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If so much is fake, who or what can we rely on?


There really isn’t much to rely on any more.  For thousands of years people have had faith in kings, gods, priests or shamans.

In the last decade we’ve heard time and again that people have lost faith in religious institutions, government, authority, and the monarchy.

We understand instead that consumers would rather trust the opinion of “someone like me” than any kind of spokesperson, senior management or professional expert.  Of course, often, that “someone like me” is found online, and can be a stranger, not just a friend, acquaintance or family.  

But headlines now abound that are revealing the huge volume of dissimulation online which can only increase public cynicism even further.

Twitter is full of parody.  Facebook has acknowledged 83 million fake accounts.  Book reviews are for sale.  Even magazines renowned for their fact checking,  like the New Yorker, get duped by their own writers

And if you thought that people out there know that they can trust what the adverts say then think again.  They don’t (they don’t accept the “legal, decent, honest and truthful” rule that I am sure I have understood for ever about TV advertising).   As readers of my earlier blog on this subject will be aware we have found that there is a massive marketing truth deficit in the UK.  

As trust disappears in the wild west of online dialogue and the traditional upholders of truth no longer have authority then people will seek certainty elsewhere.

Step forward brands.  There really is an opportunity right now to step change a brand’s image and prospects.  By focussing not on becoming famous by being entertaining, or for being cheap or being used by celebrities, or having lots of “likes” but for telling it like it is.   There is the opportunity to gain massive competitive advantage.   

My book Tell the Truth gives 8 clear techniques for delivering competitive advantage.   

High noon is approaching.  The time to stand up for something that you believe it.  To create the brand that is the truth telling sheriff in the wild west of 21st century fakery.

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Are tablets the future of advertising?

source: Marc Chagall

At a drinks party recently one magazine editor confided in me that he thought the future business model for his magazine lay in diversification of services.  Conferences and events have long been used by Media Week to generate added revenues.  (Have you booked your table yet ?) This kind of of thing is newer for the glossy magazine that we were discussing at the party and the editor was enthusiastic about the possibilities.  He mentioned that he had suggested curated holidays as a further revenue stream.  “Look at me, I started as a story teller, “he said, “but now I’m a travel agent”.

Diversification is good, but is this the only means available to print media to drive profits ?  Not according to Arif who describes the Mail online’s business journey here .

Of course at recent conferences and media get togethers the iPad and tablet advertising in general have been called the saviours of glossy magazines.  The latest round of UK tablet research from the IAB is bullish as you might expect about advertising on tablet computers.  47% consumers see it as the future of advertising overall.  They expect to see their favourite brands’ ads on tablets.  UK consumers want ad funded content and enjoy interacting with tablet advertising.  However the research also marks a level of criticism from respondents about tablet advertising.  30% claim to be disappointed with current ads. 

I don’t know how this compares with their level of disappointment with ads on other media (they may be a very critical bunch), but consumer expectations aside I do think that there is a necessary step for our industry to take in order to set conditions for ad funded content on tablets to flourish.

I can understand that the IAB’s respondents want a good bit of interactivity and entertainment from Tablet ads.  My way of judging good advertising is less to do with how entertaining it is (I am easily entertained as everyone who knows me will acknowledge).  It has more to do with whether it has fulfilled one or other of the two criteria of good effective advertising (that sells stuff).  Has it created demand? Has it harvested demand?

Google shook up the demand harvesting side of our business by offering shared risk to advertisers.  It is time for the same step change to radicalise the demand creation aspect of advertising.  We need to see media owners, media agencies and clients enter into shared risk discussions that set out clear and consistent kpis for medium and longterm advertising objectives.  This will itself drive best practice attribution modelling and accurate cross media research.

We have been pioneering this at MediaCom. It is a trickle of revenue for most mainstream media owners.  It is time to open the flood gates.

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The Marketing Truth Deficit is greater than I thought.

“Truth in advertising has long been something to ignore or interpret creatively, if not intentionally avoid altogether”. 

When Jonathan Salem Baskin and I wrote the opening words to our book Tell the Truth we did so out of a strong sense that the marketing industry was not reacting fast enough to the enormous change in consumer expectations driven by the internet and smart phone access. 

We believed that the art of spin was becoming redundant and that the skewed positioning, that brands often resort to, worked fine when the brand’s voice was the only one speaking to consumers.   But in the Age of Dialogue, with social media on the ascent, the time for spin was over.  We said in closing : “in five years we’ll look back on the art of spin as an anachronism”.

Research presented by MediaCom’s Managing Partner Steve Gladdis and Real World Insight Director Pauline Robson at this week’s fourth Age of Dialogue conference showed that what they termed “The Marketing Truth Deficit” was concrete and urgent. 

At a lively and stimulating day (yes we did also have Lord Sugar as a speaker, but I think that would make a separate blog), Gladdis and Robson revealed that whilst 68% of the UK public say that it is important that companies tell the truth in their advertising only 34% do actually trust advertisers. 

A qualitative research study recently backed this up when the planners attending it were surprised to hear that the respondents all agreed that you couldn’t trust what ads said even if it was a factual claim on TV.

Perhaps we should not be surprised.  Trust in institutions, government and experts is lower than ever.  And the public is more likely to trust the opinion of a stranger who they think is “someone like me” than of anyone who they think is paid to say what they have said.

Not surprised then, but certainly spurred into action.  If you don’t know what to do about it here’s the book.

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JC Penney Should Stick To Its Truth-Telling Strategy

JSB argued in support of US retailer JC Penney’s “no sale” pricing and marketing strategy in Advertising Age.

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On Shelf at Oxford

“Tell The Truth” on the library shelves at Mansfield College, Oxford.

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