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”.  

Garret

 

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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.

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.

The Thin White Duke

September 7, 2010

I’ve never really got David Bowie. I know that to many that’s a sacrilegious thing to say but it’s true. I think he kind of freaked me out when I was younger and I’ve struggled to forgive him for that, never warming to him since. I’ve been threatening to open my mind to him (well at least listen to a bit of his music) for a few years now. I sat beside Tom Dunne, ( now Newstalk host, then Today FM DJ, ex Something Happens front man, general music aficionado, and possibly David Bowie’s number one Irish fan), on a flight once. He basically advised me of the error of my ways. And ever since Bowie has been on my cultural to do list, low enough not to actually inspire any action, high enough to remain on the list and to line up beside others such as twice yearly visits to the Gate (partial success), read Ulysses (less successful), frequent the Fringe Festival (partial success) and discover wine and practise new found skills (phenomenal success, but still room for improvement).

With Bowie residing in the back of my sub conscious, I read Paul Morley’s article on him at the weekend. Beyond helping me shortlist the Bowie albums I need to download to broaden my knowledge, I was fascinated by learning a bit more about Bowie’s chameleon like passage through his art over his career. He went through different personas like most us go through hot dinners. And in a funny way it was as fundamentally important to Bowie as hot diners are to the rest of us. Survival at the top of his art was what was at stake. Bono once described it that U2 (another band that has reinvented themselves more than once) were re-applying for the job as the best band in the world. Springsteen does something similar. His trips to Dublin over the last decade have ranged from solo acoustic sets to the full on E Steet Band Experience with The Seeger sessions in between. Each concert was completely different, all stunningly brilliant, and most importantly all fresh, ensuring that old fans remain loyal while picking up new fans on the way.  Staying at the top of the music business for a sustained period of time demands it.

In the advertising world, we come across this challenge all the time. Tempting as it may be to rest on our laurels of past glories, be it new business wins or a successful campaign, you’ll soon find yourself more of a Zager and Evans than a Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars if you know what I mean. It annoys me when a sales rep rings us up and asks us where the ad that we booked last year is. The world continues to change, consumers evolve, brands evolve, and new younger fresher botox free iPad wielding folks are knocking on our door every day. Sometimes last year’s plan is the right solution but more often than not it’s not. The Thin White Duke would certainly agree.

Tim

Let Them Be Kids

August 24, 2010

I had a nice chat with an eight-year-old on Sunday. She was showing me her REAL baby, a doll that ingests, digests, and cries, the doll on which this child spends all of her pocket money – buying clothes, nappies, and the all-important ‘accessories’. Our discussion took place at a Christening, and she had dressed her baby for the occasion, in real clothes, no less. She force-fed it water all afternoon, prompting numerous nappy changes, (lest the child develop a rash).

This eight-year-old speaks with an American accent. Really. I took a while for me to place it, but there it was; that undeniable, slightly Southern, but fairly neutral, Disney twang. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but you see, she has lived in Dublin her whole life. So, there were only really two possible explanations; too much Hannah Montana, or too great a wish to be like Hannah Montana. Probably both, I fear.  

So I ran a few questions by her, while I had her attention.

Q 1): “Which company has a ‘tick’ on its stuff, like the one a teacher gives you?”

A: (tut) “Easy….Nike!” (pronounced like ‘Bike’, but full marks all the same)

Q 2): Which one has three stripes close together?

A:  Adidas (2 out of 2)

Q 3): Which has an apple with a bite taken out of it? (Ok, so that one was pretty simple, a bit obvious, even to an eight- year old, but the answer astounded me)

A: iPhones

This is a sample of one, so I’m loathe to read too much into it. But there is very little atypical about this child, so I can only think she must be reasonably representative. She is from a very regular, suburban, nuclear family, who are neither rich nor poor, and she goes to an ordinary National School.

I recently caught myself, and then berated myself for, lamenting the fact that we don’t have more insight into children’s attitudes and opinions about products and services. Probably time to step away from the computer screen, you say.

So much is being taken away from children, especially urban/ suburban ones. For a multitude of reasons, they have so much less freedom than in times gone by. They are bombarded with messages from brands, and as a result are much more commercially aware than previous generations. Amongst even very young children, most have their own cash and many have the power to choose where they spend it. They are constantly being stimulated by TV, Video Games, play dates, playgrounds, websites, basically, organised fun of all kinds. I remember when playing meant running around. Whatever happened to going out your door at 9am on a summer’s day and being told not to come back until lunchtime?

Leave them alone I say, return their freedom, let them be children and protect their imaginations at all costs. After all, if we kill their creativity completely, who will come up with the killer campaigns of the future?

Claire

(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 http://smokerspack.com/ (@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.

Bundling

May 31, 2010

I was flicking through one of my favourite media choices, the Financial Times weekend edition, and hidden amongst articles about gambling and the world cup , out of office responses and what they say about you,  and Canadian wine wars  there was piece on the Kug. What is the Kug you may understandably ask? It is an all in one device that is both kettle and mug, designed by Irishmen having seen the difficulties that people with arthritis encounter in drinking hot beverages.

The Kug got me thinking of the concept of bundling – whether that’s the  two for the price of one we often see in the media world, or the things that can multi task or be multi tasked successfully.

Things that can multi task: Women (obviously!)

Things that can’t multi task: Tim (obviously, some might say, as best exemplified by my one fingered typing skills)

What is quite a lively debate is the bundling or otherwise of advertising skills, media and creative in particular. The argument,  no matter where you fall on this debate, is usually supported by the line “it’s what clients want”.

Clients want great work supplied by people who understand and are passionate about their business. They want the best media and creative skills. In most cases this works best when media and creative agencies work well together. That’s not to say that the Kug all in one model works best. In my mind it is when all disciplines are given their full scope and focus, that the best work is produced. The challenge is to structure your organisation to bring out the best skills in your own people and their expertise, that can respectfully complement the expertise that either sits across town in another company or down the corridor in your own.

It certainly took unbundling to raise the level of the communications bar that too often under utilised the skills of the old media department in the corner. The debate on how communications solutions are delivered in the future will no doubt continue to rage. For me, it’s time to divert my (single minded) focus to making a cup of tea (Barry’s of course, not a Kug in sight!).

Tim

I now drive to work…

April 6, 2010

The car I should be driving (I work on the Renault account)

Exciting news, I know.

This development probably merits 16 or 17 separate blog entries to do it any justice, but for the moment lets try to channel and direct the immense interest and excitement that’s just been generated by this revelation to one topic: radio.  I now listen to the radio for 30-40 minutes a day as I rattle along the mean streets of South Dublin in my deceptively spacious and beautifully styled Fiat Grande Punto (first €5k in used 20s secures).  ‘Grande’ means ‘big’ in Italian, by the way.

Yes, radio.  This is not the time or place for a ‘creative Ireland’ style rant about poor ads… I’m going to go the other way with this and call for contributions to the ‘so bad they’re actually good’ radio ad category.  A cheerful angle on the appalling creative standards in Irish radio advertising.  Think Dennis Hickie’s TV gem for Wavin Piping, on radio, if you will.  Let me get the ball rolling with the ad currently airing for ‘Howl At The Moon’ bar/club on Leeson Street.  Anyone else heard that beaut? 

I’m focusing on the hilariously bad variety, because they make up an entertaining 5% of radio ads out there.  There’s also the 5% of decent ads at the opposite end of the scale which are for another time and place.  And then there’s the soul destroying, damaging-to-the-medium-itself, 90% of bland, boring ads that don’t merit any consideration whatsoever.  See my informative picto-graph (am learning from your previous post Neasa 😉 https://theinfluentials.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/a-picture-paints-a-thousand-numbers/):

informative, visually exciting and Easter themed...

How many depressing egg puns did we all hear over Easter?  National Lottery, I’m looking at you…

This is by way of a circuitous route to the point of my blogpost – listening to the radio in the car.  I have one of those MP3 player mini-radio transmitters that allow you to listen to your ipod in the car, but it’s a bit of hassle.  30% of radio listenership is ‘in-car’ and that figure is higher again for the valuable business market.  So never mind integrated music docking systems, which are already becoming mainstream – wait ‘til the car gets fully connected.  Radio is going to have to evolve hugely or really suffer.  This is the future in-car experience: http://www-lte.alcatel-lucent.com/#/home/video/29 

Aside from the really creepy glassy-eyed man driving the car (why is it the man always driving?), how scary is that future and is radio ready for it?

John.

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