An important landmark in the transition from childhood into adulthood is the point when you realize that not everything that is claimed in pop music lyrics is actually true. The same principle as ‘paper never refusing ink’ applies to lyrics.  This thought struck me as I casually browsed through the JNLR survey on Irish radio listenership.  Contrary to what Trevor Horn and his Buggles pal had claimed in 1979 it transpires that video did not actually kill the radio star.  Rather radio is in rude health and it is the music video that has faced turbulent times over the last three decades.  

Once the bedrock of the cash juggernaut that was music television through the 1980’s and 90’s the music video increasingly became marginalised.  After that golden age the previously enormous production budgets began to shrink and videos became a rarity on the very TV channels that were originally built to house them.  Towards the turn of the millennium viewers had become more discerning.  Pop-culture and the next big thing in music was no longer something dictated by DJ’s, or latterly VJ’s, who pushed the message out to hungry ears.  The audiences would no longer sit through hours of dross music (like their parents who listened under the duvets through the static to Radio Luxembourg) in the hope that something they liked might come up.

The internet had arrived and changed everything.  The push from an all powerful hit-maker was now not the only show in town.  The internet gave people the power to find what they liked rather than sit and be told.  Faced with this fragmentation the video retreated, banished from television, unloved and underfunded.

The music video was in the doldrums, holding out for a hero.  When the hero did arrive in the second half of the last decade it was in the form of broadband and its eager sidekick YouTube.  If music television didn’t want the format any more then suddenly the internet did and the music video entered its second golden age.  This time the content was not programmed by hipsters in MTV but by anyone with an internet connection.  The internet brought democracy to the music video letting people watch, satirise and imitate whatever they wanted (and then as if to prove that democracy is flawed Justin Bieber’s song Baby got 731 million views).   

Another thought that struck me as I contemplated the JNLR’s findings was how music radio stations remain relevant and current if they are no longer setting the agenda – it is their audiences who are discovering the new artists online.  The answer came from a station rep who told of how they saw an artist, with an internet built fanbase, that their DJ’s had never heard of selling out Dublin’s O2 arena.  This led to a panicked rejigging of playlists as the artists was shoehorned into heavy rotation.  Cool now comes from the internet and the successful media outlets, and brands, are those who co-opt it quickest.

So, if in 1979 The Buggles had factored in the advent of the internet and its impact on the music video, (aside from being incredibly wealthy right now), they might have changed their song title to “online streamed video will make the radio star”.  






Advertising and Economics

April 24, 2012

Advertising has come a long way since the 1940’s. Back then, when press was used heavily, ads were not focused on much more than the product’s USP. During the Mad Men era of the 1960s, agencies realised the importance of a brand’s ‘personality’ and ad campaigns became a lot cleverer. The famous Volkswagen ‘Think Small’ campaign is a good example.


In the past number of decades different theories have shaped the thinking behind brand communications. In the 1970’s, social psychology became influential, and the role of the planner was recognised as hugely important. In the 90’s, agencies began to pay attention to the fact that consumers aren’t entirely rational, and that emotion plays as much a part in decision making as logical thinking.

Behavioural economics has emerged as a major influence on advertising today. Drawing on principles from both psychology and economics, it allows us to understand that people are predictably irrational. People make decisions not just to attain the best possible outcome for themselves, but because the decision requires the least amount of effort, or results in little confusion.

Take for example the ‘Count me in’ campaign which was launched on Operation Transformation earlier this year. With a goal of getting calories displayed on menus in restaurants, it was targeted towards making it easier for people to make healthier decisions. With the minimum amount of effort.

Consider also the online world. Leading the consumer straight from a display ad to a page where they can purchase is a lot more likely to result in a sale than a complicated purchasing process.

Integral to the world of communications is understanding the consumer with some level of sophistication. Without careful consideration of how decisions are made, messages will be lost. As theories continue to evolve, it’s essential for both clients and agencies to pay attention.





We all know that the advent of digital has meant an increased transparency for brands, a catch 22 situation, damned if you do and damned if you don’t show all.

A recent trend to emerge out of the back of all of this is “flawsome”.  With the increased presence online, brands have been forced to show and tell and many have begun to humanise themselves in the process, showing that they are not just hard, cold, corporate profit making machines but capable of much more humanistic qualities.

Recently,  in the UK a 3 and a half year old girl wrote to the marketing manager of Sainsbury’s questioning why Tiger Bread was called so, as she felt it looked much more like Giraffe bread. The response she got was personal, endearing, kind and understanding. The marketing manager acknowledged that Giraffe bread would be a much better name, gave her a present of £3 voucher to spend under the watchful eye of her parents. The letter took on a social whirl of its own and after a “change to giraffe bread campaign” resulted in 150,000 likes on Facebook the supermarket giant caved into re-naming it Giraffe Bread.

Innocent smoothies are another example of how brands have humanised themselves, they have an irreverent personality, their tone is fresh and friendly and don’t believe in ever using exclamation marks and always use lower case typography so as not to be shouting and domineering. Recently the barcode on one of their vouchers didn’t work, their response was along the lines of, we can’t always be perfect, we will send you out a new voucher, but please retain the old voucher as evidence of how stupid we can be at times.

The “flawsome” quality of brands is endearing and no doubt will leverage engagement with consumers.  We can only wonder what’s next- brands will have feelings and need therapy?


Why Videos Go Viral

April 11, 2012

The ever thought-provking TED organisation again today provided us with some entertaining content on how and why videos go viral!  In this short video, Kevin Allocca from Youtube talks through the five main factors which have helped to make internet sensations out of the ordinary.



We said we’d keep bringing you these, and we’re true to our word!

The second exploration in the ‘Questions no-one know the answers to’ series, discusses the fact that we really don’t know how big our universe is, or how many of them are out there. The numbers are baffling….enjoy having your mind boggled!



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