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.


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.

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..

If you want to understand Ad blocking, look to the youth.

Original article posted on The Drum here

So much of the talk on ad blocking is focused on battery sucking ads, data sucking ads, bad ads and so on. There is hand wringing at every corner of the industry.  Today I saw a tweet from an advertiser bemoaning how it is messing with their site analytics.

The solutions are diverse and range from technical to blocking the blockers or even worse paying the organised crime like protection rackets that some of these ad blocking companies are offering up.

If you really want to understand ad blocking you have to look to the youth.  Because the youth are not moaning about ads sucking their data and they aren’t obsessed with being followed around the web.  They don’t care about any of that.  They do talk about the quality of ads.  They just don’t understand the relationship between ads and free things.  Those free things are many and varied and they have not stopped to think about the reality of paying for them.

I’m part of a project called Speaker4Schools where I run educational sessions on the media industry for 16 and 17-year-old school children.  Recent presentations I’ve given have involved talking on the subject of the value exchange between advertising and the free services the children receive.

As I work through the presentation I ask how they would feel paying for Facebook (no one), what about Instagram? Yes, but a tiny amount and email? You get the idea – they don’t want to pay and can’t actually get their heads around having to pay.  As I explain that advertising is subsidising all these great services they feel are essential to their lives, I see the realisation dawn that they have really never considered the relationship at all.  Ads are just there to sell product.

I also asked the students if they use ad blockers.  30-50 per cent said they do or have done so.  They do it just because they can.  They do it because ‘there is an app for that’.  These are the young consumers of the future.  The problem of course stretches further in to older age groups which are where I agree with publishers blocking people from seeing their content.  The problem is however that fundamentally if we can’t explain to the younger generation that they get all this free stuff because of advertising, and it won’t be free for long if the use of ad blocking continues to rise, we have a much bigger problem.

It’s time to get together.  Just like the alcohol industry and its ‘drink responsibly’ campaign we need a major advertising push.  We have a massive job to do on educating the population, and perhaps along the way, help our industry attract new entrants.  It’s imperative we do this rather than lining the pockets of every ad blocking and ad blocking-blocking company and the myriad of other tech companies claiming to solve this issue.  Let’s put our energy towards a true industry effort to change perceptions and save our business.

At the same time we do have to improve creative, reduce ads, agree some standards on viewability measurement and reduce fraud.  But first and foremost we have to educate the youth that if they want to Snapchat for free they need to see ads.

2016 will be the year of breakups in programmatic


First published in Campaign – link here

In the programmatic space, 2014 can be summed up as a year of snap decisions and bad relationships. There was a considerable amount of hot air and publishers, agencies and advertisers, to varying degrees, reacted to it in the heat of the moment. But 18 months later, I believe we will see a number of these relationships start to unravel.

Today I am so pleased to see that almost all major clients are embracing programmatic with a cool hand, understanding the pros and cons and planning for a future where data and tech are front and centre. The heat has come out of the programmatic kitchen and been replaced with good old fashioned brain power.

But that is not what I am writing about today — although related — I want to return to 2014. At an ANA event in New York last year, I joined a panel on the programmatic revolution, which followed the usual headline-grabbing presentation of whoever had run a survey that day. The air was full of fear and suspicion over transparency and media agencies were in the dock as usual. At that conference I called 2014 “the lost year” of programmatic in regard to advertisers and how they approached it. This was because the entire year had been a series of meetings, conferences and emails concerned with transparency and agency trading desks and all the good stuff we have come to know and love. Very few of those meetings were about the strategic direction advertisers should be taking in the programmatic space.

What happened last year was not just the headlines and the deafening ring of the cash till, as the myriad of consultants counted their earnings on the back of the fear and suspicion. It was worse: some big decisions were taken under those conditions. Major partnerships were signed, deals done and monies committed with an eye on outsmarting whatever the danger was — and that varied. Perhaps it was an advertiser that wanted its own tech deal to go around the agency or publishers wanting to out gun Google and Facebook. Perhaps it was procurement or the CEO asking questions of the brand manager and making them act. Whatever the catalyst was, decisions were made that are already starting to become irrelevant or just plain bad.

Next year will see the unraveling of these relationships; It will be the year that those deals and partnerships formed under intense strain will come apart. Publishers, advertisers and agencies all made decisions — some more than others — but with a new calm descending on the programmatic landscape, and the strong wind of transparency, clarity and understanding blowing through, we will see some of these deals undone. This will likely cause serious financial difficulties for some ad tech companies who sold the dream only to discover that waking up next to a partner who has already checked out of the relationship is a lot harder than they thought.

Anyone who tried to sell a service built around the notion that this topic was simple and easily solved will get called out this year. The market has moved so much in the past 12 months. Whether you are a publisher, agency or client, making a big decision last year was brave because the landscape today looks very different. We can only wonder who the jaded lovers are and who is thinking about how to break up the rather heat of the moment relationship.