New Year’s Resolutions

January 23, 2012

As the end of January nears, a lot of us will be thinking about our new year’s resolutions and how well we’ve stuck at them. This year, more than ever before, a whole range of apps and techie solutions have been at hand to help us along. According to trendwatching’s report on ‘DIY Health’, there are over 9,000 health apps available, with this number expected to rise to 13,000 by mid-2012. The ‘Jawbone’s Up’ product allows users to monitor sleeping and movement patterns by simply wearing a personal wristband.

The popular RTE programme Operation Transformation  returned this month once again. With coverage on the John Murray show as well as a mobile website giving the chance to track your own weight loss, Operation Transformation is not just a TV programme but a multi-platform solution to those needing a bit of support to meet their weight loss goals (the recipes on the website are great too, if anyone is looking for a bit of inspiration).

With all of these great resources, it should be easy to stick to our new years goals. Shouldn’t it? Plenty of people would say no. According to Oliver Burkeman, Guardian columnist on self-help, happiness and other matters related to transformation, the very idea of new year resolutions is wrong. The ‘focusing illusion’ often takes place, which means that when we don’t meet our own high expectations of the shiny new person we picture ourselves becoming, we then feel worse about ourselves. Burkeman suggests instead that we set one modest goal, and give it a 30 day trial . This way it’s more likely to become a habit as opposed to an unsustainable grand change in our lives.

If it feels like this advice is coming too late, think of how much easier it will be to set a goal when the weather’s milder, the days are longer and the hellish cash strapped days of January are over. And making a resolution in February means the pressures off – half of people who’ve set new year resolutions have broken them within a month.

Good luck!



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.

Giving Back

December 5, 2011

After reading Claire’s post last week about how people are now donating more than ever before, I couldn’t help but notice charity in unexpected places.  Small scale Samaritan  is a blog that was set up with the goal of giving something back. In each post, a different item is described which is being given away to the person that wants it the most. Items include sunglasses, dresses and other random pieces once bought, but no longer needed by the owner. Whoever writes in with the most persuasive case is then sent the item. A nice way of doing good deeds – on a larger scale than most.

This year, Movember saw men both at home and abroad sprouting somewhat unsightly facial hair in aid of a good cause. In 2010, 12,700 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas raised €1.6 million to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to fund research in the area. The Movember website allows people to donate money, read the live ‘mo’ tweet stream and also find about more about men’s health issues. A good site, but a great cause.

It seems that now, more than ever before, it’s easier to give something back, with online channels facilitating both individuals and organisations to do good.  The recently recorded charity single, tipped for this year’s Christmas no. 1, was put together when @BrendaDrumm crowdsourced volunteers through Twitter.   So while we’re now donating more than in previous years, is it really true that we’ve become more generous, or is it simply because the opportunities for giving are more plentiful and engaging than ever before?

Whatever the reason, in a world of depressing statistics on soaring unemployment rates and a stagnating economy, this is one good news story.


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.


Not so long ago, a special birthday took place. On the 6th of August 2011, the Internet celebrated 20 years of life. It could be argued that the Internet has changed everyone’s life, in one way or another. The benefits of the Internet are endless, and when you consider the countless number of businesses that have thrived online, the explosion of social networking and the huge number of news stories that came to life online before anywhere else, it’s easy to want to join in with the birthday celebrations.

Despite this, there is a more sinister side to the online world. In his recent book, the Shallows, Nicholas Carr urges caution to all who now consume online media on a daily basis. Carr argues that each media we consume has a more powerful impact on us than we think. Drawing on philosophy and neuroscience, Carr argues that the media we consume are so powerful, that they actually affect how our brains are wired.

Any neuroscientist will tell you that the brain is changing on a continual basis, adapting to our environment, so that we can go about our daily lives in the most efficient way possible. Everything we do has an effect – this is known as learning. Books, for example, not only tell stories, but also enable focused attention which encourages creativity through deeper thinking. The Internet, on the other hand, has a much different effect. Because of the ease of moving between sites and the endless amount of information available, the Internet is bringing about a loss of concentration and focus. Carr suggests that the Internet is making us think less.

I’m not so sure. I’d certainly doubt anyone working in media would argue that the Internet is making them think less. The seemingly endless number of ways to advertise online need to be given careful thought and consideration before a campaign is planned. The ways of reaching your target audience are vast, and include demographic, contextual and behavioural opportunities. Advertising online is transparent and accountable, so there are numerous ways of assessing how effective an online campaign is. This requires not only time, but also thought, and perhaps surprisingly, a level of creativity.

Beyond advertising, I’m not convinced that the Internet is making us lazy. In a previous post, the idea of the ‘cognitive surplus’ was discussed. People are no longer passively consuming media, but are interacting with brands and with others through opportunities provided online.

Books are still being read, TV is still being watched. The Internet plays a big role in all of our lives, and perhaps our brains are just finding a way of using it best.


In an interview with the Times this weekend, Arianna Huffington claimed that ‘self-expression is the new entertainment. In the past, people just sat on the couch watching TV’.

The notion of ‘cognitive surplus’ was originally made famous by Clay Shirky. This is the idea that when applied to other endeavours, the time normally spent watching TV can be highly productive. Shirky also argued that we’re now living in a time when people enjoy producing, just as much, if not more than consuming.

Clay Shirky

A recent report from Trendwatching outlined a whole host of innovative ideas not just from big brands, but also small businesses. A high number of these innovations demand active consumer involvement, as opposed to passive consumption. The Swedish retailer Papercut is offering discounts on a variety of items through its website There is one small catch, however – shoppers must avail of the reduced price within 4 seconds, or the offer is gone forever. Meanwhile, the ‘Google Wallet’ allows android users to make payments for products and services through their smartphone after downloading the app. NFC technology allows payments to be made through shoppers’ Mastercard accounts.

These examples show that consumers are willing to spend time interacting with new technology if the benefits are great enough. With advertising, while consumers still spend time passively consuming media, the amount of time spent interacting with ads, whether they’re outdoor, online, or on mobile, is on the rise.

As technology advances, shoppers are becoming more and more empowered. Nowadays the role of the consumer has changed, and we’re playing more of an active role in our purchasing decisions. The bar has been raised, as greater challenges lie ahead for marketers.


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.


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! 


Online Rewards

March 22, 2011

Each day it seems as though there is a new statistic on how big and powerful Facebook, blogging and other forms of online communication have become. This weekend it emerged that Facebook now has 500 million users and is the most visited site in the U.S, ahead of even Google.

The facts are there. What seems to be missing, however, is any kind of explanation as to why so many of us have become part of the ever-expanding online community.  Guardian columnist, Oliver Burkeman offers an interesting suggestion. In his eyes, it’s all about reward. Long before Mark Zuckerburg was ever born, it emerged that people repeat behaviours that they find rewarding. According to Burkeman, we click compulsively because there might or might not be a reward – a new email, a new blog post – waiting for us. In other words, technology is merely facilitating our appetite for ideas, suggestions and messages.

Social networks and blogs offer not only information, but also the opportunity to present ourselves in the best light possible. It’s all too easy to de-tag unflattering photos and let others know about what trendy things we’ve been up to at the weekend. Aoife recently blogged about how Facebook places now allows users to let friends know how much of a “social bee” they are in real time. This is rewarding too.

Facebook rewards

And let’s not forget the more recent advent of tangible rewards being offered by the likes of Facebook places and other geotargeted promotions. Money-off offers and freebies further incentivise being part of an online society. 

 No matter how you look at it, social media is rewarding. Who can argue with 500 million people?



Even though we’re well into 2011 now, I can’t help but think about what trends this year will bring. Something I keep on noticing is the rising commercial importance of cooking . The phenomenally successful ‘Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals’ has become the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time. The bestselling app this week is Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Recipes’.

It’s not just Jamie, though, who is turning cooking into big business. There are now a host of cooking apps available to download, and many other celebrity chefs have achieved success in the marketplace by publishing their culinary secrets.

YouTube demonstrations of how to knock up some decent grub, meanwhile, have only made it easier to get creative in the kitchen. You certainly can’t get away from the rising influence of cooking in the OMD office. Four budding exponents of the culinary arts  have set up what’s known as the Lunch Club, where a different member of the quartet cooks each day for the remaining three.

Those of us beyond that small group are understandably jealous when the scents of their homely delights waft across the office. And it’s had an affect: homecooking has gone viral. Recipes have replaced X-Factor contestants as the topic du jour, here at least.

Oliver on the job

So why, all of a sudden, is cooking so popular? Is it because we now access recipes and demonstrations easily online? Is it because dining out is no longer as popular? Maybe, but something else springs to mind.

We have already seen, in a previous post discussing the Ikea Effect , how people appreciate something more when they’ve been involved in its production. This could be a DIY wardrobe, but it also holds true for Moroccan-style lamb or Feta cheese salad.

With increasing numbers move from haute  to home cuisine, cooking means business

Bon Appetit!


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