When the last planner leaves the building, please turn off the light.

Our industry is small, relatively speaking. There are three, maybe four parts to it. Agencies, Advertisers, Media Owners (in all their shapes and forms) and technology companies.  I have no idea how many people in reality, hundreds of thousands globally let’s say.

Have you seen the make up of those agencies? Generally speaking if you look at the average age of a media agency or creative agency it is pretty low. Let’s say it’s in the early 30s. If you take a look at most of the departments like search or programmatic then that age dips even further. If you don’t work with agencies then let me describe it. Rooms full of young people tapping away, chatting, calling, looking at screens, learning and hopefully enjoying themselves, some pissed off, but normal life.

If you ask them what they do, they will say they work on x client or y client. They will tell you how they are buying something, planning something and trying to deliver something for clients. I can tell you what they are not doing.  They are not planning a way to be ‘stealing, lying or cheating their clients’ they will tell you that they are working for their clients and trying to do a good job.

At the same time I see a lot of attention being aimed at how we bring people into the industry, all facets of it, but certainly at the agencies. We all pour efforts into bringing them on and training them so they are good and better than the competition. We want to bring the smartest and brightest to our industry.

Trouble is that is going to get very hard. It’s going to get very hard for a few reasons. The first is the blanket accusations aimed at agencies. To be clear, if there is anyone at fault, I guarantee you it is not the kids working their socks off, it’s not the 99%+ percent of people in agencies. By the way these are the very same you want us to bring into the business, the ones you want to pull away from other industries and wow the clients. But no one is thinking about that. Everyone is rushing to shout as loud as possible about how corrupt agencies are, how they are not trustworthy. When you say ‘agencies’ who are you aiming that at?

Why would anyone want to work in agencies? Between trade bodies, marketing experts, auditing companies, intermediaries, journalists all bashing the agency land, why would anyone want to work for an agency? Mark Ritson said ‘what the fuck is happening in our industry’ well I will tell you. It is being killed by broad brush stroke, highly audible voices (like Mark) that is going to mean that no one will work for agencies and then I wonder where that leaves us. Death by a thousand cuts.

What I can’t work out is that what they want?

I am genuinely interested in whether some of these interested parties really do want agencies to go away, because at the moment they are certainly sounding like it. There is no balance, there is no moderation, there is no qualification, just straight outright, broad brush strokes of criticism. I am here to defend the armies of keen, young, committed people working late, working weekends for their clients. I would like to hear some balance from some of these parties, I would like to hear them support great work and great people, just a little to balance the ones who are razing the whole place to the ground.

When the last planner leaves the building, please turn the light off.

 

BertozziBytesize: Straight talk is the missing link.

I recently delivered a session at The Festival of Media, called ‘an insiders guide to programmatic’ the design of which was to have a straight forward and open discussion with a room full of advertisers on the topic. It was not meant to be educational in the sense of ‘whats a DSP’ but more a discussion on topics of transparency, operating models, the changing landscape and how the advertiser may need to think differently to how they have been to date.

It was a credit to the Festival organisers that we had nearly 40 advertisers in the room and no other adtech or agency people. Thank God because I was not kind to some of the other players in the ecosystem, although I believe fair. Since the event I have received some feedback that they enjoyed the discussion, at least some of them! The common theme throughout was that they enjoyed the open dialogue and straight talking. Anyone who reads this blog knows thats what I have always tried to do.

In fact I try and do that when I am face to face with clients as well, some make it easier to be straight talking than others. One unnamed advertiser started the meeting with ‘before we start, can I just tell you that I don’t believe a word that comes out of a trading desk!’ Well that sets a tone for sure, one I like because it basically says that the gloves are off and we can talk clearly and simply. It may not come as a surprise to know that I have had a few of those kind of meetings and on the whole I feel like the end result is often better. First of all you get to actually state your case rather than be in the shadows. Secondly it is an opportunity to pick apart the headlines and give the straight answers to straight questions and thats a good thing.

The gloves are off between the advertisers and the agencies right now with all the headlines of FBI and ‘prison time’ and I think that in the end this process that is being led in the US and supported heavily in the UK with the likes of ISBA and their new contracts will allow the right people to talk to the right people and hopefully ask some difficult questions on both sides. The net result being an opportunity for both sides to challenge the current situation.

But I still have not got to the point! As I look around offices all over the world and I see that more and more the work force is retreating behind emails and headphones I fear that the straight talk will also diminish. My first boss Tracey Stern always told me that if I had bad news, I had to ring the client and tell them myself. It taught me to have difficult discussions and hopefully made me think harder about what I was doing. Now everything is transmitted by email. Mistakes, demands, apologies are all carried along the pipes and not delivered through the dog and bone, an experience that is not easy but nevertheless worthy. I think we are all complicit in this, both the sender and receiver has come to prefer it that way and for me that is where the disconnect creeps in and starts to unravel relationships.

I appreciate the world has changed and we are all working in a different way but I firmly believe that if we did the following things, relationships would be better on both sides:

  1. Always call your client and talk to them about life and work
  2. If there is a problem or a mistake, deliver it in person or on the phone
  3. If there is good news, pick up the phone and tell them
  4. If you are unhappy then say so – on the phone
  5. If the client is unhappy then say so – on the phone

The rest can go on email! As in all things there are personalities that prefer some things over others, but I firmly believe that some of that is habit rather than preference. So yes it is over simplistic and we are all guilty but we need to do more talking and less emailing and encourage our teams to build relationships through dialogue as well as delivery.

 

 

 

 

Cut the jargon? Cut the crap!

I am sorry Bloomberg I don’t agree with your cut the jargon campaign. Cut the crap, you just cant be bothered to learn something new. I know I will get pelted with rotten tomatoes and urine but I am sorry, this is just a shield that lazy or ‘elder statesman’ of media like to hide behind because then they are not going to have to admit they either can’t or won’t learn something new.

The phrase that I like the best is ‘lets just talk plain english.’ I could translate that into ‘if I say lets talk plain english then perhaps they will some how find a way to make this new programmatic stuff sound something like press and TV that I have grown up with all my life.’ No. I wont. You know why? Because every industry has a language, in our industry every sector or media channel has a language. If you go around saying GRP or DPS or DDS no one chains you up at the stocks, but by God if you say DSP or DMP, the heavens open and thunder and lightening crackle down from above.

I do agree that we talk too much about the technology and not enough about what it can do, and I do agree that some people do like the over use of tech words, but that’s not the context I hear it in. What I hear is ‘all that DSP, DMP, three letter acroynm stuff’ yes, it is called SHORT HAND, abbreviation. You want me to say Demand side platform every time? Or would you rather like me to say ‘a buying platform that allows us to access inventory in real time and combining it with first, second and third party data’ oh you don’t understand data? Well here goes…actually no, since this tech is powering most digital media nowadays and since you work in an agency and may even run it or our a senior industry body leader of a media owner, how about giving it ago and learning about it.

Lets focus on marketing what programmatic can do, even the definition of programmatic, but lets not pretend we use too much jargon when really we just cant be bothered to learn a new trick. Right I am off down the Public House to read a Double Page Spread and perhaps later will log into Donovan Data Systems and check out my Television rating points for my last television advertisements.

 

Adblocking -please advertise responsibly

Ad-blocking, is now in its next chapter. The converted network in the form of Three is going to banish ads en masse. We have lived through a number of chapters in this story, we are reading fast because it is such a page-turner and on a panel a week or so ago I was asked a number of good questions.

The first was why had we taken so long to wake up to the issue when ad-blockers had been around for some time. The second was “what are we actually going to do about it?” and finally a question about what advertisers think. The questions raised some good points because right now the whole industry is standing around admiring the problem with little visible action.

Let’s start with the advertisers, why are they not up in arms on this topic? Well the answer is that it has not affected them, as far as they can see. They ask for media and they get media, often at a lower price than last year so everything is rosy. The mobile network Three’s partnership with the ad-blocker Shine might start a trend that means the only feasible answer is restricting inventory and increasing pricing. Advertisers will then find the cost of their digital ads goes up. When you see that six months after bringing in new rules on its exchange Appnexus has reduced traffic by 90 per cent, you start to see the potential impact if you clean up ad fraud and restrict eyeballs.

I believe we did not notice the problem until other businesses started to make money out of the problem. Not unlike the earliest protection racket that started up around the olive groves of Sicily, once it was clear that there was money to be paid the topic was widely distributed by the aforementioned racketeers, sorry ad-blocking companies. Since then, ad-blocking has seeped into the common consciousness appearing in articles, films and more. In fact as Caspar Schlickum of Xaxis said, we basically brought it upon ourselves by talking about it so much.

We are now admiring the problem from every angle like a fine work of art. Yet this is an industry issue like no other we have had before. This is an issue to end the industry and we need to create a collective approach to the problem. We have to do something on the scale of the alcohol industry. “Please drink responsibly” needs to change to “please advertise responsibly”. We need to get behind a body of people capable of creating change.

image: http://offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/DrinkResponsibility.jpg

Advertising needs its own version of the ‘drink responsibly’ industry effort

The question is who is going to put their hand up? The Internet Advertising Bureau, IPA, and Advertising Association have to come together to start the ball rolling. Some of that should be official sounding work and some more basic. The easiest example is to all collectively agree to not build certain ads.

The IAB with its “lean” approach is starting with that, but we should all get behind it. There was a time in 2002/3 when pop-ups were banished to whence they came. They were not cool, the sole preserve of gambling and porn companies. In the last few years they have made a return in a big way, but disguised as something more sophisticated. We have to cut them out. None of this is pretty and we have to get on the front foot.

And as a parting remark, I would say it is not helpful that other parts of the business are rubbing their hands together on this topic. Whether it be people working in other media channels like TV who think that people actually like TV ads, when actually they have no choice really, give them an app to dodge TV ads and they will, or creative agencies blaming programmatic. We all have a part to play and it threatens all of us.

One thing we could all do is not allow ad-blocking companies into conferences as the IAB did in the US because the lights that beam on the stage, the food they happily eat in the break, the drinks they consume in the bar afterwards and everything in between is paid for by advertising. For that reason alone they should not be invited.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ad-blocking-end-industry-why-no-one-stepping-change-that/1384789#7uGwk0Qmp1bklfyh.99

We all need to ‘Grow’ up – Don’t forget yourself.

When you take a step back and really assess how you spend your day, it is clear that most of us fail in investing in ourselves. More importantly as leaders of teams and organizations just when we need our own selfs to be in the best shape, it gets harder to do and less focused on. Well I was lucky enough to join 30-40 other people from across the media agency landscape on a two day session organized by AOL. The programme was supported by some incredible people like David Bell – a legend of the industry (ex IPG), Jim Stengel – ex CMO of P&G and guest appearances from Tim Armstrong, fresh back from a run in Santa Monica and Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever.

Two days spent with leaders from across the media agency landscape, reflecting, discussing, debating and laughing about our industry. The sessions covered many topics from mindfulness to pitching, to self improvement and more. One thing that struck me above almost all, we don’t invest in ourselves enough and these two days, unexpectedly brought me to think more about what I am and do than perhaps any other in recent memory.

Through the two days we had a chance to reflect on what we do, how we do it, what our bosses do and how they do it. We had the chance to discuss some gritty industry issues and the implications for all of us, and we had to put to test some things I would probably have never done myself – practicing mindfulness routines for one! The whole time you were thinking and listening to all these industry greats and they focused the mind. We heard from all of them and their routines and there were some constants. Some constants that we all agreed we don’t follow ourselves well enough, but if we don’t do it for ourselves, how can we inspire others to do the same and succeed in their own right. About now I could write one of those LinkedIn posts ‘ten things successful people do’ because we heard from a number of them. The fact that Tim Armstrong fitted a session in with us on Skype between a run and board meeting said it all! I won’t though because I am certain more of you on both sides of the Atlantic will be doing these sessions and I don’t want to ruin it for you!

Everyone was encouraged to think about what they would change as soon as they got back to the office, and everyone took different things out of the two days but for me it was clear that we must act, we must all move from talking, thinking, suggesting to acting both personally and from a business perspective. Being deliberate as one member mentioned made a lot of sense, have a plan and stick do it, especially around the areas of health, holidays and giving oneself time to think. I enjoy exercise and it is important to me for my own mindset and well being in life. As Keith Weed said, you have to do what helps you whether it’s sleep, exercise or anything else, if it makes you operate better then you should do it. Too often I hear people feel guilty about going to the gym or people are quick as they go off on holiday to say ‘they will be on email’ no. Go have a break it is good for you and good for your teams.

As we moved through the sessions and the people in the room got to know each other better, to discuss more openly and I have no doubt have a warm bond with AOL and the team they brought in, it struck me how smart AOL had been. They were investing in us, more so probably than many people had had from their own businesses as regards their own self improvement. We spend so much time focused on others, we forget ourselves and the message was loud and clear – that has to change.  Importantly it also made me think about our own relationship with our clients. We do education days, we do news letters and trips to Silicon Valley and so on but I am pretty certain that we have not invested in our clients as we experienced over the last two days and that is an important point. As agencies we have to adapt, structure and restructure to keep up with everything around us but we have to bring value at all times to our advertisers and really invest in them as people as well as businesses if we want to build relationships and have a top table seat.

My head continues to whirl with ideas and I am still scribbling ideas, I have some homework to do as well which I really look forward to doing, that must be a good sign! If you are invited to attend the next AOL ‘Grow’ I recommend it, as a cynic about most courses, I can say this one will help you Grow.

PS – please make sure to ask people one thing that may not be known about them and to share. In our small room we had heroes, hostages, police cell dwellers, a man who had been trapped in a lift with Michael Jackson and more..