Creative Destruction

September 27, 2011

I first came across the term Creative Destruction when I read Alan Greenspan’s memoir, The Age of Turbulence (a quick Google tells me it was actually Karl Marx who came up with the term). The former Chairman of the United States’ Federal Reserve used the term to hypothesise that for economic markets to grow, existing trading methods need to be broken down and then rebuilt in new improved forms. Reading the book back in January 2008 it felt like reading the blueprint for financial success. I’m sure if I were to revisit the book now it would feel more like a blueprint for financial disaster. Context is everything.

I came across the term recently again as I dipped into John Hegarty’s book, Hegarty on Advertising. He defines Creative Destruction as the breaking down of old habits and practices that, in turn, create new and more powerful means of expression. He sets it in the context of various cultural revolutions through the ages, from Caravaggio to Elvis, from Michelangelo to punk, and applies it to modern day advertising, which he encourages to embrace technology and the new branding techniques and audience landscapes that come with it.

Last week announcements in the world of social media, were I guess, the latest form of Creative Destruction as both Facebook and Google moved to the next steps of their evolutionary processes. Indeed Facebook spell it out to us with the introduction of Timeline. And while a lot of the debate has focused on the corporate power plays of both of these organisations, the more fundamental point is that of John Hegarty. People, our consumers in marketing speak, are changing their behaviours every day and some companies adapt quicker to them than others. I’m told that Google+ has made 91 documented changes in its first 90 days of existence.  Now a breakfast cereal mightn’t be able to do that, but it can evolve its communication because if not, relevance can be lost in this modern world very quickly.

I read yesterday that in the world of marketing, Google is currently the most desired company to work for and on some levels one can see why.  Yet their world, all encompassing in so many ways, is only part of the picture in others. There have been more water cooler conversations about Downton Abbey in the office this week than Google and it’s the skill of understanding how all consumer touchpoints come together that give a broader perspective and understanding of the world that makes media the intellectually challenging and fun environment of which Google and Facebook are but an important (if rather sizeable) part.




September 27, 2011

A fascinating, and highly entertaining presentation from a recent Ted X event in Boston which shows how Google’s digitization of 5 million books has allowed for a new kind of insight into our cultural past.





Often when entertaining foreigners, a topic that frequently comes up in conversation is the difference between Northern Ireland and Southern.  I tend to dish out the obvious and a very simplified answer, we have different legal systems, different road systems, different tax systems, different currency, we are a different size and our accents are quite distinctive.  To get into the cultural side of things can delve too deep and is best left vague- I’ve always been brought up to avoid dinner conversations about politics and religion. However, if we think about it from a media perspective it tends to be the cultural side of things that has influenced the world of media consumption and it is interesting to look at the differences between us and our neighbours over the border.


I was recently planning a radio campaign in Northern Ireland, whereby I had to remind myself to up weight the number of spots in comparison to those I’d planned for the south, why? Well, it’s pretty simple, despite being on the same island, we act very differently in terms of our media consumption, and over the border they don’t value radio as the trusted companions that they listen to at breakfast, on their way to work, in work and on the way home.  Whilst I’m not saying that they are not listening, they are simply not listening as much as us southerners, hence we have to work a little bit harder to get our advertising message across and increase the frequency of our spots.  Whilst radio is embedded into the everyday life of ROI, it is not true to say that NI follows the same pattern as the light UK listening trends.  The most recent RAJAR report shows that the average Downtown listeners is tuning into 1.9 hours a day and over on U105, an average 2.4 hours a day, so roughly half of the ROI average. The absence of the ability to broadcast on licensed funded stations is an obvious difference, however interestingly enough, like ROI the power of local should not be underestimated, the local stations performing better than the UK nationals.

From the outside TV consumption in NI seems to be quite similar to ROI, with the satellite/cable channels dominating viewership. However, a recent OFCOM report suggests that our consumption may differ when it comes to content. Adults in Northern Ireland with a TV are more likely to have concerns about television consumption. This difference is due to adults in Northern Ireland being more likely to have concerns that relate to offensive content, such as bad language, violence or nudity (34% compared with their UK counterparts 22%).  Whilst we are only over the “border”, it is fascinating to comprehend how distanced we actually are from the troubles and how this distance can thus create an emotional detachment from watching aggressive content.

If we have a look at OOH we know that digital is playing a more important role in the media industry as a whole and in outdoor it is the fastest growing channel. Interactive digital technologies continue to drive consumer behaviour and time spent on the go. The rise in Smartphone usage and mobile technology makes location and interaction crucial elements of any communications strategy. In the North, whilst some may argue that their troubled history means that a plethora of outdoor “space” has been created- this isn’t matched by a whole lot of innovation, outdoor has stayed quite conventional, whilst ROI is most certainly behind the UK in our digital offerings, NI is lagging even further behind. However, it won’t be long before the market demands that NI provide similar digital opportunities.  One must wonder what cultural influence has reduced their appetite to gorge on everything digital.

It is no secret that press highlights the biggest distinction between the two markets with press in NI deep rooted in religious and political ties.  In Northern Ireland, the main newspapers are The Irish News, seen as pro-Social Democratic and Labour Party, and the Unionist-leaning Belfast Newsletter. The Belfast Telegraph is the main evening newspaper in Northern Ireland.  However, in terms of consumption, the market is mirroring that of ROI, the effects of the closure of the News of the World is yet to be seen and with a huge migration of consumption moving online the market seems to be haemorrhaging more conspicuously than ROI. Key titles such as the Belfast Telegraph have lost over 40% of its revenue in the last year.

So, whilst we are so close, we are at times so far, our cultural ties are obvious but it is our cultural differences that have moulded a distinctively different media landscape North of the border, a landscape that as a media planner needs to be understood to plan and execute effective media campaigns.





Make me pay!

September 13, 2011

I read an article recently (thanks as ever to the Guardian), which argued that Steve Jobs’ legacy was likely to be persuading us all to pay for content.

Make me pay!

Interestingly, (and I never knew this) the music companies only ever agreed to let Apple resell their music because of Apple’s relatively tiny market share; Jobs persuaded them that the risk posed to them from potential file sharing was minimal. I can’t help but think that Jobs had an inkling that this wouldn’t always be the case. Luckily for him, he was gambling with someone else’s product. Luckily for the music companies, Apple changed the game.

I buy most of my music from iTunes, and I still buy the odd CD. When I was a teenager, I downloaded from file sharing sites, and I’m not really sure what made me stop. Somewhere along the way, I started to believe that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. The power of Apple, I guess.

A couple of years ago, I was in a discussion about the newspapers who were asking us to pay for their online content, and argued that, once you gave us something for free, you couldn’t subsequently ask us to pay for the same thing. That’s logical, right? But then, content is content, right? Somehow, I’ve been persuaded that music is worth paying for again, maybe the same is true for journalistic content. In fact, maybe even more so, because unlike music where we’re getting the same content regardless of its source, this is not a standard product.

People don’t need a newspaper for news anymore, that much is clear. But, they still go to newspapers for commentary, and to read the musings of individual journalists whose opinions matter to them. Newspapers are still providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, and as we’ve seen with Satellite TV; that is something people will pay for.

But what does that mean for journalistic content we see online? This is the nut they haven’t cracked. They haven’t convinced me why they’re better or different or why I should pay, other than providing some vague ‘quality’ argument that really stems from a heritage that belongs to their offline brand. They will have to decide what the distinct advantage of their online product is, invest in that, and sell it to us.

If they can crack that, I think they can follow in the footsteps of satellite TV companies; they should be able to have it all; make consumers pay for content, and sell advertising around it too!




Hang on a second.

September 6, 2011

I remember doing a summer job during college working with foreign kids. I had to organise all their social and cultural activities – had to organise their trips to Glendalough, Dublinia, the National Museum on Kildare Street. Good way to get to see some of your own country and culture, now that I think about it. Good practice for being a media planner for that matter. Good for chatting up Spanish and Italian girls too, but that’s for another blog post…

hang on a second

You know that joke MCs make at the start of a comedy gig: ‘If you’ve got a mobile, please turn it off now, the gig is about to start – and if you’ve got a pager – what the hell?  Are you some kind of 80s drug dealer?’  Well, I’d a pager for this summer job – it was very early days for mobiles.  So I’d be paged and then have to go to the office (where there was a desk phone) or find a payphone, to find out what I was being paged for.  And I remember thinking – if I’d a mobile, I could take over the world.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t be able to do.

Then you get a mobile and you get a proper job and you’re not hunting for payphones and you really can get stuff done.

What we need now though is time.  Take talented people and give them time – good things will happen.  Give them what they need: time, space and a problem to solve.  I hate the cliché people use in describing the importance of their people – ‘people are our greatest resource’.  Kind of, yeah, but you have to give them the time and space they need.  Lead them, train them, give them confidence, inspire them and then give them the time they need.

A friend of mine was saying in journalism school there’s a ratio of newsworthiness for the lives of different nationalities.  It’s pretty reprehensible and tasteless, but in pure newsworthiness terms, probably true.  One American life, equal, 10 European lives, equals 100 second world lives, equals 1,000 third world lives and so on – or something like that.  There’s also a chart that’s yet to be written that equates marketing or media budget, with the time of talented people.  What’s better spent, an extra €100,000 on media, or a few more hours of talented marketers working together on a problem?  Throw money at it or spend time and energy together on it?

I think we’ve got things the wrong way around.  I think we’re far more careful with our money than our time – and I think our time is more valuable.  Should a media person be saying that?  I don’t know, but I think an advertising person should.



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