Thought for the day

“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” Neil McCauley in Heat (played by Robert DeNiro). Sage words indeed.

Virus in a bottle

This is the second day that I’ve received this message from people in my Yahoo! Instant Messenger friend list. It is pretty poorly designed from a social engineering perspective since there is no compelling reason to click on it (think about the I Love You virus back in the day).Whilst Kevin Mitnick would not be impressed at this poorly constructed malware, you’ve been warned just to be on the safe side.

Meeja moovz

I received an email from journalist and proud owner of a flock of geese Peter Warren announcing the latest version of his web site Future Intelligence.

The site features a number of good analytical artices about security and technology. The site now sports RSS feeds and slick new look.

Media moves


Danny Sullivan and Incisive Media to part company at the end of November. This is likely to impact on Clickz, Search Engine Watch and the Search Engine Strategies series of conferences. You can find out more about it from Danny in his own words here.

Danny along with John Battelle (of Battelle Media) and Charlene Li (of Forrester Research) is considered one of the key influencers in this space and has been an authority on the search market for about as long as it has existed.

Search Engine Roundtable has a good round-up of the moaning, wailing and nashing of teeth within the industry blogosphere at his departure.

I am curious oranj

El Reg has caught up with Orange’s mod your mobile campaign. I am sure the programme is designed to crank up the ARPU (average revenue per user) amongst Orange users and get some positive word-of-mouth karma about the brand.Mobification – the art of modifying your phone: from painting it to adding a screen cleaner and Hello Kitty pendants, a Reebok lanyard from Romford market or a new ringtone is sweeping the chav nation.

With almost 90 per cent of those surveyed (for a press release) admitting to at least altering their ring tone.

Iain Tait of Poke London has been involved in running an online campaign to highlight the MaxPower version of mobification for Orange here.

Big Brother for Business

The Ford Motor Company is in trouble. Ford in Europe has had issues for a long time, the last time it was cool to drive a Ford was when Bodie and Doyle were chasing bad guys in a Ford Capri on The Professionals.The company has been consistently outclassed and outgunned by rivals.

It used to be said when my Dad was driving a Ford Anglia 105E around rural Ireland for the Irish Sugar Company, Bord na Mona and Massey Ferguson in the 1960s that the biggest benefit of buying a Ford was the amount of garages. If you ever broke down there was always somebody near by that could fix it.

However in the couple of decades since it hasn’t been acceptable to repair your car as a hobby or have the sump pee oil on your drive Ford has started a long march into decline.

In Europe the company retreated from certain markets such as luxury saloons, instead purchasing brands like Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo. It merged its commercial vehicle division with Iveco and strove to build world cars, rather than cars that people wanted to drive.

The picture in the US is more dramatic, the good ole boys no longer want Ford pick-ups and SUVs and like General Motors mistakes made years ago on workers benefits are coming home to roost.

The company is trying to pull itself out of the mire, and has a site where it is communicating what its doing to achieve this. The site continues a discussion with stakeholders. What I found most bizarre though was the voyeuristic feel that that the site had, like one of them TV shows on MTV where they try and reinvigorate the career or a faded celebrity like Taylor Dayne.

Some of the third-party content is a really good read, you can check out Ford Bold Moves here.

Kudos to Seth Stevenson at Slate.

Links of the Day

Some interesting links that I found in my inbox:

Google is

launching services for businesses including including your domain branded email and calendars, with a view to moving on to hosted word processors and spreadsheets.The article thinks that this will hurt Microsoft, I think that the impact to the ecosystem will be much more diffuse. It takes away the need to pirate basic business software and is most likely to hit IT support companies as opposed to Microsoft itself.

In addition if companies are using the web browser as the front door to their applications then they don’t need to upgrade desktop and laptop computer hardware quite so often.

Thanks to Bradley Horowitz for

the heads up. In the New York Times there is a great and disturbing article about how the American middle and lower classes are having their wages squeezed. Their wages have declined in real terms. Despite organisations claiming that people are their greatest resource, wages now constitute the lowest percentage of company costs than at any time in the past 50 years.

So even though business is doing very well it will affect consumer spending, consumer confidence and lead to an erosion of political support for incumbent politians. More from the New York Times

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity by Stephen Greenhouse and David Leonhardt. The BBC Click Online team have written a great overview on how technology is bringing ambient and instore advertising into the 21st century. Click

here (if you’ll forgive the pun).

Clients are from Mars, agencies are from Venus

I found this really interesting posting on Tim Dyson’s blog. Dyson was discussing the problem that start-ups want to purchase PR, get the creme of PR talent working on their account and pay a pittance. Andrew, apparently the CMO of a start-up posted the following comment (his text in italics, my own notation in normal text): Tim has a great post on the multitude of start-ups with $10,000 to spend on a PR agency. OK, I’m one of them. It just seemed like such a nice round number to start with. Somehow it’s crept-up a little bit though… Must fix that…

Tim is right (he is right on most things)… we all want PR pros. But I don’t want $15,000 dollars worth of service. I don’t even know what that is!

I want results. I don’t care what it costs or whether an agency has to under or over service to deliver it. I just want results against the agreed budget.

You commit, I commit, we all commit together.

What is more troubling to me as a Valley CMO is:


1) finding a great agency is bloody hard work. They are few and far between. At any billing rate. Few CMOs I know get the value of PR or AR, let alone the value of a good agency… I accept we are part of the problem, but…

2) finding an agency that gets your business and has a real enthusiasm for contributing to the growth of the business – harder still

3) finding an agency that understands that great ideas get funded – near impossible. They are caught in the conundrum or belief that ideas require budget prior to being generated. Bullshit. (and I am talking about real ideas, not those regurgitated from the last pitch)

4) finding a team that can explain why they should get paid more and then associate some kind of outcome with the result – well, if you find them, let me know. The most common justification – “we’ve been over servicing your business for six months now, you need to pay us more” – is nuts. Nuts!

5) finding an agency – the word is a bit of an oxymoron. It implies some kind of powerhouse of ideas and execution – the strength of a team.What you generally end-up funding is one very dedicated individual surrounded by some other folks – generally you aren’t quite sure what they are doing but they all arrive for meetings and scribble madly into notebooks.

What is needed is a new kind of agency. One not built on billable hours and 10k budgets. Maybe one built on the power of ideas to drive a startup’s growth curve? One with the courage and conviction to articulate a value proposition that resonates with the CMO of a start-up and ability to explain what the budget should be.

You see, we live less in the conceptual world of brand and reputation and more in the real world of qualified opportunities, pipeline growth and time to sale.

Until then, 10k sounds like a nice round number to start with. Agencies shouldn’t let it end there. We will pay more. And I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. This post was interesting for me as it highlights the huge gulf between clients and agencies:

  • Clients are only interested in ‘transactional’ marketing communications; PR can create awareness, but it isn’t direct response in the same way that Google ads or the home shopping television is. PR creates awareness, anything else is a bonus
  • These companies often don’t need PR, but instead a decent direct response marketing campaign, but PR is viewed as being cheaper and 10,000 USD is a nice number to fit into the start-up’s business plan Excel spreadsheet
  • Clients want agencies to drink the kool-aid, the amount of time that I have been told that a client’s offering is unique when it isn’t; is staggering. Many times the differentiator that the company has, provides not benefits to the customer. Consultancies, in order to consult, need to be well informed and objective. Otherwise the advice that we give clients will be flawed
  • PR is often seen as a silver bullet that can solve a flawed product or an under-funded product. It can’t
  • Between 80 and 90 per cent of start-ups will fail, consultancies know this. We know that you are likely to flame out, be sold in a fire-sale, VC funds will often ‘merge’ start-ups to try and save their dignity
  • We know that many of the businesses real product is the business itself. It often isn’t about sales, its all about one sale to a particular target customer (Google, Cisco, Yahoo!, IAC, Microsoft: delete as appropriate) as you try and flip your business
  • About blind belief: I remember an agency that believed and took equity in its clients including Boo.com as part payment for its services. Its employees were given this equity instead of a pension fund. Not surprisingly the agency went bust and many of its staff got burned in the process
  • Brand isn’t a conceptual element, however its not PowerPoint-friendly quantitative data that direct response marketing campaigns kick out. It’s the reason why many companies include the value of their brands in the goodwill section of their accounts
  • Skilled PR practitioners cost money, this is due to demand and an exodus away from the industry during the last dot.com bust, in fact a good PR person is harder to find than a marketer because marketers are jack-of-all-trades but master of none
  • Whilst ambulance chasing lawyers will often work on no-win, no-fee; their more reputable colleagues bill on time and materials. Common sense would tell you to get the best lawyer that you can afford. PR is a professional service similar to law in this respect

Big Tobacco, Big Food, Big tech?

Traditional corporate PR agencies have profited handsomely representing companies, organsiations and governments that have a harmful and morally repugnant element to the business. Now Greenpeace have upped the ante to try and turn the spotlight on waste from electronics goods.It would make sense if we learned from our colleagues working on oil, gas, tobacco and processed food companies now before Greenpeace gets up to full speed with its mix of well-spun half-truths, bravado and photo stunts.

More

here from Greenpeace.Clients in the technology sector are likely to be not all that well prepared: with the exception of some server companies like Sun Microsystems who are looking at building more energy efficient boxes and Dell who has done a modicum of work on recycling the industry hasn’t addressed the issue all that well.

The semiconductor sector has been reasonably sensitive to this following class action suits from employees with various type of cancer. In addition, technology marketers are increasingly focused on transactional marketing including pay-per-click advertisements and looking to get ‘payment-by-results’ PR campaigns at the expense of building brands and corporate reputation in preparation for the onslaught that Greenpeace and the like will bring to bear.

Whilst brand and corporate reputation work won’t look as pretty on a PowerPoint slide as the pivot tables of key word data from Google, its value has never been higher.

Jargon Watch and black experience

GFE – Google fcuking exists. As in telling someone to look online via a popular search engine for an answer that would be located there.

A while ago I blogged about the launch of Coca-Cola Blak. I have since had a chance to try it. Imagine a medium sweet cold thermos coffee with a faint fizz like orange juice that’s gone off. It’s bizarre but likeable.

Design Matters

A nice video interview by VNUnet.com with HP about product design. The interview puts a particular focus on a consistent user experience across all their devices from kiosks, living room PC remote controls, rack systems to cameras and printers. They are looking to create a HP look-and-feel. Much of their challenge seems to be constantly re-learning the wheel and trying to provide the kind of vertical sense that Apple can drive in their business.HP thinks that the experience should be shared across over between the business and consumer space. This common experience is designed to help them to go and do battle with Dell. I am looking forward to have my SuperDome media center.

The elephant in the room they don’t seem to have addressed in the interview is their PC OS ;-)

PR: getting to gripes

The US Council of PR is about to talk about the thorny issue of client conflict according to Tim Dyson soon, and Edelman a PR company that has a number of conflicted clients under its roof had decided not to renew its membership. Connection?Some six years ago when I worked at Edelman we used to say that two was a conflict but three was a specialism. This was particularly true with regards to the roster of management consultancies that the technology team had on its books: Arthur D Little, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and DiamondCluster International. I worked on both Cap Gemini and DiamondCluster at the same time.

It is interesting that Tim Dyson of NextFiveteen mentions Edelman’s expertise in conflicts yet fails to mention his own agency Bite, who in London have Samsung, Toshiba and Apple all in the same building.

Indeed I write this not to be critical of Edelman’s approach. Instead I just wish there were some clear standards on what was deemed an acceptable way of managing conflicting clients.

Is the expertise of Bite’s London office not making it around the network despite Clive Armitage and Judy Wilks moving Stateside over the years? And could this targeting of Edelman have anything to do with Richard spurring some cheque book driven growth with the purchase of A+R Partners? ;-)

As an industry, PR spends a lot of time talking about the value of brand to our clients, but what about our own agency’s brand? I had an interesting experience on Thursday evening at the T3 birthday party; ran into a PR person who was reluctant to admit where they worked.

Not the usual banter about being reluctant to admit that they were a paid shill in the company of journalists. Not that they tried to hide the fact that they were an in-house PR person so that I didn’t try and beat them into signing a three-year rolling agency-of-record contract with my employer. They were concerned by the reaction of their peers (ok me and my team mate Alex) if they revealed the agency where they worked.

That’s pretty poor, how can we as an industry expect to be the brand guardians of our clients when we are reluctant to admit where we work?

UPDATE

I am going to close out further comments on this post now as both sides have made their point and there is no point in having a flame war by proxy. Understandably if you feel that I curtailing the conversation email me at the address listed in the header and I promise to post the best views for and against editiorial censorship on blogs.

Links of the Day

Logo Orange have a great resource here that shows Pantone numbers, CMYK mix and the RGB code required for HTML coding. An interesting short story recommended by Tom Coates about the consequences of becoming intelligent: Understand by Ted Chiang.

On the net, everyone can hear you scream

I went to the T3 birthday party this evening and met up with some old acquaintances from their freelance roster.

One of them had been working at VNUnet on a podcast and had seen footage of a failed review where a toughbook style laptop was dropped two metres and fell apart.

With a written review the bits would have been sent back to the PRs, however on video the failed experiment makes great video and will soon be featured on the VNU site.

Digital video now means that product failures and poor test results can now be held up for all the world to see. Its at this point that you have to ask yourself do you REALLY believe in your product?