Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the decayed

My new resolution is to eliminate self delusion. I hope to make some quiet and effective changes in how I work, so that I am not chained to the mac while the kids are taken by mum to the shoe shop for the next size up. If I'm not still being self delusional that will require taking things to another level in terms of business structure. A scary thought, but I've had many adrenaline rush moments since 2008. It's just another one.

And anyway, my job description is changing every month, even while the core of what I do remains the same. When I started as a copywriter with Wilson Hartnell, as Ogilvy & Mather were known in Dublin then, the task was simple and difficult. I worked with an art director and we dreamed up 2D campaigns that would hopefully work for our clients. The campaigns would not require much in the way of measurement. A bunch of senior ad guys would rely on that good old gut instinct for a grabby headline or a strong visual. They'd pick what they liked, get us to mock it up with fairly finished illustrations, put together a working script if it was TV or radio, and then they'd take it to the next level.

Client meeting.
They'd always try to have the meeting in the agency, because it was a chance for the client to enjoy some sexy, away from the grime of the west Dublin industrial estate. Plush seating in reception, avant garde artwork strewn oh so carefully around, coffee fetched by an eager runner and only the efficient swish of the receptionists' glam rags as they switched shifts. All so very civilised.
Not a jot of accountability, of course. Tscha. That was for (sneer here) direct marketing. We didn't need that because we were Brand Ambassadors! Loftier things awaited us don't you know.

A quick story about the two sided nature of non-accountability.
At one point, in the early 90s, we wanted the snack brand we were working on to 'own' the Irish comedy scene by using a coterie of excellent stand-ups from the burgeoning circuit. There was no Bulmers Comedy Festival or Murphy's Laughter Lounge or Carlsberg Comedy Festival. Even the Cat Laughs hadn't yet arrived, much less Father Ted. We got as far as making a test ad using a great Irish comic, and were given the greenlight. Why? Because the client's kids liked the ad. That was enough for us. Spurious as all fuck, but we were getting to make our ads, so we didn't care. We shot a dozen in a day, cheap and dirty, on video. We were made! The first burst went on TV and we told all our friends, family, even our pets. They were silly ads but they made people laugh. Unless, of course, you were the sales dept of the client who was selling the utterly disposable snack food. No, they did not like silly. Our ads were pulled. Most of them never saw the light of a cathode ray tube, despite the fact that production had cost buttons. The Sales team at Snackky Ltd (name made up to protect the idiocent) didn't like the ads, so within fourteen days we were canned. Shortly after, Irish comedy went stratospheric (at least in the English speaking world) but Snackky Ltd had already missed the chuckle boat.

What have we learned, children?
As William Goldman says of Hollywood in Adventures in the Screen Trade, nobody knows anything. We didn't then. We don't now. I was humiliated on that occasion by other people's idiocy, and I vowed never to let it happen again. How? It's easy really. You just don't put your heart into it. Go ahead and put your intelligence into it, sure. I mean, nobody's going to pay you just to sit there, are they? But if you become emotionally invested in something that's not yours, you're open to a severe kicking.

Sounds callous, I'll admit. But a fundamental truth was revealed to me with that experience, and while I'm the dumbest arse on the planet in many respects, I was smart enough to see something then. If it isn't actually yours, don't ever become its. That sentence looks terrible, but you get me, right? In the meantime, I work for myself and I freelance as a copywriter and content writer and I do a variety of other related activities. I am the product now in some respects, so I have to care. And I like it much better that way. The old model of copywriter/art director dreaming up campaigns is still out there in the agencies, but it's no longer for me. It's pretty much defunct in digital creativity, because you need to understand the medium to a far greater degree. The passivity of tv/radio/press is not tenable online, which is why there's growth right now in digital agencies, unlike tradvertising. But you need to understand people's habits, have a grasp of the technology and be able to assemble the team that can make it happen.

The other kicker is that results matter. The faux parade of glitzy peer-to-peer awards means nothing in new media, because efficacy is all, and efficacy is decided pretty quickly. Kind of makes it exciting too, and separates the can do people from the quacks fairly sharpish. Still plenty of quacks though, particularly in the area of providing digital marketing to green-behind-the-ears clients. I predict that a lot of people will fall into this trap in 2010, but that won't last too long. Resources for quackery just ain't there they way they were in the last decade.

So roll on the tens, with new opportunities and new adventures, and if I get to own a part of it I will give it my heart. I fully plan to.

And this comes via the ever wise Paul Dervan. Dave Trott on making pow without kerching.

A prosperous 2010 to all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The last days of Bebo?

Not too long ago Bebo was the bright and shining star in the Irish social media firmament. They trilled loudly about having a million plus accounts, back when Facebook had considerably less than half that. But the worm hasn't just turned. It's fallen into a vat of toxic chemicals, emerged with super Bebo-munching hunger pangs and has just devoured the kids' favourite. Meanwhile school buses packed with migrating teens have been pulling up outside Facebook High in an endless stream. The glitzy shimmer of your own designer skin is suddenly old-skool, and the nu-skool uniform of anaemic fb blue seems to be all that the kids want. Jesus, is this a Heathers moment or what?

I don't think that the kids have just graduated because of the colour scheme somehow. You'd have to give some credit to Zuckerberg's minions for getting the functionality of Facebook to a level where the yoot would want to go there, despite the fact that it looks like corporate fascist design of the most boring kind. Whatever the motivation, be it functionality, peer pressure or both (or perhaps just a superior product), the roll call has been taken and not too many are still hanging around the Bebo gym. (Ok, I've been waiting for someone to call me out on the piss-thin schoolyard metaphor for two long paragraphs and nobody has, so I'm just going to have to shoot my own damn self. Why oh why did nobody shout Stop?)

Daily unique visitors to Bebo Ireland (source Google)

And to Facebook Ireland (source Google)

Google's impassive adplanner analytics paint the sobering story. Barely 30,000 hits shows a plummet of over 200% since January '09. Last month saw the departure of Philip McCartney, Bebo's head of sales in Ireland. It highlights the fickle nature of the younger target market, and the dangerous dustbowl that social media spaces can quickly become. Not that Facebook will be caring too much right now.

Bearing in mind that Ireland was the Golden Child for the platform, it wouldn't fill me with confidence today to be an AOL shareholder. The American mammoth bought Bebo last year for $850 million and despite a hefty redesign early this year it's been tanking steadily since.

Advertisers take note: when you're hot you're hot. Bebo no longer is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why SMEs use Social Media Marketing

Chanced upon this in, of all things, an actual printed quarterly bulletin. It's from Amas, and the research was done by David Scanlon at Enterprise Ireland, who kindly allows me to republish it here.
A total of 48 SMEs involved, using Linkedin, Fb and Twitter. 86% use it to promote their company, unsurprisingly. For 36% it's a way to cut costs without killing the marketing goose. Almost half (48%) use it to enhance/protect brand reputations. We need more information like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Digital suppliers In Ireland: E to J

eBay Ireland Dublin 15 (Online marketplace)

Ebow Dublin (Web development & design)

Ecom Ireland Dublin (Web & software devel, SEO, online marketing)

eGain Communications Dublin (Software and services)

Eighty:Twenty Dublin (Digital Advertising)

Eirborne Dublin (Mobile entertainment)

Eircom Net Dublin (Broadband, web hosting and ISP services)

Electric Media Sales Dublin (Online advertising sales)

Elucidate Dublin (Online communications and marketing)

eMedia Galway (Electronic media)

Engine Solutions Dublin (Software development)

Enhance Dublin (Web Design)

Entropy Dublin (Digital security solutions)

Escape Web Designs Limerick (Web development and design)

Esus Web Consultancy Services Cork (Web development)

E-Type Dublin (Online Advertising)

EU Internet Dublin (Domain name management and services)

Evolution Internet Dublin (Web design & internet marketing)

Fireball Media Cork (Web development and design)

FireIMC Ltd Belfast (Advertising Agency)

First Advertising Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Fluent Design Dublin (Web design)

Fluid Rock Dublin (Interactive media agency)

Future Image Co Down (Advertising Agency)

Generator Dublin (Interactive marketing agency)

Gerry McGovern
Dublin (Web content management solutions)

Google Ireland Dublin (Online advertising and search)

Graphedia Wexford (Web design)

Green Island Interactive Dublin (Web Development & design)

Green Room Media Dublin (Web design, online video)

GT Interactive Dublin (Digital Agency) Dublin (Web Design)

Herbert Street Technologies Dublin (Private web-based secure communications systems)

Hosting365 Dublin (Provider of hosting, colocation and managed services)

i-believe Dublin (Online Advertising)

ICAN Dublin (Online advertising and marketing services)

Icarus E-Com Dublin (Database backed e-commerce applications)

IE Domain Registry Dublin (Allocation and management of Irish domain names)

i-merge Dublin (Integrated digital marketing communications)

Impact Media Galway (Advertising Agency)

Impact Media Limerick (Advertising Agency)

Independent Digital Works Dublin

INEX Dublin (Internet Exchange Point)

Initiative Media Dublin Dublin (Media Independents)

Inspiration Dublin (Online marketing consultants)

InterFusion Networks Dublin (Provider of managed network and e-security services)

io - Interactive Ocean Dublin (Advertising Agency)

iPLANIT Dublin (Web & Internet services)

iQ Content Dublin (Custom content solutions)

Irish Broadband Dublin (Provision of broadband services)

Irish Domains Dublin (Hosting, domain name registration and ecommerce services)

Irish International BBDO Dublin (Advertising Agency)

iTouch Ireland Dublin (Mobile solutions)

iWord Wicklow (Mobile Marketing)

Javelin Group Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Juritsu Limerick (Web & Graphic design)

With thanks again to the industrious folks at Mount Media.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Digital suppliers in Ireland: The List from A to D

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting an A-Z of digital suppliers in Ireland north and south. It's pretty comprehensive and comes via the hard work of Mount Media (publishers of IMJ and Adworld among others). A big thank you to them.

If you're not on the list or if you're incorrectly detailed just let me know and additions/amends will be made statim. I'll probably put the full list in a category somewhere handy when it's complete. Meantime here's the first four letters of the alphabet in digital Ireland.

1 World Media Marketing Belfast (Advertising Agency)

2BeScene Dublin (Online marketing services)

Ad2One Dublin (Online Sales & Marketing)

Adnet Dublin (Web design)

Adtech London (AOL Advertising)

Afilias Dublin (Domain Registry for .info) Dublin (Interactive agency)

All Media Matters Dublin (Media)

AMAS Dublin (eBusiness consultancy)

An Webbery Donegal (Web design and Internet services)

Ardmore Co Down (Advertising & Marketing)

Ardvaark Digital Media Cork (Web design)

Arekibo Dublin (Web development, design & consultancy)

Aró Gaillimh (eBusiness solutions)

Artweb Design Dublin (Internet consultancy)

Athena Media Dublin (Media Independents)

Atomic Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Aura Internet Services
Monaghan (Web development and consultancy)

AV Browne Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Banahan McManus Advertising Dublin (Advertising Agency)

BDM Innovate Dublin (Digital Media solutions)

Bitbuzz Dublin (Wi-Fi networks)

Blacknight Internet Solutions Carlow (Web hosting)

bloom Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Bluecube Interactive Dublin (Digital Marketing Agency)

Bluemetrix Cork (Web analytics)

Bluestar Tipperary (Web design, applications, online marketing)

Bonfire Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Bookassist Dublin (Internet consultancy & enterprise level databases)

Brando Dublin (Digital Advertising)

Brendan Moran & Co Wicklow (Computer consultancy)

Brightspark Consulting Dublin (Internet communications)

Broadtalk Communications Dublin (Broadband & VoIP)

BT Ireland Dublin (Telephone and broadband services)

Carat Ireland Dublin (Media Independents)

Carival Advertising & Design Cork (Advertising Agency)

Chemistry Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Chorus NTL Dublin (Digital TV, internet and telephony)

Clearscape Dublin (Website Design & Development)

Clientwell Dublin (Online marketing agency)

Comado Dublin (Digital publishing)

Combined Media Dublin (Website design & development)

Community Publishing Wicklow (Software for mobile and internet communities)

Completecents Dublin (Online Marketing Strategies)

Concept Cork (Advertising Agency)

Continuum Dublin (e-business consulting and design)

Corevalue Dublin (Business-to-Business; Business-to-Govt Services)

Cork Webdesign
Cork (Web design)

Creative Inc Dublin (Web and graphic design)

Customer Minds Dublin (Mobile Marketing)

Cybercom Dublin (Full Service Digital Marketing Agency)

Dara Creative Dublin (Web & graphic design)

Data Conversion Dublin (Mobile & Direct Marketing)

Data Electronics Dublin (Co-location and managed web hosting)

Dataway Dublin (Network Security)

dbase Technologies Dublin (Web design, IT solutions)

DDFH&B Advertising Dublin (Advertising Agency)

Deise Design Waterford (Web design and implementation)

Denobi Dublin (Website design and online marketing)

Dialogue Dublin (Direct Response Advertising Agency)

Diffiniti Dublin (Digital Media Specialist)

Digicast Dublin (Digital audio and podcasting)

Digino Tipperary (Online marketing consultancy)

DigiServe Software Dublin (Develop & management of portal sites)

Digital Crew Cork (Web developers)

Digital Enterprise Solutions Dublin (Enterprise solutions)

Digital Hub Dublin (Digital development agency)

Digital Lounge Media Dublin (Digital Agency)

Digital Works Dublin (Media Independents)

Digitize Dublin (Online advertising sales)

Digiweb Louth (Internet hosting, domain registrations, broadband provision)

Dimex Belfast (Advertising Agency)

DirectBrand Dublin (Direct and digital marketing)

Discover Mobile Dublin (Mobile content management)

DMA Dublin (Advertising and Direct Marketing Agency)

Documation Dublin (Print services)

Doopdesign Dublin (Design company)

DotMobi Dublin (Mobile Marketing)

DV4 Dublin (Web Design and Online Video)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Agencies who span trad and new media - properly

There are some who do, believe it or not. You'll find a dizzying array of new operators in the digital marketing space, from lone guns (some genuine, some new-age bullshit gurus to be avoided), to small and even medium-sized companies (some genuine, some new-age bullshit gurus to be avoided). That there are so many is testament to the amount of people who suddenly find themselves on the job market, sure, but also because new media are emerging quite quickly and traditional marketing companies are not upskilling with enough speed to understand and thereby dismiss or integrate them as appropriate.

I picked this Slideshare presentation up from a tweet or on one of the many digital avenues used by Mark Congiusta who heads up IIBBDO and Proximity's digital sections. (Ignore the irony of their websites not being, er, there yet.) He has a bunch of copped-on presentations over on Linkedin covering a variety of relevant areas: mobile advertising, taking your marketing online during recession and such and such. Each one plays a straight hand, and if you're in the marketing side of things but not yet happily in a digital groove you will find some local knowledgeable advice.

Traditional agencies: is transition possible?

It's the fag end of November 09. The country has finally realised the extent of the financial crap we're in, the most savage budget ever witnessed is apparently about to be unleashed snarling on the public and just to make sure a sucker never gets a break, God left the bath tap on while doing a ten day Vegas residency. The country is officially riding bell broke and knickers wringing.

But enough of the good news. The latest issue of IMJ magazine has an interview with the highly pragmatic Ray Sheerin, boss of one of Ireland's most lauded creative ad houses, Chemistry. He expresses clear concern for indigenous agencies.

"If you look at the industry at the moment, it is probably about half the size it was this time last year in terms of revenue yet it is only slightly smaller in terms of the number of people servicing it. That to me is not sustainable and I think the industry is facing into a very serious period of realignment over the next three to six months.

This time next year, there will be fewer agencies in Ireland than there are now. I think some were probably holding off making critical decisions in the hope of some sort of an upturn in the last quarter of the year. At the moment, I don't see this happening and it's certainly not going to happen in the first quarter of 2010. So I think reality for some agencies will really only bite early next year and I don't think it's going to be pleasant."

Reality's bite has already been felt at Chemistry itself. Never a profligate bunch even at the height of boomtown, they ran a tight ship. Nevertheless the jobs axe has already swung for several of their agency personnel in the latter half of '09. I'm not sure if this stark interview is their way of starting the process of 'realignment', but it wouldn't surprise me, and it wouldn't be a bad start.

I see Chemistry as a microcosm of the issue facing ad agencies in general. The cold facts of the recession are not lost on them, and the work that they do for clients, in ever more difficult circumstances, remains of an excellent standard. But there is no fat on the figures any more. Lose one account and you can end up closing an entire department of your hard-working agency. It's hard to keep going in the teeth of that disappointment, knowing that you're still doing good work on shrinking resources. And I have alluded before to the streak of cruelty I've observed in (some) bigger clients throughout this recession. They are actively demanding more but willing to pay for less. They are fragmenting business among agencies, leading to a bull pit where agencies are ripping into each other's cost bases for unjust rewards at the end of the campaign, and loyalty meanwhile has taken the boat to elsewhere.

The way forward?
At the risk of sounding like Garret Fitzgerald, I've said this before. The game was changing anyway. Recession has collided with an explosion of new media and all the bingo bullshit in the world doesn't hide the fact that agencies need to find a digital way forward or Ray Sheerin's prediction will include them.
But is this actually possible? I believe it is. Not without a hell of a lot of recessionary pruning, and most likely that includes Sheerin's mooted mergers, but secondly (and here's the Darwinian nucleus) a whole new mindset when it comes to how agencies view control of the medium, the project and the client's budget.
My personal, and some might argue simplistic, belief is that core agency thinking, particularly of the traditional kind, is a hindrance to effective online marketing. The G5 of TV/Radio/Press/Outdoor/Cinema have long since ceased to be the dominant global force they once were. There's nothing new in that. Some recent research from RedC notes that for 16 -30 year olds in Ireland almost half of their viewing time, about two hours, is spent online. Two fifths of the TV viewing is not specific and is on in the background. We're not even factoring in how many people are recording the shows they actually want to watch on the Sky box and then simply ignoring that jewel in the crown of latter C20 advertising, the prized TV spot.

If you want to see the full results from that RedC research
from Richard Colwell, you can access it on video here.
But the machinery that drove agencies, and continues to drive them, is structured in a way that's counter-intuitive to producing rapid-turnaround online creative work. I sat through how many presentations to prospective clients without actually clocking what was wrong with that slide where we outlined the agency structure. It had two triangles, side by side. The head of client service was the sharp end of one, the creative director the tip of the other. Above them, vaguely connected to both, was top management, while below were the various layers of drones (as a senior writer I include myself in one of those layers).
Two triangles that never overlapped. And that was the 'team' that was going to work on Client X's much-sought business. You can see where problems might have gestated, no? Makes me think of that scene with John Hurt in Alien. Ultimately that's how it played out too. And this is even before we start to talk about integrating digital, which in itself is a loathsomely patronising term.

The model where creatives and execs essentially see each other as hindrances to getting the job done properly needs to be dismantled anyway in order not to just include digital marketing media but to be entirely built ab initio around it. The vacuum that's created by the inability of trad agencies to do this has been filled with literally hundreds of small online marketing companies, offering a plethora of varied services, and each month more join the field. It's dizzying, and very often the trad agency, digitally inarticulate behemoth that it is, is overlooking the fact that what these small companies offer, whether it's professional podcasting, mobile app development, SEO expertise or any of a hundred different relevancies, is most likely necessary for the agency's clients in today's marketplace. It may be overwhelming to look at how much needs to be absorbed for an old schooler, but I'd still rather have sleepless nights AND a roof overhead.

No ring to bind them all
I spoke to Orlaith Blaney recently, MD of McCann Erickson in Dublin. Big agency, on the face of it doing a creditable job of working through the recession and still making plenty of traditional advertising. But what about all of the online activity her clients now needed? Was McCann in a position to give Coke and Tayto and Heineken and Nestlé real online expertise? She reckoned that the switch-up to full digital offering (and really, nobody can define 'full' in the ever-expanding world of online media) would be far too costly for an Irish agency to do from scratch. From McCann's perspective, the core issue would still be about positioning themselves at the centre of the client's brand needs, and making sure that those needs were met either through the agency's work directly or through collaboration. But the idea of being 'the one' wasn't sustainable.
I think she's right. Knowing how to market crisps doesn't mean that you need to have someone on the payroll who knows how to make an iPhone app that markets crisps. Just be aware that it can be done, and be clued in as to whether it's right for your client to use it. Same mantra as always: know your shit. Creativity will still be creativity. Just in a different space. I think agencies can take a huge amount of positive juice from seeing it put into practice.
No better example in the past week than Chemistry themselves, who capitalised virally on Thierry Henry's handling of the ball to take France to the World Cup and send Ireland home. The guys in Leeson Park fabricated a diplomatic storm in a virtual teacup with elegant minimalism but huge impact. Google the words Sarkozy, box and letters and see how well they did it, just to prove that they could. People are getting this web thing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Online media and NGOs

Damien Mulley is organising a conference for charities on December 8 at the Euro Commission office in Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. Excellent opportunity to learn how the freely available tools that are out there can work to the benefit of organisations.

The course is free, with a max of two attendees per NGO. You can sign up here if you're interested. I don't like to talk about the many amazing things I constantly do for charity, so I am unable to say if I will be involved, or what if I may be involved I would be talking about if I was involved. Or not.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Use white space and your readers will be 20% smarter

This is from a presentation by Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of the Dublin Web Summit (see previous post). He rattled through it quite quickly on the day, although nowhere near as quickly as his YouTube upload does. It's too damn quick frankly, so hover over the pause button. Some sharp insights.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amma let ya conference...

Not an actual pic from #dws

Put on my columnist hat on October 30th for the Dublin Web Summit at Bewley's Hotel in Ballsbridge. I got approximately half of the day's events, not counting any of the workshops. In an increasingly crowded calendar of summits, conferences, meetups, tweetups and all sorts of networking events, this was one of the best I've attended this year. Well done to organiser Paddy Cosgrave and the Digital Marketing Institute.

Absolutely top drawer selection of speakers, superb presentations on the day, great interaction between attendees and speakers. The spread of attendees ranged from startup entrepreneurs to NGOs and bodies like Enterprise Ireland, as well as already-established web-based companies.
Mark Little, as a trad media journalist and enthusiastic recent adopter of social media, was a good choice of anchor. His genuine interest in the subject matter came through and he'd obviously done his homework. I'm not going to even namecheck all of the speakers. Far too lazy many of them. It seems that the content, as with most of these events, will be made available online. Worth keeping an eye out for.

The hashtag of the day's events, #dws, relays the keenness of the audience for the subject matter. The fact that so many people were live tweeting in itself marks some kind of watershed for companies. The technology of communications is actively being embraced. I wondered why they didn't live stream it for the non-tweeters in the audience to see, but perhaps its busyness might have been a distraction from the stream of excellent realtime content.

Not quite all positive and light though. Some grumbling, centering around the ticket price bounce that happened in the run-up to the event, can be detected if you go back through the #dws comments (and more elsewhere). As its popularity grew, so too did the ticket price, it seems. From €50 to €245 is a fair hike. That doesn't play well, particularly with an online-savvy audience.

The bar's getting set higher all the time. Later tonight (4pm at the National College of Ireland) it's the turn of Understanding Digital. They promise us 'a few hours inside some of the brightest creative minds in the online media industry.' Online smartypantses from We are Social, Agenda 21 Digital, Folk Creative and Ogilvy London will all be in a 10 dance.

Inner cranial update coming soon. Hell, I might even #udcreative it cos I am at sooo one with The Twitter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Take your Powerpoint presentation and shove it?

You know that lame old 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people' codswollop? The exact same inbuilt idiocy occurs in the phrase 'I haaate Powerpoint sooo much.' The more vowels, the more idiotic the speaker.
Why? Because it's a shortcut and it's untrue. Guns don't kill people. Bullets do. Powerpoint is a fan-fucking-tastic tool, and when it's not put in the hands of numpties who want to squeeze the entire contents of the company's ten year analysis into The Increase in Granulation of sub-Saharan Sand Encroachment: A Comprehensive Review (With Speaker Notes) then it can actually be quite entertaining.
I have sat in too many presentations where we killed the potential client. They took so many bullets to the vital areas that they were never going to be able to walk out of the boardroom, let alone want to come back for more on a regular basis. And I said nothing. Well in fairness I was asleep, but that's not going to save me in Nuremburg, is it? I will promise never to do it again, however.
Anyway, there's no finer birthday card for a 25 year old than this Powerpoint presentation by Rowan Manahan. Mark it, download it, memorise it, and if ever you're presenting to me please, please use it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Media for non-profits: an overview

There's still little understanding of the power of social media for organisations that are not profit driven. I find this all the more remarkable when you consider their relative weakness in marketing budget terms.
I can't see that lasting however, as the number of organisations getting their toes wet has been growing. Whether or not they'll benefit from increased soc media activity is down purely to the understanding and amount of resources they are willing to devote to working the mojo. It certainly isn't about levels of € spend.
This presentation was delivered to Special Olympics Ireland last week, and briefly overviews the strengths of Facebook, blogging and Twitter for organisations with widespread memberships. Nothing new or radical for anyone heavily or even moderately involved with the online marketing scene, but quite an eye opener for novices.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Smartphones attack

Oh such iFun we had!
First there was this.

And then came this.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Asda ask customers

Relevant more to the UK market naturally, but Asda as a major competitor can possibly teach Tesco a thing or two about the customer here in Ireland too. Little things like how to keep them satisfied. At local and national level here they seem to have lost their way in pursuit of gobbling market share for their own products. Asda on the other hand seem to be embracing the customer, even (perhaps especially) when things have gone terribly wrong.

Still pumped when the freelance phone rings

The cutest thing I've seen in a while. Comes from Space Avalanche, and thanks Dave Concannon for pointing it out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Online advertising will grow even more if it works with TV

Thought this was interesting, from Danielle Long in New Media Age. She notes that
it comes as no surprise that online has overtaken TV. Google’s ad revenues are now bigger than ITV’s and the broadcast sector has suffered greatly in the recession. While the predicted resurgence in TV could still happen early next year, the two sectors are bound to be wrangling for the top spot for some time yet.
More in NMA here:
Online advertising will grow even more if it works with TV | Opinion | New Media Age

Christopher Angus, guesting at Digitology, commits even further, saying that 'internet advertising provides a far higher return than traditional media.' I'm not entirely convinced of that yet, but I am convinced that I will be convinced some day soon. I know for certain that TV, undergoing a painful metamorphosis akin to the gloriously non-digital lupine changeover in The Howling all those many moons ago, can still be a force to be reckoned with. What makes You Tube the second biggest search engine in the world? Bits of telly mostly.

Shared via AddThis

Update: Net Imperative had an interesting article about social media agency Yomego in their news roundup, in which Yomego say that
“Falling ad revenues because of the recession are merely a symptom, not the underlying cause of TV’s current challenges. The experience is that TV has the content people want but it must change its business model to incorporate the new platforms, before these new platforms replace TV altogether.”

Yomego has created online communities for clients including Irish telecom giant eircom, MTV and MNet and is at Mipcom to launch its social media reputation audit to help brands understand and proactively manage their presence within social networks.

“The work we have done with eircom and www.soccerrepublic.ire is a case in point. eircom has built a receptive and positive community around its sponsorship of the Irish national football team, attracting the team’s supporters using engaging and exclusive content and creating a dedicated interactive platform that puts the fans firmly in the driving seat.”

For a social media agency, I'd expect a better link to their work. Although maybe .ire is appropriate with the Irish team.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Aspiring creatives: could you make a commercial in one day?

Image thanks What What

The fantastically hip people at HYP tv (I know it was too easy. Shut up. It's Monday morning.) are running the kind of competition that I as a pup twenty or thirty or forty years ago would've given my canines for. I'm too hackneyed now to even write this post myself, but instead will cut and paste (such a utilitarian little modren phrase) from their own site.

HYPtv has teamed up with M&C Saatchi, Johnnie Oddball and the ICA to host the 24 Hour Ad Challenge.

Young teams of film-makers will join together with advertising student creative teams to create a 30" commercial - all in just 24 hours! There will be up to 20 teams competing in the challenge.

On the day, at the Challenge briefing, teams of film makers will be put together with advertising creative teams. Each amalgamated team will have an M&C Saatchi creative mentor who is there to offer advice and review ideas, not create them. The teams will then be given the brief - which will be the same for all teams. Each team has just 24 hours to create, shoot, edit and deliver their commercial. Later that day, the commercials will be screened to all and the verdicts delivered. The judges will also discuss the entries.

You'll have to get your arse to that London for November 7. You will be required to look blasé and studiously ignore all the other blasé entrants for the briefing at M&C Saatchi 36 Golden Square at 10 am. Which means you'll be getting up earlier than on any other day this year.

To enter you can use this handy Uniform Resource Locator link that I have also copied and pasted (works in past tense too, see?) for your convenience. Spread the word to those interested. It might be the only chance they get to work on a tv job for the next five years.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Asda on firefighting

True accountability from big companies is always laudable. This from a local English outpost of the very large Asda is a response to the idiocy of a former employee. We've seen idiot staff doing things (Domino's springs to mind) and posting, without necessarily realising that there's a watching world beyond their immediate circle of idiots.

Viral, as has been stated ad nauseam, can't be prefabricated but must come from an area of honesty. Usually it's people sending each other entertainment, but very often it's newsworthiness that makes content viral. In the case of this idiot, it sure as little apples wasn't entertainment.

I'm especially heartened to see that Asda's local staff ran with a counter video. To my mind, it does immensely more to regain trust than a polished press release or statement from the most senior company bods could do (although that too can be highly effective).

I've only watched the first half of this guy's antics. Feel free to watch it all. He strikes me as someone who has problems and who possibly needs help. Anyway. What do I know?

Found at Brand Republic

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

JC Decaux and the little guys

At the nexus where web development, brand marketing and customer management meet right now there is a liberating sense that anything can happen. Companies and brands are a bit more nervous about it, true, but wonderful little things take place all the time to show a warmer sense of interaction coming from people who have genuine affinity with products and crucially were never told what they couldn't do. So much of this stuff is brand new and the fuddy-duddies who normally apply the brakes can't always keep up.

Can-doism. Like Dusty and Michael, the Coke-loving dweebs who set up their own fanpage, which soon became extremely popular.

It was unofficial, and almost four million people are now fans. I don't understand why either, but that's not relevant. Coke came sniffing (behave) but they had the good sense to recognise people power and not fuck it up for the dweebs or themselves. They co-author the page now or some such, but not with the heavy hand they could so easily swing.

However. It remains to be seen just how long this hippie vibe can survive, when you hear about shit like this happening. From the Irish Times:

A FREE iPhone application for users of Dublin’s bicycle rental scheme has been withdrawn after the software firm which developed it was threatened with legal action by the advertising agency backing the new initiative.

The real-time application allows users of the scheme to find their nearest Dublinbikes station and see how many bicycles and spaces are available at it.

Fusio, the company behind the application, was sent a cease and desist letter from JC Decaux earlier this week in which it was told that legal action would be considered if it continued to offer the mobile application for download.

Fusio seem to be a fairly together web developer based in Dublin, doing half decent work and getting themselves noticed in the right ways. I don't know them, but I like the sound of the iPhone app, and how could you not like such a cheeky and clever way of getting a little bit of self publicity? They earned it after all, and in return created something useful, ozone friendly and, perhaps most important of all in these hairshirt days, cool.

JC Decaux on the other hand is a very big company, and benefitting massively from the bike scheme. (It's had its share of controversy and detractors, if you weren't aware.) Quite what they had to lose by people knowing where the fucking bikes they wanted to rent were, well, I am not altogether sure. Perhaps they would like to explain that.

When they're at it maybe they can tell us why they didn't start doing wheelies of delight at the thought that someone would bother their arses developing the app in the first place. Me, I'd slap it up on my website as quick as I could. And be damn pleased with myself. I am however but one cycling hippie, with two wheels and the truth.
JC Decaux. It's their bike, ok? (Pic credit)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gotcha, Captcha!

Bit of a nerdy one this time. Google pulled on their Timberlands and strolled down to the chopin centra this week. Bored and loaded, they just had to buy something, so ReCAPTCHA got bought. You'll know them as these guys, the security text box you have to fill in order to validate your life as a non-robot.
Interesting thing is that it wasn't just a random fuckit-let's-splurge purchase. (Ok, that's not even remotely unusual, considering that this is Google we're talking about.) Google have a maniacal obsession with the information of the world, and clever little ReCAPTCHA isn't just a security programme. The words you're asked to verify are scanned archival material from newspapers and books. When you type them in, you're actually teaching the computer to understand the words because they have trouble with degraded ink. Computers are learning exponential- wait, someone's downstairs... asking for a Sarah Connor. Hang on a minute, I'll be back-

Coming up next on Adland: How Google mistakenly bought pornography portal Go Ogle...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Think outside the flatpack

New channels of media arrive almost daily on the web, but simple, strong ideas for branding are still a requirement. Entertainment for the most part still pulls in the punters. In Burbank at an IKEA outlet a bunch of hooligans with a camera has been making the somewhat droll IKEA Heights. Some timely creativity lessons here. They're shooting it instore, they're so far getting away with it, and if IKEA are not complicit then they are hopefully smart enough to let this thing have a hopefully viral effect. It's better than a lot of the soaps you see, and it's not being disrespectful to the brand. Aspiring creatives, flatpacking is out-of-the-box thinking.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'm not getting newspapers

Plenty has been written about the imminent demise of the printed news. A lot of it is unsubstantiated guff and terror, but there's no arguing the pickle they find themselves in. As the next generation will find precious little reason to ever buy a title, most of them face a certain decline of readership with an ever greyer demographic slant. Hardly headline news. Everyone's got a prediction and nobody's got a concrete plan. Market contraction, free content distribution and a slew of other issues need to be tackled, but essentially nobody knows how to make the online model pay the same way as the real, manufactured product used to.

Peter Merholz, writing in Harvard Business, put it very simply, and I find it hard to argue with the logic.
If you don't work in mass media, you might be forgiven if you think that you — the reader, the watcher, the audience member — are the customer. When you work in mass media, you know that readers, watchers, and audience members are really the products, being served up to mass media's actual customers, the advertisers. So for decades, improving the "customer experience" meant doing what's best for advertisers, whether or not it was best for the audience. And so you get sites like the Bakersfield Californian, with giant banner ads dwarfing the social media content. If there were no Craigslist, the audience would put up with it. But there is a Craigslist. And on Craigslist, you really are the customer. Even with its shortcomings, the site has only one audience in mind. And so customers click away from the confused businesses, and direct their attention to those who endeavor to serve them.

The awful Craigslist is awfully successful because it is only what the customer wants. Like the utterly mundane Google homepage, it is selling shovels, not gold. Let's not be entirely naive. Every newspaper in Ireland is now sponsored jointly by Tesco, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu and the other retailers. Full page colour ads for cheap chicken are the dog, and editorial is the tail.

Time to wake up. When customers can increasingly turn to informed peer-to-peer online publications (and add to the content themselves) or when they can see from Amazon and TripAdvisor just what the hoi polloi thinks of whatever or wherever it is they have a mind to buy or go (and then themselves rate it) then the newspapers have to take seriously the issue of what they're chasing first, advertisers or readers.

Online readers and offline readers are touching tangentially now, but soon they will part forever imo. The latest college grads will not have a default buy-the-print-version setting. And 'innovations' like making your digital publication look exactly like your offline version are an utter waste of money and time that could be spent figuring out how to make your premium content, your opinion sections, your decent writers, that bit more exclusive (ie billable) without ignoring the fact that anyone, anywhere can get the rest of the news for free at any time.

Publishing and printing are in the front line of Changing Times, and the recession has less to do with it than the advances of electronic media. Henry Ford's idea that if he'd asked the people what they wanted, they'd have demanded a faster horse is now bunkum. The people know exactly what they want, but they don't want to wade through flashing, distracting, epilepsy-inducing and downright annoying ad content to get to it. There is only one Commandment: thou shalt engage. If your advertisers' content doesn't do that, Madam Editor, it will diminish them - and by association your online publication - in the eyes of the end users.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I will never text and drive again.

This is an explanation of viral. A road safety film from the Welsh Constabulary in Gwent. Links to the background here. Clever soundtracks, creative analogies, twisted puns... Nothing beats real drama for bringing this kind of message home. People don't necessarily understand it, but they utterly feel it.

And that is what has made it viral.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Essential for the ad person who carries an iPhone

Thanks to the other Adland over at Adweek. Howdy David.

Solidarity with small businesses during the recession

My favourite word this week is traction. Not just the sound of it, but all the associations of solidity and grip and realness. Three quarters of it is action.
Here's one from Brand Ireland that encourages it and is very much in tune with the zeitgeist, a practical yet romantic German word that English has no equivalent for.
Ok, etymology lesson over. Go see that Brand Ireland fella's post for more of this:
So, what I had in mind was the coming together (solidarity) of a range of professionals in the areas of Marketing & PR to offer some free expertise to small businesses or a chosen business in an effort ‘revolutionise’ their brand and create some buzz for their business. This grouping could act as a full service agency for the chosen brand for an agreed period of time in an effort to bring the business or brand to the next level and then hand back the reins.

Interesting. Hands-on pro bono marketing help from people on the inside. Tricky to organise, I'd imagine, but an excellent idea. I'd certainly be willing to devote some time to the concept.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Peperami where it belongs: in the hands of the fans.

It came off the back of a generation of Young Ones fans. It traded irreverence and honesty with a nod to bovver boys and Millwall fans. It was the irrepressible Peperami and it was, it assured us with carefully considered nonchalance, a bit of an animal.

Wishing to get it back is a futile exercise, because its relevance owed everything to its time. So instead, Unilever puts a Doc Marten sole up its wotsits and boots it right into the 2009s. You want Peperami? You do the work.

Ten kay sterling is the prize for coming up with their new ad. Believe me, the agency responsible for the initial success all those 16 count-em years ago, Lowe, would've charged more by a factor of ten at the very minimum for it, but now it's open to the public. I'm still utterly undecided about that fab creation of the new century, crowdsourcing, but Unilever, like some giant colossus, has disregarded my indecision and invited Joe Public to take the brand to the next level. Smart move.

Here's Marketing Week's take on it.
And Campaign.
The Guardian.

Ok, bored now giving other people's opinions. Here's mine, as your benign but don't-brook-me-no-shit-nonetheless ruler at this blog.

Clever move by Unilever. Bound to attract a lot of attention, 97% of which will be shit that they'd skin and hide the agency for, but since it'll be free, right up to the point where they give some sap a pittance for a wealth of free publicity and an ad campaign to boot, they'll be full of spicy, thirst-inducing glee. It'll re-energise an absolutely maniacal classic of an ad creation and it'll shift a frankly perverse product by the cartload.

Interested? Hop on the meatwagon here at crowdsourcing central (Ugh. Just decided I dislike the idea.) Idea Bounty and who knows? It could be you, up to your gonads in over-salted animal remnant.

Excellent opportunity to express the profound and incalculable loss of the legend that was John Peel and the slightly less well known but nonetheless regrettable passing of that beloved sot of the marketing world, Assistant to the Brand Manager.

Ni bhéidh a leithid ann arís.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Adland jobspot

Some jobseeker opportunities for web-minded marketers.

OgilvyOne are on the lookout for a Digital Project Manager for a three month initial contract. They say
Ideally you will come form an agency background, either from the client or project-management side, with a foundation in digital marketing delivery. Specifically you will be responsible one large blue chip client and a number of websites being developed.
Full spec here. Contact before Sept 15.

Cybercom have a position vacant for an Account Manager.
Experience in Social Media, Online PR and Online Advertising is a must while a detailed understanding of the other digital vehicles is required. The successful candidate will most likely be an Account Manager in another digital agency with the ability to work to tight deadlines, handle pressure and thrive in a multi-task environment.

Email your interest to Rob Reid

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lovely, dark and deep

Snot all that bad, missus.

I’ll tell you exactly when we got lost. It was that moment in the woods, somewhere around Burkittsville, when that stupid Michael Williams kicked the stupid map into the river. Up until then we were all humming along just fine. Day followed night and post followed pre and all was good. Then in July of ’99 Artisan released a lo-tech, DIY home movie called The Blair Witch Project. Biggest box office sales-to-production cost in American filmmaking history.

They threw away the map.

The internet was there already, of course, in an increasing number of workday lives. It wasn’t quite the chattering, listening, helpful, I-hear-you place of consumer gratification that it is now but that didn’t stop the producers of The Blair Witch Project from realising what a mighty opportunity it gave them. They invented a myth about an Irish witch in Maryland, they peddled it for gospel in a documentary that they’d made for potential investors, and when it got people talking they shot that ‘new truth’ directly into the bloodstream of young Americans with this fabulous internet thing before they ever released a print. Ker-ching. The fact that they’d spent two years inventing a centuries-old myth and then turned it into the biggest no-budget marketing success ever via the web was a delicious whammy that none of us even copped until the dust settled and the numbers were in.

That was then. Internetland has changed dramatically since. It’s not a place where you just observe any more. Engagement is key now. You contribute. Snakes on a Plane? This is a basic that hasn’t been grasped by a lot of Irish marketers yet. Since 2005, YouTube has allowed anyone to upload their content, and anyone else to watch it. It’s incredibly user friendly. No strings of code or fancy algorithms necessary. If you’ve got some rubber bands, a toilet roll tube and a magnifying glass you can probably do it. And if you’ve got something that others want to watch, they will. And if you’d invented simple, straightforward cut-and-paste YouTube, how pleased would you have been when Google came knocking a year and a half later, waving a cheque for $1.65 billion? If Google want what you do, you can bet that you’re doing something that has a future.

There are stacks of success stories that made it because of engagement on social sites. People like Lauren Luke. An ordinary girl from Newcastle with an instantly homey appeal, she’s built a business from telling girls all over the globe what eye make-up will suit them, and how to put it on. Tens of millions of views of her practical demos on YouTube. It’s not my particular thing, believe it or not, but it neatly demonstrates the two-way nature of new media. The people who watch will comment, tell her publicly what it means for them and will viral that all-important word of mouth. Lauren’s rise has been stellar. She’s the definition of commercial success in a new reality. It’s even allowed her to start a column in the olde worlde media too, via The Guardian's Saturday Weekend mag. How quaint!

The essence of the change in consumer internet use since the dotcom bomb of 2000 relates to its unmistakably human conversational nature. People watch, but they also shoot and record and write and post so that others may watch them. They interact. They join chat forums relating to every conceivable topic, because they want to and they can. They take part, they blog, they post photos and silly comments on their friends’ snaps. They’re on Facebook (half a million Irish accounts) (Update! Almost a million now!) and Bebo (over a million there, kids) and Flickr,, Vimeo, Twitter and a slew of other places where news, good and bad, is shared instantly. They form interest groups that can bring causes to wider attention. They rate hotels, schools, cars and restaurants. They write poetry. They have Kawasaki motorcycle clubs, recipe-swopping sites and autism awareness groups for those affected by it. They have instant access to everything. They’re Web 2.0, and if you aren’t, well frankly my dear who gives a Steve Silvermint?

Access to new markets via social media is as democratic as it gets, and the impact of these new two-way platforms on traditional lines of message dissemination is hard to overstate. I mean really, really hard. It’s a massive warning to companies who see the web as something that doesn’t directly affect them. It directly affects everyone.

Everything has changed, yet ironically many people in offline communications, be it advertising, PR or entertainment, are failing to see how they’re marginalising their own power by not getting to grips with this conversation. They now absolutely need to talk to consumers and potential customers on behalf of their clients, and show that they are capable communicators in this new landscape, yet they have apparently no idea how to engage.

Coming from a very traditional marketing background, as an advertising copywriter now working online, I see this shortfall in understanding from agencies all the time. I’m puzzled as to whether it’s denial, fear or outright complacency, but it’s certainly there. One of the major issues is, naturally, money. Advertisers, accustomed to making a statement and having it pushed out there on sexy, big TV without much fear of contradiction, have no idea how to make money from new social media. They don’t often seem to understand the essential shift in communications platforms. They express their thinking in terms of making this new web thing retro-fit the old matrix. But putting a press execution or a 48-sheet onto a website as a banner ad does not represent an understanding of the model. ‘We’ll get it out there as a viral’ does not mean putting a tv ad online and commanding everyone to look at it. That does not work.

The rewards for agencies have been good up until recently. On the other hand the payback from blogging, tweeting, networking online, building microsites, going truly viral and harvesting as much information as possible about your consumers is hard work, especially compared to a one-off €750,000 shoot. But how many of them are happening in 2009/2010?

The R word is a given. Production is not going to rebound in the near future, and never again to the levels we’ve enjoyed until recently. Consolidation will remain a fancy term for eviscerating the marketing budget. I’d prefer to accentuate positivity instead, particularly since an understanding of the new models of marketing is essential if we’re to see any helpful or meaningful growth in the short to medium term. There are incredible new outlets for creativity. The tools are in everybody’s hands and those who prove themselves adept at getting out there will reap the rewards. Brands will still have to protect and project themselves in the digital sphere, and if PR and advertising agencies don’t learn how to do it, new entities will come along and do it for them. Several are already there, doing excellent work on much smaller budgets, and delivering measureability to clients that traditional agencies don’t even dream about. While the old schoolers are dropping the Nielsen ratings on their foot, the new kids are telling clients what their customers are eating for breakfast right now.

Advertisers and agencies have to watch their flanks as well as their rears, because the search engines and the technology are continually gaining ground and converging. Internet protocol tv is just a heartbeat away. Google is already a huge online ad agency with its AdWords, and it’s as near as dammit to being able to target readers with Minority Report-like precision. Phillip K. Dick thought that wouldn’t be around until 2054. Heh.

Even if you are utterly lost in the woods and freaking out right now, take comfort from the fact that you’re not the only one. And producers of quality content, both words and pictures, now have more channels than ever before to distribute their work. Illustrators, animators, actors, writers, directors, musicians, production teams and anyone else with creativity to offer will find streams to push their wares along. Cream will still have the joyously endearing habit of rising. And unlike the Blair Witch trio ten years ago, we’ve got Google Maps. Let’s go.

This post is an edited version of an article written for Film Ireland's July/August issue. Big thanks to a mighty digital media advocate, Cathal Gaffney at Brown Bag Films.