the developer if crying wolf with regards to timings and therefore continue to push and challenge their recommendations in order to hit the timelines.
The end result is the client feeling like the project is on track (but being frustrated the developer made it so hard) and the developer, being burnt out, frustrated and preparing for things to go wrong, almost to prove to the client that they knew best.
Then, as the product is released, as the developer probably expected, there will be issues. And when these issues arise, this is when the real fun starts and the client goes on the rampage to the developer blaming them for all the pain this has caused them. Contrast this to the world of tv production. If I want my ad to be on air by September 1st the producer and production agency will very clearly tell me if this is possible, and more so if it’s unrealistic, what I need to sacrifice to hit the date. By having such a definitive answer, no doubt based on years of past learnings I know that this is the truth., and I won’t challenge their professional recommendation. Contrast this to the earlier example and you’ll see the importance of being clear with expectations and not budging. The worst thing an agency could do, is agree to something they don’t believe in, in order at they keep the contract and make the client happy, only to have things turn pear shaped down the line, and destroy any faith the client originally had in you as a developer.

So as I said, with only a little involvement in this incredibly exciting area, these are the key things I’d focus on if I was a developer and planning on sending my kids to private school in the future.

Hope you can take something from it…

It’s not fair, but it’s the facts.

18 Jun

So today the press has gone in to a massive, self indulgent tail spin regarding the proposed changes at Fairfax, regarding the future of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Don’t get me wrong, any industry facing the prospect of 1,900 job losses is never a good thing, and this on top of recent mass job losses doesn’t bode well for the state of the economy.

However… I look at this ‘future of Fairfax’ plan to actually be very logical and a step that should have been made a long time ago. More so the decisions that are being forced to be made now, whilst tough, are the bold, future orientated decisions that will actually give the company a chance of surviving.

Seriously when was the last time any of you brought a newspaper? And when did you ever enjoy the experience of a cumbersome broadsheet, unless it’s a weekend, and you have your whole dining room table to lay out the mess of paper? Or when was the last time you actually had time to read every news item, and when do you want to sit down and read a story that is 12 hours or more old? Not me.

But, when was the last time you turned on your tablet, or clicked on line in your five minutes downtime to find out the latest news? Or the time you read an article that was of specific interest to you that you found when researching it online, then read it when you wanted it? Or joined in to the conversation with others who shared or challenged your opinion.

I know which form of news I prefer.

Obviously the press has a massive vested interest in jumping to the defense of the unfortunate Fairfax staff; ultimately they’re all worried about the writing on the wall (or online) for them. More so, they too know the dire state of traditional, out dated media; continued results such as 20%+ year on year declines, point to one thing – unemployment, and once great companies will join the likes of Kodak, Nokia, Borders and the like as just another name on the list of things my kids will never know about.

Yet the decisions made today by Greg Hywood and the board, whilst no doubt incredibly tough professionally and personally, are purely an example of the evolutionary pain in setting you up to survive the future. I’m sure in the dark ages when advertising alone didn’t cover the costs and people had to pay for news there was outcry, just as there is now, however, like all things, if the product is good enough, people will pay for it.

I think there’s a lot to be excited for at Fairfax. I think their iPad app for The Age is first rate, and if as the company announced today, in future I need to pay for it, I’m happy to do so. Seriously Rupert and co at News have taken the first hard decision erecting the pay wall around The Herald Sun, and if people will pay for a digital pass to see the photos of Grant Hackett smashing up his apartment, or read the latest exclusive about Shane and Liz, then if as they like to think, The Age reader is a smarter, more contemporary reader, then this should not be an issue.

As I’ve heard all day, no doubt reading straight off the release from the union briefing to all the journos “if you want quality news, you’ve got to pay for it”. Yes, you do. And this is exactly what Fairfax are doing.

So whilst there will be some pain in the short term, I think there’s a lot to look forward to, and I hope those in the industry realize that with proliferation of news and media channels, quality will still stand out and command a premium. So keep writing and reporting as you do, but embrace the technology. You’re all standing at a really important junction. Moving from carving in rock, to printing on paper, to .com’s and now apps, we will always seek out quality news, and it’s only a matter of making sure it’s delivered in the most appropriate way for the reader.

As I watch my 3 year old son navigate my iPad with ease, I think that if I was in the news game, I’d sure as hell what to make sure that I’m building something that is going to carry him through his life, vs something designed for my grandmother.

Evolve or die. It’s that simple.