Last Thursday night OMD won Media Agency of the Year at the 2014 Media Awards. As one of our London colleagues so elegantly put it, BOOM! We’ve been sharing the boom ever since. The wave of positive and personalised messages of congratulation from our clients has been a properly emotional experience. Not that I needed convincing, but we care and it shows.

 

OMD Win Media Agency of the Year

 

It’s a difficult time in agency land, in particular it can be challenging to be a ‘small’ country, in an ever so more ‘global’ world. Remaining in control of your own destiny will be a theme for Irish agencies and in turn individuals, as on one level, decision making becomes more centralised and, on another, technology is perceived to replace on the ground expertise. As it happens, our experience has been the opposite, where world class technology is only optimised through world class in market practitioners. Padraig Moran, a worthy recipient of the Media Pioneer award on Thursday night, highlighted how other industries appear to have regained ground on professional fee levels as Ireland exits recession, where advertising agencies have not.

Yet we still work in a most privileged of professions. We get to work as confidants and advisors to organisations of all types and sizes and in so doing experience the full range of business challenges. Communication in most instances is an integral part to building the future success of any company and it is exciting to be at the heart of those conversations. It was inspiring to listen to Nicky Doran, Marketing Controller at Bord Gais Energy and Geoff Scully, Managing Director at Shop Direct Ireland at last week’s ADFX Energiser hosted by IAPI. Both promoted the importance of having a culture within their respective businesses that is open to the power and importance of communication done well. They are not alone and the rest of the marketplace will follow.

At our agency meeting this morning, we shared some creative brilliance that Aoife and the team share each week, through our Ignition5 (available throughout this blog). We also spoke of our award being the springboard for the next stage of our OMD journey, as it was when we won Agency of the Year at the Digital Media Awards a few years back. We believe we make a difference, be it helping our clients to grow or educating stars of the future through our Work experience and UCD mentoring programmes. We inhabit a most competitive of worlds it’s nice to be recognised for these achievements. BOOM!

 

Tim

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Failure to Communicate

June 18, 2012

I read recently in Campaign about how the British Government have restructured what was the COI (Central Office of Information) into the Government Communication Centre.  It all sounded quite dull actually and seemed to get a qualified acceptance from Ad land that if nothing else “the new system can’t be any worse than the chaos we have at the moment”. This side of the Irish Sea we have our own version of organised chaos I suppose, so on one level we can congratulate ourselves that our approach appears to be no worse than anyone else’s (and in fairness this can be an intricate and complicated space) but like any other system certainly has room for improvement.

What frustrates me as someone who plies his trade in Ad land is the failure of successive governments in embracing the advertising community in trying to solve some of our country’s ills. Most government interaction with the advertising community appears to be at arm’s length, is infused with a lack of understanding (often on both sides) and is largely confined to an exchange of written submissions around the pros and cons of advertising regulation, the most high profile of which, alcohol restrictions, is a case in point. I don’t think you’d find many people in Ireland who argue that we as a nation have a dysfunctional (he said politely) relationship with alcohol. We frequently read about the negative knock on effects be it societal violence, the  impact on the health of our nation and when the two come together the ability of our health service providers to do an already difficult job in the most testing of conditions. Imagine what it would be like trying to do a simple task like typing an e-mail with a drunkard shouting abuse at you, let alone attempting to provide medical assistance. The health debate rages further as my radio tells me this morning that most of us are overweight and alcohol plays a significant role in the reasons why. Then there is the counter argument that alcohol is part of who we are, the fact that we are the land of the ‘Cead mile failte’, that we can have the ‘craic’ and that despite Roy Keane’s aspersions any football tournament in the world is very much the better for the performance of Irish fans, if not necessarily our teams. That’s before we mention the positive impact of sponsorship revenues from the alcohol companies that touch most sporting organisations in the land. The debate can and does rage on, far beyond my own rambling paragraph above.

To me, the knight in shining armour for Ireland and our dysfunctional relationship with alcohol is communication. But not through curtailment and regulation (these have a role, don’t get me wrong, but the impact of regulation only goes so far). It is through engaging the advertising community to do what it does best. Influence long term habitual change. Guess what? This doesn’t happen overnight. This won’t happen by accident. This won’t happen when the responsibility for relaying the message lies with the drinks industry. The government need to get together a crack team of communication experts who can devise a long term strategy (and I mean long term). A strategy that evolves over the next 20 years that helps us as a nation grow up. We’re doing it the hard way at the moment filling the holes that the banks left behind.  Next up should be our relationship with alcohol. If governments looked beyond their own twitter accounts and trying to mimic Barrack online to get re-elected and looked at how they communicate our stance on some social ills, our country would be the better for it. The government and it’s agencies spent around €50 million on advertising last year.  We can all pick holes in the way any sum of money is spent. Guess what? A lot of it was spent really well, led by great marketers within the state sector. Give some of this people a brief and  budget , sit back, enjoy your next pint in the knowledge that our children and grandchildren will enjoy their future relationship with alcohol in a collectively more considered way that we are currently collectively all guilty of.

Tim

Something happened somewhere along the line that we all missed.  We missed that meeting, we slept through it.  We meant to spend a bit of time getting our heads around it, but somehow it kept slipping off the urgent list.  I remember when there was no Google and I know that it’s everywhere now.  It’s just the in-between bit that I’m sketchy on.

I’m also convinced that there’s nothing we can do about it.  So, really, questioning the rights and wrongs and moralities of it, whilst it might be interesting (or not?) is kind of an irrelevance.  It rains a lot in Ireland.  In some ways I wish it didn’t, it’s pretty annoying.  In other ways I’m glad that it does, the green landscape is really beautiful.  But I’d never sit around debating whether or not it should rain so much here or not.  What’s the point?  There’s no ‘should’ about it – it just does.  Rainfall is up to God, Superman, ComReg, the BAI, ClearCast or whoever it is that regulates our weather.

 

Back to Google.  They’re on the cusp of being the single biggest ‘media’ vendor in this market and beyond.  As I asked at the beginning, when the hell did that happen?  It doesn’t matter when it happened.  How did it happen?  Doesn’t really matter either, it just did.  So what are we going to do about?  Well, nothing we can do about it.  They went straight to the client on this one – that is the consumer, the public, the people using the world wide web.  They voted with their traffic and that’s the way it is. 

 

As long as they have a monopoly on the audience, we haven’t a leg to stand on.  Imagine a world in which the biggest media vendor doesn’t give you a percentage of discount, a percentage of media commission.  No volume deal, no share deal, no early payment deal, no annualised incentive.  Even talking to them is on their terms.  Depending on which of their client categories you fit into, you get to speak with a specific layer of their sales organisation.  Thanks for your business.  Paulie in Goodfellas had a similar service ethos.

 

And yet, and yet, and yet…  Flip this on its’ head and is this not the best thing to ever happen to a media agency?  We don’t want to be commoditised, we don’t want a race to the bottom, we want to add value and be rewarded for more than just bulk buying media space as if it were paper clips or ink cartridges, right? We said that, didn’t we?  Alright then, let’s get on with it.  Google is a level playing field for every agency, every client, everyone who wants to do business with them.  The only differentiator is how well you use their products and services.  In other words, the only differentiator is you, the agency, through your people.  Which is what we said we wanted all along. 

 

So get out there and start differentiating, get a competitive advantage and leave the moral navel-gazing to someone else.

John Clancy.

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.

Tim

Here’s a thought.  And here’s a place to share it too.  What if consumers.  Wait.  Are people consumers?  Or customers?  Or just people?  It bothers me that I’m not sure, but I’m sure I’m not sure.  I had a good conversation with a friend the other week who extolled the virtues of owning up when you don’t know something, which sounds like good advice to me.  And what do we ever do with the virtues of things except extol them?  In fact, I’ve rarely extolled anything other than virtues.

It was Flann O’Briens death-iversary the other day in case you’re wondering what happened there. 

Back to my thought – and we’ll go with consumers – what if consumers don’t really tell us anything?  And they don’t by the way.  What if a rhetorical question wasn’t rhetorical.  I’m reminded of a research group on sponsorship I attended a while back and the group were asked what they would like to see the sponsor do.  They were completely nonplussed.  They didn’t get it, they didn’t have any idea what they’d like to see from the sponsor – and why would they?  Which reminds me further of the apocryphal quote from Henry Ford.  He said if you’d asked people what they wanted before the invention of the motor car, they’d have asked for a faster horse.  And by god I’d like a horse with air-con, power steering and a decent sound system.

Consumers won’t tell us what they want.  And arguably the more you ask them, the further you get from the real answer.  And isn’t that the rub?  It’s also a bit of a linguistic theory – Saussure’s ideas of signifier, signified and meaning.  The idea that the words we use to represent things are arbitrary, but they’re associated with a common meaning.  But how common is that meaning if that meaning could be different to different people?  I mean is my colour red, the same as your colour red?  What if I describe something as smelling red – or is that just synaesthesia? 

We have to be grown ups about understanding consumers – observe them and figure it out.  That’s our job and that’s the fun of it.  If they just told us it’d be very boring anyway. 

Back when I first got into media I remember reading a year review in one of the marketing magazines where they asked agency heads to speak about the year to come.  And I remember Pat Donnelly saying people needed to be less constrained by research, research, research – instead they needed to start trusting their instincts and being bold and brave.  And I remember feeling extremely indignant at the time, thinking – typical – sure if the research doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, of course, ignore it and pretend that you’re justified in doing so. 

And now I’m not so sure. 

I think media agencies need to start having confidence in their convictions.  Just because we’ve more data and facts and figures than anyone else, we become too reliant on them.  Creative agencies need to be more thorough, logical and back up their reasoning (for trying to flog expensive TV production jobs).  And media agencies need to un-clench and borrow a bit of confidence from their colleagues in creative. 

And, and, and. 

And if I was any kind of slave to convention I’d tie this all back up in a neat bow, re-referencing Flann.  But I’m better than that, I’m able to resist – and sure after a pint of plain, that’s probably what he’d have wanted anyway.

John.

Pope Paul III - invoked the Council of Trent

Blame this blog post on a hungover Friday.  My mind goes to odd places at such times…

Where to begin?  A friend of mine works as a vision mixer in RTE TV.  Vision mixing is like a live version of editing, with a director shouting at you through a headset to cut and transition to and from different camera angles and VTs.  So she works on live TV programming – like the News, current affairs shows and live sport.  Champions League weeks are busy for her, as are elections.

The other programme she also has to work on is Mass.  Mass has to be broadcast live as the miracle of transubstantiation must be seen live to be experienced.  So you might be out on a Saturday night having a pint with her and she’ll make her excuses as she’ll be up early to cover Mass in the morning.  It was the Council of Trent in its’ 13th session, ending 11th October 1551, which officially approved the term ‘transubstantiation’ (as opposed to ‘consubstantiation’).  And which also, unofficially, cut short my friends’ Saturday nights on occasion.

But do people actually watch Mass live?  Or do they record it and watch it later – and therefore miss out on experiencing the miracle?  Well, since ‘consolidated ratings’ (recorded on your NTL / SKY box and watched within 2 weeks) were introduced to the Nielsen system, we can now answer such burning questions.  And the answer is, by and large, no, people don’t record Mass.  They watch it live.  Only 3 transmissions of Mass, since the introduction of consolidated ratings, have shown any impacts for non-live (consolidated ratings) – 3rd Oct, 1st Jan, 6th Feb (total of 1,400 impacts).

Roger Chilids, editor, RTE Religious Programming, kindly answered my emailed query on the subject.  As to whether it has to be watched live, he said:

“I’m no theologian, but that’s certainly the advice I’ve always been given.  Mind you, I also find that the priest or archbishop celebrating is usually the first to ask for a DVD. I’m not sure how that works – a repeat viewing of the miracle!”

When Sky and NTL introduced their Tivo style devices into this market, a lot of us thought that this would be a significant blow to spot advertising on TV.  Why would anyone watch ads on TV if they could record everything and fast forward through the ads?  There’s many reasons as to why people continue to watch ads, even with the proliferation of these devices – but bottom line is, they still do.  In fact for Jan-Feb this year, for the total market, only a half of a percent of all ratings were ‘consolidated’ (non-live).  Studies by SKY TV would also show that when people invest in the hardware and subscription for their home (SKY box and station package) they watch more TV overall, be it recorded or live – just more.  So in fact their advertising exposure increases as a result.  Going out being the new staying in these times and all that.

So there you have it, bit of a circuitous journey, but thanks for taking the time! 

Amen.

Inspiration

January 11, 2011

Sometimes the established experts, the industry moguls, the figure-heads are inspiring.  Sometimes it’s the other end of the spectrum that’s inspiring.  The people just starting out in our business, trying to get their careers going, full of enthusiasm and passion for their future.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some successful companies who’ve experienced rapid growth and had to take on a considerable number of new staff – often at entry level.  And for me, these are the inspiring people.  At OMD we took on some graduates during 2010 and the process of recruiting – gathering CVs, calling people for interviews, talking to them about why they want to get into advertising – reminded me of the depth of talent out there.  There are so many smart, motivated, interested and interesting people out there.

It’s inspiring and energising to meet these people.  It reminds you how lucky you are to be doing a job you like and that lots of others would love to be doing.  Nobody wakes up in the morning with a smile on their face, leaps out of bed and skips to work humming a tune.  But now and again it’s good to be reminded how much we’ve got to be grateful for.  It also kind of reminds me why I wanted to get into advertising – and God knows I wasn’t half as savvy and prepared as graduates seem to be now.  It gets me to see our business with fresh eyes again.

We’re actually recruiting for graduates at the moment and I’ve been in touch with the likes of Ciaran Doyle in Smurfit and Rosie Hand in DIT.  They’ve been extremely helpful and as ever there’s a supply brilliant people out there.  Yes, recruiting can be a chore, particularly when you’re looking for experienced people and they’re just using you to leverage more money where they are.  But it can also be pretty inspiring sometimes.

Please spread the word that we’re recruiting – if you’d like a job spec or want to apply drop me a mail at john.clancy@omd.com or tweet us at @omdinfluentials

Happy New Year

September 19, 2010

Happy New Year.

September kind of is the real new year anyway.  Resolutions?  We certainly don’t need sunscreen, so I’d just say, don’t do interviews when you’re hungover, still drunk, bunged up or any combination thereof.

I was reading through the IMJ Annual Agency issue the other day and I thought I’d do a blogpost of my own predictions for the year.  A kind of unasked-for rallying call for the 12 months to come.  I thought I’d flick through the pieces written by agency bosses, and give my own take.  But holy hell – I’ve just flicked through the issue again – there were about 65 of them!  Where did they all come from?  Disappointingly, they’re all well written, articulate and reasonably coherent.  Don’t know what to add to that.  Except that maybe in a blogpost, I can be a bit less corporate, and a bit more personal. 

We were all flat out busy in the boom, we’re all flat out busy in the bust.  We worked harder than ever trying to catch up with our billings and now we’re working harder than ever to hold on to them.  What have I learned?  You’d better like what you’re doing, be passionate about it, enjoy it or move on.  Aidan Greene talked about the ‘curse of interesting times’ – bloody right.  Ciaran Cunningham said ‘it’s about the people, stupid’ – doubly right.

We don’t live in hard times.  I read Orwells Road To Wigan Pier recently.  Them was tough times.  Miners worked 12 hour shifts on their hands and knees, like underground chain gangs, suffering respiratory illnesses, all sorts of cancers, not to mention shaft collapses and zero workers rights.  Back when Unions meant something, they were the injustices they fought against.

We’ve just gone from being fabulously wealthy, to slightly less fabulously wealthy.  The only thing that matters right now is de-coupling bank debt from our national (and therefore personal) debt.  Hungover interviews are a trivial distraction.  Every single business, whether it be service oriented (like advertising) or otherwise, will sink or swim on the resolution of our debt crisis.  Remember the thick, luxurious property-porn newspaper supplements of the noughties?  When propertypapers came with a news supplement?  Well this is the era of debt-porn.  Remember we used to talk in millions?  Not anymore – a billion is the new million.

I spent some time yesterday in the company of someone who enjoys what he does, is passionate about it and is therefore, of course, brilliant at it.  Colin Harmon is a world Barista champion and has set up his own cafe in Dublin where he does coffee appreciation classes.  If we all cared this much about our own work, invested as much of ourselves into it, we’d be fantastically well rewarded, whatever the billings.

I hope you like what you’re doing. 

Happy new year.

John Clancy.

I’ve been thinking about inspiration of late, inspired myself by the following paragraph that Harry Eyres recently wrote:

‘Artists, and others, are reluctant nowadays to talk about inspiration. It sounds highfalutin and vague, like some mysterious essence which floats above the earth. But inspiration in its deepest sense, far from being vague or abstract, is very intimate, physical and personal. There is nothing more intimate, physical and personal than breathing, or breathing in, which is the literal meaning of inspiration. An inspiring place is one that lets you breathe.’

There are some obvious places and platforms for inspiration. The world of TED.com is a favoured destination. We frequently refer to the brand that is Jamie Oliver and his TED talk is rightly filed under the heading of inspiring. As is Matt Ridley’s piece on ‘When ideas have sex’ – definitely worth a watch over a lunchtime sandwich.

At OMD we start our week with our Ignition 5, where Vanessa and co inspire us with some cool things they’ve seen from around the world. This week’s post, shared on this blog, includes washing powder with in-built GPS tracking – an idea that could certainly be ‘borrowed with pride’ in other categories.

I think Harry is right when he refers to the personal nature of inspiration but paradoxically we in the communications business try and create that intimate relationship on a mass scale. This is probably easier to achieve than it sounds. I had the great pleasure of seeing Leonard Cohen play at Lissadell House recently watching the sun set behind Benbulben listening to his ‘gift of a golden voice’. A personal moment for me, sure, but one I shared with 10,000 others. Brands can behave in the same way and at an obvious level the development of social communities as part of marketing programmes and brand experiences is a sign of this. One of our favourites here is the Irish Blood Transfusion Service donor community on facebook.

A few of us are reading Paul Arden’s book ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.’ He finishes with a few quotes which can be inspiring in themselves. A little scary perhaps as when Grand Prix driver Mario Andretti states ‘If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough’!

If all else fails, maybe we should follow the inspirational words of Dr Scholl: ‘Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.’

Tim

 

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. 

Vanessa

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