Flight 370 lost in social maze

I flew into Penang, Malaysia, almost exactly a week after Malaysia AirPlane mazelines Flight 370 vanished. Although I’m a reporter by training, I was not there to write about the missing plane. In fact I was on the first leg of a lecture tour of Asia. My brief was to talk about branding in the digital era to assorted groups of students and marketers.

Still, I got sucked into the story anyway. My taxi driver was full of opinions, which ranged from government cover-ups to holes in the fabric of time and space, Lost style. The first thing I saw in the lobby of the G Hotel was an enormous board marked with the words “Hopes and prayers for MH370″. It was black with messages of condolence. Today we know that, tragically, the aircraft probably crashed into the sea. But back then the speculation in the Malaysian press was almost as wild as that of my driver. As jet-lag kicked in, I began to feel lost myself.

It was only the following morning, when I was addressing the students of the One Academy – an art and design college – that I began to feel more at ease. We spoke a lot about the role of Twitter in the news cycle. Because they’re wary of censorship in the mainstream press, many students told me that they turn to Twitter for “the real story”. But confronted with a major story on their own doorstep, they ran up against the limitations of citizen journalism. Twitter is a mesh of repeated (or retweeted) material, much of it from unofficial sources.

In that situation, who do you trust? My answer is – you trust people. You trust journalists you’ve been reading for years whose work has proved consistently accurate. In that respect, journalists are like brands. You stick with the ones that don’t let you down. I scan news from all over the place – but I have unshakeable faith in the reporting of The New York Times.

My tour of Asia also took in Shanghai and Seoul. In each destination, I found delegates who had grown up with technology – but were increasingly aware of its limitations. In Shanghai, a young woman working in PR for an investment bank told me she had trouble attracting the attention of journalists with her press releases. They received so many mails, they had so many demands on their time. “What should I put in the heading of my email?” she asked.

I told her: “Why don’t you send it on paper? In an envelope?”

She looked at me incredulously. “On paper?”

“Sure,” I said. “I can’t remember the last time I received a press release in the post. These days, if I receive an envelope, I’m always curious enough to open it. That way, you’ll stand out from the crowd.”

She clearly thought I was teasing her. And maybe I was, a little. But the idea has some merit, I think. Words on paper as a form of guerrilla marketing. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “pushing the envelope.”



Agency of the Future


Six years ago I published an article in Advertising Age entitled “The Agency Model Is Bent, Not Broken.”  It was in response to claims than it was broken.  Now, a half-dozen years later I believe the model is finally evolving to the shape of the future.

Last August, when the planned merger of Publicis/Omnicom was announced, the trades explained WPP’s “agency team approach,” in response.  In it, Sir Martin Sorrell did not emphasize competing on size, but rather on shape.

Quoting Ad Age: “WPP promises a client an integrated marketing unit tailored with talent from across its agencies…  (more…)

Taking a knife to a gunfight

In the 1987 film The Untouchables, Sean Connery’s character sarcastically accuses one of Al Capone’s men of taking a knife to a gunfight. That is what Procurement does when using hourly rates to evaluate an agency’s staffing plan and ultimately their fee request.

The client and agency very carefully construct a scope of work. The agency then develops a staffing plan, sometimes down to the individual deliverables level and assigns each person on the plan a number of hours and an hourly rate.  The roll up of all the hourly rates and number of hours can become the initial fee request from the agency. (more…)

After Publicis Omnicom Merger: Will consolidation continue?

During the AdForum Worldwide Summit in NYC, the CEOs of 6 holding companies  discussed with the world’s leading pitch consultants the future of the industry and commented on the Publicis- Omnicom Group planned merger. Here are the meeting notes I took:

Will the merger work?

In the days following the planned merger announcement in Paris, competitors as well as commentators were quick to raise the potential problems of this merger. In our conversation with the CEOs some of these arguments resurfaced, though in a more moderate tone: Client conflicts, of course, but even more, client fear to be diluted in a larger, more bureaucratic organization, Talent and management drain, Focus of the most senior management level on non-client matters, Clash of culture and Leadership complexity.


Clash of the tweets

Agency networks are forever telling us that, these days, they’re digital to the core. So just for fun, we did some research to find out which holding companies – and their bosses – are the most active on Twitter. Admittedly the research was not highly scientific – so feel free to correct us if we’re wrong. But here are the results at the time of writing. (more…)

Les français et la pub : la négative attitude ? / The French and advertising: a couple in crisis?

[Scroll down for English version]

Il y a 10 ans, une certaine chanteuse entonnait le refrain bien connu de « La Positive Attitude ». A l’époque, les français aussi. Il y avait 51% d’optimistes, et aujourd’hui on n’en compte plus que 29% quant à l’évolution  du niveau de vie. Mais que révèle cette inversion de la tendance ? Le couple français-publicité tient-il toujours ? Et que faire pour remédier à ce pessimisme ambiant ? (more…)

Agenda of the 12th Consultants Summit NYC 7-11 October

Montage CEO 2

6 Holding Cos:

David Jones, CEO, Havas Group, Maurice Levy, CEO, Publicis Groupe, Miles Nadal, CEO, MDC Partners, Michael Roth, CEO,  Interpublic, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP, John Wren, CEO, Omnicom Group

5 Global Networks:                            

Andrew Robertson, CEO, BBDO Worldwide, Jim Heekin, CEO, Grey Group Worldwide, Andrew Bennett, CEO, Havas Worldwide, Diamond Harris, CEO, McCann Worldgroup, David Sable, CEO, Y&R  Brands


Big Data vs. Big Idea

Every year is the same: it is never the same.
Our lives are changing at the speed of light. The web is ‘pinterested’, Facebook crossed the billion users line without impressing Wall Street, Twitter has become a major force in elections, everyday new apps are part of our daily life.
Advertising is changing at the same speed. The digital revolution has created the bed for new agencies.  Small start-ups born in the early 2000 have mushroomed around the world winning over giant networks before being purchased by holding companies. With the motto: Small is beautiful! And, suddenly, like a lightning in the sky, without warning,  two advertising giants decide to merge, as if Big was no big enough. The reason? Big Data.
Big Data is the new grail. Does this merger change the competitive situation? Split points of view from the CEOs of 4 holding companies.
All agencies, creative, media, direct, promotion, have – often painfully – joined the digital age where data and creativity converge. All now have to compete with PR firms and Production companies as the frontier between advertising and content is blurring. All may have to compete tomorrow with the data-rich Google, Amazon, Accenture or American Express to offer one to one targeted communications to millions of potential consumers
Selecting an agency has never been so difficult – making Marketer’s job even more complex. And the need to adapt more urgent.

For 12 years, leading consultants from 4 continents have been gathering  in New York for a week of active meetings, unsderstanding how networks adapt, how new skills blossom, exchanging best practices, cooking good food for thought through workshops, exchanges and learning. They will hear vision from the top CEOs of global agencies, be inspired by insights on new trends by industry gurus. And this year, of course, they will hear from the Giants: Maurice Levy, Martin Sorrell, Michael Roth , David Jones and Miles Nadal. I bet you wish to be a fly in the room!

Betting on laughs

Betting can be a risky business. So can making ads about it, as Publicis Conseil in Paris recently discovered.

Publicis has launched two ads for the French bookmaker PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain), which has handled horseracing bets since 1930, later diversifiying into other sports. Its humorous advertising always carries the slogan: “On parie que vous allez gagner” – “We bet you’re going to win.”

The latest ads suggest that betting is not always without consequences. One of them shows the Captain of the Titanic betting that he can steer the ship with his eyes closed. The rest is history. (more…)

Planning some disruption, or just need a brand refresh?

You may not be Elon Musk (Tesla) disrupting the auto industry, or Jeff Bezos (Amazon and now Washington Post) seeking to disrupt the newspaper business. The former probably views himself in the technology/clean energy business. The latter, not in the book or news, but rather in the consumer service business. But disruption isn’t the only reason to consider a branding initiative. Many events can trigger consideration of a brand refresh. It’s not always necessary, but if a series of disappointing quarters, or new management, or upcoming new products are in the future, it may make sense. The undertaking may seem daunting, but the following points may help you get off on the right foot. (more…)

Angela Natividad Paris, France Strategist and writer
Dan Pearlman Santa Monica, United States CEO/Managing Partner
Darren Woolley Sydney, Australia Marketing Management Consultant
Emanuele Nenna Milan, Italy Founder, Now Available
Enrico Gervasi Milan, Italy Founder, Istituto Protagora
Florence Garnier PARIS, France Consulting company
Florie Hubac Paris, France Communication & Marketing Manager
Hervé de Clerck , Switzerland Founder
Johanna McDowell Johannesburg, South Africa
Mark Tungate Paris, France Journalist and author
Matt Walsh Wellington, New Zealand Director of Business Development
Maud Largeaud Paris, France Chief Information Manager
Philippe Paget Paris Area, France Global CEO AdForum
Steve Fajen New York, United States Marketing Consultant
Steven Johnson London, United Kingdom Creative consultant
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