It might not surprise you that I believe in advertising. I know it’s my job, but I strongly believe in the power of media. When planned well, it can have amazing effects on people’s actions and brand perceptions. If done really well it can even get people excited. Nike, Coke, Guinness, the Movie guys…all great at fostering excitement in a target audience.

But something I’ve noticed in recent times, (with the evolution of social media and other things), is that PR is starting to play a more important role than, say five years ago. Brand managers are taking it into consideration more, and consequently plugging more of their marketing budgets into it.

I agree that PR is an important part of the marketing mix, but where do you draw the line? Arun Sudhamen says that it’s set to take a bigger share. Fine by me. Maybe the PR budget can move from 10% to 15%? That makes sense. But to 50%?? That’s wrong. PR should support media. Media should lead and PR follows, not the other way round. Media should propel out the message, and PR should follow and whisper it in people’s ears.

Because a PR campaign is dwarfed without Media support. Media can stand alone but PR cant.

As Neasa wrote previously the lines are blurring between creative, media and PR. The future is messy. Media agencies brainstorm and create (our ignition facility for example). PR agencies negotiate free media. Creative’s dictate media choices.

Who does what isn’t so clear. But I think moving chunks of money out of media and into PR isn’t a clever strategy. There is a limited amount of  PR you can negotiate, but there is limitless advertising space. 



Back in 2008, in our very first wave of ID, we asked Irish 12-29s a simple question: “If they had to choose, which could they not live without: TV, Mobile Phone or Internet”?

The mobile phone won out overall, particularly for teenagers. However, in our most recent wave of ID, the Internet has moved ahead to claim victory. We also saw over 1/3rd of young people claiming they were using their mobile less to communicate with friends, and using online methods instead. And over a 1/3rd who said they felt more comfortable communicating with friends online than using their mobile.

Luckily, we’ve reached the point where that question is just no longer relevant. The lines between mobile, internet and even TV, are not just blurred, they’re quickly becoming obsolete.

Every year for the last five years, some brave soldier has pronounced it “The Year of the Mobile”. And every year they’ve been wrong. But I’m fairly confident that we’re finally seeing a tipping point, as mobile internet becomes liberated from the confines of the geekiest techies. In this research wave 1/5th of 12-29s said they are using their mobile phones to go online on a daily basis, and 30% are using mobile internet on a weekly basis. Those figures are positively mainstream.

According to Mashable, the history of mobile, can now be divided into pre-iPhone and post-iPhone. They say the impact that the iPhone has had, on both the mobile industry and computing industry in general, cannot be overstated.  Yes mobile internet has been around a while, and LG were the first to release a touchscreen phone….but Apple were the ones who really cracked it.

And crack it they did. There are reportedly somewhere between a quarter and a half a million iPhone users in Ireland. Not all of that mobile internet usage is being done on iPhones, but they’ve bestowed a new relevance onto the concept of a Smartphone. The movement we’re seeing is a ripple effect, from the iPhone out.

A new wave of mobile is now upon us.


(check it out – no exhausts)

Yesterday I had the privilege of being one of the first people in Ireland to test drive the new range of electric vehicles from Renault.  The test vehicles are proto-types, not yet factory produced and are therefore one-offs, worth about a million euro each.  The event was out in Carton House and we got to drive through the estate, out onto the public road, up to a roundabout and back again.  The two vehicles they had were the Kangoo (van) and the Fluence (an executive saloon).

What are they like?  Long story short, they’re just cars, with a different engine.  Driving-wise the biggest difference was they’re left hand drive (weird enough) and they’re set up like an automatic, with just drive, park and reverse (which I’ve never driven before).  Those differences were much more noticeable to me than the difference between a petrol and an electric engine.  Which probably says it all. 

They’re also silent.  Can you imagine a city centre, like Dublin, without the roar of traffic?  I was going to say it’d be like going back to pre-combustion engine days, but actually, there were noisy, smelly horses clip-clopping around and relieving themselves all over the place back then.  This would be a breath of fresh-air and completely noise-free.  In fact, that’s one of the challenges of electric vehicles – they’ve to put an artificial noise into them for pedestrian safety.  Who’d have thought we’d have been trying to make cars noisier? 

The Gardai and Emergency Services were also out there getting training on how to deal with any potential road accidents involving an electric car (tip: don’t try putting out fires with water…).

Yesterday was a glimpse of the future.  Electric Vehicles may not be mainstream, mass-produced, today, tomorrow, next year, in the next 3 or 4 years.  But in 5, 10 or 15 years time, we’ll all be driving them.  And I wish that was now, because it’d be a far better place.

In other respects, we’ve already arrived at the future.  Car companies like Renault are now inviting as many bloggers and online publishers as traditional journalists to these kind of things.  I was sitting beside the blogger behind a new motor site called (@smokerspack).  He’s a micro-blogger who reviews individual cars that individual dealers have for sale.  So for example you could look up a second hand Golf on his site which he’s reviewed and then call down to the dealer and try it yourself.

Then when I got back to the office I tweeted a few photos of the electric vehicles and hash-tagged #Renault and #Fluence.  2 minutes later I got a direct message from @RenaultZE complimenting me on my pictures.  Now I’m following them so I get to hear the news and developments around their ZE. 

Good to see some brands trying to get to the future first, both with what they do and how they talk to you about it – after all, first tends to get all the credit.



Your Monday fix,


Every day, we are faced with an overwhelming number of decisions to make.  We can’t possibly devote attention to every single one of them.

Most people have a few categories, which they are especially involved in. Some care a lot about the phone they buy, but couldn’t care less about the food in their fridge. Others are really involved in choosing clothes but when it comes to the car they drive, have little interest.

For categories we feel personally invested in, we make our decisions as maximisers. We find out as much information as possible and carefully weigh up each option to ensure that we make the best possible decision. In other categories, categories we don’t care as much about, we are satisficers.  It’s not worth our time to examine every angle. In these cases, good is good enough.

This is where Brands come in. We rely on Brands as time saving heuristics. Brands offer us a rule of thumb – they may not guarantee us the absolute best solution every time, but they deliver enough of the time, for us to comfortably rely on them. And we can apply our surplus cognitive energy to the stuff we actually care about.

So for example, I know if I’m buying a TV, that I can expect certain product standards from Sony, without having to do a load of homework around picture quality and refresh rates.

These brands didn’t build up this valuable collateral overnight however. They consistently delivered high quality products, invested in their brand and earned this positive reputation over time.

The beauty of this investment however, is that once this brand equity is established, they can then reap the rewards of brand heuristics in decision making.

Which Apple are clearly doing now, as illustrated above, with their iPhone.


As a side note:

The guy who made this video works in Best Buy who weren’t too pleased with him insulting one of their preferred partners Apple, despite the fact that he never mentioned Best Buy in the video. They insisted he remove it and when he wouldn’t, fired him. He reports on his Youtube channel that they have now asked him back – the issue is still ongoing.

This video has over 5 million views on Youtube so far. If I was HTC, I’d very publicly offer him a job!

It was a funny World Cup. An all- European final, again, which is good for European football I suppose, but it didn’t make for a thrilling match did it?

At the beginning of this campaign I wondered about the sense of brands sponsoring individuals and teams at events like these, not knowing how they would perform or what the return would be. Now it seems that, in many cases, my concern was warranted.

Some of the biggest footballing nations bowed out early. France and Italy left in the group stages – France in a blaze of embarassment, and Italy….. well, they’re a bit old now, and not very good anymore. How the mighty have fallen; France and Italy were the finalists in 2006.

England lost 4-1 in the round of 16 to a vastly superior Germany. Three of the world’s top paid footballers were in that England team; John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard. None of them performed at a really top level. Nor did Kaka, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Wayne Rooney, all of whom hold massive endorsement deals with either Nike or Adidas. In fact, the winner of the Golden Boot was Diego Forlán and I can’t find him on the top 50. By my reckoning the only player in the top ten who really performed at world-beater level was Spain’s Xavi, and he’s number ten on the list.

So what does this mean for the brands that sponsored them? In some cases, it was simply a waste of money, but for some, their deals have proved embarrassing.

Immediately in the wake of the French debacle, which their sports minister Roselyne Bachelot called “a moral disaster for French football”, sponsors started pulling activity and making threats. Financial services company Credit Agricole pulled a TV campaign featuring the team that was supposed to run until the end of June, and fast food giant Quick have said they will stop using an ad featuring Nicolas Anelka. Adidas have claimed to be “appalled and saddened” by what happened (but have retained their sponsorship, which is due to expire next year anyway). Utilities company GDF Suez says their sponsorship is now under review, despite the fact that their current deal is in place until after the 2014 World Cup.

So, is it a risk worth taking? There can only be one ultimate winner at the World Cup, but this time round there have been an unusual number of shocking disappointments and some downright embarrassments. In light of the economic realities being faced by the brands and companies aligning themselves with these properties, the question is whether or not these were risks worth taking.



Click to watch video

Too often in advertising, we don’t ask or answer the question “What happens AFTER we collect all the underpants?”

I was just rewatching this scene from South Park, where the leader of the Underpants Gnomes is explaining his brilliant three phase business plan. And it goes something like this:

Phase 1: Collect the underpants
Phase 2: Silence
Phase 3: Profit

Similarly, the advertising industry all too often is guilty of skipping over that critical step – how we think advertising specifically is going to increase company profit.

Ken McKenzie, who’s on the judging committee for the Irish AdFX Awards, has called for the marketing community to start doing proper marketing experiments. He is right. And it’s not a luxury either – developing an evidentiary basis for advertising is essential for our industry. We need to regain credibility at the board room table (and as Rory Sutherland says, you can’t do that with mood boards!). And we need to rise above commodity fees by demonstrating verifiable expertise.

In the UK, Binet & Field released a study of empirical generalisations about advertising success, based on an analysis of 880 IPA effectiveness awards.  They found there were a number of strategies which increase the likelihood of effectiveness, in terms of sales and profits.

1.    focusing on “hard” not “soft” objectives
2.    focusing on reducing price sensitivities instead of increasing volume
3.    focusing on increasing penetration not loyalty
4.    influencing consumers on an emotional level over rational
5.    creating “talkability”
6.    having a high SOV relative to market share
7.    including TV in the media mix
8.    having a multi-media approach – but diminishing returns kick in with number of channels

I think number one is particularly relevant to the Underpants Gnome scenario. Setting a soft objective “increase brand awareness or improve brand image” as Phase 1, is like skipping over Phase 2 and presuming Phase 3 “make profit” will magically happen.  Hard objectives make it clearer how the advertising is supposed to influence profits – “increase market share to 11% by recruiting 14,500 new users through repositioning ourselves as the most authentic Italian brand”.

We need to start putting more time and energy into answering those underpants questions.


%d bloggers like this: