ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Arsenal and 30 ad agencies ensnared in alleged BYD fraudulent misrepresentation case | Marketing | Campaign AsiaMore than 30 domestic agencies are crying foul after Chinese electric-car brand BYD absolved itself of payment obligations for RMB1.1 billion (US$16.4 million) worth of advertising production and roadshow fees last week. The automaker claimed these agencies have been dealing with a fake employee from an “illegal” entity carrying out marketing activities on behalf of BYD by “forging” the company’s seal. BYD made statements on its website (English) and Weibo account (Mandarin), naming a “criminal suspect” Liki Li (李娟) who managed to engineer a potentially sham sponsorship deal with football club Arsenal in April 2018, and has since been detained by the Chinese public security bureau. “Hereby we reiterate that BYD was never involved in and is not responsible for any fraud issues,” read one statement. “Please make sure to report to the authority responsible whenever you find yourself a victim.” The 30+ agencies suffering in this legal quagmire certainly see themselves as victims, with many raising objections to how BYD is handling the case so irresponsibly. The exposé party was begun by Jingzhi PR (上海竞智广告) three days ago, posting an ugly narrative on its WeChat account of how three years of creative design and test-drive execution for BYD was suddenly invalidated in this about-turn – #thisischina

I’m not DTF, OKCupid – Hacker Noon – great analysis of pandering advertising

Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback – The New York Times – is it merchants trying to pretend something is more rare than it is, or machine driven automated pricing errors? (paywall)

Google Maps API Becomes ‘More Difficult and Expensive’ | Slashdot – so much that you can say about this. Google is Alphabet’s cash cow, with changes like this it’s losing developer hearts and minds. I think its part of a wider trend away from “Don’t Be Evil” to “Greed is good”. The economics of cloud services should surely be going in the opposite direction to Google’s pricing changes?

Jackie Chan tried to replace Bruce Lee after he died, and so did Bruce Li – screen name of a Taiwanese actor behind slew of Lee rip-offs | South China Morning Post – great article on how the Hong Kong film industry coped with the death of Bruce Lee as a box office draw. I just couldn’t see Jackie Chain as a Bruce Lee analogue – thankfully he found his own way

China’s ‘red education’ history tours and the rise of communist cosplay | South China Morning Post – from opening up under President Deng to the go go growth of President Hu, the party had sublimated into the back of Chinese people’s lives. President Hu is bringing the party back to the forefront with nationalistic characteristics. Hence Chinese citizens doing ‘founding of the republic’ style cos-play

Salmon Theory – well worthwhile reviewing when you have a period of stuckness

Public relations role in the world

I had a listen to The Holmes Report podcast that this week interviewed Michael Frolich of Ogilvy UK on public relations role in the world.There was a particular focus on brand communications rather than corporate communications, public affairs or investor relations. It’s worthwhile going and having a listen; I will still be here when you come back. There were two themes that stuck out with me.

  • How PR compares to other marketing disciplines
  • The role of planning in PR

I wrote some notes about each focusing on where my view differed from Michael.

PR as an equal discipline

Should the PR industry have hang-ups about its profession versus other marketing specialities? No.

In terms of account billings, public relations is still the junior profession compared to advertising, creative agencies and media agencies.

From a client relationship perspective, whether PR is an equal discipline really depends what the client is trying to do. There is a propensity to use different marketing agency functions based on what the overall marketing strategy is looking to achieve.

Zero-Based Budgeting

Public relations agencies are not the sole source of expertise in generating ‘PR coverage’. In some respects many marketing agencies already have PR and not realise it. It tends to be attached to their social teams and might be called something like influence, content marketing or earned media. This tends to be in some of the media agencies at least. Ad agency creative if sufficiently emotive can foster talkability and social sharing – which is another form of earned media.

Historically Japanese advertising agencies like Dentsu have sold public relations as an integrated part of the PR programmes. The perception by western brands has been that PR was thrown in for free like a plastic toy in a box of breakfast cereal. The reality is a more integrated approach, though PR was definitely the junior discipline.

It would would be wrong of the industry to assume that they are the only experts in this space. I also believe that PR agencies should have more to offer than generation of earned media, more on that later.

From a billings and investment point of view public relations is not an equal to disciplines like media planning and buying, or advertising.

A lot of PR leaders I’ve met don’t understand where public relations fits and when it will make the biggest difference. I’ve never heard an agency leader turn around to a client and say ‘advertising or direct response marketing is more suitable for your needs’. Clients tend to believe that they need to support each initiate that they get budget for, even if the contribution that their efforts make are marginal. It shows that they have an ‘A-grade’ team spirit, but is harder to justify from a strategic point-of-view and may even devalue the currency of marketing communications-orientated PR in the business.

It would be great if the CIPR could mandate PR leaders to read Sharp.

  • To the best of my knowledge the PR industry has never published campaign effectiveness research on a mass scale similar to the IPA’s  ‘The long and the short of it’
  • I don’t know if Sabres, CIPR or PRCA award entries have solid enough data for this?

It would be great if the CIPR, PRCA or PRSA could make this happen.

Planning in PR

Frolich starts to get some of the points right about the fraught relationship between planning as a discipline when embedded in PR agencies. I would be far more aggressive and say a lot of PR senior leaders aren’t ready for it. Part of this is the generalist nature of PR roles and also business structure within clients and PR agencies. Many PR agencies are run on very little capital. They’ve always had an asset light model and just been pure operating expenses. From a knowledge perspective you are seeing new hires being brought in at a more junior level than the people that they replace which will have a knock on effect throughout the industry.

Securing funding for any kind of tooling beyond media databases is really hard when you’re working agency side.  That it’s just the cost of doing business in the industry nowadays struggles with a culture that tries to bill these back to a specific client. Which also explains why PR often struggles to present its ideas.

I’ve known agencies being reluctant to subscribe to publications where their clients might get coverage or media monitoring services. Justifying social listening or SEO tools is really painful. I know, I fought that battle trying to get social listening tools into the business. It is nigh on impossible trying to get a WARC subscription. PR agency clients tend to value and pay for direct action tasks and reporting, not thinking, analysis, strategy or measurement. Having worked as strategist who has worked in PR agencies and other disciplines I ended up having to pay for some reports out of my own pocket when I was agency side and building up my own library of reports and presentations over time.

This sole focus on direct action tasks probably explains the earlier points I made about agency leaders not turning around to a client and pointing out the alternative approaches they should be taking instead of PR to address a particular marketing challenge.

William Gibson in his Blue Ant trilogy of novels (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History), discusses PR as part of the plot. He enlightenedly considers PR beyond media relations. Instead he talks about its role mediating relations between an organsiation and its public. PR is considered by him to have its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. That should mean that planning is a greater fit than it is in reality. So an opportunity is there, but whether the industry can really step up to it en masse is quite another matter.

Data and insights sharing between agencies of different working on the same project needs to improve. Often PR plans are done in isolation of planning process and IF YOU’RE LUCKY then recut to incorporate insights.


ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Botnik – is a community of writers, artists and developers using machines to create things on and off the internet

Reg test-drives MyOrigo motion control smartphone • The Register  – I’ve been watching The Rise and Fall of Nokia – a Finnish documentary and this device came up. Apple bought its patents post-bankruptcy

A Tech Guru Captivated Canada. Then He Fled to China. – The New York Times – if this doesn’t match Trump dreams of a China war what does? (Paywall)

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

Things that made my day this week:

BBC 4 ran a great hour long documentary film: The Rise and Fall of Nokia is an oral history of Nokia from Nokia veterans. You can’t give a good comprehensive telling of the Nokia story in just one hour, but you can get a sense of what Nokia was. Some of the culture change that came with success  was really dark.

Danny Dyer nailed the zeitgeist on Brexit last week. Which led some the B3ta community to put together the Danny Dyer Presents: “Pwopa Nawty Noises!” (B3ta.com) – livens up conference calls no end.

I was a big fan of HBO’s The Newsroom drama; it was more of the intelligent dramas over the past few years. The intro to the first episode seems even more prescient now

I am very late to this but Techcrunch’s Bubbleproof drama from last year neatly skewers the current state of technology start-up culture (in the west at least).

I’ll leave you with this amazing animated film from Hong Kong. It’s on KickStarter for funding and looks amazing with hints of traditional martial arts films, science fiction and psychedelia. More information on the film website.

How to use RSS?

How to use RSS – isn’t a question that I thought would be ever asked. I put together a guide some eight years ago and had been meaning to update it for a while. I was reminded to do this by Wadds recent post on RSS. I realised  there is likely a whole generation of netizens that hadn’t used RSS; or had used Google Reader and didn’t have a clue about what under-pinned it and how it could be useful.

RSS is dead‘ is a myth beloved of the social networks that want to spoon feed you algorithmically sifted world views. This myth has leaked into web development circles and I have had to fight with development teams to keep in support for the standard.

Put simply RSS is like a ticker tape for the web that allows you to get updates about new articles posted on websites.

I started off using RSS readers with NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire was an application  that developed a swift cult following on Mac OSX. This would have been late 2002. I immediately saw the benefit as a PR person, having the news come to me, rather than having to go do a round robin of a list of sites in my browser bookmarks.

An RSS reader allows you to:

  • Collect updates from 100s of sites that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to get around
  • Read a precis of these updates
  • Organise sites into folders

At the time, only calendar, address book, email and task information synced across my work and home computers. I had only just got mobile email on a Palm PDA that connected into a Nokia 6310i via a data cable using Palm’s Mobile Internet Kit. This only allowed me to access a limited amount of the web but no RSS. This only worked with my personal email.

The problem with NetNewsWire was that there was no sync. If I read RSS at work I would then have to clear it again at home. I got around this by dragging my laptop into work and using the guest wi-fi network access. But this was misinterpreted by management.

I started using Bloglines an online RSS reader. This was eventually squeezed out of business by Google Reader. In 2013 Google killed Reader to try and force people to use the algorithmic feeds on Google+. Aside from destroying a large audience of RSS users; the cunning plan failed.

Google Reader was an RSS reader with some proprietary features including bookmarks. I decided against using Google Reader and went with Fast Ladder – which was run by Livedoor, a Japanese company. Livedoor eventually saw its CEO go to jail for securities fraud.

Since then I have been using Newsblur. Newsblur has a couple of unique features that put it head-and-shoulders above rivals like Feedly, theoldreader or Inoreader :

  • You can train the reader to highlight or hide posts that aren’t of interest
  • It provides three views: text-only (great for speed), feed and the article as it appears on the web page ‘in-situ’
  • It offers seamless integration with the pinboard social bookmarking service
Navigating your way around Newsblur

This is what the home screen looks like

Newsblur in use

What is an OPML file? If you’ve already used an RSS reader, an OPML file is a standard export file format that allows you to move from one RSS reader to another. The Goodies and Apps option gives you a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser to add new sites that you want to follow and links to apps for Mac and mobile platforms. On the desktop, using the web interface is best. On mobiles the app is pretty much obligatory to use.

Click into a folder and start reading

Newsblur home page

Keyboard shortcuts cheat sheet
Newsblur shortcuts